On Having Children – Or Not?

At a recent women’s group, we discussed whether or not to bear children. It was fascinating to hear each woman’s perspective and experience. I came away thinking how wonderful it would be if all women, particularly those who haven’t yet born children but also those who’ve birthed children and wish to reflect upon the experience, were supported to have this kind of discussion.

The questionnaire below emerged out of that idea. I invite you to answer for yourself, and post your answers as a comment if you’d like to share. My answers are below.

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My Child-Rearing Vision:
A Questionnaire for Planning Your Parenthood

Imagine you have decided to raise a child, or if you have born a child already then imagine you have it to do all over again. The following questions are to help you imagine clearly what conditions would need to be present for you to feel good about it and how you would know parenting was right for you.

Imagine you’ve decided to raise a child – What would the right conditions be?

  1. What are your reasons for birthing or raising a child? What are you seeking through the experience?
  2. Where are you at in life? What phase of life are you in, emotionally?  What skills – emotional or practical – have you pursued and developed?  Where are you at in your own healing process?
  3. How do you provide for and care for the child? How are you provided for and cared for? What kind of support do you have with birthing and raising this child? Who is around to help, what are they like, and how do they help?
  4. How have you prepared yourself for the reality of parenting?
  5. How do you know your choice is in alignment with the greatest good of all life?
  6. What feelings and thoughts have arisen having gone through this questionnaire?

My answers:

  1. My reasons:
    I have a lot of love to give and want to nurture life with it, and I want to share this experience with my parents and other loved ones.
    I want to pass on healthy emotional behavior.
    I want to be challenged to strengthen my emotional and relational skills.
    I want to heal the child within me by dedicating my life to a child.
    I want this child’s medicine to teach me and my family.
    I feel that this is in alignment with my life purpose and the greatest good for all life.
  2. Where I’m at in life:
    I feel stable and healthy (relatively, since things are always changing) – within myself, within my partnership, within my community and family, and within society.
    I am reaching a point in life where my actions show that emotional skills and relationship-building are more important to me than material accomplishments or activities. It brings me joy to give my love to children, even if it slows down my productivity in my regular activities.
    I have healed the wounds that made it hard for me to take care of myself, and feel strong in my energy most days.
    I accept my own emotions and am able to “let them flow, and let them go,” without making rash decisions.
    I have potent spiritual anchors in my daily life, and am readily able to replenish my energy and sense of peace even in difficult times and settings.
    I have some experience projecting love, acceptance, and humor into stormy emotional settings.
    I have established a strong social network around me of supportive, kind people who like to visit me/us.
    My family consists of 6-8 adults who live and work together in all aspects of life. We have worked through many conflicts in the past and genuinely support each other to heal and grow.
  3. How the child and me are provided for:
    I share responsibility for the child with 6-8 other adults who live with me and are also excited to raise a child.
    We have a stable living situation and combine forces so that no one has to work more than part-time, or so that one or two people make money while others contribute to daily life in other ways. In other words, it’s more than just me at home all day.
    Through the nursing years, the other adults/co-parents make sure the bills are paid and the vegetables planted and tended so that I can be available for the baby (while still bringing the baby along with me to the garden and such) and don’t have to push myself to make sure our basic subsistence is covered.
    Everyone takes turns holding and playing with the child throughout its life (for longer periods of time after weaning). After weaning, I sometimes realize I haven’t seen the child for hours or days because they are having so much fun with another loving adult in the community.
    The father of the child also plays a central role in the child’s life, although different than mine, and he makes sure I’m safe and provided for. My sisters take a more central role in helping care for the baby, while the father is more concerned with supporting me and the aunties. As a baby and youngster, the child is around women more often (though not exclusively), and the father’s role becomes more prominent as the child grows (esp if it’s a boy).
    The child sleeps with me, or any of the other co-parent adults after weaning.
  4. How have I prepared myself?
    I have spent a lot of time with children of all ages. I have taken parenting classes and researched parenting practices and child development. At least a few of the co-parents have also done this.
  5. How do I know this is in alignment?
    I feel strongly that I am meant to contribute to the world in this way – from a whole, healed placed, not out of martyrdom or neediness or ego or a wounded self-concept.
    I feel that bringing a human into the world is the most life-affirming thing for the whole community of life.
  6. Reflections:
    I am ready to raise children in many ways with where I’m at personally, but I’d like the social fabric around me to be more abundant and nurturing. I need to find more co-parents.  I don’t think society will be healthy for a child in my lifetime, nor do I think birthing a human is in alignment with all life, but I also value the continuity of ancestors-adults-children and recognize how important children are for building a healthy culture. Also, one child between several adults isn’t in a statistical sense likely to contribute to the human population explosion, so the decision for me is more about what is right for my own life and my family. For now I’ve chosen to devote my child-loving energy to other people’s kids, to show up in their lives and “be the village” for them, and this feels more in alignment with the healing of our world to me and also very healing for me personally. If, however, I manifest more co-parents, then I would consider adopting a child or having one couple in the community birth a child (maybe me, maybe someone else).


HarrietIrene2Harriet and Irene, who are like adoptive nieces to me!

Letting Go

cottonwood heart for blog

A leaf floats, gently, down the stream –
belly up, veins exposed.

I want to be like this leaf
– why is it so hard? –
to offer my feelings, dreams, and desires,
belly up, to the ancestors in the wind;
and let them carry me along the river of life.

Why is it so hard?
The status quo of pushing and forcing, blocking and damming, is painful, exhausting.
Yet it offers the familiar comfort of believing I am in control,
fighting against all odds,
never changing course even when if it hurts me.

To let go is the scariest thing in a world where fighting is how we learn to survive –
To go belly up, trusting the current;
To stop fighting and surrender our course to the gods;
To dare to believe that they know what is best for us,
and that what we really want in our truest self
is to flow in alignment with the greatest good for all life.

This fall I attended two grief rituals facilitated by Sobonfu Some, whose book The Spirit of Intimacy I found very moving (I’m looking forward to reading her book on children, below). Sobonfu and the Dagara tribe she comes from believe that a person’s capacity to express grief equals their capacity to express joy. This gives me hope.  Sobonfu herself is so full of joy and life that it might seem baffling to some people to find out that she had suffered so many deep losses – a testament to the  wisdom of her culture’s grief practices.

WelcomingSpiritHome_sm    sobonfu    The_Spirit_of_Intimacy

The ritual is beautiful, providing a structure within which everyone expresses their emotions towards the altar, which is an offering to greater powers who have the capacity to hold and transform our anguish (so that we aren’t alone with our burdens, nor dumping them on each other, and so that we can release our resistance to what is happening in our lives and make space for joy to fill us again). Everyone had opportunities to hold space for others as well as be supported to fall apart. The whole time, everyone sang the same song over and over again, with the words Help, I can’t do it by myself, to a strong backdrop of drumming. There is little talk once the ritual starts – just singing, feeling, and supporting.

My intention going to the ritual, aside from grieving and reconnecting with my ancestors (esp. my 3 grandparents who died before I was born – I luv u Reg, John B, and Arlene!), was to be able to host  such a ritual here at home. Anyone who looks honestly at what’s going on in the world is bound to come up with some grief, not to mention the obvious losses of loved ones, and several friends have recently expressed that they feel their grief is too large to handle alone. “No grief is too small – If a mother and child go to the altar and the mother grieves the loss of a loved one while the child grieves because he needs something in his belly, those griefs are equal,” Sobonfu said.

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Grief Altar

I found the whole process of the ritual very cleansing, and I’m certain it would be more-so if I had not been a stranger to most people in the room.  My eyes felt lighter afterwards, I felt upwellings of joy and acceptance in the days after, and a renewed commitment to my life and my ancestors. I would like to try the ritual the way Sobonfu grew up doing it – 72 hours non-stop, people take breaks to eat or sleep whenever they need to, and drummers get replaced when they need a rest so that it can go on even through the night.

Although I feel I understand the format of the ritual, I hesitate to try to replicate it at home. I feel like I need more training to handle all that grief energy. For now I plan to attend as many as I can, and hopefully send friends also. Sobonfu’s next appearance will be at Breitenbush Hotsprings February 5-7th.

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Ancestor Altar (above); Forgiveness Altar (below)

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Moon-cumbers for the Supermoon

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Lemon Cucumbers
Soft Cheese (we used homemade yogurt cheese)
Chives or green onion tops

Slice the cucumbers in half and scoop out the juicy seedy part in the middle. (You can put the scooped out stuff in some water for a nice cooling drink or mix it with yogurt and/or sour cream, garlic, lemon, mint, and parsley for an Indian raita or Middle-Eastern tzatziki-type sauce).
Mix the soft cheese with the chopped chives and salt, tasting along the way until you have the flavor you like. (You could also add black pepper, chili, or other garden herbs.)
Spoon the cheese mixture into the cucumbers. Admire the beauty and eat!

The proper way to eat these is of course while gazing at the full moon with your friends.

moonMooncumberSmallAnaFace  This is Ana. We made moon-cumbers together. Love u Ana!

For a friend


For a poet friend
[between the woman she has been and the woman she is becoming]

Her face shines like hope, her smile impossible to turn away.
Laying in the grass, she cradles her own bosom,
patiently holding onto the possibility of love without baggage.
She has gotten used to fighting for dignity,
writing poems ablaze with proclamations of healing and empowerment.
Her poems are her safe place.
With pen and paper, she can say anything and have it recognized,
Asserting her rebellious truths against an uncaring world which doubts her validity.
She is realizing how much she has come to rely on that bitter world,
To define herself in opposition to its coldness.
Her challenge as she heals will be finding what to say
when her world no longer fights against her,
When her true self and the truth of her day-to-day experience
can embrace as lovers, smiling.
What will she write – and Who will she be – when the world she has created
reflects back the love she yearns for
And all the voices within and around her agree?






That’s what freedom is,” a woman on the radio said, “not needing to BE anything.”  She was talking about identity, how as an African-American woman living in France she’d never really felt she fully belonged to any of the common identities or groups people associated her with.
I like her definition very much, because it seems to me people are much easier to get along with if they aren’t attached strongly to being perceived a certain way. It is freeing to feel secure in oneself without requiring other people’s perceptions to exactly line up with what you want them to be. In a sense, you are then free to “be” anything at any time – potentials remain open, your actions are not limited by your ideas about who you are. More than that, you are free to interact with others without fear of losing a sense of belonging and self-worth if they don’t put you in the right box.



I had just written about this topic in my journal when I heard the radio broadcast…

Freedom is knowing I don’t have to wait to be happy.
It’s spending my last dime and discovering I can still enjoy life.
It’s winning the lottery and finding I can still choose to be miserable.
It’s finding that the new job, new home, new car, new romance… doesn’t change anything, unless I change the story I tell myself.
And what is the freedom story?
It goes like this: regardless of what happens in my life, I am the one who chooses. I have two choices in every situation, no matter what: whether to alter my actions, and whether to alter my feelings.  If all is well and harmonious, I don’t need to change anything.  The more I choose to take responsibility for my choices and change whatever isn’t working, the less tough my situations become and the greater my sense of peace and joy.
And why are we here if not to do our best to create a life filled with joy?


The Dance of Extremes


25 January, 2014

At dusk I walk on a carpet of dead thorns,
the wind through the cottonwoods crashing like a stormy ocean,
With each footstep, asking:
Is this delightful, or terrifying?
The wind whips my face, freezing the insides of my ears.
Then I turn around and it propels me toward a glorious sunset, like a loving father nudging his daughter toward her dreams.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by this polarity in life –
One moment is so sweet and full of magical coincidence,
The next I am stricken with doubt and fear, startled by pain.
I try to tell myself it will pass.
I try to access the deep part of me who accepts it all and can’t be shaken,
Who knows every mistake is ripe with opportunity and every elation is bound to fade,
Who sees the purpose and benefit of every emotion –
The cottonwood tree that stays rooted through the storm.
But sometimes I can’t quite find that peaceful place, or maybe it just takes a while.
So I wander through the thorny woods,
Feeling very alive,
What is the difference between healthy precaution and living in fear?
Is my joy grounded, or am I deluding myself?
Can I allow these polarities to move through me, in opposite directions, and somehow find a balance?


I’ve been told that it’s possible for extreme emotions to level out and for a kind of even keel to develop. I think it’s true, and I also think that sometimes life just hands you a doozy, or if you believe that each person creates their own experience then I guess you’d say it’s handing yourself a doozy.  And it also seems to me that the circumstances of our particular culture aggravate feelings of stress and distemper, to the point of generating a much higher rate of trauma among the people than we are really made for.

One thing I do know from experience is that it rarely pays off to take action when extreme emotions are moving through. Best to just ride the roller coaster, then make decisions after you’ve rolled safely to a stop.  Sometimes that is the hardest thing, especially when you’re having trouble accepting the feeling.  It just seems like it will never end and you want to DO something about it!
On the other hand, holding things in is really hard. Bottling it up with no way to express it seems to me to be the leading source of muscle tension and disease out there.  So the key is: what is the safest outlet?  Journaling, breathing, time in a private spot, breathing, prayer, breathing, music, walking – did I mention breathing?

I  don’t have it all figured out, but I do think emotions can be kind of beautiful, if we allow that. It’s this dance of letting feelings flow, letting them go, and taking action to remedy imbalance.  It’s amazing, really – the stuff great music and poetry are made of, not to mention great people!  Putting emotions in perspective that way reminds me that it’s beautiful to be so alive – like the way frozen dew captures the water’s movement between earth and sky.  And, if I really learn from my experiences, then they will always be changing, just like the way the water never makes quite the same pattern twice.


Running in Skirts

Welcome to the personal blog of Tracy Jane Harrison.
This is where I share my thoughts and reflections, blessings, and little ways of finding meaning and beauty in life.

Why “Running in Skirts“?
Because I want to nurture a sense of creative joy and expressive freedom –  the experience of running in skirts.
You know, it’s when you get kinda restless, and you have this bouncy energy and you want to do something with it,  and you just have to get outside and RUN (or dance!) without worrying about changing your clothes or whether it’s raining or which direction to go or who’s going with you or how many dishes need doing. Can you think of a moment like that, maybe when you’re a kid and you discover the most epic hill ever and you just have to run down it for the pure joy of it?
That’s what I’m talking about.

And don’t worry, I’ll still do the dishes. Those of you who know me understand that I’m usually pretty good about doing what needs to be done and helping out. Lately, however, I’ve realized how blissful I feel when I open a little more space up in my daily life for following my spontaneous creative impulses, trusting that I will get to the dishes in due time (or finding creative ways to enjoy doing the dishes). For me it’s about staying tuned in to my own inner energy, and honoring my needs while also striving to support the needs of others and go with the mysterious flow of events around me which can change at any moment. Wow, the balancing act we do every day!

Isn’t it amazing to be alive??