Find Your Flow

"You're Different."

“You’re different.”  These words from my husband cut through me like a knife.  We were out to dinner after my son’s two-month checkup. I was swallowing the concern about him sleeping soundly after his shots, out in public at the height of flu season, trying to be cool and normal for my husband, and even more for myself.  I’m not different, I thought...screamed... In my head.  I’m still me!!  Please don’t say that. I’m just living in a completely alternate universe, with a lot more housework to do, and a tiny baby whose quietest sounds can wake me up from the depths of the kind of sleep coma you can only fall into if you’ve been deprived of sleep. In another room. Because I’m his Mom.

In the first week or two after bringing my son home, just before waking up, in some sort of strange dream state, my son’s face would zoom into my sight and I’d wake up with a startle, my heart beating out of my chest, and gasping for air.  One time, my husband was trying to wake me very softly, but in my sleepy haze, I envisioned him putting the baby in my face and snapped out loud “don’t ever wake me up like that again.” My eyes opened and I could see the confusion and a little hurt in his face.  He was trying to be gentle. He didn’t know what I had seen. It wasn’t his fault my brain waves and emotions were firing all over the place.

Sometimes I would wake up and, panicked, wonder where the baby was.  As if someone had taken him somewhere or he’d disappear into thin air while I was sleeping.  He, of course, was peacefully asleep right where I’d left him with my husband keeping an eye on him.

I was unsettled and anxious and feeling guilty.  SO VERY guilty. All the time. Guilty for not leaving the house.  Guilty for taking him out of the house. Guilty for not knowing what he needed.  Guilty for not having gone to the infant care class. Guilty for not being able to produce enough milk.  Guilty for not knowing how to entertain him. (I now know you can’t really “entertain” a newborn. He just needs to learn how to eat and sleep.)  

GUILTY FOR SLEEPING. (Really.)  Guilty that my husband thinks I’m different.  Guilty for feeling lonely all day while my sweet baby that I prayed for and longed for and begged for was right there beside me. Guilty for not feeling like dressing him in every cute outfit and taking pictures of him and posting them on Facebook. Guilty for the 20 unanswered text messages and phone calls waiting on my phone.  Guilty for not being on a schedule. Guilty for not being able to get control of my irrational feelings.

I didn’t fully understand the changes my brain was undergoing at the time.  This article, Motherhood brings the most dramatic brain changes of a woman’s life by Chelsea Conaboy in the Boston Globe recently brought it all into the light. I was aware as I must have heard about it in passing.  However, in my new mom haze, it didn’t really cross my mind or provide me any comfort.

This article is a MUST READ if you are trying to become pregnant, are expecting, or have had a baby in the last two years - or ever.

Perhaps with more information, I too, like Conaboy states, would have felt less guilty, or perhaps, at least less guilty about feeling guilty. Perhaps my husband would have been less confused. Perhaps I would have been less panicked about my weird visions.

Maybe I am different.  I certainly am feeling out of alignment lately. Is it all because I’m a new mom?  Is it that “simple” of an explanation? It appears the research is not yet done on this one. 

This expert from the article, quoting pediatrician and child development expert T. Berry Brazelton, does give me reassuring perspective:

“You’re frightened and you don’t feel adequate and you’re working very hard to pull yourself together, to start facing this child that you’ve fallen desperately in love with for the first time in your life, and you realize what a major responsibility that is and what a turning point in your life it is. . . . I see getting disorganized and thrown into a frenzy like that as a major opportunity to reorganize yourself and pull yourself back together and become the new person that you want to be.

Brazelton said that had been his philosophy since he began practicing in Cambridge in 1951. “At that point, everything that went wrong with the child was blamed on the parents. And the parent was already feeling inadequate and guilty, so it re-enhanced the feeling of failure. It seemed to me that was the opposite of what we ought to be doing. We ought to be building up a mother’s self-esteem, so she can pass that on to her child.”

What's incredible and uplifting is the idea that new motherhood is an opportunity to reorganize ourselves and become the new person we want to be. What an exciting time! How different our lives would be if we were prepared for such a major change in this way. When all the newborn dust and the hormones and brain changes start settling, who do you want to be?  THIS is a conversation I’m incorporating into my coaching programs immediately. 

But first, moms-to-be and new moms, please know you are not crazy.  Please do not get down on yourself for the flood of confusing emotions you feel. According to Jodi Pawluski, a researcher at University of Rennes 1 in France, who is quoted in the article, you’re going through  “one of the most significant biological events...you would have in your life.”

And to all the partners out there, if I can offer you one single piece of relationship-saving advice it is this:  tell Mom she’s doing a good job. Repeat it until you’re blue in the face. You’re welcome. ;)

Are you an expecting Mom or a new mom?  Has anyone discussed with you the changes that happen in a woman's brain from birthing a child?  And how about that #momguilt and anxiety?  Please share in the comments below!


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Mother’s Day: Brand New… Or Is It?

It’s five days before Mother’s Day - my “first” Mother’s Day.  I’m perusing through Target pushing a stroller. I catch the wheels on a rack as I turn the corner, again, and it’s clear this is still a little new for me.  I look down and the most adorable little face I’ve ever laid eyes on looks back at me with big, round, blue eyes. Eyes that remind me of my own, with lashes for days like his Daddy.  My heart skips a beat - bursting with love and amazement - I coo at him and continue to look for infant-sized sunglasses.

I notice a happy song is playing the background.  At first it registers simply as familiar, then I come to recognize it.  Then comes the pit in my stomach, my heart skips a beat, my throat chokes and tears spring into my eyes.  It’s “Brand New” by Ben Rector. It’s the song I played at full volume and sang to my baby I never got to meet.  My second pregnancy. My second loss. That baby took hold of my heart from the moment I saw the positive symbol on the pregnancy test. That was “our” song. When I hear it, my heart hurts. My soul hurts. I already knew this, but it is reaffirmed that the love I felt for him was real.

I quickly check myself and bring myself back to the present moment. This moment, this day, this week, this year has been filled with blessings and love and absolute wonderment thanks to baby Lucas and my incredible little family.  Everything I prayed for. But even still, in that same moment, I’m acutely aware that I carry those two losses before him with me along with my joy.

No single experience in life defines us.  A doctor of mine once gave me a powerful analogy to a chess board that has stuck with me.  We are the chess board - steady and constant. Each game piece is a life experience. Some are good and some are bad.  They move around and sometimes the good are in the lead, sometimes the bad are in the lead. Each piece is critical to the game, but the board does not change.  The board - we - always stay the same no matter where the pieces go. The pieces, our experiences, do not define us.

I’ve learned that the good and the bad can, and do, co-exist.  It’s entirely possible, and ok, to feel joy and sadness at the same time. To be grateful beyond belief and have grief pop up all at once. Especially in the case of motherhood.

I have said it before - Motherhood begins the day you decide you want to become pregnant.

And so, as I approach my first Mother’s Day since my son was born, I have already had three Mother’s Days along my motherhood journey.  On this special day, I will celebrate my son and my family with a very special appreciation. My heart is overflowing with love and gratitude. Lucas and I will dance to our song, “No Such Thing As A Broken Heart” by Old Dominion as loud as the volume will allow. He is my best bud, my love, my little miracle. I will also inevitably remember the babies I never met but who remain in my heart forever.

To those of you reading who have lost a pregnancy, I know Mother’s Day has meaning for you as well. If this day is difficult for you, that is perfectly ok. Talk about it. Acknowledge it. Seek support. Know that you do not have to push through it alone. Also know that it’s ok to find joy on this day wherever you can and feel it along with your sadness. Your experiences do not define you, and the good will inevitably be in the lead again.

What feelings and emotions are coming up for you this Mother's Day?  I welcome you to share with me in the comments below, or send me an email at ashley@feelfireflow.com .


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Three Secrets To Maintaining A Morning Routine

Mornings are undeniably the most challenging time of the day for many.  There is inevitably the inner battle that begins when the alarm goes off - why ever leave that warm, comfortable, safe place called bed?  Yet, studies have proven that the most productive, centered, and successful people are early to rise and make the most of this time by implementing some self-care, both mentally and physically.  

Having a morning routine can help establish your mindset for the day by grounding and centering you so you are ready for whatever the day brings. It can also help tremendously in beating the morning blues - those days you wake up feeling melancholy, which can be especially common when recovering a pregnancy loss or when you’re battling fertility issues.

The secrets to maintaining a morning routine are:

  1. Make the decision to implement and stick to a morning routine that works for you. Commit.
  2. Keep it simple.
  3. Above all else - Eliminate Thinking.
 Photo by  Kinga Cichewicz  on  Unsplash

Finding a series of activities that meet your needs and doing them on autopilot daily is the best way to ensure that you will stick to the routine and get the most out of it.  

First, decide how you want to feel during and after your morning routine.  Do you need to ease into your day in a comforting and nourishing way? Or do you jump out of bed with energy, ready to go?  The idea is to start you off in the best way possible so you are armed and ready for whatever the day brings.

When I created my morning routine, my primary goal was to fit in a daily meditation practice.  My secondary goal was to incorporate a warm lemon water ritual to support my digestion, balance my pH, and give me a daily vitamin C boost.  

Years ago, after much trial and error, I established that I need to get my exercise done in the morning. Power yoga is my ideal form of regular physical activity. I had a loose routine - wake up, drink water, put on clothes, go to class. Shower, dress, commute.  Not bad, but rushed and lacking a couple of things I knew deep down I needed.

When I made the decision to implement a morning routine that involved as little thinking as possible,, I broke it down to six activities I felt would meet my personal needs.

After the alarm, just about every morning goes like this:

  1. Hydrate:  I drink the glass of water I put at my bedside each night.  Our bodies dehydrate overnight and it’s important to get hydration in right way.

  2. Make my bed: Because I feel calmer when things are visually in their place and it gets my body moving around.

  3. Warm water with lemon: I go downstairs, heat up water + a few shakes of turmeric on the stove, and squeeze half of a lemon into a mug. (I add the turmeric because it is an incredible anti-inflammatory tool as well as an immune booster.)

  4. Smoothie: While I wait for the water to heat, I make my husband and I a smoothie.  This involves me sleepily throwing a combination of handfuls of leafy greens, frozen fruit, and almond milk in a blender, pushing the “liquify” button, and pouring the result into travel cups that go in the refrigerator for us to grab & go on our way. Sometimes they are great.  Sometimes they taste weird.  Either way, they are mood boosting coffee alternatives and are a great way to get in servings of vegetables and fruit on the go for fiber and nutrients.  Fruit is also easiest to digest on an empty stomach.

  5. Meditate: My lemon water and I go back upstairs and I do a 5 - 10 minute meditation, usually using one of the many guided meditation apps available, such as Insight Timer, Calm, Simple Habit, Headspace, or the website Fragrantheart.com.

  6. Move: Go to a yoga or barre class or practice yoga at home.

This may seem like a lot but the first five activities require only 25 or so minutes more added to my morning.  I do not think much as I do any of it, in fact, I couldn’t if I wanted to because my brain doesn’t start working until about an hour and a half after I wake up.

Sleep is critical but 25 minutes of snoozing the alarm has never resulted in the calmness I feel when I stick to the routine.

The few things I do the night before are:

  • Occasionally think about the smoothie I want to make or look up recipes to get ideas.
  • Always, always, bring that glass of water to bed with me so I can hydrate upon waking up.
  • Sign up for the yoga or barre class to commit myself to going.

What would you like to start treating yourself to in the morning, before the world needs you?  

How can you implement it in a simple way that requires little to no thinking at all?

A Different Kind Of Pregnancy Announcement

It was Easter morning, April 16, 2017 and day 29 of my cycle. My period had not come yet. This was the first cycle in the two years of trying to conceive that I did not test early. (Yes, I’m that girl.)

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Three months before, I had gone through the most traumatic event of my life, saying goodbye to my angel baby at 15 weeks, who I had fallen head over heels in love with in that very short period of time. Alas, he was not meant for me, a concept I struggle to understand to this day. He was my second pregnancy, the first ending early on at 8 weeks. At the time, my first loss rocked me to the core.  But it turned out that it was the second goodbye that changed my soul forever.

So on this Easter Sunday morning and with only three months of recovery under my belt, I really didn't think it was possible that I would get pregnant so quickly.  Sure, I had been taking care of myself, praying daily, and making space - literally and figuratively - in my life for a baby that I hoped would come to us sooner rather than later. However, I just didn't feel pregnant.

I was apprehensive as I took out that dreaded stick and took the test.  My hands shook as the three minute timer went off.  There was the "+" sign. I fell to my knees. Every emotion ran through me. "Thank you," I repeated over and over, now shaking all over my body. "Calm down" was the next thought that ran through my head. "You have to calm down."

I was getting ready to go to my in-law's for Easter celebrations and my husband was feverishly studying for his upcoming CFP exam downstairs. Do I wait to tell him?  Give it a few days? A week? Spare him if this time is not real, again?  Nope, I can't do this on my own - and I don't have to. One of the greatest lessons I've learned along my journey.  I went downstairs, forced his attention and showed him the positive test. "We get another chance," I said.

It was an interesting day, as the day you get that positive result always is... Trying to carry on as normal, having to let the wine hit your lips and secretly passing the glass off to your husband to drink. Thoughts running wild in your head. So many thoughts. I thought about the two cocktails I'd had the night before - no don't think about that!  Took stock of the last month. Wondered if I was healed enough for this. I was not even letting myself get excited, but summoning gratitude. That's all I could do.

 This magnificent rainbow appeared over the Mass Turnpike on May 7, 2017, 21 days after finding out I was pregnant. I chose to see it as a sign.

This magnificent rainbow appeared over the Mass Turnpike on May 7, 2017, 21 days after finding out I was pregnant. I chose to see it as a sign.

An uneventful week or so later we did the math. The baby would be due on Christmas Eve (later to moved by the doctor to December 18). Having found out on Easter and due at Christmas my husband joked, "Well, we are having the next coming of Christ!" Ever the optimist. Optimism continues to turn into reality and here we are, 31 weeks pregnant with our baby boy. 

Being pregnant after a difficult journey is both torture and a miracle. Melissa Rauch describes the experience so well in this piece that I wanted to jump through the computer and hug her. As we know, there is never a point where the story ends, there is no completely "safe" zone.  I cross off each week that passes on a calendar, say a little prayer of gratitude and ask for protection and health for this baby.

Being pregnant after realizing my purpose is to help women who have experienced a pregnancy loss or are going through fertility issues is not without its challenges. I'm all too aware of the pain that my pregnancy can cause women who are aching for the same, because I’ve been told and, mostly, because I have been there. For a time after my last loss, I avoided so many people I love because their pregnancies were a trigger for me. It wasn't healthy for me at the time to be exposed to that. Luckily, I’m surrounded by amazingly understanding people in my life. Still, we chose not to do a social media announcement and you will never see our sonogram photos or me showing my bump online.

I also hear all of the stories. From multiple early losses, to a year(s) of trying without success, to failed IVF attempts, to 30 week stillborns, and deaths of day old infants.  I've had to study all the stats and I hear from groups formed by women of late pregnancy losses trying to help others as well. It is painful, it is terrifying, and it is a constant reminder that each day is a blessing and nothing is guaranteed. Above all else, it inspires and motivates me every day to focus on my work and help the women going through this difficult battle.

The combination of the knowledge of reality and my past losses tries to seep in and get the better of me, and it did especially in the first half of this pregnancy.  On a particularly anxiety-mixed-with-grief filled day, my husband offered me some beautiful advice.  He said, “It’s not really fair to this baby to think he’s anything less than strong and healthy or to hold on to what happened last time.”  

There was freedom in those words, and truth.  This new baby could either hold a new joy and fresh start for us, or I could allow myself to be stuck in my loss and fear of it happening again. That would not be fair to the little soul I am now responsible for.  And so, I adopted a new attitude.  Whenever the past starts creeping in, I do whatever is necessary to shift my focus to what’s real, here and now. I focus on how grateful I am and what a miracle every day that I get to be pregnant is.  I make sure to enjoy every symptom and I’m pretty sure the receptionists at the doctor’s office think I’m insane as I call with every little question.  (Whatever it takes to keep peace of mind, right?!)  I allow myself to get excited and online shop for baby clothes and nursery decorations. I look at all the photos of others' smiling babies as a reminder that the miracle of a healthy baby does happen every day - more often than not.  Because if not, what do I have? The past cannot have power over this moment and cannot take anything away from this baby's experience.

Above all else, there is love.  A new kind of love - a careful, appreciative love - for this child that I know so well yet haven’t met yet. A special kind of love I never would have known to give if it weren’t for what I’ve learned from my past.

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What I really want people to know is that if you’ve experienced a loss, or have been trying for so long you think it might break you, pregnancy will not be easy at first, or maybe ever, but it will be what you make of it. You must believe in yourself, in your strength, and above all else, in your baby; knowing that whatever happens, you will deal with it (a mantra we took on in our household this year). Know that with every passing day, there is hope, gratitude and excitement that grows and overtime, gets louder than the fears.

 

Lastly, you and I know life isn’t always fair and it doesn’t always make sense, but we forge on, motivated by love.

The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief – But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.
— Hilary Stanton Zunin

Have you had a healthy baby after a battle with fertility?  How did you get through the fear and challenges?  Please share in the comments below!

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

Pregnancy Loss & Infant Awareness Month

In all of the stories I listen to of losses of every kind - miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, ending a pregnancy "incompatible with life", stillbirth - what is most amazing is the ability for a woman to be in all-consuming heartache and physical pain and to rise with unbelievable resilience at the same exact time.

This month and ALWAYS, here's to all the warrior women out there and to the pieces of our soul that watch over us from heaven. 

Share your story and support for others in the comments below!

Welcome October with Fall Transitions, Sage Smudging &, Of Course, Food!

Welcome October with Fall Transitions, Sage Smudging &, Of Course, Food!

We are just a few days in and October has already made itself known with cooler temperatures and leaves beginning to change to the colors of the season.  Be sure to take in the beauty of the transition and relish in the mix of greens, oranges, reds and yellows!  What transition do you feel happening in yourself right now?

The sunny days and fresh air this week make it a great time to open all the windows and fill your home with fresh air.  To literally “clear the air” in your home, consider this quick sage smudging practice - an ancient ritual used to cleanse and realign your space and/or self.  Smudging is a great thing to do to get rid of lingering negative energy from a pregnancy loss, an unsuccessful IVF attempt, tension in the home, an illness, or major life event.  It is symbolic of a fresh start.

How To Help A Friend In Pain

How To Help A Friend In Pain

As the rate of fertility issues remains high and awareness grows, we are learning of more and more stories of loss, frustration and battles with fertility from everyone from the people closest to us to distant friends to public figures and celebrities.

The openness about these life changing events is fairly new, while the struggle is not new at all. Women who choose to share their experiences more often than not discover people they never dreamed of have gone through a similar heartache of their own, including family members, coworkers and dear friends.

Whether you’ve experienced a miscarriage or infertility yourself, or not, I know that learning of someone’s heartache is always a careful situation.  It is natural to not want to say the wrong thing and the truth is, there is nothing that can be said that can make the situation better - unless you’re a stork delivering a healthy pregnancy and baby.  So, not likely, sorry.

TV Series 'Nashville' Schools The Public On Miscarriage

Last week’s 'Nashville' episode was a tough one.  For the record, not very long ago they killed off the main character and now this - they’re in serious competition with 'This Is Us' and 'Grey’s Anatomy' for the show that makes you sob the hardest.

"It is perfectly OK to not be OK right now."

This beautifully written piece by Big Bang Theory's Melissa Rauch is extremely honest, relatable and inspiring account of her path to motherhood thus far which includes a heartbreaking miscarriage.

She touches upon all the major pain points from the shock and intense grief, the feelings of guilt and hormone rollercoaster, to the social awkwardness put on women today when it comes to reproducing, all in a very empowering way.

I encourage everyone to read it, whether you have experienced pregnancy loss or know someone who has. And if you have - please know you're not alone and have my support.

Thank you, Melissa. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

Actress Melissa Rauch Announces Her Pregnancy and Reflects on the Heartache of Miscarriage

By Melissa Rauch, JULY 11, 2017 12:00 PM