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Thursday Tidbits: Birthing Courage

There is a certain fire to books written about women’s health, empowerment, and feminism in the May 2016 0041970’s and 1980’s. I’ve been extremely fond of birth (activism) books written during that time period because they seem much less apologetic than books written today as well as much less concerned with appearing “biased” towards unmedicated birth (or various other topics). I also love women’s spirituality books of that era and while I’ve read a small handful of maternal activism books written in that time period, I haven’t read many about feminism itself. So, I recently finished reading a passionate, short collection of essays called Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics, by Andrea Dworkin (1976). In it, of course, this section on birth and courage caught my eye:

“If we were not invisible to ourselves, we would see that since the beginning of time, we have been the exemplars of physical courage. Squatting in fields, isolated in bedrooms, in slums, in shacks, or in hospitals, women endure the ordeal of giving birth. This physical act of giving birth requires courage of the highest order. It is the prototypical act of authentic physical courage. One’s life is each time on the line. One faces death each time. One endures, withstands, or is consumed by pain. Survival demands stamina, strength, concentration, and will power. No phallic hero, no matter what he does to himself or to another to prove his courage, ever matches the solitary, existential courage of the woman who gives birth.

We need not continue to have children in order to claim the dignity of realizing our own physical capacity for physical courage. This capacity is ours; it belongs to us, and it has belonged to us since the beginning of time. What we must do now is reclaim this capacity–take it out of the service of men; make it visible to ourselves; and determine how to use in the service of feminist revolution.

If we were not invisible to ourselves, we would also see that we have always had a resolute commitment to and faith in human life which have made us heroic in our nurturance and sustenance of lives other than our own. Under all circumstances–in war, sickness, famine, drought, poverty, in times of incalculable misery and despair–women have done the work required for the survival of the species. We have not pushed a button, or organized a military unit, to do the work of emotionally and physically sustaining life. We have done it one by one, and one to one.” (p. 63-64)

Speaking of fire, I’m very much looking forward to Lucy Pearce’s new book, Burning Woman. My copy should be arriving soon! I’m honored and humbled to have contributed in a small way to the book:

This incendiary text was written for women who burn with passion, have been burned with shame, and who at another time, in another place, would have been burned at the stake. With contributions from leading burning women of our era: Isabel Abbott, ALisa Starkweather, Shiloh Sophia McCloud, Molly Remer, Julie Daley, Bethany Webster…

61iu1amr3WLI also read two good articles this week, one about mothering the mother:

And then there’s birth. Whether she delivers by an unmedicated vaginal birth, a medicated vaginal birth, or a C-section, the effort will be herculean, unlike any physical or emotional challenge she has faced to date – unless she’s already had a baby, that is. Giving birth requires a mother to push herself light years past her own limitations. She will be skyrocketed out of her comfort zone into a foreign land that demands strength, stamina, resilience and a shocking amount of trust – that her body really is designed to do this, that her tiny, yet-to-be-born baby is tough enough to handle all that pushing, gripping, and squeezing, and that this is an event that will eventually be over (those 35-hour labourers know exactly what I’m talking about). Along the way she’ll discover a crystal clear truth that she’ll lean on during the other heart-wrenching, body-challenging experiences that will inevitably come her way during the course of her life: the only way out is through…

via Mothering the Mother: New Mothers Need a Focused Period of Rest and Recovery

And, the second about four things to avoid if you want to have the birth you want:

So, best case scenario: You aren’t afraid and sneak off to your birth cave. Turn off your human mind and think very, very carefully (beforehand!!) about who you invite into this space.

via Avoiding These 4 Things May Help You Have the Birth You Want

In my personal and business life, we’ve been making tons of beautiful Story Goddesses and shipping them to fascinating locations like Costa Rica and Puerto Rico and Kuwait, as well as delighting in seeing photos of them that customers send of the goddesses enjoying travels on beaches in Cornwall and in pear trees in the UK.

May 2016 207I’m wrapping up a really fulfilling Practical Priestessing course. I’m also getting ready for a new online workshop about creating mother-daughter circles: Pink Tent Rising. I survived another session of grading papers as well as balancing everything else (even though I felt like I couldn’t do it, somehow I could. The only way out is through, just like birth! 😉 ). Tanner says adorable words like “kiwi” and my brother, sister-in-law, and fabulous nephew moved right next door to begin buildingMay 2016 010 their own house. My parents are getting ready to have an epic celebration party of their fortieth year of homesteading here in Missouri. We celebrated the 21st anniversary of our first date, I turned 37, and enjoyed Mother’s Day this month. Zander’s tenth birthday is right around the corner and both of my parents’ birthdays too. Mark had a vasectomy last month, so our childbearing years have fully closed and I feel really great about that decision. I still haven’t heard anything back about my dissertation (4 months now!). We also took a mini vacation to Big Cedar Lodge on Table Rock Lake and took the kids to the Dinosaur Museum in Branson.

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</stream of consciousness mini-update post>

Tuesday Tidbits: International Women’s Day

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Today is International Women’s Day! In addition to my work online and face-to-face with women as well as with the products offered by our shop, I support two resources that help make every day “international women’s day.” I sponsor a woman through Women for Women International and I keep multiple microloans going at Kiva – Loans that change lives. We started making Kiva loans in 2012 when we covered economic freedom in the Cakes for the Queen of Heaven feminist spirituality class I was teaching at the time. We decided to put our money where our mouths were and make a collective loan, from our women’s circle to a women’s circle somewhere else in the world. We collected $50 from the members of the circle and I made two microloans to two different women’s groups, both in Senegal. A few more women contributed in later months, I contributed another $25 of my own and we got a $25 referral credit, and I’ve steadily kept microloans going there ever since, loaning a total of $650 to 26 different women’s groups in 19 countries since we began. The cool thing is that this did not cost me $650, instead it is the same, original money from that long-ago Cakes class that I keep relending as soon as my Kiva account builds up to $25 in repayments. There are 7 loans currently going, from what was originally only $50. Just a drop in the bucket. I encourage you to do this too!

More International Women’s Day Resources:

A collection of recent women’s circle-oriented blog posts and resources:12772035_1711717539040461_2725422556128238837_o

Past posts about Women’s Day:

“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

Source: International Women’s Day, Birth Activism, and Feminism | Talk Birth

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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!

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Tuesday Tidbits: Breastfeeding Wisdom & Social Context

December 2015 029Like all of life, breastfeeding occurs in a context. While it is easy to simplify it down to a matter of “personal choice,” the issue is really much broader than that and people often overlook the powerful influence of the systems surrounding them on the accomplishment of women’s breastfeeding goals.

This article takes an in-depth look at why breastfeeding, and the benefits of breastfeeding, don’t need to be “debunked” or have a “case” made against them. (My only critique of the article is that it falls into the comfortable default of “formula as the norm,” by saying things about how babies that breastfeed have a health advantage. Actually, they don’t. What they have is a normal species-appropriate immune system developed in direct response to a diet of species-specific milk.) It is a long read and covers a lot of important ground so settle in…

What the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other organizations failed for too long to note, however, is how difficult breastfeeding can be. Yes, they showed the world how beneficial breastfeeding was, and, yes, they helped design policy to ease the transition back to work. But the messy, exhausted moments that change a mother’s mind about breastfeeding? The bleeding nipples, the crying baby, and the paralyzing fear that the baby’s not eating enough? The back-to-work struggle and the boyfriend who thinks breastfeeding is dirty?

Those were, for a long time, left out of the breastfeeding conversation beyond a cursory, “Yes, it will be hard, but it will be worth it.” It’s this difficulty, and the fact that it remains unaddressed in many ways, that drives so many women to start supplementing with formula or to stop nursing altogether.

The most frequently cited challenges associated with breastfeeding include pain, supply issues, work-related pumping issues, and lack of support.

Source: The case for breastfeeding: what skeptics miss when they call it overrated – Vox

Luckily, breastfeeding also develops species-appropriate cranial development, jaw structure, and facial development. This also in-depth article looks at how the motions of breastfeeding shape and develop the skull and jaw muscles for life (at the end it also has some interesting comparisons of the shape of infant skulls after chiropractic adjustment soon after birth). Again, it uses language that implies breastfed babies receive a “benefit” in this area, while in reality breastfed babies simply have normal craniofacial development.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BREASTFEEDING – A Craniopathic Perspective | Speaking With Major

When we swing too far towards the science of breastfeeding though, we overlook the intense emotional impact of new parenting and the widespread lack of sociocultural support for healthy parenting, especially parent-baby togetherness. This is the context in which breastfeeding occurs and it is often one that actively or passively sabotages the breastfeeding pair. This mother writes heart-wrenchingly, and all too familiarly, about her postpartum experience:

I have many days when I feel truly well, and I have other days when I wonder if I’m still climbing. But in the meantime, I’m living life, I’m enjoying lots of moments and not enjoying others and learning to be fine with that. Because when well-meaning people tell you to “enjoy every moment” they are setting an unrealistic goal for any parent. Many aspects of parenthood are simply not enjoyable. Instead, I focus on feeling every moment, good and bad. If I feel afraid, that’s okay, I just sit with it and let it pass. If I feel sad, I allow myself to cry. And if I feel happy I clutch that joy to my chest and absorb it into my soul, and try to keep it safe forever.

Source: I Can’t Enjoy Every Moment – Postpartum Progress

Another powerful systemic variable is our national workplace culture and the lack of reasonable parental leave:

When it comes to women and work, the largest myth of all is that working is somehow optional. Like men, women work for personal fulfillment and a passion for their job. Also like men, women work to support themselves and their families, and always have. The reality in the United States today is that earning money is an absolute necessity for the vast majority of women. And the sad truth is that we aren’t doing anything to support them or their families — not because we can’t, but because we won’t.

Source: We act as if work is optional for women. It’s not. – The Washington Post

I often feel puzzled and angry with myself about why I can’t do everything in one day. “Is it really so much to ask?” I say, waking each morning with the optimistic faith that during that day I should surely be able to eat adequate food, exercise, play with my kids, spend time writing/reading/personally enjoying something, work on my many projects, and go to bed/wake up at a decent hour every day. Unfortunately, it apparently is too much and the most we can hope for is to “pick three”:

This sounds harsh, but it’s true, according to a recent interview with Storenvy founder Jon Crawford on Founder Dating. “Work, sleep, family, fitness, or friends–pick three. It’s true. In order to kick ass and do big things, I think you have to be imbalanced. I’m sure there are exceptions, but every person I’ve seen riding on a rocket ship was imbalanced while that rocket ship was being built. You have to decide if you want it,” Crawford declares.

Source: Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness, or Friends: Pick 3 | Inc.com

And, while picking three, things slip away. As I’ve written before, my daughter fell asleep with her head on my arm every night for nearly four solid years until Tanner was born. Now, her opportunity to fall asleep on my arm is hit or miss, depending on whether my arm is occupied with him, and increasingly, even when I do wiggle an arm free for her, she only lies on it for a few minutes before she says, “I’m going to lay in my own bed now,” where she then lies, snuggling her pile of pandas, until she falls asleep.

…I tried.

I tried to capture her smallness. I tried to hold on to the last breaths of her babyhood. But try as I might, it has slipped right out of my grasp. Despite my efforts to slow down and enjoy every moment since everyone told me it goes so fast… all I have left are memories and photographs.

But it doesn’t mean that I can re-live it. Not really. Some of my favorite memories of her as an infant will always be of bedsharing. She always started the night in her own bed, but after her first wake-up of the night, I’d scoop her out of her room and bring her into our cozy nest to feed her and quickly soothe her back to sleep. And for the most part that meant that we all got more sleep… except for the times I’d find myself staring at her while she slept. I’d watch her tiny chest move up and down, and memorize every little detail of her perfect little face. I’d think to myself this is crazy, what are you doing, go to sleep. But those memories, in the dead of night, the ones where there aren’t any pictures – are the clearest in my mind’s eye.

Source: The Beauty In Bedsharing | The best season of my life

This nighttime savoring may also be due to actual addiction to baby-head-sniffing…

Most of the women struggled to pinpoint the baby smell, although they generally said it was a pleasant one. Their brains, however, told a different story. When sniffing the baby pajamas, the dopamine pathways in a region of the brain associated with reward learning lit up, LiveScience reports. Other odors, like those of delicious foods, trigger this pathway, and the same dopamine surge is also associated with satiating sexual and drug-addiction cravings. This mechanism influences us by triggering “the motivation to act in a certain way because of the pleasure associated with a given behavior,” Medical Xpress writes.

Source: The Smell of Newborn Babies Triggers the Same Reward Centers as Drugs | Smart News | Smithsonian

December 2015 006Other related posts:

Thursday Tidbits: The Flow of Life

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This watery blue birthing mama sculpture is making her way to Alaska right now.

I recently got a copy of a new book, The Other Side of the River, to review. Written by Eila Carrico and published by the wonderful Womancraft Publishing, it is pretty much a forgone conclusion that I’m going to like the book. Plus, that cover! Amirite?

January 2016 026A blog post Eila recently wrote about flow and yoga (and chaos) spoke to me this afternoon:

I learned how to let go of perfection and control by watching the traffic patterns of this small town in Tamil Nadu. There were no signs and rules about where and how to walk, drive, or ride through the streets. There was just an invisible feeling of one’s way and a trust that we will look out for one another. I walked at first, hesitant to enter into the hectic currents of auto rickshaws, massive lorries, herds of uniformed schoolchildren, bikers, bone-thin stray dogs, and shirtless, turbaned old men with ox drawn carts. They all co-existed in this little dirt road, with their diverse speeds, agility, and force. Somehow, they were all given space and flowed together to get where they were going.

Source: Chaos: The Cure for the Common Practice — Annapurna Living

I then enjoyed this blog post about the flow of a Red Tent:

…We might sing a chant like ‘A River is Flowing’, or ‘Mother I feel you under my feet’. There is a time of breathing out before we look forward to the new moon, and write down our positive intentions, changes we plan to make for the month ahead. We share these with the group, which again leads to open discussion. A lot of the themes are about self development, and giving ourselves the time to look at how we are, and how we move forward with renewed strength and courage. The evening flows on, and we end with a song like ‘Evening Breeze, Spirit Song’

Source: [guest post] My Red Tent – Moon Times Moon Blog

Speaking of Red Tents, I recently wrote a FAQ post about the differences between Red Tents and Women’s Circles (and my own two programs about the same): What is the difference between a Red Tent and a Women’s Circle?

This article looks at the increase in Red Tents around the world and the role they play as a safe container for women’s multifaceted experiences:

But while these huts may have been used to restrict, control and keep tabs on women, the modern-day equivalent is an altogether more empowering experience. Like the women in Diamant’s mythical Red Tent, members of modern groups are finding support, sanctity and solace in sisterhood. And because women aren’t all menstruating at the same time anymore, Red Tents are usually held around the New Moon so there is a regularity to the meetings and every woman is welcome.

Source: Why women are gathering in ‘Red Tents’ across the UK

As a homebody introvert type of person, I’ve still been feeling a call for “adventure” lately. My life seems drawn in and “small” somehow lately and I want to go somewhere different and do something different. We are going on a special trip to the ocean this month and I’m really excited about it. I also am reasonably confident that I have the gene for “bloom where you’re planted” rather than the gene for frequent travel: The Genetic Reason Why Some People Are Born To Travel All Over The World – Living Outdoor

I’m not really known for my “flowing” personality, but I have maintained a dedicated daily yoga practice since 2000. I recently laughed until I cried while trying to do a Brigid’s Cross yoga pose suggested by one of my Womanrunes Immersion students:

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So comfy! So flowing! So serene!

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This is the picture I laughed hysterically over. My “perfect” alignment. My serene atmosphere. It’s a thing of beauty!

I wrote about the messiness of living a creative life with children in a post at SageWoman: Claypriestess

And, about the everyday underworld descents of parenting (featuring fondant pandas) at Brigid’s Grove: Everyday Inanna – Brigid’s Grove

And, I returned to an older post about listening to the soul of art:

“I will be gentle with myself.
I will be tender with my heart.
I will hold my heart like a newborn baby child.”

This song by Karen Drucker replayed in my mind as I sculpted. The baby woke, the watermelon got dragged along the floor collecting dust, and it was time for our collaborative dinner, so I had to put her away unfinished. When we got back to our own home, I was compelled to finish her, working feverishly as the baby pulled on my legs and I said, “just a few more minutes!” to the older kids who were trying to play with him to let me work. Again and again I re-rolled the clay baby’s head, trying to make it “perfect,” and worked to lay down the strands of her hair, against of the backdrop of this often-chaotic, noisy, home-based life we’ve consciously and intentionally created together. She was created to represent holding my own center in the midst of motherhood. I will be tender with my heart. I don’t create sculptures like this because I AM so “zen” and have life all figured out, I make them to remind me what is possible if I listen to my soul.

Source: Listening to the Soul of Art – Brigid’s Grove

If you’re looking for pockets of joyous creation on your life, you might enjoy this Creative Joy playbook from the beautiful Jen Louden: CreativeJoyPDF.pdf

In other tiny, creative tidbits from life, Mark originally drew this mandala for one of our free goddess greeting cards bundle for the holidays. We then started using it as the logo for the Creative Spirit Circle and for our new Womanspirit Initiation program. I decided to get a print of it made to hang in my tiny temple (kids’ clubhouse turned personal work space) and I’m so very pleased with how it turned out!

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Tuesday Tidbits: Waterbirth & Healthy Babies

il_570xN.684689686_cg6o“It takes force, mighty force, to restrain an instinctual animal in the moment of performing a bodily function, especially birth. Have we successfully used intellectual fear to overpower the instinctual fear of a birthing human, so she will now submit to actions that otherwise would make her bite and kick and run for the hills?”

–Sister Morningstar (in Midwifery Today)

via Tuesday Tidbits: Human Rights and Birth | Talk Birth

Tanner, our last baby, was my first waterbirth. I didn’t really consider water for my first baby. I did for the second and had a birth pool and supplies on hand, but he was born so quickly we had no time to use it. Alaina was born in the deep winter, so water didn’t appeal to me at all and I never considered having a waterbirth with her. With Tanner’s pregnancy, I was interested in trying things I’d never done before. I’d also read that water helps reduce or prevent tears and I really, really, really wanted to avoid tearing again and I thought it would be my last chance to try water and see if helped. He was born in the water and I did tear. I have no regrets about having opted for water with him, other than wishing I would have been able to get out of the pool a little earlier since he got pretty chilled from it. (In case you missed it: his birth story and birth video.)

So, I was interested to read this article about the safety of waterbirth. The conclusion was that water birth is safe, but that women actually had a higher, not lower, chance of tearing…

The findings revealed babies born in water, as well as their mothers, were no more likely to require a transfer or admission to a hospital. Moreover, the babies born in water did not receive a low Apgar score. This quick test is performed on a baby one minute after birth in order to determine how well the baby tolerated the birth, and five minutes after birth to tell doctors how well the baby is doing outside the womb.

Despite the positive, the researchers did find an 11 percent increase in perineal tearing, or vaginal tears among mothers who gave birth in water…

Source: Pregnancy And Water Birth: Giving Birth In Water Tub Poses No Risk To Mom Or Baby, Says Study

A commonly asked question about waterbirth is whether or not water slows down water (the consensus is that it often can if the woman gets in the birth pool “too soon”):

A woman should be encouraged to use the labor pool whenever she wants. However, if a mother chooses to get into the water in early labor, before her contractions are strong and close together, the water may relax her enough to slow or stop labor altogether. That is why some practitioners limit the use of the pool until labor patterns are established and the cervix is dilated to at least 5 centimeters.

Source: Does Water Slow Down Labor? | Talk Birth

I was 35 when Tanner was born, technically of “advanced maternal age.” Luckily, new research also indicated that us “advanced” types have a higher chance of living to “extreme old age” (maybe that should be “advanced, old age”?)

A Boston University School of Medicine study found that women who can still give birth naturally after age 33 have a higher chance of living to extreme old age than those who had their last child before age 30. But the report, published in the online version of the journal Menopause in April 2014 doesn’t imply that putting off pregnancy will add years to your life. “If you physically delay having children, that’s not going to help with longevity, Paola Sebastiani, a Boston University biostatistics professor and study co-author, told OZY. A woman with a natural ability to have children later in life suggests that her body – including her reproductive system – just happens to age at a slow pace. Some women’s biological clocks simply tick more slowly than most.

Source: Late Kids, Long Life? | Acumen | OZY

And, switching gears slightly, I enjoyed this post about that “a healthy baby is all that matters” refrain, that, while seemingly sensible on the surface, is actually an insidious phrase used to shut down women’s voices and deny their completely legitimate right to humane care in pregnancy and birth:

When a woman gives birth, a healthy baby is absolutely completely and utterly the most important thing. Got that? OK – do not adjust your wig, there’s more… It is not ALL that matters. Two things – just to repeat: a healthy baby is the most important thing, AND it is not all that matters. Women matter too. When we tell women that a healthy baby is all that matters we often silence them. We say, or at least we very strongly imply, that their feelings do not matter, and that even though the birth may have left them feeling hurt, shocked or even violated, they should not complain because their baby is healthy and this is the only important thing.

Source: A healthy baby is not ALL that matters – The Positive Birth Movement

This reminds me of the “birth and apples…” example I’ve used in teaching and activism for a long time:

It is not helpful because the expectation was not to not have a healthy baby–the expectation was to have a vaginal birth. It is comparing apples to oranges since there were two separate individual hopes: one the joy of a baby, the other her experience of bringing that baby into the world. The apple being the healthy baby we all want and usually bear, the orange being what we hope for in our trials and tribulations on the way there…

Source: Birth & Apples | Talk Birth

And, it also makes me remember that your baby’s birth is the beginning of a fresh new, lifelong relationship, one worthy of being treated with dignity and respect and honored as an important rite of passage. I explored a relational analogy in one of my most popular past posts…

You ask when the ceremony can begin and the clerk tells you not until your fiancé’s heart rate has been monitored for twenty minutes—“We need a baseline strip on him, hon. After all, you do want a healthy husband out of all this, don’t you?!” she says. You are asked to change out of your wedding gown and into a blue robe. When you express your dismay, you are reminded that your dress could get messy during the wedding and also, “Why does it really matter what you’re wearing? In the end you’ll have your husband and you’ll be married and that’s really what counts.”

Source: All That Matters is a Healthy Husband (or: why giving birth matters) | Talk Birth

In totally separate news, I have an upcoming free Womanspirit Wisdom mini class. Feel free to join!

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Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Planning

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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

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