The Circle of Life

**EDIT** Original post in 2011

I never dreamed that in one week I'd be asking the same difficult questions surrounding the birth of a baby as well as the death of a friend... The early part of this week held the joy of a newborn baby; the unpredictabilities of birth and one baby's birth journey; surrendering to fate and accepting with grace as one couples' birth expectations were gently moved aside to make room for other plans. As with all of the births I have so far had the honor of attending, this family will always be imprinted in my memory. Mama gave me an up close view and understanding of what it means to be a birth warrior...you know, all those things I talk about in Birthing From Within classes as I prepare couples to embrace this intense rite of passage. But she *showed* me, with her selfless actions and knowing spirit....that it's not about the birth outcome, but about knowing just what to do even when you don't "know" what to do, listening to intuiton, surrendering to change and at times, the loss of control. This mama dug deep, surrendered, and made some crucial parenting decisions with her partner to bring their baby forth safely and mindfully. As natural birth surrendered to a cesarean birth, I feel as though I had the privelege of witnessing a transformation of sorts, witnessing past judgements turn around beautifully into perfect undestanding and acceptance. All from a place of love and not fear, from a place of strength and courage. *That's* what it means to birth from within. As I processed my own understanding of the events of this birth, I had the wind knocked out of my soul as I learned of the passing of a dear friend, only 37 years old. This wise woman, this incredible mother can perhaps be credited with starting me on my own mothering journey, my "mama" journey. I first met Jen when I was pregnant with my first child and sat in on a La Leche League meeting in Gainesville. She was the one everyone looked to; she was such a natural at All-Things-Mama, and I soaked it all in. Months later and holding my newborn, I sat with tears in my eyes during nursing, and she came to my house to help me, never minding that it was Thanksgiving weekend. Our lasting friendship began. She gently led me away from cry-it-out parenting and into Attachment Parenting, taught me understanding about child-led weaning, and opened up my eyes to the beauty of homebirth. This mama birthed an 11 pound baby in her own tub at home. She was a mama warrior. Our kids played together, she and I learned from each other. She gave her ALL to our mothering community and banded together groups of mamas, encouraging everyone she encountered with her true devotion to family, babies, birth and parenting. We found that our husbands had a lot in common and started hanging out as a foursome. Shortly thereafter her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Jen shared her love and light with everyone... Her friends, myself included, tried to shine it back towards her and her family in their time of need. I tried to be half the friend that she always was to me. We took yoga classes together; we walked countless miles on the treadmill together; we shared parenting philosophies, ideas, values. I was with her during healing prayer circles for her ailing husband in their home, cooked her family meals, bought them groceries. He passed away shortly thereafter, leaving their 5 children as his legacy and in Jen's hands. Now 2 years later, this amazing friend, mother, and inspiration to all who knew her has passed away, too. My heart grieves in a way I cannot understand. So now I make way for this, holding the confusion and heartache of the death of a friend; the unpredictabilities of life and one life's journey; surrendering to fate and accepting with grace as our expectations are moved aside to make room for other plans. Of the friends I have so far had the honor of knowing, this one will always be imprinted in my memory. This mama gave me an up close view and understanding of what it means to be a mama warrior... And larger lessons that it's not about our life's outcome, but about knowing just what to do even when you don't "know" what to do, listening to intuiton, surrendering to change and at times, the loss of control. I'm learning to dig deep, surrender, and try to get to a place to make sense of this week's life lessons. I am working through a transformation of sorts, trying to witness past judgements turn around into perfect understanding and acceptance. All from a place of love and not fear, from a place of strength and courage. Welcome to the world sweet baby boy.... Spread your wings sweet mama.... I'll always have love for you both.

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