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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).

Repost: How I learned to mother myself

One of my very favorite books for mothers is The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal by Renée Trudeau (past posts referencing her are here). I also enjoy her digital newsletter. While it is a bit after the fact now, I’m reposting her Mother’s Day article about how she learned to listen to her Wise Self. As I wrap up the school session, prepare to travel, keep up with my blogs, plan rituals, attempt to halfway manage to keep up with the classes I’m taking, and mother my children, I need all the reminders I can get about self-care! (Speaking of mothers, self-care, and Mother’s Day, I also very much enjoyed this lovely blessing from Shiloh Sophia: A Mama Day Blessing for All Kinds of Mothering | Our Lady of the Red Thread.)

How I learned to mother myself

by Renée Trudeau IMG_2168

There’s been a lot of belly button gazing in our house this past week. My adolescent son told me on Friday, “I’m thinking a lot about my life right now,” my introspective husband is taking a class where he’s contemplating our relationship to the cosmos and having just returned from teaching at the ethereal Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA and the redwood forests, I’m reflecting on my how much my self-care practice has affected my relationship with my husband (read more) …. and myself.

My beloved and I are celebrating our 13-year wedding anniversary this Tuesday and while we still two-step with our respective issues, it seems we’re becoming more accepting and gentle with another, as we slowly become more compassionate and kind to ourselves.

But it’s been a long road.

I have a visceral recollection of the day, ten years ago, when my husband returned to work after being home with me and our newborn for two weeks. Sitting in our dark, quiet kitchen, holding my baby boy, listening to the kitchen clock tick, and blanketed in a postpartum haze, I thought, “This is it. I’m all alone.”  It was a frightening and devastating realization, and I have never felt the absence of maternal nurturing more than I did then. But then, I heard a comforting voice whisper from within, “Renee, it’s time to start mothering yourself.”

That moment was a catalyst for me and the beginning of my journey to learning to both nurture and nourish myself.

For years, I didn’t even know what I needed (self-care, what’s that?!). I was so habituated to the seduction of productivity, to going non-stop, to value “doing over being,” to allowing my internal state to be dependent upon the external world and to tying my self-worth to my latest win. But as I began to tune inward and become reacquainted with my desires—my love of nature, my need to be fed by beauty/art and dance, my passion for nurturing my body through vibrant natural cooking—and watched my own commitment to my well-being grow each day, I began to see the ripple effect this had on my family, my friends and beyond. (Hear how this evolved.)

Learning to mother myself has evolved into a thirteen-year journey to not only becoming my own best friend, but to living a soulful, vibrant awakened life. At times, I am ferocious, radical and even willing to p*** people off in order to stay in integrity with “her”—what I call my Wise Self.  And I found that once I opened up and walked through the doors of self–care, I was gently brought to the path of self-compassion, then self-acceptance and eventually to self-love. It’s been long and slow. But this deeply spiritual practice of self-care has changed my life more than any other.

Now as I move steadily into the second half of my sweet, unpredictable life, holding hands and moving forward–sometimes tentatively–with my kind, tender soul, I leave behind who I thought I was  in order to fully welcome who I am becoming. Warts and all. And I watch my love and acceptance for this beautiful, sometimes controlling and perfectionististic usually compassionate and generous woman grow more each day.

Self-care has gone beyond learning to attune and respond to my physical, emotional and intellectual needs and desires—it’s how I nurture my soul—my very essence. And it’s how I not only celebrate the incredible gift of being in this amazing body and having the gift of this beautiful life— it’s how I remember who I really am.

You may reprint this newsletter in its entirety provided you include at the end: Renée Peterson Trudeau is a life balance coach/speaker and author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. You can download free book chapters, receive life balance tips or learn about upcoming events at On Facebook at: LiveInsideOut.

Subscribe here to receive Renée’s life balance newsletter.

Tuesday Tidbits: Parenting, Help, and Early Motherhood

From The Doula Guide to Pregnancy and Birth’s website (book previously reviewed here), I learned about an upcoming free childbirth and parenting virtual conference. I keep signing up for things like this and not really “finding time” to actually participate in them, but this one looks like it has a pretty amazing line up! Making time to READ something is almost always possible for me (though I have a backlog there too), but making time to listen to or watch something just never seems to actually happen. I wonder if I’ll ever stop signing up for them though–so alluring, so intriguing, so free…and yet, then I get daily emails about the call/talk for that day and feel a nagging sense of “guilt” (or something) for not participating and also like I’m “missing out.” An exception is the Life Balance calls Renée Trudeau used to do from her book The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. I did make time for those and never regretted it! 🙂 (I should get that book back out again.)

Thinking about parenting and self-care and help brings me to several other posts that I’ve enjoyed recently:

To parents of small children: Let me be the one who says it out loud

There are people who say this to me:

“You should enjoy every moment now! They grow up so fast!”

I usually smile and give some sort of guffaw, but inside, I secretly want to hold them under water. Just for a minute or so. Just until they panic a little.

If you have friends with small children — especially if your children are now teenagers or if they’re grown – please vow to me right now that you will never say this to them. Not because it’s not true, but because it really, really doesn’t help.

The reason I liked this acknowledgement is because it is so true that they grow up so fast. It hurts my heart how fast. However, in the moments in which people choose to make this comment or when it is used against yourself or against others as a way of shaming or guilt tripping, it really, really doesn’t help. One comment on this post says, “I hear the first 40 years of parenting are the hardest.” 😉

And, speaking of things that DO help, actual help from actual people helps quite a lot. As a work-at-home mother that blogs, I particularly enjoyed this post from Girl’s Gone Child:

Girl’s Gone Child: Help is (not) a Four-Letter Word

So what’s this big secret we’re trying to keep and who do we think we’re fooling?

And what is it doing to people who read our blogs and books and pin our how-tos and think that all of these projects are being finished while children sit quietly on the sidelines with their hands in their laps.

What is it doing to you?

We write disclosure copy on posts that are sponsored, giveaways that are donated. We are contractually obligated to label and link but where is the disclosure copy stating how we work from home with small children?…

We have help, that’s how!

My help is naptime (quickly fading!), Minecraft, and grandparental cherishment (one mile away, two hours a day = good for kids, I hope good for grandparents, and great for mom!)

And, speaking of blogging, last week Talk Birth hit 400,000 hits. I celebrated by posting this on Facebook:

“Women around the world and throughout time have known how to take care of each other in birth. They’ve shown each other the best positions for comfort in labor, they’ve used nurturing touch and repeated soothing words, and they’ve literally held each other up when it’s needed the most…” –The Doula Guide to Birth

And…they’ve gone looking for support and information on the internet too. Talk Birth hit 400,000 hits today! Woohoo! Thanks, everyone 🙂

I very much enjoyed this quote that I saw on Facebook this morning:


I just finished reading the book The Art of Family and she addresses this tender transition in a way that also felt familiar to me from my own experiences:

What new parents lack most is perspective. They have no idea how fast they are to be catapulted through these early stages. How can they have a perspective of speediness when the nights are endless? It seems apparent to everyone as soon as the baby arrives that this is it—right now is what parenting looks like, and it looks pretty bad. It is a terribly tender, fragile time, akin to sex for the first time. Your first experience at parenting will haunt you in the same way.(emphasis mine)

Yes! I’ve written a lot about my postpartum experiences and I do feel “haunted” in some ways by my introduction to the parenting journey and the process of being forged into a mother. The author goes on to muse that perhaps it is more difficult to parent a boy first (as I did)…

But I had a philosophical breakthrough. Luckily I had a girl first, otherwise it might have taken me a few more years to work through to it. Forgive the tangent, but I have often wondered about the differing routes into parenthood, either having a girl first or having first a boy. Random accounts I have collected tend to confirm the easier route for moms is having a girl first. In part, I wonder if this reflects, as one mother stated, “With a girl I felt immediately in the driver’s seat. I knew all about being a girl.’’ Having a boy first, moms tend to talk about the strangeness of having a truly “other’’ little creature in their care and especially the fear of unintentionally emasculating a son.

And, she takes a look at something that, while not uplifting, was something that I also experienced very clearly in my first months of mothering…

These are, of course, just more thoughts to muse over in the rocking chair. Rocking, rocking, I kept thinking, “But if I am investing my total self in her so that she can take off and fly and reach her full potential, what happens when she becomes a mom, cut down in midflight, so to speak? It can’t be that I am pouring myself into her so that she can turn around and sacrifice herself to her children. Hey, what about my mom—what does she want for me? Was she secretly raising me just to reproduce? Is there life for me past parenting? It has to be that I’m worth more than the second I give birth and the rest of the time I’m downsized to slave.’’ Oh, yes, parenting is slave labor, but only for the opening act, and it’s a long, long play. Once I got a hold of the possibility that being a mom meant staying personally alive through all this, I got some relief from the voice, “It’s Over. My life is Over,’’ whimpering in my head…

–Gina Bria (2011-11-28). The Art of Family : Rituals, Imagination, and Everyday Spirituality (p. 159). iUniverse. Kindle Edition.

I really felt “deconstructed” by early motherhood and often found myself thinking thoughts of this type. I also used to pace around the house with my cranky son in a sling crying and singing, “who am I, I’m Lannbaby’s mama, who am I, I’m Lannbaby’s mama,” over and over again.

The “agony and the ecstasy” of parenting begins with birth. If you’re in the mood for a powerful birth story, here is a triumphant one that I enjoyed reading just tonight:

The Agony and the Ecstasy : The Birth of Santina Maria

 “The natural process of birth sets the stage for parenting. Birth and parenting mirror each other. While it takes courage and strength to cope with labor and birth, it also takes courage and strength to parent a child.” –Marcy White

Changing Visions

I’ve been moving in this direction for quite some time— really probably since my miscarriage-birth experience in late 2009—but I’ve decided that it is officially time for me to take a break from actively teaching birth classes. When I first started teaching in 2005, I envisioned having classes with 5-6 couples at a time. I quickly realized that the area didn’t really support that client volume–at least not with clients with similar due dates and similar interests in natural birth. I never intended to teach general/generic childbirth education, but focused on designing my classes for women planning for physiological, low-intervention (“natural” or unmedicated) births. I never apologized for that emphasis and my focus is what distinguished me from the locally available hospital-based classes that were free of charge. It became clear to me that my niche was in personalized, private, one-on-one birth education and I spent years delighting in the close relationships formed by working privately with couples rather than in a group. During these years I did teach some group classes as the opportunity and occasion arose and they were not as fulfilling or enriching for me as the one-on-one sessions. I think the pregnant women really benefit from the camaraderie of interacting with other pregnant women, but my relationship with the fathers-to-be and with the couple as a unit is nothing like it is when the couple is on their own with me.

Losing my spark

I also realized that I felt most satisfied and like I was making a genuine contribution/difference if I had clients during every month of the year. I set this intention for myself in 2007 and was able to meet my goal for the subsequent years. After I started teaching college classes, however, I found that I used up a lot of my teaching energy in the college classroom and that birth classes started to feel like more of a drain on my resources than a joy. I also realized that they were not very economically sensible and I became frustrated with having to pack up all my supplies and haul them to town with me each time I needed to teach. Having a new baby fanned the flames of my spirit for birth education again and I found that the spark that had been wavering since Noah died had re-ignited somewhat. However, the damage as it were, was done, in that teaching privately no longer made sense to me from a financial standpoint nor did it make sense from a maternal standpoint—I didn’t want to leave my baby behind to go teach class and I also found that in taking her with me, my attention was splintered and my clients didn’t necessarily get the best from me. Now that she is big enough to leave with my husband while I teach, I find myself “maxed out” with my college teaching schedule (which is only one night a week—who knows how I’d feel if it was more!) and other interests and the thought of trying to work in a series of private birth classes seems like a hurdle that I do not wish to struggle with. I coped for a while by trying to host the classes in my home (which is out-of-town), but that presents its own set of challenges. And, when I am home, I want to be home, not preparing birth class handouts or trying to shuffle the kids off to my parents’ house so that clients can come in for class. I love to be at home. I love where I live. As I wrote on Facebook recently, it is my soul place here.

Give points

As I am wont to do, I once again find myself looking around my life and schedule trying to find “give points” that allow me the life-work-passion-rest balance that best nourishes me, my family, my spirit, and my home life. This time, I find the give point is teaching face-to-face classes. It is hard to let go. I’ve worked on building this for years. I love the work. I have fear that what if someone else “takes over.” I have fear that I’ve “wasted” all of this training and effort. I have fear that I won’t be able to start again if I quit. However, as I’ve noted before, I’m very black-and-white when it comes to my responsibilities. I can either do something or STOP doing something. It doesn’t work for me to wait for things or “come back to it later” or “take a break for now.” I’m either doing it or I’m quitting. And, I always feel the need to “officially” decree this—I can’t just let things slide, or neglect them, I need to officially make the break or split from the task or responsibility. I have accepted that this is how I work and how I feel about tasks and while it is not true of everyone it IS true of me and I need to work with what I know of myself in this way. So, as of today, I am not planning to accept any new clients for the remainder of the year and I’m updating my business side of this site accordingly. I find it so interesting that the blog side of my site is where I have really developed a following and created relationships, and reach women’s lives around the world, even though I originally started it just to provide information for my few little clients here in rural Missouri. Birth writing is my other niche, the one that I feel like continuing to develop. As I’ve written before, I realized several years ago that writing this blog and my other articles is a legitimate form of “doing” childbirth education as well and perhaps actually has more impact than in-person classes (though, in-person classes are not replaceable in terms of the relational aspect).

New directions

Since 2009, I’ve also felt “called” to develop my other birth interests such as birth art facilitation, prenatal yoga, prenatal fitness, childbirth educator trainings, writing books, and pregnancy/birth retreats as well as my interest in women’s spirituality, women’s retreats, and women’s rituals in general. I feel like my interests in helping other women are deepening, maturing, and evolving from these roots in birth work. I think making this official break with my former means of birth education opens up the space in my life and my heart to develop those other areas of my interest and perhaps what I return to offer will be “bigger” and of more value to women and to my community.

When I applied to my doctoral program I had to write an extensive application letter responding to a variety of questions about my interest in the program. To me, applying to (and now participating in) this program represents an integration of something I feel with my mind, heart, and spirit. My whole being. As I wrote in my application, in women’s spirituality I glimpse the multifaceted totality of women’s lives and I long to reach out and serve the whole woman.I wish to extend my range of passion to include the full woman’s life cycle, rather than focus on the maternal aspect of the wheel of life as I have done for some time. I want to create rituals that nourish, to plan ceremonies that honor, to facilitate workshops that uncover, to write articles that inform, and to teach classes that inspire the women in my personal life, my community, and the world.

I also responded to this question:

Who/what inspires you?

I long to speak out the intense inspiration that comes to me from the lives of strong women.” –Ruth Benedict

I believe that these circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we’re weak and sing with us when we’re strong.” –SARK, Succulent Wild Woman

I am most inspired by the everyday women surrounding me in this world. Brave, strong, vibrant, wild, intelligent, complicated women. Women who are also sometimes frightened, depressed, discouraged, hurt, angry, petty, or jealous. Real, multifaceted, dynamic women. Women who keep putting one foot in the front of the other and continue picking themselves back up again when the need arises.

I am also inspired by women from the past who worked for social justice and women’s rights—women who lived consciously and deliberately and with devoted intention to making the world a better place. Jane Addams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton. Women who have studied and written about feminist spirituality—such as Carol Christ, Hallie Ingleheart, Patricia Mongahan, and Barbara Ardinger–are also a source of inspiration. As a mother, I find additional inspiration in the self-care encouraging writings of Jennifer Louden and Renée Trudeau.

My children have provided a powerful source of inspiration and motivation. I wish to model for them a life lived as a complete, fully developed human being. After birthing three sons, I gave birth to a daughter in January, 2011. I always envisioned having daughters and felt well-prepared to raise a “kick-ass” girl. Having sons first presented me with a different type of inspiration (and, to me, a deeper challenge)—to raise healthy men. Men who treat women well and who are balanced, confident, loving, compassionate people. I came to think of myself as a mother of sons exclusively and was very surprised to actually have a girl as my last child. When I found out she was a girl, my sense of “like carries like/like creates like” was very potent and my current need to participate in the creation of a world in which she can bloom to her fullest is very strong.

My own inner fire inspires me—my drive to make a difference and to live well and wisely my one wild and precious life. Good conversations, time alone with my journal, time alone outdoors sitting on a big rock, and simple time in the shower provides additional fuel for this inner fire.

I have both a scholar’s heart and a heart for service. I wish to live so that my life becomes a living, embodied prayer for social change and to do work that is both spiritually based and woman affirming.

It is time for me to move forward with this expanded vision for what I’d like to offer to the world…

Regarding Balance

My friends and I often reference the word “balance” in our conversations, with a popular refrain being, “it all comes back to balance!” I have several books about life balance—my favorite being A Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and I feel like I continually engage in a dance with balance in my life, coming into various sensations of balance or imbalance throughout my days. I think I make a mistake in thinking that balance is something I will one day “achieve,” rather than dipping in and out of it. I also think that the cry for “balance” can sometimes be a secret code in my brain for, “I will eventually figure everything out and life will be perfect!” So, I appreciate this quote from the book  The Mommy Wars, with regard to balance, that eternal question:

“Let me save you some money: In a life with children, balance does not exist. Once you’re a parent, you can figure you’ll be out of whack for the rest of your life…Children are not born to provide balance. children are made to stir us up, to teach us how angry we can get, how scared we can be, how utterly happy, happier than we’d ever imagined was possible, how deeply we can love. Children turn us upside down and inside out; they send us to the depths and heights of ourselves; but they do not balance us. We can’t balance them either, and that’s a good thing, too. They’re finding out how to live in the world, and the most we can do is make them as safe as possible and have a good time with them.”

I have just started teaching (college) again after having a three week break and I’m teaching more classes than I ever have before, not to mention continuing to homeschool my kids and finding scraps of time to work on my own doctoral program. And, Alaina is on the move now—a seven month old baby is quite a lot more work than a younger baby! (Chiefly that she sleeps less and gets into more!) So, I’m in that time of trying to find my footing, my balance, with this new schedule and making sure I…once again…have my priorities in the right order. I have a blog post about “surrender” that I wrote several weeks ago that I keep waiting to post for some reason, as well as some other musings about keeping my blog posts going or not. I think I will keep writing, but I’m going to just post once per week—on Wednesdays probably (though, I may prep extra posts on that day to go out on different days). I also have plans for keeping them short, less navel-gazing, using material I’ve already written, and that sort of thing. While I really enjoy writing blog posts and there is something important—but hard to identify—that I get out of it (I think it is both about telling about it and playing my music), in the scope of my life right now, it really needs to slip to the bottom and possibly off of my radar entirely for a time.

This conviction that something I’m doing needs to change in order to be “balanced” (or perfect, as the case may be!) makes me think the root issue is really about control—control of life’s energy and flow—and reminds me of something else I read recently in Thomas Moore’s book, Original Self:

As a therapist, I often followed a simple rule…I would listen to a man or woman passionately explain what was going on in their lives and what they needed to do. This strong expression of self-understanding and intention told me a great deal about their suffering. I could see where and how they were defending themselves against life…it always seemed fruitful to explore the direction closed off by insistent plans for improving life.

To free our souls, we may have to be loosened by our suffering and our problems. Rather than look for ways to be further in control, we may have to surrender to the vitality that is trying to get some representation. Rather than understand our dreams, we might be understood by them–reimagine our lives through their challenging images. Rather than get life together, we might allow life to have its way with us and get us together in a form that is a surprise. (emphasis mine)

True personal strength is not to be found in an iron will or in superior intelligence. Real strength of character shows itself in a willingness to let life sweep over us and burrow its way into us. Courage appears as we open ourselves to the natural alchemy of personal transformation, not when we close ourselves by making the changes we think are best. (emphasis mine)

In the following section he also says that, “when people say they want to change, I hear a subtle rejection of the person they are…even then, a conscious plan for change usually comes from the same imagination that got us into trouble in the first place. A new project of self-transformation may land us back in the uncomfortable wallowing hole we just left.”

Hmm. Not sure what my conclusion is after all this now…to blog or not to blog. I don’t think that is really the question.

Birth Strength

“Women are strong, strong, terribly strong. We don’t know how strong until we are pushing out our babies. We are too often treated like babies having babies when we should be in training, like acolytes, novices to high priestesshood, like serious applicants for the space program.” –Louise Erdrich, The Blue Jay’s Dance

This is one of my favorite quotes to share at blessingways. The Blue Jay’s Dance is a memoir of the writer’s first year with her third baby (sixth child). She isn’t particularly a birth advocate, the book is a general mothering memoir, but at one point she says the above and I love it. Though, I should note that I think there are all kinds of strengths to be found in birth—not just in pushing out a baby. One can experience “terrible strength” in coping with an unexpected cesarean also. And, of course, womanpower can also be found in other non-birth experiences. When I shared the quote on Facebook, some people commented that they hated it or that it was offensive. I have been surprised by how very personally some of the  birth quotes I post on Facebook are taken. There have been several occasions where I’ve felt so upset about it that I thought maybe I should never post quotes ever again! (now who’s taking something too personally? ;)). Then, I realized a strong personal reaction is normal, because birth is such a strong and personal issue, so now I try to be extra mindful of the subtexts that might be perceived in a quote (regardless of original intent) and clarify that below the quote. I truly think the intent in this one is of the potential to discover our own hidden strength via birth, not to say that birth is the only powerful experience available to women. I know that I draw on my “birth strength” in other important moments in my life. I also realized after the miscarriage-birth of my third son that the strength found in birth is present in women, period. It is woman strength and it rises up during birth, but it is always there.

During a recent women’s retreat we reflected on sources of personal power and how we feel when we are standing in our personal power (this question comes from a fabulous book, A Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal). When I first considered this question, I was somewhat sad to discover that the only instances of personal power I could come up with from giving birth—it would be nice to have piles of personal power experiences! More reflection revealed that I also feel like I’m standing in my personal power when I teach. Not a sense of “power over,” but in power with. More freshly, I’ve realized that I find personal power in Goddess spirituality/images and ideas of the Divine Feminine. And, I also experience personal power when I am alone. I feel most whole and authentic when I am just by myself. I like quiet space in my own head in which to think and I also enjoy my own company 🙂

“A woman meets herself in childbirth” –Cynthia Caillagh

Each time I gave birth I realized I was a pretty amazing person with inherent worth and value. The woman that I met in birth was very strong and very capable and very focused. And, she is me.

I hope my baby girl grows up standing in her own personal power and having a profound sense of her own worth.

Baby's First Bindi--taken at a recent blessingway for my good friend

More About Self-Care

I recently shared a little about my desire to step up my self-care/self-nurturing at this point in my life and some time ago I shared a guest post from Renée Trudeau about balanced living and saying no (I need to re-read this!). I greatly enjoy Renée’s free monthly self-care teleclasses based on her book, The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal–-somehow, they always contain exactly what it is I need to hear at that moment. Anyway, I’m pleased to have another guest post to share from Renée today.


Self-Care: My Best Friend

by Renée Trudeau

Recently, I spoke to a wonderful group of about fifty women in their 30s-50s from the National Charity League about the Power of Self-Care. It’s a really cool group of mothers and daughters who work together to support their communities through various social service projects.

When I asked how many women in the room were familiar with the concept of self-care (read more from my newsletter on this topic), only one woman raised her hand.

As much as I want to believe that this concept—which has been popularized by self-care advocates Jennifer Louden, and Cheryl Richardson in the 80s and 90s—has become mainstream, I was reminded that we still have a long way to go before people believe that it’s not only our birthright to nurture and nourish ourselves, it’s our responsibility to do so.

When I was first introduced to the concept of self-care: taking time to fill my cup first, before helping others, it seemed strange and foreign. Almost like something else to put on my “to do” list. But as I started to slow down and practice more self-acceptance, release a lot of my controlling behavior and perfectionism, begin to really listen to my body and spirit and enjoy spending time with my sweet self, my life began to change radically.

I felt like I had come home. Like this was *really* the way we are supposed to live.

I now realize that being open to and ultimately, embracing self-care was the single biggest thing I have ever done to positively and profoundly change my life.

And the journey keeps shifting and changing. You don’t “get it” and you’re done. It keeps evolving and unfolding. And the more you love and accept yourself, the more in touch with your physical/emotional/spiritual needs you become.

I often have moments in my life when I pause and realize how drastically different my days are now than they were ten years ago (before self-care).

I used to push myself really hard. I used to barrel through to-do lists (I was a master at efficiency and took pride at how much I used to be able to get done—anyone relate?). I was way too focused on “doing” and not very focused on “being.”

The other day, I had a challenging day emotionally and a lot on my plate. Realizing this, I went to a noon yoga class instead of an intense early morning weights class. I made sure I ate foods that made me feel great. I let some things go, so I could take a short rest before my speaking engagement last night. And, since I didn’t have much time to prepare before this event, I allowed myself to deliver a ‘good is good enough” speech, knowing that there wouldn’t be much time to prepare for the talk (which by the way, received rave reviews).

During stressful times—like the current economic crisis our nation is experiencing—it’s more important than ever to take time to nurture ourselves. (Read my latest Career Management Newsletter on tips on navigating your career/life during uncertain times.)

I received two calls from national companies recently to speak to their employees about balance/self-renewal.
I think we’re all starting to get that when our environment and things around us get really crazy, we have nowhere else to go, but within.

Baby steps. I’ve been working on my self-care practice for 9 years. And, I still have a long way to go.

Renée Peterson Trudeau is a nationally-recognized life balance expert/coach. Trudeau’s work has been featured in US News and World Report, Working Mother, American Way, Family Circle, Good Housekeeping and numerous business publications and consumer media. Trudeau is the author of the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life. Thousands of women around the U.S./Canada are starting and joining Personal Renewal Groups based on the Guide, as a way to enhance balance and well-being in their lives.  Learn about her next free Live Inside Out teleclass or her upcoming self-renewal retreats at

Pregnancy Update

Labyrinth of pregnancy (the path can be followed all the way into the spiral belly!)

I had my 28 week prenatal appointment earlier this week. I value my midwife and enjoy our visits, but I had a nighttime epiphany recently that I had more options to choose from, because I miss the kind of relationship I had with my midwife during my second pregnancy.

At this appointment, I had my blood sugar checked (2 hour post-prandial) and it was 91 (same as it was with my first baby at this point). I also had my hemoglobin checked and it was 11.5 (same as with my first baby—with second baby, it was 12.9 at 26 weeks). I now weigh almost as much as I did full term with number two! (still five pounds to go). Baby wiggles a LOT—sometimes it almost hurts, which I don’t remember from before. She also has hiccups regularly, which are always cute. She also seems to be head-down. When I heard that, I felt really strange—like, “there is a head in there?! And, I’m going to give birth to it?!” I have been much more reluctant to read about birth during this pregnancy—I think because I’ve been concentrating so much on successfully growing this baby to term, I don’t want to plant any subconscious ideas too early about giving birth and send myself into labor early, or something. I used to read a lot of birth stories and I have some great books of birth stories, but I don’t feel like reading them until I’m like 36 weeks—just in case. After this appointment, I started to think birthy thoughts some more—thinking about ideas and plans for when she is born. I also had a birth dream—the placenta came out first and after a while I was like, “wait, but I didn’t have the baby yet!” and then she was born—enormously fat with small eyes and she gave me a big hug.

The same night I realized I wish I had some more midwife choices, I had another realization (not exactly a new one, but a new version of it)  that I still have a big root fear that something wrong with ME is what caused my miscarriages (like a clotting disorder) and that I still do not trust that I can really give birth to a living baby at the end of this pregnancy. I’m worried that my body was responsible for the loss of my other babies. I don’t know how to get rid of this or work with it really—I’m at an impasse and since I truly do not know the cause and I can’t talk myself out of logically/rationally or just “think positive.” It is buried down there—most of the time I feel happy fine, but when I catch sight of the fear again (that night it was because she wasn’t moving as much as she usually does at that time of night), I realize that it is this bone deep fear-based thing that I don’t know how to shake. I do not want to have a fear-based pregnancy or to live a fear-based life, but there it is…

When it isn’t the middle of the night and I have my logic brain back, I feel more certain that my m/c experiences were chance based—Noah perhaps some kind of abnormality and the second perhaps a progesterone deficiency or something else related to getting pregnant again fairly quickly after a significant loss—and thus have no bearing on my current pregnancy, but still.

However, speaking of fears and returning to my plans for this birth, someone recently expressed surprise to my mom that I’m planning to have this baby at home after what happened with Noah. Hmm. This is completely irrational to me, because what happened to Noah had nothing to do with being at home—he died, we found out, I gave birth to him at home. How would that mean that my new baby should be born in the hospital instead? Not to mention that fact that when I did go to the hospital postpartum because of blood loss, rather than being helped by the assumed-fabulous skills and resources at the hospital, I was dismissed in life-threatening condition! (and was instead helped by a midwife at her home.) Having Noah only reinforced for me that the hospital is not somewhere I want to be when I’m giving birth, postpartum, or in need of compassionate attention. Giving birth to him at home reinforced for me that home is where I can most capably, peacefully, respectfully, powerfully, and safely give birth to my babies.

I keep feeling this “call” to retreat—to quit most of my nonessential responsibilities and just hang around at home. I had this fantasy recently of a year-long postpartum retreat where I just take care of my baby and read and write and play with the kids and look at the clouds (or something). Ever since I had Noah last year, I’ve been feeling like turning inward/away and just spending time by myself. I also felt like I needed to take a break from being of service/helping other people and needed to tend my own hearth and take care of myself instead. I rarely actually follow-up on this urge, even when I have a chance to do so. There is always too much “work” to be done or things to “catch up” with or just “one more thing” and before I know it, my window of alone time has passed. This might just be a fantasy notion—if I really wanted to take the time out, wouldn’t I do it?—but I think it is a true call to self-care that I’m not heeding (even now, here I am writing a blog post while my kids are visiting their grandpa—couldn’t I be having a mini-retreat right now?). This is one reason I’m taking a leave from birth classes and LLL right now—I want to be able to focus on my own pregnancy, birth planning, babymoon, and new baby, rather than focusing on those things for other people. I also feel like writing about my own pregnancy and my own birthing thoughts, rather than writing posts or articles designed to help other people—sometimes I get bogged down in feeling like I should be writing helpful and informative posts and the time for personal reflection passes. Maybe this sounds selfish, but I don’t think so. I’ve always had a fear that if I am not “of service” in some capacity I will cease to exist/have any worth/be a real person—I’d like to get over that!

I often tell my college students that we cannot expect more from our clients than we are willing to do ourselves. I also tell them that sometimes we want to do for others what we are unwilling to do for ourselves. This is where I am right now—I have lots of great ideas for things I’d like to do for other women on pregnancy retreats or in birth classes for women who are having their second or third baby rather than their first and want to deepen their understanding of the meaning of pregnancy and birth in their lives. Why don’t I experiement and do all those things for myself? And, then, see about offering those things to other women…I can see it now—“My Year of Self-Care.” (Inside joke to those who know how I disklike “year of” experiment books.) I feel like I rarely do what I actually want to do with my days, instead of doing what I should do, or what makes the most sense. Sometimes it is what is most pressing, but more often it is should-based or internally driven, rather than an actual issue of priorities.

This actually isn’t the post I set out to write today, which was originally intended to be some self-care tips from Renee Trudeau with a short intro from me about my own “call” to rest and renewal. Perhaps it was the post I needed to write though! Perhaps not, because now I feel like I’ve “wasted” my chance to do some of those other things I’d like to do with my time!

Self-Renewal Tips for Mothers

Based on responses to the now-closed giveaway I hosted for the book The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal, here are some great self-renewal tips from readers:

  1. My favorite self-renewal tip is to get some sea salt (fine ground), safflower oil and your favorite essential oil (I use lavender) and make some homeade salt scrub (you could use sugar of course). I take it in the bathroom and give myself a foot massage with it. Ahhhh. It might not be life changing, but it sure rejuvenates.

  2. Okay, here’s my tip – it’s hard, but oh so worth it – COLD shower. Nicest way: warm up the bathroom, and massage yourself all over with almond oil (can scent with a few drops of essential oil of your choice), then when you are read, step in and out of the cold water about three times til it doesn’t feel cold anymore – it will knock the breath out of you and leave you feeling amazing, awake and re-energized.

    If you can’t quite manage the whole thing, doing your face, hands and feet isn’t bad either.

    Don’t do it in pregnancy or in the first three days of your period.

  3. I sleep in!  When I can, that is! When I can’t I bake. Baking is therapeutic to me, and it’s an “unnecessary” bit of cooking that smells divine and is often something sweet. 
  4. Reading a good book is a great way I love to self-renew.

  5. I knit and have been using lavender to help me sleep when I get pregnancy insomnia at 3 in the morning.
  6. I love a hot bath (BY MYSELF). I don’t get to do it often as my boys love bathing with mummy. But a good soak and dimmed lights often leave me feeling new again. Especially if you have special bubble bath or salts that only get used by you.
  7. My favorite tip for self-renewal is making time for yoga. Yoga is a tremendous physical and spiritual practice for me, and when nothing else is right, it usually is.

  8. Self-renewel tip: I love music. Pop in my favorite cd. Turn it up and dance and sing until everything else fades away

    • I drive around aimlessly in my car and listen to my music as loud as I can! This dissipates my moodiness in just minutes. Another favorite renewal activity is hiking by myself as often as I can.
    • Tip: I love to take time out for coffee with friends or a birth movie night with my doula sisters!

    • My favorite tip is getting a pedicure and reading a magazine. It makes me feel better.

    • Yoga, baths, and footbaths are my favorite recharges. Thanks!

    • My favorite way to recharge is to take foot bath. Boil some hot water, find a nice quiet location, put on some soft music, or just listen to the birds outside your window. Pick some fresh herbs, (or use essential oils) like lavender, lemon, mint, cinnamon and just put your feet in and relax. If you have some river rocks you can put those in the bottom of your pan and roll your feet over them, and you get a massage and a foot bath!
    • I love to renew by reading a good book and holding my son…who is 4

    Giveaway! The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal

    The giveaway is now closed! Elizabeth Baer was the winner. Congratulations!

    In 2008, my mother-in-law bought me The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal for Christmas. When I got this book, I made a commitment to myself that I was really going to DO the book, instead of just reading it, tossing it aside, and gobbling down the next one on my stack. So, I did. It took me about 4 months or so to work through it in this way, though it is actually laid out in a 12-month format. The subtitle is “How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate, and Re-Balance Your Life,” which is just what I felt like I needed! I found it an inspirational, insight-provoking, and enriching journey. Since this time, I have re-read/re-worked through sections of the book many times, as well as recommended it to many other women as one of my favorite resources for balanced living.

    As a funny little side note, when I first started reading the book, I had a lovely little leather bound fancy notebook to do the journaling/reflective exercises in. I discovered I was never doing them—it never felt like the right time. Then, I bought a Pirates of the Caribbean notebook at Wal-Mart featuring a large photo of Orlando Bloom on the cover and lo and behold, I started doing the journaling exercises in it and finished the book right up! I had to laugh at myself—Hark! I have found thee, my muse, and thy name is Orlando Bloom (especially in rakish, unbuttoned-pirate-shirt attire!)

    The author of the book, Renée Trudeau, offers several other amazing resources that I regularly enjoy: I participate in a free monthly teleclass based on the book (I love these calls—sometimes I have to work really hard to carve out the life space to attend, but I’ve NEVER regretted making it happen), I subscribe to the e-newsletter, and read her thought-provoking blog. Associated with the teleclass and book, is a nurturing “Live Inside Out” Facebook page.

    I’m absolutely delighted to host a giveaway for a copy of the book The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. There are several ways to enter:

    1. Leave a comment with your favorite tip for self-renewal.

    2. Become new fan of Talk Birth on Facebook (and leave a comment here telling me you did so that I know to count your entry).

    3. Become a new fan of Live Inside Out on Facebook (and leave a comment here reporting this).

    4. Blog about this giveaway on your blog or post a link to your Facebook page (and let me know about it).

    The winner of the giveaway will be drawn next Tuesday at noon via random number generator!