Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Yule!

video


While personally it has been very difficult to catch the spirit this year, my kids helped me put together a lovely piece for the radio station I broadcast through. I love all of them for helping with this. I think they get more excited than I do because that is the one time they are guaranteed to be on the radio. My second oldest also had done a report at school on family traditions. She was required to interview a family member about the tradition and write a report on how it started, how it has changed, and if it's something she is likely to carry on when she is older and starts a family of her own. She chose to write about our celebration of Yule and interviewed me. After presenting to the class, and having one of her teachers write that it was the most interesting tradition she has read about in her near 30 years of teaching, she gave it to me as a special gift for Solstice. I loved it, and it was a really nice testament that we are doing something right as parents, that's for sure.

Wishing everyone a Blessed Solstice, Merry Yule, Happy Christmas & Prosperous New Year!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Birth Stories and My Journey Towards the Sacred Pregnancy Movement

For anyone who follows me on Facebook or knows me personally, I'm sure you have either heard or read about my becoming a Sacred Pregnancy Instructor. You have heard me in my excitement about becoming part of an incredible movement, how this is an extension of my ministry as an ordained Priestess, and just how much I completely love the path I am on now.

So, how did I come down this path? How was I lead here? Frankly, from the time I was a little girl I was called to become a Priestess. The Goddess Brigid has been with me for as long as I can remember. I have the most incredible husband, whom I adore and love as much as he loves me. He supports me, comforts me, and encourages me to chase down and attain my dreams and goals. Frankly, without his support, that calling all those years ago would not have been answered. That is how I got here.

If you have seen my postings, I'm sure you probably think I'm one of those "off the beaten track" type people and that I birthed my babies in the comfort of my own home in some weird and strange way that goes against all societal norms. Well, the first half of that sentence is correct. However, looking back in retrospect on my five hospital births, I wished I would have had a support system and guidance that could have given me options beyond a hospital room and metal stirrups.

I truly believe that exposure to things shapes how a person thinks, feels and acts. When someone is exposed to things in a positive way that may actually go against cultural and societal standards of what is normal, that person tends to view that odd something as completely normal. It is embraced. When that same person is given exposure to that odd something in a negative perspective, it will be viewed as odd, weird, and not normal. It is the way in which information is presented that will shape opinions. For example, I was raised by a mother that breastfed her children. Not only did my mother breastfeed all four of us kids, she was a counselor for the local chapter of Nursing Mothers Association and there were regular meetings held in our home. I was exposed to many women sitting in a room in my very own house, breasts exposed, and feeding their children directly from their bosom. I grew up seeing breastfeeding as something very positive. It was normal, it was beautiful, and it made sense to me.

On the flip side of that, I also grew up believing all babies were born in hospitals and that the mother's OB-GYN would always be there (if he actually managed to show up on time), or else the attending physician delivered the baby. No one ever explained to me that people still birthed babies at home. I didn't even know what a birthing center was until one of my step-sisters had her first daughter at one. In fact, she had both of her daughters there. Being that my step-sister is sixteen years older than me, at the age of ten, I didn't know quite how to digest the information I was given regarding my niece being born at a birthing center. From what I remember, the thought of anyone giving birth at a birthing center seemed strange, and I would say that the information provided to me wasn't exactly positive, not that it was "negative", but more likely that it was something "odd people" do. My step-sister has always had a very different view and alternative way of looking at things. As an adult I realize just how much the way she views things completely meshes with my own line of thinking. I prefer things to be "off the beaten track." I find myself wishing I had somehow been closer to her when I was younger, had understood better, or would have asked questions that might have led to broadening my perspective on how babies are birthed, or meant to be birthed.

When I first became pregnant, I was just barely twenty years old. I do mean that literally, as in I became pregnant the same month I turned twenty. I was young, away from my own family, and had no one to guide me. I didn't know what questions to ask, I wasn't sure what to expect. I only knew I was going to be a mom. My pregnancy was normal. I exercised constantly, had a mother in law that insisted that I only eat the most beautiful looking fruit. (It was a belief, at least in their family, that if the mother ate beautiful, undamaged fruit, the child would turn out beautiful.) In fact, I worked up until the day I had my daughter. I was in labor at work, finished my shift, and went about my business. Now, while I had no guidance, didn't know what to ask, etc., I was sure of one thing. I didn't want drugs to help me deliver. I was going to deliver this child on my own terms without drugs, as naturally as possible. No amount of my husband telling me to shush because I was too loud, or people offering me drugs (meaning hospital people) was going to get this Irish spit-fire to change her mind. I had been in labor for 42 hours. The hospital, once they had finally admitted me after having me walk around town (that was an adventure), had me in a bed, on my back (or my side - depending upon what was comfortable), but that was it. I was still determined though to bring this child, whom I had yet to meet, into this world without the help of drugs and surrounded by a bunch of people I didn't really know.

Then came the low blow. I had a nurse come in and tell me that I was to take an epidural, that I wasn't dilating so it was necessary. I was angry. In fact, I was pretty bitter and enraged. "Like hell I will," was the response I gave. The nurse came back and told me that I could either take the epidural and hope that my body would relax enough to dilate on its own, or take the epidural and have a c-section, but one way or another I had to take the drugs I had absolutely resisted. In retrospect, I was bullied into taking something I didn't want, nor did I necessarily need. The hospital was just filling up with pregnant and in labor women, and I'm sure they all had their plans of where they wanted to be while they tried to figure out where they would place everyone. So I took the epidural after becoming intensely angry at them for forcing me into a choice I didn't want, and then I cried my eyes out. I was defeated. I had failed. After the 5 million forms, the warnings of possible death from having an epidural, and the waves of differing emotions, I fell asleep. I dilated. That was a positive. I remember waking up and the movie "Beaches" with Bette Midler was on the television. Since I wasn't screaming through contractions, I could actually hear the movie. I watched it all the way to the end. I cried when I had heard Bette sing "Baby Mine." That song ended up becoming the lullaby I would sing to my daughter everyday, several times a day, for many years. In fact, that movie was probably one of the most positive things I took away from that birth experience. My daughter came into the world after less than an hour of pushing. I was amazed that my body knew exactly when to push. I got to meet her beautiful face and see the amazing head of curly hair. I cried. She was so beautiful. There is more to her story, but it goes beyond the birth and I won't delve into that here on this post.

Seven years, a divorce, and a remarriage later, I was pregnant with my second child, and living across the country. Again, without guidance or alternative opinions, I sought out an OB-GYN and that was that. At that point in my life I worked for Corporate America. I worked long hours, and there was a great deal of stress. I would work 11 1/2 hour shifts, two or three times a week. Sometimes I worked longer than that as I would barely leave my desk for breaks or to eat. Work was intense and the pressure was always on to produce at rates that far exceeded the months prior. I was due August 23rd, or thereabouts. The first week of June, after May had been incredibly stressful, I awoke one morning to a slightly bloody tinge in my pajamas. I wasn't alarmed as it wasn't blood red. I went to work, called my doctor and left her a message. While at work, the nurse called back to tell me that my doctor wanted me to go immediately to the emergency room at the hospital. And, of course, no one wanted me to drive myself, but they weren't that willing to drive me either. After a few days in the hospital, and me freaking out that I wouldn't be paid, that insurance wouldn't cover my time out, and all other sorts of craziness that can cross the mind of a very pregnant woman, I was released and told to take it easy. A month passed, and I was doing fine. Then I woke up on July 4th. We were going to celebrate Independence Day with my daughter, and my then husband's daughter with fireworks and such. In fact, we were all very excited right up until I had to go to the bathroom. A call to the doctor and I was admitted back into the hospital into the High Risk unit. I was doped up on a lot of stuff. They couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. I was stuck there though. Not what I was expecting. I had been researching essential oils and aromatherapy prior to all of this and had placed an order for essential oils, carrier oils, mixers & bottles. The package arrived while I was stuck in the hospital. Due to the length of time I would be there (remember that was the beginning of July and baby #2 wasn't due until near the end of August), the nurses had me moved to a private room. I appreciated that since I wasn't even allowed out of bed. My days were sponge baths and bed pans. NOT FUN.

As I was saying, the package of essential oils and things had arrived and my husband brought them to me. As awful as it was being stuck in a hospital, I created a sanctuary for myself. I would drop lavender on my pillow to keep me relaxed, put it into my rinse water (since I was at least allowed to bathe myself), and generally kept things calm and peaceful. In fact, I was known as the mom who made lotions and potions in her room. That was how the nurses referred to me. These same nurses would come and take refuge in my room and always remarked at how peaceful & relaxing my room was compared to other rooms in the ward. I needed that sanctuary, and apparently so did the nurses since I would have different ones relaxing in a chair in my room quite often. I really came to appreciate my sister, and gained a sense of sisterhood. It wasn't because she was my sister, but rather her support of me. Remember I said sponge bath. Well, how does a woman with hair almost down to her buttocks wash that hair when she isn't even allowed out of bed? My sister went and bought my favorite hair products and came to the hospital. The nurses allowed me to scoot around to put my head at the foot of my bed, and the ned was lifted as high as it would go. My trash can was placed underneath my dangling hair and my sister washed my hair for me. It's one thing to go to the hair salon and have someone do your hair. It's quite another to be bed ridden and have someone dear to you come and do your hair. In addition to my sanctuary, I had made ready a special wash from essential oils for my soon-to-be-born baby to be washed in after the birth. It was free from nasty chemicals, and I was so proud to have made it myself. Of course, the hospital required the pediatrician to sign-off his approval in a written manner. So, I called and had that done. I was determined to have as much control over my birth as I could.

When my doctor had decided she could no longer stand looking at me just sitting in a hospital bed, and the ultra-sound had confirmed that the baby was indeed a good bit over 6 lbs., induction was scheduled. I had my husband bring in a CD player and a CD called Native Spirit. I wanted to continue my feeling of sanctuary in the delivery room. While it started off nicely, all of that peace and sanctuary came to an abrupt halt when my stomach took the shape of a roller coaster and I began heavily bleeding. My second child, also a little girl, came to this world via emergency c-section. The doctor came to find that my placenta had abrupted; something they had worried about, but never had show on any ultra-sound (and I was having those weekly). Not the birth I was expecting, but my child was safe and alive.

By the time pregnancy #3 had come around, my marriage was on the rocks. How we salvaged it for the time being was beyond me. In fact, I remember spending most of the entire pregnancy crying. And boy did I cry, long and loud. I was however determined to deliver VBAC. My OB-GYN by this point had her daughter join her practice. Due to the number of clients, I was asked if I would mind her daughter taking on my care. That was fine. I told this new doctor that I intended VBAC. She was fine with it, but had asked if I had informed her mother. I had not. So time went on. The daughter left the practice when she was offered a teaching position within a different hospital and I was back to my same doctor. I told her my intentions and she warned me that if things went awry again that I would have to have another c-section. I was fine with that because she didn't push the c-section on me, but, rather, made me aware that it COULD happen should there be an issue.

I went into labor early one morning and was off to the hospital. My neighbor saw to getting my oldest to school and took care of my almost 2-year old for me. I was laboring in the maternity intake area when a nurse came in and informed me that my baby's heart rate "looked like crap." Yes, she actually said that to me -- it looked like crap. Wow. How does one respond to that. My doctor was called and informed of my progress. She decided she wasn't comfortable with the dipping heart rate and ordered an operating room reserved for a c-section. I wasn't pleased, but I understood and felt that my child's heart-rate was a bit more important than my desire to deliver vaginally. Hello, daughter #3. She couldn't maintain her body temperature so I spent a lot of time being wheeled to the NICU so I could nurse her. In fact, when the nurses called and asked if they could just give her formula I became so upset and refused to wait any longer for transport to come get me that I wheeled myself to the NICU. As I got there, one nurse was just starting to give her a bottle of formula. Boy, did that woman hear what I had to say. I had felt so utterly disrespected.

I was pregnant with baby #4 about 9 months after that. I knew this one was going to be a c-section. I didn't even inquire, as much as I wanted to, about the possibility of a VBAC. I was due on Monday, December the 4th. I remember because I was specifically asked to pick a friday prior to my due date. I chose the friday before. My doctor didn't catch what I had done until it was too late to re-schedule the date. She wasn't too pleased that I had chosen a date just 3 days prior to my EDD. Oh, well. The entire pregnancy came off without a hitch without complications. Honestly, I don't think a c-section was even necessary, but it still happened. Hello to my first son! And that boy was born and came out sucking his fist. He was hungry and ready to eat. :)

I talked about the troubles in my marriage before. Well, soon after this child, the marriage fell apart. We were still technically married, but we were housemates and nothing else. I re-encountered the love of my life after 16 years of not having seen him. We courted, we married, and we had a baby. Actually, we were pregnant before the marriage, but that doesn't matter. My husband bought me a book called "Honoring Your Child's Spirit." It goes through the steps and process of connecting in with the energy of the child you are carrying within your womb. It is such an incredible book that I highly recommend to every mother-to-be. Never had I felt so bonded with my child, bonded with it's spirit. Now this being baby #5, I think you can all figure out that this was a c-section baby as well. Now, the 24-hour flu had been going around, and hit my home. One of my daughters loving bestowed the gift of that bug upon me. I was so sick on Mother's Day, my doctor had been out of the country due to a death in her family, and I was scheduled to have my baby that coming Friday. Well, by Monday afternoon, my body had other plans and I went into labor. Off to the hospital I went thinking I was going to be stuck with some doctor I didn't know. The hospital was flabbergasted that I was scheduled to have a c-section on the 14th as my due date was the 26th. Anyhow, there I was at the hospital waiting. I heard there was a doctor on the line and I could hear the voice through the phone. My doctor had just come back into town and was on her way in. In that door she walked, and I told her that I had missed her so much over the past two weeks that I went into labor just so I could see her. We both got a good chuckle considering the fact that my baby was in distress and I wasn't thrilled to be there earlier than expected. Hello boy #2. I was over the moon in love with him. I wanted to nurse him immediately, but was told that until he could maintain his body temperature on his own, he & I would have to wait. While in recovery (and I wasn't in there long before this happened) one of the nurses said she wanted to try something. She stripped my son down and put him down my hospital gown so we had skin to skin contact. He lie there against me, stopped squawking, and his body temperature raised. The nurse had told me she had done that before and had seen it work. When he was lifted out of my gown so I could then start nursing, there were two little black footprints right over my heart. I will forever remember that.

Flashback to the OR for a moment though. Now I had asked for my tubes to be tied. I was done having babies and since I was already cut open, it should have been easy enough. Over that period of seven years, I had been having searing pains across my abdomen, but nothing was found or seen, until I asked for that procedure. We discovered that my uterus was immobile due to adhesions. It was so bad my doctor couldn't reach my tubes to even sever them. And so, everything remained intact. What I didn't expect was that the pain would intensify. Now, nearly three years after my last child's birth, I am scheduled to have a hysterectomy. Those same c-sections that doctors had sworn were oh-so-necessary, have caused me great pain. My uterus is practically bound to my bladder. Can you say OUCH?

But what does any of this have to do with Sacred Pregnancy and my involvement with such an incredible movement? A few years ago I became acquainted with the woman who would eventually write a book, that was published just last year, called Sacred Pregnancy. That woman is Anni Daulter. Anni is an amazing woman and a wonderful mother. I got to know her because of her other books that came out prior to Sacred Pregnancy. I consider Anni to be a friend and a sister. She will forever be in my circle of Sisterhood. I have gotten to work with Anni on projects with her various books, including putting together a video montage for Sacred Pregnancy the book.

Sacred Pregnancy is a book I wished I would have had for even just one of my pregnancies. It is more than a book telling you what to expect while you go through the different stages of pregnancy. It is a journal, a companion, a guide, and an incredible resource of knowledge. It is a weekly guide on the journey of your pregnancy. Never does this book say, "you must choose this one and only accepted way." There is so much love poured into this book by the author. There are activities in the book that I will be going back and doing for myself even though my time for having babies is over. Two and a half years after I finished having babies, I found that this book still speaks to my soul and has actually helped me to heal from experiences that may have been different had I realized there were choices; choices that were never presented to me.

I didn't join the Sacred Pregnancy movement to only support a friend and sister in all of her endeavors. I am joining this movement because I truly believe in women needing choices. I believe that all women need the loving support of their community and sisterhood within that community when becoming a mom and beyond. In fact, we need that community even before we become mothers. We need to be able to raise our children up in that community, provide support for each other, encouragement, and then some. With the exception of my last pregnancy, I felt very alone and very unsupported. While there was a small feeling of sacredness in each pregnancy, that greatest feeling didn't come and wasn't truly experienced until my last pregnancy. I do not want women, any women, to have to feel alone and un-supported while going through a time of extreme change. It doesn't matter how many times you have been a mom, and been pregnant. Each experience is different and deserves to be treated with respect, dignity, and given the recognition that each is sacred.

Women are sacred. We bring forth life through our bodies. We are the ultimate creatrix. We create life, and life comes through us. If there was ever a time that one can feel the energies surrounding coming in and connecting to them, it is when one is pregnant and bringing forth another life.

I am an ordained Priestess. My ministry is mostly geared towards women and children and their families. I bless the babies when they are born, I bless the mothers when they are pregnant, I marry the couples who chose to be joined, and so much more. It makes sense to me that this too is to become a part of my ministry. I have been blessed to be a mom many times over. Having felt what it is like to be alone, I don't want others to have to experience that. So, I am embarking on a journey; a journey to walk in Sisterhood with other women, to help them realize they are not alone, that they have a community of support, that they have a choice, and that they are sacred.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Time to Organize the Chaos

While we were dating, my husband dubbed me an "extreme free spirit." In fact, he believes me to be so much so that the inscription on my engagement ring reads exactly that, "Extreme Free Spirit." I am one of the most free-spirited people he knows. I make no qualms about cart-wheeling through wild flowers, and, truth be told, I quite love dancing barefoot in the rain. Now, I don't necessarily do that during a thunder and lightning storm, but I have run out in those before. I have seen too much crap in my short 37 years on this planet to make me want to maintain some crazed schedule of insanity where everyone in my life, myself included, is over-scheduled and every piece of life has written "play by play" directions attached. There are finer things to do, in my opinion. Those things include chasing butterflies, blowing bubbles, spinning in circles with your arms open wide until you collapse, and laying on the side of your favorite hill on a sunny day staring at the sky and talking about nothing in particular with the one who makes your heart skip a beat and do a little dance every morning when you wake up next to them.

Now, all that being said, we have 6 children. Let's count that out, shall we? S-I-X. Six kids means six potentially different kid schedules. In fact, five of them are currently in school; four different schools. Well, technically five different schools, but two of them ride the same bus as their schools are next to one another and the school district had an intelligent thought that led them to the decision to have the schools that are next to each other like that have the same buses and start five minutes apart or so. Gee, how about that? Anyway, their schedules, plus my husband's work schedule and my own schedule (yes, I actually have things that I do, believe it or not) can make for some utter chaos. Somehow, I have to keep track of who is coming and going. There has only been one really effective way for me to do that. I keep a planner. Yep, a weekly scheduler type thing, spiral bound which maintains appointments, to-do notes and the like. I have a calendar on my computer which I love very much and I always write all of the school-related closings onto that one. We have a calendar that hangs in our kitchen that may contain the occasional appointment written down, but nothing compares to the little spiral bound calendar that I carry with me everywhere. Basically, if it isn't written in there, it doesn't exist.

Gods forbid I don't have that calendar with me too. I end up scheduling appointments on top of one another. Been there, done that. I then have to go back and re-schedule. Ugh! What a pain that is too. So, whilst I seriously despise planning my life and everything in it, I do actually recognize that there needs to be some kind of balance and semblance of a schedule.

So, what planner works for me? It can't be any old planner. I've had those in the past. They do not work for me in the least bit. I used to get Llewellyn's Witches' Datebook. I do so love that one. I have that wall calendar in my house, so it made sense to carry that one. Plus, it has recipes. For me that is a major added bonus. And, there is always something to read. There is a ton of good reading material contained inside that datebook. I switched over to 7th House's Seasons of the Witch datebook a few years ago when I started taking their Seasons in Avalon course. Frankly, they are quite correct that is almost essential that you have some sort of one of their calendars as specific Power casting days (days where it might be better to cast for something than on another day) may come up in the lessons. The datebook is incredibly comprehensive. While I miss the recipes, because, unfortunately, Llewellyn doesn't include the recipes that appear in their datebook into their standard wall calendar, the information I do gain from the other is fantastic.

I have been feeling a bit out of sorts because I haven't had my planner for 2013. Typically I order it in before the end of the prior year, but this year I waited. Thankfully, guess what showed up in my mailbox on Saturday? Yup. So, life is good as I fill in the appointments and absolutely necessary things I must take action on in a reasonable amount of time.

While I don't necessarily put the "trivial" things in there or the normal day-to-day stuff, I do quite hope that I can fill it with all sorts of Rites and Ceremonies that people are needing done. I have one wedding scheduled for this year. I am looking forward to scheduling more weddings, baby blessings/naming ceremonies, Blessingways, and the like. I also look forward to scheduling my Sacred Pregnancy classes for the mamas-to-be out there once phase 1 of my training is complete in February. HOORAY!

I can now go check this off of my list, as I challenged myself to blog once a week, and made sure I wrote blogging onto my to-do list for the day so it got done. Amidst appointments and such today, there wasn't much time for anything else.

Until next week, world (unless my muse hits me with something I must write about prior to that), have a great one!