Motherhood Slapped Me in the Face

slapMotherhood slapped me in the face.  What I expected to be really good at, instead leveled me to the ground, in a fetal position, sobbing.  I was supposed to be the expert.

By the time I gave birth to my son, I had seen over 150 babies born.  I am a doula:  which is a Greek word meaning one who will clean up your puke while you’re having a baby, and love every minute of it.  I am the crazy birth lady. I can be with a wild laboring woman as she screams, “I think the baby’s coming out my butt!” like I’m having tea on a Sunday afternoon.

I’m the pregnant woman’s BFF.  I opened a yoga studio just for moms and I created my own childbirth education program.  I stand by women’s sides as they give birth.  I swaddle up their newborns, and say to them proudly “Welcome to Motherhood.”

I did all of that for ten years before I became a mother.

Each time I witnessed a woman stepping into motherhood, I’d think- Someday that will be me.  Someday I will walk across those coals, and everything I’ve learned will pay off.  Me and my babies (tons of them) will thrive because of my years of becoming an expert.

So you can imagine my shock when motherhood slapped me in the face.

In pregnancy, instead of barefoot and blissed-out, I was needy and neurotic.  When labor came, I felt terror.   Here I stood, the expert who should’ve known better.    I could describe cervical dilation in many different metaphors:  A flower opening, a cashmere turtleneck slipping over the babies head, sucking on a lifesaver till it melts away.  I had spent many hours demonstrating how a ripe cervix is like your cheek and an unripe cervix is like your nose.  (I know you want to try that now, it’s okay, you can)  But all my expertise was doing nothing for my stubborn, first-time-mama cervix.  I could describe labor, but I couldn’t do it.

The first day of labor, I chanted, meditated, hugged a few trees.  I felt so proud of myself, thinking “I knew I’d be good at this!” The next day was Mother’s Day.  Of course, I would give birth on Mother’s day!  I paged my midwife, knowing she’d rush right over, and catch my baby as the sun set over the flatirons.

Her voice was distant on the phone line:  “tell me what exactly you’re calling contractions?”

My heart sank.  We talked about my “labor” in quotes now, and I felt like a big fat newbie.  I was physically and emotionally drained, and I was only at the beginning.  I’d been dancing all around base camp like a moron, wearing myself out before the actual climb began.  And I’d told women the exact same things she was telling me!  “Have a glass of wine, take a bath, sleep is so important.”   I wanted to throw the phone into the birth tub. I wasn’t having a baby by sunset, I wasn’t even having a baby that weekend.

I spent a few hours resting, and then the next 36 hours grunting and clawing my way towards motherhood.  I was in the tub, out of the tub, scaring my neighbors, scaring myself, and dropping choice phrases like ‘Jiminy Crimminy”  and the occasional F-bomb.

After the birth, I felt a deep triumph, but I also felt trauma and betrayal. To add a little salt to my wounded pride, my baby girl- we didn’t check, but I was about 80% right in guessing the gender of my client’s babies, so I just knew she was a girl- until she came out with a penis.  She- was no she.  And I- was no expert.

If birth was a slap in the face, new motherhood was a knock out.  My career and expectations stood over me waving their fist, as I lay on the floor- in a fog of depression and anxiety.

My husband would ask me questions like “when should his umbilical cord fall off?” or “why do you think he’s crying so much?”  And I would stare at him wildly, and say, “I don’t know!  I’ve never had a baby before!”  I knew how to reassure mothers, but I had no idea it would rip out my heart every time my baby cried.

I didn’t know who to ask for help.  If I was struggling, I would lose street cred.  When my husband gently suggested that I call a therapist, I felt like a failure.   So I just muscled through each day.  I’d show up for my students, with all the answers, and I’d go back home and sink into my sea of self–doubt.

One afternoon a man, looking like Fabio, pulled up in front of my yoga studio on a Harley.  I had my diaper bag in one hand, and my six-month-old in his car seat in the other. I wanted to drop both, hop on the back of that hog, and whisper into Fabio’s scruffy cheek:  “Take me away, take me far away from here.”

But I stayed.  Even though, I felt that motherhood might be killing me slowly, shaving years off my life with every 4 am feed- I wasn’t going anywhere.  I was completely in love with this baby.

And I did get better.  By the time my son turned two, I was back.  My sense of humor, delight in life.  And I could actually smile when someone told me they were pregnant with their second child.   One January morning, I told my son to go wake up daddy and tell him we were having another baby!  As he ran out of the bathroom, my knees buckled.  Didn’t I learn my lesson the first time?

I started to prepare, for a hurricane, more than for a baby.   I didn’t want cute fuzzy booties. I wanted sandbags of support.  I hired postpartum doulas (2 of them), midwives (3 or them), birth doulas (four of them- because clearly you can never have too many doulas).  I hired a massage therapist, a hypnotherapist, a psychotherapist, and a psychiatrist, just in case.  I was going to be ready this time, when this freaking baby arrived.

I expected to fail, and I had support in place to hold me up as I did.

If my first birth was a slap, my second was a cool cloth, easing the sting.  I gave birth not from a place of knowing, but from the deepest surrender I had ever known.  In six hours of easy labor, on international peace day, my baby girl swam into my arms, surrounded by a powerful circle of love.  Outside, in the warm autumn sunset, neighborhood kids wrote out in chalk, Welcome Baby.

With surrender and support, I’m starting to feel the sweetness of being a mother. I know my second is only seven months old, and it’s a tight rope I’m walking, a balance of yoga, self-care, and therapy. And I certainly have days that I fall off the rope.

But I know this now:  that being an expert is baloney.  As a mother, I’m always going to be a beginner, as my children change and grow.   And I know I need help.  From maybe not just one, but two or three villages.

And still I am grateful for the opportunity to constantly be learning.  Forever blessed that these two sweet souls picked me as their mother, and I said yes.

I remember meeting a guru back in my pre-motherhood days.   My friend said, just approach him with the humility of a child.  I walked up and said proudly, “I know nothing.” He smacked me across the face.  Twice.  After the second slap, I got it.  He was calling my lie. I said I knew nothing, but I thought I knew everything.  “Do you know that hurt?” he said to me with kind eyes. “Yes,” I said, truly speechless.  “Okay,” he nodded, “start there.”

So maybe that slap of my initiation into motherhood, was more like the hand of a loving guru saying:  You don’t need to know what you are doing.  That’s not what motherhood is about.   Start with how much you love this baby.  That’s all your baby needs.  Just love.  Nothing more.  Stop trying to do it right, you just might miss it.  All the books in the world mean nothing when you look into the eyes of your newborn child.  Forget your expertise, and remember that every mother begins on day one.

And being a mother is a whole lot more powerful than being an expert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hurricane of Grace

ImageI had a dream I was preparing for a hurricane.   It was named Hurricane Ona. I was on a mountain face, with only a small jacket that could be made into a tent.  There were a few other people near me, and we were all just waiting. As the hurricane approached, I was surprisingly calm.  When it got close enough to see, I could see in the center of the hurricane a tiny baby.  (I know, my subconscious is a little obvious)   In the morning I looked up the name Ona and it was a girl’s name meaning Grace.   A hurricane of Grace is coming my way, in a very short time, in the form of a little baby girl.

The first time I was pregnant, even with everything I knew as a doula, I had no idea what I was getting into.  I was surprised by how hard labor was.  But when it came to postpartum, I was downright shocked at the reality of taking care of a baby day in and day out.  It was exhausting, upsetting, un-nerving and never-ending.  I just couldn’t fathom that all my clients and students had gone through this as well.

This time around, we are preparing in a totally different way: Less excitement, more hyper-vigilant planning and preparation.  Less folding onesies, more meeting with a team of people to support me on every level: Biologically, psychologically, and socially.   Less fantasy, more reality.

Last time, I was planning to have a postpartum doula for one or two visits.  This time she will be with us 2 or 3 times a week for two months.  Last time I had a loose list of folks who had offered to bring a meal. This time the care calendar is already in place, and the meals started coming in last week, two weeks before my due date.  Last time I was stubborn about facing and treating the low-grade postpartum depression that I suffered with for almost two years.  This time I’m seeing a therapist and psychiatrist before she’s even here.  Last time I was the only one to feed my son at night, and I didn’t stop night nursing until a year and a half.  This time I’ve got Grandma Baba and Daddy lined up to help feed her so I can get some sleep.  And although in some ways it feels less ‘magical’ and a lot more ‘practical,’ I am confident this kind of preparation and low expectations could actually create a more positive postpartum experience.

Through my process the first time, I became even more passionate about serving mamas beyond pregnancy, beyond the grand climax of birth, and into that postpartum year.  (yes, it’s at least a year)  Now at Yo Mama, we have Milk club twice a week, Mommy and Me yoga almost every day, Family yoga, workshops and support groups for mamas (coming soon).  We are mom’s second home after baby arrives, a place where you can show up with spit up on your pants, breastmilk all over your shirt, tears in your eyes, and receive nothing but love.  I love my mommy and me yoga class, where all the moms realize that they are not the only ones feeling crazy in the juggling act of taking care of a newborn.

And  this time, I am giving myself that same room.  To not be perfect.  To not hold it all together.  .   To not have all the answers, all the theories, to read the right books that are going to make me a perfect mom.  To accept the divine imperfection of motherhood, and know that I am enough.  To take in all the lessons that this little girl has for me. To allow others to hold me, as I hold this baby, this postpartum period, this hurricane of grace and grit.

The next time I write to you all, I may have a baby in my arms, and I look forward to continuing to share this journey with you

Beyond Hee-Hee Hoo-Hoo: Choosing the Right Childbirth Class

Two generations ago, if you’d asked women what childbirth education was, they would have looked at you blank faced.   One generation ago, they would have started doing the ‘hee-hee hoo-hoo’ breath of Lamaze.  (this seems to be the only coping tool that Hollywood knows about, as every movie and tv show shows mamas panting like dogs as they give birth)  Through great leaders like Lamaze and Bradley, families began to look at birth as something you could get prepared for, with tools to help!

Now families have so many choices, it can be hard to slog through all of the different options, and feel confident that you are making the right choice.  As with all of the decisions that you will make for your child, it’s important to make an informed choice, gathering as much information as possible, and finding the right choice for you.  Families that begin making decisions this way in pregnancy find it easier to make the tougher decisions like vaccines, and where to send your child to preschool (believe me, these decisions are closer than they sound!)

And forget the images you might have about childbirth education.  No longer a passive lecture lead by a woman with a tight bun and stirrup pants, your class will most likely be dynamic and fun.  Hopefully, it will be one of the best memories you have about preparing for baby!

When selecting a childbirth class, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind.

1.    What kind of tools do you want to learn?

From the ‘hee-hee hoo-hoo’ breathing of Lamaze, we’ve come a long way.   Childbirth classes of today may have hypnosis, yogic breathing, visualization, birth art, massage, birth positioning, videos, hands-on-practice and more!

If you know that a certain tool is something you might respond well to, seek out a class with that tool.  If you want a broad class with a ton of information for both you and your partner, and time is not an issue, a Bradley class might fit you well.  If you want to dive into your creative side, you might love Birthing from Within.  If you want to really harness the power of your mind, a Hypnosis based class like Hypnobabies or Blissborn might be perfect for you.

It can be hard to know what you will need in labor, so it’s nice to find a class with multiple tools, so you’re covered no matter what labor brings you!  Our signature Inspired Birth Classes cover the best of Bradley, Birthing from Within, and has a customized hypnosis program.

2.    Where do you want to take your classes?

There are classes offered in and out of the hospital setting. There are a few advantages to taking a class in the setting you will be birthing in, like getting used to the space.  However, hospital classes are often limited in what they can share, and focused more on making you a great patient, familiar with their protocols, and all the possible detours that can happen in birth.

Taking a class out of the hospital will ensure that the teacher can tell you everything, including things that might not make you the best ‘patient’ but will give you the most empowered birth. (like the fact that you can lock the bathroom door to create privacy, or ask for things like delayed cord clamping and no IV)

3.    When do you want to take a class?

As far as timing, some mamas start their classes as early as 24 weeks and others start as late as 35.  (which is a little tight) Many classes run for 4-6 week sessions over a six week time period, although a few (like Bradley) are 12 weeks. I would say the best thing to think about for timing is when you’ll be really to dedicate time to getting ready to give birth. You’ll usually have some ‘homeplay’ between classes, so having some time outside of the weekly class is helpful.  Taking the class later in your pregnancy, some advantages are a ‘freshness’ to the information. However, the later in pregnancy, the less practice time you have after class is over, and the more uncomfortable your body feels in class.

4.    What kind of experience do you want?

There are very ‘nuts and bolts’ classes, and even one-day workshops that will walk you through the basics of childbirth, and the possible interventions.

Then there are classes that have a more spiritual side, coming from a deeper place, encouraging connection with your partner, and focusing on birth as a journey, and bringing you closer to your partner and birth team along the way.

Some classes even offer a home study course, although I recommend going to a class, for the community, and hands on practice.

At Yo Mama, I am thrilled with the quality of classes that we offer.  I truly feel we have the best of the Childbirth class offerings.  We offer Bradley classes with Judith Nowlin, Hypnobabies with Cassie Friesen, Blissborn with Kimberly Love, and coming this fall: Birthing from Within with Rebecca Chenowith!  And we continue to have packed classes in our Inspired birth series, created by me, and co-taught with Maria Gonzalves Schimpf.

I created my Inspired Birth series after getting frustrated with the options out there.  (9 years ago).  I (being the birth addict that I am) used to go with my doula clients to their classes if they were taking a class that was new to me.  I sat through probably 25 different classes, trying to decide which method was ‘best.” Some methods had great fun exercises, but lacked the grounded information.  Others had tons of information, but presented in a fear-based philosophy.  I also watched as mamas would go into labor how sometimes their class would fit perfectly the kind of birth they had, but other times, their birth wouldn’t quite fit the skill set they had prepared for.  It’s hard to know what you are going to need, since birth unfolds so differently for different folks.

So, I ended up creating my own.  Inspired birth has a very unique set of coping tools:  Hypnosis, Birthing From Within, some from Bradley, Massage (for partners to learn), Labor positioning, etc.  The hypnosis program I designed to supplement the weekly classes and support the breathing techniques and tools from class, as well as offer you great coping tools in labor.  The program also includes a ‘hypno-doula’ track that families can use during labor, having my voice cue you surge by surge through your laboring process.   I love hearing women say “Your voice lead me through labor all night!”  and I was at home sleeping. 🙂

Couples also find it a great time to connect and get ready for baby.  And the overall philosophy of class is affirming birth as a natural, normal, and sacred event, in any setting.  I would say the class is geared towards natural birth, but with plenty of wiggle room and space for other choices.

The partners usually like the down to earth humor and gentle approach to preparing for childbirth.  One dad said “I had no idea I would laugh so much getting ready to have a baby!” I have seen hundreds of couples move from a place of fear to a place of excitement and adventure getting ready for their birth.  And I really love the community that is created in class.  Some of the classes have continued to meet weekly for a long time after class is over.  Some of the moms have ended up creating moms groups to connect as their baby grows.

Here is the webpage link, with the upcoming classes: http://www.yomamaboulder.com/inspired-birth/

I can never decide which part of my job is my ‘favorite.’  When I’m teaching yoga, I think that’s my favorite, and when I’m at a birth, I think ‘being a doula is my favorite.”  but I truly love teaching childbirth classes.  It seems to bring all the aspects of my past career as a comedian, my deep passion for birth, and my desire to share all that I have learned and continue to learn as a doula to give folks the most inspired, empowering birth possible.

And here’s what Jen, who just graduated from class had to say:

Inspired birth offers a variety of techniques (hypnosis, breathwork, visualization, hands-on support) for helping your labor be as smooth and comfortable as possible – in other words, you don’t have to want to have a natural birth to take the class, although the class is designed to support you in that process. It does a really good job of creating a strong connection between you and your partner around the birth/labor/postpartum process and supporting you and your partner in becoming the best team possible. The contagious energy of the facilitators and their love and passion for the birthing/laboring process create such excitement around an event that can easily be viewed as scary.
If you have questions about which class might be best for you, please feel free to contact me for a chat!

All the best,

Katie

I will Survive (thoughts on survivors giving birth)

 

 

note: This post was originally published by the Mother’s Advocate Blog.

 

There is a club that no one wants to join. Yet, more than half of all women will join this club at some point in their lives. There is no mark, no mascot, and no handshake. In fact, you could be standing next to another member and never know it. But every once in a while, in the right setting, a woman tells another woman her story. And then there is the knowing moment, the held eye contact, the smile to say, “I know, I’m a member too.” The members of this club are sexual abuse survivors. Every member’s story is different, but one thing is the same. You cannot turn in this membership card. This story is now part of your life.

Somewhere along the way, survivors miraculously open their hearts (and bodies) again —to love, to partnership, and sometimes to pregnancy. For many sexual abuse survivors, preparing to give birth is a moment of truth. Their healing is about to be put to the test. A full-grown newborn baby is going to come through their body, through their pelvis, and through their most sacred places, to make its way into the world. This shy, sexual place — with all its hurts, secrets and stories — is about to be turned inside out, opened to a profound, chosen violation. I use the word violation here for a reason. Our baby is not truly “violating” us, but I can think of few things in life that provide such an intense opening, tearing, out of control feeling as birth. And for members of the club, birth can easily trigger the feeling of violation.

I am a member of this club.

My story is unimportant here — better than some, worse than others — a story of being manipulated, being controlled, and having my body used by someone else without my permission. By the time I was pregnant, I felt I had done my due diligence on my story. I had packaged it up in some deep closet of my being — safe, sound, sleeping. I had supported other survivors giving birth as a doula, and knew all about the questions to ask them. I would make sure they had talked to their partner, their care provider, and anyone else who would be at the birth. I helped them identify potential triggers, and ways to cope if things came up. I, however, had done none of this for myself. During my own pregnancy, my story seemed far from my mind.

I did notice, however, that I was preoccupied with avoiding a cesarean birth. Having seen 130 births before having my own, I knew this was common. Most women feel strongly about avoiding a cesarean. I also knew this fear could be a barrier in my birth process. With a keen guide and the powerful tool of art therapy, I was able to dive deeper. Near the end of a session one day, we decided to tackle my fear of cesarean birth. Having supported other women, I knew the play-by-play and setting exactly. I carefully drew the details: the blue sterile drape, the medical instruments, my arms strapped to the table with restraints, doctors in masks. My therapist then gently pressed me to look closely.

“What about this image is the most scary for you?”

And there it was … the restraints. More than the incision, more than the blood, the anesthesia, the scalpel — it was the restraints. And like a time traveler, I was thrown back to another time and place — my wrists bound, my scared naked body, and the eyes of my perpetrator looking cold and devious. A flood of tears erupted, and suddenly I remembered: I was a survivor.

I needed to treat myself as I would my clients — with care, gentleness and awareness. In that moment, I was waking up to what it meant to be a survivor giving birth. This was a time for opening to the softness, the feminine, the mystery, and the hurt inside of my core as a woman. Needless to say, our session went a little over. When the tears subsided, we returned to the art, to the image — adding light, adding God, taking the masks off the doctors, and giving them humanity. Taking one hand out of the restraints, and adding last, but not least, the miracle of the day — the baby. My baby.

As I walked home that day, I knew that I was healing. By looking the dragon in the face, I felt my whole being soften. I knew I would no longer need a cesarean birth, or any other specific birth outcome to teach me something. Nor would my fears cause my body to shut down. And I knew if a cesarean birth was what my baby truly needed, that I could meet it with grace and consciousness.

I also knew I had a lot of work to do.

I needed to talk to my care providers and my husband about my past, and more specifically about how it might affect my present. Perhaps the most important thing we can do as survivors preparing to give birth is to tell our story. Working with a midwife or a very compassionate doctor who will take the time to listen is especially important for survivors. You may choose to have your partner join you for the conversation and focus on the facts: “I’d like you to know this about me. You don’t have to fix anything, but here are some things that I need you to do. Tell me before you do anything physically to my body, so I can be prepared for what to expect. Avoid the following words: ‘Trust me,’ ‘relax,’ etc.” If you are closer to your care provider, you might choose to really let them into your story, to open yourself to their healing words and experience.

If there are certain words that your perpetrator used, advise everyone who will be at your birth to avoid those words. If you’d like to avoid unnecessary vaginal exams, communicate that. If you need to have one hand free from the restraints in a cesarean birth, put that in your paperwork. With preparation, compassion and communication, your birth can be a profound place of finding your voice — and speaking up for that little girl or young woman inside of you.

Next, I explored the differences between abuse and birth.

If birth could feel like a violation, how would I tell my body that this was different — that there was a purpose? I looked at the differences.

Permission: I will be choosing to allow this baby to spread my pelvic bones wide, as I welcome him into my arms.

Love: This baby was created from an act of love, as is giving birth.

Protection: The people around me, as opposed to my perpetrator, are there to protect and support me.

Power: I will give birth. I will actively work with my baby to create a miracle. Very different, indeed.

I am happy to say that when I did give birth — although it was not easy — it was not violating. And although I felt forces much bigger than me at work, I never felt out of control. In contrast to what I feared, the moment of pushing and helping my baby navigate my pelvis was the most powerful moment of the whole experience. As my baby pressed into the walls of my being, pressing impossibly wider with every push, the old story seemed to be forced right out with him. There was no room for the story of a small, voiceless victim. A new story was being written, cell by glorious cell. This part of my body was a place of power, of divine strength. This was a place where miracles happened. This was a home, the beginning of another person’s life. This small, perfect boy was remapping the way for me, showing me what femininity was all about. He was teaching me about trust. He was showing me that I could be violated, could give way, could tear in two — all in a glorious celebration of life.

Through this act of love, I deepened my healing.

After the birth, the small tear healed, the bleeding stopped, and I was new. Something had shifted — so powerfully that I knew my membership status had changed. Of course, I was still a member. I always will be. But I could feel that the shame was gone, and in its place was a desire to help others find this “reset.” I wanted to help other survivors approach their births as more than just an ordeal to manage, more than the avoidance of their triggers. I wanted to help other survivors realize that birth is an opportunity to dismantle the entire trigger itself. And as I held my perfect little man in my arms — both of us tired and weeping — I wanted to thank him, over and over again, for showing me love, for showing me my strength, and for being part of my healing.

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The Eye of the Needle

This week I had the honor of attending another birth.

What made this birth so different from the last 130 that I’ve been a doula at, was that now I have given birth myself.  For my first six years of being a doula, I was not a mother yet.  I have always stood in awe of birth, and of women and their power to give birth.  In the past, when a woman would hit that wall, the “I can’t do this!  This is crazy” kind of wall, I would speak to her with all the passion, dedication, sweetness, and encouragement I could muster.  I would tell her that this was the moment, the eye of the needle, and that although it felt impossible, she could do it.  She would do it, and she would meet her baby.  I would speak firmly and calmly telling her that although every part of her felt like it would break open, that indeed she would be made stronger by her birth, and by facing this moment of impossibility.

That was before I had felt it myself.

This time, as I looked into this woman’s eyes, as she entered “transition” as the childbirth classes call it, everything was different.  Here she was, in the middle of the strongest surges of her labor, clutching her husband’s hand, seeking a comfortable position (which is impossible to find at that time, by the way) and looking to me, “the expert”, for words of wisdom.   “This is horrible,” she said to me, matter of factly.   My voice went silent.  Instead of speaking to her with phrases like “You are a goddess” and “you can do this,” or “every contraction brings you closer to your baby,”  all I could find in my heart to say,  was… quietly “I know.”  This was a phrase I always avoided as a doula before I was a mom, myself.  I would say many other things, but I reserved that one, because truthfully I didn’t know.  Perhaps I was worried if I used that phrase,  a client would yell back “What do you know?  Nothing!”  I understood, I empathized, I had seen much of it before, I knew all about it from a witnessing perspective.  But I didn’t know.  Until now.

Now I know.

Looking at her, I was transported to my own birth, to that moment, that moment of impossibility.  The moment you realize the only way out of all these crazy “sensations” is to go into that place that hurts the most and have a baby, and that the last thing you want to do is to go into that place that hurts the most and have a baby.  It’s like you’re on the top of the craziest amusement park ride you’ve ever seen, and suddenly they’ve locked the gate behind you, and the only way out is down the ride.  And although the voices around you, your partner, your midwife, are lifelines for sure, and their hands are trying to reach out to help you, you are the only one on the ride.  Actually, you are the ride.  The ride is happening in your uterus.  And no matter where you go, the ride is coming with you.  And what seemed originally like a really great idea, now seems like a trap, closing tighter and tighter around you.

Back in real time, my client shifted her breathing, and dropped into the intensity.  I awoke from my dream, and tried to remember the things that helped me in that moment.  One of my midwive’s words came to me, “As big as this is going to get, Katie, you’re going to get bigger.  So let it get as big as it’s going to get.”  I tried to think what else I would have wanted to hear in that moment.  My voice began to return. Not with any grand claims to the power of women, and rites of passage, and It’s all worth it, but simply, truthfully.  Gently I reassured her that,

“Yes, this part sucks, but it’s temporary.”

Less than an hour later, my client, with the strength of a lion, went through the eye of the needle, and pushed her baby out into the world.  The sweetest, tiniest, most perfect little baby boy lay close on his mother’s chest, while daddy and grandma wept, and we welcomed one more impossibly perfect human into the world.

“My tailbone hurts,” she said.

“I know.” I said.

The Three Week Wall

“Peace.  It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

This week I hit the wall.

Sleep deprivation, cranky moments (both mine and those of my son), nursing, changing identity, all caught up with me in what we will now call… “black Wednesday.” I pretty much cried the entire day. Phoenix cried maybe half the day. John probably wanted to cry, but didn’t. By 7:00pm I called my midwife and got some needed advice. She said I was having a “jangly” day. Where everything was “jangling” my nerves and nervous system. What I needed was a reset.

Handing the baby to John, I made some chamomile tea and took it into the bathroom, where I ran the HOTTEST bath ever. (Now that I’m not pregnant, no more concern about temperature!) I put Lavender, Rose and Roman Chamomile essential oils in some Epsom Salts and poured those in. I put on a Classical Piano CD, and I lit a candle. Still crying, I dropped into the water and let it all go. All my wanting to be the perfect mother, my thoughts that I am somehow already contributing to my son’s future need for therapy, my wanting to prove to my partner that I am the earth mother sexy goddess AND supreme baby whisperer of all time, my thinking that I can keep it all together, my thinking that I’ll never have it all together again, my thinking that my baby is so tiny and perfect and too pure for this world, my thinking that my baby is cranky and colicy and I will never sleep again, my thinking that this motherhood thing was a crazy thing to do, my thinking that it’s the only thing worth doing in life,… all these thoughts I let melt with the lavender and rose and swirl away into the bathwater. Chopin’s Nocturne, with it’s sweet melancholy sound crept into my heart and I allowed myself to not be a mother or a wife or a business owner or anything, but to just be a woman in the bathtub, with a lot of feelings. I brought my mind to the basics, sweet smell, nice music, nice hot water. Breathe in, breathe out. This too shall pass. Both the unbelievable sweetness of this newborn, and the crazy moments of difficulty of these first weeks, all will pass all too quickly.  One breath in, one breath out. Candle, music, lavender, water, breath.

Strangely, when I came out of the bathroom, it felt like hours had passed.  I missed my men.  I couldn’t wait to see my baby again. I came upon them in the sunroom, John had been doing some baby massage on Phoenix (who immediately calmed down when I gave him to his Dad) and both seemed content and happy. “Are you sure you had a full reset, honey?” John asked me, “You were only gone for 15 minutes.”

“I missed you guys,” was all I could say.

Still a little jangly, a little tender around the edges, but ready to be a mother again, I snuggled up with my baby, and knew we were on the other side of the Three Week Wall.

The Birth of a Phoenix

I am writing this blog with pride, excitement and hopefully some inspiration for those of you that are still awaiting the privilege of giving birth!

John and I welcomed our little angel on Tuesday may 12th at 2:02am. After a weekend of “practice” contractions, (my midwife called them practice, but they sure felt real) early labor began Monday morning around 6am. John and I labored together for a while, my midwife came at 8am and checked me. I was 5cm! I was so excited, and thought we’d have a baby soon.  Active labor began around noon. After a full day and evening of walking, chanting, squatting, and a just a little bit of swearing, I started pushing around 1am on Tuesday. Our baby boy was born at 2:02am, in our home.  I can say that nothing, not even all my experience at other people’s births, could have prepared me for the miracle of feeling our son come out into John’s arms.

And what surprise to welcome a SON!

We were all so convinced that little Sophia was coming!  And even more surprising was his size!  I am glad I didn’t know he was over 8 pounds!  Where was he hiding?

The birth was more amazing than I could have ever imagined.  I definitely came up against some intense edges, and lost my faith more than once.  It was challenging, for sure, but so worth it. And John was a phenomenal partner through the whole thing. Our midwives Elizabeth and Katherine were the perfect guardians of the birth. I have never in my life felt more powerful than I did holding our little son in my arms. I have so much awe for women and the birth process. And I am so grateful that Phoenix had such a peaceful welcome into this world.

Phoenix is almost two weeks old now, and we are more in love every minute. My body is recovering well, John and I are getting used to following the daily rhythms of a newborn. We call our “to-do” list a “to-maybe” list and we’re lucky to check off one thing a day. but it is a magical time. the “baby moon” is really worth carving out time for. This is actually the first time I’ve been in front of a computer in two weeks.  (truly a miracle)  I am enjoying the softness of being a mother.  For a longtime businesswoman, it is something to have my daily responsibilities reduced to such basics.  But beautiful as well.  I feel so human.

So congrats to all the mamas that have given birth, and for those of you still pregnant, you are in for an amazing ride.

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