Cecily Miller is Goddess of the Week!
“I believe the health of our families and society depends on us paying attention to the beginning, to the starting point of life. This means expectant moms must have proper education, support and resources. If we want a peaceful world, we have to have peaceful moms and babies … happy, healthy moms and babies make peaceful homes. We can birth a peaceful culture one family at a time. This doesn’t just happen by magic. It requires conscious effort.”
– Cecily Miller, M.A., Holistic Pregnancy Specialist & Educator
Founder of Baby Welcoming®
Cecily Miller, M.A., is dedicated to educating and empowering women from conception through birth to foster the development of healthy, secure, confident children. She advocates for the emotional well-being of pregnant women, optimal prenatal development, and early-parenting. “If we are to foster healthy world citizens who comprise a coherent society then it is our responsibility to proactively develop and raise babies and children from a base of secure attachment,” she says. Cecily has a Masters Degree in Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology, and is completing her Ph.D. in Transformational Education. She works to educate and empower women along the motherhood continuum locally, nationally and internationally. What a goddess!TB: What does it mean to be a holistic pregnancy specialist and educator? CM: Pregnancy is an amazing transformation on every level of a woman’s experience – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The body-mind-spirit transformation of pregnancy is not meant to be done in isolation, but with safe, accepting, skillful support. Nature gives us about nine months to transform into a mother -- to embody a new archetype, to expand our identity, to earn our mama chops by facing intense fears, to soften, let go of control, savor and celebrate this profoundly challenging and loving period. This is a turning point in life that determines the trajectory of a child's life and the lives of the expectant parents. Most women and partners I speak with want to do parenting differently than how they were parented. But HOW? is their big question and concern.The work I do as a prenatal consultant and educator is about 50 percent education and 50 percent therapeutic healing. There is so much that women deserve to be and need to be informed about in terms of choices around fertility, pregnancy, and birth for their own physical, mental and emotional health – as well as the baby’s physical, mental and emotional health. I educate in terms of what is relevant for each woman’s situation, and then of course the therapeutic healing is unique to each person as well.TB: Tell me more about the therapeutic healing aspect of your work.CM: When a woman is considering becoming pregnant, while she is pregnant, as she nears birth, and during birth – the body's memory of when she was a baby -- her implicit memories of her own prenatal and birth experience – hopes, fears, concerns that her mother thought and felt – these tender, vulnerable, evocative experiences come to the foreground of her consciousness. As a result, they start to filter her perceptions and drive her choices and actions.I help women to differentiate between what could be implicit memories that are coming up of confusion and fears stemming from their own babyhood, and/or societal pressures, misperceptions and myths – and we gracefully, and effortlessly – with so much safety and comfort – take a look at this. We parse it out. What happens each time, which is still awe-inspiring to me, is tremendous relief for women. Once we differentiate the parts (as if unpacking a box of stuff in a closet), we link and integrate the different pieces into a newly organized whole. It is then that a woman has the ability to see and really feel the difference between what was and what is. It provides great freedom for her to make new choices.TB: Facing some of that material seems like it could be very intense.CM: Yes, the subject is intense, and the period of time in a woman’s life is intense. But when I am working with someone, the quality of feeling is not intense. It is loving, nurturing, and so safe and accepting. We laugh. There is a joy and an optimism that gets accessed and birthed in each session. And confidence begins to build as we genuinely look at and take care of the fears and the concerns. When women come and work with me, it’s like they come and take refuge. It’s like they finally have someone they can let go with, and say the unspoken fears and feel loved and accepted, and get education and support. And they always hang up the phone or leave feeling empowered, inspired, and more confident.TB: You mentioned hanging up the phone. You do phone sessions?CM: Yes, the phone is really effective. The phone sessions are equally, if not more powerful than in person. I work locally, nationally and internationally with women on the phone. Most of my work is actually done by phone.TB: What if someone wants to work with you in person? Is that possible?CM: Yes. For local one-on-one sessions, we decide on whether we will work in person or on the phone. In terms of working with groups, I'll be teaching a workshop this fall in LA at The Sanctuary Birth and Wellness Center, called Prenatal Parenting: How to Nurture the Bond with Your Baby. I am also hoping to develop a class series for pregnant women in the LA area that will take place at the Well Baby Center. The dates will be announced soon on my website.Coming up this Saturday afternoon, I will be a presenter at the Healthy Mom & Baby Event at Pharmaca in Pacific Palisades. I’ll be offering mini-lessons of mindful touch and baby massage, plus a sample Prenatal Dance class! And in November, I will be moderating a panel discussion, Leaders From Birth, at the Leaders Causing Leaders conference in Long Beach, CA. I am presently putting together workshops for 2011 and 2012, and encourage anyone to contact me if they would like me to bring my Super Mindful Mama workshop to their center. TB: How did you get into this work? CM: About 20 years ago, I had a few different professional paths I could choose – all related to children. I was having trouble choosing. In a way, I surrendered and asked that it become really clear the path that would make the best use of my sensibilities and who I am. That’s when this field came to my attention. I became aware that my path was about assisting new children. That came to me in a meditative state and would repeat over and over. Now what that actually means has been unfolding all those years since. It’s been a journey through specializing in working with the preschool-age child, caring so much for children and the well-being of children, seeing children’s spirit and their dignity get damaged unnecessarily, and watching children be misunderstood unnecessarily. I decided I wanted to be part of the solution.TB: You have a degree in Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology. Tell me about this field of study.CM: Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology is about 20 years old. The field developed from a major discovery by doctors that is just getting into our cultural awareness. That is: Who we are starts at the very beginning, in the womb. The earlier viewpoint was that babies are not sentient, that babies don’t feel, that babies don’t remember. The thought was that their brains are not fully developed, so they are not sentient. Babies were even operated on post-birth with no anesthesia. That’s how intense the viewpoint was that babies don't feel or remember.Based on research and literature reviews, it’s now evident and proven that babies are sentient and that they do remember. It’s just that there are two different types of memories – implicit memory and explicit memory.So now what we know is that all of us remember that period of time, but it’s in our body memory, it’s in our psyche – it’s in our soma. And that development casts a blueprint on our entire life to come -- the quality of our experience of ourselves and our relationships. So what actually becomes developed, and what remains dormant and doesn’t get developed in our nervous system, in our brains, in our organs, and in our genes in the prenatal period, is what we have to work with the rest of our life. So this field is really a major shift in understanding how we become who we are.TB: So it seems clear that the state of a woman's mental and emotional health is really important for the development of the baby.CM: Yes, for example, if a mom is in chronic stress, that baby is going to develop differently than with a mom who is feeling buoyant, confident, courageous, and supported.TB: Speaking about stress ... You produced a CD called " A Prenatal Lullaby" to reduce stress for moms. Tell me more about that.CM: I produced my CD because I want women to have something accessible and affordable at their fingertips for soothing and centering. Sound can have profoundly positive effects on maternal health, prenatal development and family happiness. Sound and singing are an effective way to help people go into deep relaxation, listen to their inner life, and place their attention on connecting with their baby. Intentional music, singing and toning helps us regulate the nervous system so we can feel calm, centered, receptive, and available. The goal is not to have an idealistic pregnancy -- which is impossible -- or become an ideal mom --- and what does she act like, exactly? -- it's about the capacity to navigate life with the stressors and be able to choose to reset one's system and re-center one's self. That's what that CD is for.TB: You are in the process of completing your PhD. Tell me about this. CM: I'm finishing my doctorate in Transformational Education. My aim is to help transform the education of parents, specifically mothers, to serve their babies and budding families. I've had the privilege to continue learning about the science of mind, our interpersonal neurobiology and early attachment circuitry, and healing directly from Dr. Dan Siegel, author of Parenting from the Inside Out and Mindsight.TB: If you had a loudspeaker that could reach every woman around the world, what message would you want to impart?CM: That it’s every woman’s birthright to have her dignity, her vision, and her resiliency intact – and to respect with kindness and compassion wherever she is on her life’s journey in relationship to these things.I also want to impart that the essence, beauty and power of “Ma” or “Mother” is a part of the knowing that every woman has, and the belonging to that every woman has … the Divine Feminine.Finally, I’d like to honor in every woman that being a mother and mothering is not only in association with having a child. It is in every woman’s power to gestate and birth, nurture and grow her life, herself, her creativity.
If you'd like to contact Cecily about working with her, or invite her to bring her SUPER MINDFUL MAMA workshop to your center, please contact her at email@example.com. To learn more about Cecily and her work, please visit www.baby-welcoming.com.
Cecily's CD, A Prenatal Lullaby, can be purchased on her website.Tabby Biddle, M.S. Ed., is a writer, editor, and reporter dedicated to the empowerment of women and girls. Her work has been featured by The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, NPR, and other national media. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post on women’s issues and reports on the inspiring work of women changemakers. She lives in Santa Monica, CA.