Othering

othering

ˈʌðə/

verb

gerund or present participle: othering

  1. view or treat (a person or group of people) as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself.
  2. “a critique of the ways in which the elderly are othered by society”

 

Like many I am so raw today. There is no doubt our work is of paramount importance in light of the tragedy unfolding before us in Manchester. Love is the only remedy for this. I believe bringing in the next generation with a greater capacity for love is our solution and it drives my work. Yet there is so much hatred. The agenda of terrorism is met. We are running around bumping heads – I had to block someone’s social media hatred already and it’s only midday. I’m yet to travel home on a plane as a Muslim – this is always interesting – today I have learnt to expect scrutiny.

 

I had already decided to write this post and it seems deeper and more tangible with the emotions of today.

 

In the last few years I have noticed a trend amongst the wider world but specifically amongst the birthkeeper’s of hating on each other. I see it in organisations. I see it in competitive practices. I see it in judgement of each other’s difference especially when it comes to a woman’s ability to earn a living. I see it in racism and othering. I see it in bitching.  I see it in separation all the time. Where does it come from? What on earth is happening? It is exhausting me!

 

Why shouldn’t we all do things differently and offer different services and pricing structures and flavours? Different accents, backgrounds, languages, skin, religions and ways of viewing the world. Often women want to look at their “mother” when they are birthing – why shouldn’t they have the opportunity to do this? Women are all individual – it would make sense that their birth servants were too.

 

Is this something we have inherited from our patriarchal systems? Women are pitted against women always with only one acceptable way at a time. Our mothers were all told in the 60’s and 70’s you must have a non-existent arse or you are hideous – our daughters are told you must have a huge one or you are a monster. Everyone over 35 should be induced at 40 weeks. Red hair is evil and on and on and on. There is never acceptance of difference in that culture. We must not join in.  There is no self-appointed queen of the doulas/yoga teachers/educators/midwives.  There is no right or wrong. We have to go to Rumi’s field and all hang out. I am forever struck by the irony of the love of Rumi these days whilst the othering of Muslims grows.

 

We must really listen and try to understand. Especially not undermining and judging. I love to see choice. I love diversity. I am a Londoner – we thrive on a Columbian breakfast, Trini lunch and Pakistani supper. It’s all we know. Trust me life is better with flavour.

 

Perhaps I live a blessed, sheltered life – maybe I’m a Pollyanna but I have come up in this world of birth and women and mothers being taught it is ALL about love and acceptance. That love is the only medicine. The only way. The way you power yourself through the sleepless nights of squeezing hips at birth, sore nipples, patriarchal medical models of care, traumatised women, low income and so on. We have so much to contend with already. I know personally many birthkeepers with Chronic Fatigue, ME, kidney problems, depression and so much more. Let’s shorten that list by loving each other more.

 

Let’s also stop taking away from the intelligence and decision making abilities of women. In this judgement are we assuming women are not smart enough to see, to read, to make choices – we need to stop mirroring the system we are trying to improve and begin mirroring the original system we still have access to in indigenous grassroots midwifery. Women supporting women with love. There is no other way.

 

As I finish my thoughts I challenge you to seek out at least one woman this week you have othered and wish her well. Send her love. Support her. Help her. Love is the only way.

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burkinis or bikinis?

I was asked for my thoughts on the burkini debate and got on a roll – i thought it might be useful to share it

 

“…..yes….we have a problem don’t we! being forced to strip by the religious police of france is a big statement as to where europe (and much of the western world) is going with this demonisation of muslims that is going on

 

for me i am reminded of the women who had their heads shaved for daring to love a nazi soldier…..zaynab and her caravan of women and children having their clothes torn from them as they were walked from iraq to damascus in the sun ….mary magdelene being marketed as a prostitute by the male version of christianity….the midwives and witches being called whores because they could survive without men and very often did ….i think on the whole muslim women are searching for peace and love and God and trying hard to be charitable with their acts and their goods for the sake of Her and that is why they are being demonised in that same vein…

 

for me a woman should always have choice and indeed many of the major religions (including the religion of secularism) have this at their core so why we should now be saying you should dress any kind of certain way – even in the quran it tells us over and again there is no compulsion in religion – covering is a choice that some make and some do not….i think we should all be free to dance along the beach in our thong or swish along it in our burka as long as that is our choice..the debate should come in about what might be better for us!

 

do they really believe that banning a certain way of dressing is going to decrease terror attacks? how many of these terror attacks are actually carried out by women? i’m betting under 1% – as my dear mentor mama tells me all the time we need to start saying male-based violence for ALL of these things….i might suggest that this sort behaviour does little but fan the flames…

 

i might add that i’m equally appalled at religious police in other countries that force women to cover up and demonise those that don’t – this goes both ways for me

 

can we also imagine for a moment if a policeman in iran for example came down on a nun like this and made her remove her habit?! i believe such an act would start a war…that nun is wearing that outfit for the very same reason that this woman had her burkini on because they want to live the tradition of mary (peace be upon her) – what on earth is wrong with that?!

 

we need muslims women’s voices on this issue of course but i am so buoyed by voices of those women that are from other walks of life – it’s a sign to me of how women are coming together to support and grow and protect one another and it is truly a beautiful thing to behold

 

for me this is an issue for all women. if we ignore this we go back to the days of men having ultimate control of women. we still have so far to go – let us not step backwards at this point in the worlds history…”

 

This debate for me is indicative of the stories i face daily with the women that i work with of being forced under duress and “law” to carry out humiliating tasks they would never choose that damage the fabric of their life forever.

 

Birthing with Sisters

Birthing with sisters

 

“When someone else speaks of a similar experience, it can evoke the memory and bring back the feelings, which restores the experience. Only if we speak from personal experience does this happen. This is why we need words for women‘s mysteries, which, like everything else that is of women, seems to require that one woman at a time birth what she knows. We serve as midwives to each other‘s consciousness“.

Jean Shinoda Bolen  

“Crossing to Avalon”

 

On a quite afternoon, as Scotland’s weather seems to show it’s magic with mist and rain. We were drinking tea in Nicola’s kitchen and talking about womanhood, sisterhood, birthing and life.

 

Me: Nicola, tell me, about your doula journey, how did you get to this point where you are now? How did you become a doula? I know you may have talked a hundred times about it, but maybe some new angle…

Nicola: Well It‘s really good to think about it every time. I have a very fortunate set of circumstances. I came to have my children in this community where everybody seems to have babies at the same age as me. My sister was there with me and had already started her family, and my family. Nobody was really bothered, they had their babies easily. I was really fortunate, because I had never thought how frightening it could be.

Me: So you were not damaged?

Nicola: Yes, I think I wasn’t  (laughing). I was protected. All the bad things that I was told, It just didn’t sink in. I don’t know why, maybe that’s the way I am. I never expect things to go wrong. I am upset with people when things go wrong, but I get more upset about the brutality of bad treatment. When the midwife comes sometimes it is just the government health program, it’s not midwifery. It becomes a tick box exercise, like  OK “I had you in the hospital”, “Ok, I am filling out my notes”, “Ok, I am going”. No words like “Hurray, you have a baby, it’s great” or “how you guys doing?”, “how do you feel about it”.

Me: Working through all these years, do you think this attitude changes?

Nicola: I think they don’t have time and resources to practise true holistic midwifery. I think it is getting worse, because they are under more pressure now. When I had my first baby twenty years ago and I had named midwife, I really connected with her. I will never forget her. She caught my baby and  I was told to go to the postnatal ward at 1 o’clock in the morning, and my husband is going home. I was in my early twenties. She obviously saw my face and she told me “I am going to take you there”. She took me upstairs and she sat at my bed for about 2 hours drinking tea with me. This is extraordinary in our health service. This is never happening in our local hospital today. No midwife is coming and sitting with you. It’s just not going to happen, because they are so overstretched. It would be like disappearing from their job for two hours.

Me: This is the thing, that amazes me all the time, how birth is related to initiation. This is such an intense experience and you are very vulnerable at that moment. If you get stuck in there, it can be so damaging and painful, and you will have to walk a long way to heal these wounds. It seems like a lot of women are carrying birth traumas in our time.

Nicola: It’s shedding. You have to shed. My last daughter is in puberty and she is in this hormonal “I am angry”, “I am crying”, “I don’t know what’s wrong”.  I gave her a cuddle and said “we are really lucky that we have this shedding, that you can shake all the things that you have to shake off to become a woman”. We have this before every cycle. In our bodies we have to shake off, to prepare for a possible new baby. It’s  happening in the menopause, in your wise age. A lot of women are really angry having premenstrual stress, or they don’t know why they are so angry when they are pregnant. Its very important to go through it, not to be medicated, to have somebody with you who knows about this. It’s sad, that most people don’t have that.  

Me: I think we are coming to this question, how would you explain, what you do as a doula?

Nicola: I had to think for a long time about this. I decided, that a doula should be the ultimate faith bearer. She always believes everything will be ok – in an almost worshipping way. Even if something happens, it’s still going to be ok. You believe, that woman will walk through whatever she will have to walk through. It can be hard, but eventually it will be all right. You have to be the person with your feet on the ground. You have to give them love. You have to really give them love.

Me: It seems, that doula work is so related to the shamanistic way. You go through something, that seems like chaos. The shaman tells you, that’s the principle of life, that’s how it works. Suddenly everything clears out. It’s like Jung would say, in every chaos, there is a cosmos.

Nicola: I think, that midwives were shamans. You still find midwives around the world creating ritual and ceremonies. I was talking to one Native American guy, who used to be in a difficult place, but now he is helping the young people when they are in the same situation as he was. He is using traditional ceremonies and rituals. When I asked him what he does for a living, his answer was: “I am healing the next seven generations and the previous seven generations”. He is saying, that the good birth, and a good birhkeeper is also doing the same thing. If you have a good birth, you are healing seven generations back and seven generations in front. So the good birth keepers are shamans, and these are authentic ones.

Me: It reminds me that when I was pregnant, everybody was expecting that I will give birth the same way as my mum and grandmother did. It’s such a powerful feeling, when you go the different way, when you have the opportunity to experience, to relate to these powerful events in a different way. It’s something like healing in your mother line and you can pass something different to your daughter.  

Nicola: Oh yes, it’s such a powerful healing, that you can change that pattern, you can break it, you can almost break the spell. I had a talk with one woman. She was expecting her second baby. Her first baby was stuck in some way, when she was pushing. It was the same when her mum was giving birth, and her grandmother too. So yes, it might be something physiological, but it might also be some psychological pattern. She has to think about it and discuss it with her daughter. To work something out.

Me: Do you see any changes in relation to birth in the women that you are helping?

Nicola: No…Well it’s more popular now. They are and will always be women, who are giving birth. There are more people, who realise that the national health service is broken and that there is a lot of things missing, and there is some danger in that struggling system. I had one woman, and she was so badly mismanaged, from the medical point of view, they created so much more risk for her, she may have been better birthing in her room on her own.

Sometimes I think, that you have to hit the wall, to jump back. Something like that is happening in our hospitals.

Me: In my country Lithuania, we saw, how dads came to the birthing room. Now it seems normal and is encouraged even by staff. But doulas are something new and a lot of rejection is going on. I hear a question – why do you need other person? If you have the father at the birth.

Nicola: Women were having other woman come and be around them when they had babies. When they started to go to the hospital eventually somebody said, you can’t bring your mother anymore, because they are getting in the way. So it’s natural for women to be with other women during birth.

I have seen much research, that showed, when a doula is present, the father is more relaxed and active during birth.

It’s really important to remember the history, how fathers get into birthing room. We campaigned  for men to come to the birthing room to protect their woman, because they were so violated and brutalized. Now this is the cultural interpretation, that you are there as a man, and this is bonding, watching your child being born and supporting your woman. But it’s not how it started. In hospital everybody is listening all the time to see if something will go wrong – they listen to the babies heart beats, they check her blood pressure, everything around is geared for something going wrong. Usually when something goes wrong or risky, dad will listen to midwife, of course. The subtext is that you have to listen, otherwise your wife and baby will be in danger. So they always act to keep their child and mother alive and well. This is natural and very healthy. For dad to go what his wife would say and not what implied risk from health care provider would be radical.. So that’s why doula should be there in the first place. She is someone different, saying like me, everything will be all right. You have choice – this is your decision.

Me: I think women bring different things to birth. It brings a lot of things in our life too. I want to ask you about sisterhood. I have this impression that more and more women are gathering, sharing their experiences, talking and appreciating their womanhood. How do you see those things?,

Nicola: Well, I think this is a natural part of society and the problem is, that we destroyed our society. We’ve gone from the village to the town, to the city and we lost the community. This is an unnatural way and a lot of problems come from there, like the epidemic we have of depressed women, who are basically drug addicts with prozac and the like. I saw my mum taking everything from the doctor, pharmacy and everything she could get her hands on to deal with her difficult unsupported  situation. What we do with our older ladies here? We treat them so badly and make them so lonely that we have another epidemic of mentally ill older women and then we put them in the care home. Its awful. I need these women – my children need these women – this should be the easiest and most appreciated stage of our life. The natural and healing way for women is to go together.

Me: I am reading this extraordinary book about “Dreaming sisters” by Diane Bell where she studies Aboriginal women’s lives from a woman’s perspective. A women has this big house, where old women, widows, lonely women live there. The wise women are in charge. You can go there, just to sit with other women, to spend time, to get help, support, to live there. They have their rituals, celebrations. It made me feel, that this is the way how women become strong and secure. You have all the time this sisters, where you can find help, support and peace.

Nicola: Yes, it’s so true. That’s natural human behaviour. This is Fitra, the Arabic word and it’s so true. Fitra is our inner nature or our code that we are born with. Like a baby knows where to find a breast.  You feel this in your body. You respond to those kind of things, because that’s how we are supposed to live.

Me: There was a lot of devaluation in women’s relationship. It felt like it’s ok to be in the family and the relationship are important and respected there. But when women go out with their friends, society sees it like shallow time – gossiping, shopping and pink fluffy stuff.

Nicola: Yes, I think we really have to stand up for that and say “what’s wrong with women getting together?”. We have to be that person that stand’s up and says “grey hair is beautiful, old age is not ugly, that’s the sign that I went too far”. Every other culture in the world appreciates it as wisdom, beauty, knowledge. You have to be the renegade. One of my teacher says, that you can tell the renegade by the arrows in his back. I am looking forward to being a grandmother and having grandchildren, everybody is running away from this among my peers. But I am getting shot on that, because it’s not an easily understandable thing in our culture right now. So we need more people standing up and saying “shoot me down, I don’t care, but I believe…”

Me: I’ve noticed, that men started to appreciate those women gatherings too.

Nicola: Definitely. It’s really good for a man to have a strong woman with a good circle of friends. This is the problem with the common structure, if we don’t have it, we put everything on the men – they have to be the mum, the aunty, friend, lover, husband and so on. It’s impossible for one man to carry all these roles.

Me: I think womens circles are very important when you have your baby. Those Australian aborigines can’t understand how woman in our society with a little baby is living alone in those flats-cages and sometimes spends all day long alone.

Nicola: Yes, and I think it breaks a lot of them.

Me: I want to ask you about postnatal support. It seems, that a lot of things are happening to prepare women for birth, but the postnatal period seems a little bit more left out. What do you think?

Nicola: I think postnatal support should be just as important. We have to undo a lot of miseducation, for example about breastfeeding, it used to be understood that the bottle is safer, easier. We have to get the basics. We have to talk more about the rest period after birth. We have to spread the news, to talk, that this is going to be better for you, you will be happier, you will have calmer baby, you all will get together as a family.

Me: In old cultures they have this ceremony after birth. In Lithuania the women went to sauna, and after that it was the celebration to welcome her to the society. How do you think, what’s the meaning of that?

Nicola: It’s very important to honour your transitions as human beings. We do really badly in this area. We are not honouring toddler’s, teenagers, we do nothing for menopausal women, we do very little for parents. We have some baby showers but little of any depth.

Me: But sometimes it seems like more for present, then for spirit.

Nicola: Exactly, empty. I think it is really important for women, after doing such a big job, to be acknowledged, to celebrate this with close ones, to hear, that “we are here for you”, “you are fantastic”, “here is food”, “we are here to help you”, listening to her grandmothers stories with their babies is really important, this is giving everything that they need.

Me: What do you think the most important thing for taking care of women postnatal?

Nicola: I like to cook. Because I believe, that with cooking you can really nourish people.

Me: Yes, one of the most vivid memories most people have are their mums cooking, all these tastes, smells, warmth. It nourishes not only your body, but the soul too.

Nicola: Yes, the food is really important. It makes a good environment to hang out, to talk. This is very natural way.

Me: I’ve noticed, when you are doing some kinds of work like cooking, grass picking, sewing, the talk goes very smoothly and very deep. It’s like healing.

Nicola: This is relative, I think, to different brain activity. It’s like meditation, knitting and something like that. You busy your hands and it’s related to your brain. We need that more.

So lot’s of talking.  The feedback that I get, the good doula does a lot of listening. I always say to doulas, that you have to go in like the best mother that she could have. So you are not judgmental, you are encouraging her. Of course you can be firm if you feel that. But loving and caring is the most important thing. “Go take the bath, I will be with the baby”, “I will wash your hair”, “I will make soup for you”…

​Me: It’s so good to listen to that.

Nicola: Yes, I know. I would like to have that. We all need that and we all should have that.

​Me: What are the happiest moments for you as a doula?

Nicola: Well …seeing parents happy in their bed with a baby, having had the birth that they wanted, appreciating the impact that made on their lives. That’s the happiest moments. It’s such a good start. My best moments are after VBAC birth. When a woman had a caesarean the first time, and she is told that her body doesn’t work properly, you are broken, you are useless. When you love her, prepare her, give hope and trust her and being there, when she gives birth vaginally and saying “I am not broken at all, I can give birth” This is so empowering and a healing experience, to have a normal birth after caesarean trauma. You can transfer it to your life. In a broader sense.

It helps us believe, that we can do a lot of things, if we want. It‘s really powerful. Birth does that, for growing women in society.

Votes for women

It’s pretty irritating how a lot of people are appropriating and selectively-remembering Suffragette resistance to support shaming people who don’t want to vote.

[See #Suffragettes on Twitter for numerous examples if you haven’t seen it on your own social media feed(s) already.]

Not voting is a totally acceptable response to what a total failure representative democracy is. 

Just because women fought for women to vote doesn’t mean that women have to vote in order to be worthy of that right. By this logic, every pro-choice woman must have an abortion.

Rights are about being able to have your autonomy recognised so you can make choices for yourself instead of being told that you can’t because of who you are.

While we’re on the subject of UK Suffragettes and people ‘fighting’ for women’s votes…

Fighting literally happened. 

When the letter-writing, petition-signing, peaceful protesting, leafletting and general campaigning pleasantries didn’t cut it they split in two groups.

One of them militarised. 

Led by the Pankhursts, the Women’s Social and Political Union burned down churches and empty properties of wealthy elite, smashed shopped windows, defaced all-male spaces like golf courses/cricket clubs/horse racing tracks, went on hunger strike, assaulted police officers, bombed public buildings including Westminster Abbey and destroyed the contents of letterboxes with fire and corrosive acids.

Would you support Suffragettes today?

This part of history is continually, purposefully pushed aside to aid the shaming and silencing of angry, vocal women who take direct action. Support for or any cooperation with the Pankhursts is erased. Davison’s death is viewed as a singular, failed militant act. The rest are remembered liked Mrs. Banks out of Mary-fucking-Poppins. Some of them may have been, but a lot of them weren’t.

Angry voices are important to remember and respect. Violent responses are important to remember and respect. They are intrinsic to any liberation struggle. All responses are worthy and justified. There is no ‘right’ way to respond to your oppression. It is your choice and it is not okay to police the responses of others.

We would not be where we are today without aggressive, hostile activists.
We cannot move forward without them. 

Game-changing militant activists are erased and/or condemned. Prominent activists who have engaged in both peaceful and more aggressive forms of activism are only be remembered in history if their militarism erased.

When Suffragette history is taught and/or discussed, the Pankhursts are criticised for ‘setting the women’s movement back’.

Please, stop.

Even today, in places like Baltimore and Ferguson, when a liberation struggle takes matters into their own hands they’re continually told they are setting their movements back. That this isn’t the correct way to respond. That they shouldn’t result to violence.

Is there any other choice? Why do we care about property more than black people unjustly killed by white, police murderers who get slapped on the wrist and sent home on paid administrative leave?

Do you think people and governments would respond like this if they were actually setting the black rights movement back? No, cos’ people are responding like white supremacy is being challenged. They aren’t responding like the status quo is being maintained.

This is really paternalistic. Oppressed people are not naughty children. They’re human beings demanding the power, autonomy, privilege and social liberation that other people are born into. You can only get so far by engaging with the system.

Women born after the Suffragettes are encouraged to believe that it was not at all to do with those efforts but only the well-behaved, easy-to-swallow ones that made all of the progress all on their own. By following the rules! By keeping the system intact!

I see you, women’s activists, ignoring Baltimore… and I’m side-eying you for it.

This selective history teaches women activists that they’re supposed to be palatable to make progress. That they should exclude angry, radical people and their voices from their spaces.

But instead we should go *all guns blazing* against the Sanitary Product Tax? 
We are still fighting to for the world to recognise and support full reproductive autonomy for women.

But instead we should focus on campaigns like Emma Watson’s UN-backed HeForShe campaign?
Cos’ really, it’s men’s marginalisation in a movement that really isn’t for them that’s important. Not the black women, queer women, trans women, sex working women, working class women and disabled women still purposefully excluded from the women’s movement.

The point of a liberation movement is not to be palatable to your oppressor.

It is to challenge them.
It is to make them uncomfortable.
It is to take their power away for yourself.

Most importantly, it is crucial not to act like your oppressors or aspire to gain the same exploitative, oppressive status of your oppressors within the current system. 

If people like you, you’re doing liberation activism wrong.

So, go ahead…

Remember the Suffragettes, but remember them correctly and don’t think for a second that they’d support vote-shaming tactics.

That is setting the women’s movement back.

This fabulous post was originally posted by the fabulous wysewoman hailey 30th april 2015 Here

Give that woman a break! Why babymoons and support are ESSENTIAL to a new mother’s health

The post-partum period generally gets a bad rap in the press. New babies are seen as a bit of a nuisance – inconveniencing parents the world over with their refusal to sleep, their bawling and their disregard for your own timetable and neatly ordered life and ideas. Parents desperate for a return to normality invest in books telling them how to get their baby to behave, so they can go back to normal as soon as possible. But how healthy is this? Is life after a baby supposed to be normal?

This whole getting back to normal thing is something of an unhealthy obsession in our competitive and go-getting culture and there is great pressure for women to bounce back quickly and resume their former life at full speed. Even if that life was stressful, making her ill, or unsustainable. Women are expected to give birth then get back to normal pronto, slimming down as soon as they can, so they can pretend their bodies haven’t undergone this miracle, this transformation from maiden to woman, or mother to matriarch.

In 2015, our idols are not the curvy birthing goddesses we once treasured and aspired to be like in earlier centuries. In this mono-dimensional age, we worship and hold up the ideal of sexiness and womanliness as belonging only to young women pre-babies – the younger the better. Every billboard is an image of women either being slim and young, or if a mother, then being a slim, capable, strong, and multi-tasking one. It’s easy to see where the pressure comes from for women to bounce back quickly,and prove to the world that they are just as good as they ever were, often unaware of the extremely powerful new version of themselves they have become. They may feel raw and vulnerable and like they are anything but amazing, in much the way brand new butterfly, wings still wet,  has absolutely no idea how beautiful it really is. The pressure for women to appear capable, multitasking, and non-damaged is made worse by the fact that women can be even more critical and judgemental of each other than the menfolk. The heat magazine culture of bitching at women’s post birth bodies rather than venerating their rite of passage and imperfect state doesn’t help.

Real strength and womanliness is often mistaken in these modern times. Women as primal, powerful, scarred and raw birthing goddesses are not the poster girls you will see on any conventional boards, and are not celebrated as the heroines they are, by the masses. Women are shamed from being raw, messy, bloody, scarred and primal. but isn’t this the very essence of a powerful, beautiful woman? Birth cracks open our shell, revealing hidden depths and vulnerablities. The ordeal women go through to have a baby transforms every woman into a goddess, whether others witness and celebrate that or not. So I think a rest is deserved, don’t you? Literally, metaphorically and on every level – we should give women a break when they go through the process of having a baby.

But all this obsession with the outer body is very shallow. Having a baby changes women and their partners in much deeper ways, fundamentally reshaping the inner and outer landscape of themselves and their life. Not honouring this and getting back to some kind of normal is to somehow miss the point entirely of welcoming a new soul into the world. It is meant to transform you. It is meant to bring chaos and throw priorities and choices into question. It is no less amazing than a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. There are no shortcuts. It’s all part of the process.

Having a baby is meant to turn everything on its head – for a while anyway. This is the very beauty of babies! It is their gift to us. To help us shake off our old life and step into a new one. It’s part of the fun. And when we try and rush women back into some kind of ‘normal’ we deny them of something really beautiful and soul transforming. Relationships take time to form. Mother and baby relationships are no different. The new dance the family must dance is one for which new steps must be learnt. It’s not like any other dance they have danced before, and it can take time for the rhythm and movements to feel co-ordinated and graceful! Gazing deeply into one another’s eyes, drinking each other in, is what makes the sleepless nights not only bearable, but absolutely worth it. The hormones of love and bonding work best when women and their babies are well rested, supported and loved from the outside. Establishing breastfeeding whilst rested can be tricky – but unsupported and without proper rest and time it can become hell, leading women to abandon it altogether. Mothers and babies need time to get it right.

Even if birth was smooth and went well, life outside the womb can be a huge shock for mothers, fathers, babies, and in fact the entire family. Everyone concerned needs time to recover and regroup and to find a new rhythm. A mother will feel physically sore for some time, she may bleed, feel weak, and delicate for a while. She deserves to be waited on hand and foot for a while – if not now, then when? What time could be more sacred than this? New mothers will feel tired, emotional and raw even when birth has gone smoothly. Babies can be very hard work in those first few days and weeks, as they learn to suckle, breathe and sleep – it takes some babies longer than others and this is something to be honoured and allowed for. Spending those precious few days and even weeks sitting around as nsked as possible, skin-to- skin are a vital part of the bonding ritual which help mother and baby recover and delight in each other. Baby’s first impressions of the world can be formed by and trans-formed by a mothers touch in those first few weeks.

If her baby’s birth was traumatic, and experienced it as an ordeal, a mother and her baby will still have all the above needs, but even more so. Her partner may also be traumatised or in shock. Now is a time for mega amounts of love, time, healing and nurturing to help all to regain their strength, confidence and feeling of autonomy. A mother will need non judgemental listeners to hear her as she processes, rages, and grieves for her baby and herself. She may need weeks, months or even years to fully come to terms with the experience. But in those first few weeks she will most certainly need extra loving arms, extra listening ears, extra time and space to heal.

Mothers are only as strong as the web that supports them. We are not meant to do the very intense task of raising babies on our own. It does take a village. In these times of fractured families who live spread out lives, women are more vulnerable and in some ways, lonelier than ever before. Thankfully we live in an era where it is culturally more acceptable for fathers to help out and be more hands-on. But in the absence of a loving partner or husband on the scene and without a tribal or community sisterhood to support us, we can feel the task of mothering to be too great, too hard, too much. It’s normal, even with the best support around us, for us to have moments such as this anyway. But for those mothers who are home-alone very soon after a baby’s birth, pushed to their limits of sleep deprivation and patience, it is no wonder so many women suffer from PND or PTSD.

So how can we support new mothers and babies? We can start by giving them a proper babymoon period and respecting their need to have time to bond with their new babies and fall in love with them as nature intended. The glue that hold them together is innate but needs time and space for it to be discovered and enjoyed. We need to pamper and fuss over mothers as much as they will allow us, and indirectly if this is more appropriate. We need to tell them how beautiful they are. How important this massive job is. How amazing their bodies are for carrying and growing a baby and for going through such a big transformation for their babies. We need to love them and nurture them, even if it is from afar while they are tended to by their very nearest and dearest. We can drop yummy foods on the doorstep or send a basket of cakes or some other foods that will keep. Do kind, thoughtful, practical things for them. Make them laugh. Offer to take on their menial jobs for a while. Be there on the end of the phone if they need us. Bring them chocolate and treats. Support in invisible, quiet ways.

This should be the priority of every support team surrounding a woman, a team that might be conventional or not, formally named as such, or not. It might be made up of her husband, and/or any other partners, doulas, sisters, friends, a mother (or mother figure), or other children she may have. Anyone who is in a position to help, should help. It doesn’t matter so much who is doing the supporting, just that some kind of team does. The team should support the woman’s own strengths, believe in her as capable and strong, and never use the support as a bargaining chip. It should be given unconditionally so as to raise her back up on her feet when she is ready, not push her down.

Women who feel truly loved, cared for, listened to and nurtured get back on their own feet soon enough. And when they do, stronger, wiser, more beautiful than before, you can be sure as heck, they’ll do the same for you in a heartbeat. Mum’s don’t need ten baby blankets or five teddies for their new baby. What they mostly need is unobtrusive support.

What greater role could there be in life than supporting one another when we can, and enabling a new mother to learn to dance with her baby, as they both go forwards, changed, irrevocably, in a new world that waited for them…. and carried on spinning in the meanwhile!

this post was originally posted by the gorgeous paula here april 2015

this blog is part of the #postnatalrevolution in honour of sheila kitzinger passing on to the light.

wysewomen workshops hold a very popular motherwarming workshop at different locations all around the country – the motherwarming workshop looks at different ways to keep mum, baby and family healthy in the immediate postnatal period –  find local dates near you here

wysewomen are also involved in loving the mother – a week long journey for women to develop love for the mother.

having a postnatal doula can support you during your babymoon – find out more here and here

Freedom

Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.
Coretta Scott King

I am very blessed to spend much of my working life around women and this weekend I have been surrounded by brave, intelligent and beautiful women. Women who are open to learning, building and exploring their inner and outer worlds. The predominant theme it would seem was freedom. Not the expected external feminist, post-modern woman-struggle misogynist-battling freedom but the internal struggle for liberation or rather lack of it. How can we expect to save our world as its soul if we are internally incarcerated?

I have heard woman after woman tell me that their goal this year is to silence the sabotaging side of their inner dialogue. The need to carefully dissolve the incredibly intricate and convincing story their minds are creating about whether they are good enough…fair enough…..too milky white….not dark enough…..pretty enough……a failure……an under-achiever…….stimulating enough or not……successful……a terrible decision maker….a bad mother….you know the lyrics to this song – all women do. Sometimes this list feels endless!

I spent a wretched new year’s eve in bed with flu listening to the sounds of my family having fun, receiving messages of frivolity and celebration, woken again and again by messages, revellers and fireworks – Edinburgh really knows how to celebrate New Year’s Eve! By 2am I was completely convinced the entire world was having a good time without me – on purpose! I soon realised how ridiculous this place was my mind had taken me as the threads all slipped away in the morning and I got the real story from the world via WhatsApp, FaceTime, Facebook and all the other streams of virtual consciousness we allow to infiltrate so frequently. One by one the reality began to unravel my phenomenal story of world joy while I suffered. Tales of mediocre events, bad hangovers, disappointed evenings as well as a good times showed me just how much we torture ourselves with our imaginal realities. Our capacity to have someone stealing, cheating, lying, rejecting or loving us is incredible.

Again and again I have gathered story after story of blame. The template for this sabotage is made over the years by our mothers, our societies, our cultures, our media, our education systems, who we allow to influence and teach us, organised religion and endless other threads. These may also be the positive and strengthening influences we can harness to lift ourselves but many times they are whispering and cajoling us to think until the 90’s our backsides were too big and now seemingly they cannot be ever big enough! There are no doubts that these threads inform our inner world but should we allow them to have the power to pull the puppet strings of our self-esteem, our direction, our satisfaction with life and how we value what we have achieved thus far.

This last season I have also been asking myself the same questions over and over again. I am playing with process to figure out what they are? Are they true? Where do they come from? Is there any basis or hard evidence for what my mind is conjuring up? Some of the women around this weekend had some fantastic suggestions too ….talking back to the voice….”No, thank you, not now” “Thank you for that – I will deal with it later” “Fuck off!” “Are you sure?” “Do I really believe that?” “If that is true then what shall I do about it?” It was really powerful for some to write down the beliefs they wanted to discard on a piece of paper and burn it. I believe all spiritual traditions try to silence this sabotaging inner voice in order to let the higher voice rise. Often working with the breath, the body and the voice – the yogis have the so and the hum, the Sufis have the Al-lah, the Buddhists the chant and as that inner stillness is achieved we can really go to work on what we can do to rise up and better ourselves.

How about when we hear that story start up we yell STOP!!! Not now!!! Thank you for your opinion now get the hell out of here!! How about we stop judging ourselves first and surely this leads to the cessation of our most damaging sin as women – judgement of other women? How about we raise ourselves up so that we can really be in a space to elevate others? How about we be a sister to ourselves first before we expect to foster sisterhood with others? How about we look at how much we love ourselves before we try to share our love with others? How about we look at ourselves naked in the mirror and truly and authentically say we are beautiful because you are beautiful – we all are. All the wrinkles that mark the passage of your life, the stretch marks that mark the passage of your babies, the grey hairs that show your wisdom, the teenage spots that show that change is afoot and you are finally becoming a woman, the big lips, the thin lips and the freckles. How about we free ourselves from these chains and how about before we even attempt the external revolution we cause the internal one so that we can truly lead as strong, whole women. Then truly this is how we find our freedom.

news from afghanistan

this autumn in bali i met an incredible italian birthkeeper who selflessly travels the earth helping out in the most incredible situations – i asked her if we could hear her news on her travels as i have been so inspired by her and she is most definately a wysewoman – here is her news from afghanistan …please keep her in your prayers and know that there is a small but immensely strong army out there to heal the world one small step at a time….nicola

burqa

Dear friends,

it has been already 6 weeks in Afghanistan.. time is flying by. I wanted to write you before but it has been really difficult to gather my feelings and write them down in this email. In our daily activities seem that our lives are flat, nothing special happen, just normal activities every day. In these 6 weeks a lot has happened here, many stories to tell..

In this email, I wanna talk about women. It’s my favorite topic… Women are my heros, but here they are nothing, the most ungrateful human being in the world. For some, women are not even a human being.
I am placed  in a city in the south east of Afghanistan, close pakistan border. It is a conservative area. Women wear burqa and is not allowed not to wear it because men cannot look at women belonging to other men. When they go out, they should always accompanied by a man. This culture is really sensitive about gender separation, women should not look at men. When we have general staff meeting or celebration, women and men are separated. They cannot talk with men. For us it’s different, we can talk with them, but rarely we are taking into account. Some men don’t even look at you when you talk, if a man say something to a man, it’s a different story that they will take for sure into account. If I say something to a man, often I am just a woman talking. We cannot touch men or even attempt to have a discussion about women or deep talk. Some men are very kind and respectful. I believe, I hope, they are the same with their wives. They live in big family, around 20 people in a house and they share everything.

All this seems strict, very hard .. It is. But I will never try to judge them for this.
There is something amazing I wanna talk about with you.. It’s inside the hospital. It’s a women environment, there are no men, they are not allowed to enter. Everyday I walk through the door that connect the compound with the hospital, when I enter the hospital is like entering into a special place. Midwives love the hospital, is the only place they can behave how they want, they don’t wear burqa and you can see their beauty. They are beautiful with long black hair and that smile… Everyday I receive so many hugs. I have never received so many hugs in my life! They are so tender, affectionate with us and amongst them too. This is probably because they don’t receive love in their lives, And you can tell that they are happy to be in the hospital to be themselves, without being checked by men.

When I am around the hospital, they often call me to have chai, tea, with them. We sit together, we talk about our cultures and of course they ask me if I am married or if I have got some children.. I ask then the same question to them.. They are all young, most of them married with already 2-3 children. One day I asked to the postnatal supervisor if she was married and she told me that she is single because men are mean and she doesn’t like them. I understood that something happened to her.. I didn’t dare to ask more.

I think I am falling in love with this group of women, gathering inside the hospital and sharing that bit of love they don’t receive out of this environment..
I want to end this email telling you a story of a young girl of 12-13 years old. She has been raped and got pregnant. She has been hidden the pregnancy for 9 months. When she started labor she is obliged to come to the hospital. She said to the parents that she has a myoma and needs to go to the hospital. The mother then understood that she was pregnant, the father has some doubts and said to her that if she is pregnant and give birth he will kill her. According to the culture a woman cannot bear a child if she is not married and should be killed if happens. SO she came to us, had a very difficult delivery. Unfortunately the baby died during birth. . She stayed all day in the hospital but the day after the birth, smiling, she said she needed to go back home. The father was outside waiting for her. We don’t know what happened, but the midwives said that for sure she will be killed.

I want to tell you that I am happy to be here, because I am finding out that is some part of the world women are not living a life but a nightmare. I am happy to witness that and to share with you. I cannot change a culture but I hope to bring a bit of love in this hospital. I have seen so many births in my 6 years of midwife, but never seen a birth without love like in afghanistan.  I hope a bit of kindness, love for these women. If I will achieve that, I don’t know if something for them will change, but worth it to try.

Merry Christmas to all, if you decide to have some presents under the Christmas tree, do not forget to make a wish for these women!

Hugs&Love

welcoming back the light as a birthkeeper – setting your intentions

light

i sat down at my table last night as the dark came upon us in scotland in the mid-afternoon during the shortest day of the year – i closed my curtains and lit some candles and put pen to paper.  the candles shone brightly and warmed my heart with the love that was contained in the ones that were gifted from birthkeepers i helped along their path this year and the ones that were for lighting at birth and the baby came before the candle burnt out.  this is witchcraft 😉

i sank back into the restful, womb-full darkness and welcomed back the light into my world and my heart. verily out of the darkness comes light!

every so often at an auspicious time i set my intentions and assess what needs to be discarded.  this year i’ve been drawn to the camino de santiago and i’ve been fascinated with the pilgrims shedding their physical load as they let go of their spiritual baggage along the path. this is an essential blood letting and pruning to let new growth flourish, walk forward and let the magic come in.  my intentions were set for my whole life picture but i got to thinking about my work here as a birthkeeper.  its central to all that goes on in my world and needed extra thought and love and most of all tuning in.  its served me well to go through this process over the years and i wanted to share so it may be useful to those coming after me.

wysewomen are running a red tent in london in a couple of weeks at the start of the year and we made the intention it should have the theme of clarity as this is what we realise is crucial to sewing the seeds for the next year.  we are all great list writers and planners but we will often write generic titles such as “get fit” on these lists with no real step to be taken – clarity brings intention to fruition.

so what do you need to be clear about this year? i like to break it down into doable chunks.  what are your long-term goals? where are you going on your path as a birthkeeper? where do you see yourself in ten years? most importantly once you set these how do you get there? this year i’ve been blessed to come across the japanese term kaizen (read more about it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen) loosely i’ve understood it to mean constant improvements in small steps to achieve greatness. i’ve been encouraging those i’m around in my workshops to identify what great things they want to achieve (healing the earth with gentle birth anyone?) and see what that first small step is towards that goal.

be clear about your intentions for this coming year. this year are you focusing on serving your local community? the women of the world? do you want to teach and grow the next generation? are you tired? do you need to be restful this year? would you like to improve health outcomes amongst your people? build the family? how much money would you like to make this year? do you want to stay broke like many birthkeepers? does this keep you holy? would you like to be able to meet your rent this year without struggle? would you like to earn so much that you finally put that deposit down on your own home? would you like to be fully abundant? where are your yearly markers? what do you really want?

i believe to really find the answers to those questions you need to think about what you need to let go of  what is serving you? what is growing you? what is nourishing you? what is serving the greater good and growing love in your community, nourishing the world.  how do all these things impact you and your family? to grow and blossom we need balance alongside adventure and a good intention.  if something is no longer serving you but you feel its a service to others you want to provide to the world/women/God you may choose to keep it.  if its damaging you you may need to think twice.  birthkeepers are renowned for running themselves into the ground – all of my heroines in this world keep black circles under the eyes and a generally worn down look which is entirely overshadowed by the beauty of the Godly service they do for the world. none the less it is there.

so what are you saying yes to this year? what are you saying no to? write it down, draw it, sing it out, shout it to the world and bring it to you. let me here about your plans 🙂

nicola mahdiyyah goodall is a revert muslim who grew up with hip hop based in edinburgh, scotland and london, england. she works with women trying and mainly succeeding to build circles of knowledge and community primarily with birth. she is also the director of wysewomen publishing and facilitates wysewomen workshops and red tent doula courses.