Category Archives: Birth

Your Body is Not a Lemon: power and postpartum healing

lemon-cartoonYour body is not a lemon.

These are the inimitable words of the one and only Ina May Gaskin in her birthing books.

Three home births later, I know her words to be true. But nearly 11 years on from my first birth, and exactly six from my last, I am still healing. Slowly. Physically and emotionally.

All my focus, like that of our entire society was on the birth. Not afterwards. Not on healing and support. And so there have been years of pain and blur and more pain. And not being able to “get back to normal” cos my body and hormones and everything were proper fucked. It has felt like pulling myself through chewing gum and glass on my hands and knees.

I felt that my body had failed me. I felt that I had failed.

Women were supposed to be able to give birth then, mother, if I couldn’t… if I needed help just to be able to do it… I felt weak and ashamed. I find reaching out for help hard. I find it easier to suffer alone. Especially when I don’t know exactly what it is that’s wrong.

I can see that it’s getting better in the last couple of years – thanks to women picking up techniques from other cultures, training, sharing wisdom and services. When I was putting together the second edition of Moon Time this time last year I came across belly binding and the closing the bones ceremony, for the first time. This would have done me incredible good after each of my births, if I had only known about it – with a family history of lower back and pelvic issues, with what I was only told last week by a physiotherapist – after years, and thousands of euros on chiropractic work – that I have hyper mobile joints. That and the focus on nourishing and support, may have meant that I didn’t need to fall apart and simply survive early motherhood.

Where is the support – the literal support – when we become mothers? As I explore my relationship with my own mother, however much I get angry and upset about how many things were when I was little – what makes me bitter is the lack of support – on every level that she received as a single mother living in our culture. Of course she struggled. It’s fucking hard bringing up a young child on your own, before you add in health issues.

For years I have been so deeply frustrated by my body letting me down – it does feel like a lemon. The last couple of weeks my almost constant lower back pain took a whole other turn for the worse, going into my hip and leaving me on my back. This – as I argue in my new book, Burning Woman – is the place that disempowered women have always been: on their backs. And here I was.

I was in agony. It wasn’t getting better. So I needed to reach beyond my comfort zone – to new practitioners and approaches – to reach consciously for healing.

One session with a new physio taught me the basic skills I needed to make my weak, unsupported, over-extended parts stronger, more reliable. She taught me through metaphor and imagery and simple exercises how to build my core strength: every time you reach for a handle, or get out of a seat, imagine you’re squeezing an orange with the muscles behind your pelvis.

Oranges and lemons…

Seems like my body is not a lemon after all…

It’s an orange!

I intuitively knew that core strength was a central component to em-power-ment when I was writing Burning Woman – the strength, power and support of our physical bodies as women, especially post partum, are so often left out of the equation. But they are a vital bit of the equation. Our bodies are the physical conduits of our power. Our bodies matter. Our power matters.

And I have experienced this firsthand. Learning to engage my own core power, physically, has had a knock on effect emotionally – of course it’s all one – suddenly I feel less able to be knocked off centre. I see that I have the power within me – literally – to support myself.

Why Birthplace Matters

BIRTHPLACE MATTERS
Babies matter
Mothers matter
Fathers matter
Siblings matter
Midwives matter
Choice matters
Dignity matters
Rights matter
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Hospitals across the country are suspending their homebirth services

… which forces women to either pay for an independent midwife if they want a homebirth, move to another area, or give birth unassisted

… or go back to give birth in the same hospitals where they may have already suffered birth trauma and interventions that might have been avoided

… and every woman should be able to determine for herself what setting feels like the right place for her to labour, give birth and spend the first precious hours and days with her baby – not have the choice made by others.

Paula Cleary, writer, doula and home-birth mother of five spearheaded the Birthplace Matters campaign a year ago to urge her local hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Norfolk, UK, to reinstate its homebirth service for women…..and a call for better information about the safety of homebirth and understanding of the strength of women’s feelings regarding the place they give birth to their babies.

Birthplace Matters is committed to restoring confidence in homebirthing and feel it is every woman’s human right to give birth at home.

Every woman should be able to choose the setting of her baby’s entry into the world.

Wherever women are told their birthplace choices are not important, wherever women are belittled or sacrificed at the altar of short-term birthplace policy, we will help. Women should not be at the mercy of a postcode lottery when we all pay the same taxes, and we will fight any trust that takes away its homebirth service until it is reinstated.

Our focus at this time is the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn, Norfolk.

Where next?

Her recent, rousing passionate writing compiles words from mothers and respected birth experts as to why birth place matters, exploring the efficacy of hypnobirthing, water birthing, doulas, fetal monitoring… It has received over 10,000 views already. It is a MUST READ for all birth activists and is available HERE for free.

ProCreate – showcasing artist mothers

The Placenta Effect

Image: ProCreate Project.   Creative Direction: Dyana Gravina.   Photography: Digpal Singh Rathore.   

I get approached by a lot of women, with a lot of exciting projects, not all of which I can get involved with.

ProCreate jumped out of my inbox at me.

As a creative mother, who has written a #1 Amazon bestseller for creative mothers – The Rainbow Way: cultivating creativity in the midst of motherhood… I was SOOOO excited to find out about this project, from Dyana Gravina, an Italian artist and entrepreneur currently based in London.

ProCreate Project is a collaborative medium for female artists that aims to support and
produce artist’s works during pregnancy and beyond. My dream is to make Procreate project become an agency dedicated to women, artists. I would like to be able to showcase through a vast range of activities their work, create and produce for and with them new pieces of art
using what for me is a generative force, pregnancy and the wonder of motherhood!

I asked her to share a bit more about her story with us…

After the 5th month of pregnancy my body underwent enormous changes: my belly grew bigger and as my physical transformation became more apparent, that force inside of me also grew stronger and more physical.

I was being influenced by that wondrous little creature that was generating a creative rush like I had never felt before, inspiring me to become even more driven and persevering.

I was in full bloom. I wanted to drown myself in the ocean of creative ideas crossing my mind; start painting and playing music again. So one night, before falling asleep, I suddenly pictured the logo in my mind’s eye: a light bulb and a foetus…and I would call it ProCreate.

procreate-03

Just like that it came to me. At first I thought it was the beginning of an event; I was not sure what I was creating it for, and I was alone when I started this journey. But now I have travel companions and I am building up my company, and it is all thanks to this creative process that I experienced in my life…when I least expected it!

I struggled to find a community where other female artists could express this creative feeling or, indeed, any medium that talked about the connection between creativity and pregnancy. I wondered whether I might be going crazy; was I really the only woman on earth to be feeling this way?

So I started advertising online for other female artists who may relate to me and my newfound passion and it was not long before responses started to pour in.

pollypenrose

Image: Polly Penrose, 7 Years of Self Portrait, A BODY OF WORK – contributor to ProCreate Project.

By sharing my story with other artists I finally realized that what I felt was real. After a long period of solitude, I felt I had found something beyond my initial expectations: the friendships I have formed with all these women, and the stories I have heard from other females are simply amazing. I am not saying that every woman feels or should feel as we do, but there are many that do and I truly believe it is important to empower and support that – and them. This journey helped me rearrange my priorities and find out what really mattered to me.

madonna

Image: Dyana Gravina.

There are women who have created incredible art and worked more passionately during pregnancy, and we definitely need to encourage this and make it possible in any way we can.

Procreate Project aims to become an agency with the determination to showcase and produce artistic creations with and for creative mothers / to-be. We work alongside the creative compulsion of mothers (to-be) who are feeling or have experienced this power, in order for them to advance productively and connect them with the forefront of creative business, correlating them with relevant movements, scenes and diverse niche groups in society.

We have just launched MAMA – mothers are making art, in collaboration with The Museum of Motherhood of NYC. For more see: http://mommuseum.org/2015/05/31/m-a-m-a-the-art-of-motherhood-click
And http://www.procreateproject.uk/mama-international/

11018575_10152696878966616_2271151057474561475_nMy book, The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood, and some of my art will also be included.

You can see more of Dyana’s project, and learn how to get involved at her stunning website: www.procreateproject.com – all images on this post come from her site, with permission.

 

Moods of Motherhood: the inner journey of mothering

Moods of Motherhood Lucy H Pearce

Moods of Motherhood charts the inner journey of motherhood, giving voice to the often nebulous, unspoken tumble of emotions that motherhood evokes: tenderness, frustration, joy, grief, depression, playfulness and love. She explores the taboo subjects of maternal ambiguity, competitiveness, and the quest for perfection, offering support, acceptance, and hope to mothers everywhere. Though the story is hers, it could be yours.

Today’s post is part of the Moods of Motherhood blogging carnival to mark the launch of the second edition of my book, Moods of Motherhood: the inner journey of mothering.

Do be sure to read to the end to see all the women around the world who are joining me today, lifting the lid on motherhood… and to WIN your own copy!

 From the book…

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Mothering is the work of the heart, soul and body. And yet our culture has no interest in how it feels, to do it, the effects it has on us… just that we choose the right nappies and sleep routines, and have quiet children who say please and thank you. The inner world of a mother creates the climate within which our families, and communities, grow, and yet it is almost entirely overlooked and undervalued, until it has become so unmanageable that intervention is required.

The basic premise is this: mothering doesn’t matter. It’s not real work, be grateful, shut up and don’t complain. Or that if you’re not finding it all comes naturally, if it’s not all delightful, then you are a BAD mother and therefore don’t deserve to have kids. Shame ranks highly in the arsenal of weapons to keep mothers compliant and submissive. As does comparison to other successful paragons of mothering virtue. Women’s work has never been properly valued in our culture. In part because women have been second class citizens for so long. In part because women’s bodies and inner realities are not understood. And in part because it is done in private: within our bodies and our homes. We gestate our babies unseen. Rock and nurse them alone at home. Survive dinner time. Worry about finances. Try to reclaim flagging libidos. Curse stretchmarks and wobbly bits. Angst over school choices. Smart at criticisms of our parenting… in private.

I soon realised what an epidemic there is of under-supported, overstretched mothers out there. Working their own personal coalface every day. Women who love their children, and yet struggle with the daily mothering grind. Women who are struggling with mental health issues, often undiagnosed. Suffering from extreme sleep deprivation. Lack of support – be it financial, cultural and emotional. Women who feel very alone… and doing the hardest job in the world. And wondering if they are doing OK. Wishing they were doing better. Scared to say anything in case they are judged incompetent and incapable, and the source of their anguish – but also their deepest love – their precious children – are plucked from their less than perfect hands.

And so women struggle on in silence. Knowing that they, or the reality they are experiencing must be wrong… because it doesn’t match up to everything they are told about the truth of motherhood, the natural instinct that we are supposed to have which will carry us through everything, that soft-focus, unending love, joy and delight – by the authorities: the baby books, experts, public health nurses, doctors and movies.

This book is a celebration and acknowledgement of ALL the moods of motherhood. Not just the pretty, nice, acceptable ones. But the dark, murky, unspoken, unspeakable, confusing, ambiguous ones too. All of these and more are tangled together to make up the tapestry of our mothering days.

About the author

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Lucy H. Pearce is the author of four life-changing non-fiction books for women including the #1 Amazon bestsellers: The Rainbow Way: cultivating creativity in the midst of motherhood and Moon Time: a guide to celebrating your menstrual cycle. Read more…

Buy now!

Moods of Motherhood is available to buy from your favourite online bookstores, in e-book or paperback. And, naturally, signed copies direct from my shop.

Once you’ve read it, do be sure to leave us a review on Amazon or Goodreads! Your feedback matters hugely.

Win a copy!

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Click on the book above… and we’ll send you a link to your FREE SAMPLE right away! This will automatically enter you into the giveaway draw to win a paperback copy.

Already a follower of Womancraft Publishing? Then head over to the Womancraft Publishing Facebook page and share today’s post, let us know you’ve shared in the comments below the Facebook post.

Enter before midnight (GMT) Monday 1st December to be in with a chance to WIN one of 5 signed paperback copies.

Carnival Contributors

I am so delighted to be joined today by over 40 mamas around the world in the US, UK, Ireland, Sweden, France, Poland…

Becky Jaine shares how The Joy Factor inspired her to leave the corporate world, reclaim her JOY and become a better guardian of her children’s joy

Dr Katrin Bain suggests in her posts that you go with the flow of The Changing Moods of Motherhood

Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea writes about the intense joys and desperation of motherhood in her post, Sometimes my Cloak is Big Enough

Jaci at HappinessBackpack explores Worry from a hospital bedside in her post Worry and Lumpy Hospital Beds

Kate from KatyStuff writes about the Manic Moods of Motherhood

Aisling from Babysteps writes about how motherhood made her more empathic here – The Empathy Factor

Monika shares experience of dancing and motherhood and why it rocks

Amy at MamaDynamite wishes her mood of motherhood was less frustrating in Reclaiming the Positive in Parenting

Joanna at Create Your World has learned some difficult truths… and some beautiful ones too. What my son has taught me, and how it’s not all positive

We have a strong Irish Parenting Blogger contingent

Emily at The Nest
Sinead at Bumbles of Rice
Lucy at Learner Mama
Andrea Mara of Office Mum
And lots of my favourite bloggers including…
Author Louisa Leontiades at Postmodern Woman
Author Suzi Banks Baum at Laundry Line Divine
Author Molly Remer of Talk Birth
Ancient Amber author of families for the Earth
Zoie at Touchstonez
Misty Tunks of Makey Mamas
Karina at Karina Ladet
Laura of Holistic Mama
Zoe Foster at Raw Yoga
Rowena at Ret Row Art
Awen at Wild Magpie
Clare at The Clevs
S.M. Hutchins at Live Wonderstruck

The Power of a Birth Partner

This beautiful guest post on the importance of supportive birth partners is an extract from Birth, Breath and Death by Amy Glenn Wright. I LOVE this woman’s writing… as does Ina May Gaskin!

“Amy Wright Glenn has written a remarkable book that I found very touching, reading it as I did when I was caring for my husband during the last weeks of his life. Because she’s such a brave soul, I very much enjoyed her company as I journeyed deeper into that territory that had to be traveled.”
Ina May Gaskin, midwife and author of Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

When she was six months pregnant, my younger sister Rachel faced a painful marital separation. It proved too much for her to bear alone. She needed calm, security, friendship, and loving support. So did her soon-to-be-born daughter. My husband Clark and I opened our home and welcomed her with joy. She lived with us during the final trimester of her pregnancy, the birth, and the postpartum recovery.

Before she arrived, she called me. “Amy, will you be my birth partner?” she asked. I said yes. It was an answer that would change my life.
I projected confidence yet inside I felt nervous, hesitant, and out of place. Although I could outline the basic philosophies of various world religions, I knew next to nothing about childbirth. How could I support her through this rite of passage into motherhood?

While checking out a few books on birthing, I shared these fears with the librarian. “Have you considered hiring a doula?” she inquired. I never heard this word before. Gratefully, she took a break from her work to educate me about the services that doulas provide birthing women.
I wanted to hire a doula for Rachel. Later that afternoon, I met up with her and enthusiastically shared my new discovery.

She laughed and said, “Amy, I don’t need a doula. I have you!” I paused. “Well, I need a doula.” So, she humored me. We hired a doula. Rachel’s midwife fully supported us in bringing a doula on board. We found a wonderful woman, full of passion for her work. As a former opera singer, she sang like an angel. Her calming and beautiful melodies brought a great deal of peace to the early hours of labor.

When Rachel knocked on our bedroom door at 5:30 am on a late March morning, I bolted upright. My beloved niece was soon to be born. Knowing our doula would arrive at our request brought tremendous relief and calmed any lingering trepidation. I wouldn’t be alone in supporting Rachel through the trials ahead. Our doula joined us for the vast majority of Rachel’s twenty-four-hour labor. Her helpful, kind, and informed presence proved invaluable.

Rachel quickly morphed into the bravest person I knew. Wonder and pain mixed into a strong elixir coursing through my sister’s beautiful body. We spent hours walking through the springtime fields behind our home. She labored in the upstairs tub as water washes over her rhythmic contractions. At the hospital, she moaned and rocked and said she felt agonizing pressure. She cried and bled. I massaged her body as she mercifully rested during the five-minute respites between contractions. These respites are nature’s wise gift to birthing women.

At one point as Rachel rested between pushing, our midwife turned to me and said, “You’d be a good doula.” Her words fell into the fertile soil of soon-to-manifest dreams.

Then Rachel’s cervix opened fully and the downward pressure compelled action. While pushing, she compressed every bone in my hand. I didn’t dare say anything given what was happening to her vagina. The baby crowned. Then, with a hearty push, new life slipped out of Rachel’s watery, warm womb. A threshold opened, and my sister gave birth.

The energy in the room shifted with celebratory grace and tearful smiles. We welcomed this precious one to the earthly realm of gravity, air, and land.

“A woman’s body knows what to do,” our midwife stated in the most matter-of- fact way.
Following Rachel’s birth experience, I devoted myself to doula training.

Aztec elders taught that women who died in childbirth go to the same level of paradise as men who died in battle. After attending over forty births, I fully understood why. Men die in battle from intense wounds. They bleed as they sacrifice for a greater cause. The same holds true for women who die in childbirth. They bleed as they open to life. The juxtaposition of beauty and pain in each birth astounds me. Each story lives in me.

 amyAmy Wright Glenn earned her MA in Religion and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She taught for eleven years in The Religion and Philosophy Department at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey earning the Dunbar Abston Jr. Chair for Teaching Excellence.

Amy is a Kripalu Yoga teacher, prenatal yoga teacher, (CD)DONA birth doula, and hospital chaplain. She is the voice for “Motherhood, Spirituality, and Religion” for Philly.com and blogs for Attachment Parenting International, Doula Trainings International, and The Birthing Site.

Amy is a regular columnist for Holistic Parenting Magazine and recently published her first book: Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula. Amy teaches private meditation classes via Skype to students across the United States. She also teaches prenatal yoga classes, Mommy and Me Yoga classes, and Breath and Movement Birth Preparation workshops in south Florida. To learn more: www.birthbreathanddeath.com

@amywrightglenn

https://www.facebook.com/AmyWrightGlenn

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Birth, Breath, and Death is available on Kindle and in print via Amazon. Click the book to go straight through to its Amazon page.

 

 

Memory Box

Loretta joined us at the East Cork Red Tent in June and spoke incredibly movingly about a poem she was writing. A poem about memory and forgiveness, about the line of pain and healing which passes down from mother to daughter, and its location in our wombs. I immediately asked her if I could see it for The Happy Womb, and am so honoured that she has allowed me to share it with you here as a guest post.

Memory Box

I am kneeling in my Grandmother’s kitchen
Slippery smells of iron and blood
Hang
Clotting in the air
Wearing my childbirth apron,
I gently unfurl my wounded inheritance
Poultice applications and salves of love
and forgiveness
Ready to apply.

I unstitch my foot soles, two flapping footprints
Examining the roads and trails these
Sentient beings have taken
Each labyrinth a path and player
In my identity.

I pop my corneas and holding each up to the light,
I peer through these misted lenses
These look outs which have captured all that myself
And my grandmothers have seen, watched and
Looked away from.

I scrub my tongue, lengthways and widthways,
Scouring at the sounds, roars and attempts to be heard
Embedded on it
All that we have spoken and hushed and cried and howled
I slice my belly open and reaching in
I touch my womb, pulsating and piping hot
In my cradling hands
Our womb, which has drawn down life and death
In dark bogs and air conditioned rooms
I run warm water through it, better examining the
Cemented imprints of coiled foetuses and smudged
Out souls, I cry for my grandmothers
For their children and mine.

I am resolute in my demand
That the pain stops here
I pray for healing in
The cleaning of this
Old memory Box.

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lorettaLoretta Kennedy is a freelance writer and advocate who lives in Cork with her partner and children.

Her poetry has appeared in magazines such as ‘The Stinging Fly’, ‘The Burning Bush’, ‘The Cuirt Journal’
and the poetry anthology ‘Jacobs Ladder’ (Six Gallery Press).Her parenting articles have appeared
in magazines such as ‘Juno’ and ‘Easy Parenting’.

She has worked as a stage manager, a magazine
editor, a nurse and an advocate and now primarily as a mother to three wild girls. She is currently
training as a birth doula.

Light at the End of the Tunnel: Pregnancy and Depression

Today’s post comes from Laura Wright and is on a topic close to my heart. I struggled with depression during one of my pregnancies and after two. Please do also see my articles on pregnancy/ post partum depression in the free resources section, here.

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Last year, someone very close to me became deeply depressed while pregnant. In fact, it was my little sister. After coaxing her through this tough time with the help of her wonderful partner and the rest of our family, it got me thinking about what advice or information to give prospective mothers who feel depressed during this time.

I am aware just how lonely and isolated women can feel when the world expects them to be blooming. While I have two wonderful daughters of my own, my experience of depression had been purely academic until my sister’s experience last year. Now, I feel called to write more on this deeply personal topic, so that women who find themselves in this situation can find the support and resources to help them, and to know that they are not alone in this and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Exploring the Treatments Available to Treat Depression in Pregnancy

While a diagnosis of depression during pregnancy is usually a shock, you are not alone; as many as a fifth of pregnant women suffer from low mood. It’s also important to remember that your diagnosis means that you will receive treatment, which won’t just protect your well-being, but also that of your developing baby.

Receiving treatment

Your doctor will advise on the treatments available to you, which will depend upon the severity of your depression and other factors in your medical history. In cases of more severe depression, they may suggest antidepressants as an option. However, as some of these drugs may pose a risk to your unborn child, they are usually not recommended in cases of milder depression, as the benefits are not sufficient to outweigh the risks. There is still plenty of help available though, as a range of treatments are effective when low mood is mild to moderate. These therapies can also be used in conjunction with antidepressants to enhance the outcome. Here we give an overview of some of the alternative treatments for mood disorders available to pregnant women.

  • Taking regular exercise during pregnancy is recommended to keep up your fitness to prepare you for delivery. However, keeping physically active is also beneficial for your mood when expecting, as it triggers a number of positive changes within your body that promote feelings of well-being. Exercise such as brisk walking, low-impact aerobics, swimming and yoga are all good activities, but check with your doctor about other suitable forms of exercise.
  • Psychotherapy can take the form of one-to-one counselling, where you may receive help you to build on your relationships or to change negative thought patterns. However, support groups designed to help people with depression may also be useful if you are comfortable participating in group activities.
  • The complementary therapy of acupuncture is an additional option to ease the symptoms of depression, as certain pressure points relieve feelings of low mood. Indeed, research has shown that this is a suitable option in pregnancy.

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Laura Wright worked in nutritional science and health provision before turning to writing for a new career. Now she combined ghost writing for a wide range of businesses and organizations with spreading the word about a number of health guides she’s personally invested in. When not writing, she likes spending time with her family and going for long hikes.