Fighting Life

Late last night, my heart started racing and I could not calm down.  This happened many, many times while I was pregnant with Iris; far fewer this pregnancy.  I had adapted a “whatever happens, happens” approach in the early weeks, but now as I am in the middle of that time period of “where things went wrong” between Nelle and Iris, it is becoming harder to control.

Maybe it is because there are no indications that anything is wrong, so now I am fighting hope.  Maybe it is because the days drag by and I feel like I have been pregnant for two years instead of two weeks.  Maybe it is because I was pregnant with Nelle at this time in 2015, so in a way, it has been two years.  Our lives have more elements now, between the kids being older, different jobs, and what we have been through.  We are being forced to look forward, when really I want to just ignore everything beyond the present.  Maybe it was because on my way out the door yesterday, my therapist whispered to me that I am a cute pregnant person.  It occurred to me that she has not seen me this pregnant before.  Last time I would have seen her before losing Iris was around 15 weeks, and the first time I met her was after losing Nelle.  I smile in recognition of the compliment, but winced too.

Maybe it is because we are celebrating Quentin’s birthday at Great Wolf Lodge this weekend.  The first time we went there was for Theo’s birthday, not even three weeks after losing Nelle.  I had to wear a maternity swimming suit because a regular suit would not fit and I hated every minute.  The second time we went there was for Quentin’s birthday, a mere five weeks after losing Iris.  Same awfulness.  The third time was for Theo’s birthday this past fall.  I was not pregnant, contemplating the months ahead, and unable to enjoy myself, remembering how painful the previous two visits had been.  Luckily my mood does not deter from the kids’ enjoyment at all.  And now this visit.

Back to last night… I tried every trick I knew to calm myself.  Nothing worked.  As 1:00 am crept to 2:00 am, I began to irrationally panic that through my own anxiety I would harm my baby.  I wear a FitBit around my wrist and glanced at my heart rate and was able to breathe a little more easily – it was not as high as I thought.  Though I felt swallowed by the sensations of dread, my heart rate was not reflecting the same.  I’ve had a higher heart rate carrying laundry up the stairs while pregnant.  Finally, I fell asleep, only to wake an hour later with a stuffy nose and a sore throat.  At that point, I attriuted the dread I had been feeling to oncoming illness.

But I woke this morning, not much better.  I’m in a fog, but within my fog, everything is heightened.  I can feel the tension in my arms and hands as I typed on my computer this morning for work.  Finally I headed up to take a bath, as I have had luck in the past with using the warm water and coolness after to calm me down.  Ger came up and wanted to know why I was taking a bath in the middle of the day.  He was not working from home back in the days when I was pregnant with Iris; he did not know how many different things I would do just to make it through the day.  I responded only that I wasn’t feeling well, and hoped that the bath would help.  I didn’t tell him how paralyzed I have been since last night, because I cannot yet put a finger on exactly what has caused it.

He came back, after I was done with my bath and asked if I was ok. I repeated that I was tired, and he said he could tell, in my face, that it was more than that.  I admitted my anxiety. He feels the same. He asked if there was anything he could do, and I told him no.  Nothing to be done.

 

Extreme Heat

Yoga has been a source of solace.

If I do not go every 2-3 days I can feel the tightness, in my limbs, in my jaw, in my balance.  I need that sweat release of 105 degrees for 90 minutes.  I am now so familiar with the sequence of 26 postures that I can sometimes let my mind wander.  What do I need to process?  What do I need to consider?  The instructors would likely click their tongues and tell me to “bring myself back into the room” but it is a place to gather my thoughts while stretching my body.

And yet, for all of the accomplishments, there are the days that do not go well in the hot room.

Like the day that I noticed a woman practicing a completely modified sequence.  Bikram yoga is fairly stringent on completing the postures as directed, so I wondered what she was up to.  Then realized that she was pregnant: she was avoiding any pressure on her abdomen.  I had to force myself to look away.  I was resentful of her comfort with the risks of doing such a strenuous activity while in her first trimester.  I could likely never bring myself to that level of ease again.  Then she stopped coming.  Likely the practice was too challenging as her baby grew.

Like the day that at the end of class, the instructor said “Let’s give a big congrats to so-and-so, here for her first class, just eight weeks postpartum!”  No.  I could not clap.  I started crying instead.  Sweat mixed with tears and thankfully the heat of the room hid the redness of my eyes.

Like today.  Should have been an ordinary day.  Instead, I was not hydrated enough, dizzy and nauseous, and frustrated with myself.  As I took a break, lying in savasana, the instructor said that she’d had a bad day in the hot room recently, and cried throughout the practice, and that’s ok.  That did it for me.  I began to cry into the floor of the room.  I wanted nothing more than to leave and to go home and crawl into a bawl.  But I stayed.  The practice was hard and I took a lot of breaks, but I stayed.

Late this afternoon, Ger and I took a walk.  My yoga studio is challenging its members to take photos of poses around the western suburbs and post the photos to social media.  So while out for a walk, in 90 degrees, I stopped for a pose.  It was difficult.  The ground was uneven, and I was wearing shoes instead of barefoot.  But I managed to pull myself into eagle pose and hold steady for a few minutes.

 

My First Run

My very first 5k was in October of 2012.  I barely prepped for it, but ran with a friend who kindly ran at my pace.  The following year, I tried really hard to become a runner, participating in ten different races and training in between.  One year later, in October of 2013, I ran the same race as my first, this time pushing a jogging stroller, and impressed with myself that I finished with a decent time and the added challenge.  A testament to my hard work.

I continued to run, a little less consistently, through 2014.  In spring of 2015, I was pregnant.  I had never run while pregnant.  I walked, a lot, while pregnant with Theo.  Notsomuch of anything while pregnant with Quentin.  But I was determined to do the Rock n’ Roll 5k in July of 2015, supporting the Chromosome 18 Registry and Research Society.  Running while pregnant was mostly awkward and I was ill-prepared, even at only around 15 weeks, so I toned it down to a brisk walk.

That was my first run while pregnant.  Today was my first run since losing my babies.

I thought little about it at the time.  I was exhilarated to be a part of Proud to Run Chicago, with my son in tow.  But as I ran, I thought back to that first time I ran with a jogging stroller, which brought me back to running last year while pregnant.  And now, not pregnant.

I try to take immaculate care of myself while pregnant.  I eat even healthier than normal.  I take all of the vitamins and follow all of the rules.  But in the end, it didn’t matter.  I had this vain hope that perhaps all of the effort I have put into yoga and self-care over the past few months might result in “better luck next time” – but I cannot hinge myself on that.  It would just be another source of blame if another attempt did not end well: that I still haven’t done enough to take care of myself.

“I am not one of those who neglect the body in order to make of it a sacrificial offering for the soul, since my soul would thoroughly dislike being served in such a fashion.” -Rilke

Self-Care

“Be mindful of your self-talk.  It’s a conversation with the universe.”  -David James Lees

The past few months, I have been unapologetically focused on myself.  I have spent the better part of the time since September in various states of sadness, anxiety, and anger.  This was compounded by the state of stagnation that I find myself in.  The remedy for that seems to be self-care.  It likely started with yoga: making time for a 90-minute class 3-4x per week.  Recognizing that taking care of myself was a necessary component of being a functional human being both at home and work.  This evolved into taking better care of myself in other ways.  My daily routine has become a ritual of carefully considered improvements.

Sleep is still unpredictable.  Regardless if the night was refreshing or fitful, I am usually awake between 5:30-6:00 am.  I read the news (via The Daily Skimm), check my On This Day posts, and then get myself ready for the day.  Take my medications: for hypothyroidism and anti-depressants. I am every-other-day with the anti- depressants, slowly weaning, testing the waters with the removal of each pill to see how I feel.

On yoga days, I dress in my yoga shorts, sports bra, a comfortable skirt and an old race shirt.  Non-yoga days would be some variation of leggings and a t-shirt.

While Ger gets the kids dressed, I make my coffee and start to unload the dishwasher.  I start hydrating to prepare for yoga. No food before yoga, it would make me nauseous in the hot room.

After the kids eat, I take them to day care.  Drive directly to yoga for the 90 minute class (usually twice during the week, and both weekend days).

Come home, throw my sweaty things directly into the laundry. Shower. Wash my hair only with baking soda, occasionally with an apple cider vinegar rinse.  Wash my face with my own combination of olive oil, jojoba oil, and tea tree oil.  Brush my teeth with activated charcoal.  Post-shower, I add organic body oil to my arms, shea crème to my legs. No makeup.  If it is a non-yoga day, I don’t shower at all and use a dry shampoo on my hair.  Spray my hair with sea salt.

I work. If I’ve had a horrible night of sleep, I might nap in the afternoon.  Ger picks up the kids, so I work until they get home.

I make dinner. I drink a glass of wine while I’m cooking.  I use Blue Apron so three nights per week, perfectly proportioned meals are planned for me.  Alternate with Ger who tucks the kids in and who cleans up the kitchen.

Evening routine of applying a heavenly pineapple mask.  Apply vitamin E eye balm. Take fish oil and vitamin D.  Rub peppermint balm on my feet.

Snuggle into bed with Netflix and Amazon Prime.  Write.  Hope for a night of undisturbed sleep.

Even with all of the self-care, all of the steps to ensure my day goes as smoothly as possible, life still intervenes. A rash appeared on my face yesterday, similar to what I experience after losing Iris.  Unknown origin that was finally determined to likely be the result of hormones or stress. One skin biopsy later and it ended up disappearing on its own.  I won’t deny the twinge of defeatism when it appeared. That as much work as I have put into taking care of myself, and I still can’t prevent my body from doing whatever the hell it wants.  Discouraging to say the least.