Search Results for: "taking it to the body"

Taking it to the Body, Part 4: Women’s Bodies and Self-Authority

This is a somewhat shortened version of a prior post. I revised it to be a part of my taking it to the bodyDecember 2012 001 series.

I believe a potent source of female power lies in the female body and that body wisdom has been suppressed and denied over the course of many years as a means of oppression and control. One of the root issues of patriarchy is who “owns” women’s bodies—is it men, is it the government, is the medical system, or is it the woman herself? (you know my pick!).

Body wisdom and sources of power

Considering power, sources of power, and body wisdom, I appreciated reading Barbara Starrett’s essay The Metaphors of Power in the book The Politics of Women’s Spirituality. While she uses a different example, I have modified and paraphrased her thoughts to make the idea about birth. Starrett originally states, “We can create power centers both within and outside ourselves…Power is where power is perceived. Power resides in the mind. We can give or withhold power through our beliefs, our felt thoughts.” Medical professionals can make decisions about a woman’s body and birth choices effectively only as long as women believe that the professionals have the right to do this. When women reclaim the power to decide for themselves about birth, the doctors proclaim in a vacuum. Their power depends on the transference of our power, through our belief that this is right…Power is where power is perceived. This also means that in any given in-the-world situation, we can intentionally set up our own power centers. If we believe that power resides in those centers, it will. We will act successfully on this belief. Women’s organizations, unions, birth coalitions, etc., will never work unless we regard them, “as the legitimate centers of power…We must grant our own power to ourselves” (p. 191).

While this comes a little too close for comfort to me with the idea that “we create our own reality” (which I cannot fully embrace due to the logical extension into blaming the victim that it creates), I connect deeply with the idea that we must treat women’s organizations and work as legitimate power sources. I think of books/movements like Our Bodies, Ourselves, for example. To me, this is a definitive women’s health resource—by women, for women and separated from the medical establishment that often dehumanizes women. If we continue to believe our “alternative” structures are just that, “alternative,” then the dominant model is still the norm and still accepted, even by us, as “normal.”

Starrett continues her essay by sharing that “It is necessary for some women to risk total reclamation, to risk the direct and intentional use of power, in bold, even outrageous ways. It takes only a minority of women to alter present reality, to create new reality, because our efforts are more completely focused, more total.” (p. 193) This is the risk that the creators of Our Bodies, Ourselves took. It is the risk birth activists and women’s health activists continue to take.

Consult your health care provider?

In my own life, I am frustrated by the ubiquitous phrase, “Consult your health care provider.” No, thanks. I prefer consulting myself, my books, google, my own research, and my friends. Last time I checked, my doctor did not own my body nor did she have divine revelation as to what I need in my life. I am a breastfeeding counselor providing phone and email support to women who have breastfeeding questions. Women frequently receive very poor breastfeeding “advice” from their doctors—to the extent that I honestly think they’d receive better information by polling random strangers at Wal-Mart with their questions (and, yes, I will actually tell women this). One caller once used the phrase, “but, I don’t want to disobey my doctor” and I found this extraordinarily telling as well as depressing. I recognize that doctors have special training and can be life-saving, however, what does that say about mothering in our culture that a woman would not act on behalf of her own baby and herself because of fear of being disobedient to a professional that she has hired? She is a consumer of a service, not the subject of a ruler!

This brings me to a thought by Dr. Michelle Harrison, author of the book A Woman in Residence:

I used to have fantasies…about women in a state of revolution. I saw them getting up out of their beds and refusing the knife, refusing to be tied down, refusing to submit…Women’s health care will not improve until women reject the present system and begin instead to develop less destructive means of creating and maintaining a state of wellness.”

Indeed! And, in an essay by Sally Gearhart’s about womanpower, she notes: “…there’s no forcing any other woman into a full trot or a gallop; she will move at her own pace, but at her own pace we can be sure she will move. At this point I always remind myself that the patriarchal use of crash programs is antithetical to organic movement; in a crash program the theory goes that if you can get nine women pregnant you can have a baby in one month; it takes women, I suppose, to understand that it doesn’t work that way.” (p. 202-203)

Reclaiming power

So, how do women reclaim power? I think story holds a key to power reclamation in this context. As I’ve referenced before, Carol Christ describes it thusly, “When one woman puts her experiences into words, another woman who has kept silent, afraid of what others will think, can find validation. And when the second woman says aloud, ‘yes, that was my experience too,’ the first woman loses some of her fear.” As I touch on above, for me it is to see myself and my body as a source of wisdom and to refuse to participate in structures that do not honor my power and personal agency. It involves more often turning to my peers, to other women, for advice and comfort and support, rather than to experts.

I’ve written many times before that I am a systems thinker. Women’s choices about their bodies and about birth are not made in personal isolation, but in a complexly interwoven network of social, political, medical, religious, and cultural systems. As Gearhart notes, “There may be no ‘enemy’ except a system. How do we deal with ‘the enemy’? As seldom as possible but when necessary by opening the way for [their] transformation into not-the-enemy. What weapons do we use? Our healing, our self-protection, our health, our fantasies, our collective care…” (p. 203).


Taking it to the body, part 3: Moontime

“…imagine what our lives would be like, what the world would be like if every womoon could bleed and birth inside a sacred circle…”


(Art by Mariela Dela Paz)

Blessing to our menstrual blood!

Blessing for our birthing blood!

Blessing to our female body

Blessing to our spirit

Blessing for our connection with other women

Blessing for our self-love and love of each other

Blessing to the world that holds us sacred.

–Antiga in The Goddess Celebrates, p. 168

Continuing my taking it to the body theme, I have some more observations to make about Moontime in a woman’s life. Ever since moontime’s return for me earlier this year, I’ve tried to remind mindful of the ebb and flow of my cycle and associated emotions, feelings, and inclinations. Just as I wouldn’t expect myself to “do it all” during postpartum, I find it logical that I shouldn’t expect myself to “do it all” during menstruation either. But, that is easier said than done! Kids still need to do to playgroup and taekwondo and, and, and…

It is also very, very easy for me to forget that many of the common mental patterns I experience with needing to retreat and wanting to quit and wanting to rest are very cyclical in nature as well. But, I also hate that, because I never want, “must be hormones!” to be an excuse. I honestly think it isn’t an excuse, but is instead is often a wake-up call. So, taking it to the body…it surprises me how, even though I track my cycle using a handy phone app, I still overlook that the “I’m so fat and ugly!” thoughts and the “how come I suddenly have zits on my chin?” and “I want to QUIT THE WORLD” and, “people are so annoying and SO LOUD and never STOP TALKING!!!!!” and, “WHY do people WANT things from me ALL THE TIME!!!!” feelings, also recur on a cyclical basis. And, then moontime comes, and suddenly life takes a turn for the better and things look up. I start feeling energetic and productive and excited about things. Instead of wanting to quit, I have tons of new ideas and feel enthusiastic and optimistic about completing them. I feel creative and inspired. You’d think I’d remember and say, “oh yeah, this. This sensation of wanting to hide…I remember this.” BUT…and this is the ticket…I need to then DO IT. Go ahead and hide for a minute. Things will go on without me. It is when I override my own inclinations and body messages and needs that “Dragon Lady” wishes to come out and roar for her rights.

“Each time we deny our female functions, each time we deviate from our bodies’ natural path, we move father away from out feminine roots. Our female bodies need us now more than ever, and we too need the wisdom, the wildness, the passion, the joy, the vitality and the authenticity that we can gain through this most intimate of reconciliations.” –Sarah J Buckley, M.D.

I recently enjoyed listening to a recording from Indigo Bacal called Womb Magic ~ 3 Things EVERY Cycling Woman Needs to Know.

The three things are:

1. track your cycle

2. create a moon tent and spend time in it alone.

3. moontime is a powerful opportunity for renewal

One of the things she also said is that if your family and the people around you can allow you the space to retreat into your “moon tent,” you will return with powerful medicine for them every month, because of this powerful time for renewal. It is the blocked call for quiet time to rest and renew that causes a variety of premenstrual tension, strain, and stress…

I also enjoyed reading an interesting article about being a Highly Sensitive Person (I have already read the book by the same name):

I learned that life is easier than I think it is. Thinking about life is hard. But, life already is. It’s already happening. That’s easy.

I discovered that highly sensitive people seem to develop backwards compared to traditional theories. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that in order to develop as people, we must meet certain needs in a certain order, starting with physiological needs.

Well, I find that HSPs actually start at the top with transcendence needs and work down to the physiological needs last.

You really can trust yourself; your body knows more than you think. Your nervous system is getting a lot. Trust it. Trust is a practice. It’s a work out. Start where you are and take a step in the direction of trusting your body and what it is telling you.

That is how you strengthen the connection with your body. The present is here for you to unwrap in each surprising moment…


New sculptures! This time from pottery clay and my mom glazed and fired them. They’re cool! 🙂

Book Review: Moon Time

Taking it to the body… Part 2: Embodied mindfulness, introversion, and two hours!

Trust yourself. Take it to the body. She always knows.”

For my meditation practice for my compassion class, I’ve been working with several things, starting with the above quote. As I explained in part 1, how often do we deny the urgings of our bodies? It seems as if mindfulness begins there.

So, I’ve decided to practice an embodied mindfulness and meditation…taking it to the body and checking in with what she knows. Consciously noticing and being aware of my body’s signals to sleep, eat, and eliminate. It is much harder than you would think for something so basic and essential for well-being and I “fail” many, many times a day, but, and this is the point: I notice as I am failing, as I am not listening. That is better than remaining unconscious, right?!

The second part of my practice is that I’m trying to make sure I feed my spirit first—going to the woods, praying, setting intentions for the day, lighting a candle and setting up some of my goddess art sculptures near me as I work, rather than letting those things languish for “when I have enough time” and “later.”

The third part of my practice is to notice my thoughts and how I think about things, bringing mindfulness to the repetitive, wheel-spinning , brain-groove making patterns of thought that I habitually engage in. I frequently feel like, “something has got to change!” or, “I need to change what I’m doing and THEN, XYZ.” In mindfulness practice, I notice that more often it isn’t what is actually happening in my life that is upsetting or stimulating the “change” urge, it is expressly how I think about things that needs to change. I have become aware of the following unhelpful brain-groove thoughts that continue to dictate my behavior, choices, feelings, and responses:

I might die

I need to be perfect

I can’t rest

I’m out of time/running out of time/there isn’t enough time

(I haven’t fixed these yet, but awareness of them is a big part of the puzzle.)

As appears to be my custom at this time of year, I had a big meltdown this weekend feeling resentful, overbooked, stressed, ragged, frustrated, blocked, irritable, etc., etc. Then, I piled on a hearty dose of self-admonishment for all those feelings and stirred in some big helpings of guilt. I blamed various things, I blamed myself, I ranted and raved about how something needs to change and I need to do something different because this just isn’t working. (most of this was actually in my own head because Mark was sleeping in the living room as he recovered from the stomach flu that swept our house this week, more on this later.) I was crabby at loved ones. I felt guilty for wanting to be alone and for feeling done with snuggling my nursling and smelling her sweet head, knowing, knowing, knowing that the time is passing and that I will miss it and yet, dang it, stop climbing all over me and ramming your hands down my shirt! I felt like I “should” be doing all kinds of things differently. Like I should be a better, nicer person and like maybe I’m choosing wrongly in my life. I wanted to just stop, to get off, to quit everything. I decided I don’t want to help anyone else anymore and I just want to take care of myself. I cried because I need my parents and Mark to help me so that I can help other people and if I just stopped trying to help anyone else, I could take care of myself/family and not need anyone to help me either. I made plans to make a big life map and ruthlessly chop things off it. I decided to embark on a massive self-care, self-improvement project for the new year. I dragged out piles of books to look through. I remembered that busy is boring , I craved time for a retreat. I exclaimed that I just want to grind my corn! I lamented my ongoing crisis of abundance. I looked up my old post about balanced living and saying ‘no’ and thought about how I’m going to say a big fat NO to everything all the time! Must be clear on priorities. Must choose well and wisely. Then, I got annoyed with myself for already having figured this stuff out before, for writing about it already, for boringly lamenting it all before, for never learning (or integrating) my life lessons, and for knowing better and yet doing it anyway.

And, then…everyone went to bed. I sat up by myself and worked on a drawing for a “make a plate.” The kids all did this at my mom’s house over the weekend as a Christmas project—you draw a design on a special piece of paper, send it in to the company, and they send it back to you as a plate. I wanted to make one too! So, I did:

I really like it. After drawing, I felt tons better. I sat alone in the living room with my computer and got my online class all caught up for the week. And, suddenly it hit me. This ugly ragged self of mine I was seeing and experiencing and hating. She was popping out because I hadn’t had my two hours all damn week! And, after I realized that, I understood that things weren’t really that bad after all. Last week was insane. I knew it in advance, but it doesn’t mean it was easier to cope with it. And, if I tuned in to myself and my body, which is really, really hard to do when you’re an introvert without your requisite two hours, I just heard the familiar cry for what I need, to just be by myself at home for some time each week. Not to quit everything, all the time, but just to have some regular, consistent still points of solitude.

This is what last week looked like for us:

Monday: Twenty papers submitted by my online students, they all need to be graded in addition to my usual weekly grades for the week. While I did my usual grades and online class prep work, no papers got graded with the time I had available. Manage to quickly write an assignment for my own class, part of which is excerpted at the beginning of this post. Scramble to town to take the kids to meet Mark. Teach class on Monday night from 5-10. Come home freaking out about the rest of the week and HOW CAN I POSSIBLY GRADE THIS MANY PAPERS WHEN I HAVE NO TIME! Maybe I’m not meant to do this, maybe three classes is too many, maybe there is just something wrong with me.

Tuesday: After doing school with the boys, laboriously make pumpkin pasties to take to the Harry Potter potluck for the last day of homeschool co-op Wednesday. Insist on all three children helping with the “fun” and get super stressed out at not being a more zen mother of awesomeness. Call my dad desperately in the afternoon requesting “tribal reinforcement” (my tribe is a good one!).


Pumpkin pasties. Awesome, or unnecessary torture?

After he takes the kids over to play at his house, manage to grade four of the papers among many other tasks. Then, take the kids and head to town for their taekwondo class and my own reiki class (why take a reiki class now when I already have so much going on? Who knows?! Crazy, remember?) Reiki class is great—totally works and I feel like such a healer! Go home and practice fab skills on Mark and boys and they are impressed. Feel buzzing with energy and hands are tingling. Stay up until 2:00 a.m, on purpose and finish grading ALL papers. Feel awesome and smug and have killer, killer headache.

Wednesday: killer headache continues. Take kids to homeschool co-op and potluck. Pumpkin pasties meet with approval. Pick up two of boys’ friends for an overnight. Fingers crossed for Alaina to nap when we get home, since I’m desperate to be alone and need to get “caught up.” She doesn’t.

Make homemade mac and cheese for dinner and it rocks. Boys and friends stay up until past midnight. I stay up and finish prepping for Friday’s class.


She actually wore bowling shoes this time! Insisted on carrying ball every time for a whole game!

Thursday: Killer headache remains (not enough sleep, I think at the time). Make quesadillas for all kids in house and barely stagger out door with them all to go to playgroup at bowling alley. Bowl a terrible 85, but have lots of fun (Alaina is adorable bowler and gets a 17 [non-bumper lane]). Belabor different post-playgroup scenarios to manage rest of day.


Mine, mine?


Brothers are not into bowling and complain nonstop and sit staring like this. I finish their games.


She’s a natural!

Send boys with friend to get pizza and go to park, while Alaina and I go to Wal-Mart to buy dinner supplies for a postpartum mama. Take dinner to new mama and listen to fab birth story and do breastfeeding help for next two hours. Kids come back from park and are sent with other friend in my van to gymnastics class. Help jump friend’s car and then go to pick up all gymnastics kids (my own boys + two). Am slightly late and they’re getting worried. Zoom to taekwondo to drop all off. Go to Panera to eat dinner and meet couple for wedding ceremony planning. Alaina finally falls asleep and nurse-sleeps throughout Panera visit. Back to get boys at 8:00 and meet other friend to deliver books she’s borrowing, plus pick up evaluation from her from recent birth workshop. Head home, dropping off boys’ friend at her house on the way. Remember LLL monthly stats are due and do them (27 helping contacts for November!), plus send overdue emails and answer help message. Catch up in online class. Collapse in recliner, hoping Alaina’s Panera snooze wasn’t an uber-late nap. She nurses more and falls asleep. Score! Mark and I start a Teen Wolf ep while she keeps nursing. Suddenly, A wakes and projectile vomits all over my body. Yikes! What’s up?! As I wash the chunks off in the shower I start to feel bad too (headache continues, FYI). At 1:30, I throw up too. Alaina throws up seven more times during night with various degrees of mess. Grateful for Mark and his clean-up skills.

Friday: Mark stays home to help, but still needs to get own work done from home. I throw up one more time and debate going to class tonight—do I go or stay?! Zander starts throwing up. My head is actually going to explode with pain. Have fever and chills. Decide not to go to class, even though it means incredible hassle with double make-up classes now (because of no class on Thanksgiving). Nap and wake at 3:00 deciding it is class or bust after all. Both options feel like dumb options. Decide to be Typhoid Molly. Take Advil, get dressed, and head for the Fort where I teach. Class is fine. I have a guest speaker and show a video about child abuse. Hope to leave early, but feel better as class goes on and get busy with student questions/discussions. Dismiss early enough to get out the back gate and take short route home.


Selecting candies.

Saturday: Work party at my mom’s house. She has good projects planned. While the men cut firewood, the women make seasoning blends using herbs and spices I ordered last week from the bulk food buying club. Alaina is fretful and clingy and nurses nonstop, even though she has to stand on a chair to do it while I mix my seasoning blends. Kids draw pictures for their plates and also make fun cracker houses. Alaina finally naps and I grade two late papers, respond to a help message, and try to catch up with my online class again. Feel bad and guilty about not helping with dinner prep and also misunderstood by others about legitimately needing to get my work done. Feel annoyed that I have to make excuses or justifications for it, feel others are annoyed with me. Eat communal turkey dinner and yummy cake. Home feeling generally distressed, unhappy, and overbooked. Am reminded that I’ve forgotten/misunderstood something again. This keeps happening. My brain is leaking. I can’t hold everything and I keep dropping balls, communicating poorly/not enough, missing things or misunderstanding things, and forgetting stuff. Wish I hadn’t had to go anywhere on the weekend. Need regroup time. Suddenly remember with a shock that today is the FoMM newsletter deadline (for contributions, not for me). Send requisite emails and consider fact that I have exactly zero contributions thus far. Lann wakes before we make it to bed and barfs turkey dinner ALL OVER bedroom floor. As Mark cleans it up, he starts to feel sick too. Is up and down during night with stomach pain and finally also vomits.


Finished houses with architects.


Lann’s house.


Sunday: I feel pretty good at start of day, but start to freak out as day progresses. Mark is down sick in recliner all day. Alaina is whiny and clingy and doesn’t stay asleep at naptime. By 2:30, I’m still in PJ’s and feeling emotionally fragile. Begin the internal monologue of self-doubt, criticism, and desire for change described above. Kids go visit my parents and I work frantically on various bits and pieces, like preparing for my class on Monday night. Feel I’m choosing wrongly and still not taking care of myself. What’s wrong with priorities?! Argh. Gnash. Suffer.

Sunday night: stay up after others are in bed. Make my drawing for my plate. Have epiphany that this is all about the two hours. I usually get two hours to myself multiple times a week. Review week and see NO two hours. No wonder I feel like crap. I need it. I really do. It’s this introversion thing. I have to be able to count on sometimes being alone. Hmm. Maybe that is all it is. Maybe I don’t really need to quit everything after all, but maybe I need to plan carefully and assertively and strongly avoid weeks like this last one. Maybe I just need to firmly, guilt-free-edly, hold some space for myself, no matter what. Mentally review week and see, DUH. That was a busy, hard week. I got barfed on. I threw up. I taught class with the flu. No wonder I feel overwhelmed, stressed, and upset. It would be weird if I didn’t feel that way. Isn’t it normal to be a little crazy when life is crazy? Remember that one crazy week doesn’t mean entire life is unraveling after all. Wonder if maybe, just maybe, I should actually feel impressed at my own capacities. Stay up “too late” and enter all my grades so that on Monday, I can do some other things that I want to do—like write blog posts—rather than work on my classes and then go teach as well.

Remember I wasn’t going to write long, boring, navel-gazing blog posts like this one anymore and consider not posting it after all…

Think of lots more things to add and remember lots of other to-dos I got done…

Notice current students have become “fans” on Facebook and really, really consider not posting after all…

Spend way too long trying to format pictures for this post and finally give up and set it to post later in the week with crappy-alignment pictures.

Copy this picture from Facebook and try really, really hard to remember it…


Deep breath. Hug self. Hug kids. Try again.

Taking it to the body… (part 1)

The following is excerpted from one of my lessons in my recently finished Ecofeminism course.

20121203-150406.jpgIn Mara Keller’s essay in the ecofeminist anthology Reweaving the World, she explains that in our cells remember an ancient era of mother-centered life. As I observe in my own children’s relationship to me as their mother, this seems extremely logical to me. Keller writes: “The renewal I long for is a return of a reverence for Mother Earth and her abundant forces of creations; an affirmation of the sacredness of sexuality and enduring human love; and the belief in the inevitability of death and the immortality of the soul” (p. 51). Mother Earth is abundant and fertile and awe-inspiring, she can also be wild and unpredictable and dangerous and is deserving of reverence and respect.

Chellis Glendinning in The Politics of Women’s Spirituality sums up the consequences of patriarchy perfectly:

“When women are faced each day with enforced cesarean deliveries, birth control that maims and kills them, and doctors who think them dirty, when we encounter rape, violence in the streets, job discrimination, sexual slavery around the world, pollution and nuclear madness, we realize that reclaiming the integrative ways of our ancestors must involve our healing powers on all fronts—from the medical to the social to the environmental to the political to the psychological to the spiritual. Healing the divisions that were imposed during the patriarchal era is the survival issue of our time and our planet. A world that systematically sickens its women cannot survive.” [emphasis mine]

Returning to Reweaving the World, in a similar line of thought, Paula Allen states that “a society based on body hate destroys itself and causes harm to all of Grandmother’s grandchildren” (p. 53). I honestly think that many, many children enter the world in an atmosphere of body hate (this can be true regardless of birthing environment). I read an article recently by the famous French obstetrician Michel Odent who explains that the human species may actually be losing the capacity to give birth on its own. Odent sums up the sobering conclusion of current research with this chilling observation: “after just 3 or 4 generations of highly technological childbirth, it seems very possible that our human oxytocin system is weakening. In other words, our capacity to give birth is weakening…” What will it mean for society if our human women can no longer successfully carry and bear new members of the species without significant technological assistance?!

So, planetary healing may actually rest in body respect and love. Allen explains that rejoicing in our bodies is how we show our respect to the planet. We can heal our bodies…”our own dear body, our own dear flesh. For the body is not the dwelling place of the spirit, it is the spirit. It is not a tomb, it is life itself” (p. 56). Allen asks the reader to consider how often we deny the urgings of our bodies. I ask this of women also—how often do you respond to the first cue from your body to use the bathroom? Usually, we resist several times—sometimes even hours—before finally going. If this basic, daily function we each experience multiple times a day is a time in which to deny and ignore our bodies’ messages, how do we expect women to then speak up for themselves in birth? To ask for what they need and to follow the instinctive dance of their birthing bodies? These same questions can be expanded to other areas of our lives as well of course…

Allen also has a refreshing perspective that now is not the time for tranquility. So often in New Age writings and Western-adapted Buddhist and Zen types of thought we see admonishments towards calmness, serenity, peace, and so forth and in the non-attachment and “I create my own reality” and “there is no reality but the present moment.” I appreciate this call for action and for passion, rather than a stilling of the emotions.

And, finally, returning to the body theme, during a recent women’s retreat one of the guests brought us each a card that reads: “Trust yourself. Take it to the body. She always knows.” I loved this and will explain more in part 2

Guest Post: The Midwife as a Storyteller and Teacher by Patricia Harman

The use of old-fashioned narrative to influence, and inform patients about health practices

As an author of memoirs, historical fiction and children’s literature, I am a storyteller, but I’m also a nurse-midwife, and I use storytelling as one of my primary teaching tools.

Storytelling is uniquely human.  Anthropologists have argued that storytelling is pre-verbal, that pictographs on the inside of caves are in fact stories.  Form the earliest days humankind has used narrative to record history, to entertain, to convey experience and to transfer information.

To convey information in narrative form is something no other species can do.  It’s an evolutionary advantage and allows each individual to harbor  more information than personal experience would allow.

Using stories to teach patients is not unique to midwives.  All good providers use stories to illustrate May 2016 004how individuals can make better health choices.

We all know that many patients are non-traditional learners  and even those in higher education love a good story.  Research and statistics are boring for most people and easy to forget .  Many patients, even if given a handout drop it in the trash as they leave our office. They don’t have time to read it or are non-readers.

On the other hand, if I tell a tale, in an amusing way, about a young woman who refused to take her birth control pills because she was worried they would make her fat…and now she’s pregnant…that’s a cautionary tale and brings a smile and a knowing nod from the fifteen-year-old here to discuss birth control: That’s not going to happen to her!  

Using self-disclosure about your own life can humanize a professional relationship and help patients be more honest with you about their lives.  For example, I might say with a smile, that I’ve gone to Weight Watchers for so long I could teach the class, even though I’ve never reached goal weight.  The patient and I share a good laugh and now she feels comfortable telling me she can’t stand to look in the mirror, has tried four different TV diets and is terribly discouraged.  A door for real communication has opened.  She no longer feels alone and she knows she has me as a non-judgmental advocate.

Stories can accomplish what no other form of communication can do; they can get through to hearts with a message.  I might tell a very stressed-out college student, sitting on the end of the exam table, about a patient of mine who had two jobs and was studying nursing full time.  Last year she started getting a series of illnesses.  Next thing she knew, she flunked two courses, lost her boyfriend and had a motor vehicle accident.  The moral is clear: don’t take on more than is humanly possible.  And the tale is more likely to induce lifestyle change than a lecture.

All health care providers, surgeons, nurses, physical therapists, family doctors or midwives must be teachers.  If you missed that part in school, it’s not too late.  With humor and love we can become part of the human story that will bring health and hope to our patients.

For the past twenty years, Patricia Harman has been a nurse-midwife on the faculty of The Ohio harman-2008-by_bob_kosturko-330State University, Case Western Reserve University and most recently West Virginia University. In 1998 she went into private practice with her husband, Tom, an OB/Gyn, in Morgantown, West Virginia. Here they devoted their lives to caring for women and bringing babies into the world in a gentle way. Patricia Harman still lives with her husband, Thomas Harman, in Morgantown, West Virginia. She recently retired from her thirty-five years of midwifery so she could write more books for people like you!

My past reviews of Patsy’s books:

Past blog posts on the subject of story power: october-2016-240


Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Art, Retreat, and Free-Range Husbands

Photo: “Let us initiate our daughters into the beauty and mystery of being strong and confident women who claim their right to give birth and raise their children with dignity, power, love, and joy.” –Barbara Harper (New post about local activism:

“Let us initiate our daughters into the beauty and mystery of being strong and confident women who claim their right to give birth and raise their children with dignity, power, love, and joy.” –Barbara Harper

I’ve been getting a lot of requests lately to make more birthing mama sculptures, so I spent some time on Sunday sculpting up a new crew of them!

Photo: It took me a little longer than I thought and my poor mamas look chilly out there in the snow, but I finished taking pictures of my recent sculptures and they are all available on etsy now! :)

You know how they say that birth art is as real, messy, raw and spontaneous as birth itself? Well, this birth artist doesn’t always gallivant around in the snow with tiny, empowered art pieces. Instead, sometimes I post things like this on Facebook: my toddler has been screaming because she wants to, “make a blue doddess RIGHT NOW” and when the sole cheerful sibling in the house attempted to make one for her she said, “it ball of poop” and squished it in the pasta roller. Ahhh. This is the life…

“Rigid plans work best if you’re building a skyscraper; with something as mysteriously human as giving birth, it’s best, both literally and figuratively, to keep your knees bent.” –Mark Sloan, MD (Birth Day)

via Brought to our knees | Talk Birth.

I recently read an article about spirituality and birth that is going in my dissertation work file:

“She remembers one devout Catholic who birthed holding rosary beads. Propped up on the bed, this mom-to-be rocked and hummed softly during contractions. During her home birth—which lasted only a few hours—she gazed at the three-foot-tall statue of the Virgin Mary in her room. “I felt I was in the palm of the Virgin Mary,” the mother explained to Vincent afterward. “She was protecting me.”

It is not a particular religious denomination that helps women have enjoyable, vaginal, and medication-free childbirths. Rather it is the belief that their bodies are doing what they’ve been made to do and that they are connected to something higher—be that God, the spirit, the universe, or even an awareness of women in the past who have given birth before them…”

Special Delivery | Spirituality & Health Magazine | Page 1.

My first ever miscarriage sculpture when up on etsy this week too. While, I made one like this for myself last year, I’ve never made one for sale until this week. This past week actually marked the fourth anniversary of my second miscarriage. When I took my photo of the new sculpture out in the snow, I reflected that this is how I felt after my second miscarriage–cold and alone. Trying to stand steady and find my ground, even though I felt as if my legs had been kicked out from under me…

Photo: My first ever miscarriage sculpture is also up on etsy today. I made one like this for myself, but I've never made for sale until this week.  This week marks the fourth anniversary of my second miscarriage. I took this photo of the new sculpture out in the snow and reflected that this is also how I felt after my second miscarriage--cold and alone. Trying to stand steady and find my ground, even though I felt as if my legs had been kicked out from under me...

This is part of what I originally wrote about that experience:

I just want to say two things again:

I do NOT want people to feel sorry again for me so soon.

I feel DUMB

I do not feel like I am handling this well or with strength. I just feel numb and dumb and done and done for. I am bottoming out right now. Bottom. Pit. Despair.

It is hard for me to read this again, to type it out, and to remember these feelings. It still feels strange or confusing to me about how Noah’s birth was “easier” for me to cope with emotionally—even as it was the most fundamental and profound grief I’ve ever experienced, it was clean. It felt meaningful. It also had a distinct physical, embodied connection via having given birth to him. The second miscarriage felt like being kicked while I was down and being erased.

via The Amethyst Network February Blog Circle ~ Sharing Our Stories: A Confusing Early Miscarriage Story | Talk Birth.

This time of year, the first week of February, is when I have a personal tradition of taking a week-long computer off retreat. Even though I felt the same call to retreat this year, I didn’t do it. I’m not ruling out the possibility of still getting to do so because February isn’t over yet, but I reached the point where I realized it was stressing me out more to feel like I “should” be planning a retreat than it was not to do it. Since we planned our business launch to start on February 1st, it also just didn’t make practical sense to suddenly disconnect at exactly the same time! What I did do was a family ritual on February 1st and also I did a single-day “email off retreat” that was really amazing. I would like to make that a regular part of my week, perhaps every Wednesday or something.

The merry-go-round of work never stops. There will always be more work than we can handle, more emails than we can ever manage, more projects to juggle. It’s up to us to heed our inner calling, whether that voice is saying, “You’re starving creatively … you can’t keep pushing, your body can’t do this anymore … if you look at one more email, your mind will explode … or, you have got to slow down and rest,” and take action.

via Why I’m taking a sabbatical – Renee Trudeau & Associates.

This reminded me of two past posts about the classic memoir, Gift from the Sea:

“With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions. The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls–woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”

― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

via The Revolving Wheel (Gift from the Sea) | Talk Birth.

Even though she wrote the book in the 50’s, the sense of fragmentation and balancing that many mothers today experience was her experience as well…

For life today in America is based on the premise of ever-widening circles of contact and communication. It involves not only family demands, but community demands, national demands, international demands on the good citizen, through social and cultural pressures, through newspapers, magazines, radio programs, political drives, charitable appeals, and so on. My mind reels in it, What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives. It puts the trapeze artist to shame. Look at us. We run a tight rope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby-carriage, parasol, kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now!

This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of. It leads not to unification but to fragmentation. It does not bring grace, it destroys the soul. And this is not only true of my life. I am forced to conclude, it is the life of millions of women in America. I stress America, because today, the American woman more than any other has the privilege of choosing such a life. ― Anne Morrow Lindbergh

via Tuesday Tidbits: Gift from the Sea (Communication Overwhelm) | Talk Birth.

February 2014 012

Check out the stack of orders he’s taking to the mailbox! Also, note PJ pants still on at noon, no breakfast (for him, I fixed my own), no shower, but also no need to drive through the current snow and ice to get to work…

I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on the household navigation of being an introvert mama with now having my also-introvert husband home full-time. Turns out that both parents home doesn’t magically extend the hours in a day (actually seems to shorten them) and it means both parents end up feeling pretty maxed out by kids and in need of somewhere quiet to recharge! 😉 I love having a “free-range” husband and I’m blown away by our joint creativity, which is an energy we’ve never experienced before at this level in our 19 year relationship because he was always at work all week and we had to squeeze everything else in around the edges. I also notice these interesting facts about having us both home all of the time: the house is way messier, we consistently stay up “too late” and sleep “too late,” it seems harder than ever to cook/figure out meals, we have less time to spend on homeschooling (!!), we still don’t feel like we have enough time to talk to each other, I seem to have less time to write and focus on writing, I feel like I give my kids less attention than I did when I was the only at-home parent (because I now have Mark to pay attention to too and I really like him), it is perhaps harder than ever to get the TWO HOURS I desperately need, I feel as if I have less time to focus on my teaching work, we argue more over household and parental responsibilities, we laugh way more and have more fun with each other and with our kids and we do more spontaneous, relaxed and fun stuff with our kids. It has been an interesting experience!

Related reads on introvert parenting:

I hate that as a mother, I felt like I had to choose between caring for my child and caring for myself. Because really, I can choose both. I can teach my kids—by example, which is perhaps the most potent way of teaching—that they are worthy of listening to their own needs. To the quiet, sure voice that might tell them they need a break. To lie on a yoga mat and sink deep into their own body and breath. To wander through a cemetery, alone, slowly enough to read the names on the gravestones. To sit down and write about how they’re feeling, or to surrender to sweet sleep for an hour.

via High Needs Mother | Brain, Child Magazine

So, sometimes when I start feeling ragged and can’t put my finger on exactly why, it comes to me: “I WANT MY TWO HOURS!”

via The Ragged Self | Talk Birth and Taking it to the body… Part 2: Embodied mindfulness, introversion, and two hours! | Talk Birth

February 2014 005

More time for spontaneous fun: she set this up yesterday and called me to come, “have ceremony!” and so we did. And, we drummed and sang too. She has a made up song she sings lately: “Oh, I’m her little daughter! Oh, I’m her little daughter!”

Toddlerhood and Beyond—Oh dear, now is when “no time to think” starts to wear on Introverted Mama’s nerves and stamina. I’ve met some awesome mothers of large families who comment on how they, “love the chaos” of home with lots of children. “Our house is wild and crazy and full of noise and I love it,” they may be known to say. Thinking of how desperately I crave silence and solitude, sometimes with an almost physical pain and longing, I feel inadequate in comparison to these declarations. Is this too simply a function of personality? Can these chaos-thriving mamas be extroverts who gain energy from interaction with others? I find that my own dear children, my own flesh and blood and bone and sweat and tears, still feel very much like “company” in terms of the drain on my energy that I experience. Whether it is socializing with a group or friends or spending the day with my energetic, loveable, highly talkative children, I crave time alone to recollect myself and to become whole once more. I once commented to my husband that I feel most like a “real person” when I’m alone. That means that the intensiveness and unyielding commitment of parenting can be really, really hard on me emotionally. Maybe it is okay to “own” that need for quiet, even as a mother, rather than to consider it some type of failure or an indication of not being truly cut out for this motherhood gig. (See more in a past, lengthy, navel-gazing post on why I need my “two hours”.)

How do you experience (and honor) introversion in your life as a parent? Sometimes I feel like being an introvert and being a mother are not very compatible, but as I learn to respect my own needs, to speak up for myself, and to heed that call for silence and solitude, I realize it is compatible after all. My children have two introverted parents and will hopefully grow up feeling confident in the knowing that there is profound power in being quiet, in taking time to think deeply, and to respond to the call of solitude if it comes knocking at the door of their hearts.

via Introverted Mama | Talk Birth.

I was looking through a new women’s circle curriculum I bought a couple of months ago that is about “becoming women of wisdom.” It is for older women and it takes your through a journey from your teens through your 60’s and beyond. Each “lesson” is illustrated with a drawing for that life stage. This is the illustration for “Remembering Our Thirties”:

February 2014 068It is so spot-on that it really made me laugh! I was encouraged to see the one that followed for your forties. She looks both chill and sizzling with her own power:

February 2014 069Finally, cycling back around to birth art, next up on our month-long launch-month giveaway agenda is one of our brand new womb labyrinth pendants! To enter, just click on the labyrinth picture below to go to the Facebook contest. As a special bonus, I’m holding a “secret” companion giveaway via this blog! For an entry to win one of our tree of life pendants, go like our new Brigid’s Grove Facebook page and then leave a comment here letting me know you did so. Double chance to win a prize from us this week! 🙂

Also, there is still time to get our free Ritual Recipe Kit! (just sign up for our newsletter).

Wednesday Tidbits: Activism!

vdayutvs_webRolla Birth Network is pleased to be one of the co-sponsors of the upcoming production of The Vagina Monlogues, Eve Ensler’s classic feminist empowerment play.

The local production of The Vagina Monologues will benefit the Russell House, a shelter for battered women and their children. The event is specifically planned as part of V-Day:

“V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sex slavery.”

Last year we had a candlelight vigil on Valentine’s Day in honor of One Billion Rising. While that was a wonderful project too, this play production is much more ambitious and is very exciting! Here are some more details:


Local cast members (including my very own talented and awesome doula! 🙂 )

Rolla Area Citizens for Women 2014
Presents a Benefit Production of

Eve Ensler’s

FEBRUARY 21, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Cedar Street Playhouse
701 North Cedar Street
Rolla, Missouri 65401

$5.00 Minimum Donation per person CASH ONLY
Benefits The Russell House

I’m really looking forward to going!

Another Missouri-local opportunity specific to birth advocacy and midwifery activism is the annual Friends of Missouri Midwives Cookie Day at the Capitol coming up next week:

1524390_680284898676217_1590110806_oYes, it is true, Barbara Harper will be there! Isn’t that cool?! I heard her speak at the CAPPA conference in 2010 and very much enjoyed her presence and devotion. I hope the weather cooperates so I can see her grace our Capitol building with her poise and information!

“Let us initiate our daughters into the beauty and mystery of being strong and confident women who claim their right to give birth and raise their children with dignity, power, love, and joy.” –Barbara Harper

One of the opportunities that is also going on this month that is not local, but virtual instead, is DeAnna L’am’s Red Tent Summit. It is free to register and participate. I have not yet carved out the space I need to actually tune in, but the lineup of speakers and wealth of topics is amazing!

Also, while all of these particular events are offered with a wonderfully upbeat spirit of intent and energy, I also feel like sharing an activism-related quote that I’ve had saved in my drafts folder for a long time that acknowledges the important role of anger and activism:

I’m not afraid to say it. Hell, isn’t anger kind of a prerequisite for activism work? As a birth worker I get to watch abuse after abuse, injustice after injustice – over and over again. I mean, really, what spurs the need for activism work if not injustice? And injustice stirs up indignant anger.

We have this huge deficit with the word, “anger.” Somehow, whenever it is said, we cling to this connotation that it – the word, the feeling – is inherently BAD. It took me a lot of years to come to the understanding that there are no “bad” or “good” feelings – that emotions just are. They are states of being which reflect either met or unmet needs.

Anger is usually a catalyst emotion…

via I am an Angry Activist.

I’ve self-identified as an activist since at least 1996 (when I first began working at the same battered women’s shelter for which the Vagina Monologues production is benefiting, actually!) I do find that some anger (or sheer disbelief!) at injustice is part of the fuel that drives my present-day activism. In fact, social justice was at the heart of my response several years ago when asked why I became a childbirth educator:

…the question was posed, “why did you become a childbirth educator?” I responded with the following: because I care deeply about women’s issues, social justice and social change and I feel like women’s choices in childbirth are intimately entwined with this. Because I believe peace on earth begins with birth. Because the births of my own sons were the most powerful and transformative events of my life. And, because I believe every woman should have the opportunity to feel and know her own power and to blossom into motherhood with strength, confidence, and joy. ♥

…On a discussion board once, someone asked the question “what’s at the root of your love of birth?” I was still for a moment and let my intuitive, heart-felt, gut level response come to me and it was this:


Women’s health, women’s issues, women’s empowerment, women’s rights.

Social justice….

via Why, indeed? | Talk Birth.

I’m currently finishing a book about women’s rituals and this paragraph caught my eye last night in relationship to my own experience of birth activism (and other activist work):

“One of the other problems in areas of small population is the relationship between local and regional leadership. Often, people who are competent local leaders are recruited to work regionally or nationally in their organizations. This policy frequently leaves a vacuum at the local level because leadership is not broadly enough based in those communities.”

I’ve seen this happen with myself, noticing that as I became involved with birth activism on a national level, my time for local birth activism was necessarily reduced. (And, then as my interests and commitments broadened beyond birth, the time for birth activism of any kind reduced.) I also see it happening with digital commitments—basically, the more I do for people on a virtual level over the internet, the less I have to give on a face-to-face local level. I’m still sitting with this realization and wondering what to do with it. The organizers of the One Billion Rising event in Denver this year recently contacted me to ask permission to read one of my poems aloud during their event. I was thrilled to say yes, but then I also thought about my local community and how most people here would not be familiar with my poem at all. So, Denver hears it, but my own local area does not. Interesting. I also found out this week that one of my essays about my grandma was translated into French and published in a French magazine. Cool, yes, but again gave me pause…

January 2014 063Related past posts:

Birth Violence

Tuesday Tidbits: Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence During Pregnancy

Guest Post: Abuse of pregnant women in the medical setting

Business of Being Born: Classroom Edition

Tuesday Tidbits: The Role of Doulas…

Community Organizing

Birth Matters!

Taking it to the Body, Part 4: Women’s Bodies and Self-Authority

Tuesday Tidbits: Breastfeeding and Ecofeminism

“Women united in close circles can awaken the wisdom in each other’s hearts.” ~The 13 Indigenous Grandmothers (via The Girl God)

I agreed to serve as a faculty mentor for a Breastfeeding and Ecofeminism independent study class that started yesterday. Since my husband and I also recently finished our Breastfeeding Mama in pewter, I felt inspired to create this little message…

b3wkwFor the class, my student is reading three books and working on several projects (one of which will be a series of blog posts, so watch for those!). We chose these books:

The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business by Gabrielle Palmer

Milk, Money, and Madness: The Culture and Politics of Breastfeeding by Naomi Baumslag M.D. and Dia Michels

Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism by Irene Diamond

This is going to be so much fun! How lucky I am to get to do stuff like this! This is the course description we worked on together:

This course explores the cultural, social, and political environment surrounding breastfeeding in the United States through the lens of eco-feminism. We will examine global cultural attitudes compared to the United States, scientific research of the benefits of breast milk, marketing and advertising of artificial milk, and the sociocultural context surrounding infant feeding as a public health issue. This course emphasizes critical and varied perspectives on breast and bottle feeding; as well as the ways in which gender, race, and socioeconomic class affect women’s choices in breastfeeding. The birth-breastfeeding continuum will also be explored. We will study the aspects of ecology, spirituality, and feminism as well as many other perspectives supporting this holistic human experience for the well-being of the planet.

I wrote up some nifty course objectives as well:

  1. Contextualize breastfeeding as a public health issue both within the sociocultural environment in the United States and cross-culturally.
  2. Describe why breastfeeding is an ecofeminist issue—make connections between human treatment of the “world body” and the female body.
  3. Articulate the systemic and structural context in which breastfeeding takes place in the US. (Describe the political and economic influences on infant feeding in the US and frame the issue within a broad cultural context extending beyond the concept of personal choice.)
  4. Address the charge of “essentialism” with regard to breastfeeding in the context of feminist theory.

The student found me because of my past article on this subject…

Breastfeeding is a feminist issue and a fundamental women’s issue. And, it is an issue deeply embedded in a sociocultural context. Attitudes towards breastfeeding are intimately entwined with attitudes toward women, women’s bodies, and who has “ownership” of them. Patriarchy chafes at a woman having the audacity to feed her child with her own body, under her own authority, and without the need for any other. Feminism sometimes chafes at the “control” over the woman’s body exerted by the breastfeeding infant.

Part of the root core of patriarchy is a rejection of the female and of women’s bodies as abnormal OR as enticing or sinful or messy, hormonal, complicated, confusing…. Authentic feminism need not be about denying biological differences between women and men, but instead about defining both as profoundly worthy and capable and of never denying an opportunity to anyone for a sex-based reason. Feminism can be about creating a culture that values what is female as well as what is male, not a culture that tries to erase or hide “messy” evidence of femaleness.

However, precisely because of the patriarchal association of the female with the earthy and the physical, feminists have perhaps wanted to distance themselves from breastfeeding. This intensely embodied biologically mandated physical experience so clearly represents a fundamental difference between men and women that it appears to bolster biological reductionism. Yet in so doing feminism then colludes with patriarchy and itself becomes a tool of the patriarchy in the repression and silencing of women and their leaky ever-changing, endlessly cycling bodies: these bodies that change blood into food and bleed without dying and provide safe passage for new souls upon the earth. Sometimes the issue of a woman’s right not to breastfeed is framed as a feminist “choice.” This is a myth, made in the context of a society that places little value on women, children, and caregiving. It is society that needs to change. Not women and not babies.

via Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue | Talk Birth.

Last week I read a relevant article from Amy Glenn…

For the first time in human history, the female breast is nearly completely separated from its primary mammalian function. Rather than supporting the healthy development of our limbic lives, breasts are pornographically used to market a multitude of products. Why is the breast’s primary lactating function deemed strangely controversial today?

Despite the efforts of breastfeeding advocates, consider that mainstream news publications and talk shows feature mothers who nurse toddlers as cultural oddities…Our own society’s rupture from the wisdom of ancient ways is the true cultural oddity.

I applaud the efforts of public health advocates seeking to reconnect to the ancient wisdom of our female ancestors. Friends and family need to draw a fierce circle of protection and non-interference around the nursing mother-child dyad…

If it were up to breastfeeding advocates, federal legislation mandating paid maternity leave would exist everywhere. For nothing pressures a new mother to give up nursing more than struggling to meet the financial needs of her family. While teaching in Colombia, my employer was obligated legally to give me three months of paid maternity leave. Yet, if I had been working in the US at the time, it would have been up to my employer to determine the status of my maternity leave. The US stands alone as the only developed country without legally mandated paid maternity leave. This directly connects to our woeful breastfeeding rates…

Glenn read Palmer’s Politics book and it changed her perspectives on the systemic influences surrounding breastfeeding women:

In particular, Palmer’s connections between poverty and breastfeeding moved me. Over the last century, the purposefully deceptive marketing ploys of infant-formula makers have left tragedy in their destructive wake. For example, when promoting artificial milk in the developing world, companies dressed their representatives as medical professionals who claimed that their products were better than breast milk. Poverty stricken and largely uneducated mothers were persuaded to spend a large percentage of their household’s monthly income on the artificial milk powder that was considered best. To prolong its use, they often diluted the powder further reducing any nutritional value. In addition, these mothers lived in areas with poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water. Palmer describes how hundreds of thousands of babies died. At times, I had to put the book down as angry tears washed through me.

Choosing to move beyond the painful disconnections of our culture, I do my best to support the breastfeeding mothers I meet. Our world must move beyond separating baby from mother, self from breath, and bodies from hearts.

via In praise of breast milk.

I also read with interest an interview between Jeanette McCulloch of BirthSwell and Paige Hall Smith, a speaker at the 2013 Breastfeeding and Feminism conference, which makes some additional points about the relationship between income and breastfeeding rates:

PHS: The connection between women’s status and breastfeeding leads to a number of interesting ideas. We know from other research that both education and income are positively associated with breastfeeding outcomes. More research on why this is the case would be useful, particularly given that higher income is also associated with women’s employment. We also learn in this study that in those states where women have greater control of reproductive choices, and those where they are more likely to vote, also have higher breastfeeding rates. Since none of these are indicators that are directly implicated in breastfeeding success, we have to conclude that something interesting is going on in the climate of these states that makes a difference for women.

It makes sense that women who have higher status have more ability to manage their own time and resources (such as adjusting break times at work, taking additional maternity leave, determining the flow and location of their work) which may lead to higher breastfeeding rates. They may also have more authority at home and at work, which translates into greater ability to actualize their own decisions. Breastfeeding, like the ability to control one’s fertility, can be seen as a form of reproductive autonomy.

The relationship between women’s status and breastfeeding remained even when we controlled for available state-level breastfeeding support, such as access to IBCLCs, peer support like La Leche League, and baby friendly hospitals. One possible interpretation for this is that the breastfeeding support measures we have in place are ones that provide more assistance to higher status women than they do to lower status women. We need to think critically how our measures are affecting different populations. In general we found that clinical indicators of breastfeeding support had more impact on breastfeeding than did policy measures. This could have been because currently there insufficient “trickle down” from policy to women’s lives.

via Does Breastfeeding Hold Women Back? | Breastfeeding and Feminism International Conference

On a related-to-breastfeeding note, but moving off the topic of breastfeeding and ecofeminism, Mark and I also have a brand new nursing mama pendant that will be unveiled at the launch of our new collaborative business on February 1st! We’ll have a series of product giveaways, a free digital kit, and a new discount coupon as well. I’m so excited!

Other related posts:

The ‘Of Course’ Response

World Breastfeeding Week post roundup

Taking it to the Body


Tuesday Tidbits: Wild Woman

Women are the most beautiful embodiment of empowered awakening. We breathe life into the world with the heave of our body, sing the sacred into song with our soul, and heal the deepest of wounds with our boundless heart. Our time has come. Love is calling us all to remember the eternal ecstasy of Being. Now is the time. Now is the place. Love is here pressing itself into the moment. Love calls us to remember the universal creative pulse. Love calls all of humanity to its embrace. Love calls for women to claim their deepest truth, to create their greatest gift, and to rise from the ashes of a yesterday gone, to rise to fulfill authentic self. We women are awakening. We women are empowering. We women are rising. I am a woman rising.

~ Ani Kaspar


via Wild Woman Sisterhood on Facebook

This past weekend was the La Leche League of Missouri conference. I absolutely love these conferences and always learn so much, usually things I can use instantly. At this conference, I gave two presentations. The first was about miscarriage and grief and was sparsely attended, but pretty powerful. The second was about Moontime and it was really crowded! The participants were a diverse crowd and I felt a little unsure of my ability to connect with all of them without being excessively “woo woo.” Though, I expressed that concern in a comment on another woman’s blog post and I got this wonderful remark in return: I was just listening to an online interview with Sonia Choquette where she said that “woo woo” should be “where it’s at,” meaning that when we’re “woo woo,” we’re actually connecting to our authentic self, being in touch with our intuition, etc.

I’m going to remember this in the future—woo woo is where it’s at! 😉

Anyway, one of the things I shared during my talk is that mothers of small children are more likely to have PMS than anyone else—it is partly because our bodies call out to us to rest and be alone and we often can’t be when we have little babies that need us. It really, really does help with all pre-menstrual symptoms to be able to take some time to yourself to rest and rejuvenate rather than staying “on” all the time. Several women emailed me with follow-up questions and so here are the links and resources that I suggested for them:

Check out Miranda Gray’s website, particularly her free handouts. Deanna L’am is another favorite resource and she has resources for pre-moontime daughters as well.  Oh, and Tisha Lin’s Pleasurable Periods is another good resource as well as The Happy Womb from Lucy Pearce which has a free ebook about having a happy, healthy menstrual cycle. I’ve been digging into this subject a lot over the past year—any posts I’ve written are here. I’m also really liking the book I recently got called Honoring Menstruation by Lara Owen.

Bringing it back to the Wild Woman, I also shared a quote previously shared here:

“…Could it be that women who get wild with rage do so because they are deeply deprived of quiet and alone time, in which to recharge and renew themselves?

Isn’t PMS a wise mechanism designed to remind us of the deep need to withdraw from everyday demands to the serenity of our inner wilderness? Wouldn’t it follow, then, that in the absence of quiet, sacred spaces to withdraw to while we bleed — women express their deprivation with wild or raging behaviors?…” –DeAnna L’am via Occupy Menstruation

And, this book project recently caught my eye: Blood Sister, Moon Mama: a Celebration of Womanly Ways – submissions for a new book

Less related, but cool, I also just downloaded The Creative Joy Workbook (free!) from the incomparable Jennifer Louden.

For me, honoring moontime in my own life is very much about taking it to the body and listening to myself in the way in which I learned to do during pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and lactation. So, I loved this quote I spied on Facebook late last night:

Your body is your own.
This may seem obvious.
But to inhabit your physical self fully,
with no apology, is a true act of power.
This sovereignty over your body may need to be cultivated.
Most of us have been colonized; other people’s ideas, desires,
and expectations have taken hold in our flesh. It takes some time
and effort to reclaim our own terrain.

Own yourself. Say no when you need to.
Only then can you say yes…

– Camille Maurine, Meditation Secrets for Women (via TheGypsyPriestess)

I have read this book and actually have used part of the quote on my own before, but it spoke to me again in this different medium last night.

I’ve also written about the thoroughly embodied act of motherhood and likewise enjoyed this snippet via Facebook as well:

Nitty Gritty Motherhood | Theresa Martin

Motherhood came as quite a shock to me. It was just so… physical. It was often messy and gritty. Without motherhood, I probably could have lived my whole life without being truly present for any of it.

But as I reflect, it seems so much of a female’s life is just so physical.

Take menstruation for example, that first initiation into womanhood. It’s holy and sacred, a reorienting of our bodies from girlhood to womanhood, a constant preparation for the possibility of nourishing new life within us.

Menstruation is that time when we are called to change our focus from “doing” and “completing” to just being and reflecting. We are called to rest and to reevaluate our priorities and to ponder how our lives are going. So while this time is special and sacred, the shocking physical reality remains. I think my girlhood reaction to first learning about menstruation sums it up well: “We bleed?! From THERE!!??”

All of motherhood is no different. There’s that act that causes motherhood in the first place. It’s carnal and messy. Then there’s pregnancy. Like menstruation and sex, it occurs inside my body. I have the experience of housing, protecting, and growing my children until they can breathe for themselves. After that comes labor and birth. Once again, messy, gritty, carnal reality.

~ Theresa Martin, excerpt from “Nitty Gritty Motherhood”

Read more!

Katharine Krueger ~ Journey Of Young Women, Consultant and guide, Girls’ Empowerment and Coming of Age

And, yesterday, I went on my own wild woman adventure picking wild raspberries with my kids. I wrote about it on Pagan Families and included a bonus recipe for wild raspberry sorbet:

…may I be reminded June 2013 024
of the courage and love
shown in small, wild adventures.

Wild black raspberries are ripe at my Missouri homestead and this morning I went on an expedition with my three children to gather what we could. As I returned, red-faced, sweating, and after having yelled much more than I should and having said several things I instantly regretted, I was reminded of something that I manage to forget every year: one definition of insanity is picking wild berries with a toddler. In fact, the closest I ever came to spanking one of my kids was during one of these idyllic romps through the brambles when my second son was three. While still involving some suffering, today’s ramble was easier since I have a nine and a half year old now as well as the toddler. This time, my oldest son took my toddler daughter back inside and gave her a bath and put her in new clothes while I was still outside crawling under the deck in an effort to retrieve the shoes and the tiny ceramic bluebird I’ve had since I was ten that my girl tossed over the railing and into the thorns “for mama.”

While under the deck, I successfully fished out the shoes (could not find the tiny bird) and I found one more small handful of June 2013 038raspberries. Since the kids were all safely indoors, I took my sweaty and scratched up and irritable self and ran down to my small, sacred space in the woods. I was thinking about how I was hot, tired, sweaty, sore, scratched, bloody, worn, and stained from what “should” have been a simple, fun little outing with my children and the above prayer came to my lips. I felt inspired by the idea that parenting involves uncountable numbers of small, wild adventures. I was no longer “just” a mom trying to find raspberries with her kids, I was a raspberry warrior. I braved brambles, swallowed irritations, battled bugs, sweated, swore, argued, struggled, crawled into scary spaces and over rough terrain, lost possessions and let go of the need to find them, and served as a rescuer of others. I gave my blood and body over to the task.

When I returned and showered, my oldest begged for me to make homemade raspberry sorbet with our findings. I’ve never made June 2013 063sorbet before and wasn’t sure I should dare try, but then I gathered my resources and said yes to yet another small adventure…

via Small Adventures (sorbet recipe included there!)

I’ve also been enjoying the wild, riotous blooms of summer:

June 2013 041June 2013 049 June 2013 037

Tuesday Tidbits: Birthing Bodies

These Tuesday Tidbits all come from the Fall 2012 Pathways magazine. Pathways is a fabulous publication and the best replacement for Mothering magazine that I’ve found!

…I get that some women want a particular experience of birth—I mean, I really get it now that I have had a birth that left me feeling more powerful, more humble, more focused, and more devoted to my lover than I ever thought I could feel.

But I wish American women were told the truth about birth—the truth about their bodies, their abilities, and the dangers of technology. Mostly I wish all pregnant women could hear what Libby Bogdan-Lovis, my doula, told me: ‘Birthing a baby requires the same relinquishing of control as does sex–abandoning oneself to the overwhelming sensation and doing so in a protective and supportive environment’…

–Alice Dreger in The Hard Science Supporting Low-Tech Birth

Next, in connection to my own series of posts on taking it to the body, I enjoyed Karen Brody’s article, My Body Rocks, in which she describes her experiences in a yoga nidra class, noting that when asked in class to let her intention come from her body, her reaction was:

My body? I was ashamed to admit that, after two powerful homebirth experiences, I no longer felt intimately connected to my body. Pregnancy and giving birth were all about every little feeling in my body; mothering felt like a marathon of meeting everyone else’s needs and rarely my own…Most days, the question I asked was, ‘How are their bodies?’ My body was in the back seat, unattended, without a seatbelt.”

With regard to my own body, I’m re-introducing my daily yoga practice, maintained since 2001 even through the births of my other two children and playing a significant role in my birth experiences, and yet released with reluctance during Alaina’s infancy. It is time to bring it back! On a related note, I have a neat prenatal yoga book/DVD to review and I watched it this week with Alaina practicing with me—when it instructed you to, “put your hands on your baby,” I put my hands on her! 😉

Speaking of toddlers, I’m wearing a little thin with toddler breastfeeding. I’ve commented to friends that some of the issues and annoyances and difficulties that I’ve previously associated with nursing during pregnancy are actually simply issues of nursing two-year-olds. She is rough, wild, pinchy, scratchy, and practically abusive. She’s nursing way too much at night and I’m tired! In the Pathways article A Natural Age of Weaning by Katherine Dettwyler (who rocks), she makes a point that I’ve always felt intuitively and yet haven’t really articulated in writing:

Another important consideration for the older child is that they are able to maintain their emotional attachment to a person, rather than being forced to switch to an inanimate object, such as a teddy bear or blanket. I think this sets the stage for a life of people-orientation, rather than materialism, and I think that is a good thing.

As I’ve said before, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding are all such embodied experiences—motherhood in general feels very much a physical commitment. Our relationship with our children begins in the body, it is through the maternal body that a baby learns to interpret and engage with the world, and to the maternal body a breastfeeding toddler returns for connection, sustenance, and renewal.

It is this embodied spirit of creation and connection I feel I draw upon and represent when I create my little birth art figures, a spirit that caught the attention of many on Facebook this week when I shared a photo of a series of four figures that I’d made as a custom order:


I will write more about these in an upcoming post and I am now accepting custom requests, though there is already a waiting list! I did update my Shop page briefly with some already made figures that I have available though.