An excerpt from the Changing Woman chapter from my forthcoming book “Birthing With the Goddess”
The Legend of Changing Woman
There are many tribes of Native American people. There are common threads in their creation stories and also differences. One of the shared beliefs of the tribes centres around Changing Woman. Although She has many different names and is not a Goddess in the same way that say the Greeks and Romans thought of Goddesses, She is a feminine ‘deity’, She is the Earth.
Changing Woman / Estsanatlehi
The Apache called the Earth Goddess by this name, for she never grew old. When her age began to show, she simply walked toward the east until she saw her form coming toward herself. She kept walking until her young self merged with her aging self and then, renewed, returned to her home. Among the Chiricahua Apache, the name of this eternal Goddess was Painted Woman. Turquoise Woman was the Navaho sky-goddess, wife of the sun. She lived in a turquoise palace at the western horizon, where each night she received her luminous husband. Sister (or twin or double) of Yolkai Estsan, the moon’s wife, Estsanatlehi was able to make herself young each time she began to age, thus her name, which means the “self-renewing one.”
The ancestral goddess Atse Estsan, discovering Estsanatlehi on the ground beneath a mountain, reared her to be the savior of Earth’s people. When she was grown, Estsanatlehi met a young man and her parents were proud to discover she had taken the sun as a lover.
Delighted at the honor granted their family, they were delighted again when Estsanatlehi gave birth to twins. The twins won from their father magic weapons, which they needed to clear the Earth of monsters. This they did. But the twins’ wars with the monsters had depopulated the Earth. Estsanatlehi brushed the dust from her breasts. From the white flour that fell from her right breast and the yellow meal from her left, she made paste and molded a man and a woman. Placing them beneath a magical blanket, Estsanatlehi left them. The next morning they were alive and breathing, and Estsanatlehi blessed the creation. For the next four days, the pair reproduced constantly, forming the four great Navaho clans. Feeling her creation to be complete, Estsanatlehi retired to her turquoise palace from which she continued to bestow blessings on her people: seasons, plants and food, and the tender sprouts of spring. Only four monsters survived her sons’ wars on evil: age, winter, poverty, and famine, which she allowed to live on so that her people would treasure her gifts the more.i
Changing Woman’s gifts to the people are the wisdom of the cycles, the Blessingway ceremony, the seasons, and food. Changing Woman teaches us that everything changes. Understanding this, we have the opportunity to surrender to that, detach our selves from particular outcomes and trust with confidence that everything that is truly important in our lives will happen. A power greater than our own ensures this. Sometimes, the outcomes, the changes, the transformations may not be in accordance with our desires, but they will be right for us.
“If we let go of things, our life is going to change. And the reality is that we are actually more afraid of change than we are of death.” Caroline Myss
Call Changing Woman to guide you to trust with confidence that what happens to you is exactly what must to be in keeping with your personal evolution.
As a Birth Goddess, Changing Woman reminds us of the inevitable and unavoidable change that will occur in our lives as we transform into Mother, the first time and every time.
She teaches us of the wisdom inherent in the cycles. When we take that wisdom into our mothering and our changing relationships with our partner, our other children, our friends and our families we are better equipped to be with change.
“She changes everything she touches, everything she touches changes”
I had a conversation with Maria Yraceburu, Apache Elder Woman, about Changing Woman. I asked her “ Do the Apache tribe call on Changing Woman for guidance and protection for the Mother and Baby during labour, birth and the newborn time?”
“You could say that” she said, “we call her Esonknhsendehiii, Changing Mother.”
Maria went on to explain some of their traditions around childbirth, “Once a baby is born the parents and child are kept in seclusion for 20 days so they may bond. The baby sees no one but the parents. On the 20th day the baby is brought out into the sun and held to the four directions, given it’s name, then taken around the gathered circle, where each person puts a pinch of pollen on it’s head and says a prayer for the child’s long life, health, abundance and integrity. They, in doing this, commit to assisting the parents in the raising of the child as a valuable member of the growing community.”
“It takes a community to raise a child”
Maria gave me a special booklet that her community gives newly pregnant parents called “Deishehi Birthing – Life Rites”. Reprinted here with Maria’s permission are two Apache ceremonies to conduct during pregnancy
BREATHING THE SACRED
Begin with five, slow conscious breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose. You are circulating the energies of life.
Now light a candle, and either alone or with friends, begin…
“Changing Mother, see this one. Feel the labor as it approaches. Feel the love for the newly discovered spirit. Changing Mother, we ask a speedy birth, an easy labor, and enjoyable term.
Bring this new life into this plane!
RAISING THE ENERGY
As you and baby grow together the energy rises, and you can see it and feel it rising from your heart center in a spiral that spins upward through and around and above all. It may appear as white, gold, blue or other colored light. Take note, these are the baby’s identification colors and can be interpreted by any number of color resources.
You can feel the energy moving through you and from the baby, see it swirling into a circle dome around the room. Tapping into this energy you can determine your child’s moods, and unlock a secret communication of the heart. With practice, you will be able to feel the energy in crescendos, as it rests and plays. Allow yourself to spin in the spiral holding your child… this is accomplished transcendence. If you are with others, ask them later what they have witnessed. Have someone record this for you.
I asked Maria which animal allies would be with Changing Woman and she said “She is Earth. All animals align with her, but most strongly the turtle.”
Maria and her community host a website www.followingancestors.net to serve the purpose of helping people “in reconnecting to the spirit of Esonknhsendehi – the great Changing Mother Earth – and sharing the beauty of earth ways from around the world.
“Our goal is to nurture a spirit of harmony within Humanity’s interactions with other humans, nature and All Our Relations. Our work is designed to be an antidote to all that is excessive, formal, artificial or contrived. By focusing on the essence of evolution, we hope to offer you a welcomed lifestyle in tune with the spirit of All That Is.”
“..we have purposely avoided attempting to put forth that our beliefs are the only way to find peace within. Instead, we invite you to accentuate what you already know. Smell the wild sage in early spring and find the heart of your true nature. Observe the swallow-tail butterflies in the fall and recognize the benefits of gentle transformation. Listen to the frogs and cleanse with the impending rains that come to nurture all life. Feel the ocean breeze, see and feel the rhythm of Creation touch you. What we have to share is a personal encounter with our humanness here on the Changing Mother. Participate, feel, be connected. And find a life of purpose.”iii
THE MEDICINE WHEEL
The teachings from the Native American People stem from a deep rooted respect for the Earth, our Mother, Changing Woman, Changing Mother and an understanding and respect of one’s place in the cycles of existence. This applies both physically and metaphorically and in terms of relationship with all other beings. The main teaching ‘tool’ for the Native American People is the Medicine Wheel, a complex yet simple ‘map’ of everything. The Medicine Wheel enables one to understand the cycles, the interrelationship and correspondence of all beings and things, the flow of energy and the influence of the natural world on everything – Changing Woman, the Earth.
Medicine means spiritual energy and the wheel is ever turning. Included on the Medicine Wheel are the directions, the elements, the seasons, colours, animal allies, characteristics and lessons.
There are actual Medicine Wheels on the Earth made of specifically placed rocks, one in particular in Big Horn South Dakota that is 2500-3000 years old. More than a physical structure the Medicine Wheel is a framework, a paradigm for the Native American belief system. It maps out the cycle of the Earth’s seasons of the year and the seasons of a person’s lifetime as well as the teachings and natural associations of each place on the wheel. It can also be used as a mirror in which you can see what is going on within and around you, where you are ‘at’ within your life or with regard to a particular situation. The Medicine Wheel can be used to see where you are stuck, what you are not seeing and where you need to develop. It can be used like this on cultural level as well as an individual level. It is a map that enables the journeyer to see the ‘big picture’, the great round of being. The placements on the Medicine Wheel differ between tribes and it is generally recommended that you use the placements that speak to you. Many people have taken the teachings of the Native Americans and adapted them to their own culture. What happens then is a fusion of ideas and cultures as we move toward a global spirituality.
Jamie Sams, Brooke Medicine Eagle and Mary Summer Rain are wonderful women writers on Native American spirituality.
The same principles within the Medicine Wheel are found in the circle framework used in Pagan and Wiccan practices to create sacred space. Each direction is associated with various elements and energies.
The direction that the energy flows around the circle is different in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres – the same as the water down the drain! In the Northern Hemisphere the energy moves clockwise with the winter in the north of the wheel and in the Southern Hemisphere the energy moves counterclockwise with the summer in the north.
I have created my version of the Medicine Wheel in my ‘Spinning Wheels’ tool that I made to enable women charting their menstrual cycle to see and understand the corresponding lunar cycle, Earth seasons and life seasons. It is a tool used to calculate the effects of the four main cycles that influence a woman every day. One day many years ago I was cleaning out our stationary draw and came across a jar of what are called split pins. They work like a sharp wide flat pin with two arms together that once you stick through paper, they open apart and secure the paper but allow it to rotate around the central pin. They were a nice shiny brass and I’d had them for ages. I looked at them wondering what I would ever do with so many of them. The next morning in my meditation I had a vision of a thing made of four separate circles or wheels each a different size with the information of one of the four main cycles – the Earth’s seasons, our life seasons, the lunar cycle and the menstrual cycle on them. They were joined in the centre with the split pins! I was amazed! It was the perfect tool to use to explain and figure out the different energies of each of the cycles that affect us on any given day. So the split pins found their purpose or it found me! I made some up using the split pins from the stationary draw and called them ‘The Spinning Wheels’. Now they are made by a printer and without split pins, however that was their beginning!iv
Understanding the influence of of the different cycles on each day is useful in helping you know why you feel a certain way. Before electricity dominated our lives our menstrual cycles were in synch’ with the moon, and so the energetic influence was symbiotic but now they usually are not and so there is a split and compounding effect on our lives, our energy, our creativity, our libido etc that is the result of the influence of our menstrual cycle and the lunar cycle separately and combined.
CALLING THE DIRECTIONS
At our Earthdance community ceremonies, where we honour the eight seasonal sabbats in the year, the teenagers – the girls who have had their menarche rite of passage into womanhood and the boys who have turned 13 and had their rite of passage into manhood – have the role of invoking the directions. This practice creates and provides a protection and guidance system for whatever you are doing and creates a sacred space.
You can do this to spin a wheel of protection around you for your birth, or any event you wish to call protection for.
Here is an adaptation of invoking the directions for you to use.
In the Southern Hemisphere
I call Changing Woman for She is me and I am She
I invoke the direction of the East.
Where the sun rises.
The direction of spiritual birth and awakening.
The realm of the child and young adulthoodhood.
The energy of the season of Spring and new beginnings.
I call the qualities of the East be with us.
I invoke the direction of the North.
The direction associated with life force,
the vitality that arises when the heart opens.
The realm of the mother and father.
The energy of the season of Summer and of full bloom.
I call the qualities of the North be with us.
I invoke the direction of the West.
The direction where the sun sets,
the place of harvest and letting go.
The realm of the maga and magus.
The energy of the season of Autumn.
I call the qualities of the West be with us.
I invoke the direction of the South.
The direction of universal wisdom, purity and clarity.
The realm of the crone and the wise man
The energy of the season of Winter.
I call the qualities of the South be with us.
I invoke the Centre.
The space of the all, right here, right now
The space of stillness and presence.
I call the qualities of the Centre be with us.
And then at the closing of the event or after your birth when you are ready, you need to release the directions.
Southern Hemisphere releasing
I release the direction East
and give thanks for the teachings and the blessings of the East.
I release the direction North.
and give thanks for the teachings and the blessings of the North.
I release the direction West
and give thanks for the teachings and the blessings of the West.
I release the direction South.
and give thanks for the teachings and the blessings of the South.
I release the space of the Centre
and give thanks for the teachings and the blessings of the Centre.
During the Vision Quests that my husband Paul and I lead we encourage the questers to do the following ceremony. You can use this to connect with the Goddess energy of Changing Woman and hear the Earth speak to you.
Four Directions Ceremony (Southern Hemisphere)
Go into a place in Nature where you feel inspired.
Sit or stand facing the East. This is where the sun rises, the direction of spiritual birth and awakening. Place an offering of gratitude in the East for realignment with the true essence of you. Ask – what do I need to know now?
Let whatever in Nature appears to you in this direction whether a tree, a bird, a boulder, represent the quality of that direction in that moment of time. Notice and contemplate exactly and truthfully what Nature herself provides in that moment.
Now turn anti clockwise to the North. This direction is associated in the Southern Hemisphere with life force, the vitality that arises when the heart opens.
Make your offering of gratitude, giving heartfelt thanks and love to all the beings who are helping you to experience and express the power of your own unique energy. Notice what Nature presents to you in this direction as a message about this.
Turn to the west (anti clockwise), this is where the sun sets, the place of letting go. Make an offering of thanks for transformation and metamorphosis. Give thanks to all that you no longer need in your life and let it go. Look in this direction for what Nature provides to you as information to guide and help you with letting go.
Turn to the South (anti clockwise), in the Southern Hemisphere this direction is associated with universal wisdom, purity and clarity. Make an offering of thanks to the South for wisdom and clarity in your life. Look for what Nature offers you in this direction.
You can do this Four Directions Ceremony as often as you like, In fact the more you do it, the easier the messages will flow. You could sit with Changing Woman and ask specific questions about issues in your pregnancy, regarding your birth or about mothering.
It is traditional within the Native American way to also honour the axis’s that hold the quadrants of the four directions, Father Sky and Mother Earth, “which creates not just a circle, but a round, all-inclusive sphere and allows us to have some sense of the totality of all life.”v
Changing Woman teaches us about cycles, She is the cycles
“I just found out I was pregnant, my first pregnancy, planned and much wanted. It was a Friday evening and I was taking part in an Aphrodite ritual. Underneath my veil I was silently weeping, grieving for the loss of my moon-blood and for my changing body. I was beginning to travel a path many women had gone before me. I felt the Goddess energy pulling me deep down to the gateway of initiation. There was much preparation to be done. I was discovering new rhythms and cycles within cycles. There was new growth inside of me. It was my time to change from Warrior Maiden to Sustaining Mother.” Mikailah
Pregnancy is a cycle within a cycle within a cycle. A cycle of ten moons within your life cycle that starts another life cycle.
Remember everything goes through cycles, everything. And every cycle is reflected in every other cycle, they are the same, just different speeds.
Sun cycle – day and night, 24 hours
Menstrual cycle – 28 days (average)
Lunation cycle or moon phases – 28 days
Earth seasons – a year, 365 days
Vegetation cycle – a year, 365 days
Life seasons – a lifetime.
The cycle goes: birth, growth, full bloom, harvest, decay, death, rebirth…over and over.
Knowing and understanding the cycle gives you a useful map of the way of things.
The Menstrual Cycle
There is so much more to the menstrual cycle than the biology lesson given to explain it, in the same way that there is so much more to sex and childbirth than the mechanics. The menstrual cycle is a cycle to base your life around, in fact your life is based around your menstrual cycle whether you realise it or not, whether you pay attention to it or not.
Why not pay attention? So much more will make sense, you will make sense to yourself!
Each cycle provides a woman with the opportunity to understand and read the messages her body gives her for any specific healing she needs. Each cycle creates the opportunity for as much spiritual growth and personal development that she could want. There is powerful transformational magic inherent in the menstrual cycle. All a woman has to do to connect with that potential is simply to be with what is, her cycle (happening whether she’s paying attention or not). This is the spiritual practice of menstruation.
Charting your menstrual cycle would be one of the main instructions in ‘A Woman’s Body – Owner’s Manual’ if there was one. This daily practice teaches you the wisdom of the cycles. Charting your menstrual cycles gives you a key to understanding why you feel the way you do on any particular day and its easy and illuminating. viYou come to see the patterns of your energy levels, your creativity, your appetite and cravings, your libido, your moods. Knowing these patterns allows you to more easily ‘go with the flow’ –the flow of your own cycle and the other cycles – the moon phases, earth season and the life season you are in. When you have this information you can plan your daily life around what you know will be so, ‘swimming’ with the currents and tides rather than against them.
Connecting with your menstrual cycle rather than ignoring it or overriding it with drugs, will lead to a more connected and in-tune pregnancy and birth. Our menstrual cycle brings us to a knowing of our body’s wisdom, our inner wisdom and our intuition. These are all vital for pregnancy, birth and mothering. Honouring your menstrual cycle, learning the wisdom inherent in it, is part of the pathway to consciousness around conception, pregnancy, birth and mothering.
Much healing is required around menstruation on a cultural level as the attitudes that surround it are mostly negative. This affects everyone, especially women and their self awareness, self esteem and health. Studies show a link between a girl’s attitudes to her menstrual cycle and her safe, or not safe, decision making around sex.vii
Call Changing Woman and give thanks for understanding your menstrual cycle, for honouring and celebrating it and passing that onto your daughters.
LIFE SEASONS AND RITES OF PASSAGE
Honouring the cycles means also honouring our rites of passage.
Continuing with the Medicine Wheel, each direction represents an earth season and a life season.
East, Spring, girl – maiden, boy – young man
South (in the Northern Hemisphere), Summer, mother, father
North (in the Southern Hemisphere), Summer, mother, father
West, Autumn, maga, magus
North (in the Northern Hemisphere), Winter, crone, old man
South (in the Southern Hemisphere), Winter, crone, old man
At the transition point between each different life season there is a rite of passage into the next. Traditional cultures celebrated these, most modern cultures have forgotten to. Rites of passage are important times in our lives and they actually happen whether we pay attention to them and enact them with consciousness or not. Whatever happens to a person around the shift from one life season into another will be what informs them about what their culture expects of them in their new role in their next life phase and how their culture values that next stage. The messages are usually subliminal and in modern cultures negative. Picture a girl at her menarche, first menstruation, her rite of passage into womanhood. What happens for her, or to her, around this time of transition and transformation in her life is what imprints on her psyche, the value of and expected role for her as a woman. Likewise for birth, the time of transformation to mother, what happens around this time informs the woman of the value her culture places on mother and her expected role as mother.
During my Moonsong Workshops – Reclaiming Feminine Power Through Reconnection With the Women’s Mysteries, we delve deeply into our menarche memories to understand how what happened then configured our beliefs about what it means to each of us to be a woman. In my Pregnancy – The Inner Journey Workshops we have a similar process in contemplating previous birth experiences and seeing how they ‘informed’ us about what value our culture places on mother and what is expected of us in that role. The typical responses to the menarche memories are women remembering being told to either ‘get over it and get on with it’ or being left alone in a state of unprepared confusion and shame. The sorts of messages we get from this about being a woman is – its nothing special, don’t honour the cycle, ignore it and carry on regardless. These attitudes have led to the continued disconnection from the feminine power of menstruation and lead on to the fear based attitudes around childbirth.
Call Changing Woman and give thanks for guidance in honouring rites of passage and reclaiming the power of woman through her life seasons
Many communities and groups of women friends are bringing more awareness to the importance of rites of passage and are conducting menarche ceremonies- welcoming their daughters to womanhood and Blessingways for the pregnant mother.
A ceremony honouring the Mother-to-be
Pregnancy and childbirth are hugely transformative experiences in our lives. They are our initiation into Motherhood, the summer of our lives. Each birth is a rite of passage into motherhood, as we grow more babies so to do we. In traditional cultures there have been many ceremonies conducted to honour the Mother and give thanks for the safe birth of the Baby. Our modern culture has morphed this tradition into a ‘Baby Shower’ with more focus on the material than the transcendent.
By conducting a Blessingway, we can bring consciousness to the awe-inspiring nature of birth, the magnificence of Motherhood and the willing support a community of family and friends offers the mother-to-be. When a woman gives birth to her baby she is gifting her community, our world, with a new member and for this we thank her. We wish to encourage (instil courage in) her and remind her of her inner wisdom, her physical ability and the strength of all women that she can tap into when she begins the process of bringing her baby ‘Earthside’. I have resisted using the term labour as that implies hard work, this may be the case, however it also may not. So much of our experience of life is what we are led to expect and the language we use is part of creating that.
Childbirth is an experience that has been transformed in our modern culture to a medical event. It is seen as risky and many women and practitioners fear the process. To quote Shamanic Midwife Jeannine Pavarti Baker, “Birth is as safe as life gets”. Modern beliefs, attitudes and practices around birth could lead a woman into doubting her innate ability to give birth and making choices that don’t support the natural process. Even with all the medical advances, natural birth is still the safest for both the Baby and the Mother.
Giving birth is about surrender and “trust is the prerequisite for surrender”. When a woman knows she is safe, supported and loved, that she can trust her body and the birth process then she can more easily surrender, open and let the baby come. One of the main purposes of this ceremony is to remind the Mother just that – she is safe, supported and loved and she can trust in her body and the birth process.
I have been to many blessingways and they are always beautiful and memorable occasions. Included at the end of this chapter is a blessingway ceremony that can be used word for word or modified to your needs. (email me if you’d like a copy). One of the parts of a blessingway is the group creation of something the mother keeps to remind her of the support and love of her group of friends or community. Many women choose the stringing of beads, each guest brings a special bead and she reads out her wish for the mother and baby as she strings her bead with the others. Mothers then have these beads to contemplate, remind, and charge them with the well wishes of their friends. The wishes usually include affirmations of the mother’s abilities to give birth and reminders of the sacredness of birth. Another option is the creation of an altar for the birth, with each guest bringing a candle imbued with her wish that are all lit when labour begins; and another, each guest brings a prayer flag that she has made, symbolizing her wish, that are all hung in the birth room.
“It was awesome having a Blessingway. It was like the start of the magic to create the perfect birth. I felt so blessed that these women had so many beautiful wishes for me. Everyone put their thought and wish into their bead, and we created the connection literally with the bracelets. With the power of all those spoken words, within days I gave birth to Eden. And in the days after his birth, I felt the support again of all those women, completing the circle.” Monica
“Having a Blessingway was beautiful. During my birth, I felt surrounded by the women who had wished me well. It was as if we became one and I had extra strength and wasn’t alone.” Melissa
“For my first daughter Iris, my sister asked if she could arrange a baby shower. I was a little nervous at the potential lack of heart of such an event, so I agreed on the condition that I could help. My requests were:
1. That each woman coming brought a bulb, plant or seeds I could plant for my baby (instead of gifts).
2. That each woman came with a piece of writing or poetry, by her or borrowed, for my baby.
3. That each woman would bestow a trait upon my baby, which they wrote on a wooden bead to be strung together with all the others.
So now 6 years later, we still have our garden, the writings are in a special envelope for Iris and the beads hang in the play room. I am grateful that we did this welcoming event for me and my beautiful Iris.
With my 3rd daughter Cedar, I felt it too much to have an event at home and was deeply aware that the majority of the women I wanted to connect with were not within traveling distance. So I arrange a welcoming spell that I could send to women far and wide. The spell consisted of a piece of beautiful fabric to create the spell upon, paper to write upon, a candle, and instructions with a date and time that one could attempt to perform the ritual on with the intention that we created the welcoming in unison. It arrived tied in ribbon. The extraordinary things that were returned on that paper made me cry with joy, over and over. Some wrote poems, others did a painting and some wrote a letter of love to the baby Cedar. One even had a big lipstick kiss. The fabric was to be returned to be constructed into something at a later date. I had expected no change to the fabric apart from being filled with the magic of ritual. Instead some where carefully embroidered with words and images of love for Cedar. I am so grateful that I had the inspiration to create this ritual. I did mine at home with Cedar’s 2 older sisters who were 2 and 3. They each did a picture for Cedar and had their own fabric to perform the ritual on.” April
Melissa’s story about Maggie’s birth
Being asked to be a support person for my dear friend’s birth was an enormous honour and I wanted to be the best support person ever. My mind was full with wonderful ideas on how I would help and the tools I could use to help make this experience amazing for Maggie. Well, I arrived on that day two weeks before the baby’s estimated due day to find my dear friend well and truly on her way to birthing her baby. My mind scrambled to find the perfect thing to do, it was obvious that it was a problem I needed to figure out myself as I could see that Mags was already journeying to that place inside herself we all go to birth. A thought passed my mind about the blessingway I was planning for her a few days away, I remembered Mags asking me what really helped me in my own births and one of the biggest things was calling on the energy from my blessingway and the women I am so deeply connected to, in doing this I felt completely held by their spirits. In my remembering I found my answers, so I entered the birthing room with my blessingway notes and a now still and peaceful mind. I invoked the directions, the birthing Goddesses, the angels responsible for safe easy empowering births and all of Maggie’s personal spirit guides whoever they may be, I also wrote a simple prayer on a piece of paper and placed it under the birthing pool. I knew in doing this I was serving Maggie to the best of my ability. This knowing enabled me to be at one with Maggie and her process. I felt then that I entered the sacred birthing space where time was forgotten, Maggie’s body did the physical opening with awesome power flowing through her she birthed. She had such knowing and expertise one would never have known about her two previous caesareans or the doctor who insisted that she could not birth naturally. Baby Mia was delivered by her mamma safely into her father’s hands, easily a most empowering birth. Maggie found the blessing note under the pool and the invocations and simply said “I felt that, thankyou”
Call Changing Woman and celebrate the changes with your sisters
“She changes everything She touches, everything She touches changes”
CHANGING TO MOTHER
So often after women have babies, they say ‘right, now I get it’. They’ve been changed, things are different now.
“Being pregnant changed me from being self-conscious about my body to loving it and being sure that it was made for me! Each birth has given me a new way of looking at myself and the world. For my first birth it was happiness – an ecstatic joy that didn’t fade away, it made me feel this is how happy the whole world could be if we honoured the participation in the intimacy and excitement of the arrival of a new life. The second birth was power – how strong and wonderful my body and milk were to be able to birth a new life and not only love it but also sustain it, nurture it and make it grow. I had the power to do anything! The third “birth” brought fear as an ectopic pregnancy made me aware of how fragile life can be. The fourth birth brought control. Coming to the understanding that I can influence how I respond to situations that arise, even when they are challenging. The fifth birth brought more love to our lives. Each member of the family has their own way of connecting with and sharing the love of our family more openly. Love is expressed with passion and joy not shame and resentment.
Motherhood has opened my eyes to the inter-connectedness of all women and their families. As a mother I feel it is important to be in the moment with your child and family. Having the honesty to examine your feelings and share them in a way that is constructive rather than just letting them all out.
I had a strong image from my own childhood, that kept recurring while preparing for birth of my first baby- my own mother cradling a younger sibling and breastfeeding with bliss. I knew the birth of my baby would “happen” and then I could be in that same blissful state of holding and nurturing my baby. I can say that I was not frightened about the possibilities of the birth experience, but focussed on that ecstatic moment, eye contact, body contact, minds meeting, so connected to that new life in the act of breast feeding – the way my mum had been so far away with my baby sister but at the same time just so there, open, peaceful and loving to the rest of the family.
The biggest difference between being a mother or not being a mother is that
most mothers reach beyond themselves, caught by the need to give their child loving kindness that cuts across the social norms of privacy, resource sharing and every aspect of what we come to expect as an independent adult. To be truly considerate of the lives that they are in trusted with, mothers put the needs of their children above there own. Some independent adults do behave like this at times, but when you are a mother, that loving kindness goes on for the rest of your life. You can’t do it for a day and then go back to caring only for yourself!
Becoming a mother has changed my relationship with my partner. We are more intimate, more in love and open with each other. There is a sense that we share more of our hopes, dreams, desires and despair. Security in our love of each other lets us be truly honest with each other.
Changes have happened in my relationships with my friends since becoming a mother. Some friends I have become closer with along the intimate journey of motherhood. Others have slipped away. Friendships are dependent on nurturing too and at times I do not nurture my relationships with my friends as I should, so our friendships can’t flourish.
My relationship with my own mother had changed. My approach to her has become more gentle as I see the struggles that a mother goes through on the journey from carrying, birthing, caring for a baby, a child, a teenager, a young adult. So much work, care and love that I just expected rather than appreciated. I appreciate her wisdom (used to call it bossy advice), her touch and her time much more than when I had no children of my own. I am also now very close to my mother in law, much more connected by the sense of family and the important responsibility of caring for children.
Becoming a mother has changed my relationship with the Earth. Initially it was in my philosophical outlook that having children would harm the earth – more people = more resources = more destruction. Now, I see that if I can teach the respect for the earth that I feel to my children and live our lives conscious of their impact on our natural surroundings, we may have a hope of living more harmoniously with the rest of the life on the planet.”
“Being pregnant changed me completely, the direction for my life was changed for ever. Instantly something was more important than myself. I knew my life was about to begin. Having my son through c/section made me see how strong I could be, also what real fear was like and that I could still smile and feel the most wonderful joy ever possible in so much physical pain.
Being a mother has changed me in every way possible, I’m now happy and feel more complete than I ever thought possible. Everything is now important where as before becoming a mum I never thought much about what was important at all. At 24, when I found out I was pregnant, the most important thing was where we were going next weekend and what gloss to wear with my new dress. Now I’m happy in a tracksuit as long as I have time to play with my son.
Being a mum has made me look at how I was raised, and use the parts that work for me now. It really made me want to choose a culture and town that we could make our permanent home with influences I was comfortable with for my child to be around.
For me the difference between being a mother and not, was as soon as I became a mum my life stopped being about me for the first time in my life. My relationship with my partner was a short one before becoming a mother, its been a very big learning curve. Our relationship gets stronger everyday as we watch our son grow up together.
Being a mother changed my relationships with my friends, for some we became much closer and they are a huge part of my son’s life, the others who still expected me to be able to go and party have slowly dropped off.
Being a mother has me appreciate my mother a lot more and its nice to have such special stories to share with her and I do look forward to her being a positive influence in my son’s life.
Being a mother has changed the way I treat the Earth because I want to teach my son the best way to keep our planet safe for him.”
The drum is a tool and instrument used by the Native American peoples. Drums are as old as human kind and used in all cultures. The drum is a feminine symbol, round and a container that vibrates life. According to Brooke Medicine Eagle, the drum has belonged to women since the beginning of time. The drum echoes the heartbeat of the Earth and enables us to connect with the rhythm of life.
Using the drum during labour helps reduce the pain of contractions. The vibration of the drum can dissipate the pain and also give the woman a focal point that enables her to access an altered state of consciousness.
“My friend and teacher James drummed for me during the birth of Jackson, my third child, and I found it so helpful. I focussed on the drum beat, making loud toning sounds and went into a state of consciousness where I felt no pain at all.”
“I felt strange asking for a drum to be used during labour but my intuition was very strong on this one so I went with it and it proved to be invaluable. Not only did the rhythm of the drum give me something to focus on during contractions, it also acted as pain relief. The drum was played directly over my sacrum and as the intensity of the contraction and the drum playing increased I felt the pain melt away, the vibration was soothing and felt very natural.”
Call Changing Woman and connect with the heartbeat of the Earth
Navajo Prayer for Beauty to Changing Woman
Watch over us,
Your hand before us, protect us.
Heal us, make us well.
As you speak to us, we speak to you:
May it be beautiful before us,
May it be beautiful behind us,
May it be beautiful below us,
May it be beautiful above us,
May it be beautiful everywhere.
Restore us in beauty.
Restore us in beauty.
Call Changing Woman and walk in beauty
ii E (long e) sone (long o) keen (long e) dee (long e) hee (long e)
v Buffalo Woman Comes Singing by Brooke Medicine Eagle. Ballantine Books
vi I have created a how-to chart your menstrual cycle handbook and journal called “Thirteen Moons”. This is available from my website http://www.moonsong.com.au/bookshop.html
vii “Cycles of Shame: Menstrual shame, body shame and sexual decision making” by Deborah Schooler