Cycle One: IT IS SO NOT FUCKING FAIR
I am having a miscarriage. I am 43 years old. I have an almost 3 year old son. I never thought I would get pregnant again, but I did. I was apprehensive the first few weeks because I just started to get a taste of freedom. My son was in school five days a week and I FINALLY had a little time for myself and it felt AMAZING. I hadn't made myself a priority since he was born. I was eager to follow through with some business ideas I’d put on hold since he was born and I was greatly looking forward to returning to a more consistent, uninterrupted physical yoga practice. The idea of being able to take a hike or bike ride at my leisure was pure bliss. Another baby, at this time?!
Then, after a few weeks, I fell in love with the idea. I began to pick out names and reorganize the house. I started to enthusiastically share the news with family and friends. I was going to be a MOM again and add another human to my family. I grew up an only child and now Emmett would have a sibling. My initial apprehension and anxiety gave way to joy and excitement. The daydreams began: OMG, I want to smell that delicious baby!
After my initial doctors appointment, the baby was around 6 weeks along at that time, I was told everything looked great. Two weeks later, I was greeted with a look of concern on the doctor’s face. She informed me she couldn’t find a heartbeat. This pregnancy wasn’t viable. Two weeks later, prior to a scheduled d and c - a surgical procedure to remove the deceased fetus from the uterus - my body began to miscarry. I will spare you the details of what followed, but I won’t spare you the emotional and physical roller coaster I rode after, the havoc this caused in my work, my marriage and my ability to be an amazing mother.
I am writing this essay from bed. I have a heating pad on my stomach, a bottle of Percocet on my nightstand and I am in Supta Baddha Konasana supported by my giant pillows. The physical miscarriage is under way. It will take 5-10 days. I am currently in, what my husband has dubbed, “survival” mode. I spent the better part of the previous night with my feverish son in my bed sweating on me and coughing directly into my face. I kind of loved every second of it. For me my son is my heart. My love for him is the fiercest emotion I have ever felt. It is primal. So ANYTHING involving his best interest evokes love. If he is sick and breathing germs into my face I don’t give a shit because he needs me and I am caring for him. For me, of all people to “allow this”, is a miracle considering I used to wash my hands a thousand times a day.
I have studied men and learned that if they don’t have sex quite often they are miserable. Since my pregnancy and my miscarriage, I haven’t wanted to have sex with my husband. I suppose this puts him in survival mode as well, HA!
I have no desire to exercise or eat well. That drives me insane. All I want to do is sleep. On top of all of this, I have been bloated forever and I am surging with HORMONES! I have entered CRAZY LUNATIC LAND!
To add insult to injury, I have also had the longest most annoying lingering, piece of shit ass cold of my life. It’s like a SUPER cold. Is it that I’m getting older or is the bug bigger? Why the hell are these things lingering for weeks on end? If you haven’t already picked up on this trait: I love informing people of what is wrong or what is irritating me on a daily basis. It’s commonly called COMPLAINING.
None of this is good for my patience. Thus, when my child throws his food on my head or my husband leaves dirty socks on the stairs, I will fall into a heap of tears or curse them out like a truck driver. My mother once said “the peacefulness of a family is connected to the mood of the mother”. If Mother is not well, no one is…Well, mother is NOT WELL….in essence, I am having an EPIC TANTRUM. I WANTED THIS BABY AND IT WAS TAKEN AWAY AND I STILL WANT IT AND IT’S NOT FUCKING FAIR!!!
Cycle Two: GRIEF
I lost my beloved stepfather, Mark Hesse, over the summer. No one I have ever loved has died. He is dead. I hate dead. Dead SUCKS. He was a father figure to me since I was 4 years old. Witnessing someone I loved so sick was torture. Mark was STUCK inside his own body. Towards the end, he could no longer move, breathe or eat on his own. His mind was fully functioning and his heart was full of love, however. He chose to end his fight after a courageous battle. Throughout the last few months, as he continued to struggle bravely in the face of his deteriorating condition, Mark kept telling me that he would, once again, need to shift his expectations. He didn’t openly react with anger or sadness about his worsening condition. I am quite sure he felt those feelings. Rather, he responded: he accepted the moment and didn’t try to control it. He adjusted his expectations and didn’t dwell on the past, nor worry about the immediate future. I observed his responses daily and thought. THIS IS YOGA. He is practicing yoga and doesn’t even realize it! He is teaching me something no one has. This is a deeper layer of yoga I have begun to embrace, practice and teach since being a participant in Mark’s journey from this world.
Hours before Mark went to sleep, never to wake again, I held his hand, told him how much I would miss him and whispered, through tears, how much I loved him. The grief, since his passing, has come at me in tidal waves. It surges up, enveloping me with moments of breathlessness and tears so intense I cannot imagine making it back to the surface. Often, I am left with anger and disbelief that I will never see or speak to him again. Images and memories overcome me during these attacks - his peaceful demeanor, his love, our laughter together, the warmth of remembering US at different stages of our lives.
Cycle Three: How are YOU?
During the weeks and days preceding my Mark’s death I often felt unhinged. I would fall apart in my car or fall to the ground outside his hospital room and cry my eyes out. However, once in proximity to where he could see and hear me, I was able to smile warmly and hold his hand and love him.
While I sat by his bedside, I was able to slow down and pay CLOSE attention to him, his needs, his words, his manner, his expressions. I would consciously listen to my own breath; calm replaced chaos, so I could be present for him. I took Mark’s lead while we were together in his hospital room. Being in that surreal space, witnessing his heroic struggle helped me put my own needs aside. I withdrew from my SELF and gave fully to him.
Often, as I begin a yoga class, I will ask the students to inquire within; “How are YOU. What do you need from your practice today?” I will remind them, at that moment, life goes in cycles. These cycles range from the very best life has to offer to the very worst.
These cycles trigger and evoke emotional reactions that inevitably have an effect on our energetic and physical bodies as well as our emotional well-being. The cycle you are in will affect what you need from your practice. So the question “HOW ARE YOU?” is in fact a huge part of the yoga practice.
I ask myself this question constantly and I often pose it to my students and people I love. “HOW ARE YOU?” is asking YOU what cycle you are presently in. It requires paying attention. What is your energy like? How is your body feeling? How is the intelligence of your mind getting along with the intelligence of your body? Whose voices are louder? How are your family and friends? What about the world, and the part you play in it? Just what sort of cycle are you in? Yoga is hard work. It’s asking us to be aware and present. It’s asking us to learn to LISTEN IN and reflect upon ourselves. It’s SO much easier to distract and tune out. YET, a lifetime of that would be so DULL. A lifetime of transformation and learning about ones SELF is way more interesting and fulfilling.
Once grief released its grip ever so slightly, I started to find a little bit more space for other feelings. Months after my stepfather’s passing, I was better able to understand just how my 18 years of “practicing” yoga has shaped and contributed to the person I am today. The difficult summer months at Mark’s bedside have come to pass. It is now that I can recognize that I’m not sure I ever truly understood so much of what I had studied for so long. Each day with Mark helped me embrace a deluge of feelings. I didn’t run. I was allowed to have HUGE emotional reactions. They were beyond intense. I was then able to RESPOND by putting them aside and being fully awake and present for him. Yoga helped me to help him peacefully pass away.
Cycle Four: Love and Good Fortune
My son’s name is Emmett. He is the love of my life. In 2017 he will turn 3. My love for this little human knows no limits. I wake up and feel the most powerful sense of love and humility and patience and kindness and compassion and wonder and excitement and laughter and joy known to mankind.
I also have a healthy relationship with a man! He has a PHD and dislikes yoga. He is kind and funny and loving and adorable and PATIENT. He is the best father I could ever imagine. He is my partner and best friend. I often have to pinch myself to remember I have a partner in life! He loves me. ALL OF ME! I think he even loves what he doesn’t like about me! I will openly admit I am not easy. He understands my mega issues and doesn’t take them personally. He knows how to support me through the challenging times and love me unconditionally. I believe I do the same for him. Both of my parents are alive. My son knows his grandparents. They love and adore him.
As I ended class recently, I pondered if my energy was too negative that day. I questioned if I projected any of my own story into their experience. It’s a fine line being genuine with my own life, sharing it to some extent with the class but NOT putting my issues onto them. I was in fact teaching during the third day of my slowly occurring miscarriage. I could have easily blurred the lines. So I watched. I watched my students lying in savasana. I breathed in the energy of the room. I came back to that mental space I held with Mark. I LOVE sitting at the front of a yoga room watching, listening, looking and breathing in that space FULL of people at rest. As I took in their silent, still, slowly breathing bodies what came to mind was this: When my son Emmett hears a garbage truck he squeals with delight. He has figured out how to open our front door and RUN out in order to wave at the garbage truck. He is often wearing no clothes. His joy and nakedness and silliness fills my heart with SO MUCH JOY AND LOVE I sometimes cry I am so happy at these moments. SO I shared this with the class as I brought them out of their last pose. I then suggested they try to recall a moment that touched their own souls. I had them put a hand over their hearts and remind themselves of a moment that they felt the intensity of their hearts. It’s these magical moments of teaching that I never forget.
Cycle 5: Being at Peace with What Is…
I would consider 2016 to be the best and saddest year of my life. I experienced tremendous love and loss. Grief, sadness and anger came in swells that continue to surge and subside. Some days I deal with that volatility well, others it deals harshly with me. Laugher, love and joy were abundant this past year and made my heart grow to the point of bursting.
From my bed, I can hear my husband play with our son. Their voices are faintly heard. They are the sweetest sounds I know.