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Mmmmm….has parent changed me?

Do you want the short answer or the long one?

Based on a gloriously harmonious day or on a –stressed out, exhausted, I feel like a rag and I want to throttle you- days? …

Parenthood has defiantly thrown me to these extremes as well as everything that falls in between. So the short answer is yes, parenting has changed me tremendously from reacting with fear to responding with love. It has been the most challenging experience I have ever undertaken as well as given me a hearty dose of humility, empathy, and resilience. It has spiritually, emotional, mentally, and physically healed me.

The long answer: I was born hardwired for fear and hyper-sensitive. Experiencing or even witnessing violence, especially during the crucial period of brain development under age of five significantly affects brain development and can make a child feel scared, anxious, worried, confused, angry, and insecure. This list of feelings sums up my battles in life to a “T” and parenting triggered every one of these vulnerabilities.

You see, even with extensive experience working with children and degrees in elementary education, psychology, human development & family studies and marriage and family therapy, I still felt inadequate and unprepared for parenthood. I even had a self-imposed rule to wait till I was married for 5 years before having children. I began joking with my partner that we needed to have kids so I could have more credentials for my practice as I specialized in children and parenting issues.

After a snowball effect of interventions and traumatic labor, my first son was born 5 months shy of my 5th wedding anniversary, yet I was too tired and hungry to hold him. The natural concoction of bonding hormones was disturbed and my predisposition lead to post-partum depression. I spent a large part of his first year just going through the motions, feeling like a failure and even resentful. Then the anxiety and shame over what I thought I should be doing kicked into overdrive and robbed much of my joy.

During this time, I also worked with families involved with Department of Family Services providing in-home, intensive family therapy. After a couple miscarriages and another pregnancy, I took part in intensive therapeutic and parenting trainings that introduced me to how trauma affects brain development and regulation abilities in children. The light bulbs went off in my head like a fireworks display. So much of my life made sense and new connections made. Then I had another traumatic labor, this time ending with a stillbirth.

WOW…talk about turning your life upside down…try holding a dead baby…your baby.

Althou1935_1079097454232_8939_ngh this was extremely painful, the perspective it gave me toward life and parenting was astounding. You can read more about my processing of the stillbirth here. It encouraged me to truly process my grief, to dig deeper, try harder, and keep learning. I took more trainings on understanding brain development and healing trauma. Having a child actually gave me more compassion and understanding for the 24/7 demands of parenting and complexities of the parent/child relationship.

I chose to put my relationship with my child first and take responsibility for getting my own and his vital needs met.  I chose not to conceive again till I had no fears about the pregnancy and accepted the reality that I may never have another live birth. I did eventually go onto to have a positive and empowering birth experience with my daughter who I had a home, water birth with. I had to consciously filter out other’s opinions and outside influences to tune into my mind/body/soul connections and innate intelligence. I was better able to parent from my heart and less from my trauma.

My relationship with my children has been a mirror to my soul. The reflection is not always pretty, yet I can easily see when my intention, thoughts, feelings, and actions do not match and align them. I am blessed to have 4 angels, 2 children, a supportive partner, and a peacefully chaotic family. As the more I focus my energy on the integrity of my relationships, the more I have of the gloriously harmonious days. Now don’t get me wrong, I am human and still have those other days yet they have shortened into moments, happen less often, and are easily remedied with a hug, silly face, or a happy song. I can truly feel how every day is a gift.

This has been more like my medium answer because honestly, I could go on and on about how evolutionary principles, attachment science, quantum physics, and a love-based paradigm shift could maximize human potential and heal the world…But I’ll just leave you with my poetic version of how parenthood changed me:

lessons from my son meme

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Go ahead and mention my child,
The one that died you know.
Don’t worry about hurting me further.
The depth of my pain doesn’t show.

Don’t worry about making me cry
I’m already crying inside.
Help me to heal by releasing
The tears that I try to hide.

I’m hurt when you just keep silent,
Pretending she didn’t exist.
I’d rather you mention my child,
Knowing that she has been missed.

You ask me how I am doing.
I say “pretty good” or “fine”.
But healing is something ongoing
I feel it will take a lifetime.
~ Author unknown

Dear Asana,

I remember when we first got you. You were a wedding gift to ours selves. We rescued you from a shelter. You buried your head in our couch because of high fever. Thank goodness we took you to the vet so you could live another 11 years.  It’s funny how your golden long hair and personality resembled both our beloved childhood dogs.3096_1134597441697_2960491_n

Asana (July 4, 1999 – August 16, 2010)

When we sang at our wedding, you howled with us. My most amusing memory of you is darting around the backyard like a maniac. When I miscarried our 3rd baby, you knew before me and wouldn’t leave my side. You licked my tears away as I grieved for Anais, our 4th baby, a stillborn. Some said you sounded like Chewbacca. Many people couldn’t understand your peculiar ways. You didn’t like to be touched and wouldn’t take food from strangers. You had high standards. I felt special because you allowed me to take care of you.

This is an excerpt that gave you your name:

Asana means to release a specific pattern of neuromuscular relationships from all tension… To awaken cellular intelligence…As Asana begins to release us from tension something very important is revealed. This is that the body and mind cannot be functionally separated… By stabilizing the body, our mind also begins to stabilize and quieten…Asana can, and inevitably will, bring about emotional release.”

It came from a Dynamic Yoga book. You even chewed this book during your puppy stage so now I can’t read the author’s name. I wanted your name to gently remind to practice yoga and mindfulness. This must have worked because this excerpt rings true to me on so many levels, especially as a parent.

Some have barked, “They are just dogs.” But for me, all my dogs have been the most loyal friends whose fur has absorbed many tears. They listen to me when no one else will. The brushing of their coat and petting, therapeutic. They nudge me to play when all I want to do is crawl into bed. They always want to cuddle no matter how irrational or angry I get.

It broke my heart when we had to move overseas and find you a new home. I felt irresponsible, like I failed and abandoned you. I didn’t think anyone could love you like I did. I am grateful that you were with a friend who had known your whole life; that you comforted an elderly woman while your new family was at work. I know they treated you like the princess you are. I am relieved you died peacefully. May your unique energy find a place to rest where it’s most needed.

To Asana, Kelsey, Miles, Honey, Taffy, Rex, Mousse, Kobie, Toby, Divet, Shake, Murphy, Jasmine, Sheba, Bear, Vinny, Mooch, Amiga, Issabelle and to all pets who have touched our hearts, thank you for your Unconditional Love.

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Miles (January 8, 2001 – September 6, 2013)kelse

Kelsey (January 21, 2000 – June 23, 2013)

Namaste,

Debra

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, its about learning how to dance in the rain.”

My son and I were playing outside when a storm blew in and he started to dance in the rain. No words could capture the peace and joy that exuded from my son as he danced. The harder the rain and the louder the thunder, the freer he became. His exuberance was so contagious that it lured me from my self-conscious, over-concerned lull to dance. Yet a twinge of guilt and negativity jolted through me like lightning. You see even in this moment of extreme happiness, there were loved ones gripped by fear, and possibly perceiving our actions as defiant and careless. Yet many are oblivious to the fact that I am well aware of the havoc violent storms can bring. I have lived through emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive ones. I know the extremes of dying babies. I know firsthand the feeling of being trapped in a pit so deep that death appears as a friend. I also know how precious this moment is for my son as he inherited my hyper-sensitivity to stormy thoughts. It doesn’t take much to trigger us to despair and panic. I have suffered too long under the guise of fears, anxiety, and depression. I have thoroughly assessed the risks and I realized that by letting go of attachment to outcomes, to fear less, and love more, I open my life up to peace and joy. Dancing in the rain are some of my happiest childhood memories and I wrap those moments around me like a security blanket and blessed to share with my son. I make the conscious choice to dance in the rain.

Whilst my son and I worked on a Christmas gift for his dad, I had to take a break to help my daughter to sleep. My son waited patiently and his mind began to reflect in the silence. I heard him start to cry and whimpered, “I’m afraid of what will happen to me when I die…I hope I die in my sleep.” I began to cry with him as I validated his worries and explained that up til a few years ago, I was afraid of dying too and that most people have the same fear. I described that the death of his sister really helped me to face my fears as well as realise that my greatest fear was leaving him and his sister in a world of pain and misery, that they’d be robbed of a mother’s unconditional love. It was during this awareness that I decided to dedicate my life to creating peace and love in the world so in the time of my death, my children would be surrounded in the love and light I had cultivated.

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Symbolically, on the same day of this conversation with my son, we received word that our dear friend on the other side of the world had chosen to end his life. The waves of grief were upon my family that holiday. A picture, a memory, a song triggered a wave. Sometimes the waves came fast and others slow.  Sometimes the wave felt in the hue of disbelief, or in sadness, and even in anger. All the waves validate the loss of a life source; the giddy laugh and bear hugs we miss.

Even more symbolically, about 2 months before this loss, my son was starting a new adventure: an experiential bio-dynamic farming and life learning group atop the island we live on. It had 360 degree views of the ocean, seemingly endless fields and bush country.  It is a Maori custom to give a gift to the land that you will work. This is done by choosing a treasured item and burying it in the land.  On separate occasions, both my partner and I thought of giving one of the heart-shaped, rose-quartz stones our dear friend gave to us as a wedding gift in 1999. When the day came to bury the stone, I felt a bit of sadness separating the hearts. I had read another Maori tradition is to hold a specific stone, put all your worries into it and bury it. My son and I held the heart stone and unloaded our worries. I wept as I handed my son stone to take.

When the waves of grief hit, parts of me wished I would have called our friend to share the story of the stone so just maybe we could have given his worries to the stone and buried his pain instead of him…What if his landlord would have allowed dogs so my sweet dog could have been his best friend…What if we connected with him when I ran across the envelope he sent 7 music CDs in… I know as the what if’s go on and on, that this fate was already dealt into the cards and his poker face we enjoyed too much. I have learned another painful lesson of how important it is to listen to my gut and risk reaching out, no matter how far or disconnected you may be.

I understand that an accumulation of many toxins played together to fuse this tragedy. Having personally considered this same end many times, I can also see that sadly this could have be the most “gratifying” end from his perspective as it ended the pain, the mental and emotional torment and he could feel in control, his fate in his hands. May he finally be able to see his brilliant reflection in all the tears and thoughtful actions of his loved ones. May everyone with breath left find the courage to share the pain, discover the inherent value we all have regardless of what life gives us, and use our  power to chose love instead of fear.

I am grateful my son is sharing his fears with me and continually processing his thoughts on pain and death. Every painful exchange with my children is a gift and opportunity to practice sharing negative feelings and grow together.

On Pain from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

source http://www.katsandogz.com/onpain.html

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Here are some links of grief:

http://helpguide.org/mental/grief_loss.htm

http://www.childrensgrief.net/info%20-%20helping%20children%20with%20grief%20issues.htm

“When a loss occurs in life, it disrupts the physiologic system of the body. The cellular system constricts into survival and recovery as it seeks to restore itself from the shock of loss. When we lose something or someone important to us, we actually experience a cellular disruption within our bodymind system, this is the essence of grief. It is jarring to the physical, emotional, and psychological core of who we are. The healing of this experience requires the ability to express, process, and understand what has occurred within the context of a loving and supportive relationship. ..

“The children need to be nurtured, fed well, loved and also provided an open environment to express their sadness, ask questions, and be angry if that is what they are moved to do.

“This is the foundation of a healing environment for trauma. Research indicates that the quicker such an environment and opportunity can be provided, the more effect it will have on reducing trauma symptoms later. If this is not done the traumatic experience can be stored away within the bodymind system and can impact the individual for many years to come.

“Grieving is not easy because it hurts, but it does not have to be difficult either. We merely need to trust that relationships are safe and our feelings will not kill us, because they won’t. And if you are alone and need to grieve, trust that your tears are heard, they are felt, even though you may not realize it. As soon as you can find a support group, a counselor, or a friend that will support you as you open up and let go. It’s an ongoing process as your body recovers from its loss yet each effort to be open to what you feel will make the recovery process much quicker. Before you know it the pain you once experienced in such a constricting way has become a peaceful memory with a tinge of sadness as your body reflects the meaning the person held in your life.” ~Dr Bryan Post  https://thepostinstitute.infusionsoft.com/app/hostedEmail/765158/c3d97408a643d681

Pain is pain and cannot be measured: a lost teddy bear can be another’s lost wedding ring; a broken leg can be another’s cancer; a breakup can be another’s death…it all hurts, regardless. Reliable unconditional love and empathetic listening heals all whilst ignorance and judgments build a wall.

Link to Dr Bryan Post’s Website http://postinstitute.com/hope.php?p=DW1&w=home

“Most importantly, do you not see the speed at which a child is crushed or becomes completely defiant when anger rules the roost? Are you that desensitized to the luminosity of your child’s spirit that it doesn’t crush you completely when they flinch or cower in your presence? Is that really what you want your child to do? To fear you?” ~Dan Pearce

I was enthralled when Dan Pearce (aka Single Dad Laughing) wrote about Dads’ roles, ‘breaking children”, as well as about grief and loss in his post,  You just broke your child. Congratulations. I felt relieved and hopeful that someone captured this breakage in such a poignant way that a mass of people were responding.

I witness society breaking children’s spirits like horses and then training them to be obedient to meet their owner’s needs. I had been wanting to write about breaking spirits for years yet could never settle on the right words or approach. I tend to go off on tangents, which is why I describe my writings as ramblings. And to be fair, my priority is to spend as much one on one time engaging and being available to my children and not writing.

Here’s another quote that sums up how powerfully subliminal the negative interference can be on a delicate relationship and vulnerable, developing spirit:

“Beliefs about how the world is going to treat me and how I have to be in order to survive begin to get established in those first minutes and hours of life. And often parents don’t understand that, and they reinforce it. Then we see it reinforced in school. For example, a child may have had a separation at birth and have been really scared. Maybe they had tubes down their throat and they go home and mom and dad are very present and very wonderful, but they don’t understand that every time the baby starts to eat, they get scared and so they spit-up. So mom thinks ‘my breast is no good for the baby’ and mom frowns, and baby gets reinforced that ‘what I’m doing is not acceptable; maybe I’m not acceptable’. So the baby gets more fussy and they get labeled and then the child begins to live up to that label. Mom and dad think ‘we have to control that behavior’ and so we blame them, ‘you’re a bad boy; you’re a bad girl’ or ‘don’t do that; I can’t stand it when you do that’ and the truth is the child is simply afraid.” ~  Marti Glenn, Ph.D.

Even with this awareness, I fell into the same ugly pattern with my first child.  I was flabbergasted by how quickly simple behaviors or utterances from my young son could trigger a wave of insecurities, anger and controlling reactions. I completely understand why this happens now but too much for this post.

When my son was a baby, I use to sing him to sleep to the song Mother from Pink Floyd. I loved the melody but as I sang the lyrics, I became mortified to truly hear them come from my lips. I thought:

Holy crap; this is what I have done… I have put my fears into you… I would not let anything dirty get through… When I thought I was protecting you, I built a wall keeping you from experiencing and touching the very things you needed to feel for yourself to learn, to understand, to grow.

I even tried to rewrite the words to the song so I could keep singing it with a balanced conscience. That failed; like trying to repaint the Mona Lisa. So instead, I chose to change my tune to life. Let go, fear less, and love more is my mantra.

Experiencing the losses of four babies, from 5 weeks to 24-week gestation, gravely propelled my spirit into deeper awakening and embrace this mantra wholeheartedly. After great processing and healing the child within me, I now feel as if my babies were sacrificed to give me greater perspective and a new appreciation for living, especially regarding children’s innate brilliance.

Now my son is 12 now and blows me away daily by his integrity and wisdom. I still get triggered but it is not as frequent, and more so when I am tired, hungry, and stressed (aka dysregulated). When I take care of getting my own needs met, then I can be more patient and mindful for what he needs.  Early in this transition period of letting go of my fears, my son had learned a trick to ease my anxiety by telling me what I wanted to hear, then going ahead and doing what he needed to do. Over time, he proved to me and himself that he can do it without my interference and accomplish more with my trust.

I heard Sobonfu Some share in a documentary, Children are not empty baskets to carry our junk. They come here as people bearing baskets full of goodies that they want to give to the world. We all have a purpose.

So please, let go of your ‘to do’ list and adult expectations. Unplug from technology. Get down to a child’s level, smile, hug, and genuinely play with them. No rules; just BE (a) PRESENT!

Read my post  A Perfect Death about grieving and redefining the most recent death of my baby:  https://compassiondw.wordpress.com/2010/04/17/10/

Click link to read the Single Dad Laughing’s full post: http://www.danoah.com/2010/09/you-just-broke-your-child.html

My son once asked me if I had a hero. My first answer was “yes, your Dad and my Dad”  but he retorted with, “No Dads.” I said OK, then Martin Luther King, Jr. He didn’t remember who he was so he got disinterested and moved onto playing (typical 6 yr old attention span). As I nursed and rocked my daughter to sleep, I thought of Dr. Bruce Perry as a hero too.  How well his research fit with my personal and professional experiences is what first called to me…

“The brain develops in response to the environment it’s in. I see these 13-year-old inner-city kids, and they’ve been exposed to beatings and shootings their whole lives, and all this other crap–and these kids are hostile, and doing gang signs, and don’t trust adults. I think their brains are perfect. They’ve adapted perfectly to their environment. It’s just that their environment hasn’t done right by them”…

After training with Dr. Bruce Perry, I read about a horrific act in his life which has truly inspired me:

“…his work firsthand knowledge of the power of a major emotional trauma…Friends and relatives had urged him [Bruce Perry] not to think about Arlis’s murder. Get right back in school, they told him. Get your mind off of it. ‘I don’t know if it was instinctual or what, but I didn’t feel that was what I should do. I had to get in control of what had happened, instead of having the event control me. When anyone is traumatized, they’ve got to make that transition away from being a victim. Something had happened that was completely out of my control. I had to get away from feeling that because unpredictable, uncontrollable things happen, I might as well not do anything.‘” Here is a link to an article that shares this story and some of his amazing insight on brain development, trauma, PTSD, veterans   and children: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/child-abuse-on-the-brain/Content?oid=880031

Upon further reflection, I would also add my mother to my list yet I could fill a book about why. I will follow-up with my son about Martin Luther King Jr later as this is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of my son’s interest and to share real life example of peace and change.

“The nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.”

And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

-Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) from The Prophet

sorensky

 The reading of this writing was never so poignant in my life as when my brother read it aloud at the memorial service of my baby girl Anais who was born still on the 19th of September 2007. She is my fourth baby angel and inspiration for all I do. Expand your awareness and appreciate every moment you can with your loved ones. Love yourself and everyone else through when times appear most difficult. When you do this, you will get through it together.

Here’s a link to more of Kahlil Gibran’s works http://leb.net/~mira/

On September 19th, 2007, I gave birth to a beautiful girl named Anais. She had ten fingers, ten toes, and a delicate face. The doctor emphatically said “she’s perfect,” yet she was dead…

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I used to have a visceral reaction when I heard the word ‘perfect.’ I would feel angry and focused on what I had lost trying to live to those expectations for most my life. When I heard the doctor describe Anais as ‘perfect,’ I initially felt offended and thought she’d be perfect if she was alive. My reaction was normal under the circumstances (after 20+ hours of labor and three failed pregnancies) but now I can see that she is perfect…In order to achieve this positive perspective, I had to give myself permission and space to: 1) express and process through all my negative feelings, 2) be validated for my loss and 3) redefine perfection and all its components.

Merriam-Webster defines perfect as a: being entirely without fault or defect, b: satisfying all requirements, c: corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept.

How could one be human and perfect at the same time?885711_10200369643260248_1620706323_o

What we perceive as faults, requirements, or the ideal depends greatly on context.  Some faults are strengths in different situations. When you do not meet all the requirements for one position, you may very well open the door to a better one. There are many different paths to reach the same endpoint.

Perfection has evolved to mean for me when my behaviors, thoughts, and feelings are harmonious and encourages me on the path that most honors my authentic self as well as evokes deep connections with others.  Anais and all children guide me on this perfect path. Embracing loss, chaos, and negativity is perfection and a huge leap to peace.

806_1069297009227_9440_nAnais's memorial quotes

Namaste´

“I honor the place within you where the entire Universe resides; I honor the place within you of love, of light, of truth, of peace; I honor the place within you, where, when you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.” ~Ghandi

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