Archives

Where I am and what I’m doing

12705627_10208872186671956_5054610650064481685_n

Over the last year as more and more of my time, focus, and attention have shifted to Brigid’s Grove, my posts at Talk Birth have become more sporadic. Two things have happened this month that made me realize it is time to officially retire from my commitment to this blog. I was on the trampoline with my kids one beautiful spring afternoon. I like to lie on my back and look at the “hoop of the world” as the trees are framed by the safety net around the trampoline. As I laid there, it came to me with crystal clarity: “I need to retire as an LLL Leader.” I’ve been a Leader for ten years. My ability to continue to serve in the capacity and level to which I was accustomed and expect of myself was dramatically impacted by having our fourth child. I took a maternity leave and expected to pick back up more active involvement after his birth. He is almost eighteen months old now and not only have I not picked it back up, I have let it drop back to virtually nothing. And, I no longer see any remaining crack of space in my time or life to pick it back up. It was beautiful, important work. I gave a lot to it. I was very good at it. And, now I am done.

This weekend I went to a spring festival. While I was there, I met three beautiful women. One was a midwife, one was a student midwife, and one was a pregnant woman. We chatted and connected over postpartum care (including photos of clots), belly casting, and midwifery legislation. And, I realized I felt “far away” from it all. It felt like something distant or removed from me. Like, “oh yeah, this Molly. The one who is into all of this stuff, who is current, who knows, who is enthralled by conversations about birth.” It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested, per se, but that my interest felt detached, removed, like I was accessing something “old” rather than something current. And, in that moment I knew: Talk Birth is complete.

Talk Birth as a site will remain as a storehouse, resource, and database of my past posts and content and I may periodically update it or release from my draft posts from their dusty prison, but I will no longer be updating or maintaining it on a regular basis. I do envision putting all of my class outlines, articles, and information-based posts into a “Best Of” compendium or educator’s resource packet at some point, but I have no idea when that will rise to the top of my priority list.

When I wrote my first post here in 2007, intended solely for a local childbirth education client audience, I had no idea that Talk Birth would grow to have well over a million hits as well as give birth to my passion for priestessing and for goddess art, and lead me into the fulfilling work I am now doing.

My heart has been in service to women and women’s empowerment work since before I was even a legal adult. How I express this service has gone through several evolutions. The time has come for me to lay aside this birth-oriented expression of my commitment to women and to continue to pour my heart into what I offer through Brigid’s Grove. Feel free to join me there.12744433_10208840231073086_7611516801155821755_n

 

Thursday Tidbits: Everyday Sheroism in Birth and Life

February 2016 005Do you know how many days have gone by in which I’ve said: “well, I didn’t write my dissertation today?”

This past Monday I got to say: I *DID* WRITE MY DISSERTATION TODAY!!!!!!!!!

It may be a first draft rather than a final submission, depending on suggestions from the reviewers, but there is a huge qualitative difference between someone who is writing a dissertation and someone who has submitted a dissertation and who might need to make revisions. It is 187 pages and 88,000 words and involves one year of original research with 100 pages of collated research results. Five years of classes, study, and contemplation, with also doubling my amount of offspring during this time. I grew this dissertation project at the same time I was growing Tanner from a tiny newborn to a walking, talking toddler. And, I feel like I just pushed out the biggest baby of my life. I cannot even describe the energy expenditure this required of me. I feel so satisfied and very, very proud of myself.

At Red Tent last week, when we passed the rattle, we each had a moment to share something we needed to be “compassionately witnessed.” After making a good effort at doing daily dissertation work throughout December, I’ve been semi-half-hearted on it since, averaging one “good” day of intensive work on it per week. I was hoping to have it finished before we go on a trip this month, but I was feeling so strained and drained and tense that adding it to my to-do list felt almost cruel and possibly ridiculous. When it was my turn for compassionate witness, I shared with the circle that I had reached a point in which I could no longer distinguish whether finishing my dissertation was self-care or self-harm.

After making manifestation bracelets together at Red Tent.

After making manifestation bracelets together at Red Tent.

Now, in hindsight, I recognize the “transition” stage. I’ve known for a while now that it is part of my personal process with big projects to have to be able to have a time and a place in which I am able to say, I don’t know if I can do this. And, to have that fear and self-doubt, and vulnerability simply witnessed. And, then, do that thing anyway. It is hard to find a space in which this is “allowed.” Very often well-meaning suggestions are to cut myself slack, to lower my expectations, or to give myself a break. I have discovered that just like these comments are not actually helpful to a woman in labor, they are not helpful to me in “labor” with other big projects either. In fact, I think there is a secret “dark” side to many popular self-care messages, primarily because what we sometimes might pass off as “self-care” is actually a “shadow comfort” (to borrow Jen Louden’s term) and is actually a meanings of inhibiting ourselves, holding ourselves back, or sabotaging ourselves (or those around us, when we offer the “out” of quitting or not following through…of letting ourselves down). When I was able to let out the fear and doubt, only for a few minutes, and have it simply received, it was as if something unlocked within me and suddenly I knew I had it in me after all. Only a few days later, after several focused bursts of intense writing, I submitted my completed project.

Anyway, a long story just to make this point: I felt SO good after submitting it. I may never have been so proud of myself. I was giddy, thrilled, exhilarated, excited, and exuberant. “What if I had QUIT?!” I yelled, “then I would never have gotten to feel like THIS!” When I lower expectations, sure, I might meet them, but when I keep my expectations high…and meet them. There is nothing that can replace that feeling. And, guess what, it keeps stretching me to reach just a little higher and a little higher. And yes, the self-harm shadow side of continuous life-stretching is that I can be trapped into “striving and striving and never arriving,” but the self-care amazing life side, is that I prove to myself that I can do incredible things and that I accomplish that which may have felt impossible for a time.

Bringing it back to birth, I read this post about ten things not to say to a woman in labor and the first reminded me of my own big “push” to finish the dissertation and how compassionate witness is infinitely more valuable than sympathetic shadow comfort enabling:

Scenario 1: If a woman is trying to make a rational and educated decision while in labor (a very difficult thing to do when in pain!) about whether or not to get an epidural (which is a big deal, by the way) by saying “you don’t have to be a hero” is playing to her emotions and vulnerability which isn’t fair. If she’s questioning this choice instead of immediately signing up for anesthesia, she likely has a reason for the hesitation. I guarantee she doesn’t want an unmedicated birth to become “a hero”. Maybe she was hoping for a natural birth, or wants to reduce the chance of further interventions like pitocin, or maybe she’s wanting the best start for her baby. I don’t know. But by saying “you don’t have to be a hero” to help her make a decision is basically blowing her off when she is in a very vulnerable position. It’s a low blow.

Source: 10 Things to NEVER Say to a Woman in Labor | Mother Rising

And, here’s the deal…women in labor and postpartum are heroes. They are incredible. They are amazing. We should never deny them that knowledge, particularly if all we are offering in return is a patronizing platitude masquerading as compassion. This “One Day Young” photo project captures that sheroism:

These goddesses headed to a WIC peer counselor's office this week.

These goddesses headed to a WIC peer counselor’s office this week.

“In those first 24 hours, it’s like this warrior comes out in women,” says Jenny. “They gain this inner strength to protect the child and you can see it in the photos. “They’re like those heroic pictures of soldiers on the battlefield or the footballer after the match, still full of the adrenaline of achievement. This moment isn’t often captured in women, but what they’ve just achieved is just as important as that goal or that battle, and that moment deserves to be recorded and celebrated in the public arena.”

Source: Empowering Photo Project ‘One Day Young’ Reassures Women That Childbirth Is Nothing To Fear

At the same time, birth can be very hard work and the recovery can be intense and long-lasting. Culturally, while we may minimize, invalidate or deny women’s power, strength, and amazingness in birth, we also often minimize, invalidate, and deny their vulnerability after birth.

We don’t talk about postpartum pain — bleeding, stitches, not being able to stand upright, or easily walk around. We don’t talk about the struggles of early breastfeeding: cracked and bleeding nipples, mastitis, and worries about producing enough milk. We are only beginning to talk about postpartum depression and anxiety. And it almost seems as if new fathers and adoptive parents don’t matter at all. The rhetoric from those who don’t want change paint a rosy picture of motherhood, but the realities of these anti-family policies are much more grim. In a recent TED talk, I share a number of heart-wrenching personal stories from women who have suffered as a result of having to return to work too soon.

Source: Maternity Leave Policy Postpartum Pain – Susan Crowe

After submitting my dissertation, I was heard to say that I felt like I needed a long nap and maybe several large gifts. After the intensity and unpredictability of giving birth, a ceremony might be in order, either a sealing ceremony like I experienced, or a birth reclaiming ceremony as is described in this article:

“I wasn’t at the birth, but it was super quick and the mother felt traumatised. I came in on a Monday, and the baby looked a little pinched. I asked the mother about feeding and she said she thought it was going okay. I offered to change the baby’s nappy – I took it off and it was bone dry. I asked how long it had been on and it was over 12 hours. The maternal health nurse was due over that day, so we had a bit of time to suss what was going on, since I was a breastfeeding counsellor as well. From chatting, we realised her milk had not come in and the baby was clearly not getting anything.

The mother was super stressed and her baby was about a week old — and clearly not in fabulous shape. I talked about a birth reclaiming ceremony and we ran her a lovely warm bath. It was daytime, so we closed the curtains and played soft music. As she climbed into the bath, I saw her high, tense shoulders drop right down and she let out a big sigh. When she was ready, I stripped her baby, and placed the baby on her chest. We sat quietly, not saying a word. The mother started to cry, then sob, totally overwhelmed by the responsibility of being a parent and not doing a good enough job. All the while, looking at her sleeping baby, holding her.

As the mother eventually finished crying… her milk started to roll down her breasts. She looked at me, so surprised, and said, “Is that what its meant to look like?”

Source: Birth Reclaiming Ceremony – Could It Help You Heal? | BellyBelly

Finally, I like to share this link. I haven’t actually watched any of these, but for people who like TED Talks, this sounds like an interesting round-up!

11 TED Talks for Pregnancy and Birth — Tulsa Birth Doula, Bethanie Verduzco, CD(DONA) – Hello Sunshine Birth Services

February 2016 022What else is up with me this week:

  • The etsy shop is on limited inventory until March 1.
  • I’ve been working on the materials kits for both the Red Tent Initiation and Womanspirit Initiation courses that I have coming up. They’re beautiful and I’m so proud of both of them. Every time I pack up a kit, I feel so thrilled. Both trainings begin March 21st and still have spaces available for registration if you’re interested!

February 2016 116

Free Mini Course: Womanspirit Wisdom

I’ve developed three new free mini courses to offer this year. The first is ready to roll and begins on February 1!

Here are the details…

Womanspirit Wisdom

IMG_0173This three-week ecourse is designed to offer you a gently nourishing daily “sacred pause.” Beginning February 1, each day for 21 days, take a moment and simply receive. There is nothing to do, just enjoy taking a daily minute to connect with yourself.

Includes:

Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Planning

December 2015 017

My post from last week about recovering from childbirth sent me on a blog-excavation mission for all the posts I’ve written about postpartum care. This is just a sampling (I’ve written a lot on the subject):

“I needed a maternal figure, a dedicated and present midwife, dear and loving friends. I was blessed with one out of three. It could have been worse. The only people I know who did just fine in the postpartum period are those who score the triumvirate: well cared for in birth, surrounded by supportive peers, helpful elders to stay with them for a time. The others, wild-eyed at the supermarket, prone to tears, unable to nurse or sleep or breathe, a little too eager to make friends at baby groups – I can spot them at 20 paces. We form a vast and sorry club…”

via My friend breastfed my baby | Life and style | The Guardian.

Source: Weekly Tidbits: Birth, Postpartum, the Triumvirate, and Anthropology | Talk Birth

Other, experienced women can be our most powerful source of support:

Women around the world and throughout time have known how to take care of each other in birth. They’ve shown each other the best positions for comfort in labor, they’ve used nurturing touch and repeated soothing words, and they’ve literally held each other up when it’s needed the most…

–The Doula Guide to Birth

Source: Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Recovery | Talk Birth

I’ve spent a lot of time talking and writing about the culture that surrounds us and the resultant impact on our birth, breastfeeding, and early parenting experiences:

The United States are not known for their postpartum care practices. Many women are left caught completely off guard by the postpartum recovery experience and dogged by the nagging self-expectation to do and be it all and that to be a “good mother” means bouncing back, not needing help, and loving every minute of it.

Source: Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Mamas | Talk Birth

It isn’t just me writing about the impact of culture on maternal mental health, this post calls it like it is:

Let’s stop torturing mothers. Let’s stop ignoring the problem of expecting new mums to get back to normal. They are not normal, they are super important, and we need to value them and treat them with the greatest respect, if we don’t want them to break into a million pieces, shattering the lives of all those around them.

Source: Torturing new mothers and then wondering why they get mentally ill. | Mia’s Blog

This insightful article full of helpful tips for supporting postpartum women by my friend Summer got a lot of attention when I re-shared it on Facebook last week:

An unfortunate by-product of our society’s refusal to see birth as a monumental event is the lack of a babymoon or restful, supported postpartum period. Most of the time, moms and dads are expected to pick up with their everyday lives almost immediately.

The Incredible Importance of Postpartum Support | Midwives, Doulas, Home Birth, OH MY!

I offer some survival tips here: Postpartum Survival Tips | Talk Birth

And, one of my favorite guest posts that I’ve ever hosted on this site is this one about postpartum planning: Guest Post: Mothers Matter–Creating a Postpartum Plan | Talk Birth

When considering postpartum planning as well as talking about it to others, I find that visualizing the placental site that is healing can be a helpful jolt reminding us how important good postpartum care is:

“Remind them that a true six-week postpartum window allows for the placenta site to fully heal and supports minimized bleeding and stronger recovery.” An excellent tip for educators and doulas from Barbeau is to illustrate size of placental site healing area with hands like small dinner plate—if this was outside the body, how would you care for yourself…

Source: Timeless Days: More Postpartum Planning | Talk Birth

And, some final reminders about good postpartum care for women themselves and for those who love them:

I recently finished a series of classes with some truly beautiful, anticipatory, and excited pregnant women and their partners. I cover postpartum planning during the final class and I always feel a tension between accurately addressing the emotional upheavals of welcoming a baby into your life and marriage and “protecting,” in a sense, their innocent, hopeful, eager, and joyful awaiting of their newborns.

This time, I started with a new quote that I think is beautifully true as well as appropriately cautionary: “The first few months after a baby comes can be a lot like floating in a jar of honey—very sweet and golden, but very sticky too.” –American College of Nurse-Midwives

Source: Some reminders for postpartum mamas & those who love them | Talk Birth

December 2015 029

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

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

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

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

wheel

Sign up for the Brigid’s Grove Newsletter for resources, monthly freebies, + art and workshop announcements.

Tuesday Tidbits: This Time Last Year…

As I mentioned in my 11 month update, the first year of life with a new baby feels like a journey through a labyrinth. The moments I experienced last year while pregnant take on a particularly poignancy as I round the curves of The Return, this time with baby in arms.

I love the moments of continuity…last year with my pregnant belly, this year at the pumpkin patch with a toddler selecting his own pumpkin.

October 2014 113

October 2015 044

Last year getting my pregnancy photos taken and having a mother blessing, this year having some breastfeeding photos taken (note: carefully selected goddess sarong for photographic continuity!).

Mollyblessingway 116

_DSC0457fInterestingly, this time last year I was taking online instructor trainings for Sacred Pregnancy and Sacred Postpartum. This year, quite by accident (in terms of exact timing), I ended up starting the Sacred Pregnancy Birth Journey instructor course online. I won this course in a Red Tent fundraising auction via Moon Times in the winter, but I didn’t actually take it until this month.

For today’s tidbits post, I’m taking a walk down memory lane and looking at posts from around this same time last year…

Stretching time, wondering about twins, and making a belly cast:

I felt on the edge of tears from the time I woke up almost until the time we did the belly cast—feeling stressed, rushed, and WHY. However, we had a great time doing the cast (even though we had to stop to rescue a hummingbird from the actual jaws of a cat, save Alaina from being clawed by another cat, and answer computer questions from the boys. Sometimes I have to pause and realize that the overwhelm I feel lately is probably just a feature of the realities of having three kids with various needs already, a job, a business, a dissertation to write, books waiting to be born, and several serious life passions and be preparing to add another human to the family. Perhaps it would be weird if I didn’t feel overwhelmed and a little panicky, rather than it feeling like it is a personal failing that this is how I’ve spent a lot of time feeling lately.)

Source: Stretching Time | Talk Birth

Then, painting and re-painting that belly cast into a fall leaves theme that I still love: September 2014 122

I am 100% pleased with the re-do. Sometimes a revision is exactly the right choice! I feel like the comparison of my first attempt and my second looks like one of those side-by-side Pinterest comparisons, only both of these were from me!

Source: Belly Cast! | Talk Birth

And, from there, making another belly cast with the intention of creating a pottery belly bowl:

During this pregnancy, one of my personal philosophies has been to do stuff that I haven’t done before. This is my last chance to be pregnant (really!) and I want to make sure I leave no stones uncovered or cool stuff undone!

Source: Belly Bowl! (and new altar bowl) | Talk Birth

And, it worked!

Completed Pottery Clay Belly Bowl! | Talk Birth

I mused over whether I was ready or not:

The inexorable march towards Birth-Day is such an interesting, liminal place to be in. It both feels “mysterious” and inevitable. The closer I get to my official due date, the more wide open the possibilities seem as to when he will be born…when, in reality, the options narrow each day! I still have a certain sense of unreality about the whole thing—like, am I really going to do this? Am I really going to have a BABY????!!!!!

Source: Ready or Not! | Talk Birth

But, my Sacred Postpartum training really helped me prepare, as I took a ceremonial bath:

And, that is when I had my “breakthrough” moment. My eyes were prickling with tears and I said: “I associate taking baths with being weak and wounded.” I associate baths with cleaning blood away from myself and gingerly poking around for tears in my most vulnerable tissues.

Source: Sacred Postpartum, Week 2: Ceremonial Bathing | Talk Birth

And learned how to make Happy Tea:

I’ve been interested to note that I’ve dreamed with increasing realism about the baby for the last three nights in a row. Last night, I was getting him latched on for the first time. The night before, my mom and Mark had brought him to campus for me to nurse on my breaks from class. The night before that was a water birth dream (two actually, both about twins). To me this indicates that whatever lingering “not readiness” I might be experiencing in my waking life, my subconscious is getting it. At some level, my brain is getting down with the idea of really, truly having another baby and it is incorporating him into my dreamscape/life accordingly.

Source: Sacred Postpartum: Happy Tea + 40 Week Update | Talk Birth

My Mother Blessing ceremony also helped me recognize my own strength and courage:

I discovered in this post-ritual reflection that it is just part of my personal process to be able to say, and be vulnerable enough to have people hear, see, or read, that I think maybe I can’t do something or that I’ve said yes to too much. The answer for me is not, “then don’t” or “stop” or “quit” or “take it easy,” it is to move forward and to see, again, that I was actually enough for what scared me or felt too big or too exhausting.

Source: Mother Blessings and the Power of Ritual | Talk Birth

In the power of ritual, I learned (again) that life is like birth, and we give birth as we live.

October 2015 083

Closing the Bones…

IMG_9515

After my own postpartum sealing ceremony, November 2014.

I’m thrilled to have a guest post from Awen Clement on the Brigid’s Grove blog this month. She writes about Closing the Bones, a ceremony for postpartum women…

“After the birth of my son, I felt broken open”

Did you feel this way after the births of your children? Did you feel as though you had opened yourself body, mind and spirit to bring that new life into the world? Did it surprise you to feel this way?

We give so much when we birth our children, on every level, and then we keep on giving as we move on in our mothering. We feel exhausted, but that exhaustion somehow doesn’t seem to lift no matter how well we rest. We may feel as though something is missing, some part of ourselves that we were sure was there before. It probably isn’t something you would ever mention to anyone and even if you did many would simply point out that you’re a mother now, of course your tired and of course you feel different…

Read more here: Guest Post: Honouring the Bones of my Sisters – Brigid’s Grove

IMG_9800My own post about my postpartum sealing ceremony can be found here:

Ceremonial Bath and Sealing Ceremony | Talk Birth