The Great Big Breaking Open — A Celebration of Life With Two Babes

Mateo is now three months old and that means it’s been a long time since I have felt I could take the time and space to write about anything. It has been an incredible time: incredibly hard, incredibly humbling and incredibly joyful.

The first few weeks after his arrival were some of the most challenging weeks of my life, just like the first few weeks after Eden, and for the same reason: breastfeeding issues. Mateo, like Eden, had a poor latch and often left my nipples bleeding and scabbed. I barely slept because of our troubles, which filled me with dread over when the next breastfeeding session would take place. Napping was impossible, no matter how I hard I tried. I nearly dove head first into post partum depression from the severe sleep deprivation.

But I hung in there, because this time I had perspective. I had the perspective to know that the pain and poor latch would be fleeting. I also knew that I would indeed sleep again someday, even though it felt like I had lost the ability altogether. This time, I knew, that someday life would feel “normal” again and that the whole family would stabilize.

And just like last time, the newborn/breastfeeding-struggle era became a powerful source of transformation, in the way that childbirth is. It takes so much endurance to stay strong and hold yourself together, stressed in survival mode for those first few weeks, that when you finally make it to the other side (pain-free breastfeeding and delicious SLEEPING) you feel like you can DO ANYTHING! It is exhilarating to be stretched to such challenging depths and then find yourself in joyful rest, knowing that for the time being, life is no longer just something to survive but has become a whole new level of richness and wonder.

But of course the challenges did not end there.

Eden has been a dreamy big sister for Mateo, head over heels in love with him, holding him every morning, cooing at him, stroking his soft skin so tenderly. We have watched them become bonded to one another; Mateo’s first smiles were often provoked from seeing Eden appear. She has taken my breath away with how quickly she grew up to accommodate her baby brother. The day I went into labor, she was still our three year old baby Eden, and from the moment she held him, she became our four year old big kid, eager to help, ready to grow.

But it hasn’t been all love and sweetness. While Eden has surprised me with her relentless kindness and affection for the Banyan baby, she still needs her mother, so the days when it is just the three of us, we have had many, many, many tears. There have been times when Eden, Mateo and I were all crying at once because everyone needed something and no matter how deeply I breathed in through my nose and out through my mouth, I couldn’t seem to accomplish soothing two beings at once. The chaos of mothering two just seems to come together all at once at different peaks throughout the day. I admit there are days when I am just watching the clock, waiting for Erik to come home to take just one being off my hands so I can revert back to my old mothering days of focusing on just one. I was good at one.

But ultimately there is no reverting back to life before two. Instead, I have witnessed a process inside of myself I can only describe as a Great Big Breaking Open. It is as though the caverns of my Inner Mother have had to widen to double the size, and in the process I have had to let other parts of myself die, which of course is at first experienced as great pain. It hurts like hell to let go of breakfast when I’m hungry, to the time I used to have to cook and have hobbies, to spend time with my best friend and life partner. It hurts to witness Eden crying for me while I nurse Mateo or hold him when she wants to be held. It hurts to realize that I can’t do it all: I will never be able to make Eden feel as important as she once felt, and I will always be navigating how to meet both of their needs equally and fairly. It won’t be done perfectly, and Eden and I, we break open together, and we feel this pain.

But for every tear, I feel our hearts making room for Mateo Banyan.

At three months, Mateo is 18 pounds, over 26 inches long, and in the 95th percentile for height, weight and head circumference. From the minute he was born he is rarely quiet; his voice needs to be heard most of the time, and we adore his coos. He smiles with wild abandon, big huge smiles that shock the heart. He prefers laying in bed with his mama more than any other mode of being, but tolerates everything else he must do fairly well. He enjoys being held by family members and friends, and will converse with just about anyone. Mateo loves facing forward when possible, to see the world, and also, to figure out exactly where sister Eden is. He is crazy about his daddy, and you can tell he feels like one of the dudes when he’s in his arms.

Needless to say we are beside ourselves with joy that this person has joined our tribe, and every day is another gift just to watch him bloom. He is the water that quenches my roots, the light that fills my dark, and the love that breaks me open.

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Video

The Birth of Mateo Banyan (Video)

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https://vimeo.com/93428212

Since the day our daughter, Eden Magnolia, was born, I knew I wanted to bring one more person into our family. Years of pining for that last empty chair to be filled with another blooming soul went by, and an illness took a hold of me. My esophagitis, painful and challenging, has brought me many tests of accepting discomfort and being present with it. I haven’t always passed the test but it has been my spiritual practice for the last year. When the pain was at its worst, I became pregnant and fear gripped me. I didn’t know if I could spend nine months having the pain get worse by pregnancy induced heartburn, but I had wanted this new life for so long. I knew that the real challenge and the real miracle would be to see this through and embrace this blessing, no matter what I had to endure.

Many times during the pregnancy, this song came on our Pandora lullaby station, and I would cry deep tears of thankfulness in the truth of its words. Although it was written as a love song, each lyric represents something meaningful to me on this journey to bringing Mateo Banyan into our family. I used this song in the second half of the video, when my surprisingly ecstatic labor turned supremely challenging while trying to push out a 10+ pound being from my small framed body. Lyrics at the bottom.

The first song I used, “Let It Be” by Blackmill, came on a Pandora station when I was in active labor, finding myself blissed out and smiling. It was a perfect song to hear during those gloriously ecstatic expansions. My favorite quote from “Mindful Birthing” is “Letting Be.” It is how I surrender to what is, and stop my lifelong habit of resisting what is hard. I wonder if this is why I was able to experience so much joy in the intensity of labor up to nine centimeters of dilation. I met every tense muscle with the intent to relax and to bend and give way. It was my work and it became my joy.

We are a family of dancers, so this is also why this song by Blackmill was used. I spent many hours dancing during this pregnancy to music like this. It is part of our story.

My favorite part of our story is that we had the presence of our four year old daughter with us during the labor and birth. She was there in early labor, drawing picture after picture of her baby brother, placing a firm hand on my shoulder during contractions, and rubbing my belly. Our brave Eden, who made it clear she wanted to be there for the birth of her brother, woke up around 1:30am to be present and hold my hand. This experience bound the four of us closer than I had even thought to anticipate. I will treasure the memory of her tiny, courageous voice, affirming me in my challenging moments in Laborland, always.

Giving birth at home was our wisest decision. I do wonder if this is part of the labor’s ease and sweetness. I am sharing this video in hopes of inspiring other families to consider this choice.

Thank you to the midwives of Gentle Hands Midwifery, to our doula (and my sister-in-law) Sarah vanWoerden, to all my soul sisters that were there in spirit, lifting me up in their fierce belief in me, to my mother and mother-in-law, who have both been so profoundly there for me throughout this whole journey, and to Erik, Eden and Mateo.

Some of the clips were incredibly dark due to our creating a cave-like feeling in the bedroom. I did my best to lighten the footage but it distorted the images. Our doula, Sarah vanWoerden and my husband, Erik, filmed most of the video. I enjoyed editing it on Final Cut Pro.

A Thousand Years by Christina Perri

Heart beats fast
Colors and promises
How to be brave?
How can I love when I’m afraid to fall?
But watching you stand alone,
All of my doubt suddenly goes away somehow.

One step closer

[Chorus:]
I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

Time stands still
Beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything take away
What’s standing in front of me
Every breath
Every hour has come to this

One step closer

[Chorus:]
I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

One step closer
One step closer

[Chorus:]
I have died every day waiting for you
Darling don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more”

The Birth of Mateo Banyan Moore

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Thursday, March 27th, 2014

I woke up that morning feeling no different than any other morning. No magick was afoot, no possible signs were showing up. I even texted my doula that we may be having an April baby after all and to enjoy her trip to Vegas on Monday.

But around 2 that afternoon I began having uncomfortable contractions that sped up in power and frequency when we went on a family walk. Cherry blossoms and magnolia blooms were popping open and the sun was shining. By 5:45 I thought I better call my doula, Sarah Van Woerden (also my sister-in-law!) to give her a heads up that I could be entering the land of labor. Then I paged the midwives and Eloisa, of Gentle Hands Midwifery, decided to stop by and check my dilation so she could gauge how to approach what I was experiencing. Soon she was at our front door and within minutes we discovered I was already 5 centimeters dilated! Eloisa was fairly certain this was the real deal, and I began shaking with total delight. She left to gather her things and let me get deeper into Laborland.

I had Sarah come over right away because this was her first birth as a doula and in order to have this birth count toward certification she needed to be there in “early labor.” When she arrived, I told her I was trembly because I was so excited and she had me sit on the couch and guided me through a relaxation exercise. Soon my hands and feet were warm again and I was feeling amped.

Eden was wandering around the house, drawing pictures over and over of her baby brother, placing a firm hand on my shoulder during contractions, and being overall wonderful. But the contractions had slowed down, so Erik and I went into the bedroom for a while to think about what to do next. We decided to go on a power walk around the neighborhood because that’s when the contractions were really awesome that afternoon.

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Erik put Eden to bed and Sarah stayed with her while we walked around the neighborhood. Sure enough, the contractions became strong and frequent again! Home once more, we put on some lovely dance music and I labored all around the house, bending forward during contractions and really leaning into the pain. I have learned as a doula that the contractions that hurt the worst, dilate the strongest. I found my contractions particularly powerful when I leaned forward on the kitchen counter and relaxed my lower back, almost bringing my bottom in. So I made myself do it, again and again, beginning to feel like this wasn’t necessarily “pain” but “power.”

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Sarah’s confident but gentle massages were the perfect touch during these contractions. They were grounding and affirming.

I also made myself my favorite snack: cheese and apple, reveling in my ability to do this in my own home while laboring.

As I entered the fuzzy, lovey realm of Laborland I began smiling spontaneously through contractions. I don’t know where the impulse came from but once it began it was amazing the difference it made in how I experienced the “pain.” I felt exquisite love and joy. I felt soft and close to the divine. I was intimately connected and in tune with Baby, and we were dancing.

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I moaned the ancient, low moan that brings babies earthside, often chanting, “opening.” I began to go deeper. Erik swayed with me, and we admired the pictures of our family hanging above the buffet table and my eyes swelled with tears in deep, crazy love for our Eden and all that we have been through in the last four years. We kissed. We pressed our foreheads together. We held our baby, cradled only for a few more hours in my womb.

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Laboring by our fireplace was deeply comforting. I enjoyed the hands and knees position, and I also sat, legs spread before the fireplace, staring into the flames and allowing the expansions to open me more. Eloisa Cary and student midwife, Mary Burgess walked in and had a seat at the dining room table while I finished my contraction. I have no idea what time it was but it was before midnight. Soon Eloisa checked me, and I anticipated possibly still being somewhere around 5 centimeters. I knew I was having too much fun to be much further. But Eloisa’s face told me something significant had changed. I asked how much. She said, “Are you sure you want numbers?” I said yes and she responded, “You are 8 centimeters dilated.” My eyes popped open in total shock and I instantly began trembling again, thrilled with the news that I was already so close and having what I would describe as an overall, blissful, love filled labor. I didn’t even know this was possible. I had never believed the stories after what I went through in delivering Eden. Every birth I attend humbles me, and my own would be no different.

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Erik immediately moved Eden into her own bed and began filling the tub with hot water. I continued my laboring in the bedroom and found some powerful contractions on the toilet. I loved being in there, all by myself, door shut and safe in my candle-lit cave. My home. My things. My comforts. The trembling stopped when I found my center in there, and I emerged into the bedroom ready to take on transition with great courage. But the contractions continued to be glorious and I continued to smile and beam love from my heart, unrelenting, impossible to retain, impossible not to feel. I looked around my room at the affirmations I had so lovingly made for myself, to remind myself to stay present and trust, to let it be, to have total self-reliance. “It is perfect.” And it was.

“Beginner’s Mind” is a concept from the book Mindful Birthing that resonated tremendously throughout this labor.DSC_0022

“The way out is through” is a powerful affirmation I have used many times over the last year since I went through the Presence Process meditation practice. The picture on the left is one Erik drew during a childbirth class we took with Mary Burgess four years ago and it says “We are all together.” The drawing on the right is what I drew in my doula training when asked to draw our own personal, ideal birth. DSC_0024

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The symbol Amy drew to remind me to find an anchor in my breath.DSC_0030

“You are not your thoughts” is from Mindful Birthing, “You are everything you need” was suggested to me by Laura Krupa and definitely was one of my most powerful affirmations.DSC_0033

“Rest in Love,” thank you Jan. To remind me to stay present and that means instead of spending the breaks between contractions dreading the next one, to feel the endorphins and oxytocin and enjoy the rest.DSC_0034

“Letting Be” is above all my most favorite affirmation from Mindful Birthing. I have spent my whole life resisting discomfort, and I have spent the last year trying to re-wire my brain to let what’s happening, happen. To let it be the medicine I need.DSC_0035

From Chaya, a sweet poem.DSC_0045

The midwives sat on the bed, jovial and relaxed. Their energy of faith in birth and in me gave me so much peace. Sarah continually brought me recharge and provided a comforting touch while I labored on the birth stool.

Catriona Munroe of Gentle Hands Midwifery, Mary Burgess, my previous childbirth teacher and doula who is now their student midwife, and Eloisa Carey of Gentle Hands.DSC_0065

Sarah providing comfort measures.DSC_0021

Recharge.DSC_0026

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The contractions continued to be powerful but not in the way I remembered transition contractions to be. The midwives had mentioned that when I was at 8 centimeters, baby’s head had not yet descended, and it was probably because my bag of waters was still intact. I personally have nothing against AROM (artificial rupture of the membranes) under circumstances like mine and have seen it be exactly what a mother needed to progress. Although there was nothing slow about my labor, I felt so, so ready to take on transition and begin the elation of pushing that I recalled from Eden’s birth. So I asked the midwives to go for it.

Mary ruptured my membranes and I was ready for action. I got in the perfectly warm tub, opened the blinds, and took some deep breaths for what was to come. Mary warned me, “Okay Laura, the contractions are going to feel quite a bit different now that his head is pressing on your cervix, and they will begin to pile up on top of each other. Dig deep for courage.” I nodded, knowing I had everything I needed to take this on.

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I love you Erik. Thank you for always believing in me.DSC_0066

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Soon the infamous transition contractions came upon me like thunder and swept the ecstasy right out from under me. I noticed that there was a peak of about 10 seconds to each of them that were outright unmanageable, but that all I had to do was get through those 10 seconds to get back to the manageable discomfort, where I could find my rhythm again. Although the pain was startling and the smiling was done, I began having overwhelming waves of oxytocin that made my eyes roll into the back of my head. I felt myself riding these waves like a rockstar surfer, always staying on top of it, always being capable of getting through. I was proud of myself, even deep in Laborland, so proud of my ability to surf. I knew that soon I would be pushing and the pain would be over. That’s how I remembered my labor with Eden and I had no doubt in my mind.

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However, one thunder wave crashed into me and my body heaved into several pushes. I rode out the wave and shouted out “That was pushy!!” to whoever was listening. So excited. I heard some cheers and rested while waiting for the next one. Eloisa suggested that if we wanted Eden to be present for the baby’s birth, Erik ought to wake her up now. So he did. She was reluctant to wake up at first and wanted to go back to sleep, but Erik said, “This only happens once,” and apparently that’s all she needed to hear. She remembered how badly she wanted to be present for the birth of her brother and she clung to Daddy and slowly opened her eyes.

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The pushing contractions were unexpectedly and outrageously painful. It was a pain I had not yet experienced in this life. My back felt like it might break open right before each push, and each push felt like it wasn’t pushing the baby anywhere. After a while I began losing fortitude and when a contraction would come I truly felt dread and didn’t know if I could do it anymore. During one rest between contractions, Sarah reminded me, “Good, Laura, you’re resting between contractions just like you hoped to,” which helped me remember that staying present was my goal.

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I asked, “Why is this taking so long? Is something wrong?” and I heard the sweet relaxed voices of the midwives responding with, “It all happens in its own time,” and “Don’t worry, you’re pushing your baby out, reach down and feel!” and so I did.

Between contractions I told Eden I was so glad she was there and being so brave. She and Erik held my hand for a few contractions as I screamed and shrieked through the pain.

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My most favorite photo of the birth, thank you SO MUCH Sarah!DSC_0086

Forty-five minutes later his head emerged. I felt like I must have torn in a thousand places. But a huge elation filled me up as I realized this was almost over. So I rested, waiting for the last contraction to crash and bring my baby to me. When it came, it took every last bit of soul, deep within, to become my animal and push his enormous body out. It hurt like nothing else had hurt. And then his warmth and perfection was weighing on my chest and I sat back in shock. Had I really just done that??

Welcome to the world
Mateo Banyan Moore
born Friday
March 28th, 2014
at 2:24am

10 pounds 2 ounces
21 inches long

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His cord was short so the midwives wanted me out of the tub and on the bed as soon as possible so as to not accidentally place his head in the water again. Once in bed, I began trembling in cold, but trusted my body deeply, seeing this familiar shake in many women following their birth. Within minutes I felt the need to push again, and the placenta was born beautifully intact. And not a tear on me!

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Our family is complete.IMG_5121

Mateo Banyan, one week old, more handsome than I could have dreamed, more sweet and tender. I have been waiting for you since the day Eden was born, and now that you’re here all my soul’s dreams have come true. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life getting to know you.10171078_1439030016336199_1816761390_n

Blessingway to Zwischen

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One of my oldest and dearest friends, Bria, threw me a Mother Blessing on Saturday, also known as a Blessingway. This is a traditional Native American ceremony that celebrates the mother’s rite of passage into motherhood. Usually these ceremonies are reserved for first time mothers, as I have already made my passage into motherhood. But I am blessed to have a group of friends that wanted to do this for me again! And days later, I am still feeling ten-fold stronger, lifted up, and affirmed on my journey toward labor and birth.

I am also incredibly blessed to be able to call Amy Lee, of Gaia Belly, one of my best, closest and most kindred friends. She gifted me with her henna talents, and improv’ed an exquisite mandala design on my 36 week belly while I was surrounded by most of my favorite lady friends, sharing in their laughter, joys, trials and tribulations. I received cards full of uplifting affirmations and love, hand me downs for the baby, and more cloth diapers! I was, and am, so touched by the generosity of this circle of women!

Amy, mode of operation: ((( art )))IMG952974

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Halfway through my henna experience, Bria offered to brush my hair, which traditionally is done by the mother of the mother-to-be. Then she proceeded to give me a head massage! My most favorite form of massage ever. I was in heaven.

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The heart on my chest depicted here was felted by Chaya.
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Chaya, Colleen, Bria, Coralie and Amy
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Laura Krupa joined the ladies for a picture. She took most of these photos.
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They thought it would be funny to fawn all over me for a picture. Coralie is blowing in my hair. Oh man I love you guys!!
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Awesome shot, Laura K!IMG_2925

Chaya
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Bria and Colleen
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The finished henna design!!10210_1431626607076540_1631872251_n

Took this picture of the gorgeous stain just a few minutes ago. It is magnificent! 37 weeks today.unnamed

An altar of some of the things my crazy awesome friends left for me to ponder. They each wrote on a pebble, something for me to remember in labor and beyond. Everyone picked a color of nail polish and painted my toes. Then we bound ourselves with a crocheted chain so I could feel our connection, cut and tied the chains into bracelets that each of us will wear until the baby is born. I also gave them each a cherry candle to light when I let them know I’m in labor, and to send me love and strength and the hope that whatever happens is exactly what needs to happen.unnamed-1

 

For days after the Mother Blessing I have felt continually lifted up by the spirit of the ceremony. I feel so much stronger, knowing that I have them in my backbone, believing so much in me and my ability to give birth naturally and at home as I dream of doing. There has been anxiety rising at times inside of me of the fear of active labor and transition. My labor with Eden was without a doubt the most challenging marathon of my life, full of love and pain, death and birth. I cannot help but describe what I experienced as part of me dying during transition, so that I could give birth to both my daughter and myself as a mother. I had to let myself become my animal and witness my ego/mind being absolutely destroyed as I lost all control of my body, flailing and moaning and shrieking at times.

That little death was the catapult for the awesome sense of transformation that I was left with and continued to be high on for the first six months that followed the birth. It is 100% the reason I advocate so passionately for making sure a woman’s needs are met during her labor and birth, so that she can feel empowered by her experience. No, I don’t think it is always enough that “at least the baby is healthy” when a mother’s vision of birth is shattered by unexpected variables in her birth. Studies have shown that how a mother feels about her labor and birth can last a lifetime.

Since the day Eden was born, I have wanted that sense of transformation and empowerment that I felt, for every woman on her birth journey. It is obvious that her baby and family will benefit from her joy just as much as she will.

So here I am, in Zwischen, in between worlds, about to embark on my next journey through death and birth. I am waking up in the wee hours of morning now, having contractions that feel fairly productive and then fade away. Last night I entered what I would describe as early labor after a day full of nesting energy. I felt a similar fear and trepidation rise as I did when I went into labor a few weeks ago, but something was different this time. I was still full on the energetic support of my friends, right wrist bound by our connection made of crocheted cotton. In a hot bath, shared with my excited daughter Eden, I breathed full and well through the contractions, staring at my colorful toes and knowing, really knowing, that I already have everything I need to meet my son with great intention and love. I know that I am strong enough, even if being strong means graciously flexing with unforeseen variables in my own labor and birth. I am strong enough to bring you into this wretched and love-filled world, son, and I am ready to be born, yet again, with you.

 

Surviving Preterm Labor

Monday was a normal day, but if I’m being honest I had felt different in my entire body for at least three days. I was beginning to feel pain from the stretching of my belly, my lips were swollen, breasts painful and sensitive, and I had this overall feeling of *hormonal* that is difficult to describe, but a woman knows it when she feels it.

Around 4pm I began feeling a strikingly familiar sensation in my lower back, but I didn’t know how to pinpoint it right away. It came and went, but when one of the sensations made me stop in my tracks, bent over and focusing on my breath my heart rate began to elevate in the revelation that this felt an awful lot like early labor. I looked in the mirror at my swollen lips and the flush on my face that reminded me of all the women I had been beside during their labors. I had an instant realization-panic moment. I am 35 weeks pregnant and this is too soon to be going into labor!

My belly began tightening with the lower back cramping sensations fairly frequently. I immediately got myself into the bath and had Erik download a contraction timer. Sure enough, the contractions were two minutes apart! And they were beginning to take on a more painful tone than the normal Braxton-Hicks contractions that I had been experiencing very regularly during the last month.

After a call to the midwife, per her request, I got back in the bath and tried to relax for 30 minutes. Erik continued to time the contractions, which remained at two minutes apart and averaging 45 seconds long. I began feeling the pulling apart sensation of my cervix dilating. We called her back and she sent us to the hospital.

It didn’t slow down. Not on the ride there, not upon arriving, not even in the triage room where you’d think the fear itself would shut the whole process down. I felt like a train was coming and I was not going to be able to stop it.

The doctor checked me and my cervix was dilated to 1.5 centimeters.

I was given Nifenidine, a medication used to slow/stop labor. It was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. The side effects were frightening. My face felt like it was on fire, my heart sped up and felt like it was going to explode in my chest, and I had almost demonic visions while laying there, just trying to endure it. As the side effects slowly faded away, I realized that I had not felt one contraction during that time. I felt myself slowly coming back to the room and breathing slower and relaxing, and with that, the contractions began again!

So of course they wanted me to take another dose of the Nifenidine. And I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I could withstand another dose. I thought it might somehow break my physical heart. But the look on Erik’s face told me this was important and I knew deep down that I had the courage, somewhere, and that I could find it. So I took the next dose (one third the dose of the initial given, thankfully) and the contractions slowed down again, but didn’t stop. But because they weren’t painful and resembled Braxton-Hicks contractions, the doctor saw this as a step in the right direction. She checked me again and I had only dilated one milimeter while in that triage room. With great joy, Erik and I walked out of that hospital around 1am.

It has been a few days and the Braxton-Hicks contractions are still fairly frequent, but not painful. The midwives believe this may just become my new normal until baby comes. They say as long as I listen to my body and stop whatever activity I’m doing if I begin feeling the early labor sensations again, that I may be just fine. So I am actively hoping for at least another two weeks of pregnancy before I meet our little guy, but also aware that I need to be able to integrate the possibility that it may be sooner than we had imagined.

During a visit with the midwife yesterday, we discovered that my uterus is measuring at 38 weeks! At 35 weeks, this is surprising, but especially when you factor in that I was measuring 32 weeks just two weeks ago; one week behind. Apparently Baby had an enormous growth spurt that may have triggered the hormonal messages from my stretched uterus to my brain to begin labor. It actually makes sense when you consider the fact that when I was measured last I had just come home from Yelapa, where I exercised between two and three hours a day. The last two weeks I have tried to get exercise, but it has been nowhere near what I was getting in Yelapa. It almost makes me wonder if my body was a little shocked at the swift change in metabolism, and just sent everything I ate straight to Baby.

I just took this tonight so you can see how BIG we are getting!
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All I can tell you today is that I am very uncomfortable in my body. I feel huge, hormonal, and can’t seem to keep up with my beloved daughter. I wake up drenched in sweat three times a night since I went into labor on Monday. Clearly I am a walking Hormonal Superhero.

I recalled a guided visualization that our doula taught us during her childbirth class while trying to articulate what it feels like to be in this state. She had us standing on a cliff, and then encouraged us to dive into the ocean, diving deep into the dark water to find the cave where our baby lay waiting. The experience is symbolic of a mother’s determination and perseverance during the challenges of labor and birth. How far is she willing to go? How deep can she dive? What is she willing to endure to grab her baby and take him home?

I pictured myself standing on the cliff, hair whipping in the stormy winds. Lightening shattering the skies, peering over the edge and enduring the elements. This is what it feels like to be in early labor. You haven’t even dived into the water yet but you are filled with the Creative Force of Life, whipping you, surging within you, pouring out of you, and you stand there grounded to that cliff, shaky but determined. You know what’s ahead of you, you know what that water is like down there, and you know you will do it and your inner animal will get you to your baby somehow.

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I am no longer in early labor, but I haven’t left that cliff. I am possessed by this surging, something I have only felt once before when Eden was in my womb, but it’s something I’m feeling again. I want to take a few steps back from the cliff and re-enter the world for just a few more weeks, but I don’t know how to get back there. My body seems to just want to stand here for a while, and me, the observer deep inside, is in a total state of wonder. What is this all about? What is going to happen? Will my baby be okay if I can’t stop my body from jumping into that water?

I am crossing off each day that I am still pregnant up until week 37, knowing that each day of development for our son counts, and hoping hard that whatever happens, we will all be okay.

 

 

Place of Paradise

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We came home from our Yelapa trip last Friday. It was the absolute best trip I have ever had! After five trips to this special place, this was the first time that coming home did not feel… good. Usually there’s some kind of relief in coming home to the amenities we love so much, but this has been a little different. The culture shock this time was in coming home. I won’t make a long, whiny list of all the reasons why, but I will say that something has shifted inside of me and I am grateful for the change!

I also feel a little like Super Woman! I accomplished everything I set out to do this trip, including turning thirty, celebrating Erik’s 38th!, getting a significant amount of incidental exercise (about 1.5-2 hours of hiking each day), seeing the humpback whales close-up and getting some great footage, visiting with my good friend Rosie and her new baby Rio, practicing my Spanish and feeling more confident, drinking limonadas on the beach, and having an overall spectacular time with my family!

Each day had a familiar rhythm. After breakfast Erik and I would take turns playing with Eden and doing the dishes, washing and hanging the laundry (which Eden did a lot of herself!) making the bed and tucking the mosquito net in tight, and sweeping and mopping the floors. Then we’d hike the beautiful jungle trek into the village, where usually Eden (and I) would need a refreshing drink at la tienda. We’d make our way through the hilly terrain of the village and down the steep stairs to the beach, cross the river (often getting our shorts and skirts wet) and then collapse at Elena’s restaurant, Angelina’s Gardens, re-invigorated by limonadas and delicious food. As soon as the sun went below the mountain, usually we would begin our walk back across the beach and river, through the village, jungle and home again where we’d plunk into the jacuzzi tub and get ready for bed.

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The clothes she hung to dry20140125_093646

Eden loved mopping our muddy floors20140127_091254

Once we went out dancing till late because Eden took a nap, but poor Erik had to carry a sleeping Eden the whole way home so that didn’t happen again.

And the night before we left, we had our first guests! No one usually makes the long trek out to our place, being that it is the furthest house out on the point.

We were blessed with many unexpected delights. I unintentionally changed my circadian rhythm to wake up around 6am to the stars and moon, so I would sit and practice my mindfulness meditation in preparation for labor and birth. It was a magickal hour for me. I would sit up on our floating bed, feeling it rock back and forth, listening to the crashing waves below our house, the crickets and other midnight creatures conducting their jungle symphony, and focus on my breath and the movements of our son practicing his morning boogie.

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I was also thrilled with my lack of desire for an afternoon nap! All that exercise and sunshine created a vitality I am not familiar with. One that is a challenge to duplicate here at home.

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And despite my concerns about potentially radioactive waters, I swam and swam and swam. Whenever I could. Sublime.

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I think what I am missing the most, however, was the endless socializing. After all the initial, annual reunions with the locals and other gringos, the rest of the two weeks unfolded as though we all never stopped hanging out. I just don’t know how else to put it. I enjoy that on the beach there is no etiquette about who sits at your table; every table is a communal table. And each morning our table would attract a common crowd that I grew to love tremendously. Eden would play with Maya, Logan, Josha, Alai or Erika in the sand while Erik and I drank coco waters and limonadas sharing enriching conversations with friends.

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We made some new friends that we ended up spending a lot of time with, Jamie and Zeke, and they brought us a lot of laughter and good times. I especially loved the day Zeke pulled out his guitar and Jamie and I sang our hearts out to Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin and other good time music. I thoroughly enjoyed Zeke’s reflections of his Ayahuasca ceremonies and describing the astrological revelations he made while deep in mareación. It was an honor to listen to he, and others, processing their experiences and sharing so much with us. The level of work these people are doing is phenomenal and ever-inspiring.

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And my friend Alex, a highly disciplined meditator, yogi and plant medicine devotee from Germany. I really enjoyed his presence and our conversations about meditation, ceremonies, dreams and out of body experiences. While he is incredibly intelligent and focused, he is also like a kid inside an adult’s body, totally in tune with the playfulness of toddlers (he is Maya’s “Manny” so he and Maya and Eden played a lot).

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Oh I wish I took pictures of Rosie and Rio! I had such a great time reconnecting with her this season. She has been like a mentor for me, and always has fresh advice on mothering. When we first arrived in Yelapa, she was a week away from her “inaugural shower” as she called it, which means her first real shower in the forty days following the birth of Rio! She shared a book with me that describes the “Golden Month”, which is an ancient (and current) practice in China where the mother rests and avoids cold for a full forty days after birth. That means avoiding cold foods and water, and the potential cold of taking a shower and having wet hair. Something about how after birth, a woman loses a great deal of “heat” and any additional cold could potentially cause health problems for a lifetime. With the tenderness of this time also comes a great potential for healing any physical ailments as the body re-sets itself. So as long as a woman is carefully cared for and supported during those forty days, she can experience great healing.

I wasn’t surprised to hear that this is a common practice all over the world; in Mexico it is called la quarantina, and also lasts for forty days.

Am I going to attempt it? I’m not sure. We live in the States, after all, where this kind of thing is not earnestly encouraged for mothers. To Americans, this is simply a “luxury” and not something to feel entitled to.

Thankfully I have a pretty wonderful support system, and Erik will get a month off after the birth of our son! The sacredness of this time is important to us both and we seem to have what we need to manifest some kind of Golden Month (albeit a little shorter and a little different) so I am visualizing a positive post partum era and hoping for the best. What it will look like remains to be seen! :)

This is the first year I fully feel torn between two places. There are pieces of my heart in Yelapa and pieces of my heart in Bellingham. I am falling deeper in love with Casa Ventana and our dreams of spending more time there in future winters. A great deal of work will be done in the house while we are away this year so hopefully it will be even more cozy next winter.

Now that we are home it is time to turn in and focus on preparing for our son to arrive. I spent an incredible amount of time thinking about what I would love my labor and birth to look like while in Yelapa, and life following. At this time I will focus on creating the best reality to support these dreams.

Whales and dolphins greeted us the first night Eden and I arrived20140122_182041

The top of the casita, or guest house, next to Casa Ventana20140124_085339

Travis traveled with Erik and helped set up Casa Ventana. He is pretty much Eden’s favorite.20140124_105017

Celebrating my 30th with a swim at Lagunita’s Hotel pool20140124_130648

Eden and her sand angels20140126_161712

On the hike from Casa Ventana20140127_120357

Erik and I on a chill day watching Eden play at la playita20140127_131531

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One of Eden’s all time favorite things to do: run around and splash in the river20140128_151357 20140128_151838 20140128_152035 20140128_152431

This view captures the distance we walked every day. Casa Ventana is the furthest house out on the point to the right, and where I am standing is the location on the beach we walked to each day. Whew!20140128_155702

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Same flower, one year agoIMG_0264

Those damn things are so small yet so powerful! Three found at Casa Ventana in two weeks. That’s a record!20140129_085956

One day Freddy took us on his boat to see the humpback whales close up. It was a mama and her baby! The footage I got was incredible and I can’t wait to work on a Yelapa video.20140130_133205 20140130_134305

The view of Casa Ventana from the boat20140130_135607

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Celebrating Erik’s 38th with a walk upriver! Unfortunately we did not make it to the tree house this year. But we gave it our all!20140201_113149

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Checking out a friend’s new maloka up river 20140201_124359(0)

Eden kept doing this crazy position throughout the trip so I thought I’d give it a go!20140201_125021

Celebrating Erik’s birthday with some old and new friends at Angelina’s Gardens20140201_172144

Dancing on the beach20140201_183932

Sweet child, getting refreshed with some juice20140203_110544

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Stealing someone’s hammock on the beach for a much needed siesta20140203_174710

Eden decided to draw her mommy on her foot20140204_091029(0)

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Limes from Blas20140204_103156

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Eden’s masterpiece of the “Whole Family” including the new baby brother20140206_080519

Eden drew the “Whole Family” last year, tooIMG_0190

Watering a new plant outside of Casa Ventana20140206_104514

Saying goodbye on our last day at the beach20140206_164220

Video

Charity Water

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The other day while Eden was taking a bath, she had her sippy cup full of water as usual, and she was taking a big drink and then spitting it out into the bath. This is super fun for toddlers! It’s like their mouths become water guns and they are full of splashy powers.

But sometimes it upsets me because it feels wasteful, and so I told her how I was feeling about it. I told her that there are children in different places of the world that do not have clean water to drink.

“Why, Mommy?” she said.

I didn’t quite know how to answer this question but I tried my best. “Most people on the planet do not have very much money. This makes it harder to pay for the things they need, like clean drinking water.”

She went on splashing in the bath contemplatively. I added, “Sometimes when the children are thirsty, they have to drink water from mud puddles.” It made my stomach churn to think about, but I felt she needed to understand this better.

Eden looked up at me aghast. “Mud puddles? Why Mommy, why?”
I offered some kind of pathetic apology for the state of the world, that I am so sorry she couldn’t have been born into a safer, healthier and happier planet where all the children are taken care of. I was beginning to feel emotional myself, surging pregnant hormones and all.

I held up her sippy cup and said, “Look at this water. Not one spot of dirt in it. It is crystalline and clean, and you can feel safe drinking it. That makes it precious, so I don’t want you to spit it out anymore if you can help it. I would like you to drink it.”

Eden took one big gulp of water and swallowed it with a satisfied sigh following. And then this is where she took my breath away.

“Mommy, can we give them clean water?”
I didn’t quite know what to say, but I tried to use logic. “Well, Lovebug, they live very far away.”

“But then we can put it in the mailbox! With a sticker! (she means a stamp).”

“But how would we mail water, Eden?” I wondered.

“We could mail a box of water bottles!” she replied. Where had she ever seen a box of water bottles? We only drink tap water. I asked her about this. “At Trader Joe’s, with Nana! There are boxes of water bottles!” (sometimes her Nana takes her grocery shopping and she goes to Trader Joes).

“What a great idea! We should talk to Daddy about this,” I said.

And so we did, and we all decided to look into it, knowing that mailing water from here was not the best solution, but there might be a way to fund this kind of thing.

I was so proud of Eden for feeling responsible for the well being of these other children and for wanting to do something to help. My intention during the conversation had been for her to find gratitude for having precious clean water; it never occurred to me to actually try and do something to help these children! Wow, I really have entered adulthood. Eden is entering that sacred time of childhood of idealism where what is right is right, and what is wrong is wrong. It is so obvious to them and so clear that we need to act, not just shrug. She helped me to remember.

Of course, the day moved on and a few more days passed, and I got distracted in my adult terrain. But Eden helped me to remember again. She asked me when we were going to put boxes of water bottles in the mail box. My heart melted all over again, but we were in the car and then I forgot again!

This morning I encountered this website incidentally, charitywater.org, and I found that this charity donates 100% of the proceeds to the cause. I showed the video on the home page to Eden and she was so excited! She asked how they were bringing them water, and I told her honestly that I didn’t know, but that we had enough money to help them get some water. She exclaimed, “YES, YES!!”

Looking more into it, I found that the charity works directly with the local governments and its people to see what kind of technology is usable and welcome to drill directly into the ground to create sustainable water sources. How incredible is that? They are not just bringing temporary relief. Read more about their approach here.

This is a great example of how Eden is just as much my teacher as I am hers. I am so grateful that she has empowered me to do something about this problem. Of course our donation will not be monumental but I do believe that even the minimum ($30) is significant, and perhaps this will just be the charity that we return to again and again as a family to support the cause. I am sharing it with you in the hopes that you will be inspired to help if you are able as well! If you are able, check out their website and this inspiring video.

Beach Day and a Maternity Photo Shoot

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In dreams my family and I went to Teddy Bear Cove on a bright and sunny, cold Bellingham day. When I woke this morning I smiled at the dream but scoffed at the idea of sun. When I peeked out the kitchen window and saw the trees lit up with rays of light we thought maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea.

So we took off for Teddy Bear Cove.DSC_0727

Pretty dreamy, magickal scene! Steamy fog was just pouring out of the beach logs.DSC_0737DSC_0783

Eden, the explorer!DSC_0799

Making a sand castle with Mama out of broken sea shells.DSC_0822DSC_0828DSC_0833

Fun with Daddy.DSC_0862

Kissing the bro.DSC_0892DSC_0926

After the beach, we went to my mother’s house for a visit. Erik took some fantastic maternity photos in my mother’s garden. 27 weeks here.DSC_0947DSC_0978DSC_0996DSC_1009DSC_1011DSC_1026DSC_1030DSC_0021DSC_0051

Coming Out of the Closet — Confessions of a Frequent Flier

I had some experiences a few months ago that moved my soul, and all I wanted to do was share them with the world, but I couldn’t. There is a part of my life that I don’t share with just anybody out of a deep seated fear and shame that was born from interactions with people who didn’t understand this aspect of me in my youth. So I shelved this facet of my life and often pushed these experiences away, resisting them in part because I did not have the support I needed when they were happening. I have spent the last fifteen years feeling isolated and alone; my closest friends and family knew and supported me but often stared at me like they just didn’t know how to relate, so as much compassion and non-judgment I felt from them, it still didn’t soothe my unrelenting need for companionship on this journey.

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But I am approaching thirty come January. And I am months away from embracing the last member of our sacred family. It’s the new year, and I have resolved to be more authentic and honest about who I am. Sometimes it is more exhausting to be false than the pain it can cause to be true. I know now that I don’t need to be ashamed but simply honest. If I am ever going to find the people who understand me, I will need to put myself out there. There is going to be a price to pay: potential discrimination, judgment, accusations of doing devil’s work, all of which I believe I may be strong enough to handle now. I’m diving in on a leap of faith that with the potential bad, comes the potential good. There is also great potential that no one will really care, which doesn’t sound so bad either.

Since I was fifteen, I have been having out of body experiences. Every member of my immediate family had had them, as well as my grandfather and great grandmother, so there is quite possibly a genetic predisposition. I do not perceive these experiences as a talent or special gift, and have often felt that they were more of a sleeping disorder, scaring me, interrupting my sleep at night, and showing me things I did not understand. I also don’t pretend to know for sure what they are and whether they are “real.” All I can do is write each one down in deep wonder and fascination.

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To be completely clear, these experiences didn’t happen entirely naturally for me; I tried all kinds of techniques written of in books for four years before I had my first OBE at the age of fifteen. But strangely, it happened “spontaneously” in the middle of the night after I had finally given up on ever having one and understanding what the hell my family members were talking about.

Since that night, the experiences have never stopped, and I still haven’t had one when I set out to have one. Sometimes when I know the circumstances are right, I might hope to have one, but I don’t quite know what I’m doing that is making them occur. All I can do at this point is shrug.

My experiences most often begin the same way: if I get up sometime between midnight and 7am and am awake long enough to fully regain consciousness, when I lay back down to go to sleep, I literally witness my body fall asleep but my consciousness stays awake. It begins with hypnogogic imagery, and occasionally a mini dream, but suddenly I am aware that I am in my body, unable to move (sleep paralysis) and energy sensations begin to sweep over me. I feel intense vibrations that I can slow down or speed up, electric pulses, a sinking feeling, heaviness, sometimes roaring sounds or flashing lights. I often feel hands in different places on my body, just pressing. I feel vulnerable and can instantly see the room quite clearly through my eyelids. There is often a feeling of presence.

Sometimes I enter this state and immediately recognize it and have minimal sensations and just get pulled or tugged from my body by an invisible force. These experiences often confused me and I always wondered who or what these invisible forces were, but that deserves its own blog post now that I am coming into a greater understanding.

As you can imagine, having a handful of these experiences in one night could be very scary and disconcerting. But the interesting part is that after the sleep paralysis sensations pass, I float upward and out of my body and once I have left the room, I am usually in another world altogether. Once I am fully there, I do not have the same feelings of fear and vulnerability, and often have very positive experiences. Again, not enough room here to share what those are like.

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Around the time I fell in love with science, these experiences brought me into a sadness and depression. There was no science to prove that I was leaving my body, and no explanation. Science dismissed the whole subject and I felt carelessly tossed into the undertow of question marks. So I made the decision that these “out of body experiences” were simply an unusual form of dreaming that meant nothing. That becoming conscious while the body was sleeping was simply a disorder. It brought me into the world of atheism. I just could not bridge science with what was happening to me in a positive way, and I dove deeply into cynicism and anger.

All the while I was having more out of body experiences than ever. I would often find myself out of body a handful of times a night. One night I counted almost 25 episodes of inescapable projections, but I was so resistant that I had mastered the art of forcing myself to wake up by focusing on my pointer finger and counting to three, using all my will to move my body. The more I resisted, the more they happened. Finally I broke down and sobbed to Erik that I didn’t know what to do. In his great wisdom, he suggested that I try to make meaning out of what was happening to me, and completely stop resisting.

I had been a semi active member of an online forum for people that have (or want) out of body experiences (or OBEs) and lucid dreams for several years. These people knew me and I knew them, but it wasn’t very active, so I often still felt pretty alone. I have spent a lot of time wishing I could meet someone in the physical like me that I could just sit with a cup of tea and talk to. But this feeling became desperate a few months ago after the two very special experiences I mentioned above.

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I had learned to make meaning out of these experiences by creating intentions for these out of body experiences. For example, I learned in one of my many books that by simply announcing something like “I want to fly in outer space” will instantly propel you into the cosmos. So I have experimented with many different things, and I don’t always get what I wish, but I have never been denied the opportunity to meet my unborn children.

When I was pregnant with Eden during the first trimester, I announced once out of body, “I want to meet my baby,” and I met Eden as a four/five year old (blonde hair, black eyelashes, small nose, tanner skin than me, features I felt were impossible for my child!). I was moved when I found out via ultrasound that I was having a girl, but I am even more moved now that I am with that very Eden I felt I had encountered during that experience.

Last October once I found myself out of body, I asked to meet my unborn child. I was taken to a room where a newborn boy was wrapped in a dark blue blanket. So I went to him, and nursed him, and we communicated on an adult level saying things I don’t quite remember (but perhaps part of me does). It was one of the sweetest experiences of my life.

During the second OBE, I asked to meet my unborn child again. This time while I was hovering above the bed, an 18 month old boy appeared in light blue jammies, laying between Erik and Eden. He woke up and rubbed his eyes and came to me asking for “Uppie” the way Eden does. He had brown hair and brown eyes (again, features I am confused by!) and we went on a great adventure together, him wrapped up on my back and me explaining what OBEs are and that we do not jump out of windows when we are awake. :)

I was so thrilled about having a boy and by how much I already loved him that of course I wanted to share with the world! I still didn’t know quite how to do that, and needed support. So I went to my forum, and I told them I needed answers and ideas. I got little response and was encouraged to join their facebook group which was much more active. I was disgruntled and hesitant, having been content for the last nine months without a facebook account, but I wanted to be with them and I wanted as much community as I could find. So I created an anonymous account and have been using that since to participate with this incredibly active online OBE group, and now, several others. A lot of the great authors of books of I have read on the subject are there and often participate in discussions. And I have had so many questions. But it’s everyone there, people like me all over the world, that make this group probably one of the most special things I have ever been a part of. I feel significantly less isolated. I feel understood and I feel heard and sometimes I even feel helpful.

I also feel like I’m finally being myself.

But that has just been a feeling until now, because now I am essentially telling the public. All those times I was told I would go to hell — they were by other children who were too young to integrate these ideas into their belief systems. And with the logic of my adult mind I can reconcile this but it’s funny how I am still wired to feel this shame so many years later. So it will take some time for that neuronet to stop firing in my humble brain but at least the evolution begins now, with the moment I become honest and practice feeling at peace with myself.

I’m surprised by how much more I want to write and to explain, but I know this is already getting pretty long. I have a feeling at some point in my life I will feel compelled to write a book about this journey. But over the last few months while I have been contemplating “coming out”, I have been working on a separate blog that explains more of my story and shares some of my experiences that I have kept track of over the last five years. So if after reading all of this you are interested in reading more about this subject, please feel free to visit innerandouterspace.wordpress.com, and tell me what you think!

I’d like to end this entry by explaining that out of body experiences are not the biggest, most important facet of my life; participating on planet Earth as an ordinary person is my current focus, not leaving my body and escaping my physical form. These experiences can be enriching and revealing, but they are supplemental to the lessons I am learning in this reality. I have a lot of work to do here, of that I am certain, and there are many different avenues I am exploring.

Please visit www.nepelius.com to learn more about some of the art depicted here. And welcome 2014, I think I am ready for you.

It’s a BOY!

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I am so thrilled to be having a boy! It is a dream come true…

He is healthy, no concerns detected. And measuring one week ahead! If he is anything like his father he will be born at 10 pounds!

The day after we found out, I went out and bought some baby boy clothes.

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Eden and Vivianne went trick-or-treating together for Halloween. It was one of the funnest nights of my life!20131031_181850

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Eden and Corinn are happy cousins.20131101_194819

On our date in Seattle just before the Iron & Wine Show.20131104_173226

Erik, hot date.20131104_181223

 

I hung up this obnoxious orange fabric in an attempt to take pictures of this radiant child. There is a reason I am not a professional photographer… :) My sister is hopefully going to be able to photoshop the background out because these are too cute! I have never loved her so much as I do today.DSC_0062 DSC_0079

20 weeks and very content. I have gained 13 pounds and I’m feeling great! I ate pizza tonight!

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