Matrona Mondays: Preparing for the Wild Side of Birth

Welcome to Matrona Mondays! In Roman times, Matronas were those women who were known as the “Mothers of their Family,” or strong, respectable women in the community. "Matrona" is also the name for female Roman deities known as the Protectresses of a tribe or community. Each Monday, we will feature a voice of one the Matrona's in our community. These women, though different in history and practice, are united by the passion to support and empower pregnant and birthing families around the globe. 

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wild-powerful-labor

It’s a natural progression. After all, it began with attending farm animals through birth. They are the ones who taught me first:

Birth is natural. Birth is normal. Birth happens.

Sure, every once in a while there are complications. These may be safely and honorably addressed with compassion, wisdom and skill. But more often than not, birth unfolds beautifully in its own sweet time and manner. And no matter how many births I attend, it is the mothers, be they sheep, goat, cow, horse or human, who have shown me that birth is an amazing, natural, wild journey every single time.

Now I have been called to midwifery. Attending human animals, my fellow sisters, through birth. And guess what? More often than not, it is the same thing. Just as beautiful. Just as natural. Just as wild and wonderful.

A few things may hinder the natural progression of birth. The first of which is the distance our society, and our selves, has set us apart from the natural world. With the token exceptions of the weekend jaunt or the annual week long getaway, more often than not we are separated from nature. We are both out of touch and out of tune with the wilds around and within us. The second hindrance is our social acceptance of the assumption that birth must be a medical procedure, rather than a natural, innate, intuitive, even spiritual and/or sexual, rite of passage for mother, baby and family.

On the other hand, a few things may support the natural progression of birth. These are harder to put into words. They are more intuitive. These are things like trust in birth and belief in the nature of our bodies. Things like a higher faith and the ability to surrender to the process. Things like being in tune with your wild side and the understanding of the nature of birth and your body.

See what I mean? These are some big concepts. These are also some of the most simple, primal and basic elements of birth.

Birth as a wild ride.

This does not mean go out to the wilds, lay under a tree, hide out in a cave or dive into the ocean to birth, dear sisters.  Though that may be your choice, part of honoring the nature of birth is in finding a place where you do feel comfortable, or creating a feeling of comfort in your birthing environment. I don’t care if you choose home, hospital, something in between, or farther away. That’s your choice. But no matter what you chose – and how the birth ultimately unfolds regardless of your choices – being in-tune with the nature of birth and understanding of the wild ride ahead of you can be both empowering, and comforting… and fun.

And so we explore ways in which we may come to an understanding of birth, life, nature and our wild side. As we discover the primal, passionate side from where birth (and life) emerge, we naturally begin to accept birth as the wild ride it can be. And at the same time, we begin to deeply believe in ourselves, our bodies, our babies, and birth.

Do you, dear sister, choose to acknowledge this side of yourself? If so, now is the time to work on excavating, exploring, feeding and getting intimate with your wild side. The forgotten side. The side that much of our civilized society will overlook and undervalue.

So today, let’s delve into that wild side. Let’s look deeply into your secret side where your wilds may be silent, still and dormant. Let’s rouse them.

Come on, have fun with this. Don’t take yourself too seriously. That’s where wildness finds restriction and becomes reserved. If you’re going to let yourself go wild, you have to start by releasing those inhibitions and let your wild side feel free!

Is this getting too wild? This may be way beyond your comfort zone, and that’s okay, that’s fine, there is nothing wrong with remaining safe in the civilized norms. There is no one right way – there is only your way. However, if some sense of curiosity, some inner voice and secret longing urges you onward, if intuitively you feel being more in-tuned with you wild ways is what you need, please read on.

Though as midwife, my focus is on the pregnant woman, I believe this is an important part of all women. Thus this discussion may be equally as relevant for and beneficial to woman working through fertility issues and postpartum adjustment – or any time in life where we intuitively know we need to be more in balance, something is missing, and that something may very well be our wild side.

~

On some barely legible page in my journal I wrote:

Dampened desires

Laying heavy on moist flesh

Suppressed by sunlessness

 

Do you remember what

burning feels like

Warm and gold on

 

Exposed flesh

 

Instead in this succulence

Each drop a tiny window into the soul

An eternal pool

 

That will evaporate

and turn to steam

Should the sun burn

 

through the fog

 

These are the wilds I share with you. Maybe in words. Maybe in images. Maybe in the shiver of a wet spring wind. Maybe in the sweet musty rich smell of early morning sun on damp soil, fresh and rich, drawing you into the Earth.

This is just one example. It doesn’t matter what we see or feel or find, as long we explore. As long as we take the time to touch the wilds and intimately know how they feel.

These are the wild places I dare you to find within.

Explore them now. Because these are the wild places where the birthing woman goes.

Yes, you will go there. Do not be afraid. Women have been going there since the beginning of time. You will not be alone. I have been there. I know those wilds, those dark places, those places otherwise left undisturbed.

This is the place, the throne if you will, of the birthing woman. Powerful, passionate, primordial. The howl and dance and ecstasy and agony that women have moved with since the beginning of time.

Honor those places, those parts of you. They are beautiful. They are primal. They are indeed wild.

Dive in, I say. And you do not need my permission or prompt, for nature will call you and take your there in your birthing hours.

~

And so now, Marvelous Mothers to Be, what can you do to prepare? How can we connect with the wilds within us here and now?

As there is no light without dark, day without night, so can there be no tame without wilds.

Being whole is a balance of all sides. This is our true nature. Without the natural connection we may feel out of touch, disconnected with nature, not understanding of the natural world, our place in it, and our own nature. In fact, often we even find ourselves afraid of the deep, dark places within and around us. Because of this separation, there may be a lack, a deficit, or a longing left unfulfilled.

With all our advancements, our society has brought us further from the simple wilds around us and within us. In becoming so civilized, we’ve left our natural connection behind. Even when we try to feel and find our wild side, the separation remains evident. We hike on well groomed trails, sit within pruned forests, shift our views to avoid the unavoidable lights and sprawl, and drive a car to find a place far enough away to feel a part of something no one else shares but we all have within us… only to return shortly to our smart phones, social networks, controlled environments and a warm latte.

For those who live in the city or in town, and that is most of us, getting out or otherwise getting in touch is hard. It’s not easy, not encouraged, not promoted, not discussed. We’re too busy, it’s too far, we’ve got too many important things to do.

Connection with nature goes against our social norms. After all, connecting with nature is encouraging of stillness, silence, solitude, down time. It is quiet and contemplative, restorative and rejuvenating – when what we’re constantly encouraged to do is something active, involved, productive, efficient.  Reach out, rather than reach in, right?

Nature is very close and very dear to me. I grew up in and around New York City. I used to think that was the center of the Universe and where I would forever remain. But at age twenty, something shifted. Unintentionally, I found myself in nature, and exposed to that deep, dark, somewhat scary side. And there I found a great connection. Since then, my life has turned wild. No, I don’t mean as in “wild and crazy.” Just plain wild, as in finding my home in the wilds.

So, encouraging you to explore, understand, nourish, nurture and connect with your wild side is special for me.

Following, I’m going to share several exercises and activities to help you awaken and tune into your wild side. This may seem rather odd, and maybe even a little uncomfortable at first. But give it a try. Explore. Play. Have fun with it. Get to know the wilds… and your wild side.

Pregnancy is the perfect time. If we allow it, it will flourish. Give it space and it will naturally unfold. Now, with your wild waves of hormones, intuition and altered states connecting you with the little one within, with the eternal sisterhood of motherhood, and with Mother Earth… Now the natural connections organically unfold. Where will it lead you? Are you willing to explore? Come on, just take a peak!

When we open the wilds within us, our imagination soars, our senses come alive, our instincts bloom, and our intuition reins. We release the deepest voice within us, like the howl of the cougar or the shriek of the red tailed hawk, connecting us to that which is eternal, primal, untamed, untold but understood and completely connected to this earth. That is our voice of nature - not one of logic, reason, straight lines and judgment.

That, too, is our birthing voice. Let’s sing it, sister!

Let’s start with this. Spend a few minutes considering the following.  Just stop, sit and think. See where it takes you. What wilds are revealed?

  1. What is your true nature?
  2. What do you love and appreciate about the wilds?
  3. What are you afraid of in the wilds?
  4. In what ways do you feel connected with nature?
  5. How in-tuned with the natural world are you?
  6. What role does nature play in your life?
  7. How strong is your connection with nature?
  8. Have you grown beyond a childhood connection with nature?
  9. Do you feel in any way out of touch or lacking in your natural connections and understandings?
  10. If so, how could you change this?
  11. How do you express your wild side?
  12. How can you nurture your connection with nature?
  13. How can you nurture your wild side?
  14. What could others do for you to nurture this part of yourself?

 Wild, we wonder, what is wild?

Wild is the big moon casting shadows behind trees on frozen night ground, and the insect still damp unfurling for the first time, and monsoon clouds gathering steel grey strength before the intense yellow summer sun, and the pulse of waves lapping softly against the old worn piers, and soft damp grass or coarse cool sand finding its way between our toes or between cracks in the pavement, and the radiant band of blood orange spread across the western sky in evening when the sunset happens just so…

Yes, you say. You see. You feel. You are wild indeed.

Wild is within you as much as is it around you. No matter where you are. Call it. It will come. Better yet, howl, and it will howl back to you.

Now let’s continue to cultivate our wild ways. Here are some more activities for nurturing your wild side. Play with them. Have fun. Go with it. And learn to let go!

Just Be: A simple meditation for the wild soul.

Discover, uncover or create a wild space of meditation.

Perhaps a park, your back yard, in front of an open window with a breeze in your hair, or a closed window with the sun on your face, at a table with a vase of bright and fragrant flowers, or a safe, silent, still place deep in the woods.

Find this space. Acknowledge its wildness, its nature, its beauty, its primal power. Honor your place within, your connection, the wildness allowed and nurtured and cultivated within you when you are here.

Sit there for five minutes.

Do nothing but breathe…

In.

And out.

Allow thoughts to come.

Like sticks in the water,

Floating by.

And let them go.

Hold onto nothing

But your breath.

In.

And out.

And over again.

See what comes.

Allow it.

Watch it go.

Hold onto nothing.

Just be.

Five minutes.

What’s the rush?

Are you bored?

Good.

Things to do?

Fine.

Stay with it.

And hold onto nothing.

Five minutes.

Just breathe.

Just be there.

Be present.

Just be.

The Sacred Journal: Writing from the Wild Soul.

Next, let’s play with the written word.

Get out your journal and let yourself go.

On paper.

Do not hold back.

Scratch and scribble.

Go, grow, flow.

Connect and collect and ease and move and see where your mind and hand bring you.

Try this a few times.

Sit with your journal open, and no intention in mind.

Just be.

You and the page.

Become one.

See what happens.

Give the page the space, and it will become.

Give the hand the chance, and it will flow.

Give the word, the image, the symbol the opportunity, and it will reveal itself.

Do what you want.

Do something. Do nothing; you will not remain contained for long.

Allow yourself to be free.

Pour forth yourself on paper!

Find your freedom.

Release your wild side.

Unleash your inner beast, simply by giving it space and place.

You’ll see, you know, it will naturally unfurl, release, burst forth, fly free.

An empty page onto which it can express it self.

Feeling blocked, restricted, resisting or inhibited?

Let it go.

No one is looking.

Only you.

Don’t hold back. Let it move.

Go with it, and enjoy the journey.

Feel the freedom.

Suggested Reading for the Wild Mind

Two beautiful books come to mind when encouraging women to explore the wild side of birth and life.

The first is The Down to Earth Birth Book, a practical guide to natural birth by Jenny Blyth. This is the book I wish was around twenty-something years ago when I was pregnant. With this wonderful, wild, expansive and eclectic compilation, Blythe explores body awareness, natural birth and baby care and shares wisdom, activities, ideas and remedies.

Next, dear Mamas, I suggest a book not so much to teach you, but to connect you.

Rediscovering Birth by Sheila Kitzinger “… explores the universal experience of pregnancy and childbirth…With an intimate, informative style that both enlightens and engages her readers, Kitzinger looks closely at feeling and emotions in pregnancy, the physical and spiritual experience of giving birth… the fundamental humanity of giving birth.”

This is a celebration of woman and birth and life.

If you have not yet read any (or all) of the books by Sheila Kitzinger, please put them on your list. From the back cover of this book, I quote:

”Sheila Kitzinger is known and respected worldwide as a social anthropologist of birth and leading authority on women’s experiences of pregnancy and motherhood. She is the author of twenty-three books and has been published in twenty languages. Her books include the groundbreaking “The Experience of Childbirth” and the classic bestseller “Pregnancy and Childbirth.” For more information on Sheila Kitzinger and her work, visit her web site at http://www.sheilakitzinger.com.”

Though Ms. Kitzinger passed away last year, she has left us with a strongly enduring bounty of beautiful words and expressions on women, birth and life. She is a woman I wish I had the honor to have met. This is a poem from her website:

After the soaring, a peace
like swans settling on the lake
After the tumult and the roaring winds,
Silence.

Working with your Wild Body:

Finally, before leaving you today, I’d like to share two balancing exercises to practice for tuning into nature, and your nature, and for letting go. The first is simple. The second is even easier.

First: walk.

Start with this. Take a walk. It you’re already doing that every day, great. This is just then one more thing to do while you’re out there. If you don’t usually walk, please do. Walking is one of the greatest – and easiest ways to honor your self, your body, your baby… and nature.  So please, if you can make it happen, get out there and walk.

For this exercise, please be out alone. No friends. No conversation. No destination, goals, priorities, important things to do, places to go and people you just have to talk with. Just you, out there, walking, where ever. Five minutes, fifteen, whatever you want. It doesn’t matter. This is a walking meditation.

While you’re out there, practice letting go. Let go while you’re walking. Let the movement go on its own. Flow. Go with it. Focus on that, the movement, the breathing, the feet on the ground, the muscles moving, the landscape slowly changing in a gentle blur. Keep your focus inward, on your body. See how it moves? Your body is amazing. You don’t need to think about it, and still it’s going places, doing things. Moving legs, rolling feet, breathing, beating, growing that baby inside you! Wow… you are amazing. Feel what you feel like. No demands, no expectations, just be open and feel. Receive. Feel the movement, your feet, your legs, your breathing, your arms swinging, your heart pumping and blood flowing. Can you feel that? Try. And feel everything you can that’s around you. Fresh air, sunshine and shade, wind, heat or cold, the different surfaces upon which you step. What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you feel beneath your feet? Let you sense come alive. Be as present as you can be, experiencing it all, being aware of it all, soaking it all in, and becoming a part of it all. When your mind wanders onto grocery lists or appointments or things you need to do or errands to run or even thinking aboutthe upcoming birth, fine, let them come, and then let them go, and bring your attention back to where you are – walking. There’s so much going on with that alone. No need to look beyond. Stay present. Stay with this. Inside your body. And all the little details around you. Different with every step.

When you are done (seriously, this is harder than it sounds, and can be exhausting!) allow your thinking mind to go back to its place of control. Remember, there is more to you than that thinking mind. You’ve just been there, felt it, know it. That’s your wild side. Natural, intuitive, open, sensual, present. But for now, let your mind regain its sense of importance and fill you back with the to-do list and priorities and appointments. Or not. Why not take this state of complete presence and awareness with you, carry it as long as you can. Even when you’re doing other things… like working on that to-do list! Try it at that meeting, at the grocery store, at the yoga class. Be present. Notice how your thinking mind prefers the past and the future. Keep it in perspective. You can work and worry and stress and eventually get things done, resolved, figured out. And meanwhile, your body breathes, pulses, grows a baby, and moves forward. And what do you need to really do but flow?

Second: lay down.

Doesn’t this one sound easy? Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t. It’s not a trick question, and it’s not that there is a trick to it. It’s just that completely letting go is not that easy. Most of us aren’t used to it. We’re told being busy is better. Really? Why? Are we actually getting that much more done, or are we just feeling that much more important?

Letting go, on the other hand, can be really uncomfortable. Weird. Like, what’s a girl to do? Surely there is something you could/should/would be doing. Is this okay? Am I allowed? Will anyone see me? Will anyone think I’m strange for doing nothing – and not pretending that I’m doing something?

That’s why you’re going to practice. Because letting go may just be your secret weapon, your inner guru, the wise wild woman within, the powerful guide and/or practical tool that empowers you through birth… and life… with the greatest grace, gratitude, humility and a sense of belonging within the bigger picture.

Yeah, it really can be that big. But let’s start small. Let’s just lay down and let go.

Okay here we go.

Find a clean place on the rug, or get out your yoga mat, spread it out, and lay down.

And that’s all your going to do for the next twenty minutes.

It’s a good idea to set a timer. Otherwise you’ll be wondering, “Are we done yet?” I know. I’ve done that too. So, set a timer, trust it, and don’t peak. It will let you know when the twenty minutes is up.

Now is the time to work on the complete mind and body release. If you practice yoga and meditation, this will be familiar to you. Even then, lying down and letting go is not as easy as it sounds. Practicing does help. Your muscles – like your mind – have memory. They will remember what letting go feels like. So use this time as a powerful practice for teaching your mind and body to release, let go and flow.

There you are, lying down. This time there will be no guided meditation, no instructions, no affirmations or visualizations. Nothing. You’ve probably been through all that other stuff before. It’s all good, but it’s not what we’re doing now. Now it is just you, your body, your mind. Allowing your whole self to settle, let go and relax.

Here are the simple instructions.

  • Set your timer.
  • Lay down.
  • Let go.

Twenty minutes.

See if you can fully surrender.

Relax.

Get soft and loose.

Open up.

Sink in.

Allow thoughts to come and go.

Hold onto nothing.

That’s all.

Release.

If you fall asleep, fine.

See ‘ya when the alarm goes off!

This state of deep relaxation and inner tranquility will be yours to work with during birth and beyond (think: patience with the crying baby or trying child). Feel it. Own it. Understand it. Remember it. Know it intimately. Know how to return to it, to be there when you need it. Know you can call on it when need be. Know her name. Silence, stillness, surrender. She is the soft voice inside you. Get to know her sound.

In this intimate connection with the simple, natural, wild part of your self, you’ll find that silence, stillness and surrender are a part of you. A natural part of your wilds within. Connect with this part of you now.

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Gin Getz is the creator of the Wild Mountain Matrona website and the Wildbirth Childbirth EducationWorkshops. She is a graduate of The Matrona midwifery intensive, and now continues with The Matrona offering academic mentorship and a broad range of different support aspects for their Midwifery Correspondence Course.

Personally, I am a mother, wife, writer, naturalist, feminist, and what you might call a hippy-hermit. I have a deep passion for the wilds, within and around me, and love inspiring this part of the self in others. I live on a remote ranch, snowed in for half the year. It is on the land where I’ve actually attended to the birth of far more horses and farm animals than humans, which is probably where my deep belief in and connection with the beauty and nature of birth was born.

Professionally, I’m a trained midwife, certified doula, and childbirth educator. That said, I strongly believe my education, certification and plaques I can hang on the wall do not make me who I am. From the first birth I attended, I learned that my way of serving and supporting is based more on inner wisdom and outer strength and sensibilities than on any required guidelines or demanded protocol. Thus I have chosen the path of the lay midwife.”