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Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

December, 2017

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times December 2017

Bright Blessings!

With Yule just around the corner, you are likely planning festivities, gatherings, and family nights!

Growing up, of course, my family celebrated Christmas, and large scale was the rule. Everybody sent cards, bought gifts, planned dinners and lunches, and I can say Christmas for many of my family members was one of the biggest events of the year.

After I moved out, and started my own traditions, I scaled back the complicated Christmas festivities, and after converting to Paganism, reduced it further to just a single day for Sabbat. The Winter Solstice is a big deal for me, because I am so happy about the fact the sun will grow stronger, and “be reborn”.

I typically do a firepit fire, and libations alone, although I’ve attended public Sabbat and officiated for friends before.

Many different topics can be explored in Pagan Yule or Winter Solstice observances, but this year, instead if exploring things related to the Wiccan or Heathen male gods rebirth, the topic will be mothers.

Yule and Mothers Night

Anglo Saxon Pagans, according Bede, writing in the 8th century:

… began the year on the 8th calends of January [25 December], when we celebrate the birth of the Lord. That very night, which we hold so sacred, they used to call by the heathen word Modranecht, that is, “mother’s night”, because (we suspect) of the ceremonies they enacted all that night.”

They supposedly venerated the Disir, or the mothers, mother goddesses, protective mother ancestors, and held sacrifices in their honor. They gathered, feasted,

Yule lasted three days in Pre Christian days, but a lot of modern people observe it for twelve days, beginning December 20 or 21, with Mother’s Night being the first thing observed. Many do a ritual honoring the protective female mother ancestors and goddesses. Some give food or other gifts to them, light candles for them, and ask them to protect, watch over, bless, and ensure good coming harvest.

Some sources state Mother’s Night was the final festivity in Yule, and it was observed then in honor of the goddess Frigg. She wove people’s fate for the new year on that day, which was counted as New Years, and Frigg was honored. It was said she had knowledge of the future, but would not tell anybody what it was! She also was unable to alter the future, as evidenced by the fact she foresaw her son Balder’s death, and try as she could, she was unable to avert it.

I have attended candle lighting ceremonies Norse friends observe for some of the twelve days. They do candlelight vigils all night, with a prayer on the hour every hour, and network with one another from household to household if they can’t do it all under the same roof.

Of course, it is the women/ Matrons of our community who do this.

Some of these women have moved out of state, and some are no longer in contact with one another, but those marathon candlelight vigils are one of many things that are still maintained by almost all of the women to this day.

This is an appropriate introduction, I think for this month’s topic.

Mothers, and most specifically, mothers who have lost children.

Somebody’s Mother

I had the privilege of reviewing the beautiful film Somebody’s Mother, which was created by The Tollman Sisters, Gabriela and Evelyne. It’s been very successful in the US, and is headed to China!

I watched the film, myself and I recommend it. It’s a film that will make you think, and gets right to the difficult to face, let alone discuss issues that come when you lose a child.

As somebody who has been trying to have children for twenty years, and have been unable to, this film really hit home. The Tollman sisters explored so many of the things you deal with after such loss.

In the film, one sister’s baby died, and the other loses custody of her son after inability to take care of him that was not in any way her fault, and that she never meant to happen.

In the instance of losing custody due to inability to care for a child, the number one thing I see happening in the lives of my loved ones who have children is they become so focused on making their kids their all, they become completely unaware of their own needs at times. This is due to the great love they have for their children that compares to nothing else in their lives, and to a loving parent, no sacrifice for their children is too great. It can mean that sometimes, they don’t know how to ask for help, and they forget that even parents need support too. The topic specifically explored is postpartum depression, which I have seen more than one mother I love deal with it.

In the instance of the death of a child, I have been told by more than one parent that the death of a child is something you never fully recover from, and one that literally takes a part of your heart away that you never get back.

The stages of grief are explored intimately from the viewpoint of both sisters, and done in such a way that viewers can relate.

The film takes a very compassionate view of suffering many films exploring pain lack. At one point, in the film , it was said “I don’t know why I needed to go through it…I don’t know why I needed such pain.”

The film shows how loss of a child impacts the relationships of the parents of the children with one another. I don’t have the statistics of how many people’s marriages or engagements are called off when a child dies, but I’ve seen it happen quite a lot. The film presented a relationship surviving, and another not surviving.

The film portrays the inability to function normally in your own life after such a loss, and the great lengths people go to in order to keep up appearances, so people leave you alone about what happened. Sometimes, not talking about something that is tearing you apart emotionally is part of coping with it. It also shows how sometimes, that is absolutely impossible, however, and many of us have endured well meaning questions after losing a child we are not ready for like “ When will you have another baby?”

The love of sisters and how they are one another’s number one supporter, and closest friend in good times, and bad is intimately portrayed. It is a beautiful testament of the Tollman sisters devotion and love for one another as well.

Finally, the film shows how to pick up the pieces after unspeakable tragedy, and find hope for the future.

The link to the film’s pages follow, as well as a trailer.

http://www.somebodysmotherfilm.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SomebodysMotherfilm/

 

Trailer-

https://www.facebook.com/SomebodysMotherfilm/videos/504423143047518/

 

This film is now available on Amazon. Click Image below for more information:

 

Interviewing Gabriela Tollman

I had the opportunity to ask Gabriela Tollman some intimate questions she lovingly answered. Her words are as heartfelt and nurturing as the film.

 

Saoirse- Some of the women I interviewed about loss of their children are deeply suffering, even decades later. Some wanted to share, but could not bring themselves to talk about it. What words of advice, healing, and wisdom do you have for women dealing with loss of their children, be it through death, or loss of their living children?

 

Gabriela- It is an intensely painful experience to live through the loss of an infant, and it has been important for to let myself cry all of my tears. I spent two to three years crying. What helped me cope and carry on was the understanding that everything that happens in life has a reason. I know this idea does not comfort everyone, but it helped me. I began to see the events of my life, and the loss of my baby Charlie as a way to further advance the development of my soul. I also found many healers and teachers who helped me. Brian Weiss’ book Many Lives Many Masters was integral to helping me transform my pain into a spiritual lesson. Other books and healers that resonated with me are Anita Moorjani Dying to Be Me, and A Course in Miracles.

 

Saoirse-What do you recommend to these women to find strength when their own strength seems to vanish?

 

Gabriela- Writing down my story was an immense help for me. I wrote down anything I was feeling, thoughts and ideas in journals. These writings eventually became part of our film, Somebody’s Mother. Creativity of any kind helps transcend circumstance. It allows one to rise above and take control of grief and pain instead of it controlling you.

 

Saoirse- In what do you find comfort when it seems things are at their worst, to get you through until things are better?

 

Gabriela- As mentioned above, writing and creating helped me transform. Other practices that have helped me transform the pain are meditation. I practice transcendental meditation and this truly was the tipping point in getting me through that horrifying pain of grief. TM allowed me to find a place of peace inside myself, and release the oppressive negativity, anger, denial, fear and anxiety of grief. It is an incredible tool for all types of trauma and grief recovery. I also practice yoga, hiking, swimming, and am a certified hypnotherapist. Hypnosis is extremely effective for those who have a difficult time meditating, as it delves into the subconscious where I find peace and answers.

 

Saoirse- If you are religious, how does your personal devotion carry you in these times of grief? If you are atheist, but philosophical, how does your personal philosophy and values do the same? 

 

Gabriela- One of my favorite quotes is by David Bowie “Religion is for those who are afraid of hell, spirituality is for those who have already been there.” I am spiritual. The works of Brian Weiss, an MD, hypnotherapist, writer and teacher changed my life. He writes a lot about past lives and lessons that we need to experience in the flesh in order to grow, evolve, transcend and raise our vibrations. Another brilliant healer and teacher that I follow especially in difficult times is the work of Marianne Willamson. Her teachings of A Course In Miracles help me find understanding. A COURSE IN MIRACLES offers a lesson for each day of the year, which is an incredible practice for self-healing and transformation.

 

More on this beautiful film follows the working at the bottom of this article.

 

The Mothers Stories

I could write volumes about how my personal miscarriage and being childless breaks my heart, but instead I reached out to friends who have lost their children. Their names are changed for confidentiality, but they were good enough to share their own heartbreaking stories with me, and all of you.

First, my friend Patty lost a child to death, and custody of another.

Here is our conversation about it:

 

Patty- In 1998, I gave birth to Anthony Joeseph Oliver. He only lived 3 days. He was born on March 14th and died March 17th. He had potters syndrome.

Me- Oh gods! How does it make you feel?

Patty- Kind of bad still, but it gets easier. I also have a daughter who I don’t get to see who turned 18 in May. I wanted so badly for her to know Anthony, her big brother. He would have been 20 in March.

Me- I wish that had happened for them too. Have you ever been able to get a hold of your daughter?

Patty- No, but I’m hoping she tries to find me. I think she lives in Missouri. I miss them. It’s kind of hard to talk about it.

Our discussion ended at that point. Patty just couldn’t bear to talk anymore, and I understand. My prayer is she is able to make contact with her living daughter.

 

The next woman I interviewed is 20 year old Jade, who lost her child very recently.

This is her story;

Marceline was a very healthy baby up until the last two weeks I carried her. I was seeing Riverside doctors as well as Knox Community doctors. KCH refused to coordinate my care with Riverside, and wouldn’t believe me when I said she was ten days ahead of development.

Since I’m a Type 1 Diabetic, Marcy was already going to be bigger than a baby from a low-risk mother. I started going into labor at about 34 weeks, but KCH said I was too early, and stopped me. I went into labor again at about 36 weeks, and they didn’t really stop me since I was at the minimum week requirement, but they were going to give me a steroid shot for her lungs.

They had warned me about it last time I went into labor, and I had asked Riverside how it would affect me. They said I didn’t need it, and if they gave it to me it would possibly send me into Diabetic Ketoacidosis, which would hurt my baby. I told KCH I didn’t need it, and they told me I was getting it whether I liked it or not.

About a week after that, I went in for a non-stress test, which I did twice weekly. I was scheduled for 10:00AM. I switched rooms three times, and they took an hour trying to find her heartbeat. They brought in an ultrasound machine to see if they could find it, but the machine wasn’t functioning properly. The next two weren’t, either. It was about noon at this point, and I’m already panicking.

I was already at a higher risk for a stillborn birth, and I was afraid that’s what was happening. Mike, my fiancé, was watching the monitor since I couldn’t see it. He told me that the cord was wrapped twice around her neck, and he could see her heart and circulation stop.

The doctor that was operating the machine told me, “I’m so sorry, but your baby has passed away. We can’t find her heartbeat.” I feel like I screamed, but I was in so much shock that I can’t remember clearly. I remember crying that entire day. It took them another two hours to start me on a Pitocin drip, and another two to start the epidural. I had to lay with my dead child laying still in my belly, because they were forcing me to deliver vaginally.

They told me that I run the risk of not healing properly from a C-section. I honestly would’ve taken that risk if it meant they could revive Marceline. I had to lie and wait until late that evening before I could deliver her. It was over an hour that I was in labor. Marcelne had shoulder dystocia, and was stuck in my pelvis. My pelvis was too small for her. They were using the vacuum on her.

I remember screaming, and feeling everything, even with the epidural. Mike, Mom, and my best friend Mickey all saw the cord around her neck, and heard the doctor say, “Oh, that’s wrapped tight.” I saw her turn a little to block Mike from seeing her cut the cord. Marcy was born at 1:16AM on Sunday, July 9th, 2017. They let Mike cut the cord, then laid her on my chest.

The skin on her cheeks had started to slough off from the cord strangling her. When I let Mike take her and hold her, they wouldn’t let me up to see him. I don’t remember much after that, and I think I had fallen asleep. The next morning the nurses had brought her in so I could see her. Her poor little hands were so cold. Her lips were so dark they were nearly black. I remember sobbing as I held her and being so afraid to touch her, thinking she would disintegrate if I did. When everyone had left the room, and it was just Mom and I with her, we sang her her lullaby, Loch Lomond.

I begged her to just come back to me, to us. I told her how much we loved her and how badly she was wanted, and how I was so sorry this happened to my poor little fox. She weighed 8lbs. 12oz., was 20.5 inches long, and looked exactly like I did when I was born. I didn’t get to hold her anymore after that. I could barely hold myself together; I barely can now.

The doctor also told me it was my fault she died, saying it was complications from diabetes that killed her. They also tried talking us out of getting an autopsy done on her. The autopsy results were eight pages long, and there was only one thing that may have been linked to my diabetes, but was not the ultimate cause for her inter-uterine demise.”

It is my prayer that the blessings from the goddess be upon my beautiful friend that she may become a mother of healthy children, and that she may heal from this terrible tragedy.

 

The next woman who shared her story was Mary.

I was 16 when I found out I was pregnant. I was in and out of group homes for most of my teen years, so I was actually kind of excited that I would finally have someone who loved me who didn’t get paid to. (Teen logic). A few weeks later, I went to a party with some friends in a nearby hotel. I was the only one there not drinking. My baby’s life was too important to me.

Everyone was passed out on the beds in piles, except for me and one guy who was still drinking. I’d noticed him before, and he was cute, but I was in a relationship, so he was off limits. Besides, he was a cop’s kid, and he drank way too much, knowing he could get away with anything. I shook my head and decided to use the bathroom and find a place to go to sleep. He followed me to the bathroom. I won’t go into details, but he raped me on the bathroom floor, and no one even woke up. The next morning, I left before anyone else stirred. Once he had left the bathroom, I had spent the night curled up crying on the bathroom floor, so I was able to tiptoe out unnoticed. I called my best friend and asked her to come get me. She lived nearly two hours away, but she came, and instead of taking me home, she took me back to her house.

That night, I started spotting. Being so young, I had no idea what to do. I didn’t tell anyone, just got a pad and pretended everything was fine…until it wasn’t. By the next afternoon, I was bleeding heavily and having stomach pains so bad I couldn’t stand. I told my best friend what was going on, and she and some friends who were at the house took me to the ER. Of course, by then, it was too late to save the baby. That opportunity had passed the day before, if it ever even existed.

After the miscarriage, things are kind of a blur. However, I do remember what the doctor told me after my D&C. “You’ll never be able to get pregnant again. It was a miracle you were ever able to in the first place. And if you do manage to get pregnant, you won’t be able to carry a baby to term.” Just a few months later, I was pregnant again. This time, she was nearly a month late.

I was in the custody of DCS when I had my daughter. Less than two weeks after I had her, I turned 18. I told my case worker I wouldn’t leave the home for young mothers when I turned 18. I lied. I left on my birthday. She was livid, and actually tried to have my daughter taken from me. I fought like I had never fought before. No one was ever going to take THIS child away. I’d have died first.

Because of the miscarriage, and because I knew she would likely be my only child, I grew up and threw myself into motherhood head first. The late 80s were a time when almost all moms bottle fed their children, and preferred strollers and bouncy seats to skin on skin contact. I nursed my daughter, and improvised a way to carry her on my chest, much like today’s baby slings. She slept in a bassinet that was right beside my bed, and there were nights I would wake up and put my hand on her back, panicking a little until I could feel the rise and fall of her breathing. I never went a day without telling her I loved her, and I never went a night without reading a story and tucking her in. Perhaps I was TOO close to her, but I never wanted her to doubt my love.

The doctor was partially right. I was never able to have another child after my daughter. I tried to move on, but every year I would think about how old my first child would be if they were alive. Today, they would be 28. My daughter is 27. She is a beautiful woman with a wonderful life. I always told her growing up that she could be anything she wanted, but that all I wanted for her was happiness… I still feel that way. And she has it. That’s all a parent could ask for.”

I have thanked these beautiful women for sharing their stories, and they will be invited when I do the ritual I have written for this month’s article. It was very difficult for me to write this, as I could not stop crying the whole time. I will be blessed during this ritual as well.

I tried to think of something simple, but meaningful, and what I would want somebody to say to me for my grief over my own childlessness. I also looked to see what other liturgies I could find for women mourning loss of children, and I did not find much. I don’t ever remember hearing of such a ritual, and what little I did find was specifically for either funerals or miscarriages. I found nothing for women who are barren unless it was to pray for fertility. I found nothing for women who lost custody, as society tends to assume these women deserve that, but I’m not so quick to judge. I found a couple of Pagan prayers about miscarriage, and quite a few Catholic liturgies. I wanted to do something where the women bless and support one another, and as the women I am inviting venerate different gods and goddesses, I did not write this to be specific to honor a goddess, or to fit any one pantheon.

 

The Working

Instead of just honoring the Mother goddesses, living mothers, and mothers who have joined the ancestors, for your Winter Solstice Celebrations, I suggest a blessing for living Mothers who have lost children.

Decide if you want one officiant to act as a Priestess, or if you prefer to delegate parts and readings to multiple people, depending on the needs of your group.

You will need:

  1. One large candle for The Goddess,
  1. One candle for each child attending women have lost,
  1. A large pitcher of water, and cups to drink from.
  1. Boxes of Tissues in case anybody needs them because they are crying.

First, cast circle as you normally do, or leave the circle open as preferred.

Then light the large candle to welcome the goddess. Because of the solemnness of this rite, a silent lighting is acceptable unless you have a special way you want to welcome her.

Each woman should take the pitcher of water in her hands and bless it as she sees fit. The communal blessing is what will make this ritual powerful, as it is one another we oftentimes look to for love, and strength. Prayers, or focusing energy to bless the water as feels appropriate for each woman is acceptable.

After the water is blessed, have each woman light a single candle in honor of each child they have lost, saying the child’s name and sit all the candles in a circle around the blessed water.

The reading, as followed can be done by one person, or each person can take a part to read.

The unbreakable bond of flesh of our flesh transcends the body and mind, and unites through spirit.

Though their bodies are far from yours, their mother, your soul connection to your children is forever.

Though your life with your child ended, you are still their mother, and always will be.

Let the love of the Divine Mother who you manifest in this life fill the void the loss of your child left.

You, a vessel of life, create more than just human beings. You create life through joy, kindness, laughter healing, and love.

May the blessings that you, a reflection of the Goddess, bestow upon those around you be returned to you tenfold.

May those whose tears of sorrow you dry, dry your tears. May those who you bless with tears of joy fill you with joys beyond compare.

May the waters we have blessed heal us, wash away our sorrows, and restore things we thought our pain took from us forever.

May the Mothers mourning loss of connection with living children be reunited with them, and have a long, happy life together.

May the Mothers whose children have died be reunited with them in the place of the ancestors, if they do not reincarnate together.

May you have the love and support of other mothers around you. Know that you are never alone. You have the connection to the Divine Mother, and all Mothers on earth who embody Her.”

Next, give everybody a cup to drink of the blessed water.

Each woman will then take turns talking to their child, or children and think of something they would have done for their child. Since they can’t do that, let the Mothers take a pledge to do something for another child in honor of the child or children she has lost. It can be something as simple as babysitting for a single parent you know for free, or something as great as adopting or fostering another child who has no parents.

Next, take down circle as you normally do, and potluck.

Blessed Yule, and Blessed Be.

 

Below is more information about Somebody’s Mother.

 

From the Press Release about Somebody’s Mother-

FILMMAKER’S COMMENTS

I feel shattered, pieces of me flying everywhere. Some parts of me are back in the hospital with the ghost of Charlie. Some parts are on the other side with Charlie’s soul, floating, dancing in the light. Together the two of us, our forgotten love. The love we didn’t get to share in this lifetime because he died. My little baby died. He was born too early with a terrible infection. He became terribly septic and was suffering. We released him from his pain and took him off life support. He floated away back to the other side and he died. Some part of me is there with him. Another part is on the floor at Trader Joe’s, where I was just shopping but had to run into the bathroom, and beg God for mercy; from the pain that I was experiencing just walking through the bread aisle.

Grief showed me all its colors, textures, shapes and sizes. When I lost Charlie it felt as if I was never going to get out. One day, I had a vision in my meditation, that Charlie came and said I need to make this story, I need to talk about grief and loss and that there is a connection to the other side. He’s not lost, its just another realm. And so we began to change the script we had worked on. Making something, first by writing it down in the script, then re-enacting it out during production and finally observing it in the editing slowly allowed me to befriend the grief. The parts of my body rejoined other parts. Parts of my soul rejoined the other parts and the new fragmented me became whole again.

During a scene in our film SOMEBODY’S MOTHER I sort through a purple box, which was actually my Charlie’s baby items. These items were given to us from the hospital NICU and consisted of Charlie’s little hat, a lock of his hair, and his footprints. I hadn’t been able to go through that purple box since returning from the hospital over a year prior. I decided to go through it for the first time while we were filming. During the scene, I wept. I felt purified and cleansed. It was beyond healing, it felt shamanic. By fully embracing the pain, I somehow transcended it.

I wasn’t just doing it for me but as a way to understand others; who had or were going through this. I learnt that extreme pain forces us to leave our bodies and reconnect with something deeper than ourselves. In this process, we shatter into a million pieces destroying who we once were, our former selves; our ego identity to rebirth into a new self with new knowledge and a reconnection to “source” energy. Charlie taught me this. Making the film allowed me to fully understand it, and not become lost in the grief or hardened by it. Instead it helped me open and soften. The experience deepened my understanding that this pain is a universal experience, which ultimately made me more of who I am. — GABRIELA TOLLMAN (Director, Writer, Actor, Producer)

My sister and I were interested in exploring contrasting themes. So many women we know want to get pregnant so badly and when they do; they don’t enjoy motherhood. It’s complicated. The role of a mother; is expected of women. It is assumed that the role of a mother should come easily and feel natural, but this is not always the case. Not everyone should become a mother.

We wanted the audience to feel how lonely these two women feel. If we are disconnected from honoring loss and disconnected from pain then how do we move forward in life? If Anna had allowed herself to express the confusion as a mother, her guilt, shame and fear perhaps she could have sought help instead of walking away from her four-year old child and leaving him in a car. So many women go through postpartum depression but feel so much shame that they act out instead of seeking help. We wanted to explore these topics, these dark places that nobody really wants to see – the places that are uncomfortable for an audience to experience and yet when they do, they feel relieved that they survived and deepened their understanding along the way.– EVELYNE TOLLMAN (Writer, Actor, Producer)

 

This film is now available on Amazon. Click Image below for more information:

 

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About the Author:

 

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel

 

The Pregnant Witch

August, 2016

Originally written as a talk for the Pagan Federation Online Lughnasadh Festival 2016. Feel free to view the whole talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE5fPKOmp2k

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE5fPKOmp2k[/embedyt]

Lughnasadh is more or less the mid-point between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox, and as such a point of transition, of change and of transformation. I’m going to talk to you a little bit about my own experiences with pregnancy, motherhood, and how my spirituality transformed alongside my own transforming body and mind.

It was a complete shock to me, finding out I was pregnant. I had experienced a few odd symptoms; dizziness, alternately low and high blood pressure, not wanting to smoke or drink any more. I didn’t read anything into this until my 2nd missed period. When the test came out positive, I just stared at it.

It was a difficult time. My boyfriend at the time, though thrilled 24 hours later, was either disbelieving or simply didn’t care. I remember feeling totally alone. Then my friend Jane came to visit, and I was reminded of the power of friendship, and the joy of having people in your life who simply want others to be OK.

I was pretty active in my magical group at the time. I remember when I had got together with Nathan’s dad, telling him he would have to be mindful that I took my practice seriously, and at first he was supportive, although there were often snide comments about dancing around naked, or having orgies; I’m sure you’ve all heard the like.

I immediately started to think of all the things I might not be able to do. Would I be able to go to coven meetings with a new born baby? Would I be able to practice magic whilst all hormonal from pregnancy? I’d never been pregnant. I had no idea what to expect, and no idea how it would affect my spiritual path or my magical life.

The answer is, pregnancy and motherhood changed me in a multitude of ways, but ultimately I am the same person with the same spiritual leanings, and if anything I feel closer to the world, to nature, and certainly to my inner child since having Nathan.

One of the things I love about being on my nature based path is the way it encourages you to notice the details in the world around you; the butterfly resting on a leaf; a cloud shaped like a dragon, or a sunbeam breaking through leaf cover. Having a child, and noticing how a child sees the world, is like having a direct line into that way of viewing the world. A child, especially a young child, is seeing everything for the first time. Everything is a joy, a treasure; a gift met with wide eyes and wonder. Walking the world with a child gives us the special pleasure of channelling this sense of newness. It gives us the chance to experience the world afresh, to almost begin anew.

Going back to my pregnancy, I found that there were certain things I couldn’t do, and certain things I could do better. I didn’t want to or feel capable of doing any focused intent work; no healing, no transformation and no spell work. I felt that my intent was too unfocused, and that the hormones raging within my changing body would not cope well with this. I was worried that my magic would go astray, and that I would not end up with the results I wanted. I felt like I had energy bubbling out of me, and that, in my mind, was dangerous. Once, near the winter solstice, I stopped in front of a charity shop window, eyeing up some rather beautiful festive decorations. I was about to check my purse to see if I had enough money, when a woman reached into the window to pick them up for a customer. I was angry, in the way you get angry with unfair situations, and immediately that this emotion was upon me, the woman dropped the decorations and they smashed. I remember walking away quickly, red faced and ashamed. I can’t say for certain that I had anything to do with that, but I felt responsible, and it put me off any sort of ‘spell’ work in case this ‘bubbling over’ of energy occurred again.

Although I pulled away from actual magical work, I found great solace in meditation, yoga and pathworking. My mentor did some wonderful guided meditations and pathworking with me, and I found that while I was pregnant the visions were all the more vivid, and the symbology that occurred seemed to have great meaning. I wrote everything down and found I had a depth of patience for analysing the visions that I had never experienced previously. I could now take the time to really go through the images ad figure out what they meant to me.

I had never done yoga before, but my friend gave me a dvd that was adjusted for pregnancy, an also had exercises that could be done whilst suffering with symphysis pubis disorder, which hit me quite badly during my second trimester. The pain was really severe at times, and I had to take time off work, which was not ideal.

Being able to meditate and do yoga made a huge difference for me. I suffer from depression and during my pregnancy it became quite severe at times. There was the combination of my physical discomfort with the SPD, a poor relationship with my then boyfriend which led to deep feelings of loneliness and disappointment, and the underlying depression that was always there to some extent. Finding that I did have an affinity for meditation which I had hitherto not really explored was a massive gift, and one I have treasured since that day.

I imagine that these findings would be different for everybody. I know some people become very vigorous and fit during their pregnancy, and therefore they may find a stronger spiritual connection with nature and the outdoors by going for more walks, and exploring their surroundings. Others may find themselves drawing closer to their covens or communities, whilst others may develop their solitary work to a deeper level. I think the latter is quite common, as when you are pregnant I think there are always times when you end up on your own, even by the necessity of needing space, so to be able to use this time and space to develop your own innate skills is fantastic.

Another aspect I had to be careful with was my herbalism. I had just started my herbalism course when I discovered I was pregnant, so of course had to be very careful about what remedies I self-tested, as the last thing I wanted to do was harm Nathan or myself. So ultimately, I stopped working with herbs, except for making lavender bags for friends and the like. I continued my studies without the practical side, and remember bawling out a lady at a craft fair for recommending a raspberry leaf product for pregnant women, without even realising that raspberry leaf is only indicated in the very late stages of pregnancy, to help encourage the onset of labour.

When Nathan was born, it felt immediately as though he had always been there, whilst at the same time being completely surreal. I really didn’t want to stay at the hospital. I wanted my own home and hearth, my ancestors around me; but of course, they always are, wherever I am. Hopefully you feel that too. I really, really didn’t want to stay in the hospital, but my blood pressure was high and I had a fever. Nathan wasn’t the most vocal baby, but of course one baby on the ward would start crying and it was like a chain reaction; the next baby would cry, then the next, and so on until the whole ward was a cacophony of wailing. It was incredibly depressing, and it was felt like it was just Nathan and I against the world. I should have realised that this was quite prophetic in a way, as it was only a few years before we were back to it just being me and Nathan again!

The first few weeks being home with him shot by in a sleep deprived blur. I was communicated with people in only the barest of ways, and although I was still in touch with my magical group, we hadn’t been together in a circle for a long time. I felt a yearning in my soul for something, and as is the way of things, something came along to fill the gap that had been developing.

Through friends, I discovered the Covenant of Hekate, and wrote a hymn, and some music, and found I was again exercising that part of myself which had been becoming lax and lazy. I could write in my journal while Nathan was sleeping. I could meditate during nap times. I was honoured to perform the Rite of her Sacred fires as a solitary practitioner the very first year it was a global event. I felt the energy of Hekate very keenly, and I do feel that she was a very strong presence during my early months of becoming a parent. I don’t think this is because she is a particularly motherly goddess at all, but I was at a junction in my life, a crossroads, a point where decisions needed to be made in order for me to keep moving forward, and Hekate is the goddess of the crossroads. Her twin torches light the dark roads ahead, and illuminate tired and clouded eyes. She is Enodia, of the ways; she guides but she also pushes us to find our own way; to open our own doors and combat adversity.

I was already devoted to the Morrígan, who also teaches us to combat adversity, albeit in perhaps a more confrontational way. I think it is very telling that at a time of fatigue and depression, when I couldn’t face confrontation head on, Hekate seemed to find me and remind me that there are other ways to move forward that don’t involve head on collisions or having to fight.

Once I had found my feet back onto my spiritual path, I found it easier and easier to write and record my experiences, until at last I was on the way to writing my first book. I would sit with Nathan in his sling, feeding, whilst I tapped one handed at the keyboard- not terribly good for my back, I grant you! But I began to be proud of myself for what I what achieving, and joyful to be able to combine this with spending so much time with my little one.

Now he’s six, and we are both busier than ever. I am technically a single mum now, although I live with my partner and his little boy, so we help each other out and the boys love each other to bits. I don’t hide my paganism from Nathan but I don’t encourage him to believe what I believe. If he asks me anything, I answer, and his own wonder of the world often leads him to the same conclusions as me about a lot of things. He tells me all the time that he sees spirits in the trees, or in the sky, and whether he is seeing these or they are just figments of his wildly over active imagination; well, I don’t think it really matters. He is comfortable talking about such things and that’s all that matters. If he didn’t mention them at all, I would be equally happy, as his path will be his own, and I certainly don’t expect it to be quite like mine, if anything like mine at all.

If I inspire Nathan in any way, I hope I will inspire him to be kind, compassionate, and caring; to be considerate to the world, to others both human and non-human, and to never judge others for the path they walk on unless it deliberately harms others.

If he asks me about magic, I tell him. If he wants to know why I call myself a witch, I explain this to him as well. Sometimes he wants to look at my wand, or my crystal ball, or my crystals, or my cards. He likes to flick through my books, and asks me to read him excerpts from the books I have written. But sometimes weeks will go by when we don’t discuss anything that could be considered ‘pagan’, and that’s OK too. But of course, we are always out and about, exploring nature, turning over stones, singing songs, listening to birds, watching squirrels, identifying plants; so maybe we are discussing pagan things every day, or at least the aspects of paganism that can benefit everyone, regardless of your spiritual path.

I hope my experiences of pregnancy and motherhood resonate with some of you. It’s not something I’ve discussed at great length before, but would be happy to answer any comments you have. Joyous Lughnasadh. Sláinte!

Pagan Parenting

February, 2011

Pregnant and Pagan

As I write today I am 31 weeks pregnant with my second child.  My body is preparing for the sacred event of bringing forth a baby, birthing both a new soul and a new version of the mother in myself.  Making the “mundane” moments of life sacred is part of my spiritual path.  Because pagans are nature/earth based in our beliefs it seems that we herald being in our bodies and treating them as temples.

I often wonder how we do at this though.  Do we really treat our bodies with the care and reverence that we have for our gods or our sacred places?  And when we go through these huge life and body altering phases do we connect them with our myths and legends or do we let the rather institutional approach to childbearing in particular shade our experience of these life milestones?

The energy that accompanies the birthing of a child is primal and connects one to all the women who have done it before.  It is a lineage of creation that is reflected in the earth’s roundness and fertility.  I believe that, I feel that, but it does not translate well into every day life.  Due to the limited time that I give to my personal practice while raising a young family the practicality of communion with deity or even this time around setting up an altar is lacking.  There are moments of bliss, moments of frustration and being uncomfortable and moments of fear.  The vessel that my body has become to bring forth this new life is overwhelming in its implication and yet so simple in its purpose at the same time.

Motherhood is venerated in many religions but also controlled tightly in the physical and practical sense.  So while one might feel empowered by Mother Mary’s birthing story as a Christian or just in general the joy in that story is certainly not easy to translate into sterile hospital rooms or with the use of interventions that the North American birth culture considers the norm.

Having chosen to birth our first son at home, as we plan again with our second son my husband and I stepped outside of the routine many find comforting choosing instead to let the process be as organic as possible.  The sacredness was not lost on me in the moments but it is also such a primal experience that it kept me from idealizing the experience too much.  So my approach to pregnancy, birth and motherhood is not one that I put on a pedestal, it is rooted in the holy dirt, held by the trees, and blows in whirlwinds with the leaves.

Most importantly we must support women as they endeavor to take these journeys of transformation.  Our bodies are ours even when we carry new life in them, or better yet especially because we do.  Until you have conceived, nurtured and grown a child from the inside, birthing it and feeding it from your body the profoundness of the process is hard to grasp.  The story of Demeter grieving Persephone being away from her is relatable when you count the hours of time, nurturing and patience that a mother gives to her children.  I see the miraculous act that my body has performed and will again perform.  The fact that it knows what to do all by itself is also incredible.  Often when the chips are down we just have to let our minds wonder off somewhere else and surrender to the body’s innate sense of what must happen.

Somewhere between glowy pregnant women rocking their unborn babes as they dance in spring fields and formulaic scientific jargon about what my body is doing this week lies my connection to spirit and my growing baby.  I will try to honour the process as the days move on towards their climax and feel the ancestors calmly or sometimes loudly calling the names of all that have been there, done that.  It is a good place, a holy place but overall it is a human and animal place to be.