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Talk Books: Moon Time

moontime2My first reading of the book Moon Time in 2012 had a profound impact on my personal understanding of the natural ebb and flow of my energy in connection to my body’s cyclical nature. The author, Lucy Pearce, explains it so well…

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.

Moon Time is written in a friendly, conversational tone and is a quick read with a lot of insight into the texture and tone of our relationships with menstruation.

The book contains information about charting cycles and about our relationship to our bodies and our fertility. I especially enjoyed the excellent section on minimizing PMS through self-care measures and how to plan time to nurture and nourish yourself during your monthly moon time. I also appreciate the section on motherhood and menstruation:

“What strikes me reading through a lot of the material on menstruation is that is seems oddly detached from the fruits of the menstrual cycle: children.”

Moon Time also includes planning information for Red Tents and Moon Lodges and for menarche rituals  as well as for personal ceremonies and self-care rituals at home. It ends with an absolutely phenomenal list of resources—suggested reading and websites.

Towards the beginning of the book Lucy observes, “We live in a culture which demands that we are ‘turned on’ all the time. Always bright and happy. Always available for intercourse–both sexual and otherwise with people. Psychologist Peter Suedfeld observes that  we are all ‘chronically stimulated, socially and physically and we are probably operating at a stimulation level higher than that for which our species evolved.’ It is up to us to value rest and fallow time. We must demand it for ourselves to ensure our health.” She also comments on something I’ve observed in my own life and have previously discussed with my friends, in that the frustration and anger and discontent we may feel pre-menstrually or during menstruation is actually our body’s way of expressing things we have been feeling for a long time, but trying to stifle (rather than hormonal “irrationality): “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.”

One of the things that Moon Time helped clarify for me is that my moontime is worthy of careful attention to my physical and emotional well-being, just as careful attention is important during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. I’ve been a devoted proponent for years of good care of yourself during these phases of life, but had not applied the same rationale or expectation for myself during moontime. This monthly experience of being female is an experience worth respecting and is a sacred opportunity to treat my body and my emotions with loving care and self-renewal. I changed the way I treat myself after reading this book! Sound like too much to expect from your life, schedule, and family? Moon Time includes a great reminder with regard to creating retreat space, taking time out for self-care, and creating ritual each month: “Do what you can with what you have, where you are.” You don’t have create something extensive or elaborate or wait for the “perfect time,” but you can still do something with what you have and where you are. (This is a good reminder for many things in life, actually.)

I highly recommend Moon Time as an empowering resource for cycling women! It would also be a great resource for girls who are approaching menarche or for mothers seeking ways to honor their daughters’ entrance into the cycles of a woman’s life. I always have a copy on the resource table at our local Red Tent Circle (related note: I’ve got an online Red Tent Initiation Program beginning next month!)

Disclosure: I received a complimentary e-copy of this book.

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Purchase options:

Amazon.com  moontime2
Amazon.co.uk
Signed copies
Book Review:  Moon Time: Harness the ever-changing energy of your menstrual cycle by Lucy H. Pearce

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Womancraft Publishing; 2 edition (April 22, 2015)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910559062

http://thehappywomb.com/

Reviewed by Molly Remer, Talk Birth

Talk Books: Maternity Leave

“Making babies is magical, mysterious, terrifying, gratifying, and all-encompassing.”

–Annie Schwartz-Jensen in Maternity Leave

I was in the mood for a good novel and as the mother of a six month old, Maternity Leave, by Julie Halpren maternityleaveshowed up in my mailbox at exactly the right time! This novel made me laugh out loud many times (covering my face with a blanket to avoid waking my own slumbering baby and husband). It is irreverent, clever, snarky, relatable, fast-paced, and extremely funny. Note: if you object to liberal profanity or require rosy depictions of motherhood only, Maternity Leave will not be the book for you!

“Sometimes I swear I can hear the grinding breaths of the pump even when I’m not pumping. I better get used to it. Me and Old Pumper are going to be spending a lot of time together in the coming months in a storage closet. I wish that were as sexy as it sounds.”

Maternity Leave is written in journal-style and follows new mother Annie through the six months of her maternity leave, from her CNM-attended natural birth (complete with wishing she was “shouting womanly affirmations” rather than “random strings of profanities”) to her search for good child care. In more understated tones, the novel also chronicles the growth of her attachment to her baby, Sam, from her initial fumbling, self-consciousness, anxiety, boredom, and fear that he doesn’t like her to a more easy comfort, smelling his fuzzy head as they walk the neighborhood together with him riding in a Moby Wrap.

“I think I must inhale Sam’s head at least sixty times per day. Why does it smell so good? Is it an evolutionary tactic so that a mom, no matter how harried and confused and depressed she is, finds some inking of comfort from snorting her baby’s skull?

Is it possible to form an addiction? Do they have support groups for baby head huffing?”

While I didn’t identify with her occasional bursts of anger at the baby, particularly because I’m presently desperately savoring the all-too-fleeting-babyhood of my fourth baby, her story brought back with vivid clarity the difficult adjustment I had as a first-time mother with a high-need baby boy. The mind games she plays with herself, the self-doubt, the self-criticism, and the misplaced maternal guilt felt extremely familiar. I would have taken a lot of comfort in reading this novel 11 years ago! I also got a kick out of her wryly realistic Facebook experiences, something that was not part of the maternal landscape when I was a first time mother, but is very familiar today.

We’re prepping the obligatory Facebook birth announcement, and I’d like a picture that doesn’t say, ‘I just shat on a table, and all I got was this slime-covered baby.’

I veto several shots before Zach suggests, ‘This one is nice.’

‘I have a gimpy eye and twelve chins,’ I note.

‘But Sam looks cute.’

‘This is not about Sam, Zach. Sam is going to look cute no matter what because he is a baby. And even if he doesn’t look cute, people will ‘like’ the picture anyway while reassuring themselves that their babies were way cuter. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that dozens of ex-classmates and three or more ex-boyfriends will be seeing this, and I don’t want to look like a hideous, gelatinous troll.’

Maternity Leave can be pre-ordered on Amazon for its September release.

May 2015 146Also see my past post: Non-Advice Books for Mothers for other non-prescriptive reads for new moms.

Disclosure: I received a complementary copy of this book for review purposes.

Talk Books: Cycle to the Moon

c2m3D“Moontime opens up our intuition.
By allowing ourselves to honour this time,
we can eliminate premenstrual tendencies…
Moontime is a sacred passage leading
to a greater awareness of self.”

–Veronika Robinson, Cycle to the Moon (p. 142)

In April, on the evening of our local Red Tent Circle, a package arrived for me from the UK. In it was the beautiful book by Veronika Robinson, Cycle to the Moon, that I won in the Red Tent fundraising auction for Moontimes. March 2015 183

Cycle to the Moon is a quick read and an inspiring one. The line illustrations are beautiful and the combination of journal pages/prompts and text is nice.

Cycle to the Moon also suggests a neat idea of creating a “Red Box” for a pre-teen daughter. Either together with your daughter or on your own for a surprise, collect special items in a box to be given to her upon menarche. It can have jewelry, garnet gemstones, books, cloth pads, tea, and so forth. She makes the potent observations that how we welcome young girls into womanhood, sets the stage for how they will view themselves and their life cycles and transitions for a lifetime:

“As we hold the hands of our young sisters when they cross the menstrual threshold, we would be wise to remember that their experience of this cycle will affect them throughout their childbearing years and into menopause. There’s a red thread which weaves through these major themes of our life. Every moment is connected. Whatever we have learned and integrated benefits not only us, but the culture” (p. 41).

Robinson also writes about the idea how you treat yourself during menstruation as a “mirror of your life”:

“The simple truth is that menstruation is a mirror of your life. If you’re not honouring your body through healthy food choices; ample hydration; rest; playtime; calmly managing stressful events; positive thoughts; creativity and sleep; then it will show up in your menstrual cycle…your hormones will come to call; and they will demand that you rest. You might try and quiet them down with headache tablets or something pharmaceutical for cramps, but they will keep talking to you (even if it takes twenty years), until you get the message. If you don’t honour your body during the menstrual years, you are highly likely to suffer when you reach menopause…

She also makes an interesting distinction between what is “normal” and what is “natural”:

“There is such a wide variance in cycle length these days that doctors consider it normal to bleed any time. It might be normal, but it is not natural. Modern statistics relating to menstruating women are taken from huge cities about women whose lifestyles are not in accord with Nature. Artificial street lighting, pollution, stress, foods coated in chemicals, nutritional deficiencies, are just a few contributing factors in the variance of cycle days.

Our body’s cycle is regulated by the Moon’s light. The pituitary and hypothalamus glands are light sensitive, which is why we disrupt our cycle immensely by sleeping near artificial light, such as street lights, computer, mobile/cell phone or clock-radio lights. In fact, keep all electromagnetic devices well out of your sleeping space. If you intend to be conscious of cycling to the Moon, and ensuring optimal health, then don’t sleep under or next to any artificial light. Instead, keep your room dark, and only open your curtain for the week of the full Moon, thus coming into alignment with it. If you live in the country it will not be necessary to keep out starlight…city girls often begin menstruation earlier than country girls because of street lighting” (p. 142).

There are also a number of great resources at the end of Cycle to the Moon, such as:

Red Wisdom

Red Tent

Red Tent Booklet

What we do in our own local Red Tent Circle varies each month, but we start with introductions using our maternal May 2015 047line and a red thread to represent our connection to the women who came before us and who will go after us, we sing, we have a sharing circle where we “pass the rattle” and talk about our lives and have what we say witnessed and held in safe space. We do a guided meditation and journaling and then a project. In April we had a salt bowl ceremony and then did footbaths and in May we made moon necklaces. We close with a poetry reading and a song. There is tea and a “reflection” table with guidance cards, art supplies, and books to look at. At our May Circle, I shared these two quotes:

“The revolution must have dancing; women know this. The music will light our hearts with fire,
The stories will bathe our dreams in honey and fill our bellies with stars…”

–Nina Simons in We’Moon 2012

“A woman’s best medicine is quite simply herself, the powerful resources of her own deep consciousness, giving her deep awareness of her own physiology as it changes from day to day.”

–Veronica Butler and Melanie Brown

I asked the women to share their revolutions and their medicine. As they spoke, I realized that my “revolution” and my “medicine” were in the planning and facilitation of these Circles, as well as in the online Red Tent Initiation Program I will be offering this summer. I’m so glad I decided to go this direction this year.

May 2015 072

 

 

 

Author Interview: Sally Hepworth

At the end of last year, I reviewed a preview copy of an awesome new novel about midwives: The Secrets of Midwives.

Secrets of Midwives, the

The Secrets of Midwives is released for sale today and I’m excited to share an interview with the author, Sally Hepworth.

A Conversation with Sally Hepworth…

Q 1. How did you come to write the book?

Sally Hepworth and Family

Sally Hepworth and Family

There is a saying among writers “Write the book you want to read.” That’s what I did. Being the mother of young children (and pregnant while I wrote book), I was finding myself drawn to novels such as The Birth House by Ami McKay and Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. I have always thought there was a certain magic to midwifery—for a while, after I left high school, I even considered becoming a midwife. So, when it came time to start a novel, there was no choice to make.

I researched for months before I wrote a word. While I knew I was going to write about midwives, I had no idea what the actual story would be. I had a suspicion it would involve a mother and a daughter—particularly when I found out I was carrying a daughter—but it wasn’t until I read some fascinating stories about midwifery in the 1940s and 50s that Floss’s character (a grandmother) was born.

For me, the best plots start with a question, and the question I landed on for this book was: “Why would a woman hide the identity of her baby’s father?” I like books that have a big upheaval really early on—a “call to action” for the readers—so I knew that by the end of the first chapter, the reader would find out that Neva was pregnant, and that she wouldn’t reveal the identity of the father. At first, I didn’t know why she was hiding it, and I didn’t know who the father was, but as I wrote, I started to figure it out.

But when all is said and done, THE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES is a book about family. What makes a mother, what binds family together, and the role of biology.

In writing this book, I found answers to a whole lot of questions I never knew I had. And I suspect it is no coincidence that this book took me nine months to write.

In effect, in 2012, I gave birth to two babies.

Q 2. In the novel there are many differing opinions about the “right” way to give birth, even among the midwives. Why did you choose to include this in the book?

In my experience, there still exists a lot of debate over the “right” way to give birth so I thought it was important for December 2014 119authenticity to include this in the book. Also, the idea of “right” and “wrong” tied in with the novel’s theme: family. Unfortunately, there is still a commonly held belief that there is a “right” and “wrong” kind of family. Or at least a “good” and a “better” type. But these days, there are so many different kinds of families—blended, adoptive, single-parent, same-sex parents, communities of singles. Of course, there are a lot of (strong) opinions on this too! To me, this was all rich fodder for a novel.

As I started researching for this book, I read a lovely line in a book that said childbirth was a woman’s first battle as a mother, and it was this battle that made her a warrior, capable of protecting her child. I found this fascinating, but also troubling. If birth makes a mother a warrior, where did it leave adoptive parents? Step parents? Fathers?

It was also troubling on a personal level. My son had been born naturally and my daughter was due to be born by scheduled C-section. I had a sense that it didn’t matter how the baby was born, that the birth had no continued bearing on the relationship between mother and child, but the more I read about the transformative quality of natural birth, the more I wondered.

In writing this book, and in giving birth to my daughter by C-section, I was able to find answers to my questions. I have more respect for natural birth and midwifery now than I ever did, and I think a woman’s ability to provide everything her child needs through pregnancy and birth (and beyond!) is astonishing—even magical. And the idea of a home birth, I’ll admit, holds a certain appeal for me now that it hadn’t before. But I finally determined that there is no “right” way to give birth, because there is no “wrong” way. You don’t become a warrior because of the way you give birth. You become a warrior because of the depth of the love you feel for your child.

And while labor may be the first battle you’ll fight for your child, compared to the battles that still lie ahead? Even the most arduous birth is a walk in the park.

Q 3. What research did you do?

As I prepared to write this novel, I read everything I could get my hands on about midwifery—novels, memoirs, non-fiction books—and I watched every piece of footage that showed high-risk deliveries that YouTube had available. I subscribed to online communities and forums where I was able to ask questions about midwifery and birth and I touched base with several home-birth midwives and midwives alliance groups. I also have an aunt who is a midwife who was able to make suggestions and verify things for me.

Being pregnant, I also had easy access to my obstetrician for questions. It became common for my prenatal check-ups to consist of a quick blood pressure check, followed by twenty minutes of question time about my novel. In the hospital after having my daughter, I had a fantastic midwife who shared many stories with me about unusual or memorable births. I was stunned by the level of skill and expertise that was required, and the host of things to be prepared for during labor. But what I remember most about our conversations is her awe and respect for mothers in labor, and I attempted to weave this awe into all three of my POV characters, particularly Neva.

Q 4. What are some of the weird and wonderful facts you’ve learned about midwifery and birth during your research?

  • In the past, midwives were known to secretly harbor unwed mothers, perform abortions, baptize babies, and serve as pediatricians for the first year of the baby’s birth.
  • May Babies Are The Heaviest: Babies born in May are, on average, 200 grams heavier than any other month.
  • Centuries ago the midwife would catch the baby in her apron!
  • In the US, midwifery is only licensed or regulated in 21 states. In most states licensed midwives are not required to have any practice agreement with a doctor.

Q 5. One of your protagonists has issues with her mother. Did you draw on personal experience for this?

 Actually, my mother and I have a very close—verging on boring—relationship. Though we are quite different (she is private and conservative like Neva, and I am like Grace—pushy and talkative and loud) conflict between us is rare. So I wasn’t able to draw on that relationship from a dysfunctional perspective. That said, I was able to identify with loving someone who is very different (not just my mother, but also my husband and my son), and learning how to love them the way they need you to. Above all, the key is respecting the person for who they are, and always looking for the good they can offer.

Q 6. How can readers get in touch with you and support your work?

I am very active on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I have also started spending more time on Goodreads. My website www.sallyhepworthauthor.com is the place to go for book information, upcoming events and my bio.

Thanks for listening (reading)!

Sally x

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes.

 

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)

IMG_9858

 

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

IMG_0928

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

Talk Books: The Secrets of Midwives

“By the time the baby boy spilled into my arms, I knew. Women were warriors. And I wanted to be part of it.” –Neva Bradley

(character in The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth)

While feeling somewhat pre-laborish in the last days of pregnancy, I stayed up way too late devouring a review copy of the new novel The Secrets of Midwives Secrets of Midwives, theby Sally Hepworth. I  got it in the mail in the afternoon and by 1:30 a.m. that night, I’d finished the whole thing! In the past, I’ve been heard to remark that I can think of few things better than a novel about a midwife. Well…how about a novel about three midwives? That’s right, The Secrets of Midwives interlaces the three stories and pivotal life journeys of three midwives, who happen to be grandmother, mother, and pregnant daughter. Each midwife has a different personality and style of practice. In an intriguing style that kept me turning pages, the chapters are split between the viewpoints of each, allowing for multiple perspectives on the same relationship and personal issues.

Floss, the grandmother/mother, is retired from midwifery, but her chapters alternate between her early experiences as a midwife in the UK and her current life as a natural childbirth instructor. Neva, the daughter/granddaughter, is a hospital birth-center based CNM who is hiding her unexpected pregnancy with her own first child. Grace, the mother/daughter, is a CNM who attends homebirths.

The Secrets of Midwives contains elements of a romance story and elements of a mystery story. It blends the three women’s midwifery journeys in a creative, engaging way, including exploring the complex quality of mother-daughter relationships and communication vs. secret-keeping therein. It is serious enough to keep the pages turning, but not so “heavy” as to be depressing. There is a subplot in which the homebirth midwife is investigated by the state nursing board for possible malpractice and it felt relevant and contemporary to the fears and risks faced by midwives around the country. And, while reading as a pregnant woman myself, I appreciated that in this novel, with one pivotal exception, there are no scary births with bad outcomes—I find that high drama births resulting in maternal or infant death are a common feature of midwifery novels that often makes them somewhat iffy reads for pregnant women!

“That superhuman feeling people describe? It has nothing to do with the way the baby comes out. It’s about what happens to the mother. You become superhuman. You’ll grow extra hands and legs to look after your baby. You’ll definitely grow an extra heart for all the love you’ll feel.” –Neva Bradley

(in The Secrets of Midwives)

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 THE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES by Sally Hepworth

Find the author on Facebook here and her website here.

Published by St. Martin’s Press

On sale February 10, 2015

ISBN-13: 978-1-250-05189-9 | $25.99

Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes.

 

 

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

71UaAXUX1bLLast year I was contacted by a writer working on a memoir about miscarriage. She had questions about my own miscarriage memoir and we had a short email chat about publishing. This month, she sent me a copy of her finished book to review. Though I told her I probably wouldn’t get to it until August, I was surprised to find I was not able to put it down! The author, Amy Daws, writes with the sort of first-person intensity that feels more like reading a riveting novel than a traditional memoir. Chasing Hope is a story of recurrent pregnancy loss and the eventual birth of a long-prayed for rainbow baby. It is a heart-wrenching and beautiful book and made me cry more than once! Amy and her husband experience five traumatic losses, including the miscarriage of two sets of twins. The miscarriages occur in the second trimester, past the commonly touted “safe” point and take place following ultrasounds that show the babies still healthy and active. The miscarriages detailed are very bloody and stressful and her processing of them is very honest, real, and familiar. Readers may find the stories either affirming or stressful (or both) and should proceed with some caution based on the recentness of their own experiences. As I read, I was strongly reminded of the incredible, overpowering, unbelievable blood of second trimester loss.

I cried the most when I got to the birth of Amy’s living baby girl and it vividly reminded me of the deep relief and joy in the birth of my own rainbow baby:

“…For months I tried not to love her too much in my belly because I was scared it would hurt more when I lost her. I rejected my feelings for her because I was in a constant state of survival mode and I needed to protect myself. Now was the time for me to make amends for not believing in her. For not fully loving her as I should have. Even though I was lying half naked on an operating table with doctors and nurses buzzing all around me, I didn’t care. This was my moment and nobody was going to take that away from me…”

Excerpt From: Daws, Amy. “Chasing Hope With Bonus.” Stars Hollow Publishing.

Amy also writes candidly of the impact on her relationship with her husband and with the people around her: “I looked into his eyes and saw all the pain and anguish in them that I’d seen so many times before. We were broken, together. Ruined forever.”

Amy also writes with a forthright, raw tone and an occasional almost harsh intensity that is completely appropriate to the magnitude of the experience:

“We lost our baby and feel like shit. We feel like God took a big dump on our hearts, and slapped us in the face. Not only did we lose our baby, we lost our baby in the supposed safe zone. Twelve weeks is supposed to be the time when my risk of miscarriage went way down. Snap. Guess the joke’s on us! And bonus: it took us three years to get pregnant in the first place, so now we’re really fucked. We feel miserable and can’t talk about it without crying, so please don’t say anything to us about it…”

Excerpt From: Daws, Amy. “Chasing Hope With Bonus.” Stars Hollow Publishing.

I would particularly recommend this book to mothers with recurrent losses as well as to those with second trimester losses and to pregnancy loss support groups in general. It is a powerful, intense, and ultimately hopeful read.

On Amazon: Chasing Hope: A Mother’s Story of Loss, Heartbreak and the Miracle of Hope by Amy Daws. ISBN 9780990325208

Book trailer: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RVwtQEScNRc

Author’s site: http://amydawsauthor.com/books-2/

Reviewed by Molly Remer, Talk Birth

Disclosure: I received a complimentary digital copy of this book for review purposes.

Celebrating Motherhood: Creation

“To me the only answer a woman can make to the destructive forces of the world is creation. And the most ecstatic form of creation is the creation of new life.”

–Jessie Barnard (letter to an unborn child in the book Celebrating Motherhood)

July 2014 136

“You are entirely engrossed in your own body and the life it holds. It is as if you were in the grip of a powerful force; as if a wave had lifted you above and beyond everyone else. In this way there is always a part of a pregnant woman that is unreachable and is reserved for the future.”

–Sophia Loren (quoted in Celebrating Motherhood, p. 20)

“Throughout pregnancy and childbirth, a woman is driven to dig deep into herself for an inner strength she had not known existed. After birth, the smell of her baby opens a mother’s soul to a new intimacy. She has crossed the threshold into motherhood…I have had the privilege of living with indigenous mothers around the worlds and of seeing first hand their age-old ways of loving and teaching their children. I learned from these mothers that the natural world has eternity in it, and a mother’s instincts during pregnancy, birth, and child rearing links her to this eternal chain of life.” 

–Jan Reynolds (quoted in Celebrating Motherhood, p. 20)

“No force of mind or body can drive a woman in labor, by patience only can the smooth force of nature be followed.”

–Grantly Dick-Read (quoted in Celebrating Motherhood, p. 22)

I recently finished reading a book that has been on my shelf for a long time. Celebrating Motherhood: A Comforting Companion for Every Expecting Mother by Andrea Gosline and Lisa Bossi, is a treasure-trove of delightful birth quotes that will satisfy my birth-quote-archivist soul for a long time. I’m planning to do a series of short posts of quotes and readings from this book, similar to the series I did with the book Birthrites!

July 2014 005

24 weeks! (last week)

International Women’s Day: Body Prayer

I roam
sacred ground
my body is my altar
my temple.

I cast a circle
with my breath
I touch the earth
with my fingers
I answer
to the fire of my spirit.

My blood
pulses in time
with larger rhythms February 2014 040
past, present, future
connected
rooted
breathing.

The reach of my fingers
my ritual
the song of my blood
my blessing
my electric mind
my offering.

Breathing deep
stretching out
opening wide.

My body is my altar
my body is my temple
my living presence on this earth
my prayer.

Thank you.

I wrote this poem in the spring of last year and was very pleased when Trista Hendren, author of the children’s book The Girl God, wrote to ask permission to reprint it in her new book: Mother Earth. I received my copy of the book last month and wanted to offer a mini-review of it today, International Women’s Day, because as Trista says, it is “a beautiful tribute to the world’s first ‘woman.’” Mother Earth is theoretically a children’s book, but it offers an important message and call to action to all world citizens. Along the top of the pages is a story, written as a narrative experience between Trista and her daughter Helani, about the (human) mother’s need to rest. The story evolves into a message about the Earth and the care and rest she is crying out for. Each page features a large illustration and below the illustration is a relevant spiritual quote, poem, prayer, or message.

February 2014 038(I got a big kick out of seeing the company I keep on the back cover…Buddha, Hafiz, the Dalai Lama, Starhawk…Molly Remer?!)


I’m still wrapping up the school session as well as preparing for a big event next weekend. I feel taut, overcommitted, crabby, snappy, distracted, and out of time for writing even though I have a pile of ideas for things to write about (always!). Trying to remember that this is normal for me during the week of final paper grading and final exam giving and does not indicate a permanent state of imbalance requiring mass quitting of everything, but that is still how it feels in my (tired) body. It was nice to revisit this poem and take some quiet time to read the whole book.

I wrote a prayer for mothers last year on International Women’s Day:

See your worthIMG_8522
hear your value
sing your body’s power
and potency
dance your dreams
recognize within yourself
that which you do so well
so invisibly
and with such love.

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 | Talk Birth.

It is also important to remember the sociopolitical purpose of this day:

International Women’s Day is not about Hallmark. It’s not about chocolate. (Thought I know many women who won’t turn those down.) It’s about politics, institutions, economics, racism….

As is the case with Mother’s Day and many other holidays, today we are presented with a sanitized, deodorized, nationalized, commoditized version of what were initially radical holidays to emphasize social justice.

Initially, International Women’s Day was called International Working Women’s Day. Yes, every woman is a working woman. Yes, there is no task harder perhaps than raising a child, for a father and a mother. But let us remember that the initial impetus of this International Working Women’s Day was to address the institutional, systematic, political, and economic obstacles that women faced in society.

via How we miss the point of International Women’s Day–and how to get it right. | What Would Muhammad Do?.

In years past, I also wrote about the connection to birth as a feminist issue:

“The minute my child was born, I was reborn as a feminist. It’s so incredible what women can do…Birthing naturally, as most women do around the globe, is a superhuman act. You leave behind the comforts of being human and plunge back into being an animal. My friend’s partner said, ‘Birth is like going for a swim in the ocean. Will there be a riptide? A big storm? Or will it just be a beautiful, sunny little dip?’ Its indeterminate length, the mystery of its process, is so much a part of the nature of birth. The regimentation of a hospital birth that wants to make it happen and use their gizmos to maximum effect is counter to birth in general.” –Ani DiFranco interviewed in Mothering magazine, May/June 2008

via International Women’s Day, Birth Activism, and Feminism | Talk Birth.

Happy International Women’s Day! May we all find the space in our day to take a deep breath and honor our bodies, our families, and women around the world who are working, working, working every day to make the world a gentler place to live. (Even if we sometimes get snappy while doing it…)

November 2013 061

Birthrites: Miscarriage

August 2013 048

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

This quote from Birthrites touched me and made me think of the many women I’ve known who have walked the long, long path of grief. Singer then goes on to share some words from a mother of miscarriage:

“…When you miscarry, the body has already broken its ties with the baby, but I’d already put this child into my family in my imagination. That was what was hard to break…”

It my own experience, my body letting go of the baby was profoundly meaningful. My body’s later reluctance to let go of the placenta—to finally finish breaking the physical tie to the baby—was pretty traumatic. Acknowledging my own miscarriages through ritual, writing, ceremony, and memorial jewelry was very important to me and while these experiences are now past and do not hold the same fresh, raw, intensity as they once did, they are still inextricably a part of me and have shaped my identity and outlook today. I am always on the lookout for miscarriage resources for others and always, always take note when the experience of miscarriage is honored and included in a book.

As previously shared from Wild Feminine

The red of my blood confirmed what my body already knew; miscarriage is birth and death simultaneously. Miscarriage is ecstatic connection and unquenchable loss. The uterus dilates and contracts, as in the process of birth. In its wake follows something ancient, something from the hearts and lives of the grandmothers and women who have walked before, pouring forth from the uterus…

via Wild Feminine: Miscarriage Wisdom | Talk Birth.

Some other past posts about honoring the experience of miscarriage:

Sept 2013 021

Footprints symbol that held such healing for me and that I make sure to keep available affordably in my etsy shop.

Honoring Miscarriage

Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage Care

Miscarriage and Birth

Blog Circle: Tender Mercies, Unexpected Gifts

The Amethyst Network February Blog Circle ~ Sharing Our Stories: A Confusing Early Miscarriage Story

This post is part of a short series of posts from the book Birthrites by Jackie Singer. The first was about ritual and the second about birth as a rite of passage and the third about cesareans.