by Robyn

Buffering, Birth and Biology

February 5, 2017 in Adversity, Doulas, Fathers, hospital birth, Jesus Christ, Robyn, Young Women by Robyn

I’m taking a Biology class right now and to help myself learn concepts I try to apply them to something I can easily relate to.  And since I love birth, well you know, I compare biology or psychology (or whatever) to birth. In studying the pH scale, I learned about “buffers” or a pair of substances, and acid and its related base, that minimizes pH fluctuations in the fluids of living organisms. (Brooker, 41).  Buffers protect an organism from dangerously low or high pH  levels. In a more general sense a buffer is “a person or thing that shields and protects against annoyance, harm, hostile forces, etc., or that lessens the impact of a shock or reversal” (source).  

While I was attending a birth two weeks ago, I thought about buffers in the sense of being a doula.  My job is to be a buffer from outside forces or be someone who helps maintain calm waters.  I am supposed to lessen the strain on the mother (and father) so that the shock of the experience is minimized. Because, let’s face it, no matter how much you prepare for birth, it is something else to actually experience it. 

So back to chemistry, a buffer has two parts to minimize fluctuations from acidic and alkaline influences.  I feel that my job is enhanced by working with the husband. It is good to have different kinds of buffers to support the mother, masculine and feminine. One of my favorite things to witness is the loving support a husband provides to his wife.

I have also noticed what has helped “buffer” my experience providing doula support at hospital births.  My support to the mother has been greatly enhanced by the help I have received from the staff.  Most of the labor and delivery staff knows who I am now because I have made a habit of writing letters highlighting the positive support I have witnessed.  It has made a world of difference.  Writing those letters of thanks have been a great way to keep the pH level of the experience as neutral as possible.

The most important buffer we have is that of the Savior.  Today I taught a lesson in young women’s about adversity.  I think this quote sums up how He is our buffer,

“Maybe that’s what I love most about the gospel, not that it prevents us from the blows of life but that we can feel an incredible amount of peace and love in every dark moment.” -Al Carraway

 

References:

Brooker, R. J., Widmaier, E.P., Graham, L. E., Stiling, P.D. (2017). Biology, 4th edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

by Lani

Seeking Earnestly the Best Gifts

March 29, 2014 in Divine nature, Lani, Love, Personal Revelation, Power of Words, Prayer, Priesthood, Priesthood blessings, Thoughts, Women's Rights, Young Women by Lani

 

You say it’s in this heart of mine
Everything I need to shine
It’s love alone that makes this light
And gives us wings and takes us through the night
-Dan Zanes, “Firefly

For the past couple of weeks, it has felt very much like my soul has been straining, reaching, trying to uncover something just beyond my grasp. I’m sitting down to write because, like Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

The Mormon news world has been humming with articles, letters, blogposts, comments, so many opinions swirling around the subject of women and Priesthood ordination. Personally, I don’t want to attend Priesthood Session, and I don’t want to be ordained as a deacon, elder, bishop, apostle, or prophet. But my heart has compassion toward those women who are seeking “earnestly the best gifts” (D&C 46:8) and grappling with questions. Joseph Fielding Smith has told us: “If [women] are faithful and true, they will become priestesses” (qtd. in M. Catherine Thomas, Light in the Wilderness, p. 287). None of us really knows how God would define a “priestess” and her powers. Do we already possess these powers and simply need to develop them more fully? Will they be given to us at some point in the future? These are valid questions I’ve wondered about myself.

This post isn’t really a “women and the priesthood” post per se, but it was the priesthood issue that prompted my initial straining, reaching, searching. In my efforts to better understand the issue, I have been delving deep into the subject of power, what it means to have power, what it means to em-power—petitioning God in prayer and meditation for answers, scouring the scriptures, articles, scientific research, and various books for the missing pieces in my understanding.

I’ve also scanned my memories, working to discover whose influence has been the most powerful in my life and why. Of course parents, grandparents, and close friends are givens. Certainly my favorite authors. But what about regular people? What about those strangers I can’t forget? What made them powerful?

When I was about thirteen years old, I got stuck in the Columbus, Ohio, airport, flying stand-by with my brother, trying to get back to Boston after visiting our grandparents and cousins in Utah. The flights were packed and the prospects of getting out of that airport reasonably soon were slim. I panicked. My overactive imagination began catastrophizing up a storm. I couldn’t relax. I could hardly breathe.

Then an airline employee at one of the gate desks took compassion on us. We had probably come up to her after failing to obtain seats on the last flight of the evening, asking whether there was any chance of luck in the morning. I don’t remember her name, but twenty years later I can still remember how her kind eyes and smile melted my fears away. If my memory serves me correctly, she spent a considerable amount of time helping us look at our options, talking with our family on the phone about possibilities, probably staying long past the end of her shift. She had a good soul, a nurturing heart, and I could feel it deep in my core. She didn’t make our problems go away, but in her presence, I felt at peace. In her presence, I felt for a few moments that everything was going to be OK. And that was enough to get me through that night in Columbus, Ohio.

Here’s what I know. That woman was powerful.

Carolyn Myss has written: “The truth is that the more you empower others, the more powerful you become” (Invisible Acts of Power, p. 44). How powerful am I? How am I using my power? I love these words from President David O. McKay (I took the liberty of making the pronouns feminine to better suit my theme): 

 

There is one responsibility which no woman can evade; that responsibility is her personal influence, a silent, subtle radiation. . . .  This radiation is tremendous. Every . . . person who lives in this world wields an influence whether for good or for evil. It is not what she says alone; it is not alone what she does. It is what she is. . . . Every woman has an atmosphere which is affecting every other person. She cannot escape for one moment from this radiation of her character, this constant weakening or strengthening of others (qtd in Thomas, p. 187).

 

When I think of the magnitude of the power I wield, it is sort of frightening to me. I can crush another person, or I can send them soaring. I can alter the atmosphere in a room in an instant by my own energy and behavior. That woman in the Columbus airport radiated a character so beautiful that it swept my panic away and replaced it with peace. That’s the kind of power I want. That’s the kind of character I want to radiate.

I was talking to my friend/co-author Felice about my soul-searching and questions about power last weekend. She said, “Have you read The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis?” I happened to have it on my bookshelf (purchased years ago for a book club but never finished). The Great Divorce is C.S. Lewis’s brief fictional journey from hell to heaven. Felice described to me a part of the book that I have now read multiple times and keep coming back to. I’ll paste a condensed excerpt here:

First came bright Spirits . . . who danced and scattered flowers. Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. . . . Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honour all this was being done. . . . It must have been the almost visible penumbra of her courtesy and joy which produces in my memory the illusion of a great and shining train that followed her across the happy grass. . . . Only partly do I remember the unbearable beauty of her face.

“Is it?… is it?” I whispered to my guide.

“Not at all,” said he. “It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.”

“She seems to be . . . well, a person of particular importance?”

“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.” . . .

“And who are all these young men and women on each side?”

“They are her sons and daughters.”

“She must have had a very large family, Sir.”

“Every young man or boy that met her became her son – even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter. . . . Her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. . . .“

“And how… but hullo! What are all these animals? A cat—two cats—dozens of cats. And all those dogs… why, I can’t count them. And the birds. And the horses.”

“They are her beasts.”

“Did she keep a sort of zoo? I mean, this is a bit too much.”

“Every beast and bird that came near her had its place in her love. In her they became themselves. The abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them.”

I looked at my Teacher in amazement.

“Yes,” he said. “It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end? Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.” (p. 117-120)

There is much I still don’t know or understand. The longer I live, the more complex, heart-wrenching, and confusing life seems to become. But all of this pondering has led me back to this most basic of truths:

There are many of God’s powers available for us to harness and develop here upon the Earth, and the greatest of these is love.

I can be powerful in this life. We all can. Every moment. Of every day. Radiating who we are, wakening the dead things of the universe into life.

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My 8- and 10-year-old daughters’ hands 🙂

by Lani

Preparing Our Daughters

September 30, 2013 in Atonement, Birthdays, blessingway, Divine nature, Eve, Faith, Lani, Menstruation, Motherhood, Parenting, Preparation, Puberty, Rites of passage, Symbolism, Temple, Young Women by Lani

Last week I celebrated the 10th anniversary of my birth into motherhood. It kind of boggles my mind that I’ve been a mother for a decade. It also boggles my mind that this baby…

126_7693141899_4545_n…just had her 10th birthday. Double digits?!

For the past couple of years, I’ve been pondering what I want to do to help her prepare as she nears the milestone of menarche. Over the years I’ve taught her little by little (through casual conversations) about her body, her reproductive organs, how they work, what will happen when she starts to bleed, how babies are made, etc. Being the daughter of a birth junkie has its perks! She knows more about women’s bodies than most girls her age, I’d wager, and certainly more than I ever knew before I reached menarche.

I wrote a bit about my own journey into the world of menstruation and my hopes for my daughters in my post “Red and Powerful” HERE. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted my daughters’ experiences to be more positive than mine was. So a month or two ago I started creating a book for my daughter.

It’s not so much a book about periods or vaginas. It’s a book that I hope will prepare her to be an empowered and courageous young woman with profound respect for her body and the beautiful things her body can do.

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It includes seven rainbow-color-coded sections (coordinated with the seven chakras) with values I hope my daughters will develop. The values may sound familiar to some of you…

  • Integrity
  • Virtue
  • Individual Worth
  • Good Works
  • Choice & Accountability
  • Faith & Knowledge
  • Divine Nature (white) 

With each section, I have given my daughter a…

  • Value and color
  • Symbol
  • Scripture
  • Description/definition of what the value means to me
  • Song/Mantra
  • Positive “I” statement affirmations (printed from this site)
  • Woman from the scriptures who exemplified the value (most of the text taken from Heather’s blog)

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(For those who are familiar with the LDS Young Women Values, in most cases the colors, symbols, scriptures, and descriptions I’ve chosen are different from those used in the Young Women Personal Progress program. I won’t go into all the reasons I did this, but I think this book will help my daughter to become familiar with the values and prime her for the Young Women’s program.)

Interspersed I have also included some poems I wrote about Eve and menstruation. At the end of the book I included a revised version of my “Red and Powerful” essay, diagrams of the menstrual cycle, and a print-out explaining the various menstrual product options so she can start thinking about which type she wants to start with. In addition to the binder/book, I am giving her a c.d. with all of the songs/mantras for each value on it. And I made her a charm bracelet containing charms of each symbol and the coordinating colors.

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My plan is to sit down with my daughter and go through each section of the book together a bit at a time (over the next several months) so we can discuss the topics and so she can ask any questions she may have. I think it will be a special bonding time for us, and by the time we get to the end of the book, my hope is that she will feel confident and prepared to face the coming adolescent milestones with grace and joy. Maybe she’ll still be awkward, embarrassed, and moody. Maybe that’s inevitable? But a mom can hope for the best, right?

If you’d like to do something similar for your daughter(s), I’m happy to share what I put together. Let me know in a comment below, and I’ll email you my file(s) and sources so you can make it your own.

by Robyn

Rites of Passage: Planning a Red Party

September 16, 2013 in Menstruation, Puberty, Rites of passage, Savior, Traditions, Uncategorized, Young Women by Robyn

utah fans

What is a red party?  No, I’m not referring to a tailgate party for Utah fans.  It is a celebration in honor of menarche, or the onset of a young woman’s period.  You can read a little bit more about that in Lani’s post, Red and Powerful.  One of our readers was willing to share with us how she prepared her daughter for coming of age and how they celebrated it together.  She asked that I not share her name in honoring her daughter’s privacy.  – Robyn

“I remember when I started my period.  Luckily, it was during Christmas break.  No embarrassing event at school marked by red thankfully.  But I was still horrified.  I thought I would start when I was 15, like my mother.  But there it was, right before my thirteenth birthday.  I told my mother who reacted so positively.  She gave me a hug and asked me if I wanted to tell my dad or if she could tell him.  I was so distraught I blurted out, “you better not tell dad and I’m not telling him either.”  She helped me navigate the world of pads, tampons, and cramps.  Looking back, I’m grateful I had a mother that I could go to and who was happy for me.  In her own way she helped me embrace something I didn’t understand.

Fast forward many periods later.  My daughter was trying to grow into her body.  I could tell how uncomfortable it felt to her for it to change.  I knew that within the next couple years she would likely begin her period.  I wanted her to embrace this essence of her womanhood and not be horrified by it.  I wanted her to feel how wonderful it is to be a woman.  I ran across blog posts on the subject and determined to have a fancy little red party for her when the day came.  Throughout those few years we talked about periods and how she would recognize it.  I attended her maturation class at school with her.  We talked more.  We even discussed the symbolism of shedding blood, the Atonement, the Savior, and the gift of giving life.  We talked about pads, cramps, and the realities of mensturation.  We made sure she had a stash of supplies. I told her we would have her own red party someday. She was ready to go.

So when the time came, I was grateful that she felt comfortable enough to come to me.  I hugged her like my mother did me.  I was excited for her like my mother was for me.  She didn’t act horrified but not exactly excited either.  I was looking forward to inviting other significant women/girls to her red party. I was ready to plan a fantastic little red party. Only, I had forgotten one important factor, it was her party.  She didn’t want some sort of big celebration or even a medium one.  She wanted it her way without a lot of to do.  I had envisioned decorating the house in red, making a red velvet cake with other decadent red treats and giving her a beautiful red dress all while surrounded by significant women in her life giving her their love, wisdom and support.  As I talked over my plans with her she quickly stopped me, ‘no red dress mom!’  Of course, I should have known that.  She was never a sparkly pink bedazzled kind of girl, of course a red dress and big froofy party would not be her thing.  And most of our family lives far away so when her favorite aunt was visiting we opted for her favorite pizza place and carefully navigated the essential womanly topics related to puberty, sex, and boys.  Instead of a red dress, I found her a red shirt with her favorite sports team. It was the perfect red party because it was perfect for her.”

I’m grateful that this mother would share this experience.  I have four young daughters myself and know that I will soon be trying to help them navigate through the changes of womanhood.  I think what I take away from the story above is that it really is about planning an event that is comfortable to your daughter.  Here are a few more ideas you can suggest to your daughter when planning it together.

Who do you want to invite?  Your daughter should only have people there she feels close and comfortable with discussing this passage. That likely means a smaller list of women in the family or close friendships.

Where do you want to celebrate? At home, at a favorite restaurant, at a park, grandma’s house?  It is good to have privacy if you think she would be embarrassed by the theme of the party.

How do you want to celebrate it? Your event might be small and intimate like in the story above or a larger gathering of women.  It can be informal or formal.  It can be nice to assign a matriarch that she looks up to give a short talk about womanhood offering advice.  Another idea would be for it to be like a mother blessing with each guest bringing a wish and bead for your daughter to be shared at the party.  Lani’s post suggests wearing red to the party and making a quilt or red dress together. You can also present her with a special scrapbook, read poems, and even share scriptures.  Maybe she would prefer a more fun approach with a game like pin the pad on the panties blindfolded.  Even better, make it a mixture of both.  What kinds of things does she like to do?  How can you tie that in?  One of my friends and her daughter enjoy letterboxing so they plan to make a letterbox stop with a special stamp as part of their celebration.

This is just the beginning. Hopefully, her red party is just one of the times in which you discuss this kind of stuff.  The door opens at this rite of passage and should continue to be open as she comes to you with her ups and downs, hopes and dreams, and questions and answers.

I would love to hear how you or someone you know celebrated this rite of passage with their daughter.  Please share in the comments below.

 

 

by Lani

First Blood

August 9, 2013 in Adversity, Atonement, Death, Divine nature, Eve, Fear, Fertility, Lani, Menstruation, Motherhood, Old Testament Women, Pain, Preparation, Puberty, Rites of passage, Savior, Symbolism, Temple, Young Women by Lani

Photo on 2013-04-08 at 20.30For the past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about preparing my oldest daughter for menstruation and puberty. She will be turning ten next month, so I know these milestones are quickly approaching us. This past week I started compiling a book I intend to give her for her birthday in September. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning several nights ago, planning and writing. I can’t wait to share the book with her.

Included in her book will be some poetry. I’d like to share some of those short poems with you. “The Fall” and “Sacrifice” I wrote earlier this week. “Menarche” I wrote tonight. It was inspired, in part, by my visit to the temple today. I was able to see the new endowment film, and (as friends had told me I would) I loved the portrayal of Eve.

Dear First Parents, I honor you. Your courage is awe-inspiring.

 

The Fall
By Lani Axman

She fell from Eden-womb,
A sapling
From whom
All the temples on Earth
Would be built,
Their blueprints
Pulsing through her
Like songs
Waiting to be sung,
Whispered in the language
Of her Mother.

 

Woman in Red, by Dina Argov (Source)

Woman in Red, by Dina Argov (Source)

Menarche
By Lani Axman

When the first blood appeared,
Did you scream,
Fearing that you would surely die,
That the fruit had opened your eyes
Only to close them for good?
Or did a familiar whisper
Call to you,
Embrace you with
Love, made audible:
“Fear not, Eve,
For I bring you tidings of great joy:
The Mother of All Living
Has emerged.”

 

Sacrifice
By Lani Axman

Adam spills blood
On holy altars
Where lambs and doves
Bleed hope of reconciliation
Again and again.
And he waits.

Eve spills blood
From the temple
Of her womb,
Where life and death
Mingle in sacrifice
Again and again.
And she waits.

"Empty Nest," by Bethany DuVall (Source)

“Empty Nest,” by Bethany DuVall (Source)

by Lani

Maria’s Journey

August 5, 2013 in Angels, Birth Stories, Fear, home birth, hospital birth, Lani, Midwives, Miracles, Motherhood, Pain, Personal Revelation, Pregnancy, Young Women by Lani

Maria.2010At last month’s TGOGL Party in Utah, I had the privilege of meeting so many beautiful souls. One of these souls was Maria Farley. When I met her and heard her talking about her sacred feelings about birth, I felt like we’d always been friends. Maybe we have? Today I’m sharing my interview with Maria about her beautiful birth experiences. -Lani

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am part of a blended family which makes me the mother of 5 amazing children and 3 wonderful step children, 6 of which are married.  I am the grandmother of 2 granddaughters and am anticipating 3 additional grandchildren who will arrive sometime in Sept, Nov and Dec/Jan of this year.  I currently work full time outside the home, but I treasure my time at home the most with my husband Ron and our Sunday evening gatherings with family that can come each week.

When was your first baby born? What was the birthing climate like in your community? 

Sept 1987.Maria preg w.KiraMy first baby was born December 18, 1987. I knew very few women who had or were having children in my immediate community.  I grew up where birthing in a hospital was the standard.  My mother had 8 children laboring as long as she possibly could at home before going to the hospital to deliver. Everyone I knew at home in Utah had their children at the hospital with a doctor in attendance.

While in San Diego, I made friends with two women, Tracy and Susan, who introduced me to the idea of home birthing.  I did a lot of reading and research and discovered that there was quite a community of women who used midwives and birthed their children at home. We gathered together in my midwife Abby’s home once a month with other mothers and expectant mothers to talk about our desires and fears and hear of each other’s birth stories.  This became the supportive community I focused on as I prepared to be a mother.

Who were your birthing mentors? Were there women in your life who you admired or respected who empowered you as a first-time mom?

The three women mentioned above had a tremendous influence on me and truly helped me feel empowered to trust in my instincts and follow the promptings of the Spirit as I became a mother.

The culture that Abby fostered in her gatherings gave me multiple examples of women from all walks of life in varied circumstances who I felt great support from.  They had confidence in their choices and I saw how they nurtured, carried, nursed and balanced other children while they had these new little babies.

Tracy was a close neighbor who had a baby at home, close to the same time as me, and we helped each other as we moved into this new territory together.

Susan had tremendous faith, and I could talk to her on the phone for a few minutes and feel loved and encouraged as soon as I heard her voice.  She had a way of making you feel valued and encouraged, like you could accomplish anything after you talked to her.

My own mother helped me develop a foundation in the gospel of Jesus Christ and this was a profound undercurrent in my preparation to becoming a mother as well.

Were your births spiritual experiences? How so?

July 14.1996.Sara Louise BirthYes!  Very much so!  With my first birth, Kira, I felt angels around us as I labored.  When she came, still blue and Abby handed her to me and said to both Jim and I, “talk her in” we became very aware of how thin the veil between life and death was.  As Abby worked to clear her airways and stimulated her feet, we talked to her and told her how much we wanted her to be with us and how much we loved her already.  We could feel her spirit enter back into her little body as she pink-ed up and began to breathe.  She never cried.  It was one week before Christmas and I felt very connected to Mary at the time of Christ’s birth.

At my second birth, Danielle, I began to understand how each child that came to the earth for us to raise were really not ours, but were on loan from Heavenly Father and that they came with their own strengths and personalities from a full pre-mortal life.

With Jessica, I felt the guarding power of my dad who passed away in October the year before she was born. His name was Don and she was born at dawn, so we gave her the middle name Dawn in honor of him.

July 14.1996.Sara.MariaWith Lucas I learned to trust in the Lord’s timing.  I learned that no matter how much we think we know and can do from past experience that in birth there is always a moment, sometimes very long moments, where you have to trust in the Lord and lean on his strength to deliver and raise a child.

With Sara I learned about the Atonement and the unwavering, unconditional love that my Savior has for me.  That negative feelings and struggles and traumatic, hard births can instantly be swallowed up in the love the Savior has for me and my children.  That joy and peace are real and available to us as soon as we ask for it.

Have you attended any births as a support person? How was that for you?

I have now attended two births as a support person.  The first was for one of Susan’s children in Jan 1996.  It was a water birth in her home, with her husband and I attending, and one older daughter looking on.  It was amazing!  I had given birth to 4 children at home by this time.  It was the first water birth (and any birth) I had seen that wasn’t my own.  I was awed at her power and strength and felt so privileged to be there in such a sacred and intimate space with them.

The second was just this year in June for my second grand-daughter.  My stepdaughter, Heather, was estranged from her own mother at this time, and she asked me to attend her (like a doula would).  She was being cared for by a midwife in a hospital. This was a hard labor and birth for me to attend. I didn’t know how much she really trusted my advice, and she had a strong sense that staying in bed was the only way to be safe during labor.  She had great fears about the well-being of the baby and wanted to be monitored and checked for progress frequently. I wanted to help her by giving ways she could move around and positions that could make it more comfortable for her.

Nothing I tried to help her was effective. This led to an epidural and apologies to me. I quickly realized that she needed to be told frequently that birthing was her own and the baby’s work, and that she owed no one an apology, especially me, that she was doing an amazing job and this birth journey was hers however it happened, that she shouldn’t give up, that this would still be a beautiful empowering birth.

I also saw that I needed to help her husband be more involved in her care and be attentive to her and encourage him. In the end, after 8 more hours of labor in the hospital, sweet Rowan Grey was born without any additional interventions.  As little Rowan Grey laid on her skin to skin, we reviewed what happened and how things went. We began to focus on all the positive things that had happened, and just how amazing it is to bring this daughter of God into the world and be her mother.

I think that this was the beginning of an understanding for me of how important it is for women who are birthing to feel confidence in themselves and in God in the birthing process.  It also confirmed to me the value of gaining knowledge about birth through reading and hearing many other positive stories.  The most important preparation for a new father and mother is the preparation of the heart and mind to trust God; to trust our body’s ability to birth.  To have confidence in our ability to learn what we can and then be guided by divine inspiration in our choices. To learn to surrender to the powerful energy called birth and trust that we will come out better and stronger, much like precious metal in the refiner’s fire.

Dec.8.1991.Jessica Dawn Birth0001How have your positive views about birth impacted your children’s views about birth?

I think that they see birth as a natural process. I believe this is a key element in empowering them in their own births.  That it isn’t something that happens to you but, something you are a part of.  They have seen birth first-hand at a very young age.  They have heard me scream and moan and felt the intensity (pain) and power of birth. They have also seen the joy and intensity (pleasure) and sacredness of birth as well. No matter how they choose to birth, they know my only expectation is that they are educated about their choices and that they do in fact have choices.  They know that I don’t hold any judgments for how their birth stories play out.  They know that there is always strength to be gained or lessons to be learned from their experiences.

July 14.1996.Meeting Sara

What do you think is the best way mothers can strengthen their daughters and friends as they prepare for birth?

Share your stories. Tell your children their own birth stories.  Share the beautiful parts and the scary parts.  Share how you overcame the scary things – talk about your thoughts and feelings in connection with preparing and how things turned out in the end.

If there were things about the birth you didn’t like, explore together how you would have liked it to be different.  Be open to recognizing what things you could have done differently to be more prepared the next time or for other women and also recognizing what expectations you had to let go of. I think it’s good to share positive stories.  I don’t think it’s helpful to share “horror stories,” but when friends ask, and you feel prompted to share more difficult stories, share them.  They need to know the hard parts about birth too.

Most importantly, be a safe place where there are no judgments or comparisons and enjoy each birth story for its uniqueness.  Just as each women and each baby is unique.  Believe in each other, encourage each other, praise each other in all things, not just about mothering and birth.  Celebrate being a woman with them and love the varied unique talents and body shapes we come in. Knowledge is power and coupled with faith the journey of birth and motherhood can truly be a beautiful transformation.

by Lani

VBT #7: Modern Pioneer Mom’s Book Review

April 29, 2013 in Birth Stories, Book, Book reviews, Fear, Gratitude, hospital birth, Lani, Motherhood, Obstetricians, Preparation, Traumatic Birth, Virtual Book Tour, Young Women by Lani

Today’s Virtual Book Tour stop is by Jennifer at Modern Pioneer Mom. Here’s an excerpt:

Honestly, I was saddened as I’ve looked back on photos of me in the hospital holding my babies, because there were very few of me genuinely smiling.  In a couple of them, I was actually frowning.  It made me sad to look at them, because I loved my babies SO much & was so very excited to have them in my arms, but the photos didn’t show it, because I was miserable from everything that happened.  Though I was happy to have my babies here, my actual birthing experiences were scary, stressful, full of medical intervention, and definitely not empowering.  No one taught me anything other than to do what I was instructed to do.

I loved being pregnant, but I was scared to death of going into labor & giving birth.  Even after actually doing it, I was still scared to go through it again.  I experienced quite a bit of trauma, especially with my first baby.  Unfortunately, I let the nurses take my babies out of my room A LOT, just so that I could sleep and de-stress.  Now I know that I could have (and should have) had a very… different… experience…I’m so grateful to know what I know now, so that I can teach my daughters (and share this book with them) so they can have that ‘very different experience’.

I’ve read many many many accounts of women on blogs (& in books like this one), who LOVED their birthing experience and were empowered through the whole process of labor & delivery.  I’ve seen endless photos of hundreds of women who had huge smiles on their faces portraying the most authentic joy possible, as they hold their beautiful new born babies.  I was not empowered.  But I should have been.  I’ve learned more about pregnancy & birth in the past 2 years than I learned in the prior 17 years of being a mother.

Smelling babyI also love that Jennifer thinks our book smells like a newborn baby! 🙂

Click HERE to read her full post!

And here are the links to the previous posts from this year’s book tour in case you missed some of them:

  1. Mother At Heart
  2. I Love Junk Mail
  3. Better Birth Doula
  4. Cherishing Hopes and Dreams
  5. Mamas and Babies
  6. Bri’s Thoughts
  7. Modern Pioneer Mom
by Robyn

Neither Hair Nor There

February 22, 2013 in Fertility, Menstruation, Puberty, Robyn, Uncategorized, Young Women by Robyn

DSC00103

 

I go in cycles with loving and hating my hair.  A year and a half ago I even blogged about throwing out my straightener and traditional shampoo and re-embracing my curly hair.  It may not seem like a big deal to others. But for me I felt like I was embracing the beauty that God gave me instead of trying to make it over.

One of the many aspects of pregnancy that I enjoy is that my hair gets thicker and healthier.  It is wonderful that for at least nine months my hair is fantastic.  I don’t look forward to losing my hair postpartum but I came to realize that this too is symbolic.  The use of hair in the scriptures can mean many different things but the “overarching meaning of hair in the scriptures . . . is that of life” (The Lost Language of Symbolism, 41).  After pondering this meaning I realized that maybe I should embrace this transition a little more rather than dread it.  On a biological level the thickening and then losing of our hair is a result of a shift in hormones.  On a spiritual level it is symbolic of the life-giving transition of our bodies.

In pondering this symbolism it appears not an accident that upon experiencing puberty our bodies begin to grow more hair, symbolizing the transition that our bodies make to prepare to give life.  I have to be honest and say that I really did not like the changes my body was making as an awkward adolescent.  I struggled to understand it.  What point is there to pubic hair for heavens’ sake?

So forgive me but I looked into that. I guess since I am a childbirth educator I have become more comfortable discussing such *ahem* tender subjects. From a medical standpoint the purpose of our pubic hair is to block bacteria from entering the vagina, protect from friction (during intercourse and in general), provide comfort and warmth, provide a home for pheromones to reside (for more on why pheromones are important read this post from Birth Faith), and even protect us from STDs*.  Believe it or not but in years past lush pubic hair was considered a sign of significant and abundant health, a lack thereof a sign of poor health and disease.  Syphilis was a common STD, the treatment for which caused pubic hair to fall out.  This brought to style the merkin, a pubic hair wig (think toupee for the southern regions).  No, I’m not kidding.

For a time our mothers and grandmothers were required to be shaved before giving birth.  This became the norm without any real research to back it up.  The reasoning was that there would be less infection when in fact the opposite was true.  Shaving before birth increased the risk of infection.  When research confirmed this, the practice slowly died out.

It seems that the style today is that less is more as it pertains to our legs, armpits and even our yoni**.  The Brazilian is becoming more and more popular particularly among the younger generation.  I’m not trying to make a statement on how you should wear the hair on your head or even down there but I do find it interesting the trends and fads that have found their ways into women’s beauty regimens.  But isn’t it our additional hair that separates us from being girls?  Some have commented that the trend for less is influenced by the increased access to pornography and its emphasis on hairless objectified bodies.  Some wonder if it has carried over from child porn.  Whether that is true or not, I’m not sure, but what I do feel is important here is to not loathe our matured life-giving bodies but to embrace them and celebrate them.

As I look at my daughters I feel a deep responsibility to teach them to respect and revere their God-given bodies.  I want them to feel their body is a sacred gift to be honored through virtue not revered as ugly and flawed and valued only as a sexual object that has been made-over.  Was not the embodiment of woman the crowing event of the Creation?  Gordon B. Hinckley reminded us,

Woman is God’s supreme creation. Only after the earth had been formed, after the day had been separated from the night, after the waters had been divided from the land, after vegetation and animal life had been created, and after man had been placed on the earth, was woman created; and only then was the work pronounced complete and good.

Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is none more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so, who honors and respects her body as a thing sacred and divine, who cultivates her mind and constantly enlarges the horizon of her understanding, who nurtures her spirit with everlasting truth.” (“Our Responsibility to Our Young Women,” Ensign, Sept. 1988, 11.)

We do so many things to alter our image.  And I have to admit, as I find more and more gray hairs on my head I’m tempted to do something about it.  However, I find myself pondering that “white or gray hair was most often a symbol of aging, wisdom, maturity, and honor***”  (The Lost Language of Symbolism, 42).  And so every time I see a woman with her white or silver hair, I don’t think “old” anymore, I think of wisdom, maturity and nobility.  How beautiful to age with such honor and grace.  I want to be clear that I’m not criticizing anyone for changing their appearance.  I like a little variety too.  I just think it is good to keep things in the proper perspective.  I like to keep in mind what Jeffrey R. Holland said,

In terms of preoccupation with self and a fixation on the physical, this is more than social insanity; it is spiritually destructive, and it accounts for much of the unhappiness women, including young women, face in the modern world. And if adults are preoccupied with appearance—tucking and nipping and implanting and remodeling everything that can be remodeled—those pressures and anxieties will certainly seep through to children. At some point the problem becomes what the Book of Mormon called “vain imaginations.”  And in secular society both vanity and imagination run wild. One would truly need a great and spacious makeup kit to compete with beauty as portrayed in media all around us. Yet at the end of the day there would still be those “in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers” as Lehi saw,  because however much one tries in the world of glamour and fashion, it will never be glamorous enough. (“To Our Young Women,” Ensign, November 2005)

I much prefer this standard of beauty,

A woman not of our faith once wrote something to the effect that in her years of working with beautiful women she had seen several things they all had in common, and not one of them had anything to do with sizes and shapes. She said the loveliest women she had known had a glow of health, a warm personality, a love of learning, stability of character, and integrity. If we may add the sweet and gentle Spirit of the Lord carried by such a woman, then this describes the loveliness of women in any age or time, every element of which is emphasized in and attainable through the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Jeffrey R. Holland, “To Our Young Women,” Ensign, November 2005)

How do we teach our daughters to embrace their changing bodies? Lani wrote a fantastic post, “Red and Powerful,” about the symbolism of menstruation and celebrating with our daughters this change.  I look forward to taking part in celebrating this change with my daughters.  The most significant way to pass on a healthy attitude for our bodies comes by example.  If we are constantly preoccupied with our appearance, our daughters will be too.  If we speak well of our bodies we will feed our daughters with positive thoughts about their bodies too.  I hope you will share some of your ideas here too.  I know there is vast knowledge out there among you mothers and I want to learn.

In conclusion, I just wanted to express my love for the women who have surrounded me, gently showing me how wonderful it is to be a woman. One of which is my beautiful silver-haired mother.  I love you Mom, you exemplify this definition.

3 generations 1

Three generations: with my mother and grandmother.

 

*“Some clinicians are finding that freshly shaved pubic areas and genitals are also more vulnerable to herpes infections due to the microscopic wounds being exposed to virus carried by mouth or genitals. It follows that there may be vulnerability to spread of other [sexually transmitted infections] as well.”

**”Yoni (Sanskrit: योनि yoni) is the Sanskrit word for the vagina.[1] Its counterpart is the lingam, interpreted by some as the phallus. It is also the divine passage, womb or sacred temple (cf. lila). The word covers a range of meanings, including: place of birth, source, origin, spring, fountain, place of rest, repository, receptacle, seat, abode, home, lair, nest, stable.” (wikipedia)

***see Leviticus 19:32); Deut. 32:25; Proverbs 20:29

 

by Robyn

The Thirteenth Apostle: Susa Young Gates

January 14, 2013 in Adversity, Birth Stories, Church History, Family History, LDS History, Motherhood, Robyn, Uncategorized, Women's Rights, Young Women by Robyn

Keep busy in the face of discouragement

-Susa Young Gates

I couldn’t resist writing a little about Susa Young Gates.  Susa was the 41st child born to Brigham Young, daughter to Lucy Bigelow Young.  She was mother to thirteen children, only four of whom lived to adulthood.  She was a gifted stenographer, writer, poet, and composer.  With her second husband she served a mission in the Sandwich Islands.  She was also active in the women’s movement.  Susa served on the General Relief Society and General Young Women’s boards.  Susa was editor of the Young Women’s Journal. She created manuals for geneology and personally catalogued over 1600 family names while she headed up the Church Geneology Department. She wrote fiction, short stories, novels, and biographies (audio recording, Poets of the Restoration).  And seriously, that is not all, there’s more, but I wanted to keep this post brief.

In her own words she says, “I was jokingly referred to by one of the Church authorities as the Thirteenth Apostle.  He told me that if he could just put breeches on me, he would put me in the quorum.”  She was the only woman of her time to have an office at the church office building.  Susa’s influence truly was and is far reaching.  After doing a little research on her I found myself asking, “what did she not do?”   I found the telling of her birth amusing and thought it would be fun to share it here:

The story of Susa’s birth was told several times, each time differently.  Aunt Zina was midwife on March 18, 1856, the year of the Mormon Reformation.  The authorized version is that when Zina informed Lucy that the baby was a girl, Lucy exclaimed “with great force, if not elegance, ‘Shucks!’ ‘No,’ said Zina, it isn’t all shucks, it’s wheat, and full weight too!”  With this story Susa wrote elsewhere, “you have a thumbnail sketch of my life ever since.  Someone always either inside of me or outside of me , is usually saying ‘shucks’ after my hurried entrance most anywhere.  And I am usually trying to convince my other self and the rest of the folks that ‘it’s all wheat and full weight at that.’  Sometimes I don’t care and let it go at ‘shucks.’ (Sister Saints, Burgess-Olsen, 64

It is said that she was a gifted speaker.  In fact Spencer W. Kimball was inspired by her words as young man,

My greatest adventure, however, was the reading of the HolyBible. From infancy I had enjoyed the simplified and illustrated Bible stories, but the original Bible seemed so interminable in length, so difficult to understand, that I avoided it until a challenge came to me from Sister Susa Young Gates. She was the speaker at the MIA meeting of stake conference and gave a discourse on the value of reading the Bible. In conclusion she asked for a showing of hands of all who had read it through. The hands that were raised out of that large congregation were so few and so timid! Some of them tried to explain by saying, “We haven’t read it through but we have studied many parts of it.”

I was shocked into an unalterable determination to read that great book. As soon as I reached home after the meeting I began with the first verse of Genesis and continued faithfully every day. Most of the reading was done in my attic bedroom that I occupied alone. I burned considerable midnight oil and read long hours when I was thought to be asleep.

Approximately a year later I reached the last verses in Revelation:

“He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

What a satisfaction it was to me to realize I had read the Bible through from beginning to end! What exultation of spirit! And what joy in the overall picture I had received of its contents!

For more than half of a century now I have continued to be grateful to Sister Gates for the inspiration that provoked me to read the Holy Bible my first time (Friend, November 1978).

I would have to say that Susa Young Gates was ‘all wheat and full weight at that!’  She is an inspiring woman and I think what touches me most is knowing that she didn’t let herself be weighed down by the hard things in life.  She lived her mantra, ““keep busy in the face of discouragement.”