Babymoon

Six precious weeks of dreamy days and drift-y nights, of pleasant surreality and an enchantment I don’t want to wear off. Six exhausting weeks where, in this eclipse of “normal life”, hours often float in tender slow motion between the mugs of hot chocolate.

Six chaotic weeks of adjusting to a new pace of life – or rather, a pace I danced before (but rather differently – I didn’t also have another child’s needs to meet then). A pace where Leaving The House is an epic (and sometimes abandoned!) mission. Where, once out, the usual timescales of How Long Our Errands Will Take are totally unpredictable. It’s an enriching challenge to my routine-loving personality that most of my days (and nights) are currently quite unpredictable.

Six precious weeks of being in the constant company of my baby. There’s something magical about a newborn: some kind of holiness surrounding them, a spell they spin over the room they’re in. I think that’s why people so want to visit, to touch them, to hold them. I feel it a sacred honour to be in physical contact with this boy most of the time, under his innocent spell. Even if I do whinge about my back ache, and worry about being enough for him and his brother.

I’ve been held, in these blink-and-you-miss-’em weeks, by the beautiful love I’m surrounded by. Mama friends have gifted cake, soup and help with my eldest son. My own mother amazingly gifted us two weeks where she stayed with us, helping out. Other friends have gifted reassurance on the harder days. All these things have enabled me to focus on my family; on our transition and on the welcoming of our newest member.

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There seem to be various practices centering around the six weeks postpartum period. From Ecuadorian closing the bones ceremonies to  traditional “confinements”. From Ayurvedic massage and dietary practices to contemporary six-week check-ups with the doctor. Of course, nothing suddenly changed on the day that my son completed six weeks in the world. He didn’t suddenly snap into a routine. I didn’t suddenly “get” the new dance required of me.

I certainly didn’t start drinking less hot chocolate.

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Emerging

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Over winter, I kind of retreated.

Darkness, stillness, inwardness, rest, quiet and alone-ness: I welcomed and sought out these wintry things, mentally creating a sort of birthing cave that I could nest down in. As January trod its way into February I craved those things more, my husband supporting me – with a generous heart – to make time for them.  I rarely looked at the ‘net or the news. I did a fair bit of sewing and knitting.

As Imbolc reminded me of the season subtly starting its shift from winter into spring, I focussed a lot on that imminent shift from being pregnant to having another child, our family life shifting from being three to being four. I feel that taking the time out – at that very unique time – to connect with my body and my baby, was an important part of the journey towards birth, and helped protect my strength and focus for that rite.

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Around Imbolc, we had some wild storms here in Bristol, UK. Below, you can see that my son put on our nature table one of his Paddington Bear’s welly boots to remind us of all the rain and how we were often wearing our wellies!

 

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I felt a little stormy as well sometimes; a bit swept and batted between trusting and doubting my ability to birth my child safely and naturally this time. I tried to connect with the beautiful energies of new life emerging – the crocuses and daffodils opening, the leaves unfolding, the light returning. I witnessed this annual miracle in the woods that we frequently visit, and in the gardens and parks my day-to-day life takes me past. I reminded myself that, as part of nature, my body likewise had the power to open and unfold to bring forth the gorgeous new life waiting in there.

But I also know that nature isn’t always perfect. I had quite a traumatic birth with my first child and part of my healing from that came in that realisation. I can sow a dozen pumpkin seeds from the same packet or plant, grow them and plant them out under the same conditions, and a few of them may not germinate – or the young plants may die or the pumpkins not thrive. Things are sometimes beyond our control (which I sometimes find very difficult). But I offered up my sense of unity and my trust… even if some days it was a little hard to feel it.

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A gift from my metaphorical birthing cave was the discovery that chanting and singing often quiets my mental chatter and worrying. I wonder if my family got a little bored of hearing some of those chants A LOT! If they did, they’ve been too sweet to say. This one was my favourite, introduced to me by my lovely yoga teacher. We sung it as a class and that joining of hearts and voices was incredibly special.

More gifts were in store: a long but rewarding labour with gentle, respectful midwives; a safe and natural birth not very far off our plan…

…and the beautiful, magical, awesome prize of our second little boy, Ethan. Here he is! I’m over the moon! And feeling so very, very blessed.

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I’ve not actually got round to planting any seeds in our garden yet, having been a little busy with the precious tasks of feeds, nappies, cuddles and doing much gazing in awe. But there are many “seeds” that I’ve brought from my “cave” in the form of discoveries, lessons, memories and things that have been healed and renewed. I hope to carefully nurture these “seeds” with what they need as they grow, to enjoy and benefit from what they become and to always hold gratitude in my heart for them.

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The beautiful book is Luna Moon Hare by Wendy Andrew: paintingdreams.co.uk

 

As, of course, I look forward to doing with my sons. ♥ ♥ ♥

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full moon: Mother moon

IMG_1214It’s a bit of of a tough spot here in Mama-land. Fewer blogposts written, incompletion of projects, a shortened fuse, an increased number of text messages between my mother and I…these are the symptoms of an Attack of The Night Owl Toddler and the resulting reduced physical and mental energy. Of course said toddler, by day, is still as energetic, super-curious, adventurous, strong-willed and rarely still for more than two seconds. This is who he is  – this is how many toddlers are to my understanding – and I adore him for it. In my heart, I wouldn’t want him any other way.

Yet it is intense, particularly as I am within a few feet of him for all the hours of six and a half days per week. My opinion, backed by that of many, is that we weren’t meant to raise children in such isolated units; we’re designed to have a family community or tribe around us to dilute the intensity of these growing little people who are developing at what can only be an intense rate for them too. I’m grateful that technology enables me to access my mother’s support and wisdom, despite the miles between us. I’m grateful for the online and physical communities of like-minded parents who share their support and wisdom with me, for the books and magazines that also guide my journey and, of course, for the wonderfully supportive and hands-on other half of this parent team: my husband.

Yet, as well as the support that the mama hands and mama brain need, the mama soul needs feeding and replenishing too. Many write about how creative pursuits can provide such nourishment; Lucy Pearce in particular has explained this need well to me. I also turn to the moon, especially the full moon; the mother phase. On most full moon nights since learning that I was pregnant, I’ve stood outside, bathing for a few minutes in the silvery white glow. On these nights I admire her mystical beauty and connect with the mother energy in her and in myself. Often, these nights have found me making a plea for her wisdom and guidance, or feeling the coolness of her light cool my current parenting frustrations. I observe the strength of her wholeness and draw down that strength to help replenish my own.

So many other mothers exist and have existed under this same moon. Millions of us.  In connecting with Mother Moon, I hope to draw down their pooled wisdom as well as offer my own ( for there are odd days when I do find a way, crack a problem or learn a technique). At the very least, I draw down the fact that they survived; as far as I know, no-one has died of simply having a toddler! I hold an image of myself on a rocky, twisty-turny path, Mother Moon lighting my way as I carve it out, Dylan beside me. Like with the text messages from my mum, I let myself feel mothered a little, That warm feeling of being loved and nurtured replenishes my own heart and soul to mother with more love, empathy, patience and compassion. Patience with both him and with myself, for we’re both learning new roles here. In the moon’s light, I give myself permission to forgive those times when I’ve not been the parent I want to be: the parent I believe Dylan needs. Once again, I drink in the bright moonlight through every pore of my skin to fuel that goal.

And to that shining, milky sphere who, to me, resembles the mother, who corresponds to the times in our lives when we are birthing and mothering – be that a child, a business, a project, a garden or whatever – I usually shed a few tears, and always give thanks, ♥

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painting on altar by Wendy Andrews
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turnings old to new

Happy dark moon  🙂

When we no longer see the moon in the sky, the goddess, in my take on these things, is in that transformative period of potential and dreams before she appears again. For me, it’s that place between the in and out breath, between sleep and waking. The completion of one lunar cycle yet start of the next; spiralling continuously.

This particular dark moon sees another cycle complete and start in my life; my birthday!  Although I tend not to make a huge deal of my birthday, (it’s not as though I’d, like, write about it publicly online or anything like that!), I do like to celebrate the fact I’m in this lovely world by way of spending time with special people, having special food (always including cake!) and taking a little time out – and outside.

In looking back over this year there is certainly a shift. There’s been a rich harvest from the fields of Mama-wisdom through the experiences, reading and acquaintances I’ve been blessed with. There’s been a lot of sacrifice, a lot of letting go of attachments – physical and emotional – and a deepening of some relationships whilst others have become more tense or distant. I guess so many things in life wax and wane.

So, resolutions for my new year…what seeds to plant? What books to read? What dreams to bring out of my head? What things to make? So exciting!

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Happy dreaming to you!  ♥

Weaning ceremony

It’s a year since we welcomed our little lad into the world of solid food. Tasty, nutritious, ethically-sourced wholesome food is very important in our household so we wanted to really celebrate this welcoming. Furthermore, we saw the start of weaning as being another step to Dylan becoming an independent little being, the first step having been birth. As his birth had been a pretty traumatic ordeal for us all, we were keen to make this rite far more positive and spiritual. Here’s what we did….

  • We had kept Dylan’s placenta. This was the only thing in our birth plan that had stayed intact! His placenta was what had nourished him before his birth- after which, my breasts took over and the placenta sat wrapped in a few plastic bags in our freezer for 6 months. You could still have a weaning ceremony if you didn’t keep the placenta or didn’t breastfeed; this is just what we did.
  • We’d dug a deeeeeep hole in the ground so that it could now nourish the soil, its inhabitants, the plants above it and the creatures who feed off those plants. In the UK, human tissue being buried legally has to be 6 feet underground. My husband and I placed in the hole some broccoli – this and sweet potato were Dylan’s very first foods – and some rosemary for remembrance and to mask any smells from foxes.
  • We covered the placenta with chicken-wire (more fox-proofing!) and then filled the hole, reaffirming the pledges of support, love, respect and mentoring we made to Dylan at his home-welcoming ceremony when we arrived back from hospital- another little ritual of just the three of us. We decorated the space with some more rosemary and petals, giving thanks again to the placenta for having nourished Dylan to be healthy and beautiful.
  • We acknowledged our journey in becoming parents and the learning, sacrifice, magic and fun that this had necessitated. We acknowledged our healing process from the birth and stated our hopes for our continued journey in parenting.
  • We thanked each of the four elements for the part they play in making Dylan and in his life. We remembered all those who had been parents before us, asked for their wisdom and gave them thanks.
  • We hugged and went to make a cup of tea. By appropriate coincidence, Dylan needed some mama-milk and my mum rang unexpectedly. I was feeling quite emotional and it felt really special to feel that mother-daughter bond at the end of a ceremony related to my own becoming of a mother.

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Reasons to have a weaning ceremony

  • My personal belief is that we’ve lost a lot of “rites of passage” in our culture. The ones that remain, like weddings, we tend to inflate – perhaps to compensate. Your baby is moving onto a new stage and it’s always lovely to have a celebration!
  • Our ceremony was very intimate (just us 3) and informal – partly because at this stage Dylan was still breastfeeding A LOT and wanting to be held most of the rest of the time. We just didn’t have the energy to include much else, bake cake, do decorations or poems, have guests etc. But you certainly could! You could incorporate it into a naming/welcoming ceremony if you didn’t have one close after birth.
  • If like us you had a traumatic birth experience, marking the passage to the next stage positively could provide the space to acknowledge your feelings around the birth, take stock of what you’ve achieved since and celebrate that. Sure, your pain from the way the birth went may be hanging around but you can bring to this ceremony all the positive energy, affirmations, whatever that you planned to be present at your little one’s entrance to the world.
  • If you had a beautiful birth experience,it could provide a nice space to remember and draw on that.

Other things  to consider

  • If you’d like to keep your placenta but don’t want to bury it, consider the post-partum benefits of its nutrients: http://placentanetwork.com/. Or consider placenta art: http://birthspool.blogspot.co.uk/2008/02/how-to-make-placenta-print.html.
  • Again, legally (in the UK) your buried placenta should be 6 feet under. If you’re not that fussed about adhering strictly to the law, do consider that foxes may dig it up!
  • If you didn’t/don’t want to keep your baba’s placenta, you can still celebrate when they move onto solids! You could put a drop of breast milk/formula milk in the hole instead, or something symbolic of the pregnancy/birth/your young baby that will biodegrade easily.
  • If you didn’t breastfeed, welcoming your baby to the world of solid food from a purely formula diet is still worth celebrating! As are the other changes that have happened since birth; by now, your child is likely to be smiling and rolling over and may well be crawling, waving and have teeth.
  • If you do invite people to/tell them about your ceremony, consider how they may react (and if you care about how they do!) Some of our friends and family thought it was totally cool, others were quite wierded out….and it wasn’t always the ones we expected.

I’d love to hear what you do/did!  ♥

update to the camping post…festivalling with a baby

An important milestone- Baby D’s first festival! Just to make sure that he got the true festival experience, we picked a super-muddy one. Well, actually we hoped it would be sunny. After all, it was called Sunrise Celebration (man how the celebratory cheers went up across the site when the sun did rise above the clouds!).

The first day saw me sitting on a camping chair under a brolly breastfeeding Baby D whilst Mr Heartshapedhands and my mum put tents up in heavy rain, Baby D was a bit confused and grumpy, we adults were soggy and grumpy and I considered bailing out and going home early (like, 3 days early) for the first time in my festivalling history. However the weather did improve, my mood and the general enjoyment level with it. Yet the mud got muddier –  to the point where my mum was coming up with at least 5 different categories of mud. TIP: although I admittedly didn’t try pushing a buggy around in the mud, it looked not at all easy. I was very glad of our sling!





Something else I was very glad of was my mum. Nana-of-as-much-unlimitted-energy-as-Baby D was fun to festi with, and great to have around for entertaining him, changing the odd nappy and enabling Mr Heartshapedhands  and I to have some time on our own. Time to squelch about feeling someone was missing and not quite knowing what to do with ourselves, and vaguely remembering how to have a conversation where we could give our whole attention to each other. I’d definitely recommend having a helper-outer about!

I did go to a few talks, although invariably missed some of each of them due to Baby D’s feed needs, his wanting to be walked outside, or his being “chatty” and potentially restricting others’ ability to hear. I even got to have a bit of a boogie, although felt very guilty about doing so when I met up with mum, Mr Heartshapedhands and a screaming Baby D.

This festival differed from previous ones in my level of sobriety (limited to having a small dash of spiced rum in a hot chocolate, and a bit more caffeine than I usually would). Another lovely new aspect was the sharing of knowing smiles – and some kind of sense of community – with other parents. Not just the other mums and dads with dinky ones in slings, but those with older children too. The smile they’d give me when Baby D was snuggled into my chest that said “ah, I remember that” and the smile I’d give them when their 4 year old fell into the mud which said “oh no! Good luck with cleaning up, I’m sure I’ll be doing similar in a few years”.

 

Other tips:

  • It’s easy to lose sense of time at festivals, particularly when “nipping back to the tent” involves walking the distance from your home to town. Baby D had quite a grump one evening which we realised was quite possibly because we hadn’t yet had dinner and it was 8pm.
  • See Camping with a Baby post for what we did about keeping him warm at night. Being a month later and further south, it wasn’t as cold. We didn’t have the futon mattress with us but he and I slept on 2 very think blankets and 2 thinner ones on 2 yoga mats.
  • We had a chair from Mothercare that’s designed to strap on to a dining chair, but we just out it on the floor (needs supervision as he could probably tip it over if he tried). We’ve previously found that Little Mr Wriggle won’t eat if he’s just sitting on the floor with us, he’ll just crawl away to explore. But having a chair to strap him in (it has a table too) meant that he stayed put and ate! It folds up and is light to carry.
  • As much as we try to avoid disposable products if possible, I just couldn’t have taken our washable nappies, And thank goodness for wet wipes!!
  • If using a sling, think how baby will keep dry. I’ll let you into my shameful neglectful parenting secret here; I tend to forget about his feet sticking out! Often I wear a coat that goes over them but I had a different one with me and the first night they got soaked, poor little dude! However, I managed to find a stall selling some thick felted little booties with tiger face on- so cute!
  • Plan nappy changes (if possible!). The tent was the only really viable place to change his nappy and there were a couple of times when one of us had to dash back and miss some of a talk because we realised the current nappy had been on a while and D was seeming uncomfortable. That said, if there had been an emergency I’m sure someone in the main area would have let us use their van etc.

Camping with a baby

The doubt clouds hovered closely over us last week, particularly closely as we eyed the Pembrokeshire weather forecast. Not because it had too many clouds; because of the night temperatures. “Am I being really irresponsible going camping with a 7 month old?” I asked the imaginary health visitor who lives on my shoulder. I made the mistake of uttering the question out loud when talking to my mother, The Queen of Keeping Warm Enough. Exclamations of fear for the Precious-Grandson-Smallness to Wales-Is-North-Of-Us-So-It-Must-Be-Cold ratio suggested I was. 

 
Husband took his usual approach; if you have a question, ask the internet. When Googling threw up nothing very definite, we were back to the official stance of shrug. After consultation with Pembrokeshire-dwelling friend  who had previously camped with a baby (and partly based on her offer of caravan to sleep in if it was unbearable), we went for it.
 
We packed every blanket we own (18, of various sizes and thicknesses. We didn’t use them all) plus 2.5 tog Grow-bag, an extra layer than we’d normally sleep him in and his fleecey sleepsuit. Plus hot water bottes to warm bed and details of nearest Travelodge just in case the Arctic came to camp next to us or something. We checked the little man’s temperature when we got into bed and set an alarm to do so an hour after. I awoke on our first morning to all three of us being alive,  sunshine and birdsong coming through the bell tent’s canvas, and the knowledge that there would be an awesome view outside.
 
The whole weekend was fun and beautiful for all of us. Baby D was happy and peaceful on our walks, helping our friends plant things on their land and lying on the mat by the tent playing with the grass. He slept well and his soul seemed as lifted as my own by the fresh air, fresh scenery and refreshed joy at being a family that we all shared.
 
My camping tips: *
  • Blankets- sandwich lighter ones between heavier ones. We put 2 lighter ones between our mattress and sheet too
  • Check the weather forecast and not just the temperature- rain and wind can make it seem colder!
  • Consider where you position your tent; can you get a sheltered spot?
  • Have something decent to sleep on- and for baby to sleep in (eg, Gro-bag). Do you need spares?! 
  • Place baby nearer centre of tent to sleep.
  • Warm bed with hot water bottles (but move away from baby when then get in) 
  • Have back-up plan (eg,friends’ floors, or have details of nearby hotels/B&Bs). Just knowing this is probably more likely to serve to preserve your own (and relatives’!) sanity than it is likely you’ll use it.
  • Picnic blanket for rolling around.
  • Somewhere safe and dry to put baby if everyone else is needed to put up/take down tent.
  • Encouraging engagement in surroundings- this may require you to think about how concerned you are about what goes in baby’s mouth!
  • Relax and enjoy your surroundings yourself!
* please, please, PLEASE make your own assessment of the wise-ness of any camping trip. This is not a definative guide!