A few days ago I gathered with some lovely women for a Gift of Giving Life party. While there I shared with them some of the fascinating and beautiful insights I have been learning about the sacred interchange within the mother-baby dyad. The “thesis” of my message was this: mothers and babies are the key to creating a peaceful world. Without nurturing mothers and peace-filled babies, we will never see humanity overcome the evils that tear us apart. The love of a mother is so crucial, so irreplaceable, so powerful. Below I will share some of the slides from my presentation.
Science has suggested that it is the fetus itself who signals the start of labor. This is related to certain proteins in the baby’s lungs, but proteins aside, it does seem fitting for a baby called Hope to choose Christmas morning for her birthday.
I really didn’t want to give birth on Christmas, but give birth I did anyway. :-) The experience was so many unexpected things, just as this pregnancy and all of the past year has been. I have never been so emotional during a birth, never before cried, never before vomited, and never felt so supported. I have never been filled with so much gratitude even amid the hardest pains. Most of my tears were just that… thankfulness… to my birthing team, to my baby, and to the Divine forces at work. I will post the full birth story later. Still processing.
The purest thing in the world is the heart of the mother. . . . It can move God. It can move the Universe. It can cause an effect beyond limitation. The heart of the mother is the greatest power of Infinity ever given to any finite being. -Yogi Bhajan, Women’s Camp 1977
Imagine you have an invisible shield surrounding your body, protecting you. And imagine that your newborn baby doesn’t have a shield of her own. Your shield is, in fact, your baby’s shield. Imagine that being within your “bubble of peace” can regulate your baby’s heart rate, temperature, breathing, and keep her immune system functioning optimally. Imagine that you have that kind of power… because you do.
Last March I shared something “new” I learned at my first yoga teacher training class. I put new in quotation marks because the truth is that I already knew it on some level. I felt compelled to keep my babies very close to me for the first years of their lives, and now I’m more grateful than ever that I did. Here’s the “news” I’m referring to:
Last January, while I was attending my therapeutic imagery facilitator training, my mother was babysitting my kids. On the second evening, we had a powerful conversation after I practiced the Special Place journey with her. Something about the journey allowed her to open up emotionally in a way she usually doesn’t. At that time she shared a revelation about her mother, a missing piece, that made so many other things make sense. A part of me was hesitant to share this post, wondering if the information was better kept private. But then I thought of Brené Brown’s words about shame:
As she looked upon Joey it was as if time would slow down just for the two of them— and now for me as well. His gaze with his mother never broke. It was as if he knew the power of his soulful eyes. He knew one look would melt the heart and remind the spirit of that sacred thread of unity and love. -Buffy Owens, “Not One, Not Two: The Mother-Infant Dyad“
Grandmothers will probably hate me for this one. Sigh. Grandmothers are awesome. I love grandmothers. My apologies for what I’m about to say.
I was attending a mixed-age women’s meeting today, and one of the attendees had brought her newborn infant. Upon request, she stood and showed the roomful of women her new baby. Oooohing and ahhhhing commenced. Then this new mom declared her baby’s name, followed by, “And I love to share if anyone wants to hold him,” to the delight of many eager empty-nester arms in the room. Their eagerness was no surprise. It’s a rare woman who can resist a newborn baby. Apparently that newborn smell lights up the same reward centers of women’s brains as chocolate would (see here). I’ll admit… I even really wanted to hold him, and I’ve never met the mother in my life. But I leaned to my stepmom and whispered, “I don’t like to share.” She smiled and said, “I know.”
Back in 2010 I wrote a post with some of my hopes for the upcoming birth of my 4th baby. It turned out that many of the things I wanted to experience with her birth didn’t work out. I did get to experience a near-painless birth, but it wasn’t anything like what I had envisioned. So here’s what I’m hoping for with birth #5…
1) Mother Blessing Celebration
With my last births, my co-authors gave me a “virtual mother blessing” and sent me a bonsai tree and beads for a birthing necklace along with lovely messages and prayers for me. It was wonderful. But this time I want a real-life mother blessing celebration with all my hippy/birthy friends (who can make it) physically present. I want henna on my belly, and flowers in my hair, and candles and the whole nine yards. Getting this child here has been a long and agonizing process, and I know I will need a lot of love and support to complete this journey and bring this child earth-side.
I’ve now completed five full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training, my full 40-day sadhana, three of my early-morning group sadhanas (I need two more, but 3:30 is so early), eight of my twenty yoga classes, and four of my take-home exam essay questions. Our certification packages are due May 24, and we’re scheduled to graduate on June 7.
The highlight of last weekend for me was practicing teaching each other. We divided into three groups of five and took turns teaching various breathing exercises, mudras, and postures. I’ll admit I was really drowsy and preoccupied in class most of Saturday and Sunday morning, but I was alert and having a blast on Sunday afternoon when we began teaching each other.
I loved seeing my classmates shine in their own unique ways as teachers, and I loved having the opportunity to work on my own skills and learn how to better ground and center myself in preparation for teaching. I am on this journey with some really wonderful human beings and feel honored to know them. Here is everyone relaxing during a guided meditation:
Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Back in 2010, a study of nearly 14,000 American college students indicated that “college students today are 40 percent less empathetic than those of 30 years ago, with the numbers plunging primarily after 2000″ (Source). I started college in 1999, so this downward trend began in my generation. What can we expect to be the consequences of this lack of empathy? “Low empathy is associated with criminal behavior, violence, sexual offenses, aggression when drunk and other antisocial behaviors” (Source). Not a pretty sight. This probably helps explain why I rarely watch/read the news anymore. So can we halt this trend toward empathy-lack?
As a first-time mom, a friend of mine invited me to attend an event for moms and kids. I don’t remember much about it. I think we rotated through different rooms with a variety of crafts and games and activities. The one thing that has stuck with me (after ten years) was a presentation about the importance of empathy. The woman encouraged us to respond to our children’s distress or tantrums first with empathy. She explained that we all have an innate need to feel understood, including and especially children. She encouraged us, when our children would cry about something upsetting to them, to acknowledging their big feelings, speak aloud our understanding of why they would be upset, match their tone of voice and facial expression and then gradually bring it down to a calmer one. For whatever reason, this advice about empathy felt profound and life-changing, and it sunk deep into my heart and mind.
“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time.” -Ecclesiastes 3:11
For months, I cried myself to sleep: “I want my mommy… I want my mommy… I want my mommy…” My little toddler heart was broken. And at first I didn’t want to have anything to do with the strange new woman called Grandma. Thirty years later, it’s hard to believe that Grandma’s house was ever uncomfortable for me.
One of my earliest memories is of a stormy night after my parents’ divorce. I can remember lying in a crib next to my sister’s bed. The rain was pouring down, whipping against the house and windows. The wind was howling like ghosts. There was lightning and thunder. I cried as loudly and franticly as I could because I honestly and completely believed that the house was going to be shred to pieces and we were all going to die.
Then my grandmother came to my crib-side.
I can’t remember what happened next, but the memory ends with me waking up calmly in the morning in my grandmother’s bed. She saved me. And her unfailing love gave me the foundation upon which I built the rest of my life.
When Grandma’s friends came to visit, she would introduce me to them: “This is my baby.” Over and over and over she said those words: “My baby.” Even as an older child and a teenager, I was always introduced to her friends as “My baby.”
Grandma’s house was my refuge. Her love was healing balm for my broken heart. Those words, “My Baby” reaffirmed over and over and over again that I was loved and wanted and claimed… I was hers.
We’re speedily approaching the 10th anniversary of my birth into motherhood. It kind of boggles my mind that I’ve been a mother for a decade. It also boggles my mind that this baby…
For the past couple of years, I’ve been pondering what I want to do to help her prepare as she nears the milestone of menarche. Over the years I’ve taught her little by little (through casual conversations) about her body, her reproductive organs, how they work, what will happen when she starts to bleed, how babies are made, etc. Being the daughter of a birth junkie has its perks! She knows more about women’s bodies than most girls her age, I’d wager, and certainly more than I ever knew before I reached menarche.
I wrote a bit about my own journey into the world of menstruation and my hopes for my daughters in my post “Red and Powerful” HERE. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted my daughters’ experiences to be more positive than mine was. So a month or two ago I started creating a book for my daughter.
Almost exactly four years ago, I wrote a blogpost about making your own no-sew baby wrap. August of 2009. My third child had been born in April of that year, and he was the first of my children to be “worn” regularly. I had made my own ring sling while I was pregnant with him, and then when he was several months old, I made my own stretchy baby wrap.
The first time I recall seeing a baby wrap was back in 2007. An old friend who had become a midwife came to a little reunion at my dad’s house with her new baby strapped to her in a wrap. I thought it was cool, but I didn’t really see another wrap until my doula training in February of 2009. There were a lot of moms with nursing babies at the training, and a couple of women with wraps. But still… wraps were something I only really saw at gatherings of crunchy women or on crunchy websites. They weren’t trendy in the slightest.
When I started wearing my infant son in a stretchy wrap, I came to know just how unusual it was. Everywhere I went, people seemed to have never seen anything like it before. I felt like a walking advertisement for babywearing because I spent some time nearly every outing talking with one or two strangers about what it was, how to make one, that it’s easier to use than it looks, etc. I enjoyed those conversations immensely. It made me happy to spread the joy of babywearing and to imagine how those women’s lives might improve and become easier through making contact with me and my happy wrapped baby boy.
That was four years ago. My blogpost about making your own baby wrap did get a reasonable amount of traffic, but nothing to raise my eyebrows about. Then something happened in 2010-2011. Pinterest hit the web.
I’ve had this book sitting on my desk for a couple of months now, skimming select portions off and on, researching specific topics. I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to just start at the beginning and read it, but I plopped myself down on the grass in my backyard this morning and started. It only took a few pages before I was smitten. (And nobody’s paying me to say that. I got the book from the library.)
Written by David Chamberlain, PhD, it delves into the fascinating research now available in the field of prenatal and perinatal psychology. Mothering Magazine celebrated Dr. Chamberlain as a “Living Treasure” in 2003, and he was honored in 2007 at the Gentle Birth World Conference, receiving the Mother Goose Award for his work with mothers and babies. Dr. Chamberlain also happens to be a fan of my mentor Sarah Hinze‘s work, and he has included several stories from Sarah’s pre-birth experience research in Windows to the Womb.
“Babies have taught me a lot, as I have been privileged to listen to their deep memories. As a psychotherapist, I am especially aware of the need to create babies that are mentally and physically healthy in order to have a world that is healthy and peaceful. Babies are the key to the future of the world” (David Chamberlain, Windows to the Womb, preface).
OK, I’m off to read some more. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review when I’ve finished reading.
So I’ve been kind of obsessed with near-death experience accounts lately. My Grandma (a.k.a. primary-caregiver for most of my childhood) passed away last year. Her loss was pretty earth-shattering to my soul, and part of me was absolutely terrified: “What if everything I’ve ever believed all of my life is false? What if she ceased to exist? What if I never see her again?” So grief books and near-death accounts (among other things) have been instrumental in helping me to hold onto hope and faith that she most definitely does still exist, and I most definitely will see her again.
Yesterday I finished reading the bestseller Embraced By the Light by Betty J. Eadie. I found it for 99 cents at Goodwill last month and threw it in my cart. I’m pretty sure I read it back in the 90’s when she originally published it, but it was a whole lot more impactful now. I really loved her near-death story for so many reasons. Here are some of my not-really-death-related favorite quotes:
- “I came to know that each of my children was on earth for their own experiences, that although I had thought of them as ‘mine,’ I had been mistaken. They were individual spirits, like myself, with an intelligence that was developed before their lives on earth. . . . They had only been placed in my care” (p. 35).
- “I heard a soft, pleasant sound . . . . It was a tone similar to a note of music, but was universal and seemed to fill all the space around me. . . . The tones produced soft vibrations, and as they touched me I knew that they possessed the power to heal. . . . They were like spiritual salve, expressions of love that mended broken spirits” (p. 87).
- “I learned that spirits can choose to enter their mother’s body at any stage of her pregnancy” (p. 95).