My father said, "You never know when things will go south and you will want a counselor in your back pocket to be able to call up and say, 'I need to see you; can you give me an appointment?!'" Okay, so Pops didn't say exactly that, but you understand the drift; I was in counseling because my father said, "Go," and I went. I told my new-ish therapist I want to practice Mindfulness four times a week and I want to go to two yoga classes. I told her for accountability - I wasn't getting there on my own, that was for sure. When I went back to my counselor's office the following month, I had done Mindfulness more - but nothing close to four times a week. I hadn't gone to one yoga class.
While this is going on, the desire to practice Mindfulness and the desire to go to yoga, life at work progressed. I had gone from being the newest employee in the social work department to becoming the second newest. I was moved from the floor I was working on, to NICU and Maternity. I was told, "because I'm so good with people," they thought I would be great working in this specialized area. Okay. I hear all that they were saying and not saying, even if I can't blast it out in a public forum like this. I trained for NICU by going to a sister hospital and learned about Medical Asstistance applications and how to get a hospital grade breast pump delivered to a mother's door when her child is in the NICU. I learned about the forms needed for an adoption. I learned about enough to scratch the surface and go back to "my" hospital and start putting it into practice.
Two weeks ago, we had an admit of a very tiny baby. Nurses, doctors, and unit secretaries said this situation would not turn out well. It would just be a matter of time.
Add this to other life stressors and on Monday of last week, going into work, I was light-headed, dizzy, and nauseated. It didn't come to me until Tuesday morning I was having panic attacks. I woke up on Tuesday and started to count my breaths, getting to twenty. I lost my train of thought in the middle, and had to come back somewhere around 9. After I finished the 20 breaths, I felt significantly better. I got up, wet my hair (I go to bed with wet hair - showering at night saves getting ready time in the morning), put on makeup, got dressed, and trounced off to work, listening to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. On some deeper level, I decided if I'm going to make it through, I have to go back to doing things like I was doing when I first started the new job in September. I have been rolling essential oils along the soles of my feet to stave off panic (and for the record it's working). I also signed up for yoga on Tuesday and Thursday, at a yoga studio in the town about seven blocks away -- close enough to walk to the yoga studio.
On Tuesday night I arrived at the studio feeling a bit silly and a little worried I would sob my eyes out. I brought the yoga mat and carrier that I got at an estate sale for $3. I set up in the back and followed the instructor through the routine. The instructor openly stated that she is a new instructor and has only been teaching yoga to her family who yell back at her. And to be honest, there were times I wanted to say, "Um, the breath? Where is the breath?" or "Can you go a little slower, I'm not sure I understand." I wanted more precise directions, more precise steps to get into position or what the position should feel like when I'm there. My downward facing dog - my heels - they don't touch the ground. Is this a problem? My cat cowl curved up and then in from table, when do you breathe in? Is that on the curl in or on stretch up where you drop your belly down and face your face to the ceiling? And woah, can you slow down a little. What? Where does the left leg go? What about the feet? Where do the toes face? Isn't this a Basics and Beyond class? Where are the instructions? I found myself not feeling calm, unless I made myself relax and just be in the class, as much as possible. Just let it all roll and roll and catch the movement as much as I can. Don't judge me and maybe judge the instruction - especially because she pronounces "exhale" (and "inhale" by default) as ex-haul.
It was a darn good thing I forced myself into the yoga class on Tuesday night. I knew why I had to be there. I knew the baby was being taken off the ventilator on Wednesday. It was. And as the NICU social worker, it is my role to be present with the family as the family faces whatever comes. The chaplain, nurse, and I found comfort in my favorite form of coping in impossible situations, joking. I asked the nurse at one point, "Did you take photos of that?" and the nurse gave me a whithering stare and said, "NO. I missed the moment completely." And we were off. Only, no matter the joking on the side, no matter how light you try to make it, there is nothing light about helping a family escort a 22 week baby to the other side consciousness. There is nothing light about the tears and heart-ache, and grief that cripple. I found myself lightheaded and nauseated. I found myself having to step out as we were waiting for the heartbeat to soften. I had to go find a space and pull myself back into a moment not so charged. Not so intense. I had to go breathe before I could go back and continue to support the family. The Chaplain looked at me at one point and said, "Do you think you're the first Social Worker I have had support. You aren't." I walked away from Wednesday with a new love for people, especially the Chaplain and a new appreciation for the amount of emotional grief one person can endure.
Thursday I went back for "Gentle Yoga." I wanted to hide in the far back corner, but found the closer I got to the wall, the colder it became over there. So, I came to close wall and set up there. The instructor, again, hauled through the instructions and I wanted to say, "Isn't this Gentle Yoga?" Only, again, I didn't. I just followed along and smiled to myself as "Nothing Compares to You" and that song --- you know that song, the song that plays when Chase Utley comes up to bat --- that song.... It's a ... Led Zeppelin song.... Kashmir. How is that "GENTLE" yoga? But as I got used to the instructors style and her way of doing things, except for where she was on her phone and not walking around correcting peoople's poses, I felt she was okay. Okay enough to take a class with her again? That I'm not sure. But enough to get me into a place of more peace, a place where I felt my breath meet my body and release it just a little. I will say I'm excited there will be a teacher teaching Yin Yoga (my favorite!!) on Thursday nights in the future. I will be there this upcoming Thursday to find out what this new instructor has to say about Yin and Yoga and how to make space for the breath.
I went to work on Friday and felt a little bit more like, "I got this."
Sick babies are hard. I think I will have to spend time journaling these next couple of months. This new job is stretching me and growing me and expanding me in ways I have not yet been pushed to grow. For that and for so many other things I am grateful. One of the many things about this assignment that makes me grateful is I get to do social work, actual social - social work, and not just discharge planning. I attend to the whole person while the docs cope with the physical frame. And that is why I got into social work in the first place.