Last January, while I was attending my therapeutic imagery facilitator training, my mother was babysitting my kids. On the second evening, we had a powerful conversation after I practiced the Special Place journey with her. Something about the journey allowed her to open up emotionally in a way she usually doesn’t. At that time she shared a revelation about her mother, a missing piece, that made so many other things make sense. A part of me was hesitant to share this post, wondering if the information was better kept private. But then I thought of Brené Brown’s words about shame:
Today I am sixteen weeks pregnant with my fifth baby.
Just a few more weeks before I reach my 120th day of pregnancy.
“On the 120th day, we give our women a blessing and tell them to meditate more, and look toward God, so that they may have very calm, quiet, intelligent, self-creative children.” -Yogi Bhajan
Each pregnancy has come with its unique set of concerns. During my first, I was focused on the upcoming birth and how I would manage the pain. The second pregnancy brought concerns about having a precipitous labor since my first had been less than six hours from start to finish. During my third pregnancy, I had fears about my baby dying in the birth process (it was our first home birth). As I prepared for my fourth birth, my primary fear was that I would need a cesarean, that I had somehow used up my “smooth birth” allotment and was due for a complicated delivery.
In the end, none of my fears panned out. Giving birth to my first baby was smooth and “easier” than I had feared it would be. My second baby came after a long, drawn-out on-again-off-again 24+ hours of (posterior presentation) labor, not the 3-hour birth I had feared. Our third baby arrived alive and kicking (or rather, peeing and pooping on me right away). My fourth birth experience was nearly-painless, and I pushed her out in less than five minutes despite the nuchal hand up over the top of her head. My fears, while very much real, all proved to be unwarranted.
As she looked upon Joey it was as if time would slow down just for the two of them— and now for me as well. His gaze with his mother never broke. It was as if he knew the power of his soulful eyes. He knew one look would melt the heart and remind the spirit of that sacred thread of unity and love. -Buffy Owens, “Not One, Not Two: The Mother-Infant Dyad“
Grandmothers will probably hate me for this one. Sigh. Grandmothers are awesome. I love grandmothers. My apologies for what I’m about to say.
I was attending a mixed-age women’s meeting today, and one of the attendees had brought her newborn infant. Upon request, she stood and showed the roomful of women her new baby. Oooohing and ahhhhing commenced. Then this new mom declared her baby’s name, followed by, “And I love to share if anyone wants to hold him,” to the delight of many eager empty-nester arms in the room. Their eagerness was no surprise. It’s a rare woman who can resist a newborn baby. Apparently that newborn smell lights up the same reward centers of women’s brains as chocolate would (see here). I’ll admit… I even really wanted to hold him, and I’ve never met the mother in my life. But I leaned to my stepmom and whispered, “I don’t like to share.” She smiled and said, “I know.”
Back in 2010 I wrote a post with some of my hopes for the upcoming birth of my 4th baby. It turned out that many of the things I wanted to experience with her birth didn’t work out. I did get to experience a near-painless birth, but it wasn’t anything like what I had envisioned. So here’s what I’m hoping for with birth #5…
1) Mother Blessing Celebration
With my last births, my co-authors gave me a “virtual mother blessing” and sent me a bonsai tree and beads for a birthing necklace along with lovely messages and prayers for me. It was wonderful. But this time I want a real-life mother blessing celebration with all my hippy/birthy friends (who can make it) physically present. I want henna on my belly, and flowers in my hair, and candles and the whole nine yards. Getting this child here has been a long and agonizing process, and I know I will need a lot of love and support to complete this journey and bring this child earth-side.
Take a deep breath.
This was my go-to stress-coping strategy for decades. We hear it all the time, right? Take a deep breath.
So when, after having four kids, I felt like I was drowning every day, when the weight of the world was just too much, I opened my mouth, and I took a deep breath. And another. And another. And I kept taking deep breaths because I didn’t know what else to do. And when I started feeling like I couldn’t get enough air, I just tried harder… more deep breaths… more gasping for air… more forcefully. And then the panic set in. And still I opened my mouth, sucked in my belly, and gasped for air.
It was a long time before I finally realized what my body was trying to tell me. It wasn’t that I couldn’t get enough air. That’s not why my deep breaths never seemed to satisfy. The problem wasn’t that I needed more air. The problem was that I needed to exhale.
When we are under stress, our nervous systems cannot distinguish between a financial crisis or a bear attack. The response is the same: fight-or-flight mode. When the threat is more abstract, as most modern crises are, rather than actually life-threatening, we need a way to tell our nervous systems that the fight-or-flight response isn’t necessary.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. -James 1:27
When I was about ten years old, my stepmom, eager to share her love of literature, gave me a copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (1959 Newbery Medal winner). It has remained one of my favorite books ever since. Something about the story and its characters has always called to me on a deep level.
Hannah Tupper, one of the book’s main characters, is an elderly Quaker widow who has been ostracized and rumored to be a witch by the Puritan community she lives among. Toward the end of the book, the townspeople, looking for someone to blame for a fever outbreak, come after Hannah, intent on harm. I won’t spoil any more details, but it’s a beautiful book that I highly recommend.
Around the same time I received the book, we went with my stepmom and dad to visit the Salem Witch Museum. I remember standing in a dark room with period-costumed mannequins where a loud speaker told the stories of some of the women and girls who had been killed for supposed witchcraft. All of this talk about “real” witches was new to me.
Several weeks ago I learned something about my family history that helped me understand perhaps why The Witch of Blackbird Pond had struck a chord in my soul. I am a direct descendant of Margaret Stephenson Scott, hanged as a witch in the Salem Witch Trials on September 22, 1692. Margaret Scott was my 9th great-grandmother on my mother’s side.
Several weeks later, I am finally getting around to posting this. I’ve now completed Kundalini Yoga Teacher training! We graduated the first Sunday in June, but I will have to wait awhile for my certificate to arrive. I sort of can’t believe the past five months really happened. Hallelujah we made it!
I loved an exchange that happened between our instructor, Sevak, and one of my classmates our second-to-last weekend. Sevak had been talking about how rare a “true kundalini rising” experience is. One of my classmates was seeking clarification. His response to her was: “Do you have any idea how rare you are?” Tears began falling down her face. She truly is one of the most beautiful souls I have ever had the privilege to meet. I think what I will miss the most is the opportunity to spend every other weekend with a group of such pure, genuine, kind, spiritually sensitive, compassionate, beautiful souls. Truly, these people are the cream of the crop.
I should be working on my Yoga Teacher Training exam and certification packet, but instead I’ve been looking at homes online. And now here I am blogging. We found out that we’ll have to move this summer. 2015 just keeps getting more and more interesting. I feel like everything about my world right now is “in transition.”
I’m finishing up teacher training. Hallelujah. I’m adjusting to a surprise pregnancy. I’m transitioning through some unwelcome anxiety flare-ups and medication dosage adaptations. I’m remembering to take my own advice about minimizing morning sickness (thank you, cucumbers and magnesium). We’re getting geared-up to move. And I’m transitioning to a new prenatal care provider.
Yeah… switching to a new midwife. With my anxiety struggles and the minor chance of difficulties for the baby because of my medication, I had a strong feeling that I couldn’t do another home birth. If only for my anxiety’s sake, I felt it was best to know I would be much closer to a hospital. Instead, I have chosen to give birth at Blossom Birth Center, located across the street from Phoenix Children’s Hospital and five minutes down the street from St. Joseph’s Hospital. In addition, one of the care providers on staff is an OB, and hospital transfers are smooth and seamless because of their strong relationships with doctors and hospital staff. Also, I’ve done hospital births and home births, but I’ve never done a birth center… might as well give it a try.
“It’s OK, Mommy. You’ll grow another one.” -My second daughter (after I pushed out my fourth baby’s placenta)
Nearly four years ago, three months after my fourth birth, I wrote the last installment of my “birth story” in a post titled “Surrender, part 5.” In it I shared my somewhat graphic discovery that my youngest daughter was likely originally sharing my womb with a twin who stopped growing very early in the pregnancy. I finished the post with these words:
We can’t know for certain whether there was, in fact, a vanished twin. But my heart feels it’s true, especially when I’m in a room with my family and keep looking around for the one who’s missing, only to realize we’re all already in the room. Or when my baby girl’s face lights up in a huge grin, as though she’s looking at an invisible someone she adores, sitting or standing next to me.
Thinking and writing about it all, I can feel that bit of sadness and loss fading away, leaving peace and understanding in its place. And, even now, my eyes well up with tears of knowing… Yes, I know it now. I can feel it in my bones. I can see it in my tears and in the burning, overwhelming love and joy filling me and surrounding me. Yes, there is another child who loves me deeply and intensely, waiting… and hoping that I will have the courage to surrender again.
P.S. I gave birth to a baby boy in my dreams two nights ago.
Over the past four years I have become more and more intimately acquainted with this unborn child. He has visited my dreams, appeared in visions, made his presence palpable occasionally at family dinners or gatherings, and all along the way I have told him, “I don’t know if I can do it.” His response has always been a kind, patient, loving, “Whatever you decide is OK. I’ll find my way into your family somehow.” But all the while, he was persistent in his determination to make me aware that he was still there, still waiting, still full of love for me, still hoping to come to this earth through my body.
I’ve now completed seven full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training and sixteen of my twenty required yoga classes. I’m about halfway through my take-home essay exam, hoping to do one question a day to finish before the May 24 deadline. In addition, I still need to create two yoga course curricula. One is for beginners, and I think I’ll do a pregnancy yoga curriculum for the other. I got the Conscious Pregnancy Yoga Manual last week, so it should be really helpful!
Between teacher training weekends, on May 2, I was able to attend a gong workshop with Sevak Singh. In Kundalini Yoga, we use the gong quite a lot. It is said that the sound of the gong is like the sound of creation. The gong will always neutralize the mind and force it to a place a stillness. For this reason it is a very powerful tool for deep relaxation. During the workshop we were able to play five different symphonic gongs of varying sizes. And… now I want one. A big one. :-) Gong can kind of be an acquired taste. I wasn’t sure I liked it the first time I heard a gong, but now I love it. If you’ve never heard a gong played well, Don Conreaux has some good recordings. And Khushbir’s video is good too. Also, the gong sounds a lot like the planet Jupiter. Do you know what Jupiter means? Dyeu-peter=“god the father.” Interesting, no?
On Saturday at teacher training we had four students present their practicums. So that basically translated to four complete yoga classes in one day. Whew! It was kind of exhausting, but I love seeing my classmates teach. It’s a joy. We also talked about teaching specialized groups… corporate settings, pregnant women, children, teenagers, addiction recovery groups, elderly, etc. And we discussed some ethical considerations and the various Kundalini and yoga organizations: IKYTA, 3HO, KRI, Library of Teachings, Yoga Alliance, etc.
I’ve now completed six full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training and nine of my twenty yoga classes. Our certification packages are due May 24, and we’re scheduled to graduate on June 7. So basically I will be spending all of May either in yoga classes or writing essays for our final exam questions. I seriously feel like I’m in college again, cramming at the end of a semester. Good thing I’m a writer, so essays are my thing. Deep breaths (through the nose, of course). I can do this!
The highlight of last weekend was teaching my practicum! I knew I wanted to sign up for one of the first slots, and I knew I wanted it to be early in the day. I was the third student to present, and the first person on Sunday morning. Before I go into detail about the practicum, here are some highlights from my class notes the rest of the weekend.
A couple of months ago I got a text from a friend. She said something like, “I stopped shaving my armpits as an experiment.” I laughed and texted her right back, “Me too.” Literally. We both, individually and without discussing in advance with each other, started the same experiment at the same time. Over the past month+ we have had quite a few conversations about our hairy glory, and eventually both of us expanded our experiments to include our legs as well. I died laughing when she texted me this gem: “An Open Letter to My Beloved Woolly Armpits.”
Last night I finally mustered the courage to talk about the elephant in the room with my husband. I ventured into this experiment without consulting him, and I didn’t need anyone’s permission, but I was slightly curious to know how he felt about it. This man has been my devoted, compassionate, and stalwart partner through some really tough stuff. Given all that I’ve put him through, I was confident that a little hair wasn’t going to send him packing. But I guess I just needed to hear him say the words out loud: “I will still love you, even if you never shave again.” I haven’t decided whether I will make my experiment permanent.
I’ve now completed five full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training, my full 40-day sadhana, three of my early-morning group sadhanas (I need two more, but 3:30 is so early), eight of my twenty yoga classes, and four of my take-home exam essay questions. Our certification packages are due May 24, and we’re scheduled to graduate on June 7.
The highlight of last weekend for me was practicing teaching each other. We divided into three groups of five and took turns teaching various breathing exercises, mudras, and postures. I’ll admit I was really drowsy and preoccupied in class most of Saturday and Sunday morning, but I was alert and having a blast on Sunday afternoon when we began teaching each other.
I loved seeing my classmates shine in their own unique ways as teachers, and I loved having the opportunity to work on my own skills and learn how to better ground and center myself in preparation for teaching. I am on this journey with some really wonderful human beings and feel honored to know them. Here is everyone relaxing during a guided meditation:
The purest thing in the world is the heart of the mother. . . . It can move God. It can move the Universe. It can cause an effect beyond limitation. The heart of the mother is the greatest power of Infinity ever given to any finite being. -Yogi Bhajan, Women’s Camp 1977
Imagine you have an invisible shield surrounding your body, protecting you. And imagine that your newborn baby doesn’t have a shield of her own. Your shield is, in fact, your baby’s shield. Imagine that being within your “bubble of peace” can regulate your baby’s heart rate, temperature, breathing, and keep her immune system functioning optimally. Imagine that you have that kind of power… because you do.
Last month I shared something “new” I learned at my first yoga teacher training class. I put new in quotation marks because the truth is that I already knew it on some level. I felt compelled to keep my babies very close to me for the first years of their lives, and now I’m more grateful than ever that I did. Here’s the “news” I’m referring to: