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Wednesday Tidbits: Books, Babies, and Breastfeeding Mama Ornaments

In February of 2014, I sat on the stones in the woods, came face to face with a raccoon in the tree and suddenly knew that I was pregnant again. In October of 2014, I sat on the stones in the woods awaiting the imminent arrival of my new baby boy. This week, I sat on the stones in the woods with a baby boy who is now approaching his first birthday. The wheel spins quickly.

12074630_1672247639654118_5798984318455904624_nAfter feeling a little fried and exhausted from parenting this teething whirlwind of a toddling boy, I enjoyed reading this article about motherhood as a spiritual practice:

Motherhood is a deeply spiritual act. We birth another human soul at great personal cost, and are tasked with providing for that baby and raising them to adulthood. The daily grind of being a mother, of constantly putting somebody’s needs before your own is the most character-building exercise I have ever had to do. No spare time is squandered, no act of love too great. On those days where the house is a mess, everybody is crying and I’ve made five cups of tea all gone cold, taking the time to remember the sacredness of what I am doing, the beauty and the impact of my every decision on these little one’s lives. I am the Mother. I am not the clean, clinical mother with the apron tied around her waist but I am infinitely more valuable than that.

Source: Motherhood and Spirituality — Mama Bird

(Note: I also know awesome mothers who rock aprons!)

It made my heart so happy to read these words from Rachael at Moon Times about my new Earthprayer poetry book: “a beautiful book of poetry that calls to earth women, earth mamas, wood pixies…”

The book is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK as well as from our Etsy shop. I’m also working on developing a free companion e-course!12115561_1673721906173358_8351932066983960577_nSpeaking of books, I contributed to the Indiegogo campaign for Pam England’s newest book. I love Pam’s work and it has left an indelible imprint on my own births, life, and work.

Support Birthing From Within’s new book and our vision for changing the conversation about birth.

Source: New Birth Book: Ancient Map for Modern Birth | Indiegogo

Is it too soon to mention Christmas? We’re working on some Christmas ornaments! I’m excited to see holiday lights behind these luminous mamas.

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I was interviewed by KNOWHEN this week, talking about TTC, birth empowerment, birth education, and pregnancy loss: Molly Talks About Childbirth & Her Own TTC Story – KNOWHEN

And, speaking of pregnancy loss, in October we honor Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Please feel free to use this photo as your own profile picture on Facebook if you need to do so:
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Sign up for the Brigid’s Grove Newsletter for resources, monthly freebies, + art and workshop announcements.

 

Tuesday Tidbits: This Time Last Year…

As I mentioned in my 11 month update, the first year of life with a new baby feels like a journey through a labyrinth. The moments I experienced last year while pregnant take on a particularly poignancy as I round the curves of The Return, this time with baby in arms.

I love the moments of continuity…last year with my pregnant belly, this year at the pumpkin patch with a toddler selecting his own pumpkin.

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Last year getting my pregnancy photos taken and having a mother blessing, this year having some breastfeeding photos taken (note: carefully selected goddess sarong for photographic continuity!).

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_DSC0457fInterestingly, this time last year I was taking online instructor trainings for Sacred Pregnancy and Sacred Postpartum. This year, quite by accident (in terms of exact timing), I ended up starting the Sacred Pregnancy Birth Journey instructor course online. I won this course in a Red Tent fundraising auction via Moon Times in the winter, but I didn’t actually take it until this month.

For today’s tidbits post, I’m taking a walk down memory lane and looking at posts from around this same time last year…

Stretching time, wondering about twins, and making a belly cast:

I felt on the edge of tears from the time I woke up almost until the time we did the belly cast—feeling stressed, rushed, and WHY. However, we had a great time doing the cast (even though we had to stop to rescue a hummingbird from the actual jaws of a cat, save Alaina from being clawed by another cat, and answer computer questions from the boys. Sometimes I have to pause and realize that the overwhelm I feel lately is probably just a feature of the realities of having three kids with various needs already, a job, a business, a dissertation to write, books waiting to be born, and several serious life passions and be preparing to add another human to the family. Perhaps it would be weird if I didn’t feel overwhelmed and a little panicky, rather than it feeling like it is a personal failing that this is how I’ve spent a lot of time feeling lately.)

Source: Stretching Time | Talk Birth

Then, painting and re-painting that belly cast into a fall leaves theme that I still love: September 2014 122

I am 100% pleased with the re-do. Sometimes a revision is exactly the right choice! I feel like the comparison of my first attempt and my second looks like one of those side-by-side Pinterest comparisons, only both of these were from me!

Source: Belly Cast! | Talk Birth

And, from there, making another belly cast with the intention of creating a pottery belly bowl:

During this pregnancy, one of my personal philosophies has been to do stuff that I haven’t done before. This is my last chance to be pregnant (really!) and I want to make sure I leave no stones uncovered or cool stuff undone!

Source: Belly Bowl! (and new altar bowl) | Talk Birth

And, it worked!

Completed Pottery Clay Belly Bowl! | Talk Birth

I mused over whether I was ready or not:

The inexorable march towards Birth-Day is such an interesting, liminal place to be in. It both feels “mysterious” and inevitable. The closer I get to my official due date, the more wide open the possibilities seem as to when he will be born…when, in reality, the options narrow each day! I still have a certain sense of unreality about the whole thing—like, am I really going to do this? Am I really going to have a BABY????!!!!!

Source: Ready or Not! | Talk Birth

But, my Sacred Postpartum training really helped me prepare, as I took a ceremonial bath:

And, that is when I had my “breakthrough” moment. My eyes were prickling with tears and I said: “I associate taking baths with being weak and wounded.” I associate baths with cleaning blood away from myself and gingerly poking around for tears in my most vulnerable tissues.

Source: Sacred Postpartum, Week 2: Ceremonial Bathing | Talk Birth

And learned how to make Happy Tea:

I’ve been interested to note that I’ve dreamed with increasing realism about the baby for the last three nights in a row. Last night, I was getting him latched on for the first time. The night before, my mom and Mark had brought him to campus for me to nurse on my breaks from class. The night before that was a water birth dream (two actually, both about twins). To me this indicates that whatever lingering “not readiness” I might be experiencing in my waking life, my subconscious is getting it. At some level, my brain is getting down with the idea of really, truly having another baby and it is incorporating him into my dreamscape/life accordingly.

Source: Sacred Postpartum: Happy Tea + 40 Week Update | Talk Birth

My Mother Blessing ceremony also helped me recognize my own strength and courage:

I discovered in this post-ritual reflection that it is just part of my personal process to be able to say, and be vulnerable enough to have people hear, see, or read, that I think maybe I can’t do something or that I’ve said yes to too much. The answer for me is not, “then don’t” or “stop” or “quit” or “take it easy,” it is to move forward and to see, again, that I was actually enough for what scared me or felt too big or too exhausting.

Source: Mother Blessings and the Power of Ritual | Talk Birth

In the power of ritual, I learned (again) that life is like birth, and we give birth as we live.

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Closing the Bones…

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After my own postpartum sealing ceremony, November 2014.

I’m thrilled to have a guest post from Awen Clement on the Brigid’s Grove blog this month. She writes about Closing the Bones, a ceremony for postpartum women…

“After the birth of my son, I felt broken open”

Did you feel this way after the births of your children? Did you feel as though you had opened yourself body, mind and spirit to bring that new life into the world? Did it surprise you to feel this way?

We give so much when we birth our children, on every level, and then we keep on giving as we move on in our mothering. We feel exhausted, but that exhaustion somehow doesn’t seem to lift no matter how well we rest. We may feel as though something is missing, some part of ourselves that we were sure was there before. It probably isn’t something you would ever mention to anyone and even if you did many would simply point out that you’re a mother now, of course your tired and of course you feel different…

Read more here: Guest Post: Honouring the Bones of my Sisters – Brigid’s Grove

IMG_9800My own post about my postpartum sealing ceremony can be found here:

Ceremonial Bath and Sealing Ceremony | Talk Birth

Elevenmonthababy!

IMG_7742Somehow, our little October baby boy is now eleven months old! Here is what he has been up to over the last month:

  • Adds hot, chicken, dance, and pepper to his vocabulary (but also slips backwards in terms of speech and starts favoring baby-Chewbacca-style of communication instead. Not quite as “adorable” as Chewy though, even…)
  • He likes to nurse with me flat on floor and his head facing away from me, so my nipple is turned at a 90 degree angle, pointing the opposite way of the side he is actually on). Despite this, I still identify with this meme:

IMG_7811Only for me, it is more like, “nap time!” or, “he bonked his head AGAIN!”

And, experienced nursing mothers will recognize a certain subtle detail in one of our newest breastfeeding mama sculptures:

IMG_7847Yes, she is tenderly cradling and holding hands with her baby, but she’s also preventing him from twiddling the opposite side at the very same time…

Back to this elevenmonthababy:

  • He does dance steps and moves! Rather than the bobbing in place baby-style dance, he actually stomps his feet and does a little “soft shoe” dance step. Sometimes accompanied by frenetic arm flapping, head bopping, and a big smile of enthusiasm.
  • He specifically asks for harmonica playing and for the radio to be turned on. Also, drums with gusto.

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    He got this drum and set it up and played it this way himself, even though we never play our djembe like that, nor has he seen one played like this.

  • Problem solves in what seems like a genius manner. i.e. This week, Zander was setting up a big cushion and Tanner was knocking it over and Zander didn’t want him to do that. So, Zander stood behind the cushion blocking it with his legs so it wouldn’t tip. “Ha! You can’t knock it down now!” he said, and Tanner instantly reached out and tipped the cushion towards himself instead of pushing it down away from himself.
  • He rips apart my Christmas cactus relentlessly. He likes how the little segments pop apart and is dogged about going after them, up to and including moving chairs, going around to the back side of the porch rail and leaning over to get to it, and reaching through cracks in the baby gate to de-segment it. He also loves to pop apart big baby legos (quatros). There is a certain thrill to the pop.
  • Pushes his little friend around on a bike.
  • Loves to go out to the veranda with us.
  • Switches to taking big steps instead of careful half steps and falls down more often. Also attempts to put on burst of speed when escaping.
  • Is verbal enough to do what is asked of him, such as “go get your spoon and bring it back to me.”
  • Speaking of spoons and verandahing, is obsessed with poking them down the cracks in the porch, never to be seen again unless a brother is willing to crawl under and retrieve them.
  • After playgroup at the river last week, I had to share on Facebook that another milestone that doesn’t have a sticker for the baby calendar is Baby’s First Leech. Ugh!
  • While at GGG, Tanner earned the nickname “Lightfingers,” because he is super skilled at quietly and delicately making off with other people’s possessions without them noticing.
  • And, speaking of fingers, he took Mark’s homemade-from-a-wine-bottle guitar slide without anyone noticing, broke it on the floor and cut open his finger. I don’t think I’ve ever had an 11 month old who bled from cutting himself before!😦

I can’t believe that this time last year I was walking around pregnant, thinking I might have twins! I like to take re-creation photos from significant points from pregnancy, so while last year at GGG I was 35 weeks pregnant and posed for a picture at Venus Sanctuary, this year, we looked like this instead:

September 2015 077 September 2015 074Here are some more pictures from the last month, many are from GGG, where he did much “helping” with my booth:

The first year after a baby’s birth is filled with so many precious moments and so many poignant moments. It is like traveling out of a labyrinth, rounding familiar the curves and passages, and taking the same kind of journey with people and through places as I took while I was pregnant, but this time…coming out again, with the baby in my arms.

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Thursday Tidbits: Happy Birth-Day!

September 2015 008This week, our oldest son turned 12! I can hardly believe that it has been twelve years since Mark and I were snuggled up in bed marveling over our new baby boy! Lann is an amazing big brother, a helpful, responsible son, and a creative, imaginative, sensitive kid. He loves Minecraft, computer games in general, and making gaming videos for YouTube.

We had his birthday party earlier this month, so his actual birthday was pretty low-key (minus me scrambling to catch up with backlogged work from being away and poor Tanner being a crying, stumbling around, stressed out little mess from the same). We put up his nice new birthday trampoline and went out to dinner and had cake with my parents.September 2015 137Twelve years ago this is what I was doing…

…I felt very internally focused and yet still aware of the people around me, though I wasn’t talking to them much and spent a lot of time with my eyes closed. They kept commenting to me and to each other about how calm and focused I was being and how “in control” I appeared. I don’t think I was really showing how intense and back-to-back these contractions were for me. I also started to have lots of internal pressure feelings during contractions when I was on my hands and knees.

My First Birth | Talk Birth

On Sunday night, Alaina, Tanner, and I got back home from Kansas after five days away. Gaea Goddess Gathering was an experience, as always. Vending was a rewarding experience with lots of lovely connections woven, but many other elements felt like something we survived! It is quite physically taxing to be there–not enough food, water, or sleep, too much climbing up seventy steps up a steep hillside while breastfeeding + babywearing! And, weather extremes this year—90+ degrees, then rain and wind, then cool. I couldn’t have done it without my mom, who helped me way more than I should have expected her to. It was also fun to spend so much time with my sister-in-law and my little nephew (she also helped me a lot!)

September 2015 077The other day I told my husband that it is interesting to me how I was “maxed out” when I only had one little baby. And, now I have four and I’m still maxed out (but that first little baby is now a twelve-year-old who helps take care of the other babies, so in some sense it is easier to have more kids than less kids!). I also told my mom what the midwife for my second baby told me: one kid takes all of your time, so a second one can’t possibly take any more.

There are a lot of things that are easier about having an older kid and some things that are harder:

And, I no longer smell like piss. So, there’s that.

Sure things have gotten easier in ways. I can leave the house now without small humans attached to me. I sleep for stretches longer than three hours. And I haven’t been vomited on in at least a few months. But in some ways, it’s so very much harder. (Plus they aren’t as cute and easy to forgive anymore.)

Source: It’s a Lie; Mothering Doesn’t Get Any Easier Scary Mommy

What this article doesn’t address is the complexities of having both big kids and little kids at the same time. That is what feels hardest right now and I think it may get harder before it gets easier. Time always feels shorter than I dream of it feeling.

When I was nursing infant Lann, a moment with my then-teenage brother still stands out to me: he walked in while I was nursing Lann to sleep at my parents’ house and said, “oh, he’s having nursies.” The normality of “nursies” to a teenage boy is important (and now that teenage boy is in his twenties and has a breastfed baby boy of his own). I’m surprised to realize that Lann will remember more about me nursing Tanner than Tanner ever will.

What did they learn from those experiences? Well, hopefully, they learned that human bodies are just that, bodies. We respect them and we revere them and we don’t shame them. Because they don’t deserve any of that.

This is where the change starts. With my kids and your kids and the kids who see us feeding our babies without embarrassment. Things become normalized one act a time.

I’ve given my kids the opportunity to see something I hope will serve them in their lives. My son’s partners will never have to be concerned that they won’t be supported. My daughters will know the normalcy that is child birthing and feeding and rearing.

Source: Breastfeeding and Teenage Boys | The Leaky B@@b

Thinking about the swift passage of time from that tender, new mother and soft, fresh baby of twelve years ago to the boy whose head is now past my shoulder and who records tutorial videos, reads about the solar system, totes his little brother on his hip, and fixes breakfast for everyone, I feel oddly comforted by the information that some cells from each of my kids, might be with me forever:

The new study suggests that women almost always acquire fetal cells each time they are pregnant. They have been detected as early as seven weeks into a pregnancy. In later years, the cells may disappear, but sometimes, the cells settle in for a lifetime. In a 2012 study, Dr. Nelson and her colleagues examined the brains of 59 deceased older women and found Y chromosomes in 63 percent of them. (Many studies on fetal microchimerism focus on the cells left behind by sons, because they are easier to distinguish from the cells of their mother.) Experts now believe that microchimerism is far from rare. “Most of us think that it’s very common, if not universal,” Dr. Nelson said. But it remains quite mysterious.

Fetal cells are frequently found in breast tissue, even in milk, for instance. The researchers argue that children might thrive more if their fetal cells drove up milk production.

Mothers also nurture their babies with body heat. The thyroid gland, located in the neck, acts like a thermostat, and fetal cells in the thyroid gland in theory could cause mothers to generate more heat than they would otherwise.

Source: A Pregnancy Souvenir: Cells That Are Not Your Own – The New York Times

 

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Guest Post: Postnatal Mental Health

11998990_1661958487349700_7935437715757927025_nI received notice of a new article published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology looking at the types of distress experienced by postpartum women and the type of support available. It indicates that current classification of “postpartum depression” and other postpartum mood disorders are inadequate to convey the range of women’s experiences, nor do they properly account for the role of support in their lives.

Before I share the article, I wanted to note something I’ve done recently to support postpartum health. I donated to the fundraising effort to buy a permanent location for WomanSpace, the local community center devoted to supporting women. It is spearheaded by Summer Birth Services, an organization offering birth, postpartum, and breastfeeding support to Rolla area mothers. We can’t undervalue the importance of organizations like this! WomanSpace offers meeting space for groups, classes, and workshops for a wide range of purposes for all ages, stages, and phases of a woman’s life.

For women in any community, you might want to check out a free virtual retreat for women (unaffiliated with any of the above): Nurturing You.

Postnatal mental health: Are women getting the support they need?

“I really did not feel like I fitted the box.” New research indicates the need for postnatal support that encompasses all mental health issues, not only postnatal depression.

The study, published in Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, examines the postnatal symptoms of distress experienced by women, and the support options they were offered. Rose Coates et al. argue that “Current classification and assessment of postnatal mental health problems may not adequately address the range or combination of emotional distress experienced by mothers.” To understand women’s own experiences, the team interviewed 17 women, all of whom had a child under one and had experienced a postnatal mental health problem.

Through the interviews, the women reported a number of different postnatal mental health symptoms, with tearfulness and anxiousness the most frequently mentioned. In addition a number of women each reported feeling: stressed, isolated, lonely, angry, low, panicky, frustrated, worried, scared and overthinking. Despite these symptoms of postnatal distress, the women found that they didn’t identify with postnatal depression, and many of them were left “bereft of information, advice and support” about other types of distress. The paper notes that “there was a perception that health professionals were focussed on postnatal depression and once it had been ruled out there was no further investigation.”

At the time of their distress some of the women had been assessed for postnatal depression by health care professionals through answering a questionnaire. This paper questions whether this alone is really sufficient to identify distress, and suggests that alternative methods of assessment would be conducive to identifying and supporting women with a number of different postnatal mental health issues. The authors conclude that “Identification and recognition of symptoms and disorders beyond postnatal depression needs to be improved, through evaluating different approaches to assessment and their acceptability to women.”

Post provided by Taylor and Francis Group.

Talk Books: Maternity Leave Excerpt, 19 Days Old…

This is an excerpt from the new novel, Maternity Leave, by Julie Halpern, released today and previously reviewed here.

19 Days Old

Two days and counting before Zach goes back to work as an IT specialist at a local bank. “What are you so worried about?” My mom holds Sam as I drag a pen along the seams of an envelope. Two half-finished thank you notes jeer at me. “I raised you kids without your dad around, and you turned out decent.”

“I’m not worried about Sam being decent. He barely has a sporting chance, what with being your grandson.” I smirk. “I’m worried about generally sucking as a mom,” I explain.

“Let me let you in on a little secret: all moms suck much of the time. The beauty about being a stay-at-home mom is that there is no one to watch you fail. It’s not like Sam is going to tell anyone. You’ll be back at work before he learns to talk anyway.”

“Mom, you’re wigging me out a little. And yet, you are very wise. You sure you don’t want to move in for a few months?”

“Oh, you’d love that. We couldn’t spend two days in Lake Geneva without the battle of the air conditioner. No, I’ll just be around for support when you need me. At least until I go to San Francisco next month.”

“I can’t believe you’re still going. You have a grandchild now!” I’m worried more about me not having her to help than my mom not seeing Sam, but it sounds better when the baby is the one being the baby.

“He won’t remember. And you’ll make it without me. What if I were dead? You’d have to do it without me anyway. In fact, pretend I’m dead. It’ll be easier.”

“Ma! Why do you always have to go to the dark side?” I ask.

“It’s part of my charm, I guess.”

Doogan looks at me, and I swear I detect a shrug. “She’s your mother,” he says.

I have managed to take care of Doogan for seventeen years. I’ll take that as a good sign. Then Doogan bites me, and I shove him off the couch.

I’m screwed.

20 Days Old

Zach goes back to work tomorrow. I am terrified, scared shitless, and entrenched with fear. I have to be alone with this baby all day, every day, and I don’t know if I can do it.

“You’re going to be fine. You’ve been doing it already for three weeks,” Zach tries to comfort me as we watch “Supernatural” on the couch. Sam sleeps peacefully on Zach’s chest. I give him the stinkeye, just in case he can sense I’m not happy with him.

“I haven’t been doing it for three weeks by myself. At first I was in the hospital, and you’ve been here the whole time, playing a supporting role, as has my mom in her morbid kind of way. Plus– fine? I don’t want to be fine. I want to be the best, most kick-ass mother on the planet. And beyond. I want to nurse him lovingly whilst I bake cakes and keep the house so clean you can hear little chimes of sparkle ringing from the countertops. I want Sam to learn sign language and ten other languages and to fit all the right shapes into that ball with the shapes cut out that five different people bought for him. Fine wasn’t good enough for me before I had this baby, so it certainly should not be good enough when we’re talking about the health and happiness of our first born son!” This would be the start of many a sleep-deprived diatribe on the subject of mama failure. But Zach will soon be lucky enough to get away from it all for ten hours a day, five days a week. Son of a bitch.

Middle of the Night

Full-on panic that Zach goes back to work tomorrow. Thank god for QVC. I don’t know what I’d do without the hypnotic beauty of twenty-four hours of gemstones.

21 Days Old

First Day Without Zach Goals

  • Feed, clothe, change, etc. Sam
  • cut fingernails
  • paint toenails
  • bake chocolate chip cookies
  • take nap
  • master Moby Wrap

Zach is gone, and so far so good. Nothing out of the ordinary, and I did manage to write three more thank you notes. Perhaps I will send them before Sam’s first birthday.

I spent much of the day practicing intricate wrappings of the Moby Wrap so I can wear Sam around when I go places. Working with at least twenty feet of fabric to somehow transform it into a safe nest in which Sam will lay seems semi-impossible, but I’ve made it my quest for the day. Or maybe the week. Why rush these things.

First Day without Zach Accomplishments

  • Blah blah blah Sam
  • Managed to knot my Moby Wrap and watched it fall on the floor
  • Fell asleep while on toilet (nap?)
  • Ate half a roll of refrigerated cookie dough (baked in my stomach?)

When Zach arrives home, the house is the same mess it was before he left. My face is still the same mess it was before he left. Zach looks like he just returned from a three week trip to a spa. I pray for a gigantic, dribbly poo to slither into Sam’s diaper so I can hand it off to Zach, but for once Sam’s baby buns have clammed up. Not that Zach would care. “I missed you so much!” he proclaims to Sam as he swings him around the room. I should take my act on the road. How much does an Invisible Woman make?

Copyright © 2015 by St. Martin’s Press LLC.

Maternity Leave by Julie HalpernMATERNITY LEAVE by Julie Halpern
Published by Thomas Dunne Books
On-sale September 1, 2015
ISBN-13: 9781250065025 | $24.99 | Hardcover