Mother’s Day is not a one-size-fits-all holiday. We begin celebrating as children and that experience can be as varied as the women we’re celebrating. Through out our lives, with the wild variety of family dynamics, births and deaths, pursuits of becoming mothers and fathers ourselves, and the experience of being the mother celebrated, Mother’s Day can surely take on many forms.
Part of our TCM community, tastemaker and shop owner, Paige Appel opened up to share her fertility and pregnancy journey over the last two years. What a difficult holiday this can be for the large population of women with complicated fertility journeys.
We thought Appel would make a great profile as we approach this unique Mother’s Day at home. Both her ‘miracle baby’, Cricket who is something for the world to behold and her precious teen, Rem give Paige the street cred to speak to mothering while in quarantine and embracing the journey of motherhood wherever it may find you…
The Chalkboard: Paige, you were really open about your fertility struggles before cricket was born. Talk to us about that season:
Paige Appel: What a season that was! I will never forget the struggle or the pain that maximized itself for those three years. The ignorance about my body’s state of the union, the vulnerability to lean into the process of intervention, the desire that manifested into surrender… it was quite a magnificent storm.
After two miscarriages I went down the road of Western research that led into in-vitro fertilization attempts. Discovering the language used in that process was jarring to say the least. Words like “advanced maternal age” and “high risk” and “infertile” — all with dire innuendo. I suddenly felt antiquated and fatigued in my own healthy body that still felt young to me. Not to mention the strain financially. It is a luxury to have any kind of intervention in conception in this country. Whether that’s IVF or acupuncture or wellness adaptogens, all add up in costs that inevitably cause stress which you aren’t supposed to feel when trying to conceive. It’s quite an exercise in mindfulness and strategy. With yourself and your partner.
I have worked hard to metabolize those years into something I’m grateful for and can appreciate now that it’s over. But it was rough. I was angry and sad. I was able to remain determined and open to the path. I never felt quite hopeless enough to give up. I followed the Seed Fertility diet, stopped drinking and eating sugar, went to acupuncture, worked on conscious conception with Paula Mallis, upped my spirulina, maca, and seaweed intake, etc etc. But when I finally surrendered spiritually to the fact that I may not have another child, we conceived naturally and she came to us 9 months later.
There is a lot of advice I could give, but the biggest take-away I learned in this process is that you can do all you can physically to help your body become ready for a baby, but you will still have to let go of the idea that you are in control. The souls come when they are ready to come. To now have her here in the flesh is immensely overwhelming in gratitude and joy.
I wish that for every woman who desires to be a mother. No matter how your children come, they will be your teachers and your gifts. My 15 year old son has been my greatest source of joy and learning and now Cricket and I get to take our own journey.
TCM: Many of life‘s biggest triumphs come after a season where we wonder if we’re determined or crazy. Did you experience that and what have you learned about how common that is in the fertility struggle?
PA: That’s a great way to put it. I don’t think I ever felt I was crazy, but I definitely felt naive and hopeless. When those times hit I looked for positive stories and internal reinforcement. Shielded myself from the outcomes that didn’t serve my determination and courage. It’s very hard to do in this day in age as infertility stories pop up in my feed daily. There is that sneaky little algorithm in advertising that can sometimes serve you up doomsday news. It is very common to go down that rabbit hole of stressful experiences. And I felt that way even in sharing my own journey. Like ‘who is this going to affect?’ ‘What woman trying to get pregnant is going to read my post about another unsuccessful IVF?’
To live with honesty is helpful and also precarious for some. I felt comfort and camaraderie reading some familiar stories and encouraging others on the same path. And other times I had to step away and realize that I needed to find my own strength and do what felt right for me. I’ve had countless people tell me that my sharing helped them and that is all the validation I need for continuing to discuss this topic. Even if one person feels like they can keep going, then my vulnerability and experience has made it worthy. No one is crazy to want a baby, but if you have a challenging road to get there it can create the feeling that you aren’t deserving. And that’s just not true.
TCM: In the toughest times, what kept you going or what would you love for other women struggling with this issue to know?
PA: In the toughest times, my deep desire and determination kept me going. A cavernous trust in the surrender. I had to shed all the expectations of ease and be uncomfortable, physically and emotionally, for a while. Looking at the spiritual path as well as the physical was so cathartic and necessary. Tangibly, I felt no control and that is hard for women sometimes. I do think some wellness practices aided in our conception. Taking active steps to cleanse my body, rejuvenate my hormones, and feel healthy in body and mind was definitely something I feel was effective and I highly recommend. For your sanity and the optimization of outcome. It definitely doesn’t hurt the process.
TCM: Cricket is such a special child. Did you have any premonitions about her before she was born?
PA: She really is! I hate saying that because I have such an internal prejudice against moms who think their kids are more special than other kids… cause they aren’t. All kids are magical beings and there is nothing more annoying than a mom who brags about how their kid is so perfect. Hahaha. But I am truly blessed with my daughter. She was meant for our family.
She came to us in her time, in her way, with the most delightful energy. I had a premonition when I was pregnant that she had been here before. That she knew what she was doing. That was she was going to challenge me to grow deeper in service. My pregnancy was rough and I didn’t really feel well most of the time so that caused me to sit alone in gratitude and surrender to what was to come of this child. And so far so great! I could not be more in love and in awe of her.
TCM: How has it been mom’ing while in quarantine?
PA: Can I say it’s been amazing? I don’t hate quarantine! I’ve found joy in the roller coaster of it all. I’ve discovered a deepening into my family life. Purification with my home chores and relationships with Talmadge and Rem. New ideas and creativity. Making jam, dancing, sitting in the yard, letting my gray hairs shine, and paying attention to all the small things that are suddenly so big and important.
The days I feel claustrophobic and want to escape and run to the beach or a nice restaurant or even hop on a plane (travel itch anyone?) I just come back to myself and think on the things I’m learning and experiencing now in this forced re-set. Bring myself back to the present. I know that is a privileged place to sit and I don’t discount all the people hurting. I feel for them deeply and pray for those passing and aching. It is a strange time for all of us, collectively and individually, and I appreciate everyone’s journey for what it is as I do think there is always a sliver of sunshine even in the darkest of times.
TCM: Do you have a great reading list for mothers or those who are hoping to become one?
PA: I didn’t read a lot of books, but two I will recommend is It Starts with The Egg and Cooking for Fertility. Books I would recommend for any parent are The Awakened Family by Dr. Shefali and The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents by Deepak Chopra. The books I’m reading now are The Gentle First Year and Braiding Sweetgrass. I wish I was a faster reader but I always seem to fall asleep! But so many more on my to-read list.