Baby Holiday – A Birth Story

Dane Stanley Andreasen was born on Wednesday June 19th 2013 at 10:12am.  He weighed in at a surprising 8lbs 9oz and 50cm long.

His birth story was nothing I had spent the previous nine months envisioning. Yet, as though like magic, there was a divine wisdom orchestrating the perfection of his arrival. My ability to surrender and allow his story to unfold in a way that was uniquely his own (and yet coloured by my participation) was in continuum with the surrender required of pregnancy herself, and also a right of passage into the motherhood club.

I had spent nearly 9 months wading through hormones and hyperemesis.  I had workshopped insecurities and doubts.  The Ina May Gaskin books had become my bible.  While my mind was still wrapping itself around how I could possibly push a person out into the world, something at my core kept whispering that I was built to do this.  That I would do this.  However, as often is the case, how our dreams manifest into reality, isn’t always the way we had envisioned.

On Monday June 10th, John and I waited in the ugly mustard vinyl seats of a sterile hospital hall at Victoria General.  I was 37.5 weeks pregnant.  This environment was a chilling contrast to the inviting and comfortable midwifery clinic we had become accustomed to all these months.  The week prior, our midwife Jill,  hadn’t been able to confirm that our babies head was ‘engaged’ (aka down). Though on previous visits, his head had always been positioned downwards, due to her uncertainty on this visit, she recommended that we have an ultrasound to confirm his position.  I had been surprised and scared at the absence of her normally infectious confidence.  A confidence which had always rubbed off on me casting away any doubts I had about my ability to give birth.  John, true to form, was unwavering and maintained a steady confidence that our baby was engaged to dive out head first. But, as we waited for confirmation, my brain started spinning – I had never once felt kicks up under my ribs like most women report.

Our number was called, and it was only a matter of minutes before the ultrasound tech cooly and quickly announced that yes, in fact, our baby was ‘complete breech’ and we would need to see a specialist to create a plan.  Tears started streaming down my cheeks as I lay belly up in the dark hospital room.  Though there were maneuvers and homeopathic possibilities, I knew instantly what this news meant for me and our baby’s birth.  I felt scared and weak and yet deep down beneath it all, an innate inner calm of which I wasn’t yet aware, prevailed.

Both my sister and I were caesarean babies and the more I travelled down the natural birth highway, the more judgement I gradually attached to our births.  Had my mom been pressured into unnecessary medical intervention? Was I going to get swept along the current of a clinical birth?  I had begun to view a ‘natural’ childbirth as the only way for me to step fully into the power of being a woman.  I had begun to look at natural birth not only in terms of my own empowerment, but as the first women in my immediate family to birth ‘naturally’, the empowerment for the women of my family!  (Talk about putting un-necessary pressure on yourself!)

What I didn’t realize at the time, was that every birth story is unique and every birth story invites the opportunity for empowerment and positivity.  It’s how you choose to view your birth that colours it’s experience.  And this lesson was to be my final straw of surrender.

I knew going into pregnancy, that attachment to one outcome was only a prerequisite for pain and I had been adamant the entire 9 months, that I didn’t want a birth plan.  I didn’t want to be attached to any one particular outcome and believed that the best course of action was to ‘go with the flow’ (see What I Found At The Bottom Of The Toilet Bowl).  It seemed that, while there was wisdom at the heart of my logic, somewhere along the way, I had in fact become rather attached to a certain birth vision. I became increasingly ‘natural’ birth focused, and in doing so, had made the medical system out to be the ‘bad guy’.  My attachment and my judgement became my biggest teachers in my path to freedom.

Not many have the strange luxury of knowing their babies birthday ahead of time.  I had ten days to embrace a caesarian birth for both me and my baby.  Much like the cycle of grief, I floated through a flurry of emotions, mourning my ‘natural’ birth.  Anger, disappointment, fear, sadness, relief, guilt and ultimately longing and anticipation.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still nervous.  After all – I wasn’t getting my ears pierced – this was major surgery!

I felt a sense of excitement coursing through my veins as John and I treated ourselves to our ‘last supper’ at the fanciest shmansiest resto in town.  With bellies full of braised beef (and in my case also a baby), we headed to the hospital where I was admitted as my birth was scheduled for early the next morning.  My sleep was fitfull, due to the anticipation and the bulbousness of my blooming belly.  The next morning, on an empty stomach, I was hooked up to an IV to boost my fluids pre-surgery.  In hindsight, this was probably the most uncomfortable part of the whole process (aside from the nervousness cartwheeling around in my brain).  My midwife Julia arrived and we headed down to the OR.  John said I looked pale and quiet as we headed down the hall but all I remember is focusing on my breath and trying to exude calm with each exhale.

The surgeon was delayed due to an emergency on an adjoining ward, so I had to sit in the OR with the nurses who arrived one by one.  This turned out to be the best thing for my nerves.  Instead of rushing through the event, I was able to take in the room (which wasn’t nearly as dark and dramatic as the Grey’s Anatomy counterpart I had envisioned).  The nurses were all so cool, bubbly and calm which did heaps to settle my nerves.  We spent a good 20mins pre-surgery ‘shooting-the-shit’ as poor John waited outside in the hall alone absorbing the stress as I was letting go.

Once all the team had assembled, it was go-time.  The spinal (which I had been most nervous about) was done in a flash.  It was such an intimate and connected moment to have my midwife forehead to forehead with me whispering reassuring yogic mantras as the spinal was administered.  (I later found out, it was John who had told her to remind me to breathe and say all those sweet things!)  From there it was game on – my toes began to tingle as I somehow transitioned to lying down.  I remember the calm of surrender washing over me as soon as the spinal was completed – the last straw in letting go.

A catheter was administered and the anesthesiologist checked that everything was numbing as normal (it was).  I had a few waves of extreme nausea as a reaction to the medication and threw up a couple times as they adjusted my drugs.  Luckily I was a pro at puking at this point in my pregnancy (always a silver lining!) In sanskrit this would be finding the sukkah (sweetness) in the dukkha (suffering)!

John was right next to my face as soon as the ‘curtain’ was set up.  (Which, might I add, is more like the size of a napkin than a curtain. Poor John, who is already weak in the knee’s when it comes to blood and guts, happened to ‘see-too-much’ and then his head was between his knee’s as the midwife snapped up the camera to catch baby’s first breath on camera.)

I had been forewarned to expect tugging.  No pain, but a lot of tugging – not unlike a trip to the dentist, just on a way bigger scale.  I expected tugging but this was WAY more tugging than I anticipated.  Go figure, they were pulling an almost 9lb baby from a small incision in my abdomen.

Tug tug tug.  Tug tug tug.  And then it happened – weightlessness.  It was as though the bowling ball that was pressing down on my abdomen all this time, was lifted.  And then I heard him – a tiny newborn cry.  Soft and innocent.  Likely inquiring – “what the heck just happened?!”  And then we saw him as he was passed to the pediatrician to our right.  As she turned him to face us for the first time, he opened his eyes straight away and as if knowingly, looked directly at us.

Our eyes flooded with awe.  Everyone says you’re going to fall in love at first sight, but I disagree.  The first few days with Dane, I was in AWE.  Absolute awe.  Awe and how perfect he was.  Awe of the divine intelligence at work outside of my brain (which took no part in his creation) to create such perfection.  He was so much more perfect than I ever, ever could have imagined.  And looking back 6.5 weeks later, I can say with confidence that my love for him grows out of that awe more and more each day.  You really can’t grasp the miracle of childbirth until you meet your child.  And you really can’t understand the profound love your parents feel about you, until you have a child of your own.

The phrase I remember hearing most often throughout pregnancy was “Oh it’ll all be worth it in the end when you have that beautiful baby in your arms.”  The trouble is, when it’s your first baby, you really can’t fathom just how ‘worth it’ it will be until you are staring into the face of your precious bub.  Birth is all about learning to trust, with every fiber of your being.  Trust that there is something divine orchestrating the whole process.  Trust the invisible power of the Universe and allow her to cradle you in her arms throughout your journey – be it pregnancy, birth or life.  Trust that both you and your babe will arrive out the other side of the pregnancy-birth tunnel.  Trust, especially when you don’t understand how, that you will be alright.  And trust, that “whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” (Max Ehrmann – exerpt from Desiderata 1929)

And so even though it went down in a way I initially hoped it hadn’t, it was perfect.  The  Caesarian Club really ain’t a bad club to be a part of after all!  I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Cheers to you Baby Holiday.  I love you more and more every day.  We are going to have some epic adventures together.  I can’t hardly wait.

spin it dj yogi

For the most part, I rarely teach yoga to music.  We’re bombarded by so much noise pollution in the outside world and we have the opportunity, with our time on the mat, to create a sacred space to tap into and become aware of our inner world – free from distraction.

yoga-music-artSimultaneously, there can be something tangible and soul opening about music can’t there?  We’ve all been on our mat (or our cars or the public bus), when ‘that’ song comes on the that sets our foot-a-tappin, and warms our hearts to glow just a little bit brighter.  Music that vibrates at the right frequency, can create a visceral response in the body.  There is music that has the power to move mind blocks and emotional scars from our hips and from our hearts. Music can be the catalyst for letting go of tears and fears in Eka Pada Raja Kapotanasana (pigeon pose).  And so, by request – here is a list of my Top 10 Favorite Heart-Glowing Savasana Songs. Some are in sanskrit, some are in english, some are just plain instrumental.  All are guaranteed to make your heart shine. Enjoy.

Top Savasana Songs

Krishna Das – God is Real (Hare Ram)
Bliss – A Hundred Thousand Angels
Wah! – Heart Sutra
Invocation – Angel’s Prayer
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Over the Rainbow
Sacred Earth – Om Namaa Shiviya
k.d. Lang – Hallejulah
Alexi Murdoch – Orange Sky
Miten & Deva Premal – So Much Magnificence
Krishna Das – Mere Gurudev

For those looking for something to spin during their practice, here’s an honorable mention to my Top 3 fave albums that I can play start to finish – sukhasana to savasana over and over and over again.

Favorite Albums to Practice Yoga

Garth Stevenson – FlyingDJ Drez – Jahta Beat (The Lotus Memoirs)
One Giant Leap (What About Me) Soundtrack

And finally, when you need a little somethin’ somethin’ for your monkey mind during meditation.  Nothing beats the ethereal vibrations of these tracks:

Meditation Music

Holosync 3rd Eye Meditation (Centerpointe)                                                                 David Hickey Chakra Music                                                                                                Big Om of Tibet (Tibetan Monks and Nuns)

Then again – there’s always the blissful sound of your own breath.  The drum of your own heartbeat and the stillness of silence.

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what i found at the bottom of the toilet bowl

It seems there might just be some truth to the whole “you never fully appreciate what you had until it’s gone”.  We desire, push, strive, and aspire to be more, stronger, better, and thinner.  In doing so, little appreciation is paid to what’s ‘right’ about right now.  We fail to see our existing beauty, our imperfect perfection because our sights are set so firmly on the horizon, that sunny land where everything is better than it is right here.  Don’t get me wrong, there is massive value in the pursuit of our highest selves.  The elevation from a place of mediocrity to greatness is not in vain.  But I think there’s something profoundly flawed with the pursuit.  Our sights are so fixated on the shiny, glowing, acne-free future that it makes the present out to be everything less than par.  So you don’t think you’re successful ‘enough’.  Is this belief blinding you from all that is right in the present moment?  Seek out the practice of gratitude.  Dig deep to appreciate the mediocrity you’re running from within yourself.  What if it was all taken a way from you in an instant?  What if instead of getting closer to that golden horizon, you moved further from it?

Perspective.  And in it, dwells gratitude. 

The realization that you spent so much time berating yourself, making yourself wrong for all these things that weren’t really so wrong to begin with.  Your thighs weren’t really that fat – they were strong.  Your skin wasn’t all that flawed, it was clear.  Your productivity wasn’t less than enough, it was exemplary.  Your routine wasn’t as confining as you had thought.  Could you have been free all this time and not ever realized?

perfect20 weeks ago, a little seed planted itself deep inside of me.  It has been growing bigger and stronger everyday.  Not without sacrifice.  For 3 loooong months I was forced from my unknowingly blissful wanderings to a lonely nausea driven existence somewhere between the fetal position and the toilet bowl.  There is little or no reprieve for the hyperemisis gravidarum sufferer. Now ‘severe’ morning sickness is not the herculean adjective I would choose to describe the incessant nausea that consumed my world 24/7 for the past 80+ days. Unable to work or function at even a basic level, my muscle mass, strength and soul were slowly flushed along with my breakfast.

The art of suffering can sprout some insightful seeds of her own.  Compassion and acceptance out-powered perfection and judgement.  Gratitude met hindsight.  The fog of my blind-spot lifted.  I hadn’t been weak or ‘not strong enough’.  I was so much stronger than I had ever let myself see.  The perspective this seed has provided, has been all the yoga I need. Mat not included.

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Me no likey.

Have you ever been sitting, having an amazing and animated conversation with someone, and simultaneously been acutely aware of doing something you deeply hate about yourself?  Thinking to yourself ‘gosh if I could only stop (insert said fault here).’

This morning I had two delightful women over for breakfast.  Conversation drifted from how to make a good cuppa coffee, to how to give a good adjustment in natarajasana (we’re all yoga teachers), to how to deliver your child into the world (you know – all the important stuff.)  We were animated- smiling and laughing throughout the brunch.  As much as I was enjoying their company and the conversations, I was simultaneously detesting something about myself.

You see, I’m an interrupter.  I’ve known this about myself for years.  My sister pointed this out to me (in a way only a sister can get away with) when I was younger – and it stung.  Colleagues who care deeply for me have given me this same feedback – and it still stings.  This is not new news to me.  I can actually mentally step outside of myself during a conversation and watch myself interrupt or talk over someone and some part deep inside my heart cringes. 

It isn’t purposeful or malicious.  During the conversation, an idea bubbles up from the ether and inflates growing in pressure and excitement to the point that it just bubbles over and spills out my mouth.  Unfortunately, it often does so over top of the idea or words of another.  To be clear, I in no way believe my ideas to be more valuable than an others.  It’s a filtering issue.  I simply get so excited to share that I can’t hold it and they spew out of my mouth.  Regrettably I find this organic expansion of energy difficult to contain.  It’s like the intention to hit the breaks is there, and then you slam on them but it’s too late and you just smash into the interruption anyways.

Louise Hay would probably have something radical to say about self acceptance.  I can just hear her soothing granny voice now “ohhh darling”.  As though I’d done something foolish but harmless.  And perhaps she’s right.  Perhaps instead of beating myself up about it I can be a bit gentler.  However – this isn’t putting a plug in the rudeness.  Nor the effect it has on the victim of the interruptassault.

If part of yoga is ‘bearing witness’, how does one respond when one witnesses an undesirable behavior?  Maybe my practice is simply to keep widening the gap between stimulus and response. Ultimately I can better control the simmer of excitement in my belly to time it’s boil to the ‘appropriate’ moment in the conversation.  I am acutely aware of trying to bite my tongue.  Bahh!   It’s so hard!  What part of ‘biting ones tongue’ is to abide by certain “social graces” and what part is playing small and holding back what I have to share?

So far, the best solution I can dream up, is to do my best to love myself in spite of this. To keep witnessing my habit.  To keep lengthening my listening.  The other day, I heard somebody say “Perfection is boring. It’s our faults that make life interesting because they make us grow.”

(My inner Virgo calls bullshit.)

Alas – with each conversation I learn.  More about me, so I can be more me.  I am able to create space for others to be more them.  In the words of Marianne Williamson, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

 

 

(Do you have something you hate about yourself?  Are you an interrupter?  How do you manage this about yourself to find peace and growth? Tips appreciated.

Grab a Match

Last night a group of near-strangers met in an otherwise empty college classroom.  The authenticity, vulnerability and courage that transpired in those ninety minutes will set the foundation for what is sure to be a powerhouse collective.

There is something so magnetic when a group of powerful women band together.  Whether they perceive themselves to be powerful or not is irrelevant.  Sometimes, oftentimes, others see us so much more clearly than we see ourselves. 

Ants in pants, knots in bellies, fear of not being good enough, being a fraud, being strong enough or saying the ‘right‘ thing at the ‘right‘ time slowly faded into epic listening.  Compassion filled gazes crossed that cluster of desks in a way that was almost palpable. 

Every angel unaware of just how familiar her story was to the others.  Each tale unique and yet each oh-so-relate-able. (As if you could hear all the ‘little voices’ in those six minds chanting in chorus ‘uh-huh’, or ‘hell yeah, I hear you sister’.)  We gave each other permission.  This created a freedom to be ourselves. 

There were lots of laughs, and a stream of tears that paved a space for ultimate authenticity. The required ‘so-whats going on with your hair’ icebreaker spun into my revisiting wanting to shave my head for charity as part of my bucket list (insert image of my husbands face cringing – fully aware that if my mind were set, there would be nothing he could do to stop me).

Accountability.  Integrity.  Gentle nudges when our small minds chirped louder than our higher selves.  All of this helped us realize that our struggles are not unique.  We are all challenged by the same things, whether that be a question of self love, living in the now, commitment, the illusion of life balance or the impermanence of life itself. 

We all feel the same way, just not all at the same time.

All this in ninety frickin’ minutes with a bunch of strangers.  Grab a match, this fire’s about to get hot.

Bridezilla Now and Zen

Crazy girls are bridezillas.  I’m a cool girl.  I meditate.  I’m chill.  I scoffed when people hinted at how big a deal planning a wedding would be.  All that help that my (bless them) thoughtful friends and family have offered, well – it would take just as long for me to explain how to do it as it would to do it myself.  “Awe – thanks but it’s ok.” “I’m all good.”  “It’s just a million little things, that’s all.”  “If there’s anything I’ll be sure to let you know!”  All smiles.  All anticipation.  All excitement.  Laced with full on stress-balls.  In all these posts I keep talking about heart over head, heart over head.  Listen to your heart.  Shut up the voice in your head.  Oh my – how all that goes out the window when we get spread just a bit too thin. Oh how our own innate wisdom too takes back seat to our thinking mind (my thinking mind has a long list that rival’s Santa’s naughty or nice list at the moment.  The hamster on my minds wheel is getting quite the workout – Hammy is super fit these days I can tell you that!)

But here’s the interesting part.  I have so ingrained optimism and positive thinking into my way of being that I didn’t even recognize my stress.  Here’s how the conversation went:

HEAD:  “Oh sure, there’s heaps to do but it’ll all get done.”  (Of course it will.)

BODY:  “I can’t breathe.  I’m having trouble swallowing.  My chest feels tight.  I can’t breathe.  My jaw is tired from grinding my teeth all night.”

HEAD:  “It’s probably a side affect from the medication you were taking.  Maybe you’re having an allergic reaction.  Let’s Google it.”  (Note – Googling symptoms is never the right choice.)

BODY:  “I can’t catch my breath.”

HEAD:  “Hmmm Mister Google says to seek immediate medical attention if you’re suffering from shortness of breath.  OMG – we need to see a doctor stat!”

BODY:  “Sigh.  Gulp.  My chest feels tight.”

HEAD (To Doctor): “So I googled it and.. is it possible that I’m experiencing side effects to the mild dose of medication I’m on (which I’ve taken before and never had any adverse reactions to?)”

DOCTOR:  “Hmmmm… (slightly smiling) It is possible.  Have you ever experienced any anxiety before?”

HEAD (trying to sound calm and not-at-all-judgemental):  “Ummm ya, but I get my anxiety here (pointing to belly) not here (pointing to lungs).  I practice yoga.  I meditate ev-er-y-day!”

DOCTOR:  “Well.. ahem (smirking) you are getting married in a week and a half aren’t you?”

HEAD (trying to wrap itself around the possibility of it experiencing a panic attack. Spinning.. spinning.. spinning.. panic attacks were for lose cannons.  I’m a yogi.  I meditate every-fricken-day.)

BODY:  I can’t breathe.

HEAD:  What would people think if they knew I was stressed before my wedding just like every bride before me ever?  I was planning on proving them all wrong.  I’m not like them.

BODY:  D’uh.  Are you listening to yourself right now?
Moral of the story:  Don’t believe everything you think.  Listen to your heart.  She always knows what you need.

(And so – doctors orders, I’m listening to classical music and cooking myself something fantastico for dinner.  Apparently listening to classical music for half an hour is the equivalent to taking 10mg of valium.  Now there’s something Mister Google didn’t tell me.)

Yummers

Nourishing the soul..

Breakdowns to Breakthroughs…

I spent the past 4 days surrounded by a loving and beautiful group of ‘strangers’ soaking up the richness of a Yoga Immersion based on the Universal Principles of Alignment (the foundations of Anusara Yoga).  What unraveled over the extend-o-weekend was so much more than nitty gritty alignment.  Which, I suppose, was my big question going into the whole shamazzle:  How does one unlock a spiritual connection from the heart through something as technical and ‘heady’ (not heart-y) as alignment? Yech!   While I don’t think I’ve got my melon completely wrapped around that one just yet, here’s what I learned.

  • Breakdowns are a prerequisite to breakthroughs.  Though we might fear the darkness that they cast upon us in the moment, their purpose is inevitably to elevate us to a new way of being.  A lighter path.  An a-ha.  It’s almost as though those of us who are blessed and courageous enough to allow ourselves to breakdown are rewarded by moving through the lesson, to absorb the wisdom and be heightened on to the next stretch in their meandering path.  The theme for our unraveling is unquestionably:  The Obstacle is the Opportunity.
  • It all doesn’t have to make sense straight away.  The principles I learned this weekend completely turned my world upside down.  Everything I thought I knew was stacked in neatly colour coded Lego towers.  Then, on day two – the earth started shaking, my foundation lost it’s stability, and the whole lot came crashing down.  (Some yoga nerds might argue the towers didn’t have quite enough ankle loop or pada bandha to support them.)  And so, I sat in the rubble, knee deep in Lego, tears streaming down my face, confused and ashamed of all the things I didn’t even know I didn’t know (hello – blindspot.)  Day by day – a new foundation was laid.  Physical experiences with the process led to emotional shifts.  Nothing necessarily ‘landed’ in my brain and as much as all the synapses continued to retry endless combinations, things are still waiting to line up just-so upstairs.  Matters of the heart cannot always be understood by the head.  We spend our days and often our nights tossing and turning, wracking our brains to understand our purpose, our ‘dharma’.  We crave to understand how it all works.  Oh what we’d give to have someone turn the light’s on in the darkness of the Universe so we could see the infinite abundance of possibilities that connect us all.  Oh, the peace of mind that would rest in our heads could we finally create a mental construct or schema in our mind to make it all make ‘sense.’  The Universe knows no logic.  Logic is a matter of the head not the heart.  For us to think our little ‘pea’ brains could outsmart the Universe, well, let’s just say she’s just looking down on us from above, with so much love, thinking “Oh Darlings…”
  • You’re not supposed to figure it out.  It doesn’t matter how much time you spend worrying about the future, it always turns out alright in the end.  You’ll just ruin your experience of it in the meantime worrying so much.  You are in control of your experience.  You’re not alone.  As unique as we are as individuals, we’re all the same.  Our struggles are shared.  “Everyone feels like everyone else, just not at the same time.” Nothing is accomplished by over-thinking.  Everything is calm and connected when we lift each other up and allow ourselves to be uplifted.    It’s all good.  All of it.  Even the stuff that doesn’t seem to at the time, will line up in divine perfect harmony by the end.  Trust, exhale, and smile.