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Wednesday Tidbits: Gifts

Two weeks ago, I received a beautiful batik in the mail from Orgasmic Birth! I won it on a Facebook giveaway. It is so beautiful! I waited to post about it because I wanted to post a picture of it on my birth art wall, but it is large enough that my wall will need some rearranging first! 🙂

1492644_10152560397924852_1025483455_oSeveral weeks ago, I saved this quote posted via Lucy Pearce on her Dreaming Aloud page on Facebook (Lucy is the author of The Rainbow Way, as well as several other delicious books):

Just the other day, talking to a dear friend I realised out loud that my books are my biggest prayers, blessings from my soul to those yet unknown souls who dream the same dreams, worry the same worries. So I loved this quote from best selling author John Green: “Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts. Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won’t — and if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But, ultimately, that doesn’t change anything — because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.”

This is actually how I feel also—that when I create my pieces or when I plan a ritual, I’m offering a gift to others (even though I do still charge for my artwork!). This week on Brigid’s Grove we’re offering one of our Embrace Possibility pendants as a giveaway. Just go to the giveaway page and enter there! :)

February 2014 027I enjoy the gifts offered by other women  as well. Paola at Goddess Spiral Health Coaching has added free virtual Full Moon Gratitude Circles to her existing offerings (New Moon FB event here):

I wanted sisters who were sowing the seeds of their intentions to have a chance share what has come to fruition. I also wanted sisters to be able to focus on the blessings they did have and open up the space for more abundance. With these thoughts in mind, I created the Full Moon Gratitude Circles because I believe that…

..the act of gratitude focuses us on the abundance in our lives—welcoming even more abundance in! Gratitude is a practice that can benefit you at all levels- physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Will you join us experiencing the beauty of following the lunar cycle and acknowledging the power of manifesting the life you love? ♥

via Full Moon Gratitude Circles | Goddess Spiral Health Coaching.

And, I’ve been steadily listening to the worldwide presentations organized by DeAnna L’am and offered as the Red Tent World Summit: DeAnnaLam | Coming of Age Made Easy, Womanhood Made Richer, Red Tent in every neighborhood. I also just signed up for a telesummit on Raising Empowered Girls. And, after enjoying a free call about creating nurturing rites of passage for girls, I bookmarked this video from Maidenspirit on First Moon Rising (a documentary film on rites of passage for girls):

Next year, I would love to offer the Meetings at the Moon girls coming of age series of mother-daughter classes to my friends with pre-teen/early teen daughters. I offered this series when I was pregnant with Alaina and it was really fun. Amazingly, the formerly “little girls” from playgroup are now turning ten and eleven and I’ve been surprising to realize that it is almost time for them to receive a class like this!
I’m at one of those places in which I keep having the urge to sign up for a new training! I want to do the online Sacred Pregnancy retreat training, I want to do the new Tele-Tent Red Tents in every neighborhood training, I want to do Leonie Dawson’s business academy, and I want to do the Chrysalis Woman circle training!

I need to remind myself that in addition to everything else I’m already doing, I’m still working on my thesis project for my M.Div program as well as working on coursework for my D.Min. I do NOT need to add something else to my plate (and thinking about doing so might secretly be a way of procrastinating on this work??). But…they all sound so delicious! Maybe it is because it is almost spring and it is time for new possibilities to blossom…

Photo: I'm at one of those places in which I keep having the urge to sign up for a new training! I want to do the online Sacred Pregnancy retreat training, I want to do the new Tele-Tent Red Tents in every neighborhood training, I want to do Leonie Dawson business academy, and I want to do the Chrysalis Woman circle training! I need to remind myself that I'm working on my thesis project for my M.Div program as well as working on coursework for my D.Min. I do NOT need to add something else to my plate (and thinking about doing so might secretly be a way of procrastinating on this work??). But...they all sound so delicious! Maybe it is because it is almost spring and it is time for new possibilities to blossom...(picture is of another one of our recent new designs. It is blossoming too!)

I also downloaded a book about Birth Trauma that is currently free on Kindle:

As a less enjoyable “gift,” yesterday I received a promo package from a certain industry related to babies/birth. In it, there is a “confidential agreement” to sign that would give me a $50 cash kickback for each parent who enrolls in their service through me. I find this squicky and ethically problematic and I hope most certified CBEs reject this confidential agreement as such. It raises big red flags with me (even though it was sent with the apparent awareness/approval of my certifying organization). While I am happy to review books or products or share information with others than I genuinely find inspiring, encouraging, or otherwise beneficial, I am not interested in being a shill for a company, particularly one that seems to suggest nondisclosure of the fact that they are using birth professionals to market to unsuspecting clients who have placed their trust in them. No thanks.

Thesis Tidbits: Birth as an Initiation

“We owe it both to our children and to the world, to conceive, birth and welcome our children with as much love and prayerfulness as possible.” –Jackie Singer (Birthrites)

“Childbirth is a rite of passage so intense physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, that most other events in a woman’s life pale next to it. In our modern lives, there are few remaining rituals of initiation, few events that challenge a person’s mettle down to the very core. Childbirth remains a primary initiatory rite for a woman.” –from the book MotherMysteries

via Thesis Tidbits: Birth as a Shamanic Experience | Talk Birth.

I recently finished reading a short book called Return to the Great Mother, which is very specifically focused on giving birth as an initiatory event. It includes a variety of birthing women’s voices and experiences with accessing the energy and wisdom of the “great mother,” be it archetype, an inner resource, or one face of the Sacred. The author, Isa Gucciardi, writes:

Giving birth is one of a series of important initiations a woman may experience in her lifetime. Initiations are intimately tied https://www.sacredstream.org/components/com_virtuemart/shop_image/product/b0e92ae33095ca07867acb0a841a9f05.jpgwith 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.

Today, many people going through initiations and many people managing initiations do not have a clear understanding of the nature of the power and vulnerability that is at the heart of initiation. Initiates must render themselves vulnerable to initiatory processes in order for initiations to become complete, and the power in that vulnerability must be managed carefully and thoughtfully. Most importantly, for an initiation to be successful, that power and vulnerability must be safeguarded and dedicated to the initiate.

The process of meeting an obstacle and overcoming it in order to ultimately gain greater insight and power is described by Joseph Campbell as the “hero’s journey.” The “hero’s journey” is an initiatory experience. Every woman takes this journey when she gives birth and it can be the primary initiation a woman undergoes in the course of her life.

Often a woman encounters herself in an entirely new way during the process of giving birth. She may encounter the effect of traumas long buried, or she may encounter fear long denied. She may also discover power deep within herself that she had never imagined.

When the processes of birth are allowed to take their course, a woman with the proper care has the opportunity to come to terms with whatever may arise. In doing so, she may experience a shift into a new way of being or understanding. Yet, when the birth process is interrupted, or not properly held, the power of the initiation is often lost or distorted… (p. 10)

We know that women do not always have full and free choice when it comes to decisions about their birthing bodies and childbearing years…so, how does this impact the initiatory process? Isa writes:

In modern births, the power of the initiation of birth is often co-opted by doctors, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and hospitals. It is also co-opted by the fear of pain and the influence of friends and family. It is difficult for women to hold onto the power of the initiation of birth under these circumstances. The unfortunate implication here is that the subsequent initiations of women interrupted in this way will be affected by their inability to hold onto the power of their birthing process.

Based on the level of interruption of the birth initiation caused by unnecessary interventions in the birthing process today, it seems reasonable to suggest that many women experience incomplete initiations when giving birth…

(Personally, I would clarify that it is not that women are unable to hold onto the power of the birthing process, but rather that it is often systematically stripped from them.)

Each of my children’s birth experience was an initiatory event for me, but in varying ways. With my first, it was the initiation to motherhood, the mystery and anticipation of giving birth. The crucible moment for me with him was actually my journey through the harrowing landscape of postpartum. With my second son, giving birth rapidly and with great intensity and power, the initiation felt like it was in letting go and hanging on for the ride—letting my mind stop and my body go. With my third birth, which was my first miscarriage, the initiation was in the physically grueling and bloody aftermath of his birth and then the broad, deep, unknown, transformative path of grief and change. I still feel as if this was one of the most powerfully initiatory experiences of my life. (And, I did have an encounter with one face of the great mother.) After Alaina’s birthday this week, I was talking to my husband about my memories of this last birth and telling him that I do not review the details of her birth with the same sense of power or initiation as the births of my other children. It doesn’t hold that same “touchstone” energy for me as the births of my boys—experiences that I continued to draw strength from as I went on into other events in my life. I don’t return to her birth for strength or courage the way I remember returning to the births of each of my sons. And, then I said it was because with her, the pregnancy was the initiation. The long, long, path of pregnancy after loss and all the fear and all the hope and all the strain of feeling the feelings and doing it anyway. Her birth itself was the moment of relief. The end of a trial, rather than the triumph or peak experience of the births of my first two babies. So, while of course I still carry powerful and potent memories of her birth as well, it was the journey of pregnancy that holds the talismans of initiation for me.

In her classic book Shakti Woman, Vicki Noble describes giving birth as a central shamanic experience and perhaps the root of all shamanism:

“I believe I underwent an initiation of the most ancient variety, birth as a shamanic experience, the central act of female shamanism—the quintessential act that offers a woman a completed experience of facing and moving through her fears to the other side. It isn’t that birth is the only way for a woman to experience this initiation—many women climb mountains or face other kinds of physical endurance tests and also come through it reborn into their power. But biologically birth is a doorway, a given for most women on the planet. It is fundamental opportunity to become empowered. Most of us giving birth today do not have the full experience, which is co-opted and distorted beyond recognition, changed from an active process into something that is done to us, as if we don’t know how to do it ourselves. Reclaiming the right to birth in our own instinctual way is a shamanic act of courage that has unfortunately become as remote to us as our ability to fly through the night in the form of an owl or heal the sick with the power of the drum. It wouldn’t hurt if we began to think of our birthing and child rearing as central parts of our shamanic work…” (p. 223).

via Thesis Tidbits: Birth as a Shamanic Experience | Talk Birth.

I just finished a new sculpt for a medium sized version of our classic birth goddess pendant and Mark cast and finished some of them last night. I woke up this morning with a phrase from a past piece of poetry floating through my mind over and over:

Soft belly January 2014 088
no longer bearing children
I am pregnant with myself
ripe with potential,
possibility, power
I incubate my dreams
and give birth to my vision…

I also thought about what I hope to communicate to others through my sculptures and when I took the new pendant down to the woods with me, a little song emerged to go with her:

Birth mama
birth goddess

reaching out
to join the circle of mothers

feeling her way
finding her place
in the web of women

Birth mama January 2014 050
birth goddess

hold strong
hold steady

make way for baby
make way for baby

Body opens
heart opens
hands open to receive

Birth mama
birth goddess

she’s finding her way
she’s finding her way…

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

Third Birthday!

“Growing, bearing, mothering, or fathering, supporting, and at last letting go…are powerful and mundane creative acts that rapturously suck up whole chunks of life.” –Louise Erdrich
JanuaryMollyBarb 143

Somehow, my little rainbow girl is THREE today! I can hardly believe it!

(As is my tradition…Alaina’s Complete Birth Story)

On January 2nd we had a family photo shoot…in the snow! It was 14 degrees outside. But, my brother and his wife and my sister and her husband and my parents could all make it work to get pictures taken together, so we did it! Alaina was really cold and we only got part of her face in the outdoor shots…

JanuaryMollyBarb 017

JanuaryMollyBarb 043

This was the “act cold” picture, but we didn’t have to pretend much!

When we went over to the photographer’s house, we got some cute indoor shots of the kids too though:
JanuaryMollyBarb 089 JanuaryMollyBarb 102 JanuaryMollyBarb 127One of my favorites is actually this picture of our family’s socks together (my mom is a world class sock-knitter and we all wear them!):

JanuaryMollyBarb 165Just look at that little person in her pink sparkly socks!

Here are some things to remember that I’ve written down over the last couple of weeks:

  • Heard Alaina yell at Zander (while working on making a marble maze together): “you ruin my ex-perience!” ;-D
  • Made brownie cookie sandwiches and she said,”these so strong they make my ears jiggle!”
  • Has excellent vocabulary and communicates well, but still says “me” instead of “I.” I haven’t worked on it too much with her, because she is the last little, “me do it” person who will live in our house and I’m not quite ready to stop hearing it! I wish I’d taken more videos of her talking (I’ve tried and they just don’t turn out. Or, she says “poop” too much to put them on youtube!). I missed out on video of “Happy Hall-o-yeen!” and “Merry Cwistmas” both and now those moments are past!
  • Later realized that when Alaina talks about her “experience” she actually means experiment! Pretty cute! (We were working on a make-your-own-bouncy-ball kit and she kept calling them her “experience.”) She can also open doorknobs now. I remember writing that milestone down for each of my kids at about three AND it usually exactly coordinated with a big leap in drawing skills. Better get this girl some paper to experience with…
  • She loves making “sacred bundles” lately and currently has three that she carries around and puts on my altars, says, “have yittle ceremony, Mama?” and, “me want make this yittle bundle for tiny baby.” (my sister-in-law’s baby) She plans ceremonies all the time and want to sit around with candles holding my hand.
  •  She likes to help me with my sculptures too!

 January 2014 009

She still nurses, but we night weaned at some point in the last couple of months. I find myself increasing unenraptured with the toddler nursing experience and have been actively discouraging it in recent weeks. We go many days now with no nursing during the day after morning wake-up snuggle time. This also coincides with sleeping most nights in her own little bed from about midnight until 7-9. She is still the same little night owl she was the day she was born. Early this week she actually fell asleep on her own waiting for me to come to bed and I moved her to her own bed where she slept until almost 9:00. When she woke up and climbed in with me, I realized that that had been the first night in almost exactly three years that she hadn’t fallen asleep on my arm. This little girl has slept in my arms every night of her life until this one night! And, while I have a little pang of nostalgia and memory to see that time in our relationship slipping away, I’m also pretty ready. I’ve had a child sleeping in my arms for most of the last ten years and it feels like a good time to now just sleep. 😉

All that said, last night on the eve of her birthday, I had Mark take a couple of pictures:

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Nostalgia. I so enjoy this little person as she is now and that I feel is quickly passing by, but I also think about the boys and I know that who my kids are now fills me up so much, that I rarely ever have much time to miss their old selves! There is a special poignancy though to this little girl’s infancy and then toddlerhood and then little girlhood. I have marveled at her existence and some element of her sweetness every single day of her life. Consciously and genuinely. I do not remember this sharp clarity of daily appreciation with my other kids. It may be as Barbara Kingsolver wrote, that the last baby trails her sweetness through your life like a final flag of surrender. And, it definitely isn’t that I didn’t appreciate and marvel at the the boys—I remember plenty of sweet moments of appreciation and marvelment of them too—but when Lann was little I felt like I struggled so much with the adjustment to parenthood and the struggle over my own identity and sense of loss, that that is almost my main memory. When Zander was little, I also had toddler Lann to occupy much of my attention and time and I was much more splintered between the needs, sometimes conflicting, of two small kids. The age difference is big enough between Zander and Alaina that I simply have more energy to savor her than I did with him.

“A mother’s body remembers her babies–the folds of soft flesh, the softly furred scalp against her nose. Each child has its own entreaties to body and soul. It’s the last one, though, that overtakes you. I can’t dare say I loved the others less, but my first three were all babies at once, and motherhood dismayed me entirely. . . . That’s how it is with the firstborn, no matter what kind of mother you are–rich, poor, frazzled half to death or sweetly content. A first child is your own best foot forward, and how you do cheer those little feet as they strike out. You examine every turn of flesh for precocity, and crow it to the world.

But the last one: the baby who trails her scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after–oh, that’s love by a different name. She is the babe you hold in your arms for an hour after she’s gone to sleep. If you put her down in the crib, she might wake up changed and fly away. So instead you rock by the window, drinking the light from her skin, breathing her exhaled dreams. Your heart bays to the double crescent moons of closed lashes on her cheeks. She’s the one you can’t put down.”

― Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

JanuaryMollyBarb 137She wanted to have a tea party for her birthday today and specified it be with “little girls,” so that’s what we did! She did not get a pocketknife like she requested, but she did get a ferocious mom and baby t-rex as well as many other lovely and thoughtful gifts from family and friends. 🙂 I was glad to have a friend and my mom who took some cute pictures for me!

 

After the birthday extravaganza she requested music so she could dance in her new “mermaid dress” (hand-me-down from friend). The girl has moves and I videoed them (random radio music happened to be Material Girl):

20140119-220628.jpgAnd, then it was time for bed…

20140119-223808.jpgYes, those are three t-rexes nestled lovingly in her arms.

Happy Birthday, sweet girl! 🙂


Postscript: after originally posting, I remembered a couple of things. First, she totally had a big girl overnight at my parents’ house in December! Somehow I forgot about this while waxing nostaglic about her sleeping in my arms. We didn’t expect her to stay and kept waiting for “the call” telling us to come back and get her, but she stayed all night. I was freaking out! (And, I couldn’t fall asleep. It was totally a shock that she stayed.)

I also wanted to remember her adorable way of calling bamboo “pandaboo” (!! The cute!!!) and her speculation that dog toys “prob-ly have dognip in ’em.” Less adorable is saying, “get out of my face” to me recently while making cookies and I told her not to dump all the chocolate chips in yet. And, flinging herself dramatically on beds or couches or in cracks between furniture and sobbing loudly when told she shouldn’t have done something or that she is, in fact, in the wrong about something (such as slapping Zander’s face while playing dinosaurs and then yelling at him that it is his fault). Back to adorableness is the frequent reminder that, “me only little person” when asked a variety of things (such as, “why did you do that?!”) or when requests are made she does not want to fulfill (such as, “please don’t throw string cheese wrappers on the floor, take them to the trash”). But, it is also often a very good reminder. And, finally, we’ve noticed within the last week that she can roll her tongue! Mark can roll his and I can’t roll mine. It has always been a tiny little sore spot for me, because I just don’t like not being able to do something. My dad can’t either and said when he was a kid he was pretty sure only bratty people could roll their tongues, so we exist in non-tongue-rolling, recessive gene solidarity together. Lann can’t roll his either, but Zander can and now Alaina can too! (I feel a little betrayed ;-P)

And, when we toured Bass Pro in conjunction with a homeschool field trip to Askinoise Chocolate Factory in Springfield last week she did get a little pink pocketknife after all.

January 2014 041

Guest Post: The Land of Colour

In a lovely synchronicity with the Carnival of Creative Mothers coming up on Wednesday, I got a surprise message this weekend from one of my Facebook page’s fans. She shared a beautiful story of self-discovery through birth art and she offered the story to me to share with others. It is my great pleasure to share her voice and her art with you now.

by Amanda Wolf Hara

I started a painting 6 years ago- I was reading about the transformative power of birth art- creating art to capture the energy of pregnancy.

I remember the power I felt creating such bold lines and stark contrasts.

The shape of her flowed. The huge swell of her belly, the small legs—because that’s how they felt! The breasts, shaped like mine, not just stock representations of breasts. I was proud of myself as she emerged!

Then I became unsure–afraid.

I didn’t want to go any further—I believed I would add too much and take away her potential & power. I wasn’t sure how to finish her head… Could I do a face? Would that ruin the rest of her?

So I hurriedly made an impersonal head shape–no face, and gave her black short hair–nothing like mine, but, I told myself, maybe we can go for elegant?? Then, did a quick grey background behind her, to fill the blank space & choosing grey, thinking I had to keep the monochromatic quality for her to be “art”.

It was my serious go at sophisticated expression. And I had my inner critic telling me my Birth Art had to be a certain kind of primal. Stark. High contrast. Simple.

But, I hated it.

The grey was depressing. It lacked any technique or skill.

I felt timid and trapped when I looked at her.

All this awesome power, and I caged her in with some hurried attempt to keep her subdued- safe- not “too much” so she would be accepted by her audience.

When I was done, I hung her- mostly out of a determination and obligation to display her.

To show off her powerful form.

But, I never revered her. Celebrated her.

She was in a room only I went into.

When we moved, I kept her in the closet.

I thought about taking off the canvas, rolling it up & storing it, and using the frame to stretch another canvas and create “better” art.

I avoided her for years.

But then, yesterday, I had to paint.

A canvas.

A piece came to mind- a design of the feminine using a prayer I found and love.

I searched my stacks for the right canvas.

I found Her. I looked at her again. Again, hating the grey.

I thought, “If only I could change it; cover the grey. Even just a white background has got to be better.
“But, no, that’s gotta be cheating. That breaks the “rules” of birth art. You can’t go back once it’s done- I’m not pregnant anymore-” blah blah blah went my list.

I kept staring at her, wishing the grey was different.

Then, a thought came like a tickle.
What if?
Why the hell not?
It was MY work, after all.
Why should this have to be a snapshot?
Why can’t I change it?
Why can’t this be a story??
Maybe an ongoing one, if I want?
Who’s going to know?
There are no birth art police, for heaven’s sake!

“Yeah!” I encouraged myself-
“Motherhood is an ongoing story!
I’ve developed, I’m constantly pregnant with myself- learning to birth myself in a myriad of ways!
I want this piece to be a tribute to my ongoing process, not just a one time shot!”

And as I looked at her, giving myself permission to alter her, she started coming alive.
She instantly began calling for bright pinks, blues, purple, red, yellow!
I began to “see” where colours wanted to be.

So, I took the dive and set up to do it.

And, I hesitated.

All those same fears I’ve carried with me.
What if I mess her up?
What if she gets lost under new paint?
What if go totally too wild and end up somewhere in this process where she is unrecognizable, and I exceeded my skill to be able to “fix” it?

What if I regret it??

All these questions are so very familiar.

I ask myself variations of them every time I feel myself called by my passions and intuition to do something.
It’s a contest between my Muse and my inner Critic.
My confidence and my insecurity.

Sometimes I let the Critic win.

So, brush full of white paint, ready to cover the grey, I paused. Waited. Debated.
Then looked at her.

I hated how sad I felt looking at her.
How limited.

I connected with my own feelings of my pregnancy: wanting to burst with empowerment, celebration, Creative force!
But…
feeling obligated to bear the responsibility of all the emotional BS and baggage that surrounded me during that time.

I hated how she was stuck there.
In that time.
I had done amazing work- liberating myself from that energy. I had escaped into the land of Colour.

She needed to, too.

So, I took the plunge.
I did it.
Colours flowed onto her, taking shape and coming home.
She began to come alive!
She began to claim her power.
Celebrate it!
She suddenly became infused with all the vitality I wished I could have articulated before.

I revisited parts of her that never looked like me–I gave her wild curls, more hair, red lips, a blush on her cheeks, a colourful womb, and, as the colours spoke, a baby took shape.

I paused.

My daughter.

Me.

All the creative projects waiting inside me to be birthed and claimed as my Work.

She began to claim her power.
Celebrate it!
She suddenly became infused with all the vitality I wished I could have articulated before.

So, why didn’t I do this before?

I don’t think I had the skill- the experience- I have now- this wouldn’t have come out of me the way it did yesterday.

I don’t think I would have trusted her wisdom in calling for the colours the way I did yesterday.
No, I’m certain of it.

I needed time to develop.

To allow my exploration and development.

I look at her now, and instead of feeling like I covered up that first painting, I have the exhilarating feeling like I built a bridge.

Then to now.

All the colours and lines, considerations and the process are all there for me.

Both/And.
Not either/or like I believed.

So, I ask myself, “Is she done?”
I dunno.

Maybe…
I think, so…
For now….

😉

painting

Amanda Wolf Hara’s web site and etsy shop, Wild Priestess, is coming soon. She is an Artist, Writer, Single Mom (to an absolutely dazzling 5 yr old daughter!), Intuitive, and Shamanic Minister… among a few other things. She can be contacted for commission work.

Tuesday Tidbits: Moontime Mojo

“I am obsessed with becoming a woman comfortable in her skin.”
— Sandra Cisneros

I know I’ve been focusing on the subject of healthy menstruation a lot lately, but it is has been a persistent interest since my period came back after my last baby. At that time, since we are not planning to have any more children, I realized that I was going to have to redefine my relationship with my cycling body, no longer in the context of planning the next pregnancy. I also had the epiphany of sorts that in not acknowledging or fully experiencing the role of menstruation in my own life as a woman, I have been missing out on an opportunity to connect on a regular basis with one of the core “blood mysteries” of being female—I’ve spent a lot of time on birth and breastfeeding in my life, but my period? Oh, that old thing! I maintain that our attitudes towards our monthly bleeding are reflected in our culture’s attitudes towards birth and breastfeeding—ook! Bloody! Messy! Leaky! Stuff comes out of you! Hide it away! Don’t let anyone see! I shared some of these emerging 2013-06-22 08.59.09discoveries and thoughts during my Moontime session at the La Leche League of Missouri conference this month and many women attending expressed similar feelings—that they’d never actually connected the menstrual cycle fully with their experiences of pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation. As I explained to them, as women involved with LLL or birth advocacy we may be well-versed in listening and responding to our bodies when it comes to childbirth and breastfeeding, but many women overlook or minimize the influence menstruation has on their lives. We easily forget that menstruation also provides us with a regular reminder to listen to our bodies, follow their cues, and honor our own wisdom. I’m still working on it in my own life, but I really believe that women benefit from recognizing moontime as a time for rest, retreat, and renewal—a time to re-gather our scattered energy and resources and to emerge with strength and powerful medicine.

A friend came to me recently to ask for resources for her pre-menstrual daughter and said that she wanted something practical to tell her, not just to go sit in a tent, because that sounds nice, but it isn’t realistic in the modern age. And, I thought, but what if it WAS realistic and practical?! I would go so far as to say that perhaps we wouldn’t have such challenges with birth and breastfeeding in our culture if girls were taught that it was normal to need to rest and listen to their bodies once a month rather than to push forward like they’re exactly the same every single day. If this is how we grew up, wouldn’t it then be easier to accept the swell and flow of the energy of birth, to respect the need for rest and renewal during postpartum, and to listen to our bodies’ messages as we learn to breastfeed our babies and fall into sync with the timelessness of life with a newborn and beyond?

(Side note: when I originally chose the quote to open this post, I totally mis-read it and thought it said, “I am obsessed with women becoming comfortable in her own skin” and that is how I feel, but I guess I’m obsessed with it for myself too?)

I just finished reading the book Honoring Menstruation by Lara Own and it was really good. She says:

Our initiation of girls is superficial…how to put on makeup, buying your first bra, using a tampon for the first time. Many women get married and get pregnant without having any sense of their own capacity for endurance, physically or psychologically. Small wonder then than so many girl-women elect to give birth with the aid of painkillers and a technology that robs them of the experience of their own strength…

And she makes a point that I shared during my conference presentation:

As a culture we value stoicism and the overriding of the body. We have schedules, appointments, and timetables which are based on industrial efficiency rather than the moment-to-moment needs of the body. We wait until the end of the meeting to empty our bladders, until the end of the day to eat our main meal. We go to work when we have colds, when we have menstrual cramps, when we have a headache. ‘Not feeling like it’ is seen as a pretty lame excuse.

This is very useful training for all sorts of situations, but not for everything. And there are certain aspects of being female in which stoicism is exactly the opposite of what is required for successful survival. One of the skills of being a woman lies in being very aware of moment-to-moment bodily needs. Being deeply in touch with her body enables a woman to be able to know, and to say, ‘I need this type of food Now,’ ‘I need to rest Now,’ ‘I need to drink Now…’

I’ve previously used the example of listening to the urge to use the bathroom as a core issue in respecting our bodies and preparing for birth. Very, very few people actually go to the bathroom when they first feel the urge, waiting sometimes hours before finally making the time to run to the restroom. If we cannot listen to this simple, basic request from our bodies on a regular basis, can we honestly expect women to magically know how to “listen to their bodies” and give birth to their babies, particularly when we put them in birthing environments that are in many ways designed around overriding bodily requests? (Eating during labor? Sorry, you can just have ice chips. Moving around. Sorry, we can’t monitor the baby well enough like that.) We’ve been trained for years not to listen.

It is easy in today’s world to forget that our menstrual cycle is all about reproduction. Mostly – young women are given information about cleaning up their cycles from tampons to deodorants. Many are given birth control pills which in some cases stops their monthly bleeding all together. There are not many mothers who teach their daughters about the Rhythms of their Cycles – and instill a sense of true self-care and honoring as opposed to a fear of pregnancy, inconvenience and cleaning up. It is important for us to reconsider our relationship with our cycles – and take the time to not only understand our bodies – but connect with our inner compass.

A woman’s monthly cycle has an emotional and sexual landscape whether we are trying to conceive in that month or not. Instead of walking over these natural patterns – let’s try to understand them.

via Listening to our Menstrual Cycle ~ Wild Women Sisterhood.

I also enjoyed this article about Fertility Awareness, which is intimately tied (obviously) to an understanding of menstruation and body rhythms:

…throughout a natural menstrual cycle, hormonal fluctuation can alter a woman’s facial appearance, body odor, waist-to-hip ratio, vocal pitch, mood, habits of dress, and even language. When ovulating, these changes make women more attractive to men because they indicate fertility; in fact, one scientific study I read about later found that strippers have their peak earnings on the days when they are ovulating. These cycles also affect what type of men a woman finds attractive (women tend to be attracted to high testosterone macho types while ovulating and more nurturing men during the rest of the cycle). In short, a woman’s cycles affect how she thinks, how she feels, and how she behaves. Bly explained that our natural cycles are the full expression of ourselves. When a woman takes a birth control pill, which tricks the body into thinking its already pregnant, she is making a bigger change than she may imagine. Beyond obvious side effects like headaches, irritability, and bloating, Bly says, “The birth control pill emotionally flatlines a woman in a way that supports her ability to participate in the workforce, but does not support the ecstatic or transcendent qualities of masculine and feminine union.”

via The Hidden Wisdom of Fertility Awareness | Spirituality & Health Magazine.

And, I downloaded a free ebook about Rediscovering Your Menstrual Mojo from  Jo Macdonald. She specifically has resources for mothers and daughters. Check her out!

“Menstruation is an initiatory moment. Women can potentially open to a highly charged altered state, giving them access to a singular kind of power – the power of self-awareness, deep feeling, knowingness, intuition. A power that matures over time with each cycle.”

— Alexandra Pope

Finally, on Facebook recently, I saw this handy reminder card:

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Free ebook: Reaching for the Moon

There are few things that I enjoy more than free books! Last year, I reviewed a delightful book by Lucy Pearce called Moon Time. Earlier this week she let me know that her companion book for girls has been released and until Sunday only, it is available as a FREE Kindle book from Amazon! (You don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle books, the app works great on tablet, PC, or phone.) Here’s the rest of the info about this new book:

Reaching for the Moon

Reaching for the Moon is the girl’s version of Lucy H. Pearce’s much-loved first book, Moon Time: a guide to celebrating your menstrual cycle. Written especially for girls aged 9-14 as they anticipate and experience their body’s gradual changes.

Beginning with an imaginary journey into the red tent, a traditional place of women’s wisdom, some of the gifts and secrets of womanhood are imparted in a gentle, lyrical way including:

* The secrets of the moon.
* The secrets of our cycles.
* The gift of self-care.

Along with practical advice on:

* Preparing for her first period.
* Choosing menstrual products.
* Herbal healing.
* Celebrating menarche.

Maiden threshold cord.

Maiden threshold cord from past ritual.

Reaching for the Moon is a nurturing celebration of a girl’s transformation to womanhood.

The book is also available to buy as a signed paperback + bookmark + FREE greetings card of one of Lucy’s paintings (usually €2.50) from The Happy Womb. £6.99 + P&P.

This book comes at the perfect time for me because I’m getting ready to present a Moontime session at the upcoming LLL of Missouri conference!


Disclosure: I have no financial relationship with the author or publisher and I received no compensation or other benefit in writing this post—I just shared the information because it is cool and free and good!

Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Mothering

Some honest, nitty-gritty, lovely, and poignant looks at motherhood today…

Beautiful print of a babyloss mandala by Amy Swagman. My mom surprised me with this for my birthday after thoughtfully contributing to our Amethyst Network fundraiser and receiving the print as a premium.

Beautiful print of a babyloss mandala by Amy Swagman. My mom surprised me with this for my birthday after thoughtfully contributing to our Amethyst Network fundraiser and receiving the print as a premium.

First, I very much enjoyed this article about the painfulness many women experience as they transition into motherhood. This may be re-experienced/re-visited with each baby, or perhaps the initial challenge fades into the background of memory, unless you actively acted to preserve it.

…For me, and for many other women, being a new mother is hard. It can be hard in a million different ways: painful physical recovery from a difficult birth, breast-feeding problems, colic, tensions with your partner, sleep problems. It’s also just hard on its own, on top of and in between all these other challenges. As a friend of mine said, “I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know what ‘hard’ would feel like.” We thought it would be sitcom-style hard—not necessarily with a feel-good resolution at the end of every episode, but at least punctuated by those frequent moments of uplift indicating that, in spite of everything, life really is beautiful, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure it’s like that for some people, but for many of us, it’s not. For many of us, it’s not good hard, as in a “good hard workout”; it’s bad hard, as in, it sometimes feels like something bad is happening to you…

Before I Forget: What Nobody Remembers About New Motherhood – Jody Peltason – The Atlantic.

I recognize that many mothers do not have difficult transitions in postpartum, but I certainly did, and the period of time following the birth of my first baby remains fixed in my own memory one of the most pivotal, painful, challenging, and transformative times of my life as a woman. Perhaps it is more fixed, because I did write about it and the rawness and the struggle is preserved in those words from the past. This article reminds me of my own past thoughts:

When I had my first baby, I would see women who were pregnant and feel almost a sense of grief for them—like, just wait, you have NO idea what is coming. I also told my husband more than once: “this is both more wonderful and more HORRIBLE than I ever could have imagined.” The fear of being thought a “bad mom” is SO powerful that it keeps us quiet about many things. I’ve felt more than once that my kids were “torturing” or me or literally trying to crush my spirit/soul. It sounds horrible to type it out, but that is how I feel sometimes! I’ve also written about how it interesting to feel both captivated AND captive. Bonded and also bound. I discovered that there was a whole new section of women’s rights I hadn’t even been aware of prekids–mother’s rights. I do think many, many women have written about this, but when you start out you feel like you’re the only one whose “daring” to mention the ugly side [she’d also mentioned, “why doesn’t anyone write about this?” Um, they totally do. A lot]. Start reading “momoirs”—they’re a lifeline! So many good ones out there. I have a big collection of them. Oh, and start reading Brain, Child magazine. The best look at real mothering I’ve ever know.

via What to tell a mother-to-be about the realities of mothering…

See also:

Postpartum Survival Tips

Birthing the Mother-Writer (or: Playing My Music, or: Postpartum Feelings, Part 1)

Postpartum Thoughts/Feelings, Part 2

Postpartum Feelings, Part 3

The time of danger, what needs to be survived, comes at different times for mothers. For me, it came early — during my [child]‘s infancy.” ––From Sleeping Beauty & The Fairy Prince: A Modern Retelling By Cassie Premo Steele

Ever since my first child was born over nine years ago, I’ve been talking about writing an article about the tension between choices and that whatever it is you’re doing, you can be blamed for the outcome later—i.e. “you let me co-sleep, and now I have lifelong sleep problem” OR, “you didn’t co-sleep and now I have lifelong abandonment issues!”

So, I appreciated this humorous look at how you’re doing everything wrong:

Everybody’s always trying to figure out how to do it right.

What’s “best” for my children? What can I do to raise the healthiest, most well-adjusted kids possible?

How can I do it “right?”

Well I think we should reframe this whole discussion into a simple recognition that we’re doing it all wrong.

Everything we do, it’s wrong.

Every decision is the wrong decision. And I have proof. Check this out.

via So basically, you’re doing everything wrong always – renegade mothering.

In a happier tone, I very much enjoyed this sweet post about the end of the breastfeeding relationship:

I’m hoping that buried in the corners of my children’s minds, along with all the other lovely things, there are some memories of breastfeeding that will be there all their lives. As for me, it’s not so much a corner of my mind as an overflowing treasure chest.

via Lonely Scribe: Of milk and memories: how my breastfeeding story ends.

I was very grateful for my own breastfeeding relationship last week when we took Alaina in for her dental work under general anesthesia at an outpatient surgery clinic. After it was over, we nursed and nursed and nursed. It was healing and renewing for us both and it meant I didn’t have to worry about her getting enough to eat or drink after being groggy and having a sore mouth. Interestingly, while she was under, we went ahead and had her upper frenulum clipped (I’ve thought for a long time that she had a upper-lip tie) and it has made such a surprising difference in how comfortable it feels to nurse her. I think I had adapted to a low-level of irritation and discomfort throughout the entire two years that I’ve nursed her.

The day after surgery: showing off new teeth (the previously poorly repaired ones WERE able to be saved!) as well as a new baby chick!

The day after surgery: showing off new teeth (the previously poorly repaired ones WERE able to be repaired and saved! I went in thinking we’d be coming home with a [more] toothless girl) as well as a new baby chick!

Goodbye

My grandma, Lyla, was a beautifully active, vibrant woman and her quick devolution due to advanced and very aggressive pancreatic cancer was a 537883_10200265639095993_78320575_ntremendous shock to our family. I’ve always admired and respected her and been proud of her for all of her accomplishments and activities. She was not a particularly emotionally demonstrative woman, but it is amazing to think about all the ways her presence is woven through my days even though she lives 2000 miles away–the sweater I put on every morning is one she knit for me, her quilts are on my kids’ bedroom walls and on all our beds, magazine subscriptions she gifts us with are in the car and bathroom…we’re connected in many ways and I don’t know what life will look like without her in it. She died early this morning and I can’t quite believe it. I remember when my great-grandmother died (at 88) my grandma told my mom: “now, I’m an orphan.” It is a moment that always stuck with me because I realized that no matter how old you get, you still feel like someone’s daughter. When I started packing for our craft camp this afternoon, I packed quilts to take for our beds that she made for us, I looked at Christmas pillowcases she made for my kids, and I was so impressed with how she managed to be such a part of our lives from such a distance.

I’ve cried so much in the last week. I honestly didn’t know I would feel this loss so keenly–it is in the “right” order, she lived a full and beautiful life, and etc., etc. One of the things that will totally set me off is to look at my own little girl and think, “but Mamoo used to be someone’s little girl!” And, then I think, but isn’t this what I WANT for my own little children? To grow up and have grandchildren and great-grandchildren? Yes, duh. And, I got to be almost 34 still having her as a part of my life. The other thing that gets me going is the thought that my kids are the only kids in this side of the family who get to have a Mamoo, who get to have this amazing great-grandmother. When my brother and sister have kids, they won’t have a Mamoo. And, then I have to laugh a little at myself that one of the things that has made me cry the hardest during this whole experience is based on these imaginary future people who may never even exist. I told my dad about it this morning, laughing while crying and crying at the same time, and he said, “it is because you feel the break in the chain.” I do.

I’ve written more about this on my other blog, but on Sunday, we thought we’d reached my grandma’s final day on earth. I spent the day thinking about her, crying, talking to my husband, and fanatically checking my phone for texts from my mom (side note to those people who write critical blog posts about “distracted” people “glued” to their phones, you may do well to remember that some of those distracted-looking people might be looking for texts about dying grandmothers from their own distraught mothers and that this phone-based link in fact represents connection and not disconnection or distraction). I went to the woods and I sat on the rocks and sang Woman Am I. My mom told me she’d been singing it to my grandma as she listened to the erratic sounds of her breaths, thinking each was the last. My letter did make it in time to be read to my grandma while she was still conscious enough to indicate she heard it. And, on Friday I did a FaceTime call with my mom and she took it to my grandma’s bed so that I could talk to her. She didn’t open her eyes, but she murmured a greeting and she smiled when she heard little Alaina say, “hi, Mamoo!” So, we were able to say some final words and goodbye “in person,” which was really, really difficult, but also a gift. There is something I feel really poignantly in the mother to daughter to mother to daughter to mother to daughter connection in this life and loss experience. I know that little boys are part of the generations as well, but not in as direct a line as this particular chain of girls—I’m the oldest daughter of an oldest daughter of an oldest daughter (and my own daughter is an “only daughter,” so while she’s my youngest child she continues a line as the first daughter of a first daughter of a first daughter of a first daughter). So, I made a new sculpture trying to capture that feeling of the three generations of little girls who’ve sat on her lap:

April 2013 007

I also made one using a rock I found in the woods that day and another about grief:

April 2013 013April 2013 016I poked around on my computer and plucked out a semi-odd assortment of random pictures that capture my grandma’s spirit and relationships:

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Four generations pic from my brother’s wedding in October.

478397_10200265613655357_366752492_oAnd on my other blog, I wrote a poem:

Go in peace
go in love
and go knowing that you have left behind
something beautiful
something marvelous
something that matters
The fabric of a life well-lived
the hearth of a family well-tended
the heart of a community strengthened
and a never-ending chain of women
unbroken.

You’re our Mamoo
You’re our grandmother
and we say goodbye
and thank you.

Sink deeply
and gently
into the arms and lap
of time
the great mother of us all

She holds you now.
We let go.

I have more things to say, more thoughts about connection, and more thoughts about having watched–from a distance–my mom so tenderly and compassionately holding the space for her mother. She worked so hard and went through a lot to be there for her mom and it was really heroic and loving. I also wish this post wasn’t so “me”-based and was more about my grandma herself, but it is what it is. I can write more later—I really, really want to get something posted before it hits midnight, so it is really published on the same day we lost her.

Driveway Revelations (on Family Size)

Family size has been on my mind since Alaina was born two years ago. Before we got married we talked about having four or even six kids, but as March 2013 022we got a little older we settled on “probably three.” There was a time, post-miscarriages, in which I wondered if two was “enough” and whether we should be happy with our family of two boys. Then, after Alaina was born, even though we’d said she was the last, I found myself spending many moments during her first year thinking, but maybe one more! I fantasize about having a little sister for her. I look at the tight brother-bond of my sons and I want that for her too—for her to have someone on her own little team, rather than being the little tagalong at the end of the family. I have a nagging question of whether three feels like an “unbalanced” number. Then as we moved past one year, I started to have more moments of feeling “done.” Those moments usually came from frustration—i.e. after a long, whiny day, I’d think, “yes, family size is complete. NO MORE! AHHHHHHH.” I also kept having the thought that it makes sense to end our childbearing years on this high, sweet, clear, beautiful, joyful, triumphant note following her birth—why wait until we are fully “burned out” with parenting, why not retain some sweet, delicate wistfulness about infancy and childhood, instead of maxing our personal resources to our fullest extent? (Though, logically I know it isn’t necessarily an either-or proposition, that is how it often feels to me anyway.)

We decided we’d make the final, ultimate decision after she turned two, because too much longer after that point would make more of an age gap than we’d want. I posted on Facebook asking how do people know they’re “done.” I had an expectation of having some kind of blinding epiphany and a deep knowing that our family is complete, as I’ve had so many other people describe: “I just knew, our family was complete.” I didn’t have that knowing though—I vacillated day to day. What if I never know for sure, I fretted. Perhaps this sense of wistfulness and possibility with continue forever—maybe it is simply normal. One more. No, finished. But…ONE more?! And, I have a space in my heart that knows with great confidence that four (living) children would be the ultimate maximum for us. I definitely do not want more than four…so, does that mean there still is one more “out there” for us? And, back I go. I started out postpartum getting rid of maternity clothes and outgrown baby clothes, except for some special pieces and then at some point, I started putting them in a box in the closet instead. I smell her sweet head and think that she’s so wonderful how could I possibly never do this again. I look back at my pregnancies and births and think, WAIT, was that ALL? Is it over? Are my childbearing years behind me now? But, but…they were SO REAL! There is something about keeping the door open still. Not yet saying for sure. And then…some other moments have come recently. Rather than only having exhausted moments of “doneness,” I’ve had some sweet, beautiful moments of doneness too. Two weeks ago, we were all walking in the driveway. Alaina was in the middle with a brother holding each hand and me holding Lann’s hand and Mark holding Zander’s. I looked across at our line of our a family and suddenly there it was…a moment I’d not yet experienced…the sense that our family is complete. And, I thought, it IS a “balanced” family after all, even number or not. Yes, we’ve got the pair of brothers, but we also have “two girls,” so to speak, and that feels more balanced than I expected.

Then, last weekend, we were reorganizing our computer room and I was taking some things down off the walls as well as talking about having let one of my childbirth educator certifications lapse. I looked across at my birth art wall and I had this profound sense of distance from it, like, “oh yeah, I remember that life. It was a long time ago.” It no longer felt current or possible to me, like a part of my future reality, but felt firmly located in the past, in happy memory, rather than linked to possible future. I felt a sense of having “moved on,” past that stage after all, not waiting for the cycle to begin anew.

After my little brother got married last year, I’ve also started to have feelings of readiness to “pass the baton,” so to speak. It can be someone else’s turn to have the newborn, the baby, the toddler, the little kids. When I put away baby things and cloth diapers now, it is with an eye towards being able to give them to my sister-in-law or my sister, rather than saving them for myself. One of the things that has been challenging about the child spacing of my own family of origin is the age gap between my youngest sister, my brother and me. I am almost 11 years older than my sister and 9 years older than my brother (I do have another sister who is 22 months younger than I am too). This has created a “generation gap” of sorts in our lives and sometimes it feels difficult to reach across. A benefit however, that I’ve noticed for a long time, is that it offers the opportunity for each generation to be the “cool people,” to the current little kids of the extended family. Mark and I were the cool people when March 2013 021my little brother and sister were pre-teens and early teenagers—they would come stay at our apartment and we’d take them to the mall and things like that. Then, as they grew and we had kids, they became the cool, fun people to my own kids. I can look forward into a future slightly and see how my kids will now have the opportunity to be a cool, big people to my (as yet unconceived) future nieces and nephews. They won’t have the close-in-age cousin experience, but they will have the opportunity to take their turn as the fun, exciting role models. And, if my sister or sister-in-law hurries up and has a baby, it won’t be too much younger than Alaina and so at least one of my kids still has a shot at having a close in age cousin (and hey, maybe that baby can be her “sister” and teammate like my boys are for each other?! I’m liking this plan!).

Another benefit I can see to this generation-gap style extended family spacing is that each set of grandbabies can have their turn in the sun. If we were all having babies at the same time, how would my parents equally divide up their doting grandparent powers? How would my mom zoom around the state offering her postpartum nurturing skills to multiple new baby households? How would my dad patiently carry around a pile of curious babies? Would I still get my two hours during the day, or would the grandparents be too overwhelmed by having to have 50 grandchildren come over every day? How would I get to be a good, helpful aunt if I was busy taking care of my own newborn at the same time? Now each baby will have the chance to be the center of all the baby-attention and baby-love my whole family has to offer. We’ll all see and celebrate the first crawlings and first steps and first words of each new extended family member in their own turn, rather than having them lost in a shuffle of multiple babies all at the same time. And, I’ll have a chance to be the aunt who smells a tiny newborn head, and cradles soft hair, and marvels at delicate toes, and gummy smiles instead of thinking, “same old, same old.” ;-D

On Sunday afternoon, we took another stroll down the driveway. Mark and I were holding hands and chatting about various topics and when we turned around to head back the opposite direction, this is what we saw…

March 2013 011

And, again, I felt that moment of bright, clear, certain awareness. THIS. This is our family size. These are our babies. We’re done.

(Or, are we?! :-D)

For some gorgeous thoughts on family size, do check out Leonie’s lyrical post On Choosing To Only Have One Kid.

And, on an unrelated note, I also took two pictures of the greenhouse. One during the delightful spring day…
March 2013 013And another during a delightful sunset…

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Oh, and back to the original topic of family planning, don’t get me started on a conversation about birth control or how we truly plan to make that “ultimate” decision. I don’t freaking know what to do about that. All I know is that while I’m still willing to entertain the possibility of a “surprise” baby at this point in our family life, I am simply NOT willing to push the “reset” button at age 45 and accidentally have another baby then instead of menopause.

And, I realized as I set this to post on April Fool’s Day that someone might think I’m posting this as an April Fool’s joke—surprise, I’m not really “done” after all, in fact I’m pregnant again!!!! Not. ;-D

Birth art journey: mamapriestess

This month during my computer-off retreat I felt the itch to add to my birth art journey collection. I haven’t made a new addition to it since Alaina’s dental work in September. Since she is so very interested in rituals and likes participating in women’s circles and wearing my special jewelry and setting up altars (this month two words added to her vocabulary were “altar” and “sacred bundle.” Adorable!), I created a mamapriestess sculpture as the next in my series:

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It felt perfect to me, which was great, because I’ve been experimenting with (single) priestess sculptures since my priestess ordination in July and I had a lot of bum starts like this unfortunate try:

20120918-175749.jpgCouldn’t figure out yet HOW to do a standing figure after so many creations of seated figures. This one quickly ended up in my closet as did this one:

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Not only not very attractive and leaning over, but ended up with burned hands and a broken skirt piece too!)

My next attempt was this one:

20120918-175651.jpgAh! Getting better! Then, this one:

20120918-175533.jpgI created a mini version of her intending to include it in a “sacred bundle” at a festival, but I didn’t end up using her for that after all:

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Larger priestess and mini priestess and tooth decay sadness mama sculptures.

I became enraptured with the tiny priestesses though and made this one also, who is still one my favorite sculptures (I call her the Womb of Creation):

20120928-130033.jpgEach figure in what I think of as my original birth art series has a special meaning to me. It is a 3-D journal of my life with my daughter. Each figure either had a message for me or was created to express a message or a lesson or to incorporate some aspect of my identity or to capture a memory. Here was the full series this summer:

20120918-175358.jpgAfter making the newest mamapriestess to add to the birth art journey series, I was on a roll and I created this version which I like even better:

February 2013 062And, I made a mini-mamapriestess as well:

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February 2013 066

Then, I started making other mini mamas and their babies:

February 2013 120856227_10152570363905442_1915663021_oAnd, I made a custom sculpture for Journey of Young Women:

February 2013 164Before mailing, I included her figures in a little grouping of minis on the altar for our women’s circle ritual this month:

February 2013 196

The same week that my picture of my first custom sculpture order taken on my kitchen counter in front of a humble cake pan lid took off on Facebook (seriously, it had around 250 likes and over 130 shares, which is pretty close to “viral” in terms of birth art I think 😉 ), I also had two photos entered in a Goddess art contest in which this one won a prize…20120918-175346.jpgThese figures are very near and dear to my heart and really represent my own journey through pregnancy, birth, and motherhood is a way that feels very meaningful to me, so I appreciated the feedback from the contest hostess on the photo also:

I love this one, Molly. It’s so perfect in its simplicity. The cast of shadows from the bright sunshine is lovely! The detail and uniqueness of each of the Goddesses Gathered is amazing! I find myself looking at each one wondering which is me! Such a special little altar for the Goddess. I can imagine myself focusing all my prayers in the center…. knowing that they will either slip through the crevice as dream seeds planted in the richness of the dark unknown, or being lifted upward to be gathered by the air, the wind and the very spirit of life and infinite possibility. Thank you for sharing. Blessings.

December 2012 109

And this photo was a runner-up in the art contest 🙂

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The “famous” cake pan lid photo!

In new experiments this week, I tried making some very tiny sculptures to use as pendants, with one continuing the “mamapriestess” motif…

February 2013 046 February 2013 048

Even tinier than that are these two I just finished late last night:

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And, if I do say so myself, I made a pretty cool sculpture using a rock I found in the woods:

February 2013 065

And, since my mamapriestess sculpture was about her in the first place, at her insistence, I gave the first little mini-mini mamapriestess to Alaina to wear as a necklace:

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20130223-171242.jpgFinally, lest anyone think all I do is waltz through the forest photographing my art in the sunshine and feeling all Goddess-esque and Earth-mama divine, this is really what is sometimes like behind the scenes:

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Crabby and wanting to go back inside (note my hand holding her back from stepping on me).

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Scratchy knocking-stuff-down cat and toddler with pig ball “helping” me set up my little sculptures!

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She also is very, very, very eager to help me put the pigment on (note the table and her arm!)

While this birth art journey has very much been intertwined with my pregnancy-after-loss journey, my preparation for birth, incorporating the lessons of birth, and expressing the phases and feelings of life with my new baby-turned-bigger-baby-turned-toddler as well as my life as a woman, I realized that it was high time I add another figure to my series that includes all of my kids!

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They’re all bigger than this in proportion to me, obviously, but these aren’t meant to be perfect representations (I also don’t just have a smooth, faceless head!)

I also finished a bunch more sculptures late last night (my oldest said they look like a rainbow :)):

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In giving birth to our babies, we may find that we give birth to new possibilities within ourselves.

Everyday Blessings