Okay, so I realize this post is completely self-serving, and I’m okay with that. Sometimes, shit happens. And it makes me think and ponder and wonder… and these thoughts yell and scream at me until they are allowed out into the world. Sometimes through spoken word, sometimes through a blog post. It helps me process.
So there’s your warning. This may or may not resonate with you. It doesn’t matter. It just needs out. But be careful if you choose to keep reading. This MAY resonate with you, and cause YOU to think and connect some dots or raise some questions.
Two days ago, I had a kind of epiphany regarding energy, spirituality, life….and our connections with loved ones specifically. Because two days ago, I wound up in the hospital surgery “Family Waiting Lounge” …waiting. Waiting to get an update about my father.
Let me back up a little.
I have spent most of my life striving to connect to my spiritual, higher self…learning everything I could that might remotely relate to that topic, through workshops, live classes, coffee dates, “date” dates… you name it. I have learned so much and awakened so much, so much so that at times now I am often shocked at how quickly things “connect” for me. How quickly, or oddly, things manage to manifest in ways I never imagined.
A big challenge for me (as I imagine may be true for many on their own spiritual path) was clearing certain blocks that were hindering me in a few places in my life and spiritual growth. That was something I was really, actively “trying hard” to do. I’ve taken quite a number of courses on this particular area in hopes of “mastering” it, because I “needed” to be done with those blocks.
One of these blocks was the grief I still felt at losing my mother when we were both too young to be ready to part. She was 49, I was 22. Cancer took her away, and I won’t go into the details because it honestly doesn’t matter. But for a good 20 years I held on to that grief (apparently). I was angry/sad/frustrated that she didn’t get to see me get married, to become a grown-up, to have my own child…and no amount of therapy or meditation or reading or anything made a dent in that grief. And we’re not talking sadness here, we’re talking true grief. It nagged at my soul when I wasn’t even thinking about it, and really did a number on me during holidays, Mother’s Day, birthdays, etc.
It wasn’t until almost 2 years ago that I really got a true grasp of the energy world and how it functions, surrounded myself with my “tribes” of energy people, that I was truly able to release that grief. And it was almost effortless. Well not exactly, but it felt quite miraculous and instantaneous. I had an incredible encounter, and it was DONE. Once I grasped that we truly are all one, that energy never ends or dies, just transmutes and transforms…that we never truly “lose” our loved ones, they are very much “still there” and we can still connect with them (and when I finally embraced that this was my truth, that I was brave enough to embrace that & honestly & completely accept it and own it) it just fell away, and opened up a whole new world for me.
Apparently the universe wanted to test me as it has tested many of us during this last year, just wanting to make sure we really have our souls firmly planted in our truths and we can’t be shaken. So this past summer I lost another being near and dear to my heart, another great teacher to me, my faithful and fart-full long-time doggy companion Sammy Davis Junior Jr. It happened fairly suddenly, and the loss was huge for me and left quite a gaping hole in me for a while. But knowing what I know now, I was okay feeling all my feels and allowing myself the grieving process of losing his physical presence, knowing it wouldn’t debilitate me for long. So I reached out, used my tools & newfound knowledge….and lo and behold just about a month later, I had another encounter, and BAM, the grief was gone. I do still feel some tiny bit of sadness once in a while, but it subsides quickly and is usually also mixed with love and joy and wonder.
So I am learning still how to best deal with these energetic ties… how to learn from them, to use them for good and not to let them swallow me up or overtake me. And this past couple of weeks I had a great opportunity to practice with someone still living, my Dad. I realized just this week what an amazingly strong connection we have…. which had you asked me a month ago about our relationship, I would have had a completely different point of view.
You see, of course I love my stubborn, old-school, Cuban Dad, I always have, but we never really “connected” at all growing up together. We were very similar and very different in so many ways. We didn’t live well together, and our relationship did improve once I moved out on my own in my early 20’s. But we never really have a lot of common interests to discuss. He doesn’t understand my spirituality, my passion for following my dreams. He is ever the realist, firmly living on this planet, in the practical here and now. He doesn’t believe in stress, depression, anything intangible, or discuss emotions or anything of that sort. And that’s okay! I love him as he is, I just never felt very understood or close to him on a soul level.
His health has been deteriorating a lot lately, and at 83, he is battling all sorts of issues. We’ve had a number of scares within the last year, and this man has more than 9 lives it seems. On top of his “usual” daily health struggles, he has been dealing with debilitating back pain for 3 weeks now….and ironically (not really as it turns out) so have I. Granted, I have always had a bad back, but not like this. I had sought out the help of a dear, close friend who is a chiropractor, and that provided some relief. I have also played detective, trying to figure out what could be making me feel so much pain. This back pain is unlike ANY I have had before, it just feels different, and radiates down one leg. Ironically, my Dad’s pain was very similar. But unfortunately, due to his age and other issues, his was taking away his ability to stand and walk. His health care provider (aka CRAPPY CLINIC IN HIALEAH) leaves a lot to be desired, and the awful advice and care they have given him in the past have almost cost him his life a couple of times. So here we are both trying our best to get help and treated for our back pain (and I hadn’t really even realized the connection yet at that point)… he has been back and forth from doctor to specialist to hospital multiple times, I have been from massage therapist to PT to chiropractor…. until finally last week my chiropractor suggested me getting an MRI to take a better look. I was desperate for relief and answers, so I took the steps to make it happen. Which meant heading to my primary doctor, a DO whom I adore, who coincidentally happened to have an amazing machine in his office which provided immediate (temporary) relief, and he also laid the groundwork for me getting a referral for an MRI. I shared all this info with my Dad and urged him to find a chiropractor to get a different perspective.
So what happens next is where it starts to get crazy. My Dad is now to the point where he can’t walk, or stand, or control his bowels or bladder, and his pain is so great he says he can’t go on another day, and heads to the hospital (all this from a man who avoids doctors & hospitals at all costs). They send him home within hours after running all sorts of tests and attribute it to a fall 3 weeks ago, his age, and his general health. One day later he is rushed by ambulance to different hospital in the wee hours of the morning because now he can’t even move his legs or get up into a sitting position. He finally gets taken to a “real” hospital, and they run tests. And you know what solves the mystery? An MRI of his back. Revealing a huge, deep infection pressing against his spine, compressing T9-10 to be exact. He needs immediate (Laminectomy) surgery if he hopes to walk again. So he’s transported to a bigger, regional hospital with a Neurosurgery department, gets examined, and indeed, they agree surgery is needed. The infection has branched out and compressed his spinal cord and is the reason why he has had all sorts of issues for MONTHS. As have I. I just didn’t know what my back was trying to tell me.
So oddly enough, now my back pain is virtually gone (without the MRI, or any further treatment since this all came to light). And he has answers, and has had surgery, and is on his long road to recovery, rehab, and learning to walk again.
Coincidence? I think not. It’s like a strange “6 Degrees of Cuban Bacon” or something. But what came first, the chicken or the egg? His back pain or mine? Did mine help save him? Did his help save us? Who knows.
All I know is the universe never stops communicating with us, teaching us, connecting us. We just have to be quiet and aware enough to listen.
If you are blessed with a highly sensitive, or sensory processing challenged child, you already know that some things are, well, let’s say, more of a challenge for us parents as well. Like administering medicine for example.
Which can be extremely stressful to a parent who is trying to help their child heal from an illness. I am the first to hold off for a good long while before giving a fever reducer or an antibiotic if its not warranted. Especially with the added stress of knowing how that interaction will go. And yes, I am highly sensitive myself 🙂 So seeing my kid scream and fight off meds sets me off, and causes me anxiety.
Ever since he was 3 or 4 months old and he got his first of a string of (double) ear infections, giving him ANY meds has been nearly impossible. The first one was the worst, I will never forget it. I didn’t know what was wrong with him. I was a brand new mom with no one to turn to for advice. He cried and cried, screaming all night long, and we had no idea why. He did have a little fever but nothing major. When we took him in the next morning to the pediatrician, they enlightened us on the double ear infection and sent us on our way with antibiotics, a syringe, and vague instructions on how easy it would be to give it to him. Little did they know of his superpower.
Giving him medicine was like giving him poison. He’d writhe, choke & gag no matter how “far back and between his gums and his cheek” you went. A few months later with yet another ear infection, he was getting smarter and stronger, and it was getting harder and harder. I legitimately called in the big guns, I had a nurse come to my house to try and help me. Now he would clamp his mouth shut if he saw it coming. Then it would take at least 2 people. You’d have to have 1 hold him down while the other tried their best to get it in while pinching his nose closed. He quickly got wise and then started spitting it back out. This holding him down and forcing him just did not sit well with me. We ended up having to find a compounding pharmacy and get everything made into suppositories for the first 3 years of his life. Then he got too big and the suppositories resembled tiny missiles. So we had to abandon that solution.
Luckily between the ages of 3 and 5 the universe gave us a reprieve from all major illnesses. And we graduated to chewables for Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen. And that worked for a very brief while. Until it didn’t. But we also grew as parents and learned how to better work with and understand his sensitivities. And I grew into my own as a mother and discovered Peaceful Parenting, and with that I finally found a parenting style that truly resonated with me and with my son especially. I also started connecting with like minded people with similar sensitivities and found some great moms groups that became my support system.
As he got older and his oral sensitivities increased, we realized my son is a “super taster”. Which someday, when he can be hired as a consultant to the finest restaurants in order to discern the delicate nuances of their latest delicacy, may come in handy. But having dealt with this trait since infancy has been difficult to say the least. Now that he is 5 and has “matured somewhat”, some things are a little easier. But he is still super picky about anything he puts in his mouth. His food variety is quite limited. He still has issues with textures, flavors, smells, etc.
So a few weeks ago, he got really sick. Scary sick. It landed him in the hospital with pneumonia, and we were sent home with 10 days worth of antibiotics. We had already been struggling for a week with trying to give him fever reducers every 4 hours because his temperature would hover right around 105. He felt awful, wasn’t eating, was barely drinking, was lethargic and I still had to fight him to take those damn chewables to keep him under control.
I was determined to find a more peaceful way to get him to take his meds for the 10 LONG days ahead. So I started thinking outside the box. I got creative. I had some failed attempts, but with a little creativity and A LOT of patience and calmness, I did it. We did it. And there is a video to prove it. But first:
How to Give Medicine to your (Highly Sensitive) Child in
25 33 Easy Steps
1) When you go to the pharmacy, request that the medicine be flavored with something that should be pleasing- start with watermelon. Because watermelon is yummy tasting, but unique enough that it’s not cherry or strawberry which, let’s face it, everything on the planet is flavored after. If you start with strawberry, let’s say, then every time he tastes a real strawberry, or a strawberry popsicle, or candy, or juice etc. he will think of the medicine, reject the food, it will create a psychological scar, then he’ll need years of therapy to get over it……..see? So trust me. Watermelon. You’re welcome.
2) Ask for extra syringes to make up for the ones he’ll chew up, or you’ll drop as you’re flustered trying to give him the meds, then your dog will chew up.
3) Go home and meditate before you attempt to give meds.
4) Make yourself a Bloody Mary to relax you and further prepare you. Plus it’s got juice in it. Juice is healthy. You want to model healthy, right?
5) Calmly approach him with the medicine. But not too calmly, because then you’ll just look scary.
6) Explain how important the meds are to him, how he needs them to get better.
7) If that doesn’t work, explain that if he doesn’t take them you’ll have to go right back to the hospital and get more blood taken out of his body, this time with a bigger needle.
8) Go back to the pharmacy and get a new batch made with a different flavor.
9) Pick up a bottle of wine, some flowers and chocolate for you.
10) Pick up 8 or 10 Hot Wheels cars as incentives.
11) Go home and pour yourself a glass of wine, fill the syringe with the meds, and try to give it to him while his favorite TV show is on to distract him.
12) Tell him about the cool new Hot Wheels cars waiting for him after he takes his meds.
13) Tell him if he doesn’t take the meds you’re going to give away the new Hot Wheels cars to the neighbors kids.
14) Go back to the pharmacy to pick up anxiety meds for yourself. And more wine.
15) Go to the mall and buy him his favorite loose-leaf tea from Teavana to make for him to rehydrate his poor little body.
16) Go to the little newstand at the mall and buy a pack of Lifesavers for right after he takes the meds to erase the taste of the meds (even though the meds are flavored and should taste half decent). Make sure the Lifesavers include cherry and strawberry.
17) Go to the shoe store and buy yourself a cute pair of shoes, you deserve it.
18) Go home armed with all your goodies (except hide the shoes, your husband won’t understand or appreciate the logic.)
19) Boil distilled water, make the tea and steep it for 10 minutes to get all the good healthy benefits from the leaves.
20) Add honey for even more healthy benefits and to make it taste sweeter.
21) Put the tea in the fridge for 15 minutes because he prefers it cold.
22) Dig around the kitchen cabinets for another 20 minutes looking for those cool-looking mason jars to serve the tea in because that will make it even more awesome.
23) Bring him the tea while he sits still watching TV because you just needed that 45 minute break to make the tea and have a moment to yourself because he’s been clinging to you non-stop for the past week since he’s been so sick.
24) Drink the tea yourself because suddenly the tea tastes funny to him and you just spent $12 a pound on those damn tea leaves.
25) Explain yet again you understand he doesn’t like the taste of the meds, but he has to take them anyway in order to get well.
26) Tell him he’s allowed to cry, yell, say whatever he wants for 5 minutes leading up to taking the meds and you will sit there right next to him calmly and listen intently.
27) Tell him after he’s said what he needs to say, you will hold him and you will both breathe slowly together.
28) Then after that, help him take the meds.
29) When he does, follow it up quickly with a drink of water.
30) Then, with a Lifesaver of his choice.
31) Tell him how proud you are of him for being brave and taking the medicine.
32) Go in your bedroom and cry happy tears that you finally found a solution.
33) Repeat every 10 hours for the next 10 days.
And if you want to see that video I promised you, here is the link. Just promise you’ll come back here to finish reading, ‘kay? This was 8 days into this process. Filming it in this “how to” style actually helped us solidify that he was brave and had come so far, and helped him feel really proud.
In the end, being calm for him, allowing him his feelings, being patient and consistent with him and understanding and respecting his needs was what worked. Well, that and the Lifesavers 🙂
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Why don’t you tell me about it in a comment below…..
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:
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.
It seems like even with the current evolution of the birth world- with documentaries like “The Business of Being Born” and “Born in the USA” becoming quite well known, and more women choosing home births or seeking out birth centers, you hear more and more about “alternative” birth practices and birth-related terms. Home births, water births, unassisted births, midwives, doulas, placenta encapsulation, placenta smoothies….these are all terms that are now quite common. Well, at least you’ve probably heard the terms before, even if you don’t know exactly what they all mean. And quite possibly, if you’re not pregnant (or planning to become pregnant….or if you’re a male) you might not want to know what some of these terms mean.
But…..for me, if I had a dollar for every time I still heard “You’re a doo- whaaaat?” when I say I’m a doula…..well, let’s just say I’d be typing this blog post from aboard my yacht as I sip on a tropical cocktail by the pool, while the cabana boy who bears a striking resemblance to Chris Hemsworth rubs sunscreen on my body (please note, I’m not on-call in this fantasy). Because, well, let’s face it, the reality is many people don’t really know what exactly a doula is (although they might think they do, or they don’t want to admit that they don’t). Heck, I work closely with two home-birth midwives that have had clients who have already hired them and aren’t sure what the difference between a doula and a midwife is. Not to mention the misconception that if you hire a doula, it must mean you are planning to birth at home in flower-petal filled water, singing “Kumbaya” wearing nothing but a wreath on your head, while burning sage and chanting mantras in ancient dialects. And while I think that sounds AMAZING and I’d love to attend that birth, that’s just not the case. Most of the time, the women who most benefit from having a doula are those birthing in a hospital setting, with a traditional OB as their care provider. Because birth can be “complicated” within that setting, with many opposing forces coming into play along the way.
The word doula is of Greek origin and means “woman who serves”. But please, allow me to break it down for you further. Here it is, in language everyone can understand- what a doula is and what a doula is not. Or rather, what a doula does and doesn’t /shouldn’t do.
…provides physical, informational, and emotional support.
That means we help you identify what comfort measures work best for you to alleviate the physical discomforts associated with pregnancy and birth. That could mean massage, hot/cold packs, different positions for laboring women to move into to get the baby in the best position for birth, music, affirmations, visualizations, meditations, etc. We are there to help you navigate throughout your birth using all of these and more, silently recognizing when something that was working great is no longer effective, and we gracefully guide you to a new suggestion.
It means we help you get whatever evidence-based information you need in order to help you make the best decisions for your family and your birth. Whether it is helping you to communicate effectively with your care provider what your wishes & hopes are; helping you to listen to their responses and to determine if you feel heard, understood and respected; giving you links to information on a procedure or intervention that is being recommended; giving you community resources for other types of practitioners throughout your pregnancy , birth and postpartum that may be helpful; taking your phone calls at 2 am when you are wondering “Is this normal?” when you are wide awake at night because you are worried, and tired, and haven’t been able to find a comfortable sleeping position in MONTHS, and just want to ask that question but you don’t want to call your care provider and seem silly or overcautious.
It means emotionally, we are present and there for you at all times, without judgement or an agenda. When your family members are questioning your decisions and your choices. When your fears leading up to birth become overwhelming. When the time FINALLY comes and you are in the thick of it and you get to the point where you don’t think you can do it anymore. We are there to hold your hand, wipe your brow, look you in the eye and remind you that you CAN do this, you will do this, you are doing this.
A doula does not:
- perform ANY clinical tasks such as taking your blood pressure, performing vaginal exams, checking fetal heart tones, etc.
- make any decisions for you. We help you to get the information necessary to make informed decisions, both during pregnancy as well as during your labor and delivery. We also remind you if there is a departure from your original birth preferences.
- speak to the staff or care providers on your behalf. We will discuss your concerns with you and suggest options, and tactfully help you & your partner speak to the staff directly and feel empowered to make decisions regarding your birth.
As doulas, we are simply there for you. We hold space. We are your ally, your partner, your sister, your mother, your coach and your friend all rolled up into one during that magical time of pregnancy and birth. And we are grateful and honored to be able to serve you and be a witness to your miracle.
Please feel free to share this with anyone who might benefit from better understanding what a doula is. If you would like any more information specifically about the services I provide, please contact me at martha@zenmamalove, or visit my webpage, www.zenmamalove.com.
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?
I know that sounds very much like a line from an infomercial. In fact, I’m pretty sure it probably is. But there is also a lesson hidden there.
The lesson for this week (for me) it seems, is to set an intention, put it out there, and let it go. So often I feel like I have to try “really hard” and “work really hard” to make something happen. When I take this approach, I end up feeling like I am walking uphill both ways trying to get something done or get something to happen. I end up exhausted, super frustrated, often physically ill, and depressed. So as I am in the home stretch of my teaching career, with 3 weeks left to go, I find myself mentally over-exerting myself because I am soooooooo excited about my new business and the direction my life is taking. Yet I am still working full-time, trying to administer final exams to seniors while simultaneously keeping the rest of the class “enriched and engaged and quiet” with only 2.5 weeks left and they could care less about school at this point, still “mommying” full-time, still trying to be a wife/homemaker as best as I can, still taking care of my “special” dog and keep up with his meds and vet visits….all the while trying to lay the groundwork for my new business.
I have been “trying too hard” to find a way to book a class I need for my certification, to network with people in the birthwork industry to no avail, to work on my blog, to continue my meditation practice and classes, to eat healthy (the term “healthy” at this point in my vocabulary has basically been demoted to “anything other than Taco Bell”). I am “trying so hard” in trying to move forward into my new career that my head is spinning and I’m getting nowhere. Or getting somewhere but REALLY SLOWLY and painfully.
So finally, after it hit me from all directions (divine intervention, friends, articles that pop up in my news feed). I get it. Stop trying so hard. Set the intention and LET IT GO ( why does that damn song keep haunting me!). As my very wise friend Viknes said to me this morning “Set the intention and trust it will happen…..allow it rather than try to control it…..and listen”.
Bam. Like a giant cartoon hammer over the head.
That’s a HUGE part of finding peace right there. Set it up, then let it go and TRUST it will happen when it’s meant to. And beyond that, find moments to be still and quiet and LISTEN to the clues that are there to help you move forward. The synchronicities that appear are there to show you that you’re on the right path at the right time. You’re in the flow. The numbers you keep seeing pop up over and over, the songs with just the right lyrics on the radio, the quote on the t-shirt someone is wearing that walks right across your path…..they are all signs. And they are easy to miss if you are not paying attention, awakened, aware.
I know, I fluctuate between being in the flow…..and not. But definitely more flow than not lately. I’m making progress. After years, no, decades of work on this thing we call inner peace, I still struggle between listening to my “ego voice “and my “higher self “voice. But hey, at least I am hearing (voices) both and paying attention.
It’s not to say we won’t accomplish our goals the hard way, but who wants to struggle and fight for something when you can get it with ease and amusement? In our culture and country, we (most of us) are taught at a very young age that we must always WORK HARD, always be busy “pursuing and chasing our dreams”…….Who wants to pursue and chase? That doesn’t sound fun, it sounds hard. We are taught at a young age the “dreamers” are wasting their time…..but what if they are not? What if they are on to something?
As always, it’s all about finding balance between the two dualities.
Follow your dreams, do the work, but don’t kill yourself and your soul in the process.
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.