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Talk Books: A Passion for Birth

Sheila

“We are only now beginning to discover the long term destructive effects on human beings and families of treated women as if they were containers to be opened and relieved of their contents.”

–Sheila Kitzinger

Sheila Kitzinger’s new autobiography, A Passion for Birth, is an absolute treasure. One of the most long-term and pivotal influences in the world of birth activism, I have quoted her work more times than I can count. In fact, I judge the quality of a book by the number of pages I dog-ear to return to. I turned down the corners of so many pages in A Passion for Birth, that it will take me a year’s worth of blog posts to share all the provocative quotes that caught my attention! While Sheila always included a personal flavor in her other books, this book is truly about her, her life, her passions, her family, her activism, her work. Interwoven throughout is the social justice oriented thread of her absolutely devoted dedication to women, feminism, and childbirth activism. Her book is very real, relatable, and readable as well as often charming. She doesn’t hold back from treading into controversial waters, however, and she is straightforward and unapologetic even when writing about topics that can be divisive in the birth world.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the full-color series of photos in the center insert to the book, they range from Kitzinger’s childhood, a homebirth picture of the birth of one of her daughters, and ending with a poignant photo of Sheila’s casket, decorated by her family, resting easily on some chairs in the dining room of home she so loved.

An internationally recognized author and expert, Kitzinger was an anthropologist and one of the first professional people to acknowledge that women’s birth wisdom, stories, and experiences are worthy of study and attention. Spanning an impressive career of more than fifty years, Kitzinger’s anthropological and activist work was undertaken at a global level and her clear and unwavering commitment to social justice work and activism is a thread running strongly throughout her entire autobiography. The book takes us from Sheila writing and studying while sitting in a playpen in her yard (an effort to have a work area undisturbed by her five children!) to traveling with her family to Jamaica to study the birth customs and stories of the women there. Her identity as an anthropologist is clearly reflected in the cross-cultural birth experiences she surveys and describes and the autobiography includes lots of travel! It also includes homey touches like favorite recipes and descriptions of family traditions as well as stories of her own four homebirths, including that of twin daughters. I found myself wanting more content about her life with children, her life as a mother, which, while acknowledged and integrated through the text, was curiously absent from much of the narrative’s exploration. I was also curious to know more about the accident and serious brain injury experienced by her daughter Polly, which was mentioned somewhat incidentally (though it clearly had a significant impact on the family), as was the passing mention in a photo caption referencing her husband Uwe’s eye removal surgery.

Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in birth work, birth activism, feminist studies, women’s health, or anthropology, A Passion for Birth was compelling, inspirational, funny, straightforward, assertive, honest, candid, wry and dedicated.

“The way we give birth is an expression of culture. It can be spontaneous and instinctual, but it is still patterned by the society in which we live.”

–Sheila Kitzinger

Stay tuned for an ongoing series of themed posts based on additional content and thought-provoking quotes!

In a pioneering career spanning more than 50 years she campaigned for and oversaw a radical change in maternity care, placing women’s rights and choices at the very heart of childbirth. Her passion, research and knowledge of childbirth have had enormous impact on millions of women worldwide.

A Passion for Birth | Sheila Kitzinger | Pinter & Martin Publishers.

Publishing and purchasing details: 

Author: Sheila KitzingerSheila
Published: 7 May 2015
Binding: hardback
Format: 240 x 160 mm
Pages: 384
Illustrations: colour and b/w photographs
Pinter & Martin edition available: worldwide
Translation rights: Pinter & Martin

Also available from: Amazon.co.uk | Wordery | The Hive | Waterstones | Foyles | Mail Bookshop | Amazon.com

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

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Tuesday Tidbits: What Does it Feel Like to Give Birth?

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‘All cultures believe that women become better and more generous through the process of giving birth. That is why some cultures use words such as ‘sacrifice,’ ‘suffering’ and ‘labour.’ These terms can seem overwhelming and to be avoided’ however, seen from a different viewpoint, childbirth helps us to become strong, resourceful and determined.’

(The Pink Kit)

via Birthrites: Birth as a Rite of Passage

“Understand that the tremendous energy going through you during birth is the same sort of power as the force of ocean waves moving towards shore. Know that just as a bird knows how to build its nest, and when to lay its eggs, you too will build your birthing nest…”

–Janice Marsh-Prelesnik (The Roots of Natural Mothering)

via Timeless Days: More Postpartum Planning

Women preparing to give birth for the first time often wonder what it is really going to be like. What is labor like? What do contractions really feel like? Is it really like “strong menstrual cramps” or is it “agony”? When I was pregnant with my first baby, planning to give birth at a birth center, and reading everything I could about natural birth, I remember feeling like I was studying for a huge test, but a test for which there was no “right answer” and that no one else could explain to me what would be on it. I read quotes about birth being a “mystery,” and found it frustrating. What kind of “mystery”? Why can’t anyone explain it? Culturally, we get mired down in a lexicon of birth-giving that is inadequate to express it, a mainstream birth model that communicates in terms of pain, medication, and clock-watching, platitudes about healthy babies being all that matters, and dichotomies or disagreements about what defines a “good birth.”

This week, a variety of articles caught my eye that help expand our vocabulary of birth by touching on what birth feels like….

My mom told me that when you give birth naturally, you get this power that you never felt before. This is true. Oh yes it is. And no matter what kind of birth you have, we all get that feeling of crossing over and joining our grandmothers and all ancient warrior women. We have joined the ranks. We will never be the same person we were before. We become a new human. A more refined human. A softer, more patient human. An unstoppable human. A mother.

via My Birth Story, My Heart: Lindsey & Soleil | Empowered Birth Project.

Sometimes, along with feeling power, there is intense pain:

…And then the contractions got really bad. They were so strong. So long. And so close together. This was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Sure, maybe I had brief periods of this intense (that’s not really a strong enough word… hellish is more like it) labor, but it was typically brief and pushing came quickly after that.

via My Homebirth in the Hospital – Mercy’s Birth – Mother Rising.

What do I mean by “lexicon”? I mean our language, our vocabulary, for birth. What words do we have to choose from to describe our birth experiences? Is there only pain, or is there more?

…we need more words for pain, because it is ridiculous that we have only one word that is used to describe a hangnail, a broken leg, being hit by a car, and labor.

via Words for Pain | Talk Birth.

In the book Labor Pain, the author describes the results of a study about how women feel labor pain. The most frequently used description was “sharp” (62%) followed by camping, aching, stabbing hot, shooting, and heavy. Tiring was another word used (49%), exhausting (36%, intense (52%), and tight (44%). Other words and descriptions used were burning, grinding, stony, overwhelming, terrific, bruising, knifelike, invaded, baby in charge, powerful, relentless, crampy, like period pain, like thunderbolts, excruciating, frightening, and purposeful. Only 25% of first time mothers and 11% of mothers with other children described pain associated with labor as “horrible” or “excruciating” (the top of the pain-scale range).

How do women having their first babies really learn about birth? Is it only through reading or classes?

“I usually claim that pregnant women should not read books about pregnancy and birth. Their time is too precious. They should, rather, watch the moon and sing to their baby in the womb.” –Michel Odent

via How Do Women Really Learn About Birth? | Talk Birth.

Women may feel a real sense of fear and trepidation about giving birth and, unfortunately, that fear may end up limiting their real options:

Could it be that human fear of pain is being used to generate financial profit? (the opium-is-the-opiate-of-the-masses model). Perhaps once the notion of palliative care reached a certain level of acceptance for the dying within the medical community, it began to spill over into other human conditions (the slippery-slope model). Or, perhaps we don’t want transparency at all (the denial model)…

…I can think of many questions that fall under this topic…Why do we call the intense phenomenon of birth “painful”? How do our genetics, behavior, training and thought-processes affect our experience of pain? What about the health care culture – has it focused on relieving pain at the expense of what we gain from working with pain short of trauma or imminent death? How do we prepare women for working with sensation without automatically labeling it pain? Is the “empowerment” often attributed to giving birth what is learned by going through the center of the “there is no birth of consciousness without pain” experience? These questions are just a start…

via Tuesday Tidbits: Pain, Birth, and Fear | Talk Birth.

Birth environments may also limit women’s movements, sounds, and choices in ways that may actually increase pain:

“Why do we, then, continue to treat women as if their emotions and comfort, and the postures they might want to assume while in labor, are against the rules?“

– Ina May Gaskin (via Birth Smart)

via Spontaneous Birth Reflex | Talk Birth.

Giving birth isn’t simply a physical experience, it is an initiation. Facing fears, meeting challenges, moving through struggle, and coming out the other side, powerfully changed, are core elements of initiatory events.

Giving birth is one of a series of important initiations a woman may experience in her lifetime. Initiations are intimately with change. They bring the initiate from one state of being into a new state of being. Initiations accomplish this task by putting the initiate through a series of experiences that challenge them in a particular way and bring them into new ways of being and of understanding. The initiate must meet these challenges and overcome any obstacles in order for the initiation to succeed in bringing about these changes.

via Thesis Tidbits: Birth as an Initiation | Talk Birth.

In the end, regardless of how your birth unfolds, there is one thing I will guarantee: you will feel the might of creation move through you.

“When I say painless, please understand, I don’t mean you will not feel anything. What you will feel is a lot of pressure; you will feel the might of creation move through you. Pain, however, is associated with something gone wrong. Childbirth is a lot of hard work, and the sensations that accompany it are very strong, but there is nothing wrong with labor.”

via Book Review: Painless Childbirth: An Empowering Journey Through Pregnancy and Birth | Talk Birth.

Other tidbits:

Nané Jordan is looking for contributions to her new book about the placenta. Sounds intriguing and I plan to contribute!

Sign up for the Brigid’s Grove Newsletter for resources, monthly freebies, + art and workshop announcements. Birth Spiral printable poster/gift coming as August’s freebie!

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“Birth is a time of deep transformation. We enter labor with excitement, trepidation and sometimes fear. We emerge with power, confidence and love.”

–Toni Lee Rakestraw, Organic Birth

Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Privacy

IMG_5598 I’ve been trying to post about this article for a couple of weeks now! It is an interesting look at the biological need for privacy at the end of pregnancy and during birth.

…This ‘time’ at the end of pregnancy was described in a lovely article (The Last Days of Pregnancy: A Place of In-Between- The Mothering website) as Zwischen, a German word for between. At the end of pregnancy the mothering hormones start to cause emotions to run high as the cervix starts to soften, efface and women generally crave the quiet and private places they need to emotionally and mentally travel inwards.

In many traditional cultures around the world, women are known to actively leave their tribes for birthing huts (Inuit Tribe a group of indigenous people residing in the Arctic regions, Kwaio a tribe who live in an Island off the Pacific and many more). The Eipos people in Papa New Guinea are documented (Schnietenhovel) to go into the Wilderness of the Bush shortly before the onset of labour. The tribes above are also protected by various women they already have a relationship with throughout their pregnancy and birth journeys. Midwives and female relatives provide the support to enable confidence in the birthing process and some of the women will go off and give birth alone.

via The biological need for privacy at the end of pregnancy | Calm Yorkshire Birth.

She also writes about how the pervasiveness of social media might impact this need for privacy:

…Don’t be fooled by the facelessness of facebook and other social media. Just because you cannot be physically seen, it doesn’t mean you have privacy. I often hear so much unnecessary stress from women who feel observed on groups within the social media communities. Smart phones leave us open to be contacted by anyone day or night at a time when we just don’t want to be in touch with anyone at all. I wonder what effect social media has on the orchestration of birthing hormones that play such a vital part in undisturbed childbirth.

via The biological need for privacy at the end of pregnancy | Calm Yorkshire Birth.

I felt a strong call to retreat and pull in during all of my pregnancies, maybe because of my introverted personality and craving for solitude, but maybe because of biology too…

Pregnancy—towards the end of pregnancy I feel an inward call. I start wanting to quit things, to be alone, to “nest,” to create art, to journal, and to sink into myself. Nothing sounds better to me in late pregnancy than sitting in the sunlight with my hands on my belly, breathing, and being alone with my baby and my thoughts.

via Introverted Mama | Talk Birth.

For me, this preference for solitude is reflected in my preferred birth environment which involves no talking/noise and as few other people present as possible.

This is not how all women feel, my own mother has expressed that she enjoyed and wanted quite a few people around her while she was giving birth—the help, support, companionship, and affirmation from other women was important to her births. The women giving birth on The Farm, of Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery fame, also seemed to be very social birthers. I remember looking at the pictures in the book and feel a little horrified by the huge gatherings of people present for births! Speaking of The Farm, I enjoyed reading this interview about the birth culture created by the midwives there:

“This is how I had my own babies,” she said. “I knew that if I could do it, pretty much anyone who was healthy and well could do it. So I wanted to help women. Of course, I never thought I’d be in the type of job where I was working mostly with delivering babies, but in the process of helping women, I fell in love with women. Women are brave. We’re absolutely beautiful creatures.”

via “The Farm” in Tennessee is the country’s oldest intentional community. But the real story is how they deliver babies.

I was also reminded of this past post about Birth Witnesses. This remains one of my very favorite guest posts that I’ve hosted here and it gives me food for thought every time I re-read it:

The only way to understand birth is to experience it yourself. The ONLY way? That comment stayed with me, haunted me. I became a doula after my daughter’s birth because I wanted to be able to provide women with support and knowledge that could give them a different experience, a better memory than what I had. I just couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a way to understand birth at all except to experience it firsthand. Certainly there wasn’t always this fear and unknown around birth that we each face today. Not always. I began studying that idea. What about other cultures? What about our culture, historically? What about The Farm? There wasn’t always this myth and mystery about birth! I realized there was a time (and in places, there still is) when women banded together for births. Mothers, sisters, cousins, daughters, aunts, friends. They came together and comforted, guided, soothed, coached, and held the space for one another during birth. These women didn’t go in it alone – they were surrounded by women who had birthed before them. Women who knew what looked and felt right, and what didn’t. Women who could empathize with them and empower them. In addition to that, girls and women were raised in a culture of attending births. Daughters watched mothers, sisters and aunts labor their babies into this world. They saw, heard, and supported these women for the long hours of labor, so when they became mothers themselves, the experience was a new, but very familiar one for them. Birth wasn’t a secretive ritual practiced behind the cold, business-like doors of a hospital. It was a time for bonding, learning, sharing and sisterhood. Girls learned how women become mothers, and mothers helped their sisters bring forth life.

via Birth Witnesses | Talk Birth.

We can’t overemphasize the importance of who is present in the birth space and their influence on how a birth unfolds. Other people’s presence can have a powerful impact, whether positive or negative. One important area is with regard to freedom of choice and self-direction:

…Women can find themselves feeling bullied or coerced into agreeing to procedures they wish to avoid, such as induction or continuous fetal monitoring. They may be told if they don’t follow their doctor’s suggestion their baby’s life will be in danger. Consent is most often given, but it is not informed consent. Many parents in this vulnerable position either don’t know how to advocate for themselves or are under prepared to – practically, emotionally and psychologically.

via When Doctors Don’t Listen: Informed Consent and Birth | BellyBelly.

Choice-based narratives figure heavily into both “alternative” and “mainstream” dialogues about birth. I am emphatic that the companion to informed consent must be informed refusal. Very often, there is no option to refuse, and in this situation, there is no real choice involved at all…

…Women’s lives and their choices are deeply embedded in a complex, multifaceted, practically infinite web of social, political, cultural, socioeconomic, religious, historical, and environmental relationships.

And, I maintain that a choice is not a choice if it is made in a context of fear.

via The Illusion of Choice | Talk Birth.

On a related note, what about pain and birth? Do we accurately remember what birth feels like? I feel as if I do remember, though it is often said that you “forget” as soon as the baby is born. I find instead that it is more of the “halo effect” described here:

The ‘halo effect’ is the term given to describe the positive emotions experienced by the new mother when the baby is placed in her arms for the first time. In that moment, amidst a rush of oxytocin and happiness, the mother is likely to have a more positive view of the birth experience than she did ten minutes earlier. Simply put, the happiness of holding her baby for the first time overpowers any pain or negativity from the birth.

It makes sense that this effect could influence how the pain of birth was remembered. The pain of birth may be remembered as less severe simply because the benefits of having a healthy baby are felt to outweigh the discomfort caused by childbirth.

Women who experience traumatic births and who are unable to hold their babies immediately after the birth may miss out on this ‘halo effect’. Though they will still experience the rush of love and hormones upon holding their baby for the first time, the delay can reduce the impact this has on their overall feelings about and memory of labour and birth.

via Do Women Forget The Pain Of Giving Birth? | BellyBelly.

When you feel amazing about yourself and deeply in love with your baby, the memory of exact sensation fades to the background and the exhilaration and triumph and love moves to the forefront. However, there is also simply the physical component (kind of like when you have the flu, it dominates your mental landscape and you forget ever feeling healthy. Then, you get better and the flu-self becomes distant). I marvel at how women shift through these physical stages. When I am Pregnant Woman, it is totally real and becomes normal. After I give birth and become Nursing Mother again, that is what is vibrant and real and Pregnant Woman, and the thoroughly embodied experience of pregnancy, becomes fainter and more dreamlike. Interesting that I use the word dreamlike, because I also find that it is in dreams that the physical experience returns with crystal clarity. I sometimes dream about being pregnant or giving birth and in those dreams I am 100% confident that I have not forgotten at all what it feels like, my body holds a deeply invested physical memory and “imprint” of my babies and births, it is just hard to call it back as vividly while going about every day life tasks at the same time.

Anyway, once we’ve experience the power of birth, we may become evangelists for birth, at least for a time. I really enjoyed my memories of the enthusiasm and energy I felt as a new birthworker reflected in this post from ProDoula:

It’s magical. It’s moving. It’s more than you ever imagined it would be. And you love it!

You never want it to end. You want to feel the power of these women and you want to talk about birth, ALL DAY LONG! In fact, you never want to talk about anything else again!

At the end of the last day, you “friend” each of these women and you expect to stay in contact with them forever. You are sad that it’s over, but you are a new woman because it happened.

You are replenished. You are fulfilled. You are wiser and you are stronger.

And then, you go home…

via Don’t Puke Birth on the Ones You Love | ProDoula.

What I discovered with time though is that I feel the power of women and this replenishment and strength in other forms besides the birth world. I find it in my priestess work, in my women’s circle, and at the Red Tent too.

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We had a run on twin mama goddess sculptures this week after a happy customer shared a picture of hers with her friends! 🙂

 

 

 

Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Transformation

“Women are as nervous and unsure of themselves as ever, and they need to learn to trust their bodies. Birthing is much more that eliminating pain. It is one of life’s peak experiences.” –-Elisabeth Bing

via Thesis Tidbits: Exceptional Human Experiences | Talk Birth.

May 2015 146The mother of the Lamaze childbirth education movement in the U.S., Elisabeth Bing, died this week at age 100. She had a tremendous impact on the birth culture and was a very early activist in promoting the “radical” idea of birth as a transformative, powerful, important experience in a woman’s life.

…For years Ms. Bing led classes in hospitals and in a studio in her apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where she kept a collection of pre-Columbian and later Native American fertility figurines.

Ms. Bing preferred the term “prepared childbirth” to “natural childbirth” because, she said, her goal was not to eschew drugs altogether but to empower women to make informed decisions. Her mantra was “Awake and alert,” and she saw such a birth as a transformative event in a woman’s life.

“It’s an experience that never leaves you,” she told The New York Times in 2000. “It needs absolute concentration; it takes up your whole being. And you learn to use your body correctly in a situation of stress.”

via Elisabeth Bing Dies at 100; ‘Mother of Lamaze’ Helped Change Childbirth – NYTimes.com.

Bing was also early to recognize that birth experiences can be traumatic for mothers. This week, I read another May 2015 164 interesting article about mothers’ experiences of birth trauma:

“…far too many women are left in the aftermath of a traumatic experience on the very day she is born as a mother. She is a new woman – amazing, strong and life-giving – ready to face the world. Holding her new baby in her arms and a smile (or not, depending on her acting skills) on the outside, with a broken heart, fractured spirit and shattered self-confidence on the inside. This is the result of traumatic birth…”

The Secret That Many Moms Are Keeping – Mothering.

Can part of the “cause” of traumatic births be the expectation that a “good birth” is a quiet and controlled birth? Nadia Raafat wrote a powerful article at the Huffington Post that touches on this possibility:

Contractions were outed, surges, came in, the un-gratifying word pain was ostracised from the semantics of childbirth and, across the nation, grateful midwives watched in awe as powerful, silent women breathed their way through drug-free labours.

That’s half the story. The other half concerns those who did not experience the blissful or natural birth outcome that hypnobirthing promised them; the many disappointed women whose labours were violent, or which deviated from the normal care pathway, women who found the experience not only painful, but shocking and traumatic – all the more so because they believed it might be painless. I have met many of these women – still processing their birth experience years later, still wondering what they did wrong? Their emotional and physical scars run deep and take many years to heal.

via Denying the Pain of Labour Is Like Denying the Pain of Life | Nadia Raafat.

Raafat goes on to advocate the full spectrum of the semantics of birth and birth experiences:

Childbirth is the most profound experience in a women’s life. It is awesome, challenging, brutal, visceral, joyful, transporting, awful, deeply physical, incredible, powerful, at times, calm and in-flow, at other times all-consuming and over-whelming. Our preparation and our semantics need to acknowledge the whole spectrum of the experience, not just the palatable colours.

via Denying the Pain of Labour Is Like Denying the Pain of Life | Nadia Raafat.

I have a long time interest in words and birth and how we “talk birth” in our culture:

…On the flip side, I’ve also read other writer’s critiques of an overly positive language of birth, labeling and mocking words like “primal” as “euphemisms” for hours of “excruciating” pain. But, that makes me think about the locus of control in the average birth room. It seems like it might more difficult to start an IV in a “triumphant” woman, so lets call her stubborn or even “insisting on being a martyr”? Could you tell someone making “primal” noises to be quiet? Probably not, but you can tell someone who is “screaming” to “stop scaring” others. Asserting that a painful and degrading language of labor and birth is “real” English and that the language of homebirth advocates are “euphemisms” is a way to deny women power and to keep the locus of control with medicine.

via Wordweaving | Talk Birth.

I’ve also thought a lot about the association between a quiet birth and good birth. “Quiet” during labor is often associated with “coping well” and noise is associated with not coping, which may not be the case:

…Occasionally, I hear people telling birth stories and emphasizing not making noise as an indicator, or “proof,” of how well they coped with birthing–“I didn’t make any noise at all,” or “she did really well, she only made noise towards the end…” Women also come to classes looking for ways to stay “in control” and to “relaxed.”

This has caused me to do some thinking. Though relaxation is very important and helpful, to me, the goal of “laboring well” is not necessarily “staying in control” or “staying relaxed” or “not making any noises.”

via What Does Coping Well Mean? | Talk Birth.

And, speaking of how we talk about experiences as well as pulling this post back around to Elisabeth Bing, I quoted some reflections on postpartum care from Bing in a past post:

“The degree of pleasure you take in your mothering is not the same thing as loving the baby or being an effective parent. Keep in mind there is a distinction between mother love and maternal satisfaction. You may love your baby very much but be dissatisfied with your life circumstances.”

via Talk Books: Laughter & Tears: The Emotional Life of New Mothers | Talk Birth.

May 2015 150

New Squatter’s Rights Sculpture

“Birth is not an event; it’s a series of sophisticated biological processes… Really, we’re talking about processes that should make us fall on our knees in awe.”

–Suzanne Arms

Squatter's Rights laboring mama birth goddess sculpture (birth art, unassisted birth), Birth Warrior.In our May newsletter from Brigid’s Grove, we introduced our new “Squatter’s Rights” sculpture of a mama catching her own baby. This sculpture has a lot of personal significance to me and I have found her image tremendously empowering for a long time. I have made a variety of different versions all expressing the same message: reach down and catch what’s yours.

…Would the new child coming from me be slippery like soap? I rubbed my fat belly. I loved each pound I gained, each craving I had, and every trip to the bathroom. Okay, maybe not every trip to the bathroom. But, I loved this growing baby. Tucked away like a pearl in the sea just waiting to be discovered. I was in a constant state of marvel.

Would I be able to physically do this? No, I don’t mean the labor, nor do I mean the birth. I knew I could do that. I got lost in thought as I planned in my head every moment that would come after my body did the work of labor. The moment would come once my body was ready and the crown of a child’s head pushed itself from me, the moment the child would emerge. That’s what I was planning for; I planned to catch my own baby…

via Guest Post: Squatter’s Rights | Talk Birth.

It is hard to express how much I love knowing about how these figures “speak” to the women who receive them. I started making them to express something within me and to speak to myself or remind me of my own power. I absolutely love knowing that they carry these messages to other women as well, not just me! An early customer of the Squatter’s Rights sculpture gave me permission to share her feedback on it:

I LOVE THIS!!!   I JUST got my lovely statue, she’s gorgeous, I am in awe of your work, and I caught myself choking up a bit at how I look at her and it pulls me back to that most empowering of moments, Me-birthing my little rainbow.. Completely uninhibited.. THANK YOU!…They will be in a sacred space, helping watch over me as I go through Midwifery school… Thank you, thank you!!

What a tremendous honor to be a small part of another woman’s journey in this way. It feels like a sacred trust.

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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Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Conditioning

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Thinking about the raw, emotional complexity and physical intensity of birth, I am reminded of a past post exploring the question of whether an epidural can really be considered an “informed choice” when it is considered in the context of enforced stillness during labor?

…In this case and in so many others around the nation every day, the physiologically normal and fully appropriate need for freedom of movement during labor ran smack into the hospital’s expectation of stillness. And, medication was a consequence of that stillness, not an inability to cope with normal labor–it was an inability to cope with enforced passivity that was directly counter to the natural urges of her birthing body. Where is the ‘opting’ here? When birthing women are literally backed into corners, no wonder epidural analgesia becomes the nationally popular ‘choice’…

Thoughts on epidurals, risk, and decision making | Talk Birth.

Considering movement during labor also brings us to the idea of sound during labor. What about the implied or explicit expectation of quiet during labor?

We decided that there is a major stigma around “quiet” birth. Why is “quiet” birth synonymous with a “good” birth? Why are we praised on our ability to stay “calm” in our birthing time??? This is crazy! Now let me quickly add: A quiet birth CAN be a beautiful birth, it can be the most beautiful kind, but so can the others.We talked to a mother who explained that in her birthing time she was very “calm and quiet” she also said she was suffering so deeply but everyone kept praising her abilities so she kept on going. How many women bite their tongue, how many women feel trauma and how many women were told they were “crazy, wild and loud”? And why are any of those words bad? We are having a baby, we are doing the most instinctual and primal work we will ever do as humans.

via Blog — TerraVie.

I addressed the interesting notion of a “quiet, calm” birth as synonymous with “coping well” in this past post:

“I believe with all my heart that women’s birth noises are often the seat of their power. It’s like a primal birth song, meeting the pain with sound, singing their babies forth. I’ve had my eardrums roared out on occasions, but I love it. Every time. Never let anyone tell you not to make noise in labor. Roar your babies out, Mamas. Roar.” –Louisa Wales

via What Does Coping Well Mean? | Talk Birth.

Our expectations in birth are shaped by the cultural conditioning, contexts, and environments around them whether we are conscious of them or not. In this past compilation of articles about the role of doulas, Michel Odent makes an interesting point:

…We must add that this cultural conditioning is now shared by the world of women and the world of men as well. While traditionally childbirth was ‘women’s business,’ men are now almost always present at births, a phase of history when most women cannot give birth to the baby and to the placenta without medical assistance. A whole generation of men is learning that a woman is not able to give birth. We have reached an extreme in terms of conditioning. The current dominant paradigm has its keywords: helping, guiding, controlling, managing…coaching, supporting…the focus is always on the role of persons other than two obligatory actors (i.e. mothers and baby). Inside this paradigm, we can include medical circles and natural childbirth movements as well…

–Michel Odent (exploring the role of doulas)

Tuesday Tidbits: The Role of Doulas… | Talk Birth.

And, here are some neat resources I’ve encountered this week…

I signed up to participate in this free telesummit on womb wisdom/nourishing the feminine: Womb Wisdom: Nourishing the Roots of the Feminine with Barbara Hanneloré — Womb Wisdom. (Thanks to Mothering Arts for the link!)

I’ve linked to these beautiful coloring books in past posts. I’m just entranced by them!

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via Blissful Belly Coloring Journal: NOW until April 1st, Buy Both the Blissful Belly and Blissful Birth Coloring Books and Get 25% OFF. Coupon Code is 2blissful. Get it here

And, after participating in a free Spring Equinox event online that was hosted by the Sacred Sister Society (to which I won a year-long membership!), I’ve been enjoying different daily yoga practices using videos from Joy Fisheria from Everyday Chakras. The practice for your core strength is one of my favorites. 🙂

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New taller, mama goddess sculptures for birth altars!