Friday, December 12, 2014

Birthing the Afterbirth ('I'ewe, Haumea, Placenta)

"... The placenta is a beautiful organ. It is the only organ that develops and grows within another organ. It is responsible for growing a healthy baby. It is the bridge between a mother and her baby in the womb. In some cultures, it is called the called bucha-co-satthi, meaning baby's friend.(1) Others see the placenta as the baby's protective older sibling.(2) For these reasons alone, it is unique, amazing and beautiful.
The baby and the placenta are made from the same cells, which are formed through combination of the egg and the sperm. Once implantation occurs on about day six after fertilization, the gestation period begins and the fertilized egg and the placenta begin to develop separately, still connected. The placenta stays attached to the uterine wall while the fetus has the ability to move around the uterus.
The placenta is the fetus's only source of food, blood, oxygen, vitamins and nutrients. All of these vital resources are carried from placenta to fetus via the cord. These resources come from the mother's bloodstream, which is why a healthy nutritious balance of whole foods is so important during pregnancy. Iron is especially important because iron increases the hemoglobin level in the blood; hemoglobin carries oxygen in the body. Once the baby is born and the cord stops pulsing, that baby is no longer getting its oxygen from the placenta. When baby takes a first breath, the lungs begin to work and baby begins breathing on his or her own. In order for the baby to receive all the blood and oxygen required, the cord must stop pulsing before being cut..."

After a post like this one, I have given myself the gift of appreciating and reflecting after the birth. Pete and I have been watching the series Call the Midwife, based on the best-selling memoirs of the late Jennifer Worth. The characters and the depiction of families, women, nurses and nuns specifically, delivering children in the East-end London of post WWII and into the 1950's is very much a re-winding of history for baby boomers like my husband and me. So many of the episodes flag similar circumstances that influenced Pete's Midwest America and my occupied Hawaiian Islands early years. Both of us born in the mid 1940's (in hospitals delivered by male doctors) the setting for the series: working class life, the choices women made, and mostly, the lack of choice when it came to having children juxtapositioned with the cigarette smoking medical doctor who marries a former nun left me fertile with memories of newborns and their mothers, ripened dreams and visits from the ancestors and in particular it was Haumea. In no small measure the marathon viewing of births factored into the very personal midwifery of my child Kainoa.

Pete and I created no children, but the life we create together and separately feels very much a procreative experience. Without our joining I suspect life would have been very different. Here in the wet and windy woods of Langley on Whidbey Island the placenta or Haumea that sustained for those forty years is released from me. "In order for the baby to receive all the blood and oxygen required, the cord must stop pulsing before being cut..." And so, it is.

Who is Haumea?

Pualani Kanakaole Kanahele's book Ka Honua Ola "is a tool to fuel a consciousness for things culturally Hawaiian (because) Culture anchors a people to a space-based reality ... and promotes cultural delineation rather than cultural blurring, for blurring paves the way for disengagement, cultural neglect, and a redistribution of resources. And once accountability is lost, assets are reallocated and stewardship of our land, oceans, sun, moon and stars shifts to none-Hawaiians." Beginning with that platform Kanahele's tool, Ka Honua Ola a book composed of 'oli ancient chants starts with genealogy family lineage. The lineage begins with Haumea, the chant "Haumea laua'o Moemoea'ali'i" one of the many "mo'oku'auhau of the earth family. Its purpose is to establish birthright and family lineage to earthbound parents...Haumea is the Hawaiian dominant matrix of all things born."

Kalei Nu'uhewi asks the question "Who is Haumea?" and answers with the excellent and evocative answer found on this video. The answer is big, and encompassing, and filled with potential. Haumea is potential, Potential with a capital "P" Haumea is female. Through chant, again, the demand and the opportunity (potential) is in delineating or clarifying rather than blurring ones reality. Both these women (Kanakaole and Nu'uhewi) mean to clarify the role of sacred birth and the sack or placenta in which all earth humans begin life. A very ancient name for placenta in Hawaiian is Haumea.

Swimming free in moana nui akea (the wide open, expansive ocean)
As this wettest of winter months proves worthy of its descriptors it was easy, too easy, to slip into a sadness that was a mush of old regrets mixed with the soggy season of long dark hours. We are after all still ten days away from Solstice. I am an aging woman who has birthed many stories to care for myself where there were no midwives who could tend to the soul loss begun during the centuries preceding my own birth. Using the gift for hearing stories that demand to be heard, and the oddly auspicious timing for my birth (born without knowledge of mother tongues/'Olelo Hawaii) I have not lost the ability to remember the "poetic devices" typical of my Hawaiian kupuna. Many years ago I foundered in my search for meaning my copy of the Hawaiian Dictionary lit by the old deck lamp in our Birch paneled study I asked my cousin for help. She could have given me any number of directives or suggestions. She left me with this, "Your na'au guts may remember what your mind doesn't." The memory is genetic and it is marked with the character of a mele 'au 'a or 'chant refusing a request'. I take this to mean that once I opened to the search that is no stopping.

One of the gifts that have come to me since the birthing of Kainoa is a piece of writing my son sent to me. "Prophet of the Earth Overtuned: Ke'aulumoku on Early Contact in Hawai'i " by John Charlot first appeared in the excellent French of Jean-Francois Bar: Charlot 1992. Both versions are based on a lecture. The heading "Swimming moana nui akea" is my choice of words that pin together poetically and literally what happens when I the deep sea diver Scorpio-Mercury pushes off (squares) the long-term actions of Saturn-Mars and Pluto in the quadrant of the heavens that identify with family legacy and procreation or sex. Astrologically I am saying 'I was born to explore and communicate about deep connections over time. My purpose is to learn from the past and leave a legacy that can be applied in the future.' Moana means the large open ocean. Nui simply expands that sense ... bigger. The ocean external is the ocean internal; they are one and the same. To swim one leads to swimming the other.


My son lives in France, near Paris. He works in Paris and teaches in Paris. Across two oceans from Hawaii, he sends me writing that serves as another significant vessel for crossing the mythic and the deeply truth-based ocean. I eat it and the words serve me. I read this:

"The chief Ke'aulumoku, 'The Lava that Makes the Land Grow', was born in 1715 or 1716 on the Hamakua coast of the windward size of the island of Maui. He died in 1784 in Kohala, on the leeward side of the big island of Hawai'i. His life thus spanned the last decades of the precontact period and extended into decisive events of the early contact period. Moreover, his atypical career took him through the lands of opposing chiefs, enabling him to form an unusually broad view of the historical situation.

Hawaiians usually lived in one place, which was both their one Hanau 'birth sands', and their kula iwi 'plain of bones.' " Early in the reading I connected with this chief, and prophet Ke'aulumoku with this information alone; synchronous in our 'atypical careers' that took us from our birth sands. Charlot's lecture notes include more details and analysis of Ke'aulumoku's great gift and application of his political and poetic influence as an author of 'oli chants. It is Ke'aulumoku's last and most prophet 'oli that concludes the notes. Coupled with  Charlot's reconstruction and translation/interpretation of the chant 'Au'A'Ia (Hold back, hold fast) and the historic overlay he includes I am refreshed and given another form of what Pualani Kanaka'ole Kanahele says "We, as Native Hawaiians, must continue to unveil the knowledge of our ancestors. Let us interpret for ourselves who our ancestors are, how they thought, and why they made certain decisions."

The chant 'Au'A'Ia according to Charlot "is [a listing] of the sacred objects that should be holding Hawai'i together, but finding them unstable or overturned...He bewails their state and tries to awaken them to the importance of the crisis they are facing."(These are the days not long after Cook's arrival in 1778)." Charlot leads to his conclusion and adds a personal experience to add to the poetry and unraveling of his tale when he recalls: "When I saw the great 'Iolani Luahine towards the end of her life chant and dance 'Au'a 'Ia, she pronounced the last words in such a way that I seemed to hear:

NAnA I ka moku
a lohe I ka nalu

'Look at the land
And listen to the wave'.

Looking and listening was the fundamental skills of skills of classical Hawaiian education. Land and sea form one of the universal pairs of categories into which the many details of knowledge can be placed. The dancer was urging Hawaiians to return to their own Hawai'i."

Does the story ever end?

Last night the winds came with terrifying power, loud and stirring, disturbing and destructive. I am writing because we have a small gasoline (petroleum-dependent I am!) powered generator. A long electrical cord connects my computer, the heater and the refrigerator to that source. I am warm, connected and fed. Last night the sounds of falling tree limbs and the howls of Lono (the atmosphere) and his family turned me inside out. I am not easy with harsh winds. Winter is deep and I was born during this season. So too was Kainoa the tree-born from the sea birthed to me in Winter. Attempting a description of birthing child and placenta I keep the story alive as I live it. Messy yet beautiful because it is what happened. Over time the story may change enhanced or exploded with newer insight perhaps. To help me through nights like last night, or a season only ducks could love is to let Art participate in the harshness of Winter. I write the medicine story to homeopathically find my way. Medicine Stories have other names as well, one of them is the Fairy Tale. You might like to link to this wonderful Diane Rehm radio program on NPR to listen to 'The History and Modern Relevance of Fairy Tales.'  I have taken the medicine that works best for me in Winter ... it has a start and a name, MoltenMadam. You are welcome to read and sip the medicine story as it writes me through another winter perhaps it will help you too. Your own story may unfold as well.

Remember the story never ends, or, the story could end a different way because you read about a woman just like you who ...

 The beautiful artwork used in this post is that of artist Jean Charlot, father to John Charlot. The first "Hala Groves"; the second "Hawaiian Drummers." Link here for more of Charlot's magnificent collection.

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