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Tuesday Tidbits: International Day of the Midwife

IMG_4848Today is International Day of the Midwife and I find myself reflecting on the many midwives I have known and the incredibly diversity and gifts of the women who join this profession. In addition to the midwives I had for prenatal and postpartum care for each of my births, I’ve been privileged to know many midwives on the state and national level through our shared interest in maternity care activism and birth rights. With my first baby, I had prenatal and birth care with a family practice physician and a CPM. The CPM was gray-haired, pretty, soft-spoken and wryly witty and pretty much exactly what you picture a stereotypical midwife looking like! My prenatal care with this team was excellent, birth care so-so (I didn’t need much), but my postpartum care left a lot to be desired and I felt very cast adrift after the birth. I became very embroiled with midwifery activism and birth work after this birth and as a result my experiences with all subsequent midwives has been an interesting blend of collegial + consumer. My first birth was the only one for which I was consumer only. Though I’m not a midwife myself, my subsequent experiences all involved being a sister birthworker AND client, rather than solely a client. This has both benefits and disadvantages.

My midwife with my second baby was amazing. I loved her so much and I have felt a gap in every pregnancy following that I was not able to have her as a midwife again. She was gentle and caring and passionate and inspiring and wonderful. Cute and upbeat, full-figured, and intelligent, she had a soft and reassuring presence and gave wonderful hugs! We became good friends and she was a very important part of my life. My prenatal care and birth care with her was excellent. She was also helpful with postpartum care, but I don’t think I “allowed” her to be as helpful as she could have been because I couldn’t allow myself to be as vulnerable and needy as I actually felt.

When I was pregnant with my third baby, my much-loved midwife had moved away and found myself at a loss for who to choose for pregnancy and birth care. This baby died early in my second trimester and I found myself calling on the sisterhood of midwives for help when I desperately needed it. From the very busy midwife who talked to me kindly and patiently when I was freaking out over a retained placenta, to the Mennonite midwife who helped me from the road as she was driving to another state and connected me to yet another midwife several hours away who drove in to town to meet and help me when I was very scared and alone, it was during this experience that I realized very viscerally how much we need midwives in our lives. When I was pregnant again, I decided to choose the Mennonite midwife for my prenatal care and immediate postpartum care. She is a very capable and determined and intelligent midwife, but I felt an unbridgeable gap between us spiritually speaking and so was never able to fully connect with her emotionally. She embodied the gray-haired, no-nonsense “granny midwife” archetype. She provided great prenatal care and was very respectful of my wish for immediate postpartum care, but an unassisted birth. Postpartum follow-up care was limited due to snowstorms.

With my last baby, I felt a powerful need to feel taken care of again. I really needed to have some set aside time, Mollyblessingway 027space, and energy that was just focused on me and my baby. I knew that I needed a midwife! While I could have used the same midwife as with the baby before, this time it was important to me to develop the emotional connection I had with my second midwife—I needed a midwife with whom I could feel “safe” with all of me, instead of feeling like I had to hide my goddess sculptures when she came over! 😉 It took some work, but I was able to find that. With this experience, I came to accept that the blur between colleague-consumer is my reality and I will never re-capture the feeling of being client only and being completely focused on in that respect, because I’m simply not just a client only. That’s okay. This midwife has long brown hair, wears lots of skirts and had the hippie-ish midwife feel I was craving. She is funny and talkative and connected to the roots of what midwifery is all about. I was safe with her in the way I needed. I really appreciated the midwife’s prenatal care (and the opportunity to focus on my pregnancy and baby), her respect of my wish for immediate postpartum care rather than birth care, and her postpartum follow-up care. I felt like this midwife offered the most complete postpartum care of all of my birth experiences.

I’ve mentioned before that the only vaginal exam I had during six pregnancies was at ten centimeters dilated when I went to the birth center to push out my baby (I also had to have one for a manual clot extraction following his birth and one for help removing the placenta after my miscarriage-birth of my third baby). This is totally cool with me. Somehow I’ve managed to labor and birth four full-term babies without ever knowing how dilated I am in labor! So, I loved reading this article about the pointlessness of vaginal exams in labor and the cultural attachment, even in midwifery circles, to cervix-focused childbirth:

“…There is also reluctance to change hospital policies, underpinned by a need to maintain cultural norms. The Cochrane review on the use of partograms on the one hand states that they cannot be recommended for use during ‘standard labour care’, and on the other hand states: “Given the fact that the partogram is currently in widespread use and generally accepted, it appears reasonable, until stronger evidence is available, that partogram use should be locally determined.” Once again, an intervention implemented without evidence requires ‘strong’ evidence before it is removed. The reality is that we are unlikely to get what is considered ‘strong evidence’ (ie. randomised controlled trials) due to research ethics and the culture of maternity systems. Guidelines for care in labour continue to advocate ‘4 hourly VEs’ and reference each other rather than any actual research to support this (NICE, Queensland Health). Interesting whilst Queensland Health guidelines recommend 4 hourly VEs, their parent information leaflet states: “While a VE can provide information about how a woman has progressed so far in labour, it cannot predict how much longer you will be in labour…” and that there are “…other factors such as the strength, duration and length of contractions as well as a woman’s behaviour and wellbeing that can indicate progress in labour”. Which begs the question ‘why bother doing a VE’?

The cervical-centric discourse is so embedded that it is evident everywhere. Despite telling women to ‘trust themselves’ and ‘listen to their body’, midwives define women’s labours in centimetres “She’s not in labour, she’s only 2cm dilated”. We do this despite having many experiences of cervixes misleading us ie. being only 2cm and suddenly a baby appears, or being 9cm and no baby for hours. Women’s birth stories are often peppered with cervical measurements “I was 8cm by the time I got to the hospital”. Even women choosing birth outside of the mainstream maternity system are not immune to the cervical-centric discourse. Regardless of previous knowledge and beliefs, once in labour women often revert to cultural norms (Machin & Scamell 1997). Women want to know their labour is progressing and there is a deep subconscious belief that the cervix can provide the answer. Most of the VEs I have carried out in recent years have been at the insistence of labouring women – women who know that their cervix is not a good indicator of ‘where they are at’ but still need that number. One woman even said “I know it doesn’t mean anything but I want you to do it”. Of course, her cervix was still fat and obvious (I didn’t estimate dilatation)… her baby was born within an hour…”

Vaginal examinations: a symptom of a cervical-centric birth culture | MidwifeThinking

I also read this article about the now late, great midwife and activist, Sheila Kitzinger and how she connected her birthwork to feminism (as do I). I despise the article’s title, but it is still worth a read!

…In the Seventies, I was viewed as a radical for saying that birth was being depersonalised and treated as if it were a pathological event, rather than a normal life process.

To my surprise, it wasn’t just obstetricians who dismissed what I had to say. I also found myself in conflict with feminists, who saw birth in very simplistic terms.

Why? Because they claimed it was every woman’s right to give birth painlessly.

An article in Spare Rib, the radical campaigning feminist magazine, went further.

Without any evidence, the authors asserted: ‘Undoubtedly, hospitals, with all their faults, are the safest places in which to give birth. For this reason, we think we should press for improvements in hospitals rather than support a move to more home confinements.’

I was appalled at how my sister-feminists could fail to support woman-centred birth. Polly Toynbee, writing in The Guardian, was particularly virulent, dismissing me as a lentil-eating earth goddess…

via Sheila Kitzinger on why feminists HATE natural childbirth and why it’s harmful | Daily Mail Online.

Lentil-eating earth goddesses unite! Unlike Kitzinger’s experiences with the distance between some expressions of feminism and birth-care, I find that many midwives, whether explicitly or implicitly, understand the deep connection between midwifery care, birth activism, and feminism.

“Midwifery work is feminist work. That is to say, midwives recognize that women’s health care has been subordinated to men’s care by a historically male, physician-dominated medical industry. Midwifery values woman-centered care and puts mothers’ needs first. Though not all midwives embrace the word feminism (the term admittedly carries some baggage), I maintain that providing midwifery care is an expression of feminism’s core values (that women are people who have intrinsic rights).

–Jon Lasser, in Diversity & Social Justice in Maternity Care as an Ethical Concern, Midwifery Today, issue 100, Winter 2011/2012

via Midwifery & Feminism | Talk Birth

Perhaps this is because midwives care so deeply about mothers and feminists might actually make the best mothers…

…As a mother who works extensively with other mothers, I appreciated Caron’s acknowledgement that raising children is a feminist act with potential to create change as well. “Another strategy for change is through raising children to be just and caring people. A media image portrays feminists as being against motherhood—but in fact, feminists make the best mothers. They raise children aware of themselves and the world, of options and values, of what justice means and how to work toward it, and how to be self-critical and self-respecting” (p. 203-204). Caron also explains that “in a just society, women would be free to make whatever decisions they needed to, for however long they needed to, in relation to political action in the public and the private sphere. All people would participate in the decision-making, and women would be supported in their decisions rather than, as sometimes happens, made to feel guilty for not doing enough or not valued for what they do.”

via Thesis Tidbits: Feminism, Midwifery, and Motherhood | Talk Birth.

dayofmidwifeHappy International Day of the Midwife! Thank you for bearing witness to our journeys and for holding the space for the continually unfolding spiral of life.

“…As we ready ourselves to accept new life into our hands,
Let us be reminded of our place in the dance of creation.
Let us be protectors of courage.
Let us be observers of beauty.
Let us be guardians of the passage.
Let us be witnesses to the unfolding…”

—Cathy Moore (in Sisters Singing)

via National Midwifery Week! | Talk Birth.

In addition to midwives, we’re also celebrating mothers all week this week! First on our lineup of activities is our gift to you: our first ever coupon code for $5 off purchases over $15. Use code: MOTHER.

We’ve also got a giveaway upcoming, two new product launches, a new Facebook group, and two class announcements! Stay tuned…

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Baby in My Heart (trigger: miscarriage)

“There is no footprint so small that it does not leave an imprint on the world.”

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the death-birth of my third baby, the tiny four-inch boy we named Noah. I will never forget touching his face and seeing his mouth drop open and looking at the translucent skin of his chest and seeing the small organs beneath, marveling at the complexity and intricacy of development that had taken place. I don’t post today because I need condolences or sympathy, this loss is not raw for me, but is instead finely woven into the fabric of my life. I post today simply in acknowledgement and memory. I also post in gratitude because as I look at the long, curly hair and bright blue eyes of Alaina and I snuggle the sweet, warm, perfection of newborn Tanner, I feel like it was Noah who brought them both to me, who opened our family up to welcome them, as well as who cracked me open to understandings, experiences, purposes, and paths I wouldn’t have had without birthing him. I also feel acutely aware that not all women have the “happy ending” to their pregnancy loss journeys that I’ve been lucky enough to have and I post too in awareness, honor, and respect for them.

IMG_9605.JPGOn the morning of November 5th this year, I woke up early and as I laid there nursing Tanner, I kept thinking of the miscarriage drawing I did following my second miscarriage (February of 2010). I thought about the friends I have whose losses are still raw and agonizing as well as the women I know who are longing to conceive. I thought about my image of the bridge and how we have to cross it alone, but that there are sisters waiting on the other side and sometimes new babies too. I also thought about how I felt so separated from other pregnant women and how very difficult that was for me. Here is the drawing, with my original explanation copied from my miscarriage blog:

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[I was taking the Birth Art class at the same time as my second miscarriage]…I felt immediately drawn to creating art about the m/c experience. Birth Art is about “process,” not product, so it is not supposed to be beautiful or even interpretable. The above is what I drew. The dice refer to our feeling of “tossing the dice” one more time—the numbers 3 and 4 show on the dice—and having those tosses end in blood. The question mark is self-explanatory with the squiggles representing all my reading and efforts to understand. The night I realized that I definitely going to have another m/c, I lay in bed and kept picturing a bridge that I was going to have to cross alone—-leaving behind the safe and familiar. A song kept running through my head, “keep walking in the light….keep following the path…” So, the little figure walking across the bridge is that. Tears are running down below her. The little bubble with other stick figures in it is the women who have gone before me—who are close, but I still have to cross alone. The happy pregnant woman behind me represents the “other side”—the one I can’t go back to. The naivety. The certainty that a positive pregnancy test will result in a baby nine months later. She is all the other women who haven’t “been there” and I am forever separated from her by a wall the thick line above her head. Or, she is the former me—falling down, down, down and away. The the right is my uterus, weeping both tears and blood. The ovaries and inside the uterus glow with energy. There are some purple dots inside to represent each of my babies—the largest one is actually a little “baby in my heart” image, like my pendant…

via Miscarriage Art | Footprints on My Heart.

I actually wrote this current post with one finger on my ipad on Nov. 5th and scheduled it for today, but then this morning I woke up and saw an image on Facebook from the new book The Heart of the Labyrinth. It spoke to me of my miscarriage journeys as well as subsequent pregnancy and life-path journeys.

20141107-094214-34934964.jpgThe image also caught my eye because I was honored to write an endorsement for the book itself, which is a lovely, lyrical story about a woman’s spiritual journey (plus, it is a call to action for us all). I read it on our trip to Chicago in September and today is its official launch at a conference in Dubai. (Nice work, Womancraft Publishing!)

After I shared the image on my Facebook page, I saw my doula shared a link on my wall. I went to look at it and…same image! I have actually received postpartum care from Summer after three births–Noah’s was the first, then Alaina, and now Tanner too. Anyway, she wrote this:

Molly, I woke up thinking of you and Noah this morning. When I saw Lucy’s post, I wanted to make sure you saw because it eloquently conveys some of my thoughts. I feel so very humbled and privileged to have seen some of your warrior moments….the triumphant, joyful warrior and the heartbroken but surviving warrior. Always, I hope you are able to remember that the strength is in ALL those moments, often when you feel the weakest.
Sweet Noah will always be remembered. For a tiny person who lived a too-brief life, he had (and continues to have) such a huge impact on so many lives. He lives on in the legacy of love, truth, sharing, and vulnerability that you built after his birth/death…

As is my tradition on my kids’ birthdays, here is the link to Noah’s birth story: Noah’s Birth Story Warning: Miscarriage/Baby Loss | Talk Birth. A couple of years ago, I converted my miscarriage blog into a book, which is available on Kindle here: Footprints on My Heart: A Memoir of Miscarriage & Pregnancy After Loss eBook.

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Sacred Postpartum, Week 2: Ceremonial Bathing

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My Sacred Postpartum class began last week, though this is my first post about it. One of the assignments this week was to prepare a ceremonial bath.

Despite the deceptively simple sound of the assignment, this bath was an incredibly surprising and illuminating experience. I originally put off doing it because I had “too much to do” and then when I started getting it ready and setting up a little altar and doing the smudging, I felt both nervous and kind of apprehensive. I told my husband, “I think this is the first real bath I’ve ever really taken.” I’m not really a bath person. I took baths as a little kid and then moved on to showers and never took baths again except while postpartum with each of my kids. 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. I associate baths with crying and holding my empty belly after the death-birth of my third baby in my second trimester. In fact, the last bath I remember ever taking in my current home was the one following his birth in which I sobbed my sorrow into the water and bled away the last traces of my baby’s life. (I think I probably did take a postpartum bath after the birth of my rainbow daughter the following year, but I don’t have a memory of it. The only bath I remember ever taking in this house was my post-loss, grief bath.) I associate baths with strings of blood and mucous floating away from me through the water and feeling injured, hurt, damaged and invalid. Deconstructed, taken apart. Lost. Shaking. Barely being able to lift my legs to get myself back out. Having to call for help and be dried off. Hollow. Changed forever.

For this bath, I set up an altar space, turned on my Sacred Pregnancy playlist, smudged the room and the tub. My husband brought me my October 2014 004mother’s tea (a blend I made last week with friends using the recipe intended for later in this class). I added salts from the salt bowl ceremony at my Mother Blessing. I added a little bit of my sitz bath mix. I added almond milk and honey. My husband went and picked a rose and scattered the petals in on top of me after I was in the tub. As I settled into my milk and honey bath, I felt restless at first, but then I calmed and my mind became more still. I went through my previous bath memories and I cried a little bit. I completely relaxed and sank lower into the water. I touched my body gently and honored what she has given and where she has been wounded. I rubbed my wiggling belly and talked to my baby about having a gentle, easy, smooth birth with a gradual emergence. My thoughts turned to my possible plans for water birth for this baby. I realized that my own “weak and wounded” bath memories are probably, in part, related to why I don’t feel particularly attracted to water birth (though I wasn’t really attracted before I ever had any kids either, so it isn’t all related to those past bath experiences). Can I be strong and powerful in the water, or is that just where I bleed and cry? I’ve been planning to try water during this upcoming birth because I’ve never done it before and because it might help prevent the issues with tearing that I’ve had in the past. However, I have had trouble actually picturing myself doing it. As I stilled into this peaceful, non-wounded, ceremonial bath, I could picture a safe, secure water birth better than ever before.

And, later that night we set this up in the living room…

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(glowing pumpkin head courtesy of the kids decorating for Halloween, not for Sacred Atmosphere!)

And, to finish the assignments for this week’s class, we made and enjoyed Thai sweet tea for dessert after dinner!

Sacred Pregnancy Week 4: Honoring, Sealing, & Postpartum Care

“I am the strength of all women who have ever birthed a baby and I am ready to join that tribe.”

–Anni Daulter (Sacred Pregnancy)

August 2014 055Me to my husband last night: “so, I know I might look like I’m just dancing around with flowers in my hair, but I’m really getting certified.”

<Mark wisely refrains from wide-open joke opportunity>

Yesterday, I finished the last assignments for my Sacred Pregnancy class. While I primarily took this class for personal reasons and am glad I did because I truly think it was the absolute BEST thing I could have done for myself to get ready for Tanner, to spend some time focused on my pregnancy, and to get ready for another mindful birth and postpartum experience. I have also completed all the work needed to be a Certified Sacred Pregnancy Mini-Retreat Instructor. On October 1st, I start the Sacred Postpartum training program—again with a dual purpose of personal enrichment and professional development.

I completed some of the activities out-of-order and finished the silk painting and honoring crown from week 3 in conjunction with the postpartum and “sealing” work of week 4.

I chose to use my drumstick as my stick around which to wrap my silk, since the drum is one way I express myself. Bringing the words painted on the silk into my drumming seemed like a logical companion. My silk power was bold fearlessness! Zander and Alaina also worked on small pieces of silk with me.

I’d delayed making the flower crown I thought because I’d told myself that I’ve already had several flower crowns at different ceremonies and so making another one for “no reason” felt kind of redundant. However, after I finished my second silk painting, I looked behind me and saw some wildflowers and I realized I did want to make a crown and I wanted to be with real flowers and not artificial. I’d been going to do artificial since I have some and thought then I could at least check it off the list. I don’t like fake flowers though, I like real ones. As soon as I realized that there were enough wildflowers scattered around the yard that I could make a real one, I got excited about the idea. My daughter helped me find and cut the flowers and then we put it together. And, then took some picture with my new silk and the crown together.

“The first few months after a baby comes can be a lot like floating in a jar of honey—very sweet and golden, but very sticky too.” –American College of Nurse-Midwives

I love the idea of a post-birth sealing ceremony SO much. This is similar to a mother blessing, but it is held postpartum to help “seal” the birth experience and welcome the baby and the mother into motherhood (or mother of however-many-children-hood). Absolutely wonderful. I also love the song Standing on the Edge from the Sacred Pregnancy CD. I identify with it so much as I prepare for my next birth as well as to welcome a new baby who I wasn’t expecting to have. As I’ve noted often in recent blog posts, I’m working very hard to wrap up a variety of projects so that I can cocoon with my new baby and give him and me the time and space I know we will need after birth. I have gotten better and better at taking care of myself postpartum, in asking for what I need, and getting very, very clear with my support people about what is most important to me.

We actually made the flax pillows for the sealing ceremony at the beginning of the week and then used them on Sunday (Alaina and I made the PPD tincture together the same day as the pillows). My husband tucked me in with the flax pillows and scarf and draped the silk painting across me as well. I lit my pregnancy candles and listened to Standing at the Edge. I spoke aloud the things I celebrate myself for–all the projects and children I have given birth to.

As I was setting up my wrap and pillows, my almost-11-year-old son had said he’d like to do it too. So, after my own sealing experience, each of my kids in turn got sealed in the scarf with the flax pillows. And, then they went and got my husband and we sealed him too! For each, I offered a blessing: “I’m glad you were born. I’m glad you are my son/daughter/husband. I love you. Thank you.” I placed my hands on different parts of their bodies as I spoke and then ended with kiss on the forehead. They all loved it and were very calm and contemplative. I think it was good for all of us and was, in its way, a “sealing” of their births and our relationship.

While I always have had a mother blessing ceremony before the baby’s birth, this time I’m going to make sure to do a postpartum sealing ceremony as well. The birth I actually sealed most consciously was the second trimester birth-death of my third son. On my due date with him, which also happened to be my birthday, I did a ceremony outside by our little labyrinth and the tree where we buried him. I spoke aloud, “I am not pregnant anymore,” and took time to hold and honor the powerful, honorable, birth and release I’d given him.

I’ve written a lot about my own postpartum thoughts, experiences, and feelings and they are grouped under the appropriate category on my blog here.

I also want to share a picture of my new mother-of-four goddess pendant! This pendant, too, has been part of my personal emotional preparation to integrate the new baby into my maternal identity. It took a long time for us to get the cast right for this sculpt and I’m so happy to have it to wear now.

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 The Sacred Pregnancy online retreat training experience was a very positive one. Lots of personal benefit as well as professional development! I’m so glad I decided to go for it!
August 2014 070Past posts in this series:

Sacred Pregnancy Week 1, Part 1: Sacred Space

Sacred Pregnancy, Week 1, Part 2: Connecting

Sacred Pregnancy Week 3, Part 1: Fears & Forgiveness

Sacred Pregnancy Week 3, Part 2: Empowerment and Self-Care

 

 

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.

Sacred Pregnancy, Week 1, Part 2: Connecting

2.3

The focus of the second part of the first week of Sacred Pregnancy training was about connection. This was perfect, because I keep feeling like I have been going through the motions of being pregnant. My head still feels disconnected from my body and the physical experience. The baby is “distant” and still feels more like an “idea” than a reality. I really, really, really had “closed out” that chapter mentally and it is taking a lot of work to open the closed space back up. And, yet, as I worked through this section, I realized that almost everything I’ve done this year has intentionally and consciously been undertaken in order to make room for this baby and in preparation to give him and myself what I know we will need, which is times to ourselves to rest and to just be together. I have been driving myself very hard this year and especially in the last couple of months to finish many big projects and this is because I’m trying to give myself what I know I will need. I’m working hard to allow myself to pause and rest, when I didn’t expect to have to do so.

Also, the whole process of our business evolving and growing this year is directly connected to this process of my pregnancy. They were conceived and have grown alongside each other. My “pregnancy journal” this pregnancy is in the projects I have co-created and birthed with my husband over this year. This baby’s development is inextricably linked to the development of our shared business together. My efforts to pull in and to integrate my projects together under the Brigid’s Grove umbrella, while still an ongoing process, are connected to pulling in my resources and my very soul to welcome this baby.

I listened to Nina Lee’s Child and Mother song with my eyes closed, one hand on my belly and the other on my heart, in the heart-to-heart meditation process described in the course. My eyes were filled with tears. I love you. I want you. You are welcome here.

Speaking of “this baby,” we did name him some time ago, though we haven’t shared it with many people. His name is Tanner. His middle name will probably be Matthias, after an ancestor, though we have also looked at Malachi as a possibility. I was driving to class one day before I knew whether the baby was a boy or a girl and thinking about how I needed a boy name too and not just a girl name. I had told Mark that I knew I wanted a tree or woods-related name for him and as I was looking at the beautiful trees lining my drive, I knew it: Forest. What a great name! I was so excited to have “found it.” Then, on the way home again, “uh. oh. Forrest Gump. Oh no! I can’t use it after all.” We talked it over at home and Mark vetoed it immediately because of the Forrest Gump connection.  After we found out the baby was boy, we talked over names all the way home from St. Louis and I suggested Tanner as a possibility (briefly considered Tannen instead to better blend with our last name, but then thought of Biff Tannen of, “Hello!, McFly!” fame from Back to the Future and decided not to use it). This way we will have Lann, Zan, and Tan–who could resist?! Tanner actually surfaces on every baby name list I’ve created since 2003, when I was pregnant with our first baby, and is one of the few names on those lists that stands without having ever been crossed off (Alaina’s name also appears on said lists since 2003, even though we didn’t get to use it until 2011!). Anyway, I looked it up later and in addition to referring to the actual profession of a tanner, it is also from the German word for pine tree or…forest.

The other core work for this section was on messages about birth that we wish we would have received (or wish we would receive)…

Sacred Pregnancy Week 1, Part 1: Sacred Space

“Pregnancy often flies by before we have a chance to truly reflect on the miracle of it all.”

–Bonnie Goldberg (in The Art of Pregnancy)

Last week I started the online Sacred Pregnancy retreat training. This has been on my wish list of things to do for a long time and it shows up on my 100 Things list for the year as well. I purposely waited until this training though, rather than doing the earlier spring training, because of how it corresponds to my pregnancy. I’m 29 weeks today and in the third trimester! (What happened?!) I really want to experience this class from the perspective of Pregnant Woman as well as facilitator. I need some “time out” to focus on my new baby and to just be together with him and the process of being pregnant instead of caught up in the rest of my schedule. I feel like this online retreat class is a gift to myself. I remember as far back as my second pregnancy feeling like I needed something more. The regular old birth books and charts of fetal development and nutrition facts and birth plan worksheets didn’t cut it anymore (do they ever?). I had the same experience in teaching birth classes–yes, I could cover stages of labor and birth positions, but what about the heart of birth. What about the “mystery”? What about those unknown lessons in excavating one’s own depths? What about that part of birth and life that only she knows?  I find that Birthing from Within speaks to this heart of birth and so does Sacred Pregnancy.

The first part of the class is about creating sacred space and about creating a “pregnancy practice.” and I really wanted to make my candle and altar for and with my new baby and so that’s what I did. It was very valuable to me to center inward, in this way that I’ve been needing for a while now.

I worked on the candle with Alaina’s help, even though I originally envisioned working on it alone. I created a red candle because I already made a tall white intention candle at the beginning of the year and collaged it like my “vision board” for the year, so I wanted to do something different for this experience.

August 2014 061I used amethyst beads around the top because I have felt a strong attraction towards amethysts during this pregnancy. I used beads and charms from Brigid’s Grove, with the tree as a center point because it is an important symbol for us. The is a deep connection between this baby, the progress of my pregnancy, and the development and growth of our shared business. I chose red because it is a “power color” to me and reminds me of the blood, potency, and energy of birth as well as of the placenta.

I’ve gotten much better over the last year or so at intentional altar building and really delighted in the creation of my sacred space while listening to the recorded lessons for the class and also the Sacred Pregnancy CD. The CD is awesome and I wish I would have purchased it a long time ago! It is just what I need to incorporate some sacred pregnancy, centering, and “pregnancy practice” into my day. I like how I can turn on a favorite song while brushing my teeth, for example, and have that ordinary moment be transformed into a body-honoring, self-care, pregnancy “tune in” moment. I bought a very powerful song, Birthright, from her second CD as well.

August 2014 050

On the altar I put items that are special to me from past blessingways, as well as sculptures that I’ve made. I also painted a little wooden sign that says “laugh,” because I feel like in all my big push to finish so many projects before I have the baby, I’m not having very much fun! The paper I painted the wooden sign on show the outline of the letters and that is the part that actually shows up in this picture (the wooden part is behind the candle and at the bottom of the white “laugh” painting).

August 2014 053

“No matter how many pictures of fetuses you look at or how many scientific facts you ingest, pregnancy remains a stunning, not-quite-possible-to-grasp marvel, a naked connection to the enigma of life. You can’t escape the awe—and why would you want to?”

–Jennifer Louden, The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book (quoted in Celebrating Motherhood)