Tribal life.

A year or so ago something happened on Facebook that made it worthwhile dropping by there for me. Based on common beliefs, dreams and ways of living, a group of people gathered to form what we for fun call "the tribe". The basis is, amongst other things, a book written in the 70ies by a woman called Jean Liedloff - and to me and Mr. Payne it is the most important book we have ever read. It is truly a life-changer. While reading it, we were made to think through both our own childhoods and our ways of parenting, and it spurred reactions both of grief, frustration, awakening and relief for us. It is a book I want to buy to all people - and especially to everyone who are or will be parents. The book is called The Continuum Concept. Read more about it here

So anyway, this virtual tribe has been living and growing for a while, exchanging knowledge and ideas about so many things - not just parenting the continuum way (and attachment parenting, which might be more familiar to the general public), but healthy eating and growing your own food, living off-grid, homeschooling and unschooling, birth rights, and more. Last week I met some of these wonderful people in a big garden for a day of talking, eating lovely food, and just hanging out. I also had my first blessingway - which is an ancient native american tradition where women sit together and symbolically bless the pregnant mother and her unborn child, preparing for the passage of birth with love and support. Oh, and then I had the most wonderful full body pregnancy massage from one of the women who is a doula (I will dedicate a post to two of these special ladies later, keep posted!).  It was just really lovely, a day full of joy, sunshine and inspiration. I am so happy to have met these people. Love!

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Me getting the symbolic blessing-thread around my wrist. This stays on until I have had the baby - and all the women in the circle have one too. Photo by Maren Sjøtveit / Tilstede Fotografi 

Summer bliss.

Because we have started a dog motel/kennel on the farm this summer, we are not going on any lengthy holiday. Lots of dogs living with us make it difficult to go anywhere as a family, so I have taken the kids on some day trips here and there. Like a couple of days ago, we went to our friends' lovely cabin on the coast and went out to an island. Sand, salty sea and sun - what more could you ask for, really?

Ps. We were there last year, too. Remember this video?

Preparation has begun.

The thought of giving birth again has gradually the last few weeks gone from a fun and exciting idea, to becoming a reality I have realised I have to go through. I cannot escape it - not that I want to either! - but it dawned on me that preparing for the job ahead is due. I have to go through those contractions (rushes), I have to allow for cosmic forces to sweep through me, I have to jump on that storm again. Noone else will do it for me. 

Having been a photographer at twelve births since I last did it myself has made me even more in awe of the job than before, and it has prepared me in a very positive way. The more births I was present at, the more excited I got about doing it again myself, especially after I got pregnant. And yes, I do remember what it feels like, very vividly actually - and both physically and emotionally. 

I have had four previous birth experiences.

My first baby was lost to me, born too early only half way through the pregnancy. The birth was real, took a long time, and was tinged with sadness, disbelief and fear. A perfect little boy was born and imprinted on my heart, always.

Ronja's birth started out great; despite the sadness of the year before, I was positive and excited and happy going into labour, I wanted to do the job, I believed in myself. I wanted to do it all naturally, without pain relief except water and acupuncture. She came after about six hours of labour - a big beautiful girl weighing 4.7 kilos and measuring 55 cm, born three days after the due date. I was ecstatic and felt like superwoman. Unfortunately I lost a lot of blood because the placenta wouldn't come out, so I had to be operated and had a blood transfusion. This scared me, although I wasn't really aware of it at the time. I was too happy about becoming a mother, I didn't offer it much thought until the next time I got pregnant and had to face the reality of birth again. 

After having talks with a midwife and going through what happened in Ronja's birth, I felt prepared and happy enough to go into another birth experience. Freja was born a week before the due date after a quick and intense birth that lasted about a an hour and fifteen minutes from the first real contraction. I was so proud and empowered, my body did everything "right", no abnormal blood loss and I felt so fresh afterwards. Freja was 4,1 kilos and 52 cm of pure bliss.

When Falk was in the belly, it was decided that I would be induced. Because I make big babies and the previous births had been quick, the local hospital were happy to start the birth two weeks before due date. I agreed and felt they took good care of me - but in retrospect and after having read a lot of literature about birth lately, I think we could have just as well waited. Being induced increases risks of interventions such as forceps, vacuum and c-sections, and it is said that the contractions with synthetic hormones are rougher and more intense to the body than if the natural oxytocin (the love hormone vital to birth) gets to flow naturally and unforced. Luckily, my body triggered easily, the birth was uncomplicated and quick and I had another empowering birth experience. Falk was born after one and a half hours of very intense contractions, weighing 4 kilos and measuring 52 cm two weeks before the due date. I felt strong and great and on top of it.

This time we have decided to birth this baby at home. We have a wonderful midwife (www.jordmor-jutta.no) who comes to us for the prenatal checkups. The whole family gather as she feels my belly and listens to the baby's heart, the kids get to know her and love it when she comes. They will all be home for the birth, so knowing the lady who will be here is such a wonderful thing. I feel like including them in this is so natural and right; having a baby is a family event and not something we need to stow away and keep away from them. My mum will also be here for the birth and be available for the kids if they don't want to be there or feel worried about what's going on. We talk a lot about what is going to happen and have watched some nice birth videos to prepare them for what they might see. So far, it feels good to do it like this. 

After only having birth experiences in hospitals and with strangers as my caretakers, a home birth feels like an utter luxury. Not having to go anywhere when the birth starts, being able to snuggle up with my husband in the warmth of our own home, having my mother here (plus a close friend who will take photos) and most importantly, having a midwife who we now feel we know and who knows us - these things make me look forward to this birth. Yes, I know it's a job that will demand a lot, and that I have to do it, but coming past those thoughts I think it will be a wonderful experience. I have done it before and can do it again, and this time with the love of my closest ones around me. 

My tips for birth preparation include:

reading books by Ina May Gaskin (whom I had the honour of photographing last year, look here) & Sheila Kitzinger - I especially recommend Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, Spiritual Midwifery and Birth & Sex

practising birth focused self-hypnosis (HypnoBabies, for example)

watching films like Orgasmic Birth, The Business of Being Born and Birth Story

and watching positive birth videos from other birth photographers. 

 

Sleeping outside.

Although June was cold this year, summer finally came with July. Lovely warm days and soothing nights (ok, some nights have been too hot for a poor pregnant woman). We put a big old bed out on the back deck, and Mr. Payne and the kids have slept there quite a few times the last weeks. I prefer to lay my heavy body on my own bed at the moment, so I've been staying in, but waking up with the birds singing and the sun shining through the cherry tree does sound lovely. Freja also said she woke up one night to see the huge full moon shining right above her, like gold in the sky. Nature, it's right outside your door.

Epilogue.

Came home from her funeral this afternoon, walked in the garden and found that one peony had blossomed. I have waited for it to blossom for a long time, I love peonies. It's the first one of the summer, and somehow it seems so perfect that I found it and picked it today. She loved plants, flowers, gardening, everything from nature.

It's been a week filled with tears, a lot of thinking, fond memories and a heavy heart - and all the while the sun has been shining so strongly down on us, giving us those perfect summer days. We are right in the mix of life, whether we like it or not.

I am going out to watch that sunset again, now.

Peace and love. 

Saturday, June 27th 2015.

I don't know how to start this letter. Not because I wasn't prepared, because in a way I was, but not that you would go so soon and so suddenly. 

Twenty years of knowing you is over. Twenty years of so many different memories, so many different times, periods of less contact, then new chapters with new bonding and other circumstances. We always found back though, even now, this last summer. And though we knew that you were leaving, that this was the last one, we made plans. Small plans, just to see each other, and we talked about photographs, that I would take your portrait. But there was not enough time, because today you went on that last journey.

A couple of weeks ago, you came here on the farm, it was a beautiful summer day and we sat outside on the porch, drinking coffee and talking. We talked about sad things and happy things, about funny memories and new perspectives. After you left, my husband said that it sounded like we had such a good time. That made me happy. And the things you said then, they resounded in me, they have done since then. You knew you were dying, and yet you were so happy, so cheerful, so grounded. So unafraid. You said that this spring had been the most beautiful spring you had ever experienced. That your senses were so much stronger, as if you absorbed the world with greater hunger and more joy than ever before. You were completely unsentimental about it, because you were so alive then, so here and now. And you said that the more adversity you lived through, the easier it became, as if you became stronger than it all. Your body was giving way, but your spirit would never break, and that's what you saw, and that's what you tried to comfort all of us with. That it wasn't sad, that life is beautiful, no matter what, every nuance of it.

And so today, you flew. After our friend called me and told me that you had gone, I remembered my dream from last night: I was walking around in your neighbourhood, looking for your house. I couldn't find it.

I went to the hospital to see you today, to say goodbye. It was raw and yet so peaceful, and as I sat by your bed and touched your skin, it was clear to me that you had left, that what remains is just a shell. And the contrast was so stark; I was there with a belly full of new life, with you just a few hours after you had passed. Life, in all its diversity and untouchable mystery. 

This evening, I sat on the front porch and watched the sunset and the valley like so many times before, and I thought, What a beautiful day to leave this world. And although I felt so sad for you, the beauty you left behind in words and spirit made me feel thankful. I got to know you, and walk by your side in moments of this journey.

Thank you. For everything we shared and for what you taught me.

Love!

Midsummer: Rain, sun & swings.

It's become a lovely tradition: We spend midsummer night's eve with friends, either here or at their farm (which we used to rent before we bought our farm!). Delicious food, a bunch of friends playing and talking, that beautiful never ending summer light  - and yesterday, a rain shower so refreshing, all the kids went dancing in it. 

Goodbye, James!

Two and a half months went by really fast, and James has now left us for new pastures. It was a great experience for us all, and we have made sure some important Norwegian lingo is taken out in the world. Like promp, for example. How can you live on a farm in Norway without knowing that? (google it if you're not familiar)

You will be missed, and we will meet again. Bye-bye James!

First dip!

The wind has finally dropped and it feels like summer, so yesterday we headed for the pond for a quick first dip. I was very busy relaxing, so unfortunately I didn't have time to go in the water, but the others did!

Shifting focus.

It suddenly came to that time where I was told by clear voices to stop and shift.

Typically for me, with strong faith (and some might say stupidity), I believed I would make it through this race without failing. Lots and lots of work (fun work! work I love), three kiddos, a busy farm (which means a busy husband) and a growing belly? No problem. I can do anything. I think I have been going on pure adrenaline these last few weeks., and it worked, I was doing it, keeping up the pace and getting things done. And then, stop. 

Quite frankly, it sucked, because my photography business is also one of my babies, and I can't stand the thought of letting customers down and of not doing those fun jobs. So I had to go through a process of accepting it, of not fighting it, of letting go. And when that was done, what happened? This release of energy on a different level. My gaze shifted from outwards to inwards, and I started seeing again the things right around my feet, so beautiful, so in transformation, so vivid. My kids, my garden, the flowers, the morning light, all the little things happening right here. This is where I need to be right now, just like my growing baby I need to stay put and connect with the love I am surrounded with.

And then, frustration turned to thankfulness, and that's how I feel today. Thankful of my body leading the way and allowing me to quiet down, change gears and shift focus.

Last day in 5th grade.

Before she ran off for her last day as a fifth-grader: A couple of portraits during breakfast. 

Now: Summer break! Y A Y !

40!

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My best friend and favourite grown-up in the world is 40 today!

You are the best thing that ever happened to me. Happy birthday, my Superman! 

30 weeks.

I have come to that point in the pregnancy where total strangers find it appropriate to comment on my body. Yep, that is one big belly, and believe me, I know. Fortunately, I am old enough to not be offended anymore, but the story is getting so old. Can we just either not talk about other peoples bodies - or simply tell them they look great? Pregnant or not.

Anyway. 

Although I am starting to feel the weight now, I still feel totally in love with my body and what it is capable of. The mind-blowing fact that there is a baby in there leaves me in complete awe. I am 30 weeks pregnant today. It is dawning on me that very, very soon, there will be a baby born in this house, and I will be the mother of four.

I am cherishing these last weeks, and yet I cannot wait.

James & the pigs.

Since April our household has counted another person! Mr. James is from New York, is on a journey through Europe before starting his university degree, and has landed here with us to live and learn from Norwegian farm life before heading back to civilisation (i.e.. Portland). Earlier this spring we signed up as a host farm on two websites who deal with this sort of business: workaway.info and WWOOF.org - and along came James. It has been great in every way; both to get more stuff done, but equally important to us as a family. James fits right into this kooky family and it has felt very natural to include him in our daily life. We shall be sad to see him go next month.

And speaking of farm stuff and James leads me over to the event of the day: We picked up two piglets today! Mr. Payne still thinks he is hilarious when he names them, I'm not so impressed, but anyway; Meet Francis and Kevin Bacon, still very cute and now happy little pigs foraging around in our field.

Planting for the future.

Earlier this month: My dad (aka Bestefar) has wanted to buy apple trees for the children for a while - one for each; trees that would grow and stay and symbolise our family's life on the farm. That this is really our farm now. So 4 little trees were bought. Yes, 4, because when the little one comes out, there must be a tree ready, and the placenta will be buried under it to nourish it, just like it has nourished the baby for nine months. And with joy the four trees were planted, and now they are in bloom already, and guess what: The first one to bloom was the baby's. Like it said, You belong here, baby, we are waiting for you. 

There is definitely something very beautiful and special about planting a tree, it's like dipping your toe into a little piece of eternity.