Ask Yo Mama: Does Size really matter?

askyomamaOkay, so before you delete this and think it’s a crazy porn site, let me extrapolate. I got an email from a mama this week and wanted to respond more fully on this site so that all can be served from this nonsense.

Dear Yo mama,

I’m hoping you might have some thoughts/advice as it’s looking like I’m turning out to be a statistic… Yesterday, they did a special ultrasound to figure out how my baby is. She weighed in at 8lb 10oz (at 38 weeks 1 day). I’m dilated ½ centimeter and not hardly effaced although baby has dropped pretty well. I’ve had my membranes swiped twice now and have been aggressive with acupuncture and chiropractic to bring on an earlier labor…. All that said, it has been pretty strongly recommended I go for a c-section based on the size of the baby. Because I’m not very effaced and hardly dilated, they are not even recommending medical induction as it seems it could well lead to unscheduled c-section, considering how not ready my body seems to be, despite baby’s size. (Baby is very healthy with healthy placenta and amniotic fluid levels and it seems she’d be happy to float around for 2-3 weeks more, gaining ½ to 1lb/week, so I’m told….)

As it stands now, I’m scheduled for a c-section next Monday and of course my hope is I go into labor before then… I was just wondering if you have any specific thoughts or ideas and/or if based on your experience you agree with this view.                        Signed, Big Baby

Dear sweet Mama (and Big Baby),

WTF.  Sorry, but this is one of the most crazy-making parts of the birth industry right now.   I will highlight what you yourself wrote:  “Baby is very healthy with healthy placenta and amniotic fluid levels and is seems she’d be happy to float around for 2-3 weeks…”  SO LET HER!  I’m going to take a few moments on my virtual soap box here, but I am so frustrated with this ‘cesarean or induction based on size’ thing that I gotta have some words.

here are a few quick facts:

1.  BIG BABIES ROCK.  They nurse better, sleep better, and basically come out like big bouncy buddhas.  They are fully cooked, lovely munchkins and are a delight to be around (in general).

2.  Big babies navigate the pelvis beautifully!  Sometimes even better than a smaller baby, because of reason #1.  ANY baby of any size can get stuck in the pelvis, and very tiny women can rock a vaginal birth of a big baby with no problem. (my delicious daughter was almost 10 pounds, and I am on the smaller side of mamas)

3.  Ultrasounds have no idea how big your baby is.  Ultrasounds have been known to be multiple pounds off.   So, to say we have to induce or do a cesarean birth based on this ultrasound is nonsense.  It’s like making a map with GPS points in Wyoming while you’re in Colorado.

4.  Babies do better who have labor.  Even if it ends in a cesarean birth.  Apgar scores are higher in babies that had a trial of labor before a cesarean birth.  The contractions are essential for helping baby transition into this new world.

So, Big Baby, Here’s the conclusion.  I don’t know if your doc has a little hawaii vaca planned or is having his/her in-laws to visit, but this recommendation is not in the favor of you or your wonderful (and potentially small) baby.  Take your time.  Say no thank you.  Hold steady.   Your baby will pick a perfect birthday, and on that day, you’ll both see how you can navigate getting baby through your pelvis.  Stay active (see Happy, Healthy Pregnancy) so you can walk and do a lot of stairs in labor.  And potentially, if you and your doctor keep not meeting eye to eye, consider making a switch.  I know it’s super late in the game, but as long as you’re not in labor, it is still possible.  (See Three Steps to A Great Birth).

And if you can, avoid empty calories like refined sugar.  These do tend to make babies a little fluffier.  Eat five colors of veggies a day, eat good proteins (vegetarian or meat).  Think of each day as the potential day that your great birthing adventure will begin.

Sending you all my love and patience, to you and your gloriously big baby.

Yo Mama

Ask Yo Mama: Tdap in Pregnancy

Dear Yo Mama,   
I am feeling very nervous and scared about something I read.  My wife and I both did the tdap vaccination.    I was fine with it until I read on Facebook that somebody was saying you shouldn’t do it while you are pregnant.  This has me worried about autism.  I am trying to surrender but I woke up concerned today.  I don’t want to talk to my wife because I don’t want to freak her out. So that leaves me with no one to talk to.  If you have anything you could say that will take a good chunk of this concern off my back that would be awesome.  I don’t trust the cdc. 
I want to let go of my fear and move forward.
Thanks,
Shot in the Dark
Dear Shot in the Dark,
I’m so glad you reached out!  It takes bravery to give a voice to these fears.  When it comes to vaccines, there is no perfect answer.  There are risks with vaccines, and there are risks with the illnesses they prevent.  Each vaccine decision means weighing the specific risks of that illness (and the liklihood of contracting that illness) with the risks of the vaccine.  And we are always making our ‘best guess’ and can’t know the future.  It sucks.
But vaccines are useful and amazing, and a very good thing that we have them.  At the moment, there hasn’t been any consistent or convincing proof of a link between autism and vaccines.  Most studies have been debunked.  It seems there may be a slightly higher correlation in african american boys, and there is a question out there of whether the CDC covered up that subset in their studies.  I know the internet can be a scary place, and I trust my pediatrician (Dr. Roy Steinbock) the most when it comes to these things.  He’s smart, he’s well researched and he’s obsessed with the safety of kids.  A good pediatrician is a parent’s best ally.
I think the decision you made to have the Tdap during pregnancy is a smart one.  Whooping cough is pretty prevalent in Boulder (because so many don’t vaccinate).  And it can be fatal if a baby is very young, and it’s a pain in the butt at any age (6 weeks of coughing).  It’s the one vaccine I feel pretty strongly about.
As for having it during pregnancy, it’s listed as a slightly higher risk than some other drugs (class C), but again- you probably won’t give your baby the Dtap directly until later in the flu season (when your baby is a little older), so keeping it out of the house (by vaccinating the two of you) seems prudent.
Having a baby is shockingly anxiety producing, even before they are here. And it doesn’t end when they arrive.  As parents, we have to make a ton of decisions on behalf of our kids, and it’s overwhelming.  But you get more and more practice, and start to trust yourself- both your research and your instincts.  What I hear in your email is that you’re going to be an awesome dad :)
With love and support,
Yo Mama

All You Need Is Lovey

Orange ShirtA story of a boy, a shirt, and a mom on a mission.

What I’ve found most absurd about motherhood are the things I will do to keep my children happy.

“We can’t find orange shirt.” These five simple words sent me into a panic when I received this text message from my son’s daycare.

I texted back: “I’m on it, bringing back up.” I dashed out of work, as quickly as one can dash eight months pregnant, into the volcanic July heat. Speeding towards my sister’s house halfway to Denver, I looked at the clock. I had 45 minutes. Only 45 minutes until that special time of day, that mothers all over the world both treasure and dread. Naptime. Without orange shirt, there would be no napping.

“Orange Shirt” is my three-year-old son’s lovey. A lovey, (binkie, wubbie, num num) is a transitional object, transitioning the child from their mother’s love to self soothing skills. Our ancient monkey reflexes make us fall asleep easier if we hold onto something (i.e. a mother, Iphone, tree branch, or an orange shirt.)

My nephew’s lovey was known as ‘stinky ducky’ because he sucked on it until it reeked like bleach, mold, and cat pee put together. I’m still stunned that he held it so close to his face without vomiting. After my husband met stinky ducky, he was over loveys. He hadn’t used a lovey, and he determined our children (not even born yet) would not need loveys. I failed to tell him about my own history with loveys–my good dream pillow that I loved from age three–now a shred in a box in my mother’s garage, and my soft down pillow from college, called “softest softest” that is still in our bed today.

There is no stopping those who want a lovey. At four months old, my son attached himself to my orange maternity tank top that said “expecting baby” on it. And it was lovey at first sight. He called it “dootch” when he couldn’t say shirt, and now it was called ” Orange Shirt.”

When he was two, we cut it in half. The “expecting baby” half was “home orange shirt” and the other half was “traveling orange shirt.” When traveling orange shirt had been left at my sister’s the night before, home orange shirt, in a rare moment, left the house, and went to daycare with my son, where they had (carelessly I might add) lost it. We had gone from two orange shirts to none in less than 24 hours. A missed nap would not be good, but if we didn’t have an orange shirt by nightfall, I shuddered to think what would happen.

I arrived at my sisters at thirty minutes before naptime. She said she had left orange shirt in the barbeque grill outside her house, before her early morning plane flight. . I confidently lifted the lid, and saw only black wire racks and old coals. I felt like I was in a reality show, designed to make pregnant women freak out like hyenas on camera.

I checked every window and door that a pregnant woman could safely reach. I looked under every rock, plant, rug, welcome mat, all the likely places for a hide-a-key. Even though I knew they were on a plane, I called my sister and mom. Don’t you know this is an emergency? I screamed to their cheerful outgoing messages.

Luckily, there was still Bob. My stepdad Bob was the one you call when your computer isn’t working, or you’re locked out of your house, or your hemorrhoids have gotten so bad that you can no longer drive (which was me a month after this story). I called Bob’s home and cell, but he had forwarded his two phones to each other, rendering them both useless. I looked again for hidden cameras.

Naptime was approaching faster than a whore on roller skates.

I called my sister’s neighbor, Kathryn. I called her eight times and finally got through. I tried not to cry, but you know when you’ve been trying to call everyone else in the world and they are all abandoning you like your dad did when you were three, and every guy you dated till you met your husband, and you finally reach someone who is alive and has an ear, and you’re eight months pregnant and it’s 108 degrees outside and you’re in a desperate hunt for a half an orange tank top that will probably save your child’s life?

I cried. A lot. To this day this woman probably thinks I’m a total lunatic. Calmly, she talked me through how to find the key to my sister’s house. Inside, in a plastic baggie next to the door, forgotten in a rush and looking like trash waiting to be taken outside, was the slightly less-preferred version of my son’s lovey. I grabbed it and got back in the car.

I drove to my son’s school, and burst through the gate like Mercury. My son had skipped nap entirely, but strangely seemed fine, playing outside in the sandbox, confused to see his mommy’s red tear streaked face. Then his teacher said, “I think we know where the other one is.”

She explained the morning’s adventures, while my mind raced. How could they let him take Orange shirt to a park? Would you take the Mona Lisa to a day at the beach? I suppressed my rage and disbelief through a pursed-lip grimace. I thought of reporting them to social services, but I couldn’t waste the time. Orange shirt was out there… somewhere.

Now I really was on reality TV. I waddled out of the gate, and heaved my sweaty mass of pregnant self into the car.

I pulled up to the nearby park, as a homeless man was walking away with a small red wagon full of stuff. For one crazed moment, I imagined he had definitely stolen my son’s lovey. Why wouldn’t he? It’s very soft.

Trying to remain calm, I rolled down the window and said, “Excuse me?” I wasn’t going to be this close, and fail. “Excuse me, sir. Did you happen to see half of an orange tank top?” I was trying to be cool, but my red eyes, and shaky voice betrayed me. He stared at me blankly for a moment, and then said “yeah, I think it’s in the gazebo.”

Cue chariots of fire theme music. I ran across the park, my big belly bouncing. Looking like an old pair of underwear, abandoned on the cement, was Orange Shirt. I held it to my face, inhaling that sweet stinky-lovey smell–familiar and warm.

I felt for a moment, what my son must feel when he holds Orange Shirt. Like it was all going to be okay. Like this crazy shred of fabric, worn by me with my son in my belly, and loved by him every night, was a soft fabric umbilical cord of love between us, connected once again, never to be broken.

Someday I’m sure he will lose something I cannot retrieve for him, his innocence, his first heartbreak. But that crazy July day, I had caught his fall. I saved his Lovey, that symbol of my love, to take with him out into the world. The world might eventually fail him, but not his mother.

Ask Yo Mama- Where should I give birth?

askyomama Dear Yo Mama,

 As you know, our baby catcher’s practice just closed. We were thinking of another hospital based midwifery practice, but discovered that the hospital has a higher C-section rate than we are comfortable with.

 You come across as an expert in this area, and we would like to ask you what you would do if you were in our place. We’re considering a Freestanding Birth Center, but it’s expensive and may not be covered by our insurance — however, we may look into insurance options if it seems like the right path. Home birth feelss scary to us, but making a decision based on fear isn’t always the best one.

Would you mind providing us with advice? We’re just lost on what to do.

Sincerely,

Belly without a Baby Catcher

 

Dear Belly,

I’m so glad you reached out to me!

It’s a hot topic right now, with so many feeling ‘lost’.  And midwives and doctors are human- sometimes something changes that forces them to not be able to carry out their original commitment to ‘catch’ your baby.  Choosing a care provider (and birth place) is tricky– it’s a little like dating- which is not very fun-  but if you use the same feelings of ‘chemistry’ along with some good research, you can find your way to a choice that fits your family.

I think the first thing to consider is where both you and your partner will feel the most safe.  With choices like whether or not to use an epidural- you, as mama, get 100% of that vote.  With birth place, I would say it’s 60% (mama)/40% partner.  both of you need to feel that it is a safe place for you and baby.  Since you have to push a baby out that day, you get an extra 10% of the vote.

Safety can be found in different ways.  For some, it is knowing that every possible medical intervention is at your fingertips.  For others, it could be knowing that the medical interventions are as far away as possible, or at least used as a last resort.  For many, it can be knowing that they feel at home with the environment- smells, sight, and feel of the place.  Looking at cesarean birth rates is one important factor for sure.  Most hospitals, nationwide are around 33%, which is shocking, but true.  So you want to look at individual practices within each hospital (Nurse midwife practices tend to be more like 10-20%).  Out of hospital birth centers tend to be 6% or even lower (Ina May’s center is 1.5%- but that’s a long drive to Tennessee).  You are in a good birth class, and preparing yourself with good tools, so you should be in a good position to avoid a Cesarean birth (see my post:  3 most important things you can do to Have a Great birth)

It’s also super important to consider the care provider or team you’d be working with.

And I tend to go both for the letters by their name as well as the ‘gut instinct’   I would ask yourself the following two questions after you meet with a care provider:

  1. would I go on a road trip with this person?
  2. would I go into a one-stall bathroom with this person?

Birth is long and winding like a road trip, and as intimate as any bathroom event you’ve had so far.  If you couldn’t imagine taking your pants off in front of someone- they might not be the right fit for your birth.

Freestanding Birth Centers can be a wonderful option.  You have Certified Nurse Midwives, and a beautiful facility, and medical interventions are truly a last resort.  Home birth can also be great, but is not for everyone.  I think some of the pluses are:  not having to drive while in labor, the postpartum care is extraordinary, and you’re in your ‘own space.’  And for any higher-risk pregnancies, or those that feel the ‘safety net’ of medical intervention should be close by for any reason, a Hospital based midwife or OB practice is usually the best way to go.

I would meet with individual care providers and feel into how you could imagine your birth experience with each of them.  Ask all the questions you want, listen to the answers.  And then listen to your inner answer.  Your belly will know.

Thanks again for reaching out!

All the best,

Yo Mama

 

ASK YO MAMA welcomes your letters and questions- please email katie@yomamayoga.com with ASK YO MAMA in the subject line.  We will edit your letters and respond on the blog.  We respond to as many as we can.

The Top Ten Ways Becoming A Mom has Changed My Life

BEFORE:  trouble1

AFTER:  davidschlatterphotography-4464

Here they are, the top ten ways becoming a mom has changed my life:

1.  My boobs are longer.

I’m embarrassed that it’s first on the list, but this one is the most striking. Before my children came along, I had tiny little barely-A-cup gymnast breasts. After my first, the boob fairy granted me a Double D Deluxe set which shocked everyone, including myself. But the boob fairy’s gifts are not forever.  As I now come to the end of nursing my second, we are settling in at a soft and gently elongated B cup. Kind of like water balloons that have been filled and emptied a hundred times.

2.  My love is stronger.

The greatest surprise for me has been the pure sweet love that has come through my heart. Before my kids, if a bear had attacked someone I loved, I would have gone to get help, or maybe used bear spray. Now, if a bear attacked one of my children, I would be sitting over a dead bear with blood on my hands before I actually realized what happened. This love is a whole new level. It’s physical, visceral, and undeniable. And truly unconditional.

3.  There are a lot less pictures of my cats.

catsOkay, this one is a little sad. It’s not just the pictures (which there used to be MANY- cute xmas cards with Sandy and Booda, pictures of Sandy lounging around, pictures of Booda looking neurotic for no reason), it’s the rank. My cats have fallen so far down the totem pole, they’re not even on it anymore. These feral beasts that still call our house their home used to be the vessel of all my displaced maternal love. Now they make me crazy. They are on Prozac (literally) which is helpful. But at least once a week my husband will say “hey, did you know so-and-so is looking for a cat?”

 

4.  My house is messier.

Okay, this one might not actually be true. My house used to be a wreck in a certain, creative, costumes all over the place, dishes in the sink, ‘I’ve-watched-an-entire-season-of-Alias-this-weekend-because-I- can’ kind of way. Now my house is a tornado of toys, legos, sponge bob, stuffies, train tracks, diapers, socks (I think my son goes through 4 pairs of socks a day) and other people’s underwear. I think the main difference is before when my house was a wreck, I’d usually avoid having anyone over until I got it mostly cleaned up. If I did that now, I’d have no friends. I’m amazed at my tolerance for mess while nannies, friends, and family members come over and join blissfully in my chaos.

5.  I have a whole new concept of time.

When I think back on my ‘pre-baby’ life, I can’t believe I ever thought I was busy.  What was I so busy with?  Now, the idea of wasted time (a movie that I don’t like, or a bad massage) is an abomination.   I can write a blog post in 20 minutes or less, shower in two minutes, and eat a full meal in under 5 minutes (probably not the best thing for my digestion, but necessary sometimes). A wise person said, ‘if you want something done, give it to a busy person.’ Or just give it to a mom.

6.  I get to play with LEGOS!  (again)

IMG_1737This one might be my favorite. My son calls me a ‘master builder’ as we work for hours on a space station that covers six different moon plates (won by me in an intense Ebay showdown-probably with another mom).  It has seven spaceships, sleeping areas, a rocket launching pad, a mobile space lab, and a hanging planet earth hanging from the curtain rod near the lego table. Sometimes I think… “this is why I became a mom.” To do the things that brought me so much joy as a kid and call it “parenting.”

 

 

 

7.  I love my husband way more.

There is something about seeing a tiny human being with a mix of facial features matching myself and a man I love that is beyond words. When my almost two year old daughter wrinkles her eyebrows in that same earnest way that my husband does. Or when I tossle the curls of my five year old son, and smell his sweet little boy smell of sunshine, sleepiness and peanut butter and think of a picture of my husband at the same age, my heart just opens. Not to mention that he’s seen me inside and out, both physically and emotionally over the last five years. I’m pretty sure no one knows me or loves me like he does.

8.  I have a lot more anger. And I express it.

Even as I love more, I also get a whole lot more pissed. I’ve screamed “HONEEY!!!” across the house in a way that was not the least bit tender or endearing. And towards my beloved children, I’ve heard such phrases leave my mouth as “I’m going to swat your behind!” Or “Do you want me to call your father!” Or when I have the wherewithal “mommy needs a time out.” I’ve hit the wall- more than ever before, and at least once physically. I’ve felt the deep soul rage that can only come from that special blend of sleep deprivation, constant body molestation and total lack of self care for months on end.

9.  I’m less self- centered and more present.

So even though I’m less in love with my cats, I’m more in love with and love taking care of a lot of other people. I delight in cooking a beautiful meal for others (something that used to offend my feminist hide). I feel a sense of calm strength staying up all night with a sick kiddo on my chest. And I love making my son laugh in the bathtub more than making an entire audience laugh at Improv Olympic in Los Angeles.

10.  I love who I am becoming every day.

I think most moms would agree with me when I say I’ve had two different lives. One from the day I was born until May 12, 2009 at 2:02am, and one from that moment on.  When I felt my son’s warm slippery body on my chest, after working for days to get him out, and my heart sang as I looked into his perfect, wet, open eyes, I knew life would never be the same.   Since that day, I’ve let go of perfectionism, and welcomed the philosophy of “good ’nuff.”  I’ve let go of thinking I can do it all myself, and opened up to my place in the grand village of life.  I’ve stopped trying to ‘look like I have it all together’ and learned how to live more fully in my skin.  And I have my children to thank for this.  Even if I would like to get a little more sleep.

Thoughts from Raining Woman…

IMG_8535

Okay, so I was born in a flood.  A big’ol banks rising, 1975 Browning Montana Indian Reservation Flood.  And even though I was a little white girl, daughter of the fresh-out-of-medical-school doctor who had come to work there, I was given an Indian name… Su Take (pronounced Sue Talkie):  which means Raining Woman.

Flash forward 38 years, as I sit in this beautiful town that I’ve grown up in, and watch the 500 year flood pouring over our town, all over facebook, and the news, again and again, in disbelief at the raw power and devastation that mother nature brought over the last week.

It reminds me of the speed of which small children can annihilate a playroom, and how much longer it takes to clean it up.  And this will take a while, for sure to clean up.

What I’ve watched over the last few days, in addition to the actual posts and pictures, and shocking video-  is my mind.  How in certain moments, I, too am washed away into the drama, hurtling down a mountainside, a river of doubt, fear and panic welling up in my body like the banks of the creek overflowing.

My yoga teacher this week spoke of how our minds and bodies do not know the difference between seeing something, remembering something, and experiencing it first hand.  I thought of this as I sat glued to my Iphone with horror, tracking story after story of dear friends in panic. I found myself shaking, listening to alerts, unable to calm myself or be a calm mother to my children.   I sat terrified watching the images one by one, and the suggestions flying in.  I filled my bathtub with water, charged my cell phone, and looked at our pantry to see how long we could last.  I sat up at 11:30 on Thursday night as my phone told me a 30 foot wall of cars and debris was hurtling towards Boulder.

And I thought I was going to lose my mind.

And then I would look up at my dry house, in my cohousing community in Lafayette, at the gentle rain outside my window.  I would find my breath, go practice yoga, or serve my community… and feel calm, like the sun shining out from the heavy clouds today.

I remember going to Gurmukh Khalsa’s yoga class the day after 9/11, back in Los Angeles in 2001.  I was expecting some tea, maybe a plate full of cookies, and a gentle yoga class with lots of crying and warm hugs.  Instead, I could feel Gurmukh’s power when I walked in the room.  She urged us each to go out and serve, and to keep our own consciousness ‘up’ for those who really needed it.  She suggested we turn off the TV, and protect our psyche from the parts of the tragedy that were not ours.

“If you’re here today, then I imagine you didn’t lose anyone yesterday. The people that were most deeply impacted by this tragedy, need you to keep your own consciousness up.”  And she urged us to each go out and teach the Sa Ta Na Ma prayer to as many people as we could, for emotional balance of the whole planet.

I remember sitting there stunned.  Everyone I knew was glued to their TV, watching the towers fall over and over again.  Gurmukh was giving us a mission, instead of a hug.  But I knew in my heart it was right.

During these times of intense loss, intense tragedy-  we can do a whole lot more for everyone if we Keep Up.    Your neighbor might need a sandbag near his window, someone might need a ride, your neighbor across the street might need carrots because they can’t get to a grocery store.  New babies need a place to sleep, some clothes. Stay present.  Stay up.  Serve.

And if you can not, just keep your consciousness up, be discerning with the images you take in, and know that your brain doesn’t know whether you are watching that creek rise or swimming in it. Look at pictures of your sweet babies, as you also look at pictures of washed out roads.  Look at your honeymoon album after you look at the images from Greeley.  Protect your mental health, and come back to yourself.

Sa Ta Na Ma.  I am truth.   Chant it.  Find your center.  Teach it to others.

This flood has had an impact on everyone, whether directly in your home, or across your street, or in your mind.  Boulder has the power to heal, as do each of us.  I pray that the rains keep staying away, and that the emotional waters also calm for each of you.  May the longtime sun shine on all of us.

Here is a video showing the Sa Ta Na Ma.  May it bring you peace:

Motherhood Slapped Me in the Face

slapMotherhood slapped me in the face.  What I expected to be really good at, instead leveled me to the ground, in a fetal position, sobbing.  I was supposed to be the expert.

By the time I gave birth to my son, I had seen over 150 babies born.  I am a doula:  which is a Greek word meaning one who will clean up your puke while you’re having a baby, and love every minute of it.  I am the crazy birth lady. I can be with a wild laboring woman as she screams, “I think the baby’s coming out my butt!” like I’m having tea on a Sunday afternoon.

I’m the pregnant woman’s BFF.  I opened a yoga studio just for moms and I created my own childbirth education program.  I stand by women’s sides as they give birth.  I swaddle up their newborns, and say to them proudly “Welcome to Motherhood.”

I did all of that for ten years before I became a mother.

Each time I witnessed a woman stepping into motherhood, I’d think- Someday that will be me.  Someday I will walk across those coals, and everything I’ve learned will pay off.  Me and my babies (tons of them) will thrive because of my years of becoming an expert.

So you can imagine my shock when motherhood slapped me in the face.

In pregnancy, instead of barefoot and blissed-out, I was needy and neurotic.  When labor came, I felt terror.   Here I stood, the expert who should’ve known better.    I could describe cervical dilation in many different metaphors:  A flower opening, a cashmere turtleneck slipping over the babies head, sucking on a lifesaver till it melts away.  I had spent many hours demonstrating how a ripe cervix is like your cheek and an unripe cervix is like your nose.  (I know you want to try that now, it’s okay, you can)  But all my expertise was doing nothing for my stubborn, first-time-mama cervix.  I could describe labor, but I couldn’t do it.

The first day of labor, I chanted, meditated, hugged a few trees.  I felt so proud of myself, thinking “I knew I’d be good at this!” The next day was Mother’s Day.  Of course, I would give birth on Mother’s day!  I paged my midwife, knowing she’d rush right over, and catch my baby as the sun set over the flatirons.

Her voice was distant on the phone line:  “tell me what exactly you’re calling contractions?”

My heart sank.  We talked about my “labor” in quotes now, and I felt like a big fat newbie.  I was physically and emotionally drained, and I was only at the beginning.  I’d been dancing all around base camp like a moron, wearing myself out before the actual climb began.  And I’d told women the exact same things she was telling me!  “Have a glass of wine, take a bath, sleep is so important.”   I wanted to throw the phone into the birth tub. I wasn’t having a baby by sunset, I wasn’t even having a baby that weekend.

I spent a few hours resting, and then the next 36 hours grunting and clawing my way towards motherhood.  I was in the tub, out of the tub, scaring my neighbors, scaring myself, and dropping choice phrases like ‘Jiminy Crimminy”  and the occasional F-bomb.

After the birth, I felt a deep triumph, but I also felt trauma and betrayal. To add a little salt to my wounded pride, my baby girl- we didn’t check, but I was about 80% right in guessing the gender of my client’s babies, so I just knew she was a girl- until she came out with a penis.  She- was no she.  And I- was no expert.

If birth was a slap in the face, new motherhood was a knock out.  My career and expectations stood over me waving their fist, as I lay on the floor- in a fog of depression and anxiety.

My husband would ask me questions like “when should his umbilical cord fall off?” or “why do you think he’s crying so much?”  And I would stare at him wildly, and say, “I don’t know!  I’ve never had a baby before!”  I knew how to reassure mothers, but I had no idea it would rip out my heart every time my baby cried.

I didn’t know who to ask for help.  If I was struggling, I would lose street cred.  When my husband gently suggested that I call a therapist, I felt like a failure.   So I just muscled through each day.  I’d show up for my students, with all the answers, and I’d go back home and sink into my sea of self–doubt.

One afternoon a man, looking like Fabio, pulled up in front of my yoga studio on a Harley.  I had my diaper bag in one hand, and my six-month-old in his car seat in the other. I wanted to drop both, hop on the back of that hog, and whisper into Fabio’s scruffy cheek:  “Take me away, take me far away from here.”

But I stayed.  Even though, I felt that motherhood might be killing me slowly, shaving years off my life with every 4 am feed- I wasn’t going anywhere.  I was completely in love with this baby.

And I did get better.  By the time my son turned two, I was back.  My sense of humor, delight in life.  And I could actually smile when someone told me they were pregnant with their second child.   One January morning, I told my son to go wake up daddy and tell him we were having another baby!  As he ran out of the bathroom, my knees buckled.  Didn’t I learn my lesson the first time?

I started to prepare, for a hurricane, more than for a baby.   I didn’t want cute fuzzy booties. I wanted sandbags of support.  I hired postpartum doulas (2 of them), midwives (3 or them), birth doulas (four of them- because clearly you can never have too many doulas).  I hired a massage therapist, a hypnotherapist, a psychotherapist, and a psychiatrist, just in case.  I was going to be ready this time, when this freaking baby arrived.

I expected to fail, and I had support in place to hold me up as I did.

If my first birth was a slap, my second was a cool cloth, easing the sting.  I gave birth not from a place of knowing, but from the deepest surrender I had ever known.  In six hours of easy labor, on international peace day, my baby girl swam into my arms, surrounded by a powerful circle of love.  Outside, in the warm autumn sunset, neighborhood kids wrote out in chalk, Welcome Baby.

With surrender and support, I’m starting to feel the sweetness of being a mother. I know my second is only seven months old, and it’s a tight rope I’m walking, a balance of yoga, self-care, and therapy. And I certainly have days that I fall off the rope.

But I know this now:  that being an expert is baloney.  As a mother, I’m always going to be a beginner, as my children change and grow.   And I know I need help.  From maybe not just one, but two or three villages.

And still I am grateful for the opportunity to constantly be learning.  Forever blessed that these two sweet souls picked me as their mother, and I said yes.

I remember meeting a guru back in my pre-motherhood days.   My friend said, just approach him with the humility of a child.  I walked up and said proudly, “I know nothing.” He smacked me across the face.  Twice.  After the second slap, I got it.  He was calling my lie. I said I knew nothing, but I thought I knew everything.  “Do you know that hurt?” he said to me with kind eyes. “Yes,” I said, truly speechless.  “Okay,” he nodded, “start there.”

So maybe that slap of my initiation into motherhood, was more like the hand of a loving guru saying:  You don’t need to know what you are doing.  That’s not what motherhood is about.   Start with how much you love this baby.  That’s all your baby needs.  Just love.  Nothing more.  Stop trying to do it right, you just might miss it.  All the books in the world mean nothing when you look into the eyes of your newborn child.  Forget your expertise, and remember that every mother begins on day one.

And being a mother is a whole lot more powerful than being an expert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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