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mindfulness

Compassion, Fertility, Guest Posts

The Mindful Mother – When are you having a baby?

September 15, 2020
question

By Denise Castro

I recently attended a lecture on mindfulness a few months back and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I learned from our professor that about 46% of our mind wanders when having a conversation. As I write these words I am already going down my to-do list of work, dinner, laundry, mismatched toddler socks and back to these words. Our professor collaborated in neuroscience research that explores the efficacy of mindfulness training on attention, emotional regulation and working memory in high stress professions. He draws upon this expertise in the infusion of mindfulness into the learning environment. As a new mother I am constantly learning about what it means to be me in this new role in addition to the various roles I have played before. My mind wanders even more now that I am a Mother. I realize that I tune in and out of conversations because I am trying to constantly multi-task and cram all the things I need to do in a day which really can lead to program overload. Think Sad Mac symbol used by older-generation Apple Macintosh computers with the black screen of death. Followed by the little annoying horn that you just want to curse out. You keep clicking incessantly, nothing. Okay, time to re-boot. And sometimes that’s necessary. Forcing yourself to re-boot and or even shutdown. Command-Option-Esc.

I considered myself rebooted when I attended this Mindfulness lecture. It purposely brought my attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment, and allowing true reflection on my life altering occurrences. I remember mine in that very moment. The voice came and it said Denise – when are you having a baby? I know exactly this person’s voice, the intent behind their question and eyes searching for an answer. Perhaps the voice is merged with mine re-asking the question. The question still remains unanswered. When are you having a baby; always seems like the question your waiting for your biology to answer. “Presently Kendra, my husband’s sperm is pinpointing the egg from the ovulation cycle that I semi tracked and will have 7-28% chance of fertilizing the egg. Will forward you the meeting minutes of that event ASAP”. Did that answer your question? Is that a satisfactory answer? Or simply put whenever the hell my husband’s sperm wants to hook up with the egg. Period. However, instead we always answer cordially with “oh, who knows, maybe soon, we will see what the future holds”. However, what we really mean is it’s none. Of. Your. BUSINESS followed by slight spike in blood pressure, mild twitch to the eye and excusing yourself to the bathroom so you can scream a couple F bombs out loud. The truth behind this question has a multitude of repercussions within our subconscious.  I would know because I once asked a Mother this question. Not being one yet myself I realized it’s actually a really intrusive question. It’s not asking about where she got her cut and color done? It’s so private and deeply personal. To that Mom – I am sorry, I just didn’t know what I was asking.

Sometimes friends and family will ask this question very candidly in an – as- a-matter- of- fact kind of way. I must’ve heard this question a million times for almost a period of two and a half years. When are you having a baby? Perhaps I should’ve written a rap song in response “When are you having a baby – featuring NUNYA – None of your Business Inc. I swear if I had a money jar for every time it was asked I’d probably be a millionaire by now secretly cursing and smiling under my breath. The truth is, that it hurts. That question hurt me. It hurt my very core and it still hurts. When you have a miscarriage this question is your worst enemy. It menaces you like a dark figure in the corner waiting to punch you in the gut. I had been punched several times until no breath was left inside of me. Just when I thought I had recovered it’d be inserted somehow in a conversation that was totally unrelated. Nobody would know that I had miscarried my first baby and had chosen to keep this information to myself as a way to cope and the memory still haunts me.  So when asked, it was as if lightning struck; allowing electric shocks to travel to all the nerve endings in my body and a finishing blow to my heart. Now, this question may pose no immediate threat except- have you ever considered that this person may already be asking herself this question over and over again. Why turns into when, when will it happen turns into what’s wrong with me, and then back to how am I going to answer the why is this happening to me. This turns into a vicious narrative that leave us emotionally depleted and unable to answer. No one in particular may ask you anymore but it doesn’t mean that it stopped it from triggering the auto-renewal of these questions to yourself. It’s like that subscription you never signed up for. Reappearing is our Sad Mac symbol with the little pop up window that reads “When are you having a baby?” Now it’s multiplied into a million damn windows; followed by the super annoying prompting horn. Yes or No reads the little window? F#*@#*# just STOP. Go away! You click incessantly; nothing.  Command-Option-Esc. Shut down. Reboot.

Being mindful of ones journey is so important; I can’t stress it enough. So stop yourself before asking this question. Our emotional regulation is similar to the lines on a seismic chart after an earthquake, erratic upward and downward lines mimicking our fluctuating feelings on the verge of collapsing. We need to train our attention to body language; and being a silent but present comfort to women who may be navigating this period in their lives. Finding a sense of normalcy and peace during the period of conception was one of the most challenging things ever. My mind was like a radio with too many talk show hosts talking over one another essentially asking the same thing. My husband silently watched me month to month doing the math in his head for any signs of a missed period and/or ovulation kit purchases. He never asked the question and I wholeheartedly appreciated it. His silent understanding is what we needed to get through this – together.

At some point we may be the woman at the baby store sobbing into a baby blanket and cradling it when she only meant to get a quick gift for a baby shower, the woman staring at the trash can questioning the three ovulation sticks with smiley positives for ovulation that just didn’t work, the woman whose crippling infertility is breaking her spirit and she’s not sure she can endure anymore needles, the woman who is now considered geriatric after the age of thirty five and has her biological clock ticking fiercely away implying she better hurry or simply miss the motherhood train. There’s the woman who cries out Why?! Dear God. Why! she was unable to carry her baby to full term and bring it home to the now empty bassinet. There’s the woman who has one child and never intended of giving it a sibling; yet we divulge about the “only child syndrome nonsense” or maybe she is trying to conceive once again but your questions just weigh her down; as she is perfectly aware that her body is not the young vessel it was before. Deep breath. Just take another deep breath. And finally the woman who simply did not want children, misjudged and scrutinized for choosing a career instead, simply put -it’s her body and her choice therefore- no baby. There are so many scenarios that need to be considered when we want to ask this question. So perhaps don’t ask it all, instead turn your attention to making it your business in blog and being mindful; you don’t know the power it may give a person to persevere; because at some point in your life you were in their shoes too.

Denise Castro is a Cuban American, a working mother and photographer, who currently resides in Miami. In response to unsolicited advice about how to handle her body after pregnancy, Denise began to blog about what it really means to be a working mom. She has previously written for Scary Mommy and Motherhood: The Real Deal. Denise blogs here. She can also be found on Instagram and Facebook

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Guest Posts, healing

Fast Forward, Pause, Rewind

November 12, 2016
exhale

By Lauren Jonik

My body curls next to the large speakers on the floor of my parents’ living room. The texture of the green rug rubs my bare leg as I am unable to resist movement. Music floods from the turn table on the stereo. I want to climb inside and spin around. The heat of the summer of 1986 envelopes the room, but the fire coming from within is stronger. I am ten years old, filled with joy, impatience and a holy yearning.

The days are long—torturously, deliciously long. Word, melodies and imagery are everywhere, overwhelming my senses. I feel the world intensely, but the earth grounds me. I need the gravity of the grass and dirt under my bare feet to pull me down into the space where I can endure daily life. I ride my bike on an empty street, around and around in circles pretending I’m going somewhere. I already know that we all are. Only the methods of transportation vary. I examine the petals of dandelions and small purple wildflowers I never learn the name of. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Life, Women

What She Learned

April 24, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Kim Valzania

When she was 5 she learned that when a boy hits you on the playground what it really means is that he likes you.  Richard belted her in the arm at the top of the slide.  She didn’t cry and she didn’t tell the teacher.  But boy did it hurt, and it left a bruise.  Her little friend whispered, “he likes you” but when she told her daddy he said that if it ever happened again, she should make a tight fist and hit Richard back, only harder.  “Right in the nose is always an option.”

When she was 6 she learned that even a daddy is afraid sometimes. She discovered just how fast her daddy could run.  A lying, little, sneak of a neighbor falsely declared that her brother had fallen into a well, up in the woods.   Her daddy, her terrified hero of a daddy, could have qualified for the Olympics that day.  And he almost had a heart attack.

When she was 7 she knew for sure that she wanted to look exactly like Barbie when she grew up.  She practiced by walking around on her tip toes.  She wanted to have the tiniest waist, and a closet full of clothes.  She wanted to live in a dream house, play at the beach, and drive a red corvette. Today she is living proof that those dreams can and do come true.

When she was 8 she learned that if she cut her hair super short like a boy, everyone would start thinking she was a boy and everyone in the neighborhood (even her own family!) would start treating her like a boy and she herself would start acting like a boy.  She even got into a dirt-pile scuffle that involved a bit of rock throwing with above-mentioned lying, sneak of a neighbor.  It was fun for a while.

When she was 9 she learned how to hurt her little sister’s feelings.  All she had to do was tell her she smelled like a cow, refuse to play with her, mess with her animal collection, and slam the bedroom door in her face.  She was wild, mean, and a little bit violent.  Do make note that she later apologized for said bad behavior.  Sometimes being a boy wasn’t easy.

When she was 10 she became suspicious that her daddy would ask her to go ice fishing with him just so he could legally put out more tip-ups and bring home more fish.  When she realized this was indeed true, as in he didn’t deny it true, she was okay with it.  Sort of. Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Reflections on a Friend’s Suicide.

June 18, 2014

Reflections on a Friend’s Suicide by Susan Lerner

Fifteen years ago, as a newcomer to Indianapolis, I packed my tots into the minivan and drove to a playgroup, desperate to meet other moms. Among the mothers was a stay-at-home dad. Toddlers wobbled across the floor, babies gummed Cheerios, and the dad and I chatted. We lived in the same neighborhood. Over the course of the next few months we began to bump into each other outside the confines of the playgroup—at the neighborhood playground, at Little Gym birthday parties. The dad, his wife, and son, came to kiddie get-togethers in my basement. They came for dinner. The father let me read a screenplay he wrote. When the time came to send our tikes to school—the neighbors chose public, while my husband and I picked private—our paths gradually diverged.

Last year my son, Sam, began his freshman year at the same high school our neighbor’s son attends. Sam joined the Quiz Bowl team. At that time my neighbor’s son, then a sophomore, had been on the team for a year, so my neighbor became my go-to person whenever I had a question about a Quiz Bowl event, which was often. The late afternoon competitions precluded most parents from attending, and sometimes the stay-at-home dad and I were the only ones in attendance. We settled into our molded plastic chairs, munched on the team’s snacks, and whispered to each other, trying to answer questions as we watched our kids compete.

Just before Thanksgiving, my friend killed himself.

I had no idea he was suffering is the thought that looped through my mind. It seemed true enough—we’d known each other a long time but weren’t close; it didn’t come as a surprise that he hadn’t confided in me. But how could I not have noticed he was dangerously depressed?

I had no idea he was suffering. At first I couldn’t get the thought out of my head, but before long it fell away and I saw the situation through a more honest lens: I did have an inkling that my friend was emotionally fragile; I just never allowed myself that thought. To admit that he was struggling would have made me uncomfortable, not because emotional distress was a scary unknown, but because I knew it well.

During my worst anxiety attacks I’ve faked calm. Tried to pass. Desperate to conceal my anxiety from others and myself, I worked hard to push it into a dark corner of my psyche. What I didn’t realize until after my neighbor’s death is that I kept a subtle distance from him because he reminded me of my secret. My reaction to him was a reflection of how I felt about myself. My friend was, for me, a mirror.

About a week before his suicide, I went to a yoga class where the teacher spoke about the concept of abiding. She read a book written by her childhood friend, psychiatrist Christine Montross. In “Falling Into the Fire,” Dr. Montross writes about extreme pathology. Her patients compulsively swallow household objects, subject themselves to serial cosmetic surgeries as a result of body dysmorphic disorder, are haunted by obsessive homicidal thoughts. The author examines these illnesses within the context of her patients’ narratives, seeing their symptoms as fallout from loss and trauma. At the end of each chapter Dr. Montross writes about her own life, illustrating the commonality between her patients’ experiences and her own. “Falling Into the Fire,” —part exploration of mental illness, part memoir, and part exegesis on the human condition—is a strikingly honest book written with compassion and extraordinary heart.

Montross explores the importance of abiding, “of being with patients as they suffer.” She writes that although she may not be able to provide her patients a quick cure, she can walk with them on their journeys and work with them to understand what’s causing their distress. In one section, Montross counsels a depressed woman whose child was killed in a car accident. In order to abide with this woman’s anguish, Montross sees that she, too, could lose her child through a circumstance over which she has no control. “I could lose my home, my financial security, my safety. I could lose my mind. Any of us could.”

Montross relays what a therapist once told her, that we all live beneath a veil of vulnerability, as if we and our loved ones will live forever. When catastrophe strikes, this veil dissolves and we are faced with the fact that we are all “perched on a precipice.” We like to think of those who suffer from mental illness as “other.” Montross’ stories illustrate that despite our different ways of coping with the pain and vulnerability of being human, we have the same needs: to be understood, to be loved.

I wish my shame about my anxiety hadn’t stopped me from reaching out to my friend. My heart breaks when I contemplate the magnitude of his anguish, so colossal that it drove him to leave his family, and this world, too soon.

Now that my friend is gone, all I can do is to try to find, from within this tragedy, meaning. His memory will be a reminder that what I—and others—go through, however painful, is not shameful. I now understand how important it is to offer an ear, to sit with someone’s suffering. My friend is gone, but his memory, for me, is a reminder to abide.

*This essay originally appeared in Word Riot Magazine.

My pic

Susan Lerner is a student in Butler University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. Her work has appeared in Word Riot, Monkeybicycle, JMWW, Bluestem, and The Believer Logger. Susan lives in Indianapolis with her husband, three teenagers, and dog, Mischief. In her spare time she posts book reviews at http://booklerner.blogspot.com.

 

courtesy of Simplereminders.com. Click to connect with them.

courtesy of Simplereminders.com. Click to connect with them and pre-order their book.

 

Jennifer Pastiloff, Beauty Hunter, is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading one of her signature retreats to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and over New Years. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: South Dakota, NYC, Dallas. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai (3 spots left.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.