To my second son, on his birthing day

Dear Ant

In a few hours, I’m heading into hospital and the water that’s been around you while you have been inside me will be released. As with Bear, I’m so sorry to take away the choice of when to come into this world, away from you.  I know you’ll understand, intellectually, one day, why I had to make this choice. I just hope that you know, even now, that I am doing what I’m doing in order to protect you as best as I can.

I’ve had to make some choices over the past months that others may criticise. They may tell you things about me that are not true. I hope you will always know that I did (and will do) my best to protect you and that my choices were always made with the primary aim of keeping you safe. That you have been able to get into the perfect position for birth and been able to descend more than Chippie or Bear could, that the fluid index around you has decreased so much, and that risks that were present have been decreased, is a miracle and is a sign to me that I made some right decisions. Even today, there are hard decisions and there are reasons I need to create a bubble of protection around us.  There is also a lot of love around both of us and I hope you feel this love from so many people now, and that you will always know it through your life. May love always find you and may you always give love freely.

As with your brother and sister, I have enjoyed every single moment of you being inside me. Thank you for choosing my body, scarred as it is, to live in and choosing me for your mummy. Every single day you have been inside has been a gift. I want to say that I’m not ready to have you leave my body, but I’m making peace with that. I know I can’t hold you, Bear, and Chippie in my arms forever, but you are forever in my heart.  I hope you always feel my love, even when you are not with me, throughout your life.

Your loving mummy

Jayamangala Gatha, Stars of Peace, & Birth Playlists

Jayamangala Gatha, Stars of Peace, & Birth Playlists

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Image courtesy of Prawny via Pixabay

This pregnancy with Ant was tracking exactly like the pregnancy with Bear. The elevated amniotic fluid index at 28 weeks was exactly as Bear’s was and it was looking like I would be hospitalised at 36 weeks for unstable lie (and the associated risk of a cord prolapse) and a repeat c-section was scheduled for 38 weeks (tomorrow).  At 35.5 weeks – a miracle happened. For the first time in this pregnancy, this pregnancy started following a different route.  My belief is that it had to do with some very difficult life choices I had to make at that point. Ant has been able to descend further than Bear or Chippie could and has been able to stabilise with this head down.  I haven’t been hospitalised and for the first time, at 35.5, my medical team and I were able to talk seriously about having a normal birth. There are a few complications – because of Chippie’s unexplained passing at 39 + 6, I can’t go further than 39.5 weeks and because of the c-section with Bear, prostaglandins can’t be used for inducing labour (they carry a moderate risk of rupture of the c-section scars). So, here I am at 38 weeks, and we’ve started the process of nudging labour. On my “Calm in a Complicated Pregnancy” CD, I have a track about making peace with The Fear – that sense of trepidation and concern. While It’s always present to some extent, it’s been amazing to feel incredibly positive and hopeful. A point I make on the “Notice and Deepening Joy” track on the C is that we can have fear AND feel joy.  I feel the calmest I have in four pregnancies.

I made special playlists for both Chippie’s and Bear’s births. Chippie had a number of Buddhist chants as well as hypnobirthing affirmations,  Bear’s had similar chants and his song – the Jayamangala Gatha (Stanzas of Victory and Blessing), which inspire one of his middle names.  I played this frequently through my pregnancy and still play it for him. Although not Buddhist, there is a lot in Buddhist philosophy that appeals to me.

The Jayamangala Gatha are chanted on auspicious occasions to confer good fortune. They were written by a Sri Lankan Buddhist poet and they are a story of the Buddha’s victories over his enemies through the use of the virtues, including generosity and loving kindness. Here is a lovely video of the Jayamangala Gatha – I hope the song brings you peace and calm.

There has been a lot to sort in the last few months and in these final days before Ant arrives earthside,  I put together a playlist for his birth which includes Buddhist chants including to Tara, the female face of the Buddha. The Green Tara is said to embody compassion and protection.  My anticipation of one of his proper names, which incorporates his pet name “Ant” is Sinhalese and translates to “Stars of Peace”. I thought it might be fitting that his song, I feel, is Willie Nelson’s “From here to the moon and back”.  I’ve played this from early in my pregnancy. As I embark on trying a VBAC, these words spoke to me:

I could hold out my arms, say “I love you this much”
I could tell you how long I will long for your touch
How much and how far would I go to prove
The depth and the breadth of my love for you?

From here to the moon and back
Who else in this world will love you like that?
Love everlasting, I promise you that
From here to the moon and back
From here to the moon and back

On the topic of birthing and pregnancy resources, I have to mention my amazing, generous, and kind hypnobirthing trainer, Melissa Spilsted, who has been emotionally and spiritually present with me throughout all four pregnancies, even though we are geographically separated. Melissa has an amazing wealth of resources on her website, including online resources. I was drawn to hypnobirthing after reading Sarah Buckley’s “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering”. The opening line remains with me “Gentle births give rise to gentle people”. Despite their differences and the complications, both Chippie (born normally) and Bear (born by scheduled c-section) had beautiful, dignified, calm births.

Did you have a playlist for your birth?

When Extensive Discussion is Bad

When Extensive Discussion is Bad

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Image by Stevebidmead via Pixabay

Co-rumination, a more recent term, suggested by Amanda Rose, refers to speculating, re-hashing, dwelling, and extensive discussion of problems with someone (typically a friend). It’s essential overthinking, except that it’s done with company.

Much of the research about this important construct has been done with young women. In adolescent girls, co-rumination is associated with increased depressive symptoms and other internalising problems. In this same study, adolescents are more likely to co-ruminate when in romantic relationships but being in a relationship AND co-ruminating makes depressive symptoms more likely. Co-ruminating also increases cortisol (an indicator of stress). In an interesting experiment, researchers found that c-ruminating with one’s best friend (speculating about the causes, dwelling on things, brooding, re-hashing) led to feeling closer to one’s friend, but also increased depressive symptoms and cortisol.

When dealing with overthinking, in my clinical experience, there is a vital balance between validating our emotional experience as well as not going down the brooding path. This business of validating is utterly crucial and I’ve written about it in another post. Our inner critic so frequently steps in. In my Overcoming Overthinking CD (and workshop), there are exercises for shrinking that critic and soothing the accompanying small, vulnerable part of ourselves.

Living with The Fear in Complicated Pregnancy

Living with The Fear in Complicated Pregnancy

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Image courtesy of Jan Mallander via Pixabay

Yesterday The Fear visited again when I couldn’t quite feel Ant (as baby has been called since week 5 of pregnancy to avoid using “It”) and Ant’s movements, when I did feel them, were reminiscent of Chippie’s movements, our daughter, rather than Bear’s. Logically, I know this is a different pregnancy and, rationally, I stepped into the plan I had devised: (1) check the time, (2) use my home Doppler, (3) sit down/slow down and count any movements (4) plan to redo in 2 hours. (Incidentally, I have a low threshold for contacting my very understanding midwife and obstetrician – I didn’t feel this was a situation where I needed to contact them). Ant has been steadily moving, especially to music.

I knew The Fear would be a constant companion from even before Bear was conceived. The Fear is, as many of you who have complicated pregnancies know, is a million different things – it’s the thoughts of something going wrong, it’s holding your breath at an ultrasound, it’s searching for information, and more…

In any case, given what I know about thought suppression and Acceptance Commitment Therapy, fighting The Fear doesn’t work. Instead, I try to make room for The Fear, acknowledging it is there, acknowledging that there are sensible things I have put in place to assess and respond to situations objectively, and acknowledging where in me it comes from. As I can, I try to treat it with gentle humour. I label it in capitals as part of seeing it as something separate that is not part of who I am as a person, that I can choose how to relate to.

One of the first tracks I recorded, for my Calm in a Complicated Pregnancy was “Living with the Fear” (approx 4.5 mins) which is a visualisation/meditation where I invite you to be with the Fear and, rather than fight it, change how you relate to it. I’m really excited to announce that the CD is now available on Itunes (and hopefully on Amazon, GooglePlay, and a few other places).  This exercise is also one of the ones I’ll be discussing at my workshop on staying calm in a complicated pregnancy.

I know the temptation is to fight The Fear and so much of our culture is about getting rid of “negative” emotions. However, they too have a purpose and so much of our pain can be about the struggle against them. It’s not easy, living with The Fear, but it’s possible and even possible to make friends with it ;).

What type of thinking do you do most often?

What type of thinking do you do most often?

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Grateful thanks to Geralt for the image, via Pixabay

How frequently do you:

(1) try to push (emotional) thoughts aside, either by doing something that distracts you mentally or physically?

(2) feel overwhelmed by the speed at which thoughts are going through your mind?

(3) notice your mind wandering off and daydreaming?

(4) feel your way of managing your thoughts is efficient?

(5) deal efficiently with problems that arise?

(6) go back over conversations, replaying them and trying to work out how they could have gone differently?

(7) use your mind as a mental jotter-pad and use it to hold information?

(8) see thoughts as passing phenomena that you don’t necessarily have to get caught up in?

These are just a handful of questions to get you thinking about your thinking (otherwise known as meta-cognition).  Most of us take our default way of thinking for granted – it’s how we’ve always done things and it can seem surprising that there might even be another way of thinking. I’m not talking about the content of our thinking necessarily, but the style or manner in which we are thinking. Some ways of thinking (e.g. overthinking, and thought suppression) may not serve us well and may set us up to not only feel worse, but also solve problems less well, feel less motivated, and sap our confidence.

In this video (one of a series of five), I briefly talk about types of thinking. When we are trying to change from a habitual type of thinking that no longer serves us (e.g., overthinking or avoidance), it’s helpful to know other types of thinking exist.

In my CD “Overcoming Overthinking”, I have a guided exercise to help shift into Problem-Solving, rather than overthinking. I also have an exercise for shifting from Overthinking into Reflection. It’s useful to listen to the exercises a few times to learn the strategy and then, when you notice that you are overthinking, try listening to either track to shift into a different way of thinking.

In my upcoming workshops (a one hour intro or a half day version), I will be talking about overthinking, the 4 S’s that keep us locked into overthinking, and how to KICK overthinking.

What do you do in the Shower? #MindfulMonday

What do you do in the Shower? #MindfulMonday

I still regard showers as a luxury. It doesn’t feel that long ago, that circumstances I am not at liberty to write about meant that showers were something of a luxury. Amongst other things, for many months since Bear was born, we did not have hot water and I used to boil the kettle to bathe him. I was very grateful for electricity.

In any case, it’s so tempting to use the wonderful time in the shower to plan the day, think, reflect, and also (sigh) overthink.

What about being present and really savouring the time in the shower? Being aware of the feeling of water against you, soap, etc? If there are little people in the shower (or bathroom) with you, there is an opportunity there to be very present with them. As I’m writing this, I’m uploading my latest CD to be distributed (Quick Mindful Moments for Busy Women) and one of the tracks is about being mindful in the shower. In a variation people have found useful, I suggest imagining your thoughts/worries draining down the plughole…

Are there other small ways that you incorporate mindfulness into your day?

Happy #MindfulMonday!

 

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From Favim/Image 530357

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