Category Archives: personal development

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!

How Was Your First Day?

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Every indigenous culture knew this: we are fully conscious beings before conception, all along our human journey, and beyond that. I’ve got a stack of books with decades-old scientific studies that verify this ancient knowledge. And still, I see people everyday treating small humans (in utero and in the world) as objects or not-very-smart-creatures who just need managing.

Maybe the reality of such big awareness packed in a tiny body is just too much for most of us. So we deal with our own overwhelm by minimizing their experience and racing along at our adult very-important-person-in-the-world pace. We prepare for their outer world arrival with lots of stuff (kind of like getting a desk and office supplies for the newbie in the office). We think about how we’re going to fit their training into our schedule in a way that doesn’t break our brains or the bank. (The newbie doesn’t know how to use the print-copy-fax-email-collate machine, but I have 12 meetings this week!)

How many times have we seen (or been) the ‘newbie’ on the job trying fit in, learn their role and navigate social politics, all while they try to find the bathroom and time clock? Some of us have managed to avoid that experience or have been completely supported through it. Some of us were also born into families that were inspired and elated by our amazing consciousness and held us tenderly through every milestone of development. High five to those folks!

For the rest of us, who weren’t gifted with that rare experience and came in as the newbie to families (or jobs) where everyone was just trying to survive the day… everyday. We can give the next newbie a better ride on the trip of life. When we feel their presence in the room, or see their awe-filled expressions, we can stop. Smile. Breathe. Feel the space inside our own skin. Tell them we’re so grateful they came, with all their gifts to share. And let them know we’re here to help them have the most awesome life on Earth they can imagine. Because everybody deserves that.

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.

In Movement, Goodbye for Now Ojai

Saturday afternoon found me flying solo at the coffee shop. Among the reader, writers, and chatters I noticed a man in the corner, eyes closed, face peacefully upturned to received the kiss of the gentle winter sun. He captivated me with his longing look of hopeful serenity. And then I had to smile. He was holding Total Freedom by Krishnamurti! Oh Ojai, no matter where I go, there you are…

I recall the dry, dusty smell of your valley after many hot months when even the moss in the swimming holes has moved on. And when, at last, the rain arrives, I pray it lingers long enough to wash that seemingly eternal dust from deeply worn crevasses in flesh and stone.

The heat’s expression is rivaled only by the intense solitude of the Ojai people – even those ‘social butterflies’ who meet each sunset at one or another gathering in yurts, temples, cafes or pubs. Artists and healers standing shoulder to shoulder; I could not escape the quietly frenetic turning, churning of so many souls longing and searching for their Great True Expression.

I mourn your mystical myriad flora and fauna here in the city, cannot find a fraction of the stars, and never hear my coyote family singing in the darkness. Tiny tears fall that I will not see them walking by my house or see the streetlight reflecting in their eyes as I say “hello, goodnight, brother”. The owls and frogs don not sing us lullabies. There are no poison oak to sternly remind me when I’ve gone off the path.

I grieve my friends who continue on with walks and potlucks. Their waterland smiles and supple bodies hug like the sea on a kind day. Sometimes it’s as if I’ve died or was never born. It’s as if the wind took me away like the jasmine in the heat, its smell so deeply penetrating in its subtlety, then gone. Just the memory of a flower. Just a delicate vine without sound.

And then I wake again to the bright sunlight of Denver, and it doesn’t scare me. Because I know it won’t burn my skin for months on end. The wind will come and pull a cold rush down upon my day, maybe even bring heavy snow or rain. And my lungs will open with the possibilities that change brings. My shoulders will drop into place and I will breathe. And tomorrow – or later today – the sun will return her rays again to warm my face. And I see that this, above everything, is why I’ve returned to this Rocky Mountain place. I am a mountain bird. My wings need wind and my heart needs change.

Here, 4000 feet above the nest, I rest my feathers in a city decorated with people of every shape, size, color, and background. We walk the paths of sun-speckled parks, raising our children side-by-side in grocery lines and on buses. The intense stillness of your world has been replaced by a humming, musical, collage of sounds, signs and colors. Here I feel free to be seen or invisible, whisper or scream.

Even in the safety of this new expanse, I appreciate the ‘cradle’. For, my daughter was born on your silent shores, Ojai. The insistent, persistent slowness of the vortex finally settled my heart and body enough to give birth. For this, I thank the stillness.The cosmic, collective movement resulting in this creature, Kiya, drew it’s momentum from a long, quiet exhale I could only take in Ojai.

In silence, each day, I return to you. In movement, each day, I say goodbye. And so, in this way, it is with you, Ojai, that I live and die.

Kiya’s Teachings

It’s so easy to get lost in useless details, chasing the same dishes around the kitchen day after day, wondering when I’ll ever know how to live “right”. There’s no satisfaction in my perfectionism. Then Kiya comes along and re-minds me how to be present  by the everyday things she does.

Like licking brownie drippings on New Year’s Eve…
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enjoying winter evening rays at the dog park…

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testing the outer limits of fashion…

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and embracing her  inner Artist.dsc_2527web

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Neither wind nor rain, stress or strain, the darkest night or brightest day keeps Kiya from being Kiya. This tops my list of reasons why Kiya is my greatest teacher and inspiration. Everyday, she learns and grows into more of who she already is. A bright and sensitive, complex spirit monkey. And then some.

Arriving by His Own Clock

3069117598_bcdf8ac99f1Caleb James Dalgas 825am November 29th, 2008

This dear soul, my first nephew, and his parents taught me much about the power of present moment living in the weeks we shared.

I was reminded that beginnings – and all that falls within time’s realm – are not within our control. Try as we may to manage circumstance, all things come in their own time. It is how we spend that time that matters. It is how we breathe into the unknown which determines our ‘fate’.

Watching a woman wade through pain and uncertainty, holding her core truth in the midst of exhaustion, and embracing the changes happening within her but beyond her control… I grew up a little more. I felt a little stronger in my own core. I wanted more for myself and felt just a bit more confident that I deserved those things my heart desires. Caleb and his mother gave me that. And his father showed me, once again, that Love will always be there to help me cover the distance between here and there.

Thank you, Geoff, Jennie, and Caleb James. I love you so.

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.