How do you live?
I love the sun. But, growing up in an industrial harbor city with blasting sun, I always treasured greenery. Trees gave me privacy. Now whenever I move to a new place, I look for a combination of both. Living in a big city, we have a place with views of trees, not just other buildings. We live in a part of the city where there are canals and lots of markets. Farmer’s markets, flea markets, and lots of natural playgrounds. Meaning playgrounds with dirt, sticks, climbing trees… material for the imagination. This being said, I do bring my mobile phone to the playgrounds. I like to take snapshots, audio recordings, and videos of the fleeting moments. Either to note the projects in my head, or the awkward or remarkable moments Gigi and Giacomo speed through everyday. At times, I have meetings and even email on the phone. On the run. This is a work in progress. We live in a house with lots of other children, so there’s an ease. Our place is noticeably kid-centric. Lots of plants. Color. Light. I like to sleep in small, cozy spaces, so this works for me. We don’t have strict dedicated sleeping spaces. Everyone likes to sleep next to someone else in our family. We have futons, loft beds, sofa beds, beds behind curtains, hanging hammocks.
What makes you a creative?
Anyone who knows me well, knows that what I do is ever-evolving. Although I had been fully passionate about every aspect of childbirth for years, it took me a while to accept that I would go deeper into this field. Whenever I get into something, though, I am completely occupied by it until most of my questions are answered. In my work now as a birth companion, I bring back my love of the written word. I spend lots of time finding ways to tell stories that help women and their partners rethink what they know about birth. I had a period where I worked in contemporary art curation. I use this knowledge to support people in designing their own sensory and emotional experiences as they prepare for birth. We already experience such a wide range of emotions in this time, so it’s easy to connect to that. I was always interested in close contact, but I think lots of people feel a little bit alienated from the typical style of childbirth preparation. We just move through the motions, but the information never really sticks. I find out exactly what moves people emotionally, connect that to their very unique personal stories and expectations, then find sensory scapes that really inspire them. Then I introduce all of the useful information about childbirth physiology in small chunks so that they develop a very special relationship to the information. It’s not just information, it connects them to their bodies. It enters their memory in a pleasant way.
That being said, something I find very important in my own creativity is flexibility. I am pretty sensitive to how receptive the women or guys I’m working with are. I work in a bilingual context, so I have to be open to some people really finding comfort in straightforward information.
What called you toward accompanying women as they become mothers?
I think we all need the space to go into depth about the things that move us. For years I was pretty reluctant to go into this work. I didn’t fully understand the voids in information and optimal care around childbirth. But it pulled me in. There’s so much to explore. Things relevant to everyone in some respect. Someone said to me recently that I may grow out of this field in a few years. I thought to myself, even when I’m 80 there will still be more dimensions to explore. It’s humbling. At the same time, in different regions, we come to similar awarenesses, similar findings, similar questions. I have mentors all over the world who have spent many decades of their lives and never stop being introduced to new aspects. I don’t know if there can ever be any mastery.
Where does simplicity show up in your life?
The work that I do can be very sensitive. It requires me to be very accurate sometimes. So, I love finding mentors whose communication style is very simple. I can be very poetic, so it gives me that balance. It’s funny that mentorship gets underestimated, but I find that the older I get the more useful those kind of relationships are for me. It really helps me quiet things down. It helps me especially with motherhood. I can leap forward a bit and reflect on what I appreciate about the times I have with Gigi and Giacomo. It also simplifies my relationship to my partner. We’ve had someone staying with us for a few weeks, a young adult daughter of a friend. Whenever we get into our epic talks (I talk a lot!) she’s been reflecting on some of her mother’s approaches to parenting. I love this because it gives me perspective. There are plenty of online community for parenting, but I often see people get lost in so many opinions. Opinions coming only from one cultural context. Since I’ve been thrown in the midst of all kinds of cultural approaching to childbirth, motherhood, parenting, I can see the value of stepping outside to get a sense of what is timeless. I am working on a series to showcase stories and interviews from experts and parents around the world. These perspectives keep me humble. That’s simplicity.
Can you describe your personal style?
(Laughs) Years ago I lived in Japan. I would notice some sophisticated older japanese women wearing flat shoes, slightly oversized, draping neutral colored clothes with accents of bright color. The color is either in their jewelry or makeup or accessories. The form is always balanced. So, if one thing is draping, another thing is tailored. This is usually my style. But I experiment. If I’m wearing something that’s flowing, then the color will be dark. If it’s tailored, I might wear patterns. My hair is it’s own accessory, spirals and coils that have their own mind. My hair is like my hat.
Do you have any daily habits or routines?
Honestly, this is very seasonal. I will have periods where I wake up, cuddle with Gigi and Giacomo, get them dressed or encourage them to do it on their own. This takes because they are fully in their imagination in the morning. Gigi might be in the midst of getting dressed, then start having an imaginary conversation for 15 minutes. They have a full fledged social life, so once they are off to kindergarten, I will eat warm oatmeal with berries or honey or seeds or nuts. Sometimes that quinoa. Then I sit for 20 minutes to meditate. I try to keep these rhythm, but sometimes I don’t manage. In the afternoons I always cycle on my bike and spend time with my children outdoors. We work on a garden project once a week, and that always serves as its own period of reflection. I swap off with my partner bringing our children to bed, but some periods I do it more. When I do I make up stories and try to elaborate on them each time. My daughter has been asking me to write the stories as a book, so that’s slowly cooking on the back burner.
How do you approach living well?
I’ve been pretty good at responding to my body. I know what foods makes me feel vibrant and what doesn’t. What is really big for me is taking care that I am not experiencing stress. That is big. The biggest thing I do for stress is try to take care of my relationships. If something isn’t working, I know I have to set aside the time to give it some love. Even with my children.
What does balance look like for you in your daily life with being a creative + inventive mama?
With my platform birthtobirth.com, I’m always on. Always thinking of new projects, thinking about what experiences I can offer the people I work with, thinking about what they need to ease into their new experience of motherhood (and sometimes fatherhood). I am usually writing and researching. I’m constantly doing new trainings to improve my understanding of different aspects of childbirth for my doula work. I’m also expanding and elaborating on my German. I go to conferences, I am interviewing people on skype, I’m doing collaborations. The lines of work and “normal” life get pretty blurred.
To balance being constantly on, I have started a ritual with my daughter where every once in a while she will stay with me for the day and we will do something special. The last time we went to a mineral salt spa in the middle of the city. Another time when she was 5 years old, we went to see a contemporary ballet company perform in the night. I looked over at her during the performance and noticed she was standing up crying. I asked her why and she said “watching the people fly is so beautiful.” It’s not something that’s designed for children, per se, but having that quiet space to relax or reflect and do something out of the ordinary is pretty great. Of course, we also have very wild and stubborn moments, but the balance gives me that sense of living well.
What are the fleeting moments that you will always cherish?
I’ve found another layer of experience in music. Recently I realized that it had been ages since I listened. I made a video to share some music that ignites me. I played two of my deeply favorite tracks. Suddenly my heart literally expanded and I was in the midst of dance. This was the best surprise to simply be drawn into the music. My daughter also has this thing where she will burst into tears when she hears beautiful music. I just smile. When she was 4, she once watched a 2-hour documentary about how airplanes are made. A composer wrote a score for the music and when they weren’t talking about mechanical things, the music would come on as the airplane soared or moved from one station to another. When the music came on she was suddenly full of tears. I asked her why and she said, “because the music is so beautiful”. These moments stay with me. They are magic. They are part of the joy of being human.
What sometimes keeps you from feeling creative + well?
When I don’t get enough sleep, everything can get thrown off. That’s when stress gets reintroduced into my life. To keep this in balance, I really have to decline some things. That’s something we all figure out at some point. How to eloquently say “no” to things that are going to throw us off on the other end. This gets tricky when I’m open to experiment. I’m on of those people who is totally open for the unexpected, but this can bring far too many opportunities to handle.
When/how do you feel most beautiful and most aligned with yourself?
Honestly, this comes whenever I have full hearted conversations with people. Recently I’ve noticed that when I’m giving myself enough time to get things finished, then I’m able to be fully present in my conversations. I open up to being moved by the experience of connecting to another person.
I adapted a question from one of my dear friends and teachers who asked before deciding to work with someone “can I fall in love with something about this person?” I usually find this out in conversation. And if I can answer yes, I’ve usually connected to what is beautiful about myself as well as the other person.
What are some of your imperfections and how do you embrace them?
Honestly, expecting perfection in others is one of my imperfections. Ironically, the other is not being very tidy myself (laughs). I love a certain type of order in my living or working spaces, but I don’t prioritize it. I sometimes let things go. To embrace this tidiness question I compare it to landscaping. It’s far-fetched, but it helps (laughs). I love permaculture or biodiversity. It looks better. Tastes better. I don’t like mowed lawns or strict agriculture. I like it when things are designed, but also overgrown. In my living or work space, my messes will have their own order.
We are constantly growing and working on ourselves. What are you working on right now?
Breathing! I took some time off with my partner recently and went to the seaside. I ran along the coast and practiced intentional breathing. It has a big effect. So simple, but so beneficial.
Can you share your daily beauty regime?
Drinking water. And for years, I’ve washed my face with water and applied a drop of olive oil. Some seasons I will use sweet almond oil.
What are 5 things you cannot live without?
Sleep. Long hugs. Conversation. Laughter. Good music. A sixth: Water!
What advice do you have for mothers looking to find balance in both being healthy and staying creative?
You know, there are so many inspiring models of being a woman with children. If you’re not finding what fulfills you, seek examples from other times, other regions and speak to a variety of older women you admire. There is definitely a wide spectrum of wonderful examples. One of my favorite findings is a series that Isabella Rossallini created for Sundance. It’s called Mammas. She depicts a wide range of animals with different maternal instincts. This also is the direction of my work, to show how much space there is in the maternal experience. Play with it.