Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Rants of a Pregnant Mama from Chaos Toward Healing

I found out the week before my first daughter's second birthday.  I was busy with an internship to help me find a "real job".  I needed a job; I had been unemployed for almost 3 years, even though I have always engaged in volunteer based community work.
Okay so I was busy and had stopped tracking my moon cycle. At that time also weaned my eldest.  It was the beginning of June, and was spotting for a few months by then and my period absent for the whole month of May.  After feeling nauseous for three days....I knew.

So I told my partner, who had been trying to find a job for almost 2 years about my suspicion and he said - "Shut the f... up, for real?!"  We bought a cheap pregnancy test at CVS. I peed on it as soon as I arrived home.  The plus sign quickly formed....I then told my partner, "Read, what does that mean?"
He responded "It means you're pregnant.  I guess we are having Another baby"
"Wait but look one line is lighter than the other."  I said.
"That doesn't matter look."  He then showed me the instructions...yes they said that one might be lighter that the other.  Damn it, I was pregnant Again!
I stared at the test for about 10 minutes. I picked it up looked and looked, but the answer did not change.
"Oh My God! I am pregnant AND We Are Poor!".I thought."What are we going to do?!"
Denial was in full force."Maybe I did it wrong.  I peed on it too long...I can't BE...Not Now!"
I couldn't deny it for long.  Yes I was a poor pregnant mother and after a month of denial I decided to figure out what will we do now
Not having money is difficult and people always blame poverty on poor womyn of color who bring children into this world to suffer or leach off the government.  At times I wanted an abortion or I would pray for a miscarriage so I wouldn't feel guilty. Guilt is such a draining feeling.
Life inside my womb kept growing.  No money. No job. I thought, maybe Conservatives are right, poor people should not have babies, but we do -HA!
My friend Kristina also pregnant and broke reminded me once "Well mujer, we are not the only broke people to give birth;we'll be okay."
So yes we are not the first broke parents to have children, not at all, not the first and not the last.
I decided to keep my baby, I already loved this life inside my womb and recognized it was my choice; at the time did not realize how difficult it will be.
Though I had chosen,  the negative thoughts kept flooding my mind and I could not stop them even if I tried.
What was I thinking?
Why didn't I protect myself?
How can I bring a baby into this world?
I'm broke....what can I offer this baby? We don't have anything!!
My hormones were out of control and so were my emotions.

I was Angry. Guilty. Sad. Depressed. Afraid. We didn't have any money and kept struggling. We received cash aid and my partner recycled metal and still did not make ends meet.We slept on the hard cold floor since we didn't have a mattress. There were times we didn't have running water or gas. We went  without electricity for over a month. It was difficult; I complained a lot and frustrated my partner.  He of course was also going through depression but manifested differently than I did.
I felt like I was drowning at times or slipping little by little beginning to get buried in quick sand.
Thoughts of ending my life and my oldest daughter’s as well populated my mind.  It felt like nobody cared about us. My thoughts had me believing we wouldn't survive anyway maybe we should end it here.  I fantasized about getting run over or jumping off the freeway or dying in our sleep.
My friends and some family members helped me a lot. They listened and provided some type of support such as ideas on how to cope. My friends Reyna and Sammy babysat or dragged me out of the house.  Bernie took me to acupuncture appointments or  out shopping for food. My sister Julie would me pick up and drove me out of my house. One time another good friend, Sofia helped my family by organizing friends to chip in and pay my rent; they also provided me with a mattress. Panquetzani gave us space for my family and I in her home for a while. Aubrey was there with me during the Kali Ma phase.  Felt very lucky that I had this much support from my friends, my partner on the other hand was another story.

My partner was not emotionally there for me, he was busy focusing on surviving to feel empathy for me, I felt that he didn't love me.   I was angry and sad at the same time,  feeling ugly and stupid.  He wasn't involved in the pregnancy as much as he was with my first. I would scream, fight, and cry a lot. Without realizing, I was trying to drag him to insanity with me.  He would lose it plenty of times and said I was spoiled since I grew up in a privileged country.  We had somewhere to live, even though we struggled to pay rent.  We had food, even though we received food stamps. He would always point out how we were lucky for not getting bombed like the women in Palestine.  These were all words that a depressed pregnant women should not hear.  Plus I wanted to be off food stamps and have a house with space to grow our own food...then I'd be happy.  Sometimes I would think, he is right we are rich and I am spoiled.  Others survive worst, we will survive this and life is Beautiful.  But every minute I changed my mind.  I was pregnant and an emotional wreck trying to find balance somewhere inside myself.
Sometimes I was reminded by my good friend Maria that unhappiness is not necessarily and "bad" thing; it is also part of life.  “Don't be afraid of the dark times,” she said “immerse yourself in them and be at peace”.  I started calling my depression my purple phase of chaos and reminded myself that only after chaos there is true peace.  I meditated and my mantra was "Immerse yourself in darkness to find the light."
Being poor and pregnant is tough because at this time you need love, security and peace.. I didn't feel any of that.  I  coped as best as I could and some people did support me.  I dragged myself outside sometimes, I would journal and draw my emotions into  paper.  Sometimes I danced or would drink warm tea and take deep breaths to gain some peace. What helped me the most was speaking to people about what I felt and receiving their much needed empathy.

My friends organized a mother's blessing for me; where I was honored as a mother.  They also organized my postpartum care (meals, babysitting, laundry, house work etc.)  above all they promised to always be there for our family in support.  Since that night my partner changed . Didn’t realize, because he kept it all in and was just as afraid as I was. After that night, surrounded by our loved ones he was relieved to see we were truly not alone.

After the  turmoil experienced during my pregnancy, I had an orgasmic birth with my partner and friends supporting me throughout labor and birth, and my oldest daughter nearby.  My postpartum phase was a wonderful time; people visited our home  not only to meet our newborn but also helped me with recovery.  I felt loved and I allowed myself to be bathed, fed, and taken care of by those that loved me.  This was immensely healing to feel so much community love. My self-love grew and so did my love for my family.  I was happy to be a mother again.
I share my story in attempts to help other mothers and pregnant womyn especially those facing economic difficulty so they see that survival and happiness is possible.  Through this story I shared my process, struggles, my support and strategies in  hopes they may help someone find help or sanity. It’s not easy to remember this, but we are not stuck and Money is not #1. We have something better: we are resourceful and hopeful, and to remember after chaos comes peace!

                             Speak up when you are down because you are not alone!!
A special thanks to my partner and children; we continue on our healing journey and doing so much better.  A very special thanks to my sisters from Ticicalli Yahualli, Classmates in Jumpstart Mental Health LA, Colleagues from LDIRs in Health, Echo Parenting and Education, Ana Paula Markel from BINI Birth, The Village Health Foundation, family, and many other friends. Whether you are aware of it or not, you were there for me during these challenging times and because of YOU I was able to pull myself out and  I am immensely grateful for this.  Much Love and Blessings to you ALL.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Decolonizing Playtime and Exploring Different Perspectives At Home.

As a  mother of a 5 year old daughter I have been made aware of the overwhelming amount of "Princess" merchandise that is out in the market targeting young girls. Though I understand that the "princess" themed merchandise appeals to the inner nobility and queen-like nature of our little girls, I do believe that it is a limiting concept and misrepresentation of all the wonderful things that our children are. For those who are of Native American/Indigenous backgrounds, the effects of these mainstream images and concepts are even more complex. Aware of these issues, I have decided that I want my child to enjoy her youth but to also learn how to exercise her mind, spark her curiosity  and to seek possibilities of progress and creation while honoring our culture. 

Here is a small home project we did together to expand the possibilities of a toy she was gifted at her preschool's christmas event last year, We hope you enjoy this and that it gives you ideas for personalizing your toys at home. :)

We stated with this Disney Princesses tracing light table with moving vinyl strips made to mix and match princesses and dresses. 

We found the center of the vinyl strips and cut along the middle to remove them from the light table. 

We picked an old magazine and found our modge podge and brush...

... and selected a few images from an article and ads.

Using the modge podge and brush, we glued the cut outs on the frame of the light table. (I only used a few since I did not want her to feel like her space had been invaded or make it unfamiliar to her).
Then we picked a cutout of some artwork we printed from the internet.

We used tape to secure the image on the light table. For tracing, we thought it would be fun to try Japanese calligraphy paper and use ink stone and brush for tracing.

Here's a close up of a Japanese calligraphy brush and the calligraphy paper secured with tape on the tracing table. 

This is the ink stone. 

She started by tracing the head and the nose of the buffalo...

Then she thought her drawing would look nicer if she used color paint instead...

She called it " The Rainbow Tatanka".

My daughter's creativity never ceases to amaze me. The focus and attention she pays to her art just makes me smile and warms my heart to see such dedication from such a little human. Her soul sets an example for me to follow of how to put my all into what I do and set the best intentions...
We kept the vinyl cut outs, so that she has the choice to trace princesses and dresses if she wants to, but it is great to know that she is learning she can create amazing things when she is given a safe space to create and explore different perspectives...

Love and blessings to all the families of Earth!!

"perspectives" blog series 2015.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Healing through Storytelling

I went to the Healing thru Writing Workshop: An evening with Elizabeth Alexander presented by The California Endowment.

I didn't make it to the full event and naturally, as this is one of the precious moments when the kids are with grandma I wanted to get the most out of the night. I walked in and found a seat just as the Q&A began. After listening to questions, I realized I had a question. I raised my hand. The person with the mic came over and placed the mic in front of me, everyone in the room turning in my direction as I begin to utter words, “Hello, I am Sara. My question is about…”

I feel myself pause.
I feel the stories inside of me waiting for my permission to be expressed. As more eyes turn in my direction, I contain these stories and continue, “When it gets hard to write. When there is more than one story that you know you want to share because you know it is healing and empowering to create a space for more people to share. But it’s so hard to write because it’s hard to go there and there is a lot of untangling to do. How do you get yourself to write these stories?”

And in my emotional fullness from even asking the question, I hear her say,
“Stories live in our bodies. Crying it out helps but you have to move yourself through it because you can get stuck there.”
I hadn't realized how these stories had a physical nature to them. But they do. I know this because I feel them affect my body as I become aware of the stories. And even as I ignore these stories they show up as pains or discomfort in my body. Being aware of where these stories are stored assisted me in releasing them. It felt easier to write freely in poetry, in vague terms at first. And I think that’s a good start. 

Whatever your story is and if you don’t feel safe yet to share, like me, I encourage you to seek ways to begin to release the story from your body with intention and gentleness. I began to instruct myself to release and I found that it was a helpful starter. Check it out:

Pull your stories out of your body
And write
Write that story to release it
Unearth those pains
Unearth the joys
Unearth the pleasure
Unearth the tears
Purge your story
Compost the ugly feelings
With delightful adjectives
Retell that story like a novel
Retell it like an action story
Retell that story how you felt it
With the ending you would have wanted
With the beginning you wish you had
Pull it out of your head
Cry it out of your eyes
Pluck it out of your face
Stomp it out of your feet
Birth it out of your womb
There’s no wrong way to tell a story
There’s no right way to write
Not when you are writing to free yourself
Not when your spirit needs you to honor your truth
Not when you need to let it go
Your story is here for you to
Always with you
Housed in your temple
Asking for your permission to be released
Anytime anyone asks, “Are you ok?”
Your story is there 
Waiting for you to begin to tell it
Awaiting your permission
And sometimes it doesn’t
Sometimes your story comes thru
Without any warning
Flooding tears
Heavy breaths
Gleeful smiles
Rolling eyes
Your story is in your body
And wants to exist outside of you
Someone where it can move
And help you grow
Your story is present with you
Free yourself from stories of the past
Stories of wounded hearts
Stories of defeat
Stories of rage
Stories of cycles yet to be broken

Create a new story
A narrative that calls in your
And intellectual prowess
Create a new story by shifting those old stories
Create a new story by living the life you want to live
Create that story every day the way you want it
Create stories you want to keep in your body
That won’t hurt you in your solitude
Create a story you are proud to tell
Make that story
Share that story
Give it life with words
Give it meaning with metaphors
Give it rhythm with alliteration
Write that story
Write and live every day
With imagination
With Love 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Helpful Tips For Parent Allies.

     On April 22, 2015 our collective hosted the "Don't Leave Your Sisters Behind" workshop at CalState LA as part of the Mujeres De Maiz 2015 Spring event series. This workshop focused on exploring issues parents and families face and how to find solutions to these issues collectively. For those who were unable to attend this workshop, we are sharing a list of helpful tips that can serve as guide to parents and parent allies. We hope this helps and sparks ideas to create avenues of support for us all...

Thank you to Mujeres de Maiz and to MALCS for all your hard work and aide during this workshop and beyond!

-Ticicalli Yahualli

  • Offer help in any way
  • Provide Self-Care gifts such as: Massage, Acupuncture, aromatherapy candles and pregnancy-safe teas
  • Assist them in raising funds for their labor support (Doula) and/or Midwifery Care
  • Check-in: Keep an open line of communication. Ask how they are doing and how you can support them
  • Provide positive affirmations about birth
  • Help set up a meal train: Drop off warm ready or frozen meals for the family
  • Offer to help clean the house
  • Hang out with older siblings
  • Gift them a massage
  • Assist in raising funds for a postpartum doula
  • Check in: Again, keep an open line of communication. Ask how they are doing and how you can support them
  • Wash your hands before holding the newborn baby. Even though it’s hard to resist, refrain from kissing the baby. If you sick wait until you are better to see the family

Holding Space for Children
  • Children play a major role in Society. They are the future generations and everything we model they will be imprinted with
  • Babies need to held and loved. Keep a positive environment around the baby
  • Understand the developmental milestones for children. Be mindful of where they are in present moment
  • All adults in spaces where children are present are responsible for safety and security of children
  • Be mindful of what you may be modeling in the presence of children

  • Be intentional in your parenting journey
  • Be aware of different parenting styles. Refrain from judging or shaming other parenting differently
  • Be gentle with yourself in your parenting journey
  • Seek support when times are tough
  • Don’t be afraid to seek community and/or intuitional resources such as parenting classes
  • Have fun and enjoy the ride!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Image result for April cesarean awareness month

This guide was prepared April 28, 2013 at a Cesarean Awareness Healing Event hosted by Ticicalli Yahualli and created by some members of ICAN, and mothers that had cesareans births.  This was created for community and parents to have more knowledge about cesarean birth, be better prepared and create a support system in order to help the healing process.  I hope it may provide some guidance.

1.       Education with of variety of ways and sources.
2.       Knowledge of choices.
3.       Knowledge of models of care.
4.       Understanding your own body (ability to listen to your gut).
5.       Trust and connection to people attending your birth.
6.       Dispell myths of birth.
7.       Choose who you share your birth plan with, not everyone needs to know if they will not support it.
8.       Find ways to address traumas and fears of labor, birth, motherhood, and life. (Therapy, meditation, journaling, etc.)
9.       Scar remediation if necessary.
10.   Educate partner and have him/her address own traumas and fears.
11.   Knowledge of birth process and evidence based reasons for a cesarean birth.
12.   As workers do not push women to places where we cannot deal with.
13.   Always include a cesarean birth plan alongside a vaginal birth plan.
14.   Choose a birth team where everyone has a specific role to fill.

Cesarean Birth
1.       Have Cesarean Birth Plan ready. (Exp. Keep conversations in operating room low or not at all)
2.       Have someone present to support you during the birth.  This person should have knowledge of procedure and possible ways to offer support.
3.       Know and trust C-Birth is going to happen, there are reasons for it and let go.
4.       Have immediate contact with baby after birth.

1.       Receive Scar remediation
2.       Get records regarding previous c-birth and the reasons why it was necessary (or not) at that time.
3.       Address traumas and fears
4.       Find a VBAC friendly provider and hospital (ask lots of questions)
5.       Research stats and become literate of medical model (
6.       Educate partner and have him/her address own traumas and fears.
7.       Create a birth plan and discuss with Dr/midwife have them sign it before labor.
8.       Knowledge of birth process and evidence based reason for another c-birth.

1.       Change language-use cesarean birth or surgical birth instead of c-section or sectioned.
2.       Organize care with family and friends such as prepared meals, housework, and childcare if there are other children.
3.       Validate feeling (we are on the journey with you)
4.       Connect mother/family to resources such as ICAN or therapists especially those that specialize in this type of trauma.
5.       Be mindful of stomach being extra gassy use specialized meal plan avoiding gassy foods.
6.       Have extra support ready if choosing to breastfeeding such as breastfeeding pillows or be aware of positions that facilitate breast feeding for you.
7.       Refer to scar remediation.
8.       Give permission to recover at your own pace.
9.       Practice spiritual work and/or rebirth ceremony.
10.   Find ways to modify traditional birth practices to include them in your care such as; baths, teas, massage, closing of hips, etc.
11.   It is okay to have people help you.  Remember that they choose to help, do not feel bad because of this.
12.   Use technology to organize your postpartum care such as; apps, facebook, meal train, etc.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Reflections on my midwifery journey

Into these Hands. Amy Swagman. 2010.

Just a year ago I started my fundraising campaign to complete the initial tuition fee for my midwifery program. Whoa! Coming up with my tuition from love donations, scholarships and prayers from my family & friends has been such a blessing. A true surreal experience! I am so humbled by all the support & love that my gente has and still to this day provides me. In May 2014, I became officially enrolled at the National College of Midwifery, Class of 2017.

For those who know me intimately know the love, sweat and tears, hard work, community support and prayers it has taken me to get me to where I am today. I didn’t choose midwifery, midwifery chose me. It’s been an ancestral calling that only gets deeper every single moment of my life.  And looking back to 2009 when this journey began manifesting, I now see how it is one of the best journeys that I can ever surrender to.
  I have two more years to go before I can sit for my licensing exam with the Medical board of California. I can only imagine how I will feel when I reach my completion in 2017. I realized that to truly be the midwife that I am called to be, it will take my whole life time. One birth, one family, one healing session at a time, I know I will get there.

Here is what I have learned thus far:

I am so grateful I took my time in choosing a midwifery program. It literally took me years, before I finally found a program that felt right for me. Choosing a midwifery program is like getting married. I consulted with most of the schools in this country. To get more insight information, I talked to different midwives, midwifery students and clients. I crossed referenced, read up on my laws, cost of tuition, etc. I found that the apprenticeship was the closest to the traditional way of learning with the combination of college level academic curriculum.

 There is real power in believing 100% in what your higher self sees.Understanding that the “Universe always provides,” has been a challenging lesson for me. I come from real humble beginnings, always finding ways to make life work for us. Growing up and even on a genetic level, I was imprinted with “we don’t have enough.” I have had to stubbornly heal from this “scarcity mentality.” I would like to thank all my healing arts teachers for this! Because the universe only knows the love and patience they needed to have to hold space for me. So now instead of “ I don’t have enough” or “ I can’t do this because of x,y,z,” I say to myself “ I am doing it” and “ I will find a way to make it happen” or “ All in due time.” Focusing my energy on what I already have and putting in the work to manifest magic with a sprinkle of prayer, I am finding ways to flow with the waves of this midwifery program.
Birth ain’t pretty sometimes! There are some intense issues that can come up in pregnancy, labor, birth & postpartum. I’ve seen some wild stuff. I see how it’s all part of the process. After all, I am training to be a midwife, so that means that need treat & prevent and know when to refer out for medical complications. There was literally a month, where I had a lot of consults for miscarriages. It was the trippiest thing. I’m grateful for having strong counseling skills, because I was able to hold space for them.
My heart goes out to you if you have experienced a loss. May the universe fill you with a lot of love to help you heal and transform. <3

Self-care, Self-care, and more Self-care! I can continue doing this work as long I am healthy, full of vitality and grounded. Otherwise I would be a disservice to myself and the families I am supporting. I am still learning how to balance work and self- care, but I try my hardest to take good care of my-self. I have my rituals that I do before, during and after a birth to keep me grounded and with an open heart. This all helps me to endure the long hours being up without sleep, or even food sometimes. Thank goodness for Self-care.

I can keep going on and on about what I have learned. For now, I am content with what I am sharing with you. Now, I have to go pick up a placenta to encapsulate for a beautiful mama warrior.  Thank you for reading my reflections.