Labor, Delivery + the Birth of Intuition

This is my account of my bru-tiful (brutal + beautiful) adventure. My birth story includes loss, of roles and temporarily of faith, but it also includes the birth of a whole new woman in ways well beyond motherhood.

Around 2:30 am during my first day of labor, I was still awake, hopping on the exercise ball every 9 or so minutes. It had been about 8 ½ hours. The contractions had started lasting longer and becoming more intense. I couldn’t bounce them out anymore and I called my mom in tears.

We drove to the hospital and got rejected 3 times. The first, on Saturday, was when my water broke. Or so I thought. Turns out I just peed all over everything. They gave me a shot and told me nice things about going home and “getting some rest”. There may have been a few hours of mild relief. As in, I wasn’t crying.

Something wasn’t right. I felt it in my gut.

By Sunday my husband brought a folding chair into our shower. I was only comfortable underneath the pounding, hot water. Mostly standing and rocking. And crying. And screaming into the walls every 4 or 5 minutes when the contractions came. I didn't eat or sleep. I didn't think much, either. There was an intense pain that swallowed my entire being.

As I think back on the experience, I fight with disappointment and anger, mostly towards myself. I knew by the second time we went to the hospital that something was not right. I knew. Not because I read a blog post about it, or went to a class for it. I knew because I felt it in my gut. And I should have listened to that intuition and spoke up about her power and wisdom.

Instead I was sent home. My water hadn’t broke and I was not dilated. At all. So I labored. For  over 4 days.

The drive to the hospital on Tuesday was brutal. I clenched the door handle in the car with my eyes closed, groaning and screaming like a wild beast every 2 minutes. My husband drove with determination and care, and a deep knowing not to speak to me.

The nurse was kind and rubbed my naked back as I stood in the tiny hospital shower, asking me questions for check-in in between my contractions. “It’s Ok, sweetie”, “take your time”, “make sure you breathe”. This was my birth story, and I was already disappointed by it. 

Looking back, I realize that I had lost my breath through the whole experience.

Brene Brown’s fifth guidepost for Whole-Hearted Living is “Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty”. She says,

Intuition is not a single way of knowing - it’s our ability to hold space for uncertainty and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith and reason.

I fought with my longing for a natural birth. The doctors told me that I needed an epidural, that I wouldn't have the strength to delivery my baby after laboring for four days. I felt like something was stolen from me, that I had somehow already failed as a mother with my son still inside of me. My connection with myself had somehow been severed.

A new nurse came in and I asked if it was normal to feel sick from the epidural. She assured me that side effects varied and that my convulsion-esque shaking was nothing to be worried about. I told her that my throat was really sore, it was hard to breathe, and my body was achey like the flu.

I knew something wasn’t right. I felt it.

I had developed a virus called “chorio”, most likely from prolonged labor. My heart rate was rising quickly, and so was Micah’s. New groups of people were moving in and out of the room and before we knew it, we were being prepped for surgery.

The first part of the C-Section felt quick, getting Micah out went well. The doctor apologized for the wait in stitching me up and said that my intestines weren’t cooperating. “They keep popping back out”. Little did I know this was only the beginning of the long road to recovery for me.

I got to hold my sweet baby boy for a few minutes before the nurses came in to check me after the surgery. 

The nurse put pressure on my pelvic area and I screamed in pain as blood started shooting out of me. Within seconds Micah was taken from my arms, a hospital alarm was going off and I was being rushed down the hallway by nurses.

I remember looking at the nurse as she ran next to my bed. She held my hand and wiped the tears from my eyes. I only had one question, “Am I going to die?” She stroked my hair out of my face and never answered me. 

When I woke up the doctor explained that I had hemorrhaged. I had lost a lot of blood and would need a blood transfusion. My iron was dangerously low and they were starting intravenous supplementation. I had a long road ahead of me. A road to personal recovery that would be made more winding and bumpy because I was also responsible for my tiny human. 

How could motherhood already feel so impossible, when I had only held my son for mere minutes?

At my two week check up I limped into the examine room, showing the doctor my swollen, red incision that was burning hot to the touch and oozing. It was infected. I would have to be reopened. Immediately. My brain could not process what was happening quickly enough, I felt completely out of control of my body. And disconnected. How could this body, that grew a beautiful baby boy be so damaged now?

The first month of motherhood is an absolute blur to me. Most days I was too sick and weak to care for my baby. My mom and husband opened my incision twice a day for 3 weeks, packing and unpacking it with bandages. I journeyed back and forth to the hospital every other day, first to have my incision examined, then to receive a round of intravenous iron.  Each time my wound was reopened I lost a part of myself. I didn't have the strength to nourish myself.

My spirit was deeply wounded, as a woman and a mother.

My intuition was trying to speak to me and I pushed her away. I did that frequently during my first year of motherhood. Micah is 2 1/2 now. I am at a place of peace as I reflect on how each part of my journey into motherhood has been a gift and a lesson. 

I worked hard these 2 1/2 years, tapping into what my intuition feels like, what her voice sounds like and how she breathes. I go back into the memories, the ones that sometimes still bring me to my knees, and examine how I was able to grow from the first month. To look at how strong I was, and how capable my body is.

It is still tender to place my hand on my incision, I still feel sensations of stretching and burning within me. Most days, tears well in my eyes when I examine the scar in the mirror. The tears have morphed from tears of fear and disgust to those of gratitude, for the voice I found and the love I am able to receive.

“And no one will listen to us until we listen to ourselves.” Marianne Williamson

What is your story? Is it a birth story, a story of loss and grief, does your story jump rope with depression and anxiety? Share it. Use your story to empower your sisters. To be heard. To listen to your intuition. To write your own ending. 

Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have for making sense of the world... Our deepest source of wisdom lives inside our stories. Brene Brown


What Feeling Squishy on My Birthday Taught Me + Lessons on Habits & Feelings

This isn’t just another “New Year, New Me” post. It’s not another weight loss journey. And it’s not about learning to love myself.

Well, actually, that last one. It’s all about that. And it’s hard.

I was enjoying a new coffee shop on my birthday, surrounded by my favorite books and journals. Alone. And so happy for the solitude. Every few minutes I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, trying to adjust the waistband on my pants to somehow shrink the soft and squishy belly that is oozing out.

“Stop it, Mandy; your weight does not define who you are.” “Be gentle with yourself; it’s been a busy few months.”

I pull down my over-sized sweater to ensure that there is no spillage visible. I’ve always liked oversized, boho style clothes. The flowy nature, sheer comfort of being able to breathe freely and the layers. All the layers. 

I got called out a few weeks ago though. By my parents. “Mandy, there you go, wearing all of those giant clothes again, covering yourself up.” I defended my wardrobe through warm tears that poured down my round cheeks.

I’ve reflected a lot lately. I’ve learned new meditation techniques. I am studying self-compassion. I’ve earned my Life Coach certification. I am doing the work.

So why the hell do I still find it impossible to be deeply happy with myself?

This is not about accepting myself. This is about the realization that I am numbing. I am numbing with food (cheese, please), but mostly alcohol. Am I an alcoholic? No, but that’s another post. As a wife, the mom of a 2 ½ year old boy, a full-time college instructor, and a brand new entrepreneur; I’m busy.

Brene Brown says, “Shame enters for those of us who experience anxiety because not only are we feeling fearful, out of control, and incapable of managing our increasingly demanding lives, but eventually our anxiety is compounded and made unbearable by our belief that if we were just smarter, stronger, or better, we’d be able to handle everything. Numbing here becomes a way to take the edge off of both instability and inadequacy."

Ding, ding, ding. Lightbulb moment. As a teacher, I love those.

What do I do when I feel overwhelmed?

I sit on the couch each night after a long day and drink a couple glasses of wine and snack on all the things. For the last 6 months that has become my “down” time. Lovely, right? Drinking calories and eating even when I’m not hungry as I stare at the TV for 2 hours. But I deserve it, I tell myself.

In this couple of days of reflection, the reality is that I am disappointed with myself. The good news is that I have a toolbox full of tools to help me shift that perspective.

A bit of self-compassion here {Mandy, this is all so hard and a lot of it is new} and some reframing there {Mandy, it is clear that you are not happy about the habits you have created, what do you want to do to change them?}

Habits are hard. I have a lot of habits in my life that I am happy about, and now I see that I have some negative ones that have taken control. Gretchin Rubin wrote a whole book about them. It was not surprising that my result from taking her Habits Quiz, was that I am considered an Obliger.

Obligers respond readily to outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations. In other words, they work hard not to let other people down, but they often let themselves down.

Obligers may find it difficult to form a habit, because often we undertake habits for our own benefit, and Obligers do things more easily for others than for themselves.

For Obligers, the
 key to forming habits is to create external accountability.

 And there you have it. I have no problem letting myself down.

Do I readily let my son or husband down, Hell NO! My clients or new business endeavors? Over my dead body. My students? NEVER! But myself? Yep, I just put myself right on the back burner. Oy.

So, I have resorted to “taking the edge off” by being sedentary, drinking a couple of glasses of wine, eating cheese and staring at the television. I do a ton of other really great things during the day! But these numbing habits have stolen my mojo.

I’m excited for this journey. Another growth opportunity. I don’t like feeling squishy, I enjoy feeling strong and athletic. And because I am becoming fluent in The Desire Map as a facilitator, it means I have been practicing a lot on my own.

If a feeling is much stronger than a thought, and I have negative thoughts AND feelings about myself, well then it’s time to shake things up!

Danielle Laporte says, “You’re not chasing the goal itself- you’re chasing the feelings that you hope attaining those goals will give you.”

When I jam on my Core Desired Feelings in the Body & Wellness section of my life, I want to feel:

strong, badass, fast, fortified, toned, fierce, unshakable, lean, flexible, athletic, nourished, alive, boundless, confident, energized, fresh, revitalized, holistic and feminine.

So, what am I doing about it? Lots of things. Signed up with a badass personal trainer {Shout Out to the magical Hilary Paris in West Seattle}, started eating chicken + bone broth (after being a vegetarian for 12 years), began the Whole 30 program, and committed to 30 minutes of meditation each day. 

Basically, I am learning how to listen to my body.

How do you want to feel? In your relationships? In your career? In your body? In your spiritual life?

What REALLY makes you feel lit up, and how often to you feel that way in your daily life?

If you yearn to find your Core Desired Feelings, let's chat! 

Comment below on how you want to feel. May you feel those feelings often in 2017.