Mommy Belly

The female body is capable of so much. Our bodies stretch and expand to house a little being for 9 months. Then when it’s all over, we expect that our bodies contract and return back to “normal.” Why do we expect this? Well, we often see new mom celebrities or our fittest friends show off their bellies after birth. We see their glow, their smiles, and their amazing, unchanged bodies. We think to ourselves, “It’s possible!” And, while possible, it’s not always the case! …And, that’s okay.

We, as a society; we, as women; we, as mothers; often do not share what really happens after birth to our bodies. While the mental and emotional side is starting to get more awareness (the postpartum depression, the anxiety, the feelings of inadequacies), the physical changes are often overlooked. Why? Perhaps because we don’t find it as important. Or, perhaps, because we are embarrassed or ashamed?

For me, the physical changes were almost just as alarming as the mental ones. I suffered from PTSD and some depression and definitely lots of anxiety (still do). I had heard of that before though. Witnessed it to some degree. I did not expect these HUGE changes to my physical experience though. I was surprised when I was left striped with stretch marks, with loose skin to the point where my belly button no longer looked like a belly button, and cellulite that was suddenly everywhere. Even my face had a permanent tired look–with bags under my eyes, some extra wrinkles, and a double chin that peaked out once in a while. My hair…I lost so much postpartum, it looked like I had shaved the sides of my head and near my hair line. As it grew back, my hair became scraggly and messy. Gray hairs also appeared.

Again, I come back to why aren’t we prepared for that? Why is it such a secret that our bodies change to such a great extent? It may not be traditionally attractive or sexy, but I think, if we all start talking about it, start showing photos of our true bodies, it will help us mothers begin to accept our new bodies. Our stretch marks, our loose skin, our extra belly fat– let’s grow to love it all. Our bodies have done so much for us. I feel so fortunate I was able to give birth to my son. I hope one day I can wear my scars & new mommy shape like a badge of honor! This blog post is just the beginning of my journey of loving my new self–mommy belly and all. I hope we moms start to share more. I’d love to hear your story too!

Unexpected Life Events

Over the past 15 months or so, our family has been on a roller coaster. Chris’s dad passed, I almost died giving birth, we struggled postpartum adjusting, my [favorite] cat died, and a week ago, Chris had a minor heart attack and heart procedure. I’m writing this blog as therapy. I’ve buried so much of this over the past year or so and finally want to do something about it.

When I gave birth, after an exhausting 44 hours of labor, 26 or so hours of VERY PAINFUL natural labor, the remaining medicated, 5 hours of intense pushing…something went wrong. I had an emergency c section, which went smoothly, until it did NOT. I quickly lost blood. Almost 70% of it. I had a secondary emergency procedure to stop the blood loss. Multiple transfusions later and 3 days in the ICU later, I held my baby boy for the first time. I was in so much pain I don’t even think I realized at the time the significance of this or the impact the sequence events would have on all of us months to come. Let’s just say PTSD is real. It sometimes comes from things as simple as giving birth. This original hospital stay was 8 days long.

After leaving the hospital, I was so weak, and still in so much pain. I stopped taking the narcotics they gave me since those entered the breastmilk. It hurt to sit, to lay, to move. I soon noticed a horrible back pain and chills as well. I had problems breathing. The same week as leaving the hospital, I went to the ER and found out my blood results were crazy. My body was freaking out. I likely had pneumonia, a kidney infection, and sepsis. Even after all the antibiotics, I was in pain for months. And these strong antibiotics meant I was pumping and dumping a lot. I returned to the ER once more for similar pain a week later. More antibiotics.

After these events, I still was having horrible nightmares. Anxiety. Depression. Loneliness. Helplessness.

Things are a lot better now for me, but I still struggle with motherhood. Motherhood is hard. I sometimes wonder if I was prepared to be a mother. If I were meant to be one. Ollie has separation anxiety so intensely right now. He cries if I walk a foot away. He also wakes up every hour or so at night. Chris and I are tired.

Chris last week had a heart attack. He had a 90% blocked Lateral Anterior Descending artery. They put a stent in and now is on a lot of medications and off of work for a while. We are stressed but okay for now.

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for a while. Chris’s recent hospital stay just pushed this to the top of my list.

Unexpected life events happen. We have had so many good things, so many blessings, happen to us over these past 15 months. I think sometimes, however, it’s okay to just really delve into the not-so-good. I think it can be therapeutic to do so. If we float above the bad, we eventually tire and drown in it all.

PS. My cat Albus was the best cat ever and he passed suddenly at 6 years old. </3

Yogi lessons learned: Pregnancy and Beyond

As our bodies prepare for birth, our minds must as well. Yoga is equipped to help with the preparation of both. But what happens when our yoga practice seems to have failed us?

Hello again! It’s been a while.

Since my last post, I experienced a somewhat challenging third trimester and experienced and even more challenging birth and fourth trimester (the first 3 months after birth). I kept up with my yoga practice for the most part as my 8th month approached, but I gave in to the tiredness and gave up on my practice (at least the asana portion) toward the end. I’d like to share with you what I did “right” and what I might have done differently. But, most of all, I’d like to share with you my journey towards acceptance (in theory at least!).

Reflecting back on my last post, I reached most of my 2018 goals! I continued my yoga education–finishing my prenatal yoga teaching certification & completing a yoga adjustments workshop. I became a mommy (a precious, yet relentless job). Chris and I had a beautiful ranch wedding with our close friends and family. So many goals! So many great things accomplished and LIVED.

I am BEYOND grateful for all of these things. I, however, also had my most difficult year yet. Our whole little family has. And somewhere between the swelling, the immobility, the operations (I’ll share some other time!), the sickness, the recovery, and the mothering… I forgot to practice self-care and love. I forgot to practice yoga.

You may be fooled by the photo (which was taken in my second trimester despite looking otherwise!) and think “it looks like you kept your yoga practice up!” Well, you’d be wrong in part. Chris and I finished out our Birthing from Within class, in which we practiced breathing, meditation, and some mild prenatal yoga.  But outside of that, there was a lot of sitting. Sitting and feeling immobile, incapable, and TIRED. I stopped going to prenatal yoga classes because I had no easy way of getting there. My hands were so swollen I couldn’t even close them…so I stopped driving! But, how do you minimize swelling? You MOVE! (and drink water) So there’s a lesson!

Another lesson, try not to be so focused on your positive affirmations that you aren’t prepared for the possible outcomes that are not so positive. I had little idea what were my realistic options in the natural birth room, labor & delivery, and the operation table (YES I experienced all three!). So be informed. Do your research, and then on top of all that, keep to your positive affirmations.

Up to this point, I’ve shared some lessons I learned, but I haven’t gotten to my biggest lesson yet. Yoga and faith. Spirituality. Somehow they are all intermixed. And, all important. After everything I went through (which I will explain in a separate post), I gave up hope. I gave up on my practice. I was almost angry at yoga. I avoided it. If it were a person, I’d walk by without looking it in the eye. I couldn’t believe it had let me down when I needed it the most. Saying labor and birth did not go the way I wanted it to would be an understatement (Hint: I can say “I almost died” without a hint of added drama). So, I avoided yoga.

Yes, my practice–like all practices– has its normal phases. Our yoga practices can be cyclical because our lives are ever-changing. We have different needs and wants at different stages in our lives. One thing I learned though, is when you don’t have the time, energy, or desire for yoga, that’s when you need to practice CONSISTENCY. And, FAITH. Sure, it won’t hurt to take a small break from your practice here and there. But, yoga heals.

Make some time for some meditation, some breathing exercises, some mindfulness, and some asana if you can manage. I can’t tell you how much I needed that healing energy during my fourth trimester! On top of all that, THE PRACTICE OF LETTING GO is key. Release the negative energy, release the trauma. Do not live in the past if you cannot change it. Take what you can learn from it and try to move on. That is the magic of yoga right there!

 

 

Frustrations of a Pregnant Yogi

Expectations can lead to disappointment; Ego can lead to frustration; Struggle can lead to growth. 

I am now 24 weeks pregnant (Over 5 months!). Half of my pregnancy is done and over with. Totally rejoicing here. I think I’ve had a pretty good, easy pregnancy so far but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been without its struggles.

TO BE COMPLETELY HONEST (this is a bit embarrassing), I have only really practiced asana (the physical poses of yoga) a handful of times during my pregnancy!!! Sure, I taught for the first 4 months, and went through the motion of the poses with my students. And sure, I did a handful of poses here and there whenever I had certain aches and pains in my body…but really, my PASSION, my ENJOYMENT of yoga…had been MISSING these past 5 months. It had made me sad, ashamed, and downright FRUSTRATED.

In my previous blog, I touched upon some of the common struggles pregnant yogis have and some of the remedies or pose alternatives. In my own practice, I have been implementing some of those, but what’s the use of knowing those adjustments…when you don’t even feel like practicing in the first place!? Beyond the physical changes and challenges of being pregnant (breathing, balance, strength, endurance issues to name a few), I just did not have the motivation or desire to pull out my mat and practice for more than 5 minutes at a time. My body just seemed too FOREIGN and I was just too tired. When teaching, I began sitting or standing while giving instruction for most of the class. I began to keep my demonstrations to a minimum. It worked out fine, but I just didn’t feel my normal energy towards teaching and practicing and I’m sure my students noticed (I ended up handing my classes over for the remainder of my pregnancy).

This past teacher training at Happy-U Namaste (a lovely yoga studio in Ocean Beach, San Diego) I assisted a couple weekends. I felt so light headed those weekends during the physical portion and so INCAPABLE of doing anything. There were definitely some physical and emotional obstacles there to overcome! (GANESH, PLEASE!) We went over some prenatal concepts at the training, which was a nice refresher for me. But my heart and head just weren’t fully present.

To get back into the swing of things, I knew I had some options of attending mellow yoga classes at my favorite local studio or trying out a local prenatal studio, but once again my interest just wasn’t there. A couple of weeks later, after moving to North County San Diego, I suddenly one day realized I missed yoga. I YEARNED for it. (Maybe it was because I had stopped teaching…maybe it was the change of location and the realization that all my friends were now 30 minutes away…) I researched nearby studios and found a prenatal one with a new student deal. Sidenote: Those first week deals for new students really work for studios!  

YOGA JAI MA. What a lifesaver! My first prenatal class was absolutely phenomenal. It’s strange to describe a yoga class as phenomenal…this one really was though! It was such an emotional journey with practical poses too. We learned birthing poses while chanting, AUMing, and bonding. The experience reminded me of my teacher training. It brought me back in time! I felt so much joy. I purchased the unlimited month deal for new students and now have gone a couple more times and will definitely be back for more. There’s something special about sharing the space with other pregnant women. Something MAGICAL. Anyway, I’m IN LOVE with yoga again.

I guess my point here is that your love/your passion for something like yoga may ebb and flow. Your frustrations, your ego, your struggle may seem like an impossible barrier. Give it some time. Breathe through it. Trust in the universe. Know that if it’s meant to be, you will find your way back!

 

 

 

 

Pregnant Yogis: Keep It Up!

This post is written for pregnant yogis & for those who’d like to understand us a bit better!

First trimester yogis

For many of you a time of excitement, growth, and uncertainty, these first three months are an adventure!

As a pregnant yogi myself, I understand that keeping up your yoga practice can be difficult! For the first couple of months, I struggled to even get up to do simple tasks. I just wanted to sleep all day and night. It gets better though! In a few months, you’ll be full(ish) of energy again! In the meantime, get that extra rest AND try to get up to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. That could translate to a simple walk around the block, an easy swim, or a gentle yoga practice. Each pregnant mama is different. Some of us can run a marathon in the first trimester while others, like myself, have never been able to run a marathon and shouldn’t start now. Some of us need to be gentle with ourselves; others can charge on with their routines and workouts. Find where you are on the spectrum and adjust.

Some common symptoms besides tiredness are nausea, dizziness, and stuffy noses! A lot of the symptoms are caused by hormonal and blood pressure changes. We’ve all heard of morning sickness as a symptom. If you’re part of the majority that suffers from nausea, remember that it should only get better after the first trimester. I was one of the lucky ones who was nausea free for the most part. Instead, I had the dizziness and stuffy nose. I couldn’t breathe through my nose for over two months! (I tried peppermint essential oils, a neti pot, allergy medicine…sadly nothing helped the inflammation and extra mucus. TMI?)

First Trimester’s Yoga Challenges: Pranayama (Breath control), Uttanasana (forward folds), Downward facing dog, Fast movement up and down, Balances

Adjustments: Breathing through mouth, slow up and down movements, and using a wall for balance 

Second trimester yogis

I’m currently in my second trimester and feel pretty good! I have most of my energy back, which is a pretty big deal. I pulled out my planner again and have been motivated to reach my goals. Exercising almost daily hasn’t been difficult either lately. (Edit a week later: But some days, moving is frustrating. My body is growing daily and that is both a physical and mental adjustment!)

Also, my dizziness isn’t as constant and my ability to breath regularly is mostly back. Although I occasionally feel lightheaded during my yoga practice and outside of it, it doesn’t happen everyday now. Keep drinking plenty of water to help counteract any blood pressure changes and to keep leg cramps at bay. Also, eat every couple of hours (I love this part!).

During the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, your hormones are greatly changing. Your blood vessels dilate as your body produces more blood. At times, this can make you either lightheaded or heavy with a headache.

Try not to lay on your back for too long! The baby is heavy enough to compress a major blood vessel now when you’re lying flat on your back. I find laying down and getting back up too complicated anyway now, so I choose to avoid supine poses when possible.

Symptoms: Dizziness, lightheaded, headaches, leg cramps

Second trimester’s yoga challenges & adjustments:

Challenge 1: Closed twists

Adjustment 1: Open twists: Twist away from your front knee, find space/ Try a gentle twist

Challenge 2: Supine poses (on back)

Adjustment 2: Seated poses: Try the same poses like twists, side stretches, etc. while seated.

Challenge 3: Balances

Adjustment 3: Use a wall or other supporting device to help you keep your balance while finding the proper alignment.

Challenge 4: On-the-Belly poses

Adjustment 4: Try these poses seated. Cat-cows can replace any cobras or up dogs; camel pose can replace bow pose. Be creative!

Third trimester yogis

I’m not there yet, but I’ve done some research!

Be gentle with yourself. Listen to your body. Your body is pretty good at giving you signs of fatigue and exertion.

Try to keep your posture up! Tendency is to release your lower back because your belly is heavier and bigger now. But, this can contribute to some major back pain. So stand tall, sit down when needed, and gently hug that baby in with your ab muscles.

Last tip: Get plenty of rest. You’re almost there!

Symptoms: Fatigue, carrying more weight, swollen feet/legs, lower back pain, shortness of breath

Third Trimester’s Yoga Challenges: Steady breathing, Supine positions, Stomach positions, Twists, Balances, Everything Else (JK!)

Adjustments: Slow down, choose alternative poses (not on back or stomach), twist gently, use the wall for balances, and meditate often 😉

For more third trimester information, I found this great detailed article in Yoga Journal.

 

Note: I’m not an expert and do not have a prenatal yoga certification! I’m just a yogi who is pregnant, has done some reading, and has attended a couple brief prenatal yoga “workshops” during my generalized yoga teacher training. XO

Unexpected New Beginnings

This blog entry is an announcement! Excited to share some news with you. 

IT’S A PLUM! I’m twelve weeks pregnant! Surprise!

In 6 months from now, I will have a little bundle of love. It sounds so unreal. I haven’t wrapped my mind around it fully.

One day I’m checking out wedding venues with a friend, with a cocktail in hand, and the next, I’m sober with the news of a completely different future. Don’t get me wrong– I am excited and happy. But, there is fear and anxiety that accompanies that joy.

There’s so much responsibility that comes along with the baby. Am I ready for that? I had all these ideas of traveling the world. There are so many countries I wanted to visit in the next couple years– Spain, Italy, Philippines, Thailand, Costa Rica…and the list goes on. Now, I know traveling to all those places will be possible albeit a lot more difficult.

It will be okay.

Yoga has taught me to soothe those nerves with deep breaths and a mantra of “I am happy and I am at ease.” It has taught me to adjust with changing times and not to be too attached to one possible future.

Perhaps this is all happening exactly as it should be. Having kids a few years earlier than planned has its upside too. I’ve always wanted to be a Lorelai Gilmore with a sister-like daughter Rory (Non-Gilmore Girls fans please excuse this reference). And although I’m not 16, I am still in my 20’s! ha. (Fingers crossed for a girl!)

I am excited for all of the possibilities. Chris, the soon-to-be father and my fiance, is too. At the end of this month, we will likely find out the gender of our little plum!

How do I feel?

Luckily, I am healthy and also amazingly not a victim of morning sickness! I have just had that constant sense of tiredness everyday for the past 3 months and lately, some dizziness.

My on-the-mat practice has been minimal. I teach 4 times a week and have to be careful getting up and down since that’s when the dizziness hits. I need to find some local prenatal yoga classes. Any recommendations?

In contrast, my dancing hasn’t been too affected by this all! At least for salsa & bachata, there’s not too much up and down so I don’t get dizzy. I am slowly cutting back the hours of dancing since I do get more tired than normal.

Updates with vegetarianism: The cravings have been a lot less frequent lately! It turns out just around the time I starting cutting out meat from my diet is when I became pregnant! I wonder if that has anything to do with my struggles the first month or so???

I’ll keep you updated on the journey ahead.

Namaste,

Lindsey