Thursday Tidbits: Birthing Courage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 2016 101 May 2016 083

</stream of consciousness mini-update post>

Talk Books: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday Tidbits: Everyday Sheroism in Birth and Life

February 2016 005Do you know how many days have gone by in which I’ve said: “well, I didn’t write my dissertation today?”

This past Monday I got to say: I *DID* WRITE MY DISSERTATION TODAY!!!!!!!!!

It may be a first draft rather than a final submission, depending on suggestions from the reviewers, but there is a huge qualitative difference between someone who is writing a dissertation and someone who has submitted a dissertation and who might need to make revisions. It is 187 pages and 88,000 words and involves one year of original research with 100 pages of collated research results. Five years of classes, study, and contemplation, with also doubling my amount of offspring during this time. I grew this dissertation project at the same time I was growing Tanner from a tiny newborn to a walking, talking toddler. And, I feel like I just pushed out the biggest baby of my life. I cannot even describe the energy expenditure this required of me. I feel so satisfied and very, very proud of myself.

At Red Tent last week, when we passed the rattle, we each had a moment to share something we needed to be “compassionately witnessed.” After making a good effort at doing daily dissertation work throughout December, I’ve been semi-half-hearted on it since, averaging one “good” day of intensive work on it per week. I was hoping to have it finished before we go on a trip this month, but I was feeling so strained and drained and tense that adding it to my to-do list felt almost cruel and possibly ridiculous. When it was my turn for compassionate witness, I shared with the circle that I had reached a point in which I could no longer distinguish whether finishing my dissertation was self-care or self-harm.

After making manifestation bracelets together at Red Tent.

After making manifestation bracelets together at Red Tent.

Now, in hindsight, I recognize the “transition” stage. I’ve known for a while now that it is part of my personal process with big projects to have to be able to have a time and a place in which I am able to say, I don’t know if I can do this. And, to have that fear and self-doubt, and vulnerability simply witnessed. And, then, do that thing anyway. It is hard to find a space in which this is “allowed.” Very often well-meaning suggestions are to cut myself slack, to lower my expectations, or to give myself a break. I have discovered that just like these comments are not actually helpful to a woman in labor, they are not helpful to me in “labor” with other big projects either. In fact, I think there is a secret “dark” side to many popular self-care messages, primarily because what we sometimes might pass off as “self-care” is actually a “shadow comfort” (to borrow Jen Louden’s term) and is actually a meanings of inhibiting ourselves, holding ourselves back, or sabotaging ourselves (or those around us, when we offer the “out” of quitting or not following through…of letting ourselves down). When I was able to let out the fear and doubt, only for a few minutes, and have it simply received, it was as if something unlocked within me and suddenly I knew I had it in me after all. Only a few days later, after several focused bursts of intense writing, I submitted my completed project.

Anyway, a long story just to make this point: I felt SO good after submitting it. I may never have been so proud of myself. I was giddy, thrilled, exhilarated, excited, and exuberant. “What if I had QUIT?!” I yelled, “then I would never have gotten to feel like THIS!” When I lower expectations, sure, I might meet them, but when I keep my expectations high…and meet them. There is nothing that can replace that feeling. And, guess what, it keeps stretching me to reach just a little higher and a little higher. And yes, the self-harm shadow side of continuous life-stretching is that I can be trapped into “striving and striving and never arriving,” but the self-care amazing life side, is that I prove to myself that I can do incredible things and that I accomplish that which may have felt impossible for a time.

Bringing it back to birth, I read this post about ten things not to say to a woman in labor and the first reminded me of my own big “push” to finish the dissertation and how compassionate witness is infinitely more valuable than sympathetic shadow comfort enabling:

Scenario 1: If a woman is trying to make a rational and educated decision while in labor (a very difficult thing to do when in pain!) about whether or not to get an epidural (which is a big deal, by the way) by saying “you don’t have to be a hero” is playing to her emotions and vulnerability which isn’t fair. If she’s questioning this choice instead of immediately signing up for anesthesia, she likely has a reason for the hesitation. I guarantee she doesn’t want an unmedicated birth to become “a hero”. Maybe she was hoping for a natural birth, or wants to reduce the chance of further interventions like pitocin, or maybe she’s wanting the best start for her baby. I don’t know. But by saying “you don’t have to be a hero” to help her make a decision is basically blowing her off when she is in a very vulnerable position. It’s a low blow.

Source: 10 Things to NEVER Say to a Woman in Labor | Mother Rising

And, here’s the deal…women in labor and postpartum are heroes. They are incredible. They are amazing. We should never deny them that knowledge, particularly if all we are offering in return is a patronizing platitude masquerading as compassion. This “One Day Young” photo project captures that sheroism:

These goddesses headed to a WIC peer counselor's office this week.

These goddesses headed to a WIC peer counselor’s office this week.

“In those first 24 hours, it’s like this warrior comes out in women,” says Jenny. “They gain this inner strength to protect the child and you can see it in the photos. “They’re like those heroic pictures of soldiers on the battlefield or the footballer after the match, still full of the adrenaline of achievement. This moment isn’t often captured in women, but what they’ve just achieved is just as important as that goal or that battle, and that moment deserves to be recorded and celebrated in the public arena.”

Source: Empowering Photo Project ‘One Day Young’ Reassures Women That Childbirth Is Nothing To Fear

At the same time, birth can be very hard work and the recovery can be intense and long-lasting. Culturally, while we may minimize, invalidate or deny women’s power, strength, and amazingness in birth, we also often minimize, invalidate, and deny their vulnerability after birth.

We don’t talk about postpartum pain — bleeding, stitches, not being able to stand upright, or easily walk around. We don’t talk about the struggles of early breastfeeding: cracked and bleeding nipples, mastitis, and worries about producing enough milk. We are only beginning to talk about postpartum depression and anxiety. And it almost seems as if new fathers and adoptive parents don’t matter at all. The rhetoric from those who don’t want change paint a rosy picture of motherhood, but the realities of these anti-family policies are much more grim. In a recent TED talk, I share a number of heart-wrenching personal stories from women who have suffered as a result of having to return to work too soon.

Source: Maternity Leave Policy Postpartum Pain – Susan Crowe

After submitting my dissertation, I was heard to say that I felt like I needed a long nap and maybe several large gifts. After the intensity and unpredictability of giving birth, a ceremony might be in order, either a sealing ceremony like I experienced, or a birth reclaiming ceremony as is described in this article:

“I wasn’t at the birth, but it was super quick and the mother felt traumatised. I came in on a Monday, and the baby looked a little pinched. I asked the mother about feeding and she said she thought it was going okay. I offered to change the baby’s nappy – I took it off and it was bone dry. I asked how long it had been on and it was over 12 hours. The maternal health nurse was due over that day, so we had a bit of time to suss what was going on, since I was a breastfeeding counsellor as well. From chatting, we realised her milk had not come in and the baby was clearly not getting anything.

The mother was super stressed and her baby was about a week old — and clearly not in fabulous shape. I talked about a birth reclaiming ceremony and we ran her a lovely warm bath. It was daytime, so we closed the curtains and played soft music. As she climbed into the bath, I saw her high, tense shoulders drop right down and she let out a big sigh. When she was ready, I stripped her baby, and placed the baby on her chest. We sat quietly, not saying a word. The mother started to cry, then sob, totally overwhelmed by the responsibility of being a parent and not doing a good enough job. All the while, looking at her sleeping baby, holding her.

As the mother eventually finished crying… her milk started to roll down her breasts. She looked at me, so surprised, and said, “Is that what its meant to look like?”

Source: Birth Reclaiming Ceremony – Could It Help You Heal? | BellyBelly

Finally, I like to share this link. I haven’t actually watched any of these, but for people who like TED Talks, this sounds like an interesting round-up!

11 TED Talks for Pregnancy and Birth — Tulsa Birth Doula, Bethanie Verduzco, CD(DONA) – Hello Sunshine Birth Services

February 2016 022What else is up with me this week:

  • The etsy shop is on limited inventory until March 1.
  • I’ve been working on the materials kits for both the Red Tent Initiation and Womanspirit Initiation courses that I have coming up. They’re beautiful and I’m so proud of both of them. Every time I pack up a kit, I feel so thrilled. Both trainings begin March 21st and still have spaces available for registration if you’re interested!

February 2016 116

Tuesday Tidbits: Waterbirth & Healthy Babies

il_570xN.684689686_cg6o“It takes force, mighty force, to restrain an instinctual animal in the moment of performing a bodily function, especially birth. Have we successfully used intellectual fear to overpower the instinctual fear of a birthing human, so she will now submit to actions that otherwise would make her bite and kick and run for the hills?”

–Sister Morningstar (in Midwifery Today)

via Tuesday Tidbits: Human Rights and Birth | Talk Birth

Tanner, our last baby, was my first waterbirth. I didn’t really consider water for my first baby. I did for the second and had a birth pool and supplies on hand, but he was born so quickly we had no time to use it. Alaina was born in the deep winter, so water didn’t appeal to me at all and I never considered having a waterbirth with her. With Tanner’s pregnancy, I was interested in trying things I’d never done before. I’d also read that water helps reduce or prevent tears and I really, really, really wanted to avoid tearing again and I thought it would be my last chance to try water and see if helped. He was born in the water and I did tear. I have no regrets about having opted for water with him, other than wishing I would have been able to get out of the pool a little earlier since he got pretty chilled from it. (In case you missed it: his birth story and birth video.)

So, I was interested to read this article about the safety of waterbirth. The conclusion was that water birth is safe, but that women actually had a higher, not lower, chance of tearing…

The findings revealed babies born in water, as well as their mothers, were no more likely to require a transfer or admission to a hospital. Moreover, the babies born in water did not receive a low Apgar score. This quick test is performed on a baby one minute after birth in order to determine how well the baby tolerated the birth, and five minutes after birth to tell doctors how well the baby is doing outside the womb.

Despite the positive, the researchers did find an 11 percent increase in perineal tearing, or vaginal tears among mothers who gave birth in water…

Source: Pregnancy And Water Birth: Giving Birth In Water Tub Poses No Risk To Mom Or Baby, Says Study

A commonly asked question about waterbirth is whether or not water slows down water (the consensus is that it often can if the woman gets in the birth pool “too soon”):

A woman should be encouraged to use the labor pool whenever she wants. However, if a mother chooses to get into the water in early labor, before her contractions are strong and close together, the water may relax her enough to slow or stop labor altogether. That is why some practitioners limit the use of the pool until labor patterns are established and the cervix is dilated to at least 5 centimeters.

Source: Does Water Slow Down Labor? | Talk Birth

I was 35 when Tanner was born, technically of “advanced maternal age.” Luckily, new research also indicated that us “advanced” types have a higher chance of living to “extreme old age” (maybe that should be “advanced, old age”?)

A Boston University School of Medicine study found that women who can still give birth naturally after age 33 have a higher chance of living to extreme old age than those who had their last child before age 30. But the report, published in the online version of the journal Menopause in April 2014 doesn’t imply that putting off pregnancy will add years to your life. “If you physically delay having children, that’s not going to help with longevity, Paola Sebastiani, a Boston University biostatistics professor and study co-author, told OZY. A woman with a natural ability to have children later in life suggests that her body – including her reproductive system – just happens to age at a slow pace. Some women’s biological clocks simply tick more slowly than most.

Source: Late Kids, Long Life? | Acumen | OZY

And, switching gears slightly, I enjoyed this post about that “a healthy baby is all that matters” refrain, that, while seemingly sensible on the surface, is actually an insidious phrase used to shut down women’s voices and deny their completely legitimate right to humane care in pregnancy and birth:

When a woman gives birth, a healthy baby is absolutely completely and utterly the most important thing. Got that? OK – do not adjust your wig, there’s more… It is not ALL that matters. Two things – just to repeat: a healthy baby is the most important thing, AND it is not all that matters. Women matter too. When we tell women that a healthy baby is all that matters we often silence them. We say, or at least we very strongly imply, that their feelings do not matter, and that even though the birth may have left them feeling hurt, shocked or even violated, they should not complain because their baby is healthy and this is the only important thing.

Source: A healthy baby is not ALL that matters – The Positive Birth Movement

This reminds me of the “birth and apples…” example I’ve used in teaching and activism for a long time:

It is not helpful because the expectation was not to not have a healthy baby–the expectation was to have a vaginal birth. It is comparing apples to oranges since there were two separate individual hopes: one the joy of a baby, the other her experience of bringing that baby into the world. The apple being the healthy baby we all want and usually bear, the orange being what we hope for in our trials and tribulations on the way there…

Source: Birth & Apples | Talk Birth

And, it also makes me remember that your baby’s birth is the beginning of a fresh new, lifelong relationship, one worthy of being treated with dignity and respect and honored as an important rite of passage. I explored a relational analogy in one of my most popular past posts…

You ask when the ceremony can begin and the clerk tells you not until your fiancé’s heart rate has been monitored for twenty minutes—“We need a baseline strip on him, hon. After all, you do want a healthy husband out of all this, don’t you?!” she says. You are asked to change out of your wedding gown and into a blue robe. When you express your dismay, you are reminded that your dress could get messy during the wedding and also, “Why does it really matter what you’re wearing? In the end you’ll have your husband and you’ll be married and that’s really what counts.”

Source: All That Matters is a Healthy Husband (or: why giving birth matters) | Talk Birth

In totally separate news, I have an upcoming free Womanspirit Wisdom mini class. Feel free to join!


Guest Post: Widespread Insurance Coverage of Doula Care Would Reduce Costs, Improve Maternal and Infant Health

Leading Maternity Care Experts Release Issue Brief Encouraging Medicaid and Private Insurers to Cover Doula Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. – January 5, 2016 – At this time when most experts agree that not nearly enough women in this country receive high-quality maternity care, federal and state government agencies and health insurers should make doula care an option for more women by covering doula services. An issue brief released today by two leading maternity care advocates makes a powerful infographiccase for the health benefits of doula care for women and babies and the significant cost reductions that would result if more women used doulas – trained professionals who provide non-clinical emotional, physical and informational support before, during and after childbirth. The brief, Overdue: Medicaid and Private Insurance Coverage of Doula Care to Strengthen Maternal and Infant Health, is co-authored by Choices in Childbirth and Childbirth Connection, a program of the National Partnership for Women & Families.

In the brief, the authors summarize research showing that doula care reduces the likelihood of interventions such as cesarean birth and epidural while supporting shorter labor, spontaneous vaginal birth and other benefits to mom and baby. As the use of interventions decreases, so do associated costs, making coverage of doula care a cost-effective strategy for public and private insurers alike. The authors estimate that the reduction in cesarean births from the use of doula care could save Medicaid at least $646 million per year, and private insurers around $1.73 billion annually.

“Widespread coverage of doula care is overdue,” said Michele Giordano, executive director of Choices in Childbirth. “Overwhelming evidence shows that giving women access to doula care improves their health, their infants’ health, and their satisfaction with and experience of care. Women of color and low-income women stand to benefit even more from access to doula care because they are at increased risk for poor maternal and infant outcomes. Now is the time to take concrete steps to ensure that all women can experience the benefits of doula care.”

“Doula care is exactly the kind of value-based, patient-centered care we need to support as we transform our health care system into one that delivers better care and better outcomes at lower cost,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership. “By expanding coverage for doula care, decision-makers at all levels and across sectors – federal and state, public and private – have an opportunity to improve maternal and infant health while reducing health care costs.”

The brief provides key recommendations to expand insurance coverage for doula care across the country:

  • Congress should designate birth doula services as a mandated Medicaid benefit for pregnant women based on evidence that doula support is a cost-effective strategy to improve birth outcomes for women and babies and reduce health disparities, with no known harms.
  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) should develop a clear, standardized pathway for establishing reimbursement for doula services, including prenatal and postpartum visits and continuous labor support, in all state Medicaid agencies and Medicaid managed care plans. CMS should provide guidance and technical assistance to states to facilitate this coverage.
  • State Medicaid agencies should take advantage of the recent revision of the Preventive Services Rule, 42 CFR §440.130(c), to amend their state plans to cover doula support. States should also include access to doula support in new and existing Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) waiver programs.
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force should determine whether continuous labor support by a trained doula falls within the scope of its work and, if so, should determine whether labor support by a trained doula meets its criteria for recommended preventive services.
  • Managed care organizations and other private insurance plans as well as relevant innovative payment and delivery systems with options for enhanced benefits should include support by a trained doula as a covered service.
  • State legislatures should mandate private insurance coverage of doula services.

The issue brief and a new infographic illustrating the importance of coverage for doula care are available at and

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About Choices in Childbirth

Choices in Childbirth is a non-profit organization that works to ensure access to maternity care that is safe, healthy, equitable, and empowering. Our mission is to promote evidence-based, mother-friendly childbirth options through public education, advocacy, and innovative policy reform. Learn more at

About the National Partnership for Women & Families

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. Founded in 1918, Childbirth Connection became a core program of the National Partnership in 2014. Childbirth Connection programs serve as a voice for the needs and interests of childbearing women and families, and work to improve the quality and value of maternity care through consumer engagement and health system transformation. Learn more at and

Tuesday Tidbits: Joyful Birth + New Year Resources

“As mothers, we discover that we love our children in whatever form they are in: a kicking bulge in our womb; a baby sucking at our breast; a toddler leaving play-doh crumbs on the couch; a pierced and tattooed teenager blasting rap music at midnight. We love them when they’re I’ll and when they are damaged. We love them long after they haw died. And in discovering this, we open to a kind of love that transcends form and time. It’s at the heart of our humanness, yet you might call it divine.”

–Susan Piver (Joyful Birth)

I found myself feeling startled at several points during the holidays. One moment came in looking at my “memories” from Facebook and seeing pictures of myself last Christmas with my tiny bundle of a sweet new baby against my chest. This year, he opens presents and crows, “yaaaaaay!”

December 2015 029

Still plenty of eyebrow action a year later!

The second moment was in talking to my sister-in-law about homebirth + composting toilets (not an ideal combo, fyi). When Zander was born in 2006, we were living in our temporary shop house and didn’t even have a composting toilet, just a not-very-nice outhouse. I remember having to walk out there in labor and feeling like it was not a fabulous thing. I looked over at Zander, now nine, and had such an intense moment of remembering what it was like to be that mom in that temporary house with my new little baby and my other toddler son. That version of me seems far away now, as does that baby-version of Zander, and yet, here I am still nursing a small boy to sleep and throughout the night…

“For me, giving birth was more gritty than romantic–and much more potent. Like a lotus that rises up from the mud, joy at seeing my daughter blossomed from the experience of reaching my physical and emotional limits.”

–Susan Piver (Joyful Birth)

I see this face a lot--the "uhhhhhhh!" pick me up, face.

I see this face a lot–the “uhhhhhhh!” pick me up, face.

This morning I read an article about why everyone deserves a doula:

Doula and mother-to-be form a relationship with each other throughout the pregnancy. The doula meets with the expectant mother, talks to her, and earns her trust and affection (or in my case, a full on girl crush). Whether the mother hopes to give birth hanging from a tree by her armpit hair or is planning an elective caesarean, the doula is there. Whether she wants an epidural from the onset or plans on going utterly drug free, the doula is there. Completely without judgement, she only serves to support the mother in the birth that she desires.

Source: Why Everyone Deserves a Doula — Pregnant Chicken

And, this quote about the physical intensity and potency of birth and the joy that accompanies it:

“Giving birth, in fact, is a messy business for any mother. Whether you have a midwife or a doctor, a homebirth or a hospital birth, a natural birth or an assisted birth, birth has a physical intensity, involving blood, pain, uncertainty, and risk. It is a physical, mammalian experience, organic, animal, earthy, direct. Yet in that very earthy messiness, as we are pushed to our limits, there’s the potential for joy. By Joy, I don’t mean a superficial pleasure that comes and goes and depends on conditions being to our liking. I’m talking about a different joy, tinged with sorrow. It is the tender heart of love.”

–Susan Piver (Joyful Birth)

I have been enjoying the relatively quiet days between holidays and read this post about the silence of this time of year, the lull, the liminal space before the birth of a new year (is this the rest and be thankful phase of the year?).

The most subversive thing is silence. In this odd interregnum, in the days caught between Christmas and new year, the world suddenly falls quiet. Unless you are determined to face dubious sales, there is nothing more to buy. Travel, especially if you use public transport, is curtailed. We are forced to look at ourselves, to our own company, and those nearest us.

Source: With Christmas gone and new year approaching, now is the time for silence | Philip Hoare | Opinion | The Guardian

And, I enjoyed this post about the value of solitude for parents (and the difficulty in carving out time for it):

Solitude is like punctuation. A paragraph without periods and commas would be exhausting to read. In the same way, conducting relationships without the respite of solitude can lessen the benefits of those relationships. Downtime is important for you and your kids. They benefit from solitude too. Taking care of your own solitude will not only help you restore yourself but also show your kids this positive model of self-nurturance

Source: Solitude is Going Extinct: The Stress of Modern Parenting

On the porch of the former clubhouse turned tiny temple/workspace for me to work in solitude.

On the porch of the former clubhouse turned tiny temple/workspace for me to work in solitude.

I’ve started working on my 2015 review for my 2016 Shining Year workbooks and am feeling a certain resistance towards doing it this year (I also got my 2015 Year in Review from wordpress: Your 2015 year in blogging). I found this worksheet for kids on doing a year in review and I printed it out to do with my own kids on New Year’s Eve: 2015 Year In Review Printable – Skip To My Lou Skip To My Lou

The Brigid’s Grove etsy shop is open again with limited inventory. We will be back with our complete assortment of sculptures and ceremony kits (plus, new surprises!) after the first of the year.

The next section of my Womanrunes Immersion course begins on January 5th. This course takes you on a 41 day journal through the runes and includes journal and photo prompts, worksheets, full moon and new moon rituals, and access to the 2016 Calamoondala class.

December 2015 006“To parent well, you have to have the gentleness and courage of a warrior.”

–Carol (in Joyful Birth by Susan Piver)

Thursday Tidbits: Recovering from Birth

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

–Joyce Maynard

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

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

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

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

The same research was covered in this post as well:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Births & Marathons | Talk Birth

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

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

Source: Birth Feelings | Talk Birth

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

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

Source: Woman Rising | Talk Birth

Mothering can also feel like a marathon:

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

Source: Tuesday Tidbits: Birthing Bodies | Talk Birth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Planning for Postpartum | Talk Birth

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