fbpx

HumanBecoming

Human Becoming

Earth hard to my heels bear me up like a child standing on its mother’s belly. I am a surprised guest to the air

~ David Ignatow

1/1/21 Letter to the Open Circle Community: Closing our Storefront Doors
Dear Open Circle Community and Respected Colleagues,

My wishes are that this letter finds you well in these times of great change and unknowns. I hope you are finding windows of joy, ways to nourish your own heart, and ways to support your family and community’s wellbeing. To those who are experiencing losses and challenges, whether momentary or seemingly never-ending, I hope that you are being held up by connection to loved ones and are finding support to honor your grief.

While this letter is about much more, I want to share from the start that the pandemic has been devastating for Open Circle, causing an almost 80% reduction of income and necessitating a permanent closure of the brick-and-mortar center and all in-person offerings. It has also had a had vast impact on my personal life.

Part of this letter is a humble appeal to help raise the financial resources I need to keep Open Circle, and pivot it to serve more families and sustain my own. In the midst of all this change, I continue to hear weekly from families, both locally and nationally, about the need for the services that Open Circle offers. I also continue to be passionately called to deepening my understanding of how we can support families in the childbearing years — for the sake of every member of the family and society as a whole.

As I write this letter, I know that there are many demands on your time, heart and mind, and so have tried to offer a brief (for me!) summary. With that said, some things take time to say well and honestly, and so I share a much fuller and more deeply personal picture in the extended letter below for those who would like to learn more.

If I’ve known you for only a short time, over the course of multiple pregnancies, or as a client, friend or colleague for decades, you are an important part of my community and work. I hope that my words here manage to convey the gratitude I wish to express to the thousands of you who have come through the Center or worked with me over the past 17 years. I have held and been beautifully held by the blessing of the community that we have grown together.

With deep gratitude and respect,

Kaeli
Kaeli Sutton
Open Circle Director

A More Personal Story of My Own + Open Circle's Transition
Over the past 17 years, well over 3000 of you—families and individuals—have come through the doors of the centers I’ve directed and taught at—first at Motion Center, and then at Open Circle. During this time I have also had the pleasure of collaborating, learning and organizing with many exemplary maternity care and parenting professionals. This letter is addressed to each of you.

I would like to first share the changes which have resulted from the pandemic for Open Circle, and then share my own next steps as a woman, mother and professional in the perinatal (maternity, birth, postpartum) field. I believe that Open Circle can and will continue to serve families long into the future. However with genuine sadness, I am announcing the permanent closure of the “brick and mortar” Open Circle Wellness Center.

I have loved being with your families in person and I will miss the in-person part of my work very deeply. In response to the impact of the pandemic on the center and my family, I must pivot the center’s work to an online platform. Though many of the services and the powerful in-person gathering space will no longer be available, I will continue to teach birth and parenting classes online, and to offer private consultations to expecting and new families. Perhaps in time I may be able to add back more of the services we have become known for.

Responding to need that has been shared with me, over the course of the coming year, I hope to create a “self-paced” version of my educational program, facilitating access to education and advocacy to even more families. As always, I will continue to offer all services using Open Circle’s income-and-resource-based pricing model.

In the face of so much change, I am grateful to be able to carry much of my work forward. Simultaneously, I am grappling with the impact of significant professional and personal loss. and the grief associated with it. Over the course of a single week in March, as the country ground to a halt and Open Circle closed for in-person gatherings, I lost nearly 80% of my income, and the ability to teach and work with people in the way I had grown to love.

For almost two decades, Open Circle has been one of my two “babies” (the other being the human one I birthed), and I have poured almost as much into it as into my human child. It has also been, in very practical terms, the source of income for the small family of my son and myself. Perhaps most significantly, it has been a space where I have made meaning in a world often hard to comprehend in its combined beauty and pain–a place I found I could be of service and humbly participate in the powerful and sacred cycle of life.

As I mourn these losses and contend with worsening chronic illness which I have long suffered from, I have been called to contemplate and acknowledge the rhythms of birth and death that are present in each of our lives and throughout nature. I know that as is true of the seasons, the new shoots of spring in time become the abundance of summer fields, and then the autumn harvests grown in partnering with the land. I also know that as time passes, what was alive and vibrant, must eventually fall to the ground and sink back into the earth. I have begun to better respect the earth’s need to lie fallow – to go quiet in the winter, taking vital rest.

I work to hold the memory that after that rest, in the spring, new shoots will inevitably emerge, reawakening, and the story of a new life cycle will begin. This movement of the seasons, of our lives, continues — whether we fight to stop the cycling of birth and death or lean into trusting it.

And so, as I am faced with the impact of the pandemic and my health challenges, I am trying to lean in my own bowing to the earth and need for a cycle of rest and regeneration. In time, I hope once again to open my ears to the whisper of a new spring, in whatever form it might arrive. For me these days, sadness, gratitude, silence and anticipation are all present at the table.

What does this mean, practically for me as a woman and professional? First, that I must try to create a life that may allow space for my own physical healing and inward contemplation. Next, that I must trust the call I hear to the next iteration of my work on behalf of families and, in this, lean into the quiet space before a seed germinates. And so, as Open Circle closes its physical doors and steps onto a digital platform and fewer programs, I open my heart to the unknowns of a new life.

Before closing, I want to acknowledge that this is a time in which people’s lives are being impacted in profound, dynamic and different ways. This is a time (and in reality, this is always true on this planet) that need is deeply critical for many. As I try to assess the appropriateness of asking for help, I want to be honest in acknowledging that I feel internal confusion in the face of so much need experienced by so many.

If you are considering donating, I hope that you will honor whether this is a time that you have an abundance of resources that can be shared with ease (whether with me or with others in your community that you feel moved to support). Alternatively, I hope that you will notice and respect if this is a time that is not meant for giving to others, but rather one where you, yourself, need to receive nourishment.

While preparing families for the first months of their babies’ lives, I often discuss with them the importance of accepting, in fact celebrating, that there are times in life to give, and times to receive (the newborn months being a time to receive). I am finding that working with honesty around need and ability to give, is a practice that requires real courage. On the days I feel less courageous, I remind myself of the wisdom of babies and their brilliant and unapologetic cycles of both need and generosity.

Their capacity for truth-telling is pronounced and admirable: they ask for food when they are hungry and arms when they are lonely, Then, when they are full and comfortable, they do not hesitate to offer up joy up for all to partake in.

Babies are excellent teachers.

In closing, please accept my utmost gratitude for the days, weeks, months or years that I have been welcomed into connection with you and your family, and for inviting me to laugh, weep, celebrate and mourn alongside you.

Kaeli Sutton, Open Circle Director

Detailed Fundraising Goals and Fund Distribution
Funds Distribution: 

Development of Online Self-Paced Birth Education Series:
• Video / Audio Production $7000
• In-Person Class Material Adaptation $8000
• Platform IT Adaptation | Design $5000

Infant Movement Development and Somatic Movement Educator Training : with master teacher Amy Matthews of The Babies Project $14,000

Infant Mental Health Fellowship $8,100

Research + Writing Grant $25,000

My research goals involve continuing a three-year study of infant (and family) development through the lens of the senses, movement, and relationship, which I began last year. I hope to deepen that inquiry by beginning a separate two-year program exploring infant development from a cognitive/mental-health lens.

My ultimate goal is to merge these continued studies with my many years of training, observation and direct experience with your families. I hope to eventually author a book offering a new understanding of the incredible sensitivity and resilience of the infant, and reflections on how our respect for this can support each baby’s, our own, and broader society’s health.

Total Goal: $67,100

Why a Book? A Window in. . .
What experiences brought me to work with families and want to write a book exploring the fragility and resilience in each of us?

As my tiny, soft body unfolded from its womb world, it met the profoundly loving arms and attentive minds of my two parents. I also met the harsh and sometimes cruel reality that those arms and hearts belonged to a father who was 24 years old and dying from cancer, and a mother, 23, who was trying to hold her world and heart together with almost no help from family and community.

Diagnosed when I was 3-weeks old, my father died before I took my first steps to walk.

Thirty years later, in the season of my father’s death, I held my own toddler son as an autoimmune condition ravaged his precious, spun-silk body. Just before his second birthday, he and I would enter a more than decade long odyssey that relentlessly took me face to face with a kind of fragility and tenderness in his system, and my own, that made me question if he (literally) or I (emotionally) would ever stand again.

In fact, the first thing my baby did when regaining his ability to stand, after months of terror and misery and two weeks of chemo, was to grace the room with a smile of utter delight and pride. And then to dance, on trembling, bobbing legs, like a joyful, drunken cherub. In the years that followed in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices, I saw this same determination to thrive in the babies, children and parents I met along the way, all suffering through their own medical crises.

In the many years since my son became ill, I having worked with over three thousand babies and their parents, through gestation and into the first years of life. I have had the honor of witnessing them navigate their own innate will to thrive, alongside the hardships and heartbreaks of life.

While I have been deeply nourished and inspired by what I have seen, I have also found myself deeply saddened. I have witnessed loving and intelligent parents, as well as countless medical, mental health, and parenting professionals, unknowingly turn away from fully acknowledging and responding to the acute sensitivity and vulnerability of their babies. I have seen them suppress their own sensitivity and attunement to their babies in order to adapt to a cultural myth that pretends the infant is less present and aware than she is and the parent less capable.

As I continue my studies and work to write a book, I hope to reach both parents and professionals and to offer a different paradigm—one that supports them to more fully honor the new life in their hands, and their own capacity to care for it. I hope that it may also help lift the heavy weights of guilt, shame and self-blame that I witness regularly washing over parents and professionals and replace those weights with a sense of their own skill and human rights.

In a world where these internal weights are accompanied by concrete messaging and social policies that undermine family health, it is also my wish that my writing will support an exploration of how we can organize community to impact policy change and create more just systems of social and communal support.

Honoring the Fragility and Resilience
of Babies + Their Families

Your donation to GoFundMe or as a monthly donor with Patreon will support the ability of Open Circle to adapt to the pandemic and continue to serve families, while also helping my own family navigate the vast impact of the pandemic on my income. Much greater detail about these transitions is offered in the expandable boxes beneath the video.

Donations will go directly to helping fund online course development for expecting and new families, my continued study and research in infant development, and the writing of a book exploring the complex and ever-evolving process of a HumanBecoming.

With your support I hope to tell the story of the simultaneously fragile and resilient baby and human, and explore ways as parents and a society that we can meet their needs and our own more fully.

Why a Fundraiser?

For almost two decades I have worked to build a community center that would support families during pregnancy, birth and the first years of their babies’ lives. I designed Open Circle  with a focus on creating a community  that any interested family could access and feel welcomed into.

While I built the wellness center, my son’s rare autoimmune disease and my own chronic illness have repeatedly washed away financial stability. Most recently, the impact of the pandemic has meant the permanent closure of Open Circle’s physical location, and an income reduction of nearly 80%.

At this time, in order to adapt the center’s offerings, continue my study of infant and family development, heal and provide for my own family, I am reaching out to the community I have been honored to serve and work alongside.

Honoring the Fragility and Resilience
of Babies + Their Families

Your donation to GoFundMe or as a monthly donor with Patreon will support the ability of Open Circle to adapt to the pandemic and continue to serve families, while also helping my own family navigate the vast impact of the pandemic on my income. Much greater detail about these transitions is offered in the expandable boxes beneath the video.

Donations will go directly to helping fund online course development for expecting and new families, my continued study and research in infant development, and the writing of a book exploring the complex and ever-evolving process of a HumanBecoming.

With your support I hope to tell the story of the simultaneously fragile and resilient baby and human, and explore ways as parents and a society that we can meet their needs and our own more fully.

Why a Fundraiser?

For almost two decades I have worked to build a community center that would support families during pregnancy, birth and the first years of their babies’ lives. I designed Open Circle  with a focus on creating a community  that any interested family could access and feel welcomed into.

While I built the wellness center, my son’s rare autoimmune disease and my own chronic illness have repeatedly washed away financial stability. Most recently, the impact of the pandemic has meant the permanent closure of Open Circle’s physical location, and an income reduction of nearly 80%.

At this time, in order to adapt the center’s offerings, continue my study of infant and family development, heal and provide for my own family, I am reaching out to the community I have been honored to serve and work alongside.

Earth hard to my heels bear me up like a child standing on its mother’s belly. I am a surprised guest to the air

~ David Ignatow

12/20/20 Letter to the Open Circle Community: Closing our Storefront Doors
Dear Open Circle Community and Respected Colleagues,

My wishes are that this letter finds you well in these times of great change and unknowns. I hope you are finding windows of joy, ways to nourish your own heart, and ways to support your family and community’s wellbeing. To those who are experiencing losses and challenges, whether momentary or seemingly never-ending, I hope that you are being held up by connection to loved ones and are finding support to honor your grief.

While this letter is about much more, I want to share from the start that the pandemic has been devastating for Open Circle, causing an almost 80% reduction of income and necessitating a permanent closure of the brick-and-mortar center and all in-person offerings. It has also had a had vast impact on my personal life.

Part of this letter is a humble appeal to help raise the financial resources I need to keep Open Circle, and pivot it to serve more families and sustain my own. In the midst of all this change, I continue to hear weekly from families, both locally and nationally, about the need for the services that Open Circle offers. I also continue to be passionately called to deepening my understanding of how we can support families in the childbearing years — for the sake of every member of the family and society as a whole.

As I write this letter, I know that there are many demands on your time, heart and mind, and so have tried to offer a brief (for me!) summary. With that said, some things take time to say well and honestly, and so I share a much fuller and more deeply personal picture in the extended letter below for those who would like to learn more.

If I’ve known you for only a short time, over the course of multiple pregnancies, or as a client, friend or colleague for decades, you are an important part of my community and work. I hope that my words here manage to convey the gratitude I wish to express to the thousands of you who have come through the Center or worked with me over the past 17 years. I have held and been beautifully held by the blessing of the community that we have grown together.

With deep gratitude and respect,

Kaeli
Kaeli Sutton
Open Circle Director

A More Personal Story of My Own + Open Circle's Transition
Over the past 17 years, well over 3000 of you—families and individuals—have come through the doors of the centers I’ve directed and taught at—first at Motion Center, and then at Open Circle. During this time I have also had the pleasure of collaborating, learning and organizing with many exemplary maternity care and parenting professionals. This letter is addressed to each of you.

I would like to first share the changes which have resulted from the pandemic for Open Circle, and then share my own next steps as a woman, mother and professional in the perinatal (maternity, birth, postpartum) field. I believe that Open Circle can and will continue to serve families long into the future. However with genuine sadness, I am announcing the permanent closure of the “brick and mortar” Open Circle Wellness Center.

I have loved being with your families in person and I will miss the in-person part of my work very deeply. In response to the impact of the pandemic on the center and my family, I must pivot the center’s work to an online platform. Though many of the services and the powerful in-person gathering space will no longer be available, I will continue to teach birth and parenting classes online, and to offer private consultations to expecting and new families. Perhaps in time I may be able to add back more of the services we have become known for.

Responding to need that has been shared with me, over the course of the coming year, I hope to create a “self-paced” version of my educational program, facilitating access to education and advocacy to even more families. As always, I will continue to offer all services using Open Circle’s income-and-resource-based pricing model.

In the face of so much change, I am grateful to be able to carry much of my work forward. Simultaneously, I am grappling with the impact of significant professional and personal loss. and the grief associated with it. Over the course of a single week in March, as the country ground to a halt and Open Circle closed for in-person gatherings, I lost nearly 80% of my income, and the ability to teach and work with people in the way I had grown to love.

For almost two decades, Open Circle has been one of my two “babies” (the other being the human one I birthed), and I have poured almost as much into it as into my human child. It has also been, in very practical terms, the source of income for the small family of my son and myself. Perhaps most significantly, it has been a space where I have made meaning in a world often hard to comprehend in its combined beauty and pain–a place I found I could be of service and humbly participate in the powerful and sacred cycle of life.

As I mourn these losses and contend with worsening chronic illness which I have long suffered from, I have been called to contemplate and acknowledge the rhythms of birth and death that are present in each of our lives and throughout nature. I know that as is true of the seasons, the new shoots of spring in time become the abundance of summer fields, and then the autumn harvests grown in partnering with the land. I also know that as time passes, what was alive and vibrant, must eventually fall to the ground and sink back into the earth. I have begun to better respect the earth’s need to lie fallow – to go quiet in the winter, taking vital rest.

I work to hold the memory that after that rest, in the spring, new shoots will inevitably emerge, reawakening, and the story of a new life cycle will begin. This movement of the seasons, of our lives, continues — whether we fight to stop the cycling of birth and death or lean into trusting it.

And so, as I am faced with the impact of the pandemic and my health challenges, I am trying to lean in my own bowing to the earth and need for a cycle of rest and regeneration. In time, I hope once again to open my ears to the whisper of a new spring, in whatever form it might arrive. For me these days, sadness, gratitude, silence and anticipation are all present at the table.

What does this mean, practically for me as a woman and professional? First, that I must try to create a life that may allow space for my own physical healing and inward contemplation. Next, that I must trust the call I hear to the next iteration of my work on behalf of families and, in this, lean into the quiet space before a seed germinates. And so, as Open Circle closes its physical doors and steps onto a digital platform and fewer programs, I open my heart to the unknowns of a new life.

Before closing, I want to acknowledge that this is a time in which people’s lives are being impacted in profound, dynamic and different ways. This is a time (and in reality, this is always true on this planet) that need is deeply critical for many. As I try to assess the appropriateness of asking for help, I want to be honest in acknowledging that I feel internal confusion in the face of so much need experienced by so many.

If you are considering donating, I hope that you will honor whether this is a time that you have an abundance of resources that can be shared with ease (whether with me or with others in your community that you feel moved to support). Alternatively, I hope that you will notice and respect if this is a time that is not meant for giving to others, but rather one where you, yourself, need to receive nourishment.

While preparing families for the first months of their babies’ lives, I often discuss with them the importance of accepting, in fact celebrating, that there are times in life to give, and times to receive (the newborn months being a time to receive). I am finding that working with honesty around need and ability to give, is a practice that requires real courage. On the days I feel less courageous, I remind myself of the wisdom of babies and their brilliant and unapologetic cycles of both need and generosity.

Their capacity for truth-telling is pronounced and admirable: they ask for food when they are hungry and arms when they are lonely, Then, when they are full and comfortable, they do not hesitate to offer up joy up for all to partake in.

Babies are excellent teachers.

In closing, please accept my utmost gratitude for the days, weeks, months or years that I have been welcomed into connection with you and your family, and for inviting me to laugh, weep, celebrate and mourn alongside you.

Kaeli Sutton, Open Circle Director

Detailed Fundraising Goals and Fund Distribution
Funds Distribution: 

Development of Online Self-Paced Birth Education Series:
• Video / Audio Production $7000
• In-Person Class Material Adaptation $8000
• Platform IT Adaptation | Design $5000

Infant Movement Development and Somatic Movement Educator Training : with master teacher Amy Matthews of The Babies Project $14,000

Infant Mental Health Fellowship $8,100

Research + Writing Grant $25,000

My research goals involve continuing a three-year study of infant (and family) development through the lens of the senses, movement, and relationship, which I began last year. I hope to deepen that inquiry by beginning a separate two-year program exploring infant development from a cognitive/mental-health lens.

My ultimate goal is to merge these continued studies with my many years of training, observation and direct experience with your families. I hope to eventually author a book offering a new understanding of the incredible sensitivity and resilience of the infant, and reflections on how our respect for this can support each baby’s, our own, and broader society’s health.

Total Goal: $67,100

Why a Book? A Window in. . .
What experiences brought me to work with families and want to write a book exploring the fragility and resilience in each of us?

As my tiny, soft body unfolded from its womb world, it met the profoundly loving arms and attentive minds of my two parents. I also met the harsh and sometimes cruel reality that those arms and hearts belonged to a father who was 24 years old and dying from cancer, and a mother, 23, who was trying to hold her world and heart together with almost no help from family and community.

Diagnosed when I was 3-weeks old, my father died before I took my first steps to walk.

Thirty years later, in the season of my father’s death, I held my own toddler son as an autoimmune condition ravaged his precious, spun-silk body. Just before his second birthday, he and I would enter a more than decade long odyssey that relentlessly took me face to face with a kind of fragility and tenderness in his system, and my own, that made me question if he (literally) or I (emotionally) would ever stand again.

In fact, the first thing my baby did when regaining his ability to stand, after months of terror and misery and two weeks of chemo, was to grace the room with a smile of utter delight and pride. And then to dance, on trembling, bobbing legs, like a joyful, drunken cherub. In the years that followed in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices, I saw this same determination to thrive in the babies, children and parents I met along the way, all suffering through their own medical crises.

In the many years since my son became ill, I having worked with over three thousand babies and their parents, through gestation and into the first years of life. I have had the honor of witnessing them navigate their own innate will to thrive, alongside the hardships and heartbreaks of life.

While I have been deeply nourished and inspired by what I have seen, I have also found myself deeply saddened. I have witnessed loving and intelligent parents, as well as countless medical, mental health, and parenting professionals, unknowingly turn away from fully acknowledging and responding to the acute sensitivity and vulnerability of their babies. I have seen them suppress their own sensitivity and attunement to their babies in order to adapt to a cultural myth that pretends the infant is less present and aware than she is and the parent less capable.

As I continue my studies and work to write a book, I hope to reach both parents and professionals and to offer a different paradigm—one that supports them to more fully honor the new life in their hands, and their own capacity to care for it. I hope that it may also help lift the heavy weights of guilt, shame and self-blame that I witness regularly washing over parents and professionals and replace those weights with a sense of their own skill and human rights.

In a world where these internal weights are accompanied by concrete messaging and social policies that undermine family health, it is also my wish that my writing will support an exploration of how we can organize community to impact policy change and create more just systems of social and communal support.