February 2, 2015

One Step Forward, Two Steps…To the Side

After drawing my labyrinth, I hit a wall. I was so physically and mentally exhausted from the effort that went into creating and analyzing my feelings about it, that I have found it near impossible to move forward at this time. I read on in the book, the next step being to meditate on your labyrinth (lab) while adding a slight discomfort. I was just not ready to go there. I felt in a stall, I was losing progress. So, I decided to pause on the "lab work" and move laterally into a more physical form of healing.

I finally went and saw my local Curandera, a traditional healer that uses natural remedies to cure ailments of the body and spirit. It was a spur of the moment decision. I knew I had to keep moving forward or I would keep sliding back. I booked my appointment, and was promptly at her door at 10 am Saturday morning.

I drove up to her bungalow and parked in a grassy lot across the street. Wild plants adorned the yard, and beautiful chickens scratched for worms behind a large iron gate. She sauntered off the porch to greet me like an old friend, and welcomed me to her home; a charming 1950's bungalow. My apprehension was mounting for what I was about to experience. What was she going to say? What was she going to do to me?

We step inside her living room, and towards a front bedroom which she has turned into a professional den of relaxation. Paintings, a belly cast, oils, candles, a large massage table. It should be an anxious person's dream escape. She must have seen the apprehension in my eyes.

She cheerfully asked me what I was there to work on. I started matter of factly: "sore back, a tight neck,  a scar to look at." But only a few moments later, I teared up a bit and managed to spit out that it had been a long road to get to her because of all the trauma surrounding my birth. We had perviously talked at two of her lectures, so she wasn't completely taken off guard. She could tell I was on edge.

She has a history of working with mothers, as a doula and a massage therapist. She has also work with women who have been assaulted. She understands the body-soul connection and how they can help or hinder a birth, or even healing in general. She could see that I was reaching for help, but at the same time scared to confront a trauma. So she did the most comforting thing she could:

1.) Told me how brave I was for coming to work on this. And
2.) Talked about the four agreements:

  • Agreement 1: Be impeccable with your word - Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean.  Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
  • Agreement 2: Don’t take anything personally - Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
  • Agreement 3: Don't make assumptions - Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.
  • Agreement 4: Always do your best - Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret

These agreements served to address boundaries and eliminate fear of what was going to happen. She would not assume that she could touch my body without it truly being okay. It was also true that it was my responsibility to not assume that she knew where my boundaries were, and to be clear with my words and expectations. As a result, no one would be offended (because we are speaking only the words we mean), no one was getting upset (because were not taking anything personally, and asking for clarification if something said seemed off-putting), and everyone was committed to giving 100 percent of themselves from where they were at that moment.

Before we got started I asked to use her restroom. Ever since my 1st cesarean, I can hardly stand up without having to go pee. My second cesarean surgeon had mentioned that I had a lot of scar adhesions to my bladder. It is possible they have returned. I passed down her hall, and admired her phone nook, which had been turned into an alter. Sitting on her toilet, I knew had come to right place.

Surely a woman with herbs drying in her tub knows what she is doing.
Now, this was by no means my first massage. As someone with high anxiety, I used to get them all the time when I was working. As a stay at home mom, I've had to adjust my expectations of comfort. Usually, I request total silence during a massage so I can FOCUS on being relaxed. It sounds ridiculous even saying it. But with Curandera, I prattled on and on. She let me unload on her…like catharsis.

We had a few laughs as she worked on my tight muscles. She applied a castor oil pack to my scar, and kneaded it to assess where my innards now lie. She has a strong suspicion that my uterus is tight to the left side of the scar and that is tilting forward, possibly pulling my back muscles in the process. What was surprising was that she was able to work on it as long as she was. At home, as I had previously mentioned, I can't touch or look at my scar without getting physically ill. My husband can barely touch it. Overall, she was pleased with how it looked, but asked me to continue to do weekly castor oil packs to soften the scar and underlying tissues. So, without further ado…a moment of bravery:

UGH. There it is: A low transverse cesarean scar. I put my hand there to show a size perspective. Gross.
#NoMakeup #NoFilter
Our session was over way too fast. She recommended that I come back after my next menstrual cycle, but continue to try to touch my scar often, even over clothing if I must, and do weekly castor oil packs.

I expected to be a little sore after a massage since rubbing on your muscles always releases toxins built up in your system. I drove the 45 minutes home, (FYI: It's an hour to anywhere in Houston) As I drove, and became increasingly fatigued. Almost alarmingly so. By the time I arrived home, I felt like I had been in a car accident. My entire body ached, my mouth was parched. This was nothing like I had ever experienced post-massage. I downed at least 4, 30 oz glasses of unsweetened tea and water, and tried to nap. Unfortunately, X-man and Lollipop had other plans. As the day turned to evening, I continued to down water. My limbs became heavier and heavier, my stomach churned. This went on for two days.

Last night, I worked on building a safe, sacred space to work on my scar and my emotions about my birth. I was at a loss of what to do for my extreme fatigue and pain, so I poured an epson salt bath. I soaked while trying to clear my head, gazing through the darkness at a candle and some flowers I had recently purchased.

"To thine own self be true."

I pulled myself reluctantly from the tub an hour later. I put a heating pad on my back and proceeded to sleep four hours straight. I am quite sure it is the first time since Lollipop has arrived (8 months) that I have gotten four hours of uninterrupted sleep. The following morning, while still sore, the fatigue fog had lifted.

I continue to seek the comfort of hot water to sit in, and cool water to drink to purge my body of what Curandera calls "trauma energy". It's time for bed now, one more glass of water, one more hot soak.

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