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Archive for January, 2012

The first three years of Ella’s life I went to very few Doctor’s appointments with her. These early appointments were terrible, filled with devastating predictions of Ella’s future. Doctor’s would pull out those charts, the growth and the developmental milestone charts. They would point out that Ella’s growth and development was not on either chart.  Doctors would explain over and over that Ella would never be able to walk, talk, feed herself or do anything for herself— that is if she lived past the age of 5.  I stopped going to the appointments, it was too painful. I drove Dave and Ella to all the appointments and waited in the car crying or sometimes throwing up in the parking lot until they came out. When the appointment was over I would make Dave recall and recite every detail, if he left anything out I would get very angry. Ironically, after those first few terrible appointments of Ella’s life the rest of the appointments were not so bad. Ella was growing, we were taking exceptional care of her, we taught her how to drink from bottle keeping her off a surgically placed feeding tube and she was happy. We found a good pediatrician in Baltimore who was positive and supportive of our family. However, I still couldn’t bring myself to attend any of Ella’s appointments. It wasn’t until we moved to Vermont when Ella was 3 1/2 that I started to go to some of Ella’s appointments. After moving we found a wonderful pediatrician, she is very supportive of our family’s choices of care for Ella. I slowly started to realize that doctors should be part of your health care team, they are not the all mighty predictors of  Ella’s fate. Doctors are just doing their job the best way they know how, making sure you know all of your health care options. I also realized that we needed to make our own milestones for Ella. Each and every day Ella is making incredible strides in her life, making eye contact, smiling, learning to drink from a bottle, learning to eat solid foods, hitting a switch with her hand for communication, using her eyes to respond to yes/no questions and so much more. All of this may sound simple when compared to a normally developing child, but for Ella and kids like her these milestones are just as important, difficult to achieve and exciting for parents. These milestones for Ella and kids like her should not be overlooked, they should be celebrated and applauded just as much as milestones met for any other kid.

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Anyone who has flown on an airplane has heard the flight attendant announce “Place your oxygen mask on yourself before helping others,” in their pre-flight speech (those people who pay attention to pre-flight speech anyway). As a mom this alway struck a cord with me as a selfish, even irresponsible act, “Of course I will always make sure my baby is ok before I take care of myself.” FACT: There is no taking care of your baby if you are passed out from lack of oxygen.

Several years ago when I returned to my yoga practice after Ella was born I finally began to understand this very important lesson. Taking care of yourself first only benefits those who you are caring for.

When Ella was 2 years old our family attended a Yoga for the Special Child training in Encinitas, CA, as I’ve mentioned before this was the first step in my long recovery from very severe postpartum depression (https://juliepeoplesclark.wordpress.com/yoga-and-healing/). After the training I began practicing yoga every day—meditating, reading The Yoga Sutras and practicing yoga asanas by myself and with Ella. I felt guilty taking an hour for myself and would always include Ella in my practice. After practicing this way for a year I attended another Yoga for the Special Child training by myself in New York City. I explained to the very wise and amazing Sonia Sumar, founder of the Yoga for the Special Child program, what my yoga practice had consisted of over the past year—practice each day with Ella always included. She encouraged me to take the hour I practiced yoga for myself, “Let someone else care for Ella while you care for yourself.” This advice was very hard for me to take at the time and took a long time for me to implement. I felt selfish and guilty leaving Ella out and taking an hour for myself. Finally I listened, as I began to practice non-attachment from Ella for an hour I found myself recovering slowly from my depression and I was becoming a better caregiver. This change in my practice not only benefited me if benefited everyone around me, I was more energized, more loving, happier and I was a better wife and partner to my husband Dave.  As I fast forward 6 years to the present I am still taking time for myself, practicing yoga daily, going to a yoga studio and spending time in an incredible environment with like minded people. I come home from my practice happy, energized and walk through my door to a happy Dave and a very happy Ella. Life is good.

I have decided to go to Los Angeles in April for a 9 week Bikram yoga teacher training. This will be a huge challenge for me in so many ways, the biggest challenge of all will be the separation from Ella and Dave. I know they will be fine without me, I just hope I am fine without them. Another lesson to learn how to practice non-attachment in a healthy way, be present and not dependent on those who I love. As it states in the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali find “freedom from ego bound rigidity” that we create in our lives. I will let you know how that goes.

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Recently the Bikram yoga studio where I practice has been very crowded, lots of new people and people who haven’t practiced for a while that made New Year’s resolutions to come to class. It’s always fun to have new people, during class I silently encourage them, hopefully, helping them to stay in the very hot room and get through the series of yoga postures. One day this week I found my ego beginning to spin a little out of control. I got to class early and set my mat up to practice, a lady came in at the very last minute and set up right next to me. She was new to the class and very, very physically fit, possibly a triathlete, here in Burlington,VT there are a lot of very fit people, it’s a city of triathletes. Not sure if I was annoyed that she set her yoga mat so close to mine or that I had to look at her beautiful flat stomach and long, lean muscles next to my Christmas cookie filled belly the whole class—-Whatever it was, I was annoyed. We began class and it became pretty clear that she was new to the yoga practice, not very flexible and not used to the heat of the class, she struggled through the standing series. Was I wishing her well during the class like I usually do to newcomers? No, I was taking note of each and every mistake she made. As the standing series of class was over and we were transitioning to the floor series the lady leaned over to me and said, “You have such beautiful form in the postures, I love to watch you.” Man, I felt like a real butthead, letting my ego get the best of me and run my mind with superior thoughts.  Once again I thank yoga for helping me to learn to check my ego at the door, it’s no fun to feel like a butthead.

Early morning on the Ganges in Varanasi, India.

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The purple couch, our house in Baltimore.

Dave and Ella’s tricks, our house in Baltimore.

Several times a year I clean and purge our clothes closets, linen closet, medicine cabinet, pantry, bookshelves and Ella’s toy box. I end up with several bags of trash, recycling and donations each time I clean, along with a huge sense of satisfaction for the tasks completed.  I don’t like to hold on to things that we no longer need, use or wear. I try not to place attachments on things in my life.

Last night as I finished my work I sat down to watch some TV before going to bed. I ended up watching Hoarders, a show about people who have extreme attachments to all things in their lives. They live in houses overflowing with clutter, trash, spoiled food, clothes and anything and everything else that they are unable to get rid of in their lives. It’s pretty scary the conditions that some of these people are living in. As I sat and watched the TV show I felt a sense of pride puff in me for the work I’d completed of de-cluttering our house, then I remembered the state of our house the year after Ella was born which de-puffed any pride in me.

We owned an old row home in Baltimore City when Ella was born. The house had cracks in the walls, creaky floors, a postage stamp yard and tons of character, I loved it. We lived in the house for two years before Ella was born, Dave and I spent most of those two years scraping and painting, pulling up carpet and planting a beautiful flower garden. When Ella came along we were pretty satisfied with our progress on the house and we had a beautiful nursery ready for Ella.

After Ella’s birth and spending 4 weeks in the NICU we finally came home to our house. I sat on our couch and didn’t move for much of the first year. I never cleaned, I let things pile up, get very dirty and cluttered. Dave didn’t have time to clean he was working, taking care of Ella’s multiple needs and a depressed wife. I stopped cooking so our kitchen was full of take out food boxes, Dave and I were both drinking very heavily at the time so our counters were stacked with wine bottles and beer cans, and then the mice came. Not just one mouse, several mice and I did nothing to stop them, I remember sitting on the couch watching them run across the floor and having no reaction at all, just watching. UGH, it hurts to think about now. Finally, my Mom, Dad and sister intervened while Dave and I were away exploring an alternative therapy treatment for Ella. They came in and de-cluttered and de-moused our house without a word or judgement —thank goodness.

By the end of the Hoarders show last night I felt a shared experience with the people struggling with their illnesses and clutter, just an example of the shared oneness we all have. If we look deep enough inside of ourselves we can surely find a teaspoon or perhaps a cup of someone else’s pain or neurosis. Although my house in Baltimore was no were near the cluttered houses on the show I feel that I can understand the hoarding behavior a little better now.

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