Lessons from an Acu-Mom

The challenge of attending graduate school and starting a CA clinic while raising two young children has cultivated endless opportunities for me to let go, express gratitude, appreciate community, and step into the present moment.

I began attending MCOM in September of 2002, when my boys were 1 and 3 years old.In the beginning, I struggled with letting go: allowing their father to care for them independently while I left home to pursue my studies.When it became evident that he was unable to care for both himself and the children while I was away (his addictions blew-up the night before one of my midterm exams), I asked him to leave and ended the marriage within the year.Confronted with single-parenthood twelve months into my acupuncture studies, I approached the school’s administration and gratefully found them agreeable to reducing the pace of my studies.I was given permission to complete my education in 5 years, significantly longer than the standard 36-month program.With this blessing of additional time, I picked-up a part-time job, my children adjusted to a new daycare schedule, and I continued my classes and clinics.I deepened my ability to release and let go as I turned the boys over to their new daycare providers.

Our long and leisurely days together while I was a Stay-At-Home-Mom were dramatically altered as I began providing financial support for my young family.I learned to be present with my boys in our every moment together, because there were so few of them.A trip for groceries was no longer a means to an end, but an opportunity to connect: we shared stories and songs in the car.We stopped to smell the blossoms in the floral department and made games of finding food items in the aisles.

Because their father could no longer care for them unsupervised, and because my family did not live close enough to lend support, I learned to reach-out and ask for help from my community.Isolated and alone when I began school, by the time I finished my studies I had a beautiful web of former strangers helping me to raise my sons, giving added dimension to the quote, “It Takes A Village…”.I saw that their generosity offered my children loving & joyful experiences that I alone could not have provided.Classmates living near their daycare picked-up the boys when I got caught in traffic at the end of the day…friends hosted the boys for a sleepover when the stress of final exams and major papers and year-end-closings at work overwhelmed me…and when the child-support-checks stopped arriving and we were forced onto welfare and had to sell our home in the last nine months of my schooling, a wonderful family that I’d met through MCOM took us in and provided shelter and support until my graduation.Words cannot express the gratitude that I still feel for this community which became our extended family.

Crises along the way brought me abruptly into the sharp, razor’s edge of the present moment: my youngest son had grand mal seizures one morning at daycare.He and I spent hours together in the emergency room with monitoring and testing, and then we made the 90-minute round-trip-drive down to school that afternoon.I had an herbal exam in the evening, and he needed to be continuously observed by me following his seizures.If I had missed the exam, the school would have rewritten it and forced me to study a whole new set of formulas–time I simply had not the luxury for.He sat next to me and drew pictures of Pokemon while I answered questions about Ren Shen and Bo He. There was no projecting into the future, fearing for his health, or worrying about the test that day in the hospital…there was only the immediate moment of his being in my arms.

In our home, every day has the potential to be “Take Your Child to Work Day”, and the boys love it!When sick and not in school, they have snuggled in my lap while I tended to business matters, or they have come to the clinic and received a treatment alongside my patients.Through my young brood, I have learned to use Traditional Chinese Medicine for treating acute medical conditions not regularly presenting in our school’s clinic: double-Staphylococcus-and-Streptococcal-infections, raging UTI’s, blistering sunburns, blunt trauma to the orbital cavity, violent stomach flu’s, fevers soaring above 105 degrees… Yunnan Baiyao really does stop hemorrhaging, and you can evaluate a bone fracture by using a tuning fork instead of an X-ray’s radiation.I’ve given talks in the children’s daycares and classrooms with varying messages for their friends: “May you create a career for yourself that brings you joy and love”…“May you learn to care for and nurture your body with healthy choices throughout your life…” “May you open your eyes to the endless possibilities that your future offers…”

When I look back, I see that the path we walked was sometimes difficult, painful, and even heartbreaking.  Had I known what we would face before embarking on this adventure, I don’t know that I would have felt courageous enough to take the first step.  When I look to the future, I see that there are many years ahead to discern childcare options for snow-days and summer-days and sick-days so that I can continue to make my practice accessible for working class patients.But when I step into the Now, into this very Present moment, I see that everything I have ever required has been handed to me in the precise moment that I needed it.

Presence…Gratitude…Community…Letting-Go…These are lessons that I carry with me into my clinic each and every day as a community acupuncturist, a mom, a (new!) wife, a sentient being.They are lessons that I have learned because of my children, through my children, and alongside my children.I pray that they are teachings which my sons will assimilate more easily, because we have traveled this road together…

Jessica Feltz
Author: Jessica Feltz

<p> I learned about Community Acupuncture while studying at the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine (MCOM) in the Spring of 2006 when Lisa Rohleder's first article about her clinic appeared in Acupuncture Today. Coming from a middle-class background myself, I was the only student in my acupuncture class to have not experienced the healing benefits of this medicine prior to beginning studies at MCOM. I couldn't afford it. And my family couldn't understand what I was doing by investing in an education that they didn't perceive to be financially sustainable. </p> <p> The Community Acupuncture model is a perfect fit for me, balancing social justice and taoist simplicity with the patient's innate ability to heal him/herself (with a few gentle nudges from strategically placed needles). I am grateful every day to have found CAN and the love it brings into my life. I want to share that joy by spreading the message about how we can create a new health care experience in our communities through each of our very small efforts...and how those very small efforts can in turn change the world. </p> I enjoy my two sons, my 4 cats, and big stacks of books.  I own and operate...

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Responses

  1. You never cease to teach and amaze!

    Jessica, 

    Sitting near you in so many classes, for seemingly endless years, I had no idea what was going on behind that beautiful, vibrant smile. You radiate love and sunshine – in even the darkest times. 

    I wish you, Fred and the kids all of the greatest miracles in life. Not that you need my wishes for you. Thank you again for sharing your story!

    Cheers! Christie  

  2. appreciation from another parent & practitioner

    Jessica, thanks for your poignant story… I just got on forum and searched somewhat blindly for posts that hit upon the chaos and joy of life as an acupunk, breadwinner, husband, and parent of 2 (3yrs old and 7 months)… I am undergoing transition from conventional acu to CAP… have a lot of inertia.  Keep running through a quote told to me a while back re definition of vocation= “when the heart’s calling wakes up to the world’s great need”.  CAP is a total match to my heart.  Though, I must admit that the line has felt pretty thin lately with the strain of parent responsibility, ongoing nights of 3 hrs sleep strung together, the weight of school debt teetering past a modest income and the task of stepping out of conventional style into community.  All such circumstances are the raw material for practicing mindfulness and presence, and I know that such “presence” is the inner solace that is always available and that guide this evolving journey. You articulated this well. 

    I am generally an optimist, and have enormous support around me, not the least of which is a very supportive wife who has endured the 4 long yrs of school followed by 1 and half years of building practice (now transitioning to CAP)… yet lately, I have felt daunted by the enormity of tasks ahead, while I noticed that most of my colleagues & acupunks I have met in various circles are undertaking this process without the responsibility of young children (and I am in no way belittling your journey folks).  I had been surveying samples of acu population and noticed overwhelming numbers of practitioners who are not in dual role as parents (less than 10 % it seems from my small corner of world)… this is not to say that there aren’t many other vast responsibilities and roles in our lives (most of us handle a big juggling act in one way or another) just that being a parent who does more than show up, while being primary income (meager at this point… to the moon with CAP transition) has presented hefty challenges that have had me buckling a little bit lately.  Lisa frames it aptly in her book, that most acupuncturists have to take on other jobs to make it (yep, I am) or have a spouse who is primary income (not here, though my wife works and you know well that being primary caregiver is miles tougher than most jobs out there; tack working on top of that).  In consideration of the numbers of acupunks without offspring (I will gladly be corrected in this matter… show yourselves!), I gather that acu school and profession is a tremendous form of birth control!

     And you took it on as a single mom… all power to you!  That takes a ton of tenacity, and you are to be commended… as are all budding practitioners trudging their way through sorting all of this out while tending to the demanding and wildly beautiful needs of their children!  Like you said, children require presence… they are a gift in this way… the best spiritual teachers on the planet!  

    Community Acupuncture is a model that spreads far past horizons of social change/ smart business.. it nurtures and inspires our children and our familes (whatever shape that may be) to experience community in action.  What could be more healing than that?  Thanks for your story and for all who are involved in this incredible support system and movement. My daughters are enriched because of it!