Mothering Day

What is Mother’s Day anyway? Brunch, bubbles, and blooms?


I have always had a hard time with this day, even after I became a mother. It never quite met the expectation I had of digging into what it means to mother or be mothered. And I guess I have a problem with life events that are supposed to be important and beautiful, but feel more like small talk.

I have my mother in my life and she is a great mother. But it wasn’t always that way for me. We are pretty different people. We see risk differently, we approach hard conversations differently, we seek different things from this life. I used to feel envious of people that would say they felt like their mom was their best friend, that they’d go shopping together, or go get bubbles together.


And in the last few years I realized that’s cuz she doesn’t really love small talk either (not to diminish the legitimate shopping friendships you have with your mother-folk). She just wasn’t here for that. She was here to mother me through some of the hardest years of my life. She didn’t even really know she was doing it actually. And it’s been quietly stunning.


It makes me think about mothers and mothering. We aren’t only mothered by the people who birthed us or cared for us when we were young or raised us. We aren’t only mothers if we grow human cells in our body or raise them on the outside.


Mothering is something else I can’t quite put a finger on or apply a best word to. I have the great privilege of being a mother to a gorgeous collection of cells that I grew, birthed, fed, and still raise. But he is not the only thing that makes me a mother. My ladies let me mother them. And I have been deeply and deftly mothered by them.


If today is hard, not what you imagined, or feels like small talk, start a different conversation perhaps. You have mothered. You have been mothered. Celebrate that.

El Dia Internacional de la Matrona

Today is May 5th. Some folks think of it as a good day for margaritas and tacos.

It’s also International Day of the Midwife. This is a day, acknowledged all around the world, where we honor the people who quietly walk through fire as a way of life and a profession.

Midwives are the attendants for most births around the world. In some places they are traditionally trained by their elders. In many or most places (and in ALL the places that have better maternity and neonatal outcomes than the USA…) Midwives are very highly trained in sitting on their hands and using them deftly in emergencies. Speaking softly and deliberately, and then briskly and clearly when needed. They are not running wild in the countryside with scissors; they are right there, a strong, steady, and fierce presence at the side of thousands of families every day.

Midwives are my people. I have and have had a lot of jobs. So many jobs….many that people ‘respect’ me for more highly than being a Midwife because they come with a better title or more familiarity. But this is the only job that I ‘am.’ I am a Midwife.

I stopped catching babies a few years ago now, but I have never stopped being a Midwife. Today I celebrate my ‘sisters’ around the world, the kind of maternity care that changes lives while families’ lives are changing, and the deliberate ferocity that is both slow and swift. 💓

Community Midwives Tending to Low-Risk Families and Adapting to Changes in Hospital Resources

In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is so much that feels uncertain for families, especially families that are expecting a child in the coming weeks and month(s) and planning to birth in hospitals.

Some of the questions that families are coming to me and my colleagues with are:

  1. Is it safe for me to birth in the hospital if there are potentially infected or exposed people in the same environment? Does this put me and my baby at risk?
  2. Will there be enough beds, space, and medical personnel to attend my birth? What if my OB, CNM, or RN is exposed?
  3. Will I be able to have my support team with me in the hospital, or will they restrict the number of people who can tend to me to limit potential exposures?
  4. What happens if the current hospital resources prioritize people who are exposed to or infected with COVID-19?
  5. What are my options as a low-risk pregnant or birthing person in terms of alternate birth providers and places?

Jen Segadelli JD, MSM and I are Co-Presidents of the Midwives’ Association of WA State and are joined by an incredible Coalition of midwives, educators, and activists who are working quickly and intensively in collaboration with hospital-based providers, the WA State Department of Health, the WA State Hospital Association, and the Health Care Authority to answer some of these questions for you.

Most importantly, this work is inspired by and springboards from the incredible Rainier Valley Community Clinic who has developed and piloted many of the models being proposed, and also Master’s Candidate Emily Jones, who is nearing completion of her thesis specifically investigating the role of Community Midwives in disaster management.

As a team, we are engaged in a multi-tiered plan to determine the various roles that Community Midwives can play in providing adjunctive and/or prenatal, postpartum, and lactation care with hospital-based providers, to assume care for low-risk families in the event of strained hospital resources, and the development of a network of alternate care settings (including accredited birth centers) to absorb low-risk families as the need arises in the healthcare community.

In addition to developing this collaborative plan with our hospital-based colleagues, we are also developing educational resources for families to learn more about Community Midwives and the role they can play in their care and well-being.

And, as always, we are tending to the professional needs of Community Midwives including securing PPE (personal protective equipment), developing COVID-19-specific Clinical Practice Guidlines to protect families and midwives alike, addressing financial and liability concerns, and attempting to support and protect Community Midwives’ well-being, who are often vulnerable solo or small practice operations.

Needless to say it has been a busy month this week! And, more importantly, I am very proud of the work of the Midwives’ Association of WA State.

Our COVID19 Response Materials: https://www.washingtonmidwives.org/covid-19-response.html

If you want to learn more, you can also take a look at our relatively on-the-fly webinar for member midwives: https://youtu.be/pF2HYu4kUgU. And try not to be too distracted by the fact that we are in lockdown attire 🙂

And I also had the opportunity to participate in a nation-wide conversation with over 500 midwives on a panel for the ACNM and their reponse to COVID-19. (I join the conversation aroundn 56 minutes in).

Here is the recording to that webinar: https://acnm.zoom.us/rec/play/7JArI-_-rDM3G4DD5QSDAvVxW9Tsf6mshCMX-PsNzEvhBiFSNgX3ZLVGMODOOJRxydyTFeK3kN8qfuUO

Being Born Isn’t the Only Thing That Hurts…

In the last two years I have changed my work-life balance. One may look at my 4 or 5 spinning plates and not find a shred of balance…It’s a practice; not a destination. At least that’s what I tell myself. One of the ways that I have radically shifted my life is not being on call anymore.

I started being on call nearly 20 years ago, working with adolescents who were becoming young parents or were already parenting. And then I shifted into being on call as a midwife attending births 13 years ago. Pagers and phones have accessorized my outfits and my social life for the majority of the last 20 years. Literally everyone in my life knows the drill…sometimes I am here…and then I am gone.

It was a good run while it lasted. I loved that work. I loved that liminal space in a person’s and family’s labor and birth where so many things were happening that were unseen, but so incredibly palpable. It was so rich. Like everything you can think of when you imagine abundance, fullness, and the most beautiful things in life. Not everything was hands-on; in fact, there was a lot of hands-off. But my heart and my mind were always on. Always. On.

It was powerful, thrilling, and exhausting. Like my own birth. And at some point my strength diminished. I needed sleep. I needed to not be Always. On. I needed to not be feeling like I was slipping away and becoming less and less myself. I felt like I was dying and didn’t even know it.

My heart and mind were in constant demand by everyone around me; everyone except me.

That’s kind of what postpartum feels like. You’re not just tired; that is an oversimplification x 1,000. It’s more like you have disintegrated. Slipped away. Sometimes completely unnoticed by everyone, including yourself. You feel like you are dying sometimes.

There’s a video making the rounds about the dim and raw reality of those postpartum moments, and the decision to keep it out of a mainstream television event. Keep the postpartum experience unnoticed by everyone. Can’t help but reflect upon that irony.

If you haven’t checked it out, take the 90+ seconds to notice: https://youtu.be/3GePXGfRP04

I still provide midwifery care in a very different way now. I midwife students, newly postpartum families, growing docs. And finally, I am midwifing myself. I have to say, I am really mesmerized by this rich, liminal space. It’s a little scary, really hard, and mostly powerful and thrilling.

Being born hurts…

I mean they don’t call it labor for nothing…
 It’s been a awhile.  I have been taking my own advice that Winter is For Sleeping (you can check out the Muse-letter archives to read that one from last year).  I have been sleeping, thinking, reading, writing, and hibernating within myself quite a bit in the last 2 months.   And then all of a sudden it was Rohan’s 9th birthday and I realized it was time to step back out.  Time to stop growing on the inside and get born already.  If you remember those last weeks of pregnancy, you know what I’m talking about…Let’s get this party started!   

So here’s a little chronicle that I created on IG about what it was like to be born those 9 years ago… 

01/26/2020:
9 years ago I was in labor with this cherub (below). It started in the middle of the night after a long, fast hike the day before

I was at home, hanging out in my robe (that I wore for weeks after), my friends all came by at different times to distract me. I remember Michelle bringing me candy

My dog doulas walked around with me eating all the food I dropped but was too lazy and crampy to pick up

I didn’t even know yet I was going to meet the most incredible human I have ever known in all my life. And that I had done and I was going to do the coolest most fantastic thing I have ever done in all my life

Today’s not his birthday…it’s not for 2 more days. I’ll tell you a little more about Day 2 tomorrow…😜 But this day 9 years ago things were in motion that couldn’t be stopped, things that were so, so hard, that I thought could break us. We ain’t broken, that’s for sure ❤ 🔥 

01/27/2020:
Today was Day 2. Crossing the threshold into the Nether

At this point 9 years ago, I had been working my ASS off for many, many hours. It wasn’t being handed to me; it was kind of being blown apart

Labor is a lot of things. Fucking intense. Hard. Thrilling cuz every time you do a contraction, you never have to do that one again. Powerful cuz holy shit you just did that. I had hundreds of contractions at this point. I was thrilled, powerful, exhausted

And as a midwife who had helped hundreds of babies and parents enter into this world safe and loved, I knew…it was time

Time to go get more help cuz even thrilled, powerful, strong people need help. Sometimes we need the most.
Stay tuned for Day 3 ❤ 

01/28/2020:
Today was Day 3 and our birth. Before you get your knickers in an knot about “OMG! 3 days!” know that he was great. I was great. We were both healthy and well

In a country where we heavily pathologize birth, know that our beliefs about what is ‘normal,’ is very much a cultural construct. And that countries that witness low risk healthy people’s births as just that (and utilize midwives as primary maternity care) have FAR better outcomes than we do in our system for parents and babies. Hands down

Now… back to our regularly scheduled program

By this morning, I had a tube coming out of my back that was bathing the nerves of my pelvis in pain meds. This meant I had to stay in bed. And couldn’t get up to pee. I had a tube in my urethra to my bladder because #peehappens . I had a tube in my vagina measuring pressure of my contractions to make sure my baby was getting squeezed hard enough but not too hard. I had a tube in my arm connected to another tube that brought fluids and meds into my blood

Sounds pretty healthy and normal, huh?

The most annoying tube though was the one that was connected to the blood pressure cuff that squeezed the fuck out of my arm every few minutes. For hours

But the parts that I always look back on with deep pride are these: that he kicked like mad all the way out, that I pushed him out like a motherfucking queen even while strapped down like a wild animal, and that my community of friends were all there smiling, loving, and protecting us all the way

And…that when he was coming out, *I* got to bring him out and up to me. I’m pretty sure I told my friend and colleague to give me *my* fucking baby. She let me get him

I didn’t even know that this magical human who arrived, who I already loved more fiercely than I had or have loved anything, was going to get more magical

They say kids are gifts. They teach us more than we teach them. What isn’t always said is that each day they are alive and with us, those gifts and lessons multiply. Like exponentially

I don’t just feel lucky to be his mom. I feel mesmerized. And aware of the deep honor I have received cuz we have also lived as people pass on or life changes. This dude 💗 

Measles and Immune System Function: A Closer Look on NDs For Vaccines

My collegue Les Witherspoon ND has written a really nice piece grappling with the concepts and conversation around Measles infection and the Immune System response.

I also invite you to read, learn, and enjoy other articles here at: NDs For Vaccines.

Enjoy!

Who do you look up to?

As a I move further into my adult life, and am making “bigger” moves, it occurs to me that I have never had a clear picture of who I look up to. I have never even articulated or seen the one person that I most revere or emulate.

Of course I have seen bits and pieces, namely in my parents. They are incredibly smart, industrious, practical, successful, and, most importantly, generous and kind people.

The reality of being an immigrant family in the 70s is that we were distanced from our extended family. I never grew up with my grandparents; I only got to know 2 of them a little bit and mostly right before they died. The aunties and uncles I knew growing up were not ‘blood’ family, but dear family nonetheless. They were also immigrated and distanced like us in blue AirMail, pre-What’s App family life.

I don’t know when I knew that I was a different person than my lineage, sex, and family history would have me be. But I remember having a realization, around 13 years old, that if I was going to be ‘me,’ I was going to have to invent that. While my teachers and parents were clearly fantastic humans and role models, they did things the right way, as did my aunties and uncles. And I knew I wasn’t meant for that.

Where was I going to find a mouthy, woman, activist/advocate, who also understood what it meant to be unliked? Maybe even to be unloved?

Some kids wanted to emulate Michael Jordan. The closest I found was Noam Chomsky. Though he sure as heck isn’t a brown woman, and most likely had a much wider berth in saying unpopular things!

Years later I learned of an ‘aunt’ that I had (wife of my mom’s cousin). I got to know her very briefly after our families reconnected, and then unfortunately she passed away 2 years later. What I learned about her is that she was an activist/advocate social worker who got her roots in Chicago. It sounded like she was pretty badass.

Where the heck was she when I needed a role model?!! Of course my mind rattled with all of the possibilities of her mentorship, what it could have meant to have known someone who picked a less lucrative and ‘weird’ career path, and of having been just a little more normal as a result.

When I think about my little inner self, and hopefully compel you to think about yours, how could knowing someone ‘like you’ in the world to emulate have changed you?

And if you never got to know that person, well, maybe you can be that person for someone else. Someone who is looking for your unique brand of doing shit your own way. Someone you haven’t met. Including yourself 😉

Can you love your little self?

I have an eight year-old so I think a lot about what they are doing right now at this time in their lives. Sure, they are growing and farting a lot. But mostly, I am curious about their inner lives and how that plays out into adolescence and adulthood. Is he going to be OK? Will he always know his worth and how loved he is? Will he hold himself as dearly to himself as I see, appreciate, and love him? Will he know that he deserves to?

If you are reading this and wondering about self-love, self-worth, and self-care, I don’t mean, “Will he take himself out for pedicures and PSLs?” I mean- will he look himself dead in the eye in the morning and be able to respond with irrepressible kindness? Will he fill his well with deep, enduring love all on his own so that when life gets really shitty and rough (which it will), he has something to draw from? That’s the kind of self-care I’m about.

Many of you know that I teach, and one of my favorite classes is Lifespan Development and Psychology. But I don’t really teach the books (no shocker); I love for us to think about why some aspects of development and behavior are normal and what that says about us. Because whether we were “normal,” or seen and loved, kind affects everything, right?

I don’t really see anyone overdosing from too much love, too much irrepressible kindness, or being seen and acknowledged for who we are. Which means, we could always have more. We could do that all that time for ourselves; you don’t even have to wait for someone else to love or see you for yourself.

You could look your own self dead in the eye, see yourself, and say, “I love you.” And mean it.

Try that out today. Let me know how it goes.

PS- If you need a little inspo to start talking to your littler self, check out this Ted Talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JD4O7ama3o8

Happy Acupuncture Week 2019!

I love talking about how acupuncture has been part of my life for 16 years, even before @jp.boisvert brought it full circle to our clinic and home

We have used acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, tui na, gua sha, and cupping for years to treat fevers, stave off colds, deal with whiplash and sticky shoulders, vanquish back pain and migraines, and generally manage our health for a long time

It’s true that we also take care to move our bodies and sleep, but I definitely credit acupuncture and Chinese medicine with our family’s pretty rocking health. And I credit @jp.boisvert for being our family doctor

He has some awesome stories about how acupuncture has flipped the switch for debilitating anxiety in teens, how a Chinese herbal formula worked like a charm in families trying to get pregnant, moxabustion and turning babies at the ends of pregnancy, and more!

More than just pain management, people are looking at acupuncture as a way to manage mood, anxiety, and to work alongside our other therapies like medications or nutrients that we use to adjust our chemistry.

Stay tuned this week for Acu Adventures!

#acupuncture #chinesemedicine #cuppingtherapy #guasha #tuina #ilivewithaneedler