pregnant mamas unite

There are few things more comforting for a big-bellied pregnant mama than a whole room full of big-bellied pregnant mamas.  One Tuesday evening per month, a group of us gather around a table and share a meal.  I must say, there is just something so lovely about each of us inching our growing bodies as close as we can to the potluck table and filling our plates with the various homemade goodies with an unspoken and very much spoken understanding that this is a special time in our lives.  There’s a lot to discuss about this enormous transition we are all going through.  Lucky, lucky me to have found the amazing community resource that is Alma Midwifery, here in Portland, OR.

This particular group of us all plan to give birth — some of us for the 2nd time, and most of the group for the 1st time — either at home or in the warm and most inviting private rooms at Alma’s stand-alone birthing center sometime in March, April, or May.  That makes us the “Spring Mamas.”  And besides just being pregnant (which I’ve found to be a great common denominator among all different kinds of women), we all share in the experience of having chosen the midwifery model of care.   This, I have found, is a source of instant connection, commonality, and great bonding.  With a  shared paradigm from which to draw, much to learn from each other in the way of resources and ideas, and the vulnerability that this sacred process beholds, this is community-building at its very best.

This monthly potluck ritual is so much more than just a few women gathered for a meal, I find.  And much of that is due to the physical space in which we gather — Alma’s Movement and Education Space in SE Portland — where, I think anyone could make themselves comfortable.  There’s a gorgeous bathroom, a clean, shared kitchen stocked with herbal teas and jars of honey, soft chairs and pillows everywhere, and a bulletin board with reminders about all kinds of juicy offerings happening in the same space throughout the month.  It gives the sense, you are invited.  You are welcome.  What I love most, though, are the bits and pieces of art scattered around the space that honor the uniqueness and beauty of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.   There are beautifully painted bodycasts, paintings of babies and mothers nursing, and many images that celebrate the rawness and realness of birth.  I am humbled by these images, and specifically, by the powerful reminder they offer about the work that all of these women’s bodies are doing now, and the work their bodies will do as they bring their babies into the world.  I’m humbled, too, by the people — partners and husbands and midwives and doulas — who have made it their passion and their business to make it so, and specifically, to make it so on the mother’s (and nature’s) terms.  It isn’t easy work for anyone involved, but it’s sacred, and this space pays homage to that more than any I’ve had the honor to visit.

People often ask me — what are the reasons to prepare for a home birth?  Why do it?  And I want to say, among so many things, this is why — the community, the honoring, the nourishing, and the attitude of both realness and celebration around what many describe as the biggest transition of one’s life.  I am honored, truly, to be a part of this group of Spring Mamas — to be growing community together in this way, and to be sharing in this magical, complex, and wild ride.

P.S. I leave for vacation today!  I’ll be gone from this space for about a week and will see you back here on Wednesday January 23rd.  Have a great week!



small scale

My blueberry yield this summer has been small.  And by small, I mean pretty tiny — definitely serving size: 1.  Actually, what you see in the photo above is my blueberry yield this summer.

I keep telling myself, let’s not throw in the towel quite yet — it is only late July.  So what if we are in the middle of blueberry season and the grocery stores and farmers markets are practically giving them away?  So what if my neighbors’ yards are bursting forth in all shades of blue?  Maybe I have the great city of Portland’s only two blueberry bush late bloomers?

I’ll keep my head held high, keep eating the lettuce that seems to be growing all over my yard and out of my ears, and cross my fingers.  I’ll try not to think about the gallons of precious water I’ve lovingly sprinkled on these guys, or the hours I’ve spent, crouched in the mud, paving a less weedy way for them.  I’ll try to put my blinders on when I walk down the street, careful not to be poked in the eye by a blueberry bush branch with each step I take.

I’ll try, but the truth remains: there’s some beginner’s luck with 1st-time gardening, and there is also the school of hard knocks.  Sometimes one needs to bone up a little and read the directions.  My friend recently came by and, upon seeing my blueberry bushes asked me, “why did you plant them there?”  ”Nothing was growing there,” I said.  ”Exactly!” he laughed.  Ok, point taken.

So, while I may not be writing any gardening books anytime soon, the good news is, there’s only one direction to go from here: up.  I can say with confidence that the summers of gardening in my future are pretty much guaranteed to be more successful than the current summer has been.  And while I don’t have a whole lot of produce I actually grew to carry from my raised beds to my kitchen this season, I do have that sweet piece of wisdom for my back pocket.

But I want you to know, I picked that sole blueberry and I savored it like it was the last morsel I would ever eat on this green earth.  I said to myself, decidedly, this is not the moment to teach a youngster about sharing — nope, I’m keeping this little blue lonesome guy all to myself.  And boy was he tasty.




a baby blessing remembered

A year ago we hosted a Welcome Baby Blessing for our then-9-month-old baby boy.  As we’ve rounded the bend to the one-year anniversary of that day, I find myself sneaking looks at these photos again with fresh eyes and a warm heart.

For some events, the stars align.  I remember thunderstorms were forecasted for that early Sunday in June and we didn’t have a contingency plan.  I didn’t want to settle for anything other than the circle of rocks next to the pond at our favorite Brooklyn park.  An hour before the event was to begin, the sun officially declared herself present and so did we, for a day of welcome, honoring, and community.

I love officiating all kinds of ceremonies, but Baby Blessings always have a unique energy that I appreciate — the unpredictable nature of the Baby of Honor on any given day is always a huge variable, not to mention the customary presence of lots of other kids, and, I think, a shared feeling among participants and guests of wanting something sweet and simple yet unique; something truly ceremonious and yet casual.  I love the presence of these paradoxes and the opportunity to somehow bridge them.

For our own baby, of course, stakes were high because naturally I was tempted to incorporate every single good idea I had ever produced in a Baby Blessing.  So, we did the kitchen sink approach — invited in some Hermann Hesse, a healthy dose of Shel Silverstein, some Velveteen Rabbit, some Mary Oliver, and of course, the Beatles for our little Blackbird.

It was colorful and homemade and long and sunny and lovely…and it went something like this:

smudging — the space; the kids holding their arms in the air and spinning; the homespun altar

josh and annie do what they do — play sweet tunes together in a sweet way

a little Rainer Maria Rilke to open our ears and hearts

homage to the four elements

Orlis’ mama-made baby quilt at the center of the altar

other objects of significance

the message-filled garland from our Commitment Ceremony 5 years ago

our Top 6 family values — honed just for the occasion

6 beloved friends and family members illustrating them with readings

a letter from orlis’ goddess mother

As I write this to you, I am aware of the importance of the day, and the words, and, simply, the importance of you.  I worry that the words will not be perfect.  And what a reminder that is, for me, about how much growing there is to do, always.  For the lesson that everything is perfect as it is, everything is perfect in its imperfection, is one that both deeply resonates with me and requires frequent re-learning.” — From dani’s letter (spoken like a true goddess mother)

our birth story

time capsule — an old suitcase becomes a treasure trove — he’ll open it in 12 years and find significant gifts galore!

we make a public commitment as parents — we get help from michael and he wears his Kippah

we ask a promise from the community

we send a word-wave prayer around the circle

we sing this little light of mine

we eat snacks and cupcakes.

As I think now, about that day, small moments stand out to me, and I hope they will continue to…that I’ll be able to share these photos with Orlis and conjure up the feelings that were present that day when we formally welcomed him.  The breeze in our midst, the emotion passing through all of us as we re-visited “authenticity” as told by the Velveteen Rabbit, everyone cuddled on quilts, the feeling of making a public promise, and these words: the lesson that everything is perfect as it is, everything is perfect in its imperfection, is one that both deeply resonates with me and requires frequent re-learning.  I remember the trees and the smudge smoke and the candles miraculously staying lit, and the joggers running by without a notion something important and sacred was happening just feet away from them.  I remember watching the Time Capsule being filled with gifts of meaning, knowing what a different boy he’ll be when he finally opens it.  And I remember the sound of everyone singing.

If you know anyone who lives in the greater Portland area who might be interested in having a Baby Blessing for their child, please pass this post along (email button below) or have them  contact me and mention the code, “Treelife Blog” to get a 10% discount if they book before Sept. 1st, 2012.  If you want to learn more about Baby Blessings by me, click here.