28 days of yoga...and sleep

Do you know when you KNOW you need an attitude adjustment? That’s how I’ve been feeling lately, like I need to shake myself up like an etch-a-sketch and start over. I just don’t like my attitude. It’s a lot more, “What day is it again?” than “Whoohoo! New Day! Let’s make things happen!” I’m sick of hearing myself say, “I’m overwhelmed” or “I have no time.” It’s not cool, not inspiring, and not how I want to spend my energy.

October is typically a really good month for me, so I thought I’d use that positive energy and try to shift gears. I need to get out of my head and back in my body, big time. I’m embarrassed to admit how far away my personal asana practice has slipped from me… Let’s just say my mat is starting to forget what I look like. With my schedule, it’s been almost impossible to get to class, and I haven’t had the discipline to get on my mat at home so my practice has been slip sliding away, and I am definitely noticing the effects. It’s not pretty. I’ve been a little bit of a monster lately, as my husband can attest.

In true Katie fashion, I decided to go big or go home and on October 1st, I told myself that I was going to practice for an hour a day for the next 28 days. While I’m at it, I thought I’d throw in attempting to get 6.5-7 hours of sleep a night. I sort of feel like sleep is a waste of my time. My sister is always telling me most of my problems and headaches stem from lack of sleep. It’s a theory… but I digress.  As usually happens when I stop and set positive intentions, the universe decided to back me up and my friend started teaching yoga classes at 6 am just minutes from my house. Bam. No excuses now. 

I’m 12 days into the month. No, I have not made it onto my mat for an hour a day and I definitely haven’t hit 7 hours of sleep a night for the past 11 nights… BUT… Last week, I made three days of yoga and three nights of 7 hours and this week I’ve made 4 days and 2 nights, so it’s a start, and I definitely feel better.  It feels amazing to actually be going to yoga (Ryan got dragged along the other day, too).  I was reminded how important it is to actually get to class and recharge, and I think it's easy to let that slip, especially when you're teaching a lot.  I feel like I’m getting my energy back and my head feels clearer and more calm. Even taking small steps can lead to big changes. What’s impressed me most about the last two weeks is that although I only achieved about 50 percent of what I set out to do, even that 50 percent is making a big difference. 

I’m really noticing where I can be more efficient with my time management. For example, if I’m adding in more 5 am wake up calls, I really need to close my eyes by 10:30-11:00pm, and also if I’m trying to get to sleep and get up earlier, it means I need to be more organized and pack lunches the night before and prep dinners better.  So interestingly enough, by sleeping more and adding in time for yoga, I’ve actually been getting more accomplished. I even managed to “find time” to finish that gallery wall I started oh about 6 months ago, and every time I look at it, I feel so happy. Lesson of the week… if you don’t like how you’re feeling, do something about it. Even a little something can go a really long way. I’m a firm believer in aim high, go big. Maybe you won’t completely achieve what you set out to do, but it doesn’t really matter. The intention towards making positive change has a positive ripple effect. Just making the choice to attempt to get back on my mat every day has been helping me shake some dust and the rest of my life is flowing more smoothly. And also, this yoga stuff really does make a difference. 

xo,

Katie

 

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Mothering the mother

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Mothering the Mother

 “The health of every family begins with the mother.

She is the tree from which the healthy fruit must come “

   Juliette De Bairacli levy

From the moment a woman even contemplates wanting a child she begins to enter into her mothering role.  Her heart expands and she begins to look beyond herself.  It is the single most important role and often the most difficult one that women have.  I have been delivering babies for over 30 years and am always in awe of watching a mother see her baby for the first time. She is almost always overwhelmed, scared, excited, and completely in love with her baby.  I never get tired of delivering a baby and seeing the pure love pouring from a new mom as I place her baby in her arms.

When talking to pregnant women, we often focus on the pregnancy and birth and fail to consider the first 6 weeks postpartum. My daughter Kendall, who has 2 children, reminded me of how challenging this time can be.  The mother has just willingly signed up to be awake for days on end, to endure physical pain after childbirth, while simultaneously loving this new person with her entire being and then questioning, is she doing it “right"?  Often, the new mom wants her own mother to come help her. After my first granddaughter was born, my husband told me Kendall would want space to be with her baby. I thought that was wrong, but agreed. The first night home with her baby, Kendall called me crying to please come over because she needed help.  I looked at my husband, said some form of “I told you so” and drove over to her house.

The job of a mother wears so many “hats." They are constantly loving unconditionally, serving as a role model, instilling confidence and compassion, providing discipline and structure,  usually the chief cook and housekeeper,  and of course meeting everyone’s physical and emotional needs. It can be exhausting.  As a mother of four children, I can certainly speak from experience.  One of the key phrases in our house was “Where’s Mom?” For there is a certain comfort, only the mom can provide.

Only since my mother passed last year, did I truly recognize the power of the maternal bond, especially between mothers and daughters. I was blessed to have my mother for 58 years. She nurtured me, supported me, and helped me raise my children.  She was my best friend and listener. In later years I spent a great deal of time caring for her. But when she passed, I realized the void of being “motherless."  She was the person who always accepted me for who I am, loved me unconditionally, and told me I was doing a great job. Now trying to fill her shoes and assume her role as matriarch, I truly know the importance of the Mother!

Individually and as a society I would like to remind all of us to support all new mothers by encouraging them to trust their instincts and their intuition. They will know their baby better than anyone. To help new mothers in the physical , bring them food, offer to clean, take their other children. Remind them of the amazing work they are doing.  And to support all women, as we move through the stages of our life, without criticism or judgement, recognizing the nurturing bond we all share.


With love,

Karen

It's a long nine months...

In the past few months, I have had a few first time pregnant friends talk to me about being pregnant. The consensus being the same for all of them. Pregnancy sucks. There I said it. Pregnancy is awful. If you were one of the people who walked through nine months looking and feeling amazing, then this particular blog is not for you (and the rest of us hate you). For starters, most of the time you feel sick as a dog, for the first few months. It's like being hungover all the time without the fun night before and the only thing you can tolerate is Gatorade and crackers. Then usually somebody comments, "Gatorade probably isn't good for the baby?" Oh yea? Well it's the only thing the baby tolerates so stop talking. Not to mention, pregnancy migraines, carpal tunnel, swollen feet, weight gain, acne, etc.  Oh did I mention, you can't take Advil while pregnant? You can have Tylenol which basically has the same effect as eating skittles when a full blown migraine comes on. Put all that together and you have a pretty miserable nine months to survive. 

I was talking to a friend and she was expressing how crappy she felt and said she felt fat and uncomfortable. I commiserated but I said, "When this baby comes, you won't believe how much you love your baby. You won't care about anything else except your baby." A few weeks after her birth, she told me "You were right. I can't believe how much I love my baby." 

Two things I am sure of:  Pregnancy is really hard. It is the first of many sacrifices you will make for your baby. The second being You will love your baby more than anyone/ anything in your life. You really can't imagine until you hold your baby for the first time. 

So hang in there pregnant mamas. You're going to get through this. You are going to get to the Finish Line with the most precious gift the world has to offer.

Love,
Kendall

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"Good try, Mommy!"

A few weeks ago, I went to the beach with my family. My Uncle was showing all of us how to paddle board. He took my daughter and nephew (who are both 3) while they sat, and then a few of the adults gave it a try. I wasn't even planning on taking a turn, but then my daughter , Mackenzie said, "Ok Mommy, it's your turn." So I gave it a try.

I actually got up fairly easily and was able to paddle (we were in the bay so don't be overly impressed by my skills).  Then I took a turn too sharply and fell off the board. All of a sudden, I hear a little voice from the dock yelling, "Good try Mommy! It's ok! Try again!" It's Mackenzie, cheering me on. I smiled, got back up, and paddled back. 

The rest of the day I thought about how Mackenzie had cheered for me and encouraged me to try again. Where did she learn that? Well, from me, her Dad, her Aunt, her Noni, her Grandma, etc.  It made me think what kind of example I would be setting if I told her I was afraid to try, I didn't want to wear a bathing suit, I was worried I'd fall and feel embarrassed.  
Kids do what you do. You can't expect them to be confident if you're not. You can't expect them to eat healthy if you don't. You can't expect them to try new things if you won't.

Always remember, your kids are watching you! Be a good example. Teach them to take risks, fall and get up again, eat healthy but never turn down a cupcake. Be a kind person. Do all the things you want them to do. Be the person you hope they will be. 

Love,

Kendall

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You will know your baby better than anyone...

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“You will know your baby better than anyone.” I’ve heard my mom say this countless times. She tells all mothers this, and she says it repeatedly. 

I started whining at my sister about 6 months ago. As soon as she mentioned the word, preschool. “I don’t understand why she has to go! She’s only turning three in July. Why can’t we wait until next year?"  When that had no effect, “Well, then don’t sign her up on my days. I don’t want to lose time with her.” I watch my niece and nephew two days a week during the school year. My mom does two days, and her mother in law takes the fifth day. Well, here’s the other side of family care. 

I just really didn’t want Kenzie to go to preschool. I LOVE my days with my niece and nephew, or as I usually call them, “My friends.” I didn’t want to miss a minute of it. So I was arguing with my sister about it, telling her that it was a dumb idea. What if Kenzie’s not ready?  What if she doesn’t like it? My sister calmly, and then not so calmly repeatedly told me it was going to be good for her, she was definitely ready, and she would like it. She also wanted to know what was wrong with me because why wouldn't I want a break in the day?

So, it turns out to be MY day the FIRST DAY we have to drop her off at preschool. I had total anxiety about this for the two weeks leading up to it. What if she cried? What if she was upset? What if she got mad at me for leaving her? What if it destroyed our trust? The list went on. I explained all my fears to my mom, and you know what? She backed me up. I told her that if Kenzie cried, I wasn’t going to leave her and my mom said, “I wouldn’t either Kate. I don’t think she’s ready. I think we should wait until January.” One of us relayed this message to my sister, who not so calmly told us we HAD to drop her off. “What are you doing to do if I don’t, Kendall? Fire me? You can’t. I’m your sister.” See- downside of family care. Your family can give you a hard time about basic things that a regular babysitter wouldn’t.  Kendall again said, “She’s ready. She’ll like it. It will be good for her.”

And you know what… She was right BECAUSE SHE’S THE MOM AND THE MOM ALWAYS KNOWS. Kenzie was totally ready. We debated between ballerinas and unicorn dresses, we talked about how she was going to have SOOO MUCH FUN, and we headed off. I was still very anxious. We walked in, and she got a little overwhelmed with all the people. She asked me three times if I was going to come back for her.  Then we walked into her classroom, and her teacher greeted her warmly and told her she would have fun and make new friends. She gave me a big squeeze, asked again if I was coming back, and said, “Ok. Bye.” To my surprise, she didn’t cry. I didn’t either. 

So to all our mamas out there, remember this, “You will know your baby better than anyone.” Remember it when friends and family (even well meaning friends and family) give you their opinions on breastfeeding, on co-sleeping, and parenting choices. This is your baby. You will know. Trust your instincts. 

xo,
Katie

 

It is hard to be an expectant mother today.

It is hard to be an expectant mother today. It is more challenging and demanding than when I was having my children or when my mother birthed me.  I always apologize to mothers with their first prenatal visit with me because I have to list all the possible things that could be wrong with their baby, all the tests available to ensure the perfect outcome, and what foods and substances are “dangerous." Then, if they decline this testing I  have to repeat the warning on the next visit because what if something goes wrong and they didn’t hear me the first time. Sigh. Actually what I want to say is trust your body, trust your instincts, trust the universe to give you what you need and enjoy this new life growing inside of you.  The medical model of birth does everything to make women fearful of  what could go wrong.

Furthermore, pregnant moms today are all expected to look like every cover model on pregnancy magazines, perfectly dressed, manicured, made up, not swollen, and of course... fit and toned. There are no allowances for the difference in women's bodies during this short time. Some women  need to gain more weight, have other priorites, or responsibilities than going to the gym. Some are just more tired.

Then there is  social media, where women can look and see every horror story that people post about labor or birth or see only perfect looking pictures of their pregnant friends and perfect families.

Finally there is the baby registry. Women are told they need everything  marketed to ensure a healthy happy newborn. Swaddles, chairs that vibrate and rock, suits that immobilize your baby to help them sleep, nursing cover ups, etc . The sheer  volume of choosing can be overwhelming.

Nobody says that all you need is your arms, time, patience, and love.  I tell all new mothers that they will know their baby better than anyone. Trust your instincts! This is why I teach yoga, hoping to combat society’s message of fear and perfection by encouraging mothers to trust their intuition, their bodies, and their own innate knowing. 

   “Birth is not only  about making babies, Birth is about making mothers:

        Strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves

         And know their inner strength.” – Barbra Katz

 

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The Biggest Mom Shamer of Them All...

A few weeks ago my daughter had five cavities. Yes that’s right, five. Five cavities which needed to be filled either using laughing gas or sedation. While most of my mom friends were supportive, there was one voice who was not. She told me it was my fault. She said I gave my daughter too much juice. She told me I let her fall asleep without brushing her  teeth. I let her eat too many goldfish. I gave her lollipops at the bank.  Who is this judgemental person you ask? It’s me, myself, and I. 

You see mamas, we judge ourselves much harder than we do other moms. I was so upset at the dentist and repeatedly blamed myself for my daughter’s cavities. I called a few friends and a few of them told me they had similar experiences with their kids. Did I judge them the way I judged myself?  No; of course not.  I was relieved to hear someone else had been there.   Even the dentist said “Kids get cavities, it happens.” 

Whenever  I see another child throwing a tantrum at Target, I think two things. “Ugh, I feel so bad for this mom” and “Glad it’s not just my kid who behaves this way. “ 

Does mom shaming happen?  You bet. People make dumb comments about breastfeeding or not, co-sleeping, cry it out, whatever. But no one is truly judging your parenting skills the way you are mama. 90% of the time, they have been where you are and they sympathize.  

I am extremely fortunate to have a great husband, family and friends who remind me I am doing a good job as a mom, even when I feel like I’m not. 

Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself you’re doing a great job. Reach out to your fellow mamas when you need support. You got this. 

It's a girl thing...

I took my first surf lesson, and I am hooked . . . like in LOVE! It’s a tiny bit ridiculous that I haven’t figured this out until now.  I've always lived about 15 minutes from the beach and I spent my teen years competitively swimming. Oh, and did I mention that I'm completely obsessed with the ocean, and I'm convinced it can heal all things? Learning to surf has been on my wish list for about as long as I can remember. My friend, Kirsten, started a girls surf camp called Girls Wave Riding. When I saw this, I was really jealous of those kids, and jokingly asked her if I could come to camp. Luckily for me,  she expanded and started offering surf lessons for women! Last week, I took my first lesson with Women in the Water, and it was amazing! 

I tried learning to surf a few times before this. Two of my guy friends took me out and tried to teach me, but sometimes I think you just need to hear it from a woman. Kirsten, the owner of both surf camps, is a phenomenal teacher! She makes learning to surf easy, accessible, and FUN; and she has the confidence and skill necessary to truly teach what she loves. She completely takes the intimidation factor out of it. Being out in the water with her early in the morning before the crowds hit the beach was pure magic. It was the happiest and most excited I’ve felt in a long time. 

For those of you who have been following along with me here, I’ve been talking about working my way through grief. I always compare deep grief to drowning in the ocean. When you’re grieving, for a long time, you can feel like you’re drowning. It’s dark, scary, and hard to breathe.  Eventually you start to tread water and begin to swim. Then, a giant wave knocks you back down and you’re struggling to breathe again. The water settles, you tread water, start to swim, and then another wave. But at some point (hopefully), the waves become farther and farther apart until you are again swimming or moving through your life. Grief’s tricky and just like the ocean, you never really know when you’ll get knocked back by another wave. I took my surf lesson on my Nana’s first anniversary. I wanted to do something to shift my energy. I’ve been really struggling with her passing, and the awareness that I had completed an entire year of my life without her has been challenging for me. Something about taking this step, to learn to surf, like I’ve always wanted to do, really helped me. I’ve been living in anxiety about life moving too fast, and fear around death and the inevitability of it all; booking this lesson and beginning the process of learning a new skill really shifted something for me. It reminded me of how much I want to do and learn, and I feel less stuck. My lesson was a week ago, and it’s the first week I've made it a week without crying in the past year. While I think it’s easy to get stuck in our routines and in the business of day to day life, there’s always the opportunity to try something new, to find something else that lights us up. All it really takes is one step forward. 

When Kirsten and I were out in the water, I started thinking about how powerful learning to surf is, especially for young girls. When you surf, you’re waiting to catch the wave you want, and when you see it, you paddle for it and go after it as hard as you can. Sometimes you miss it.  Sometimes you catch it and ride the wave in, maybe on your stomach, a bit hesitant at first;  then you try to pop up to your knees, and finally you try to stand. Sometimes you fall, and sometimes you ride the wave all the way in. It feels like a perfect metaphor for really LIVING your life. You have to wait until you know what you want, and then you go after it with everything you’ve got. Sometimes you miss it completely, and then you wait a little while until the next opportunity presents itself and you try again. Sometimes you go for it and fall, maybe gently, or maybe you get completely rocked. Either way, if you’re really going for a goal, you’re probably going to fall a few times. Falling is important, it’s how we learn! You have to shake it off and try again. Then there are those times in life, where you catch your wave, you achieve your goal and it’s awesome, effortless, and you feel like you’re on top of the world. No matter how long the ride is, eventually the wave ends and you jump off and paddle back out and wait to make your next move, maybe feeling ready for a bigger challenge.

I think it’s really important that as women we support each other and encourage each other to go for our goals.  It’s ok if you fall, if you don’t make it the first time. It’s awesome really because it means you tried. It means you’re actively living your life, and the best part is, there’s always going to be another wave….

Birth Plans...

Detailed Birth Plans

I often wonder what is it about detailed birth plans that make labor and birth so difficult? In my 30 years as a midwife, I have never seen this document improve the quality of care or the outcome of birth.  In fact, it is always the reverse. It  seems the more detail in the plan, the  less likely someone is to birth without intervention.  

So the question is WHY? As a yoga teacher, I would assume that writing your positive intentions  down on a piece  of paper would be beneficial. After all, I often talk in my prenatal classes about affirmations and writing down positive thoughts, successful outcomes. Smart  intelligent women research birth plans on the internet and in good faith print them to reinforce their wishes to their provider.  Possibly one of the reasons this backfires is because the scripts on the internet microanalyze every facet of labor and birth, giving women scenarios to worry about they never thought to consider. The other issue is that women are encouraged to write birth plans rather than talk to their providers about what their views are on intervention and promoting natural  birth.

When my patients ask me if they need a birth plan, my response is usually, “No, because there is nothing you could want that I  would not normally do."  I tell them that while I cannot control how labor goes, I can control that they be supported throughout the process.  I also want them to share with me their views and visions for their birth. For example, whether they are definitely planning an epidural, whether they are going to wait and see, or whether they think they absolutely do not want an epidural.  This helps me guide them in labor.  If a woman tells me she  is absolutely sure she wants one, then I know to suggest the optimal time to take  it.  If she tells me she would prefer not taking one, then if she is progressing quickly but suddenly feels anxious (usually signifying transition is coming), I know to tell her to wait just 10 more contractions and then reevaluate. However, I also tell them that even if they are absolutely sure they don’t want one, I will encourage it if I believe it is in their best interest.  My suggestion is always to visualize the way they would like labor to go, to see it flowing and easeful, and then to accept there may be  detours along the way. 

Most importantly, I feel that as a society we are not encouraging women to trust their intuition, their bodies, and their ability to birth. I encourage women to prepare for birth through prenatal yoga, meditation, breathing, and childbirth classes.  Katie and I started Spiral Path Yoga to give women the information and support they need to fully enjoy and embrace their pregnancies and transitions to motherhood. Both in and out of the office, I work to support and help as many women as I can experience positive, healthy pregnancies and prepare for birth. If a woman tells me she still feels the need to write a birth plan, I suggest she write down on paper her WISHES, a POSITIVE document of what she would like her labor and birth to be as opposed to writing down all the things she doesn't want. 

Suzanne Arms wrote in the 70’s, “Childbirth is an experience in a woman’s life that holds the power to transform her forever. Passing through these powerful gates –Each in her own way—Remembering all the generations of mothers Who walk with her. She is alone—Yet not alone.”

 

Lady and the Tramp

Lady and the Tramp

Last summer I was very pregnant, as my son was born at the END of August. This summer I realize how uncomfortable I was last year being so big and pregnant.  It reminded me how hard being pregnant was and I thought of a conversation I had with one of my best friends a few months ago. My friend Katie (who has two kids) called me after watching “Lady and the Tramp” with her daughter.  A classic movie. She was infuriated because in the movie the husband tells his wife “he doesn't want her walking the dog in her condition.” Her “condition” is she is about 12 weeks pregnant, give or take. Now here is where I add, my friend Katie is a Veterinarian and was performing surgery on 100 pound dogs at 9 months pregnant.  So of course we had a good laugh about this movie made in 1955.

Now, I am not saying you shouldn’t walk your dog pregnant.  However, it did make me think about how far the pendulum has swung in the other direction. If Disney had a pregnant character in 2017, she would probably be exericising  throughout her pregnancy, working until she was 39 weeks and expected to get back into shape 3 months after giving birth.  In my opinion, we have forgotten as a society what a big deal having a baby actually is.  Being pregnant is really hard. You feel sick, exhausted, everything aches, you might be swollen, etc. Let’s not forget the mamas who carried twins, you deserve a heroic medal!

When you actually have the baby, you are beyond exhausted, in physical pain and adjusting to this new life. My mom always said, “Someone has to mother the mother.” This could not be more true. New moms need help. They need food. They need support. They need to know how fabulous they are just by being a mom!

So to all my fellow mamas out there:  When you feel like you cannot do it all, keep the house clean, exercise, make pinterest like chalkboards for your kids first day of school, know this… 60 years ago someone would have walked your dog as you laid on the couch in your first trimester.

You’re amazing. You’re fabulous. You’re a MOM!

Sacred Spaces

 
 

Sacred Spaces

There are some places that are inherently sacred to each of us. For me, that space is found at the tip of a peninsula in the middle of Maine at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. It looks as if you are about to walk off the end of the earth. Rugged rocks meet ocean with expansive sky all around, and for me, it is perfect. I’ve walked on these rocks almost every summer of my life. My husband proposed on them, and we were married there. One of the most amazing moments of my life was walking down the aisle on our wedding day and seeing all of the people I love in my favorite and most sacred of places. For me, these rocks are like old friends. They have held me through all of the phases of my life, from climbing and day dreaming as a little girl, through the angst and worries of my teen years, through the highs and lows of my 20’s, and then to the biggest steps of my life, saying yes to this amazing man and having all of the people I love travel to witness the start of our life together. 

From the time I was very young, I’ve always loved this spot in Maine. It holds so many memories, so much emotion for me and it’s where I go when I need deep healing. In my last post, I wrote about grieving. When I lost my friend, I felt like I was drowning and I kept sinking deeper and deeper; I truly feared I wouldn’t pull out of it. During this time, we had a trip scheduled to the point to finish wedding planning, meet our wedding photographer, and take engagement photos. There was something incredibly healing for me about being up there. It was the first day I felt like myself in the months since he died, the first day I felt the spark of real excitement. I remember closing my eyes that night and feeling at peace. For that short visit, I felt like I could breathe again. 

The same thing happened for me when we traveled up to Maine for our anniversary a few weeks ago. I was worried with all that I’ve had going on emotionally that I would crash if I stopped moving, but I didn’t. I walked on my rocks, jumped in the freezing cold Maine ocean, soaked up the quiet space, and there it was again…the peace, the healing I’ve been searching for. When I’m on Pemaquid Point, I feel like the earth is holding me in its arms and telling me everything is going to be alright. There is something about the steadiness and familiarity of these rocks and particular piece of the ocean that calms and settles my spirit. The awareness that through all the different phases and experiences of my life, this space is always there for me to come home to brings me peace and comfort. My friend, Cindy, says there are some places that belong to each of us. This is mine. 

Sometimes, in order to shift our energy, it helps to shift our physical space. While it isn’t always possible to immediately jump in a car or on a plane and travel far, it is always possible to go outside. Whether it’s the ocean, the woods, or the mountains, there is real power when you allow yourself to tap in to the energy of the earth. It recharges you. Many of us spend all day using up and giving away our energy without ever taking the time and space that we need to recharge and replenish. Take the time. It’s worth it.

xo,
Katie

The IN-Between

The IN-Between

I had a busy call this Monday, helping and supporting 5 women birthing their babies. As busy as I was, I had time to sit with my mothers, to be in their space, and observe the quiet. Sometimes the most meditative moments I have in a week come when I sit with a mother in the throes of labor. Women rock, they moan, they breathe, and then…there is quiet. The space between contractions when women gather their strength and prepare, for the next contraction, for the next phase of their lives.

The IN-BETWEEN… the space in-between contractions, in-between being a pregnant woman and a mother, in-between being a couple and parents; these are important transitions and require contemplative space.

It is incredibly important to respect this time. All too often I see visitors, care providers, support people chattering and talking in a manner that is not supportive to the laboring women. She needs the quiet to draw upon all her reserves, her incredible mama strength. She needs to know that she is the most important and only focus of everyone in the room. Only then can she use her intuition to move in a manner that allows her to birth her baby. 

When I was a young midwife in training, I was told by a preceptor that when you enter a laboring woman’s room, you must leave your own issues, moods, concerns outside so that you can support her energy in a positive manner. I have found this to be true over and over. There are times when a woman is stalled in labor and I have asked a particular “support person or persons” to step out and she will spontaneously become fully dilated and birth her baby.

I love observing a woman as she proceeds with her “labor dance,” rocking and moving, looking completely inward with the quiet only broken by her own sounding, or requests for support or nourishment. I know she gathers her courage, her strength, maybe acknowledges her fear during the in-between one contraction and the next. For me, this time of stillness, of being with women in all their power gives me joy but also insight into my own intuition, my soul knowing and sometimes the strength to continue to the next laboring women and the next…

Coffee on the couch

When I was younger, if I woke up before 6 am, I would find my mom sitting alone on the couch drinking her coffee. I often wondered why she woke up so early to stare at her coffee cup instead of putting it in a to go cup and drinking it on her way to work. 

Now, as a mom, I get it. I also look forward to the early mornings before my kids wake up drinking my coffee alone on the couch. I ignore the little song the dishwasher sings telling me it's time to empty it. I pretend there are not clothes in the dryer waiting to be folded. I don't rush to clean up the toys off the floor. I just sit and stare at my cup enjoying the quiet. Some days I get 30 minutes, most days about 8, before I hear the sound of the baby crying or a little voice saying “Mommy, I want juice please.” Some people might use this time to sleep in a little longer, accomplish a task or exercise, but I find the coffee on the couch time to be more beneficial. It helps me to  prepare for the day.  

As a mom there is rarely quiet time during the day or even a few minutes to yourself. It's so important to take just 15 or 20 minutes to do whatever you need to re -energIze yourself. It might be coffee on the couch, going for a walk, doing some yoga breathing, or enjoying a nice glass of wine. Whatever it may be, make sure you take the time mamas, you definitely deserve it!

Just like my mom, even if my coffee on the couch time gets interrupted by a crying baby or a sweet little voice, I still feel more ready for the day to begin. It may be the time alone or the jolt of caffeine, but either way it makes my day. 

You can run but you can't hide

You can run, but you can’t hide…

For those of you who read my post on Delusional Optimism, I am happy to report that my attempts to improve my time management skills are indeed working.  By bringing my awareness to my slightly skewed concept of time and trying to hone in some better boundaries, I’ve been knocking things off my to do lists right and left #likeaboss. So, my question was this, “If I’m operating in a more organized way and accomplishing the things I set out to do, why do I still feel down and discouraged?” The answer came gently through one of my friends, “Katie, you’re still grieving.”  And, that is true.

I’ve been grieving for about two and a half years now. I lost one of my best friends 7 months before I got married, and about a year and a half later, I lost my Nana (who was really more like my second mother). My friend was sudden and unexpected. You aren’t supposed to lose your friends at 32. My Nana was almost 90, and while it wasn’t as shocking, it’s been incredibly hard. After my friend died, I thought I was going to drown in my grief. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, and I miss him every single day. When I lost my Nana, a part of me shut down and disconnected from it. I’ve never been without her, and the reality of it was actually terrifying to me. I kept saying that to people and nobody seemed to understand it. It wasn’t simply that I didn’t want to lose her; the idea of living without her scared me.  After she died, I just started moving faster and faster. It’s really not that hard to over schedule your life. I have work that I love, a husband, friends, a sister with two kids who could always use a hand or two, and a dream house to work on. I’ve been taking on thing after thing until I started to feel so overwhelmed, I knew something had to change.

Losing two of the people closest to me in less than two years has pushed me into this panicked battle with time. We really don’t know how much time we have to be here with the people we love. I think a certain awareness of this is helpful. It reminds you to appreciate your life and all of the little moments that make it up. Where I’m at though isn’t quite like that. I’m in this constant state of anxiety that I’m going to blink and it will all be over and I won’t have enough time to get everything done. I won’t have enough time to be with my loved ones or to create the things I need to create, or to travel to all of the places I want to go; so I’ve been hurrying, moving constantly, trying to get more than is humanly possible accomplished each day, and then beating myself up that I’m not doing a good enough job with any of it. 

I usually consider myself to be pretty self-aware, so I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long to see that I’ve been running from my grief, and it’s beginning to catch up with me. You can only run for so long before your body needs a break, and my grief is beginning to sneak through the cracks in my armor, leaving me crying in the middle of Stop and Shop or hearing myself sound impatient and frustrated when I don’t mean to be. I think it’s time to stop running. The other day, when we had a long list of “shoulds,” my husband and I tossed them all out the window to go to my parents house and play in the pool with my niece and nephew. It’s the first day I’ve felt at peace in a very long time. I think I need to accept that this is where I am right now, and there’s nothing I can do that will make me heal any quicker. I try to hold both Matt and my Nana close. Their memories fill my house, from Matt’s artwork to my Nana’s furniture, and they are with me in all of my moments. I think of Matt when I cut lemons; it always stressed him out because I move so fast. I think of my Nana when I pour laundry detergent because she would swirl the cup so none of it would spill down the side. When you love people so much, they become a part of you forever in ways both big and small. I’m going to try to be more patient with myself and my process, and accept the fact that I’m not really ok right now.  I’m going to set the intention to create space to let the grief process out, and I’m hoping some of the panic will leave with it. That’s where the real yoga is, in being completely present in your process and experience. The standing on your head isn’t the hard part, it’s the sitting still. That’s where the real magic begins.

xo,
Katie

 

Supporting Birth

My primary goal as a midwife is to support women to birth their babies in whichever way it feels right for them. I am often known to say that I cannot control how your birth progresses, but I can control that you feel supported during the process. Sometimes being an advocate for birthing women can be challenging. There are times when I don’t agree with their detailed birth plans and unwillingness to accept my very experienced advice.  Most of the time I end up being right with my suggestions and the birth ends up in the exact way I anticipated, usually with the mother learning to surrender to a greater force and let go of her detailed birth plan.

However, and I would say thankfully, I often find myself surprised in her adherence to her plan and the revelation that it works! This week I had 10 births and 8 progressed as I anticipated and 2 did not. One mother came in birthing her first child at full dilatation and informed me she would only push if she felt like she needed to.  I thought to myself, ok we’ll see, but to my humility 3 hours laters with minimal pushing, she was crowning and 4 hours later birthed her baby without ever breaking a sweat. It was awesome and made me realize once again that we really don’t understand all the component parts of birth. There is the physical, clearly. The shape of the mother’s pelvis, the size of the baby, the position of  the baby, the diameter of the baby’s head, etc.  But there is the emotional and mental component of birth that propels labor or inhibits it. I have observed after 30 years of birthing babies that women rarely deliver their babies on high holy days or holidays. There is a strong emotional component which we cannot treat with an herb or a medication. Women do birth as they live. 

The second labor surprise came from a woman also birthing her first baby.  She arrived at 9 cm dilated and also did not feel she needed to push. She was moving with her body, rocking, squatting, lunging with each contraction. I thought, great, let her be, she will get to fully dilated and start spontaneously pushing. Wrong again. When she actually started pushing, she became so agitated, she completely kicked her sympathetic nervous system into action and we could not get her to focus or breathe. End result:  She got an epidural at 10 cm as a last resort.  It worked and after 1 more hour of pushing she delivered her baby.

I love observing  women in their power demanding their caregivers respect their wishes.  I love watching women succeed in their strength, and as always I am always humbled by their power.

 

There is no good time to visit a new mom.

There is no good time to visit a new mom. I'll say it again. There is no good time to visit a new mom…unless you come bearing chicken parm.

After my second baby, I came to realize why people should not visit new moms. The sole reason being there is no good time of day to visit. Let me explain. At any time of the day, the baby could be sleeping and therefore I could be sleeping. At 10 am, I could be sleeping with the baby, at 2 pm or 6 pm. Get what I'm saying?   We had visitors (or sleep stealers as I like to think of them) come visit after my second baby was born. Also let me add, I’m not Martha Stewart on a good day. Never mind when I just made a person. My sister says that, "You did a good job, you made a person.”  Pretty amazing when you put it that way right?  So I found it stressful to have to pick up my house before these visitors came over to make it look like I had it all together when I really wanted to just crawl into a ball and go to sleep.

People mean well but they ask questions like, “How was your birth?  “How’s your older child adjusting?”  Umm… I'm still recovering and actually it's time to go soak my stitches so I'll brb. As for my older child, she doesn't even know what having a sibling means so stop asking her dumb questions. Not to mention my biggest pet peeve of all…when you're breast feeding and people ask, “That baby is eating again?”  Seriously, it made my blood pressure rise or I was just overtired and cranky (another reason to steer clear ).

If someone has an older child, the most helpful thing you can do is take them out of the house. My mom and sister did this frequently which was a huge help.  Bring them to your house, the park, the movies anywhere will do and this gives you time with the baby and possibly some SLEEP!  

A month before my second baby, my friend's mom asked what she could get the baby. I replied “Nothing, can you just make me some chicken parm?” And she did! It was seriously delicious! I’m very grateful to all those who brought me food. New moms are hungry and don't have time to cook. My dad said it best. He said "Kendall, when the baby is 3 months and you feel pretty good, nobody is going to come see the new baby."  I have to agree. The truth is after 12 weeks you feel better, you possibly have slept for 5 hours in a row, you physically don't hurt, and you're ready to pour the coffee and cut the crumb cake for your visitors . So in short, if you decide to go visit a new mom before she is 12 weeks post partum, I suggest you bring her chicken parm.

Delusional Optimism

I have come to the conclusion that about 80 percent of the stress in my life is self-induced. The negative emotion I experience most frequently is feeling overwhelmed. I take on too much, say yes when I should say no, and seriously lack organizational skills. I blame my mother. Seriously, I’m convinced the woman has super powers. She raised four kids, worked full time, and is the most amazing mom ever. When I was four, she was commuting back and forth to Columbia University to get her Masters in Midwifery, and she would study on the floor of the hallway so we could see her from our bedroom as we went to sleep. She currently works full time as The Director of Midwifery for an OB-GYN practice, takes care of her grandchildren, teaches prenatal yoga and childbirth classes, and still manages to train for and run marathons. She goes on vacations with my Dad and somewhere in their week away, she runs a marathon. She does this multiple times a year. When that's your role model, you pretty much think you should be able to take on the world and do anything. So, I set out to accomplish more than is realistically possible to do on any given day. My husband calls me a “beautiful disaster” because I’m constantly moving so fast that I have a tendency to walk into walls and break a lot of dishes. I always feel like I’m falling behind, like there are a million things on my to do list and I’m nowhere near getting them all done. 

Last year, I got hooked on the concept of minimalism. I started reading articles and blogs about how having less "stuff" can help you to have a more meaningful and joyful life! I was really excited about this because it made me think, “If I have less clutter in my house, my keys won't have such an easy time hiding from me.” So I decluttered a LOT. Then I decluttered some more. One of my favorite mantras has become, “When in doubt, throw it out,” and my house is definitely cleaner, but it didn’t actually solve any of my problems. I still find myself feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and like I’m battling time most days.

The reason I feel overwhelmed is because I don't set realistic goals or boundaries for my time. I literally set myself up to fail. I told a friend the other day that my goal for my one day off this week was to finish the photo gallery wall in my house, paint an end table, a bookshelf, my bathroom vanity, and dig up some bushes in the front yard. He just laughed and said, "Everything you just listed is a full day project on it’s own.” I do the same thing with my work schedule and my social life. I hate the feeling of disappointing people, so I have a hard time saying no. I say yes way too often until my life is completely over scheduled. Then I get frustrated when I'm exhausted, burnt out, and haven't accomplished half of what I set out to do. 

My goal for my 35th trip around the sun is to find more balance in all areas of my life, to say no when it's necessary, and to start taking an honest look at what is actually possible for me to do on any given day. Here’s my plan so far: I’ve started bullet journaling. If you haven’t heard of it, type it into “the google.” It’s pretty awesome, and it’s helping me recognize where my delusional optimism (in regards to only having 24 hours in a day) is holding me back. Speaking of those 24 hours, I’m also attempting to get onto a better sleep schedule. I’m fond of saying, “Sleeping is for sissies,” but I heard a rumor that getting adequate sleep actually increases your productivity. My sister SWEARS this to be true. Finally, I’m going to start being brutally honest with myself and everyone else in my life in regards to how I commit my time. My superhero mom says you have to accept that you’re never going to get it all done in a day and make peace with that . . . I”m working on it.

Happy Mother's Day!

There is no power on earth as strong as a mother’s love. There are countless stories of women finding the strength of 10 to save a child. Every time I assist a woman in birthing her baby,  I am amazed and awed by the sheer strength that women carry within.  I will often tell her support person to watch her face at the moment of birth.  It is one of sheer triumph! I assisted a woman birthing this week  and as often happens for me, was humbled by her tenacity and courage in birthing her baby.   She pushed in every position imaginable to rotate her baby and bring her into “the light”.  She never wavered in her conviction that she could do it and  through the sheer power of her will,  she did it!

I often tell mothers that to birth they must  access the deepest darkest part of the self. They must find the strength that lies deep within, in the parts of the soul that are not polite or quiet but  can wield a sword or throw fire. Anyone who has never before seen a woman in the throes of labor is astounded by the transformation that takes place. To witness a normally polite, controlled  woman rocking and moaning and assertively telling everyone in the room to be quiet or leave is truly awesome.

I believe that birth is hard because motherhood is hard. It comes with sacrifice and the giving of part of your very being. I have been known to say that children “suck your life force,” and they do, but it isn’t a bad thing.  You love them unconditionally with all that you are and all that you have. But the rewards are endless. I would not be the person I am without the gifts of my children. I would not know yoga;  I would not be a teacher without my daughter Katie.  I often work long hours, staying up for 24 hour calls and then caring for my grandchildren for  another 8, and then I find the energy to teach prenatal yoga.  My peers often ask me how I do it all.  My answer is simple. I am a Mother. As a mother, you love unconditionally and through that love, you dig deep down  and you find the strength within to give and spread that love.  So I want to wish all the women who have conceived or  birthed a baby Happy Healthy Mother’s Day!   You are all powerful, strong, amazing women and I bow before you.

 

 

 

 

 

Make them count.

Make them count.

As a mom of a two year old and an 8 month old, I feel bad a lot. I feel bad that my house is a mess. I feel bad that the laundry is not done. I feel bad I don't make time to exercise or that I am not back to my pre-pregnancy size. Tonight my 8 month old woke up crying so I went in to get him and he immediately stopped crying and snuggled into my chest. I stared at him for awhile. He fell back asleep quickly. I drank in the smell of his head and kissed his chubby little cheeks. I held his little hand and held him a little closer and longer. That's when it hit me. Your baby doesn't care if your house is a mess, if the laundry is not done, if the jeans you are wearing are two sizes bigger than the ones that hang in your closet. Your baby doesn't care if you have makeup on or your hair is done. Your baby just wants to be held.  So hold your baby a little longer, a little closer. Time goes too fast. Your house can wait , the laundry can wait, your old jeans can wait.  Your baby will only be a baby for a little while. Someone once told me these are the longest days and shortest years of your life. Make them count.

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Welcome to Spiral Path Yoga!

Welcome to Spiral Path Yoga! 

We are a mother/daughter team inspired to celebrate the feminine and create community around motherhood. My mom, Karen, is a Certified Nurse Midwife and The Director of Midwifery for Ocean Gynecological and Obstetrical Associates. I am a Licensed Massage Therapist with a Certification in Prenatal and Perinatal Massage. We both teach yoga and we also offer childbirth, breastfeeding, and breathing for labor and birth workshops. My sister, Kendall, is the mother of a two and a half year old girl, Mackenzie, and an 8 month old boy, Robert. This blog is a place where we will share my mom’s knowledge and insight from her career of birthing over 3,000 babies, my tips and guides for wellness and balance, and my sister’s experiences as a mother. Our goal is to empower women through the transition into motherhood.

Back when women lived, birthed, and mothered in community, birth was considered a natural part of life. In our busy, modern society, we’ve started to lose touch with this concept. In the year 2017, with all of our medical advancements and technology, we should have less fear around childbirth, but it seems that we have more. Birth is indeed a natural part of life, but our present day society sends the message that it is a medical condition to fear and instead of supporting one another, many women feel judged by others about their choices around breastfeeding or co-sleeping or overwhelmed with negative birth stories. 

Spiral Path is where we have created a community to give women a place to connect with other women, a place to feel supported and nurtured. We truly believe in the power of female connection. My mom, sister, and I function as a tightly knit unit and the link between the three of us is incredibly strong. It became even stronger when my sister became a mother; and I think having a female support system is an integral part of a healthy life. We wish to welcome you to our world, where we strive to encourage, educate, and support you through this beautiful transition into motherhood.

With love,

Katie

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