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Erica Andrews  A lover.Mother.Lover of the other. Crafter of light, spinner of words. Keeper of sacred space.A portrait to remember your face. Writer Midwifery Today


My kids have always loved their papa but these two have a bond unlike anything I've ever seen. Typically papa placates them until mama can step in, especially when they're in babyhood and toddlerdom. But there is always the exception and that is #silaslumenambrose. Since he was itty bitty, sometimes papa would be the only one he would want. It was a crazy different experience when I wasn't nursing him to sleep because he had already dozed off in Matt's arms. Or when he would get hurt but run to dad wanting his embrace, not mine or my breasts. As he's grown, their relationship has only deepened. #daddysboy

Brotherhood. Something strange and miraculous. Rough and gentle mashed up into wrestling and jabs, hard tickles and silly names. If raising four boys has taught me anything, it's that boys are insanely dynamic. I have a silly, class clown, deep thinker. I have a cautious, empathetic, starry eyed dreamer. I have a feral, no shoes, no underwear, big feeling, quite contrary softie. And I have a daredevil, music loving, laugh crafting cheeseball. Many similarities and stark contrasting differences. It gets loud, it gets physical, and heck does it get messy. But watching these souls blossom from babes, to toddlers, to little boys, to pre-teens, to teens, to near adulthood has left me in awe of what it means to be male. It's so much more complex than our society presents. I see much more fluidity and softness than movies ever showed me. There are complexities and processes society ignores. I see sides of them that I failed to notice prior to being a mama of boys. As I've grown into motherhood my methods have changed and grown with me. In this season of motherhood my goal is to simply be a loving spaceholder for their journey. I'm loving watching who they are becoming. I am proud to be apart of raising future #gamechangers! #raisingcompassionatestrongpeople #boyhood #brothers

Today has been frazzled. Full of feeling like I drank one too many cups of java. A day that feels impatient. Where minutes try to rush into hours and the day seems like it's flying by. And that's where aromatherapy comes in and saves the day. Lemon to uplift and energize. Vetiver to ground and center. Lavender to calm and soothe. Blended together in tiny atoms floating across my living room are molecules that race straight to my limbic system inducing all the feel good feels. Just what a mama needs to get through the day with grace. #whatsinmydiffuser #bowdowntothelimbicbrain

Something they don't tell you about parenting is that it can be one of the scariest acts ever. Another thing is if you have more than one kid and sometimes it's your only kid, you are bound to have that ONE. That one that gives you grey hairs. That one that climbs everything. That one that escapes like a stealth ninja. The sneaky, silent dare devil. Well, meet #silaslumenambrose. This is my adventurer. Since he figured out movement, he has been figuring out how to master the art of motion. This weekend, my greatest fear happened. It happened with quickness, it happened seamlessly. This little guy escaped. The front door gate was left ajar. In the midst of morning kitchen routines I realized I hadn't heard his chatter in close to five minutes. I dashed to the front porch, scanning his usual locations. Empty. I ran to the barn where Matt and the kids were milking, my eyes rapidly searching the "lot" for his tiny form. Finding his siblings I asked if their brother was with them. I felt my belly dropping with the ascending speed of lead as the words "No!" fell into my ears. My feet carried me back into the house, eyes searching everywhere as I moved. House surely empty. Dad flanking into the left pasture. Sister dashing into back yard. I ran towards the pond. All the what ifs, worst case scenarios flashing across my mind's movie. "It's only been five minutes." "He can't move that fast." Our pond, choked by a duck weed blanket, which I normally curse was untouched upon the surface of the water. No sign of entry. As I spun in a circle, eyes scanning, where's Waldo. I saw him, standing upon the lot. Bare feet in manure. 10 cows standing at a distance. "He's on the lot!" I yelled as Matt ran to grab him. He was safe. He was okay. He's okay. He's okay. His father handed him to me and I felt myself tremble, my body discharging the shock, the fear, the trauma of what had just happened. Folks, mom of 5 here, and let me tell you, this shit just happens. Nothing can prepare you for this job. Absolutely nothing. Moral of this story, never think it can't happen to you and always double check your locked gateways and doors. #honestmotherhood #hesgonnawearbellsFOREVER

When your midwife comes to town and you drag your farming husband, 3 littles, and your on-call self to #nmf2017 and have the time of your life. #selfcare is essential to wellbeing and a little music, a shit ton of hugs, dozens of smiles, and some of the best food around (thanks #chelseasrealfood, #donkeycoffee, @nixtamalized and @petruchocolate!!!) pretty much top my list and give me a full heart. After these past few days in the sun spent surrounded by so many of my amazing community members, I gotta say, I am complete. #somuchlove

Shapeshifter. Something midwifery has shown me I am quite skilled at doing. Embracing fluidity I move into the spaces I am pulled into. I respect the flow of labor with deep reverence. This isn't just a job. It isn't just a profession. This is not something I do to get rich. This is sacred. It is soul work. This is my church. This is living love. {Fluidly following mama as she entered second stage. Hands applying firm but gentle pressure. My body offering touch, a place to lean into, a place to rest. Mama breathing her baby down. She had reached 10cm but was laboring until the urge to push. We are moments from mama beginning to work with her uterus by aiding with primal pushes. She was an absolute goddess. Shared with permission. And goodness I just love the graininess of this image. It feels so 1990!} #thisisbirth #motherhoodandmidwifery #livinglove

This photograph says so much. The midwife in the periphery, a blurred figure in the fringes of the space. Centered is Motherbaby. They are this story. They are the EVERYTHING. All of my work. My training. My dedication. It is all for them. To witness each woman come into her power as she transverses her Rite of Passage into the role of Mother. To hold space at each baby's Passage and ensure it is gentle and they are respected. Their Passage is my reason. It is my compass that directs my course of action. My truth is that how a woman feels about her story, about her Passage into motherhood, matters. It matters for all of us and I do my part to see that women are supported, that birthing people are returned their autonomy, and that they are given love and respect. Because I believe that through birth, we heal the earth. {This image is merely seconds after guiding this little soul up through warm waters to her mama's waiting hands. Shared with permission.} (If you haven't yet, I would highly recommend that one reads the Scientification of Love by Michele Odent and Birth as an American Rite of Passage by Robbie Davis Floyd.)

Siblings. The other day I was in the grocery store with three of my children. The three littles tucked into a bright red cop car shopping cart meant for two. But my three under six sat side by side by side, vrooming through the store. It was an unusually packed Sunday and people dotted every isle we attempted. The experience was the norm, older ladies smiled nostalgically dotted with the occasional flustered face of someone who doesn't understand shopping with your children. But one isle I was met with the eyes of an older gentlemen, who watched me walk half the length of the isle and once I got to where he was stationed, a smirk slid across his face as if he was going to say something genius and said the totally cliche "you have your hands full, don't you?" statement that has been hurled at me since I began motherhood way back in 2000. Like water off a seasoned duck's back, I often bounce back with kindness as I did this time. With a smile I told him "that's how I like it, it keeps me busy." Out of the corner of my eye I could see the other half dozen strangers choking the isle staring at our exchange. I kept moving and just as I hit the end of the isle, I heard him mutter something rude and unbecoming. But I just kept my feet walking even though every fiber of my being was pulling my neck around to give him the look. But I didn't. Cause you know, I know the deep dark secret about parenthood. About big families. It's that it's pretty fucking awesome. Watching people you have loved and guided and taught and support shower that very love back onto their siblings, back to their friends in school, back into the world is everything. Being a mama is one of the hardest damn things I have ever done while at the same time it is simply the easiest most fluid act I have ever participated in. These tiny bodies with the BIGGEST souls are continuously leading me down the most flourishing paths, directly to the best version of myself. To the man in the grocery store, indeed my hands are full but my life, my heart, my stories are brimming full of THIS. The love of siblings that's sweeter than even the thickest amber honey. #whyimother #damnatraightmyhandsarefull #ichosethis

This morning, I spent time in that space that exist between dreaming and waking. Where illusions and reality flirt and tease apart your subconscious. While visiting this space meant for all possibility, I experienced this painting titled "My Study for Crowning" by Sara Star. Sweaty, covered under one too many blankets, I felt the unmistakable feeling of the urge to push. Immense pressure bearing down. Freight train baby. In this moment, my heart and mind aligned and squatted in the dark of my bathroom I found myself. My husband's long arms supported my surging body. Baby crowning, my hands could feel the slippery bulge of warm, wrinkled life. The pressure of this dream baby emerging was intense. Within seconds, a baby girl was curled in the cradle of my squatting body. "She's not big at all", I whispered. I could see her clearly, pink and petite, her head well moulded. I had pooped and felt embarrassed but my husband lovingly helped me to clean it up. As deep, deep warmth swept through my heart I heard myself mutter, "hey babe, we just had an unassisted birth."
He turned to smile as the sunlight of the day pulled me into the waking moments of my morning. My dream was so real, I actually checked the bed to be sure I hadn't 💩 in the bed 🙈 (don't worry, I didn't.) After allowing this dream to sit with me I realized that my brain is doing just what it should, it's helping me to embrace the notion that I won't be entering the labyrinth of birth as a mother ever again (something my 💗 just can't seem to embrace.) My dreams are holding Space for me to mourn my leveling up, to move through to the next phase of being a woman. #dreamtherapy #nomorebabies #anotherdreamaboutgivingbirth #crowning

In photography the light reflected in the eyes of a portrait subject is called the "catch light." It is one simple detail that draws the viewer in. That gives a two dimensional photograph the depth of real life. I've always called it the "sparkle." ✨I imagine that I'm capturing the light of another being. That somehow, I caught their living love, the essence of something far out and indescribable. In the midst of quite possibly my 1,000th nursing session in one day, alone in the dimly lit space of my bedroom, fan rushing the quiet hum of cool air, I took a picture. There staring back was a woman. Her eyes lit ablaze with the light of love. A baby rested peacefully at the crook of her arm. There in the soft mingling of their oxytocin laced limbs, I saw her. And I caught her sparkle. ✨#livinglove

A few of my favorite medicinals for my birth bag 🙌🏼 •Herbs for possible PPH. While most physiological births in healthy mammals have limited risk for hemorrhage, the risk is always present. Because you never know what factors that may arise that increase risks for PPH, I always carry some herbal tinctures just in case. I have blends and singles for each instance of heavy bleeding, from trickle bleeds, to bleeding before the placenta is birthed, to a tired and soft uterus. •Young Living Peppermint Essential Oil. This is an essential, essential oil 😂 It helps to bring cooling to a hot and tired birthing mama. It can help to alleviate nausea sometimes experienced during labor or transition. And my favorite hat trick, helping to initiate urination after birth! I'm sure you birthing folk know how hard it can be to pee that first time! The urethra and the ureter are just a tad stunned from the physical work of birth and breathing peppermint often stimulates the bladder to release any urine 🙌🏼 true story! •Bach's Cherry Plum Flower Essence. This little bottle of magic does wonders to help center anyone in the birth space. Cherry Plum supports the body in times of transition and or duress to act rationally and think clearly, bringing calmness and balance to the mind. Not all too often but just sometimes, right before a woman makes it to the edges of the center of her labyrinth (transition) she is met with a wall. This wall can seem impossible to pass. A few drops of Cherry Plum with a side of deep loving encouragement gives mama wings. •Valor or Valor II. Do I even need to say why? This is the bees knees of essential oils. Both are calming and grounding. Bringing strength and confidence, while bringing a deep sense of security. Excellent for hip, neck, and shoulder pain topically! Diffusing this in the birth space (prior approval by mama!!) brings peace, calmness, and reelection! Perfect for any birthing space! •Equinox Botanicals Postnatal Tincture. I leave this for mamas to use. The blend of herbs supports the involution of the uterus, aiding her in returning to her pre-pregnancy size, reduces after pains, and the duration of bright red bleeding. #birthhacks

{The lone kitchen light cast dim shadows across the birthing space. Her round belly glistening like dew drops. First time mama meets transition. Coping through back to back surges she found comfort in continual #movement and moments of absolute stillness. Hands floating in warm waters, feet propped on walls of birth tub, her mama whispering sweet nothings in her ear.} Did you know that moving throughout your #labor can greatly reduce the length of labor? True story! The physiologic process of birth is hormonally designed so that when labor starts, the uterine muscle responds to oxytocin. Women respond to the pain of uterine contractions by moving around to reduce their pain. In the ideal scenario, the pain response signals the brain to continue to release more oxytocin and contractions become more effective. In an environment where women feel safe, beta-endorphins help a woman respond to pain by using coping strategies. Movement is one coping strategy for pain, and freedom to be mobile in labor is a safe, healthy coping strategy in part because it does not disrupt the normal #physiologic processes (Romano & Lothian, 2008). Physiological birth is best supported by the motherbaby dyad working together. Think back to #aprilthegiraffe, remember how much she moved, even after her calf was half out! Our baby, our uterus, and our nervous system create a fine tuned biofeedback loop to optimize the health of the #motherbaby dyad. This is one of the biggest reasons undisturbed births enable physiological births so well! So remember, #movementisyourfriendinlabor #listentowhwhatfeelsgood #mamaknowsbest (Here mama applies her own counter pressure to relieve to intensity of the pressure she is feeling. Yes! It is okay to touch yourself as needed! You know where the pressure is needed most!)

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