Birth of a Wild Iris (pt. 1)

This is a long post, so hold onto your butts.

I started writing this blog post when Iris was just 3 weeks old while she was momentarily sleeping in her pack-n-play and while I was trying to take 5 seconds to pee. I got all the way through “I’ve been hoping to document the arrival of Iris for the past 3 weeks…” before she woke up, decided that if I wasn’t where she could touch me then she would die, and started wailing.

Luckily, speed wiping is a thing (also, “TMI” is no longer a thing).

Originally, I wanted to write something profound about her birth. I wanted to discuss how, for a process that has been around since the dawn of time, crosses all species, and is required for every single person to arrive on the planet, it’s amazing how unique every single birth story turns out.  But since then, I’ve learned that as uniquely beautiful and profound motherhood is, you’ve got to have a sense of humor if you’re going to survive.

Now, my sweet, perfect little pumpkin is 3, almost 4 months old ( … technically 15 weeks. Weeks are still a thing at this point) and happily in daycare, which means I now have two free hands with which to type (and eat my meals), so I thought I’d pick back up where I left off.

You know, BIRTH.

There’s a reason I want to share this story. You see, long before Daniel and I had a kid, we knew people who had kids (go figure). Nearly all (if not all) of them, had either scheduled their induction date, delivered via scheduled c-section, or used an epidural to vaginally deliver, and as a result, my thoughts on childbirth were, quite simply, why the eff wouldn’t you want an epidural? Delivering a baby is the single worst thing that could happen to a woman, the least you could do is take the edge off.

Then, my friend Tess delivered her son (12/1/2015), and my whole world changed.

When she posted his birth story, detailing the pain free, meditative and astonishingly quick hypnobirth their family experienced, I realized that there was an alternative birth option which I’d never considered. There was a story of a birth that was a positive experience, rather than one in which the wife is screaming, crushing her baby-daddy’s hand with mad fury, and yelling obscenities at him between contractions (see: every movie ever).

Talk about a game changer. At the time, I was in the middle of trying to naturally recover from my herniated discs. Children weren’t really on our radar, but I silently applied the idea to my training, mentally committed to “preparing” for a natural delivery through my lifestyle and exercise (as well as meditation game) for when that day finally came. So when we found out we were pregnant that following October, I was excited to start the natural delivery journey and had my coach, Zach Greenwald of StrengthRatio, adjust my programming so that I could maintain a decently high level of activity throughout my pregnancy. As a result, I was able to keep many of the traditional aches and pains of pregnancy at bay and enjoy a  high quality of life until the very end!

When it came to preparing for delivery, however, reading the Hypnobirthing book and listening to hours upon hours of The Birth Hour podcasts had me feeling like I had a good idea of what to expect, but I was still hoping to find a natural childbirth class that Daniel and I could take together. My friend, Allie, recommended Village Birth and Motherhood‘s Lamaze class here in Bartlesville and since we didn’t feel like driving to Tulsa (and Nicki Ingram offered flexible class times/scheduling… which was AMAZING since we were working on opening the new gym location at the time), I signed us up!

Not only did Nicki’s course provide Daniel and me with incredibly thorough information, she also helped to set our expectations around natural childbirth and pain management techniques while also preparing us for the potential of a birth that did not meet our initial ‘birth plan.’ This was huge, ya’ll. Birth is a wild ride no matter how you get there, and her insistence that we could turn any birth experience into a positive one was critical once it was finally game time!

We enjoyed the course so much that we bugged Nicki incessantly until she agreed to serve as our doula for the hospital birth. To be honest, I was a little worried that having a doula might be awkward and somehow take away from Daniel’s and my experience, and I occasionally worried that inviting someone else into the process was a bad idea. Daniel, who this entire time was completely supportive of my desire to have a natural delivery, helped to remind me that we didn’t know what we didn’t know, and as first-time birthers, it might be nice to have a spare professional handy.

Now keep your eyes peeled for Pt. 2 … THE ACTUAL BIRTH.

 

Painting Credit: Zandra McGraw 

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Hold.

Tonight I have the honor of holding the heavy body of a warm, fevered two month old as she sleeps. These past two months with her feel as most major things do–simultaneously brief (“I can’t believe she’s already two months!”) and infinite (“I can’t remember how it was without her in my life!”). I really can’t believe how much has changed. A great report at the doctor today reminds me how incredible it is that my body has not only grown a human being, it has continued to nourish her as she develops on the outside. It’s a very surreal, amazing, natural, tiring, beautiful thing, being her mama, and I’m honored to have this opportunity.

I will hold you as long as you’ll let me, little girl. You’re the best thing I’ve ever done. 💚

Pure Imagination

“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.” 💜

One month of motherhood. They tell me that it will all be a blur, and in some ways I suppose it is already, though at the moment it feels slow. The first week, we brought her home and spent two days just Daniel, Iris, and myself, getting to know our own little family. She had blue eyes and the most perfect little gremlin ears. The grandparents all came up to meet their beautiful new granddaughter, and on Day 4, she met her new gym family at Pure Health Performance for the first time.

Now our life has settled down a little. She and I spend our summer mornings together on the back porch, drinking coffee and eating breakfast (I also practice my single-handed dexterity) while the dogs play. We try to sleep in (more importantly, we try to sleep all day). I have the “sundowners” – night time anxiety, but overall, she’s really a joy.

I couldn’t be happier. ❤

Growth.

This time last year I was putting a deposit down on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to my grandmother’s homeland of the Philippines for a week of intensive yoga training–my first experience traveling abroad alone. Then, a week before I was set to leave, we discovered that my solo adventure would feature a tag along–Baby West. I was still coming to terms with the idea of motherhood as my tiny companion and I flew across the world, trekked through the jungle, and developed a deeper yoga practice in our temporary home. A motorbike ride into a small island town and 4 dollars bought me these two sarongs, but a week of living in/by the ocean with some amazing new friends helped me come to terms with my new adventure. Since then, Daniel & I have welcomed so much change into our lives. I’ve made peace with and rejected and made peace again with my stretching, expanding body. Our roommate moved in and six months later moved out. We bought, built, and opened up a new gym. Little one, you’ve already brought us so much adventure, now we’re just waiting for you to make your appearance topside! 💚

#38weeks #bump #bumppic#thefinalstretch #thefinalcountdown#ourgreatestadventureyet #shitsgettingreal#BabyWest #wildwests#wildwestmamabear

Mama Magic

If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that every challenge prepares us for the next. I’ve been so sick this week & anytime I start feeling bad, I remind myself that this is all in preparation. I got the opportunity to practice my labor relaxation and meditations while processing nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and severe stomach cramps and it was a joy (and a relief!) to find they worked.

I’m still not fully recovered yet, but I’m getting there. I’m trying to listen to my body and take its cues, which has meant more rest and a slower pace than I’m accustomed to, but hey, it’s a lesson in humility. And how can I tell my body no? 

It’s been a constant adjustment for me, as someone who struggles still with body image, to embrace the changes that come with pregnancy. Each step has brought new stress, new anxiety, new fear over expanding into a space I’ve spent so many years trying to minimize. And as many of those “fears” have come true, I’m growing more and more in love with it.

This super full body was designed to know what I need when I don’t. In thinking about motherhood, I see that the last 15 years, this body has been practicing for precisely this. This body has heated up once a month in case some tiny soul should inhabit it, until now, when one has finally taken root. 🌱 

I’m realizing that there’s a reason God made women the only gateway into this world. Our bodies grow & stretch to make space for the future. We build up fat stores to keep us and our children warm & nourished. We build up strength over the years, each small influx of hormones & each emotional wave a taste of what’s to come, each cramp toning our bodies to prepare for birth of that future, of each person. I realize we don’t all have the opportunity to become mothers, but if we do, if we choose to, our arms & our hips carry the next generation across this world. We mend their broken hearts with our own resilience, built up thicker after each broken heart we’ve faced. Each imperfection of ours teaches them adaptability, self love, self care. They learn our flexibility as we change alongside them, each of us growing in our own way, in our own directions over the years. We meet them, our children (biological or otherwise), & we raise them up the best way we can, & then we offer them out into the world. They aren’t ours to keep, but ours to shape, to present. We are simply gateways. 

I’m trying to keep all these things in mind when I lose patience with my body–for being sick, for being tired, for being so full. This is all just preparation for the next big thing & I am so, so grateful to be on this journey in this body. 💚

#meditations #sick #yogamom #yogababy

Seeing the Plank (or, “How I Realized I’m a Judgmental B****”)

Sometime over the course of this pregnancy, I grew a plank in my eye.

I know it happens to everyone–I mean, that ish is contagious–but I spent a little time this morning meditating and doing yoga and I realized that there it was, front and center, its splintery rough edges propping me up like a leg stand in my crow pose. And I think it’s time to go ahead and take that beam out.

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Me, balancing on my plank (dramatization).

So how did this massive chunk of wood grow in the center of my face without me noticing? We can start with the obvious: Daniel and I are [eccentric, hippie, granola, crunchy, whatever]. I want to breastfeed, we plan* to co-sleep and cloth diaper and, much to the confusion of  many of those around us, Daniel plans to parent our child. Not just “babysit,” not just serve as triage for when I’m on the edge of a mental breakdown, but legitimately take on the role of main caregiver for our baby.

We are unconventional, yes, but I’ll be damned if we are not a team. We’re 12 years into this romantic friendship of ours and, over that time, we’ve become a well-oiled machine of quirks and idiosyncrasies and shared interests. And I’m proud of us. I’m proud of the individual strength and confidence that I’ve built throughout this relationship and I’m proud to watch him continue to grow to the size of the challenges he’s met with. It’s been slow and steady, but we’ve been able to add more to our ship without sinking and I’m pumped about adding this next big thing (which is, ironically, a tiny little baby). Our plan is to fold this baby into our lives, destabilize a little, and then figure out what our new normal looks like. That’s it. No other real plans.

Needless to say, I knew we were doing things differently. I knew that my personal desire to make things harder on us short-term for (what I believe will be) long-term results would be a slap in the face to modern convenience. What I didn’t realize is that this would be offensive. 

So back to the plank.

I’m happy to say that I’m a feminist. I believe that the best thing we can do for our sisters is to support them and let them choose their own path. No decision made is wrong and there is nothing anti-feminist about wanting to be hyper feminine or a stay-at-home mom or anything of the sort, just as it’s perfectly fine to be a working mom, or a lesbian mom, or a stay-at-home dad. I’m proud of my fellow women (and men!) who do what works for them/their families and what makes them feel validated as the person they are… which is why I caught myself off-guard. You see, just as the offense that my “granola stubbornness” has caused surprised me, so too did my defense. In wanting to just have our wishes as a family respected, I began to criticize others’ for the same thing. I started comparing and contrasting “our way” with other ways, developing a small twinge of elitism in my own ideology. I started (mentally) pointing out specks in other people’s eyes.

Oh, hello, Plank.

There’s nothing more humbling than realizing that you’re part of the problem… and it’s time for a tonal shift. So this is me, opening my heart and my eye (the one currently healing from plank extraction). This is me, apologizing for any judgement I cast in defense of my own choices. We’re all just winging it, right? Doing the best we can to figure out how parenthood fits into our lives? Let’s give each other room to breathe, to experience the trial-and-error of raising kids, to step back and say “this isn’t working” without losing face. Let’s rejoice in each other’s successes and support one another in failure.

So you Mamas and Daddies out there to kids young and old and biological and adopted and step (and all the other mish-mash of ways we come into each other’s lives), I salute you.

I support you.

I’m not judging you (you’re doing the best job you can, and that’s a damned good job).

I’m proud of you.

And we’re all going to be just fine ❤

_______________________________________________________________________

* Plans can change.

Our Nest

The last few months have been a wonderful testament to the love and support of our friends, our family, and our community as we prepare to welcome our little one this June. Each week the stats change (currently 26 weeks, baby is the size of a bowling pin, Mama is up +15 lbs, and the belly (and boobs!) cannot be contained) and each week we move a little bit closer to the very real prospect of adding one more to our nest of 4.

All of the precious, tiny outfits have been sorted by size and the medical, bathing, feeding, changing, diapering, swaddling, entertaining and comforting items have been gathered into baskets (although not yet placed into their final homes). Each item represents a person who has gone out of their way to shower us with love. Each item will witness the joy, frustration, excitement, and terror that will fill our home so soon. To say that we are both humbled and grateful right now is an understatement, and I think we don’t even grasp how thankful we actually are just yet.

My mom bought Baby a stuffed duck a few weeks ago whose foot reminds us that “Jesus Loves Me.” He’s yellow, coincidentally matching the accents in our bedroom, which makes him a perfect addition to the space we’re working to create. He piles into the bed with Daniel, Moose, Shiya and me each night, hopefully absorbing all of our scents for Baby to appreciate later.

In the corner now sits a handmade bassinet alongside a matching wooden rocking chair three generations old. These both held and rocked Daniel as an infant, seeing him and his parents through sleepless nights, ear infections, and precious quiet moments together as a new family of three. Across the chair drapes a hand-knit blanket made specifically for our little one by some of our dearest friends, something that is all Baby’s own, and the top of the chair is crowned with the matching hat which will keep their tiny ears warm.

We hope to add more pictures of our adventures to the wall above our bed to show our baby a little bit about who we are as people and the things we’ve seen and done. To remind them that the world outside is vast and beautiful. Hopefully to encourage them to seek adventures of their own.

All of these things are filled with love. They represent generations of it–of us, of our parents, of their parents, all extending our love out to this little baby, our Wild West, our Tigger. I will miss having my bouncing little companion with me all the time (and boy! do they BOUNCE!), but it’s really wonderful to be surrounded by reminders of all the people who have helped to get us here, of all the people who already love them, and of all the support we have. That love will be needed once Baby is earth-side and showing us along the adventure of parenthood, no doubt.

There’s still so much work to be done, but thank you all for being a part of our tribe and leaving your mark on our nest. It seems so small but it feels so, so special to our family.

 

Moon Child

Going “public” with this pregnancy has brought a lot of mixed emotions for me. The bigger I get, though, the more real it becomes and I think for all our planning, Daniel and I are actually starting to feel like we might be parents afterall.

Going public also means opening ourselves up to public scrutiny, whether it be over breastfeeding, me going back to work, cloth diapering, or not finding out the baby’s sex. What’s interesting is that people are most angry about us not finding out what we’re having. And I mean actually angry.

“What?! How can you not find out!?”

Daniel and I have both been asked many times why we aren’t finding out our little bear’s sex. Part of it is wanting to be surprised, part of it is having a goal to (literally) push toward during what I hope will be a natural, unmedicated delivery, part is wanting gender neutral clothes to pass down from this child to the next… but more importantly, I don’t want to know because the day will come when all of these unknowns are certain.

If all goes well, one day I will wake up in a home where this baby is a part of our narrative, a matter-of-fact. We will call them by name, hug them and catch the smell of their hair. They will look at us with bright eyes, their color unmistakable. They will be rambunctious, timid, chatty, shy, confident, or insecure. They will talk of becoming an artist, mathematician, astronaut, musician, pro-athlete, or bartender. They will settle into their role, not only as our child, but as our oldest, possibly to a mix of biological and adopted siblings. They will need surgeries, or they won’t. They will need braces (most definitely–sorry, kid). They will teach and they will be taught. And we’ll get to see this baby grow into the person they are meant to become, to encourage them to develop so that they can offer to us and to this world whatever message they are here to bring. It’s only for this brief moment that our possibilities are endless–we have no knowledge or predilections toward who this baby is or will be. What we do know for now is that we are privileged to be parents to this tiny unknown, to our little moon child.

And that June will be here before we know it. 💚

#eveningmeditations#pregnantmeditations #17weeks#genderneutral #moonchild #BabyWest#wildwests

Duality.

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It’s amazing how early duality of motherhood takes hold. It took me awhile to get comfortable with the idea of becoming a mother, if I’m honest. Not that I wasn’t happy–I’ve always loved and wanted lots of babies, but it felt very surreal for a very long time. During that time I felt like the energy was zapped out of me and I was completely void of any creativity or drive, which makes perfect sense when you consider that all my creative energy was spent doing just that: creating. Telling people helped, seeing the ultrasound and hearing the heartbeat helped, too, but mostly getting excited for me required a lot of introspection and personal evaluation. There were more insecurities than I’d expected, and many more hollow, selfish concerns. Now we are finally in our second trimester, trucking along at#15weeks and I’m working to weave yet another facet of myself into the fabric that makes me who I am. I’m tired, I’m winded, my bump is starting to grow and I could literally live off pickles alone, but I’m training still, meditating still (using the beautiful @openheartwarrior mala Daniel gave me to help with this transition), working still and writing still (albeit slowly). And I’m excited finally. Really, truly excited. What an adventure that’s about to begin! I’m sharing this because I needed that space. I needed to hear from my friends and my husband that it was okay if I needed time, that things were changing and I didn’t have to (and shouldn’t expect to) catch up overnight. I needed to know the ways that becoming a mom will only enhance the person I am, and I’m sharing in case anyone else needs these things, too. 💚

#eveningmeditations #yogamom#duality #lifegotflipturnedupsidedown#BabyWest #bump #theadventurebegins#wildwests

I Can’t Weight to Tell You…

I’ll be honest–I’m a little freaked out. Naturally, I wanted to make sure someone was stressing alongside me, but you only get to reveal you’re pregnant for the first time to your spouse once… Cue the cutesy announcement below.

Daniel’s reaction has been about the same as mine…shocked, overwhelmed, and disbelieving with a twinge of excitement. He made waffles while we talked logistics–there are lots of great things on the horizon and I hadn’t factored the potential of a little one in. As always, he immediately started with the encouragement.

“We can traverse anything, we just have to find the right path.”

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