What is it that prompts unsolicited advice?
I made my regular Sunday visit to our local public retreat garden. Soon I was sitting in the sauna across from a woman engrossed in a book called Jungle Jean. Curious I asked, “What is your book about?” She told me The book chronicled the extraordinary life of Jean Liedloff and her experiences living off-grid with indigenous communities, and how she came to document the concept of the continuum. We continued to speak and learned each other’s names, and about her children. I listened while sweat dripped off my body. As sweat dripped from my body, she inquired about my own journey into motherhood.
I openly shared my ecstatic first birth experience, a natural and intervention-free home birth. However, the birth of my twins two years later took an unexpected turn. I was hijacked and coerced into the world of industrialized birth at Stanford Hospital and treated like a medical emergency (which my pregnancy was not). I pleaded to return home, but my pleas went unheard. Two days later, on Monday morning I was coerced without consent to the OR, doped with Pitocin, and anesthesia to a C-section. I was subjected to a non-consensual C-section and forcibly separated from my one-pound babies who continue to bear the burden of extensive brain injuries and trauma.
It was at this point that the woman, without my prompting, began offering me a plethora of advice. “Have you tried this?” and “How about that?” she suggested as if she held the solution to my daughters’ challenges. Exhausted and drenched in sweat, I knew it was time to step away and seek solace in the cold plunge.
Before bidding farewell, I kindly reminded her that my twins didn’t require fixing—they were now 26 years old and finding their own path, while I had the honor of being their mother. In the past, I would have diligently taken notes, drained my bank account, and pursued endless avenues to “improve” my daughters’ lives, driven by an all-consuming need to fix.
The burden of fix-it behavior weighed heavily upon me for years, infiltrating my every waking moment. I established a developmental movement school ahead of its time, immersed myself in healing modalities, exhausted myself physically and financially, uprooted my family across cities, and broke community bonds in search of the elusive “next best thing.”
I exhausted myself completely until two years ago when I broke my leg and was forced to stop and reflect deeply on the impulse ‘to fix.’
Many times I told myself, ‘Get over it!’ I don’t know how to get over the fact that my twins will live out these disabilities for life without compensation from the system that damaged them.
Part of the ‘fix it’ impulse is the self-blame syndrome that I did something wrong, so I am the one that needs to make it better.
It was during this pause that remnants of self-blame dissipated, and I gained a fresh perspective on life. The trajectory of my story took a radical turn when I could not get out of bed for two months, was wheelchair-bound, then on crutches until I retrained my body to walk. I came to see my daughters as incredible heroines, resilient souls destined to navigate the challenging yet beautiful path ahead of them.
When I wrote the first edition of Edge of Grace, Fierce Awakenings to Love, I still believed this and tiptoed around industrial medical protocols that promise “first do no harm.” Later, in my research, I learned that OBGYNs are trained for surgery not to empower women to birth well.
Do I accept their reality? Absolutely. I know they are well cared for, and I am here, steadfastly present as their mother. I am not going anywhere. Yet, concerns about their future loom, especially when I’m no longer able to protect and watch over them.
What I desire, more than anything, is for people to see my daughters as they are, without the compulsion to fix them. I want to shield them from well-intentioned acts that inadvertently imply there is something inherently wrong with them. I’ve come to know these encounters as “papercuts,” those piercing stares and words that do more harm than good, pushing them into a realm of isolation.
In the short time, I was in a wheelchair or on crutches, I was mostly treated with kindness, for example, a person stopped cars so I could wheel across the road or sent me a thumbs up when I made it to the top of a hill.
Other times, I received stares, looks of pity, or words that I find hard to hear, “I’ll pray for you.” As if I am a hopeless person beyond repair.
I experience this all the time with my daughters. I want to protect them from ‘good intentions,’ that make them feel something is wrong with them. I’ve heard this called ‘papercuts,’ the stares that carry sharp edges and do more harm than help—that exclude into isolation.
You didn’t ask for advice, but perhaps you’re curious about how to approach someone who appears different. Instead of staring, offering unsolicited advice, or uttering prayers of pity, simply say hello. Engage them in conversation, just as you would with any other person. Take the time to learn about their world, embracing curiosity and genuine connection. Let us foster connective inclusion, the fabric that binds us all and celebrates our unique journeys.
We don’t need to be sold more ‘fix it, ‘do more,’ ‘make me different,’ programs that deprive us of our essential value.
As a side note, I encourage you to embrace curiosity whenever the relentless “fix it” agenda rears its head. Take a moment to wonder why you might feel discomfort in the face of what’s before you. Allow that internal soundtrack to unwind and delve into the depths of your emotions. It may take time, given our conditioning toward an elusive ideal labeled “normal” and the belief that value can be purchased. Perhaps what lies before you is already “normal” and as good as it gets.
Meanwhile, my book is currently in the capable hands of my publishing team, eagerly preparing for its upcoming launch. I extend an invitation for you to join us on a transformative journey—a journey that challenges and reshapes birthing practices, brings the invisible to light, and embraces the so-called “not normal” as a beautiful tapestry of humanity. Together, let us foster genuine connections and celebrate the inherent enoughness within each of us, granting ourselves permission to rest.
On a personal note, I dream that my book will go beyond its pages, ensuring that my daughters and individuals like them receive the care and support they deserve long after their primary caregivers’ journey concludes.
Thank you for being part of this important movement.
Thank you, Prajna