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Sacred Pregnancy Week 1, Part 1: Sacred Space

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

–Bonnie Goldberg (in The Art of Pregnancy)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lento Tempo

“Invite the inner woman to speak in her language of poetry, bones, clouds, dreams, red shoes, fairy dust, ravens, and fissures of the heartland. She who dwells in the wild within will help to navigate the cliffs and valleys. She will show you the passage through – give you eyes to see in the dark. And then, when you are able, she will give you wings to fly out from that both nurturing and devastating abyss into divine light.”

–Shiloh Sophia McCloud

July 2014 037I’m taking an elective class called Women Engaged in Sacred Writing and one of our class texts is Women, Writing, and Soul-Making: Creativity and the Sacred Feminine by Peggy Tabor Millin. While the book itself is not about birth, I was struck by the author’s use of the descriptor “lento tempo” to describe the “slow time” associated with creative projects. My thoughts turned to our family as we await the birth of my sister-in-law and brother’s baby boy. He is arriving firmly on his own timetable and the waiting for him is a process of discovery in and of itself. I’ve never been overdue myself and so it is interesting to notice the parallels between waiting for labor to begin and the very process of labor itself!

Millin writes about the various creative works that require “slow time” and also writes that women crave this time and need it to survive:

Like the gestation in the womb, change happens in lento tempo, slow time. Women crave lento tempo and need it to survive. Slow is the timing of fertilization and incubation, of creative process. Creative writing often resists being manipulated to meet deadlines. We may need to wait on dreams or synchronicity to inspire and guide our work. In lento tempo, we learn the wisdom of letting things rest—bread dough, marinara sauce, roasted turkey, babies, tulip bulbs, fresh paint, grief, anger, ourselves. Almost every book of advice on writing suggests putting a manuscript away for a while once it feels complete. Then the final edit can be undertaken with a fresh ear and eye. Centered Writing Practice teaches us patience, to do by not doing

…Through focused attention, we engage watchful listening—to our inner voice and to our experience. What we achieve is not a perfect product, but a spinning spiral of synthesis. The movement of this spiral cannot be driven, hurried, or organized. Lento tempo is the natural rhythm of creation—of body, earth, and universe. As such, lento tempo is the rhythm of creativity we hear by practicing awareness…

Women, Writing, and Soul-Making: Creativity and the Sacred Feminine

(emphases mine)

While waiting with my mom, sister-in-law, and brother in Kansas, during one day of our visit we suddenly decided to look up any local labyrinths. We found one at a Lutheran church located only five miles from where we were driving at the time and so we swung by and walked the labyrinth together, pausing first to take symbolic pictures crossing the little bridge over to it—just like my sister-in-law prepares to cross the bridge into motherhood and take her own labyrinth journey of birth. We sang “I Am Opening,” one of our mother blessing songs, together when we reached the center. During the course of our visit, we kept discovering new “signs” every day that “today is the day!” and we eventually made a joke of it, since so far none of the signs have borne fruit! However, on this day we decided that our time in the labyrinth was a story and a precious moment in and of itself, independent of whether it eventually ended up having any part of the baby’s birth story.

I also recently re-read a quote from a book I read two years ago that describes the inward and outward swing of women’s lives. Since it is the time of the new moon now, it seemed particularly relevant:

“When we become practiced in the art of moving between the ‘upper’ and ‘under’ worlds of our lives (outwardly focused and engaged with the world; inwardly focused and listening to our soul) not only does the pattern of light moving into dark, into light again become clear, but also the gradations. We often experience this movement in dramatic (and unpleasant) swings from one to the other, but bringing practice and awareness to this journeying allows us to settle more gently into these transitions; just as the moon takes two weeks to darken, or lighten in small gradations. After all, we do not spend half the month in a dark moon, and half with a full moon. Rather, there are just a few days each of full darkness and full moon, and all the rest of the time is in gradual transition.”

Journey to the Dark GoddessJane Meredith

May we honor the call of lento tempo in our own lives, in our pregnancies, in the lives of our children, and in the unique unfolding of our births and creative projects.

Women, Birthing, and Boundaries

“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

Watch out! Bookshelf reduction mission in full swing!

Mark has become embroiled in many land and garden improvement projects in the last couple of months. Now that it is hot outside again, he has switched some of this attention to interior home improvement projects as well, one of which is building a new little countertop onto the half-wall between our kitchen and dining area (saw is presently squealing in my ear as I type) and one of which is painting some of the walls in our house. Wall-painting necessitated bookshelf moving, which necessitated book removal, which prompted me to go on a massive book decluttering and downsizing mission. As I’ve mentioned, I am thoroughly in the mood to wrap up, wind down, finish up. I feel a powerful, powerful call to finish all kinds of things so I can fully greet my baby in October. So, this bookshelf downsizing played right into my current mood. One of the books that didn’t make my “keep it” list was The Feminine Face of God, a classic feminist spirituality book by Sherry Ruth Anderson and Patricia Hopkins (now in a giveaway box near you, so if you’re interested and you’re local, let me know and it is now yours!). This isn’t because I don’t like the book, it is because I don’t feel as if I will need to return it to again. In evaluating and reducing my book collection, I find odds and ends I’d marked to write about or remember. Rather than storing the whole book, it makes sense to me to save the one or two pages I’d marked instead and let the book move on to enrich new lives. From The Feminine Face of God, I’d saved this quote about women and permeable boundaries:

Women have permeable boundaries. Perhaps it is the experience of our bodies in touch with the bodies of others that makes it hard for us to close down our psyches. Perhaps it is genetic. Or both. Or something else. But our bodies feel the irrevocable connection of the tides with our cycles of monthly bleeding. And in lovemaking we can be penetrated and receive another. And with pregnancy we carry another for nine full moons, more or less. When we separate from that other, we can feed it from our own body. And later the cycles that tie us to the moon and tides stop. And all this is true whether we give birth or not, have sex of not. The possibility is what creates the openness, and this openness is a precious gift (p. 183).

The distinct flavor of experience which comes with the gift shapes how we perceive reality, how we act, how we create, and what we value. And more than anything else women value relationships. We blend and weave and combine and sustain all kinds of relationships, and this work, this webmaking, not only shapes our lives but makes us profoundly vulnerable to the needs of others.

This is why, to me, attachment is at the core of the mothering life. (As opposed to the “detachment” often espoused by pop-culture interpretations of Eastern philosophical thought.) I think it also explains why women can hurt and wound each other and why when we let people in “too far,” sometimes we need to push them all the way out again. Or, when someone disappoints us or lets us down, why we might turn to reject them. They’ve been allowed to enter our permeable boundaries and if we lose trust or a sense of closeness for some reason, we shut them completely out, rather than recognizing it as a momentary experience.

In the book, the authors go on to explain:

The solution to our permeable boundaries is not to seal them off or barricade our hearts and adopt a ‘me first’ attitude. When we do that, we suffer unbearable isolation. But neither is it to betray the deep sources of wisdom and meaning in our lives. Instead we need to find the unique, and probably unstable, balance that fits us at a particular time, a balance that includes, but is not limited to, the needs of our partners and family. (p. 185)

Does needing to carve out the time and space we need for our own deep places make us selfish? This is one of the fears Anderson and Ruth explore….

Of all the fears we have heard from women about taking time and space for themselves, the most common by far was the fear of being selfish. If there is a mantra women repeat to themselves to deny their longing for solitude, it is probably, ‘Selfish. Selfish. Am I being selfish?’

For two years following her separation from her husband, Lynette lived alone in a tiny studio apartment, studying massage therapy, and asking herself this question. She no longer led the young people’s group at church, or planned and prepared festive parties for her friends and extended family. She didn’t even read the newspaper much.

‘So people call and ask, ‘What’s happened to you, Lynette? You used to be so outgoing and giving,’ she told us. ‘Just yesterday one of my favorite aunts telephoned and said right out, ‘I love you, my dear, but it’s clear to me you’re being very selfish pursuing this massage-therapy business. Living in your own apartment with no one to look after but yourself is very selfish and ungrounded!’

‘You know,’ Lynette told us thoughtfully, ‘doing something for yourself is like being pregnant. From the outside, being pregnant can look selfish. You take in all this extra food. You sleep more than usual. You are not as interested as you used to be in other people’s lives, including the lives of your own family. But inside another life is growing. It needs quiet, nourishment, and rest. At first, no one can see this life, but this has absolutely no bearing on the matter. The inner life is growing and it demands your attention.

‘But,’ she continued, ‘being pregnant is easier than this other birthing. Because in our material society, we trust the process that gives us something we can see and touch and hear—a live baby. This other birthing—well, who can be sure? So much trust is needed to turn down or tune out the internal critic and focus on what is happening inside you instead of always serving others.’ (p. 204)

In the closing to this section about the call for solitude and the attachment of family life, the authors quote another participant, Sara:

“True caring means being able to give from fullness…And for that I need my solitude. It is the very birthplace of altruism.” (p. 204-205)

In typing all of the above in the non-solitude I am currently experiencing this is what happened to my little pile of books to be blogged about:

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That would be new countertop wood shavings and a Baby Hugs bear.

And, I gained a creative companion:

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🙂

Rolla Red Tent Event!

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On August 2, 2014 in conjunction with Rolla Birth Network’s annual MamaFest event, we will be hosting the Missouri Premiere of Things We Don’t Talk About: Women’s Voices from the Red TentI am thrilled to bring this film to Missouri and I hope many, many woman come to enjoy the Red Tent atmosphere during MamaFest. We aren’t just showing the film, we’re also having a real Red Tent event with free activities available from 4-8:00 (film itself from 6-8:00). If the event goes well, I’d love to continue hosting Red Tent events at other points during the year (perhaps quarterly). I already priestess a small monthly women’s circle and have done so for several years, but a Red Tent event would be broader in scope and open to many women of all kinds of belief systems and backgrounds.

Red Tents are safe spaces for all women that transcend religious/cultural/political barriers and just be about coming together in sacred space as women. While I personally have a Goddess-oriented perspective, Red Tents honor the “womanspirit” present within all of us. Within the safety and sacredness of the Red Tent, women’s experiences across the reproductive spectrum are “held” and acknowledged, whatever those experiences might be. (As well as menopause, menstruation, assault, grief, loss, etc.—it definitely isn’t just pregnancy related!)

In our Red Tent at MamaFest, we will have jewelry making, henna tattoos, tea, and bindis. I have a mini ceremony/ritual to do before the film starts, the film screening itself, and then a scarf dance and song to close it out. This is meant to be an inclusive setting/experience for women of many backgrounds and beliefs!

I’m still collecting red fabric and decor for our Tent and it is really exciting to me to finally be doing this, since I’ve imagined doing it for a long time! (Goodwill last week was a jackpot of red curtains!)

You can learn more about the film and about Red Tents in general by checking out filmmaker Dr. Isadora Leidenfrost’s YouTube channel.

I’ve also written some Red Tent themed posts in the past:

Tuesday Tidbits: Red Tent

Red Tent Resources

Tuesday Tidbits: Pregnant Woman

100 Things List!

mamafest 2014 flyer

 

Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Art, Retreat, and Free-Range Husbands

Photo: “Let us initiate our daughters into the beauty and mystery of being strong and confident women who claim their right to give birth and raise their children with dignity, power, love, and joy.” –Barbara Harper (New post about local activism: https://talkbirth.me/2014/02/05/wednesday-tidbits-activism/)

“Let us initiate our daughters into the beauty and mystery of being strong and confident women who claim their right to give birth and raise their children with dignity, power, love, and joy.” –Barbara Harper

I’ve been getting a lot of requests lately to make more birthing mama sculptures, so I spent some time on Sunday sculpting up a new crew of them!

Photo: It took me a little longer than I thought and my poor mamas look chilly out there in the snow, but I finished taking pictures of my recent sculptures and they are all available on etsy now! :) http://etsy.com/shop/BrigidsGrove

You know how they say that birth art is as real, messy, raw and spontaneous as birth itself? Well, this birth artist doesn’t always gallivant around in the snow with tiny, empowered art pieces. Instead, sometimes I post things like this on Facebook: my toddler has been screaming because she wants to, “make a blue doddess RIGHT NOW” and when the sole cheerful sibling in the house attempted to make one for her she said, “it ball of poop” and squished it in the pasta roller. Ahhh. This is the life…

“Rigid plans work best if you’re building a skyscraper; with something as mysteriously human as giving birth, it’s best, both literally and figuratively, to keep your knees bent.” –Mark Sloan, MD (Birth Day)

via Brought to our knees | Talk Birth.

I recently read an article about spirituality and birth that is going in my dissertation work file:

“She remembers one devout Catholic who birthed holding rosary beads. Propped up on the bed, this mom-to-be rocked and hummed softly during contractions. During her home birth—which lasted only a few hours—she gazed at the three-foot-tall statue of the Virgin Mary in her room. “I felt I was in the palm of the Virgin Mary,” the mother explained to Vincent afterward. “She was protecting me.”

It is not a particular religious denomination that helps women have enjoyable, vaginal, and medication-free childbirths. Rather it is the belief that their bodies are doing what they’ve been made to do and that they are connected to something higher—be that God, the spirit, the universe, or even an awareness of women in the past who have given birth before them…”

Special Delivery | Spirituality & Health Magazine | Page 1.

My first ever miscarriage sculpture when up on etsy this week too. While, I made one like this for myself last year, I’ve never made one for sale until this week. This past week actually marked the fourth anniversary of my second miscarriage. When I took my photo of the new sculpture out in the snow, I reflected that this is how I felt after my second miscarriage–cold and alone. Trying to stand steady and find my ground, even though I felt as if my legs had been kicked out from under me…

Photo: My first ever miscarriage sculpture is also up on etsy today. I made one like this for myself, but I've never made for sale until this week.  This week marks the fourth anniversary of my second miscarriage. I took this photo of the new sculpture out in the snow and reflected that this is also how I felt after my second miscarriage--cold and alone. Trying to stand steady and find my ground, even though I felt as if my legs had been kicked out from under me...

This is part of what I originally wrote about that experience:

I just want to say two things again:

I do NOT want people to feel sorry again for me so soon.

I feel DUMB

I do not feel like I am handling this well or with strength. I just feel numb and dumb and done and done for. I am bottoming out right now. Bottom. Pit. Despair.

It is hard for me to read this again, to type it out, and to remember these feelings. It still feels strange or confusing to me about how Noah’s birth was “easier” for me to cope with emotionally—even as it was the most fundamental and profound grief I’ve ever experienced, it was clean. It felt meaningful. It also had a distinct physical, embodied connection via having given birth to him. The second miscarriage felt like being kicked while I was down and being erased.

via The Amethyst Network February Blog Circle ~ Sharing Our Stories: A Confusing Early Miscarriage Story | Talk Birth.

This time of year, the first week of February, is when I have a personal tradition of taking a week-long computer off retreat. Even though I felt the same call to retreat this year, I didn’t do it. I’m not ruling out the possibility of still getting to do so because February isn’t over yet, but I reached the point where I realized it was stressing me out more to feel like I “should” be planning a retreat than it was not to do it. Since we planned our business launch to start on February 1st, it also just didn’t make practical sense to suddenly disconnect at exactly the same time! What I did do was a family ritual on February 1st and also I did a single-day “email off retreat” that was really amazing. I would like to make that a regular part of my week, perhaps every Wednesday or something.

The merry-go-round of work never stops. There will always be more work than we can handle, more emails than we can ever manage, more projects to juggle. It’s up to us to heed our inner calling, whether that voice is saying, “You’re starving creatively … you can’t keep pushing, your body can’t do this anymore … if you look at one more email, your mind will explode … or, you have got to slow down and rest,” and take action.

via Why I’m taking a sabbatical – Renee Trudeau & Associates.

This reminded me of two past posts about the classic memoir, Gift from the Sea:

“With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions. The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls–woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”

― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

via The Revolving Wheel (Gift from the Sea) | Talk Birth.

Even though she wrote the book in the 50’s, the sense of fragmentation and balancing that many mothers today experience was her experience as well…

For life today in America is based on the premise of ever-widening circles of contact and communication. It involves not only family demands, but community demands, national demands, international demands on the good citizen, through social and cultural pressures, through newspapers, magazines, radio programs, political drives, charitable appeals, and so on. My mind reels in it, What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives. It puts the trapeze artist to shame. Look at us. We run a tight rope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby-carriage, parasol, kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now!

This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of. It leads not to unification but to fragmentation. It does not bring grace, it destroys the soul. And this is not only true of my life. I am forced to conclude, it is the life of millions of women in America. I stress America, because today, the American woman more than any other has the privilege of choosing such a life. ― Anne Morrow Lindbergh

via Tuesday Tidbits: Gift from the Sea (Communication Overwhelm) | Talk Birth.

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Check out the stack of orders he’s taking to the mailbox! Also, note PJ pants still on at noon, no breakfast (for him, I fixed my own), no shower, but also no need to drive through the current snow and ice to get to work…

I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on the household navigation of being an introvert mama with now having my also-introvert husband home full-time. Turns out that both parents home doesn’t magically extend the hours in a day (actually seems to shorten them) and it means both parents end up feeling pretty maxed out by kids and in need of somewhere quiet to recharge! 😉 I love having a “free-range” husband and I’m blown away by our joint creativity, which is an energy we’ve never experienced before at this level in our 19 year relationship because he was always at work all week and we had to squeeze everything else in around the edges. I also notice these interesting facts about having us both home all of the time: the house is way messier, we consistently stay up “too late” and sleep “too late,” it seems harder than ever to cook/figure out meals, we have less time to spend on homeschooling (!!), we still don’t feel like we have enough time to talk to each other, I seem to have less time to write and focus on writing, I feel like I give my kids less attention than I did when I was the only at-home parent (because I now have Mark to pay attention to too and I really like him), it is perhaps harder than ever to get the TWO HOURS I desperately need, I feel as if I have less time to focus on my teaching work, we argue more over household and parental responsibilities, we laugh way more and have more fun with each other and with our kids and we do more spontaneous, relaxed and fun stuff with our kids. It has been an interesting experience!

Related reads on introvert parenting:

I hate that as a mother, I felt like I had to choose between caring for my child and caring for myself. Because really, I can choose both. I can teach my kids—by example, which is perhaps the most potent way of teaching—that they are worthy of listening to their own needs. To the quiet, sure voice that might tell them they need a break. To lie on a yoga mat and sink deep into their own body and breath. To wander through a cemetery, alone, slowly enough to read the names on the gravestones. To sit down and write about how they’re feeling, or to surrender to sweet sleep for an hour.

via High Needs Mother | Brain, Child Magazine

So, sometimes when I start feeling ragged and can’t put my finger on exactly why, it comes to me: “I WANT MY TWO HOURS!”

via The Ragged Self | Talk Birth and Taking it to the body… Part 2: Embodied mindfulness, introversion, and two hours! | Talk Birth

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More time for spontaneous fun: she set this up yesterday and called me to come, “have ceremony!” and so we did. And, we drummed and sang too. She has a made up song she sings lately: “Oh, I’m her little daughter! Oh, I’m her little daughter!”

Toddlerhood and Beyond—Oh dear, now is when “no time to think” starts to wear on Introverted Mama’s nerves and stamina. I’ve met some awesome mothers of large families who comment on how they, “love the chaos” of home with lots of children. “Our house is wild and crazy and full of noise and I love it,” they may be known to say. Thinking of how desperately I crave silence and solitude, sometimes with an almost physical pain and longing, I feel inadequate in comparison to these declarations. Is this too simply a function of personality? Can these chaos-thriving mamas be extroverts who gain energy from interaction with others? I find that my own dear children, my own flesh and blood and bone and sweat and tears, still feel very much like “company” in terms of the drain on my energy that I experience. Whether it is socializing with a group or friends or spending the day with my energetic, loveable, highly talkative children, I crave time alone to recollect myself and to become whole once more. I once commented to my husband that I feel most like a “real person” when I’m alone. That means that the intensiveness and unyielding commitment of parenting can be really, really hard on me emotionally. Maybe it is okay to “own” that need for quiet, even as a mother, rather than to consider it some type of failure or an indication of not being truly cut out for this motherhood gig. (See more in a past, lengthy, navel-gazing post on why I need my “two hours”.)

How do you experience (and honor) introversion in your life as a parent? Sometimes I feel like being an introvert and being a mother are not very compatible, but as I learn to respect my own needs, to speak up for myself, and to heed that call for silence and solitude, I realize it is compatible after all. My children have two introverted parents and will hopefully grow up feeling confident in the knowing that there is profound power in being quiet, in taking time to think deeply, and to respond to the call of solitude if it comes knocking at the door of their hearts.

via Introverted Mama | Talk Birth.

I was looking through a new women’s circle curriculum I bought a couple of months ago that is about “becoming women of wisdom.” It is for older women and it takes your through a journey from your teens through your 60’s and beyond. Each “lesson” is illustrated with a drawing for that life stage. This is the illustration for “Remembering Our Thirties”:

February 2014 068It is so spot-on that it really made me laugh! I was encouraged to see the one that followed for your forties. She looks both chill and sizzling with her own power:

February 2014 069Finally, cycling back around to birth art, next up on our month-long launch-month giveaway agenda is one of our brand new womb labyrinth pendants! To enter, just click on the labyrinth picture below to go to the Facebook contest. As a special bonus, I’m holding a “secret” companion giveaway via this blog! For an entry to win one of our tree of life pendants, go like our new Brigid’s Grove Facebook page and then leave a comment here letting me know you did so. Double chance to win a prize from us this week! 🙂

Also, there is still time to get our free Ritual Recipe Kit! (just sign up for our newsletter).

Blogging, Busyness, and Life: Part 1

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“The successful woman has a secret. She’s learned that she owes it to herself, her children, and the world to make the contribution she was born to make. She’s learned to ask for advice and help, to insist on getting paid what she’s worth, and to set boundaries at work and at home so that her needs get met, not trampled. She puts her dreams at the top of her priorities list, not at the bottom. She feels great about being recognized for her accomplishments, and she’s totally OK with the fact that not everyone is going to like her when she stands up to those who would discount her or put her down.” –DEBRA CONDREN, Good Housekeeping, Aug. 2010

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Swoon! I’m in love with my late October roses. They are the most beautiful things ever and I DO, in fact, stop to smell them. Daily, as a matter of fact!

As the season shifts, I’ve recognized a familiar feeling. Oh yeah, this, I’ve had to say…again, it is my annual fall sense of needing something to change, of feeling overextended, overcommitted, and like other people are attempting to use me up or somehow consume me for their own purposes. I start to want to STOP. To take a break from it all. To retreat. I first consciously remember this feeling from November of 2009, the month that my third baby died unexpectedly during my pregnancy. Right before this, I’d been struggling with the feeling of being sped up and overcommitted and like I needed to pull back, but didn’t know how. Then, I experienced the birth-miscarriage of this baby and I did stop for a while. It was a crucible moment, a hinge upon which my life pivoted and changed directions. Though, the direction of the change is actually still in progress, still being birthed, even at this moment, four years later. Interestingly, when late fall rolls around each year, I experience the exact same thing.

When I first noticed the pattern, I wondered if it was an unconscious body memory of this miscarriage legacy, but I’ve come to think it is simply the season, and this is when I start to pay attention and make changes. I also know that this sensation of being “too busy” did not contribute to my miscarriage, as someone did actually once suggest to me, but is simply a regular feature of my Sept-Oct-Nov-Dec life. As I was working on this post, my mom came over to bring the kids back to me and she was also “sped up,” talking about her theater ushering commitments and her Halloween party and people coming over to learn how to make pottery (or another cool thing. My mom is the ultimate master of creative pursuits). And, I said to her as she was talking, “ah ha! I have a noble legacy of doing a lot.” I also remembered one of my realizations following my grandmother’s death earlier this year: one of the things I valued most about her was all the interesting things she did. She was vibrant and active and busy. She was always doing stuff. And, it was cool stuff and she was a cool person and I loved her and learned from her precisely because she was so busy and interesting all the dang time. I come from a long line of busy women with lots of interests…and abilities. Maybe that is just fine. When I attended the GGG this year, one of the realizations I came home with is that sometimes I feel like people are trying to get me to be less (more about this some other time). And, I remembered a session I had with a healer who did a somatic repatterning process with me—one of the beliefs she tested on me was, “I am not enough.” It got a marginal response, but then she tested, “I am TOO MUCH.” And, THAT is the one that tested as true. I wonder how much about myself that I try to change or that I struggle with actually comes from the fear of being, too much. Too intense. Too active. Too talkative. Too much thinking, too much writing, too many ideas, too many projects, too much waving of my hands and pacing when I talk. Too, too, too, too much.

So, I returned to this beautiful quote from Jen Louden in The Life Organizer:

“Would a weight lift off my shoulders if I realized that it’s normal to feel pulled between choices, that it’s normal to want to do more than I have time or energy for, and that it’s normal to have to choose between two equally wonderful things, that it’s actually a sign I’m a fascinating, amazing person?

via The Ongoing Crisis of Abundance | Talk Birth.

And, it said, oh yeah, this. I re-visited some of my past ah-ha moments and past November calls for change:

It is only when we silence the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of the truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.

~ K.T. Jong (via Kingfish Komment)

Some time around November each year for the last three years, I’ve had a feeling of being “sped up” in my life and a desperate craving of stillness and rest. I begin to feel like pulling inward, “calling my spirit back” and re-integrating fragmented parts. Aside from my family members, I stop feeling like being “of service” to others and their interruptions of my space or requests for my time or attention begin to feel like impositions. I begin to hear the distant call to “retreat.” I crave stillness, rest, and being alone. I fantasize about broad expanses of silent time in which to think and plan and ponder. It then takes me until February to actually act on this urge.

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One of my grandma’s sweet, beautiful antique Shirley Temple dolls–one of her many passions in life.

via Time for a retreat! | Talk Birth.

And, the sense of needing to take a break and or FINALLY figure out how to write short, snappy posts:

I don’t want to totally put my blog on hold, but I do want to, finally, figure out how to write SHORTER posts for the time being and save the involved, insightful posts that I put a lot of thought into for my winter break. I also just really need to give myself permission to be “off” here and direct my attention towards other roles.

via Blog Break Festival! | Talk Birth.

I also found a most excellent reminder about over-blogging perhaps diminishing my “radiance”:

So, once again I’ve found myself staring at The Mountain of Too Much and a familiar a crisis of abundance. This happens routinely. I should be used to it by now! But, I feel this creeping sense of overwhelm and dismay as I look at my calendar, my commitments, and my neverending to-do list. And, as I continue to try to be more and do better and yet always feel as if I’m not enough. I feel myself getting ragged and I don’t like it. I also have a feeling that I’m forgetting the self-care mantra, “the things that matter most should never be at the mercy of the things that matter least.” I keep getting distracted by little bits and bites and losing sight of what I most value. I’m also not taking care of myself—not eating enough, running out of time to exercise, being preoccupied rather than present, always doing the “should dos” instead of the “want tos.” I crave rest. I fantasize about just being able to rest. But, then I discover I’m not sure I know how.

So, I very much appreciated this extremely thought-provoking audio-blog Women in Cyberspace ~ Our Blind Spots – IndigoBacal.com. She makes a lot of important observations about how women use social media, including blogging, and she shared: “What I discovered was that sharing as much of myself as possible, as much of my inspiration as possible [online] was actually diminishing my radiance…”

via Blog Break Festival

And, the sensation of being splintered and pulled:

Sometimes I think I just like and care about TOO MANY things. All of these things splinter my attention in a million ways however, and also leave me with a persistent sensation of, “well, I didn’t get everything done today.” I continue to try to make sure to unsubscribe from email lists and blog subscriptions to cut down on this immediacy sensation that a constant influx of new information and ideas promotes. As I told my husband, “if I

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One of my new projects! Too much?! I think not!

didn’t get that newsletter, or click on that article, or open that email, I would never have known about all those things I could have gotten done today.” Plus, there is always a new batch tomorrow! And, then I get a little depressed thinking why the rush to get things done and to finish? So I can die with a clear to-do list?! Come on!

via The Ongoing Crisis of Abundance | Talk Birth.

And, about maybe needing to quit blogging:

During this time, I abruptly decided this was IT, I HAVE TO STOP BLOGGING. I cried and cried. I don’t want to quit, but, if I can’t do homeschooling properly I certainly don’t deserve to be a blogger. And, then I remembered these quotes about stories and I especially remembered this one:

“As long as women are isolated one from the other, not allowed to offer other women the most personal accounts of their lives, they will not be part of any narratives of their own…women will be staving off destiny and not inviting or inventing or controlling it.” –Carolyn Heilbrun quoted in Sacred Circles

And, also this one:

Telling our stories is one way we become more aware of just what ‘the river’ of our lives is. Listening to ourselves speak, without interruption, correction, or even flattering comments, we may truly hear, perhaps for the first time, some new meaning in a once painful, confusing situation. We may, quite suddenly, see how this even or relationship we are in relates to many others in our past. We may receive a flash of insight, a lesson long unlearned, a glimpse of understanding. And, as the quiet, focused compassion for us pervades the room, perhaps our own hearts open, even slightly, towards ourselves.

–Robin Deen Carnes & Sally Craig in Sacred Circles

via I am a Story Woman | Talk Birth.

October 2013 075

Their season is passing and the cold is having an impact, but they’re still amazing.

However, I also don’t think it is my imagination that the pace of life and the requests/demands for time and attention have increased exponentially in the last couple of years. I don’t know if it is just my own stage of life, or actually the whole of modern society. I feel like it is society (or Facebook?!)—there is a LOT to DO all the time and prioritizing and choosing between those things can actually be a painful process, sometimes resulting in dropped balls, misunderstandings, and the sensation of apathy amongst people, that I don’t think is really true–I think it is more-to-do-keep-track-of-than-is-literally-feasible. I have reach a point in which the time in my life for several of my birth-related committed has passed and probably did so a couple of years ago, but I have continued out of loyalty, friendship, responsibility, obligation, and the fact that I DO still care a LOT, just not as much as I used to. I read an article some time ago (that I cannot manage to relocate) that continuing with work that you really feel finished with is the same as “sleeping with your ex.” Though I’ve never had an actual ex to sleep with, I can appreciate the metaphor and I feel like I DO need to acknowledge the areas in my own work/volunteer life in which I’m “sleeping with my ex,” rather than heading in the directions I feel called to pursue. Birthwork as a whole, with the exception of birth writing and birth art, has become that sleeping-with-my-ex territory for me, but it is SO HARD to let go, especially because the work is connected to important friendships and past experiences and, and, and.

In the last year, I’ve taken on regular (unpaid) blog contributor commitments with multiple other blogs. I’m recognizing that some of these experiences feel rewarding and enriching and some feel more like I’m being “used” to contribute to the project of another person without a lot of gain for myself. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple of weeks both pondering how to be less hard on myself as well as about the role of blogging in my life…where does it fit? Is it inhibiting other work I could be doing or contributing to it? How do I make the transition between focuses, or, is it possible to maintain multiple focuses and multiple blog commitments…? This reminded me of an article I read about healthy boundaries, which are really important for those of us who like to be of service to others…

Boundary setting is hands-down the most important lesson we women need to learn: “Healthy boundaries are like having a front door with a lock on it. You have the right to keep out unpleasant visitors.”

Boundary setting was certainly my most important lesson to learn in order to become empowered, because without healthy boundaries I created unhealthy, dysfunctional relationships . . . and I didn’t even realize I was doing it!

As someone who has tended to over-give, over-do, over-protect, even over-try, I have to remind myself when I begin taking on more than I feel comfortable with — whether it be helping a friend, counseling a family member through a rough time, or offering to “pick up the slack” for someone who has “bitten off more than they can chew” – to back up, slow down, and really ask myself:

“Do I want to be doing this?”

“Is this improving my life or exhausting me?”

“Has this started to become a co-dependent relationship with me as the ‘mother / caretaker’ and them as my ‘child / responsibility’?”

By being aware of how I feel (i.e. drained, frustrated, even resentful), I’ve learned how to catch myself from stepping into chaos, drama, and dysfunction much sooner than I used to.

~ Crystal Andrus

Read more: http://www.crystalandrus.com/healthy-boundaries-create-healthy-relationships/

I have some more thoughts and some quotes from blogs to share and I don’t yet feel actually finished with this post, but that’s okay and I will go ahead and continue with Part 2, tomorrow, even though part of me is saying, “no one is even interested in your lengthy mental machinations, why are you going on and on and on in your too muchly manner?!”

And, I’ll leave you with this cool video from an online event I’m attending tonight:

Listen to the wise woman…

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Mini mamapriestess sculpture I made to take with me for my medicine bundle.

Last summer after I finished my priestess certification and I’d been facilitating women’s retreats for two years, I got a wild idea to go to a womanspirit or goddess festival of some kind. I did a google search and found one that sounded great—the Gaea Goddess Gathering–and it was happening in just two weeks. Imagine my surprise to then look at the bottom of the screen and see that it was located only a five-hour drive from me, just over the border into Kansas. I decided it was “meant to be.” My mom and a friend signed up with me (and Alaina) and we packed up my van and went! The night before we left on our adventure, I sat down at the kitchen table and felt a knife-like stinging pain on the back of my leg. I’d accidentally sat on a European giant hornet (these are not regular hornets, they are literally giant hornets about two inches long).

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Sting before I left.

Though it became hot and swollen and terribly painful, we set forth anyway. I asked for input on Facebook and did google research and started putting benadryl cream on it, even though I usually go with home remedies over medical-model remedies. It got worse and worse, eventually running from my hip to my knee and wrapped around my entire leg so
that two thirds of my thigh was sting-area and the difference in size between my legs was noticeable through clothing. During the festival, as I watched myself get worse and worse and people kept making remarks about needing epi-pens and maybe I should go to the hospital, I decided to dispense with the benadryl and listen to the wise women instead. My friend found plantain and made me a poultice. The cook gave me baking soda that I applied in a paste. I went to a ceremony that involved a healing ritual with sound and a priestess in a tent beat a drum over me as I lay there on my stomach. After a little Reiki healing, she then leaned very, very close to my ear and said quietly, “are you taking good enough care of yourself? You give and give and it is time to receive. You need to be taken care of too.” And, I cried.

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Sting after arriving. I didn’t take any pictures of it at the worst. It got about twice as bad as this. Every time I thought it could not possible get worse, it got twice as bad!

I came out of the tent and laid on a bench and women I didn’t know came and put their hands on my back and made me tinctures of strange plants they found in the herb garden and I drank it even though it almost made me gag. Another woman I didn’t know rubbed my back and though I couldn’t even see her face, she leaned close to my ear and said, “sometimes life stings you. Your friends, your family, being a parent, taking care of your children. It stings sometimes. Things people say without meaning to sting you. You’re sensitive, Sometimes it stings a lot and you worry that you’re not good enough. I see you with your baby. You are such a good mother.” And, I cried again, lying there on bench in the middle of nowhere with my dress pulled up and my red, sore, swollen, horrible thigh covered with a poultice of mysterious weeds, surrounded by women I didn’t know, but who were caring for me. And, I got better. By the time I got home, the sting was almost totally healed.

As soon as I returned home, I made a list, intending to develop it into a blog post about everything I’d learned at this gathering of women. The list languished in my drafts folder and the wheel of the year continued to turn and now it is September again and next week, some friends and I will be hopping back in my van and heading back to the GGG for this year’s festival. I decided the blog post will never get “developed” into the post I had intended, but that I can still share my list anyway. I also realized that I have been reluctant to post it here for fear of being too “weird” and alienating readers. But, Talk Birth is like a buffet, you can take what works for you and leave the rest! 😉 I’m also writing now because I’m going to go ahead and give myself a week off from blogging and I wanted to post some sort of explanation as to why. I’m going to focus on getting ready for the festival (I’m selling jewelry while there too!) and hanging out with my family (and, oh yeah, grading all the papers that are due this Sunday night!).

So, what did I learn at the GGG?

  • I have a lot to learn
  • Likewise, I know more than I give myself credit for—I am both more skilled than I may think and less skilled than I’d like to be.
  • I want to be more confident
  • I need to always remember to look for a wise woman when I need help. And, that allowing myself to be cared for by strangers is a surprisingly powerful experience.
  • I am much more quickly judgmental than I realized or like to admit—I judge the book by its cover and assess “worth” by appearance more often than I thought and I disappointed myself with that. I learned that ALL women have hidden gifts and I was surprised over and over again what people had to offer, that their appearance might not have suggested.
  • My body knows how to heal (I’ve learned this before, also from a bug)
  • It was great to have just one-on-one time with Alaina. She just wants to be with me. I didn’t have to cook/do laundry or anything else. I just toted her around which is exactly what she needs/wants (*note from this year: she still wants exactly this and I’m looking forward to giving it to her).
  • My mom is incredibly creatively gifted. And, I’m lucky to be around so many creative women in my own community. They have awesome gifts!
  • I don’t need to do everything—other people have their own talents and I don’t have to “do it all,” all of the time.
  • But by the same token, I don’t have to be good at everything and it is still okay to do things and be bad at them, but still try. (However, it also good to let other people have their specialties/share their gifts. I don’t have to do it all.)
  • I can be open to receive.
  • I can be a singer! Perform in a group! Feel awesome!
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    Once this started, I knew I’d made the right choice to come after all!

  • Ditto drummer!
  • Explanation of the two points above which also connect to the one about not having to do everything and yet it also being okay to try. One of the sessions at the festival was the “GGG Soul Singers.” One of the women taught a large group of us several cool songs. During the special dinner that night, we got up together with sound equipment and everything and performed our songs. Everyone was yelling and cheering and clapping and it was great. So much fun! I’m a terrible singer, I know that, but that night I felt like I was amazing. And, I learned that being terrible at something doesn’t mean you can’t do it anyway and enjoy yourself. I’m looking forward to doing this again this year! At this festival I was captivated by these massive community drums the women had. Large enough to be played by four or even more women at once, I absolutely loved them. Even though I didn’t know what I was doing, I tried, and discovered I could indeed do it. I could drum and sing and keep up with the group. When I got home, I decided I must have a drum like this and spent way too much money and ordered one online. And, even though I’m tone-deaf and “non-musical,” I can play it. And, I’m still amazing, whether I really am or not!
  • I felt both more and less competent—related to knowing a lot and yet having a lot to learn, I discovered that I’m a pretty good ceremonialist, a lot better than I’d given myself credit for, but that some other people are way better than me (and others are not. What matters is trying).
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    Intense stairs from the dining hall and lodging to the “ridge” where ceremonies took place. Navigating these was NO FUN with that sting on my leg! But, isn’t tiny Alaina cute setting off on her own and heading on up?!

  • I was acknowledged/recognized as priestess/clergy to my own circle of women and it felt very good to be seen in that way. I’m trying to be/offer/bring something to the local area that still feels tender and vulnerable in myself. I lack some confidence. Want to build it! And, yet, I do it anyway. I’m brave! Maybe I’m not as skilled or musical or awesome as I could be, but I’m pretty darn good and…at least I TRY!
  • Want family to be clear priority. Family harmony is a top goal. I want to make sure to give them my good stuff too! Don’t save my passion and enthusiasm for “others” only!

When I got home from this festival, I was so inspired that I planned and facilitated a pretty great nighttime, firelit “sagewoman” ceremony in a teepee (with drumming on my new community drum) for the wise women of my own community. As a ritualist/ceremonialist, I learned from the GGG-experience that ambiance really, really matters in offering a cool ritual.

Since last year, I’ve developed my ceremonialist skills even further and last month received an additional supplemental ordination from the American Priestess Council. I’m almost three years into my D.Min program, I’ve taken advanced coursework in ritual design as well as pastoral counseling, liturgy, the role of the priestess, ethics, history, and so forth. At this time last year, I was struggling with whether or not it was “okay” for me to own the Priestess identity I felt “called” into and at the GGG I was seen and heard into this identity particularly by my friend and also by my mom. It turns out it is okay for me to serve others as a Priestess and to claim that title with authenticity even though I’m not as perfect and amazing as I feel like I should be (I’m also a blogger for SageWoman magazine and I’m currently working on a post called who does she think SHE is, that is about exactly this tension).

Some more pictures:

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Henna feet! From the woman who did this for me, I learned the phrase: “sparkles are my favorite color.”

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Medicine bundle! This was the best class ever. The woman brought piles and piles of random and awesome stuff and it was all free to choose what you wanted for your bundle. How cool is this face?!

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She also had simple clay goddesses for us to paint and attach as well as we could.

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Pensive little Lainey looking back thoughtfully at the stairs up which she just journeyed.

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Back home demo’ing a beautiful sarong gifted to my by my seeing friend!

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What’s this…

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…I hear…big DRUMS!

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When I got home, I was inspired to make some new sculptures and Mark cut a lovely gemstone and made a pendant.

Here I go again! I wonder what lessons await me this year…