Preparing For Our Homebirth

This bubba came as a beautiful surprise to us after I’d all but given up on being blessed with a third child. Over the past nine months we have been preparing for the homebirth of the fifth member of our family, a homebirth that for the first time will be in our own home.

Much of that preparation has been my own, a lot of reading (my favourite author Ina May Gaskin) and thought, letting go of fears as much as possible and increasing my knowledge on birth, and for the first four months just making it through each day of debilitating morning sickness.

We have been preparing as a family, talking with our beautiful 13 and 8 year old, talking through their anxieties and fears about the birth, what they can do during the birth, and what to expect, also reading stories, the favourite of which has most definitely been Hello Baby by Jenni Overend and My Brother Jimi Jaz by Chrissy Butler, Anusha asking for them to be read over and over.

We have also been preparing our home, creating a natural and peaceful environment for our bubba. We have had some trials, like a bout of shingles that I had to deal with at around 34 weeks. A painful and scary experience when all you want to do is nest and be as healthy as possible for your baby! But now as I have just past my estimated due date I am feeling ready and we are all waiting…

One of the first things I did to prepare for our homebirth was to, of course, wash nappies and more nappies,

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so far all of our nappies are secondhand gifts from our lovely friends.
I began knitting early on in the pregnancy, recently finishing a pair of pants, but still going on a cardigan and burp cloth (which I hope to make more of).

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I went op shopping for secondhand sheets, blankets, and towels, and made my own birth mat from an old mattress protector and flannelette sheet (with some help from Nush),

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I also cut up the secondhand towels and hemmed them to be used as heat packs during the birth. I will not be having a water birth as I need my feet firmly grounded! But I will be using the shower and heat packs for pain relief.

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I have been gathering bubba clothes, some bought, some given, and some old, and doing lots and lots of washing!

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We have been in the kitchen a fair bit. Scott has been cooking up some meals to freeze for after the birth, and Nush helped me with freezing fresh juice ice cubes (and why not make some ice blocks at the same time!) in case I need a sugar boost during the birth,

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I have also been sprouting alfalfa to improve my vitamin K levels as I have mild thrombocytopenia, and we have been stocking the cupboards with essentials for our afterbirth hibernation!

My gorgeous partner and two little ones have started the year’s wood collecting and chopping so our house is nice and warm for bubba,

7th April 2015 247and I have been preparing for the birth with lots of candles, incense, and essential oil. I find candlelight extremely relaxing and meditative and wanted bubba to be born into a low lit, non intrusive environment.

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As the birth has drawn near we celebrated Samhain. As Samhain is a celebration of death and new beginnings, with the beginning of the pagan new year, this was a very special opportunity for us to talk about the passing of our family of four. We talked with the children about the sadness that we may all feel as our lives will never be the same and how this sadness is completely normal. We then talked about the excitement of welcoming our new bubba into our family and the changes this will bring. We had a special meal together, honouring the season with pumpking gnocchi, made biscuits, and carved spirit guides to guide our ancestors to eat with us. I also thought of the spirit guides as guiding the spirit of our bubba to his/her loving family home.

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And now, we are cocooning ourselves in our family home. It is such a special time to be together as we all await the arrival of our little one. We got out the paints yesterday and I suggested to Anusha that she paint a picture of bubba in the womb. This is what she created, so special.

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It was my estimated due date yesterday. We took our last photo as a family of four and Anusha took this last pregnancy photo of me at term.

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We can’t wait to meet this little presence who is already so much a part of our lives and our family. ❤

Samhain – the Old and New

Over the past few years, as we have come to this time of year, the time of the death of the old year, the rebirth of the new, I have tried to imbue the children with a deeper meaning of Samhain or Halloween, and express to them why we celebrate it, and it’s origins.
This year we continued with traditions we have created for our family over the past few years, some only last year, and dipped our fingers and imaginations into some new activities, craft, cooking, and experiences. I continued to gain inspiration from Circle Round by Starhawk, Diane Baker, and Anne Hill, and gathered some new wonderful ideas from a book I recently bought, Celebrating the Great Mother by Cait Johnson and Maura D. Shaw.
In the lead up we started preparing our Samhain Autumn nature shelf. We decorated it with a black cloth, Autumn leaves, pine cones, dried Fungi we found in our area, and symbols of Autumn’s harvest; pumpkins, apples etc. As Samhain is the time to remember our ancestors and dead family members we also added some treasured items that belonged to Scott and my grandfathers.
Like last year we made salt dough figures,

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there was grandfather and baby deer to represent the horned god, mother earth as the old crone, runes, and Elki’s inspired battling knight and American Indian. We also made paper chains of apples, berries, and cauldrons, wrote the names of our ancestors on the chains,

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and added these and the painted salt dough figures to the shelf.

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Something I didn’t quite get to last year but wanted to, was printing photos of some of our ancestors and family past, we ended up just looking at them on the computer. I did manage it this year though, and used them to create a border around an Ancestor tree that the children and I made together.

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It is certainly not exhaustive and there’s still more ancestors and information I want to find out to share with the children but all I really wanted was to spend some time with the children remembering and learning about our roots. I plan on framing some of the photos so they have a permanent place in our home.
I brought some new experiences to our Samhain this year, mostly garnered from Celebrating the Great Mother. We practised some visualisation and meditation for the children to find their Power animal and the Magical character they would dress up as on Samhain night. I felt that both the children got a lot from the meditation, and really want to incorporate more into our daily lives. Anusha discovered her power animal is a Wombat, and Elki a Wolf, and despite all ready having ideas for their dress up characters before meditating they both still wanted to do it anyway. And their characters? Elki a Water Elemental, and Anusha, wait for it, a Botanist! Still makes me giggle 🙂

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Here they are dressed up on Samhain night just before going on our traditional little lantern walk before they trick or treat us 🙂 We also each made our own set of runes in special bags.

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Scott cut small disks of wood for the runes for us, and we wrote on the symbols using gold and silver markers.

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Then we made the bags from my quite meagre material stash, the children choosing what they wanted and helping me to put them together, and sew them on my machine.

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On Samhain day the children made our traditional Jack-o-lantern with their dad, and then we also each made a spirit guide from turnips. This was really enjoyable and lovely to be able to each make our own little creation. I thought turnips would be really hard to hollow out but the flesh came out really easily with a blunt knife and spoon, and then we etched our designs into the skin using toothpicks and small, sharp knives.

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We ate our dinner of Autumn vegetable soup, garlic bread, and toasted hazelnuts by candlelight, setting a place for our ancestors, thanking them for giving us life, and inviting them to join our celebration. The children received vegan pumpkin cookies for their trick-or-treat sweets, with spiced hot chocolates that Scott made (now a new tradition for Samhain),

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and they also had a small slice (we were all getting very full by this point) of Bread of the Dead that we’d made together earlier in the day.

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We baked the Bread of the Dead in a camp oven on our fire place and it turned out even better than last year, spicy, sweet and delicious despite it’s grim appearance!
After our sweets the children and I sat around the fire and experimented with divination using our handmade runes and a set of tarot cards that I’ve had for many years. The children were very naturally drawn to the magical art of divination. In the future I’d like to see if I can find another tarot card set more aimed at little people. We were also going to spend some time scrying but I decided to leave that for another time.  Afterwards we shared a story, placed the food for our ancestors and an apple for grandfather deer outside, and settled the children in bed ready to awaken to the new year.

Our first Halloween in Autumn!

This year we have begun celebrating festivals with the cyclic flow of the seasons. So, being in the Southern hemisphere, we have just celebrated Halloween or as the pagan festival is called, Samhain. And it felt so much more natural to be lighting a jack-o-lantern in Autumn! Here in Australia, as far as I am aware, Halloween is celebrated by most people at the end of October, like those in the northern hemisphere, but October here is Spring! It does seem very strange and means that the price of pumpkins for a Jack-o-lantern is huge!

I wanted to share how we celebrated Samhain with our children. I began the day how we usually start a regular homeschooling day. We say a good morning verse, which at the moment is,

“Good morning dear earth, good morning dear sun,

good morning dear trees, and dear flowers everyone.

Good morning dear beasts, and dear birds in the trees,

good morning to you, and good morning to me.”

I then read a poem that I had been reading to the children for a few days leading up to Samhain, it is from A Journey Through Time in Verse and Rhyme,

Poem for Halloween

“Halloween lanterns swinging soft and slow,

Halloween lanterns filled with candle glow,

gently shining candles, cupped in caves of rosy snow.

Vegetable faces in a flickering fire,

shimmer on the darkness sway and pause awhile,

on each brow a brightness and a star behind each smile.”

After this I read the story of Vasalissa to the children and we sang the song ‘Crimson Leaves in Autumn’. The day before we had visited the Hobart Botanical Gardens, which is something we do every year in Autumn, and I had collected an assortment of colourful Autumn leaves to decorate our nature table and dinner table.

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After we’d sung we got all the leaves out and adorned our nature table, leaving the rest for when we were getting ready for our feast. A craft that I chose to do with the children was making Halloween salt dough figures to put on our nature table. A few days before, I made the salt dough and we sat down and made our figures. Then I cooked them in a low oven until they were hard. We finished them off on Samhain by painting them with acrylic paints. I made a witch, black cat, pumpkin, and bat, Elki made a ghost, skull, dragon, ghost night, and wizard, and Anusha made an apple, pumpkin, black cat, and witches hat. I left them to dry outside throughout the morning while we did some other activities,

3rd May 2013 043as the children got a bit carried away with the paints. (they ended up making some pretty awesome little paintings with their hand prints though!)

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After we’d all cleaned up and had lunch we started on the cooking for our Halloween feast. One of the delights I decided to make was Bread of the Dead. I got the recipe from the book Circle Round, and apparently it is a traditional Mexican bread made for this festival. The children helped to make the dough which we left to rise whilst making another treat, our variation of a Honey Seed Cake. As we are vegan I altered the recipe to make an Agave Seed Cake,

Ingredients

1 ½ cups sesame seeds

2 “No eggs” or other egg replacer

2/3 cup vegetable or olive oil

¼ cup Agave or other liquid sweetener

½ Rapadura or brown sugar

1 ½ unbleached plain flour

½ tsp baking powder

Topping

1/3 cup Agave

3 Tbs vegan margarine

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan until golden. Blend together the No egg, oil, agave, and sugar. Add dry ingredients and stir in the sesame seeds. Pour this mixture into a shallow, greased baking pan and bake for about 15 minutes. Take out and pour over topping, and then replace in oven for about five minutes.

To make the topping bring to boil the agave and margarine.

I really enjoyed the seed cake, we served it as a dessert at our feast and the children also got some in their small basket of goodies for trick-or-treat. It has a delicious nutty flavour from the sesame seeds, mixed with the rich sweetness of agave. While the seed cake was cooking we shaped our bread dough that had now risen to about double it’s size. The children punched the air out (always a favourite thing to do) and we made two loaves. Anusha and I made a human figure to represent our ancestors, and Elki made a monster skull.

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We left our loaves to rise again, and I put them in the oven later in the afternoon. Bread of the Dead is a slightly sweet, spiced bread, and has an orange glaze on top, the children loved it! During the rest of the afternoon Anusha helped her father make Root soup, which included parsnip, swede, potato, sweet potato, carrot, and barley, and carve out the Jack-o-lantern. Scott also made a pumpkin pie. I also helped the children get dressed up (very simply!). Elki basically wore the knight costume that I made for him last year except this year he was a ghost night, and we improvised with some of Anusha’s clothes, a play cloth, and a crown to transform her into a forest fairy. Anusha made me laugh with her imaginative take on her pink, grey and white striped leggings, which were the cobwebs and flowers of the forest of course!

And then we got the table ready for out feast!

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Our Samhain Feast;

Toasted Sunflower and Pumpkin seeds

Root soup with bread

Bread of the Dead

Agave Seed Cake

Pumpkin Pie

At the start of our feast I prepared a plate of food for our ancestors and placed it on a small table next to our nature table with a candle. Then we sang our usual blessing, ‘Blessings on the Blossoms’. We actually didn’t end up having any pumpkin pie that night as we were so full from everything else, but we happily ate it over the next few days!

After dinner the children and I performed a Gate of the Seasons ritual for Samhain to say goodbye to the old year and welcome the new. At this time of year the earth is dying as it gets close to winter but we have hope for the new year to come. We then had our first pagan ritual to honour our ancestors and the Horned god. The horned god is the god honoured during Samhain as he is the god who represents animals that give up their lives to nourish others. As we are vegan I talked to the children about how we are always thankful for the plants that nourish us and keep us alive, for mother earth providing us with the plants, and for the people that help to grow and make the food that we eat. We also honoured mother earth or the goddess, who at this time of year is in her crone phase.

The purpose of our ritual was to thank and honour our ancestors. We welcomed our ancestors into our home and then Scott and I sat down with the children and showed them photos that we had of our ancestors, talking about who they were and anything that we knew about them. I had collected photos of our ancestors from mine and Scott’s parents a couple of years ago when I made a family tree with Elki. When we’d finished looking at the photos we blessed our ancestors as the children threw some pieces of bread into the fire, and then finished our ritual.

It was now getting later into the night. The children have a tradition where they trick-or-treat me on halloween. We had lanterns that we made for halloween in October last year, so the children went for a short lantern walk while I prepared a small basket of treats for them, including a slice of seed cake, a piece of the bread of the dead, and a chocolate bar that Scott had sneakily bought without them knowing. To finish up our Samhain I read the children a story written by Starhawk, from Circle round, called A Journey to the Shining Isle. It is a story about ancestors and Grandfather deer, and before the very tired and worn out little ones went to bed they left an apple for Grandfather deer out on the windowsill.

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Halloween is not celebrated as much here as it is in the northern hemisphere but there is still a lot of commercialisation that goes along with it that to me seems even more inappropriate in Spring. I felt a lot more connected to this festival celebrating it in Autumn. The approaching winter has certainly set in with frosts, shorter days and colder nights. We now need to warm our home with a fire, and we are waking to chilled misty mornings. It was great to share with the children the fruits of the season in our warming root soup, pumpkin pie, and Jack-o-lantern, and to remind them of our ancestral family that gave us life.

I think the most important thing that I try to share and instil in the children through celebrating festivals is the cycle of life through the ever changing seasons, to be thankful of Earth and all her gifts, and to always appreciate our interconnectedness with Earth.

Next festival I am going to try and spread out our activities and preparations over the week before more so that our day of celebration is not so full. I think then we will not be so busy and we can fully appreciate the day.

Waldorf Wednesday