Browsing Tag

pregnancy

Guest Posts, Miscarriage

How To Lose A Pregnancy

May 6, 2018
ultrasound

By Susan Moshofsky

I birthed my second pregnancy into a toilet. Cramps came in waves, crested, doubled me over until I’d hunch my way from my bed where I’d been grading papers to the bathroom a few feet away where, bare feet on the cold linoleum floor, I sat and turned the toilet water red. I bled fetus, tissue, death, 12 weeks of anticipation, trip after trip, bed to toilet: bright red blood filling the bowl, plus a shaggy clot or two, every other trip. Flush and repeat.

The OB’s office said they were sorry, there was nothing they could do. Don’t exert yourself. Take ibuprofen. Lie down. Don’t soak more than a pad an hour, or you’ll have to come in.

This, then, became my task: do this right, this miscarriage. Oh, and grade 164 essays in between trips to the toilet. Quarter grades were due in two days. Two deadlines. Dead lines. I’d wait as long as I could, lying on the bed while I graded so as not to overexert. I lay next to my husband as he kept me company reading Annie Dillard’s The Living. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, postpartum depression

Postpartum: An Inventory

April 27, 2018
inventory

By Laura Dorwart

I have taken the postpartum depression inventory a total of five times: one time honestly, the other four times lying to varying degrees. (I had good intentions, I promise).

Louis-Victor Marce is often described as the first clinician to write openly about postpartum depression and other mental health conditions. His 1858 “Treatise on Insanity in Pregnant, Postpartum, and Lactating Women” has been widely cited as the “first” depiction of pregnancy-related mood disorders and anxiety before his monograph went largely untouched for 100 years (except, sometimes, to justify the involuntary confinement of recently pregnant women), prior to the reopening of a dialogue about postpartum depression in the 1950s when the field of psychiatry took hold in the United States. His wasn’t, of course, the actual first documented mention of postpartum mental health issues—a female physician, Trotula of Salerno, wrote in the 11th century that if the womb was too moist, the brain could become filled with water and cause women to cry involuntarily and excessively, perhaps referring to conditions leading to an excess of amniotic fluid—but it was the first extensive one in Western, conventionally documented, male-dominated medical history.

He seems like he was kind of a dick, but that appears to have been a requirement for early psychiatrists and psychoanalysts, especially 19th– and early 20th-century ones (many far worse than the most obvious Sigmund “Literally Everyone Wants to Fuck Me So Badly It Makes Them Neurotic” Freud). Besides, the fact that his writings about fairly inarguable realities—“hey, so, women undergo huge hormonal shifts during and after pregnancy and also quite possibly the most physically painful and exhausting experience possible right before their entire lives change permanently and maybe that can be traumatic?”—were used as excuses to get all Yellow Wallpaper on a host of middle-class women and to institutionalize lower-class ones can’t be blamed solely on him, really.

Regardless, Marce started the clinical dialogue that eventually led to the development of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, now used as the primary diagnostic tool in determining whether a woman has or is at risk of developing postpartum depression.

The test, which alternately starts with one of two fairly sinister statements (either “as you are pregnant or have recently had a baby, we would like to know how you are feeling” or “postpartum depression is the most common complication of childbearing”), requires you to respond as to whether a series of ten statements apply to you in the past seven days (always bolded) with one of five answers. The answers seem awkward and vague if you analyze them too carefully—“not as much as usual,” “about as much as before,” and such—but the test has been proven to be clinically significant for years. Women considered “at risk” of developing postpartum depression are given the screening regularly throughout pregnancy and usually twice postpartum, once after delivery and again after four weeks, when the risk of developing postpartum depression or psychosis lowers significantly. I am “at risk.”

I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things.

The day I went into labor, my husband Jason and I were in Whole Foods desperately buying castor oil; one of the midwives at UC San Diego had suggested it to induce labor naturally. She had a voice like a meditation track and disarmingly perfect cheekbones, so I was lulled into a false sense of trust before I saw the warning label on the castor oil—“not to be consumed.” A beleaguered Whole Foods employee told us frankly, “No, it’s safe to eat, you’ll just have the runs really bad.” “Sure you want to do this?” Jason frowned at the bottle. I wasn’t, but I was big as a house. Jason is a quadriplegic; his service dog had started to have to help both of us pick up our underwear because nobody in our household could bend over properly. I was ready.

Luckily, we didn’t need it. We went home and I promptly started contractions that sped up to every four minutes. Jason read children’s books aloud to me, part of his job description as my personal anxiety coach. My water broke, a pop and a hiss, right around midnight, while he was reading to me about Rosalie the fairy helping Jack Frost get a makeover that seemed at the time to be gesturing at gender-affirming surgery. He wanted long hair and he needed fairies to give it to him, but they wouldn’t, presumably because of fairy codes that I think represented health insurance issues.

Jason stuffed towels under me in the front seat and a heavy overnight pad into my underwear. I started shaking and I didn’t stop for the next 30 hours.

In triage, they announced I’d need an IV. I was GBS-positive, which meant I could pass infection-causing bacteria along to my baby (a girl, presumably eight pounds according to the latest ultrasounds) if I didn’t get several doses of antibiotics. The first nurse was impossibly blonde-pretty, like a contestant on The Bachelor. I didn’t trust her; she lacked grit. I like my nurses slightly mean. She jammed around inside my veins for a while while making soft little “hmm” sounds for a while, usually right around my contractions. I tried to have polite contractions, smiling shakily at her whenever she made one of those high-pitched “hmms.” I have heard those before. that meant “I am never, ever getting this IV into you and I will have to call someone else.”

She did. And that one had to call another. “Your veins are tiny,” they said, one after another, always scoldingly as if I’d made them myself. When my arms failed, they tried one of my hands. “Is this what junkies go through?” I joked weakly (and problematically) through a contraction. No one laughed.

All told, I was not getting an IV put in for nearly four hours; near the end, during one particularly painful (and still unsuccessful) poke, I finally let out a scream that brought all the midwives on call in to look at me pityingly. When the three nurses finally left, muttering about calling anesthesiology, Jason (who had been squeezing my non-abused hand the whole time) decided to entertain me with an ironic sexist joke about how if the anesthesiologist was male, he could finally get something done around here. I laughed wryly and told him I hated him.

The anesthesiologist showed up four hours into my labor. He was, indeed, male. “You have great veins,” he said, sliding the needle in with aplomb, the slight slice tingly-pleasant like acupuncture. Jason and I looked at each other and grinned sideways. A punchline.

I have felt sad or miserable.

“This is Laura Dorwart, 28. She is six days postpartum and had a vaginal full term delivery of her first baby. She has a medical history of depression and chronic PTSD,” the nurse read, monotone, to her replacement, as my parents watched. My mother’s eyes flew open and her lips pursed in disapproval, I thought—or maybe it was all in my head. The nurse didn’t notice. I laid back in my gown and closed my eyes, feigning exhaustion.

Three days after our daughter was born, with Jason asleep on the table, I tried to make myself hate her, or to become so obsessed with her that she could transform into an object of sadism, masochism, something. I hadn’t felt any guilt when others picked her up or any resentment when she was handed back to me. I didn’t feel like a worthless mother. I looked into her eyes and snuggled her baby-skin. I weighed the burden of her. It was baby-sized. Not the weight of the world.

I began to realize on the fourth day postpartum that I was perhaps hoping for a crisis. Catastrophes wipe things away, don’t they? They start things new, they erase what was. They break and then you’re forced to rebuild.

Plus, I figured with my prior reactions to the mundane, a real catastrophe could do me some good. Some guy breaking up with me when I was 17 caused me to seriously consider dropping out of school. I seriously considered leaving town rather than going into work late once. I had five lemon vodka shots and threw up in a cab after a frat party in college and slept on the tile floor of my dorm room in despair. I still obsess over my breakup five years ago from a girl I knew for a total of eight months; in my mind, it’s sometimes reached Tristan and Isolde levels of tragedy.

Then there are the real crises: The day after I was raped by my then-girlfriend, I went in to work on time and copy edited a fifty-page curriculum booklet. I went to lunch and a meeting. I had chicken wings. I did not cry.

The night that my best friend died, I played a game on the computer that required me to digitally bob for apples. I felt like a sociopath for experiencing satisfaction at hearing the crisp sound bytes of capturing the pixelated apples one by one. Crisis, I remembered, does nothing for me.

Still, I tried to create one. I stared at my baby and attempted to muster some kind of resentment, some kind of foreboding warning sign of synapses misfiring in my brain and causing me to detach. No dice; sometimes I felt an overwhelming love, sometimes the lighter affection I feel for all babies, and on the negative end, nothing but mild annoyance in my most sleep deprived states.

I had wondered, alternatively, if I would feel grief and loss. Some women describe feeling empty after their babies are born, their wombs like voids aching for the return of togetherness, their tiny soulmates now skin-separate. Not me. I felt intact. I was intact. Heavy as I always ways, just thirty pounds lighter. Filled to the brim with the same longing as before, no different. It’s been four weeks. There was no crisis, no catastrophe. I did not break.

I can’t say I’m not disappointed.

The thought of harming myself has occurred to me.

Never check yes on this one.

Never let them see you sweat.

I have been so unhappy that I have had trouble sleeping.

I checked my medical records after all was said and done. For me, nothing I didn’t already know: For Ruth, her medical conditions: a CPAM—congenital pulmonary airway malformation—that we’d known about since the beginning. A benign cyst hiding in her lung. Meconium. And: “Child of depressed mother.” Born of a sad woman: A preexisting condition. A diagnosis in and of itself.

It stuns me, hits me hard in the chest, a clenched fist like a heart attack—just a slower squeeze. I show Jason, and he doesn’t get it, not really. “What are they afraid of?” he asks, though he knows. Postpartum depression makes everybody angry, even Tom Cruise, who took up quality potential Scientology-pushing time to rant about Brooke Shields’ baby blues.

Some people baptize their babies. I’m an atheist on my best days (on my worst, I assume God is a menace), but it turns out, even nonbelievers want to cleanse their offspring of original sin: Our new pediatrician asks us to forward our hospital medical records, and I opt out. She’s going to be nothing like me, no stains on her record, no sorrow-as-birthright. She’s going to be free.

Laura Dorwart is a Ph.D. candidate at UCSD with an MFA in creative nonfiction from Antioch University. Her work has appeared in Catapult, McSweeney’s, The New York Times, VICE, BuzzFeed Reader, Lady/Liberty/Lit, The Eunoia Review, Blanket Sea Magazine, and others. 

Donate to the Aleksander Fund today. Click the photo read about Julia, who lost her baby, and what the fund is.

 

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Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Pregnancy

My Pregnancy Journey: A Leap of Faith

April 11, 2018
fertility

By Dana Mich

I glanced down at the two pink lines gazing up at me from their glossy plastic eyelets. I set the First Response test on my bathroom sink and bit my lip as I ran the tap. It felt too good to be true.

It was the day of my thirtieth birthday, and Mother’s Day. May fourteenth, twenty-seventeen. The previous evening’s cake and candles, and that morning’s sunlit family brunch—gilded with yogurt parfaits and a medley of quiches—hovered in my peripheral view. If anything, those two little tick-marks should have been the cherry on top of an already serendipitous twenty-four hours in my life. But this was my third positive test in nine months with no baby or expectant bump to show for it. Instead of rejoicing on that first day of the decade I’d slated to be my parenting years, I pleaded to the universe: “Please just let me have this baby. I swear, I’ll be so careful.” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Miscarriage, motherhood

Just a Miscarriage

February 9, 2018
miscarriage

By Jill Goldberg

When I finally felt well enough to venture outside, after many months of self-induced seclusion, I took a short walk to the drugstore around the corner. I was hoping I wouldn’t see anyone, but Carla was there. I didn’t know her very well. She was older than me, with grown children close to my age. She knew I had been ill for a long time, and when she saw me she put her arm around my shoulders in a way that should have been comforting. Carla then pulled me aside and asked with great condescension, “So really, what was the big deal? I mean, a miscarriage is just a miscarriage.” Suddenly it was hard to breathe. I felt as though I’d been hit. I reached out for the wall to steady myself and mumbled to her that there were complications. Then I walked home and cried. I didn’t go out in public again for several more weeks.

My first miscarriage nearly killed me. I bled for weeks, not realizing how dangerous that was and how much blood I was really losing. My doctor kept telling me that some women bleed for a while after miscarrying, and I didn’t understand that she meant light spotting, not passing large clots that looked like small placentas and soaked the sheets every night. I had planned to have an intervention-free birth, and now I wanted an intervention-free miscarriage. My doctor honored my wishes and trusted me. She didn’t have me come in to see her, we only spoke on the phone. Then finally, nearly a month after it began, I fainted in the shower. I’d lost too much blood from weeks and weeks of continuous heavy bleeding. I remember being so cold in the shower, so, so cold, and I was dizzy, and crying, and confused. I reached back to turn the water hotter, though I knew it was already so hot that I should have felt it burning me. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Miscarriage, Pregnancy

The Day Before You Will Be Born

January 29, 2018
pregnancy

CW: This essay discusses miscarriage.

By Anna Burgess Yang

Dear Baby,

This is it. The day before you will be born.

I sometimes feel guilty for my feelings toward you over the past nine months.  Detachment, fear, anxiety… that these will hurt you in some unforeseen way in the future.

How could I avoid these feelings?  When we lost your sister, Nelle, at 21 weeks of pregnancy, I thought that I would split open with grief.  We had no answers as to what happened – why I inexplicably lost a baby after two previous uneventful pregnancies with your older brothers.  Without any reason, we were told that we could try again right away.  Then we lost your sister, Iris, not even six months later.  Going through labor and delivery, twice, to give birth to your sisters when they had already left the world were the worst experiences of my life.  It traumatized me.  Continue Reading…

Child Birth, Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Pregnancy

Delivery

July 9, 2017
delivery

By Amanda Parrish Morgan

I discovered babycenter.com shortly after I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Babycenter consists of watered-down medical advice, product-placement-heavy blog posts, weekly produce-comparison updates about the size of a growing fetus (“your baby is the size of a butternut squash!”), and message boards. These message boards are like the comments section of a clickbait article: full of deliberately provocative personal attacks, unsolicited advice, and rampant misuse of your and you’re. Also like the comments section, engaging with the message board posters had the effect of making me feel like I’d been part of something unhealthy and malicious.

I noticed that the vast majority of Babycenter posts appear between midnight and dawn. The anonymity of the message boards invites confessional postings: women admit pornography addictions, cigarettes they’ve sneaked despite being aware of the well-documented dangers of smoking during pregnancy, suspicions of spousal infidelity, spending binges using a borrowed credit card. None of these particular transgressions speak to my own strain of pregnancy guilt and fear, but guilt and fear themselves were the defining emotions of my pregnancy. Perhaps this is what makes this collection of strangers, awake and typing away online across the country, so appealing.

***

At the beginning of my third trimester, I somewhat grudgingly, but dutifully, reported for my glucose screening test. I chose a midwife group for my obstetric care, and was surprised when, just as she’d finished complimenting my un-swollen ankles, continued running routine, and fundal height, my midwife presented the screening as routine and mandatory. I knew the screening resulted in a lot of false positives. I’d read that even for legitimate positives, the treatment was exercise and a balanced diet, which I felt proud–desperately so–that I’d maintained throughout my pregnancy. On one website, I found a list of criteria that might exempt a woman from the screening. The only one of these I did not meet was being younger than 25. I felt skeptical, annoyed, haughty. Though, ultimately, it was my intense desire to be a good patient (how much had I internally gloated after being told my belly was perfect?) that kept me from asking about the procedure to waive the screening.

She said nothing.

“What are the alternatives?”

That night, although it was already late by the time I got home from the meet, my husband Nick and I went out to dinner so he could eat a normal meal and I could order something with no carbs. But, not until after I squeezed in a short run around our neighborhood. I was tired, and had thought I might skip running any more than what I already had on the course during the meet, but in my Gestational Diabetes-googling mania, I’d read that exercise helps metabolise glucose. I was worried if I didn’t run more, I would fail the three hour test in the morning. That I was more concerned about passing the test than actually seeing results representative of my typical diet and lifestyle didn’t then strike me as irresponsible or self-centered. I didn’t exactly logically feel that I’d done something wrong in failing the screening, but I certainly didn’t feel I’d earned the right to start exercising less.

I couldn’t sleep that night, and the next morning I was waiting at Quest Diagnostics when they opened at six, already hungry.

This is when I made my first Birth Club post: sitting at Quest Diagnostics five minutes into my three-hour glucose screening test, defensive, worried (but unwilling to admit that I was worried), surrounded by pharmaceutical pamphlets.

Several people responded with tales of twelve pound babies spending weeks in the NICU due to undiagnosed GD, others responded with anecdotes of vegan yogis with GD. One woman accused me of fat-shaming. In the second before I got control of my consciousness, I thought, “yes, of course.” I’d like to think that the only person I felt deserved shame was myself, but I’m afraid that’s giving myself too much credit.

I’d brought a book to read during the test, but after I had the drink, this one twice as sweet as the one from the one-hour screening test, I couldn’t focus. My heart was racing and my mouth was dry. Were these signs I was going to fail the test? Between blood draws, as I grew increasingly exhausted, I obsessively googled. Who gets gestational diabetes? Gestational diabetes causes. Gestational diabetes treatment. Gestational diabetes outlook. Gestational diabetes complications.

Later, with the security of having passed the second test, I’d been able to admit to myself that there might be some relationship between my feelings about the gestational diabetes screening and years of insecurity about the intersection of weight, self control, and worth. I explained to Nick that when I’d gotten pregnant, for the first time I could remember, I hadn’t dreaded going to the doctor, getting on the scale, or getting my blood pressure taken. I liked the drive to the office, giving me distance from teaching and grading and coaching to enter into the mental space of expectant motherhood. I liked the appointments themselves, meeting all the midwives, hearing the baby’s heartbeat, and then leaving buoyed by reassurance from the checkup. I was sad, I said, that this once-positive medical experience had begun to feel like every visit to my pediatrician, every team weigh-in at in college, every look (real or imagined) from skinnier girls on the starting line of races.

The closer my due date drew, the more I read. I was–for fear of going to the hospital with a pile of ninth grade essays–totally caught up on grading, the days were short and cold. The mobile hung over the crib, clothes washed, sorted, and stored. I couldn’t think of anything to do but wait. For the most part, I was too anxious and distracted to read or write much. The notable exception were labor stories. I read blog posts detailing the labor experiences of professional runners. I read Labor Days, an essay collection of women writers’ birth stories. I spent more and more time on Babycenter’s December 2014 Birth Announcement thread.

I might have been able to tell myself I was looking for camaraderie, a way to feel less alone or confused or scared had any of the interactions I witnessed through the message board been supportive. Instead of downplaying anxieties and offering reassurances, women posted stories of prenatal cancer diagnoses, sudden infant death syndrome, horrible birth accidents, tales of spousal abandonment, emergency hysterectomies performed before the fog of general anesthesia had even worn off. The spectres of loss and death–mine or my daughter’s–that felt increasingly menacing as I tried to heed advice to focus on the positive. I couldn’t verbalize these fears precisely. I guarded vigilantly against negative thoughts which meant I couldn’t even bring myself to confront them.

But before this–before I’d given birth, before I’d become a mother, the most concrete and tangible way that my life was changing seemed to be that long-distance running, my primary social activity and vehicle for self worth was off limits. The end of years of keeping bodily shame at bay through distance running, was the loss I feared. Mostly, of course, the notion of control over my body was an illusion, but it was an important illusion that had defined decades of my life.

I wish what I felt viscerally that I needed had been as simple as a cheeseburger. What I craved instead was connection. Not like “I’d like to spend the evening with some friends,” but deep, insatiable yearning for a connection both to the person I’d spent thirty-two years understanding myself to be and to a much bigger and even abstract community of mothers.

Before I got pregnant, I thought of myself as someone who needed a lot of alone time. When I was about five months pregnant, Nick was gone for a week at a conference, and instead of enjoying the opportunity to watch independent movies while eating all the pregnancy-safe-sushi a person could ever want, I grew lonely, and moved to fill my evenings with plans. I went to my parents’ house for dinner, caught up with friends from work. But, all the while. I couldn’t shake this feeling that I was still lonely. That the real me was watching a different me go through these motions.

I once heard depression described as a floating sensation. In Marjane Satrapi’s graphic autobiography Persepolis, she depicts herself as a teenage Iranian refugee floating with terrifying rather than joyful weightlessness in an almost entirely black sky.

The first time that the sensation of loneliness got strong enough to knock me over, I sat on the bottom step of our staircase, crying inconsolably, imagining myself as a hybrid of Sandra Bullock’s character in Gravity, space shuttle untethered and tumbling hundreds of miles a second in some unknowable direction, and the image of young Marji, lost without a place that feels like home (and how absurd, I realized even as I imagined it–I was not woman fighting for oxygen in outer space, nor a refugee in the Iranian Revolution, but a lucky, healthy, American woman with a good job, a kind husband, a supportive and loving family, expecting her first baby after few months of waiting for a positive pregnancy test). Over and over again, I kept telling Nick, “I’m so lonely,” to which he kept responding, hurt, confused, “But, I’m right here.”

Even before I met my husband, I wanted to be a mother. I had an uncomplicated vision of what this relationship meant in the same way, I had wanted to be a teacher, a wife, a friend. I thought that I’d share my passion for literature with a classroom of undistracted and eager students, or that marriage would be cozy Sunday afternoons with chili on the stove, that my childhood friends and I would remain close for life. That none of these relationships were as simple as what I’d once imagined didn’t make me any more prepared for the disconnect I’d feel during pregnancy. I still could not envision motherhood or pregnancy as nuanced in the way I’d come to understand these other relationships. What kind of person would I be to admit fear and loneliness, sometimes building on one another until I’m floating, untethered in the middle of the night? What did my preoccupation with fear and my feelings of shame mean? That I would be a bad mother?

***

In movies, pregnant women are often shown crying at commercials about puppies. Hormones! Ha! I both did and did not want to blame hormones. I wanted to be able to explain to Nick that he really had done nothing wrong, and that in the light of most days, I could see how irrational my panicked, lonely tears really were. But, the emotions were as real to me as any others I’d experienced, and so, it seemed unfair to dismiss them as a side effect of pregnancy hormones.

I’ve tried to think of all the rational reasons I might have felt so lonely while pregnant. I do not have many friends, at least not friends from before motherhood, with kids. Although Nick and I were going to become parents together, I was the one who was pregnant. With daylight savings, the nights came early and those exhausted hours between the end of the work day and bed felt bleak.

There was some voice in my brain telling me that I should not feel so alone. That pregnancy connected me, not only to my own mother, but to women everywhere, and for generations before and to come, who have carried and borne children. All these women on babycenter.com, even the ones who named their children something I found tacky or who posted pictures of baby shower cakes with a doll’s head crowing from a frosting vagina, had something fundamental in common with me.

***

The last time during pregnancy that I cried, I cried about fear of labor. Much of what I tried to explain was the same feeling of alone-ness, of being alienated from myself, that I’d tried to explain on past nights. On a logical level, all I could explain was that I was worried about complications. Somewhere, floating far from my space craft, I mumbled aloud that I was scared I might die.

That fall, one or both of my parents began attending my team’s cross country meets. At first, I thought they were just really getting into the team’s success. Then, somewhere around the third week in a row when my dad made a ninety minute drive one-way to watch my girls race across a field in Manchester, CT, I realized that they were worried something might happen to me. Not necessarily that I might die, but that I might go into labor while far from the hospital where I planned to deliver, far from my husband and his car with its infant car seat carefully installed, that it might take longer than it needed to, or be more uncomfortable than it could have been for me, their daughter, to have her daughter.

I grew up with the unquestioned understanding that it’s bad luck to even mention early symptoms of a cold outloud, and that denial is a powerful tool of self-preservation. I feel immense guilt that I allowed myself to vocalize my fear of dying. And even now, pregnant with my son, that I might have courted disaster by articulating the unspeakable fears of my first pregnancy. I’d like to think that I meant “dying” metaphorically. That I was afraid the self I’d always been would be replaced by a new, unfamiliar self, and that the process would be one of death and rebirth rather than of transformation. I was reading a lot of Joseph Campbell then, so that may have been a part of it. But, I’d also been reading all those labor stories, many of them natural childbirth testimonials (meant to be empowering, but often quite the opposite), and that fear I articulated was at least on some level literal. Childish, wimpy, selfish… everything other than what I believe myself, or an ideal mother to be.

***

Some of the posts are marked “*trigger,*” the warning women use to label threads about seriously ill babies or domestic violence, and it was here, not in the news that I first learned this term. One of the most common pieces of advice I received while pregnant was to shield myself from negative thoughts. That I should avoid the sensationalist, violent news coverage, cut out obligations that drained me, sever ties with the kind of friends who would judge me if my house was dirty in the months after my baby was born. I took this advice seriously.

But what about darkness–triggers–that are of my own making, sprung from within? I like to think of myself as positive, kind, hopeful, optimistic, energetic. It wasn’t just the life I’d always known, or the friends I’ve always had that I feared I might be floating away from on those rough nights (though of course I was), but that in facing the darkest parts of myself, I feel I’d found something in myself that was meant to remain locked away and banished. Maybe I was lonely from myself because I’d come face to face with a part of myself I never wanted to acknowledge existed, a part of myself I don’t want Nick or any of the people he so gently suggested I reach out to to know about.

“Maybe you should call Laura,” Nick suggested an hour into my sobbing. I was curled embarrassedly into the corner of our brand new couch (I picked it out imagining our little family of three snuggling here). And, because I was worried that all these lonely nights were taking a toll on Nick before the sleepless nights of the baby even began, I did.

Laura and I got lunch, but there was only so much I could say. We sat at Panera, where I picked at a slimy turkey sandwich (many women on babycenter.com don’t eat cold cuts during pregnancy; I ate any protein I could stomach, but always felt guilty to be seen eating turkey in public). Laura is a woman who’s opened up to me about her own postpartum depression. We’ve been friends since before she got divorced from her first husband, before she got remarried. She introduced me to Nick. But, when she asked how I was feeling, although I managed to tell her that I’d been having some hard nights, I couldn’t help myself: I steered our conversation away from the places my mind goes untethered, and we talked about work, about running, about our sandwiches.

I’ve heard some women say that labor is less frightening the second time around because they know what to expect. But, I felt so keenly aware of death’s proximity during labor, which is something I had tried to stop myself from realizing beforehand–and I know that now. I was a healthy, thirty-two year old woman with no history of complications or serious medical issues. But perhaps it was something I had considered. Or, if not considered, known. Perhaps that’s what I was looking for–an acknowledgement of this dark side, a validation of the fear I felt, not just of labor’s pain and unpredictability but, for all of medicine’s advances, the extent to which the life of my child, even from the very beginning would depend on me. And not in the passive way of pregnancy, but on my work–my labor. Instead, I read the confessions of women hundreds of miles away, I kept track of my weekly running mileage, tried to find new ways to wear the few pieces of clothing that still fit and I said that I missed being able to put myself in pain.

Next week, when I’ll be 28 weeks pregnant with my son, I’ll go for the one-hour gestational diabetes screening. I haven’t had any cravings this pregnancy, either, and I’ve still been running. Is it different this time?  I haven’t been on Babycenter much–just every few weeks to check in on the physiological changes my baby and I are experiencing. Motherhood has undeniably separated me from decade-long friendships, and at the same time precluded forming new friendships of the intensity I once took for granted. In the mom’s group or at preschool drop-off, women ask my due date, how I’m feeling, if I know the baby’s gender. Sometimes we even talk about why our toddlers are crying, but in these stolen moments of adult conversation between women who are not exactly friends but part of the community of mothers, we don’t talk about shame or guilt or fear or where the word delivery really comes from.

 

Amanda Parrish Morgan taught high school English in Connecticut for seven years. Currently, she is raising her young daughter, coaching the local cross country and track teams, and working on a collection of essays. Her short story “Teratoma” was named a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Contest for New Writers. Her essays have also appeared in N+1 and The Rumpus and The Millions.

 

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Guest Posts, Miscarriage

Water Baby

May 19, 2017
MISCARRIAGE

CW: This essay discusses miscarriage.

By Hanna Bartels

It started with red and it ended with water. And in between, I waited at the Starbucks counter and I rested my fingertips on the contour of the beginning. A habit, a protective hand. But the baby beneath that barely there bump stopped growing the day before. My baby was now just my pregnancy and the next day would be just blood and tissue.

I rubbed my thumb against an angel pinned to an impossibly small blanket in my pocket. Over a bead of blistered plastic at the bottom of the left wing where the mold opened too soon and hot resin seeped out.

When someone you know dies, you mourn the loss of them. Their smell, the sound of their voice, how your days transform without them. But when you lose a pregnancy, your life doesn’t change at all. Your belly should swell, your house should fill with bouncers and swings and carriers and bottles and dirty diapers. But instead, you drink your coffee and the world spins on its axis.

The warped angel was a reminder: I was pregnant once, and now I am not.

***

Four days before, I’d noticed a spot of red on my toilet paper.

I rummaged through my medical file, searching for the number the nurse had first starred and then circled at my first prenatal appointment.

My mother-in-law called down the hall, good morning and cheerful, asked if she should make coffee. She was in town for a cousin’s wedding and my husband, a surgical resident, was at the hospital.

Just one second, I told her, I’ll make it.

I pushed aside flour and sugar in my cabinet to reach the coffee I hadn’t touched in months.

I just had some spotting, I told her as I scooped ground beans into the filter. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Pregnancy

I Was A Mother Waiting To Make The Call

May 8, 2017
call

By Mallory McDuff

I waited until I was three months pregnant to tell him about the baby. Then he died three days after my phone call, when my six-year old daughter shared the news of a baby sister in her future, squealing her delight in a high-pitched voice that sounded like a toddler, although she was quite pragmatic and focused for a first-grader. What drove me to call on that day rather than later in the week, when it would have been too late? And why was I devastated by his sudden death but comforted by his support of this unusual pregnancy?

“The Lord works in mysterious ways,” my mother always said, describing the twists and turns in our lives that both confound and amaze us. This phone call to my father was definitely a mystery, one of those encounters I could never have predicted, even if I’d written the script in advance.

For starters, I’d gotten pregnant while separated from my husband, separated for nearly three years, as we avoided the eventuality of the end of our marriage, much like we often waited until the last minute to do our taxes. While we waited for something to happen (a move, an affair, a sudden desire to teach English in Japan?), I got pregnant, much to my joy-filled delight. We were separated, but not separated enough, I learned to say to anyone who questioned the timeline. Hearing that quip, people stopped asking questions, which was the intended outcome. This conception came several years after we ended a second pregnancy due to a genetic disorder affecting the baby, a gut-wrenching decision made from a foundation of love in the midst of a crumbling marriage. Continue Reading…

Child Birth, Guest Posts

Flip

December 19, 2016
water

By Haili Jones Graff

I stand at the edge of the pool, my feet swollen and pale against the water-darkened concrete. Inching unpainted toenails closer to the lip, I line my insteps parallel, then flex, arches arched, seeking strength and propulsion in my stance. At thirty-eight weeks pregnant, I am nearing one hundred ninety pounds, at least twenty of which jut from my midsection in an arc that I’d expected to be smooth, spherical, beachball-like, but which is often distorted by the shape of the small human pushing out—even as he has occupied all regions of my interior space, so now his skull, knees, feet, fists send their impressions outward, strain against, almost through and past my taut, stretched skin, a skin that appears drum-thin sometimes, barely able to contain the force within it.

Sounds bounce off the walls of this damp, echoing room and commingle, filling my head—the plish-plashing of swimmers in other lanes, wet feet slapping cement, the murmuring of two lifeguards kitty-corner from me across the pool, all strangers with trim bodies, goggle-clad with short hair or hair slicked back. I am goggle-less, thirty-two years old, at nine months pregnant the very antithesis of thin, my dry hair almost to the middle of my back in disarray. I am interested in them, these other swimmers, only insofar as they are interested in me. Are they curious? Watching me with awe, or maybe pity? I project onto them my own cacophony of feeling, but it doesn’t matter. I have only one purpose here. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, infertility

What The Body Knows

December 10, 2016
compass

By Emily Stoddard

Hysterosalpingogram. There is not enough space in my mouth for the word, yet here I am on the exam table, having the procedure that I cannot say. They fill my uterus with dye. On the X-Ray screen, I watch the fluid expand. I think of it as a sort of carbon dating. We are here to decide how authentic my uterus is.

I remember when I prayed for blood from my uterus. In the back of my middle school journals, I hid a list of girls who had already gotten their periods, according to recess gossip. I knew I was one of the last to start. The knowing held me like a map: You are here.

And now, we are deciding whether my uterus is only a diorama, an altar to something imagined, like those names in my seventh grade journal. We send fluid back, inward. I send small prayers with it. For a new map. Now for different reasons, but also the same reason—to be like the other girls.

The dye flushes deeper, into the fallopian tubes. Fallopian. It sounds as distant as an ancient civilization, until a flare of pain reminds me that Fallopian is within me. Part of my body. I had been tracing the X-Ray screen and wondering what languages they speak there, what weather they have.

The nurse breaks in to report: “Sometimes, we just need to clear the dust bunnies, to get the tubes to behave like they should.” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, loss, Pregnancy

Choices

December 4, 2016
survive

TW: This piece discusses medically necessary termination of pregnancy

By Leslie Wibberly

A while ago, a friend and colleague received some devastating news. She and her husband were expecting their second daughter, and at over three months into the pregnancy they had assumed everything was fine. A routine ultrasound unexpectedly revealed multiple birth defects and a tumor, called a terratoma, attached to the base of the baby’s spine.

They were told they could choose to terminate this pregnancy, as the effects of those birth defects were not clear. Or, they could try to carry the baby to term and hope that surgery might be able to correct the problems.

As she shared her news with me, her despair carefully but not completely masked, I was brought back to the moment many years earlier, when I had received similar news. A tiny tsunami of nausea intermingled with terror and regret, flooded my body.

My first pregnancy was planned, but happened sooner than expected. Exhausted from full time work and a year of studying for a post-grad certification, my body was not in peak condition. My husband and I had fully intended to start trying for a baby once my exams were over, but the universe was impatient and so conception was precipitous.

We were overjoyed none-the-less, and I did what assume every mother-to-be did. I bought parenting books, baby-name books, maternal vitamins, I started to worry about never sleeping again, and I prepared to say goodbye to my thirty-something pre-baby body. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, infertility

Napalm Picnic

September 22, 2016
infertility

By Alex Behr

Note: Names have been changed.
I picked up the thermometer by the bedside table and shook it. Every day I took my temperature and recorded it on grid paper, trying to determine when I was ovulating. Sam and I lived in a Victorian split long ago into an apartment on each floor. Our bedroom was off the kitchen, with a tall, gated window covered by a curtain I’d sewn.

My primary care person, a nurse practitioner in San Francisco’s Castro District, had told me for years not to worry, but I did. The notebooks I stored in a suitcase in the closet were filled with my fears. My FSH levels were normal—I was new to infertility-related acronyms. I never said that word, infertility, in my mind. I was way too superstitious and optimistic. Basically, normal FSH levels meant I wasn’t struggling too hard to produce the follicle-stimulating hormone necessary for ovulation.

Every annual checkup, I’d walk past the stacks of HIV prevention pamphlets in the office and lay down for this nurse practitioner. She told me my breasts felt good—soft and healthy—almost like she was evaluating their allure. I put my feet in terry-cloth-draped stirrups so she could feel my uterus. Good, good. No STDs. Regular sex. Healthy. Good genes. No problemo. She massaged my breasts for nonexistent lumps and said, “There’s a population crisis.” Who was I but one more woman adding to the problem? She said, “You’ll get pregnant.”

After three years of hearing me worry, she told me to get a test to see if my tubes were blocked. I’d never heard of tubes damming up, much less this test.

The thermometer hit the edge of the bedside table and broke, shattering glass. Tiny silver spheres tapped across the wood floor. I swore and knelt down to dab them in a Kleenex, feeling like I was bringing bad luck to myself—to my body—mercury poisoning was not good for primping the body for pregnancy.

I wanted this blood token. I wanted a baby of my blood—of Sam’s blood. Make something of our misfit lives. I was well-rounded and grieving each month. Drip. Stain.

Motherhood wasn’t a desire out of frustration, but a longing from childhood, from kindergarten, at least, when I echoed my mom in a drawing: she had her baby in a baby carriage (my sister); I had my baby doll. An introvert so shy that I didn’t speak in kindergarten, standing in the room, not joining the finger-painters and the tights-wetters, I always knew I would be a mom one day. I would create a blood tribe for comfort and silliness and intimacy.

I printed out the driving directions to Kaiser from the front room of our flat. The dial-up modem buzzed and fussed by my computer. I wanted to slide up to Sam, feel his warmth, and have sex. Instead, I picked up an invoice from my desk and killed a silverfish.

At Kaiser I saw pregnant women throughout the waiting room, as if they were my personal mocker, as if I sat in a room of Pulitzer-prize-winning authors with stringy hair and bad skin wearing pink hoodies and sweats with white stripes up the sides. Kaiser accommodated us all. We weren’t San Francisco’s brightest and finest, just women struggling in our bodies. It was 2000, but I’d dropkicked the diaphragm and sperm killer in 1997, having finally convinced Sam to try to get me pregnant—that everything would work out—that we could still play music, and he could still do kung fu; he’d have plenty of time for himself.

I waited for my name to be called. I knitted a green blanket for the baby I knew would happen if I tried hard enough. I was always poised to have my name called, as any delay in putting my yarn away or picking up my purse would cause them to move on to someone else in the waiting room, someone with life inside her.

Sam, wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and Converse sneakers, waited in a plastic seat. I picked up his hand and ran my finger over the homemade tattoos he’d given himself as a teen-age punk. The two tiny lines were markers of good luck to me. The nurse called my full name, “Alexandra Behr?”

Sam said, “Do you want me to come with you?”

“No, stay here,” I said.

I held my arms together against Sam’s chest, and he wrapped his arms around me. What if the nurse left without me? What if she called someone else? “Watch my stuff,” I said.

“Good luck,” he said.

I left Sam and walked through the doors to go through an infantalization process: stripping and putting on a blue poly/cotton covering that was large enough to accommodate me at nine months’ pregnant.

I was about to have radioactive dye injected through my vaginal canal and through the Fallopian tubes. Canal. That word reminded me of Venice, the murky waters. The romance. The pollution. All my eggs had existed in me since I was born on a snowy Easter weekend, but I wasn’t able to get pregnant and I didn’t know why.

Then on the examination table, I had the procedure—the HSG—the hysterosalpingogram. Hysteria in minutes, the dye forced up inside me, cramping. The X-ray test examined the hidden me. The outer me was one that some men had coveted. That I had filled with alcohol, with drugs, with lust, but in private, a rollicking party of two.

The X-ray machine took photos as the dye went its way, but the dye got dammed up. The cramping was intense. I winced and gritted my teeth. I felt like I was being raped by a thin, pressurized knife.

The doctor and his assistants—future infertility gurus—stood by my legs in stirrups, looking at the X-ray screen. I wasn’t the only patient in this room. Others were a curtain away. Nevertheless, the medical people discussed my most intimate parts. The uterus looked great, healthy! But they said the tubes were blocked. The egg couldn’t reach the sperm, those racing gray squiggles in life-science movies. They got stuck, stupid, unable to reach and pierce the membrane and start life.

The doctor pulled and prodded. On the monitor I saw tiny cauliflowers at the end of the uterus. Longhorns. The dye was trapped.

A nurse wiped the ultrasound goo off my abdomen and gave me a sanitary pad to hold between my legs. I got off the medical table, sobbing. I asked questions, wanting to write down the answers, but I was still naked except for the medical gown. I was not processing what the doctor was saying.

When I asked if the tubes were blocked, he said, smiling like a Simpsons’ cartoon character, “Ab-so-tute-ly!”

A friend had recommended this doctor, a man in his fifties with thinning hair and a pinched expression.

“You’re a textbook case for infertility,” he said.

I snotted up and dripped tears. How could I wipe them while holding the gown closed against my ass?

“Yucky news in the dot dot dot of getting pregnant,” he said. “Don’t think back on all the people you’ve been with—with all the recriminations.”

I shook all the way home, even with Sam’s arm around me. But I resented him, too. I felt I was talking him into being a parent. Badgering, as he’d say. He wanted to tour. He didn’t seem as upset as I was. I wondered, lying flat down on my bed, Maybe Sam would get his wish now, and never be a dad.

Barry Glassner writes in Culture of Fear about people’s use of “poignant anecdotes in place of scientific evidence.” Since my friend had gone to this fertility expert at Kaiser who had solved her miscarriage problems, I went to him, too.

For years, I’d been drenched in magical thinking: anyone who did become pregnant after initial difficulties was a role model for me—even though her circumstances (or her partner’s) might have been drastically different. People I confided in told me these stories all the time—they knew of a friend who went to Paris and got pregnant. The Eiffel Tower phallic cure? They tried to give my confidence, even though for years no one—including me—knew my tubes were blocked.

Only with me, the prayers and wishes hadn’t worked. The doctor told me not to blame all the men I had slept with, which, of course, was what I did—and blamed myself, too.

At home, I circled Sam in the kitchen. It was in the back of the flat. There wasn’t a lot of space between the table and the stove, the stove and the fridge, or the stove and the sink. The window gate was bolted to the frame of the six-foot window. The back hall in the alcove by the kitchen led only to the tiny bathroom or the back yard with walls on all sides. We were shut in by metal. Sam could escape only through the front door.

Sam did kung fu. His punches were strong and direct. His knuckles were swollen from doing pushups on them, and his biceps were huge. He punched the table, a wedding present. I jumped and my heart raced. “Why did you rush ahead and tell our families?” he yelled. He felt it was our secret, our problem. He wanted me to not tell anyone that my tubes were blocked, that we might have to do IVF.

“You never do anything,” I said, crying. My face was puffy.

“Why do you get mad at me when you say stuff like that?” he said. He walked out, slamming the front door.

Shaking, I knew I had hurt Sam’s feelings again. Sam knew I meant “never do anything” referred not only his career, but to the infertility problem. He wanted things to remain the same—renting at an undermarket rate from people who hated us, in the best city in the country. I wiped off my tears and walked to the front room, the former parlor, where I had my office. I wanted to research what was wrong with me. My desk was by tall, rattling windows and a built-in bench; streetlights shown through the space above the curtains. I didn’t know which way Sam had gone, but I knew he’d come back.

I stared at the computer screen, my breath stuck—sometimes I forgot to breathe. I didn’t want to be one of them, the infertile. I immediately thanked Billy, my boyfriend from the early 1980s, the second person I’d had sex with. I thanked him for my newly discovered blocked tubes. I’d met him when I was sixteen and a half. He was twenty-three.

Thank you. It was a bitter mantra. There’s no logic to blame. Just a sixth sense toward ignored symptoms on his part and trust on mine. Could I go there, or would I be a victim, stuck? Was I a victim, really, or just a nutty girl in love? If you drive to someone’s funeral, as I had, pretending to be a mourner with the headlights on, just to pursue a guy who gets you hot, well …

Billy had waited for me on a brick pathway outside the public library. He was visiting his old hometown—my hometown—a suburb of DC. I pulled down the hood of my winter coat, despite the sting of cold weather, drawn toward his interest in me. And what had I checked out to intrigue him? Maybe Vonnegut? Cat’s Cradle? He’d stolen books from the library. And what did he put under his coat? Something slightly subversive. Burroughs? Kerouac?

I gave him a ride in my parents’ car, a huge maroon Cadillac that my mom had inherited from her dad. His clothes smelled like exhaust fumes and pot smoke. He had long curly hair; we looked like twins. We drove past bare maple and oak trees whose trunks topped electric lines.

He was funny and worldly, and he pursued me with Sylvia Plath poems, stolen Kafka books, jokes about the Ayatollah Khomeini, and his bad boy stories of throwing snowballs at nuns in grade school and doing acid during high school football games. I didn’t tell my parents his nickname was “Billy Heroin.”

That winter, ice licking the branches of the oaks and maples, I got a fuzzy black sweater that I felt would arouse my new boyfriend, though I still had another boyfriend in college. I rarely washed it, fearing it would shrink. I was easy to seduce. I was skinny, wearing a cowl neck shirt, white painter’s pants, and clogs. My gas-permeable contact lenses often popped out, leaving me squinting. He wore boots, jeans and a black V-necked sweater, with curly hair poofing up the neck.

I was hyper. Young. Sixteen and a half. I blithely cheated on Fred, my first boyfriend, out in East Tennessee, because I was happier having sex with someone else—someone more experienced and more deviant. Billy was a community college dropout. I was applying to colleges, getting high before the SATs to skewer my chances of Ivy League schools. I didn’t like standardized tests.

Billy had a fondness for the perverse—debasement, annihilation—very smart but distracted, hitchhiking up and down the East Coast from his older sister’s one-bedroom apartment in the Lower East Side to my hometown near DC, where he crashed in his friends’ loft, a dark, dank slab of wood strewn with sleeping bags. I spent many hours in the loft. I spent my babysitting money treating him to greasy slabs of pizza and colas. I pretended he looked like Jim Morrison, but his nose had been broken too many times in street fights.

Once we went up to New York City and he said, “I know the color of my boss’s sheets.” Fidelity wasn’t a strong point.

At sixteen and seventeen and eighteen and nineteen, through various breakups and reconciliations, I made sure, with my babysitting money, that Billy had enough money for a cab license, for a black leather jacket with vanity zippers, for a black onyx ring. I didn’t care that he refused to wear a condom. I was too loaded on pot or mushrooms or synthetic mescaline or hash or wine and teen-age pheromones to care.

Now, the night after the Fallopian tube test, with Sam still out, I used my dial-up modem to research what had likely gone wrong when I was a teen in the early 1980s and lacked easy access to doctors. I wanted to infer how I’d failed my body.

From Billy, I’d gotten human papillovirus, HPV, in high school. There was no Planned Parenthood in my hometown, if I even knew one existed. The guys bought the condoms, and whether they used them or not was mostly up to them. Birth control pills, diaphragms, IUDs: out of the question. I never talked to my mom about my needs.

I paid to see a doctor in my hometown out of my allowance and babysitting money. My disease was shameful and disgusting, so shameful I told no one except doctors and future lovers, though the virus had then died out, done its harm.

In 1985 I had an abnormal pap smear, caught in time so those cells could be frozen and not develop into cancer. I thanked Billy for that illness, too. But the doctors assured me after freezing off precancerous cells that I would be fine, that I could still get pregnant.

I read more online, feeling nauseous. Chlamydia could cause blocked Fallopian tubes. Maybe Billy had given me that, too? I might not have had symptoms, or might have thought—just a bladder or yeast infection—awful but temporary—leaving no lasting damage, like a cold. I’d had a few over the years. The nurses on the phone just told me to get over-the-counter medicine.

I was separate from my body, not wanting to acknowledge a problem. I had wanted to split lust from duty, obligation, habit, tasks, and now I couldn’t. The dye had pressed hard enough to try to force the tubes open, but they refused.

Billy had overlapped relationships and stuck his lovers into little cubbyholes of disease. The sex-advice columnist Dan Savage has a stock phrase about how older lovers should treat younger lovers: they should view the relationship like a picnic, and when the relationship ends, leave the campsite area in better shape than when they found it.

Billy, the second person I had sex with, the person who should have left a clean campsite, instead (I believed) hosted a napalm picnic on my body. My tubes were blocked, laced with adhesions. But I had to forgive them, the tubes I was born with, the tubes that failed.

The funny thing, the ha ha ha ha thing, was there weren’t that many lovers in my past, and it could’ve just taken one. Viruses infected millions of us. They had the knack. Condoms could’ve stopped them. But as a default, I had to choose one person to blame beyond my stupidity, and in my heart it was Billy’s fault.

Our bedroom was tiny, the back of our five-room flat. The curtains I’d made were always shut against our neighbors across the alley. It was the quietest room, farthest from Waller Street. Our roommate had moved out years before, so we’d moved into his room, off the large kitchen.

I drank a beer. I heard the door open. Soon Sam would come to bed with me and his warmth and breathing, sleeping, snoring sounds would end the day. In my futon bed, with my knees curled up against me, I listened to a NPR radio report on the Lockerbee, Scotland, terrorist attack: about the bodies being hurled through space from the airplane. Two girls were found strapped to their seats, their arms around each other, and their fingers crossed.

alex_behr_2015_crop

Alex Behr is a writer and musician in Portland, OR. “Napalm Picnic” is an essay from her unpublished memoir. Other memoir pieces have appeared inNailed, Oregon Humanities, Watershed Review, Lumina, and Propeller. Her fiction has appeared in Word Riot, Portland Review, Propeller, and VoiceCatcher,and two stories were performed in LA as part of the New Short Fiction Series. 
Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Join Jen Pastiloff at her Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human in London Oct 1st and Dallas Oct 22. Click the links above to book. No yoga experience needed- just be a human being! Bring a journal and a sense of humor. See why People Magazine did a whole feature on Jen.

 

Check out Jen Pastiloff in People Magazine!

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Guest Posts, motherhood, Pregnancy

Stretched

September 18, 2016
baby

By Rachel Schinderman

I was very pregnant.  38 weeks.  I remember being very aware of my belly and not because it was as big as it was.  And it was big.  Huge actually.  But because, it felt hollow, empty.  It was a Wednesday and my husband was at work.  I knew my running off to the movies to while away an afternoon days were coming to an end, so I sat down in my seat in a dark theater on 2nd Street to watch Little Miss Sunshine by myself.  The baby was scheduled to arrive in a week by C-section since he was breech.   I was trying to get it all in.  Lunch with an old college friend and a facial were rounding out the week.

I half watched the movie, half pushed on my belly.  Where are you I wondered?  But he never moved much.  That was his way.  It was normal.  Occasionally, like at night when I was trying to sleep he would remind me he was there.  Once it seemed he had friends over, but that was not the norm, he was snug in his spot.

It seems this would be the moment where I would race out of the theater and head straight to my doctor’s or arrive at the hospital.  This would be the hero move.  But as a first time pregnant lady who had called her doctor often over Braxton Hicks and other not feeling quite so well moments, I figured again it would be the same answer.  I was fine.  The baby wasn’t moving, true, but the baby never moved much.  And besides, I had an appointment the next morning. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Pregnancy

Downsizing.

September 13, 2016

By Megan Birch-McMichael

The blue Tupperware tub sat for months after the move, stored in an alcove under the stairs, sharing space with infant detritus that had been through two rounds of child. A swing, a crib mattress, a breast pump, waiting to see what their ultimate fate would be; a landfill, Goodwill, or in the fourth bedroom that was a combination guest room, office, catch-all room that swelled with our indecision.

 

A good friend revealed her third pregnancy to me on a playground as we watched our children skitter around, laughing and pushing and filling each other with joy. In a fit of re-organization and purging, I offered her the contents of the bin, pulling out the maternity underwear and nursing bras, and handing over the tops and bottoms that had held in my belly for the long summer months that I thought would never end. “These are just a loan,” she said, “I’ll bring them back when I’m done.” She brought them to the car in two overflowing shopping bags and for months, I forgot them.

 

***************************** Continue Reading…