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Tuesday Tidbits: Cesarean Awareness Month

11148668_1614543705424512_3613965156253725168_nIt is Cesarean Awareness Month! We finished several new mama goddess designs this month and have a CAM-themed April newsletter ready to go out (subscriber freebie in this newsletter is a new birth education handout: “Can I really expect to have a great birth?” Sign up for the newsletter at Brigid’s Grove!)

Some Cesarean Awareness Month themed posts for this week. First, a meditation for before a cesarean:

You say you honor choices. 11108844_1614067252138824_1518757261202060615_n
Can you really honor mine?
I will always honor the process which
brought forth flesh of my flesh.
I honor your births too.
Can you ever honor my experience, or will I
forever be a part of your statistics on
the way things shouldn’t be?

via Birthrites: Meditation Before a Cesarean | Talk Birth.

And, some past thoughts on helping a woman give birth…what is the balance between birth interference and birth neglect?

There can be a specific element of “smugness” within the natural birth community that has been gnawing at me for quite some time. A self-satisfied assumption that if you make all the “right choices” everything will go the “right way” and women who have disappointing or traumatic births must have somehow contributed to those outcomes. For example, I’m just now reading a book about natural mothering in which the author states regarding birth: “Just remember that you will never be given more than you can handle.” Oh, really? Perhaps this is an excellent reminder for some women, and indeed, at its very core it is the truth—basically coming out alive from any situation technically means you “handled it,” I suppose. But, the implicit or felt meaning of a statement like this is: have the right attitude and be confident and everything will work out dandily. Subtext: if you don’t get what you want/don’t feel like you “handled it” the way you could or “should” have, it is your own damn fault. How does a phrase like that feel to a woman who has made all the “right choices” and tried valiantly to “handle” what was being thrown at her by a challenging birth and still ended up crushed and scarred? Yes, she’s still here. She “handled it.” But, remarks like that seem hopelessly naive and even insulting to a woman whose spirit, or heart, has been broken. By birth. Not by some evil, medical patriarchy holding her down, but by her own body and her own lived experience of trying to give birth vaginally to her child.

via Helping a Woman Give Birth? | Talk Birth.

An educational video and some cesarean infographics from Lamaze: Lamaze for Parents : Blogs : How to Avoid a Cesarean: Are You Asking the Right Questions?

And a VBAC Primer from Peggy O’Mara: VBAC Primer | Peggy O’Mara

Some thoughts on the flawed assumption of maternal-fetal conflict and how that impacts the climate of birth today:

I think it is fitting to remember that mother and baby dyads are NOT independent of each other. With a mamatoto—or, motherbaby—mother and baby are a single psychobiological organism whose needs are in harmony (what’s good for one is good for the other).

As Willa concluded in her CfM News article, “…we must reject the language that portrays a mother as hostile to her baby, just because she disagrees with her doctor.”

via Maternal-Fetal Conflict? | Talk Birth.

And some past thoughts on 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

via Birth Strength | Talk Birth.

(I would revise this slightly to say “until we have birthed our babies,” since strength is found in many different birth, postpartum, breastfeeding, and mothering experiences, not only in pushing out our babies. I still love the quote though!)

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Welcoming Tanner Matthias!

“There really was a baby!” –Me, in birth video

IMG_8557As was my pregnancy custom, on October 30th I woke up around 3:00 a.m. with definite contractions. They were spaced about 30 minutes apart, however, and I kept myself awake unnecessarily waiting for them to get bigger or closer together. I finally got up at 4:30 or 5:00 and Mark got up too. As I as I got up, contractions picked up to about three minutes apart. I couldn’t believe I’d “wasted time” by lying down, non-sleeping AND non-laboring! I felt very adrenaline filled and excited. The sense of urgency and “coming soon” was very familiar to Zander’s exceedingly fast labor, whereas my sense of need to call Mom during a contraction and then changing my mind afterward was similar to Lann’s. And, leaning on the kitchen half-wall as an ideal labor position was similar to Alaina’s. There was no slow lead-in here, these were sharp, strong, intense contractions that I already couldn’t talk through. Though they felt big and serious, they were also short in duration. I lit my birth altar candle and since I wanted to have clean, freshly washed hair, I decided to take a shower.

043 044After showering and even blowdrying my hair for cuteness in future pictures, the intensity of the contractions increased again. Mark got to work on filling the pool and heating more water as soon as I got out of the shower and he kept messing with the pool even though I was starting to feel like I needed him (also needed pool, so he wasn’t doing the wrong thing!). I felt sure that this was picking up FAST. We texted Mom and she contacted Robin and Summer (midwife and doula). I felt a weird sensation of time pressure then, looking out window, waiting and not wanting to be observed, waited for, or watched. The pool continued to take a lot of time and attention and was annoying. Plus, the hose popped out when Mark was in the laundry room and flooded the floor. I was saying things like, “this had better be the best thing ever, because right now I hate it!” I couldn’t decide if I should keep standing up or try something else like sit on the birth ball or try the water. It seemed early for water (except during contractions!), so I sat on the ball at which point contractions became HUGE, but, also only 8-10 minutes apart. I was confused and kept trying to figure out what made more sense—smaller, more frequent contractions while standing up, or bigger but far apart on the ball. I was laughing about my indecisiveness and kept saying, “so, tell me what to doooooooo!” (which is actually my most despised thing in labor). I opted to stay on the ball because I felt open there and when standing I felt like I was closing my legs together and tensing up. On the ball, I started humming the Sacred Pregnancy Standing at the Edge song I listened to so often during my pregnancy: standing at the edge…clinging to my innocence…one more tiny step…time is here and now…diving into the unknown. I believe in me, I believe in meee-eeee. I believe in me, I do, I do…

Later, in the pool, I turned on the rest of my Sacred Pregnancy playlist from the CD, which I both liked and didn’t like because I could no longer anchor myself then with the “I believe in me, I do” hum.  I talked and joked and laughed about stuff a lot. And, I would sing little things like: let’s find something else to say and not owie-zooooowie… I do not know how else to say that these were intense, big, powerful contractions. To my memory, they feel like they were the biggest, most painful contractions I’ve ever had—but slooooooowly far apart. The sensation of downward pressure was powerful already during each, but the distance between them very confusing. After back and forthing verbally for some time, I decided to get in the pool: this had BETTER be WORTH IT.

I loved the pool, but I also, intensely, felt like I was on “display” or being watched. I also felt a little isolated or separated and observed, even by my own mom (who, mindfully, went to sit on the couch to give me space). I kept feeling worried and pressured about my midwife and doula getting there any minute, even though we talked in advance about how I mainly needed them for immediate postpartum care and only wanted them to come in at the very end. I had never talked to my mom about specifically when to tell them to actually come though, so I kept thinking they were sitting in the driveway waiting for me (they weren’t, because they were being respectful of what they knew I wanted and needed). As with my other babies, I knew in my heart I wanted to birth alone, but then with immediate postpartum/follow-up care. This is hard to balance and gauge. And, I acknowledge that it isn’t really fair to the midwife either! My birth brain really needs to be alone and unwatched and I knew in the pool that I wanted to push my baby out before anyone else was there.

I took my favorite birth goddess sculpture into the pool with me where she kept me company and floated with me and reassured me until I was pushing and set her outside the tub (ever practical, I didn’t want her to get lost in what I knew would end up as bloody water!).

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If you look close, you can spy the little goddess in my hand.

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Here, I was laughing about feeling like a little toad in a pool.

My mom kept me supplied with food and drinks and occasional encouragement and Mark stayed close, touching me and being present. There was lots of waiting in the pool (I feel like) for those slow but BIG contractions. I got out to pee and finally saw some BLOOD. I always wait and wait for this sign because for me it is the herald of nearly full dilation. I have no blood or any leaking or discharge until I’m only a short distance from pushing out a baby! I shook and shook in the bathroom at this point too, which I think was related to the temperature change from getting out of the warm pool and not transition per se, but it could have been both.

Back to the pool and out one more time to pee (more blood! Yay! Blood is so fun! Really. It is super encouraging for me to see during labor at this point.) I started to weirdly fret about my bladder at this point getting in the way of baby’s head (potentially): this can happen, you know, I told my mom and Mark (even though I was totally peeing and had no signs of bladder being in the way). I could tell baby was moving down and getting close to pushing, but I felt impeded with the amniotic sac intact. I moved to hands and knees in the tub and talked to myself: it’s okay. You’re okay. We’re okay. I can do it. We can do it. You can come out baby. We want you. We want you. (I cried I tiny bit saying this.)

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I like how you can see my friendly little birth altar glowing in the background.

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I turned back over then and kept on smiling…

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One hour before birth.

IMG_8543Some time after this, I started feeling inside after each contraction and could feel a hard lump getting closer and closer every time I had a (now close together) contraction. I didn’t feel sure it was a head though, but that maybe I was somehow feeling my own pubic bone or some other mysterious part of my anatomy never before felt. It felt squishy kind of, though hard underneath. (Duh, because it was an amniotic sac around a baby head, Molly!), so then I imagined I wasn’t fully dilated and was somehow prolapsing my cervix instead of feeling a baby’s head. I think these types of thoughts are one of the hazards of being a birth professional. They are also proof, to me, that no matter what odd or frightening things you think, babies’ heads still move down and come out anyway! At this point, the baby began to have hiccups. He was so low that it basically felt like my anus was hiccupping. I had Mark feel them very low on my belly—just above my pubic bone—and then I laughed and saidthis counts as a fetal heart tones check!

Finally, my water broke at last and I knew he was almost out. Pushing was intense and big and felt huge and hard and long. I became convinced baby weighed ten pounds and was probably not going to come out. I felt like it was taking a long time and a lot of work, but according to Mom and Mark it was about four pushes and date stamps on pictures reveal about 5-6 minutes total of this hard work. I also kept thinking someone else was going to come in. I felt the familiar burning on my front right side and knew I would tear again (labial/clitoral). It felt scary and I looked at my mom and said I was scared (she said, “I know”). I almost pushed through the burn, but then I stopped myself and waited for the next push and then his head was out, along with a bloom of blood in the water which does indicate tearing, but I didn’t get checked for tears (by my specific decision and request) so I don’t know for sure. A minimal follow-up push and his body came out into my hands. He bobbed to the top of the pool and I lifted him out of the water. He cried a little and was already reasonably pink. He was looking around and was a little bit gurgly. I talked to him and kissed his head and told him I loved him: oh my little one, oh my little one. Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! There really was a baby! Oh, he’s CUTE! I noticed his cord was around his neck and arm and somewhat awkwardly moved it off. It was 10:20, a little over five hours after I got up.

We called my dad to bring the kids back over to see the baby and cut the cord and they arrived a few minutes before Summer and Robin got there.

053 054After Robin and Summer arrived, they helped me out the pool which I was eager to get out of, but had a lot of trouble actually doing, and onto my futon nest on the floor between the pool and bathroom. This is the part I didn’t like. So familiar and so not fun. The weak and wounded transition. But, Summer (doula) reminded me that the warrior moments are in feeling the vulnerability too. Sometimes the warrior is found in showing the vulnerability and needing the help.

After some lying on the futon and waiting for the placenta, I went to the bathroom (still holding baby attached with cord) and the placenta finally came out there (after it was washed, I swallowed a small piece of it). Zander and Alaina cut the cord as they had been waiting to do and then left for playgroup with my friend who was waiting patiently outside to take them. When the placenta was examined, they saw he had a velamentous cord, which is fairly rare and can actually be dangerous and possibly explains my widely spaced contractions (giving baby time he needed).

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The baby’s temperature was low and it took us some time and effort to get him warmed up and that was probably because I was in the water a little long after birth and that is my only regret about this birth. When his temperature was normal, we weighed him and he only came up as 6lbs4oz. He then weighed 7lbs4oz at two days, which means he was really bigger than that at birth. He weighs eight pounds now at a week. So, he weighed something at birth, but the exact amount is unknown! He was 20 inches and had a 14 inch head.

As I laid on my futon and latched baby on for the first time, I realized that in all my planning and fretting and preparing and deadlining, I’d forgotten how very, very much love was possible.

Edited one year later to add that Tanner’s birth video is now available online: Welcoming Tanner Matthias (Home Water Birth Video) – Brigid’s Grove

Sacred Postpartum, Week 1: Birth Stories and Vow

Backtracking a little into week one of my current Sacred Postpartum class, for the first week’s assignments in reviewing our own birth and postpartum experiences, I set up a mini sacred space and put on some of my birth power bracelets (Mark and I started making these recently and I love them! It is like carrying a mini-mantra, birth power reminder with me every day).

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I did my vow page and then a collage of reminders to myself. I made a birth stories page and then printed out copies of each of my kids’ birth stories and stapled them to the back of one journal page per story, including one for my third baby who was born in a second trimester miscarriage (the stories are all available on my blog here. I didn’t include pictures of the actual print outs! ). Then, I did a page on the front of each birth story with pictures of each kid and significant words/lessons from their stories. I ended with a collage of myself as I prepare for my upcoming birth at the end of this month (39 weeks now, 37 when I did the assignment) and took a picture of a blank page as well as a symbol of the story yet to be written…

(click for bigger pix)

I also just have to pat myself on the back again about having enrolled in these trainings at this point in my own pregnancy. It was a stroke of genius! And, while I knew I would benefit from them, I had no idea how very deeply I would do so.

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Sacred Pregnancy Week 4: Honoring, Sealing, & Postpartum Care

“I am the strength of all women who have ever birthed a baby and I am ready to join that tribe.”

–Anni Daulter (Sacred Pregnancy)

August 2014 055Me to my husband last night: “so, I know I might look like I’m just dancing around with flowers in my hair, but I’m really getting certified.”

<Mark wisely refrains from wide-open joke opportunity>

Yesterday, I finished the last assignments for my Sacred Pregnancy class. While I primarily took this class for personal reasons and am glad I did because I truly think it was the absolute BEST thing I could have done for myself to get ready for Tanner, to spend some time focused on my pregnancy, and to get ready for another mindful birth and postpartum experience. I have also completed all the work needed to be a Certified Sacred Pregnancy Mini-Retreat Instructor. On October 1st, I start the Sacred Postpartum training program—again with a dual purpose of personal enrichment and professional development.

I completed some of the activities out-of-order and finished the silk painting and honoring crown from week 3 in conjunction with the postpartum and “sealing” work of week 4.

I chose to use my drumstick as my stick around which to wrap my silk, since the drum is one way I express myself. Bringing the words painted on the silk into my drumming seemed like a logical companion. My silk power was bold fearlessness! Zander and Alaina also worked on small pieces of silk with me.

I’d delayed making the flower crown I thought because I’d told myself that I’ve already had several flower crowns at different ceremonies and so making another one for “no reason” felt kind of redundant. However, after I finished my second silk painting, I looked behind me and saw some wildflowers and I realized I did want to make a crown and I wanted to be with real flowers and not artificial. I’d been going to do artificial since I have some and thought then I could at least check it off the list. I don’t like fake flowers though, I like real ones. As soon as I realized that there were enough wildflowers scattered around the yard that I could make a real one, I got excited about the idea. My daughter helped me find and cut the flowers and then we put it together. And, then took some picture with my new silk and the crown together.

“The first few months after a baby comes can be a lot like floating in a jar of honey—very sweet and golden, but very sticky too.” –American College of Nurse-Midwives

I love the idea of a post-birth sealing ceremony SO much. This is similar to a mother blessing, but it is held postpartum to help “seal” the birth experience and welcome the baby and the mother into motherhood (or mother of however-many-children-hood). Absolutely wonderful. I also love the song Standing on the Edge from the Sacred Pregnancy CD. I identify with it so much as I prepare for my next birth as well as to welcome a new baby who I wasn’t expecting to have. As I’ve noted often in recent blog posts, I’m working very hard to wrap up a variety of projects so that I can cocoon with my new baby and give him and me the time and space I know we will need after birth. I have gotten better and better at taking care of myself postpartum, in asking for what I need, and getting very, very clear with my support people about what is most important to me.

We actually made the flax pillows for the sealing ceremony at the beginning of the week and then used them on Sunday (Alaina and I made the PPD tincture together the same day as the pillows). My husband tucked me in with the flax pillows and scarf and draped the silk painting across me as well. I lit my pregnancy candles and listened to Standing at the Edge. I spoke aloud the things I celebrate myself for–all the projects and children I have given birth to.

As I was setting up my wrap and pillows, my almost-11-year-old son had said he’d like to do it too. So, after my own sealing experience, each of my kids in turn got sealed in the scarf with the flax pillows. And, then they went and got my husband and we sealed him too! For each, I offered a blessing: “I’m glad you were born. I’m glad you are my son/daughter/husband. I love you. Thank you.” I placed my hands on different parts of their bodies as I spoke and then ended with kiss on the forehead. They all loved it and were very calm and contemplative. I think it was good for all of us and was, in its way, a “sealing” of their births and our relationship.

While I always have had a mother blessing ceremony before the baby’s birth, this time I’m going to make sure to do a postpartum sealing ceremony as well. The birth I actually sealed most consciously was the second trimester birth-death of my third son. On my due date with him, which also happened to be my birthday, I did a ceremony outside by our little labyrinth and the tree where we buried him. I spoke aloud, “I am not pregnant anymore,” and took time to hold and honor the powerful, honorable, birth and release I’d given him.

I’ve written a lot about my own postpartum thoughts, experiences, and feelings and they are grouped under the appropriate category on my blog here.

I also want to share a picture of my new mother-of-four goddess pendant! This pendant, too, has been part of my personal emotional preparation to integrate the new baby into my maternal identity. It took a long time for us to get the cast right for this sculpt and I’m so happy to have it to wear now.

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 The Sacred Pregnancy online retreat training experience was a very positive one. Lots of personal benefit as well as professional development! I’m so glad I decided to go for it!
August 2014 070Past posts in this series:

Sacred Pregnancy Week 1, Part 1: Sacred Space

Sacred Pregnancy, Week 1, Part 2: Connecting

Sacred Pregnancy Week 3, Part 1: Fears & Forgiveness

Sacred Pregnancy Week 3, Part 2: Empowerment and Self-Care

 

 

Sacred Pregnancy Week 3, Part 2: Empowerment and Self-Care

I told you I had a Sacred Pregnancy weekend! On Saturday of last week, after my fears and forgiveness work, I moved on to some empowerment and self-care exercises.

I had been trying to find time to do the silk painting since Wednesday and kept feeling disappointed to not be able to make room for it. On Saturday it became Priority 1! I decided to modify the exercise for my whole family to do as a collaborative “welcome” wrap for baby Tanner, rather than tearing it up to wrap onto sticks as we were supposed to do. I’m going to do the tearing and sacred stick making on my own another day using a different piece of silk.

We listened to the Sacred Pregnancy CD and all worked together outside on a hot, hot August Saturday. It was a lovely, sacred, shared, collaborative project (with a touch of a chaos and a sprinkle of yelled, “don’t spill it!”). Very fulfilling and much fun.

Later in the day I also did my sacred bath and self-care day. My 3-year-old daughter and I made a special salt scrub for me to use using sunflower oil, sea salt, and gentle baby essential oil blend (made by my mom). After the empowerment silk painting (which was part of my self-care too), I set up a special altar in my bathroom, turned on Nina Lee, drew a Mother’s Wisdom card and meditated on it, and then did my salt scrub on my entire body, followed by a refreshing shower. I really took my time with the scrub and thought about how often I rush through or “don’t have time” for lotion or other personal care treatments after showering. I felt nice and “buffed off” afterward! (I tend to very dry skin.) I also had two cups of Caramel Bedtime Yogi tea that I’d made in a jar in the sun that morning. I “run out of time” for iced tea often too. So, this time I didn’t!

These next photos aren’t related to the class work, but they are very related to my own Sacred Pregnancy creative process! In addition to the Womanrunes book, we‘ve been working overtime lately to develop an improved production process for my birth goddess sculptures so that we can actually have them available on a regular basis. While still not perfect, we’ve gotten much closer during the last week and hope have four different designs ready to list in our Etsy shop over the next two weeks.

Sacred Pregnancy Week 3, Part 1: Fears & Forgiveness

On Friday and Saturday this past week, I took the time for a Sacred Pregnancy weekend. I did many projects from the class and it was a fulfilling, fun time. Reflection, art, and self-care, for the win! These types of projects are exactly why I wanted to take this class during my current pregnancy (I also went ahead and signed up for the Sacred Postpartum training, which begins on October 1st, and is therefore perfect for the month I am due).

The fears exercise for this week of training took me a while to finish. I wrote my list on Monday morning, but didn’t burn them until Friday afternoon. Interestingly, I continued to add to the list during the week, so I guess I wasn’t finished after the initial song portion (Grandmother by Nina Lee on the Sacred Pregnancy CD). I actually found myself waking up each morning over the whole week with the Grandmother song in my head. Anyway, after writing the list I tore it into individual strips. I waited until I had some time alone in the afternoon while my kids were visiting my parents and then I used the little bean pot I use as a burn pot/Kali pot to burn them each after reading them aloud. I had to play the song twice to finish them all! Most of them were connected to the development of my business this year, but some to my pregnancy/birth as well.

Anyway, when I got to my fear of being “too much” the paper flared up hugely and I dropped both it and my phone on the floor! Luckily, I hit the picture button as I was dropping it! (flare picture below) I found this significant and when I then moved into the forgiveness work the theme of being “too much” was actually what my Mother’s Wisdom card related to.

Mother’s Wisdom deck meditation

This was a powerful exercise also. I picked Oshun and got a much different message from my own interpretation of the card than the book interpretation I later read. I listened to the Standing at the Edge song on the CD while I journaled about empowerment immediately following the fear release and before looking at the book. You can see what I got from the card in my journal entries below. The actual card meaning was about balance and harmony in one’s family and life which is actually a timely message for me too, as was my own intuited message from the card.

As I explained in the class work online:

My husband and I have a creative business sculpting and pewter-casting and making jewelry together. We’ve really grown this year and have been pushing ourselves hard on our co-creative endeavors (hoping to wrap up development of some important stuff before our new baby is born in October). Our most recent was the completion of our first joint book project. I did all the writing, which was an 18 month intuitive process, and he did all the illustrations, design, and layout. We couldn’t have done it without each other! It was a perfect collaboration of our strengths and skills. However, we’ve been working and pushing so hard to get it finished and ready that our family had somewhat fallen out of balance and harmony! (So, the work has been in harmony, but the rest of our family needs have been getting kind of pushed aside!)

And, I know it is an overused analogy but working on a big creative project is similar to giving birth. My current pregnancy is very entwined with my current work and I was really interested to see how both my fears and forgiveness exercise work this week related to both my business and my pregnancy as creative processes and birth endeavors…

After this work and after my kids got home, I worked on my forgiveness tree. I didn’t include a picture of the one with the names filled in–just pre-names and post-colors. It was a good exercise too. I listened to Nina and did the card meditation (above) and then started on my tree and worked on it throughout the course of an afternoon. I’ve done most of the exercises for this class with the company of my little daughter (3), who is entranced by this kind of work. This time she did a painting of a goddess-fairy while I was working on the tree. I’ve never used watercolors before this class, so I’m not very good with them, but having fun anyway! Process, not product, after all…

*You did not miss Week 2. I haven’t made any posts about it yet. Just week 1:

Sacred Pregnancy Week 1, Part 1: Sacred Space

Sacred Pregnancy, Week 1, Part 2: Connecting

Sacred Pregnancy, Week 1, Part 2: Connecting

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The focus of the second part of the first week of Sacred Pregnancy training was about connection. This was perfect, because I keep feeling like I have been going through the motions of being pregnant. My head still feels disconnected from my body and the physical experience. The baby is “distant” and still feels more like an “idea” than a reality. I really, really, really had “closed out” that chapter mentally and it is taking a lot of work to open the closed space back up. And, yet, as I worked through this section, I realized that almost everything I’ve done this year has intentionally and consciously been undertaken in order to make room for this baby and in preparation to give him and myself what I know we will need, which is times to ourselves to rest and to just be together. I have been driving myself very hard this year and especially in the last couple of months to finish many big projects and this is because I’m trying to give myself what I know I will need. I’m working hard to allow myself to pause and rest, when I didn’t expect to have to do so.

Also, the whole process of our business evolving and growing this year is directly connected to this process of my pregnancy. They were conceived and have grown alongside each other. My “pregnancy journal” this pregnancy is in the projects I have co-created and birthed with my husband over this year. This baby’s development is inextricably linked to the development of our shared business together. My efforts to pull in and to integrate my projects together under the Brigid’s Grove umbrella, while still an ongoing process, are connected to pulling in my resources and my very soul to welcome this baby.

I listened to Nina Lee’s Child and Mother song with my eyes closed, one hand on my belly and the other on my heart, in the heart-to-heart meditation process described in the course. My eyes were filled with tears. I love you. I want you. You are welcome here.

Speaking of “this baby,” we did name him some time ago, though we haven’t shared it with many people. His name is Tanner. His middle name will probably be Matthias, after an ancestor, though we have also looked at Malachi as a possibility. I was driving to class one day before I knew whether the baby was a boy or a girl and thinking about how I needed a boy name too and not just a girl name. I had told Mark that I knew I wanted a tree or woods-related name for him and as I was looking at the beautiful trees lining my drive, I knew it: Forest. What a great name! I was so excited to have “found it.” Then, on the way home again, “uh. oh. Forrest Gump. Oh no! I can’t use it after all.” We talked it over at home and Mark vetoed it immediately because of the Forrest Gump connection.  After we found out the baby was boy, we talked over names all the way home from St. Louis and I suggested Tanner as a possibility (briefly considered Tannen instead to better blend with our last name, but then thought of Biff Tannen of, “Hello!, McFly!” fame from Back to the Future and decided not to use it). This way we will have Lann, Zan, and Tan–who could resist?! Tanner actually surfaces on every baby name list I’ve created since 2003, when I was pregnant with our first baby, and is one of the few names on those lists that stands without having ever been crossed off (Alaina’s name also appears on said lists since 2003, even though we didn’t get to use it until 2011!). Anyway, I looked it up later and in addition to referring to the actual profession of a tanner, it is also from the German word for pine tree or…forest.

The other core work for this section was on messages about birth that we wish we would have received (or wish we would receive)…

Sacred Pregnancy Week 1, Part 1: Sacred Space

“Pregnancy often flies by before we have a chance to truly reflect on the miracle of it all.”

–Bonnie Goldberg (in The Art of Pregnancy)

Last week I started the online Sacred Pregnancy retreat training. This has been on my wish list of things to do for a long time and it shows up on my 100 Things list for the year as well. I purposely waited until this training though, rather than doing the earlier spring training, because of how it corresponds to my pregnancy. I’m 29 weeks today and in the third trimester! (What happened?!) I really want to experience this class from the perspective of Pregnant Woman as well as facilitator. I need some “time out” to focus on my new baby and to just be together with him and the process of being pregnant instead of caught up in the rest of my schedule. I feel like this online retreat class is a gift to myself. I remember as far back as my second pregnancy feeling like I needed something more. The regular old birth books and charts of fetal development and nutrition facts and birth plan worksheets didn’t cut it anymore (do they ever?). I had the same experience in teaching birth classes–yes, I could cover stages of labor and birth positions, but what about the heart of birth. What about the “mystery”? What about those unknown lessons in excavating one’s own depths? What about that part of birth and life that only she knows?  I find that Birthing from Within speaks to this heart of birth and so does Sacred Pregnancy.

The first part of the class is about creating sacred space and about creating a “pregnancy practice.” and I really wanted to make my candle and altar for and with my new baby and so that’s what I did. It was very valuable to me to center inward, in this way that I’ve been needing for a while now.

I worked on the candle with Alaina’s help, even though I originally envisioned working on it alone. I created a red candle because I already made a tall white intention candle at the beginning of the year and collaged it like my “vision board” for the year, so I wanted to do something different for this experience.

August 2014 061I used amethyst beads around the top because I have felt a strong attraction towards amethysts during this pregnancy. I used beads and charms from Brigid’s Grove, with the tree as a center point because it is an important symbol for us. The is a deep connection between this baby, the progress of my pregnancy, and the development and growth of our shared business. I chose red because it is a “power color” to me and reminds me of the blood, potency, and energy of birth as well as of the placenta.

I’ve gotten much better over the last year or so at intentional altar building and really delighted in the creation of my sacred space while listening to the recorded lessons for the class and also the Sacred Pregnancy CD. The CD is awesome and I wish I would have purchased it a long time ago! It is just what I need to incorporate some sacred pregnancy, centering, and “pregnancy practice” into my day. I like how I can turn on a favorite song while brushing my teeth, for example, and have that ordinary moment be transformed into a body-honoring, self-care, pregnancy “tune in” moment. I bought a very powerful song, Birthright, from her second CD as well.

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On the altar I put items that are special to me from past blessingways, as well as sculptures that I’ve made. I also painted a little wooden sign that says “laugh,” because I feel like in all my big push to finish so many projects before I have the baby, I’m not having very much fun! The paper I painted the wooden sign on show the outline of the letters and that is the part that actually shows up in this picture (the wooden part is behind the candle and at the bottom of the white “laugh” painting).

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“No matter how many pictures of fetuses you look at or how many scientific facts you ingest, pregnancy remains a stunning, not-quite-possible-to-grasp marvel, a naked connection to the enigma of life. You can’t escape the awe—and why would you want to?”

–Jennifer Louden, The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book (quoted in Celebrating Motherhood)

Birth Labyrinth

 IMG_0571 The labyrinth is a powerful metaphor for each woman’s unique journey of pregnancy and birth. I first discovered the “LabOrinth” via Birthing from Within and Pam England and I quickly incorporated into my birth education classes, making two homemade posters to discuss in class—one illustrating “clock watching” birth and one illustrating birth as a labyrinth. When I send gifts to long distance pregnant friends, I usually include a drawing of a womb labyrinth and this quick explanation:

The journey through birth is like a labyrinth—it has unexpected twists and turns, but it takes you where you need to go. You can find your way blindfolded if you need to, you can walk, run or crawl, and you’ll get to the center—to your baby—in your own time and in your own way. The postpartum return is also a labyrinth, one that can take some time to integrate into your life, being, and “new normal.”

Based on a drawing from my second pregnancy of a womb labyrinth, my husband carefully worked carving a small womb labyrinth design into clay and then making a mold from it and casting the design in pewter. The result is a little uneven and asymmetrical, much like life itself, but I love it! I took the new pendant to the woods with me and this is what I said about it’s meaning…

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Birth journey. Each of us walks our own path. In the center, a baby waits. And, so too, wait deep truths about ourselves. Our own courage, our own  fears, our own strength, our own power. One foot in front of the other. That’s how the journey is made. You set out for the threshhold, unknowing. Maybe a little fearful. Maybe intrigued. Maybe anticipatory. Maybe excited. And you start to walk. One foot in front of the other. Sometimes our journeys drop us to our knees. Sometimes we feel around in the dark, searching for something to hold onto. Sometimes we skip and twirl along the path. Sometimes we run. Sometimes we pause and sit down and wait. Sometimes someone walks with us, holding our hand. Maybe even giving us a little push from behind. But, ultimately, it is our own private journey. When we get to the center, we will discover what it is that we know that no one else does.

As I mention to pregnant women, the return journey of postpartum is a labyrinth as well…

Postpartum Labyrinth

The journey of postpartum is a labyrinth too. Carrying our babies in our arms, past sleepless nights, through endless days. Through worry and tears, through sharp, sweet, timeless moments of a joy so bone deep it knows no words and in a love so endless that it defies description. And, we walk. Sometimes we bounce. Sometimes we sway. Sometimes we sing a little tune. Sometimes we beg. Sometimes we scream. Sometimes we sit down and say we can’t keep going. Sometimes we skip through the sunshine and dance in the moonlight. Sometimes we can’t believe how much fun we are having and how wonderful this is. Sometimes we feel so alone, we think we might break. And, yet, we keep going, and we emerge, blinking at the newness of it all.

This new pendant is one of the designs released for the launch of Brigid’s Grove, my collaborative project with my husband. We’re hosting giveaways on our website throughout the month of February to correspond with our launch and one of these pendants will be offered as a giveaway! We’ve also got an etsy discount code, a free digital Ritual Recipe Kit, and more to check out on the Brigid’s Grove website and Facebook page.

book

Good Birth Books to Gift to Others

I’ve recently had several requests from friends asking about the best birth books to give as gifts to pregnant relatives. After sending my third response, I realized that there’s a blog post in here somewhere!December 2013 010

Here are my current recommendations:

Sacred Pregnancythis book is simply beautiful. My past review is here.

Giving Birth with Confidence—this is the well-known childbirth education organization Lamaze International’s guide to pregnancy and birth and it is one of my favorites. My review of a past edition is here.

The Birth Partnerthis guide by Penny Simkin is a classic for helping fathers or other birth partners serve during labor

The Greatest Pregnancy Everfocused on positive mental attitude during pregnancy and cultivating a mother-baby bond prenatally (caveat: I’ve not actually finished reading this one, so I’m not sure if I have any reservations about it or not. I bought it at the last CAPPA conference)

Birthing from Within—the original birth art resource and a fabulous “out-of-the-box” handbook for preparing for birth. It is not attached to a particular outcome and can help mothers dig deep whether experiencing a home birth or a cesarean. This book is my all-time favorite, but my recommendation comes with a caveat that the short breastfeeding section is terrible.

The Baby Book-a comprehensive, reassuring look at baby’s first year by Dr. and Martha Sears.

For birth stories, I love and adore Simply Give Birth (past mini-review is here). I also like Journey Into Motherhood (available as a free digital copy here) and Adventures in Natural Childbirth.

I used to recommend The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, but is has been replaced by an updated version called Optimal Care in Childbirth and I’ve not yet read that one. My educated guess is that it is still an excellent recommendation! 🙂 I also used to recommend The Birth Book by Dr. Sears. It is still a good suggestion, but it is now an “older” book and so I don’t put it at the top of my list any longer.

Also, make sure you grab a copy of the free Guide to a Healthy Birth from Choices in Childbirth. I love this little booklet so much! It is my top favorite resource for tabling at community events. Another free educational resource that I recommend (particularly for women planning natural births in hospital settings) is Mother’s Advocate. There is a free booklet and a series of videos that explore Lamaze’s Six Healthy Birth Practices (which all mothers deserve as part of evidence-based care during birth, regardless of birth location).

Past book lists and related suggestions:

What To Do When Newly Pregnant and Wanting a Natural Birth…

Suggested Reading

Postpartum Reading List

Book list: Preparing Children for Homebirth

Non-Advice Books for Mothers

2012 Book List (all kinds of stuff, not just birth)

In addition, all the books I’ve reviewed in the past are available on my website from this link, so make sure to browse and see if anything else jumps out at you as a good match.

“Everyone who interacts with a pregnant woman is, in some way, her ‘teacher.’ Telling birth stories, sharing resources, imparting obstetrical information, giving advice or warnings—these are all direct or indirect ways of teaching about birth and parenting. Whether you currently identify yourself as a ‘childbirth teacher,’ or you are a midwife, doctor, doula, yoga teacher, nurse, therapist, breastfeeding counselor, or you are simply a woman or man who cares about the power of the childbearing year, you already hold the power of mentoring within you.”

–Pam England