Monday, 5 December 2016

The Space In Between

At almost 37 weeks pregnant, my baby could choose to arrive any day now. Fully formed and functioning, the only thing left to do is get fat :) The baby will need to store up some energy ready to push their way out of my body and into the world. This also affords us some TIME. Time to rest, marinate and explore the space in between sleep and awake, old world and new world, mystery and reality. It is a time to feel into and allow for the collaboration between body and baby - a partnership that has been evolving since conception, that culminates at the moment of birth and may continue on through breastfeeding.

I've heard a few people call the last weeks of pregnancy "the space in between" which only now makes sense to me as I sit here with my baby curled up inside my belly, wriggling around waiting for the right moment to be birthed into existence. Although for me their existence has been real since the days of the first movements and kicks. Already communicating and reacting to stimulus like touch, sound, or chocolate ice cream...

A little blessing ceremony to prepare baby and me for birth

Its amazing how much love I feel for this babe, even before birth... already so protective. For much of this pregnancy I've felt emotionally drained and vulnerable, but despite being physically exhausted, I now feel an overwhelming sense of strength and power to do whatever is needed. Writing this I am reminded of Durga, the Shakti Mother Goddess, stories of whom describe her unparalleled fearlessness and fierce power as she defeated many demons in battle. One of her weapons is the thunderbolt symbolising strength of spirit. By devoting prayer to Durga she will empower you with unwavering confidence and will. For the past 3 months "om dum durgayai namah" has been my mantra, so perhaps she has heard me - coupled with all these pregnancy hormones no wonder I feel so strong!

Maybe that's why this in between space is necessary; to calm, slow down and breathe. Waiting for baby to arrive does feel a little like holding my breath... I am so ready for this next stage of my life but at the same time the longer I have to wait, the more time I have to contemplate all that I am saying goodbye to. Independence, autonomy and lack of judgement. (It seems becoming a mother invites a whole heap of judgement - but that's another blog post!)

Its apt that all this comes at the end of the year, when everyone is taking time to reflect on past events and turning attention to their hopes for the new year ahead. This is an opportunity to release and let go of anything that no longer serves us and focus on the things we want more of in our lives, no matter what obstacles might lay before us. To quote the late Mohammed Ali, "it isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, its the pebble in your shoe." So get rid of those pebbles!

As my body prepares for birth I realise that with the uncomfortable aching of my pelvis opening, so too is my awareness expanding. I am creating a portal... or I am a portal, to enable a soul to take physical form. A soul that is entrusting me with their growth, birth and nurturing. I must let go of, accept and surrender to the physical changes in my body and welcome the opportunity to bring new life into being.

Birds eye view of bump :)

Friday, 29 July 2016

Baby Kicks

I heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time last week - it sounded like a steam train! It was a magical moment. But feeling the baby move for the first time was probably the most incredible part of the week. Initially I thought it was just my stomach digesting all the food I'd eaten :) but soon it became clear they were little punches and kicks from inside. 

Experiencing first sensations of baby kicking
With each day and each milestone I feel more connection and more love for this baby. Its quite amazing how much I can sense myself changing and growing more protective of this tiny being in my belly. 

I'm also finally feeling healthy and happy again. The first few months have been pretty traumatic... morning sickness, headaches, parasites, but the worst part was feeling completely unstable - emotionally and energetically. Since April my world has turned upside down and I've had to totally change my perspective and attitude. Just assimilating all the new information that had been thrown at me (along with those wonderful pregnancy hormones) took its toll. 

People have understandably been asking me what I'm going to do, where I'm going to live, how do I plan to raise this baby...? The answer is "I don't know!" But I do know that I will figure it out. I have had to start over from zero a few times now and the one thing I know I have is strength...

I have experienced depression before, much like many people I know, and struggled through it on my own. Then last year I went through a period of having crippling anxiety attacks, brought on by lots of small things that when piled together created a mountain of stress that I just couldn't climb. Blackouts, heart palpitations, nausea and shaking were all coming up on a daily basis for me to deal with. Not fun.

During both these periods I felt like a failure. I thought I was weak to be unable to deal with... life! I felt ashamed and alone. Luckily this time I sought the help of a talk therapist who worked with me so that I could see that I wasn't weak at all. As I wrote down all the things that had happened over the last couple of years she showed me that people who experience anxiety actually have enormous strength and resilience. We have been able to cope with so much that we have broken through the ceiling of our capacity for stress, and flipped a switch in our brain to make our bodies react physically to the smallest of things. 

I think this is the body's way of telling us to take a giant step back and take the lid off the pressure cooker! Be kinder to ourselves - we are NOT machines! As someone who works with energy for healing, I also believe that illnesses like depression and anxiety can occur when our flow of energy is blocked and is not being channelled effectively. When we stifle ourselves by focusing on what we "should" be doing, rather than what we WANT to do.

I am so lucky to have the support of my parents, which has allowed me to take the pressure off myself and really process everything. I've been able to be gentle and kind to myself without (too much) guilt. My body, mind and spirit needed time, love and kindness to prepare... Although I have felt a change in me since the moment I saw the little peanut, it has taken time for me to catch up with my body.

As I write this I am being pummelled from the inside by my unborn baby. Sometimes these baby kicks make me jump they are so strong! The midwife mentioned I might start feeling flutterings like butterflies in my tummy when the baby starts to move... butterflies my arse! :)

Now that's a butterfly :)

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Magic Lesson

"Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." Roald Dahl

Coming back to the UK and reconnecting with old friends has warmed my heart and reminded me of my roots, my journey before the "Quest" really began. I may have only lived in Central America for 8 months, but it's impact has been profound, and effected me in ways that I know I am yet to comprehend. During that time I had the opportunity to live among people who accepted me and my beliefs, without mocking, judgment or criticism. It was pretty special.

Special people :)

Since I've been back I've seen how frustrated, sceptical and tired people have become. Politically, environmentally, economically and spiritually. But I'm also seeing some people coming to the realisation that they're not here to just pay bills then die. There's so much more to this thing called life and it's time to believe in MAGIC again. The magic of the inherent goodness and wisdom of humanity. The media has us believing otherwise, but it's there if you're willing to see it.

Since my last post I've had so many people reach out to me offering their love and support... People I haven't seen or spoken to in years! I am truly touched by their compassion and kindness. I feel held. As my expanding belly grows inch by inch, day by day, the passage of time seems more tangible than ever before. With each day I also have a choice - I can either be afraid of the unknown future of the life unfolding ahead of me, or I can accept and embrace it moment by moment for the unique experience that it is, and be thankful. How I choose to respond to the world around me changes my experience of it.

My changing body from Week 10 to 15
Deep down I think most people know that things need to change. And it's a choice we need to make because the change starts with us. Yes, when we live outside, or even on the edge of, our comfort zone we will come up against challenges, which are really just opportunities for growth. They may seem tough, but these challenges increase and enrich our experiences, making us stronger and wiser.

I once heard a young boy say, "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space!" I kind of agree with him... because living on the edge means taking chances. Safety is comfortable but nothing changes as we become stifled by habit, and fearful of things that are different. And since space is inextricably linked to time, you're also wasting that :)

Henry Adams said; "Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit." So chaos may actually be necessary for larger scale changes to arise. And there has always been chaos; it doesn't necessarily precede a fall and good things come out of it too... Like new life!

Being pregnant has changed me already. I used to struggle with my own sense of femininity, always feeling like I wasn't quite womanly enough. This was something I had been working on, knowing it was all about self-perception. But since this baby has come into my life that struggle seems to have disappeared. I'm yet to fully understand why, but maybe its partly because I'm in awe. I'm in awe of how my female body just KNOWS what to do and does it. It shows me that we are all here to fulfil a purpose and, no matter what that purpose is, our bodies know how to do that... WE know how to do that. Its chemical, biological, physical. We all know how it FEELS when something is right, or wrong - normally its somewhere in the gut. More often than not my body knows before my mind, and all I ever needed to do was believe and trust in these magical feelings.

I've decided I'm going to make the most of every moment, every inch and every sensation. There will always be someone out there who wishes they had the things that I have - my experiences, my opportunities. So I'm going to surrender to the chaos and enjoy the magic show!

Friday, 1 July 2016

Life Unfolding

This is by far the hardest thing I have ever done... and its only going to get harder.

Most of my first trimester was spent in Guatemala, where I not only had to deal with the idea of being pregnant, but battle the intestinal parasites I'd contracted whilst handling the constant nausea, fatigue, dizziness and mood swings of pregnancy. There was also the small matter of the Zika virus being prevalent in Guatemala, and with the rainy season here there were more mosquitos, and therefore, more of a threat of infection. So I left my home at the lake and headed to my parents home in England, where I could get healthy.

An English country garden

My Mum and Dad have been phenomenal - I am so lucky and could not ask for better parents. Although, what I didn't expect was this sense of guilt... I feel bad every time they tell one of their friends that I'm pregnant and then have to try and explain the whole situation. It seems unfair that because I'm not married or in a serious relationship we aren't met with an automatic look of joy and "Congratulations" when delivering the news. Yes, things are complicated but that doesn't mean this is a tragedy.

Of course, it can feel like a tragedy from time to time. Right now my best option is to live with my parents in the town I grew up in, yet have no close friends to call my own. I have no job and no savings. And despite all the kind words of love and support I've received from friends and family around the world since my last blog post, I have never felt more alone. I don't know anyone who is or has been in my position... who could possibly understand and relate to what I'm going through? I've gone from wild travelling woman, to ideal candidate for the Jerry Springer show!

Reading pregnancy and birthing books doesn't help because they all talk about how your partner can make everything easier. From birthing classes to emotional support - everywhere I look I am being told that I can't do this on my own. Even my old friend Ayurveda has turned against me, emphasising the great need for the mother to be surrounded by the love and care of her partner!

Summer reading

With all these pregnancy hormones swirling around inside me its hard not to break into tears when I start contemplating my situation in more detail. I get even more emotional when I think about how my feelings might affect the baby. The books tell me, "your baby receives physiological support from you on a continuous basis and also picks up on all your feelings. So when you feel loved and supported by your partner, so does your baby, absorbing all your endorphins." (Dr Gowri Motha) Great. Knowing that sends me into a downward spiral feeling like I'm letting my baby down by getting upset and stressed, and negatively affecting it on a physical level as well...

At times like these I reach out to a couple of very dear friends for words of wisdom and comfort to pull me back from the brink. I am so incredibly lucky to have some amazing women in my life who have truly been there for me, loving me and holding space for me, even at a distance. You know who you are :)

There are times when I wish that I didn't believe that this is my calling, and that an abortion was an option. But even saying those words hurts my heart. I cannot and will not ignore the feelings I have for this baby.

Last week I had a scan at the hospital. My Mum and Dad excitedly came with me, but in the end I decided to go into the ultrasound room on my own. I wanted this experience all to myself :) As the sonographer pressed into my belly through the icy cold gel, I saw it... It was a real baby! No longer just a grey peanut, but a bouncing (literally!) little baby. I saw its tiny feet and hands and as it wriggled around I felt its contentment. Maybe I'm doing an alright job afterall...

Baby at 14 weeks

After measuring the baby it was dated at 14 weeks, making my official due date Christmas Day. Talk about a gift!

Its funny when I think back to the beginning of my Central American adventure, and how I'd asked the Universe for "life-changing love". And instead of falling in love and finding a partner to change my life, I fell pregnant and will getting a baby for Christmas. The Universe has an interesting way of delivering exactly what you want, it just may not come about how you had envisioned! You can't get more life-changing than becoming a mother.

"... you might have tried to stack the odds to make the arrival of babies more or less likely to occur. Yet new life still arises or doesn't for undecipherable reasons. You cannot decide exactly when the sun shines and plants grow. So too, you can't control the flow of universal consciousness. All you can do is trust in life unfolding as it is." Naomi Chunilal

(Reading list consists of The Mindful Mother by Naomi Chunilal, Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin and Gentle Birth Method by Dr Gowri Motha)

Monday, 27 June 2016

The Game-Changer

"You will know the call of your destiny, because it will sound insane." - Elizabeth Gilbert

Over the past few years I've really begun to embrace a life of fluidity, being more open to opportunities as they come my way, and only saying yes to the things I truly want to do. This has been eye-opening, humbling and liberating. It has also helped me to surrender and trust that I will be supported if I follow my heart.

You might think this has all been for nothing if you look at my current status:
- No romantic relationship
- No stable employment
- No home to call my own

Interestingly, none of this phased me... until 7 weeks ago when I found out I was pregnant.

My period was almost 2 weeks late, which was strange because for the past 6 months it had arrived exactly on the day of the full moon every time. I prided myself on how connected I was with my body and believed I would KNOW if I was pregnant! I'd also recently received a womb blessing, which I was told could affect my moon cycle, so I wasn't too concerned. But after a couple of friends suggested I take a test just to be sure, I went to the local Farmacia and asked for a "prueba de embarazo" (after using Google translate).

Guatemalan pregnancy test

Within seconds of two drops of my urine hitting the stick, two pink lines appeared. I waited the 5 minutes as directed, in case, you know... they disappeared?! But of course, they didn't. The test was positive.

Two little pink lines

My housemate and I stared at each other and laughed in disbelief. Was this actually happening? I decided to seek confirmation ASAP, so we hopped on a boat to San Pedro to try and see the doctor at the clinic. Once we got there I frantically tried to explain to the nurse in my terrible Spanish that my period was late and I might be pregnant. It worked. But I had to wait 3 hours to see the doctor... the longest 3 hours of my life!

The doctor spoke English - thank the Lord. After we established the date of my last period, he whipped out his ultrasound kit, asking me to remove my underwear while he lubed up his wand :) With my feet in stirrups, I watched the screen intently and saw a dark oval shape with a tiny grey peanut inside of it. I didn't need the doctor to tell me that this was my baby.

The 6 week old peanut

Measuring the size of the embryo the doctor dated the pregnancy at around 6 weeks, and with some quick mental arithmetic, this meant I'd likely conceived on April Fool's Day - ha. But this wasn't a joke, this was really happening.

The funniest thing was that as I accepted this information I was at peace. My mindset was, "Okay, let's do this" (talking to the baby). In a way I was relieved because now there was a reason behind the crazy emotional meltdowns I'd been having. I honestly thought I was going through a second puberty or premature menopause - that's how out of control I felt! So it was reassuring to know that what I was experiencing was relatively normal... for a pregnant woman!

Looking back I can see in that moment in the doctor's office, in the small town of San Pedro, Guatemala, everything changed. I had just got used to my role as the Wild Woman, but unknowingly had been flung into a new role as the Mother. Despite the situation being less than ideal, I felt honoured to receive such a gift from the Universe. I saw a blessing, not a curse. The rules of the game changed, but I'm going to keep playing.

Yes, it won't be easy. There will be good days and bad. I know this may seem fucking crazy to a lot of people, but to me it just feels right. I can't explain it - this is the call of my destiny.

"The call will not make sense. The call will not fit into what your culture and your history suggest you are supposed to do. The call will cost you money and time. And relationships... The call will want to make you wet your pants in fear... The call will demand stupid amounts of courage - and by that, I mean to say that the call will require the kind of courage that literally makes you look and feel stupid. Do it. That's your LIFE calling." - Elizabeth Gilbert.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

There's Something About San Marcos

I was only ever planning to be in San Marcos La Laguna, Lago Atitlan for a couple of days. But in a very short space of time I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging - something I had never really experienced before. Those two days turned into six months, and I now know why everyone calls this place "The Vortex". So many amazing people come through this town, either as travellers, seasonal residents, or to become permanent locals. Each one inspired to follow their dreams and hoping to be part of a more conscious community.

There's Fede and Rudy from Guatemala City who are starting up the health food store/crystal shop/juice bar, Flor de Vida. Different artists roll through town and are able to contribute their own paint creations to the walls of the store, making for a very vibrant spot on the street!

Fede painting crystals on the shop front

Then there's Michael who set up Amor y Paz, a vegan-ish comedor that serves up some of the most delicious food in town. Its also sold on a sliding scale, so you pay how much you can afford depending on your budget. Now a local hang out area, people come and catch up, eat, and sometimes spin fire! The food is always colourful, as are the characters who serve you.

Wes photobombing my lentil burger with tempeh

The people here inspire one another, creating a mentality of anything is possible. This is infectious, and is what keeps people coming and staying here. Its also an excellent place to work on your "stuff". All types of therapies are available - yoga, massage, crystal healing, sound healing, Tai Chi, Ayurveda, meditation, Tarot, acupuncture, dancing, cacao ceremonies, and the magical healing power of swimming in the lake itself.
View from my house of Lake Atitlan & San Pedro volcano

Although with many people working on themselves, it can make for a fairly intense environment. For the most part, everyone is pretty supportive of one another and their processes. This means there is more understanding and less judgement... this has been my experience anyway.

Doing my inner work has been like peeling an onion - every time I bring my awareness to something, as I deal with it and let it go, all it does is reveal another layer of conditioning that I need to look at.. and make me cry :) After releasing my need to compare and conform, I could see relationship patterns that weren't serving me. As I acknowledged those patterns I discovered a huge lack of self love. 

For me, this lack of self love comes in the form of putting other people's needs and feelings before my own, and not standing up for myself enough. I then get upset when others aren't considering my needs and feelings to the same extent. This cycle is both depressing and destructive.

As my time on the lake comes to an end, I know that I now have the tools to do this inner work away from its magical waters. I feel more strength rising within me each day and try to embrace every experience as a lesson. I have so much gratitude for San Marcos and all the people I've met here. They have supported and inspired me to be the best version of myself. Through the highs and the lows I have gained so much trust, not just on the Universe, but more importantly, in MYSELF.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Wild Woman

Since my last post I have been taking it easy on myself, just focusing on eating, breathing and sleeping! I'm slowly but surely coming back down to earth and have to thank all the friends who have reached out to offer their support and encouragement. You are my support system and keep me going, and for that I am truly grateful.

If the last couple of months have taught me anything, it's that I do not have to apologise for how I feel. It is my duty to love myself, putting my happiness first and finding fulfillment from within. Only then can I be in a position to help others.

Living in San Marcos means I have the opportunity to encounter some amazing healers, artists, teachers, energetically powerful and enlightened people. A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop where we learned about the power of the Divine Feminine and the female energy archetypes. There's the Virgin, the Mother, the Enchantress and the Crone. These represent stages in life, as well as the monthly phases of the moon.

The Enchantress is the one that resonated with me. She is connected to the waning moon, bringing about introspection and increased focus on the Self. She is the medicine woman that knows you can't keep fighting forward if you don't properly reflect, accept and integrate all of the experiences collected along the way. 

Wild Woman Samtosha :)

Often referred to as the Wild Woman, she can be energetically sensitive and when the tools aren't there to fully embrace this, reactions can become extreme. It is clear to see that I have been embodying the Wild Woman! I have not been honouring my own needs and extreme reactions have bubbled to the surface. (Important Note: This archetype is also connected to the pre‐menstrual phase!)

So I've decided to set some clear boundaries for myself to allow time for introspection, growth and transformation. I need time alone to take care of myself, refine my new direction and take aim! This spiritual journeying is all well and good, but as Matt Kahn points out we can become so caught up in the practice of being spiritual that we are not actually spending time with ourselves, which is how we learn to truly love ourselves - which is ultimately the purpose of the journey!