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Tuesday Tidbits: Childbirth, Happiness, and The Sacred Feminine

November 2015 040Three articles to read this week:

  • 10 Unexpected Things To LOVE About Childbirth – Mothering. A lovely quote amidst several lovely quotes: “Contractions are beautiful in their own right. The peaks. The valleys. The steady, increasing rhythm of this glorious natural function. They are reflected countless times in the world around us, from the lapping of the ocean waves to the hills and valleys of nature, to the endless rhythm of the seasons. They come and go involuntarily, but unlike many other uncontrollable body functions, in the end you get a baby. Awesome.”
  • I’ve been heard to say: “maybe nothing really needs to change, just how I think needs to change.” And, my beloved Wayne Dyer always used to say: “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. So, I appreciated this article about why complaining is bad for your health: “Therefore, your first mystical scientific evidence: your thoughts reshape your brain, and thus are changing a physical construct of reality.”

Source: The Science of Happiness: Why complaining is literally killing you. | Curious Apes

  • And, wow! A treasure-trove of links within this article:

But virtually every world religion has some revered mother figure — Durga (Hinduism), Tara (Buddhism), Rachel (Judaism), Mary (Christianity), Khadijah (Islam) — and even some newer religions have strong female mother figures, such as the Heavenly Mother in Mormonism. Scholars say many are linked to the prehistorical idea of the “sacred” or “divine feminine” — the worship and reverence of the female.

Is there something intrinsically spiritual or religious in motherhood? In the feminine? How might this be a bridge between different faiths? What role does the ancient concept of the sacred feminine continue to play in contemporary religions? In the religious and spiritual lives of contemporary women who are — and are not — mothers?

Source: Spiritual motherhood: Finding common ground in the ‘sacred feminine’ | ReligionLink

Other news:

We are participating in a fun pay-in-forward giveaway on Instagram via Mother From the Heart.

We’re also part of the Holiday Goddess Gift Guide | The Motherhouse of the Goddess:

12208600_765905926889347_5019755900831306084_nOur Christmas ornament sales have been beyond what we imagined, so we’ve had to stop accepting orders until later this week to give us time to catch up!

October 2015 146

Birth and Breastfeeding Goddess Christmas Ornaments!

October 2015 108I am beyond excited to share these with you! We are offering birth, breastfeeding, and goddess ornaments for your holiday celebrations this year! Perfect for nursing mothers, pregnant women, doulas, midwives, as well as for goddessy women in any stage of life, these ornaments are offered in four of our classic designs and in one mini-design. Each ornament is individually hand cast in clear casting resin from our original sculptures. Their beautiful translucency gives them the appearance of being glass or crystal, while still being extremely durable and nearly damage-proof (we have four energetic kids, so our products get a lot of serious product testing to make sure they can hold up to being dropped!).

Each ornament is about 3 inches tall and is $15. The mini goddesses are only an inch tall and are $6. Each is freestanding and can also sit on a mantle or table, or can grace your tree with abundance, empowerment, and bountiful blessings throughout the season!

These are extremely limited edition. We will be making them by hand from November 1-December 5th only. After that, they’re gone!

October 2015 146

 

Happy Birth-Day: Tanner’s Home Water Birth Video

_DSC0461fToday, my sweet, energetic, fiery, powerhouse of a baby boy turned one! In honor of his birthday, Mark finished putting together Tanner’s birth video. This is the first time I’ve ever had any video of any of my children’s births and it feels tender to share (which is why it took a year to put it out there). Birth is a very private, inner experience for me. I like to give birth virtually alone. So, having video feels like having another observer there, and birth for me is about not being observed. The music that plays in the video is the song Standing at the Edge from Sacred Pregnancy that I listened to throughout my pregnancy and then hummed to myself during labor. When I shared about my sealing ceremony after his birth, I mentioned how meaningful it was to me that this song started to play both as I was entering my ceremonial bath and again as I was getting back out. Well, guess what happened when I went to take a shower this morning on his birthday? This song was also the first to begin as I stepped into the shower!

The written version of his birth story is here: Welcoming Tanner Matthias! | Talk Birth

I’ll do a separate Happy Birthday blog post in a couple of days. I just wanted to make sure to get this video up today! I spent some time at Tanner’s naptime today going through the cards from my mother blessing ceremony and enjoying that energy and affirmation, rather than rushing to my to-do list.

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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

Story Woman

September 2015 123Yesterday, I went searching for a quote for one of my Red Tent Initiation students. She had shared some powerful reflections about the vulnerability required to reveal our personal stories—there is a lot of risk, sometimes shame, and more, bound up in our ability to uncover ourselves and speak our truth. What I wanted to communicate with her was the idea that in sharing our stories, including the painful pieces, we free other women to do the same. Our courage to be vulnerable, to be naked, to be flawed, to experiment with ideas, concepts, or ways of being gives permission for other women to do the same. I went to a workshop at Gaea Goddess Gathering in 2012 that was about dancing and the facilitator said that when facilitating ritual, you have to be willing to look a little ridiculous yourself, have to be willing to risk going a little “over the top” yourself, because in so doing you liberate the other participants—“if she can take that risk and look a little goofy doing so, maybe it is okay for me to do it too.”

After a lot of digging through old posts on my blog, I found the quote! It is from one of my favorite authors, Carol Christ, who said:

“When one woman puts her experiences into words, another woman who has kept silent, afraid of what others will think, can find validation. And when the second woman says aloud, ‘yes, that was my experience too,’ the first woman loses some of her fear.”

This is part of what makes Red Tent Circles so powerful! It is also part of what makes the Red Tent course itself powerful—when the women in the course are willing to dig into the journal questions, assignments, and processes, to turn them over, to explore how they work in their own lives…they lose some of the fear and they encourage others to lose their fear too.

As I was mining my blog for quotes about the power of story, I came across my older post: I am a Story Woman. In this post, I describe how I was preparing a ritual for New Year’s Eve and planning to include the chant: I am a strong woman, I am a story woman. My husband raised a question about it…

 “I’m not sure about this,” he said, “what is a story woman anyway?” I wasn’t able to give him a solid answer at that moment, but guess what, I am one.

In fact, didn’t I just write earlier this week that story holds the key to the reclamation of power for women? How and why does this work?

Because of these two things:

“The one who tells the stories rules the world.”

–Hopi Indian Proverb

“We feel nameless and empty when we forget our stories, leave our heroes unsung, and ignore the rites of our passage from one stage of life to another.”

–Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox

We need to hear women’s stories. We need to hear each other into speech. We need to witness and be witnessed. We need to be heard…

Source: I am a Story Woman | Talk Birth

Over the summer, I was interviewed by Lucy Pearce for her Be Your Publisher Author Interview series. My interview came out today. Since months have passed since we talked, the details of our conversation have dimmed in my memory. (I’m also noticing that I need to get over my own fear and vulnerability that listening to me talk can somehow be perceived as a “bonus” to anyone!) So, imagine the delight I felt when I saw some of the words she chose to describe our interview conversation:

  • Learn to mine your blog
  • The importance of sharing our stories as we navigate the challenging parts of life.
  • Turning a blog into a book and very wise advice … Don’t die with your music still in you.

Just yesterday, I was mining my own blog as well as musing on the importance and power of sharing our stories.

I am a story woman.

The other quote she mentions, don’t die with your music still in you, has been a guiding philosophy in my life and work for at least twelve years. It comes from the work of Wayne Dyer, who passed away last month. I used this quote to describe my relationship to writing, identity, and wholeness as a person, in a vulnerable post about the power of story in my life in early motherhood:

…I’ve finally realized that maybe it was literally my words dying in me that gave me that feeling and that fretfulness. They needed to get out. I’ve spent a lifetime writing various essays in my head, nearly every day, but those words always “died” in me before they ever got out onto paper. After spending a full three years letting other women’s voices reach me through books and essays, and then six more years birthing the mother-writer within, I continue to feel an almost physical sense of relief and release whenever I sit down to write and to let my own voice be heard.

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

Just this year, we’ve ordered printings of our Womanrunes books four times, published our Red Tent Resource Kit manual then added twenty pages to the second printing and re-released it, and published my new Earthprayer, Birthprayer poetry book. I’m working on my dissertation: 275 pages of past writing (much mined from older blog posts) and 145 pages of data collected from others, as well as a companion book project. I am getting ready to publish a miscarriage support group manual that I wrote for The Amethyst Network a few years ago and I have big plans to significantly expand my Ritual Recipe Kit ebook into a much longer, print, resource manual in 2016.

I am a story woman.

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Talk Books: Earthprayer, Birthprayer, Lifeprayer, Womanprayer

Looking for readings for women’s programs or mother blessings? My newest book might be just the collection you need!Earthprayer_Birthpr_Cover_for_KindleThis the wisdom
of woodspaces
this is the meditation
of Earthplaces…

Earthprayer, Birthprayer, Lifeprayer, Womanprayer is a 114 page book of earth-based poetry containing four thematic sections all cropSeptember 2015 025rooted in connection to the land and to the cycles of life. This poetry collection is one of the results of my committed, devotional year-long “woodspriestess” practice. I maintained this practice throughout 2013, eventually spending approximately 330 days during the year in the same place in the woods listening to what they had to tell me about life, myself, and the Earth.

In late December 2012, I decided to begin a year-long spiritual practice of checking in every day at rocks in the woods behind my house. I committed to spending at least a few minutes there every day, rain or sleet or shine, with children or without, and whether day or night throughout 2013. My idea was to really, really get to know the space deeply. To notice that which changed and evolved on a daily basis, to see what shared the space with me, to watch and listen and learn from and interact with the same patch of ground every day and discover what I could learn about it and about myself. I wanted to really come into a relationship with the land I live on, rather than remain caught up in my head and my ideas and also the sometimes-frantic feeling hum of everyday life as a parent and professor. cropSeptember 2015 021

I tend towards a Goddess-oriented, panentheistic, spiritual naturalism. When I enter the woods, I often experience what I have termed “theapoetics”–-spontaneous, spoken aloud poetry that brings me into direct connection with that source of life I call the Goddess. These theapoetical explorations form the heart of the book.

A digital version is also available in print-ready pdf. If you previously purchased the 60 page digital version, we are happy to offer you a 20% discount on the newly expanded version of the book. Please contact us for the discount code to use.

The book is also easily available with free Prime shipping from Amazon US and Amazon UK.

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Talk Books: Touching Bellies, Touching Lives

touchingbelliesEvery so often I end up reading a book that is nothing like I was expecting and yet is totally amazing. Touching Bellies, Touching Lives is one of those books. Subtitled “Midwives of Southern Mexico Tell Their Stories,” I was expecting a collection of birth stories from Mexican midwives. While there are birth stories, and everyone knows that I love birth stories, this book is so much more than a birth story collection. It is a personal pilgrimage, a preservation of the legacy of midwives, an examination of cultural birth practices, and a sobering first-hand account of the declining culture of traditional midwifery in Mexico. Many people may have the misconception that in Mexico or other South American cultures, midwifery is commonplace and maybe even flourishing. In Touching Bellies, we come to understand that Western medical practices are encroaching at a steady pace and that many midwives are elderly, retiring, and not being replaced. A steady theme runs throughout of women going to midwives for “belly massage,” but going to “modern” facilities to have their babies (unfortunately, they’ve imported some U.S. 1950’s-style practices in terms of birth position, birthing alone with no husbands allowed, and being treated dismissively in labor. This is along with a cesarean rate over 40% and up to 70% much in some cities).

The author, Judy Gabriel, takes multiple trips to Mexico on her quest to document the lives and stories of Mexican midwives (most of whom are age 65 and many of whom do not live to see the end of the book). She photographs the midwives and, with some hurdles with language barriers, listens to their stories–asking about the first birth they attended as well as any births that were problematic for them. She returns to them bearing hearing aids, dresses, and photos of family members from the United States. She travels through rough terrain and to distant villages on her quest to listen and learn from these midwives. I was completely absorbed by Judy’s dedication to her mission and her personal insights and life lessons as she travels and learns.

The “belly massage” practice for which Touching Bellies gains its title was endlessly fascinating to me (and to Judy, the author) with midwives regularly helping position the baby, release tight muscles, and ease aches and pains through a gentle process of abdominal massage and fetal manipulation. This aspect of midwifery care was so pervasive that when Judy would ask in a village where the midwives are, many people would not understand and say that they don’t know what she is talking about. When she asks for the woman who massages the bellies of pregnant women, everyone knows where to tell her to go.

In this quote, a 75-year-old midwife tells the story of helping a woman who is in premature labor. The doctors have tried to stop her contractions without avail and now say she must have a cesarean and the baby will most likely die:

“…The mother-in-law said, ‘This woman knows more than you doctors. You may have gone to the university, but, excuse me, for you doctors it is always puro cuchillo, puro cuchillo [just knives, just knives]. Leave the midwife to work in peace, and you’ll see what can be done without knives.’

So I did my work. I rocked the girl in a rebozo and massaged her belly, moving the baby up. The contractions stopped.

The doctors asked, ‘How did you do that?’

I said, ‘You were standing right there watching. I did it in front of you. I’m not hiding anything. You saw me rock her; you saw me massage her.’

‘Is that all you had to do?” they asked.

I said, ‘Yes, that’s all I had to do. What else would I have to do?’

(The baby survived and was born at full-term six weeks later.)

The dedicated care for women, in touching their bellies, touches their lives. Almost all of the midwives in the book have access to nurturing touch and almost no other resources available and yet almost all of them report never losing a baby or a mother in childbirth.

I absolutely loved reading Touching Bellies, Touching Lives. It is an extremely interesting, thought-provoking, and thoroughly fascinating journey. The information about the gradual decline and near-extinction of midwifery in Mexico is sobering, but the book does end on a hopeful note.

You can read more about the book here as well as see some of the interesting documentary-style photographs of the midwives from the book (one of the points of Judy’s travels was to photograph the midwives and share pictures of their families in the U.S. with them and vice versa). The book itself is available via Amazon.

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

Talk Books: A Passion for Birth

Sheila

“We are only now beginning to discover the long term destructive effects on human beings and families of treated women as if they were containers to be opened and relieved of their contents.”

–Sheila Kitzinger

Sheila Kitzinger’s new autobiography, A Passion for Birth, is an absolute treasure. One of the most long-term and pivotal influences in the world of birth activism, I have quoted her work more times than I can count. In fact, I judge the quality of a book by the number of pages I dog-ear to return to. I turned down the corners of so many pages in A Passion for Birth, that it will take me a year’s worth of blog posts to share all the provocative quotes that caught my attention! While Sheila always included a personal flavor in her other books, this book is truly about her, her life, her passions, her family, her activism, her work. Interwoven throughout is the social justice oriented thread of her absolutely devoted dedication to women, feminism, and childbirth activism. Her book is very real, relatable, and readable as well as often charming. She doesn’t hold back from treading into controversial waters, however, and she is straightforward and unapologetic even when writing about topics that can be divisive in the birth world.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the full-color series of photos in the center insert to the book, they range from Kitzinger’s childhood, a homebirth picture of the birth of one of her daughters, and ending with a poignant photo of Sheila’s casket, decorated by her family, resting easily on some chairs in the dining room of home she so loved.

An internationally recognized author and expert, Kitzinger was an anthropologist and one of the first professional people to acknowledge that women’s birth wisdom, stories, and experiences are worthy of study and attention. Spanning an impressive career of more than fifty years, Kitzinger’s anthropological and activist work was undertaken at a global level and her clear and unwavering commitment to social justice work and activism is a thread running strongly throughout her entire autobiography. The book takes us from Sheila writing and studying while sitting in a playpen in her yard (an effort to have a work area undisturbed by her five children!) to traveling with her family to Jamaica to study the birth customs and stories of the women there. Her identity as an anthropologist is clearly reflected in the cross-cultural birth experiences she surveys and describes and the autobiography includes lots of travel! It also includes homey touches like favorite recipes and descriptions of family traditions as well as stories of her own four homebirths, including that of twin daughters. I found myself wanting more content about her life with children, her life as a mother, which, while acknowledged and integrated through the text, was curiously absent from much of the narrative’s exploration. I was also curious to know more about the accident and serious brain injury experienced by her daughter Polly, which was mentioned somewhat incidentally (though it clearly had a significant impact on the family), as was the passing mention in a photo caption referencing her husband Uwe’s eye removal surgery.

Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in birth work, birth activism, feminist studies, women’s health, or anthropology, A Passion for Birth was compelling, inspirational, funny, straightforward, assertive, honest, candid, wry and dedicated.

“The way we give birth is an expression of culture. It can be spontaneous and instinctual, but it is still patterned by the society in which we live.”

–Sheila Kitzinger

Stay tuned for an ongoing series of themed posts based on additional content and thought-provoking quotes!

In a pioneering career spanning more than 50 years she campaigned for and oversaw a radical change in maternity care, placing women’s rights and choices at the very heart of childbirth. Her passion, research and knowledge of childbirth have had enormous impact on millions of women worldwide.

A Passion for Birth | Sheila Kitzinger | Pinter & Martin Publishers.

Publishing and purchasing details: 

Author: Sheila KitzingerSheila
Published: 7 May 2015
Binding: hardback
Format: 240 x 160 mm
Pages: 384
Illustrations: colour and b/w photographs
Pinter & Martin edition available: worldwide
Translation rights: Pinter & Martin

Also available from: Amazon.co.uk | Wordery | The Hive | Waterstones | Foyles | Mail Bookshop | Amazon.com

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

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Once in a Blue Moon…

11754674_1017047968347472_5569625733581356394_oSince July 31 is a Blue Moon, we decided to have fun with a special discount code offer. This is our best discount ever–it will only happen once in a blue moon! 😉

Also, remember to sign up for the Brigid’s Grove Newsletter for resources, monthly freebies, + art and workshop announcements. We’ve got a Birth Chakra Spiral Blessing handout coming up as the freebie in August (perfect for hanging by your birth altar!)

 

Red Tent Initiation Program Launch

Mollyblessingway 372Following the spiral path of maiden, mother, and crone…

Do you want to take a journey into a deeper understanding of yourself? Do you wish to unlock insight and understanding? Do you want to reach out to other women in sisterhood and co-create a powerful circle experience?

This new online program is both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles. You will listen to your deep self, access your inner wisdom and prepare to step into circle as guardian and guide for other women who are hungering for depth, connection, restoration, and renewal in today’s busy world.

This intensive course is limited to 15 women, to allow for deep connection and dedicated attention.

August 29-October 12, 2015

Your online experience includes…

  • Asix week immersive journey over the course of the spiral path
    • Knowing Self (Maiden Unit)
    • Might of Creation (Mother Unit)
    • Gathering the Women (Crone Unit)
  • Each unit includes a ceremony, meditations, discussion questions, journaling exercises, projects, and prompts designed to take you deep into the Red Tent process.
  • Live interaction, support, feedback, and conversation via a private Facebook group

With your registration, you will also receive an incredible resource package valued at more than $100 including:

  • 58 page manual: Restoring Women to Ceremony, The Red Tent Resource Kit, written exclusively for our Red Tent redtentkitKit and Initiation Program. In this collection of essays and ritual resources, you will find a complete Red Tent “recipe,” circle leadership basics, moontime musings, and readings, quotes, and poems to help you facilitate a rich, inviting, welcoming, creative space for the women of your community.
  • Womanrunes Book and Card set: used throughout the program for personal guidance and self-development. And, perfect for ongoing use in an inspiration and renewal corner at your Red Tent Circle.
  • Red Tent Goddess Sculpture: symbolic of self-care and of both receiving and giving.
  • Carnelian Pendulum
  • Moontime pendant with silver-tone, solid crescent moon charm
  • Red altar cloth
  • Red organza bag to store your resources
  • Altar Candle
  • Head wreath kit and tutorial
  • Special Red Tent Circle Leader initiation gift (to be opened only upon program completion!)
  • Red silken cord
  • Moon or spiral goddess pendant

After your process is complete you will also receive:

  • Certificate of Completion
  • Ritual Recipe Kit e-book
  • Circle-ready digital files of the rich meditations and insightful readings used in the program
  • Ongoing support and guidance through continued participation in our private Facebook group

Mollyblessingway 238For inspiration on your own path, feel free to listen our local Red Tent Circle singing the beautiful chant Dance in a Circle of Women during our May Circle

Register via our website or check out via Etsy here.