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February 24, 2024

Alumni Spotlight: Colette Matison Legarrigues

Colette Matison Legarrigues

Colette Matison Legarrigues

Transferred to AIMC from ACTCM in the spring of 2020, graduated in winter of 2021

How would you like to be introduced?
My name is Colette, and my family name is Colette Matison Legarrigues. I am the wife of Martin and the mom of Bodie. My recent ancestors were settler-colonialists to New York and San Francisco from present-day Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, and France. I am a daughter and a sister and a friend. I am an East Asian Medicine practitioner, a postpartum educator, a poet, and a film producer. I am licensed to practice acupuncture and Chinese Medicine herbalism in the states of Massachusetts and California, and I am nationally certified as a Diplomate of Oriental Medicine by NCCAOM. I hold a master’s degree from AIMC and a bachelor’s degree from Brown University. I am also a Sagittarius, a Manifesting-Generator, and an Earth Dragon.

What did your life look like during the immediate post-grad period?
After graduation I immediately started studying for board exams. In retrospect, I would definitely advise my former self to take a break…ideally some immersive time in nature without tech or artificial light. I studied for two months, and then I took the five exams for NCCAOM and CALE. Soon after I was offered a job at the Alchemy Healing Center in Northampton, Massachusetts. The clinic specializes in the Daoist alchemical treatments of Classical Chinese Medicine in the lineage of Jeffrey Yuen. Over the course of my time there, I trained in the first stages of alchemy as well as the use of Sun Si Miao’s ghost points. At the same time, I was hired to treat the more “ordinary” cases, because the senior practitioners were increasingly in demand for daylong alchemy treatments. So people came to see me for the common reasons like back pain and fertility and insomnia. It was this incredible bridge between the esoteric and the practical. Which I loved because, in my experience, healing is both mysterious and mundane. It’s mythic and mystical and complex, and it’s also gritty and down-to-earth and ordinary. You know…the stuff of being human.

Threshold Film Logo - black text over blank background

What year did you start your work as Threshold Film?
I worked with a number of pregnant women (all of my pregnant clients then identified as women) in the Alchemy clinic during my own pregnancy. And I was finding that the need for support in crossing the threshold of childbirth extended far beyond what I was able to provide in hour-long weekly treatments. Martin and I began to incubate Threshold while I gestated Bodie. It was an incredibly fertile time. It was a time of feeling deeply into the need of those standing at the precipice of parenthood, and beginning to answer that call with traditional medicine, ritual art, and witness through the medium of film. One of our first projects was an online course called The Golden Moon: The Radical Art of Postpartum Rest. Like many couples, we took a childbirth education class during our third trimester to prepare for labor. And I noticed that, while books like The Fourth Trimester and The First Forty Days have recently surfaced, postpartum education really isn’t a thing. So we set out to make a postpartum education course for modern families, inspired by the ancient principles of Zuo Yue Zi.

Where are you based now?
My family is currently nomadic. Beginning in the fall of 2023, about three months after Bodie was born, we began traveling across the continental U.S. and Hawaii for the making of a documentary film about birth in America. We spend six to eight weeks in one place interviewing birth workers in their elder years and capturing footage of couples who are preparing for or integrating the experience of childbirth.

Raven Lang and her birth book

Who are your team members? What is it like working with your partner/running your practice as a family?
I remember when Martin first took me to meet his grandma, and at the end of the visit she said, “Well, you sure do like spending time together.” It’s been 11 years, and that hasn’t changed. And our work is very much a family endeavor. Right now I am writing this with Bodie strapped to my chest in the baby carrier, which is often the case for computer tasks. Earlier this month we took a trip up to Humboldt county for a documentary interview with Raven Lang, who was a home birth midwife and community organizer in the 1970s and also a beloved Chinese Medicine practitioner and teacher. We drove up as a family, and Raven’s teenage grandchildren babysat Bodie while we filmed the interview. Bodie is a real charmer with the grandmas. Next month we will be traveling to Sandpoint, Idaho to work with an expectant couple to co-create ritual-film, and we’ll bring Bodie with us. It’s definitely not the model of American efficiency. The movements are slower. But they are also deeper.

What was Chinese Medicine School like for you?
Mostly, I loved the people. As students in this culture, it’s easy to unconsciously identify as consumers. We pay a lot for education, and there can be an expectation around the deliverables…we can want some kind of exceptional experience. But in my experience of school, we get out of it what we put into it. We receive what we give. East Asian Medicine is an incredibly deep and rich tradition. And because of the constraints of time and regulations and other logistics, a graduate program really just scratches the surface. This medicine is a lifelong practice and commitment.

Postpartum Massage

Did you know you wanted to integrate your studies with midwifery/reproductive health – or did you find this calling along the way?
For me, caring for the female reproductive cycle is actually a kind of activism. In America, we live in a culture that demands unceasing adherence to the daily yang cycle, as though the sun rises and sets in a vacuum. And so we are experiencing a collective waning of yin: the planet’s temperatures are rising, exhaustion and adrenal fatigue are commonplace, menstrual pain and menopause symptoms are considered normal… I believe that caring for the menstruation cycle is healing for the whole. That reclaiming the blood rites of menarche, menstruation, childbirth and menopause impacts the larger cycles of families, communities and the more-than-human world. So I think my current focus on childbirth as a rite of passage and postpartum education stems from that.

On managing her practice…

What does community building look like to you?
So much of my work as a postpartum educator is about community building. This looks like guiding those I work with, whether through the course or coaching, to systematically take stock of their networks…to consciously position themselves at the center of webs of support…and to weave a safety net of love, care, and connection that will hold them during the first forty days. In a sense, it’s teaching people the basic principles of community organizing and inviting them to implement these principles in their own families and communities. Which is incredibly counter cultural inside of an individualist society where extreme isolation is the ever-increasing norm. It’s the same in our film work. When we engage in ritual-film with a couple, we encourage them to hold a screening for a small group of family and friends as a way to integrate the experience of childbirth. Integration is a time to pause and to share the story of where we’ve been so that we can give the gift of who we’re becoming to our community. Producing a documentary also has everything to do with the weave of community. And it’s my hope that when the birth doc is done, we’ll use it as a platform for community conversations about birth: about what it is and why it matters, about personal and collective trauma, about discrepancies in access to care, about bodily sovereignty, about the mystery of life…all of it.

What are the cultural containers holding your care work?
I have deep gratitude for my teachers and guides, the masterful people who have trained me in Chinese Medicine and shared with me their knowledge of earth-honoring wisdom traditions. It is also important to acknowledge that Zuo Yue Zi is a living cultural tradition in China and in Chinese communities around the globe, and that there are many other postpartum traditions that live on across the world’s cultures to this day. So just because there is a current lack of knowledge and support about postpartum care in mainstream America does not mean that there aren’t deep traditions of care in communities in this country and around the world. In general, our work seeks to connect individuals to resource within their own lineages, whether remembered or forgotten or suppressed, inside of cross-cultural principles of care, ritual, and healing.

Ritual film, placenta water burial

What is the role of ritual, art, and film in your medicine?
As the saying goes, ritual is an outer expression of an inner movement. It can be anything, and it doesn’t have to be anything fancy or serious or codified. Like making coffee, or Clean Needle Technique. In our work with couples, we use ritual as a technology to enter deep time. Have you ever spent all afternoon picking blueberries and the hours start to wiggle and when you close your eyes at night you see blueberries? It’s like that. We also use ritual as a way to invite couples to connect with their human birth lineages, either through ancestral research or intuition or both. We also use ritual as a way to play and to shift from rational mind into primal consciousness to prepare for birth and being with an infant. This looks like working with expectant individuals and couples to co-create authentic ritual art, either before or after childbirth, that culminates in a custom-made short film. Each process is a unique collaboration. The ritual film is not an offering that’s up on our website—it’s just been circulating word-of-mouth through our community. But I imagine we’ll extend it to a larger circle in the near future.

Postpartum Moxa

Connect with Colette

Find Colette’s online landing page at ThresholdFilm.com and on Instagram @TheLegarrigues. You can find details of her current offerings – The Golden Moon: The Radical of Postpartum Care (course), Coaching for expectant parents, and virtual Traditional Chinese Medicine counseling – on these pages.

Not mentioned yet, Colette also has an album of baby jingles (you can check out Diaper Man and Mr. Bubble Man on her Instagram page) and an album of less zany, non-jingle songs.

If you’re interested in her client work, read on for some extra conversation, or join her e-newsletter

Who are your classes for?
The Golden Moon course is for 1) pregnant women/people and their partners and families, 2) doulas, midwives, and other providers who have an interest in postpartum care and Chinese medicine, 3) Chinese Medicine practitioners and birth workers who don’t have time to provide thorough patient education about postpartum care and want to refer resources to their clients.

I am also going to be releasing another postpartum course for practitioners (available for CE credits) through the Alchemy Learning Center in the months to come.

And we have several other courses in the works, including an in-depth postpartum course specifically for partners and a ritual-arts course for expectant couples.

How do you build connection to student/learners or connection to material through your prerecorded virtual courses?
Well, Martin is a filmmaker. So the content is incredibly engaging. It’s not a recorded zoom call. If anything, it might even be a little over-produced! I would recommend checking out the trailer to get a sense of what it’s like.

Do folks need anything prepared for your discovery calls?
Mostly curiosity. And if you are a couple, it’s important that you both be present for the call. 67% of couples in America report a decline in marital happiness after the birth of their first child. This is considered the norm in our culture… it’s almost a given. It is so important that couples get on the same page and make a plan for postpartum as a united front. We think it’s necessary for both partners to understand the pillars of postpartum care so that they can each do the work of self inquiry—to assess their capacity, define clear roles, and seek support to fill in the gaps.

This written interview has been edited for formatting

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