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Community Highlight: Transitioning to Motherhood with Chrissie Wessel

September 14, 202314 min read
Community Highlight: Transitioning to Motherhood with Chrissie Wessel

8 Reasons

1) What is your affiliation with Wanderlust Women?

I met Brockell in Columbia, MO in the fall of 2014. I had just moved to CoMo from Chicago and Brockell happened to live down the street from me. Since then I have had the privilege of being her friend as we both moved around and found ourselves in the same city/state on multiple occasions. I have always been inspired by Brockell's vision, teaching, and sense of adventure. She is a wise woman and I have learned so much from her. I am so proud of her work bringing women into community through Wanderlust Women.

2) As the assistant for last year’s Costa Rica Women’s retreat, I’d love to hear your reflect a little on your experience.

What was the overall experience like for you?

Costa Rica was truly a turning point for me in my life and practice. I was able to learn from Brockell as she planned and set the stage for an enriching, awakening experience for everyone, including me. I assisted her in setting the space and I did some teaching and guidance; I helped her make decisions based on the energy of the group. I was able to have my own powerful reflections during the retreat, including self-love and acceptance, healing, and space for transformation. I emerged reconnected to teaching, to the power of my practice, and to the transformative nature of being with other wise women.

What was the experience of working with Brockell?

Brockell has the best attitude, she goes with the flow but is always conscious of the energy of the group. She is willing to make changes as the experience unfolds. She is humble and responsive. I felt like she was very supportive of me and wove my contributions into the retreat schedule with thoughtful care. She was also good about checking in with me frequently. When we first arrived at Pura Vida I napped while she practiced and got grounded. She is professional and always looking out for her students (and assistants!)

Was there any kind of lasting impact or take-away from the retreat?

One of my intentions and areas of focus/release during the retreat was my relationship with fertility. I had been trying to get pregnant for 18 months and was feeling stuck in my journey. Since Brockell was so mindful of my experience and growth during the retreat, I had ample time to reflect on my own healing needs. I came away feeling connected to other women, understanding our collective power to make positive and lasting change in our own lives and in the world, and my own power in my life. I examined my fears and patterns and worked to let them go and to start fresh from a place of self compassion and deep inner knowing.

Journey into Motherhood: Transitioning into motherhood is a right of passage for so many women. We’d love to hear a bit of your personal story around your journey towards getting pregnant, pregnancy, and delivery and any emotions throughout that time that you are comfortable sharing.

As I mentioned above, it took a while to get pregnant! In fact, I made an appointment with a local OB/GYN to address my supposed infertility and just a couple weeks before the appointment I found out that I was pregnant! The Costa Rica retreat helped me see where I was holding negative patterns: in my mind, my body, and how those patterns were holding me back. I learned that I was focusing way too much on controlling the process. Shortly after the retreat when the pandemic hit, I made the conscious choice to stop grasping for control. I stopped tracking my cycle and focused on getting outside and challenging myself physically. In Colorado that means hiking in the mountains! I got into the best physical shape of my life and it was enormously good for my mental state to take a break from trying so hard to get pregnant and instead channeling my energy into getting out everyday. In terms of pregnancy, I recognized that the experience of being pregnant and giving birth was going to be a transformative one. I wanted to be present and prepared. I read books, took a birth class, read birth stories, attended birth circles, made a birth affirmation board, hired a doula, did energy healing, and did daily yoga to prepare. My husband joked that I made it my full-time job. I believe strongly that transformation and growth comes to us in life's big moments: birth, death, and all forms of hardship. We can choose to step up and into the wave of change and let it transform us. So that is what I aimed to do in giving birth and entering motherhood. My pregnancy was healthy and I kept moving: everyday I walked the dog and I hiked several miles up until my third trimester. After that I slowed down a little but daily yoga was still a priority for me. I explored my relationship with pain and decided early on that I wanted an unmedicated birth. I feel that pain is an essential part of life, and it teaches us if we accept it. I learned all about birth: the stages of labor, possible interventions and mishaps, the magic of hormones and the capability of the body to bring life into the world. I practiced trust and remembered that pain is progress in birth. I told my doula that my main intention in giving birth was to feel empowered, and like I was the authority in the room. All my hard work and preparation paid off. My water broke at 8:40pm on February 9 and Charlotte Susan Wessel was born at 2:58am on February 10. My body knew exactly what to do. Everything happened so fast! My intention was to labor at home with the support of my doula and my husband for as long as possible. My doula came over to my home around midnight and helped me through the transitional phase of labor; my contractions were right on top of each other in the first couple hours so transition came quickly and was incredibly intense. As soon as she recognized my desire to push, we drove to the hospital, where I arrived 10cm dialated and ready to have my baby! I pushed for one hour. The team of doctors and nurses coached me in pushing (I thought I didn't want to be coached but it really helped me keep going!) I chose the position to birth in (hands and knees) and when Charlotte came she needed some medical attention! The cord was wrapped around her neck and the precipitous labor had caused her lungs to be full of amniotic fluid. My husband stayed with her while the team suctioned her fluid and gave her some pats on the back. The doctor tending to me calmly told me that altitude also played a role: baby was born at nearly 7000 feet and it can be hard to breathe anyway! She assured me that my daughter would be fine. I was unable to move, waiting to deliver the placenta and needing some stitches. Finally they brought me Charlotte. I held her only for a few moments and she was whisked to the NICU. She remained on oxygen for 48 hours but did very well and we got to take her home. I always imagined the moment where my baby was placed on my chest. I never got to experience that due to Charlotte's condition at birth. While I received care after the birth, my husband held our baby skin to skin and spoke softly to her. I think they will have a special bond because of these early moments. I realize that this vision I had in my head of how my birth would go was healthy in some ways, I was able to plan and anticipate and really think about what I wanted. But then in the end, I surrendered to the flow of the event and emerged on the other side, forever changed.

4) How has motherhood transformed you?

My transition to motherhood is most certainly still happening, and I get the feeling that it will still be actively happening for some months to come. I have often felt a bit stuck in the demands of baby, 24 hours/day, and haven't had time to truly reflect. I am coming home to my practice, after healing from birth and various other things. I do not get to practice yoga nearly as often. I am committed to attending a class or two a week at the studio I like in town, so that I can re-enliven my practice. I have been sitting, and moving gently in my home some days, and my practice still feels like home. I understand what it is to sacrifice now. I notice how other mothers actually look at me, with kindness in their expression. I feel like I have become a member of the club. I like to keep the concept of "filling my cup" close at hand, as I believe it's helpful as a true self-care beacon amidst the chaos of life. I have asked myself how I can keep my cup filled. I walk the dog (just me and him, like old times), I nurture my houseplants as well as my outdoor flowers and tomato plants, I go for the occasional massage or facial. I take breaks to talk to friends while Charlotte is napping. I plan trips and practice gratitude for science and for having the freedom to go places again this year. It's been a strange transition, really, with the pandemic. It's like I was confined to my home and my city for over a year and then I emerged...a mom? With a child? And my partner is a dad? Seeing my family in May was surreal. I hadn't seen them in 18 months and here I am, with a baby? I feel like I skipped some steps toward this huge transition during the pandemic. Now that we've emerged I am still growing into my new role as a mother.

What did you expect and what about the experience has surprised you?

I knew it would be a lot of work to have a newborn, but honestly she slept so well those first 3 months or so. I had to wake her to feed. Brockell came right at the beginning to support us. She cooked for us and took our dog Thor out and was around to listen and hold the baby. She helped provide our family with a soft landing after the birth and in our transition home. We were so lucky to have her! Now Charlotte is 4 1/2 months old and for the past month or so she hasn't been sleeping too well. She wakes every 2-3 hours and it's been hard on me. It helps to remember impermanence, like this is going to change, and also cycles. I have been wearing my bracelet from Costa Rica to remind me about sisterhood and the strength and resilience of women, as well as a black and white beaded bracelet from my niece that looks like moon phases, to remind me of cycles. We are all connected to nature, and I try to remember that everyday when I take Charlotte outside. We need sunlight and to feel connected to the cycles of day and night. The bond my partner Alex has with Charlotte has been a true joy to witness. The way she looks at him and her ability to melt his heart right on the spot is a feeling I have never experienced. And the overflowing love they say comes when you meet your baby for the first time? It happened to me. It continues happening to me every time I look into my daughter's eyes. She is pure joy. I have really enjoyed bonding with other moms (friends, my sister, my mother). They understand what I am going through and being able to lean on them and talk to them has been so helpful and affirming. I underestimated the dedication and work that breastfeeding takes! I hired a lactation consultant who is also a friend who has been amazing at every stage of life. The constancy of needing to empty my breasts on a schedule, even though baby doesn't always have a schedule has been tiring. I have learned so much along the way, and I have consciously changed my relationship with pumping as an annoyance to a necessity! The more I pump the more flexible I can be. If Charlotte is too busy or overstimulated to take my breast, I can give her a bottle. This also works if we need to get out of the house and be somewhere at a certain time. I am so grateful for the timing with the pandemic, as I have discovered getting out and about is good for both me and Charlotte! Especially when we are both in bad moods. My mom told me after one particularly sleepless night: 'take that baby out in the public today." And I am thinking, are you crazy? We are exhausted and she is fussy and there is so much to do...but then I had an opportunity to meet some family for dinner and I went and we both felt so much better getting out and having a change of scenery!

How do you think that motherhood has changed you forever?

I will always worry about my daughter. I will always worry about myself and my husband and our ability to be her parents. But I try to remember that worry is normal, and the practice is to recognize it, let it take up some space, even thank it for being. But then, release it and don't let it dominate my life. I will do everything in my power to keep us all safe and healthy. I will love and be grateful everyday for our good fortune in having this beautiful child. And I will let love be enough. It is stronger than worry and exhaustion. It's what lasts when everything else shifts and changes.

5) What words of wisdom do you have to share with our community? How have some of the challenges of this period of time informed your world-view and what would you like to say to others?

I think I already said this (and feel free to lift a quote from earlier). Everything changes. Change is the only constant. And nearly everything people say about this time in your life is true. They grow up fast, so I am working on being present and really soaking her in each day. Your life is never the same. Yep, that has totally been my experience. There is a before and after for me. Sometimes I lament that the before is over. But most days I remember: this too shall pass, and the next cycle will begin. The love you feel is like nothing you've felt before. Yes, everyday. Your body will adjust to less sleep. It has! I cannot believe how happy I am when I can piece together 7 hours now. I think the most significant thing I have learned is that while everything else is changing, love remains constant. I am so grateful for that because it makes my practice simple: just keep coming back to love. Lately I have been too tired to meditate so I have been practicing sending metta. To myself, my husband, Charlotte, my family, friends, those I have had conflict with and to those I don't know. It is such a powerful practice and I am so grateful for it. Sometimes I imagine myself leaning back into this rich tapestry of 15 years of yoga practice and letting it hold me. It will be there for me when I need it. I keep thinking of "getting back" to my practice, but I am trying to look forward. There is no going back! I am moving forward with my practice as my anchor, like it always has been.

6) Where do you see this chapter of your life in relationship to your vision that is taking you in the future?

I have always been obsessed with growth. I have welcomed change with open arms to practice being adaptable. This is my biggest adaptation yet. And I will continue to evolve. I don't think we are ever done growing. The key is to keep your heart open. This allows space for new possibility. The other key I have found is gentleness. You have to be gentle with yourself: you are human and you will make mistakes. I am intent on turning those supposed mistakes into opportunities to learn. Everyday I learn something about my daughter, about myself, about my new life. And then it changes, again. This experience has deepened my commitment to adaptability and growth, themes I find in nature and that I continue to return to, again and again.


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