Friends, Family & Faith: How I Healed After Miscarriage

A year ago today I ‘lost a baby.’

I was 29 and healthier and happier than ever. Ian and I decided we wanted to have a baby and it happened for us straight away. I felt blessed and immediately started loving the life inside me.

I was just six weeks pregnant but still I found the experience harrowing. Miscarriage, much like birth, is nothing like it looks on TV. On TV these things happen quickly. They are frantic and noisy. My miscarriage lasted six days. For most of this time I was alone at home so I had lots of quiet time to think, pray and will the baby to stay.

On Sunday night I went to hospital. The doctor taking my blood was rough and dropped some of my blood on the floor. I felt sick. I was to ring in a couple of hours to find out my hcg levels and have an ultrasound in the morning.

On Monday morning I saw a small grey blob on the screen with a tiny beating heart. A heartbeat! Relief. I smiled and nodded at my mum in the waiting room, “It’s okay.” Of course this wasn’t going to happen to me. I’m a good person. I’m a teacher. For God’s sake, I’m a yogi.

That night my doctor was not as optimistic. Anger. He ordered another blood test to check that hcg levels continued to rise. So I stayed home, ‘put my feet up’ and waited, went to the toilet too many times and waited. I went for the blood test and waited.

On Wednesday night I woke up with a renewed appetite. Hope.

On Thursday I went to work because I felt guilty but was an absolute mess. My dull lower back ache was now accompanied by lower abdominal cramps. I went home and crawled into bed with a wheat pack and waited for the blood results. Each sharp cramp elicited a sob from deep within me and silently I begged the little heart to keep beating. I begged my body not to betray me and I begged God to help us both.

Ian had bought me a bonsai tree to celebrate my pregnancy. At some point during that day the pain subsided and I took the tree to a sunny spot by the windows. I lay on the floor, stuck my ipod in my ears and lit a stick of incense. I watched the smoke curl up and away from the stick and disappear. Absurdly, I still had hope that everything was okay but subconsciously I knew it was over. Jordy put it simply and beautifully, the way only a child can: “Maybe the baby changed its mind.”

Through my research into miscarriage I found that many women don’t find a miscarriage very difficult to deal with. I didn’t fall into this category. For me it was painful on every level.  I didn’t want to get out of bed until I was pregnant again. I envied other pregnant people. I felt guilty for grieving because at least I had one healthy child. I knew some women who didn’t have any and others who had lost their babies under far worse circumstances. But still…I wanted my baby back.

Eventually I did get out of bed. And this is what helped…

  • My best friends crying with me
  • My dad bringing me flowers
  • People sending cards, chocolate, wine and magazines
  • My faith in the yogic teaching of ‘impermanence’ helped me accept that the hurt wouldn’t last forever. Practicing yogasana (postures) also helped me to trust my body again and appreciate its many strengths.

Tomorrow my new baby girl is eight weeks old. Life is strange… and beautiful.

Especially for the Mamas

I wouldn’t normally make a special effort to write about a Hallmark holiday but I am cradling a gorgeous  newborn and I did just farewell my mum as she left for an eight-week overseas jaunt.

Mum has been washing our laundry and cooking for us for the past two weeks but that’s not why I’ll miss her. Truth is that even though she is overbearingly caring (and unashamedly opinionated), she is probably my best friend. We talk every day about everything and nothing and we live about 4.5 minutes away from each other. My husband doesn’t get it. I tell him it’s a wog thing and to get over it.

I became a mother at 21. I was in my last year at uni. One weekend I was partying all night and the next I was stocking up on Bonds rompers. My Jordan is the best thing that ever happened to me; she opened my eyes to love and showed me what life was all about. Having her put me on a clear path to self-discovery, yoga, courage and joy. She is my rock, my angel, my inspiration.

And now I have little India; as fair-haired as Jordy is dark. At two weeks old her gaze leaves me breathless.  I want to inhale her scent and forever caress the soft warmth that is her perfect little head.

When I had Jordan I discovered the way I was mothering had a label: apparently I was practicing  ‘attachment’ parenting. Attachment parenting is rooted deeply in traditional parenting styles so it involves  baby wearing, extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping. The theory is that when parents and babies form deep, trusting attachments the children grow into happy, independent, confident adults.

As Jordy grew and or relationship evolved I found I was also ‘conscious’ or ‘aware’ parenting. This method involves parenting with intention, honest communication, honouring and respecting children as spiritual beings and providing firm boundaries.

I will now do all of the above with Indi but she will have the added bonuses of my maturity and my yoga practice; I am far more confident and calm at 30 than I was at 21.

There’s a lot of scrutiny these days around mothers and how we choose to do things. At times it seems that women are divided into separate camps regarding childbirth, breastfeeding, nappies, childcare and work choices. Motherhood can sometimes feel like a lonely, confusing, guilt-ridden competition.

When my friends or yoga students express these feelings I always offer the same advice:

Listen to your heart: Screw the labels and do what feels right for you.  If you have doubts about something then don’t do it. Become informed about issues that confuse or concern you so that you can feel confident in your parenting choices.
Listen to your baby: Not your mum, aunty, neighbour or sister-in-law. All children are different so it makes sense that we will all parent quite differently. What works for my family and I may not work for my best friend and her family. Pay close attention to your child,  get to know them intimately so that it will be easy to follow their lead. Don’t fight against them or their nature, especially when they’re newborns. Let your baby be your guide and ignore everyone else including your doctor and midwife.
Breathe: It sounds simple but when you have a screaming baby, a toddler in a tantrum or a tween in a tizz it can help to take a deep breath and remember that your child is a fellow human being trying to make their way in the world the same way we are. Take some time to reflect on your interactions with your children, the way you speak to them and touch them. Look them in the eye often and tell them how much you love them. Be present as much as you can. I promise it will make you feel good and it will make your child’s heart dance.

Happy Mother’s Day ladies. We rock.

The Patient Yogini

Waiting is a drag isn’t it?

I admit I’m not the best waiter. When I want things done I want them done yesterday and I want them done well. Especially if I’m paying for it. Yoga has helped become more patient because as a yogi you have to wait (sometimes years) for your body to soften, unfold and open after years of tightness and tension (splits anyone?). This patience with your body then translates into increased patience off the mat.

But today I’m playing a waiting game that doesn’t involve a monetary transaction and will be far from simple. I am waiting for my body/my baby/nature/the universe/God to decide when I will go into labour.

The human gestational period is typically 40 weeks but can actually last anywhere between 37 and 42 weeks. The things is I feel like I have been pregnant for about 50! Why? Because I lost a baby just before becoming pregnant with this one. I was six weeks pregnant at the time, recovered quickly and fortunately became pregnant again eight weeks later. After the shock and disappointment of that experience, I spent that eight weeks healing and hoping. So because it was such a short time in the grand scheme of things, I feel like I’ve been pregnant for 48 weeks.

I’ve got an excited bunch of supporters phoning and texting, eager to meet the little girl that may never have been if not for the previous miscarriage. I still have four days left till I am officially ‘due’ (sound like a library book don’t I?) but my mum has already asked me whether I will opt for artificial induction early next week (no).

So tonight I’ve decided to switch off the phone and wait with the same non-attachment that I apply while waiting for my spine to soften in a backbend or a forward bend. After all, you’ve never known anyone to be 11 months pregnant have you?

When Women Are Good to Each Other

I love women and I love being a woman. Some people might call me a feminist. On a drunken night out one of my colleagues told me that she imagined me burning my bras. I was flattered.

Feminism has become a dirty word these days. It evokes images of radical lesbians and man-haters who don’t wax their underarms. For the record I love all kinds of men and my armpits are hair-free.

What I don’t love is injustice against women and inequality for women. I simply cannot comprehend nor accept women being treated differently to men based on gender. Cannot. Will not. And I’m vocal about it. This includes the expectation that women will change their name upon marriage and gender roles in the home.

Deep down I believe that women are superior to men on many levels and I believe that men must embrace their natural femininity if we are ever going to achieve equality at home and at work. But that’s another post.

Today I want to write about what happens when women are good to each other because we all know that sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. We can be competitive, bitchy, judgmental, unsupportive and unforgiving of each other in regards to issues ranging from fashion, career, lifestyle and mothering choices.

But when women are good to each other the results are uplifting, empowering and inspiring.

Yesterday I had about 20 women at my home to celebrate the impending birth of my second daughter. She is due in a week and I deliberately made the event as close to the due date as possible because I wanted to bask in the glow of positive female energy as I approach the birth. (This might sound crazy but new studies suggest being amongst female friends releases oxytocin, the brain chemical responsible for producing feelings of love, contentment, calmness, trust and empathy.)

I was surrounded by my mother and mother-in-law, my daughter, two sisters, aunts and my closest girlfriends. We formed a circle around my birth altar, which was adorned with candles and flowers. We let barriers down, opened our hearts and celebrated a new life and the amazing journey of motherhood. We participated in a couple of birth rituals and then did what we do best: talked and ate.

After feasting I beached myself on the floor in the room that I am preparing to give birth in. In one corner a girlfriend breastfed her baby, in another my daughter was beading necklaces for everyone. There was music playing, a small circle of smokers in the backyard and laughter throughout the house.

I believe that our greatest strength as women is our ability to communicate honestly and articulately but sometimes we are afraid of this power or we misuse it. What unfolded in my home yesterday was my version of feminism: women of all ages, backgrounds and life experiences coming together in joy to support and nurture one another. When women dare to reach out to each other we affirm our individual and collective beauty and brilliance. I love it.

I’m still basking in my good fortune and there wasn’t a hairy armpit in sight.

5 Ways I Opened my Heart Today

Yoga peeps often talk about chakras, which are energy centres situated along the spine. We focus on seven main chakras, which govern particular parts of the body physically and energetically.

Anahata chakra is the heart chakra. I like to remind my yoga students about this chakra often because I think that an imbalance or blockage here can stop us from taking risks and being creative and this means leading a pretty boring life!

Opening your heart means:

  • stopping and breathing before reacting
  • seeing past a person’s actions and remembering their intentions
  • giving someone your full attention, eyes, ears and body language
  • realising the impermanence of any situation and deciding to divert your energy
  • giving and doing for others just because you can and not because you want something in return
  • forgiving and forgetting

5 Times I Opened My Heart Today

1. When I opened my husband’s  t-shirt drawer and found tees that were either dirty, inside-out or rolled up.

2. When the old lady in the queue behind me slammed her trolley into my pregnant behind not once but twice.

3. When I had a quick coffee with one of my best friends.

4. When my niece was eating her chocolate bilby and getting melted chocolate all over me and my handbag.

5. When my neighbour’s children knocked on the door and happily bombarded me with talk about the Easter bunny, pre-school and Buzz Lightyear.

In what situations do you feel the need to open your heart and how does it make you feel?

Can you think of one way that you opened your heart today?

Jesus Was a Yogi

My parents are Maltese Catholics so I spent many a Sunday in church trying to ignore my brother while he tried to make me laugh out loud. As I got older church became more about the opposite sex (Catholic high school boys were way hotter than my public school peers) and I realised that the adults were playing a role at church too. It was all about looking immaculate, behaving immaculately and parading immaculate children (a facade that dropped as soon as we piled into the car).

Needless to say, my faith wavered when I began an arts degree at university (you know what those arts students are like!) and that was that.

So…I delved into Buddhism, became vegetarian, had a child out of wedlock and spent some time with monks in Laos. I was happy during these years to ignore the crucifix hanging over the door at my parent’s house and the fact that my grandmother sat with rosary beads all day.

Discovering yoga when I was 25 illuminated my existence and answered all the ‘big’ questions that had always floated around in my head. Studying to teach yoga exposed me to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Written some 2,500 years ago the Sutras are the bible of yoga. Suddenly I had clarity. More importantly, I had peace. I no longer felt the need to actively rebel against organised religion and I began to understand that Jesus was an original yogi…

5 Ways that Jesus was a Yogi

1. He loved God above everything else (Isvara pranidhana)

Jesus taught his followers to put God first and to surrender completely to him. This is the same message we receive in Sutra 2.1. Both Jesus and Patanjali agree that loving and surrendering to God purifies the mind, abolishes ego and leads to freedom.

2. He practiced the Yamas

The 5 Yamas are moral observances that yogis try to follow. They are: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, chastity and greedlessness. We all know that Jesus followed the 10 Commandments, which similarly include not killing, honesty and non-coveting.

3. He walked on water

The third chapter of the Sutras is called Vibhuti Pada and in it Patanjali describes the supernatural powers available to a yogi who has integrated mind, body and soul.  He writes about reading minds, becoming invisible, superhuman strength and the ability to walk over water. (Note that Patanjali lived some time between 500 and 200 B.C.)

4. He practiced non-attachment (vairagya)

Jesus knew that material possessions were worthless on the path of spiritual liberation and encouraged the rich to sell their belongings. Likewise, the Sutras describe vairagya; the cultivation of non-attachment to objects. Patanjali and Jesus knew that desiring objects got in the way of bliss and the experience of pure being.

5. He loved everyone

Jesus loved his father, his neighbours, the sick and poor, his disciples and his enemies. Sutra 3.24 describes how a yogi may gain strength, peace, happiness and freedom by perfecting friendship and compassion.

Yoga practitioners and teachers often have to convince people that yoga is not a religion but it is clear to me that Jesus was certainly a yogi.

Happy Easter.

Do you agree?

Has your yoga practice impacted upon your thoughts and feelings about religion?

Do your religious beliefs and your yoga practice complement one another?

It’s All About Attitude

Yesterday I assembled a laundry cupboard. I was pretty proud of myself because a) the instructions included were worse than those you get with something from Ikea and b) I used my new drill. Oh yeah, it’s sturdy. My 8 year-old daughter was mildly impressed so I launched into a “You can do anything you put your mind to” spiel. And it got me thinking about attitude.

Attitudes are ways of thinking. We all know someone who has a ‘bad’ attitude. They’re usually lugging around some heavy baggage and their actions are fueled by the belief that the world owes them something. They might spend a lot of time dreaming about stuff they’d like to do but then convince themselves that it’s all impossible.

Then there are those who think that nothing at all is impossible to achieve and they navigate their way through life accordingly. They dream about stuff and then they put in the hard yards to bring those dreams to fruition. Needless to say, these people are pretty happy with themselves.

People With Positive Attitudes Who Inspire Me…

Jessica Watson- 17 years old, attempting to become the youngest person to sail around the world solo, non-stop and unassisted. Resisted a lot of negativity from critics and media before setting sail from Sydney Harbour in October last year. She is now less than 1500 nm from Western Australia. When I was 17 I was smoking cigarettes behind a Chinese restaurant and dying my hair fire-engine red. Jessica has a conquer-the-world attitude and I love it.

Tim Cope- Australian adventurer, writer and film maker who spends his time travelling the world and documenting his journeys. In 1999-2000 he and his friend Chris Hatherly were 20 and abandoned their studies to ride 10,000km through forest and desert from Russia to Beijing. Did I mention the -40 degree winter and that their mode of travel was recumbent bicycles?  It took them 14 months and a lot of guts but they made it. Read Off The Rails for the story.

Marianne Elliott – writer, yoga teacher and human rights activist living in Afghanistan, living her best life and encouraging others to do the same.

But it’s not just big adventurers who inspire me. I’ve found that people with positive attitudes attract other people with positive attitudes. And when they get together there is an electrical kind of energy sparkling between them. This is how I feel when I talk to my dear friend Aleks (lawyer, model and open-hearted yummy mummy), my boss John (business owner, motorcycle-riding osteopath) or my cousin Danielle (teacher, thinker and free-spirited song writer ;)).

People with positive attitudes make things happen for themselves (including laundry cupboards).

What are you making happen right now?