Journey through a Subsequent Pregnancy; Finding a Balance between Fear and Joy

July 27, 2011

I think it was about a week after Mother’s Day. I remember saying to friends that I finally felt as though I could handle a pregnancy again. I felt that even if things didn’t go perfectly (do they ever?) I had the resources within and around me to cope with whatever life decided to throw my way. I had no idea at the time that we had already conceived.

Fast forward about 3 months. I still have not been able to admit to many people that I am indeed pregnant. I have been to various ultrasounds, heard the heartbeat of this little being growing inside me and have heard my Doctor’s reassurances that things are looking good. And still, when people ask me if we are trying again, I tell them: “We’re working on it”.

Everyday I chant, or pray, or repeat affirmations. I tell myself I’ve already been through the worst, that something like that won’t happen again, that we will be blessed with a healthy child. I think ahead to January and plan how our lives will be with this new addition. Yet I hesitate to tell others because I’m not sure I’m ready to hear their congratulations. We still have a long way to go. I recently spoke with a friend who has been through a similar situation to mine. She explained it like fear and joy were two sides of a scale, constantly playing with each other, and that eventually the joy will outweigh the fear. I feel as though every day I get a little closer to joy – but I’m still gonna wait till my growing belly forces my confession!

Peace and love, my little peanut!

August 26, 2011

Almost 18 weeks in and really starting to look forward to meeting this being that is growing inside me. Feeling more and more movement inside my belly which reassures me that this is really happening. My husband keeps teasing me about how much I’m planning for this little one’s arrival, but as I explained to him it helps me to imagine a future with this new addition in it. When I look back to my last pregnancy (as I can’t help but do) I try to remember if I had starting planning life in our condo as 3 instead of 2, but I can’t remember doing so. Knowing what we knew throughout the pregnancy we decided not to prepare a room for the baby not knowing if we were going to bring him home or not. Now, as I head towards the next ultrasound in two weeks, the “big” anatomy scan, I enjoy planning how the baby’s room is going to look. I like to talk about my plans with work and what our new schedule might look like. It calms me to visualize our future all together. I am thankful for my Doctor’s calm and reassuring demeanor and his flexibility to meet with us right after this next test which is where we first found out about the challenges that lay ahead with our last pregnancy. I will be leaning heavily on my husband as we head into this next ultrasound and every day rededicating myself to practice staying present and learning to enjoy pregnancy once again.

Wishing peace to all beings everywhere.

September 16, 2011

Happy Anniversary to my amazing husband! I remember on our anniversary last year we found out the little angel inside me was not a girl as they had first told us, but a boy! What a surprise baby Theo gave us that day and amidst all the heaviness of tests and prognosis’ it was a welcome moment of lightness and humour. Happy to say that this time tests are revealing quite a different story – we’ve decided to wait until January (or so) when baby’s born to find out the gender, but were delighted to learn at the anatomy ultrasound last week that everything is looking good. Dr happily told us the results could not be more reassuring which we were obviously both very pleased to hear. Starting to relax more into this pregnancy and baby’s movements in my belly often bring a smile to my face. We never know what lies ahead in life, but as of this and every moment I am treasuring the little being growing inside me. I can only imagine that baby Theo is smiling at us from wherever he is.

peace and light.

October 25 2011

Exactly one year ago today baby Theo came into this world and left it again. As we celebrate his birthday today I think about how far we have come. I’m not going to lie, being pregnant again probably helps make today a lot easier than it might have been otherwise. The baby in my belly is very active today, as though it wanted to wish baby Theo a happy birthday as well.

November 18 2011

It really is amazing how much of a bully the mind can be. Even though I’ve been reassured so many times that everything about the pregnancy is completely normal and overall feel very positive and am happily moving ahead with all our plans to welcome baby into the world, sometimes those doubts can creep in. Every once in awhile I have an attack of the ‘what ifs’. I suppose, like elsewhere in life, it is important to acknowledge those fears and then let them go. The truth is we never know exactly what is going to happen and really have no control over it anyway. Like in my yoga practice, I have to surrender to a higher power and have faith that baby and I are on the path we are meant to be on. I believe this babe in my belly is incredibly sensitive – even as I write it has become more active than earlier in the day, as though to remind me that we are together in this journey. Just over 2 months till we meet face to face – so soon and so far at the same time.

December 26 2011

Hard to believe the year is almost over. Another Christmas has come and gone and we will soon be welcoming little “Thumper” into our lives. Being pregnant really is such a different feeling this time around. Even though there is still that little part of me (as I’m sure there is with every expectant parent) that worries about what could happen, I am looking forward to delivering this little one into the world. With my last pregnancy I wanted to savour every moment baby Theo was inside me – not knowing how he would fare on his own without my body to support him. I nervously looked for his movements, kept track of how many times a day he moved and was happy every time he had the hiccups knowing that meant he was still with us and there was a chance for him. With this baby, I am still enjoying the pregnancy, but find myself laughing more at the antics this baby is able to get up to inside my belly. I know we are all going to share a lot of laughter together. See you soon little one (but not too soon – mom and dad like your due date!).

January 25 2012

Will today be the day? It is officially your due date today and we are (impatiently) awaiting your arrival. Of course I know due dates are only an estimate, and I personally calculated 40 weeks to be around January 29th, but we are so looking forward to meeting you. With your big brother I went into labour exactly on my due date and can’t help hoping that the same will happen today. I alternate between looking for your movements and hoping you are resting for the big event!  I never thought I would be looking forward so much to contractions!! I’m hoping you will arrive quickly and safely and I’m sure my friends and family will breathe a collective sigh of relief that you are finally here. Until then I will keep walking, massaging my pressure points and of course…waiting!

February 17, 2012

Can’t believe our little Teo is already 3 weeks old! He almost had a dramatic entry into the world on January 27th. My labour this time was very different – I felt the contractions much lower in my belly and down the front of my legs instead of the all over tightening of last time. After labouring at home for almost 4 hours my water still hadn’t broken even though my contractions were less than 4 minutes apart. I felt less and less like leaving the house and knew I had better make my way to the hospital unless I wanted to have this baby at home. We got to the hospital shortly after 10am and I realized that Admitting at that time of the morning looks a lot different than Admitting at 2 in the morning. I tried not to throw up while we did the paperwork and the woman checking me in rushed us through the shortcut to Triage. It was a busy day at the hospital and as we were waiting there for almost 40 minutes my water finally broke. I held onto my husband for dear life as I moved into the final stage of labour. I knew that if I sat down I would not want to get up again. I felt the baby’s head moving down and told my husband that if they didn’t hurry up he was going to have to speak to someone because I didn’t have long to go. Finally they brought me into the room to check me and I was 9cm dilated. The wheeled me into the delivery room pretty quickly after that -I was pretty loud by then! By the time we got to the room and I transferred to the bed there I told them I was ready to push. I had to hold my pushing (well try!) until they got everything ready. After 15 minutes of pushing we welcomed our little Theodoros Dimitris into the world. We feel truly blessed to have this healthy baby with us here on earth and can’t believe how deeply we love him. It has been a long, but rewarding, journey growing our family and we are overjoyed to be where we are today!

20120218-063405.jpg

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When People Ask THE Question

We’ve all done it – asked that question.  The seemingly innocent question that we expect to have a short, simple answer but instead leads to an unexpected story.  Being visibly pregnant I am often asked the simple question: “Is this your first?”.  The short answer is no – and depending on the situation, sometimes my answer ends there.  But if the conversation continues, inevitably I am asked a question about my first born.  That question doesn’t always get a short answer.  Sometimes I answer simply “He passed away” or explain that he was born with Trisomy 18 and spent only a few short hours with us.  Sometimes I tell the story of my pregnancy and my journey through joy and grief.  I have encountered many different reactions.  Some people are immediately sorry that they asked – I reassure them, telling them I am happy to share my story because even though it has been a difficult journey, it has been filled with joyous moments.  Sometimes I am the one who hears the unexpected response to my story, as someone else shares their story of loss with me.

Throughout my journey I am continually reminded that everyone has a story.  Like life itself, our stories are comedies, tragedies and everything in between.  Sometimes these stories are buried under layers of protection, deflection or nonchalantness but they are always there.  And sometimes that seemingly innocent question has a much longer answer than you anticipate.  I encourage people to keep asking the questions and keep listening to the answers because sharing our stories is what connects us.  In the past I struggled with how to answer questions about my family, but if you ask me today about my children I will readily tell you I have one in heaven and one in my belly that I look forward to welcoming into the world shortly.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Holidays After Loss

The holidays are a time to get together with friends and family, enjoying the company of those that we may not often get to spend time with.  The holidays are also a time when we notice who is not with us anymore.

They say the first year after you lose someone is the hardest.  That’s because every milestone, every holiday, every event is the first time you’ve been through that day without that person.  Last Christmas was definitely a challenge.  It was exactly 2 months after our son’s birth and death.  Even though we had known the odds were that he would not be with us for Christmas it was still hard.  I remember one TV commercial in particular with a new family at home for their first Christmas together which prompted me to change channels everytime it came on.  I was thankful for the family I did have around me and to be surrounded by their support and love.

This Christmas, like every other holiday since baby Theo left us, we will find our own way to honour his presence in our lives. I believe these rituals are important; they allow us to acknowledge that our son is still an important part of our lives and that he will always be a part of our family celebrations.  Loss is a part of life, but I believe that as long as our loved ones are in our hearts they will always be with us.

To all those that are navigating their first holiday season without a loved one, I wish you peace.  Practice gratitude for all those who are with you today and make sure you give yourself the time and space you need to heal.  Give yourself permission to feel what you need to feel – the people who are close to you will understand if you can’t attend every event.  If you are ready, create your own ritual to honour the presence that person had, and still has, in your life.

Wishing all a peaceful and loving holiday season!

Namaste

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Healing Reactions

I recently had the fantastic experience of attending a 30-hour Restorative Yoga Teacher Training with Scott Davis at Octopus Garden.  I was drawn to this training in particular because I knew there would be some discussion of Chinese Medicine meridians and organ systems.  With the thought of present and future students in mind I asked Scott if we would be able to address the lung/large intestine organ system and meridians, and being fall, the season of that system, it was good timing for my request.

Lung Meridian image from http://www.itmonline.org/

We started by using a ‘wall clock’ to open up the lung and large intestine meridians. First we did the right side of the body with the arm angled at three different positions (like the arm of a clock) first with the thumb against the wall and palm facing down and then with the palm pressed against the wall.  After moving through the 6 positions I felt great – I felt the lower intercostal muscles on the right side of my ribs releasing and as we walked around the room I noticed how free I felt.

When we got to the left side it was another story.  As we opened

Large Intestine meridian image from http://www.acupuncture.com/

both meridians on the left hand side I started to have an intense reaction.  I felt nauseous and wanted to cry.  As we walked around the room after tears were in my eyes – I probably should have let myself cry more because I felt my throat getting a little sore, perhaps from what I left unexpressed.  I knew that the lung/large intestine organ system in Chinese Medicine is associated with grief, and interestingly enough courage, but I had not anticipated such a strong reaction.  For the rest of the day and most of the day after my left nostril was dripping and I had difficulty breathing through it.

Healing is not easy work and is often uncomfortable.  If we always stayed in a place where we felt comfortable we would never work through the things we need to change.  Sometimes as these changes happen and we release physical or emotional trauma the body can react with symptoms that range from headache, indigestion and fatigue to pain or allergy and cold symptoms.  I find it incredible that even after all the work I have done to let go of my grief, there is still more there.  I might not feel it on an everyday basis or notice it as I go about my daily life, but I believe my intense reaction is a sign I still have more to let go of.   We all have an amazing capacity to heal ourselves, but our bodies and minds protect us from doing more than we are ready to do.  As I opened up my lung and large intestine meridians that day I unexpectedly came across something I was still holding onto.  My reaction is a sign that I was ready to let go.  I am curious to see what happens next time I try this sequence – but I think I’ll wait a couple weeks!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sending Love to an Angel

One year ago today a beautiful angel left this world.  He spent only a moment in our arms but is forever in our hearts.  This is my open letter to him:

Dear Baby Theo,

It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by since you left us.  I wish you could have stayed with us here on earth, but feel blessed to have had you in my life even briefly.  Even before I met you face to face you had already changed my life.  You helped me understand love in a new way and helped me realize just how precious the time we spend with our loved ones is.  You taught me to stay present and treasure every moment because we never know how much time we will have together.  I found joy in all your movements in utero, as I gave birth to you and when you looked into my eyes as though you had a soul far older than I.  I learned to worry less about things that haven’t happened and concern myself more with living life every day.

You helped me recognize how much support we have from our family and friends who are always by our side.  My relationship with your father has only grown stronger as we navigated through all the emotions we felt after you left us.  We often talk about you and what a gift your presence was in our lives.  We feel you with us and honour your life with every occasion that passes. We feel blessed to have known you and are thankful for the few short hours you spent in our arms. Today, instead of mourning your death, we will celebrate your birth and the short life you had with us here on earth.

Baby Theo, wherever you may be, I know you are here with us.

love always,

your mother

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Give Yourself Some TLC

You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. ~ The Buddha

Many of us spend most of our day running around at 100 miles an hour tending to everyone but ourselves.  As a result our nervous systems can become overstimulated.  In Healing Mind, Healthy Woman I read that we can experience as many as 50 brief fight-or-flight episodes every day; responding to stressful situations as though they were life threatening!  Our nervous system responds to threats both real and perceived and can react the same way to being in a stressful meeting with the boss or being threatened in a dark alley.  By taking a little time for ourselves every day – giving ourselves a little TLC – we can change how our reactions to stressful situations affect us.

According to Dr. Alice Domar, “Daily practices of mind-body medicine – ranging from relaxation to emotional expression to simply being good to yourself – are no different than sound nutrition and regular exercise”.  Learning to take time in our day to practice relaxation, whether we find those moments in a yoga class, going for a mindful walk, or simply finding a quiet space to take some deep breaths, can help our bodies not over-react to the release of adrenaline and nonadrenaline in our system produced by a stressful or threatening situation.  Slowing down and actually giving yourself permission to cultivate relaxation in your life and nourish your parasympathetic nervous system can reduce the impact that stress has in your life.  We have the power to alleviate much of our emotional and physical suffering by teaching ourselves to relax.  So go ahead – give yourself some TLC – you, and everyone else around you, deserve it!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Grieving Body

I remember the early days of my grieving process.  I walked around with a clenched jaw, had trouble breathing deeply and sometimes felt like there was an elephant sitting on my chest.  The first few times I left the house I remember my husband literally reminding me to breathe.  I’ve come a long way since then but still sometimes think back to how my grief physically manifested itself in my body and how I started to let it go.

According to Chinese Medicine, grief and sadness are associated with the lungs.  Grief is often expressed through sobbing from the depths of the lungs.  However, sometimes we are almost too numb to cry.  I remember describing letting go of grief like letting the air out of a balloon.  I felt like I had to let it out bit by bit otherwise I would completely lose control, and like the balloon, who knew where I would end up.  At the time, that was what I needed to do, but at a certain point I also had to give up control completely to my sobbing;  let go of the physical and emotional armor and almost allow myself to soften into my grief.

Trying to hold in expressions of grief can definitely show up within the body.  I probably didn’t stand as straight, and let my shoulders round in a little more as I tried to protect my heart and lungs.  Deep back-bending in my yoga practice was not always possible without props or bolsters to support me – and it took me a long time to be able to let my head hang back and expose the front of my neck.  All those physical expressions of vulnerability could bring emotions right to the surface, because they were not far below it.

Complementing the yin of the Lungs is the yang of the Large Intestines, which in Chinese Medicine, is the organ of letting go.  Both organs help the body refine and release what is no longer serving it, one through the breath and the other through digestion.  I remember the first time I cried in Savasana  – it was after a practice that included some intense twisting.  Twisting is good not only for digesting food, but also for digesting emotions!  It was a different kind of release than the deep sobbing from the lungs, more peaceful and less overwhelming, and as I lay in the darkened room I was not the only one that had tears rolling down my face.

I believe letting go of grief is a process that takes place physically, emotionally and spiritually.  My yoga practice allowed me to work on all of these aspects simultaneously.  Letting my body slowly open up, first with  more restorative yoga, then a more vigorous practice, practicing breath awareness to find slow deep even breaths, and every day looking for those quiet spaces inside that are beyond what happens and just are.  And as for that clenched jaw – I sometimes wonder if that was because of all the things I couldn’t say – the unexpressed that I was holding in.  That tension still creeps back in sometimes, but when I notice that I’m holding on for dear life, I remind myself to breathe.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Grief Shared is Halved, Joy Shared is Doubled ~ proverb

Last week I made a new friend.  The universe (with the help of a couple wise yoginis) helped usher us together.  Her story may be different from mine, but she too lost a baby.

Over the course of a couple hours she detailed her journey throughout the months she was with her child, and the months she took after to try and make sense of it all.  Her journey took her all the way to an ashram in India and back again, to a place where she found some acceptance and peace.  Listening to her share her story I joined her in both laughter and tears.  Her story is beautiful and I hope it will find it’s way to the page and possibly here to my blog.

This common thread of our lives brought us an instant connection.  My heart recognized how she felt, and opened up to hear her story, just as hers did to mine.  I left our encounter feeling lighter and at peace and believe she felt the same.

I believe in being vocal with my story.  Perinatal bereavement is not something that people like to talk about.  It is a difficult subject that often makes others uncomfortable, probably because they are unsure of how to react.  No reaction is necessary, no need to struggle with what to say, lending a compassionate ear is all that is wanted.  If neither of us had shared our story with some wise yoginis, we might never have met!

Namaste my new friend – hope to see you soon!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Navigating Loss – a post by Alex Lickerman

I recently came across this post and felt compelled to share it here.  Moving through grief and loss is a very personal journey but I believe his words below could help many find comfort.

Namaste

Navigating Loss: Dealing with the Pain and Letting Go

0 Posts
11-02-2010 03:10 PM

Navigating Loss: Dealing with the Pain and Letting Go

At Granchester

by Alex Lickerman

“It isn’t what happens to us that causes us to suffer; it’s what we say to ourselves about what happens.” ~Pema Chodron

I remember when I first read the pathology report on my patient, Mr. Jackson (name changed), my stomach flip-flopped. “Adenocarncinoma of the pancreas” it said.

A week later, a CT scan revealed the cancer had already spread to his liver. Two months after that, following six rounds of chemotherapy, around-the-clock morphine for pain, a deep vein thrombosis, and pneumococcal pneumonia, he was dead.

His wife called me to tell me he’d died at home. I told her how much I’d enjoyed taking care of him, and we shared some of our memories of him. At the end of the conversation I expressed my sympathies for her loss, as I always do in these situations.

There was a brief pause. “It just happened so fast…” she said then and sniffled, her voice breaking, and I realized she’d been crying during our entire conversation. “I’m so sorry for your loss,” I told her again. She thanked me for caring for her husband and hung up.

I’d known Mr. and Mrs. Jackson for almost seven years and had always liked them both immensely. I thought the world a poorer place without Mr. Jackson in it and found myself wishing I’d done a better job of consoling his wife, thinking my attempts had been awkward and ineffective. I reflected on several things I wished I’d said when I’d had her on the phone and considered calling her back up to say them.

But then instead I wrote her a letter.

NAVIGATING LOSS

Dear Mrs. Jackson,

When you called me to tell me your husband had passed away and how hard a time you were having, I found myself frankly at a loss. Conventional wisdom about how to console people who’ve suffered grievous losses includes platitudes like “be there for them,” “listen,” and “let them know you care”—all valid and useful guidelines that I’m sure have brought comfort to many suffering people.

But inevitably conversations end, people go home to resume their normal lives, and the wife or husband or son or daughter is left alone with pain now occupying the space their loved one used to be. Though I don’t know how comforting you’ll find this letter, I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts about grief in hopes of making your journey through it somewhat more bearable.

Why do we suffer when we lose those we love? I think the true answer is because we believe we can’t be happy without them. Knowing how much you loved your husband, I can only imagine how strongly you must feel this to be true. And yet I often think the only reason the pain of loss abates at all is that we do become convinced we can be happy again—just slowly and unevenly.

Certainly, some people find themselves stuck in grief, unable to move on. Sometimes this happens because we actually become reluctant to surrender our grief even after it’s run its proper course, believing the pain of loss is the only thing keeping us connected to our loved one, or that to feel happy again would be to diminish the significance of the relationship we once enjoyed.

But neither is true. Even when people we love die, our relationships with them do not. We continue to have feelings about them, memories of things they did, imaginings of things they might say were they with us now. Just because the pain of losing them diminishes with time, their importance to us need not.

Normal grief is like a roller coaster: there are ups and downs, moments of pain intermixed with relief. If, however, after the first six months or so there seem to be fewer periods of relief rather than more, normal grief may have changed into full-blown depression. If you think this might be happening at any point, please let me know. I can help.

Everyone grieves differently. Don’t ever let anyone tell you how to do it. If you want to talk about your husband with others, do. If not, don’t. There’s definitely something mysterious about the human psyche–some intrinsic force within us that continually seeks to engulf pain and suffering the way our white blood cells engulf viruses and bacteria.

It’s an elixir we seem to swallow at the very moment our loss occurs that immediately begins to work on our suffering without us even knowing it but which nevertheless somehow eventually cures us of it.

After experiencing a devastating loss, if you’ve allowed yourself to feel the legitimate pain it’s brought and not sought to avoid feeling it, things slowly start to improve. We wake one morning to find there’s something in the day we’re actually looking forward to; or someone says something funny and we actually laugh; or we find ourselves able to plan things again, even if only a trip to the grocery store.

But there’s no definite timetable for this. Don’t allow anyone to hurry you along with their expectations about when your grief should end.

Just know that it will. It may seem to you now, while in the middle of the worst of it, that it won’t, that your happier self was only a dream and that this grieving self is here to stay for good. But that’s an illusion brought about only by your current life-condition. Nothing is forever, including the pain of loss.

Don’t grieve alone. I worry that you have no one with whom to share your grief (you’ve told me in the past how you were all alone except for your husband). While you may not have much energy for this, I find myself hoping you’ll join a support group, either at your church or by looking online.

There’s something often magically healing about spending time with others who’ve had or are having painful experiences similar to your own. It may seem an overwhelming prospect now, utterly beyond you, but often by holding someone else’s hand, by becoming their support, you’ll find your own pain lessens just a little bit.

When you shine a light to guide others on a dark road, your own way is also lit.

Forgive yourself your failures. You said on the phone you “felt guilty,” but not what you felt guilty about. I wondered about that.

I wondered if you felt guilty about having spent time doing things like seeing other people or watching television rather than spending every moment with him; or about feeling tired of caring for him; or about not always having a positive attitude when you were around him; or for wishing the nightmare of his illness had actually ended sooner—or any of a myriad of things family members have told me have made them feel guilty, too.

Or maybe you feel guilt about the decisions you made when your husband was no longer capable of making them himself. The end of a person’s life is often composed of gut-wrenching choices that land squarely on the shoulders of family members: to put in a feeding tube or not; to use mechanical ventilation or not; to use heroic measures or not; to decide not to press forward with an intent to cure but rather with the intent to palliate.

I know you struggled mightily with the decision to stop treatment and bring him home to be comfortable, but you must know your decision did not cause his death. His disease did. His disease is what thrust you into a situation you didn’t ask for or want, but accepted with grace, making every decision with as much deliberation and wisdom as you could muster, even when you were exhausted, and always with an eye towards his comfort.

Forgive my presumption, but if you feel guilt over any of these things—or over other things I didn’t mention—you must forgive yourself. There was never a need for you to be a perfect caregiver—only a caregiver who cared, and that you most certainly were. The person who gets sick is never the only one whose life is deeply affected by their illness. This was your experience, too.

I want you to know that watching the way you were with your husband always inspired me. I can only hope to face losses in my life with as much courage, acceptance, and humor as you and your husband did both.

While no one knows what happens when we die, we can say with certainty that we lie between two equally inconceivable possibilities, one of which must be true: either the universe has always existed and time has no beginning, or something was created from nothing.

Either case makes every one of us a miracle.

Alex Lickerman is a physician, the former director of primary care at the University of Chicago, and has been a practicing Buddhist since 1989.  He blogs at www.happinessinthisworld.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

There Are No Coincidences?

Recently, I answered a call at a yoga studio from a woman who needed to leave her pre-natal class. At 7 months into her pregnancy she had lost her baby. As I listened to her tell me her story I was moved by her courage and determination. I told her to give herself time and space to feel whatever she needed to feel. I shared my story with her so that she would know that she was not alone. I told her about a support group I visited, Perinatal Bereavement Services of Ontario where bereaved parents can meet and share their grief.  After hanging up the phone I shed a few tears, then wondered if the universe was trying to tell me something. For months I have been thinking about the development of a yoga class for perinatal bereavement. Is it a coincidence that I was the one who picked up the phone?

After we lost our son I searched for a yoga class that would help me as I started my journey of healing both physically and emotionally.  What I wanted was to find a class with other women who had been through  similar experiences; who had given birth and were now navigating through loss.  I am on a journey to organize this class, but am being challenged with just how to go about it.  How do I reach the people that need to know about it.   What is the best way to open up the lines of communication so that when people are ready for this class it is there?

Speaking to this woman made me realize that it is time to get things started.  I wish her peace and love as she starts her journey and hope that soon I will be able to help others like her.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The Strength That Lies Within

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within.”  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Throughout my experiences over the past year people have often asked me how I can be so strong or where I get my strength from.  I believe each and every one of us has an infinite amount of strength inside us, but we may not realize it is there until we need it.

I am blessed to have many external sources of strength; my family and friends who have supported me through some difficult situations and decisions.  I am also blessed to have some great teachers in my life who have encouraged me to find a source of strength from within.  Yoga translated means “to yoke” or “unite” and when we practice yoga we are learning how to let go of all the thoughts and judgements that crowd our mind and instead unite with the Self that is unchanging inside us.  This is a challenging prospect.  For many of us, we spend our lives letting our minds be in control, letting our ego and intellect rule.  Sometimes our mind can work against us, holding us prisoner in our fears and anxieties.  Whenever I find my mind start to bully me, I have a few yoga practices that help me put it back in it’s place!  Sometimes, simply taking deep breaths can quiet the mind.  Focusing on deep, even breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system allowing the body and mind to relax.  If the mind is still resisting, I find chanting or repeating a mantra to be helpful.  I often think about a passage from Eknath Easwaran’s book on meditation where he tells the story of an elephant walking in a parade on a narrow Indian street lined by vendors’ carts.  The elephant’s trunk can be very busy, haphazardly grabbing things from the carts as it walks by.  However if you give the elephant a banner or something to hold with it’s trunk, the trunk is occupied and doesn’t disturb the vendors’ carts.  The same can be said for the mind and mantra.  Repeating a mantra or chanting gives the mind something to hold on to, keeping it occupied and peaceful.

Through these practices of breathing and meditation we can let go of the past and future and instead focus on being in the here and now.  Without the mind interrupting, we can find space to feel whatever we need to feel and then let it go.  By quieting the constant chatter of the mind we can start to recognize that true, unchanging self that is a boundless source of inner strength.  When we are able to access this strength we can use it to help ourselves heal.

Through practicing and teaching yoga and interacting with people everyday I have come to learn that human beings have an amazing capacity to heal if they choose to do so.  By working everyday to recognize the strength that lies within, we can face each day unafraid of what lies before us or behind us.

Wishing you all a peaceful mind!

Namaste


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Capturing Tiny Footprints

“Tiny Footprints on a Mother’s Heart: When a baby arrives, be it for a day, a month, a year or more, or perhaps only a sweet flickering moment – the fragile spark of a tender soul the secret swell of a new pregnancy the goldfish flutter known to only you – you are unmistakably changed… the tiny footprints left behind on your heart bespeak your name as Mother. – Author Unknown

Last year was my first Mother’s Day as a mom.  I remember celebrating with my family and how we were anticipating this new addition that was growing inside me.  I remember envisioning how today, this Mother’s Day, would be even more special; imagined my husband signing a card from our baby to me, pictured celebrating the “grandmother-hood” of the mothers in my  life.

I am still celebrating Mother’s Day. It may not be the way I had originally planned, but this Mother’s Day my husband and I will honour the short life that left such great footprints in our hearts.

I was recently introduced to a film called Capturing a Short Life which intimately documents the journeys of four families dealing with infant death.  I visited the site and shared their stories of life, loss and the difficult decisions they had to make.  And although their stories are filled with grief there is also another common thread; gratitude.  They are thankful to have met, held or carried their babies.  They have documented every milestone, no matter how small.  And most importantly, with every story, they are showing that although the experience of losing a child may be a defining moment in your life, it does not define your life.  I believe grief is meant to be shared not owned.  By sharing our stories we are releasing a burden, not holding onto grief, but moving through it just as we move through joy, anger and elation.  There are definitely days that are a struggle; sometimes one day at a time becomes one breath at a time.  And even though I would trade everything I’ve learned to spend one more day with my little angel, I am thankful for the time we had together and cherish his memory every day.

Happy Mother’s Day to mothers everywhere!  Whether you are with your children in spirit or in person, celebrate and honour the tiny footprints captured in your hearts.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My Journey Starts With Baby Steps

I decided to start this blog as a way to connect with others who may be on a journey like mine.  I was first drawn to yoga because of the strength and flexibility it promised, but soon found the benefits extended far beyond the physical.  In January of 2010 I signed up for the 250 hour yoga teacher training at The Yoga Sanctuary.   Shortly afterward I found out I was pregnant.  The 12 week program coincided with my second trimester and I thought the timing would work well.  I had no idea how important that timing would be.  After a routine ultrasound at 19 weeks, I received a message from the doctors office telling me I needed to go for a more detailed ultrasound.   Three weeks and hours of testing later we found out our baby had Trisomy 18, a condition I had never heard of and with complications I had never dreamed of.  Doctors warned us our baby might not make it to term, might not make it through the delivery, and would probably be unable to survive outside the womb.  We made the best decision for our family and decided to continue with the pregnancy and concentrate on enjoying every moment.  My studies in yoga philosophy and the supportive environment of The Yoga Sanctuary played an important part in helping me stay in the present and as peaceful and accepting as possible.  On October 25, 2010 our little angel was born.  He spent a few short hours with us before leaving this world.  He was beautiful and perfect and we miss him every day.

I looked to my yoga practice to help me heal and find peace, but had no idea where to look for resources or even what kind of practice I could do after giving birth.  The only post-natal classes I could find were “Mommy and Baby” classes – not exactly helpful.  And so, I decided to start a post-natal program for bereaved mothers exploring the mind-body connection and how we can use that to heal ourselves.  This is my journey…

footprints of an angel

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

3 years, 3 candles

20131025-213727.jpg

Of course I knew what today was when I woke up this morning. But I went about my day as usual; went to my appointment, ran my errands. I definitely gave my son a few extra hugs and kisses today, and I took a few moments to think about my angel that was born with wings. But somewhere in the middle of everything my grief still caught up with me, unexpectedly.

“May Baby Theo shine a light on your day” a friend wrote to me this morning. And he did. I will probably always have a few tears for my baby that said goodbye too soon, but I am still thankful for all that he gave me. Three years, three candles, one love.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My Baby Became My Guru: Practicing For Two

Practicing yoga while pregnant helped me discover a new awareness in my yoga practice.  Like many yogis and yoginis, I sometimes had trouble letting go of the desire to strive for more in my yoga practice – trying to go deeper or looking for the next pose. But during pregnancy your practice has to change – as you move through the trimesters some poses become unavailable and some just become uncomfortable. Being pregnant brought out a more exploratory side of my practice as I looked for what poses made both my body, and the baby happy.  My baby became my guru, reminding me to keep space in my body as I moved through asana, encouraging me to stay with my breath and observe when I needed to slow things down, without judging myself.  Pregnancy is often not stress free with the many tests, statistics and stories well-meaning people might tell you.  Learning to cultivate the relaxation response in class can help not only on a day-to-day basis, but also when you get to your delivery day – our bodies are designed to give birth, it is often our minds that get in the way!

Whether you are new to yoga or come to class regularly there are many benefits to attending a prenatal yoga class. On a physical level yoga helps improve your posture and create space in the body, helping to alleviate discomfort while building strength and stamina.  I always make sure to include pelvic floor exercises when teaching a prenatal class. It is important to bring awareness to the strength and relaxation that is possible in this area – plus you never know when you are going to get a kick or punch to the bladder!  The breath can be your best friend during yoga and during labour; learning to breathe and soften into intensity instead of fighting it is something we practice in a prenatal class.  Even though during labour your mind might forget everything you’ve been taught, your body will remember.  Prenatal yoga classes are also a great opportunity to meet other women who are going through similar experiences.  Having a space where you can openly share, ask questions and voice concerns can be a great comfort during this time of change.

I treasure my time practicing yoga pregnant and love to help other women discover or rediscover their yoga practice with a baby on board!

I am currently teaching prenatal yoga at Sundara Yoga Saturdays 1-2:15

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Angels

2 years ago today a beautiful angel briefly shone his light here on earth an changed our lives forever. His light will always shine brightly in our hearts.

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but baby Theo is never far from our thoughts. His little brother Teo keeps us very busy!

This past Sunday we baptized our little boy. Throughout the ceremony I found my emotions creeping up on me as I thought of the little boy we didn’t get to baptize. Today, as we celebrate what would have been Theo’s 2nd birthday I will take a few extra moments to be grateful for the many blessings in our lives – one of whom is trying to eat cardboard right now!!

Thank you for my two little angels, one here on earth and the other watching us from above.

Wishing love and peace to all!

20121025-083038.jpg

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment