Category Archives: Pregnancy

Yoga and Infertility

one of my favorite views
(the ceiling at Strala Yoga; one of my favorite views)

It took me thirteen years to get pregnant. I don’t talk a lot about my infertility, because somewhere during those thirteen years, I decided to not let it define me or my life. I didn’t want to sit around at home pining for a child while allowing other opportunities to slip away. And I certainly didn’t want to be seen that way by the world; I didn’t want to be known for what I did not have–I wanted to be known for what I could do and what I’d done.

I mean, there were plenty of days in there where I would draw the curtains in my bedroom, crawl into my bed, and cry for hours on end, grieving a life I didn’t have. I would be very happy for my pregnant friends, but found baby showers unbearable, so I stopped going. And I’d be very happy for my pregnant friends, but simultaneously found their round pregnant bellies torturous. But for the most part, I kept my grief very private, for better and for worse, to the point where some people were very surprised to learn I wanted children.

We bought our home in Berkeley with the intention of having children, many children. Over the years, the extra bedrooms became guest rooms and and an office. Still, the aura of empty bedrooms never escaped me.

In some fit of optimism, I decided early on that the first child I’d hold in my arms was going to be my own, so for many many years I politely declined holding people’s babies. Eventually, I wondered if I should go ahead and hold a baby, because maybe I’d never get to hold my own. But by then, very few people offered up their babies to me. And the significance of the act had become quite large–whose baby? And what would that act signify? Would that mean I’d totally given up? And uh, yah. Awkward.

Yah, it got complicated.

At one point, I picked up my head and made a concerted effort to “do what people with kids cannot do.” That meant that when we were asked to move to New York City, we immediately (okay not immediately, but twenty-four hours later) said yes, we would. (Plus hello? New York!) We picked up and moved within two months, wending our way across the country (through a blizzard in Arizona!) in a MINI Cooper with two geriatric wiener dogs in the back. We lived a bicoastal life. We flew back and forth. These were things that people with kids could not do.

And then–we got pregnant.

I wrote a little essay late in my pregnancy on my infertility and its intersection with yoga for my friend and yoga instructor, Tara Stiles. I met her completely by chance at her yoga studio Strala Yoga. Yoga with Tara changed my life. Tara read this essay at a conference on infertility (Fertility Planit) at which she was a keynote speaker.

If you want to hear it, Tara’s presentation is up at MindBodyGreen; she begins reading my essay at the 24:30 mark.

The essay also speaks to my lifelong/ongoing body issues.

And here is my essay if you would prefer to read it:

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Uh, nesting.

I can’t stop baking and cooking.

It all started at Thanksgiving dinner. Where I made the meal. Including a pumpkin mousse cheesecake.

Pumpkin mousse cheesecake cross-section.  And done. *collapse*

Then I saw this recipe for baci di dama cookies over at David Lebovitz’s blog. I mean, I had to make it. I had to! Even though I was 8 and a half months pregnant. And I’m so glad I did. They’re my favorite cookies these days.

Baci di Dama cookies

I think my mistake was buying and reading cookbooks. Because I picked up an old copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook, and started thumbing through it. And looked at the bowl of leftover cranberry-pineapple chutney from Thanksgiving. And saw the sour cream coffee cake recipe…and decided to combine the two. And then: great success! Coffee cake with sour undertones from the sour cream and from the topping. Ahyes.

Cranberry sour cream coffee cake cooling. Next time I'm making this in a bundt pan. I had to overcook the edges in order to cook the middle.

The Silver Palate cookbook’s trademark recipe is chicken marbella. How could I NOT make this? So I did. And it was totally worth it.

Though I will warn you if you are sensitive to salt like I am, you will be a little puffy the next day. Still, totally worth it. Good stuff.

Okay, more than good. It was excellent. Like, going into my main repertoire, excellent.

Chicken marbella

Then I got obsessed with soft boiled eggs. Okay, I’ve always been obsessed with them. But I got obsessed with making them at home after reading a blog post on them over at Whitney Wright’s blog. I totally bought the egg cups, too.

soft boiled egg and toast fingers

Oh, and then I ran low on kimchi. And then I ran out of kimchi. And then I decided there was no way I was going to be without kimchi in my first few postpartum weeks. And so I made some kimchi. Woo!

Kimchi done. Now fermenting.

And because I’m pregnant, of course I’m going to make myself a big pot of miyuk gook, the recipe of which I’ve posted on my food blog Muffin Top:

Miyuk gook/seaweed soup!

So you’d think I’d be set, right?

Nope.

Then there’s literary rejection season. You know what I do to cope? You got it: I bake. I bake to offset my anxiety. To distract myself from staring at my words while filled with self doubt.

I bake Ottolenghi spice cookies out of his cookbook with Tamimi called Jerusalem (fabulous cookbook–with an amazing narrative–though for everyday and comprehensive Middle Eastern cooking, I am still heavily reliant on Claudia Roden’s cookbooks–I love both her Book of Jewish Food and New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Her recipes are bulletproof and authentic).

But back to those spice cookies!

Ottolenghi spice cookies

And I baked Francois Payard’s flourless chocolate cookies. Except I discovered I don’t have walnuts, but I do have hazelnuts, so I substituted hazelnuts for walnuts and it turned out just fine. It turned out more than fine.

Flour less chocolate cookie adapted from Francois Payard's recipe

Now who will eat my cookies? My friend stopped by and the first thing I asked her was, “You eat cookies, right?” And as she nodded, I walked her to the kitchen where I loaded up an airtight container full of cookies. (Yes, I’m a freak who likes to bake, but is overwhelmed and doesn’t like to eat too many cookies at once).

And have I told you? My freezer is packed with food. I’ve been squirreling away leftovers in there for the first postpartum weeks. There’s so much food in there, we have to start eating it now. Ohlawd.

And in other news…I did pretty well with following through/up on my “2012 To Do List” this year. I think 2013 will be about “survive the first few months of motherhood and get back to my writing”–should look into a list for that.

Also, yes. In between all this, I’ve been resting. Maybe a bit too much. After walking a minimum of 5 miles a day (and more like 7 miles/day) for most of gestation, I stopped moving about three weeks ago (I now walk around 3 miles/day–bleah). My last week of regular yoga was at around week 32. My last week of long walks was around week 34. I’m at 37 weeks today, and giving myself permission to poop out.

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Giving in to the process

9 weeks vs 33 weeks
(Above: 9 weeks on the left…33 weeks on the right)

So I’ve accepted the reality that I won’t be revising my novel to the extent I’d like. That my novel-writing will eventually return in earnest (hopefully sometime next Summer/Fall), and that my novel will benefit from this break. I believe this, because every break I take from my novel benefits the novel, and because this particular break is a rich and life-enhancing break in which I am still creating something–a person, really.

Which takes me to the topic of “breaks”–not brokenness mind you and not vacations either, but breaks. Ones that result in greater strength and conviction.

A break in my tailbone. A bone that heals stronger.

A break from a relationship. A relationship that reunites later with more conviction and clarity.

A break in my psyche. A renewed set of life priorities.

A break in my my brain. Singular determination, revealed.

I’m looking forward to what the next year will bring me. I’m hoping I’ll be surrounded by support, because it won’t be an easy year, but I hope it will be fantastic nonetheless. I’m excited about meeting my kid. And I’m interested in the writer I will become.

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juxtaposition

Lion

I am not sure why, when I was dealing with infertility for 13 years, so many mothers either stayed silent or looked at with me pity and said I was missing out on the Greatest Thing Ever. They rarely shared with me motherhood hardships. I had to figure out the upside of being childless, and embrace a life without a child.

And now that I am nearly 7 months pregnant, I am not sure why so many mothers congratulate me and then share all these AWFUL things (sleepless nights, subjugation of personal dreams, no time to write, no time to groom, your vajayjay will no longer be the same, etc.,) about motherhood.

Couldn’t they have switched the juxtaposition? Why not tell me how hard motherhood is, when I couldn’t be a mother? And tell me about motherhood’s joys when I’m pregnant?

And either way, I’m going to have to deal with my life. I’m going to have to figure it out. Why not at least be kind?

I am going hysterical with panic about writing and motherhood.

Update:
I went to the NYPL last night, where I heard Cheryl Strayed talk about WILD, The Dear Sugar column, and mostly about her writing life.

A large chunk of her talk focused on “writing like a motherfucker, during which Cheryl discussed “motherfuckertude.”

And whodathunkit: in reviewing her words last night, they are the VERY things I need to hear with regard to this whole panic about motherhood and writing.

Here are a handful of quotes from Cheryl Strayed last night:

“Being a motherfucker is a way of life, really. Having strength instead of fragility. And leaning hard into work rather than anxiety.”

“I actually think true motherfuckerhood has to do with humility, doing the work. Resilience and faith, being a warrior.”

“Being a motherfucker is about digging really deep. About going beneath the surface to find the truest thing.”

And there you have it. I’ve gotta be a motherfucker about my writing. I feel better now. Juxtaposition wins–I thank my good friend Nova for inviting me to the talk last night. Her kindness and generosity juxtaposed with my panic. Cheryl Strayed’s kindness and wisdom juxtaposed with my panic. It can overcome so much.

I’ve been a motherfucker before. I can be a motherfucker again.

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Freaking out

Looking up

I’ve kept this news on the down-low. For so many reasons. Because it makes me feel vulnerable. Because I don’t want to jinx it. Because it is scary business. Because it’s been a largely private journey. Because I’m wary of everyone’s reaction to the news. Because everyone expects me to be giddy-happy, and the journey has been so complicated and heartbreaking. Because it fills everyone else with expectations.

Because it’s one of the things I’ve most desired, and I wanted to keep it to myself for awhile. Because it’s one of the things I’ve most desired, and I wanted to protect myself for awhile. And I’d like to keep protecting myself, but it’s just impossible.

But now–I feel compelled to share, because I am freaking out, partly because I’ve been shrouding myself in quiet privacy. And this fear–this fear has found its way into the crevices of my identity as a writer–because my identity itself is changing. I’m in this weird transition–from one thing to another.

Because you see, after thirteen years of trying and not-not-trying and multiple times given up and then, after wiping my tears on my sleeve, forged on ahead again…I’m pregnant. I’m over 26 weeks pregnant, in fact. About 2/3 of the way through my pregnancy.

Untitled

And yes I’m happy. It took me a long time to allow myself to relax and be happy, to say it will be okay, that this is real. I shared with one friend and then another and then another, one at a time, dipping my toe into the water, revealing my secret, getting used to saying, “I’m pregnant.”

I couldn’t even say, “I’m pregnant” to the OBGYN receptionist on the phone, which prompted her to say, “Why are you making a checkup appointment with an OB? You can call your primary care physician, you know.” To which I said in garbled voice, “Because I’m prrrrrregnannnnnnt.” Oh it felt weird to say that. It felt like someone else saying so. It felt unreal. In those early weeks, I was cocooned in caution. The caution cocoon happens when you try and try and try and never get something you want.

We reached milestone after milestone. In disbelief at the good news each time. Deep down, we were thrilled. Deep down, the drumbeat picked up its pace. And yet, we measured our outward reaction, because all those years trying to get pregnant? They took away a big chunk of our innocence. And that’s okay. Sometimes things cost innocence.

I’m not freaking out about being pregnant anymore. I’m excited. I’m not freaking out about giving birth. It’s going to happen. I’m not freaking out about the changes in my body. It’s a part of the process.

There is a new freakout: I’m freaking out, as I do most changes in my life, about how it will affect my writing, which is a core part of my life, identity, and sanity.

Some of my non-mama friends have told me it’s just like anything else–that I’ll just make the time–that people have jobs and responsibilities and they manage to carve out time for writing. But I have a strong feeling that motherhood is unlike anything else–even while pregnant, this thing has taken over my psyche, my thoughts, my heart, my finances, my time, my body, and my time. It’s all-consuming.

For the record–I haven’t had that creative-burst that people say women have during pregnancy. It just hasn’t happened, thus increasing my silent freak-out. I really wanted to finish a major revision of my novel before giving birth. That isn’t going to happen, even though I’m forging onwards in my revision so that I’ll have no regrets.

The closest I’ve ever come to having something hijack my writing is my stroke, which left me completely unable to write fiction for nearly two years. And yet my stroke recovery was still a time focused utterly on myself. That ain’t motherhood, either.

I am positive that longterm, motherhood will be amazing for my writing. That it will inform me as a human and in turn my writing. That my kid is going to give me tons of ideas and windows into the rooms of life that I haven’t yet entered.

But short term? I am anxious. I know I won’t be able to revise my novel for a few months. But will it be a year away? Two years away? I don’t know how I could handle that.

How do you manage? How do you transition your identity as a writer into motherhood? What are tips for making time? How long did it take to get back to your writing? Are there things I’m overlooking?

I have so many questions. So many questions.

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