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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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?

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?

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?