Saturday, 16 March 2013

High Wire Artistry, Birth and the Why

Some time ago I watched the fascinating documentary, ‘Man on Wire’ – about the high wire artist, Philippe Petit. Back in the ‘70’s, he straddled the heights between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers – walking back and forth on a wire cable strung between the infinitely high buildings. To perform this ‘artistic crime of the century’, as he called it, took 6yrs of preparation, alongside wild courage, mindfulness and expert skill.

After Petit appeared to dance on the wire between the Twin Towers, 415m above the captivated crowd, he was mobbed by police and media. Out of the many strikingly memorable moments of the film, I remember Petit saying to the camera how staggered he was by the Americans’ response to his illegal high wire performance…. “All they demanded was ‘WHY?’ - a very American finger-snapping question…..I had done something magnificent, and mysterious and I got a practical : ‘WHY?!!!’ ….“the beauty of it was I didn’t have any Why!”

This spoke to me deeply, particularly in regards to Birth. The question “Why” seems valid, as it potentially takes us on the journey toward understanding, reflection, and growth. In our western culture, we have become so developed in critical thinking – which is admirable. However, we have elevated it to such heights, that we seem to have left far behind our valuing of Subjective Knowledge; that which we know by feeling, experiencing sensations, intuiting,….. that which can’t be measured and defined and boxed into categories and put into radomised controlled trials.

We have vast amounts of scientific knowledge about Women’s bodies and birth which offer a valuable and worthy contribution. However, there is a Body of Knowledge that also is beyond the grasp of the measurable, the quantifiable, the rational. Within this is the woman’s know-how to give birth - without reading books or studying or going to classes, or being directed by experts, she knows what to do to give birth to her baby – if she trusts the process. This is her subjective knowing. It is the mysterious and the bodily wisdom women can tap into in their pregnancy, in their labours and birthing, and in their mothering. She may not know ‘why’ she needs to do what she is doing to give birth…..she just knows this is what is right for her.

Midwives, doulas, birth workers who acknowledge this Aesthetic Body of Knowledge have insight and understanding literally and metaphorically at their fingertips! The midwife can know by using her hands as valuable tools; by using her instincts; by practising presence and connecting with the labouring woman; by listening to the woman’s birth song to assess where she is at; by watching the way she moves and behaves, her mood; by watching the purple line (or silver line in women with dark skin) rising up in creases of the buttocks; by noticing the changes of the woman’s body; by years of experience : where she “just knows” something is necessary or needed or flowing or ‘not right’ – without being able to quantifiably say how or why. 

Sometimes there are no answers to ‘Why?’

Sometimes we need to put aside the questions and critique, and enjoy, relish, and celebrate the beauty, awe, power and mystery – the poetics of Women’s knowing and Birth

Bruce Cockburn singing his pertinent song 'Mystery' sums this up better than I could...."You can't tell me there is no Mystery..."


Sunday, 20 May 2012

Sew....BIRTH workshop

Last month, The Art of Mindful Birthing presented Melissa Fox's quilting workshop - 'Sew....BIRTH?' in the beautiful workshop space Piece Together. Using Mindfulness, the participants explored what Birth meant to them individually - opening up to whatever arose through the creative exercises with kindness, curiosity, and acceptance. Melissa then lead them through her 'know-how' of fleshing this out through the process of quilt-making. In an aesthetic studio, with 8 succulent women, copious cups of tea, tasty food, stimulating talk from the heart, and the stirringly creative Birth Energy - we enjoyed an expansive and beautiful day together!

Here is a picture of Melissa and the women with their quilts - ready to grace their homes as wall hangings.

Inspired by the day, the women participants, and their creations -  and upon the request of more interested women, Melissa and I would like to run another workshop next month! 

Here is the flier.....

Friday, 30 March 2012

I have been very excitedly working with the inspirational Melissa Fox, who is an innovative and creative quiltmaker, as well as a maternity consumer representative on government and hospital committees, and mother of two gorgeous girls.

As a result, The Art of Mindful Birthing will be very proudly presenting 'Sew...BIRTH?',
a one day workshop where women can explore and express their relationship to Birth through the art of mindful quilting! Here's the flier:

To read about the spark that enflamed this workshop, go to Melissa's blog, alongside more information about the workshop.

I'm very much looking forward to working with Melissa; supporting women who want to go deep into a process that will bring clarity, inner-connection, and creative expression!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Remembering Phoebe's Birth

10 years ago, I was holding our cherished newborn Phoebe Malika in my arms.

I had awoken to the familiar cervical ‘pulling’ sensation coming and going in motion, like the flowing movement of the edges of the sea.  I lay there in bed beside my sleeping soundly 21mth old daughter and husband, wondering if this was It or Not. My midwife, was Sarah - my dearest friend. We had shared an apartment, trained and studied and practised as student midwives, shared the struggles and joy of becoming midwives together, midwifed each other for our first pregnancies, homebirths, and babies – shared the most significant period yet of our lives together. 

Sarah had urged me to give her ample opportunity to navigate the dense traffic of London from the South through the East to our home in Hackney as soon as I suspected I was in labour. This was running through my head whilst I lay there – noticing the sensations and wondering if I should call Sarah or leave it longer. It was morning, and the traffic would imminently be banking up around the Blackwall Tunnel. Another hour or so, and it would become impenetrable.

I chose to make a cup of herbal tea – always my initial strategy for problem solving. Noticing my reluctance to eat, a regularity to the tightenings, and a definite altered state of consciousness, I rang Sarah, and told her to decide. “It might all fizzle out, and you would have come all this way…..” She came anyway, with her husband Chris (our dear friend), and Evie, their beautiful daughter, who in two days would turn one year old herself. Evie was our daughter Tilda's special friend, and the two girls were delighted to have some time together again. I put the kettle on again and we all had tea. 

                                                              Drinking Raspberry Lea Tea with Tilda on lap, and Evie looking on. 

By the time Sarah and her family had walked in the door, my surges had dwindled to the odd tightening here and there – and I felt very regretful for having my husband, Nagadeva, take the day off work, Chris take the day off work, and our friends drive all this way – for Nothing. I sent everyone off to Clissold Park, and whilst they were there, was determined to fully arrive into labour. Suddenly I was utterly invested in having the baby today! I tried being active - to no avail. I tried being very relaxed – to no avail.  I finally cried, out in our shared garden beside the rosebush, realising I couldn’t will it to happen. I had no control. I let go.

                                                                        Making more raspberry leaf tea, and a light surge arising.

They rang me from the park and I asked them to stay out for a bit longer. I was relishing the quiet and lack of stimulation. When they all returned, Chris decided to return to their home with Evie, and Tilda wanted to go with them. They left and I decided to go walking.  I felt an urgent need to be in motion, to pace, to take movement as my medicine.  I remember distinctly it was Friday afternoon. Stamford Hill was our home, as well as home to Europe's largest Hasidic Jewish and Adeni Jewish community. I noticed the Jewish men were quickly walking from work to home before the arrival of sunset, the veil between the day and night, on a Friday. This marked the beginning of their Shabbat, when they would feast, celebrate, and pray with their families. I walked for several hours. Around and around our huge block, past the local school, and traffic surging along Stamford Hill Road, the footpaths thick with people. I kept my head down, my eyes averted, and marched on relentlessly. I went back inside and recruited Nagadeva to be my companion at some stage, a little concerned that my waters might break or the sensations would intensify dramatically – leaving me stranded on the footpath amongst a sea of strangers. So my husband walked beside me in silent companionship. Whilst I walked, the surges came regularly. They felt warm and radiating and purposeful. I was walking fast and working hard. At last I needed to go inside to pee, and to see what the surges did when I stopped moving. I still wasn’t convinced that this was It, and still felt guilty Sarah was here and not at home, when I might not have been in authentic labour. However, the Birth Energy did continue pulsing power! I remember stepping into the pool in our front room feeling gleeful! Yes, I was in labour, and would have our baby this day or this night at least!

Once I was in the pool, the surges took hold of me and plunged me deep within. 

They strengthened in their power and fastened in their pace over the next few blurry hours. What I remember is that I started having a compelling need to kiss Nagadeva passionately and deeply after each surge! He was most surprised, but happily reciprocated the connection! As we kissed, I could feel the baby moving down, and feel my cervix opening. My heart felt open-wide!

                                                                     Feeling full of love and passion for Nagadeva and the baby. 

This was the 2nd of November -  a few days prior to the 5th of November (‘Remember remember the fifth of November. 
Gunpowder, treason and plot. 
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
, Should ever be forgot...’) For those not familiar with this British custom, it is a night to remember the time that Guy Fawkes and other conspirators tried to blow up Parliament House with explosives over 400 years ago. Around this week, fireworks are legally sold in little shops that spring up for this occasion, and each evening in the first week of November, the air is full of flashes, colour, loud bangs and the smell of gunpowder. Traditionally a bonfire was made, and an effigy of Guy Fawkes was burned on top.
                                                                                                                                                             Whilst labouring in the pool, with silence from Sarah and Nagadeva – and the low background music of the CD 'The Ultimate Collection of Handel' –  blasts and booms and sirens resounded just outside our front room window on our street. Nagadeva and Sarah were immediately at the window, whispering and peeking through the curtains. Apparently a gang of young people from the Council Flats down the road, had set off fireworks beneath the multitudinous number of Volvos in our street – cars the Hassidic Jewish families drive for safety and seat numbers for their large families. Car alarms and explosions alerted neighbours, and soon there was a fire engine out the front of our home with flashing lights, shouting, more bangs and louder sirens blaring. A neighbour knocked on the door which Nagadeva opened a fraction, to hear him ask if we could call for the police to come and sort out the chaos. I’m not sure if he wanted further calls made to the police, or it was because he wasn’t permitted to use the phone, being Shabbat. I remember hearing Nagadeva letting him know that No he couldn’t call as his wife was having a baby…..Yes, here and now in our front room. Our neighbour respectfully retreated.

Phoebe Malika was born blissfully that evening into the pool in our front room. Perfectly congruent to her nature, she was born amongst passion, explosions, fire and alarms! The CD, which was never changed and continuously played the Handel collection with much synchronicity, included the pieces: "Water Music", "Music for the Royal Fireworks Overture"," The arrival of Queen Sheba", "For Unto Us a Child is Born", and "Hallelujah". Utterly apt and telling!

                                                                                 Nagadeva meets his baby daughter.

During the birth, despite the outside havoc of London city life, I always felt safe. My birth felt undisturbed. I felt safe with Nagadeva and Sarah as the guardians of my external world. I felt safe in my pool. I felt safe in my home. I felt safe in my body. I felt safe in the process of Birth.

               Sarah, my midwife, holding Phoebe, (my legs in view!) whilst I call family and friend in Australia to tell them the wonderful news.

I've enjoyed recalling this day - just over 10 years ago!

Happy Birth Day beloved Phoebe Malika! We are immensely grateful that you came into our lives and abundantly blessed and enriched us.......

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Magic of the Womb and A Bun in the Oven

For quite a few years, I ran my Art of Mindful Birthing workshops from Womenspace, a wonderful organisation providing a soul space for women. Ultimately, they needed to relocate due to structural problems with the buildings, yet continue to offer women a space to connect with the heart. The building my workshops ran from was previously an old bakery, and although it had been renovated, the original ovens remained intact in the wall. This seemed so apt and synchronistic to me; with the obvious symbolism of these ovens for nourishment, and sacrality. The old idiom: ‘a bun in the oven’ would always spring to my mind, when the ripening pregnant women would sit down in circle in ‘the Bakery’.

                          Some Mindful Birthing women and a precious baby – standing in front of one of the old Bakery ovens, Womenspace.

A Bun in the Oven.

Ahhhh, the enticing aroma of bread baking….. our olfactory senses alert our brains in a trice that we have encountered something delicious, something tasty, something wholesome; and the feedback mechanism responds simultaneously. We lick our lips – in anticipation…..

The oven is the Womb; the origin of all humanity: the great cauldron in which sustenance and creation are cooked up through the process and energy of alchemy. Baking buns/bread and being pregnant are both aspects of this process; and archetypically unify with the creative life force of our world. As Joseph Campbell wrote in The Power of Myth: ‘Woman magic and earth magic are the same’. Humble ingredients are placed within the oven/womb, and the fire and mysterious power transform them within - into that which sustains and nourishes life.

For me, conjured up in the idiom – ‘a bun in the oven’, is this acknowledgement of the Mysterious, the Hidden, the Internal, the Container, the Creative - and the Life giving power of the womb. It is the symbol of pregnancy - something new is becoming. This incipient newness is the baby of course; but the newness also manifests as an unexplored pathway for the woman herself, as she mothers this baby for the first time. The woman too, resultantly is becoming new: she is the icon of Ripening Into. This is the epitome of possibility and potentiality. She shape shifts within and without – evolving and emerging brand-new with her baby.

So what a reason to celebrate, for  women with ‘a bun in the oven’! We are transforming ordinary ingredients into a miracle that fits into our open arms; we are incubating Life within us; we are colluding with Nature and the Birth Energy to create, nurture, and bring forth. We are emerging as new beings ourselves. Enjoy the making, the baking, the expectancy: the transformation of a bun in the oven!

                                                                                 ‘Women Baking Bread’. Carl Moon