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My mother’s first memory of me was the sound of my voice.  She said I screamed so loudly as I was carried away from her and down a hallway that a nurse remarked she had never heard a newborn cry with such strength.  We need our mothers and our mothers need us.  I was trying to make that clear but to no avail!  In Toronto hospitals in the 1960’s, all babies were immediately separated from their mothers and kept in nurseries.  Figuring out when to use my voice has been the focus of my life ever since.  My writing is the result.  Like my first howl, it comes from love.

 

To give birth is to be at the heart of life where the distinction between inner and outer dissolves and what was hidden comes to light.  Unbounded, every cell pulses to the thrum of the world and a woman knows who she is because she is in touch with every part of herself.  Yet fear of birth is everywhere, in our families, our popular culture and in the very “health care” systems we rely on.  It shrouds our collective mind so that what is meant to bring us into wisdom, thrusts us instead into shame.

Women have shared their birth stories with me ever since I gave birth almost twenty-two years ago now and the crazy thing is that it’s the women who have had births that deepened and enlarged their sense of self who are usually the ones most hesitant to tell their stories in public.  I know the feeling.  After a woman has told of being induced, for example, and she describes the pain she felt from it and the relief the epidural gave her and the hours and hours she lay numb on her back and how she waited to be fully dilated as her blood pressure and contractions and her baby’s heart tones were constantly monitored and a catheter was inserted into her and she wasn’t allowed to eat and she was filled with I.V. fluid and then her baby went into distress and was born through a caesarean section, it feels like the wrong time to share how I went through none of that and felt the strongest and most beautiful I ever had after I gave birth.

Women’s stories of the suffering they have endured in birth need to be told and heard.  It is vital to them and vital to us as a society.  They are stories that demand healing and action!  Along with these though, we need to hear of women’s joy.  We need to share how our bodies can bring us into pleasure and strength and faith in ourselves and our world.  I think these are actually the more dangerous stories.  They challenge.  They challenge our mothers and perhaps even our grandmothers.  They challenge the idea that our bodies are a source of an inherent weakness.  They challenge our collective idea of women.  There is camaraderie in suffering.  To declare that you live outside it is to stand alone.

Malala Yousafzai, the fourteen year old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban, is finding her voice again.  The world watches.  It was her strength that made her a target, not her victimhood.   A spokesman for the Taliban explained that Malala’s writing was “obscene” and needed to be stopped.   To claim that feminine intelligence is dirty has been the way of the patriarchy for thousands of years. The Taliban’s tactics are brutal, and proudly public, but the same impulse is expressed in more subtle but no less destructive ways in how birthing women are treated in much of the world.  Most women either give birth without the medical safety net they need, or they suffer obstetrics’ assault.  Either way, we are hurt.  So are our babies.  Some of us die.  My midwife, Mary Sharpe, who is now the director of the midwifery education programme at Ryerson University, calls the situation a “global crisis”.  She writes,

The incidence of medical and surgical interventions for birth is increasing at an alarming rate.  In many settings, induction of labour and epidurals are the norm and caesarean birth rates range from 30% to 70% with a corresponding rise in maternal morbidity.  In under-resourced areas of the world, equitable access to midwifery and obstetrical care is still not possible, and the United Nations’ Fifth Millennium Goal to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters has not yet reached its target…efforts to improve infant and maternal mortality by moving births to institutionalized settings are in fact replicating the worst in Western maternity care; women give birth in crowded facilities, are separated from their family and loved ones and birth alone in a dehumanized, assembly-line fashion. 

This is taken from Joyful Birth, a book I contributed to that was put together by Lisa Doran and Lisa Caron.

While much of the world looks in reverence to the United States’ high tech medical system, it is not serving birthing women well.  The U.S. is one of four countries in the world where the maternal death rate is rising.  Perhaps obscene is a good word for this.  Ina May Gaskin, a world renowned American midwife and author, has created The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project to bring women’s unnecessary deaths into public awareness.  She said in a television interview recently that, “We let so many maternal deaths go invisible in these United States and a half to two thirds of the maternal deaths that take place aren’t reported to the CDC.  That’s very shocking because in most industrialized countries there’s a huge effort to identify every single death so that you can say, “OK, how do we reduce it next year?”   According to the number of maternal deaths that have actually been documented, the U.S. ranks somewhere between 40th and 50th in the world.  The highly medicalized approach to birth by American obstetricians is not working.  Out of fear of life and the intimate human connections that are a natural part of it, medicine tries to control birth and many women feel safe in its tight hand.  Salman Rushdie wrote, “Repression is a seamless garment” *  Despite feminism and the sexual revolution, we wear our constriction so comfortably in the West, we barely notice it.

So my words are for you, to speak to the fear you can’t help but absorb and to feed the faith that is your birthright.  We are the knowledge and strength we look for outside ourselves.   Denial of life’s power, its unfathomable intelligence to bring us into being and sustain us, has been acted out on our bodies and minds, and those of our children, over many, many generations now.  Unspeakable violence is our legacy and the impulse to heal it demands that words be found.  A coherent story must be told, not just of the suffering, but of the rightness in embracing all that we are.  All our lives depend on it.


* Salman Rushdie, Shame (1983) from the first, unnumbered page of Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery.

Heart of Birth presents a

Rebozo Workshop with Isabel Perez

Learn how to use a rebozo, a Guatemalan/Mexican shawl, to support a woman during labour.  It’s like having another set of hands!  The rebozo can be used in any birthing environment to relax the mother, ease her pain and help with the positioning of her baby.  This will be an interactive workshop with plenty of time to practice techniques, ask questions and get an introduction to the skills and understanding of traditional midwifery.

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

10:00am to 3:00pm

Eka Yoga Centre, 473A Church Street, Toronto, ON  M4Y 2C5

(south of Wellesley Street)

Fee: $75.00

Please bring a flat bed sheet to practice with!

Some beautiful woolen rebozos from Guatemala will be available for sale; they can also be ordered through Isabel.

To register contact Crescence: crescence@heartofbirth.org; 416.994.4566

Isabel Perez has helped women give birth over the last 33 years.  She trained as a midwife with the renowned Ina May Gaskin, author of Spiritual Midwifery and recipient of ‘The Right Livelihood Award’ in 2011, known as the ‘Alternate Nobel Prize’.  Isabel worked with Ina May for four years on The Farm in Tennessee before moving to Toronto, where she continued to practice midwifery for eleven years, until 1993.  Since then, she has served women as a doula.  Isabel grew up in Guatemala, where the seed of her spiritual understanding was planted by her great-grandmother, a Mayan midwife, and her father, a shaman.  It flowers now in her birth work and teaching.  For more of Isabel’s story: https://heartofbirth.wordpress.com/2009/02/14/isabel-perez-a-life-in-birth/  

Red Thread Series

with Crescence Krueger

There is a ‘red thread’ of feminine knowledge that has been passed down person to person since ancient times.  It leads to wisdom, a clear and compassionate understanding of life that grows out of an intimacy with experience rather than a separation from it.  The following independent yet interconnected programmes give you an opportunity to become part of a lineage of teachers and healers who hold this thread, a way into love.

Heart of Birth Doula Mentorship  May 2012- January 2013

“Relationship moves the life force, nothing else.”  Mark Whitwell 

If you want to be of real help to a birthing woman, you need to come into relationship with her.  Then life moves with grace.  Early on, Ina May Gaskin, the now iconic midwife, recognized the crucial role a woman’s relationships play in how she gives birth.  Our work together will be rooted in this knowledge and the programme begins and ends in your relationship to your self.

A personal practice of breathing, moving and sounding connects you to the power of what you are: the tangible source and force of life.  This connection is Yoga and it offers a profound understanding of the Feminine and a complete container for working with birth and with your own ongoing life.  All other paradigms can be integrated into it, including the medical.

“At first, do no harm!” is the ethical foundation of western medicine and yet the high caesarean rate in Toronto is evidence that women’s power is restricted and much harm is indeed being done.  In learning how to nurture a woman’s strength to receive life and give birth, you are joining a group of gentle revolutionaries.

For her life’s work, Ina May received ‘The Right Livelihood Award’ this past year.  It’s known as the “alternate Nobel Prize”.  Mark Whitwell is a deeply respected “teacher of the teachers” who is restoring the Feminine to its necessary primacy in our contemporary understanding of Yoga and Life.  They are leading the way for us.

Because the heart of birth work is realized in intimacy rather than ‘professional’ distance, the structure of our relationship will be a close one.  A one-on-one relationship with me will be combined with group process and coming into working relationships with fellow doulas, clients and the larger community.  You will be well supported in your autonomy!

The programme is nine months long; it has a depth to its structure and content that gives you a whole understanding of birth and your role in it. You will know how to be with another and how to be with yourself, fully alive.

You will become a certified Doula through ‘Heart of Birth’.

Fee: $2,700.00

Please contact me, crescence@heartofbirth.org, for a detailed description of the programme’s content and structure!

 Birth Circle  Winter 2012

 Birth Circle is a once-a-month gathering of women who nurture the heart of birth, found in the strength to receive life. Birth Circle encompasses us all, mothers, maidens, doulas, midwives, teachers, healers…come join us!

Yoga, sound work and discussion nurture our strength.  In enjoying our fundamental unity with each other, we can be of practical help to each other. Relationship moves the life force, nothing else.

Saturday February 25th, March 24th, April 28th from 3:00pm to 5:00pm at the Winchester Street Theatre, 80 Winchester Street, one block north of Carlton, one block east of Parliament.

Fee: $20.00; bring a friend and split the fee; students $15.00.

Heart of Yoga Prenatal Teacher Specialization

June – August 2012  (80 hours)

 Offers an understanding of Yoga in the context of the regeneration of Life.  Practice is the nurturing of a woman’s strength to receive Life in order to then give birth to it.  The heart of Yoga is expressed in her: Mother, Source.

For yoga teachers and teachers in training. An 80 hour programme, which satisfies Yoga Alliance’s requirements to be designated a specialist in Prenatal Yoga.

Please contact me crescence@heartofbirth.org for more details!

Heart of Yoga Foundational Teacher Training

Beginning at the end of September 2012 (200 hours)

Please contact me crescence@heartofbirth.org for more details!

Crescence Krueger has been a part of Toronto‘s yoga and birthing communities over the last twenty-one years. Her direct experience of Yoga began when she gave birth to her daughter and realized that we are all the source and force of Life, what the ancients called Shakti.  It has continued through nineteen years work as a Doula, helping other women give birth.  Her ability to integrate the wisdom of traditional midwifery into current birthing environments has been supported by a twenty year connection to Isabel Perez and Ina May Gaskin. Crescence passes on the beautifully simple and effective Yoga technology she has received from Mark Whitwell.  It restores the Feminine.  She teaches and mentors yoga teachers and doulas and writes. Real relationship is at the heart of life and she is committed to working in a way that makes it possible.

Want to get to the heart of yoga?  This training offers an intimacy and knowledge of the feminine that is missing in much of current teaching.  Without it, yoga is impossible!

Understand birth, and you understand yoga, the fact that you are the source and force of life.   Direct access to your power, what yoga calls shakti, is the gift.  It’s your connection to this power that gives you a real ability to mother, heal and teach.

In learning the principles of breath and body that let the vast intelligence of life flow, a woman has the practical means to prepare for the complete integration that giving birth entails. These principles come from an ancient knowledge of life that Krishnamacharya was blessed to learn but that has yet to become a part of our collective understanding.  Simple and safe, these principles lead to an experience of your natural state and the strong likelihood of an uncomplicated, spontaneous birth.  Birth IS yoga.

An exploration of the physical, psychological, and spiritual transformations a woman goes through in the childbearing year will give you insight into her needs and will help you provide a space that nourishes her connection to herself and her community.  The feminine force isn’t a concept, myth or metaphor; she is you and me.

Crescence Krueger passes on the beautifully simple and profound Yoga that she has received from Mark Whitwell. Her direct experience of Yoga began when she gave birth to her daughter and it has continued through eighteen years work as a Doula, helping other women give birth.  Her ability to integrate the wisdom of traditional midwifery into current birthing environments has been supported by a twenty year connection to Isabel Perez and Ina May Gaskin. Crescence teaches and mentors Yoga teachers and Doulas. Real relationship is at the heart of life and she is committed to working in a way that makes it possible.

BIRTH: THE HEART OF YOGA

with Crescence Krueger

An Immersion and Pre and Postpartum Yoga Teacher Training

June 4/5, 11/12, 25/26; Saturdays 2:30pm-6:30pm, Sundays 1:30pm-5:30pm;

and two private meetings with Crescence

at LiV Yoga Studio, 155 Liberty St. (King and Dufferin), Toronto.

Appropriate for anyone who is interested: teachers, pregnant women, doulas, midwives…the yoga will be adapted to you.

$645.00 + HST   Yoga Alliance credits; certificate given.

contact: crescence@heartofbirth.org   416.994.4566

A  Pre and Postpartum Yoga Teacher Training and Immersion: April 2/3 and 9/10, plus two private meetings

Understand birth, and you understand the very heart of Yoga, the fact that you are Mother, the source and force of Life.   Direct access to your power, what Yoga calls Shakti, is the gift.

By learning the principles of breath and body that let the vast intelligence of life flow, you’ll have the practical means to prepare for the complete integration that giving birth entails. These principles come from Krishnamacharya; in the deep denial of the Feminine that still defines our world, they have yet to become a part of our collective understanding.  They are simple and safe and lead to an experience of your natural state and the strong likelihood of an uncomplicated, spontaneous birth.

An exploration of the physical, psychological, and spiritual transformations a woman goes through in the childbearing year will give you insight into her needs and will help you provide a space that nourishes her connection to herself and her community.  The Feminine Force isn’t a concept, myth or metaphor.  She is you and me.

This experience has meant more than words can say.  I am leaving today with a full heart, deep inspiration and an overwhelming feminine connection.    Jessica Liebgott, Yoga practitioner and aspiring midwife

I don’t know if I can begin to express my gratitude for the love, incredible insight and passion you have shared with me and ignited in me!  It is with a sense of connecting with something much bigger with myself that I walk out into the world with after this weekend.    Amanda Montgomery, Yoga teacher and mother

Crescence Krueger passes on the beautifully simple and profound yoga she has received from Mark Whitwell.  Her ability to integrate the wisdom of traditional midwifery into our current teaching and birthing environments is rooted in eighteen years’ work as a doula, helping women give birth, and a twenty year connection to Isabel Perez and Ina May Gaskin.  Real relationship is at the heart of both yoga and birth and Crescence is committed to teaching in a way that makes it possible.  She was on the faculty of the Yoga Festival of Toronto in 2010 and has played a variety of leading roles in the community over the past two decades.

Included are two private meetings, one before and one after our group gatherings on April 2/3 and 9/10, Saturdays 9:30am to 6:00pm, Sundays, 11:30am to 6:00pm.  The one-on-one time is an opportunity to talk and to receive an appropriate personal practice in preparation for, and integration of, the training.  Your own practice is the source of your effectiveness as a teacher and your power as an individual.  Everyone, including pregnant women, is welcome.

Eight Branches Healing Arts Centre, 358 Dupont Street (west of Spadina) Toronto, ON, Canada

Fee $645.00;  Certificate; Yoga Alliance CEU’s.

Contact crescence@heartofbirth.org   416.994.4566

Yoga understands that you are Mother, the source and force of LIfe.   Connected to your power, you will know in your very bones how to give birth.  Learn the principles of breath and movement that forge this connection.  In the deep denial of the Feminine that still defines our world, this knowledge is missing from much of our current Yoga education.  Like a wave in rhythmic flow, breathing, moving, meditation and life are a seamless process.  Through it, you develop the strength to receive life and give birth… in peace and love.

Crescence Krueger passes on the beautifully simple and profound Yoga she has received from Mark Whitwell.  Her ability to integrate feminine wisdom into our current teaching and birthing environments is supported by eighteen years’ work as a Doula and a twenty year connection to Isabel Perez and Ina May Gaskin. She teaches and mentors Yoga teachers and Doulas.



Sundays, 11:30am to 1:00pm, February 13 to March 27
Eight Branches Healing Arts Centre
358 Dupont Avenue, west of Spadina and the Dupont subway station

$127.00 for seven week session; $20.00 drop-in, space allowing
Intimate class size allows for discussion and personal instruction.  Contact crescence@heartofbirth.org; 416.994.4566

Come immerse yourself in four days of authentic yoga tantra! Deepen and refine your receptivity by learning the principles of practice that let the power of life flow. You’ll move to the pulse of your breath, release it on sound, work with yantra and mantra and know philosophy as your own direct contact with reality.

Having the strength to receive life is the point of yoga practice and the challenge inherent in giving birth. The means to this strength has been missing from contemporary culture and yoga teaching. It is the Feminine.

An exploration of the physiology and neural hormonal flow of love in a pregnant, birthing and breastfeeding woman will give our work a good foundation and point to her practical needs during the childbearing year. You’ll be able to teach pregnant and new mothers safely and effectively and know the feminine force not as a concept, myth or metaphor but as the real life that moves through us all.

I teach in the lineage of Krishnamacharya through the beautifully simple and profound yoga I’ve received from Mark Whitwell.  My knowledge of traditional midwifery is from Isabel Perez and Ina May Gaskin. The union of these two understandings creates a body of wisdom that is both whole and relevant.

AUGUST 13-16,

Friday through Monday, 10:00am to 6:00pm

$485.00

Certificate; Yoga Alliance and RMT CEU’s given.

To register, please email crescence@heartofbirth.org or call 416.994.4566

visionLife is one.  That’s the message I got from Ina May Gaskin last Friday night in Ottawa.  It’s the message of Yoga too.  The action of Yoga is to surrender your breath to the Whole/Ishvara.  Your whole body participates in the flow of Life.

It was a clear fall day when Isabel Perez and I drove from Toronto to Ottawa.  Blue sky touched red and orange leaves and the pink stone cliffs beneath them.  The vivid colours reminded Isabel of the great quantities of brightly dyed sawdust she helped her family make when she was a child in Guatamala.  People bought the material at Christmas time to decorate their handmade nativity scenes.  Isabel’s memories have merged with the Canadian landscape and have added another layer to my perception of it too. 

Isabel and her family came to Tennessee in the 70’s so that she could train as a midwife with Ina May.  Our journey to Ottawa was a brief reunion.  Ina May was the final speaker at the Breech Birth Conference.  It was billed as a storytelling event.  Ina May is a wonderful entertainer.  I spent most of the evening laughing.  Her stories were of the link between childbearing women and other mammals.  How we share the one process of Life.  

Ina May said she loves old books.  They are often sources of lost knowledge and alternate frames of mind.  In an 18th Century medical textbook , she found suggestions for relieving milk engorged breasts that included an “intelligent maid” and a cooperative goat.  This was in an era before the invention of the breast pump.  Intelligent, cooperative husbands were the standard solution on the Farm, she said.  In the weeks before his baby was able to latch onto the breast, Ina May told of one skinny vegan man who blossomed in his efforts to build and maintain his wife’s milk supply.  Breast is indeed best.

In order to give birth, the primal brain stem, the part of the brain we share with all living creatures, must be freed from the tyranny of the modern, rational brain.  In order to give birth, we must surrender to our animal selves.  It is in this surrender that we experience love.  Images of the direct connection between animals and us are in the media now.  Perhaps we are remembering our link with Life.  Ina May mentioned the photo of Tori Amos suckling a piglet.  I happened on the less provocative but very beautiful mixed media exhibition of Gregory Colbert, entitled ‘Ashes and Snow’ which opened in Venice in 2002 and has been touring the world since.  The photo of the boy and the bird at the top of this post is one of Colbert’s. 

The audience for Ina May on Friday was a young one.  I felt quite ancient in its midst and quite delighted.  I have hope.

 

Ina May Gaskin and Isabel Perez

Ina May Gaskin and Isabel Perez

 

Isabel Perez has been my friend over the last fifteen years. Her life encompasses the ancient and modern, the rural and urban, South and North America. Birth has always been at the centre of Isabel’s life. She lives within an effortless recognition that the seen is evidence of the unseen, that heaven and earth are one condition.

Isabel was born in Guatemala to Mayan parents. Her great-grandmother was a nodrisa, a traditional midwife. Her father was a shaman. After the devastating earthquake in 1976, Isabel, her husband and children were brought to the U.S. by Ina May Gaskin, a pioneering midwife, now world renowned. Isabel trained and worked with Ina May for four years on The Farm in Tennessee. She contributed to a community whose way of handling birth resulted in a caesarean rate of only 1.4% amongst 2,028 women from 1970 to 2000. Home was the environment for 95.1% of the births. Isabel then moved to Toronto where she practiced midwifery until it was integrated into the Ontario health care system in 1993. Subsequently, Isabel has worked as a doula.

What follows is some of the conversation we had in her kitchen this past May. The sounds of living accompanied our talk: splashing water running from the kitchen sink, rice being washed, boiled and stirred; tea being poured; spoons touching bowls; our swallows. Isabel cooked and shared a breakfast of rice pudding while she carried the thread of her narrative. These sounds place her story in the current of daily life. Hear them as you read!

Crescence Krueger What is the most powerful thing that you bring to a birth?

Isabel Perez Confidence. Peace. Love. And trust. Those are the words my clients use, eh? So I’m just repeating them. I have a very simple personality. And that works for me almost everywhere. It’s very simple, the way that I work. Very simple. You have seen.

CK  That’s what I love.  Read the rest of this entry »