Saturday, June 9, 2012


from: "The Rumi Collection" edited by Kabir Helminski, Shambala Library, 2005.

When the time comes for the embryo 
to receive the spirit of life,
at that time the sun begins to help.
This embryo is brought into movement 
for the sun quickens it with spirit.

From the other stars this embryo 
received only an impression, 
until the sun shone upon it.
How did it become connected with the shining sun
in the womb?

By ways hidden from our senses:
the way whereby gold is nourished,
the way a common stone becomes a garnet
and the ruby red,
the way fruit is ripened, and the way courage co0mes
to one distraught 
with fear.

MATHNAWI 1, 3775-3782
(translated by Kabir Helminski and Camille Helminski)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Life-alienating Moments

Life-alienating moments can be hard to detect unless you know where to look and what they look like.  They can undermine you and others and deflate your self esteem.  If they happen too often depression or rage can result, so its important to know when theses moments occur. There are specific forms of communication that Marshall Rosenberg identifies in his book "Non-Violent Communication".  They include:

  • Moralistic Judgments which include blame, insults, put-downs, labels and criticism.  They are based on the concept of "Who is what?".  When we make judgments we are actually expressing our own needs and values.  When others concur with our judgments they do so out of fear, guilt or shame.  Classifying and judging people sets the stage for depersonalization and violence.
  • Comparisons are a form of judgement.
  • Denial of Responsibility makes someone else accountable for your judgmental behavior and appears in the phrase "You make me feel _______________".  
  • Demanding: communicating our desires as demands.
  • Deserving: thinking that is based on "who deserves what" blocks compassionate communication.
Where do all these life-alienating beliefs come from?  They exist in society at large when a very few people maintain control by undermining the majority.  It's so much a part of everything we do that we don't notice it any more or dismiss it when someone less advantaged than us brings it to our attention. Where can we find these beliefs at work?
  • In our families
  • In our churches
  • In our schools
  • As we give birth in our hospitals
  • as we parent our children
  • I suspect that even as we die people are told what we should do and how we should comply. 
How do we get out?  By using Compassionate Communication which is also known as Non-Violent Communication to slow down our thought process and consciously make choices about what we say and how we say it. It all begins with:

"When you (do a specific action)__________________,
I feel (state the feeling and only the feeling) ________________,
And I would like you to (name a specific action)____________________.

"When you are late,
I feel worried,
and I would like you to call me when you are not on your normal schedule or tell me the morning before that you will be late."   There is no blame, name calling, demands other judgement in this statement.

The other party replies with their understanding of the person's statement. ie. "You feel worried when I don't call or let you know when I am late?"  The respondent can answer the specific statement without becoming emotionally engaged. 

The original party can simply answer "yes."

Most communication is more complicated than this exchange, but the format of give and take remains the same.  If life-alienating words or phrases emerge you know you need to stop and look more carefully at what you are needing or wanting.  It takes allot of practice to make it a habit, but its definately worth the effort.  Especially in parenting our children. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Giving from the Heart

 "Through it's emphasis on deep listening - to ourselves as well as others - Nonviolent Communication (NVC) fosters respect, attentiveness, and empathy and engenders a mustual desire to give from the heart."

Marshall G. Rosenberg Ph.D. provides a template for compassionate communication in his book "Nonviolent Communication, A Language of Life".  His primary assumption is that human beings are compassionate creatures who act with caring and mutual respect. "NVC helps us connect with ourselves and each other in a way that allows our natural compassion to flourish."  We reframe the way we communicate with each other by focusing our attention in four areas:
  1. observation of what is really happening in a situation in specific detail.
  2. noting our feelings in relation to the situation
  3. determining what our needs are, in specific behaviors, from the situation.
  4. making specific requests based on the needs we've identified.
After following these four steps we then return to listen actively and with respect to the other party involved in the communication.  This form of communication is compassionate because both parties involved are looking deeply into themselves and giving from the heart as they share with one another.  It is a process that takes time and concentration at first, but becomes natural as experience in using it grows.

Why would you want to take the effort to learn this form of communication?

Our culture has become one in which individuals are judged, compared against arbitrary standards without individuals taking responsibility for their own behaviors. Demands are made and we do things without taking our own needs into consideration. We are told we deserve what we get, but what have we done to get it?  This is all what Rosenberg refers to as life-alienating communication. It comes naturally to all of us and we do it without thinking. It stems from centuries of life in systems where we are ruled and influenced by the few. Is this a legacy we want to hand down to our children?  Unless we consciously practice compassionate forms of communication we are destined to communicate at least some of our culture's defeating language systems in our everyday exchanges.

We will be learning in our group how to Observe, state our Feelings, identify our Needs and share our Requests in the coming weeks.  Until then, take time several times a day to just watch your baby.  Take a deep breath and let it out and notice what feelings and thoughts arise. Just let the feelings and thoughts pass by saying "There is a thought" or "There is that feeling" and return to watching your baby.  You can do this when s/he is active or sleeping.  Just give yourself some time to observe what your baby is doing in that moment.  Make note of any observations, feelings or thoughts you have if you like.  

When we observe we have to step out of whatever situation we are in, into the moment.  This ability to step out can be very useful when your baby is in distress and you are at your wits end. It provides a space where you can observe and notice without being emotionally tied to the situation.  It takes allot of practice to gain a sense of stepping out, but eventually you will reach it and be able to describe it accurately. What's your baby doing?

You can do this exercise on yourself too as you sit quietly alone catching the secret moment that nobody knows exists.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Postpartum Doula

In many cultures women are honored
after they give birth.
They are surrounded by
mothers, grandmotherssisters, 
aunts and friends. All of them
together making food, drawing the bath
with healing salts and soothing fragrances.
Rubbing the mother's sore body muscles 
with warm almond oil until her skin glows.
Making the laundry fresh and clean
and the house sparkle with happiness.

All for the mother.
So she can heal and care 
for the most precious gift
she has given to the world.
Protecting her healing time
so she can gaze into her newborn's eyes
and learn every crease and wrinkle.
To soak her child back into herself
as the infant drinks her warm sweet milk.

It is every woman's birthright to have this time.
Even in our fast paced culture.
We need to catch our breath and unfold
so our children will know we are with them.
I am a woman who honors the time after birth.
When mothers, sisters, aunts and friends may be 
flung to the four corners of the earth,
busy with their own lives,
or seperated by great distances although
they live in close proximity.
I keep the time and space for nurturing 
so the mother can rest and tend to her baby.
Her precious gift to the world.

In our culture there are too many mothers 
who slip into deep depression, endless worries or fear.
Mothers who feel that they do not know what to do.
Women who have experienced traumatic births
With no recovery in sight.
Women who are missing  the natural urge
to hold their newborn babies
but do it anyway out of a courageous strain of love.

These mothers need to be honored.
Their precious babies hold their gifts, waiting
to give it to the world before it is lost.
I am a woman who listens to the pain
as it drains out of the wounded mothers.
I help them find their way towards healing. 
I help them find hope.

I am a Postpartum Doula and I know
how fragile this time after birth can be
because I have lived it myself alone.
I will go to great lengths to honor a woman's 
time after birth as something sacred;
something essential to the well being of us all.

Mothers deserve to feel rested and able 
to cope with their newborn babies.
To take their rest knowing that all will be well,
knowing that these first weeks are the 
most important time that can be taken
to give and heal.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

It's Time to Begin!

I have been waiting to begin this group since January of this year and now it is finally time to begin!  Childbearing Years is this blog, but also a Support Group for new moms, newborns and younger children.  We get together two times a month on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays from 1:00-3:00.  We will meet at The Lotus Center which is the space just above Global Village at 25 W Superior St, Downtown Duluth. Parking is available across the street under the MNPower/Allete building.  Parking is accessed via Michigan St.

Our first meeting will be held on April 10th.  We will spend most of our time getting to know each other.  We will touch on our children's names, our latest joy and frustration, questions about mothering a newborn, or siblings for the first time and more.  We will also spend some time talking about the topics we want to discuss at each meeting. Some ideas for topics are listed below.  The group will determine what they want to discuss.
  • Sleep, where is it?  How to live without it?
  • Baby Massage
  • Baby Language
  • Sleeping Arrangements
  • Not feeling like your self? What are Postpartum Mood Disorders?
  • Birth Stories
  • Breastfeeding - Nutrition in the first year
  • Bottle Feeding - Keeping the Nurturing in the Bottle
  • Birth Trauma
  • Signing with Baby
  • Baby Wraps and other carriers
  • Keeping the Seasons - Celebrations for the Year
  • What support do you need to be the best Mom possible?
  • What else?
If the babies let us we will open with a brief moment of mindfulness to find that space of calmness withing that brings instant relief in stressful moments with practice.  We will close with a verse for contemplation as we go about our days.  I will have paper and crayons for young children and a few other simple crafts that may occupy them for a short time.  I know each of you knows best what you need to bring to get the time you need.  By all means come on your own if some time to yourself is what you need!  This group will be very flexible and open ended because that's how Mother's lives work.  I hope to see you there!  I'm looking forward to meeting you!


Friday, January 20, 2012

Thunderstorm Birth

During the last three weeks of my pregnancy with my first child my husband would drive me around the NW Wisconsin countryside from one non-public body of water to another.  I was wearing my overstretched black tank swim suit with an extra large t-shirt and jumper over all.  Upon arrival at a likely spot I would ditch the jumper and descend to the water.  There, in the water, I would submerge my hugeness and float weightlessly.  From one place to the next we would travel during the hot dry summer days waiting for our child to be born.

On July 4th there were stirrings in the womb to match the fireworks in the sky.  The nurse midwife told me not to go into labor because she already had three moms at the birthing center.  The baby and I complied with her wish.  I had so many baby dreams of how the birth would take place.  I thought it would be gentle, difficult, fulfilling; nothing like what I was about to experience.  Meanwhile we waited as the turk's cap lilies bloomed and the raspberries grew ripe.

You can tell when a mother is about to give birth because they go into a kind of frenzy about getting things absolutely done without compromise or wavering. Some call this the nesting process.  For me it was more like a tornado.  We had to get the upstairs room wallpapered.  For some reason I through this was going to be the baby's room, even through it was dangerous to get up and down the steep stairs and I had no crib up there.  I was later to find that I got much more sleep if the baby slept closely and safely next to me through the night.

The wallpaper was a Scandinavian looking print with small petals of red, yellow, and a beautiful blue grouped together randomly.  There was a nice boarder to go along the bends in the under the roof room.  It was blue with a larger petal pattern. I was absolutely and tearfully set on the idea that this had to get done before the baby could be born.  So we sweated profusely and huffed and puffed and got it done because I was too heavy and large with child to wait any longer.

Sure enough, within the next day or two light contractions began.  I now know they were pre-labor contractions.  Seven minutes apart and about a minute long.  They died off after I called my friend who was training to be a nurse midwife.  She told me to go back to sleep. She had to be kidding! Sleep?  How could anyone sleep? Right.  First time mom-itis.
I went through my day as normally as I could and the contractions dispersed.  When they picked up again in the evening I was sure this was it.  No, it wasn't.  Things picked up some more later in the evening and we were concerned to get to the hospital two hours away.  No having babies in the car!  We could have waited for another 24 hours before going in.

We arrived at the hospital around dusk.  Clouds were gathering for some big rain activity  which we needed.  My contractions stopped completely. I was only 3cm dilated with my cervix tipped back.  The midwife could have told us to go find a hotel and come back when I couldn't talk through contractions any more.  But she didn't.  We were admitted into the hospital at the beginning of a 36 hour ordeal with about 24 hours of it being pre-labor.  I didn't take anything for pain, but they did give me something for sleep. Before I slept I walked the halls and took a shower, then laid down for some light dozing on some sleep meds.  I was still 3cm dilated by morning. Failure to progress.

The thunderclouds were rumbling through the night and into the next day.  I got up and started walking the halls some more.  My water broke, which was something at least.  The nurse midwife and doctor decided I should go on pitocin to speed my labor up.  So I did.
At first it was too fast so they turned it down a bit.  The contractions got stronger and closer together to the point where I couldn't deal with anything but what was happening with the baby and me.  I was glad to be in productive labor at last.

Then all hell broke loose.  It was transition.  My legs were convulsing, I was freezing to death and they told me not to push so I grunted like an out of control freight train trying to turn it's wheels backwards. At last, I was dilated, but had a lip on my cervix.  The midwife pushed it out of the way then it was time to push.  Then I couldn't do anything else but push.  I was laying on my back with the bed raised gripping onto my legs and curling up with each contraction.  Not a very effective way to push, but this is what I had seen in the books I had read and no one suggested any alternatives.

Right when the baby's head was almost crowning the pushing sensation stopped.  My eyes bugged out and my jaw dropped.  Something was wrong.  The baby's heart rate was dropping.  The didn't get me into a squat, but did make me walk into the delivery room.  The doctor decided to use a vacuum  extractor to get my baby out.  I was in despair and scared out of my mind.  Once everything was all set up I had a few contractions, but they were weak.  Then the doctor was ready to do his thing on the next contraction.  He said "don't stop pushing until we tell you to".  I pushed until it felt like my guts were going to burst out my vagina.  At last our baby came out.  He was blue at first, and there was some meconium so he was under some stress, but within 5 minutes his Apgar score was a 10.
He was 9lb 14oz.  A big baby who looked like he was already 2 months old instead of a newborn.

It's no wonder that the pre-labor I had took so long with such a big guy trying to move into position to be born.  Those extra 2 weeks since July 4th had plumped him up.  A beautiful baby with blond hair and baby blue eyes.  He could almost hold his head up when he was on his stomach and could hold it steady when sitting up with some support.  He nursed right away after the nurses quit making him scream.  I was so upset by his screaming I thought they were doing a circumcision on him.

We kept him with us in our room through the night.  When I was sleeping his Dad would hold him on his chest and make partridge noises at him through the night.  I woke to the two of them sleeping together.  It made me very happy after all that I had been through. After two days of thunderstorms the sky was clearing. It sounds like a happy ending but there was more to it than that.

I had been having nightmarish flashbacks of the labor and birth all night long.  The images crept into waking hours, reduced, but still haunting what I through should be a beautiful time with my newborn son.  The labor had been so long.  Hours and hours of it and all one big never ending blur.  I felt as through my body had been beaten into exhaustion.  The actual birth was a horrific intrusion.  I truly did not know that I was giving birth to my son by the time I was pushing.  I was doing what my body demanded of me.  Had I been at other local hospitals I would have ended up with a C-Section, which I was glad to have avoided.  Was this unmatched nightmarish feeling any better? 

In retrospect I know that the nightmarish feeling became PSTD.  My love for my newborn held me through enough to care for him and make some connection, but I was not all the way there.  The PTSD subsided and later became Postpartum Depression.  It lasted for about a year after the birth.  Thank goodness for breastfeeding and the oxytocin lift it gave me through out each day.  It carried me through, that, and long walks and hikes and trips to the lake out in nature with my son in my sling.  He knew how to keep me going.

My son was a very serious baby.  He did not smile for a long time and later had great anxiety about leaving me and being with other people.  Finally we got through it though.  We took things slow.  My reward finally came when one day he was jumping in the johnny-jump-up and I pulled off a sock, sniffed it and threw it behind my shoulder while saying "PHHHHEEEWWWWwwww!!!!!!"  He laughed and laughed.  We both did and we still are.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Time Together

In my work as a Birth Doula I  see a mom and her family three times before the birth, during the birth and three times after the birth.  Sometimes a mom needs additional care after the baby is born.  Then I work as a Postpartum Doula, helping with chores around the house, spending time with siblings or the baby so the Mom can rest or sitting and listening to the stories and concerns of the Mom.  At the end of one on one contact I believe that all new moms (we are always new with each child that is born) need a continuing circle of support with other moms facing similar experiences.  

The group will be meeting twice each month.  Times have been tentatively set for the second and fourth Tuesday of each month from 1:00-3:00pm (or as long as your baby can hold out).  Eventually I'd like to vary the times so both at home and working moms will have a chance to attend.  All times are subject to change and will reflect the needs of the group.  I have found a cozy meeting space at The Lotus Center, which is right above Global Village on 25 W Superior Street.  Parking is available anywhere on the street, but also in a parking garage across the street under the MNPower/Allete building.  The parking is accessed via Michigan Street. You are Invited!

The Childbearing Years group will be open to all mothers with babes in arms. Young children are also welcome.   It would be ideal if we could find an older sibling(s) who would enjoy spending time with the younger mobile children during our time together.  Maybe the group as a whole could chip in to provide a monetary incentive to our future caregivers.  Above all, I want you to come as you are, get out of the house and make new friends.

This will be a peer support group where each mom in the group will support and be supported by the other moms.  Each meeting will consist of a presentation topic chosen by the moms, and a sharing circle where mom's can share their experiences and listen to others. Each member will grow in their ability to communicate effectively by listening attentively and reflecting upon each other's experiences.  This is not a problem solving group, although your problems may be solved in talking about them.  As a group we will not try to fix each other’s difficulties, but simply be there to listen and offer encouragement to each other.

 If you are interested in attending contact me, at 218-310-2038.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mothers Know

Mothers Know exactly what they need to safely give birth to their children without anyone telling them what to do.  The first thing I ask each mother and her birth partner if s/he is there, is "What is your idea of your ideal birth?"  I've never known any mother to pause at this point.  Each mother has a crystal clear idea of what they want for the birth of their child and their care after the birth.  There is a wide range of possibilities to choose from and each one is right for the specific woman who chooses them.

A woman who has survived sexual abuse in childhood may not feel comfortable with having a natural birth.  When there has been trauma in life I, as a Doula, want to prevent that trauma from being triggered during birth.  A survivor may have been able to distance herself from past abuse and created a safe place in her life from which she is able to function.  If this same woman had a vaginal delivery, no matter how supported by Doulas she was, the vaginal birth could trigger earlier sexual trauma as if it were happening in current time.  At all times I want to avoid heightened anxiety, distancing, depression and other coping behaviors associated with trauma during the birth of a baby.

An infant needs a mother who can breastfeed skin to skin, gaze fondly in her baby's eyes, room in with her infant as she recovers and care for her newborn when she is home.  When a woman's ideal birth is an elective Cesarean Section with General Anesthesia it may be a wise decision to support her in her choice.  She  knows what she needs to birth safely.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Welcome Home

To a comfortable chair in a warm room surrounded by mothers, babies and young children who want to hear all about how you and your baby are learning and growing. We gather to laugh and cry and hear stories that are like our own. We have so much in common: the sleepless nights, the unending gas that doesn't come out, the crying time, and all the changes. The ups and downs that the huge shifts in hormones bring and the changing relationships with family and friends that are an everyday occurrence for each of us in our lives. Trying to raise a newborn in a sleep deprived state is very difficult work. Getting out of the house is a major miracle. An afternoon or early evening time with other moms can be a God send. What have you found that works to get some extra sleep in the day or night? Your experiences are valuable! We all need all the help we can get! This is a place for you online, and in reality. Online I will provide information to answer questions and tease your brains. I will offer support and challenge thinking that you may have already grown out of, but didn't know it yet. In our real lives we will gather together in a group twice each month for a topic presentation and sharing time. See the post Time Together for information about times, dates and places we will meet. I am honored to have the opportunity to be with you during this time when you are becoming a mother. No matter how many children you have had, you are a new mother for each of them. Deep inside you know exactly what you need to become the best mom you can be. I will provide the resources and organization for moms to get together. You will determine the topics we discuss and the time needed for sharing. This is your group, it will grow into what you need. This place is also a safety net to catch you if the responsibilities of motherhood begin to weigh too heavily upon you. We will find solutions and help in the larger community together if your reserves are exhausted. We must care for the mother so she can care for her child/ren. The pitcher has to be full before you can pour it.