Hearth,  Permaculture

A Permaculture Pregnancy

Fresh out of my PDC (Permaculture Design Course), and seven months pregnant, it’s no wonder these two subjects have been taking up my thoughts. When we think of Permaculture, it’s typically in the realms of gardening, land management, and the household. I’ve been curious about applying it to pregnancy as well, and the easiest way for me to do that is to go back to the twelve Permaculture Principles.

Principle 1: Observe and interact

It’s no surprise that pregnancy changes your body in all sorts of ways. I’ve had quite a rough time of it with most of the symptoms coming my way, but despite the aches and pains, and all-day-sickness which still hasn’t quite left, it has been a beautiful time as well. Permaculture teaches us to stop with our daily rush, take things slow, and just observe, and pregnancy is a perfect time for that. Even before I could feel this little one moving constantly, I could take time, rest, and bond with my baby knowing she was there. That gets even easier once you can feel the baby moving around and then reacting to your gentle touches, light, and sound. If we don’t take time to stop and enjoy it, this precious time can go by so quickly!

Another aspect of this is simply observing our own bodies and making sure we don’t “overdo it.” That will look different for everyone. For me, even though baby is happy, healthy, and growing very well, my body has taken such a toll that I’m now at the point where I can’t spend much time on my feet, and even lifting small things can put strain on my joints and muscles. I can’t wait to get back into the garden and to be able to work on all the projects I have in mind, but now is not the time. Instead, I can use this time to learn, rest, and slowly strengthen my body with gentle exercises.

Principle 2: Catch and store energy

When I moved into the second trimester, and started to feel better, I was shocked at how inspired I was to take on big projects. Here I was, after seven weeks of being completely couch-bound due to nausea, and having lost 10kg and a fair amount of my muscle mass, and I was clearing out storage sheds, moving things around the property, and having a go at whatever I could! Now, our house is undergoing major renovations, so I feel like if baby’s room had’ve been ready for me, I would’ve been right in there decorating and getting it prepared…as it stands though, I had to direct that energy somewhere! I’m glad I did use it, as these days I’m definitely not able to do as much. That being said, when I have good days where I’m feeling up to doing things, I make sure to use that time wisely, preparing meals, getting through the laundry, and the like. This also goes hand in hand with using the down-time wisely so after baby is here and I do start feeling able to do more, I know exactly what I should be working on in the garden for example.

With baby being born the end of August (the end of winter here), we know that this Spring probably won’t be our most productive garden-wise. All our time and attention will be spent taking care of our new little human and ourselves, learning what it’s like to be a family of three! So with that in mind, we’ve planted our garden out with a lot of cover crops and plants that won’t need much care from us at all. That way the soil can still work, and be ready for us when we’re ready to get back to it.

Principle 3: Obtain a yield

The biggest yield I can think of at this time is baby herself! One way or another, she’ll be arriving 🙂 Some people don’t want to know much about labour so they don’t have to worry about it, but for me, the more I know, the more prepared I feel. I’ve spent a lot of time over the previous months reading, watching documentaries, and listening to podcasts of all types of birth stories. I know how I would like the obtaining of that yield to go — preferably a natural birth with as little medical intervention as possible — but I also understand that things don’t always go the way we would like, and the situation could change. I’m at peace with that. Time will tell how the actual obtaining of our little yield will go, but I feel as prepared as I could be for it, and not scared about it in the slightest. I’m excited to see what my body can do, and what that day will bring! Learning has helped bring me peace during the pregnancy, so that has also become a yield in itself, gaining benefit during the process, not just at the end.

Principle 4: Apply self-regulation & accept feedback

Something I could definitely do better with! The better nutrition food I can give my body now, is the better building blocks that I’m giving my baby. Sometimes that’s easier said than done! Without a proper kitchen while in renos, and no running water in the house besides the tap in the bathtub, it hasn’t been the easiest job making sure we’re only eating meals that are good for us. The best thing for this has been getting an organic fruit and veggies box dropped off to us from local farms each week, which forces Mr Birdcat and I to eat through everything knowing that the next supply is coming just around the corner! I can still do better with this though, in cutting out more of the sweets that I crave (it’s not me, it’s the baby wants sweets! ;P ) and filling up on healthy goodness.

We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.

permacultureprinciples.com

Principle 5: Use & value renewable resources & services

One thing that I was very excited to find in our local community was a free cloth nappy library service funded by the local council. I was already looking forward to using cloth nappies, but having this library resource available and making use of it has made it that much easier, and me that much more confident in this decision. I can go there with my questions, and borrow different sizes as baby grows. It’s great for me to use, but also benefits the rest of the community by supporting these sort of programs. If no one showed up, they’d have no reason to keep running them! Our community also has a number of “Mums and Bubs” groups which I’m looking forward to taking part in when baby is here. I’m so thankful to have these resources available, even in a little town.

Principle 6: Produce no waste

Cloth nappies are one way to produce no waste once baby is here, but are there ways to produce no waste specifically when it comes to pregnancy? There are so many ways to cut down our waste from things like stopping single use plastics to putting our grey water to good use and the like, but those can all be done without being pregnant. My biggest waste produced has been the packaging of easy meals during this time. Instead, I should be cooking much bigger batches of food and freezing them when I have the energy so we don’t need to rely on outside conveniences. Another thing that I’ve been conscious of is in my shopping. It can be so easy to get caught up in cute baby things, but that’s no good if those things could easily break or become useless in a short amount of time. Same with things for myself — I prefer to find solutions with things I already have (like sleeping with cushions arranged to help me instead of getting a specific pregnancy pillow). I’m sure there are more ways to produce no/less waste during pregnancy and I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

Principle 7: Design from patterns to details

Applying patterns would probably be the hardest part of Permaculture for me to get my head around. I can observe and recognise them, but using that information is another thing entirely! When it comes to designing from patterns to details, there are some things I can easily apply, however…

The pattern I would like to mimic is pregnancy and birth as we see it in nature. As mentioned in Marie Mongan’s Hypnobirthing book, no one has to teach a cat for example how to labour, it just comes naturally. They just know. Likewise, our bodies know how to give birth. This seems the opposite for what I mentioned earlier about learning as much as I could about the process, but doing that I feel will allow me to trust my body and my baby. Take my mind out of the equation. A natural mammal birth is the pattern, and then the details fall into place behind it. I’ll be giving birth in the hospital, but I’ll be taking full advantage of things like the lights being dimmed and asking for a calm environment in my birth plan, just like a cat loves to find a quiet dark safe space to have her kittens. I can provide my body with the best nutrients leading up to birth, and prepare in other ways like prenatal yoga to teach myself to easily come to that calm state. I also plan to cut out my blue light exposure the month leading up to her due date so it’s one less thing potentially interrupting those important hormones from doing their jobs. The details support the pattern. Now to see how it actually goes!

Principle 8: Integrate rather than segregate

I didn’t understand the value of community and the effect of not having it until I became pregnant. I’m quite lucky in having a great amount of friends around me even after moving to the other side of the world, but I have definitely felt the lack of close community living in a typical Western/Australian culture. During this time I’ve become closer with some older ladies which I knew before, but didn’t have too much to do with, and it’s been fantastic for me. We all update each other during the day through a group chat of the little things we’re working on or what’s been going on in our lives. Doing something like baking cookies and dropping them off at someone’s house is definitely out of my comfort zone, but for them is just the normal thing to do when thinking of someone.

Before connecting with this group, I felt like there was a lack of old motherly wisdom from the community around me, and what better time to find it! We can benefit so much from inter-generational connections which I feel have been lost in a lot of cases. It wasn’t a hard thing for me to find, I just had to be open to it and pursue it. The group of them already had their chat coming along, I just happened to hear about it and ask if I could join. They weren’t too sure to begin with as they thought they were too old for me, but it has worked out very well for everyone. In Permaculture everything works together, and community is right in there with everything else no matter what form it takes.

Principle 9: Use small and slow solutions

Patience (and the lack of it) has been a theme through my life, even before my pregnancy, and moreso now. I like to do and buy things now, not wait! Listening to those impulses brings me stress. I can sometimes feel that if something isn’t finished straight away I get stressed, but nothing brings more stress than rushing or spending lots of money just for a quick outcome to something that didn’t really need it. My instinct is to rush out and buy lots of baby clothes, toys, gear, etc, but so much better has come from slowly gathering things locally secondhand. I’m feeling very prepared for baby’s arrival in terms of solutions — stuff. We don’t have any fancy gadgets, just plain and simple, and it hasn’t broken our bank either.

Principle 10: Use and value diversity

One thing that most pregnant women experience is unsolicited advice…from everyone about everything! Some comments especially at the start really hurt me even though they thought they were just being helpful. I’ve now learned to sift through that advice and find the good things. In the end, decisions on things will come down to Mr Birdcat and myself, but everyone has a different walk of life and that diversity can teach us too. I don’t only listen to birth stories that are a certain way that I want, but find a lot of value in listening to stories of all types. In Permaculture gardens, having that diversity brings strength to the property as a whole. Permaculture pregnancy is no different, and not relying on a sole resource can help bring strength there too.

Principle 11: Use edges & value the marginal

Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path

At the start of this pregnancy with all my fears and low pain tolerance, I was certain that I’d be having a well-medicated birth with an epidural and whatever else they could give me. The stories I had heard convinced me that that was just the normal thing to do anyway, and sounded like the easiest for everyone involved. Diving deeper into it has showed me that it is not so! Now, I do want to say I’m not against epidurals or anything if I find that I need any of it — I’ve never been through labour before so have no idea how it will go — but I don’t want to just do something because that’s what everyone else around me does.

I live in a little Australian town, and hospital care is completely covered. Unfortunately homebirth isn’t an option that is covered or well supported here, otherwise I’m pretty sure that that’s the direction I would go. As it stands, I want to labour as long as I can at home, and then go to the hospital when it is time (I’m lucky that it’s only five minutes around the corner), spending as least amount of time there as I can. Even though homebirth isn’t a good option for us right now, I would like that style of birth mimicked as much as possible while in the hospital setting. I don’t want to be hooked up to machines or given any medications if it can be helped and that may not be the right choice for someone else either! It’s so important that we make our own informed decisions with everything in life, and not just do things because that’s what everyone else does.

Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

If there’s one theme I’ve seen running through this post it’s that change is happening, and bigger change is on its way. Change isn’t a bad thing either! We learn and grow, just as our new baby will change our lives and learn and grow herself, ever changing. Each time is something to be cherished and then we respond accordingly to the next thing that comes our way. Pregnancy is no different than any other aspect, if anything, it’s easier to see that change and act on it. We prepare for the change to come, while also knowing that we aren’t sure what it might bring — will she be a good sleeper? etc. This is a great time to practice responding to that change and remaining flexible so those practices are useful in other parts of our life as well.

Do any of these principles really resonate with you? How have you used them in your daily life, not necessarily with the typical Permaculture themes? I’d love to read your stories in the comments below!

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