Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Letter To A Restless Heart by Jamie Wright Bagley

{A note from Beth: from May through August 2015, I am featuring some delicious guest writers here on the blog as I recover from pregnancy and adjust to our new family rhythms (find more details here).  Enjoy!}

Dear Restless Heart,

I hear you’re not feeling up to things lately. As a pioneer on the prairie of dreams, I know you have given a lot, but now you are worn, and more than a bit panicked. I know what that’s like. Sometimes it feels like the trail is going nowhere, and the dreams are growing cold. What if there is no second wind?

It is going to happen, though. Have courage, friend. Trust the whole process. You have set out on the track, carrying your dreams into a wide expanse of the plains of possibility. There are prospects and there are risks. Both of those things are scary: success or failure, and all the what-ifs it takes to get there. I know, because I, too, am guiding my wagon through the unknown right now. Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to turn back the clock and toss the original idea away before it could be formed into a dream.

We are not turning back, you and I. No, we are not! Let me remind you of something: Each road we travel has different challenges. When the land is smooth, oh, you know it’s a wonderful adventure because you are going fast and can see so far in front of you. When the path is rugged, nobody expects their wagon wheels to get caught in a rut, but sometimes it happens. Getting trapped like that can be jarring. It’s then a little voice inside says “Give up! Give up and go home!”

I don’t advise that option today, dear one. You have more mettle than that. This wagon you are steering, your dream, is meant to be. Trust the whole process. The journey is made from all kinds of terrain. Embrace the beauty of differing scenery.

The other thing I want you to remember is that your wagon is one-of-a-kind. If you share the road with a larger vehicle, a faster vehicle, or one that seems more beautiful, let me remind you that each one carries its own unique and important dream, and not one of them got where they are without help. Not one. Where does your help come from? This is the question you must ask yourself now. The other wagons are not meant for you. Stick with yours, in all its weathered glory.

Are you tired of all the jolting and clattering? There will be smooth paths again.

Are you anxious for adventure? The prairie has seen its share of storms.

Be in the moment, whatever it is. Love your surroundings. Say a blessing over every part of your wagon and call it good. Call it beautiful. Call it holy, because it bears your essence; all the rare pieces of your self instilled even before birth. Nothing outside of you gets to determine the worth of your dream. Embrace it. Care for it. And keep your chin up.

Finally, remember who crafted your wagon. You, and the spirit of creation: the inspiration behind every trek. Your wagon is your gift and your charge to care for. You get to steer it, and you get to name it.

Give it a good name. Give it a name that reminds you always of who you are, how far you’ve come, and how much your presence matters to the world you journey through. Things are different because of your dream. Things are better because of your dream. And once you make a habit of rehearsing these truths, you’ll remember why you do this at all: it is not to be the best; it is to be your best. And only you and the spirit of creation get to determine what that is.

May you always enjoy the ride!

Much love,

P.S. Go easier on yourself than you think you should. You really do have the time.

Jamie values connection, energy, empathy, freedom, and happiness. She believes in the lifelong pursuit of dreams, and will write poetry and song and everything else to that end. Flowers delight her and trees are her people. She’d love to bond with you over tea and pie, but will probably substitute the small talk with awkward jokes and deep topics. You’ll find her writing her heart out at, and @jamiebrightley on Twitter.

Monday, May 4, 2015

When the Planning is Done and the Time is {Nearly} Now

Today, as I sat in the exam room at my obstetrician's office, an amazing/terrifying/thrilling thought struck me -- this is is it.  My last appointment of this pregnancy (and, as we're not planning on having any more children, perhaps ever).  There are no more appointments, no more preparations to make.  All the baby clothes are washed and sorted, the bassinet is set up, all the necessary bags are packed.

It's funny.  Not ha-ha funny, but hard-and-weird funny: even though this pregnancy has felt very redeeming in terms of fear, even though I've been able to hold onto hope and dip a little deeper back into naive innocence more better throughout these last nine months far better than I could with my two year old's pregnancy -- even so, writing the words I am writing here feels like a gamble.  Because the worst could still happen (again) and this post and those clothes and that bassinet and just everything will turn from a joy into searing pain.

I guess that's pregnancy after a loss for you.  Even when it's years later, when it's the second pregnancy down the line.  Even when you've been doing really well.

And yet, at the same time, I am so excited and beyond ready to meet this new little person who is, as I write this, attempting to pry my ribs apart with his feet.  I try to avoid dwelling in anxiety as much as possible, because really, at this point, there's not much I can do about all those horrible "what if's." 

I think this baby is going to look like his siblings.  But I'm hoping for a dark-and-curly-haired little dude, someone to carry on his mama's wild mane.  I've had terrible reflux this pregnancy, which is new for me -- anyone care to make any guesses on hair levels?  :)

* * *

After baby arrives, I'm planning on (and psyched about!) being totally swept up in tiny-person-land, consumed with caring for the two small boys I'm so lucky to be mama to.  Which means that there won't be much time for blogging.  While I do hope to get a post or two in sometime (I mean, it'd be lame of me to write so much about pregnancy and not introduce you to our latest love), I'm trying to be generous with expectations and let all non-mama things go for now, including blogging.  I'm sure this will prove easier said than done. 

In the meantime, I've had some very generous, beautiful souls (who also happen to be incredibly talented writers) offer to save this blog space from getting too dusty. The first guest blog post will go up this week, on Wednesday, and a new guest post will be posted just about every week after that through August.

I'm so thankful for these writers, and for their creations -- not just the words they will offer here, but for what they offer the world everyday with their hands and makings and love.  I hope that you will be as inspired by them as I am.

Thanks for hanging in there with me through this rather quiet writing season.  There haven't been many words wanting to spill out of me into this space, but there has been a deep sense of shifting, sorting, and (perhaps) finding.  I know that I won't be the same person I was on the other side of this birth, or this pregnancy.  I'm just as excited to meet that new woman as I am to meet this sweet baby.

In the meantime, I'm hanging on, epic belly and all, and enjoying the wondering.

yowzer.  38 weeks!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

When Birth is a Portal to Your Self

When my son was born, I felt rocked by the event.  Traumatized, even.  But it was a confusing sort of trauma, because there was nothing I could point to (thank goodness) and say, "That.  That there is what caused these strange feelings."

For a while I chalked the dissonance up to the fact that he was born just ten months after his sister's stillbirth.  But that explanation never felt complete, or completely true.  Partially true, sure, but it was never the whole of it.

And then this new baby, the one still nestled within me, came along, and I suddenly felt like I was living on the side of a steep mountain, and everything was sliding down around me.  At first I resisted this, even resented it, but the farther I've gotten in this pregnancy, the more I've realized that this is not a random, senseless state, but a time of necessary shedding, of decluttering to make room for this new little life.

In the last few weeks, it hit me.

Here it was.  Here at last, perhaps, the source of the sensation of trauma at my first son's birth.  I was shedding then, too.  When I gave birth to him, I gave birth to me, too.  The woman who I was, that skin sloughed off, some at once and some not for awhile, but the process had its inception in his gestation and birthing.

 * * *

I don't know if I'm saying this right.

But how can I say it?  What is it about birthing that is such a portal, such a rite of passage, unlike anything else I can think of except death? 

I've gone through so many gateways, so many checkpoints in my life: my own birth, puberty, my entry into adulthood, marriage, the eating disorder.  But none of them has been as transforming as birth.

There is a certain, special, weird sort of alchemy there, and once your baby's crowning out of you, no matter how it happens or what comes before or after -- once you've pushed forth that tiny being, your own being is irrevocably churned up, and all that's left is to see what comes clear as the thrashing waters settle.

* * *

Of course, I experienced this with my girl's stillbirth, too.  How her death and birth were a portal, how I died with her, how I birthed my own new self with her still form.

But I thought that experience was singular to tragedy.  To the births where the room is silent, or the births that happen far too early, at home in your bathroom.  Or the births where the adoption falls through, or the hopeful treatment that never leads to fertility. 

I never expected to feel that in a live, healthy, normal (for lack of a better word) birth. 

* * *

So now I am waiting.  Waiting for this second son's arrival, of course.  But waiting, too, for my own arrival.  

I am so tired from all this shedding.  I am eager to know what's been composting, what will push forth out of the loam of my soul in a week, or a month, or ten months, or more.  What's waiting for me on the other side of this portal of our lovemaking, of our son's coming-into-life?  I want to see if expecting the changes in my self will help with that odd sense of displacement I felt at my first son's arrival.

The only way out is through, I keep telling myself.  The only way out is through.

And so, I wait, and rest, and ponder, and choose hope as I can.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

All I Can Do is Hope {The Final Weeks of Pregnancy after Loss}

33 weeks at our maternity photo session with MDK Photography

Sometimes I wonder if I should hold myself back, if I should stop expecting so much.

After all, with our daughter, I expected life, and we got death. 

But then, with our first son, I braced for death and found my arms filled with the sweetest, squirming life.

And anyway, I can't help it.  In these moments when doubt arises, I just can't.  I can't let myself go there.  I can't/won't/can't let fear rob me of this sacred time of waiting and hoping and growing.

Things are challenging enough without dipping into that fear.  Because this pregnancy has been the most physically difficult and uncomfortable of the three.  Nothing bad or unhealthy, no problematic diagnoses, just feeling painfully huge and kind of awful.  This third trimester has crawled by as I struggle with this reality and try to reconcile it with the beautiful gift that I know pregnancy to be, all while taking care of one amazing little boy who doesn't understand why his mama has slowed down so much.

This last trimester is crawling by . . . and yet, I'm so close to the end, to the end that is the beginning, that I feel like I'm on a roller coaster, on that last screaming, exhilarating, terrifying, embodying plummet toward the finish.

And I can't help it.  I'm so excited.

Nesting instincts are beginning to creep in, and I want to get everything ready, to make a place for this new little boy to join us, and I think a lot about birthing him, and how I cannot wait to see his little face for the first time, to see if he has hair like mine or eyes like his daddy, to see if he looks like his siblings or has gone his own way, to feed him from my body and introduce him to his brother and watch his daddy holding him close and inhale his precious baby scent.

Just weeks away now.  Sometimes I am afraid, but mostly I am humming with anticipation.  I hope and I hope and I hope -- against the worst, of course, but also because mostly, it's all that I can do.  All that this soul and brain are capable of.

How different from those last terrified weeks of his brother's pregnancy.  Even with all the physical discomfort, my heart beats a steady mantra -- what a gift, what a gift, what a gift.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Life Lately {Art, Pregnancy, + Parenting Updates}

It feels like it's been so quiet here lately!  And really, I didn't last post all that long ago, but it's longer ago than usual for what I try to do so it seems like f o r e v e r.  Here's a bit of what's been going on . .

Even though I haven't been creating very much, I've been having some #artistlife excitement.  I sold my art at a local craft fair about a month ago . . .

. . . and right now some of my original paintings are currently on display in my favorite coffee shops for the duration of March.  It feels weird to have my art so out there like this.  Vulnerable . . . but good.  In fact, I'm writing this blog post int the coffee shop in question, and looking up to see my heart-works hanging for all to see gives me a little thrill every time.  I look forward to trying to make more of these kinds of things happen further down the line.

I also very quietly launched a new website recently, called She of the Wild.  I'd been feeling more and more like the website you're on right now is not the place for my spiritual experiments, explorations, and questions.  I wanted them to have their own space, and now, they do!  If you're interested in feminist spirituality and the divine feminine, I'd love for you to join me there.  You can also find She of the Wild on Facebook here.  I'm sure there will be some overlap in topics between this blog and She of the Wild, but in general, the blog you're reading now will be more reserved for thoughts on creativity, parenting, grief and healing, self-care, and my life in general . . . with a side of feminism, of course, because women are awesome.

29 weeks, on a day blissfully devoid of puke

All that makes me seem highly productive in the outward sense, but really, most of my creative energy has been turned inward, toward baby-making.  I'm a few weeks into my third trimester, and aside from feeling the most intense and unpredictable nausea that I've ever had in any of my three pregnancies (let me tell you -- hanging artwork in public when all you want to do is hurl is quite . . . interesting), my anxiety hasn't been even close to what it was last time, during my first pregnancy-after-a-loss.

I give all the credit on that front to this guy, who keeps me busy, and who puts up with me so patiently when I can't do more than lay in bed and try not to puke.  He is pretty much the most wonderful boy in the entire world. 

Except maybe for this guy.  They're tied in my book.  And did I tell you?  New baby is a beautiful, healthy, and BIG boy!  I'm excited for brothers, and so so so excited to meet this little dude.  It feels like the 10 weeks until my due date are the equivalent of an eternity, but I'm sure they'll fly by (or, I hope they do, particularly if my nausea decides to stick around).  He doesn't have an official name yet, but we are in deliberations. 

thank goodness I didn't feel ill the day I had to to drink this

That's about it!  Life has been slow and quiet but, aside from feeling sick, it's been good.  I've been learning important lessons in the value of Gentle and Now and Rest and Asking For Help.  I hope I remember them when I'm feeling stronger and life is urging me to go faster than perhaps I need to. 

Your turn!  What have you been up to lately, friends?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Phoenix Soul: Vision is Here!

The latest issue of The Phoenix Soul online magazine (formerly named Sprout) is here!  Fresh off the digital presses, this month's edition centers around the theme of Vision, with contributions from some of my favorite artists, like the fierce Heather Mattern and delicious Carissa Paige (yum yum). 

I've been so enjoying writing for and reading this publication for many years now, and I love how each new issue delights and challenges me.  Plus, they're really, really pretty.  Here's a little sneak peek of what I created for this beautiful issue (of course I had to go all black sheet and write about not-seeing!):

You can learn more about The Phoenix Soul and grab a copy of Vision (and copies of previous editions) here*.

*affiliate link -- thank you for supporting the blog!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

On the Beginning of the End (Again)

at 28 weeks in my second pregnancy, summer 2012

Well, it's here.  Again.  My third trimester.

I've been dreading it.  Which I know might sound quite awful, because shouldn't every week that brings this baby closer to his birth make me happy?

And they do.  And yet.

My first pregnancy ended in stillbirth just weeks into my third trimester.  My second pregnancy's third trimester saw me trekking up and down huge mountains of anxiety each day, not to mention going on and off bed rest with preterm labor.  Oh, and breaking my elbow so badly it needed surgery and two weeks immobilization just a nine days before my son was born.

I don't seem to have a very good track record with third trimesters.

Not to say that I believe all this means I'm destined for yet another excruciating final trimester.  But I'm not looking forward to tallying nightly kick counts (thanks to my anterior placenta for making this task more stressful) and tracking the contractions that have already been making an intriguing appearance. 

And yet.
And yet

I am really starting to enjoy my sensually swelling belly for the first time this pregnancy (an enjoyment which is coming far later than usual this time).  I am loving how the kicks and jabs and all.the.heartburn. help me to imagine that this little boy is a sweet and feisty dude with crazy hair like his mama.  My feet are beginning to tingle with the sense of waddling treading on holy ground, territory that I do not expect to travel again in this life.

All that is good.  Very, very good.  And I am glad for it.  Grateful for it.  It takes some of the edge off the double-edged sword that is pregnancy after a loss.

* * *

Some days I feel normal, and this scares me.  

Because it feels like so often the day that I manage to convince my brain to release its dark imaginings of worst case scenarios is exactly the day that those fears take on flesh.  Maybe if you worry enough, anxiety yammers, maybe you'll be able to avert disaster.

Of course I know that it doesn't work like that.  But since when could anxiety ever be reasoned with?

And still . . . some days I feel normal.  Like this pregnancy will progress smoothly, that this second son will come into my arms with only the usual amount of blood and moaning.  Like there's no reason to be afraid.  Like I'll get a happy ending as easily as so many others seem to.

And other days, the future feels dark, and I find comfort in contingency plans.  Breathing is a meditation in reminding myself that I'm not the only one who aches/grieves/weeps with terror.  That happy endings are mostly myth.  That life is ever and only a path, that perceived destinations are only way-stations and rain shelters and detainment points

* * *

I really wanted my second pregnancy -- my first pregnancy-after-a-loss -- to feeling like redemption.  But mostly it was an exercise in staying in my own terrified skin.  Sacred, though.  Even with all the fear, it felt sacred.

This pregnancy, I again wanted the redemption, and enjoyment.  I also wanted to feel imbued with divine femininity.  I don't think I've gotten any of that -- being pregnant with a beautiful two year old in the house is way more physically challenging than I expected -- but it has felt normal.  I've been chasing around this gorgeous boy, and feeling like an exhausted, exponentially growing pregnant mama -- a.k.a. normal

I like that.  I mean, when I'm awake enough to really appreciate it.  And I also like how my living son keeps my eyes on, well, the living, instead of all my fears of death and catastrophe.  Lots of mama + cute buddy dates are my strategy for surviving (dare I hope to thrive? let's go with yes) the next 13 weeks.

This life, any life, all our lives -- they're not very tidy, are they?  But they are real and true and full of now and here and a fierce pile of grit, and that's important.  That is something.  Something that matters.

feeling epically huge (even though I'm not really) at 25+ weeks this time around