We believe a calling like mothering, which haphazardly blends the transcendent with the tedious, warrants a little extra oracular guidance (see The Deck) and a deep well of inspiration. On Friday, we invoke the muse of motherhood be she poet, artist, dancer, musician, thinker, or dreamer. Wishing you all an inspired weekend!
*An interview with Kiersten Figurski on midwifing and mothering*
I have immeasurable love and respect for my midwife, Kiersten, who I admire for her passion and dedication as a midwife and mother. She is a mother to Treska, 16, and Kaya, 14. She shared that her own births were the most powerful, mindblowing experiences of her life. “I became consumed with passion and love for pregnancy, birth, mamas, parenting….all of it. It became my primary focus – all else paled.” At the suggestion and support of her husband, she found her life’s work. Kiersten is one of three amazing midwives at the Northern New Mexico Birth Center in Taos, New Mexico. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did!
What has being a midwife taught you about mothering? How has being a mother shaped you as a midwife?
Oh goodness – how do I answer this? As a midwife we learn, every single day, in every appointment, every birth that we are not in control. Of anything. Not really. Yes, we can direct, reassure, encourage, change the direction of something. We can act fast – but we cannot decide how something will be. We can react to it. This we do as mothers every day. In every interaction. I have had great practice in both worlds of mothering and midwifing to intentionally react. To decide how I will react – consciously. This is what I practice every single day. Again and again.
It is why I love the River Card so much. Surrender.
Kiersten’s daughter Treska, 16, is an apprentice at the Taos Birth Center.
How long have you been homeschooling your daughters? I’m always amazed hearing what they are involved in. Did you have a guide/model for their schooling? How do you balance their schooling with your work as a midwife?
We began homeschooling the girls, at Treska’s request, 4 years ago in 2008. Treska had created a huge garden of her own and was working on a farm in a close neighborhood. It was August and a week before school was supposed to begin, all the squash in Treska’s garden were blooming, the vegetables were beginning their luscious abundance. How could we take her out of the garden and stick her in a classroom? (She wrote an article for Mother Earth News about this experience. CLICK HERE TO READ.) It was a fine school, a Charter School, but increasingly I felt that I had to allow for my children’s passions to bloom around the confines of the daily school schedule. We needed more time. The girls were so motivated to learn. So we decided, with terrified and thumping hearts, to homeschool. It turned out to be one of the most organic decisions and processes ever.
Like all parents, we’ve supported and encouraged the girls to do what they love. Kaya loves dance and attends dance classes 5 days a week, Treska is interning at the Birth Center and in Labor and Delivery at our local hospital. (This means she spends her Mondays in the Operating Room (OR) and most of the rest of her week at the Birth Center.)
I have read everything I could get my hands on regarding homeschooling and child development (Teen Neurology is fascinating!) – and for the first few years we followed the Oak Meadow curriculum. As the girls have grown older we have developed and individualized a curriculum (utilizing the University of New Mexico, for example) that works best for each of them.
Most importantly we live in a small town, a beautiful rural area of New Mexico that has world culture, small town sustainability and wild nature intertwined. What could be better? The girls have grown up in a lovely community of Midwives, Apprentices, new families, growing families and children of all ages. Our village, here in Taos, raises children well.
Kaya, 14, and Kiersten
Something that really inspires me is how open, loving and respectful your relationship with your daughters is in these teenage years. Any jewels of wisdom you can share as to how this has evolved?
We have been raised in this country to fear teens. Our media’s portrayal of teens is
terrifying. They are shown to be rude, disrespectful, struggling, addicted, pregnant and making horrendous choices.
From the earliest days of toddlerhood people would often comment on my kiddos. “Oh! Daughters – two years apart! Good luck when they are teenagers!” Over and over again – it was an unfortunate mantra I had to hear often. We were told our daughters would be horrible as teens. (I wasn’t such an easy one myself!) I refused to believe it. They were curious, compassionate, determined now – why would it change? When?
I can only remind you that it is not true. Teens are some of the most awake humans on this planet. They are learning and absorbing from everything surrounding them. They will emulate and question. They are a powerful force.
We are also told that we will need to learn to “let our children go” in the teen years. I believe, rather, that this is the time when we can spend even more time drawing them in. Make the relationship as compelling as you can.
Connect, connect, connect.
Use every opportunity. Listen and ask questions! Spend time together. Eat as many meals together as possible. Sit around together. Walk together. Garden….. Don’t stop when they are teens. What do you enjoy doing with your teens? Do it and do it often. They will want to spend time with you. All children do – young or old.
When they make mistakes no matter how large, love them through it. Support them through it.
We recently moved into a small home with no dishwasher. The other night my youngest daughter and I were cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. She washed, I dried. Now, I am not necessarily a super sentimental person – but I am so aware of the fleeting time I have left with my daughters. I sighed, relaxed and dried. I quietly enjoyed standing side by side with my teen. She chatted and chatted. I was so happy to just be there. I let myself be present and not think about the twenty other things I had on my mind. I didn’t wonder if the phone was going to ring or if my client was experiencing contractions. I just listened.
And I try to do this every day – every moment I have with them. (Which really means that I remind myself of this each time I forget – which is, also, every day)
Be present. Listen. This is the greatest gift we can give our children, I believe. Isn’t that what we all crave?
I love working with our teen pregnant moms. They are often shocked, scared and monosyllabic. With time, love, acceptance, and even advice these young girls open up and experience such beauty in their pregnancy, birth and child. Having my own daughters enables me to see, even more, the fragile beauty that these young pregnant girls encompass. Treska told me once, “Mom – when you talk to teens, and you notice they aren’t looking at you, or they are quiet and seemingly uninterested, just remember they hear you. They remember what you say. They will think about it – later. So tell them everything you would like them to hear. Don’t be discouraged.”
Can you offer any advice for mamas struggling in their mothering, whatever the age of her kids? How do you suggest they find the wisdom within?
We all struggle. We all want to be the best mamas ever – but there is no perfection in parenting. Forgive yourself, be kind to yourself. Every moment is the newest moment – start over again and again and again.
It is always a process and you learn by trying. You will make mistakes. You will also do amazing things as the mothers of these tiny little beings. You have the most important work in the entire world. Take it seriously while loving yourself.
Ask for help! Do it together with joy! Listen to yourself and follow your gut. It is different for each family. You have your own dance – dance it!
Thank you Kiersten for your honesty, encouragement, wisdom, and positive energy!