Pregnant Yogini Diaries

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23 Weeks Pregnant:  Today I want to thank to the heavens for my yoga practice, because what I have learned through this wonderful practice, is what has kept me motivated and strong. Before I got pregnant, I had this idea that my pregnancy was going to be something wonderful, easy and enjoyable; I mean, how could it not be? After all, I had worked so hard for it.  I followed all the guidelines you can possible think of,  and did everything I could to be “ready”; I had a very strong and consistent yoga practice that went along with a very healthy diet and lifestyle. Nothing could go wrong. Boy was I wrong! I should’ve known better.  Don Miguel Ruiz’s third agreement is “don’t make assumptions”, but my expectations were set up long before God finally gave me the wonderful gift to become a Mom.

As soon as week #5 hit, my motivation and strength went down the toilet, along with my breakfast, and most of the food I ate. Fruits and vegies were not an option anymore, because my body started to reject everything I used to love. The dizziness, headaches, vomiting, and fatigue got the best of me. I felt sick, weak, lazy and guilty. I was a yogi who could not longer do asana, and my breathing exercises were just not enough. Then, I founda new kind of motivation that helped me relieve my physical pain and even provided me with with happiness: Food. High calorie foods filled with lots of carbs. So that is what I have been doing. Eating to keep my body and soul happy and motivated. It may not sound like the best healthy choice for most of you, but it’s what has been working for me. Besides feeling tired, I don’t feel so sick anymore. Last time I checked I gained about 25 pounds, and that was about three weeks ago. Everyone keeps saying that I look too big to be 23 weeks pregnant. “Are you having twins?” “Oh look at that big belly, you must be about to pop out.” “Are you sure you are only 23 weeks pregnant?” and the best one “How come your belly is so big?” I discovered that pregnancies are just like our asanas, they are all different and what works for me, may not work for you; my pregnant body will not be able to do the things I used to dream of, but that doesn’t make me less of a yogi.  I can now go short walks and flow on my mat in a whole new different kind of way, and that is such a wonderful thing. This is my pregnancy journey, is very different than what I thought it would be, but I have learn to accept and embrace every single thing of it without any regrets. Because after all, I am just a yogi doing my very best.

25 Weeks Pregnant: 

Week 24 came and went relatively quickly; It was a tough week because I was traveling back from Colombia to my home in USA, and saying goodbye to my family and loved ones hasn’t always been an easy thing.  Thus, I was very wrong when I thought that our goodbyes were going to be the most difficult thing, about leaving my hometown.

Once in the airplane, a young lady came to me and asked me if I would change seats with her Mom, who was very sick and old, I couldn’t say no and so I agreed. Little did I know that my new seat was going to be right next to the emergency exit, which didn’t allow me to recline the chair, but I thought to myself “I am young and in good health, I can do this!” Six longest hours of my life. I managed to somehow sleep for hour and a half and if it weren’t for all the pranayama I did, I probably would have lost my mind. My body was retaining all the liquid and my hands and my feet got swollen.  I took my sandals off, and of course I ended up losing one of them.  The flight attendant very kindly offered to look for it once everybody was out of the plane, but there was no way on Earth I was going to wait for it to happen. I wanted out! Hence I only wore one sandal from the plane all the way to immigration, after I picked up my luggage. Hubby’s big hug of welcome made everything worth it. We got home and after a few hours with my feet up the wall, lots of water and a nap I was better.

I hit week 25 and to celebrate my husband invited me to go out, but I got very upset when I realized that the pregnancy dress I wanted to wear didn’t fit me anymore. I cried like a baby because I felt big, fat and ugly. He cooked and we stayed in for the night. A couple of days after, a weird pain in my pelvis made me stop my yoga practice. I was sitting down with my legs open, and my hands reaching forward, but something happened and I just couldn’t keep going, so I got up and went to sit down on the couch. After a couple hours I just couldn’t get up. It hurt, and it hurt so badly that I had to call hubby to take me to the Emergency room. It took us about 15 min to get from the door to the car, because lifting one foot away from the floor caused me an incredible amount of pain. I was sad, frustrated, scared and mostly, I was ashamed.

Ashamed of myself for crying and feeling depressed simply because a dress didn’t fit me. There I was, on my way to the hospital with an unbearable pain and praying that my baby was ok. Who cares about what I look like, or about all the extra pounds that my body is carrying now? When all it really matters is the life that is growing inside of me. During the 10 minute ride I thought about a lot. How many Moms have to spend their whole pregnancy on a bed in order to give birth? How many Moms don’t have it so easy and end up giving their own lives for their babies? How many Moms really hurt themselves and have to go through all the pain and grieving that losing a child can cause? Thankfully the doctor said that everything was ok.  I just pulled a few muscles in my pelvis; I needed to rest, put a lot of ice on it, and simply take it easy. After a couple days in bed, I can now walk slowly and without help. I am better, I am happier and I am trying to understand that everything I feel right now is just part of this beautiful gift of being pregnant.

(You can follow Vanessa's journey on Instagram @colombianyogi)

Of Life & Loss

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A week before I had found out I was pregnant, I was planning and attending the funeral of my fiancé Cody. Twelve days before that, on the day before our birthdays, we sat on a hospital bed holding hands, listening to a doctor tell him he had a brain tumour. Our lives stopped, work stopped, school stopped, we left our home and moved closer to the hospital Cody needed.

Cody was a strong, loving, stubborn man. We had a life planned, with dreams and achievements. But his body quickly deteriorated. Everyday was worse, he lost his sight, taste, most of his hearing. He was one day a construction worker, strong and able, to the next; using a walker, then wheel chair.

It was an unbelievable experience watching the person you believed in more than anything, who believed in you more than anything, die. It was a privilege to be the one by his side, to have a part in taking care of him and leaning over him while he was taking his last breaths, letting him know it was okay to let go.

When I found out I was pregnant, I didn't believe it. I actually took six pregnancy tests, lined them up on the counter and watched each one of them quickly turn positive. Part of me, a huge part of me, was in shock, the other piece of me that was left, set my heart on fire. The day before, I was driving in my car, alone for the first time since he died, crying and asking for direction. Begging to know why I was here and he wasn't, why I had to keep living. The next day I realized that I hadn't gotten my period at all..

I seriously thought to myself, is this something that I can do? Can I be a mother? Can I live beyond this? Can I create the life Cody and I wanted for our children? The answer in my heart was yes.

Although, I spend moments in days when I feel selfish for bringing our child into the world without Cody, pregnancy is the most wonderful thing I've yet to experience. I've never felt more beautiful, or whole, or connected to the big picture. I was born to be a mother, to be a sacred passage between worlds, to allow things to come into life, to be a safe space for life to leave, to live with one hand in this world and one hand in another.

In a circumstance that has disconnected me from what I thought my life was, has only given me experiences of grace. I yearned for higher consciousness, I yearned that my gratitude would provide me with a beautiful existence.. It did. I misunderstood what beauty and fairness was. What happened to Cody was fair, he was neither deserving or undeserving.   He acted with grace in taking charge of his life, and it was beautiful. I have witnessed death, I watched him leave. He said good bye, and did his best to take care of me before he left. Then he was gone. He left me here, with the biggest love I could have imagined. Now, I am witnessing the growth of a human being from almost nothing. I am moved deeply by the life that I get to experience.

{You can read more about Harlee-Jean's heartbreaking and inspiring story on her blog, harleejean2013.wordpress.com}

Celebrating Adoptive Motherhood

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On Mother's Day, I would like to honor the adoptive mamas of the world. They, too, deserve recognition for their tender nurturing and selfless giving. This story was sent to me by a beautiful woman named Denise Andrade-Kroon, who reached out to me and expressed how although she did not physically birth her son Cedar, she gave birth in an intensely emotional and spiritual way: "I believe it is so empowering for adoptive mamas to embrace that they too have been through a birthing process, albeit different than those that carry and birth their babies physically, but an emotional birthing that holds deep connection and meaning. Throughout the years of documenting my fertility and adoption story online, hundreds reached out to me going through a similar journey because at the time I was writing about it, not many were and it seemed to draw a plethora of women that needed to not feel alone.  Many were expressing to me shame they carried or the ache of not feeling whole as women or part of a tribe of women that were able to do what our bodies were designed for.  I too at times felt this way.  I waited 5 years for the baby whose soul I felt so close to me and I would have never imagined another beautiful woman would eventually carry my child and bravely let go of him into my arms with such compassion and permission.

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Denise & K

My husband and I held our birth mama's hands while she pushed and brought him into our world.  I was the first to hold, bathe, feed and sleep with him skin to skin. My son Cedar and I bonded instantly and I never once felt less connected just because the first day I physically felt him was on his (birth)day. Throughout our (in)fertility journey &  adoption, I needed visualizations to stay hopeful, breath to stay grounded and focused and my soul had to bear down to manifest my dream of being a mama despite the grief and loss that comes with (in)fertility. My labor pains were emotional and not physical but labor pains, nonetheless. I know deep in my heart that with this perspective, I have indeed birthed in a spiritual sense. I am grateful to be part of an evolution of embracing and holding tender all the ways families are created and as with anything, there is not one way."

{You can read more about Denise's journey through adoption on her personal blog, http://bohemiangirldesigns.blogspot.com/. Her current website is http://www.faesoul.com/. Photography by tarawhitney.com. All content and images © by Denise Andrade-Kroon.}

A Morning With Jade: Part II

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As I sat with my baby in front of Jade's camera, my heart was pounding in my chest. My mind went through my checklist of insecurities one by one. My skin is too white. She's going to notice that ugly mole. My hair is so boring. I wish I had natural breasts.  Deep breath. Pause. Eyes open. Fully present. This is me, and I am not ashamed. I love my body. I remember why I came here.

Jade's chorus of "Oh my god, this is epic!" and "What a perfect scar!" and "Love, love, love!" echoed across the beautiful outdoor studio, set in the backyard of a home in Los Angeles. The sun was shining. Small birds danced over the glistening pool. By all accounts, this moment was absolutely perfect.

My brief bout of insecurity passed. And amazingly, I felt so comfortable. More comfortable then I'd ever felt in front of a camera. My baby and I were just doing what we normally do. Breastfeeding, giggling, snuggling, playing, breathing, and living. There was nothing shameful. There was nothing obscene or worthy of anything but praise.

I was sick that day. In fact, I had barely made it out the door thanks to a nasty intestinal bug and a lingering respiratory infection. My son was under the weather too, and we were both struggling with breastfeeding as my supply was lagging thanks to being sick. But there we were, surviving and making it through together. Just like we survived a 43-week pregnancy, a maternal infection, and an emergency cesarean. I held my son close to my breast and blinked away the tears. If there was any reason to be shooting with Jade, it was to give thanks simply for having made it this far, for being alive at this very moment.

But there were other reasons too. Growing up, I felt terribly insecure and ashamed of my own body. Nudity carried a strong negative stigma, and I never felt comfortable looking at myself in a mirror. And so I was also taking these photos to celebrate a metamorphosis of self love and acceptance, and the ability to release the shame that plagued me for far too long. From the first moment I saw these photos, all my insecurities became insignificant to me. I literally fell in love with my own skin, and what an ecstatic moment that was.

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(All content and images © by the author)

Hello, Welcome to Empowered Birth Project!

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Recent times have seen a surge of new followers on my Instagram page, and I just want to say, Welcome! I'm glad you're here! Thank you for bringing your beautiful presence to this project. Let me introduce myself, for those of you who are new to this community. My name is Katie. I love life and humanity and I'm mildly (totally) obsessed with the process of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. Alongside my husband of nine years, I've taken part in this glorious rite of passage three times, and we have three beautiful, thriving boys. During days off from my career as an RN, I pick up Legos and sneak in some yoga in between breastfeeding and diaper changes. Life is chaotic and messy and busy in the best possible way.

Empowered Birth Project was born just a few hours after our second child joined us Earth side in the comfort of our home. In the wee hours of that morning, after the midwives had gone and with a newborn asleep at my breast, I resolved to have another child, again at home and this time medically unassisted and on camera to make a beautiful film to share with the world. Even then, my heart fluttered with excitement as I envisioned that perfect, triumphant moment, much like the one I had just experienced, which was the one of the most empowering experiences of my life.

A third pregnancy followed three years later, and I found Carlo Alberto Orecchia, an Emmy award nominated cinematographer, to direct and produce the film with us. I began documenting my journey on Instagram, not really expecting it to amount to much at first. I thought, "Well, this is better than no documentation at all." I had no idea the incredible community that awaited me there and which became my virtual village of support throughout a most unexpected journey.

Nothing went as planned. My son required an emergency cesarean to be safely born, and although my dream of another home birth had vanished, a much broader vision of Empowered Birth Project became clear. I realized this project extends far beyond the production of a film and into the vast reaches of the birth world, which is really the entire world. Amidst the much-needed natural/home birth movement we are currently experiencing, I have discovered that my true passion is to encourage and promote self-actualization through birth and motherhood. To reclaim, to own, and to embrace this rite of passage as our own. To discover within the raw depths of childbirth our greatest potential as human beings, and to feel empowered every step of the way. That through the gates of heaven and hell, loss and life, we might discover everything we are capable of becoming.

As the vision continues to expand, I now understand how this platform will be used to create social change. The normalization of breastfeeding (and bottle feeding), the love and acceptance of self and others, the very real struggles of childbearing in a country that does not support its birthing women... Change is needed and it is needed now. Together we can achieve this. The sharing of traditions, wisdom ancient and new, and the aesthetic beauty of the human body throughout the life cycle will also be explored through this project. And it's just getting started. There's much more to come.

Again I thank you for joining me here. Empowered Birth Project is an incredible global community, and I am honored to stand with you as we bring birth to light.

-Katie

(all content and images are subject to copyright by the author)