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My IVF Journal

May 19, 2014

I began posting about my journey to motherhood on the previous post When There’s No Manual and as promised here is the journal that I kept for the actual process.

imagesDay 1

The day started out at 6:30am , crammed into the waiting room of the fertility clinic with about 15 other women along with husbands and partners and a loud tv playing morning news.  There was blood work, a quick ultrasound and then a review of the process with our nurse.  In a little over an hour, we were on our way – beginning our journey.
Earlier this week, my husband had picked up a colossal amount of medications that included injections, needles, alcohol wipes, vitamins and suppositories. We unpacked it and all the goodies took up our entire dining table.  Then there were the videos.  Every medication and its delivery system had an instructional video and by the time we were 45 minutes in, I was wondering if I really wanted to do this. My husband was getting aggravated that it was much more involved than the clean cut meetings we had with our doctors the office. We powered through wondering why we were mixing liquids with powders together and filling them into a needle – I actually got frustrated that after all the testing and money involved, here we were standing in our kitchen preparing needles to jab into my abdomen, like it was some kind of take home science project.
I sucked it up and did my first two injections.  Popped a prenatal vite and watched the season finale of How I MetYour Mother and then hit the hay.
Oh I forgot to mention that out of all those drugs on our dining table, my husband only has to take an antibiotic in the am & pm.
Day 2
Woke up a little sore and overheated. Overall the day was pretty normal, luckily there wasn’t an early morning spent at the doctors office.
I was feeling sort of bad for myself and on the verge of losing it before teaching my class. It’s not appropriate to share what’s going on in class at least just yet so it was hard to get into a mindset where I could be there just for the students. Then a new student walked in – a cancer patient younger than me with a stint and a real need to chill out.  The universe has funny ways of reminding us that we are all in this together in dark times and light ones.   Here I was feeling bad for myself and this student was dealing with life or death – going through something so much more challenging than me.  I was grateful to meet them and be reminded of this.
The evening ritual was a little easier to do the injections, though my husband trying to be helpful ended up nicking himself with a needle.
Day 3
Still strangely sore in the area of my back waistline.  Upon prepping for tonight’s shots I noticed a big bruise from yesterday.  The shot on the same side as the bruise also hurt quite a bit after so I iced the area. Tonight’s ritual went really quick.
Day 4
6:30am start – bloodwork and ultrasound. The good news is that I have 22 follicles.  The bad news is that the blood work is going to leave a bruise. They were a little quicker at the office today – in and out in 30 minutes, not too bad.
Shots were ok. I’m noticing that my stomach is looking a lot like a pin cushion but I can deal.
Day 5
Pretty normal nothing to report.  No early start, thank goodness.
Day 6
Early start 6am blood work and ultrasound on a Saturday. This means we needed to drive 30 minutes away.  It was my first time to the big office. Luckily they had some coffee and food set up. The waiting room was like a big hotel lobby with lots of chairs and lives eats set up throughout. For 6am on a Saturday the place was booming with couples that had a slightly desperate look.   We rushed from there to the yoga studio so I could teach my class like everything was normal.
Got a call later in the day saying that things were progressing well. Dosed up on one injection and added an additional injection to keep my body from ovulating – bringing the daily tally to three injections.
Day 7
Woke up exhausted and bloated.  Starting to even feel a bit mushy. I actually cried in the car on my way to class over the most trivial thing.  Today the needles on my right side were fairly painful, there’s a bruise there and though I try to work around it the whole area is a bit sensitive. Luckily they said that the egg retrieval will be in the next few days. Also there’s a bruise on my right arm that has been growing for four days. I feel the need to keep it covered so people don’t think I’m an addict.
Day 8
Another early morning at the office. There’s hope that by the end of the week I will get the eggs retrieved.
In the evening while preparing the shots we realized that we didn’t have enough of one drug which sent me into a bit of a tailspin. We had to contact the doc on call and finagle with what we had.  Overall I felt kind of crappy – I was tired and sort of nauseous.  The spots where my ovaries are, are sore and bloated. I will make it through!
Day 9
Woke up nauseous again. Early morning at the office. The faces in the room are seeming more and more familiar – we are all on this journey together. No one really talks to each other though. The nurses and phlebotomists are very nice especially since I see them every morning.
The decision was made that tonight I would take the trigger shot and get the eggs extracted on Friday.
It was a relief to only have to take one shot.
Day 10
Another early morning for and ultrasound and blood work.  As they reviewed the follicles I counted close to 27.  When I reviewed with my nurse, she mentioned that because there were so many eggs I would be pretty sore after and not feel myself for about two weeks.   This was not what they told me when we first discussed the overall procedure – aka you’ll have some cramping and be fine.
Day 11
We had to get to the big office by 9am. I checked in for the retrieval and my husband was ushered off for a deposit of his own. While I waited for him I was shown to a room with curtain dividers like an emergency room but much nicer and more serene. Seven women were having the same procedure that day. I was shown to my ‘room’ and given a gown and a bed, filled out some paperwork and then was briefed on the next steps. My husband arrived and the anesthesiologist came in to review my chart and the process. While we waited for my turn I thought how crazy is this that science can be so specific that they can pull out my eggs, fertilize and hatch them – and then put them back in!  I also thought, ‘wow I’m pretty calm’. I did a bunch of breathing and mediation leading up to this and really my thoughts were that I could fight it and make it harder or just go with it.  I chose to go with it.
It was now my turn and I walked into the surgery room – everything was blurry since I had to take my glasses off and not wear contacts. I remember there was some upbeat music and the anesthesiologist was chatting things up with me. As I was instructed to sit on the table placing my butt over the hole – it hit me that I was in for some crazy shit. I quickly dismissed those thoughts reminding myself that I would be sleep for this process. My feet were placed in stirrups and then my legs strapped in – again some anxiety rising up. Then my arms were placed out by my sides. The last thing I remember was the doc mentioned that my arms would be strapped down as well and then I was sleeping.
I awoke to my husband calling my name and asking how I felt. I did a quick scan of my body – I actually felt ok, definitely groggy but really ok. Before the procedure my ovaries were so big I could feel them like big rocks sitting in my insides. Adding the massive follicles I had had a dull pain for the past few weeks – now I felt like I had cramps but that was about it.  The doctor came in and announced that they retrieved 19 eggs – 19 EGGS!!  I felt lucky because we heard the doc tell the girl next to me that she had 9.
The nurse gave me a heating pad and I just chilled doing a bit of stretching as I sat cross legged on the bed.
They gave us some ginger ale and crackers – my poor huzzie hadn’t eaten anything all day either. The nurse came and brought me to the bathroom.  I have to admit I was worried that it would kill to pee – luckily it was fine. The nurse examined my gait to make sure I felt ok and then after they removed my iv we were free to go.
Even though I felt pretty good, by the time we got home I was sore and tired. Walking into the house was a lot. I went straight to bed with my weighted heating pad on my lap.
The rest of the day was sleeping and chilling out on the couch.
Day 12
Woke up a little less sore. Taking it easy for the next few days. I also think that the injections are done. Today it was an antibiotic, another pill and a vaginal suppository 3x’s a day.   We got a call, late morning from the nurse telling us that there were 12 eggs mature enough to fertilize and out of them 11 fertilized.  I’m pretty psyched and our families are ecstatic though we had to stress that those 11 eggs will not all be going back in. The wait now begins – in four days (5 days after the retreival) the nurse will call and let us know if any of those 11 eggs are ready for transfer back into my womb.
Day 13-16
Still sore after three days, they weren’t kidding about feeling sore and out of sorts.  Nothing makes a yoga teacher not want to do yoga like the threat of literally twisting your ovary – they actually told me this.  I keep thinking I feel ok to be back to normal but end up laying on the sofa with a heating pad.  I also am pretty sure I know what it will feel like to be 3 months pregnant – I’m so bloated and sore, not to mention nauseous and emotional.
Day 17
Got a call today that the eggs aren’t growing fast enough. My bubble has been officially burst. We went from 19 eggs to 11. And now it seems that 6 have stopped growing and the other 5 are still duking it out in the Petri dish.  The transfer for tomorrow has been cancelled and we await word if any of the eggs have grown to the size needed. Any eggs that make it will be frozen until after I get my period again as we start a new cycle. I’m hoping we get some that survive so I don’t have to go through injections again.
Tonight I just want to have a glass of wine and crawl into bed and cry.
Day 18
Got a call in the morning – three eggs made it. I’m happy and relieved that there were three but I can’t believe that we went from 19 down to three that were useable.  I was hoping we would have some more but I need to be grateful for having any. Now I
Have to hope that at least one takes. They are freezing the eggs until next month when they will transfer them back in. They will only transfer 2 and we will have one extra. For now I get to discontinue the meds and just wait until I get my period. I’m assuming its going to be a doozie of
a period too since my uterus has been on supercharge and I’m still pretty bloated.   I can do a little bit of yoga while teaching but I can still feel my right ovary like a rock in my side.  I’m still getting hot flashes but they are less intense.
Day 19
It’s super hot here. I have to teach all day in a school with no AC – I’m hoping to not get too hot. I noticed the bloating went down a bit more.
Day 24
Got my period. It’s quite a doozie and I’m an emotional maniac. Fun times. Good news is in three days we can get back on track.
Day 27
6am back at the doctors office.  I just want to get the show on the road here.   All the levels are good now back on the hormones, luckily no shots.
Day 28
Migraine
Day 29
Migraine
Day 30
All I can think about is this migraine
Day 31
Early morning at the doctors office. Bloodwork and ultrasound.  Told the doc about my headaches and she suggested coffee or coca cola. I opted for coffee – two big cups of it and my headaches subsided during the day.  Got a call to double my dosage starting tonight and now the migraines are back.
Day 32-37
Cranky and bloated with migraines.
Day 38
Early morning appt – the office was packed!  Took an hour just to get to the ultrasound room. Dr gave the greenlight to start prepping for transfer. That means I’m back on the vaginal suppositories but closer to getting an actual baby in me. Fingers crossed.
Day 39
The date has been set to transfer my embryos!  In one week we will have some babies inside. In the meantime, it’s back to some injections, this time in my buttocks. Ugh. I’m not too thrilled about this especially because we are headed to Wanderlust this weekend. Yoga- ing will be limited and I will be sore. But that will only be for two weeks. And the pregnancy test is scheduled for July 4th just 16 days out. Now the work begins to really chill out my body and mind.
Day 41
Travelled to Vermont for Wanderlust Yoga Festival.
Major ramp up of drugs.
Two estrogen  2xs a day
Steroids 1x a day
Antibiotics 1x a day
Plus injection of progesterone oil into my butt cheeks!  Let me tell you this was fun. My husband had to inject it for me but the whole process I totally dreaded.  The nurse mentioned that we could ice the area before – I highly recommend that.  Nothing’s more romantic than having your husband stick you with a needle in you butt, except maybe rubbing an ice cube there first while he preps the needle – oh yeah, in a hotel room.
Day 42
Felt pretty good after a full day of yoga – I did have a sore butt cheek and a little tiny bruise.  This evenings shot was ok.
Day 43
More yoga and now two sore butt cheeks. Had a realization in class – the teacher mentioned that everything you want and need is here now. I’ve said this hundreds of times to my students but hearing it as a student melted me. It’s good to practice through this.
Into the 4th class of the day I started to feel pretty wiped out.   After class I showered and got ready for dinner and a concert. I started to get really cranky (hippie/yogi intolerance rising up slowly) coupled with a pretty sore body but made it until 11pm.
Day 44
Sore. Tired. First class I got hot flashes and a little dizzy and had I rest – it wasn’t even a hard class!  After that I was useless for a few hours. Took a disco nap, skipped the 2nd class and had some lunch – definitely felt better. It was really hot and  humid so I’m thinking that got to me. I swapped out the last class for a Yoga Nidra class and felt a lot better for the ride home.  Tomorrow is the last check before the transfer. I’m hoping that the weekend away prepped my body to hold this baby.
Day 45
Early morning at the doc – got the all clear for tomorrow’s transfer. Btw by butt muscle hurts so bad!  My quads are feeling the effects of a yoga weekend.  Also I think I might have roid rage.  Ended the night with a vaginal suppository.
photo 3Day 46
Transfer day!  I’m trying to stay nice and calm. There were some major ht flashes last night. I got up and taught my class and then prepped for the transfer.
We arrived to the center and I was prompted to drink 5 glasses of water. We were ushered into a private room to change and get an ultrasound. That led to me having to pee bc 5 glasses of water is way too much.
The night before and morning of I had to use a suppository to relax my uterus – it basically felt like I had no pelvic floor and was steadily streaming pee since I woke up. Everything looked good and the process started. There was an ultrasound tech, a nurse, the transfer tech, the embryologist and a doc in the room along with my husband. There I was pants downs and legs in the air – it all happened so fast that I didn’t really think about it until after.
Then someone walked over to us with a print out (see photo) – it was a blown up image of the two embryos, which basically blew my mind. There they were – little specks of new life. The embryologist had them under a microscope in an incubator on the other side of the room.
It was then go time.  My uterus was so relaxed it took a few tries to actually get the speculum in. After that there was a long tub catheter. All along there was an external ultrasound going on. The embryos were transported from the Petrie dish to the catheter and we watched as the catheter was inserted and the embryos placed into my uterus. It made me cry. For all we know this could be it. We could have a baby or two in nine months.
I went home and rested keeping things light. The meds stayed the same.  Now the wait begins.
Day 47- 51
The continues. I have even really tired most days and luckily I can rest. Yesterday I had a lot of energy but today I returned to bed after my morning class. I’m hyper-conscious of any move and trying to not do much yoga at all while teaching.
For some reason the shots in my butt  hurt a lot more. Now all I take is estrogen and progesterone – it’s. relief to be off the steroids, I can already feel my body less anxious.
Day 52
I went in for my blood test to see if the pregnancy took.  It’s been the longest few days.  I feel crappy but am optimistic even though the odds are pretty low that it will happen the first round.  I’m nervous that we only have one egg left after this and am stressing about if it’s worth it to have to do this more than once.  I’m really anxious about waiting for a call with the results and don’t know how I will react.  One my way to the clinic to get the blood work as I turned on the car a song that my father loved and would walk around jokingly singing is on the radio.  It’s a good sign that of course brings me to tears.  At the doctor’s office I notice for the first time these light blue rubber bracelets (think Live Strong) in a jar on the counter.  I notice that it says ‘BE POSITIVE’ on it and grab one for me and my husband.  They serve as a good reminder.
I am at camp all day and can’t really use my phone there.  I missed the call from my nurse and had to work up the courage to check the voicemail.  It’s unnerving and I am afraid that if it’s bad news I will be useless for the rest of the day.  That was the best voicemail I ever received.  I let out a muffled yelp behind my yoga tent and hold back tears.  I couldn’t call anyone so the news was transmitted to my husband and then to the rest of our family via text message.  I am totally in shock.  There’s fear that this pregnancy will not take or last, but just like the rest of the journey we can only take it one moment and breath at a time.

when there’s no manual.

May 13, 2014

Image

In honor of my first official Mother’s Day this past Sunday, I figured it’s time to share some of my experiences leading up to becoming a mom.  Here goes.

Recently I was talking to a friend about how there isn’t a manual that gives you all the answers on this road to and through parenthood.  There is a lot that goes unsaid, a lot of crying at home alone or with your spouse.  There is excitement and shame, fear and regret – but I think it’s safe to say we all have been on this roller coaster of emotions in one way or another.  I am writing about my experience in hopes of supporting others and uplifting them in this journey.

There was no chapter in What to Expect about the perils of wanting to get pregnant or the journey that subsequently follows.  You get married, settle into that life and then the questions start rolling in…. so, when are you going to start a family/give us grandkids/have a baby/insert any prying pregnancy question you will here.  My husband and I wanted kids and tried right away, to no avail.  It was followed by a trip to the OBGYN where they said, wait and see.  I was getting older – in the standards of modern medicine (by that point probably almost 33) so I felt some urgency to get things rolling.  We were giving it six months and then my father passed away.  It took me another six months to even bring myself to thinking about going back to the doctor.  So a full year had gone by and we were left with nothing.

Then the testing started.  There was blood work and cultures, a trip to the hospital for a ‘procedure/test’ and every still came back as, you should be able to have a baby.  We tried IUI (intrauterine insemination) as a first stab in the dark and it didn’t work.  My doc had suggested it because I wouldn’t have to take any drugs or hormones.  I was devastated and disappointed; I was ashamed.  My friends and family all around me were just getting pregnant! which made it even harder to keep my head up.  I didn’t want to seem desperate and go to one of those fertility places, in fact, I didn’t really want to go through the process of drugs and hormones at all.  The thing was, we wanted a baby, we wanted a family.  I read the books and did all the weird crap that they suggest and still was coming up with nothing.

So in a fit of I can’t believe yet another friend got fucking pregnant!, I scheduled my appointment.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been very happy for all my friends and family that have gotten pregnant in the past years, but no matter how happy I am for them, there was a deep sadness that stabbed at me inside – it was dark and personal, something I meditated about and constantly try to let burn away.  I was trying to trust that it would happen in time, but I also knew from my yoga practice that you can’t just sit around and hope for stuff to happen, that sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and really do the work to get shit done, so I gave in and called the “Infertility” doctor.

I don’t like that term, infertility.  It’s defeatist and negative, like you’ve already given up before you walked through the door.   Really, shouldn’t their goal be finding and fostering fertility in patients – so why not be a little positive about it?  Maybe they should change their name.  Looking at the government data was kind of confusing, basically it states that about 12% of women or 1 in 8 couples in the US have fertility problems.  The number seems low to me – since we started the process, I’ve been very candid and open so people know that we are doing this.  I found that a lot more couples had to do fertility treatments than I would have expected.  Here’s a link to some interesting fertility facts.

So we had our appointment and more testing followed.  I think they took half of my blood supply, did about 100 ultrasounds (internal and external) and even tested my husbands blood and sperm.  Note to men: if all you have to do is give some blood and, ahem, a deposit into a cup, count yourself among the lucky and suck it up.  After a month or so of tests and follow up, they may or may not have determined the cause of why we weren’t getting pregnant.  The prognosis was that it was very, very unlikely that without intervention we would get pregnant.  They suggested IVF with what is called the ICSI method that basically takes the sperm and injects it into the egg.  I believe this is part of what they call ‘assisted hatching’ where they then watch the eggs and see if they grow.  The downside – it was something like a 30% chance that it would work AND we  (by we I mean me) had to do all the drugs.

I really didn’t want to do it, but as a last ditch effort we opted for one round.  The process was explained to us in really clinical and clean terms, like it was going to be an easy, emotion-less process (WRONG!).  The important part (to them) was the insurance and money crap, which was sort of astronomical.  They had that part down though – this could be a whole long blog in itself, maybe later.  We signed our lives away and hoped that this would work.

I kept a journal of the process so I could remember and share with others.  I will put that in the next post.

ashes and pinecones.

April 9, 2012

Today was Easter Sunday.  In the days leading up to the holiday, we celebrated Maundy Thursday with a dinner at church and Passover Seder Dinner with family.  Then on Saturday I got to take a yoga workshop that kicked my butt.  I have been reminded lately that the challenges of my practice — the rise in body temperature, the deepening of my breath, the challenge of a difficult pose — all help me to step things up both on and off the mat.  It’s interesting how creating heat in my body and in my life helps me to withstand the heat in other areas of my life.

After a challenging practice there is usually a time of reflection – a meditation, a resting pose – in which I find a deep solace and reinforcement of my own strength.  True to form, at the end of five hours of practicing yesterday I spent the last few minutes of the workshop meditating on how grateful I am for all that I have and all that I don’t have anymore.  I felt that on Saturday afternoon and then today I got to church and cried for what I didn’t have, for loss and what is no longer here.

Resurrection Sunday is always an interesting one.  My days at Bible college made it seem like the resurrection was the pinnacle to our existence – Jesus rose from the dead!  Cue the Ha-lle-lu-jahh choir!  But, what the heck does that mean really?  And how do I, as a not so Jesus-y yogi, apply this to my life?  How does this all fit into this blog post? (stick with me)

In the past few weeks, I have been contemplating this story as interpreted from Bill Mahoney

In the beginning there is nothing, represented here by a formless ocean. All is in darkness. Yet, this ocean is the infinite reservoir of pure potential, the ultimate source of all possibilities. Lord Vishnu, the All-Pervader, dozes on the ocean’s waves. In this darkness, Vishnu opens his eyes, and as he does so, Lord Brahma, the divine Creator, emerges from Vishnu’s navel on a beautiful lotus blossom. Drawing material from the ocean of possibilities, Brahma fashions the universe, bringing it into existence like an artist creates a work of art. Once Brahma has created the world, Vishnu supports it, for …he is the divine Sustainer and the King of Dharma. When it comes time for that world to be transformed, Lord Shiva, the Benevolent One, dissolves it back into the ocean of formless potential. Vishnu again dozes on its waves. Then, he again opens his eyes, and Brahma creates a new world, renewed and enlivened again by the power of Vishnu’s support.

In a lot of ways I think these stories can relate to each other, there is this cycle that we live through in many ways — things are created constantly, they are sustained and then transformed/destroyed, later to be re-created.   The names have been changed to protect the innocent – if you can see past that, can you see the connection?  No matter what you subscribe to in the beliefs department, there is some way this story shows it face.

This morning our pastor, PK, told a story of resurrection, she read the Bible story and then spoke about suffering and getting past or through it, then she told a story about pinecones – this is why I love going to church.   The story was about the Yellowstone fires of 1988.  The fires devastated about 24% of the pine tree population and a little over a third of that park.  I did some research this evening and found that many believed that this would be this fire would leave the land scarred and barren for decades to come.  Interestingly enough there was a certain pine tree that was burned during this time called the Lodgepole pine; it produces conventional pine cones like you or I see around here but also these ‘serotinous cones’ or pine cones covered in resin.  These cones only open when exposed to ‘great heat’.

PK explained, a year after the fire, the expected barren ash filled land had saplings all around.  It was this exposure to great heat that caused the new seeds to disperse and consequently start a new cycle, a rebirth — albeit a resurrection of what was thought to be totally gone.  One article made note to say that this is intense fire and rebirth was a common occurrence, seeming strange to us because the cycle can sometimes be longer than our lifespan, but this happens – the forest flourishes and then is wiped out, only to be created again.

I love the idea of the seeds being released under extreme conditions, the mere fact that they are created in that way makes me smile.  I wondered how alike we are with those trees and cones – we grow tall and life becomes grand and eventually something knocks us on our ass.  We think, this is it – it’s never going to get better and yet life goes on.

When I thought about the heat, I remembered sweating in class, not just this weekend but many times, the thousands of kicks into a handstand, the challenge of a vashistasana, or a hanumanasana — I remembered how getting to the  crux of the challenge really made a difference, even if I didn’t get the intended pose the first few (hundred) times.  The experience was small and just on my mat, but it also played out so many times in these past few months off the mat — when life was a lot harder than a hanumanasana.

We each have these reserves stored away – to help get us through to the next level, for some that next level is a more advanced practice and for others it is just moving on after the smoke clears and letting go of what was lost to get there.  They are hidden and sealed waiting for the heat to turn up, to open us to a new experience and new growth.

Back to Bill Mahoney for the end here:

…remember the ocean of infinite possibilities. Be like Shiva in this narrative: dissolve what needs to be transformed. Be like Vishnu: keep your eyes open, align yourself with dharma and nourish all that is good. Be like Brahma: draw on that power of creativity that moves within you. It will help you as you renew the best of what has been, just as as it also supports you in fashioning a new world.

So, happy Easter.  Happy Passover.  Happy renewal of all sorts.  Remember those little seeds, bījas, that contain all the possibility for something beautiful and new.

open hands.

February 23, 2012

A few months back, I sat alongside some of my closest and dearest yoga teacher friends excitedly listening to our teacher, John Friend, speak about the Dharma of Relationships.  I was still in a very raw state after the tragic loss of my father in an accident and subsequent loss of my uncle to cancer.  I was welcomed by John, and we lovingly exchanged words, hugs and tears over the situation.  I found it very sweet that he even knew about it and had the sweetness to be sincere with me about such a hard time.  The workshop came at a really hard time but helped me to focus and choose that which is life-enhancing.  I felt deeply blessed that I had found yoga and the it was such a big part of my life.

There was a point during the last day of the Teachers Intensive where we meditated and John spoke about how we must choose to keep our hands open to life and that every relationship, every experience for that matter, is like a little bird that can land in our hands.  We have the choice to squeeze and try to grasp onto it, or the choice to love and enjoy it for what it is, knowing that one day it can fly away and possibly never come back.  It was at that moment that I really broke down.  Every relationship in our lives will end in one way or another — the thing is that it’s so damn hard when they do end, even when it is our own choice.

Having lost two of the the most important people in my life, I was moved by this idea of keeping my hands and essentially my heart open to life.   A week after that workshop I got a tattoo of a bird on my inner forearm.  It was a tattoo that my father had on his arm and the actual meaning of the bird originates from sailors who would cross the equator and get the tattoo upon their return.  In some ways for me it represented the sentiments of having gone to hell and back but also as a reminder to always keep my heart and hands open to life — my father wouldn’t have had it any other way.  When I am practicing, or teaching or even just working my day job I can glance down and see the bird on my arm.  Sometimes it startles me, sometimes it makes me cry and mostly it makes me smile remembering that life is too short to hold on too tight.

The past few weeks or so has been fraught with drama and loss – this time from my yoga community.  Accusations turned into truths — turned into a total upheaval of my yoga world which for the past 7 months had been such a boon to my survival.  At this point, I don’t even know what to call what and how I teach, all of my training comes from John and a lineage of spectacular teachers that were trained in the Anusara method.  It felt like another loss of a loved one to hear the truth and then see our community crumble from loss and anger.

I do no agree with John Friend’s actions and reactions but I do know this — we are all human and falter, our systems and organizations will never be perfect.  I don’t condone the actions that occurred but now that they have been brought to light, isn’t it more important to acknowledge both the good and the bad and then move on?  It’s been a really difficult few weeks of teaching from my heart when my heart is confused and yet again broken, but I still get up and teach because in the teaching I remember to keep my hands open as an offering but also to receive and learn.

I come from a family of recovering addicts; people who hit rock bottom and decided that it was their second chance was their last chance at life — namely my father.  Dad was a great man and who he was, was directly due to the fact that he had the humility to always remember that but for the grace of God, that fucked up person next to him could have been him (or you, or me).  I think about that a lot lately.  I wonder, what would he say about the man that hit him and his best friend?  Knowing my father, he would have known that it could have been him there on the other side of that accident.  I hope in many ways that John and all of us can be willing to see where we hit bottom (when we really do) and then pick ourselves up and do the work – our practice, a practice of love and remembrance for what is important.  We can use everything as an opportunity to remember how lucky we are that the Universe chose to embody us in all our brokenness.

I celebrate my 34th birthday this Saturday – it’s strange to think about celebrating life, another year.  I feel old – not old like an old lady, but old in experience, albeit wisdom to some degree.  Things go on — they keep going on, they fall apart and then come back together again.  Life is about how you can enjoy the times when things are together and how you can stand strong when things fall to shit.  This is my practice on and off the mat, finding strength when I thought all was lost and remembering to let things fall apart so that new things can build up even when fear and anger cloud my view.  No matter what — each cycle brings a new understanding, a new wisdom.

With my hands (and heart) open, I welcome in this new year.

always a student, sometimes a teacher.

November 7, 2011

My Teacher Trainging Group - 2006

This fall, marks my five year anniversary of teaching Anusara Yoga!  FIVE freaking years and I still feel like a newbie. It’s amazing how time flies and how like anything that you put your mind to there are highs and lows, peaks and plateaus.  But here I am now finally coming up for air and gearing up to start video taping my classes to move closer to full on Anusara Certification Status.  It’s a long road but totally worth it, and I’ve only just begun.

Last week, I had the honor of taking a class of a fellow yogi, Amanda, along with my teacher who was observing Amanda for her Anusara-Inspired Status.  It was after our crazy snow in October storm and as luck would have it there were three teachers taking the class along with a regular.  It was a great experience to just be there and take class – to be a student.  At the end Amanda commented on how great it was to have three of her teachers taking her class.  I thought about that during class – how I was actually a teacher of hers and that here I was taking her class!  I thought, this must be one of the best things to experience as a teacher that your student gets to teach you; it was a very sweet realization.

There’s a new crop of teachers coming up at our studio.  The three-part Immersion ended over the summer and the Teacher Training has begun.  I arrived after the first weekend to teach my class and I saw a group of totally overwhelmed future teachers with that look in their eyes.  If you are a teacher you know that look, you have felt that feeling and fear behind that look – the, how the hell am I ever going to be a teacher and somehow put all this stuff I am learning into a class? – look.  The thing I heard over and over again was – it’s just so much information!  So to you teacher trainees, it’s been heavy on my heart to share this.  By no means am I finished and perfect – I’m still polishing all the roughness and enjoying the ride, I just thought you could use some encouragement and love and know that we’ve all been there with that look and that fear.

I thought back to my first class that I was basically pushed into after my Teacher Trainer – Vishali – said to me, OK it’s time you are subbing my class this weekend.  It’s one thing to teach your first class but a totally different and overwhelming experience to sub for your teacher who also happened to be the owner of the studio!  But I sucked it up and planned a class.  I remember shaking and freaking out before the class started as I greeted the students with a frozen-fear smile.  And then just before I walked into the studio and took the teachers seat, I took a moment to say a little prayer.

The prayer was more of an affirmation.

I said to myself…. ok self, you have great teachers and had a great training and you’ve taken numerous classes and done countless practice teaching sessions –  and you have all the information and skills that you need right now, I am just going to be open to letting it flow.

The class was probably a colossal fail if you looked at what I had planned and what we really did.  It could have been better than whatever it came out as but it was the first of many times of me being an instrument of all this knowledge and beauty.   When I look back at my notebooks from those days, I took copious notes – but as time went on I just listened more and let each teaching sort of infuse me, the notes became more succinct and teaching became a little more from the heart.  There were many times when I walked out thinking – I need to quit this, that class was a total failure, but those were the times that someone would come up and tell me how one little thing really spoke to them.

Amazingly we have these Universal Principles of Alignment in Anusara that really help in I’d say almost all parts of our lives.  Here  are some things to remember as a burgeoning teacher or even for those of us already well along our path:

  • Open to Grace – all you need to do is be open to wherever you are right now (RIGHT NOW – being the key words here).   There’s always more to experience and more Grace to open to.  All that info from the hundreds of hours of Immersing and Training is a tremendous waterfall of goodness and you can just stick your toes in and go from there.  Grace is the sheer beauty that you actually have an intelligent and sophisticated system that backs you up if you just let yourself be that instrument.
  • Muscular Energy – I like to think about this as tapping into your strengths; you have to flex the muscles you have.  Just like in the asana’s you work the smaller muscles to make a difference with the bigger ones — and that comes by practice.  The first class you ever took had you use muscles you never knew you had and it’s the same with teaching classes – you will feel sore in your ego your confidence and whatever else takes a hit, overall it’s about conditioning.  Every time you feel like you fall down, just pick yourself back up and try again.
  • Inner & Outer Spiral – Find what makes sense to you and keep it simple.  If it doesn’t make sense to you quite yet, keep it for your own studies and use was makes sense and feels right to keep you and your students on the same page.  Remember that just because we sit at the front of the room doesn’t mean you are the only one teaching – I feel as a teacher I became a better student in every aspect and all of those revelations make you serve yourself and others more fully.
  • Organic Expansion - Move from your heart.  You’ve taken a lot of classes think about the ways you can be sincere and work on creating your own unique voice to all of the information that you have learned.  Sincerity and truth go a long way!  As much as you hold yourself to some criteria and beat yourself up for not following it, be open to the fact that the students don’t know when you go off script and out of what you think is a fabulous theme or sequence it’s the little things that you can’t even plan that really touch people.  When you move from your heart, other people can feel it.

So, SMY (and any other) future teachers – I can’t wait to take your class.  There’s nothing like hearing that first OM and realizing that the sweetness that you know and love as yoga is now something that you offer to others.

xoxox,

n

the thing about life…

August 29, 2011
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…is that it encompasses the really exquisite and wonderful things along with the really crappy, devastating ones. We look forward to the wonderful ones and dread the things that don’t feel so good.

I had a sweet student whom I have known for several years who has had his own ups and downs ask me how I’ve been. I just blurted – well my dad was killed in an accident. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Its like I have no filter and just drop these bombs on random people like students, vendors, neighbors. Part of it is that I am still in shock but the other part is that there is no easy and sweet way to articulate what happened. In fact, there is no real way of sugar-coating the bad stuff. My student said, we really don’t have a vocabulary beyond…oh, I’m so sorry and this sucks!

When we tell our children that a pet dies, we say they ‘went to the rainbow bridge’ and maybe that’s and easy excuse to swallow. But my experience with death is that it is what it is.

My first memory of death was when the Principal at my grade school became ill and died. Sister Michael was someone I bonded with immediately upon entering Our Lady Queen of Peace School in kindergarten. She was sweet and caring and due to her cushy presence, she also was a good hugger – all a prequesite for a five-year old to consider her to be cool back in 1983. I had met her on the day of my school orientation and immediately felt at home. She wasn’t even my teacher but she would show up magically in her brown and white habit with a smile and make all things good. There was something sort of ethereal about her.

A year or so later she passed away and I was devastated. What followed were a lot of questions and tears, not only from me but from all my classmates. We attended the funeral held at the Convent/Monastery that reminded me of The Sound of Music. I walked up to the casket and saw my beloved nun lying peacefully but I couldn’t actually feel her presence. I worried that everyone I knew would someday not be there in presence and that would really suck.

I suppose this was something a lot of kids were dealing with, so the school decided to bring us all to the funeral home to get comfortable with the idea of death. Writing this now I wonder if I would be OK with my kids going to a funeral home or not. Regardless they filed us into the overly-wallpapered and upholstered funeral home for a tour and Q & A. There were no bodies there but they explained the whole embalming process to a bunch of 7 year old kids, and showed us where they cremated people. It was a lot to handle and mostly just freaked me out but it did make me familiar with a place where I would see many people I loved be put to rest.

25 years later, my father’s wake was at that same funeral home. Eerily, it seemed like I was that 7 year old again, except this time I was there for a reason, yet I still didn’t know how to make sense of it in my head. That’s probably the hardest part about grief is that it just doesn’t make sense. Whether a person dies suddenly or over time, there is still this disconnect that we have and it SUCKS.

We have to hang out in the dark places sometimes. Let ourselves get comfortable with the idea that life isn’t always sunshine, roses and salted caramel gelato. My student said you know, this is why Shiva hung out in the graveyards, right?

In these tough times, I think of the Goddess Kali and her rough darkness. She is known as the destroyer but also likened to a Mother figure. And in some way with all the shit hitting the fan, I can feel myself getting stronger and being nurtured. Most of the time I feel like I might look like here these days – tongue outstretched in a sort of growl.

Sure, I’d love to think of something sweet and wonderful right now but a lot of times that just doesn’t cut it. All I know is that my father who was always there is now reduced to a box of ashes on my stepmother’s dresser. His spirit is around and yet I still want more.

tumbling.

August 22, 2011

There’s a bittersweet quote that goes:

“If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?”   - Rumi

I’ve been thinking of it often – trying in all the chaos of life to find how this all can connect to the highest.  Yesterday was my father’s birthday- he wasn’t here to celebrate it.  My sister, stepmom and our husbands sat at at Cheesecake factory sort of dumbfounded eating cake and doing our best to celebrate his life.  On top of it all his brother, my uncle, is laying in bed in hospice waiting to die.  There’s nothing spectacular and pretty going on.  There’s a lot of crying and brokenness in our family – a lot of irritating sorts of rubs in our lives.

As I thought about the quote, I remembered my rock tumbler that I had as a kid.  Saying that I was a nerd was putting it lightly.  I wore thick glasses, was chubby and definitely had a penchant for the not so normal kid-like things.  I collected stamps and rocks and took pictures of flowers and wrote songs about them.  One year I had my heart set on getting a rock tumbler for Christmas.  The tumbler as I remember it (and I am pretty sure the image to the left is the exact same model that I had – how many models could there really be?) was sort of like a mini cement machine that would turn jagged rocks over and over again to, in theory, create polished gems.

I don’t think we got many polished gems out of this thing.  After the first day, the sound of it became tremendously annoying so much so that it was relocated to our small crawl space basement to never return to the light of day again.  I bet if you look at my mom’s house it’s still there somewhere lost in the darkness – the idea, though, has stuck with me.

One of the first things I learned about tantra and yoga is that it’s about the friction – keep your mind out of the gutter, please – the idea that as we run up against things that irritate us, it’s an opportunity to go deeper into our experience of ourselves and the universe around us.  It’s easier said then done – especially when you are knee-deep in some serious karmic shit.  I definitely feel as though I am inside a rock tumbler these days – I am sure most people can relate to a varying degree depending on their current life experiences.  When we hit the walls, do we make it out to be the end of the world or just a detour?

As a yogi, I have hit many walls in my practice.  A few years back, I hit the wall of being really sick and having to humble myself to barely finishing a class; at the high points of my practice, I could totally rock and advanced class.  The thing is, you never know what each day is going to bring in your body or your life.  Putting the work in involves a lot of allowing your ragged edges to be irritated and slowly smoothed but sticking in it for the ride.  Each irritation leaves an impression that can be interpreted as good or bad depending on how you receive it.

Hopefully as we become more polished we keep the integrity of our strength and soften on the outside to be more comfortable with who we are  – just where we are.  I’m in for the tumble.

 

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