Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Remembering Ramsey's birth

In celebration of Ramsey's birthday tomorrow I thought I would re-post his birth story. This was written a few years ago, and I enjoyed reading through it again. I completely forgot he was 5 days early, no wonder I wasn't ready!  One thing I've remembered recently with my 5th birth approaching is that 1.5 hours before birthing Ramsey I was carrying loads of wood upstairs to stock for the day's fire, and went outside to start the pull-start generator so there would be ample water and power.  I don't want to do that now!  I'm trying to convince my husband that that is unusual for a woman so close to birth.  
Enjoy! ~  Be warned, it's long.

The Birth of Ramsey Chad Wilder Greavette
February 19, 2009

Our third child entered the world with his own kind of drama. In retrospect, we really should have named him ‘Loki’ (Norse god of mischief) or Hellar. But Ramsey means ‘strong’, and he’s continued to be the 'wild child' in his own way!

Pregnancy is a time of (almost) pure joy for me. I love the new sacredness of every day and the hum of purpose in my body. I love the way time slows down in mounting anticipation, and the rapid changing of my form. We already had two lovely children and hoped for more, but it still came as a surprise as I reviewed my charts one day to realize I was, in fact, pregnant! I had been ovulating, I was aware, but my other fertility symptoms indicated that a pregnancy would be unlikely. I was still breastfeeding and was not quite ready to be pregnant again. I wasn’t unhappy at first, and my husband’s response was just a laugh. However, this surprise still took me a bit off-guard. I wanted to keep the pregnancy a secret for awhile so I could sort out my feelings and come to accept idea. Unfortunately that didn’t work out well and my family found out earlier than I wanted. (Little sister read my diary!) This really made me upset, and I actually refused to talk about it for awhile. I needed space to think, to grow, to accept this wee one already forming. Coming to terms with this proved to be a continual process for me throughout the pregnancy, and yet somehow this element of surprise only added to the mystery and beauty of having a child.

Ironically, despite struggling emotionally, it proved to be my easiest pregnancy and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had the usual over-zealous Braxton Hicks contractions (irritable uterus), but I wasn’t sick and had no complications. Of course, I had excellent care with my midwives, and enjoyed seeing the student midwife, Melissa, along with Barbara, who I had used with Evangeline’s pregnancy as well. I had a very intervention-free pregnancy; I had no ultrasound and felt very comfortable refusing most tests, trusting my knowledge and intuition. Ramsey was a bit of a mystery in utero, his movements were unremarkable compared to the other two, he spent some time posterior, but other than that he was almost boring. I was free to enjoy life as it was, and couldn’t complain about my condition at all. I had been apprehensive about the February due date, but actually found it ‘got me through’ the long winter. I enjoyed my time with my two small children (Axel, almost 4 and Evangeline, almost 2). As I approached my due date and swelled with life, my excitement mounted. I anticipated and planned a ‘perfect homebirth’ and I finally felt ready to welcome this baby.

I was thoroughly excited about a homebirth. I had considered one for my second pregnancy, but due to several factors NOT including safety I chose to birth at the hospital. One of these factors was the very strong feelings of my husband, who I lovingly call ‘birth-phobic’. One would think that by the third child a man would be accepting, even comfortable with birth, especially in this enlightened age, but not my man. The drama, excitement, intensity, graphic female content and abundance of foreign fluids are enough to make my physically strong man’s head swim and stomach turn. This might make some women feel angry or unsupported, but I love him anyway. He's a great husband and father, but as a birth partner, not so much!   I’ve more than come to terms with this; in fact, it’s allowed me to revel in total freedom the pleasures and pain of birth, and claim all the glory and praise for bringing our children into the world to myself (except for one small part, ha ha)!

 I wasn’t due until the following Tuesday (the 24th) and never been early, so I was not thinking labour when I woke up early on Thursday morning.  For a couple days I’d had really strong Braxton Hicks contractions that ended almost painfully, and I had been crampy and strange-feeling beyond the usual pre-labour I feel for weeks. I felt like I'd been ready to launch into labour since Sunday night when I had light contractions through the night, but really felt like I needed to hold off until a few key things came together. On Wednesday evening I went to La Leche League because I knew it would be the last meeting before the baby came. It was fun to chat with the ladies about the upcoming birth. Also on Wednesday my sisters Genieve and Kaitlyn had flown in from St. Louis and Japan respectively, along with Genieve’s two children.  As of their arrival I mentally gave myself 'permission' to birth anytime, as everyone had gathered.  I wanted them both present for the birth, as well as my sister-in-law Sarah (to take photos) and my mom. This birth was to be a bit of a party; I was really looking forward to having it photographed and shared by everyone. My other two births were very quick and straightforward (3.5 and 4.5 hours) and I thought this birth would be a great opportunity for my family to be part of a normal, healthy birth in a home setting. I had spent a lot of time and effort preparing and decorating our bedroom and bathroom, and made a really lovely space that was bright and open and perfect for a 'birthing nest'. It was important to me to have a welcoming place to birth a baby, a beautiful spot that I felt good about and would not be distracting with clutter and unfinished spots.

At 5am on Thursday morning, I woke up with contractions.  It was February 19.  The contractions felt strong and they got me out of bed right away. There really was no buildup, aside from the pre-labour I’d had for a few days. It just began. They came in no clear pattern, some were strong and long, some were short and light and they were irregular or bunched together. I felt incapable of timing them, which I think began my denial. Already I found myself struggling with the stronger ones, but I really didn’t believe they were real. I’d never had this uncertainty with my other labours. During them I had been able to welcome the contractions, relax through them, absorb them and work with them. This time I could feel myself trying to get away and resist their intensity, and my efforts and movements didn't seem to help. Somehow, this was confusing. Maybe if I knew I was in labour I could have settled down and focused. Instead I listened to my iPod, played on the internet, did some chores around the house. During contractions I would sway, relax, or move to a crawling position. They were very tight and quite long, and at the peak I was really agonizing through them. I was uncomfortable! For some reason, though, I didn’t FEEL like I was in labour; between each contraction I just kept postponing calling anyone. Surely they’ll stop, or, it wasn’t that bad. Because of my previous short labours I was under strict instructions to call everyone right away, especially my midwives Melissa and Barbara. But I wanted to be alone until I knew it wasn’t going away. I guess I’d had so much ‘false labour’ and pre-labour in the past, I was mentally convinced this too, wasn’t real labour. As dawn approached I started to worry about the day beginning. The kids would wake up and Chad would go to work. If this was real, how could I keep labouring with a 4 year old and 2 year old running around? This wasn't how I imagined it, this couldn't be it. Besides, between contractions I felt totally normal.

Closer to 6:30 am I paged my student midwife, Melissa. She understood my confusion and suggested a shower and to call her back in half an hour. I was happy with this suggestion, and glad I didn’t feel pressured to admit to anything. First I brought up a good load of wood for the fires (we heat with wood) and started the generator (we are off-grid but use a generator to fill our water tanks). I ate a hearty breakfast. In the shower I relaxed and contractions melted away. See? It wasn't labour. Silly me.

After the shower my memory gets blurry. I got out and got ready for the day, dressing and putting makeup on. It was 7am. Axel and Evangeline were up and joined me upstairs. Chad was hovering around anxiously, wanting me to tell him I wasn’t in labour. He was getting ready for work, hoping to leave soon. He kept asking what was going on and I kept snapping, ‘I don’t know!’ Instinctively I asked for his assistance in making the bed up for birth, and this freaked him out a bit. I mentally noted that the contractions had returned with a vengeance. They were very difficult to work through; I was getting breathy and a bit panicky during them. I couldn't focus and I was getting easily annoyed. Finally I conceded; I was in labour. In the midst I paused to tell Axel that we would probably have the baby today, who had been hoping for a baby brother and wanted to name him ‘Diablo’. Perhaps it would take all day though, my confused mind still couldn’t tell. And I still couldn’t understand how I could be in labour with the kids up, or have a baby now that it was daybreak. I felt irritated with the kids and remembered I all I had to get ready, so I sent them downstairs to have breakfast with Chad. Until now I had kept postponing filling the bathtub, even though our tub takes forever to fill. Finally I realized, 'this is it'; it hit me like a brick wall. I was going to have the baby: soon. I urgently paged Melissa, and while waiting for her to call, called my family. I spoke to Sarah, who was to take photographs and coming from Toronto. I had a short, emotional conversation with my dad, asking him to send my mother and sister. Finally Melissa called back as I finished a wild contraction, and I exhaled breathlessly, ‘come, NOW!’ It was 7:57 am.
Things were coming really fast now. During contractions I was on the floor groaning and panting and between them I was making the bed up, filling the tub and starting a wash, all upstairs in our loft-style bedroom. Chad was desperately trying to leave and getting upset that no one was here yet. He didn't want to be around for the labour and had wanted to be called when it was closer.

I was nearing the end. It was probably 8:00. I was kneeling on the floor of the laundry room trying to fill the washing machine. Why was I starting a wash? There, on the floor, I knew I had to get down to business. During a contraction I pounded the floor with my fist, saying 'get here, get here!' Was I talking about my help, or the baby? Transition! No ‘I can’t do this’; just ‘I can’t do this alone’! That contraction ended differently, I felt pressure mounting in my bottom. The baby was coming; I couldn’t deny it any longer. My right-brain took over, and I realized I likely would be alone. Quickly I headed for the toilet, racing through the bedroom to the open en-suite. I was desperate for someone to show up. Chad came upstairs to check on me and seeing me bent over on the toilet he yelled about going to the hospital now, realizing how close I was and that we were alone. I yelled back about having a baby NOW! He went back downstairs mad as a hornet. This was his worst nightmare, being alone with a birthing woman! The toilet felt awful during a contraction, so I got up and whipped my bottoms off. There were only seconds between contractions, and with the next one I fell to the bathroom floor, and contracted on my hands and knees. I was beside the tub, and put my hand in the water hoping to get in it to find some relief, but it was too hot. As the next contraction mounted I realized I was having the baby right then and started saying to myself, ‘Ok, I’m having the baby, I can do this, I’m having a baby’. This was calming and I called to mind the basic instructions of ‘how to catch a baby’. I was able to pant through two contractions. I was a bit thrilled that the panting worked to get me through two contractions without pushing. I grabbed a towel from the towel bar and threw it under me so I didn’t have the baby on the linoleum. With the next contraction my first push became undeniable and I groaned loudly with exertion. I looked down and watched my water break like a spray- no meconium- and I reached to feel the head crowning and support myself. Strangely I didn't feel the 'ring of fire', just the incredible overwhelming pressure. My pushing was involuntary and irresistible. I had crouched low to the floor with the first one like a cat ready to pounce, but then sat more upright, resting my bum on my heels and kneeling. Chad came bounding up the stairs because he heard me yelling/groaning. He stood in the bedroom, watching, furious and immobile. While I waited for the next contraction we exchanged ‘words’ on what was happening. He swore and I reassured him I was ‘just going to have the baby right now’. I was calm but panting with the effort and exhilaration. With the next uncontrollable and overwhelming contraction and push I groaned loudly with exertion and the incredible sensations of pressure and pain The head was born. I kept my hand resting on the side of it. There was a bubble of sac beside the head, and it looked funny but I guessed what it was. While I was loud with the contractions, I didn't scream uncontrollably like I did with Evangeline, perhaps because I had more control because I was alone. Chad swore again, and I again assured him everything was fine. I panted, "We're having the baby, we're having the baby'. I waited for the next contraction, knowing the wait was fine, but still it felt like forever. Finally with the third contraction the whole body slithered (or shot) out with so much relief and a huge groan. I reached down both numbly and automatically (I was kneeling but sitting on my heels) and grabbed the baby and brought it quickly up to my chest. What an incredible feeling- to be the only hands that touch that slimy, hot wet body, to grab your child because no one else is going to, and to pull them to your chest. I asked for a towel, which Chad tossed to me, not moving any closer. I was so calm, so mentally organized as well as euphoric. It was all instinctive, yet rational. I turned the baby to face away from me with head down to drain any fluid and rubbed his back and head a bit to stimulate him, then lowered him to check for the cord. It was wrapped 2 or 3 times around his neck and once around his body. I unwound it easily, then brought him back up to my chest and continued rubbing him and checked for mucous. He made some noises, I could see he was breathing and pinking up, and he cried briefly. I asked for the hat my midwife Barb knit. I thought
about asking for the bulb syringe in the homebirth kit but knew it would be too much for him. Once the hat was on and I felt the baby was warm I relaxed and started laughing and crying. I said to Chad we’d ‘had an unassisted birth! We had an unassisted birth!’ Chad insisted it wasn’t funny, and where the 'f'**' was everybody. After a moment he asked cautiously if it was ok, and I said he was great, and asked if he wanted to know what it was. He said ‘no!’ but I moved the towel and lifted the leg and laughed that we had another boy. Axel was right! Chad asked if I was bleeding and I said 'no', but as I said it I felt a small gush and thought it was probably the placenta detaching. He went downstairs to get the kids. I stayed where I was and held and cuddled the baby, I was comfortable and knew I didn't need to move. As I turned him to face me and wiped off his face, he blinked several times and gazed up at me so innocently that I laughed and whispered, ‘oh you are a little devil, aren’t you?’ His fist sight was me! I tried to get him to suckle, but he wasn't interested yet. In the silence I realized what had just happened; I delivered my own baby and my dear helpless husband had watched the whole thing. Later he claimed to be too mad to faint or be sick, which I appreciate!

After a minute Chad brought up Axel and Evangeline to meet the baby. They came right over to meet him and seemed genuinely awestruck, but not confused or concerned.  Probably 10 minutes passed before midwives arrived. Melissa came up first and stopped suddenly to stare with confusion and then shock as she shrieked, then rushed over with a huge hug. Barb came up behind and her and hugged me as well. I laughed and cried with them. After marveling and laughing they lay me back to help me deliver the placenta. Finally my mom and sister and girlfriend Annie arrived. They were each confused when they saw me lying back (in labour?), and it took a minute to see the baby in my arms. Chad had greeted them at the door with 'a**-holes, a**holes, that's what you are, what took you so long?'

I was easily cleaned up and moved to the bed. Everything went perfectly- I had no hemorrhaging or tearing and I felt great. We had delayed cutting the cord until the placenta delivered, and I had kept my bladder empty throughout the morning to help the uterus contract after. All our carefully laid plans to prevent the hemorrhage I'd experienced in each previous birth worked so well- I had minimal bleeding and wasn't faint.

We guessed the time of birth was 8:15, just 3 hours from when I awoke. The baby weighed 7lbs 5 oz and was 50 cm long. He had an incredibly long umbilical cord- almost 4 feet!

During the birth I didn't panic even when I realized I would be alone. I sort of ‘took control’ and was clear headed, giving myself instructions. When I was pregnant with Evangeline I prepared for an ‘emergency childbirth’ because Axel's labour was only 3.5 hours long from the first contraction. With the other births the pushing phase had left me feeling train-wrecked and completely out of control, but this one had so much more consciousness. It was an awesome, crazy experience. I wouldn't plan it that way again, but I’m so glad it happened. I love that Chad was there and saw the whole thing. I can easily find the humor in his swearing and anger- I had thought to myself during the birth, 'if he can swear during the birth of his child, then I should be so bothered by his swearing in general'. But it was wonderful! He's not exactly a convert, but I'm very proud of him.
The baby was calm and content and a lazy nurser for a couple days. He wasn't hungry and had a fair bit of mucous. But once the mucous came out and my milk came in his latch improved. I had so much company and help- the atmosphere was pretty euphoric for awhile. The kids adjusted well- the arrival of the baby was as uneventful as it could possibly be. See mommy, have breakfast, see baby! My recovery couldn’t have been better, I had minimal soreness, my strength quickly returned and I really felt fantastic. Praise God birth was designed to work when left to happen as it should!

What a struggle we had naming him. We were reluctant to pick something we weren’t firmly attached to, and the baby wasn’t giving us any indication of what he wanted to be called! At two weeks old we finally named him: Ramsey Chad Wilder Greavette. I insisted that 'Chad' be included, as my husband was the only one who witnessed his birth! Ramsey has turned out to be a bit of a wild child- our first two children were unbelievable calm and content as babies, but Ramsey has made his presence known, being tongue-tied, colicky and struggling with over-active let-down! We love him for his strong character and determination, though, and our family is abuzz with energy and love.

Ramsey has surely been a surprise from his beginning to ‘end’. The news of the birth spread rapidly around our small town, as well as various interpretations. (One has Chad huddled in a corner saying, 'why are you doing this to me?!’ In others he heroically delivered me on the kitchen floor.) I'm so pleased and proud and secretly thrilled with all the events, my only regret is it wasn't photographed or experienced by more people. But that's both the worst and the best part of an unassisted birth, isn't it?

Ramsey and I still on the bathroom floor after the midwives arrived.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

New Etsy Shop!

Horray! I'm thrilled to share I've JUST opened an Etsy Shop. Please check it out here!


I have all the prints from the Birth Project available, as well as paintings both from the Birth Project and other subjects. Please share!
'Still water, laying over,
Still water, lay my body down over' (D. Lanois)
36 x 48 inches

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Giftcard Give-away!

I just love spring, and to celebrate I'd like to freshen things up with a GIVE-AWAY!  Recently it was Mother's Day and my work certainly celebrates mothers, so in honour of these two things I'd like to send someone four beautiful gift cards featuring four different images from the Birth Project.  These cards make a lovely gift or are perfect for notes to new moms, midwives, doulas, doctors, nurses, friends...the list goes on. They also look sweet in frames or on fridges, and are an easy way to share the paintings from the Birth Project in a small scale.  Sound good?

To enter, scroll to the PunchTab contest below, and  chose one of the ways to participate.  At the end of the give-away a winner will be announced! I'll even cover postage for the gift! Enjoy!

Cards may not be exactly ones shown.
Postage Paid

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Brooklyn Show at Carraiage House Birth

Welcome to the Birth Project, on display at Carriage House Birth, Williamsburg, Brooklyn!

We had an grand opening for Carriage House Birth on Friday, Feb 8, the night of the 'big snowstorm' in New York.

Even in a small space the pieces fit nicely, as if they were meant to be there.
Despite the snowstorm we had a lovely crowd gather that filled the space on Friday night for the opening celebration.

Enjoying the company!
Two babies crashed hard later on in the night.

An amazing spread of food which was devoured! 

Jethro enjoying some fruit, I love this with the painting in the background.

Me and Jethro, Domino and Cassius, my sister Genieve (my assistant) and sister-in-law Sarah and Scarlett (my graphic designer). Thankful for Domino's warm hospitality and the help from these girls.

Packing up- showing how neatly the paintings fit, even though they're quite large and the space was very small. You can't always estimate what might work in a small space!

The show continues at:
97 N 7th St, Williamsburg Brooklyn

and the paintings will be on display until April. Stop by to say 'hi' to the doulas and have a look at the paintings in real life! 

A great night! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Here are the boys reading under the watch of these two strong women. I brought this painting home to live with for awhile. It has so much to tell me; I know it well but not at all. I put a lot into this painting, and I was really drawn to both of the 'looks' that these two women give in real life. I wanted to paint these two figures because they're both very strong, sexy but vulnerable, grounded and sensuous, honest and proud.

The unique thing about original art is that it's so alive.  It will talk if you'll look at it often and give it room in your mind and life. A painting changes- with the light, your movement, the company and energy in the room, your mood, your circumstances.  It's an object, not a 'picture'. It has the energy of it's creator in it, and often for the artist, creating is a very spiritual event. It's sometimes a struggle, sometimes effortless, as if the painting paints itself.  We're just mediums, I believe. I do what I do because I'm called to do it.  And I receive my affirmation when I feel my work has taken on a life of it's own. I'm so blessed when I get to watch how a painting becomes somebody else's; when a painting emits this mysterious siren song, and the viewer reacts, feels drawn, becomes smitten and falls hard. Sometimes it's surprising, often it's perfect. They each have their story, they each have a mate. It's a love story!

Yes, this post seems a little silly.  But haven't you heard it, felt it? Haven't you heard an a piece of art calling?  Or noticed the magnetic pull of some pieces, even if they're not for sale? (If not, maybe you should get around some good art!)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Newest piece from the fall/winter

How we rise when we're born
like the ravens in the corn
on their wings, on our knees
crawling careless from the sea
God, give us love in the time that we have
God, every road takes us farther from home (Sam Beam)

Strangely, I haven't yet shared this piece. It's the newest one, and I still haven't decided whether it's finished or not yet. Perhaps some minor tweaking.  I've only exhibited it twice, and it was the only piece I brought home from the Brooklyn show with me. I'm glad, I wasn't ready to leave this piece, it's still unfamiliar to me, and I need to listen to and get some perspective on the women.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

CAPPA Canada National Conference!

This week I'm heading to the CAPPA National Conference in Ottawa, Ontario. I'm looking forward to the Conference, and I would like to invite everyone out to the fabulous Friday evening event!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Recent Paintings

I've shared these on my facebook, but not here yet.
Here are some recent paintings I'll be showing (along with the large Birth Project) at the upcoming CAPPA Conference in Ottawa, as well as some commissions.
 A sweet, sweet commission. What a pleasure to paint!

'Can a mother forget her nursing child?'
8x10 - sold

'A warm and gentle welcome'
18x24- sold 

'The Sweetest Thing'

(Cross) Cradle 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Birth and Beyond Conference

Not long ago I attended the first 'Birth and Beyond Conference' in London, Ontario. It was a lovely inaugural conference- small but intimate, with the opportunity to engage the speakers personally and meet the organizers. I really enjoyed attending many of the sessions (not usually a luxury at most conferences) and visiting with other attendees.  I was lucky to attend co-sleeping, breastfeeding, attachment, post-partum depression, supporting through loss, creating a social movement, some breech dialogue, the pelvis...the list goes on! (James McKenna, Diane Weissinger, Rivka Cymbalist, Robbie Davis-Floyd, Gloria Lemay, Jack Newman, Teresa Pitman)  It was lovely to see my friends Heather and Shannon from Choices Childbirth Services too!

One unique thing the conference offered me was an Artist Reception.  This was a wonderful way to attract the attention of London by inviting the public to view the artwork, mix and mingle and hear my artist talk.  The Artist Reception was picked up by two local newspapers including this one: Birth, in all its primal beauty .I was so thrilled with the media interest! I was also interviewed by the Fanshaw radio station. I never got to hear this fully, but it was fun to do the interview.

As a result of all this press there were actually community members at the event! This was amazing. I gave a short artist talk about why I believe in visual communication and painting birth.  One highlight of the night for me was speaking with an elderly gentlemen who came to the reception because he read about my work in the paper. He explained he wasn't present for his own two children's birth- he was even told to go home- and when he read about my work he was so curious he felt he had to come down to see why someone would paint childbirth. Wow! We spoke quite a bit, he was interested in the tub and why someone would deliver in water. Pretty cool conversation :)

Another great moment was being told about an overheard conversation between two hotel staff. One youngish man exclaimed he would 'totally catch his wife's baby', to which the other replied, 'no way! gross!' The conversation went on, getting a little more explicit, but hey- it began a conversation!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Upcoming exhibition at the Birth and Beyond Conference!

I'm so thrilled to share that I will be attending the Birth and Beyond Conference in London, Ontario, this September.  This fabulous new conference has an incredible speaker lineup. If you're in the area, or in birth-related work, you absolutely need to attend this conference, even for one day! I'm really looking forward to the sessions; what a great opportunity to hear some really renowned professionals!

I'm also excited about the exhibition of the Birth Project at the Conference. This fall I've committed to staying within Ontario for the Birth Project bookings, and I'm so pleased that this is the first one to announce. I've been in the studio creating a couple new pieces that I hope to share after they've made their premier appearance at the Conference.

If you can't attend the whole conference, there is still an opportunity to see the paintings! Please share the word about my Artist Reception on Friday, Sept 21.  I'll even be giving a brief artist talk about the paintings.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Are you on Facebook?

'Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in' 
(L. Cohen) 32" x 53"

There's been some controversy over this piece recently. I'll share details later, but if you're on facebook you can head over to my 'Amanda Greavette Fine Art' page and find the image  on my wall. I've re-posted this and asked for responses, for viewers to share their feelings and reactions to this piece. Currently I have over 175 responses- such a vibrant and varied conversation about art and birth! Awesome :)  Please go add your voice!

Also, I'm thrilled to share that this piece has found a new home.  It sold at the American College of Nurse Midwives Annual General Meeting and Expo, where I had the Birth Project on display, and a booth set up selling prints and cards. The event was a success, but not without some snags! I look forward to sharing more later.
'These are the days of 
miracle and wonder'
(P. Simon) 30"x48

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Birth Project 2012

Here are the new pieces I've done this year.  Below are sizes and titles. They've been exhibited at Trust Birth in Nashville, Tennessee, and are currently on their way to Long Beach, California for the American College of Nurse Midwives Annual General Meeting and Expo.  Enjoy!

‘There is a light in you
I have fallen into
There is a light in you
I have fallen into, fallen in too
Stop, listen feel
Stop, listen, feel
Stop, listen feel,
Believe, believe’ (Great Lake Swimmers)
39"x 32"

'These are the days of miracle and wonder' (P. Simon) 
38"x 30"
'Our mouths are filled with laughter, 
our tongues with songs of joy' 
P. 126:2

‘And you opened like a flower in the heat,
Your beauty on my eyes, like a masterpiece
Never has skin tasted so sweet.

And you said, oh, I didn’t know, that we could go
So many kisses deep
We were face to face and lips to lips and cheek to cheek
And you said, oh, I didn’t know we could go so many kisses deep’ (A Cohen)
24"x 36"

 Under the moon, in the great, black night
With no lodestar in sight
And wait for it, there are only two of us now
This great, black night scooped out (and the fire glow)
The darkness rings, listen
The darkness, the darkness rings
Take off your things and listen
The darkness rings’ (S Harmer)
41"x 57"

'All you need is love,
Love is all you need'
42"x 54"

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why do I love birth?

I asked myself this question as I drove home from a birth last week. I was particularly curious because this time I knew I was missing that climactic moment of delivery; when in unmedicated births the air is thick with oxytocin, tension finally breaks and there are tears of relief, joy and love. Even in complicated or surgical births this is a magical moment- when parents finally see their child face-to-face, a mother's pregnancy is done, and waiting is over. As transcendent and euphoric and addictive those minutes are, I know that's not only it.  In this recent birth I regretfully missed that victorious act, yet still I felt bouyant, pulled back to the experience, and truly enjoyed being there for this woman's labour.  Most of the births I have witnessed and attended to I'm tied to by family, love and at least friendship.  I care about the mothers, the families, and the babies being born. But still, there's something about the stories I love to read, the videos and the knowledge I seek.  I'm drawn to it magnetically, I want to experience it more.  Birth work is a difficult world to live in: long, inconvenient hours, unpredictability, being on call.  Too much for me to arrange for regularly with my life of small children. But there's the feeling that if I was called at the drop of a hat to come to a birth happenening now it would be a resounding YES.  And I'm obsessed with it enough that I need to paint it, re-create it to represent all the meaning I find in it. What is it? Why do I think is it so cool?

I think one reason is the rare experience of witnessing the mysterious 'stripping away' that often happens in labour. Quite literally, a woman has layers of inhibition fall away like the clothes she often discards as labour progresses. It's fascinating and moving to watch a woman turn inward, to lose her concern for others and the world around her, to say exactly what she wants, to become attuned to only her own body her baby.  It's an honour to be present for these intimate acts. While it feels a bit voyeuristic to enjoy watching this, it's also humbling and awesome every time. It's simply amazing to see a woman's body perform such a monumental task so gloriously and glow with power and energy as it does in labour.  Many women shed their clothing, and it's that rare we allow people other than lovers/partners/spouses or children to see us nude, especially naked and uninhibited. It's a wonderful thing! As a figure artist, of course, I love the figure- the body, the human form, the flesh. Sure, artists have more than average opportunity to see people naked, but even models are usually inhibited. A labouring woman is not- and her body is an amazing thing. The extra weight a woman usually puts on in pregnancy is not treated with loathing (hopefully), her curves are magnified and her body is doubly infused with life. She's created a human being inside her, and the transformative process of brining it forth is happening before your eyes. In a 'good' birth, a woman can work with her body to cope with the sensations, to move as it needs to, to bend and stretch and open and release. Being present at a birth means getting to observe things society rarely is privy to- this emerging of a new person, a mother's body rippling and shining with exertion, her working with or against her physiology, tapping into her animalistic nature, retreating into herself, expressing emotion and feeling openly.  It's really, truly awesome.  I need to paint it because I want the world to see that power, that beauty and that strength that a woman has, but I know it needs to be respected and protected in order to emerge in labour. A labouring woman is beautiful, and while most women probably don't feel glamourous or pretty as they're moaning, sweating and grunting, I would argue that in fact, they are stunning.

Of course, there's also the spiritual dimension that I recognize is such a powerful part of birth. Labour and birth time is sacred- it's set apart, it's outside of regular time. Often labour starts and a woman continues normal activity until she needs to focus. Once attendants are called or she goes to a center or hospital, it seems to remove from 'regular' time. Everything is suspended, and it was once believed (and still is) that as a woman is bringing new life into the world she is hanging between the states of death and life; that she is especially connected to the spiritual realm.  No matter what you believe or your religous affiliation, I think this aspect of birth is often unappreciated. I feel that there is a 'holiness' surrounding birth, that it's sacred- of special meaning and honour. We know that we can't truly control birth, it's a physiological function but it's also an experience- one that can shape and change us. We tap into our inmost selves, we rely on God, we listen to our bodies, our hearts and we communicate with a child within us. Many meditate to cope with labour, others re-think their belief system after becoming parents.  My personal beliefs cause me to feel birth is a 'holy ground', and that we are brought a little closer to God as our hearts are pulled by life forces.

Birth is also simply awesome. To consider what our female bodies do in order to bring forth a child, to think about how we've grown a human being, to realize that this new thing is a PERSON....what? Unbelievable. We, women, get to do this- get to grow life.  Our pelvises, our breasts, our uteruses are awesome- amazing! Of course, arms and fingers are cool too; I'm pretty captivated by the human body, but women are pretty fantastic.

To be serious, there are so many thing I love about birth. The emotional high. The uniting of mother and child outside the womb, who've been together for so long but had to go through a body-and-heart-wrenching process first. The euphoric moment I referred to earlier- when a woman's work is rewarded and she grasps her child and hugs him to her breast, often sobbing, shocked, ecstatic, stunned.  It's over-the-top, messy and fulfilling.  It's about mystery- the way our bodies are so perfectly designed, the unveiling of the child that's been so close, but so hidden for months and months. It's about the mystery of something so basic, so intricate, so uncontrollable but so common. It's often about the victory over fear, doubt and pain.  Of course, and yet unmentioned, it's that about that strange wrinkled creature who's head is so soft and breath so intoxicatinly sweet and fruity.

The list goes on, the reasons birth is so profound are numerous. Different people would answer that same question in different ways.  But I think this is why I love it. Birth is awesome, and women are great. They mystery, the stripping, and the strength.  And of course that incredible climax of reunification...the sweet reward of great patience.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

See my work in person at the Trust Birth Conference!

Thanks to publications like Squat and the Canadian Journal of Midwifery Research and Practice, my work has gotten a lot of attention this last year. Of course, this has helped with the web press too! I'm so thankful for this kind of reproduction, but there's still nothing like seeing the real live painting up close, or from across the room. My work is large- life size!- so it really tends to overwhelm or at least impact the viewer with the emotions and ideas I'm trying to convey, and I just don't know if this translates the same way in print or reproduction. I'd encourage anyone interested in my work to try to see it in person (or any original artwork for that matter!). And the great news is, for those in the United States, I'm personally accompanying my work to a few birth conferences!

Coming up only a few short weeks away in April, is the Trust Birth Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. I can't wait for this Conference, it promises to be amazing! It's the last time it will be held in the US for several years. Also, it's super affordable for non-birth workers, with the 'Parent Track' option of picking select sessions for $100. Come to Nashville! Come to this fantastic conference, say hello and take in some art at the same time!

Of course, I shouldn't have to add that I've been working like crazy on new paintings, to be debuted at the Trust Birth Conference. Those attending will have first dibs on unexhibited work!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

New Year!

Welcome to 2012! Happy New Year, everyone.

I'm planning some great things for this year!

In the fall of 2011, I attended the first-ever joint CAM/MANA/ACNM conference in Niagara Falls with my large paintings and prints. It was an amazing success, and based on the response there I've decided to pursue exhibiting my work at birth and midwifery conferences. I've found my audience! It was so validating to hear in person how my work impacted people, so many shared that they could see their life's work and passions in the paintings. The conference environment was the perfect place for the Project and the paintings really added to the atmosphere. It was all pretty thrilling. I had an awesome time hanging out with Amy Swagman from The Mandala Journey and meeting some of the organisors of CAM and MANA,and the ACNm. I met so, so many fantastic people.

To see some of the photos from the Conference, click on the links below. There's even a photo of the amazing Naoli Vinavar with one of my pieces!!

The Birth Project will also be expanding this year. This is in part due to the upcoming exhibition opportunites, but also because some paintings have found...drumroll...new homes! I'm thrilled to share that 4 of the significant pieces have been purchased by loving owners.

So, currently I'm exploring Conference options. I'm already booked to be at the Trust Birth Confrerence in Nashville Tennessee in April! This is a very exciting opportunity- I've heard great things about this conference and am thrilled to be attending.

My next challenge is to find a reasonable way to get my work across the continent. Hint hint, I'm trying to 'get' to California. Amazing things happening there! This has been quite the obstacle however, any suggestions are appreciated. The significant challenges are the transportation of the size of my work and the distance. Don't tell me I can't do it, though, or I'll prove you wrong!

And, lastly, Amanda Greavette Fine Art is now an 'Artist' page on Facebook! I've finally seperated my personal profile with my professional one- check it out to keep abreast of the daily adventures of life as an artist and....everything else.

This year is shaping up to be a pretty significant one of professional develpment, I'm excited to see where it takes me and the paintings!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Birth Project goes to the CAM/MANA Conference

Exciting news!
The Birth Project, along with first-time-ever prints and cards of the Birth Project will be displayed at the joint Canadian Association of Midwives and the Midwives Alliance of North America for the North American Midwifery Conference in Niagara Falls on November 9-12 2011.

This is my first conference, and I'm going both as a vendor and a 'delegate', or conference-goer. My paintings will be displayed throughout the conference area, and I will have a table to sell the prints and smaller paintings. What an exciting opportunity!

One of my original paintings will be up for auction at the Live Auction and Dance event.
I'm excited to meet a fellow birth-artist Amy Swagman from The Mandala Journey.

If you're going, stop by and say Hi! I'll have Jethro Vader in tow, and will only charge $.05 to squeeze his succulent thighs. Hoping for an enriching conference experience, and a couple sales would be nice too! I'd love to see some small pieces of the Birth Project go home to hang in midwives, doulas and birth-lovers homes and offices!