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Tuesday Tidbits: Joyful Birth + New Year Resources

“As mothers, we discover that we love our children in whatever form they are in: a kicking bulge in our womb; a baby sucking at our breast; a toddler leaving play-doh crumbs on the couch; a pierced and tattooed teenager blasting rap music at midnight. We love them when they’re I’ll and when they are damaged. We love them long after they haw died. And in discovering this, we open to a kind of love that transcends form and time. It’s at the heart of our humanness, yet you might call it divine.”

–Susan Piver (Joyful Birth)

I found myself feeling startled at several points during the holidays. One moment came in looking at my “memories” from Facebook and seeing pictures of myself last Christmas with my tiny bundle of a sweet new baby against my chest. This year, he opens presents and crows, “yaaaaaay!”

December 2015 029

Still plenty of eyebrow action a year later!

The second moment was in talking to my sister-in-law about homebirth + composting toilets (not an ideal combo, fyi). When Zander was born in 2006, we were living in our temporary shop house and didn’t even have a composting toilet, just a not-very-nice outhouse. I remember having to walk out there in labor and feeling like it was not a fabulous thing. I looked over at Zander, now nine, and had such an intense moment of remembering what it was like to be that mom in that temporary house with my new little baby and my other toddler son. That version of me seems far away now, as does that baby-version of Zander, and yet, here I am still nursing a small boy to sleep and throughout the night…

“For me, giving birth was more gritty than romantic–and much more potent. Like a lotus that rises up from the mud, joy at seeing my daughter blossomed from the experience of reaching my physical and emotional limits.”

–Susan Piver (Joyful Birth)

I see this face a lot--the "uhhhhhhh!" pick me up, face.

I see this face a lot–the “uhhhhhhh!” pick me up, face.

This morning I read an article about why everyone deserves a doula:

Doula and mother-to-be form a relationship with each other throughout the pregnancy. The doula meets with the expectant mother, talks to her, and earns her trust and affection (or in my case, a full on girl crush). Whether the mother hopes to give birth hanging from a tree by her armpit hair or is planning an elective caesarean, the doula is there. Whether she wants an epidural from the onset or plans on going utterly drug free, the doula is there. Completely without judgement, she only serves to support the mother in the birth that she desires.

Source: Why Everyone Deserves a Doula — Pregnant Chicken

And, this quote about the physical intensity and potency of birth and the joy that accompanies it:

“Giving birth, in fact, is a messy business for any mother. Whether you have a midwife or a doctor, a homebirth or a hospital birth, a natural birth or an assisted birth, birth has a physical intensity, involving blood, pain, uncertainty, and risk. It is a physical, mammalian experience, organic, animal, earthy, direct. Yet in that very earthy messiness, as we are pushed to our limits, there’s the potential for joy. By Joy, I don’t mean a superficial pleasure that comes and goes and depends on conditions being to our liking. I’m talking about a different joy, tinged with sorrow. It is the tender heart of love.”

–Susan Piver (Joyful Birth)

I have been enjoying the relatively quiet days between holidays and read this post about the silence of this time of year, the lull, the liminal space before the birth of a new year (is this the rest and be thankful phase of the year?).

The most subversive thing is silence. In this odd interregnum, in the days caught between Christmas and new year, the world suddenly falls quiet. Unless you are determined to face dubious sales, there is nothing more to buy. Travel, especially if you use public transport, is curtailed. We are forced to look at ourselves, to our own company, and those nearest us.

Source: With Christmas gone and new year approaching, now is the time for silence | Philip Hoare | Opinion | The Guardian

And, I enjoyed this post about the value of solitude for parents (and the difficulty in carving out time for it):

Solitude is like punctuation. A paragraph without periods and commas would be exhausting to read. In the same way, conducting relationships without the respite of solitude can lessen the benefits of those relationships. Downtime is important for you and your kids. They benefit from solitude too. Taking care of your own solitude will not only help you restore yourself but also show your kids this positive model of self-nurturance

Source: Solitude is Going Extinct: The Stress of Modern Parenting

On the porch of the former clubhouse turned tiny temple/workspace for me to work in solitude.

On the porch of the former clubhouse turned tiny temple/workspace for me to work in solitude.

I’ve started working on my 2015 review for my 2016 Shining Year workbooks and am feeling a certain resistance towards doing it this year (I also got my 2015 Year in Review from wordpress: Your 2015 year in blogging). I found this worksheet for kids on doing a year in review and I printed it out to do with my own kids on New Year’s Eve: 2015 Year In Review Printable – Skip To My Lou Skip To My Lou

The Brigid’s Grove etsy shop is open again with limited inventory. We will be back with our complete assortment of sculptures and ceremony kits (plus, new surprises!) after the first of the year.

The next section of my Womanrunes Immersion course begins on January 5th. This course takes you on a 41 day journal through the runes and includes journal and photo prompts, worksheets, full moon and new moon rituals, and access to the 2016 Calamoondala class.

December 2015 006“To parent well, you have to have the gentleness and courage of a warrior.”

–Carol (in Joyful Birth by Susan Piver)

Story Woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because of these two things:

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

–Hopi Indian Proverb

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

–Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox

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

Source: I am a Story Woman | Talk Birth

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

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

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

I am a story woman.

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

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

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

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

I am a story woman.

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Wisdom from Moon Time for Red Tents

IMG_3728“At her first bleeding a woman meets her power.
During her bleeding years she practices it.
At menopause she becomes it.”

(Traditional Native American saying)

One of my favorite books to have available on the resource table of our local Red Tent Circle is Moon Time, by Lucy moontime2Pearce. I reviewed it in this post, but didn’t have room for all the juicy quotes I wanted to share! One of the ideas I include in my own Red Tent Resource Kit book is to use womanspirit wisdom quotes to stimulate a discussion in the circle. Here are some quotes from Moon Time that would make great launching points for a sharing circle at the Red Tent:

“It is my guess that no one ever initiated you into the path of womanhood. Instead, just like me, you were left to find out by yourself. Little by little you pieced a working understanding of your body and soul together. But still you have gaps.”

Questions for circle: Were you initiated into the “path of womanhood”? What gaps do you feel?

“You yearn for a greater knowledge of your woman’s body, a comprehensive understanding of who you are, why you are that way. Perhaps you have searched long and hard, seeking advice from your mother, sister, aunts and friends, tired of suffering and struggling alone. You may have visited doctors, healers or therapists, but still you feel at sea and your woman’s body is a mystery to you. Or maybe you have never given your cycles a second thought … until now.”

Questions for circle: What do you feel like you need to know about your body? What mysteries are you uncovering?

“Through knowledge we gain power over our lives. With options we have possibility. With acceptance we find a new freedom.

Menstruation matters.”

Question for circle: How does menstruation matter?

Additional information about why menstruation matters on a physical, emotional, and relational level:

We start bleeding earlier today than ever before, with girls’ first periods occurring at 12.8 years old now, compared with 14.5 years at the beginning of the last century. Coupled with lower breastfeeding rates, better nutrition and fewer pregnancies, women now menstruate more in their adult lives than at any time in our history.

From the age of 12 to 51, unless you are pregnant or on the pill, every single day of your life as a woman is situated somewhere on the menstrual cycle. Whether ovulating or bleeding, struggling with PMS or conception, our bodies, our energy levels, our sense of self, even our abilities are constantly shifting each and every day. And yet nobody talks about it…

via Moon Time: Harness the ever-changing energy of your menstrual cycle

As I noted in my review, one of the things this book was helpful for to me personally, was in acknowledging myself as a cyclical being and that these influences are physical and real: IMG_5194-0

Each month our bodies go through a series of changes, many of which we may be unconscious of. These include: shifts in levels of hormones, vitamins and minerals, vaginal temperature and secretions, the structure of the womb lining and cervix, body weight, water retention, heart rate, breast size and texture, attention span, pain
threshold . . .

The changes are biological. Measurable. They are most definitely not ‘all in your head’ as many would have us believe. This is why it is so crucial to honour these changes by adapting our lives to them as much as possible.

We cannot just will these changes not to happen as they are an integral part of our fertility.

From there, another relevant quote:

“There is little understanding and allowance for the realities of being a cycling woman—let alone celebration.”

Questions for circle: What allowances do you make for yourself as a cycling woman? Are you able to celebrate the experience?

In my own life, I’ve had to reframe my understanding of the impact of the monthly moontime experience by looking IMG_4269at it through the lens of healthy postpartum care following birth—it is crucial that we care for our bodies with love, attention, respect, and time. Our local Red Tent Circle definitely doesn’t focus exclusively on menstruation or on currently menstruating women (all phases of a woman’s lifecycle and her many diverse experiences and feelings are “held” in that circle)–in fact menstruation sometimes barely comes up as a topic—however, one of the core purposes of our circling is in celebration. We gather together each month to celebrate being women in this time and in this place, together. I started out my work with women focused on birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum. While those are formative and central and important life experiences, it became very important to me to broaden my scope to include the totality of women’s lives, not just pregnant women. I want to honor and celebrate our whole lives, not just pregnancy and birth. Having a mother blessing ceremony during pregnancy is beautiful and important and special, but I feel like that care, attention, value, and ceremony can be brought into the rest of our non-pregnant lives The_Red_Tent_Resourc_Cover_for_Kindlethrough gathering together in a Red Tent Circle. This is one reason why I’m so excited to offer an online Red Tent Initiation Program this summer. This program is designed to be both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles.

Back to Moon Time quotes!

“There is no shame in tears. There is a need for anger. Blood will flow. Speak your truth. Follow your intuition. Nurture your body. But above all … Let yourself rest.”

Questions for circle: Do you allow yourself anger and tears? Do you feel shame? How do you speak your truth? How do you give yourself time to rest?

To be clear, I wouldn’t use all these quotes at one Red Tent Circle! I would use them individually at different gatherings. This one blog post has enough potential circle discussion prompts to last for more than six months of Circles! 🙂 This month I also bought a bundle of copies of Moon Time to have available for women at our local Red Tent.

More good discussion quotes here: Talk Books: Cycle to the Moon | Talk Birth.

And, there are others in my Red Tent Resource Kit.

Please consider joining us this summer for the Red Tent Initiation Program!

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Sheila Kitzinger

‘Sheila taught me, from an early age, that the personal was political – not just by what she said but by what she did. As I was growing up I learnt from her campaigns for freedom and choice in childbirth that passionate and committed individuals can create social change. She never hesitated to speak truth to power. –Prof. Celia Kitzinger, Sheila’s oldest daughter

via Sheila Kitzinger 1929-2015 | Pinter & Martin Publishers.

Yesterday morning, I learned that childbirth education trailblazer, maternity activist, and phenomenally influential author, Sheila Kitzinger has died. By the end of the evening, her name was coming up as “trending” on Facebook, which is the first time I’ve ever noticed anything flagged for me as trending that wasn’t mainstream celebrity-related, holiday, sporting-event, OR horrible tragedy, disaster, or scandal related. So, Sheila continues to break new ground in maternity care activism!

My own work with birth and my philosophy of birth education and activism has been deeply shaped by this marvelous woman. She is one of my all-time favorite childbirth authors and may be the most quoted person on my blog! In fact, as I was scrolling through old posts to find some to share in memorial, I had to quit looking after the fourth page of search results because there were simply too many. Here are some of the ones I did find:

I agree with anthropologist Sheila Kitzinger who said that, “In any society, the way a woman gives birth and the kind of care given to her and the baby points as sharply as an arrowhead to the key values of the culture.” Our current birth culture does not value women and children. Though my focus is usually on the women, it also doesn’t much value men or fathers either. I also agree with Kitzinger’s assessment that, “Woman-to-woman help through the rites of passage that are important in every birth has significance not only for the individuals directly involved, but for the whole community. The task in which the women are engaged is political. It forms the warp and weft of society.”

via A Blessing…and more… | Talk Birth.

Same quotes used in two other posts:

These concepts—and the lack of a similar one in American culture—reminds me of a quote from Sheila Kitzinger that I use when talking about postpartum: “In any society, the way a woman gives birth and the kind of care given to her and the baby points as sharply as an arrowhead to the key values of the culture.”

via Some reminders for postpartum mamas & those who love them | Talk Birth.

And, Rites of Passage… Celebrating Real Women’s Wisdom | Talk Birth.

Touching on the political aspects of birth culture:

“In acknowledging woman-to-woman help it is important to recognize that power, within the family and elsewhere, can be used vindictively, and that it is not only powerful men who abuse women; women with power may also abuse other women.” –Sheila Kitzinger

via Birth Quotes of the Week | Talk Birth.

Personally influential to my own labors:

During my first labor, I experienced what Sheila Kitzinger calls the “rest and be thankful stage” after reaching full dilation and before I pushed out my baby. The “rest and be thankful stage” is the lull in labor that some women experience after full dilation and before feeling the physiological urge to push. While commonly described in Kitzinger’s writings and in some other sources, mention of this stage is absent from many birth resources and many women have not heard of it.

via The Rest and Be Thankful Stage | Talk Birth.

And, my own personal postpartum care: Ceremonial Bath and Sealing Ceremony | Talk Birth.

Her books shaped birth HERstory:

Women’s (Birth) History Month | Talk Birth.

And, my own birth education philosophy (as well as my core value in working with women):

Labour is a highly personal experience, and every woman has a right to her own experience and to be honest about the emotions she feels. Joy tends to be catching, and when a teacher has enjoyed her own births this is valuable because she infuses her own sense of wonder and keen pleasure into her relations with those she teachers. But she must go on from there, learn how difficult labour can be for some women, and develop an understanding of all the stresses that may be involved.

via Sheila Kitzinger on a Woman’s Right to Her Own Experience | Talk Birth.

And, she celebrated birth:

I hope all of the women I know who are giving birth in the upcoming season discover that, as Sheila Kitzinger said, “Birth isn’t something we suffer, but something we actively do and exult in.” (from promo for One World Birth)

via Invisible Nets | Talk Birth.

Thanks for everything, Sheila! You’re amazing!

“Childbirth takes place at the intersection of time; in all cultures it links past, present and future. In traditional cultures birth unites the world of ‘now’ with the world of the ancestors, and is part of the great tree of life extending in time and eternity.” –Sheila Kitzinger

via Tuesday Tidbits: Tree Mother | Talk Birth.

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The Heart of Birth Quotes

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Fill your body with this breath
expand your heart with this message
you are such a good mother.

via International Women’s Day: Prayer for Mothers

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Choosing to move beyond the painful disconnections of our culture, I do my best to support the breastfeeding mothers I meet. Our world must move beyond separating baby from mother, self from breath, and bodies from hearts.

–Amy Wright Glenn, In praise of breast milk.

~

I remain firmly convinced that the way we treat women in the birthplace reflects an overall cultural attitude towards women in general. I believe that peace on earth begins with birth. I believe that we can change the world with the way we greet new babies and celebrate new mothers and see the deep, never-ending work of parenting our children. I believe in rising for justice and I keep vigil in my heart every day for women around the world.

–Molly Remer, Rise for Justice

~

Birth doula work is not about double hip squeezes. It isn’t about birth plans. Birth doulaing at its heart is a spiritual path that will rip away your narcissism and your selfishness. It will restructure your values and strengthen your compassion and empathy for all people through pain and humility. It is about learning how to BE in the presence of conflict and the human experience of living at its most raw and gut wrenching…

–Amy Gililand

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Midwives often forget that our beliefs in [mom’s] abilities can alter her accomplishments. It is important to check our hearts and push through any lack of belief that may inhibit her strengths. This may sound silly or ethereal, but I guarantee it can make a difference for a laboring mom and family.

~ Carol Gautschi (Midwifery Today)

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Body opens
heart opens
hands open to receive

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

via Birth as Initiation

~

…all those tasks and interactions of motherhood, a day full of which might make you feel you’ve ‘gotten nothing done’ because you’ve been in the cycle of care, are the heart and soul of the best brain building possible.

–Lauren Lindsey Porter

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Magic mama. She who transforms body and blood into milk. Into life. Into the heartsong of another. Maternal sacrament. Shared freely. Flowing sweetly. Uniting. This thoroughly embodied stuff of motherhood. This physical commitment. This body-based vow to our young. She holds her baby. And she holds the world.

Mammal mama. Liquid love. Cellular vow. Unbreakable, biological web of life and loving.

She’s just feeding her baby. Is she? Or is she healing the planet at the very same time?

via Pewter Breastfeeding Mama Goddess Sculpture by BrigidsGrove

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Open hearts, strong hands. Be present, listen, feel her, trust your instincts. And remember–I have birthed my children…she will birth this child her way, with her power, be with her and let her feel your faith in her.

–Jennifer Walker

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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?

–Molly Remer via Sacred Pregnancy Week 1, Part 1: Sacred Space

~

…birth, if she has her way, happens below the head. In the end, fantasies and images from the stories a woman holds in her heart are what emerge with power…

–Sister MorningStar (The Power of Women)

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Birth is not a cerebral event; it is a visceral-holistic process which requires all of your self–-body, heart, emotion, mind, spirit.

–Baraka Bethany Elihu (Birthing Ourselves into Being)

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A doula gives from the heart to help another woman discover what birth and life are really all about.

–Connie Livingston

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…Like other involuntary processes, we cannot consciously control pregnancy and birth unless we physically intervene. Did you need to learn how to make your heart beat? How to breathe? How to digest your food? How to produce hormones?…You don’t have to do anything to make these processes work. You can support them, or you can intervene, but they will happen all on their own. You can trust them.

Lamaze International

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As doulas, midwives, nurses, and doctors, it’s important to never underestimate how deeply entrusted we are with someone’s most vulnerable, raw, authentic self. We witness their heroic journeys, see them emerge with their babies, hearts wide open…

–Lesley Everest (MotherWit Doula)

~

Children are the power and the beauty of the future. Like tiny falcons we can release their hearts and minds, and send them soaring, gathering the air to their wings…

–Skip Berry

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Expectant mothers need to be mothered; their hearts need to be infused with love, confidence, and determination. I now see myself as ‘midwife’ to the gestation and birth of women as mothers.

–Pam England (Birthing from Within)

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Listening to your heart is not simple. Finding out who you are is not simple. It takes a lot of hard work and courage to get to know who you are and what you want.

–Sue Bender

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Understanding birth technology shouldn’t lull you into thinking you understand birth. The profound mystery and spirituality of birth can never be understood with the mind, they are known through the heart…

–Pam England

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…fear has to be present in order for courage to exist. The English word ‘courage’ is derived from the French word for the heart, coeur. Finding the heart to continue doing the right thing in the face of great fear inspires others to become nobler human beings.

~ Gloria Lemay

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Talk Books: Women Who Run with the Wolves

“Remember, there is a natural time after childbearing when a woman is considered to be of the underworld. She is dusted with its dust, watered by its water, having seen into the mystery of life and death, pain and joy during her labor. So, for a time she is ‘not here’ but rather still ‘there.’ It takes time to re-emerge.”

–Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves (p. 441)

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I’ve spent years quoting Clarissa Pinkola Estes and yet had never read one of her books. My favorite quote is this one and I’ve returned to it again and again at various points in my life:

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

–Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Interestingly enough, I finally began reading Women Who Run with the Wolves while literally sitting in the river this summer while my kids played. One of the remaining items on my Leonie Dawson 100 Thing list for 2014 was to finish this book. And, now here in this “underworld” time with my new baby, I finally did it! In the afterword to the book, she mentions that this is a book meant to be read in small doses. She explains that she took twenty years to write it and that it is meant to be read in sections, thought about, and then returned to again. So, I guess I did exactly the right thing in how I read it this year—it took me more than six months to read it (I also read 90 other books this year in addition to this one!).

One of the quotes I quoted before reading the book was this classic one:

I am wild.

Wild Woman.

When women hear those words, an old, old memory is stirred and brought back to life. The memory is our absolute, undeniable, and irrevocable kinship with the wild feminine, a relationship which may become ghosty from neglect, buried from over domestication, outlawed by the surrounding culture, or no longer understood anymore. We may have forgotten her names, we may not answer when she calls ours, but in our bones we know her, we yearn toward her; we know she belongs to us and we to her.There are times when we experience her, even if only fleetingly, and it makes us mad with wanting to continue. For some women, this vitalizing ‘taste of the wild’ comes during pregnancy, during nursing their young, during the miracle of change in oneself as one raises a child, during attending to a love relationship as one would attend to a beloved garden.As sense of her also comes through the vision; through sights of great beauty. I have felt her when I see what we call in the woodlands a Jesus-God sunset. I have felt her move in me from seeing the fishermen come up from the lake at dusk with lanterns lit, and also from seeing my newborn baby’s toes all lined up like a row of sweet corn. We see her where we see her, which is everywhere.

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

via Celebrating Motherhood: The Wild Woman and Sacred Business | Talk Birth.

Photo: "Remember, there is a natural time after childbearing when a woman is considered to be of the underworld. She is dusted with its dust, watered by its water, having seen into the mystery of life and death, pain and joy during her labor. So, for a time she is 'not here' but rather still 'there.' It takes time to re-emerge."</p> <p>--Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves (p. 441)

I also love this quote about doors:

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

— Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D (Women Who Run With the Wolves)IMG_0545

While many quotes caught my attention upon this complete reading of her book and spoke to where I am, in addition to the one with which I opened this post, there are two in particular that really grabbed me. The first was about rage and creation. I love the idea that there is a time to show your incisors:

“…there is a time to reveal your incisors, your powerful ability to defend territory, to say ‘This far and no farther, the buck stops here, and hold onto your hat, I’ve got something to say, this is definitely going to change.’”

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes on rage and creation in Women Who Run with the Wolves, p. 363

IMG_0920And, this powerful thought on creativity and the call to listen to the whispers of our own hearts:

“She may feel she will die if she does not dance naked in a thunderstorm, sit in perfect silence, return home ink-stained, paint-stained, tear-stained, moon-stained.” –Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Photo: "She may feel she will die if she does not dance naked in a thunderstorm, sit in perfect silence, return home ink-stained, paint-stained, tear-stained, moon-stained." --Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

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I just love the way Tanner (now six weeks!) holds my necklace while he is nursing.

Previous posts with Clarissa Pinkola Estes quotes:

Celebrating Motherhood: The Wild Woman and Sacred Business

Tuesday Tidbits: More Wild Woman

The Value of Sharing Story

The Ragged Self

Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage

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

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

Leader:

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

times of not being understood by family, friends,

times of longing and emptiness,

times of not being in control,

times of searching within and without.

We pray…

(response)

Leader:

For all the memories of our baby;

for any brief moment of being with our baby,

for those who walked the journey of mourning with us,

for each time of remembering.

We pray…

(response)

Leader:

For the times of letting go.,

for the times of reaching out,

for each new day and each ray of hope,

for the gifts our baby left us:

in giving us new eyes with which to see,

new ears to help us hear others,

a new heart to love more deeply,

and for new values in our lives.

We pray…

(response)

[p. 233]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Have a Miscarriage | The Hairpin

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

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

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

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

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

via Birthrites: Miscarriage | Talk Birth.