A few thoughts on guilt (and motherhood)

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I admit that guilt is a feeling I've experienced often in my life. 

I want everyone to be happy (and to be more honest, I want to escape conflict). This is impossible but some part of me still magically expects that I could and thus I feel guilty when I can't show up perfectly. 

After working with so many clients, I know I'm not alone. We are letting guilt rule our lives! Becoming a mother has intensified all this. 

This little guy needs me so often. I am his food source and even when he's not hungry, my boobs are still the place he turns for comfort (this is called non-nutritive sucking and no, he will not accept a pacifier so far). Sometimes I just can't anymore and I feel so guilty to hear him cry. 

I realized that I was putting more pressure on myself to let go of guilt. My idealized self always feels confident and is taking motherhood in stride.

My real self is riding the ups and downs, can sometimes see through guilt and sometimes feels like she's drowning in it. 

Somehow accepting this truth and taking perfect off the table makes it all easier. With this, I'll keep going, thriving one moment and struggling the next. 

Mostly I'll realize that I'm not alone in being a real deal human being who keeps learning a whole lot about life.
 

How to Take a Pause When You're Spiraling

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I hope this message finds you well this Wednesday. It's amazing to me that we are already in October. Fall is flying!

Jonah is one month old now and I have less than two weeks left in my postpartum 40-day rest. (What is this? In a nutshell: a lot of cultures recommend women rest for six weeks after birth. Our culture doesn't talk much about a mother's restoration but I think it's really important.)

Within that, I still love connecting with you all about self-care. It feels more important to me than ever to have this conversation. I type these messages one-handed on my phone, usually while Jonah sleeps on my belly, and my awesome assistant Thea formats it all.

And yet, it can still feel like too much. Today I don't know what to write about. I'm still so disoriented from the massive changes in my life and the harsh news of the world. How do I make sense if it all? It's hard to know which way is up.

I recognized that I was spiraling. When I'm spiraling, I often think I need to take on more and dive further into the overwhelm.

This is my addiction to excitement, my learned habit of drama. It's caused a lot of damage in my life.

Life has taught me that the best thing to do in these moments is to choose rest. This spaciousness helps me to see where I am and feel my feelings. With awareness, I can integrate my experience and reset my path.

So with that, I'll rest. I'll go back to snuggling this wee one, drinking nettle tea and resetting the best as I can.

And you too! If you can rest - in any big or small way - I hope you do the same for yourself. If it's hard for you, then know you have permission. Resting is not only ok but it's totally necessary to living a fully joyful life. Give yourself that time and watch everything transform.

But first: a question for you!

As I move back into fuller work mode in the coming weeks, I'm curious how this newsletter can serve you more.

What self-care resources are you craving? What topics would you like to see discussed? Where can self-care take us all?

Please let me know! And then get ready to see this space shift to give us all more of what we need to live truly beautiful and balanced lives.

We so very much deserve them.

Learning About Real Self-Care

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A few of you have been wondering how Poncho and Jonah are getting along. The answer is that they had their first real meeting this weekend (Poncho was here for our home birth but that was a crazy night for us all).

This is because I share Poncho with my ex - going four years strong in this arrangement - and he's been great about keeping him when I couldn't get out of bed, let alone walk the guy.

I was nervous about taking Poncho back, not because of how he would react to the babe but because I was afraid I wouldn't have enough energy to give Poncho the affection he's used to from me.

Do others go through this fear of care-taking scarcity? Having a baby is stretching me to my limits. It's hard to find energy for myself, let alone for any other being but Jonah.

Even when I heard about the shootings in Las Vegas yesterday, my first reaction was "I don't know if I have the emotional energy to take that in."

Of course, I was forgetting everything I've learned about real care-giving. When I'm tuned in from a place of actual open-hearted love (rather than my habit of self-sacrifice), the energy renews itself.

Being with Poncho was really wonderful and comforting (and he seemed mildly interested in the baby but still very focused on the cat). Praying for the victims families and talking to Micah about US gun culture helped me feel connected instead of disoriented by the violence.

Once again, I am humbled by how much I can learn about real self-care. Luckily, I'm fascinated by the process and love what mothering is showing me. I'm more committed than ever to seeing through my own denial and realizing that I can keep my heart open to whatever is happening.
In any moment that might mean rest, or speaking out or just tears of empathy. There's no formula except staying self-aware enough to care. Whatever it is, I trust this care to guide the way while also helping to sustain the journey.

Two Relational Self-Care Nuggets ( + My Self-Care for Postpartum Body Insecurities)

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Yesterday, I posted a little note on social media which describes how I've been feeling about my body postpartum.

I needed to share the sh*tty voice in my head that told me I needed to lose my pregnancy weight ASAP. My hope was to disempower it a little and perhaps dispel the perfectionism of new motherhood in the process.

It worked! I'm touched by how many of you responded and shared your own experiences around body image, pregnancy and breastfeeding. I learned a lot and felt way less alone after sharing my truth.

Read the post and comments here on Facebook and here on Instagram

Today, two self-care thoughts are sprouting up from that conversation...

1) We are so different from each other.

Just from this conversation I saw that...

Some women lost a lot of weight while breastfeeding. Others didn't at all or lost their milk supply when their weight got too low.

Some women felt better about their physical selves after they became mothers. Others thought it had forever changed their bodies in ways they didn't like.

Further, some women are mothers and others aren't. One moment we feel peaceful about this and then maybe we don't at all.

I think it's normal to have reactions and judgments about these differences. People often speak thinking mostly of their own experience.

It's really hard to take on the perspective of another, especially when experiences are tender and our feelings are deeply-held as identity. This is life, especially as it's playing out in our culture right now.

2) Yet, we are the same.

We are the same in that we all have a story to tell that is meaningful. There are hard, disorienting aspects to that story and parts that make us feel like scrappy heroines.

Usually, telling our whole story to others in a safe space makes us feel more integrated as human beings.

It's scary to do this because we have to open up and expose ourselves. A voice deep inside of us screams for stop it because we are risking injury. It wonders if others can really understand us and if our words will be held against us.

Because if someone doesn't hear our pain or recognize our strength, it can feel even worse. It teaches us to keep it all inside and avoid trusting others.

But when others nod along and get us? Well, that's incredibly healing. We see ourselves reflected in each other and realize we are all struggling and shining at the same time.

Finding those safe spaces and practicing the courage to share our truth is the most effective form of self-care I know. It's like years of therapy within a powerful conversation.

(How do I know? I've seen it happen so many times in my self-care circles. Check out the upcoming winter one here.)

Sharing also helps us to see each other more clearly. Within the sameness of this experience of opening up, we can learn to truly appreciate the different creatures that we most definitely are. We learn from our differences instead of being so divided by them.

This weekend, many will march in support of black women lives in Washington DC. Others will spend the day in prayer or tend to loved ones at home or stay courageously afloat in their depression or simply touch the soft ground of nature to revitalize their spirits.

In the process, may all struggle a bit with self-love or love for others. It will be hard to understand ourselves and seem almost impossible to comprehend others. Again, I think this is normal.

Still, does it have to hold us back? Within these realities, can we show up as porous and understanding as possible?

Can we open our minds to hearing from different ears, seeing a wider view and learning more about ourselves in the process?

Could we create a world - one secure enough in its sameness that it can open its arms to the challenges of difference?

My hope is that we can and my sense is that we are and my heart fills so sincerely from the depth of this moment, shaky and tender and immensely powerful for us all.

 

Here's one of me with the little guy!

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Postpartum body real talk: I haven't posted many pictures of us together because I haven't like how I looked. 

So I gained 43 lbs while I was pregnant. During my first two trimesters I was careful with my diet and because it was challenging, I ate whatever comforted me in my third trimester. 

Throughout it all, I felt pretty beautiful. I mostly do now too, except when I see pictures of myself. They remind me of the places that used to be muscle and now are soft and how that is a weakness somehow. They tell me I have to get it all back together or I never will. 

Reasoning with myself, I affirm that my body has just done the most amazing thing ever (and continues to as I breastfeed Jonah and he grows). It tells me nine months in and thus nine months out for my body to heal. What's most important now is that I keep resting. 

But those other voices never quite go away. 

For me, self-care is recognizing both sides as true: 1) I'm not totally free from believing in the cultural expectation that I need to lose my pregnancy weight quickly or else lose my worth as a woman (scarcity mentality!) and 2) it's all BS and I'm just going to enjoy the miracle of life (abundance!). 

Embracing both helps me to be softer with myself. Maybe someday I'll really be at total peace with my body but today I'll just practice self-awareness and let it all be the messy, beautiful process that this is.
 

What Is Surprising Me About Motherhood

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I hope this message finds you well as we step into the fall equinox tomorrow. This is a moment of reconnecting to ourselves and refocusing on our values as we face yet another transition of life.

Transitions have never been as apparent as right now. Somehow more than two weeks have passed since Jonah was born. It seemed very long - particularly those nighttime hours and minutes when he doesn't want to go back to sleep.

And also the time has just flown. He's bigger and fuller than even a few days ago. Huge changes are happening, when I take the time to look for them.

This is the biggest challenge of motherhood so far. How can I stay present for the magical growth of this little babe? Especially in a world that is pleading for my constant distraction, how do I slow down enough to really see the magic in front of me?

Herein lies the biggest surprise of motherhood: it's way simpler than I thought it would be. Where I imagined incredible complexity, becoming a parent has pared my life down to the barest essentials.

Self-care means taking a shower and brushing my hair once a day. Whatever foods people generously leave on the doorstep are the perfect nutrition for us. Crying is the ultimate distresser, for the baby and for me.

There's little that needs to be done that isn't in the here and now. When I get ambitious, I drown. Staying present and curious, I swim.

I can work with this, even if my brain often tells me differently. Working with this is actually opening my heart in the most beautiful ways.

(Thank you, Jonah for that and so much more.)

So as we begin this new season tomorrow, I step forward with more humility and clarity than ever.

It's my first fall as a mother. I care less about disappointing others than ever. I am learning a whole new strength.

And you, my dear? What are you stepping forward into tomorrow? What do you most desire and what guides your way?

Can you believe in yourself and all of your amazing power that can be hard to describe and still feel so real?

That belief in ourselves and the presence to remember it is the magic. It's up to us to access it and to stay with it, especially when the path is hard.

It's there waiting for us. The access point is self-care, the real and gentle kind, the type all of us deserve.

My Motherhood Journey

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Oh our sweet little guy has such a case of baby acne! Apparently 40% of infants get it, it's painless for them and it goes away by around week six. So no biggie but it has been interesting to watch my reactions around the less-than-perfect parts of motherhood.

Jonah is fussier this week than in his first two. He wants to eat all the time (and he can because my milk supply is strong because he wants to eat all the time. Breastfeeding = the original supply and demand). However, he gets super gassy and fussy after most feedings right now which means lots of screaming crying, which is hard to watch when I can't do anything to stop it.

At first I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to love all parts of this newborn process. The other night I hit a wall and realized that just because I love him doesn't mean I have to even like getting up at all hours of the night, the crying fits, the leaking breasts and all the other unglamorous parts of motherhood. It felt like a relief to admit the truth and dealing with those things actually got a little easier.

I realized how many perfectionist sinkholes will be on this parenting path. I feel grateful that I know myself well enough to understand when I'm falling into one (it's usually when I'm getting uptight, judgmental, and catastrophizing everything).

When I do, all I can do is pull myself out. I do this by admitting I am struggling to someone I trust (usually Micah in these moments). Then I get to re enter. I take a deep breath, cuddle the beautiful babe and get back to work doing the best I can.

The Recipe for Real Rest (Even When You Feel Extra Guilty About Needing It)

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Photo by the uber-talented Ann Marie Van Tassell

 

I hope this message finds you well! As we move into September, I hope you are also considering the self-care you'll need for this changing season ahead.
 
Personally, I love the fall self-care practices of soothing self-massage with warm sesame oil, reading a novel while soaking in a tub with Epsom salts, and eating cinnamon-dusted baked apples for breakfast. 
 
However, I live on the east coast of the US and your climate might be asking you for different practices. What feels most nourishing and appropriate for you during this transition?
 
These days, my other main practice is dedicated rest. Now that Jonah is here, it was recommended by my midwives that I spend two weeks in bed recovering from the birth (which is a lot on the body), learning how to nurse the babe and psychically adjusting to this new stage of life.
 
Both Chinese medicine and Ayurveda (and many other cultures) back this up, recommending that women take a 40-day postpartum rest to rebuild strength and safeguard future reproductive health. For centuries, many cultures supported this fourth trimester time for new mothers in order to help them emerge as powerful caregivers.
 
In theory, I completely agree and practically, having an 11-day old infant means I can't leave the bedroom. Jonah's eating, sleeping and pooping needs wouldn't let me get too far out in the world, even if I tried.
 
Yet still, these realities don't stop the voice in my head from telling me that I should really get a few thank you notes in the mail, organize the fridge so nothing goes bad, and start walking my way back into pre-pregnancy shape. 
 
"Forget the rest," it says, "let's get back to work."
 
Even with the sweetness of a sleeping baby on my chest, my ego still just wants to check items off a to-do list. This makes it feel like it's still in control. It's an amazingly powerful urge.
 
This might be because motivating those voices is a shakier, quieter one. It's the one that desperately wants to know if I truly deserve so much care from others in this moment. It cringes when I see my loved ones inconvenienced by my needs and feels the weight of the world on its shoulders every time I make a request.
 
In these past years, I've gotten really good at self-care but how does that translate to letting in the loving care of others? 
 
My recipe for rest is all about tending to my self-doubt about receiving. In order to do this, I have to see through so much learned untruth about personal and cultural value of myself as a woman and how that translates to mothering.
 
It's only when I can reassure myself that I am as worthy of care as any other new mother (or person) and that our culture desperately needs these qualities of rest and nurturing, that I begin to let in the love.
 
Rationally, I understand that if I don't give myself this time then I won't show up as the kind, patient and good-humored mother I wish to be. If I can be truly cared for then I can really care for others. I think those two practices have to go together.
 
And wider, if I don't give myself this time of conscious rest, I will continue to expect too much from everyone else around me. I will abuse the privilege I have by demanding that the people who work for me and depend on me cut their own self-care so they can maintain maximum efficiency.
 
I want to live in a world where we are all allowed to take sick days, everyone is encouraged to take time off to care for sick and elderly relatives, and all parents are celebrated for bonding heartily with our infants.
 
To me, this feels like the antidote to our capital-driven society. In a culture that so willingly auctions off humanity for the outward appearance of success, let's reclaim in the space of heart-centered care as a place of healing for us all.
 
The space of care is as messy as it is nutritive. Laundry doesn't always get folded and sometimes Cheetos are the only appropriate snack. We tend to stay up late because it feels so good to be silly and laugh deeply.
 
In this space, the lines of self-care can feel blurred. What about our cherished rules of five vegetables a day, eight hours of sleep and intense cardio on the weekends? Can we occasionally let these things go so we can truly open our hearts?
 
It's important in these moments to understand that we letting go of control and laying down our shields. It's beautiful and it's scary. During these disorienting moments, love and worthiness have to be the guiding force. This is ultimate self-care.
 
Following these, we heal and help others to do the same. We find the energy we need to keep moving forward - out into the workings of the world or perhaps more deeply into ourselves. The two can become a dance, one that nurses us all back to health.

Happy 10 days of life to Jonah!

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In this time we've gotten the hang of breastfeeding (which I think is the most amazing human process - repairs my postpartum body as it builds his), had a beautiful eighth day of life ceremony created and led by our friend Hannah where Jonah was welcomed with a foot-washing ritual and blessings from our immediate family, and discovered that Jonah has the alter ego of a starving pterodactyl (oh the crying fits when he's overwhelmed and tired).

The biggest surprise is that so far, this guy can sleep for four hour stretches at night so we are getting more sleep that expected.

We've also had a lovely stream of relatives helping us with eating and laundry and a few beautiful meals dropped off on our doorstep by friends.

It's an edge to receive so much but it's also so inspiring to watch the generosity of our community in action.

Micah has also been a dream - making me oatmeal, running my baths, changing diapers like a champ. I knew my life would change dramatically the moment I gave birth, but I figured that process would be more about me struggling through the wilds of mothering on my own.

Again, it's this idea of fierce independence that our capital-driven culture demands and the damage it causes to our psyches.

So far my process involves softening to receive, taking time to rest and heal, and telling myself over and over again that I am worthy of support and care.

Because if I am not worthy then I send the message that no mothers or caretakers are worthy and everyone, mostly these sweet innocent babes, will suffer.

So today I will embrace rest, snuggle Jonah and believe this could lead to the change I want to see in this world.
 

My Little Family

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I'm so excited to introduce you all to Jonah Aleksander! He was born very early Saturday morning, weighing in at just under 8 lbs.

His birth shocked us all. After spending most of Friday in pre-labor, the midwife came over in the evening (a great benefit of doing a home birth). She checked me and declared that with his current positioning, it was still going to be much longer. The best thing I could do was sleep so I would have energy for the next day of labor. She prescribed a sleeping pill and told us to call her in the morning, or sooner if anything changed.

Then our amazing doula Lindsey came by. She led us through a few gentle exercises (that still felt so hard with contractions) to change the baby's positioning. When I was in the last restorative one, Micah fed me the sleeping pill and I was down for the count.

A little before 1am I woke up in a haze with intense contractions. I tried to breathe through them on my own but they were more than I could handle. I finally woke up Micah and told him I needed help. He, in his usual amazing fashion, drew me a bath so I could labor in the tub.

As I got in, I knew something was about to happen. I felt an uncontrollable urge to push and told Micah. While he called the midwife to come, I reached down and touched the baby’s head.

Then I knew this was happening. It was beyond me, so totally primal. Before I could hesitate I started pushing him out - two powerful pushes. As he emerged, Micah reached out and caught him. It was wild but also fluid. We had no idea what we were doing but we were doing it.

And it worked! After a few seconds Jonah started hollering. He was breathing! Micah put him on my chest while he got blankets and called the midwife.

We had our beautiful baby boy. He was breathing and cooing in my arms. My heart cracked open wider than ever.

When our birth team showed up 15 minutes later, we were already bonding as a family. He and I were both declared totally healthy. I felt the immense relief of everything coming to such a safe, happy conclusion.

From the moment of learning I was pregnant, my life has felt like a wild, wonderful ride. Although I was smitten with Micah before, we really fell in love after learning we were pregnant.

Of course this path wasn't linear. I had spent so much of my life wondering, questioning and doubting if I was making the right moves. There were moments I felt so lost.

And then suddenly it all fell into place. Before I knew it, I had a partner, a new house, and a family of my own. I'm not saying this is the only path to happiness - indeed I think a happy destination is all about walking a happy path - but as it developed, all of it felt so right to me.

So it makes sense that Jonah's birth would happen the way that it did. There was an awkward waiting period and the false start of pre-labor. We thought he was in the wrong position and felt demoralized. But as we rested into the night, everything fell into place. He shot out before we could even get organized. It was unplanned and exactly right.

It's hard not to draw a hundred metaphors for the birthing process because it is so rich in content. Today one feels really important, especially as it pertains to our self-care process.

The most important thing we can do is finding our alignment. Whether it's personal or collective, alignment is what happens when we let go of the question enough to allow the answer to come forth. With alignment, everything works. Without it, we struggle and struggle to feel like ourselves.

To me, self-care is about finding that alignment. It's learning about who we are and creating our lives to reflect that truth. It will look different for each of us. Our lives will be the proof that it's working.

So welcome Jonah! Micah and I are so very, very in love with him. He has the sweetest little spirit and eyes that feel full of wisdom. He has already taught us so much and we look forward to everything that will come.

Thank you all for your support. It means a lot and we'll continue to need it. I hope we can give it right back for whatever wonders you are birthing in life theses days. 

Big blessings from here and more updates soon!