Sunday, November 27, 2011

#29 Meditative, Multi-Cultural Laborinths in Birth Rooms

Greetings Birth Peeps,

This is Thanksgiving weekend (in the US), and for me it was a particularly special, even magical and blessed one. All weekend I’ve wanted to reach out to each of you, Birth Peeps, to share my gratitude with you for our shared work together, even though I don’t know all of you (yet), I know we are drawn together by a shared dream.

Today I want to share a painting I’ve been working on. I began this painting with a goal to finish it in two weeks… because every painting I make seems to take four months. I worked each morning toward that goal. Two weeks later I had gotten no further than an under painting! I continued working. It is now at least two months out and, I am still tweaking!

This painting began with a story my friend and hairdresser, Alberto, told me about his tias (aunties) in Mexico who were parteras (midwives). They used to tell pregnant mothers that they were warriors because in labor they would have to go to the underworld and battle with underworld spirits who held their babies. Each mother alone had go there and battle with the spirits to free her baby and bring it back to this world, to its new family who was waiting for him or her.

Inspired by this birth warrior mythology I began this painting using acryclic paint. There are many symbols in this painting, but I will point out just a few. 

There are two worlds, an upper “natural world” and the labyrinth of birth, the underworld of labor, divided by a gold line. This gold line is how I draw contractions. Typically contractions have been depicted as hills (as shown on a fetal monitor), however, I found in labor that my attention went downward and deep within with each contraction—so I began drawing the contractions as downward dips. In this painting, at the peak of each contraction-dip, the mothers consciousness dips, trickles, pours, into the underworld…. then returns to her resting baseline.

You can see six “spirits” holding babies in Laborland, and a mother swimming out with a baby (top right of the labyrinth’s opening), and the Fire Keeper.
Last week I was frustrated because the colors in the labyrinth were flat, dull and dreary. I kept changing the colors over and over, still flat. Then about five nights ago I had a vivid dream that showed me what to do, which colors to use and how to add beads! I jumped out of bed, found my odd collection of beads, then mixed up the colors and went to work… a few hours later… Look, the labyrinth now is vibrant, expressing both the dark and light aspects of journeying in the underworld. I also added four shells and a gold pendant of Mary.

One of my visions of how I might help change birth in our culture is to make a series of beautiful multi-cultural, labyrinth meditation paintings (and eventually prints of those paintings) so that birth rooms everywhere will have LabOrinths for women to gaze upon, to trace with their eyes during contractions to help ease the pain and still the mind.

Perhaps like-minded Artists of the Spirit will join me in this endeavor.
In-Love, In-Gratitude,
and still tweaking this painting…


Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Dear Birth Peeps,
I have long been a fringe birth activist. I have been wanting to post "Occupy Birth" on this blog, but I don't feel I know enough or can remember all the statistics and arguments to make strong argument s as compelling as the activists we admire.  And, when I study the trends in obstetrics and midwifery, I easily fall prey to my Victim/Judge.  So, I watch from the sidelines and consider the arguments, I read, think, and wait... while I try to cultivate the Huntress/Warrior to carry my arguments and actions forward.

This morning I felt/heard a Call, it came one of our long-distance Birth Story Listening students, Shelley, who wrote a thoughtful post on our forum, and she shared a video with us that I want to pass on to Birth Peeps.

Here's the scoop: "Women are rallying for a December protest at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital in San Diego, which has the highest cesarean rate in the state of California. The larger purpose is to draw attention to the Cesarean epidemic issue/problem in our society. A doula and childbirth educator in the community put together this video clip to inform and inspire people to join in the movement. This video has been posted on FB, and it's going around like crazy."

This video is very well done and really fires you up. The message is simple and clear and a call to action. I would like to stand with the women at this rally in San Diego. I hope some of you will be there, or organize a similar gathering where you live.

I need to gestate my thoughts on hearing and changing the Collective Birth Story... but for now...
I wanted to pass this video on to all of you.


Monday, November 7, 2011


Dear Birth Peeps,

Several times I have heard of the following group “recognition” observance. It goes something like this. A group has gathered for birth storytelling or a birth movie, and a leader asks everyone who has had a cesarean to stand. The room is silent for a moment. The cesarean mothers sit. Then the moderator asks all the mothers who birthed normally to stand and applause breaks out.

Not wanting to assume I understand the meaning of this curious ritual,  I would like to ask each participant, “Who is observing silence or applauding?,” and “What message are they intending to send to cesarean mothers?” Then, I would ask the cesarean mothers what meaning they took from this?

I imagine the “moment of silence” could be out of respect for a "loss." I imagine that, depending on which Story Gate of Return each mother is in, different meanings might be drawn by each woman; perhaps there is a time having one’s grief and loss of a desired birth witnessed in silence feels just right. But, not every cesarean mother is (still) in grief about her birth experience; some may feel they should be applauded too for having done their best or having survived their Ordeal. I have long ago completed my work with my cesarean birth and no longer carry any grief about it, so if I were standing in that room, the silence would seem to me to be a projection of someone else’s loss or grief, not my own.

And the applause for those who birth naturally, normally, or vaginally… I just don’t get it. If you/they are fortunate to birth normally, I can understand gratitude, but applause?  I could also stand with this group, but "I" do not want or deserve applause for the Gift I was given; the opportunity to birth normally humbled me. I am especially disturbed by the juxtaposition of applauding one group, the Victors?, while asking the other group (?Victims) to stand in silence… should their heads be hung low?

We have a confusing double standard. I am learning about birth in undeveloped, occupied, or oppressed countries. Women may have to wait in agony for hours, begging for relief, drugs, surgery, even death. But help does not always come quickly if it comes at all. Some women do not survive the wait, their Ordeal. If they are “rescued” by visiting western medicine teams, we all sigh a sigh of relief for modern medicine reaching them. They might even be applauded for surviving, however they did it, by their village, by us.

I am confused by my own projections and where I draw a line in the Sand. But, I sit in my confused mind and enquire who is thinking these thoughts? Who wants to grieve? Who wants to applaud? Who is the ‘I’ that decides who should get a moment of silence and who should get applauded?