Names are kind of funny labels we carry through life. It seems that the first ones we get tend to last the longest. The little baby boy ends up with a very formal name like Richard Jay Clofine. Yet the only time I ever got called Richard was when my mother, Jolyn, was angry at me. I didn’t like hearing her use that tone of voice, chuckle. When I practiced medicine I used my full name more than any other time in my life. I always used it for legal matters.
The name Aumdoc was given to me in 1993 by a new mother who heard me softly chanting Aum at her delivery. Though, I have to go around the bend a few times before I get to that story.
I clearly remember when I got the name Ricky as a kid. In my 3rd grade class there were five (5!) Richards. The teacher said that just wouldn’t do. So she had us all stand up and starting from the left she went down the line… “You will be Richard, you will be Rich, you will be Richie, you will be… (well the aside here is that there were only two of us left and I was up next. Even in third grade I was hoping not to be named Dick (no offense meant to any Dicks)). So it was pretty intense waiting for her to turn to me and say “… you will be Ricky, and (to the last kid) you will be Dick.” I was very relieved to be Ricky and the name stuck throughout my childhood. Often it was Little Ricky since I was very short as a child, still am as an adult (5’3”).
I was Ricky until age 15 when I clearly wanted to be Rick. I was growing up after all. And it seems like so many baby boomer names can end in a “y” (or “ie.). My brothers were Stevie and Chippy. My friends were Larry, Andy, Jonny, Jeffrey, Sandy, Hetty, etc. I adopted Rick as my social name until I began to always introduce myself as Aumdoc, around 2012. In those preceeding years (most of my adult life) I knew so many people it was hard to keep everyone straight. What they called me helped me know how I knew them. When someone called me Rick, I knew that we had some personal time together in the past. If someone called me Richard then I thought that our association was more professional in nature. When someone called me Aumdoc, it was good times coming.
Professionally I was Richard J. Clofine, DO, my training being in Osteopathic Medicine. Or sometimes it was Dr. Richard J. Clofine. Generally if a physician uses a Dr. prefix they do not also use their degree letters. I was dual board certified… that gave me a bunch of letters and a really formal fancy name. Richard J. Clofine, DO, ACOOG, ABIHM. That tags me with a medical degree (DO) and having completed board certification in Obstetrics & Gynecology (American College of Osteopathic Obstetrics & Gynecology) and Integrative Holistic Medicine (American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine). Whew! I generally went by Dr. Clofine professionally.
ABOUT THAT NAME…
My solo practice of Obstetrics & Gynecology, out of 3 metro-Atlanta hospitals, lasted twelve years (1989-2001). I then practiced office gynecology for 10 more years, with an emphasis on Menopause care. After 22 years, I quit medicine completely (another story for another time).
In 1993 a very nice couple came to my Lilburn solo practice, Lotus Obstetrics & Gynecology. They came for pregnancy, and delivery, care of their first pregnancy. They specifically sought me out because they desired the type of care I specialized in. Least amount of intervention possible while delivering in the hospital. They wanted some one open to ‘Natural Childbirth’ and was friendly and accessible. Under my care they had my personal cell phone number if they needed to use it. They could ambulate throughout labor with intermittent monitoring; they could forgo an IV, or have one placed and capped, to prevent being hooked to a pole. They could orally hydrate, make as much noise as they wanted, deliver in any position they desired, avoid episiotomy, have the baby go up on their belly and wait for the cord to stop pulsating before clamping. I love doulas and introduced them to two of the hospitals I worked at (another blog post for another time).
Her pregnancy was easy and uncomplicated. She loved being pregnant and responded very well to the Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy (bodywork) I regularly used for the common postural complaints of pregnancy. It was always nice to see them.
She went into labor at term and labored a good while at home. She was in active labor when she arrived at the hospital and everything progressed very well. She was actively empowered by surrendering to the process of her labor. She was entranced and entrained by her labor, very powerful to witness (I will soon update and re-post my blog on this topic). She started to push, when the urge was strong, and she tolerated it well.
About 30 minutes later there were around 15 minutes of very deep concern.
Here is a frank description of those events. Maybe not for the faint of heart. She had been having a lot of bloody show, that I was watching closely and pondering deeply. As she pushed, the babies heart rate showed some sudden deep persistent decelerations (dropping of the fetal heart rate) that were extremely concerning to me. On examination the baby was in a transverse position (ROT), zero to +1 station, and did not seem to descend any with her very effective pushing. The baby was looking to her side instead of looking down, with her on her back. I had her roll onto her right side. Using my small, and experienced, fingers I gently encouraged the babies head to rotate towards a more favorable anterior position (ROA – looking toward her back). Whether it was my fingers, her pushing, maternal position change, or fate, the baby rotated and descended to crowning over the next several pushes. The baby boy came out, cried vigorously and was given to mom, on her belly. The boy had an apgar score of 9/9 indicating he was just fine. The nurses at this hospital were comfortable doing the apgar score on the Mom’s belly. The newborn had enough healthy metabolic reserves, and good resources to draw upon (thanks Mom), that it was able to tolerate the intrauterine stress that had occurred and had no ongoing any issues.
Everything was fine. Baby was fine, Mom & Dad were fine. So lovely!
My routine after delivery, with Mom & Baby in the hospital, was to make early morning bedside visits to discuss the delivery with the Mother. We would talk about what happened. Reassuring, or worrying, aspects were reviewed in full detail. Any questions were answered. On the morning after delivery, Mom’s head is clear, we know how everyone is doing. It is the perfect time to review everything. And, it was capped the lovely intimate time that I shared with these Moms, through their pregnancy and delivery. I would say, we cared for one another.
While we were discussing the 15 minutes of concern, during her pushing, she got a far away look in her eye like she was thinking about something else. I asked her what’s up and she pointed at me and said something like, “I heard you Dr. Clofine, I heard you during the delivery. I heard you chanting Aum. I heard you Doctor, you were Auming during the delivery. Your Aumdoc!”
Which I thought was cute, and we both laughed about it. I told her she did hear me chanting Aum through the crisis time of her delivery. She thought it was great, since she was a yoga aficionado. I continued with my doctoring, giving her discharge instructions and such. Saw her for a postpartum visit and she moved out of state. I didn’t think much about it, or use it as a name, but it did stick in my head.
I had chanted Aum for many years. I took my first Hatha Yoga class from Grace Stern on Surrey Lane. I think I was 16 or 17 (1969-70). Grace was a beautiful Jewish Italian housewife, mother of friends, who turned her basement dance studio into a yoga studio. It was the topic of high gossip that Grace had gone off the deep end (again). That was where I first remember Auming. I chanted Aum a lot over the years as I flirted deeply with Hatha, Bhakti and Kriya Yoga. In later years I got into kirtan and mala chanting. I Aum to myself daily. Often I do mantra chanting internally, mantras I have used through most of my life. I would often internally chant, or meditate, while sitting with mothers in labor. I found it centering, grounding and calming amidst the storm of emotions and activity around me.
During her labor, while attending to her crisis, I started to Aum very quietly to myself, completely unconsciously. I think it was faint and intermittent. But she heard it clearly, pointed at me and named me…. Aumdoc.
My first use of Aumdoc…
In the early 1990’s I found the internet, didn’t you? Though I was leading a very busy life there were certain aspects I missed. I didn’t feel like I had ‘tribe’ around me. Well I guess there was the medical tribe I belonged to. And the suburban neighbor tribe as well. Yet I felt an outsider in both of them. What I didn’t have was shamanic, plant medicine, drum circle, deep woods tribe around me. I found them on the internet. I joined several “mailing lists” where people communicated on various topics on a daily basis. I found my way to the Visionary Plant List. This was wonderful because a lot of the authors I read were on it at the time. A great diversion and very entertaining.
I was invited onto another list by friends (you know who you are) which seemed to be composed of younger people than me (by maybe 20 years). Seemed to be a lot of chemists, computer people, sci-fi nerds, plant people… right up my ally. These folks, maybe 80 from all over the country, actually met up in person once a year… they had a “flesh meet”. Wow, I could find a few who lived near me. And I did, moving from digital to analog friends.
On these early digital daily lists it was common to use a pseudonym. I immediately started using Aumdoc. When you talk to someone online many days for a year, you begin to have a relationship. So it is pretty interesting to gather together and get to meet those people in the flesh. Say on New Years maybe? When we all got together nobody would have known who Rick Clofine was, though most of them knew Aumdoc. It was clear to me that Aumdoc resonated well on both sides.
In the mid 1990’s I started to further pursue my interest in shamanism and plant medicine. My interest in these topics started at the age of 18. My reading of the world literature on shamanism was voracious. There wasn’t as much written at that time. I had my personal practice in various nature studies, medicine wheel work and full moon fires. I also started attending various daylong, or weekend workshops, with various teachers and groups. Often people used ‘spirit names’ during these events. I believe this was an attempt to separate the workshop experience from that of day to day life. It was easy to start to use Aumdoc during these times and with these folks.
Over the years I began to use the name Aumdoc more and more. Since I was online more and participating in more workshops it was a natural progression. When I went to a ‘flesh meet’, with far away friends, they only knew me as Aumdoc. I liked that. I would use the name publicly more and more. I used it when I announced the series of 60 full moon fires I had at my home in Lilburn, GA (1996-2001). I also used it when I facilitated a series of 49 Healing Circles in the 2000’s. Some folks knew me as Aumdoc, some as Dr. Clofine and when I went home to Havertown, PA people would still call me Ricky. I had to be clear with my older brother, Steven, that it was NOT cool to introduce me to new people as Ricky. I was no longer 15 years old, I was Aumdoc.
When I quit medicine completely in 2011 I decided to fully assume my moniker. I started to always introduce myself as Aumdoc and my partner, Sara, would usually do the same. It feels good and resonant with who I am. Aumdoc is MUCH MORE feral and gnomy than Dr. Clofine. He also has a lot more time on his hands to… make… rattles!