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Talk Books: Lost on Hope Island

Patricia Harman is an experienced midwife, beginning as a community midwife in the 1960’s and goatmidwivesthen becoming a CNM and maintaining a busy practice with her obstetrician husband Tom. Her memories about midwifery practice are some of my all-time favorite midwifery memoirs. She has a delightful gift with sharing stories, wisdom, and creating what feels like a true relationship with the reader. Now, she has put her attention into a new project: fiction for middle-grade children. Her first child’s novel, Lost on Hope Island: The Amazing Tale of the Little Goat Midwives, tells the story of two siblings, Trillium and Jacob (ages 12 and 8) who are shipwrecked on a small island in the Pacific Ocean and separated from their parents.

Lost on Hope Island is set in the modern day, it is not a Swiss Family Robinson reboot. On the island, the children must learn how to survive with only each other, and the goats the inhabit the island for company. They make some surprising (and convenient!) discoveries left behind by previous homesteaders on the island that help them survive and they develop close relationships with their goat friends. After the traumatic death of one baby goat, they learn how to help the nanny goats on the island give birth to their kids when they encounter difficulties (specifying that their mother and grandmothers are midwives and they know that if a mother isn’t have any trouble, it is best to keep your hands off and leave her alone!). This tale is not a fantastical or “glitzy” children’s read, nor does it shy away from complicated and difficult topics, instead it opens the door to real questions about relationships and feelings and how to draw on one’s own strength when you think you can’t go on. It is unusual to find a middle grade children’s book about realistic people in unusual, but not fantasy, circumstances. The book is illustrated with charming little hand-drawn pictures of the goats and the island’s adventures.

I read Lost on Hope Island out loud to my kids at bedtime over the course of a few weeks. My kids are ages 2, 5, 10, and 13. The older boys groaned a bit about reading it and found the goat-birth scenes to be a bit “icky,” but after they settled into the rhythm and pacing of the story, they listened with rapt attention and we often mentioned the story at other points during the day. My five-year-old daughter loved the book and it taught my nearly two-year-old son how to both say “midwives” (in a truly adorable fashion…he would get the book and bring it to me saying, “mid-wiiiifes”) and also “bey-aa” like the goats in the story.

If you are looking for a family read aloud, this adventure story with a birth-worker twist, is the book for you!

Past reviews of Patricia’s other books:


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

Crossposted at Brigid’s Grove.

Thursday Tidbits: Birthing Courage

There is a certain fire to books written about women’s health, empowerment, and feminism in the May 2016 0041970’s and 1980’s. I’ve been extremely fond of birth (activism) books written during that time period because they seem much less apologetic than books written today as well as much less concerned with appearing “biased” towards unmedicated birth (or various other topics). I also love women’s spirituality books of that era and while I’ve read a small handful of maternal activism books written in that time period, I haven’t read many about feminism itself. So, I recently finished reading a passionate, short collection of essays called Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics, by Andrea Dworkin (1976). In it, of course, this section on birth and courage caught my eye:

“If we were not invisible to ourselves, we would see that since the beginning of time, we have been the exemplars of physical courage. Squatting in fields, isolated in bedrooms, in slums, in shacks, or in hospitals, women endure the ordeal of giving birth. This physical act of giving birth requires courage of the highest order. It is the prototypical act of authentic physical courage. One’s life is each time on the line. One faces death each time. One endures, withstands, or is consumed by pain. Survival demands stamina, strength, concentration, and will power. No phallic hero, no matter what he does to himself or to another to prove his courage, ever matches the solitary, existential courage of the woman who gives birth.

We need not continue to have children in order to claim the dignity of realizing our own physical capacity for physical courage. This capacity is ours; it belongs to us, and it has belonged to us since the beginning of time. What we must do now is reclaim this capacity–take it out of the service of men; make it visible to ourselves; and determine how to use in the service of feminist revolution.

If we were not invisible to ourselves, we would also see that we have always had a resolute commitment to and faith in human life which have made us heroic in our nurturance and sustenance of lives other than our own. Under all circumstances–in war, sickness, famine, drought, poverty, in times of incalculable misery and despair–women have done the work required for the survival of the species. We have not pushed a button, or organized a military unit, to do the work of emotionally and physically sustaining life. We have done it one by one, and one to one.” (p. 63-64)

Speaking of fire, I’m very much looking forward to Lucy Pearce’s new book, Burning Woman. My copy should be arriving soon! I’m honored and humbled to have contributed in a small way to the book:

This incendiary text was written for women who burn with passion, have been burned with shame, and who at another time, in another place, would have been burned at the stake. With contributions from leading burning women of our era: Isabel Abbott, ALisa Starkweather, Shiloh Sophia McCloud, Molly Remer, Julie Daley, Bethany Webster…

61iu1amr3WLI also read two good articles this week, one about mothering the mother:

And then there’s birth. Whether she delivers by an unmedicated vaginal birth, a medicated vaginal birth, or a C-section, the effort will be herculean, unlike any physical or emotional challenge she has faced to date – unless she’s already had a baby, that is. Giving birth requires a mother to push herself light years past her own limitations. She will be skyrocketed out of her comfort zone into a foreign land that demands strength, stamina, resilience and a shocking amount of trust – that her body really is designed to do this, that her tiny, yet-to-be-born baby is tough enough to handle all that pushing, gripping, and squeezing, and that this is an event that will eventually be over (those 35-hour labourers know exactly what I’m talking about). Along the way she’ll discover a crystal clear truth that she’ll lean on during the other heart-wrenching, body-challenging experiences that will inevitably come her way during the course of her life: the only way out is through…

via Mothering the Mother: New Mothers Need a Focused Period of Rest and Recovery

And, the second about four things to avoid if you want to have the birth you want:

So, best case scenario: You aren’t afraid and sneak off to your birth cave. Turn off your human mind and think very, very carefully (beforehand!!) about who you invite into this space.

via Avoiding These 4 Things May Help You Have the Birth You Want

In my personal and business life, we’ve been making tons of beautiful Story Goddesses and shipping them to fascinating locations like Costa Rica and Puerto Rico and Kuwait, as well as delighting in seeing photos of them that customers send of the goddesses enjoying travels on beaches in Cornwall and in pear trees in the UK.

May 2016 207I’m wrapping up a really fulfilling Practical Priestessing course. I’m also getting ready for a new online workshop about creating mother-daughter circles: Pink Tent Rising. I survived another session of grading papers as well as balancing everything else (even though I felt like I couldn’t do it, somehow I could. The only way out is through, just like birth! 😉 ). Tanner says adorable words like “kiwi” and my brother, sister-in-law, and fabulous nephew moved right next door to begin buildingMay 2016 010 their own house. My parents are getting ready to have an epic celebration party of their fortieth year of homesteading here in Missouri. We celebrated the 21st anniversary of our first date, I turned 37, and enjoyed Mother’s Day this month. Zander’s tenth birthday is right around the corner and both of my parents’ birthdays too. Mark had a vasectomy last month, so our childbearing years have fully closed and I feel really great about that decision. I still haven’t heard anything back about my dissertation (4 months now!). We also took a mini vacation to Big Cedar Lodge on Table Rock Lake and took the kids to the Dinosaur Museum in Branson.

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</stream of consciousness mini-update post>

Talk Books: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn

March 2016 121Several months ago, I received an email from one of my former college students. His wife was newly pregnant and they had several specific questions. They asked for my help and recommendations with where to go for answers and without hesitation, I suggested a book: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn. I was confident that not only would they find the answers they sought in the book, but also reliable, practical, helpful answers to questions they haven’t even thought to ask yet.

Co-authored by a foremost authority in childbirth and doula education, Penny Simkin, Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn was one of the first books I bought as a new childbirth educator in 2005. Now, newly revised and updated, the book has a companion website packed with resources to help you have a healthy pregnancy, a rewarding birth, and a nurturing postpartum.

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about this book as a wonderful resource for childbirth educators are the line March 2016 119drawings illustrating a variety of positions and concepts. This new fifth edition has lots of black and white photos as well. The fact that the book is co-authored by a world-renowned doula, a nurse/lactation consultant, a nurse/childbirth educator, a social worker, and a physical therapist, means it is an interdisciplinary resource benefiting from the skills and professional experience of each co-author. Childbirth educators and doulas as well as pregnant couples will want to check out the companion website which has a plethora of pdf handouts available on numerous topics including comfort techniques, nutrition, and parental leave.

Evidence-based, comprehensive, and encouraging, Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn is an ideal companion for both childbirth professionals and expectant parents.


Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Newborn is published by Meadowbrook Press, an award-winning publisher specializing in pregnancy & childbirth, baby names, parenting & childcare, and children’s books & poetry: Meadowbrook Press. Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn

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

Top 9 Books of 2015

I’m a reader. Books are my first and longest lasting love. I read about 90 books in 2015 (and logged them in Goodreads). It took some deliberation, but I choose my nine favorites from the year and they are…

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(Why top nine? Because they fit into a nifty square grid, that’s why!)

There are three novels, two birthy memoirs, one Moon Time read, two priestess books, and a fascinating memoir of a boy who builds a windmill in Africa.

  • Under Her Wings, the Making of a Magdalene. I read this as part of my dissertation research on contemporary priestessing. Written by the late Nicole Christine, this memoir chronicles the development, evolution, and expression of Christine’s priestess path and her Priestess Process training program for other priestesses. While I initially gave it four stars, I changed my mind later when I realized how often I thought of or referenced this book after finishing it. It seeped into my dream life–I had the most vivid and meaningful dreams I’ve had all year while reading this book–and influenced multiple blog posts as well as a whole section in my dissertation. That deserves five stars!
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. This was a very random read for me. I saw it on the book club shelf at the library and picked it up on a whim. It fascinated me. I loved it. I was riveted by this memoir of a teenage boy in Africa who survives brutal famine conditions, self-teaches himself physics, and builds a windmill in his tiny village. I stayed up late and finished it in one fell swoop.
  • Voices of the Sacred Feminine. Compiled by the hostess of my all-time favorite podcast of the same name, this book weaves together many rich and diverse voices within feminist spirituality. Most of the book consists of unique essays written by past guests on Karen’s show and the end result is essentially a textbook of feminist spirituality. As I read it, I could easily imagine using this book as the foundation for a class on contemporary goddess spirituality.
  • Touching Bellies, Touching Lives. A totally engrossing memoir of a personal pilgrimage through the legacies and lessons of midwives from Southern Mexico.
  • A Passion for Birth. The amazing autobiography of Sheila Kitzinger, one of the most influential birth activists of the 21st century, I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in birth work, birth activism, feminist studies, women’s health, or anthropology.
  • Moon Time. A top favorite on the resource table at our Red Tent Circle, this second edition is an absolute treasure. A powerful, inspirational, and affirming resource for cycling women.
  • The High King’s Tomb. Third in a series of five epic fantasy novels, I thoroughly enjoyed all but the last book in this whole series on Kindle courtesy of the local library.
  • Divergent. The public library has been a keeper of my heart since I was a child. In the last two years, I discovered the profound joy of checking out audiobooks digitally from the local library. I get a chance to “read” books I probably wouldn’t allow myself time for AND, best of all, I get to read while doing something else at the same time. I know multitasking is somewhat out of favor, but it is like a dream come true for me to be able to “read” and grade papers or pack orders or cook dinner. <swoon> Divergent kept me company with its gritty, dystopian, intriguing young adult flavor through most of my pre-holiday grading adventures.
  • Daughter of Sand and Stone. A totally surprise treasure, I “accidentally” read this book after downloading it as my Kindle First choice for November. Historical fiction about Queen Zenobia and her ambitious, audacious challenge to the Roman Empire, I loved this book and found myself thinking of the characters for days after it ended. Very good.

In addition to all the reading, I also wrote two new books! October 2015 079

And, I revised and updated our popular Womanrunes book as well as created a 300+ page workbook to go with it!

Other worthwhile reads from 2015:

What were your favorite books from 2015? I’m taking “applications” for my 100 books of 2016… 😉

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.

Talk Books: Earthprayer, Birthprayer, Lifeprayer, Womanprayer

Looking for readings for women’s programs or mother blessings? My newest book might be just the collection you need!Earthprayer_Birthpr_Cover_for_KindleThis the wisdom
of woodspaces
this is the meditation
of Earthplaces…

Earthprayer, Birthprayer, Lifeprayer, Womanprayer is a 114 page book of earth-based poetry containing four thematic sections all cropSeptember 2015 025rooted in connection to the land and to the cycles of life. This poetry collection is one of the results of my committed, devotional year-long “woodspriestess” practice. I maintained this practice throughout 2013, eventually spending approximately 330 days during the year in the same place in the woods listening to what they had to tell me about life, myself, and the Earth.

In late December 2012, I decided to begin a year-long spiritual practice of checking in every day at rocks in the woods behind my house. I committed to spending at least a few minutes there every day, rain or sleet or shine, with children or without, and whether day or night throughout 2013. My idea was to really, really get to know the space deeply. To notice that which changed and evolved on a daily basis, to see what shared the space with me, to watch and listen and learn from and interact with the same patch of ground every day and discover what I could learn about it and about myself. I wanted to really come into a relationship with the land I live on, rather than remain caught up in my head and my ideas and also the sometimes-frantic feeling hum of everyday life as a parent and professor. cropSeptember 2015 021

I tend towards a Goddess-oriented, panentheistic, spiritual naturalism. When I enter the woods, I often experience what I have termed “theapoetics”–-spontaneous, spoken aloud poetry that brings me into direct connection with that source of life I call the Goddess. These theapoetical explorations form the heart of the book.

A digital version is also available in print-ready pdf. If you previously purchased the 60 page digital version, we are happy to offer you a 20% discount on the newly expanded version of the book. Please contact us for the discount code to use.

The book is also easily available with free Prime shipping from Amazon US and Amazon UK.

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Be Your Own Publisher Author Interview Series

BYOPInterviewSeriesFall2015I’m excited to be a part of the author interview series leading up to the next session of Lucy Pearce’s Be Your Own Publisher e-course. We signed up for this course last year and it is a treasure trove of information (so much that I haven’t finished it yet!). My interview will air on October 1.

Everyone who signs up for the free author interview series will have access to it as well as Module 1 of the Course FREE as a thank you.

I love the opportunity to connect with people around the world thanks to the internet. Lucy and I chatted away via Skype like old friends even though she is in Ireland and I am here in Missouri!

Disclosure: affiliate link included.