mom to mom with karen
Meet Karen Scott.
Q: Please introduce yourself, where you're from, and what you do.
Hi there, what an honor Jenny Drew.
I’m Karen “Lulu” Scott. Born in Christchurch England. Live and breathe in Venice CA.
I am ––
Chief Operating Officer @drhallerman / Recovery Management Agency
Interior Designer / Owner Redbird + Willow
SE Trauma & Shame Practitioner
Conscious Partnership Coach
Nonviolent Communication Parent Educator
Q: I am so inspired by the way you lead as a woman and as a mama –– you have such patience, grace, and grit. What does being a mom mean to you?
Being a mother means so many different things to me and has shifted and morphed over the years, changing wildly with each child. My children are older now, my sweet baby just turned 17 years old.
As I round 22 years of being a mother, I drop into a deeper understanding and knowing of what motherhood means to me. Mother is the holder, the vessel, if you will, of it all—from the outside to the inside.
The wrinkles around my soulful eyes can tell stories of laughter and worry and the deepest grief and brokenness. I speak of a grief that at the time seemed as if it would kill me. I didn’t die, but it left its mark around my eyes, where I focused on solutions, and mouth where held my tongue and bit my lip.
My sweet breasts after seven years of nourishing my babies and sometimes other babes, in desperate times, lay a little low now.
My belly where two, almost 10 pound babies, resided and kicked and stretched and tore through, gasp for their first breath, and were birthed into this life is now roundish and giggly.
Inside Mother is...
a conscious vigilant guard
a guard against martyrdom.
a holder of joy and patience and listening
a great container; mother ocean
can expand and contract in one moment
is fierce, ferocious and f*cking brave
can weather every-single-storm
can also shame, tear down, brake, destroy, cut and
harm just as quickly as she can forgive.
Q: What is your birth story with your first, Henry and with your second, Dash?
Both my sons’ births were deep spiritual journeys. With Henry I was conscious of being in recovery, a survivor of sexual trauma and emotional abuse. I wanted to have a flexible birth plan that included a doula, Bradly breathing and meditation. I made all the nurses wear Bhindis while Sarah Mclaughlin played in the background. I wanted to do as much as I could, naturally with no pain meds or an epidural. I don’t recommend this.
I do recommend doing what is right and true for you. However, for me as a single mother, I needed to do it this way because somehow making it through the pain without drugs convinced my uncertain self that I was strong and brave and capable. My body was unable to hold and maintain a rhythm of contractions, so I was induced on Pitocin. Labor can cause an altered state of being for many women, which of course was my experience. I faced fear, I faced monsters in my psyche. I faced wise women dancing and angels whispering in my ears. I prayed in the moments that were excruciating. I labored for 36 hours. Henry Odin Rye was born naturally 9lbs 15 ounces 22.5 inches long, with red hair.
My second child Dash’s birth was different. I felt more prepared. I had a birth plan that included no pain meds, a doula and music but I had a gnawing feeling that Dash had a different plan. Dash was breach and at the very last moment he flipped. Again, I was put on Pitocin to hurry him up and out. Dash was slow and on his own timing, which turned out to be a good thing, because he had the umbilical cord tightly wrapped around his neck. It seemed as if he waited safely, hovering above for the very most open I could be, to drop down and come flying out. It was a fast delivery.
Dash was born with no vitals. He was deep purple and not breathing. I was hemorrhaging terribly. Even though I was losing blood quickly all I wanted was for Dash to breathe. It was chaos. I was shouting "breathe, sweet baby boy, BREATHE!! Breathe. Breathe. Breathe." Time stopped. I grabbed the rails on the hospital bed and pulled myself up and yelled "BREATHE," as if I was blowing air into his lungs – mouth to mouth from across the room. Miraculously, he gasped his first breath. I collapsed and they proceeded to sew me back together. I had labored for 10 hours, 4 of which was one very long contraction. Dash Angus was born naturally 9 pounds 12ounces, 21 inches long, with red hair.
Q: How is it being a boy mom to two sons?
I don’t think I would understand the difference of being a boy mama verses a girl mama, if I hadn’t had the blessing of fostering/mothering an 18-month old child. This little girl was a sweet soul that had experienced trauma and neglect. She joined our family for about six months. At the end of our time together she was thriving and calling me mama. Rosie was about two years younger than Dash and five years younger than Henry. Both my boys were her ardent protectors. Rosie was fierce, deeply emotional yet cautious. I felt the conflict in her. She had a spirit that was curious. Rosie was complicated and struggled with being two and not quite capable of doing all she wanted to do in her little body. She was a spiritual being having a human experience. The day was exhausted when she was finished with it.
Somewhere in my old dormant belief system she was what I thought boys would be. I was wrong. My boys were and are completely unlike each other however they were and are both very delicate, fragile and crave a sense of closeness, they were simple and busy building and tearing down only to build it up again with repetition, stemming, order and routine.
I saw one son through the lens of Autism and one son through the lens of typical(ish). Henry was diagnosed with Autism at age 3. Dash was diagnosed with Benign Hydrocephalus at 4 months old.
Benign Hydrocephalus is a self-limiting absorption deficiency of infancy and early childhood with mildly raised intracranial pressure. Meaning a swelling of the brain and head due to an underdeveloped lining in the brain. We would journey to Cedars pediatric neurology every other month to hear one of two things.
- Dash needs surgery to place a shunt in his head to release the pressure created from the fluid.
- Or let’s wait and see how he progresses and decide in 2 months.
I did this journey ten times and heard option two. Ten times but every single time I heard it – as if it was the first. Until we heard..."He’s fine the lining of the brain has started doing its job - I don’t need to see you again. He just has a giant head."
I believe I was gifted these boys for a reason which revealed itself like an intricate tapestry, weaving itself overtime.
Q: How have you struggled in that experience and thrived in that experience?
Oh boy, struggle is part of growth, I think. No one can know what we don’t know. Every struggle is an opportunity to be vulnerable, learn, grow gratitude and humility. Struggle built resilience in me as a mother and in my children.
I took on motherhood committed to righting the ways of how I was parented and mothered. I was determined to stop the abuse I endured as a child. My own children would not share my story. I wanted so deeply for the generational trauma and shame to end and to not be passed on by my hand. Making this commitment to mothering caused a deep healing in me. As I parented my children, I re-parented myself. I felt grief for my childhood losses and joy for their lives all at the same time.
Q: Do you feel like motherhood has transformed you in any way?
Motherhood required me to excavate my old ideas and belief systems and create new beliefs in real time that was congruent with who I am and who my children became.
Motherhood transformed me in every possible way. I learned how..
to be flexible.
to be willing not to know.
to trust my gut.
trust my soul.
to walk away.
to allow for the allowing.
to let go of what binds the past present and future.
to slow down.
to admit the best answer is sitting on the ground in the midst of chaos.
Q: What have you learned from your two sons?
I’m still learning – Henry and Dash teach me about who they are every day. I find them both to be fascinating human beings. They are interested, empathetic and curious about others. They both have hearts for service, and both want to work in the fields of spirituality, healing trauma and the environment.
Henry taught me the journey from my head to my heart. He also helped me see how I thought I didn’t make a difference. I actually did. He taught me the importance of staying connected with consistency mattered more than anything.
Dash taught me how to stay in my heart. He helped me see that everyone works on different timings. He also taught me about connecting deeply and that means putting my phone down.
Both Henry and Dash taught me that they are independent of me and that they are their own people with likes and dislikes that are different from mine and they have their own relationship with a power greater than themselves which we collectively choose to call love and gratitude.
Q: Do you have a specific story or experience you want to share that either challenged you, uplifted you, was a beautiful moment –– anything.
In 2016, I spent Mother’s Day in a mental institution. Henry 16 at the time, was on suicide watch. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week - for 11 months straight. Knowing that my son didn’t want to live made life crippling - it was absolutely unbearable. To wake him up in the morning was a brutal challenge. Opening his bedroom door, I was never sure what I’d find. A deep breath and a plea as the tip of my nose barely touched his door was my daily morning routine.
Henry was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3, high functioning, but autism is autism. In 2014, he was diagnosed with a severe tic disorder. January of 2015, he intentionally built and set a combustible fire in the garden of our home. Doctors added the diagnosis of oppositional defiance disorder. A severe depression diagnosis came shortly later, accompanied by acute anxiety disorder with panic attacks. A mental illness diagnosis. Then a reveal of the worst kind of trauma led to his suicidal ideation.
Autism is hard let alone all the other layers of diagnoses which were all related to the trauma and the shame. 2016 was a big moment for our family the biggest moment and the trajectory of our lives changed.
This was THE MOTHERLODE MOMENT.
How do I help my son?
How do I keep him alive?
How do I let go and allow him the dignity and grace to come to his life and to choose it?
Mother F*cking moment. This meant getting right with letting him die.
I cried, God, did I weep. I was powerless. There was not one thing I could do. Which isn’t in a mother’s language. So, I went to the ocean and a new journey began.
Q: What was that journey?
You know, I’m thinking about my ocean story - It is a big, life changing journey, that encompasses autism, mental illness, mothering, womanhood, partnership and love, pain and trauma. A story of coming to an understanding of God and radically changing my life. It's a story of undoing the trauma in my tissue and firing the critic in my mind and finding my voice. It is its own story that spans over 4 years and continues today. I will honor this story by telling it fully on another day.
Q: Do you have any advice for moms to be, current mamas, or women in general?
Know that every moment there is always an opportunity for repair and this is when a deep healing can happen. Know that you are a human being not a human doing. Many years ago, I learned from an organization, where I was certified as a Nonviolent communication Parent Educator, that the magic and healing lie in the repair. Know this, you will fail epically and failing is where the repairing begins.
Q: Now that your boys aren't babies anymore, do you feel like your role as a mom has shifted in anyway?
YES! Yes, yes and yes. I delight in who they are as young men. I sit on the shore of their becoming and witness them.
Q: How do you take care of YOU? Do you have a routine that keeps you grounded?
Every day I give thanks for another day, meditate and go for a centering walk. Nurturing my heart and soul is essential to my equilibrium. Similar to Rosie, the day is completed and whipped when I’m finished with it.
I immerse myself in learning something new. I study different therapeutic modalities for healing Trauma and Shame for men, women and couples. Creating beauty and healing homes is a big part of my day. I love color. I create environments people can live in and enjoy.
Also, I am working with developing the first Trauma + Shame Healing clinic in partnership with the Surf Institute with a collective of women. Lastly, my deep relationship with the ocean reenergizes and feeds me. Matthew, my partner, and I surf most days. The ocean softens my edges and allows me to commune with the Mother God in me. Also, because I have a deep need to commune with people and truly listen, uplift and support, I stay in touch with my tribe. Together we change the negative compare and despair narrative to a narrative of empathy, connection and laughter.
Q: I love that you bring up your tribe, because all the babies was founded on this idea of being brought up with your “tribe,”. Tell me more about what having a strong community around does for you?
I had a not so wonderful mother and 2 very absent fathers that weren’t interested in the job of fathering. My parents suffered from alcoholism and drug addiction and my mother suffered greatly from untreated mental illness and narcissism. I was raised with violence and shame and I was taught at a very young age that you cannot trust the grown-ups in the room.
Therefore, my tribe of trusted women and men I have collected over the years are essential to me. They have carried me and taught me how to be a parent, a woman, a mother, a friend, a partner, a neighbor and the best me.
One woman in my tribe is Kate the Great, my surrogate mother. She, like a spiritual warrior, stood steadfastly shoulder to shoulder with me. She showed me intimacy, she showed me the underbelly of motherhood that isn’t shared amongst polite women. She was a real warrior and taught me the art of being a woman.
Q: What has been the biggest blessing of motherhood?
Henry and Dash.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge of motherhood?
Being a single mother, it would be my fear of financial insecurity which got me worrying at times about keeping the lights on, a roof over our heads. There were a handful of times when I was faced with choices like; milk or tampax? Every choice I made; my children were at the front facing me, giving me pause to ask myself how does this choice serve these two boys. As a single mother, I found that I placed myself on the back burner every time. I was second in the equation of choice. And I don’t regret that choice. It has paid off.
Q: Anything else you want to add? Advice? Story? Anything?
Oh, so, so much. Stories for another day. How about at a retreat for all the babies? Mom to Mom.
Finally, I would like to thank a short list of the women and men who keep me here today:
Bird my “soulbriety” sister who sat with me at the hospital.
Adele who wore a red nose and reminds me to keep going.
Peli who took Henry (and me) from the earth at edge of the ocean into the sea.
Carla my surf coach.
The Frenchman, for capturing the moments on film and in my heart.
Jeff for teaching me to meditate.
Elisa my soulbriety sister, dear friend, mentor
Stacey my sweet soul sister
Hope my soulbriety sister who wrote love notes that said “you’ve got this”
Heather + Allison for really believing in me
Melonie my forever sister by choice
Last and never least—Matthew, my beloved.
and, know how grateful I am for all of it.
photo credit to:
all the babies.