Category Archives: Birth

Healing Birth Trauma: Guest Post

Despite all of the working through I have done over four and a half years, it was timely really that the release of my e-book on Amazon this week coincided with a close friend’s baby’s arrival.
 
They had the ‘perfect’ hospital birth…a quick labour, minimal intervention, a placid baby, an easy beginning to breastfeeding.
 
The day we visited them, she said she would have another baby that evening.
 
I felt the bitterness rise within me.
 
How could she even say that?
Why the fuck couldn’t it have been so easy for us first time round?
Another part of me felt I should be ‘over’ the resentment and bitterness and feeling hard done by.
 
This is despite having a glorious home-birth with my second daughter…a perfect birth in every way.
 
Having finished the e-book, I (wrongly) assumed I was ‘over’ a lot of my first daughter’s birth.
 
Maybe I was feeling a little smug.
 
Just goes to show that these feelings will always be there in some way.
 
This couple have taught me again the lesson that it is OK to feel these feelings as long as I don’t act them out on others. 
 
This is my stuff, not theirs. 
 
I believe a part of me will always feel robbed of those early precious newborn days when all I wanted was to feel well, not in horrendous pain and emotional turmoil from my daughter’s hospital delivery.
 
So here it is…..my raw personal story of the arrival of my first daughter. As a mother of two and a psychotherapist in private practice, the book provides a comforting reassurance that your feelings are normal and that you are not alone. I also provide lots of practical guidelines and worksheets in order to help you in embarking on your healing journey and to support you along the way.
book cover
Nicola Hogg writes at Empowered Womyn. She is mother to two beautiful little girls and an accredited psychotherapist working in private practice in Co. Limerick, Ireland. Her passion is working with women antenatally & postnatally. She started blogging in 2012 about my experiences of birth and motherhood as a way of supporting other mothers, particularly those who have had a less than satisfactory birth experience.

For private mother-to-mother support/ counselling appointments you can call her on 087-6836922 (phone/Skype appointments available for those living a distance away) or send her an email.

Let’s talk about sex… when you have kids

I seem to have been talking sex a lot recently, with soul-sisters, my women’s group and my partner. It strikes me that though we may not want to DO it as much, us married women with kiddies sure love to talk about it! It matters to us. It excites and intrigues us and makes us glow – as one friend says, she knows I’m about to start talking sex (which is quite often, if truth be told!) because my face lights up! But talking and doing are not the same. 

There comes a time in your life when sex isn’t, well, so sexy. And it’s certainly not carefree. Nor spontaneous.  Sex becomes more functional as you enter your thirties – tied up with conceiving… or desperately NOT conceiving another. It can feel like a strategic military operation at times to get both partners in the same place, minus kids and plus small amounts of energy. Nor is it about lust-filled exploration – as you know each other’s bodies back to front. So what IS sex about…?

In one word: connection – to ourselves and each other.We’re all pretty good at superficial connection via Facebook, and superficial titillation in this sex-saturated world. But real connection is anything but superficial. The longer you know someone, the less places there are to hide. Sex cannot be used as escapism once you have been together for a prolonged period. It requires connection. I know in myself, I turn away from this connection when I feel overwhelmed with the world and myself: the thought of being that open, that connected, is more than I can take. And so when I go off sex, it is a great reminder to me that I am disconnected – not just from my partner, but also my own body, and from other areas of intimacy in my life. If I can’t show up in bed, I am not showing up elsewhere.  If I can’t let myself go in the bedroom, chances are the rest of my creativity is being inhibited too.

Sex requires that we turn up as we are, in the bodies we currently inhabit. And with an openness of spirit. It requires complete openness and vulnerability. A desire to engage fully. To BE together. And that’s before you get to the physical aspects which might be blocking your path…

Post-baby bodies: it might be as simple as stretch-marks or as serious as tearing and scar tissue, or a body memory stored in your genitals from a traumatic birth – going down there post-babies can be a lot less straight forward. We are aware of our bodies in a more functional, less romanticised way. As are our partners. It can be hard for either or both of us to detach from their baby making qualities, to their erotic ones, especially when breastfeeding and our partners might cop a squirt of milk in the eye during foreplay!

Cycles: It is natural for libidos to be dampened down whilst breastfeeding. But when our menstrual cycle resumes, so do our monthly hotspots. It is great to be aware of when these occur and take your lead from your hormones. When your libido rises just before ovulation, and just before (or for some women during) menstruation. For more information on your cycle do check out my book Moon Time: a guide to celebrating your menstrual cycle.

Feeling touched out: Mothers, especially those who are co-sleeping, breastfeeding, or mothers of under 3s can feel totally overwhelmed by touch at the end of a long day mothering, and when evening comes just want their physical space rather than being touched some more.

Exhaustion: Many mamas get into a spiral of I’m too tired, I don’t want to have sex. Their partners subtly or not so subtly express that sex hasn’t been had in a long time, and she begins to feel resentful about being put upon – doesn’t he understand I’m tired? I don’t have any more to give. I really just don’t want to… A vicious spiral of disconnection can build from here, with both too frustrated and misunderstood to communicate. How do YOU break out of this? How do you find a way through where both of you feel your needs are being heard and honoured?

Turning it around…

Reframing: I often feel hounded if I am not in the mood. And know that many other women do too. But when it was explained to me that that hungry look was not a demand, but an appreciation, a visual “I love you, I love your body.” Rather than perceive it as a threat which I had to defend myself and my tired body from, I could totally reframe it, and it made me feel energised, loved and grateful. What woman doesn’t want to feel loved, to know she is loved? And that is all most of our partners want for us too: to express their love. For them it can often be with actions of physical love making, rather than words or other gestures. But you may need to have the words and gestures first. Reframing it in your own mind can make you feel a whole different way, instead of him “needing” or “demanding” something, can you consider it a devotion, meditation, a shared enjoyment, an invitation for play or fun, a chance to feel loved?

And can he reframe what he considers “necessary” for “sex” – is sex just intercourse leading to orgasm? What other ways can you connect physically and emotionally? Negotiate non-intercourse ways of interacting lovingly. Everyone needs touch, some of us more than others – making sure you are giving, and receiving loving touch is vital for all relationships.

Get away – a change of scene is so important to get our energy flowing. Our energy stagnates if we live day in, day out, in the same place, in the same way, and in the early years of parenthood we can be very stuck at home. Getting away together – to a hotel, or house sitting a friend’s house, or having a naughty Saturday afternoon together sans kids at home is often just what the doctor ordered. Time out of mundane reality to reconnect on every level.

The erotic – pillow books were a common thing of the Japanese, I like this idea of shared enjoyment of eroticism. In our culture pornography tends to be a male-dominated, female-exploiting field, and is often mixed with aggression, domination or abusive models of sexual interaction. But we all have an erotic side – a side that loves sensuality, titillation, naughtiness, the erotic – can you find a way to share this in a way that celebrates, not denigrates you as a woman? That makes you feel good?  Do share your suggestions below for woman friendly eroticism that you share with your partner.

Keep exploring, and enjoying and pleasuring your own body – the more to love and enjoy your body and sensuality, the more you understand, without pressure or expectation what you like, and love, the more alive your body feels on a regular basis, the more alive and in your body you will feel.

There is, and always has been, a pressure on women to have sex – both to make babies and to give pleasure, often regardless of her own desires. Even when our partner may not be intending to put pressure on, there is the cultural pressure on men and women to be doing it more. Enough, enough already. Sex is nothing to prove, nothing to achieve. There are no minimum requirements.

But that is not to say it is not important. But our vision of sex, our definition is narrow. And what is important is that which makes us glow when we talk about it, and that we experience after making love – the glow of our heightened life force flowing through our veins, the feelings of ecstasy, of abandon, and sensuality. The sense of being one with another, one with the world. The comfort and pleasure of being touched by and touching. These matter. These impact all of our relationships and our life as a whole. However you can, make sure to weave THAT sort of magic through your life and your partnership. Find how to connect, and reconnect in a way that pleasures and celebrates you both.

 

Wide open – and witnessed

As little girls we are told to keep our legs together. For a woman, “she spreads her legs for anyone” is an insult of the highest order. The power of the wide open vulva is deeply threatening to the very fabric of civilisation.

My four-year-old daughter loves to show us her vulva. Spreading it wide. “Your yoni’s smiling and talking to us!” I say. So proud that she’s proud and comfortable in her body. Her seven-year-old brother says “yueuch, that’s disgusting!”

And that’s pretty much how it continues. We learn to feel shame for this part of ourselves. To shut it away, not show it off. Whereas boys take great pride in pulling their penises out in public and drawing them on schoolbooks and road signs.

Wide open. It is a feeling of vulnerability. And power. Both together. Flashing our genital essence to the world. Look, this is what I am. This is what I can do.

For most women the first time they experience being wide open – and witnessed – is in the process of birth. At this time there is no room for prudity, shame or secrecy. Suddenly this hidden recess, deep, dark and private, stretched wide open to become a portal between two worlds. As a woman’s whole yoni opens so do her eyes, her throat, her heart, her whole soul to allow the birthing process to happen.

sheela na gig

Sila na Gig on a church in Kilpeck, Herefordshire

The only exception to this taboo, in the whole of Western art, that I know of, is the Síla na Gig, (pronounced Shee-la na gig). Found in the eaves of British and Irish churches, I first learned about them from Ina May Gaskin (check out her interview, here, where she discusses their function and purpose.) There she stands, vulva wide open and proud.

My greatest hope for women is that we be safe enough, feel safe enough, to be wide open and witnessed: lovingly held, tenderly treated, standing in our power and vulnerability.

I loved this poem by Brid Wildearth, which she posted recently and wanted to share it, and her artwork, with you all.

SHADOWS OF AN ANCIENT GODDESS

An ancient woman squats
above an old church door.
She holds her vulva open,
impossible to ignore.

Weird witch Síla na Gig,
powerful, daring and rude,
I wish I dared sit on a church wall
wicked and wanton and nude!

Eerie faerie Síla na Gig,
bathing your quim in the sun,
your holy hole outrageously obvious,
your mouth fixed in a mocking grin,

you might as well be shouting
to pilgrims rich and poor:
“I am your mother, your sister, your wife,
your daughter, your lover, your whore.”

Orgasmic dancing Síla na Gig,
are you just prehistoric pornography?
Or do you have something to say
to the twenty first century?

“I will not collude in your big cover up.
I will not clothe myself in your shame.
Uncensored and open and honest and proud,
I show the world who I am and why I came.”

Why do you sit on a church wall?
Why do you show us your cunt?
Why did the stonemason carve you?
And what exactly is it that you want?

“I was here before the church was
and I’ll be here long after it’s gone.
I honour the place of original magic
the place from which we all come

I open the gate between worlds
the doorway to life and to death
this gesture is just as important
as any gesture to pray or to bless

I am your ancestral goddess.
I am swollen and violated and raped.
This is the result of your violence.
I will not disappear without trace.

By Brid Wildearth

By Brid Wildearth

When you seek to disempower me,
you invade me against my will
you build churches over my temples and groves
and convince my children that I am evil.

Remember where you originate.
Remember your spiritual roots.
Remember that god is a woman as well.
Remember deep, radical truths.

Womanhood is as sacred

as any church or holy place.
We give birth, we give pleasure and we give love,
we give comfort and healing and peace.”

sheela na gig earthenware

 

wyldearth

Brid Wildearth blogs at www.moondrummer.blogspot.com, where this post first appeared. She says:

I identify as a witch in solidarity with the nine million wimmin accused of witchcraft during the burning times. I have been moon drumming for two years with wimmin all over the world. We channel moonlight to heal ourselves, our loved ones and the earth. I was drawn on to study Síla na Gigs, goddess figurines found on medieval churches who display their genitalia.I felt addicted to painting and sculpting them. I did not fully understand why. Women in pottery classes who saw me sculpting their open vulvas would giggle uncontrollably. I felt their discomfort and I allowed myself to be silenced yet again…. And later I noticed that displaying an open vulva is the exact opposite to sewing one up [as is done in female genital mutilation]. I invoke this ancient goddess to help me in my desire to help end this subjugation of women, within the context of world wide misogyny and rape. After years of copying ancient sculptures, my hands created my own original Síla na Gig.”

FREE birth event!

I’ve just found out about a really exciting birth event on September 5, 2012 which I just had to share with you.

If you’re as passionate about birth as I am then this  is a MUST!

IMAGINE: One Day. Sixteen Birth Visionaries. Direct connections to their birth-and-world-changing awesome-ness. Countless formats to share your juicy ideas to change the culture of birth.

Featuring: Dr Christiane Northrup,  Ina May Gaskin, Debra Pascali-Bonaro, Karen Brody, and twelve other birth visionaries at BOLD.

To celebrate Empowered Birth Awareness Week, BOLD is introducing you to leading birth visionaries, people trail blazing cutting edge ideas who can help birth visionaries “Be BOLD” in their work, learn something new, take action, and connect with a community of like minds to change the culture of birth. Never heard of BOLD? BOLD is the global movement that brought you Karen Brody’s play Birth, and now also trains birth workers in a childbirth empowerment method called Rock Your Birth.

This virtual event takes place all day on September 5…and it’s FREE! To register and for more information check out: http://virtualtownhall.boldaction.org/

Nourishing The New Mama~ Healing foods & Herbs

“Drink tea and nourish life; with the first sip; joy; with the second sip, satisfaction; with the third sip, peace.”

I have discovered over the past few years that one of the most important things I can do for myself as a mother and woman is to focus on what I take into my body: the thoughts, the food and drinks. In my book, Moon Time, I write about creating a tea ceremony as a way of nourishing yourself with liquid, herbs, warmth and reflective time.

Never is this more important than when you are a new mama. New mamas need all the love and support they can get.

This guest post from Jen of Love and Tea really resonates with me. Jen is based in beautiful Vermont, which is where my American family are based, so I felt a natural affinity with her. She is an artist and trained herbalist who creates the most beautiful herbal teas which nourish every level of a woman’s body and soul. From the names, through the packaging and blends, they are made with a mother’s love and a woman’s wisdom. (Be sure to read to the end for a discount for Happy Womb readers!)

Becoming a new mama takes a tremendous amount of energy. After birth it is especially critical to receive proper rest and nutrition. It is crucial that you focus on…

* A balance of meals; Three full meal & nutrient rich snacks throughout the day are key to proper nourishment and keeping up the supply of breast milk. When a meal is skipped our bodies automatically produce an abundance of stress hormones. Stress hormones inhibit milk production and can lead to reflux in the infant.

*Nourishing grains include: Barley, Oatmeal, Corn Meal, Buckwheat, Brown Rice, Quiona and Amaranth.

* In Ayurvedic post-partum care, it is stressed to avoid cold/raw foods during the post-partum stage. This helps reduce gas, bloating for both mama & baby.

* Proper fats. Yes FATS!!! Healthy fats play a crucial role in the body. They are used as building blocks to create cell walls, nerves, tissues and hormonal balance. They can also stabilize blood sugars – which help protect against mood swings. EFA’S or (essential Fatty Acids) play an essential role in brain & body functions. What we eat, literally affects how we think and feel!

*Sources of healthy fats include: Organic Coconut oil, cold pressed & traditional veggie oils. Also avocados, sesame seeds, raw nuts and oily fish (avoid deep water fish such as tuna due to heavy metal toxicity). 

* Eating organic & chemical free foods not only supports your entire body, but your baby’s health too.

* Water and proper hydration: Getting enough water into your body helps heal and rejuvenate at the cellular levels. Herbals teas are another way great way to keep properly hydrated. Ayurveda recommends avoiding iced drinks.

There are a vast array of herbs to nourish, re-store and re-vitalize mamas after giving birth.

*Nettles: High in Vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting, Nettles is especially useful with post-partum bleeding. Used traditionally to increase and enrich breast milk.  The minerals and vitamins found within Nettles provides an excellent support in restoring and rebuilding the energy levels following birth.

*Dandelion: This little yellow flower is packed full of essential minerals and vitamins. Dandelion is very beneficial for new mamas!  Dandelion is high in Vitamin A, Calcium and rich in Iron. Dandelion also aids in exhaustion and fatigue.

*Lemon Balm: Relaxes and calms the nervous system.  Lemon Balm has been used traditionally for depression and insomnia. Lemon Balms add its hint of lemon aroma and flavor to uplift and refresh the new mama.  Lemon Balm is said to help one cope with new life situations, IE: Motherhood!!!

* Lady’s Mantle: Revered as an herb for the entire female system, Lady’s Mantle has an affinity to regulate and decrease post-partum bleeding.

* Jasmine Flowers: Have an affinity for the entire female system. Energetically these flowers increase compassion and love. Jasmine flowers are said to make the mind receptive, aid and receive while radiating vibrations of mantras.

“Lactation is the nutritional equivalent to running 10 miles a day!”

My Ayurvedic post-partum teachers would remind us this statement each class and I have never forgotten it! For those of you breastfeeding, here are some foods and herbs known to support and increase lactation:

* Roasted Cumin seeds

* Dill seeds

* Anise seeds

* Caraway seeds

* Coriander Seeds

* Red Beets

Foods to be aware of (Limit consumption)

These Anti-Lactogenic foods- these foods have been know to decrease the mother’s  milk supply and can cause reflux and other issues in the infant:

* Soft drinks & carbonated beverages; these not only decrease milk supply but rob your body of calcium.

* Coffee & Caffeinated beverages

* Chocolate

* Citric Acids in foods & juices (tomato, citrus fruits etc)

* Aspartame  (should be avoided in any case as it is highly toxic)

Potentially Anti-Lactogenic herbs:

(These herbs can potentially decrease and dry breast milk)

* Parsley

* Sage

* Rosemary

* Thyme

* Mint

Jen Lashua is a Certified Herbalist, Artist and Mama to four little sweet beings.

She is founder of Love & Tea Company, which features handcrafted organic teas, including a line of specialty teas specifically formulated for Women & Children’s Wellness.

A fusion of her two passions, Tea & Art, you will find Jen’s original paintings on her tea labels. Love & Tea Company promotes the Art of Tea; engaging the mindful art of loose leaf tea while promoting artist’s creative works. She is offering at 10% discount  at  www.loveandtea.com to all Happy Womb customers, for the next 7 days. Enter code “happy womb” to avail of this wonderful offer.

Connect with Jen via her blog: http://artfultea.blogspot.com/

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Love-Tea/153226064491

Twitter: http://twitter.com/LoveandTeaCo


 

Speaking for birth

“How can I speak for birth?”

That was my question, back when I first felt called to do birth work. To advocate for birth. Natural birth. Birth as she has always been for millions of years. Generation after generation. Nothing weird or hippy. Nothing worthy. Just the miracle of biology which is birth. Donkeys, goats, dolphins and cats do it: nothing weird there. That’s all I wish for women, is to experience the magic of life, the wonder of birth. But we have been told that birth is dangerous, uncertain, not to be trusted. And that birthing like animals is beneath us. We need to be saved from that.

But the opposite is true. Natural birth gave me back to myself. It was a revelation to me. And it has become a large part of my life’s work. I truly want to help more women share this most fundamental and natural of experiences, because in our medicalised birthing world this is not an inevitability, but a rarity. Continue reading

Birth: an introduction to the Women’s Mysteries – Guest Post by Jane Hardwicke Collings

I am delighted to share our first post on birth today, by a woman whose work I fell in love with the moment I discovered it: Jane Hardwicke Collings. Her words speak deeply to my soul – and I hope they do to yours too! Be sure to take a few minutes to watch her video, below – to hear about birth on a whole other level than that which our culture currently admits.

And you, dear woman, how birth has impacted on your understanding of what it means to be a woman? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Birth initiated me into the Women’s Mysteries and introduced me to Goddess, as it does for so many women. As a young midwife during my hospital training I was shocked by what was going on – institutionalised abuse on women masquerading as safety. I left the ‘system’, unable to participate in the unconscious perpetuation of violence at birth, and became a homebirth midwife, and my learning really started. First there was a lot of ‘un-learning’ and then there was learning the rest of the story, how birth is a reflection of a woman’s beliefs, attitudes and fears, and as if the culmination of her life so far. We have the births we need to have to teach us what we need to learn about ourselves and about life and the way of things, that then takes us to the next place on our life journey to wholeness. No failures, no mistakes, just opportunities for self awareness and choice.

My work with women over the last 28 years through pregnancy, birth and mothering, and their daughters at their menarche, has shown me over and over the power the patriarchy and the fear based medical system has over women. This has also shown me the power that our rites of passage have for us in reclaiming our feminine wisdom, our inner knowing, our strength, Goddess energy and our connection to each other and everyone and everything. Bringing consciousness to our rites of passage and consciousness to our menstrual cycle is of great value and huge healing potential.

What informs my work today is my deep understanding of birth from the physical, metaphysical/spiritual/shamanic and metaphoric perspectives. This combined with my awareness of the opportunities the experiences of our rites of passage (menarche, childbirth, menopause) give us to know ourselves through the lessons we have come to learn this life time and seeing these as the unfolding of our life journey, as well as the wonderful cycle of renewal our menstrual cycles gives us.
Jane Harwicke Collings is a mother and grandmother, and a homebirth midwife since 1984. She lives in NSW, Australia, south of Sydney with her husband, two of our four grown children, many animal friends, and with elderly parents on the same property.
Her role is as midwife, and teacher of the workshops and programs of the Women’s Mystery School she founded in 2009 – The School of Shamanic Midwifery. She is author of several books and shamanic journey CDs, which can be bought here www.moonsong.com.au. More of her work can be found here: www.placentalremedy.com

And her blogs are:

http://schoolofshamanicmidwifery.blogspot.com/

http://janehardwickecollings-moonsong.blogspot.com/