Before the birth of my first child, James, I had heard about Kate from Myrsa who worked at Grass Roots, the health food store in South Lake Tahoe. I had wanted a home birth with James, but Ronnie was not ready for that at the time and I conceded. After Jame’s hospital birth and my disappointment in the way they handled the whole process, I was ready for a home birth with my second child.
My first time seeing, but not meeting Kate was when I joined a protest taking place on her behalf, due to the charges being brought against her for practicing midwifery and offering home births. A local physician had initiated charges against her of practicing medicine without a license. Kate was standing on the steps of the Douglas County Courthouse in Minden, Nevada. With James on my back and a protest sign in hand, I walked among other women who knew we had a right to choose where we want to give birth.
Kate set a precedent in Nevada and as a result of her case, home births were no longer illegal in the state. This historic moment created a community of women whom I would grow to know and love; a community that, when I moved back to the east coast, I grieved deeply. Women need their tribe, especially when having babies.
Kate and I were later introduced by my chiropractor, Michael. It was easy to like her, with her warm and welcoming smile. We had sons about the same age, Zak and James, and soon we were going on hikes and hot spring soaks at our favorite place, Grover Hot Spring in Markleeville, California. Kate had history (or herstory, as she would say) here and I loved learning about all the wonderful places to explore. Our friendship grew and Kate taught me about the spiritual path of midwifery and motherhood.
Kate and I eventually attended a workshop with our partners for opening our pelvic energy. Out of the eight couples who attended, five got pregnant within months of the class. It was not meant to be a get-pregnant workshop, but Kate and I were delighted that we would be sharing our pregnancies together. I was now planning a home birth with Kate as my midwife, and throughout our pregnancies we traded midwifery and massage.
Kate had been studying with Jeannine Parvati (hereafter referred to as Parvati, as she preferred) and requested that I attend her sacred birth workshop. The workshop was held in a yurt in the Nevada desert in the spring of 1984, when I was just two months pregnant. Now, this is where I have to own up to the conservative streak that lives within me. As an east-coaster, raised in a conservative catholic household, I resisted attending this workshop. It felt so very uncomfortable to take part in this new way of looking at pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.
Kate insisted that it was important to delve into the spiritual aspects of the birth journey and face my inner reservations. For a home birth, and the possible risks it entails, Kate felt that knowing yourself on all levels created an optimum environment to do this journey consciously. I conceded and attended the workshop.
As we sat in a circle in the yurt, Parvati began the sacred birth workshop by asking the women what their astrological sun, moon, and rising signs were. I was already an astrologer and spoke that language easily. Many of the women, my friends, had already asked me to run their astrological charts and share my insights. I have the ability to hold the image of astrological charts in my head. Each of my friends looked at me to share their astrological information within this sacred circle.
It was here that I came to know we choose our birth charts, we choose our time to be born, we choose our parents, and we choose our spot on this earth to come in. I was acutely aware of astrology with each of my children. They were choosing, as each of their labors began. Astrology has continued to play a role in all of my birthing support work. I have watched the moon and other planets shift as labor shifts. This confirms for me that it is best to let the baby do their journey of choosing their birth time. This is challenging in our highly technological births today, with many women being induced when the baby is not ready.
Parvati expanded our awareness around birth with several birth rituals she taught in her workshop - Birth Beads, Blessingway ceremony, and Lotus birth. (Each of these rituals will be shared in future blogs.) These rituals beckoned me to grow and stretch my limited view of the sacredness of the birth journey. As time went on in my journey with pregnant women, I found the rituals bring a sense of empowerment for women.
During our pregnancies, Kate and I both attended a wonderful exercise class at the South Lake Tahoe recreation center that combined water and land exercises for creating a stronger pregnant body. This was a bonding time for all the women in Connie’s class. On the day Kate gave birth she was in class, showing signs of labor. She birthed her second son only four hours later, in August of 1984. I arrived during the immediate postpartum to see a glowing Kate and baby Jacob. I was honored to give Kate postpartum massages and, in the process, I learned to listen to a new mother’s needs. My daughter’s birth came exactly three moons later, in November, with Kate as my midwife. These two beautiful experiences of birth, after having attended Parvati’s workshop, solidified what I had learned about the timing of a baby’s arrival and laid more foundational support for what would be my life’s work with pregnancy, labor and postpartum massage.
Parvati was a yogini, an author of three books (Hygeia, a Woman’s Herbal, Prenatal Yoga, and Conscious Conception) and considered herself a midwife shaman. She was, indeed, a formidable woman, with tremendous strength and vision. I was in awe of all the knowledge she shared with us and was to continue to study with her for over two decades.
Upon her passing on December 1, 2005, she left behind six children and a lifetime body of work dedicated to awakening the goddess within us all. Six months later, in June of 2006, Parvati came to me in a dream. At that time, I did not know she had passed, Kate had not told me. Parvati gave me a message in my dream – I was to continue the path I am on, supporting women with my work. As soon as I woke up, I looked her up on the computer and found that she had passed. I was grief-stricken and still had another day of teaching my Nurturing the Mother® workshop, a workshop that includes so much of what Parvati and Kate had inspired in my early years of motherhood. Around that same time, my husband, Sun, just so happened to be near where her ashes are laid, a place called Mystic Hot Springs, Utah. Sun went there on my behalf to honor her.
Later that year, in December of 2006, Kate came East to take part in a Nurturing the Mother® workshop at Topsail Beach, NC. She also came to share in a Blessingway we were going to have at the class, to honor Parvati. Kate and my students, many dear friends as well, celebrated the life of Parvati. Her legacy continues on within Nurturing the Mother® seminars.