Life is filled with an ebb and flow of ups and downs and there isn’t anyone on this Earth immune to the obstacles life can throw at us. Life is sometimes a smooth path and other times it is a bumpy, winding road. There is no way to control the obstacles in our path but we can control how we handle the ride. Embracing and surrendering to the flow of life truly changes the way we perceive our journey. There are so many different tools that can help us navigate tough times but the one that I believe is most underutilized is simply breathing. Intentional, diaphragmatic breathing that is. Diaphragmatic breathing can be done anytime, anywhere to ease any emotion; trauma, anxiety, stress, grief, irritability, or just because…life. There really doesn’t need to be a reason because there are so many benefits to a regular breath work practice. There are also many different breathing techniques but diaphragmatic breathing is a great starting place. It has been studied that this type of breathing can have beneficial effects on physical and mental health, stress and negative emotions can be counteracted, and can enhance sustained attention.
When our body holds becomes stressed or anxiety ridden we, unknowingly, establish a short, shallow breath that encourages the anxiety we are trying to relieve. This a mentally and physically detrimental cycle to continue. This deep breathing technique, anatomically, activates the parasympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for the body’s rest and digestion responses) by compressing the vagas nerve (which can assist in lowering your heart rate). This is significant because stressful situations or even everyday stressors can trigger the “flight or flight” mode. If this physiological response is repeatedly activated it can lead to chronic stress that can contribute to high blood pressure, cardio-vascular issues and can lead to depression, anxiety, obesity and addiction.
Not only can diaphragmatic breathing lower stress responses the body produces but it can also improve pelvic floor musculature which should be a focus for women’s wellness. The diaphragm and the pelvic floor are synergists, they work together with inhalation and exhalation. They are both hammock like muscles that do the same thing at the same time. So, with inhalation, the diaphragm and the pelvic floor both drop, creating space in both the lungs and the pelvis. With exhalation, these muscles lift with the vacuum effect that takes place in the body. These two important muscles work best when the body is properly aligned. So, this is where posture becomes important for the pelvic floor and lungs to work autonomously.
How to take diaphragmatic breaths…
If you are seated, align your posture, head over heart, heart over pelvis, with a neutral spine. If standing, continue hips over knees, knees over ankles.
Place a hand on each rib cage, fingers on front side, thumb around back. As you breathe in through your nose, feel your ribs and lungs expand 360 degrees. You don’t want your chest moving much. Your belly will expand but it’s not the focus. Focus on fill up your lungs from the lower part up.
Then exhale through your mouth, completely drawing the navel toward the spine gently to help empty completely. This can be done at any time of the day just to relax and center yourself. Diaphragmatic breathing immediately triggers the vagas nerve which is directly related to our parasympathetic nervous system.
Practice in a mirror to visualize and become more self aware of the flow.
This can be done anytime, anywhere for as many repetitions as you need to feel more at ease. You can start with at least 3 breaths.
Using this as a tool to calm, relax, fall asleep, use during exercise and yoga, whenever you need a little refresher to re center. This tool can keep the mind and body functioning at optimum health. Breathing is something that we don’t have to think about doing, but when we, occasionally, put a little intention behind our breath, it can create less resistance in the flow of life.
Throughout life we experience times that can be uneasy, uncertain, and down right scary. No matter the situation, we need to be able to have the tools to move forward even when we aren’t sure of the outcome. Our whole world is going through this together as COVID-19 becomes the forefront of our vocabulary. Schools have shut down, events cancelled, social distancing will be our norm, all for the greater good of society. This extreme societal break is really nothing we have experienced before so in this prevention of mass spreading of this virus, mass hysteria has infected the country. Grocery stores can’t keep up with essential supplies, people are stressing over the uncertainty of their jobs and who will watch their kids since they will be home indefinitely. While these may be valid reasons to feel heightened, for the sake of our health, humanity and because this could become a temporary season, we need to recenter ourselves. Focusing on what you can do versus what you can’t do is the first step to refreshing your outlook. The better our outlook, the better we manage our stress with the unknowns.
What you can do…
Educate yourself. Ignorance may be bliss but knowledge is wealth. Limiting social media and news can eliminate some of the mass hysteria, try not to get caught up in overwhelming yourself in loads of triggering posts. Understand the facts and know your local resources so you can plan accordingly. This alone will take a load off of the misconception and stress of not knowing what to do if it hits your household.
Focus on controlling your own actions and plans. Anxiety can stem from us trying to control things that are simply out of our control. This can be detrimental to our peace and heighten emotions. The best thing we can do is stay calm so we can make rational decisions in this challenging time.
Prioritize your family’s needs. Plan ahead and tend to you and your family’s physical and mental health. This is a time that the world is giving everyone to prioritize health, so please, take it if you are able. Re evaluate your priorities and say no to everything else. This can eliminate any unnecessary guilt that may arise. Get the essentials you need for the moment, the mass hysteria is driving people to buy in an extreme bulk. We are not being productive as a whole if we are buying stores out of supplies that everyone needs.
Gravitate toward the help. Whether you need help or maybe you have help to offer others, reach out to the organizations and individuals who you see joining or needing help. It is amazing how quickly people can come together in time of need. There are people who want to help and there are people who need it. If you are one of those people who need it, speak up, do not feel ashamed, everyone needs help at some point in life. Maybe this is a time for you. If you are someone who wants to help, check in with others you think may need it.
Stay healthy. Practice good hygiene, stay hydrated, eat nourishing foods, get rest and stay moving. This is a good time to ground in nature and get some fresh air. Set your body up for success, the more consistent we can be with making healthier decisions, the better prepared we are to handle or even prevent an illness.
Allow yourself some grace. This isn’t something we experience often and can be challenging. Give yourself patience and allow time for self care. What do you need in this moment? How can you make this stressful time easier for yourself? What do you need help with? Who can help you with this? What activities can you do to lighten the situation? Checking in with yourself often can lead you down a more calming path. Feelings will arise, and that is OK!
Find the silver lining. What good is coming out of this? What are you grateful for in this moment? My favorite activity to put my life in perspective is thinking of 3 things that I am grateful during intense times. This can really pull yourself out of a bad mental space. Social distancing can really be a good time to go within, spend quality time with family, and find creative ways to stay busy. You might actually create a new normal that sparks a new interest.
Know, this too shall pass. This is a new situation for most, but nothing lasts forever and we are all in this together. Rely on your support system, enjoy the time you are given, and get creative in your new definition of fun time. Time will pass and it will go by more pleasant if we can move forward as our best selves.
The ebbs and flows of life continue on even when we aren’t prepared for what’s to come. We aren’t able to prepare for an outcome but we can prepare for the way we handle it. Our actions are the key to how this season looks and feels. COVID-19 may be the culprit this time but we will always face times of uncertainty, none of us are immune. How will you move forward during this season of your life?
The first word that comes to my mind as I write this, is heavy. Heavy on the mind, heavy on the heart, and heavy on the soul. Heavy is the reason I haven’t discussed my story to too many people, but also the reason I am writing this. Heavy issues make people uncomfortable, which gives people an instinct to not share their struggles. We can not change societal conditions unless we start bringing awareness and talking about the heavy stuff. And for me, it’s been a heavy seven month season that is on going. Even with an amazing support system, it feels heavy. Even with an amazing team of providers, it feels heavy. Even with living children, it feels heavy. So if you have or are going through your own heavy season, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
My background of being a High Risk Obstetric Ultrasound Technician really founded my solid appreciation for mothers, women, and life beginning from conception. I knew from that point on I wanted to help women in an even deeper capacity. I saw women go through struggles that you only read about. Babies with different beginnings and different outcomes. I cried happy tears with mothers, I cried grieving tears with mothers. I have seen the spectrum of unforeseeable events that can happen during pregnancy. This knowledge made me extremely logical. And I will say, that logic got me through my first pregnancy and my first couple of miscarriages. Logic has a funny way of pushing aside feelings that are meant to be felt. It also can create an unintentional approach that pulls you farther from faith, creating an anxiety to know a reasoning for everything. I am a very spiritual and have a strong faith in God, but anxiety can drive a huge wedge in that without you even realizing. It can also create a distorted self perspective, making you feel as if, your feelings aren’t valid, because there are people going through worse situations. I dealt with this a lot, down grading my grief. Disrespecting my own feelings. I am here to tell you and myself that any feeling that comes through you are valid!
Being a High Risk OB Ultrasound tech at WVUMedicine, I have gotten to know some of the best providers, the best fertility specialist, nurses and fellow ultrasound techs. I have to say I have the best team on my side through out this whole process. Without trust for my providers it would make this process that much harder and I know some aren’t as lucky.
This is my second time around at trying to conceive (TTC). Two years ago I was blessed with my healthy son after about 7 months of trying. It was literally the week we decided to put a hold on actively trying that we conceived our son. So, it was fairly uneventful and no true struggle compared to now. As much as I realize that every pregnancy is different and things can change, it heightened my expectations some. 18 months after he was born my husband and I started our second TTC journey.
Finding out I was pregnant after only two cycles of TTC was so exciting. I had so much energy running through me despite the normal first trimester fatigue. We were excited that our son would have a sibling so close in age. I was even more elated that I would have a baby in the spring, dodging those short, dark, winter days. But that excitement didn’t last long. Going for the first ultrasound and looking at a screen with a picture of an empty gestational sac was disheartening to say the least. I was positive on my dates and knew it was a blighted ovum. It’s just one of those spontaneous things that can happen, no blame to place. Logic comforted me here. I also felt more peace knowing a fetus never even had a chance to develop. That made the experience a little lighter for me.
Anyone trying to conceive knows that it is all a huge waiting game. Waiting for ovulation, waiting for a missed period or maybe even a regular period, waiting for a positive test. But after a miscarriage the waiting tries your patience to a whole new level. For me, for the blighted ovum, I waited to pass the tissue naturally, for weeks. I then waited for meds to help induce a miscarriage, only to find those didn’t work, twice. Then waiting for the procedure to be done. Waiting for bleeding, cramping, and clots to stop, hormones and HCG to come back to normal. And waiting to feel “not pregnant” again. This process can takes weeks and it did. Throw in a curve ball with a small perforation of the uterus (risk of having a manual vacuum aspiration performed). Then it’s back to square one, waiting for ovulation again.
I am apparently one who gets pregnant quickly, which seems like a blessing, yet a curse. I became pregnant the very next time I ovulated. Unfortunately, that ended within a week of finding out, ending in a chemical pregnancy. That happened twice, one after the other. Just enough to build excitement and to be let down quickly.
By this point, positive tests were starting to become a trigger for me. Anxiety crept in a little deeper, positivity was becoming a little more grounded, reality was kicking in, maybe this journey isn’t going to be so easy.
December 27, 2019, five days before my 34th birthday, a very positive test. This was a little different because all of the other tests stayed fairly faint. This one wasn’t, it was very positive, I was feeling very pregnant, fatigue and just not feeling so well. After having three miscarriages, even though it seemed different, I cried. Anxiety was through the roof, I had a tug of war going on with my emotions, like, I should be jumping around, excited. But, what if this ends too, I don’t want to get attached, I don’t want to think about what could be, because what if I lose that, again.
My specialist immediately prescribed progesterone and ordered an HCG blood test and it came back at 82.65 and then jumped up to 326.20 three days later. That was wonderful news, HCG was more than doubled. I had some relief for a few, I could breathe, but not for long. I had my first ultrasound at 5w6d. I knew it was a bit early, but I was certain on my dates, so I knew I should see something. Well, we did, we saw a gestational sac, a bit irregular in shape, and a yolk sac, which was positive news. Everything measured a few days earlier so not seeing a fetus, wasn’t totally out of the ordinary at this point. With me being a former ultrasound tech and knowing what I am looking at, it makes it harder. I can say ignorance can be bliss. I left, went home crying, I knew with the irregular shaped sac, there was a chance I would miscarry again. I even told my husband not to get excited, I didn’t think it would make it. And here we go with another intense waiting game. Wait for the next ultrasound or to start bleeding.
Next ultrasound was a long, 5 days later. Things develop fast that early, it is quite an amazing process and truly gives me so much appreciation for life. I was nervous, to say the least, I was expecting no progress. So when I actually saw a fetus with a tiny flutter of a heartbeat, it gave me hope that I hadn’t seen in a long time. That tiny little heartbeat gave me life again. This might actually happen for us. I left and wanted to tell everyone. I wanted to share this miracle. But that little nagging feeling stepped in and knew to be cautious. I knew to not get too excited but it was hard after seeing a brand new life growing inside me.
A week later, I went back for another ultrasound. With my history, we wanted to see the progress, and give my mind a rest. I was so confident, I was really sure things would be OK. But things weren’t OK. Looking up at the screen, everything looked exactly the same, except no heartbeat. No little flutter. Meanwhile, I have worked with everyone on my providing team, the ultrasound techs, the doctor and some of the nurses. I have been in their shoes. I know that feeling of trying to be positive when it’s not. I know that feeling of trying to make the best of a situation when there isn’t anything you can do. So I held it together until I got to my car. That realist part of me, just said “told you so”. That tug of war inside was over and you can guess who won. It was heart wrenching, seeing a fetus that once had life to then not, was indescribable. Different from the others, yet still a loss. Gut punch after gut punch of losses, it gets harder to stay positive. This is when support matters. I am forever grateful for the support from my husband. I can see the grief he has too, but even still he does what he can to make me feel better. He picks me up when I am down, picks up the slack when I just can’t handle my load. When you marry, you never know the moments to come when your vows will mean so much. These are the moments that confirm true, unconditional love.
The grief set in and another procedure performed. Karyotype testing or chromosomal testing confirmed that it was a baby girl with Trisomy 3 a non viable chromosomal issue. The geneticist confirmed this was a random incident that shouldn’t affect future outcomes, which is relieving but not enough to take away the pain of this heartbreak. It took weeks for this confirmation to come back. During that time, it was a rollercoaster of emotions. Depression and anxiety came in waves. I developed this overwhelming fear that I was going to lose my husband or my son. It consumed me for a couple of weeks. It also took over 5 weeks for my HCG levels to go back to zero. I have never in my life wanted a negative pregnancy test so badly. Seeing it positive triggered so much pain. I just wanted it to be over. I just wanted to feel like me again.
There were times where I negated my grief because I know so many women go through even worse situations than I have. I almost felt bad for my own feelings. Pushing the emotions downs only made everything harder. Once I started acknowledging the feelings is when I started to flow with a little more ease. The downs were still there but the ups were coming back more and more. I am grateful that this happened earlier in the pregnancy than later, mainly for the baby girl’s sake. But, what I know is a loss hurts no matter the situation. The loss takes time to process and whatever feelings that come up need to be honored. These feelings are valid and it’s OK to not be OK.
I am still in the thick of it and could cry at the drop of a hat thinking about what could have been, I have no idea what the future holds and as of right now, that’s OK. I hurt for the baby girl who didn’t make it very far. I can tell you that I am even more grateful for my toddler who gives me reason to get out of bed every day. He brings smiles to my face when I need it and he fills in any “waiting” time. I have had people immediately tell me how grateful I should be of my living child when they find out of my losses, I know they mean well, and they are not sure how to make it better so this seems like the best way to put in perspective. But as someone who has had four miscarriages, I know exactly how grateful and a privilege it is to have a healthy, living child.
If you are someone trying to support a mother going through a miscarriage…
Understand that everyone grieves differently. Let go of your own expectations of their grief.
Lend your ear. Listening without judgement, allowing the mother to give you all of her feelings without unsolicited advice. Sometimes a listening ear is all someone needs to feel a little better. And, on the other hand, accepting if she doesn’t feel like talking about it either.
Check in on her often. Day to day can look and feel conversely different.
Offer plans you know makes her light up and puts a smile on her face but accept if she declines your offer.
Ask her how you can help. Be Supportive. There isn’t a lot anyone can do for someone going through this heavy time, but asking opens up the communication making her feel safe to come to you.
If you are a mother going through a miscarriage/miscarriages
I am so sorry for your loss. No matter what situation your loss is, it is a loss.
Lean on your significant other, family, and/or friends. This is too heavy to bare alone. I understand the feeling of not wanting to watch other’s hurt too but this is a lot to take on alone. Allow others to help with the grief.
Your feelings are real and they matter. Your feelings are valid.
Allow yourself some time, grace and give yourself some love. This road isn’t easy so if you need rest, take it. If you feel like you need more support than just friends and family, do not hesitate to talk to a professional.
Be ok with taking a step back. I had to take time away from my business because it was triggering working on perinatal projects and with perinatal clients. I knew it couldn’t bring my best energy.
Do things that you know lights you up or puts a smile on your face, even when you don’t feel like it. Sometimes that little thing can be just what you need to have a better day, especially in those times you are waiting.
Gratitude lists can be a good tool to help you gravitate toward the positives. I like to think of 3 things every morning that I am grateful for. It helps get me out of bed when that doesn’t seem like it can happen.
Stay close to your spirituality and hold on to your faith. Anxiety and worry can mask our faith. Some things don’t have a logical reasoning and in that we have to trust in divine timing.
My story isn’t over and despite the ups and downs of the life in between recurrent spontaneous miscarriages. I still have hope despite all of the loss. With all of the pain and struggle that has been endured in this process the emotional and spiritual growth I have gained is immeasurable. I have learned that logic isn’t always comforting and sometimes you have to let logic go to let faith in. I have been through hard things and I know I can conquer hard things. This is an affirmation I often remind myself. I know I will make it to the other side of this rainbow. As painful as it is to relive this all over again, I know that if this post helps just one woman not feel so alone in this journey, it will all be worth it.
Balance, wellness, and self care, oh my! Literally, everywhere we turn this is slapped in our faces. Words that most will roll their eyes to, because how can anyone be balanced, well or even have time to take care of them selves in this tightly wound, fast paced, busy lifestyle that is enabled every where we turn?! We live in a world where taking time off of work for even just necessary appointments, parental leave, or God forbid, a sick child, we are looked down upon, sometimes reprimanded for. We are expected to have a thriving life, career, and children with little support getting there. Cue the shame, comparisons, and insecurities that eat away at a thriving life, career, and children.
It’s true though, the world we are in now is not the grounded, disconnected, simple life we might have grown up with. But we have gotten a lot of what we wanted, like more conveniences (hello, Amazon Prime), technology at our finger tips (literally glued to our hands), and connection to anyone, any place, at any given moment. What was hugely missed was the opportunity to keep some of the “down” time because of the fast paced lifestyle. But we didn’t, we filled it with more meetings, work, and/or mindless social media scrolling. We are now being indirectly rewarded for running ourselves ragged. Getting ourselves farther from balance, wellness, and self care. So, yea, when someone comes at you with get balanced, well and do your self care, that may be triggering.
These words, balance, wellness, and self care are buzzwords for a reason, because the world needs it more than ever. These buzzwords fly left and right, but when you can see the intention that they have behind them and how, maybe, just maybe, the world needs a little more of them, they might actually bring something positive to your life.
What do I mean?
Well, start by evaluating your life, what area of your life could use a little more balance? Where could you be more intentional? Maybe self care for you, in your hectic life, just means taking a five minute walk in fresh air or maybe even just taking in some deep breaths to calm your nervous system. It doesn’t have to be trips to the spa or getting your nails done, unless that is something that lights up your life. You do you!
Becoming more balanced doesn’t have to be complicated. Start simple with something manageable. You don’t even have to spend money, get creative. The best place to start is to think about things that put a smile on your face, refreshes you and makes you feel good. Following those instincts lead you on the path to a better well being. Another little insider tip, balance is something we have to actively work on and give attention to. Life can hit us hard when we aren’t looking so it becomes a give and take. I call this action, Balancebuilding®. What feels balanced to you is not always what feels balanced to someone else.
We can’t change societal stigmas without first changing ourselves. If we want the world to have a better balance we need to first find our own. If we want the world to be well, we need to prioritize wellness as individuals. If we want the world to acknowledge self care, we need to take it. We can only give the energy we have.
Where do you go from here?
Acknowledge where you are. Hold yourself accountable.
Meet yourself where you are.
Show yourself some love and grace. A journey to one’s self is never easy but always worth it.
Reach out for help and communicate your needs clearly. Whether that is to a family member, friend, or even a professional to help get you where you want to be.
Communicate from a place of love. Sometimes we can be so overwhelmed and anxious that we can sound harsh. Speak from your true feelings and exactly what you need. Understand that people are not mind readers and you can not hold them accountable for what you didn’t communicate.
Organize your priorities. Making a list of your top priorities daily or weekly will help you say no to things that are getting in your way of being your best self.
Take action! Again, balance and true wellness take intention. Plan your day according to your priorities.
These steps will encourage the feeling of accomplishment, self confidence, and your authentic self. Doesn’t that make for huge successes? Behind the buzzwords are actions that could truly save your well being. Aren’t we all just trying to be truly happy as our authentic selves? What are you waiting for?
It’s New Year’s Eve and also the day I have made 34 trips around the sun. I never really thought of my birthday on New Year’s Eve as very special until I got older. What is most people’s end of a year is my beginning. And it is such a self reflective day. I’m not sure there has been any other year that I have had this much personal growth.
Last year, I started a new tradition of picking a word for the upcoming years. These words act as affirmations and can be a motivation to resolutions. It is something to come back to when you find yourself off track. My word was DHARMA. Dharma is a sanskrit spiritual word for your personal truth or duty, life purpose. I have dedicated this year to that and it has been a year full of digging deep within myself to focus in on the energy I put into the world. I have found the more you give the more you receive.
My year consisted of…
-Quitting my corporate job to be a stay at home working for myself Mom
-Lots of yoga training-RYT200 Yoga Certification
-Pre/Postnatal Yoga Certification
-Pelvic floor Yoga Certification
-Teaching my first yoga classes/workshops
-Went on 2 vacations
– One sans Maddux and the other was Maddux’s First vaca
-I finished breastfeeding after 15 months 🎉 #freedom
-I won 2 life changing experiences on Instagram–One was a 60 min consult with Heaven Sent Sleep- it was definitely heaven sent. For the first 14 months of Maddux’s life he NEVER slept through the night. Like I’m talking multiple wake ups! I couldn’t do it anymore. Since then, he has slept through the night, every night! The other experience I won was an Akashic Record reading from Melita Mollohan. Wow. What an experience. She gave me insight into my life and also reassurance into other parts. The main thing I appreciate is the peace she gave me for the upcoming challenging parts. If you ever get the chance to do so, do it!
-Started writing a book
-During a challenging matter (a later blog post will explain) I actually created one of my proudest creations yet, my Postpartum Wellness Recovery Course. This is when I realized I was put here to help women and moms navigate through life with the best of tools. Balancebuilding was perfected in this moment.
-Sold our home
-Moved to a rental
-Found a home in Buckhannon
-Found a little more “go with the flow attitude”
-Found the difference between myself as a Mom and as an individual.
-Discovered detachment to material things/situations/and whatever does not serve me any longer is the key to really living life.
I look at this list and I am astounded and proud of how much I have done and how far I have come! I also notice that most of this list can be mapped back to my word of the year for 2019, DHARMA. I really stuck to it even though sometimes it might not have seemed that way. Progress over perfection. This is why reflection is so important to where you are headed.
You don’t realize how much a year can change your life until you reflect. My new word for this upcoming word is EXPANSION. I want to expand on what 2019 brought me. I will soon be starting 2020 off in a new town and I am excited to see what it has to offer! Change can be scary but it also can create growth like you have never felt.
If you haven’t done some self reflecting on 2019, I suggest you do so. Focus on the good and look at how far you have come. This will help you create your goals and intentions for 2020 and a positive mindset for starting the year.
Journaling prompts for self reflection…
If I could tell my 2018 self about 2019, what would I say?
If I could pick 2 pivotal moments from 2019 what would they be?
What was the greatest improvements I have made this year?
How can 2020 be even better than 2019?
What do I plan to bring to the table in 2020?
I would love to hear from you! Let me know if something resonates, and keep being your best, true self! Thank you to those who have reached out on my special day and I hope you all have the best New Year!