This was during a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon. I love hiking and backpacking but this Nankoweap Trail was the hardest trail I had ever been on. It's super exposed, no water for about 11 miles, and that day it was crazy windy. It was amazing and so worth facing my fears. We had the trail to ourselves and once down at the river climbed up this tiny perch to see these ancient dwellings.
Fear is a terrible place for anything to start. Our society has so much fear surrounding birth but I wanted to become a doula to help people have a positive experience surrounding their birth. We need more positive birth stories in the population. More people need to experience the transformation that is possible during labor and birth. My hope is to encourage an overall appreciation for what birth does to your mind and your body. I feel like my formal training as a musician is a huge asset for dispelling fear in my doula clients.
First I need to give you glimpse of life as musician: As a musician we have auditions for orchestras. Openings for the orchestras are posted online monthly by our union, and you can only audition when openings for your instrument are available. Everyone going to the audition is given a list of excerpts which are the trickiest sections of various orchestral works. On the day of the audition, the committee that is listening to the audition compiles a list that each candidate will perform. As an audition candidate you perform anonymously, and auditions have typically one opening and at least fifty qualified applicants. You are behind a screen so the committee doesn't know your name, gender, race or age. When you play the list for the committee they can stop you at any time and ask that you perform things differently or just ask you to stop all together. As the audition-er, you are responsible to pay for your entire trip to the audition location: flight/gas, hotel, food, plus any loss of income while you are travelling. The audition trips are normally no cheaper that $700 each and you could play for a few minutes, or (hopefully) get the job.
As musicians we are trained to practice and perform. That's pretty much what we learn in school. We learn how to turn on focus and tune out distraction. We are taught how to really listen and be a part of a team able to respond to our colleagues with in-the-moment flexibility. We are taught the standard way various works are performed so we can continue the folk-art that is music. It is an exacting profession with luckily some room for adding our own life experiences, taste and creativity like salt and pepper.
Good musicians become good because of hard work. Period. Yes, talent- blah,blah..that really just translates to diligence and actually wanting to do this particular hard work. Smart musicians know that life doesn't always have as many hours free in the day as it may take to learn a new work or master a specific excerpt. Another thing we learn is mental practice. During mental practice you can be as creative as you decide: You could visualize the hall, colleagues, conductors. You could slow tricky parts down until they are mastered. You could repeat things as many times as you want.
Because of my birth experience I wanted to become a doula. It's been an honor to join my clients as they welcome their new family member. It's beautiful to see the full range of human emotions and be present for this intimate, special and sacred moment of life. Birth is amazing and doesn't need to be shrouded in fear. Hard work and discomfort doesn't always have to equate to fear. In fact the less tension you hold in your body during labor the easier it is for your body to birth. I decided to be a doula because I want to help birthing people break out of the fear-tension-pain model that is prevalent in our society. My hope as a doula is to continue to support families through labor and birth so the birth can be looked back on with pride and a sense of powerful accomplishment. All births: slow births, fast births, medicated births, un-medicated births, c-births, VBAC births can all bring about this transformation. My hope is to support people so they can be informed, involved and flexible during their journey into parenthood.
Thanks to anyone that read and responded (on FB) to my previous blog post. Here's more of my story since I am, for whatever reason, not tired even though it's midnight and I will be super tired in the morning.
Where did I leave off? We moved back to Albuquerque. I was more than bummed about being in New Mexico. Not to the fault of New Mexico but more because I have this idea that I never want to go backwards in my life. I had been here. I wanted to keep moving on, or keep moving forward. Maybe it's some competitive thing?
Anyway we moved back. I slowly started to like being here. One of the things that helped me was our little "mother-in-law quarters" rental or casita. All our stuff was in a POD storage thing, thinking we'd live in this tiny, furnished casita place for a couple months and then rent a house. Well, we adored our landlords, their dogs and their garden. They treated us like part of the family (we're still friends and still adore them!). The dogs had a little dog door to our place that we willingly left open for visits from Bob and Emily(named after the Newharts) and Bella too. The woman landlord is an expert gardener and welcomed us to pick and eat things from the garden. It was a lovely place to live and heal.
While living in the casita I started to volunteer at Animal Humane as a dog walker. After five months (yep, all our stuff besides two suitcases and backpacking gear was in the POD for about 6 months) in the casita we found a rental house that we moved into. Mark and I decided we were ready for our own dog again and we found Poppy Q whom we renamed Phoebe. She was a stray puppy and it was love at first lap-sit. Having a puppy really opened up a bunch of stuff in our marriage. Our communication improved and our team-work strengthened. This of course was after some really hard times and things that only sleep deprivation from a puppy will help you reach.
Then, I got pregnant. Yippee! Like I mentioned, it was basically a combination of all human emotions stuffed into each moment. The pregnancy was good but after the previous losses I was nervous and had to work hard on meditating. I was and am thankful for the Blissborn Hypnosis birth class we took to prepare.
Fast forward through the almost 41 weeks of pregnancy and my water broke and I didn't know. My plan/hope/preference was to give birth at Dar a Luz birth center but I was suddenly put on a schedule due to the risk of infection for the baby. My contractions were also not really ramping up so the midwife had me take castor oil. Phew. That's the real deal! Those intestinal contractions started the uterine contractions by the time I got to UNMH.
I wasn't planning on using a doula since Mark and I are a good team. I also felt really informed from all of our classes at Dar a Luz and the Blissborn class. At the last minute though, when the plans shifted from birth center to hospital, I decided to request a doula. Dar a Luz has a program exchange with New Life Birth doula agency. I had met all the doulas before, and would just be given whoever was on call that night.
I got Shawn. She came to the birth and instantly was a birth professional in the form of a comforting friend. She anticipated my needs. Talked me though all the intense emotions of birth. Fully involved Mark and also gave him a break to hydrate and eat. I am eternally thankful she was present at our birth.
My goal was an un-medicated birth and that is what I got, in the hospital. I think my preparation for the birth and life experiences, all of them, helped greatly. I truly had a profound feeling of love and thankfulness throughout my labor. It was like nothing I have ever experienced. Two (and little bit) years away now, I still remember lots of different moments about the labor and birth of our daughter. The main thing I remember about the experience was an enormous amount of strength that I had in myself. It makes me the person, wife, mom and friend I am today. It transformed me. I think I was able to step into my strength because of the support and space I was given during my labor and birth.
I thought I would write a little about me here. Birth is personal, so I thought I'd share some personal stuff here too.
My formal training and schooling was in music performance and I majored in horn (or french horn as some people say). I went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for my Bachelor's degree and continued on at Northwestern University for my Master's degree. It feels like music was always an important part of my life. I began taking piano lessons when I was four and started horn when I was ten. I loved music. Sure, as a kid I still had to be reminded to practice, but I actually did it and I always wanted to be a musician. I was the kid that listened to classical music on the radio, had tons of tapes and then CDs of classical music with a tiny bit of pop/rock/whatever is more usual music mixed in.
After finishing grad school I had a three year fellowship playing in Miami Beach, Florida in a training orchestra called the New World Symphony. It was my first paycheck as a musician. As a fellow in this training orchestra we were given studio apartments, our stipend and at least monthly coaching from some of the top musicians around the globe. Seriously, from Chicago and San Francisco to Vienna. I learned so much and made some great friends while there.
My first professional horn job was a one-year position in Norfolk, Virginia with the Virginia Symphony. I played second horn there. Most orchestras have between five and six horns. It's a very competitive profession and I feel lucky to have had so much success. After that I played for a year in the Houston Grand Opera as third horn. Then came to Albuquerque and got the job as fourth horn in the New Mexico Symphony (now reformed as the New Mexico Philharmonic).
Here in New Mexico I met my husband, Mark Hyams who plays trumpet. We got engaged after dating two months and got married a year later. Right after we got married..like the day after!...we both had a three month trial period with the Malaysian Philharmonic. It was an amazing experience culturally and a good orchestra too. It also allowed us to take a crazy cool honeymoon on this remote island. ...but we wanted to come back to the U.S. We came back to New Mexico and then I got a one-year position as fourth horn/utility (meaning I would move around a little in the section) with the Saint Louis Symphony. The job in St. Louis was incredible and the one-year actually turned into five years. While there we went to Carnegie hall every year and took a European tour too. We also did a recording project and I (and Mark too!)got to perform on a Grammy Award winning CD. This was definitely a high point while there!
During my fifth year in Saint Louis though I had a lot of sadness. I had three miscarriages within nine months. My first dog as an adult died of cancer. A week after my dog died, my Mom who was my best friend died. Torture. I was fairly certain I was the harbinger of death at that low point in my life. I even considered taking my life. It was so bleak and dark. A few months after all those losses the tenure audition for the job I was playing in Saint Louis happened. I gave it my all, but I didn't get the position. Looking back, I am unsure how I was anything but a puddle of mush.
When I didn't get the tenure position in St. Louis we moved back to Albuquerque because my husband still had his position in the New Mexico Phil. I was not super excited about moving back to New Mexico. Not for any good reason besides just continuing to feel sad. I started going to talk therapy and that helped (and still helps) a bunch. I slowly came out of my depression and fog. I started hiking again and made a few local friends.
I started subbing locally and then started to get calls to travel and perform. Getting those calls was a great reassurance that I hadn't fallen off the map. I was still a musician! I was invited to Honolulu, Kansas City, back to Saint Louis, and Los Angeles.
Then, I got pregnant! WOW! I was a mixture of excited, freaked out, happy, terrified, confident and worried.
****speaking of baby, she's up from a rare nap....to be continued!****