The Doula’s Journey: Beginning

As some of you may know, last year I completed my Red Tent doula preparation course. Having had such a brilliant experience during Gaia’s birth with Hannah as my doula, that I wanted to support other women in their births, and knowing that Hannah was going to be the one running the course, everything just seemed to fall into place nicely. Now, I am now registered with DoulaUK, working through their recognition process, with the most attentive and brilliant mentor, have attended my first birth in a doula role, and am now ‘on call’ for my second!

As part of our self study, we were required to complete a Final Project, something to show our growth as a woman and as a doula. I spent a long time trying to work out what I wanted to do for this, and changed my mind several times. I knew it had to be related to something else in my life I am passionate about, and finally settled on mixing my love for Tarot and for positive, informed birth.

In Tarot, the deck is made up of two parts, the Major and the Minor Arcana. The 22 cards of the Major Arcana are typically representative of major themes within life. Often when learning the Tarot, people are encouraged to go on what is referred to as ‘The Fool’s Journey’, where they follow the narrative and interpretations offered by the Major Arcana cards when placed in numerical order. ‘The Fool’s Journey’ encompasses a journey from start to finish, before heading back to the beginning, symbolic of the cyclic nature of birth, life, death, and rebirth prevalent in humanity, our lives and the earth.

I adapted this to be my Final Project, exploring my own doula journey and the aspects related to it via Tarot. I meditated on the meaning of each card and the aspects related to them, listening to my intuition. I examined what each card traditionally represents and reflected on how each theme runs through doulaing.

I found that Tarot and my doula journey worked rather beautifully together. So much of birth and Tarot is listening. Listening to your intuition, allowing yourself to really HEAR what you are being told, leaving judgment and preconceived notions behind you.

I have been reading Tarot cards for a long time. My father gave me my first deck as a gift when I was fifteen years old; half my life ago. That deck stayed with me through every house move, every trial and tribulation, every joy, through meeting the man who would later become my husband, and through the pregnancies and births of my three children. I used that deck to do a reading the week I went into labour with each of my children.Last year, I decided it was time to upgrade to a new set, gave my old one to a friend (that recently found its way back to me!), and invested in ‘The Wild Unknown’ deck, with illustrations by Kim Krans. It is this deck that I used here.

So that’s what I want to share here, with one card each week, with my personal reflections on that card, and sometimes including a Tarot spread related to that card.

I shared the whole project, all 6.8 thousand words with my mentor Tara, who gave me some feedback that really made me feel valued; “I love it! It’s the most beautifully written, deeply felt, wonderfully thought through piece. You are a born doula. It’s going to be an honour treading the path with you as you begin your journey.”

I think it’s important to bear in mind that this is *my* interpretation of the cards and their meanings and how they relate to *my* experiences and path as a doula. It is by no means a comprehensive guide to Tarot, or doulaing for that matter!

First up tomorrow; The Fool!

The Doula's Journey 1

Links to each Major Arcana card as I publish them
O: The Fool
I: The Magician
II: The High Priestess
III: The Empress
IV: The Emperor
V: The Heirophant

Food Freedoms

There’s been a big discussion recently on an unschooling group I am part of about the ‘black and white’ absolutes of unschooling. It’s grown into a HUGE discussion, but a particular subject was brought up last night. The idea that unschooling means letting your child eat unlimited candy.

 

Because really, who doesn't love a good cake?

Because really, who doesn’t love a good cake?

 

Food is a REALLY in-depth topic to unpick your own ideas about. A lot of those beliefs around food come from what we’ve had ingrained in us. By our parents, by the media, so many places. These beliefs are nearly always deeply rooted, and damn hard to unpick. Unpicking is hard anyway because it really forces you to confront and question your beliefs, and we all know how hard it is to do that and potentially find out we were wrong all along. It ended up that someone unwilling to unpick their own feelings about food and their children decided to delete the thread, which is utterly frustrating as there were a huge amount of informative and useful responses on there. (Either that or they blocked me! ;) )

So, the following is a conglomeration of several comments I made in the group I mentioned at the start regarding the idea that unschooling is letting your child eat unlimited candy.

What I’m not discussing in this post, but that definitely needs to be discussed at some point, is the false idea that sugar is addictive, and food within a family with allergies and intolerances. This post is long enough, and they both really warrant posts of their own (and I know just the people to write those, who are far more eloquent than I!)

THIS IS A LONG POST! Go grab a cup of tea. ;)

Food for all!

Cupcakes, monkey platters, raw vegan chocolate, and icecream. Delicious!

 

The sugar thing. It’s more than just ‘sugar is a big bad’. It ties into giving your children the space and time to learn to trust their own bodies telling them what they need. It is a BIG thing that takes a LONG time to fully unpick and be comfortable with saying yes. I am still working through this myself as food is a tough one for me as I have a history of severe eating disorders.
When you refuse anything to a child, you’re creating a disconnect between you. When you place an arbitrary limit on them based on your OWN levels of what makes YOU uncomfortable, that’s not unschooling.

Imagine the following situation…

Imagine that your partner comes in to the house with a big box filled with your favourite chocolate bars. You are told you can only have one a week. You KNOW they are there in the kitchen. You’ve had a tough week and you really really really want one. You ask for an extra one, thinking you might be allowed one as our partner knows you’ve had a rough time. And he says no. “No. I think you’ve had enough.” Hmmm, that doesn’t feel good at all.

But because he’s said no, it’s creating a Thing about it. You think about that chocolate bar more. You REALLY want one. Like REALLY REALLY. By him saying no and putting his own arbitrary limits on it, *him* deciding that *you* have had enough… it’s creating this desire and fixation on that darn, delicious, chocolate bar.

So you ask again, PLEASE can I have another one? And he pats you on the head and says “Why don’t you have some blueberries instead? They’re better for you.” Uh oh. Blueberries good. Chocolate bad. Well now you feel bad for wanting something bad. And you also feel more than a little put out that your partner doesn’t trust you enough to make your own decisions. But you still can’t stop thinking about it, but you try REALLY hard to IGNORE what your body and brain are telling you.

Then one day, you see your partner eating TWO chocolate bars, one after the other. You point this out and ask if you can have another one and he says “No, you are too little. I’m older and I know best. I’m a grownup. I can eat whatever I want.” You feel that’s really rather unfair. Not to mention creating a disconnect between the two of you.

Finally, the week ends and he ‘graciously’ ALLOWS you to have ONE chocolate bar. And you freaking WOLF that thing down like you haven’t eaten in weeks. You don’t even savour it, don’t take your time, because this precious so-desired food stuff is FINALLY in your hands!

But wait… blueberries good, chocolate bad. Uh oh. Suddenly, that chocolate you just ate doesn’t feel so good. You feel guilty about eating it. What if you get sick? I mean, your partner made such a big deal out of it that it MUST be true. You go a bit pale. And your partner says…
“LOOK! I TOLD YOU CHOCOLATE WAS BAD!”

Well, crap.

By refusing things to our kids, we’re creating this stronger desire for them. Making them a Forbidden Pleasure. Like when someone says “Don’t think about the colour red!”

Your partner has belittled your choices, pulled the “I’m a grownup card” on you with no real back up to it, not trusted you to make a decision for yourself, pushed you to ignore what your body and brain are saying, and made you feel guilty about enjoying a bar of chocolate.

These are exactly the feelings we don’t want our kids to have. I know personally there is a LOT of guilt tied into food for me and I NEVER want my kids to feel that.

So, moving on… your partner after a few months comes in with another box of those desired-but-guilt-inducing chocolate bars. And he says “Honey, I’ve been reading about unschooling. You can eat as many of these chocolate bars as you like. Whenever you like. I will always say yes.”
Wait, he can’t possibly mean that! you think to yourself. He’s surely going to take those away, right? He’s not just going to leave them there and let me help myself, right? RIGHT??!

And what are you gonna do? Why, you’re gonna dive head first into that box of chocolate bars and eat the fuck out of them. I mean, you feel CRAZY guilty about it but you force yourself to ignore that because you are drunk on the freedom of Chocolate Whenever You Like.
And you eat until you feel utterly crappy. And then you do it again. Eat until you feel utterly crappy. Because you can. And because you’ve spent so long being restricted. And you do it again. You IGNORE your body and brain and what they’re telling you.

But that niggling feeling in the back of your brain, your partner MUST be going to take these away soon. I mean, he restricted them for SO long, you can’t possibly have faith in him telling you that you can help yourself whenever you like. So you HOARD those chocolate bars. You take some and hide them away in your bedroom, and eat them secretly, feeling guilty as f*ck about it. About the stealing AND about eating them.

And then your partner finds them one day and announces “Right, I KNEW this was a bad idea! No more chocolate for you!” and you’re sat there thinking “Well *I* knew THIS was going to happen!” and you go back to one chocolate bar a week, and when you point out “But but but, I could have ALL the chocolate last week!” and he responds telling you that that was last week, and this is now and only ONE chocolate bar for you!

And your brain starts ticking. I REALLY want that chocolate bar. How many days is it until I can have another one? Man, I really want that chocolate bar.

And it all begins again.

That is what happens when parents come into unschooling and suddenly remove ALL the limits because they feel like that’s what they’re supposed to do. And then they get scared of all the chocolate being eaten, and have visions of their obese, diabetic child as an adult. And they parent out of fear and take those chocolate bars away.

That doesn’t help anyone.

BUT, if your partner comes in with that box of chocolates and says “I know we had limits before, and I’m trying to work on that. Chocolate gives us quick-release energy, a short boost. And if we eat too much of it in one go, it can make our tummies feel poorly. Would you like a chocolate bar?” And you say yes, thanks, that’d be great. I mean, you still think he’s going to change his mind so you’re a bit skeptical at first. And you ask for a second one. And he says yes. Joyfully. Without making a face, without judgement, without offering an alternative. And you begin to relax a little into it. Maybe he is telling the truth. You ask for a third and he says “I can’t joyfully say yes to that right now. Can I fix you something else instead?” and you think, huh, I sort of wanted that third bar but he’s being honest. I can appreciate that.

The next day, you ask for a chocolate bar and he says “I KNOW! Let’s make chocolate fondue and dip some scrummy fruit into it!” and you think hells yes! So you melt a bar of chocolate and chop up bananas and strawberries and grapes and raisins and nuts and you have a great time with your partner.

A few days later, you’re relaxing into it further. You can see your partner trying to say yes, and being honest when he can’t. One day, you ask for a chocolate bar and he says “Hey, did you know, not all chocolate bars are created equal. Some are produced by really unethical companies.” and your ears prick up. How can a chocolate company be bad? Chocolate is AWESOME, right? So you ask “How?” and you learn about fair trade chocolate. And Nestle. Huh, interesting stuff. And you come away from it thinking “I don’t think I’ll buy Nestle chocolate.”
One day, you ask for a chocolate bar and your partner says “You know what chocolate is GREAT in? Cookies. Shall we make some?” What you don’t realise is that your partner was having a chocolate-related unschooling wobble, and this was his way to say yes to chocolate. But making wholegrain cookies, with added raisins and cranberries and a little bit of chocolate in.

One day, you ask for a bar, and he says “Hey, you know what’s as awesome as chocolate? Icecream. Fancy making some?” and you think holy smokes, this guy is just brilliant! So you make banana and chocolate icecream. What you don’t realise is that he was having a wobble that day too, and that your icecream is actually just smashed up bananas blended with a little bit of chocolate and frozen, and this was his way of saying yes that he felt comfortable with.

One day, you ask for a chocolate bar and your partner says yes, and then says “Did you know, the sugar in chocolate makes the bacteria in our mouth produce acid that erodes the enamel of our teeth. That’s why it’s super important to take care of our teeth. Once we’ve eaten, shall we use some disclosing tablets so you can see if your brushing is up to scratch?” and you think yeah, sure, that sounds interesting. And you ask what happens if you don’t take care of your teeth and after seeing pictures you decide to brush a little longer tonight.

One day you ask for a chocolate bar and he says yes and he has one too. And you ask for another and he joyfully say yes and has another himself. And you ask for another and he says “Yes you can, but I’m not going to have one. Too much and I notice that I feel a bit sick and that’s my body tells me that I need to stop eating it”. And you think, okay but I’M having a third bar. And a fourth. And a fifth. And man, my tummy feels awful. And your partner points out “I notice you had five whole bars of chocolate and now you feel unwell. Do you think they might be related?” You don’t feel judged, but you do come away from the situation thinking that maybe you won’t eat five bars again.

On other days, your partner tells you about how sugar is quick-release energy and that’s great for a boost but carbohydrates are sloooooow release energy and that’s why it’s great to have pasta, and whole grains and rice etc. And that chocolate is lacking in vitamins and minerals and you can get them from fruit and veg. And he talks to you about how if we eat too much of ANYTHING, it can make us ill. He talks about the importance of giving our bodies lots of wonderful, different foods, about being active and doing sports or yoga or pilates. And you see your partner doing all of those things themselves. And you model that too. And you make chocolate drizzled popcorn, and oaty bars with chocolate chips in, and even make chocolate mousse WITHOUT chocolate (avocado, coconut milk, cocoa powder). He stops designating foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, as ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’. It’s just food.

And then after a few weeks, you realise that the chocolate really isn’t going anywhere. You happily offer your previously hoarded and obsessed over chocolate to everyone. You don’t eat it to extremes. You listen to your body and notice the cues it gives you saying “Eeeep, I think that might be enough now.” and for the most part, you listen and respond accordingly. And you think how great it is that your partner helped you with that. He’s so awesome.

One day, you walk into the kitchen, see the box of chocolate bars and think “I’m ok right now. I think I fancy something else.”

Granted that is super long winded, but the TL;DR version is when you arbitrarily restrict, you create a Thing, an obsession around it. If you then jump in and give total freedom to a kid who hasn’t had it previously, They ARE Going To Binge. Whether that’s screens or chocolate actually. When you joyfully say yes, and find ways you can comfortably say yes, you’re creating connection and joy. Giving them the space to listen to their bodies. Trusting them to trust themselves. Offering information without expectation, creating opportunities for discussion and connection. Making those cookies isn’t just a way to say yes to chocolate. That’s a childhood memory fondly looked back on when they’re adults. That’s a recipe they teach their kids.

It’s worth noting that the goal of unschooling isn’t to get to a point where a child will choose fruit over chocolate, but for you and them to make an informed decision, listen to your bodily cues, and are free to make choices accordingly.
And if your kids have never been restricted and never been told chocolate is bad and sugar is bad, you’ve not created those associations of guilt or created this obsession. It’s just another food stuff.

Quote

And yes, there will be some days where all they want to eat is crisps. Because sometimes, that’s all I want to do. Sometimes, I do just want to eat that entire cake to myself. And there are some weeks where I can’t refill the fruit bowl fast enough. But mostly, it’s a balanced mix.

And sometimes, food really IS comforting. On a cold winter’s day, coming inside into the warmth to a steaming bowl of slowcooker butternut squash and lentil soup. If you’ve not experienced the joy of stealing a moment of calm in the kitchen away from your kids and eating Nutella or peanut butter straight from the jar, you are missing out on one of life’s simple joys. Sitting on an evening after the kids are asleep and collapsing onto the sofa and savouring that last bit of Haagen Daaz that just *happened* to be out of sight behind a bag of frozen mince in the freezer. Feeling sad about the death of a beloved grandmother and making a giant bowl of her amazing chocolate cake that is pretty much half butter and eating it ALL. Food is and absolutely should be comforting.

I want my kids to make pretzels using my favourite recipe and think about all those times we made them together. I want them to make chicken noodle soup for their flu-ey friends. I want them to make cold-busting fruit smoothies that are chock full of berries to shift the last bits of a cold. I want to make meals, and I want THEM to make meals as adults, that people come together for, made with love, and eaten guilt free with joy and appreciation.

And sometimes, we all make bad food choices, no matter how unschooly we are about food usually! How many people have had just ONE more plate of food at a buffet or at Christmas dinner? How many of us have had that last alcoholic drink, KNOWING we’ll suffer in the morning? ;)

My two older kids, Ru and Pixie, have a box each with food in that is just theirs. They are free to share if they want to. They currently have a mix of popcorn, a tub of pick’n’mix, cereal bars, crisps, there’s some Christmas chocolate still in there, Ru’s has some SUPER crazy sour sweets I found in a shop as he loves them (but quickly learned that too many in one go make his tongue sore!). They also have free access to all the fruit, and the fridge. They happily give their box food away to others, share openly and generously, are active and happy.

Our food rules in our home are;
1. Eat when you are hungry
2. Stop when you are full
3. Check before you eat the last of something as it might be needed for a family meal.

That’s it.

Ru is eating an apple right now, Pixie is eating a satsuma (her third today so I think she’s coming down with a cold – she eats shedloads of satsumas the two or three days before she comes down with a cold, I guess her body is stocking up on vitamin C!) They know there’s chocolate and sweets in the kitchen.

It has taken a LONG time to get to this point. Like, two years at least. And it has been difficult. Especially for me because *I’VE* had to unpick my own feelings about food SO much. I eat better now too, so they had someone modelling that. I started running last year, doing pilates. They often join me. Ru started doing parkour classes. We all take better care of our teeth.

I’ve noticed some awesome things with them as well, like Pixie eating oranges before she comes down with a cold. I know if Ru is getting ill because he loses all interest in food. And when he eats nothing but cheese, meat, and bread, I know I’m going to need to buy some new clothes for him because he’s going to have a growth spurt! I’ve noticed that Pixie doesn’t like to eat the first hour after she wakes up, then she gently eases into food with yoghurt and cereal. Ru is like me, he needs a quick boost first thing, so whilst I drink my cup of tea with two sugars, he’s having a wrap with chocolate spread. Then I usually have a fruit smoothie and he has toast or cereal or crumpets or fruit or banana pancakes, or whatever.

It’s awesome. Food is awesome. Choice and freedom is awesome. Fricking hard to get to that point, but AWESOME when you get there!

Sleep sweet, lovely Polly.

I wrote back in April about my friend, going missing. She was luckily found shortly afterwards.

A bunch of us, her friends, made her a blanket, so she could be wrapped in all the love we have for her and maybe, just maybe, not feel so alone. She said “To all those who held me in their hearts. I love you all more than I can even begin to describe.”.

Sadly, she took her own life in July, leaving behind her two daughters.

I have tried to write this post over and over and over. Sometimes it’s about my anger at our mental health services that such a vulnerable woman was able to just wander off. Sometimes it’s about what a fucker depression in any form is.

Once, fleetingly, it was about how selfish she was to leave her girls behind. And then it was about how strong she was to fight so hard, for so long. Because she did.

But mostly, I’m just sad. So heart-wrenchingly sad. Sad for her feeling so alone that that was a viable option for her. Sad for her girls growing up without her. Cried my tears.

Scared. A lot of scared. Because that could have been me. Her path could have been mine. If I hadn’t had the support I did.

Angry. Her family wouldn’t let her friends attend the funeral. Angry that I couldn’t go and see her and say goodbye. Lit my candle and said words in my own way.

But I think Joss Whedon summed it up beautifully in an episode of Buffy I watched recently. Buffy’s mother, Joyce, has just died and Anya (who used to be a demon) is working through the human etiquette of death, having not faced it before.

“But I don’t understand! I don’t understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she’s, there’s just a body, and I don’t understand why she just can’t get back in it and not be dead anymore! It’s stupid! It’s mortal and stupid! And, and Xander’s crying and not talking, and, and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well Joyce will never have any more fruit punch, ever, and she’ll never have eggs, or yawn, or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why.”

Death feels like such a juxtaposition of feelings. A definitive ending of life, but the start of that person’s soul-freedom. Heaps of sadness, but relief that she is no longer suffering. No more fruit punch, but a lot more peace.

And so, our beautiful Polly is gone. Flying free wherever she is, in whatever form of heaven or afterlife she believed in. And we just keep breathing, and cry a little less, and keep walking onwards, and cry a little less…

This began as something different…

This began as something different.

An outpouring of frustration and hurt and tender wounds. About cliques and exclusion and being Left Out.

But like attracts like, and I’m trying to hard to be Better, and see the world in the open, clear from those dark places.

 

One of my online Mama-friends has gone missing. Facebook profile deactivated. Phone turned off. People worrying because she has a history of depression and suicide. The police have been rung.

We talked online the other day.

I’m sad, and worried, and scared for her.

 

It seems self-indulgent to talk about what I originally wanted to. Frivolous, even.

I see people, wonderful women, acting to find this friend. Make sure she’s okay. Hoping for positive news.

Shifting my focus from the women who don’t want me, to the women who do, who support and value me. From the dark to the light.

 

 

Send out some light into the world today. You don’t know who needs it.

(EDIT: My friend has been found. She’s alive but hurting. One breath at a time, beloved girl.)

Riding a bike…

In February, something amazing happened.

Ru learned to ride his bike without stabilisers.

Yeah, you heard me.

WITHOUT STABILISERS.

Understandably, he’s thrilled and pretty proud of himself.

 

Ru face

 

It all came about in a rather unexpected fashion. You see, when Ru was in school back in 2013, he used to ride his bike with stabilisers to and from school. After a couple of months, two boys made a comment about him still using stabilisers… ‘like a baby’. Ru’s a pretty sensitive little guy so he took this to heart, and refused to ride his bike any more and swapped to his scooter.

He held onto those comments for a long time. I would say “Hey, want to go to the park on your bike?” and for the most part, would be politely rebuffed. On the odd occasions he did want to, he’d only ride for a couple of minutes before stopping and making a comment about his stabilisers. I’d offer to take them off, and he’d decline sadly. ” I can’t ride without stabilisers.”

I even once had a well-meaning stranger tell him “Oh, you can take those stabilisers off! You’re a big boy, big boys don’t need them!”. I can only assume she thought she was being encouraging. Probably didn’t even cross her mind that she was shaming him.

Ru did not take this particularly well. In fact, he growled loudly at the stranger, threw down his bike and went to play in the play park.

 

I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do about the whole thing. When I was a kid, I benefited from my dad’s Just Do It style of parenting. “Stop faffing about and just DO it!”. Perfect for me when I needed a push over the edge of the swimming pool, or abseiling down a 7 story building, shooting guns for the first time, and yes, riding a bike. Pixie is the same as me. No messing about. No ‘faffing’. Learning to ride a bike was sprung on me one afternoon. “You’re going to learn to ride a proper bike today. Come on.”

Ru is different. He can’t be rushed. He does things in his own time. He’s anxious and cautious and likes time and space to explore at his own pace.

Stephen is incredibly tuned in to Ru’s needs, and how his brain works, and he told me to just leave it. Stop pushing. Stop ‘helpfully’ suggesting he ‘try it just once’.

So we left it. Nearly a year. Until about last month. We went to the park for a meet-up with some other families. A friend’s little girl Thea was riding her bike-without-stabilisers, and I could see Ru jealously eyeing her up. He wandered over to me, head down. Now, I know better than to outright ask him what’s wrong, so I sat next to him and after a few moments he forlornly said “I wish I had my bike and I could ride it without stabilisers in the park.”.

Thea asked me why he was sad, and I explained he wanted his bike. So this little darling doll pipes up to tell Ru that he can ride *her* bike. I was about to answer for him (something I really shouldn’t do), but Ru surprised me by grinning at her and saying yes!

Now, Thea is teeny. She’s younger than Pixie so you can imagine how small her bike is. And you can imagine how comedic it was to watch my gangly-limbed boy struggling with this mouse-sized bike. And falling off. Repeatedly.

Only all of a sudden…

He wasn’t struggling.

He was riding it.

PROPERLY riding it.

He rocks.

Obviously the next day, he wanted to try it on his *own* bike.

 

Bike Triptych

This came at the exact perfect time for us. For me. I’d been having a bit of an unschooling wobble, and this just completely reassured me. Ru is smart. And this just shows that when he’s ready, he will acquire the skills he needs, whatever they are, in his own time, when he’s ready, and not a moment earlier.

We could have pushed him before he was ready. We could have forced him.

I’m so glad we didn’t. I’m so glad we followed his lead.

Ru walking bike home

Princess Fever

I don’t know about you guys, but my kids LOVE princesses, Pixie especially. She has bona fide princess fever. She has two beautiful Disney Animator Collection dolls, Belle and Merida. She likes Merida because she rides a horse and Belle because she reads books. She’s also a fan of Princess Anna from Frozen.

I have been asked so many times in the past 18 months to make Frozen dresses, replicas of the clothing worn in the films. And I’ve had to say no. Disney OWNS those designs. They are not my property to use. And Disney has been coming down pretty hard on little indie business who are illegally using their designs, and I’m simply not risking it when I’ve worked so hard to build up MamaPixie.

I’ve actually had people say to me “But so-and-so makes them!”. Yes. They might. They’re also breaking the law. And frankly, if they’re willing to take that kind of risk, it says a lot about their business practices and their attitude towards their work.

I’ve been racking my brains for a way to indulge the Princess love, without encroaching on iconic designs by others. And this has been tough. Because the Disney dresses are universally recognised.

I’ve made a lot of princess dresses at MamaPixie. A LOT.

 

Ice Princess dress - Blue 1

 

And of course, a tutu dress or two…

 

Tutu Dress - Cinderella 1

 

But nothing I can create is as gorgeous and epic and inspiring as the dresses that kids design themselves! So this year, I will be offering a magical new service.

Princess dresses created from your child’s own drawings. Boom.

All you’ll need to do is get your kiddie to draw their perfect princess dress;  style, colour, fabric, embellishments. The whole shebang. Scan or photograph and send it to me, and I will turn their dreams into reality. Beautiful, machine washable, reality. And totally individual, because really, who wants to be just like every other princess? Be your OWN princess.

In 2014, I created a purple princess dress from the designs of Riley, daughter of Natasha who blogs over at Taking A Moment In Time. I knew it was going to be a challenge, because Riley has some serious style. She is most definitely fashion forward. She totally believes tutus are every day wear. I’m inclined to agree.

Riley wanted purple. And layers. LOTS of layers. Something epic enough to go waging battle in. Something she could wear to befriend a local dragon. Something to Kick Ass in.

I ended up making this…

 

Ballgown - 2

 

It was a simple lined bodice with a pleated overskirt with ribbon ties to show off the meters and meters and meters of shimmering crystal organza underneath.

And yes. That’s a sword. All self-respecting princesses have swords. Science FACT.

 

Ballgown - 1

 

My next creation is going to be for Emily, daughter of the AMAZING Miri from one of my favourite homeschooling blogs, Here We Are Together.

As you can see, she took designing her dress very seriously. Her final design is for an explorer princess. Who climbs trees.

 

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Lots of purple. With a sash and kimonos sleeves, with a flower on the front. And pockets for storage. And a big hood. And leggings because princesses rarely flash their knickers to the general public.

 

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I’m so excited to be sharing this fantastic journey with you all, and I’m looking forward to seeing Emily’s design come alive!

If you’d be interested in your very own child-designed princess dress, you can head over here to my MamaPixie Etsy store and we can start our own enchanted journey!

Much love,

Emi

xXx

Paying It Forward

I’m NOT a fan of surprises, they make me feel a bit anxious.

A surprise birthday party would be my nightmare. And I’m not saying that in a I-totally-DON’T-hate-surprises-and-I-would-LOVE-a-surprise-birthday-party-with-cake-and-balloons kind of way. I genuinely don’t like surprises. I always know what my Yule/Christmas and birthday gifts are ahead of time. I catered my own wedding to ensure that there were going to be no surprises.

I enjoy creating surprises for others. I get why other people like them. I get why my kids like them. But they’re just not for me.

That was until today.

Today, I had a wonderful thing happen.

I got a mysterious card in the post, along with a voucher for free cake at a local cupcakery!

I have no idea who sent it, because the card simply says;

“Dearest Emi, Enjoy! With love xxx”

Blog - Paying it Forward

It’s all very mysterious and rather lovely. And I don’t feel anxious about it. More… curious.

VERY curious actually.

 

I’m also inspired!

This little act of loveliness deserves to be passed on. Paid forwards.

So here’s what I’m going to do.

Leave me a comment, telling me about a Little you know who is extra especially special.
A child who just brings light and sparkle to others.
One who brings you joy.

This can be your own child, or someone else’s child.

I will then choose at random, one little light to receive one of my handmade MamaPixie animal masks in the post!

Share the love, and all that jazz.

Emi, x

The winner chosen by the random number generator was number 7, Niccy J and her daughter, Zephy!

Owl Mask - brown

Butterfly Mask - purple

Wolf Mask - blue 2

Cat Mask - orange

 

And the fine print!

1. Entry is through commenting on this blog post only.

2. You can eneter as many times as you like, but only one nomination per comment please.

3. The winner will be drawn at random using a random number generator on Monday 19th January. The winner will be announced on this post, on the MamaPixie Facebook page, and contacted by email.

4. The winner must provide the postal address of the child receiving the mask by Wednesday 21st January, or a new winner will be chosen. The winner can also choose from a wolf, a cat, an owl or a butterfly mask, and the colour scheme used.

5. The mask will then be sent to the child by the end of January 2015.

Resolutions

I’m not entirely sure I *get* New Year. I understand the passage of time, sure, but the whole resolutions thing? Not so much.

Maybe it’s just me, but if you’re going to start a good habit, break an undesirable one, or make a change in your life, why wait? Why not now?

Maybe it’s that I have never actually kept a New Year resolution and I’m just jealous of everyone else’s successes. I used to be very much of the mindset of “Go big or go home.” This does set me up for failure though.

One January, I decided to overhaul my entire diet massively and created an intense exercise regime that involved yoga everyday, high impact cardio twice a week, running, and several other core strength workouts. Needless to say I failed.

One January, I decided to teach myself Slovakian so I could speak to Stephen’s stepmother in her mother tongue. Needless to say I failed and can speak entirely no Slovak.

One January, I tried to be clever and instead of making resolutions, I started the Day Zero Challenge. This is where you write a list of 101 things or goals you’d like to achieve in the next 1001 days – the logic being that 365 days is an unreasonable amount of time to achieve something big, like travel to America or become a rock star. I actually tried to do this two years running and needless to say… I failed BOTH times.

What I’m discovering as I get older is that it’s all about Little Changes. Teeny little steps.

My resolutions this year are not crazy or unreasonable. They are totally attainable with a little hard work.

 

My first one is to overhaul my wardrobe. I’m at that weird place shape-wise right now, where my maternity clothes are too big, but my regular clothes are too small. Almost NOTHING fits my boobs in.

I have an idea in my head of how my dream wardrobe would look, hippy-bohemian-junk-gypsy-country with a splash of mori girl. But also practical and machine washable and isn’t going to break the bank! I’ve been pinning over on my Hippy Mama Style board on Pinterest so I have plenty of inspiration. I’ve ordered a new pattern to make tunics for myself.

Little steps for this goal include;

* buying more belts
* getting rid of shoes that don’t fit me* investing in some fabulous kicks
* find a long sleeve, breastfeeding accessible top that comes in several colours (and ideally stripes!) to layer under other tops
* let go of the dresses I own that I never freaking wear
* invest in amazing leggings and tights (like these!)

 

My second one is food. It’s not a big one this resolution, just a few tweaks I’d like to make.

* make more sweet food from scratch
* use my slow cooker more, especially on weekends where Stephen is at work all day
* eat more fruit

 

Third up is my kids. Only three little steps here.

* Say YES More!
* Be more mindful and present
* take more photos of me and the kids together

 

Fourthly, I’d like to continue evolving our home! We’re on a kick right now to declutter all the things we don’t need and don’t use. It’s tough but gratifying.

* sort out the kitchen storage – it’s a jumbled disorganised mess and could stand to be better.
* build a baby gate for when Gaia starts crawling
* sand down our vintage rocking horse and repaint it
* reseal around the bath, sinks and toilet
* sell on the books I’m finished with
* sell on the crafting books that I don’t love!

 

There’s other random things too, like Kiss Steve More, and Try Not To Waste So Much Time Looking At Pins Of Tom Hiddleston On Pinterest. The former will be easy because it’s a pleasure. The latter… tough habit to break, that one! I legit adore him.

 

Little steps.

And maybe just ONE more picture of Tom Hiddleston.

 

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Gaia’s Birth Story

This post was edited in February 2017 in order to replace the word ‘blessingway’ with ‘mother blessing’. This is out of respect for the Diné Navajo traditional blessingway. The term ‘Blessingway’ refers to a sacred spiritual ceremony performed by the Navajo people to celebrate rites of passage that occur throughout the entire life cycle, and not only the passage into motherhood. They suggested the term ‘Mother Blessing’ was a more appropriate term for a ceremony that was influenced, and respectful, of this tradition, but not practiced in accordance with the Navajo faith and culture.

It has been 7 gloriously wonderful months since our youngest child was born, our sunshine child, Gaia.

A few of you have been asking me about her birth story. I finally have time to write it all down and share it with you!

I think it’s worth going back and telling the whole story…

In 2013, Stephen had been mentioning that he’d like to have a third child. I had been umming and aahing over it, having only just gotten to a place of calm and happiness after many years of severe mental health issues, and I was unwilling to relinquish that new-found calm to the postnatal depression that plagued me after Ru and Pixie’s births.

“Maybe in a couple of years.” I kept saying.

This desire for a third was also compounded by my father and stepmother announcing they were pregnant with a little girl they would name Kathryn.

In mid-June, my sister Kathryn was born. She was a footling breech presentation, which caused complications and she was deprived of oxygen for a significant period of time. After being helicoptered to hospital, it was decided that further intensive care was unlikely to improve her outcome, and my dad and stepmama, along with their medical team, agreed to redirect efforts towards palliative care.

Sadly she died the next day, in my father’s arms in the memorial garden with the sun on her face.

At Katy’s funeral, whilst looking at some tiny miniature wild strawberries Pixie had found, I realised that life was too short, too fleeting. I realised that at the end of my life, I wouldn’t regret having another baby… but I might regret not having one. I also reasoned that if I could get through PND twice, I could do it again, especially as at that point, I was stronger and happier than I had ever been.

When Steve and I started “trying”, we worked out that it took us about three days to conceive Gaia, although we didn’t find out until a few weeks later, after an amazing Goo Goo Dolls gig in Leeds!

Stephen was thrilled! I mean, I was too, but boy, Stephen was Thrilled with a capital T! He walked around for the entire pregnancy with a bigger-than-usual grin on his face. He was positively giddy.

I felt the opposite though. Calm, chilled out, relaxed. I got the feeling very early on that this little person was going to be a little serene dreamer. I had had strong feelings about what Ru and Pixie were going to be like before they were born, and had been spot-on each time, so I was confident that my feelings were right once again.

We decided, as usual, on names very very early on. Our little child was a dreamer, connected to something bigger. It felt right to pick celestial names, for a link to the everlasting stars, or a name linked to the depth of the earth, ideally with a name that meant peace. We quickly decided on Orion Sirius Lesley for a boy; Orion is the first constellation Steve’s mother taught to him, and Sirius is the common name of the Dog Star. In mythology, Sirius was also the hunter Orion’s dog. And Lesley in memory of my grandfather who passed away a few weeks after we found out we were having Gaia.

We chose Gaia Serenity for a girl, the former being the Mother goddess in Greek mythology, the latter representative of the calmness we felt from her (as well as a sneaky little homage to Joss Whedon!). I also loved the name Gaia as it’s the name of the protagonist from one of my favourite literary trilogies, the Birthmarked series by Caragh M. O’Brien. The Gaia in Birthmarked is a strong girl who fights against the injustices of her world, set in the dystopian future. We also chose Kathryn as a middle name, in memory of my sister.

My pregnancy continued along in peace and quiet… or at least as much peace and quiet as you can have with two children like Ru and Pixie! Steve and I were set on a homebirth, and whilst we couldn’t afford an independent midwife, we could afford a doula.

In the end, I chose my friend to be my doula, the amazing Hannah Winbolt-Robertson from Calm Yorkshire Birth, and I couldn’t have made a better choice. I plan to talk more in another post about why we chose a doula, how we decided on Hannah, and what benefits and support she provided for us as I can’t cover it all here! I can assure you that having THIS doula was easily one of the best decisions we made for this pregnancy.

I also did hypnobirthing and a lot of visualisation and meditation. Our seasons table was transformed into a birthing altar as I surrounded myself in beautiful birthing art, including a print of a piece called (appropriately) ‘Gaia’ by Joanna Beck, as well as pieces gifted to me by Hannah, and my lovely friend Asha at Worlds Of Whimsy. I also invited my friends to write letters or poems for me to read when I was birthing, and ended up with the most wonderful collection of supportive and loving words.

As usual, I got annoyed with midwives and sonographers. We were told at our 20 week scan it was a boy… maybe… possibly… well, they weren’t sure but they thought it may be a boy, but our dour sonographer sternly told us “It doesn’t really matter as long as it’s healthy.” . This prediction did not sit right with me. I knew, just KNEW, that this baby was a girl, that they HAD to be wrong. So strong was my conviction that Steve ended up booking me in for a private scan and they confirmed, without doubt, that our baby was a girl, our Gaia.

From 20 weeks onwards, Steve and I started discussing the idea of freebirthing; that is, birthing without a medical professional there. The original conversation stemmed from our realisation that I would be 41 weeks over the Tour de France weekend… where my city of York were suspending homebirth services… NOT ideal news for us. After looking into it, we decided that we were fully prepared for the scenario of birthing alone, and I felt confident that I could birth beautifully and naturally without monitoring and fussing from outside sources. In total, I had THREE completely misinformed midwives tell me categorically that “freebirthing is illegal”.  (For the record, it’s not.)

Despite the silly midwives, my excitement was growing and growing (along with my bump!), egged on by the birth of my friend Alison’s beautiful daughter, Rivka. Sat in the hospital holding this lovely brand new soul only made me more eager to hold Gaia in my arms!

My doula Hannah organised a gorgeous mother blessing for me a couple of weeks before I hit 40 weeks, where I had all my favourite and closest Mama friends join me in some lovely little rituals. A guided meditation by my friend Sarah filled our home with positive energy, and a ritual candle was created as each Mama spoke their intentions and love for me and my baby whilst tying threads round the candle, ready for the flame to be lit when the big day came.

We also did a fear releasing ritual, burning papers that we’d written our fears on, opening ourselves for those fears to be replaced with strength.

All of us had our hands bound together with thread too, whilst reciting the mantra of “We are the weavers, we are the web. We are the flow and we are the ebb.”. The threads were then cut, leaving each woman with a bracelet to be left on until I birthed; a physical representation of the link between all women during the amazing experience that is birth.

As if all that wasn’t enough, I got my bump henna’d AND an amazing crown made for me from flowers (real and handmade). There was also cake. Oh boy oh boy, was there cake. Cake that was smothered in my very favourite buttercream and adorned with an icing sunshine. A cake SO delicious, in fact, that when we came to eat it… we realised that a cat had gotten there first and had helped themselves to some of the icing off it!
Being surrounded by some of the wonderful mothers I am honoured to know was the perfect way to prepare our home for Gaia’s birth that was drawing nearer and nearer by the day!

 

Blessingway Collage

On the morning of June 28th, my thread bracelet fell off. I tied it back on, and didn’t really give it another thought. Big mistake. I should have watched for those signs! (The night before Pixie was born, my birthing necklace broke!) In the afternoon, I got a worried sounding message from my friend Kerry on Facebook, asking me if I was ok. Upon further questioning, it turned out I had completely forgotten we were supposed to be going round to hers for lunch that day! I blame pregnancy brain. We ended up going round for dinner instead, and I ate an insane amount of Mexican food.

Bang on 6.30pm, I had a massive surge whilst stood in Kerry’s kitchen. Steve somehow appeared next to me whilst I explained…

 

Fry

 

After a couple more, it was obvious that this was it! Show Time!

By the time we got back home, it was just past 7pm, so I told Steve to take Ru and Pixie to bed whilst I relaxed in the bath. I figured once they were asleep, Steve could prepare the birthing pool and I could move downstairs for the main event. I’d been having recurring dreams about labouring through the night and Gaia being born as the sun rose.

Obviously, THIS was the night that Ru and Pixie simply weren’t tired! We had already prepared for them being present whilst I birthed, by watching lots of positive natural birthing videos with them, reading books, and talking lots about how I would need them to be calm and quiet, and how special it would be.
By this point, I was in my hot bath, breathing beautifully through my surges.

My friend Sarah arrived to be with Ru and Pixie, and I could literally feel her protective, positive energy flowing from her in the living room up to me in the bathroom.

Hannah arrived, and moved silently through my birthing space, lighting my ritual candle, turning down the lights, gently asking if I wanted music on… I heard snippets of whispered conversations between her and Pixie. “My Mama’s birthin’ my baby Gaia!” and Hannah responding “Yes, I know. Isn’t she amazing?”. Ru was totally unimpressed with the whole business, instead choosing to watch Toy Story downstairs.

I hit a moment of doubt when I moved from first to second stage, but then… well, it was weird. I kind of took a deep breath and really looked at what was happening. Really looked at it. Reminded myself of my strength, of my mind and of my amazing body that had already birthed two children. And was able to calm myself and move past the doubt.

It’s at this point I thought “Hmmm, I wonder if pushing might make these surges feel better? Oh, yes. Yes they do!”. That was about 7.45pm ish I think. Not BIG pushes but enough to counteract the surges beautifully. *JUST* enough. Gods, it felt good. Productive. I felt strong.

Pixie at this point was up and down the stairs checking on me, every so often just putting her little hand on my face, or arm or leg. She was the only one I could bear touching me actually, I wanted everyone else there but not speaking or touching me.

I started to feel a deeper urgency within my body. I tentatively put my hand between my legs to feel what was going on, and felt the sac of waters bulging which was a first for me, and an amazing experience! Ended up keeping my hand there, just one finger, the entire time. Felt Gaia really starting to move move move properly down. Felt her head through the membranes. My waters broke and I was able to feel all the hair on her head. I don’t know if I said it out loud but I was gleefully thinking to myself “I KNEW she was going to have lots of hair!”. Then in 4, maybe 5 surges, I was able to feel myself opening up a little more every time and her head coming lower and lower. Felt every millimeter she travelled to meet us. It was truly incredible to feel myself just opening up and my body doing exactly what it needed to. Just working so perfectly, moving this tiny girl closer and closer to being Earthside.

Steve had rung the midwives earlier, but had smartly not informed them that I was already pushing. He was on the phone at this point to the midwife, they rang him to check what was happening and whilst he was on the phone, Gaia’s head started to crown, no searing pain, no fear, just… it just happened. It Simply Was. I called out “Stephen! The head!” and he cut off the phone call, I told him to grab the kids, Ru came up to see, but then went back downstairs, Pixie stayed with me.

Me, Steve, Pixie, my doula there together.

And I felt her head being born into my hand.

Put my other hand down there, and just had this amazing moment of clarity where it started to dawn on me just what I was doing and even more fantastically, my inner voice confidently, calmly simply said “I can do this.”

Then her shoulders.

Then the rest of her.

Lifted her out of the water.

Could feel that Stephen was worried that she wasn’t crying but she was just looking at me, with these dark eyes. Just so… knowing. This look of “Oh. There you are. I’m here.” This perfect moment where there was nothing but pride and love and joy washing over me and this tiny little life.

And then she cried and then settled back down. Had a snuggle and a little feed.

And there it was. The most phenomenal and amazing and empowering and beautiful, natural thing.

Midwives arrived, Pixie ran downstairs to bring them up telling them excitedly “Mama is upstairs in the bath! She just birthed my Baby Gaia!” with so much pride ringing through her words.

It had taken, from first surge through to Gaia being born into my hands, 2 hours and 12 minutes. Quickest birth so far. I have never felt so strong. My friend Eli summed the entire experience up for me, in a way that only Eli can. “You birthed your own baby! You’re one step away from world domination!”

 

Gaia And Others - 1

So there it is. In all its mundane, everyday-miracle kinda shininess.

Since then, life for Stephen and I has fallen into an easy rhythm as parents of three. Sure, we have tough days. Ones where we are terribly tired, annoyed at everything, baby-won’t-stop-feeding-I-am-not-a-dairy-cow-dammit kind of days. But holy shitballs, SO worth it. So, so very worth it.

Ru and Pixie are utterly thrilled with their newest sibling, and it’s so interesting to see how each of them has their own relationship with her. Pixie loves her. I mean, Pixie is FULL-ON with her love (something her best friend Nom can attest to!), picking her up all the time, cuddling her all the time, kissing her all the time, fussing her all the time. Gaia bears this love beautifully, but I do get a look from her occasionally as though she’s saying “Hey Mother, I totally appreciate being loved by Pixie, but… does she have to love me quite so voraciously?!”

Ru’s connection with her is just so different. To the outsider, he seems completely unaware of her. But I know better. I am privileged to see him stealing moments with her when Pixie is elsewhere, lying next to Gaia, whispering secrets into her ear. Taking a fleeting moment to stroke her hair as he runs past whilst playing a game. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him taking a big ole sniff of her milky breath when he thinks no one is looking. His is not a bright sparkling love like Pixie’s, it’s a sweet, mellow, secret one.

 

As for Gaia, our little sunshine. She babbles away, sitting up unaided now, very alert, and quite the demanding little thing when she thinks someone is eating something and not sharing with her! Family and friends seem to remark a lot about how calm she is, how serene and happy. And you know what, as long as she’s been milked up, she is a blessed joy of a human being. We like having her around, you know?

And so to you, my sweet baby Gaia. Shine on.

 

Gaia

The Next Step…

Welcome!

I am so, so very thrilled to be sharing the next step in my magical MamaPixie journey with you, and welcoming you all to mamapixie.com!

I thought I’d begin by introducing myself and my family so you can get to know us a little better.

I am Emi, I’m 28. Nice to meet you. I take my Clipper organic tea white with two brown sugars. I love the smell of fried onions, of freshly ground coffee beans, of wet earth. I despise yoghurt in any form. I harbour a not-so-sneaky crush on Tom Hiddleston.

I have been married to Stephen, aged 31 and also known as DaddyPixie, for five years in July this year, after getting together in 2008. Stephen is a delivery driver for a large supermarket. He takes his coffee freshly ground with milk and two. He loves superheroes, particularly ones from the Marvel universe. His current man-crush is the actor Chris Pratt. He hates people who use their mobiles whilst driving. He plays guitar for a punk-ska band. He unabashedly loves My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Our eldest child is Ru, 5 1/2 years and a newly minted gamer, cutting his teeth on Harry Potter Lego on the XBOX360. He loves Maoam sweets. Hates being rushed. His favourite superhero is Wolverine. He is super sensitive but adept at hiding his anxieties from those he doesn’t trust. He think Loki wouldn’t have been half so bad if someone had just “given him a cuddle”.

Next up is Pixie, aged 3 years. She loves strawberries and eats an insane amount of cucumber. Her superpower is shrieking at an ear-splitting decibel when angered. She is the most openly loving child I’ve ever met… on her terms. She is a sensitive, emotional little soul. Her favourite song right now is Blank Space by Taylor Swift.

And finally is our newest creation, our 7 month old daughter, Gaia. She was born peacefully at home in June 2014 (her birth story will be in another post soon!). She loves crackers and cucumber. Enjoys being tickled. Above all, she adores her mama milk!

We also share our home with four wonderful felines, Millie, Yuli, Taliesin and Torsten (although at the time of writing this, Torsten is sadly missing!).

Stephen and I identify as Pagan, and we do follow the wheel of the year in our home with seasonal decorations and activities. Whilst we share our faith with our children, we also explore aspects of many other world religions, providing a wide base from which they can make their own informed choices regarding their very personal interpretation of faith, the world, and their place in it, always with tolerance and kindness.

We are also an autonomously educating family! This means that our children do not attend conventional school, instead learning through simply living their wonderful lives, and exploring their interests and passions. I hope to share more about how this works in our home and explain our reasons behind this particular choice in the coming weeks. It’s an in-depth topic that can’t comfortably be summarised, and I’d really like to give it the time and words it deserves.

 

That’s us really, feel free to ask any questions you like and I shall endeavour to answer them!

So here we are, ready to rock and roll with 2015 and one another!

 

Family Photo