Monthly Archives: May 2015

Preparing for Birth

Over the weekend there was quite alot of squawking coming from the bush by the garage. When I finally got around to checking in on the nest it was empty. Mama bird must have been nudging her babes out of the nest. It all goes so fast, doesn’t it?

We are about as ready as we can be for this birth. Everything is bought and anything we’ve forgotten is probably not necessary anyway. I’m in that place where I’m very much in my head and am trying to make space to get into my body to do this. My body is trying its best to help with all sorts of aches and pains that are pretty hard to ignore. I’ve slowed down quite a bit, a gentle reminder that the first weeks will be even slower.


Here’s what I’ve been doing to get ready and a reminder that this is simply what I’ve been doing because it feels right it is in no way medical advice or meant to treat, cure, any ailment or disease.

Eating dates everyday. Dates are packed with all sorts of yummy goodness and a recent study showed they can help with labor too.  Lately I’ve just been eating them but its super easy to make a homemade lara bar too.

Drinking red raspberry leaf tea. Red raspberry leaf tea is known as a uterine tonic and can also help with labor and post partum.

Yoga I admit I haven’t been as diligent about getting to pre natal yoga classes this time around but I try to get at least 20 minutes in before bed as much as I can. There’s a great podcast from Mamaste yoga that I like and of course Radiant Heart Yoga in West Dundee is the best prenatal yoga studio around.

Eating gelatin. Gelatin is a blood tonic in Chinese Medicine and helps to regulate the blood. I’ve been making jellies with my daughter pretty regularly and even sneak in powdered gelatin into smoothies and puddings. Another great source of gelatin is from a homemade soup, this is my favorite post partum soup to nourish the blood.

Sitting on the floor in cobblers pose or on an exercise ball to encourage the baby to stay in a good position. I can’t really get out of the couch these days and sitting on the ball is much more comfortable.

Acupuncture. I’ve been using acupuncture for all sorts of things this pregnancy. I’m currently following a prebirth protocol by Debra Betts that simply helps encourage the body to prepare for birth and has been shown to lessen the duration of labor and pushing.


Coloring. My daughter and I colored some really cool birth affirmations to hang in the room where the birth tub will be. If you haven’t colored in awhile get some crayons and a coloring book and have fun! Its a great way to clear the mind.

Soaking my feet in epsom salts. I love Epsom salts in general but they are great for helping to relax at the end of the day.


Elevating my feet as much as possible to avoid Fred Flintstone feet.

I’ve also done a complete overhaul on my closet and donated anything that I didn’t absolutely love (which was quite alot). I did some online shopping to make a summer nursing wardrobe capsule so that I don’t spend the next year in ratty sweatpants and old stained shirts. I’m sure my shirts will get stained but it feels really important this time around to feel put together when I leave the house with 2 kids in tow. It was a little tricky shopping not being sure what size I will be and knowing that it will fluctuate but I think I did a pretty good job considering shopping and fashion are not really a joy of mine. I’m pretty excited for a fresh wardrobe and I love how uncluttered my closet is.

Trying to savor the last bits of pregnancy. Who knows this could be the last time I have this experience. I’m enjoying feeling this little one dancing around in there. I’m acutely aware of how much is about to change. Its a fascinating time. Birth and death perhaps are the only things in life we can’t completely prepare for or know exactly when they are coming maybe that is part of preparing for all of the unknowns that follow?

How did you prepare for birth?

Preparing for the 4th Trimester

I’ve made it to the stage of pregnancy where I can’t wait to say goodbye to maternity clothes, I’m 36 weeks pregnant. I miss walking into a room without being stared at. I know I’m not exactly out of shape but I am a shape and its really round.


When I was pregnant with my daughter I spent 9 months reading about birth and breastfeeding, it never really occurred to me to think about the whole idea of parenting or how to maintain some sort of an identity. (sometimes) Its hard to be a tiny person’s everything. Luckily we’ve (for the most part) made graceful transitions from a couple to a family, from whole people to being someone’s mother and father. Learning what we need to have a healthy relationship with each other and ourselves.

This time I’ve spent more time thinking about what life will be like as a mother of two. How do I balance life and love with all of these people? How do I make time for myself, when its already what I’m worst at? Its overwhelming sometimes to think about. Because of this I’ve spent more time preparing for the post partum period. I had no idea how much time I really needed to settle into motherhood. I’ve treated many women who have issues post partum that sometimes may or may not seem related to all the huge changes that take place physically, mentally and emotionally during pregnancy and childbirth. I’ve slowly learned over the past 3 or so years or 30 or so years that I’m a whole lot more effective at everything when I take care of myself.

The end of pregnancy is hard, physically of course but oh so emotionally as well. I’ve found that I overdo it pretty easily these days, so quickly that I don’t even realize it until its too late. I’m learning to honor my body and my sweet pea has already become a wonderful and patient doula (as well as my husband). I’m learning the strength in asking for help, in knowing my limits and the fine art of being still, which is super hard to do sometimes especially when I get stuck on the couch, rolling over in bed etc.

I’ve said on more than one occasion that its kind of a shame how we as a culture enjoy and appreciate the rolls of thighs on babies, the squishiness and yet find it so distasteful on women. The post partum period for a women has a built in squishy period for a reason, why do you think teddy bears are so much fun to cuddle? My plan is to enjoy the soft, squishy phase of myself as much as I do in babies.



Its really common to see weekly photos of a pregnancy to watch a belly expand. Its exciting. There are projects that show pictures of post partum bellies and I think that is great. I think we as a culture have way too many expectations on women especially after they give birth. Its a time to be still, to hold your baby, to rest. I read once that when a caterpillar goes into its cocoon it doesn’t simply grow wings it actually deconstructs itself into a goo and then transforms completely into a butterfly. Growing a child and becoming a mother is pretty much the same thing. I remember after my daughter was born waiting for myself to go back to “normal” until I realized that whatever I had thought was normal didn’t exist anymore, my heart and my body were forever changed. What breaks my heart most is when mothers post on forums sometimes right after birth about when they can start working out again or dieting again to get their body back. I understand the rush on one hand and feel devastated for women in general on the other that we even consider this in a time that is so precious and should be honored as sacred. Its been said often it takes 9 months for a women’s body to expand and grow a child we shouldn’t expect it to consolidate all at once. It all just takes time (I don’t have a link so don’t quote me but in prenatal yoga we were talking about how it takes a woman’s organs 18 months to go back to where they were before pregnancy).

36 weeks

I plan to take a weekly picture for 40 weeks post partum to catalog my body’s ability to find its new “normal”. I have no real agenda, no diet plan, no secret. I plan on honoring my body and what feels right, eating a whole foods diet rich in foods that support the post partum period, placenta encapsulation (of course), mother warming and belly binding. I’m excited to see what will unfold.


Pregnancy After Loss

Here is part 5 in the series. You can start from the beginning here, A birth story. Thanks again for reading.

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When we returned home from vacation all I wanted was my body back. I was determined to lose the 15 pounds I had gained in pregnancy. We agreed I would get healthy and then see about “trying” again. I couldn’t fathom being pregnant again. I didn’t think I could do it. I knew I couldn’t handle another loss and neither could my husband. I found a class at the gym called Body Combat that made me sweat and laugh and feel really good when it was over. It complimented my yoga practice nicely. I had read a study about using acupuncture for weight loss and decided to use myself as a guinea pig to try it out.

After a month or so my efforts seemed in vain. Nothing seemed to be working. I thought my hormones must really be off. I went to a body combat class and looked in the mirror, my arms looked toned, my legs looked strong but my belly still looked pregnant. I had to leave that class midway through from feeling dizzy. Maybe I was dehydrated. I couldn’t seem to keep my eyes open when putting Lia down for a nap and would snooze the whole 2 hours with her. I started feeling a little queasy after dinner, maybe I was taking too many probiotics. My brother was chosen (hooray!) for adoption and I overheard my mom telling a friend she was going to be a grandma again. Her friend said, “Was I right? Is Sarah pregnant?” My jaw dropped. Did I really look that bad!? It dawned on me that it had been 2 months since the miscarriage and no return of a cycle. I thought my body was taking a break. It didn’t seem possible. I confided in a friend, feeling mostly like I was going nuts. Christian and I talked about the possibility as more and more pregnancy symptoms popped up. We were scared to take a test. Finally several days later I bought a test and there was that double line again, only I didn’t know how to feel about it. Christian said, “Don’t. tell. anyone.” I called the midwife to schedule an appointment. When we got there they were slightly skeptical that I was indeed pregnant when we recounted the story. I was just over 9 weeks. “Its a little early to hear a heartbeat, we can wait if you want so it doesn’t freak you out if we don’t hear it.” I said let’s give it a try and as soon as they put the doppler on my belly there it was thundering loud, “here I AM.”

35 weeks

It was the perfect anniversary present for both of us. We told my mom but felt shy about sharing the news and even now haven’t shared the news with everyone we know. (its almost become like infant sleep, don’t talk about it when its going well so you don’t jinx it) We planned to share the news at thanksgiving in a few weeks to give us some more time to let it all sink in and move past the “danger zone.” Instead all 3 of us got a nasty virus and spent the day in bed fighting fevers and achey bones. It seemed all too familiar. I waited for the next midwife appointment and the sound of the heartbeat before we shared the news with family and some friends since we could no longer deny my growing belly. Getting dresssed one day at the gym a sweet lady asked me when I was due. I looked at her like she had 3 heads completely confused. What was she talking about? How did she know? “Oh, I replied lamely, middle of June.”

After the 15 week mark I thought I would relax- but I couldn’t. I hoped at the 20 week ultrasound I’d be able to relax. Everything looked great, except a tip of the placenta was low lying. I would need another scan but no one seemed concerned that it wouldn’t move- except me. All of a sudden I was approaching the 3rd trimester. I started at the midwife in disbelief when she went over my appointment timeline. Wait, what? How did that happen? I had my second scan at 28 weeks but the tech quickly stopped and said, “I hate to tell you this but you’re going to need another scan, the placenta hasn’t moved.” I waited until he was gone and completely lost my shit. I felt so broken, so betrayed by my body. It was time to get serious. I scheduled some time with an acupuncturist that wasn’t me. I started reading Birthing From Within and contacted someone to help facilitate my processing this through music and art. I did some energy work also. All this time I hadn’t admitted to myself that I didn’t believe I would ever get to meet this child, that I was still holding onto the pain of the children I would never know. I was just holding my breath. I was so scared and angry. Its hard to live in a body I didn’t trust and was still mad at especially when I was ignoring it and here was this beautiful soul, my next teacher dancing around so close to the surface saying over and over, “I am here.” I was finally able to feel just how tensely I had been carrying myself, my belly like a rigid cage. I was able to accept it was going to be ok.

Three weeks later after another scan the placenta had completely moved out of the way. Finally I stopped holding my breath.


I realize I’m still in the middle of this story, its still being written. At 35 weeks I still can’t believe the end is almost here. The birth kit is here. The home visit is scheduled. For the first time I’m able to have a clear mind about how this birth will go, in that I don’t have any clue how it will go but I know it won’t be Lia’s birth, or my little turkey’s birth or the other miscarriage. There’s one last milestone to pass and that is the day we lost our little turkey on June 9th. We may or may not be pregnant when we pass it. But I think I’ve found some peace with all of it. It no longer feels like “my” story, it was just something to feel and I don’t need to feel it so strongly anymore. I don’t have a strong feeling one way or the other if it is a boy or a girl. I will be equally surprised either way. I do feel like I’ve been pregnant for a very long time which I have: all of this year and pretty much all of last year. I’m trying my best to honor my body as I have needed to slow down quite a bit the last week or so. I feel slightly at a loss on how to prepare for what’s next and maybe that is best. We’ve nested quite a bit, our whole house pretty much has had a makeover which feels fitting to have a fresh space for our whole family. I just cleaned out my closet, the baby has some freshly washed jammies to wear when the time is right. I have not been diligent this time slathering my belly with coconut oil and some faint stretch marks have appeared on my belly. I really like them, like a tattoo, marking my passage to motherhood. A reminder of all who dwelled and grew here.

A few weeks ago I noticed a bird would fly from the bush by our garage to the tree. I finally peaked in and found a well hidden nest with 3 baby birds, beaks peaking to the sky.

I plan to share my birth story when the time comes. I want to thank you for reading as writing this all has definitely helped me to prepare, to heal, to accept and let go. In the interest in continuing to rebuild my trust in my body I will be doing (hopefully) a 40 week series about post partum recovery as well.


This is part 4 and is about miscarriage, skip if you need to. You can start at the beginning here:

A Birth Story Part 1

After Birth Part 2

A Miscarriage Story Part 3

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I was a little surprised when the midwife told me we didn’t have to wait if we didn’t want to, to try again. “Have a normal cycle and if you feel up to it, you can try again.” In the moment staring out the window trying to make sense of what had just happened it seemed so odd. I thought of my sister in law’s text message when I was trying to save the broken robin’s eggs. “It’s just part of nature, mama will start again.”

I rested as if I had just given birth because I had and loaded up on nourishing foods, belly binding and motherwarming and went back to the business of living life. It was not our intention to “try” so quickly but after just one cycle I found myself pregnant again. Because I was charting I had a feeling very early on that I could be pregnant again. The first few tests were negative until a faint double line appeared and a few days later it was stronger. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t really know how I felt about it and neither did my husband. I reminded him that we could be happy about this baby too.


Nature it seemed was giving me a peace offering: a sunflower from the farmers market with 2 flowers on one stem, a fish tank full of baby hermit crabs, a twin squash from the garden. I thought it meant twins, I just didn’t think it meant twin miscarriages. Week 6 I called the midwife to tell the news and set up our first appointment. I mentioned some spotting but mostly when going to the bathroom and no cramps. Nothing I had read on the internet seemed to match my symptoms or give cause for too much worry. My sister asked if I was terrified but I wasn’t too concerned, the chance of a second miscarriage especially before 6 months after a loss was pretty slim, thanks google. The midwife suggested an early ultrasound to put my mind at ease if I didn’t want to wait for my first appointment. It seemed an unnecessary expense, I could wait for my appointment, until I couldn’t wait. Several days later the spotting was still there and we decided to take a ride to the free mobile ultrasound bus. When we got there the end was already here. I was actively bleeding although not much and while still technically pregnant they couldn’t do an ultrasound and instead recommended I go to the ER.

I was still hopeful. I just wanted to see/hear a heartbeat and take a nap. We decided to spare Lia a day in the hospital and Christian dropped me off at the ER. I promised I would call with news. A few hours later I walked away with no more answers then I had had in the morning. There was nothing to see on the ultrasound screen, my HCG levels were too low. Either my dates were off or I had a threatened miscarriage that they couldn’t confirm without a second HCG test 72 hours later. I laid in bed pouring over my chart trying to make it seem I was a week earlier than I thought until the pain and bleeding started. Then I gave up, I didn’t want to feel any of it. I took Advil to stay ahead of the pain and did acupuncture for relief and to move things along. I felt restless, alone, sad, and confused. Nothing made any sense.

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It actually took longer to recover this time. I was starting to get nervous about the possibility of a D&C when my levels finally evened out. We had planned a trip to Colorado and Yellowstone and I was concerned about not being able to hike. Thankfully just the right amount of time had passed and we had a beautiful time. It was nice to get away and spend hours a day in nature carrying my not so little one on my back. It was quite the adventure at just the right time.

A Miscarriage Story

Trigger warning, this post is about miscarriage. Skip if you need to. You can read part one here and part two here.

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Once upon a time the word miscarriage seemed like a minor blip in the world. A semi sad, longer than normal period. I think it’s portrayed that way because it’s too awful to understand the magnitude of what it is and how deeply it hurts. It has always left me in awe to think of all the things that have to go right in order for a new life to be conceived. Even all that awe doesn’t make it easier when somewhere along the way something doesn’t go right and the body decides to hit the erase button.

There are loads of birth stories to read about on line and people are very often happy to share in person as well but it is rare to hear a miscarriage story unless you have crossed over into the abyss of “being in the club”. It’s more common than I had ever imagined. It’s not just a blip in life, a longer than average period.

I don’t know exactly when the madness started but that’s what it felt like. My period didn’t return until 21 months post partum (thanks full term breastfeeding) Maybe it was a hormonal surge, biology; the urgency in my body to be pregnant almost felt manic. I was charting my cycle as a science experiment and even though it only took 3 months to conceive each day seemed much too long until the double line on the pregnancy test appeared. I was over the moon excited. It seemed everyone I knew was pregnant and I felt like a girl in puberty waiting for her period to begin when all her friends had already started.

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We had told family and close friends about Lia’s pregnancy early out of necessity to plan our wedding in Guatemala and this time I saw no reason to wait either. I couldn’t wait to share this experience with Lia, as a family. Everything started out fine, the nausea and fatigue. I got a bad virus early on and my midwife assured me that baby was well protected and to just take care of myself. I couldn’t eat enough meat. I quested for the perfect chicken fingers and unsweetened iced tea with lemon tasted absolutely divine. I had the urge to spit especially in the shower and at night. I held my breath for an instant at our first prenatal appointment until I heard the sound of the heartbeat and felt instantly it was a boy. I’d never been so certain of something even though we weren’t planning on finding out. Everything seemed as normal as could be and I was sure we’d be meeting our son on thanksgiving. My belly started to swell. I was past the “danger zone” and settling into pregnancy.

I walked out the garage one morning to find a robin’s nest that had fallen out of the bush next to our house. I searched the eggs to see if any had made it to put back into the nest but they had all cracked. I felt a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach but pushed it to the back of my mind, surely it meant nothing. I had quick a bit of anxiety this pregnancy and a feeling I couldn’t shake that this baby would not be born at home despite not being able to explain why.

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My next appointment with the midwife said I was measuring 2 days ahead. There was a little trouble finding the heartbeat with the doppler but it was explained away with tight pants. An ultrasound was done to put my mind at ease and there was baby swimming laps, wiggling so much it took several seconds to get a view of the heart beating. All looked just fine.

A few days later while eating pizza at my sister’s I felt the baby kick. I didn’t know he was saying goodbye. When we got home that night I went to the bathroom before bed and my underwear was lined with a streak of brown blood. Something didn’t feel quite right about the sight even though nothing else had changed. I called the midwife and she reassured me that it was probably nothing, take it easy and rest and call if anything changed. I spent the next day resting and not much changed. We decided to take a short walk to the park in the evening and when we got home to get ready for our bedtime routine I noticed the blood was more and brighter. I called again and the midwife was still reassuring that it was probably nothing. She offered an appointment the next day to check the heartbeat so I could relax. I scheduled an appointment and even then knew I wouldn’t make it.

I laid in bed that night trying to figure out if I felt cramping or if my mind was making it up. I fell asleep counting 20 second contractions that were mild and ignorable. Forty minutes later another woke me up and I got out of bed and called the midwife again who suggested some Epsom salts and to go back to bed. The chances of a miscarriage at 15 weeks were rare and the fact that we had seen the baby moving was an even better “good sign”. I tried to relax but my body had other plans. I pleaded with the baby in my head, “just kick baby, give me a sign you are ok.” It was complete silence and stillness.

I soon found myself unable to get comfortable and the mild cramps became stronger and all of a sudden I found myself breathing deeply on all fours about every other minute. It dawned on me that I had done this before- when I was in labor with my daughter. I went upstairs terrified and told my husband we had to go to the hospital something was not right. My daughter was up looking for a 2am snuggle and we loaded into the car. Thankfully my friend and doula (and more than part angel) heard my text and offered to meet us at the hospital to look after my daughter.

The 15 minute ride was excruciating. I walked into the ER in the middle of a contraction and leaned against the front desk, “I’m 15 weeks pregnant and am having contractions.” They got me a wheel chair but I had to wait for a room. The nurse came out to take my vitals as I felt a gush. All hope escaped out of me as my water broke and I said, “oh no. Something just came out.” My friend demanded a room for me as I cried and asked for my mom. (it was in that moment that I realized I would never stop needing my mom)

Shortly after that we were wheeled into a room. A nurse ask what my health history was which seemed like the dumbest question on earth and I replied, “uh, boring. What do you want to know.” The doctor came in and gave us a game plan that never came to fruition as the doppler remained silent on my abdomen. Instead he did a pelvic exam while the ultrasound tech banged on the door, him yelling not now as he extracted my baby and placenta with forceps. I have no idea how long it took but it felt excruciating and like it would never end. His eyes were genuinely sad and compassionate as he said he was sorry and that we had lost the baby. They left us alone to cry as we waited for lab tests results and the ok to go home which was the only place I desperately wanted to be.

A short while later the nurse came back to let us know we had the legal right to take the baby with us but if we choose not to the hospital would take care of things most likely by way of cremation. It was such a shock, it was all just such a shock. I didn’t even know what we would do with this tiny soul that we would never get to meet. Part of me wanted to ask if they knew the gender, part of me wanted to see the baby and part of me didn’t. Christian said he didn’t want the image in his head and we decided it was best to leave things the way they were. The nurse dropped off brochures for grief and loss and we waited awhile longer to make sure I was stable before  I was discharged. They gave me a pair of paper scrub pants to go home in since the pants I came in were completely ruined. We walked to the waiting room to get Lia and my mom and her husband.

It was the oddest, most unnatural feeling to be leaving the hospital without my second child. I couldn’t help but wonder where he was. I felt like I was abandoning him. I felt so completely empty. I texted my sister as we drove home, “I lost the baby.” My mom cooked us breakfast and I took a shower and was so surprised to see my belly so flat, that might have been most shocking of all. I went to sleep as the sun was coming up.

It was a quiet day at home. I didn’t want to talk to anyone and my mom let my family know. I texted my close friends just so that they knew and took down my pregnancy announcement on facebook. A dear friend who had her own share of loss had a basket of goodies delivered which was so kind. Another friend had a book mailed to me about loss with a kind note. Another went to the farmers market and dropped all the goodies I needed to make a post partum recovery soup. My sister and brother in law came to cry with us. My brother brought us dinner. A friend dropped off extra plants for our garden since I hadn’t had a chance to get anything started. We stood in the driveway her car running. She gave me a hug as I cried and said to me, “This is just something to feel right now, don’t get lost here. We all have our shit to deal with. Just feel this right now.” Wiser words have never been spoken. The ER doctor even called the next day to offer his condolences again and make sure I was doing ok. There was so much kindness and compassion. I don’t know what I would have done without all the gentleness surrounding us.

I felt at such a loss because for whatever reason it had never occurred to me how painful a miscarriage could be. How very nieve indeed. It felt like a violent violation. It felt like my body was pushing completely against what I thought it was supposed to be doing, as in growing my healthy baby. It was like being completely hollowed out physically and emotionally. All of a sudden the entire summer and fall we thought we had planning in preparing to grow our family was wiped clean as if it had never even happened.


Then later I couldn’t believe how many people remembered I had been pregnant. It seemed I got notes or ran into people who would casually ask how I was feeling and then there was the awkward part of the conversation. “Actually, we lost the baby.” I hated that part most because I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. Slowly it got better. What struck me most was how many people shared they had had a miscarriage as well. It made me sad. All this silence except when to welcome someone to the club. It was still raw for many women who would share their memories and it didn’t matter how much time had passed whether it had been a few months, or years or decades, whether they had had other children or not. I listened in hopes that by sharing their story would be a healing salve for both of us.

A few days later I had a dream I was above a forest where a wooden eagle was at the top of a totum pole. The eagle slowly floated me to the ground where my father and my son were standing. My dad was so sad and was crying. He kept saying over and over I’m so sorry. The baby just kept getting sick. He would get better and then get sick again. He just couldn’t get better and he had to leave. It was comforting at least to know my dad was taking care of the son I was unable to care for.

After Birth

This part 2 in the series, you can start read part 1, A Birth Story here 

There is a saying, “give all of your parenting advice before you have kids because it’s the last time you will know anything about it.”

Becoming a mother took me completely by surprise. I thought, “what’s the big deal? You have a kid and life goes on, they just mold to your life.” I wasn’t prepared for that not to be true for me. Three weeks in and post partum hormones flying I gave my  husband a hug and cried, “I don’t want to have to leave her.”I did though, I had an expanding practice and commitments so I made the best of it and figured I would be that woman who had and did “it all.”

Someone once described pregnancy to me as a time where they had never felt closer to another human. Which is true considering all the same space you share, it felt even more true as a mother. My body knew what my child needed sometimes before Lia needed to communicate it. I often described infancy like having a third arm that was detachable. I didn’t know that motherhood would be to date my life’s greatest lesson in non-attachment.

As a mother it seems my greatest job is that of witness. It’s a lot of effort to develop into a person. The sheer determination to figure out how to roll over, to sit, to stand, to walk etc. There’s not much I can do make this happen except to hold the space for my child to figure it out. The challenges get harder as these little ones grow, some are physical, some are mental, some are emotional and my job (as much as I want to tinker) remains the same- to witness (and keep her safe).

I’ve said many times, this whole path to enlightenment isn’t found in solitude meditating on a mountain somewhere, at least not for me. Having a child has been the ultimate spiritual practice, the ultimate lesson in letting go. It starts at birth and a little letting go happens everyday subtly and not so subtly. This tiny person that my body housed and helped grow is not mine, not a pocession or accessory to my life. She has always been all her.

That was the other big shock of parenthood: the discipline, the practice of consistency. Consistency in boundaries, compassion, in keeping her safe, in allowing her to be her own person even when it means she might not be who I want her to be, consistently a witness and not an enabler. Its like having a personal spiritual teacher always ready to call me out on my sh!t. (every. single. time.) Luckily I get a myriad of chances to start again and there is no judgement when I don’t get it right even if it’s not without consequence.

Because of all of this learning I was terrified in the beginning after Lia was born of getting pregnant again. I wanted to give my whole attention to this experience. Like foreshadow in a novel my husband, who wanted 11 kids when I first met him, would say if for whatever reason we can’t have more kids I would be content with Lia, we are so lucky to have her.

Our lives carried on. When Lia turned 2 I realized the feelings I had when she was just 3 weeks old were still there. I had heard the longing in too many mothers voices whose children had grown that regretted not staying home with their kids. The whole super mom thing wasn’t working as much as I was trying. A great teacher once said that in order to be a great acupuncturist a practitioner must cultivate heart first, hands second, and mind third. I didn’t feel I had the heart space I needed for my patients and we wanted more kids. I struggled and agonized for months. (My amazing husband said do what you need to do I will support you however I can.) Would I be happy as a stay at home mom after working so hard for so long? Would it be best for our family? Would my husband resent being the sole financial provider? Would I be ok with not earning my share? What about my patients, who would take care of them? My lease was ending and I knew I had to make this decision soon. I kept pushing it off in some way hoping I would just get pregnant and then the decision would be made for me since we had agreed that paying for childcare for 2 kids didn’t make financial sense for our family. Then it hit me. I didn’t need to have another child to justify wanting to raise my kid and making our home life less hectic for everyone. Lia was enough for that. I made my decision but it took a long time before I could say it out loud. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to my practice, my patients, my grown up life. Some people were sad but mostly understanding and supportive of my decision to put all my efforts into running a household and raising our child. I was truly in awe of the outpouring of love from the community I had always dreamed of being a part of.

Ironically enough shortly after I made peace with my decision to give up work we found out I was expecting. I had just made it through the first trimester and the horrible fatigue and nausea were waning. I was looking forward to a summer of quality one on one time with my daughter and meeting our little turkey at the end of November. 

To be continued… Skip the next part if you are pregnant or grieving or sensitive. Trigger warning for loss, grief, etc.

A Birth Story

I wasn’t exactly sure where to start this story or why. Sometimes I wonder if our greatest fears fill us with such strong emotion because in some way we know they are exactly what we came here to learn from the most. Reading other people’s stories has always been helpful as I process my own. I have gone back and forth over sharing all of this. I have decided to write it all down in hopes that it can be of some help or hope to others. At first it felt self-indulgent and maybe even irrelevant. But I’ve been thinking that this is what isn’t shared enough, it doesn’t even matter if its good or bad, it’s just not talked about enough. It really hit me this weekend when I was waiting for an elevator and a woman made an attempt at being funny by telling me from the opening of a full elevator that she didn’t think all of me would fit, all 8 months pregnant me. Funny, haha. Except that pregnancy isn’t funny. It’s truly a miracle. All the things that have to go just right for a new life to grow from virtually nothing almost seems impossible, it’s delicate. It’s not easy to grow someone from scratch, to share your body so completely. It can be hard mentally, physically, emotionally, exciting, empowering, scary and just about every other range of emotion possible, sometimes all at once or all in the span of a few minutes and most of it especially the unpleasant, sad or inconvenient feelings we endure silently on our own. I would like to stop being the strong silent type and in the process empower more women to do the same. I would love to hear your story if you would like to share it as well. Nothing about this is meant as any kind of advice, it’s just simply a piece of my journey to motherhood of 4 babies, one made it earth side and thriving, one I knew only a way a mother knows her child, one was barely here and one I’m currently preparing to meet in June. I will break this into segments and offer trigger warnings for the pieces that involve loss.  If you are looking for a positive birth story, this section is relevant.

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Early on in my career as an acupuncturist I started teaching a yoga for fertility class and had an influx in patients seeking pregnancy. I always felt conflicted and heartbroken for these women. It was the one thing that I “treated” that was so absolute: either they were pregnant or not. The urgency, the devastation. I often felt ill equipt to help. Deep down I was terrified that some day it would be me.

My cycle had never been regular especially since grad school and I wasn’t being consistent in the pro-active department ironically enough. A few years went by and I decided to get serious about taking care of myself. I wasn’t ready to think about kids but I wanted my body to be healthy when that time came. I wanted to be practicing what I was preaching and I was tired of running at half speed all the time and the frustration of not understanding what was going on with my body. I took my own advice and started doing acupuncture 2-3 times a week and taking herbs for about 3 months and finally after years of cysts, annovulatory cycles, breakthrough bleeding, insomnia, fatigue, etc etc my body healed itself and I felt healthy, rested and strong.

Shortly after, we conceived our first child in celebration of our engagement quite by surprise. My pregnancy was fairly uneventful, even if my life was not. Growing a thriving practice from scratch, planning an international wedding, teaching. I felt strong, empowered, focused like I could do anything. I loved my growing belly. I read everything I could get my hands on related to natural child-birth, making informed, evidence based decisions regarding all things labor and read so so many positive birth stories. A few years before I had seen the Business of Being Born and even then I knew I wanted to birth my babies at home. I was fortunate to have several friends who had already had low intervention, drug free home, hospital and birth center births. They were my inspiration. I never had a doubt that I would not rock a natural birth at home and all stars aligned for just that to happen.

I was in no particular hurry for pregnancy to be over. At my 40 week appointment I was 3 cm dilated and stopped working. Nothing changed that week except my patience. I did some acupuncture to help ready my body and not even a snow storm threw me a contraction. 8 days later I was 5 cm with a bulging bag. My midwife assured me baby was coming but I still felt doubtful even though looking back I was most likely in early labor I just didn’t realize it.

My husband and I had what would be our last dinner out as a couple and I started to feel slightly crampy. Driving home my back contracted fairly regularly and my husband missed our exit forcing us the long way home. Once home, I did some acupuncture that immediately relieved my discomfort. I watched my favorite show and then told baby to give me 2 hours of sleep and if they were ready to get started I would be too. I told my husband we better blow up the tub before we went to bed, just in case.

Two hours later I woke up to pee and when I laid back down my water broke. I leapt from the bed and said “Christian, my water broke!” as I ran to the bathroom. “Call the doula!” Christian sprang from the bed and before I had even made it to the bathroom I yelled again, “Call the midwife!” as my first real contraction hit, active labor was here. I gave Christian a job to do (laying down plastic and filling the tub as I settled into labor) I was kneeling over my birth ball breathing deeply through each contraction and playing a game of bejeweled blitz in my head. When our doula arrived I asked, “how did you do this more than once?” and was taken completely into laborland. Each contraction seemed manageable if I could breath louder than the intensity of it, which probably only makes sense if in labor.

It all sounds so romantic now to say I was swept up with each contraction, giving my whole attention to it. Nothing else mattered but breathing. I remember my arms starting to shake on the ball, it was no longer comfortable but I also didn’t know if I could move either, at least this position I knew. Our doula suggested laboring on the toilet and I did, hating the intensity of every moment and again I didn’t know if I could move from this position. Even though I was uncomfortable the idea of drugs never crossed my mind. My body was doing a job and each contraction felt like I was working towards something, it all felt necessary to the process. Finally the tub was full and I was complete and could go in the water. It felt so soothing. I clung to the side and was surprised how difficult and awkward it felt to push. It also felt like I would be in this state of in between forever. It was just my new normal. My eyes were closed pretty much all of labor and the voices around me seemed so far away and the conversation so bizarre. I felt like I was on another planet all together and would moan loudly as I felt the baby descending just so everyone in the room knew this was hard work. “Oooohhhhh!” I would say and they would respond back, “Good! Deeper, lower.” I smiled even in the moment remembering my bradley teacher and yoga classes when we would talk about vocalizing deep, low tones to open the cervix.

After an hour of pushing the midwife checked again and said a 2nd water bag needed to be broken so baby could come down. I wasn’t too excited about that but after, baby and I made progress and after a position change and several pushes I felt the ring of fire. It felt like a welcome focal point, something to push past. The head crowned just after 5am and just like that shoulders and body slide right out. All of a sudden this other worldly creature with a plume of red hair was laid on my chest. I was in disbelief this whole person had been inside of me, had grown from basically nothing. Such a humbling experience. These little eyes peered out so alert and aware and quiet. We locked eyes and just stared and stared.

nb lia

Eventually the assistant asked, “So, did you have a boy or a girl?” We were so in awe it never occurred to us to check. I lifted the baby up and said, “Oh, it’s a girl.”

The cord was cut and Lia was handed to Daddy for the first time as I got out of the tub and delievered the cool, smooth placenta. We were reunited in bed while I got a few stitches and baby was measured and weighed. We tried breastfeeding, feeling so strange and awkward, a threshold crossing of what breasts had always been to being used as they were intended. Before leaving the midwife gave me some homeopathy assuring me that tomorrow I would feel like a bus ran over me. I was sore but so well attended that I felt pretty great the next day as I ventured to the first floor and we began our life as a family.