Unfinished and Un-done

Unfinished and Un-done

I like to-do lists. Writing them helps me organize my thoughts and checking things off helps me feel accomplished and productive.

Before I had kids, I could compose a to-do list the length of a novella and furiously accomplish it in one day, give or take a few straggler items I would attend to later.

Mindful Movement Adapted (for fussy toddler)

Mindful Movement Adapted (for fussy toddler)

This morning I had some time set aside to get on my mat and record my practice in order to showcase the kinds of things I might share in my Mindful Movement + Massage workshop on Saturday. My little buddy had other plans, though…

Thoughts on Hip Pain, Gluteals, and Groundlessness

Thoughts on Hip Pain, Gluteals, and Groundlessness

When I experienced a searing pain in my right hip while going up the stairs, followed by a deep ache that wouldn’t go away, I immediately recalled my pregnant, unstable pelvis. This was familiar pain. During both pregnancies, I dealt with pretty terrible sciatica. Thanks to the fluid nature of my pregnant bod, the pain frequently switched sides to keep me guessing. In addition to deep aches in my hips most of the time, they would often buckle or give out when I went to stand up.

A Lot to Carry: My Journey with Shoulder Pain

A Lot to Carry: My Journey with Shoulder Pain

From everything that I’ve learned about pain science, I know emotions can play a huge role in the experience of pain. In addition, I find that infusing life events with symbolism or metaphor can help me shift my perspective away from negative self-talk or victimization and into a position that feels more meaningful and powerful. So when I really felt ready to seek help for my shoulder pain, I also started examining any mental/emotional components to the situation.

How My Family Put Movement on the Menu

kids seated a low dining table floor sitting

Several months ago, our dining table broke. One of the legs that folded out to support a leaf snapped off during clean up from The Great Smoothie Spill of 2018. (Heck, it could have even been 2017…what is time?) Thankfully we could still use the table but it wasn’t ideal. Without the leaf, it was too small to accommodate any guests. In addition, the table’s corners were sharp and at the perfect height to poke out the eye of an unsuspecting toddler. Every time Coen walked around the table, I felt so nervous I did an irreverent Kegel.

After reading Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman and seeing how her family sits at a coffee table-height dining table, I decided this would be a really good option for my family. Besides, I had searched and searched to no avail for a table I really liked and that was affordable. Sitting and eating on the floor would allow our bodies the opportunity to remain body-shaped as opposed to chair-shaped - the position they are so often in throughout a normal day. By giving our bodies a chance to self-support, we invite opportunities for more movement. As we start to fatigue in one position, we shift and move into a more comfortable one. Also standing up from the ground requires the body to load itself with more weight in a broader range of motion than standing up from a chair. Not to mention, the ability to stand up from the ground with out using the support of hands, the wall, etc is a marker for longevity. When I presented the idea to my husband, I expected resistance but he was one hundred percent into it. Travis spends a lot of the day sitting at work (although his desk does convert to standing) so he was on board with changing up his routine in favor of more varied movement.

We had an old 1920s table in our garage; it was the first piece of furniture we bought as a couple back in 2009 at some vintage shop in the Old City. We used it as a dining table for quite sometime but it was an odd height and the wobbly legs made it feel like a risky piece to have around small children. Since then, it sat under a copper pipe, collecting water stains from condensation and lots of cob webs. I used a lot of Barkeeper’s Friend and elbow grease to remove the stains from the porous surface. Travis removed the metal hairpin legs, sawed them off, and then reattached them. The table now actually feels super solid! I found a rug on sale at World Market that I knew would hide stains well along with some comfy floor pillows for us to sit on. Voila! Our new dining space fell into place so easily.

We knew there would be an adjustment period for the kids but especially for Coen, who has always been buckled into a high chair. When they saw the new set up, their first order of business was to climb on top of the table. We were not suprised! Audrey even got a pillow and pretended to take a nap on it. It was nice that our dining room felt more versatile and usable.

Our mantra became, “We stay on the ground while we’re eating.” The first meal was tough for Coen; he cried a lot and didn’t eat much. Audrey announced how much she loved the table right from the start. I’m not surprised - it was much easier for her to serve herself and the pillows were definitely more comfortable than her chair. We added a second pillow to the kids’ seats to boost them up and draped a towel at Coen’s place because he’s still a pretty messy eater.

Since that first meal, Coen’s had a much easier time. He knows to go and sit on his pillow at meal time and when he’s done he stands up. Sometimes he gets fidgety and it turns out that he’s not all that hungry and chooses to leave the table until snack time later. I think that because the kids can easily come and go as they please, meal times are much more pleasant for everyone.

dynamic workstation dining table

All in all, the new dining table seems to be working out well for our family. It’s also a nice dynamic workstation for me and my laptop. Oh and I almost forgot to answer the question we’ve been asked so many times, “But what about guests?!” Well, the dining table is nestled into a nook so guests who aren’t used to unsupported sitting can lounge with their backs to the wall and we also have a myriad of other pillows and cushions they can use to get comfortable.

How often do you sit at your dining table? If you’re open to adding some new movement to your menu, consider using a ‘breakfast in bed’ tray (the kind with fold out legs) for your food as you sit on the floor - or you could even your coffee table! Even just shaking things up once or twice this way can benefit your body.

15 Affirmations for Your Postpartum Self

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In the first days and weeks after having baby number two, my husband would get up with our toddler each day when she woke around 6:30am so I could snooze for a bit longer with baby. Once consciousness hit though, I found myself reaching for my phone to mindlessly scroll Facebook or the NY Times before getting out of bed. Frequently I was grumpy. I am not a morning person and I don’t drink caffeine.

As my mood continued to spiral out of control, a part of me was like, ‘Hey Jen, get it together. You have to get a handle on this.’ I decided to write some affirmations for myself or set an intention each morning before indulging in a mindless scroll. After a few minutes of social media, I would check back with the affirmations or intention I wrote before getting out of bed.

When creating these affirmations, I would first call up a negative emotion or challenging experience I had been working with. Then I would act as my own best friend/skilled therapist and say what I needed to hear. For example, feelings of isolation and loneliness prompted me to write I feel connected to a sacred network or mothers.

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This self care practice helped me to start the day in a positive, intentional way. When I set my attitude on the right course before even getting out of bed, it echoes throughout the rest of my day. I’ve noticed an improved outlook and ability to handle each day’s stresses.

15 Affirmations for Your Postpartum Self

  • I see beauty in this chaos.
  • This too shall pass.
  • I savor the sweet moments of this challenging season.
  • My patience overflows.
  • I feel content doing less.
  • Striving for perfection robs me of beauty, meaning, and growth.
  • I take time to be creative.
  • I feel connected to a sacred network of mothers.
  • I am confident in my choices.
  • I trust my intuition.
  • When my baby cries, I breathe deeply and stay calm.
  • Everything I did today was enough.
  • I choose nourishing foods for myself so I have clear energy to care for my baby.
  • My ability to love my baby even in hard times is a powerful gift.
  • I take time to care for myself.

I hope you’ll find these affirmations helpful. I should also add that these affirmations can work for all kinds of situations – not just those related to postpartum difficulties. What affirmations are you working with right now?

When Wound Care Becomes Self Care

I recently read an article that removed mere acts of personal hygiene from the realm of self care. Basically the author was saying, ‘Taking a shower is not self care, it’s being a human.’

Apart from the fact that lots of folks don’t take showers and can still be classified as humans, I understand the sentiment that self care should be more than what we have been taught is just good basic hygiene. But when you feel like you have to fight for basic hygiene, more radical notions of self care (i.e. spa days, brunch with friends, etc) can seem far out of reach. And I’m not talking just about logistical reach (scheduling, finding a baby sitter, etc); I’m talking about financial reach too. If you’re concerned about paying your water bill, how could you possibly afford a massage?

So there has to be a middle ground. We have to find simple, sustainable ways to take care of ourselves because we are human and we deserve it but also because our families and our communities need us.

Postpartum with my second child, I decided to take a sitz bath every day. I needed it for healing. If you’re of the ‘a shower is not self care’ mindset, then I would assume you’re also of the ‘wound care is not self care’ mindset. But hey, let’s work with what we’ve got. I had to fight and be intentional for 10 minutes on the toilet alone. I upset my husband, my toddler, and probably myself to some extent in the quest for this time.

So when the struggle for radical self care feels all too real, let’s opt for simple self care. I believe we can take these mundane opportunities for good hygiene and transform them through mindfulness into nurturing experiences.

Let’s revisit the idea of taking a shower. Be fully present with yourself during this time. In order to do this, you’ll need to make sure your kid(s) is covered. Ideally, another adult will be present to take point or you have a baby monitor just in case a sleeping baby needs you. If you’re an early riser, waking before the rest of the house might make this activity easier. It may help you avoid washing your hair too many times on accident!

Get all your senses involved. Listen to the sound of the water. Feel it making contact with your head, neck, shoulders, and back. Take a deep breath in through your nose and as you exhale through your mouth, imagine the water washing away tension from those areas. Continue down the body. As you begin to wash yourself, take time to smell the product you’re using. Notice how it feels in your hands and on your skin. Massage your scalp when shampooing/conditioning. As you wash the rest of your body, thank each part for its hard work. Especially for postpartum moms, thank your breasts if you’re breastfeeding; thank your belly; thank your thighs. Shift away from judging those parts of yourself. Nourish them with your touch. When you’re finished, take care as you dry yourself. Take time to apply lotion or oil to your face and body, massaging as you go. Long strokes are good for your limbs and circular strokes are good for your joints. Continue to thank your body. Feel nourished by your touch. You can also imagine you’re applying a sort of body armor that can help you deflect stress and negativity throughout the day.

This will definitely take a little longer than your normal shower routine but you don’t have to leave the house, pay a babysitter, or spend any other money.

Another hygiene practice I tend to skimp on or rush through is brushing my teeth. Maybe what it boils down to is taking a moment to feel grounded and put things in perspective. The ADA recommends brushing for 2 minutes. Because I meet my baby’s needs for love, nourishment, and shelter, I can remind myself that 2 minutes of crying does not equal an adverse childhood experience (the kind that creates toxic levels of stress). Also, when faced with the choice between a good healthy brushing (because you deserve it) and a pile of laundry (or dishes or tidying up for guests or …), we should always choose our teeth.

My children need to be able to occupy themselves for 2 minutes (preferably longer). My toddler likes to ask me questions or inevitably loses something the second the toothpaste starts to froth in my mouth. I’ve ruined shirts by trying to talk with a mouth full of toothpaste. It’s not worth it. My daughter might wind into a tantrum or feel unhappy that I can’t talk to her right then but I’m okay with those emotions. And if she needs to tantrum, let’s get it out sooner rather than later.

So yes, taking a shower and feeling clean is not flashy self care. It’s simple and humanizing. I know there have been times in my postpartum life when I just felt like a cow with leaky udders. Nurse, spit up, cry, repeat. Taking a shower did make me feel like a human again. Those brief moments alone were sometimes just enough to keep me going. I can’t stress enough how crucial it was to have another adult in the house to take point on the kids while practicing this self care shower. I hear phantom cries in everything so I needed the reassurance that if indeed the cries I heard were real, someone else was going to handle it.

In conclusion, yes, self care should perhaps be more special or sacred than showering or brushing teeth. BUT the reality is often less glittery than that. This is an ongoing conversation – especially the social justice component of making self care practices available and accessible to all. I’d love to hear your thoughts. How are you practicing self care? How do you fit it into your budget and your schedule?

wouldn't it be great if self care looked like this all the time? meditating on the beach!

wouldn't it be great if self care looked like this all the time? meditating on the beach!

Here Comes Coen

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‘My baby’s birth will be easy because I am so relaxed and confident.’
Leading up to Coen’s birth, I just knew that affirmation would hold true…spoiler alert: it did.

My due date, May 9th, came and went and I was growing impatient. The following day I had an appointment and got to see Blair; I was hoping she would be the one to help me deliver Coen. She checked me and said I was 3cm dilated and 60% effaced. I always feel heard and supported after seeing her; she has a way of making everything feel positive.

That evening I was feeling some practice contractions that were coming regularly but far apart. I started timing them on my phone and settled in to watch some Bill Nye Saves the World on Netflix. They stopped coming but I was feeling like I should go to bed early and rest up because labor would be starting soon.

At 3:15am a contraction woke me up. That’s the same time of day things got started with my first labor. I got up to go to the bathroom and saw the light of the full moon through the window. I got back in bed and had a few more contractions but then they stopped again.

When I got up at 6:30am, contractions had returned. At first, I wasn’t sure if this was more practice or the real deal. Then I noticed a contraction would come any time I changed position - something that happened the last time I was in labor. So I told Travis he should stay home from work. I went to the kitchen and started making breakfast. Initially I could talk and work through each contraction but quickly it became clear that I needed to devote more attention to each surge. I started timing them on my phone again; they were still varying a lot, coming every 5-8 minutes.

I helped get Audrey ready to go to her grandma’s for the day. Sometimes I would blow raspberries and sway during the contractions and she would buzz her lips with me. That felt so sweet. I felt most comfortable leaning forward, placing my hands on my knees and resting my forehead on something.

birth ball

After Travis and Audrey left I got to work tidying the house and changing the sheets on the bed. I knew I wouldn’t have time or energy for housework upon returning home from the hospital so I wanted to leave the house feeling really good. I also set out some new activities for Audrey.

During this time contractions got closer together, 4 minutes apart and about a minute to a minute and a half in length. I went to the bathroom to wash my face and in the middle of a contraction heard water gushing from somewhere. Either I didn’t notice the contraction finishing or it stopped because I snapped into action! The cloth diaper sprayer attached to our toilet started leaking water from its handle. I quickly turned off the water to that hose, threw down some towels, and continued getting ready. I got dressed then laid down in bed to rest up and continued timing contractions. Shortly after that Travis got home and I told him it was time to finish packing the hospital bags. I called the midwife and let them know we would be coming soon.

We got in the car and made it down the street when Travis realized he forgot his camera. So we went around the block and came back home. The first contraction in the car was a doozy; I held on to the ‘oh shit’ handle and braced against the dashboard. After that, they were all pretty manageable. We got the camera, stopped for gas, and went on our way. Travis put his hand on my leg and said, ‘Aw, it’s like we’re on a date because it’s just the two of us.’ I put on my birth affirmations and rested. My contractions got closer together, about every three minutes.

As I got out of the car at the hospital around noon, I felt a really strong contraction and had to stand on the sidewalk with my hands on my knees while a grandma and a toddler walked by. I hoped that I didn’t scare the boy! Two nurses met me inside with a wheel chair and took me up to triage. Coincidentally, a friend of my sister-in-law, Avery, was working that day as well and she brought Travis up to triage to meet me. Once I got changed and situated in the bed, my nurse, Beth, checked me. I was 8cm! I had fully expected to only be at 5 or 6 so I was really excited. Things were going smoothly.

I couldn’t figure out how to get that dang gown to tie in back (there was a knot and they eventually had to cut it off me). So I walked down the hall holding it and had to stop for a contraction. It was really hard to hold the gown closed and do hands on my knees. Shortly after I got to my room, Blair came in. I was so happy to have her there. I got a cherry popsicle and we all just chatted in between contractions. Blair and Beth stayed with me for the majority of my labor. It felt really good just knowing they were there hanging with me. We would all laugh because nearly every contraction was followed by a yawn. I don't know if it was an oxygen thing or if my body was helping me keep my jaw relaxed (I didn't feel tired).

At some point, I felt a shift and turned more inward. I could feel Coen moving down and I focused on using my breath to help. Blair suggested a few position changes during this time, which were helpful. I spent time on the birth ball, sitting on my heels in bed while leaning forward on the peanut, and lying on my left side.

After a while, Blair asked to check me. I was complete with a slight anterior lip and my bag of waters was still intact. Blair pushed on the lip and I pushed against her on the next contraction and my water bag popped. Then I felt the urge to push more strongly.

I had a lot of trouble pushing with Audrey. It took me 1.5-2 hours. I couldn’t quite figure out how to push and I also didn’t really know how to relax my pelvic floor muscles, allowing them to bulge. In addition, she was born with her hands up at her face so there was some extra real estate involved.

Throughout this pregnancy, I worked with a pelvic floor therapist to create more stability in my pelvis and I also developed a greater awareness of those muscles. That was a life saver. I pushed for 30 minutes with Coen. As he moved to crowning, I could feel my bottom stretching so I would relax and allow the bulge to happen. There were times the sensation was really intense and the sounds I was making crept higher. When this happened I felt that I was pushing more with my abs and had to drop down to a lower register to keep things going in my bottom. I was grateful when Blair told me to reach down and feel Coen’s full head of hair! Audrey was bald so that was really cool. It also encouraged me that I was close to being done.

With his head born, I pushed once more for his shoulders and there he was at 3:30pm! Blair laid him on my chest. He let out a kind of half-assed cry of protest then just settled on me and started to calmly look around. He was incredibly calm and aware. Travis cut the cord after it stopped pulsing. I gave another push for the placenta. I never got to see it with Audrey so Blair brought it around and we got to check it out.

Blair checked me and found a first degree tear towards the back and a tiny tear towards the front. Coen weighed in at 8lbs 9oz, 22.5 inches long, with a 14 inch head; Blair said I had amazing pelvic floor control and that the damage could have been much worse. I felt proud of all the hard work and attention I put in.

We stayed skin to skin for about an hour and toward the end of that time Coen started his crawl to the breast. He latched easily, nursed, and fell asleep. Everyone remarked at how calm and chill he was. As far as births go, it really was easy. I’m thankful for my care team and all the warm and caring nurses we worked with at the hospital. I’m also thankful for my husband who did whatever I asked him to do during labor from hugs and kisses, to pressing on my legs, to handing me my popsicle.

I choose to share my birth story because there are enough birth ‘war stories’ out there. I birthed without fear and want other women to know they can too.

I Haven’t Been to Yoga in a Year (and I’m a Teacher)

Pre-pregnancy boat pose

Pre-pregnancy boat pose

Today I went to my first yoga class in probably a year. That’s pretty bad considering I’m a yoga teacher.

I haven’t been intentional about making time to attend a yoga class for several reasons:

  1. The classes available at the times I regularly have childcare haven’t really worked with my schedule…although they could have if I had planned in advance to attend and blocked off my calendar.

  2. Many of the classes available at the times I regularly have childcare don’t really appeal to my pregnant bod (i.e. Toasty Core Strength Vinyasa)…although I’m sure I would have enjoyed Yoga for 50+.
  3. After my first pregnancy, I noticed sub-optimal changes in my core after attending a yoga class. I didn’t know how to engage my transverse abdominis so all the planking and boat poses were setting me back instead of helping me strengthen.
  4. Reinforcements (my husband) arrive home too late for me to make it to an evening class. But there are later classes that I could make.
  5. But then I’d have to miss putting my toddler to bed on another evening (I’m already gone two nights a week).

So those have been my excuses. I imagine that with two kiddos at home, there will be even more excuses. (Please note that I’m not saying these are merely whiney-pants excuses; they are valid logistical complications that require a certain amount of energy and planning to overcome).

I’ve been telling myself that maintaining my home yoga practice is the same thing as going to a class. Wrong!

At home, I either do yoga while my toddler is awake and playing, or I put her in front of a 20-30 minute TV program (mom guilt), or she is taking a nap and could wake up at any moment. I can never really fully devote 100% of my focus toward myself in these situations.

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In addition, I’m missing out on the community-building aspect of going to a class, the inspiration an instructor can provide, and the challenge I’m sure to avoid affording myself at home.

Back to this class I went to on Saturday. I wasn’t planning on going but I was a grade A grumpoose that morning and really struggling emotionally. After already telling my daughter we were all hanging out together that day, I informed her I was going to take a yoga class. (Saturdays are literally the only day a week when all three of us can be together for the day.) When it came time to leave she started to cry and told my husband, “I’m upset that Mama’s leaving.” Dagger to the heart with a twist.

I was headed to prenatal yoga. I went every week when I was pregnant with my daughter. I’m 34 weeks pregnant with my son and this is my first prenatal class. It was a welcome opportunity to connect with baby boy in a way I hadn’t allowed myself to so far.

As a yoga instructor, I’ve developed this kind of judgmental voice in my head when taking another teacher’s class. It can be difficult to turn down the volume of that voice and just be present in the class like any other student. Sometimes the voice is telling me that a particular instruction might not be best for where my body is at (which is a helpful thing to listen to!) but other times the voice can be snarky, critical, or kind of like Larry David. I’m not proud of it but that’s the truth. Perhaps if I start going to more classes, I’ll get more practice quieting that voice.

Despite my mental high horse, I enjoyed myself. The room was full of that pregnant mama juju and we all were having hot flashes. We laughed and shared in the beginning and I was thankful and amazed that the hip work we did ended up feeling so nice (not too deep or destabilizing).

After class, I headed down the street to a local cafe, Wild Love Bakehouse, and struggled to decide between a classic chocolate chip cookie or a chocolate chocolate chip cookie with sea salt. So I bought both. I ate half of each one and headed home to make lunch.

My time away didn’t fix any of the problems that surfaced in my household that morning, nor did it really change the fact that I was mad or grumpy. But it did give me a ‘time in’ for myself so I could press pause on the drama and get out of that triggered mental space. I think that brief distance was valuable.

How do you find time for a movement practice when you have young children? Do you schedule mornings away for yourself? What strategies do you use to take care of yourself at home in the midst of a challenging situation?

An Open Letter to the Person Who Will Use the Restroom After Us

An Open Letter to the Person Who Will Use the Restroom After Us:

I saw you approaching the single occupancy restroom just as my one year old escaped to crawl down the hall. I avoided eye contact, clumsily gathered all our things and power-walked down the hall. I hung my head as your judgments went flying overhead along with all the fucks I already gave, just knowing that your opinion of me would further decline upon entering that desecrated place.

Our trip to the bathroom started with a diaper change (the baby’s, not mine) which further necessitated a full outfit overhaul. Terrified of diaper changes in public restrooms, my child shrieked the whole time, my shaky hands working as quickly as possible. This would be her fifth outfit of the day; I was still wearing the same clothes which told tales of previous leaky diapers and spit up.

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Then it was my turn to pee. Let me just say, that was my baby’s saliva on the toilet seat and not my urine. I still have my dignity (and my aim). As soon as I sat down, she began investigating the trash. Multiple efforts to redirect failed until I pointed out the toilet paper. You’ll find two distinct piles, one roll completely undone and one ripped like confetti. Once she had taken advantage of all the toilet paper had to offer, she moved on to the toilet itself. So then, I sat upon the throne while Her Tiny Highness sat upon me in order to prevent her from eating the plunger or sticking her tongue between the toilet seat and the bowl. Her interest in the toilet paper was rekindled a few moments later. A small part of me dies every time she watches me wipe (because, let’s face it, this has happened before).

I had to keep her contained as I pulled up my pants one-handed. I placated myself as I washed both our hands, one at a time, however there would be no hand drying. The ripping of the paper towel echoes like machine gun fire, inciting all manner of tears, screams, and boo boo lips – as does the roaring fly by of the flushing toilet. So yes, I let it mellow, and yes you’ll feel the moist door handle as you exit.

I hope you relish your private potty time. Enjoy the stillness, the solitude, the relative quiet. Build your toilet paper teepee in peace. Wash (and dry) your hands methodically. Think of me kindly as you clutch the door knob in your paper towel then turn around to score a basket as you leave with satisfaction.

-Jen

Birth Story

Here's the tale of how my daughter landed earthside. It's a magical story full of heart, humor, and humility. I share it because so much of what our culture presents regarding birth is negative and full of pain. My yoga, meditation, and breathing practices, as well as Hypnobirthing, helped me have a positive birth experience.

At 3:15 the morning of December 23rd, I woke up to some contractions. They kept happening so I timed them and saw they were all over the place in terms of duration and time apart. I wasn’t sure if this was the real deal or just more practice. They were a bit uncomfortable so I tried to center by visualizing myself sitting comfortably at the bottom of the ocean, where the water is calm but flowy. There was some seaweed around me that swayed a little, as did my hair. For some of the surges I got on all fours. Worried that all my moving around would wake up Travis, I went out to the couch around 6am and the contractions spaced out to twenty minutes apart. I assumed this was practice labor and was getting pretty grumpy about my interrupted sleep. When Travis woke up I told him what was going on. I was glad that we both had the day off. We planned to just stay home and chill out except for an appointment I had with my midwife in the afternoon.

The contractions kept coming all morning. I texted Kimberly, my doula, and let her know what was going on. We still weren’t sure if this was just practice or early labor. Travis and I went for a walk and they got closer together, about 6 minutes apart, but still lasted for only 30 seconds. I managed the contractions by swaying my hips and breathing. I was surprised by how much sensation I experienced around my sacrum with each contraction.

My appointment with the midwife was at 2:40. The car ride there was not very fun. I think I was still tense because I wasn’t really sure what was happening - practice or not? I was hoping I could be taken back to a room soon after arriving so I wouldn’t have to work with the contractions in a waiting room full of people. Forty minutes later, we finally got taken back to a room. Manola was the midwife on call and when she checked me I was 3-4cm and 70% effaced. She seemed confident that this was it - just knowing that made me feel better and really excited. She gave us the choice of going over to the hospital or going home to see if things would really get going. We chose to go home and agreed we would get back in touch when contractions were 3 minutes apart. Again, the car ride was not very fun but I was in better spirits about it and was excited to think that I could meet my baby that day. We stopped at the store to pick up some dinner on the way home because we were both starving.

We decided to eat some pizza and watch a Christmas movie. By the time the pizza was ready, though, I really wasn’t hungry anymore. The contractions were getting stronger and closer together. I was using a heating pad on my sacrum and all fours to cope with the discomfort. Travis was really great at applying counter pressure…it felt so good. About 10 minutes into the movie (A Muppet Christmas Carol), I started to feel that both the movie and the pizza were annoying distractions. Travis helped me get set up in the bath tub so I could focus. I turned off the lights and listened to the Hypnobirthing Rainbow Relaxation CD. I really got in the zone and the water felt so good.

Travis came back to check on me part way through the movie and I was ready to get out because the water was cold. I was tired from not sleeping much the night before so I decided to sit upright in bed and relax. I found I was able to doze a little between each surge. Here I just continued to use my breath. I visualized myself at the bottom of an ocean cave whose wide mouth was above me, widening more and more.

After the movie was over Travis came back in and I let him know he should start getting our stuff packed and tying up any loose ends around the house. I really lost all track of time because I was so in the zone. I know that at 8:15 I saw my contractions were between 3-4 minutes apart. I told Travis that we would need to leave whenever he was done. I called Kimberly, pausing to breathe for the contractions now lasting about a minute to 90 seconds, and told her we would be going to the hospital as soon as everything was ready and asked her to meet us there. I also called Manola and let her know we would be coming in. Then there was another car ride. It was much easier to manage because I was so relaxed.

We got to the hospital at 9:45pm. Thanks to my hands on knees squatting, we got to skip triage at the hospital and got taken straight to a room. One of the nurses asked about the pain scale and I told her to pick a number for me - it really wasn’t pain. I laughed to myself when she rolled her eyes at me. Shortly after the eye roll, I got checked and was 5-6cm and 90% effaced. Then my water broke…it really just felt like peeing my pants, which, in that moment, was an oddly satisfying sensation.

Once they got me all hooked up and whatnot, they noticed the baby was having some extreme heart rate fluctuations with each contraction. They gave me IV fluids and had me labor on my left side for a while, which was more intense, but helped her stabilize. I was expecting to labor in the tub but wasn’t really given the option because the way her heart rate changed with each position I was in. I did get in the shower for a while but my legs were shaking so much I felt really unstable. I also labored on the birth ball but found just sitting up in bed to be the most sustainable position for me and my energy level. I kept falling asleep between contractions and even burped after many of them, which we all thought was hilarious. I told myself that an hour would last only ten minutes and I really lost all track of time. At various points I felt my water release again and again, still oddly satisfying. One time the nurses noticed a bit of meconium. Nobody freaked out but they were on watch.

Eventually, I started to feel a little pushy and I was at 9cm with just a little lip of my cervix holding me back. I got on all fours and Manola applied pressure to the lip while I pushed some. That was really intense and made the contractions stronger. Still, I didn’t have the “overwhelming urge to push” I’d read about, probably because of that lip. I pushed sitting on my heels, on my left side, and on my back with my knees at my chest. All totaled, I pushed for an hour and a half, roaring with each push. There was so much pressure!

I started to feel afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get her out. I was giving it all I had but it didn’t feel like enough. Manola told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head - that was so surreal! Her heart rate was doing more crazy things so Manola said I needed to get her out with the next round of pushing. I was so tired and I roared and squeezed Travis’ hand like mad. It wasn’t enough. Manola did an episiotomy, which I felt thankful for - I needed some help! - and Kimberly said it was the smallest one she’d ever seen.

With the next round of pushing my baby’s head was born and Manola said, “Whoa! Whoa! Don’t push!” I was out of it and didn’t really know what was going on. Travis told me later that she had both hands up at her face and the cord was wrapped around all that. He said Manola worked so fast to free things up and with the next push, my daughter was born at 5:42am on Christmas Eve. She was immediately placed on my stomach where she pooped all over me! Everyone commented that if her hands would have been down she probably would have come out a lot faster. She was 7lbs 10oz and 20 1/2 inches long.

Because of all her crazy heart rate acrobatics, the NICU team was in the room just in case but she started screaming before her feet were out so they weren’t needed (her Apgar score was a 9). She was so alert and her eyes were really wide. As I looked at her in shock and awe, I noticed some hair on her lip and said, “Is that one of my pubes on her mouth?!” Manola responded by saying, “Well I’ve never heard anyone say that before but yes, it probably is.” Then I apologized to my baby for not trimming things up in anticipation of her arrival.

A little while later the placenta was born. My only regret is that I didn’t get to see it before they took it to the freezer. Travis didn’t want to cut the cord so Kimberly did it. I remember thinking the cord was so thin and long. I was at risk for a hemorrhage due to my bleeding disorder and I felt a gush of blood as the placenta was born. Manola said it wasn’t a hemorrhage but we still went through the protocol we had talked about in the past to be on the safe side.

I felt so proud and strong (and tired!). Travis told me all the nurses were impressed with how calm I was throughout the whole thing. Kimberly told me later that I seemed annoyed that each contraction woke me up. What an empowering birth experience - I pretty much felt like a badass!


Changing, Learning, Growing

Some of you rather astute and intuitive folk have started asking about my growing (albeit still rather small) belly. And yes, there’s a bump in the making (and yes, I’m super pumped about it)! This is one of those times in my life where I think, Holy cow, what would this be like with out my yoga?! I’ve never experienced such a rapid and constant rate of change; add hormones to the mix and a girl’s bound to feel crazy at least once or twice or ten times.

I shared this crazy change feeling with a friend and she offered an idea I think works for all people, not just the pregnant ones. Think of a mountain. Each season, the mountain looks a little different – vibrantly green in the Spring and Summer, burning with oranges and reds in the Fall, and a little bare in the Winter. Different people and animals visit the mountain at different times as well. Despite the constant change, the mountain is still the same mountain. It might get worn down in a few places but its essence is unchanging. We are in the same boat as the mountain. Even as life happens, even as we grow and develop new skills and perspectives, our essence remains unchanging. We acknowledge this same essence in one another when we say Namasté at the end of a yoga class.

I’m joyfully managing this pregnancy due mainly to the skills I’ve gained from my yoga practice (think: self-care like a panda). Deepening connections with other women has also been an integral part of my process. Over the past year and a half, through focused study and personal experience, I have absorbed some pretty vital information I can’t wait to share with other women. The Yoga for Women’s Health & Healing training I attended with Dr. Saraswati Markus in May served as a capstone experience for me, validating several ideas I’d intuited and providing a more cohesive framework from which to present those ideas.

As a result, this summer is full of special offerings for women: another Yoga for Women series and two workshops, Yoga & Your Fertility and Yoga for Your Monthly Rhythm (details below). I’ve also planned my workshop calendar through November, which includes another Target Practice focusing on hips, a Down Dog Clinic, and a super special Self-Care Retreat co-taught by the lovely Sarah Fields. Keep your eyes peeled for more information on those offerings in the future.

I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a line and let me know how you’re changing, what you’re learning, and where you’re traveling this summer.

Namasté,
Jen

Practice Self-Care

A 9 year old recently asked me, “what’s your spirit animal?” He didn’t find my quippy response of “pizza” amusing. He told me to be serious so I said that I wasn’t sure and asked for his opinion. The corner of his mouth turned up and his eyes moved in a way expressive of deep thought. Finally the answer emerged, “a panda.” He caught me off guard as I’ve never been compared to a panda in my life. “Because you’re always so calm and even-tempered,” he added. According to this kid, pandas are calm and I am calm too.

Even as my husband, close friends (including the mother of the 9 year old), and family are rolling with laughter at the thought of me being described as calm, I must say I get this a lot. People frequently say to me, “You’re always so calm and peaceful. How do you do it?” In fact, the client I just saw said those very words which inspired me to sit down and write this post. (She followed up by saying, “you’re so cool.” Gush!)

Just to set the record straight, I have spells of feeling quite the opposite of calm and even-tempered. I’m human (not marsupial). I fly off the handle and scream at my husband and get sassy with customer service representatives on the phone. Overall, however, I feel incredibly stress-free most of the time – think panda chilling and chewing on some bamboo. I attribute this to my amazing job and skillful self-care. I’m not in the business of giving career advice but I can help you with self-care.

Effective and nourishing self-care requires planning and commitment. I often find that when I haven’t scheduled self-care practices into my day or week they fall by the wayside. For me, self-care includes regular bodywork like acupuncture, Rolfing, massage, chiropractic, and Reiki. I have assembled an awesome team of gifted healing practitioners who keep me running like a well-oiled machine. I also make time in my schedule for regular yoga and meditation practice along with journaling and walking. Another essential element in my self-care mix involves syncing my life with my monthly cycle. Ladies, we’re quite lucky that we have a monthly reminder to slow down and release things that no longer serve us.

For me, self-care is a lifestyle choice. Even though I’ve chosen to work a bit less than most in order to focus on things that truly bring me joy and satisfaction, I often hear those voices telling me that I’m lazy or don’t deserve to be stress-free and content. For me, radical self-care is choosing to claim my worth. It’s such a big deal!

Self-care is a choice and sometimes a difficult one at that. There’s space in even the busiest schedules for nourishing and supportive practices. Aren’t sure where to start? I’d love to be a part of your self-care routine, whether that’s through yoga, massage, or energy healing. Drop me a line and we can make a plan for you. And let’s not forget the vital question that started it all: What’s your spirit animal?