Community participation

Last fall I took a course on community change in public health. One of the major take-home lessons of the course was this: involving and empowering the people you’re trying to serve can dramatically improve the outcomes of a public health intervention. The course focused on curbing diseases like malaria and AIDS, while my goals here of bringing Pagans guidance and inspiration through childbearing feel much more modest, but the basic approach of listening and empowering seems just as relevant.

From the beginning, Pagan Families has been a multi-author blog, and I intend to continue soliciting and welcoming contributions from many voices. On the Pagan Families Facebook page readers have been stepping up and using the space to help each other. Recently, for example, somebody posted looking for a midwife in their region and quickly another reader jumped in with a recommendation.

I wanted to make it easier for me to listen to you and your questions, so when we moved Pagan Families to Patheos I asked the tech folks here to build us the new Ask Us tab. You can use that page to submit your questions about any aspect of Paganism and childbearing. I’ll do my best to answer your question or to find someone who can. Both your question and the answer may appear here on the blog so others can benefit from you asking.

As we all get oriented at Patheos I’d also like to open a thread here in the comments about how Pagan Families can be even better at involving and empowering you. What do you want to know that Pagan Families might be able to provide? What Pagan resources do you wish you had during your pregnancy?

About Sarah Whedon

Sarah Whedon is founding editor of Pagan Families, the author of Birth on the Labyrinth Path: Sacred Embodiment in the Childbearing Year, and former Chair of the Department of Theology and Religious History at Cherry Hill Seminary. Sarah’s teaching, research, and advocacy work center around topics of spirituality, feminism, and reproduction. She makes her home in the Boston area with her partner and their children.

  • Sarah Whedon

    One thing I meant to include: the Facebook page has been a bigger resource than I could have imagined when I started all this. Would it be empowering/useful to make one or more regular reader a moderator?

  • Seba O’Kiley

    Honestly, I assume that there will be no shortage in responses. What a necessary resource for us all. As a community member, I would like to see more out there on how to survive pregnancy/child loss within the Pagan family unit as a whole. I have suffered two losses in the last few years and needed help with several things:

    How to help my children grieve/accept the loss.
    How to help my husband/sister/tribal members deal with the loss.
    How to help myself, as a leader, mother and teacher at a time of such a loss.
    Other paths and their ceremonies, rituals, traditions at the passing of a baby/child.
    Healing practices for this specific grief.

    This may be a bit more to chew than folks would like, but it was a huge hole for me when I struggled this past November with the loss of our daughter.

    Thank you for the work you do and your dedication to our communities and families.

    Blessed Be,

    • Sarah Whedon

      Seba, thank you for taking the time to leave this feedback. I’m so sorry for your loss. You are not alone in feeling a lack of support around pregnancy loss. I can suggest two resources right now: The Amethyst Network and Our Spirit Babies but it’s clear we need to address these topics more. It just so happens that last night I ordered the books I need to start the process of becoming a loss doula with the Amethyst Network. Hopefully that means I’ll have something to say about that here eventually.

  • JeninCanada

    Welcome to Patheos! I’m really looking forward to reading your stuff. I’m the only Pagan in the family right now (my hubby is agnostic but supportive, my son isn’t all that interested, and my daughter is only 4 1/2 months old) so connecting with other Pagan moms and their families would be nice. Kat has been coming to ritual with me since she was 2 weeks old though, so I know in the future at least someone will be keeping me company! We joke that as soon as she’s old enough she’s going to start carrying things for us.

    • Sarah Whedon

      Thanks Jen! I look forward to talking with you here.

  • Molly

    I appreciate the idea of bringing pregnancy/baby loss into discussion! It was during my own miscarriage experience that I truly found the Goddess and that I discovered I did, in fact, have a religious language and belief system. While I’d been attracted to Goddess spirituality for some years, my first miscarriage was a “religious experience” in some ways and really changed how I encounter the Goddess and experience my spirituality.

    As far as other topics and directions, I would love to see practical, real-life ideas for including children in spirituality, for sacralizing the everyday, simple family ritual suggestions, that kind of thing. Family prayers, family projects, blessingway ideas, pagan pregnancy/birth art or other creative projects!

    Oh! Another thing I’m exploring in my own family–helping boys and husbands feel included in a Goddess-oriented thealogy…

    I might be able to write some things about all of these topics, but I’d also want to read about others’ experiences!

  • Molly

    I had some other ideas–I’d love to read different perspectives on even things like birth control! And, I’m developing an interest in menstruation as an original shamanic experience for women–I’d love to hear from pagan women about their relationship to their cycles/moontime. Also, rites of passage rituals for sons and daughters (particularly sons. Female-only ritual creation comes naturally to me).

    And, the Ask Us button is great and isn’t it nice how FB fosters connection and sharing?! :)

    • Sarah Whedon

      I love how many ideas you have Molly! I’m trying to keep things fairly focused on childbearing here – so miscarriage, blessing way, birth art, birth control, cycles, etc. are all in. Topics related to parenting older children are probably off-topic (though interesting to me). That’s because a bunch of other blogs, books, etc. address Pagan parenting, but reproductive topics (including adoption and choosing not to reproduce) are still underrepresented. I’m going to send you an email.

  • Molly

    I realized after commenting that I was getting kind of off topic with some of my ideas/thoughts!

  • Julianne

    One of the things I’d like to see is some kind of forum/group discussion with women who are facing their birth experience alone with no other female support around. I know from my experience currently 39.5wks, it has been somewhat an emotional rollercoaster not having any guidance or support from family or friends – I couldn’t even find a doula or midwife that services my area! So to have this kind of network would be a great tool!
    Thank you for the work you do for the community! It is truly a blessing!

    • Sarah Whedon

      Oh, that sounds so isolating. Could you say more about the network you envision? Would it be email, web forum, Facebook, or something else? What would it need to look like to meet your need?