Monthly Archives: January 2011

12 weeks ago today… The Birth Story

Nico Boon, 12 weeks, Berkeley, CA, Canon PowerShot S95

12 weeks today. And I’m finally getting to writing that birth story. So much life packed into this time, so much awake time, so much sleep. My life seems to be divided into exactly those parts — awake and sleep. Eat, no eat. It’s very basic and simple. I’ve leaned back into that baby way, where even if I am standing by myself I am swaying back and forth, shifting my weight from side to side like water, unconsciously rocking an invisible baby to sleep.

I guess I should start from the beginning. The birth.

Nico Boon came two weeks later than I thought he would (I was sure he would be early like Ben) and exactly one week after his due date. I had scheduled an induction for Friday morning, deciding I couldn’t be pregnant for one second longer or to have the baby grow much bigger than he already was. As soon as I made that appointment I felt myself relax. There is an official end date to this suffering! My heart leapt at the thought. I was officially out of patience.

Then, the night before, at 4 am to be exact, the contractions started with a bang. Finally! I thought. Bring it on! I lay in bed through the first few thinking I would let Matt sleep to a more reasonable hour (we would be doing this for many hours, right?) when a mere 20 minutes later, I was sobbing and scared, unable to breathe or relax. I woke Matt up and called my friend in San Francisco who was scheduled to stay with Ben. By the time she arrived a little after 6, I was panicking. The contractions were only a few minutes apart and I was bleeding. We were going fast! So much for my years of yoga… I didn’t have it in me to breathe through the contractions. It was just too much. So I just let myself cry.

Poor Matt hightailed it to the hospital as fast as he could with me sobbing next to him.
Me: (choking through tears) I think (sob sob) I need (sputter) an (sputter) epidural this time.
Matt: Whatever you want honey! The world doesn’t need another hero!

As I walked through the long hallway toward the intake/admin desk, I remembered how long I endured the contractions without medication during Ben’s labor. I marveled at the memory of managing the pain with my breath, how strong my mind was and how relaxed I was able to get my body. This time was different. It was as if I was already exhausted, too tired to do what I knew I had to do to keep the pain under control. I kept thinking, I just don’t have it in me this time…

I’m glad I was so clear. They admitted me immediately and got me set up with an epidural as quickly as they could. I was AMAZED at how well it worked. Several minutes after they hooked me up the nurse asked, “How are the contractions now?” I told her I would let her know when I had one. She smiled and said, “You’ve been having them every minute for the last five minutes. In fact, you’re having one right now!”



Nico, 12 weeks, Berkeley, CA, Canon PowerShot S95

And here is the moment where I should back up and give you a little context. A few days before I went into labor I had a long talk with a friend who is a doula. Given that I was past my due date and feeling anxious she was wondering if there was some kind of mental block that wasn’t allowing my body to relax and go into labor. She asked me a ton of questions about how I wanted the birth to go, what my hopes were, etc. What I appreciated most was that she asked these questions without any agenda. I had an assumption that doulas and midwives had an agenda about delivering at home, are suspicious of hospitals and generally frown on any sort of pain medication. Turns out I was wrong, and I felt so relieved when it was clear that she really just wanted to know what kind of birth experience I wanted to have. The more I talked with her, the more I realized that not scheduling an induction, not having an epidural, etc. was me trying to be good. Trying to do it right… in the “natural” way that people do it here in Berkeley.

“What would a fun and easy birth look like to you?” she asked me. (She knows these are two of my core values) I laughed at the impossibility of it… Birth? fun and easy? Is that even possible? But for the sake of conversation I answered, “I would get the epidural as soon as possible and have a pain free 5 hour labor where I chatted and laughed with Matt and the nurses.” Then that’s what you should plan for! she encouraged.

My body immediately relaxed at the thought and tears came to my eyes. In that moment I realized what was underneath my desire for it to be easy. Although my labor with Ben was great, it was 15 hours of breathing through incredibly painful contractions (often with no break between them). I had to go so deep into myself to manage them that I was somewhere else entirely. My eyes were closed the entire time as I sat on the hospital bed, afraid to move a muscle. I didn’t want anyone to touch me or talk to me, and although at the time I wasn’t aware of it, in retrospect, I see how disconnected and alone I felt. It wasn’t horrible or traumatic necessarily, just something I felt like no one could help me with, something I had to do myself.

This is my tendency in life in general, to not ask for help, to just tough things out myself. I’ve been working consciously to invite more collaboration into my life, more help, more company, more togetherness. My birth with Ben mirrored the way I was operating in the rest of my life — being strong and trying not to need anything from anyone else.

“I want to do it differently this time,” I told my friend. “I want to feel connected. I want to be in the room.”
And I got to be. And I’m so grateful. It was pretty much exactly what I had hoped-Six hour labor, relatively pain-free, chatting with Matt and the nurses and just generally marveling at the lack of pain. I still can hardly believe that kind of ease was possible. Mostly though, I’m grateful I got to be more present to the love that surrounded me this time.

My most vivid memory however happened before we left the house that morning, while we waited for my friend to arrive. I was lying on the couch and a strong contraction came. I closed my eyes and cried, my body shook and tears rolled down my face. When I opened my eyes Ben’s little face was just a couple of inches away from mine, his hands cupped gently around my cheeks. He looked deeply into my eyes for one long moment and said, “Is that better mama?” And it was.

I will never forget this one gorgeous moment of pure attention and presence he offered me. There was so much love in that gesture it made my heart burst open. A friend of mine says, Love makes you brave and now I know what she means.


Ben, me, Berkeley, CA, Canon PowerShot S95

Word of the Year*

Nico Boon, thriving at 10 weeks, Canon PowerShot S95

I’ve been contemplating my word of the year (inspired by Ali Edwards and her tradition of choosing a powerful word every New Year) and have decided on the word thrive. For me this means healthy, juicy and ALIVE. When I think of all the areas of my life: my relationships, my financial life, my body, my family… I want to be vibrating wtih life, thriving and not just surviving anymore.

It’s fitting that this word would come up for me just after having a new baby. It’s a word that doctors often use when the baby is eating, sleeping and growing well. They are thriving… It’s all we want for babies and now it’s what I want all over my life. Let’s thrive in 2011!

What is your word? (share in the comments below)

10 weeks and totally edible


You’re perfect* (or perfectly imperfect as the case may be)

You’re Perfect, Berkeley, CA, Canon PowerShot S95

Sunday, on the eve of our Winter Dream Lab with Brene Brown (on the Gifts of Imperfection) I rode past this man holding a sign on my way home. Such serendipity!

As we smooth out the kinks on our new system over at Mondo Beyondo HQ (thank you for your patience peeps!) we are embracing our own kind of perfectly imperfect. Since so many of you are emailing to ask, just wanted to let you know that we are still registering for both Winter Dream Lab and Mondo Beyondo this week. It’s not too late to join us!

Get Your Paint On*


If one of your dreams for the new year is to paint, to play, to get messy with color, I can’t think of two better artists to guide you through it! The talented Mati Rose and Lisa Congdon are teaming up to teach an e-course: Get Your Paint On.

So excited for them and everyone who gets to learn from them! (more details here)

while we’re on the subject of vulnerability*

Ben, Nico, dinosaur puzzle, Taken with iPhone

By the look of this photo (or maybe all of my photos lately) you might think things are easy over here. Once in a blue moon, they are! but if I have created any illusions of perfection, if you have ever thought, Well doesn’t she have it easy.. then my apologies truly. I think it’s harder for me to show up to the page at my lower moments. Easier to not say anything at all (or to share a photo of something I am celebrating) than to dwell on what’s hard or seem complainy. But I also learn over and over again, that to appear to have it all together when you don’t, (Who does?) leaves little room for others to connect deeply with you. It is a gift of connection we all miss out on.

Case in point.

Yesterday was a rough parenting day. Ben was sick with a fever so I was home all day by myself with the two boys. For a variety of reasons (exhaustion, baby who won’t sleep, four year old who gets febrile seizures) I was hitting the edges of my parenting. (aka: I was losing it) I vacillated between, What have I done? to I’m not strong enough for this… to When are these kids’ parents going to come pick them up? And then finally, utter shame at how impatient I was being with them both.

I picked up the phone. Who could I call that could just be with me right now? I tentatively dialed a new friend of mine.

Me: (pretending everything was fine) Hey! Happy New Year! How are you?
Friend: Oh my god, so busy! Such a crazy holiday, so much work, I’m just trying to regroup.
In my head: She’s too busy. Why are you bothering her? Why on earth would she want to spend the afternoon with a sick kid and a baby?
Friend: How are you doing?
Me: Well… Actually I’m having one of my lowest parenting days ever! I think I’m at the edge of my mental health. (I try to say this in as light a way as possible so she can gloss over it if she wants)
Friend: Oh no! Do you want me to come over and we can have a low day together?
This is all it took for me to burst into tears.
Me: (sputtery) Yes! That’s exactly what I want, but I was too afraid to ask.
Friend: I’m coming right over.

We had the sweetest afternoon together. In the end, we didn’t even talk about why things were hard. We were simply together and that was enough. We built a unicorn puzzle with Ben, drew and painted silly pictures, catalogued Ben’s favorite foods and chatted about everything and nothing at all. It was total bliss.

We are often isolated in our lives, but especially in our struggles and in our pain. We’re afraid to burden others with our problems so we suffer silently. We’d rather not risk being vulnerable because it feels scary… but often what we need is really simple. Like yesterday. I didn’t need much. I didn’t need a babysitter or a therapist or anyone to fix anything for me. I just needed company… I needed to know I wasn’t alone. And it turns out my friend did too.

For me, life is just sweeter when we’re in it together.

Winter Dream Lab with Brene Brown*

Brene Brown, photo by Karen Walrond

About this time last year, a friend of mine was close to the end of her pregnancy. I excitedly left her a voice mail asking if she wanted to get together for a visioning session in the new year. She called me back and surprised me by saying nope, she just wasn’t in the “visioning space” at that moment. “What?!” I thought. “How can that be? She’s always into this kind of thing! Was she depressed?”

I could appreciate it in theory but I didn’t really get it until now. I am currently not in that visioning space either. Or at least not in the way I normally am. Every goal I have seems to be sidelined by the very immediate task of keeping my baby alive. Every time I entertain my future dreams (in the 7 seconds I have between feedings, cleaning the house, etc.) I put that baby back on the breast and my mind goes fuzzy. What were we talking about? Those hormones kick in and erase any ounce of ambition I once had. Whatever! My body says. We’re here! We’ve got this! There is nothing else! Maybe this is some kind of hormone-induced zen.

I’ll take it.

And that’s why I’m so excited about our winter dream lab. We are collaborating with Dr. Brene Brown (pictured above) who does the most extraordinary, ground-breaking work about what she calls The Gifts of Imperfection (Also the name of her most recent book)

I started wondering: What if 2011 was simply about being enough? Our bodies, our work, our lives? What if we chucked our insatiable drive to self-improve and simply created from a space of enoughness? What then?
What if instead of designing our year from a place of lack, of trying to fix what’s broken (my list is long on this one) we created a solid foundation for ourselves? A place from which to create that was full and rich and a-okay?

I am going to find out.

Join us while we explore the Gifts of Imperfection for the next 8 weeks! More details here…

P.S. Brene is currently featured on the home page of Ted. (I am a total Ted talk nerd) Her talk is the second most viewed Tedx video in the world. We are so lucky to have her!!