And then there's moments like this where I don't wish anything different, or better, because it all feels perfect. They are a beautiful opposition to the deepest challenges I've faced yet.
In these moments, where the weight of her body is completely surrendered, I can honestly say I LOVE THIS. There's so much joy in these precious, sleepy moments. I'm reminded to take one day and one breath at a time. Breathing it all in and remembering to remember.
3.5 months old: I know she looks like my husband - and I love that! But today someone told me that she won't look Asian forever because her kids started out looking that way too. She was trying to comfort me with her Caucasian child alongside.
Last week, two people asked me if she was mine.
I'm seeing a whole new angle of racism now - even in children's books which often lack kids of colour playing the lead role. World, we've got some work to do.
Suddenly everything around me was part of creating a new life. A life I would love very much. A life that needed protection and nourishment. Every single piece of me and my world was going into this creation and all of a sudden, as if I woke up out of a dream, I saw things very differently.
...And then I birthed.
A whirlwind of power took over my body and connected me instantly to all the women who birthed before. I felt this world (the one I stand on with my barefeet), and another world (a deeply familiar, yet seemingly far away place that only my spirit could access), come together under the light in my bedroom. This power, this force, was so great that I saw both death and birth combine in the same moment.
...And then I became a Mother.
Nothing has reflected my humanness so deeply. Some days all I see are my flaws and I keep trying to polish that damned mirror so I can hide them from her. But I know she needs to see them and I know she needs to see me love them, because she’ll have 'flaws' too.
And then some days, I see just how great I’m doing. The power of love has opened and shifted so many of the stories I no longer need.
2 days before birth vs. 2 months after. This Pisces full moon has me reflecting on the last few weeks of pregnancy... the waiting...the feeling of being in limbo...of being between worlds... my old self and my new Mama self all waiting to meet my new baby and wondering what life will be like after baby. But now I know it's not something I could've prepared for in advance. Words like magical, intense, challenging and ecstacy are all trumped by the actual experience of Motherhood. Again, I find myself comforted only by this moment right here. This breath. And then this one... Because what's to come is beyond what my mind can comprehend.
I’m seeing a whole new Universe - one where she’s front and centre and we’re just in the background as support. So much of the ‘me’ that I know has been (and still is) falling away, yet so much is emerging. Who am I anyways?!
5 weeks: I had a dream. Before I took the test. But I already knew. I felt it.
My response was to cry. Not happy tears though. Tears of fear, of the sacrifices yet to come. I’m going to be a Mom.
5.5 weeks: The sickness was so intense. It came from way down. Nothing would come out, yet, my body was so powerfully heaving. No sleep that night. No food or water the next day. Morning sickness?
I call the doctor and ask about Gravol. He gives me Diclectin (anti-nausea). It’s illegal in the states - I’m reluctant to take anything let alone, something that’s not approved somewhere. Maybe I can just be sick for longer? But I can’t keep water down.
I take it, fearfully, but also with hope for relief. I ween myself off it four days later.
It doesn’t feel like this time is magical. I just feel sick, so sick.
9 weeks: Sometimes I feel crazy. I cry when others laugh. My breasts are tender. My nipples are itchy and darkening. I’m either bloated, nauseous or tired - often all three. And then sometimes I feel great and it scares me - am I still pregnant?
I’m excited to meet the baby and hold them. Sometimes I feel connected and other times, disconnected. I can feel my womb constantly. Like a spiral of energy. I like to unbutton my jeans after eating now.
12 weeks: Whirlwind. Holy. I’m so happy to be coming out of the first trimester of nausea and exhaustion. There were times when I had no idea how women have gotten thru. How can one feel so sick, and so tired yet keep on keepin’ on?! One evening, I fell asleep eating. No joke. Face in bowl.
Even though I’m feeling so much better, this weekend I’m held back from my travels to the USA because of health issues.
A sacrifice. Motherhood has begun.
I unexpectedly can’t urinate. After time, a few tests, and my own internal adjustment, everything is fine. On the drive home, also unexpectedly, we find a new home.
There seems to be a plan…
16 weeks: Sleeping amongst boxes ready to move. My heart is in the new home but my body is stuck in this old house. So much anxiety right now. Moving while pregnant is not fun so far, yet, I’m excited to be somewhere that will fit our new family.
My practice is to trust.
18 weeks: Expanding in so many ways and faster than I thought. The removal of my bellybutton ring feels so significant; growing out of the role of ‘maiden’ and stepping into the role of Mother. I’m not sure I feel ready quite yet.
20 weeks: (Half way!) Time feels equally fast as it does slow. My centre of balance is totally different - obviously. Feeling excited, overwhelmed, terrified and deeply blessed - all at the same time.
We’re in the new home! I washed and folded my first set of baby clothes - they’re so small how do you even fold them?!
Pregnancy comments are…interesting. Such body judging revealed:
“I thought you were really letting it hang out!”
“You don’t even look pregnant - good for you!”
22 weeks: I don’t understand how to merge my life with a baby and be a Mom in a way I can feel good about. In a way, I’m pre-mourning the loss of friends. I have to keep reminding myself that it’ll be more of a shift in how we interact, not so much a loss.
23 weeks: This is getting harder! It’s a funny thing to be growing a belly that moves, kicks and off centres itself. How is it that there’s a whole new human in there?!
Motherhood feels daunting. My body is pregnant but my mind not quite yet. How can I prepare? I try to imagine the future and its so foreign I can’t. Who will you be? Who will I be?
I can’t wait to feel love deeper than I’ve ever felt.
23.5 weeks: When your wolf shirt becomes 3D - celebrate!
6 months: I even surprised myself with this practice! Some days sitting in stillness feels amazing. Other days, like today, I wanted nothing more than to be upside down.
I feel a major shift happening; there’s more excitement and less terror. I can do this thing called Motherhood. And it helps to have caught my husband in a private moment holding a onesie to his heart. When he saw me he said ‘I don’t know where all the love is going to go - my heart feels so full already.’ Aho!
6.5 months: Belly and sunset blessings from the ocean! Resting, reading and sunshine feel so good right now. So good. We saw dolphins and I cried. A lot. But it was a happy cry. So grateful for dolphin medicine and this play time.
7 months:I was told no more planks or hands & knee positions as my abs have separated (this is common and normal) - 'front loading’ positions can make it worse. The pursuit is on to find yoga poses that I can do safely, while feeling challenged.
And.. the belly officially has a mind of it’s own! It’s amazing and bizarre all at the same time.
The call to be at home just gets deeper and deeper. I’m cancelling travel plans moving forward - that was no easy decision. The ‘old’ Donna wants to go, but my current self is happy at home. It’s no longer a sacrifice.
30 weeks. Only 8-12 weeks left of sleep ins… for a very looooong time. Also, I have a cold and can’t take anything for it.
32 weeks: I feel huge - I’m not sure where the rest of the pregnancy will fit into my body? And.. I know it just will. Sleeping is getting harder, baby is getting smarter. And.. we’ve got the best name picked out. Best name ever.
I still have a cold.
33 weeks: Preparing the house now. Baby has hiccups often and responds quickly to my husband’s voice with active movement - almost as if excited. We still have the best name picked out. Best name ever.
I still have a cold.
34 weeks: My category of belly down yoga poses has grown exponentially.
Feeling almost ready but not quite yet - this pregnancy is growing me as a Mother as well. Singing and reading to babe before bed has become so sweet. It’s exciting and scary all at the same time. Love is overcoming all however.
I still have a cold?! What the…
Almost 35 weeks: Today, I don’t understand how I’m supposed to have 1.5 months left. Or even 1 month for that matter. So for now, breathing in the sunshine and practicing calm.
My lips are swollen.
My ankles are swollen.
My feet hurt like crazy.
And, I’m okay.
My cold is gone, but it lasted one whole month. Jesus.
People are asking if I’m having twins.
35 weeks today: It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep can do. Staying home is very exciting to me now. When I’m away from home, I just want to be back home.
There’s a new energy moving in. I dream every night of birth starting. Braxton & Hicks contractions are frequent, but not painful. They just make me feel like I have to pee. Sometimes they’re even 4-5 minutes apart.
My dreams are meaningful and confusing.
36 weeks: Almost there. I keep thinking of the moment I’ll meet this being - the first glance, our first moment of eye contact. What do they look like? Do they have hair? Chubby cheeks? I can easily fall into an endless state of wonder thinking about this moment. As of now, it feels like it might be similar to that moment in E.T. - first touch, fingers coming together, light all around.
36.5 weeks: Belly blessings served up by the bestest friends ever. Taking it all in, loving it all up. Such sacred times carrying a brand new human within - words fall short for all the magic and mystery.
37 weeks: There’s no baby yet, but the time has come for me to stay home. Earlier than I thought, but I’m listening…
It seems as though I have high blood pressure and the midwives have invited me to stop working and start resting. A lot. I’m quite afraid that this might get in the way of the home birth we have planned. I’m feeling afraid and I know this doesn’t help my blood pressure.
Last night my husband and I sat face to face and invited the baby to come Earthside. We lit candles, held hands, sang and chanted to let our baby know how welcome they are to join us.
38 weeks: I think. I’ve lost track. I’m so ready. Yes I know baby will come when they want to come and yes I know it’s a waiting game and yes I’m hanging in there - but this might be some of the deepest yoga I’ve done yet. And I know it’ll only get deeper.
I don’t feel like going out, talking much, or even seeing my friends. Who am I?!
So much anxiety. How do I just forget about the high blood pressure and move on?? This is now my yoga…
I’m afraid I won’t know how to care for a newborn. I’m afraid how much this will change my life. I’m afraid of ‘failing’ at a natural birth. Failing who I ask myself. Failing the image I have of myself as someone who ‘should’ be able to do it. This is an ego death.
Pregnancy brain is in full force. I can’t quite orient myself. I can’t quite find words.
I’m using acupressure, nipple stimulation, sex - all to build oxytocin and encourage labour. Trying deeply to respect when our baby wants to come too.
LOVE is my mantra. Loving it all up. It calms me although I often don’t feel in love with the anxiety/fear, saying I do does help. I’m praying that when labour starts I’ll drop in, ground and focus.
39 weeks: This is going to come out right?! Limbo is a weird place to be. Between worlds, old and new. I’ve left the familiar shore and am crossing over to the other - but don’t yet know how or when I’ll get there. Do I co-create or surrender and let it all happen on its own? I’m not looking for your answer, I’m looking for mine…
This waiting is so hard. And my blood pressure is still high.
Swimming was an absolute gift.
Heartburn is an absolute drag.
I’m putting castor oil on my belly now (not drinking it) in hopes to encourage labour. My girls and I sat together tonight calling in this baby. C’mon baby!
The filtered, ready-for-Facebook pic:
The unfiltered, should-I-even-share-this pic:
39.5 weeks: It’s nice to get out of the house for short trips here and there, especially when I’ve been resting for days. However when I do get out, it’s as if people have never seen a pregnant woman before. Seriously. Yesterday was the first time a woman commented as well.
Comments range from “WHOA!” to “You’re ready to POP!” to “It’s a boy/girl!” to “That’s the roundest thing I’ve ever seen!” to “You’re huge!” to “Holy shit!”
It’s been a great reminder how much our society is concerned with body image and a certain look. Body comments, of all kinds, are not okay - ever. Not when someone has a great ass, or is really thin, or pregnant, or disabled, or old etc. Strangers, please use your inside voice.
40 weeks: It’s my due date today. Everyone warned me about not keeping that date too close to heart. Why didn’t I listen? I am getting better at this limbo thing though - colouring books are my new best friend.
I’ve now been told to side-lie. My Osteopath thinks this will help with my blood pressure and it has so far. It’s still high, but low enough to try for a home birth. Feeling blessed with that news.
40.1 weeks: Passed my due date. Yesterday I had acupuncture and drank black and blue cohosh tea to help induce. Today it feels like my sacrum is splitting in two. C’mon baby! Feeling introspective and motivated.
Words don’t come close to describing the experience you gifted me, but I feel like there’s so much beauty to remember that I wanted to try.
(art by Damien Leggett)
You laboured for 18 hours.
You pushed for 1 hour.
I saw strength, raw emotion, faith and surrender. Yet, the word that keeps coming to mind when I think of Elisa’s birth is grace.
You birthed a beautiful baby girl, and you birthed yourself as a Mother.
When you looked at me in active labour, you had the brightest eyes I’ve seen you have yet, but you were tired. You said “Donna, this is very hard.” I heard you, yet as you said this I also heard a deep trust and a depth of wisdom that I hadn’t seen from you before.. and I knew you were going to be fine.
At 7:30pm you were 5cm dilated.
At 8:30pm you were 9cm dilated.
Within this hour, you did everything you needed:
You rested between contractions with moments of deep sleep.
You turned inward.
You energetically asked for silence; the room listened.
You tapped into the ocean within you - you went with the flow.
You instinctually switched your breathing.
You guided myself and Sean on how to move you with your breath.
Instinctually, you switched from quiet and introspective, to a roaring lioness.
And then you needed to push.
When you felt the doctor wasn’t coming fast enough to check your last centimetre of dilation, you raised your voice just enough to send the nurse out of the room immediately after that contraction.
Your ability to stay clear and connected to exactly what you needed had me in awe.
The doctor arrived and after a lesson on how to push, you nailed it. “Push into the pressure” is what you were told. You likely didn’t notice, but all the medical staff’s eyes lit up with that push. They were impressed. I was beaming.
It was an hour of hard work, but there were moments where I saw your Mother, hands on her cheeks, pushing right along with you. I saw the same face in both of you and it was then that I saw the true beauty of womanly wisdom moving through the generations.
Between pushing, you had to catch your breath. It was in one of these breath catching moments that I had to catch mine. It took everything in me to hold back tears of sweetness when I saw you turn to Sean, catch your breath, kiss his hand and whisper “my love.”
Breathless I was. But not surprised. His depth of support was awe-inspiring. He held your head, massaged you, fed you ice after every contraction, rocked you, and counted for you to name a few. His support was so unwavering I felt the need to make sure he was taking care of himself. He was. He was so solid. I think I took doula lessons from Sean that night.
Baby Elisa’s head was half out at this point. The feeling was so intense you went with the doctor’s suggestion and instead of waiting for another contraction, you went to push. Deep breath in, Sean lifted your head, you gazed down and instead of pushing said “Oh my God! Oh my God!” It was your first sighting of Elisa. The innocence of the moment made everyone chuckle, but it made you push Mama.
(art by Damien Leggett)
And it was with that push that Elisa graced us with her presence.
Sean revealed her gender to your total surprise; “Oh my God, we have a baby girl! We have a baby girl!” To say the moment was emotional was an understatement. And this is where Elisa’s Grandmother knew to step up, showering both of you with love.
Annie, you beat the statistics at the hospital and you birthed without drugs. You didn’t even ask for them. Your strength was awe-inspiring.
Thank you for letting me bear witness to this beautiful event. That night, you birthed me as a doula.