'In high school I was known for my negative splits in the 400 m dash. Okay, well, maybe I wasn't known for them but my coaches, teammates, and my dad thought it was awesome. If you're not familiar with track and field lingo, a negative split means that I ran the second half of the race faster than the first. This is challenging for the obvious reason that you are more tired in the second half. It's a fine line between starting too fast and hitting that dreaded wall or holding back too much and not being able to make up the distance in the second half. Boy did I piss a few components off chasing them down those last 200 meters while my dad screamed from the side lines "Get 'em Meliss!"
For the most part, I've carried that same ability into my adult years and have been able to dig deep in much longer running events such as marathon and ultra distances. Imma "come from behind" kinda of gal and damn does it feel good to cruise by folks at the end of a race (with a healthy dose of encouragement as I pass them of course).
Now, what does this have to do with November and December? It has everything to do with these last two months of the year. You see, by now, most people have "fallen off the wagon" so to speak in terms of those lofty New Years resolutions they set back in January. As we roll into the holidays, the popular attitude is "meh, I'll just eat and drink and be merry (okay, maybe not the merry part as eating and drinking too much for 2 straight months rarely leads to joy) until the end of the year and then hit reset in January."
I've fallen into this trap many a times. I've over done it in so many ways--be it sugar, alcohol, spending, commitments...I've been there. And you know what? It doesn't make me happier and it for sure doesn't make me healthier. As a matter of fact, I usually get sick right around Christmas and start the New Year off with a killer cold.
How am I doing it differently this year? I'm choosing to focus on mindful movement and mindful eating. I will absolutely enjoy a few holiday treats but I'll do so with mindfulness and gratitude. Instead of the "all or nothing" attitude, I'll slow down, realize that I can have that pumpkin pie... but I'm also going to drink that green smoothie and chomp on that hearty kale salad. It means that I'm going to make a strong effort to get enough sleep and drink enough water. It means that I'm going to lovingly move my body each day so that when January 1 rolls around, I feel good in my body and my mind is peaceful. It means I'm going to say "no" when it feels like too much. It means I'm going to help me kids understand that they don't NEED all the toys. It means loving myself enough to compassionately practice self care in a season that can be all together overwhelming and gluttonous.
Want to join me? My next round of Beet Camp Starts next Monday, November 25. It is the perfect way to finish the year with mindful movement, simple nutrition, and evidenced based stress management techniques. I'll help you establish sustainable morning and evening routines that you will carry into the New Year with ease.
Click here to sign up!
Let's Finish 2018 Strong, Friends!
I have never been crazy about pumpkin pie. I was always more of an apple pie gal...or pecan if we're being honest. Truly, I didn't like pumpkin pie...until I made this one. The filling is just the right amount of sweet and spicy, the crust, simple and satisfying.
We've made this pie twice already this fall. Once for Fall Equinox and the second time we made mini pies with my cute as pie homeschool cooking class. Check out an adorable video of my class over at The Tiny Chef Kitchen. The kids gobbled this one up and I didn't feel at all bad about feeding it to them. Full of healthy fats, nourishing pumpkin, warming spices, and a bit of maple syrup, we have been known to eat left overs for breakfast.
It is officially fall and I'm over here getting cozy with all the warm, grounding fall foods and spices my heart can dream of. From cinnamon in my coffee grounds and curry to my homemade pumpkin creamer to ease me from sleep to wake, it feels like a big ol' hug from Mother Nature herself.
Now, I know you can grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte from pretty much any coffee shop in town but my guess is that you don't want to be dumping that sugary processed stuff into your body every day. So, how can you have pumpkin spice coffee every day without breaking your health or your bank? Homemade pumpkin spice creamer, my friends. It's easy breezy to make and tastes just a little bit like heaven. You're welcome.
1 can full fat coconut milk
2 heaping spoonfuls pumpkin purée (Made fresh or from a can)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 splash vanilla
1/8 cup pure maple syrup
Blend it up! Store in a jar in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
Your lymphatic symptom plays a huge role in detoxifying and clearing the body of toxins. As my body begins to kill off the mono infection, I have developed a rash all over my arms, chest, shoulders, and back. It isn't painful or itchy, but it is a signal that my lymphatic system is not doing its job. In addition to keeping my fluids up, I'm also focusing on foods and herbs that continue to fight off the virus while also tending to my lymphatic system to flush that junk OUT!
Here's a quick smoothie to support the lymphs, boost the immune system, and with the added bonus of some adrenal love.
Drain Them Lymphs Smoothie
Oh Life, how you have a way of keeping us constantly on our toes. A few weeks ago I was beginning my taper for Wild Woman 50k, my first ultra distance race since having babies. I felt ready. I was strong. I was so excited not only for the race but for the weekend away with friends, camping, yoga, laying in a field and staring at Mt. Adams.
It seems my body had other plans. The week before the race, I began feeling a bit fatigued and developed a sore throat. "It's okay," I thought, "I will just rest and nourish and be ready to go next week! I'm so thankful its this week and not next week that I feel sick!" Little did I know, it was the start of a multiple week struggle (that continues still). On Tuesday, the week of the race, I went to Urgent Care, praying it was Strep (yep, I wanted it to be Strep!). I figured we could kick it with antibiotics and I'd be good to go by Saturday. The strep was negative. They ran a mono blood test. Mono was negative. The doctor decided it was probably Fusobacterium necrophorum, a bacteria that can cause similar symptoms to strep and is actually more common than Strep but is difficult to diagnose. Because it can be quite dangerous and can spread to your organs, its recommended to treat with amoxicillin if symptoms point towards it. So, I went home with amoxicillin and some steroids to bring down the swelling in my throat so I could swallow...and some hope that I could still run the race on Saturday.
The steroids almost immediately made me feel better. I had a hurrah of energy...enough to get the kids packed up and get down to the beach house for the 4th of July. Once the steroid induced energy wore off, I was in rough shape. I stayed in bed most of the 4th. I'd wake up with chills in the night that were so intense my entire body was shaking, I could hardly stand up, and my face turned purple. They left my jaw sore. I'd put on extra clothes and wake up an hour later soaked in sweat.
By the 5th, I had the worst headache of my life, my neck was stiff, and I was sweating buckets. I laid with my head in my mom's lap while she rubbed my head and the boys climbed on me. After calling the nurse line, we decided I needed to be seen. At this point, I was actually really scared. I knew the race wasn't happening and I actually thought I might have meningitis. My mom drove me 90 minutes to the nearest Urgent Care that my insurance would cover. The doc thought I had too much mobility in my neck for it to be meningitis and said he was certain it was mono. Often times, mono blood tests will give a false negative because not enough antibodies have built up in the blood yet. He sent me home with Vicodin and some sympathy.
Mono is usually caused by the Epstein Barr Virus, which belongs to the herpes family. It is transmitted through saliva, that's why it is traditionally known as "the kissing disease." Many people are infected with the virus during childhood and never experience any symptoms. Once you have it, you'll always have it in your body. It can lay dormant your entire life. Usually, kids don't display symptoms and if they do, it often manifests as a simple cold. Teenagers and adults are more likely to develop mono from the virus. It is possible, thought not common, to have the virus lay dormant in your body and then cause issues later on (perhaps in times of high stress or lower immunity). Usually, teens and adults will show symptoms within 7 weeks of being exposed to the virus. There is also a correlation between mono and autoimmune disease. People who have had mono, are more likely to develop Lupus, for example. So, that's a little terrifying.
I slept at my parents beach house for the next 3 days. I moved from the bed, to the couch, to the bath tub, eating watermelon when I felt up to it and drinking kombucha.
I canceled all my classes for the following week, knowing I wouldn't be well enough to do much. Since then, my energy has improved, I mostly have my appetite back, and my throat is about 80% better. I still have swollen lymph nodes and tonsils and some other really unfortunate symptoms like a rash all over my arms, neck, chest, and shoulders, ulcers in my mouth, achy muscles, and get this, arthritis in my knees. Apparently, the Ebstein Barr virus can cause infectious arthritis. This is temporary, thankfully.
I've been sick before. I've had set backs before. When we lived in Korea, I was sick with walking pneumonia for what seemed like forever. I had odd symptoms that left me worried and miserable. I had welts on my butt that made it painful to sit. It wasn't fun. When I was pregnant with Leif, I had bronchitis for about 6 weeks. Also, very miserable. This feels different though. Maybe because I have kids and a home to take care of that makes it more daunting. Maybe its because when one symptoms goes away, another develops and I feel like I'm going to be sick forever. Whatever it is, I'm learning a ton.
First off, stress. I've always been a high stress person. I push myself hard and have high expectations for my self. I was a 4.0 student and an athlete. Now, I am a business owner, mama, and long distance runner. I can't stand a dirty house and I want my garden to be amazing. I tend to take on too much and also try to please people when perhaps I should listen to my own intuition and say "no". For a month or so leading up to my illness, I was thinking A LOT about how stress was the single biggest set back in my life. It was causing me to make poor food choices, not sleep well, be grumpy with my family, and just over all not feel my best. I knew something needed to change but I wasn't sure how. Then, mono. Mono gave me no choice. I had to stay in bed. I had to let others care for me. I had to reevaluate my schedule and where I was spending my energy.
It helped me to see that I was putting too much stressed out energy into my business. So, I'm restructuring so it feels less like a hustle. It helped me see I was placing too much emphasis on how many miles I covered each day at the cost of not listening to my bodies cry for more variety.
It also showed me the areas where I can grow my compassion. Despite minor injuries and my chronic struggle with my hip and pelvic floor, I am pretty dang healthy. I have never experienced chronic pain or illness in the way that many have. I have almost always had clear skin. Now, I find myself in pain, a lot of the day, and also trying to hide my rash (not easy when its hitting 90 degrees) because I don't want people to react to it.
Lastly, it has solidified my tribe. I have had so many people in my community reach out to offer help. Help with the kids, help with meals, help with my healing. I'm not sure how people, especially mamas, do this without a tribe to take care of them. So, Tribe, THANK YOU. Thank you for loving me so well. Thank you for sending me messages to see how I'm doing. Thank you for going grocery shopping for me. Thank you for making me meals, using your healing skills to help me get better, praying for me, helping with my boys, and just helping me to know that I'm not alone.
In the weeks to come, I know my body will continue to heal. I'll continue to send it positive thoughts, saying "yes" when people offer to help, resting, drinking loads of water, nourishing, taking all the herbs, and giving myself loads of grace. I'll also be planning. I'll be planning how life will look different, less stressful, in the months to come.
Have you had mono? What was your experience with it?
That's a lot of Ps. The last 2 years have been trying to say the least. When I found myself laying in the OR two years ago, watching as they sliced me open and pulled me apart, digging through my body in a struggle to get Rein out, I was already in crisis. I was coping with an emotional trauma that had began to unfold a month prior (although it was already present in my body for years). Those first 60 seconds of Rein's life when I thought he was dead or dying, became so tightly interwoven with the existing trauma that I couldn't separate them for months. I'd close my eyes at night and see myself being stabbed in the gut, blood spilling, me screaming as my children watched. It. Was. Horrifying.
In the months that followed, I began to heal little pieces of myself but I was trapped in cycles of anger, sadness, terror. As the election of our new president grew closer, it got much worse. The way he spoke about women and their bodies, the abusive behavior he exemplified put a fire in my gut that begged to breathe flames. When I'd see people defending or supporting him, the image of the knife tearing into me resurfaced. His misogyny excused as "locker room talk" left me feeling worthless-- their support of him felt like a big ol' "Fuck you, this is the way it has always been and this is the way it will always be. Boys will be boys. Men will be men. Now act like a lady and stop your crying..."
During this time, I went crying to my midwife-- "I NEED something. I need something to help me feel better." The running, self-care, and high quality nutrition were not cutting it. I did not like the person I was becoming in my home. I did not like the way I was losing my patience so easily with Leif. After trying a few different medications, I discovered that the side effects were too much and opted for herbal remedies and loads and loads of self care and running.
Running is where the magic happens for me. It's the part of my day that feels most in control. Its the time when my brain and my spirit are able to process pieces of the trauma. Recently, on an early morning run, I recalled the nurse who was with me during my labor. Her name was Sara. She was gentle, compassionate, and encouraging. When we discovered Rein had turned transverse, she was the one that prepped me for the OR. Her shift was over but she accompanied me to the OR. As the anesthesiologistinserted the needle into my spine, I wrapped my arms around her and she pressed her forehead into mine as tears streaked my face. My body was shaking. I was cold. I was terrified. She told me I was doing amazing and to keep my mind in the secret place I had entered during my labor. As she left and my mom and Josh entered, she said, "I'm sure we'll meet again..."
My brain jumped to when it was over. Rein had been placed on me and he searched for my breast. He nursed and I sighed heavy with relief that we were both alive. As they prepared to move us into the recovery room, the anesthesiologist leaned down and told me everything was okay-- Rein's lack of breath for that first minute was not uncommon in a c-section and that it wouldn't cause him any problems. In the flurry of chaos, no one had told me it was okay.
Helpers. There are so many helpers amongst the chaos.
Our nation is in chaos right now. Every day, we are barraged with a new national crisis. Our humanity is under attack. The darkness wants to wear us down. It wants us to become so overwhelmed that we sink into a hole and allow it to consume us. But we won't. I won't. This world is filled with helpers, with people who will stand by you. They'll hold you, a stranger, in your frightened vulnerability and they'll tell you you're worthy, you're strong. They'll whisper in your ear, "Everything is okay." They'll advocate for you. They'll fight for you and with you. They'll even put their body on the line to protect you.
This battle is not yet over-- for my own trauma or the trauma our nation is enduring. As we process and battle together, lets keep looking for the helpers. Let's be the helpers.
As I prepare for my first 50 K since becoming a mama, I'm revisiting last years marathon as a reminder that I can do hard things. Two Babies and two surgeries later (torn hip labrum and cesarean), this mama is back.
On Saturday I raced for the first time in a long time. I wasn't sure what to expect from my body as some of my chronic hip and hamstring pain returned about a month ago and I started an early taper, even taking a full week off completely from running. I was over trained. Depression set in a bit and I questioned whether or not I should even race. But, I'd paid for it and goodness knows I'd worked for it so I was going to do it.
I set my alarm clock for 5 AM. I woke at 4:40 in a little panic because it was already light outside. I laid back down and then... at 5:25 woke up and realized my alarm hadn't gone off. I pried my breast away from Rein and slipped downstairs to make the coffee, oatmeal, and dress for the race. I was out the door by 6-- plenty of time to drive up to Snoqaulmie pass, check in, and relax (aka, go to the toilet 1,001 times) before the marathon started.
As I drove along, I sang and got pumped up. About 10 miles out, I checked my email for parking directions. What came up was an email, from my spam folder, that declared the start time had been changed to 7 AM! WTF? It was 6:58 and I was still 10 minutes away. I cursed. I actually said out loud, "Well, I guess I'm not supposed to run today..." and thought about going back to North Bend to hike. With some encouragement from a friend, I decided to try. I whipped into the parking area at Hyak, jumped out of the car and peed in the parking lot, ripped off my sweats and fleece and asked the first person I saw where the start was... "Half mile down the road, jump in, I'll take you!" We jumped in his SUV and sped off. At the start, I ran up to the start line and asked if I could still run. The organizers were AMAZING! "What's your name!" a guy shouted from a van. 30 seconds later I was handed my race bib. I pinned it on and took off.
The first 5 miles was an out and back along an alpine lake. I was literally alone for the first couple of miles. I was laughing and enjoying myself. I cranked out a couple 7 minute miles and then started seeing other runners on their way back from the 2.5 mile turn around. I hit the turn around and headed back, chasing down each runner one by one. As I went back through the starting area, one of the race organizers cheered me from her car! "I knew it! I knew it! You're not alone!" she shouted. I laughed and ran on towards the tunnel.
As I approached the entrance of the tunnel, tiny little flashlight in hand, I passed a pacer and his lone passenger. The "passenger" felt is appropriate to call me "cutie". Ew. As I entered the tunnel, I began to feel disoriented, even nauseated. I slowed way down to get my barring. I must have said something out loud because the creeper said from behind, "Come run with us big guys, we'll protect you!" No thanks, I'll take my chances in this long dark tunnel.
With each step, my eyes began to adjust to the darkness. All I could see was what was directly in front of me. Every once in a while, I'd shine my light at the sides of the tunnel. The further in I went, the more I began to feel the things. I felt the darkness. Not just the darkness from being one mile in to a 2.5 mile long tunnel...but the darkness from the traumas of the last 7 years. The sudden loss of my sweet nephew, the loss of trust, and the trauma from Rein's birth. The song, "If you're going through hell, keep on going..." played through my head. "Keep going," I said to myself. I imagined the end, the light, and anticipated a feeling of "rebirth".... I felt like I was flying and as I flew, I let the pain and hurt exit me and soak into the darkness. Then, I could see the light. I saw people moving --they looked so small. At first I thought they were crouched down, then I realized just how big the tunnel was and how little we were. Like a butterfly, busting out of its cocoon, I slid into the light. Onward.
I ran on. Continuing to pass people. Admiring the clouds as they floated through the trees and mountain peeks. A hummingbird buzzed over me. I smiled. Hummingbirds. Small, fast, graceful, wise. Sometimes I get visits from these tiny creatures when I need them the most. The hummingbird represents wisdom. I thought, "What kind of wisdom do I need right now?" Do I need to slow down? Am I going to be able to hold this pace for another 15 miles? Sometimes wisdom might be interpreted as caution. Sometimes it might mean to GO and go fast. So I went.
I spent a lot of time alone in the forest during the race. I talked to myself, out loud. I smiled a lot. I groaned. I questioned. I hurt. I ran. I remembered why I was running. I pulled my core in. I focused. At mile 17, I passed an aide station and a very handsome, athletic looking man complimented my cadence... I felt all the feels and ran.
I crossed gorgeous bridges spanning over misty rivers. My feet hurt. My hip was aching. I told my hip (like actually said out loud), "Today's not your day..." and I ran.
Those last 6.2 miles. On man. If you've ran marathons before, you know. I reminded myself, "Its supposed to be uncomfortable..." and I ran. Mile 23, I knew I was going to do it. I knew I was going to go under 3:35 and finally qualify for Boston. I knew I could slow down if I wanted and still make it in plenty of time. I started to lose my focus and I felt my body stray and slow. Nope. I pulled my core in, shoulders back and I started laying shit down on the trail... "Payton, I really freaking miss you. Its bullshit you had to leave..." "Death, I really fucking hate you. Fuck you, death." "Oh, and Trump, You're a piece of shit. Fuck you and your misogyny. Fuck you and thinking that the female body is yours for the taking. Fuck you and your cronies making choices about my body, the bodies of millions... Fuck you for trying to destroy our mother..." I mean, I really said these things out loud alone in the woods. I said them with authority, people. I said them like they were the most true and powerful things that could ever be said... I even threw in some lions breathes.
Then, before I knew it, I hit mile 25. I looked at my watch and I realized I could walk if I wanted to and I'd still qualify and still PR. Not going to walk. I picked it up and went for it. Then I heard it. I heard the cowbells and the cheers and knew the finish line was near. I knew that a few more turns through the evergreens and I'd be digging it out across the finish line with a 20 minute PR and a Boston worthy marathon time. I heard myself shout, "GO!" and I went. I probably made some ugly faces as I went. As I came around the last turn, the announcer called out my number, "Number 79! She started 15 minutes late! She's pulling in around 3:20!"
All smiles and arms up as I sprinted across that line. By this time, it was raining. I'd tossed my long sleeve shirt along the way and hadn't checked any gear. I grabbed some bananas and ran straight to the shuttle bus to return to the car. And just like that, I was done. All those 5:30 AM wake up through the winter after all night nursing sessions were paid for. I left everything on the trail.
And to think I almost went hiking instead.
Repost from July 2016.
How to tell this tale. Where to begin?
All of June I felt like I was in the early phases of labor. Strong contractions and a constant need to pee. There was a lot of stress in June. There was a week at the beginning of June where I couldn’t eat or sleep. I lost weight and feared for my sweet baby boy inside of me. As the month went on, I slowly began to gain back some of the weight I lost and by the last week of June, we knew baby was head down and fully developed. I was ready. He was ready.
I went for acupuncture on Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday’s session was intense and when I left, I could feel that my body was moving. When I got home, I started nesting like crazy. I mowed the lawn, watered, mopped the floors, took a shower and even washed and dried my hair (gasp). I made sure that our bags were ready and snacks were prepared. I made a list of things that needed to be taken care of over the next couple of days and noted who to delegate the tasks to. After everyone was asleep, I felt the contractions becoming more regular and the bloody show started. I squatted, I lunged, I went up and down the stairs and then I’d rest. I did this all night. I didn’t wake Josh or call my midwife or Mom. I just excitedly worked on my labor, my heart growing more and more sure with each contraction that labor was imminent.
When Josh woke up, I told him I thought I was in labor. I called my midwife and they told me it was probably time to go to the hospital to get checked. “There’s no way!” I thought! I was still laughing and feeling pretty calm and peaceful. With Leif, by the time we left for the hospital I was cursing and moaning and swore I was dying. Not this time. My mom arrived to be with Leif and Josh and I WALKED the 4 blocks to the hospital—telling jokes and laughing along the way. Side note—Josh was in a full suit, ready for work. We went in through the ER and I was actually embarrassed to be there—how could I possibly be in labor and still laughing and smiling?
A nurse from labor and delivery came down with a wheel chair. There was no way I was getting in it—but Josh took the ride, which the nurse and everyone we passed along the way enjoyed.
They checked my cervix and found that I was 5 cm dilated and baby boy’s head was in position -1. I asked if we could go home for a bit as I felt so great and they laughed and told me I was crazy. Sigh. I sent Josh home to get all of our things, asked my mom to cancel my dentist appointment and pay the yard guy and started back at squats and lunges. The contractions grew more intense with each set of squats. I breathed through each one and said “Open, open, open”.
I felt strong. I felt empowered. I felt peaceful. My body was working beautifully to bring Reinger into the world. It was everything I imagined labor could be.
After a while, Josh returned with our things. I set up a snack bar for myself and my team and kept working while I messaged family and friends. My nurse was wonderful—an earthy, compassionate woman in her 50’s or 60’s who encouraged my peaceful labor and validated my work.
Mom arrived. Chelsey—my friend and photographer—arrived. We laughed between contractions and all fell quiet during my contractions so I could focus on my Blissborn hypnosis CD and working through the intensifying contractions. During my labor with Leif, I couldn’t eat but this time I snacked on rice cakes and plantain chips. I giggle thinking about how I would hand the rice cake to my mom every time I felt a contraction coming. My mom timed them and kept family in the loop. At one point, Chelsey suggested a birthing ball and the nurse brought a peanut shaped contraption for me to straddle. It was way too intense and we all laughed and agreed it looked like a giant penis. A birthing ball soon arrived and it was heaven (thanks Chelesey—I feel like I got a doula out of the deal too). The contractions lingered in my hips and being able to circle and swivel and rock alleviated some of the pain. Mom pressed on my shoulder trigger points to help move baby down and on my hips to help with the back labor. Women are incredible. It is so amazing to be surrounded by strong women who love me when I’m doing difficult things—especially birthing a baby. It feels extremely sacred—like a secret society of sorts.
The contractions were close together and intense and I asked the nurse to get my midwife to check my cervix. A while later, the midwife came in. Having someone put their hands in your vagina while in labor is NOT fun. I knew something was up when I needed to change positions and she didn’t have an answer for me right away. She told me I was at a 7 but Rein’s head was not presenting anymore. My heart started beating faster. She went to get an ultrasound machine to figure out what was going on. Josh, at this point, had stepped out of the room and I sent him a text to come in because I was scared. A few minutes later, we were looking at a breech baby. “CRAP,” is all that came out of my mouth as tears began to stream down my face. My first thought was, “I can deliver a breech baby. I’m strong.” I later learned that they had considered attempting a breech birth. But when she called in the other midwife to confirm, we discovered he had moved to transverse. Babies cannot be born shoulder first. It just doesn’t work. It was too late in my labor to try to manually turn him as my sac was bulging and the risk of his cord prolapsing if my sac broke was high. A prolapsed cord is dangerous as it cuts off the life flow to the baby. I sent my close friend a text to tell her what was happening. She was so sweet to encourage me and tell me what a rock star I was for being able to send coherent messages at this point in my labor. My mom messaged Josh’s mom and she also sent encouragement. Again, women are incredible.
The midwives stepped out to give us a moment to process. My sister-in-law, Megan, arrived and I had a few moments to cry with family before they began prepping me for the OR. The nurse shaved me, IV’s starting going in, the anesthesiologist came and briefed me. They gave me drugs to stop the contractions—both a relief (why work that hard when they’re going to cut me open anyway) but also a heavy feeling of grief as my contractions felt empowering and connected me to Rein. I was helped out of the pretty gown I was wearing and into a hospital gown, a cap covered my hair. The anesthesiologist was so generous to allow not only Josh but also my mom and Chelsey into the OR.
A few moments later, I couldn’t move my lower body. The anesthesiologist poked me to make sure the spinal had worked. I could feel the pressure but it didn’t feel sharp like when he poked my arm. The medical team began their routine of verbalizing the details of the surgery. “Expected Blood loss—600 units…” Jesus. My midwife advocated for me—delayed cord clamping, baby on mama right away. NICU was there—“As long as he comes out crying…” I responded, “He better coming out crying!”
My team arrived in the room. I have vague memories of the OB talking about her new puppy. My mom held my hand. Josh behind me, the anesthesiologist to my other side asking me about my comfort and nausea and keeping me alive. Thanks for that, buddy. Then, it started. The first slice was terrifying. I was so scared I would feel it and was so relieved when I didn’t feel the sharpness of the scalpel slicing me open. I watched in the light fixture as they sliced me open and blood ran out of me. Oh. My. God. These memories are blurry. I’m sure partly because of the drugs but also because the trauma of watching your body being opened. I squeezed my mom’s hand tight and when I needed a break from watching, I looked back at Josh for reassurance and also to say, with my eyes, ‘do you see what is fucking happening?’ I do have faint memories of the medical team discussing my lack of tummy fat! A whole conversation about how I was not a typical American (had I not been completely mortified by what was happening, I would have shouted out ‘Whole Foods Plant Based diet and exercise, folks! Grab my card on the way out the door!’). Its not every day you get to have your insides examined. Nice to hear they’re looking good.
I was open. All the way open. To the OB’s surprise, Rein stuck is arm out of me. Not good. He was face up and had wiggled himself to the far back corner of my uterus. She needed his butt and his butt was nowhere to be seen. She pushed his hand back in. Suddenly, there was another doctor with his arms elbow deep in my body. The nurses and midwife were pressing hard on my stomach. The pressure was so intense, so violating, and violent. It felt like a rape…a rape I had consented to out of necessity to keep me and Rein alive. This was not the fault of the medical team. They did exactly what they needed to do but it was painfully traumatizing as I felt their hands in me and on me and watched my blood spilling and them struggling to get my baby out. Then, he was out. I saw them rush him to the NICU table. He wasn’t crying. I started crying, “Why isn’t he crying?! Why isn’t he crying!? Oh my God, Oh my God, please let him be okay!!” Josh said, “he’s breathing… its okay.” My mom comforted me but I could see in her tear filled eyes she was also scared. 60 seconds. No crying. I felt like my world was collapsing. I couldn’t move. I laid there, paralyzed from the chest down with my body still open while I thought my baby was dying. It was the most helpless horrid feeling I’ve ever felt.
Then—he cried. The horror turned into sheer relief. They gave him 2 minutes of oxygen and Josh offered to let my mom cut his cord (Thank God for his cord pouring life into him during that first minute of life). Soon, Sweet Rein, was laid of my chest and not long after he was searching for my breast. He latched on like an old pro. My terror began to melt into relief as I kissed his head and he suckled.
He has since been a relaxed newborn, allowing his mama the rest she needs to recover physically from the ordeal. Emotionally, I have a lot of work to do. The trauma—both physical and emotional—has left me raw. I have flash backs and nightmares and cry every time I think about it. I feel an incredible sense of grief—Rein’s peaceful birth was taken from him. That first rush of intense euphoria that you are supposed to feel when your baby comes out was instead one of the most horrifying feelings I have experienced. Of course, I was flooded with love and joy when they placed him on me…but the relief that he was alive was the most intense emotion.
The recovery process is hard. The first night, I was so blessed to be cared for by my neighbor’s sister—a nurse at St. Josephs. The compassion I was showed during my entire hospital stay was moving and had I had some fresh air, I probably would have wanted to stay an extra night to be cared for. Just sitting up in bed required so much effort. I had to pull myself up by the side rails and grunt to adjust in bed. The first time the nurse got me out of bed I thought “Surely, I’ll never walk again…” She told me I was actually moving really well. Oh Lord. I had the most painful cramp in my shoulder, which I was told was gas. What? Gas in my shoulder? I was encouraged to move and to fart as much as possible. I lost more blood than expected—almost twice the amount. I felt weak, depleted, ghostly. The next day, an OB came to check me. As she read my chart, she said, “Oh, you’re that one. I’m so sorry…” What. Shit. Luck. She encouraged me that my body is strong and healthy and that I was lucky I didn’t have to be cut up my center—which would mean I could never deliver vaginally again. She said she thought my next baby would be the perfect birth and I was a perfect candidate for a vbac. Too soon to talk about baby number 3? Probably, but I don’t think I’m done. I won’t let this experience rob me of having another child.
There is guilt too. Not only do I catch myself taking the blame for the c-section at moments, I also find myself feeling guilty for my grief and trauma. Shouldn’t I just be joyful that both me and Rein are okay? That I have two beautiful healthy boys? I have friends who have tried for years to conceive. I have friends who have lost babies. My incision is healing. My energy returning. I’m eating well and sleeping better than I expected with a newborn and a toddler. My community is feeding us and loving on us. But physical healing is also dependent on emotional healing. My body cannot fully heal until my heart has also healed. I am most fortunate to have access to healers—from a great counselor to chiropractors, acupuncturists, reiki healers, massage therapists and of course incredible nutrition, oils, and friends and family that will listen and validate my experience.
So, now, we heal. We process. We rebuild our broken places. We give thanks that we are safe and healthy. Most importantly, we love.
For More Photos from the Lovely Chelsey Hawes, Check out this beautiful story.
Two years ago this evening I was quietly laboring to bring Reinger into this world. I had returned from an acupuncture appointment and had the motherly knowing. I mowed the lawn, watered the garden, prepared meals, cleaned the house, showered, and even dried my hair. I made a list of things that would need to happen in the morning and who would do them. Mom could call the dentist and cancel that appointment I was trying to squeeze in before the baby came. I'd also need to put money in an envelope for someone to give to the man that was helping me with the garden. Hospital bags were ready, snacks for laboring and recovery ready to go. I knew but didn't say a word. I laid with Leif as he drifted off to sleep, knowing that it was our last night just him and me. Knowing that he would very soon be a brother and that he would no longer be my one and only.
As Josh and Leif slept, I labored. I walked the stairs, squatted, lunged. In between sets of lunges and stairs, I sat on the toilet and excitedly examined the bloody show and visualized the energy moving down, pulling Rein with it. I did this all night, occasionally laying next to Leif to rest. The contractions were strong but manageable and exciting. Waves of gratitude and joy. My July baby would sneak into June...a peace offering from the Universe after what had felt like a month of torturous hell.
The next day did, indeed, bring Rein to me... but the universe threw one last test at me first. One last mountain would have to be moved when my head down baby that was so ready to be birthed turned transverse at 8 CM. I'll save that story for tomorrow... that story of grief and fear and pain that was necessary for Rein to take his first breaths.
Tonight, I'll watch my boys as they drift off to sleep... Rein, in his last day as a 1 year old. I'll probably cry as I think about how I wish I could keep them little forever and pray that Leif's promise "we'll always be your babies..." stays true. I'll also cry knowing how incredibly lucky I am. Lucky to be born with a particular skin color and in a certain country that allows me particular privileges. Lucky that because of this skin color and country of origin, I will not have to worry about my boys being shot by police on a routine traffic stop. I will probably never have to flee my home to save their lives. I will probably never have them ripped from my arms or told they are being taken to be bathed, only to have them taken to a "tender age detention center". Lucky because me and my children were born on 3rd base. We didn't hit a triple. No, it was just luck. I'll cry because I know there are mamas out there grieving not knowing where their babies are. I'll cry because our government has been in the business of ripping children from their mamas since the beginning. I'll cry because just dipping my toes into that emotion makes me want to scream in agony.
Tomorrow, on Rein's 2nd birthday, we'll march. We'll march to let our government know that we will never be okay with treating living beings with such cruelty. We'll never be okay with using this uniquely disturbing form of torture. We'll march to let them know we won't shut up until all of those children are in their parents arms. We'll march because we were born on 3rd base I want my children to know that when other's suffer, we all suffer. Their humanity is wrapped up in ours and ours in theirs.
Mamas, Rise Up. We can do hard things.
My cousin, Allie, is an actuary. I once asked her if she could figure out my chances of dying. She smiled and told me not to worry about it (as it turns out there’s a 100% chance). There are so many ways to die– disease, violence, and accidents– it seems like a miracle that any of us make it as far as we do.
From one cell we grow into these super complex beings. Each with the same basic anatomy but with completely different characteristics and personalities. I’m not even going to pretend to know how it all works but what I do know is that it is pretty miraculous that it all keeps doing its thing with little help from me. I used to like to go under water in the bathtub and listen to my heart beat—it amazed me (still does) that this thing inside of me just kept ba-bumpin’ away to keep me alive. I love to feel my heart beating faster while I’m running. I also like to lie very still and see just how slow I can get it to go. It’s really quite incredible.
In June 2010, my 4-year-old nephew’s body stopped working. His creativity and joy for life got him into a situation that turned out to be deadly. For the next 5 days his body was kept alive by machines while we desperately waited for a miracle to happen and the swelling in his brain to go down. On the fifth day, after accepting that his body would never be able to work on its own again, he would never wake up from his sleep, his parent’s did what no parents should ever have to do, and took him off life support.
When it was time to say goodbye, my brother and Tera held him for the last time while Payton let go. My very loving and very large extended family sat in the waiting room with our eyes down. Every time the door opened our heads flew up. Finally, after what seemed an eternity (only 22 minutes) a nurse came to tell us Payton was gone. We sat crying and holding each other while chimes rang over the intercom, announcing the birth of a baby—a new life with a heart that went ba-bump, lungs that filled with air, and 8 other working systems, came in to the world just as Payton was going out.
Payton’s parents were so courageous and had decided to donate Payton’s young, healthy organs to give others a second chance. We stayed in the waiting room as the organ donor team operated on Payton. A while later a team of 4 doctors came and told us how amazing Payton had done and how many gifts he had given. It seems as though Payton new exactly what to do—because he let go so quickly, more of his organs were able to be saved. Through our extreme pain and gratitude, we each came forward and hugged and thanked the doctors (who were also crying) for giving us hope by turning our greatest loss into others’ second chance at life.
In the days, weeks, and months to follow I often thought about the recipients of Payton’s organs. I prayed for them, that their bodies wouldn’t reject the new parts and that they would live full lives. I wondered if they had a level of gratitude proportionate to the level of our pain. I wanted to know if they ever thought about the grief that we live with. I feared that they wouldn’t live lives worthy of Payton’s sacrifice.
Then it struck me, it’s not my concern whether they were grateful for their gifts—my own gratitude is where I should be. It’s of no use to me to wonder if they think about our pain—I should be focused on loving myself and my family through the pain that we share. It’s not my place to judge the quality of their lives—I should only concern myself with the quality of mine.
Steve Prefontaine, a running icon who also happened to die tragically at quite a young age, is famously quoted for saying, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” Most of us will never be Olympic athletes. You may not feel like you are incredibly “gifted” at anything. But if you are reading this now, it means you have an INCREDIBLE gift—you’re alive. All of those systems are working together to keep you alive. Your heart continues to go ba-bump in your chest and that, my friends, is a gift worthy of your gratitude.
I can’t control how the recipients of Payton’s organs will choose to live their lives. I can, however, control how I live mine. I can choose to care for my body. I can push it to explore new boundaries. I can give it my best so as not to sacrifice this gift. I can be present each moment and choose to live with gratitude for this thing in my chest that keeps going ba-bump.
So, here’s to my precious little nephew, whose zest for life inspired many, and who probably would have gotten a time out for using the “H” word. I’ll honor your short but beautifully lived life by giving a big“hell yeah” to living as fully as you did.
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"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing" ~ Jack Kerouac
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