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Weaving the cloth of support through a woman's life, part 1: an overview of using fabric to support women throughout their lives.

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This morning I was writing the teaching plan for my new rebozo workshop when I had an epiphany: all the work I do, whether it being rebozo, closing the bones or baby wearing (read about that in the next parts of this blog), involves using a piece of cloth to support women. Then it hit me: it isn’t just about supporting expectant, new and more experienced mothers : the piece of cloth, traditionally, would have been used from cradle to grave, to support women at times of transition in their lives.

Let me explain: in pretty much all cultures on the planet, some kind of cloth has been used to cradle and carry a baby. In some cultures it would have been used to rock and soothe the baby too. Rocking is such a primal rhythm we all experienced it in our mother’s womb, that we find it soothing all through our lives. Later, when the baby grew into a toddler, she would have used the cloth to dress up, pretend play, make a den etc.

As the child grew into a young woman she would use the cloth as a shawl to keep warm, as a clothing accessory, a blanket, to carry siblings ( in traditional cultures women learn baby care from a very young age due to living in extended family conditions), and to carry loads.

It wasn’t just in the South American, African or Asian continent that women used such a cloth, it was all around the planet. Even in Europe-there are pictures of women wearing their babies in Welsh shawls which date from the 1940s (See http://celticbabycarrying.blogspot.co.uk/). As the shawl came out of fashion and modern practises like using s pushchair became seen as more fashionable and desirable this skill was soon lost, and because like most traditional women-only practises, it was just passed on orally rather than written about, the knowledge was lost very quickly.

Later still when she became a woman, she might have been given a shawl as part of a menarche ceremony. She might have worn a special cloth on her wedding day.

When she became pregnant, she would have used the shawl to support her belly, and her midwives would have used it to alleviate the aches and pains of pregnancy, and maybe to help the baby move into the best position for birth.

During labour she would have used the shawl to hang from, to pull on, and her birth attendants would have used it to provide comfort measures, such as sifting, rocking, and shaking the apples.

After the birth she would have had a “baby moon” period. Again this is something pretty much universal in the world-women the world around have been alleviated from household tasks and cared for by family members for the first 30 to 40 days postpartum so they could recover and get to know their baby and learn to care for them. Her birth attendants and “godsibs”and the village wise women would have come to feed her nourishing food, and close her bones and help her body heal from the pregnancy and birth by using  a combination of their hands, massage techniques and using the cloth to help move and bind her hips, organs and bones back into place.

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She then would have start to use the cloth to carry her baby and start the cycle all over again.

Later as she grew old, her family members would have used the cloth to rock and soothe aches and pain.

So you see, a traditional cloth, rebozo, shawl or cloth can be used to support a woman throughout her whole life. It is a universal phenomenon on our planet, something that we need to reclaim and teach all women, as it is part of the essence of women circles and supporting women through life transitions. This is why I am so passionate about passing this skills to both expectant and new mothers, and to anybody who works with expectant and new mothers. It is our birthright!

In my next posts, I will tell you more about the rebozo and how to use it specifically to support the expectant and labouring mother.

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