Aging Pets & Natural Birth

Aging Pets & Natural Birth

So, I’m all kinds of feely as I wrapped up some tough conversations about a pet’s accelerated aging and then finished up an hour and a half of the movie, The Business of Being Born, and I realize that not all that follows will connect the dots cleanly, but something came over me- or moved through me.

I’m watching my first babe, my girl – my dog – age. As the progression gains momentum we consider the impact of her loss on the babes. I speak openly about loss and death with them. We’ve lost pets. They’ve lost loved ones. They play at the cemetery, climbing around my father’s stone as a way of connection. They ask questions and want to understand what happens and why. I consider this one of those sculpable gifts – it’s not all that great at first sight, in raw form, but if you work with it a bit you can turn the idea or situation into something quite valuable.

I want to extend reality and the truth and the information, as appropriate, to shield my babes against the energy that feeds misinformation and fear into the unknown or un-discussed. I believe that what gets shoved under the rug takes on its own life. It’s not a matter of if it will surface, but when. And when it does, it’s a hell of a lot uglier than when you tried to hide it.

This is a chapter that will write itself one page at a time and we’ll only know how to handle it when we’re there. And we will all do it together.

So there’s that.

(Now take a sharp left turn for the second part of this mental decompression.)

In the documentary, The Business of Being Born, I followed a series of women through natural childbirth and witnessed their reasons for choosing such path. I found myself learning more about the workings of the “traditional” (at least according to my prior exposure) hospital route than I even knew when delivering my own children. I saw different ways of seeking care and birthing a child and trusting your body when the risks are perceived to be low. I saw bodies do amazing things, uninterrupted by machines and medicine. I was tensing and contorting muscles and smiling through tears. It kinda blew my mind. Now, I understand it’s not for everyone and that there are many opinions. What I took from all of this is the idea that I wish I had cast my net wider when gathering up information during pregnancy.

I think of the great shift that has taken place in me over the past few years and I’m not sure if it’s a result of the life snow globe being shaken – the bits falling where they have, layers shed to the ground in a pile to be sorted through – or the natural progression of aging, experience, parenting, or a cocktail of ‘all of the above’. I find myself wishing that some of these connections, ideas, transitions, or discoveries had fallen into place sooner and grateful, at the same time, that they have now, not later.

Social media has its fair share of follies and flaws, but one thing that it’s provide me with is an expanded awareness of the slices of life beyond my reach, and lifestyles and ideas I’d never crossed paths with before. I’ve learned about the dynamics of large families, had my ideas of homeschool stretched, watched the reality of miscarriage play out, explored clean eating (ok, so I’m still in research phase there), had an introduction to adoption and foster care, saw God in different places, learned of careers I never dreamed existed, saw young parents suffer the loss of a child, watched a breastfeeding mother banned from a network for modest photography and a band of strong mamas fight to get her back. It has unveiled geography I once knew much less about, and I’ve stumbled upon kindred spirits half way across the world.

From these connections I’ve made and opportunities I’ve had to gain a peek behind their doors, the periphery of my vision has inched wider and wider. And I feel that it’s helped me to be more accepting of others and love myself more. It’s sparked energy in unexplored places of my ‘self’.

There is so much now, that I didn’t know then, that I sometimes wish I had. I suppose that is the beauty in our years. The gold waits for us, surfacing bit by beautiful bit, year after year, as we continue to shed our outer layers. Culture and media teach us to hold on to “beauty” as tight as we can, but the truth is that when we are able to let go of the unnecessary grip of our exteriors, we are often better able to see and receive what beauty truly is. Chances taken, celebration, scars, loss, tears, and faces lined from years of expressed emotion are the best “make-up” – truly flawless.

In much of my writing I imagine the things I want my children to consider and this is one of them.

Seek much and expand your views – always.

Read. Ask lots of questions, and don’t fear appearing ignorant by doing so, for not doing so may leave you just that. Don’t assume. Confidence in your beliefs isn’t gained by blinders-on stubbornness or inflexibility – that’s a false security. Peace in your choices is a reward gained through broad understanding and thoughtful decision.

Explore the alternative wherever you are at, and in both directions, even if it’s completely uncharted territory in your world. Learning and understanding isn’t committing to, or straying from something, right out of the gates. It’s where this exploration takes you that will bring you closer to your most genuine self.

Shake it up on occasion. Read from many genres. Invite and respect conflicting opinions and beliefs. Don’t ever accept that you must fit a mold to be worthy of any piece of this world.

Much of what you “know” is all you’ve been told. How much of what you believe or the rituals you’ve adopted, is out of fear of the unknown or misunderstood?

Dare to walk off the beaten path. Often. Don’t spend you’re time worrying about whether others are there by your side while you explore.

And through all of this, your heart and mind will partner while guiding you in all the steps you take. It will be my gift to watch where they lead you.

Would I have been a home-birthing doula, confident in my voice and art and living off the land had I discovered the intensity of this internal pull in my younger years? Would I have done things drastically different? Who knows.

But I can promise that you will never go wrong in your journey by keeping your sight wide.



  1. Kristin Terrell says

    Jess, I love that you tend to pull out so many things I have thought myself and you’ve put it so perfectly! So I went back to your link on your dad and can obviously relate and just had to say that I too can’t help but wish for one chance to have my dad’s council and perspective on life as it is now only to stop and realize that I know and carry his thoughts and spirit in my heart and probably have a good idea of what dad would have said. And because if this wisdom I have gained from him feel the constant duty to carry his spirit forward in stories and memories to my own kids and shape them with bits of their grandpa.

    Based on this thread of ‘carrying the spirit forward’ coupled with your comments on natural childbirth, have you read ‘The Red Tent’? If not, I think you’d really relate!! These two themes are very prominent in this book about ancient times and traditions. Cheers to fabulous you!

    • Kristin, the best of tears. You are doing an AMAZING job of carrying his spirit forward. Your whole family is. I know they are with us. Love You… P.S. I haven’t red the book and it’s on my list now. Cheers!

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