Archive for the ‘yoga’ Category

Recently, I’ve accepted more invitations to social outings, parties and engaging more in my community. Until now, I’ve been very happy to stay home so I don’t have to answer questions about my past. For the sake of my 3 year old son, Manny, I’ve been making an effort to be more social so he has the opportunity to meet young friends. Almost always, when I met someone new I’m asked the question “Is he your only child?” I know the question is coming and usually can gage how I’m going to answer well before I’m asked. Basically, there are two types of reactions I receive when I tell people about the death of my young daughter Ella. People who want to hear more, ask questions and stay by my side as I elaborate and, more often, people who don’t say a word, give a blank stare and find the quickest exit to get as far away from me as possible. When I encounter either of these reactions I find myself trying to make my audience feel better, more at ease in my presence with my pain. I create a happy ending to my story, wrapping it up, making my pain easier to handle. When asked the pressing question, “Is he your only child?,” I’ve at times answered, “Yes, he is my only child.” However, this response makes me feel extremely sick to my stomach. I’m betraying Ella and her memory. Nonetheless, when I answer “No, I have a daughter who died 4 years ago,” and I receive one of the reactions I described I find the need to “fix” their reaction. I emphasize Ella’s disability, somehow making it “ok” that she died because she was physically and mentally impaired. Wrapping the story up with my surprise pregnancy and happy ending of having a healthy rainbow baby a year after Ella died. This response also feels so wrong, as If I’m not honoring my own pain and Ella’s very important memory. In the ridiculous effort to make people feel better I end up making myself feel much, much worse. After repeating this situation many times over the past 4 years since Ella’s passing I’ve come to the conclusion that this, is not my problem. My responsibility doesn’t lie in people’s reaction to my story. It’s simply, not my problem, Trying to fix my pain for the sake of others is silly. Life is messy, difficult, and tragic at times, this is reality, life, in it’s most beautiful form.  I’ve worked very hard to get to the place where I am in my journey of grief. Trying to make strangers feel better about my pain in mere seconds is not my responsibility . I understand, my story is tragic, most people couldn’t even imagine raising a extremely medically fragile child who ultimately passes away at the young age of 11. They shouldn’t have to, it’s pretty horrible. However, it’s my story and if you ask about my history I will freely share the whole, ugly, painful, beautiful truth with you. Unapologetically. 33110026_10216902927027803_8192670681423413248_n


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IMG_3515IMG_3511IMG_2924IMG_2691For the past two weeks I’ve been having nightmares about Ella, Dave and the baby I miscarried in June. I have never experienced nightmares this intense before. Certainly not dreams so vivid that I wake up in tears. The dreams vary, but mostly they have the same theme, abandonment.  Everyone leaves me alone. In the most recent dream, I was standing on a bridge and watched Ella, Dave and the baby jump off the bridge. I yelled, screamed and ran after them only to be left alone as they were swept away by the waters below. I woke up in tears. Dave woke up to my sobs and he comforted me. However, I was angry at him for leaving me alone. This is crazy, it was a dream. He is right there loving and supporting me.

I have been doing some research on dreams and grief and it’s not unusual to experience nightmares. Reliving the pain of death and loss on the astral plane. I have been talking about my dreams to anyone who will listen. Several of my friends who have recently been pregnant reminded me that during pregnancy your dreams can be very vivid as well. There just seem to be so many layers to grief and loss that it penetrates every aspect of my life. This morning I was cleaning out the cabinets in my kitchen, i came across a few bags of grains and can goods that were several years expired. As I move through this journey of grief, loss and rebirth I feel like I am searching the dark cabinets of my soul and releasing the expired can goods of my past. I think about the times that I was angry, sad and frustrated with Ella’s disability.  How unfair her life seemed to be at times and the pain it caused me as her Mom as I tried to fix everything and protect her. These are feelings that I can let go of now because as I reflect back on her short life, she was a happy, happy kid. She lived a rich, full 11 years. She imparted her sage-like wisdom on our family and changed the person that I am forever. She taught me the most important lesson of all to always, “Choose love at every turn. No matter what. No exceptions.”

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385016_4737579919801_1728529784_nFor 11 years, I have been trying to find it in my heart to forgive the midwife and medical staff that were responsible for Ella’s birth injury causing her cerebral palsy and much heartache and pain. I have gone to therapy about it, silent mediation retreats, practiced many hours of yoga and repeated loving kindness mantras all in an attempt to forgive those responsible. Very often I feel as if I have been successful at forgiveness, however being pregnant and visiting the obstetrician has my resentment and fear raring it’s ugly head. It was just this past week that I realized that I was focusing my forgiveness on the wrong people. Yes, it sounds ideal to be able to forgive those responsible for Ella’s birth injury. To be able to think about her birth and not feel sad, scared, angry and helpless. However, it occurred to me that forgiving myself for having all of those unpleasant feelings is probably the likely first step to true forgiveness. I have been through a lot in the past 11 years since Ella’s birth. Unpleasant, yucky feelings are bound to surface when I reflect back on Ella’s tragic birth injury, the struggles in her life and her too soon death. Working on forgiving myself for having unpleasant feelings needs to come first. Sending myself loving kindness knowing that what I am feeling is natural. I am not a horrible, grudge holding person. I am human with the huge task of moving forward after several  tragic events in my life.

For many years whenever friends announced they were pregnant I would feel jealous and envious for their wonderful news. I felt like a spoiled child who locked herself in her room crying at how unfair life is. How is it that people can have two, three or even four healthy children and I can’t even have one? This, of course, made me feel like a horrible person who could not be joyful for my friend’s good news. Always, however, when I met the new baby my heart would melt and I would fall in love with the new bundle and feel nothing but joy for my friends. This is ok, it’s ok to feel this way, I forgive myself. I know my dear friends understand my pain they hold nothing against me and now so do I. Acknowledging these unpleasant feelings and giving them a name seems to be my first step in letting them go. Or perhaps not, acknowledging the feelings, recognizing that they are there and not letting them take over my life may also be the answer. Whatever the the road to forgiveness may be, I will continue move forward. I will offer myself forgiveness, recognizing that suffering is all part of the human experience. How it effects me is my choice.

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Bahamas Thanksgiving 2012

Over the past few months I have been trying to live with Ella’s words as my mantra,”Choose Love, at every turn. No matter what, no exceptions.” However over the past few days Sam Shepard’s words are over-riding Ella’s “Life’s a bitch with no prenup.”  Halloween was very difficult. I miss Ella every second and Halloween is just the beginning of the holiday season that Ella and I loved to celebrate. On Sunday, instead of sorting candy (trying not to eat it) and putting away Halloween decorations with Ella, I was preparing to speak about Ella at a memorial service.  The service was for all those who died in hospice care this past year. It was a beautiful service, although very sad, calm and dark. All of the things that we made sure Ella’s memorial services were not back in May. Dave and I spoke. I spoke about Ella, her loving nature and the positive impact she’s had in the community. Dave read one of her poems. We did it.  It was very hard, we choked back tears, but we got through it. Everyone in attendance was very touched and thankful to learn about our amazing girl and her incredible short life. However, for me it was a reminder that she is gone forever. I felt very, very alone in my grief. Silly because I know in my heart I’m not. I’ve heard it many times from support groups and others who have lost loved ones, that hardest time is 6 months to a year after you loose someone. The world moves on, many of the calls stop and people go back their busy lives. I sometimes feel forgotten and worst of all Ella feels forgotten.

Yesterday before the memorial service I decided I wasn’t going to smile all day. Life’s a bitch with no prenup was going to be my manta. I see many people all of the time who never ever seem to smile so I figured why can’t I be one of them today. I have a lot to not smile about– loosing Ella and having a miscarriage three weeks after she died. I failed miserably. I like smiling, smiling is my favorite ( to quote my favorite xmas movie to watch with Ella). Frowning isn’t really in my nature and Ella being such a powerful being has been re-enforcing her wise words in my head. “Choose love, at every turn. No matter what, no exceptions.” I will be ok, I always am. I will treat myself with loving kindness and take a lot of naps. Also, I just called a travel agent about a trip to the Caribbean Islands over the holidays. “Choose love, at every turn. No matter what, no exceptions.”  “Choose love, at every turn. No matter what, no exceptions.”  “Choose love, at every turn. No matter what, no exceptions.”

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Today I turn 40. Wow 40! It’s good, all good. My thirties were hard. Ella was born when I was 29, I spent the first 5 years of my thirties wallowing in and recovering from deep, dark postpartum depression. The second half of the decade I was figuring out how to be a Mom of a child with special needs. I can honestly say I am looking forward to the next ten years. I have been through hell, I survived, I am ok and now I am ready to be perfect.

When I look at Ella I see my beautiful, perfect child who is so brave and has overcome so much. I don’t see her crooked spine or her lack of speech or motor skills, I see my hope. She is a bright light, an inspiration. My reason for waking each morning. She is perfect.

When I look at my husband I see greying hair, IMG_7028lines around his eyes, a body that is a little less toned then it used to be and perfection. I see a man that supported me through a depression so deep that I couldn’t move for two years. I see a man that put his career on hold to care for Ella giving her a strong foundation of health and happiness. He is perfect.

When I look at my family, friends and strangers I see beauty. I see their perfection.

When I look at myself, I see a woman that has been through a lot. I have cried a lot, screamed a lot, cursed a lot, slept very little and laughed a fair amount too. However, it’s hard to see my own perfection. I notice the 5 lbs I wanted to lose before I turned 40 and the blemish on my forehead. This is not fair to myself, I deserve the same treatment that I give to others. So on my 40th I give myself the gift of perfection. I am perfect, just the way I am. I will spend the next ten years reminding myself of this everyday.

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IMG_6551This morning I taught the 9 am yoga class. Leaving my house early I drove past Ella’s school and began to feel a bit blue. I watched parents and their children walking to school hand in hand. Melancholy took over as I thought of Ella still in her bed knowing full well that Ella would not get to school until after noon. More depressing thoughts creeped into my mind thinking how I will never be able to walk hand in hand with Ella or watch her run up the school steps and so many other things that she will miss out on in life.  Finally, arriving at the yoga studio I unlocked the door and immediately put my ipod into the dock, Joni Mitchell began to sing. Busying myself with open details at the studio I put my blues on hold. I got dressed in my yoga costume (bikram yoga teacher language) and by the time I got to the front desk to greet the first student the song Chelsea Morning was playing. I stopped and listened as Joni invited me to Stay and talk in present tenses. My melancholy lifted, my heart filling with gratitude for all that I have to feel grateful for–Ella’s cuddles on the couch each night, her sweet little body falling asleep in my arms, and the purpose that is much bigger than myself that I have each morning when I get out of bed.

Thank you Joni Mitchell and Ella two strong incredible ladies, life is a lot sweeter because of you both.

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Reading my blog you come across a common theme or maybe I should say pretty solid fact. Ella’s sleep pattern sucks! A good night for Ella is going to bed at 10:30 pm, falling asleep by 12:00 am, waking again at 4:00 am, falling back asleep by 7:00 am and finally waking up for the day by 11:00 am. Dave and I have not slept through the night in almost 10 years. Even when I’m away from Ella I don’t sleep through the night. For the past 5 weeks Ella has been on a bender. She’s awake all night long, falling asleep at 7 am and sleeping until 2:00 pm. Needless to say it has been a very hard month for our family. I don’t handle this situation very well. I get depressed because our family routine is disrupted, no school, playdates or pool time for Ella, no yoga for Mom, less meditation time for Dad, AND Dave and I are exhausted. We have tried everything naturally possible to change her sleep . Keeping her up and very busy all day, light therapy, essential oils, ayurveda massage, melatonin and so much more. You name it, we tried it.  I finally broke last week and called Ella’s pediatrician in tears explaining that we were at our wits end and needed help. She prescribed Ella a very mild muscle relaxer to help her fall asleep. We had the prescription filled, sat it on our counter top and began perseverating about giving it to her. We have never given Ella any medication other then antibiotics when she had pneumonia a few years ago. We have always worried about side effects, addiction and all the other things that could go wrong. Dave has a history of addiction issues as well as several members of his family, issues that have severely impacted and crippled their lives. However, after much research and two more sleepless nights we gave her the medication and she slept!  She slept well and woke happy and ready to go to school. We are on our third night of giving her the medication. She will likely be able to go off of the medication once we have her sleep pattern switched. We are still working out the kinks, figuring out the best time to give the medication for optimal sleep. Most of all I am working on releasing the guilt and self-judgement for giving Ella a prescribed medication. A guilt that I have created for myself. The fact is if anyone of my friends was going through a situation similar to mine I would never judge them for making choices that could improve their family’s quality of life. Why can’t I give myself the same consideration?

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