Rubber Band- a *very* belated birthday reflection

“A rubber band is only effective when it is stretched.”

I can’t recall when I first heard this, or who said it to me. I’m inclined to think that it was a skating coach of mine, and while it was most likely used as a reminder to stretch my free leg on the ice, I think it is more suited to describe this past year. I struggled to label this last year of life- was it hard? Was I challenged? Did I build resilience and learn to cope? And after some thinking, I realized I had been stretched. I was stretched to be uncomfortable, to adjust, and to find new space that I had either not known existed or refused to find before. This stretch enabled me to discover capabilities I didn’t know to exist.

Nursing school stretched me in ways I could never anticipate. I will admit to everyone now- I entered school with the goal of finishing first in my class. About one week into my program, I let go of that goal. I was so intimidated by my peers, their thoughtful questions and advanced degrees, that I decided top 10% would be my new goal, surely surrounded by people far smarter than me who would out rank my work. Ironically, class rank was never discussed or even apparent, so my first stretch came in that I couldn’t compare myself to others. As the highly competitive person I am, this was hard! How did I know if I was good enough? What was my barometer? I came to learn that the barometer was me, that there was only one standard and bar to measure against, and it was the one I set for myself. While I always thought I had been intrinsically motivated, I learned this past year that I never really was, but nursing school forced me to be. I wanted to do well for my own reasons and I generally kept my successes private. 

This led me to my next stretch- I had to learn to “keep my eyes on my own paper.” Being surrounded by my peers each day, with stress running high and the strong type A personalities in my school, it was easy to fall into the ugly spiral of, “Am I working hard enough? Did I start studying too late? Should I get an externship?” This need to compare pushed me into yoga, where I learned to turn inward, a practice I continue every time I step on my mat. One of my teachers said that if you’re in the pose one inch, you’re in the pose. It doesn’t matter how deep into the pose you go, or whether you take the harder variation or not. What matters is that you’re there, and I tried to be content with my place, and not turn my head to see who’s arm balance was better than mine. I was stretched to be at peace with my progress and success, without validation from the outside.

Remaining grounded in what felt right was hard this year too. The pace and uncertainty of last year was at an all-time high; in one year I finished school, got engaged, started planning a wedding, bought a house, moved, and got a new job. While everything all landed where I wanted it to, there was a fair amount of time spent in uncertainty. We took a leap of faith and bought the house first, a huge stretch for me to make this adult milestone in the midst of school and without a job. But it felt right, and that’s what I allowed to guide me through the process. In the midst of the unknown, we needed to anchor ourselves and I’m glad we did. Being a homeowner is exhausting, but there’s a sense of ease now that we didn’t have as renters. It sure is a money pit though.

A fresh rubber band can feel stiff at first. Maybe you have to stretch it a few times before you can use it. Sort of like a balloon that you warm up by stretching out with your fingers before you blow it up. But once it’s ready, that rubber band can stretch and hold things better than it ever could have done while unstretched. I’d guess that if a rubber band could talk, it would tell you the first few stretches might hurt, but then it gets used to it. Are we any different? Maybe those first few times of being pulled beyond our old form may hurt, and we’re quick to return to our original state. But if we allow ourselves to be stretched again, we will adapt, we will settle in to this new state, and we will find that we are capable of growth and adaptation. We can learn to be more effective.

I guess the year isn’t complete without telling you how my goals ended up, and I tell you this not to seek recognition but to complete my story. After finishing the first quarter with a 4.0 GPA, I knew that this was my bar. In some ways I was mad that I had achieved this, for I knew this was what I “had” to maintain. As the program progressed into 2019, I chose the word engage as my Word of the Year, knowing that as school wore me down, I would find it harder and harder to remain engaged in my goal. Wouldn’t you know it, my perfectionist GPA would be determined by my last exam in my last class, and I needed a 96 to hold my A. This wasn’t out of the realm of possibility, but it still wasn’t a walk in the park. Two days after that last exam, I logged in to see my score:

98

I put my hand over my mouth, both shocked and not at the same time, and cried quietly at my desk. Not because I had a 4.0, or that it ended up placing me tied for first in my class, which I would later learn at graduation. I cried because I had shattered the idea that I wasn’t smart, that I couldn’t do it, that it was really hard to start life over. In that moment, I snapped that rubber band. It wasn’t a snap that indicated brokenness, but a snap of growth, of being stretched far beyond what former Adrienne knew, and a readiness to take on dreams and goals that a former self would never have considered. It was an ordinary moment, spent alone at my desk, that will forever change how I view myself.

But now I want to tell you, those who might be reading this at your own time of transition or uncertainty- I see you and I am with you. It’s hard and I feel for you as you wander through the darkness, searching and  waiting for the light to shine. I urge you to keep going, to keep asking and wondering, and listening to what feels good. Always follow what feels good to you, even if others don’t understand. It was in those moments where I learned to trust myself and the universe again, and you can too. And perhaps the most important piece to consider is that there is always something to be grateful for, and especially in the times of hardship, it was remembering my gratitude practice that saved me

It’s been quite a year and I thank the many people who helped me through. It was the culmination of many years of work, frustration, tears, being lost, finding my way again, endless cups of coffee, many margaritas, and lots and lots of stretching.

WTF is stretching you?



The Connected Birth

“Damn, I burned your breakfast.” 

These are never happy words to hear, but especially when you’re in the midst of labor. I was in the kitchen of my client’s home, prepping food for them to take in the car as we made our way to the birth center. We were heading into LA rush hour traffic, and I knew that getting some food into my client was important. So far, my greatest contribution to this birth as their doula was prepping food, calling the midwife, and packing the car. My client was set on having her husband beside her for every contraction, leaving little time for him to do these other tasks. While happy to help, I was lost in their kitchen, and hence, the burnt breakfast.

We arrived surprisingly fast to the birth center, and were happy to learn she was about 6-7 centimeters dilated. We moved into the birthing suite to get ready. She did amazingly well, moving around the room from bed, to tub, to toilet, with her sweet husband right next to her, whispering little reminders in her ear, letting her squeeze him as much as she needed, and barely taking a moment for himself while he supported her. They were so connected to one another, and were so prepared to really labor together. 

Despite the quick jump out of the gate, this birth was bound to follow its own course, as all births do. A few hours later, my client was at 8 cm and unchanged since the previous exam. The midwives told me to go get lunch, but before I dipped out for a bit, I spoke to my client. As she had been managing her contractions for the past few hours, with no cervical change, she kept saying, “I just don’t want to push for hours,” perhaps knowing that allowing herself to get to 10 cm would bring the pushing stage. I carefully explained that perhaps she needed to address her mindset a bit, and that a little mental shift might be needed to get beyond this hurdle. While I’m not sure if it helped or not, I knew that some level of resistance from my client would continue to slow her labor, and eventually affect her confidence in her body.

Ina May Gaskin discusses this mind/body connection in her book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (I’m sure she discusses it in Spiritual Midwifery too but I just am currently reading the other!) Ina May shares stories of births where both negative memories and positive affirmations both have a profound effect on the laboring woman and her ability to lose or build momentum in her birth. Furthermore, she even discusses cases where she witnessed labor reversing itself (WHAT?!) when the woman was feeling alarmed, negative, or scared. This phenomenon is not new, with examples from births dating back to the mid 1800’s where labor had stalled and reversed; doctors from this time also make suggestions that they should allow the laboring woman to invite you in to her presence, a practice I can say is not in use at the hospitals I have attended.

The power of positive thinking is not new to many of us. I’m sure we have all had experiences where the negative self-talk we created indeed came true, and this can also happen with positive talk! I wonder sometimes, when it comes to birth, what would happen if we stopped adamantly sharing the negative and scary aspects of our own birth stories, and started to spread the news of joyous, happy births? What could this shift in our mindset do for the greater birthing community, and possibly even birth outcomes? Of course, I recognize that there is always a need for interventions and emergency precautions, yet as one experienced doctor said to me, “We train for the 5% of cases where problems happen, but most women do not need our help.” Why don’t we start highlighting those normal cases instead of spreading fear to our soon-to-be parents?

True to form though, my client DID push for many hours, exactly what did she didn’t want. Looking back, I can’t say I’m too surprised. But I’m also not surprised that the midwives allowed her to go for so long. As always, they were prepared for that 5%, but their deep knowledge of birth allowed them to trust her. When the baby was born, the father started to cry, and Lord knows I cannot handle a crying dad, so I too cried. Through it all, they had been such a team. Even with mom’s faltering confidence, he was there, urging her along as she waited between contractions. They were the definition of a true partnership, and the greatest example of connectedness I have seen in a birth yet.



To the man who was the last to know

I wrote this a long, long time ago when I needed to write about a terrible working relationship I was in, but wasn’t really in a position to broadcast my feelings. While plenty of time has passed, and I’m mostly beyond my anger, I feel that this post deserves its place on my blog and not just saved away with my writing. Many of my feelings were validated by reading the book A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite, though this relationship was not a romantic one.

There was a time where I thought you were great at your job, even respected you for the work you did. I thought I could learn something from you, and that perhaps unlikely combinations of people could create something special. You, however, never respected me. I was not your next partner, I was your next victim. When you looked at me, you saw something young, new, and easily controlled. Or so you thought.

I was naive to your ways in the beginning. I tried hard, I put forth my best effort, and I tried to communicate. I tried to prove my worth, even shooting myself in the foot to prove that I was a team player. I stood by you when I didn’t believe in you, certain that my loyalty would be rewarded in the future. Unknowingly, I had signed a deal with the devil.

It wasn’t all bad though. There was a time when we thought things were moving in a positive direction. We thought we saw little glimmers of hope, of regret for the past, and of knowing better. Maybe you felt it too. But people like you don’t change. They don’t look out for others, they only look out for themselves. They do not see people before them, they see what they can get out of them. I was not a colleague, I was a means to an end.

And then the tides turned. During this time, I had learned that I had been disconnected for many years from my intuition. I had found it though, and when the time came to listen to you or myself, I chose me. I chose to push back. It was easy at first. I just said no, over, and over, and over again. And you, with your inability to read people, to understand them, failed to see my resolve. Instead of respecting me, you insulted me. You threw me under the bus, you slandered my name, you discredited my work and my abilities. More consumed with being right than having support, you took your greatest ally and turned her against you.

Did you think I wouldn’t find out?! Did you think that you could trust the people you trash talked me to? No, because you fail to understand the intricacies of relationships. You don’t know trust, loyalty, compassion, or empathy. You have none of those.

The more that you pushed me to cave, the stronger I had to stand, and the uglier you became. All of your true sides came out. Your accusations got nastier, your finger pointing was constant, and the guilt and blame you laid was thick. Was there ever any truth to what you had said? Was anything from the past few years ever based on fact? Or was everything just a shell, an empty promise, a foundation built on smoke and lies?

Along with some true friends, we started to figure you out. I started to learn how to manipulate our interactions, because a person like you cannot be treated rationally. I put my guard up, everyday, everytime. I stopped being the doormat, I stopped giving you what you wanted, I stopped the manipulation. And although you made the end a fucking. living. hell. I had in the back of my mind my exit plan. And it would be perfect, leaving quietly and calmly with you left in the dark. I knew I would be gone and what would you be left with? As the clients fade away, leaving with bitterness and disappointment, there is just you, with no one in your corner. Who will be happy for you when you succeed? Anyone?

Don’t think for one moment we are friends. Do not think that because I hugged you and said thank you with a tense and forced smile, that you will ever get anything from me. Do not think either, that you are forgiven. But you will not haunt me anymore, because I am free of you, and you were the last to know.


Letter to the 2018 Adrienne

In keeping with a semi-tradition (does 2 times qualify as a tradition?), I’d like to write a letter to my former self for the New Year. I did it some time ago and it was a very cool way to sum up the year. I feel like 2018 is not a year to be missed and though I am late, better now than never. So here you have it…

Dear 2018 Adrienne,

This will be a year unlike all others. First off, you will make no money. You will learn that whatever is in the fridge is for dinner. And you will learn to be happy with that. More importantly though, this will be a year where you really say YES to all the things you wanted to do.

You will say YES to uncertainty, packing up just 2 suitcases and moving out to California to live with one of your oldest friends for one of the best experiences of your life. You will see a baby come into the world for the first time and the thought of that day will always bring a tear to your eye because that was also the day you said YES to your future. You will say YES to midwifery and although it is far off, you are now sure that it will be yours. To cap off the experience, you will convince your mom to say YES to driving across the country with you, a bucket-list item and an experience you both will never forget.

You will say YES to a life without skating, a place that used to be home that has now turned difficult and painful. You won’t even miss it at first, too busy soaking in the warm goodness of California, babies, and midwifery to even notice. But eventually you will learn that it can be your space again one day, when you are ready. You will take it back and make it what you want. This is still a work in progress so be patient.

You will say YES to being a student again, to facing your inner perfectionist and mostly appeasing her. You will feel so very insecure and nervous on that first day, certain that you will be SO MUCH older than everyone else, yet lacking all the clinical skills that everyone else has. And while that’s partly true, you will soon learn that age is an advantage, and anyone can learn how to do a blood pressure reading. Age lends itself to hard work and motivation, and you will never question why you started, just perhaps what took you so long to get here. You will be tremendously grateful for this perspective.

You will say YES to a wonderful man, Tom, who has believed in you all along. From skating, to pre-requisites, to quitting your job, and adding more time apart from each other he has always been in your corner. There is no one better to build a life with, and though wedding planning stirs up #allthefeels, you recognize that this is completely different territory with a true partner by your side.

After so many years of saying, “I don’t know” this year will be the breath of relief you have been waiting for. It may be one of your happiest years because for the first time in awhile, you will know where you are going, and better than just knowing, you will be driving exactly where you *want* to go. You will say YES to being exactly who you were meant to be.

Here’s to 2019...to friendship, love, fulfillment, and to more beautiful YES moments.

The 2018 Adrienne


PS- WTF are you saying YES to??!



The Family Birth

For most of my internship in CA, my phone volume was so high that it scared me. I was terrified of missing a call from a client or a midwife. Even when not on call for the birth center, I was often on call for my clients. I designated certain ringtones to these numbers so from afar, or even while in the shower, I could tell who was calling. Yes, my phone comes to the bathroom with me every time.

I hate being woken up when I don’t need to be up. I had to send quite a few texts and emails to family members while away to remind them about the time change and my strict obligations to my phone volume. So imagine the joy I felt when awoken by surprise on an early Monday morning, to a non-urgent ringtone, “Ugh, who the hell is calling me again so early?!” Shockingly, it was a California number and not my best friend Robyn (who operates before the sun). There were two laboring women at the center, and they needed extra hands.

When I arrived, I was surprised by the number of people connected to one laboring woman. To my recollection there was the husband, the doula, the soon to be grandmother and grandfather, the mother-in-law, and maybe a sister? I’ve lost count; most were not serving a role vital enough for me to remember. The laboring mother was struggling- crying between contractions, murmuring to her mother that she couldn’t do it, and not finding her groove. The midwives were discussing the lack of positive energy and the expectations they were feeling from the family. They even spoke to the family members telling them to not enter the birthing suite with their negative energy.  There were too many questions, too many interruptions, too much worrying that something was wrong, and not enough faith. Ultimately, she ended up transferring to the hospital because she was stalling in her progress and dilation had remained unchanged for many hours. In my eyes, her will to push through the birth had stalled and she seemed more emotionally drained than physically.

Extra participants at a birth is an interesting topic. On one hand, our friends and family know us better than anyone else. They know what you want to hear, they know how you may want to be held or encouraged. Yet most adults are not familiar with birth. They do not know that the timeline of birth can be both long or short, and still be considered normal. They may enter with their own expectations, doubts, and anecdotes. In a world where everyone fears the worst scenario, they may search for things that are “wrong” or “abnormal” as a way to protect their loved one. Their intentions are good, but sometimes they can be counterproductive. The midwives at SCM says that each non-essential person at a birth extends the labor time by one hour. Sometimes the additional energy, whether it be positive or negative, can still impede progress.If the team isn’t committed to creating a positive vibe, they can place unnecessary pressure on the mother to make something happen, not realizing that sometimes the best way to make something happen, is to step back and let it go. (Perhaps this is true in many areas of life…)

On the flip side, I also had a client who's mother was instrumental in the success of the birth. She was just the right amount of involvement and encouragement that the laboring mother needed. She also had that magic touch of being able to get her to daughter to drink a smoothie that neither I or the husband could convince her to do. Most importantly, she was a huge fan of out-of-hospital births and I think brought her own positive experiences with her, and innately trusted the midwives too.

When in labor, the woman has to remain mentally dedicated to the task at hand; she has a job to do, and it doesn’t involve tending to anyone other than herself. Her mind needs to be on doing the work of labor and not being distracted or uncomfortable by someone unwanted in the room. Labor and birth is an intense and intimate time- you’re naked, bodily functions are out of control, fluids of all kinds are being lost, you’re making sounds you’ve never heard before...you’re working!! This is hard, amazing work and it requires rhythm and grit. It also requires everyone there to believe in the awesome power of this soon-to-be mama.

 

 

The Induced Birth

My client was 41 weeks when I received a frantic call following her nonstress test earlier that day. Due to some concerning results, she was being transferred out of the midwives’ care to the hospital for an induction under their partner OB/GYN. They had been planning a home birth, so this drastic change to a medicalized induction was far from what they wanted. All of their planning was washed away, and they were now left to navigate very unfamiliar waters. I later learned that once a client is transferred out of care prior to starting labor, the doula intern doesn’t have to accompany them for further labor and delivery as we are employees of the practice. However, in my eyes, they had lost their midwives, their home birth, their entire plan and I felt that something needed to remain constant. I helped them pack up and we all headed to the hospital in the evening to begin the induction.

Over the span of the next 40 hours, I saw the whole spectrum of interventions. Lorri Walker, the CEO and Head Baby Catcher at SCM, calls interventions the snowball effect- they just keep building up. And boy, do they ever. Foley bulb induction, to artificial rupture of the membranes (increased risk of infection now), to non-progressing/ineffective contractions, to Pitocin, to an epidural, to constant fetal monitoring, to antibiotics because now mama had a fever. There were other steps along the way, too numerous to count, and probably most we all wished could be forgotten.

After 2 nights of no sleep (aka 41 weeks + 2), I felt that there was no end in sight. Please, please, I thought to myself, don’t let this end in a c-section. That was all I could hope for by the second afternoon, as I groggily gazed out the window to the gorgeous view of Newport Beach. I felt like we were fighting against that snowball, which now felt like an avalanche. It was my only goal for her, and all I could do was feed her courage and reassurance. Yet, the time came- 10 cm dilated and time to push. Despite having no feeling below the waist, my client found that beautiful, effective push. Forty-four hours after arriving to the hospital, she pushed her baby out. Nobody knew the gender prior to the birth, and during the span of our stay I had changed my mind from predicting it was a boy to a girl:

“Seeing how stubborn this baby is to come out, I’m thinking she must be a girl now!”

Sure enough, a baby girl was born. No less than 15 people were there in the room, armed for every bad scenario possible. However, that little girl cried out all on her own and her mother and I burst into tears. I cried so hard for them, grateful for the long road to have ended so happily.

This was a such a challenging birth for me. I felt stuck between worlds- the doula world with clients who hated the healthcare system and needed an advocate, and my soon-to-be-world of nursing, which recognized the procedures of the hospital, and empathized with the nurses’ normal duties. I toed the line, prompting my clients to ask questions and evaluate their options, while also helping them process the realities of birthing in the hospital, and specifically, as an induction. With the valid medical concerns present, there really wasn’t much room for choice; the interventions were necessary based on the results of the NST. This was a hard reality for them to face, but one they needed to if they were going to let this birth continue joyfully, or be weighed down with stress and conflict. I tried to validate their feelings of disappointment, while helping them release these sentiments and adjust their expectations.

Did the sight of a healthy baby wipe away the disappointment of the birth story? No, I don’t think so. For some people, I’m sure it would have. It didn’t even wipe it away for me, despite my obvious joy and relief. Who knows how it would have turned out if the NST was normal and they labored at home- would she have been slow to progress? Would she have gotten exhausted? Would the comfort of her home and midwives spurred a faster labor? All questions we cannot answer. Yet, the story does matter to me. How she will remember the birth matters- we have only one chance to support the mother in her amazing feat. I hope she will remember this birth the way I do- with fierce determination, courage, and teamwork.

 

 

Something Bigger

My official journey to nursing school began in the Summer of 2016. I had hit a major turning point that summer; I had lost a few clients, was about to lose a few more, and was staring at the bleak realization of not making rent. I decided that I never wanted to feel that way again- like one or two clients could take me down, that all my “eggs were in one basket,” and that at anytime it could all drop out from under me. Being self-employed, these were all real possibilities even for those who try to plan ahead. I needed to make a big change.

One evening, my girlfriends and I were having a night at my friend Helen’s house. Helen has the loveliest cat (the only one I’d ever say that about), but I’m terribly allergic. As I struggled to get my allergies under control and take some benadryl, I cried out in anguish, “Damn my histamines!” My friend Liz, who is a nurse like Helen too, asked me, “Are you sure you don’t want to be a nurse?” My reply, completely off the cuff and with no hesitation was:

“Actually, if I was a nurse I would be a Labor & Delivery nurse.”

There, in the midst of sneezing and snot, I stated the answer to the agonizing question of WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY LIFE?! Randomly, uninhibited, instinctive. Yet when I said it, and when I later shared it with others, no one was surprised. I had finally uncovered something that had been ignored for quite some time.

Yet this time when considering nursing school, because I had in the past, it was different. I was ready to go back into the classroom, sit amongst kids I didn’t know, and try to take the science classes that had once scared me. Once I started, I never even considered turning back. The more I dove into my prerequisite classes, the hungrier I became. I started researching schools in Philadelphia, and then later I expanded my search. I investigated The University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, and NYU. I thought about accelerated BSN programs versus Direct-Entry MSN programs. I met with alum, spoke to professors, and started as a research assistant to a PhD candidate. It began to energize me. I started to have hope in myself and what I was capable of.

After learning the power of manifestation, I wrote down on post-its all the names of the schools I was applying for admission. I stuck these notes around my apartment and everytime I looked at one, I touched it carefully and paused, thanking the world for getting me into those schools. Mind you, I hadn’t even sent in one application yet, but I knew it was coming. It was going to pay off.

This past fall I finally applied. I'm thankful for my year of exploration because ultimately, I only applied to Philadelphia schools. Sure, it was easier to stay home. Yes, it was smarter in regards to cost of living. Of course, I wanted my friends and family nearby. But frankly, I just wasn’t done with this city yet. It had just become my home and I wasn’t ready to leave. Like all decisions, it had to be for my reasons, whatever they ended up being. I applied to the accelerated BSN programs at Thomas Jefferson University and The University of Pennsylvania, knowing in my head I would most likely go to Jefferson. My gut told me I could get into both, but my head knew that Jeff was the smarter choice. I got into Jefferson in November and was so thrilled! I was finally going to be a nurse.

And then, I was accepted to Penn.

While I had manifested this for over a year, I was still shocked. How could *I* have gotten into an Ivy League school? The girl who had always placed skating first, who took the lighter workload during high school, who picked her college based off of proximity to the rink...how could she have gotten into Penn?? I’ll be honest, I have always felt my strengths lie outside the classroom. My father has always told me I have an old soul, and innately I gravitate towards children, feeling as though I can understand them better than adults sometimes. My empathetic ear has been my greatest asset as a friend, not my ability to recall historical facts or launch into political debates. Even as a teacher, I always emphasized social skills in my classroom. My brother was the brainy child, and I was the emotional one. Just ask my parents.

Yet, I opened that email and started shaking with shock. Pardon my language, but I fucking did it. I accomplished something so much bigger than I had ever thought I could do. Five minutes later though, I started to cry, knowing I would have to say no. Suddenly and irrationally, I wanted the name of Penn on my resume. I wanted to say, “I graduated from Penn.” Everything rational about my process from the last year and a half went down the drain. I knew the reasons not to go: price and duration of the program were the biggest factors. But that was too logical for me; I just couldn’t latch on to those being MY reasons.

Remember, I’m the emotional one. I needed to feel the reason in my heart. And one average day after my acceptance email, I felt it. My journey wasn’t about getting into Penn, it was about finding my calling. It was about finding something I am so. crazy. passionate about. I didn’t actually need to be a Penn student, I needed something bigger. It was about creating something bigger for myself, for women, and ultimately for the world of childbirth. And when I felt that, I knew it didn’t matter if I said no. I knew I was going to get my nursing degree and I was going to accomplish the goals I had set for myself. I am proud to have been accepted to Penn, but maybe even a little more proud to know it wasn’t the place for me.

 

 

The First Births

My phone rang (again) while on call, this time around 4:30am:

“Hi, it’s a home birth. I’ll text you the address. They said they can see the head.”

Oye, better get moving. Shockingly (or not), I hit traffic when I got on the highway 15 minutes later and I sped along hoping I could stay awake and make it on time. Was she crowning? Could they just see little tufts of hair? These are big differences when discussing the timeline of birth. I arrived to the home and entered the second floor apartment for the couple and sat down by the midwife. No crying baby, no chatter, nothing was happening. “Guess I made it!” I thought. Luckily, something in me prevented me from asking how the labor was going because a few moments later, the nurse came over to update the midwife about how the baby was doing. Damn! Missed it, and missed it by about 15 minutes. I came to learn later that the midwife arrived not more than 90 seconds before the birth and caught the baby in the tub barehanded. This was the mama’s first birth and quite rapid, to say the least.

In contrast, a few weeks later I received a message while on call that there was a mama at the center who was 8cm dilated. It was around 8:30 at night and we were optimistic about the timing of the birth. Maybe we would have a baby by midnight, we said while sipping tea in the office, rested and ready for the upcoming pushing phase.

Seven.

Hours.

Later.

She started pushing. Two centimeters in seven hours.

Two hours after that, the beautiful baby was born. Everyone was healthy and happy, from both births. Whether rapid or slow to progress, these babies were going to come at their own time. Interestingly, these were both first time mothers, and both of these labors can be considered normal! One just happened to be fast, and the other slow; yet throughout mama and baby were safe and cared for. These two cases are examples of the most common phrase I have heard in regards to childbirth: Variations of normal.

The midwifery model believes that pregnancy and birth are normal life events. As midwives, they are your “lifeguard” during birth, monitoring both baby and mama for any changes, helping when needed, but allowing the laboring women to move at her own pace and give her the space and freedom to do just that. The midwives at SCM treat all clients as healthy until proven otherwise, and minimize risks by eliminating most interventions that would lead to more risks (and more interventions). As always, the midwives are ready for any emergency circumstances that may arise during the birth. Prenatal visits emphasize communication and education, while empowering the soon-to-be mother to make her own decisions about how she would prefer her care to look.

Because this model governs their care, they are well-versed in what is “normal” in birth, and thus know all the ways that birth differs yet still remains normal. They have seen the rapid births, the slow births, prolonged active or second stage labor, back labor from a posterior baby (“sunny side up”), the breech births, the water births, the VBACs. They understand that while a first time mama could push up to 2 hours, a healthy mama and baby can go longer and still result in a successful vaginal delivery; I just had a client push for 4 hours! When you have the experience of supporting so many different paths towards a birth, you have the confidence to know what is and isn’t normal. Most importantly, there is a shared trust between the client and midwife. The midwife trusts the woman’s body, her determination, and her strength; the client trusts the expertise and care surrounding her. When this is present, any variation can be conquered.

 

 

Running In The Rain

It hardly rains in Southern California, as evidenced by the muted brown rolling hills behind my friend’s home. When I first arrived here in January, you could see small scorched areas from recent fires. Rain in California is like snow back home yet even more unexpected, and frankly, tolerated poorly. As the native East Coaster, I continually shake my head at the complaints about rain. Don’t even get me started about how they drive in it. It’s not even heavy rain! One notch on the windshield wiper setting at best.

The rain is needed though, and when it rained this past weekend I imagined the hills of Chino Hills exhaling in relief. It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was feeling a little restless. I noticed a lull in the rain and suited up for a run. I started off and felt a light drizzle, but with the warmer temperature and my vest I figured I would be fine. Of course, it got heavier. As someone who has never wanted to run in the rain, this was an easy time to turn back. I contemplated it but eventually, I just gave in. I couldn’t find a good enough excuse to stop, so I pushed on, wiping my face every few paces. I even enjoyed myself.

Naturally, my mind started to wander about my upcoming start date in Jefferson’s one year nursing program. Titers and vaccines to get, my chem class I still need to successfully pass and transfer, scrubs I need to buy, books I need to order. And while I was ticking it all off in my head, I became so unbelievably thankful to even be thinking about it. My desire to be a nurse and help people has always been a part of me, but for so long I was discouraged by the time it would take to reach my goal. It sounded SO long- 2 years of prerequisites and then another year of full-time school. For many, many years I didn’t have the motivation to do it. Would you believe that 9 years ago I wrote a Facebook note about wanting to enter medicine, just around the time I was graduating from TCNJ? I even had old bookmarks on my last computer for Jefferson’s program, along with Drexel and Rutgers. I had buried this idea for a long time.

Sure, could I have started 9 years ago and been well into the nursing field by now? Could have, yes, but I’m glad I didn’t. I really needed the last 9 years. I needed to try things out, make major mistakes, fall flat on my ass, and then rebuild. I needed to grow up and become myself. And eventually, I found that I had run out of excuses to not go to nursing school. The time is now, and the best part is that I am SO READY. I can’t imagine that I would have had the drive and motivation had I started when I was younger. While I realize that I am not “old,” I do know I will be older than most of my classmates and for that, I am again thankful. The value of life experience, as well as truly understanding myself as a student and a person, will definitely be to my advantage this coming year. I was the only person on my interview day to wear something other than black; I wore a pink blazer because that’s just who I am!

Nursing school used to be like running in the rain. I always had a reason not to do it. But just like that run last weekend, giving in and taking the plunge has been the best feeling. I feel invigorated and excited. I feel like there is so much happiness, positivity, and opportunity ahead of me. I used to feel like I had no idea what I was doing with my life. Now, I find myself saying, “So much to do and only one life to do it in.” During my run, I threw my head back and opened my mouth to catch some rain, stretched my arms wide open and just smiled. It’s been a long journey to get to this place, but I made it.

 

 

West Coast...Best Coast?

The big question since I’ve temporarily relocated to Southern California has been, “Is it going to be hard for you to go back?” The idea that I could love a place that was colder, wetter, dirtier, and less vegan-friendly is foreign to some of my native California acquaintances, so I thought it would be fun to give you my feelings on the Golden State:

  • Everyone kindly asks you if you have dietary needs, in many cases because they themselves do. I’ve had to turn down a lot of avocados out here.

  • Traffic is terrible and much worse than the East. There is no other way to say this.

  • Rain is scarce (yay!) but needed (boo). Weather is obviously nice 95% of the time here. Downside, I have to hold back an eye roll when someone says 50 degrees is cold.

  • At first I wondered if everyone was so sincerely happy, and I’ve come to find that they really are. Perhaps the phony people live in LA, but much of Orange County residents remain pretty down to earth.

  • They don’t seem to call it skim milk here, just non-fat. Oftentimes this is not an option, so I go with almond milk.

  • Mexican food is way better overall than back home.

  • If you were driving on 76 back home, Californians would call it “the 76.” I may have adopted this language for now, but trust me, this is unnatural.

  • The stereotypical “surfer guy” exists- I’ve met him.

  • I’ll be bringing back some California style- pink sunglasses, Vans slip-ons, and easy everyday clothes.

  • Van living is alive and well out here. I’m enthralled and would love to try it one day!

  • Many CA residents who I encounter are not native, but people who came and never wanted to leave. Not sure if many Philadelphians fall into this category…

  • Californians say hi to each other SO often, even when you are running by with headphones in your ears.

All in all, I definitely like it. But don’t worry Mom, I’m coming home. There’s something about the grunge of the East Coast, the fast-paced nature, and the strong daily hustle that will forever suit my personality.

 

 

The Home Birth

The sun crept through the orange trees in the backyard, creating the most radiant magenta and golden sunrise. We gazed out the window from the kitchen, and I thought to myself, “What a beautiful day to give birth.” Next to me, the laboring mother tried to take a picture, but not even a new iPhone camera could catch the beauty of the morning of what would be her daughter’s birthday.

Inside their perfectly decorated mid-century modern home, preparations were underway for the anticipated home birth. The scene was quiet: just the couple, myself (the doula), a nurse, and the certified nurse midwife were present. The husband lovingly filled the birthing tub with hot water while I stayed with the mother in their bedroom, massaging her lower back as she breathed through each contraction. There was an ease to the morning, and a quiet anticipation of the new life about to join us earthside. 

When she was ready, the mama moved into the tub, finding comfort in the warm waters while her diffuser nearby sent the familiar scents of her essential oils into the air. A picture of their wedding party was nearby, as was a letterboard with her breathing mantra. The smell of omelets lingered in the air from their morning breakfast, and down the hall you could find a rogue sock on the tile floor from one of their older children. The midwife sat nearby patiently waiting for her cue; even I wondered for a moment what we were waiting for until suddenly the mama cried out. The midwife sprang to action, pulled on long gloves and within minutes, a beautiful baby was born. It was a gender surprise, and when the mother lifted the baby out of the water and cried out, “It’s a girl!” I broke into tears. It was the first birth I had ever witnessed, and it was a perfect setting. 

I learned quickly why the midwives at South Coast Midwifery enjoy home births. It’s really something special to be in the comforts of someone else’s home as they labor and deliver their child. To be a part of this intimate event is one thing, but the added element of spending time in the couple’s home during labor, delivery, and postpartum adds an extra bit of intimacy to the sacred event that is hard to describe. It’s comfortable, easy, and familiar. The expectant parents are calm within their own environment. They feel safe and ready.

You may be thinking to yourself that this is wildly unsafe. Allow me to stop you right now and explain. First and foremost, midwives care for low-risk pregnant women. Some women are low-risk all the way up to the day they give birth; if things change then the midwives will send a client to an OB/GYN for their birth (a post for another day). They absolutely will not keep you in their care if there is something amidst. At the time the midwives enter your home during your labor, or when you are admitted to the birth center, your risk level is evaluated and the continuation of care is based off this assessment. Midwives are highly-trained licensed medical providers, and are ready for all emergencies. Any equipment, supplies, or medication they have at the birth center are also with them at a home birth. Theoretically, if you are in favor of birth center births, you are in favor of home births. Every emergency that could be handled at the center can be handled at home such as postpartum hemorrhage, neonatal resuscitation, perineal tears and repairs, shoulder dystocia, and complications with the umbilical cord. 

Lorri Walker, the founder and “chief baby catcher” of South Coast, draws a parallel between home vs center births and the dilemma of, “Should we eat out, or cook for ourselves?” Sure, going out is nice because you don’t have to clean up afterwards and there is no preparation; however you do need to get yourself there and sit somewhere you aren’t familiar. At home, you need to prep and handle all of the cleanup, but it's nice to not have to travel and just be content afterwards. It’s the perfect analogy for anyone considering the setting they want for an out of hospital birth. 

It’s not for everyone though, and I recognize that. There are many people who feel safe with a doctor in a hospital. You may think that because I started this internship and am a doula, that I am anti-doctors, anti-pain medication, or judgmental of those who choose interventions or c-sections. Please do not think this for it is not true. The only thing I care most passionately about is that women are given choices about their births. Many, many decisions are not emergencies (though there are plenty that are), and when there is a choice, I hope you are given one. Whether it be a question of home/hospital/birth center, medication free or with an epidural, on your back/your knees/in a tub, with candles burning or Led Zeppelin playing in the background, I hope you know you have a choice. And if you are seeking choices and feeling stuck, perhaps midwifery is the place for you. I know it is the place for me.

The Stillbirth

My first birth as a birth assistant started quickly. I entered the center and immediately heard the screams of a woman in labor. For one brief moment, the piercing sound of her voice shocked me enough to pause and think, “Maybe I can’t do this.” But as quickly as the thought emerged, it passed, and I rushed to put my things away before entering the birth.

As a second assistant, my role is to support the midwife and nurse (the first assistant) during the birth. Second assistants help prep and clean up the birthing suite, chart the progress of the woman’s labor, record medications used (in the event of repairs after a vaginal delivery), and generally tend to the staff more than to the mother and her birthing team. I enjoy both the doula side of my internship and the birth assistant side; they are invaluable perspectives for me to have as I begin this new career.

I quickly started picking up what I needed to do. Having only been working at the center for a few weeks, and this being my first time responding on-call, there was much to know, yet not much time to process. The nurse and midwife moved around the client with ease and I began picking up the charting system and tried to navigate the dimly lit birthing suite. On the bed was the client, her husband, and their birth doula all working tirelessly to help the woman cope with intense back pains. There had been a few moments of deceleration in the baby’s heartbeat, but subsequent intermittent monitoring detected a strong beat. I followed the nurse around the center, recording the fetal heart tones. I heard them too, fast and strong and easy to find on the doppler.

Yet the back pain progressed, and no amount of support or nitrous oxide could keep the mama from suffering rather than coping with her labor pains. They decided to transfer to the hospital, changing care to the OB nearby who is known for his deep respect towards our clients’ wishes for minimally invasive labors. The midwife accompanied the family while the nurse and I cleaned the birth suite, closing the doors and headed home to rest just before midnight. We were sad for the evening to end without a birth.

A few days later, I was at the center working when a fellow birth worker asked me how my experience was going and if I had seen any births. When I told her about my last on-call experience being a transfer, she stated,”

“Oh, do you mean the stillbirth?”

WHAT?!??!?

I stared down at the papers in my hand, swallowing hard, trying to make sense of this news. I have no idea how I kept it together. Writing this now, I am still choked up thinking about that family. How, how in the world could there be a baby who’s HEARTBEAT I HAD HEARD, who was now dead??? I couldn’t fathom it, and I still can’t. I cried for days, for a woman I didn’t know and the baby she would never watch grow up. For her husband who had to carry the empty car seat out of the hospital. For every mother whose baby was born sleeping.

Miscarriages are pregnancy losses prior to the 20 week mark, and stillbirth losses are after the 20 week mark, a delineation that does not matter in my opinion to the grieving parents. According to the March of Dimes, stillbirth affects about 1 in 100 births in the US per year, amounting to 1% of pregnancies and 24,000 babies each year. That’s around 65 babies each day.

The causes are not always known, to say the least. There are plenty of possibilities: placenta problems, infection, preeclampsia, obesity, diabetes, drug and alcohol use, previous losses, loss of oxygen during labor and birth, trauma and injuries, preterm labor, pregnant with multiples, too young, too old, your socioeconomic status, your race! (African American mothers in this country are still at a disadvantage- they die of pregnancy complications at 3-4x the rate of white women). To the yet-to-be-educated nurse, it sounds like a laundry list of ALL possible reasons that anything could go wrong in any pregnancy, not a true list of reasons for stillbirth. The March of Dimes does admit on their website, “We don’t know what causes many stillbirths, but common causes include…”

Scarier still are the stillbirths that go full-term, that even enter labor and delivery. I stumbled across a forum of mothers sharing in their grief, and so many of these stillbirths were late- 40 weeks + 5 days, 39 weeks + 2 days, 36 weeks, 39 weeks + 4 days. The list went on and on. These were healthy mamas and healthy babies, until, they weren’t. When did things go wrong for this mother I met? Was there a moment to change course? We will never know. And it’s this unknown, this lack of closure, the failure to find answers that leaves parents in such deep oceans of grief and fear for the future. What if it happens again? What if we can never get past it?

How do we save the babies?

I’m not in a position to answer this question yet, but I have hope one day we will be closer to knowing.

Today I stared at the sweet face of my friend Morgan’s one month old daughter while I rocked her. I touched her cheek and stroked her hair; I kissed her forehead and smelled the sweet smell of baby, eternally grateful that she was here with us and that we had the immense pleasure of watching her get bigger and stronger each day. Sixty-five families were robbed of that pleasure the day she was born. We are so fortunate.

Rest in peace sweet baby. <3

 

 

How Will She Remember This?

You may be wondering what a doula is, or maybe even how to say it (doo-lah). You may be wondering why you need one, and why would I chose to be a doula instead of a midwife (this is not true). These are all questions I have been fielding for a few months now, so I thought I would set the record straight.

So, first of all a doula is not a midwife, they are not interchangeable, and they have totally different scopes of practice. Doulas are essentially childbirth coaches, armed with deep knowledge about the labor and delivery process, and have various tips/tricks/position changes to help move labor along. Doulas do not catch babies, they do not make medical decisions, and therefore they cannot replace the Certified Nurse Midwife or the Obstetrician at the birth. Most importantly, doulas serve the vital role of remaining a constant source of emotional support throughout labor/delivery/postpartum, when sometimes this aspect cannot be fulfilled by the medical professionals.

“Well, isn’t that like replacing the husband/partner?”

No, but if no support person IS available, the doula could be that person. So far in my experience, the doula has been another pair of hands to support the expectant parents as they work as a team. Many women want the face of their partner near them throughout, and the doula allows this to happen by facilitating their experience, making suggestions along the way, and relieving the partner at times to rest up and be fully present for the mother. The guiding force behind a doula’s action is, “How will she remember this?” focusing on whether the mother will leave the birth feeling respected, empowered, and fulfilled.

I started the process of becoming a Birth Doula for a few reasons. The academic reasons were that I could gain experience in the field of labor and delivery, I could then determine if a Masters in Midwifery was the right path for me, and further strengthen my resume to apply to such programs one day. While these are all great reasons, I am a woman motivated by intuition and timing and held off for awhile on making the leap to start my doula certification.

Although I knew about the DONA certification for awhile, it wasn’t until I learned of the tragic suicide of an old highschool friend, and new mother, that I took the plunge. Though we hadn’t spoken in years, this news tore me up inside. I talked to every mother I could. I cried so much for her and for her family. After the wake, my best friend and I sat almost in silence across from each other in disbelief and shock. How could this have happened??? I started watching documentaries and investigating maternal mental health. A common theme arose: If only someone had asked, if only there was a little more support and understanding, perhaps things would have been different. I knew then that I needed to act NOW, that becoming a nurse and a midwife just wasn’t soon enough. Knowing that women were suffering drove me to start.

I got working quickly. I bought every book I needed or wanted for the doula certification, started researching the upcoming workshops and booked my seat for three weekends of class up in New York City. I had no idea how to go about getting the births I needed for the certification, but that didn't stop me. I knew this is what I needed to be doing. As my work environment steadily declined, the opportunity for California peaked its sunny face, and I knew the timing was perfect.

One day, my varied experiences and education will all come together and in my mind, it feels like it will really, really work. I don’t know the timing yet, where I will practice, or how I’ll manage to sneak in a family of my own one day, but I do know that this is what I am meant to be doing. This is the kind of care I want to give.


We shall not suffer in silence.

Spark Joy

About 3 months ago, my friend Morgan kept talking about the KonMari Method. We were on the phone, and I said, “What are you talking about? Are you saying calamari?” She burst out laughing and told me about the book by Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and even reminded me that it was sitting up on my bookshelf, collecting dust, and definitely not sparking joy. She told me to get started so we could talk about it.

Boy, did I get started. Cue me tearing about my entire apartment; nothing was safe from my attack. If you don’t know the book, and you’re looking to not only tidy up your stuff, but tidy up your entire life, I really do recommend it. No, I don’t work for her (though secretly wish I do). The premise is to only fill your home with clothing, books, objects, mementos that really bring you joy. Of course, this prompted a debate with my mother with comments such as,

“Oh you millenials think it’s so trendy to live small, but when the day comes that  you need to borrow a weed whacker because you gave yours away, then you will realize why real people hold onto things!”

OK, totally hear you on keeping the essentials Mom. Don’t worry I won’t get rid of my toaster or printer.

But aside from that, I really took to the idea. And the crazy thing is, some of the most important milestones of last year happened while I was cleaning out the house. I applied to nursing school, then I got accepted to nursing school. I got a job in California, and I gave my notice at work the day that the last box was donated. I refuse to think it was a coincidence. I didn’t just tidy stuff, I tidied my mind. I made plans and took some risks. I followed ideas that sparked joy. I put my faith in those ideas that made me happy. All while learning that socks should be folded and that my purse needs to have a rest at the end of the day. I also got rid of my entire storage unit and got $120/month back in my pocket. #winning

I think there’s really something to this idea. How often do we hold on to things because we feel obligated? How often do we DO things simply out of that obligation? Yes there are plenty of tasks or occasions  we *should* acknowledge because it may be right, and we do them because we are good people. But I know I have made so many smaller decisions based on that nagging feeling of guilt or obligation. Unpacking the boxes made me unpack the feelings too, made me recall both the good and bad memories, the challenges and the triumphs. I learned that I didn’t need to hold on to the stuff of memories to still have the memories; getting rid of books didn’t negate the fact that I read them, getting rid of (some) trophies and medals didn’t erase the accomplishment. I let go. Furthermore, I let go of items that brought me guilt and shame. I let go of my wedding stuff, internally thanking my purchases for helping me learn the lesson I needed and become the person I am now.

Ultimately, I made room for the possessions that I really love, the memories I want to hold dear, and only the socks without any holes.

 

Skating

I recently decided to revamp this blog and also started an Instagram account for it ( @mywtfblog, if you’re so inclined). I thought, “Hey this is a great time to bring the blog back! I’m doing all these fun and new things! I’m in California!” And while that’s all true and nice, the real reason and the only one that actually means a damn is that I just simply like writing it. I don’t care if it gets 3 views for my most heartfelt post, it’s the act of writing and putting my small mark on the world that drives me to write. Why do I always have to have an agenda?! Why can’t I just have a hobby?

Perhaps that’s what I am most excited about from leaving coaching, embarking on this sunny adventure, and then returning to school- I get to have skating back to be all my own. For the past 13 years I have only gone to the rink to serve my students. 99% of my trips to the rink I was lacing up my beloved skates for someone else’s dream. Absolutely not, I am not going to make a comeback (don’t even suggest it I am WAY TOO OLD). But now I get to go to the rink, when I want to, skate as much as I want, leave when I want, and do whatever I want again. I get to have my first and most beloved hobby back. I always said skating was my first love, and it still is today.

It’s been 3 weeks since I’ve been on the ice and I can’t wait to get back. I feel like it will be like meeting an old friend again, and we will pick up right where we left off.

 

 

The Sound Bath

I’ve started my four month stint at a midwifery practice and birthing center in southern California and I couldn’t be happier. The women, the mission, they all just align with what I believe. It’s refreshing to find that a place like this exists in the world.

Today after my office shift, the founder and head “baby catcher” treated us to a sound bath. She had this gorgeous gong that she played in the lobby of the practice and we rested our heads and eyes and allowed the sound, vibrations, and mood wash over us. My mind wandered to both ideas that were real and fantasy. I imagined breathing underwater, standing atop mountains, and occasionally my to-do list popped up. Sometimes I thought nothing at all, barely even hearing the music as my mind almost left my surroundings. Twenty-five minutes later we emerged, with heavy eyes and a feeling of tingling within our bodies. We had been recalibrated.

What else could we experience if we let it wash over us? What else are we missing as we spend our lives calculating, planning, and rushing? Fighting back the tears and keeping our feelings at bay? I wonder sometimes what moments I missed in my early adulthood. I used to be so “by the book.” I didn’t deviate from the plan. But here I am, having spent a few years now deviating from all plans and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.

Old habits die hard though, and now I just have a new beautiful plan. Actually, I should say preferences. At the birth center, they are called a woman’s birth preferences, with the understanding that the course of labor will dictate which preferences can be accommodated and which cannot. Perhaps this is how we should live, with preferences rather than plans, allowing the flow of life to wash over us and just riding the waves.

 

The First Day

Weeks leading up to my departure to California, there was only one thought in my head. Like a carousel, going around and around, it never stopped. I envisioned my feet hitting the ground in sunny Orange County, and I would know I had made it:

“The first day of the rest of my life.”

That’s a bit of pressure filled statement, but to me it honors the magnitude (for me) of my actions. A few months ago I decided that I needed to leave coaching earlier than expected. I had every intention of staying until my school start date, but the environment was simply too toxic. I had received an offer to come to California in January to help my dear friends with their transition from 1 to 2 children, and I happily accepted their offer and decided to stay longer.

I started researching birth centers and midwifery practices, following only what looked interesting and what Google uncovered. I found a wonderful women’s health practice and applied to their doula training program. With no guarantees of employment, I started telling my family, friends, and job that I was moving to California. I knew this was what I was going to do; it was going to work. I needed it to work.

Eventually my mom asked me, “Do you think you’re going to get it because you’re qualified or you just feel you will?”

Honey. We know that answer. (There was never a doubt in my mind.)

And here I am, writing to you from California, one week after my soft move. I landed in my beautiful friend’s home, a mere 6 days before the bundle of joy came, and eager to see what lies ahead of me. With the soundtrack of W.E. playing in my ears (my go-to music for writing), I can only close my eyes and smile about the way these last few months have played out. I want to say I am lucky, but that wouldn’t be fair to the journey I have decided to carve out for myself. Everything has been done with intention.

This idea of CREATING OUR LIFE...sometimes it feels lofty and glossy, like a beautiful image on Pinterest that you pin but know you will not get around to trying. Or perhaps you’ll try and it just feels tedious (like blow drying crayons on a canvas...has anyone tried that one?!). But. But, if we can find it in us to just *believe* we can, if we can put away the layers of doubt, shame, pessimism, and worry, then maybe we can actually create the life we want. Intentionally, thoughtfully, authentically. I know I am striving for that now, for the first time in awhile.

So yes, this is the first day of this part of my life. But everyday can be the first day, if that’s when we decide to believe we are capable of anything.

 

 

Hi, my name is Adrienne.

After that last post I felt like I should reintroduce myself. I achieved the "well-defined" seal of approval from myself (and my therapist!) and I'd like to share who I am and what I am doing:

I am a person who lives by my intuition. If it doesn't feel right, then it's not right for me.

I value compassion, trust, and honesty.

I have deep relationships with just a handful of people. I've never been one for large groups of friends. Give me a bottle of wine and one good friend and that's my best evening.

I have been accepted to nursing school and will be starting this coming spring. I've never been so excited to go back and learn something that I feel I am meant to do.

I am living one of my dreams to be a true city dweller, now living downtown in Philadelphia in a gorgeous neighborhood.

Figure skating will always be my first love, but I am looking forward to a life outside of the sport soon. I know and have accepted that we can have many talents, but they don't have to be our full-time job if we don't want them to be. "Just because we can, doesn't mean we should."

I made the decision to get a divorce after less than 2 years of marriage; it changed my life for the better and helped create the person I am today.

I cry when I listen to Rachmaninov. Shit, I cry for a lot of beautiful things.

I dabble in photography, something I learned back in highschool, and am just getting the confidence to maybe show some of my photos on Instagram. (That’s pretty noncommittal.)

I made the decision to leave coaching earlier than my nursing school start and am completing a doula training program in Irvine, CA. I am so excited to take an opportunity that frankly, is the least planned idea I've ever had.

I have been dating the kindest, most gentle person I have ever known- Tom. He has shown me the power unleashed from a true partnership.

I am far more introverted than I was in the past. I need time to recharge after family functions or even outings with friends, generally recharging by myself yields the best results. If left to my own devices, I probably could go a LONG time without seeing people I know.

I am 30 years old, and not afraid of the unknown anymore. Actually, I welcome it.

 

The Other Side

Every now and then I remember I have this blog. I remember a time when I truly needed it. I needed the space to think and write, and learn how powerful that time was for me. I also remember that most of it was sad, lonely, and drenched with feelings of being lost.

At my 30th birthday dinner, my friend asked me if I knew then what I know now, would I still have gotten married? Would I use the power of hindsight to ward off the pain from my younger self, if possible? The truth is, I told her, no I wouldn't. My amazing best friend Robyn was sitting beside her, and I thought I saw the small glimmer of a tear in her eye and I knew she agreed. I without a doubt wouldn't be the person I am today without that experience, and frankly, I really really like this person. :)

Without darkness, we cannot appreciate the light. Without struggle, we cannot taste the sweetness of victory and success. Without that great pain, I am unsure that I would be so overwhelmed with happiness and clarity now. So many great things were born from my divorce; it's impossible to forget it, disregard it, or wish it away. I would be wishing away myself.

I am fortunate to have reached my other side, I am through. I am not done growing or learning, but I have made it to the other side of my greatest struggle to date. My motto, "The only way out is through" was my guiding light. My family, friends, therapist were my life jacket, keeping me afloat. Thank you. Thank you for the time and energy you gave me, the advice you lent me, the shoulder to sob on, the coffee dates, the house calls, the support, all of it. There really are no words.

I am unsure of where I will go with this blog from here on out. I still feel called to write, but my story is very different now. It will never go away though. No, I will let Squarespace take $12 out of my checking account forever to let my story live out here because I won't hide it or ever forget it. Perhaps one day it may help someone else out. I can only hope that it may after all of the great kindness and love you all have shown me.

Thank you again and again and again.

 

WTF is next?

 

 

What You Resist, Persists

Thanks to my wonderful friend Lizzy, I listened to a podcast that has really affected my life for the better. I’ve decided to dedicate a number of posts to this podcast, so do yourself a favor and check it out here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/being-boss-mindset-habits-tactics-lifestyle-for-creative/id956310359?mt=2&i=358111777

The guest speaker was Jay Pryor and one of the topics that resonated with me the most was this:

What you resist, persists.

Really, go listen to the podcast and don’t be turned off by the tagline for creative entrepreneurs, or the fact that you “don't do self-help.” (because really...what’s wrong with a little self-help?!) You may find a few nuggets that could help you.

For the longest time I had a number of limiting and negative beliefs running through my head, including: “I don’t know what my passion is; I don’t have a career, I don’t know what I want to do with my life.” And if you listen to Jay, that is a form of resistance. I was putting up numerous mental roadblocks and preventing any new ideas or passions from entering my life. Mind you, none of this I figured out until after that fact.

So, a little over a year ago I started this blog and titled the first post “Letting go” (how poetic, right?) and decided that I was going to stop resisting, stop questioning, stop putting pressure on myself, stop searching. And lo and behold, my life imploded. At the time it was terrible, wonderful, scary, exciting, new, shameful, and every other countering emotion possible. If I could relate it to something tangible, it was like a jack-in-the-box that has been wound up for about 4 years and never sprang open. The contents were scary and relieving at the same time.

It’s easy to see what was persisting: unhappiness, discontent, mundane thinking, lack of direction, lack of drive. All of the things I was scared of simply remained in my life. Yet it took some time to realize what it was that I was resisting. There were a number of things: not being my true self, stepping into a marriage I wasn’t ready for and wasn’t aligned with, the idea of going back to school and starting over, stepping away from things that others expected me to stay in, realizing I made some (big) mistakes. Looking back I felt that things happened to me, and perhaps I was resisting the urge to take control and be the strongest force within my own life, instead of letting other forces take me over. Does this make sense? I was resisting the urge to take back my life. So what was the result? Unhappiness, feeling lost, and wasting money on career counselors and really not getting much out of them.

This is so, so obnoxiously easy to say now that I have “figured it out”. Because no one could have told me two years ago, “Yaaaasss girl just be yourself and listen to your gut!” I would have smacked you. But maybe now I can just offer the small hint to someone else who is struggling to find what is next. Perhaps your resistance looks different than mine; I think resistance can exist in limiting beliefs, terrible inner dialogue about ourselves and what we are capable of, speaking in absolutes (I rocked at this), and being close-minded. If any of this rings a bell, perhaps ask yourself what it is that you could be resisting. Maybe with a slight shift in our thoughts, we can unblock that which is stopping us and move forward.

 


WTF are you resisting?

 

People from this post who rock:

Being Boss

Lizzy Russinko