On Becoming Real: My Not-So-Conventional Journey to Mamahood

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I was never sure if I was meant to be a mama. 
Actually that's an understatement. I felt immense doubt around motherhood.
I cried in a lot of hotel rooms when my best friend and I would travel for work. 
"I don't know if I'm ready," I'd say, tears running down my face. "I don't know if I want to."
She'd hug me and say, "Then don't."

Don't get me wrong. I love my friends' babies to the moon. I love my friends’ round bellies and ability to eat all the nachos. I even thought decorating a nursery would be fun. But the rest of it? I was unsure.

I'd close my eyes during vision meditations where I was supposed to see my life and I just couldn't see "it." Whatever it was. That was challenging when at least half the room experienced major waterworks talking about their perfect baby and my best friend pictured her three flannel clad children summiting a mountain. 

That being said, after a few years of marriage my big bearded honey of a husband (who was so meant to be a dad and had talked about it on our second date) and I started to "try." We are in love but we are kind of lazy together too, so I was not exactly a "peeing on sticks" and "sex around the clock" kinda gal. I figure if it was supposed to happen, it would and I'd trust that the universe had my back on this one.

We tried. We kept trying. I bought some of those sticks. I peed on them. I took vitamins. Still nothing.

Okay universe, I know I said I was unsure but now I'm kind of pissed.

Fast forward to this past spring. I'm in some stupid outfit that I think is "mom-like." I'm in a stuffy doctor's office with my husband and clutching his hand for dear life. It's a fertility center and I don't like anything about it. After many tests, the doctor told us that there was a chance we could get pregnant but it was pretty small. He immediately ushered us into an even smaller, even stuffier, room to show us pamphlets about IVF and other means of becoming pregnant.

He told us that we could begin these fertility treatments as soon as the next week. Not even five minutes later, a woman shows up with another folder of paperwork about how to pay for said IVF. I was overwhelmed and in tears. We hadn't been trying that long. We hadn't seen a naturopath. We left. Matt drove us to our favorite ice cream shop and we sat outside eating massive cones at 2 pm. 

I looked at him and said, "Should we just say fuck it and move to Bali? Just the two of us?"

He looked at me and shrugged. Maybe, he said.

The further and further we got away from that office the more I realized that this was not how I wanted to build my family. It just wasn't the way I was meant to become a mother. But something else had started to bloom in me. That I was actually meant to be a mother.

Matt and I were on a walk on a Saturday afternoon when I asked him, "What do you think about adoption?"
He looked at me with big eyes and said, "I think it's beautiful."
I smiled. "Yeah, me too. Really beautiful."

I noticed the way adoption made me feel in my body. Vulnerable but open. Soft but sweet. Strong yet tender. It made me feel the way I do when I see my dad's eyes crinkle up with laughter. The way I feel when I'm really connected to others - sometimes in yoga classes, sometimes at church when visiting my parents, sometimes in nature. I felt it in my bones and knew it to be true. For me. For us. For this little human out there. I could close my eyes and picture every curve of their sweet, little face. Picture the moment the car drove up and a social worker placed this baby in my arms.

I didn't feel this way when I thought about the other ways of becoming a mom. To be completely and utterly honest, I didn't even feel that way when I thought about myself as pregnant. It felt right, like soulmate-right, and it made sense to me why I couldn't picture it before. I was trying to picture what someone else's version of motherhood and family looked like, and Photoshop my face on a dream.

Life happens like that. It’s so easy to feel when something is wrong, when something is not for us, not ours. And it’s also so easy to stay in that place of lack, of not ours, of feeling empty. That day in the doctor's office was a gift as it opened up another path full of possibility and heart opening and transformation. Thank God we kept asking the questions, thank God I kept feeling the word “mama” in my body, thank God for a partner who was willing to ask the questions too. There was no trying anymore, no struggle or effort, everything that happened before brought us to the clearest moment. This, this, is how we were meant to be parents.

Fast forward to a few weeks later. We've met with a student of mine who is foster adoption lawyer. She had been coming to my classes for years, front row, front and center. Because life is like that and will not let you miss the important people that will change everything for you. We’ve talked to parents who have adopted privately. We've talked with parents who have foster adopted. We've met with a foster adoption agency. We've made a big, scary, beautiful decision: we are going to become parents through the foster system of Los Angeles.

They tell you that in the foster-to-adopt world, there are no guarantees. They tell you this, and they tell you again, and then they have you talk to other foster parents who tell you: There are no guarantees. You open up your home and a little heartbeat comes inside, and there is no knowing if it will be forever. That being said, I'd be hard pressed to find anything that is absolutely, 100 percent guaranteed in life. I have found peace in this. Matt and I are strong, that our home can hold this level of uncertainty in the floors and in our hands, the whole point is to love and provide safety and what an honor to do so.

I handed a nurse my foster parent paperwork at a physical I needed to get certified. She looked at my paperwork, looked up and said, "I'm sorry."
"Excuse me?" I said.
"Can you not get pregnant?" she asked.

This was the first of many insensitive comments I've heard and will continue to hear, I'm sure, but they pale in comparison to the amount of support we've received. And I looked that nurse square in the eyes and said, "I think you meant congratulations, not sorry. This is exactly what we want to do and exactly how we want to become parents." I meant every single world.

That brings us to today. We've filled out mountains of paperwork. We've delved into our past and talked about our future. We've completed weeks of classes and met the most amazing future parents and social workers. We've learned about burn marks and trauma and what will be asked of us. We've baby-proofed our home. And in a few days or weeks we will receive a phone call and we will say "yes."

We will be parents. To our forever baby? Maybe. But no matter what we will love up this little angel with all we have.

In our training with Extraordinary Families a social worker explains that as an adult the loss should fall on us. These babies, these children have experienced enough trauma and pain in their short lives. We are adults and we have cobbled together tools and coping mechanisms. We have family. We have friends. We have a yoga practice.

Are we scared? Of course.
Is it risky? For our hearts, for sure.
But damn, if that isn't the point then what is?

I was born for this. We were. And I can't wait to walk alongside you on this journey, my love.


'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit. 

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.' 

'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?' 

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.'

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit


More to read + watch :

Extraordinary Families
This is the nonprofit foster and adoption agency we are working with. We have met the most unbelievable, selfless social workers and parents and feel beyond blessed to be on this journey with them.

 The F Word: A Foster-to-Adopt Story
A YouTube series by a couple that keep it very real on their journey in foster care and adoption.

Four Castaways Make a Family
I read this NY Times Modern Love piece weekly. Read it and you'll understand why.

Instant Mom
This book is by Nia Vardalos, who wrote and starred in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." She adopted her daughter through foster care after 13 failed rounds of IVF. It's an amazing book and has many FAQs at the end.

In Gratitude

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This furry little angel who laid next to me for the past two days while I was sick with a head cold.
Rose quartz.
People coming together to help those affected by the California fires.
Being home. Our home grounds my heart and my body. I love what we've built here.
That I will be home for a long time.
A walk around Echo Park Lake.
For funny texts from my parents.
This matcha. Game changer.
Running into someone magical I hadn't seen in a long time at the grocery store.
Books. 
My brother's new home in Puerto Rico.
Going back to Verizon. (For real.)
My alma mater, the Iowa Hawkeyes, and their wave. I bawled
Daydreaming about what's to come.
Bubblebaths with Clary Sage essential oil for hormone balance.
Listening to meditation music and burning Nag Champa while I work. Spa vibes up in here.

Redefining "Well"

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Almost five years ago I sat down with my best friend to define my values and goals, this work being really new to me at the time. As we ideated on my values I landed on "radiantly healthy" as one of them. Visions of green juice and washboard abs and long runs danced in my head. 

Now I'm a lot of things but radiantly healthy isn't exactly one of them. The thought of radiant health sounded wonderful but it wasn't my experience then and it's not my experience now. Over the past two years I've made dozens of changes in my life that have helped me feel my best and helped me redefine my "well." A well that is uniquely mine to action and support and doesn't need to look like anybody else's.

A little back story:
I grew up in Iowa on a meat and potatoes diet. My mom had a brief flirtation with getting really "hippie" in the kitchen and with a whole host of herbs (I was grounded once for eating Skittles after she'd cleansed Red #40 out of me. Ha!) but for the most part we ate well and "normal."

After attending college I moved to Washington DC where I subsisted on happy hour Buffalo Wings and a whole lot of booze. I noticed that my stomach was often not right. (I mean whose could be?!) But this continued for years. I'd sometimes be constipated for a week or more. Bloated and swollen almost constantly.

It took meeting my husband at 27 after moving to California and his disbelief at my eating habits and health symptoms for me to really question what I was up to. As much I chataranga-ed and meditated I couldn't right the harm I was doing to my body. I had become used to feeling absolutely terrible and dressing in a way that hid my swollen tummy. It was my normal.

Matt and I embarked on our first Whole30 two months into dating. People told us we'd never last. "You're supposed to be wining and dining these first few months! Not cutting out gluten, sugar, dairy and alcohol." I was terrified. I'd never cut out anything in my life, except calories to lose weight. I had no knowledge of nutrition. I didn't think I could do it. But I absolutely did. Made it all thirty days without cheating one single time (and even cut out caffeine too!) and felt wonderful. I would bound out of bed in the morning. Run and go to yoga almost every single day. Cook with this man I was falling madly in love with. And my skin was clear and radiant. Oh, and my body was working like clockwork. Right then and there I decided to make some big changes in my life and to find out what was wrong.

After seeing a specialist I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I was put on medication which helped a lot and continued to eat pretty well. And just this past year I was diagnosed with somewhat mild Endometriosis (thank God.) I've been to many doctors, eastern practitioners, healers, even the ER. Every affliction has one thing in common - inflammation.

In these past two years I have changed my entire life. While that first Whole30 inspired something in me, I wasn't ready to take the plunge and change my habits. I have now. My health has become of the utmost importance to me as I've seen the power in my choices and the power of going against the grain.

Here are a few of the biggest changes I've made in my life to feel really good:

Cut out alcohol.
In January I will be have been "booze-free" for two years. Cutting out alcohol is the best choice I've ever made for my physical, mental and emotional health. I instantly dropped about fifteen pounds. My body was less swollen and inflamed. I'm never hungover. I could go on and on. The challenge, of course, is giving up that glass of wine (or several in my case) with friends but once I realized that I idealized alcohol in my moments like that I've found that my evenings out with my friends are just as good without it. And those friends who don't want to hang as much if you don't drink? Lose them. I am so proud of myself and now feel zero shame around being someone who doesn't drink.

Eat clean.
I eat a gluten-free diet with zero to little dairy or sugar. Sure, I totally splurge from time to time and eat my favorite chicken nachos but for the most part I eat clean and this has made a huge difference in my health.

Switch to tea.
Coffee makes me asshole. A to-do list maniac with every tab open on my browser. I've since switched to Vital Protein's Matcha Collagen and FourSigmatic's Mushroom Coffee. Both have a low caffeine content and a host of health benefits. Plus are way more delicious than coffee anyway.

Supplement correctly.
Okay, so my current line up is this:
- Vitex and Milk Thistle twice a day for hormone health and skin love. (I take five days off Vitex a month because it can be intense. Read how to supplement with it carefully if you try it. It's made a huge difference for me.)
Beef Gelatin and Cartilage Collagen for intestinal health and healthy skin.
- Wobezym Digestive Enzymes to help break down food. I've tried a lot of digestive enzymes and I swear by these.
- I also take SmartyPants vitamins and extra Vitamin D.

Drink lots of H20.
I drink a ton of water throughout the day. Often in the form of a La Croix can (grapefruit please!) but am getting better about drinking just regular ol' H20 too.

Move my body.
Whether it's going for a long walk with Rosy or practicing in my home yoga studio or at Wanderlust Hollywood or a super sweaty workout at Pharos Athletic Club, moving my body everyday is important. I focus on what feels good that day and what is needed.

I'll definitely write more about my health journey and what makes a big difference for me going forward. Shoot me a note if there's anything you want me to expand upon.

God Winks + Quiet

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We've been talking a lot about the balance of effort and surrender at Rock Your Bliss lately. Effort and surrender. Rest and play. Hustle and flow.

I realized I've been hustling pretty hard. Paperwork, classes, travel. I caffeinate myself into a frenzy then work as hard as a I can for short bursts. I've become addicted to the burst of "brought to you by coffee" energy, the excitement and reward of starting a new day. And if you know me, I don't do anything in moderation. (Hence why I've traded in the wine glass for the La Croix can for almost two years now.

This week I played with the idea of being as relaxed as possible while still productive. To breathe deeply, relax my jaw, break it up and go for a walk. The simple things that are so necessary yet beyond easy to forget.

As I got a little quieter I noticed my natural rhythms. Three hours back-to-back on the computer felt like too much. I needed water, tea and sunlight. (I'm basically a slightly caffeinated plant now.) My day felt longer and sweeter. I even needed a nap at one point. Which to exception of doing a couple of really spacey things, it's felt good. Like saying to myself: Oh, there you are. I missed you.

I truly believe that we create so much noise and chaos around and within us, we can't hear what the universe is trying to tell us. By dialing down the internal noise, I create more space. 

The sweetest moment happened yesterday. I felt drawn to read "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." It's a very old book and a book my Grandma had told me was her favorite all throughout my childhood. I curled up with a tea and found myself lost in the book. Then realized that today is her birthday. My friend Rand calls these moments "God winks." I feel it.

So here's to God winks and quiet in 2018.

What I've Learned from Slowing Down

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Our culture loves the hustle. Just a scroll through social media is peppered with the phrases “But first coffee…” or “Hustle and heart.” And some days that’s true. Some hustle is absolutely necessary—extra caffeine, too. But after a couple of years of running myself into the ground, becoming used to tight shoulders and a tight jaw and a writing a page-long to-do list every Monday I asked myself one question: Why exactly was I doing this?

My best friend Jacki, and my partner in Rock Your Bliss and I often talk about the “hustle to worthiness.” We’ve been programmed to believe that until the clothes are perfectly folded, the to-do list is complete, our workout has been “crushed” and we’ve plated a perfect looking dinner, we are not worthy. Just a scroll through Instagram is full of these exact images. But we aren’t talking about the cost of this perfection: our mental health, our breath, our inner relationship, our human-ness. We aren’t robots.

So I started with an experiment. Every weeknight at 8 PM, I’d put my phone on Airplane mode and not take it off until I’d meditated in the morning. The first night I felt kind of panicky. What if someone tried to reach me and couldn’t? Well, then they couldn’t. When I woke up the next morning I took my time making my coffee and sitting in my yoga space taking slow, deep breaths. And when I my phone came off Airplane there were a couple frantic texts. But they were frantic only because someone needed something from me and I’d put up a boundary and took some time to start my day on my own terms.

Guess what? That’s okay. And not only is it okay, it feels good.

Since then I’ve stuck to this pretty regularly. I’ve spent more time outside in the park with a paperback and my journal. I’ve definitely taken more deep breaths. And I’ve started every morning on my own terms, rather than a habitual Instagram scroll and some frantic texting. I’ve learned the beauty of the pause, or the space in between the chaos. Pressing pause is such a wonderful tool to garner more peace and gratitude. It’s good for your stress levels and your ability to express kindness. It’s one of the few things that combats that need for perfection, and it’s so easy to do.  

Here's a few ideas to help you pause:

Bring just a notebook. 
Whether I’m heading to a coffee shop or a park, I love to challenge myself to bring nothing but a notebook. No iPhone, no computer, just a pen and paper. It gives me time to reflect and dream up some new ideas for classes or creative projects.

Let things be messy. 
As a definitely Virgo, I thrive with order. That being said, I’ve learned to enjoy a bit of mess. Deciding not to make our bed on a Saturday or leaving some dishes in the sink. There’s a life to be lived and the world is a very messy place. I’m the one who is going to spend all my time trying to clean and order it? It’ll drive you mad.

Get a library card. 
I admit that I do love to read on my iPad, but after spending way too much time with that brightly lit screen I started heading down to our local library and getting some books there. And it’s free!

Just lay there. 
Your alarm goes off and you dash out of bed or pick of your phone. Try just laying there for awhile. Maybe you a pup or a human to cuddle with? Maybe you pick up a book for a few minutes? Starting your day slowly will slow everything down.

Take yourself on date. 
Whether it’s to the bathtub with a glass of wine or kombucha and a paperback or to a movie matinee I love some alone time. Challenge yourself to do something that scares you, like sitting in a restaurant solo or taking a hip-hop dance class. The alone time (and the bravery it took to get there) are vastly rewarding.

Connect. 
On our Rock Your Bliss podcast we often ask in our Rapid Fire questions whether people prefer phone calls or text. The majority say text. We are living in a culture where true human connection is going extinct. Rather than catching up with a friend over the phone, schedule a time to be together or take a new class. Make eye contact. Write a letter.

Walk.
 I live in Los Angeles, which is an amazing city but not the friendliest of walking cities. That being said, there’s plenty of areas you can explore on foot. There’s art museums. And parks. And historic districts. I’m sure they same goes for your hometown—where can you go? Can you take a break from the speed of a car and enjoy slower-paced journey? Pick a new area to explore or run your errands on foot.

Let these ideas serve as inspiration. Try them out or develop your own. Either way, slow down and notice the details with your sacred pause.

This first appeared on Wanderlust.com.

Transformation is Messy

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I was talking to a student after class one day and she said, "You're so brave."
I almost looked behind me to see who she was talking to.
"Me? Brave?" I asked.

As she walked off, I let that marinate a bit. Honestly, I have made a lot of brave choices. I've been through many iterations of myself. Perhaps this is Version MB 142.0? And one thing I've learned along the way is that I often don't want to make the brave choice or the big choice. I often wanted to pass on the big speaking engagement, staying home in my pajamas and staying "safe" but I knew I couldn't. A big life wasn't going to be a comfortable life. It would be absolutely necessary to get acquainted with discomfort.

After each big speaking event or new project or scary life change, I'd think, "Okay, I did it. I'm done with discomfort." That's definitely not the case. There's old habits to break, there's hard conversations to be had, there's more risks and challenges to be taken on. And along the way I've embraced discomfort and messy transformation like a good friend. Not the friend I wanna curl up with and watch Netflix with every night but the friend I must have in my life because they make me better.

This is living.

A brave life is a beautiful one. It's also transformational and messy and challenging. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

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Keeping My Word (And the Other Three Agreements I Ignored Until My Thirties)

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I think about her now. The girl that would cancel plans without a moment's notice or decide that drinking a pitcher of margaritas on the beach was a better idea than calling her brother back. All that mattered were her priorities, her feelings, her emotional rollercoaster. I don't think I even started to realize I was her until I hit age thirty. And even then, there was a lot of excavating needed to become who I am now. Imperfect, for sure, but present and with a lot less explaining to do.

I read the book "The Four Agreements" the moment it came out. Then I read it again. And again. And again. And with most self help books I consumed during this time, nothing really stuck. In fact, I probably thought I was doing the work. That I could lead the work.

The four agreements being:
Be impeccable with your word.  
Don't take anything personally.
Don't make assumptions.
Always do your best.


I recently had a friend who bailed on something really important to me minutes before. I worked through every last feeling before I got onto the phone and we were able to have a constructive conversation. One thing she said really stood out to me though: I'm here to defend my choice.

I felt an ache in my ribs because I get it. That endless defending of my choices instead of just showing up and doing what I said I'd do. The self righteousness that gets exhausting. Needing to be right rather than understood. The thousands of white lies I'd construct spinning a far larger web than I'd started with. It just really sucked, to be honest. I'm sure this wasn't her experience, nor should it have been, but it's what I remembered from this painful period in my life.

In that conversation, and many prior and many since, I remembered this: I'll show up and do what I say I'll do. I'll say no to what I can't or don't want to commit to. And somebody else's business is somebody else's business. There's no need to make assumptions and take absolutely everything personally.  

It is simply not my job to judge you. It is not my place.
It is however my job is see myself in you and to know that we are one in the same.

And I'll learn that over and over again for the rest of my life.
Of that I have no doubt.

On Letting Go: Part 1 + 2

Part I: 

I lost my right wedge sandal on my first night of college after three too many Solo cups full of cheap beer. I lost the phone number of my dreadlocked, heart-full-of-gold roommate almost immediately after our summer in London and have never found him again. I lost my contacts in the Caribbean Sea. I lost my grandmother, her hats, her books of rocks and birds and the smell of Carmex. I lost my wedding ring but then I found it.

I let go of hundreds of coulda, woulda, shouldas. I let go of the idea that there are things I must do. No need to stand awkwardly at a party when you'd rather go home and read. I let go of relationships & friendships that always feel like swimming upstream. Exhausting. I let go of the idea that my body is anything but perfect. After years and years of fighting it's shape and curves, I shed some tears, ate a grilled cheese and never ever looked back. I let go, and continue to, of the people who vex my spirit and make me feel tired. I let go of doubt. I embrace trusting, laughing and drinking wine with people who feel right. I let go of "I'll be happy when ____". I let go of the idea that I'm going to be a runner. Or a surfer. It's simply not happening, as much as I try. I let go of feeling bad because I'm just not letting go enough.

I once tried to build a two-story lemonade stand on wheels and another time I attempted to knit a circus net that would catch me after I flew around the house several times impressing the neighbor kids. I was seven and convinced that I held as much magic as the world around me, skinned knees and all. I knew I could fly. I ended up on crutches most of that summer, unable to participate in games of tag and hide and seek. I sat on the porch swing, the very swing I launched myself from convinced I'd be lifted right into the bright blue sky, and called the neighbor kids names. That was the summer I first became aware that I could lose, and that there was a lot of "letting go" in life, that didn't include leaping from the swing.

We lose and it hurts and we want it to stop. We learn to let go a little slower, with more grace. We stop building two-story lemonade stands, but if we're lucky, a couple decades later we might pick it up again. We hold hands tightly, we sometimes hear last breaths, we sometimes dance til midnight.

We lose. We let go. We become lighter. We learn to unfurl our wings, at first a bit matted and clumsy. We keep moving toward the light til' we do what we are born to. Fly.

"Anything I cannot transform into something marvelous, I let go." - Anais Nin

"But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned
against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine."
- Billy Collins, from the poem "On Turning Ten"
 


Part II:

I remember writing Part I at my husband's desk a few years ago. I had a glass of Chardonnay in my hand and tears streamed down my cheeks as something unlocked in me. Through words, through chemistry. I was always seeking that feeling of unlocking, or quieting, or calming but not enough to sit with myself for a little while. 

It was true then.
It's true now.

My process has changed. I've changed.

I've spent the last two years peeling open my tightly clasped fists that were holding so tightly onto this idea of "self' with barely any recognition of that big, juicy Self with capital S.

This letting go is an unlearning, I think. And fuck, is it a slow process. Unlearning fear or judgement may well take me the rest of my days but I think it's worth it. It's a gradual peeling back of these protective layers I've accumulated only to be reacquainted with my dorkiest eleven-year-old self.

That self didn't get it yet. She was beautiful then and she's beautiful now.
And still very much here.