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Ophelia Bloom • A Birth Story

Klara Miller

Written by Mary Grace      Photographs by Daddy & Grandma

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Ophelia Bloom -- born at home on the most perfect July afternoon.

On the days leading up to her birth, I was starting to lose my cool. I just wanted her here with us already. I was sick of being pregnant and was doing everything I could to coax her out, but nothing seemed to work. She already had a mind of her own -- and she picked the perfect day to come. 

The day before she was born, we spent what was to be our last day as a family of three. We wandered the upper east side,  got lunch at one of our favorite places, afterwards we had ice cream and visited with Michael's grandparents. The perfect summer day.

I was going to walk all the way home in hopes that it would trigger something, but decided against it. I was already tired and didn't feel like exerting tons of energy to only be disappointed. Instead, when we got home Michael and I had a corona and listened to Dr Dre's, The Chronic. We danced and joked and I bounced up and down while eating hot cheetos.

A few hours later, at around 12:30am, my water broke. I was excited - overjoyed and full of so many nerves I felt like I was going to burst! THE BABIES COMING! 

I called my mom right away.

I wasn't having contractions yet so I took a shower and started setting things up just waiting to feel the first one. They did not start. My mom arrived at the apartment and we all went back to bed. Throughout the rest of the night they started coming slowly -- I slept. Only waking up as they came and went.

By 7am they were coming regularly. We filled up the pool. Had coffee and breakfast and waited it out.

By 10:30am I called the midwife.

Olive was wide-eyed and curious with excitement. 

Olive really wanted to get in the pool with me. She couldnt believe it -- a pool! In the living room! As things started getting a bit more intense -- she decided to take a bath.  When she was ready, she came back out.

Right before the baby came out -- she went into our room and just stood in front of the mirror, looking at herself. I wonder what she was thinking --

Everything's a blur, but I remember her presence -- everyone's presence. Olive was kind and gentle -- pouring water on my arm, wetting a cold wash cloth to drape over my head. My husband was my strength and comfort -- the feel of his skin on my cheek and the strength of his embrace. My mother was my reassurance -- talking calmly and soft. And my midwife was there to guide me. She never interrupted the flow and gave me space so that my body could guide me. 

 I remember my mother giving birth. I remember sitting and waiting. I wasn't afraid. And neither was Olive. I hope that I have given her a respect for birth - respect for the strength of women - and the power of bringing life into this world. Birth is intense, messy and loud but there is so much beauty and power within it. As my sister said "you are moving the earth" The most incredible gift. Life.

Connect with Mary Grace through her Instagram @msmarygrace

Women's Circles: The Alchemy of Community

Klara Miller

Words and self portrait by Alison Love

In the beginning there were circles. Since ancient times, humans on this planet have engaged in circle work; huddling around the fire, sitting as a tribe and gathering as a community. Our history and future is women gathering in circle.

Circle work is not a definitive name labeled by any one path or lineage. It is a multidimensional path that is as simple as sitting in circle, and it available to us all. It serves as a door and portal to human history, a place for learning, prayer, practice, governance, ritual, celebration, remembering and most importantly, BEing. In this unique, modern time we are in a resurgence of women remembering who we are. We are awakening to our truth,  remembering that we are sovereign beings with the right to live our truth and our path as humans. Circle work is a supportive component of this awakening.

My own history with circles is rich and still expanding. In my early years, the desire to gather and circle was innate, whether a sewing circle in my high school Home Ec class, smoking a joint as a teenager in the parking lot, or a knitting group from my daughter's school. Circles have been a way that women naturally gather. We share in-depth stories of our lives, as a way of making meaning and understanding ourselves through the eyes and reflections of others. Storytelling, caring for others, listening, celebrating milestones, and honoring many of life’s thresholds and initiations are a part of our humanness and womanhood. In circle, we can return to the power of coming together, a tangible manifestation of the communal web that has been and can be a vehicle for collective transformation.

In my early thirties, it became clear to me that gathering in circle is a multidimensional path. After divorcing myself from community living for 10 years, I was searching for what spirituality meant for me. I had thrown the baby out with the bathwater and wasn’t interested in chanting, yoga or much of anything I had known and done. A friend of mine introduced to me medicine ceremonies. These ceremonies threw away the notion of the hierarchical guru, books of teachings and formal practice as I knew it, and allowed me to connect directly with God and ultimately myself. Being in a circle made sense, without having the proper language to explain my experience, I just knew it made sense. The accessibility of spirit was in the nature of all things, the circle itself, the medicine man/woman holding space, the participants bringing prayers, our pain, suffering, song, celebration, and music!The connection of life came alive from the relationship with the earth, her voice, her rhythm. My connection to this was instant.

We are living in a unique time that calls for ancient practices together with our inner technology to come alive for our souls and bodies to thrive on the planet. With this we are seeing the resurgence of women’s circles from feminine empowerment, to mother and bridal blessingways. For each interest, circles are sprouting up to support them. Women's Circles hold space and gives space for organic wisdom to arise, for the spontaneous to occur that only happens when women gather together.  Natural magic unlocks in each person that attends, whether you're the participant, the facilitator, or host. When attended consistently, there are breakthroughs, gifts, a healing, guidance, and bonds forged. At every circle I have attended, I have always left with more than I came with. I have gone away being more myself, more because I shared, more because I showed up, more because I met someone else’s needs, more because I danced wildly, laughed hysterically, or cried. Ultimately women's circles give permission for me to be me, and you to be you. Sometimes the benefits are immediate. Others are not so quickly translated, they are a time-released capsule that slowly and gently breaks the barriers of the heart. Circles call forth the feminine voice, the one that is receptive, allowing, sensual, creative, wild, and alive! The circle gently restores each individual back to herself, helps us listen, gives permission, activates compassion, builds leaders, and awakens community.

So where is the alchemy? Have you ever had the same day over and over? Have you seen the moon the same way each and every day? Do you have children and do they grow up overnight and right in front of your eyes? There is not one circle that is the same, just as you are not the same every day. The circle changes as we change. Every time you show up to a circle it has a new offering, as do you. The alchemy is the melting pot of souls gathering with intention in sacred space. Women's Circle are a metaphorical cauldron, where we place our hurts, desires, wishes, heartbreaks and by offering them forth together with the hearts and voices of others, they are alchemized.

My suggestion is finding a group you can sit with weekly or monthly, but consistently. Find your rhythm. Find your circle. It may even find you.

In our fast-paced world, women's circles offers us a time to stop, slow down, and listen to deeper voices waiting to be heard. With intention our soul wisdom is called forward and amplified by the collective wisdom of the other souls who are called forth. We sit in agreement, we sit in conflict, we sit with what is. We sit with who comes, committed to a deeper understanding of who we really are and who they really are. Together we make agreements about the good of our circle, and in that we practice the skills our world and our planet most need: compassion, truth, and love. Circle is where we go to remember, who we are alone and who we are together.

Connect with author through Instagram- @alison_love_photo

Weaning With Love

Klara Miller

Words by Denise Watkins

Breastfeeding was never a question for me. I always started immediately in the hospital after my children were born. None of my children have ever had formula and did not drink milk from the bottle (except for on a couple of random occasions). I was always on tap. Always on call. We were attached at the nip.

I’ve never questioned the nourishment breastfeeding provides. There is nothing better for a child than their mother’s milk. I was fortunate that my body produced a great quantity which allowed me to breastfeed. And at 20 months, baby girl was still reaping the benefits.

And the bonding! Being able to provide such nourishment and comfort. We spent a lot of time in close proximity to each other. The twiddling. The acrobatics. The snuggles. The love. I never hesitated to feed my baby whenever she was hungry, whether that be in church or at the mall or in my home or yours, wherever, whenever.

Baby girl was 20 months old and still waking up a couple times a night for a feeding. And throughout the day she was nursing around the clock. I have tons of videos and pics of the smiles we exchanged, the blinking game we played, the falling asleep, the soothing when she was sick or needed comfort, and the poses she’d end up in – oftentimes upside-down or hanging off the side of the couch. There were countless doctor appointments, trips to the store, visiting guests, playdates, you name it, in which I was feeding throughout. And I snapped pics. Every. Single. Day. I cherish these times.

THE DECISION

I had no intention, no date in mind to stop breastfeeding. I had been ready though. And I knew baby girl was ready too.

We had gotten to a point where I was breastfeeding all day at any place. Even while I cooked or answered the door. We spent most of our time together. And usually if we were in close proximity to one another, I was breastfeeding even though baby girl ate table food very well. Breastmilk was no longer her main supplement but more of a snack.

Some children could be weaned to one or two feedings a day until gradually reducing. But with Eden it was all or nothing.

We had tried once before – spent a few days away. But when we got back, she picked up right where we left off, brought my milk supply right back, lol. And that was ok at that time. She wasn’t ready.

How do you know when your child is ready? You’re the mama and you know. You just know.

It was a Thursday night. I had this terrible nagging cough that kept me up most of the night. And in the minutes where my throat was calm, Eden had a restless night, woke up four times, then up for the day at 6:30am.

I knew then that I would not be able to function throughout the day if I were to nurse as usual – for us this would be around the clock, especially because baby girl hadn’t gotten much sleep and would nurse for comfort the majority of her waking hours.

This would drain the little energy I had left and I wouldn’t be at my best for myself and my family. I knew then, at 6:30 on this random Friday morning, that our breastfeeding days had come to an end. This wasn’t the reason why we stopped, just the indication.

PREP

We had a talk. I told her that she’s a big girl now and that she’d no longer drink milk from mommy’s breast. She said ok and just like that, my baby had grown into a big girl.

Truthfully, if she didn’t agree and actually make strides toward this, I’d still be breastfeeding today.

I felt that it was important to engage her and talk about this with her. These have been her breasts for almost two years. She’s a big girl now and it was important to respect that. I made it our decision, not just mine.

TRANSITIONING

Now, don’t get me wrong. There were tears involved. She had one fit. It was about an hour or so after our talk. I think the reality had set in. She wanted it and I didn’t give in. I reminded her that she was a big girl and mommy’s milk was all gone. I held her and asked if I could hug her. I rocked her in my arms and she was soothed. The last thing I wanted to do was rip her comfort away. So I made sure to provide her with the same level of comfort and love to ease the transition. I had plenty of snacks and small meals prepared to offer her at the times when she’d normally be ready for her milk. And I gave her plenty of hugs and snuggles. I even made up and sang a “big girl now” song.

POST CARE

The breast discomfort during this phase is similar to that in the first few weeks of beginning to breastfeed.

Stopping cold turkey has its challenges on the body. Milk just doesn’t stop automatically, though it does slow down to a gradual end. The first day was a breeze. On the second day, my breasts were getting full. And on the third day, I was engorged. I pumped a little to ease the discomfort on those two days – just enough, around 1 ounce. I also wore comfortable sports bras with nursing pads. After that, I didn’t feel my milk coming in anymore. By the fifth day I felt like I had rocks in my chest (clogged ducts). I had 3-5 of them in each breast as my milk slowly leaked out over the course of ten days. Each day I’d feel the lumps travel closer to my nipples then leak. To help ease the discomfort, my husband gently massaged them each night before bed. By the morning they were noticeably better and I had some leakage throughout the day (Days 5-9). On the tenth day I woke up and had my breasts back. No more sensitivity, no more lumps, no more milk.

NEW ROUTINE

The other day baby girl had a flashback and said “milk?” and I replied “You’re a big girl now. No more mommy’s milk.” And she laughed and fell into my chest and gave me a big hug. Just memories now. Great ones.

She’s eating more foods now, but she’s also getting hungry now. You see, throughout our breastfeeding journey, she always had my milk on demand – as soon as she’d wake up, before bed, between naps, in the middle of the night, at Target, on the plane, at Disney, you name it. She had never been hungry before. So, physiologically her body is going through changes that she may not emotionally understand yet. She’s had a couple of fits of frustration, not realizing that she was hungry, particularly in the morning between the time when she’d wake up and breakfast.

I thought nap time would be a challenge because I’d normally nurse her to sleep, but it wasn’t. We’ve replaced the breast with hugs and snuggles. And I have to say – she falls asleep faster, not necessarily in my arms, is so much more independent, and seems a lot happier. She was ready for this! Instead of feeding her to sleep, I simply hold and snuggle her and she falls asleep in minutes! I didn’t want to go from feeding her to sleep to just putting her in bed cold turkey; I want her to know that mama’s love is still right here accessible to her.

Then tonight, on our three week anniversary, I held her before bed. Two minutes in, she leaned away, pointed at her bed, and wanted to go to it. So I gave her a big ole hug and kiss, said goodnight, and tucked her in.

WHAT’S NEXT

My big girl is so much more independent now. She’s eating more and trying new foods. She’s more receptive to leaving my lap and trying new things. She’s falling asleep on her own. I’m looking forward to new milestones. I couldn’t grasp the idea of potty training before; now it doesn’t seem so challenging.

Connect with the author through her Instagram @loccrush

A Nest of Our Own

Klara Miller

Words by Genevieve Slonim, photographed by Jael Porat

Growing up, I was never considered a person of color, but at the same time, I didn't consider myself white. Not in the way my friends would talk about 'white people' at least. My ethnicity is Italian, Irish, and Mexican. I had one of those looks where no matter where I was growing up, people asked me, 'Are you Hawaiian?’ 'Are you half Japanese?' ' Are you Indian?'... because I had that Disney whitewashed Pocahontas look that meant I blended in everywhere. My classmates and neighborhood were a mix of Black, Asian, Irish and Mexican. I felt like I was a part of everything (without having to pay any societal penalty for being a person of color).

I am definitely white and have never faced institutional discrimination, structural racism or prejudice in any form. However because of my own family struggles growing up facing domestic violence, financial insecurities, and other experiences of being powerless, I have always looked to people of color as a source of inspiration on how to prevail despite forces against you. Maybe for this reason I have always fought racism and been aware of all the subtle and overt ways it manifests itself.

Growing up in San Francisco with such importance placed on diversity, Ethnic Studies, and just the fact that I only lived and went to school in mixed areas, I never considered Jewish being a different culture. Most Jews I knew were Buddhist. It just wasn't exotic or even worth considering as a 'culture' to understand or adopt to. Years later when I met my husband and I found out he was Israeli, the first question I asked him was “Do you know what Israel did to the Palestinians today” and started talking about the Occupation. He kind of smirked and said, “No, I've been surfing in the Dominican Republic for the past few months.” Later I found out that after being a soldier he joined the Refusenik group and was and remains very politically active against the Occupation and is for peace building.

We lived in Barcelona for a few years in a very international group of friends from Pakistan, Israel, all of Europe, and a few from America. Race as I had known it was transcended as we had a very diverse group of international friends, different 'races', different colors, different languages, different customs, but all of us young and cool and living in Barcelona. Years later after our daughter was born in Barcelona, we made the decision to move to Israel.

Immediately after moving to Israel it was the first time in my life I experienced being a minority. Israel is very 'ethnically' diverse. There are Jewish people from Iran, Tunisia, Europe, Morocco, Iraq, Yemen, Ethiopia and a fourth of the population within Israel are Palestinian Arab. There is also a large number of the Jewish population here (including my husband's family) who are indigenous, meaning they have never left and returned. My husband's grandparents were born here under Turkish rule during the Ottoman Empire and his mother’s family was here before the 'State of Israel' under British Mandate for Palestine as minorities within a largely Palestinian area. That changed with the illegal migration of Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, and the conflict between Jews and Arabs for land control quickly broke out and sadly hasn't ended. As far as color or look Israel is the most diverse and ethnic place I have ever been to in all my travels, but the dominant culture here is still Jewish.

I was asked daily if I am Jewish. I was asked in the security at airports if I have my own family here, while standing next to my husband and children. I have been called many derogatory names, wasn't able to get married here as a non­-Jew, and have had it explained to me that by intermarrying I am harming the Jewish people. I moved to a place where everything, the national anthem, the holidays, the traditions, is focused solely on the hopes, dreams and values of the Jewish people without something universal that I can relate to. At the same time the Palestinian population is larger than the African American and South American population in the US combined. They equally have a language, dress code, customs and traditions that are rich and beautiful, but only accessible to me from afar.

It took a lot of adjustment for me here. Starting the work and school week on a Sunday. Holidays based on the Jewish calendar and not the Gregorian with no Christmas, Thanksgiving or Halloween. I went through a period of wanting to be called 'Gen' instead of Genevieve to make it less obvious that I wasn't Jewish. So that I wouldn't be left out, or have assumptions made about me. I had to get used to being categorized within a group, not by my individual actions. People would make associations and assumptions about how non­-Jewish people have acted historically towards Jews and accept that, and as far as I personally felt from this history, I was still placed in the 'suspect' category. As my children grew up I would get used to their friends saying, “Well, your mom is not Jewish”, and wonder if my broken Hebrew embarrassed them.

I'm not sure when but at a certain point I began embracing the diversity of our family. I returned to the high value diversity that was in San Francisco. I realized that my outsider/insider status has allowed me to become friends with both Palestinians and Jewish people and I don't carry the historical burden they both have. I realized I have a very unique perspective and it is up to me to define how I relate to the Jewish culture. I began to light candles on Shabbat, do the ceremonial bath, the Mikveh, listen to Arabic music on the radio while driving, pepper my English with Hebrew and Arabic. I learned to love both of these rich cultures and feel deeply for their histories and struggles. Jewish people hold a heavy collective trauma from the Holocaust which is still being processed and the Palestinians in the Territories are suffering under Occupation.

Within all this background we have embraced our diversity as a family. It is a core value that guides us. My children see and experience the world through diverse experiences and perspectives. Diversity is not easy. It requires more than saying 'we are one'. It requires making space for the distinct experiences and stories of different people who often have conflicting values. By focusing on equality, belonging, and a willingness to accept our differences, what is universal between us is strengthened and real diversity is possible. 

Connect with author through Instagram- @genevieve.family

ANCIENT WOMEN’S WISDOM FOR HONORING YOUR WOMB

Klara Miller

Written by Sierra Brashear  
Photography by Stepha Lawson

Yoni.

“Yoni” (योनि) is a Sanskrit word meaning "vagina", "womb", “goddess” or "origin of life". The yoni is the seat of the female consciousness, the sacred womb space within each of us from which we vision, create and birth our dreams.   

For countless women, a deep connection to the power of the yoni, and the tools for keeping her cycle in a healthy rhythm, have become an allusive mystery. Lost amidst generations of patriarchy and a modern medical industry largely dominated by men, the ancient women’s wisdom that honors and supports our monthly blood seems to have fallen secret.

Yet the yoni does not allow any of us to truly forget – she cries out. She seeks our love and she seeks our attention. And when she does not feel heard, we experience her cries as discomfort within our womb. Many of us feel her cries in the form of cramps and exhaustion associated with our periods, others struggle with fertility, abnormal uterine growths, or pain during sex.

Ladies, this kind of discomfort is a sign that it’s time to listen to your yoni.

It’s time for the sacred mother lineage that carries the wisdom of the feminine spirit to re-emerge in order for us to experience true wellbeing and live as our most vibrant selves. This is essential so that we may heal our wombs, and with them, our communities and the planet.

Just as our grandmothers intended, the ancient women’s wisdom that re-connects us to our sacred cycle, and gracefully heals us from the inside, is simple. These natural remedies are not only simple, they are accessible to each of us. They do not require years of education, expensive spa treatments, or even doctors. Many women’s folk remedies can be practiced from home, returning our healing and pampering back to our own hands, where it belongs.

One beautifully simple, women’s healing treatment is called yoni steaming.

Yoni steaming is a powerful ancient remedy that has been used for centuries by women worldwide to support deep feminine wellness. Also known as vaginal steaming, chai-yok (Korea), or bajo (Guatemala, Mexico & Belize), yoni steaming is a holistic health practice in which a woman allows the warmth of herbal steam to gently permeate the exterior of her vagina.

Yoni steaming is a self-care treatment that provides effective support for the female reproductive system, improving menstrual health and fertility, and providing detoxification and relaxation for the body and mind. Using this simple home remedy, countless women have ended years of painful menstruation, achieved the dream of conceiving a child, or released trauma stored in their womb. In Maya-land, midwives traditionally utilize yoni steaming as a postpartum treatment, supporting the yoni to cleanse and heal itself after birth. Yoni steaming can also be enjoyed as a practice for deepening the connection to the feminine spirit of the womb, to cultivate positive sexual energy and access the creative potential that lies deep within.

Is your yoni calling out for some loving attention? What is she telling you, and how can you respond to her call?

Heal your womb with a yoni steam at home.

The yoni steaming process is easy. Here’s how to treat yourself to this delightful self-care ritual:

  1. Simmer 1 heaping cup yoni steaming herbs in 2 quarts of water with the lid on for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat for 5 minutes.

  2. Carefully pour the herbs and water into a 3-quart stainless steel or glass bowl, and place this in the bottom of a 5-gallon pail.

  3. Place a yoni steam seat over the top of the pail, disrobe from the waist down and sit on the seat. The steam should feel warm on your skin, but not hot (if it feels too hot, stand up so as to avoid burns). Wrap blankets around your legs and body to hold the heat in. Staying warm through the process is essential.

  4. Sit in place with your yoni enjoying the gentle steam for 20-30 minutes as you meditate, read or journal, allowing the steam to gently work.

  5. Afterwards, lay down in a warm bed for at least an hour, or preferably for the entire night. Place your hands on your womb, and send loving, healing intentions into her as you drift into a blissful sleep.

Honor the practice by knowing how to yoni steam safely and effectively.

Anytime we give ourselves and our precious bodies a treatment at home, we should be sure to do our research and listen to our intuition. As you consider trying a yoni steam at home, be aware that a yoni steam should not be done under certain circumstances, including: in the case of pregnancy, during menstruation, or with any kind of intrauterine device (IUD). It is also wise to avoid yoni steaming in the case of an acute infection, illness or fever, or in the case of open wounds or inflammation. Finally, exercising simple caution during yoni steaming will help you to avoid burns. Never yoni steam with a continuous heat source, and test the temperature of the steam with the back of your hand before exposing your sensitive vaginal tissue. The steam should feel pleasantly warm, and you should immediately move away from the steam if it feels too hot.

To support you to steam at home, you should use a carefully crafted blend of yoni steaming herbs. The Vibrant Souls Devi Steam™ blend contains 100% organic aromatic, toning and healing herbs, some rare, all of which healers and midwives have used throughout history to support the female reproductive system.

Vibrant Souls also offers a unique yoni steam seat. This handcrafted wooden seat is the perfect size for any woman to steam using the method described above, and can be stored easily in a closet or cabinet. The seat is handmade from Baltic-birth wood in the Vibrant Souls family workshop in Colorado.

We invite you to use the exclusive Tribe de Mama coupon code for you next order of yoni steaming herbs, yoni steam seat or herbal tonics from Vibrant Souls. Enter TRIBEDEMAMA at checkout to save 15% on your order.

The time to heal our wombs is now.

It is time for women to light up our innate wisdom, activate our true power, and engage at the highest level we can in order to meet the challenges faced on the planet. As carriers of the divine feminine, this potential to make change lies within our sacred womb space. Yet, for too long, we’ve been disempowered when it comes to listening to and caring for our yoni and her cycles.

Today, countless women are recalling the wisdom of our grandmothers. With simple, accessible home remedies like yoni steaming, our generation is taking feminine health and wellbeing back in to our own hands. And the world will be better for it.

Sierra Brashear, MA, is founder of Vibrant Souls, a wellness company that makes organic yoni steaming herbs and nourishing herbal tea blends available to women around the world. Through Vibrant Souls, Sierra also offers doula care, placenta encapsulation and belly henna services to the Boulder, Colorado community. She is currently studying to become a Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine with Alakananda Ma at Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula.

www.soulvibrance.com