Friday, July 29, 2011

Craft Camp

I know, I know, I said I was going to be away for much of the summer, but we have just come back from a week at a craft camp and I just had to share it with you, so this is a temporary return for a while ;-)

Last Sunday we packed the car to the gunnels to drive down to Gloucestershire for a craft camp. We were a little wary because we didn't seem to have too much information about the whereabouts or what we were required to bring. Dare I say it...oh, go on as I have been there and feel I am therefore has it's roots in Steiner education and simply was organised in a similar vein. If you had been to the camp before, you were sorted, but if not, you were expected to just "arrive" and eventually you'd go with the flow.

So that's fine and I presumed we'd have a day of high wound-up-ness as we found our groove and chilled out, however, what I didn't presume was that the place would be so bleedin' difficult to find, that we'd arrive crying, stressed and with smoke coming out the engine of the car!
We had a tiny map that had been put on the website that didn't even have the names of the roads we needed, no postcode and no emergency contact number and I was trying to navigate with Richard on speaker phone whilst he tried to track this field from home...yes, mad eh, but the postcode we did have was for the centre where it was taking place but was no where near the place where everyone was camping!
At one point we started off down a very steep hill for the road to suddenly become exceedingly narrow and truthfully, not wide enough for my car and top box! About a quarter of a way down I decided that we were highly likely to become wedged or scrape the car, so decided that we had to come out....backwards. It sounds now, like a comedy moment, but it wasn't at the time and it also sounds like I was a muppet for setting off along a lane that was too narrow, but it became narrow very quickly and this wasn't visible from the start of the lane...honest!
Of course, the car didn't like reversing up a hill, so we had to take ten for me to stop sweating, shaking and the car to stop steaming. Now it has a trip to the garage to probably replace the clutch F***kity f**k.

Eventually we found the very tiny hand painted sign on the un-named road in a farm, parked and pitched and began to frantically find our grooves.

This makes the whole thing sound awful, which it wasn't at all. As I said, if you'd been there before (which I soon discovered, most people had) then finding it would have been easy. You'd also had been aware that you didn't literally take heed of the instructions to only bring plates and cups but you needed to bring your own stove really for hot water, that there was only one shower between 200 people and a supply of water and soft drinks were a necessity. You'd also have known that coming late would mean you were a long way from the communal area (which benefited us at night time as we weren't kept awake by drumming circles or jamming sessions) which meant a long walk to wash your plate, have a shower, fetch a coffee etc...hence the need next time for a stove. You would also have recognised some of the craft tutors so you could have ensured you were close to them when the time came to choose your craft for the week and this way you'd get a space, rather than us who waited until we were told who was whom and then couldn't get on as the 8 spaces they had were already allocated!

Still, by Monday afternoon I think we'd begun to find our grooves and Master Beehive the elder was busy stretching animal skins over frames to make a shield and whittle himself a spear in the Young Warrior group, Master Beehive the younger was busy making pots in all shapes and forms in the Pottery group, LMB was making all kinds of mess and singing songs in the 6 - 7 crafts and stories group and I was learning to make a spoon out of green wood.

Meals were group efforts with each tutor group taking a lunch or dinner session to prepare and serve.
The food was excellent...primarily veggie, so of course Master Beehive the younger lived on bread and pureed fruit that I'd brought for the most part, however, one evening there had been a slaughter earlier int he day and lamb and pork were on the menu. He gained some colour and began to smile again!!

By day two, once we'd made our peace with the fact we weren't going to be showering daily, lentils were the staple diet, that we would, quite literally be crapping in the woods (in composting toilets...) and mobile phones were unchargeable, I was beginning to enjoy the slowness of it all. To be in an environment where we were learning to make everything we'd need to live was pretty amazing.
Although most people stuck with the craft they'd chosen for the whole week, other workshops on offer were leatherwork, blacksmithing, metal casting, musical instrument making, weaving, felting, basket making, diggeridoo making, bushcraft, pottery, warriors and others I've probably forgotten.
We will definitely do this again as there are huge numbers of crafts I'd like to learn.

My next experience of crafting will be next year when i am going to be learning to make silver jewellery. Last week I "doula-ed" for my beautiful friend Emma, who was the true amazon woman exuding strength from every last bone in her body during her mammoth four day labour. Her sweet baby boy, Arthur, was born on Master Beehive the younger's birthday. As a thank you (which she didn't need to do) she, Arthur and Arthur's daddy, bought me a weekend silversmith course. I am so touched by this. I most certainly wasn't expecting a material thank you because I was just so honoured that she allowed me to be there with her. Birth is a very intimate and private occasion and each time a family allows me to be there, I feel honoured, although i know I am offering them a service for which they are paying, it is still a very sacred occasion to be a part of. However, for Emma I didn't want payment because she is my friend first and foremost, who just happened to be having a baby. So this was a very special thing for her to do for me and for me to be able to do for her. So Emma, if you're reading this at 2am in the morning with Arthur nursing and making those cute snuffly noises...thank you, you are truly generous and I am very grateful and happy xxx

Back to the story, it was pretty wonderful to return to civilisation, however, and come home to hot water, mattresses that don't deflate in the night, a mirror (although that wasn't quite so nice initially!) and a hot cup of "my" coffee - albeit, it was pretty good coffee at the camp and you'd earned it after the walk!
However, I am going to have my hair cut today and put chemicals on it (oops!), eat a take away this evening (bigger oops!) and use my computer to put my photos on facebook (bigger oops still!) and look forward to my holiday in a fully equipped gite in France next week, so perhaps I'm not totally cut out for life in a cave just yet ;-)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Skool's out for summer!

Summer is here, well, school is out at least.
One thing about summer is that it reminds me how much I truly miss living in Connecticut and the summer season in the US. Guaranteed warm or hot days, swimming at the YMCA outdoor lido, swimming at one of two local water holes, the beach, hanging out with friends, lying in a hammock dodging my hibiscus flowers falling off the tree, melons, oh, so big in the garden and fighting the rabbits and deer to get there first.
10 weeks, if not 11 or 12 of blissful nothing-ness.

We didn't have plans as such, well we had a few camps here and there, but for some reason, life just seemed so "un - stressy".

There was no rush to buy school uniform and new shoes for the fall before it all sold out or everyone was getting the kids' feet measured.

Maybe I just feel rather full to brimming at the moment of trying to hold onto and juggle a bit too much, but all i can think of is "how on earth will I fit it all in in six weeks" and "I hope it won't rain and ruin all the plans".

I'm sure it'll come together once we start relaxing and lying in without the rush of having to get to school on time.

I partly think that it feels more stressy than usual because I know I only have seven weeks until I start at uni and life will be a permanent juggle for three years. It's a kinda of last chance saloon summer ;-)

It's also been an emotional and epic week in other ways. My beautiful, strong friend Emma finally birthed her gorgeous boy, Arthur on Thursday, after a week of off/on labour. The poor sweetheart was totally exhausted by the final stages but let me tell you, she was AWESOME!

Arthur shares a birthday with my very own Master Beehive the younger. It is a phenomenal coincedence and brilliant addition to Emma's and my story. That we only "reunited" with each other after many, many years, a short few years ago, yet our history extends back to the age of 11 when we were at secondary school together and for our boys to share a birthday seems...well, extra special in a way, a kind of bigger bond. I certainly won't have an excuse to forget to send him his birthday gift each year ;-)

So congratulations Em, as I know you'll be reading this as your sweet smelling little boy is nestling into you,  nursing and you only have one hand free to scroll your mouse up...internet reading will be your life for a while!!

And on the subject of new beginnings, Master Beehive the elder has also reached the end of an era. Yesterday he finally left primary school for good. In September he will join a new Secondary school. It's incredible to think that my firstborn is old enough now and in the same time again will be leaving home for university. He has grown so tall, lost all his "babyface". He has his roots now and I really hope to see him get his wings and learn to fly at his new school.

Life really does pass by at a rate of knots and it is so easy to be so busy that you miss it. As John Lennon said; "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans"

So, on that note, I will not be blogging very much over the summer. We have a wonderful week at a craft camp lined up with some friends from Edinburgh, then we're going to drive to the south of France for a week holed up in a gite with a pool and eat lots of french bread, brie and drink copious amounts of vin rouge and finally we will be catching up with friends, shopping for new shoes, school uniforms, university gear, gathering the final bounty from the garden and storing it for the autumn and welcoming home Mr Beehive who, after four months away from us is finally coming home next week.

What's not to celebrate?

Friday, July 01, 2011

Sphincters, Birth, Friends and Dildos all before breakfast!

Last night I was propping my eyes open after having two hours sleep and being called to a birth.

The birth, as all births do, taught me something yet again. It reinforced in me the fact that no one is in charge of anything when it comes to birth. It taught me that we can help women prepare and understand things, but ultimately, birth will do what birth does best and will be unpredictable.
My mama was around 39 weeks (but who's counting?) when she rang to say she had some leaking that wasn't really stopping. Three weeks later I finally got the call to say that her waters had fully gone with somewhat of a pop and contractions were picking up.
From past experiences and the fact her first birth was only 14 hours and straightforward, I'd got it into my head that this birth would be fast. So much so, that I was actually concerned I may not even make it.
It was a humbling thing to discover that second births are not always fast or around half the length of time of the first. I learned that you can never predict anything in birth.
Outward signs mean different things for different women and different births. I also feel even stronger about the connection between psychological needs impacting on the birthing process. As I watched her contract I visually saw her retract into herself as if she was scared to let go.
She laboured so calmly and beautifully,rhythmically rocking and blowing and making ripples on the water of the pool but when she felt the desire to bear down, she appeared to try to pull upwards. What was her brain telling her? What was worrying her?

For some women, there are things within the course of their journey to becoming a mama, for the first time or subsequently that can impact on their release of their baby. Perhaps this mother is fearful that she may pass a stool? Perhaps as a mother bringing a sibling into the world, she's scared about her ability to parent two or her relationship with her firstborn and how that may change now? Maybe there is a reason as to why she's scared that comes from her first birth, an episiotomy or forceps story that needs to be told during pre natal visits.

 Ina May mentions this a couple of times in her book Spiritual Midwifery. One of her women appeared to stall at 7-8cms and eventually it was discovered that she was fearful that her husband might leave her (he was at her side) as their marriage was not "official" in her eyes. The marriage was officiated there and then on the spot and this appeared to be the bridge required for the woman to "allow" herself to release her baby.

It's not an uncommon phenomenon. There are reports of animals in the wild doing this, where there is the threat of danger or a predator close by, if a mother is close to birthing her baby, she will, in fact, close up again to ensure that her body keeps the unborn safe until danger has passed.

A midwife friend of mine has a couple of female cats. Last year, one of them, heavily pregnant, made a nest for her impending birth. The other cat (non-pregnant) destroyed the nest (yeah, jealousy - let's save that psychological mess for another time!). The pregnant one tried again, in a different place. Repeat!
Finally two days after she'd made the first nest she managed to give birth at the bottom of a sleeping bag where the other cat couldn't find her. Her body held her kittens in until time was safe.

It's not a rare occurrence that you read that a mother whose partner is away or whose preferred midwife is not on call or an older child has a birthday, waits until all these things are rectified and satisfactorily "put to bed" before she "allows" her body to open up.

It all just reiterates "sphincter law". The cervix is a sphincter, just like the anus, the ileocolic, uretheral, pyloric and cardiac sphincters. If under stress or duress, they shut down and don't relax and open. It's a simple flight or fight response.

 I had talked at length with my mama, and it revealed nothing glaringly obvious. However, having been taken on rather late in the game (at 37 weeks) as they'd made more of an late decision to use a doula, I think I missed this whole "why we're having a doula" thing that "may" have been the reason things were slow. Often a woman taking on a doula for a second birth after not using one for a first has an agenda. Why does she need a doula this time if she didn't have one the first time? She has a need there, often something that she maybe wishes to avoid or not repeat. I knew her first birth story, what I didn't know though or really manage to explore was how she'd felt, emotionally, through her first birth. It wasn't a birth that happened in the UK and was a rather "over managed" affair. In hindsight I think that much of it she felt like a "specimen" on a slab. In hindsight, each time she was "on the bed" (despite asking to get on the bed herself) she clamped down. Once we got her onto the beanbag in a small, intimate corner of the room, she gave herself permission to release.

I also wonder how much an impact having growth scans and being referred because two separate parties on two separate occasions couldn't agree on the size of the baby, had affected her. With her first son born at around 39 weeks at 6lbs, I wonder if she was fearing that this new baby, who came at roughly 41 weeks was now going to be gargantous? She had already told me a couple of times during pre natals, that a baby puts on an oz a day.

What a wonderful thing hindsight is and what a wonderful thing being able to be a reflective practitioner is. What a wonderful job I have and will do that allows me to sit and listen to women and what a wonderful job to be in that surprises me everytime and keeps me humble to the power of women and the power of nature.

My next birth is going to be one of the most special and important events of my doula career and days of my life as a friend. My next birth will be as the doula for my dear friend, Emma, who has allowed me to be there to witness this - in return for a hand hold or two ;-) I feel so honoured for this opportunity and blessed that we managed to rekindle this friendship after nearly 20 years of being out of touch.

This brings me to the topic that I was going to blog about today, before getting all birthy on you again and that is friends.

This week has been an emotional bag due to feeling particularly vulnerable at the moment with Mr Beehive still working up in Edinburgh and there not being any set signs as to this ending at the moment and me feeling under the weather with a cold.

On Tuesday I did, what I never normally do (aren't I good *polishing halo) and earned my "mummy of the year" badge by taking my kids out of school to go to Legoland! It's an educational experience! We wouldn't normally do that except that some friends of ours from the US were here, quite literally for three days and we wanted to spend time with them, having not seen them for two!

There were tears and hugs and laughter and OMG, the chatter and noise!!! Laurie and I were unable to let go when we saw each other and the kids (we both have three and they're all around the same age) well, it was as if they had never left.

Amazingly, life, two years, two countries and yet there is nothing there that made it hard or awkward.

Last night, on two hours sleep, Laurie and I snuck away (thanks Magda!) to the pub for a quick dinner and pint of something "reddish with a good head" (L's description of a good english ale- honest guv!) which dissolved into raucous laughter in the corner, a wonderful meal and particular of a wonderful few days that we spent together at the Cape early in our friendship where after dinner one evening (the kids were at home with a sitter), Laurie took me on a tour of P'town and we ended up bonding over dildos in the porn shop!!! Apparently she's been worrying for the last couple of years that this was not a great way to develop a friendship and the fact that we are both on the extreme end of the "crap-o-meter" when it comes to telephoning or Skyping meaning that she was unsure if I was mentally scarred and ignoring her. Her only fault there is that she doesn't know me well enough...sadly. Our vow to each other is to remedy this and this also needs, therefore, for us to have a repeat performance and return to the Cape next summer to further develop our friendship and knowledge on P'town's extensive range of manacles and chocolate body paint (not on each other though I hasten to add!!)

So, true friends really are amazing people. People who allow you to attend their births and who you can discuss dildos with over a pint of something "red with a head" and a bowl of faggots (yes, I forgot to throw that in, my local pub has them on the menu in a tomato sauce - apparently v. yummy!)

Both these friends are ones who I don't see often, sadly, due to distance primarily, but both these amazing women are such huge parts of who I am.

My friends make me smile, cry, laugh until I nearly pee my pants. We can pick up where we left off. We can know that the other is okay with no more contact than a text or email message, but then spend hours over dinner or in the rain over a flacid sandwich at a theme park, putting the world to right and finishing each others' sentences. Two more friends sent me a message last week when I was feeling particularly down after a disparaging week of mishaps and lack of husband, to say they were coming to see me. They had decided amongst themselves to arrange to come. I cannot say what that sentiment did for my week. Tonight my best friend arrives with her hubby and two kids. They're here for the weekend and we're going to the local version of Glasto on Saturday. This friend has seen me through thick and thin...provided boxes (with holes in) for me to puke in at age 17, cleared up and covered for me when I've done things I shouldn't, slammed doors in my face when I've pissed her off and been on the front row for all the concerts I've played in. She (along with all my beautiful friends) supports what I do, doesn't mind when I use the words vagina and placenta in dinnertime conversation, looks after my children when she thinks i need a break. She tells me when she thinks I'm a knob and gives me a hug when she's listened to me rant and cry. She's seen the boyfriends come and go, walked with me down the aisle and was the first person to hold her first nephew. She's seen me at my very best and my very worst. Our friendship is unconditional.

Friends are truly amazing people and I am so blessed.

Today tell your friends how much you truly love them.

Have a happy weekend x