Monday, May 13, 2019

My Longest Journey in the Shortest Distance


In every single sense of the word. 

LIFE moved in and set up camp with no intention of moving out.

Let me rewind...

I have a lot of seriously backlogged updates for this space which include, but are not limited to, moving to Hawaii to teach yoga on yet another private island, 

getting married to my Sun and Moon during the biggest Super New Moon Solar Eclipse in decades,
(Yogi wet dream wedding for shizz!)

and traveling back to India for some serious soul rejuvenation.

However, none of those subplots are making a detailed appearance in this particular post. No, this post is devoted to recording my greatest, and deepest, adventure of all...
My journey into motherhood.


Long story short, pregnancy was bliss, but it didn't start that way. 

Within seconds of discovering I had a positive pregnancy test, I noticed my toilet bowl was full of blood. I went straight to the community clinic to confirm my pregnancy, had an ultrasound and was sent home with the devastating news that I was miscarrying my baby. I took a week off work to grieve and bleed, feeling ashamed of my body and alone. During that time, I confided in my manager that I was pregnant, and although I was bleeding, at a certain point I felt I needed to go back to work, for the very least, as a distraction from the waiting game. The day I returned to work, my manager pulled me out of lunch, escorted me to HR and I was put on an immediate disciplinary suspension for a claim they couldn't back up, but within a loophole that I couldn't fight. I tearily went home and had my biggest hemorrhage of all due to the stress of knowing that I was getting fired. 

Sanoon and I headed back to the clinic for another ultrasound the next day, where we were fully braced to hear that my final hemorrhage had aborted our baby. But to everyone's disbelief, they found a strong little heart beat and told me my pregnancy was viable! 
(My tiny astronaut floating in an ocean of love)

At that moment, I knew that nothing else mattered...not that inane job, not the fact that I was going to lose my company home and heath insurance while I navigated pregnancy...NO! I was gifted this life to protect and nurture and that was all that mattered. The universe had given me a good shake to wake up and move forward from a situation that never fully aligned with my heart. All I had to do was trust that the unknowns would free-fall into place.

I resigned my position in the company the next day. Sanoon and I made plans to move to a new home on Maui, which just so happened to be the best place to bake a baby anyway!

Once on Maui, I spent lots of time dosing Vitamin Sea at the beach,

Practicing and teaching yoga,

(Nothing compared to the feeling of flowing with my baby floating inside me)

And then going back to the beach again where I practiced and taught more yoga [hey, I never claimed to be that creative].

Maui provided the perfect backdrop for me to SLOW DOWN and truly revel in my new relationship with my body, mind and spirit of my growing child.

I would be completely remiss if I failed to mention that one of the greatest and most healing practices I swan-dived into during my prenatal period was Tantra. Most people assume that a Tantric practice means having 7 hour love making sessions like Sting and Trudy. 
(Not totally accurate, but it is a nice side effect of the practice)

The truth is, I began this practice as part of a year long Sex, Love and Relationship coaching course I'd enrolled in with master teacher and Tantrica Goddess extraordinaire, Layla Martin. The first trimester of the course perfectly coincided with my first trimester of pregnancy, so I was blessed to receive the practice of Tantra during a time of immense physical and spiritual transformation that was already occurring in my body. During my tantric meditations, I faced my deepest fears and traumas in order to release them and create space for a new energy of health, bliss and ecstasy. I felt like a pregnant superwoman. It was pretty freaking rad!
Image result for pregnant superhero

All in all, Tantra proved to be the best pregnancy bootcamp I could imagine. The deeper I dove into the practice, the more empowered I felt trusting the primal wisdom of my body. As I witnessed my initial beliefs that I wasn't strong enough to get through labor intervention-free begin to melt away, I started to feel that that specific narrative around women and childbirth was basically a bunch of patriarchal horse-shit that I didn't want to buy into anymore.  
Image result for horse shit
(Disclaimer: I absolutely believe there is a time and place for medical interventions in childbirth. If interventions are needed, I thank God they are there to save the mother and child. I also recognize that some women find comfort with the option of interventions, to which I say AMAZING! No matter where a woman falls on the spectrum of interventions, she is still a freaking superstar for having a baby at all. Period.)

My early insecurities were replaced with the belief that I was made completely perfect, and that my body instinctively knew how to give birth. All I had to do was once again free-fall into an acceptance of the unknown and trust it would all be okay! 

In the most organic way possible, I shifted into the thoughts that my body had far deeper wisdom and power than I'd ever given it credit. I wanted to celebrate that strength by welcoming my baby peacefully into the world, surrounded by strong women and in the loving arms of my Sun and Moon. There was no better place I imagined doing this than in the comforts of my own home.
(Our stunning view of the Iao Valley out our back window)

Thus begins the story of my home birth.


I continued a heavy teaching rotation of 18 yoga and fitness classes a week well into my third trimester. Although I was big as a house, I felt more vibrant and healthy than I'd ever felt in my entire adult life.

However, I wasn't meant to maintain my superwoman powers forever, and at 36 weeks, I started to go into prodromal labor. Although I was close to term with my pregnancy, my midwife still wanted me to relax and keep the baby in a couple more weeks at least, so I bid a fond "aloha" to my students, and spent the next two weeks on bedrest. Well, perhaps it could be more accurately described as "beach rest."
(Nothing like a moody silhouette to drive home just how pregnant you are)

When I hit 38 weeks, I had prenatal appointments with both my OB and midwife. The OB confirmed I was about 2cm dilated and 75% effaced. A couple hours later, I paid a visit to my midwife, where she offered to do a membrane sweep on me to see if it would jumpstart my labor. I agreed to try it, and within 15 minutes, I started having pretty noticeable contractions. My midwife and I loaded up my birth tub into my car, and I drove to Whole Foods to grab lunch before going home and observing if the contractions went anywhere. 

I had irregular contractions the rest of the afternoon, and after a hot shower and a nap at 5pm, they had pretty much ceased. My midwife called me to check in and I told her it was probably a false start and would keep in touch if anything changed. 

At 6pm, everything changed.

I started having consistent contractions every 5 minutes. I observed them for an hour before calling my doula, and she told me to watch them for another hour then check back in. The following hour, my contractions were 4.5 minutes apart, so I asked her to come over when she was ready. 

This whole time, Sanoon was in disbelief that we were actually having our baby. He started frantically cleaning the house [which wasn't totally necessary as I'd literally dusted the plants and vacuumed the ceilings one day earlier in true nesting glory] and closing out some day trades. He asked if he should call off work the next day...
Image result for hmm gif

As my contractions were 4 minutes apart at that point, I encouraged him that was probably a good idea. 

My doula came over and the whole mood of the house shifted from a bit chaotic to relaxed and celebratory. Sanoon and my doula built the baby's bassinet [did I mention Sanoon's previous disbelief in us actually having a baby part?], and I enjoyed chatting, laughing and breathing deeply through the surges.

Early labor was totally trippy for me. The contractions were intense but manageable. However, more than anything, I loved the yummy hormones that flooded my body between each rush. At points I felt like the walls were breathing and the lights were glittering. I literally felt like I was dancing in the jungle on ecstasy. I thought, "If this is labor, that's pretty f*ckin cool."
 (A point of reference to my feelings in early labor)

Sanoon spent much of the evening supporting me with gentle touch and dance, while my doula kept track of my progress, administered homeopathic tinctures to progress my labor and documented with her camera for us.

Around 11pm, I started to feel lethargic, so the three of us decided to get some sleep. While I took my little snooze, I gently entered transition, and once again, everything shifted.

I humbly thought, "Oh...THIS must be labor."

I left Sanoon sleeping in bed and went into the shower to labor alone. As I lost my mucus plug, I began emoting some deep guttural whale songs and questioning if I was capable of doing this. 

For the first time since labor began, I felt scared, but I remembered reading that feeling scared meant the baby was close, so I thought that it was a good sign to feel that emotion and just kept trucking.

At this point, the veils of labor had pulled down over my eyes, and the ability to speak deserted me. I was hovering between worlds, with one part of my awareness firmly in the physical experience of my body quaking through my surges and the other part floating somewhere outside myself observing the entire experience as a witness. 

I left the shower, and opted to labor in my room for the rest of the early morning hours.

At about 3am, my midwives arrived and cheerily greeted me with "We're having a baby!"

To which I replied in all seriousness, "Are you sure?"
[Apparently Sanoon's disbelief rubbed off on me.]

The next couple hours, things continued to progress steadily. I received oil massage and counterpressure as I sipped on coconut and watermelon waters and ingested homeopathic tinctures. 

I once read that if a woman doesn't feel like a total goddess during labor, her team isn't supporting her enough. I have to say, I never felt so much divine feminine energy in or around me at that level before. Yes, labor did hurt. At points I thought to myself, "I understand why women choose an epidural," but I continued to remind myself that of course I would feel pain- the power of God was surging through me. So I dug deeper, connected spiritually with all the women whom had birthed before me, and kept pressing forward as I watched my baby kicking his way down my belly. I truly felt like my baby and I were waltzing the most important dance of our lives together.

At around 5am, my midwife did an internal check on my bed and my waters broke.

My midwife said that everything would start to get more intense at that point, and I could start pushing on my next contraction, but for me it was the total opposite. I felt like everything came to a screeching halt as my body relaxed and I heard only a quiet buzz in my ears. I did have enormous, near orgasmic tickling sensations in my yoni, and I assumed those may have been my cue to push, so I rolled with it.

Pushing was hard and didn't feel natural to me. It took 2.5 long hours, and depending on the position I was in, my baby's heart rate would sometimes drop. I was put on oxygen and instructed to breathe slowly and deeply. My midwives reminded me that since we were at home, I didn't need to feel rushed and could take my time. I had so much trust in their expertise and support, I easily heeded their advice. But even more than placing my confidence in them, I felt fully empowered in my body's, and my baby's, primal wisdom working together with me.

At around 7:20am, my baby, fully engaged, had dropped so low we lost his heartbeat on the fetal doppler. My midwife gave me the look of God and said, "You have one chance. He has to come out now. You can skip the next contraction if you need to rest, but he needs to come out."

I don't know where the strength came from, but in one push, he shot out of me like a spinner dolphin, wrapped three times with his cord around his neck and both arms. My midwives quickly and skillfully untangled him.

I honestly don't remember any of this. I didn't know he was wrapped up, and I didn't know he wasn't crying. When he came out of me, I felt my entire spirit lift out of my body and float on the ceiling, like it was dancing with his soul up there. When I heard him cry, I felt like we both crashed back down to Earth, and life began for both of us.

(Immediate skin to skin)

(Our first family portrait)

(Welcome to the world, Liev Ruh Sanoon)

(You are the best dance partner I've even known)

(And the bravest little Lionheart, who healed me in more ways than words could ever express)

(May these little feet take you on great adventures)

(May your voice illuminate and empower yourself and others)

(You are safe.)

(You are loved.)

(You are wanted.)

Happy birthday, sweet peanut.
Thank you for choosing me to guide you in this life.
Thank you for being my greatest teacher.
I, too, was born the day you arrived.

To hear this story and a few different details in my own voice, you can check out this interview I did for the Doing It At Home Podcast, episode 205.

*All birth photos and video were taken by Intentions Maui (link below).


If you're planning a birth on Maui, I can't recommend my team highly enough! 

And my rockstar midwife who's delivered over 3,000 babies. A serious pro!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Year or Two in Review [Yet Somehow I Haven't Aged a Day] Pt. 2 / Love on the Persian Gulf

Dear Readers,

I have one promise for you...this post will NOT be as long as my last one. 

Scout's Honor.

(Just kidding, I was never a scout.)

Truth be told, this post will not be as long because I was only in Abu Dhabi for approximately a Planck instant.

Let's rewind.

You may be wondering, "What?! Why would you willingly move to the same place Garfield threatened to mail Nermal?" 

Good question. If you recall the sentiment from the end of my last post, you now know that

However, I forgot the second-half, and most-critical, lyric to that song, "but I won't do that," when I decided to repack the contents of my lil backpack and move halfway across the globe to be with my beloved.


Mi favorito partner in crime/recent fiancé, Sanoon, and I parted ways in Thailand promising to meet up within 3 months despite where we were in the world. As I spent the summer living it up on Martha's Vineyard and he returned to work in the Maldives, we had both been offered a couple of choices as to where we could relocate together. I was offered a job as the resident yoga instructor on a private island in Turks and Caicos, while Sanoon was offered a job as a front office manager on a private island resort in Abu Dhabi. [What is our deal with private islands?] 

Both employers knew Sanoon and I were coming together as a package, so to make the proposals even sweeter, both properties offered positions for our partners to accompany us as well. [Unfortunately] Abu Dhabi won out as it promised a double job promotion for both of us. After MUCH hemming and hawing [#understatement], I agreed to move on one condition... I would apply for Sanoon's K-1 Fiancé Visa and we would move to the States as soon as it was approved. The typical approval process for a K-1 Visa lasts anywhere from 8-10 months, so I knew there would be a limit on the amount of time we'd be living in the Middle East. With that in mind, I applied for our visa and moved at the same time, mid-October 2015 [I know, I know...I'm so backlogged on these posts].

I feel like I cannot give an accurate assessment of Abu Dhabi as a city because my entire experience there was colored by working for the most corrupt company I'd ever had the misfortune of knowing. For the purposes of avoiding any legal battles with the insane management of that property [they've been known to threaten people], I will refrain from calling the hotel by name or posting too many photos of the property.

My days there looked something like this: 

Every morning at sunrise, we would take a speedboat transfer from the coast of Abu Dhabi

 to the empty shoes of our resort island.

From there, we would walk through the depressing and windowless shipping containers staff housing,
(Yes, this is really the staff accommodations.)

and into the resort, where rooms went anywhere from $1,500-$50,000 per night. Most of the patrons of the hotel were sheikhs and other royalty leaving the Sharia Law shores of the Emirates and trading in their national dress code of kanduras [white cloaks worn by the men] and abayas [black gowns worn by the women] in favor of board shorts, bikinis and other lawless leisure they had no other access to on land.
(Many transfers to the island were from private helicopters like this one).

Our working conditions were poor. We were required to work 12 hour days, fed slop, and often stranded on the beach for several hours after work ended as we waited for our speed boat transfers back to Abu Dhabi. The reason for our frequent stranding was the direct result of the hotel running out of fuel to operate their boats. You may be wondering: how could any company in the United Arab Emirates, a land rich in oil and fossil fuels, ever run out of gas? The answer: our ownership neglected to pay their suppliers for months on end and were literally cut off from services. What began as delinquent payments to the suppliers soon trickled down to backpay for all the staff. At one point, several pay periods had passed before ever seeing a paycheck.

For the first time in our relationship, I witnessed an unhappy Sanoon...which says a lot since he has the general disposition of a contented Buddha.
(Sanoon, pre-Abu Dhabi)

However, we found ways to make life bearable despite being temporarily tied down to that terrible job. My favorite escape was physically leaving Abu Dhabi and heading to Dubai for my weekends. Dubai offered all the "-est" of everything in the world. The tallest buildings, fastest carsbiggest name it, Dubai had it and then some.
(This alien looking architecture is the Burj Al Khalifa, the tallest building on Earth.)

Dubai's wealth comes mainly from the oil and fossil fuel industry, however tourism and trading helps to rake in enormous income to the Emirate as well. Many job-seeking expats choose to emigrate to Dubai for it's tax free earning potential and ability to save loads of money, so the city is teeming with a young and hip international scene. One comedian I heard on a night out in the city said, "Dubai is where middle class westerners come to feel upper class." [#truthbomb]

As exciting as it was to get lost in the hustle and bustle of Dubai, more than anything, I loved getting found by my mermaiding yogini gal-pal, Jo. Jo and I became fast friends in Thailand some months earlier on Anna Sugarman's Yoga Teacher Training Course in Koh Samui. 

Jo is an amazing woman who took her passion for magic and mermaids and created the new Dubai sensation Mermaids of Arabia. But before diving into that entrepreneurial ocean, she helped me transition into enjoying life in the UAE by making me some kicka$$ vegan salads accompanied by superfood super-smoothies, 
(Sorry, not sorry.)

taking time out of her week to share in finely crafty cocktails,

(Don't let my composure in these photos fool you...)

(That mango martini was the death of me...and subsequently, the death of Jo's pashmina scarf. #pukedinthepashmina #sorryJo)

and donning our finest yoga pants on the beach for impromptu asana sessions [read: photoshoots].
(Oh this? This was totally candid.)

If you've been following my blog at all, you know that I'm a total birthday glutton, and pounce at the first opportunity to get the hell outta Dodge travel in the guise of celebrating my favorite day of the year. It was a no-brainer to spend my first [and last] Emirates birthday in Dubai. 
(Does this pose look familiar?)

(One year earlier...I'm sensing a trend.)

Lucky for me,  my dear friends from the Maldives, Bindhu and Suman, had moved to Dubai around the same time I arrived in Abu Dhabi. Both girls worked at a swanky downtown Dubai hotel and were able to score Sanoon and me a couple nights there at a massively discounted rate for my special day.
(I only had to travel halfway around the world to reunite with these dear souls.)

Sanoon and I enjoyed my birthday weekend lounging around the hotel pool,

And exploring Dubai at night.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Abu Dhabi, where we fell back into the grind of life. However, we still made the best of it by taking time each week to explore the city [read: hang out in lavish malls].

One highlight of my short stint in the UAE was heading to the desert with my pal, Tia, 

and attending a Camel Beauty Pageant.

I know what you're thinking, "How do they judge a camel beauty pageant?"

It's simple. These dromedary darlings are judged by:

1.) The length of her neck,

2.) The size and shape of her humps,

3.) The best camel toe in all the land.

Basically, how most beauty pageants are judged.
(Make camels great again.)


But I have to say that the best week I had in the Emirates was when my dear friend Jon flew all the way from New York to celebrate the New Year with us. Ever since my mom told me to become friends with Jon in 8th grade [because "he seemed like a good egg"]  the two of us have been the fastest of friends. Whether we were the [self-proclaimed] Best Dressed Prom Dates at the Macaroni Grill in Lincoln, Nebraska,

Or hands down, the [self-proclaimed] Best Dancers at a Dog Wedding in Brooklyn,
(Edith and Archie, still going strong 70 dog years later)

For the last 21 *cough* 11 years, the two of us have always created the most memorable adventures together. 

Not only was I excited to spend the week galavanting through Abu Dhabi and Dubai together, but Jonathan was my first "family" member from home to meet Sanoon, so the pressure was on!

Knowing this was a big occasion, Sanoon and I decided to pull out all the stops on Jon's first night in town. We took him to our favorite restaurant in Abu Dhabi, the Shanghai Surprise [because when one thinks of Abu Dhabi, you immediately think of Chinese food]. Shanghai Surprise is located on a random floor in a random hotel that is perfectly situated in a random neighborhood of Abu Dhabi.

We loved Shanghai Surprise for its vast and affordable selection of pan-Asian cuisine, bottomless bowls of kimchi and dimly-lit cafeteria style seating. However, the love we felt for the restaurant was not ours alone. It was shared by a constant influx of South Asian families filling the long tables to celebrate various life-events over flaming plates of pan-fried noodles.
(This level of joy is hard to match)

Much to our [Shanghai] surprise, we found out that the only karaoke bar in Abu Dhabi just so happened to be one random floor down from us in the hotel. We polished off our plates and headed downstairs to check out the scene. 

If you look closely at the signage outside the door, you'll see that the karaoke bar has a daily Happy Hour that lasts from 12 noon-8pm. With a deal like that, no further endorsement was necessary. We pushed through the heavy double-doors, ready to discover just what sorts of patrons frequented an 8-hour long Happy Hour, and were greeted [read: ignored] by about 10 old white men and a handful of middle-aged Southeast Asian prostitutes in bedazzled denim. Surprisingly, none of them were karaokeing, so I took it upon myself to serenade them with a moving rendition of Toto's "Africa."
(It's the best song ever, and you know it)

Everyone danced to my stellar singing [and by "everyone," I mean this lone, 2-foot tall electric Santa Claus in the corner].
(Always happy to pose for photos with my fans)

Although I would have been happy to belt out another classic tune or two for Santa, we decided to call it an early night in lieu of our big plans for the next day...


Have you ever wondered what an alien spaceship, manned entirely by Italians, and landed smack dab in the middle of the desert might look like? 

Behold, Ferrari World! [aka the location of our next big adventure]

According to the Wikipedia gods, Ferrari World is the first Ferrari-Branded theme park in the world and has the largest space frame structure ever built on the planet [see above]. It's also home to the world's fastest rollercoaster, Formula Rossa, which accelerates from 0-150 mph in the first 5 seconds. It's basically like riding an aircraft carrier, if you were strapped to it from the outside and flipped upside down at the speed of sound.

I'm not usually one to spend my time at theme parks, however, my superstar gal-pal, Jo, was able to hook us all up with free VIP passes for the day to the park, and there was NO WAY to pass that up. 

We revved our engines past the uber-authentic Italian/Middle Eastern eatery, Buca Di Beppo, 

Put the pedal to the metal at the entrance of the park,

And were off to the races as we blasted past queuing children, and used our VIP status to cut directly to the front of the line at Formula Rossa...twice.

There's only so much G-Force that my stomach can handle, so we went on to explore the rest of the park by taking awkward selfies in front of fancy vehicles,

Gawking at the miniature Italian countryside from the driver's seat of our very own sports cars,

And, [our personal favorite], riding a 4-D rollercoaster that virtually took us into the Ferrari Factory. The ride was fun, but to be honest, it kind of made us all a little bit nauseas. Curious what I mean by that? Check out this video after the jump and get a taste for yourself. However, it wasn't so much about the experience of the ride itself that we loved so much, but the fact that we were packed into an 8-person rollercoaster with an adorably enthusiastic Indian family. Based on the excited reactions from this family [read: screaming and grabbing at the air in hopes of catching a 3-D hologram], I would venture to say this ride was the best thing that ever happened to them. 

Our picture was captured midway through the ride and offered as a memento at the departure gate for a mere 35 Dirhams. I cannot aptly describe the epicness of this photo. Between the flying saris, the shrieking uncles and Sanoon as white as ghost and ready to puke, it was everything we could ever hope to capture in one digital moment. So why don't I have this photo to share with you? Because we were cheap-ass Americans and thought 35 Dirhams [exchange rate: $9.53] was too much to ask for a picture. 


You know what I do miss? 
That picture.

You know what I don't miss? 

The pangs of regret are sharp.

It's been nearly two years since that fateful decision and Jon still texts me randomly googled images of Indian families on roller coasters in hopes that one day we might be able to recreate the moment.
(Close, but no cigar)

I now know the taste of regret, and it doesn't taste like Middle Eastern Buca Di Beppo...or does it?

Ferrari World is not far away from the Sheikh Zayid Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi. The Grand Mosque, revered for its stunning architecture, is considered the key site for worship in the country. The last thing Sanoon felt like doing was spending the rest of the afternoon at the mosque, so Jon and I set out to see the site ourselves. The artistic attention to detail throughout the structure was truly magnificent.

After our full day of fun in Abu Dhabi, Jon headed to Dubai for some solo-adventuring. Sanoon and I promised to meet him there a couple days later to partake in some of the world's most extravagant New Year's Eve parties. 

Like I said, Dubai has the -est of everything, and New Year's Eve is no exception. Dubai holds the world record for the biggest fireworks display in the world, blasting pyrotechnics across the skyline at midnight in a 180 degree show for what feels like an hour [it's actually only 15 minutes, but with enough champagne, you'd swear it was longer]. The city also claims to have the costliest parties in the world, averaging $600 per person for entry at any number of bars and venues on that night. [Upon further retrospection, that 35 Dirhams is feeling pretty. damn. minimal.].

We chose to attend a party on the rooftop of the Radisson Blu hotel in the Dubai Marina, and ring in the new year witnessing the ostentatious light shows whilst sipping champagne and dancing to the backdrop of some pretty phenomenal house music.

When the clock struck midnight, the $6,000,000 worth of fireworks did not disappoint. It was the perfect ending and beginning of an era.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I did not stay very long in the UAE. Although I had planned to stay for at least 8 months as we waited out the approval of our K-1 Fiancé Visa, much to our surprise, our request was approved within one month of me moving to Abu Dhabi! Sanoon set an interview date with the U.S. Embassy, and a few days after the New Year, he was granted his passage to the United States. Against all odds, everything about this process flowed so easily that I was certain we were aligning on the correct path. 

I packed my lil backpack once again and kissed Sanoon temporarily goodbye, as I prepared to scratch one last travel itch before moving to our new home in America...

But that's a story for another time.