Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Spirit: A Simple Practice

It's that time of year.  There's no way you can miss it.  Christmas brings with it a lot of STUFF.  There's the actual stuff: gifts, cards, music, cookies, lights, decorations, parties.  Then there's the emotional stuff: missing loved ones who have left this earth, anxiety, loneliness, getting let down by expectations, stress, nostalgia, hope.  And of course there's all this marketing and gifting craze stuff.  Sometimes it brings out the worst in us instead of the best.

But then there's the good stuff.  The Christ stuff.  The Christmas Spirit.

For me, Christmas is a time to remember that Christ came to this Earth, a human being who knew he was a piece of God, light on Earth.  And so are we.  So to me, the Christmas Spirit is about remembering that and acting on it.

When I think of Christ three words come to mind: love, peace, and non-judgment.  I regard his life as a model for how I can best live mine.  This December, that's what I'm working on.

Yesterday, I was in Barnes and Noble and the place was packed. The parking lot was a craze.  The checkout line snaked past display bins and shelves into the general stacks.  As you surely know, these conditions often create an energy of restlessness and unhappiness in people.  So I'm standing in line thinking, "Be happy, be peaceful."  There's a woman behind me looking over boxes of Christmas cards.  She's one of those people who's hard to miss. And she's saying in a very loud and (here comes a judgment) whiny voice that she doesn't even know why she bothers sending cards. . .

"Everybody sends their cards on the internet.  I send out cards and I don't get anything in return except for a bunch of emails.  I just don't even see why I bother.  I don't think I will.  Let's see how everyone else likes it.  If they'll even notice.  And these chocolates?  All we have at work is people bringing in cookies and chocolates.  I can't even look at another one or I'll be sick."

And here goes my judgmental mind, complaining, "How annoying is this?"

Then I remembered Christ, love, peace, non-judgment, and I just changed my energy.  Christ wouldn't judge her.  So I just stopped.  And that's it.  That's my practice.

My teacher, Ma Jaya, says when negative thoughts are torturing you just say, "Stop.  It's just a thought."

What was I accomplishing by judging that woman and labeling her "annoying"?  I was making myself unhappy.

So my gift to myself this Christmas is to stop those judgmental thoughts whenever I notice them.  Indeed, I believe it's a gift to all of us.  Because the more Christlike each of us becomes, the more that beautiful light will shine on this earth.

I want that for my son, my family, my friends. I want it for acquaintances and strangers. I even want it for people who complain loudly in book stores. That transformative light of love and peace.

Merry Christmas, everyone. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nine Reasons Moms Need Yoga

One of the most common things you'll here from mothers is that we just don't have enough time to do everything we need to, especially for ourselves.  When you're streamlining your schedule, a yoga class may seem like a luxury you can't afford.  I'd like to encourage you not to cut it out and convince you that taking that sacred time for yourself is worth making your yoga practice a priority.

Reason #1 - You need time for yourself.  It's the greatest paradox of motherhood.  To be a good mother you need to be fresh and strong and energized, yet getting rest and relaxing seem like some faraway mythical dream when you've got young lives to attend to.  But the bottom line is, without that time to catch your breath and be quiet in the moment, burnout comes really quickly.  My teacher, Ma Jaya, always reminds us to "drink as you pour," to take time to be quiet and still and blissful so you can go out and serve others.  As we know, motherhood is one of the greatest ways to serve and you need to be full to do it well.

Reason #2 - Lifting and carrying a baby puts strain on your back.  Starting with pregnancy, carrying a baby challenges the back.  The only way to keep healthy is to stretch and strengthen the core and back muscles.  With a regular yoga practice, I had finally conquered sciatic nerve pain.  But when my son was born and I found myself lifting and lugging baby and infant carrier, the pain returned until I increased stretches around the hips and lower back.  There is no better exercise than yoga for keeping the back, hips and core muscles strong and flexible.

Reason #3 - Being healthy will increase the quality of time you spend with your children.  Just think how much more you can enjoy playing with your kids when you are feeling physically strong and healthy.  Every baby loves to be lifted high above your head.  Older babies and children love for you to run and chase them.  Keeping your body healthy is a gift to your child.

Reason #4 - It helps to build a sense of kindness toward your post pregnancy body.  There is no doubt about it, pregnancy changes your body.  We are hard enough on ourselves before the baby.  But then the baby is born and there is stretched skin, extra fat and atrophied abdominal muscles to deal with.  Yoga gives you a way to gently work with your body to get reacquainted with how it feels now that baby has left the premises.  You can start a gentle practice of kindness toward each muscle and each part of you as you start using those muscles again and letting your body slowly rebalance into a new state.  The message of yoga is to be in the moment, not thinking back on how flat your belly used to be or how many weeks it will be until you can get into your jeans.  Instead you can focus on your health and wellness and the miracle that your body enacted.

Reason #5 - You need time to remember who you are.  You are a mother but that's not all you are.  Yoga gives you a chance to catch your breath and focus on your spiritual essence, the core of who you really are.  Yoga is not just exercise or stretching.  It's an ancient tool for connecting mind, body and spirit and going into a meditative state.  Motherhood is a wonderful role that we play and an important gift to the planet, but it is not the totality of who you are.

Reason #6 - Meditation heightens your intuition.  Yoga is meditative, and if you find the right class you will have a meditation included in the practice.  Meditation has numerous benefits, one of them being an increased connection to your intuition.  Intuition is a mother's guide.  If your mind is busy and clouded with thoughts, you'll have a hard time receiving your intuition.  Also, meditation eases the mind and helps reduce fear-based thinking.  Fear can overpower the truth of your intuitive senses.

Reason #7 - Yoga helps you expand your whole life.  Ma teaches that when you reach and stretch in your yoga practice you are actually reaching and stretching into your life.  You are literally expanding your life.  You are opening your body and simultaneously opening to new opportunities and new blessings.  By practicing yoga you can create a beautiful, open, meaningful life to share with your child.

Reason #8 - It builds patience and restraint.  If there's one thing I've found absolutely essential to motherhood, it's patience.  Yoga makes you more patient.  It teaches you how to tune into the breath, the present moment, and to use the breath to hesitate before reacting.  In Kali Natha Yoga, the yoga I practice and teach, we practice an incremental bridge pose, raising the pelvis up a little higher each time, yet hesitating an inch away from "the top."  This is a practice of restraint.  The beauty of yoga is that you learn to practice on the mat and then it starts to spill into your daily life, or what we call "yoga off the mat."

Reason #9 - It makes you feel good.  If you've practiced yoga and felt that yoga buzz you know what I'm talking about.  If not, you're missing out!  A good yoga practice makes you feel calm, centered, blissful, energized, strong, steady, open, nurtured, compassionate and connected.  It brings you to your natural state of relaxed well being.  Be kind to yourself.  Forget all the good things you haven't done for yourself and let yourself be happy now.  I love the quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer that "when you're feeling good, you're feeling God."  Yoga offers you a way to feel good and feel God.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mother's Intuition

I used to think Mother's Intuition was like something from an iconic Norman Rockwell painting: a beautiful notion, idealized, sugared, wholesome, admirable. . .but basically a pleasant cultural myth.

If you're a mother, you already know this, and if you're not, I assure you--Mother's Intuition is real.  There are these moments when you know something is not right for your baby.  Sometimes he's having a bad day and despite the conflicting advice of books, websites, friends, family and pediatricians, you know what your baby needs.

Wells loves his naps.
In my nine months of motherhood, I've used my intuition to make almost every decision I've had to when it comes to Wells.  I can say with certainty it has never let me down.  But learning to really trust it  took some practice.

When he was six months old I went back to work.  I had lined up an in-home care provider when I was pregnant.  She was licensed, experienced (over 25 years!), and well recommended.  I met her, liked her, trusted her completely, and I still do.  But the second day, when I picked him up, I knew it wasn't right.  I had this feeling.  This gut  feeling.  It just wasn't going to work.  Now I'm not talking about Wells being in danger or anything like that.  He wouldn't have gone back there the rest of the week like he did.  There were just some "little" things (that aren't so little when it's your baby we're talking about), that didn't sit well.

He only took one nap.  It worked better with her schedule with the older kids.  When I picked him up and she told me that, my stomach turned to heaviness.  My baby takes two naps.  He needs two naps.  The closest feeling I can relate my gut reaction to is a feeling of pure dread.  Clearly, naps are not something to instill dread.  But there it was.

My mind said, "Give it a chance.  Let's just see.  Don't be one of those overprotective, micromanaging type moms."

Day three.  I picked him up.  She didn't want to do the cloth diapers.  Could I send disposables?

Tightening.  Hardening.  In the gut.

If you've been reading my blog, you know I'm committed to being as green as I can.  I don't want to throw away loads of disposable diapers.  It feels wrong to me.  (If you missed it see A Mother Earth Day Crisis and Plastic Pants are Out and Other Things I've Learned about Cloth Diapering) When shopping for cloth diapers, the reason I decided on and bought Kissaluvs was that all the reviews said they were "just as easy as disposable diapers to change" and "perfect for care providers."

I took a breath.  "I can bring disposable diapers tomorrow, but can we work on ways for it to work for you?  I'm really committed to the cloth diapers and not wasting so much."

"I don't like the smell every time I open the bag," she replied.  There's a waterproof zippered bag that the diapers go in till I take them home and wash them and the bag.

"OK.  Maybe I can look into some other options for the bag, like individual bags for each diaper."

She didn't look convinced.  Or interested.

I put my very tired and cranky baby in the car.  I pulled out of her driveway.  The tightening and hardening traveled up my gut to my throat.  The tears started rolling down my face.  This isn't going to work.

Never in my life could I have imagined the intense, primal feelings that took hold of me.  I had to do what would be best for my baby.  I picked up the phone to call my husband.  I'm sure I scared him when he heard me blubbering, but I pulled it together and explained what I was feeling.

"Let's just give it a chance, not rush to any decisions."  He meant the best.  We didn't have any other ideas for childcare and this woman was a very nice and reputable person.  How could he know about the bowling ball that had taken up residence in my midsection?  The decision had already been made.

My teacher, Ma Jaya, has written that "intuition is not just spiritual, it is part of your body."  It resides in the third chakra in the pit of the belly.  That's where you feel it.  And at that moment, I felt it.

Tripp and I went back and forth about it that night.  He was very logical; I was very emotional.  After a while he saw it in my eyes.  He knew I knew.  It wasn't about fear or over-protectiveness or an emotional imbalance on my part.  It was about knowing what was right.

I said a silent prayer for a new caregiver.  Within a day and with surprisingly little effort I found one.  Tripp and I went to meet her and I knew. The three of us drove away from her house after meeting Miss Ann, and the bowling ball of dread was replaced with warm liquid peace.

Happy ending.  Miss Ann has been amazing.  Wells flourishes with her. Tripp and I have accepted that parenting isn't always about logic.  And I now know that mother's intuition is real.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Is he OK?

The day our son was born, my husband, Tripp, and I found ourselves overjoyed and enthusiastic about every aspect of caring for our sweet little one.  I worked on holding him against my skin to keep him warm, nursing him when he was hungry, and studying the perfect face I had spent months longing to see.

Our Family
Tripp became a fast expert with diapers, swaddling and cuddling.  Our first day with Wells was wonderful.  He was perfect and healthy.  We were exhausted but thrilled.  So when night came and we were ready to get some sleep, I fed the baby, and Tripp swaddled him tight and laid him in the little hospital "crib."  We'd wheeled it right up to my bed, just inches from where we both planned to sleep.  The lights were dim, the baby was sleeping peacefully.

Tripp climbed into bed, and with an enormous weight of concern and love in his voice that I will never forget, he asked, "Is he OK?"

Over the last eight months as I've watched him grow and pondered the future, I now know that "Is he OK?" is practically the mantra of being a parent.  So my question for meditation was, how do you know if your child is OK?  Whether it's a slight fever, a bad mood, a bully at school, a disappointment over not making a team, losses, disagreements, growing pains, apathy.  How do we know when and how to step in?

How do I know where my job as his parent is to interfere, or when he has his own lesson to learn?

Clearly, when the child's health or safety is at stake, we step in.  But things happen.  Kids fall and bump their heads and even worse.  When we see it coming in time, we stop it.  If we can't, we can't beat ourselves up about it.

And I think that's my lesson.  Things will happen to Wells, physical and emotional pains, and I won't be able to stop them.  He's going to have lessons to learn and I'll have to let him.  I'll have to find that balance between protection and detachment.

He's just a baby now, so there's not much he runs into that I can't help with.  Still, there are things he needs to learn.  He pulls himself to standing and can't get down and howls.  I help him, but I hesitate, hoping he'll try getting down on his own.

I think about the scene in the movie Ray, about the life of Ray Charles.  In the scene, he's a young boy who has recently lost his vision, and he's been feeling really sorry for himself.  He falls down and he lays there crying for someone to help him up.  His mother is there watching but she doesn't help him up.  The tears are running down her face.  But she knows he had to find his strength to get up on his own.  It's such a moving scene and it holds so much truth.

Yes, Wells is OK.  He's OK because he's here on this earth on his path, just where he is supposed to be.  At the same time, I am here on mine to mother him the best way I can, and to learn to love with detachment.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Born a Yogi

Imagine a baby happily lying on a blanket, looking up at the world above, smiling and cooing and basically enjoying the view.  Now imagine that a toy catches his peripheral attention, next to him, not far out of reach.

If he could roll onto his belly, he could reach it.  But he doesn't roll.  Not yet.

So what happens now? He'll reach.  He'll really reach.  He'll reach with all his might.  He'll roll partially to the side and then flop back.  He'll roll partially to the side and then flop back.

He'll tire and give up for now.  But he'll try again in two hours or tomorrow.  And eventually he'll roll over and get that toy.  He'll do it when his muscles and coordination are ready.  He'll do it without injury or pain.

Yoga is not about being flexible;
it's about meeting yourself where you are
He is perfectly in tune with his body and does not judge himself because he's 3 weeks behind the "milestone charts."  He is a perfect yogi.

I can't tell you how many times I've been in a yoga class and the teacher will give an instruction that makes me want to burst out laughing.  "Yeah, right," goes the internal dialogue.  But internal dialogue is really not helpful in yoga (or in life).  It can be very limiting.

I clearly remember a class where we were in one legged downward dog.  The teacher asked us to walk the hands in to either side of the bottom foot and kick the top leg as high as we could.  That was pretty challenging.  Then she suggested we bring one hand and the other onto the ankle.  That did not seem possible.  I didn't budge either hand.  "Just try it," she encouraged, "you never know."

So I tried raising one hand, got wobbly, put the hand back down.  Tried raising the other hand, got wobbly, put the hand back down.  Tried raising both and starting to pitch forward, having to catch myself with a "thunk!"  Not exactly graceful, I admit.  But I was trying.

And in yoga, trying will get you somewhere.  Often times it will get you there quicker than you would have thought possible.

If there is a pose you've told yourself you can't do, well, you're probably right.  But what if you said, "I haven't done that pose yet"? What if you left yourself space to try or even just to envision yourself in the pose?  What if while the rest of the class was arching up into wheel, you just closed your eyes and pictured yourself in a beautiful expression of the pose?

And then maybe one day you'd give a push and up you'd go.  Or maybe you never would.  The physical accomplishment isn't the point.  The mental accomplishment is.

People practice yoga for many different reasons, and certainly there are myriad benefits.  One of the reasons I practice is to keep reaching and challenging myself.  My teacher, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, teaches us that when you reach for space in your practice and in your body, you actually reach for space in your life.  It's not just metaphorical; it's actual.

You were born a perfect yogi even though your body lacked skills much beyond reflexes.  You were in the moment and you did what you could without pushing yourself out of a sense of ego or pride.  You reached into your space every single day because you wanted to feel and experience more of the world and yourself.

That never has to stop.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Plastic Pants are Out and Other Things I've Learned About Cloth Diapering

This is an update to April's post "A (Mother) Earth Day Crisis."

So picture it, I was an excited, environmentally conscious (and clueless!) mother-to-be, and I decided I wanted to help reduce my landfill contributions by using cloth diapers.  Wash them?  Ick!  I started the search for a service that would do it for me.  I thought surely people don't actually put their babies' dirty diapers in their own washing machines!  Actually, they do.  But more on that later.

I found a service.  It was a little pricey for the early months since tiny disposable diapers are cheaper than the larger ones.  But as the little one grew, the price would end up just slightly higher to use a cloth diaper service.  But like buying organic produce, wouldn't the little extra money be worth it?  I thought I had it all figured out.  And then the looks of disgust and disbelief started appearing as I shared my plan with women around me.

You're going to wash what?
These women meant no harm.  They knew a whole different world of cloth diapering.  Ask your mother what your car seat used to be like and then watch her face the first time you pop that infant carrier into the base in your backseat.  That's how far cloth diapers have come.  So below, I'd like to dispel a few of those myths and share some of my own experiences.

Listen, this is a diaper discussion.  If you're eating you might want to stop reading now.

Disgusting Myth #1 - You have to scrape out poop, dunk the diaper in the toilet, and otherwise engage in ridding the diaper of baby's number twos.  Your washing machine is really good at washing.  If you take the diaper and turn it upside down over the toilet and let what falls out fall, you can certainly wash the rest.  If you're baby has not started solids, those liquidy poops wash out without a problem.  The ones that are slightly more solid will wash out too, but you could scrape it into the toilet.  If it doesn't look to me like it would just fall right in, I don't even bother scraping.  No dunking necessary!  Are you kidding me?  That's gross!

Disgusting Myth #2 - Your house will smell disgusting.  If you go the cloth diaper route, you will need a diaper pail or lidded trash can.  They sell liners for the pails that get washed right along with the diapers.  You need to wash the diapers every 2-3 days (I wash every other day), and so far I have not had any house guests comment on an unpleasant odor.  Nor do I smell anything in the room where the diaper pail is unless I just opened it. I think you put the lid on and it's all good.

Disgusting Myth #3 - Your baby's behind will sweat in those plastic pants and he'll have diaper rash really bad.  There are tons of options for cloth diapers and most (in fact, the only ones I would use), do not involve plastic pants.  I use Kissaluv's Marvels All-in-Ones which have an absorbent inner layer and a waterproof outer layer.  It does get a little wetter in the cloth diapers than disposables because the disposables are filled with a polymer that wicks all moisture away.  My baby has not has a diaper rash in his life; these diapers do not create that problem.
Wells sporting his Kissaluvs diaper

Disgusting Myth #4 - You have to carry that s#*t around with you!  This myth is partially true.  If your child goes to a daycare or if you're out and about and you need to change him, you will have to carry the dirty diaper home with you.  Most companies sell wet bags that are zippered and waterproof and get washed with the diapers.  They do the job well.  But the truth is, you don't have to carry diapers around at the zoo.  You can use disposables for a day, a weekend, or a few hours when it makes sense to do so.  I don't want to worry about washing diapers on vacation, so I use disposables for that.

Disgusting Myth #5 - You can't wash diapers in the same place you wash your clothes.  Your washing machine is made to take dirt, spilled food, blood, throw-up--whatever goes into it--and wash it out.  It's made to wash and soak and rinse so all that grime exits the area.  To wash diapers you don't need a special washer.  You run one rinse cycle on cold to prevent staining.  If you don't think the diapers look rinsed enough, you can run it again.  Then you wash the longest cycle your washer has on warm or hot with regular laundry detergent with no fabric softener (it has a waterproofing effect--bad for diapers!) and then dry without a dryer sheet.

Here are some other helpful things I've learned about the process:

  • Washing diapers is not the same as doing more laundry.  That was a huge fear for me because I really don't like doing laundry.  Regular laundry involves folding, sorting, hanging and sock matching.  Diapers just get washed and dryed.  If you get the ones I have, the "soaker" is made to come out and the diaper gets turned inside out in the wash cycle (getting it really clean), so you do have to turn them right side out after drying.
  • I use 12 diapers and that seems to be enough for every other day washing.  I rarely go through all 12 diapers by washing time.
  • No pins.  The all-in-ones have either snaps or Velcro.
  • Detergent matters.  Some detergents can coat the diapers and make them less and less absorbent. Check out this detergent chart to see if your detergent will work.
  • You do need to think about wipes.  With disposables the wipe goes in the diaper and gets thrown away.  You could continue to use disposable wipes and keep a waste basket for them.  I switched to reusable wipes (a cut up old towel, the thinner the better, works just as well as the wipes the diaper makers sell).  You have to wet the wipes with wipe solution.  I make my own and keep it in a spray bottle: water, baby soap and baby oil).  I throw the wipe in the diaper pail and they get washed with the diapers.
  • You don't use a ton of water.  The diapers only make a small load.
  • The all-in-one diapers are not cheap, about $22 each.  But you will save in the long run.
I am not hear to convince anyone that cloth diapering is what you should be doing.  But I do know a lot of women would be open to it if they knew how it all works instead of believing the myths.  Feel free to post your questions below.

Our Mother Earth is worth it!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Balancing Vata After Childbirth

All those years of yoga, and some elementary knowledge of Ayurveda, and I still had no idea what was in store for me, energetically, after baby.

In the days following the birth of my son, I felt like I was scrambling just to know which way was up.  Breastfeeding was more challenging than I ever imagined.  Sleep deprivation and hormone rushes reeked havoc on my mood.  And learning how to comfort and care for my new baby was a minute by minute exercise of trial and error.

Still, two weeks later, adjusting as well as one could, I just didn't feel right.  I resumed gentle yoga about a week after giving birth, just to center myself and find some quiet.  The practice was helpful as I began to reacquaint myself with my no-longer-pregnant body.  I needed to find a little peace in the tumult.  Yoga has always given me that.  But this time I just couldn't get that grounded feeling I needed.

In one of those groggy, upside down moments I got an email from one of my yoga teachers, Amba Greene, who is also an Ayurvedic Practitioner and Educator.  She was hosting a workshop on healthy eating.  I figured three hours of Ayurveda with like-minded people might be just what I needed to feel a little normal again.  I immediately arranged for my mom to watch the baby so my husband and I could attend the workshop.

Well, the universe gives you what you need, and right then, some balance was what I needed.

As we explored that qualities of the three doshas and what might indicate an imbalance in one area, I quickly realized that I was in the midst of a major Vata imbalance.  (If you're interested in learning more about the doshas, or elements, and Ayurveda, visit Be Nourished Ayurveda.)  One of the things that can trigger Vata imbalance is erratic eating or sleeping.  There is nothing like the nutritional needs of a newborn to throw you into an erratic sleeping and eating pattern!  Amba also informed me that the nervous system is strongly affected by childbirth itself, irritating Vata.

Wells and me, 9 days after his birth
Dry hair and skin is a sign of Vata imbalance
So I needed to get into Vata pacifying mode fast.  Amba's first piece of advice. . .oil massage.  She said my husband should massage me daily with oil--I wasn't going to argue with that!  I also took to massaging my skin with oil each day before showering.  It's a calming and also invigorating practice that anyone can benefit from.

Next, I switched to Vata pacifying foods.  I changed from cold, crunchy cereal with milk for breakfast to warm oatmeal or toast with butter.  I'd been snacking on apples and I switched those to peaches or clementines.  I indulged in lots of root vegetables with dinner.  I enjoyed soups and comfort foods.

Within days I felt much more myself, and much better able to cope with the many twists and turns of being a new mother.

Again, I do not claim to be an expert, but here are the key words I used to balance.  Avoid: cold, dry, rough, light, spicy, bitter.  Increase: warm, heavy, oily, sweet, sour, salty.  Basically any food or activity that embodies these qualities was either increased or avoided.  For example, I avoided taking walks in the cold, dry February morning air and walked when it was warm out instead.  After coming inside, I'd drink room temperature water or hot tea instead of chilled water, and I would eat a snack like warm, buttered banana bread.

If you are pregnant, I strongly recommend a session with an Ayurvedic practitioner so you can be prepared for the Vata imbalance and make the transition smoother.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

To All Moms, On Your Day

Mothers all around the world, I bow to you in reverence. 

One of the first thoughts I had after giving birth to my child was, “Wow, I have a whole new respect for every woman who has had a baby.”  And in the three months since my son was born, that appreciation has only deepened.  I don’t need to list the tasks and challenges that reinforce this for me every day.  You’re mothers.  You know.

What an amazing thing you mothers have done.  You’re truly allowing God to work through you in the creation of life.  Most people think that creation ends with the transition from pregnancy to birth, but let’s face it, those children still need mothers (and fathers too!) to thrive on this earth. Your unconditional love is a touchstone in confusing times.  Your protection fosters trust.  Your authority teaches temperance.

In the last month of my pregnancy I started to sense something transcendent in the mothers around me as they watched me prepare for the amazing rite of passage of having a child.  In looking at me, they were reliving their own birth experiences, their own first days of motherhood.  And I realized, we’re all taking turns channeling the endless, beautiful energy of creation. 

In Christianity and Judaism, God is often referred to as a father.  But God is a mother too: creating, nurturing, guiding.  My yoga teacher, Ma Jaya, is the first person I heard to refer to God as “The Mother,” and there is such truth and beauty to that.
My Mom, Her Mom and Me (Pregnant with Wells)

So to my own mother, I say thank you. And I finally understand how much you love me, that you would truly do anything for me.  I love you too!  To my grandmother, who gave birth to eight children and is now 80 years old, you are an amazingly strong and vibrant woman.  I love you, and I thank you for raising my mother.

We spend our whole lives learning to grow up and away from our mothers, to be independent, cutting that proverbial cord and learning to make our own decisions and mistakes.  As mothers, it’s our job to let our children do that.  But today is the day to come back.  If you can today, rest your head on your mother’s shoulder and give her a hug.  It’s what she wants.  What woman ever got enough of holding her baby?

I'm so grateful to all of you moms.  I hope your day and every day is beautiful and leaves your eyes wide with the wonder of it all.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A (Mother) Earth Day Crisis

So they’ve been on my mind for weeks.  Diapers.  And not just because I’m changing them more often than I check my email.

It’s the changing them and then putting them in the diaper pail where they form a conveniently packed cellophane tube that I then heave into the trash bin that’s got me thinking.  That’s a lot of waste.

I recycle paper, plastic, glass and aluminum, tote reusable grocery bags, go “paperless” billing, leave lights off more than on, keep my small kitchen appliances unplugged, only flush every few visits to the bathroom (it’s not gross if you’re home alone!), try to burn as little gasoline as possible, eat home grown veggies, abstain from overfished menu items, and welcome lizards as natural pest control.

Except for my diapers!
So why on God’s green earth am I throwing away a toddler-sized sack of diapers twice a week?

Before this baby was born I was one hundred percent sold on using cloth diapers.  And then the horror stories started to pour in.  Friends and family alike had me conjuring up mental images of puddles of leaking pee-pee, sweaty plastic pants, scraping number twos into the toilet, and toting baggies of stinky cotton everywhere I go.  So before I even got started, I threw in the, err, diaper.

I know it’s the right thing to do.  I’m just having a hard time getting excited about actually doing it.  My laundry piles have already grown substantially.  My baby doesn’t just dirty his own clothes, he dirties ours too!  Can I handle washing loads of diapers on top of all the new responsibilities I've taken on lately?

I know it would be greener.  I’m just not sure if I’m ready.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Miracle

It’s almost a universal reaction.  You gaze at a newborn baby who is sleeping in sublime peace, and you’re overcome by the sheer miracle of life and birth.

In the week after my son was born, as various relatives and friends were stopping by to hold and meet the baby, I heard more than once, “How can you look at a newborn baby and not believe in God?”  The question wasn’t directed at anyone in particular.  It wasn't an admonition.  It was a statement of awe.  Look at this miracle of creation.

My mother-in-law held him and stroked his tiny ears, “Look how they’re so perfect.  How everything is so perfectly formed.”  They are perfect.  Just look at a newborn.  Mine had a misshapen and bruised head at birth.  Infant acne set in around week two.  Then his scalp started peeling and his hair fell out in odd patches.  And while these “flaws” might be decidedly off-putting in an adult, on a delicate newborn, they were barely noticed.  Instead, visitors commented on his beautiful eyes, his perfect mouth, his exquisitely tiny fingernails.

Yesterday, I texted a picture of my two month old to my dad.  “What a blessing,” he replied.  Indeed.  Then at the grocery store, the teenage girl who was bagging my groceries couldn't take her eyes off him, and finally cooed, “He is so precious.”  A passerby in the mall murmured, more to herself than me, “What a beautiful baby.”

As human beings we seem to intuitively sense God’s perfection in babies.

Pushing my cart out of the grocery store yesterday, I passed a very old man.  He must have been close to ninety years old.  He walked slowly, like it was no longer easy, and yet he walked.  His skin hung almost loose and in folds.  His hair was white and sparse.  Behind glasses, there was unmistakable light in his eyes.  I looked at him, smiled hello, and heard myself saying, “What a miracle.”

Why do we see beauty and perfection in children, but not in each other or in ourselves?  Each person you encounter was once that delicate, perfectly formed infant.  Have they become less worthy of love and adoration just because they’ve grown?

Two days ago, my daily calendar of Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati’s teachings read, “You are the miracle that you seek.” What a reminder.  If only we could see in ourselves and each other, every day, the beauty we see in babies.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's Not about You

Lying in bed at eight and a half months pregnant, I rubbed my swollen belly, poking gently to elicit the little nudges and kicks I had so come to love.  "I'm ready for you, Baby," I told him.  I was 38 weeks and, according to the books, now considered full term.  Pregnancy was losing some of its charm.  My feet were full of fluid, sleeping was a pillow-piling challenge, and even some of my maternity clothes were getting snug!  So I voiced my desire to my son-to-be. . .Come on out.  Mom and Dad are ready to meet you.

The nursery was ready.  Diapers stocked, onesies washed, cradle assembled.  In fact, I even placed the cradle next to my bed and smiled to myself each day, "I'm ready for you, Baby."  It was my mantra.

A week later my sweet entreaty had become tinged with frustration.  I'd begun to awaken each morning groaning, "I'm STILL pregnant?"  Didn't my boy hear me?  I'd read that sometimes babies weren't born until their parents expressed readiness.  I asked my husband to put his face to my belly.  "Tell him we're ready."

He kissed my tightly stretched skin and spoke, "Mommy and Daddy are ready for you," in the voice I'd later come to know as his "Wells Voice."  There.  Now he can be born.  I turned off the light, tried my best to use my pillow configuration to get comfortable, and drifted off with hopes of impending labor.

Another week, the eve of my due date.  I placed a waterproof crib pad under the sheet where I slept. "In case my water breaks."  I had spent the evening bouncing on an exercise ball and sending very clear instructions to my baby.  "Come on.  Be born!"

My due date came and precisely nothing unusual occurred.  That evening, lying in bed, I started feeling sorry for myself as I peered down at my undulating abdomen.  And then suddenly I realized that causing those amazing waves and bumps, was a very active and miraculous being who had his very own ideas about when to be born.  And there was the clear insight, "It's not about you." Truth has a vibration like a perfectly tuned chord, and at that moment I heard its sweetness.  That was it.  My first lesson as a parent: it's not about me.  Sure, I was ready for the discomforts of pregnancy to end, but my role as mother was not about my comfort.  It is and always will be about the health and wellness of my child.

The next day the obstetrician said "no signs of labor" and started talking about inducing.

"No way," I told him.  He looked pretty shocked.  Apparently, most women are ready to induce just as soon as the doc allows.

But I knew this baby would come when he was ready.  And I wasn't going to rush him.

Wells Long was born exactly one week after his due date, a healthy baby boy.