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Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Planning

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My post from last week about recovering from childbirth sent me on a blog-excavation mission for all the posts I’ve written about postpartum care. This is just a sampling (I’ve written a lot on the subject):

“I needed a maternal figure, a dedicated and present midwife, dear and loving friends. I was blessed with one out of three. It could have been worse. The only people I know who did just fine in the postpartum period are those who score the triumvirate: well cared for in birth, surrounded by supportive peers, helpful elders to stay with them for a time. The others, wild-eyed at the supermarket, prone to tears, unable to nurse or sleep or breathe, a little too eager to make friends at baby groups – I can spot them at 20 paces. We form a vast and sorry club…”

via My friend breastfed my baby | Life and style | The Guardian.

Source: Weekly Tidbits: Birth, Postpartum, the Triumvirate, and Anthropology | Talk Birth

Other, experienced women can be our most powerful source of support:

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

Source: Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Recovery | Talk Birth

I’ve spent a lot of time talking and writing about the culture that surrounds us and the resultant impact on our birth, breastfeeding, and early parenting experiences:

The United States are not known for their postpartum care practices. Many women are left caught completely off guard by the postpartum recovery experience and dogged by the nagging self-expectation to do and be it all and that to be a “good mother” means bouncing back, not needing help, and loving every minute of it.

Source: Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Mamas | Talk Birth

It isn’t just me writing about the impact of culture on maternal mental health, this post calls it like it is:

Let’s stop torturing mothers. Let’s stop ignoring the problem of expecting new mums to get back to normal. They are not normal, they are super important, and we need to value them and treat them with the greatest respect, if we don’t want them to break into a million pieces, shattering the lives of all those around them.

Source: Torturing new mothers and then wondering why they get mentally ill. | Mia’s Blog

This insightful article full of helpful tips for supporting postpartum women by my friend Summer got a lot of attention when I re-shared it on Facebook last week:

An unfortunate by-product of our society’s refusal to see birth as a monumental event is the lack of a babymoon or restful, supported postpartum period. Most of the time, moms and dads are expected to pick up with their everyday lives almost immediately.

The Incredible Importance of Postpartum Support | Midwives, Doulas, Home Birth, OH MY!

I offer some survival tips here: Postpartum Survival Tips | Talk Birth

And, one of my favorite guest posts that I’ve ever hosted on this site is this one about postpartum planning: Guest Post: Mothers Matter–Creating a Postpartum Plan | Talk Birth

When considering postpartum planning as well as talking about it to others, I find that visualizing the placental site that is healing can be a helpful jolt reminding us how important good postpartum care is:

“Remind them that a true six-week postpartum window allows for the placenta site to fully heal and supports minimized bleeding and stronger recovery.” An excellent tip for educators and doulas from Barbeau is to illustrate size of placental site healing area with hands like small dinner plate—if this was outside the body, how would you care for yourself…

Source: Timeless Days: More Postpartum Planning | Talk Birth

And, some final reminders about good postpartum care for women themselves and for those who love them:

I recently finished a series of classes with some truly beautiful, anticipatory, and excited pregnant women and their partners. I cover postpartum planning during the final class and I always feel a tension between accurately addressing the emotional upheavals of welcoming a baby into your life and marriage and “protecting,” in a sense, their innocent, hopeful, eager, and joyful awaiting of their newborns.

This time, I started with a new quote that I think is beautifully true as well as appropriately cautionary: “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

Source: Some reminders for postpartum mamas & those who love them | Talk Birth

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Thursday Tidbits: Recovering from Birth

December 2015 029“Before I had children I always wondered whether their births would be, for me, like the ultimate in gym class failures. And I discovered instead…that I’d finally found my sport.”

–Joyce Maynard

People often use running a marathon as a metaphor for birth. Turns out that science has discovered that birth is actually more difficult…

“The researchers used MRI equipment typically used to diagnose sports injuries to explore the full scope of trauma that a woman’s body experiences during childbirth. The MRI images revealed that almost 25 percent of women had fluid in the pubic bone marrow or fractures that are similar to stress fractures that athletes often suffer. And 41 percent of women had pelvic muscle tears.

Also revealed by the study is the startling statistic that 15 percent of women never fully recover from the birth-related pelvic injuries.”

Science Says Childbirth Is Harder Than Running a Marathon – In The Loop Tips & Advice | mom.me

The same research was covered in this post as well:

Childbirth, as anyone who’s been through it knows, can feel very much like an extreme sport. And, it turns out, some childbirth-related injuries are surprisingly like sports injuries, including the very long time they need to heal.

The bottom line, Miller says, is: “if women don’t feel that their body is back to what they expected after six weeks, it’s not in their heads. Women do some self blame or feel like they’re not as robust as their sister or friend. But they may have one of these injuries not visible on clinical exam.”

Source: Childbirth As An Extreme Sport — And Why Its Injuries Can Take So Long To Heal | CommonHealth

I do have to admit that I perhaps would have re-titled the articles: “Science Reports Something Most Women Have Known Since the Beginning of Time,” but, oh well. Picky me.

I’ve written about birth and marathons in several past posts. Giving birth is the original “extreme sport.” One that tests your reserves, your endurance, your courage, and your stamina like nothing else. Truly, we have the comparison wrong. Running a marathon is kind of like giving birth, rather than vice versa! The first older blog post of mine isn’t related to childbirth/sports injury, but instead the emotional satisfaction of finishing your “marathon”:

She goes on to share: “I want that feeling of going beyond what you think is possible for laboring women. If you let go of control and allow the process to unfold, you are so proud of yourself. Then pride morphs into self-confidence and trust. What a perfect combination for parenting. When it comes down to it, you have to do this by yourself, be it labor or running. You might hear other laboring women around you or have the support of crowds in a race, but it’s still up to you. there’s a start and a finish and only you can see it through. Fortitude brings a new self-awareness and strength that feels overwhelming…I know one of my greatest challenges in the vocation of perinatal education is getting women to trust the process and her own capabilities before labor. My practice runs helped prepare me for the marathon, but there is no practice run for labor. Women must rely on their confidence and the legacy of the many women who have birthed before them…”

Source: Births & Marathons | Talk Birth

Women giving birth often experience a sort of post-race euphoria:

Those who push themselves to climb the last hill, cross the finish line, or conquer a challenging dance routine often report feelings of euphoria and increased self-esteem…women who experience natural birth often describe similar feelings of exaltation and increased self-esteem. These feelings of accomplishment, confidence, and strength have the potential to transform women’s lives. In many cultures, the runner who completes the long race is admired, but it is not acknowledged that the laboring woman may experience the same life-altering feelings… —Giving Birth with Confidence (by Lamaze International)

Source: Birth Feelings | Talk Birth

And, they can draw on those feelings for strength again and again:

“Whether it be the thick memory of enduring a non-medicated labor and finally pushing our third child into the world, despite feeling as though I hadn’t an ounce of energy left, or the meager sprint I managed as I neared the finish line of the marathon…, I hold tight to these images as proof that I can and will be able to rise to the occasion–again and again, if and when I need to-–because the ability to do so is in my very bones. Because I am a woman.”

Source: Woman Rising | Talk Birth

Mothering can also feel like a marathon:

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

Source: Tuesday Tidbits: Birthing Bodies | Talk Birth

This article about recovering from a Cesarean Birth After Cesarean (CBAC) is packed with helpful information:

As we have discussed, everyone celebrates a VBAC but many CBAC mothers feel alone and unsupported, both in their physical and emotional recovery. This needs to change.

Source: The Well-Rounded Mama: Physical Recovery After CBAC

And, this article has some ideas to share about lowering back and pelvic pain during pregnancy: The Birthing Site – 5 Things you can do to Help Lower Back and Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy

All of these posts and topics remind me of the importance of planning wisely for postpartum:

My son’s birth was a joyous, empowering, triumphant experience, but postpartum was one of the most challenging and painful times in my life. I had not given myself permission to rest, heal, and discover. Instead, I felt intense internal pressure to “perform.” I wondered where my old life had gone and I no longer felt like a “real person.” A painful postpartum infection and a difficult healing process with a tear in an unusual location, left me feeling like an invalid—I had imagined caring for my new baby with my normal (high) energy level, not feeling wounded, weak, and depleted.

Source: Planning for Postpartum | Talk Birth

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Happy Birth-Day: Tanner’s Home Water Birth Video

_DSC0461fToday, my sweet, energetic, fiery, powerhouse of a baby boy turned one! In honor of his birthday, Mark finished putting together Tanner’s birth video. This is the first time I’ve ever had any video of any of my children’s births and it feels tender to share (which is why it took a year to put it out there). Birth is a very private, inner experience for me. I like to give birth virtually alone. So, having video feels like having another observer there, and birth for me is about not being observed. The music that plays in the video is the song Standing at the Edge from Sacred Pregnancy that I listened to throughout my pregnancy and then hummed to myself during labor. When I shared about my sealing ceremony after his birth, I mentioned how meaningful it was to me that this song started to play both as I was entering my ceremonial bath and again as I was getting back out. Well, guess what happened when I went to take a shower this morning on his birthday? This song was also the first to begin as I stepped into the shower!

The written version of his birth story is here: Welcoming Tanner Matthias! | Talk Birth

I’ll do a separate Happy Birthday blog post in a couple of days. I just wanted to make sure to get this video up today! I spent some time at Tanner’s naptime today going through the cards from my mother blessing ceremony and enjoying that energy and affirmation, rather than rushing to my to-do list.

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Wednesday Tidbits: Books, Babies, and Breastfeeding Mama Ornaments

In February of 2014, I sat on the stones in the woods, came face to face with a raccoon in the tree and suddenly knew that I was pregnant again. In October of 2014, I sat on the stones in the woods awaiting the imminent arrival of my new baby boy. This week, I sat on the stones in the woods with a baby boy who is now approaching his first birthday. The wheel spins quickly.

12074630_1672247639654118_5798984318455904624_nAfter feeling a little fried and exhausted from parenting this teething whirlwind of a toddling boy, I enjoyed reading this article about motherhood as a spiritual practice:

Motherhood is a deeply spiritual act. We birth another human soul at great personal cost, and are tasked with providing for that baby and raising them to adulthood. The daily grind of being a mother, of constantly putting somebody’s needs before your own is the most character-building exercise I have ever had to do. No spare time is squandered, no act of love too great. On those days where the house is a mess, everybody is crying and I’ve made five cups of tea all gone cold, taking the time to remember the sacredness of what I am doing, the beauty and the impact of my every decision on these little one’s lives. I am the Mother. I am not the clean, clinical mother with the apron tied around her waist but I am infinitely more valuable than that.

Source: Motherhood and Spirituality — Mama Bird

(Note: I also know awesome mothers who rock aprons!)

It made my heart so happy to read these words from Rachael at Moon Times about my new Earthprayer poetry book: “a beautiful book of poetry that calls to earth women, earth mamas, wood pixies…”

The book is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK as well as from our Etsy shop. I’m also working on developing a free companion e-course!12115561_1673721906173358_8351932066983960577_nSpeaking of books, I contributed to the Indiegogo campaign for Pam England’s newest book. I love Pam’s work and it has left an indelible imprint on my own births, life, and work.

Support Birthing From Within’s new book and our vision for changing the conversation about birth.

Source: New Birth Book: Ancient Map for Modern Birth | Indiegogo

Is it too soon to mention Christmas? We’re working on some Christmas ornaments! I’m excited to see holiday lights behind these luminous mamas.

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I was interviewed by KNOWHEN this week, talking about TTC, birth empowerment, birth education, and pregnancy loss: Molly Talks About Childbirth & Her Own TTC Story – KNOWHEN

And, speaking of pregnancy loss, in October we honor Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Please feel free to use this photo as your own profile picture on Facebook if you need to do so:
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Tuesday Tidbits: This Time Last Year…

As I mentioned in my 11 month update, the first year of life with a new baby feels like a journey through a labyrinth. The moments I experienced last year while pregnant take on a particularly poignancy as I round the curves of The Return, this time with baby in arms.

I love the moments of continuity…last year with my pregnant belly, this year at the pumpkin patch with a toddler selecting his own pumpkin.

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Last year getting my pregnancy photos taken and having a mother blessing, this year having some breastfeeding photos taken (note: carefully selected goddess sarong for photographic continuity!).

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_DSC0457fInterestingly, this time last year I was taking online instructor trainings for Sacred Pregnancy and Sacred Postpartum. This year, quite by accident (in terms of exact timing), I ended up starting the Sacred Pregnancy Birth Journey instructor course online. I won this course in a Red Tent fundraising auction via Moon Times in the winter, but I didn’t actually take it until this month.

For today’s tidbits post, I’m taking a walk down memory lane and looking at posts from around this same time last year…

Stretching time, wondering about twins, and making a belly cast:

I felt on the edge of tears from the time I woke up almost until the time we did the belly cast—feeling stressed, rushed, and WHY. However, we had a great time doing the cast (even though we had to stop to rescue a hummingbird from the actual jaws of a cat, save Alaina from being clawed by another cat, and answer computer questions from the boys. Sometimes I have to pause and realize that the overwhelm I feel lately is probably just a feature of the realities of having three kids with various needs already, a job, a business, a dissertation to write, books waiting to be born, and several serious life passions and be preparing to add another human to the family. Perhaps it would be weird if I didn’t feel overwhelmed and a little panicky, rather than it feeling like it is a personal failing that this is how I’ve spent a lot of time feeling lately.)

Source: Stretching Time | Talk Birth

Then, painting and re-painting that belly cast into a fall leaves theme that I still love: September 2014 122

I am 100% pleased with the re-do. Sometimes a revision is exactly the right choice! I feel like the comparison of my first attempt and my second looks like one of those side-by-side Pinterest comparisons, only both of these were from me!

Source: Belly Cast! | Talk Birth

And, from there, making another belly cast with the intention of creating a pottery belly bowl:

During this pregnancy, one of my personal philosophies has been to do stuff that I haven’t done before. This is my last chance to be pregnant (really!) and I want to make sure I leave no stones uncovered or cool stuff undone!

Source: Belly Bowl! (and new altar bowl) | Talk Birth

And, it worked!

Completed Pottery Clay Belly Bowl! | Talk Birth

I mused over whether I was ready or not:

The inexorable march towards Birth-Day is such an interesting, liminal place to be in. It both feels “mysterious” and inevitable. The closer I get to my official due date, the more wide open the possibilities seem as to when he will be born…when, in reality, the options narrow each day! I still have a certain sense of unreality about the whole thing—like, am I really going to do this? Am I really going to have a BABY????!!!!!

Source: Ready or Not! | Talk Birth

But, my Sacred Postpartum training really helped me prepare, as I took a ceremonial bath:

And, that is when I had my “breakthrough” moment. My eyes were prickling with tears and I said: “I associate taking baths with being weak and wounded.” I associate baths with cleaning blood away from myself and gingerly poking around for tears in my most vulnerable tissues.

Source: Sacred Postpartum, Week 2: Ceremonial Bathing | Talk Birth

And learned how to make Happy Tea:

I’ve been interested to note that I’ve dreamed with increasing realism about the baby for the last three nights in a row. Last night, I was getting him latched on for the first time. The night before, my mom and Mark had brought him to campus for me to nurse on my breaks from class. The night before that was a water birth dream (two actually, both about twins). To me this indicates that whatever lingering “not readiness” I might be experiencing in my waking life, my subconscious is getting it. At some level, my brain is getting down with the idea of really, truly having another baby and it is incorporating him into my dreamscape/life accordingly.

Source: Sacred Postpartum: Happy Tea + 40 Week Update | Talk Birth

My Mother Blessing ceremony also helped me recognize my own strength and courage:

I discovered in this post-ritual reflection that it is just part of my personal process to be able to say, and be vulnerable enough to have people hear, see, or read, that I think maybe I can’t do something or that I’ve said yes to too much. The answer for me is not, “then don’t” or “stop” or “quit” or “take it easy,” it is to move forward and to see, again, that I was actually enough for what scared me or felt too big or too exhausting.

Source: Mother Blessings and the Power of Ritual | Talk Birth

In the power of ritual, I learned (again) that life is like birth, and we give birth as we live.

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Closing the Bones…

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After my own postpartum sealing ceremony, November 2014.

I’m thrilled to have a guest post from Awen Clement on the Brigid’s Grove blog this month. She writes about Closing the Bones, a ceremony for postpartum women…

“After the birth of my son, I felt broken open”

Did you feel this way after the births of your children? Did you feel as though you had opened yourself body, mind and spirit to bring that new life into the world? Did it surprise you to feel this way?

We give so much when we birth our children, on every level, and then we keep on giving as we move on in our mothering. We feel exhausted, but that exhaustion somehow doesn’t seem to lift no matter how well we rest. We may feel as though something is missing, some part of ourselves that we were sure was there before. It probably isn’t something you would ever mention to anyone and even if you did many would simply point out that you’re a mother now, of course your tired and of course you feel different…

Read more here: Guest Post: Honouring the Bones of my Sisters – Brigid’s Grove

IMG_9800My own post about my postpartum sealing ceremony can be found here:

Ceremonial Bath and Sealing Ceremony | Talk Birth

Talk Books: The Last Midwife

9781250074461A baby’s first cry was the sound of angels’ songs. No matter how long and difficult the labor, no matter how the mother moaned from the pain and the tearing, praying and cursing, Gracy knew joy at the sight of the baby’s body pushing into the world, felt exhilaration as she caught the tiny living creature and held the soft, wet flesh in her hands a moment longer than was necessary. And she passed that sense of wonder on to the mother, exclaiming over the fingers and toes as tiny as birds’ claws, the eyelashes thin as a thread, the button of a nose.

It was not the money or the gold dust or the barter items that sent Gracy over icy trails, that drew her out of sleep-warm quilts at midnight to face cold and howling blizzards. She went where she was called because she knew a woman needed her, because new life waited for her…

The Last Midwife is a historical mystery novel set in gold rush country, a Colorado mining town in the 19th century. Gracy Brookens is the last midwife in the community, aging and creaky, but taking long treks into deep country to continue to serve women, despite the presence of a new, modern doctor in town. Unfortunately, a baby is murdered and Gracy is accused of the crime. Mixed with birth stories, personal trauma and the witnessing of intense family suffering, the baby’s murder case comes to trial and Gracy must face the chance of imprisonment as well as rejection and betrayal from some of the women she has loyally served. The mystery of who really killed the baby runs through the book along with several other intertwined subplots that are like mini-mysteries of their own.

While the twist ending left me a little disappointed, The Last Midwife was a realistic, interesting, engaging, suspenseful, well-developed, and creative read that doulas, midwives, and childbirth educators will particularly enjoy.