Birth of a Mother

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I can’t pin point the moment when I became a mother. Was it on that snowy night one year ago, as my baby emerged from the depths of my body? So soft and warm. His smallness. His immensity. My gasping joy over flowing.

Partly yes, of course this was a huge turning point. A portal into a whole new world. Yet, I’m more a mother now than I was a year ago. If I arrived on the shores of motherhood that night, I’ve since walked off into the woods.

But how did my ship come to brush upon her dark beaches in the first place? When did my journey begin? What about my long voyage across open waters?

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Motherhood is not static. Her energy is alive. She will never stop evolving and changing, as I’m continually shaped by the growth of my child. But when did the flame of motherhood ignite? One year after the birth of my baby, I look back and wonder when was my birth. When did I become a mother?

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I remember lying in bed early on the morning of 2/12/15. It was blue dawn and the dog hadn’t started pacing around and wining for her food yet. It was quiet. Ben was sleeping like a hot lead brick beside me. I was drifting in and out of the fragmented world of my dreams, lying comfortably on my side, my full belly draped out in front of me. Baby was sleeping too. I put a hand on my belly, keeping my eyes closed, and said a little gratitude prayer for the new day. At the end, I squeezed in a quick and humble request for Baby to come soon! Please Great Spirit, I’m ready.

I was forty-one weeks and three days. Apparently this is the average length of gestation for new moms. Mother Nature’s way of preparing me for labor. I was ready to just get on with it. Let’s do this! I wasn’t afraid of the looming PAIN people speak of as a badge of honor, like a battle fought and won.

I did have my fear places I could fall into, but by then I’d mostly moved into a practice of surrendering to my instincts. I felt connected to my body and to Baby. We are in this together. I trusted Baby knew what to do. I trusted my body knew what to do. My job was to listen and follow along. Somewhere in the depths of my psyche I had signed a contract with my primal nature. My modern thinking and doing self had agreed to turn over control to my ancient knowing and being self. I kept saying: if I were a horse I wouldn’t be stressing….I would just listen to my body and have my baby.

I was prepared. I had been waiting, walking, bouncing, and doing everything to get Baby to come. Every day for two weeks I listened to guided imagery and gave myself acupuncture. My bag was packed and my birth plan typed up. I had started taking herbs to ripen my cervix. I had my membranes swiped by the midwife a couple days prior. I was ready.

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Smaller contractions had been coming for about a month as my body geared up. I don’t like the term “false labor.” It felt more like “warm up” contractions to me. They were very mild, period-like cramps, which ran down the bones of my legs.

The day before the birth, I awoke with strong cramping. I was almost excited, until it died down when I took a shower. So when the cramps came back again in the early morning, I was suspicious. I didn’t fully believe this would be the day.

But these cramps were different. They were much more intense, like my low back and pelvic girdle were going into a gripping charley horse. I rolled over on all fours and tried to sink into a modified child’s pose, pushing my face into the pillows and breathing out through my mouth. Little did I know this was to become my go-to position for the first half of my labor.

I got up and took a shower and decided to proceed with my day. About half way through a very delicious breakfast sandwich, the first “you’ll definitely know” contraction hit. Oh boy. I bent over the counter and moaned. Ben pounded on my low back and sacrum like we had planned. I remember thinking something along the lines of: Damn…. Ok. I can do this. And… horary! Baby is coming!! After the contraction passed, I gave Ben a high five and we hugged. We both felt a rush of excitement.

I remember the day I told him I was pregnant. The way the words came out of my mouth in slow motion. The look of bewilderment on his face. His choked up silence. The long walk we took in the park. Lying in the grass and feeling the whole world spinning around. Having the sense that nothing would be the same again.

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I remember the night I sat in my car on the phone as we teased out all the mixed emotions. How I was certain I wanted to keep the baby. A fierce, protective wild animal churning inside of me. I wasn’t going to lose another chance. Not again. Not this time.

I had asked for this blessing five months prior, during an ayahuasca ceremony on the winter solstice of 2014. Mother Ayahuasca heard the longing of my heart song. Baby’s spirit had been hanging close watching and waiting for everything to fall into position.

I remember the peace that washed over me when I first saw the positive pregnancy test. And the tickle of inspiration and pride. My little secret. The affirmation my intuition had been right. The pinch I’d felt deep inside and the implantation spotting that came about a week after that really great date. And my boobs had been acting particularly pmsy. Something had been going on, and now I knew. I had confirmation.

And for a few days I wore the soft cloth of motherhood close to my skin, like a beautiful under garment. No one could see it but me. And I started talking to Baby. All the time, under my breath.

Hello my love. Thank you for coming. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for choosing Ben and bringing us together. I love you so much. And I’m so scared to lose you. Please, please stay. I promise I will take care of you and never stop loving you. 

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And one year later, on a bright frozen morning, I talked to Baby again. Here we go! You and me Baby! I can’t wait to meet you and kiss you and hold your tiny body in my arms. You are coming! The world is waiting for you!

The anticipation swelled in waves as my contractions started to synch up. For the rest of the morning they came every five to ten minutes. We got in a groove. Our system dialed in. I sat on the birth ball, gently swirling my hips and bouncing as my mom told me stories and tried to distract me. When another contraction came, I would “assume the position” and Ben and my mom would take turns drumming on my sacrum, giggling that Baby down. Come on baby! I would moan and shake my head back and forth like a wild beast in trance, keeping my lips and jaw loose. I didn’t question this urge or try to resist it. It was what my body wanted to do. And it helped! After all, I was supposed to be acting like a horse right?

My sense of time was starting to slow down and warp. As the minutes clicked by, I found myself being drawn into an altered state. Some of the day has disappeared from my memory. And other moments are as clear as crystal.

At some point we called our doula, Angie, and all ended up sitting in the bedroom, staring at each other, smiling and trying to make small talk. Angie did a marvelous job of helping us to slow down. The waiting around was just part of it, she reassured us. Baby wouldn’t be rushed. She suggested we try to take a nap and rest.

Ben and I lied down, spooning, as she guided me through another contraction. I felt my body shift away from the previous pattern of shaking and pounding. I started to imagine myself melting into the contractions, letting my body become heavy and loose. Eventually we both fell asleep, Ben’s arm draped over my waist, holding Baby gently. I remember the warmth of his body along my back. His presence.

Not knowing how much I would need him in the coming days and weeks. Not knowing how real things would get between us. How having a baby together would launch us into a whole new level of partnership. How that would be hard. How we would struggle to adjust. Question our identities. Question our ability to be parents. To be lovers. Fight with each other over stupid shit. Resent each other for wanting to sleep more. Resent each other for going out with friends or work or anywhere. Feeling like it was breaking us down and changing us.

Not knowing there would be a day when I would call him to come home early because I couldn’t deal with the crying. I was huddled in a corner on the kitchen floor, hating myself for being the worse mother ever. Not knowing the hug he would give me, and the way I would hold onto him, feeling his unwavering love, would be all that I needed. We are in this together.

And as we lied in bed, the contractions rolling through me, he held me close. When we woke up, I remember standing in the doorway to the bathroom hugging and swaying. Tears in his eyes. We’re going to be parents! He wore a huge smile and raised his eyebrows to add a holy shit expression. Holy shit was right.

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After our nap, I wanted to get back into labor because my contractions had slowed down. I turned on some music and started dancing, moving my hips in circles, pretending to hula hoop. It felt really good to move my body. When the contractions came on, I sat on the birth ball and tried to breath and sink into the ground. The dancing worked like a charm and it wasn’t long before I was sitting on the ball full time, the contractions coming faster.

I started diving inward, sinking towards some deep dark hidden place far beneath the surface. My eyes were closed. I needed to focus. I began to visualize myself pulling a rope to open a large red stage curtain. As I breathed out long exhales the curtain opened. I could feel the weight of it in my body. Inch by inch it parted. I could hear Angie’s voice in the background, somehow far away, telling me I was doing great. Time seemed to stretch out.

Then suddenly I felt a deep release of tension followed by a drop of fullness into my pelvic floor. Oh! That was something! I asked Angie for a contraction timer update. She said I had been at every three minutes for over an hour, and we could go to the birth center any time. My intuition was telling me it was show time Baby!

It was dark and crispy outside. I remember how the snowflakes sparkled under the street lamp as they fell. I can still hear my footsteps crunching as I walked to the car, step by step.

The ride to the birth center was all a blur. My eyes were closed the whole time and Angie’s voice was gently guiding me to breathe. I’m pretty sure I was in transition and tripping out pretty heavy on hormones.

We got there in five minutes. It was warm and dimly lit inside of the birthing room. We listened to baby’s heart rate and I got into the birth tub. OH YA. That’s nice. I loved being in the tub. We tried to use nitrous oxide, but I was just too far along for it to make much of a difference. I had two contractions in the tub and then went straight into pushing.

And side note, “pushing” isn’t really the word I would use to describe the sensation. It’s more like my whole body could do nothing else but force Baby out. There was no resisting. That only made it worse and slowed things down. There were a few times I tried to brace against the pushing contractions, my breath getting caught in my chest, my fingers digging into Ben’s arms, the pressure building in my temples and eyes. At one point I yelled FUCK three times in a row, which felt productive.

The midwives kept telling me how awesome I was doing and reminded me to breathe and drop into the sensations. I purposefully relaxed all my facial muscles and started to moan with an open throat like a Tibetan throat singer. As low as I could go.

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The midwives invited me to check and see if I could feel Baby’s head. I reached down and sure enough, there he was. Right there! So close! Only a couple more pushes.  

I could feel the burning when he crowned. Instinctively I reached my hand down to put pressure against him, and as soon as I did he came sliding out into the warm water of the tub, several gentle hands guiding him up to my chest for his first breath.

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My baby! My baby! So soft and warm. With a fat little smushy face. I felt my heart expanding in all directions. Welcome to the world! My love!

My baby. He, who began as a longing plea on the darkest winter night of the year. I remembered the rush of tingling that washed up the insides of my legs as I laid in the pitch black room as the medicine did it’s work. The shaman stood over me singing a song to the stars, the moon, the sun, and the earth. We are all family.

I had just made my wish, my prayer to Mother Ayahausca, when the wave began. I felt a powerful moving sensation rising up my whole body, up the bones of my legs, and settling deep in my core. My womb. I’ve come to understand this experience as the energetic conception. It was only a matter of time before the material world would catch up. And that it did. Here he was to hold in my arms.

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My real living and breathing baby. Rohan Jai Miles. My little man who would give me so many smiles and make me laugh with delight, as if I were a child again. My buddy who would fall asleep in my arms as I sang old lullabies my mom sang to me, so floppy and innocent. My sweet boy who would be my dancing partner in the evenings before dinner. And my peek-a-boo companion in the mornings over breakfast. I was so curious to learn about him. Instantaneously love-struck like never before.

And as I watched him make his first crawl to my breast and latch on like a little pink monkey, my heart was humbled by the paradox of life. The openness I felt in those first few moments was nothing short of Divine. It was as if the bandwidth of my consciousness expanded to include frequencies that could only be felt on this side of the portal. I felt the golden thread of my being that is tided to all mothers throughout time. We, the keepers of life.

And as Ben and I sat together in a soothing herbal bath, washing Rohan for the first time, I wondered if the spark of motherhood was lit when I made my humble plea on the darkest of nights two years ago. Lying beneath the buffalo skull, gazing into the blackness, yearning, making a promise, signing my soul’s signature on the dotted line in the reddest blood. And so it is.

Perhaps it was the ache in my heart that longed to be filled with love. Maybe this was when I was born into motherhood. Or maybe it was even before that…

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I can’t pin point the exact moment, because I don’t feel there was a single moment. Mother Nature is always in the flux of birthing and dying. As the old places inside of me died away, new spaces opened up. New life could begin growing down deep.

And still more space will be needed as time passes. Motherhood requires me to keep pruning back the old, dead parts of my spirit, to keep making room for love to flood in. It feels open and vulnerable. Naked and awkward. Sometimes terrifying. It requires me to look in the mirror, and look back into my past. I’ve never felt so responsible and aware of my baggage as I do now.

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But one year out, I am starting to find my stride. The early days were sacred and tender…and bumpy. Full with awe… and doubt… and low-grade, non-stop chaos. I had my moments when I wanted to run away and be young and free again. When I wanted to party like I didn’t have someone waiting for me at home. When I wanted adult-only time. I still have these moments.

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Lately however, there have been more moments when I feel rooted in something bigger than myself. I feel the string of life that runs through the generations. I feel my smallness, and my immensity. My mortality. I feel how fragile and delicate we are…. but also how resilient and tenacious life is. I am aware of a very ancient energy unfolding from the depths of my bones. It’s powerful, carnal, mysterious, regenerative, very silly and playful, and capable of the purest, fiercest kind of love.

I feel sensual, connected to all of life, and utterly of the earth. I walk with a rooted sense of purpose and soak in gratitude like fresh rain. And with my baby wrapped next to my heart, I wade through my murky fears, feeling his warmth lighting the way, holding onto hope for the future…his future. And nothing can stop me now. I am a mother.

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Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.

~Native American Proverb

 

 

 

A healer’s quest for connection

The journey is the reward. ~Chinese Proverb

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Lately I’ve had multiple people ask me the questions: Why are you in this profession? How did you get here?

It seems to be coming up a lot in conversation. And when the same thing comes up over and over I take notice. My synchronicity antennas are always on high alert.

Perhaps the gods want me to bring my story out into the world more deliberately? Maybe some part of me wants more clarity on the why and how of it? I’m not totally certain, but I have a suspicion that it is less about how or why I got where I am, and more about who I am in my core.

But before we walk backwards down the path, I’ll give you a short answer to the questions above. For me, it’s always been a quest for connection. Connection to the natural world, connection to myself, and ultimately connection to one another.

And as simple as that may sound, the journey has been a long winding road of healing myself from a subtle, but profound, disconnection that spans back beyond my life into the history of my family and the collective consciousness of our modern society. But for now, let me begin where I always begin, with my mother, to whom I feel so much eternal connection.

CONNECTION TO THE NATURAL WORLD

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. ~Albert Einstein

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My mother raised me in her garden. From as far back as I can remember I was climbing trees, digging in the dirt for earthworms, and searching for fairies among the flower blooms.

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My mother was the first to teach me about connection. In particular, connection to the earth. Her garden was (and still is) her church, and she gently weaved the sacred gospel of the natural world into the way she mothered. It never felt forced… unless she was making me take a nasty homemade echinacea tincture when I was coming down with a cold. My first taste of herbal medicine had a kick but did the trick.

My mother’s garden continues to be her place of respite. It is her way of rooting down into something bigger than herself. It feeds her heart as much as it feeds her body. And I can’t unlearn this teaching. I can’t unfeel the vibrations coming up from the ground and radiating out through the branches of the giant hardwoods.

These ancient sensations echoed in my bones and eventually led me to pursue a biology degree in my undergraduate studies. I wanted to know more about this Force that animates all life.

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Come to find out, the Greek word bíos, meaning life, isn’t so different from the Sanskrit word prana, meaning life force, which enters through the breath and is pumped through the heart to the whole body. Similarly, the Chinese word, qi, can literally be translated as air or gas and is often expanded to mean breath or vital energy. They all mean the same thing. And this was the first big clue on my path.

I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive. ~Joseph Campbell

Aligning myself with cycles of Mother Nature allowed me to feel a connection that ran deep in my veins. It was the stream of life. And it has become a huge part of my philosophy of healing.

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I began to see myself as existing within the web of life, and therefore influenced by the same forces as the natural world. I saw how my internal world was a reflection of my external world, and vice versa. A two-way mirror.

And this was the next lesson I learned about connection. Again, I credit my mother for pointing me in the right direction.

CONNECTION TO MYSELF

“Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.” ~Virginia Woolf

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When I was twelve my mom took me to the local branch of the Maharishi School of Transcendental Meditation (TM). She had been a long time meditator, since back in the hippy days, and found it was another way for her to heal. She wanted to share this wisdom with me.

I’m so grateful she did. Learning to meditate at such a young age was a major turning point for me. And as I watched my mom meditate twice a day everyday, along with her yoga practice on the mat, I saw what it did for her. I felt how she was able to be more present and loving with me, and everyone around her. Not that I’ve practiced as diligently as she has over the years, but the foundation was laid and my skills unfolded in spurts and stops throughout my teen years and into my wild twenties.

Get out of your head. Think less, feel more. ~Osho

The concept of how my internal reality effects my whole being, and the way I perceive and respond to the external world, set me on a course I didn’t even see until many years later. It was my first direct exposure to the idea of prana (or qi) and how I could move and manipulate my energy through breath awareness and reconditioning the patterns of my monkey mind. This was my second big clue.

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Since then, I’ve become a bit of a collector of meditation and mind-body techniques and practices. And I’m still exploring and adding to my repertoire….and discovering over and over that it doesn’t matter what technique I do (be it TM, Zen, Metta, MBSR, Guided Imagery, EFT, Qi Gong, Thai Chi, Yoga, Tsalagi, Kirtan), the point is – they are all a practice of slowing down the mind, opening up the heart, and connecting into the body.

They all work. They all are a means to knowing my Self and feeling the stream of life surging through my Being, so I may ultimately feel the invisible threads connecting all of us together in the Great Web.

CONNECTION TO ONE ANOTHER

“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”~Carl Sagan

When I feel into these threads that connect us, I’m tempted use this section to discuss my own experience with health issues as a means to relate, but I’m going to refrain from writing about them publicly and leave these stories for one-on-one conversations.

However, it is not uncommon for people in the healing professions to share a story about a health crisis and the personal transformation that comes from it. There is even an archetype for this: the Wounded Healer. And while I identify greatly with the Wounded Healer, I don’t want to use the specific details of my personal health struggles as a way to proclaim cred. Because no individual can walk in someone else’s shoes, but the truth is – we have all “been there” in our own way.  Suffering is universal.

So, much like you, I’ve felt disillusioned with my physical body as it’s failed my expectations in one way or another. I’ve felt fear. I’ve felt shame. I’ve felt fractured and broken on the inside. I’ve struggled with all the human emotions, up and down the spectrum, because I am just that -human.

DSCN4252Yet the most painful thing I’ve experienced, and continue to experience in my darker moments, is that subtle, but profound, disconnection I mentioned in the beginning. It is the illusion I am alone in this world. And as much as my mother tried to protect me from this despair, the wound runs deep. It runs back through the ages like a schism through the hearts of my ancestors, to a time when we, as a people, forgot the truth that we are all in this together.

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Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. ~Khalil Gibran

But before we can honor our togetherness, we must be able to reconnect. We must be able to repair what’s been broken. Sew up the tears. Glue the pieces back in place. And remember our wholeness.

This is the path I’ve chosen to walk.  And the clues are everywhere.

They are in my baby’s cry when he falls and bumps his head. They live in the silence between my partner’s words when he’s feeling vulnerable. They are the flash of tears in the eyes of a patient as their true essence tries to find room to expand into fullness. And they are the rare moments when my mother doesn’t have the wise words I’m seeking…. When there are more questions than answers.

They are the opportunities for me to show up, for me to connect. For me to reconnect. Fully, with my whole Self.

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And it is here that the question of who am I comes forth.

In this work, and in this life, who am I…. and who am I becoming?

Lately a new understanding of my purpose with my work in this world has become clearer. And it’s all about connection. It’s about relationship.

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We are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but by the love we’re not extending in the present. ~Marianne Williamson

To me, it begins with feeling the connection to the natural world, the cycle of life, and the forces that shape me. This is the foundation. From there I am able to shift my perspective, connect into my internal world, and feel the next layer of my Being unfolding. The final step is showing up and reaching out. It is the recognition that I am not separate from nature, not separate among the different places within me (body, mind, heart, spirit), and not separate from you. We are still all in this together. And together we are whole.

76794_484109717368_1486936_nAnd this is where the true healing potential unlocks and we are able to access a wellspring of life force flowing between and within us. As I heal myself, I heal you. As you heal, I heal. When my heart is open, your heart opens, and we swim together in the current of the stream like a school of fish.

Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. ~Pema Chodron

Together we peel back the layers of the proverbial onion and sink deeper toward the core of our shared experience, our shared understanding of what it means to be human, of what it means to be alive.

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This is why I do what I do. This is how I’ve come to be where I’m standing…. or where I’m swimming. This is who I am, and who we are becoming together.

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And while I laid this story out in a loose chronological fashion, it is not linear. The stream of life is a circle, and like all thing cyclical I will go around and around again on this quest for connection. Each time I will come back to finding myself within the singing reeds standing tall along the sandy banks, within the rising breaths keeping me afloat, and within your open arms holding tight to this beautiful life we share.

This is my story. My journey as a healer. My quest for connection.

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The Stream of Life

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves
of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death,
in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood
this moment.

~ Rabindranath Tagore