December 19, 2010

After Miscarriage

After Miscarriage: Medical Facts and Emotional Support for Pregnancy Loss by Krissi Danielsson, published in 2008 is another for my "Pregnancy & Birth" reading list.  And again, I chose it because pregnancy loss is not something I know from personal experience (at least, not yet - and at least, not directly - I do know friends, family members, and clients who have had losses.)  I appreciated that this book was written in a very personal style; it's not a clinical description of phenomenon or even a "all about it" kind of book, although it does include both information and advice.  Rather, it's a sort of compilation of reference material and acknowledgement of emotional struggle, and briefly, a description of the author's own miscarriage experiences and her emotional responses.  Best of all, it manages not to be patronizing (I think), which I can imagine it would be only too easy for a book on this topic to be.

December 8, 2010

Everything Conceivable

Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction Is Changing Our World by Liza Mundy, published in 2008.  I chose this book as one of my Pregnancy & Birth readings for my certification because assisted reproduction is just something I don't know about from personal experience - and I'm sure I've already worked with families using assisted reproduction as a doula and childbirth educator, whether I know it or not.

Actually, I know I've worked with families using assisted reproduction since I was a young teenager; one of the families I babysat for then was a single lesbian mom who eventually had 6 children, 4 or 5 by birth and 1 or 2 by adoption.  The ART she used was pretty low-tech as far as I know.

I learned a lot about how modern ART works, what the options and possibilities are, and what some of the pitfalls and challenges may be.

Favorite quote: "Urologists . . . have refined microsurgery to the point where if a man has a pocket of motile sperm anywhere - if, for example, the majority of his sperm are dead but there is live sperm in one tubule - they can retrieve it and use it.  They're like the SWAT team of reproductive surgeons, trained to get the hostage out safely.  (In military hospitals, these are actually called 'commando extractions.'" (p. 74)

November 28, 2010

The Water of Life: Initiation and the Tempering of the Soul

The Water of Life: Initiation and the Tempering of the Soul by Michael Meade also took me a long time to read (like the last book I blogged about).  But this time it was because this book is incredibly rich, like the dense gingerbread cake I made this week, with nuggets of intensity in it, like the dried cranberries I stirred into the cake.  I could only read a little at a time, just like there's still a lot of cake left because I can only eat a small piece at a time.

There are lots of bits of this book I love and want to come back to in different ways in different contexts.  (Some to note: "The Spell", pp. 88 - 91; )I think as a mother of sons, it will inform my view of their needs as boys and becoming men.  The direct application to working with fathers and fathers to be as a childbirth and parenting mentor is not so obvious to me, but I'm sure it is there and will come out.

One thing I noticed was how drawn I was to the stories in the book that came straight from the author's experience.  Much of the time he talks in general about how various men react to the stories (folk-tales) that form the skeleton of the book, and that's valuable and useful.  But what really caught my attention were the few direct stories where he spoke in the first person about his own life.  That gives me pause as I think about how I use stories with parents (and others in my other roles in life).  We are told not to share our own experiences, or if we do, to camouflage them as someone else's.  I understand why; it can be hard for someone to hear truth if it's about me, especially if they have any issues with authority figures or women or whatever.  But on the other hand, I think sometimes it is a betrayal of the role of mentor or elder not to claim my own experience, share it for what it is, and then allow those who are listening to make of it what they will.  The old stories, the archetypal stories, are extremely powerful in part because they let people see themselves in whatever part of the story they need to at that moment when they are listening.  Personal stories, elders' stories, are also powerful and sometimes perhaps we should share them.  The middle ground, the framing, is not so powerful (albeit useful and important to do, with light brushstrokes.)

September 24, 2010

The Craft of the Warrior

The Craft of the Warrior by Robert L. Spencer took me a long time to read.  It was boring.  It was pedantic.  It was analytic.  There were also nuggets of great stuff every so often.

Having just finished it, the great bit at the front of my mind is the very last two pages, where Spencer discusses how to know if you've found a good teacher for yourself in your Warrior journey.  It's a beautiful description of what to look out for, and what to look for, and how to know when to stick with a teacher despite feeling overwhelmed and anxious.  Therefore, it's also a good description of what not to be, and what to be, and how to stay present for a student who is overwhelmed and anxious.

I wavered back and forth in this reading between thinking, "but I don't want to be a warrior - this isn't my path!" and "so much of the warrior's path is part of the recovery and spiritual paths I've taken in my life so far, isn't that cool!"  There is much that honestly doesn't appeal to me about the language and paradigm of warriorship.  I am not attracted at all to altered states of consciousness, "personal power", "freedom", etc.  But it's not the actuality of these things that isn't attractive - it's the . . . marketing of them.  When I read carefully and try to understand the essence of these aspects of warriorship, that essence is something that I seek and value, in slightly different ways (mostly) than any of the warrior paths Spencer is describing.  I seek serenity.  I seek awareness, acceptance, the ability to act.  I seek a path with heart.

I don't tend to seek "a mentor" much of the time.  Rather, I tend to seek a community qua mentor; a circle of elders or peers who have walked or are walking the path I've been set on, to guide me as a collective.  I wonder if this is a more feminine form of discipleship than the male teachers and authors Spencer is digesting describe.  I wonder what a consciously feminist description of warriorship would read like.  I am aware that quite a lot of what Spencer describes seems to me like it would work quite well for the men and boys in my life - the appealing aspects of warriorship as he describes them are things that I do think would appeal quite well to the masculine mindset of the males I know best.

Favorite quote (actually from Nelson Zink):  "You see, when you don't do what somebody wants you to do, that's rebellin'.  But if you do what you want to do then that's revoltin, and Boondoglgle is a revoltin' kind of mule.  He don't care so much what you think is right as he does about what he thinks is right.  Rebellin' is when you want to hurt somebody and revoltin' is when you want to help yourself.  So in a funny way, rebellin' is when you say 'no' and revoltin' is when you say 'yes.'  Rebellin' is when you fail at revoltin'.  Mules are famous critters for rebellin', but Boondoggle is famous because he's a choice-makin' mule."

August 22, 2010

Close to the Bone: Life-Threatening Illness as a Soul Journey

Close to the Bone: Life-Threatening Illness as a Soul Journey by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D.

My mother-in-law has given birth to five babies, miscarried one, and has been present at the births of at least 3 other babies.  She has also been present with at least 3 or 4 people as they died.  She always talks about how the processes are so clearly the reverse of each other - watching the life come into a baby as it starts to breathe; seeing the life leave a dying person as they stop breathing.  I have not been present at a death, but what she says makes sense to me.  

This isn't a book about birth or dying, exactly.  It's about the process the human soul goes through preparing for either birth or - Bolen's main focus - death or recovery from serious illness.  In some ways, there isn't a lot of difference between preparing to die or preparing to live or give life.  It's a preparation for change from one state of being to a different state of being.

There are many passages in this book I feel enriched by and know I will use in different ways.  This is one of my favorites:  

"I hope that I can die well - whatever that may mean - when the time comes. . . . When I was pregnant and knew I would be going into labor and delivery for the first time, I also hoped I could do it well.  I did not really know what it would be like . . . Just as I wanted a natural childbirth because I wanted to be conscious, so do I want to be conscious at the moment of my death.  Some people want to be asleep when they die, just as many women want to be unconscious when they deliver babies.  Also, I wanted my newborns to come when they were ready to come, just as I hope to die when I am ready to go."

August 7, 2010

Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer

Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer

"He put his hand in her hand.
He put his hand to her heart.
Sweet is the sleep of hand-to-hand.
Sweeter still the sleep of heart-to-heart."


That's my personal favorite stanza in the poems :-)

This is a rich, textured, complex text - both the translated poems from ancient Sumer, but also the commentary.  I enjoyed it.  It makes so much more sense than the very cryptic version I read on-line more than a year ago.  I'm also glad to have read more of the context of the Inanna's Descent story we use in Birthing From Within classes.

I want to tell Inanna's story many more times so I get it more and more deeply!

July 18, 2010

The Transition to Parenthood

The Transition to Parenthood: How a First Child Changes a Marriage, Why Some Couples Grow Closer and Others Apart by Jay Belsky, Ph.D. and John Kelly.

This was a fascinating read in many ways.  I think as a married person with children I could hardly help but reflect on my own marriage and parenting in reading it (fortunately, my husband concurs with me that our marriage has improved since we had children, rather than declined.)

One question that occurred to me right away was to wonder about the diversity (or lack thereof) of the population Dr. Belsky's study was based on.  Although he talks about differences in parents' ages, religious views, and educational/work backgrounds, he doesn't ever mention race or sexual orientation.  Or, except by inference, class or financial status.  It's also disconcerting to me that he does not take into account the birth experiences of his subjects (something I would expect to bear some relationship to the outcomes he is interested in.)

After a while, though, I realized that another question I have to ask is about generational change.  Dr. Belsky's study was conducted with couples in my parents' and parents-in-law's generation.  I think some things have changed in the last 30 years that have some bearing on his study findings, especially in the realm of gender role expectations.  Of course gender role expectations are still relevant to marital satisfaction; but for most of my peers, there are (sometimes subtle, sometimes not) differences in how those expectations were formed and play out compared to our parents.  Unless we grew up in or have chosen a fairly extreme social conservatism of one sort or another, it's rare for any of us (male or female) to be unrepentant Traditionalists about gender roles.  The vast majority of us are some sort of Transitionalist or Egalitarian, and there is probably more variation in what those two terms might encompass than there was 30 years ago.

I'm convinced of the importance of the new parenthood transition - but maybe not a lot wiser about how to help it positively in situ.

July 13, 2010

Labyrinth of Birth: Creating a Map, Meditations and Rituals for Your Childbearing Year

Labyrinth of Birth: Creating a Map, Meditations and Rituals for Your Childbearing Year by Pam England.

Hurray, it's finally out!  I've been waiting for this book for a couple of months and I'm so excited that it's finally here (note to self: go write review on Amazon . . .)

And it's wonderful.  I have already been using the LabOrynth (birth labyrinth) in my childbirth classes and with doula clients.  I've even shared the model as applicable to all kinds of transitions with my religious education colleagues.  But I found lots of things that will enrich my sharing in this book.

Things I especially like:  the Mother and Child labyrinths from the Hopi people.  The Animal Labyrinths of the ancient Nazca people.  A picture of a pregnant woman with labyrinths and spirals drawn all over her body, making me want to try that as a mehndi pattern on a live pregnant woman.  A deeper understanding of the footprint part of the LabOrinth.  Awesome description of Ovarian Breathing.  For whatever reason, the whole section on death & rebirth. the LabOrinth Birth Story.  Inspiration to make myself a clay labyrinth.  And Most of All: the collection of "seeds" in the back of the book!

The quote that calls to me:

"It is an act of humility to ask the Mother to take your grief and pain because it is too great to heal by yourself."  (p. 82)

July 6, 2010

The Everything Toltec Wisdom Book: A Complete Guide to the Ancient Wisdoms

The Everything Toltec Wisdom Book: A Complete Guide to the Ancient Wisdoms by Allan Hardman.

I am not especially drawn to the Toltec path.  I'm not particularly bothered by it; I agree with many of its tenants.  But I don't see myself as enslaved by my mind, very much anyway.  I don't feel a great longing for freedom that I don't have, most of the time.  Maybe this is because I was raised by someone interested in personal and spiritual growth, who shared many of her learnings with her children.  And I was raised in a faith tradition that values each person's search for truth and meaning, without directing one path or one right way.  And as an adult, I've done my own spiritual work, pretty intensively, for over 12 years.  Maybe all these things have gotten me somewhere. I am aware that I am still growing and learning and strongly desire to keep doing so.  But the metaphors of the Toltec Masters aren't particularly evocative for me.

I think the most useful thing for me about this book is the last chapter: a description of a spiritual journey through Teotihuacan - which is very evocative.  I love seeing another path into the mystery, and how it marches along and diverges from others I am familiar with (Innana's journey to the underworld and twelve step traditions, especially.)

June 22, 2010

Women's Ways of Knowing

Women's Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind by Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule.

My scholar self really enjoyed this book.

"People discourse to one another; they gossip with . . ." (p. 116)

"Patience," says the writer Simone de Beauvoir, is one of those "'feminine' qualities which have their origin in our oppression but should be preserved after our liberation." (p. 117)

"The pattern of discourse that women have developed, however, may best be considered as an appropriate response to women's work.  The care of children, or maternal practice, gives rise to maternal thought . . . Many mothers interview their children, rather than lecture . . . Question posing . . . is central to maternal practice in its most evolved form . . . at the heart of connected knowing."  (p. 189)

June 8, 2010

Questions to Awaken Your Creative Power to the Fullest

Questions to Awaken Your Creative Power to the Fullest by Michele Cassou.

"Judgements point out to you where you are closing the door to your creativity." (p.27)

I am very, very resistant to the philosophy of process painting. Learning about it and doing it are part of the process for certification as a Birthing From Within Mentor, though, so I'm being "forced" to push into this resistance . . .

I know my judgements about process painting close the doors to some creativity. I do. But my judgements are really strong. I have really strong "agreements" or rules about this. But I'm not at all sure what they all are.

Here are some preliminary guesses . . .
Rule: creativity is relational. What I create is not just for me. It's for the community I'm embedded in.

Rule: a beautiful thing is more beautiful if it is also functional. I.e., when I create something, I don't want it to be only aesthetically pleasing. I want it to be useful, too.

Rule: corollary: time spent on creativity must be useful (produce income, entertain others, etc.) - not "just for me"

I'm not phrasing these very judgementally, but there are strong judgements embedded there.

I also found this book an interesting one to read at the same time as another one I'm reading: Women's Ways of Knowing. One of the things the authors of that book talk about is where knowing comes from: not-knowing, knowing based on external authority, knowing based on internal authority . . . it seems to me that Cassou is reacting to common ideas about where it is okay for artistic knowing to come from. More on that later.

June 5, 2010

Bestfeeding: How to Breastfeed Your Baby

Bestfeeding: How to Breastfeed Your Baby by Mary Renfrew, Chloe Fisher, and Suzanne Arms.

What a lovely book! So straight-forward. I think it would have been useful to me as a first-time mom; maybe even the second or third time around.

However, I would like to recognize a bit more ambiguity in my work with mothers than this book allows.

"Breastfeeding should never hurt, and if it does, it means you're doing it wrong," is one of the basic messages. That may be thoughtful, honest, intelligent, but I'm not sure it's necessary or kind. My own experience of breastfeeding the first time around was that it did hurt, a lot, for at least 6 weeks. And sometimes after that for another 6 weeks or so. I probably was doing some things wrong. But what I was doing right was persisting, getting to know my baby, working with him, telling him and myself we could do it . . .. In retrospect it would have been nice to know that his latch was lazy, I had a mild over-supply, and block feeding would help tremendously. On the other hand, I probably would not have listened if anyone had told me these things. For whatever reason, I believe he and I needed to work it out together, learning how to do it together. It was in some way part of our bonding process. And we made it.

My hope in working with mothers is to encourage their learning process as new mothers - whatever that includes. Simple, clear advice from me is good, and I should know the facts such as they are. But I never want to forget that the mother and baby's nursing relationship is not mine. It's theirs. And I am only incidental to it.

June 1, 2010

Sisters on a Journey: Portraits of American Midwives

Sisters on a Journey: Portraits of American Midwives by Penfield Chester.

I feel I have been given a treasure in this book; reading it felt nurturing and joyful.

Possibly in part because I began reading it at a birth (I was the sibling doula and the sibling was asleep.)

"Medical ethics are all about power - doctors' authority over patients, policing each other, shepherding the patient through the process - which doesn't have anything to do with what we [midwives] do. We are basically grounded in an ethic of relationship, in interaction and honesty. ... There is a discussion of how one makes an ethical decision based on one's values, and that's why we can't have an explicit ethics statement because everyone's decisions and how they act is dependent upon their social, cultural, racial, religious, and class background." p. 122 (Anne Frye)

"I would describe that one is either codependent with one's fellow humans, or co-creative with God." (p. 147, Faith Gibson)

I just want to keep the whole interview with Candace Whitridge and read it over and over again. I've never heard of her before, but it's so full of things I need to remember and know. One example is the recounting of an African folktale about birth (which I think I have heard before). "It's a one-person log. Only one person can get on this log." (p. 240)

May 23, 2010

After the Baby's Birth . . . A Woman's Way to Wellness

After the Baby's Birth . . . A Woman's Way to Wellness: A Complete Guide for Postpartum Women by Robin Lim

I have a very clear memory of my first "postpartum visit". I was only 3 1/2 (my mother was visiting this weekend and I asked her to help me date this memory). We went to visit a friend of my mother's who had just had a baby. I remember that we had to be quiet because she was resting. My mother explained to me that she needed lots of rest so she could make milk for her baby (who was very new.) It's amazing to me that I remember this occasion so clearly - I do have other clear memories from about that age, but most of my distinct memories date from when I was 5 or older.

Anyway, I think this is the first book I've ever read specifically about the postpartum period. But it's a topic I feel I know a lot about by osmosis and experience. And from that experience, this book seemed incredibly naive to me. Here's a quote: "What to you may seem like a giant problem actually may be a tiny obstacle." (Referring to breastfeeding.) Sure, that's possible. It's also possible that it really is a giant problem, or that it will continue being a giant problem until you gain some real knowledge, skills, and experience.

Oddly, the section I liked most is the part at the end about difficult postpartums: after miscarriage, after abortion, after placing a child for adoption, with a baby who dies or has significant health issues. Somehow the naivete there seems light and real, whereas in much of the rest of the book, it just reads as denial to me.

I do like the very complete and clear instructions for postpartum exercises including gentle, yogic and other energetic style moving meditations. And I learned a new term: milk fever (see Apparently, what Ms. Lim means by this is not what most people mean by this (mastitis in humans, calcium deficiency in cows/sheep/etc). But an interesting obscure fact!

May 11, 2010


Mamatoto: a Celebration of Birth by Carroll Dunham and the Body Shop Team.

I read this because it's mentioned in one of my Birthing From Within resources; it is a lovely coffee-table book. And there are many interesting tidbits of cross-cultural information in it. Unfortunately, it is not annotated - i.e., there is no way to go find out more about any of these tidbits easily.

My favorite feature of the book are the "black pages" at the end of each chapter - with a note about something you don't want to know - a fact about birth that is not happy, shiny, or lovely in any way.

May 1, 2010

Unconditional Parenting

Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn.

I had very mixed reactions to this book. On the one hand, I agree with the philosophy he's explaining and justifying with research. On the other hand, he's dogmatic, and directive. I don't respond well to dogmatic and directive. And it seems kind of counter to his argument, besides.

I feel given the courage of my convictions, though. I informed my son this week that I'm not giving out rewards for things he ought to do anyway. And I can see other gradual changes I might make in my own parenting choices.

April 24, 2010

My Voice Will Go With You

My Voice Will Go With You: The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson, edited & with commentary by Sidney Rosen.

Very useful, helpful book for me!

Here is a quote I loved:

"Too many therapists think that they must direct the change and help the patient to change. Therapy is like starting a snowball rolling at the top of a mountain. As it rolls down, it grows larger and larger and becomes an avalanche that fits the shape of the mountain." (p. 56)

And another one: "I think it's very important to take the patient seriously and meet his wishes. Not to exercise cold, hard judgment. And recognize that people need to learn things, that you really aren't competent to teach them all the things they need. That they can learn a lot on their own." (p. 122)

"You also ought to learn that it's not what you do, it's not what you say, but what the patient does, what the patient understands." (p. 154)

"Erickson's attitude indicated his belief that he could deal incisively with whatever situation arose. If the situation called for confrontation, he knew that he could do that. If it called for kindness, he could be kind . . . he had confidence in his ability to handle situations. We are free to identify with this feeling ourselves and to be more assertive." (p. 233)

There are a few stories in there I love either personally or because I know already that I will use them with parents or others. One is called '"Auto"-Hypnosis' - it describes a woman who pays Erickson to sit in his driveway in her car and think through her problem while imagining that he's in the car with her. She's her own therapist - but needs the outside catalyst of sitting in his driveway. Another is called 'Glare Ice' - Erickson teaches a man with an artificial leg how to walk on treacherous ice by confusing his senses and then leading him over the ice (while he doesn't know he's on the ice.)

The idea of initiating a small change to deal with a big problem is powerfully illustrated in a number of stories ('Claustrophobia' for one.)

Joining the patient is an interesting theme, too (well rendered in 'Ruth').

Probably my favorite story is 'Pearson's Brick'. A doctor experiences an accidental skull injury. If only Dr. Erickson were here, he thinks, but since he is not the doctor pulls himself together and gets himself to medical help on his own. Then he dictates the course of his own treatment, and recovers far more quickly than others expect. I know I will use this story with families who are struggling (or whom I think may need to struggle) with who is in charge of their birth: them, or their medical care providers?

There are also a couple of stories that I find offensive. My perspective on sexuality is very liberal and open-minded - but also based in firm values, including mutuality and respect. There are a couple of stories relating to sexual dysfunction in which the (apparently "successful") therapeutic approach does not create mutuality or respectful relationships, and it bothers me. However, I recognize that like everything else, attitudes and values about sexuality are products of the time and place they arise in, and I don't think that Erickson's contemporaries would have had the same reaction to these stories I did.

I had two experiences while or shortly after reading this book that I'd like to share.

I was lying on my bed reading and my middle child (almost 4 years old) came into the room yelling at his brother and swinging a large, heavy bat (don't ask - this sort of thing just happens at our house). More or less unintentionally, but not accidentally, he whacked me on the foot with it. I got up, grabbed the bat & put it away, and told him he was going to be sorry in a "big mama" kind of voice. He ran away and curled up on the couch, hiding his head under his arms. I went after him and sat down across from him. "When is it a good idea to hit someone?" I demanded. "Never," he said in a small, angry voice. "Are you a smart kid?" I demanded, several times, before a despairing, whimpered, "No," came from my child. At this point I picked him up and hugged him and reassured him that I still loved him. And that he is smart, because he knows hitting people isn't a good idea. And that knowing something and being able to do it are two different things sometimes. Within a couple of minutes he was ready to do something else - no fit, as there often is in situations like this. I'm darned if I can tell you why what I did worked. Or exactly how it is related to being in the middle of this book. But I know it did, and it was. I think what this experience shows me is that I do have the instincts or subconscious understanding of how to do this stuff (teaching tales, hypnosis, catalytic therapy) and if I have the confidence to apply it, it works.

The other is that yesterday, I was speaking with someone who's been involved in an uncomfortable email exchange with several others and myself recently. We were talking about how it's hard to convey meaning in email and misunderstandings can occur. I shared a story from the book about Erickson using sub-vocal cues to mislead a psychic to illustrate the point that there is much non-verbal communication that simply can't happen in email, and it was helpful in my conversation.

Finally, this book did bring up a recurring question for me about doing things that seem distinctly therapeutic and counseling oriented as a childbirth mentor and doula. My background as a church professional has taught me to be wary of providing counseling or therapy beyond fairly carefully constructed boundaries because I am not a trained counselor or therapist. I'm supposed to refer to a skilled psychiatrist or psychologist for anything beyond a one-time (or other brief interval) solution-focused pastoral visit. So I'm just wondering about what my boundaries are and should be as a mentor & doula.

April 13, 2010

Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering

Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor's Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices by Sarah J. Buckley, MD.

There are some things I loved about this book. It's got good, detailed summaries of what current research shows about the 'hormone cocktail' of labor, about appropriate management of the third stage of labor (dealing with the placenta), and about the neuroscience of attachment in early infancy. I "knew" this stuff from reading about it on-line and in the press - but it's very useful to have it all laid out (and official looking.)

Sometimes, though, hearing all the "evidence" about any subject, even if I've done everything "right", raises my anxiety level. Too much information, my brain seems to signal. Overload. Shut down now. I guess I wish Buckley had gone a little further towards trusting parents to make the choices that are right for them, whether those choices match the state of current research or not. She's definitely waving in that direction, but she's not all the way there.

What good does it do to choose the "right" thing if it leaves you or your partner or your child uneasy or unhappy or in conflict with someone or something important to you?

April 5, 2010

Baby Catcher

Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent.

I had read bits of this book before, but on the recommendation of Rixa Freeze I thought I'd try it again.

I still didn't really like much of it. I felt Vincent focused way too much on the "drama" of birth - the transfers, the near-misses or disasters, her experience being sued out of private practice.

However, there was one bit, in a description of her own birth-giving experience, that is absolute dynamite:

"The next contraction came grinding down on me, but it felt different. A white-hot hole of knowledge opened in my pain. I saw that in my effort to get around or under the pain, I'd been avoiding that central point of intensity, staying on the bring of the primitive surrender that's required to get a stubborn baby out. I'd talked hundreds of women into taking that leap of faith, that shut-your-eyes-and-jump moment of bravery. Like a girl standing on the high dive, walking back and forth the length of the board, shivering, going to the brink again to stare down into the water so far below - and then she's off, airborne. Free.

With sudden clarity, I knew it would have to hurt more before it got better. I wouldn't be able to circumvent the pain. I had to go through it, enter willingly into the void, holding nothing back. I had to jump off the diving board."

That's it. That's Finding the Center, one of the Birthing From Within pain-coping practices, in a nutshell. I've now used this passage in a class with parents, and I felt it really worked. I'll use it again!

April 3, 2010

A Gentle & Mindful Transition to Parenthood

Our Birthing From Within Keepsake Journal by Pan England, Section Eight: A Gentle & Mindful Transition to Parenthood and Section Nine: Preserving Memories of Your Pregnancy & Birth.

I have used the Postpartum Expectations exercise with parents in my childbirth classes several times. I like it, but I'm looking to branch out. I really love the looks of the Penny Game and maybe I'll try it in the next couple of weeks. If I do, I'll try to come back and comment on this post to share how it went.

Personally, I recognized that I need to work on following my bliss in ways other than being goal oriented. I'm doing well at focusing on goals that are important to me; I need to do better at allowing myself time to just be and just be creative.

I love the Joseph Campbell stuff about marriage. I wonder how I could use it?

And I drew my baby! It's not a very "good" drawing, but it was an interesting process - AND, even though it is very technically imperfect, it does LOOK like her to me.

Gestating Parenthood

Birthing From Within, by Pam England, Section VII: Gestating Parenthood.

On a personal level, it was very interesting revisiting this section after my most recent birth and postpartum period. The postpartum transition was especially difficult for me after my second child was born; this time after the birth of my third child has been, conversely, wonderful and healing. Re-reading the reminders to care for oneself as a new parent, for one's relationship as new parent-partners, and to be careful about how you remember your birth experience affirmed for me that my partner and I did learn from experience and do things differently in a way that worked better for us, this time.

On a professional level, re-reading this section reminded me to consider carefully leaving enough time in my class series to focus on the importance of the postpartum transition period. There is so much to do in a class - never enough time for it all - but this stuff is important.

On a practical note: the internet makes setting up postpartum help from family and friends MUCH easier than it was even 12 years ago when BFW was published. Here are some great sites you or a family member or friend can use to set up an interactive calendar of helpers for meals or more after your baby is born:

February 16, 2010

Personal Objectives for Advanced Level

"You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

. . . the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting . . . "

- Mary Oliver

I want to do work that brings me joy AND well-being, that is challenging, that makes me learn and grow and that I don't already know how to do. This work is not walking on my knees through the desert,though. I want to do what I'm called to do not despite the other callings of my life, but with them.

My long-term vision is to bring a deeper understanding of caring for families welcoming children to congregations and ministers, especially Unitarian Universalists. Certification as a Mentor is only a first step on that journey. This work is the foundation-building for that house. To reach the whole vision I'll need to learn more about adoption and pastoral care as it's understood and practiced in Unitarian Universalist churches. And I'll need a Master's degree, most likely an M.Div., to be truly taken seriously in those 'temples'.

That building is a long way off. But the work with parents is a wellspring.

I did a drawing to see what would come of these ideas in pastels on paper:

Obviously, this is the goal, the objective, not reality. In reality, many times not everyone is smiling at the same time. In reality, there're fewer stacks of fat cash!

The questions which float up to me from my image making are these:

Where and what are the obstacles in my way?
Am I now an apprentice or a Journeyman?
And what would Mastery mean?


  1. Continue to build my experience and skill in mentoring parents
  2. Get certified!
  3. Learn, learn, learn about all things pregnancy, birth, and parenting
  4. Break even or better financially
  5. Connect with other wonderful mentors & colleagues
  6. Learn about myself in this 'mirror'

January 7, 2010

Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting

by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

I chose this book off of my library shelves . . . I was looking for something to help me as I move deeper into parenting three children, all under 5 until next month.

I found it deeply reassuring. The writing is very non-judgmental most of the time. The authors seem to truly believe and understand that every parent is different, every child is different, every family dynamic is different, and there is no one right way to do this thing - only tools they can share with parents seeking a mindful path.

I have a child (my oldest) who is very "high needs". He has been incredibly intense and demanding since birth. And challenging to me, as a parent. I have read a lot of parenting books over the years. Most of them have left me feeling, "well, that's nice, but it doesn't really apply and wouldn't really work with [my son], even if it's a good idea for most kids (even my other kids)." (Or, let's be honest, sometimes I'm thinking "what, are they crazy? Who would this work with?" LOL!) This book wasn't like that at all. I felt that most of the discussion was just as relevant to how I parent my oldest as it was to how I parent my other two, more 'typical' children.

Which brings me to my other thought about this book: I love that it is truly about how parents parent, not about how to parent to change your child in xyz way. I don't believe it's our job as parents to change our children. Sometimes our job is to help our children change themselves. Our job is always to change ourselves as parents to best adapt to the situations we find ourselves in.

I'm going to post quotes from the book as Status Updates on the Larger Circle Facebook Page. If you aren't a Fan yet, become one!