Vibrate with the Cosmos and Make it Fun!

Take a deep belly breath in…one where your belly extends outward…and hold it…and then release it…ahhhh.  Let’s do that again, this time, inhale to the count of five, hold it to the count of five and release it 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1.  Yes.  Like that.  Doesn’t that feel good?  Centers you and grounds you, right?

This is how I started off my day (well, after the shower, breakfast and drive to Marlborough to attend the Natural Living Expo).  I went to hear a talk at 11am.  Now, first of all, 11am is still morning for me, especially on a Sunday.  Second, I purposefully didn’t have coffee, because I knew I was going to be plenty awake by the energy of the speaker I was going to see…the energy that IS Gabrielle Bernstein!  I wasn’t wrong, she kept us all energized with her special way with words and light humor.

My new coffee/tea cup and my new water bottle, purchased from Mantra (created and owned by a fun-loving couple).  Want one yourself (there are other mantras to choose from and even an option where you write your own mantras in the boxes...those of you who have taken my childbirth classes should know some mantras you'd include... http://www.mymantramylife.com

My new coffee/tea cup and my new water bottle, purchased from the Mantra booth at the Natural Living Expo (Mantra was created and owned by a fun-loving couple, which I love…small business and all).     I especially love the flat bottom of the cup and the fact that the water bottle kinda looks like an old-fashioned milk bottle…get it, milk…haha.  Want one yourself?  There are other mantras to choose from and even an option where you write your own mantras in the boxes…those of you who have taken my childbirth classes should know some mantras you’d include…
http://www.mymantramylife.com

I’d been working on reading her most recent book, May Cause Miracles, which requires the reader to only read one chapter per day for 40 days to unlimited happiness.  As one might expect, there’s lots of homework involved, which I haven’t been good about doing, even in the 50 pages I was up to so far.  But I’ve seen her on videos and on Oprah so I knew I was in for a treat and to be spiritually motivated by the time her time with us was done.  Despite being young, she lead much older women than her to not only cry but also ask for wisdom and advice that someone of Gabrielle’s years might not be prepared to give, but she nailed it.  Sometimes years don’t matter, girlfriend.

She talked about fear and how it can cause us to take a “descent from magnitude to littleness”.   I hear that and it makes me think about women becoming mothers.  So many women feel like responsible and powerful adults and strong women until they get pregnant…then it becomes about asking, “am I allowed to _____?”.  Then approach labor and that fear increases…because of a new experience and the fact that it’s an uncomfortable and unpredictable experience, many women will shrink away from their power and allow all control to be taken by others.  Wait! There’s a saying in the birthy world, “women of earth, take back your birth!”.  So cool.  Anyway, even Gabrielle talked about how if we are constantly trying to control your energy and your environment, it can leave you in darkness.  We need to just let go.  I just kept thinking about how much easier birth and parenting are when we just stop trying to control it all!  But change is hard.  Changing your way of thinking is hard.  So, Gabrielle addressed this, too: all we need to change is the willingness to change.  Riiight.  Let’s get to work on that!  Easier said than done, dontcha think?  But yes, it’s true.

One of my favorite things she said today was “raise the voice of intuition“.  I love that.  I try to follow that myself and encourage others to do the same.  We need to trust our intuition.  It may not make sense intellectually, but intuition is powerful and should be revered.  Gabrielle calls intution our “-ing”…or inner guide.  Yes.  Love it.

Another thing she said that resonated with me is “stop dancing around the perimeter of who you are meant to be”.  That’s what inspired me to say “yes” to the mug and water bottle I bought today (see at right). I’m guilty of it as much as the next person…wondering what people will think of me or what I do or what I say.  I’m trying to change that.  Some days I’m good at walking my own authentic path and other days I find myself sinking into the fishbowl.  That’s why it’s called a practice in so many professions or in yoga or meditation.  We never perfect it.  We don’t perfect ourselves.  We practice.

Gabrielle gave us a sneak peek into her up-and-coming book with discussing the 5 Sutras for the Aquarian Age.  Sounds so “woo-woo” but when you hear how Gabrielle explains it, it’s very plain and clear.

1. Recognize that the other person is you. They aren’t more or less than you.  The more we celebrate those who shine, the more we shine.  And then the big psychological issue I’ve heard before when dealing with conflict resolution…the things you don’t like in others are the things you have disowned about your own self.  Gulp.

2. There is a way through every block.  Trust and develop your intuition.  Be quiet/meditate/exercise/take a quiet walk for a little bit every day so you can receive those messages. And when your intuition, your inner guide, your -ing speaks, answer with “absolutely, yes!”.

3. When the time is on you, start and the pressure will be off.  Do not hesitate.  Make it happen.  Today.  Wow, this is a challenge in my life.  I find that some days I’m so very motivated and get a LOT done and others I think about motivating and then it’s dark out.  Then again, maybe I needed a day to chill and reflect, right?

4. Understand through compassion or you’ll misunderstand the times.  Make eye contact with people and hold a place of compassion for where they may be in their struggles.  How many of us have gotten angry at someone in customer service.  But if we remember that they are just trying to do their job and they have good days just as much as bad days (because they are human, too), it helps to be compassionate.

5. Vibrate with the cosmos and the cosmos will change the path. Bring a positive energy to everything you do…a positive attitude.  An openness to spontaneity, new things and unexpected changes. Sometimes when you make plans, the cosmos has other plans for you.  Be open to that.  I love the word “cosmos” for some reason.  I’m frequently heard saying, “I put it out there to the cosmos.”  It’s like a prayer.  Prayer doesn’t definitively mean speaking to God or only done in a certain religion.  We can be spiritual without a specific religion and the “cosmos” is like a universal way of referring to a highest power.  Work through this one however you see fit within your spiritual practice.

One thing that struck me as particularly true for mothers everywhere is something she said about guilt…”Guilt is a chief weapon for keeping you in an illusion.” Moms have so much guilt about leaving their child(ren) for an hour or two or (gasp!) overnight.  But it’s really an illusion that your partner or another caregiver can’t handle it.  You can’t create a situation where you are the only person in your child’s life that can feed them/soothe them/change them/entertain them.  Sure, if you are breastfeeding, leaving breastmilk is important, but we have the capability to leave milk for our little ones (um, that’s why it’s called HAND-expression…but sure, pumps work for some mamas).  Remember, the more you do for yourself, the better mother you’ll be.  It’s true.  Gabrielle reminded us about the saying, “Put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your child.”  Right.  [There’s that thing about breathing again.]

She ended b y reminding us that it’s not what you do, it’s the attitude you bring to it.  Yes, we know that.  We’ve heard that.  But that’s one thing that meditations can be …reminders to let go.

So, go meditate.  Take a walk.  Exercise hard or do yoga.  Lay on the floor and just listen to yourself breathing deeply.  Want something to guide you?  Gabrielle has some free meditations on her website.  You can learn more about Gabrielle and from Gabrielle via her website.

Thanks, Gabrielle, for the inspiration.  You may be a bit wise for your age, but that’s okay.  You rock.

Brave Milk Making Mamas

Hi have some clients who really blow my mind.  Really.  They are awesome.  The stuff they go through just to give breastmilk to their babies is awe-inspiring.  Months and months of IVs and drains and repeated surgeries–and still breastfeeding.  Tongue-tie and lip-tie revisions on their babies and sore nipples and open wounds and nipple shield.  Flat nipples, hand expression and eventually nursing just one on boob (hey who said you need both of them!?).  Feeding tubes while nursing at the breast or on a finger.  Donating hundreds of ounces of breastmilk to babies who need it because their mamas can’t make enough.  Moms who are humble enough to accept donor milk because they know they aren’t making enough.  Mamas who spend lots of time and money on lactation support, pumping bras, different breastpumps to see which one works better, herbs, homeopathic remedies, coconut oil, herbal balms, Kinesiotape and castor oil compresses.  One of the moms I know even wore a vacuum drain on her breast for 8…weeks…straight…and couldn’t drive the whole time while her baby nursed on the other side.  Really.  A-mazing.

Nursing a lil' pumpkin in public (aka NIP) in a pumpkin patch!  Thanks to this gutsy mama for permission to use this photo!

Nursing a lil’ pumpkin in public (aka NIP) in a pumpkin patch! Thanks to this gutsy mama for permission to use this photo!

This is why I do what I do.  Some people work as a doula or breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant because babies are so cool.  Not this girl.  I do it for the moms (and I usually love their partners, too, especially the involved and loving and supportive partners who are there through the thick of it to support mom).  I watch them develop into such gutsy women through this process.  And sometimes, yes, being a gutsy mama means knowing when to be at peace with making just 10% of the milk your baby needs or even quitting nursing or exclusive pumping altogether.  Breastfeeding isn’t easy for everyone.  And now, more than ever, more and more mamas who want to breastfeed are discovering they have underlying issues that prevent them (sometimes) from making enough milk. Or their babies have anatomical issues that prevent them from sucking or swallowing well.  Sometimes there are ways to work with what you’re given and improve it.  Sure, it’s “natural”, but hey, sex is natural but we all get better at that with practice, too, right?  [Correct me if I’m wrong on that one and tell me your secret!! Wink!]

Unfortunately, as you may know, there are many barriers for women who want to nurse (or one could say to babies who want to nurse).  What are the barriers? Medications in labor, surgical birth, uninformed staff in hospitals, necessary or unnecessary interventions on baby, mom’s past history with breast reduction or augmentation, mom’s medical history related to diabetes, thyroid, iron, polycystic ovarian syndrome, insufficient glandular tissue, baby in the NICU, pumps that suck (or rather, don’t suck well), pediatricians who are uninformed and push formula instead of quality lactation support…the list goes on.  In some moms there doesn’t seem to be a reasonable explanation for what happened.  And other moms have all the risk factors and are able to nurse successfully.  Oy.

Most moms, statistics show, quit within the first week.  In the United States, as of 2010 data, only 16% of babies were exclusively breastfed to 6 months of age (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all babies be fed exclusively breastmilk until the age of 6 months and continue to be nursed until 1 year of age or longer, as long as mutually desired…the World Health Organization recommends at least 2 years or longer).

Given that data and those barriers, it’s a wonder that American women continue to breastfeed their babies.  Did you breastfeed?  How long?  What helped you continue as long as you did?  What hindered you?  Share your comments below and by doing so, you’ll be supporting the other women that see your comments.  Band together, gutsy mamas!

Finding Inspiration Every Day

I haven’t posted in a long time. I was trying to post often and then the Newton shootings happened and it seemed inappropriate to post anything except what everyone else was writing about it, but then everyone else was writing about it. Then life happened. Then a building collapse in Bangladesh (which increased the number of companies I’m boycotting) and then tornados. And as I write this there is a big fire in Colorado Springs and the evacuation zone currently stops 2 miles from my brother’s house. And, closer to home, I found out recently that someone I knew well had told a big lie about me (which many people apparently believed and which then caused them to act very differently toward me…but hey, at least now I know why…still depressing, though). Alas, the world can be a scary and sad and frustrating place but it can still be a beautiful place.

First, the sky is blue and the clouds are fluffy white today. That’s amazing to me. Clouds have always amazed me. I LOVE being in the window seat on a plane and looking down on the earth but the best is when we’re flying above the clouds and I can just see the shapes, play of light and the miracles that are clouds.

Second, the grass is green. A beautiful green. With clovers and flowers. That’s because we’re in a place that happens to have plenty (and sometimes way too much) rain. I love rain, too. The sound that it makes when it falls. Thunder. Lightning. The best rain sound is on a tin roof, like the roof I had on my house when I lived in a village in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa (1992-1994). Whoa, that was a long time ago.

Third, my kids. They are beautiful in my eyes, smart, funny, clever and talented. They forgive me when I am not in a good mood and play with me when I am. They remind me why I was put on this earth. I look forward to a couple weeks this summer when I can just focus on relaxing and having fun with them without worrying about much else.

And finally, my work (okay, yes, my husband is also inspiring to me, but I don’t know how much you want to read about how in love I am with him and how blessed I am to have him, yadda, yadda, yadda). In my work I get to know expectant and new parents and their babies. I see their faces light up when I let them in on some information that might help them make birth, breastfeeding or parenting easier. I help their babies nurse more comfortably or see mom smile when she tells me she makes more milk perhaps because of a suggestion I gave her. The little things inspire me to keep going…when a small baby gains weight, when a formerly tongue-tied baby latches on better after the revision procedure is done (which doesn’t always happen right away), when a mom gets the natural birth she wanted, when a dad gets to catch his baby and experiences the feeling of being the first person to touch his child…the list goes on.

Life has its ups and downs, that’s for sure. I think it just helps to keep repeating “this too shall pass.” Whether it’s a good time or bad time, it will pass. So enjoy each moment. Some people call that mindfulness. Whatever you want to call it. It’s what makes life worth living.

Lighting the Menorah

So tonight is the first night of Hanukkah (otherwise known as Chanukah).  It’s the Festival of Lights, where we light candles for eight nights.

My husband is usually the one in the house that leads the candle-lighting and saying the blessings.  He was out tonight so when my little one asked if we could do the candles, I was feeling like a lazy mama and tried to tell her that we could do it another night.  We don’t always have to celebrate holidays on the exact night of the holiday do we?  Well, little M had a different idea and she insisted that we light the candles tonight.

I couldn’t find the blessings but I had bought candles so we got out the menorah.  It took a whole two minutes it takes to light the candles and say the blessings.  But those two minutes were sweet.  A connection during such a simple thing.  A tradition that must continue.

I asked M why she insisted that we do it tonight instead of wait and she said that she really wanted us to do the candles on the first night of Hanukkah because that’s what we’re supposed to do.  My little rule-follower.

Lazy Mama turned into Proud Mama.

hanukkah  candles

hanukkah candles (Photo credit: woodleywonderworks)

8,000 Women

Yesterday I attended the Massachusetts Conference for Women. I had NO idea until I was driving to Boston for the conference with my friend Karen (who attended the last two years) that there would be more than 500 people there. No, not 500, EIGHT THOUSAND. Gulp. Thousands of GUTSY MAMAS! Thousands of gutsy women who took a day off of work to nurture themselves for a day.

A few of the speakers I had heard of: Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra, Jean Chatzky, Kristin Chenoweth. Some I hadn’t: Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, Brene Brown, Charlotte Beers and Tory Johnson. I learned, I was inspired, I was challenged, I shed a few tears, I smiled, I laughed and I made a few new friends.

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What did I learn? What nuggets?

Don’t forfeit the right to know yourself.
Be memorable.
Dare greatly.
Vulnerability is about showing up and been seen. Be a courageous person, walk into the arena, talk about how you feel. You may be afraid but do it anyway.
Sleep at least 7 hours. Nap if you didn’t. Read Good News on Huffingtonpost.com.

There were more, but wow, it’ll take a while for those to really sink in, eh?

[Photo: have you ever seen so many tables?]