Tuesday, December 4, 2012


I've been thinking about rhythms lately: daily rhythms, seasonal rhythms, the rhythms of life.

With my foray back into the work world this week, our daily rhythm has been thrown for a loop.  Seth is figuring out how to take care of Bea and his business.  I have to figure out how to be the mom I want to be and work.  At work, I have to work out a rhythm to my pumping that matches Bea's nursing level.  And, Bea, Miss Bea has to figure out meals from a bottle and napping without nursing.  Today, she, Sappho and I headed out into the pouring rain for a walk at 4:30 to convince this over-tired girl to nap for the first time today.  Because when all else fails, she cannot fight long against the rhythm of walking before she falls asleep.

No matter how old we are, it is these daily rhythms, practices, and rituals that we have that allow us to pause, to breathe deeply, to regain our sense of place, to sleep well.  I think that a walk after work with Bea and Sappho just might part of our new rhythm.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Getting Back to . . . My Body

To the outside observer, I most likely look like I've returned to my pre-pregnancy body.  I very quickly lost my pregnancy weight and then some.  My body's response to breastfeeding seems to be "sure, here, take it, take anything you need, I don't need it!"  Other people's bodies seem to take a slightly more self-preserving approach - "so, I'm going to keep this 20 pounds for me, just in case."

However, to my more discerning eye, I could see that I was holding on to a bit of fat on my belly and that my belly was certainly a different shape than it was.  The skin near my belly button is still a different texture. Of course, there is the scar that runs across my low belly; very discrete, yes, but visible to me.  And, my breasts have, what I'll call, a more motherly shape. 

As my weight came off and these changes slowly began to emerge, I found myself anxious to return to my yoga practice.  In Iyengar yoga, though, the teaching is that you shouldn't return to a practice for 10-12 weeks after a c-section, far more conservative than the 6 weeks the medical profession suggests.  When week 10 came, I thought I would anxiously jump back in, but I didn't.  It was one more week before I felt ready.

Despite that decision to delay starting, I looked at the series of poses with some dismay.  For weeks 10-25 post-pregnancy the practice is seven poses.  Only seven poses.  As I started my practice, though, it became clear to me that I wasn't ready for a more robust practice.  These seven poses hit all my sore spots, and this slow start is helping me get to know this new body of mine.  I can once again feel the flow of energy through my body and how it is different than it was.  That belly of mine that felt so empty with nothing growing inside of it is now a new and vast place to explore. 

Because, although the goal in this culture seems to be a return to a pre-pregnancy body, that return is impossible - pregnancy and birth forever change our bodies.  So, as my practice continues to move my physical body more and more towards my pre-pregnancy body, it also puts me more and more in touch with the changes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Our Birth Story

My Dad called me the day I went into labor.  I missed his call because I was napping and ignoring the cramping in my belly.  I'd had cramping like this before so it didn't seem like anything to me, just something that was disturbing my nap!  When I called my Dad back, he said he called because he thought of me and thought maybe I was in labor.  "Nope,"  I replied, "Just napping."

Later that day Seth, Sappho, and I headed off to the grocery store to pick up some things for dinner with my Mom and Mike who had just arrived in town with their trailer.  On the way to the grocery store I noticed I was having, what felt like, regular Braxton Hix contractions.  Well, this couldn't be labor, labor would be obvious, right?  I called the doula anyway just to check.  "Yep," she said, "Sounds like labor!"  She encouraged us to go have dinner and then head home.  So, we did.  We stayed until talking through my contractions was becoming difficult,

When we got home, I tried taking a bath to see if I could slow the contractions down and sleep, but they were not slowing down, so we settled in for laboring.  And, we labored and labored with our doula joining us around 2am.  Around 7am, she said we could probably safely head to the hospital and not have to spend too much time there (one of my goals).  So, off we went.

I'd been dreading the car ride and trying to find a comfortable position for contractions.  It turns out that my body knew I was dreading it and slowed everything a little bit.  Seth and the doula had made a hospital arrival and parking plan, but I bossed Seth when we got to the hospital and told him we weren't allowed to do their plan - their plan was only allowed in the middle of the night. So, he parked the car and we walked from the structure to the main lobby of the hospital.  Apparently a woman having contractions in a parking structure is concerning to people as more than one person asked if we needed a wheelchair.  "No, we'll be on our way again as soon as this contraction is over!"  A pregnant woman having contractions is even more concerning to the elderly folks who volunteer at the hospital information desk!  They could not get an elevator to arrive fast enough.  But, we made it safely to the labor and delivery unit.

In order to be able to use the birthing tub at the hospital, they have to check to see how far dialated you are - 8 centimeters upon arrival!  Into the tub I went, who knew how good water would feel.  And, things seemed to pick up for awhile and then they slowed down.  At some point, they gave me an IV to put fluids into my body, but a few hours later I was still at 8 centimeters.  The midwife gave me a pep talk, I moved to the bed, and, voila, an hour later I was at 10 centimeters and ready to start pushing!

So, I pushed and pushed and pushed.  And drank some protein drinks, got some pitocin and pushed and pushed and pushed.  And then got an increased dose of pitocin and pushed and pushed and pushed.  It seemed to me like nothing was happening, but people around me assured me that things were happening, and when the midwives checked Bea's head position a few times during this time, each time they said she was good to go.  So, I dug deep and gave each one of the contraction cycles everything I had.  I can still hear the midwife's voice saying, "She needs more, Heather, she needs more."  So, I found more. 

However, after awhile (several hours actually), I knew that I was getting tired.  I didn't say anything, but found myself asking more and more, "Is it making a difference?"  I knew I couldn't push endlessly, I needed someone to say, "Okay, only 10 more contraction cycles and she'll be here."  But instead what they said eventually was that they were going to call in an OB consult to see if they could use forceps or a vacuum to help me out.  Help, yes, that is what I needed!  The OB team was in a surgery, though, and wouldn't be there for twenty minutes.  The good news is that I didn't have to push while we waited.  I asked them to turn off the pitocin, which they did; however it takes pitocin 20 minutes to leave your system. 

So, I spent the next twenty minutes having pitocin-inspired contractions, but not pushing.  In my opinion, not pushing is far more uncomfortable than pushing as not pushing is going against what your body wants you to do.  During that 20 minutes my doula asked if I would like them to give me some pain medication.  She explained that it wouldn't stop the contractions, but it would make me feel like I'd had a couple of glasses of wine.  "Yes," I found myself saying, "I would like that."  However, apparently I couldn't have any until after the OB consult.

When the OB arrived, she very quickly assessed that Bea's head was, in fact, not in a good position, it was transverse, a position in which babies cannot make it out.  She also said that there was now meconium in my water, an indicator that Bea was stressed, and that her head was swollen.  "We need to do a c-section," she said.  I had never heard sweeter words in my life.  I was exhausted, clearly Bea was too, and we needed help!  At that point they gave me the pain medication, and had me sign many forms  while they explained the risks of c-sections to me. 

Then, they sent me off to be prepped for surgery; I was almost giddy at the idea of being numbed from the waist down!

The c-section went quickly and well, although I've never felt so cold/shaken so much in my life.  Bea had meconium in her lungs that had to be sucked out and was  "done" said the pediatric team, but she was fine and she was healthy, which was a relief to me.

The birth I had pictured was one where we labored mostly at home, used the tub at the hospital for the end, and left with a healthy baby 24 hours later.  In our birth, there were so many interventions that we hadn't wanted:  an IV, pitocin, pain medication, and, of course, a c-section.  And, when less than 24 hours after she was born they told me I could go home, I opted to stay one more night.  The outcome, though, the thing we really wanted was a healthy baby.  And,after 30 hours of labor that included 7 hours of pushing and then a c-section, that is what we got - a beautiful, healthy baby girl..  And, a tough one at that!  We were both strong when asked to be, for as long as we could be, and accepted help when we needed it.

An unexpected result of this journey was a deepening of my love for Seth.  He was at my side the whole time.  He was present and centered and calm - everything I needed.  In those first few days/nights when my movement was limited, and I couldn't pace the floor with Bea, he was all those things for her too.  Love.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Birth stories

The telling of one's birth story is an important part of the birth process, especially for women whose births don't go as planned.  And, I am pretty sure that for the majority of women that there is some aspect of their birth that didn't go exactly the way they wanted.  The telling of the story, then, is part of the healing process.  Yesterday, in an effort to entertain Bea for a few minutes, I told her the story of her birth, not the one I had told other people, but the one I wanted her to hear.  It turns out it was the one I needed to hear too.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The emptiness within

For months this little girl grew inside of me creating a fullness in my belly.
Now, she grows outside of me creating a fullness in my life and heart.
But what a strange emptiness her birth left in me. 
Joy at her arrival and sadness for her departure.

Friday, November 2, 2012

To write, what to write

Since Bea's birth I have come to this space many times to write because somehow writing seems like an important part of this new identity of mine as a mother, and it feels important to what comes next in my life.  But nothing I've written feels right.  I have many started, but unfinished, posts.  I haven't yet found my voice in all this change.  So, here I am.  I'm back.  I'll be writing here and finding my voice because I don't think I'll figure out what comes next until I do. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Thoughts on Pregnancy

I meant to do more writing here throughout my pregnancy.  Only it didn't happen.  Part of the reason for that is that pregnancy turned out to be much more of an internal process/journey than I had anticipated.  Balancing that with a job that takes a lot of external energy didn't leave me with a lot if any extra energy to do things like visit with friends, write here, etc.

However, I have now been off of work for a week and so feel that I have the space to do some of that writing that I've been wanting to do.

I know that this first observation is true about life itself, but being pregnant made it much more apparent - most people experience your life through theirs.  Your pregnancy serves as a conduit for someone else to tell you their story.

I think that a big part of pregnancy is being able unattach (which apparently is not a dictionary recognized word) yourself from ways of being, from concepts of self and opening yourself up to the unknown - both the unknown of parenthood, but also the unknown of self.  It's about accepting that a huge transformation is about to take place, but that you have no idea what that transformation is or will be.

And, I have been reminded since I started "waiting" for this little girl to decide she is ready to be born that our brains are not always very useful in life.  Despite my best efforts to just be present with what is happening, I find my brain taking over and creating scenarios and expectations.  Maybe with the full moon, maybe after this next acupuncture appointment, maybe with the upcoming new moon.....  These scenarios create stress and pressure, and they distance me from my intuition, from my ability to be present.  And the reality is if I'm going to "know" anything about what she is doing in there, it certainly isn't going to come from my brain. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On the mat, off the mat

My yoga practice has been a very instructive teacher as of late, and the lessons learned on the mat have surfaced off the mat as well.

1. Respecting where I am. On the mat: The focus of my practice has changed. It is no longer about pushing myself a little bit in each pose and trying more challenging versions of the poses. Now, my practice focuses exclusively on creating more space inside of me - it doesn't matter that I can still touch my nose to my shin in that pose if I squish the baby. That pose is now one where length and space is created. Having a daily practice has also become increasingly important in maintaining that space as my tummy grows increasingly large. Off the mat: I've noticed more and more that as a society we value and respect productivity, people's ability to carry on through whatever they have going on in their lives as if those things aren't happening. Honoring oneself and where one is at does not carry the same value for most people: that space, for the most part, has to be created oneself. And, from an outsider's perspective, it might not look like much, but sometimes the greater challenge is in the creation space.

2. Hello old habit! On the mat: As my body changes, I must regularly be reacquainted with both it and previously familiar poses. In that process old habits return: my pelvis tilts to the back, tension returns to my neck. I know these habits, we're well-acquainted, and it was through years of practice that I learned new habits. And, so, on this big spiral of life I once again bring awareness these old habits and begin my work towards new ones. Off the mat: I also find myself in emotional spaces that I am intimately familiar with as they have been with me for quite some time. Like my physical habits, I have worked to develop new ways of being, new understandings. Returning to these places can be hard, but they are the work of life.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bodies of knowledge

For me, my body has become a metaphor for the bigger picture of my life.

For awhile I was, as Seth said, boobs and a beer belly: a period of transition. And, for now, I've felt that my life was in a similar transitional space. I've been moving forward on my path, making my practices a priority, and waiting. Waiting for something to appear because I knew that where I was was not where I would end up, but not sure of anything other than that.

In the past few weeks, it has become much more clear that the cause of my belly is not beer, but rather a baby. And, during that period, I have had some insights, some flashes of clarity. It's as if the baby and I are coming in to being together: growing, solidifying, becoming stronger.

I can't wait to meet both of us.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Moon wisdom

Yesterday my tea bag told me that wisdom becomes knowledge through personal experience.

This morning, I did my first downward facing dog in a week and a half, and as my legs and arms straightened something was different, really different. There was a weight in my belly that was new in this position; it was a new position.

Tonight, under the clear sky with the moon and stars shining down I think about the wisdom of the moon, my grandmothers, my mother, and the generations of women who have come before me. And, sitting out under that moonlight ask and hope that some of their wisdom can become knowledge for me.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Growing Belly, Growing Heart

It seems to me that as my belly is growing bigger, so is my heart. It is both opening and growing. Today at the grocery store, I stopped and looked at a Valentine's day display. I mean I really looked at it: I think I touched almost every single item that was part of the display. And, then, I thought to myself, "You know a holiday to let someone know how much you love them is a nice thing."

Those are hormones, you say. And, while I agree, there are hormones at play: I'm sure, for instance, that my weeping during commercials or during shows on network television is hormonally influenced.

However, I don't think that it is just hormones. It feels more permanent than that.

It feels as though my heart is getting ready to experience a whole new type of love.