Thursday, January 24

Silas' birth story, part one

Baby belly, the morning before my water broke, after teaching a yoga class.

My water broke on a Monday afternoon two years ago, four days short of my due date of January 28th. This was a complete shock to me. As a prenatal yoga teacher used to seeing women moping around as their due dates approached and passed, I refused to give much credence to my own due date, and instead declared that I had a "due window" and would give birth sometime before Valentine's Day. Since I was a first-time mama, and my baby hadn't dropped yet, I thought I had at least another week to go, if not more. So when I stepped out of the shower, sat down on the toilet, and felt that rush of waters, panic set in. I wasn't ready. It couldn't possibly be time yet.

There was a freaked out hour of frantic phone calls to my midwife, and trying desperately to reach my husband, before I settled in to the new reality. This baby was on his way. I made a plan, sent my husband to the store for fresh fruit, coconut water, and other essentials, and set about doing some cleaning around the house. In all likelihood my contractions would start and progress through the night, and my midwife, Illysa, would come over in the morning. If I hadn't gone into labor by then, we were to go to her office up in Austin, 45 minutes away.

East Austin. Still one of my favorite pictures I've taken.

We still didn't know whether we would name our son Silas or Cash,
so seeing this mural felt like a good omen.

Night came and went, and by morning there were still no signs of labor, so we packed into the car and drove up to meet Illysa. We spent our morning alternating between taking herbs, nipple stimulation with a breast pump, and walking around the neighborhood. (Some of the pictures in this post were taken during those walks.) My husband and I shared a lovely lunch at Blue Dahlia. We were happy and calm--our baby was on his way. In the afternoon, we met Illysa at her home, where she used a rebozo to try to get our baby in a more favorable position for birth. We then returned home, with a plan for me to take castor oil--the "big guns" of midwifery tools for getting labor started. We went for a short walk, then I took the offending liquid in an orange juice-vanilla ice cream "milkshake", as per Illysa's recommendation. What followed were several painful hours of diarrhea, about which the least is said the better. I finally fell asleep late that night experiencing mild contractions. I thought we were on our way.

Going for a walk before the castor oil episode.

But I woke the next morning to realize I'd slept through the night (good!) but that the contractions had vanished (bad).  Illysa and her assistant drove to our house for round 2 of trying to induce labor. More herbs, more nipple stimulation, using a moxibustion stick, and pacing and lunging vigorously all over my backyard. I have a vivid memory of being out in the late January sun (springtime in Texas), tired, trying to shake my booty to Beyonce, alternating between feelings of fierce hope that I was going to get this baby down and out, and exhausted despair, that all this, too, would lead to nothing. At some point during that day, as I was getting close to 48 hours since my water broke, Illysa gave me some IV antibiotics, to reduce the risk of infection for baby and me. (We still have the nail in the wall above our bed from where the IV bang hung.) Later in the afternoon, along with our doula Elizabeth, we went to the chiropractor in a final ditch effort to get our son in position for birth.

Very last baby belly picture. Meditating on the morning of Day Three.

After two days of doing everything under the sun to get my labor underway, it was time to let go of the dream of a home birth. Late on Wednesday Illysa suggested that our best option at that point was to head to the hospital so I could get an epidural and Pitocin, the former allowing me to rest while the latter got my labor going and my cervix dilated.

This was the toughest decision to make. I was fiercely opposed to the idea of birthing in the hospital, but I couldn't deny the fact that we had run out of things to try at home. So, angry and disappointed, we packed our bags (including a lot of yoga gear, my copy of Birthing From Within, and a small statue of Ganesh, given to me by a friend which had presided over many mamas' births) and headed back to Austin and into the new reality of a hospital birth.

:: to be continued ::

Thursday, January 17

the yoga mutt theory of parenting philosophy

I started practicing yoga at an Iyengar studio. Iyengar is a rather rigorous and precise style of yoga, which suited me and soothed me as a beginning student. It was easy within the well-defined boundaries of the style to know what to expect of myself, what to expect of the practice. It was easy to know what was right and what was wrong.

In another studio in another city, when I began my yoga teacher training a few years later, I was exposed to different styles of teaching and practicing. Initially, I resisted these new influences. I resisted the notion that yoga could me more about what it felt like to be inside my body than about molding my body into these classical shapes. But eventually, I became more and more attracted to the kinds of teachers who are, as my lovely friend and teacher Lizzie describes herself, "yoga mutts." These were teachers who are earnest students of the art and science of yoga, who explore the breadth and the depth of the practice, and create a style which suits their own bodies, with their own unique challenges and gifts and idiosyncrasies, and which feels wonderfully personal and genuine.

As I grew more confident in my own practice, and began to learn more about my body, and what benefits my own unique structure and what doesn't, I became more and more comfortable letting go of "the way things should be" and began investigating more deeply the question of  "how do I want to feel?" I, too, became proud to call  myself a yoga mutt.

Then, one day, I became pregnant for the first time. And as I was cast in the utter darkness of fear, anxiety and doubt that are the hallmarks of first-time parenthood, I began searching for a philosophy, a theory, about the right way to parent. I found the comfort and certainty I was looking for in attachment parenting. Yes--baby-wearing, co-sleeping, feeding on demand, these were for me. They made sense. They appeared to my untrained eye to be a guarantee of happiness for my baby and competency for me. Armed with my books and my Moby, I felt ready to become a mama.

When Silas came into the world, his birth was unlike anything I could have imagined, and was the farthest thing from what I wanted for him, for me. (I plan to share his birth story here next week, as it is almost the second anniversary of the event.) His birth left me reeling and broken. But still, I carried on with the plan, co-slept with him, wore him day in and day out, held him close for his marathon naps/nursing sessions. And things appeared to be working great.

Until they didn't. Once I was forced to admit that co-sleeping didn't work for me, left me crazed and sleep-deprived, my first thought was not that the method had failed me, but that I had failed the method. It was a long and painful road to letting go of the way I think things ought to be to easing into a way of doing and being that felt right for me and my family. It took long months of exploring what it meant to be a mama before I could learn to trust my instincts.

I think it is natural, when we first begin to learn lifelong practices like yoga or parenthood, to look for certainties, for ways to evaluate whether we are doing things wrong or right. I think it is very difficult at first to allow the measures of progress and success to come from inside ourselves, from our hearts and guts and feelings, rather than from outside, from what the experts are saying. But as we mature as students and practitioners, we begin to develop that internal locus of rightness. Only it isn't so much a measure of right-vs-wrong, but of right-here, right-now, right-for-me, right-for-us.

As the weeks of this pregnancy flow by and we slowly prepare to welcome another child into our hearts and our lives, my husband and I are having conversations about how we'll do things differently this time. For one thing, we know that we won't know anything until this little one shows himself and his personality. And we know that we ourselves will be very different, with over two years of parenting under our belts, and a toddler to tend to, also. We are a lot more comfortable with the idea of being parenting philosophy mutts. This time, we won't be afraid, right from the beginning, to experiment until it feels right.

:: To clarify: I do not intend in any way to imply that there is anything implicitly wrong with Iyengar yoga, attachment parenting, or co-sleeping. Only that I have come to know, for myself, through trial and error, that these were not the most beneficial modalities for me at the time. And I still love my Moby. ::

Friday, January 11


:: reading :: Making Babies, by Anne Enright. Brilliant and beautiful.

:: creating :: All-important structure for a big project.

:: tasting:: Tangy parmesan celery salad.

:: seeing :: Barn swallows on the clothesline.

:: touching :: Glorious neon pink yarn.

:: hearing :: Sea Wolf.

:: thinking :: About the way I want to feel.

:: feeling :: Dreadful Braxton-Hicks contractions.

linking up with Monica at ink + chai

Wednesday, January 9

remaking my mornings

What matters is simply this: your intent to claim the day with gusto and bravery and longing. What matters is waking up and asking, What can I be today?, and then devoting a small handful of moments to this task of wonderment. That is all.  -Christina Rosalie, A Field Guide to Now

If you've been reading here for a while, you know that remaking and tweaking my morning routine is something I do periodically, and with great enthusiasm. I am a devoted morning person--just the word itself fills me with this fresh sense of possibility. Also, morning is the time of day when one drinks coffee. But more than that--I believe that an intentional, well-orchestrated morning is the key to setting the tone for the day ahead. And when one is, as I am, the pregnant  stay-at-home mama of a busy toddler, setting a positive and beneficial tone for the day is absolutely necessary.

With the start of the new year, and on the heels of ten days of major and delicious holiday laziness, my mornings were in need of a reboot. Thinking back on a few of my favorite resources to inspire intentional mornings, I've been contemplating what the essential building blocks of a nourishing and energizing morning might be for me at this stage.

Left to my own devices, here is how a morning would go for me: get out of bed, join the little man in the living room. He'll quickly get engaged with his horde of Matchbox cars while I get myself a hot drink, and sit down to knit a few rows. (I usually try to be good and start with a cup of hot lemon water or honey ginger lemon tea before making coffee.) Once I've knit to my heart's content, I'll pick up a book by either Pema or Maezen, or some poetry, and read for a while. Then I'll make coffee, and break out my Moleskine and scribble out some morning pages. After all that I'll be starving, so I'll eat.

So what we're looking at is a cozy, nourishing, but completely sedentary morning. Nothing in there to get the blood pumping, to get energized. As I was reflecting on 2012 and planning for 2013 over the last few weeks, more movement has been a major theme that's come up over and over. Since I believe in using the morning to set the foundation for the whole day, it makes sense to make movement a priority starting at first light.

This is how I came to unroll my mat uncharacteristically early yesterday morning, in a wedge of light in the living room, still in my PJs. I put on a cheery music mix (also key to this year's ambitions: more cheery music) and got moving. It was pretty boring pregnant mama yoga stuff, especially since I've entered the stage when it feels like my pelvis will split apart at any moment, but I tell you, it made all the difference in my day. Generating that kind of energy early on lasted me through a whole day of errands and housekeeping alone with a whiny toddler. All it took was just one morning's session to make me a believer that this is what I need to do.

Since this is the time of year for setting resolutions, let this be mine: each morning, I will devote 10-20 minutes to mindful movement on the mat. My plan is to share an image each morning on Instagram with the hashtag #morningonthemat. I would LOVE for you to play along with me. You don't have to commit to doing it everyday, but if you do unroll your mat one of these mornings, won't you share your view? Here's to more mindful movement in 2013.