Women’s Knowing

I am starting a course in herbal medicine for women.

In typical recovering Baptist fashion, tonight I dove into the first assignment. I looked at the objectives, read the key words, and made sure I understood how to turn in the homework. I had signed up for this to add to my knowledge of herbs, after all. And it was a chunk of cash! I even set up a study group to hold myself accountable.

It was a curious thing to notice there were reflective assignments that went along with the lessons. I added "get a new sketchbook" to my list.

The first chapter started with history. I settled in, pens in hand. The author, Aviva Romm, had suggested we write in the book; she gave her permission, she said. (The good girl lives in me still, but since I had permission…)

As she began to explore women's ways of knowing, I could feel myself settle deeply into my chair, tea forgotten. Yes! My heart resonated with the words. This is what women long for, to have deep meaningful relationship with a provider; to be heard. The work of a provider includes to learn to trust intuition and internal wisdom.

When someone begins to speak about "trusting the gut" and "listening to the body" I pay attention. These are themes that are woven deeply into the tapestry of my journey of recovery and healing. Radical phrases, in the context of my black and white upbringing, nearly tantamount to heresy. And yet here I am, taking another step farther in: learning about herbs. Steeping in the herbs, it sounds like, is the path ahead for the next 18-36 months.

I have been drawn to plants these last few months. I always thought I had a brown thumb. My mom never let me touch her plants, except to rub mayonnaise (Miracle Whip I think, as it was the 70's) on the leaves to make them shiny. I think she read it in a women's magazine in a doctor's office. My dad kept the garden, but he had lived on a farm off and on growing up, so of course he knew these things. My roommate in college said I could buy the plants and she would take care of them. That sounded good to me. Even when I put a few plants in the dirt, my husband always dug the bed for me. I bought well established plants, and he watered them. That seemed wise, because I had a brown thumb.

This morning I was out with a lightweight shovel I bought especially for myself, digging in the dirt. It is still 104 here in the desert, but fall is in the air. You can feel it in the first cool of the morning, in the breeze late at night.

And now here I am, deeply still as the words unfold on the page, aware somehow that I am entering another layer of redemption.

Maybe I will even start some seeds this year.

And you know what? My thumb looks to be just the right color for this season of life.

Morning musings

I don’t like mornings. 

Never have. Never (?) will. 

But I have two kids who have run cross country. And babies who like to greet their mamas (and the midwife) as the sun comes up. 

I used to work nights, as a nurse. It wasn’t all bad. I would go to bed as other people got up. And on the off nights I could stay up as late as possible. 

It generally takes me an hour to reconcile myself to the inevitable reality that the day has begun. Once I am past that, I feel quite cheerful. 

Sone people like sunrises; I prefer sunsets. I would like sunrises, I think, if they showed up at a different time of day. 

Today I walked while the kids ran. I am up to more than half a mile! If you know the long story, that in itself is a miracle. 

I saw tiny purple flowers, unnoticed amidst the grass. Four raindrops hit me. (In the desert?!) And when I sat under a tree to rest, I saw this on the ground beneath my feet. 

And so for today, I am grateful. 
To be up. To be able to walk. To be alive. To see. 

Enjoy your morning!

Extortion for birth. 

When we talk about the healthcare crisis or legislation and its potential impact, we must remember faces and stories of people. Real people, people with real needs. 

I hear the stories all the time. Women with a Medicaid plan that doesn’t cover prenatal care, only the birth. Women who are told they can’t get care unless they can pay a deposit bigger than a week’s income. Women who are told they can’t pick up records to change care unless they pay hundreds of dollars. Women who are told that their birth will be $20,000 cash. Women told they can’t be discharged from the hospital until they pay five or $10,000.

I could go on. These are just stories that I’ve heard this month. Legal? Yes. And no. But common, nonetheless. 

As a healthcare provider in this community in this time in history, how do I show up?

Showing up has to look like bold justice, gift wrapped in creativity.  


For me, it looks like a radical sliding scale, with births from $500 to 4000 depending on income. It looks like forgetting about what I’m “supposed” to be doing in my practice, and wrapping women around with the kinds of services I think they deserve. It looks like finding ways to nurture them, bringing in Wise and caring birthworkers who support Lactation, encapsulate placentas, give massages, do acupuncture. It looks like providing birth supplies and pools. It looks like five or six postpartum visits, maybe in the home if that’s what’s needed. It looks like herbs, lovingly crafted into teas and baths. 

I’m not saying this to promote my practice. I’m saying this is what every single one of us needs to do in some manner. Call the legislators yes. Yes and….

And come up with creative solutions within our sphere of influence, solutions that empower women. Solutions that treat them with dignity. Solutions that create safe spaces for their babies to be born. Solutions that hold space for trauma to be healed, for redemption to occur. 

Maybe that’s what’s required. To do justice. To love mercy. To walk humbly.

Letting go 

Yes, We stand alongside, lending support, and each one has to face her fears, find her courage and let go. 

Wise words from my midwife sister and friend. Words for the midwife, although they sound like they are for the mama. 

This is the work, isn’t it? Not just the work of having a baby; but the work of life. And I need others in this journey. To remind me of truth; to draw me back to trust.

Grace for today.  

Today is kids club… the in between Sunday. It’s the day we get to hear from the work crew and interns. They have been working their tails off in the hottest week of summer. It hit 120° the first day. Neighborhood. My kids get to be loved on here, with 450+ others and 120 volunteers. 

Amd change that is occurring in the leaders’ hearts…

It is interwoven with Story. Story of a child’s life and reality. Story of homes that are not safe sometimes. So kids club, it is a respite; a taste of something different. This is the place where someone shows up, just for that child.


This story used to seem so far removed to me, a story of the inner-city. I know now, that it was my story too. I wish that there had been adults with eyes to see, when I was a kid; to see beyond.

And so, when I felt myself swept away with the crazy music on the first day, I hold space for these kids playing tag around me in the middle of worship. I asked that there would be adults who show up for them, and who have eyes to see.

May it be so. 

A flicker of grace 

I am struck tonight in the stillness by a sense of the strangeness of grace.

So many threads make up the narrative of my story. There are dark threads, shadowed with trauma. Pain weaves throughout, as a journeymate. 

But there is more. Somewhere underneath, peeking through, are threads that shimmer. I am not sure what they are, yet.


You see, I can only see the underside. What the weaving will look like, when it is removed from the loom, is a mystery. 

But even from this side of the cloth, there is beauty. 

May it be. 

The Lenten Writings:  April gives birth

This is a day where we remember the waiting, the not knowing what would come next on that long ago Saturday. The day between. 

Waiting is SO hard. Especially when you are 39 or 40 or 41 or 42 weeks. Or a giraffe who is 16 months pregnant. 

And the world watches. 

I got a call this morning, early, that a baby was coming. This happens to me pretty often. As a midwife, my phone is on loud, 24/7. But this was different. 

The baby was a giraffe, and two legs were already out!

As a midwife, I know that it’s “hands off the breech”. Let the baby come in it’s own time, letting the weight of the body gently drop. Don’t engage the startle reflex for the baby, or the tightening of the sphincter that fear produces in mom. Only touch if absolutely necessary. 

The zookeepers knew what many in obstetrics have forgotten. Birth happens best when it is undisturbed. 

And so we watched. The mama walked around, two legs out, taking an occasional lick of the amniotic fluid for energy. And finally, so slowly it seemed to the watchers, the body began to slip out. Slowly at first, then all at once, the baby giraffe emerged. 

And then the drop. Six feet to the ground, the whoosh stimulating the baby to breathe. And the mother watched, curious. She gently began to lick the baby with her tongue, encouraging it to breathe, replenishing her strength with the fluid. “Plop”, the placenta came. (They do that, you know, without pulling or tugging, often as the mom stands). 

Did you keep watching? Did you see the baby stand on wobbly legs, then fall down? The mama was so patient, letting the baby smell and nuzzle. Finally the baby found the teat and began to nurse. What a delightful surprise! The colostrum, or “liquid gold”, was tasty!

The zookeepers began to become impatient, their curiosity winning. They came close, talking and jockeying for a better view. April noticed too. Her tail began to twitch. She arched her head. She curled around her baby, shielding it from view. Mamas do that too. 

It matters how we are born. 

It matters how we welcome babies. 

April has given us a gift, this holy Saturday. Birth is holy ground, when we let it be. As a midwife, my “job” is to let it be. 


Welcome to the world, little one. 

The story’s not over…

how can this friday be good?
what a crazy parody, to nake an instrumemt of death the symbol of a faith. and then to celebrate a death day like a birthday…
the bottom line is this:
the story’s not over.
sunday’s coming.
and in the upside down kingdom, this is good news indeed.
i have a story. maybe you do too. (actually, here is a secret…we all have a story).
there is beauty in my story.
there is violence in my story.
there is lots of not knowing in my story.
i need to know that sunday’s coming.
and so tonight, we tell the stories. the stories of the brutality. the stories of the desperation. the stories without hope.
stories of friends who keep falling asleep right when a friend needs them most.
stories of a guy who talks about peace and then chops off an ear with a smelly fishing knife.
stories of sarcasm from a dying con, gallows hunor, perhaps?
stories of a sabbath filled with darkness and absence. a sabbath where the fragrance that lingers on the women’s hands is the spices of death, not of the baking of the challah.
and in the middle of the stories, i can hold my own not knowing a little more gently.
the
story
is
not
over.

The Lenten Writings:  the long road

We are sitting with Desmond Tutu in the Mystic Activists this month.  His writings are mentoring us as we wrestle with the tough questions of reconciliation and forgiveness.  I find my heart stirring anew as I listen to this deeply humble man who lives what he speaks and writes.  

As the archbishop of the Anglican church in South Africa, Desmond Tutu chaired the truth and reconciliation commission, at the request of newly elected Nelson Mandela. This was a major change from how war crimes had been handled since World War II.  It allowed victims to tell their stories.  It invited perpetrators to tell their stories.  Truth is the only starting point to true reconciliation. 

Desmond Tutu says, “The problem with letting bygones be bygones is that they dont stay bygones.  They will return to haunt you…Forgive and forget says….What happened in your case either didn’t happen or it doesn’t matter” (D.T. On forgiveness)

It has been my experience that the road to healing is the road back.  Far from keeping me stuck in the past, it frees me more and more to live boldly today.  But deep courage is required to know, really know, my story.  It is only from that place of knowing that true forgiveness, or release from my right to revenge, can occur.  Its not a one time deal.  Thats why it is called the work of forgiveness.  

I wonder, where is the invitation for you today? I am wrestling it another layer deeper.  Because it matters.  

There can be no true reconciliation without it.  And we are desperately needing that in our community.  But even if reconciliation is not possible, if both sides are not willing to enter this work; it matters.  

It matters for my heart to be free.  

The Lenten Writings:  breathing in, breathing out

Waldorf education gave me a gift, unwittingly.  I watched as my kids, early childhood to high school, engaged in a rhythm of learning.  Intense periods of taking new information would be followed by gathering vegetables in the garden, or feeding the goats, or ironing cloth napkins, or doing yoga.  They called it breathing in, and breathing out.  The premise was that the mind absorbs more if it has periods to integrate that intake.  

I

There is a gift here for me, this Lenten season, as the rhythm of the 40 days invites me deeper still.  I need the spaces; oh how I need the spaces! As my body strengthens, and I am engaging more fully in midwifery, I find myself missing being still in my home. 

Now if you have journeyed with me, you know I had six months of straight stillness last year as my brain and body healed from a life threatening motor vehicle accident.  So it is hard to imagine, yes? I found out something in those long weeks turned to months.  I need stillness.  Somewhere in that cocoon of silence, where even music was dissonant, was Jesus.  I don’t  have a lot of words for all that shifted in my body and spirit in 2016. But it was good.  

I have moments of stillness in my vocation:  Sitting in a dim room, singing a baby out in an antiphonal wordless chant.  Or Standing with sister midwives in a circle, naming the internal agony of how to practice with integrity in the current medico-legal environment in Arizona.  Or Listening to my daughter’s words after a village prenatal:  “It wasn’t weird, mama, it just had a lot of beautiful things you don’t get to see very often.”  

But my heart is crying out for more.  I notice it as I see my humor come up in brittle, self-protective ways.  Or I feels its absence as I lay awake at night downloading the day in waves of sensory images.  I find myself sitting in parking lots, taking ten minutes to be still before I move on to the next place or person that deserves for me to be present.  

And so, for this moment, I am sitting in my garden, savoring the birdsong under a too warm Desert sun.  

Breathing. 

In and out.  

The mystery of Lent.