Timeless Days: More Postpartum Planning

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

So, after writing about postpartum survival tips and about what to share with mothers-to-be about the realities of motherhood, I found some more postpartum notes saved in my always overflowing drafts folder from the sidebar to Time in a Bottle by Beth Bailey Barbeau in Spring 2011 issue of Midwifery Today (p. 44).

  • Encourage realistic contact between mothers-to-be and new mothers to help them shape more realistic expectations of postpartum life.” Yes! This is why I strongly encourage mothers to come to LLL meetings before they have their babies.
  • “Use language that shares your expectations and gives parents a vocabulary to articulate the demanding needs of their new infant.” Like Barbeau, I find it helpful to bring in the concept of the fourth trimester. The first three months are the “fourth trimester” during which baby pretty much wants to live on mom’s chest and replicate the womb (i.e. almost constant feeding–like the umbilical cord–constant holding and lots of motion, like being in the uterus, as well as being able to hear your heartbeat). After the fourth trimester passes, babies “wake up” even more and start really interacting with the world. I explain in a light-hearted way that even if you hold your baby for 12 solid hours a day following birth, that is a 50% reduction in what she is used to. And, I let them know that while the adult’s brain thinks, “how can this baby be hungry, I just fed him 30 minutes ago?!” The baby’s brain thinks, “it is has been 30 minutes since I’ve EATEN ANYTHING!!!!!” I also reinforce the idea that a baby that wants to be held and snuggled and nursed is a smart baby, not a manipulative one. And, of course, I also describe mother’s body as baby’s natural habitat after birth.
My husband and first baby during the first tender postpartum days.

My husband and first baby during the first tender postpartum days.

  • Remind new parents that most cultures around the world have some sort of ‘lying in’ period, typically lasting 30-60 days or more.” Truly the things that support both a healthy birth and healthy postpartum are contrary to the expectations and habits of mainstream society. See Kathleen Kendall-Tackett’s handout on how other cultures prevent postpartum depression.
  • “Matter-of-factly inform the family, especially the extended family (if you have your client’s permission), that mama is going to be encouraged to stay in bed for a while after the birth and that she’s not ‘being lazy.'” Mothers can have a lot of difficulty giving themselves this permission and it can help to have the acknowledgement and encouragement to family members coming from an outside source.
  • “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
  • “Encourage preparation for postpartum success!” I write about the idea of postpartum expression instead of postpartum depression. See ample past articles about postpartum planning and a nice specific story about creating a nest here.

“Although pregnancy and birth is a richly intuitive and instinctive process, a woman will prepare her ‘nest’ and birth according to the style of her culture, in the same way that a particular species of bird will build its nest with whatever is available.”

–Pam England

Let’s help make sure her nest is rich, resourceful, blessed, and beautiful!

Book Review: Fathers-To-Be Handbook: A Road Map for the Transition to Fatherhood

Fathers-To-Be Handbook: A Road Map for the Transition to Fatherhood
By Patrick Houser
Creative Life Systems, 2007
Softcover, 160 pages, $16.95.
ISBN: 978-0-615-23338-3

Reviewed by Molly Remer

I am delighted to see another contribution to a growing body of birth and fatherhood literature written for men. Unlike many fathering books I’ve reviewed, the Fathers-To-Be Handbook was actually written by a man! This man-to-man, father-to-father perspective is a valuable strength of the book.

Patrick Houser is the father of two boys, both born at home with a midwife. His second son, born in 1980 in Missouri, was the first documented water birth in the U.S. The author has been based in the U.K. for a number of years now and is the co-founder of a wonderful organization called Fathers-To-Be, offering resources and education for expectant fathers as well as to the childbirth professionals who work with them.

Fathers-To-Be Handbook is a quick read and is a small-size paperback; like a “pocket guide.” It is definitely meant to accompany other reading and classes. It does not have an index, but does have a helpful resources section.

The first several chapters of the book are about the experience of fathering—about becoming a father, your personal history with your own father (“fathering school”—what was your teacher like?), the importance of fathers, and the journey through pregnancy. The final four chapters address preparing for birth, giving good support, empowered birth, and fathering the newborn. The handbook is very supportive of midwifery, homebirth, and doulas. It also encourages fathers to have a male support person nearby the birthing room (or perhaps available for support by phone).

As the author states in an article included at the end of the handbook, “Humanity cannot invent a drug that can work better than a mother’s body can manufacture or a knife that is sharper than her instinctual nature.” I deeply enjoyed an addition to birth literature that both honors the father’s experience and is rooted in a positive, healthy, celebratory approach towards birth and the inherent capabilities of a woman’s body.

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

Amazon affiliate link included in image and book title.

Review first published at Citizens for Midwifery.

Rites of Passage Resources for Daughters & Sons

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

“One of the greatest failings of our society
is that we do not have a ceremony to mark
the passage from childhood to adulthood.”

~Dr. Michael Thompson, author of Raising Cain~

As a culture, we have very few recognized rites of passage.  I would suggest that perhaps marriage is the only remaining rite of passage that is acknowledged in the mainstream with celebration and ritual. We also have 18th and 21st birthdays recognized as transitional, but unfortunately only through celebrations that involve a lot of drinking. We also recognize the birth of a new baby, but the focus is on the baby and not on the transitional rite of passage for the woman and very often her needs, wishes, and feelings about the experience are trivialized, minimized, or even discouraged (i.e. a healthy baby is ALL that matters…). This summer when a friend’s son turned 13, I was looking up rites of passage for boys, and was frustrated to find the most common definition or experience of a “rite of passage” for a teenage boy was having sex for the first time or getting drunk for the first time. 😦 I would actually venture to conclude that some of the nationwide problems we experience with birth and maternity care stem from this basic lack of acknowledgement of significant rites of passage in our lives.

So, I’ve very much been enjoying my participation in a free telesummit on Rites of Passage for boys and girls, planned by DeAnna L’am of Red Moon and Janet Allison of Boys Alive (there are a variety of guest speakers from a variety of other organizations and backgrounds as well, both men and women).

The event goes on through next week, so check it out if you get a chance! Good stuff!

Rites of Passage: Skillfully Guiding Girls into Womanhood and Boys into Manhood

This same week a student asked me for resources for a mother-daughter group. I had some suggestions for her and figured I’d include them here!

The Thundering Years: Rituals and Sacred Wisdom for Teens
Amazon affiliate link included in image.

In the past, I’ve facilitated a mother-daughter group using a curriculum called Meetings at the Moon that was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association. I’m not sure if it is available any longer though because I no longer see it available on their website. I really love it. Some other resources I like are: Wild Girls which is a book by Patrician Mongahan and includes ideas for facilitating a girls’ circle; the curriculum/program Women’s Rites of Passage by Hermitra Crecraft; and the book Becoming Peers: Mentoring Girls into Womanhood by DeAnna L’am.

I’ve previously referenced some material on rites of passage and rituals from the book The Thundering Years also, which is an excellent book about creating rituals and sacred ceremonies for teenagers. The other books I mentioned are specifically for girls, but The Thundering Years is for both boys and girls.

I’d love to hear additional suggestions from readers if you have favorite resources on rites of passage celebrations or initiations for our adolescents!

And, speaking of telesummits and also my own need for self-care and rest, I also decided to treat myself to the “upgraded” version of an upcoming telesummit for women called Wild Free Beautiful You. (The basic event is free, so check it out!) More about this soon!

Amazon affiliate links included in book images and Wild Free Beautiful You affiliate link included in telesummit image.

(and, this was another “short post”—I’m doing pretty good, aren’t I?! ;-D)

Happy Mother’s Day!

Blessed be all mothers.
Blessed be all the mothers of mothers.
Blessed be all the daughters of mothers.
Blessed be all the children of mothers.
Now, and forever.
–WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual)

Happy Mother’s Day!

I keep feeling like making some big, philosophical, insightful post today and I also keep wanting to share some of the great articles I’ve read lately (my file of things to blog about has reached epic proportions). I also have stacks of draft posts partially written and waiting to be polished and posted. And, then, I realized that this feeling–at least in the moment–was primarily rooted in “should” and that what I really want to do today is to take a break, to rest, to read and to wallow in my stacks of books, and to maybe make some art. So, just a quick update post sharing some pictures from today and from our homeschool field trip to the Botanical Garden in St. Louis (we also had another appointment at the pediatric dentist for Alaina since the filling that I was so happy about last week fell out the following day. This trip was pretty traumatic–she was restrained in the baby wrap thing and it was awful for us both–but it’s over now and so I’m not going to spend any more time thinking about it).

So, Mother’s Day. Mark made me this beautiful new pendant with birthstones included for all the kids:


We went to the flower communion at my little UU church and the boys surprised me with new lilies to plant. They also made me great cards–Lann’s has a cool drawing of the Goddess of Willendorf and Zander’s has a sweet note saying, “I love MOOM” ;-D Mark picked up sushi for lunch and we took it home to eat.


I made a new three generations polymer clay goddess sculpture for my mom to replace the one I’d made for her after Alaina’s birth that got accidentally broken. I actually like this one better than the original. It is only the second three generations sculptures I’ve ever made–she’s special!



The delightful reasons I’m a mother! (picture taken by my aunt during her visit last month–I just love it!)

Now some pictures from our homeschool field trip to the Missouri Botanical Garden:


Serious watchage of koi…


With friends in a model canoe!


With friends in a model covered wagon!


Laina’s big enough to climb all the way up the stairs in the watchtower by the shrubbery maze!


Koi feeding was a major hit with all.


Different day–trying to show some cute corduroy pants I bought at a yard sale when I was pregnant with Zander. I later gave them to my friend when she had a girl saying that I was probably never going to end up using them since I probably wouldn’t end up ever having a girl. Last week when I visited my friend on my birthday, she gave the pants back to me! How special! So, I had to put them on Alaina even though it is really too hot for them right now.

In other news, it’s a good month for publications! My peer-reviewed journal article about prenatal yoga was published in the International Journal of Childbirth Education this month and my review of The Five Ways We Grieve appeared in the same issue. And, my articles for the journal Restoration Earth about breastfeeding as a feminist issue and parenting as a spiritual practice should be out next week! I’m really proud of both of those articles, because they represent something of a departure from my typical audience as well as a somewhat different twist on some of my usual topics. That said, a lot of the content of both articles have roots in posts I wrote for this blog, so perhaps it isn’t much of a departure after all. In fact, when I posted about these publications on Facebook earlier in the week, I had this realization:

In case anyone is wondering, “how did she have time for articles while grading those 50 papers,” I didn’t. I revised the ICEA articles in December (from an article originally written in 2007 and a review written for my blog in 2010) and I wrote the two for Restoration Earth in March on my break from class (again pieced together from blog posts written over several years). Not that I need to explain myself, but this writing/publishing thing is not a quick process and I think sometimes people think I just magically write articles and have them appear in print that same month. And, these publications prove to me again that my blog is not a waste of time at all–all kinds of article seeds are found there! 🙂 Go, bloggers! You’re producing a genuine body of work!

Since writing the above, I also thought about how many seeds for my dissertation can probably also be found here. Though the bulk of my writing for it is probably still a couple of years away, I’m constantly finding articles and quotes and having thoughts and ideas related to my dissertation subject and I will continue to collect and store them in this way as the ideas deepen, grow, and expand.

*blessing modified slightly from the original.

Doulas at Homebirths?

What is a doula?

A doula provides non-medical labor support—all the good stuff like back rubs and encouraging words and suggestions for different positions to help with labor. She does not replace the father’s role, but “holds the space” for both mother and father as they take their own journeys/come into their new roles as parents. In my birth classes, I explain that I think one of the benefits of a doula is that it frees the dad up to JUST be the dad and to live his own experience/journey and not have the pressure of trying to remember all the birth “tricks” and book information.

But, why have a doula at a homebirth?

A lot of women planning homebirths do not feel as much of a need for a doula as do women in the hospital. The midwife is capable of providing many of the same functions as a doula, but she also has the monitoring tasks and baby tasks to take care of, while a doula is just there for YOU. Other things to consider when thinking about a doula for a homebirth are whether or not the midwife will be bringing an assistant and what her role will be if there is one–sometimes the assistant is available to fulfill some aspects of the doula role, other times she is observing or otherwise in training for other tasks. And, also consider how many people who want present at the birth–if you’re already having a midwife, an assistant, and say a mother or sister or friend there, adding a doula too may mean too much crowding.

A couple of months ago, I solicited feedback about doulas and homebirth for an article I was compiling for the Friends of Missouri Midwives newsletter. The full article is available here: Doulas and Homebirth. I had anticipated receiving a number of responses suggesting that doulas at homebirth are unnecessary, or redundant. After all, an emotional connection and secure trust is often the hallmark of what differentiates the midwifery model from the medical model. However, the responses I received were overwhelmingly in favor of hiring a doula for a homebirth. Personally, I very much valued the specific and customized postpartum care my doula provided to me after my last homebirth and I’ve concluded that a doula has the potential to offer something unique and precious to families, in whatever setting the birth takes place. I also think that the doula is the most likely member of the birth team to remain in contact with the family in the future. Perhaps it is because, even given the friendliness of the midwifery model, there is less of a “power differential” between mother and doula.

Personal experiences

The decision to hire a doula is a personal one, regardless of in which setting you give birth. My first baby was born at a birth center with the presence of a midwife, a doctor, my doula, a friend, my mother, and my husband. In hindsight, I felt like it had been too many people and that the doula hadn’t really been needed. For my second birth, at home, it was extremely important to me to have as few people present as possible. My husband, my mom, and my son greeted the arrival of my second son. My midwife arrived five minutes before his birth—just in time to catch! My midwife for his birth was so amazing, that I didn’t feel the need for any other professional care. I still miss her! My third baby was a second trimester miscarriage and he was born at home unassisted and just my husband present. Later, a friend who is a doula was very, very helpful to me with postpartum care/doula stuff. I really wished I had a doula there during his birth for emotional support and supportive physical care tasks (not medical support, but tea bringing and towel washing).

It is the little things that matter--here my doula puts warm socks on me following my baby's January birth (baby and I had special matching birth socks knitted by my mom)

And, finally, with my last baby, while I liked and respected my midwife I didn’t have the same warm bond with her and really wanted to hire a doula again, precisely because I was missing some of the emotional component I value so highly in midwifery care. It is really the little things that make doula care so special (see included photo!). When planning my last birth, I chose to hire the same doula as with my third birth, with the primary purpose being immediate postpartum help (“washing the bloody towels and bringing me tea” is how I define it).

Talk Birth in Labor…

And, speaking of my doula, I’ve been meaning to share this photo for a long time. When my doula had her own baby last April, amongst the wonderful photos that our mutual friend took at the birth, I was tickled to see this picture of my doula looking at my website while in labor:
I think this could be an advertisement for my blog 😉

You can read Summer’s intense birth story here and also be moved to tears by the stunning birth awesomeness of her video slideshow here:

My Tribe!

This is perhaps the most long-overdue post in the history of my blog. Several years ago, The Feminist Breeder wrote a post in which she answered the question, “how do I do it?” I’ve lost the link for her original post, but the gist of her answer was, not alone.  She also asked readers to consider who makes up their parenting tribe—who helps them hold it all together. So, I immediately knew that I needed to write about my parents. My original tribe of birth as well as a very significant part of my present-day tribe. Maybe I haven’t written it because I don’t like to feel dependent on other people. I like to feel like I can do everything on my own and that I don’t ever need help. That isn’t true, obviously. (It also isn’t healthy.) So, one of the ways in which I get it all done (which, of course, is actually another post, because I NEVER actually “get it all done”!) is because of my wonderful, amazing, helpful, altogether incredible mom and dad.

I feel in a somewhat unusual situation in that I’m a “second generation” attachment parent. My mom was a homebirthing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, and homeschooling mother before there was even really a name for many of the concepts of gentle parenting, let alone an overarching parenting “philosophy” or, dare I say, dogma surrounding the ideas. (In some ways, I feel like that has added a complication to my own parenting journey—while many parents joyfully discover attachment parenting and then grow into it with the thrill of having found the right fit for their families, I chose attachment parenting before ever having children of my own and thus instead of growing into it, sometimes had to fall from the pedestal of imagined ideals or the pre-conceived ideas I had about what a great, attached mother I was going to be. Again, a subject for another post!)

Anyway, my mom’s own parenting past means I’ve never once had to deal with any kinds of comments questioning my own parenting—she would never dream of asking why I have homebirths or homeschool or when my baby is going to wean. Big grandparenting score right out of the gate! 🙂 Also, they live one mile away. That means my kids get to go visit their grandparents almost every day and I get two hours on my own to do all of my own work. Go ahead and swoon with envy. It is okay. If I didn’t have these two hours (sometimes closer to three), I don’t know how I would do it. I work in my online classes, I grade papers, I write blog posts, I write articles, I work on books, I write assignments in my own doctoral classes. I feel happy and “productive” when the kids come back home and they’re happy too. My parents also will babysit at other times if I need them (for example, having an LLL meeting or a birth class in town). My kids adore them. I don’t know what they would do without them either. It makes me so full of joy to know that my kids have other adults  in their lives who love them almost as much as I love them (maybe the same—my dad told me recently that he had no idea he would love his grandkids as much as he loves his own kids).

My dad and my boys

My mom and my girl

Anyway, here’s to my tribe! I love you. I need you. And, I thank you.


Book Review: Doulas’ Guide to Birthing Your Way

Book Review: Doulas’ Guide to Birthing Your Way
Authors: Jan Mallak & Teresa Bailey, 2010.
ISBN: 978-0-9823379-7-4
$15.37 – $21.95, 188 pages, softcover
Hale Publishing:

Reviewed by Molly Remer

Geared towards pregnant women, Doulas’ Guide to Birthing Your Way is written in a simplistic manner using short, direct sentences. While in some ways this approach makes the information readily accessible, it can also feel unsophisticated in places. However, while the writing style is basic, the content is not. The Doulas’ Guide is a book that really “goes beyond” the information traditionally offered in birth preparation books, covering topics many parents typically may not have considered prenatally such as natural birth vs. birthing naturally, physical comfort preference styles, visualization, being a savvy consumer, blessingways, and taking pictures of the placenta. The information is refreshingly practical and hands-on. Chapters cover the critical importance of the human environment, “five arms of doula support,” birth preparation, one chapter for each stage of labor including separate chapter for immediate postpartum, a section about cesarean birth and VBAC, and a breastfeeding chapter.  There is an excellent section on postpartum care including a PPD symptoms chart. I was a little taken aback by a blithe comment, “Just think of it as an alternate birth route!” regarding cesareans.

Doulas’ Guide contains good, helpful snapshots throughout the text. Dads will like the plethora of labor support skills and ideas and the accompanying photographs. The book advocates preparation of a “birth vision” and includes examples at the end of the book (including cesarean birth options).

The variety of checklists, key questions, tables with reference information, bullet points, and pictures keep the pace of Doulas’ Guide to Birthing Your Way snappy and digestible. This book covers lots of ground and packs a lot of information into under 200 pages!


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

Book Review: 101 Offline Activities You Can Do With Your Child

101 Offline Activities You Can Do With Your Child
Steve Bennett,  Ruth Bennett
Paperback: 134 pages
Publisher: BPT Press (June 14, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-0984228522

Reviewed by Molly Remer

Just in time for summer amusement comes the new book 101 Offline Activities You Can Do With Your Child. Written by the authors of the classic 365 TV-Free Activities You Can Do With Your Child (a book I’ve used a resource for about 6 years), this concise little book offers a wide variety of fun activities. Coded at the bottom of the page with a sketch, the activities are either designed to be used at home, on the road, in the kitchen, or anytime, anyplace. A nice feature is the picture index for kids who are not yet reading to choose their own activities.

Single page explanations/descriptions mean all of the activities are fairly simple to implement and enjoy—offering a brief time-out for anytime fun. Many of the craft ideas seem most appropriate for children under age 10 and plenty of the other games and other activities are enjoyable for any age group.

My kids have come up with quite a few of the suggested ideas using their own imaginations and some of the ideas are classic car games (or variations thereof), but there is enough fresh, unique content to make this book a worthwhile resource for our family.

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

Happy Father’s Day!

My man and his kids!

“No one can describe to a man what having his own child will mean to him. Words simply cannot do justice; each man needs to discover it for himself.”

“Fatherhood challenges us, but it also enlarges us and reshapes our perception of what is important in the world around us. As we take stock of this new world, we find that doing our job as a dad is inherently honorable and respectful, and brings to us the dignity that goes with the territory. Far from being emasculating, being a dad makes us men in the finest sense of the term.” —Dads Adventure

Both of the above quotes come from a wonderful article from Dads Adventure about The Dignity of Being a Dad. Make sure to check out the associated Father’s Day Flashmob in Denver and keep watching until the 3.5 minute point—loved this part especially and it made me cry! I really appreciate this new “brotherhood of dads” movement and hope it becomes widely known! I have used materials from Dads Adventure in my birth classes for quite some time. More often than not, the wife comments to me privately about how her husband appreciated receiving materials that were specifically for him.

Here are some links to past posts I’ve made about fatherhood:

And, from Mother’s Advocate, here is a great article with some specifics for new(ish) fathers:

Sex After Baby: A How-To Guide for Partners (an associated post called Sex, Lies, & the Postpartum Year is also very good)

Labor Pictures

I’ve mentioned before that I was disappointed not to have any birth pictures from my last baby. What I do have is quite a few labor pictures and I want to share them in a post since labor pictures don’t often get as much “glory” as birth pictures 🙂 I didn’t have any birth pictures with my first son either, though we have several immediately after as was my preference at the time. I have two labor pictures with him, this one, taken in fairly early labor:

Trying to decide whether or not this is it!

Then, my mom took this one of me after I got out of the shower. I was going to try to go to bed, because the birth center staff seemed pretty sure I wasn’t really in labor and should just get some rest. This picture was taken about 5-6 hours before he was born:

With my second son, my mom took a great series of birth pictures as he was emerging. They’re really good and step by step as he comes out—however, the angle is a very direct “rear view” that I don’t feel comfortable putting on the internet! With that birth, there is only one picture from the actual labor (and, it is a nice active labor picture that isn’t too graphic and it has actually been printed in several publications):

About 30 minutes before giving birth to second baby

I like how you can see all of my older son’s playdoh creations in the foreground. That’s homebirth for you!

With my daughter, my mom took a series of labor pictures and while I’m sad not to have birth pictures too, I like the story that these pictures tell:

Taken during the morning of birthing day–wanted one last “belly picture” of pregnancy.

Spent a lot of time on the ball with Mark at my side

My birth nest is all ready! (on floor outside bathroom) Notice that my birth altar is set up nearby.

More time on the ball…

Proving I can still smile one hour before she is born! (+ advertising my alma mater)

Accidentally got trapped on floor in horrible and painful position.

The closer I get to having a baby, the nearer to the floor I get (hands and knees is right for me)

Switched into ridiculous too-small PJ shirt right before pushing.

She’s here! Closest thing to a birth picture that we got.

First nursing