'Like nature, we must learn when to expel our energy in the act of creation and when to rest - to be still, silent and watchful, like the birds preparing for their summer moult, and take the chance to bathe in the sunshine.’
The blur of the last three months is starting to lift like the mist shrouding the ocean before me. It has felt like a veil, mysteriously cloaking the view, an air of suspense hovering around me, damp and heavy, keeping me guessing as I sit, patiently waiting for the familiar outline of my favourite Devon beach to appear.
The wet and windy weather has somewhat mirrored the months of June, July and August, and as much as I am craving the warmth and heat of the sunshine, there is an uncanny comfort in the restlessness and mix of conditions that currently swirl around me, as I realign and reconnect with myself and with mother nature again.
These last few months have been a melting pot of growth for myself, as well as my clients. It has been a bit messy, a wee bit snotty, a headless chicken type marathon of crazy, hazy end of school term black pen graffitied diaries, sterile routine hospital visits, pick ups, drop offs, dropped balls, spinning plates, losing minds and finding joy, in amongst it all. There have been pockets of defeat, filled with moments of surrender quickly mixed with bite size nuggets of happiness and pride, swiftly drenched with anxiety. From previous experience, the summer term is traditionally a spectrum of chaos but this year it felt as if the flames from the wild fires had been permanently licking at all our feet. It has felt like a rollercoaster treadmill with no brakes and no safety barrier.
There has been a huge desire to find stillness and alignment. The summer down time has been a space for me to read and research, specifically around the subject of rest. As someone who has always considered being ‘busy’ as a valuable activity, affirming and productive, the summer months heightened an awareness of how society considers rest a weakness. There is a wide understanding of postnatal recuperation, as well as post illness and medical surgery, but there is a universal lack of self regulation to take frequent rest throughout our day. Suzy Reading’s new book `Rest to Reset` is a brilliant reminder and helpful guide to ‘pausing with purpose’.
‘Rest has a PR problem - being seen as lazy, indulgent, unproductive or pointless. We need to rewrite the script when it comes to rest. It seems we are more frazzled than ever before and we need rest to help us heal, process and recharge’
- Rest and Reset by Suzy Reading
There are different forms of rest and what our bodies and minds need will change day to day, but we cannot deny that we are better in ourselves when we take that time to reset. Saundra Dalton-Smith MD writes in her insightful book `Sacred Rest`,
‘Rest has become synonymous with sleep or a cessation of all activity. But what if rest is in itself a vital activity required to tend to the garden of our lives? What if rest is the water that replenishes the dryness?’
- Sacred Rest by Saundra Dalton-Smith MD
When depleted of rest and energy, there is deep vulnerability. Life can feel big. Just as the weather has been creating some of the biggest waves I have ever seen, there have been tidal waves of intensity, heartbreak and vulnerability smashing over a special family in our `village`, and we have watched helplessly as they have been hit by a giant wall of water, tears and grief. A past client and friend tragically lost her two year old son in June. It is every mothers worst nightmare and the tsunami waves of agony and suffering that our community have been trying to support her, and each other through, have been seismic. The ripple effects are vast and so far reaching, the outer layers of family, relations, school friends, nursery friends and village community closing in and around her, like the fragile petals of a flower, protecting and supporting her as much as we can. Walking beside her in grief, after being her postnatal doula when she had her son, and becoming closer as friends, has taught me a great deal about the complexities of the bereavement process and just how unique it is for every individual, parent and sibling.
My mantra this summer has been ‘presence is power’. Not only have I had to repeat this phrase several times to myself when feeling helpless in grief, but it felt poignant when I had the opportunity to support a client as her birth partner. Back in June, while waiting in the foyer of our local hospital for a client to arrive, I grabbed a coffee with my mum, as it just so happened Dad was downstairs having his lung drained. My client had called to say contractions had started, and after supporting her antenatally due to a second pregnancy with hyperemisis, as planned, I was ready to meet her and her husband, at the hospital.
Twenty four hours later I was in the exact same spot ordering a coffee to drink in the car, as I prepared to drive the short journey home, after my client birthed a beautiful baby girl. She arrived earth side just as the dawn chorus broke across the darkness of the shortest Summer Solstice night, highlighting and mirroring the whispers of some of its true meaning;
‘At the solstice, there is this sense of hiatus – of time standing still for a moment – which can be something of a relief when our lives are otherwise in a state of constant transformation.’
It was an incredible moment, an honour to have been present at this labour and birth. Time had indeed stood still as baby girl arrived. There was a huge sense of relief, especially as there had been an unexpected reaction to the epidural. However, just as midsummer traditions suggest a transformation within us to break free from the usual constraints, with the hypnobirthing tools and breathing techniques we had practiced in preparation for the birth, there was a focus on the energy of strength, encouraging and reassuring mum, offering stability and an anchor for her own vulnerability. It was a reminder of a woman’s resilience and power; watching the medical teams, her whole support team, react so quickly and efficiently when she suffered what is called a ’vasovagal syncope’ reaction.
‘the medical term for a brief loss of consciousness (fainting). It comes from the Greek word ‘synkoptein’, meaning ‘to cut short’.
Apparently this is more common after epidural spinal procedures than we realized. I learnt so much that night. We were not just celebrating a woman’s sovereignty, but the mid summer themes of success, optimism and alignment felt so tangible. Debriefing with an experienced birthing doula, chatting with the midwives who talked to me at length on the ward, and gathering over zoom with Sarah Doman, our hypnobrithing queen was crucial. My client also booked with the listening service, all providing a great deal of support and valuable opportunities to talk through these events and validate all the feels, while re framing what may have felt distressing at the time, but which still resulted in the type of birth she wanted. This had always been the ultimate goal. It was hugely powerful and there was a great sense of completion.
Being present to witness beautiful new life coming into the world, a matter of days after loosing such a precious one, was profound. The fragility of life astounded and overwhelmed. The festival of Lammas, on August 1st, celebrates a time of harvest and within that, the notion of the circle of life.
‘We are all subject to the natural cycles of birth and death, and sometimes death brings with it a sustaining force for the living who are left behind.’
That there could be two such life changing, contrasting moments thrust upon two separate incredible mothers, in the space of a few days, felt as if there was some kind of traumatic trade off. The cost of the bounty of harvest. It stripped life and all of its meaning and messiness, right back to the bones and the basic, fundamental need to love and be loved. The enormity of mother nature felt overpowering; everything a woman experiences when she grows, births and cares for her child. It is primal. It lives in every bone, every fibre and every drop of blood. It throbs with joy, burns with pride, constantly drains and consistently overwhelms and when it is snatched away, it simply breaks us.
And with all of the above swirling around leaving destruction and transformation in its wake, just as Mother Nature has been scorched with wild fires on a monumental scale, there has been more vulnerability, a heightened awareness of stress and anxiety. Rest is to come home.
‘August is a month where we will seek to return to a sense of balance and alignment within ourselves, exactly as we are.’
We strive for safety so we can switch off the fight or flight mode. It is a vital need and when there has been so much displacement around the world on such a huge scale, due to natural disaster and events totally out of anyone’s control, is it any wonder there is so much un-rest?
One client has been incredibly proactive in finding her own physical and emotional rest, researching and investigating what the best support might be as she has navigated a choppy patch in her own first year of being a mother of two. She has been learning to incorporate restful activities throughout the day as and where she can, creating tiny but effective fractures, small changes to routine, with a deeper understanding that it is ok if one day is different from the other. Tomorrow is a different day.
I have also had the fortunate opportunity to work as a doula share with a wonderful local doula friend, supporting mum as her husband travels on a weekly basis, and as she considered the options for introducing a bottle. By being able to offer balanced, evidence based information, in the form of books and links, Mum has felt empowered and able to make informed choices. It has been wonderful, spending time with her baby while she proactively takes that time to rest; sleep, shower, breathe deep and walk, refilling her cup and rebalancing the energy.
Just as the sun makes a delayed, but much appreciated appearance this August, I am beginning to turn my attention to a new energy; the approach of September. It always feels like a new start, thanks to the years of beginning new school terms, but there is a revived energy, a fresher headspace, with a more assertive sense of balance.
‘You are free to take your time easing into these new beginnings. Continue to pace yourself as you go, this, too is a part of your growth’
- Morgan Harper Nichols
As the waves calm and the tropical storms subside, there is an opportunity to take a deep breath, dust ourselves off and take that fearless step forward with determination and resilience. I am excited to start supporting new clients. One who has just had her baby, another due in the next few weeks and others looking ahead to October birth-days. The Motherspace group will resume on September 8th at our gorgeous venue in Tongham and there is a comforting joy in catching up with clients with babies born in the Spring who I cant wait to see and check in with. I am also planning another autumnal doula cuddle for all local birth workers and doulas, to catch up and reconnect after summer hiatus.
Maybe it is just me, but Mother Nature is turning down the dial already. As I walked the dogs yesterday after a heavy rain shower, there were blackberries ripening in the hedgerows, tempting me to pluck and savour their sweet taste, lacing the muddy footpaths, fringing the fields and common with that nostalgic childhood fun of gathering berries for comforting Sunday lunch crumbles. This season of harvest feels tangible, reaping the rewards of all the years growth and progress, resting after all the hard work and effort, realigning and healing. Once again, all the seasonal influences mirroring in subtle and not so subtle ways. There have been storm clouds, rain showers, cloudless skies and warm sunshine and just as the rain has brought jungle like growth, the heat has brought wild fire, and a burning spirit of life.
‘This month, we will savour, bask in, delight in, take comfort in and celebrate how far we have come.’
Summer Recipes I have been cooking;
Tomato and mozzarella and mint salad
Parma ham, nectarine and rocket and goats cheese salad
Fiery red rice and carrot salad by Mary Berry
Prawn and salmon ramen with noodles
Summer Playlists & meditations I have been listening to;
Daisy Jones and the Six soundtrack, Aurora (Spotify)
What Ifs and Maybe’s by Tom Grennan
Six The Musical soundtrack
Rest to Reset by Susie Reading
Sacred Rest by Saundra Dalton-Smith MD
Mrs Porter Calling by AJ Pearce
Landlines by Raynor Winn