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.

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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.

Yogic Pregnancy: Self-study or Surrender?

On Saturday mornings I teach prenatal yoga. Many women discover yoga when pregnant because their obstetrician or friends recommend it. It’s a great time to start because the woman’s body is transforming daily and yoga helps her embrace the changes and get to know her body intimately.

I’m a passionate advocate for conscious birth practices and recently trained with Janice Clarfield from urbanyoga in Canada. So each week I take the women through a sequence designed to strengthen the pelvic floor, open the hips and pelvis, soothe joints and muscles and prepare the mind. There’s also lots of breath work, mother/baby connection and deep relaxation of course.

Last week I mentioned to my students that I had finished my full-time job and now I felt like I could start preparing for the birth. After class one woman (due to have her baby in just over two weeks) said to me, “You got me thinking; I haven’t really done much preparation for the birth either.”

She left saying that she enjoyed the vocal toning we were doing and would try to remember to keep her jaw relaxed during the birth. I was slightly alarmed that this woman (a professional woman in her late 30s) would approach the birth of her first baby with such nonchalance.

I soon realised that my surprise came from my deep commitment to the yogic concept of svadhyaya or self-study. Svadhyaya is both the study of scriptures and the study of oneself, including a deep understanding of our bodies, within and without. My first serious enquiry into my body began at 21 when I was pregnant the first time and has obviously evolved since starting yoga.

I kept thinking about my student and how little time she had to understand her body better before it performed this miracle and then I remembered that other yogic concept: Isvara pranidhana. This is complete faith in and surrender to God.

Maybe my student has such faith in the god/goddess within her that she will simply surrender to that during the birth?  Maybe that will be enough for her and maybe women like me can become so fixated on deep understanding that we forget the huge element of surrender involved in birthing a baby?

What are your thoughts? Self-study, surrender or a bit of both?

Everett Bogue Is Doing My Head In

I’m having a lifestyle crisis and it’s all Everett Bogue’s fault. I’ve recently dived into Planet Blog, one click led to another and I discovered Bogue. He is a key figure in the online movement to adopt a minimalist lifestyle. On a superficial level this means hard-core de-cluttering and having less ‘stuff’. On a deeper level it’s about mass consumerism, the environment, energy and freedom.

Bogue is a fan of having the ability to live and work anywhere in the world without fuss. He advocates a minimalist lifestyle as a way to reduce stress and increase productivity and contentment. This all makes so much wonderful sense to me because I teach yoga  and we yogis know that nothing you really need for joy exists outside of you.

So I’ve been reading Bogue’s  posts, downloaded his e-book and became his fan on Facebook. I’ve realised that I’ve been on a very slow path to minimalism for a while now (recycling, reusing, buying most things second-hand on eBay and asking people not to buy us gifts). But still I am in crisis. And here is why: I am about to have a baby.

All parents know that children demand huge lifestyle changes. And then as they grow they develop their own interests (my daughter likes to create and play with small, weird things like pipe cleaners, elastic bands, lizards and slime).

The arrival of our baby in five weeks time has been the impetus for some serious action in our home (nesting anyone?). We have repainted, removed, installed, dusted, decorated, scrubbed, sorted, washed and folded. The amount of stuff we have and apparently still need has alarmed me not only because of the cost but because of the storage and the fact that I am too busy (and lazy) to keep on top of it all.

So Mr. Bogue, while I am deeply inspired by your movement and your writing, I think it’s an unfair coincidence that I’m being driven towards minimalism right now because I am in nesting mode. And nesting involves making a nice, warm, cosy home for a baby…you know, with blankets, booties and bunnies (it’s Autumn Easter time in Sydney).

I have asked my family to please not buy anything for the baby and the responses have ranged from polite nods, quizzical stares and a blunt, “That’s just stupid.”  It seems people cannot comprehend coming to meet a new baby empty-handed and I don’t want to offend anyone. I also don’t want people to think that I don’t want their gifts just so I don’t have to buy them gifts! So I find myself at a confused crossroad.

Nevertheless, I will try my best over the next few months to only accumulate amazing babymoon memories…I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

How do you negotiate your minimalist lifestyle with your family and friends?

Random Acts of Kindness

Today I was standing in line at a department store. There came a man to my left who placed an item on the counter. We acknowledged each other with a quick glance the way strangers do. Then he looked at my baby bump and smiled, “Congratulations.” It was a broad smile and he spoke confidently.

“Oh. Thanks,” was my reply. And that was it. No further questions or small talk. Just one big congratulations and my uncertain half-smile response.

So why was I weirded out? Why was my initial thought that he must be a bit loopy? Why couldn’t I just accept his warm wishes without query or judgment? Was it because he was a man? Would I have assessed the person’s mental status had the comment come from a woman? Was it because there was no follow-up conversation? Had my response quashed the possibility of a follow-up conversation? Or was it just because he had said it in such a broad voice?

I like to think that I am a kind, friendly person who often talks to strangers (usually the elderly, women and sales staff). I enjoy a bit of banter and sometimes even find myself engaged in a power-D&M with someone I don’t know and will never see again. But would I say, “Congratulations!” to a pregnant woman while standing in a queue and then nothing else? I don’t think so.

I wonder if this guy is the epitome of open-heartedness; someone who makes it a habit to say something nice to random people on a daily basis. Someone who talks to people instead of just staring at them or pushing past them. Or maybe he is a member of The Australian Kindness Movement? Run by volunteers, the organisation believes kindness has positive health benefits for you and the person you are being kind to. They host National Kindness Days and are members of the World Kindness Movement, which celebrates connections through acts of kindness.

Have you experienced the kindness of strangers? Do you make it a habit to show kindness to others? And are you interested in striking up conversations with random people?

Nesting in 2010

I am not a bird but I am nesting. Nesting is what animals do when they are expecting a baby. It’s about preparing a warm, comfortable home that will help the new baby survive. Birds gather twigs and leaves. Cats and dogs pad around until they find somewhere soft and warm and then they work on smoothing it out. Rodents scurry about searching for a low, dry place to birth and humans? Humans spend money.

We have lived in our home for over three years. It’s in a nice street, in a nice neighbourhood. The layout is great and we have more than enough room. When we bought it we knew there were improvements to make here and there but we were happy enough to have stopped renting and got on with life.

Magazines are a passion of mine and home decorating ones are no exception. So I’d peruse them with sticky notes in hand, visualising what our home may look like one day when we ran into a truckload of cash. Well the truckload never materialised but I did become pregnant…

Now there are just seven weeks to go until our little girl makes her entrance and I have had:

  • The entire house painted (including front door in a sexy deep blue)
  • New doors and door handles installed
  • Old wardrobes ripped out
  • Carpets ripped out
  • Floorboards sanded and varnished
  • All the windows professionally cleaned
  • New blinds installed

I have also bought new furniture, bedding and electricals and have a little list of items still to purchase once I’m on leave. On top of all this I am cleaning with gusto; mopping, soaking, wiping, disinfecting.

Thousands of years ago expectant women probably just swept out the cave with a broom made from animal hair. But not I. I often ask myself where these urges are coming from (nature or nurture?) because I know the newborn won’t come out admiring the white skirting boards and window frames. Nor will she notice that the books on the shelves are organised categorically or that her wardrobe has a double-hanging feature.

She may notice though that we don’t have any money left and we are living in a nest made of twigs and leaves…