The Sun has a way of replenishing all things that support and sustain us; its warmth reaching into our marrow and cultivating our layers from the inside out. Seeds of intention we planted in the waning shadows of winter are now coming to full realization and we are busy with the management of abundance, the yield of dedication. While days are long, we lean into productivity and enjoy the wealth of our efforts. What does this season have in store for you?
This season, our passions are invoked. We direct our internal fires and focus our life force energy on our heart’s truest desires. This moment in time is a crossroad: we have a choice to surrender to an all too familiar narrative of instability and fear, or to break through our husks, now too small to contain the strength of our dynamism! In Pure Love we step into expanded versions of ourselves, reaching ever higher, toward the source of life. Growing like healing herbs, beyond distraction, aligning with all that supports our success.
Elemental Birth Rites is enjoying its own rapid growth. We are entering the final trimester with our Sacred Birthkeeper Practitioner Training, vacillating between the joys of pregnancy and the anticipation of the divine release of birth. The ante is up as our community enjoys a collective boost in self-awareness, interdependence, and accountability. We accept, with willing hearts, increased responsibility; our commitment to healing has well prepared us.
As we charge into our second cycle around the sun, we, as always, welcome our readers to contribute their thoughts, experiences, and reflections to share with our community. If you are unfamiliar with the full range of offerings from Elemental Birth Rites, please visit our website at elementalbirthrites.com, take the free quiz and discover your elemental ally. Look around to discover a wealth of information that can support you, a loved one, a family, your family…the family that belongs to all of us. Ultimately, the family to which we all belong.
Please In-Joy our summer offering.
With Love and Immense Gratitude,
Elemental Birth Rites
After The Baby’s Birth… A Woman’s Way to Wellness
A Complete Guide for Postpartum Women.
By Robin Lim
Part of the majesty of this classic book is that it was published in 1991. Just as the process of childbirth has remained true to its nature through millennia, so have the basic human needs of postpartum women. Of course, the focus of her entire text is the whole recovery of women after the arrival of baby. However, in the excerpts below, Ibu Robin Lim imparts her wisdom specifically regarding mental and emotional health and well-being in the wake of the transformational work of childbearing.
The postnatal period may be the most trying time of your life, emotionally as well as physically. Your body, with all its amazing parts; your mind, with its complexity of thought; your spirit, which is both individual and universal, are expanded to meet the demands of your precious new child. This tremendous openness can bring you home, to the center of who you are. But the route is neither short nor easy. To weather it your focus must be not only on your baby, but also on your changing self-image.
You have a partner in this journey of growth; your baby who was with you constantly, nudging you from within during the nine long months of waiting, has joined you in the world. The journey you may have thought would be over once you gave birth is only beginning. It is no wonder that many women feel their children are also their teachers; Erica Jong wrote a poem called “The Buddha in the Womb” about her developing child.
If your baby is not in your arms because of prolonged illness, the decision to relinquish him or her for adoption, death, or any one of the many tragedies that can unfold, your journey is even more difficult. Your need for skillful nurturing is more profound. Allow yourself to be postpartum. Remember, once you have been pregnant, regardless of the outcome, you are a mother. In many ancient cultures by virtue of being a mother you enjoy ascended status.
Every postpartum woman feels her heart being tested. Your heart may feel as though it is bursting, leaving each fragment larger and stronger than the whole once was. You may cry more than you are accustomed to; you will also smile and laugh more. Small things will move you, like the curve of your baby’s mouth, overhearing a conversation between a father and his infant, or an older sibling’s drawings for “the baby.”
You are delicate. You are passionate. You are strong. You need to be nurtured tenderly just as your child does. Here I wish to touch on some of the issues of the heart, the range of emotions you may feel, and the aspects of your relationship to yourself, you family, and the world that change as you enter (for the first time or once again) the precious role of mother…
The reverence for childbearing women that Ibu Robin Lim speaks to in her writing has survived as little more than a whisper in today’s world. But we, as childbearing women, literally carry all potential for change in our bellies. As we, unapologetically, place value on ourselves and our optimal health becomes non-negotiable, all that we need to support the glorious return to balance emerges. A world where we are able to access the support we require, experience a felt sense of safety, and meet our children’s needs by authentically meeting our own, thus creating a wellspring that overflows with enough for us all.
Key here, is her advice to “allow yourself to be postpartum.” Our pace and conditioning have made it difficult for mothers who carry their babies to term to slow down enough to ‘be postpartum.’ How much more for those who miscarry, or who experience any measure of loss during their childbearing journey? When we don’t have a babe in our arms is, perhaps, when it becomes most important for us to fully commit to nurture and care for ourselves; in fact, we ARE postpartum and require the same nourishment, consideration, pace, time, and recovery as all mamababies who reach the summit of childbirth. To handle ourselves in any other fashion is folly; we set the measure for those around us who are watching carefully our need for support.
So, what is this support? How do we access it when our families are fragmented, and we have spent generations buying into the ideology of fierce individualism? “Success is doing it yourself… asking for help means you have failed!” How absurd! We begin by doing the internal work of reversing that mentality in ourselves. Recognizing that we are in community all the time. And, as such, have a right to be honored and cared for but also, a responsibility to pour that care back into the collective. Gone are the days where we ignore the warning signs and just do it all costs. The price we pay is our quality of life. Where is the value in that?
We must act as willing participants, stewards of the activity that may begin in our homes but extends far beyond the front door. When we act in willful ignorance of our responsibility to the activities beyond our front door, the very chaos we attempt to avoid will eventually seep through the foundation and rise like floodwaters from within. We have little choice but to support one another. Trusting life enough to open our hearts, reaching deeply into our compassion. Tomorrow depends on it.
BEYOND THE RING OF FIRE…
The Power of Absence
I am sitting in front of a beautiful belly.
Smooth. Gently curving outward, upward.
“They’re moving!” Mama giggles softly, grinning broadly as she waits for my assessment.
I am sitting with the gel-stained doppler in my hand.
Mind racing behind an empty half-smile… No rump, no shoulder, no head, no heartbeat…
Great Mother, guide me through this moment…
The human body is mysterious. It is magnificent. Divine. And enigmatic. When science jumps in with both feet and a high beam, the mystery deepens. Obscurity doubles down causing us to reconsider everything we know. Causing us to kneel in humility. In awe.
I managed to complete two associate degrees in allied health sciences and one in women’s studies, a licensure program and undergraduate degree in nursing, and three years of professional midwifery school while attending more midwifery conferences, trainings, and mentorship opportunities than I can shake a stick at. I have rested my head on the shoulders of birth-keeping grandmothers who surely looked babies in their eyes and discussed strategies for exiting the pelvis. My sister midwives have poured out their birth bags, their skill sets and their hearts to ease and inform my path. But in all of this, I cannot remember one conversation about pseudocyesis.
A false belief of being pregnant, accompanied by objective signs and symptoms of pregnancy, despite the absence of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (the hormone that marks pregnancy) in the blood or urine. Also known as phantom pregnancy.
Not to be confused with Delusion of Pregnancy: a false and fixed belief of being pregnant despite factual evidence to the contrary.
While both conditions commonly present in a constellation of mental illnesses, delusion of pregnancy produces no physical symptoms; only the unyielding belief that a pregnancy exists. But when symptoms do exist, and a mother who otherwise holds relevant, grounded conversation is describing nausea, weight gain, enlargement of breasts, abdominal distension, enhanced pigmentation, cessation of menses, morning sickness and vomiting, in the absence of HCG, what then? Hormonal distortion? Reproductive anomaly? A true differential diagnosis becomes exhaustive.
The focus of this writing is not to deep dive into the annals of pathological psychology. Rather, to consider, with much softer focus, some of the emotive factors associated with being in community with women who can be, and absolutely are, affected by these phenomena. Rare as it may be in the formal record, too many of us know “that woman” who announced a pregnancy that…well, whatever became of the baby? “It was a spiritualpregnancy, girl. You know, she’s always been a little different.” However we choose to frame it, a well-timed, “yeah… she crazy,” while shrugging off the work of compassion does not now, nor has it ever demonstrated our ability as a collective to invite our sisters into the conditions they require to avoid unravelling, thus tilling the soils of imbalance.
There, but for the grace of God, go I.
Research suggests, that in many cases, fixed beliefs around the existence of a pregnancy when there is not one, happens in the wake of loss of love, loss of object, or loss of fertility. Unfortunately, these losses are, without exception, an integral part of our journey as women on Earth. While normally our experiences of loss do not trigger us into suffering delusions or very intense, prolonged, psychological disturbances, clearly, in some instances, they do. How do we position ourselves, as partners, families, and community members, to guide our loved ones away from these phenomena?
It is important that we understand, in this climate of fierce individualism, that we are essentially social creatures. When our personal intellect runs out, when it will not help us manage our condition, the truth is that we are absolutely meant to interact with the human next to us, the one next to them, and so on. What this points to is the communal nature of our fundamental human experience. Birth is a social event. It impacts the social order, as does death. These are the markers of life as we know it. We are not born in absence of the entity that gave birth to us; at least two beings were involved in the process whether or not we will ever know them. We exist in the context of community. Be it in absence of, in harmony or in conflict with, the billions of us on the planet are here together.
So why, then, would we shroud aspects of our human experience from one another? The many reasons that exist usually reach back to some iteration of shame, fear, or guilt, artifices of weakness or inadequacy. Often learned through religious dogma, educational programming, environmental stress or other forms of social conditioning, this behavior devastates our communal nature by disabling one of our greatest powers: compassion.
Shared suffering. The ability to relate to what another is experiencing and act to relieve stress or discomforts because of that relativity. Compassion is an action word. It motivates us to behave in a way that considers the experience we would wish to have in light of whatever circumstance has befallen our fellow human. And even when it is a listening ear, it invokes hope… that delicate strand of emotion gently leading us back to the pillars of truth, trust, patience, faith, and unconditional love. Compassion reflects our intrinsic value, regardless of condition, so that we may feel we are not without worth despite all we have experienced.
Okay…But what does this have to do with phantom pregnancy?
The Common Unity
I am not suggesting that there are not significant psychological co-morbidities that commonly present in persons with phantom pregnancies. There are, in addition to medical anomalies that can create a similar profile. What I am suggesting is the support a woman receives AND her perceived sense of belonging in community, particularly in times of loss, are extraordinarily significant. Being held physically and emotionally, being heard/received as you are by the members of your immediate and extended community are vital determinants in the moment any one of us has to choose between an accurate assessment of what is, or personal narrative around what we think may be or what we need to be for our own survival.
Which begs inquiry into what it means to be perceived as pregnant.
Our society reveres pregnancy. Not without reason as it is, indeed, miraculous. But even Ms. Mariatou, who got tremendous press for that one baby, sort of fell out of the limelight after they left the manger. A colleague refers to “the Baby Jesus syndrome” as the phenomena that causes us to treat pregnant woman as though they are carrying the savior…until the child is born and no angels or wise men bearing gifts appear. Then, we throw the whole mamababy away and look for our next victims. Why victims? Because in doing this, we create a paradigm that says “my value is in my pregnancy. I am seen when I am full of life, but only in this way.”
Consider women who miscarry. They are, in fact, pregnant. But for whatever reason, the pregnancy ends before term. There is no baby to hold. How do we support these women? Do we allow time and space for physical recovery? Rarely. Not even the standard but grossly inadequate six weeks despite the fact that a miscarrying woman is likely to experience some measure of labor, definitely heavier bleeding than what is normal for her, in addition to the emotional devastation of loss. How do we consider her mental state? The stress… do we talk about it? Is it taboo? Why? The majority of women experience miscarriage at least one time…some may never even be aware. That lack of awareness is, regrettably, a biproduct of ignorance, and our unwillingness to hold space as a community.
A woman yearning to be considered in an environment where lack of consideration is a matter of course is susceptible to any number of detours. And the more dramatic her experience of trauma becomes, the more convoluted those detours may be. Our magic as women is expressed, in part, by our ability to capture anything, an emotion, an idea, a sperm cell, and build it, bringing it into its divine fullness. That magic, distorted by insecurity, is still magic. And its manifestations will reflect whatever trauma lies within. This is why we must be devoted to the removal of such trauma. We must work to reconcile our losses and reestablish worth in ourselves when it falls into question. Our collective health depends on it. While I cannot hope to unravel the mystery of pseudocyesis in a personal reflection, my compassion does enable me to identify what feels like a consequence of isolation, emotional desolation, and unmanaged shock, joined with a chronic absence of community; a stiff cocktail that is sobering at best. I recognize that the increased incidence of phantom pregnancy is an indicator we would be remiss to look away and not acknowledge the root cause. What phantom is being born? We ought to choose to listen now…
“A child not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.” –African proverb
What thoughts or feelings surface as you read this piece? What experiences are you willing to share that relate to this topic?
If you feel moved, please share your thoughts, questions, or any inspiration you may have in response to this article with the EBR community. Email your offering to firstname.lastname@example.org
Support for one another strengthens us all
FROM THE HEARTH:
There is no time quite as sacred and pivotal than the days just after giving birth.
We know that keeping the body warm and well-nourished… supremely nourished, in fact, sets the stage for a beautiful recovery from the demands of birth. As a fan of healthy things that keep mamas hydrated and minerally fortified, nothing cuts it quite like bone broth.
The summer heat, for many, kicks up cravings for chilled fruits and iced tea, but no! Even with the high temperatures outside, warm, easily digestible soupy, brothy foods are a better way to go; increasing circulation, delivering nutrient to a body that is healing and supplying adequate hydration for milk making.
There are as many versions of bone broth as there are grandmothers to stand over the pot and pour love into the recipe so don’t feel obligated to stick to the one below. The beauty of a bone broth is the ingredients may change, but the digestive and nutritional support it provides to your body will not, so long as your start with fresh, organic, pastured, ingredients.
1 whole chicken washed and cut (innards removed)
3-4 pounds beef marrow and knuckle bones and 2 pounds meaty bones (like short rib)
½ cup apple cider vinegar
4 quarts filtered or spring water
3 celery stalks, halved
3 onions, quartered
Handful of fresh parsley
If using beef marrow, knuckle, and meat bones in a crock pot. Ass apple cider vinegar and let the mixture sit for one hour to allow the vinegar to leach the minerals out of the bones.
Or place all chicken parts in the crock pot. If using mostly chicken bones, allow to sit with the vinegar as indicated above.
Add more water as needed to cover bones and chicken.
Add the vegetables, bring to a boil, skim the scum from the top and discard.
Reduce to a low simmer, cover, and cook for 24-72 hours (if you are not comfortable leaving the pot to simmer overnight, turn off the heat and let it sit overnight, then turn it back on and let it simmer all day the next day.)
During the last 10 minutes of cooking, throw in a handful of fresh parsley, for added flavor and minerals.
Allow the broth to cool, strain, making sure all marrow is knocked out of the marrow bones and into the broth.
Add sea salt to taste and enjoy.
This broth can be stored in the fridge for 5-7 days or in the freezer up to 6 months for use in soups or stews. A great broth to make in advance of giving birth.
Elemental Birth Rites would like to officially welcome all of the babies born in the last season into our community! We hold you up and uplift the Mamas and Papas that made you possible. And we pledge our support as a community of safety, presence, and wisdom to guide you into a beautiful future!