The Closing of the Bones is a way to honour and celebrate a new mother. This ritual acknowledges the huge transformation she has undergone in pregnancy and childbirth. It makes space for the enormous shift that she has experienced physically, mentally and emotionally.
Physically, it guides her back into her own body, brings the bones back into place, helps her pelvic organs shift and blood flow. Women who are honoured in this way experience a sense of calm and grounding, re-establishing her sense of self.
A safe space is created for this ceremony, in a warm & quiet room. We start with some time to share where the new mother is at, how she is feeling now, looking back on the birth, anything that needs to be heard. She then lies on a mat on the floor and I guide her through a special meditation to honour her journey.
With the help of a rebozo (Mexican scarf), the hips of the woman that have widened and open to accommodate the growing baby and to give birth are gently rocked and pulled back into place. The gentle rocking movement has a soothing effect.
Some warm oil is applied and a gentle massage of head & feet begins. We also massage the belly, lovingly taking care of this area where a baby grew. Both giver and receiver acknowledge this great achievement.
For the last part of the ritual, a woman’s body is tightly wrapped using 5 rebozos. We wrap and honour different parts of her body—feet, knees, hips, shoulders, head. The woman is then left to rest as we hold space for her. Some short closing meditation can be done to bring her back to center, balance her energy and relax her.
I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Delphine Petit, kraamzorg (maternity care nurse at Aide Maman Amsterdam. Read her interview of me below.
Can you please tell us who you are and what exactly is a Doula and Mindfulness.
Firstly, thank you Delphine for this opportunity to highlight the work I do, which I feel very passionate about.
My name is Marjorie Lumet. I am originally from France and have been living in Amsterdam for 12 years with my South African partner and my girls who are now 5 and 9. I am a mindfulness coach, mindful birthing & parenting trainer and doula.
A doula is someone who supports the birthing woman and her partner physically and emotionally during the process of giving birth. This can be at times very hands-on: massage and acupressure for pain relief or relaxation, supporting with positions, breathing techniques and general comfort, facilitating and guiding partner support. Emotional support is also key in this intense moment, encouraging words, cheerleading, reassurance. A doula’s role is to support the birthing woman and her partner to feel safe and remain centred and calm. This also entails creating a peaceful environment in the birthing room. A doula does her best to ensure the mother’s wishes are respected as much as possible.
Birth is a very intimate and special moment in a couple’s life so the role of the doula is to be of service, to observe what is needed, give support where required and hold space when desirable. Research shows that continuous support from a doula shortens the length of labour and very significantly reduces the need for pain medication and for medical interventions, such as administering Pitocin or cesarean birth.
Usually, a doula’s role begins before birth with prenatal preparation sessions during which the birthing couple share their concerns and wishes around birth. A doula provides information and resources so that the birthing couple can understand their options and make informed choices.
A doula is also sometimes skilled to give a birth preparation course. This is my case where I train couples in mindfulness skills which are of great support in birth and well beyond.
Mindfulness is present moment awareness with a non-judging and curious attitude. Paying attention in this way is deeply transformative. It allows us to open up to our full potential which is often limited by stress and unhelpful mental beliefs & behavioural patterns. Cultivating mindfulness allows us to develop another way of looking at ourselves and the world around us, a more positive, open and kinder way. Instead of spending considerable amounts of energy replaying the past, stressing or worrying about the future, our work, relationships and all the things we need to get done, we are able to gather our attention to fully enjoy the moments of our life as they unfold. Through non-reactive observing, we respond consciously to stress and difficulties that arise rather than react automatically. Over time we liberate ourselves from a lot of unnecessary stress and release unhelpful beliefs or habits we’ve developed over the years. We begin to make space for what really matters and supports us to thrive. Mindfulness supports us towards more well-being, joy and harmony in our lives as we live them.
And it is not just me saying all this, mindfulness is very widespread nowadays because the need is huge. There is an extensive body of research demonstrating the many benefits of mindfulness on physical and mental health as well as emotional resilience
That said, you can probably imagine that inviting the practice of mindfulness into your life before becoming a parent is of immense support. It’s more than just a good idea to “sort yourself out” before becoming full-time responsible for a cute being that is totally dependent and fused with you.
Parenting is very much about being in the present moment, paying attention to our children. Children thrive on compassionate attention. It is a solid foundation for them to develop on. However, if a person doesn’t relate to themselves with kind presence, it will be very difficult for them to bring this compassionate attention into their parenting.
Additionally, becoming a parent is probably one of life’s biggest transformations. As joyful as it may be, this rapid change also comes with its fair share of stress. And stress and pregnancy isn’t a good combination as we know. Learning mindfulness in pregnancy allows to reduce stress, to slow down, relax and tune into the amazing pregnant body that is transforming rapidly as well as honour its needs.
Last but certainly not least, mindfulness is an invaluable skill in birth itself. Birth is all about remaining centred and breathing through intensity as well as relaxing as much as possible in between contractions. Our conditioned reactivity to pain, which usually consists in ignoring it, pushing it away or fighting it isn’t helpful obviously in birth. The mindfulness skills couples learn support them to be with discomfort, to relax into the pain. To keep attention focused on the body and breath rather than get caught up in emotional reactivity or fearful thoughts. We do a few series of pain practices together (holding ice cubes) and use a variety of techniques to work more skilfully with the fear or pain that may arise in birth. These techniques include mindfulness, focused attention, breathing and sounding, touch & massage, visualisation and positioning. In childbirth the pain is part of a transformative process allowing a child to be born. The less we fight it, the less pain we actually experience and the more we support birth to unfold optimally.
I teach private individual courses but also group courses based on the “Mindful Birthing” program developed by Nancy Bardacke, an American mid-wife and mindfulness teacher who has been a pioneer in bringing mindfulness skills to expecting families.
How did you come up with the idea of working especially with mothers?
Through my own experience really. Becoming a mother, propelled my journey into mindfulness. Before being a mindfulness coach, I worked in the corporate world for 15 years in media agencies. When I became a Mom the corporate environment I was in, including the rhythm and structure, just didn’t fit with my needs, values and concerns in my new Mom life. I felt frustrated. I was always running trying to keep up with my life rather than living it, enjoying it.
For a long time, I lacked purpose in my job but I felt this more strongly when I became a Mom. I questioned increasingly what my contribution to the world was and how was I shaping the future. And becoming a mom was a radical life change of course. I found myself wanting to spend more time with my daughter, slowing down to enjoy her and watch her grow rather than outsourcing that as much as I was to childcare. I wanted to be healthy and happy and juggling motherhood and a demanding corporate job I didn’t feel passionate about wasn’t delivering on that. So, in my desperation I discovered mindfulness. I attended an 8-week course and was so inspired that halfway through the course I decided to train as a teacher so I could share these skills with my environment.
I now know through my clients that my own journey of adjusting to motherhood is certainly not isolated but shared by most women. There’s a name for it ‘matrescence’, the process of becoming a mother, encompassing all the many physical, psychological and emotional changes after birth. New parents often feel inadequate, insecure, guilty as if they aren’t doing anything right. I feel passionate about equipping mothers with solid mindfulness skills and guide them through this transition from pregnancy to early parenting. To encourage them as they enter this nurturing role to nurture themselves too. Many of us haven’t learned this and our modern environment often depletes rather than nurtures with its distractions and hectic pace at times. Dad’s obviously go through an immense shift too and the more connected couples are, the better equipped they are to grow together and support one another.
I love working with pregnant and new Moms for all these reasons but I don’t work with them exclusively. I also cater to students, plenty of men and women with or without families, high-achieving professionals suffering from stress-related complaints or wanting to bring about positive transformation in their lives. I love having that diversity and I feel it helps me keep an open mind. Plus, I get to witness how the skills I teach are precious for anyone regardless of their life situation.
Can you tell us what a family can expect from your sessions? How do you work?
I give a lot of different courses and workshops but I’ll focus on my offering to expecting parents.
I work both in a group and individual setting.
The gold standard mindful birth preparation course is the 8-week course that combines mindfulness and childbirth education. In this course, couples learn in depth the practice of mindfulness and also have a solid birth preparation course including attention to early parenting.
I facilitate this in a group setting and sessions last 2,5 hours. Each session offers a combination of mindfulness meditation, childbirth theory & education and group sharing and questions. The body needs to move so we always have time for stretching, I integrate movement practices, combining prenatal yoga postures and Qi Gong. Sometimes we do specific birth practices that can be quite hands-on, for instance birth positions and partner support where we use touch, massage and acupressure points. In a group setting, group reflections are also important to the learning process and create a sense of community.
I also offer shorter courses and workshops to cater to different needs, a 5-week course as well as a series of 3x workshops to prepare together for birth.
For private sessions I come to the family’s home and adjust the course content to their specific needs. I can also offer a pregnancy relaxation massage.
My group courses are mostly in English but individual courses can be in French. And I also speak pretty fluent Dutch and Italian which is handy to know
What is “Nouvelles Mamans “?
Nouvelles Mamans’ is a community aimed at making the journey into parenthood just a little bit smoother through offering support, connection and information to new and expecting parents. We host regular events always around a specific theme relevant to pregnancy, birth or early parenting. There is some knowledge sharing around the theme and plenty of space to share stories, concerns and experiences in a warm, informal and non-judgmental setting.
The events we host are in English and French language depending on attendees. We cater to French families as well as a larger expat audience. Starting a family away from home, in a different culture and system can be disorientating, isolating and challenging at times so I believe the power of community is important. Dutchies are very welcome of course too and we’ve had the pleasure of having quite a few locals attend. We love having babies, kids and partners so the whole family is warmly welcomed.
I launched this initiative earlier this year in January. A group of birth workers offer their regular support as well. We are a team of 4 at the moment and have expertise in different areas: mindfulness, yoga, massage, Chinese medicine, dance and have in common a holistic approach.
On top of our professional experience, we are all mothers and have experienced what it is like giving birth and raising our kids in the Netherlands. We share our personal experiences where relevant and offer professional support and information where needed and possible. Finally, most of us have quite an international background but we have a French connection in common, hence our name
Why the name “Experience Mindfulness”?
That’s a great question which no one has ever asked me before so thank you for bringing it up.
I believe it sums up the essence of Mindfulness. Mindfulness or presence if you will is not something that can really be cognitively explained. You could read 100 books on it and yet not fully grasp it. We tend to get so stuck in our heads and forget that there are other ways to know. It is something that needs to be experienced directly, it is a felt sense of the experience of being alive. When you experience mindfulness, practice it, feel it, understand how it is impacting your body and mind, then you can go beyond the concept.
In mindfulness we move from thinking to feeling which is all about experiencing what is. We pay attention to our senses, to sensations in the body, we connect to our whole being. The body is an anchor to our awareness, always available, always giving signals.
Bringing more present moment awareness in our lives may sound simple but it is not easy, this process requires commitment and regular practice or experience !
Can you tell us what makes you Happy?
Every morning, I spend about an hour practicing mindfulness and yoga or Qi Gong. sometimes I go running and then meditate. I enjoy this morning ritual and it helps me start the day with positive energy. If I skip it, I really feel the difference.
My kids make me happy, although sometimes they really irritate me too of course
But what I really enjoy is when we have quality time. I notice that this is facilitated by having nothing on the agenda, just unstructured play or connection time. I try to make room for a short moment of real connection every day with both of them, mostly following their agenda.
Being in nature is also a great source of happiness, nature calms and energizes me. I am definitely an outdoors person and I really need my daily walk in the park.
Traveling and backpacking, learning new languages and discovering new cultures used to be a passion of mine, nowadays I enjoy our family holidays. My partner is South African and I love visiting there. The nature is so grand and wild, these big open spaces help me feel free and even more alive if that makes sense.
And my work makes me happy. For years my work was not a source of joy or even satisfaction. Now I love what I do I allow my curiosity and intuition to guide me as I further develop my skills, they are my new “boss”, it is so liberating! I enjoy guiding and coaching clients. I witness sometimes amazing transformation which is very inspiring and rewarding.
To all the mothers bringing new life into the world right now this is an awareness of breathing and body practice to support your well-being. Now more than ever is the time to trust in your amazing body, inner wisdom and strength, and ability to birth freely and nurture your child. It has always been there but the noise of the world and the dominance of the patriarchy sometimes make it difficult to see and feel. Sending you love and well wishes.
It is been 2 weeks of working from home and home-schooling and I have to say I am starting to become somewhat adjusted to, even comfortable in this new normal. I know I am not alone in this as many around me have expressed the same, sometimes we need more time, it is a process! The capacity for human adaptability never ceases to amaze me, this just goes to prove how we are capable of so much more than we bring ourselves to believe we are sometimes.
Also collectively, it is amazing how we can all press on the pause button in the face of a global health threat, albeit an invisible one. Why we haven’t been able to do this yet in the face of climate change, an immensely bigger threat, also keeps me busy. I suppose it is because this disruption is less immediate, more gradual and our systems are reactive and better equipped to deal with short-term threats.
Anyway, narrowing the lens and transitioning from the macro to the micro, coming back to little me. The first week of this situation was a major adjustment for me, as for most of us. I didn’t dwell in fear and went straight into acceptance as there clearly wasn’t any other option that would serve me well. I didn’t really think over things much and activated doing mode to take the necessary actions to adjust to these changes.
I digitalised my mindfulness and mindful birthing courses despite having major resistance with switching to online, there just wasn’t any alternative.
I was brutally aware that this situation of uncertainty, this threat to our health and life as we know it would bring about a lot of suffering. Plenty of fear, anxiety and worry around falling ill or losing loved ones, isolation and loneliness, depression, financial insecurity, etc. I immediately felt the urge to help. I thought “How can I be of service?” “What is this situation asking for me”, “What do I feel called to do?”. I felt ignited with purpose.
I also felt somehow immediately excited about the opportunities that come with such a shift. This situation is like a forced retreat, we are cut off from external distractions, invited to pause, reflect, slow down, do and appreciate things differently. This space to reflect has the potential to bring us in touch with what really matters, to connect to ourselves, our loved ones, our families, to heal ourselves and our relationships. To rethink how we live. To live in the moment, to recognize the sacredness of each moment, because more than ever we don’t know what the future will bring (we actually never did know but now we are reminded of this!). There is an opportunity for us to awaken, to live from our hearts, because that is where peace resides. To come into being. The practice of mindfulness and self-compassion are powerful tools to do just that.
I started weekly mindfulness and self-compassion meditations to support others to stay grounded, loving, peaceful and in the moment in these times. These sessions are donation-based, every Thursday evening. You can join us by registering on Facebook or send me an email.
As a mother, mindful birthing teacher and doula, I also feel passionate about supporting expecting and new parents. Being pregnant, giving birth and becoming a parent can be scary at the best of times but is particularly challenging right now. I have set up weekly meetups with a group of mothers & doulas to support expecting and new parents in this vulnerable phase. Please join usor pass this on to new families.
Finally, I’ve been really busy taking care of my kids, creating a home-schooling schedule, supporting them in their work, but also making sure to balance that with having fun, playing, connecting and safeguarding their well-being.
We are thankfully blessed with health and all doing well. But it has not been easy repurposing the work I do to online AND offering extra support sessions to support my community’s well-being (which means working more than I usually do) AND juggling this with home-schooling and motherhood. I am sure any parent, working or not, suddenly finding themselves in a position of home-schooling can concur. My partner is a lawyer and has continued with his hectic work schedule at home so he’s been on conference calls incessantly and the care of the children has fallen mostly under my responsibility.
The first week of this situation I was in survival mode, busy with everyone but myself. At the end of the week I was useless and completely wired adjusting to these big changes. I had a good cry on the Sunday, to release all the tension and adrenaline in my body caused by the stress of the situation and all these new responsibilities I had taken on. After that, all I could do was sleep for the rest of the day.
I realised if I was to stay sane, healthy and in a place where I could meaningfully support my family and others, I’d better take care of myself more seriously. Of course, I am aware that taking care of myself is important as I am in care roles, as a mother and mindfulness coach so I do make space every day for the practice of mindfulness in some form or another. However, I realised that what I am already doing wasn’t going to be enough to carry me through these times. I needed self-care more than ever if I am going to be a center of peace and sanity: RADICAL SELF-CARE.
So I asked myself what does radical self-care look like? This last week has been the process of exploring what that means for me and what that looks like and here is how far I’ve come.
–Negotiating with my partner to have 2×1 hours slots to myself in the day, one in the morning and one after lunch. And he often takes over from 19h to put the kids in bed as I have mostly evening courses.
–Starting each morning with a walk in my nearby Vondelpark, coming back for a long sitting meditation, sometimes followed by journaling if time allows.
–During the day, taking time for breaks and nourishing activities with and without the kids – regularly checking in with myself “how am I feeling, what is it I need right now?”.
–I’ve been dancing and singing more throughout the day, with and without my girls
–Taking time to cook nourishing food, also with boosting the immune system top of mind
–Stretching and doing yoga throughout the day with my girls often joining in
–Going out to play for a couple of hours with the girls every day
–Having max a couple of hours where I am really available for / working with the kids and the rest of the time encouraging them to work independently
–Family quiet time after lunch where we spend 30 minutes to an hour reading
–Doing something relaxing and/or creative every day with the girls, I took my painting material out again after years of being in the boxes
–Not checking in with the news unless there’s something I feel I need to know or understand, asking my partner who is a serial news watcher if I missed anything of importance.
–Ending the day with some reading or listening to something inspiring, practicing a body scan meditation, sometimes self-massage, lighting candles, soft music, bath, gratitude practice.
–Going to bed no later than 22h and making sure that I switch off my devices by 20h
I’ve been practicing what I preach more than ever and I am starting to feel wonderfully peaceful. I have less time to myself and somehow, I feel like I have more space. How bizarre? I’ve been even more connected to my body and how I am feeling than usual and connecting more to my children. Not having external pressures and all sorts of social and kid’s activities is very relaxing I find. Of course, I miss giving courses in person and human contact. But I must say I am feeling more peaceful than I have in a while and I can give this gift to my children and others.
FINDING MY TRIBE
My partner is an introvert and talking about emotions, feelings isn’t his cup of tea. Reflecting around both the challenges and opportunities that this time brings on an individual and collective level which I find fascinating, really isn’t his thing either. His idea of winding down after a busy work day is watching news and TV shows and action or thriller movies, as well as thankfully the occasional comedy show. The saying that men and women are from different planets really resonates in my home. I know I am not alone in this. But I did feel a bit lonely being at home and not having anyone I could connect meaningfully with when I really needed to more than usual. So there is probably some work to do around my relationship and this situation is forcing me and many of us to be confronted with that fact. I see that as a much needed opportunity. In need of immediate support, the other question was “How can I build meaningful connection in these times?”, “Who can carry me so that I can care for my family and hold space for others?”
So I started looking for support, looking for my tribe in this new online reality. I found support in so many places, many of which were unexpected. Firstly, the courses I host create a collective learning community so definitely the deep sharing there has been precious. I’ve attended a women circle which was a healing experience and intend to continue looking for this sacred feminine connection. I have been doing online dance and yoga sessions. My doula community has been a huge source of nourishment and meaningful exchanges. I’ve also been strengthening the bonds with my community of mindfulness trainers. I’ve had chats with the neighbours and many friends far and near. Lots of Whatsapp exchanges and hilarious videos shared. With one group of friends we’ve been sending one another our funny dance videos. I’ve been connected to my family more than in the past and I’ve initiated weekly zoom reunions (my parents are divorced so this frequency of ‘seeing’ one another is completely new for them).
I’ve been receiving tons of inspiration to stay healthy physically and mentally in these times as I am sure you all have. Wisdom and support is exploding from everywhere. And actually it is a bit overwhelming just how much inspiration is out there. Staying on top of it all can be stressful in itself. Too much input even wise is just too much. So even if there are tons of resources that I want to tune in to now, I have decided to tune in to something no more than 30 minutes a day and to do my best to choose wisely amongst this wellness offering overload. On the weekend if there is space and will I allow for more time for this.
I really value just being with myself and with my family. I realise that there is as much depth within me than there is breadth out there. It does feel good to hear things that resonate with my own experience or the occasional new insight, new way of looking at a situation. So this tuning in supports me in my own process but it is a fine line between support and overwhelm.
So these are some of my reflections from 2 weeks of this ‘social distancing’ or ‘pausing and staying within’ situation. Ready for week 3!
I’d love to hear what radical self-care and finding your tribe looks like for you so please send me a message or join our sessions.
A couple of days ago, I witnessed the first minutes of life of a beautiful baby boy and very proud baby parents of 2.
My client gave birth all on her own with her husband at her side at home in the bath. It wasn’t the plan, she was going to go to the birthing center at Olvg with a midwife and me by her side. But birth is certainly not an event that can be planned.
The birth was fast, amazing, empowering and the baby was born 20 minutes after the midwife and I received the call to come, we both missed it! This mom went from 1cm of dilation to having her baby in less than 3 hours.
The midwife checked her on early labour at 1cm and said it could take weeks. I spoke to her then, she was having very mild contractions. I offered to come but it wasn’t necessary at the time, she told me that she’d call when she needed me.
And yes from early labour to baby born, it can take weeks but I had the feeling she would birth very fast, I knew somehow. She was ready, trusting. I went to sleep and dreamt that I had to rush to a birth, a baby was about to be born. I was woken up by their call to come quickly and I was there 30 min later, not quite quick enough…
After reflection, it was just right. For this mother to witness her power and to birth her baby on her own. Her first birth had been traumatic at many levels and for her to experience this blissful water birth in the comfort of her home and trust her amazing body was certainly deeply healing and empowering.
She was proud and didn’t feel alone or isolated as the first time around. She felt trusting and grounded and used much of what we practiced together. She said it was the best birth she could imagine and that our time together made it possible. Well, that’s not entirely true – trusting her body and innate ability to birth her baby made it possible. The work we did together supported her to move from fear to trust and that shift is what it is all about it and so powerful!
Long post but filled with amazement and gratitude and a wish to share