Friday, 29 June 2012

Tread softly....

Wow. As a longtime fan of Ken Robinson I was surprised to find that I hadn't seen this particular video before this evening. He is a true visionary. This speech is just so spot on, I had to share.

Tread softly lovely readers x x x

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The onion layers of our birthing selves

I've been thinking about how difficult it actually is to have a satisfying let alone positively glowing birth in this day and age. And I'm struck by a few reasons why this might be. In truth, it's blindingly obvious!

If you think about it, it's sort of criminal that we spend hundreds of hours learning mathematics, english, and sciences, study at colleges for a year or two, even go to university to study subjects which we may never even use in our later careers, for as long as four years....... but when it comes to birth we expect  to do this marathon-scale event with just a few months of preparation! D'uh?! The Tv provides us programmes like 'One Born Every Minute' but this potentially can be a pretty frightening introduction to the world of birth for women who've never seen how much gentler it can be. We can have heard so many stories about how it all went wrong that we can start to distrust the whole business altogether and think of ourselves as machines prone to breaking down. It is hardly surprising that women are afraid. We are not a culture that spends much time on birth preparation - most women read a couple of books and attend a handful of classes. In some cases, those classes we attend focus exclusively on pain management, with the emphasis being on discussing the pros and cons of a limited range of gadgets, drugs and procedures.

Instead of feeling mentored, coached and loved by a community of wise women who we might have known our whole life, birth in our modern age has now become a rather less intimate and altogether less private event for us women. Most of us give birth surrounded by strangers or at best, relative strangers, where in days of old, we would be supported by the village birth team made up of our elders - our grannies and mothers, aunts and older sisters who would know all the ways to help, to soothe, to turn us this way or that, who would know and love us, as only they could. This loving support counts now as much as it ever did but nowadays it is partners, one or two midwives, and doulas who are taking on this role that used to be fulfilled by perhaps a wider circle of village wise women.

But before we even enter into our birthing time, it is actually pretty astounding how little time was really given over during our education to properly understanding the workings of our own body, given that at least tens if not hundreds of hours are devoted to mastering multiplication, learning the periodic table, or analysing the works of Shakespeare. The type of, or even lack of, sex education we received pre-and post-menstruation will shape how we feel about our body for a long time after. If we have grown up in an environment where menstruating and sex are talked about in a confusing or misleading way, it can be hard for us to feel positive or joyful about the natural processes that happen to us, or the feelings that go alongside them, and feel alone or alarmed by them. Certain religious ideas about women's bodies can lead us to feel ashamed of our bodies, of our bleeding times, of our developing sexuality. Some religious practices can be downright degrading for some unfortunate young women. Sexual, physical or mental abuse can muddy the waters greatly about how relaxed we feel about being naked, about sex, about relationships, about boundaries.

Such fears do not simply disappear when we are about to give birth - yet for many women it can feel like there are little or no avenues to discuss taboo subjects - even with close friends if the taboo is so great - cutting us off from the emotional support, counselling, or opportunities to talk that we may desperately need - especially so in dealings with midwives, health professionals or health visitors, who, as kind as they may be, are not always the best people to talk to about such things. There are many layers and levels of fears which we women bury even unto ourselves, things which sit deep down in our subconscious, that we may have been carrying around all our lives - from our own birth onwards. It is perfectly possible that a woman's own birth and the feelings buried from that time, can resurface when she births her own baby. If our own mother was very afraid, this subtle or overt emotion can become transferred to us on a level deeper than we can easily measure.

As women we can also have an ambiguous relationship about our body shape or size, without even necessarily having been through anorexia, bulimia, bullying, self harm or other medical or mental issues, as some women have. Our partner may undermine how confident we feel in our own skin, perhaps preventing us from feeling really free and liberated, especially in front of strangers. Previous illnessess can also seriously impact on a woman's ability to birth from a seat of her own power.

We may be harbouring secret fears about our relationship with our partners. We may be afraid of how we will parent. Of how our partner will parent. Or how it will affect our relationships with each other, or with our friends and wider family members. We may be worried how we will now cope with our second/third/fourth/or even our fourteenth child! Being pregnant can throw up past events, uncomfortable emotions and traumas which only surface at this vulnerable time, when we are tender and hormonal.We may be worrying about how the birth will unfold, we may be terrified and wish to avoid things that happened before. There can be a phenomenal amount of pressure and anxiety being experienced at a time which ought to be full of excitement.

And just at the time when we most need it, we women are often not supported enough in the lead up to birth to when it comes to our emotional and mental wellbeing. We're seen as being a bit flakey, too hormonal to be taken seriously. And because we necessarily get fuzzy brains to help us get into birthy mama zone, we and others can easily confuse this with not being in our right minds. When we see our midwives the emphasis seems much focussed on making sure we have the correct blood sugar levels, blood pressure, vitamin levels, etc etc, which are important for sure, but by focussing on such a narrow and specific set of nutritional and biochemic aspects we ignore, and so do our midwives, the state of our mind. In truth, our intuition and powers of perception peak at this time in our lives and are a precious gift, and a lesson for us. As women these feelings and thoughts tend to be treated as separate from our bodies, as if they don't matter as much as our blood sugar levels or other 'measurable' data. But the truth is, our feelings at the time of birth are where we are really at, and our bodies are not isolated from that. Nor are our unborn babies. As part of the mummy-baby dyad, they feel the emotions we feel, in direct and indirect ways. If we are tense, they become tense. If we are scared of birth, they sense it. If we are scared about them coming out, they stay in! If we are feeling like we've already faced all our hurdles before we've even stepped into the birth space, we are more likely to have a fast, problem-free run. Lots of talking, and the odd cry at this time get things off our chests - but we don't always have the means to do that. It's so important though!

There are so many subtle layers and barriers and hurdles that we face at the time of our birthing, and unless we really devote a lot of time and energy to understanding ourselves, and get a lot of emotional support, time to process and talk out our fears and feelings, in a safe space, with people who understand, who we trust, who can listen without judgment, then those obstacles to birth become real genuine sticking points that will require interventions that can feel invasive and take us away from the joy and empowerment that should accompany the safe arrival of a beautiful baby.

There's a famous story in Ina May Gaskin's Spiritual Midwifery where a woman was coming to a point in her birth where her carers could sense she was holding something back. The labour had slowed, and so mama was asked to offer up any fears that might be holding things up. She explained that she had been worrying secretly about the wording in the wedding vows her and her man had recently taken. She was nervous that the vows weren't tight enough. So an impromptu exchange of vows was undertaken there and then, and soon after the baby was born!!! It is a shame that "the power of our thoughts" is not deemed important enough to write down on any NHS literature on the arsenal of birthing tools available to us mamas. I wonder why?

Counselling for us women after we have had our babies is also a long process. It can take months, years and decades for us to feel ok after our birth(s). If we know that we may not have another opportunity to birth again, we may feel a sense of sadness, regret, guilt and shame that we didn't 'achieve' the 'perfect' birth.

And this is where our culture doesn't help. Birth can feel to some like a competition in which there are winners and losers. And this is very dangerous.

We are all journeying on a path and have different levels of support, information, knowledge, and life circumstances at different times in our lives. A woman having her first baby will be very different from a woman having her tenth baby. The exact same woman will change from having her first to her tenth. She'll know different things, she'll feel different things, she'll have a different bank of life experiences to draw on. She may be in a more loving, or less loving relationship, having an accidental baby, having a desperately wanted baby. She may be living in paradise or less than ideal conditions. Carrying a baby during times of emotional upheaval, grief, or stress.

And no matter how much I may bang on about how to help make birth more glorious, here's the truth of it:

Birth is not the only chance a woman has to 'shine'. It's not her one and only 'glory moment'.

Motherhood is a long path.

It is full of twists and turns, learning opportunities, out and out failures and triumphs.

The best we can do is lovingly support each other through our births. Help to identify fears. Examine them safely and talk them out. Try to educate ourselves and each other to be as happy as we can be, to give ourselves the best opportunities to thrive at the time of our birthings and beyond.

As women we need to pull together, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, learn from our mistakes and hold our heads up high, however we birth.

We need to really inform ourselves by looking beyond the standard NHS literature if we want to maximise our options

And when we can reach out to each other, and fill in those gaps left behind by the disappearance of that ancient web of wise women who used to be our whole universe on our doorstep, we can really do anything, overcome anything, and heal our lives and those of others around us. Those wise women are all of us. We may not live on each others doorstep but we can help each other from afar.

We are each others medicine, balm, and comforters.

Our men too, have a most important and beautiful role in making our families what they are.

And however we birth, those gorgeous bundles of love that come into our world and change everything forever make it all worth it, change our relationships for the better, heal us and teach us more than any thing else we'll ever read or watch. Our babies change us from being a couple to being a family, from being a family to being a bigger family, from being women to being mothers, and they change our world forever.

What a privilidge, pleasure and joy to bring new life into this world, however we do it!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Sunrise / Sundown :-)

Well what a fun week its been since I last wrote on here. We've been......

.... Celebrating the solstice with a sundown blessing on the beach with two soul sisters and a posse of smiley and colourful friends, which was absolutely magical :-)

.... Messing about with our dear friends Abi and Joe and their kiddos down near Bristol in the pretty little town of Wotton-under-Edge for a few laidback and lovely days. (Thank you guys, I know you read this blog)

and finally sloshing, dancing, skidding and playing at the muddiest festival I've even been too - Sunrise - at Bruton in Somerset! Super family friendly and really chilled out fezzi. We camped up with our lovely friends Giles and Isobel and met some of their pals, some of whom had kiddlets too, so nice for the boys. Finn, Herb and Arlan made a fine trio, Arlan especially loving the brotherly rough 'n' tumble because he has a sister and no brothers. Oh how lovely to kick back a bit, camped up with nice peeps with a fab vista of rolling english countryside as a backdrop.

Much needed fun times.

Will post pics soon (Indie is listening to an audio on my phone.... Esio Trot .....for the hundredth night in a row! so no downloading pics tonight)

Hope all is good with you dear readers

Just for you, and because I cant get this song out of my head......

* Sun Arise *

(Harris - Butler) EMI Music Publishing Ltd (P) 1963
Acc. Johnnie Spence - Produced by George Martin

Sun Arise come every mornin' 
Sun Arise come every mornin'
Sun Arise come every mornin' 
Bringin' back the warmth to the ground 

Sun Arise fillin' up the hollow 
Sun Arise fillin' up the hollow 
Sun Arise fillin' up the hollow 
Bringin' back the warmth to the ground 

Sun Arise, she come every mornin' 
Sun Arise, each and every day 
Sun Arise, she come every mornin' 
Sun Arise 
ever-y ever-y ever-y ever-y day 

She drive away the darkness everyday 
She drive away the darkness everyday 
She drive away your darkness everyday 
Bringin' back the warmth to the ground 

Sun Arise 
Sun Arise 
Sun Arise 
ever-y ever-y ever-y ever-y day

And here it is sung by Rolf Harris :-)

Sunrise / Sundown, round and round it goes....

Xx MF xX

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Birth like a samurai!

As part of my ongoing devotion to all things birthy, I can often be found of an evening reading birthy books, surfing birthy websites or watching birthy vids on youtube or elsewhere on the web.

Last night, I watched the most wonderful interview with the gorgeous Frederick Leboyer, author of the seminal book from the 1970's 'Birth WithoutViolence'.

Part One

Part Two

There are so many things he says in these videos that resonate so truly for me. That birth is a solitary event, but not a lonely one. That no-one can go so deep down into yourself as far as you. That our births leave a deep imprint on us. That mother and baby communicate heart-to-heart, without language.

I was surprised that this pioneer of peaceful birth, the man who is responsible in part for dim lighting in hospitals, for introducing water to the birth space, a man who is all about peace and love and gentleness in birth, the man whose videos show peaceful mothers and babies looking utterly relaxed should say the following (in his soft and very beautiful french accent) :

"Women have to be told instead of talking about relaxation, feel relaxed?! They have to feel like a samurai..."

And in a flash of recognition, I understand and see my Samurai birthing self refected. This truth resonates deeply. I have always worked hard to create a tranquil birth space for myself, dressed my birth scene with the same love and attention as a theatre or filmset designer. I have had my calm husband on hand, oils and water to soothe. But inside the flower power hippy chick was a silk and steel warrior! The environment around me has always been carefully constructed to be relaxed and this has served as a landscape or backdrop for the very serious work of birth.

And I realise a few things about the Samurai mother.

The Samurai mother understands that labour is a physical and psychological task that requies utter concentration, focus and attention.

She knows that running way from it just makes it harder and that she can't wish or will the pain away. She has to face it.

The Samurai mother understands when to be flowing and bendy and yielding like silk, and when to be strong like steel.

She knows it is haaaaaard work. Even with drugs and surgery.

She will claw anyone in her path who dares to hurt her baby. She is a primal force to be reckoned with.

It is only when she squares up to her fear head on, sharpening her mind, facing it like a tiger, like a Samurai that she can birth the most easily.

Birth is potentially most powerful, and simoultaneously, most peaceful, when a mother embraces her mental inner tiger, harnesses her tigress power, roars in her primal Samurai way, stays focused but then surrenders everything at the crucial moment. At that surrendering moment, time is suspended,  everything else ceases to exist, she is more alive than ever and equally her old self dies, and everything is made new, a whole new universe is born.



Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Maths is beautiful! : Part 1

Some home ed folks do workbooks, but we prefer instead to do our maths in a juicier way. It's so much more fun, and feels more relevant and less 'dry'! We did try the whole textbook thing and it kind of sucked all the joy out of it and turned it into a 'subject' rather than something funky that flows throughout the universe on the micro- and macro level, in the mundane and extra-ordinary. 

So how do our family learn maths?

Together and independently we.....

compose music  
play chess and other mathematical games
follow, adapt and invent cooking recipes
plant seeds and watch them grow into things we can eat
figure out different ways to spend pocket-money
play card games
read books
watching these fun little maths songs
do sudokus
look at nature - spirals, botany, astronomy, physics, animals
build structures on a small level

observed the process of the erection of a two storey extension on our house over several months - maths a plenty!
play pc games
calculate for fun
play games and keep scores
write numbers in letters, addresses, pictures etc...
visit museums where there are little explanatory notes on everything - and usually numbers of some kind (dates, serial numbers, data etc etc!)
talk pokemon stats for hours on end
listen to radio programmes and podcasts
 look at our calendar, the clock, and other media counting times, days, dates, and other numbers as part of normal life
buy stuff and notice and compare what it costs
make models
play endless games of yahtzee in four different modes on the ipad - battle mode, normal, rainbow and duplicate!
design 3-d objects
talk all around interesting subjects that often involve learning number facts or stats
make models
do crafts like knitting, beading, sewing, and weaving
watch tv programmes about maths
look at road signs, leaflets, cinema programmes, packets and boxes, supermarkets, stamps, stop-clocks, at the dentists, on the side of a bus, on a train ticket machine.... i could keep going.....
ride on bikes, skates and scooters and calculate angles, curves and distance
make posters, comics and drawings with numbers in
learn about perspective and 3-d drawing, as in this video

ask questions
calculate speed, weight, length, height, depth.......
work out stats for fun
watch weird and wonderful athematically interesting youtube vids, like this 

and this

read magazines like 'national geographic kids' and newspapers like 'first news' - chock full of interesting numbers

The list is just endless- the point is, that people panic about this subject because it's made sooo serious in school. We have created a myth about maths that it is hard, that only really 'expert' people can do it. I say Bullsh*t. I think we have actually forgotten how easy and beautiful it is in its organic natural form. Maths is present in a million daily tasks. It can be observed wherever you open your mind to see it.

Maths is everywhere, all the time!

If you fill your house with interesting resources, get out and about lots and live an interesting life, you will all soak up a living kind of maths like a big ol' sponge. And if the kids want to take it further later on, it won't be such a big deal, and they'll have a first hand immediate and real, applicable kind of maths to work from.
Check out these mathsy pics I took a while back for our home ed file. I include them here in case you are thinking of home ed and perhaps have never stopped to think about home ed maths in any other way besides workbooks at the kitchen table!!!

What's are your favourite maths resources? Please do share them!

Xx MF xX

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Are you worried about the baggage retrieval system they've got at Heathrow?

Well hey there. How's it going? I've been laughing at myself today. Man, I have been a bundle of worries! I've been worrying about this, worrying about that, and worrying about everything else in-between. Worry, worry, worry! And I don't especially know what the good of it is. No-one's life is at stake. Such a waste of energy!

For some reason this song popped into my head yesterday and I have been giggling at myself since then....

I am officially giving myself a break from worrying. 

All is well in my world.

What are you worrying about right now? 

Maybe you don't need to worry so much either.....

I discovered this sweet pretty bit of music today...called 'worries'. Rather lovely I thought.

Don't worry my friends. It's a waste of time!

We live and learn.

Big hugs

Xx MF xX

Monday, 4 June 2012

From the archives : Meet Motherfunker interview with Zoe at Give an Earthly

I thought it would be nice to re-post this interview I gave last year for Zoe at Give an Earthly.

Re-reading it has been a great reminder to take my own advice and keep my dreams and goals in mind, and that they are precious, not silly! 


What dreams and goals are in your heart dear readers? 

Are you nudging yourself towards them?

What steps can you take to make them happen for yourself?

Xx MF xX

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Life is out there

Hmmm I guess the last post didn't seem like a very logical follow-on from the previous one, and since no-one commented maybe I need to fill in some gaps for y'all so I don't come across as a total manic depressive!!!

Things have been a bit tough in some regards just lately. We have set the wheels in motion to jump off a train that was going to fast for us. It's called the rat race.

My husband set up his own company several years ago, which was doing what he really loved at the time. Kind of accidentally but not. He loved the work. And they have this BIG client. Who pays well. In bank account terms. But holy mother of god, it comes at a cost.

Over the last year in particular, I feel like our family has reached a point when this type of work is seriously bad for our health. Mentally, it has been too much. As in, total burn-out. As in periods of not sleeping properly, having middle-of-the-night panic attacks, feeling stressed and overwhelmed for certain periods which do pass but which have felt like they were getting more the norm than the exception. I cannot blame it all on the work thing. Home edding full-time takes its toll too.

There have been more moments than I care to admit over the last year when I have just sat on my own and thought to myself "I can't cope, I can't cope, I can't cope". There have been some days when I woke up and just thought, you know what? Life is just tooo hard. It hurts my head. It's too much trying to figure out all the different logistics of modern living, of western living, of integrating so many expectations, needs, schedules, and agendas even just within our own family let alone the wider world beyond. Managing bills, insurances, running cars. All that middle class crap we buy into. Trying to figure out where to go, what to do, which people to see when, which food to buy where, how ethical x, y and z are. Asking big existential questions. Whether I want to live where I am or move. How I feel about so many things. Whether I am following my heart and doing my true life's work. Whether that whole concept is bullshit anyway. What will make my kids and husband happy. What will make me happy. What will keep all my friends happy. The weight of things said and unsaid. Being afraid. Feeling small. Worrying what others think.

I have been such a bundle of worries for a while, and I need some headspace away from the merry-go-round of our home and work life. Somewhere to get a different perspective, to re-calibrate. To find some peace and calm again. A two week holiday isn't gonna cut it. This is some serious life-shifting we need to do.

And so, much to the puzzlement of friends who say things like "Who winds up a profitable business and jacks it all in?" ...we are doing exactly that. We are jacking it in. We are trying to climb out of this hole we have dug for ourselves. And it excites and scares the bejeezus out of me in equal measure.

In order to do this we are making people redundant. Last week we hit some low points, swam in the murkiest of emotions, felt wretched, horrible, sick. On some levels it feels utterly selfish doing what we are doing, in the middle of a recession. There are complicated, long drawn out logistical processes that have to occur in a certain order, and it is not something we have any experience of so its a steep learning curve. Trying to leave the business whilst creating the least damage. High emotions. Friendship testing times.

But we are slowly going in the right direction. As insane and scary as it sometimes seems in our odd moments of panic. I think we are doing the right thing.

There is a chance that a friend may rent our house for 6-12 months and look after our doggy so that we can rediscover some peace, balance, and family togetherness whilst exploring the world beyond these uber- flat fenlands. We plan to work at different projects whilst seeing some of the world with the children and exposing all of us to different standards of living, different ways of living, different ways of seeing.

At the moment I am sustained by a lot of love. Love from my husband and children. Love from friends and wider family. Love from further afield, love which connects the dots all over this planet and means more than money or stuff. The heart connection we have with people. Friendship is everything.

This weekend we had an awesome time with good friends. many of them are well travelled. And I feel so completely ignorant and small when I realise how little we really know of life in some ways. We know that our kids will not learn everything they need to know about life if we just stay here in our cosy bubble. They need to get out there and touch, taste, see, feel, experience the wider world for themselves in the way only kids can.

I want to get closer to my hubby and kids whilst at the same time throwing us all into new situations, exposing us all to new sensations, flavours, smells, sights and sounds. To learn first hand about the world instead of reading about it in books or in documentaries. Or hearing friends talking about their adventures, second hand. I want to learn, to have the time and headspace to write, to gain insights into birthing wisdom and practices in other countries. Hubba Hubba has some fantastic ideas he's been itching to do for ages, and maybe now we can finally do them! I hope that we will come back refreshed and renewed, clearer headed, revitalised. More appreciative of our lives.

I love my friends and family. I have so many blessings in my life. I know that there are opportunities and many good things here. But I'm feeling a call. Like the wind in Chocolat. And it whispers of adventure and daring to let go and surrendering to new experiences. New friendships to be made.

Life is out there. And I want to grab it with both hands, with open arms, with a lust for life and a joie de vivre thats been lacking in my life of late.

Maybe we are crazy. Maybe it will all go tits up. I hope it doesn't.

Whatever happens we will have some interesting adventures!

If not now, then when?