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Celebrating Motherhood: The Wild Woman and Sacred Business

August 2014 052I am wild.

Wild Woman. When women hear those words, an old, old memory is stirred and brought back to life. The memory is our absolute, undeniable, and irrevocable kinship with the wild feminine, a relationship which may become ghosty from neglect, buried from over domestication, outlawed by the surrounding culture, or no longer understood anymore. We may have forgotten her names, we may not answer when she calls ours, but in our bones we know her, we yearn toward her; we know she belongs to us and we to her.

There are times when we experience her, even if only fleetingly, and it makes us mad with wanting to continue. For some women, this vitalizing ‘taste of the wild’ comes during pregnancy, during nursing their young, during the miracle of change in oneself as one raises a child, during attending to a love relationship as one would attend to a beloved garden.

As sense of her also comes through the vision; through sights of great beauty. I have felt her when I see what we call in the woodlands a Jesus-God sunset. I have felt her move in me from seeing the fishermen come up from the lake at dusk with lanterns lit, and also from seeing my newborn baby’s toes all lined up likea row of sweet corn. We see her where we see her, which is everywhere.

–Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves, quoted in Celebrating Motherhood by Andrea Gosline and Lisa Bossi

The very last assignment in my Sacred Pregnancy class was to write about sacred business and whether or not we have a sacred business. My answer is, yes, I am absolutely living it. In the last year, my husband and I have poured out hearts and souls into our co-creative business, Brigid’s Grove. We make our pewter birth art and goddess jewelry and clay birth art goddess sculptures and we just finished publication of our Womanrunes book and card set (based on the divination system by the late Shekhinah Mountainwater). Our whole lives center on our sacred work and the integration and shared focus of our efforts feels extremely powerful.

Here’s what we’ve been focused on recently…

After a lot of failed attempts due to tiny-baby-arm detail that causes difficulty getting a good cast, we finally have a very limited amount of Mama Goddess of Three pendants available. She is particularly sweet and I’m very pleased with her! We also have a limited quantity of mother-of-one pendants and mother-of-two pendants as well as a single, lovely mother-of-four pendant.

Additionally, if you’ve been waiting for a bargain on one of my birth art sculptures, today is your lucky day! We’ve listed quite a few new pregnant and nursing mama sculptures and each one has a flaw of some kind (don’t we all!), so they are all discounted–some significantly and some a couple of dollars off the usual price. (We have other seconds available here.)

As I noted above, Womanrunes book and card sets are also finished and ready to roll! Huge project!

“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.”

— Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D Women Who Run With the Wolves

(via Tuesday Tidbits: More Wild Woman | Talk Birth)

Be wild; that is how to clear the river.”

–Clarissa Pinkola Estes

(via The Ragged Self | Talk Birth)

And, I wanted to share a quick recent funny mothering moment:

Alaina was sitting on my lap snuggling her head into my neck. “Mama, I feel the baby kicking me in your neck.”

Me: “that’s just my heart beating. See, you can feel your heart beating in your neck too?”

Alaina: “how is the baby kicking both of us through our necks?!?!”

🙂

 

Wednesday Tidbits: Mother Care

“I watch her face become alight with joy and ecstasy. ‘You’re here, oh look, you’re here! You’re so beautiful! I love you! We did it!’ It hasn’t been easy, but it was worth it…She knows–in a way that can never be taken from her–the story of her own courage and strength.”

–Jodi Green in SageWoman magazine

Photo: "I watch her face become alight with joy and ecstasy. 'You're here, oh look, you're here! You're so beautiful! I love you! We did it!' It hasn't been easy, but it was worth it...She knows--in a way that can never be taken from her--the story of her own courage and strength." </p><br /><br /> <p>--Jodi Green in SageWoman magazine
After talking with my doula last week about my own powerful need for postpartum care, I re-read my own past post about “birth regrets” and was reminded again how the theme of inadequate postpartum care in my own life resurfaces multiples times. I told my doula that I’ve never really been happy with my postpartum care, recovery, and experience until I hired her for my last birth and became very, very, very clear about exactly what I needed from the people around me following birth. This is despite having an extremely helpful mother who cooked and cared for me very well and lovingly after each birth AND an extremely involved, nurturing husband. I still needed MORE. Postpartum is hard! Many hands, helps, and small care-giving tasks are needed.

It is interesting to me to see that this is where my regrets and “things to fix” come from, rather than from the births themselves. It is kind of hard for me to write about clearly because I did get good care every time from my mom and from Mark, but I still needed MORE. And, I don’t think it is necessarily “fair” to them to skip bonding with the baby because they’re so busy helping me crawl to the bathroom, or whatever! I also didn’t take particularly good care of myself–emotionally, mainly–following birth.

Midwives are wonderful and midwife-attended birth is wonderful, but it feels like very often birth is the moment and then they fade away and the mother must pick up the early postpartum pieces herself, when perhaps her vulnerability and need for support and physical care is highest then, definitely more than prenatally and, I would argue, often more intensely than during the birth itself.

(Oh, and by the way, I still joke that what I’ve really needed is a continuous postpartum doula for the last 11 years…when my first son was born).

My birth regrets post is a companion to my “bragging rights” and birth post:

‘…Frankly, I think all mothers get bragging rights on their babies births. Birth is awesome and amazing and power-full. Every mother must face it. Sure, she may face it differently than me, but it IS a labyrinth we all go through. This is the way of life. So, mothers, brag away. Brag about whatever part of your labor and baby’s birth made you feel empowered….find that piece, even if it’s just a tiny moment, and cling to it. Shout it from the rooftops!…’

via Tuesday Tidbits: Bragging Rights | Talk Birth.

Speaking of doula Summer, Rolla area families should take note that she is available for a variety of different birth and postpartum packages as well as birth classes: Summer Birth Services. I’m looking forward to her care again in October when I have my baby!

And, still speaking of Summer, I am so excited to share that she is moving forward with the Womanspace community resource center idea that we have talked over and visioned for so many years.

…I visualize a center. A place where women can come together to learn, to talk, to develop, to grow. A safe place. A nurturing place. A supportive place. Hostess to LLL meetings, book clubs, birth circle, birth info nights, prenatal yoga classes, birth classes, birth art workshops, pregnancy retreats, journaling workshops, craft classes, crafty mamas meetings, a miscarriage support group, postpartum mamas support group, birth counseling/consultation sessions, dancing for birth, prenatal bellydance, drop-in support chats, blessingways, red tent events, meet the doulas night, Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal groups, women’s spirituality circles, playgroups, baby massage classes, baby/tot yoga, girls’ coming of age classes, an ICAN chapter, Friends of Missouri Midwives meetings.

A gathering place. A woman’s place.

It will have a large, open meeting room, access to a bathroom and another, smaller room that could be an office, consult room, or playroom. We will have counter space to plug in some minimal cooking implements like a microwave. There will be comfy couches, chairs, toys, a lending library of books and films as well as perhaps toys/games/puzzles. There will be big pillows on the floor and beautiful art all over the walls. Other women wishing to have groups/classes for women, could also use the space for their groups/events.Think we can do it? And, if so, what can I not do to make space in my life for it? In a way, my vision is that this will be that classic “room of one’s one” that every woman needs access to. WomanSpace…

via WomanSpace | Talk Birth.

The above is an excerpt from a post I wrote four years ago! It is so exciting to have it going somewhere. Summer posted on her blog today with her expanded and deepened vision of this space: WomanSpace ~ Making the Vision a Reality

Related to celebrating women and mothers, I updated my mother blessing/women’s ritual page this week: Blessingways / Women’s Programs | Talk Birth.

And, returning to the need for mother care, it so important to recognize that women need support following birth regardless of the week of gestation at which she gives birth. Personally, I was knocked off my feet by my need for immediate support following my first miscarriage. I had never once dreamed miscarriage would be such an intense, physically demanding birth experience. I’m glad this information is now reaching others via Stillbirthday…

When a mother is experiencing pregnancy & infant loss, she needs immediate support.

If you’re a bereaved mother on facebook, it is extremely likely you’ve heard the cry of the newest bereaved mother, sharing that she just very recently endured the death and birth of her beloved baby.

What is some practical support she can use? We have three little buttons published in several places throughout the website, for support prior to, during and after birth in any trimester. Here’s a link for support in the earliest days and weeks after birth:

Photo: If you're a bereaved mother on facebook, it is extremely likely you've heard the cry of the newest bereaved mother, sharing that she just very recently endured the death and birth of her beloved baby.</p><br /><br /> <p>What is some practical support she can use?  We have three little buttons published in several places throughout the website, for support prior to, during and after birth in any trimester.</p><br /><br /> <p>Here's a link for support in the earliest days and weeks after birth:</p><br /><br /> <p>http://www.stillbirthday.com/after-the-birth/

Switching gears somewhat, another one of my quotes from a Pathways magazine article was turned in a Facebook meme and has been shared on Facebook over 3,000 times. I again would have missed it except for two of my friends tagging me in the post!

August 2014 047Remember that in honor of National Breastfeeding Month, we’re offering a 10% off discount code on any of the items in our shop through the end of August: WBW10OFF.

I am 30 weeks pregnant now! I had a bit of an “OMG, can I actually DO this?!” moment last night when the new session of classes began for me. My students asked me how much longer I have left of my pregnancy and my answer was, “about ten weeks.” I have 8 weeks of class…

August 2014 046It is a hot time of year to be pregnant and while I feel good and healthy over all, I am noticing some different things compared to past pregnancies. I weigh 165 pounds now, which is pretty big! I have way more round ligament pain than I’ve ever had before, including just randomly while walking or sitting, rather than exclusively related to getting up “wrong” or twisting in a not pregnant-friendly way. I also keep having some mild heartburn. And, getting up from the floor is a much bigger challenge than ever before.

I’ve mentioned several times in recent posts that Mark and I have been working on birthing a big project together and it is finally here!
August 2014 049Our first collaborative book project! I did the writing and he did all the illustrations, layout, and formatting. This has been a project about 18 months in the making, a more significant undertaking and more significant expenditure of energy than I could have guessed when I began.

I like how the experience of the final stages of the book have paralleled my own pregnancy. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, our co-creative work on our business endeavors this year is really entwined with the progress of gestating and preparing to welcome our new baby.

As we’ve worked over the last weeks on the final push to finish the book, I saw this meme on Facebook:1479335_10153562403855714_35111715_nI shared it on our page and noted that when you’re both creative and you’re both home, the effects may be even more dramatic!

Our Embrace Possibility pendant is the design that has perhaps always held the most personal meaning for me, but as we continue to focus in on our shared vision and to embrace new directions, ideas, and projects in the context of our co-created business, she returns to me as very personally meaningful.


“Encoded in her cells,
written on her bones…
The mantle settles around her shoulders.
Sinking into belly, bones, and blood,
until she knows,
without a doubt,
that this is who,
she really is…”

(Embrace Possibility Pewter Goddess Priestess by BrigidsGrove)

And, I shared this on our page recently since it has spoken to me anew in multiple ways this month:

“…These waves of power. February 2014 007
They are you.
You are doing it.
You ARE it.
This is energy, this power, this unfolding might of creation.
It’s you.
Your body
your power
your birth
your baby…”

Birth Spiral Chakra Blessing | Talk Birth.

Red Tent!

In 2012, when we held our first Mamafest event, my eye was caught by this room within the beautiful setting of Tara Day Spa:

August 2014 013I wanted to have a Red Tent in this room! I could just feel it calling to me. The next year, when the time came to plan the event, I was dealing with a lot of different things and I knew I did not have the energy to also pull off a Red Tent event and so I tabled it again, but still, I saw that room that year and I wanted it.

The following year,  we started planning even earlier for Mamafest and I had been seeing posts and updates from the Red Tent Movie (Things We Don’t Talk About) and I decided I wanted to host a screening and a Red Tent event during our Mamafest this year. While there are things I would do differently in the future, notably that having a screening at the same time as another event was simply too much, I still feel so happy and pleased that I did it. I scheduled the film based on past experience in which the final half of Mamafest slows down in terms of traffic and so it seemed like the film screening would be a good way to keep people involved with the entire duration of the event. However, this year was so busy and vibrant and successful and energetic, it felt like it was actually disruptive to the flow to try to pull people away for the screening and the “calm” and contemplative energy of the film ended up not matching the celebratory, exciting atmosphere of the rest of the event. If I had it to do over again, I would absolutely do the screening separately and then offer the Red Tent space and mini-ritual during Mamafest itself.

Anyway, back to set up. We arrived at Tara Day Spa almost three full hours before the event was scheduled to begin and we needed every single minute of it, plus some. I am so grateful to my husband and my friend Amy who took over most of the actual hanging of the red fabric in the Red Tent space. When I saw the finished entrance, I knew I’d fulfilled my dream!

August 2014 023We set up the inside in an inviting manner with several little stations: a refreshment station with chocolate, tea, and bindis, a henna tattoo area, and a free jewelry making station. Due to size constraints, we actually had to make an “emergency” decision to move the screening of the film itself to the upstairs room at Tara. It was a little stressful to make this transition, but I think it was the right call. We did a mini ritual to open the film (had some technical difficulties getting the film equipment set up and I was extremely flustered to have to make this last minute switch, so that was not ideal for the mood I had wanted to create), we watched the film and then closed by circling up and singing a song together. We ended right on time and then it took more than another hour to dismantle and repack everything. This type of event is not for the faint of heart! Nor is it for pregnant women unless they have husbands and good friends to pack up most of their stuff for them! My midwife was at the event and we did a short prenatal visit in the Tent while we were taking it down. My blood pressure was reasonably normal, but my heart rate was 104 (normal for me is in the 70’s)!

We also had a Brigid’s Grove booth right outside the Red Tent space (plus, I brought the materials for our LLL booth and for the RBN booth itself. My car was so full!) I had mistakenly assumed that I could move between both the Tent itself and our booth and I told Mark that I thought it was unlikely we would sell anything, or maybe just a few dollars worth of charms, so I wasn’t concerned beforehand about adequately staffing the booth itself. My focus was on the Red Tent and on giving this experience as a community service, not on trying to sell stuff. As it turned out, our booth was much busier and more successful that I ever expected (we ended up making almost as much money in just four hours at this event than we did in two 12 hour days at the La Leche League of Missouri conference in Columbia this summer!) I am eternally grateful to my friend Amy who sat at our booth most of the time and did not get to enjoy most of the rest of the event accordingly. It was not her “problem” that I couldn’t divide myself into multiple people (can’t perform that magic trick until my due date in October!) and work at everything that needed me to work at it, but she was very helpful and I appreciated it so much. If I was doing it over again, I would have asked Mark to stay to work at the booth rather than taking advantage of my friend. He assumed it was a woman-only space and it would not be really appropriate for him to stay (plus, someone needed to take care of our kids), but really our purpose is not on an event that is exclusively for women, it is simply an event focused on woman-celebration and men can certainly be involved with that!

IMG_5663Another friend took this picture of me at my free jewelry making station. You can feel the 104 heart rate, perhaps, but also the satisfaction of mission accomplished. I did what I said I wanted to do three years ago when I saw that beautiful temple-like room sitting there waiting for me!

IMG_5659I would like to plan an ongoing Red Tent Circle throughout 2015 and I set up a Facebook group for Rolla area women who are interested in participating in future Red Tent activities.

There were a lot of fun activities as part of Mamafest and one of those was a photo booth from Little Mother Photography. When talking about props prior to the event, I’d suggested a cowboy hat and they brought one! I’ve never worn a cowboy hat before in my life, but when Kandi said she had it there especially for me, I had to give it a try. Unfortunately, they laughed too much at me to capture my lasso pose…

10385401_267689683431682_4380530872449780696_n(1)Other Little Mother photo booth pictures are here.

For additional pictures from Mamafest, check out the photo album available on the Rolla Birth Network Facebook page

When my friend and doula Summer and I conceived of this event three years ago, we said we wanted to plan an event that we also wanted to go to. And, we did it again!

IMG_5687

While Summer was the central organizer and coordinator of this event and I was also responsible for a large portion of it, many other friends and community members came together to make this a true success!

Huge, enthusiastic thanks to Tara Day Spa in Rolla for allowing us to host our event in their space. It is a beautiful and perfect and special setting for Mamafest!

IMG_5691Dream fulfilled!

Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Blessings, Life, and Community

I wish for you a life full of ritual and community.” –Flaming Rainbow Woman

Last week we created some sweet, simple little birth spirals by request for a Sacred Pregnancy retreat in Illinois.  After doing so, we felt inspired to create some more simple little designs specifically intended for gifting for a birth blessing bracelet or necklace at a mother blessing ceremony. We priced them in order to make them affordable for nearly any budget.

(Charms and Jewelry by BrigidsGrove on Etsy)

My inspiration for these birth blessing charms were two quotes from Jeannine Pavarti Baker that I shared in a past post:

The entire Blessingway Ceremony is a template for childbirth. The beginning rituals are like nesting and early labor. The grooming and washing like active labor. The gift giving like giving birth and the closing songs/prayers, delivery of the placenta and postpartum. A shamanic midwife learns how to read a Blessingway diagnostically and mythically, sharing what she saw with the pregnant woman in order to clear the road better for birth

Blessingways and the role of ritual | Talk Birth.

Baker goes on to describe the potent meaning of birth and its affirmation through and by ritual acknowledgement:

“Birth is a woman’s spiritual vision quest. When this idea is ritualized beforehand, the deeper meanings of childbirth can more readily be accessed. Birth is also beyond any one woman’s personal desires and will, binding her in the community of all women. Like the birthing beads, her experiences is one more bead on a very long strand connecting all mothers. Rituals for birth hone these birthing beads, bringing to light each facet of the journey of birth…”

For almost all mother blessing ceremonies that we hold locally, we incorporate beads in some way—either for a birth bracelet or necklace or some other creation (for mothers who have had prior mother blessings and already have a bracelet or necklace, we’ve done wreaths, mobiles, and even a “gourd of empowerment.”)

After this project, we worked out some example projects for participants at MamaFest 2014 to make for FREE in the Red Tent. They turned out pretty lovely as well!

And, considering the role of ceremony in our life passages, I appreciated this beautiful, pictorial exploration of a birth release ceremony designed for a mother who experienced a traumatic birth:

…if a woman PERCEIVES that she or her baby is threatened with damage; or FEELS horror, fear and helplessness at a procedure…even if this procedure is ROUTINE to medical staff; she can experience that as a traumatic event.This is REGARDLESS of her level of pain relief at the time.It is REGARDLESS of the fact that she and her baby leave the hospital alive and physically healthy.” ©Birthtalk.org, Melissa Bruijn & Debby Gould

via Birth Release Ceremony | – Jerusha Sutton | Doula Sydney- Jerusha Sutton | Doula Sydney.

And, speaking of support from other mothers, I enjoyed and identified with this poignant look at the longing for community experienced by so many women:

“…I miss that village of mothers that I’ve never had. The one we traded for homes that, despite being a stone’s throw, feel miles apart from each other. The one we traded for locked front doors, blinking devices and afternoons alone on the floor playing one-on-one with our little ones.

What gives me hope is that as I look at you from across the park with your own child in tow playing in her own corner of the sandbox, I can tell from your curious glance and shy smile that you miss it, too…”

I Miss the Village | Bunmi Laditan.

On a not-particularly-related note, but just as something I shared via my Facebook page recently, I also appreciated this new bed-sharing flyer from some of my very favorite LLL authors!

safesleepIt is available to download for free as a pdf via: Resources | Pinter & Martin Publishers.

Mark and I hit our sixteenth wedding anniversary at the end of July. We went to a BBQ restaurant and took the kids to the county fair, because that is kind of what life after 16 years of marriage looks like.  We also had a nice life-and-biz-marathon planning session and garden cucumber-and-cream-cheese sandwiches dinner while my dad watched the kids too.

These little drummers, while not sale-ready yet, symbolize the harmony and joy of co-creating our lives, love, and work together...

July 2014 049

“…There, in the unplanned darkness,
was unlooked for wonder,
joy beyond ornament,
song beyond instruments.

At last the bride came and like a white flame
blazed among her maidens,
in brilliance more stern and starlike
and vastly more magnificent
than the ribbons and confections
we had planned for that day…”

Rainy Wedding | Talk Birth.

(This post is from three years ago with a poem from a friend that she wrote in 1998 after our wedding.)

Backing up a little further into July (I’ve been really busy lately and my blog has languished accordingly!). July first was my “priestessaversary.” It is also my husband’s birthday AND his “quitzaversary”—the anniversary of his entrance into self-employment and a home-based life. A couple of weeks later, I got my newly completed M.Div diploma via email (physical copy coming later) and the date on it is….July first!

 

 

Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage

In the book A Silent Sorrow, the authors quote a responsive reading from the book Bittersweet…hellogoodbye (a book for creating memorial services for miscarried or stillborn babies). The responsive part of the reading from the other people assembled can be unique to your own spiritual path, so “Be with us [divinity name]” or “Hear us, [divinity name]” or ‘[divinity name] grant us healing and strength. Personally, I would simply leave off any divinity name and use plain old “Hear us” or “grant us healing and strength,” because then each person present is able to attach whatever additional meaning to the words they prefer, rather than having it represent any sort of specific belief.

July 2014 014

Some “seconds” of our baby in my heart design were added to our etsy shop this month.

Leader:

For the time of unending tears, pain, and struggle;

times of not being understood by family, friends,

times of longing and emptiness,

times of not being in control,

times of searching within and without.

We pray…

(response)

Leader:

For all the memories of our baby;

for any brief moment of being with our baby,

for those who walked the journey of mourning with us,

for each time of remembering.

We pray…

(response)

Leader:

For the times of letting go.,

for the times of reaching out,

for each new day and each ray of hope,

for the gifts our baby left us:

in giving us new eyes with which to see,

new ears to help us hear others,

a new heart to love more deeply,

and for new values in our lives.

We pray…

(response)

[p. 233]

I’m also letting go of the book Avoiding Miscarriage by Susan Rousselot (see previous post for bookshelf reduction currently in progress). In it, she acknowledges the depth of the experience of miscarriage:

A miscarriage is, by its nature, a life-changing event. From the moment a woman knows she is pregnant, she wonders how that pregnancy with change her life—she imagine the future with that child. How will this impact my work? What changes will need to be made to the house? And what sort of mother will I be?… That unborn child can turn out to be anything, and because of that it is a dream of the future. When that dream is shattered, we don’t just lose a few weeks or months of pregnancy; we don’t even just lose a ‘fetus’ or a ‘baby.’ It is as though we lose a whole lifetime—the lifetime we were going to share with that child. We didn’t mean for the idea to take on such huge proportions, but it did because we are human, and as humans we think about the future, and we wonder.

Like any traumatic event, there is no ‘right way’ to deal with a pregnancy loss. Some women will grieve as intensely as they would the loss of a full-term birth. Others will feel they are doing okay. Some women will react by resolving to take life less for granted. Others may harbor a lingering distrust of their own bodies. Some women may want to take a long time to grieve. Others may want to put the experience behind them by redoubling the pace of their lives…

…Many women who experience a miscarriage feel a powerlessness stemming from the fact that they couldn’t control what was happening inside their own bodies. This feeling is often exacerbated by the good, but often misplaced, intentions, of doctors or others who take charge of the miscarriage—or dismiss it—in an attempt to spare the woman further distress. (p. 67-68)

Regarding the use of the word “worse” in categorizing grief and loss, I shared with a friend recently that one of the things I learned from my own losses and working with other mothers through the organization I co-founded (The Amethyst Network), is that there is no hierarchy of loss and grief. They are all real. They are all valid. There is no prize for the worst experience. And, we can hold the experiences and feelings of each as valid without needing to categorize by who had it worse. Each is hard and “worst” in its own way. It is okay to let the pain hurt and to take as long as you need.

Last week I read this very raw and real miscarriage story and shared the link on TAN’s Facebook page:

“As glad as you were to tell who you told about the pregnancy, you are exactly a hundred thousand times as unglad to bear this news. You call your boss first, because the primary impact on your immediate life is that you will need to be off work for at least a couple of weeks. This is what they call a “missed miscarriage,” where the fetus lived to perhaps eight or nine weeks of gestation, but your body stayed pregnant all the same, put you through that nightmare of sickness and stress for nothing. Less than nothing. That anger comes a little later, not just yet. In any event, you won’t be back at your desk until the material of the pregnancy is gone, one way or another…”

How to Have a Miscarriage | The Hairpin

And, I received an announcement of a new book from a woman who previously emailed me to talk about my own miscarriage memoir. I look forward to reviewing her book soon.

At 33 weeks pregnant, Amy is certain something bad will soon happen, it had too many times before. Deep down she fears it’s only a matter of time before the baby she’s carrying will die. Despite the fact that Amy had been repeatedly slapped in the face with multiple miscarriages, she still can’t seem to quiet that tiny voice in the back of her head that’s screaming at her to not give up hope. Follow Amy’s true story as she stumbles through her journey with humor and warmth, all while dealing with the neuroses that came along with getting her hopes shattered time and time again. All she has to do is close her eyes and she’s lurched back to the memories of her losses; on the floor in her bathroom, in the hospital, and even at her place of work. No one knows what the internal mind of a woman who’d lost five babies and suffered so many let downs goes through. Can Hope ever truly survive memories such as these?

Chasing Hope: A Mother’s Story of Loss, Heartbreak and the Miracle of Hope

Last week, we decided to design some new European charm bracelets to honor the experience of babyloss, whether through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. Half of the profits from these bracelets will be donated towards a scholarship to help a local bereaved mother attend Stillbirthday’s Love Wildly event in Kansas City in December.

July 2014 157

“Miscarriage is a death in the heart of life, a death that happens inside the body of a woman. Sometimes a child just brushes the earth lightly, and is gone before the embryo is anything more than a few cells. Even so, there may already have been a strong connection, love, the beginning of hopes and dreams for the child. Later in a pregnancy, when the being has made itself known through kicks and a visible bump, a whole community may have already begun to make a place for it. Whenever a miscarriage happens, it is a loss that cuts deeply, and needs to be grieved…” –Jackie Singer (Birthrites)

via Birthrites: Miscarriage | Talk Birth.

Tuesday Tidbits: New Babies

“Breastmilk is the bio-available, species-specific food which is perfectly crafted for human babies. It is delivered by the elegant and nurturing act of breastfeeding. Literally organic, it is made by the mother’s body, and delivered to her baby via her breasts. In contrast to artificial baby milk, human milk is a raw food that does not require processing and distribution. It does not use valuable resources nor does it pollute the environment.”—Máire Clements RN IBCLC (via http://bit.ly/1hc8Jsw)

“Breastfeeding is a mother’s gift to herself, her baby, and the earth.” —Pamela K. Wiggins

via Breastfeeding USA.

July 2014 120

New pregnant + nursing mama goddess for a friend.

New babies are on my mind as I prepare to attend the birth of my nephew and as I continue to tie up loose ends in preparation for my own new baby in a couple of months. I know I’m only 24 weeks pregnant, but I feel a powerful and almost obsessive drive to get organized/squared away in order to make the space for him that he’ll need from me and that I’ll need for myself. I’m in serious “planning mode” right now and I’m pretty sure I can be exhausting/frustrating for people around me when I do that, but I have to do it. I know what I’m like, I know what postpartum can be like for me, I know what having three kids is like, I know that the new school session starts on my due date (and I’m still planning to teach my online class like usual. Not in-seat. I’m not that crazy!), I know that I push and push and rev and rev and speed myself up to get it all done. So, Planning Mode On. I WILL be resting in November, no matter what, but for me that means making smart, mindful choices now. I’ve retired from a couple of writing commitments, finished several projects and followed through on some obligations that have been on my mind. Mark and I are working hard on preparing and building our business to carry us through the reduced income we’ll have when I’m not teaching.

So, anyway, I read this article and it touched my heart with its sweet, bittersweetness! I look forward to being a temporarily perfect mother one more time…

I was looking at you today and thinking about how right now, today, the day you turn 3 weeks old, I’m a damn near perfect mother to you. I think this is why I love, crave, the newborn stage. Maybe it’s just biology, evolution. But for me, I think it’s more, because for me, it’s the only time I truly feel like a 100% capable mama. Like I’ve got this shit IN THE BAG. I’m a knock-it-out-of-the-damn-park newborn mama.

My job is defined. My role, clear. I nurse, clothe, bathe and hold you. I give you the breast to comfort you, whenever you want. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to wonder. I don’t believe it can be done “too much.” In fact I think that’s the biggest crock ever. I wrap you up and carry you against my chest. For hours. Sometimes I lay you on your back so you can kick and look around and I can watch you and coo at you and smell your head. This is what we do, round and round, I know it and love it and own it completely because you’re my 4th!. I’m tired, oh, so tired, but I know how to mother you now.

I know just what you need. I know what to try.

And this, I know, will fade…

via A letter to my newborn, while I’m still a damn near perfect mom – renegade mothering.

Reading this also reminded of why parenting the first baby can be so particularly hard—because with that one, you don’t necessarily know what they need or what to try. The learning curve is steep and you’re a one day old mother with a one day old baby. For me, I put a lot of pressure on myself with the first to love and cherish the newborn experience all the time because I knew how important and precious and brief the newborn time is. But, I severely underestimated the “trauma” involved with becoming a parent for the first time:

…Several weeks ago my husband was bouncing our screaming daughter in his arms as we half smiled to each other about how it is almost endearing that infants get so worked up for seemingly no reason. Over her screams we reminisced about what was hard with each of our children when they were this age–our firstborn not latching; our second with an undiagnosed dairy allergy.

This playful, patient banter was so different than the days and weeks after our first son was born. I remember sobbing tears of inadequacy as my husband looked at me through bleary eyes and said, “Why didn’t anyone warn us about THIS PART?”

The part where you think you are supposed to have all of the answers. The part where you take home a helpless human with no instruction booklet. The part where you have to go back to work after six weeks and restaurant owners ask you to feed your baby in a bathroom. The part where you forget how connected you and your husband once were as you fight over bath temperatures and take turns waking each other up with irrational nightmares that your baby is buried amongst the pillows in your bed…

via The Trauma of First-Time Parenthood | Raising Kvell.

The post above is a response to one on the New York Times:

Given the ideology of parenting, it’s not surprising that we typically blame biology for the experience of postpartum depression. But the circumstances parents face are often demonstrably miserable. The fact that postpartum depression rates are much higher among the poor than among the wealthy, who can purchase peace of mind through hired child care, supports the idea that the phenomenon is, in most cases, more circumstantial than biological.

As a recent parent myself, I urge you to consider this the next time someone you know greets the transition to parenthood with hopelessness or even despair. Pursue kindness over ideology. For a person whose suffering has been met with judgment, a sympathetic ear can make all the difference…

via The Trauma of Parenthood – NYTimes.com.

I also thought about the information feeding frenzy of pregnancy and early parenthood when I read this article from Lamaze:

There comes a point when a trickle of helpful information becomes a flood. The process of teasing the facts from the fiction can you leave you feeling overwhelmed, confused, and frustrated. So what’s an information-hungry pregnant person to do?

Find a tour guide. Would you travel to the Amazon without a guide? And yes, I AM comparing pregnancy information with the rain forest — it’s dense, sometimes scary, and incredibly difficult at times to see the forest for the trees. A “tour guide” in pregnancy comes in the form of a childbirth educator, doula, and respectful care provider. These trained professionals can help you make sense of the information and opinions you uncover, and while their job is not to make decisions for you, they can provide evidence based information to help you determine the best path for your pregnancy and birth…

via Lamaze for Parents : Blogs : Birth in the Media – How Much is Too Much When You’re Pregnant?

Which then reminded me of my favorite article on the subject from Pam England:

However, a pregnant woman, with only months or weeks before giving birth, does not have time to gather, learn, and assimilate all the information out there. Many women are conditioned to believe that if they have lots of information, then they will “pass the test” or be able to control their birth outcome. Gathering birth information sometimes becomes a kind of addiction; parents can feel the adrenalin and endorphin surges as they learn, learn, learn by surfing the net and reading. There is often an extra surge when their eyes are glued to the medicalized birth shows on TV.

via Birthing From Within – Information Frenzy.

I was contacted today by a jewelry artist in Australia wanting to pair some of our goddess pendants with her own work making breastmilk and placenta jewelry. I’m so incredibly excited about this idea and can’t wait to have a co-created piece once my new baby is born!

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This is one of ours with a red jasper stone, but OOH, I can just SEE the placental possibilities now… 🙂

I had my placenta encapsulated with my last baby and I’ll be having the placenta encapsulated with my new baby as well. I wrote about my past experience here: Placenta Encapsulation—Three Days Postpartum Comparison…

You can read a recent e-newsletter from Midwifery Today about placentophagy here: E-News 16:13 – Placentophagy.

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Etsy Shop Update

“It is now time for all women of the colorful mind, who are aware of the cycles of night and day and the dance of the moon in her tides, to arise.” –Dhyani Ywahoo (in Open Mind, 11/22)

June 2014 013We made several changes and additions to our etsy shop this week. In addition to adding some of my favorite goddess pendant design (above), we re-ordered our listings to include a section specifically for “seconds“—these are items with small flaws above the norm (all of our pieces are organic and always have minimal imperfections!) or are designs that have been discontinued. If you’re a bargain hunter, this section is the place for you!

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We added some new birth spiral doula earrings too!

We also added Healing Hands pendants with a variety of new gemstones.

June 2014 004And speaking of Healing Hands, yesterday I got together with two friends to make memorial jewelry for miscarriage care packets and memory boxes for “Healing Hands for Hope,” a project associated with the local pregnancy loss support group (hosted by Rolla Birth Network). Brigid’s Grove donates most of the charms used for this project as well as some of the beads and other supplies:

We made 25 baubles for miscarriage packets and five tree pendants for memory boxes!

Visitors to the Rainbow Group booth at MamaFest on August 2nd will have a chance to make a memorial piece for themselves for free or to donate a charm to a care package for another babyloss mama.

As well as a jewelry booth with all of our pewter pendant designs and build-your-own charm bracelets, I will also have free simple jewelry making (for any occasion) available in the Red Tent sponsored by Brigid’s Grove!

Opening Up…

Sacred Body  May 2014 070
Sacred Space
Sacred Womb

Holding
enfolding
protecting
nourishing.

Spinning cells into soul
into body
into breath
into life.

Unfurling without conscious control or effort.
Dancing together in the incredible might of creation…

Last month, one of the blogs I write for was doing a round robin topic on what makes a family. Though I missed my chance to officially participate I still have something to say about the topic anyway! For me, the question of what makes a family boils down to opening up to make room. In February of this year I found out I was pregnant again, even though we’d made what felt like a very firm decision not to have any more children. We’ve never experienced an unexpected pregnancy before. I’m a “planner” by nature and my children have all been very planned out (I even went for a “preconception” health care appointment before conceiving our first baby!) After my initial feelings of surprise and some degree of distress and even sadness, I was really amazed to see how very soon I started to feel space opening up in my mind, heart, body, and family for a new person. And, I thought, isn’t this the very essence of family? Opening up. I spent my childhood with three siblings, but geographically isolated from other family members and so almost all of our holidays were spent as just us, the immediate family. It used to make my mom feel sad not to have a houseful of company for Thanksgiving. However, then, even as the residents of the actual family house decreased as we grew up and moved away, our family opened and expanded to include more members (and more schedules!). I got married in 1998 and our family boundary expanded to include my husband. We then had our first baby in 2003 and the family opened up to receive a first grandchild and then later the spouses of my siblings and two more grandchildren from me. My brother and his wife are having their first baby in July and again our now-extended family expands to create room and joyfully anticipates his arrival. And, with my own new baby boy due in October, we again open and welcome with love.

My parents’ house at Thanksgiving is pretty full and pretty busy now!

Body opens
heart opens
hands open to receive

Birth mama
birth goddess
she’s finding her way
she’s finding her way…

via Birth as Initiation.

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100 Things List!

As part of Leonie Dawson’s Amazing Year workbook, I wrote a list of 100 things to do in 2014.  My blog has been fairly quiet lately, but that doesn’t actually mean I have been! A lot of the energy previously used for blogging has been diverted into other exciting projects on my 100 Things list. 🙂 I finished my second free gift offering for newsletter subscribers at Brigid’s Grove (if you aren’t signed up yet, fill in your email on the right hand side of the screen at the BG website and you will receive the free book within 24 hours). This freebie is a 56 page book of earth-based poetry. Most of the poems were originally published on my other blog, but there are several released only in this book (so far).

May 2014 078We’re also offering a spring giveaway of one of our new healing hands pendants AND also a 10% off discount code for our etsy shop (2014SPRING10OFF).

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“…Medicine Woman reminds you

to sleep when you’re tired

to eat when you’re hungry

to drink when you’re thirsty

and to dance

just because.

Medicine Woman

let her bind up your wounds

apply balm to your soul

and hold you

against her shoulder

when you need to cry.

Medicine Woman

Earth healer

she’s ready to embrace you…”

via Amethyst Healing Hands Pendant by BrigidsGrove.

Even more exciting from a personal perspective is that I actually finished writing my thesis. Yes, after all my many days of joking, “Oops! I didn’t write my thesis today!” I suddenly really did write it. I had more done than I thought and all I needed was some class-free, focused writing time (my spring school session ended this past Saturday) to get it to a finished position. It might be a first draft if significant revisions are requested/needed (the format is somewhat non-traditional), but I’m hopeful it might be a last draft too! I’ve been working on my D.Min since 2011. I realized last year that I had almost the right credits to do an M.Div first (since my existing master’s degree is in social work instead, I had to take a LOT of M.Div classes as part of the D.Min program), I just had to add a thesis and a couple of classes to the work I’d already done. So, I call it a “pitstop,” because I don’t really need to do it and I’m actually working on something else, but…here I go! I also found out recently that I really only have three D.Min classes and my dissertation left. I’m giving it at least another year on the dissertation though. When I started the thesis idea, I had more like eight classes left, so it seemed like further away and “might as well.” After two partial starts and two different prospectuses submitted, I switched gears again and I actually used my Earthprayer book above as the basic frame or structure for the thesis. I’d been attempting to work with a 400-page document and then I realized it was way too much. The Earthprayer book had ended up being a distillation of some basic themes from my year in the woods experiment and I thought, “ah ha! I’ve accidentally been working on my thesis without knowing it!” I developed it with articles and essays and my theory and process of theapoesis and magically I produced 84 pages and 26,000 words! (My thesis handbook says it should be 80 pages and 25,000 words. Go, me!)

I also booked an official screening of the Red Tent Movie: Things We Don’t Talk About. It will be held in Rolla on August 2nd in conjunction with Rolla Birth Network’s annual MamaFest celebration and it is the first ever screening of this film in Missouri! Before I booked it, a friend surprised me with this lovely little Red Moon painting and said it was for me to use in my eventual Red Tent. I felt motivated after getting it and booked the screening the next morning.

May 2014 005After doing this and apparently feeling the freedom of being off of work for the next two weeks, I took advantage of a full moon special and somewhat impulsively decided to sign up for the Chrysalis Woman circle leader program! This was on my Leonie Dawson 100 Things list with a question mark. Now, it is a question mark no more because I signed up and paid…hope it was a good idea! I’ve only downloaded the manuals and listened to the first week’s materials so far, but I really like it. It feels very thorough and comprehensive and feels like a good value for the discounted price it was being offered for. I’m still a little surprised at myself that I did it though!

I read a post from Elisabeth Esther a few days ago about being all blogged out and I realized this feels true for me too. I’ve been diverting a lot of my writing AND creating energy this year into other projects that I feel really good about and my blog-time is simply falling lower and lower on my priority list.

I also read this post from The Minimalists:

It was Henry David Thoreau who famously said, “It is not enough to be busy. The question is: what are we busy about?” And if I were to append his quandary, I’d say, “It is not enough to be busy. The question is: what are we focused on?”

You see, there is a vast delta between being busy and being focused. The former involves the typical tropes of productivity—anything to keep our hands moving, to keep going, to keep the conveyer belt in motion. It is no coincidence that we refer to mundane tasks as “busywork.” Busywork works well for factories and robots and fascism, but not so great for anyone who’s attempting to do something meaningful with their waking hours.

Being focused, on the other hand, involves attention, awareness, and intentionality. In my case, people sometimes mistake my focused time for busyness. That’s because being completely focused apes many of the same surface characteristics as being busy: namely, the majority of my time is occupied.

via Not Busy, Focused | The Minimalists.

This helped me understand why I bristle I little bit when I am described as “busy” or people say that I’m “too busy,” or whatever little cracks people tend to make about being an “overachiever,” or whatever. While I sometimes feel too busy or overloaded or stretched too thin, etc. it doesn’t feel like busy work or “filling time,” it feels like being focused and enjoying lots of projects/being firmly and passionately devoted to quite a few things at once.

Squatter’s Rights and a Womb with a View

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“When a woman births without drugs…she learns that she is strong and powerful…She learns to trust herself, even in the face of powerful authority figures. Once she realizes her own strength and power, she will have a different attitude for the rest of her life, about pain, illness, disease, fatigue, and difficult situations.” –Polly Perez

via Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Power | Talk Birth.

In addition to our new cesarean birth goddess pendant, this month I sculpted two more new pendants that my husband then transformed into pewter casts. The first is a “Squatter’s Rights” sculpture of a mama catching her own baby. I have found this image tremendously empowering for a very long time.

Would the new child coming from me be slippery like soap? I rubbed my fat belly. I loved each pound I gained, each craving I April 2014 065had, and every trip to the bathroom. Okay, maybe not every trip to the bathroom. But, I loved this growing baby. Tucked away like a pearl in the sea just waiting to be discovered. I was in a constant state of marvel.

Would I be able to physically do this? No, I don’t mean the labor, nor do I mean the birth. I knew I could do that. I got lost in thought as I planned in my head every moment that would come after my body did the work of labor. The moment would come once my body was ready and the crown of a child’s head pushed itself from me, the moment the child would emerge. That’s what I was planning for; I planned to catch my own baby.

via Guest Post: Squatter’s Rights | Talk Birth.

It is hard to express how much I love knowing how these figures “speak” to the women who receive them. I started making them to express something within me and to speak to myself or remind me of my own power. I absolutely love knowing that they carry these messages to other women as well, not just me! Earlier this year a made a polymer clay birthing mama sculpture for a woman and she gave me permission to share her feedback on it:

I LOVE THIS!!!   I JUST got my lovely statue, she’s gorgeous, I am in awe of your work, and I caught myself choking up a bit at how I look at her and it pulls me back to that most empowering of moments, Me-birthing my little rainbow.. Completely uninhibited.. THANK YOU!…They will be in a sacred space, helping watch over me as I go through Midwifery school… ❤ Thank you, thank you!! ❤

What a tremendous honor to be a small part of another woman’s journey in this way. It feels like a sacred trust.

Our second new pendant is a “womb with a view” themed pendant. I’m particularly in love with this one, but I’ve noticed that reactions from other people seems quite mixed! (From “that is SO cool” to, “oh, okaaaaay.”) One friend said, “this is the kind of thing that people who are really into birth will like, but everyone else would think is gross.” 😉 And, maybe that does sum it up! I love it because it has a placenta and an umbilical cord and the baby is quite purposefully LOA to send the right “head down, good position for birth” message to mothers who see or wear it.

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