Resonant Field Women’s Circle, Monday July 2nd: A Healing Journey Through Conception & Birth

Are you looking to connect more deeply with your own feminine wisdom (or know a woman in your life who would)?  Would you like to share mindful space with other women?  These free monthly gatherings offer a simple, pleasurable way to connect and deepen your relationship to your body and soul, other resonant women and the Divine Feminine.  Each month will be loosely based around a theme, incorporating stillness/meditation, visualization, breath, journaling, feminine archetypes and other healing resources for an evening of sacred play!  I hope you will join us.



Monday July 2nd: 

A Healing Journey Through Conception & Birth

The moment of conception is the original moment of wholeness.  In a loving, safe environment, we can journey back to this moment on through to our birth, to bring to consciousness what we may have experienced but have not yet named.  To heal what no longer serves us.  To imagine ourselves unfolding into a deeply embodied, loving world.  In experiencing our wholeness we can rewire our relationship with the world.

We will also have a chance to support each other as we work in pairs, one woman journeying as the other holds space.


  • Open to all interested women, straight/queer/trans, all spiritual and cultural backgrounds, and mothers with babes-in-arms.
  • Held the first Monday evening of the month, private location upon RSVP.  Please arrive 6:45, circle begins promptly at 7 PM.
  • This circle is my community offering, and free of charge.  Please share your gratitude by telling others.
  • Please eat dinner beforehand; ok to bring a snack and I will provide tea, fruit and chocolate.
  • Bring a journal, pen and water bottle.
  • Floor pillows and a few chairs available to those who need; if you have a particular cushion, etc, feel free to bring it.

Please RSVP with phone # for both Yes and Maybes, as sometimes I am on-call for a birth and need to be able to contact you: or (510) 473-6724

Theme for August 6th:  Introducing Marion Woodman, an elder in the movment for feminine wisdom and conscious embodiment.  An evening of listening to her inspiring talk, “Sitting By The Well” and conversation.


HomeBirth Focusd Childbirth Education Classes–in Oakland

HomeBirth Focused Childbirth Education Classes

in Oakland

Instructor: Esther Healey, Licensed Midwife

When: Thursdays (5 classes)

Time: 7-10 pm

Where: Oakland, near Lake Merritt

Fee: 8% of homebirth midwifery services fee ($400 max, $150 min)

Class Start Dates for 2012: June 21 (EDDs end of July – Sept) & Sept 20 (EDDs end of Oct – Dec)

To Register or for more info, contact:

The class is a balance of:

-Experiential learning of techniques you may use in labor

-Exposure to births from videos

-Informational coverage of:

*the “stages” of labor and what labor may look like

*what changes are made in the body during labor and postpartum

*what the baby goes through to be born

-Deeper discussions of common questions around standards of care (GBS, Vitamin K, Non Stress Tests, etc.)

-Opportunities to begin processing fears using specific techniques

-Setting intension for birth and postpartum

-What happens if complications arise and transfer of care is necessary (non urgent, urgent, emergency)

-Immediate postpartum and postpartum needs and expectations

-Expectations for newborn babies – what their needs are, and how can we as parents support them

-Breastfeeding techniques and expectations

-and, of course, more

Esther Healey, CPM, LM

Connecting How We Have Sex with How We Give Birth

Originally posted on Good Vibrations Sexy Mama Online Magazine (currently recovering from internet difficulties so no link)

Since the release in 2008 of the documentary Orgasmic Birth, which promotes undisturbed birth as both safe and deeply pleasurable, western culture has shown an increasing interest in sex and birth. More and more women are waking up to their bodies, their sexuality and well-being, and exploring different traditions as well as journeying into the unknown areas of bodily experience. The potency of a film such as Orgasmic Birth is that it tears away a veil of assumption, in this case that birth is always a burden of pain, something to be feared and endured.
At the same time, I find the term ‘orgasmic birth’ to be problematic in that orgasm is a loaded word that often triggers the idea that there is one more thing for women to achieve, in this case, pleasure. As a practitioner who works one on one and in groups with women, as well as being the mother of a daughter born at home, I’d like to share some fundamental connections between sex and birth that are accessible to a wide range of individuals, regardless of whether you can conceptualize birth as pleasurable or not. Since sex is what starts the whole thing off, I will begin by describing how paying attention to our sex life can both increase our sexual pleasure and healing, as well as preparing our bodies for the journey of birth.
Both sex and birth are generally private events. Mammals are for the most part shy, and will seek privacy to begin labor, or even change locations if interrupted (think of a cat who stops labor when she is discovered, and gets up to find a new dark, quiet place to continue). Now think about the environment in which most people make love: the lighting is low, the space is private, no one is observing (yes, yes, I know some of you are exhibitionists, but go along for the ride please!). Now contrast this to the typical birthing environment found in a hospital: bright lights, no privacy, funny smells, strange sounds, not just one but often multiple rounds of strangers, people putting hands into your yoni to check your cervix. Does this sound like an environment conducive to a peaceful–let alone successful–mammalian birthing experience?
The thing is, we can’t think our way into birth. We can’t force ourselves to trust this sterile environment and these people we don’t know. So is it any wonder that women don’t labor well in hospitals? That their cervixes don’t open, that they feel pain because they are adrenalized? The hormones and physiology of how we birth is factual evidence backed up by science, not just romantic bohemian ideals, yet all over the world hospitals are practicing non-evidence based medicine, and women, babies and families are paying the price. The routine use of interventions on healthy women and infants causes physical, emotional and spiritual trauma, including horrific rates of maternal and neonatal mortality in the United States: despite our national wealth and technological advancements, we rank behind forty other nations in maternal mortality, and behind thirty others in neonatal. So I’d like to emphasize that your pleasure is meaningful, that by maintaining connection to what feels good and safe in the body will bring greater health and positive outcomes. This may or may not culminate in an experience that you may define as orgasmic, but the empowerment of staying connected to your body and baby will have lasting, beneficial effects.
Birth is possibly the most intense sensation western women will experience in their bodies. How, as such a sedentary culture, do we prepare ourselves for this sensation? Sex is an excellent, and fun, option. However, we must shift our relationship to sex, to one of relaxing into sensation instead of driving ourselves towards orgasm. I know that for many women even having an orgasm in the first place is not a given. What I am arguing for is not a turning away from the embrace of pleasure (which underlies this desire for orgasm), but a broader embrace of what pleasure means. This is a process of learning to relax into sensation which allows the energy, and pleasure, of sex to circulate beyond the pelvis throughout the whole body, which not only feels great but brings greater vitality, including a stronger immune system!
Eastern traditions such as Tantra and Taoism understand that the body is enlivened by life force (prana and chi, respectively), and that this life force moves through the body along specific channels. By opening up and maintaining the flow in our channels through such practices as breathwork, mindful attention, meditation, bodywork and sexual practice we can receive great benefit. How this translates in birth is that we have a much greater capacity to move the energy of birth in a way that is familiar, safe and possibly even pleasurable. Furthermore, if we are holding past memories of sexual or bodily trauma in our yoni/womb/pelvis, doing the work to heal this up before birth is much more manageable and less scary. When we don’t have the inner resources to move the energy, contractions can seem like a great wave about to drown us. Women often shut down/contract against this energy, which turns intense sensation into pain and a hormonal flood of adrenaline and fear. When we take responsibility for our sexual pleasure and well-being, we learn to trust, or remember to trust, in the wisdom of the body and the knowing that only comes from our first-hand experience of living, loving, birthing. When we enter labor centered in ourselves this way, we remain the subject of our own birth, instead of becoming the object upon which interventions are done and decisions are made about. If you come out of reading this with nothing else, I hope it is this point that you take away.
For birth is, in the end, out of our control. We may have read all the right books, practiced our yoga and ate our kale and protein, even visualized ourselves into nirvana, and still birth may throw us for a loop. But if we are centered in ourselves, if we experience the wisdom of our bodies and are resourced in the relationships of love and intimacy in our lives, then we can find a way through that will leave us ultimately empowered instead of traumatized.

Further Reading:

Some great resources that I recommend for continued exploration are Sarah Buckley’s Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering; Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth; Diane Richardson’s Tantric Orgasm for Women; and the various books by Mantak Chia on Taoist sexual practices, such as Healing Love through the Tao: Cultivating Female Sexual Energy
and The Multi-Orgasmic Woman. Buckley is an Australian MD with four children born at home; her writing combines under a wholistic perspective both personal birth stories and current scientific information on undisturbed/ecstatic birth that is readable for the layperson. Gaskin, the famous face of the The Farm’s intentional community in Tennessee and author of the seminal Spiritual Midwifery, talks about ‘sphincter law’, as well as encouraging the intimacy and sexual/sensual energy between a woman and her partner. Richardson is a tantra teacher who teaches women and couples about how to relax into pleasure and advocates ‘valley’ over ‘peak’ orgasms; while this book is both hetero-normative and somewhat dismissive of sex outside of tantric intercourse, her information about the body and pleasure are invaluable. Chia’s books are a great practical source of how to move the energy in your body. I will be writing about some simple and practical suggestions that you can do at home in a upcoming blog post–stay tuned!

Homebirth Info Evenings with Awakenings Birth Services

Juli Tilsner and Deborah Simone, of Awakenings Birth Services, are two of the midwives that I am always excited about attending a birth with.  They deeply honor and safeguard the normalcy of undisturbed birth.  It’s a great evening to check out, even if you just want to know more about normal birth!


Awaken Chiropractic


The new 2012 series of

“Homebirth Info Evenings”

with the Midwives of



Bring your questions & concerns about
Homebirth, Waterbirth, VBAC.

Explore the differences between
obstetric myth & research reality.

2nd Wednesday of Every Month
beginning March 14th
7 – 8:30pm
3515 Grand Ave, Oakland

Literary Mama Book Review: Birth Matters & Home/Birth

Originally posted on Literary Mama, February 28, 2012:

Nonfiction, Literary Nonfiction

Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta
by Ina May Gaskin
Seven Stories Press, 2011

Home/Birth: a poemic
Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker
1913 Press, 2010

Reviewed by Ursula Ferreira
When I was eighteen I read Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery, and like many self-professed birth junkies before and after me, I was hooked. Seventeen years later, I’m both a doula and a mother. I still read books about birth, and am always interested in the kind of books that capture women’s attention. Two recently published books speak to many mothers and stir the proverbial pot in different ways. Ina May Gaskin’s Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta is rally-cry to improve the abysmal maternal and neonatal mortality rates in the United States. Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker’s Home/Birth is a fierce affirmation of homebirth.

Ina May Gaskin, a midwife, published the now seminal Spiritual Midwifery in 1977. The book chronicles the establishment and growth of a free-standing birth center in Summertown, Tennessee. Thirty-five years later Gaskin brings her considerable influence to the subject of maternal and neonatal mortality rates in the United States. As a technologically-advanced country, one might assume that US mortality rates – indicators of the quality of pre- and postnatal care – would rank among the world’s best. In fact, we rank behind forty other nations in maternal mortality, and behind thirty others in neonatal. Gaskin’s manifesto successfully educates the reader as to why this is so: lack of necessary experience for both doctors and nurses; hospital policies dictated by insurance policy rather than evidence-based practices; non-existent and inconsistent documentation of maternal mortality from state to state. Her writing is compelling because it is both compassionate and frank: “I have lost count of how many newly graduated nurses have told me in recent months that they had never been in a room with a laboring woman before they were hired as a hospital maternity nurse.”

Yet Gaskin does not demonize doctors or nurses. In fact, she calls for coalition-building, for doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas and ordinary citizens to commit to the safety and health of our mothers and babies. Many maternal and neonatal deaths are preventable, she says, especially in a country so rich in resources, if we bring together our collective wisdom toward a common goal.

While Gaskin calls for coalition-building, Home/Birth, affirms a birthing woman’s individual knowing, and the right to birth where she feels safest and most empowered. Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker are friends, established poets, and mothers with a variety of birthing experience. Home/Birth is a call and response that weaves together threads of conversation: birth stories (their own and others); legalities and politics; bumper stickers and slogans; humor; sadness; anger; and joy. The spiraling and fragmented quality of their polemic reminds me of holding an adult conversation with small children nearby. The poopy diaper, the toddlers squabbling over a toy, the need for snacks now trump whatever is being said. But once the little ones have been tended to, you pick up the thread of conversation once again or allow it to be lost.

Greenberg and Zucker do not shy away from difficult topics. In speaking honestly about homebirth, they acknowledge that it is also necessary to speak of death. At thirty-one weeks Greenberg’s second child died in utero: “I felt devastated, but also at peace with our baby being gone. But letting go of a homebirth, putting myself at the mercy of a hospital birth and having to say goodbye to my baby in that environment, to try to feel connected to myself and my dead child in that environment, felt like the start down a long, bad road I wasn’t sure I could find my way back from.” She chose to wait until labor started at home, with her midwife. Both Greenberg and Zucker speak of a radical commitment to the fullness of their experience in a manner that honors wholeness and the sanctity not only of their bodies, but the bodies of their children as well.

I read these books under many hats: mother of a homebirthed daughter, doula to women in diverse birthing situations, bodyworker, somatic sex educator, and feminist. In each of these realms, I’ve witnessed a powerful shift over the past few decades, a shift toward “health” defined as emotional, reproductive, sexual, environmental and spiritual. Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta and Home/Birth present these shifts in terms of birth practices. Through poetry, prose and polemic, the authors call for a reclamation of personal choice and collective voice in the most intimate human realm: conceiving, carrying and birthing a child.

East Bay & San Francisco La Leche League

La Leche League International:

La Leche League of Northern California and Hawaii:

“All women interested in breastfeeding are encouraged to attend group meetings regardless of membership status. Babies are always welcome.”

“All women interested in breastfeeding are encouraged to attend local group meetings. Each meeting focuses on a specific breastfeeding topic such as:

• The Advantages of Breastfeeding
• The Art of Breastfeeding and Overcoming Difficulties
• Nutrition, Starting Solids, and Weaning

In addition to discussion around a specific topic, everyone is invited to share their current breastfeeding issues and to seek information and encouragement from other attendees and the group leaders.

If you are looking for breastfeeding classes, lactation support, or just want to meet up with other nursing mothers, you will find information and support at LLL meetings.”

Berkeley and Oakland:


Meeting Times
When: 10 a.m. on the 3rd Wednesday of the month
Where: Birthways Resource Center · 1600 Shattuck Avenue, Suite 122 ·
Details: Birthways Resource Center is (despite the address) on Cedar Street, right across from Andronico’s. Birthways is in the plaza next to Barney’s, next to Red Hanger Cleaners.

Leader Information
(510) 388-0350


Meeting Times
When: 10:30 a.m. on the last Saturday of the month
Where: The Tulip Grove, 2078 Antioch Ct., Montclair Village ·

Leader Information
For leader support, please call the East Bay Referral Line at
(510) 496-6009



Meeting Times

When: 10 a.m. on the 3rd Wednesday of the month. December meeting is the 2nd Wednesday.
Where: The meeting location rotates every four months. Please call a leader for current information or email us.
Details: We begin a new series each January, May and September. Please join us afterwards for refreshments and take time to browse our lending library of books on parenting, nutrition, childbirth, nursing and related subjects. Free breastfeeding counseling is provided by accredited La Leche League Leaders.

Leader Information



San Francisco

Meeting Times

Morning Meeting
When: 9:30-11:00 a.m. on the 3rd Wednesday of the month
Where: Valencia Gardens Apartments · 390 Valencia Street (at 15th) · Map it

Evening Meeting
When: 6:00-7:30 p.m. on the 1st Wednesday of the month
Where: Call a leader for meeting location

Leader Information


Practitioner Resources

Welcome to the Practitioner Resource List!  This will be an on-going effort to provide you with helpful practitioners for your personal and familial health.  Please let me know if there is someone/somewhere you think highly of and don’t see here; also any personal feedback you have on individual practitioners, as there are many I do not personally know.



Midwives: ‎

Natural Resources and Birthways are two local organizations that have extensive listings for midwives, doulas, bodyworkers and other practitioners.  Although one in the East Bay and the other in SF, their lists usually cover much of the Bay Area:

Natural Resources (SF):

Birthways (East Bay):

Pregnancy & Infant Chiropractic:

More Mojo Chiropractic, Kristine Hicks:  415-821-6656,

Balance Chiropractic, Eva Whitmore: 510-450-0701,

Om Chiropractic, Karen Josephs:  510-527-5770,

Family Wellness Center, Elan Bartlett:  510-843-1234

Network Chiropractors:

Koichi Nairuchi/Hikari Chiropractic (East Bay):

Laura Polak/Radiant Health Center (Sebastopol):

John Amaral/The Well-Being Center (Santa Cruz):  831-475-2448,


Jill Stevens/Whole Family Wellness Center (specializing in women’s and children’s health):

Octagon Community Acupuncture Clinic:

Berkeley Community Acupuncture:

The Yellow Emperor Community Acupuncture Clinic:

Sarana Community Acupuncture:

Manzanita Wellness Clinic (individual & community, pediatric):

Oakland Community Acupuncture:

Golden Leaf Community Acupuncture:

San Francisco Community Acupuncture:

Circle Community Acupuncture (SF):

Community Acupuncture Works (SF):

Castro Community Acupuncture (SF):

Community Acupuncture of San Rafael (Marin):


Mandala Yoga:  Pregnancy Yoga  (this is a great deal, $199 for up to 3 classes/week for your whole pregnancy)/Postnatal Mom & Baby/Monthly Fertility Yoga class:

Britt Fohrman: Pregnancy Yoga (also doula services, photography & bodywork)


Embodied Voice with Sylvi Alli:

Sylvi is an accomplished singer/composer/musician who teaches private and group voice classes for women.  Her ’embodied voice’ approach to singing deepens the connection between voice and body, encouraging more ‘inner listening’ and less self-consciousness, allowing for more authentic, joyful, and free vocal expression.