Sacred

Kids and Family 3 _ The Photo Forest

Do you feel it? The mother feels it, for sure, her gaze on mine holds a wisdom beyond her years. The baby senses it too – they always do. Caught between two worlds, cradled in the capable hands of the doctor, he is silent. Not yet crying, but alert, eyes open in wonder. The father – he’s busy fiddling with his phone, something’s wrong with the camera; I don’t think he felt it. The theatre staff are chatting amongst themselves. They’re oblivious. But I feel it in every muscle and in every pore; this time, this place, right here; it’s sacred. Just for a second, god is near, and the veil between the seen and the unseen is very thin.

As a childbirth educator, I sometimes feel that everything we teach, and nothing we teach, matters. The rational, degreed, researcher in me loves facts and evidence and science. And the facts are clear – natural, vaginal birth at full term, without interventions, is best in almost every case for mother and baby. Delayed cord clamping, skin to skin contact, and full term breastfeeding results in the best outcomes for the baby. And the effects are not short-term, they last for life.

But that, that is the physical world. There is something else, something that seems to transcend the type or place of birth, that is even more important. Birth is a spiritual and emotional event; it carries cosmic energy that is hard to explain unless you’ve felt it yourself. And so it saddens me when mothers and birthkeepers treat birth as a list to be ticked: unmedicated, tick; waterbirth, tick; no forced pushing, tick; optimal cord clamping, tick! And yet, that mother, the one who ticked all the boxes, comes to me with feelings of loss and grief over her birth. Because the physical is just the tip of the iceberg.

I’m still learning from birthworkers much more experienced and wise than myself, observing, and refining my own birth values and philosophies but it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that those who do not see the sacredness of birth, see nothing at all.

Photo Credit: The Photo Forest

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Concern versus fear

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Yesterday, America chose fear, greed and evil over love, hope and faith. I’m not particularly political, but I do think a lot about the nature of fear. That’s my job as a HypnoBirthing teacher and doula. Fear is the enemy of a peaceful birth, but it is also the enemy of peaceful parenting.

How does fear feel in the body? For me, it is heavy, dark and static. Fear carries no action – it is stuck. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the difference between fear and concern. What is concern? How does is feel? Concern is paying attention; it is not positive or negative but it is awake and aware. It feels lighter than fear doesn’t it? How do things change when we are concerned, but not fearful?

We choose holistic childbirth education classes because we want to be truly informed and educated.

We take time and effort to choose the kind of medical and non-medical support team that we know supports our birth choices.

We think about how we want our babies’ first minutes, hours and days to be, and plan accordingly.

We seek like minded people to form our village of support – in real life, or virtually.

We research topics like vaccines, circumcision and weaning to ensure we make the right choices for our children.

We think about the kind of childcare that best suits our babies, and later, the kind of education that will best foster well rounded, healthy and happy little minds and bodies.

We curate our spaces and time to match our values, philosophies and goals as an individual and a family.

We let go of things, wherever possible, that feed our fear.

We live in concerning times, my friends, on a macro and a micro level. But start where you are, at the very smallest unit of society – a family – and start paying attention. Choose concern over fear.

Broken

Child on beach

“Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in” (Leonard Cohen)

– It’s all broken, this is not how I imagined it would be.

– He won’t breastfeed; I think he hates me.

– She fusses with me, and as soon as my nanny picks her up, she falls fast asleep!

– Everyone else’s babies sleep through the night.

Motherhood – it’s not easy, is it? When we first begin to prepare for the arrival of a new little baby, especially if it’s the first one, we just want everything to be perfect. We imagine bucolic scenes of a beautiful newborn sleeping peacefully on our white linen clad chests, while a pot of soup bubbles on the stove. Nurseries are carefully imagined and planned, the perfect pram is purchased and the hospital bag is packed with just about anything a new human being could need.

And then the baby is born. For every moment of pure joy, there is another of utter weariness, and one more of frustration. The truth is that pregnancy, birth and motherhood are not separate from life: these seasons in our lives have just the same peaks and troughs that we know to be true of human existence. Parenting a child is the embodiment of character development. I don’t believe there are many other careers or hobbies that are as incredibly mentally, physically and emotionally taxing.

Joy Kusek said it so beautifully: “The most difficult part of birth is the first year afterwards, it is the year of travail – when the soul of a woman must birth the mother inside her. The emotional labour pains of becoming a mother are far greater than the physical pangs of birth; these are the growing surges of your heart as it pushes out selfishness and fear and makes room for sacrifice and love. It is a private and silent birth of the soul, but it is no less holy than the event of childbirth, perhaps it is even more sacred.”

So moms, know this: motherhood is hard. I am six years in, and some things have got easier, but others more difficult. There will be moments of such spiritual transcendence as you hold your sleeping babies in your arms; and others when you think you might actually die if you do not sleep. Be kind to yourself, ask for help, find your tribe. Know that you are not alone.

January

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So January is coming and going with its usual speed. We have a third birthday with celebratory cupcakes decorated by the guest of honour himself. Trips to the beach and mangoes eaten dripping with our hands. The kids go back to school and we head off to work. Once again, our days have structure and order.

My moms due this month complain it’s too hot, their ankles are swelling, all the liquid they need to drink with the heat is making them pee every five minutes. I remember: I was pregnant at the height of summer too. It has its pros and cons, just like any other season.

I have after-work drinks with a couple I will doula for in a few months time. We hash out the details of their birth plan. They’re excited and I’m excited. This little one is due around Easter; I wonder aloud if I should pack marshmallow eggs in my doula bag. I make a mental note to ask my mom to host our big family lunch on Easter Sunday so that I don’t have to leave a roast lamb in the lurch.

I plan a pregnancy retreat with some yoga teacher friends. I love yoga and consider it pretty much essential for any woman who wants to survive motherhood with her sanity intact. (It’s also pretty wonderful for preparing for labour and birth of course.) We make notes and draw pictures; it’s coming together and we’ll be able to advertise it soon.

My doula babies from last year are getting big. I get a video of one of them crawling (“I’m exhausted!” her mom says). Another one is pulling herself up to stand. They are happy and healthy and I laugh as I see their gorgeous faces. I must see them soon.

Family and doula life ebb and flow around me. The days are full.

**I still have a few places left on my February HypnoBirthing course, beginning 18 February. Let me know if you’d like to join us, it’s going to be fun.**

(Photo credit: Gentle Welcome. Images may not be reproduced without written permission).

Peanut butter choc chip cookies

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We generally don’t go a week around these parts without baking something or other. It’s a great activity to keep the kids busy on those “I’m SOOO bored” days, and besides, I have an insanely sweet tooth that needs satisfying.

I have a few requirements of any recipes we try; they must be gluten free (due to my food intolerance), they must require just a few basic ingredients and they should preferably be refined sugar free and contain some kind of disguised fruit or vegetable.

This recipe is certainly not sugar free but I consider it an acceptable compromise as we ease off the excess of December and move back into our generally quite healthy lifestyle.

Ingredients:

1 cup peanut butter (we use the Yum Yum brand)

1 cup brown sugar

1 beaten egg

5 ml vanilla essence

Chocolate chips

Pink salt for sprinkling

Mix everything together with the exception of the pink salt. Roll balls of dough, place on baking paper on a large baking tray and press flat with a fork. Sprinkle lightly with pink salt. Bake at 180 C for 15-20 minutes and eat once cool.

This is a super easy, super delicious recipe with just the right combination of salty and sweet. Enjoy!