I received a text message from Harv at Lululemon that asked if I was available from August 28th-September 3rd. In true Goldie fashion, I dropped everything I was doing to check my calendar, only to find that I was available. Anyone else respond to emails and texts within minutes of receiving them just to keep your type A fed? I’ll save that for another time. Where was I? Right, the only down side to these dates was that Brogan aka “BG,” Lumi and I would be on an east coast tour visiting Madison, Boston and Maine and would be getting back only 36 hours before I would need to leave again. I said, “Yup! What’s up?” In short, I was asked to teach in Chengdu, Beijing, and Seoul for an event Lululemon was putting on called “The Party” as part of #UnrollChina. Humbled, excited, ready, not ready, all of these were things I felt.
My immediate response was “I’m in.” In fact, I didn’t think about anything other than would I regret not going? The answer to this is what shut-up every doubt and anxiety inside of me. Sometimes I could silence the fear for a few minutes and sometimes a few hours. What’s crazy and a new realization for me was that I had zero fear around the teaching opportunity. Usually, I would have some sort of natural, healthy anxiety about a big gig that would amp me up and prepare me. This was different. I was excited to teach and be in a different country with my favorite company on the planet, but it was leaving Lumi that I couldn’t process. After many emails, zoom calls with the Asia team and a billion conversations with Brogan, I excitedly agreed to teach in Chengdu. I still can’t believe I/we pulled it off.
Once I said yes, the logistics of how to leave our baby, who is going to watch him, and how will he and I survive and thrive apart from each other kicked in. It was intense anxiety that grew and grew on a daily basis in my brain and eventually as the date neared, my heart. For anyone out there who has an infant and is a first time parent, this shit is intense. Do you remember the first time you left your kid? Of course you do because it’s a massive deal to do so, especially if you’re solely breastfeeding. BG and I spent every single day from the day I was asked until the moment I stepped foot on that plane, talking, worrying, planning and hypothesizing about how this was all going to play out. Some days I was hyped and couldn't wait for a break from my routine. Other days I would look at him while breastfeeding or holding him during bed time and I would just crumble inside. My heart couldn't handle the thought of leaving him.
What was my biggest fear? Oh, I'm glad you asked. Well, that he would think I abandoned him. It didn’t matter how many people told me that babies his age don't have the concept of time. In my mind, he would know I wasn't there. I think I feared that more than the risk of losing my milk supply as a result of the 15 hour time difference and all that goes with something as drastic as that. However, to just name a few of my fears in the event you too are about to do something big like this, here ya go: Will he forget how to breastfeed? Will Grandma keep him on his schedule? How will I get all of my breastmilk home? Will his teething be so bad that he needs his mama more than anyone else? Will he be happy without BG and I? Will the bottles I leave be enough food? What if the jet lag is so bad that I’m fucked and can’t sleep. (I have a history of 2 brief bouts of insomnia and just thinking about what that experience was like for me is enough to make me never want to leave my time zone again.) What happens if he gets in an accident or I die on the plane? Is it time to write a living will? Will Ann know to scan his body for tourniquet syndrome? (Hair tourniquet is a medical condition wherein a hair becomes tied around a toe or finger or male genital tightly, so as to put the digit at risk of damage. My hair falls out all day long and can usually be found somewhere on sweet Lumi. Thanks hormones!) Guys, the list goes on.
What I was most excited about with this opportunity was that of all the rad teachers out there, I was on their radar. Then, to go on an adventure so far outside my mama-comfort zone that it challenged me to grow in ways I could only learn by doing.
We called up Brogan’s mom, Ann, who is basically BG in female form. Like mother like son 100%. We asked her if she was up for the duty and with no hesitation she confirmed. I never once was worried that Lumi wouldn't get the care, love and nourishment he needed from Ann. She’s incredibly maternal, creative, not a lazy bone in her body and she’s quick on her feet with more energy than most 25 year olds I know. I spent a few days writing up a schedule and everything she could possibly need to reference in the event she couldn't get a hold of me. With the time zone difference and all of the digital blocks China presents, we just didn't know what to expect. I organized all of my frozen milk stock in giant ziplock bags labeled for each day. 34 ounces in each bag and a chart that listed how much to give for each feed. I even rented a scale from the hospital so I could weigh him before and after each time I breastfed in order to know how much he ate so I could make sure the bottles were properly filled and he didn't go hungry while I was gone. The same day I got my ticket to China, we bought Ann’s ticket to San Diego. That’s when shit got real. It was happening. No turning back. However, if I’m honest, I was never going to turn this opportunity down and never once thought of saying no. Really. I asked myself one question the day I got that text message: “Would I regret it if I said no?” The answer was a big, bold, beautiful YES! The clarity in that was comforting because I knew deep, deep down I was doing the right thing. Ann knocked it out of the park! He took every nap. Slept through the night. She invented ways to play with him and taught me so much while thousands and thousands of miles away. We FaceTimed every morning and in Ann’s words “So much could have gone wrong, and if it had, I’m your girl, but nothing did!” She’s right. Everything was as if I had never left. I came home to a scrap book she made of her time with Lumi, a bunch of new ways to interact with him that she creatively came up with and tons of home-made baby food that she froze so I didn't have to cook for a while. The “Granny Nanny” crushed it.
Let me rewind for a moment. The day we left I was emotionally drained from traveling with a teething infant to 3 different states in 6 days. I hadn't felt that exhausted in a long time. Not even Lumi’s newborn days did I feel as spiritually and emotionally drained. At this point, I knew that once I got on that plane I was going to be ok. There were a couple times throughout that day that I was actually looking forward to leaving. I needed a break from #momlife and I never feel guilty or bad for saying or feeling that. Without going into too much detail, I spent the day with Lumi, and Ann flew in a few hours before we flew out. Like she said, so much could've gone wrong, and nothing did! I breastfed Lumi at bedtime, kissed him goodbye as I laid him in his crib and within minutes the cab pulled up and we were out. I was waiting for a massive breakdown. Some sort of panic attack or fit of tears. Neither happened. I was relieved actually. I knew he was in over-qualified, incredible granny hands and for the next 6 days I got to wear one of my favorite hats: My teaching hat. My mom said to me on the phone that day“ You have different identities at different times and when you’re in mom mode you’re fully in, but when you go to work, you’re in teaching mode and you will be a different person when in China. You will turn on and be the other part of you that you nurtured before nurturing Lumi.” She was spot on. My head hit the pillow on that flight to China and when we arrived, I was GoldieYoga. I was Goldie and Brogan. I was pre-mom Goldie. I was adventurous, spontaneous, and very gleeful Goldie. It felt awesome. I don’t think I need to state the obvious: I missed Lumi but by no means was wishing I could be home. He was ok. I was ok. We were awesome together and apart!
Now, I’m doing my experience a disservice by trying to explain it in words and photos because it’s the kind of “you just had to be there” type, but I’ll try. The location was a stunning building that looked similar to a temple. The mastermind behind the music was the one and only DJ Drez and the people were kind, generous, and selfie-obsessed! If you’re tall, blonde and in China you might as well be Gisele! I don’t speak Mandarin, so I had my translator, Jess on stage with me who was both a shadow and my voice if you will. When it came to teaching, the only real thing I was nervous about was whether or not my sequence would translate without anyone being able to understand me. I kept reminding myself that movement is its own language but was still unsure. I was told to keep my lingo simple and not say too much. I pride myself in being able to do just that while teaching, but sometimes it’s nice to let the organic nature of what you feel...flow, and to my surprise there were no issues. I’m very grateful to Jess and Dani (my other stage shadow) as we really vibed off of each other and the language barrier was anything but. It was seamless.
As for pumping while there, I pumped every 4 hours. Even on the 17 hour flight. Thankfully I had a female sitting next to me both ways so I wasn't too uncomfortable. Not to mention, it's super dark on the plane and everyone was passed out. I pumped in my seat and then used Medela sanitizing wipes. These were clutch because the water was not clean enough to use for this purpose. The first day I collected 40 ounces. I was hyped, especially since I was collecting at times that Lumi wouldn't ordinarily be feeding. The second day I collected 34 ounces and the following days closer to 25-30. On the flight home, I pumped 4 times and collected less than 20 ounces. I was a little worried, but believe that your milk production suffers as a result of stress, so I really tried to practice positivity around this. Since being home my milk is back to its normal production rate and because it works on demad/supply, I made sure to put Lumi on my boob for every feed, and then if I didn't think he had enough, I gave him a few ounces of breastmilk in a bottle just to make sure. This has worked perfectly and as I write this it’s day 4 of being home and I didn’t have to give a bottle of extra milk for more than 2 days. So, my milk is in full force and for that I’m super grateful.
Now, for the answer so many of you are patiently awaiting; How did I store my milk and did I get it all home safely and unspoiled? Here’s the deal. I had a refrigerator (but no freezer) in my hotel room at the stunning Temple House. Therefore, each night some one from the in-room dining service would knock on my door, I would hand them a giant ziplock bag labeled with my name and room number and inside were bags of liquid milk I had pumped that day. I did this the entire time I was there. We didn't speak the same language so other than my Lululemon contact who assured me she spoke to them and explained the situation, I had no idea if it would end up frozen. I did trust it was all good, but there was a voice inside of me that said I should walk with them to the industrial kitchen so I could be assured it was in the right place. On the last night, in addition to the milk, I gave them a bunch of ice packs to freeze so that I could keep it cold on my 17+ hour trek home. At 6:45am on the date of my departure a sweet man knocked on my door holding a large Lululemon bag with heaping amounts of milk Inside. I looked inside only to find a mix of both liquid and frozen milk. Fuck! The ice packs were never frozen and neither were the last 2 days of my storage. I was livid! How could this have happened? I repeated “Freezer. Freezer. No refrigerator.” every time someone came to get it. Oh, right. Mandarin. UGH. I was almost in tears. My breastmilk nightmare was starting to come true. I had to get home with all of this milk. I had to! I had no stock left and I worked my ass off to keep this up. They apologized and asked what they could do to make it up to me. I took everything, threw it in my carry on soft-cooler and headed to the airport.
When I arrived at the airport I checked in, unzipped my cooler and repeated “Breast milk. Baby. Breast milk. Baby” while pointing to my breasts and the massive amount of stash I had. Some guard asked another guard who asked another guard via radio and I was told it had to be checked. Shit. I already checked my luggage and needed it back so I could put my milk in it. I spent 20 minutes waiting at the check-in counter for them to re-route my bag so I could rearrange some things. I used The Homestead Road Soda bag by The North Face and threw a bunch of ice packs in it along with 40 ounces of frozen milk and 80 ounces of liquid milk. Rolled it up. Squished it into my luggage as I kneeled onto my bag in order to zip it up. You know what I’m talking about. Crossed my fingers, called BG to vent, chin quiver and tears included and then put myself together and onward I went. At this point it was out of my control and letting go of it all, making space in my psyche and knowing what will be will be, helped. The minute I walked in the door to our California home I went straight for the cooler bag. The outcome of it all? It made it! It was all still frozen and the liquid milk was super cold and had a little slushiness to it which meant I could freeze it. I couldn't believe it! I fucking did it!
I will never be the same again. I know that sounds dramatic but it’s how I feel. There were so many firsts and unknowns this past week, all which were conquered with grace, humility, excitement and complete awe. I am so proud of myself. I feel different and forever changed. I’ll end with this: A side note that keeps me smiling every time I think about it. As excited as I was to get home and embrace Lumi, once I was here and got my "fix", it wasn't even an hour later that I felt an overwhelming sense of melancholy. I’m sure the 36 straight hours of being awake didn't help my mental state or chemical composition, but I wanted to be back in China saying yes to Beijing and Seoul. Or, in Malaysia with BG bouncing at 5am with the other crazy November Project fans. I wanted to be back on the road, living a full(er) life without routine and feeling super alive. I have to laugh at myself because isn't it always something? When we are gone we want to be home and when we are home we want to be wild and free. Say yes. Say it every time because you know what it’s like to be in your comfort zone and when we can leave that space and enter complete fear and discomfort, that’s when the magic shit happens.
From the depths of my heart, thanks for the love and support along the way. It feels really good.