Category Archives: life lessons

My Journey to Birth Psychology

Last month, I was encouraged to share my story with PPNE training classmates in the Classwomb Newsletter. It’s always interesting to find “key moments” in life’s complex, winding journey. And they’re ever-changing as we heal & grow. But, here’s the article I wrote from my vantage point today.

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​Years ago, I lived in a little California town where, as soon as people saw my baby bump poking out from my hippy dress, they started suggesting homebirth midwives. The most common name I heard happened to be a lovely, wise woman who insisted I read certain books and attend several sessions at BEBA.  Her tools gave me insight into my own birth patterns and shifted my paradigm around birth and society.

Another kind woman from my writers’ circle taught me about joy in pregnancy. She traveled many miles – and brought a friend – to meet me for lunch. They listened to me and shared literature about birth psychology. They smiled a lot and I could see they really cared about my child. And me. And the world.

I was invited to spend a day at the APPPAH Congress in Los Angeles. It was filled with people who spoke about my inner world. My quiet sense about our consciousness at every age (and the tenderness we deserve) was common knowledge there. I could tell… no one was afraid of birth or babies.

My daughter’s birth was beautiful. We had challenges too, that brought lessons we still practice today. She is a spirit light in the world. Fierce, compassionate, and wise.

We moved to the city. My son was born there. I was very scared to give birth in the city. Everywhere, people told awful stories. They thought I was crazy for having an un-medicated homebirth. I struggled with my own non-labor c-section history. And felt angry at society for its cruelty toward birth and children.

My son is a force of nature. He throws a fist to the sky at injustice and has done so since he was inside. His power calls me to action for the children.

When he was just a babe, I began praying for direction on how to be part of the movement for change. Remembering the women who came to see me in Ojai, I dug out the old APPPAH papers they’d given me and I signed up for the newsletter. Several months later, I learned the PPNE program would be starting soon and I began my studies at the first financial opportunity.

Weaving PPNE training into my life can be hard. Sometimes all I want is to study. Other times, it’s too much to integrate and raise my children. The patterns of life are all around me. It is my daily reality. But I think that’s why I love it most. I can be in my life and part of the movement for change. I get to visit with other families and hear their stories. I get to share bits of what I learn everywhere I go and learn something new everyday.

It seems many quiet voices have led me toward PPN as part of their own journeys. Or maybe I sought them out unconsciously… unaware that I was already on my path. Either way, birth psychology has proven to be an awesome adventure!

Do You Need More Support?

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Life’s major changes tend to expose our weaknesses and give us a pressure-cooker opportunity for growth and self-reflection. I learned a difficult lesson around this with the birth of my daughter. Although her birth was “easy”, the scorching summer heat, and her mother’s stress and isolation left Kiya not getting enough milk. Because we did not have layers of support in a critical time – through my own lack of awareness of that basic need – we struggled on alone without knowing how to look for a solution.

We’ve moved on from that time with many powerful tools that help heal the traumas of that experience. We grow together as a family and, today, I actively seek the willingness to be supported… for the benefit of my entire lineage. I see people everyday trying to “go it alone” on one level or another. There’s usually some pride in it and always suffering. And mostly, tyranny of the urgent reigns where life’s most vulnerable aspects are concerned.

But, we can be more strategic in Big Times if we practice developing tools in Whatever Times. We need layers of support around us everyday in order to thrive – people we can look to who care for us and can help if needed; loved ones, allies who can sense when we’re not okay and have our permission to do something for our benefit. Even and especially with the littlest things. A knowing phone call. A meal. A walk around the block. A job to do. Whatever it might be.

Our out-dated “rugged individualism” model measures success by one’s ability to live without layers of support. The resulting psychological, emotional and social isolation generates a lonely, irritable, suspicious, heavily medicated culture afraid to seek the connections needed for happiness.

Collectively, we can begin to change this right now – mold a more effective future with every encounter. As we grow our families, met new neighbors and craft new business success strategies, we can make sure our alliances meet a deeper need for connection and support. Not just one of profit or utility. These small, daily steps on an individual level, create a better foundation for every child born, every company built, and every society reshaped from a need that had gone unmet.

For me, the journey always begins with facing my own need to be loved, seen clearly, and not alone. To push against the isolating barriers in my own society. To reach for my inherent right to belong and feel connected. To be present to the life right in front of me. When I do this, I feel human again, unafraid and fully empowered to love. And my children can feel it right away. That’s worth its weight in gold to me.

Homeschool River Guidance

DSC_6667tonedwebOur days are full of adventure, fun projects, creative exploration, and time in nature. No reason to complain – only to celebrate. But, my own nervous system has four decades of The Forty-Hour Week training – a completely linear, controlled, externally time-managed reality where even my bladder has to answer to someone or something for permission to follow its instincts.

So, fridays often find me pacing around the kitchen waiting for my tea to warm up, plagued with the feeling of not-enoughness. The to-do list in my mind is longer than my life and I’m only now learning to burn the list whenever necessary. It’s like a weed in my monkey-mind and grows back again. Meanwhile, Kiya – undisturbed by my turbulent inner moment – is usually busy building something like her play-dough-based production set for an upcoming kids’ youtube how-to video – shooting set for some unknown time in the near future. Kiya’s goals and dreams matter deeply to her, but she isn’t burdened by the need to meet an artificial timeline. She intuitively trusts the process of her life.

Our homeschool journey can be medicine for my anxious tendencies with its gentle, forgiving pace and open-hearted inquiry into life. And… it’s usually a crazy rafting trip through the wilderness of our family’s imagination – ever-changing without collective consent!

We will be cruising along for awhile in a wonderful flow, everyone happy, getting along, ‘learning’, ‘growing’, doing our own thing together. Then some big boulder – sore throats, growing pains, bad news, staying up too late watching movies, running out of the only-good-cereal-ever made, or just not getting to do what we want right now – knocks us into the rapids. Oars fly out, bags in the water, kids screaming, parents ranting. It’s a mess.

By the time I’ve collected myself and all of our oh-so-important-gear (whatever that is), the rest of our tribe is already wandering off into the woods following the call of an owl or the smell of lavender. I’m a mess. What about our ‘plan’? Our agenda? What if someone sees us ‘off-track’? Usually I’m near tears before I catch up to Rob & the kids. What are they doing now?!

And, as usual, they’re fine. Everyone is fine. And happy. There they are – crouched together in the forest, discussing the evolution of moss, photosynthesis, the importance of loving even the mean, ugly creatures, or something little like the healing power of light as it dances off a nearby branch.

On a good day, I feel Success Is Upon Us!! It’s really happening, learning is everywhere all the time. I don’t have to worry! I can trust the process of life! If anxiety wins, this Momma won’t calm down until we’re back in ‘the boat’ heading safely and predictably down the ‘education’ river again. Whatever that means. Either way, by the time the kids are asleep and I’m sinking into my pillow, the truth of my lucky life finds me again. I can’t stop the learning. I can’t really control its direction or what passion might dictate in the hearts of my children. I can only suit up everyday and be willing to get in the boat. Try to remember my camera, notepad, some snacks for when we get hungry, enjoy the water… and get ready to swim.

The Ugly Fish

Once again, I’ve come upon that lonely, murky pond where nothing seems to thrive but the delicate little herbs along its western shore. Their tiny dew soaked leaves glisten as the muddy roots whisper “grab me up and rub my soul over the wounds of yourself and all those you see!”

But, like a fish in a fitful, feverish dream, my fingers stick together, unable to reach for anything but themselves. I want to shout to the world “I’ve seen something new! I’ve realized something unique! I know it can help you AND me!” Silenced by every unanswered request, struck by each gust of wind in the lives that surround me, my intentions fail to manifest.

I feel life whispering something about the occasional uselessness of language, the meaninglessness of speaking that which can’t be understood. But I am not listening. I’m insisting on saying the things I need to say, confined by my need to release the pressure, hopelessly attached to the outcome of being heard from my core. In this sticky place, my phrases mean nothing to anyone but myself and my pride is the last to let go in its desperate attempt to exist and belong in the normal world.

Enraged, I scream and shake and lose my footing near the water’s edge. “No one can hear me. No one is listening. No one can see the theory behind my pain, merely the mechanics of my strain, ” I try to say. But the forest hears only a tiny whimper as I inhale before going under.

The icy water soothes burning nerves and collapses my tired lungs under the weight of my own unmet expectations. Finally, I exhale and the fighting is over. At last, my limp frame can drift down to the quiet place in the center of the pond, where all the ugly fish go.

“Ah, here you are!” the ugly fish say, catching me with their fins, filling my lungs with bubbles of fresh air.

“We’re so relieved you’ve come back! We’ve been yearning to hear your stories but the mud is so thick. It keeps us from understanding what you’re saying.”

“I didn’t think anyone could hear me!” I exclaim, astonished. “I didn’t think anyone was listening! I felt ashamed, angry and alone!” I cry and cry for hours and the water turns clear and warm. The ugly fish smile and suck at my face, drinking the tears. “I only got here because I lost myself.”

The ugly fish smile. They smile like only ugly fish can smile and tell me, “Isn’t that the only way we do get home most days?”

Because the truth is what’s most funny – I giggle and giggle until I can hardly see their faces through all my giggly bubbles. I giggle until I completely lose the need to take myself seriously. Until I can’t even remember what I thought was so important to say.

“Silly Stephie”, they say. “Silly me,” I agree. With this they scoop me up and set me upon a little rock covered in slippery green moss.

“Please tell us everything you have words to share. We really need to hear anything you really need to say.” I know what they’re saying is true and real because ugly fish don’t say things to please anybody. They don’t say anything they don’t need to say. And they always swim with ugly fish so everybody feels the same way.

I breathe in their bubbles and start from the beginning. And speak and breathe until both become easy for me. And when I’m relieved of the need to speak, I just breathe.

And when there’s nothing left, the ugly fish suck the last tears from my lashes, the last giggle from my lips and give me a gift only an ugly fish can give. They say, “You don’t need to be frightened of getting lost. It is a blessing, because it will always lead you home to us. Fall into the muck of life anytime you need to, Stephie. We will always be here, listening for your stories. We take these stories and weave them into the big Stories and tie them with the threads that unite all lives. We need your stories to keep weaving.”

And then they ask something from me, and I promise to do it. “Bring others’ stories from the world above whenever you come, too. Listen as we listen. Weave as we weave. Broaden the fabric that holds us all together. Live as a part of the whole… as you are a part of the whole.”

And I do and I will, ugly fish. Thank you. And I do and I will.

Gratitude for My Housemates

DSC_3526tonedwebTo PJ, Squaw, Cruiser, Maggie, Siva, Jenni, Jackie, Rob, Coda, Nick, Yellie, Rudy, Maizy, Brandon, Mona, Ryan, Matt, Jenn, Elyse, Mia, Kiya, Jason, the frogs and the fish.

Together you’ve seen me through divorce & several other major heartbreaks, deaths of friends & family, two cross-country moves and a couple local ones, job changes, body changes, lifestyle changes, spiritual changes, accomplishments, disappointments, sickness, wellness, dirty dishes, every possible emotion, and the birth of my child.

Never let it be said that living with others isn’t a supremely vulnerable experience. And that, my beloved housemates, represents the very best of love. And the very best of living.

Thank you for contributing to my life, my journey, and my sense of possibility.

Friends Make Change Easier

dsc_2295web3Sharing Kiya’s bloody lip ice pack

dsc_2297web4Kisses make booboos feel better

This last Halloween, Kiya’s friend Ruthie shared her extra fairy costume so they could both dress up for gym class. It’s a tiny tumblers for people 1.5 – 3 years old where little ones can run around and check out the gymnastic world. Ruthie loves it and sometimes Kiya does, too. They both really dig the trampoline!

These two photos remind me of how much each of them has changed in the last 10 months, and how much they’ve been through together: a dozen teeth, bumps, bruises, stolen toys and treats, endless disappointments from not getting what they want, missed naps, sun in the eyes on car rides, grumpy mommies, withheld breastfeeding moments, and so on. It’s hard being a small person, but it’s a lot easier and a lot more fun, too, with friends.

And that’s just one more gift Kiya and her friends have given me: community. We’re not alone on this human trip, even in our loneliest moments, and I’m so grateful for the loving wisdom and unexpected patience of friends.

When She’s Breathing

My sweet friend, Jennie, is resting now, breathing through contractions that come about 8-10 minutes apart. As her time to birth her child draws nearer, my own heart opens and softens to the Great Mystery that new life unfolds. Tears come, sorrow and joy fill my lungs, my nerves release excitement, fear, hope, expectation, all of these in waves of their own. Up and down. In and out. Over and over again in the part of life where there are no beginnings and nothing ever ends. It just keeps going.

We fear this open-endedness, most of us, but nowhere else is there found such abundant resolve, compassion, strength, love, and freedom. Such spaciousness. Because there’s no Where to go, no When to arrive, no How to do it correctly, and no Why to answer or explain. Everything just Is. It just is. We are just Here. Right now. Breathing. Being whatever, whomever, wherever we are. No one can solve or escape anything because nothing is wrong.

Jennie is so blessed to be in this realm, at home in the safe space she and her partner have created. She is so strong and so soft. It is Beauty beyond all that can be written. She is in the Wonder World where the midwives dwell. And I am so lucky to be here. Thank you, Jennie.

Our journeys are different, each woman and their child, and somehow, miraculously the same Universal trip. It brings my heart to gratitude for my own midwife and Midwives all. Below is a poem inspired by my own path with Kiya. I hope it gives a glimpse into the magic I’m blessed to witness now with this family.

“To My Midwife”

It’s just days away;
my baby’s first birthday.

To think, a year ago
we were on our way,
you and me and she and he,
to that magical Birthing Place

where caves of mothers-to-be
sing and laugh and cry and breathe.
And the Little Ones, pushing and turning,
make their brave way into Being.

And you and yours hold the space
for moms and dads and babes alike
as we find the rhythm and claim our place
among the Mothers, Fathers and Children of life.

Midwife, you nurture our wee ones
from belly and womb to the soft lit rooms
where you cradle their bodies with gentle hands,
bringing Ancient Mystery to our Everyday Lands.

But soon again, the Call becomes strong.
Then off you go from New Mother cove
following sounds of the next Birthing Song
and making your way down Midwifery Road.

So, now, as my Little One’s birthday arrives
I take a few moments while she sleeps
to feel again the magic of Birthing Time
still flowing through her and he and me.

I find myself grateful and a bit tearful, too.
For hello to my daughter meant goodbye to you.
But, I hold our journey in my heart – and try in my way –
to bring a little Midwifery Magic into her Everyday.