Maree lost her front teeth back in November and she's starting to feel frustrated that they haven't come in yet. In the moment I honor her frustration, but I'm honestly feeling pretty okay about it myself. I know that once they do come in she will look even older, and I'm not sure if I can handle it.
Yesterday, we had a long talk about how she did in school last year (great), and about some of the goals she has for next year. I struggle a lot with trying not to project my own insecurities on her because she is so much like me that I don't want her to experience some of the "growing pains" I experienced learning about how to act right in this world.
I smoked my first cigarette at 8, and was drinking regularly by 10. It took me another decade to realize that there was another way to live life. I am terrified for her - well for all my kids, this world is a terrifying place. All that I can do for my children though is encourage them to be the light. At the end of the day that is exactly what this young lady is. She is light and love and laughter and I am so proud of who she is becoming. I pray that as the adolescent and pre-teen years roll on I feel more pride than terror as I trust her and this process and all the things that surround it.
In the meantime I'll be over here, checking for front teeth every morning and holding my breath that it will all work out just fine.
Birth story of baby R:
This sweet baby always had a plan of his own. As much as I wanted to compare him to his other siblings he showed me that he likes to do things a little different. This pregnancy was tough on me. My hardest one yet, I think I was 35 weeks the last time I threw up from the all day nausea. I got absolutely huge for this little guy and quickly! So quickly in fact we were convinced there might be two… there wasn't. Between not being able to keep food down, dizzy spells, and utter exhaustion I couldn't keep up physically like I usually can. Heck! With R's pregnancy I went rock climbing at 37 weeks, with baby F I had to limit climbing the stairs because I would be too winded. Any way it was tough and it constantly kept me wondering why? I started following a very strict Brewer's Pregnancy Diet to see if I could get the sickness and my energy under control around 32 weeks, and by the end of the week I finally felt like myself again! We started walking together nearly every day and I was able to be more active overall… as long as I didn't stray from the diet.
So with all my other pregnancies I've always dealt with prodromal labor. Which is basically an early labor that comes on usually at night, has timable and real contractions, but then fizzles out by morning. It is no sleeping and exhausting but it's something I have come to expect in the last weeks of pregnancy. I learned that if I go to sleep and the contractions disappear in the morning to just ignore it! With R's labor when the contractions kept coming in the morning he was born within 48 hours.
With baby F I got nothing! No prodromal, barely even a braxton hicks! I wasn't complaining! But this was so not my "pattern". Finally I started to have gentle timable contractions one night and I wondered if they would turn into anything so we went to bed early and I felt them through the night but could mostly sleep. The next morning they were still coming 20-30 mins apart. I thought, "okay this is the start of something, great maybe a couple more days and we can meet our baby!" They stayed that way for the next three days and became stronger when the sunset, weaker with the sunrise but never stopped. And that's when I started to lose it. I was exhausted and mentally terrorizing myself comparing this experience to my past experiences. I started trying all the "things" to get the contractions to round the corner from early labor into active labor. They would ramp up but always slow back down. I could tell the baby was in a wonky position so I had Justine, my doula, come over a couple of times to do some spinning babies. That would put him in the right position and my contractions would regulate some more but then we would slip back to posterior and everything would slow down again. We were all so exhausted. Day five the big kids went to spend their days at the other houses (and I was so worried about them not being here) I focused on resting only. We all needed the rest. The contractions never stopped coming. Sometimes between 5 and 20 mins apart, but the biggest break I had was 20 minutes. The kids came back and I was ready to get the baby out! We tried all the things again, and that night my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart! I thought for sure I would be having a baby by morning, but of course they fizzled out again. I called my midwife Sunday crying. I was mentally spent and she told me she would be right over.
I want to talk a little about the fact that I am a VBAC mom. My first baby was a cesarean birth, second VBAC in the hospital with a midwife and a benevolent epidural at 9cm after 40 hours of labor, third VBAC was unmedicated at home with my midwife after 4 hours of active labor. With my second VBAC I had no doubt I could do it, the fact I was a VBAC mom didn't even cross my mind. But after a week of this early labor stuff I was feeling vulnerable, and desperate, I wanted to be done, and I wanted the baby out and in my arms. I told Sunday I considered going to the hospital because they wouldn't even let me try to labor as a VBAC they would just put me in for a repeat section and then I could be done. I wondered if my body was just too weak and tired from the difficult pregnancy to be able to actually push a baby out this time. I knew what it took, and I wasn't sure that I had it in me. I wondered if my scar (which still gives me pain and trouble 3 babies and 7 years later) had finally had enough stretching and pressure over the years and that was why my labor wasn't turning the corner. These types of thoughts stayed with me until the baby was crowning. I haven't processed all the way why, but I believe it goes to show that our bodies and minds remember, and that in our most vulnerable moments past trauma can creep in, and without loving support and people around you doing what they know to be right for you that trauma will continue to cycle until it is broken.
Sunday comes over. I'll be honest. I was hoping she would offer to break my water right then and there. Or give me some street pitocin. I would have gladly accepted anything in that moment to be done with it all. But she didn't. Instead she loved on me and told me that she knew I could do it. She reminded me that "this baby is not R, or S, or M, this baby is his own person and is going to do things his own way." A mantra I kept in my mind even now as I write this three days postpartum. She reminded me how much more experience and schooling I have as a student midwife myself and how that was affecting me. She was right, I was totally trying to be the provider and assess everything instead of allowing myself to be the laborer. I knew how to do my own cervical checks so I was checking daily and racking my brain over the very slow progress. I vowed in that moment to remain the laborer and to stop assessing! She also reminded me that I am a little...type A… haha! And asked me what I was trying to control. Who would be there, how labor would go, and strongest when it would happen. I had to let go of control, I was not the boss, this baby could safely and healthily come in June! I cried big to her and she reminded once again that my body has done this before and will do it again but that I had "two heads in my vagina!" Mine and the babies and I needed to relax and allow it to happen just the way God intended. I immediately felt better and the lesson Sunday gave me that afternoon is something I will hold onto for a lifetime.
I felt a shift in my energy after that. I started praying more, I spent a lot of time worshipping and reading my bible. The contractions never stopped coming but they became more gentle and allowed me some mental rest. I could feel the baby had slipped posterior again and was a bit stuck in my hip making everything hurt and click as I walked. Because of covid I hadn't been to the chiropractor in weeks, so I called my brother Nevin who is an amazing chiropractor and cried and asked for advice. He came on the weekend and spent some time with us and fixed my hips for me. I cried again from the relief of it all. Then my bestie Emily gave me an amazing massage later that day. I felt all melty and squishy the rest of the afternoon and I slept hard. It was wonderful. There was a definite shift in the direction of my contractions after my hips here adjusted. I think I was just too tired for anything to happen from it right away. So the next day things started to pick up but Matt wasn't feeling well and they slowed down again. This time though I was not panicking, "God has a plan, this baby might not come until June, and that's okay, this baby is his own person and he is going to do things his own way." Monday rolled around and everyone had gotten good sleep and was feeling like themselves again. I could feel a serious shift in the intensity of my contractions. They were still 20 mins apart though so I tried really hard not to get excited. By the time we finished lunch I had to move and work through them but still, they could probably stop at any moment so I tried to ignore them. We had a quiet dinner and it was my turn to sit with R for bedtime. While I was putting R down they were 10 minutes apart and I was having to vocalize through them. Okay so the intensity had definitely turned a corner great! But they could still stop and that's okay "this baby has his own plan". Once R was asleep I ran to the bathroom and started clearing out - a sure sign of actual labor "but maybe not it could still stop!" I came back to our bedroom and Matt rubbed my sacrum through a couple as I shook through them from the flow of hormones. (He told me later that's when he realized it was real labor even though I was in denial still). He timed them and let me know they were closer to 5 minutes apart not 10 and that maybe we should call Justine and give Sunday the heads up. I let Sunday know that things *may* have rounded the corner but that I wasn't convinced and they might stop again and she told me her ringer was on! Matt burned me some palo santo and turned on the twinkle lights and the playlist for baby F I had been listening to since 20 weeks. He rubbed my back as I moaned through and bounced on the ball.
Justine came in and took over the back rubbing, or maybe they shared? I closed my eyes a lot and felt loving hands all over. Either way it felt amazing. I apologized to Justine because I thought everything might peter out but I knew I needed her to help Matt get me through these tough ones because we were both still a bit tired from the long 2 weeks before hand. She reminded me that I could do it and that she was happy to be here and helping. Matt ran around and did some last minute things around the house. And Kayla a new doula and friend and my bestie and Sunday's assistant Jenna arrived. I continued to apologize between moaning through contractions that I was sorry for making them come over when it all might fizzle out by morning. It was so nice to see and touch other humans for the first time in months. I was really chatty between contractions, which was great but everyone around me realized that it was kind of slowing things down and not letting me focus inward. I loved sitting on the ball but that also kept my contractions a little inconsistent and less intense than when I was standing. Matt told me this later: I guess at some point they noticed when I got up to go to the bathroom my contractions would pick up and get stronger, so they came up with a plan to push water on me at every chance so that I would have to get up and walk more… brilliant jerks. Haha. I refused to look at the clock but at some point I realized that they were getting more intense but still seemed really far apart. I looked at Justine and asked her if they had gotten any closer. She told me they were still 4 minutes and then she said "I know you're going to hate me, and you don't have to if you don't want to but how about squatting through the next couple?" I really didn't want to physically, because I knew what it meant to get to the next phase and I wasn't sure if I could handle transition. I had all the thoughts I talked about earlier. I battled in my head if I should check my cervix for progress or not, because I stupidly at this point still wasn't convinced this was real labor and I wanted some sort of "proof". I battled with the idea that I wanted things to get harder because harder meant progress and that I just wanted a little break from the pain. So I squatted. And they got closer and more intense while I squatted. Looking back as I came up from the squat this was probably when a form of transition hit. The contractions were definitely more intense and I could feel the baby moving down more. I was shaking more, more "birth high", feeling vomity. I would have a couple of contractions back to back and then I would talk to Baby F and ask him for a little break and then they would space out to 4 mins again. So in my mind at the time I told myself they're too far apart still and inconsistent, everything could still stop. The contractions were difficult not to panic through. I would feel one coming and say "no no not again I don't want another one, yes I do, I can do it, get this baby out of me I want to meet him!" Everyone around me was loving on me, rubbing and praying and encouraging. I just kept saying and thinking, "thank you all, I feel so loved and supported, I'm so happy you're all here to help me through this." Matt called my momma to come help with R who had woken up at that point and she arrived and sang him back to sleep then supported me in all the ways.
I wanted the water and Matt filled the bath for me and lit candles. Once I got in the water I slept for a bit between contractions and then when I woke up I started involuntarily pushing and Matt was like, "um I think we need to call Sunday" and I was like yeah okay but it's probably for nothing because they're still far apart. Everyone was like… haha um no this is real. I didn't believe them. I realized I was pushing some but also felt like I wasn't making progress with the pushing. With my other VBACs they were out in 3-4 easy pushes. This was different… obviously because this baby was different right?! So I decided to get out and squat. That felt like it was a little better but still the baby wasn't coming like I was used to. I finally decided to check myself. I sat on the toilet and felt that I was fully dilated with a little lip left, his head was well applied and in a good lie. I waited to see what was happening during a push and I felt my waters balloon up. Even though I knew it was my waters subconsciously. My first immediate thought was oh no he is breech (squishy waters feel a bit like squishy buns) and secondly, oh no there's a second baby trying to come out there was two ahhhh! Then the water broke and I felt what was actually his little hand trying to come out alongside his head!!
Okay so now I knew why he wasn't coming out as quickly as the others and I knew that I was going to have to work harder to get him out. My first thought was to panic. "I can't do this, I want an epidural, it's too hard." Matt put his forehead against mine and I don't remember what he said but I just looked into his eyes and I could see that he knew I could do it and that he loved me. So I resolved, there is no other way but to just do it and it is going to suck.. hard. I wanted to get to the bedroom where there was more room to work. I did a couple of pushes hand and knees, then supported sitting, then side lying. I could feel the baby moving finally, slowly but surely, it took so much work and effort with pushing, something I had never experienced before. Finally he was crowning, and I knew it would be quick then, I yelled to Matt "he is coming catch him!" And Matt caught him as he crowned. While I screamed "just pull him out get him out, I can't do this" and fell into my momma's arms and evidently bit her as I pushed the rest of his body out. I knew that I actually had to push him out but that's been what I say every time because it is super hard to push a baby out! Jenna helped Matt maneuver and unwrap his cord from his neck and body and hand him to me. It was so lovely to hold my squishy, slimy, baby on my tummy. I just rubbed him for a moment and marveled at him and fell in love. Sunday came in and had missed it by about less than a minute! Baby F pinked up right away and let out a little cry to let us know he was here. I felt my placenta detach and Sunday helped deliver the placenta in one fell swoop while Matt and I snuggled the baby. And everyone around us worked to tidy things up. R suddenly woke up to join the party and bleary eyed looked at all the strange people in his momma's room! Then he realized there was a baby too! And he sat with me and poked my tummy and said baby F come out! He totally knew and was giddy and in love with his baby brother. I started to hear the birds chirping outside and asked what time it was?! Oh about 4am- oh my goodness I had no idea how long it had been. We called Justine around 9. The first contraction I had to moan through was at 6 so about 10 hours total of active labor that never got closer than 4 minutes apart.
Sunday helped Matt to cut the cord and weigh and measure the baby. Justine helped me make a print of my placenta and then Matt took it to turn it into a smoothie. We turned on some cartoons for R and settled in for a nap waiting for the big kids to come home and meet their new little brother. My momma went home and napped but came back to spend the morning with the kids downstairs so we could sleep and and bought us lunch we had a picnic in our room as everyone giggled and marveled over the new baby. Then Mimi came with dinner and hung out with them until bedtime. We tucked in early as a family of seven, well loved and ready for some sleep.
I want to be real about something right now.
This morning I got up before the sun and I made my kids muffins for breakfast.
This may seem like an ordinary morning, but it’s the second morning in the last 6 months that I have been able to do so. Yes, you read that right, it has taken me 6 months to be able to make my children something other than cereal and milk since adding our fourth. And if we’re being honest, half the time they’re making their own cereal and milk because they think it’s really exciting and that means that I don’t have to do it. Now don’t get me wrong! They are absolutely thrilled about Cheerios, But part of my love language is acts of service, and for me that means making a wholesome breakfast in the morning for everyone. 6 months ago we welcomed a sweet angel of a baby into our family. A sweet angel of a baby who doesn’t enjoy sleeping or being put down as most sweet angel babies do. And even though I’ve been here before and I know that this is short-term and I really took it easy on myself this time around, I am still blown away by the fact that it’s taken me 6 months to make muffins. SIX MONTHS! Most women in the US, myself included, start working again at 6 WEEKS postpartum. And we wonder why we’re stressed out and why we can’t keep up and why our postpartum depression is a raging. I can’t even make muffins before the six month mark! I am simply in “survival mode" until about a year postpartum. There has to be something more that we can do to make this postpartum period more manageable, more enjoyable. I think bringing awareness to the fact that for the first year after you have a baby you and that baby are one person is one thing. That it’s okay not to make muffins in the morning, let’s not even mention the fact that dinner from last night is still sitting on the stove and I have a sink full of dishes. No I still do not fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans, yes this is the shirt that I wore yesterday, no my hair is not brushed, yes that is spit up on my baby’s shirt, no we did not sleep last night, and despite it all we are happy and this is normal! This morning at 6 months postpartum I woke up early and made muffins for my family.
In many ways this makes me incredibly happy just to finally start to walk down that track of being back to my own self, and some ways I weep because it means that the sweet angel is now independent enough to allow me to make muffins, and my body is becoming my own each and every day. There's something amazing and special about giving your entire self up for short amount of time to allow another to thrive. I am so thankful and so grateful for His grace, and for muffins.
Each of my birth experiences has taught me something and helped me grow. My first birth was a cesarean in hospital after a failed induction at 43 weeks, my second was a vbac in hospital, with a successful natural induction at 42 weeks 6 days, in which I got a spinal at 9cm after 46 hours of hard labor, my third was an unmedicated homebirth with a midwife with only 4 hours total of active labor at 39 weeks 5 days. All of my birth experiences are valid, meaningful, and important, and variations of normal. As a student midwife who hopes to become a homebirth midwife I wanted to share my experience with homebirth.
The birth of baby R:
On Sunday night my prodromal labor began as it had nearly every night before for the last 10 weeks or so, for some reason this time I was able to sleep through them, providing much needed rest. I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and rejuvenated even though my contractions never stopped like they usually do around 4am, Matthew asked if he should leave for work or call in, and I told him to go, these were nothing to worry about and that they would stop soon. Matt hesitantly left for work but called at lunch because he just had a weird “feeling". I laughed and cried, because of how often our souls connect, and told him he was right and they hadn't stopped yet, but not to get excited yet because my other labors were really long, and often petered out many times and I always ended up going to 43 weeks. Since I wasn’t even due for another six days I knew this would probably stop soon. An hour later he was home with flowers. We spent that day just enjoying life together as a family, we played with the kids, I finished up dissecting a cow heart and eye for my A&P final (the kids loved it). We went for a nice walk after dinner and the kids went down easy. Gentle irregular contractions kept coming all along. I prayed and sang River by Leon Bridges on repeat (thanks to Sarah). I invited my friend and doula Elaine over to support my flurry of emotions, and she loved on me and encouraged me in remaining patient, and strong. Matthew gave me a really nice sacrum rub and side laying release and we went to bed early wondering if the contractions would wake us in the night. The night was a blur, I remember noticing strong contractions but just falling immediately back asleep after I had one. Sunlight in the window surprised me as I had only gotten up to pee once instead of my usual 12 times. Matt and I both slept hard and were feeling good (2 nights of good sleep when nine months pregnant is No joke)! Matt had Tuesday off so we just did our thing and enjoyed our time together, contractions were a little more noticeable but really I was quite able to ignore them. We did a lot of cleaning and even dropped the kids off with Elaine (love her) so that we could go have a quiet lunch just us. I can't really remember the rest of the night specifically, I think we did the family puzzle or board game or maybe all watched a movie together. Just enjoyed our last moments together as a family of 5. Tried going to bed early but within a couple of hours I woke up to a contraction and couldn’t get back to sleep. I took a long hot shower, then went downstairs to finish up my finals. I decided to put “This is Us" on as background noise because everyone said it was good and ended up binging 6 episodes, rage crying, and writing a 10 page love letter to Matthew about all of the ways that I love him. Fell asleep shortly before dawn and napped until my appointment with Midwife Sunday.
At this point my contractions had formed a regular pattern and were gaining intensity but were only happening once every 1.5 hours or so. I was still able to go about life and talk through them so I just did my best to ignore them. “ignore them until you can't ignore them anymore" I always tell my clients… easier said than done 😉. At this point I was feeling pretty disheartened. I knew M and S were leaving for their biodad's house and we wouldn't all be together if this did turn into labor labor. One of the struggles of a blended family. I decided that since it was just Matt, T, and I that day (for those of you who have made it this far it is now Wednesday lol) today would be a good day to head to the city to finish our spring shopping. Matt was all, absolutely not, we are not having a baby on the highway. I was all, but that would be a really cool birth story babe! 😂😂 I agreed to let Sunday decide what was best since we had an appointment with her in an hour. When she got to the house she checked on me and baby and check baby's position and commented how much lower it had gotten she offered to check me if I wanted her to but didn't feel she needed to medically. So I declined and asked permission to go shopping, she said she wasn’t worried even though Matt was haha! So off we went, we got everything we needed for spring, ate a nice lunch, and stopped for froyo on our way out.
This is where the TMI begins so if you don't like birth stories stop here!!!
I went to the bathroom at the froyo place and had lots of bloody show and was immediately hit with a huge contraction. I could feel a serious shift in my mental state and I started to wonder if this was finally it. On the way home my contractions were becoming more intense and deliberate, they were now 30 mins apart or so, but again I tried to ignore them. We got all of the new spring stuff sorted and out away and went to bed early wondering how long we would sleep. Around 10:15 (I slept for 1-2 hours) I woke up with an intense need to use the bathroom, I thought I ate something out that was making me react and I was having IBS. After about an hour the idea I might be in labor crossed my mind. I would sit on the toilet between contractions, and throw my self off and rock hands and knees on the floor during. I really didn’t want to wake Matt up just incase we still had a long way to go because my other labors were really long (47 hours) and I wanted him to be well rested. I felt like I was moaning through contractions really loudly but T stayed fast asleep and Matt too. I decided to download a contraction timing app and see what this pattern looked like. 2 minutes apart and lasting 1-1.5 minutes long, I finally believed I was in labor but still was thinking I would have to do this a while so I kept at it on my own in the dark quiet of the bathroom. I started getting hot flashes and feeling like I couldn’t do it alone and woke up Matt. He rubbed my sacrum and it felt amazing, I was like, why didn't I wake you up sooner?! He started a bath for me and asked if he should call Sunday, I was like no, it's probably still going to be a while let her sleep. And I got in the tub, I hated it and moaned through contractions, Matt tried everything to help me but just kept annoying me by talking too much (sorry babe!) And I did the classic, “you did this to me! You decided to get me pregnant and I hate this! Why do people even do this? It's terrible!” He practically laughed at me and kissed me and helped me to our bed. I started to feel nauseous and started begging God not to let me throw up. Then in an instant I came out of my birth haze and questioned, “am I in transition?” and went back into a moaning contraction. Matt was like they're not stopping can I call people? And I was like yes. So he called Sunday, Elaine, my mom, and the Mimi and told them it was time. It was around 1am. For the next hour I wondered if I was in transition, wondered if I could do it, wondered how much longer as I moved from hands and knees on the bed to bouncing on the yoga ball in the bathroom all the while holding onto and leaning into Matt. Sunday showed up around 1:45 am I think? And Elaine came in right behind her I think (at this point I was very drunk off labor hormones so things get foggy). Sunday asked if she wanted me to have her check or just wait until I feel pushy. I told her I needed to know so I could mentally prepare to do this another 40 hours if I needed to. We got everything ready and she asked my permission to touch me then very gently and comfortably checked me and said , “well honey, you're complete, you're ready to push a baby out whenever you feel like it's time.” I think I yelled, praise Jesus! Thank you Lord! Thank you! And kissed her on the cheek. And I got hands and knees on the bed and immediately started doing little pushes with my contractions. It felt so good to work with them instead of just letting them rip through me. As the baby started to crown I felt like I wanted to flip over to kind of sit up/squat but I needed Matt behind me to help hold me up. The second I turned around and gave a push my waters exploded all over everything. I laughed my butt off and was like uhh sorry guys! And kept pushing. It felt like the baby was coming out of my butt (this was my first unmedicated birth and that plus the ring of fire was so intense and surreal.) I kept pushing and got his head out. I don't feel like I ever stopped pushing at this point just one long continuous gentle push, it didn’t feel like it was me doing it, just my body alone, fetal ejection reflex is no joke. The baby's shoulders were stuck for a moment but I could literally feel them caught on my hip so I just cocked my right hip up in the air and his shoulder came out then another push and the rest of him was out. Laid immediately on my chest and started crying pretty loudly pretty quickly. Matt revealed my looking under the towel and exclaiming, “that’s a honkin weiner" in true Matt fashion. I did my best to nurse him and rub in all his cheesy vernix but he didn’t want to latch. Somewhere during this time my mom and grandma arrived fully expecting to wait a while longer and support another long labor and being surprised with a new grandbaby. I drank some tea and recognized that it had been a bit of time and that I needed to work on getting the placenta out. I tried doing so by squatting over a chux pad while matt held River. I gave a few pushes but it wasn’t releasing. I sat on the floor to rest and try and get the baby to latch knowing the oxytocin surge would help my placenta to release. I was starting to panic because I knew we were getting close to the two hour mark, and the baby was screaming and would not latch, I was starting to feel tired, sore, and weak. Sunday and I both knew this and I asked her to administer the angelica tincture, which helps release the placenta from the uterine wall, and asked Elaine to make me some shepherd’s purse tea to help my uterus to cramp down and limit the bleeding. The baby finally latched on and my placenta released. I used my last ounce of energy to go from sitting to squatting to get it out, I looked for Matt to hold the baby but he had gotten T up to show her her new baby brother. She was so excited she was shaking, I think she said something along the lines of, “I don’t understand why I feel this way, what is this feeling?! What is this?!” and she continues to love her baby brother endlessly. I needed Matt to take the baby so that I could get off the floor, I felt really uncomfortable about anyone else touching him I felt like a lioness protecting her new baby. This was probably a bit irrational because everyone there was surrounding me with love, respect, and kindness but I just wanted Matt. I think my mom ended up taking the baby so that I could get back into bed, and I was so grateful for her help and to finally get off the floor. My legs were dead asleep and in so much pain from squatting so long and laboring on my hands and knees. Matt and I got into bed and marveled at our new baby. After the cord was completely limp we tied our crochet flower cord tie onto the cord and cut the other end. Matt and Elaine took my placenta to process it and make me a smoothie with it, mom helped me into the shower to get cleaned up, and Sunday assessed weighed and measured baby. It was amazing, this was the first birth that I was able to get out of bed on my own walk to the shower and wash myself without help or passing out, then get back into a freshly made bed. (Someone had cleaned everything up and started the load of laundry-you would have never known there had been a birth in there!) By the time I got back I finished my tea, ate my smoothie, and nursed and snuggled the now champion nurser of a baby. I just loved being in our room with Matthew and feeling the love and prayers we had set upon the space. Meeting baby R was like meeting a long lost friend that I had always known would return, its difficult to describe but it was really easy to connect with him because I had felt so connected with him in the womb. We marveled some more, then shut out the lights and went to sleep as a now family of six.
I don’t know if I will ever be ready or able to publicly share how or why my first marriage ended. One thing I can say is that it was a long process that took years to come to fruition. No one wants to get a divorce “God hates divorce”, but God loves you and he wants to see you happy and healthy.
It was hard to leave everything that I felt like I had worked so hard for behind, but in so many ways - it was life giving.
I still remember quiet nights in that tiny single wide trailer with fondness. I remember relearning how to care for myself. I had gotten so lost in my motherhood and marriage and divorce that I had to relearn who I was again. I remember peaceful dinners with my two small children. I remember taking a stand and claiming the space as my own. I remember finding time to read my bible every day and digging deep and leaning on the Lord.
I also remember feeling lonely. And alone. Because they are two completely different things. I remember being scared about making rent and the anxiety I felt when I had to be away from my children. I remember being devastated and then at peace with being on my own forever. My grandmother was a single mom of two kids who swore off men and I was okay with that for myself too. I remember coming to terms with never having another baby. I was attending a birth actually, as a doula, and the one birthing was so well loved and supported by her partner and it was so beautiful. And I thought, “I’ll never have that, I’ll never even have a chance at that again.” I excused myself and had a cry in the bathroom and allowed my grief to take over. I mourned the loss of babies that never were and I moved on more at peace than I had felt in a long time.
I was really excited about starting doula work though I knew that the income and schedule was often inconsistent. I was still tutoring a couple of students but knew that to make ends meet as a single mom I would need to teach some kids full time. I reached out to a friend that showed interest in the past and she was super excited, her daughter was exactly one year older than mine. So one day my friend’s daughter, my friend, her fiance, and her daughter’s father came to my place to see how schooling would go. The little girl’s dad- Matthew- made us some gluten free bread, and the rest is history. Sometimes he likes to tell people I’m only in it for the bread but we both know it’s so much more than that.
Then came the slow and steady process of blending our families.
No one can deny that mothering is difficult. Just the same that no one can deny that mothering is absolutely beautiful. There are so many moments of pure joy and utter despair all mixed into one day.
In so many ways it's indescribable, but it's all love.
So friends family fellow moms I have a startling confession: I don't love being a mom 100% of the time. Actually, sometimes, I'm totally faking it.
I'm sorry, but I just cannot roll a ball back and forth 300 times and keep a genuine smile on my face.
And although all the books tell me not to make a big deal out of spilled milk because it's just spilled milk I usually kind of freak out.
I throw a majority of my toddler’s scribbles in the garbage, and I haven’t even started a baby book for my poor second child, honestly, I could not care less.
Basically I'm a terrible mom.
Remember in my previous post I talked about finding your strong? Well finding your strong is also about knowing your weakness.
One of my weaknesses is participating in physical play with my children. I don’t love it. But I make it a point to roll that ball 300 times and I put a smile on my face because my little guy absolutely loves rolling balls. My little guy also knows that mommy doesn't like to roll balls so he mostly asks Daddy to play those games and asks Mommy to read books because Mommy loves reading books.
When someone spills the milk I don't react at all, actually I just leave the room to react because I know I can't stop my negative reaction so I try to hide it, because who wants their kids in therapy over mom screaming at them for things that are unimportant like spilled milk (unless its breast milk then scream away!). Then after I've calmed down in the other room I come back and we clean the mess up all together. And no that's not child slavery, its genius.
When my toddler shows me that scribble with enthusiasm I fake it I put a big cheesy grin on my face and I tell her that it's absolutely beautiful. I hang it on the refrigerator just long enough to show her I care and when I throw it in the garbage I am careful to bury it under last nights dinner so her feelings are spared.
Ladies and gentlemen I don't know if I'm doing this right and actually If we're honest I'm pretty sure I'm doing it all wrong but I think that faking It sometimes is part of motherhood.
But you know in the end it's totally cool because my little guy is going to remember me reading him the coolest books, they're going to remember that we clean up messes that we make, my little girl is going to remember how excited mommy was to see her beautiful pictures. In the end I am so happy to have these memories with my children, even if I had to force myself to do it in the moment.
So please be honest with yourself it's okay if you're not perfect you're not supposed to be, you're not supposed to love every second of motherhood, don't be afraid to own that and to find ways around the parts of motherhood that you find challenging. Know that it's highly likely that you are not alone that there are other mothers going through the same thing that you're going through! Reach out and cut yourself some slack, none of us are perfect.
All of us are in this thing together.
People often ask me what a doula is, or they assume that a doula is something like a midwife or a midwife assistant. I always say that a doula is there for emotional, physical, and educational support of the mother and does NOT do anything medical. Though, sometimes the best way to explain to someone what a doula does is to show them my labor bag! Everything in this bag helps me to do what I do best. But my favorite tools of all are my mind, my voice, and my hands.
I use a large canvas diaper bag as my labor bag. Inside of this bag is my birth ball and foot air pump, my robozo scarf, my rice sock for heat and cool therapy, herbal lozenges, bottled water, wet wipes, disposable toothbrushes, lip balm, granola bars, a welcome folder with business cards, some cash, a thank you note for the nurses, and a change of clothes for me. I also like to bring along my camera if it is previously consented by my client.
As a mother I am always comparing myself to other mothers. I often wish that I could resist comparing but the truth (at least for me) is you admire people who possess qualities that you lack. Qualities that are difficult for you to acquire and areas that you might consider yourself a “failure”. Here I want to challenge that idea.
I personally don't feel that I have a decorative eye. I find it so difficult to put a room or outfit together. I am constantly thinking about these areas that I fail in and the idea always creeps in that “If I could only do this ‘one thing’ I would be a better mom”. The idea that if I could only have the style that my friend does everyone would be so impressed and I would have my stuff together. When I see a mom who’s house looks like it came from a magazine and who’s style is always on point (I'm talking about you bestie-love you!) and I feel like I will never ever being as good as them, and that they have their stuff together why can't I?
The reality is that same mom looks at me and thinks things like “wow I can't believe that she home schools her kids I wish that I could think of lesson plans that were like that or that I had the time and materials to be able to homeschool my kids.” She might have a similar idea like “If I could only do this ‘one thing’ I would be a better mom”. I’m telling you right now she is an incredible mom, homeschool or not, and so are you!
The reality of the situation and of every situation like this is that we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses and the most important thing is to value your strength and recognize your weaknesses. I value that I have strength in homeschooling, I use that to my advantage I make money on the side by tutoring, I like to reach out and help my friends and family who are struggling in education, and I know that it's something that my children will value for years to come. I recognize my weakness in the areas of style so I when have days that I am doubting myself I recognize this and I have the awesome opportunity to reach out to my bestie and I say “I would really appreciate it if you looked at this thing I’m doing because you are really awesome with style stuff and I could use some pointers.” I shamelessly put myself out in the open, so called faults and all, and I ask for help.
Alone as moms we are only good in a few different areas but if we band together and work together then we are the ultimate mom. Motherhood is a community it’s a group effort and we all need to look up to each other and stand side by side and solidarity. So I urge you to find whatever area that you're strong is and share that with the people around you! Whatever area your weak in reach out ask for help! Don’t be afraid to say, “I'm not perfect and it’s okay because with you I can be strong”.
So who is your tribe? Don’t have one yet? Reach out! Talk to that stranger mom at the park. Check out your local libraries children’s programs, look for local MOMS or MOPS groups. Surround yourself in a community of motherhood.
Know your strong and share it with the world. You are the most awesome you here!
I am an advocate of breastfeeding. I truly think every mother should try it. I know that it won't work for everyone and that's okay because science has come so far and formula is a great substitute if it is done right but that's another story for another day. Still when I see a baby being given a bottle it makes me hurt in my soul, it's an Indescribable feeling that I am constantly trying to ignore and stuff out of my body. I wish I didn't have this feeling, as a doula, I want to make sure that all moms and babies are happy and content with however they choose to feed their baby.
And the truth is that I know why I get this awful feeling and it has nothing to do with bottles. The truth is that time and time again mommas and babies don't have a fighting chance when it comes to breastfeeding successfully from the start for so many reasons. I think that if women understand what they're up against from the beginning then maybe they would have the fighting chance that they deserve to have a successful breastfeeding relationship. So ladies here is some of what we are up against when it comes to breastfeeding:
1. Our Culture
The American culture uses breast as a highly sexualized body part. From a young age girls are told to buy Wonder bras, that boys only want one thing, and of course if you've got it flaunt it. These ideas are ingrained into our young brains so that we think if we show our breasts we are asking for sex and if we cover them then we are being "Good Girls". So obviously when it's time to bare all and breastfeed our baby we are ashamed. That is why we spend $30 or so on nursing covers, and how easy is it to latch a newborn with a nursing cover? Oh that's right it's not, but Society tells me I need to cover I need to be a "good girl" so here we are-I'm off to a bad start already.
I remember a friend asking me to go into the other room to nurse while her husband was there (in my home) because she was worried he would look at my breasts. I was ashamed and embarrassed the idea that feeding my baby might cause infidelity what?! Only in America my friends only in America. How many other women are made to feel this way and how many have their breast feeding relationship affected by situations like this, many I'm sure.
2. History (family/social)
Before formula was invented babies had to be fed human milk to survive. It's estimated that only 2% of women physically cannot breastfeed with the possibility of up to 5% not being able to keep up production enough to sustain a baby without supplementation. Wow it makes me wonder how can this be when so many mothers these days proclaim that they can't keep up? The US average breastfeeding rate is only 30% exclusive breastfeeding by 3 months of age that means that 70% of women are physically unable?! I don't think so, what is more likely is that when a problem arises or a non-problem there is no one to ask for help or no good help around, and the reason why there is no good help around is because nobody has been breastfeeding for generations.
I myself had only ever seen one person breastfeed my whole life, and no one in mine or my husband's family had gone past a couple weeks or months if that. Honestly the idea of breastfeeding my baby never even crossed my mind until I read that it was supposed to be healthier for my baby, it didn't seem normal to me. My breastfeeding Journey started out like so many other moms misinformed, unsupported, and underappreciated. There is no doubt lack of support in family, social circles, and community is a huge contributor to the low breastfeeding rates in the US. Overcoming these problems is how we can learn and how we can help other moms like this in the future but if 70% of mothers are never nursing then who are we supposed to turn to? (Hint: We need doulas more than ever!)
Misinformation is a huge reason why a breast feeding relationship does not last. Much of this is because how vastly different a formula fed baby looks from a breastfed baby in demeanor and or size. Everyone is worried that a breastfed baby will be too demanding , wanting to nurse a lot and constantly wanting to be held. Yes! This is normal! An infant's stomach can only hold 4 ounces of liquid at the most even at six months. If you formula feed correctly you will notice you are using more bottles then you had imagined. Also all babies want to be held a lot, it is a natural need, and if you take away this need by keeping the baby on a strict schedule or letting them cry on their own you are suppressing those instincts. So hold your baby and enjoy it. Forget the naysayers and repeat after me: Fruit spoils babies dont! Breastfeeding is not only about filling an empty belly it's about fostering a relationship, physical contact and hormones, all the things that make you want to love and care for your baby. Formula fed babies drink up faster than breastfed babies and that may worry some moms because they may think their breastfed baby is not getting enough, but science says that bigger is not always better so try and see a new normal when your breastfeeding your baby. Don't get me started on how breastfeeding babies don't sleep through the night, no babies are supposed to sleep through the night. Breastfeeding babies waking up a lot to nurse decreases the risk of SIDS!
The sad part is that no matter how hard you try and correct this misinformation sometimes the ideas are so far ingrained that the breastfeeding relationship will suffer. I can't tell you how many times I've had someone come up to me and give me the "look of horror face" when they realize that my baby has teeth and I'm still breastfeeding (gasp!). That's misinformation! Babies don't use their teeth when they're breastfeeding and it doesn't hurt to breastfeed a baby with teeth, if a baby is latched on correctly they can't bite you! So there is nothing to be afraid of-unless they unlatch and decide to use you as a teething necklace- then be afraid be very afraid LOL! (And get yourself a teething necklace).
There you have it ladies the cards are stacked against you. So yes when I see a baby drinking formula inside I weep, I don't weep because I think formula is poison, or because I think that the mother is making bad choices for herself or her baby I really don't, fed is best. I weep because like so many others before her and around her she never had a fighting chance. It makes me sad and angry that she will never know the indescribable joys of breastfeeding or the triumph of overcoming the most basic of obstacles. I weep because I am angry at society and I'm sick of being embarrassed to feed my baby in public. I weep because I have no one to relate to or anyone to say to me "this too shall pass" when nursing gets tough. I weep because I will never get back all of the hours I lost when my first precious baby was new and I stressed and stressed over breastfeeding instead of enjoying it. Most of all I weep because I know no matter how much I support or advocate not every mother will understand, actually many mothers will not understand, I know this and I weep for them. I stuff it down and I put a smile on and I continue to support and advocate because maybe just maybe in the future they will choose a different path. But maybe they won't and in any case I can help them so that the next time they see a mom nursing they can be supportive socially or that they can learn some words of encouragement to share, and maybe even correct the misinformation.
So yes I am a huge supporter of breastfeeding but no I don't think you are terrible in any way for using formula and I understand better than you think the multitude of reasons why you choose to do so. I am in support of your decision, but I will not stop advocating not even for a second because someday this message make it through. Numbers may go up and breastfeeding may be easier for my daughter and for her daughter, it is my hope that by supporting and informing and advocating all mothers that I am paving the way to future success of future generations of mothers.
As a female growing up in the United States of America we have all heard it multiple times. Boys only want one thing. This was such a confusing phrase to me growing up, and though family and friends were well meaning, and doing what I'm sure they thought was best, I will never tell my daughter that boys only want one thing.
As a little girl I wondered, "what is that one thing?" I was confused. Confused about sexuality, about gender equality, and confused about how to go about the whole process. As I'm sure my parents were too, it's not easy to talk openly about sex or sexuality with your five year old who has too many questions, like I had. I have learned though that if you are uncomfortable they will be uncomfortable. Since I haven't had "the talk" with my little ones yet I can't say for sure how any of this will turn out, but I have had the talk with more students then I can count, so I do feel ready when that day comes. I will answer questions openly and honestly with my children. I will use appropriate termonology, and I will encourage them to come to me at anytime with more questions and I will always try and answer them.
As an adolescent I wondered "am I bad for also wanting one thing?" By using this statement boys only want one thing, we are putting boys down. We are making them incapable of love and affection in a way that is not sexualized. We are telling girls that their normal hormonal feelings are wrong. Truth is kids are going to feel these feelings no matter what and we have to teach our children how to deal with these feelings in a healthy way. We need to be honest with our children and tell them that yes I understand how badly you want to make out with that boy Billy down the street, but if you're going to make out with Billy don't you think it would be smart to know maybe what kind of music Billy likes to listen to first? Or maybe what sports he plays, or if he interested in the fact that you love to dance?? Because all of those things are very important since you can't spend 24/7 making out, you'll have to do something else at some point and don't you want to enjoy all of it and not just the making out? And what if you do make out with him and come to find out he has horrible taste in music and no interest in dancing? Then you are left with this lingering physical connection but no true emotional one. And that leads to heartbreak, to sadness, and to future heartbreak and sadness. We need to start teaching our children now about building healthy emotional relationships before taking it to the physical level.
And as a teen and young adult, "boys only want one thing and I want boys attention so I'm going to give them that one thing?" This my friends is where belly shirts and short shorts come in. I always knew I wanted a serious relationship, I wanted to get married, and be together forever, but I was not sure how to persue that. How do I get a boys attention? By appealing to the one thing they want: I need to be sexy. My trying to be sexy gave boys the wrong message, that I wanted one thing too. This led to my first sexual experiences being unconsentional date rape. I don't remember most of anything and I do not want this for my daughter.
What I do want for my daughter is to lay the foundation at a young age when she starts asking questions, I want to give answers, honest answers. When she has confusing feelings I want to be the one she confides in, and I pray that I can have the grace to say the right things to lead her down a straight path, and not curse the boy who breaks her heart. I will do my best to instilll in her that the reason to date is to find a husband and that you do not need to find a husband until your at the very least 18 so work on making great friends until then. I have hopes that she saves herself for her husband, or at the very least for someone who truly loves her and that she loves and trusts. I hope that she finds a boy who will respect her and love her first for her personality. I am still new to this parenting game but if these last two years have taught me anything its that you can't prepare enough, or at all in most cases. Either way my gears were turning on this little phrase that packs on so much meaning.
I am a student midwife and doula serving families in the North Country, and living life with five littles.