A Story of Will

I was browsing in the granite aisle.  I was feeling the chill of an overly air-conditioned warehouse full of huge slabs of stone, when I stopped and closed my eyes to breathe through a contraction.  I looked at the contraction timer I’d downloaded earlier in the day, and sure enough…they were regular and about 6 minutes apart.  I looked over to Rick to relay that information.  After being induced with my first when I went two weeks late, and knowing my family history of going to 43 weeks or more, I was reluctant to believe this was really it.  We both pursed our lips and tried to play it cool, but it seemed more and more like this was labor.

We finished up our granite shopping and made our way home though late afternoon traffic on I-70.  The regular contractions were slightly uncomfortable, but not enough to  make me squirm in the car, so we talked through our plan if they continued.  My mom, who was ready and waiting at our house, would take over if we had to leave for the hospital in the night.  We had written out the information she needed to watch our older son, so we felt like we just needed to determine when the time was right.  Until I got a more sure sign that labor was imminent, I was operating under the impression that this was just a false alarm – as I’d experienced a few times with my first.

At about 11 pm that night, as my contractions worsened I went to the bathroom and found that I had bloody show.   This seemed like just the sign I’d been waiting for.  I texted my doula, told her my contraction pattern, and she decided to drive up and see us. When she arrived, Rick was pacing and antsy.  As the contractions worsened, he worried that we needed to go to the hospital.  When  Stacey arrived, however, she sat down to watch the contractions herself and after about 20 minutes of watching me as I sat on my birth ball she agreed that we should make our way to the University of Colorado Hospital, about 25 minutes away.  Rick had loaded our bags in his nervousness, so we hopped in the car and made our way there – which was a rough ride for me, as I clutched the door and console trying to ease the back labor I was experiencing in the car.

We arrived and checked in.  They took us to triage to determine whether I was ready to be checked in.  After a brief check of my cervix, my midwife said we’d need to wait a bit longer before they would check me in.  She welcomed us to pace the halls, or head home and come back later.  We were a bit confused as to why we couldn’t stay, but decided that our home, which was undergoing a kitchen renovation and housing our two-year old, would not be a restful place.  We booked a room at a hotel nearby and went there to rest and ride out the labor a bit further.  My husband laid down to sleep.  I, on the other hand, laid down to close my eyes, but every few minutes would leap up to ride out a contraction.  I couldn’t handle them lying down.   This continued for about 4 hours, until my water broke and we headed back to the hospital.

This time we were checked through with no issue.  We got into our labor room and hunkered down.  I was awfully tired because it was now morning and I’d not slept.   My doula wanted me to ride through several contraction while lunging with one leg on a chair.  I did that in an effort to bring the baby down in a non-asynclitic way.   But after a while, my tiredness was getting to me so we moved to the bath.  There, my laboring consisted of me dozing off between contractions.  It sounds insane that one could do that, but my body was in some sort of energy conserve mode.  I’d wake up as the contraction started, ride it though, and then lay my head back and sleep.  Apparently I was even snoring.  I did this for a bit in the tub and it was lovely and gave me some rest.  Then my doula suggested I start dancing.  Some people might think it a strange thing to do, but given the way my first birth went I was game for anything that would get me the VBAC I hoped for.  I had hired te best doula I could find and I wasn’t about to ignore her advice. So, we danced.  I did hula-like moves for what felt like several hours.  The hope, in all this, was to avoid what had happened with my first – a posterior and asynclitic babe, resulting in a cesarean.  My entire pregnancy had been targeted toward this goal. I’d been doing months of chiropractic, religiously sleeping on my side, taking probiotics, reading voraciously, exercising – and it felt like it might just work.

As the contractions began getting stronger, somewhere deep down, I knew that I was experiencing back labor.  With each contraction I’d squirm uncontrollably to take the pressure off.   I decided that something to take the edge off might be nice.  I asked if they had some laughing gas, and before long  had a mask that I could use to “make the contractions not bother me as much.”  The anesthesiologist (who I maintain was a Seth Rogan doppelgänger), was very honest about the fact that nitrous does not mask the pain, but helps you handle it better.  It did.  And, before long I had made my way to a point where I was very tired, wanting to push (well, that had been going on almost since I checked in because the baby was SO low), and wondering if I had the stamina for transition.  I was starting to consider an epidural, but I hadn’t had a cervical check in several hours so Rick suggested that before I go for medications, we should see where I was.  Well, it turns out that I had gone right on through transition without too much drama and was fully dilated!  This was fantastic news!

I started to push.  I was good at pushing!  My midwife was psyched seeing the progress my baby made with each push.  She said she saw the head move nearly two inches each time I gave it my all.  They were readying me to meet my baby any minute and I was thrilled.  There was a part of me that had assumed I’d never get this far, and here I was pushing and being told the baby would be out very soon.  I was elated.  I’d heard people say that pushing felt good.  It does, in the sense that you have some agency in what’s happening, unlike in the earlier contractions, but I can’t say that the sensation was enjoyable.  I was ready to see this baby and have it be done!

After about 45 minutes, the midwife voiced concern that the baby was moving back each time I pushed – more so than normal.  And, worse, the baby was having late heart rate deceleration.  This is language I’d heard before with Cody – not good news.  They called the OB team and a pediatrics team into the room where I was laboring.  Soon, it was just me, Rick, my doula and about 12 doctors, nurses, and other support staff.  About this time I began thinking how grateful I was for having grown up playing sports because without that, I doubt I’d have handled the chorus of 15 people around me yelling and urging me to bear down between contractions nearly as well.  I was also glad for my health and fitness, because it was a lot of work after already laboring for over 24 hours!

The OB introduced herself and told me that they were here to help me get the VBAC I wanted.  First, she felt for the baby’s position.  Posterior – again!  And, asynclitic – again.  She reached in and attempted to manually turn the baby but it was unsuccessful (and very uncomfortable because I was still unmedicated).  They offered two options then – forceps or a vacuum – to help move the baby into a better position.  Vacuum was their recommendation and so we went ahead with it.  A vacuum assisted delivery involves attaching a vacuum pump to the baby’s head to help pull and re-direct it during each push.  So, at the next push they attached the vacuum and I pushed with everything I had.  The OB was literally standing and pushing with one foot on the edge of my hospital bed to help her pull, but the vacuum popped off.  It was a VERY painful experience with no medications and the amount of pressure that she was exerting as she pulled down.  It felt altogether different from just the contractions and pushing alone. Apparently, many women who have a vacuum assisted delivery already have been given pain meds, but I was completely unmedicated and the nurses kept having to remind the OB team of that as they were pulling.  Though I handle pain well, it felt like they were going to rip me apart.  I can’t really even describe the feeling of being on a bed, with 15 people who I barely knew, surrounding me in a state of undress I would never otherwise be in, pushing as hard as possible, with the OB pulling as hard as she can – a sensation that feels like it will rip my insides out, akin to trying really hard to extract a cork from a wine bottle – and everyone yelling at me to push, and bear down, and curl around the baby.  It was insane. Like, definitely not the birth scenario I imagined even when readying myself for the challenge of VBAC.  A second attempt at the vacuum resulted in a pop off.  And finally, my third and last chance.  My midwife and doula both looked at me gravely before the contraction hit and said I needed to give it every ounce I had (as if I hadn’t already been doing this through the two previous attempts).  The contraction started, and I curled hard around the baby as I lay on my left side, giving over every fiber of muscle in my body to the pushing.  The contraction began to wane, and I kept pushing to keep the baby from sliding back, but as the OB pulled, the vacuum popped off for the third and final time.  The OB and my midwife slowly approached my head and said that the time had come to move to a cesarean, they asked my permission as I panted and collapsed onto the bed, exhausted, and I said yes.  In seconds I was being wheeled out of the room, too tired and overwhelmed to even realize that Rick wasn’t with me.  It wasn’t until they were prepping me for the spinal block that I realized he was nowhere to be found.

Back in the OR, I was too exhausted to be upset at the need for a c-section.  I was hanging on, sitting on the edge of the bed through the strong contractions waiting for my spinal to kick in, which took a few minutes.  Soon though, they had me on the table and pulled the curtain up blocking my view, explaining that they would move it down when things calmed as the baby was born – the hospital had a gentle cesarean option!  I was so thrilled.  But, that time never came for me…

Soon Rick was at my head, and I could tell something was happening on the other side of the curtain.  I assumed they’d tell me when they started th surgery, but they didn’t and it was underway.  It was going slowly.  Very slowly.  As I later learned, when they cut me open they found an abdomen cemented together with very bad scar tissue from my previous cesarean.  So much so that they were forced to do the internal incision higher on my uterus as the scar tissue had cemented other organs and tissue in place over my previous scar.  It was a lot of work to get in, and when they did, Will was in bad shape.  He was in the birth canal, so he had to be pushed out from below and pulled by his feet from the incision.  It was obviously not an easy birth, and it took a lot longer than my first surgery.  I was beginning to fade in and out of consciousness on the table by the time Will was finally removed.  He didn’t cry. The room was very quiet. They didn’t show him to me or Rick.  All I saw was a limp baby being rushed to the other side of the room where a table was set up for resuscitation.  It says something about my mental state that I was so sleepy and figured it would all be ok.  My recollection of this period was several people around Will working hard with a CPAP and doing CPR, Rick shaking above me and crying and sternly telling me not to fall asleep – though the drugs were saying the opposite.  I can’t give you a clear story about this piece, and whenever I ask Rick about it he gets so emotional he can’t really express how he felt.  It was very hard on him seeing Will and I in such precarious positions.

Finally, after several minutes they got Will breathing.  He had an APGAR score of 1 at birth, and 5 minutes out he was a 7, but he wasn’t totally out of the woods.  He spent a night in the NICU because breathing wasn’t coming easily for him.  Me, they stitched back up and wheeled into the recovery room.  The OBGYN took a moment to try to share with me that if I choose to have more children, I will need to have a c-section, because at this point between the new incision placement and the scar tissue it is too risky not to.

I certainly didn’t comprehend the gravity of the situation we faced during Will’s birth.  Each time a doctor visited me they asked in a low voice how I was doing because I’d had a traumatic birth.  To me, honestly, the birth had been a mixed bag.  I was incredibly happy and proud to have labored through what I did, unmedicated and without interventions.  When it came to having had the vacuum assist and eventually the c-section, it seemed to me that I had given the VBAC my all including months of chiropractic, herbs, probiotics, exercise, and working in advance with a team of exceptionally talented people.  I felt confident that under those circumstances, if a c-section was needed then it was truly a necessary intervention.  That said, it wasn’t until a follow-up with my doula that the gravity of the situation struck me.  She said “In situations like yours, we have to be glad for the option of c-section or you and Will wouldn’t be here.”

Wow.  I could have left my toddler without a mom, my husband without a wife, and died in childbirth along with my baby. Holy shit.

So, there has been much to process in the follow-up to this birth.  New life, an expanding family, potential mortality, and the higher risks of choosing to have another baby in the future.  Honestly, this has been much of the reason I haven’t written about Will’s birth. I vacillate between feeling scared, triumphant, bewildered, and this unshakable feeling that I am a let down.  That, in the evolutionary scheme of things, I’d be a dead-end if it weren’t for surgical intervention.  It is a feeling I wrestle with daily.  As I workout and try to get back to a place of fitness and health postpartum, I wonder if this is me recovering and healing after my final baby?   Would be best if I never have any more babies?  The risk is bigger than I’d like or than I anticipated, and I sort of feel that I should just let things lie as they are even though I’ve always wanted more kids.  I am really struggling to get my head around this.  And, I think that though I know now the experience of laboring and feel proud I was able to handle it – I also feel that it is more obvious than ever that something is amiss inside me that causes my babies to be poorly positioned and therefore makes vaginal birth a real challenge.  But what is it?  Why can nobody answer that question?  And now, two surgeries in, I’ve foreclosed any previously available options where I might have been able to correct the issues…

But hey, I know that wading into these questions only causes me to go in circles wondering about things I’ll probably never have answers to.  I have two beautiful, healthy kids.  I am healthy and healing. These are the truly real, concrete, and important things.   But, man, birth really brings out a lot of dark, weird stuff – exposing your insecurities and challenging your self-confidence while also bringing these wonderful beings into your life.  What a crazy thing life is.

I wish I could say more.  As I said, I’m still dong a lot of processing internally and wondering what it all means for me and my family.  I will do my best to report of this more regularly here.  I feel it is important to share this information, though I’ve found it incredibly hard to talk about.

 

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.

Encouragement

Last weekend I took part in a special day.  One of my best friends married the man she loves.  Her story is at once inspiring, and crazy.  She met him on a whim last summer, then visited him in Jackson, WY where he lives, then went on a whirlwind canoe trip with him on the Bloodvein River and came back engaged.  When she told me about it I was driving my car and I nearly went off the road.  I teared up with excitement, and then apprehension.  It all was moving so fast, and as a dear friend I felt I needed to both support her and encourage her to slow down at the same time!  I held back some of those feelings, knowing I was projecting my own concerns on to her.  And I’ve watched over the last several months as their relationship has taken shape, evolved, and solidified in the weekend’s swearing of vows.

The whirlwind meeting, courtship, and nuptials is scary to me – because I just can’t and don’t operate that way.  My risk aversion radar is way too strong.  But watching her tread this path, I’m startled at the way I’ve been inspired.  As I watched them dance their first dance, I was touched at their choice of song and the recognition of their myriad similarities. I had watched my dear friend date so many of the wrong men, to see her with someone who cared for her deeply and reflected so many of the things that she values and that make her unique was startling.  I have watched myself and my friends morph and reflect their various partners, and it can be hard to discern when that morphing is truly them, or an attempt to fit into a role that their relationship requires in a given moment.  When you see two people who do truly reflect and suit each other, however, there seems to me to be a clear radiating energy that comes from them.  When I see Britta with Lee, she is more of the Britta I have known since I was 11 than she has been in many of her past relationships.  It makes me smile.

To see all of this magic fall into place in the span of just a few short months has been confronting to my deep belief that hardy relationships take time to settle into meaningful rhythms and mutual understandings.  It has reminded me that hardiness and grit in a relationship can come from a place of commitment in the face of uncertainty – a faith – that together is better than being alone even during challenging times.  Seeing Britta and Lee jump in to a lifelong commitment, reminds me that faith and commitment to see something through can overcome many trials.  As I drove to the mountains where the ceremony was held, I spoke with my Grandpa and he reminded me that he and my Grandma were married for 64 years, but when they wed they’d known each other just six months.  He told me to pass along the message to Britta that “she had a lot to look forward to.”  I smiled, and tears pooled at the corners of my eyes, because he identified my reluctance and reminded me to have faith in them. With his encouragement, I couldn’t help but reframe my mentality. I had, weeks earlier, invited Britta to borrow some pieces of jewelry that I’d worn at my wedding.  She took me up on the offer and borrowed my hair piece, and a bracelet that belonged to my Grandma.  Watching her walk down the aisle, radiant, with the bangle on her wrist I set an intention and a hope for them that a piece of the magic that carried my grandparents through 64 years, the grit and spirit they shared, was conveyed with Britta and Lee through the wearing of that bracelet.

The whole weekend reminded me of how quickly life can change.  As I waited for a drink, I spoke to Britta’s bio mom.  After having heard about her for years, I was thrilled to finally introduce myself.  When I did, she immediately recognized my name, and asked if I was the one who had lived in Australia.  She went on to tell me that she had read my blog and thought I was a wonderful writer.  It touched me to hear that.  I think of my blog as a place to share thoughts that are meaningful to me, but not otherwise relevant to most people outside of my life.  To have someone who doesn’t know me read what I write, and enjoy it enough to say something years later is a real compliment.  It encouraged me to revisit this blog, which has (sadly) gone unattended to while I have wallowed in the fog of baby brain.  I am encouraged to continue to write, and reminded that life’s inertia is not inevitable.  With decisive actions and commitment, with faith, we can each take steps toward what makes us happy and fulfilled.

2014 Review

2014 has been a banner year in my life in many ways.  It wasn’t 100% good, but it sure resulted in mega growth and learning – which is really the best anyone can hope for I think!

This year I can tick off several wonderful things that I’m very proud of.

1) Rick and I spent January in Colombia traveling, going to Spanish language school, and finishing up my Anusara yoga teacher training.  It was fun to travel together (as always) and we learned a new style of traveling as we managed to balance our responsibilities at home while we were enjoying a new country.

2) We got a puppy!  Adelaide is the light of our lives.  Honestly, I have always been a dog lover but having our own puppy to love and raise together has been so much more rewarding than I anticipated.  She makes us smile, unites us in frustration at times, and is a joy to be around.  She sleeps in our bed, and I have to admit that I sometimes am not sure who I prefer to snuggle with more!  She brings such happiness to our lives.  We love her to pieces.

3) Rick and I settled in Denver. We really weren’t sure whether coming back to Denver was the right move for us for a long time.  We toyed with the idea of living a more rural life in Montana or elsewhere, but when it came down to it Denver called us back.  We settled into Rick’s home with the initial intention of selling it, but as we fixed it up we fell more and more in love.  It’s a gorgeous old 4 bedroom place in the heart of the City.  I can walk to work, we have a daycare for Addie within 3 blocks, we found an in home daycare less than a block away for Baby Frankie, the supermarket, park, and light rail are all within easy walking distance, and the house itself is pretty cool. Our bedroom has French doors, exposed brick, a yoga space, and a giant closet.  We have set up an adorable nursery for the baby, we have lots of room for guests, and we are beginning to make plans for a major kitchen renovation.  We are happy to have made the choice to stay.  In fact, just a few weeks ago the job I interviewed for in Helena in March called me to see if I’d be interested in a new role there before they posted it publicly.  In reflecting, as much as it sounds awesome to live there, we recognized how happy we are right here and were able to turn down the offer without too much second thought.

4) We got pregnant! Rick and I talked for a while about trying for kids and I was certain the process would take some time.  They say the average time to conceive is around 6 months and I was convinced it would go slower than that for me!  Well, we were ahead of the curve and got pregnant more or less on the first try.  It was a shock at first and it took me some time to get my head around the reality that we were having a baby – together!  But, thankfully gestation takes 9 months (or in my case, more like 10) and I have had time to welcome the idea of a baby into my life.  As I write now, we are ten days past our due date of December 22nd.  I just finished my second labor induction acupuncture session.  I have become well versed in the various holistic methods for inducing labor – believe me, we have tried it ALL!  We will have a baby within the week, one way or another as we are scheduled for induction if nothing happens in the next two days.  As much as I have mixed feelings about induction, I have to admit that I’m anxious to meet this baby and to no longer be pregnant.  So, I bounce on my birth ball and hope for the baby to decide to come the good old-fashioned way, but I know he’ll be here soon regardless.  I’m loving Rick and Addie extra hard because soon there will be one more in the house to love!

5) A new job! I took on a new role as the public involvement coordinator for the Denver office of HDR engineering.  I have felt quite challenged by the role and my desire to prove myself before going on maternity leave.  I look forward to new challenges when I return and I hope that I continue to grow and find new learning opportunities in this roles.

There were other parts of the year that challenged me greatly, I have felt a strong pressure to prove myself as a mom, employee, friend, and wife. I know that I often put quite a bit of pressure on myself to do it all, and I’d like 2015 to bring a renewed focus on doing things for myself because they make me happy.  That includes running a second marathon with my best friend, coming back to yoga more seriously, and embracing my newest role as a mom.