It’s an interesting thing to watch yourself grow and age. I’m often uncomfortable with pictures of myself, so I tend to stay out of them. Like so many others I pick myself apart. Why do we do this? I retook this picture like ten times. Ten times!! I didn’t like my hair or thought I looked old. I have lots of white hairs these days and it is still kind of crazy from having my last baby. I like this one. This is me, as I am right now.
This year, as I learning to take a step back, I am learning to accept myself more. I am learning to see myself the way my children see me....or at least the way my baby sees me. It’s time to be more kind and compassionate with the person I am in this moment.
I had my third and last baby this past May. She is amazing and I’m pretty sure I fall a little more in love with her every day. This pregnancy was different for me than my others. While I loved being pregnant with my older kids, I don’t remember loving my body....not during pregnancy and definitely not after. In some ways, I was more uncomfortable this time around, but I am not as young as I was with the older two, so that’s to be expected. I wasn’t uncomfortable with the way I looked though. I loved the curves of my pregnant body. I loved that I could see the veins so clearly in my breasts as they grew. I loved my growing belly and the life that lived inside.
My baby was born. My clothes didn’t fit. There was extra skin in the place where my baby used to be and I had a bunch of growth marks. Yet, I loved my body. There was no sense of need to get back to my pre pregnancy self. I loved this body more than that body.
This body has done amazing things and it deserves some respect for that.
I’m not sure what made this time different, but here I am, almost 37 years old, truly loving and appreciating my body for the first time. I’m embracing this body which grew three other humans. I’m embracing the new curves. I’m embracing this insane hair. I’m embracing the places that show evidence of growth. I’m even embracing lopsided breasts as they continue to nourish my baby.
I’ve decided that it’s ok to love my body. It’s perfect in its imperfection. I just wish I’d done it sooner.
This year is new. I’m allowing it to be a rebirth of sorts as I try to shift my thoughts to a more meaningful and mindful existence. Part of this involves trying to go through each room of my home and asking myself about the importance of the objects there.
Yesterday I turned my focus to my living room. It’s our library, our movie theatre, our game room, & our winter greenhouse. I’ve spent a lot of time on my couch staring at my bookshelves, both longingly and with a sense of questioning at the necessity of owning that many books. I like reading, but lately my books are neglected as I find it hard to make time to enjoy them. I have way more than I have time to read and I'm not likely to reread many of them. What’s the point of having them then?
I am moving past the point of having things just for the
sake of having them. I want to instead surround myself with meaningful objects, thus helping my kids understand that material possessions to do not make us who we are. That they are in fact, just things. I love my children with everything that I am, but do I need every picture we have ever taken of them on the wall? Probably not. Why not instead leave only those that evoke fond memories of moments past or those that represent us as we are today?
The past is becoming the poppy fields in The Wizard of Oz. It may be beautiful, but it’s also so easy to get stuck dreaming of time gone by that you forget what really matters. You stand still instead of moving forward. Instead of focusing on the endless possibilities of the road ahead.
So, for today, we are purging as many books as we can. We are keeping what we will read or reread and giving the remainder to friends, teachers, and the library. There they will find someone new to love them. I still have a ways to go, but it feels good to let go. It feels lighter and like it needed to happen a long time ago. I’m excited to see what this year will bring. I feel like it’s going to teach me a lot.
Imagine, this is your “baby’s first” year. What are you looking forward to? What are your expectations? What feelings do your childhood memories of holiday gatherings evoke? Are there traditions you want to continue or would you prefer to start your own?
While the holidays can be an exciting time filled with merriment, for many it’s a time of emotional and financial stress. Even when you love all that comes with your traditions, you may feel pulled in too many directions. Maybe your family has grown in one way or another and you feel obligated to buy a gift just for the sake of giving a gift. Perhaps finances are tight and the idea of buying things, even when you want to, is overwhelming. Some may feel familial strains regarding personal matters or strong political differences that make you feel apprehensive about being together. Navigating the logistics with a new baby can also be hard, especially if travel is involved. So how does one find balance?
Stepping back and talking through these emotions is a good first step. Recognize that these feelings are visitors. “Oh, hello frustration. I see you have come to visit. Why are you here?” When I found myself with these emotions, knowing that these feelings would go away once I figured out what was bothering me made me feel better and allowed me to see what I needed to move past that emotion. I needed a “birth plan” for the holidays! My inner doula asked, how do you envision your ideal Christmas? What an “aha” moment!
What if your holiday involves something more difficult feelings? What if you need to opt out all together? My “aha” moment would send me into a little self reflection about holiday values. Each family is different, and for those who aren’t especially religious, feelings about the holidays may be extra confusing. Holidays, like Thanksgiving for example, in my home is not about the fairy tale we were taught in elementary school. For us, it’s about coming together with our loved ones and eating a delicious meal. It’s an excuse to get together. How does one steeped in family tradition take a step back from it?
This year, as Thanksgiving loomed near, we knew that we were expected to be with our families, but we decided that we needed to give ourselves permission to say no and to feel good about it. Things were super busy for my husband around that time. It would be his only day off for awhile and the idea of us traveling and house hopping to see everyone or hosting everyone and cooking a large meal was more than we wanted to take on this year. The idea of opting out was incredibly appealing. No stress? Yes please! This meant explaining to our family that while we enjoy all the traditions that come with the day, we needed to do this. We didn’t love them any less. Yes we enjoy their company, but this year, we would enjoy some needed self care. We did it. I think maybe some didn’t understand. It meant that this year, we celebrated what would likely be our last “first Thanksgiving” with a Crockpot meal, family snuggles, laughter, and a movie under covers. You know what? It was pretty fantastic.
Even if you're not taking your babe from house to house, Halloween is a great excuse to get dressed up in super cute ways. Here are my favorite 15 Costumes this year.
I was 20 years old when I had my first child. Back then, the internet involved a cd-rom and was painfully slow (but FREE!) and looking back I can’t remember what I actually used it for! This was not that long ago, but apparently it was. It was long enough ago that it was more of a novelty than a tool. These days, I suggest Google with a side of caution. It can be a one way ticket to Anxietyville if you let it. Still, I wish that 20 year old me would have had the access to the internet that 36 year old me has. As a new mom, I could have used it.
I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but the extent of my discussion of breastfeeding by anyone was just a single question: “Are you planning to breastfeed? I can’t give you the same list of reasons that I could now, but I did know it was the best start I could give my baby. My milk came like a force to be reckoned with and we were off to the races. I leaked all the time, often waking up in a milk puddle in the middle of the night. I wore underwire bras and figured that because they closed in the front, I could use them while nursing. Real nursing bras were expensive and I didn’t know the damage that underwire could cause to my supply.
I thought I had a low supply, because I never got much when I pumped, but no one ever taught me how or when to pump. No one taught me what normal was. Someone suggested a tea to increase supply, but never talked about the fact that my baby was healthy and well fed so I most likely didn’t. Even with all this, I thought breastfeeding was going great until month three rolled around and I woke up to a breast as big and firm as the day my milk came in. I went to the doctor because it didn’t seem normal. They diagnosed it as (you guessed it) mastitis, prescribed antibiotics, warm compresses, and said I would need to supplement with formula until it got better. No one told me to keep nursing on that side. No one mentioned pace feeding. No one ever said the words lactation consultant. Those two words would have been a game changer for me. Formula flows quickly and easily from an angled bottle into a hungry baby’s mouth. They don’t have to work as hard to get their food, so of course when you give the baby the choice between easy and work when hungry, they are likely to choose easy. That’s what mine did.
My breastfeeding journey came to a sad and frustrating end because I didn’t have knowledge or resources. I didn’t have someone telling me that this was just a hurdle, not a dead end. I didn’t have a doula to give me a list of people I could contact, books and websites I could reference, or just to offer encouragement and to keep going. 16 years and 2 more babies later, I know where to go to look up ways to combat my clogged milk ducts and how to try to prevent them. I have a list of people I can reach out to for help when I need more than just reading. I hope that I can avoid another bout of mastitis, but at least now I know that we could get through it. I’m thankful for this.
If you find yourself in this situation, first of all, know that you are not alone. So many people have dealt with your exact issue. Depending on your issue, you may find help from peer groups. You can reach out to your OB or Midwife and/or find out if your child’s pediatric office has a lactation consultant on staff that you can schedule an appointment with, but be aware that they may or may not have the resources you need. I recommend this with a side of trust your instincts as a parent. If you’ve done this and still feel like you need more help, do not hesitate to contact an independent lactation counselor or IBCLC. If you are in Richmond, I am happy to help point you in the direction of some of these folks.
Since I decided to open my calendar back up for those having 2018 babies, I figured it was time to update my website a bit (specifically my kid count from two to three). I realized that I conceived shortly before my last blog post. For the briefest moment, I thought I missed an opportunity to share my pregnancy experiences as they were happening. Then, I remembered how much I enjoyed keeping that time close and shared only with those I wanted in my bubble.
Even though I was happy for my growing family, I had some concerns. My “babies” were 11 and 15 years old when I found out I was pregnant. What would this look like for our family? How would our kids react? How will it change my relationship with them? After all, raising teenagers is hard enough without changing the dynamic once you've found your footing. I wanted this baby. I didn't know the answers to all the questions I may have had, but I did know the answer to that one. I also knew that I wanted this baby to just be ours for awhile. I didn't know how long, but I wanted to let it be something that we could keep close and daydream about for awhile without all the outside noise, so we lived in this bubble for a bit. We told only our closest relatives and friends. We asked them to keep it quiet. They did and it was lovely.
We did of course eventually tell people, but did so face to face. I have to admit that sharing this news in person was so much better than a social media post....especially when I got to show up to something with a big ol' belly and saw surprised but excited reactions. Facebook likes don't replace that. Eventually my invisible child made its way onto my social media feed, but on my terms and not until I was ready. I never shared our due date- only our due month (ok, maybe like 5 people knew the actual date). It was absolutely fantastic to not be bombarded with "You haven't had that baby yet?!?" "Hurry up and have this baby already!" or "I feel like you've been pregnant forrrrever!" I was still in a bubble, just a slightly bigger one.
It's easy for people to simply view you as a vessel for this new life, to forget that you're not just a belly, and that you might actually value your privacy and personal space. Dear stranger, that pregnant person you're passing on the street most likely does not want you to rub their growing waistline. No, woman ahead in the checkout line, that pregnant person behind you doesn't want to hear the horror show of your best friend's cousin's baby's birth. I hear these kinds of things all the time from clients, so when I say it's OK to have a birth bubble I mean it. Enjoy this time. Shape it the way you want or need to. It’s your time and even if you plan to have more children after this, it’s still time that you will never get back.
I've told you before about the benefits of affirmations for pregnancy an childbirth (you can find that post here). Joy Kraynak of Joyful Birth Services and I will be collaborating again at our upcoming Affirmations Workshop at the space she shares with Community Birth Services here in Richmond. During the FREE event, we’ll be not only discussing how to change our outlook, but also make an affirmations banner for you to focus on! Please contact me if you have any questions!
The connection between positive thinking and the body is so important and strong during pregnancy, childbirth, and even postpartum. We are at our most open and vulnerable during this time, so it stands to reason that the thoughts that we and others introduce to our psyche can have a lasting effect. This time period in someone’s life is often portrayed in popular culture as unpredictable, painful, and scary. Growing up, we tend to be told enough birth horror stories that by the time it’s our turn, we are so ingrained with the “what ifs” and negative expectations that these thoughts become our own emotional baggage.
Reframing the way that we look at childbirth and the time surrounding it, is one of the best gifts that we can give ourselves. Joy Kraynak of Joyful Birth Services and I will be collaborating again to help you make this shift at our upcoming Affirmations Workshop at Embrace Midwifery Care & Birth Center here in Richmond. During the FREE event, we’ll be not only discussing how to change our outlook, but also make an affirmations banner for you to focus on! The last few have been alot of fun!
For many grandparents to be, nothing is more exciting than the birth of a new baby. They can’t wait to meet this new little human. They count down the days just like parents to be. They daydream about who this person will be and the relationship they want to have. They even decide what they want to be called. Let’s face it, they’re stoked and want to be involved as much as we will let them. Sometimes, this is more than we can handle.
As excited as everyone was to meet my babies, the last thing I wanted to do right after I’d given birth to my children was to hand off my baby before we even had time to bond. I understand wanting and craving those snuggles, because we’ve been waiting 9 months for them, but those are moments we don’t get back.
Grandparents, we know you mean well and we love you for it, but this is our time to figure things out. The first few months after having a baby can be tough and it’s a big transition for our family, but we have to figure it out. After all, we are going to be these babies’ parents forever.
I was lucky. My family members respected our wishes and were helpful in the ways we needed them to be at the time, but it’s not that way for everyone and it can be really difficult to say how you feel. You appreciate the help but it can be too much or maybe not quite in line with your parenting ideas/styles. Maybe you’re relationship is strained. Enter Penny Simkin and her “Letter to Grandparents.” Originally published in her book Pregnancy, Childbirth, & the Newborn, it’s a great reference to have on standby in case you find yourself needing it to share it with your loved ones.
Hang in there! You’ve got this!
A Letter to Grandparents
Dear Grandparents (and other family members),
Congratulations on the birth of your new grandchild! This birth marks the continuation of your family into a new generation. Your support and love can ease your own child’s transition into parenthood.
If your children invite you to come and help, recognize it as an honor. Ask them what you may do to help. Do they want you to prepare meals, do laundry, shop and keep the house clean? You will work hard, sleep little, and leave tired and appreciated. But please avoid the mistakes that some new grandparents make – monopolizing the baby, criticizing the parent’s decisions and actions, and giving unwanted, out of date, or opinionated advice. Of course, if they ask you for advice, feel free to give it, or to check the books in areas where you are uncertain.
What your grandchild needs most from you is your nurturing support of his or her parents. The parents need you to support and honor their thoughtful decisions about parenting and their style of parenting, even if they are different from yours. Ask to read the same books they are reading on newborn care and feeding. They need you to support them as they learn about and care for their new baby.
They need to hear from you that you think they are wonderful parents, and the very best parents your grandchild could have . They need to hear from you that parenthood is always challenging and tiring and at the same time, one of the most important and rewarding things they will ever do. Let them know you have confidence in them.
If your relationship with them is strained or difficult, think of what you can and cannot do to support this new family. If being with them is too difficult for you or for them, your presence might worsen your relationship and make their adjustment to parenthood more difficult. Instead of visiting them right away, you could send help in the form of a postpartum doula, diaper service, meals, or presence of another family member. Reaching out in this way could go a long way in healing the relationship between you.
They need you to be gentle with your expectations of them and forgiving if they forget to thank you for your presence and your gifts. Memories are made in these first weeks following birth – ones that are never forgotten. Your children will always remember your unconditional love and acceptance.
With best wishes for joyful grandparenting,
I'm often asked how doulas work with partners. They worry about being replaced or that a doula isn't needed because they will be there. I would never want to replace your partner. After all, no one knows you like they do.
I love this perspective shared with me by one of the best partners I've had a chance to work with.
"By the time we found out we were pregnant, my wife and I had already planned out what we thought were the most important details of having a baby: leave from work, child care, finances, etc... It didn't dawn on us until after our first ultrasound that we hadn't yet tackled one of the most challenging parts of having a child. Labor. We chose our first medical provider on the basis of proximity- he was an MD who was at the closest facility with a labor and delivery room. It seemed the obvious choice. However, during our first appointment, he wasn't even present and we met with his nurse practitioner instead. I work in medicine. Now this may surprise some, but even as doctors, we work in sales. Our reimbursement is contingent on services provided, and it often makes fiscal sense to our employers to provide the most services available rather than the least services that are required. Knowing this principle, I conducted some independent research and found that Cesarean rates for patients under the care of a physician are astronomically higher than those with midwives as their providers. My wife and I discussed what we wanted from our experience with labor/delivery and we decided we wanted as little medical intervention as possible. Further investigation revealed that Cesarean rates for patients with doulas were significantly lower than those without. We decided to meet with a doula to discuss how she might function as part of our "birth team.” My wife bonded with our doula, Cristina, immediately and we decided we would appreciate having an advocate in the form of a doula. At that time, I had no idea how integral a part she would play in our labor.
50/50. That's what the physician who assisted the midwives at our practice estimated our chances were of successfully delivering vaginally. My wife had a "low-lying" placenta, which isn't as serious as a condition known as "placenta previa;” but it placed us in a category of increased risk of adverse outcomes with our planned delivery. Our doula. Cristina, was aware of this condition, and she encouraged us to focus on our "birth wishes" rather than things that sound scary and are out of our control.
Finally, it was a Saturday, and I was up all night brewing (and drinking) beer. After I finished early Sunday morning, my wife told me she thought she was having contractions. Our plan was to labor at home (where we were most comfortable) for as long as we could before heading to the hospital. After we were admitted to the hospital, the midwife on call asked our group, "How are you feeling?" I reflexively answered, "Exhausted!" In retrospect, I don't think she wasn't asking me. It's difficult to describe the experience of labor. It's a strange, beautiful experience laced with hormones that forever bond you to your partner and child. Anyway, I tried my best to be a supportive spouse and help her through the difficult moments; and trust me, there are plenty of those with a natural birth. Sometime after 6 hours of intense contractions, I had gone completely brain-dead and began communicating in grunts and clichès in an effort to help my wife through moments when she would say aloud, "I can't do this." It was in those moments that our doula shined. She effectively kept the carrot on the proverbial stick and redirected our negative thoughts into a positive outcome. She essentially carried us through the last hours of exhausting labor. We could not have achieved our birth wishes without her assistance.
I learned from my first mistake and refrained from partying all night as the due date for our second daughter approached. Consequently, I was much better equipped to participate in my second labor experience. We, of course, had the same doula; but during that event she had a much more passive role. Nonetheless, she was an incredible help. She was an extra set of hands, a source of insight and strength...and she took some incredible pictures that we will cherish forever.
My advice is this: speak to your spouse and discuss what is important to you for your labor experience. Regardless as to what you plan or how it unfolds, it will be trying. However, I believe that in life things for which you work hardest have the most value. Labor will be one of the toughest things you and your partner will ever experience...and no memory will have more value. A doula is an incredible tool to help you navigate the trying path that lies ahead."
Thank you for sharing this and the beautiful moments you both allowed me to be a part of!
Cristina Evans is a Mother of 3, Wife, Birth Doula, and avid backyard gardener.