Search Results for: miscarriage

Honoring Miscarriage

When I had my first miscarriage, I vowed several things in the immediate aftermath. One was that I was going to write a book about it so that other women would not have to experience the same total dearth of resources about the physical process of coping with home miscarriage. While I did publish my miscarriage memoir this year, I am still collecting stories and experiences for a different, more comprehensive book on this theme. However, in the time since I made that vow and since I had my miscarriages, a new resource emerged for women: Stillbirthday. This is the website I NEEDED when I was preparing for the birth of my tiny, nonliving baby. While I received emotional support from a variety of sources, I found a void where the physical information I sought should be. That information is skillfully covered in the birth plans section of the Stillbirthday website. I reprinted information from their “early home birth plan” in my Footprints on My Heart memoir, since it was the information I was desperately seeking during my own home miscarriage-birth. I am grateful the information is now available to those who need it.

My second vow was that, if I knew about it, I would never leave another woman to cope with miscarriage alone on her own. My third vow came a little later after more fully processing and thinking about my own experience and that was to always honor and identify miscarriage as a birth event in a woman’s life.

A friend’s loss

In March of 2010, my good friend, who had doula’ed me very gracefully and respectfully and lovingly through my miscarriage-birth postpartum experience and processing, experienced a miscarriage herself. She didn’t call me while she was experiencing it, so I couldn’t go to her as I had imagined I would if needed, but afterwards I went to her with food and small gifts and hugged her tightly, recognizing all too well that hollow, shattered look in her eyes and the defeated and empty stance of her body. Later, I bought her a memorial bracelet. However, I was still in the midst of coping with my own grief and loss process—my second miscarriage having just finally come to a long-drawn out end only a month before and the experience of which having brought another friendship to an almost unsalvageable point—and my dear friend’s own process, her feelings, got lost along the way. She recently wrote about the experience on her own blog and it was harder for me to read than I would have expected. As she noted, I agree that doesn’t matter how little the baby, or baby-start, or baby-potential that is lost-–there is no quantifying loss and no “prize” for the “worst” miscarriage. It is a permanent experience that becomes a part of you forever. Also permanent for me is the empathy and caring showed to me by my friend/doula during my time of loss and sorrow. I regret that I was not able to be that same source of solace, companionship, and understanding to her. I thank her for having held space for me to grieve “out loud” and I’m really sorry that part of the cost of that was the suffocating of her own sadness or minimization of her own experience. While I do feel like I did what I could to acknowledge her miscarriage at the time that it happened I really wish I would have done more, particularly in terms of acknowledging how very long the feelings of emptiness and grief persist. I made a mistake in taking her, “I’m okay” remarks as really meaning it, rather than being part of the story that babyloss mamas often tell themselves in a desperate effort to “get over it” and be “back to normal.”

That said, I also compassionately acknowledge that it can be hard for people to know what it is that we need if we don’t tell them. So, now I’d like to hear from readers. What are your own thoughts on recognizing and acknowledging miscarriage—how do we best hold the space for women to experience, identify, and honor miscarriage as a birth event in their lives?

Charm & book giveaway (**Giveaway is now closed. Veronica was the winner***)

In harmony with my question and associated thoughts, I am hosting a giveaway of a sterling silver footprints on my heart charm exactly like the one I bought for myself after Noah’s birth and that I gave to my husband and my parents afterward (my husband carries his on his keychain). If you win the charm, perhaps it is something that will help you to honor your own miscarriage experience or that you can give to someone else to acknowledge their loss. This giveaway is in concert with the blog contest on Stillbirthday and will end on March 20. Additionally, everyone who enters will receive a free pdf copy of my miscarriage memoir.

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment addressing the subject of honoring miscarriage. I am wondering things like:

What did you need after miscarriage?

What did you wish people would do/say to honor your miscarriage experience?

How could people have helped you more?

What do you still wish you could do/say/write/share about your miscarriage experience(s)?

What do you wish you had done for yourself?

What did you want to tell people and what do you wish you had been able to say?

What did you want to do that you didn’t feel as if you had “permission” to do? (personal, social, medical, cultural, whatever type of permission…)

I will share my answers to these questions in a later post, but I do want to mention that one of the things that was most important to me to have acknowledged was that this was REAL. That was one of the first things I said to my parents about it when they came over to help me immediately after Noah was born—this is real.

Water babies

I continue to honor the experience of miscarriage and babyloss in my own life in various ways. Recently, I found a buddhist monk garden statue from Overstock.com that reminded me of the “jizo” sculptures that honor and protect “water babies” in Japan (mizuko is a Japanese word meaning “water baby” and specifically refers to babies lost during pregnancy—the only specialized word that exists). I have a small jizo inside on my living room windowsill, but I’ve wanted one that could weather the outdoors by Noah’s tree.

20120222-115308.jpg

20120222-115315.jpg

I took this one for size perspective, but you can barely see the sculpture in the shadow to Alaina's right.

I believe I may be partially responsible for the widespread usage of the following quote on the internet now with regard to babyloss mamas:

Miscarriages are labor, miscarriages are birth. To consider them less dishonors the woman whose womb has held life, however briefly.” –Kathryn Miller Ridiman

I found it in an issue of Midwifery Today from 1995 and shared it multiple times on Facebook and on my blog. I have since seen it in many locations around the web and I feel happy that I was able to be a conduit for the sentiment and the increased recognition of miscarriage as a birth event.

To participate in the Stillbirthday blog contest/carnival go here. And, make sure to check them out on Facebook too.

Footprints on My Heart: A Memoir of Miscarriage & Pregnancy After Loss

As of this week, my miscarriage memoir, Footprints on My Heart, has finally been published and is now available in eBook format via Kindle and Lulu, Inc. (epub format compatible with Nook and iBooks). There are a few formatting errors and some other general problems (like with the sample/preview–it is totally wonky–and with the lettering on the cover), but guess what, it is DONE, it available, and it is out there. I’m really, really excited about it and I feel this huge sense of relief. I still want to write my Empowered Miscarriage book someday, but for now, this memoir is what I had in me and it will have to do for the time being. I realized after Alaina was born and was, in a sense, the happy “ending” to my Noah story, that in writing my miscarriage blog I had actually ended up writing most of a book. So, the bulk of the book is drawn from my miscarriage blog and from this blog as well (for the pregnancy after loss content). I also included an appendix of resource information/additional thoughts that is fresh.

I’ve felt haunted by the desire to publish this for the entire last year. It took a surprising amount of work, as well as emotional energy, to prepare for publication, even though I actually did most of the actual writing via blog in 2010. Now that it is ready, I just feel lighter somehow and have this really potent sense of relief and ease, as if this was my final task. My final act of tribute. My remaining “to do” in the grief process.

If anyone really, really, really wants it and cannot afford the $3.99 for which I priced it, I do have it available as a pdf file, a mobi file, and an epub file and I will be happy to email it to you in one of those formats.

<deep breath> Aaaaaahhhhhh….

Guest Post: Overcoming Stigma: A Film Story of Stillbirth, Miscarriage

This post is republished from the blog of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

Overcoming Stigma: A Film Story of Stillbirth, Miscarriage

by Jhene Erwin

In 2007, with one two and half-year-old child, my husband and I decided it was time to have another baby. My first miscarriage occurred at six weeks. My second was at almost eleven weeks. The grief was alarming but I did what many women do – my best to quietly “carry on.”

Simple tasks became challenging. I’d stand in the cereal aisle frozen by the choice between honey-nut and plain. The question, “Paper or plastic?” should not make a person cry. Maintaining this external “everything-is-ok” façade was agonizing.

It was the tension – between façade and grief – which inspired my short film about miscarriage, stillbirth and early infant loss. “The House I Keep” is a story of transformation during one woman’s struggle to come to terms with the loss of her child.

My hope is that this film frees people to talk more openly about what remains stubbornly taboo. When people hear about my film total strangers let loose regardless of location: be it the gym or in a grocery store. Their stories are always deeply moving and I am honored by their candor.

What do they say?

They tell me there is no appropriate place to mourn this loss. While family and community are powerful sources of comfort, the silence on this subject prevents women from accessing that healing power. Consequently, the mental health of not only mothers but also their children suffers.

Consider this stigma magnified around the globe. In some developing countries, superstitious beliefs lead women to be blamed for a stillbirth or miscarriage. Some communities feel more people will die if the bereaved mother is in contact with other women and children. Subsequently, access to the healing power of family and community becomes greatly restricted. As we move forward with the important work of improving global maternal and newborn health, the long term effects of stigma on the mental health of women and their surviving children cannot be over looked or marginalized.

Talking heals. Women want to feel reassured that their child’s too-short life had a place in the world and that the world is different because of that child’s absence. You can help mark that life by just being willing to talk and listen. The landmark Lancet Stillbirth Series released in April is already impacting the worldwide perception of stillbirth.

In my own community of Seattle, Washington, in the United States, nonprofits that counsel women postpartum will be using my film as a starting place for open discussions. The ripple effect of community efforts, combined with the work of organizations including PATH, UNICEF, Save the Children, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will undoubtedly lessen the stigma of a tragedy for which no woman should ever be held accountable.

By letting women talk openly, and by listening, our communities around the world can help women – including me – begin to heal.

More to Explore

Jhene Erwin is an actor and filmmaker. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband and six year old daughter.
—-
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. Safeguarding the health of mothers and young children is one of the world’s most urgent priorities and a core focus of the foundation’s work; especially in the developing world.

“The Empowered Miscarriage” Book: Call for Contributions

I already posted about this on my miscarriage blog, but I have more readers here and wanted to reach out to those followers as well.

I am currently compiling contributions for a book about miscarriage. I am especially interested in stories about natural miscarriages (i.e. miscarriages that begin and complete on their own timeline rather than a medical timeline) and on miscarriage at home, but I am happy to receive any miscarriage story contribution. I am seeking full stories about miscarriage—the nitty gritty physical reality as well as the emotional components. I have a big vision for this book—I want it to be a “what to expect when you’re having a miscarriage” guidebook that doesn’t only address the feelings involved with miscarriage, but answers practical questions like, “what should I eat?” and “how do I take care of myself?” and “how much blood is too much blood?” and “how to decide whether to have a D & C or whether to wait it out at home?” I feel like the best way to answer many of these questions is through the heartfelt stories of other women who have “been there.”

I welcome contributions from women who chose to go to the hospital at some point during the process even if they originally started out to have a natural miscarriage (I am particularly interested in the decision-making process about going). My primary interest is in the nitty gritty, physical coping stories rather than specific location of miscarriage-birth, though I do still have the special interest in home experiences—-at the root, I want real, complete stories from any setting.

I have a full survey of questions that I am developing to post online, but for now I am pleased to accept any contribution related to my primary theme of natural miscarriage (and/or the physical miscarriage experience regardless of setting). Stories can be emailed to me and I will respectfully and gratefully accept each one with my heart wide open.

——–

I was previously seeking suggestions for the title of this book, originally thinking of calling it simply, “Miscarriage at Home,” when a reader emailed me to suggest the title “The Empowered Miscarriage” (see comments on my other blog for her full explanation). I really like the connotations of the title—-particularly, that it suggests something about miscarriage that is very different than the normal coverage of miscarriage in books. So, I edited my original post to reflect this new title and focus.

Also, I still find myself signficantly displeased with the woefully inadequate word, “miscarriage.” I don’t like it. I don’t like, “miscarrying.” It isn’t enough. I also don’t like the euphemism “loss.” “Pregnancy loss” as a phrase is all right—side note: I feel like there is a range of experiences contained within the miscarriage experience and I think the three are almost separate experiences (emotionally, mentally, and physically)—the babyloss experience, the actual birth-miscarriage experience, and the experience of the loss of being pregnant. I have coped with my own strong, strong feelings about miscarriage as a birth event by referring to my own first miscarriage experience in writing as a miscarriage-birth or a birth-miscarriage. For me, this modifier makes an important point. However, it is cumbersome, not in popular use, and I want something else! Any ideas?

Noah’s Birth Story (Warning: Miscarriage/Baby Loss)

Since today is my due date (and also my own birthday), I wanted to take a minute to share Noah’s full birth story. I do have a separate blog where I keep most of my writing about miscarriage, but the birth stories of my other two boys are on this blog and I feel like his story deserves to be here also. And, since this is a blog about birth and since this is a birth story, I feel it has relevance in that sense as well. Not to mention that fact that miscarriage is part of the spectrum of childbearing experiences and that most childbirth educators should have some preparation in working with women who have had miscarriage experiences (I was very startled to discover when googling “childbirth educator” and miscarriage” that some of my own posts on the subject were on the top of the google hits—surely there are other childbirth educators out there who have had miscarriages and who write about them?!)

I wrote the story in my journal on November 10 (he was born Nov. 7) and have had it next to my computer to be typed up ever since that date. Finally, this weekend I typed it up. I have mentioned on my other blog that I feel the need to “close out” my pregnancy with him—almost like I’ve continued to be a “little bit pregnant” and it is time to close that “pregnancy” and to move on. Not to forget or to stop talking about it, but to acknowledge that NOW, finally, I “shouldn’t” be pregnant anymore. I felt almost driven this weekend to finally finish typing the story so that I could publish it on this day. Of course, I expected to have a different sort of birth story to share on this day (or somewhere around now), but this is what our story actually is (very long—I broke it into three chunks to make it a little easier to skim through if necessary):

Beginning—Finding Out

On Wednesday evening, November 4, at 14 weeks 2 days pregnant with my third baby, I had an appointment with a prospective midwife. I have not written much about this experience, because I did not want her to come across it online and feel badly. The short version is that the visit was like a “fear bath”—it was pretty intense the level of fear and “what ifs” she kept throwing out there, as well as personal insecurities. Also, she used the phrase, “you’re going to have a dead baby” at least five times during the conversation (said in reference to comments people make TO her regarding attending homebirths, however, the words made me want to curl protectively around MY baby and reassure him. And, given the way the rest of our story unfolded, in hindsight her words felt prophetic—or, like she cursed me!). When I left the fear bath, I had a headache. I woke the next morning feeling like my uterus hurt. I also became aware of contraction-like sensations coming every three minutes but only lasting about five seconds each. I lay down and rested until time for playgroup. By playgroup I was down to just uterus aching/hurting feelings, plus a low back ache. I talked to my friends Summer and Trisha about it and Summer reassured me and rubbed my belly, “your baby is strong and healthy.”

Thursday evening (November 5), I started to feel concerned. The contraction-like feeling was back. At 3:00 a.m. (my nightly wake-up time throughout the pregnancy to date) I got up to sit on the couch. I tried to be positive and think about a “bubble of peace” surrounding us and I also repeated to myself, “you are strong and healthy, your baby is strong and healthy.” I felt like I felt the baby move a little then and felt a little reassured. I had decided earlier that perhaps I had a UTI and that was what was causing the crampy feelings to come and go (urinary frequency also). I ended up throwing up later in the morning and was reassured by presence of morning sickness still. Between 3-5:00 a.m., I started to spot a little, but only when wiping. After seeing this, I began to feel extremely worried and scared. Spotting continued lightly in morning and I called a semi-local midwife to see if I could come and try to listen for a heartbeat. She was on her way to Montana however, so I made an appointment with t he nurse-practitioner at my doctor’s office for 2:45 that afternoon. I called my mom and my friend and rested in bed, waiting and worrying and repeating my healthy baby mantras.

I went ahead and packed for my class, then took the kids to Summer’s house and went to the doctor’s office, crossing my fingers that the diagnosis would be a UTI—I strongly felt it was going to be either-or, but it turned out to be both 😦 The NP said my urine looked infected and I felt my hope restored a bit. I truly thought the baby was going to be okay. She sent us downstairs for an ultrasound at 3:30. Though I tried to be hopeful, it was clear from the ultrasound tech’s non-communication that it was bad news. She didn’t show us the screen and I wish now that I would have asked to see it. I stared at the light in the ceiling and held onto my goddess of Willendorf necklace and to Mark’s hand. She clicked around with kind of a frown on her face and then finished and stood up. I said, “not good news?” and she said, “no, not good news,” put a box of tissues down said, “take as long as you need” and left. I told Mark that I couldn’t “do this” here and so we went back up to the NP and she confirmed (obliquely) that baby was dead. She said the tech said it was probably a fairly recent loss and that it was low in my uterus and my cervix was starting to dilate, so I would probably “pass it” this weekend. I felt like she expected me to be crying and I told her that I needed to “process” at home, not here. I called the college to cancel my class and that is when I started crying—I had to say the words, “I just found out I’m having a miscarriage.”

We went to Wal-Mart to pick up antibiotics for the UTI and I cried in the car while Mark went in. Then, to the post office to mail an ebay package. Again, I stayed in the car crying and wailing almost in my anguish, “MY BABY!” We got the kids from Summer’s and I cried in her arms briefly.

Mom brought over dinner in sympathy/empathy. I was still feeling some crampiness/uterus ache and that eased after dinner. I sat and read my miscarriage books—I had four on my shelf already, one from my time at RMHC and the others from my childbirth educator training. I talked with Mark for a while. I kept saying that I didn’t feel ready to let go and also that I didn’t know HOW to do this—should I walk around and try to get “labor” going or what? Decided to go to bed…

Birth

I woke at 1:00 a.m. (November 7) with contractions. I got up to use the bathroom and then walked around in the kitchen briefly, rubbing my belly, talking to the baby and telling him it was time for us to let go of each other—“I need to let go of you and you need to let go of me.” I looked at the clock and said to go ahead and come out at 3:00—“let’s get this done by 3:00.” I had woken every night at 3:00 a.m. throughout my pregnancy for no discernible reason and had said several times previously, “I’ll bet this means the baby is going to be born at 3:00!” (but in MAY, not November). I knelt on the futon by the bathroom door in child’s pose. I said again that I didn’t know HOW I was going to do this, but my body does. I realized that I needed to treat this like any other labor. I changed into soft, stretchy gray pants, leaving behind my pajama pants that felt too tight across the middle while crouching forward. These pants were Summer’s water-breaking pants—when she lent me her maternity clothes she said the only thing she was attached to getting back were these gray pants because her water had broken in them. I felt like they would be good energy birth pants. I was more comfortable right away upon changing into them. My contractions picked up to about 3 minutes apart and were just like with a full-term baby—starting in the back and spreading to a peak in the front. Mark rubbed my back and I talked to myself as I leaned forward in child’s pose with my head on my arms. I was going to “laborland”—that altered state of consciousness place of a birthing woman. I realized the only was to do it was to go through it. I asked Mark for my goddess pendant to wear (the one he gave me as a “happy new baby!” present in August when we found out I was pregnant). I held her and stared at my Trust Birth bracelet (and felt the irony). I had already put on my birth bracelet from Zander’s blessingway to help me feel strong.

When I was still having the “HOW?” questions, other women that I knew who had experienced miscarriage started to come to mind and I knew I could do it too. I told myself that I had to do what I had to do. I said out loud, “let go, let go, let go.” I said I was okay and “my body knows what to do.” The afternoon I found out the baby died, I’d received a package that included a little lavender sachet as a free gift with my order. When my labor began, for some reason I wanted the sachet and held and smelled it throughout the experience. As I chanted to myself, “let go, let go, let go,” I smelled my sachet (later, I read in one of my miscarriage books that in aromatherapy lavender is for letting go). I also told myself, “I can do it, I can do it” and “I’m okay, I’m okay.” I felt like I should get more upright and though it was very difficult to move out of the safety of child’s pose, I got up onto my knees and felt a small pop/gush. I checked and it was my water breaking. The water was clear and a small amount. I was touched that now these gray pants were my water-breaking pants too, but I was also worried about messing them up. I asked Mark to get me my leftover disposable undies from Zander’s birth and put them on (SO glad I still had them!) I went back into child’s pose and reminded myself to open and let go.

Contractions continued fairly intensely and I continue to talk myself through them while Mark rubbed my back. I coached myself to rise again and after I sat back on my heels, I felt a warm blob leave my body. I put my hand down and said, “something came out. I need to look, but I’m scared.” Then, “I can do it, I can do it,” I coached myself and went into the bathroom to check (it was extremely important to me not to have the baby on the toilet). I saw that it was a very large blood clot. I was a little confused and wondered if we were going to have to “dissect” the clot looking for the baby. Then I had another contraction and, standing with my knees slightly bent, our baby slipped out. It was 3:00. He landed face up on the clot with his arms raised over his head. I said, “Oh! It’s our baby!” and kind of shut my pants. Then, I opened them again and looked at him. He was clean and pink, about four inches in size, and well-formed with eyelids, nostrils, closed mouth, fingers, and toes.  I felt something else and saw his little cord—I showed Mark—it was spiraled like a big one, but thinner than a piece of yarn. It broke then and a whole bunch of clots came out and nearly covered the baby. His head and one arm were showing only.

No longer worried about having the baby on the toilet, I sat down on it then and took off my birth pants, feeling worried about getting blood on them (I didn’t get a drop on them though!). I tried to clean the baby off and wanted to check his gender and take some time to look at him, but he felt so soft and rubbery that I was extremely worried I was going to damage him. His mouth came open when I touched his face and I was stunned beyond words at the complexity of having a working jaw—this was a very developed little person and the magnitude of that complexity of development was unbelievable.

Then we had to set him aside to continue to deal with me. More clots came out then and I started to feel faint when I stood. I said I had to lie down and laid on the futon and smelled my lavender until I revived. I asked Mark for fizzy drink (Emergenc-C), which in hindsight I think I should have taken because I’ve read that too much Vitamin C can prolong bleeding—however, in my incredibly large collection of pregnancy and birth books, I could find NOTHING that would help me physically cope with a miscarriage in progress—no self-care suggestions, ideas of things to drink or eat. Nothing. I had Mark bring me various midwifery books and laid there bleeding and looking through them desperate to find some kind of ideas. I told him, “I’m going to write a book about this someday!” (and I am). I also had him bring me some Arnica and Rescue Remedy and later some Nux Vomica (which was in one of my books).

As I was lying there thinking about how to assess blood loss, I was also thinking about how in so many ways this had strangely been the birth I planned for, just not at the right time. And, that it was very much a birth, not “just a miscarriage.” The birth was unassisted—just my husband and me—the baby was born at a little after 3:00 in the morning, just as I had thought he would be, I had my futon “nest” on the floor as I had planned, and instead of trying to take a shower and clean up, I’d laid down when I felt I needed to. I was also thinking about how I felt good that I’d done it myself and that we’d given our baby a respectful and gentle and strong birth at home. I reflected on the similar endorphin-rush, “I did it! What an amazing person am I!” feelings I also had following my previous full-term births. In the midst of these thought processes, I was amused to notice the thought, “I obviously need to get into extreme sports!” There are probably lots easier ways to feel an endorphin rush and sense of physical prowess than in giving birth!

My contractions continued fiercely and I lost my “cool” then—after having the baby, I felt like it was “over” (the birth part anyway) and so my coping skills/altered state of consciousness diminished also—and just started saying, “ow, ow, OW!” over and over. I also said, “this is good! I’m doing good! My body is doing good work” (i.e. with my uterus clamping down and finishing up the process). This went on for some time and I kept feeling little gushes of blood with each contraction. I had Mark call my mom and dad to see if my dad could come check my blood pressure and pulse. They came and both stats were normal. Continued to have pain and to say OW and my mom suggested that perhaps getting up and using the bathroom would help. When I sat on the toilet, a giant grapefruit-sized clot came out. I immediately felt better and went to sit in a chair in the living room after that.  I had felt faint and woozy again with clot-viewing, but in the chair I felt like I was “coming back” and out of the woods after that clot was gone. Ate some cheese and crackers and drank some tea and more fizzy drink and later a pudding cup. Continued to feel contractions and little gushes of blood with each of them. Started to feel a little concerned about it and knew I had most definitely lost more than two cups of blood. Much more. More than both other kids combined.

I asked my parents if they wanted to see the baby and they went and looked at him and cried and cried. I got up to use the bathroom again and another grapefruit and some oranges came out. When I stood to pull up my pants, I held toilet paper to me to keep blood from dripping onto my clothes and when I did, blood came welling up and over the tissue and onto my fingers. My vision started to darken and I heard loud ringing in my ears and my family helped me back to sit in the chair. I felt thisclose to “going under” and sniffed my lavender desperately and put my head to my knees. Recovered a little bit, but still felt as if I was fading as well as losing more blood. I was completely white. No color. I could not differentiate any longer if I was “just fainting” or dying, so we decided I needed to go in. I said I was sad to go because I felt like I was proud of how I’d handled everything myself and that I had been strong, but that it is also strong to know when to ask for help and that I needed to go. It was around 8:00 a.m. at this point. The kids had woken up and we left them with my dad and my mom drove us to the emergency room. I laid in the back seat and hummed the song Woman Am I over and over again so that they would know I was still alive. I briefly thought about how I had so much more to do before I died and hoped it wasn’t time yet. I also thought how ironic it was that it was going to be birth that killed me. I expected at least a blood transfusion, but the hospital was fairly nonchalant about the whole thing and acted like everything was normal. I smelled my lavender and felt better almost as soon as we were there.

Aftermath—ER/Placenta

The ER staff was very casual and asked all the usual intake questions and a doctor came in to check me. She said, “this is very common. It is just natural selection,” which ranks as perhaps the very LEAST helpful thing to say to someone experiencing such an intense physical and emotional event (and, I beg to differ about “common,” since only about 1% of pregnancies end after 12 weeks). She tried to do a bimanual exam but couldn’t feel my cervix because of all the blood clots in the way and so had to do a more painful and traumatic exam using a speculum that I do not feel like writing more about because I do not want to give any space to her non-caring treatment and lack of compassion. She said the placenta was about 75% through the cervix and that was why the continued bleeding. She said I was not hemorrhaging (in sort of a, “you’re so silly and overreacting” tone) and that she expected the placenta would come out soon on its own. I was given a bag of fluids via IV, which again caused me to nearly “go under” and become completely white—vision darkening, ears ringing—the nurse seemed more understanding then of why we had come in, asking Mom and Mark, “is this how she looked when you decided to bring her in?” After the hour or so with the IV, I got up to use the bathroom. I asked first to use a commode in the room so we could see the placenta and was told to just use the regular bathroom, where the “placenta” came out, only to be whisked away by the automatic flushing action before I could see it (it was NOT the placenta however. The placenta came out six days later). Bleeding did immediately lessen then. The doctor checked me again and said my cervix was closed and there were no more clots. She gave me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory and for pain medication. We went to Wal-Mart for the scripts and then home. Getting home was HARD. Everything reminded me of what had just happened and Mark and I both cried and cried. Then slept.

My dad took the baby home to clean him up for us as well as provided a walnut Shaker box to bury him in. My mom crocheted a liner for the box and a matching blanket for the baby. I woke up at around 3:00 in the afternoon and started to collect things to add to the box. Mark and I talked about names for the baby. We thought perhaps the gender-neutral, Noa, based on a stillbirth dream I had had many years before in which we named the baby Noah. While Mark dug a hole by one of our cedar trees, I got a 2009 penny to put in the box, a purple goddess of Willendorf bead from Zander’s blessingway, one of my scrabble tile catch-your-own-baby birth power pendants, a rock and a shell from Pismo Beach, a picture of the boys, one of my womb labyrinth postcards, a hat I had crocheted, and my last “women healing the earth” postcard. Mark cut a sprig of our lavender to add. My parents came back at sunset with the boys. My dad asked if we wanted to know the baby’s gender and of course we did. He told us it was male. My mom added and elephant bead to the box and my dad had made a bead out of a log from their house. He split the bead in half so the two halves fit together—half to stay with me and half to go in the baby’s box.

I had chosen three readings from Singing the Living Tradition. I read the naming reading and since we now knew he was a boy, we announced the baby’s name was Noah after my previous dream. I read the other readings and the kids wanted to see the baby, so we all looked at him—he was much smaller than when he was first born (my dad measured him at 3.5 inches). Then, we put his box into the hole and each added a handful of dirt and said, “bye bye, baby” and cried and cried some more. (I have written more about the ceremony in these posts.)

I did not feel as if I had “lost” my baby, I felt like he died and I let him go.

“There is no footprint so small that it does not leave an imprint on the world,” or on his mother’s heart.

Books About Miscarriage

I recently made a post to my other blog about books about miscarriage. I wanted to link to the post here as well, because my blogs have different readers and I think it is useful to other childbirth educators to have read some books about miscarriage/childbearing loss and also to have some books available in their own lending libraries.

For the list of miscarriage books I’ve read since November, click here: Books About Miscarriage

Lavender & Letting Go (Warning: Miscarriage/Baby Loss)

My life has taken a sad and unexpected turn. I was 14 weeks and 4 days pregnant with my third baby and we found out on Friday afternoon that the baby had died. Very early Saturday morning, he was born at home. Though it was different in some ways than a full-term birth, my experience of miscarriage was very much a birth–my water broke, I had normal contractions for about two hours, the baby was born (about 4 inches, well formed with eyelids, fingers, toes, mouth that opened, etc.), we saw the tiny umbilical cord, and so forth. I was surprised to discover that some of the same feelings of empowerment were also present after a “natural home miscarriage” as with a natural home birth–I felt strong and brave and like “I did it myself!” as well as amazed at how well my body worked and knew what to do. We learned the baby was our third boy and named him Noah.

I have a number of feelings and observations that I would like to share about this birth experience, but I’m not sure if this blog is the “appropriate” place to do so, because this is also my business website and I don’t want to “scare” any prospective clients away by being sad. There are a lot of losses that accompany the loss of a baby and one of the ones that is hard for me is that my life is devoted to helping women give birth with confidence, strength, and joy and to embrace pregnancy and birth as wonderful events. It is sad to me to now be a source of fear/elevated perception of risk—“if it could happen to her, it could happen to me!” Kind of like I’ve become a “bad omen” instead of a source of encouragement. 😦

One thing I do want to share about the birth of my third baby is that earlier that afternoon I’d received a package from Taylor’s Scarlet Thread. I had ordered a bonnet and apron from them for a Kirsten costume (Kirsten is an American Girl doll) for myself. They sent along a little lavender sachet as a free gift with my order. When my labor began, for some reason I wanted the sachet and held and smelled it throughout my labor. I also used it to kind of revive myself when I felt like I was fainting several times afterwards. I talked to the baby and to myself before I started having regular contractions telling myself and the baby that we need to “let go” of each other and that it was time to let go. During the labor, I chanted to myself, “let go, let go, let go” and smelled my sachet.  Several days later, I was reading a book about miscarriage and it had some aromatherapy suggestions in it. It listed lavender for “letting go”…

Story Woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because of these two things:

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

–Hopi Indian Proverb

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

–Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox

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

Source: I am a Story Woman | Talk Birth

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

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

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

I am a story woman.

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

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

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

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

I am a story woman.

IMG_7770-0

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

Tuesday Tidbits: International Day of the Midwife

IMG_4848Today is International Day of the Midwife and I find myself reflecting on the many midwives I have known and the incredibly diversity and gifts of the women who join this profession. In addition to the midwives I had for prenatal and postpartum care for each of my births, I’ve been privileged to know many midwives on the state and national level through our shared interest in maternity care activism and birth rights. With my first baby, I had prenatal and birth care with a family practice physician and a CPM. The CPM was gray-haired, pretty, soft-spoken and wryly witty and pretty much exactly what you picture a stereotypical midwife looking like! My prenatal care with this team was excellent, birth care so-so (I didn’t need much), but my postpartum care left a lot to be desired and I felt very cast adrift after the birth. I became very embroiled with midwifery activism and birth work after this birth and as a result my experiences with all subsequent midwives has been an interesting blend of collegial + consumer. My first birth was the only one for which I was consumer only. Though I’m not a midwife myself, my subsequent experiences all involved being a sister birthworker AND client, rather than solely a client. This has both benefits and disadvantages.

My midwife with my second baby was amazing. I loved her so much and I have felt a gap in every pregnancy following that I was not able to have her as a midwife again. She was gentle and caring and passionate and inspiring and wonderful. Cute and upbeat, full-figured, and intelligent, she had a soft and reassuring presence and gave wonderful hugs! We became good friends and she was a very important part of my life. My prenatal care and birth care with her was excellent. She was also helpful with postpartum care, but I don’t think I “allowed” her to be as helpful as she could have been because I couldn’t allow myself to be as vulnerable and needy as I actually felt.

When I was pregnant with my third baby, my much-loved midwife had moved away and found myself at a loss for who to choose for pregnancy and birth care. This baby died early in my second trimester and I found myself calling on the sisterhood of midwives for help when I desperately needed it. From the very busy midwife who talked to me kindly and patiently when I was freaking out over a retained placenta, to the Mennonite midwife who helped me from the road as she was driving to another state and connected me to yet another midwife several hours away who drove in to town to meet and help me when I was very scared and alone, it was during this experience that I realized very viscerally how much we need midwives in our lives. When I was pregnant again, I decided to choose the Mennonite midwife for my prenatal care and immediate postpartum care. She is a very capable and determined and intelligent midwife, but I felt an unbridgeable gap between us spiritually speaking and so was never able to fully connect with her emotionally. She embodied the gray-haired, no-nonsense “granny midwife” archetype. She provided great prenatal care and was very respectful of my wish for immediate postpartum care, but an unassisted birth. Postpartum follow-up care was limited due to snowstorms.

With my last baby, I felt a powerful need to feel taken care of again. I really needed to have some set aside time, Mollyblessingway 027space, and energy that was just focused on me and my baby. I knew that I needed a midwife! While I could have used the same midwife as with the baby before, this time it was important to me to develop the emotional connection I had with my second midwife—I needed a midwife with whom I could feel “safe” with all of me, instead of feeling like I had to hide my goddess sculptures when she came over! 😉 It took some work, but I was able to find that. With this experience, I came to accept that the blur between colleague-consumer is my reality and I will never re-capture the feeling of being client only and being completely focused on in that respect, because I’m simply not just a client only. That’s okay. This midwife has long brown hair, wears lots of skirts and had the hippie-ish midwife feel I was craving. She is funny and talkative and connected to the roots of what midwifery is all about. I was safe with her in the way I needed. I really appreciated the midwife’s prenatal care (and the opportunity to focus on my pregnancy and baby), her respect of my wish for immediate postpartum care rather than birth care, and her postpartum follow-up care. I felt like this midwife offered the most complete postpartum care of all of my birth experiences.

I’ve mentioned before that the only vaginal exam I had during six pregnancies was at ten centimeters dilated when I went to the birth center to push out my baby (I also had to have one for a manual clot extraction following his birth and one for help removing the placenta after my miscarriage-birth of my third baby). This is totally cool with me. Somehow I’ve managed to labor and birth four full-term babies without ever knowing how dilated I am in labor! So, I loved reading this article about the pointlessness of vaginal exams in labor and the cultural attachment, even in midwifery circles, to cervix-focused childbirth:

“…There is also reluctance to change hospital policies, underpinned by a need to maintain cultural norms. The Cochrane review on the use of partograms on the one hand states that they cannot be recommended for use during ‘standard labour care’, and on the other hand states: “Given the fact that the partogram is currently in widespread use and generally accepted, it appears reasonable, until stronger evidence is available, that partogram use should be locally determined.” Once again, an intervention implemented without evidence requires ‘strong’ evidence before it is removed. The reality is that we are unlikely to get what is considered ‘strong evidence’ (ie. randomised controlled trials) due to research ethics and the culture of maternity systems. Guidelines for care in labour continue to advocate ‘4 hourly VEs’ and reference each other rather than any actual research to support this (NICE, Queensland Health). Interesting whilst Queensland Health guidelines recommend 4 hourly VEs, their parent information leaflet states: “While a VE can provide information about how a woman has progressed so far in labour, it cannot predict how much longer you will be in labour…” and that there are “…other factors such as the strength, duration and length of contractions as well as a woman’s behaviour and wellbeing that can indicate progress in labour”. Which begs the question ‘why bother doing a VE’?

The cervical-centric discourse is so embedded that it is evident everywhere. Despite telling women to ‘trust themselves’ and ‘listen to their body’, midwives define women’s labours in centimetres “She’s not in labour, she’s only 2cm dilated”. We do this despite having many experiences of cervixes misleading us ie. being only 2cm and suddenly a baby appears, or being 9cm and no baby for hours. Women’s birth stories are often peppered with cervical measurements “I was 8cm by the time I got to the hospital”. Even women choosing birth outside of the mainstream maternity system are not immune to the cervical-centric discourse. Regardless of previous knowledge and beliefs, once in labour women often revert to cultural norms (Machin & Scamell 1997). Women want to know their labour is progressing and there is a deep subconscious belief that the cervix can provide the answer. Most of the VEs I have carried out in recent years have been at the insistence of labouring women – women who know that their cervix is not a good indicator of ‘where they are at’ but still need that number. One woman even said “I know it doesn’t mean anything but I want you to do it”. Of course, her cervix was still fat and obvious (I didn’t estimate dilatation)… her baby was born within an hour…”

Vaginal examinations: a symptom of a cervical-centric birth culture | MidwifeThinking

I also read this article about the now late, great midwife and activist, Sheila Kitzinger and how she connected her birthwork to feminism (as do I). I despise the article’s title, but it is still worth a read!

…In the Seventies, I was viewed as a radical for saying that birth was being depersonalised and treated as if it were a pathological event, rather than a normal life process.

To my surprise, it wasn’t just obstetricians who dismissed what I had to say. I also found myself in conflict with feminists, who saw birth in very simplistic terms.

Why? Because they claimed it was every woman’s right to give birth painlessly.

An article in Spare Rib, the radical campaigning feminist magazine, went further.

Without any evidence, the authors asserted: ‘Undoubtedly, hospitals, with all their faults, are the safest places in which to give birth. For this reason, we think we should press for improvements in hospitals rather than support a move to more home confinements.’

I was appalled at how my sister-feminists could fail to support woman-centred birth. Polly Toynbee, writing in The Guardian, was particularly virulent, dismissing me as a lentil-eating earth goddess…

via Sheila Kitzinger on why feminists HATE natural childbirth and why it’s harmful | Daily Mail Online.

Lentil-eating earth goddesses unite! Unlike Kitzinger’s experiences with the distance between some expressions of feminism and birth-care, I find that many midwives, whether explicitly or implicitly, understand the deep connection between midwifery care, birth activism, and feminism.

“Midwifery work is feminist work. That is to say, midwives recognize that women’s health care has been subordinated to men’s care by a historically male, physician-dominated medical industry. Midwifery values woman-centered care and puts mothers’ needs first. Though not all midwives embrace the word feminism (the term admittedly carries some baggage), I maintain that providing midwifery care is an expression of feminism’s core values (that women are people who have intrinsic rights).

–Jon Lasser, in Diversity & Social Justice in Maternity Care as an Ethical Concern, Midwifery Today, issue 100, Winter 2011/2012

via Midwifery & Feminism | Talk Birth

Perhaps this is because midwives care so deeply about mothers and feminists might actually make the best mothers…

…As a mother who works extensively with other mothers, I appreciated Caron’s acknowledgement that raising children is a feminist act with potential to create change as well. “Another strategy for change is through raising children to be just and caring people. A media image portrays feminists as being against motherhood—but in fact, feminists make the best mothers. They raise children aware of themselves and the world, of options and values, of what justice means and how to work toward it, and how to be self-critical and self-respecting” (p. 203-204). Caron also explains that “in a just society, women would be free to make whatever decisions they needed to, for however long they needed to, in relation to political action in the public and the private sphere. All people would participate in the decision-making, and women would be supported in their decisions rather than, as sometimes happens, made to feel guilty for not doing enough or not valued for what they do.”

via Thesis Tidbits: Feminism, Midwifery, and Motherhood | Talk Birth.

dayofmidwifeHappy International Day of the Midwife! Thank you for bearing witness to our journeys and for holding the space for the continually unfolding spiral of life.

“…As we ready ourselves to accept new life into our hands,
Let us be reminded of our place in the dance of creation.
Let us be protectors of courage.
Let us be observers of beauty.
Let us be guardians of the passage.
Let us be witnesses to the unfolding…”

—Cathy Moore (in Sisters Singing)

via National Midwifery Week! | Talk Birth.

In addition to midwives, we’re also celebrating mothers all week this week! First on our lineup of activities is our gift to you: our first ever coupon code for $5 off purchases over $15. Use code: MOTHER.

We’ve also got a giveaway upcoming, two new product launches, a new Facebook group, and two class announcements! Stay tuned…

April 2015 021

Small Business Saturday: Shining Year Meditation and International Women’s Day

10985048_1598397140372502_1797564772323157625_n

Our collaborative business planning and progress is so intimately tied to our work with Leonie Dawson’s annual workbooks, that when I saw the theme of this year’s workbook—Create Your Shining Year—the wheels starting turning about how to communicate that in a pendant format. A friend then made the suggesting of making a Shining Year pendant with a sun at her center, so I found a sun stamp and set out to create some Shining Year goddesses. I also wanted to make a connection to the sun symbols used in Womanrunes, which are about laughter, healing, and letting go—all messages I need to receive into my own life this year!

Shining Year Goddess meditation

Take a minute to put down anything else you are carrying, doing, or thinking about. Let your shoulders relax and release. Let the breath move easy down into your belly. Then smile. Smile from your roots up through your branches. Feel joy suffuse you, filling you, bathing you, and laugh. Laugh from your belly. Laugh from your heart. Laugh with the wild abandon of freedom and release.

Let go. Feel the release and freedom that comes with unclenching your life. Remember to trust yourself and what makes you smile. Are you afraid to laugh? Are you scared to let go? Do you fear the loss of control that comes with hilarity? It is time to shake that off. Don’t be afraid. Laugh, sister, laugh. It is time to have some fun!

Know that you are as free as you allow yourself to be.

il_570xN.737953003_2586Why the twisty legs?

Recently the same friend who suggested the sun image, asked me why some of my pendant sculpts have twisty legs and I realized that sometimes the why I’m trying to communicate through my work isn’t always immediately interpretable! To me, the spiral leg form represents the energy of rising. I think of these goddesses as joyfully dancing, twirling, expressing themselves actively and energetically in the world. Indeed, the sensation of moving energy is so palpable through this design, that as a high-energy person, I have to be careful how and where I wear them, because the sense of being activated is so strong with them, that it can be too much for me! However, if you feel in need of activation and mobilization, however, then these dancing, moving, energetic goddess pendants are the designs for you! Any of my pendants with dancing legs represent Shakti rising in an energetic dance of creativity, freedom, and personal power. She is unapologetically fully inhabiting her own personal power and her being is enlivened by an exuberant flow of passionate, inspired energy.

Other new designs

As you may glimpse in the opening image, we’ve also created two new miscarriage mama goddess pendants, a new dancing moon goddess, and a mastectomy goddess pendant.

il_570xN.737956923_5ikiWe’re excited to have donated several pieces of our work to a Red Tent fundraiser project in the UK. Please check out all the details about the Community Red Tent and join supporters from around the world for the online auction taking place via Facebook on the spring equinox: Community Red Tent Auction & Raffle

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we’re also offering a 10% discount code on any of the items in our shop through March! Use SMALLBIZSATURDAY.