Another Beginning

We give birth to so many things in our lives.  We create art.  We forge friendships.  We beget children.  These are no small things.

What I notice most about the most significant births is that they are born from a place of surrender.  My ego gives up, and I let what needs to be born come forth.  With each of my children, such is the nature of their birth.  In some of my better writing, the words seemed to form themselves.  My most sincere friendships found their own way to my heart and took root there.

This home, this school, this town we find ourselves in now, I imagine the same holds true.  In the stillness of the morning, I marvel at the sunlight falling down through the trees.  I wonder at the moisture, the thunderstorms, having come from a place not far away experiencing harsh drought.  (Believe me, I’m trying to send the rain back home!)  I am here for formation.  For a true birth to happen, I will have to let go.

That doesn’t mean I let go of all that was, of all who are a part of my life.  In as much as this is a community affair, this is mostly a time for me to grow, not away from who I am but more fully into who I am, who I am meant to be.  No one says a birth is easy, nor do I hear often that they’re beautiful affairs to observe (aside from those who hold the process near and dear to their hearts when a baby is being born). But I give thanks in advance for those who will serve as witnesses to my own birth, who will hold the space around me, love me unconditionally, and remind me that the ground is still there when I feel I’ve lost my way.

 

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What Mary Knew

Of the four children smacking their cocoa-sweet lips and held captive by The Polar Express, one has a birthday this week, two days before Christmas.  Ten years ago I was 40 weeks pregnant, great with child.  But it wasn’t my first.  I had my support in place.  Preparations had been made.  I knew what to expect, more or less.

In this fourth week of Advent, I love that we light a pink candle to honor Mary.  I love remembering that she surrendered to something greater than herself, that she humbled herself to be a servant.  She didn’t know . . . she couldn’t know what was in store.

Every time I picture Mary or try to work with any kind of visualization or exercise of lectio divina, I have a sense of what Mary might have known.

Surrender.

What was happening was beyond her control.  It wasn’t just about Mary the innocent young woman suddenly expecting child.  As with every mother bearing child, from the moment the baby is conceived and grows, the mother can only do her best to keep healthy.  The formation of the child is left to genetics and the miracle of life.  A mother-to-be can seek the wisdom and comfort of other women to learn all that she can, but when it comes time to birth, there is no bringing forth of life without letting go of one’s identity.  Virgin Mary to Holy Mother of Jesus.  Can you imagine what Mary experienced alone in that stable?  Do you think she found in herself the capacity to pity poor Joseph standing helplessly by?  Could there have been a woman from the Inn who had mercy?  Such details are left unaccounted.

Next thing we know is that there’s a baby in a manger.  Mary has a child, a dependent.  This child’s existence depends upon her care and attention.  She knows this.  With her surrender, though, she knows this child she cares for is not hers alone.  She cares for this precious child not only as her own but as one of God’s . . . as God.  Did she know this?

Could she truly sense this from the beginning?  Could she know the heartache that would come?

From the very beginning, this would be beyond her comprehension.  She might never fully understand.  She could only do her best to do what was required of her in every moment.  She would live fully into each moment, keeping her heart as open as possible to live into the will of God.  This would be the best she could do.  It’s the best any of us can do.

Oh, that I have the humility to live into every moment with awareness and true surrender.  May I raise my children so that they will grow into the beings they are meant to be, not what or how I want them to be.  May I have the strength to be a mother of strength, love, and acceptance.

My children are blessings to me.  I am surrounded by abundance, and I understand this mother role . . . more or less.

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Access to Birth

A bit of housekeeping on the blog (as if there weren’t enough to do on the homefront!).  I will no longer be posting about birth on this blog, unless the nature of a story lends itself to appear here.

For local birth-related topics, please visit BirthNetworkNWAs website.

For good birth advocacy commentary and info, visit Birth Activist.

Other good “birthy” sites include, CIMS, Midwifery Today, Childbirth Connection, Unnecesarean, and a slew of others if you go searching around on your favorite search engine.

Birth . . . an every day miracle.

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Say It’s Your Birthday . . .

I can’t help but have the Beatle’s song going through my head today because it is, in fact, my birthday.  🙂  I have no vanity about it being only my day of birth, so I’m willing to share the joy with all the other brilliant Scorpios out there.

The reality of it is that this day is like any other, for the laundry doesn’t wash itself, nor the dishes.  The sick child will need to be held all day, and I’ll keep hoping that my remaining milk is helping her eyes and that we all won’t get whatever she has.  The deadlines remain, and I’ll have to clean the house yet again to restore it to the beauty it was before much of the family came over.
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The blessing of this day, however, is that the stars have been
aligning, and my dreams have been potent.  I consider birthdays personalized New Year’s, so I have a chance to begin anew on resolutions fallen by the wayside.  Today I will be gentle with myself, encouraging, nurturing, and today my husband tells me he has a surprise in store.  Today is unlike most days in that on this day several years ago, my spirit entered this world fully into this body.  Hopefully each day I come closer to realizing my purpose, finding my calling, fulfilling God’s will.

Thank you, mom, for birthing me.  Thank you, family, for the love and gifts.  Thank you, Mother Nature, for the beautiful autumn colors that have remarkably lingered into November.  This weekend was a beautiful Indian Summer.

May we carry a bit of the magic and love of birth into every day of our lives.

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Waaa-hooooo!

pregnant_belly.jpgPregnancy is an exhilarating time — all the anticipation, excitement and sacredness of what’s happening within.  Then there’s birth.  Ah, words can only try to capture what happens. We understand what’s going on physiologically, but for every woman, there’s a different psychological and spiritual story unfolding.  Let us not forget postpartum.  After all this excitement and focus on the mother, now the focus is on the baby; the woman that was once treated like royalty in her pregnant state is now a slave to this infant who is solely dependent upon her.  Hopefully she had a wonderful birth experience and developed the mama bear bond with her babe and gives of her time and body with a happy heart, for what wouldn’t she do for this new love in her life?

For the past week in my blogging absence, I’ve been working with our BirthNetwork for the BOLD Red Tent and the play “Birth.”  My time and energy were absorbed in the planning and nurturing of the events, and I had to draw some boundaries for myself (coincidental that that was my last blog topic, eh?).  Then, one by one, the events were born.  I suppose we had triplets!  Two Red Tents and one “Birth” play.  The events were fabulous, and I have earned a new level of respect for the women in my community and the talent and generosity therein.  I was amazed at the beauty of sharing, the diversity of stories, the openness of women’s hearts given the space and even amazed at my own ability to help pull something like this together — not by myself but with the help of others.

Now in our postpartum phase of the BOLD events, I miss the excitement, anticipation and connection with other women.  Those elements are too few in our society.  Yet it was a lovely birth, and I come away knowing that I have much work to do for improvement in maternity care.  In the words of one of my former midwives, I’ll “do it with a happy heart.”

I believe our lives are meant to serve, and I’ll consider it a blessing to serve the wonderful women in our community.  May we all be blessed with beautiful births, whether it be of children or of creative endeavors, and may we all feel the support of one another.

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Tell Us About Your Birth Experience — Launch of The Birth Survey

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Today CIMS (Coalition for Improving Maternity Services) nationally releases The Birth Survey.  The major effort to make maternity care transparent is underway, and your story makes a difference.

Why?

  • Pregnancy, a naturally occurring part of a woman’s life, is treated like a medical condition.  The baby is a human, not a tumor, and in a majority of pregnancies, there are few risk factors.  Many of the obstetrical interventions, however, increase the likelihood that a woman will have complications from her pregnancy/birth.

  • The rate of interventions is more determined by the facility or provider than the woman herself.

  • In places where statistics for interventions and quality of care have been made publicly available, maternity care has been highly receptive to quality improvement, most likely because there were so many simple improvements to make.

CIMS, Lamaze International, Citizens for Midwifery and other birth advocacy organizations strive to improve the quality of maternity care — to make it truly mother-friendly — and believe that through transparency, the change will come.

How?

  • When you go to buy a new camera, you read the reviews, check the sites rating the hundreds of cameras you have to choose from and talk to your friends to see what they’ve had the best experience with.  Is choosing your maternity care provider any different?

  • But when you go to look for a doctor or midwife, apart from checking the listings and talking to your friends, you’re not going to find which one has the best rates, provides the features that are most important to you — whether that be in natural pain management, low episiotomy rates or successful cesareans.

  • So, The Birth Survey aims to list the providers and facilities.  We’re collecting data so you can have a “features” list, the statistics for interventions.  And, we’re hoping you will share your experience so that others can learn from you, even outside your immediate circle of friends or those who bump into you at the grocery store.  (We know you’ll tell your story to anyone who will listen!)

Take a step toward making mother-friendly care a reality for all.  Take the survey (if you’ve given birth within the past three years).  Tell your friends.  Let’s paint the picture of what maternity care is really like so we know how to keep it good but to make it even better.

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The Gift to Birth Well — A Reflection from Pregnancy

(No, I’m not pregnant now.  This is from our last pregnancy, with thoughts relevant even now.)

After receiving accreditation as a childbirth instructor, I figure I’m supposed to know all about natural childbirth, at least have access to unbounded information about it.  I’ve also been blessed with three healthy children.  So, at our fourth birth, it should be a piece of cake, right?  Most mothers know this isn’t true.  Every pregnancy, every birth is as unique as every child.  I still learn things in this pregnancy as we go, and as this is our first home birth, we’re not finished learning yet!  (Not for a few weeks, anyway!)

Regardless of what I have to learn, I’m still amazed at what my body, what women’s bodies, know to do.  There is a baby growing!  My children ask how I know how to make a baby.  I honestly tell them that my body is just the house for the miracle of life. The flower doesn’t have to know how to bloom; it just does.  Of course, there are ways to provide optimum performance, and I do better when cared for with love.  In the meantime, the process keeps unfolding until we have a baby.  Both the process and the baby are phenomenal.  Isn’t it amazing?  We know how to do this; we participate as closely as ever to the divine unfolding and revealing of life.

Birth may be an obvious way to observe a greater knowing, but I believe that we all also possess the ability to give birth to the divine in every moment, for in every moment we are given the opportunity to breathe.  We make a conscious choice about the energy we contribute in every situation, and we determine whether or not we follow our heart, the still small voice.  This doesn’t mean we have to be painting, writing, sculpting, dancing, acting, sewing, or whichever art you pursue every waking moment, but it means you do not deny yourself the opportunity, either.  I find it best to do what must be done when it must be done.  If it’s not bothering me, it can wait.  If I feel I can’t possibly think in this house because it’s too dingy and dirty, then perhaps I need to spend a couple of days cleaning.  I still need to maintain my connection to the Spirit of creativity.

Whether I’m writing a novel or birthing a child, I know I house divine potential.  Similarly, divinity abides with me as I clean or nurse or chauffeur.  I can do all things with love, and with love, I can birth well in every moment.

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Clay Mama Beads

Venus_von_Willendorf_01.jpgNot the most interesting title, but true nonetheless.  I’ve been wanting to do this since I myself got a Venus of Willendorf-inspired bead for my blessingway necklace.  I realize that making the tiny beads is a true talent.  Even making the bigger ones is a skill.  As I’ve just begun, please don’t take my experience as the rule.  Take it as inspiration!  I myself received a beautiful gift of a necklace from my roommate at the CIMS Forum.  She made her beads of polymer clay.  Beautiful is all I can say!  Nope, she’s not selling them, or I’d send you her way!  If you’re looking for ceramic clay beads, this looks like a good artisan site.

What I did:

  • Take a small wad of clay

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  • Roll and smoosh it to get it compact.
  • Shape away!  I also used the coil technique 
    to add a little extra to the “belly.”

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  • I used a tool (above the coil in photo above) to cut the hole through the bead.  Important to remember is that the clay shrinks about 10% when fired.  If you’re using a bead tree, know that your bead needs to fit on the steel rod loosely.  Also, when glazing, I’ll have to make sure to wax resist well so as not to get glaze round the rod/hole.
  • I’ll dry these and fire them with the rest of the items.  This will be a first, so I’ll have to update you on the process/results.I’m going to have my childbirth class make some tonight while we’re discussing birth.  It’s always good to engage the senses!

      
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Have fun!

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A Bath to Remember

The healing qualities of water are probably innumerable.  A bath itself soothes the muscles and calms the spirit.  I don’t give myself enough baths, though we were excited to have a large tub in our house when we bought it three years ago.  There is one bath that I have taken here that I hope never to forget.

We were blessed to have a wonderful home birth for our fourth child, a baby girl.  Everything went like we had hoped it would — never underestimate the power of visualization . . . and it never hurts to be specific!  Our team of midwives worked swiftly and quietly, their headlamps cutting through the dark; I can’t imagine birthing with a better group of women.  No one can over-emphasize the importance of a good birth team.  Not only should you share your birth philosophy, you should respect and admire each other.  I think that’s an element not everyone knows about, but I digress . . .   We had a beautiful home birth followed by something almost as awesome.  The babe and I shared an herb bath.
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The midwives prepared the herbs and drew the water.  They helped me into the tub, and after I got comfortable, they presented me my child.  We covered her with a towel, washcloth and hat, and I poured water over her to keep her warm.  It was quiet as mornings can be, except for the water moving with my motions or the soothing voices of the midwives.  I whispered to our new child.  I blessed her.  I wondered what secrets she knew.  I kissed her.  I loved her.  Then I held her close again against my breast.

The midwives joined me in the room, sitting around the tub like ladies in waiting, though our lady had arrived.  Now we could be still and enjoy.  I thanked them.  One midwife noted the sun — it’s light looked like hydrangeas as it was shaped by the glass blocks behind the curtain.  She had taken pictures for me of the baby’s first bath.  There were also candles lit, and time seemed to be still, too, for these precious moments.

We held a conversation, the midwives and I, about community and motherhood.  I can’t remember everything that was said, but I do remember that I was glad to share this time in my life with them.  I’ll happily tell my daughter how blessed she was from the beginning.  Our conversation grew quiet, and the water became cool.  I knew then that the bath was a part of the birth, too, cleansing and healing, brief and beautiful, momentary.

It would be easy to think I had dreamt it, but it happened, in all its quiet glory and grace.  I have pictures to prove it.

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