Saturday, August 13, 2016

Avery's Birth Story

      I loved hearing about and reading the birth stories of other women while I was pregnant this past year.  As I physically, mentally and emotionally prepared for the birth of my son, it's been incredibly inspiring to learn from the experiences of others, their struggles, hopes and fears and what they held onto through the most intense experience of their lives.  I wanted to share my story not only to record every special detail I don't want to forget, but also to encourage other ladies traveling the same journey.  There is so much fear and trauma surrounding birth, and I believe that one of the steps toward fearlessly facing the unknown is to transform our beliefs and expectations about it into those of hope, empowerment and meaningful expectation.  Every woman's story is uniquely beautiful, and bringing a new life earthside is a privilege that connects us all, back to the beginning of time.



      It was a Monday, the morning of June 20, 2016. I was 40 weeks 5 days and knew our little one would come at exactly the right time.  I woke up not feeling any differently in particular, but I thought it would be amazing to give birth under the Strawberry Full Moon during the Summer Solstice, which is somewhat of a celestial wonder since the last time those events corresponded was almost 70 years ago.  I was trying not to get my hopes up, but couldn’t help but anticipate having our son that day!  Especially after Joey and I were married in Redding during the solar eclipse back in 2012, unaware that we would have two sunsets during our reception when we booked our wedding months in advance.  

      The day before he came I read a natural birth story about a mother’s first labor totaling 4 hours from the initial contraction to delivery, and I was in awe of how fast that was and wondered if my body could pull of something like that too!  So I declared that it would.  I made many verbal declarations during my pregnancy, because I wanted to have the most peaceful, fearless, powerful and healthy experience I could have, from conception to birth.  Early in my pregnancy I resolved to have an all-natural birth with no interventions or drugs unless absolutely necessary, because I wanted to feel what I was capable of and embrace every moment of the intoxicating hormones and power my body would channel through me as it was designed to do.  I don’t believe birth to be a medical condition or a threshold that should be filled with fear, and I didn’t want to miss out on anything I was meant to experience.  I feel that we as women are called to usher life into this world, and it’s a beautiful honor.

      Around 1pm, the idea popped into my head to sniff Clary Sage.  Dabbing the essential oil on a cloth, I held it to my face as I walked around tidying the house.  I must’ve looked like I was drugging myself with chloroform or something.  Later on, my usual session of contractions geared up as they had almost every evening since 7.5 months.  So I didn’t think anything of it really.  I left the house to take my daily walk by the ocean.  I hiked several miles almost every day and maintained lifting heavy weights at the gym 2-3 times a week to stay in shape.  While I was out my mom called me up and asked if I wanted to watch the sunset over a glass of wine, so I met up with her and we sat in her car enjoying the whales breeching the surface of the waves and pelicans diving for fish, it was magical.  That’s when my real rushes began, around 7:30pm.  I turned to my mom and said “I think I’m actually going into labor now.”  She got excited, and so did I!  So I walked home, but it became increasingly difficult and I had to stop a few times to breathe through the surges.  

      When I arrived home I thought I might as well pack my overnight bag, some snackage and Avery’s coming home outfit of course.  Especially if the contractions didn’t slow down and we ended up in the hospital for the night, I guess I should be prepared.  It became harder and harder to focus on anything else as the rushes came closer together with greater intensity.  I had to bring my activities to a halt and concentrate on riding the waves as they came.  My husband Joey then decided it was a good time to assemble the moses basket stand in case we brought a baby home soon.  It felt like it wasn’t long at all until I sent out a text to a few friends and family members at 10:30pm informing them I was in labor and that any and all prayers would be appreciated.  I found it nearly impossible to type that text and tap Send at that point!  Joey called my doula to come and from then on I beared down into my laboring position for the rest of Avery’s final journey - arched, leaning back on the toilet with my elbows propping me up.  Out of all the positions I knew, that was the only one that helped me embrace the overwhelming power that had taken over my body.

      I’m not sure when we headed to the hospital exactly, sometime around 1/1:30am.  I had previously emphasized to my doula to time our arrival at the hospital for when I was 8cm dilated, because I just wanted to get it over with and push Avery out once I was there and do all the laboring in the comfort and peace of my own home.  When she gently said it was time to go I argued, why couldn’t I just have the baby in the shower?  She told me she didn’t want a surprise home birth that night, so Joey took the initiative and dressed me since I was incapable of putting on any clothes at that point.  I whimpered for them to please let me have Avery in the bath tub, I did not want to deal with going to the hospital!  

      I crawled into the truck, and Joey attempted to buckle me in but soon realized that wasn’t happening.  We sped 95mph to the hospital 40 minutes away, making it more of a 25 minute trip.  Careening by a cop, I’m not sure how we didn’t get pulled over.  I was yelling something fierce, moaning and making all kinds of primal noises and lip raspberries in the passenger’s seat because I was in transition and it took all the strength I could muster to endure the bumps and jolts of the road.  I’m certain I traumatized my husband, he was such a trooper.  When we screeched up to the labor and delivery emergency parking Joey quickly hopped out of the truck and called to the nurses to hurry because his wife was about to have a baby.  They didn’t take this very seriously, maybe because many women don’t make their grand entrance during transition?  Once they heard me yelling they picked up the pace and grabbed the wheelchair, opening the truck door to have me sit in it.  I was in the middle of a contraction and screamed at the top of my lungs “SHUT THE F***ING DOOR!!!”  The door shut immediately.  

      Once in the wheelchair they whisked me up to the delivery room, where the lights were dimmed and the midwife and nurses were waiting quietly.  Helping me out of the wheelchair, a nurse tried to seat me in the hospital bed but I would have none of that, I pointed to the guest chair at the far side of the room and saw the look on their faces as I leaned back and propped myself in the metal chair with one leg up, like I had been arched on the toilet seat at home.  When the midwife measured me she looked surprised to find that I was 9cm dilated and Avery was about ready to make his appearance.  

      Within minutes I entered the pushing stage and screamed at one of the nurses to stop touching me.  She was shoving the baby monitor against my stomach and the last thing I wanted was to be poked and prodded as I could barely keep my head above the waters of oblivion.  Thankfully I wasn’t pressured to take an IV or anything else up in my space, I had specified not wanting to be bothered at all in my birth plan and they were kind enough to respect my wishes.  Really, if I could’ve had our son unassisted in the bathtub at home that’s what I would’ve chosen, hands down.  Joey was a godsend, massaging my shoulders and being the steady, stable support and protector I needed by my side to conquer this mountain.  

      I had previously envisioned the pushing stage to be my favorite part of the birthing process, but I just wanted the little guy out.  Now.  I asked Joey to play “You Make Me Brave” on repeat on my phone.  The song felt divinely inspiring and helped me focus in those final moments.  I kept asking the midwife “do you see him yet??” and could feel myself grasping onto the outer edges of my consciousness for dear life as I willed myself to open up, to be swallowed by the raw power enveloping my being.  Between my loud moans and cries I focused on blowing raspberries with my lips because they relax and open up the body.  I could feel Avery moving down the birth canal and as he reached my perineum I felt what they call the “ring of fire.”  It was now or never to push him out because I didn’t want to feel that burn any longer!  With a final resolve I gave our baby one last push and Joey caught our son as he emerged, gently lifting him up to lay on my chest.  As Avery came toward me he looked up and held my gaze, staring into my eyes for what felt like a timeless moment in eternity.  It was supernatural, words cannot do it justice.  I held him to my chest and as he was physically in front of me for the first time, it felt exactly like when he was inside me except that my arms could cradle him close, my fingers could caress his tiny toes and my chin rest on top of his precious head of hair.  Here lay a part of my soul outside my body.  It was the ultimate high I cannot describe.  

      After a 7 hour labor, Avery James Brooks kissed the earth with his presence June 21 at 2:23am, our Strawberry Full Moon baby. 

"Luna" watercolor by Kelly Murray

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Stripes & Sparkles

Photos by Megan Walton

Top: Everlane 
Jeans: J Brand (similar options here and here)
Sandals: Ivy Kirzhner (love these too!)
Clutch: Antik Batik 
Sunglasses: Warby Parker

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cali Culottes

Photos by Megan Walton

Culottes: Forever 21 (cute ones here and here)
Loafers: Everlane
Minaudière: Rebecca Minkoff
Sunglasses: Warby Parker

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Indian Summer

How about this Indian summer we're having in the San Francisco Bay Area!  
I love it.  
When I moved away from the coast for a few years one of the things I missed most was our Indian summers.  Every year we get a warm streak in September/October and since this year is El Niño the weather is more unpredictable and pregnant with energy, hinting at exciting storms coming our way...  And yes, I absolutely love storms too.  I sit in my car at the beach and watch the angry waves crash over the sea wall, it's so powerful and soothing at the same time.  

Do you ever feel like you're having internal struggles that are intense and challenging and you can't  necessarily blame them on your circumstances, since everything appears to be going "fine"?  Some periods in life I have smooth sailing, favor and golden opportunities.  Other times I must trudge through the mud to build my character and foundations on the inside so that I'm ready for the amazing upgrades coming my way.  So that they'll be a wonderful addition to my life, not become who I am and what I base my value and identity around.  There's an order to everything, and it helps so much to identify what season you're in and then learn the tools and keys you need to thrive in that time.  The natural cycles of farming symbolically reveal the principles of our personal seasons too.  In the spring new things are planted and sprout, in the summer they come to fruition and are harvested.  In the fall the extras die away and create soil for new things to be planted again as they decompose.  Then in the winter there's a quiet where all seems dead but the potential is hidden underneath the soil and is preparing itself to receive the seed and new life to rise up once more.  And so it repeats.  To relate these patterns to my life, for example I could say that I'll go through a time where I'm learning new things, getting inspiration and ideas, seeds are being planted in my life and it's exciting.  Then we shift gears and I'm harvesting and enjoying the fruits of my labor, learning ideas, inspirations, I'm feeling success and favor in areas that I didn't have before.  But all of the sudden I'm no longer riding that sweet wave.  The flow I was operating in has run dry.  Areas that I felt like I was doing great in are dying off and the focus seems to be moving towards other topics, whether I like it or not.  And next I feel like there's a serious lack in new life but there seems to be a trend of internal heart surgery that is trying to get my attention, because I didn't realize that those pains and issues were always a symptom of my heart's condition.  It must be time to work on healing those up and rehabilitating!   The personal seasons don't necessarily go in that order either, but they're all essential to shape us into who we are meant to be.  Spring, summer, fall, winter...  If I'm spending my time fighting to make things grow that just aren't working when I'm actually in a winter season where I'm supposed to be preparing and working on my character, it'll feel like I'm fighting the wind and waves, swimming against the current.  It's exhausting and there's not much headway I can make.  Metaphorically speaking, everyone wants it to be summer all the time!  But summer would never come without the fall, winter and spring to set it up.  I make sure to stay thankful and embrace the struggle, the fight, the failures and frustrations.  The sooner I humble myself, summon my courage, and figure out the lesson I'm supposed to be learning through it all, surrendering to the process and challenging the fears I must defeat, the more at peace I'll be and the bigger perspective I'll have of the light at the end of the tunnel.  The purpose to the pain. 

Remember, no matter what season of life you're in, you always have the opportunity to thrive!   A higher perspective and focus on the right things are key.  I have my good days and then my bad weeks but not all is lost.  In fact, I have everything to gain from each season of life!  I am being formed into a better lover, a more patient nurturer, an empowering force that cheers others on to face their fears head on and overcome.  I hope you are encouraged and inspired by my blog.  

Have a lovely rest of your week!


Photos by Megan Walton

Dress: Free People (multiple colors here and here!)
Crossbody: Ann Taylor
Booties: Cynthia Vincent (similar here)
Sunglasses: Warby Parker
Nail polish: Sally Hansen

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Art of Being.

For all you type A, high achiever, goal-oriented, driven, get shit done and take over the world types out there, I have a few tips for you.  I know you've probably heard this ten million times but maybe this ten million and oneth (is that even a term?!) time something new will click in you!  Well actually, these principles apply to everyone.  But those of us I listed above keep knocking our heads on the same walls over and over again until we really get this!  And what I'm going to talk about today is a lovely topic our popular culture often looks over.  Humility.  Not really fun to talk about, right?  It sure isn't the most thrilling character trait to develop.  All I'm going to do is offer a few highlights and insights I've learned on this subject.  It's challenging for me to talk about, because I am no master.  I am naturally independent, self sufficient and I'm not fond of "needing" anyone or anything, I'd rather do it all by myself.  Humility has not come naturally to me and I'll be the first one to admit it.  So without further ado, here are the basics I have learned and worked on in my own life.

Practicing thankfulness.  All the time.  Being thankful for those who have poured into me and taken the time to invest in me, both with their time, energy, finances, in any way.  Taking time to appreciate them.  That innate drive that is in my core, the on-to-the-next mentality, the hunger for bigger better and higher.  Work harder, sacrifice as necessary, go go go!  That drivenness is one of my strengths, but if it's overextended it can be one of my greatest weaknesses.  To balance it out, I must stop to be thankful, and give credit where it's due, taking the time to breathe and mull over the things I've accomplished, who I am even if I was successful at nothing.  How thankful I am for those who are supporting me every step of the way, doing life with me and cheering me on.  I wouldn't be where I am today without them.  Remembering the breakthroughs, the hurdles I have overcome and those who helped me get through to the other side.  Being grateful for my health, and staying aware of all the areas in which I am so blessed, knowing that so much in my life was not earned, it was given to me.  Keeping in mind the bigger perspective that I could've been born anytime in history, my spirit could've been placed in any body over the span of thousands of years.  But here we are, born into this family, this country, at this time span in the history of the world because we have a divine purpose and assignment, something essential to give that is crucially needed now.

Stay teachable.  There is always something to learn from someone else.  Learn to spot those things, stay teachable and open, and don't assume to know better.  Asking questions, not making assumptions is key.  I've noticed that people with true humility are confident in their strengths, skills and talents and what they carry on the inside, but they're on the lookout for ways to give away and give back, while at the same time learning from others and embracing being taught, being an eternal student.  Humble people have nothing to prove, they know who they are and what they have to offer.  It's a balance of recognizing your strengths and the privileges you've been given and at the same time remembering where you came from.  Walking through life with confidence yet maintaining the sober mind of knowing that you didn't get to where you are now on your own, by yourself and with only your own efforts.

Give up.  Just be.  This is the hardest one for me right now!  Ahhh I feel like I have tried to learn these principles repeatedly and every year I break through to another level and have to start all over from a different angle, unlocking a deeper layer of my core.  Remembering who I truly am as I embrace failures and things I'm terrible at, my insufficiencies.  Learning to not avoid those things but be okay with them.  My failures don't change who I am.  My accomplishments don't define who I am.  My successes and my blessings aren't who I am.  Sometimes I ask myself, "who would you be if all your accomplishments, everything that you are proud of in your life that you feel successful in or that you did well was stripped away?"  How many of those things that you've "done" or "do" define who you are and your self worth?  There's nothing wrong with being good at things, pursuing goals, dreaming and achieving.  But would I still feel like I matter and have value if I never succeeded or did anything to be proud of again for the rest of my life?  Would I know so deeply who I am in my core, how amazing and special I am if I removed every "do" from my life and existed only in my "be"?  Knowing my true identity without anything else added on?  I know that my gifts and strengths will always be there no matter what I do or where I end up, they're engrained in me.  But what are those things that are unique about me, my fingerprint in life, that have nothing to do with any labels, titles, accomplishments or boxes placed around me to define me?  Hey, I want anyone out there to know that I don't have this figured out!!  But I'm letting you into my thought process and giving exposing my weaknesses in the hope that you may pick up some keys to unlock yourself that you didn't have before.  I sure wouldn't have realized many of these things if I didn't have an incredible support system around me to have patience with my process and gently point out the things that don't always feel good to hear.  

So here's my current food for thought.  I am a photographer, a blogger, a teacher, a singer, a server, an athlete.  But those are my "doing" words, not "being" words.  What are your "doing" titles?

Who I am in my core, even if I never "did" anything thing for the rest of my life, would be:
A daughter. 
A wife. 
A leader.
A delicate balance of daydreamer and intellectual.
I have a unique perspective of life.
I impart courage and boldness.
A creator, an artist.

What are your "being" words?
I don't know about you but I want to live out of that true part of me every day, out of my core that has nothing to prove, knowing that there's nothing I need to do to show these things off.  That there's no pressure to perform.  Just to be.  If I didn't succeed or do well another day in my life these things would still be who I am.  
Thanks for stopping by to read, I'm so thankful for your support.


Photos by Chris Schafrath

Flats: Steve Madden
Crossbody: Rebecca Minkoff
Sunglasses: Warby Parker

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Blue Uniform.

Photos by Megan Walton

Shirt: H&M
Jeans: Siwy
Shoes: Hinge (cute ones here!)
Backpack: Rebecca Minkoff (another version here)
Belt: Madewell (love this one too)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Wildest Dreams

Fall is approaching quickly, so here's a last few quintessential summer shots.  I was embracing that 70's vibe with the bell sleeves and platform espadrilles.  I love the tassels and body chain together, adding a touch of intrigue to a simple look.  I carried this leather Rib and Hull tote everywhere this summer, the rich color and classic silhouette complimented breezy warm-weather textures so effortlessly.  

As the New York Fashion week passes and we're on to the European FW's, I'm gathering all sorts of ideas and inspiration from the shows and street style.  70's flair is staying strong, in all its structure and frivolity.  And then the minimalistic looks are standouts as well.  I won't even go down the list of all the trends I'm loving, maybe I'll make another post about that topic.  All I know is I need to pick up the perfect lace-up flats ASAP... 

What's getting you excited about the coming fall season?

I don't know about you but I've had Taylor Swift's "Wildest Dreams" on repeat in my head.  The song feels so magical and daring!  The music video is so lovely, sigh.  And that is what this September feels like to me.  
I smell it in the air, this fresh creativity and dare to grow.  Some of it is like a refreshing wind of inspiration and courage while another side of it is fear and insecurities that have held me back don't work for me anymore, they have lost their allure.  The anxieties are still getting up in my face, but they don't feel so permissible now.  They are painful, frustrating and cramping my style.  Like shoes that I've grown out of that are so restricting they're intolerable to walk in.  So it's time to shed the old and get a new pair!  I've been itching to take a class on a topic of interest and feel a new boldness to put myself out there with ventures I haven't pursued before.  Thoughts dance across my consciousness like "Why not try it? You have nothing to lose!"  It's in the atmosphere for a reason, daring us to take risks and push to a higher level.  To leap off the edge and discover that we have wings to soar!

Photos by Joey Brooks

Top: Forever 21 (love the one here!)
Sandals: Vince (similar here)
Sunglasses: Warby Parker