Coming home

(thoughts after Prenatal Yoga with Kirsten)

Tonight I had the pleasure of taking Kirsten Warner’s Prenatal yoga class at Yo Mama. Since Kirsten and I have been preparing a Prenatal Teacher Training together for the last 7 months, we decided it might be good to drop in on each others yoga classes. Getting there was the usual adventure, involving six other people, and seventeen text messages, to carve out two hours for myself.

Let me preface that these last few weeks have been immensely, overwhelmingly, and unusually stressful. Three babies arrived in our doula practice last week, with only two doulas available for the week, and only one of our doulas available for the weekend (me.)  I attended a phenomenal birth Friday night, went to an amazing (steampunk!) wedding on Saturday, dropped heavily into my bed only to hear the pager go off at 2am. I’ve been feeling the weight of what I have created crashing around me, feeling that it’s all too much for me, and feeling smaller and more stressed than I’ve been since postpartum. At the peak of my stress yesterday, I yelled at my mom, and then cried all the way to Yo Mama, eating a pb and j for dinner in the car and ohm-ing, trying to get ready to teach 11 couples their last childbirth class. It hasn’t been pretty.

So Kirsten’s class was a welcome respite. Kirsten is an Anusara teacher, which commonly uses theming. Tonight’s theme was gratitude. Each person shared something they are grateful for. As each woman shared about her sister, her husband, her child, etc. I was feeling the gratitude for all of those things. I have a husband that I adore, a child who lights up my heart, and family close by to help share the raising of my son. But what I felt most of all, as I sat in that sun-filled room, looking at the trees and the water below, was gratitude for Yo Mama. Gratitude that this idea that I brought here, and built on faith, with a baby in my belly, hoping that mamas would come, is alive and thriving today. The first night we opened, almost three years ago, there were two mamas: Marisa Narog and Steph Kassels (both of which have number two now!!). Marisa had been emailing me, anxiously awaiting the open date. Steph was excited we had yoga after work time. I was just so happy that I wasn’t in the room alone. Tonight, as I looked at the eleven mamas in the room, and looked at one of the best yoga teachers in Boulder teaching the class, my heart filled with joy. One of the student’s mentioned her gratitude was Kelly, one of our other phenomenal teachers, and I felt so much gratitude it kept me smiling through the entire class.

The other thing I felt so grateful for was the Yoga itself. One of our students, Erika, mentioned that when she takes class with Kirsten she feels like a yogi who is pregnant, not a pregnant woman doing yoga. And I felt that as well. My heart and body were more open, more spacious, and filled with the grace that yoga allows. Yoga doesn’t change the contents of our life, but it widens the container. After a class like tonight, my capacity to handle the ups and downs of my human existence feels larger, more available, more steady. And that is essential in the times we live in, perhaps more than ever.

Thank you, Boulder. Thank you, my amazing staff. Thank you to the amazing teachers that make Yo Mama what it is. And mostly, thank you to every mama who comes in the doors and does yoga with us, and tells her pregnant friends to do the same.

I have always been a hard worker, and had a strong vision of what is possible. But this vision would be nothing without all of you.

Why are all my Ex-es so Hot?

(and other thoughts on Marriage after baby)

The light drizzle that had started as I was hiking turns suddenly torrential, and I run to the shelter of the porch a few doors down from our family cabin. I look at the threatening clouds, deciding whether to try to run, when a clap of thunder stops me cold. The door of the cabin opens, and to my shock, my ex (Name withheld for privacy, and to make sure all my exes feel equal), steps onto the porch. With a confident glint in his eye, he says “Katie? I didn’t expect to see you up here? You look amazing.’ As the rain pours down around us, I briefly think of my husband and son, and wonder if they are worrying about me.

‘Come inside.” He says, “you’re soaking wet.”

We both know where this is going, and he grabs my hips like a tiger grabs his dinner.  I’m all over him like cream cheese icing on a Cinnabon, and he says my name over and over “Katie, Katie, Katie” and then strangely… “Mama, mama!” he’s yelling it now, and his voice is getting higher “Mama!”

“MMMMMAAAAA MAAA!”

The monitor lights screech red and green as my son screams me awake. Thrust back into my own life, I turn to see my smiling husband on one side, and my beloved two year old screaming through the video monitor from the other room.

‘Good morning’ says the father of my child, sweetly. ‘What were you dreaming about?”

‘Oh, nothing.’

What is it about marriage and children that makes a fantasy out of the life we lived before? What is it about knowing you’ve chosen one person to be with for the rest of your life, that makes every ex-boyfriend (or girlfriend) suddenly look like a Prince? Am I the only one that is having sex with all my exes in my dream world, and waking up wondering ‘what if?’

My coach in LA used to call it “comparison shopping lives.” And now with the wonders of Facebook, you can actually glimpse what it would have been like if you were still with so and so, or if you hadn’t broken up with such and such. I assure you, I have no intention of ever leaving my husband or child. In fact, I’m confident I will see this man sitting across from me on a porch swing in our Golden Years. So what is this desire to escape?

When I got married, I felt that I was closing so many doors. When I got pregnant, I felt like I locked each one behind me. There is nothing more permanent than a child.

That’s when the dreams began.

Like a rotating dance card, each ex made their way into my psyche, and into my bed, and I would wake up, sweating, nervous, and look sheepishly at my beloved.

I’m not sure what this is… this fantasy. It goes beyond the sex, it’s about what my life used to feel like, or at least a fantasy version of it.  Big Hollywood montage sequences dance through my head: Me, running on the beach, me: writing in a journal, me: sitting on a lifeguard stand as the sun sets, wrapped up in a hoodie, not a care in the world, letting time pass like it was in endless supply. I know that’s not actually what life felt like at that time. I remember I was sitting on that lifeguard stand looking longingly at the couple and young child playing in the waves in front of me, wondering when my life would be complete.

Last month I did a Kids Yoga training, and the teacher taught a story about meditation. The master was explaining the key to happiness to his students: when I walk, I walk. When I eat dinner, I eat dinner. When I meditate, I meditate. When I sleep I sleep. The students said ‘we do the same!” “no, said the master: when you walk, you think about dinner, when you eat dinner, you think about meditation, when you meditate you think about sleep, and when you sleep, you think about ex-boyfriends.” (or something like that)

What would it look like to wake up each morning so filled with bliss and gratitude for your own life,  instead of looking to see if someone else got a better order than you? What would it be to trust that everything is working out perfectly? What would it be to know that your beloved was divinely chosen to fully match you on every level, and teach you what it means to love? What would it be like to communicate to your family that there is no place you would rather be on earth than right there with them.

I guess that would be enlightenment. Or something close to it.

I realize more and more that the love each person gave to me along the way helped me become the woman I am now.  And perhaps that is part of the dreaming, and diving back into those other lives.  It’s to reconnect to the person that I became in the arms of that lover.  To honor what they saw in me, and helped me see in myself.  To remember lessons we learned together, about love, what to do, and more importantly, what NOT to do.

This is my path. When I walk, I walk. When my mind slips away, I watch the slipping away. And I return to the walking. And when I look at my husband, I see a person who loves me, even with my slippery mind, and my funny ex-boyfriend dreams, and I am grateful.   Grateful for this man who is spacious and strong.  Grateful to those that loved me enough to teach me how to be a better partner.  Grateful for all the breakdowns and break-ups that led me right here.

And even though I sometimes want to run from it… I am grateful for my life.

Happy Healthy Pregnancy

(republished from my blog, written in November 2008)

I was asked on my advice for staying healthy and strong during pregnancy.  I would say that it is a three point focus: Physical (body), emotional/mental (mind), and spiritual (spirit).

First I will address the one thing that I believe addresses all three:  Prenatal yoga.

Obviously I am biased, as a prenatal yoga teacher,  but I would say this is one of the most essential practices for the pregnant woman.  Not only are you strengthening your body and balancing your mind, but you’re building community and connecting to spirit at the same time. It doesn’t get much better than that.

One caveat before you read any further:  I would encourage you to dig deep into yourself for what your body is longing for during pregnancy.  For some, becoming less active will be very important.  For others, adding more activity will be the key.  Listen to yourself above all “tips.”  Okay, now on to some tips:  I offer the best two pieces of advice for body, mind and spirit.

For your body, I would offer the following:

  1. Walking: One midwife I know recommends 5 miles a day, 5 days a week. Of course you build up to that in early pregnancy, but shoot to be walking as much as you can by 26 weeks, and walk often in the third trimester.  She used to say ‘you’ll either walk during your pregnancy, or during your labor. You choose.’
  2. Diet: A good diet is the building blocks for your baby, as well as making sure you maintain your own balance.   Your baby will get what it needs, even if it means directly from your muscles and bones.  Eat protein (nuts, legumes, meat, dairy, tofu, etc. from varied sources), minerals (5 veggies a day all different colors of the rainbow, fruits, greens), foods rich in folic acid and lots of dark leafy greens. Avoid refined sugar, processed food, and empty carbs (white rice, starchy foods, etc.)  Get your food based organic prenatal vitamins, but don’t depend on these for nutrients.

For your mind, two suggestions:

  1. Learn to stay in the now.  The mind can be your best friend or your worst enemy in pregnancy. If you are first trimester, try not to worry about the birth, or wish the baby would move.  If you are in second trimester, don’t be wishing the baby was here already.  If the baby’s here, don’t be wishing it would sleep through the night. (okay, that’s a tough one)  Be exactly where you are, as you are there. Breathe, learn to watch the mind. Byron Katie’s ‘The Work‘  is very useful for mental activity having to do with other people and relationships.  Meditation, even for five minutes a day, can be amazing.  I recommend beginning with teachers like Pema Chodron (Start Where You Are is an amazing book)
  2. Accept your emotions like weather fronts. Know they are not always as real as they feel. Hormones are real. Emotions can be very exaggerated by these things. Learn when to say, “wow, this is intense, but not real. I’m going to go to bed and think about all of this tomorrow.”  The same is true for anxiety.  You will learn, this year, how to worry effectively.  Your instinctive voice is important, and cannot be heard through all that noise.

For your spirit, I would offer the following:

  1. Stay close to God/Goddess/Creator/Mother Earth. Remember you are a creator, you are creating a life, just as God is a creator. Whatever your relationship is, or what your beliefs are, cultivate and enrich that relationship.  Read spiritual texts that speak to you, connect to your spiritual community, remember to pray.
  2. Find out what faith means. Hope is “I hope this all works out” Faith is “it is already worked out.” Live in faith more and more, strengthen it like a muscle.

If you are looking for a meditation, visualization or favorite practice/exercise to build strength, try a few of these:

I do a thing called “keep ups” that I learned from Gurmukh, which involves taking an exercise/usually yogic, called a Kriya, and continuing it for between 4 and 10 minutes. It is usually both physically and mentally difficult to do. I incorporate it into my yoga classes to practice finding that edge, and pushing through to the other side.  (on a side note:  good music, like Michael Jackson, really helps with keep ups)

The other program I like a lot is Hypnosis. There are three main methods out there:  Hypnobirthing, Hyp Birth, and Hypnobabies.  See which one feels right for you.  It is genius. It really makes a difference in the difficulty and intensity and length of labor.

And lastly , a simple meditation that I love for pregnant women is this: meditation to remove fear of the future:

Sit comfortably. Cradle your left hand in your right, right thumb across the left palm. Bring the left thumb over the right, and tuck that little x of thumbs into your heart center. Breathe deeply feeling the heart rise and fall. This can be done also with your partner sitting behind you (with back support for the partner) and holding your hands in theirs. (you do the mudra, they cover your hands with theirs) This practice is amazing because we take our own feminine, yin, slightly neurotic side, and we cradle it with our own masculine, linear, containing side. We bring the balance into our own being. Having your partner around you  just intensifies that support. So we have our own little fears (left hand) cradled by our own strength (right hand) and then that whole package contained by our partner.

Which brings me to my last offering. Support.

You are not doing this alone.

Just because baby is your little secret, and inside your body, don’t be afraid to ask for support from your community.  When I was pregnant with my son, I had a celebration at the 120th day of my pregnancy with my community, and my partner said to all of them “this is where we commit to supporting, nurturing and inspiring Katie during her pregnancy.” Don’t be afraid to let the support in. It is not that you are deficient in any way, it is that what is being required of you is extraordinary. And your partner, family, and greater community are there to help you give birth to yourself as mother, as you give birth to your child.

Pregnancy is the most amazing miracle, and yet as common as life itself. It can feel like you are the first and only woman to feel all of these feelings, but all mothers have felt them with you. Find a good community of like minded mamas and a good care provider (hopefully midwife, or super compassionate ob) and move with the strength of all the people behind you, supporting you, inspiring you, and guiding you towards your baby!

Balance… or the divine impossibility of motherhood

There is a divine impossibility to motherhood.  That is just part of the design.   We will never have it all together, the perfectly organized diaper bag, the “schedule” of naps and nighty night times, both baby and ourselves clean and presentable at all times. Our kids will not fit perfectly into our lives.  That is not their purpose, nor ours.  Kids are LIFE.  They interrupt, they intervene, they are inappropriate and inconsistent.  And guess what?  So is life.

I am striving for balance, without really knowing what that will look like now.

I notice that the days where I am able to surrender, miracles happen.  Phoenix will put himself down for a long juicy nap, and I will find myself sitting at the computer, doing exactly what I want to be doing. Meals get made, vitamins taken, and lots of smiles and laughter.  And other days where I decide to ENFORCE a nap time or some other “schedule,” he and I both struggle and nurse and cry and try to squeeze ourselves into my idea.  His ideas are usually better, clearer, and easier to accomplish.  My favorite of his new ideas is the “let’s stare at each other and laugh” idea.  I am convinced if the world leaders sat down and practiced this together, world peace would be the only possibility.

Phoenix has such a simple, complete joy in just being here.

He doesn’t need anything special (besides a dry diaper and a warm breast), and he doesn’t worry.  He’s not thinking, “hmmm… i’m 75th percentile for weight, what does that mean about me?” or “I wonder when I’ll roll from my tummy to my back.  Everyone else my age is doing this.”  He doesn’t compare, he doesn’t fret about the state of the world, He doesn’t care what others have.  He cares only about the eyes looking into his, the hands holding him, and the love he is recieving and giving.

I want to be more like my son.

I want to wake up each morning so excited to be here that I can’t stop kicking my legs into the air.  I want to find such delight in my husband’s face that I could stare at it for fifteen minutes, happy to just trace the lines of his smile.  I want to be so excited about my lunch that I bury my face into my meal and sigh with full body contentment when I’m done.  I want to spend my day with joy learning new things every minute, and working so hard to master things that at the end of the day, I surrender to the deepest sleep.

I am learning about Phoenix.  I am learning about motherhood.  As Phoenix learns to roll over, and laugh, and smile.  I am learning to let go, to surrender, and to release of the illusive concept of “Balance.”  To realize that balance is not some static fixed point that you arrive at and cling to.  To strive for balance is to be constantly open to change.  Just as the yogi struggles in tree pose, constantly adjusting ever so slightly to the right or the left, being willing to lean on the wall, or just fall over sometimes, and get up and try again.  Day by day, Phoenix and I will discover what it means to be in balance.

As I finish this entry, I hear the sounds of an awakening boy…

This blog entry brought to you by Phoenix’s 1:00 and 4:00 naps.