Thoughts on the Feminine

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Thoughts on the Feminine

I attended a Birthing From Within workshop for doulas and mentors last weekend and, my word, was it glorious. The energy in a room filled with women passionate about motherhood and helping other women is so healing that I started this week with a renewed sense of self and capability. I am so grateful for this.

On the first day of the workshop we practiced an art exercise after discussing some of the issues we see with modern birth. The directions were to use pastels to draw an image, or images, that would tell someone from the future what the essence of birth was in 2017. It didn't have to be literal, nor did it have to look pretty. It simply had to come straight from our minds right onto the large piece of paper in front of us. Tasks like this are exactly what recovering perfectionists like myself need. I felt free to truly create, and it was invigorating. Plus there weren't any tiny hands around to "contribute" to my drawing. This was a first in a very long time!

My image was of a huge, beautiful flower in the middle of towering, crashing waves. In the corner was a golden crescent moon controlling the tide. I used my fingers to purposefully make the pastels spread all over the paper, leaving lines of imperfect color in their wake. To me, my image invoked a scene of the beauty of the feminine being threatened by the waves. The moon, too, was actually being threatened by the waves, and the wind created by the events at hand was dangerously close to ripping the flower apart.

As I created this piece of art, I could hear myself writing a passage in my mind. When I finished with the pastels, I moved a new medium - my pen. I wrote what I heard in my head, word for word, on my paper, and I loved it. I loved that I conveyed a message in two different ways at the same time. I loved that I had the time and space to do it. I loved that I was alone with my thoughts, furthuring my knowledge of working with women during the childbearing year. I loved every aspect of that moment and what I had created.

Below is the passage I wrote. It comes from a place of recent struggle, a struggle I will write about soon when I'm ready, and it reflects some of the darker aspects of my mindset as a woman. Yet, in spite of this, it maintains the sense of hope I hold for my children and their future as women, possibly mothers, but most definitely sisters. Maybe it rings true for you as well during this strange time in history that is greatly affecting the present.


Everything passes so quickly. A constant influx and overload that overpowers our deepest desires to connect to our center and epitomize goodness. Motherhood, and womanhood essentially, is an existence so tied to nature it is nearly unbearable. And yet, the more rooted we attempt to become, the stronger the tidal pull of all outside forces. Though the moon controls our being as much as it controls the vast and powerful ocean, it often appears to be no match for the speed and control of our daily physical life. It feels as though we are slowly being washed away, but within us remains a strength literally unknown to man, and it will always drive us to continue forward, and to one day overcome.

In remembering the sweetness of my daughters, and the abundance of tiny and beautiful moments they bring to me throughout the day, I stay grounded.

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kaitlin coghill doula ventura county be always blooming toddler
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Be The Village

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Be The Village

Originally published by TRIBE de MAMA in October of 2016

As our generation of women begins birthing children, we are collectively realizing that we crave a real in-person village. Having a village provides our families with lives that are less stressful and more livable. Tasks like going to the grocery store and doing laundry become much less overwhelming when a fellow sister is by our side, helping us maintain a comfortable home and happy children.

In order to bring about the village and make it a true reality, we must first BE the village. We must be the women who offer help to others. We must be the women who subtly educate the people in our lives about the benefits of living naturally and compassionately. We must be the women whose confidence inspires. We must be the women whose children stand tall with gratitude and befriend all - never desiring to bring down another.

Doing this is quite simple, and it will add countless incredible facets to your own life experience on this earth. The trick is to offer authentic help before the person in need finally builds up the courage to ask for it themselves. Fortunately, there are many ways to do this.

Offer a new mother a home cooked meal and a long shower, during which you will hold and comfort her baby. Surprise your grandmother with a lunch date. Call your own mother just to say hello, and ask if she needs anything from the store since you're going anyway. If you know a family that is struggling financially, send them an anonymous gift card to Whole Foods or a local store with similar offerings. The benefits of taking such action will be profound, for both the recipient and the giver.

The village is within us, lying in wait. Let us share it. Let us trust our innate intuitiveness to guide us as we navigate our personal relationships and the barriers in our communities that encourage us to remain quietly independent in our homes. Let us bring more goodness into our world for the benefit of our children and the children of others. It is important, and it is doable.

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The Spring and Its Newness

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The Spring and Its Newness

In welcoming spring, I welcome a new perspective. A new way of doing things. A new way of living. A new way of nurturing the lives I've created. I am also dutifully preparing myself, mind and body, for the births that I will be attending and the families I will be serving postpartum in the coming months. 

One of the ways I am going about doing all of the above is reading book after book after book, and almost completely ditching social media. In so doing I have found that I am learning more about birth and motherhood through reading books about nature, community and mindfulness than I have through reading books, articles and posts solely written for the purpose of teaching us how to give birth and raise children. 

Making these changes has enhanced my knowledge of self and my knowledge of our collective purpose as fellow humans. It has been made clear to me that we don't need to binge on research nearly as much as we need to simply be present and allow our natural instincts to guide us on our personal journeys. 

One of the best ways to practice staying present is to speak to others and get to know them better. Pay close attention. Allow yourself to feel what they felt. Learn from their stories and develop relationships that nurture your need to be generous. Make phone calls. Initiate time spent in each other's company. Be thoughtful about the conversations you have and treat no moment as less important than the others. Every moment is of importance. Every moment has a past, present and future state within your mind. Every moment is worthwhile.

I encourage you to read The Red TentBraiding Sweetgrass and A New Earth. I encourage you to read them while you take a break from social media. I encourage you to read them with a glass of wine. I encourage you to read them while your children watch a movie or play in the yard. I encourage you to read them while your baby sleeps at your breast. I encourage you to read them while you wait in waiting rooms and pump at your workplace. 

I encourage you.

I urge you to listen to The Birth Hour podcast. I urge you to listen to this while you do the dishes. I urge you to listen to this while you fold the laundry. I urge you to listen to this while you drive in traffic. I urge you to listen to this while you organize the play area.

I urge you.

I urge you, and I send you love. I too feel the weight on our shoulders.

The current state of society is unfortunate for parents, especially mothers. We are expected to do as everyone else does and choose ways of caring for our children that have official names and definitions. We are always attempting to categorize the way we nurture, and we are always feeling that something is lacking - and that we are isolated in our weariness. But we are not.

Reading these books and listening to this podcast has reminded me that I am not alone. There are women within me, women that surround me, women that love me and women that guide me. There are women that struggle, women that inspire, women that succeed, women that fail and women that empower. And together as women we will save this world, just as soon as we recall where we come from, become our truest selves and reunite with nature and its incredible components. 

Read. Listen. Breathe. Smile. Be.

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carpinteria spring new beginnings motherhood doula

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Rootedness//Blooms

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Rootedness//Blooms

"From rootedness, I can grow."

Have you heard this before? I hadn’t, but it completely relates to all that I experienced this past week, a week that came about after months of hardship and worry.

My summer was not what one might expect a beautiful, warm, California summer to be. I worked myself to the bone. I stressed myself to the deep end of the pool. I yelled myself to perceived insanity. I cried myself to confusion and doubt. I simply {felt like I} lost it.

When you’re a wife, mother and business owner you have to be 100% strong for your husband, 100% strong for your children and 100% strong for your business. Did you know that’s totally impossible? There is no feasible way to give everything to everyone and everything that relies on you for peace, happiness and survival, no matter how badly you want that to happen.

Thanks to the internet and its answers and remedies and checklists and e-books and free webinars and Pinterest boards full of wisdom regarding the “best” or “right” or “easiest” thing to do to be a perfect wife, mom and business owner, I began to feel like a fully-informed but incapable failure. My list of things that would improve every aspect of my life grew too long to even read in one sitting.

The ideas in my head were taking up too much room and begging to be set free, put on paper, uploaded onto my computer, edited and disseminated to anyone who cared to know of their existence. My fridge begged for healthier, more delicious homemade food. So many business tasks were put in motion, but nothing was getting completed because my time is little, and my energy is even tinier.

My heart was breaking under the unbearable weight of fear that rested heavily on my chest. Would my business fail? Would my children become depressed? Would our bodies crumble as a result of the non-organic food I’m forced to buy due to finances, or lack thereof? In other simpler terms, I was severely overwhelmed, and the only thing being set free from the confines of my mind was anger, the recipients of which were, sadly, my husband and children.

That’s not to say I was horrible all of the time, but I do take full responsibility for my insufferable mood swings that came about because of the crazy-high expectations I’ve set for myself. I was far from rooted, and I know I’m not alone. We all do this as women. Everyone tells us how to be perfect, but we can only do so much. We are human, after all, and we love to be needed by our families and loved ones. So much so that we are willing to sacrifice everything to try and do what’s best for them 100% of the time.  

I personally get a lot of joy out of being useful and helpful and creative and motivational and...you know, everything, to those that need me to be everything. But, did you notice I forgot something up there in that list of people and entities that I need to be 100% strong for. Yep, I forgot myself. I forgot myself for the last 60 days or so, and, let me tell you, doing so is simply begging for chaos. And that’s what I felt like I received as a result of the way I set myself up this summer - pure chaos.

Just the other night, I burst into tears on the couch while my husband and I were watching TV. I told him I know I could be a better mom and that I need to change things. I expressed that I can feel that I’m going about all of this all wrong, and we are running out of money as I work so, so hard to start a business to help other women on their motherhood journey. The irony of it all was palpable. I felt like a hypocrite, and suggested that I just quit and dedicate my heart and soul to just my family because they are so important, and my babies are only babies for so long. As much as I want to create a sustainable business that will bring light into the lives others, maybe my purpose is to focus on bringing light only into the lives of my children. And I can live with that if that truly is my sole life purpose. I love my daughters. I love my husband. I love the family I am a part of, and I hate feeling pressured by society and money and all of those stupid “how to be perfect” articles to fix my life on their terms. Their advice wasn’t working; rather, it was suffocating me.

As my husband began to comfort me and tell me I’m a great mom and am doing good work etcetera etcetera,  I told him to stop. I didn’t need to be comforted. I needed to dwell in this and figure out the answer on my own. I wasn’t crying because I was sad and needed a hug - I was crying because I was so fucking frustrated. I wanted to slow down, and so I opened myself up emotionally and mentally to whatever the Fates had planned for me. I went to bed with every intention to change my perspective the following day. I planned to do a little work here and there, but to focus primarily on exercising patience with my children and doing fun things with them. Simplicity was key. My mental well being depended on it, and I was prepared to postpone my business ventures if that meant my daughters would be more joyful and I could revel fully in motherhood.

The Fates heard me loud and clear.

Signs of Purpose

That following day, I decided to look for a job in a birth-related environment that would offer regular paychecks, you know, do the 9-5 thing again maybe if that is my calling as a provider for my family. My mom took Lorelei out to play during Isla’s nap so I could write a cover letter for a position I knew I wasn’t qualified for, but it was the only one nearby that was related to my passion for birth and postpartum care for local families, and I love the organization that I would be able to work for if I were to get the job. Upon finishing, my phone rang.

The call was from someone who came across my website and needs a postpartum doula this fall. This was the first call I have received from a potential client since I put myself out there this summer as a working postpartum doula. I was quite pleased, and the timing was extraordinary. I smiled a bit and felt a little more relaxed. Maybe I am meant to do this work right now after all.

Then I received another call. It was from the local business I had sent my cover letter and resume to just a few hours prior. They liked my background and, though I wasn’t qualified for that particular position, they wanted me to begin to develop a relationship with them for any future opportunities by taking sweet Isla to one of their baby classes and becoming familiar with the services they provide to local families. Wow. Timing is everything, and this timing was, again, extraordinary. Creating fundamental relationships like this is key to success as an entrepreneur, especially locally as a birth worker, and my heart was bursting with gratitude for the opportunity.

Wanna know what happened next? I scheduled two interviews with women who asked me to talk about my work on their radio shows. So cool.

As I told my husband about these uncanny occurrences, I received my first five-star review on Etsy for the wall hangings I make as a means of raising scholarship funds to provide free postpartum services to mamas in need. Seriously? Five signs in one day? But it didn’t stop there.

Over the next few days a friend asked me to contribute women’s postpartum wellness posts to the blog she manages for the company she works for, and I then received a very kind and heart-warming email from an email list subscriber thanking me for my emails and telling me how much she enjoyed them. She told me my passion shone through my website and writing. That meant a lot to me.

I also officially submitted my packet for postpartum doula certification, an accomplishment that took two years of a lot of effort to meet. I remind myself that I accomplished that goal in spite of a painful pregnancy, giving birth, raising a toddler and a baby and dealing with a chronic headache. I consider this a big deal, and I allow myself to be proud.

After all of this, I don’t think the Fates could have made their message any clearer. I am absolutely meant to do this work right now, and it is possible to do so without sacrificing the needs of my family. I simply needed to give myself space to breathe and acknowledge that I am not a failure. I am capable and motivated. I WILL accomplish my goals, but I need to allow myself to live a regular life at the same time, and give all of the seeds I sow enough time and space to grow.

As all of this excitement was going on, I discovered that my efforts to be more patient were working. I didn’t yell at my girls once. Rather, I took them out to swim lessons and playdates without feeling guilty about not working. I read books about postpartum wellness instead of articles about ways to improve myself and my business. I spoke to friends on the phone {yeah, with voices!}. I helped my mom take her dog to the vet because I was glad to help her {I owe her big time, after all}. I took the girls to surprise their dad at his work {at Lorelei’s adorable request} even though it was past their bedtime when we left, a time of day I’m usually very strict about so that I can get to work again as soon as their eyes close and their sleep breathing begins. Living in the moment in this way felt SO much better than staring at my laptop, alone and stressed, wishing my husband was at home with me instead of at work.

My takeaway from this experience is that being honest with myself about the crazy way I was living {for no good reason at that}, and giving myself space and permission to release a bit of control is what brought forth this revolutionary week, a week that soothed me, brought me joy and brought to the surface my true purpose in the birth worker world. I will never be perfect, and I will always have to work hard, but I’m allowed to be human. Most importantly, I’m capable of being a good mom if I let myself be a good mom because I am strong, and forever rooted in the love of my family.

The Rooted Tree

I now know that I am so strong that my strength is comparable to that of a tree, and my family is the foundation within which my roots thrive. Sadly, the stress and pressure of outside forces was pulling me much too hard. My roots were straining to remain where they were, where they belong, and by allowing myself to get wrapped up in a million to-dos and should-dos and will-dos and might-dos and need-to-dos, I inadvertently stopped pulling back. Doing so would have further rooted myself in the depths of the greatest source of nourishment for my soul {my family}, but the pull was so strong, and I was losing the little strength I had left as force after force pulled me into the belief-state that the amount of things I need to do to succeed in every aspect of my life was impossible, and I would fail.

As my roots began to snap one-by-one, reality grabbed a hold of me, and the pull stopped. Reality held me steady, reminding me that I don’t need to do all of those things and that I am capable of doing the things that actually are required of me, and I regained my strength. I allowed myself to take deep breaths that brought much-needed oxygen all the way down to my suffering roots. As reality helped pull me back against those forces, my roots began to embed themselves once more within their rich foundation {my family}, and as they regained their strength, I began to grow, and opportunities bloomed one by one until I could no longer deny the evidence right in front of my wild eyes.

By staying rooted and giving myself space to breathe, I would continue to grow and bloom and eventually become a source of comfort for others, providing shade and a backrest when needed. The petals of my blossoms would flutter and swirl like a spring snowstorm as they made room for the next phase of seasonal change, and passersby would revel in the enchanting moment of nature taking its course, remembering there is more to life than the never-ending expectations we have placed upon ourselves.

And so, in spite of change, I will stay rooted. In spite of outside forces attempting their strong pull once more, as I’m sure will happen in the many years to come, I will stay rooted. My family is far too sustaining to ever let my roots loose again. I vow to be always rooted, and thus be always blooming.

As I write this, I can’t help but notice that so much of what is advised when it comes to embracing life fully is closely related to the advice we give laboring mothers and new mothers going through their fourth trimester with their newborn baby. Taking deep breaths, releasing control and allowing life to unfurl as it was meant to is quite often the best thing we can do for ourselves, our families and our dreams. I personally feel that over a decade of private school turned me into a perfectionist control freak {one with a great education at least}, but these years post-school where I have been fully enveloped in the natural world of motherhood, both personally and in my chosen career path, are proving to be more and more transformative, allowing me to be the woman I’ve been suppressing for way too long.

The other night, as my husband talked and I talked, I reveled in the gratitude and peace I felt, and suddenly, an idea literally popped into my head and rolled off my tongue before I even fully knew what I was saying. It shook me and inspired me more than any idea I’ve had thus far. It’s an idea that was just waiting to be revealed, but would never have been shown to me if I had stayed in that negative place of doubt and drudgery and allowed myself to be completely uprooted. It’s an idea that I will share as soon as I have constructed its foundation and am prepared to take on clients. I truly can’t wait to transform it into a reality, but I have learned my lesson. I will maintain this slow pace. I will continue giving myself space. I will remain calm and steady and rooted, as a doula should remain. Everything will work out exactly the way it’s supposed to - and I don’t always need to be the one at the helm. The Fates quite often do just fine on their own.

 

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