Tag Archives: birth

Belonging: Receiving the Self

Lucy Pierce and I (Lucy Pearce) discovered each other as people kept mistaking us for each other – we create art and words on the theme of the sacred feminine but on other sides of the world – she in Australia, me in Ireland.

Belonging - Lucy Pierce

Belonging – Lucy Pierce

This image is an offering to all those who have carried within themselves an experience of woundedness, who have harbored within a place where no sun can shine, where the shimmering of the stars cannot find its way, where the rain does not fall, nor the Earth nourish. To all of those of us who, because this woundedness is a hidden thing, a thing for which we might feel shame, because this hiddenness we do not even show to our own self, when we are with others, still we feel alone and even when there are eyes upon us, still we feel unseen, and even when a hand of love is extended, still we feel unloved, and even from within the raucous celebrations of our tribe, that deep hidden part of us remains untouched.

This is a picture for all those who have struggled to be seen for all that they are in this life, those who are timid and unsure of how to bring their love and their gifts to commune with the world. For all those who have hidden their light or felt they were alone within the midst of the many. For all the times we forget that we are the centre, however we find ourselves, and that this is the place to start to plant our seeds of love, carefully tending them with our presence, so that that which is still hidden within us may become a bountiful wellspring that feeds the hearts and souls of the all, so that we may find our own unique place in the circle of life.

As we deeply honor the grief of our perceived separateness, we find our connection to the whole, for the world needs us now. Our mother Gaia needs us all, to bring our gifts out from the dark corners of our own unworthiness, into the light of our collective becoming. You have never been alone dear heart. No longer believe the shame, it is a lie you whisper to yourself to keep yourself small and you are so far from small, you are a magnificent human being. We may need to endure the terror of exposing our own magnificence. It is true that to begin with it might feel deeply uncomfortable to be seen, but it is time, tender one, hiding in the shadows, to offer love to your own un-livedness, to become the safe place to land your heart in the world, with its vast medicine bundle of beauty.

As we each turn within, to offer our limitless capacity of love to our own true selves, no longer giving any other being the authority or responsibility of keeping us small or safe, or to give us permission to shine, knowing that what we carry within us is ours to give, no longer believing those that might once have told us our bigness was not wanted, was not welcome.

By loving ourselves, caring for and tending to the aliveness of our own interiority, we become strong and deep-rooted in our capacity to give of ourselves, the newborn nectar of our own true purpose.

I pray that we may each come to know a place of belonging completely to our own selves, surrounded by the tribe that would have us be all that we are. From the edge we become the centre, as the deep listening to the soft within becomes the rich, fertile compost which mobilizes our capacity to worship the divine creative essence of our own healing, of our own belonging, to self, to tribe, to Earth, to Cosmos. We receive ourselves and are home.

BELONGING

Such a tender crippling to the deep within

So young when the question arose

Around love and trust and the violence of absence

So that all that remained was to fly

or to trust this timid listening

at the dark edge of things

seeking the answer that might one day flower

on the inside of things,

longing for trust,

something without strings or bitter consequence.

So hungry for the bedrock of something true,

a love free from violence,

something whole and reciprocal.

Honing the impulse to fall inside

until one finds the love that should have come

but did not.

The hungry nose of instinct

always leading me in and away,

so mute and trembling the terror of not being loved

as mightily as a part of me longs for,

sifting through the self-loathing,

making piles of the not-known,

in search of something known,

that one smooth, warm river stone,

amongst the mountains of others.

That one stone that I can nestle in the palm of my hand,

passing it’s surface across my tear-stained cheek

and know it as belonging,

know it as something I have earnt,

know it as something that is my own to hold onto.

pure and clean,

warm and true.

Keening for the vision of self and other

and life that existed before the wound became the lens

through which the world was viewed.

To be born to such a blind grief,

that deflects our understanding

and evades our coarse penetrations,

that the world does not resemble flower petals,

that the world has lost its tribe and language,

that we have forgotten to fall with the rain through the sky,

fall with the rain across the golden mountain,

fall with the rain through the sun-drenched trees,

fall with the rain to the sweet and hungry mouth of Earth. Ourselves and the rain,

the mountain and the trees

and the Earth

golden in the last rays of the day’s ancient sun.

My heart has always been betrothed to this elusive bride,

always seeking her with my vow

that I would feel that which was given no name,

that I would ride into the dark night of my own interiority

and keep the silence company,

courting the tender embrace of the universe.

lphead

Lucy Pierce

Trained in Fine Art, majoring in Ceramics at RMIT, I now live in the beautiful Yarra Valley, not far from the river and overlooking the mountains, with my beloved partner and 3 beautiful children. I feel my creative work has led me on a journey deep into the psycho-spiritual realms of my being. Through my creative impulse I feel wooed into a deep engagement with the poetic interface of life.

For many years now my practice as an artist has flowed alongside my journey of being a mother and this experience has deeply imbued my body of work, as I have explored the profound embodiment and awesome expansion, the unfathomable challenge and gift that is pregnancy, birth and the raising of small humans. Alongside this and interwoven, there sits the profound journey of finding, keeping and loving a man, traversing the terrain of inhabiting a deep and real and connected love and transcending the illusions and projections that can sabotage that connection.

I am passionate about dance, poetry, song, dream, story, the blood mysteries, meditation, prayer, sexual expression, sweat lodge, women’s circling, all as avenues of exploration of the inner terrain of my being. These rich vehicles provide an ever-present compulsion to explore, create and express in physical form, that which I find in the unknown and sometimes unknowable places of the body and the beyond.

Always it seems for me at the heart of all my expression is the deep sense of love and reverence I feel for that great, deep, primordial feminine energy that I feel pulsing at the core of life, for the divine and majestic Mother Earth and her perpetual devotion to beauty, diversity and truth, her ever-present nurturance and astonishing capacity to reveal, delight, immerse and enlighten, and how we as her children are inextricably dependent on her for our well-being and our survival.

Since I can remember I have always made art and written poetry, and it feels like a wondrous thing to come to a place where I feel able to offer these ramblings and scribblings to the world. With my little people playing at my feet, sheltering beneath my skirts, I am slowly endeavoring to give back to the great river of creative energy from which I have fed from so delectably for all the days of my life. It is my hope that some of my work might find a tender place to land in the hearts of those who bare witness to my offerings and that a shared resonance of beauty, truth and goodness may come to sing in the collective soul of our kind.

You can find a selection of my paintings, sculptures and poetry on my website http://www.lucypierce.com

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.”

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/

Let Your Monkey Do It – An Interview with Ina May Gaskin

This was the title of my article about Ina May Gaskin in The Irish Examiner today. The editor changed to Home Birth’s Best – so I’m claiming it here for my own! Here’s the opening paragraph… 

“Let’s say you want some advice that might help you give birth, wherever that might be. My shortest answer is: let your monkey do it.” So says the world’s most famous midwife, Ina May Gaskin. These words of wisdom which remind women that birth requires that we get our thinking brains out of the way and let our mammalian instincts take over, had a huge impact on me as I prepared for my first birth… at home. Like hundreds of thousands of women around the world her two best-selling books Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth were my birth bibles.

Gaskin learnt to deliver babies by necessity in the back of buses in 1970, on an epic voyage across the United States with her husband Steven, a philosophy professor. They had set off from San Francisco in a convoy of 60 yellow school buses, picking up followers as they went, eventually buying land and creating an alternative community, The Farm, in Tennessee. She later trained formally as a midwife. In 2011 she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award (the “Alternative Nobel prize”) in Sweden, for her lifetime’s achievement.

I have an even bigger, better interview with her in the summer edition of JUNO magazine. But Ina May was so generous in time and spirit that I wanted to share some of the most controversial and shocking morsels that didn’t fit the two articles I wrote, but that need to be out in the world. As well as the answers to the questions that some of you suggested I ask her!

 

You spoke in your acceptance speech at The Right Livelihood Awards in 2011 about “a toxic brew” of “prudery, ignorance, profit motive and fear” 

Prudery keeps some of the best, most effective midwifery care from being seen on television, because the most woman-centered care does not require that a woman keep her body covered as she labors and gives birth.

At the same time, in this age of reality television, there is no such taboo keeping people from watching the abdominal and uterine incisions during a caesarean. When young women can’t see the bodily changes that permit birth over an intact perineum, they can’t even imagine that it could be possible, and many develop a pathological fear of their own bodies.

This same prudery, I might add, keeps some of the best Irish sheela-na-gigs stored in the basement of the Dublin’s National Museum. The Cavan sheela, for instance, is part of the Dublin collection, but the last time I checked, it was not on view. The Lavey sheela is another example. Replicas of the best sheela-na-gigs could be made and used as amulets or art to be displayed in birth rooms, whether in hospitals, birth centres or homes. I know from experience how much the open vulvas of the sheelas help women visualize what their own bodies can do in birth.

You are a passionate advocate of the need for hospitals to report the levels of maternal deaths in the US.  If figures are not reported, where do you get your statistics from?

As far as I know, the US is the only wealthy country that doesn’t use the same method in all its regions for reporting a maternal death.

Understand that here in the US, the 50 states are still not required to use the US Standard Death Certificate, so almost half do not, because changing would require effort and expense. Many maternal deaths are not reported as such, for a variety of reasons. An audit is not possible, since the CDC gets no names or reports of individual cases—just raw numbers from each state.

I get my information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta (our national agency that receives the count of maternal deaths that take place in each state every year).

In 1998, the CDC issued a short report stating that the number of maternal deaths occurring each year could be as high as three times the number officially reported.

Most states do not require that there be any review by anyone outside of a given hospital following a maternal death case. None of this, by the way, has been reported in our national media, although I’ve been doing my best for more than a decade to bring this problem to national attention [through her Safe Motherhood Quilt project.]

Concerned obstetricians in some states have made extra efforts to identify maternal deaths in a better way. California, New York, and Florida are examples. In each of those states, there has been a rather sharp increase in the number of maternal deaths over the last two decades. California Watch, an investigative journalism group, recently reported that California’s maternal death rate had tripled between 1996 and 2006. The New York Academy of Medicine reported that the maternal death rate for women of color in New York City had reached an incredible 79 per 100,000 (when the irreducible minimum of maternal deaths shouldn’t be higher than 2 or 3 per 100,000).

And from politics to spiritual insight… can you say a little about your spiritual beliefs about birth.

Every birth is sacred. I experienced the first birth that I ever had the privilege to observe as a powerful spiritual event—one that revealed a dimension that I hadn’t experienced previously. Every birth I attend has this dimension, no matter how many I attend, and I continue to find it amazing that there is no mention of spiritual energy in the textbooks that are written for midwives, physicians, and nurses.

And finally, many women have asked me to ask you if you have ever considered establishing more birthing centres based on the model of the Farm?

I seem to have enough projects without attempting to replicate anywhere else what we’ve accomplished here. I think it’s hard for people who live in countries where midwives have always been accepted as a necessary part of maternity care to imagine how difficult it is to bring back midwifery once a society has dispensed with it.