Gratefully and Confidently

I recently had two experiences that made me aware of the value of re-framing the way I look at opportunities to share my knowledge and skills.

Over the month or so, I have had the opportunity to present new tools to some of the executive leadership of my company, and also to present some of my own work to peers at conferences.  These sorts of things often result in the following pattern:

  1. Work my butt off preparing presentation materials
  2. Freak out. (Silently)
  3. Freak out. (Mention it casually here and there)
  4. Pretend it is fine. (Freak out)
  5. Spend several days before internally mapping out my talking points. (Pretendind it’s fine)
  6. Spend the day or two before writing them down and practicing them ad nauseum. (Late at night so nobody knows what I’m up to)
  7. Spend the entire night before mentally rehearsing my speech.   (And, attemting to sleep)
  8. Day of:  Lots of coffee, getting ready, dressing the part, and spending the hours before getting worked up,
  9. Presenting  (Breath, breath, breath, it’s cool.  Feel the rising sense of red in the neck. Wondering if I have any clue what I’m talking, and, finally forgetting something important.)

Over my time working, I’ve actually done quite a bit of public speaking, but as you can see, the process definitely isn’t super refined yet.  But, recently I discovered something of a gamechanger for me.  Rather than framing the speech as a critical moment to shine, I have begun to approach the chance to speak as a wonderful opportunity that I am grateful to have.  I have begun to look at my presentations as offerings of my experience and opportunities to share, rather than make it or break it moments of stress.

This simple reframing has made a world of difference in my  preparation and execution .  I kid you not, I am starting to get excited about speaking opportunities as an experiential time where I get to talk about what it is I spend the majority of my time doing – and when you look at things that way it starts to feel a lot more comfortable.

I noticed that when I begin to reframe stressful situations in my life as opportunities to experience something new, or chances to grow, I handle them better and more gracefully.

It seemed critical to note this here, in case I forgetsomeday  that this reframing is useful!

Brrr

Keeping your 150 year old house at 64 seems like a fantastic, energy-saving idea until the temperatures outside drop precipitously and you realize you’re also freezing in your own house!  I’m wearing a hat, curled up under a blanket, and enjoying a short span of alone time while Rick takes Cody grocery shopping.  I know these interludes of solitary time are rare now, and will only become more so, yet there is something challenging about seizing them for myself.  But, here I’m making my attempt to seize it and document it.

Today I rest at 17 1/2 weeks pregnant with numero dos.  We are due in May and very excited about it.  Yet, as I did with the first, I find myself lamenting the general challenge of being pregnant in our US society.  Many of my complaints are probably a direct result of the fact that I’m a consultant.  I guess this is my own failing in the sense that the world of consulting is typically short on time and high on stress.  Within that matrix, I find myself as a “pleaser” personality occasionally putting in days that start as early as 3 am and go hours longer than they should.  I work my butt off and wait for the pat on the back, but I doubt that’s coming. As a pregnant woman, though scaling back seems natural, I often find myself leaning in – not out of desire, but more our of neurosis.  My brain on pregnancy is a touchy, anxious, and sensitive organ.  It doesn’t function at its best and I’m left scrambling trying to maintain a sense of being on top of tasks that were previously easy to manage.  I oscillate between wanting to prove I can do it all, and wanting to throw in the towel.  In these moments, I daydream about starting my own little company and working a schedule that works for my life, and really allowing myself to savor and experience this second pregnancy.  And savor and experience I should, but it is hard.

Part of the reason I feel so strongly about giving myself time to focus on this pregnancy is the fact that I’m going to attempt a VBAC.  That’s a vaginal birth after cesarean.  For those who don’t know, many doctors recommend that after a cesarean subsequent births be planned surgical births.  There is plenty of evidence to indicate that vaginal births are often less risky and safer overall for the mother, but that doesn’t change the beliefs of many.  So, to plan for and attempt a VBAC is a bit unusual, and certainly mentally challenging.  It is really in many ways an attempt to reconcile and heal past trauma, and it opens you up to the risk and vulnerability of re-traumatizing yourself. For that reason,  I see why people opt for a second c-section.  There is a part of me that gets the appeal.  Hell, I’ve had major abdominal surgery once and though it was possibly overall one of the worst and most physically and psychologically scarring moments of my life, it is over and done now.  I experienced that trauma, and part of my wonders about the value of opening myself up to the possibility that I will go through the trauma of a difficult labor, and lasting damage to my nether regions on top of the scars and challenges related to my c-section,  and then the ultimate possibility that I could end with the same outcome as I did before.   It haunts me a bit, but has so far not dissuaded me from setting myself up to try for a vaginal birth.

In the last weeks, the real need to address my previous birth experience, its lasting impacts on me, and my feelings about this birth have come up.  My midwife, amidst the clamor of Rick trying to corral Cody in the small check up room, took pains to remind me to take time to focus on this baby and addressing my previous birth experience. Nodding and agreeing and as I gently asked Cody not to climb on the examining table, I momentarily saw this for what it was —  and the challenge this midwife must have observed before her.

Hey, I’m trying.  I’ve had Rick set up my bike in the future nursery and when I have a spare half hour I head up there and spin while reading Ina May Gaskin’s book Spiritual Midwifery.  I do yoga and plan to do chiropractic throughout the second half of my pregnancy.  I’m trying to also have an open mind knowing that all the work could still result in an outcome I don’t love.  It’s a real test of the buddhist non-attachment study I’ve done in the past.

Today, I met with a doula I really liked.  She too, reminded me of the need to address the part of me that feels broken after my c-section.  As Rick, Cody, and I walked back t the light rail after meeting her I said something to him about how much I appreciated her acknowledging that feeling, and felt that since Cody’s birth there had been sort of a chip on my shoulder trying to understand what happened and heal my ego.  His response told me a lot. He instantly recognized what I said and noted that he saw it too — that I felt broken by the way things happened.  He felt that I had not been respected by the nurses we dealt with or my doctor, and felt that I had a lot of real reasons that I was still confronting my feelings about it.  That was validating.  I think in the rush of working, raising a toddler, and generally trying to re-engage with friends and life postpartum, there was a piece of healing that was pushed to the side.  Now, I think it is sitting back here in front of me and over the next months I have much work to do to address it.

 

 

Side slanting

Fall time is really the best time.  Once the sun’s rays have to slide across the earth a little ways to reach us they’ve lost their vigor.  Cooling happens, and so does beauty.   It seems my body knows just ahead of the calendar that fall is here.  My mind settles to a less frantic pace, and something seems just a bit more right in the world.  I listen to the Indigo Girls and stop striving.  Plus, I don boots.  And scarves.  And my hair matches the trees.

I could go on for hours about the cool nights and my improved sleeping habits, but I’ll stop here.  Why?  Because it is time to talk of Phish.

Our friends Manuel and Ana bought us tickets to see Phish tomorrow night.  This gift, express to us from them (far away in Brazil), was unexpected but awesome.  Phish feels like a tap on the shoulder from my late teen years.  Hello hippie, Kat. Do you remember the words?  I am tuned to Phish on Pandora and trying to re-familiarize myself with the vibe.  Truth be told, since I listen to the Grateful Dead in my car 70% of the time it’s not a huge stretch.  Oh, to have trendy music tastes… I used to do that once.

In other news, I am slated for a trip to Belfast in  two and a half weeks.  I’ll meet up with my family there and we’ll see Van Morrison live in an intimate show.  This is what happens when you lose a close family friend unexpectedly – you start doing weird stuff like buying tickets to concerts on the other side of the world.  I’m not complaining though this will be my third time to the Emerald Isle.  It will be nice to revisit my old study abroad haunts and recall my crazy life as a student at Trinity College.

Other than that, I have very little else to share beyond generally fawning over the cuteness of Cody at 1 and a half.  It I could bottle his little laughs and listen to is when I’m old I would.  They are the most wonderful sounds.

 

I miss it

I really love writing in this blog.  It is a chance for me to just openly ramble about whatever I choose without too much concern.  It is also a great little diary in many ways.  So, given these facts, you’d think I would be writing in here a lot in my first year as a mother.  I thought so too.  But, we’re all wrong on this one.

Currently, as I type this, my household is asleep.  I just finished a proposal for work (at 10 pm) and I’m now pumping breast milk for tomorrow because I didn’t get around to it during the day.  I tell you this because it serves as a snapshot of my life as the mom to a 10-month old baby.  I’m sure there are working moms out there who feel like life is a breeze, but I’m not one of them.  I feel like I am a walking PSA to all the friends in my life without kids, telling them that, sure, you’ve heard it can be hard to juggle life with a baby, but I’m here to tell you that it’s HARD to juggle.

I literally have not slept through the night in roughly a year.  This time last year I was pregnant AF, and since that time I have had a baby waking me up at all hours of the night.  Sure, there was that two-week period where Cody and Rick were in Austria, but I was pumping that whole time so sleeping still was not a reality for me.  Only now, at over 10 months postpartum, do I finally feel like I have the energy and ability to reliably think, keep track of the day’s events, work out, and care for myself, Rick, and the kid.  I really don’t know how people manage to have more than a handful of these little monsters.

Complaints aside, 10 months is possibly one of the cutest ages ever.  Cody babbles, says Addie’s name, sings, crawls towards me when I come home, and hangs on to my legs as I walk around.  He is still snuggly but mostly he is on the go, exploring and taking in all that life has to offer.  Last weekend I went horseback riding and we brought Cody to the stables.  To him, horses  were possibly the coolest thing he’s seen yet.  It’s such fun to see life through his little hazel eyes!

He sleeps in his bed for the first few hours each night, but typically still wakes up and needs to feed or be comforted.  At this point, I usually bring him to bed and fall asleep nursing.  When I wake again later, there is this tiny human cuddled up next to me, often with a hand touching me for comfort.  I listen in the stillness for the gentle sounds of his breathing, and if he seems so soundly asleep that I won’t wake him, I often trace my fingers on his soft skin.  Babies are the most incredible things!

I recognize that my conversation has devolved (here anyway) into recollections of moments in motherhood.  In some ways I care and want to preserve this space for a me that is separate from my mother-ness.  That said, there isn’t really a duality in my existence.  I am a mom.  I work.  I catch my breath in my throat when I think of my tiny little son and how overwhelming life and love and motherhood are. These are all parts of me, and so be it if my blog turns into a ramble on this new chapter.

Where has the time gone?

I never thought I’d do this.  But, I’ve done it. For the last few weeks I’ve been participating in an instagram yoga challenge.  Basically, you follow the hashtag, #babybouncebackchallenge and each day all the people participating post a picture of themselves in the day’s designated asana, often with their baby.  You can check them out in the sidebar here.

I always thought yoga challenges seemed to focus on the wrong thing.  They emphasized making a pose look pretty for the camera, rather than the real yoga of accepting where you are and working to fully express the pose for you in the time and place you’re at. But I’ve learned a bit in this challenge.  Because it’s a bunch of postpartum moms, you really get that acceptance of where you’re at more overtly than with other challenges.  For me, it’s been really wonderful to connect with my friends in Australia who have had babies since we all did lots of yoga together years ago.  It’s also great to read about the challenges and joys other moms face with their physical body, their lack of sleep, their stress, and their overwhelming love for their babies.  It helps me remember that, though I don’t have a lot of friends around me with kids, I’m not alone.

Cody is a sweet, wonderful baby.  I’m told there aren’t many like him, and that I shouldn’t expect such an easy-going baby when we go for round two.  And that’s OK.  I can accept that. He is a joy.  His smiles warm my heart, his chatter is so playful ad sweet, and his squishy thighs are my favorite things to squeeze.  He makes me so incredibly happy.  I want a million of him.   But, that doesn’t negate the challenges.  I felt like my brain was running at about 50% for the first 6 months postpartum.  I still don’t ever sleep through the night – even if Cody does occassionaly.  I struggle to manage my time between work, play, Cody, and trying to care for and support myself.  One of the hardest pieces of rediscovering myself amidst all this change has been the issue of accepting myself each day for where I am in my life.  I am still breastfeeding him, and I hope to continue as long as I can.  But that said, breastfeeding poses its own challenges in rediscovering yourself as a mom.   I had heard over and over again before having Cody that breastfeeding just causes all the baby weight to fall off.  I’m here to tell you, that is not true in all cases.  When I got pregnant, almost immediately I put on about 10 pounds.  Maybe it was the hormones, because even though I didn’t eat a lot during the first trimester, I packed on the lbs.  Well, now I think it’s those last hormonal 15 pounds that may not ever leave me – at least as long as I’m breastfeeding.  And, as I’ve googled this endlessly, I’ve realized that there are those who lose weight effortlessly while breastfeeding, and then there are people like me.  We keep a nice literal and figurative cushion for the uncertainties in life, I suppose.  I think as an early human this would probably have been advantageous evolutionarily.  Now, it really just keeps me from fitting in my pants.  It’s not the end of the world, but it gets under my skin and it means that I still don’t really feel like myself yet.  That’s not to say I feel bad – each day I have built in time to snuggle with my baby and provide him with sustenance and nurturing.  Breastfeeding is magical – both because it is such a joy to be with my baby and feel connected to him, but also because it gives me superpowers.  For example, baby is crying and overtired.  He has had dinner, a bottle, had a nice back scratch – but nothing is working to settle him down.  What to do?  Boob.  That’s what.  They are the ultimate baby problem solvers.  As someone who has never had any other real use for these organs, I’m sure thankful for them now.

But yes, the pants thing.  That’s kind of a problem for me.  I work out, yo.  I just rode my bicycle over Trail Ridge Road.  I run like 4 times a week and do lots of yoga.  I just happen to show little to no progress in losing that baby weight.  So, I’m working towards self-acceptance while striving to express myself as best I can in the time and place I’m at in my life.  See how we came full circle with that?  Yoga.  So good.

Ok, off to work.  I can’t believe I hadn’t blogged since June.  Babies…

Fomented

There are geographies that hold significance for me, for each of us, across the spans of time and space.  They act as bookmarks in the chronology of our lives, to which we can turn back and reread a page or revel in a memory.  A marker to remind us where we have come from, and how we have evolved from who we once were.

One such geography in my life is the Twin Cities.  I went to college there.  It was where I fell deeply in love with learning.  It was where I developed the habits and practiced the choreographies that have carried me through the stages of my life since I left.  It was where I first fell in love. And, also where I began to develop a sense of who I am and what I want to be in the world around me.

As you can imagine, I seize every opportunity to go to the Twin Cities for all the above reasons.  But, also just to walk out into the humid embrace of the air there, to see the blinding reflection of late afternoon sun on the lakes – to revel in the fecundity of the greenery, the warmth of summer, the alluringly rich smells.  To feel life brimming over in a cascade of loamy soil, mosquitoes, and green leaves.

Being back in the Twin Cites, particularly in summer, is like turning back a page to the me who had just graduated from college, who was training for her first marathon, and who was finally exploring what it was to be an adult.  It is an opportunity to reflect on a magical time, where the future was full of possibility: I was happy and in love, and the world held unimaginable promise.

I was in MSP for a meeting of a leadership development program I was nominated to within my company.  It is a huge honor and I’m incredibly excited.  It was the first meeting of a two-year program which is intended to help us build networks with other emerging leaders, and put our energies towards developing ourselves, as well as developing our skills to bring forth the best from those around us.  Being that it was the first meeting with a group who flew in from all over the country, I approached it with a sense of opportunity and promise.

But more interesting to me, as always, is the thematic intersections of my life, reflected in the spaces and places around me.  And so, here there was much fodder for analysis.  Unbeknownst to me, the meeting I was attending fell on heels of the 10-year college reunion of the class ahead of me at Macalester.  I would have been a member of that class had I not taken a year off, and more meaningfully, my boyfriend in college and all his friends were in that year.  Recognizing the temporal, and potentially geographic closeness of so many people who held significance in my life at the same time felt like a melding of energies in the universe.  Had I put two and two together, perhaps I’d have considered extending my trip.  But, alas, in my less than 24-hour stay in the cities I was able to see just three friends and their significant others, which felt pretty good to me.

I stayed with Alex, and her two beautiful babes and her wonderful husband. I visited Fay, whose life path and mine have followed interestingly parallel tracks and who always amazes me with her laser-like ability to pinpoint and verbalize abstract issues, and I saw Molly and Mike and met their gorgeous son.  Molly has always been an encouraging presence and someone who I feel I missed connecting fully with in college, and subsequently need to attempt to connect with at every opportunity to make up for lost time.  In my whirlwind, I saw various pictures of my future in the lives of my friends.  Such a short visit, of course offers only a vignette from which I am probably making overly broad assumptions.  But yet, in the snapshot into these various lives I saw such insight into how to forge a path forward in growing a family, building a career, and developing as a human across the space and time my life offers.  Meanwhile, amidst this group of emerging leaders at my meeting, we learned the program’s goal was more to develop ourselves and learn how we operated, what we uniquely offer, and how to leverage our strengths both in and out of the workplace.

Across the board, the universe seemed to be presenting me with a chance to evaluate my life’s progress and my future, both personally and professionally.  As a new mama, and someone trying to build a career, and someone who wants to grow as a person and pursue dreams and challenges that are independent of my family life or my work, I often feel pulled in many directions.  My visit reminded me that I’m not alone in this struggle and presented case studies of people across multiple parts of my life who are engaging with the same challenges, finding strategies to manage the hard things, finding ways to celebrate the sweet things, and reaching each day to be a better version of themselves.  My visit offered me a set of peers to whom I can turn for consolation and advice as the challenges mount, and who can share in celebration when things go well.  At the juncture of my entry to motherhood, the evolution of my role as a wife, and the occasionally uneasy relationship I have with my leadership opportunities – this visit was a much-needed boost to my psyche.  I had not realized that as a new mom, and someone trying to build a career I was feeling a bit alone in Denver.  My friends there, for all their wonderful qualities, are for the most part, not there yet.  To be in the Cities – in a place I will always associate with my personal evolution into who I am today – and to have been offered the gift of insight into the universality of my struggles?  Well, it was meaningful to me.

So, I suppose that was a long way of saying that I had a good trip.  I small piece of my heart will always reside on the riverside trails on Minneapolis, or looking out over the night-darkened Mississippi from an abandoned railroad bridge.  And in each visit I discover a new iteration of myself reflected back from this place.

Mama

Listen folks, I’m admitting right here and right now that I just didn’t get it.  Sure, I held a baby here and there and thought it was cute, then gave it back to its rightful owner.  I enjoyed volunteering at preschools throughout high school, again after college.  I taught and coached skiing.  I led wilderness trips for young adults.  Nobody could ever claim I didn’t like kids. I did.  I do!  But, honestly, I never knew how much more I’d like my OWN kid.

The last three days I’ve been putting in long hours – leaving the house at 7 and not getting back until 9 or so.  This is not my normal routine, and it’s days like this that I recognize this completely new and unfamiliar feeling.  After about 8 hours away, this little urge begins to creep up on me.  It is the tangible deficit of baby time in my life. It’s like an intense craving.  It pulls and twists my insides. I begin daydreaming about squeezing Cody and smothering him with kisses till he erupts in giggles.  I miss him and want to hold him as soon as I see him, until I fall asleep.  And, sometimes I want him to sleep in my bed with me.  I start lamenting that he won’t be a baby forever, and there will come an end to the days where he lets me hold him as long as I need to.  I start to plot out a schedule of family planning to ensure that I don’t have to go too long without a squeezable tiny being.

I never saw THAT coming.

I’m beginning to fear I will have an irrepressible urge to procreate until I can’t anymore. They are just so tiny, and special.  They are amazing little creatures.  And, at least in Cody’s case, they are a constant reminder of all the incredible things in the world that I sometimes take for granted.  He sees it all for the first time, and trying to look at the world through his eyes makes it new and exciting for me as well.

In Australia, this feeling is called being “clucky” and I occasionally joked that I was clucky back when I lived there, because so many people around me were having kids.  But, the thing is, I had no idea what clucky really was – what it really felt like, until now.  It took me having my own baby to have the deep-in-your-gut desire for them.

So, now the spring is here, the sun is out, and I’m head over heels in love with a small being that literally tore open my core when he entered the world.  So much changes when you become a mama, and each day is a new revelation in the depth and breadth of all that the role encompasses.