Happy Birthday Mamaheaven
It will be hard to narrow down the most important things that I have learnt in the ten glorious years of caring, guiding and listening to new mums at our Mamaheaven Retreats. As founder of Mamaheaven, the most extraordinary element that has stood out and made Mamaheaven such a unique and wonderful experience for both the mothers and ourselves has been the Mamaheaven team. A wonderful group of women that magically came together to create little moments of bliss, care, love, deep friendship and a sense of community.
This fantastic group of inspirational women have brought with them their skills in yoga, healing, alternative therapies, psychotherapy, massage, nutrition and infant care but most of all they bought with them compassion and understanding thus allowing us to share moments of quiet and mindfulness so we could all tune into our own ancient wisdom, we have been united in our love for each other, our children and our planet.
I am eternally grateful for what Mamaheaven has bought in to my life, thank you all for sharing the journey with us.
Here are ten things I have learnt from ten beautiful Mamaheaven years:
Being heard is vital in all aspects of life, relationships and healing.
Mothers need to be listened to so they can make sense of their experiences; they need time to unravel the past, present and future that is mirrored back at them in the faces of their babies and children.
Mothers need to be encouraged to explore the need to share stories and insights and to consider that their partners, family, other mothers and friends aren't always equipped to really hear them.
Talking groups, Psychoanalysis, Counselling, Forums, Writing and other practices can be an enormous help to make sense of important and sometimes confusing ideas and feelings.
2 HUMAN TOUCH
The importance of human touch is often ignored in our modern world where we are encouraged to be independent and strong. Human touch is essential to our lives and can relieve, revive and heal.
One of the miracles of having a baby and children is that we have unlimited access to human touch, we have skin-to-skin cuddling and co-sleeping. This human contact produces oxytocin and other hormones connected with love and well-being (this could be one of the reasons why mothers have more children regardless of their birth experiences and economic situation). This ‘rush of love’ feeling is vital for our human experience, for us to thrive and feel worthy. At Mamaheaven we encourage women to have bodywork where possible to unlock these feelings of well-being by receiving bodywork of every kind including Massage, Reiki, Cranio Sacral Therapy and of course hugs and holding. We remind mothers that by nurturing this feeling of well-being and releasing love hormones they can overcome feelings of uncertainty, doubt, loneliness and depression
3. FOODS OF LOVE & THE LOVE OF FOOD
Food is everything to me and at Mamaheaven we have strived to make it a focal part of our ethos and the Mamaheaven experience. The love, passion, curiosity and necessity for food connects us directly with the essence of our existence on this planet, connects us to mother nature and contributes to our fundamental happiness and health.
For mothers nutrition is a fundamental part of their lives, it starts from the very beginning – from conception through pregnancy and breastfeeding and then to weaning and introducing their children to the world of food. We can attribute the blueprint of our family health to the past food habits of our grandparents and great-grandparents, their environment, fluctuations of wealth, their religions and habits.
By encouraging mothers to explore the importance of food in their lives, we have found that shifts in consciousness and empowerment have happened just by sharing foods that have been thoughtfully sourced and created, taking into account the seasons, free of pesticides and made with love.
4.COMMUNITY & FAMILY
‘It takes a village to bring up a child’
We are essentially interdependent beings we need each other. Babies need their parents and mothers and fathers need theirs. We are tribal and communal beings and without this support and human closeness we do not thrive.
The modern world has encouraged us to be independent and strong, to release ourselves to the ties of families, from their structure and rituals. But by disconnecting from these golden threads we have become lost and lost many things, not only have we lost support and companionship, which shows itself as a gaping and painful hole when we are raising children, we have also lost important teachings and rituals passed down through generations of family and historical community structures. These stories and rituals that were seen as imposing during the social revolution of our recent past have left present generations without some of the strengths from their inner infrastructure which helps us cope with important life experiences like childbirth, illness, death, parenting and knowledge and respect to care for our planet.
5.SUGGESTIONS, ADVICE & RULES
Everyone is an ‘expert’ in parenting and babies but when people are not prepared to listen long enough to you for you to hear your own wisdom they bombard you with advice, rules and suggestions. It’s true that mothers do seem to be forever searching for this input but, over the years, I have seen that mothers already have the answers they need inside them. But in this chaotic and over stimulating world it’s so hard to sift through the distractions and fears and hear those personal insights. Instead we listen to others, read and search the Internet about every doubt and then it seems that suggestions turn into rules and suffocating social laws. We do not have to sleep on our left side when pregnant, we do not have to put our babies to sleep on their backs, we do not have to send our children to school, what we do have to do is explore out own mind, take into account our own needs, visualize our own aspirations, observe our influences, recognise our own fears and acknowledge our accomplishments to ultimately make those millions of daily choices to suit our unique life, each baby and our own individual family.
Understanding the primal needs of a mother and the primal need of a baby are not only fascinating but also incredibly helpful when caring for a newborn, all the way through childhood and to understanding a teenager.
This is not something we need to study a degree university for but it can be life-saving to look into what our primal behaviours are and why. Many of us have heard mothers asking why does my baby not like being put down? Why does she feed all night? And sleep all day? Why cant my boy sit still?
There are easy answers to these and a million other important questions that relate to our primal programming and development. The answers will help us care for our babies and children in tune with their needs, developmental stage and character rather than frustratingly trying to fit them to a modern picture of a well-behaved child - one that sleeps through at 3 weeks, never cries, fidgets or misbehaves.
Also mothers needs to be understood, they need to explore the essence of being a woman, all her physical, emotional and hormonal rhythms, her needs to create harmony and safety, how she differs from the men around her, how she is equal but very, very different, how she differs in her daily physical needs, her diet and her environment. If a woman explores and fully understands these traits and needs she can then communicate them and begin to expect to be treated in a way that supports these needs by her partners, family and ultimately the whole world.
Many mothers are encouraged to become independent of their baby as soon as possible and not to make baby dependant on her, we have found that this often causes confusion, deep pain for the mother and trauma for the baby.
Fortunately we have come a long way since the days of strict parenting, now many of us parent naturally - women can now be guided to so-called ‘attachment parenting’ and wear it happily as a label showing their love and commitment to the future well-being of her child.
This was the biggest inspiration for us to create a retreat where mother and baby could stay together in close contact for the whole period and still enjoy relaxation, company of other mothers and inspirational women, healing therapies and the chance to explore her own inner voice and parenting journey.
7. WOMEN NEED TO BE APPRECIATED FOR WHAT THEY DO
We women are not what we used to be, we have become super trained in many skills, we are economically independent, we have become accustomed to the benefits of being appreciated in the work place, to problem solving, leading teams and being successful in the workplace.
As Naomi Stadlen explains in her book ‘What Mothers Do’ it is no wonder that today’s educated woman can find it very challenging to leave a good job that she was trained to do and has mastered an environment where she felt supported, complimented and needed and she was paid a good wage to be at home alone most of the day where she works twice as hard, receives no one’s appreciation or invites out, is not paid big bonuses or patted on the back for doing a good job.
What we can all do to address this problem is to encourage women to understand the difficulties they may experience during the transition to motherhood. Teach them to value themselves and the importance of the job they are doing, to feel pride in the identity of mothering and motherhood and to encourage others to do the same. We can all help by valuing the work that is being done by mothers endlessly everyday everywhere, what our mothers did and the enormous effort that was put in, just as Naomi Stadlen says ‘especially when it looks like she is doing nothing.’
‘Future events assumed real’
Our world can seem scary; we are constantly bombarded by daily tragedies from around the world hence we can easily forget that although these tragedies are terrible they are also rare. We can become so overwhelmed by these events that we can disconnect from the inner belief that no matter how bad things get we will cope and we can recover.
The human spirit is strong and resourceful. We know this from the stories and legends of our ancestors and amazing stories of human resilience. This is why we keep going, why we still live our lives regardless of the peril.
That said, living with a constant underlying fear affects us daily in our choices big and small, it also affects our health and energy levels and our habits and relationships. Importantly, it has a dramatic effect on parenting.
It is therefore extremely important is to be able to recognise when we are in a place of fear and anxiety that is either real or projected in the future, Do we actually have a huge bear in front of us ready to eat us when we do need all our fight or flight responses to escape, or are we imagining terrible things happening to us and our children as they grow and explore the world?
This is where practices like Mediation, Dance, Tai Chi, Walking, Swimming, Yoga, Mindfulness, Writing, Support Groups, Psychotherapy and Counselling are an immense help, they help us connect to that resilient and ancient powerful part of our human spirit, they help us sift through our busy minds and hear our truths and they help us connect to the Earth and Mother Nature, grounding us and allowing us to take strength from her.
We, as a human race, need these practices to stay healthy and sane and for mothers they help her to be honest with herself and her children when guiding them to recognise the real dangers in the world.
9. HEALING THE PAIN
Women and mothers have had a tough deal for quite some time now, they has been brutalised in all aspects of life -sexually, economically, during birth and throughout society. Yes, things have changed but in many parts of the world the change is not nearly enough and globally there is a long, long way to go.
I feel it is important to talk about this as women have been forced to be silent, pleasing and accommodating for centuries. This has taken advantage of and exploited our female essence, the essence that we need as mothers raising our young, when we naturally become the peace keeper, the creator of harmony and happiness for our children, families and community, Luckily this does wear of when our hormones change and our brain reprograms its self during the menopause and we no longer give a monkeys and won’t stay quiet any longer!
Being aware of our overpowering need for harmony at this stage of our lives will help us to understand why we and our mothers put up with so much in our families dynamics and in the world around us, we can then begin to forgive our mothers and grandmothers and more importantly ourselves,
We can also begin to understand the pain, suffering and frustration that we carry in our DNA and the havoc that it can unconsciously cause in our intimate lives and our relationships with our children.
We encourage women to explore and share birth traumas they may have without feeling ungrateful that they have a healthy, happy baby. This trauma can be caused not only by the life and death situations of many childbirth experiences but also by being un-heard or unsupported. We bring the focus to the 4th trimester and the trauma that can be left over from feeling unable to cope at this time, the trauma left over from feeling guilty for leaving our babies or wanting to leave our babies to go to work, the challenges that are felt around embarking on an intimate life after the huge changes that are experienced during and after childbirth, the frustrations and disappointments with ourselves,with our own mothers, mothers-in-law and female friends. All of this is done in a warm caring environment where we can guide mothers to further work on themselves through reading and practices like Jungian analysis, Family Constellations work, Re Birthing, Cranio Sacral Therapy, Reiki and more.
10.TO BE GENTLE & PATIENT WITH YOUR SELF
We encourage mothers to see mothering as a long and winding path, full of magi and joy and some sorrow,on which we learn from our children, from our mistakes, from our triumphs, from our fellow human beings, from our stories and through our heart and instincts.
In the first days of meeting their babies mothers learn to soothe them in many ways, to listen to the cries and recognise what is needed, they learnt to juggle their lives around their newborns and as the months pass they are able to see a new person peering through the chaos, a mother that has grown strong inside, that is proud of herself and can look back and see what she has accomplished and overcome.
This new person/mother has a new ally and supporter in her baby, she is part of a wondrous new world where she is needed and loved unconditionally, where she is quickly forgiven and fully understood. She has become the most important thing to the most important person in her life, her child.
This new woman has super woman strength and resilience, she has extra sensory powers of perception, she is physic and intuitive, she is the healer that will not give up and has the patience larger than any other animal in the kingdom.
I am forever grateful and humbled to be helping amazing mothers on their journeys and know that they can help me on mine as we move into the second decade of Mamaheaven.
I hope we can carry on this great work and as Erika Tourell so eloquently shares with all the mothers ‘you are on the true yogic path, doing gods work’
And lastly who wouldn’t want intensive training and to earn top marks in being the healer, the cook, the nurse, the driver, the teacher, the secretary, the banker, the cleaner, the coach, the counsellor, the anthropologist, the diplomat and the ultimate fountain of forgiveness and love, I know I am smug and proud to be all of those and known simply as Mum!