In Transition

May 21, 2015 at 7:05 pm

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.”

2013-06-12 03.49.40 pmI’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.

Surrender, part 6

May 14, 2015 at 12:38 am

“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.

Yoga Teacher Training Diary, Practicum Edition

April 30, 2015 at 7:07 am

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!

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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.

Mattress Wrapping and SIDS

March 24, 2015 at 6:38 pm

Almost four years ago, I wrote a post called Healing Your Home in which I shared my passion for air-purifying house plants. I also shared info about how poor air quality during the prenatal and neonatal period has been linked to preterm birth, reduced fetal growth, preeclampsia, respiratory problems in infants, reduced intelligence, mood and behavior problems, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). House plants can do a great job of removing toxins from the air. I have plants in almost every room of my house partially for this reason.

Book Cover (16)One source of toxins in indoor air is often overlooked: mattresses. I know I never considered the possibility that our mattresses could be harming us until I learned some valuable information about SIDS. I shared this in my house plant post:

Their research demonstrates that SIDS is the result of accidental poisoning due to toxic gases released from baby mattresses. These gases are produced by the interaction of common household fungi with phosphorus, arsenic and antimony, chemicals which are either present naturally in the mattresses or which have been added as flame retardant chemicals (Source).

Since then I have learned more about the toxic gas theory. Here’s an explanation from Prevent SIDS, quoting Lendon H. Smith, MD:

Before World War II, unexplained infant deaths were unusual. But after 1950, the governments of nearly all the rich industrialized countries required treatment of baby and child mattresses with flame retardant chemicals. Phosphorus and antimony were most commonly used; arsenic was sometimes added later as a preservative.

I want to be a yoga teacher when I grow up.

February 18, 2015 at 10:10 pm

When we fold our hands in prayer,
God opens His arms and gives us a hug.
Life is fulfilled with this union.
That is yoga.
-Yogi Bhajan

About three months ago I wrote a post I titled “Now what?” In it I expressed confusion about where my life was heading:

It won’t be long until all my children will be in school. I feel like I’m soon to be laid-off from my day job. What am I supposed to do now? Write more books? Get a job? Put my doula training to work? Volunteer in the community? Train in midwifery? Become a foster parent? Fight against modern day slavery/trafficking? I have no idea.

IMG_0946My friend, Felice, introduced me to Kundalini Yoga and Meditation several years ago. She attended yoga teacher training while we were writing our book, The Gift of Giving Life (in which she wrote a whole chapter about meditation). Since then she has written more books about Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, and she has taught thousands of students around the country and world, including me. But I was resistant. Boy was I resistant. And never in the years she urged me to keep up my yoga and meditation practice did I ever have a desire to attend a yoga teacher training myself.

Who do you think you are? (Part 2)

February 12, 2015 at 3:04 am

Last December, a friend of mine extended an invitation. She wanted to know if I would come speak at a church women’s dinner meeting in February. On February 3, I gave my speech. Here is part two…

You can read Part One HERE.

When Jehovah introduced Himself to Moses, of all the hundreds of names He could have chosen, the name He chose was: I AM. Peter taught, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The name of Christ not only saves us from our sins but it can also save us from our sorrows and heartaches, if we do not use it in vain. How are you using the name of Christ? Would The Great I Am approve of the words you are using with His name?

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Who do you think you are? (Part 1)

February 10, 2015 at 11:11 pm

A week ago tonight I did something very brave. I got up in front of about 100 [felt like a billion] women and gave a speech.

For years I have had this belief about myself that I am “slow of speech.” I am the daughter of a master teacher. My father has taught and trained professionally for most of his adult life. But I thought my apple had fallen quite far from the tree. For years I have believed things like this: I am a writer, not a speaker. I can be eloquent in writing, but not in speech. I am horrible at [vocally] explaining things, but give me a computer keyboard and I’m golden.

Simultaneously, I have had multiple experiences throughout my life in which I have been told or prompted (by teachers, friends, God and others) that I should open my mouth more, that speaking would be a part of my future. Me? Really? Me?

So, last December, a friend of mine extended an invitation. She wanted to know if I would come speak at a church women’s dinner meeting in February. I told her, “I think I can do that. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

booklilenginesm1I thought it was going to just be a room of maybe twenty women. I would only be speaking for twenty minutes or so. No big deal. But the truth was… it felt like a really big deal. A really, really big deal. In fact, that’s exactly how I started my speech. After a few introductory words, I said something like this:

On Drinking Tiger Vomit

February 2, 2015 at 4:04 am

“It’s OK, Mommy.  You’ll grow another one.” -My second daughter (after I pushed out my fourth baby’s placenta)

A little over a week ago, I attended a three-day therapeutic guided imagery training workshop. It was one of those life-changing experiences… where you know you are exactly where you are supposed to be, learning exactly what you are supposed to be learning. Before I tell you about some of my imagery experiences, let me answer a question that may be on some of your minds: what is guided imagery?

In brief, as a therapeutic guided imagery facilitator, I can help another person come into a relaxed and altered state where we can use the mind/imagination to visualize or imagine a limitless variety of experiences and possibilities and find comfort and healing. Guided imagery isn’t just a sort of woo-woo feel-good hippy trip. It is shown through scientific research to be beneficial in a wide variety of circumstances for a wide variety of physical and emotional difficulties. The Journal of Instructional Psychology explains:

Guided imagery is a flexible intervention whose efficacy has been indicated through a large body of research over many decades in counseling and allied fields. It has earned the right to be considered a research-based approach to helping. (Guided Imagery as an Effective Therapeutic Technique: A Brief Review of Its History and Efficacy Research)

For instance, in a recent pilot study published in Holistic Nursing Practice looking at the effect of guided imagery on stress levels of hospitalized pregnant women, the results were promising:

Littering Love

December 19, 2014 at 8:24 pm

So I got this idea. It grew partly out of the widespread belief that more people commit suicide during the holidays. I did some digging, and it turns out that this is sort of a myth. In reality, suicide rates peak in the springtime, though there is a significant uptick after Christmas… “a 40 percent uptick, according to one large Danish study” (see here and here). But, whatever. It doesn’t really help to get lost in the details when it comes to suicide. Regardless of when suicides are highest, they’re always too high.

In the US, nearly 30,000 people die by suicide each year, and the rate of attempted suicide is much higher—so much so that there is an estimated one attempted suicide per minute. Worldwide, suicide claims more deaths than accidents, homicides, and war combined. And many cases of suicide, particularly in the elderly, go completely undetected and unaccounted (Neal Burton, MD, Source).

Suicide is also one of the leading causes of maternal death, as I’ve written about before.

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Just Keep Swimming

December 5, 2014 at 5:20 pm

On October 29, I sent out the same text to a bunch of friends and family. It said:

Kind of suicidal please pray

I had spent a chunk of the morning on the phone with my neuropsychologist stepmom, who had called me after we exchanged a few crisis-riddled text messages, despite her being in the middle of a (no joke) suicide prevention tele-seminar.

I have great friends. They mobilized on many sides to keep me safe that day. For a good part of the late morning, I sat at the park with a circle of earthly angels (and probably spiritual too) around me. I couldn’t really participate in the conversation. Mostly I sat staring into a void of darkness, but I was so grateful that I wasn’t alone.

At lunchtime, one of my angel friends came home with me. While we sat at my table, we talked and cried. Our kids played upstairs. After a while, my daughter came downstairs saying something like, “Mom, we have this movie!” I glanced up to see what she was talking about and noticed that she was holding a plastic Dory bath toy. My friend smiled and said to my daughter [to me], “Yeah! What does Dory say? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!” What my friend didn’t know was just how loaded with meaning those words were for me.

Buried Treasure

October 10, 2014 at 7:42 pm

I wanted to be healed. I wanted to be calm and happy without medication. I wanted to meet the baby who had been visiting me in dreams and visions. I was on a trajectory of hope, aiming for a future I believed was right for me. When it all came crashing down, there was no sense in reaching for that hoped-for life any longer. All I could reach for was getting through another day, and another, and another.

Fortunately, I’m no longer in survival mode. I’m not fighting tooth and nail to get through the day. When I do still have anxiety, it is mild and manageable. I am finally beyond the insomnia that plagued me for months. I’m sleeping without sleep-aids! Most of the time I can genuinely smile. I can take care of my family. I’ve regained my appetite. All of these things are huge victories.

But now that I have the energy to do more than just survive, I also have the energy to look to the future. Assuming that my medication continues to work for me, I will continue to take it… probably forever. I come from a family riddled with mental illness. Most of the members of my immediate family are taking (and always will be taking) meds for those illnesses. I am certainly in good company. But I wish it weren’t so. I wanted a future without medication, and it’s been painful to accept the future I’m looking at instead.

Suicide Prevention Week

September 11, 2014 at 5:23 pm

This morning a friend posted this on my facebook profile: “This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. Your life makes all the difference. Sending love and hugs.” I didn’t know that this week was National Suicide Prevention Week  until she told me.

Do you know the warning signs of Suicide? The American Association of Suicidology shares this mnemonic:

IS PATH WARM?

I Ideation
S Substance Abuse

P Purposelessness
A Anxiety
T Trapped
H Hopelessness

W Withdrawal
A Anger
R Recklessness
M Mood Changes

I Am a Desert Poppy

September 3, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Back at the end of May, as we were franticly packing up for our sudden early departure to my parents’ house, my mind was scattered with horrific thoughts and images. In those moments, nearly two days without sleep, my body pulsing with panic, I prepared myself to kiss my children good-bye, perhaps for good. I don’t exaggerate when I say that I was sure I was either going to spend the rest of my life in a psychiatric hospital or soon be dead by my own hands.

Then the doorbell rang. A little while later, my husband returned from answering the door, carrying a cheerful-looking basket full of yellow things. Last year, I had brought a friend a “basket of sunshine” when she was stressed-out and struggling, and she said now it was my turn. One of the gifts in her basket was a picture she had painted.

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Choosing Happiness

August 31, 2014 at 10:42 pm

Wednesday night I took a walk by myself. Surviving that day had taken everything I had. I hadn’t slept the night before. I was exhausted in every possible way. As I made my way back home, I started to cry. The words from a song were playing over and over in my head: “How many times can I break till I shatter?” It felt like I had reached my absolute limit. After walking in the door, my quiet tears turned into soul-wracking sobs that didn’t die down for at least an hour.

I don’t know how or why, but that night was a turning point. Whether something shifted inside of me or something shifted somewhere else I don’t know, but something shifted. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were mostly good. I’m having some mild benzo withdrawal symptoms this afternoon, but nothing I can’t handle. Who knows what the coming week+ will bring, but I’m grateful to be spending more time staring at my husband because I’m noticing how very handsome he is rather than staring at him because I’m pleading with my eyes for him to tell me I’m going to be OK.

People often say, “Happiness is a choice.” A part of me wants to instantly reject that notion. If it was really that simple, I wouldn’t be popping an anti-depressant pill every morning and the term “mental illness” wouldn’t exist. But at the same time, a part of me recognizes that it’s true.  Happiness is a result of choices we make.

Endurance

August 26, 2014 at 1:22 am

Tonight I will be cutting my dose again.

As much as I’m eager to leave benzodiazepines behind, it always feels a little bit like voluntarily submitting to torture when I reduce my dose. Generally the next two days are alright. The third… not so much. If the pattern continues, this Thursday should be interesting.

In other news, my sleep is definitely taking a hit. Sunday morning I woke up at 3:45 and couldn’t go back to sleep. This morning I woke up at 3:30, but I was fortunately able to fall back to sleep until 5:00-ish.  When I start catastrophizing, I imagine that I’m going to have some sleepless nights coming up. So far my worst fears haven’t materialized, so I’m hoping the trend continues.

I think it’s safe to say that the past four months have been the most difficult I’ve ever endured. I really hope September will bring mercy. I really hope I don’t have another month+ of withdrawals to look forward to. I really hope the next couple of weeks don’t kill me. <—Did you hear that? That’s called a will to live. It’s nice to have one again. I hope it sticks around. Never take yours for granted, friends.

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