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Liz’s Birth Story

 

Liz wrote her story addressed to her little son Sebastian, born back in December.  This was Liz’s second birth.  It’s detailed, so I highlighted some of the parts that remind me of our yoga practice.  I don’t have a picture of them, but I put in some pictures to correspond to the visualizations she used in her birth, which is such an important part of getting into the primal birth mind.

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It was a Tuesday. Your dad and I both went to pick Leo up from school together. This was a special treat that we had never done before – we went straight to get a Christmas tree afterwards! We came home and set up the tree and were about to put lights on it. Leo was being goofy and physical – it was around 6:30 and his dinner was almost ready on the stove. We were having a tickle fight on the living room couch when all of a sudden I felt a strong POP! inside me. It felt like you had punched me in the bladder! I got up and said “WHOAH” and immediately thought “is this what the next three weeks are going to be like?” (I had about 2 weeks and 3 days until your due date.) I got my answer as I felt a gush between my legs the next moment. I ran to the bathroom to check, but I knew that my water had broken. I texted our doula and she suggested that I go take a shower, assess how I was feeling, and call her back.

All of a sudden, things shifted into “Game time” mode. Your dad started feeding Leo dinner and I began to pack up what remained of the hospital bag. I started to have very low grade contractions while I was doing this. I called the hospital and my midwife called me back about 10 minutes later. I wanted to come in because I was afraid my contractions would escalate quickly as they say they do for a second baby. She told us to take our time coming in, but to make our way in in the next few hours.

I made sure to have something to eat before we left. Your dad had made a huge pot of chili for dinner (which we planning on freezing most of in prep for your arrival), but I didn’t want to eat that. I had a pb and j sandwich instead. We packed up Leo’s bedtime stuff and brought him over to Auntie Sarah’s.

We got to the hospital and passed my midwife in the lobby. She was just finishing her shift. She said “Well, you don’t look like you’re in active labor,” which told me that I was a long way off. But we went up to labor and delivery anyway. The doula arrived and sat with us while they monitored me. The nurse asked me lots of questions, but the funniest one was “What is your plan for managing labor pain?” I didn’t really know how to answer her – she started throwing out techniques like hypnobirthing, etc. I said “Well, I’m going to breathe through it.” She seemed skeptical. I also asked if the big birthing tub was available and she said I needed to have tests done for that. I told her I was good to go with those, and she informed me that the tub room was indeed free!

The midwife who was on call that night said I shouldn’t be admitted yet, because I had a while to go. She suggested either going home or going for a walk. I was nervous about losing the room with the birthing tub if we left. The doula suggested we go for a walk. We walked along the river on Memorial Drive. It was beautiful and quiet except for the cars driving by. We walked all the way to Harvard Square. When I had a contraction, I would stop, lean on your dad, and the doula would put her hand up the back of my coat and massage my lower back. We must have looked like quite a trio! We walked for about an hour and eventually turned back to the hospital.

We headed to the lobby to sit. I got out my knitting. The doula suggested your dad take a nap in the car for a bit.  Every time a contraction came, I put down my knitting, got on my knees and leaned on the nearby side table. The doula came over and wordlessly rubbed my back. When the contraction ended, our conversation resumed. This went on for about 2 hours!   The doula suggested we go for another walk (it was about 1 am at this point), and we left the hospital again. This time, I only got a little ways down the block when I had a more painful contraction. It made me want to be in the hospital room, so we turned around.

The room had a big room with a hospital bed in it and then a smaller anteroom with the birthing tub in the center. I had to lie in the bed for a while while they got a read on the baby (you!) again.  The doula suggested I use the birthing tub for pain relief. I got on all fours and they sank some towels for my knees. The contractions were getting more painful, and the doula reminded me to stay low in my moaning, not to get too high pitched. Both your dad and the doula moaned with me, which was really helpful. At some point, I asked the midwife to check me and see how far along I was.  I was 7 cm and 95% effaced! That was encouraging news to me.

I got back in the bed for a while and they wrapped me up in these big warm blankets, which made me feel held and taken care of.  The mood of the room was one of quiet calm.

Later on, in the tub again, I got back on all fours.  During the contractions, I pictured the beautiful beach at Tulum and I pictured the sound of your name kind of rolling over the wave, like you were slowly coming towards me.

waveThe midwife checked me again and said I was 10 cm, but that there was still a “forebag” of water in front of your head. That explained why you were so slow in coming! I had more contractions in the tub, and I almost fell asleep on the circus peanut in between them. Suddenly, I felt a POP! like the one when I was wrestling Leo and I knew that the forebag had popped. Immediately I felt you start to move down.

I had explained to the doula previously that I hated pushing with your brother Leo. My sense was that that was because they had me do directed pushing, where they counted and told me to bear down and hold my breath. This time I was allowed to “breathe him down,” as the midwife kept saying. I didn’t bear down at all. I continued to ride the wave of contraction, but it was much more intense as my body pushed you towards the birth canal. I started to get scared. It felt like the intensity was definitely going to be too much and I started to doubt my ability to do it without someone telling me what to do and how to make it happen. I had lots of contractions where I just rode it out and hardly bore down at all. The few times I did try pushing terrified me. It started to be a long time (in my opinion; I have no idea how long it really was), but the midwives kept saying that the baby was almost here. I expressed my concern about how slow you were, and the midwife just kept saying “he’s perfect,” and looking me directly in the eyes. It was so reassuring and gentle.

mt-everest-peakI was so concerned with everyone else in the room, the doula said to me “give me your mind,” meaning stop worrying about everyone else and just be in your body. It was hard to do that – to trust that my body could do it and knew what to do on its own. I expressed my doubts about being able to push you out, and the said that it was like climbing Mount Everest – that I was so close to the top but I had the hardest stretch (pardon the pun!) ahead of me. I immediately switched to visualizing a mountain during each contraction, with a ridge of ice separating me from the top. It was beautiful but cold and barren and challenging. There was nothing glamorous about the noises I was making now – they more closely resembled screams than moans.

I had a contraction that pushed you down into the birth canal. It was an overwhelming physical feeling to have you halfway in there, and I could feel myself resist it and kind of pull you back inside of me as the contraction waned. Then, the next time a contraction came, the same feeling happened again. It was like I was going to stretch so far I might break my pelvic bones. I pushed through the contraction and the midwife told me to reach down and touch your head! As the contraction waned, I made up my mind that I was going to keep pushing you out. I said “FUCK!” and pushed as hard as I could. Immediately I heard lots of words of encouragement from everyone. What stood out was midwife’s gentle voice saying “there he is,” and then “reach down and grab him.” And you were in this world, just like that. You were BORN and I did it by listening to my body and letting it take its time. It was 7:39 am and “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley was playing. You were covered in vernix so you looked kind of ghostly. But you cried right away and I held you in my arms. I looked up to my right shoulder where your dad was, and gave him a big kiss.

I was free to hold you and look at you in wonderment. You were just perfect – you had these long, thin fingers with long fingernails on them. You barely had any lashes at all – they were short and blond. You had very little hair on your head too – it was quite blond as well, with sideburns!    You weighed 8 pounds, 2.5 ounces – I am so glad you decided to come when you did!

So those are the facts about your birth. The thing is, all of the details don’t even begin to capture the feelings I was having while I was in labor. I felt a sense of intense calm when we were in the dark room, waiting for active labor to start. I felt held and cared for by everyone in the room. In a way, I felt like a baby myself, especially when they wrapped me up in the warm blankets and I lay down on the bed in the middle of labor. When I started to push, it was a primal feeling to have my body take over like that. My mind struggled to maintain control, but I had to let go and shriek and let my body do what it needed to do to push you out. Then there was this feeling in the final push where I knew I was going to do it, even after doubting prior to that. I am left with a feeling of intense confidence and pride in myself and in my body – in what it can do and what it can make. It made you – in all of your tiny perfection. It grew you big and strong in just 37 weeks. You came out crying and you knew how to suck and nurse right away. So I am also intensely proud of you. From the moment your dad cut the cord, you became your own separate little being, starting on the path of growing more independent and separating yourself from me. Right now I am just so glad to have you on the outside, and to enjoy all of the snuggles I’ve had so far and those that are yet to come. I love you more than you can imagine already. And I’ll love you more and more each day.

Amy’s Birth Story

Amy has been a wonderful yoga student to practice with since well before her first baby.   Towards the beginning of her second pregnancy, she came to me after class and said, “Thanks to your resource guide, I’m on a whole new path!”   Her confidence then was so helpful, because as her due time approached, memories of her first pre-term birth surfaced.  She needed to trust in all the work she’d done leading up to then to navigate being further along in pregnancy than she’d ever been before.   Here’s her story, in her own words.   (Text in bold is my emphasis).  

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At the beginning of my second pregnancy I decided I would focus my yoga practice on breath work and listening to my body.  I knew from my first pregnancy that as my body grew and changed I would no longer be able to work my body in the same way as I normally do in my yoga practice. Therefore, I decided to concentrate on Pranayama, which is something I’ve always known is important but it’s never been my main focus. Throughout my pregnancy, I was amazed that any time I felt discomfort from sitting or my day-to-day activities it was never anything that 10-20 minutes of pre-natal yoga couldn’t fix. Even at 39+ weeks I felt great.

From the beginning of my pregnancy I felt pretty sure I didn’t want an epidural this time.  In my first pregnancy I considered natural childbirth but had not made a decision on the matter when I went into pre-term labor.   For this second pregnancy, knowing that Barrett had successfully had a natural childbirth experience, I asked her if she had any book recommendations on the subject.  She sent me her prenatal resource list and the book I read (and loved) was “Birthing from Within” by Pam England. The philosophy of this book fit very well with my own.  It states “labor is hard, it hurts, and you can do it.” Two of the key pain coping techniques in the book are breathwork and inward focus, both of which I was already practicing in my daily yoga training. 

I went into labor at 3 am on June 27th, 2013.  My contractions began as strong menstrual cramps about 8-10 minutes apart.  At this point I called our doula, Maria Dolorico.  She said to wait until they were 5 minutes apart then call her and head to the hospital.  Ryan and I decided to get up, get dressed and eat breakfast. By 4 am we called Maria and our OB and headed to Brigham and Women’s hospital.  I had my husband Ryan park at the parking deck because I wanted the short walk outside.  It was slow because I had to stop for each contraction, but we finally made it to OB admitting. Maria met us there and we all walked up together to Labor and Delivery.

In triage I told the nurse I wanted natural childbirth and she was very supportive of me and my decision and encouraged me to keep moving and rocking my hips. She checked my cervix, found I was 5 cm dilated, and took a 20 minute read on the baby’s heart rate and my contractions.  Those were the only medical things they did the whole time. Ryan and Maria met me in triage and about 5 minutes later I realized breakfast was a bad idea.  It all came right back up and Maria told me the grosser the labor the faster it goes.

From triage we walked to my delivery room. The handrails on all hospital walls were my friends during the walk.  With every contraction I stopped and held the rail swaying my hips until it passed.  Ryan and Maria would press on the sides of my hips during each one, which eased the pain.  Once we made it to the room Maria asked if I wanted to get in the shower and said I was probably at transition.  The warm water flowing down my back felt wonderful and helped ease the pain.  The handrail again was my friend and I held it throughout each contraction and rested on it in between.   They came in waves at about 2 minutes apart then 1-1.5 minutes apart.  Ryan was behind me the whole time pressing my hips together through each contraction.

Throughout my labor I had been most comfortable standing but by this point I was getting very tired. Maria noticed this and asked if I wanted a stool to sit on which was the perfect suggestion.  I sat, still holding the handrail, resting my head on it between contractions.  By the end what I really wanted was to sleep between the contractions but the time was too short.

The next thing that happened was an involuntary push during the contraction.  At this point Maria suggested I get out of the shower, she and Ryan dried me off and put on my gown.  Once dressed all I could think about was getting to the bed and laying down on my side.  It’s amazing how my body knew how I should deliver; there was no decision-making happening.  When the next contraction came I was in the bed on my side.  Again the involuntary pushing ensued and I felt my water break.  I also heard the nurse say “Don’t push Amy, don’t push.”  I turned to him and said, “I can’t not push.” I later found out the doctor wasn’t yet in the room.

The delivery was quick.  1-2 contractions and the baby’s head was out.  At that point the doctor said “Amy, keep pushing”.  It was very odd trying to push without a contraction behind it.  I felt I had to look very deep into my body to find the muscles and push the baby out, but I was successful. Later my husband said the cord was around his neck and that’s why the doctor wanted me to keep pushing. Alex Edward White was born at 6:51 am weighting 7 lbs. 10 oz and 20 inches long.

Once he was out they placed him on my chest and checked his vitals from there.  It was a very different experience from my first delivery where they whisked Anderson off to the NICU.  After they stitched me up, which felt worse than the delivery itself, they left us alone. Alex was alert and nursing within 20 minutes of the delivery and the first moments Ryan and I had with him were peaceful and precious. It was a wonderful experience.

Amy introduces her older son Anderson to new baby Alex

Amy, her older son Anderson, and new baby Alex

Abby’s Birth Story

 

My friend Abby had a great birth experience back in February that I wanted to share here.   To me, the most powerful part of Abby’s story are the visualizations she uses during her birth.  I love how she reframes contractions as waves.  The word contraction can sometimes bring us into a state of tension –after all, that’s what you do when you contract a muscle, right?   Instead, many women choose to reframe the sensation and call it something else:  surge, rush, wave, etc.   

Read on to hear her story in her own words (emphasis is mine).

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I had practiced yoga during my pregnancy, tried to walk every day, and had hired a doula to help me labor at home as long as possible to try to have a natural childbirth. I knew that in labor, things often do not often go according to the plan, but I didn’t know how I might have a birth where nothing went according to plan, but where everything turned out to be perfect in the end.

Two weeks before my due date my doctor recommended that my labor be induced because of high-blood pressure and mild preeclampsia. I knew this was a possibility, because I have chronic high blood pressure, and though my blood pressure dropped during the pregnancy, it started to climb in the very last weeks. However, I was very upset because I thought that if I was medically induced, I would end up with a highly medicalized birth. I worried that I would be placed on a Pitocin drip and given an epidural, or worse, end up with a C-section.

In a bizarre twist, our doula got very sick the same day I was supposed to be induced, and was herself admitted to the hospital! So with no doula, and not yet labor we headed to the labor and delivery ward. It was 8 pm on Valentine’s Day.

The staff settled us into a delivery room, placed a pill in my cervix to “ripen” it, and gave me Ambien to help me sleep. I fell asleep immediately, and have no memory of receiving the second induction pill four hours later. At 5 am I awoke to the gush of my water breaking. I woke my husband Jason, and when the nurse checked me, she said that I was now 1 cm dilated and that my doctor would come in a few hours to check on me and start a Pitocin drip to begin labor.

Fortunately my body had other plans. Within the hour I began to have steady and strong contractions every 2-3 minutes. I was so happy that my body had begun to labor, and I hoped that I would be able to continue on this path, now that things had begun, without additional medicine. My husband and I kissed each other with joy during a break, and then I got to work. He helped me into the bath, and I labored in the bath for a while, pouring water over my belly during the waves of the contractions. The clock seemed to be crawling forward in time as I tried to relax through the contractions. I began to chant to myself during the waves, saying: “Relax the baby down.” I also tried to focus on breathing through the sensations, and relaxing as each wave passed through me. It felt like I had been laboring for days when really it had only been a few hours.

At 8:30 am, as I was laboring on my hands and knees on the bed, my doctor came to check me. She found that I was 4-5 centimeters dilated. I should have been elated with my progress, but instead I was disappointed. I felt as if I had been working so hard for so long, I should have been at least 8 cm dilated! Being a bit more experienced with labor, she was very reassuring, and let me know that I had made very good progress.

During the labor, I moved through a number of different positions, back to the bath, sitting on the toilet, on my knees on the bed, resting the top half of my body over the back of the raised hospital bed, and finally, found my most comfortable position in bed, in a side-lying position. Once I found the side-lying position, I spent most of the rest of the labor on my side. In this position, I was able to go deep into myself, and began use visualizations during the contractions.

As the contractions continued, the main image I focused on was an image of myself swimming up the surface of a tsunami-sized wave. The contraction was the wave, and when I felt it coming I struck out swimming backstroke or freestyle up the surface. The swimming helped my breathing become regular and even as I ascended, then at the peak of the wave, I would relax, and slide down the back of the wave. Between the large contractions, there were also smaller less intense contractions, and I found that by watching a dial in my mind’s eye, I could easily judge the small contractions from the large ones. As I felt the intensity mount, I watched the dial, and if the hand passed 3, I would begin swimming up the wave. If it didn’t pass three, I would relax, and fall asleep. Using these two visualizations, I progressed through transition and was 9 cm dilated by 2 pm. However, during this period, when I was in this trance-like state, I had no notion of time passing, and was only very vaguely aware of my surroundings. I occasionally noticed my doctor come in and out of the room, and I was sometimes aware of my husband beside the bed. During this time, my contractions also slowed down – the large contractions came every 7-10 minutes which gave me time to rest and sleep between waves.

Finally at around 3 pm I was 10 cm dilated and I started pushing… the baby was low, and my cervix was open, but unfortunately, there was an unanticipated wrinkle in what was a very normal labor. Somehow the baby had gone from being in a anterior position – face down- the appropriate way to exit, to being in a face-up position, which is much more difficult to push out. I struggled to push him out in this position, and somehow, neither the nurse nor the doctor recognized that he had flipped into the wrong position. His poor little nose got hung up first on a lip of my cervix for an hour, and then under my pelvis for an extended period. The nurse unhelpfully told us that his head was really lumpy, and that somehow he had a point on the back of his head! I was in no state to worry about having an oddly formed child, but poor Jason got pretty worried about this “point” on the back of his head.

Another issue is that I was struggling to know how to push, my pushes seemed not to be making the progress that everyone thought I should. At some point the attending nurse left the room, and another nurse came in to cover for her… this nurse, saw that I was struggling, and crouched down next to the bed bringing her face close to mine. She whispered to me, and stroked my hand, explaining how to push, how to breathe, how to move my body into a position to help the baby out, and then, as quietly as she had come in, she was gone. Later we called her the labor fairy. She had flitted in at exactly the right time to help me focus my strength on pushing, because I would need it to continue pushing for the next few hours.

In the end it took 4 hours to push our baby into the world. I had no idea that it was such a long time… my contractions were 10 minutes apart, so I was resting on my side between efforts. But apparently everyone else in the room was getting worried as more and more time passed.

Finally, Stephanie – my doctor – scrubbed up. The pediatric team came in, and in a large last push, the babe flew out – face up! For a moment, my husband feared that the baby was deformed, because he was expecting to see the back of a head, and not a face, but in a few minutes it was clear that our child was healthy, and normal, if a bit stressed from the hours of pushing. The “point” on the back of the head, which has caused so much trouble, was just a poor bruised little nose.

Jason cut the cord, and then the baby was weighed and warmed for a few minutes. Everyone went to the other side of the room to see the baby, and I was waiting to hear if we had had a son or a daughter… finally I called out, “ What did we have?” The doctor showed Jason the baby, and he said “ We have a son!” I was so surprised! But I was also so glad that our little son was healthy and well.

He was brought to my chest, and after a few nuzzles at my breast, he fell asleep. He was small and perfect, and we called him Caleb Henry Mitchell. He is our beloved son.

CalebAbby!

Angela’s Birth Story

 

I’m starting a new blog series of more in-depth birth stories from some of my yoga students.    I think there needs to be more positive stories out there in the world about birth, so that’s the aim here.   

We’re starting 2013 off with a birth story that happened this fall from a strong yogini Angela, and her partner Nathan.  Angela and Nathan are amazing – check out Angela on her website.  Here’s their birth story in their own words (emphasis is mine).

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As a longtime yogini, I wanted to approach birth by being open and inquisitive about my changing body.  Some fears and doubts crept up along the way, but I wanted to feel strong and empowered throughout the process.  Early in my pregnancy, I recall looking through, “Preparing for Birth with Yoga” by Janet Balaskas.  The illustrations of a woman giving birth seemed surreal to me and I mused that I couldn’t imagine ever getting to that point.

Over many months of pregnancy and taking prenatal yoga I became more and more ready and actually excited for the birth experience!  Throughout my entire pregnancy I can honestly say yoga was my stronghold.  In fact, my husband Nathan and I found out we were pregnant in the midst of our yoga teacher training!  I continued to practice yoga every single day and remained active throughout—right up through early labor.

Yoga and pranayama (breathwork) helped me to stay grounded when I would feel anxious and worried, and brought me back to my center when I felt out of control.  I remember three very key times during pregnancy when I had A-HA yoga moments.   One was during savasana when I was very early pregnant and not feeling well.  I remember feeling scared about being pregnant and worried that I might unintentionally hurt the baby by practicing yoga and being too active.  The teacher mentioned setting an intention and I remember setting the intention that I was safe in my body, which really helped me relax and acknowledge that my body would know what to do.   The other times were late in pregnancy.  During a centering the teacher said to trust our bodies and that all the knowledge we needed to birth our babies was inside of us.  That really resonated with me and helped me to feel so empowered!  The third time was while squatting on a brick and practicing shifting between complete engagement (lion’s breath) and total release (softening completely between each breath) just as I’d need to do during each contraction during labor.

An aside from Nathan: Throughout pregnancy, Angela certainly had moments of anxiety and strong emotions, which were fully expected and respected. Also being a yogi, I knew of the powerful aspects of yoga that could help in times of anxiety and stress, and regardless of situation.  A very useful technique which many yogis use is mantras or affirmations.  So, very early on in pregnancy, I encouraged Angela to develop a mantra that she spoke nearly every night before bed, when emotions tended to be highest.: “Nathan loves me, He’s going to take care of me, I’m going to do great!” She repeated the phrase several times until she was fully convinced of her affirmation even in the hardest times.  Though I can never really know what was going on inside Angela’s body and mind on the day she gave birth, I can guess that the mantra had a positive effect.

At 38 weeks along, I walked into my weekly prenatal yoga class feeling like I was really ready to be done with being pregnant.  Barrett encouraged me by saying feeling this way was good and would help my body prepare to birth my baby.  However, I was in that birth window where it could happen anytime over the next 4 weeks. It was so hard to be patient after waiting so long!

I took this time for myself to have a pedicure, get a prenatal massage and just nap as much as I could.  I knew I’d be nurturing my baby soon enough, so I am grateful I took that time for self-care.  In the two weeks before giving birth, I was noticing more and more contractions and my cervix was dilating, which was exciting, but still there was no way to know when it would happen!  On Aug 31, there was a surprise baby shower for my friend that I was really looking forward to attending.  There’s an old wives tale that spicy foods bring on labor, so the hostess insisted I try her chocolate chipotle cake.  I figured it was worth a try and the cake was delicious!  Nathan and I called it an early night and it was a good thing because sure enough at 5:45 am the following morning things started to really change significantly with my contractions!

I cancelled all of my plans that day and stayed home.  I knew it could be a long road ahead so I ate nourishing foods and switched between passive and active activities as the day went on.  Actual napping was difficult because the cramping would wake me up with every contraction, but I managed about an hour of sleep during the day.   I walked around the house, did gentle yoga, breathing and stretching and made sure all of our hospital bags were packed and ready.  I started to really tune in internally and tune out everything else.  Surprisingly, social me had no desire to call family or friends– I simply wanted to focus on myself and the process of childbirth.

I found the yoga ball really helpful and spent a lot of time sitting on it and rocking my pelvis.  I never stayed in any one position longer than 10 min.  As the evening went on I called the midwives a few times for reassurances and to ask questions that arose, which was really helpful and helped me feel confident that I was on the right track.  I knew when I was supposed to go to the hospital (contractions that were 5 min apart, 1 min long and lasting an 1 hour) but my contractions weren’t ever quite that consistent.  They were definitely intense but fluctuated between 2 min and 7 min apart.  Nearly 12 hours later, I got in the bath and poured warm water over my belly and back during contractions. The water felt great and actually slowed labor a bit, but as soon as I got out of the tub things really kicked up.  Nathan was amazing at giving me lots of hip squeezes, low back massages and taking care of everything around the house so I could just focus on giving birth.  I spent a lot of time on hands and knees and doing positions that allowed my lower back to relax and found sounding techniques to be really helpful in terms of diffusing the strong sensations.

Finally, a little before 11 pm we were on our way to the hospital!  We forgot the main entrance was locked after hours and had to drive around to the ER entrance.  By this time I was having contractions 2-3 minutes apart while Nathan had to run in to make sure where we parked would be OK for the time being.  It felt like forever as I waited in the car repeating my mantra, “I’m OK, I am safe, I’m OK, I am safe.”

Once we made it up to labor and delivery we happily learned I was already 6 cm dilated!  Things were progressing at a rapid pace.  We went right to the room to have the fetal monitor connected to check the baby’s heart rate.  My contractions were very fast and intense and I had to keep moving and walking and shifting my pelvis for any relief.  The baby’s heart was really strong and the nurse said I could get in the tub.  No sooner did I get in the tub, I felt a very strong urge to push and bear down.  The midwife wasn’t sure I could be ready so quickly, but said it could be possible.  Sure enough she said with amazement I was at 10 cm already and it was time to push!

It took awhile to get the hang of this sensation.  I tried the birthing stool for a while and found it really tiring.   Nathan supported me by breathing with me and staying right by my side.  My midwife and nurse were a wonderful blend of calming presence and coach.  My body felt like an inferno and cold washcloths on my face and neck really helped.  I then switched to kneeling on the bed with my arms supported, but found this terribly exhausting too.  Sidelying on the bed was suggested so I tried that position and really liked it, which surprised me because I thought I’d like squatting or hands and knees better.  Also what surprised me was that I had to actually hold my breath (rather than exhale) to push through the sensation of pushing out my baby.  All along they kept saying they could see the amniotic sac starting to come out with each push.  Suddenly, the sac burst like a water balloon with a loud pop!  I remember wondering briefly how long I’d have to push but I quickly pushed that thought aside and turned my attention back to my body and the moment and staying focused on the sensations happening right now because that was all that mattered.  I noticed the midwife and nurse gowning up and figured it must be close!

With a very intense burning sensation and one final strong push, our son’s head of dark hair emerged.  With the next push his body came out and I exclaimed, “My baby!” as they put him on my chest and he let out a huge wail!  Surya Alexander Gabor was born at 1:47 am on Sunday, September 2.  He weighed 7 lb 9.7 oz and was 20 ½ inches long.  Nathan noticed that he and Surya shared the same exact foot shape, and if you know Nathan from yoga, you’ll notice he has very distinct feet.  We jokingly call it the monkey-claw because of the unusually large space between his big toe and first toe.

Surya’s Yoga Toes!

I truly felt like a super hero after giving birth!  A very, very tired and euphoric super hero that just ran a marathon. I believe yoga helped me to stay in tune with my body and ride every wave of sensation recognizing it as energy and aliveness rather than something to fear.   Being strong, prepared and confident in my innate ability to give birth created a very positive and empowering experience.

September Yoga Babies!

 

It’s that time again – more yoga babies are in the world, and they’re cuter than ever :)

Angela A., from Black Lotus and The Breathing Room,  had baby boy Surya Alexander on September 2.   He was 7lbs 9oz. and I’d love to share what she wrote a few days after her birth (emphasis mine):

“I just wanted to pass on a little note to say thanks for all the wonderful prenatal yoga classes.  My birth was such an empowering and positive experience no doubt because of a strong yoga practice and the excellent support of Nathan!  I felt really strong, confident and powerful and really found the sounding techniques to be helpful.  

Angela and Surya

 

Yusyani S., from Black Lotus and the Breathing Room, had baby girl Marjorie Indra on September 5.   She was 8lbs. 3 oz.

Yusy and Marjorie

Katie D., from O2 yoga, had baby boy Gennadiy, on September 6.  He weighed 8lbs.13oz.   Katie wrote:

“Looking back on the pregnancy, I’m extremely thankful I practiced yoga up until the very end. The most useful thing for me was drishti.  It’s when we focus on a spot in the distance and use that for balance, concentration and centering. That was absolutely essential to getting through the pushing, which at the time felt like it went on forever.”

Gena!

Maggie E. from O2 Yoga, welcomed baby boy Rahm on September 17.   Rahm was in the breech position, so Maggie had a Csection.  She writes:

“Prenatal yoga was essential to my ability to stay calm throughout the surgery and immediate recovery. And now that I’m up and starting to move again, I am so grateful for the extra strength and focus I gained in your classes.”

Maggie and Rahm

Annie M. from Black Lotus and the Breathing Room had baby boy Charlie on September 20.  He was 8lbs. 4 oz.

Charlie and his parents!

Laura S, from Black Lotus and Karma,  had baby girl Liv on September 29.   Laura writes,

“Labor and delivery went very well and Liv is doing great! My recovery has been fast and amazing as well. All that exercise and yoga makes such a difference!”

Liv!

 

What is “Advanced” Yoga?

 

I’ve updated my yoga resume because I am shopping around for new yoga studios to teach in since Black Lotus closed 3 weeks ago.   Yoga is a funny thing – I supposedly teach an “advanced” class on Monday nights, and I’m looking for a new home for all those dedicated yogis who take that class.

But it got me thinking – what really is “advanced” yoga?   It reminded me of something I wrote awhile back for one of my online yoga programs.  Here it is:

BEGINNER’S MIND

When are you no longer a yoga beginner? When are you advanced?  Interestingly, I think the more advanced you are, the more you have a beginner’s mind. What does that mean?

Beginner’s mind is a concept I first heard from the classic book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki. An online article says beginner’s mind is: “the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgements and prejudices. Beginner’s mind is just present to explore and observe and see “things as-it-is.”

I think of beginner’s mind as the mind that faces life like a small child, full of curiosity and wonder and amazement. “I wonder what this is? I wonder what that is? I wonder what this means?” Without approaching things with a fixed point of view or a prior judgement, just asking “What is it?”

I think about this a lot when I’m doing sun salutes day by day.  There’s a well-known yoga studio whose slogan is: “Another day, another downward dog.” That’s how it feels! It’s another day, and I’m doing the same thing. But it’s so interesting because it feels so new everyday. I think it’s because of this beginner’s mind – it’s like we ask ourselves, “I’m so curious to find out what it’s all going to feel like today.” I feel like I’m always wondering what’s going to be *available* to me today, and I just don’t know until I show up on the mat.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I definitely slag through the practice sometimes with a distinctly un-beginner’s mind. A judging day, when I wonder why something hasn’t shifted, or an impatient mind that wonders if I can skip the warmup and go right to the main event. It’s hard to keep beginner’s mind everyday, but nice to notice how fun the practice can be when we do.

Vacation Breaks


With quotes from Angela of http://www.spaceandtimeconsulting.com/


Maternity leave is NOT vacation – maybe it’s just the opposite!  However, it is a time out of ordinary life, and it’s made me think a lot about the ways in which we take (or don’t take) vacation breaks.

We have these set intervals in which we mark time – days, weeks, months, years, etc.  I’ve started thinking about creating little vacations in each one of these time periods as a healthy way to ensure I’m releasing stress on a regular basis.  I’ve asked yogini Angela from Spaceandtimeconsulting.com to chime in a bit about how to create “vacations” regularly for yourself.


DAILY – Studies show that when you work in short bursts, and have some non-work breaks throughout the day, that you’re actually more productive!   Sitting at your desk for hours at a time is bad for your back, your eyes, your heart, your bladder, AND your productivity! When you’re working or studying, you will be most focused on the first and last tasks in your burst.

So, having many mini study/work sessions in the day will help you retain more information and get more done.

Good 1-10 minute day breaks:

  • Get up! Stretch and dance, and take some big sighs. Don’t surf the web.
  • My favorite mid-day yoga that’s easy to do in an office: shoulder stretches! Examples include: eagle, cow, and yoga mudra.
  • Close your eyes and smile at the stillness and silence!  Or listen to some soothing music.
  • Do you need a bio-break?  It’s amazing how we can lose track of the fact that we need to use the bathroom, or that we need to drink water.

“I couldn’t agree more with this!  Often people think of time for themselves needing to be in large chunks of time, but throughout the day if you insert little spaces of time for yourself you will still benefit immensely!  I know sometimes guilt creeps in, but if you think of it as taking care of yourself it puts it into a new light.  The saying of putting your oxygen mask on first before helping others is really the key here!”  -Angela


WEEKLY – The weekend is something we shouldn’t take for granted – we worked hard and earned some rest!  The weekend is basically the ancient idea of the Sabbath – (at least) one holy day of rest each week, to honor the creative lifeforce.   You can’t keep creating if you don’t take some time to renew!

Good weekend ideas to renew:

  • Get thee to a yoga class at *least* once a week.  Please give yourself the gift of a full yoga experience, from warm-ups right through to savasana.   For most of us, that means going to a class where we don’t have to think about what’s next – the teacher will guide you, and you enjoy the journey.
  • Spend the day outside (on the beach or hiking for example).
  • Spend a day with friends (seeing a movie and going out to dinner).
  • Make an excursion to a place you haven’t gone before – a museum or park that you’ve always meant to go to.
  • Spend a day on the couch or porch reading a book (avoid TV most of the time!).

“I love this because it speaks directly to how we choose to spend our leisure time.  I choose to do yoga during my breaks because it is one of those activities that is packed with all around benefits for your well-being.  It encompasses physical, social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual domains all at one time and as Barrett stated, taking the journey with a teacher is a real gift. I find yoga is perfect for getting myself into a state of flow.

In that same vein, not all activities are created equal.  I love that Barrett said avoid TV most of the time, because it really is low on the activity index for benefits to your well-being.  I challenge people who feel they have time constraints to do a time-diary study to see how much time is spent watching TV.  It’s often one of the biggest chunks of time in peoples’ diaries.  If you can cut that out of your schedule you’d be surprised at how much time opens up to do activities that are really meaningful to you.” -Angela


MONTHLY – Inevitably, you’ll have some days and weeks where you didn’t give yourself a little vacation from the grind.  Every month, I try to look at my calendar and see what’s coming up that I’m really looking forward to.   Almost every month, there is a holiday – for example, we’ve got Labor Day coming up.   I’m trying to use those holidays, or special visits from family and friends, as a way to more consciously build in relaxation.   If you are someone who likes weekend getaways, aim for one a month to recharge you.   Finally, if you’re really a yoga aficionado, there are weekend intensives every month in Boston with top teachers ready to help you dive in!   Try a few of these every year – they will take your yoga practice to the next level!

“This idea of looking toward the future is great.  Having positive things to focus on and plan for keeps you moving forward, and also helps you to put the current moment into perspective.” -Angela


YEARLY – Our last cycle of time is the year.   Take a real vacation every year, for at least a week!   Every winter, I make the commitment to go someplace warm to get the chill and the gray of the winter out of my system.  Also, my partner and I try to plan a vacation every few years that’s a big one – to a special place in the world (Israel, Europe, someday to India), and we try to go for a longer stretch of time.   These things help keep us feeling alive and connected to our sense of adventure.  I try to do a yoga training once a year to keep my skills sharp and my spirit renewed.

Carving out some restful time, in small and large increments throughout your days, weeks, months and years, is so important.  It relaxes you, and also helps you reset back into enjoying the moment.  Most of us don’t do this enough.  It’s counterintuitive to think that we’ll actually get *more* done with more time off.  But it’s true – and you’ll enjoy it all more as well.

“I would love to see Americans shift their values to create a culture where we are not only expected to, but encouraged to take time off from work. According to a 2010 Expedia.com survey, only 38% of Americans said they take all of their vacation days!  We can begin to change this one person at a time, one day at a time, and one moment at a time.  How do you begin to carve this time out.  What would it look like?  What choices would you make?  What activities would you choose to pursue?  I am happy to give you a free phone or email consultation to help you get started!” -Angela

See you on the yoga mat for your daily vacation!!

Barrett

Creative Juices are Flowing…


Something about major life transitions always gets my creative juices flowing!  Last year when I got married, a student commented to me that marriage suited me.  She said, “Your classes have been really creative.”     And she was right – though I always strive for creative, unique classes, the major life change of committing to someone had opened up a wellspring inside of me.  A creative spark was more evident in my classes for my regular students.  I was deliriously happy too, which is always nice to be around :)

Now I’ve given birth.   Major.Life.Transition.   As in, nothing is the same as it was.   The rhythm of my days (and nights!) are different.  The way I eat, sleep, and even take a shower are different (I do them all frantically, as quickly as I can).   But the cool thing that always happens, is happening.   I feel ON FIRE with ideas about teaching.   And I’m not teaching yet (I’m going back this Sunday though!) so it’s like there’s a reserve of FANTASTIC ideas wanting to BURST out of me!!

I think one of the reasons for the creative spark this time is that my body is different, so yoga feels different.  You might expect someone to complain about this – after all, pregnancy is cumbersome.   You weigh more than you ever have, you cannot practice some basic moves, and there’s a fair number of aches and pains that come with the territory no matter how much you take care of yourself.   But I loved all of this about pregnancy, actually!   I didn’t like it for myself personally, but professionally I found it fascinating!  I was feeling ways that my students, both regular and pregnant, might feel sometimes in class.

This may sound morbid, but one of my teachers, Beryl Bender Birch, says, “One day, you will lose all the poses.”   As in, one day, you won’t be here on the Earth anymore.   But also as in, one day, you’ll be too old/injured/infirm/busy/pregnant to do this pose.   I loved my pregnancy when I *couldn’t* do something because it reminded me that everyone is different on the mat.  What I feel is different from my students.   I can watch a student carefully, I can listen to her description of what she’s feeling, and I can use my years of experience with other students to make an educated guess about what’s going on for her.   But I can’t feel exactly what she feels.   The more experiences I have in my own body, the better I can relate to discomforts my students have.

We can also remember that just as each person is different from their neighbor on the next mat over, we change ourselves day by day, month by month, and year by year.   So, what you *could* do previously is not what you’re doing today, and that’s amazing!!  You might be doing more today, you might be doing less.  We are our own best teachers for this reason.

I’ve learned a lot from having a different body in 2011.  Pregnancy has allowed me that window of insight into how we can experience the same posture *so* differently.   It’s opened up yet another wellspring of new and different movement patterns *because* of the restrictions of pregnancy, and the newfound freedom postpartum.

Have I mentioned how awesome it is to be getting all the poses back?  Beryl Bender Birch was right – someday I will lose all the poses.   But thankfully, it’s not today!

Letting it flow,

Barrett

Looked at images for creative yoga, and loved this twist (you can barely twist at all by the end of pregnancy!)  This is an awesome photo, but too bad it’s an advertisement:

Yoga in the First 2 Weeks Postpartum


I was at my new mom’s group today, and here’s the first thing to know – everyone has such different experiences in pregnancy, labor and birth, and postpartum!  We all had different experiences in each phase of this childbearing year. So, though I teach postnatal yoga, going through the experience and listening to others reaffirms that we each have to go at our own pace.

Here’s what I’ve learned from my yoga practice in the first two weeks postpartum.  Remember, this is me, and your experience after giving birth will be different:

1)      For some period of time, you will wonder if you’ll ever feel normal again.

When I first stood up after giving birth, I thought my hip was displaced, my hamstring was pulled and all my nerves from the waist down were on high voltage.  After a few minutes, things settled down, but it’s a crazy experience your body has, even if it’s designed to do this!

For the first week after giving birth, I felt like I was twice my age!   I was so creaky and cranky in my muscles and joints.   I stayed in bed a lot, walked a little, and didn’t do a lot of yoga asanas (see what I did in #2 below).   By the second week, I felt like myself, just extra stiff.   I added simple asanas to my yoga routine, like shoulder stretches.    Now entering the third week, I feel totally normal, and my yoga practice is coming back to normal.  Besides intensive core work, I can do the basics of most any pose – inversions, twists, back strengtheners, hip openings etc.

2)      It’s all about moola bandha and uddiyana bandha.

If you’re not an experienced yogini, these might be foreign terms to you.   The bandhas are a bit complex to explain in words (and they’re not easy to teach either), but these two techniques are essential to start practicing postpartum!   Moola bandha is essentially an engagement (or lift) of your  pelvic floor, and uddiyana bandha is essentially engaging you midsection abdominals.   My primary yoga in the first week was feeling these two “locks,” or bandhas.   They are the weak links after going through pregnancy and then giving birth (even if you don’t have a vaginal birth, both are still weakened).

3)      Many people experience a euphoric state for a few weeks, but watch out for the crash!

You may think you’re superwoman the first week or two!  Watch out – you have to rest or else you’ll crash.   We have hormones that get us through the first few weeks, but after that, you need to have some sleep and nutritional reserves built up.

There’s been a few days where I’ve planned too much, and it’s made me AND Yona (and my husband Gadi) cranky.   So I’m getting better at acknowledging limits – 1-2 guests per day visiting, and for a short period of time only.   And for now, as we’re starting to venture out of the house, I’ve realized only 1 outing per day.  It’s been hard to stick to this “rule,” but it pays off.   My midwife says that the number 1 thing we can do to heal after birth is to rest.  It’s so hard to give yourself, but in the long run, it pays off.

4)      Additional non-yoga care has been helpful.

I’ve used a belly band and done some uterine massage to help settle my organs (an extension of uddiyana bandha).   I didn’t use stairs for a whole week after birth to heal my pelvic floor (an extension of moola bandha).  I can go into more detail about these things in a later post if anyone’s interested.

A little splurge could be great too!  I cannot wait to get a pedicure – it’s not going to heal my body, but it will help me feel like my normal self again!   Massage, going out to eat, shopping, going to the beach.   Try to find something to do in the first 2 months that help *you* feel like *you* again!

——-

When I get back to teaching postpartum yoga, I will be so excited to have gone through this experience!   We’ve always focused a lot on the pelvic floor and the abdominals in class (along with sore backs and shoulders).   But having experienced it first-hand now, I can truly say that postnatal yoga makes a huge difference.

I can feel after two weeks that my abdominals are coming together – they’re looking good too!   My pelvic floor is strong and supporting me and my organs (I’m not ready to go jogging yet, but that will come in time).   Though I’m still stiff in the legs and shoulders, I know with regular practice, I’ll loosen up again.

What would I do without yoga?   It’s such a blessing, time after time!    I’ll keep you updated on my progress as I continue on this postpartum journey.

Namaste,

Barrett

The Story Behind the Name


Here is what we read at Yona Yitzchak’s bris  today:

Barrett:

Thank you all for being here today to witness us becoming a family and welcoming Yona Yitzchak Reinhorn into the Jewish community.  We would like to share with you the meaning and significance of the names Yona and Yitzchak.   We’d also like to say a few words about three treasured relatives in whose honor we named him.

About the name Yona:  In mystical Judaism every word and phrase has a numerical value.  The name Yona has the same value as the phrase Koach gadol, or “great power.”  Also, Yona is the Hebrew word for dove, and dove is the symbol of peace.  Yona, you were born big and strong (with koach gadol), and we wish for you to use your great strength, to wage peace in the world.

Gadi:

Yona’s middle name is Yitzchak, which means “he will laugh.” I’ve always loved the idea of this name – a wish for someone to laugh.  Barrett and I laugh a lot together, both with each other and at each other.  Also, Barrett has always loved the story of Sarah, Yitzchak’s mother in the Torah.  She was well past childbearing age but God told her that she would have a son.   She and Avraham both laughed in response, which is why he was named Yitzchak. Yona, we can’t wait to laugh with you!

Also, Yitzchak’s half brother in the Torah is Yishmael, who by Jewish and Muslim tradition, becomes a forefather of the Muslim people. Through Yona Yitzchak’s blessings of peace and laughter, we wish for him to bridge the gaps of understanding in the world.  Yona, we will help you reach out to others who are different from you, and to practice tikkun olam, which means “to repair the world.”

Barrett:

Yona Yitzchak is named in honor of 3 special relatives, of blessed memory. We love being an aunt and uncle, and we want to honor that special role by naming our son after one aunt and two uncles of ours.

Loy Wayne was my uncle and my mother Carolyn’s brother.  He was always the life of the party, and I can still hear his laugh and see his shining eyes. He was so helpful, and you could count on him. He would be the first to make the 3-hour trip to the airport to pick me up when I visited Kansas, and he would make sure I had a good time while I was there.  Yona, may you be as dependable and fun loving as Loy Wayne.

Gadi:

Yoli was my maternal great Aunt.  Barrett and I visited her on our trip to Israel in 2008.  Yoli was very outgoing and generous, and known for hosting parties.  She survived Auschwitz with my grandmother Ella, and moved to Israel after the war.  She passed away last year, just before our wedding.   Yona, may you have an outgoing and tenacious spirit like Yoli.

Yonel was my paternal great Uncle, and a favorite from my childhood.  He had a generous spirit. I think fondly of the unique and cutting edge presents Yonel gave me. For example, I still display in my office a 50 euro bill that he gave me, from the first year they were issued. Yona, may you be generous and forward thinking like Yonel.

Barrett:

In closing, Yona, we have wished upon you many traits:  generosity, dependability, tenacity, peacefulness, humor, and more.  We love you and can’t wait to see who you become in the world.  And for all of you who have joined us here today: thank you for already being a great influence in Yona’s life, helping him to embody these qualities.

More pictures!


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