What This Doula Wants You to Know

 

 

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Doulas are for everyone. At least, this one is. Doulas are not only for the earthy-crunchy, squat-in-a-field-by-the-river, no-medication-whatsoever Moms.  I believe everyone could benefit from some intensive support, no matter what your preference, plan, or non-plan is.

After all, birth is a monumental, incredible, life-changing experience, whether you think of it that way or not. And who wouldn’t want some degree of support while going through a monumental, life-changing experience?  But – believe it or not – some people don’t hire a doula. Which is absolutely okay. There are many mothers, sisters, friends, even partners out in the world who are up for the challenge and make incredible birth companions.

But pregnancy and birth is not always a straight line. It (sometimes) has it’s twists and turns, and  (sometimes) that’s when having a trained professional- someone who has been down this well worn path many, many times before, and has seen an endless number of variations of this dance- is invaluable.

But whether you hire a doula or not, my nervous, excited, ever-so-hopeful and determined mama…..there are a few things I really want to share with you.

  • Please, take a great deal of care and time when choosing your birth provider. Your provider is one of the most important decisions you will make in this process. He or she has a significant impact on the outcome of your birth. Please, talk to them open and honestly early on. Listen to what they say, and how they say it. Listen to the tone of voice they use, look at their facial expressions. Then listen for what they don’t say. Don’t be afraid to share everything you are concerned or curious about, or to ask anything, even the hard questions. Then notice how you feel when you are talking with them. Do you feel calm and at ease? Supported? Dismissed? Like they are truly listening? If you don’t get a good feeling and it doesn’t feel like a good match look into meeting another provider. You have the ability and the power to do so! It needs to be a good fit for you both! You need to feel completely comfortable in this relationship. There are all types out there. Just because this person was incredible with your good friend, or cousin, or cousin’s sister, doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you!!! Go with your gut.
  • Providers are human beings too. They have similar clinical training across the board, but all have their unique personalities. They bring to the table (and to your birth) with them their own “baggage”. They have opinions and history and past experiences that are going to impact they way they practice today. That doesn’t make them good or bad, only human! Again, find one that makes you feel comfortable! For example, if you are seeking a  VBAC and they seem on the fence about it early on, they are not going to suddenly change their mind halfway through YOUR pregnancy and become a huge advocate and push for it! You might wish that, but it’s not going to happen. So again, find the right fit, early on, or move on and keep looking. It’s a lot easier to find a compatible provider at week 15 than it is at week 36. Or, be prepared to constantly advocate for yourself every step of the way.
  • Remember to think outside the box. There are other places to give birth. Such as at home, with a skilled midwife, or at a Birth Center. Look into these options if you are low risk and seeking a natural birth. They are not so outside the box anymore. More and more women are seeking out these locations for their births because the return of a more a natural birth experience is becoming more and more mainstream. Many women are realizing that most hospitals treat birth as a medical event, a business, not a natural, normal process.
  • If you choose to use an OB as a provider, and there are many supportive, attentive, empathetic OB’s out there, find out how many other OB’s (and Certified Nurse Midwives who also may deliver there) are in the practice. It is not uncommon for a practice to have easily anywhere from 2 to 4 other providers, not counting CNM’s in the practice. So if you painstakingly do all your research and find YOUR PERFECT PROVIDER….please remember the chances of them being the actual person on call the day you go into labor are…well, you do the math. They rotate. So the chances are slim it will happen that way. So it’s best to wrap your head around that concept early on, and make sure all the providers are like-minded. Or find a smaller practice with a different doctor.
  • Education goes a long way. The more educated you are about pregnancy and birth, the more comfortable you will be when and if a deviation from your original plan happens. Take a childbirth class, a breastfeeding class, a newborn care class or all 3. Knowledge is power!
  • I can’t take the pain away…as a Doula I wish I could. But then I’d rob you of the experience of knowing you can and will do this. This experience will push you to the brink of your capabilities. It’s a rite of passage, no matter which way it happens. And the experience belongs to you. As a doula, I can be there by your side, helping you navigate the twists and turns, helping you stay as comfortable as possible, reminding you that you can do this, you’ve got what it takes to get through. Unwavering in my faith in you, and in the process.

You can do this….you will do this.

Remember you have so many choices along the way….

You can choose where to give birth.

You can choose to do it all natural.

You can choose a scheduled c-section.

You can choose an epidural.

You can choose to change your mind midway and go from all natural to an epidural.

You can choose to decline any or all medications for you or your baby.

You can choose not to consent to a procedure that is being recommended if you’ve carefully weighed the pros and cons and don’t believe it’s in your and your baby’s best interest.

But the beauty of this whole experience is you have a lot of power, and you have choices.

Don’t forget that!

 

 

 

Ding Dong the Dic(tator) is Dead

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Versailles Cuban restaurant in Little Havana. Photo credit: Jorge Zamanillo

In a span of 12 days, the world lost not one, but 2 influential Cuban leaders. One rose to fame and power with a loud and powerful roar, making sure everyone and everything in his path knew whom he was. The other, quietly and politely from behind the scenes, led his fellow Cubans in his own way on their individual paths to freedom and the American dream. The first was Fidel Castro, the other was my papi, Miguel Perez.

My father came to this country sometime in the late 1950’s, became a permanent resident of the U.S. on December 14, 1961, began working for Pepsi-Cola in Miami in 1966, became a naturalized citizen on June 21, 1968, married my mother in May of 1971…

Why do I know all these dates? Because this last couple of weeks I metamorphosed from being his daughter to being the personal representative of his estate. Not a transformation I was looking forward to.

For those of us Cubans (or Cuban-Americans) growing up these past 40+ years in South Florida, Fidel’s death is huge news. And for those like my father who left Cuba as a young adult in the 1950’s- 1980’s, it is even more so.

My father fled from Cuba literally running away from Castro’s military forces, being shot at as he ran through the forest, hiding out, finally escaping with literally nothing but the shirt on his back. He couldn’t let his family know of his plan beforehand,  because it would put them in danger as well. He didn’t speak to them for 20 years, for fear of incriminating them back on the island.

When he finally arrived safely in this country, with no family around to help, he first settled in New Jersey (as did many Cubans). He had a couple of good friends who fled with him and who became his roommates. They lived right above a diner in a one-room apartment.

For the first 2 months, the only thing he ate was western omelets. He spoke no English, but overheard someone ordering that at the diner and it looked good, so he mastered those words. Whenever he’d come in and sit at the counter, the waiter would ask for his order, he’d proudly say “western omelet”, day after day, as that was the only thing he knew how to say.

He was briefly involved in a covert operation run by a division of the U.S. military, where he and a bunch of men were trained and prepared to ship out as part of the Bay of Pigs invasion. But shortly after they were deployed, their ship was called back, and it was over.

He eventually made his way down to Miami (as most Cubans often do) and kept plugging along. He had heard there was a Cuban man who worked for Pepsi-Cola who may be able to help him get a job there, so he went in and introduced himself. When they asked him if he knew how to drive an 18-wheeler, he said ‘of course, no problem at all!’ Mind you, he’d never driven a truck, let alone an 18- wheeler, but he really needed the job. So he faked it till he made it. He eventually rose through the ranks at Pepsi-Cola and ended up a distribution manager, retiring after over 30 years at the company. He helped countless Cubans who arrived by giving them their first job and an opportunity for success just as he had been given long ago.

I grew up fearing Castro and his power even though I’d never set foot on the island. I knew what he could and would do if you ever dared speak out against him. Even in Miami in the 1970’s you’d have been hard pressed to find a Cuban daring enough to speak ill of him or his regime out loud. All my family were there- my grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles, cousins….and there was nothing we could do to help them, thanks to the U.S. embargo. If someone was daring enough to try and make a phone call and send word that a friend or distant family member was planning a visit, sending aid in the form of medicine or money, they had to use code words because the phone lines were rumored to be tapped. The Castro regime would supposedly swoop in and take the person on the phone away, far, far away to Castro Jail where they would never be seen again.

I have heard that when Castro first came on the scene in Cuba, and was wooing the country with his charisma, he also spent some time here in South Florida. It is rumored he spent the night at my great aunt’s house…a story my maternal grandmother would tell me as a child and I would recount to people by saying “Castro stayed with my family once when he was good.”

My family, like many countless Cuban (American) families, would often hear of and hope for the demise of Castro, and his regime. He was rumored to be dead at least half a dozen times, each time bringing a spark of collective hope to the Cuban community that meant someday they would be able to return and rebuild. But the spark was always quickly extinguished when it wasn’t true.

But now, finally, it is over. The magic spell that Fidel had cast on Cuba is broken at last, at least metaphorically. I hope it will continue to pave the way for better relations and a sense of hope for the tiny, beautiful island where all my family continues to struggle and survive, along with many other hopeful Cubans.

My father, in his own small way, made his mark in this country as a Cuban with conflicted feelings about his homeland, in quite a different way than Castro. As I slowly, piece by piece, document by document, learned about many of my Dad’s life adventures over the course of this past year, what would be his last, we somehow became exponentially closer.  So did my brother and he.  My brother finally managed to capture my father’s stories on a voice recording on his iPhone as they spoke late one night. My father was not much of a talker, but for some reason on this night, he spilled it all. Things I’d never known about for 44 years. And I know we will cherish that recording forever, all the moments of our collective cultural and family history preserved at last.

I wish Papi had been around to see this, finally, the long-awaited end of an era. But at the very least I get a kick out of imagining him laughing and enjoying the festivities in Little Havana this week in spirit, having a shot of Havana Club rum in celebration.

Someday, when it is all not so raw, I will finally listen to his stories, to his voice telling his stories. But for now, I will say a prayer, and light a couple of candles….one for my father, and one for Fidel Castro.

En paz descansen los dos lideres Cubanos, que siempre seran recordados por sus hechos,  ya sean buenos o malos.

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Photo credit: Jorge Zamanillo

The Magic Formula

The universe is ALWAYS speaking to us, sometimes in subtle ways, other times, more like a bonk on the head. That is a given, there is nothing we have to “do” to have it speak to us. We do, however, have to take the time to LISTEN. Which often means being more aware, creating space for that awareness by being still, pausing, listening, and being open to what is being said.

The week before last for me was a doozy. I didn’t plan it that way. It just kind of happened. I was diligently and with painstaking detail putting together a new PowerPoint presentation for a Peaceful Parenting Workshop I was giving on that upcoming Saturday. I had previously given this workshop a few times using my own notes, but it was time to kick it up a notch and make it pretty and use visuals to get the points across.

In the midst of working on that, beside my usual responsibilities, I somehow crazily (over)scheduled myself to see 4 doula clients in 1 day. No problem, I can handle that! There are plenty of hours in 1 day! Besides, that was on Wednesday, and left me 2 more whole days to put together everything I needed for the workshop. Plenty of time!

Then the Universe bonked.

But let me back up. About that formula. One of the tools I teach in the Peaceful Parenting world, which is easily applied to any relationship, and actually to every single thing in our lives, is how important it is that WE be at peace and as present as possible in every moment. How real/inner peace can be attained no matter what our circumstances, no matter what storms are raging around us. We have a huge say in what our world really looks like to us, we have immense power. We often fear that power and therefore prefer to play the role of victim to our circumstances. But the truth is we do have the power, to a great extent.

So what’s the formula, you ask?

EVENT + RESPONSE = OUTCOME

It seems very simplistic. But it really finally made sense to me and hit home with me about a year and a half ago. I guess I was finally truly ready to hear it and grasp it. It’s a game changer. But you have to be ready for it. Because it means taking responsibility. You really need to be in a good mental space to have it work it’s magic, otherwise, it will have the opposite effect & you will fall flat on your face. Because you see, no matter WHAT event is taking place, be it not getting that raise you were hoping for & counting on, a tantrum your child is having, a cup of spilled milk, a serious illness, no matter WHAT the “it” is, it is YOUR REACTION/RESPONSE to it that will greatly impact the outcome. It can literally change the course of history in that moment.

Take milk, for example. Let’s say you are in a hurry to get out of the house in the morning to drop your kids off at school and make it to work on time for a meeting. So everyone is a teeny bit on edge because just maybe you’re a little stressed about the time. Then, let’s say your highly sensitive 5 year old son, in his haste to finish up quickly, accidentally spills his cup of milk all over the table and the floor. He then looks up at you in horror, with huge round eyes…..waiting…….an eternity…..for your reaction. Because he knows you’re already stressed, and this could put you over the edge. You could yell, scream, say all sorts of choice words to him and about him, or instead perhaps start slamming things  about and possibly then hurt yourself, which could lead to tears (both you and him possibly), him yelling back because he feels hurt (not to mention guilty), a struggle to get in the car, more fighting in the car, a longer than usual wait at car line, an accident causing extra traffic on the way to work….etc. Catch my drift? Because the universe is so in tune to you, it will provide you more of whatever you are putting out there energetically.

But what about the flip side? What if, instead of getting upset and going down that road, you CHOOSE instead to take a moment, pause, then take it as a cue to slow down and not take things so seriously.  Instead of getting mad, you take a deep breath and then say to your son “Hey, no biggie, let’s each grab a rag and work together to clean it up. We can pretend we are robots and make our best robot noises!”. Chances are, that will be met with a lot more joy, cooperation, and a more peaceful exit out of the house as well as a more peaceful commute. Most likely, that energy will continue to permeate your day and smooth things out for you in all aspects of your day.

Because really we are 50% of the equation, and the outcome. We can choose to see everything in a positive or a negative light. Its not always easy, I know, I get that. But it’s like a muscle. The more you work it, the easier it gets.

So back to the Universe bonking me.

The night of my 4-clients-in-one-day-while-preparing-my-upcoming-workshop, when I finally got home at 9:30pm…I got a phone call that my 83 year old father, my “Papi” (who has a myriad of serious health issues to say the least) is being admitted to the hospital and needs immediate gall-bladder surgery the next morning. 1 hour away from where I live. This wasn’t a complete surprise as we had been dealing with his delicate gall-bladder issue for 6 weeks now, but careful measures had been taken to delay having the surgery as long as possible, to make it as smooth as possible since he has so many other issues that impact him undergoing surgery with general anesthesia.

So off I went the next morning….after dropping off my son at school, the 1 hour commute to the hospital in Miami rush hour traffic….to meet him to prep for surgery. I was nervous of course, he’s elderly, sick, and he’s my Papi. But from the moment I got the news I made a choice I was going to be positive about this and trust that all was happening as it should, and all would be well. I tapped into the peace inside me and let it ride. It was a smooth sail to the hospital. Things that morning sort of just clicked. I got there in time to meet the orderly who was wheeling him to the OR prep/triage room (who happened to also be Cuban, as are we. My Dad takes great pride in it). My aunt/his sister was also with him. The kind orderly asked my aunt & I to wait outside in the OR waiting room and promised someone would give us updates along the way. So my aunt and I prepared to hunker  down and wait.

Not 4 minutes later, a nurse came out (Russian, gotta love living in an International melting pot!) calling my name, and told us we could come on back. She let us in to the prep/triage room to wait with my Dad while they started on all the prep necessary for surgery. Papi was in good spirits, cracking jokes. I was also trying to keep the mood light and positive for us all. We could hear everything going on in the adjacent “bays” in the room (each separated by paper thin curtains) as others were also getting prepped (and prodded, and poked). And it was taking a really long time. Like for real, not like just because it’s happening to you  it just feels like a  long time. Other patients were coming in and then moving on. More nurses (Cuban) came to prepare him, kindly flirt with him, and ask more of the same questions we’d already answered at least twice previously. Anesthesia (American, maybe?) came and talked to him, then the surgeon (Cuban). He explained there was a need to possibly transfuse blood/plasma as well as this possibly turning into more than just a  quick laproscopic surgery. So prep would take a little while longer than usual.

I’m still choosing to remain calm and at peace, even while reading between the lines of everything he was saying.  I will say that I did have a moment just then of a little panic and doubt. I took a moment and tried to go within, to ground and center myself, to ground the staff, everyone present, the room. I breathed. I felt the need to stand up and stroll a few steps away from my Dad and towards the exit leading to the OR. And there it was, my message. My reminder. Clear as day, big and bright, on a bulletin board (Really? In an OR triage room?) no less:

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EVENT + RESPONSE = OUTCOME!

What are the freaking chances??? I literally laughed out loud, am I’m sure sounded momentarily psychotic to the nurses around. Then I snapped a picture on my phone and almost got kicked out of there. I had to explain to the nurse in charge that the message on the bulletin board was EXACTLY the message of my upcoming workshop, how that same equation was literally the last slide in my PowerPoint and how meaningful it was. Luckily, she smiled and got it and it sparked a conversation between us and then we were good.

I (silently) thanked the Universe for the message, and I was all good again. I knew then no matter what transpired with my Dad, all would be alright. That no matter what happened in life, period, it would all be alright. I had faith. I felt supported. And I was reminded by that not so subtle detail on the bulletin board. My perception makes the difference.

I then took a moment to take in the bigger picture, to look for more signs (why not?). Then it hit me, we were the only family members in this triage room for the last 3 hours. Not 1 other family member. All the other patient’s family members were all outside in the waiting room. Why had the nurse come and gotten us to come and stay with my Dad when no one else was allowed/invited back there? Why only us? There was absolutely no logical reason.

Funny what we realize when we take that moment of pause. Everything becomes illuminated.

In the end, the operation was way more complicated, they had to do a lot more than anticipated. It took twice as long as they had said, they had to call in an additional surgeon, make quite a large incision, transfuse plasma, rewire some internal connections in my Dad, but he got through it all with flying colors. He even came out of the general anesthesia and was breathing on his own way quicker than normal, despite all his other medical issues and concerns that had delayed this surgery so long in the first place.

So yes, I was bonked. I spent the next 2 days driving back and forth, 1 hour each way, to spend the day with my recovering super-hero of a father. I did NOT have any time at all to further prepare for my workshop as I had originally planned on. But in the end, it didn’t really matter.

Turns out, I had everything I needed all along. And luckily, and most importantly, I still have my Papi.

 

The Undoing

Imagine the possibilities...

Imagine the possibilities…

It’s funny to me that it has been 8 months since I “left my day job” as a public school teacher, yet I still feel the passing of time in terms of the school year.  For instance, my husband and I were talking about probably not being able to make plans this year “for Spring Break”….when I realized that no longer applies to me! I  am no longer limited to that ONE WEEK IN THE SPRING when we have the freedom of a whole week of hanging out, taking a day trip, camping, whatever we want to do. But the mind holds fast to what it is used to. 15 years of teaching in public schools and all that comes with it will take awhile to undo…there is a lot of “undoing” taking place over here….

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t have responsibilities or a job anymore….I do. I am working. A lot! I am building my dream business….fusing my passions and my purpose in life into my business,  doing what I was meant to do by serving humanity as a doula, a Peaceful Parenting Coach, a Spiritual Coach, an Intuitive Healer…..so many things I cannot even put a label on.

I’m here to help women transition into mothers…..to find their inner power and inner voice, to push through their fears (sometimes literally).

I’m here to help people find their own personal power, to embrace that there is a whole world under the surface that has everything to do with using your intention and intuition to create your best, most authentic self.

I’m “here” to help. Period. In my own way.

There was no room for this version of me when I was too busy “doing” the full-time-job-plus stuff.

I am still “doing” a lot. But the difference now is: I am happy. I am at peace. I have also become “undone”.

I’ve come to realize, living this way, honoring my authentic true self and my true needs is finally bringing me full circle back into a sense of true joy, true inner peace, something I had been searching for for so long and could grasp the corners of at times, but as soon as I would try and tug it closer to me it, it would then slip out of my hands.

You see for so, so, so many years I wasn’t truly, honestly happy (more often than not anyway). Especially as an adult, I truly struggled with working full time, trying to be a thoughtful, caring partner to my husband, trying to be a loving, nurturing Mom to my son, “bringing in the bacon” as a full time public educator, keeping the house clean(ish), laundry done, cooking healthy foods (well, cooking ANY foods at that point was a struggle), helping care for my elderly/ailing father, and my unique, “special needs” dog, and then trying to find time for self-care, for exercise, for anything that fed my soul. I was drained. I was done.

I felt like a total failure. A big one. Often.  And that didn’t sit well with me because I knew deep down inside I wasn’t a failure…..it just took me 43 years to figure out I was just living an ill-fitted life for me.  That MY NEEDS are different. That I am “different”, and march to a tune of a different drummer than most, and it’s okay to admit that, hell to embrace that! That many, many women (because, let’s face it, I am a woman) go out and work full time and come home and do all those things, and function, and are grateful, and somehow fit it all in, and are happy………..but that’s not me. And that’s okay! That doesn’t mean I am a failure! Or inadequate! It just means I was trying to stuff myself in a box that I didn’t fit in for too long until the seams all bust open. I think it took having my son, seeing how he “doesn’t fit in a box”, hearing myself explain that over and over to his teachers, his doctors, his caregivers, his family, to realize “oh my gosh, that’s me!” .

I had to undo A LOT to get to that realization. Peel back many, many layers, only to reveal more layers that needed peeling.

That chapter of my life is done now, and I’m extremely grateful for what I learned:

I’m grateful that I had the courage to realize living that way was no longer serving me.

I’m grateful that I have an incredibly supportive husband that not only believes in me and encourages me, but knows me well enough to say “I will never let you go back to teaching public school again”.

I am grateful that I get to serve my fellow women/sisters, to help them find their inner strength during pregnancy birth, and beyond.

I am grateful that I get to help families learn how to communicate better with one another, to help bring them closer to finding a sense of peace.

I am grateful I don’t have to wake up in the morning to a super-duper early alarm clock and feel that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as my day begins.

I am grateful that I now have time to go to the gym, prepare healthy foods, and truly take care of my body.

I’m grateful that now I have more quality time to spend with my family, where I’m actually in a good mood, happy and positive, so I can better enjoy them.

I am grateful that I also have time to study what I want to study, to further my own personal growth in every aspect.

I am grateful that I am aware enough to be grateful.

So if you feel like you are stuck inside a similar box, you are cramped and cramping and busting at the seams and it’s bringing you down……..there is hope. It just takes the courage to take that one small step in the direction of your dreams. The universe will provide the rest.

So take that step, the step into freedom, peace, love, joy, your wildest dreams.

I’ll hold your hand while you push through, if you want 🙂

 

 

 

Follow the GPS in your Heart

Corn maze 2012

Corn maze 2012

A few weeks ago I had an amazing experience that seems to keep nagging at me, reminding me to put it down in writing and put it out there….so here I go.

I had been invited by a dear friend to go to a women’s circle gathering, and even though it was a crazy busy time for me, and it was located over an hour away from me, in Miami, and I’d have to travel through multiple  highways during morning rush hour traffic…….every fiber in my being said “GO!”. For some reason I knew I just had to go, my soul needed it.

Now, I was born and raised in Miami although I have lived “much further north” now in Broward County for about 20 years. Times have changed, roads have changed, highways have changed…..so I did what every respectable smart phone owner traveling that far would do. I used my GPS.

-HOWEVER-

The trick here is when you sort of know where you’re going…..and you think you might know be the best way to get there…..you sort of remember the area and how to maneuver……you tend to start doubting the GPS. It gets tricky.

Isn’t that always our problem? We always want to think we know best, we are in control, we have all the answers, and be we I mean our minds. We resist, tooth and nail, the surrender.  We want to surrender, we really do, but there is always that last little bit of “yes, but just this one thing, I know it will be better if I do it this way/make this turn/change one more thing”.

But when we really let go…….just completely surrender, no matter how scary it feels at first, how almost counterintuitive at times……it’s blissful. I literally just “let it go” that day and followed the GPS. Even though I thought I knew the best way. In reality, I didn’t. It took me down different highways, express lanes, roads, etc. that I NEVER would have taken had I “been in charge”. And you know the beauty of it was it was literally magical. I was whizzing peacefully next to lanes that were stuck in traffic, great song after great song magically playing on the satellite radio, red lights turning into green lights at just the right moment.  I got to my event not only on time, but early, even though I had just traveled through morning rush hour traffic in Miami. It was insane. And then I had the most amazing time sharing stories, support and love with other amazing Warrior Goddess Mamas.

You see, I learned, REALLY learned in my heart the beginnings of a very valuable lesson that day, a lesson that has kept repeating a few times since then. No matter which roads you take in life, eventually you will get there. All roads lead to “there”. Some are more direct, some more fun, some may be painful, some seem like slow going, long and winding, some  seem like a super-duper fast highway and you arrive in the blink of an eye. But you will arrive, eventually. And the more you “let go” and tune into “divine intervention/providence/source”  as your GPS, the more enjoyable the experience will be.  It all boils down to the same thing. Faith! Trust the process! Trust in yourself, in your inner guidance, that it truly knows what is best. YOU KNOW WHAT IS BEST. You have to have faith in yourself first, take that leap, then the universe will support you in ways you never even imagined possible. Better than what you could have hoped for. But that’s the scary part as well……jumping in without seeing the bottom, working without a net……or so it seems.

The net is there. We just can’t “see” it. But it’s there, not only catching us, but rather rebounding us and propelling us into even greater heights.

So do yourself a favor, the next time you have the opportunity to make a choice…..choose with your heart GPS. You will not be disappointed.

 

 

Dads & Doulas & Stuff….by Jeffrey Lerner

peanut birth

The following is a guest post from my incredibly insightful, loving husband, who is my best friend, ally, and a BIG believer in the power of Doulas. It came up as we were speaking the other day about Dads and their ideas (usually) when Moms say they need to hire a Doula to be there for the birth….I hope you enjoy!

There are all kinds of fathers out there in the world today. Big ones, small ones, skinny ones and fat ones.
Smart ones, dumb ones, short ones and tall ones.
Fathers that want to be in the room for their baby’s first breath, and fathers that want to be in the waiting room with a whiskey and a cigar. (Ok….maybe that was just in the old days.) Fathers that are tricked by their wives into hiring a doula, and fathers that don’t know that a doula has nothing to do with the medulla oblongata. (Which for your information is located in the hindbrain, anterior to the cerebellum…Duh!)
I find it incomprehensible as to why the father would not want to be present for such a momentous occasion. In fact some 92% of fathers do take part in the birthing process. What the hell are the other 8% of men doing while their beautiful wives are trying to give birth to a something the size of a watermelon? I for one am so thankful that I was present and accounted for during my son’s birth. It truly was the highlight of my life so far.

Because my wife was planning on giving birth naturally, she decided early on to hire a doula. I must admit that at the time I was completely ignorant about what a doula does. But what I quickly learned at the hospital was that I was out-gunned and needed some serious backup.

The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek word meaning “a woman who serves” and that is a good way to put it. Our doula not only supplied emotional support to my wife and I, but she helped us navigate through all of the pressures of having our baby in a modern hospital. Let’s face it, the nurses and doctors at a hospital dont always support the plan that you have in place. Our doula helped us through the entire birthing process. Not to mention she gave excellent backrubs………to my wife too 🙂 .

Sometimes a birth can feel more like a battle. Would you go into battle without a good, experienced soldier to help you through it? Why would you go to a birth without a doula? Giving birth is an emotional rollercoaster where things can change in an instant and most likely will. Why wouldn’t you want someone there with you who has been there before?

So if you are a father on the fence about hiring a doula or not, take it from me and do like Nike says…just do it. In fact, if we ever have another child, I would hire my own private doula just for me. No seriously……lattes…..chocolate…..backrubs……more lattes….oh and maybe some doula type stuff too.

Where will YOU go?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright...

Tiger, tiger, burning bright…

Every night as part of my son’s bedtime routine, we pick 1 or 2 books to read. My son has loved books since he was a toddler (as do I) and his collection started even before his birth. So the nightly reading can range anywhere from”Everyone Poops” (no I’m not kidding and yes, he’s been potty trained for years) to Ranger Rick magazine, to “The DK Encyclopedia of the Human Body” (limited to 5 pages per night, cuz seriously? Bedtime?), to Dr. Seuss….you get the picture. He gets to choose every night.  Ironically, tonight, on the night before he “officially” starts school (VPK) he chooses “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”.

Have you read that book? Because if you haven’t, you should. It’s not a kids book! I mean of course it is, but not really, as is the case with many of the Doctor Seuss books.  I find it ironic he chooses this book tonight on the verge of this important, significant transition (for us both), because that’s exactly what the book is about- setting out on a bold, beautiful new journey.

Tomorrow, he starts school full time. For the next 14 years the majority of his waking hours will be at school, away from home, and from us. That is the reality. I might wish it were different at times, that we could home school, or unschool, or a combination of both.  But for now, the reality is that’s where he will be. And I have to trust that it will all be okay, because that’s what I choose to think.

So out of nowhere, reading this book, so much comes up inside me. It is profound. It speaks to me right now more than to him I think. Because the other aspect of our reality is my transition, me taking my own journey and leap of faith into following my dreams full time.

The book speaks of walking straightforward into one’s truth, into the unknown.  It speaks of all the wonderful as well as the scary things we will encounter once we do that. Of the times we WILL fail, because it’s the truth, we all do. Except when we don’t, because every failure is a lesson that can teach us how to move forward in a more perfect direction for us, if we have the courage to continue on to follow our own truth.

And the secret is, all we have to do is be ourselves. Unapologetically, authentically, 100% ourselves. It’s truly that simple. Not easy, but simple. Now that is easier to do when you’re a child, especially a young child, when you’re so raw and untainted, before things get too complicated, before you forget who you are, before they tell you who you are supposed to be. Somehow along the way we all tend to get a little lost. We forget to read the signs. We forget what we are here for.

But the beauty is it’s never too late. And boy has that message been coming to me (again!) from all directions.  From songs on the radio, to memes on Facebook, to books that fall into my lap, to strangers I meet.

It’s never to late to be you. To follow through on your you-ness on all levels, as scary and intimidating as it may seem. Because when you do, the places you will go will be amazing.

So now, tell me: Who are you, really? What are you here for? And where will YOU go?

The “Back to School” that wasn’t

Empty class 2

This past week was tax-free saving week a.k.a. back to school shopping week here in Florida. So I did what any respectable parent and teacher would do, go shopping for back to school clothes and supplies. But what you don’t know is for teachers, it is about that same  time where we start to feel the “Oh my God, is the summer really over? Do I really have to go back so soon? What’s my schedule going to be like? How many students will I have this year? How many desks will have this year?”. This is usually accompanied by a big ol’ knot in the pit of my stomach, accompanied by a need to start drinking a nightly glass of wine…..or two…..in order to mentally prepare for another year of “being a teacher”.

Empty class 4

Empty class 3

But this year, want to know what I added to my back to school wardrobe during tax-free shopping week?

Nothing.

Nada.

Zilch.

Ni una cosa.

Because this year, I will not be going back to school. For the first time in forevvvvveeeeer…..sorry, Disney song took hold of me there. For the first time in 15 years, I will not be going back. I chose not to go back. I chose to follow my heart and my soul and my calling.  I listened (finally!) to what my soul was saying, and I prepared, and I have been working hard to create my new reality, which for me includes my new business. I have slowly but surely been building bridges, making connections, starting a client base, educating myself….all that stuff it takes to help me build my dream. Most importantly, I have been doing what brings me the most joy, which is helping people find their peace and their inner power, while still having time to spend with my family. I am helping new parents welcome their children into the world in the way they choose, feeling empowered and supported. I am working with individuals to help them discover who they really are and had forgotten along the way. I am teaching (yes, I know, I can’t escape teaching) parents that there is another way to relate to and connect with their children, one that involves mutual respect, connection, and patience.

Is it easy? Nope.

Is it scary? Sometimes.

Risky? You bet, you could see it that way at times.

But I don’t have that knot in the bottom of my stomach that I used to have every year. I don’t have the dread of “D-day” looming over me (which this year, would have been today).

And what I do have instead is worth all the gold in the world. Freedom. And hope.

Freedom

The Highly Sensitive Gardeners

IMG_8342

Gardening to me is therapeutic. I love being outside surrounded by nature, feeling with wind, the sun, and the soil between my fingers. Planting seeds, or a tiny plant, is like the opportunity to aid in bringing forth new life into this world. You plant them, nurture them, tend to them, and wait, wondering what exactly will come of the hard work and love that you’ve put into the process.

My 4 year old son and I often garden together. We prune the flower beds, cut off the dying flowers, and pull out roots and stems that are way too far gone.

“Mom, this branch says ‘No!!!! Ouchy!!!! Don’t pull me out!!!’ and this other one says ‘Help me! I need more water please!’.”

I can’t help but smile at hearing the dialogue that his vivid imagination creates for the things around him who cannot speak (out loud) for themselves. What a beautiful thing it is to be that in tune with your surroundings that you feel what they feel. I think back to last summer when we first planted these very same flowers that we care for today, when they were teeny, tiny plants. We dug holes together, and he insisted we relocate every earthworm we came across. He said the worms were scared and needed a new home deep underground, not too far away, so they’d be safe and happy.

And although many times, hearing his words, the intensity of how much he feels things is a beautiful thing, at times it feels like both a blessing and a curse. You see, my son is not only highly sensitive, but also highly spirited (i.e. more stubborn, determined, and strong willed than any MLM salesperson you ever met, but in a tiny person’s body with huge lungs). I was able to recognize it pretty early on in his life because I am also highly sensitive.

I struggled most of my life, not knowing why I was “different”. Why each seemingly little hurt, each little disappointment to me took on a giant emotional gorge in my heart. I can remember as early as kindergarten feeling like I just couldn’t fit in. Throughout grade school, I was always the youngest in my class, the most timid, and the most emotional. The lyrics to a song could easily make me cry, heck even the beauty in a symphonic piece with no lyrics could bring me to tears. I was sure something was terribly wrong with me since everyone around me seemed so happy and so care-free. It wasn’t until my adult life and many years of researching and soul searching that I found a name for what I was, highly sensitive. It was a beautiful moment because finally I knew I was not broken, crazy, or alone. I just felt everything “more”. I learned to understand it, accept it, embrace it, and learned how to better deal with life and it’s situations as a result.

With my son, I suspected very early on he had inherited my sensitivity, which as a child, usually also comes coupled with sensory processing issues. He started off his life with horrific reflux, so pretty much from birth if he was awake, he was screaming. Like bloody-murder-somebody-please-save-me screaming. Feeding him took lots of emotional preparation. I recall one of our first outings as a “new family” to McDonald’s (don’t judge, we made it out of the house after our first week, that was huge for us): He was starving, but when he would drink from the bottle (as breastfeeding did not work out despite my very best efforts, but that’s a post for another day). He would arch his back, pull off from the bottle and scream as if we were pouring hot lava down his tiny developing throat. This would happen every time we fed him. Repeat this process every 3 hours ’round the clock. We couldn’t go out if we would be out and about during a feeding, as his screams could clear a room, and break the heart of any mother in a 2 block radius. Finally, around week 7, and after numerous doctor’s visits, failed medications, fights on the phone begging with insurance companies, etc. we had a “cure” that worked, and it was like a huge weight was lifted. We were finally able to enjoy our baby.

But that was just one tiny piece of the sensitivity puzzle. The world for him was often times too much, too overwhelming in general. He had to be worn in a sling or wrap all the time to feel safe. There was a vigorous rocking-chair-motion and shushing required to get him to sleep early on that even Dr. Harvey Karp would be proud of. Eventually, when he was old enough to watch some hard-core television (after, of course, the magical age of 2 years old when the “experts” deem it safe to expose our young susceptible children to the evils of television), the slightest hint of Thomas the Tank engine making a bad decision to play for a little while longer instead of getting back to work and chugging his cargo back to Tidmouth Sheds would cause my son to hide his eyes in terror, or run out of the room in tears to hide. There was a time, for years (yes YEARS) that the only way he could sleep was on top of me. Like lying vertically on my chest. Like nonstop, all night. It was the only way he felt “safe” enough to allow sleep to take over. To this day, at 4+ years and 40+ pounds, almost every night when I put him to sleep he requests a few minutes of snuggle time with him laying on top of me. Mind you, at this point his body is almost longer than mine. But when he does this, he snuggles in like finally all is right in the world, and its okay to relax.

The flip side of the sensitivity coin is the amazing compassion and kindness he feels towards even the tiniest living creature. How he will go out of his way when riding his bicycle to avoid crushing the myriad of earthworms that have somehow made their way to the center of the sidewalk. How a song can touch him so much that he will cry big, fat, silent tears, or ask me to please change the station because it is too much. How something as simple as dancing to a great song, or blowing dandelions, or riding on any type of public transportation can make his day completely perfect. His squeals of joy are as loud or if not louder than his shouts of discomfort.

I explain all this, the good and the bad, the joy and the pain, the duality of it all because raising a highly sensitive/highly spirited child is beyond hard. Beyond exhausting. And is probably something that is nearly impossible for anyone who is a) not highly sensitive or highly spirited, or b) not the parent of a highly sensitive or highly spirited child to understand.

Life for us HSC’s or parents of HSC’s is different. We are faced day in and day out with situations that for you, may require redirection, a stern look, or a firm “No”. But for us, it can escalate to World War 3 in a heartbeat because they are feeling completely overwhelmed and misunderstood. We have to parent these beings differently to make it work. Every transition is carefully planned out & announced multiple times in advance, every outing thoughtfully prepared so we have the right emergency food, drink, or toy. A neuro-typical person might see a child crying and throwing a fit, being a brat because he doesn’t want to walk from the shore of the beach to the sidewalk. To a highly sensitive child, the feel of the hot, wet sand stuck to his feet while it rubs against his shoes like scalding sandpaper is a sensation so overwhelming it can push him over the brink into the red zone. And because of this, sometimes you judge us. I know you do. Sometimes silently. Sometimes out loud. Sometimes to our face. Sometimes behind our backs. And I get it. Because you haven’t lived it. You have no idea what it’s like to deal with that kind of intensity nonstop, with the crazy situations that most people cannot fathom or understand. You look at us as if we have three heads when we negotiate or try to explain our way through a difficult situation. But we do this because we know this is the way it must be done in order for them to understand and feel understood, and for us to try and maintain our sanity. And the “Thank you, mama” in that tiny voice I get, accompanied with a gigantic bear hug that could crush my ribs when I do understand, stay calm, get it right and work with his sensitivities instead of dismissing them as nonsense let me know how integral it is to his sense of self-worth, sense of stability, sense of “this world is actually a safe place to be in after all”.

So please, next time when you feel that judgment creep in, take a moment and pause, and remember our experience is different than yours.

My heart breaks a little for him for all the times I know people will deal with him in ways that will do more harm than good, for both their sakes. I know I can’t protect him from it all, nor should I. So I don’t. But we talk about it a lot. I strive to make him self-aware of his own needs, and work on expressing them in ways that are socially acceptable. I know as he grows and matures, things will get easier for us all. Not easy, but easier. I know these traits he has can and will be honed in to something amazing, and he will one day discover a new planet or design and build a new technology racecar/rocket ship hybrid. His intensity and focus will be used for the powers of good and the advancement of humanity. It’s just for now, he’s 4. And for now, it translates into him obsessing over that one toy that the one kid on the playground has that he wants to take a turn with soooooo badly, and that he will cry about, tantrum about, plead about 100 gazillion times “But WHEN will it be my turn?!?!” And this can go on for hours, and leave an emotional mark for days, or even months. Like an elephant that never forgets.

Time and patience and teaching are the solution. There are no short cuts for us on this journey that will not backfire if we try to take them.

So for now, we garden. And relocate worms, and listen to the sounds & words of nature and flowers, and laugh and breathe get through the rough patches. I have learned to appreciate all the facets of this unique type of personality. I have learned to appreciate his extreme sweetness, as well as his extreme determination when he is so engrossed in the task at hand that he literally can’t even hear me asking him to put on his shoes or brush his teeth. I appreciate his “more-ness”. And as usual, it makes me wonder, who is the teacher here and who is the student?

 

 

“It’s Not You, It’s Me”

Something will grow

Today I want to stretch your spiritual muscles. Stretching is good for you, although it can be difficult at first, and will leave you (possibly) sore for a bit. But think big picture here! Think a little discomfort now for big personal growth later. Are you with me?

Let’s start by playing pretend. You know, like you used to when you were a little kid and you played superheroes using sticks as swords, or played dress-up or something. Good. Now that we’ve suspended our disbelief, anything is possible. So let’s go with that. Let’s pretend that you have the power to create your own reality. That everything you say and do has an impact on the physical and energetic reality of the world directly around you. Your words literally create your truth. Your emotions, which are linked often times to your words, create your truth.

Okay. So given that, let’s look at a scenario…a difficult or painful interaction with someone you love, like a family member or very close friend, that went badly in the past. Let’s re-examine it with fresh, new, childlike eyes. Let’s have a do-over.

Replay the scene in your mind. But this time, try and identify where it went wrong. Maybe the other person got really angry and yelled at you for some reason, went off the deep end, went ballistic… STOP. Hit the pause button and freeze-frame it. Take a deep breath. Now try and connect with that person, I mean really connect, like to their soul. See what is hurting them to cause them to react that way towards you. What is the underlying need behind their behavior? What are they REALLY angry about? What need is not being met? Maybe they are lashing out as a knee jerk reaction to what they perceive as a wrong being done to them and their reality. They are in pain, they are hurting, and the only way at that moment (for whatever reason) they know how to express that pain is through a show of anger. They may shout, they may hit, they may walk away and slam a door, or they may shut down emotionally. Take a good look at them. And then breathe and shift. See past their actions to the root. They are asking for love, for help, in the only way they can at that moment.

So now you have a choice. Match their emotion, and escalate the interaction to an even higher/angrier interaction, OR, realize that YOU are responsible for YOUR OWN EMOTIONS AND FEELINGS. You don’t have to react!!!! You can choose to stay present and calm in your own space! You have your own energetic field around you, and NO ONE can “make” you feel a certain way, unless you let them! You have a bubble of “you-ness” that surrounds you at all times. Some people call this an aura. Call it what you like. Sometimes this bubble is big and happy and huge, sometimes is tiny and quiet and can barely contain your body. But it’s always yours, and no one has the right to take it from you or infringe upon it. They can’t. So it’s all about you maintaining your boundaries, your energetic and emotional boundaries. “Did you forget you had a choice?” as one of my favorite teachers, Jeffrey Allen, says. Choose peace at that moment. Choose to connect with them at a soul level, see them as being in pain, and instead of matching energy, find a moment to send them peace. And love. At that moment, all that might mean is you being quiet. Not reacting badly. Not yelling. Even just taking a breath and letting it out without a word.

Then wait and see what happens. If you can maintain your bubble in peace…a change will come. Either the other person will erupt in fury for not eliciting a reaction, and it will all come out and flow out like lava, then calm down, or, the other person will see you remained calm, and this will help talk them down from the ledge of anger/pain. Mind you, I’m not saying give in to crazy, unreasonable demands here. I’m saying just take a look at the reality of the situation. Don’t paint yourself into a corner. Find a way for you, or the other to save face. Look behind the scenes at what is fueling the fire. Is it really a fire? Or simply a match that was lit, and in your eyes, or his/her eyes, has taken on a new/bigger/more dramatic appearance?

It’s YOUR choice, how you react. And that choice will most definitely define that moment in time, and even the moments that come as a result of it in the future.

Try to remember that we are all humans here, trying the best we can in any given situation. We are all learning to some degree. Some of us need more practice or are more new to the process than others. Some of us have more baggage or more unhealed past hurt than others. But we ALL need love. And compassion. So we all need to give love. And compassion. Let those ripples of kindness and love and compassion extend out beyond our own “bubbles” and vibrate to other bubbles…. and start a chain reaction.

This process is not easy, not in any way, especially at first. But it’s like a muscle. A spiritual muscle we have to retrain, to stretch out and work on so it feels better. So that eventually your whole being feels better as a consequence of it.

I encourage you to try it. Go back and have a mental do over. And then next time you have the opportunity to practice it in real life, in present time, try it. See what happens. What do you have to lose? You’ve done it the other way a million times and it hasn’t worked out great for you, has it? Aren’t YOU worthy of love, of compassion? It all starts with you. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself, and those around you. That is not a weakness; it is the greatest strength.

Will you have the courage to try it? I would LOVE to hear your comments, especially after you’ve given it a shot…

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  -Ghandi

And yes, I know, it’s not all just as simple as that “bumper sticker quote”. But it’s a damn good place to start.