Skin deep

 

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On the eve of Max and Spirit B turning 9 months, I have a well of mixed emotions churning through my body and soul. Part of me feels so good and grounded in my new role as a mother and the other half feels like a teenage girl all over again, going through puberty in a whole new set of skin.

On one side of the coin, I love knowing exactly what Max’s cries mean.  I love knowing when Spirit B is near and sending me messages.  But on the flip side,  I am dealing with some body image issues that have been triggering feelings of disappointment and failure.

I have stretch marks that are in the shape of a hurricane around my navel, I have an umbilical hernia and a 2 inch diastasis recti.  It takes a great deal of awareness and daily exercises to be able to run, bike, and do acro without pain. But that kind of work is fun and fascinating to me.  I can push through and dissect physical pain all day long.

It’s the deep mental work of self-love (or lack there-of)  that is getting to me. And for me, it lies in my stretch marks.  These marks on my body are not yet “tiger marks” or loving “mama marks”.  Instead, they are constant reminders of my story.  The pain, the love, and the growth that is still yet to come.

There are some rare moments that I look at that them and see my story, my “becoming real” marks through a rose colored lens. But honestly most days, It takes everything I have to not go barreling down my memory lane of loss, of pain and of feeling sorry for myself when ever I get a glimpse of them.

Today I wanted to wear a bikini, as it is so hot and beautiful here in Italy. But instead of feeling excited, I burst into tears.  Feelings of self hate and disappointment came flooding in: “I hate my stretch marks. I hate my “gap” and  I hate this new feeling of needing to cover myself up and of feeling self conscious in my own skin was on repeat in my head.  In the end, my stubborness over ruled, and I put on the two piece. “I will get through this” I thought to myself.

Instead of wearing them proudly like so many other women do, I am feeling like a coward. And I am angry. Angry with myself that I can’t yet get over this – because – FUCK!! REALLY Chelsey??? You lost a baby and you are feeling this way?? How “Jeckle and Mr Hyde is that?!”

But yes. It is true. I think of my marks on the daily.

I live in a world where it takes an amazing feat of strength to not look at all of the amazing people on social media prancing around in their bikinis and NOT translate that to: “I am not worthy”.  Social media fills me with shame.

Why am I so wrapped up in the look of my body, when it produced two amazing boys and can still do everything that I ask of it to?!??  It produced a Spirit son who taught me a lifetime of lessons and beyond in the single moment of his passing, and another son that brings me and my family endless joy, love, and smiles.  He looks at me with the most unabashed joy and happiness I have ever felt.

And yet I struggle.

Would I give up any of it? NO.

Do I want to be any of those perfect looking insta-stars? NO.

Do I love my life? Yes.

But the reality is, this culture of superficial beauty has fucked me up good.  And I wish I had some uplifting message to end this blog with, some lesson learned.  But not yet.  Not at all.  But maybe voicing this thing that I have been seething under my skin for 9 months will somehow shift things.  I doubt it.  But I also doubt it can make it worse – since all consuming thoughts can hardly consume more than all of me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can almost spell TEAM in Breastfeeding

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There is so much about being a new breast feeding mother that is not talked about. Add on being an athlete AND breastfeeding then it really gets grim.  When I first started to research, the information and pictures out there made it look  beautiful and easy,  or like it was the most impossible thing on earth. Where was the middle ground? Where was the real talk? The struggles AND the triumphs??

After a while, my interest (and honestly time) for other mom athletes declined and I decided I was just going to figure it out on my own.  I am now seven months in with 3 big races under my belt since having Max and Spirit.

  • an 8 hour adventure race at 3 months postpartum
  • a 12 hour adventure race at 5 months
  • a 100 mile mountain bike race at 6 months out.

And in two weeks I will be doing a 36-hour nonstop adventure race just as Max turns 8 months.

My journey has been frustrating, annoying, satisfying and beautiful, sometimes even been all of these things at once!

The logistics (and calories!) that goes into training and racing when feeding another human is hard work, but in my opinion it is worth every minute. Being outside in nature, sweating, breathing hard and pushing myself is my church, so for me getting right back into training was non-negotiable. The question was never “If” – it was always “how” and “when”. I was (and am) determined to figure it out with Jason, Max, and Spirit’s help.  And a lot of trial and error.

Below are my personal tips complete with little stories for being a breastfeeding athlete. Every women is different in their approach and in their level of determination. I went into it with a good balance of softness and stubborness. Softness in the sense that I was open to what ever unfolded and stubborn in that I was going to work like hell to be able feed Max and race hard.

Take Time, there is no hurry. 

Before I had my boys, I heard this a lot.  I knew that patience was NOT my strong suit, so I made a conscious effort to give myself a full 8 weeks off before attempting to do any training.  And after Spirit B left us, I gave myself all the time I needed emotionally to process and grieve. At 8 weeks I felt physically ready, but emotionally I wasn’t.  Every time I would get my heart rate up, I would start to hyperventilate and the tears would start to flow.  My therapist said as long as I wasn’t hurting physically, the release may actually be good for me. She called it exposure therapy. So, I just kept on putting my self out there. At 12 weeks, I crossed the finish line of an 8 hour race and balled my eyes out. It felt so good, naked and terrifying to be back out in the world like that.

Emotional stuff aside, every woman has some raging and fluctuating hormones for that “fourth trimester.” After all, we did just grow and push out (or surgery – arguably more traumatic) another human!  So relish in your achievement and give your body all the time it needs!   We all heal differently, so  listen to your body and do what will be good for YOU both emotionally and physically.

Something that helped me get ready and excited for this time was a book called “The First Forty Days.” I highly recommend this book to every expecting mother, as it gives you and everyone around you a plan for your first three months with your baby or babies.

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Breastfeeding is a Team Sport: 

This became very apparent in our first days as parents. From the very first day until 2 .5  months Jason had to help feed Max with a syringe of donor milk at the same time that I was feeding him from my boob.  The whole “Daddy doesn’t really get involved” thing was not us.  Jason was and is my biggest supporter and cheerleader. After the birth, he knew that getting me outside was going to be better for everyone.  In the beginning, If he wasn’t helping me feed Max, he was feeding me, bringing me fluids and making sure I got plenty of rest. As I started to feel better physically, he either came out with me and coached me while his parents watched Max or took care of Max himself.  Now, if I am racing or doing a longer mission, Jason or his parents either brings Max to me or Jason relieves me himself!!  Making it all work with a baby is what excites us, and it is in our nature to make a challenge into an adventure. So do what works for you, but be sure to have a team around you who is aware of your goals!

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Set Some Goals:

Going into breastfeeding, I had been told that it may be really hard for me since I had inverted nipples, had a traumatic birth and had a c-section.  So honestly, I set the bar pretty low for us.  My goal was to breastfeed for at least 3 months and then if it wasn’t working out, we would do formula.  For those three months I pretended like making milk was my one and only job. I was either pumping, eating lactation increasing foods, slathering on the nipple cream,  or trying to feed Max and often times doing it all at the same time!  At two months in, after a few break downs, I was sure that by the time 3 months rolled around I was going to throw in the towel. However, by 11 weeks, Max and I had finally hit our stride.  I started being able to comfortably leave him for 2- 3 hours, knowing that he would be ready to eat and I would be ready to empty by the time I got home.

Race wise, my goal was to try out a smallish adventure race by 3 months and see how I felt.  Physically, I felt great, emotionally it was very hard but as I said before, it felt cathartic and necessary.  Boob wise, I had gone 8 hours with out feeding or pumping and while I was pretty uncomfortable by the end of the race, Max had an excellent time feasting at the finish line!   It was nice to win the race, but even more profound just to finish it and see my boy waiting eagerly for mama – love and hunger in his eyes – with no concept yet of what winning or losing is.

Be prepared to EAT :

I have always been into eating, so the idea of having to eat more didn’t really scare me. If anything it excited me.  But for those who are not used to eating so much, get ready.  I probably eat on the order of 6-8 small meals a day. Every meal is followed by a snack or a second meal an hour later.  I don’t mess with watching my calories (whether that means making sure I am getting enough or going over board), I just make sure I am eating well and paying attention to not over fill my tank.  However, now that Max is starting to eat more and more solid foods, I am staring to wean myself off of eating all of the time, as it is not feeling necessary.  Bottom line, listen to your body and try to be as healthy as you can.

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Instead of anticipating the punches, roll with them

Google can be a scary tool.  After Spirit B left, I would stay up late into the night searching for stories about losing a twin. I was addicted to traumatic and painful stories. I was convinced that Max would grow up scarred and like he was missing something.  After banning me from the internet, Jason helped me see that if he does, we will “cross that bridge” when we get it.  “There is no use worrying about what will come” Jason said, “Then if it does, you have done twice the amount of worrying!”  So, when it came time to start training again I opted NOT to look up what could go right or wrong for us and instead focused on doing my best. If something came up, I would tackle it then.

7 months in I hit one of those problems – Mastitis. Longer training days and higher intensity training led to a plugged milk duct that got infected.  Flu like symptoms that got pretty serious and saw me laying low for a week with chills, antibiotics, frequent hot compresses and a lot of feeding time for Max.

Honestly, I thought I would get it much sooner, so I am quite pleased that it took this long to get to me!  But, once I noticed it, we took quick action and moved to resolve it.  The most uncomfortable stretch was only a few days, and let me catch up on my rom-coms.

Happy Mama, Happy Baby 

This one is easier said than done.  Mama guilt is a real thing. I knew that getting outside and back into a training routine would make me feel better, but taking the first step proved to be much harder than I had imagined. I am a stubborn one, so I went along with my plan anyway but the whole way to the trails I remember worrying about Max and what would happen if he got hungry, tired, etc. Then, with in minutes of being on my bike and feeling the wind in my face,  I knew that all was well and we were all going to be ok. No matter what your course of action is, know that your baby is happiest when you are at your best and happiest, so set some goals, let your team in on the plan and commit to it for at least a few weeks!

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Your baby is the best training tool ever! USE it to your advantage!!! 

Going into parenthood we got many comments like “Your life is going to change forever, kiss your life as you know it goodbye!”

Jason would politely smile and respond with “Yep, and we are ready!!”

We spent a lot of time talking with one another about our life after baby and how we wanted to keep doing what we loved as long as it still brought us each joy and growth to our family. And if an aspect of our many passions  ever got to be to much, we would reassess. While there has been a bit of a learning curve with Max and Spirit in the picture, we have embraced Max’s needs fully and have used them to make us train more effectively and efficiently.  I actually believe that since having my boys, I am a wiser, more focused and stronger athlete than before. As soon as I have my 2-3 hour window, I am out the door and am fully present with my training. My “me” moments are precious, I savor and look forward to them more than ever. The days of “swiping” or absent mindedly being on the internet are over. Having Max and Spirit B has shown me what is important and has weeded out what doesn’t need my attention any more. It may sound selfish to some, but to me and my family it is absolutely necessary!

If you’ve made it this far, I hope you have caught on to my underlining message to trust yourself, let others help you and embrace this time! As athletes and mothers we are all different in our needs and wants so take the time to learn what works for you. What I have shared is what worked for me personally in my unique situation.  If you find anything useful, awesome, let me know. And if you have a different approach, please share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping Spirit during the Telluride 100

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Last weekend I lined up on the start line of the Telluride 100 Mountain bike race. Despite having a rather intense week where Max, myself and Jason all got very sick,  I felt oddly calm, ready and focused.  At 5AM I boarded a gondola down to the start of the race.  It was intimidating to glide effortlessly down the steep mountain, knowing I’d have to climb back up to the top at least 5 times.  To curb anxiety, I meditated on Spirit B.  I asked him to join me for the day – to help me grind up the never-ending climbs and  find the safe line down the technical descents.  Before I opened my eyes I heard a voice saying “Let’s do this Mama” and then, when I opened them, I was greeted by the most beautiful glimmer of light coming up over the mountains. I knew right at that moment that I was going to have a great day no matter what came my way.

Historically, this race has had less than a 50% finish rate. With 5 big climbs, a starting elevation of 9,000 ft, 50 miles between 11,00 and 13,500 ft and a total gain of 14,000 ft –  it is no joke.   The first climb is an graded “HC” (Hors Categorie).  This literally translates to “beyond classification” and is reserved for those cycling climbs that are harder than the usual climbs that are graded 1 (hardest) to 5 (easier).

I started the race with the goal to make the cutoffs, to have fun and to finish with nothing left.  At the start the front pack bolted ahead.  Rather than chasing them, I settled into my pace, watched my heart rate and focused on my breath. And this is the strategy I clung to for the entire race.  When ever doubt would well up inside about not being prepared enough, or acclimated enough, I let the doubt fully come in, and then I went right back to my breath – exhaling out all the doubt that I could and inhaling all of the focus and self love I could take.

At one point, around mile 40 I called out to Spirit B. “Where are you B??”  “I need you!” I was starting to bonk and loose some speed.  A few minutes later, a beautiful yellow bird crossed my path, then another, and then another. I knew it was him. “HELLLOOO Spirit! I LOVE YOU!!!” I yelled out. 

6 hours into the race I couldn’t take the pain of my ever growing boobs anymore.  Jason’s parents had been trying to get ahead of me with Max so that I could feed him and get some relief, but most of the course crossings required gondola rides and some steep hiking to get there.  They always arrived just a few minutes after I passed.  I was getting desperate, and when I reached the top of the mountain again, where Max, Nanny and Grandpa were supposed to be, they were not there yet. I debated waiting, but a hawk circled and then headed further along the course.  Spirit was telling me to keep racing.

2 hours later,  Jason managed to find me at mile 66, right before my last big climb. He figured that I had about 3 hours left. “How are you doing?” he asked.

“Where is Max? I need him, there is no way I can make it 3 more hours”.

“Max is still at the top with Grandma and Grandpa,” he answered

I was crestfallen.  But Jason smiled and without missing a beat he led me to some bushes that at least gave me a false sense of privacy.  I unzipped my sweaty cycling jersey, and Jason did Max’s job.  Yep. Jason had to suck and spit. After a few minutes, my boobs felt pounds lighter and I was off again!

Over the next 35 miles I felt a big emotional cathartic release happen, I let the pain come in and I invited the anger, the tears, the trauma and the laughter. I let it ALL come in and fuel my body up the never ending hills.  I imagined it coursing through my blood, pumping, churning and getting processed and recreated into something beautiful …and strong.  I used that new energy to power me all the way to the finish line.  It was as if Spirit B had now transformed into a constant tailwind, gently pushing me up the hills.

When I got to within 3 miles of the finish line, my legs felt like mush, my lungs were burning and my butt was very sore. “Goal accomplished” I thought to myself.  As soon as I crossed the finish line, there was a roar of screams. The loudest of those screams was Max however. He was HUNGRY and I could feel it. I dropped my bike and within seconds of finishing, I was feeding Max. The crowd went wild with “GO Mama GO!!!”. Then someone came over and handed me a greasy delectable grilled cheese sandwich. Max and I ate together, both of us ignoring the mud and sweat that covered me everywhere.   Those few moments of pure joy, satisfaction and love was worth everything and it is something I will never forget.

Thank you:)

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Stumbling, crawling and slipping along this path of mine

Wow, many things have happened since I last wrote. Break throughs, break downs, joyful days, and days where I felt like I was slogging through the deepest mud imaginable. I have lived life times in these last 4 and half months since my boys were delivered to our open and loving arms.   My fiery, “push through”, and “just get stronger” attitude has been turned upside down on itself.  Spirt B – that “Angel of Mercy”, he’s a funny fella. He has been teaching me many lessons.  Every morning I take a moment, sometimes 5, sometimes 10 and I sit outside to say hello. He usually comes through in a gentle gust of wind, in a shift in the light, but mostly he comes in the form of a bird – flying by.  “It’s not your fault Mama”,”take all the time you need” “forgive yourself, forgive me” are the kinds of messages he sends me in my meditations. I also, always ask him to come and wrap his arms around his brother every night and help him fall asleep. “You are loved, You are loved, You are loved” I tell Max.  And then, like magic, Max smiles up at me and then falls asleep.

Being able to have the time and space to sit with my grief and pain has been beautiful. Being able to find the courage to share my thoughts no matter how bad or scary they sound has given me the strength to let pieces of those thoughts go. Holding anything negative these days feels toxic. Sitting with it, breathing through it and talking about it all has been the only path for me. Who and what has shown up for me has been amazing, and so right on.

I received a spiritual reading, a book called “Option B” (which I thought was very fitting), nourishing food, words of inspiration and hope, texts and messages that just say “I am with you” or “I saw Spirit B today”.  So to all of you who surround us with your love and hold us with your strength and beauty – I say deeply “thank you”.

Tomorrow, Jason and I begin leading our Jedi teacher training that is all about finding your perceived limits and then pushing past them step by step. A few months ago I looked at this training and thought that there was no way I could guide, let alone stand in front of a group of people and teach. “I am in the deepest, darkest hole”  “How in the hell am I supposed to teach people how to push past their  walls when I am cowering behind one myself?”  These were the questions I asked myself over and over again.

Over the past few weeks bit by bit, I have crawled closer to my limits. There has been days where I have slid all the way back down. But what I have learned is that I can get hit by the strongest wave and still get back up. It may not be pretty, but after getting knocked down so many times, I have learned to not fight it, but rather to open myself up to it – to feel all of it. To let the water rush inside me, to swirl around, to get it into all of the stuck places, the ugly places and then WOOOSH…  let it go.

So, I may still not be ready to stand in front of a group of people as I very well may cry, stumble on my words or have to take breaks. But, that is ok because now I know that I DO have a thing or two to offer them about leaning into their discomforts and limits. 18765833_10155321898151171_5877468573643138411_n.jpg

Acceptance

I have been trying to write this entry for weeks now. But every time I sit down to write, something comes up. Max gets hungry or needs my attention, or something “more important” comes up.  The number one thing that I have learned through all of this is that acceptance is key.  “It’s OK” has been my main mantra for these last few weeks. “It’s OK that I am still in my pj’s at 1 PM”,  “It’s OK to smile and then cry in the next second”, “It’s OK to have fear, to be grateful, to have hope, to be sad, to not be able to function.” IT IS OK!

So I start this entry with this: IT’s OK that the following may not use the best grammar, It’s ok that there may be misspelled words and that it may not be super polished.  What is more than OK is that I get it out there, because this is healing, this is medicine for me.

Lately the waves of grief have been strong and unexpected.  As soon as I feel like I am finally able to keep my head above water, I get hit hard. The waves come from somewhere deep inside me. They start at my toes and well all the way up to my eye balls until before I know it,  I can no longer keep the pressure in. I spring a leak and tears that I cannot stop start spewing out of me.

The triggers are everywhere.  they compartmentalize themselves into “before the birth” and “after the birth”, “when we were all together” and “when we had to say goodbye”,  “before the pregnancy” and “after the pregnancy.”  Skinning on the mountain, skate skiing, running the river trail, eating at certain places, walking the canal trail, coming across something that I got double of.. These places, things and random thoughts are catalyses that I have to face and breathe through every day, and I never know which one will send me in a tail spin of what if’s, guilt and grief.

And I CANNOT run from them. No matter how many times I try.  It used to work just fine. In fact, that was my main tactic. When something “tragic” or uncomfortable would happen to me (like a break up), I would literally move to a different state.  I have MANY drivers licenses because of this. When shit got hard, I would just pack up my little Honda civic with all of my belongings and hit the open road. Ready for the next river, the next group of friends, the next opportunity.

But this, this is something deeper. There is no running from this because I made him. I have a connection to him that is so deep that nothing can disrupt that.. not even death. I admit that for the past couple of weeks I have been trying to forget, to move on, to get past it because, it is EXHAUSTING to love someone this much. To wake up every morning and lie there – dissecting every piece of that day, to imagine what it would be like if I just got a c- section at the 38 week mark (even though they were healthy!), to take the “head down” as a sign that he wanted to come out right then and there instead of as a sign that he wanted to wait! I have tried running it out, sweating it out, screaming WHY!! and FUCK!!! at the top of my lungs, being angry, going on a road trip, and even going to a dermatologist to see if they could “remove all marks, all scars, all signs of this.” But none of it worked. In the end, all I could do was do the thing that I was most scared of doing: Sitting with the darkness, the lightness, the trauma, the beauty, the wonder… with anything that came AND being OK with what ever presents itself. And that is where I sit today.

I am still getting out and training everyday for that brings me it’s own joy and release, but I am no longer using it as a tactic to deal with my many emotions. Taking time every day to just sit and breathe through what ever comes up for me has been a life line like no other. I never believed in the power of meditating until now.  After a few weeks of committing to take at least 10 minutes a day to bring in the many emotions, thoughts and feelings – and letting them corse through me has been both scary and healing at the same time. It takes all my strength to make myself go to these unknown depths, but somewhere inside of me, I know that this is the only way through.

I am aware that reading this is hard for some, especially my family. For I know that it is very painful to see your daughter, your sister, your friend, etc go through something like this, but know that I have many happy moments- that Max and Jason bring me so much joy, love and depth. But for me, writing, talking, and sharing my grief is how I am coping, how I am healing and how I am processing.

Thank you to all of you who have reached out, sent poems, sent letters, and gifts. They are beautiful and we keep ALL them.

Below is the latest poem and a link to a comment about loss and tragedy that have been helping me in the darkest of times.

Allow

By Danna Faulds

There is no controlling life.

Try corralling a lightning bolt,

containing a tornado.  Dam a

stream and it will create a new

channel.  Resist, and the tide

will sweep you off your feet.

Allow, and grace will carry

you to higher ground.  The only

safety lies in letting it all in –

the wild and the weak; fear,

fantasies, failures and success.

When loss rips off the doors of

the heart, or sadness veils your

vision with despair, practice

becomes simply bearing the truth.

In the choice to let go of your

known way of being, the whole

world is revealed to your new eyes.

The Hawk and Spirit B

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10 weeks ago, Jan 14th, the day after we decided not to get induced (you can read the specifics here) ,  I held a dying hawk to my belly, he was not expected to live another 24 hours. I remember holding him close and feeling his amazing energy and sheer will, it was so palpable and strong. I stared at his eyes in wonder, and prayed that he would live to feel the wind through his wings again. The next day, Jan 15th we got a text from Jennifer (his caretaker and our dear friend)  saying that when she woke up that morning he was standing in his cage, looking more alert and able to eat a bit easier. She was both surprised and amazed at the drastic change.

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I remember thinking “I hope he gives some of that tenacious, fighting energy to my boys on their way out to meet us.”  On Monday, January 16th, Jason and I went in for a check up to see how the boys were doing. They found A’s heart beat right away, but couldn’t find B’s heart beat. I remember saying to the nurse that he had turned head down and that he usually was a bit harder to find as he was always tucked behind his brother.  They brought in another tech and then the doctor.  My stomach dropped, my eyes rolled into the back of my head and I knew my worst nightmare had come true.  Looking into Jason’s eyes and hearing him say with so much intensity and focus – “Stay with me, stay with us, we are all together,” is the last thing I clearly remember. The next 40 plus hours is a blur of pain and forced focus.

These last few weeks have been some of the hardest of my life. Waking up in cold sweats saying “no, no, no” over and over again, collapsing to my knees gasping for air in the middle of a workout and having to answer to people when they ask “Where is the other one?”   At my last therapy session I got diagnosed with post acute trauma syndrome. At first I was a bit taken back, but then it made sense and I was both grateful and relieved to have the help. “I will do anything” I told my therapist. “Give me the necessary tools, and I will do them.”

“Tell me your story, not from the medical side but from your heart – how you see it or how you would even like to see it”

I told her about my strong feeling to wait after B had turned head down and passed all of the tests, about my anxiety about my doctor, and about how I meditated by the river and held the hawk close to my belly the next day. I told her everything that I was feeling deep down but was to scared to bring up to the surface because it wasn’t based in facts.

“I feel like I am denying myself this story.”  I told her.

“What you believe deep down is REAL. The more you tell it and own it, the more it becomes yours.  It is not hoo-haa, it is real. It is true.”

The next day my dear friend who understands me on many levels came to town. We went on a walk and I told her my story.

“Don’t you see it Chelsey? It is so obvious. YOU gave Spirit B the best passing ever. YOU guys took him cross country skiing, you meditated by the river, you gave him the time to say good bye to his brother” she said. “Would you rather that Spirit B pass in the Dr.’s arms that you didn’t feel close to or inside you, with you?” ” The latter is far harder for you, as you are always going to have the bit of blame on yourself, but it was the best for Spirit B.”

“Yes…yes this is true” I said. And for the first time, I really meant it.

That night I received a message from Jennifer, the care taker of the hawk. “Your hawk is strong and ready to be released!”

I too was ready to release Spirit B – to have him fly free, high up in the trees, on the mountain tops, to feel the wind in his wings, and to be with us always and for ever.

Yesterday, Jason, Max and I released the hawk, and with him a part of Spirit B. We were able to gaze at his beautiful intense eyes, hold his strong body and remark at his tenacity as he flew away with the wind.

“We love you Spirit B. Fly free, be strong and visit us as often as possible – we’ll be on the lookout for you in rainbows, hawks, mountaintops, and rivers…and anywhere else that a magic moment shows up.  Thank you for your bravery, strength and for connecting us all to a world we never fully appreciated.”

“I love you, I love you, I love you-” I whispered to him as he flew away.

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Head down

 

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Time is a funny thing right now. Never have I felt like time is both standing still and speeding by like a freight train at the same time.

I have been wanting to sit down and write for some time now, but every time I do my words get stuck inside. So here I sit with a few minutes to myself before Jason and Max come back from their morning coffee time over at Dan and Deven’s and even though my words are still not wanting to come out… I am going to try.

It seems as though there is not one moment that goes by where I do not miss my Spirit B. Everything reminds me of him, of them together.

I keep imagining and dreaming of two. Two in the stroller on our walks, two waiting for me when I get home from my ride, two to dance with, two to feed, two looking up at me. Every once in a while I get a break and start to accept Spirit as he is now – wrapping  his ethereal arms around Max, around Jason, around me…around us as a whole. He is in the wind on my face, in the twinkling early morning sunshine, in the hawk and the raven that visit me on my daily walks.  He is in the animal mobile Max talks to every morning and night. But yet, I still feel empty inside.

And like I failed him. What if him going head down on Friday was a message to me to get induced instead of wait? Why was I so scared? Why didn’t I feel ready?  Would he be here if I went ahead and did it?? Why isn’t he in my arms?

I cry every day for him, sometimes once. Sometimes for most of the day. I get angry at myself, at the world, at something more than us.  It feels good to be able to do more than just walk. But at the same time it brings up a huge well of emotions. What once brought me nothing but release and joy, now brings me a melting pot of sadness, excitement, anger, gratefulness and grief.

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And then there is little Magnus Maxwell, our boy who lifts our spirits day in and day out. His vibrant presence demands cooing, laughs, smiles, wonder and strength from both Jason and I. We love him so much and tell him stories about all of the places his brother has been and where we will take him someday.  When I am at my best, I tell myself my favorite story – that Spirit B went head down that day to say good bye to his brother. He said:  “Hey buddy, I hear them talking about all of the adventures they want to take us on and I think you all need a guardian angel looking after you.” “So you go on ahead and be with them in the physical world, and I will be here in the spiritual world watching over you guys.” I will be in the brightest stars, in the howling wind, in the rainbow after a hard rain, in the rushing rivers, and in the twinkling lights you see every morning through your bedroom window.  I am here with you always.”

I hope to really, truly believe this story someday and to respect what he is now.   Day by day, breath by breath is where I am at these days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breadcrumb of light

Warning: What follows is not shiny and happy. It is where I am at. It is real. It is raw. Proceed at your own risk.

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Thoughts, unseen triggers and visions of two come in unexpectedly and fully flood my heart. It paralyzes me and kicks me to the ground leaving me gasping for air.  I start to pound on my chest, kick my feet like I see Magnus do when he is hungry.  I am in a dark tunnel and all I can see is the color black.  By my side is my beautiful, sweet and curious boy who is cooing to himself.  I try to drag myself out by looking up “Moms who have lost a their twin baby” on the internet. I am searching for a magic pill that will take away my pain, my blanket of sadness, my nightmares and leave me with the outcome that I envisioned for the past 7 months.  But all I find is scary stories about twins who have lost their twins in the womb who grow up depressed, lonely and like apart of them is missing.  This is not the pill I was looking for. And then I lose it.  “Two boys, I want my boys” I scream out,  “I want you back B!” “WHY!!??”

Magnus does not stir, but my husband who I sent to bed comes running out with bags under his eyes.  And these bags are from me, not from our one month old son like you would think, as for the past week this has been happening every night.

“Baby, baby. Stop.” “Take my hand, look for the light. You have to move forward.” “Let the pain wash over you, let your body go loose, let the tears roll. Do not fight it.”  he says.

“I can’t, It hurts. It hurts so bad.” I desperately try to let it go.  I am clinging on to the what if’s, to the Chelsey before learning the news that our son’s heart had stopped.  The Dr’s words, my doulas words, my husbands words from our decision day and the days that followed are all swirling around in my head like a broken record.  I am back at the cross roads of our decision day.

“It happened Chelsey, we can’t change it.  We will never know where that other path leads. And, I DO NOT want to change the outcome. We made it out of love, not fear and that is what I want to teach my sons.” Then he takes both of my hands and looks into my eyes and says:

“You are the mother of two beautiful boys. One in the physical and one in the spiritual world. He was never meant for our world, we just didn’t know it yet.”

I try to let his words sink in. In the past month he has said them over and over again in many different ways, trying to get through the wall of denial and shame that I have built up.

This wall that I have been laying brick by brick has served as my hide out, a place where I can sit in my own sorrows and self pity and wish for a different outcome.

It is a dark place, but in a strange way, it has also been a comforting place. Because it is much easier to sink in the sadness than do the work to move through it. I feel like I could stay here forever, dreaming about our life as I envisioned it rather living in the now.

Then I hear his voice. “Break down the wall and look for a bread crumb of light. “Get up,  follow that light out and change your surroundings”

It’s not pretty, but I do. I get up, I take a shower and as I stand there underneath the hot running water for much longer than I ever have, I see a vision.

Jason and I are at a Y in our path.  The way to the left is mixture of colors, but it’s very bright and almost blinding. And the path to the right is a soft glowing blue.  Jason steps ahead of me and turns to the right. He then reaches back for my hand like he does all the time. I take a breath and step towards him, and in that moment I have two boys in my arms- Magnus and Spirit. Then I take another step and Spirit who is wrapped in blue light starts to leave my arms and fully engulfs all of us in his blue light.  With my free hand, I take Jason’s hand and together we all take another step.

This is my first real vision of Spirit B in this form.  In all my other visions, I have been clinging to his body. The body that I birthed, that I held for 24 hours. It was a beautiful body, but he was not in it. He was already gone.  Even though I know this is true, it is hard to hold. I still find myself back in that dark tunnel, grasping for the simpler times when I could imagine them together.  I don’t know where this path is leading, but I do know that writing helps, talking helps and that while they are sometimes way to far apart, I do see glimpses of the Chelsey that I want to become.

“Where do I go now?” I asked. “Through babe, hold on tight and lets go through”

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Two weeks ago I did not think that I would have the strength or the ability to ever write, look at a computer screen or do anything other than feed Magnus and make myself eat and drink water.

I kept trying to write, as that has always brought me a bit of release in the past, but whenever I would try I would go numb. Instead of words, I had tears.

And I still have tears. There hasn’t been a day where I have not cried. But I wanted to start the process of getting words to paper. Jason and I have a journal between us that I have been writing in everyday – to him, to Spirit B and to Magnus.  Some days its barely readable, and sometimes all I can get out is a drawing of something that I saw that day that brought me peace or even sadness. What ever comes, is what I let out.  And I believe it is helping me.

I have never been one for letting things fester inside me. There were a few days where I did try. When my brother, sister and mom came for a visit I tried hard to seem strong, to not let my tears well, and to be as “normal” as possible. But that did not last. Eventually I broke, and let the tears roll.  And it felt good.

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Now, I just let them come when ever they need to. There is no benefit in holding them back. So when I start going out in public more,  when we start teaching again and when I start frequenting all the places I used to I am prepared to let the tears come.

My therapist says this is normal, and healthy.  She says to let the waves come in and wash over me. To sit inside the storm and let myself feel the many emotions.

I have been slowly starting  to embrace it all – the sadness, the joy, the emptiness, the gratefulness, the numbness, the happy bits and even the sudden waves of anger where I want to punch the sky, beat my chest and scream WHY!!!! at the top of my lungs.

And when I can’t take it anymore, and when the spaces between the heavy waves of memories,  fear, heartache and blame are so small that I can’t come up for air – I reach out for Jason’s hand and ask  “Where do I go now?”

“Through babe…hold on tight and lets go through. Through the pain, through the fear, through every feeling that comes up.”

“OK”

Then I look into Magnus’s eyes and see how much love, strength and lightness he holds in his tiny beautiful soul and how we are blessed to have a little Spirit looking out for us, and sending us so much love everyday.

And so I take a breath, close my eyes, and let it all roll over me.

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A Story of Beginnings

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Jason here:  I have sort of hijacked this blog for the moment, as Chelsey is quite busy celebrating and grieving.  And even as I sit to write, thoughts spiral into so many places – painful, dark and hidden places that I never imagined exploring; but also into possibilities of the future.  Too much to make sense of just yet, and too overwhelming to sit with for too long, lest I get lost and cannot find my way back.  And getting lost in our grief is clearly not an option right now.  Magness Maxwell is only 5 days old, and quietly (most of the time) demanding our attention.  And his sweet brother Spirit B as been so patient and comforting when we need it most.  Appearing everywhere for us when we need it most.

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Magnus entering the world

We needed to take just a moment to reflect on the incredible support we have seen.  Although we’ve consciously stayed away from actually reading complete messages for the most part (neither of us can usually make it through a single one before the tears start), we do feel the immensity of love and sadness that people around the world are sharing with us.   There are also so many people to personally thank, people who literally saved us in moments where we doubted our ability to take the next breath.

Kindra – our amazing doula – was one of these people, and woven into the tapestry of Magnus’s and Spirit’s journey more deeply than they will likely ever know.  She has blessed us by writing the story of their beginnings from her perspective.  It is a task that I have started too many times in these last five days, and gotten nowhere.  She reminded me that Chelsey and I are still living that story every second with both the boys.

I know that she wrote it as much for her own healing process and to give us something to reflect on when the time is right.  I made it about halfway through this morning before I just needed to cry with Spirit and watch Magnus sleep.

So we leave it here.  Thank you Kindra.  Thank you to everyone that has grieved with us, and is holding space for us and our two boys in their heart.

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Meeting Mom
From Kindra

Magnus and Spirit B,

I want to tell you the story of your parents journey into parenthood. Like all stories, there are several different versions, perspectives, and viewpoints. I want you both to be able to see what I saw in the months, days, hours, and moments before you were born. I hope someday your parents can know in their bones what I witnessed.

When I first sat with your parents in their home, they had just learned they were pregnant and I witnessed the typical excitement, nervousness, and curiosity about how our medical system works for pregnant couples in America. I saw a devoted and caring husband who I knew would learn everything he could about this process. I saw a nervous and excited newly pregnant mother who was carefully considering all of her options. We chatted about resources, different providers, and insurance. Chelsey and Jason were both a little wide-eyed as they contemplated the reality of birthing a baby and taking on the responsibility of parenthood.

Not too long after our first meeting, Chelsey messaged me that the ultrasound exams revealed two babies! I called expecting to start the task of helping to equip these parents with contacts, resources, and support as they grappled with the reality of not just one baby to care for but two. I discovered that Jason and Chelsey were already pretty good at doing this for themselves. They knew several couples who had twins and Jason himself is a twin so they were already leaning into the support they had built in to their community. I would come to learn later that this quick processing and facing challenges head on was typical for this couple, these skills they had already developed in their lives would serve them well when they needed it most. 

For months after the discovery that you two were coming together, I witnessed your pregnancy from pictures and blogs on the internet. My facebook scrolling would capture your mom’s growing belly on the side of a snowy slope, standing on top of your dad’s shoulders during a class, walking on bridge railings, and skiing next to rushing rivers. The four of you enjoyed so many adventures together!!!

In the third trimester, after your parents returned from Europe I got the honor of sitting with them through childbirth classes. During the first few classes I realized that your parents had already done a lot of work and were transforming into the parents they would need to be for you two. Jason asked a lot of questions and made sure he understood all the concepts we were covering, challenging the ones that didn’t quite make sense to him and helping to educate the other couples in class with everything he had already researched. Chelsey worked diligently during that time to help both of you turn from breech to head down. Her adoration of you was so apparent as she would pat the places on her belly where each of you were living. Her wide smile radiated excitement and joy moving through pregnancy. They both grappled with the decisions that would lay ahead during your birth.

As things got closer, I visited your home again to discuss what your parents desires and decisions were about the birth process. Again, the transformation they had already made since the first time I visited in their home was glaringly obvious. This visit, I found not only a loving, devoted, and caring husband, but a well-researched, knowledgeable, and determined father. I found a grounded and calm mother – Chelsey carried very little fear about the birth process despite the complicated nature of the decisions she knew she faced. She admitted to some concern that maybe she wouldn’t have the maternal instinct she witnessed in others. I giggled a little on the inside knowing that the process of birth would build this instinct in ways that I couldn’t express to her at this moment. I was confident she would find it. What I knew about both of your parents after this meeting was that they would be strong advocates for themselves, they would find a way to make their own decisions, and they would be fun for me to witness in the hospital. I was so excited to work for them and witness their journey!

We were all sure you boys would come on the early side, but December turned into January, single digit days turned into double digits and your parents continued to wait. They were faced with decisions about inducing labor or waiting for their babies to initiate labor naturally. These weeks and days were challenging for them. What I saw in these moments were strong, confident parents who were willing to learn everything they could to make the best decisions for their babies. Jason was reading research papers and learning statistics about every procedure and test that was offered. Chelsey was taking the time to quietly reflect, sit with both of you boys and listen to what your spirits might be trying to tell her. The were both bearing witness and sitting in contemplation about how American maternity care functions. The days marched on and still you both were cozy inside of your mama.

In your 38th week, I got a call from Chelsey – we chatted about the decision your parents were faced with, to induce labor or continue waiting. I told her she had a hard decision to make and only her and your Dad could make it. Thursday night I got the call –  “I hope you can get some sleep tonight, we have decided to get these boys out tomorrow“. I knew that both of your parents had struggled with this decision and I was proud that they took the time to make it on their own. They were ready. The universe, or maybe you boys had different plans.

Your parents showed up Friday ready to meet you, instead the hospital told them that they were understaffed and unable to do the induction that morning. The emotion of that moment was palpable. The excitement and preparedness in their faces fell, their shoulders dropped, and then their curiosity rose. What did this mean? What were you trying to tell them? We stayed in the hospital for monitoring and began the work of trying to understand the bigger picture. In my perspective, this day is the first day of labor – the labor of deciding. Jason diligently learned more about maternity testing and researched the new tests you boys were subjected to that day. Chelsey discussed the higher messages, saying her boys were showing us all who was really in charge. She tuned in to both of you and interpreted the signs she was given, the hospital cancelling the induction, Baby B turning head down at 39 weeks. In the face of fear, both of your parents took as much time as they needed to learn, contemplate, feel, listen, ground, and do one of the hardest things that parents ever do – decide. They didn’t do it lightly, they didn’t do it carelessly, the didn’t do it without as much information as they could gather. They did it with clarity, with strength, with their boys health and safety at the center of their minds and hearts. They owned their decision and left the hospital to spend a few more days with the two of you in charge of when you would be born.

Monday morning your Dad called from the hospital where they’d gone for a routine screening. They had rescheduled the induction for Wednesday.  

“We have lost Baby B”.

I told him I was on my way. I sobbed all the way to the hospital. After composing myself and preparing to do the impossible task of helping your parents through the worst news anyone ever receives, I walked into the hospital room where your parents were. I expected to find hollow, broken, shocked parents. I didn’t find that. I found sadness, you could have painted the walls with it, like it had a color of it’s own for the walls of that room. I found grief, and sorrow, and pain. I found parents struggling to handle their own sense of guilt. Your mom repeatedly said “I keep going back to Friday“. Over shadowing the pain and sadness though was strength. I was astounded by the strength in your mom and dad’s eyes, by the love there.

This day, Monday, I see as the second day of labor – the labor of grief. The labor of losing Baby B. Inside of that room that day your parents danced through the emotional task of accepting the loss of Baby B and preparing to birth Baby A. It was beautiful to witness. The waves of sadness, loss, guilt, despair would wash over your mother and your father would hold her, council her, love her through every second. He talked about plans bigger than all of us, he told her stories of how Baby B would impact people across space and time as a Spirit. Your parents spent hours staring in each others eyes trying to make sense of this. The love, power, connection in that space between their eyes was tangible. Your dad whispered encouragement to your mother throughout the whole day. He stood in such strength for her and allowed her to move through all of the emotion without ever expecting her to coddle him. Your grandmothers diligently waited in the hallways of the hospital for every time your dad needed them for support. He would leave the room and return with red, glassy eyes – using his support team to feel the deepness of this loss on his own so Chelsey didn’t have to feel his pain too. Such a graceful and powerful gift. I sat in awe as this parenting team gracefully moved through this impossible task.

Towards the afternoon, Jason gently started guiding Chelsey’s focus back towards Baby A. He started talking to her about gratitude, love, joy, hope, family, and consciously creating memories of a happy labor and birth for Baby A. In these moments I witnessed the creation of two sets of parents – Parents A and Parents B. As contractions started to come, Parents A started to allow excitement into their space. Parents B would continue to get waves of grief in between the waves of contractions. I knew this task would challenging, to do both a grief labor and a physical labor at the same time seemed nearly impossible. I swelled with pride and awe as these parents chose to labor for Baby A.

Induction of labor took more time than was expected and your parents continued to labor through the grief and prepare for the physical labor to come. They rested as best they could but sleep was understandably illusive. It wasn’t until Tuesday evening that a good pattern of contractions was established. Chelsey took a deep breath and got ready for the night.

We would now enter into the third labor – the physical labor. We all hoped for fast progress. As contractions got stronger, Parents A became more focused, more grounded, and more excited. Parents B were still present, still mourning, but quietly watching from the background as Parents A worked. Chelsey needed constant eye contact during the contractions and the strength behind those eyes was deep, and powerful. Your dad continued to stand by her side and provide her with everything he could. Your grandmothers sat patiently waiting and ready to help in the hallway.

In the early morning hours, the work of the grief coupled with the intensity of the physical contractions and the slow progress weighed heavily on your mom. She made the difficult decision to accept an epidural. As all decisions your parents made throughout this process, this one wasn’t made without deep thought, consideration, and intention. We were all hopeful that the epidural would aide in progress and allow your parents some much needed rest. I went home too, expecting to get a call in a couple of hours that you both were ready to be born. Jason called me at 6:15 to say they had more difficult decisions to make. Baby A was no longer tolerating labor and had made it clear he needed surgical intervention.

Baby A was born via Cesarean at 7:02, Baby B followed at 7:06. The hard work your parents had done through all three of their labors would now pay off as they had transformed into grounded, wise, intelligent, informed, loving, and dedicated parents. They had accomplished the goal of creating loving and joyful memories of labor and welcoming Baby A with smiling faces. Parents A and Parents B were coexisting and clearly defined for each baby. They held Baby A with smiling, hopeful faces. Magnus – you saw joy, love, and excitement. They held Baby B with sadness, loss, grief, but also with gratitude for his life. Spirit – they held you with honor, respect, mourning, and a great love. 

Parents A and Parents B shifted quickly between babies, loving and honoring each of them separately and together. Chelsey started the task of breastfeeding with gentle and instinctual grace. She held her sweet Spirit baby and told him how grateful she was to have shared his life and how much she loved him. Jason dreamed of the adventures Spirit would go on now that he was free to travel without the confines of a human body. They both apologized to Spirit, and promised Magnuss to protect him in the years to come.

Magnus – as you grow and learn this story of your birth my hope for you is that you know how deeply you are loved. How your parents still kept their focus on you and what would be best for your short and long term health. How they set aside their own pain and grief with the desire that you be welcomed into happiness, joy, and love. How they felt the deep loss of your brother and how that would change who you grew to be. They love you so sweet boy and after witnessing their journey I know they will be strong enough to hold you through all of your adventures. They will be kind and generous with their love. They will continue to create intentional memories and make decisions for you with wisdom and intuition.

Spirit – I feel humbled to be telling you anything at all as I believe you are now the wisest among us. I thank you for your presence in the physical world, for watching over what was best even if the adults struggled to accept it. I know that you already know how much your parents love you, how they will always carry you with them, and they are learning already to trust your journey in this world. Thank you for the strength and wisdom you offered your parents, as it served them well and will continue to do so. Your physical body will be sorely missed but I second your mother’s voice as she distributed your ashes to your loved ones – “Thank you for making me believe”.

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The four of us spent 24 beautiful hours together before Spirit B started his journey.

We are working on ways to keep Spirit in our lives as we move forward and look forward to sharing those with you when we are ready.