"No heartbeat"

Some people have been dreaming about becoming a parent for as long as they can remember, while some folks surprisingly find themselves with mixed emotions to learn they’re “expecting”.  No matter how you came to your pregnancy, having it abruptly end or having your baby die can be a shattering experience.  I am so grateful to be a mom of 3 living children, who has been profoundly touched by living through 4 pregnancy losses.

 When a parent hears the awful news that their baby has an abnormality not compatible with life, or that there is no longer a heartbeat, their entire being can be rocked to the core.  For most people, this may be when they slip into shock mixed with dread about what comes next. Or maybe they feel like they are being punished or tested in some way.  Nothing seems right or fair or real.

 Pregnancy and infant loss touches so many of us, yet it is only recently that we have begun to acknowledge how deeply it can impact a person, just as the death of a loved one can forever change us.  Struggling through 1st trimester and 2nd trimester losses inspired me to become a birth, death and bereavement companion, a Birthing From Within childbirth mentor and a birth story listener.  Through these deep learnings, I am practicing how to be a companion to both a mother and her partner’s heartbreaking transition to living after loss.

 For many, this experience initiates such vulnerable, intense emotions and meaningful learning-it can take time to unravel and integrate death.  As the bereaved navigates their return to daily living, it can be awkward to know what to say or do, but I’ve learned that it is usually better to say something rather than nothing at all.  So perhaps it may be helpful to explore how to practice compassion in connecting with those suffering through loss.

 Try asking the person how they are really doing, and just listen.  Showing a willingness to hear and respond without judgement to whatever it is they would like to share can create an opening for a later conversation, or at least an acknowledgement that you care enough to ask.  Aim to be sensitive to present company, as well as timing, and try to be mindful of your own values or perspectives in responding to someone else’s experience.

 When a person expresses their grief, it can be a habit of speech or culture to layer what was said with something positive.  Saying things, even with good intention, can be painfully received.  Words similar to: “At least you know you can get pregnant”, or “it wasn’t meant to be”, or “it’ll happen next time”, or any version of “be grateful for what you have”, might seem like positive ways to respond but can actually come across as dismissive.  Saying the wrong thing happens often and is an opportunity to deepen your awareness and compassion, so feel welcome in apologizing if you make a wrong assumption.

 You might consider taking some time to connect by letting the person know that you are thinking about them and what they’ve gone through-weeks, months even years after a loss.  For those who named their baby, saying their baby’s name can be like music to their ears. Remembering to check in around anniversary dates, like due dates or death dates, or holidays can be so incredibly touching.  Any action that lets them know they are not alone in their grief, allows their voice to be heard and that their experience of loss matters is helpful and will most likely will be appreciated.

Miscarriage, pregnancy loss, stillbirth, infant death.jpg

Presence of Absence

Beeswax-Candles

My Mutti (maternal grandmother) used to take me to church when I was a little girl.  One of my favourite parts was the lighting of the candles but what that ritual meant for me only took root in July of 2017, just after Michael Stone’s death.  The week of his dying, I took part in an embodied yoga therapy course where we lit a beeswax candle throughout our learning time together to acknowledge and honour our heartbrokenness with Michael’s death.  It had been less than 3 months before then that we had gathered together as an intimate group to learn from him.

Although I lit candles before, it was the first time that I could feel the presence of someone’s absence, and the experience touched me deeply.  Just about a week or so after that, a yogi I knew was selling her candle making supplies and I was off-my daughter Hazel and I fell in love with making beeswax candles! 

Candle making with my girl stirred a longing within to learn about the lives of bees and what it might mean to walk through this world with grief, gratitude and love in the palms of my hands and heels of my feet.  And so it was this past spring I dove into: beekeeping studies with Ron St Louis from Capital Bees, yoga therapy certification with The School of Embodied Yoga Therapy, and learning ways to deepen my connection to earthly living beings with Steven Martyn in his Sacred Gardener School.  All the while, continuing my learnings with Stephen Jenkinson in his Orphan Wisdom School, as well as with Pam England from Birthing From Within.

As I began tending to bees and wondering about my path in this world, it struck me how caring for bees is to nurture what is present here, now and connects us relationally to all the living beings that came before and perhaps what may come. I longed to make candles for folks who care to acknowledge and honour meaningful moments and memories.  It was my desire to make candles from the wax of my tended to bees (and I still will!) but I’ve since learned that to have enough wax to be a candle maker it would require too many hives for me to be reasonably responsible for.  So I am so very grateful to announce that I have found a local beekeeper to source the wax to make candles! 

Throughout these next few weeks, I will be immersing myself more fully into making and selling candles.  If you love beeswax candles, I would be grateful if you would consider buying a candle from me.  Check out the section Bee Love on my website for more details.  I’ll be adding a Star of David pillar, 8 inch tapers and an owl in the next week or so.  Since I am still learning about what beeswax creations and practices other folks are into, I’d love to hear your comments!

beekeeper

Ginger, Turmeric & Honey....oh my!

In my CSA Locavore box from Juniper Farm each year, I am always excited to receive a few jars of local honey.  Last year I peeled a whole whack of garlic gloves and fermented them in honey.  Raw garlic is fantabulous for your immune system but this year I wanted something I could easily add to water to make a tea or add to my second fermentation in Kombucha.

So much has been said about the amazing health benefits of ginger and turmeric.  Anytime that I am sauteing anything, I add turmeric powder.  And any time I get even the hint of a cold or flu coming on, I make myself a batch of ginger, turmeric, honey and lemon tea.

Here is a simple recipe:

- 1 slice or two of raw (organic) ginger root

- 1/2 tsp of (organic) turmeric powder (or a few slices of raw turmeric root)

- 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of honey

-a wedge of lemon

*** If you are feeling like you may need a cooling kick, you can add some mint or green tea.

So this year I'm fermenting ginger and turmeric in honey (and a wee bit of water).  Once I see the bubbles, I know it has begun to ferment so I will open it up each day and mix everything around.  Once I feel like it has fermented enough (probably after a few days) I will put it in the fridge to use when I need it most!

What are your favourite ways of keeping healthy?

Ginger, Turmeric & Honey

Grief is like Velcro

This has been a profound week for me.  A beautiful, brave, honest teacher of mine is dead- quite suddenly and, I'm assuming, dramatically.  In his too short life, Michael Stone touched many hearts and ignited the fires of service, love and compassion for so many across this world.  His words and teachings gave me the courage to cozy up to my sacred wound and anchor myself daily on my mat to mindfully watch my breath.  Not because it might lead to enlightenment or make me blissfully better or happier, but because it was my duty as a human to remember to wake up to each moment and be present to the people around me.

Michael Stone's death has hit me hard, not just for what I selfishly lost with him as a teacher but because it has once again opened up my sacred wound of giving birth to a dead baby.  Where life met death in my own body.  Although I am grateful to snuggle my 3 living children, Teeny Tiny's birth and death forever changed me and the path of my life.  There is a distinct sensation of before TT and after TT in my life.   

 One of the most helpful metaphors that my counselor shared with me is that "grief is like Velcro, everything sticks to it" (imagine a piece of clothing with Velcro in it that you accidentally let go through the dryer and all sorts of other material gets stuck in those plastic teeth).  I share this with the recently not pregnant people that I work with as a way giving them permission to explore why their pain might be bringing up so much in their life at the moment.  Someone experiencing pregnancy loss might find themselves remembering awful things that happened to them years before, or they might be consumed with the grief of their dead mother as their body is still bleeding from the loss of life.  It can feel that life enjoys kicking us when we are down. 

I choose to see it as grief being in the body and our cells having memory.  I also see grief as our body's way of reminding us that we are still here, and as much as life can be beautiful and abundant-there is but one guarantee for the living.  And that is that some day we, and each person around us, will take one last breath, and it is a really vulnerable, human experience that we do not know when, where and how it will happen.  So instead of feeling overwhelmed by this truth, I am learning to walk awake in this world with my heart open to loving and learning more deeply until it releases its last beat. 

(***please, please, please go visit michaelstoneteaching.com to purchase his offerings as a way of supporting bereaved young family.)  

This Butterfly was fluttering over my shoulder as I wrote this...

This Butterfly was fluttering over my shoulder as I wrote this...

My Mother's Day Boycott

Sorry to disappoint if you were hoping for a post about why everyday is mother’s day and how we should celebrate all the amazing things our mothers do for us daily.  Cue sunshine, rainbows & silver linings around any clouds in the sky.  Rather, according to the Huffington Post, I was told of the importance of International Day of Bereaved Mothers, one week before Mother’s Day.  So I write this to humans everywhere who give a shit about living and loving in this crazy fucked up world. 

Becoming a mother has been the most profound experience and rite of passage in my life so far.  I am fortunate to have 3 living children to snuggle & teach me about everything that I am too busy to notice on my own.  I am equally grateful to my non breathing children who have taught me to wake up to love, grief and compassion daily.

When I first birthed my babes, I remember feeling so raw and vulnerable that I could not listen to the news for fear of feeling crushed by the overwhelming injustices of living in this world and felt consumed with the guilt of responsibility and privilege.  I quickly learned habits of disconnecting and avoiding situations that might be too painful for my new mother’s heart to bear.  If I am really being honest, I would take this opportunity to send an apology to the humans in my life that I have hurt unintentionally in my quest to distract myself from my living wounds. 

It has only been through connection with other women in their struggles that I am able to live in a way that feels halfway honorable of being human.  I am not talking about sharing a meme, or an article about loss but sharing space with people, looking in their eyes, being brave enough to ask and patient enough to listen with my heart and to hear how they are really doing.  This, alongside remembering and returning to a consistent daily practice of sitting my ass down to feel breath move through me, is how I am learning to embody the suffering and beauty involved in being alive.    

Well isn’t it important to open a dialogue so bereaved mothers can have the opportunity to share their experience and express their grief?  And I ask: for whom is it important to?  Bereaved mothers walk the tightrope of heartache and joy every single day and learn to navigate, then balance within these waters that can without warning, take them out at the knees and topple them over.  Or it can lift them up and carry them through one more day. 

I’ve known mothers who feel a pressure to perform leading up to these days. Like they’ve been placed on some kind of pedestal, naked and vulnerable, for others to stare, poke and prod about how their experience of creating life and death in their body can enlighten others.  And still others, who long for you to be open to them not being fine or better or over it. 

So if Mother’s Day isn’t strong or vast enough to hold both the pain and joy that comes with creating, carrying and connecting to our dead and our living, then I’m out.   So you can keep those spring flowers in the ground, let them wither away on their own and re-nourish the land that made them.   And if you can’t find the right words to ask, say or write, then sit down with that and just breathe.

birthstoryhealing

Spring time?!

Other than the X country skiers in my life, most of us are pretty much D.O.N.E. with winter.  Spring gardens are beginning to stir and many are wondering when the seasonal pollen will begin to trigger their immune system's overreaction.  

When I was pregnant and couldn't take anything to relieve the onslaught of boogers and itchy eyes, I discovered these these 2 things made a world of difference for me.  

1) Reduce your dairy intake!  

Many great alternatives exist to make this transition to less dairy as easy as possible-I love to make my own coconut milk daily, ghee, cashew cheese and coconut yogurt.

Not sure where to begin? Check out my Dairy-Free Foods workshop at the Westboro Brainery! 

http://www.westborobrainery.ca/#/dairy-free-foods/

2) Nettle tea

I may have discovered nettles while pregnant but they are rich in vitamins A & C, iron, potassium , manganese and calcium-so are actually great to take year round.  Keep in mind they need to steep for at least 4 hrs to release all of their nurtitional qualities.  As with most things that you ingest, always a good idea to do your own research, consult your naturopath, nurtitionist or herbologist to see if they are right for you.  

mmmmmmmm......coconut yogurt!

mmmmmmmm......coconut yogurt!

Birthing From Within's Birth Art Process

Mexican Labyrinth Ancient Map  ~ by Pam England, creator of Birthing From Within has just released  Ancient Map for Modern Birth     https://www.sevengatesmedia.com/product-page/25-x-17-archival-print-mexican-labyrinth-signed

Mexican Labyrinth Ancient Map ~ by Pam England, creator of Birthing From Within has just released Ancient Map for Modern Birth

https://www.sevengatesmedia.com/product-page/25-x-17-archival-print-mexican-labyrinth-signed

Why does Birthing From Within guide parents to create art as a way of preparing for birth?

Nowadays, much of a parent's childbirth preparation involves "getting informed" and learning lots of information about pregnancy and labour.  Which is a good thing-but often times parents become distracted about looking forward to how the birth will end up.  Even if we have watched videos, read birth stories or birthed a baby previously, each birthing experience is different and we can forget that an essential part of labour involves descending into the unknown.

Birthing From Within's Birth Art Process steps away from intellectual, cognitive or verbal information of what we know and dives into what has informed our ways of knowing and what's already in our hearts and minds. Creating art allows us to go deeper, going underneath our everyday conscious thoughts, and get curious about different symbols and images in life and birth.

Creating art is also a metaphor for birth.

Facing a blank page can be a bit uncomfortable, maybe to some hopeful-like being in a place of not knowing and noticing what's arising from within.  Perhaps observing what happens when we let go of an attachment.  An internal, lived process of discovery, creating art can be a way of navigating, digesting information from the outside world and connecting thoughts about what's evolving and integrating on the inside.

Mom & Babe Retreats

Thank you to Mom on the GO Ottawa for sharing this post on your blog!

http://momonthegoottawa.blogspot.ca/2017/01/mom-and-baby-yoga-retreats.html

Let’s face it, it’s not always easy being a new mom!  Having 3 kids of my own and working with young families for the past decade, I know how challenging (yet very special!) this time can be.   It can all fly by so quickly without taking time to slow down, connect to and celebrate the memorable moments.  That’s why I created day retreats designed especially for pregnant and new moms. 

Our Mom & Babe Retreats, set in a beautiful location, give moms a break from their regular routine to practice yoga with their baby and to connect with other moms.  The rejuvenating yoga session offers mom an opportunity to reconnect to her body and her baby in perhaps new ways.  After yoga, a freshly made nourishing lunch with natural and whole ingredients is served.  Having a family riddled with food intolerances, I know how important it is to facilitate food requests, so any special needs are cared for.

Our retreats also include a cozy discussion with a local wellness specialist who will shed light on an important topic at this stage in mom and baby’s life.  Some of our guest speakers will be: Andria Bell (baby wearer extraordinaire), Joanna Wolczyk (Ayurveda goddess), Jessica Sherman (nutritional strategist), Yvette Halpin (developmental & movement specialist) and Gesa Harmston (inspirational & practical mom coach).  Check out our first Urban Retreat Series at the gorgeous PranaShanti Yoga Studio in Hintonburg.