Archives

Sacred Postpartum: Happy Tea + 40 Week Update

October 2014 021
After having already made Happy Mama tea with my friends at our family’s work party early in October, this past weekend we engaged in more tea-making adventures at the work party at my parents’ house. I had no idea how empowering it would feel to make my own tea blends. The Happy Mama tea based on our class recipe is exactly what I need. I adore it! I don’t have all of the ingredients in the original recipe, so the modified recipe blend I use is as follows:

2 cups each of alfalfa, motherwort, red raspberry leaf, nettle and one cup of cinnamon.*

After we made it the first time, two of my friends wrote to me independently saying, “this tea feels like something I need!” And, that is exactly, how I felt about it myself. It lifts my mood and feels like it replenishes something in me that I have been needing. The herbs used are intended for hormonal balancing, anxiety and stress reduction, calming, and immune system support. Until this class, I’ve never made my own tea blends or used loose tea. That has changed!

Here are some pix from our adventures:

And, we had a mini tea ceremony…

October 2014 018May You Never Thirst!

October 2014 020

(*Due to the uterine stimulant properties of some of the ingredients in this tea, it should not be enjoyed by pregnant women until they are close to full term.)

After the work party, we went to a Halloween party. Unfortunately, I didn’t re-discover this CBE teaching shirt until the following day or I would have worn it!

October 2014 026

Yesterday marked the first “due date” I’ve ever reached without already having my baby in arms!

40 weeks mama for first time ever!

I’ve been saying for a long time that I wouldn’t have been surprised to have him early AND I wouldn’t be surprised to have him late. However, I would also say, I wouldn’t be surprised to have him very close to or on his due date, since that is my pattern with my other kids (39w5d, on due date, and 39w5d). Note how very neatly I covered all of my possible bases, so that no matter what, my “intuition” on the subject will be impeccable! 😉 However, I don’t think that in my heart I ever pictured really going past the day. I don’t feel disappointed/distressed over it, more like BONUS! However, I also hope he doesn’t get the “bonus” message TOO long and wait until November. Then, I might be singing a different tune. I also want to make sure he knows that it is okay to be born and that, despite what I may have said several times, we ARE ready for him to join us. I really expected him on October 25th as very likely and I did have lots of pre-labor that day. I really only picture a nighttime birth too, so whenever I wake up still pregnant, I feel pretty confident that I have an entire bonus day ahead of me. At 39w6d I made good use of my “bonus day” by creating six new sculpture prototypes. I listed to Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly on audio book while I worked. I am over the moon about how very much fun it is to be able to “read” and do something else at the same time. It is like a miracle. I wish I would have gotten a library card for this purpose a very long time ago! My sculpture prototypes (not in order of picture) are for a new nursing mama, miscarriage mama, cesarean birth mama, VBAC mama, birthing goddess, and possibilities goddess:

October 2014 089

This will give Mark plenty to do while I sit in the recliner and nurse the new baby!

For my bonus day at 40 weeks, I got my online class all launched and all introduction messages responded to (yes, the new school session started on my due date). I also, thankfully, remembered that my January syllabus is due November 2 and was my own best friend and got it finished and submitted yesterday afternoon rather than scrambling to prepare it with a newborn in arms.

I find that when you are a 40 weeks pregnant birth blogger, you may find yourself paying special attention to lots of the details of the day just in case these details turn out to be the beginning of a birth story. Last night, I felt very much pre-laborish again—lot of low back ache and millions of contractions (regularly every six minutes apart for a couple of hours) that kept going mildly for most of the night. I didn’t sleep well at all and stayed up until 1:30 reading a review copy of The Secrets of Midwives (review actually posted briefly today, but reverted to draft after I found out I need to wait for a new cover image to use for the review).

Today, in addition to lots of little catch-up tasks with emails, etc. I also used my bonus day to add some additional new products to our etsy shop:

New Etsy Pictures 250

New mother-daughter pendant sets!

I also responded to an interview request for an upcoming holiday promotion for etsy that I’m really excited about. And, I turned down an interview request from the PR department at the main campus of the school for which I teach, since they wanted to meet me for lunch on October 30th and I’m virtually certain I will be holding a newborn by that date (right?!).October 2014 055

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. One of the ways I’ve known in the past that I was actually going to recover from my past birth-related injuries is that I have a dream about it and realize that I am getting better and healing okay. To me, these recent dreams about birthing, and nursing, and holding Tanner, indicate that the door that I’ve felt like was “closed” and that I’ve never quite managed to fully open back up during this pregnancy, has, in fact, opened again (at least at the dreamtime level!). It has taken its sweet time to open, but I’ve been patient…

Mother Blessings and the Power of Ritual

Mollyblessingway 116You are the
most powerful
intelligent
inspirational

Woman

Close to my heart.

You continue to
become
exponentially more amazing.

Always giving
others the step UP.

Force of the cosmos
connecting the Web

You are.

Thank you.

–Phanie

 

At the end of September, my friend sat on the floor during my mother blessing ceremony and wrote the above poem for me. When she gave it to me she said, “I’m not like you, I don’t write things and share them on the internet.” It was very powerful to receive the gift of written word from someone who does not often write, but who knows how deeply writing speaks to me. 

My mother’s circle of friends began holding mother blessing ceremonies for each other in the early 1980’s. At the time they called them “blessingways” in honor and respect for the Navajo traditions that inspired them to begin their own tradition. As awareness of cultural appropriation increased, we shifted our language to use “mother blessing ceremony” instead, though I confess that “blessingway” remains the term rooted in my heart for these powerful, mother-honoring celebrations of the power of the life-giving woman. After having been blessed with a ceremony during her last two pregnancies in the late 1980’s and having co-hosted coming-of-age blessing ceremonies for me and my sisters in the 90’s, my mother reintroduced the mother blessing ceremony to my own circle of friends during my first pregnancy in 2003. We’ve been holding them for women in the area ever since. I believe each pregnant woman deserves a powerful ritual acknowledging her transition through pregnancy and birth and into motherhood, regardless of how many children she has.

Early this year, I became unexpectedly pregnant with the baby who will arrive into our arms at the end of October as our fourth living child. I did not intend to have more children and it has been hard for me to re-open the space in my mind, heart, and family to welcome another baby when I had mentally and emotionally “shut the door” and moved on from the childbearing chapter of my life. (However, it turns out that writing blog posts about how you’re not having any more children is not, in fact, an effective means of birth control.)

In the book Rituals for Our Times, the authors Evan Imber-Black and Janine Roberts, identify five elements that make ritual work. Mother blessing ceremonies very neatly fulfill all of the necessary ritual elements (which I would note are not about symbols, actions, and physical objects, but are instead about the relational elements of connection, affection, and relationship):

  1. Relatingthe shaping, expressing, and maintaining of important relationships…established relationships were reaffirmed and new relationship possibilities opened. Many women choose to invite those from their inner circle to their mother blessings. This means of deeply engaging with and connecting with those closest to you, reaffirms and strengthens important relationships. In my own life, I’ve always chosen to invite more women than just those in my “inner circle” and in so doing have found that it is true that new relationship possibilities emerge from the reaching out and inclusion of those who were originally less close, but who after the connection of shared ritual, then became closer friends.
  2. Changingthe making and marking of transitions for self and others. Birth and the entry into motherhood—an intense and permanent life change—is one of life’s most significant transitions in many women’s lives. A blessingway marks the significance of this huge change.
  3. Healingrecovery from loss, special tributes, recovering from fears or scars from previous births or cultural socialization about birth. My mom and some close friends had a meaningful ceremony for me following the death-birth of my third baby. I’ve also planned several mother blessing ceremonies for friends in which releasing fears was a potent element of the ritual.
  4. Believingthe voicing of beliefs and the making of meaning. By honoring a pregnant woman through ceremony, we are affirming that pregnancy, birth, and motherhood are valuable and meaningful rites of passage deserving of celebration and acknowledgement.
  5. Celebratingthe expressing of deep joy and the honoring of life with festivity. Celebrating accomplishments of…one’s very being.

Notice that what is NOT included on this list is any mention of a specific religion, deity, or “should do” list of what color of candle to include! Mollyblessingway 177I’ve observed that many people are starved for ritual, but they may also be deeply scarred from rituals of their pasts. As an example from the planning of a past ceremony, we were talking about one of the songs that we customarily sing–Call Down Blessing–because we weren’t sure if we should include it in case it would feel too “spiritual” or metaphysical for the atheist-identified honoree (i.e. blessings from where?!). I also remembered another friend asking during a body blessing ritual we did at a women’s retreat, “but WHO’s doing the blessing?” As someone who does not personally come a religious framework in which blessings are bestowed from outside sources–i.e. a priest/priestess or an Abrahamic God–the answer, to me, feels simple, well, WE are. We’re blessing each other. When we “call down a blessing” we’re invoking the connection of the women around us, the women of all past times and places, and of the beautiful world that surrounds us. We might each personally add something more to that calling down, but at the root, to me, it is an affirmation of connection to the rhythms and cycles of relationship, time, and place. Blessings come from within and around us all the time, nothing supernatural required.

I also find that it is very possible to plan and facilitate women’s rituals that speak to the “womanspirit” in all of us and do not require a specifically shared spiritual framework or belief system in order to gain something special from the connection with other women.

In the book The Power of RitualRachel Pollack explains:

“Ritual opens a doorway in the invisible wall that seems to separate the spiritual and the physical. The formal quality of ritual allows us to move into the space between the worlds, experience what we need, and then step back and once more close the doorway so we can return to our lives enriched.”

She goes on to say:

You do not actually have to accept the ideas of any single tradition, or even believe in divine forces at all, to take part in ritual. Ritual is a direct experience, not a doctrine. Though it will certainly help to suspend your disbelief for the time of the ritual, you could attend a group ritual, take part in the chanting and drumming, and find yourself transported to a sense of wonder at the simple beauty of it all without ever actually believing in any of the claims made or the Spirits invoked. You can also adapt rituals to your own beliefs. If evolution means more to you than a Creator, you could see ritual as a way to connect yourself to the life force…

In the anthology of women’s rituals, The Goddess Celebrates, wisewoman-birthkeeper, Jeannine Pavarti Baker explains:

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

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

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

As my friends spoke to me at my own mother blessing ceremony, I felt seen and heard. They spoke to me of my own capacities, my Mollyblessingway 190strengths as a leader, teacher, and organizer. And, while I believe they were also actually trying to remind me of the opposite message, to take it easy and relax sometimes, one of the things I woke up the next day realizing is that yes, I do feel overwhelmed and overbooked and stretched thin at times. And, yes, I do whine and complain about it on Facebook sometimes, but in the end, I am always enough for whatever it is. I get it done anyway. I don’t think I’ve ever felt overwhelmed and then not done it (assuming “it” wasn’t a self-imposed expectation that I mercifully realized could be let go of). That is one my strengths: feeling the fear or the strain or the pressure or, yes, the excitement and thrill, and NOT getting paralyzed by it or letting myself off the hook. I work my way through and come out the other side, usually with my smile intact, my energy full, my head bubbling with ideas, and my eyes casting around for the next project. Occasionally, I do drop a ball, but pretty rarely, and when I do, I either find it or explain where it went and why I’m going to let it keep rolling away.

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. I woke up the morning following the ritual in appreciation of my own capacities and how they continue to expand, even when I feel as if I’ve reached my own edges. I actually feel “too much,” “too intense,” “too big,” or “too fast” for people a lot, but what I don’t ever need is to be told to make myself smaller. I usually need to be able to say, “Yikes! What am I thinking?!” have that held for me for a minute, and then do it anyway. Just as those of us deeply invested in birthwork would never tell a laboring woman, “you’re right. You probably can’t do this. You should probably quit now,” my mother blessing ceremony reminded me that I am stretched thin precisely because I have it in me.

Mollyblessingway 258

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

(in The Thundering Years: Rituals and Sacred Wisdom for Teens)

Molly is a priestess, writer, teacher, artist, and activist who lives with her husband and children in central Missouri. She is a doctoral student in women’s spirituality at Ocean Seminary College and the author of Womanrunes: A guide to their use and interpretation. Molly and her husband co-create at Brigid’s Grove: http://brigidsgrove.etsy.com.

Portions of this post are excerpted from our Ritual Recipe Kit booklet.

Adapted from a post at Feminism and Religion.

Other posts about mother blessings can be found here.

All photos by my talented friend Karen Orozco of Portraits and Paws Photography.

Mollyblessingway 372

Ready or Not!

October 2014 116

I woke up this morning thinking that considering how close my due date is to Halloween, I’m surprised I have not managed a pumpkin + belly picture of any kind! So, despite the fact that I am intensely crabby crabbilicious, have a cold, and am wearing ugly clothes, I can now check pumpkin belly picture off my list.

October 2014 113 October 2014 106

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also dreamed I gave birth in a random driveway full of Halloween decorations! I said: “this was my first outdoor birth!” (the baby also had all his teeth, including molars)

Also, non-belly, but here is our annual pumpkin patch picture from our homeschool group outing last week:

October 2014 153The 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????!!!!!

However, I’ve spent the last nine months working towards exactly this…

October 2014 029
(This is what my schedule for this week looked like on Monday)

And, I hit 39 weeks on Monday too!

October 2014 070Look! My mom made matching mother-baby birth socks for us to wear after the birth. 🙂

October 2014 094And, this is how Alaina has been…

October 2014 098(Clingy clingolicious and sleeping like crap)

We realized a couple of weeks ago that we’d better order a couple of key things, like a car seat, to finish getting ready for Tanner. Shortly after, UPS, the mail carrier, and FedEx all came to the door within the space of about thirty minutes and then, same day in the evening, FedEx came AGAIN.

October 2014 011 It is also both fun and a little shocking to see Tanner’s clothes come out of the laundry with the rest of the family’s. He’s really on his way!

New Etsy Pictures 005My final night of in-person class until January was October 7th and my students surprised me on final exam night with a whole bundle of baby presents and said it is in appreciation for everything I’ve given to them and how committed I am. I came very close to crying!

October 2014 004

(I felt a little guilty about their three part comprehensive final exam then!)

My “crunchy mom” student also gave me an amber teething necklace. And, there wasn’t a bottle or pacifier to be found in the bundle of gifts.

A post about American postpartum practices continues to make the rounds on Facebook and when I read this quote…

“The problem is that no one recognizes the new mother as a recuperating person, and she does not see herself as one. For the mourning or the injured, we will activate a meal tree. For the woman who is torturously fatigued, who has lost one 10th of her body’s blood supply, who can scarcely pee for the stitches running up her perineum, we will not.”

Why Are America’s Postpartum Practices So Rough On New Mothers? – The Daily Beast.

…I thought that this is what I am SO not looking forward to doing again any time—the being someone in recuperation. I am healthy and happy and strong while pregnant and it is such a hard adjustment to “suddenly” be weak and wounded. I hate it. I’ve tried to explain to Mark how weird it is to one day be a bopping around pregnant woman and the next day to be having to have someone help you get into the shower and feed you! AND, that said, I have totally excellent postpartum support because it is like my personal obsession to get those needs adequately met after not having a clue how hard it would be after the first baby. Every baby, I have less and less of a birth plan of any kind (other than, “have baby at home”) and a more exhaustively detailed postpartum plan right down to: “I get this kind of tea with this honey in it immediately after the birth.”

One of my friends who shared the article made the interesting observation that perhaps this phenomenon is made worse by the empowerment culture of the homebirth/natural birth community, because of our emphasis on women as strong and capable (which they are). But, perhaps that translates into the assumption, goal, or expectation (either from herself or others) that the mother than then “triumph” over the vulnerability of postpartum just like she can or did during labor and birth. After I thought about this, I went ahead and took my sister-in-law up on her offer to come help me postpartum this time as well. I already have my mom and Mark and my postpartum doula and I have midwifery care. So, when my sister-in-law originally offered I felt like I shouldn’t say yes, also because she has a little baby herself. However, then I thought, bring on the love and help!

Though as I mentioned, I haven’t spent a lot of time making specific or detailed birth plans, I have revisited this past post based on the “what if” thoughts of Leilah McCracken:

Let’s shift the internal dialogue and think “what if?!” in powerful ways: “What if I have the most beautiful experience of my life? What if I could actually feel a wet, moving baby on my belly—just after birth—and fall in love with that feeling forever? What if I give birth and feel pure exhilaration? What will happen if I give birth as a powerful, free woman—what will happen if I claim my right to give birth as my biology impels me to? What if I emerge victorious, free, and powerful? What if—what if my baby never feels anything in her first moments other than my body and my love? What if I push my baby out into my own hands, and pull her up, and kiss her wet head, and cry and moan and weep my joy in private, darkness and love—what if… what if this birth is the most loving, sweet and gentle moment of my life? What if I give birth with wild joy and courageous abandon? What if…”

What If? Shifting the Dialogue of Birth | Talk Birth.

And, I’ve been wondering if going on a massive Unsubscribe From All The Things mission is a type of virtual “nesting”?! (Our non-virtual kitchen cabinets have been getting a ruthless sweep through too.)

I do not picture laboring during the day at all, so every night I go to bed thinking “tonight could be the night” and then when I wake up in the morning, I feel like I’ve got a “bonus” day ahead of me! Since two of my other babies were born two days before their due dates, I’ve had my sights set on tomorrow as a likely possibility… (the 25th, which could be tonight or tomorrow evening and still qualify)

Also, not totally related, but we got some new pigments recently and I am very fond of this “rose gold” one…

October 2014 062I keep feeling a sensation of needing to “get more done” during each “bonus” day I wake up to and have been feeling frustrated with what feels like overall household inertia from everyone else around me—all the rest of the family members seem content to just “hang out” and wait. I do not do “hanging out” well at all and feel like perhaps I should somehow go ahead and knock out the 50 page paper I have rolling around in my brain for one of the remaining three classes I have left in my D.Min degree. However, then my brain isn’t quite in it (and the household is not cooperative. Seriously. My other kids lately. Whoa!). So, today, I made one of the teas for my Sacred Postpartum class and did some other small projects and to-dos instead (like this post). The 50 page paper can keep waiting!

October 2014 094

Sacred Postpartum, Week 1: Birth Stories and Vow

Backtracking a little into week one of my current Sacred Postpartum class, for the first week’s assignments in reviewing our own birth and postpartum experiences, I set up a mini sacred space and put on some of my birth power bracelets (Mark and I started making these recently and I love them! It is like carrying a mini-mantra, birth power reminder with me every day).

October 2014 003 October 2014 037

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did my vow page and then a collage of reminders to myself. I made a birth stories page and then printed out copies of each of my kids’ birth stories and stapled them to the back of one journal page per story, including one for my third baby who was born in a second trimester miscarriage (the stories are all available on my blog here. I didn’t include pictures of the actual print outs! ). Then, I did a page on the front of each birth story with pictures of each kid and significant words/lessons from their stories. I ended with a collage of myself as I prepare for my upcoming birth at the end of this month (39 weeks now, 37 when I did the assignment) and took a picture of a blank page as well as a symbol of the story yet to be written…

(click for bigger pix)

I also just have to pat myself on the back again about having enrolled in these trainings at this point in my own pregnancy. It was a stroke of genius! And, while I knew I would benefit from them, I had no idea how very deeply I would do so.

October 2014 005

 

Sacred Postpartum, Week 2: Ceremonial Bathing

October 2014 128

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…

October 2014 135

(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!

Goddess Cookies!

Photo

You know you have people in your life who really love you when they make cookies like this for your mother blessing ceremony and carry them to you all the way from California! What a beautiful surprise these were from my aunt for my mother blessing ceremony last week. My aunt is a true cookie artist. For these cookies, she did not have a goddess cookie cutter, she invented them herself using a Christmas ornament cutter and a circle cutter to put them together. (See more cookies by checking out her page on Facebook.)

Mollyblessingway 156
Mollyblessingway 196

I couldn’t believe it! I felt like I wanted to keep one in a frame or something. Part of the zen of cookie art, as I understand it, is the impermanence, however, and so we ate them all up!

I have lots more to say about my ceremony as well as the many other lovely, thoughtful gifts I was honored with, but these were particularly special and so cool I wanted to share them in their own post before going on to other special things!

I took some pictures that night and put them on my Talk Birth page. I love Alaina’s winky face. 🙂

My aunt also made dragon cookies with the kids at Lann’s birthday party at the end of the week.

Thanks, Nancy!

Mollyblessingway 155

(*pro pictures taken by Karen of Portraits and Paws Photography. Non-pro, iphone pictures taken by me.)

Belly Cast!

When I closed my last post, we’d just finished making my belly cast in anticipation of decorating it as part of my mother blessing ceremony. I had an idea though and I started to think perhaps I wanted to paint the belly cast myself after all! I walked around our land picking different leaves. I picked one from my grandma’s memorial hydrangea, my little Noah’s memorial magnolia, our vineyard, and then other leaves from each tree in my special place in the woods. One of the reasons we settled on Tanner’s name is because one of its meanings is “forest.” I knew I wanted to paint the belly cast brown and imprint the leaves onto it like stencils. It turned out that we didn’t have enough time at all to even consider painting the cast at my mother blessing. So…the next evening I got it set up on my mom’s kitchen table and started painting it brown. My aunt and cousin who is in his early twenties were visiting from California and I had to laugh at myself as he walked through the kitchen at 10:30 that night as I sat at the table painting a large cast of my own form without making any comments about it. Yes, this IS the kind of thing I do in the middle of the night in the middle of someone else’s house… 😉 Alaina helped me paint it.

The following day, I started to stencil my leaves and…uh oh. It did not turn out the way I was envisioning at all!

September 2014 099I posted a picture to Facebook and got some good suggestions and ideas about adding sparkles and gloss as well as some compliments saying that it was great the way it was and I didn’t need to let perfectionism ruin it! Still, the wind was let out of my sails. I knew what I’d wanted and this wasn’t it. I painted over the leaves with more brown that night and felt fairly dejected.

The next day, my aunt offered a genius idea: tracing my carefully collected leaves onto the cast with white pencil and then painting them in. My mom offered the idea of soaking the now-dried-out leaves to help them be more pliable and useable again, since I really didn’t want to go tromping all around again re-picking everything. It worked!

September 2014 113

Mark and I worked on the leaves together.

After the leaves were finished, we brushed over the paint with copper and gold mica pigments like I use on my own birth goddess sculptures, which felt like a fun connection.

September 2014 114And, then we coated it with a glossy spray:

September 2014 122I 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!

We hung it up near my other two casts (it is definitely bigger!).

 

Happy October! It is now my due month and I can hardly believe it! The change in the air towards fall as well as having pregnancy pictures taken, making a belly cast, and having a mother blessing feel like they have shifted my mindset (and heart!) away from feeling like my October due date is a “deadline,” and more towards celebration, anticipation, and appreciation. I hope to do some more posts soon about the ceremony.

Mollyblessingway 047

 

Stretching Time

September 2014 160Getting back from a trip is like giving birth: take it one step at a time, remember to breathe, honor The Return, accept the unexpected, anticipate some chaos and disarray…

However, there aren’t as many boxes of jewelry and sculptures stacked around my living room when I have a baby usually! Streeeeetch tiiiiiiime.

I posted the above as my Facebook status yesterday morning after having returned from a four-day trip to a festival in Kansas. When I originally wrote: “streeeeetch tiiiiime!” I was thinking of a fantasy of literally being able to expand time, but realized immediately after posting that it can more rightfully be read as time to stretch my own capacities. Just like giving birth.

I feel like I’ve been pushing myself incredibly hard over the last two months. I keep thinking: just this one more thing and then I can rest. But, one thing leads to another thing and then just one more thing (hmm. Is that like labor too? One contraction at a time…) Of course, like most of my life, all the things are good things, there are just a heck of a lot of them. August 2014 123I also recognize this as a recurrent fall season feeling for me, regardless of pregnancy. I date my awareness of it to my first miscarriage in 2009, but perhaps I engaged in this same cycle of drawing away, folding in, and wishing to retreat before that as well and just didn’t write it down.

My oldest son turned 11 this week! Isn’t that incredibly big?! I’m glad he is gracious enough to have his birthday celebration this coming weekend, since I didn’t get home from Kansas until 6:30 on the night of his birthday. Having his brand new computer as an early gift right before I left for my trip helped a lot! Speaking of his birth, here are three versions of his birth story, one from my mom…

I arrived at the Remer home at about 10 p.m., where Mark let me in and told me Molly was in the shower. When I got upstairs, and unloaded my belongings, I could hear Molly humming “Woman am I” from behind the bathroom door. When she came out, wrapped in a green towel, she was so adorable that I had to take a couple of pictures. She said she’d had 7 contractions while in the shower, and was glad I was there.

via Lann’s Birth Story–Baba Style! | Talk Birth.

One from Lann himself…

Swimming

Swimming down out of mama.

Crying!

Nursies.

Happy now.

via Birth Stories by Two Year Olds… | Talk Birth.

And one from me:

After checking the baby’s heart rate and my blood pressure, the midwife asked if I wanted an internal exam. I said that I did. She checked and said, “the baby is at +2 and I can’t find a cervix.” This was highly confusing to all of us and so we asked what she meant and she said, “your cervix has disappeared” and then said, “you can start pushing when you feel the urge.” I was in complete disbelief and stared at her and said in total seriousness, “are you telling me the truth?”

via My First Birth | Talk Birth.

One of the things that made the prior week extremely difficult and stressful (and is the reason that I completely skipped making any posts for the week), is that Mark’s back went out and he was in extreme, lying-on-the-floor pain and thus unable to finish the molding and casting we had planned for sculptures for the Gaea Goddess Gathering, nor able to do any finishing work on the large quantities of pewter inventory we needed for me to be able to take for my booth there. I did not do a very good job taking care of him at all. It was an unexpected, very bad-timing hurdle and I did not handling it gracefully or with any Zen-like aplomb, instead felt over-the-top stressed and unhappy, especially since I was also supposed to be able to grade midterms during that time and did not get a chance to grade a single one until the actual day of my class, and then only under stress, duress, rushing, pushing, and snapping. WAHHHHHH!

This experience reminded me that the problem I find with the often repeated and popular self-care advice about “asking for help” or “learning to receive” is that almost always everyone I can think of to ask for help has just as many things on their plate and on their minds as I do. Adding to someone else’s to-do list doesn’t feel like “receiving,” it feels like abusing! When I posted this thought on Facebook, a gracious friend responded in a way that soothed my heart:

There are seasons to these things. I feel like we’re all paying into a giant karmic pot…I try not to pass up what feel to me like simple or easy ways to give (if it’s easy, it doesn’t count, right? Wrong.) even when I’m in a season of receiving. Have you considered that your writing, which probably comes as naturally to you as breathing, is a huge gift to the community? If I lived near you, I would totally offer to double some of our meals to share (or clean your bathroom or whatever), out of gratitude for what I’ve gained from reading your blog posts and articles. It may well be that what you need now, and hesitate to ask for, could be on someone else’s “easy” list. And if it’s not, well, we have to trust each other to express our boundaries.

Some things, like grading midterms, just can’t be passed to someone else, much as I’d like to. Others can be. My example that actually prompted me to post was a really simple and semi-stupid one and it was that I needed a piece of black fabric cut in a circle. I couldn’t get to where it was stored by myself with my big pregnant belly and Mark couldn’t get it for me because he was lying on the floor with horrible pain (chiropractor appointment the next morning helped, luckily). I couldn’t ask my mom because she was driving to KS. So, I messaged two friends who both kindly agreed to do it for me without hesitation, BUT, I know that in asking it added one more piddly task to their own huge to-do lists and meant that they had to dig in their closets for me, since I couldn’t dig in my own. While small, it was exactly the kind of thing I mean—passing on a piece of something that is on my personal list, grows someone else’s and it doesn’t seem “fair.”

This is by far not the first time I’ve had this thought—Mark being out of commission suddenly and unexpectedly is what prompted it this time—but I think it whenever I read a “tips” list and also sometimes when someone reaches out to ME for support, receiving, or help and it feels like it is going to tip me over the edge from “handling it all” to “freaked out and need to hide” and I don’t want to be that person for someone else…like we’re all just passing it down the line! Theoretically it might be a “seasons” thing and most of my people are in a similar season with similar balancing and juggling experiences of their own. But, I don’t know. My mom is 61 now and her overall commitments don’t seem to have slowed down any in this new season of hers—instead of just plain old regular kids needing time and attention from her it is adult kids PLUS grandkids, as well as still friends, husband, projects etc.

All that said, I do feel very grateful that my current class at FLW is one of the Best Classes Ever ™. I am not in an emotional position right now to handle problem students or class conflicts and this class has neither, just interesting, engaged, responsive, fun, committed people from lots of diverse backgrounds. They are working on a great class project right now too: Community Outreach Project.

Regardless of everything else, fireside drumming and dancing was on my agenda and I off I went. Two friends and I packed up my car and headed for Gaea Goddess Gathering in McLouth, KS, where we met my mom, my sister-in-law (and nephew!), and another friend as well as friends we’ve made at past festivals. I had a booth for Brigid’s Grove and also gave a presentation on Womanrunes on Saturday afternoon. I had the beautiful experience of meeting some Brigid’s Grove fans in real life who touched me with their stories and honored me with sharing their journeys. I later overheard one describe me to someone else as I walked by as, “she is my favorite artist.” <blush>

While we had stocked up on our various goddess pendant designs, I was surprised to find that my niche is apparently still in birth art, regardless of setting. The pieces that spoke to the women at this festival were still our birth spiral pendant, our baby in the heart pendant, and our mama goddess pendants. Until this year, I did not fully realize it was possible to make these kinds of connections with others through the creative work of my hands and it really feels like a sacred trust.

Here are some pictures of our (very red) booth:

And, I have to note that if I was about two more weeks pregnant, I think these stairs at Camp Gaea would tip me over the edge into labor!

September 2014 077 September 2014 078

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of pregnancy, I am 35 weeks now. I have what feels like a million contractions a day AND I have to admit that I still sometimes think the baby is twins, despite the two ultrasounds and the fact that I am not measuring big. I’m so weird! I haven’t checked his heartbeat myself for months now, because he is so wiggly all the time, but yesterday I felt like checking it and I still found two heartbeats in distinct locations, both with the “clop-clop” classic sound of a real heartbeat rather than one with the “whoosh” of a cord. They were different rates too—one on each side of my belly (still have that sensation of having “two sides” that I referenced a long time ago) and when I went to listen for the “other one,” I knew exactly where it was and went straight to it, just like I knew where the real baby’s heartbeat was. I’m a freak, I tell you.

Speaking of twins though, my friend Bibi finished writing up her surprise homebirth of twins story recently and it is a wonderful read:

…We talked about the possibility of an ultrasound to find out about possible birth defects or twins or the hundred other scenarios that had run through my mind. The best idea that our midwife gave me was to sit quietly with myself and determine what I really needed. So that’s what I did. Every night I asked my baby if he or she was okay.

The answer was yes. There is no other way to describe it, but I just knew that everything was okay. I knew that there was a mystery to this pregnancy, and I certainly suspected twins, but with no concrete evidence I thought it was wishful thinking…or maybe I didn’t want to know because the idea of twins scared me as much as it thrilled me.

via Surprise Twins: A Birth Story | The Conscious Doer.

And, returning to birth art, here is my MANA birth art display mock-up pic (as best as I could do on a concrete wall, that is!). This involves complicated couriering of the items by my sister-in-law to her midwife in KC, who will transport them to St. Louis for MANA in October (we can’t attend as vendors because it is the same week as my due date, but we were asked by the organizers to provide a “local birth artist display”) and then back to KC for my SIL to eventually get back to me in Rolla. I just love circles of women and how needed connections are found or work out…

September 2014 171 September 2014 177

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While at GGG, I also finally had a chance to wear my belly bindi to this year’s main ritual!September 2014 198My mother blessing is tomorrow afternoon and today we needed to make a belly cast to paint during the mother blessing as well as clean house and so forth… (even though I just got home Sunday night. What am I doing?!) Oh, and grade all the papers that were submitted over the weekend?!?! 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.) And, I truly think it turned out to be my prettiest cast:

After we finished, I felt like I’d finally shifted gears in my brain to accepting that this is what I was spending my day on, not scrubbing the toilet or grading 25 papers. I then set up my birth altar for the mother blessing:

I had a lovely time. (And then I did clean the toilet and the bathroom sink.)

Today Mark also hung up a poster that I’ve had for a year. I want to remember this!September 2014 118I got a lot of lovely brand new mama goddesses listed on etsy this evening too:

September 2014 062

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.

August 2014 073

 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

 

 

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

I told you I had a Sacred Pregnancy weekend! On Saturday of last week, after my fears and forgiveness work, I moved on to some empowerment and self-care exercises.

I had been trying to find time to do the silk painting since Wednesday and kept feeling disappointed to not be able to make room for it. On Saturday it became Priority 1! I decided to modify the exercise for my whole family to do as a collaborative “welcome” wrap for baby Tanner, rather than tearing it up to wrap onto sticks as we were supposed to do. I’m going to do the tearing and sacred stick making on my own another day using a different piece of silk.

We listened to the Sacred Pregnancy CD and all worked together outside on a hot, hot August Saturday. It was a lovely, sacred, shared, collaborative project (with a touch of a chaos and a sprinkle of yelled, “don’t spill it!”). Very fulfilling and much fun.

Later in the day I also did my sacred bath and self-care day. My 3-year-old daughter and I made a special salt scrub for me to use using sunflower oil, sea salt, and gentle baby essential oil blend (made by my mom). After the empowerment silk painting (which was part of my self-care too), I set up a special altar in my bathroom, turned on Nina Lee, drew a Mother’s Wisdom card and meditated on it, and then did my salt scrub on my entire body, followed by a refreshing shower. I really took my time with the scrub and thought about how often I rush through or “don’t have time” for lotion or other personal care treatments after showering. I felt nice and “buffed off” afterward! (I tend to very dry skin.) I also had two cups of Caramel Bedtime Yogi tea that I’d made in a jar in the sun that morning. I “run out of time” for iced tea often too. So, this time I didn’t!

These next photos aren’t related to the class work, but they are very related to my own Sacred Pregnancy creative process! In addition to the Womanrunes book, we‘ve been working overtime lately to develop an improved production process for my birth goddess sculptures so that we can actually have them available on a regular basis. While still not perfect, we’ve gotten much closer during the last week and hope have four different designs ready to list in our Etsy shop over the next two weeks.