As I sit here in my large round peacock back chair, I begin to explore how I feel when I think about my womanhood, my birthing journey, and what it means to me. I consider what has led me to this place; sitting in my big chair- a place I am safe. My chair envelops me every time I sit in my studio. The funny thing is, this chair was purchased with my clients in mind, so that in their therapy sessions they might feel a sense of their own regality, like a queen on her throne . My vision in my work is for all women to experience their own sovereignty, embodying the full extent of their feminine power.
As circumstances would have it, it is me who is the recipient of this feeling, as I sit in my glorious chair. As I look back on my own birthing journey, now a mature woman at 54, I see so many subtle and not so subtle themes, stories, threads of my life tapestry.
I take a breath and try to formulate my thoughts and explore where it began…
What comes to mind is when I menstruated for the first time. I was extremely young; my physical body was mature for my age, however I was unaware of the processes, and not prepared for what was happening emotionally or intellectually.
In my innocence, I remember the uncertainty, the mystery, so many questions about what was happening to my body. I now know and appreciate this beautiful red stain as a life force, giving me the power and potency to enter the wisdom of my womanhood and to one day create a new life. However, at the time, I had no concept of these possibilities. I was surprised and shocked at the sight of this unexplained blood. This was not uncommon in those days – a lot of girls, including myself had no idea what was going on.
But I do remember the stain and the vivid red colour of my flow. How it represented the unknown. Now, for me, it’s about the mysteries of the feminine. What happened in that moment, my feminine journey began to unfold. Curiosity began. “What is this? What is happening to my body?”
I didn’t yet understand the meaning of this physical ritual, the emergence of this rich abundant nectar and the threshold that my body had stepped over. This red nectar that was created and contained in my body – in all feminine bodies, is such a rich resource of creation. I guess as young women today we’re not told what that is; of the abundance, boldness, potency and the magic of that nectar that is released from us every month.
I could never have imagined how it would weave in my life.
Somehow I just accepted what was happening and in my innocence, I don’t remember asking too many questions. I vaguely recall my mum explaining to me that this was a natural progression in life. She was prepared with pads and spare underwear for me, for exactly when the unexpected happened. I remember her telling me that she had been waiting for the time my body would begin to flow. She honoured me in her own thoughtful and practical way, which allowed me to take the experience in my stride and with so much more ease.
I embraced this new responsibility of Maiden within my life, but I guess at times, I felt my period to be an annoyance and inconvenience. My cycle, unlike most of my girlfriends, was always a full 5-7 days. This meant that my body was changing hormonally for a longer duration, so the down time, away from this shedding, felt very short from one cycle to the next. My bleeding was heavy and in some way I felt cautious or possibly on edge and nervous not to leak onto my clothing which would have been so embarrassing as a young girl, trying to stay unseen and unnoticed in this very early maturing.
From a young age I dreamed of having a life long partner, husband and having children. Four children to be exact- as the vision had always been so clear! So when I met my future husband David at 16 years of age, it seemed like life was allowing this vision to come to fruition. But after some time the universe had other plans for us, we parted ways for a number of years as we explored our own lives on different paths.
I believe in destiny and things happening for a reason, and a few years later David and I rekindled our relationship. It was impossible to ignore that we knew we were life partners. Our vision was always to have children, but as time passed I began to question my dream of a family. I hadn’t realised that I was scared about the unknown, the new responsibilities and questioned my abilities to become a mother.
In early 1994, I was invited to sit in a women’s’ circle. This was the gift that began to open up a new understanding of feminine mysteries for me. It allowed me to connect with other women and share the fears and hesitations I had been feeling for some time. Perhaps being able to speak with other women in this way, I felt acknowledged and no longer alone in my story, which led me to feeling more at ease stepping into motherhood.
Once able to fully embrace the idea of starting our family, we began earnestly to chart my cycle and time our unions in the hope of falling pregnant. I remember the excitement and the joy that my husband David and I had, when after 10 weeks, we announced that we were pregnant to my parents over dinner. Less than 2 hours later I saw the spots. I remember cramping. I recall pain that I had never experienced before. I was lying in the foetal position in a state of utter confusion. Once again, I had no idea what was happening to my body.
But then, I felt the clots. I remember the blood, the heaviness of my red nectar flowing uncontrollably. Not knowing what was happening, l just had to allow my body to do what it naturally needed to do. It was eliminating the life of a soul that wasn’t meant to be. The flow of the red nectar served this. My body was letting go of something that mother nature was not happy about.
I didn’t understand at that time that in all that excruciating pain and suffering, releasing and tears, my body had its own natural way. My body knew. I stayed with the grieving, the pain and with whatever my body needed to do at that moment.
I remember my husband David watching me and trying to do everything he could to support me. My parents arrived at some point to see if they could help in any way and apparently one of my soul sisters was there too. I must have been so deep in my experience, I didn’t recall her being there.
The rest of that evening was a blur. I felt certain that the child I was carrying was a girl, a young life with an old soul, complete with the wisdom that this time was not hers. What was held deep within me was the unexplainable loss. What lingered was the wisdom that was contained inside my belly.
The miscarriage was the clearing of my womb, nature’s way of cleansing and shedding. It was preparing my body to renew my womb for a new soul. I felt so blessed to have an organ that was healthy and able to wash the dust away like a wet stormy day, albeit a day where it feels like the rain will just never stop.
We cried and mourned the loss of our little girl, but we were so certain that we wanted to have a family that we decided this one terrible loss was not going to hold us back. We were willing to try again, as hopeful young people, longing to give life.
It wasn’t easy at first. Our friends were getting pregnant around us and we both danced the fine line of grief and joy for all of them, as they were also longing to grow their families. We hung on to hope and trust that it would happen as it was meant to be and that timing was everything.
Even to this day when I think about the human life, the little girl we lost, I feel a pang deep within my heart and remember the grief and terrible loss I experienced physically and how we felt together emotionally. Now I am able to reflect and know that it may have happened for a reason. Possibly to test us, challenging how committed we were to each other and whether we were truly ready to begin our family.
I wish to honour my husband David for his ability to care for me for me during this experience. I can only imagine what it must have been like for him to witness the pain and loss I experienced, and not be able to do anything at all to alleviate the suffering. This he did while experiencing a loss of his own. I am deeply grateful for his love, devotion and commitment to me and to us.His undeniable courage to bear witness to this death.
While the timing was meant to be, our trust and belief held us in good stead and I fell pregnant very quickly after my miscarriage, with our son Jessy. Pregnancy was easy, I was healthy and loved every moment of nurturing this child within me. He was a gift and we were so grateful after the loss of our first pregnancy. Jessy’s birth however was a difficult one to say the least.
My baby was nearly a week overdue when my doctor examined me and found my blood pressure had risen to dangerous levels. He decided that it was time for me to give birth for the safety of us both, wanting to induce me. I refused for some time, reluctant to use any intervention. I fought against what I felt wasn’t going to be good for me or my baby, and I held my ground and found my voice. As I reflect back there are so many moments through his birth when I see that I didn’t yet fully trust my instincts. I felt that I had my voice at that time, however I was not yet feeling confident in actually being able to express my wishes and stand firm in what I needed.
Once admitted to hospital, my obstetrician did an internal examination and used the prostaglandin gel to help stimulate contractions and begin labour. He told me to ‘go and grab some dinner, it could be hours away before anything happens’. We didn’t think too much of it at the time and trusted what he had said. There were no hours to wait. My contractions started before we could even get to the front door of the hospital. As a consequence of the intervention, Jessy’s birth was very quick. It took only 3 hours.
I recall during his birthing, standing in the shower with the annoyance of the water dripping on my skin.. I couldn’t wait to get out; all I wanted to do was walk.
So much about his birth was empowering, I experienced a strong motivation to feel the earth beneath my feet and keep my legs moving to keep my body in motion, feeling that sense that my body knew what it needed to do.
Even though I had some medical intervention, I trusted that my body could manage as I walked the path of birthing. My body was enacting my baby’s travels down the birth canal as if I was being guided by something much greater than myself.
I was prepared for this new birth, for my baby to come through and as I felt my womb labouring, I willed for my birth canal to open and expand. I had my husband by my side, letting me go through this process, witnessing me in this experience of trusting my body. He respected that I didn’t want to be touched. I just wanted to be left alone and walk my journey home into motherhood.
As my baby left my womb and began to make his way down the birth canal, contraction after contraction, I embraced each of his movements by moving my own body and using the gas to alleviate the intensity in the moments in between each contraction. At some stage his movements slowed right down and they had now hooked me up to a baby monitor to ensure his safety. I continued to immerse myself in the experience every step of the way. After a time the contractions started again, he was on the move. It was time to push. He was coming hard and fast. The birth was close but for some reason still unknown to me he was stuck and couldn’t make his way out.
I remember my doctor saying to me that my blood pressure was rising, the baby’s blood pressure was unstable and the baby’s life would be at risk. How does a young woman who is finding her voice choose, when she is caught between holding ground for herself, but also making sure her newborn will be safe? I was not educated enough to know about having a Birth Doula as an advocate solely for my needs during this journey. I hadn’t yet solidified my inner strength nor was I fully aware of the power of my intuition at that stage. Despite having to go against my instincts of no intervention, I felt the surge of fierceness well up within me of a Mother Lion wanting to protect her cub and knew that its life was the only thing that mattered.
David reminded me of the scurrying and sudden busyness in the room to make sure that Jess arrived safely. I don’t remember anyone discussing with me what was happening but it was all moving very quickly. My obstetrician needed to use a ventouse to draw Jess out as quickly as possible. I continued to push with all I had and very soon our new son was born. Not only did they use the ventouse to assist in his birth but I also required a small episiotomy because of it. Not quite the ending we had hoped for, let alone think about anything that had happened and be in the bliss bubble of my new baby, as it wasn’t over yet.
I began to bleed, once again the red nectar began to flow, in fact, it began to gush from me. Once again the theme of blood permeates. This nectar of creation is shedding away from my body. During birth, a piece of placenta had torn away and I was bleeding uncontrollably. The doctor told me that he needed to stop the bleeding, and that I had to go into surgery. It all happened so quickly with not a second to spare or think.
And so I was wheeled away.
David was just left standing there in the hospital room with our new baby in his arms. He looked at me with fear in his eyes, in shock and scared out of his wits, not knowing whether I’d live or he’d be parenting our son alone.
I remember waking up in my room, having this beautiful baby by my side, and being a family for the first time. I think about that period of time I went through after birthing my son Jessy, and there are so many ways that I could look at that situation. I could focus on the negative things, blame the medical system for what went wrong. I chose to go with my natural way of reflecting, I’m grateful that I was saved, to share wholeheartedly that I’m the mother of my son, Jessy. This incredible opportunity through giving birth to give life, to tap into the feminine wisdom and power that I receive from within my womb.
When I reflect on those first few months of motherhood, I remember the struggles that I had felt letting go of my old life, being a business person who was about to have a child and was in control of everything. Now I was in control of nothing.
Coming home with our newborn heralded a flood of emotions. Hormones raging, physical needs of a baby ever-present, and my own physical healing after the trauma that was my birth experience. Not knowing when it really began, I felt the pressure, the enormity of what lay ahead, the overwhelming pressure of my inner critic and the expectations of my perfectionism weighing on me. My emotional state was fragile and even though it was just under the surface at first, it began to slowly deteriorate. Three months had passed before I was even able to get out of my front door. My midwife and mothercraft nurse assisted in ways they could, but it was never stated, never diagnosed, and my post natal depression (PND) was never really addressed. It was however as clear as crystal for all those closest to me and they did the best they could to support me at the time.
David took on the role of father with pride and honour. He would encourage me to rest and take on the feeding duties wherever he could. He received great joy, forming a close bond and connection with our son which remains to this day. Once David returned to work I struggled to manage, yet continued to put one foot in front of the other, being so grateful for Jessy’s beautiful sweet easy-going nature and the joy he brought to us.
When I became a mother I had been given an opportunity in my womanhood to shed the innocence of the archetype maiden, the remnants of a stereotype of a young woman. As a maiden, I believed I was in control of everything and thought I could create anything. I thought I was infallible, and needed to do everything to transition into motherhood and the start of my new life. As a woman, I now know and understand that this process was far from a straightforward one, that it would come with many challenges and trials along the way.
Beginning by taking small steps with my new baby son, and getting to know a new life, a new Brigitte; the mother, carer and nurturer.
At the time, I felt I was being guided by a feminine force of nature. It was a sign that it was time for change. Time for new questions in my life. Who was I? Was I that same business person as I was before? Who was this woman who had now birthed a new child? Who could I turn to for help and how do I receive guidance to navigate this new path? These questions signalled the beginning of a quest for me, one which is still unfolding in my life today.
I know in my heart there are sacred messages in everything that I have experienced, and it was at that point, that this wisdom started slowly developing in this new archetype of Mother.
Working my way through my PND, I found a new energy and sparkles of joy over time, embracing and loving motherhood. It certainly had its big challenges, ups and downs of no sleep and no or little personal space for me, just as all new parents experience. Our vision of expanding our little family crept in once again, as we wanted to have our kids close together in age. It felt like the timing was right and I had a good feeling that things would go smoothly.
Falling pregnant with our daughter Ella was easeful. I was fit and healthy, I had embraced exercise and had a positive mindset to bring another life into our family. The beautiful months of pregnancy flew by, busy with a toddler, our little Jess was a sweet blessing. Happy go lucky, full of joy and the easiest company any Mama could have asked for. It was so divine to nurture a little male soul in the world as I came from a family of all girls.
I was now weaving art back into my life, creating mosaics in the times when I could have some space. My creativity was my soul food. It’s what nourished my spirit and I drank it in as much as I could each day, until our little girl was due to arrive in June.
Our gorgeous pocket-rocket arrived on time, short and sweet without any hiccups. I had replenished my inner world enough to hold my own ground throughout her birth; which was extremely quick. After only 2 1⁄2 hrs she was in my arms. Her arrival was easy and natural. A true force of strength announcing “I’m here!”, which is so much a part of her character to this day.
There was however a concern because of my previous haemorrhaging. As a precaution I was given medication to stop further complications. Even though I wasn’t sure that I needed the intervention, the choice seemed correct at that time. I still wonder about that.
What I do know is that Ella was perfect, sweet and beautiful. All I had learnt as a first time parent, the strength and resilience I had gained by going through my journey of postnatal depression, was redefining and expanding me. Brigitte; woman, wife and mother of two children.
Having a daughter, I felt like I had been given a treasured gift, which also turned out to be a huge unexpected learning curve. Ella’s strength of character and tenacity, even as a baby, was a reflection for me, a mirroring of what I had unconsciously longed for. Ella was able to decide and choose for herself, using her voice to achieve what she wanted, when she wanted it. When she showed her strength, I had to find mine. Strength that I had not yet developed and didn’t know I had the capacity for. As a young mother, I did not expect to find my daughter as my teacher. For me, it was everything I wanted to be able to do – speak my mind, say what I wanted to say and have the conviction to say it with certainty. It was when Ella was around 8 months of age, and I was struggling through the challenges of the day to day with this strong and powerful baby, that the doubts and emotions started creeping back in again. At that point, when I felt all the signs, lashing out in my frustration for inner peace; I knew that I had to get help. I could not do it alone. With a support network around me that guided me, I found a psychotherapist who led me on a deep dive journey to bring me back to my creativity, back to self acceptance and to my intuition. Most importantly, she brought me back to my feminine voice and to trusting myself once again.
As I continue on my never abating journey of discovery, I reflect on the past few years. I’ve now come to learn that we hold emotions, stories, tales and beliefs in our bodies from within our family systems, which we inherit through our lineage. There comes a time in most of our lives when we realise that these stories need to change. Sometimes our body talks to us with regard to difficult aspects of our health such as anxiety, depression and other issues. In my case, my body speaks of bleeding, miscarriage, and haemorrhage.
As a woman with a deep connection to my feminine spirit and soul, I carry those stories, beliefs of my family lineage within my womb, particularly being stored in the cervix. Through my work within birthing and womb space, I’ve come to understand that when a baby comes down the birth canal through the walls of the cervix, it gathers some of the mother’s life patterns, beliefs and stories as it’s born.
The healing of the womb is a beautiful way for us to reclaim and rewrite the themes of our stories, with the rich blood nectar. The feminine has a sacred opportunity each month, one which we have never been taught to understand, being the potency of this gift from mother nature.
I now have a deeper understanding that the mysteries of the feminine have power and richness within them, and if we become present and attentive to the language of our body, it is constantly talking to us through our cyclical shedding.
My children had grown to young adults when, somehow in the crazy busy day to day of my life, I had missed the language of my own body. Once again, the heavy bleeding and irregularities of my cycles told me that something was not okay. My cycles felt long and constant, I was suffering mental stresses and failed to make decisions in my life that brought my soul joy. At that point, I had to seek medical attention, to discover through scans and ultrasounds that I had grown sizeable fibroids and was advised that either I could wait to see what happened, or have a hysterectomy. For me having a hysterectomy was not an option at first. I tried to follow a few different healing pathways. One way was to seek Chinese medicine and to also look into MRI laser surgery.
I addressed my body with the utmost of care and diligence during this time, fighting so hard to avoid major surgery. I changed my diet, took herbs and juices and addressed my mental health. There was so much to deal with and I was scared, but also felt empowered to give my healing a chance with all I had. I found out about the MRI laser treatment very late in my research and unfortunately it became obvious I was no longer a candidate.
I continued my struggle and fought to really hold on to my womb. It was like I was fighting to hang on to the old beliefs, the old patterns, the old stories that I had stored in my body in this womb space. And I fought not to let them go. It was impossible to ignore them now, I was being told that enough was enough. It represented so much of who I was and how I identified myself as a woman. I hung on for dear life, continuing to take my remedies, eat organically, juice and receive therapy and reiki as my body was continually releasing and shedding as if my feminine essence was leaking.
I questioned myself most days. Why was this happening, what was the lesson here and what more could I do to heal myself? I was doubting and questioning all my decisions.
My feminine flow continued relentlessly and the nectar that had helped me create life wouldn’t stop. Most days I would hardly make it through the morning when at 11am I would have to go to bed unable to move, resting for hours at a time. It was so hard to let go, I shed many tears as all I had known was to fight and my determination was fierce.
Each day that I did not surrender, my body would send its message even louder to stop. It wasn’t until the day that I woke up at 3am with a fright, totally covered in blood that I took a huge breath and my tears began to flow in fear, knowing I had been defeated.
I said to myself ‘Brigitte, if you don’t do something about this now you are going to die – you are going to die’. I was allowing my own life force to possibly take my life away. It is enough fighting, struggle and tears, this is a divine sign, it’s your time now’. At that moment I decided that I would have the hysterectomy.
Herein, the story of surrendering begins again. I took myself by the hand and ever so gently began to guide myself towards letting go of everything; my old stories of suffering, not trusting myself, not feeling good enough to speak up, taking care of everybody else before myself and that I wasn’t good enough or worthy enough. It was time to reclaim the knowledge of what was good for me.
By letting go of total control, my surgery happened in a matter of weeks. Again, it was as if the universe was just waiting for me to find my way to the right time. With the support of my healing reiki, therapy, family and beloved friends I found my way through my decision with more ease.
I remember the day of my surgery clearly. My husband David was with me, so attentive even though I could feel his worry. It was palpable. His life partner, the love of his life, was undergoing major surgery and his last experience had been holding our newborn after I had suffered a life threatening haemorrhage. It was so hard to see his concern and worry but I could not hold this burden for him. It was my time to surrender to things I could not control and focus on me and this new journey I was about to embark on in my life.
I held onto gratitude and filled my heart with love and a white light for this shedding of the old me. It was my time to let go of this beautiful vessel, my womb that had served me so well. I imagined everything around me with ease. When I entered the room before the surgery, I felt anxious, however I had an overwhelming sense of peace, that all was okay and that the trajectory of my life was going to change forever.
Once the ordeal was over, I began my healing journey of nearly 12 weeks with the sole focus of resting. Clear instructions were to stay off my feet, no lifting, and complete bed rest. Suddenly I was thrown into not being responsible for anybody else in my world except for me. Being surrounded by loved ones and the precious women in my life, I gave myself permission to be cared for, at a time that was really hard for me to let go of control.
It was sometimes overwhelming but those close to me were so amazing, nurturing and caring as I healed. My own tribe gathered around me, similar to ancient times in tribal communities gone by in the ‘Red Tents’ where women took care of each other through their monthly cycle, births and deaths.
I had learned many different processes over the years that I could use to help me through the good and bad days. If I felt the darkness of depression or the sparkle of joy creeping in, I would use my art therapy, reiki, meditation, visualisation and frequency music in a way to surrender and honour the unknown steps of this healing journey.
I realised deep down in my belly that this type of shedding was probably the biggest letting go I would have to do in my life up until that point. I kept reminding myself of the incredible journey that my womb had taken me on. The incredible gifts of having been pregnant three times and giving birth to two healthy beautiful children. The gift of being able to cycle for most of my life. I kept leaning into gratitude and forgiveness for myself and for the decisions that I had made that had led me to be here standing at this crossroad.
It was at this point I gained a deeper insight into the feminine experience, allowing me to open the conversation about losing my womb with women around me. Although it remains largely an unspoken topic, I soon found that many others had also experienced hysterectomies, have had medical conditions which cause an inability to cycle or give birth, as well as many other life altering journeys. Knowing I was not alone, allowed me to have the strength to examine whether the loss of my womb would alter my perception of my womanhood.
I have now come to appreciate that being a woman and identifying as one, is not determined by our physical capacity or even physical attributes. Womanhood has numerous dimensions, tangible and intangible, and the real power lies in a woman’s ability to draw on her inner knowledge, intuition and her strength and courage.
As I began to heal, some days I felt well in my body and on other days this seemed out of my reach. The days slowly passed and the lessons were revealing themselves as I had decided to surrender my womb. When things didn’t feel good, I would turn and move in a slightly different direction. I began to understand my own feminine compass as my body was healing, I acknowledged just how lucky I was that I had been able to give birth to my beautiful children. How lucky I was that I had had a womb and had been able to cycle every month. I kept holding those thoughts in my mind and in my body, my soul and my meditations.
This is now the underlying theme of my work.
My journey has guided me into following the birth space, the womb, to study women’s’ incredible resilience and capacity for releasing, renewal, birth and transformation.
The journey of becoming a Womb Spiral Practitioner, Birth Doula and Death Doula, has led me to know the dark spaces of life intimately, experiencing joy alongside grief and loss. When we examine and attend to our grief, it slowly begins to dissipate, and we are able to reflect and draw on the knowledge that comes from our experiences. We are also able to explore the polarity of feeling joy in celebrating the lightness, and expansion in letting go.
My understanding and knowledge has led me here so I am able to share my expertise, and support women through their trauma, grief and loss, assisting them to find their courage, inner strength, and wisdom. I utilise a variety of modalities in which I have been trained, including Art and Expressive therapy, Symbol work, ‘The Spiral’ and Intuitive guided healing. This work encourages my clients to develop a relationship with themselves and their intuition. I guide them to discover and acknowledge that in the path of pain and suffering, they may have the opportunity to find a deep sense of trust in themselves and their own inner knowing. By uncovering and shining a guiding light on their trust, they are allowed to feel a deep sense of self worth, of inner peace, and freedom to create the life of their choice.
It is unfortunately inevitable that there will be grief and loss, but underneath this layer there is always, with time, an opportunity for the celebration of life and an appreciation for our magnificent, miraculous bodies and our inner wisdom. Let us not ever take for granted an ability to cycle, having deep gratitude for the gift of being able to create life and also to let go of what is not meant to be. My womb has served me well, through my births, death and transformation. I have learned to trust her guidance and I’m so deeply grateful for every thread of knowledge that I’ve gathered from my stories, weaving them into my life’s tapestry to share in this chapter of my Red Nectar.
I wish to express my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to my soul sisters, my family, and for the unwavering love and presence from my husband David. My sacred tribe have walked with me every step of the way, sharing their wisdom and reflections so I may birth this chapter and share with pride, love and honour.
(This piece was originally published in an anthology titled: ‘Birth New’.)