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Remembering how to be present: connecting with your body

Aug 25, 2021

Years ago, as an operations manager at JP Morgan, I couldn't remember what it felt like to be in my body anymore.

I remember sitting at the edge of the boardwalk at Stinson Beach, looking out at the crashing waves and the laughing people, and just for a second, I tried to feel *relaxed*.

I kept trying to drop into my body and feel the release of all the worries and anxieties and just melt into the gorgeous surroundings and the warmth of the sun.

And I COULDN’T.

It was like I was trying desperately to get back into my body, but I was locked out, and the more I tried to relax the more I was terrified I would never be able to feel “me” again.

I sat very still, but I was a ball of tension inside and the tears welled up as I held my face taut against them.

We can get so caught up in trying to get it all done, or just survive the day, that we forget how to actually be *present*.

You take a quick sip of coffee or tea and run out the door, already feeling behind for all...

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Part VIII: Labor and Delivery Round II (Part II)

Mar 26, 2021

Hands on mine. Black no-space swirling close and intimate around me. Everything outside melts away and I am deep below the surface.

Jeremy is near, I can feel his structural support as he holds my hand tight, his presence deep and affirming. The weight of my belly is buoyed up by the deep water and I am loving the soft relaxing warmth. The nurse fumbles around in the water with a heart rate monitor, pressing the metal and plastic onto my belly. Searching with the instrument and her voice.

“He’s not there”, I thought. I sensed him deep in the birth canal, nearly crowing, his presence closer and closer to the surface. Each surge took over my entire body, the chthonic motion drawing my insides down toward the earth, while a deep resonant rumble rose up from my throat. 

Then, as if reaching a long sought threshold, I let my focus go. Slumping against the side of the tub, I lifted my eyes to meet my love’s. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”...

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A wake-up call from mama guilt and the unending to do-list

Jan 29, 2021

I feel stirring next to me and peek my eyes through the dim light to see big eyes staring back at me. I groan, shush him, and roll over. I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to start the day. With a sigh I sit up and begin again: diaper change, hot cocoa, emails, keep the toddler from pushing the baby, put the baby down for a nap, nursing, soothing, feed the toddler, yell “for god’s sake!” while I try to work, make lunch, naptime…you get the picture. At the end of the day I feel like I’ve run a marathon and I just barely managed to get my overstrung, dead limbed, emotionally fraught body over the finish line, just in time for that elusive me time. Is my partner around? I’m not even sure I care at this point, I just want to be alone in silence until the sound of crying breaks the spell.

Is this motherhood?

I was recently reminded that there is a difference between the business of doing and the art of being. This has everything to...

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Two places you can get stuck when preparing for labor

Jan 09, 2021

There are so many labor and delivery preparation tools, books, methods, and teachers out there. Over the course of two pregnancies I’ve done my fair share of exploring. After all of that, I found that we can often get stuck in two places as we prepare.

The first place we can get stranded is in our head (really this one is the more evil of the two in my opinion). 

You start reading a book on labor – my favorites are Marie Mongan’s Hypnobirthing, Grantly Dick-Read’s Childbirth Without Fear, and Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery. All that fantastic information enters your head. You might learn about the way the muscles of the uterus work to move your baby out of your body, you might learn that pain in childbirth is actually a result of fear and subsequent tension, or you might read about relaxation techniques. Now all of that super juicy information (that we of course cover in beyond birthing!) is in your head, and if you leave it there, if...

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Part VII: Labor and Delivery Round II (Part I)

Dec 05, 2020

I stepped in from the cold. Eight fresh inches on the road had made for an amusing 45 minute drive to the hospital. I stamped my boots and greeted the woman at the window.

“I’m here to have my baby, I called ahead.”

The woman looked me up and down and said, “okay, well I can’t let your husband in unless you’re staying.” Ugh, covid.

“Ok, I’m staying, shouldn’t be long now.”

She eyed me closely and said, “If you are in labor, you’re the calmest woman in labor I’ve ever seen.” 

I smiled and adjusted my crown. Flowers encircled my head and amniotic fluid dripped down my legs as I stood in the fluorescent white tiled waiting room. I felt radiant, like a glowing quaking power source had turned on inside of me and I was eager to drop in deeper.

A short time later Jeremy and I were settled into a warm quiet room, and I closed my eyes as the midwife checked my initial progress....

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Part VI: Persephone

Nov 11, 2020

“Persephone.” 

He looked intently at me when I described the wave I felt as “earth moving through me”.

“She’s the goddess of fertility sweetheart. She was the essence of the maiden. Then the earth opened up beneath her and Hades took her to the Underworld where she transformed into the Queen.”

Woah. I unwound my hair tie and ran my fingers through my hair. I had read the myth of Persephone and Hades as a child, and thought it was sad that she had to go live with the dead for half the year. Having been through labor, the story now took on a new vibrancy. When my contractions started I felt like I was being dragged, terrified, down into the underworld against my will. I was fighting to resurface, but the only way back was through.

But hang on a second. What would it feel like to go willingly? What if I, like Persephone, fell in love with Hades and relished going down into this dark, mysterious place of non-living, where I held power and...

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Part V: The Words That Changed Everything

Nov 02, 2020

“It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t meant to, was it, doctor?”” 

Dr. Grantly Dick-Read had asked a woman who had just given birth why she had refused the routine chloroform he had offered her (chloroform preceded epidurals as an anesthetic during childbirth in the 1940’s). Her question left him perplexed and initiated his deep research into the nature of pain in childbirth. 

When I read this sentence, I tasted it over and over again. I said it aloud to see what it sounded like. I stared at the words. I tried to feel the experience of her words in my body that had suffered so much during my first labor.

“I could feel so much life force on each rush I couldn’t believe it. I wondered, is it this heavy for everyone? I guessed so and that blew my mind.”

This is the account of a woman attended by renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin. Her words echoed the deep feeling of heavy earth like energy that had moved like a wave through my...

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Part IV: Beyond Pain, Beyond Logic...Beyond Birthing

Oct 17, 2020

I’m throwing up into a bowl while my 1-year old cries beside me in bed. He is worried that I am dying. Sometimes I feel like it. I get wretched morning, scratch that, all-day sickness that doesn’t stop when I need to put my first born to bed at night. I soothe him, and he falls asleep. As I sneak out of the room with puke bucket in hand, a different nausea emerges from my belly and I feel anxious about how I am going to manage two of these gorgeous little ruffians. 

If you had asked me a year ago whether I would have another baby I would have said no way in hell. I really want to, but I just won’t face that torture again. Then I met a bright daring woman named Brittney, and hope flooded my every bone. She described what seemed like a fairy tale about giving birth pain free naturally. I wanted to believe her. I needed to believe her. Her eight-week course assured me I could get through the next one unscathed and I clung to this hope like a life raft in a...

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Part III: The Great Mother

Oct 10, 2020

The wave comes. I push. The wave subsides. I stop pushing. I repeat this pattern over and over again. Sound emerges from my throat heavy and deep, I direct it downward toward the dense center of my body. I watch their faces rise with excitement and fall away into disappointment as the waves come and go. “Push, push! Give it everything you’ve got!” the midwife trainee cheers me on. Jeremy’s eyes are locked on mine, glancing every now and again down to check progress. I am crying. “It’s a no” is all I can choke out.

I knew what they wanted me to do, but it was impossible. They didn’t know, couldn’t feel, what was really going on down there; I was sitting with a square block trying to get it to go through a round space. No matter what anyone said I just couldn’t fathom how it could work. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the through line, nor could I communicate with anything other than my futile and helpless,...

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Part II: So It Begins: Labor & Delivery

Oct 04, 2020

“There is no midwife coming? Are you serious?”

For the first time in 15 years, none of the midwives were able to come in that night. So, there I was with a trainee and an OB sitting back in a dark corner like Shelob the spider in Lord of the Rings (she did have a nasty flu, but the pinched scowl she wore was etched on that face long before this night).

The nurse approached me with a needle in hand, plastic bits and pieces on the other end. She wanted to install a port into the back of my hand (an access point for an IV or drug injections). I squirmed on the hospital bed and my insides writhed.

“No. No way.” I hated needles and I especially did NOT want one living in my hand while I was going through labor. She insisted. I tensed all over.

“We do this with every woman.” Standard protocol. I hadn’t discussed this with my midwife, I didn’t even know this was a part of the process. So much for my thorough research. I tried to relax, but it...

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