Hellena Post - Creatrix

I've tried on so many uniforms and badges that now I'm just me - mother of 8 children and all that entails, flowmad, and human animal parent. Writer of this living book of a blog, philosopher, and creatrix of hand dyed and spun crocheted wearable art. I gave up polite conversation years ago, and now I dive into the big one's.....birth, sex, great wellness, life, passion, death and rebirth.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

After Birth.......

In having 7 children, and births, I've learnt stuff from each birth that not that many women experience anymore.... With Jess' birth I learnt about the Goddess and feminism and sexuality, with Griffyn's birth I learnt how easy birth can be - even in a hospital - and how easily I could attempt a homebirth.  Lilly's birth taught me how nicely the journey can be taken at home and how important the post natal period is for bonding and setting up healthy family relationships. Spiral-Moon's birth taught me how incredibly blissful a home, water and lotus birth can be, how incredible it is to catch your own baby, and how a post natal period done well can change the vibration of your entire family. Balthazar's birth taught me about judgement, (mine towards women that had caesareans and western medicine in general), the fully medicalised birth, and also about post natal depression and healing from it. And during the period between Balthazar's birth, and as a result of my twins births, I reckon I've got a real handle on my 'big picture' of birth.

For a start I found out about 'Ethnopaediatrics', which is the marriage of child development research, anthropology, psychology, and pediatrics, and goes a long way towards explaining the science behind a lot of the conclusions reached by Jean Liedloff in 'The Continuum Concept'. I thought I knew a lot about birth, but it only really came together with this new information.

To put it in a nutshell, when we decided as a species to think and walk, we altered the course of our births from the relatively easy journey that we still see today in all the other mammals, to the tricksy process it can be today. Our pelvises could only get so big or we wouldn't be able to keep walking, and our heads grew as we thought more and developed our frontal lobes, and the result was that our babies began being born earlier than was preferable. If we hadn't of made these changes, our babies would be more like other mammal babies, and born when they could walk relatively soon after birth, more like a year old baby than our modern day newborns. And we would have kept the straight birth canal that other mammals enjoy. As it is, our birth canal's have become a twisty journey to the outside world, and we birth babies that are all virtually premature.

Nature had to help us adapt........

And did so beautifully, by setting up an intricate rewards system, that made sure that we'd keep our babies close to us and nurture them, to ensure the survival of our species. And a delicate cocktail of hormones and oxytocins to be released during specific periods of the birthing time, as well as infancy, to keep us following the carrot of baby care that people call now 'attachment parenting'. Sarah J Buckley writes eloquently on these hormonal cocktails, and how they are released and can be interrupted by medical intervention.

It really came home to me about a week after my twins were born. I was experiencing extreme sore nipples and nipple trauma for the first time ever, and finding it all a bit difficult and hard to cope with. Lisa came to visit and found me teary and overwhelmed, and told me I needed to get my clothes off, rest as much as I could, and hold my babies on my skin and close to my chest as much as I could. And as she explained, during the times that followed after we changed our evolutionary path, if I'd left my babies on a bed or ground as far away from me as they were at that moment, they would have been eaten by a predator or stolen by another tribe. If I kept my babies on my bare chest as much as possible, I'd trigger off the happy hormones as the reward for me keeping my babies alive and safe.

I tried it and it worked beautifully. And I realised I still had a lot to learn.

The night my 4th baby was born, my midwife Rosey was on the phone to me being gorgeous, and as my mum was there, she asked me to ask mum how she'd given birth to me - in which position.  I asked, and was surprised when I found that she'd birthed in exactly the same position as I always do.  Rosey told me that a huge percentage of the women she'd birthed with, (and that's a lot in over 30 years as a midwife) birthed in the same positions as their mothers.

But it doesn't stop there.

I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that having twins has been one of the most challenging physical, emotional, and spiritual journeys of my life.  In fact, the birth was NOTHING compared to how these past 5 months have been as a reality.  I tried really hard to imagine what it would be like to have two babies before I birthed them......

And I wasn't even close.

And what comes with pushing yourself and your limits to the very edge?  In my experience anyway, it usually produces realisations and self awareness.  And this experience has been no exception.

I've been saying for a long time, that as we're born, we're turning around and looking at our mothers and saying to ourselves, 'Now THAT'S how to give birth, and when we're being raised we're saying, 'THAT'S how to treat children, and THAT'S what to expect from life'.  I always meant it more metaphorically than anything else, but I'm coming to understand that this learning is literal.

For mammals and animals and us to survive, the very process I've just described has to be imprinted totally and completely, along with an imperative to remember and re-enact all we soak up as babies and children.  That's how great herds of buffalo moved across the grasslands following the water, grass and seasons.  Why Emperor Penguins go to that extreme place in the freezer all those miles from the water and perform the rituals they do, rather than just pull up shop and move closer to the sea.  Why birds flock together and go on their global journeys to eat, nest, and raise their young.  How all sorts of animals remember when and where all sorts of prey are going to be, and how to best eat them.  They learnt the patterns from their parents, how to birth, feed, procreate and survive, and repeated those patterns faithfully.

And guess what.  I'm realising that we're exactly the same.  Except we think that the re-enactment of our parents patterns in our lives is because of all the other reasons under the sun, except for, we do it because that's how we were shown how to survive.  And we've faithfully replicated the patterns.  We may do it in different ways, and with different costumes or descriptions, but in my experience anyway, it's a matter of the same poo (or joy) in a different bucket.....

And it's taken the extremeties of birthing and living with twins to bring me to the realisation that even though I've been merrily tripping down the path of thinking that I was doing things differently to my parents and had transcended my childhood......  I was in denial all along.

It's a long and complicated story, and I don't want to make my eldest daughter feel in the spotlight, but suffice to say, many of the mistakes I thought I wasn't making.....I was.  Many of the things I hated about my childhood.......I did to her.  And most profound to me, how I spent my pregnancy, was a way of being that is a big part of her life now.  In a different way of course, but the essence is still the same.  This shocked the crap out of me when I saw it let me tell you now, and then I started looking at all the other elements in my life, and realised there were a lot of patterns I learnt from my childhood that I'd re-created.  Again, in different clothing, and with different props, but the basic pattern was exactly the same.

To give you an example.  My mum raised 6 children virtually on her own with an alcoholic, disaffected husband, who'd walk in the door after work, drop his hat and bag as he went straight to his room, where he'd read a book, drink a bottle of wine, and mum had to keep us all quiet.  She had no help or assistance.  And Currawong's mum was equally on her own and alone, and had to keep him well behaved so as not to get in the way.  They were both disrespected and unsupported in their lives and choices.

And we live on a community, and are surrounded by friends, and not doing it on our own but with a loving partner (man was I bummed when I realised that getting over my parents patterns, by being madly in love with the father of my children, wasn't all there was to transcend!!) - but - my mum and eldest daughter have had other business, the 6 other adults here haven't helped a jot, and friends help when they can, but the logistics of getting out to see them or vice versa is tricky.  We've also got grumpy neighbours who want us to keep our kids quiet till midday.  In fact, in all the places we've lived since we started having kids, we've done it on our own, had to keep our kids quiet a lot and controlled, and not got any outside help to speak of.  And often end up in home situations where we're disrespected and unsupported in our choices.  All of these paradigms go out the window though when we're travelling and on the road.  We didn't get any patterns to recreate around travelling, so we do it with a clean slate.  And it's divine.

Now I'm not saying this to whinge, or to shame my fellow community dwellers, (and none of you are allowed to be disillusioned about communities because of this story!!).  In fact I'm sure that even if they wanted to help, they wouldn't be able to because my love and I have a learnt imperative that we've implemented for our survival!  And those survival skills we learnt are strong! Learnt at our parents knees!  And it's not even their fault, in fact it's not really anyones....it's just us human mammals acting out our learnt skills to survive.

But the good news is, and I'll have to keep you posted, that when you realise such a pattern for what it is - a misguided survival imperative - then you can change it.  You can unschool it.  You can unlearn it. Instead of justifying, rationalising, psycho-therapising and the rest, you can just say..

"Oh.  That particular survival skill I learnt from infancy doesn't actually help me survive.  In fact it feels really crappy sometimes and I'm only doing it cause my animal brain wants to survive by repeating what it saw my parents do, but now I've been through all these changes and got myself a bigger frontal lobe, I can understand why I was doing it, see where I got that particular dysfunctional survival skill from, and simply change it for one I like better"

Or at least it should........


  1. my heart gets bigger every time I read one of your stories, or listen to you speak them.
    knowing your family has changed me in ways that I never even knew I needed.
    you speak with your heart, and it inspires me!
    I used to be an Elliewhen, now, its tacky, but I am an Elliecan. and like you, I am learning ways to rebuild and let go of old patterns of disfunctionalness. and find the me that I like the most, buried deep under layers of what ifs and expectations.

  2. Is there a little keyboard symbol for "Bowing Deep"?
    Because there should be.
    For right now.
    Because I am.

    Bowing Deep.

  3. gorgeous post Hellena, thanks for your embodied brilliance.

    I have been reading recently about the research that is being done in the field of 'interpersonal neurobiology' (informed by attachment research, neuroscience and childhood development) which reflects what you are saying and also provides a map for moving beyond our imprinted maps, coz weve got highways in our brains related to certain learnt ways of being (as you beautifully described) and they are encoded in our bodies too. The power of mindfulness as present moment focussed consciousness and connection with sensations in the body seems to be able to undo & recreate so much. The buddhists have really got it sussed I think! so I am trying to notice and go with that vulnerable feeling
    that comes when I feel like I am looking down a barley traversed,
    overgrown but inviting and intriguing looking path in myself. why does if
    feel so bloody scary?!? coz we are challenging our imprinted survival
    mechanisms? that make sense ay!
    What I am wondering is where does the spiritual aspect of our selves come into this?
    The early maps imprinted on us through moment by moment contact with those around us from / prior to birth inform our mental, emotional,
    and physical beings, but our spiritual selves are freer? not as wholly available? exists in the immortal realm therefore not impacted on? just covered with the clouds of mental / emotional / physical patterns? I guess that may be why present awareness and breath has such healing capabilities. and meditation is apparently such a helpful things to do.
    hmmmm to ponder on & on!
    thanks for a thought provoking and inspiring morning

  4. Ah Ellie....you pay me the hugest compliment I can think of:) And beautifully written too. I reckon Elliecan is going to do wonderful things:) And Thicklygrownwithweeds, you just rock:) Thanks so much for digging what I write about. And Krystie - what gorgeous feedback!! And to think that the morning before I got your comment I was contemplating giving up blogging cause people seemed to only be interested in the twin story!! You blow my mind. I may not have many followers, but the one's I have are all class baby! I LOVED what you wrote, and I'm going to go a long way towards answering your points in my next blog that's already boiling around in my head, and I don't want the meat of it lost in the comments bar..... And thanks for the tip on interpersonal neurobiology!! Interesting reading indeed... I look forward to what you're gonna think about the next one!!

  5. Hellena, thank you very sharing your knowledge and experiences. You are helping me to grow in such a wonderful way. Thank you and look forward to reading more. Lots of love to you.Casandra xxxxxooooo

  6. Hi Hellena, been reading your blogs and felt moved to make a comment on your 'grumpy neighbors' I'm disappointed that people at 'community' and I know which one because I've visited there, are too into themselves to let children just be children. I guess it means that they are still children themselves but not child like!! It's a shame I didn't get to know you when i visited my friend Caroline, guess I was caught up in catching up. cheers Paul


I love your comments, and your feedback......it makes this whole blogging thing worthwhile. Peace and blessings to you!