Week 4: April 22 - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 04-24-2005, 02:57 PM - Thread Starter
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First, I have to apologize for this post being so late. I have no excuse other than it’s my birthday weekend and I’ve been swept up in the festivities! I hope you’ll understand and won’t be too angry with me. I’m thirty on Monday. Thirty. When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to be thirty. Granted, I was a strange child. I always thought that thirty meant you were really a grown-up. No one could tell you your opinion didn’t matter or you were too young. Thirty meant power and real maturity. Maybe that is why I am not the least bit daunted by this milestone.

Perhaps it’s because I’m in denial, but as I approach my thirties, I see how young I really am. My childish ideals about what constituted real maturity were the product of feeling powerless and undervalued. Thirty is no more a badge than any other year. Age is relative.

Now, on with the show.

Before the birth of my first child, Violet, I came across the most beautiful birth story I’ve ever read. Maybe you’ve read it—The Birth of Grey Forest Walt. I must have gone back to it during that last, eternal week of first pregnancy at least three or four times. .

But wait. Before I go any further, let’s talk about goals. (Ug, I here you moan. Goal setting? Are we in high school?) We’re all here, gathered on the Mothering.com boards, for different reasons. Further, we join this particular writing board with different strengths and abilities. We're doing this workshop with different goals in mind – some are here to heal from their birth, some to celebrate, some to write the great American birth story. All are valid reasons, and there's room for those intentions and more. I hope this workshop will serve as the Petri dish for what you need to create and my greatest hope is you will adapt what I’ve put out there to fit your particular needs.

Let’s take a field trip. I’d like you to read The Birth of Grey Forest Walt before you go any further. Then we’ll talk about it.

The Birth of Grey Forest Walt


1. Either as a reply message or in your journal, take a few minutes to write your initial gut reactions to her story. These notes can be short, incomplete snippets or complete sentences. Explore the feelings her work evokes in you. Pay attention to any physical reactions you might have and note them.

2. Her story is a chronology but it doesn’t read like a laundry list. How does she achieve this?

3. What is your favorite image in her story? What connects you to this image?

She divides her story into four sections: Before the Birth, Labor, The Birth, After the Birth. We’re going to do the same thing.

Last week you took notes on the first and second trimesters of your pregnancy. Now do the same for the third trimester and labor. Then do the actual birth and four hours post partum.

Next, take some time to go over your notes from the previous weeks. You might try and organize each topic or short assignment on an index card (you can title an index card with a label that would let you know what short assignment it belongs to) so that it is easy to move around. If you don’t have index cards, use a regular sheet of paper and divide it into four pieces of paper.

I like to clear a large space on the floor and organize the cards into a timeline. This gives you a tangible way to organize the events and will also give you the freedom to rearrange events as needed.

Once you have the events in a way you like them, you can get to work on the nitty-gritty of the story. This might take an entire week to get through, though some will finish sooner.

If you are ready to move forward, use the index card topics as guideposts for writing your story. Treat each one as a short assignment and concentrate on that one-inch picture frame. If the amount of short assignments overwhelms you, please remember all you can do is take it one frame at a time. If a particular index card really pisses you off because you just can’t write about it, move on to one you can. Keep it fluid and free. You will tie the stories together later. Just get them out.


I'm going to start a thread call “Portfolios” where you can create a thread with your name and begin to share your work as you feel comfortable. Please continue to add to your reply in that thread as opposed to creating a new reply for each new piece you write—so each post will grow longer instead of having the thread get a ton of replies. Each author’s work will be contained in a singular reply---does that make sense?


Let’s talk feedback. I think we’re ready to ask for it if we want it. First and most importantly, there is one key rule about the feedback game. In order to play you have to ask yourself one question: what kind of feedback am I looking for? This is where you get to be brutally honest with yourself and with us about what you seek.

Feedback is give and take. It is a dialogue that deserves attention and nurturing. Giving feedback takes time and energy, receiving feedback requires openness and courage. Feedback should, at its very core, seek to build a person up not tear them down. It can be tricky for both people.

I hate asking for feedback and only getting “it was good” comments. Those kinds of comments do nothing for a writer and require little of the person giving feedback. Real feedback means two people are engaging in an open dialogue about a piece of work in an effort to make that particular work the best it can possibly be.

The way I see it, there are four kinds of feedback: technical (for grammar or technical issues); clarification (feedback that checks for fluidity and reader understanding); praying-to-the-writing-gods (cause we all need divine inspiration sometimes); and, my sometimes-favorite: needing-some-lovin’ (feedback for the insecure or pat-on-the-back feedback).

Asking for feedback means you are ready to risk putting yourself out therefor the world to comment on what you have to say. It also means you know you can take or leave any comment that comes your way. You are by no means obligated to use what someone has suggested, but in the asking you open yourself up to the considering.

Giving feedback requires honesty and compassion. Let us be forthright but empathetic, helpful and loving, gentle but direct. Above all, own your opinions and celebrate the writer within us all.

I’m going to post a topic called The Feedback Forum. If you’d like to ask for feedback, start a thread by posting a reply in that message. The subject of your post should ask for the kind of feedback you are seeking: technical, clarity, praying to the writing gods, or needin’-some-lovin’. Cut-and-paste passages you need help with, or post entire sections of your work. Respondents will then address your work. Remember, this is a dialogue. Let’s be specific about what we like or think needs work. Pay attention to physical reactions and emotional responses. Be honest and compassionate.

This week’s summary:

*Read The Birth of Grey Forest Walt

*Address the discussion questions (these are open for discussion by y’all as a reply to this thread)

*Gather your pregnancy through second trimester notes. Create third trimester, labor, delivery and post-partum notes.

*Create a timeline of the events of your birth story

*Begin writing your story using your index cards topics as the starting points for each short-story topic

*Share your story as needed/wanted in the Portfolio section

*Ask for feedback when needed/wanted in the Feedback section

I realize this is a lot. Do what you can, when you can. These are the tools for you to begin work at your own pace.

Peace to you and I can't wait to read what you come up with this week!


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#2 of 8 Old 04-24-2005, 08:38 PM
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i've read stories like this before. it makes me cry, beautiful but i'm envious. my stomach tightens. i want to have a birth experience like this. i like the image of her and sage being naked in the sun. and of chipmunks watching her birth. fear, and the descriptions of it. familiar. i have some negative feelings, because of how my own experience went. sadness. powerlessness. knowing about not knowing. the ifs, the buts. i'm irritated that women have to WORK so hard to fight the way we've been taught to think about birth, our bodies. i'm wondering if i can do this the way i want. i love the description of women around her. i want that. but many women in my life wouldn't help me experience a birth that way. too much fear. too many doubts. i think they'd swarm around me and suffocate me. one or two women i know would be amazing, the way her women were. many things ring true to me. her voice. her way of finding and declaring it.
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#3 of 8 Old 04-25-2005, 02:41 PM
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What a powerful story! She certainly was very strong, both emotionally and physically to endure everything the way she did. As far as her choice in how she decided to birth, I personally couldn't see myself doing that, but I felt the story itself was just amazing. I couldn't help but feel pride in reading up to the end, knowing the baby came out healthy, happy, and all was well.
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#4 of 8 Old 04-25-2005, 03:28 PM
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the story and the birth left me awestruck and with a tightness in my chest.It was wonderfully written. I am actually a little jealous b/c i want to have my baby like that. It also made me feel empowered, made me believe i can do that to.

Courtney and Cree, baby made 3, added one more then there were 4, sakes alive, then we had 5, another in the mix now we have 6!

A Momma in love with her Little Women-Jewel Face, Jo Jo Bean, June Bug, and Sweet Coraline.



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#5 of 8 Old 04-25-2005, 05:05 PM
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Wow! It's hard to even begin to respond to something that beautiful, raw, amazing! It made me want to scream "do over" as though that would transport me back in time and give me the opportunity to birth my children again in a way that uplifted and strengthened me. I have such good memories of each of my children being born, but I also know that I never learned to trust my own inner voice as I listened to the doctors and nurses. I know that I will not have any more children, but if I did, I would want the experience to be like that; out in the wild, with close women friends and family. What a life-affirming experience that would be!
I felt my chest hurt in remembrance and joy when she wrote about shielding her little son's eyes and having them pop open to look at her. My twin preemies did that as they didn't like the light in their eyes. The first good look I got into them was when I put my hands over their face to shield them from the light, and found myself suddenly staring into their wide open eyes.
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#6 of 8 Old 04-27-2005, 02:49 PM
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Happy Birthday, Jesse! Mine was yesterday, the 26th! How cool!
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#7 of 8 Old 05-04-2005, 11:36 AM
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1. Either as a reply message or in your journal, take a few minutes to write your initial gut reactions to her story. These notes can be short, incomplete snippets or complete sentences. Explore the feelings her work evokes in you. Pay attention to any physical reactions you might have and note them.

2. Her story is a chronology but it doesn’t read like a laundry list. How does she achieve this?

3. What is your favorite image in her story? What connects you to this image?

i cried the minute i saw her picture--so powerfully beautiful, i cried and laughed and cried again. her story, her voice, and obviously her persona is amazing. i am inspired and envious of her births...

she breaks her long story into short stories that stand alone...

verbally, i love her description of her female friend maile, her images of the moon throughout the piece, her description of george.... and many more.

the photo images of her pushing Grey out as a big baby are SO empowering. the picture are all strong and emotional. i adore the trilogy photo at the end. absolutely lovely.
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#8 of 8 Old 05-16-2005, 12:53 AM
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1. Either as a reply message or in your journal, take a few minutes to write your initial gut reactions to her story. These notes can be short, incomplete snippets or complete sentences. Explore the feelings her work evokes in you. Pay attention to any physical reactions you might have and note them.

My initial reaction as I was reading the story was that it was "too much information." By the time I had finished, though, I was so glad to have had all of that information and development.

There were some things she said that completely spoke how I feel about women and birth and society's ideas about them. I felt like she was my sister!

2. Her story is a chronology but it doesn’t read like a laundry list. How does she achieve this?

She weaves the story around many different concepts and images. She'll be telling about something, then start to kind of "wax" on one particular miniscule aspect. This turned me off at first, but once I got used to it, I was able to follow the flow of her storytelling.

3. What is your favorite image in her story? What connects you to this image?

I'm not sure I connected with an image, but the part of the story where she says there is no place for fear in birth hit me very hard. I've been trying to communicate this to all of my pregnant friends for a few years now. It's a concept I internalized and it is why I love giving birth. There is no room for fear.

I also liked reading that she had done perineal stretching before the birth.

When her baby was born with shoulder dystocia -- this was a moment of extreme excitement and relief for me. My son was a shoulder dystocia birth at home. So many people in my life thought (and still think) I was crazy for having a baby at home, but I know with all of my being that Simon was born safely because of the expertise and emotional strength of my midwife. While I don't like to make a habit of speculating about such things, had we given birth at our hospital, 'm not sure the outcome would have been so wonderful. Julia left my perineum intact (we had done lots of stretching, as well). Why cut a bigger hole for the head when the shoulders were stuck?

Again, I feel like this woman is my sister. Her story and mine have a lot in common...but I wonder if lots of women feel this way because of how effectively she writes?
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