Author: brb

my dream birth

I didn’t realize how traumatic Atlas’ birth had been for me, until I experienced something remarkably better. Phoebe’s birth was a dream come true. It was fast, relatively peaceful, and — dare I say — easy.

Phoebe, like Atlas, arrived on her due date. The night before, I didn’t sleep well, and eventually got up at 4a to start timing my contractions. They were already 2.5 minutes apart, but I didn’t want to wake anyone up until it was absolutely necessary. I made a pitcher of tea, unloaded the dishwasher, and took a hot shower.

I woke Noah up at 5a. Our friend Ruth arrived at 6a to watch Atlas. When we got to the hospital, I was 7cm dilated. The nurses commented on how much I was smiling for someone so far into labor — but there were definitely tears, too.

We chose to go to a midwifery center in a hospital instead of having another home birth because it was less stressful and more affordable. I knew I wanted a natural birth, to stay fully present in my body, mind, and spirit. I also wanted a way to deal with the pain that didn’t numb me from my experience.

When I was pregnant with Atlas, I read lots of books, but giving birth is so abstract on paper. I assumed I would just listen to my body and figure it out when the time came. But during labor, I had no idea what to do. I felt like an animal, wild and hysterical. I bellowed until I was hoarse. I used Noah as my punching bag.

With Phoebe, I needed a better plan. Or at least, some kind of plan.

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Some people find euphemisms effective. They call a contraction: “rush, surge, birthing wave,” they call pain: “sensation,” and hard: “challenging.” I would rather call things as I know them. Labor is actually hard. Contractions are really painful. This is what’s real to me.

But I still have choices. I can choose to be a victim and be overcome by pain. Or I can choose to be a creator, and though I am not in control of my body or my baby, I am always in control of my experience. It’s a life principle that I somehow previously never applied to birth, but once I did, it changed everything.

Whatever I focus on grows. When I focus on pain, pain increases. When I focus on something else, pain doesn’t go away, but it no longer dominates. So I concentrated on something I had power over: my breath.

I asked Noah to count my exhales, and each contraction became a dynamic meditation. For me, it was a powerful example of real-life yoga: staying present in self-awareness, intentional breathing, and the greatest union of breath and body I have ever practiced.

Inhale deeply through my nose, exhale audibly out my mouth, one. Inhale, exhale, two. After nine or ten breaths, the contraction is done. Now rest. Close my eyes. Enjoy the stillness. Gather my strength.

I never felt the primal need to scream. I never felt overwhelmed by pain. At 7:30a, when I felt a sudden onset of pressure, I turned to my midwife: “I forget the stages of labor — is this the transition? What do I do?” Jessica answered in what could either be considered very helpful or completely useless: “Just do what your body tells you to.”

It was exactly the reminder I needed to hear.

I was on my knees, gripping the side of the bathtub. The inflatable birthing tub was being filled, but I never had time to use it. After three pushes, just 15 minutes later, I felt Phoebe’s head come out, the slippery release of her shoulders, then someone was helping me lift my leg over the umbilical cord so I could sit down and hold my daughter.

I had a difficult postpartum time with Atlas. For the first several days, I couldn’t stand up unassisted without fainting. I could barely do anything. I felt lonely and isolated. I mostly stayed in my room, and didn’t leave the apartment alone with Atlas until my 6 week postpartum appointment.

After birthing Phoebe, I feel wonderful. Swollen, sore, and tired, but giddy with awe and excitement. I am stronger and more energetic than I was after Atlas’ birth, and am able to focus on simply enjoying my newborn. I had the empowering, redemptive birth experience my heart longed for and it far surpassed any expectation.

“This is how people get tricked into having more babies,” Noah observes. But I already knew I wanted a third baby, when the time comes. This birth encourages me that when I get a second chance, to believe the best for it and make the most of it.

Things can always get better, and life can surprise you with just how sweet it can be.

Photo credit: my husband. We couldn’t afford a birth photographer and I love photos more than most things, even more than NY-style pizza.

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what are you curious about?

I consider myself a passionate person. I have lots of opinions and get fired up easily. I tend towards extremes and express an expansive range of emotions on a daily basis.

Living your passion can be quite lovely. But if you can’t identify it, if you can’t identify yourself, or if you just don’t have the energy — living your passion can also be intimidating and burdensome.

I can confidently recognize activities and causes about which I care a great deal, but my life is not stripped of direction if I am not constantly engaged in them. In fact, in this season, I would prefer to not be preoccupied by passion. It sounds heavy and exhausting.

Lately, instead of: “What are you passionate about?” I prefer a question that’s more sustainable for my everyday life: “What are you curious about?”

Passion asks, “For what cause will you die? What keeps your soul awake at night? What battle will you fight until the very end?”

Curiosity asks, “What are you interested in right now? Maybe not tomorrow, but just in this moment?”

I learn a lot from watching my one-year-old discover the world. He may hate blackberries for the next month, but in this moment, he loves them and wants to devour a dozen all at once. I want to embrace life with such eagerness, and not worry if things will change tomorrow — because inevitably they will.

My toddler doesn’t need to submit to one life path now (or ever). If Atlas develops a clear passion, he will go after it, for is that not what a passion is — an extravagant conviction that compels you to follow? I want to foster his interests, but I don’t want him to be overwhelmed by the pressure to commit to them, as I felt for years.

I used to be obsessed with purpose, obsessed with passion. I wanted so badly to live right, with unwavering zeal and determination. But out of fear and disconnection with myself, I hardly lived at all.

Now, I am motivated less by ambition, and more by gratitude and wonder. I am not naturally a curious person, but staying in this moment — not tomorrow, but just in this moment — is exactly what I need.

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I’d love to hear your thoughts! Are you living your passion? How did you identify it? What motivates you? What are you curious about today? What reflective question is most helpful to you in this season?


Inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic

Photo credit: Taryn Kimberly Photography

 

differences between my first & second pregnancies

A lot of moms are more easygoing during their second pregnancies, but I was pretty laid-back the first time around. I didn’t follow any rules about what I shouldn’t eat, drink, or do. I listened to my body and practiced headstands well into my third trimester. I felt confident and strong and looked forward to an empowering birth experience.

This time, I feel more protective. This past winter, we lived in a basement without much privacy, without a real bedroom or a door to separate our space. I had a threatened miscarriage, which increased my feeling of vulnerability. I’ve gained more than the “recommended” weight and feel big and mama bear-like, ready to fight for my babies.

Every pregnancy is different because every relationship is different.

I’m not sure what is true about being pregnant with boys versus girls, but I know my relationship with Phoebe is different than my relationship with Atlas, and so her time in the womb is different as well. She sits lower, as most subsequent babies do, and stretches more than she kicks. Perhaps she’s already practicing yoga poses?

My relationship with myself is also different than it was in 2015. My first pregnancy taught me a lot about connecting with myself and being present, but this pregnancy shows me I still have a lot to learn. I’m not a fearful person, but the past few months I’ve felt frustrated with my body and anxious about the future.

It’s easier for me to be hopeful when lack of experience leaves room for any possibility.

With my first pregnancy, I had heard of pain-free and orgasmic births, and I believed anything was possible. Intellectually, I still believe anything could happen, but experientially, I know birth and postpartum can be hard and indeed very painful. Dealing with eczema again when I thought I was healed makes me wonder if I can trust my body.

I know my body is more prepared to birth a human this second time and it remembers what to do, but in many ways, my heart and mind are not as ready. I have to make a conscious effort to choose peace instead of stress, to choose to live in the “now” instead of jumping ahead to next week or next month.

In some ways, I am giving birth to myself.

In my last post, I wrote about becoming new. With Phoebe’s birth, I will become a new mom, again, but I feel like she is also a retelling of my own story. My birthday and her due date are just a few days apart. Thinking of her brings up thoughts of my relationship with my own mother, and all the emotions that come with it.

Though this won’t be as drastic a transformation from maidenhood to motherhood, it is still a big change from one child to two, from three family members to four, from just my boys to my boys and my girl. This pregnancy, I’m more cognizant of how nesting is not only preparing a place for a new baby, it is also preparing a place for a new me.

Noah says, “There’s always room for more love.” And so, in our hearts, and in our home, we make room.

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I would love to hear how your pregnancies and birth stories differed! As well as any tips on how to parent two under two :)

 

once upon a time, i hated my wedding

I believe history can be rewritten.

For a long time, my wedding was not a happy memory for me. Besides the fact that my father was not invited, my sister was in Taiwan, and my mother refused to attend, it wasn’t my style. If I had really known myself back then, I would have admitted it was not the kind of wedding I wanted. I’m not extravagant, but I do like to celebrate. I like parties and people and photos and public displays of merriment.

For a long time, I didn’t want to share our story. I was hurt and angry, so I told a story of hurt and anger. We never dated, we had a small, simple wedding, and then we were married. We postponed our honeymoon to start our life together. And there we were: married, poor, boring. The plan was to stay married forever. End of story. End of adventure.

But now I see it was just the beginning.

I travel less than I did when I was single, but travel is not the only kind of adventure. Love may not always be exotic and glamorous, but there is still excitement and risk when your heart is on the line. There is mystery in vulnerability and intimacy, and there is power and freedom when your heart is held with care. Five years ago, I gave my heart to Noah, and he has kept it well.

When I have a new perspective, I have a new story.

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Now when I look back on our wedding, I no longer feel hurt or angry. I feel thankful and nostalgic.

That was the day everything was new. My family was not there, but I was creating a new family. That was the day I chose love above everything else. I decided love was more important than my post-grad opportunities, more important than money, more important than a career. That was the day I started to become myself, because I finally felt safe to take down my walls. That was the day I stopped running from my pain, my insecurity, my fear. That was the day I chose home.

When I embrace the past, I allow it to bless me in the present.

We started talking on Skype. We had a long-distance friendship across 12 time zones. We were both intense, strong-willed, and a little aggressive. We were intent upon the best that life could offer and saw that life in one another. We chose each other and got married and keep choosing each other every day. We learn more about ourselves and who we want to be, we learn more about each other, and we keep falling in love.

I love our story.

I love how we choose what is right for us and follow how we believe God is leading, even when it seems crazy. I love how we prioritize relationships and community. I love how I am more attracted to Noah the longer I know him. I love how honor and unity have strengthened us in every way. I love how we support each other’s dreams, and that’s what makes them come true.

I love how each season has a new beginning.

Anniversaries are new milestones of old events. This year, it falls during my 38th week of pregnancy, on the eve of another new adventure. Phoebe is a product of our love and a reminder of how we can become new again and again. Our family can become new. I can become a new mother. We can tell new stories of old memories that have not changed — but with fresh eyes, the past can become new.

It is in reminiscing that we keep alive what time inevitably dissolves. And so our love grows and we fall in love again and again.

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my husband’s greatest gift

One of the greatest gifts my husband will give our children is forgiveness without shame.

I grew up believing I had to apologize in a certain way before I could be forgiven. To prove my sincerity, I had to hang my head low, use a specific vocal intonation, and have tears in my eyes. Forgiveness was obtained through earnest repentance, and only maintained if I demonstrated over time that I wouldn’t do the same bad thing again.

Sometimes I would refuse to forgive others so I could feel powerful. I would give off an attitude of resentment to feel superior. Even after offering forgiveness, I would convey disappointment or passive aggressively remind them about it later. I wanted to make sure they still felt guilty. I wanted them to know my forgiveness didn’t come lightly.

I grew up believing people had to work for forgiveness. Or at least put on a convincing performance.

When I met Noah, he offered another way. He showed me forgiveness is not the reward someone earns when they act sorry enough. Forgiveness is choosing to not hold something against someone, whether it be an offense, mistake, or perceived flaw. Forgiveness depends on the one who gives it and not on the one who receives it.

I don’t recall a single situation in which he has not immediately forgiven me.

In fact, for the first year of our marriage, I never once apologized to Noah. Whenever he apologized to me, I felt emotionally reconnected, and didn’t see the need to humble myself and make amends for anything in return. In my victim mentality, I blamed him for every conflict and didn’t know how to take responsibility.

Noah never condemns me. Once he forgives, it’s not that he forgets, but he moves forward. He doesn’t hold it over my head. He doesn’t bring it up at a future time to make me feel bad. Whenever I apologize or confess anything to him, it always directly results in forgiveness and restoration.

Forgiveness is a tool to stay in relationship.

We want to teach our kids that forgiveness restores the previous standard and the past won’t be used against them. They are safe to mess up not because their actions don’t have consequences, but because we don’t live in fear of how they will behave. They are freely forgiven for the sake of love, and we hope they, too, will learn to forgive without prerequisite.

My parents still withhold forgiveness for things I’ve done years ago. It hurts less than it did before, but the pain doesn’t go away. I never want my children to experience this.

Noah and I believe earthly fathers play a crucial role in reflecting the father heart of God. The heart that stays engaged in relationship no matter what, that wants his kids free from guilt and shame, that is always ready to love and reconcile. The heart I never truly knew until Noah mirrored it for me, the heart that has changed my life, the heart my husband now shares with our own children.

Happy Father’s Day to the best father I know <3

 

the only time we have

Noah is in Colombia this week. I’ve been so excited for him ever since he was invited to go.

I consider myself a strong, powerful, capable woman. But I got married to spend the rest of my life with my husband, so when he’s gone, I feel like part of me is missing. When he’s away, I eat a lot of snacks and watch a lot of TV and have a lot of emotions. Before he left, I asked him to download several movies for me and I signed up for a free month of Hulu. But I’m not watching any movies and I canceled my subscription early.

I don’t want to waste my time.

I’m not a “busy mom.” Some people need to leave the house every day or they’ll go stir crazy, but I really like my home (and I really don’t like wearing pants, which are often necessary when going out in public). There have been times in the past when my days are over-scheduled and there will be times in the future when I’ll have more commitments. Right now, I don’t need to create more things to do.

When my days aren’t filled with plans, there is time and space to be in the moment.

Atlas and I are on a babymoon of sorts. Traditionally, a babymoon is a romantic vacation you take with your partner before you become parents. Atlas and I are on an intimate staycation before he becomes a big brother. We get dressed together, we eat together, we bathe together. We read more books (or the same book, many times), take longer walks, and play for hours just because we can.

This is the last time that it will be just us.

Atlas has my complete and undivided attention. No one else to care for, no one else to consider. We’re celebrating our last hurrah by doing special things we don’t normally do. Like going on dates. Wearing matching headbands. Swimming at the neighborhood pool. Visiting the botanical gardens. I also cut Atlas’ hair (and had no idea what I was doing, poor kid). But mostly I’m just savoring the one-on-one time with my little boy.

Parenting a toddler is tiring, especially being 8 months pregnant. If I let myself, I can easily get caught up with the weariness of daily mundane tasks. I can feel lonely without many friends and frustrated with my direct sales business. When I’m single parenting, I can feel withdrawn and overwhelmed. But I can also look at it another way.

This is the only time I have.

The only time I’m a graduate wife with a young family. The only summer Atlas is 1 year old. The only month left before Phoebe is born. Motherhood helps me stay present and appreciate the twinkling moments of time that promise to pass as quickly as the rest. Next month, Noah and I will celebrate our 5 year anniversary. I will turn 29. I will have a baby. And then there will be a new adjustment, a new rhythm, a new normal.

“The days are long, but the seasons are short.” Oh, but the days! These precious days are the only days we have, never to be seen again. And I treasure them.

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What is special about your current season? How can you savor the time you have?

 

immune to failure

There is a famous question that shows up, it seems, in every single self-help book ever written: What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?

But I’ve always seen it differently. I think the fiercest question of all is this one: What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?

What do you love doing so much that words failure and success essentially become irrelevant?

-Elizabeth Gilbert

“What would I do even if I knew that I might very well fail?”

I’m always up for self-reflection and knowing my heart a little deeper. And so I pose this new question to myself, excited for what I may uncover, and I feel stuck. As if I am providing an answer to the wrong question. Then it dawns on me: I’m doing what I love, and I cannot fail. This may sound presumptuous, but let me explain how failure and success have indeed become entirely irrelevant in my life.

I cannot fail at what I love most.

The first love that comes to mind is motherhood. I have felt weary cleaning up after another messy mealtime and bewildered as to why Atlas won’t stop crying, but I have never felt like a failure as a mom. I am not claiming mastery at parenthood, but I don’t need anything from my kids to constitute success. I may not be as consistent with discipline as I would like, but the only way I could fail at motherhood is if I no longer mothered, if I no longer loved.

The second love is writing. I have yet to be published and I have yet to write a book, but writing is the one and only thing I have loved since childhood that has always loved me back. Writing is my artistic outlet, my internal processing, my life documentation. I have created things that aren’t well-written, and I may never produce a bestseller, but I don’t need writing to accomplish anything in order for me to keep returning to it.

The only way to fail at doing something I love is to reject it.

Since mother and writer are core facets of my heart, I can no sooner deny those labels than I can refuse to be myself. As long as I am mothering and writing, I am succeeding at being a mother and writer. While ideas and projects may flop, they do not inform my identity. I can do things that fail, but I am not a failure. Motherhood and writing are fulfilling in themselves and not for any level of achievement that they might generate.

Only if I require a certain outcome, e.g. insist my children exhibit good behavior or depend upon a book to make a profit, am I at risk for expectations falling short. But when I love truly, I don’t make any demands and there are no attached conditions. I am free to be me and do the things I love, simply because they are what I love to do and who I love to be.

I love nurturing, caring for, and being with my children. I will continue to be a mother, no matter what happens to them or how their lives unfold. I love partnering with inspiration and expressing my thoughts in a tangible way. I will continue to be a writer, regardless of financial success or if anyone reads another word I write.

So the questions: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” and “What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?” are more appropriately rephrased: “What would you do if you believed it was who you are, if you could not fail as long as you kept doing it?”

Whatever question resonates with you, whatever it is you love that makes you come alive, I hope you’re doing it, and that you never stop <3

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I’d love to know about the things you love to do, the ones that connect you to the deepest part of yourself. Feel free to leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you :)