The Yoga of Birth

It has been said that our yoga practice can be considered ‘one long breathing exercise’ and that “luck” is defined as the meeting of preparation and opportunity. After the birth of my son three months ago, I say the same is true of the process of labor and delivery.

If someone would have told me even 5 years ago that I would be on the intentional pursuit to have a child, I don’t know that I would have believed them. And yet, almost exactly two years ago I found myself suffering my first miscarriage, which completely devastated me. However, this put me on the intentional pursuit, the one I have helped guide others through as a teacher of Strong Yoga®4Fertility.

One of the beautiful things yoga has given to me is the practice of not being attached to an outcome. Sometimes that is easier in theory. But when I finally got past the first 12 weeks of my pregnancy and began to believe in what my doctor kept reassuring me, that this was a healthy pregnancy and that I would have a healthy baby, I began to think about my impending labor and delivery.

Any woman who has given birth will tell you that her ‘A plan’ had to compromise with her ‘B plan.’ However, the bottom line is that labor and delivery is always unique to that individual and her child; they are unpredictable and filled with unknowns.

Embracing the unknown can be a hard concept. Most of us like the predictable, the known and the things that make us feel secure. However, the one constant in life is change and change can happen in an instant. That instant is usually rich with the unknown.

So, yes, I had an “ideal plan” for my labor and delivery. Although it was my first birth and I was told to expect a long, drawn-out labor, I hoped for a short, fast, natural, drug-free birth that included laboring in the comfort of my own home as long as I could. I wanted to feel it all and remember it all.

And so, determined to feel ‘prepared’, I dragged my hubby to childbirth classes where they taught us breathing exercises, how to shift the focus of your eyes to help quiet the mind, and massage techniques to use while in the throes of a contraction. In addition, during my pregnancy I continued doing yoga with a practice shifted specifically to my quickly changing and expanding prenatal body. Connecting with other women on the same path, we shared in class how many weeks gestation we were, how we were emotionally, physically, and what fears might be arising while the exciting progression of human life grew in each of us. I was always amazed that although we could all relate so deeply with one another with what we were feeling, each of us had our own individual experience of pregnancy and therefore each woman would also have a unique childbirth.

Learning ‘the breath’ and focusing the mind were by far the most helpful tools for me. But it wasn’t the breath I learned in the childbirth classes, it was the breath I had learned in yoga. There were also techniques I learned in this very special prenatal yoga class which included postures and movements in repetitions (like a contraction), as well as how to soften and breathe through moments that felt extremely uncomfortable (also like a contraction). We even learned specific breathing techniques which would occur during the final stage of childbirth: the pushing.

As we moved almost two weeks past my son’s due date I had still not had a single contraction or any signs of baby making his way down. My doctor knew my wishes but when he checked me once again, my cervix was 100% effaced and completely closed. After that ‘induction talk’ I went home and cried, feeling completely defeated and convinced that if I was induced it would end up in a C-section.

The next morning I woke up determined to get that baby moving downward and out. In the shower I swayed. I did a ton of squats. I danced. I prayed. I breathed. And I walked. In fact, that day I went to a place in Los Angeles called the Peace Labyrinth. I set my intention and began walking with a deliberate, slow focus. I visualized the labor experience I wanted all the way from the beginning through the baby being laid on my chest for the first time. I felt in my heart space the joy I anticipated. And I had conversations with my unborn baby: I explained to him that I needed his help in order to make this happen, that we were a team. And then I felt my first contraction. In the next several hours things started progressing quickly.

I labored at home as long as I could stand the pain. When I arrived at the hospital, I was told that I was 10 cm dilated. The preparation had gotten me to that point and yet I still needed to maintain more focus to get through the final pushing. I have a vivid memory of that stage. As I began another contraction, the intensity moved into my face and throat. The nurse said, “Take it out of your face and put it in your butt!” With that cue I shifted the energy down into my pelvic floor area. My doctor said, “Whatever you just did then, do it again!” In two more pushes my son, Henri Bennett Carriere, made his way into the world, his cries like music to my ears. As they laid him on my chest, I panted like I had been running for miles. My body was in shock and yes, it was painful. My first thought when I saw him was, “Who are you?”

The ultimate outcome of my childbirth was ideal. Once the first contraction started it took only 10 hours and 7 pushes (my husband counted) for my son to make his way out.

Everyone’s story will be different but will ultimately be perfect once that perfect baby arrives. I approached childbirth with an open mind, open heart and a willingness to get an epidural if I really needed one. But I also was armed with the practice of conscious breathing. This is something I teach to my yoga students on a daily basis. Our breath is everything. It is our guide. It is our strength, and also the vehicle to our capability in softening.

I wasn’t convinced I ever wanted to bear a child myself.

I am now convinced that I must be the luckiest gal on earth.

Henri Bennett, born March 22, 2014 ~ 7 lbs, 7 oz at 1:03 am

Henri Bennett, born March 22, 2014 ~ 7 lbs, 7 oz at 1:03 am

 

Henri - 3 months & loving life

Henri – 3 months & we are loving life

“The Prophet” profits me, indeed…

A gift given to me by sweet husband years ago, the simple book entitled “The Prophet” is filled with deeply profound musings by Kahil Gibran. Depending on where I am in life, I find myself gravitating to this little book as I can easily flip to the table of contents and find something inspiring to ponder on about just about any ‘life’ subject.

Cover Image from The Prophet

As I enter my sixth month of pregnany, the impending birth of my son feels more real by the day. He is moving inside of me in ways that create little space for doubt that this is really happening! No longer can I label these crazy sensations as gas bubbles… Now my husband has actually felt our little guy move, as well, which is exciting for both of us.

So, lately (and with good reason), I find myself reading all kinds of books, trying to prepare for what’s to come and expected in the final months of pregnancy, labor, birth, the first few weeks and months with newborn, parenting in general, and on and on. Yet I know in my heart that parenthood is mostly ‘on-the-job-training’ and that no one and no book can prepare you for what your unique experience will be with this little being that is your child. That perhaps my greatest strength as a parent is to try to be the best me I can, from day to day. And also live - as much as one can - day by day. Being present to what is; Breathing; Grounding; Being open to the Unknown. And maybe, most importantly, accepting that I am human and I am bound to make some mistakes along the way…?

However, I was seeking something a little more inspiring from another source, other than my own thoughts. :)

This is what I found in the table of contents of “The Prophet” entitled ‘On Children’ –

“And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.

And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backwards nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

Wow. I can only hope that I step into the role of that flexible yet stable bow. Definitely thoughts to mull over.

In the meantime, I hold gratitude for so much and so many on this eve of Thanksgiving. There is truly a bounty in this life for which to be thankful. Peace to you all.

Practicing What I Preach

woman reaching for birdsA cherished part of my purpose in this life encompasses holding the space for women moving through fertility challenges and guiding them, as best I can, to breathe, to stay as present as possible and to recognize that just about everything in this beautiful & complicated life is impermanent — especially the hopeless thoughts and heartbreak that can accompany the fertility journey.

I am grateful I have the tools to help others and that I can utilize those tools for challenges in my own life. But that doesn’t mean the road doesn’t have its very hard moments. That fear doesn’t creep in. It does. Oh boy does it. Especially when we are trying to move forward from past ‘failures’, pain,  and experiences that may directly feed into the current ‘pursuit.’

I​n his book The Power of Now, Elkhart Tolle writes, “Die to the past every moment.”

That is such a profound idea; another way to say “Live in the Now.” But that ​sure can be​ difficult to put into practice, especially when you are moving through, say, pregnancy for the third time in just over a year with two losses behind you.

I have longed for some time now to share freely to those I teach and guide about what I am personally going through, and yet, something held me back. Just a few months ago I posted on our fertility support group page on facebook how I was feeling melancholy at the one year anniversary of the loss of my first pregnancy. Then, I proceeded to ‘preach’ about how we should all share freely what was happening for each of us. I deeply meant everything that I very passionately expressed in that post. And then just a mere 3 weeks later I found myself withholding my own sharing. Out of fear? Unreasonable mental chatter? Avoidance of ‘jinxing it​’? (Ugh. So silly, that last one.)​

And yet, another part of me kept saying to myself, “Y​ou better practice what you preach, girl!”

So, almost three months later, I have finally gotten the guts (and time) to sit and spill it. I want to share for many reasons and my hope is that, no matter what happens next, my sharing prompts others to share whatever  — ​ and whenever — ​they may feel inspired… And that my sharing is somehow helpful…? I want others to know they aren’t alone. The fertility journey can feel very isolating. And truthfully, so can pregnancy.​

Almost exactly one year from my first miscarriage & subsequent D&C​, I conceived. I have been doing my best in this last year to prep my body, my heart, my spirit, and my relationship for this. And yet, being the analytical and ​practical p​erson I am I also was some how trying to consider a life without having a child and really being okay with that. Life is so unpredictable. The one thing that is constant is change and so very much of life we have absolutely no control over. So, with the ‘excitement’ of getting a positive pregnancy test also came with it a feeling of detachment. I kept saying, “We’ll see…​[what happens with this]” with almost a sense of disbelief. Looking back, I think this was a way of protecting my heart. Of coping with another potential loss. And also feeling in my heart that if this one didn’t take that I​ had to get really honest with myself and my husband because I wasn’t sure I could try again because the losses are so painful​. And then,​trying to be okay with that!

So, with all that preamble, all I really wanna say, with joy, with trust,​ is: I’m pregnant. 12 weeks! Everything so far looks amazing. Waiting now on blood work from the first trimester genetic screening. But I finally feel peaceful. I finally feel like I can be with what is without trying to trick myself into not feeling all these many feelings, fully.

I am sorry I withheld. And I apologize to you, but it is also an apology to myself. ​It felt wrong, honestly. And yet, I stayed quiet. For fear of not appearing ‘together’, maybe? Or the self-struggle of releasing the need to be ‘perfect’, perhaps? Who knows?​  All I know is I am human. And I am hoping to continue to push myself to grow and practice what I preach. In all areas of my life.​

The cycles of life are humbling, for sure. I just lost my dear father-in-law last week to a massive stroke. I feel my husband’s heartbreak deeply, and yet we are reaped in the joy of this little one inside me. It is so true what they say: we must have the contrasts in life to fully know what it is to love, to ache…to live.

Blessings to all.

Fertility Secrets FREE ‘Virtual’ Conference

Check out this wonderful opportunity, now in session, for free! 20 Fertility experts will spill all their fertility secrets and I am a featured speaker. If you miss the original call, there will be replays available. This beautiful event is hosted by Mary Goyer, M.S. who is a Holistic Fertility Expert. Mary draws upon her traditional training in marriage & family therapy and her specialty in holistic medicine to offer a new way of looking at fertility. Mary works with women interested in learning a comprehensive approach to fertility, seeing how what they eat, where they live, how they feel, and what they think impact their fertility.

Sign up today for the remaining sessions of this event by visiting HERE. My talk on Strong Yoga 4Fertility will air Sunday, June 23rd at 11 am PST. Hope to ‘see’ you there!

You are a Woman of Wholeness

Somewhere there is a room

made of bee’s wax and heart honey

and the sound that is left after the meditation gong has gone still

 

In it sits the woman you actually are

a woman restored

a woman of wholeness

a woman enough

 

a woman who chooses

and embraces the consequences gleefully, mindfully

turning them over and over like love notes from the Divine

 

here the shero’s journey begins and ends

what has been lost is found

to have never been lost

now what fun it will be to tell the world

 

but first, you tuck in

rest awhile

and listen to the wise woman you already are

By Jennifer Louden

We Support One Another

In these last couple of months, I have been going through my own process of grief and trying to regain balance (on all levels). As I move closer towards healing I have been showered with love, support and communications from so many women in my circle of life.

As many of you have reached out to me, so many of you have also revealed that you, too, have suffered a miscarriage (or in some cases multiple) in your own journey of fertility and conception. One of my former clients whom I had not spoken to in some time had written me after reading about my experience in the last post. She commended me for my courage and strength. She openly shared her own story. And to read about what she had recently experienced… just about brought me to my knees. I was humbled by her grace after such an experience of deep loss in the midst of a pregnancy that had gone quite far. And I was reminded that I am not alone. And in fact, as so many of you personally reached out to me I was reminded again, and again, that none of us are alone in this! I wrote back to this prescious soul and what I expressed in that letter is something I want to share now, as it really speaks to all women:

“Your own courage and strength is remarkable. I am so unbelievably sorry for your loss. My goodness, what an arduous journey! There are really no words to express the depth of my empathy/sympathy/grief for what you have gone through. Who knows why things happen as they do. I mean, I do believe it is part of some bigger plan, but as we move through these painful happenings of life it’s hard to look too far ahead and be able to trust in the process of life. For me personally, that feels like a big lesson: the lesson of trusting. Trusting in life; trusting in the process (no matter how heart wrenching it can be); and ultimately trusting that Life will support us. And yes, our hearts breaking gives us an opportunity to open more fully to Life; to the divinity of what Life offers us; and to be more present and authentic with each choice we make along the way with the knowing that we really have no control over what happens to us. We can only ‘control’ how we react to them. And the grieving process is a necessary process to be able to move through and heal.

Thank you, for your friendship and support. Thank you for taking the time to write this; to reach out; to share your heart and story so deeply. As I write, I grieve for your loss, too… I shed tears –  for we as women are all mothers, whether we have experienced it fully yet, or not. We feel the pain of one another’s losses and the joy of one another’s blessings almost as deeply as our own. The support and community we offer one another is priceless. So, thank you.   Somehow, some way, I do believe there are gifts in these experiences. That these heart shattering experiences are meant to offer us something we would not have attained otherwise. That at some point along the way, we will see the blessing in them… somehow, some way.”

Peace & Blessings, always. May we each find our balance and healing along the journey of life.

Divine Metamorphosis [a belated post]

Have you ever felt in your life like you are the caterpiller? Cute & fuzzy. Colorful… Inching along the path of life. And then finding that perfect point in time and space to ‘cocoon’ in the hopes of discovering your own personal evolution. Growing. A redefinition of Self. Feeling your wings spread and the power of flight. Metamorphosis.

I am constantly amazed and deeply humbled by what life places in front of me. I feel grateful that  — more often than not  — my successes or ‘wins’ in life have not come without much preparation, focus and hard work. And as I believe we have all experienced, I sometimes fall short of those successes altogether! In any cases, just when I think I may have a nice handle on things; and that life is flowing in a way I can keep up  — I am inevitably challenged. Challenged to rethink Self. Challenged to step out of my comfort zone and into the unknown. Challenged to step up and become more of the person I  suppose I am destined to be. Challenged by the responsibilities and balance of this beautiful thing called Life.

With all that said, I am writing today choosing to share something very personal. A metamorphosis is certainly occuring within me — literally. Several weeks after my return from Hawaii with my hubby in April, I learned that I was pregnant! Although my husband and I have been together over a decade and have had many discussions about trying to have a child, the reality of such news instilled a time of deep processing. The news brought with it many emotions, a sense of disbelief at times, as well as a feeling of surrealism. And yet, at almost the exact moment of the confirmation of this news my eyes began to see the world very differently. I began to think differently. Time began to slow down. And my priorities certainly began to shift.

I have spent the last 7 years teaching yoga for fertility, integrating the work and knowledge into my personal life –  from diet and nutrition awareness to making changes in regards to personal care products and environmental impacts, and I, in many ways, do feel I am a walking testiment to the power of Strong Yoga4Fertility (yoga & lifestyle) methods. When all things are aligned, it almost feels like magic!

And…I am also human. So the statistics go: approximately 1 and 4 women who become pregnant suffer miscarriage. I am now a part of that statistic. In my 12th week of pregnancy, I showed the first signs of miscarriage. An ultrasound confirmed no heartbeat and 2 days later I was in the hospital having a D&C. It has been one of the most poignant experiences of my life to date. I am obviously very deep in the emotion and rawness of it all, right now. I am moving through the process of grief, right now. It is unfortunately something that many women experience within their time upon this earth. Like them, I seek to heal. And I, like other women in this same situation, seek support and the knowing that I am not alone. Which, in my heart, I do know. And I do feel; and have been feeling …

Many of you reading this are my current or past fertility clients. And I must express it has been such an honor to be a part of each of your individual journeys. Some of you have moved through your own metamorphoses. Perhaps you have had a child, or decided to adopt. Maybe you have experienced a miscarriage … or a few. Perhaps your life shifted in a way that you have become content with where you are right now, as it is. Maybe you, right now, are pregnant! And for many of you, I know you are still trying to conceive. Believe me when I say that I want nothing more than to see you all realize your dreams — whatever they may be. And I am rooting for you, always. I am always here for you, to answer questions, guide you in any way I can, come-what-may.

And so, I am continuing to teach this work (Yoga for Fertility) with an obvious whole new perspective. My hope is that this personally painful life experience will only enrich what I am able to bring forth and provide through my teachings, my knowledge and own experience of it.

As I evolve through this process, I am quite sure my teachings will, as well. I hope that we can share the journey in some form along the way.

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