Today I failed to adequately manage my endo-related pain. I don’t want to become overly reliant on pain medication but sometimes willing it away or hoping it will pass soon leads to me waiting too long to take a dose. Then finally, once I take the meds and I’m waiting for it to kick in to give me some relief, I’m writhing in pain and mentally berating myself. Ugh, just thinking about it makes me ill.

A New Kind of NormalAnyway, as I’m continuing to learn what works best for me and how to manage my illness, I wrote a guest blog for A New Kind of Normal (ANKN) titled, Ending Summer With A Bang (Despite Chronic Illness). I’ve been indoors working in the AC for much of the summer or busily running between doula appointments, births, ballet class, and the prenatal yoga classes I teach. However, I managed to squeeze out a couple of weeks for a mental break, some physical downtime, and getting lots of rest. It has been glorious! So, my post is all about how we can enjoy the last few weeks of summer before the season truly changes.

Working with ANKN was delightful and Jamee is a dear. She’s an inspiration and gives so freely of herself to help others coping with endometriosis. I love her spirit and I love Blogging for Endometriosis Awareness–an annual blog fest organized by ANKN throughout the month of March. I’m so happy to have connected with Jamee, a fierce and fabulous endo sister. Take a moment to read and comment on the post, Ending Summer With A Bang (Despite Chronic Illness), by clicking on the image below.

balance: dancer's pose

Back in June I served as a Voter Operations Judge during the primaries. It was certainly an eye-opening experience into some of the challenges and inherent problems with how our voting process is organized in this country. AND it was a heartwarming glimpse into some of the things that are fascinating and beautiful about exercising our right to vote in the U.S.

Surprisingly, there are many, many people from other countries and developing nations that are avidly involved in overseeing and executing voter operations. This may be reflective of only my experience in one precinct in one district across the country, but it was certainly noticeable. In passing conversation it becomes clear that they have a reverence and sense of gratitude for the right to vote that’s extended to all Americans—many of whom don’t have a clear perspective or appreciation for the sacrifices thousands have made before us to ensure and protect that right.

For example, one voter asked me if she could change her party affiliation so that she didn’t have to come in to vote. (huh?) I explained to her that exercising her right to vote, or not vote, was a decision she could make regardless of her party affiliation—she’s not forced or obligated to vote. (blank stare) Again she asks me if changing her party affiliation to independent would mean that she didn’t have to vote. (sigh) I let her know that she could change her party affiliation if she wanted to and she didn’t have to vote if she didn’t want to. I’m not sure she ever understood what I was saying but she did vote and she did not change her party affiliation that day. Her perfectly made-up and manicured face and hands, with her bubble-gum lipstick, glasses, and blonde hair pulled through a Ralph Lauren baseball cap is so vivid in my memory. Such a tragedy not to understand the difference between a right, a privilege, and an obligation.

vote-300x150

During my time as an election judge, 495 voters came through our precinct. There were about 4-5 of us checking voters in at any given time so for the sake of easy math, let’s say I came in contact with about 110 voters. One of the most interesting things about these 500 or so people is that some managed to make a very simple process difficult. Maryland is a no ID state for voting, which basically means that if you are a registered voter, you do not have to show ID to vote. You simply answer a series of practical, every day questions to confirm your identity (name, DOB, address, etc.), and you are given a ballot to cast your vote, that’s it. There was no shortage of voters that wanted to give me their beliefs and opinions about whether or not we all should be required to show ID to vote. Thankfully, I’m highly skilled at the resting bitch face so I listened, smirked smiled smirked, and kindly directed them to the line to enter the ballot booth—save your politicking for someone who cares (and who’s not WORKING as an election judge). Some of these people even shared their opinions, with no filter, about the current Administration and their elected officials. *yawn, I’ve been here since 6am and #IDC

One thing that’s really cute is that lots of couples come out to vote together, as well as young people and their parents. Mostly the husbands ask their wives whom they should vote for and the families generally rely on the women to do the research to tell them where to cast their vote. I’m sure this is not the case in all families but this is what I noticed in my precinct in my district.

The best couple that came in was a mixed race couple that had been together for over 40 years. They told us about how they marched during the Civil Rights movement and lived through the Jim Crow era in the southern Virginia and North Carolina. It was amazing to see them still together, blissful, and vibrant. They were telling us how they considered writing a book about the living history of their experiences when another election judge asked if they had seen the movie Belle (which is about an illegitimate, mixed race woman raised as an aristocrat during the era of slavery). *side-eye Well, that conversation ended there and they went on to vote.

By far the funniest thing I heard all day was a story about one of the election judges’ erratic neighbor, and neighborhood nuisance, that came in to vote (and he was acting like a total spaz that whole time he was there, literally jumping around and carrying on). I won’t get into the details of that here, but it had to do with a voodoo doll supposedly being thrown at the man’s door after he complained about other people’s water getting into his yard when they watered their flowers, and him accusing all the neighboring people of color of doing it. The main take away was that when the wife started asking people in the neighborhood who did it, she was told with a beaming smile that, “intelligent women do not let their asshole husbands tell them just anything.” That was probably the nicest insult that woman had ever received. I was #crine.

Out of all this, the memory that will live with me forever is that of an African American woman born in 1919 that came in to vote. At one point in the morning, an elderly, African American couple came in that was born in 1922 (husband) and 1926 (wife). From then on I was curious to see what year would the oldest person coming to vote be born in. The only other contender was an older white woman born in September 1924. It was amazing to see these folks come in, with a cane or a walker, but clearly of their own accord to cast their ballot.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama

A fellow election judge was a history buff so we calculated that if these folks were of age to vote beginning in 1943 (prior to the legal age to vote being changed to 18 years of age), then they likely voted in 18 Presidential elections beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt through Barack Hussein Obama (for a reading bonus, take a look at President Obama as he looks out over The Capitol once last time after the 2013 Inauguration #yourewelcome).

These are people that lived through the Great Depression, the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Vietnam War, man landing on the moon, the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and many, many other historic and monumental events. The fact that these people still take the time, effort and energy to participate in our democracy and come out to vote, even in the primaries (!!!), leaves no room for any of our excuses not to make it to the polls.

When too many Americans don’t vote or participate, some see apathy and despair. I see disappointment and even outrage. And I believe that out of this frustration can come hope and action. ” – Paul Wellstone

blooma-tote-bagOne of the best personal and professional investments I’ve made to date is most certainly my decision to participate in Blooma’s Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training. Over the course of four days I was filled with so much love, hope, healing, optimism and strength from all of my yogi and birth doula sisters and mamas at this training.

First off I was happy that I wasn’t the only one that traveled from out of state. While Blooma is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, women traveled to be a part of this training from North Carolina (woot-woot!), Wisconsin, Utah, and even as far as Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands (yea, that’s farther away than Hawaii—I had to look it up).

From all the research I’d done on Blooma, every person I asked about this prenatal yoga teacher training had nothing but overwhelmingly positive things to say about it:

I LOVED my training and my students love my class. Teaching prenatal yoga is way different than teaching cbe [child birth education] or being a doula but it’s been a great addition to my business. I can’t say enough good things about Blooma…. It’s like yoga training + anatomy + doula training. Very in-depth.

Oh, Blooma’s my jam. Awesome place :) that would be sweet!

You will love it! Please pass on my love and hugs to Sarah and Stacy!! Let me know when you get back if you need any help getting your playlists/class routines started.

I truly could not find anything else like it. Blooma’s prenatal yoga is specifically designed to fit and meet the needs of expectant Moms—it’s nothing at all like typical yoga poses with modifications. These poses are designed to help women get in touch with their bodies and the power we have within to birth, connect and love the new life we bring into the world. I loved that Blooma has wide, open arms for ALL moms with a range of experiences. One of the loveliest things about these prenatal yoga sessions is that women’s emotional wellbeing is considered just as integral to a safe birth experience as her physical health. Thankfully I came to the training with an open heart and no expectations.

blooma-elephants

Loved all the adorable decor throughout the studio!

Many of us experienced great healing and profound insight into our own experiences, or lack thereof, with childbirth and hopes for motherhood. It was a blessing to be in such a palpable, sacred space with such divine women.

Throughout my time there, I was actually able to relax and breathe freely without feeling the pressures of everyday life. I was able to be in tune with my body without feeling sexualized, objectified or “othered,” which can be hard to escape when your work focuses on violence against women and their bodies. As an adult survivor of rape and as a woman unable to have children, I’ve truly never felt freer inside my own body.

Blooma Founder, Sarah Longacre and Training Director Stacy Seebart pour so much love, joy and attention into the space they create for women to fully experience this training that it is very much sacred. My heart owes them more than my words can express. They open their whole hearts to give and to receive with meaning.

Kenya, the DoulaMy head has been spinning with so many thoughts on how to bring this experience back home to the families I serve. Practicing one-on-one with my Moms has been a delight and I look forward to holding my first class sometime this summer. I can’t wait to send love out to all the birthing mamas around the world through the archer, one of my favorite poses. I hope you’ll join me on this journey! Visit kenyathedoula.com for more details in the weeks to come.

When I talked to my Granma Hazel about becoming a doula (Kenya, the Doula), she was so open with me and shared some wonderful details about the birth of my father, my aunt and uncles. I learned so much about her experience as a young, scared country girl on the verge of becoming a new mother in the 1950’s and about the lack of support and nurturing services provided to women in labor. Most of all, to hear her say that she thought I was strong for becoming a doula made my heart swell with love, joy and pride. Her encouragement was so meaningful to me and I carry that sentiment into every birth I attend.

This week marks World Doula Week, celebrated annually from March 22-28. Many women see the doula bag I carry and ask about my work; I’m carrying it even more now to promote World Doula Week. The most surprising thing about this is that many women talk to me about their birth experience without having a doula present and how they wish they had one when they were in labor. They often talk about not knowing what to expect or what was coming next, and thinking that they wouldn’t make it through the pain. They talk about being a new mom with a tiny newborn and having no idea on what to do next because no matter how much education you have or how many childbirth classes you attend, it’s still a shock to be left home alone with your new baby (maybe with a partner or other support, maybe not).

I love hearing their stories as they reflect on what it’s like to venture into motherhood, to learn to push beyond their perceived limits and move towards their dreams for how they want to parent. Nearly every time, the way they were parented comes up and the contrast or similarities between the two worlds leads to a kind of healing. Some women were raised with tough love and didn’t understand how to nurture or be affectionate with their own child. Some women were loved with abundance and felt like they were falling short in doing the same for their own baby. Some just feel like they should know more than they do but every child, every mom, is different. There’s no way to know what you don’t know.

No matter the perspective, talking about it was restorative for these women and for me. Helping moms and their partners welcome new life into the world is a blessing that keeps me connected and anchored to the spirit and life force that carries us all. I’m proud to be a doula and thankful for all the families that have chosen me to be part of their birth experience.

Happy World Doula Week!

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