Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Simple Pleasures of December

Here's five things saving my life this month:

1) The Highly Sensitive Person- My most recent personality obsession. I've heard about it for years, but just recently checked the book out from the library and woah! Yeah. I'm that. So is my sister and probably both of my kids. So helpful to feel I have permission to take care of myself in the ways I need. Anxiously awaiting my turn with The Highly Sensitive Child at the library.

2) Let Your Life Speak- This is a reread from several years ago, that has been perfect for my current life phase regarding vocation, identity, spirituality. I enjoyed it even more the second time around and it reminded me of an idea I've heard from a few sources to find an author you really like, read a bunch of their works, then read the works than influenced them, and see where it takes you. Perfect for my Explore year. Currently reading Palmer's A Hidden Wholeness, as well as some Merton and Rilke.


3) Advent- Despite my doubts, advent is honestly my favorite part of the Christmas season. I think because it is a time of serious acknowledgement and deep reverence for the dark parts of our lives, without glossing them over. I love that advent makes space for that and I love that it coincides with the darkest day of the year, because I am all about metaphor. And of course I love that it tends to be a much less consumer-driven, low pressure counterpart to the modern Christmas machine, because I am all about simplicity. And I just love a whole lot about the liturgical year, despite myself.

4) Christmas Break Coffee Dates- Not once but twice over the holiday we got to escape for a couple hours to sip and chat and play ridiculous board games and plan the year ahead. Because grandparents. Even now, just thinking about it makes me faint with happiness.

5) Alaska dreams- My lovely sister, who is an amazing gift giver, gifted us an Alaska travel guide. So now when it feels like my husband and I will never be alone together ever ever ever again, I can sit and imagine celebrating our tenth anniversary in cold quiet wild bliss. It helps. #alaska2019

*Linking up for What I'm Into.*

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Simple Pleasures of November

In an attempt to keep my hand in the blogging game, I'm restarting the occasional Simple Pleasures posts. This go around they will just be brief lists of five things that are saving my life that month, because motherhood and high-needs baby and sleep-deprivation. I'll be doing this until I'm not. See reasons above.

1) Yoga with Adriene- Whenever I get 30 minutes to myself, my first thought (after sleep or a shower) is yoga. I've been doing yoga on and off for several years, but after going through her 30 Days of Yoga series this year, I can honestly say for the first time I feel completely empowered to develop my own regular practice, whenever, wherever. Maybe I'll be one of those people doing tree pose in the forest soon. Plus she's quirky, down-to-earth and has a ton of other great quick free videos with titles like "Yoga For When You're in a Bad Mood." What's not to love?

2) Simplicity Parenting- By this I mean the book and the lifestyle, man. We can do less, have less, and helicopter less. I'm all about it. Admittedly, this book probably just puts language to some of the parenting philosophies I already held, but as an enneagram 6, that's actually really helpful.

3) Preschool- Worth every penny. I love it. My kid loves it. Twice a week for a few hours, I can prioritize sleep for my non sleeper and have a little more thinking space in my brain, while my big kid makes friends. He even has a "best girl" like he's the star of some preschool version of Happy Days and last week he learned her name! The intrigue!


4) Dinosaurs- Technically, my three year old is into this (like, really into) but I've been learning a lot, too. As an evangelical kid, mainstream science is kind of something you're taught to be skeptical of, but now that those days are behind me I'm learning I'm actually really fascinated by several fields that I couldn't truly be open to before (i.e. evolution and cosmology). I loooooved this PBS series on early human history and this On Being interview with a cosmologist. Far from threatening my faith, I'm actually more in awe than ever with our universe, and I see that sense of wonder as a very important aspect of my spirituality. And I love that I get to share that with my son as we learn about dinosaurs, especially at a time when I'm not sure what to tell him faith-wise. Now if I can just get him to stop correcting my pronunciations of dino names. Rude. 

5) Surviving a Sleep Thief- Where has this woman been all my life/year? Now when I feel tempted to google sleep straining strategies for the thousandth time, I can just read one of her hilariously honest posts and get on with my life. It also led me down a rabbit hole of high-needs baby mama bloggers and I feel a lot better about my life. 

I just realized that 4/5 of those things have to do with my children, but yeah, that's my current life phase. And yoga!

*Linking up with What I'm Into.*

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Why I'm glad I have a "high-needs" baby

These last several months have been crazy. I'm only just beginning to feel some semblance of room to move about in my own life, not because my baby is any less needy, but because I am learning to allow his needs to occasionally be taken care of by some one other than me. As I write this, he is screaming his little head off in his father's arms, having just woken up from his first hour of night time sleep and needing instant comfort, preferably from me. Eventually he will settle back to sleep and my husband will spend a couple hours rocking him so that I can have some time to myself, something my introverted self desperately, though sheepishly, needs. This time though, it is perhaps the only thing between me and an ever-encroaching sense of post-partum depression. After weeks turning into months of feeling like no more than a body, barely human, and a constant failure, this little bit of space has given me the sanity to make peace with and find good in the persistent temperament my littlest guy was given. I haven't stopped being exhausted, but more each day I am thankful for how this new little person has shaped me, how he has helped me grow into a better person than I was before him. 

He has made me more compassionate. 

When I was a mother of one, I had things pretty much under control. We definitely had our rough days, but overall I would tell you I was a pretty damn good mom. My child listened and was happy most days, and when not, I could usually help him work through it. I realize now that this is mostly the result of his extremely laid back temperament, and I am a good mom because I love and do the best I can for my kids, not because of their behavior. Even though I know this, I still spend more days that not since my second baby was born feeling like a terrible mom. Not only do I have a baby who is often upset, but I also have a preschooler who has gone through a hell of a time adjusting to the the addition of this very opinionated and needy little person in our lives.

Most days now, I have one or two unconsolable children on my hands, sometimes in public. I have no longer "got this" in the way I once did. I am no longer "not a yeller." And I can no longer go out with my children confidently, knowing things will go smoothly because I am clearly doing all the right things parenting-wise, unlike you. But I am still a damn good mom, doing my best along with all the other parents whose children are melting down or lashing out or refusing to listen, sometimes in public. And I would say I'm also a kinder, more understanding human being whose first reaction will be to hug rather than judge you, because this parenting thing just ain't easy, no matter what you do.


He has made me stronger.

I have never felt so close to the end of myself. Just when I feel like I can't go on any longer, I do, because I must. Somehow, each morning, I find new strength. And I always make it through. Before him, I would have told you I wasn't capable of this, that I couldn't handle it like those other moms with these kinds of babies seem to. I'm too needy. Thank God I got an "easy" baby.

But then he came and there was just love and somehow patience and an unending desire to meet his needs, whatever they may be. And in many ways this has made me a walking zombie. I have felt anger and resentment and something close to loneliness but its opposite that I have yet to find a word for. Maybe I have missed my own company.

But in other ways it has made me much more stable. I have learned to find inner reserves of peace even in the most chaotic of moments. I have learned to function on less sleep and quiet and calm than I previously thought possible for me. I have learned to spot even the tiniest little pockets of time throughout the day to take care of myself. I take a deep breath or drink a glass of water or find something to be grateful for. Sometimes I grab a handful of chocolate chips or text a friend, whatever it takes to arrive at the end of the day a little saner. And I can't help but think that these skills will serve me well in life, that if I can practice mindfulness and self-care even in this phase, then I will have developed coping skills I can use for the rest of my life. I have my son to thank for that.

He has made me more humble.

When my first was a baby, I went through a difficult phase where I wanted him to be exclusively breastfed but it just wasn't happening, no matter what I did. Eventually I had to choose whether to keep desperately trying, or to let it go. In the end, I decided that having a happy whole mom who could be joyful present was more important to him than not having any formula.

With baby number two, I have had to make a similar decision, this time between the happy mom and his desire for the comfort of always being with me, including every one of the many, many times he wakes up at night. Again, I have reluctantly but finally chosen the happy mom. This means I have had to accept him crying in the loving arms of his father a couple times a night, knowing that I could come in and quiet him. I have also had to accept the guilt I feel about allowing my husband to give up his evenings in this way. And I have had to accept that I am not capable of always doing everything on my own.

Because I too am needy, just like my baby, and it turns out that I share his "high sensitivity" as well. Whether I like it or not, my mental health is too fragile to play the mama martyr game, and it's not fair to my family anyway, to take that whole happy mother and wife from them, just because I want so desperately to competent and in control. So I must be gentle and understanding with myself, as well as him, and know my own limits, in addition to his. We're both learning to live well on this earth as the tender people we were made. It's hard, but we're taking baby steps together.    

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Women on Writing : Abby Norman

Though I'm taking a break from blogging myself these days, I'm still delighted to be able to offer this space up for women writers to talk about their craft. Next up is my friend Abby Norman, who is a writer, blogger, teacher, mother, and general force to be reckoned with. If you are a parent or educator or human being please please please consider checking out her book, Consent Based Parenting. I can't emphasize enough how important I believe its central message to be. I know you'll love Abby's words here, as well as her fierce and fearless style, as much as I do. And of course, you can check out the first eight wonderful Women on Writing interviews here

***

Do you remember when you first began to identify yourself as a writer? How did that identity form for you?

I think for me writing formed out of necessity. I was in a church that wanted to utilize me and my husband to do drama kind of stuff during the service, but the stuff I could find to preform was SO SO BAD. It was awful. So I started writing my own material. This still didn't make me call myself a writer. I started a blog in 2010, I still didn't think of myself as a writer, rather as someone who was trying to write. In 2013 I picked "unashamed" as my one word resolution. It took me by storm. I started calling myself a writer, asking myself, what would I do if I wasn't ashamed I was a writer? Then I would do it! I gained community, I asked for time to write, I bought myself a laptop, I started submitting my work to other places and asking for spaces at tables I wanted to sit at. It wasn't until I called myself a writer that I started acting like one. I bought into the idea that writers have to have a regular practice, a cabin in the woods, hours by themselves, a book traditionally published. THAT IS NOT REAL! Writers write. As long as you are writing you are a writer. 


Your book, Consent Based Parenting, is based on a popular Tedx Talk that you gave. What inspired you to transfer these ideas into book form? 

TED and TEDx are SUPER serious about their time limits. There is a count down clock that scrolls down the time. Five seconds after your time is up they cut off your mic. I can talk for way longer than 12 minutes about consent and how we are talking about bodies and sexuality wrong and how we can do better. I just had a lot more to say! I wanted there to be a resource that really digs into the HOW of raising a child who understands consent, and how you can start talking about bodily consent at all ages. I went looking for that resource and found it didn't exist so I wrote it. At first I was sort of embarrassed that it was so short (you can read the whole thing in about 45 minutes) but I have heard from multiple parents that they appreciate how susinct the read is. Parents don't tend to have a ton of extra time to read, and frankly I hope they get to read something FUN, so I pack a lot into those short pages. 

What authors or works most inspire your writing? 

I feel like this answer is maybe cliche as someone in her early thirties who identifies as a christian blogger, but Sarah Bessey has been hands down the most influential writer for me. I guess I thought if I wanted to talk about faith I had to be cold and calculating like all those evangelical apologetic workshops I went to as a teenager. But that just isn't how I experience faith, or really anything. Reading her words gave me permission to write the way I feel, the way I understand. It made me feel sane, less alone. I hope to do that for my readers too. 

Between parenting, managing a blog, and a full time teaching job, how do you make time and space in your life for the practice of writing? 

The short answer is my house isn't very clean! That is actually totally true. I was really blessed to be raised by a working mom. One who sang in the choir and taught Sunday school and always had a Girl scout troop or two she was in charge of. Her house was WAY cleaner than mine. That is for sure. While the picking up every evening lessons didn't stick, the ones about making the time for the things that were important to you sure did.  I am currently running this awesome class called Room for Dreaming. My oldest sister is taking it. We read an article about making just 15 minutes for what you want to do, that if you can't find just fifteen minutes you don't really want it. My sister texted me...did mom write that? She didn't but she could have! 

My writing life isn't ideal. I write during lunch, nap time, after bed time. I write while my kids watch PBS. I carry a journal with me at ALL times and jot down any good idea I might have at the playground or in the grocery store. I write in the time it takes for the over to pre-heat. I very rarely am able to sneak off and write for a couple of hours, my husband is getting his PhD and the writing time needs to go to him right now. But there is no perfect way to be a writer. I started getting a lot of writing done when I stopped boo-hooing about the things other people got that I didn't, and started saying, okay, if I am supposed to be a writer than the time will come, I just have to open my eyes to it. Sure enough, it showed up. It totally surprised me, but it showed up. There are days and weeks where I totally resent that I don't have a writing shack and steady time to write, but I don't have it, so instead I take what I can get.


If you could give one piece of advice to budding writers what would it be? 

Just try it on. I think we make the mistake that we have to decide who and why and how we are going to be. I think we think we can't do things because other people are doing them or we aren't sure we will be able to pull it off like they will. Don't buy it yet, just try it on! You think you might like to write hilarious prose like Tina Fey? Try it on! You like how that other writer is telling the story in five parts? See how that fits! You love the beautiful prose of Sarah Bessey or the thoughtful criticisms of Rachel Held Evans? See if you like to write like that. Those people did not invent the genre they are writing in. They too likely tried some things on. Experiment, see what fits, you can stop wearing whatever doesn't fit you. That is the one piece of advice I would give, but if I could give a second it would be: constantly ask yourself, what would I do if I weren't afraid/ashamed/unsure.... then do it even though you still are those things. 

***

Abby thrives on distributing complex ideas to the masses. As a teacher, Abby began her career in one of the most under served areas of the country. There she discovered her voice in the classroom as she explored concepts like race, gender, and social justice through the literature her students were reading. She is sure she learned more than she taught. Her students showed her that most people are interested in engaging and improving the world if they are just given the words to explore it. As the mother of a three and four year old, Abby has found that this concept holds true. 

While she most often speaks to her students, Abby loves to discuss equality and justice in all forms, including spoken word poetry at the coffee house, presentations at the PTSA or local church, and a manuscript on urban education. You can find her blogging on the intersection of faith and everyday life at accidentaldevotional.com and tweeting at @accidentaldevo. A blog her 2014 voice of the year, and nationally recognized speaker, the highest praise Abby has ever received is when a 16 year old boy told her she "made English not suck."

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Women on Writing : Karissa Knox Sorrell

Exactly one year ago two things happened: 1) I found out I was pregnant and 2) I stopped hosting my monthly Woman on Writing series, out of sheer exhaustion and distraction. My next interview would have been August 2014, and since I'm finally settling into a rhythm with a now almost 4 month old, why not pretend that a year hasn't passed and pick up where I left off? You can check out the first seven interviews with some amazing female writers here

I couldn't be happier to come back with this interview with one of my favorite writer friends. Karissa Knox Sorrell is the real deal. She is one of the hardest working writers I know and just a really nice person. Plus her poetry chapbook, Evening Body, releases this fall! You can preorder it here and you'll be entered into a giveaway for three books and a Starbucks card. (Sounds like a lovely writer's date to me.) I really appreciate Karissa's wise yet down-to-earth thoughts on writing here and I hope you do too. 

***

When did you first begin to write poetry? What drew you to it?

I wrote a lot of poetry as a child. I think I enjoyed the language of it - how so many things could be said in such a succinct form. Now I see poetry as a safe place to experience and wrestle with the deepest of human emotions - fear, shame, pain, and even extreme joy. 

What authors or works most inspire your writing?

The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck and Rose by Li-Young Lee are favorites that I go back to over and over. I also enjoy Mary Oliver, Marie Howe, Gregory Orr, and Rainer Maria Rilke. 


How did your upcoming collection, Evening Body come about? What are some of its central themes?

When I got my MFA in Creative Writing, I had to write a creative thesis, and some of these poems come from that. Others are newer poems. The title poem ("Evening Body") is about winter trees and how fragile they seem, but on another level it is metaphoric for the human condition. There are times when all our leaves are gone and we are left bare and seemingly broken, and yet we keep standing. In the book, nature is metaphoric for the human experience over and over again. In one poem, the nurturing of a moonflower vine symbolizes a difficult relationship. In another, I pose a basket star (sea animal) against a star in space and use the contrast to try to ask what humans make most important. I also use a lot of common objects and events and turn them into weighty moments in these poems: building a snowman, riding a train, peeling potatoes. I believe there is meaning even in the mundaneness of our lives. I think the idea of a body is really applicable to many parts of our lives. What do we do when one part doesn't work like it should? What else do we need to keep the breathing element of our lives alive? I think that these poems ask those questions. 

What would be your ideal writing environment? How do you make time and space in your life for the practice of writing?

I have a desk in a corner of our living room, and it has helped me to create a little space with pictures and quotes on the wall that inspire and calm me. I have two active kids and both my husband and I work full-time, so it's hard to find time to write. I have learned that I can write even if my kids are in the room watching TV or doing homework. For a while I was getting up super early in the morning to write, but after two years of that, I decided I needed a change. I may not write every day now, but I do try to write a couple of nights a week and on the weekend. I actually feel like when I stopped pressuring myself to write so much, the writing flowed more easily. 

If you could give one piece of advice to budding writers what would it be?

This will sound cliche, but read. Read lots of examples of the genre you write. If you find a poet or writer you like, try copying them. Steal a first line of theirs. Write a poem in a similar style. Through these exercises, you'll eventually discover your own voice and your own message. Also, though writing is a solitary activity, we can't write in a bubble. Find a community of writers, writers group, or some kind of workshop, even if they are online. I got to go to two writing workshops this summer, and it was so great to spend some time with other writers and get feedback on my poems. 

***

Karissa Knox Sorrell is a poet, writer, and ESL teacher from Nashville, Tennessee. Her poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in a variety of literary journals, including Gravel Mag, St. Katherine Review, Relief Journal, and Silver Birch Press. Karissa's essay, "Wrestling with God in the Arthouse Theater," will be published in an anthology called Soul Bare, forthcoming in Fall 2016 from InterVarsity press. Karissa writes about faith, doubt, writing, and family life at her blog. You can also occasionally find her tweeting at @KKSorrell

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Prayer and Doubt (#wholemama)

For a few months, we sang the Doxology before every meal. My toddler called it the "Ghost Song." This is likely partly due to ghost being the only word he recognized, and partly due to his obsession with all things Halloween.

Before that we went through a few weeks of "God Our Father," after he learned it at a friend's house. Before that we began our meals with a deep sigh and the awareness of something missing. The latter is what we have mostly returned to these days, along with the occasional "Thankyougodforthisfood. Amen." 

Growing up, our meal prayers came from several different Christian traditions. As kids we sang "Thank you God for this food" and then proceeded to thank God for every object we could identify on the table, including silverware and napkins and juice. As we got older my mom mostly prayed in the evangelical style, letting the words flow out as they came to her. Some days, if we misbehaved, my father would make one of us kids pray. Most often we chose the easy Lutheran prayer we had inherited from my dad's German family: "Come Lord Jesus be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed." At my Italian Catholic grandmother's house we heard "Bless us Oh Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ Our Lord Amen," followed by the sign of the cross. 

But none of these, neither the songs nor the liturgy, neither silence nor filling it with words, feel right for our family and the stage of faith we find ourselves in, somewhere on the edge of Christianity. I struggle with the inherently male language for God, as well as the theological implications of thanking God for feeding us while others go hungry, not to mention the fact that most days I just. don't. know. if I believe all this Christianity stuff. 

***
God knows the last time I prayed in the way that used to come easy to me, an ongoing conversation with God during the big and little moments of each day. That style of prayer became all but impossible for me years ago. Nonetheless, little mercies have sustained what remains of my prayer life.

A big part of this has been the idea of fingertip prayer, which Margaret Silf calls "small signals of need expressing our desire to become aware of God's constant presence." In fingertip prayer, no words are needed, my aching desires themselves are the prayer. And I need only to ache in God's direction, as if my fingers were stretched out in desire, to see them as such.

In the past year or so, I have begun writing some of my fingertip prayers on small scraps of paper. These papers, of one or two words, I then drop into a small ceramic cup that I keep on my desk, along with other items that are sacred to me. This practice is especially helpful for when I don't even know what I would pray for in a situation, assuming I could. It feels like dropping my troubles into God's small, cupped hands.


There are also countless other activities in my life that I choose to see as prayer: lighting a candle, loving my babies, practicing yoga, scrawling in my journal, taking in nature.

Lately, I even find myself drawn to the sign of the cross. The idea of letting my body say what my mind cannot has great appeal to me in this season. 

***
I have found great comfort in these practices over the past few years, but they don't answer the question that echoes in my mind each day when our family sits down for dinner. At meal time, I still yearn for an expression of gratitude, for some sort of regular prayer practice for our family. I can't bring myself to fully embrace any of the traditional songs or prayers I have come across, but neither am I satisfied with merely a vague notion of thanks, devoid of religious tradition. 

So where does this leave us now? I have no answers, only, as ever, a sacred ache in God's direction.

Whole Mama

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Making my self at home (#oneword365)

I've been meaning to get back to this space for weeks. I could tell you I just don't have the time but that's not the biggest reason. A few weeks ago I wrote a whole post about the fourth trimester and body-image, but the words on the screen felt disconnected from my actual experience with my body, and I left them there to rot in the drafts folder.

After nearly a year's break in my regular writing habit, the words just don't come out like they used to, nor do my thoughts. They are halting and incomplete and cliche and disorganized, both in real life and on the page.

But. I woke up one day last week feeling angry, just like the day before. And just like the day before, by midday I was on the verge of an inexplicable emotional meltdown. Then I remembered that I felt this way about this time with my firstborn (hormones most likely), and I resolved to do something about it. I hooked my toddler up with some Netflix and walked circles around the house to keep the baby asleep in the carrier while I scrawled some (mostly illegible) thoughts in my long-neglected journal.

It was in journaling that I was able to organize my feelings a little, and I realized I was feeling some tension, the tension between the desire to write and the fear of not being good enough. I've been away from writing for so long. And while it was best for a season, the thought of attempting to catch up has left me feeling inadequate and frozen.

So I decided right then and there that I would go ahead and write a post here, knowing it would be hard and a little scary and that I wouldn't find it "good enough." So what. I'm sticking it to the man (enneagram 6 anyone?). And since it's exactly half way through the year and since I've had some related thoughts swirling in my head for some time, I decided to write about my one word for 2015: homing.

***
Homing has mostly manifested itself exactly as I expected it would. On the one hand, there is the literal aspect, my physical home. Giving birth this year means I am obviously more connected to that space than usual, and homing is a way to give myself permission in that area, knowing that it is not permanent, but that it is okay for me to be homebound for a season.

On the other hand, there is the spiritual aspect, specifically related to my intense journey with doubt these past few years. In this area, homing is a reflection of a lot of my wrestling and thrashing finally beginning to ebb, allowing me the space to settle down for a bit. It is about discovering spiritual practices and religious traditions that feel authentic to me and that will (hopefully) carry me through the next few years.


But there has also been a third, unexpected aspect to homing, which I've only recently discovered, and it has to do with my body. If there is anything more radically life-changing to a body than giving birth, I don't know it. It changes you both physically and hormonally. Apparently some women have this "bounce back" thing, but I am not one of them. Both times pregnancy and birth have graced me with pounds and curves I have yet to erase. It is hard for most women (myself included) to accept and love our bodies on a normal day, without the added pressure of suddenly wider hips and softer bellies and the all around moreness that comes with having a child.

It is in this season that I came across these words by David Benner (which my friend Jamie shared as part of her recent #monthofthebody. Thanks, universe.) :

"Until we can be at home in our bodies, we can never truly be at home anywhere." 
And I knew right then and there those words would wreck me, that the coming home I'm doing this year has to include learning to be present in and love this one, sacred body of mine. It is hard, but I am trying. Two steps forward, one step back (and some days vice versa). Some days I marvel that my body can and is doing all this: giving birth, feeding a baby, running and holding and loving and stretching. Some days I want to curl up in a ball from the weight of (what I am led to believe are) my physical imperfections. It sounds very shallow of me doesn't it, to care so much? But it is the truth, so I am learning to accept that too.

***

Last week, I took a picture with my boys. I've been taking and sharing dozens of pictures of my kids and husband for weeks, but since giving birth, I have been largely and conveniently invisible. 


Just like with writing, I have been afraid, afraid even to assert my existence before it is at a level I deem appropriate for viewing. I have been avoiding my own reflection in the same way I have been avoiding my words, subconsciously, but with the nagging feeling that I am not where I should be. And so it seems my body is butting in everywhere these days, forcing me to notice it, forcing me to acknowledge its interconnectedness to every other part of me. Slowly, I am learning that the spiritual, emotional, and mental health I am after requires that I also come face to face with the body I have been given, for better or worse. 

And so this week, homing and sanity and radical self care has meant making time for writing and practicing yoga and, even when it's hard, putting myself in the frame.  

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Second Birth Story

At 41 weeks and a day with my second boy, I went in for a regular appointment and was told my amniotic fluid level had dropped drastically. My midwife advised going in for monitoring that night and inducing at six the next morning if I hadn't gone into labor. Just then, it suddenly started pouring outside and she expressed hope that the storm would help move things along.
In spite of my disappointment about the induction, I tried to stay as relaxed and calm as possible in preparation for birth. I sat in the lobby while I waited for my mom and son to return from a bookstore, watching the rain come down and processing the news. When we returned home, I spent the early afternoon resting, then Andy came home a little early from work and we spent the rest of the day packing and preparing. During that time, I lost a bit of blood, which gave me hope of avoiding the induction. We had dinner, put our toddler to bed, and left for the hospital around 9:30.
We got a fitful night of sleep at the hospital, tossing and turning in between monitor beeps and nurses visits. At 4 am, I noticed I was losing a significant amount of blood and the nurse asked if I had been having any contractions. I said no, but after she left I paid closer attention and discovered they were coming gently but clearly every three minutes. They continued at that pace but became stronger over the next hour or so. I was checked and seemed to be dilating, so I was told I would be able to avoid the induction. One of the nurses mentioned how common it was for labor to start right before a scheduled induction. I don’t know the science behind that, but I am grateful that I was able to go into labor without intervention.
After several attempts to get an IV in in case of emergency, we were left on our own to labor. We walked the halls, listened to ocean waves and birth tracks, and rotated around the room. For a while, the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart but manageable. With each one I told myself that I was not afraid and concentrated on relaxing my body.
Around mid-morning though, they became significantly stronger and it took all my attention and energy just to moan and sway through them. They began to seem stronger than any I had remembered experiencing with my first and I started to doubt whether I could continue unmedicated. I tried showering and other standing positions, but my legs were so weak and my body tired from lack of sleep, so I mostly sat in bed swaying. Soon, the contractions started coming back to back or double peaking, where one starts coming down only to rise back up again into another. This went on for some time, but I was only about 6 cm dilated. Finally, I said audibly to Andy, “I don’t know if I can do this.”
Around mid-day, my midwife checked in. She said I was 7-8 cm dilated and that my water could easily be broken if I wanted. I was worried that might make the contractions even stronger, but also knew that my endurance was fading and I could probably use some help speeding things up. I asked her what she would do and she said she would go ahead and break it, so I said okay. After that, she said it might be anywhere between 30 minutes to a couple of hours before I felt the urge to push, but on the very next contraction I said, “I feel it.” 15 minutes later he was head-shoulders-legs-out and on my chest.
The first thing I noticed was how tiny he was, 2 whole pounds tinier than his brother at birth, and how distinctly himself he looked, how completely a whole different person he was. Andy, who had been advocating like crazy for me all day in my exhaustion, reminded me that I wanted to breastfeed right away this time, and a nurse came in to help with that while I lay there catching my breath.
A couple hours later, when things had settled down and I finally started to get my energy back, my nurse came in and asked if I thought it was worth it, to have a natural birth. This birth was definitely more challenging than my first. I spent hours silently longing for an epidural. But I told her immediately that yes, it was definitely worth it. The amount of energy I felt in the hours and days following both births, the sense of accomplishment and strength, and the best part of it all, that world-shaking feeling of a human being sliding out of your body, isn’t something I would trade. It was one of the most difficult and physically exhausting days of my life, yes, but it was also one of the most personal and powerful. This time around was less purely empowering, but I felt grounded and rooted in my body and my life here on the earth in a way I can't really describe in words, and it all ended with a brand new life beating on my chest.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

One Word 2015: Homing

My year of free has come to an end, and what a year it has been. In my now nearly six year long journey with doubt, it has been the most significant and life-changing by far. After five years of condemning myself for not being good enough, holy enough, faithful enough, I let myself just be. And I truly feel as if a cage has been opened in my life, allowing me to wander freely where I was once trapped.


In short, it has been good. I gave myself permission to be wild and take risks and to believe in myself. I was an English major in college, so I basically think in metaphor, and 2014 was all fire and keys and redness and I had so much energy. I felt like a 13 year old in the height of teenage rebellion, saying and doing what I wanted because I'm a person, man! It was like the defiant childhood I missed out on as a good girl, except in the body of a wife and stay-at-home mother and instead of experimenting with drugs I quit church and wrote heretical things on the internet.

It was good, so so good. But eventually, I started to miss things. I started to miss the communal traditions found on Sunday mornings. I started to miss the sense of belonging and comfort that comes with it. Maybe it was getting pregnant, but I started to long for roots to put down, for myself and my family.

***
"Lost and weary traveler
Searching for the way to go
Stranger, heavy hearted
Longing for someone you know
May you find a light
May you find a light
May you find a light
To guide you home" 
-The Brilliance, "May You Find a Light"

***

My word this year is Homing, but this isn't the story you might think it is, of the wayward girl wandering off for a year and then returning home. It is the story of exploring further, quieter, deeper, so that I may find the place where I truly belong.

I had big plans for this advent to mean something, something light and easy and free, but it was still hard at times. I thought maybe if I went to a couple episcopal church services, I would feel more at peace and less judged, like I might somehow find a place there. But I felt the same old tensions for different reasons and it didn't feel any more like home than the old place. I think I'm learning I have to make a home for myself, rather than find it out there.

Via
I've always found my identity in groups and authority figures and movements, essentially in community, so it's really hard for me to let go of the idea that once I find this certain group, the right group, everything will fall into place and I will be at home. I don't think that's going to happen. I think maybe though, I might learn to become more at home enough in myself, so that wherever I go, I can feel the sense of peace and comfort that I long for.

So that is what this year will be for: settling into myself, my body and mind and soul, finding and making a home there. Also, for building traditions and rhythms into our physical home and family, especially as we bring a new baby into our world. This year there will be more exploring and wrestling and searching, to be sure, but there will also be homing. There will be relaxing and nesting and settling in.

Chances are, I'll continue to be found less in this space and on the internet in general, as I spend more time burrowing my roots into physical spaces. But I'd still love to hear about your world and the ways you are growing as well. Have you picked a word for the year? What are your hopes for it?