Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Return to Love

Here is what we need to do:

One: Love our bodies as they are.
Short ones, tall ones, fat ones, sleek ones, flabby ones, toned ones- it doesn't matter. We must first make friends with our own bodies. Our culture teaches us to loathe our bodies no matter how they look- we can never quite measure up. That is why we need to stop right now and choose to love our bodies no matter what they look like. I choose to love my chocolate brown skin, my full lips, my gray-speckled hair. I love it all. I find no fault with it. I groom it and dress it up and endeavor to look my best everyday. While I do have a goal to lose weight, I don't give myself negative messages. I make good food choices and work out almost every day. I know if I keep this up, I will lose weight, but I don't care about looking good tomorrow. I care about looking good today. So I buy nice things that flatter my physique as it is today. I must confess I have a great sense of style and I do get compliments almost daily on my appearance- despite the fact that I do not fit the standard of beauty in our culture. To the unobservant eye, I'm an overweight, old, black lady. Yes, I am those things, but to my own eyes, I am also beautiful. I believe that I am- so I project that view out onto the world from the inside of me. Hell, I'm downright sexy. A few rolls of fat can't stop the sexiness from oozing out through my pores. I believe with all my being that I am beautiful, therefore others believe it too. (There is a great lesson here. We cannot convince others of that which we ourselves do not believe .) How do you start to love yourself? Perhaps you have been bombarded all your life with messages that you are inadequate and do not measure up. Start there. Change those messages (at least the ones that come from inside you). Whenever you start to criticize your body, stop and change the words, even if you don't quite believe them yet. Say to yourself, "I accept my body." "I love my body." "I am grateful to my body." Women who do not love their bodies, do not believe in their bodies ability to birth. So let's start there. Love your body.
(You might also read 'A New Earth' by Eckart Tolle)

Two: Recognize that our bodies are not us.
They are the shell we travel this life in. While it is important to love your body, it is equally important not to mistake it for being you. You are a triune being, composed of body, mind, and spirit. Your spirit will live on, your body will age and die. It is all too easy to get caught up in the life of the body. Especially if you are a mom and have little ones at home. But please recognize, dear ones, that you are more, so much more, than today's laundry list of chores and meetings, and doings, and havings. Take time to honor your mind (read a good thinking book, or practice daily phrases of that language you always wanted to learn!) and to honor spirit (light a candle during daily quiet time, make time for prayer, or meditation, or if those kinds of activities don't suit you, dance wildly to music you love and that speaks to your soul, howl at a full moon!) You want a life of balance- well you don't get it by being mired in the body. Get out of the body if only a few minutes a day and pamper the mind and the spirit. You know what makes birth such an amazing experience? It doesn't just happen in the body, it happens to our minds and spirits as well. All the great landmark events of human experience do. We just get distracted with the physicality of birth, yet it is a tremendous mental/spiritual event as well. Make a plan today to honor all aspects of your amazing being- body, mind, and spirit.
(To emphasize these principles, it might be helpful to read Victoria Moran's 'Creating a Charmed Life')

Return to love, dear ones. Do not give in to our culture's condemnation or perversion of the feminine form. We must learn to love ourselves, and then loving birth will come to us.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Birth Prophecy

For most of my life, I believed I was non-orgasmic. That is, I did not achieve orgasm during intercourse or as a result of intercourse, but only through masturbation. For a long time, this was an issue of great concern to myself and my husband. I read many books over the years, tried many 'techniques' all with the same disappointing result. But we persisted with both faith and creativity and some years ago now, we quite abruptly stumbled upon not 'the right technique' but the flood gate. Once we discovered, through trial and error, what triggers worked for me, we were delighted to find, that not only was I capable of achieving orgasm, but it was only the beginning of new found heights of responsiveness that I had never before even dreamed of. It appears foolish to me now, to think that I or any other woman could be labeled 'non-orgasmic.' The female body (indeed the human body) has amazing capabilities that because of our limiting beliefs and paralyzing fears lie mostly untapped and unknown. The same can be said for birth. We do not know what the body is capable of. We do not know because of the fears others seek to instill or because of false beliefs we choose to embrace. We think the issue is medicated birth vs natural birth, doctor vs midwife, or assisted vs unassisted. But I tell you this, the true lesson is love vs fear, control vs power, knowledge vs wisdom. We can cling to modern medicine to separate us from our own bodies, to relieve ourselves of any responsibility for our births, but the power to birth is within us still. We must fight to reclaim it - knowing it is already ours.

Monday, August 25, 2008

These sling back pumps were made for walking...

I should clarify. I'm selling my business to my son. He has worked alongside me for two years now, learning the ropes. He is eager to take it over, and 'take it to the next level'. I confess, there's lots of potential for the business, and I know he'll do well with it. Something is happening to me. This business has been my baby, yet I knew in an instant I must sell it in order to grow and move forward. I'm not hesitant, nor even grieving. I'm just eager to get on to the next thing and give it my undivided attention. Today at school, I'll have a panel of postpartum moms, and then the pregs. I'm excited for today and the activities I have planned for my students. I'm also planning my next class and lining up speakers and planning exercises. My goal is to write 3 pages a day and to keep looking for speaking opportunities. I have decided to attend a spiritual retreat called Grace Adventure. It is a huge commitment that will take me away from my family for four weekends over the next 3 months. But I have internal work to do- I can't move forward until it gets done, and I'm chomping at the bit to move forward. I already have someone else to teach my students while I'm away. I will also be applying to NYU for a fellowship in nursing leadership. If I'm accepted, I'll be in NY six times in six months next year. One of my CPR students told me about this and I've been waiting all year to apply. I won't be speaking at AAP in Boston because it's too close to MANA but I did receive an award from them for best abstract (that was pretty cool, it came with a cash prize). It's good to wake up every morning eager to put my feet on the floor.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fire Sale

I'm selling my business. I want to free up time to pursue my master's. I really wanted to own my own business. In four years I've grown a successful business- I've done it. Now it's time to move on. I really want to teach. I really want to write. I really want to speak. I'm giving myself permission to follow my bliss- which means, I'm selling my business. I don't know what the future holds, but I'm opening my arms wide to embrace it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Offerings Upon the Alter

I have returned from retreat- no new hairdo perhaps, but a new attitude. Every internal belief and mental construct has been challenged. I feel like humpty dumpty- shattered to pieces and in dire need of reconstruction. Yet I am at peace and full of hope and the clarity continues to come to me...

At the retreat, Morningstar had a reconsecration on Sunday night. It was a beautiful ceremony. She renewed her vows as a hermitess nun. One the the things that Morningstar is gifted at is creating ceremony. (She created one for me two years ago when I was pregnant) Folks come to her needing a ritual of celebration or mourning or whatever and she creates it for them at the Holy Land. (She makes alters like most folks bake a dozen cookies or fill a vase with flowers. I've decided to come home and make my own household alter- been wanting to do it for years) Morningstar literally created an outdoor church, hanging banners from her small forest of trees, setting up several alters, and tables for feasting afterwards. Her priest came to consecrate her(he was quite a sight in his long flowing white robes and white hair and beard- he looked like Saint Francis of Assisi in his church of the woods). About 50 people came bearing food and gifts and loving intentions including many of Morningstar's family and a small army of children she midwifed. Morningstar incorporated many of her native Cherokee elements into the ceremony. When she could not find an order that fit her beliefs and culture- she started her own- an order devoted to simple and sacred living. Ten years later she remains an order of one- with a worldwide community of supporters.

It occurred to me watching the ceremony play out, that Morningstar created something where there was once nothing. (her hermitage, her order, her priestesshood, her community) Surely this is what God wants of each of us. To join in and become a part of the creative process for good wherever we are, and where the capacity to perform our soul's work doesn't exist- to create it. This is my task in the work of birth.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dangerous Mind

Okay, yesterday I did something totally out of character. I was reading my book, minding my own business, when out of the blue (seemingly) I had a thought that I should go to the Holy Land (no, not that Holy Land). My hermitess nun's retreat center in central Missouri- she calls it the Holy Land. This thought came into my brain about 1:32. At 3:06, I was packed and on the road to Lake of the Ozarks. I left kids and husband for 3 days of silence and solitude. I didn't plan it, I just got up and went. I paid the mortgage, made dinner, arranged my kid a ride to soccer, gased up the van, called my husband at work to tell him what was up, and then I left on a 3 hour drive. I've never done anything like this, not sure why I did it now. But I felt an urgent need to get away from my life for a little while and process things. The Holy Land is beautiful. It's a little meadow nestled in between foothills on all sides (you can't make a cell phone call from there). Sr. Morningstar has many scultures and well tended gardens, along with her cottage, the retreat cottage and a small chapel. Folks also camp out in the meadow, or stay in the teepee, that's been erected on the land. Except for Morningstar and her dog, I am alone on the land. I read, write, pray, meditate, do chores I'm given (Morningstar says work can be done as a meditative practice- she tells me to imagine my old self being transformed as the wooden bench is transformed as I clean and oil it- I bet she learned that from Mr. Meyagi- 'Daniel son, wax on, wax off, wax on, wax off...') and gaze in wonder at the beauty all around me. I am in silence but it is not quiet. The sounds are constant, but not like city noise. In the relative quiet, I can hear my own voice. Not sure if this is an epiphany or descent into madness -it's sometimes difficult to tell the difference. My heart feels at peace, but my mind is all ablaze. Mostly I'm here to experience God(ness) and re-create my life and refine my mission. Tall order for 3 days in the sticks... I kinda feel like Moses ascending into the mountain wilderness. We'll see if I emerge in 3 days with an ethereal glow and a spiffy new hairdo (if Charlton Heston can get one, why can't I?)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Conversations With Myself

I've been reading 'Conversations With God.' Stole it from my 17 year old- he wants it back, but I must finish it. So intriguing, so conflicted. I want to believe it- it makes so much sense to my way of thinking, yet it conflicts with everything I've ever been told is true. It's a spiritual dilemma in the making- I feel my middle giving way. One of the by-products of reading this book, is that my work as a birth advocate seems complete in light of it. I used to think, oh I'm just a birth advocate, it's not like finding a cure for cancer or brokering peace in the Middle East, but its my little contribution to the world. I even used to think my vocation was not 'spiritual enough.' After reading (only half of) CWG, I see what I do in a much larger context. I already knew birth work was what I was born to do- I just didn't see it as being essential to the world- I didn't see my presence as being essential to the world. Now everything is being shot to shit and I'm forced to delve deeper... to answer questions I don't know if I should be asking...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Calling All Pregs...

Well not all pregs, only those between 6 and 9 months- in the Kansas City area. I need 4 pregnant ladies to volunteer for my upcoming nursing class on Aug. 25th. The students will measure and feel bellies for fetal positions. It will take about an hour of your time. Please contact me at if you are interested.

As if I don't have enough to do...

Yesterday, I got an email from the doula list serve that said the doc and midwife will resume seeing patients on Wed. I suppose this is a victory, but I still have'nt got the whole story-which is why I delay in relating it. I'll try to go straight to the source for some input.

I heard through the grapevine Dr. Phil is asking for input for a show on homebirth. I sent an email- don't expect anything to come of it. (I like the good doc, but I do think he's biased and runs his own agenda. That could spell trouble for the person supporting the view he's opposed to- since he's not shy about bullying and berating.)

Check out this article from Time magazine on homebirth. I like that the topic is getting press. It lays out the pros and cons without drawing any conclusions and mentions the epic battle here in Missouri.

Just got the news this week- I'll be speaking at MANA (Midwives Alliance of North America), on the topic of healthcare blogs no less! I'll have to spend some time getting back on the circuit and finding some new birth blogs to cite. If you know of some you really like, let me know please. MANA will be in Traverse City Michigan (beautiful place!) in October. I attended a MANA there many years ago and loved it. The resort served cherries in every meal (thats what they are known for there) and I stole a quiet moment to walk the shores of Lake Michigan. I took my baby with me, who is now 14. Ironically, I was interviewed for a video production on homebirth at this conference when I attended in 1993, and it will be premiered at this year's conference (yes, it took fourteen years to complete- so I'm doing well going on year two of my production!). The producer, Sage Femme has amazingly kept in touch with me all this time (we see each other at MANAs) and has been an enthusiastic supporter of my work. I'll let you know when the video is out. I use her video, "My Baby, My Body, My Birth" to teach my nursing students. Last year was my first time to present at MANA. I'm looking forward to doing so again. I may be presenting at this year's AAP conference (American Academy of Pediatrics) as well on the topic of 'lactation in the African-American community'. Its in Boston near the same time as MANA so I don't know if I can work it out- but I have been invited.

I've officially applied to the master's program at the same nursing school I did my undergrad. I could finish my masters in nursing education in 1 year. (I already have a million hours from changing my major twice already- first CNM, then healthcare administration- so all I need it the educator specific courses). I'm excited to think I'll be finishing my masters soon. I'm more activist than academic, so I don't know how any employer will interpret my 'extracurricular activities'. It will probably be like L&D nursing- I'll probably lose a lot of jobs! But it makes for good storytelling!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Birth Activism 101

So here's what happened. I got an email a couple of days ago off the doula list serve that a local DO and her partner CNM had their privileges suspended at a local hospital. This is a group that is highly regarded and recommended in the community. The were the first doctor midwife and midwife for this particular hospital. I don't know the circumstances for the suspension (the community is abuzz with speculation) but no one really knows because they are not supposed to speak about it. This action is not based on a consumer complaint (these women are well loved and respected). A local homebirth midwife called a letter writing campaign to support them and hopefully get their privileges reinstated. We did the letter writing thing last night, about 25 moms and a couple of dads got together at our local birthing center (which just recently reopened) and wrote all these nice letters. The homebirth midwife and I will deliver them to the hospital this morning, as the big meeting with the DO and CNM is tonight- of course its a closed meeting.

This makes me so angry. Another CNM under attack by her own facility. I've seen so many CNMs in this city tiptoeing through practice in order not to upset the apple cart. Sometimes even being sabotaged by their own success. Physicians complain if their practices grow too big or too fast. Babies born in a squat on the floor instead of on the bed, well we can't have that. The list goes on and on. Those few practitioners who doggedly try to make changes in the hospital setting have to constantly watch their backs for things like this. Even their labor nurses will rat them out if they deviate from 'the norm.' Its difficult to be an agent for change, whether you are on the inside or the outside. My challenge right now is to keep the bigger picture in mind- it's not just about these two practitioners, its about all the women they serve. All the women due right now, who will have to be delivered by 'the physician on call' if they go into labor this week, or find a new care provider at term. This is untenable. This is unethical. Women deserve better than this.

So I'll put a smile on my face, be nice, and deliver the letters, and hope they get read, and responded to. If not, we may have to kick things up a notch...

Sunday, August 03, 2008

World Breastfeeding Week

As promised my (edited) letter to the editor in my local paper. Going for the Gold

My so called academic life...

Now that my class is over, and I have some time to reflect (two whole days before my second summer class starts) I'm amazed at how quickly I've become attached to this teaching thing. I'm also itching to get back to my writing. I need to get back to work on my homebirth book and I'm rethinking and tweaking the breastfeeding book. I plan on starting work on my masters again in September. I'm seriously thinking of changing from Nurse Executive Practice to Nurse Educator. I can see myself doing this. I can see it as a better jumping off place for my writing. Wow, I didn't think a part time gig would change me so much. I'm amazed that there is this much change in me. I feel so focused and sharpened, like I know what I want, and how to go get it. I've decided to continue teaching part time, finish my masters (about 2 years) and get out my books and documentary. More than enough to keep me busy over the next 2-3 years. I think I've accidently stumbled upon my life.