It is glaringly clear we are living in extraordinary times. Yesterday four or five million people, mostly women, marched around the USA and globally to take a stand for what appears on the surface to be many different causes, yet the umbrella over it all can be named with just one word: Love.
For hours I stood in a sea of umbrellas in San Francisco, arm in arm with two other mothers. Between us we have four daughters, the oldest being six years old. Rain did nothing to slim the peaceful, passionate crowd, gathered for our daughters and sons, our men-of-quality-who-don’t-stand-for-inequality, elders, ourselves.
A multitude of feelings surged through me.
Pride... to have been born in this city that stands for human rights and dignity.
Honor... to be marching with two other mothers, for the sake of our daughters.
Relief... that I hadn’t brought my daughter and could stand, witness and participate for
five whole hours.
Serenity... that I felt no anger, no desire to insult Trump and spew more hatred into the world.
Awe... to be part of what would turn out to be the largest protest in US history, led by and for? Women.
And I also felt some uncertainty, some sense of stale unsettledness, wondering if next week would feel “same old same old” because this was just another example of the San Francisco cutting edge. Protests in the "bubble world" pockets of our culture but then back to life as usual, back to the doldrums of work and overwhelm, back to the sense of “my one voice doesn’t matter much.” It has happened many times before.
Then I woke up today and the internet had exploded with images of huge sister marches in cities all over the world — Berlin, Rome, Dublin, Oslo, Detroit, Memphis, Denver, Los Angeles — a total of 673 cities around the globe. It is estimated that almost 5 million people marched yesterday. Marches were held in 47 cities in the state of California alone.
That’s when I reminded myself that California is home to 12% of the U.S. population, it is the world’s 6th largest economy, and it is often the cutting edge. When people act like Californians are off-the-rocker, “too New Agey” or far-fetched in our idealism, I remind myself that it is just a matter of time before our best traits — because certainly, they’re not all good — spread far and wide across this country that is so thirsty for love.
California knows diversity. We’ve got super money-rich. We’ve got super money-poor. Dark brown, pale white and everywhere else on the rainbow. Every spot on the sexual preference curve. We haven’t perfected coexistence but we're not in denial about that, and we’re practicing.
Beneath our yoga mats, Hollywood gloss and hot spring relationship retreats, California knows we all need to work on emotional intelligence and communication.
But that was just my small picture, packed into the peaceful pod of 100,000 San Franciscans.
Our 47 California marches had 626 sisters.
With two of mine, I marched. Bearing perhaps the most common female names in the English language, Sarah, Jen and I (Jessica) caterpillared our way through the crowds until eventually we had to make our way back home to put our daughters to bed.
Walking two miles back to our car in the rain, we lifted our joyful thighs up and down the wet hilly sidewalks of the city, admiring architecture and talking about what struck us most about the march.
Since my writing is personal as much as it is anything, I’ll share what struck me.
Ever since I gave birth I have been angry with women at large. This anger doesn’t consume me but it’s been there, irritating, beneath my skin. It is really sad, even maddening, to see us so readily give our power away!
We are powerful and miraculous because we birth new life. What more is there to say?
Even for those who are unable to carry and birth children of their own, or those who don’t want to become mothers in this life: We all come from mothers. Women are spectacular!
(Warning: Strong language follows, including profanity. Stop reading here if you want to.)
Emotionally mature females value our worth. Emotionally mature men uphold and honor women while they stand in their own worth as men. And mature people are the ones who primarily set leadership agendas and serve in key leadership roles, thereby setting the tone for society.
So what’s the fucking problem?
Why do women still stare in the mirror for hours every week trying to look good? Your power comes from within you. Spend five minutes in the mirror telling yourself the Top 10 Bad Ass things about you today — how you treated your son with kindness even when you were exhausted, or how you took five minutes to do yoga at your desk — and move on. How many times a day do you think about whether you look good enough — pretty enough, slim enough, lean enough, curvy enough, sexy or stylish or classy enough?
We disempower ourselves at least as much as others devalue us, and I would assert far more.
Your worth is not in the goddamn mirror.
And our annual U.S. spending of over $426 billion on beauty products? I don’t even know what we spend on new clothes and shoes. Look, ladies, how about we… err… cut our beauty-product spending in half and build some new schools for our kids, or community retreat centers to refill us from the inside, for all that we hold up?
Pretending our worth is largely made up by how we look, is just one way women belittle ourselves. We. Do. So. Much. Disempowering ourselves. We give our power away in many ways, with various addictions, bad habits and distractions, and none of us is “done” with this work. We all have some “looking in the mirror” to do.
Yes, that was intense. Yes, I wear mascara two or three times a year. Yes, I fret over how I look sometimes. Yes, you are still marvelous and totally worthy of love if you wear makeup every day and even if you spend a shitload of money on creams, blush, lipstick and shoes. And so am I, even though I used to tear off magazine covers off so I could plaster my walls with supermodel photos in my adolescent years.
But why? Why put so much attention outside of yourself, when your only true power — which is Love — lies within you?
There is Prince on the radio, there are mountains to hug and trees to climb, there are letters to write. There are songs that want to be wailed with your very voice, there are beaches to dance on, if not near your house then inside your imagination, on your living room floor.
All I am saying behind my annoyance is that women are amazing, all of us, and I am so, so, so tired of us devaluing ourselves.
So for me, yesterday’s march was about relief.
As we marched in the rain, I imagined myself with my arms wrapped around all the women who’ve felt self-assured long before me.
Who, while I was sobbing over some guy in college who didn’t want to go out with me, were pissed off about how small I made myself.
Who, while I was hiding out eating a half gallon of ice cream, sighed about how empty I felt inside, when what they saw was a bright light of beauty, complete and divine.
Finally, I feel women at large waking up. Maybe it’s just because that’s what I see in the mirror: my own thank-God, at-last. Enough of us to turn the tide. Enough of us to stop tolerating domestic violence and vomit-worthy levels of commercialism in our schools and child mutilation and all the other crap we allow as a collective sisterhood.
This is in our hands, ladies. So a wounded, hateful man got elected into a noteworthy government position. He does not have power over you.
This is in our hands, ladies. It is widely known that women overall lead household spending patterns. Well guess what? When we stop buying things to fill our inner emptiness — and instead fill ourselves and our sisters up from within — there are no sick corporations left to buy our government.
Yesterday was a worldwide exhibition of women reclaiming our power. In sisterhood, we marched for the sake of life itself, under a banner of mostly love. And this movement is quite literally just beginning.
My Love... my sweet Hjalmar...
You were such a good papa to Rosco. It is a sign of his brilliance that he found you, an old gentle soul whose presence is ancient like a rock whipped coarse by the ocean.
You found him at one year old, and for 14 years he got to live by your side running free, chasing squirrels, swimming in a freshwater creek hole more beautiful than most humans ever even get to see.
When we began dating and took a road trip to San Diego, I was startled to find you spooning him during a nap in our rental van. So open to showing love for your dog. I'll never forget that sight, and I'd come to see that it was the way you were with him. You loved being with him, next to him, two gentle, patient souls who had found each other.
He was ready to move on, and in this time of grieving for our family I just want you to know how grateful I am that you shared him with me, and how proud I am that you are the father of my child. The patience I have learned from you -- true, old, wide, ancient patience -- I now see that you learned in part from Rosco. You were mirrors for each other in this way.
And he waited, to die. Fifteen years in human time, 105 in dog years. He really liked being with you, part of your family. And he stuck around, even with at least 14 years of seizures, to show Helena what Dog Love is like. I remain convinced it is Love in some ways evolved beyond what humans know.
And as you feel appreciated and seen for the spectacular man and father you are, I also ask that you fully grieve the loss of your sweet boy. He feels it, I promise you that. The grieving is part of the love.
So here is a sweet song, my favorite instrument as you know (piano) and my favorite in part because of how much it helps us humans to feel. I picked a song by a Korean composer because of how much beauty you've shared with me from the Japanese and other Asian cultures. www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2Oeg32zW3E
Rosco, the dog who "smiled" when he ran. The dog who could have taught the world how to heal with physical touch, simply by his loving presence and soft, willing body.
I love you outside of words and far beyond this lifetime. It feels empty here without our Zubby around, waiting for an affectionate foot or an elbow, or hand...
As I write, I hear the sound of our old dog snoring. It's a gentle, quiet snore, not disturbing whatsoever, but tonight it stands out more than ever because I know Rosco is dying.
We're all dying, yes. And with old age, most likely we get closer to leaving our body.
Rosco is old for a dog. The lumps on his sides, which weren't found to be cancerous on his last vet visit, seem to have grown in recent weeks. He is moving much slower than he did last month. Something has shifted.
Not only am I certain he knows there is big change in the air with our family venturing to Sweden for a year beginning sometime this summer, but I am certain that he also hears me and "knows" what I'm saying when I talk with him, whether I speak out loud or not. I tell him we are going, though he already knows that. I tell him that I see he is in pain, and that if he feels ready to die, we are willing to hold him as he passes. I tell him that if he isn't ready to die quite yet, he can live with my dad and get lots of petting and treats. But Rosco knows all that. He feels it. Dogs are energetically very in tune -- in ways the majority of adult humans cannot relate to.
I tell him I am listening. I ask him to show me signs. I've held a dog as she died before, and Lusa was my soulmate. I'm willing, honored and ready to do it again. It's up to him.
If he's ready to go after being brought from an abusive home to the animal shelter as a 1-year-old puppy, and then being adopted by my husband and spending 14 good years in his care -- then I accept that.
Having seen how miserable end-of-life can be when close relatives aren't ready to let go, and someone is in pain and wants to go themselves... I want to be loving, and let go.
But how does he want to die?
I don't mean medically. I mean, if we really were to show love for him... if we really were to care deeply about how he spends his last days... if we considered it important to support our loyal, affectionate, protective, playful friend by assisting him to leave his body in a state of mind that is truly peaceful...
What would that look like?
How can we help him to pass, feeling loved?
What does dignity look like in dying?
Do we take him to the beach one day, let him run in the waves and then bring him home where a vet comes by with an end-of-life injection? And we hold his body close, petting his fur gently as his heart stops beating, telling him, "You're a good boy Rosco..." just as I've done dozens of times during his seizures?
Do we feed him raw meat and take a family walk the hour before?
Do we all sit and pet him, tell him we love him together, or should it be just his dad?
What we do not want to do is let him suffer in pain for any longer than he needs to. It's just so hard to tell sometimes with dogs, stoic as they can be with revealing their pain. We want to let him go when he is ready. Really, for us that feels like love.
Half of me writes this article to process this sad reality, myself. By stating in writing that we want to support Rosco to pass when he's ready, maybe that means we'll get a clearer message somehow.
The other half writes because I'm not afraid to talk about death, and to wonder how I'd prefer to die and to ask...
How do you want to die?
Have you thought about it? Perhaps you know how you don't want to die: in horrible pain, or in terrible fear, or all tied up with tubes in a hospital bed.
Most of us have no control over how we die; we're not going to take our own lives prematurely. But we do get to dream. To be in conversation with the great mystery of the future, and all that is unfolding. To lend light to the wanting, to give name to the joy.
When you take your last breaths, do you want:
I'd like to live another 50 years or so, and watch our daughter grow up and blow my mind with her brilliance, courage, playfulness, passion and grace. I'd like another Queensland Heeler puppy to care for its entire life. I want to live to see my husband living his art and joy for work. I want to live at least as long as my parents, so I can care for them with my whole heart, as a duty of honor. At least as long as it takes for our daughter to choose to have children, or not, so that I can play with my grandchildren...
And when I leave this body, I want:
That's what dignity in dying looks like for me. That's what dignity in dying might look like for Rosco. What does dignity in dying look like for you?
by Jessica Rios
originally published December 2016 in The Natural Parent magazine
When I was in college, I heard about hippies living together on communes. It sounded so wild, so flowery, so free. Midwives, breast milk, raw honey kind of free.
Then my college roommates came along. Our house was nowhere near as clean as my mother had kept ours. Dishes sat stinky in the sink for days. Dust piled up in every corner. Hangovers permeated the air and post-rugby sweat lingered on sofa pillow cushions. Living in a commune with a bunch of pals turned into the last thing I wanted.
Fifteen years later I gave birth to a baby girl at home. Candles were lit in every room. My patient husband and mother were there. Our midwife and her angelic assistants whispered with strength and service as the baby moved lower, down, down.
By then, I’d grown to treat my home like an altar. Home became a space where everything in it was beautiful for my eyes and soothing for my heart, where every single thing either brought me joy to look at or to use, and was well tended to. I didn’t clean once a month for six hours; tending to my space was a practice everywhere I walked. Creating beauty and order was a meditation. Creating home had become a passion — a home that felt capable of holding me in all the ways I’d grown to give and show up in this world.
I liked having my own space, where I could place a turquoise vase of white tulips on any windowsill I chose without having to democratically discuss it with an entire community of cohabitants.
Roaring like a tiger — literally, you know it, mamas — I sat on the birthing stool at the edge of my bed, a volcano about to erupt from my womb, and our daughter emerged. With pneumonia.
We spent the next 10 days and nights in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Her lungs got oxygen pumped into them to grow. I held her little body for only about an hour every day. Her father and I stared at the vitals monitor, hour after hour, our little pink skinned baby laying in her Isolette with tubes in her nose and taped to her belly. My breastmilk supply was insufficient. And five months later, my long time soul mate, a female red Queensland Heeler dog named Lusa, developed lumps near her ribs and passed away as I held her body and she took her last breath.
I was depressed.
Thirteen months later, the fog of depression lifted. But for all those months my head and heart hung low, bathed by the sorrowful waters of life’s rigor.
Did I need more aerobic exercise? Sure. More grieving, to process the trauma? Sure. Yet there was one word that kept repeating itself, an echo of wisdom from deep in my womb, over and over and over again as the months of depression carried on. One word that captured what a solution would feel like. One word that spoke of the medicine a mother like me so painfully needed in these times.
I would think, staring at my baby’s perfect face as she slept in my lap, If only I could call a friend to come and make me tea and cry with me. I would wonder, How sweet would it be if we could easily cook dinner with three other families, with no transportation involved… just as a way of life? I yearned for an easier and built-in sort of community, one that seemed so natural, so good for life, so good for mothers.
What I longed for turned out to be something many other mothers longed for too. We felt a sense of loss, as if our ancestors had something we have somehow since forgotten.
One year later in my classic entrepreneurial leadership style, I formed a group to discuss village living. Where would we form a village? What would it look like? How many families, what ages, and what were all the legalities involved? And what kinds of challenges might we face? Knowing the interpersonal dynamics would likely be the most challenging part, the issue I’d always bring to the table was how we would “be” in relationship. What kinds of agreements and other structures would we create to support our village experiment — without running in opposite directions hating each other after all was said and done?
Sure, our ancestors made it work. Men went out hunting while women cared for the children in the caves and tipis.
Yet times are different now. Fences and property lines were about as common for our ancestors as lawnmowers, especially the reality of every single home on a city block having its very own lawnmower. And tool shed. And kitchen to clean. And its very own need for specific arrangements to be made every time the residents go travelling: pet sitters, plant waterers, mail collectors. Its very own mortgage and sprinkler system and electricity bill to file and pay.
(See how heavy this is feeling? There has got to be a better way.)
Eventually, the "Village group" dissolved, but not because there’s not great longing for Village. We dissolved because life in the San Francisco Bay Area is busy, and I felt pulled to let the Village vision simmer awhile as I focused on other things.
What has come clear since then is this: Village is a healthy, fulfilling way of life that would be optimal for women, children, men and most things in between. It’s also clear that going back to how things were for the hippies of the 1960s and ‘70s isn’t quite what’s wanted for those of us yearning for Village today.
What isn’t clear is how we do it, in the modern world. Not every one of us has a Trust that enables the purchase of acreage to form a community based on Village values. And even when we do, the reality is that it’s still not easy to make it work.
Distilling the issue down to what it looks like — and what values are at play — appears to be the most helpful approach for the 1,000s and 1,000s of families who want to create a more community-oriented “Village” lifestyle.
1) Share food.
Whenever possible, invite friends over for meals. Consider an exchange twice a month with one family; you cook once and they cook once. This creates deeper bonds, makes dinnertime more fun, and spices up the routine that can dull long term relationships.
Or how about a dinner coop with eight families who each cook twice a month, and receive three meals cooked for them every other Sunday?
2) Share childcare.
When families share land, children can run out your door without needing to schedule play dates. When we don’t, trading childcare hours is an option.
We’ve never hired a babysitter — not because we think it’s wrong or bad, but — just because it seems more sensible to ask the people who adore our child to hang out with her when we can’t. Our neighbor a few doors down has become a cherished friend and gets along great with our daughter. We look for ways to share our time and love with her; she spends time with our daughter. We don’t pay her; she loves it! And we all build Village in the process. Isn’t life all about relationships, anyway?
3) Share chores and tools.
Instead of always cleaning your own house alone, why not trade with a fellow mama whose company you cherish? You bring wine to her house once a month and clean for three hours together with Fleetwood Mac blasting on the stereo. She does the same for you, only it’s Lila Downs at your casa.
You could set up a Home and Garden Coop using painted popsicle sticks to show credit for how many hours each family has pitched in to the group. Then when you need your laundry room painted Moroccan Orange, you can cash in some sticks and call in a small crew to drink Maghrebi Mint tea and paint with you.
Maybe your man is great at fixing bikes and your bestie’s man is skilled with knife sharpening. They can trade, eh? Just takes a little coordination. As long as too many beers aren’t involved, the dance should go just great.
4) Share your dreams.
As with any longing, when we get obsessed with it, things don’t go so well. But we can hold onto the dream of living Village, keeping it tucked close to our chest and seeing how life shows us it’s listening. Maybe having shared land or co-housing just isn’t in the cards for us, yet we can ask for “this or something better” as is often said by the enchanting Caroline Casey of Coyote Network News.
We can honor our dream for Village living by tending to it as if it’s a dear friend. Listening to it, talking about it, paying attention to it.
By living the values and feelings associated with Village life — and by making our lives look more like the way Village speaks to us through our child-honoring wombs — we can satisfy a deep, deep longing that cannot be denied. As with anything that makes life truly rich, the desire to live a Village life is well worth exploring.
P.S. There is nowhere I would be that's worthy of being, without the loving power and care of my very dear girlfriends. I'm dosing up with joy here, by posting a 'gallery' grid of photos taken with lady loves over the last 10 years or so.
Deepest ode, girlfriends. You are my Village!
This will be one of my shorter posts. I’m feeling not so wordy today, though certainly touched deeply by life’s beauty, by many elements of life’s beauty, as the holidays wind down toward the new year.
One thing especially has gifted itself to me this holiday season, and that is the grace of humility as delivered, it seems, through aging. And although this is about a happy place I’ve reached with this particular challenge, what is taking place is the culmination of many years of trying and confusion, disappointment and longing.
Short and sweet. I am glad I’m aging. What is coming along with it for me includes a level of humility that wasn’t here in younger years.
Grateful for this, I will state some simple commitments that I will carry further in my own life, and that I trust will be encouraging for readers of my blog.
I commit to…
May we all thrive in our relations, especially those nearest to us that carry the most potential for expansion of the human heart.
Ten years ago I “failed" a ropes course exercise by failing to ask for help. That was the ticket out and I missed it. I mean, I just figured you couldn’t ask for help. That wasn’t part of the deal. It would be cheating. Mmm hmm.
Well, I got the memo. Debriefing with my peers after the ropes course, we all came to realize asking for help was not only an option in life -- it was essential for living a really good life.
Children are well aware of the need to ask for help. Without hesitation, they notice what they need and make noise with their voices or bodies, somehow, to get what they need. Innately they deserve to have their needs met. And though we often forget it, guess what? Adults do too.
As with any great learning moment, that ropes course lesson really hit home. Over the years that followed, asking for help became a practice I chose to live by. Whether asking for guidance, time or something else, it grew to feel way smarter to ask for help in life than to let the offerings of those around me pass on by. My own quality of life was noticeably enhanced. Not only were my needs being met more regularly, but some of my dearest relationships all grew stronger in the process.
Chances are, if you’re reading this article you don’t mind being asked for help. Most people like being asked for help. We enjoy giving; it feels good. It builds up both the giver and receiver, since ultimately, both asking for help and receiving help are expressions of love.
With a decade of practice asking for help when I needed it, the practice became a significant part of my life, one that didn’t even take much courage most of the time anymore...
Until one day four months ago, an unanticipated situation landed on my lap. Life offered me an opportunity to ask for something that was really, very strange: asking for money. It felt like the most awkward of things to ask for. Almost grimy, needy in a not-so-good way, desperate, low. Yet as I asked within myself, what I needed was money. Clearly, the voice of self worth said, “Ask for money.”
Underneath that voice of self worth, there were battles going on in my head. Voices of self-criticism held a party shouting among themselves, “Asking for money means you’re a desperate low-life!” and “Go to work! That’s how you get money!” and “Try saving more so you don’t get into this situation again!”
Yet by this point in my life, I had reached a place of skillfulness with self-worth. Meaning, the kind of self-worth that says you do not deny what is true for you, even when the voices of self-doubt are throwing a fiesta.
Empowering the voice of self-doubt inside of me was not what wanted to happen.
I looked for the still point. What was my truth? I needed money. Not work. I had plenty of work: writing, coaching, leading workshops, guiding my daughter’s unschooling educational path, creating a line of greeting cards. All the things I was doing for work — on top of my Mama role of keeping our family’s relationships, home, hearts and bodies healthy — brought in some income but not enough. Yes, I was on a path of finding more stable income. But right now? Right then? What I needed was money.
My inner voice for love, my inner voice for self-worth, said, “Ask.” And then, “Stop making such drama out of this situation. You give a lot. Ask for money. There is nothing wrong with asking. People can always say no.”
That calmed me down. I thought, OK, that’s true, there is nothing wrong with asking. People can always say no. God this is awkward…
Then the kicker hit. I thought, This is my spiritual edge. I am nervous about doing something very basic, something that is simply seen in the eyes of the culture as wrong or bad. That tipped me over. Now I had to do it, if only for the experience of seeing what happened when you do something really ballsy. And in asking, there is WOW. Courage + Self-Worth + the Willingness to Receive = big WOW. It began to feel exciting.
So I asked. I thought of five people in my life who were either retired comfortably, or earning lucrative income through their current jobs, or who just seemed willing to hear my request.
One of them was my namesake, the woman who my mother named me after, from the church they attended when I was born. She’s a very loving Christian woman and I have nurtured our relationship over the decades with many, many handwritten cards. I hadn’t heard back from her. A week had passed and I become nervous that she was offended by my request, and I really, really didn’t want anything to come between us. So I followed up with a message expressing that I meant it when I said it was perfectly for her to say “no” and that our relationship mattered to me immensely.
Her response blew me away. Do you believe in unconditional love? I do.
She replied, “Please, please be assured NOTHING, nor anything you say or don't say, can ever change the close relationship between us. God has cemented that forever.” Two days later, she sent me a very generous check.
Two other people sent me checks, echoing similar sentiments: “You give so much…” and “It is an honor to help you when you need it...” and “Do not ever feel ashamed for asking for what you need. I commend you…” and “Thank you for asking.”
Of the five people I asked, two said no. One had the ability to help financially but shared that she was experiencing some dynamics in her life that led her gut to say no to my request. We had a beautiful conversation about it, and our already-rich friendship is even richer now! The other said that she spends her excess money on taking care of feral cats in Hawai’i where she lives. We too were enriched by the conversation. Thinking back, I actually am glad some people said no; it stretched me spiritually, and left me feeling less afraid of these situations altogether.
When all was said and done, all those creaky, sneaky voices of self-doubt were completely deflated. The love I received for asking for something very awkward, which took a lot of courage and self-worth to do, was otherworldly.
Perhaps most pronounced was a feeling I might not be able to easily describe. But I’ll try.
During this situation I knew there were people who judged me for asking for money. Even if they knew I had already tried to secure additional paid work, even if they knew I was a generous person and far from lazy, there were people who simply felt disdain about the idea of an intelligent, capable woman asking for money as a gift.
The cool part? I chose not to care! I chose to make it none of my business! Those voices of criticism joined the party, now being held at the cemetery, with my own inner voice for self-doubt.
Oh, the freedom in actually living the quote I’ve often heard: “What other people think of you is none of your business.” Indescribably liberating!
Money — however much I needed it and however helpful it is in this human life — was the least valuable thing that resulted from that situation. Important relationships became cemented even more deeply; my sense of courage and personal dignity grew; and the stress I felt before asking was alleviated. Plus, the financial choke I had felt was gone, thereby freeing up mental strain so I could be a better mother, friend, wife, daughter and everything else.
It was temporary, it was needed, it provided huge relief. And now it is behind me!
What can you ask for help with today? What do you need? How about some regenerative time away by yourself — someone to take care of your children for a night or three? How about a clean house, a place where you know every square meter of your floors have been wiped clean of life’s dust and dog hair? Your home holds you; wouldn’t it be a beautiful act of self-worth to give it a massive dose of cleaning love? You could pay someone to do it, or you could ask 2 friends to come drink wine with you while you rock out to Prince and clean away… then take turns doing the same thing at their homes!
From a place of self-worth, not self criticism and scarcity… What do you need? I’ll be blunt: Don’t rob others of the chance to show you love. And don't rob yourself of a chance to stretch your receiving muscles.
Give someone a chance to express to you the most powerful thing in the universe: Love. Make it easy for them to know what you need. Time? Space? House cleaning? A massage? Money? Attention? A feeling of being heard, seen, valued? Ask for help. If they say no to whatever you're asking for, remember Don Miguel Ruiz and The Four Agreements: Take nothing personally.
You have to be willing to hear a “no" and that's tougher for most of us than we care to admit. But oh, how incredibly delicious is the freedom on the other side.
Nothing is personal.
Go, baby, go. Weave the wisdom you held close as a child, more fully into your life as an adult. You've only got fear to lose — and far more gems to gain.
Somehow, it happened. A man was elected as U.S. President who does not embody the values of kindness and integrity. Many people despise what he stands for. Many people are afraid. Since he was elected, there have been increases of anger and rage, name calling and threats.
Some people voted for him because they resonate with his hatred of others (which stems from self-hatred, admit it or not). Some people voted for him because they are really fed-up with many things about this country. With that, I can empathize. With the hatred, I cannot.
Hatred is a terrible waste of precious life. Let's get real.
We live on a planet with flowers that bloom open into the sun, light that dances off ocean waves, children whose laughter could erupt away all our wounds and pain, if we allowed it to.
Why waste any of this life on hatred or other forms of fear?
Each human soul is so beautiful, so worthy of love. Yes, every single soul.
Easy to say, but how do we actually live from love? It's simple; it's what we're made of. We do it one breath at a time. One thought at a time. That is the only way to do it. And yet, however simple this is, there are 100s of 1000s of books written instructing people on how. It is far from easy.
With all the horror stirred up in the U.S. right now, we are being called forth massively, to lead from love. To lead our lives from love.
Equally, we are being invited -- by ego, by fear itself, by the idea that we are separate from the divine -- to enter and embody tremendous fear. Many are accepting this invitation, over the invitation to choose love.
I'd rather die out of this body tomorrow choosing love, than live 50 more years in fear. That is the modeling my daughter is worth. And as we know, our children tend to do what we do.
So how do we respond to what's in the air right now, from a place of love?
How does this actually look, on a practical level?
Is it something any of us can do, or is it only for people who've been meditating for a decade or two?
Whether it's you, or me, or an entire country or religion, let's face it: the idea that there is one right way just doesn't work for life. It doesn't work to create a world of respect, forgiveness, compassion and diversity. It works to create a world that feels divided and increasingly upset.
Each person has a unique contribution to make. Life thrives when we respect and honor this diversity. So as I step up to express my own leadership, I am not here to say that someone else's way is wrong. I will not add power to hatred by blowing on its blaze.
With courage I will look within, for the love I am made of, to find a way to light-up love instead.
If someone wants to fly a Confederate Flag or insult women, I am quite uninterested in adding to the mountainous pain inside their soul. When I look at Donald Trump, I see a very hurt person who must have experienced horrible things in his life. I would much rather he and his companions find healing for their deeply broken hearts, so that this world receives beauty from their breath, not hate.
Genuinely, with every bone in my body, I want a world of love. Therefore my only choice is to embody love -- to live it with my thoughts, feelings and actions -- and to return to love whenever I stray.
Women play a huge role in creating a world led from love. As I wrote in a blog post the day after the election, women must lead us out of the mess we are in. It is time we step into our leadership skin, all of us, and trust the ancient wisdom of the womb.
Stay tuned. In the next 3-4 weeks I will lead an in-person workshop in Petaluma, California called WOMEN'S POST-ELECTION POW-WOW. And around the same time, an online version that is free to join.
Men will be welcome too. Women's leadership is essential to bring us into brighter times. The wisdom of the womb needs to take the mic far more often in our world. Men who respect women, who value our role, perspectives, voices and wisdom, are most welcome at the table too.
We will focus on HOW we want to BE in response to this election -- not with the reactionary, fearful part of us, but with the mindful, intelligent part of us leading.
We will honor what's happening around us.
We will honor fear, anger, confusion, despair.
We will name what we want more of.
We will pull courage from our core to live in INTEGRITY -- from our power, from the place that will bring us more of what we want, not more of what we don't want.
From there we will take action. And it will be a very simple, profoundly powerful action.
Join me! If you're not already signed up for our newsletter, sign up to be sure you know about these gatherings. The in-person gathering will be limited to 20 participants. The online call will be limited to 250.
In unity with the Love inside EACH and EVERY one of us~
Afterthoughts... December 4th, 2016
Ta-da! Nevermind! Not right now!
Do you ever have those moments when you are super motivated to do something, and then after a few days, you get this feeling of, Hmmm... I'm not so sure anymore... and you surrender and let it go?
Well, that happened with this women's workshop. I still might do it in some way, but here's the deal.
I've been leading groups of women, and sometimes men too, through transformative experiences for 20 years. I dig it, they dig it, it's good stuff. And yet--
The art at the core of my essence is calling more passionately these days than anything else I might do. It wants to be woven into my life far more intricately than ever before. And I want that too.
Just because I CAN do this kind of thing, doesn't mean I should let an ounce of me go toward something that takes away from time I could spend on my core art, which is ::: loving the world through letter writing.
I want to know and honor my art inside-and-out, 1,000%.
So for now-->
Both this online gathering and the in-person one in Petaluma are on hold. If my art guides me to bring it more centrally into the focus for these gatherings, I'll do that. But for now I'm waiting to be spacious, and listen. And it feels GOOD! (She pats herself deliciously on the back.)
Shock. Just as I felt when two healthy friends died suddenly in the last two years of my life… Shock. That didn’t really happen, did it? We had a chance for a woman president and we chose hate instead? We aren’t living a “real life” soap opera, are we?
Oh yes, we are.
In shock, with millions and millions of Americans and international citizens on Planet Earth right beside me. Somehow, surely with large doses of fraud yet, still — somehow — we have elected a new President whose candidacy was based on hate. How could we not be in shock? If there’s any dose of innocence within us, any dose of that Inner Child who simply expects honesty and respect, how could we not be shocked by what just transpired? When a baby boy is physically abused, does he think, “Oh yeah, this is just the way I’m treated…” or does his core reject this hatefulness, in shock? “It should not be so. I am Love. This is not a reflection of who I am.”
I refuse to go into blame.
There are many who played a role in this despicable outcome, this atrocious revealing of the darkness under the surface of our American soil. Unspeakable fraud is at play and has been for years in this country — in business and politics. I salute those who courageously move to expose the shadows and bring them to widespread awareness.
A deep bow to all the whistleblowers, the truth tellers of every color, shape and age. We are united.
Yet, my greatest leverage is at these fingertips. In this heart. It is... this mouth. This female body. My WOMB.
There are no words strong enough to convey what I want to say right now. To women. All over this planet. And especially to women in America. Prepare for strong words, and this is not personal. I use strong words because Tiger Mama is ferocious and she is rising.
DEAR WOMEN OF AMERICA,
Wake the ________ up. That glass ceiling over our heads? We can blast that bull_____ off the roof if we want to.
No one has power over us. Your thoughts and actions belong to YOU. You can hear insults and feel oppressed, and you can CLAIM that you are not oppressed. You can RETURN to your natural state of freedom. Many people in history who have sure seemed oppressed on the surface, have chosen not to buy into it.
Are you pissed off? Great!
FEEL it in your Mama Bear womb. Let it burn your heart bigger and bolder so you REFUSE not to stand for Love. You know how. It is what you’re made of. Stand for LOVE.
Stop valuing the surface of you — how you look, whether other people, especially men, approve of you — more than the real jewels inside. Are YOU okay with who you are? Do YOU think you’re awesome? If you don't, get on it! Wake UP. You have SUPERPOWERS, woman! They are your instinct, your intuition, your heart. GROW THEM. FEED THEM. Focus there.
You can carry and birth new life, women. What MORE do you need to hear, to see your value in this world?
This isn’t about women having power over men. Our sons are treasured gems. And all men are sons. We do not lead from “power over.” This is about leading from Love. Leading for Life. We know, and are uniquely equipped, to lead this way. The time is NOW.
We make the majority of decisions in households. Our capacity to hold complex details and tasks and relations, is unparalleled. When we stand in our power — in the power of Love — with courage, with certainty, with ease… Nothing can stand in our way.
Let us not allow children and women on other continents to be blasted with violence, their bodies shattered in blood. War is not the way of Woman. It is not the way of Love. We shall not stand for this. And it WILL stop when we RISE.
Take my hand, dear sisters. I am holding yours. And the hands of your children.
The earthquake that hit American soil yesterday guarantees aftershocks that we, as women, must step forth to soothe.
Deep, dripping tears spill from my soul at the pain we humans choose to experience before we wake up. Each and every one of us. Is this not part of the human condition? Where do you keep pretending not to know how to love yourself? Where do you withhold love? And where do you project hatred for others? Because guess what? That’s the greatest violation you could ever stab into your very own chest.
So I grieve.
I face the darkness within myself.
I Pledge Allegiance to the Love I AM.
It’s what we’re made of, Mamacitas.
So from the pit of our wombs, from the very blood and placenta-pulsing beauty of these sacred bodies that ALL of life comes through…
Let’s fucking ROAR!
All my love, all shimmering in thousands of shards of broken glass~
* * *
P.S. Look, ladies.
My daughter doesn’t stand for disrespect. She doesn’t tolerate it. Does yours? Let's guide them not to. There are many children who’ve been treated with endless doses of kindness and respect, so their foundation would never consider the horror of leading from hatred. They know it’d kill their souls.
Our future will be made of things much sweeter than this nightmare that unfolded on our TV screens last night. Children know better than to fall prey to the horrendous lie that leading from hate will bring anything good AT ALL.
Meanwhile, it is up to each of us to stand in our power — women and men, mothers and fathers, teens and anyone who noticed the gaping spiritual wound we just unbandaged in the USA.
Our power is LOVE. Nothing more powerful exists.
Things don’t shift overnight on the big scale — they take time — but YOU and I, we can change our minds instantly. That’s where our greatest power is. From anger to forgiveness, from resentment to curiosity, from hatred to joy. It is in our capacity, all of this. ONE choice at a time. It's 11:42 right now, and I have a choice. At 11:43 I'll have another choice. Do I speak and act from love or fear?
Years ago MLK Jr. said it, “Only love can drive out hatred.”
Today these words were shared on Instagram by Erin Merriman, “I feel strangely liberated. It’s over. Our sad government that has been limping along has finally come to a conclusion so absurd that it seems unlikely we will continue to give our power away. It feels like permission from the universe to do whatever it takes to take care of each other and not wait for the government to do that. Now that we have a green light to ignore false authority altogether!.. People call Trump an asshole. Let’s play with this a little, because now, he’s our asshole! He is the collective asshole, and is just doing what assholes are designed to do, fulfilling his divine purpose of allowing our shit to come out.”
Really though people, he IS inviting us to look within ourselves and decide HOW we want to SHOW UP in our lives. For truth, for love, or for the damp dark walls of hatred and judgment? It is an invitation. Not his, because oh dear, Donald Trump is the loudest call for help I think I’ve ever seen in human skin. It is our collective invitation to ourselves.
So let’s be pissed. Let’s be outright completely WTF shocked. And then let’s get our shovels out and dig under that soil a little bit.
This is the Great Collective at work. We created this. Doesn’t matter who you voted for or any single thing you did or didn’t do: WE ARE ONE, baby. This is us. (Waaah, Bernie come baaaack!)
Hello, Invitation. Let me open you.
Our new U.S. President is one of the most sorrowful, self-hateful souls we’ve ever seen. Can we not see how lost he is? It is GLARING. How completely deep-down-hurt, how shallow and clueless… This is not something to add pain to. This is very sad. And what’s sadder is that many, many Americans relate to that darkness.
So let’s send light.
Last I checked, the sun was pretty damn good at blasting glass ceilings to pieces.
These days a gigantic contrast stares me down, every single day.
On one hand there’s my 3.5-year-old daughter who, almost entirely unexposed to violence and other unpleasant aspects of the world, still simmers with innocence and purity. This summer when she saw a pinata being hit with a bat, she shuddered. (Whacking a creature with a bat!?) She expects utmost respect and kindness. She leads our daily gratitude ritual at dinnertime. She talks about how her heart is full of love. She sings about her two grandmothers, and how much she likes them both. Every week as I head out the door for acupuncture, she runs to me squealing, “Another kiss Mama! Another kiss!”
On the other hand is the pain of the world. Several states east of us in North Dakota there’s a militarized squad of armed men in black standing on the sacred soil of Native American ancestral burial grounds, spraying tear gas at non-violent people trying to protect the water. Signing the paychecks for the squad of violent men are corporations "too big to fail" like Marathon Petroleum, Wells Fargo and Bank of America. And our own government — in this case not “by the people and for the people” — is supporting this violence.
Welcome to the human experience, Mama Jess. In the words of our friend Nina in Sweden, the world is “sad and beautiful.”
Yet as a mother, this is big stuff. What does this mean for my daughter? How do I help her to face all this? It’s bewildering.
And there’s no escaping it, because there’s as much pain inside the human soul as there is in the world that appears to be outside of us. As her mother I must show her how to be with what shows up, not how to avoid it, deny it, pretend it’s not there.
Contrast. What a teacher.
So where did I turn? To women.
Women. The most natural place for me to turn to. Women’s wisdom — from intuition, from instinct, from the heart — is ancient, instantly accessible and generously offered.
I asked some of my dearest girlfriends to write a letter to their inner-6-year-old. Looking back, what would they tell themselves at six years old, knowing what they know now? What do they see? What wants to be said or seen or soothed?
They dove in, and here’s what came through. Some used their real names, some not. Some signed it as themselves, one as Auntie.
What they wrote is already helpful to me, and will continue being helpful for the sometimes-dreaded, inevitable, bubble-busting moments ahead in my mothering path.
A few of them said this exercise was deeply therapeutic, healing, they really enjoyed it. My hope is that other women and mothers living on this beautiful Planet Earth might write their own letters to their inner-6-year-old girl. As we unwind the wounds of our own past, weaving in the wisdom of ourselves in our 30s and 40s and beyond, we create a brighter and more gentle future for all.
Dear Six-Year-Old Shirley Marie,
I look back and see how alone and afraid you were.
You needed a wise, grounded, sober adult to take care of you. You needed someone to NOTICE what was happening, and essentially rescue you. A mentor. A bold and strong auntie. Your sister. You needed someone to sit down, to look into your eyes, to smile a full and sincere smile, to hold you and rub your back and say: “Your experience matters."
You were given no guidance, no example. You needed safety.
With all of my love,
Dearest sweet Pamela:
You are smart, intuitive and kind. This kind of intelligence requires you to stay wildly connected to your body, my sweet, so dance, play, sing… my darling.
Pamela, mother of four
You get one life. Live hard. Fear is a bitch.
You are so loved by your friends and family. Love yourself at your worst and best. Always.
I have grown up knowing there is more. Don't regret what you missed or never had.
Nature never disappoints. Fresh air solves most of the noise in your head.
Your biggest strength will be your ability to find good in all people .
Childhood ends at one point but being spontaneous, fun, active, silly, courageous, proud, and optimistic doesn't ever have to end.
You, Sylvie, are a bad ass.
Me at 40
Listen and trust the voice in your heart to make it through the ups and downs of life. There is a light in there that will help you see the way. There is a light in there that will remind you that you are never alone.
Every ounce of you is meant to be here. Enjoy every ounce of you.
Never stop playing...
Auntie, 33 years old
Dear 6-Year-Old Irene,
I want to tell you that… you are good and loved.
I see that you are confused and insecure and this has caused you to suppress who you are, and I want to share something with you… Even though your life circumstances have put you into “flight" mode and caused you to feel you cannot fully trust the world around you, these circumstances that you have lived through in this life, and all others, are leading you down the path that you will walk this lifetime. If you can release the fear and doubt, you will realize that God is everywhere and is offering you guidance in every moment. You don't have to know everything, you don't have to have things figured out. You just need to build trust and depend on God.
I wish for you to believe in yourself and in life and believe in the amazing possibilities that God has in store...
As I've grown older I've seen how quickly things can change and how fast time goes by. This is something many people will tell you, and that you will not understand until you have reached a certain age. But please don't delay in putting everything you are on the line for what you believe in, for what you know to be true. Jump now, and you will see that you can fly!
Dearest little wild one,
I see you. Always climbing to the top of your lemon tree, then squeezing through the hole which leads to a quiet view from your roof top. I see you in your blue Mickey Mouse tee shirt stained from a pomegranate snatched from the neighbor's tree. Adventurous, excitable you.
Even though your mother loved you so deeply, you always wondered what love was meant for. It was meant for you. You deserve all the love which pours forth to you.
I repeat. You are worthy. This is your journey. I'm here, as the 45 year old woman that struggles to believe... to whisper to your soul: Sweet love, you are worthy.
In admiration of you,
Reflections on Little Jenny, from Jenny in her 30s, Mother of Two Boys
Throughout my childhood people asked me what I “wanted to be when I grew up.” I always felt like there was going to be a point where I “was,” or where I had “arrived" and this distant future of “being" was going to stop be in the future.
I wanted to feel important and to feel valued so I set my sights high. I wanted to go to Stanford. I wanted to run a company that made the world a better place. Then, I would be lovable and I would finally “be.”
So, I did. I accomplished big things. And yet, this feeling of “being" never arrived. There was always something more to accomplish. I always thought, Strive more then you will “be," then you will “arrive.”
I wish I could say I came to my senses early. But, it wasn't until I had children of my own and I looked into their eyes and hearts and I saw that they were complete as they were. They didn't need to become anything, because they already were! And, this great burden of accomplishing fell off my shoulders and I realized that I, also, was complete as I was. I didn't need to become anything.
So, to the children out there. When someone asks you what you want to “be" when you grow up. How about you respond with, “I want to be me." Because THAT is enough. You will do so many things in your life. And, I hope you feel fulfilled and joyful. But, don't confuse “doing" with “being.”
Ode to you, beloved ladies...
I invite anyone else who wants to share wisdom, insight or other words for your inner child, to post them in the Comments section here, or email them to us. It’s an act of self love, a nod of self worth, an expression of self-care. It’s good for you. And what’s good for you is good for the world.
In March 2013 our daughter Helena Beam was born in our Chico, California bedroom. We were very pleased with how our homebirth midwife, Dena Moes RN, showed up both during my pregnancy and our 7-hour labor. She also responded exquisitely when, two hours after our daughter was born, Dena noticed she wasn’t breathing right and called 911 without hesitation.
Since then, I’ve become aware of some intense and unfortunate challenges facing Dena and other homebirth midwives. I interviewed her to learn about what’s transpired and what it may mean for homebirths – and holistic parenting – into the future. -- Jessica Rios
Jessica Rios: In your profession, have you always been a "homebirth midwife?" How did you get into midwifery?
Dena Moes: No, I haven’t always been. I didn’t even know what a midwife was until I was 23. I have a degree in Literature from Yale, and I was living in New York City when a friend gave me the book Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. I read it and thought, ‘Oh my God, I am supposed to be a midwife.’
So I left the city for a week to go to a yoga ashram in upstate New York. I had been writing a lot about the midwife possibility, and on my last day at the ashram it happened to be Mother’s Day.
Some moms came up from the city to do a special Mother’s Day sweat lodge, and I helped carry rocks. Some women were walking toward me huffing and puffing as they carried rocks.
At one point I said to one of them, “You’re almost there!” and she turned to me and said, “Wow, you sounded just like my midwife when you said that!” It turns out she was the President of the International Cesarean Awareness Network. She turned me on to Certified Nurse Midwives and got me a gig volunteering at a big public hospital. Later I returned to North Central Bronx Hospital as a student midwife, and got to work with birthing families who were immigrants from all over the world.
There are two routes to becoming a midwife. One is as a nurse midwife, and one is as a non-nurse midwife, known as a licensed or lay midwife. A Nurse Midwife is a Registered Nurse (RN) and also holds a Masters degree in Midwifery.
I really enjoyed training in a hospital because I got to see a lot of situations in a very short period of time. I worked both as a Labor and Delivery Nurse and as a hospital midwife, and before that, as a student, I lived in an Amish farm house for a summer and attended 25 Amish homebirths while interning with a midwife who took care of Amish families.
When my husband and I moved to Chico, the community needed another homebirth midwife. It felt like just the right time to put down roots and open the practice I had dreamed of. So I did. That was 2005.
JR: How has it benefited your clients to be a RN too?
DM: For my clients it’s been really valuable to have both the education and the work experience I brought to homebirth. A lot of them have been comforted not just by the fact that I’m a RN but that my degree is from Yale, an Ivy League college. By the time I started my homebirth practice, I had worked in several large Medi-Cal clinics providing gynecologic care and family planning. I had worked as a Labor and Delivery Nurse, some nights getting to assist with as many as four births in one shift.
When you work in a hospital, you take care of everyone who comes through the door. Having seen complications in the hospital, I genuinely knew when things were progressing normally and when they weren’t. I feel this is an asset – the education and training of certified nurse midwives – to have a wider breadth of experience. There’s a certain clinical competency there.
JR: What started happening in 2010 when your license was being threatened for revoking?
DM: I’ll share some background first. When I opened my practice in 2005, I approached several OB-GYN doctors in my community who I’d heard were the most open minded or progressive, and asked if they would provide support to my homebirth practice in the form of consultations and collaborations, which is always the ideal... that midwives work in collaboration with other health care providers. That way, if there is a transport [from home to hospital], it’s smooth.
I received a very negative response. No one agreed to work with me and I was told by the medical community that homebirth was not welcome here. I had a choice. Should I say “forget it” and go get a job as a gynecologist, or do what I always wanted to do?
So I asked homebirth midwives all over the state, and what I found was that nobody had a collaborative doctor in their community except in the case of Los Angeles midwives working with a MD named Dr. Stuart Fishbein.
I called the Board of Nursing and asked about the legal requirement for supervision of nurse midwives, which by the way is only required in six U.S. states now. The other 44 have dispensed with that requirement because it just doesn’t make sense. If midwives are required to have a supervising physician but no physicians are willing because they see us as a threat to their sense of authority, and as competition... they’re not necessarily going to jump at the opportunity to work with us!
This year there’s a bill in the CA Legislature (AB 1306) trying to remove the physician supervision requirement. This law would help fix some of the brokenness around midwifery in the state of California. Basically during the years I was in practice as a homebirth midwife, the requirement was that I have a physician available to call by phone and consult with, if I had a client with a medical concern or question I couldn’t address.
It was Dr. Stuart Fishbein in L.A. who agreed to do that for me. Over the years I would call him when I needed help from a MD.
Meanwhile some obstetricians in my local community wrote a letter of complaint about me to the Board of Nursing, their main concern being that I wasn’t working with a local physician. A six-year investigation began at that time. I got a letter from the Board of Nursing, and this all finally ended in February 2016.
Once a year during that period, I heard from them about the investigation. Really I thought the concern would be dismissed without merit. The letter complained about four women who had been transported -- all with healthy babies and good outcomes -- and two of them weren’t even my clients! I’d never even met them. It seemed capricious. I thought, ‘This is just harassment. It’s not even accurate.’ I thought for sure it would all be fine.
For a couple years, I really wasn’t concerned. I actually thought the Board of Nursing would somehow be on my side and see this inaccuracy that they would see through this misunderstanding. Then in 2012 a nurse midwife friend told me, “You’ve got to get a lawyer. This is serious.” I hired a lawyer. The Board of Nursing called me to Sacramento for an interview and my lawyer was Skyped in. The woman investigator grilled me about the two actual clients. The clients in question were VBACs [vaginal birth after cesarean].
Prior to 2005, VBACs had been happening regularly in local hospitals. In 2005 when I opened my practice there was a sudden ban on VBACs in all the hospitals in my county. A group of obstetricians got together and recommended banning VBACs in any hospital without 24-hour in-house anesthesia...
I won’t get into the shenanigans, but it happened. What that meant was that all the women using these hospitals, who’d already had a cesarean labor, had no choice but to birth via cesarean. VBAC wasn’t an option. Many women were forced to have unnecessary, repeat C-sections.
Midwives tend to assist VBACs when the hospitals won’t. This is what ended up being seen as a breach of my practice, even though there were no Board of Nursing regulations specifically about VBACs. So I followed the guidelines of the licensed/lay midwives, who are regulated by the California Medical Board instead of the Board of Nursing. I thought if I followed their guidelines, I would be covered.
Already though, there was a major red flag on my mind.
The medical investigator who interviewed me for three hours and was going to have to make a nuanced analysis, had not known what labor was. During my interview she asked me, “What do you mean, labor?” She said she had never had an obstetrics case, and that specific medical background was not necessary for her job description. That’s when I knew the scales of justice were not going to be very well balanced.
Since around 2010, nine of the 30 certified nurse midwives practicing homebirth in California are or have been under investigation. I’m in great company! (Laughs.)
After my interview with the investigator, I didn’t hear from them for two years. During that time, I took a 9-month trip backpacking around India with my husband and daughters. Toward the end of our trip, I heard that I was formally charged by the Board of Nursing. A year later, I settled for my RN license to have a 3-year probation period, and that has meant closing my homebirth practice. For now.
JR: That sounds devastating.
DM: I’ve definitely had to grieve. This is how I’ve been supporting my family for the past 12 years. My oldest daughter is about to apply for colleges. It’s been a big transition.
JR: Is there a silver lining?
DM: Yes. When we came back from our yearlong trip in India and Nepal, I knew I wanted to write a book about our family adventures, and a memoir about being a midwife. In the last few months since I closed my practice, I have been able to finish my 350 page memoir. I'm currently shopping it to agents with a vision of having it published in the next few years. Now I have a midwife website and an author’s website!
JR: What does this say for women in general?
DM: Here in the U.S., there is still a witch hunt against midwives. We threaten the paradigm. And, homebirth is not going away. Homebirth is a consumer driven movement. It’s not like I put up billboards: “Come try a homebirth!” Women came and found me because it’s what they wanted.
Interestingly, I heard through the mom community that the same doctor who spearheaded the letter to the Board about me has started attending VBACs in the hospital again in the last couple years, and has actually told one pregnant woman that they had to start attending VBACs again because of the pressure put on them by the homebirth midwives. Meaning, women were saying to them, “Well if you won’t give me a VBAC, I’ll just go and have a homebirth.” Women will ask for what they want. It’s not up to the medical profession to tell them no. Pregnant women have rights.
If people want to help the situation, get involved in passing the California bill and fixing the broken laws, making it easier to practice homebirth in California. A step for midwives anywhere is a step for midwives everywhere.
JR: What would you say to women in the United States who want to give birth at home?
DM: Women are perfectly designed to give birth. Just like you get the baby in, you can get the baby out. Look at all the people in the world! Everyone came from a mother. It works. Definitely find a midwife. There are probably more midwives now than ever.
The most important thing is to find a midwife you feel comfortable with, who you can trust, you feel heard, you feel empathy. And also does she have training and experience? How long has she been doing it? Talk with other moms in your community. Most everyone has found my practice from other mothers. Homebirth in the United States is on the rise. It has been steadily increasing for the last decade.
JR: Thank you for your work, and your time.
Dena’s Recommended Reading
• Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin
• Birthing from Within by Pam England
• Breastfeeding Made Simple by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett & Nancy Mohrbacher
• The Attachment Parenting Book: A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby by Dr. Sears
• You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a writer, mother, coach and big fan of Sesame Street. Her lifelong art is letter writing. This deeply personal blog and our online workshops are devoted to one of her great passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.