All posts by lightfootbirth

MorningStar Womyn Empowerment Award 2018

“Do not be afraid. Your baby will come.”

This annual award goes to a womyn who has birthed against the modern current and is empowered because of her birth. In addition, she has a plan for how to provide for and care for herself, her baby and family as the power shifts her previous life. This year’s award goes to Katya Perkova of Russia. Katya birthed her fifth child at home, 44 weeks and her precious baby girl weighed beyond the 12 lb scale. All of her children have been born at home – 1 breech daughter, one daughter born in Sinai with the Bedouins, 2 sons and now a third daughter. Beloved husband Phillip has been her constant believer and companion throughout. Welcome to our world Misha, Masha, Marisha, Makar and now Marfa.

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Behold! The family photo also contains Marfa’s placenta tree.

“Do not be afraid. Your baby will come.” This was Katya’s message to Sister MorningStar when asked if she would accept this year’s award and give a message to our Community. Following is her written message in receipt of the 2018 Empowerment Award.

Dear Sister and Elders.
I’m a Woman and a Mother in this Universe.
And I have birthed in Power 5 times.
It was a Time of my Power, my Life Force and my Bliss.
As all Wimyn do. Before me and after. To keep the Sacred Birth in this Universe.
May it be so for every Mother on the Path.

~Katerina, mother of 5 children, November 11, 2018

Our Lightfoot Birth Elephant Circle in Hawaii send our Great Aloha to this amazing womyn and her family! Thank you for inspiring us!

From the rising of the sun to it’s setting. May the name of Katya be Praised!

Newborn First Breaths- an exploration of instincts

The moment of Birth is a very powerful time of transition for the mother and the baby. This is the moment when a woman becomes a mother and a baby transitions from a floating world of warm water into a world of gravity and air and takes a First Breath. When mamababy are left together and alone to explore each other at the time of these First Breaths, their instincts will guide this time of transition perfectly. There really is nothing that needs to be taught or learned; no interventions or other hands or voices are necessary, and in fact are disruptive and detrimental to the process. We do, however, need to unlearn what modern medical birth has imposed on mamababies at this sacred time, which involves separation and much intervention with disastrous impacts.  Think about the impact of disruption of this transition- the moment when a mother is born, if disrupted and interfered creates a mother who is distrustful of her own power for mothering; the moment when a baby is born, if disrupted, creates a child who will feel that the world is unloving, lonely and scary.

Now watch what happens when this time of First Breaths is honored, by allowing mamababy quiet, undisturbed time and space for their instincts to unfold….

Exploring with EyesIs it you? Is this the one I’ve felt moving in my belly all these months? Is it you? Are you the one that has nurtured me, sung to me, swayed with me since the beginning of time? I see you, I see you. Hormones flowing through mamababy at the time of birth, dilate our pupils… we are wired to find each other and imprint on each other with our eyes. This first meeting is successful when the environment is dim or dark, allowing our eyes to feel comfortably wide open and locked in on each other’s face.

Exploring with Voice/EarsBaby calls out, cries, coughs, sputters… Hello, little one! Oh my, you are here! We did it!….. Yes, this is my mama; I’d know that voice anywhere…. Yes, I am here…I hear you, I hear youEven a baby who is born a little stunned or stressed from low oxygen at birth, will come around when they hear mother’s voice… this exploration is successful when no other sounds or voices are distracting from this most important meeting of the voice and ears.

Exploring with Touch– arms reaching out, arms drawing in… soft landing on warm breast, hearts beating, together again… I accept you, I accept you …fingertips stroking small, round fuzzy head, cheeks, nose, ears…. Hands cradling back of neck and bum, gentle pat, gentle pat, just like before. ..  this is the only stimulation baby needs… Skin on skin, nothing else… no gloves, no towels, no stethoscopes, nothing but healing, loving touch.

Exploring with Smell– breathing in, the smell of a newborn- top of your head, behind your ears…. this is my baby…First breaths take in her smell, this is my mama…I recognize you… both smell of that known, comfortable, all-encompassing scent of amniotic fluid….tiny glands around a mother’s nipple at birth emit this same scent, baby is of course coated in it… we are the same, we are one, we are together still.

Exploring with Moutha kiss on your head, and one for each of your toes… I can help you clear your nose, that’s it baby… fluid draining, air is enteringI love you, I love you… this is love’s first kiss.  Have you seen it in animals? Look it up…. Kitty Cats lick, lick, lick…  Chimpanzee Mama puts that whole baby head in her mouth…. Dogs, horses, goats, cows, tigers, monkeys, bears…. Clean, warm, dry, stimulate, suck, lick, kiss…. Who taught them that? No one, it is instinctual.

Of course this is just the beginning, this instinct-led First Breaths exploration is the fundamental foundation for instinct-led breastfeeding … climbing, crawling, smelling, lunging, rooting, licking, mouthing, tasting, latching, suckling, nursing… mamababy supporting each other, in awe of their instinctual nature… in awe of nature’s miracle, as it unfolds perfectly… again, and again.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I will say it here anyway, just to be certain…. Of course no one has touched or disturbed the cord during these moments of First Breaths exploration, the cord is designed to stay intact half in and half out of the mother, still delivering vital blood and oxygen to the baby to support a gentle transition to First Breaths.

I once watched a documentary video which described the experience of baby humpback whale at birth as “the only landmark is a mountain of mother.” That is my hope for all our babies…. May they be born onto a mountain of mother… may their First Breaths be witnessed and supported by that mountain, undisturbed by anyone else- in sight, sound, touch, smell and taste- natural, instinctual, peaceful.

 

Peace on Earth, begins with Birth…. May it be so for you and yours

 

Based on the teachings of Sister MorningStar, www.sistermorningstar.com and the book, Birth without Violence by Frederik Leboyer

Artwork is “First Breath” by Wyland, www.wylandstore.com

Documentary video quoted above is Humpback Whales, a MacGillivray Freeman IMAX film narrated by Ewan McGregor

Do you know the Elephant Circle?

In the wild, when an elephant-mama begins her birth journey… the other female elephants gather…. old and young they gather around the birthing mama and create a circle, facing outward to give her the necessary sense of privacy and protection that all mama’s need in order to bring new life into the world.  But that’s not all….

They don’t stand there only as stalwart sentinels on guard…. they step into the flow of the birth energy with her… moaning and swaying with her…. holding sacred space as only other wild, instinctual, powerful females can. Elephants are known to be amazingly compassionate creatures who also have the ability to express emotions in very human ways, even shedding tears.

Our birthing mamas deserve the respect of privacy and protection and if she desires, an elephant circle of supportive sisters….. come join us in the sacred circle… the Elephant Circle gathers when spirit calls for it… stay tuned.

my elephant circle painting
“The Elephant Circle” by Cat Lightfoot

Necessary Conditions for Mammalian Birth

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Dark

  • Mammals in the wild (even animals in captivity) will seek out a dark space- a den, cave, closet or corner
  • Physiology: We need natural sunlight during the day and natural darkness at night for optimal melatonin production; Melatonin synergizes with Oxytocin to enhance birthing waves.
  • What to do: minimize artificial lights, use candles at night and pull curtains closed during day; avoid light from screens (can use blue blocker apps on devices if must)

Quiet

  • Mammals in the wild seek out quiet spaces in order to protect themselves from predators; noise or disruption will activate adrenaline and alert the mother that this may not be the best environment to give birth
  • Physiology: too much talking and specifically asking questions will stimulate the frontal cortex, the modern language center of the brain; this stimulation takes the mother out of her ancient primal brain which sits near the brain stem, this is where she needs to be to give birth
  • What to do: Ask all present to be quiet during the birth journey, use hushed tones if needing to speak, and try not to ask the mother anything…. Instead of asking if she would like a drink of water, just offer the straw to her lips. Take cues from the mama, she may slide into more primitive non-verbal communication like body language, grunts, head nods, gestures, etc.
  • Mama- you can make as much noise as you like! You are in charge… follow your instincts and listening to your body…. Moan, tone, vocalize, cuss, ask for what you need, tell what you don’t want…. All is welcome and encouraged!

Private

  • Mammals in the wild and even domesticated animals like cows & cats, will go off on their own in order to birth their babies; no one else is necessary. Even our beloved elephants will circle up with their backs to the birthing mother in order to give her privacy.
  • Physiology: a birthing mother who feels observed or watched may block her instinctual connection, her oxytocin hormone production can slow or stop all together
  • What to do: limit the number of people at your birth; invite only those who are absolutely vital to the birthing process, and do your best not to call even those people too early. Encourage anyone present at your birth to keep a 5’ halo around the birthing mother. No one should be sitting and staring at the mother.
  • Mama- practice bringing your focus deeper and deeper within, drawing your senses from outer to inner

Safe

  • Mammals in the wild in the middle of the birth process will completely shut their birth down if their sense of safety is threatened, so that they can get to a safe space and birth their baby later.
  • Physiology: our Sympathetic Nervous system (fight or flight) is our stress response designed originally to help us respond when threatened, in this day and age we can feel ‘stressed’ by many psychological factors as well as physically. When we are under stress, our sympathetic nervous system is online and birth will slow or stop.
  • What do you need to feel Safe? Meditate on this and discuss it with your birth team & create a safe container together.
  • What helps you feel Loved? Love is the natural anti-dote to Fear and helps us feel safe.

 

Imagine a womb-like environment for yourself to give birth in, a dark, quiet, private, safe space… a space just like your baby in your womb; notice how this helps you feel open and relaxed.

May you birth instinctually like the mammal that you are…. may you be undisturbed like our wild progenitors.

 

References: the works of Dr. Michel Odent and Sarah Buckley

 

Birth of a Placenta Orchard

The elephant circle of women held sacred ceremony today in honor of the First Mother, the placenta or ‘iewe….  one of our mamababys decided to gift their placenta to this land, and upon that gift a vision was born…

Women’s Garden and Placenta Orchard for our community to gather herbs, sit, meditate, and TalkStory~  Today we planted the first tree in the placenta orchard- a bronze loquat- in the East. I envision a placenta tree in each direction to anchor the space, with a bounty and plants and herbs that support women’s cycles, pregnancy and birth filling in the circle, and space for us to gather in the center! Please hold this vision with me….

Vision:
To support gentle, peaceful, and natural pregnancy and birth in our community, by guiding women back home to their instinctual natures, to the earth and to the plants.

To create an herbal garden filled with plants useful during pregnancy and birth, anchored by fruit trees, and in the center a circular gathering area for our women’s circle to sit and ground on the earth. Our community of hapai women and new mothers will have access to gather herbs, meditate, as well as help tend the gardens. I see circles of women and babies sipping tea, sharing stories, breastfeeding, singing songs and nourishing ourselves on the ‘aina!

We now have 3 fruit trees each with a beautiful placenta buried underneath! The next steps are to create a concrete or paving stone circular sitting area in the center, and herbs around the perimeter filled with herbs such as mamaki (endemic Hawaiian nettles), comfrey, calendula, yarrow, lavender, motherwort, moringa, sage, passionflower, and many others!

 

Peace in Birth

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My wish for this New Year… for the New Earth… for us all

(Inspired by the song Let there be Peace on Earth)

Let there be Peace in Birth
and let it begin with me
Let there be Peace in Birth
for all our mamababies
Together with Divine Mother
at home with your family
In trust and support of our sisters
In perfect harmony!
Let Peace begin with birth
Let this be the moment Now
Each baby brings Light to Earth
Let this be my Joyous vow
To protect each moment, and respect each moment with sacred integrity…
Let there be Peace in Birth
and let it begin with me!

Happy New Year 2018… Peaceful Birthings to all!
Xoxo
Catherine Lightfoot
new earth midwife

Ancient Hawaiian Birth

ho’ohanau= the hawaiian word for the profession of obstetrics or midwifery, could be translated as ‘to create the space for giving birth’  from the words ho’o– to make or create and hanau– to give birth

 

In the ancient Hawaiian tradition, the function of birth was the “transference of Spirit and Soul from one dimension to the next via the womb.” (1) The practice of  ho’ohanau (midwifery) had been researched and evolved for thousands of years so that “all experiences connected to the creation of life would not only be as efficient and painless as possible, but ethereal as well.” (1) And thus the role of the Pale Keiki (traditional midwife) was well respected and passed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter, teacher to apprentice, elder to younger.

The Hawaiian practice of ho’oponopono (to set right or create goodness, sometimes referred to as a practice of forgiveness) was a part of the prenatal preparations from the beginning. From the time of conception it was important for an expectant mother to “clean the spiritual house, riding the soul of guilt, putting the mind and heart at rest- not imposing the mental and emotional burden of the mother onto the unborn.” (1) Great care was taken not to expose the pregnant woman to negative thoughts and situations. In fact pregnant Ali’i women (royalty) would be withdrawn to a birthing compound throughout gestation and birth to protect her from physical and psychic impurities.

When the alawela (linea nigra, the dark line that sometimes appears on a pregnant belly) reached the mother’s piko (navel), the midwife knew that the birth was imminent and would announce “The alawela has met the piko!” and the team would prepare for the birth, which traditionally would include building a seperate birthing house or structure. The friends and family who would gather outside during the birth would “compose birth chants, read natural phenomena, and search for Ancestral communications. The father of the child would surround the perimeter of the birthing compound with his Ancestral male images to protect the mother and their unborn child…” (2) During labor, the traditional Hawaiian midwife would encourage the mama to walk to loosen the muscles and ease tension, she would also administer sacred Hawaiian herbs as well as use a form of hypnotism or meditation which involved breathing and repeated mantras which “lifted her suffering, allowing ‘both [midwife and mama] to concentrate on the birthing process.” (2)

Most ancient Hawaiian women would birth in a squatting position with the midwife’s assistant kneeling behind the mother as a backrest, as the child emerged the midwife would hold the child up and shout “ike ‘ia na maka i ke Ao!” (the eyes have seen the Light!)

After the birth of the placenta, the traditional Hawaiian midwife would cut the cord with a bamboo knife, tie it off with a special string, and place a drop of mother’s milk and a bit of arrowroot powder onto the umbilicus. The placenta and umbilical cord were considered an extension of the body and thus valued and treated with respect in their burial “to create holistic harmony and facilitate Spiritual Evolvement.” The placenta (‘iewe) would be washed and buried with a tree seedling. After the umbilical cord stump fell off, it would be taken to one of several known sacred places and put into a hole in the lava covered with a rock. (2)

 

Haumea is the Hawaiian goddess of the sacred earth and birth, as well as Pele’s (the famous volcano goddess’s) mother. Haumea who gave birth herself to many generations of people from different places of her body (one generation was born from her shoulders, one from her knees, another from her forehead, etc) is said to have shown the people how to give birth through their sacred thighs. My favorite story about Haumea is one in which she appears to a womyn who is having a difficult birth and is getting ready to undergo surgery, and she says,

“In our land babies are born naturally without cutting open the mother.”

She then assisted with an herbal remedy and incantations and the birth proceeded quickly and easily. I find myself wondering… what herbal remedy? … could it be the flowering Hau tree (also named after the goddess Haumea?) whose slimy tea is said to aid the slipperiness of the birth passage?

Other things about ancient Hawaiian birth can be learned by reading the rocks. There are petroglyphs in several places around the Hawaiian Islands. I believe many of them are related to families and birth. In one family scene, you can see that one hand of the mother is highlighted with extra long digits, and additional ray-like lines highlighting like a halo the sacred gateway through which a child just emerged. (3)

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… I believe this is depicting a mother who just received her newly born baby with her own hands.

 

 

 

 

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In another, the description reads ”appendages in the genital area are unexplained” (3)….. could this be a footling breach birth? I think so.

 

 

 

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One of my favorites is the birth scene at Puako which clearly depicts a twin birth- a womyn with an open circular vulva, a newborn girl up at her shoulder touching her face, and a newborn boy at her right arm being held upside down by the father.  (4)

 

 

The presence of vulvae, pregnant wimyn, and birthing wimyn at these “legendary places… manifestations of belief and power, prayer and offering, made by ritual experts…” (3) tells us of the sacredness the Hawaiian people held for wimyn and birth; the honoring of the divine feminine.

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For Polynesian wimyn, birth is not about pain and suffering… in fact, they were shocked to witness missionary women screaming and suffering throughout labor and birth. Every part of the birth journey from conception to treatment of the placenta and postpartum care was treated as sacred, and I think this is the important distinction… the role of the midwife or birth attendant then is to create a sacred space for giving birth.

If we can remember how to honor birth as so many of our ancient, native ancestors have, if we can make it sacred in our own way and give birth the respect it deserves as the ceremony of giving Life and Light to the Earth, then maybe our mamababies will stop being disrespected, harmed, and traumatized… then we will birth a world of peace.

 

 

References:

(1) Daughters of Haumea: Women of Ancient Hawaii (Na Kaikamahine ‘o Haumea), Lucia Tarallo Jensen & Natalie Mahina Jensen; Pueo Press 2005

(2) “Hawaiian Beliefs and Customs During Birth, Infancy, and Childhood”, Mary Kawena Pukui; from Occasional Papers of Bernice P. Bishop, Museum of Polynesian Ethnology and Natural History, V16, No. 17, March 20, 1942

(3) Spirit of Place,  Georgia Lee & Edward Stasack; Easter Island Foundation 1999

(4) Hawaiian Petroglyphs, J. Halley Cox & Edward Stasack; Bishop Museum Press 1970

Emer-gently

 

I want to share this brochure with the world!  It was created by my mentor, Sister MorningStar and the Global Midwifery Council.  It’s birth was in response to a worldview that sees birth, in general, as an emergency…. instead of the normal, gentle emergence of a new being into the world.

I am sharing these brochures at all events I teach and attend, as well as any place that has public health brochures on display. And I encourage you to please print them out using the free download or purchase the durable glossy brochures to share with your community!

This is how I approach it with the public places (think public library) “I have some public health brochures on pregnancy and childbearing created by the Global Midwifery Council. Would you be willing to display these with your other public health information? Thank you!”

I’m also visioning a way to get this information to our maidens….  in the schools?  somehow included into the sex education curriculum? as homeschool program?  for both our young wimyn and young men!  Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas by commenting below. AND please take these ideas and run with them! We are co-creating the new earth together, sister to sister!

 

The Opening

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“A kind of light spread out from her. And everything changed color. And the world opened out. And a day was good to awaken to. And there were no limits to anything. And the people of the world were good and handsome. And I was not afraid any more.”― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

A child’s song

“Thed6b819_962fc55ac31e439898f2c94a439abbaere is a tribe in Africa where the birth date of a child is counted not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind. And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches it to him. And then, when they make love to physically conceive the child, some of that time they sing the song of the child, as a way to invite it.
And then, when the mother is pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people around her sing the child’s song to welcome it. And then, as the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or hurts it’s knee, someone picks them up and sings their song. Or perhaps the child does something wonderful, or goes through the rites of puberty, then as a way of honoring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song.  If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. They sing their song to them. The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
And it goes this way through their life. In marriage, the songs are sung, together. And finally, when the person is lying in bed, ready to die, all the villagers know his or her song, and they sing — for the last time– the song to that person. “
Sending you blessed peaceful moments so that you may listen in your heart for the song of your baby!
Peace,
Catherine