Labor Comfort Measures: Preparing for a Positive Birth Experience

Labor Comfort Measures: Preparing for a Positive Birth Experience

Because of its life-altering nature, childbirth should not be entered into lightly. Neither should it be an event to be feared. While we can never predict what they journey may entail, we can empower ourselves with knowledge, create a plan, and work toward the kind of birth we want to look back on for the rest of our lives.

Appearances Are Deceiving: A Story of Loss and Hope

Appearances Are Deceiving: A Story of Loss and Hope

Miscarriage, pregnancy loss and infant loss are hidden pains with hidden scars. For the most part, people don’t discuss them openly because it’s uncomfortable and awkward and for some, shameful (although it never should be). But that doesn’t mean the pain doesn’t exist.

I appreciate the month of October not only for the beauty of the fall colors, but also because it’s given so many women the strength to say out loud that they have experienced loss and it’s given so many women hope in knowing they are not alone.

Café Recap: How To Write A Birth Plan

We reference birth plans almost weekly in our small groups, so today we're excited to again devote an entire panel to writing them!

Cafe' Recap: Accepting Your Birth, It's Only the Beginning

Cafe' Recap: Accepting Your Birth, It's Only the Beginning

Birth is transformative. We meet women every day who could describe their births from many years ago in vivid detail. And we’re all familiar with the war stories... Part of our mission here at the TMC is to transform the culture of fear surrounding birth. We encourage women to educate themselves and create a supportive environment for birth. But the truth is, we all must enter birth with open hands. The stories we would write for ourselves are not always the stories that make us the strongest mothers for our children.

Naomi's Story

Naomi's Story

Our sweet daughter, Naomi Kathleen, was born at 9:11pm, on Sunday, November 8, 2009 weighing in at 2 pounds 7.9 ounces (the .9 ounces means a lot when you have a preemie) and measuring 14 inches long. Her due date was January 9. I was 31 weeks pregnant, meaning she was nine weeks early; however, the doctors said she had stopped growing around 28 weeks so she was especially tiny for her age.

Café Recap: Accepting Your Birth

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Our panelists: Erin Baird (CNM), Lauren Barnes, Kerri Bond, Kirstin Magnuson (Marriage and Family Therapist) and our moderator, Erica Wolfe. Birth is transformative. We meet women every day who could describe their births from thirty years ago in vivid detail. Part of our mission here at The Motherhood Collective is to transform the culture of fear surrounding birth, we strive to encourage women to educate themselves and create a supportive environment for birth. But the truth is, we all must enter birth with open hands. The stories we would write for ourselves are not always the stories that make us the strongest mothers for our children.

And friends, while birth is transformative -- it is truly only the beginning.

Kerri's birth experience started with a normal pregnancy, but was scheduled for an induction due to high blood pressure. She planned for a natural birth and expected everything to go quickly and smoothly. After several days with no progress, she eventually had an epidural and was sent to the OR due to cord prolapse. Erin delivered her baby and rode with her to the ER holding the cord the whole time. Erin explains that for the cord to be delivered first is very rare, and once the cord is delivered it cannot be put back. At only a few centimeters dilated the cord will be compressed by contractions and the baby's head during labor, which cuts off the baby's access to the placenta in the hours before birth. At nine centimeters the cord can sometimes be delivered with the head, but earlier in labor (such as Kerri's situation) this is not an option.

Erin has had many birth experiences (four), ranging from emergency vacuum to a natural birth. As an educated midwife she had expectations for her births and her abilities that were not met. When birth does not go the way we planned, it can be a difficult thing to come to terms with. Kirstin is inclined to listen to these stories without making suggestions- just being a safe and supportive person for them to tell their story to can be helpful. At six week appointments, Erin makes it a point to debrief with her patients to help them process their birth experience. Feelings of failure and depression are not uncommon and should be talked about and handled professionally in order to overcome them.

Sometimes we get so caught up on the negative aspects of our birth experience that we forget the positives; the times we were strong and the things that went right can get buried under the things we are unhappy about. One audience member found peace in writing the very worst of her birth experience down in the back of a notebook. She could be honest and not hold back, as opposed to when she talked about it with others. Talking with others that have had a hard time accepting their birth can also help by putting things in perspective and moving the feelings of anger into something more productive.

It is important to remember that trauma is defined by the person who experiences it. Sometimes a patient has a relatively normal birth but still feels traumatized by the experience. We often try so hard to prepare for birth but it is something that is ultimately out of our control. Physical and emotional trauma can both have lasting impacts. Sometimes it isn't until later that we realize that our birth was not ideal; one audience member saw in hindsight with her subsequent births that the care she received for her first birth was really not what it should have been.

More than 25% of women describe their births as traumatic. To identify this in our friends and other mothers, there are signs we can look for. "I didn't do well" (or variations of) is a phrase that Erin hears and knows is not a healthy outlook. Without meeting all of the PTSD symptoms, women can still have a negative or distorted view of their birth. Nightmares, flashbacks, avoiding certain triggers or not talking about the birth, difficulty sleeping, hyper-vigilance, panic attacks and overwhelming stress are all signs that a woman is struggling to deal with her birth experience. If a new mother is not sleeping because she is fixated on her birth (as opposed to the normal newborn sleep struggles), she should find someone to talk to. Talking to a counselor, who is a disconnected person that is not otherwise involved in your life, can help you work through your feelings without judgement. Trouble processing your birth experience can lead to postpartum depression, especially if you do not find a safe outlet for sharing your story.

Mothers are not the only ones traumatized by birth- fathers can also have a difficult time processing their role in the birth. Watching helplessly is not a good feeling and can leave them quite upset by the experience. Checking in with your partner and discussing the birth in the weeks following can be very helpful for both of you. A doula can also be helpful for both partners, as they can keep you both informed and provide support for each of you.

Postpartum depression can present in various ways; anxiety, mania or an obsession with the baby or birth are also unhealthy. It can present as obsessive-compulsive disorder, or euphoria on the other end of the spectrum. Euphoria is often followed by a crash, especially if there was traumatic experience that is being denied. It is important to remember that accepting medication is not a weakness but a step in the direction of normalcy and getting your life back on track.

Sometimes birth challenges come down to simple choices, but sometimes they do not not. When asked, “What advice would you give pregnant women regarding giving birth confidently in the future?” Katie Rohs from PATTCh.org says, “Empower yourself with your own knowledge, and choose a care provider that you trust deeply...Don’t be afraid to seek out different care if your needs aren’t being met.” It is important to recognize that we did not make an incorrect choice that lead us to an unwanted outcome.

Some births go according to plan, and some patients are not as deeply affected when they don't. But if you do have negative feelings about your birth experience or the role you played in the outcome, speak up and find support. The Motherhood Collective (and our Grief and PPMD groups) as well as other local and national resources are available to you.

What Every Mom Secretly Wants for Mother's Day - courtesy of Birdsong Brooklyn

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by Erica Livingston & Laura Interlandi of Birdsong Brooklyn  

Though the wonderful world of Social Media we have found many friends and kindred spirits. This post was written by two such souls in Brooklyn, NY. We hope it encourages your heart as it did ours. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram - Lauren Barnes | Executive Director | The Motherhood Collective

 

What Every Mom Secretly Wants for Mother's Day - courtesy of Birdsong Brooklyn

The most important holiday of the year is upon us…Mother’s Day.

If you had to guess what every mother wants for Mother’s Day what would it be? The cheap guesses are flowers, chocolate and jewelry…. More creative might be: that wooden teething necklace she pinned last night, a new Sakura Bloom silk ring sling she tried to win on instagram, a new bag for her breast pump, a gift card to the coffee shop around the corner from her work, a bottle of tequila with a pack of salt and a lime, a bi monthly cleaning service, a bag of every single flavor of M&M’s, the seasons pass to MadMen on iTunes, a homemade coupon for a night out with her bestie… Still however, we think the material exchange of thanks is always going to fall short and somehow miss the mark (and for the record… this is a “never instead of, always as well as” scenario so please do get us all of the above plus all of the following….)

What we think every mom is hoping for on mothers day is… to be mothered.

What does this mean? Rocked in a cradle and held and sung to? That sounds nice. But no- not exactly. What we want is to be considered, thought of, and shown in small moment to moment ways that you appreciate us by mirroring back the care we output the other 364 days of the year.

Think about it… its the way she is always thinking several steps ahead of everything going on,  with the burp cloth in her pocket to clean the inevitable impending mess or setting the kettle to brew before anyone has even thought they wanted tea. The way she remembers the kids ever-changing clothing and shoe sizes and knows exactly where everyone left their favorite hat or put the keys or stowed the diaper bag. She wants someone to make the itinerary for HER and make and execute all the choices that day and not be the one who decides what everyone eats and and when they eat it and where. And she definitely doesn’t want to clean it all up afterwards. She wants someone to metaphorically clean off her high chair, to figuratively get her favorite toys out and to symbolically wipe her butt.

Dads, friends, kids here’s what you can do for mom this year: sure, make her the cute card and buy her the gift you were saving up for but also…put a cup of tea or coffee in her hand as she rises. Have the three meals of the day planned, prepped and magically appearing before she can say “What should we do about lunch?”. Do not ask her where anything is that day. If you’ve lost something, find it, or wait and ask her on Monday. Don’t expect her to tell you what she wants to do or pick the kids outfits or make sure everyone eats at least two vegetables. For Mother’s Day this year don’t ask her to make any choices. You make the choices today and make the ones you know she loves: take the route that’s prettiest, decide to eat your lunch outside, and have the picnic blanket and basket all ready to go to her favorite spot in the park or backyard. Have her favorite movie or the bad reality TV show she secretly loves to watch already queued up and set to play after dinner when the littles are put to bed (or maybe while you do bedtime), draw her a lavender bath and put on her favorite pandora station while she soaks. Don’t offer to massage her feet or back just do it. Pick up those tired legs, set them in your lap and get rubbin’.

Don’t wait until 10AM and ask “Do you want to go for brunch?” and then wait in line with hungry kids making her feel like the day was an after thought. If you don’t have the time or money to plan an outing then make the day easy and special for her- get up and out of bed as soon as you hear the baby cry, change the diaper and let her sleep while you prep coffee (with the brown sugar and extra cream you know she takes).

Do the things she wants before she knows she wants them. She spends her days juggling schedules, commitments, expectations and clingy toddlers all the while trying to be 10 steps ahead reading everyones minds… or in other words- being a mom.

Today- be hers.

Happy Mother’s Day-

by Erica Livingston & Laura Interlandi of Birdsong Brooklyn

Local Hospital Earns BABY-FRIENDLY DESIGNATION!

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A very special day has come! You might remember my post back on March 2nd about our local hospital's push to become Baby-Friendly (read here.) Well, friends, advocates, mothers-to-be, mothers, grandmothers, and all of Lynchburg, VA. THEY DID IT! The call came in yesterday that Centra Virginia Baptist Hospital is now a Baby-Friendly Hospital. The Administration, Nursing Staff, Lactation Staff, and Care Providers have all worked tirelessly to put bring about a positive change in maternal and infant health. We could not be more proud. Please know that this was not an easy undertaking. There has been much education, many policy changes, some protocol changes, and so much more. All for YOU.

As a reminder, Baby-Friendly hospitals and birthing facilities must adhere to the following Ten Steps to receive, and retain, a Baby-Friendly designation.

The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding are:

  1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  2. Train all health care staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy.
  3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
  5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
  6. Give infants no food or drink other than breast-milk, unless medically indicated.
  7. Practice rooming in – allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  9. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
  10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or birth center.

Join us in congratulating the hardworking team at Centra Virginia Baptist Hospital!

A short piece by the local news can be found here.

Café Recap: Choosing A Maternity Care Provider

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  Our panelists: Katie Page (CNM at CMG Women's Center) and Debbie Perdew (DONA), and our moderator, Lauren Barnes.

As mothers, choosing a Maternal Care Provider can be one of the most important decisions we make. Today our goal is not to prove one care provider’s skills better than another, but rather, to get you thinking about your personality, your needs, your desires, and provide you with some resources so that you can choose the best care provider for you! All women are different and each of us have different needs. You are each deserving of respect regarding your choices. My hope is that today you would see that there are choices that are right for each woman. We are not a “one size fits all group.”

Choices in Childbirth is a great resource for this topic, and shares this advice, "Once you’ve identified what’s important to you, you’ll be able to clearly communicate your wishes and choose a care provider and birth environment that will respect and honor your choices.”  They suggest a 3-step process for choosing a care provider:

Step 1: Understand Your Provider’s Philosophy (and Make Sure it Matches Yours)

Step 2: Reflect on Your Experiences so Far, Watch Out for Red Flags and Trust Your Instincts

Step 3: Ask Around and Compare Your Options

Care provider options are generally Physician, CNM (Certified Nurse-Midwife),CM (Certified Midwife), and CPM (Certified Professional Midwife). The majority of physicians who care for women and deliver babies are OB-GYN (Obstetricians/Gynecologists), who specialize in women's care. Some physicians are family doctors who care for the whole family and also deliver babies. Physicians attend births in a hospital. CNMs and CMs are educated with master or doctoral degrees and are certified by the same board (American Midwifery Certification Board). CNMs are trained first as nurses and then as midwives (CMs are not nurses before their midwife training). CMs are not licensed to practice in VA. Most CNMs attend births in hospitals, though some do attend birth center and/or home births as well. CPMs are certified by a different organization (North American Registry of Midwives) and are licensed in some states (including Virginia). CPMs are educated in schools of midwifery or through apprenticeship and are specifically trained in out of hospital birth. In Virginia, CNMs are licensed to prescribe a wide variety of medications, while CPMs are not allowed to prescribe. CPMs do, however, utilize a variety of herbal medicines to meet some needs of their clients. Direct-Entry or "lay" midwives are another type, and are not certified nationally, nor licensed or regulated by the state. Their training varies, though most are apprentice-trained.

Here are two models of care two consider:

a) “... the belief that birth can have potentially pathological outcomes and that medical and technological management reduces the likelihood of these outcomes.”

b) “...the belief that for healthy women, birth is a normal life process that results in healthy outcomes and is best left alone unless a complication arises.”

Knowing which (or both) of these models sits well with you can help you to choose an appropriate care provider. Debbie recommends that decision making during labor is best avoided. Think about your options beforehand and discuss them with your care provider, so that you are going into labor with as few last minute decisions as possible. As a doula, Debbie says that her role is not a care giver and that patients should trust and listen to the care givers they have chosen to have on their team.

One common suggestion is to interview your care provider. Katie says that we should feel comfortable in doing this. She says that there is a spectrum of types of care, from passive to active. Taking a very passive role would be trusting your provider to make all choices for you, while an very active role would mean making all of your own choices; in the middle is teamwork between patient and provider. Physicians and midwives alike fall at various places within the spectrum.

Sometimes it is helpful to remember that your care provider really is there to care for you. When we have questions or consider making decisions that go against what our care provider might recommend we often meet with resistance. This can be difficult as a patient, but if we remember that their job and their passion is our safety, we can sit and have reasonable discussions to pick the best path of care.

Baby-Friendly USA - Standing behind our local hospital

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One of the things we most desire as an organization is to advocate for a positive change in maternal health on a community level. It is for that reason that we are proud to stand behind our local hospital (Centra Virginia Baptist Hospital) in their effort to obtain the coveted, Baby-Friendly USA designation. The staff and administration have worked relentlessly to integrate the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding best practices. Baby-Friendly hospitals and birthing facilities must adhere to the Ten Steps to receive, and retain, a Baby-Friendly designation. The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding are:

  1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  2. Train all health care staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy.
  3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
  5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
  6. Give infants no food or drink other than breast-milk, unless medically indicated.
  7. Practice rooming in - allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  9. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
  10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or birth center.

Centra Virginia Baptist Hospital will have their site visit for accreditation by Baby-Friendly USA on March 10 and 11, 2015. They have a request for you, the mothers of our local community. The goal of the 2 site assessors will be to see moms here in the hospital, but they may need to call moms on the phone to ask about their stay. If you were a patient in the last 6 weeks you have the potential to hear from a Baby-Friendly assessor. Questions could include: Was your baby offered a pacifier? How long did you do skin to skin? Was your baby taken from your room? Would you be willing to take the time to speak honestly and truthfully with the assessors? Would you be willing to think about your answers to these questions in preparation? We know your time is limited and precious, and we thank you in advance for considering your response. Together we will support this momentum for a positive change in maternal health in our community.

If you have any questions or concerns, Jackie Weaver (Unit Manager, Mother Baby) would love to hear from you, her office number is 200-4630!

 

For more details about the practices put into place and the road to Baby-Friendly, read on:

The journey to this site visit is what led our hospital to add many of the wonderful processes you may have experienced recently. Skin to skin is now possible for 100% of our vaginal deliveries as long as everyone is stable. We offer skin to skin for our C-section patients as well as long as mom and baby are stable. Even if skin to skin is not possible after your C-section, we have an increased focus on non-separation of mom from her baby. This can include a care partner holding the baby close by in the operating room or mom meeting her baby in recovery. Skin to skin should last as long as mom wants and at least through the first feeding. This process has been very rewarding for our staff as we watch babies transition significantly better on mom’s chest.

Other practices influenced by our journey include rooming in and lactation education for all our staff members. Rooming in helps mom and babies learn to be a team by matching sleep cycles and becoming familiar with babies unique cues. All staff members received lactation education and training. We now have a team of lactation consultants who see moms (formula and breast milk) in the hospital as well as outpatient at our Baby Café.

We are so thankful to groups such as yours for your support and collaboration. Through your discussions, patient experience stories, and questions we have been able to influence the population health of our community. With the support of the wonderful moms in our area, we now have a breastfeeding rate of 90%.

Jackie Weaver | Unit Manager, Mother Baby

Cafe Recap: Postpartum Body Image

Our panelists: Kirstin Magnuson (Therapist and Mama) and Jill Stroud (Personal Trainer and Mama), and our moderator, Lauren Barnes.

This morning’s discussion can be an extremely touchy topic and could easily be full of judgment and eye rolling...our goal is to have an honest and kind conversation. We hope we can all accept that we each view our bodies differently and that we each come into this discussion with our own views of health, image, insecurities, and perceptions. This is not a conversation that will “fix” anything. Instead, it is simply the start of a conversation that alerts us all to the fact that we might need to pause before we assume.

Our first question is for the audience. When asked how they would describe their bodies, in one word, BEFORE they had children, here were some of the responses: awesome, free-of-stretch-marks, healthy, strong, tan, energized, less gravitational pull, and fertile.

Kirstin was warned by “helpful” strangers and acquaintances about the horrors of a postpartum body while she was pregnant. Her friends approached the subject with more love while remaining honest. Jill did not know what to expect from her body, and was surprised by how out of control she felt. She felt additional pressure about her body as a trainer because of how she was on display in her career. The usual methods she would have used for weight loss (cutting calories, increasing workout intensity) were not always an option during and after pregnancy. So many factors (breastfeeding, lack of sleep and energy, etc.) are involved in the changes in your body and how you can get back into shape.

Why are we insecure about our bodies and why do we compare ourselves as women? Kirstin says that the inundation of “perfection” in models and in the media make us feel that that is normal, and that our own bodies are somehow wrong. Jill says that usually our expectations are unrealistic. She said that while some women can “snap back” and get back into shape quickly, that is not the norm for everyone. Comparing ourselves to others makes our own journey harder.

As an audience so many of us have had insensitive comments made about our bodies after having children. We have been asked if we're pregnant when we're not, or heard snarky comments about remaining baby weight. We've been told that our expectations are too high or that we're somehow selfish for wanting to get back to a healthy and active lifestyle postpartum.

Jill says the keyword is healthy, and that does not look the same for everyone. So often our goal is thin or sexy instead of a healthy body. Thin does not mean healthy, there is often a lack of muscle mass after pregnancy that is not healthy even if you can fit back into your pre-pregnancy clothes. While Kirstin didn't have trouble losing weight, she found that she was out of shape and didn't like it. She was easily winded and sore, and found that being more active let her feel better about herself regardless of how she looked.

So often on social media we only see the success stories. When we're proud of our bodies we want to share it, but doing so can be damaging to others who haven't had the same success. We should all be proud of these strong bodies who have nurtured and labored and birthed these children. One audience member reminds us that we can choose what we see on social media and the internet. We can block or unfollow or choose to ignore those who are damaging to us. She has found several groups and individuals to follow who are encouraging and uplifting, some of whom are in great shape and serve as positive inspiration without bringing her down emotionally. It is your choice to join a group that is supportive for you and your needs. Even well-meaning mothers can make us feel down, especially from a person that you expect support from. Generational differences can make it difficult for older women to support us in new and conventional maternity clothing and postpartum experiences.

From our husbands, we get various responses and methods of support. Some stories: one mama's husband brought her the same shirt in every size postpartum, while another's took her to buy bigger pants with nothing but joy and support. One dear husband makes brownies when his wife is upset, which is so sweet but really not helping her postpartum body insecurities.

Jill says that the best way to get back into shape after birth is strength training. High intensity strength training and setting strength goals is very effective. Picking a goal that is not a number on the scale or a jean size will help you to get to healthy place. Instead of the outcome, she recommends focusing on the process. As you meet and move on to different goals, you will eventually get to your desired outcome but in a healthy and natural way. For breastfeeding mothers she recommends listening to your body (and your baby!) and eating enough to keep your body energized. Staying hydrated and keeping your body nourished will help allow you to maintain your breast milk supply, as long as your workout is moderate and reasonable.

Lauren questions whether our true measure of beauty should be our outward appearance or our inner selves. Kirstin tells a story about a time that her child waited patiently while she had an adult conversation, and she recognized that she would like to achieve that patience too. That is how she would like to be recognized and seen as beautiful, for her heart and her person. Jill points out that we do this to children too, telling them how cute or beautiful they are, as opposed to pointing out a great personality trait or behavior. The mother of some attractive children would reply to these “you're so beautiful” complements with “but what's in your heart?” to remind children that looks are not what matters. What moms do want to be complemented on: our work accomplishments, our efforts as mothers, and the ways we give of ourselves. One audience member sees unshowered mothers as beautiful, because she knows that the sacrifice of a shower was made so that a baby would not be left crying. One grandmother knows that just being pregnant, giving birth or having a newborn would each be a feat on their own, and yet we do all three without a break; she reminds mothers to be kind to themselves. She also says we have progress days and maintenance days, and some days are just survival days. Appreciate each of these days and know that they are all for a reason and purpose.

Some strengths we have gained since having children: patience, fearlessness, responsibility, endurance, and capability. Please feel free to share some of your postpartum experiences, good and bad, in the comments.

Cafe Recap: Girlfriend’s Guide to Postpartum

Our panelists: Jilayne Luckey (Mama and PPMD Support Group Leader), Nycole Fox Formo (Mama and PPMD Support Group Leader), Julie Brown (Mama and RN), and Danielle Hunter (Mama), and our moderator, Lauren Barnes.

Childbirth is very intense physically on our bodies. Six weeks is the typical time for a postpartum followup appointment with your OB or Midwife. At this point most women are told that they can resume their everyday lifestyle, with the exception of very strenuous exercise. In reality, our audience felt that it took about 2 months or more before they felt normal again vaginally. Another unexpected postpartum symptom: night sweats. The hormones in our body cause many women to wake up completely sweaty during the night. Keep a towel or change of clothes nearby!

In terms of breastfeeding, our bodies go through several stages. Julie explains that when the placenta is delivered the body starts producing colostrum (a yellow, nutrient-rich milk). Even without feeling full, it is very important to nurse at this point as it will help increase your milk supply. A few days after birth (up to about 5-6 days with a C-section), your milk will come in and your breasts will feel full and heavy (sometimes engorged). It is totally normal to be confused or unsure about your milk and whether it has come in or not. Contact a lactation consultant for reassurance or help with breastfeeding.

Jilayne advises to keep in mind that even after several pregnancies, there can be physical symptoms you're unprepared for after birth. Some experienced mothers are met with the attitude that they know what they're doing and don't need help. With several children to care for, this is not true! Each child and birth are unique and bring their own challenges. Danielle was surprised that the recovery with her second birth was so much different than with her first.

Changes in appetite, hair loss, continually sore joints, mood swings, several weeks of spotting or bleeding, and strange dreams are other normal physical symptoms of the postpartum period.

Emotionally, there may be several hardships to overcome. Many women do not feel the immediate bond with their newborn that they expect. Nycole talks of the vulnerability that you are exposed to by the tremendous feelings you have for your child. Expectations can be hard to overcome if things do not go as you think they will. Babies can be very unpredictable and this is hard for some women who like to be in control. Reaction versus response is an important distinction. If you can accept your reaction you will have a better time responding appropriately to your child's needs.

The birth of Jilayne's third child, her son, was very difficult emotionally for her. Much of the first three months she does not remember, as she was struggling. At about three months postpartum her husband recognized her depression and acknowledgement of this was huge for her. She found herself acting in ways that she didn't want to, yelling at her children more than necessary, but she couldn't find the strength or grace to handle the situation as well as she wanted to. She bonded well with her son, but felt that she had no right asking for help since she had wanted this child and brought this upon herself. Her advice is to please remember that your are the best mom for your child, and there is no shame in asking for help (no matter how many children you have!).

Danielle was expecting her newborn to be the struggle, but instead found that her preschool daughter was the one exhausting her emotionally and physically. Asking for help with older children can be very important in allowing you to care and bond with your newborn.

Julie says to give yourself a head start with breastfeeding, take a local class and educate yourself as much as possible. Read, talk to other mothers and be aware of any potential problems or hardships. Mastitis, thrush, an incorrect latch, supply issues and more can all make breastfeeding more difficult. Learning proper breastfeeding positions, especially for newborns, is important for breastfeeding success as well. Follow this link for a video that gives instruction on hand expression, a helpful technique for new breastfeeding mothers. Another resources is La Leche League (local link). Also keep in mind that breastfeeding can be difficult physically and emotionally even if everything goes well. The first few days after birth are difficult and it is normal to feel overwhelmed with breastfeeding and other parenting issues.

Julie recommends the following local resources for postpartum breastfeeding help: VBH has lactation support 7 days a week. You can request an LC to come see you. Centra's Lactation Warm Line: 434-401-9344 (outpatient) Centra's Baby Cafe: every Tuesday and Thursday from 10-12 noon in the Center for Family and Childbirth Education. (Outpatient). Central Virginia Lactation Consultants: (Lisa Settje) 434-239-2852 Best Start: (Jane Bradshaw) 434-384-6262 La Leche League:(Lisa:434-316-6040; Catherine:434-229-0852) Kellymom.com

On the other hand, formula feeding can also be difficult for mothers emotionally. Sometimes a mother wishes to breastfeed, but is unable to for whatever reason. Remember that doing what is best for your baby is what is important, and try not to let yourself listen to those who don't support your decisions. Find a support system that is positive and will help you move forward with the best choices for your newborn.

Being aware of resources for grief, breastfeeding and other postpartum issues ahead of time can help you choose those resources if you need them later. Educate yourself to the issues and the possible outcomes of your birth, be honest with yourself, and get help however you need it. Nycole suggests the book Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child.

Café Recap: How to Write a Birth Plan

Panelists: Katie Page (Certified Nurse Midwife and Mama), Brenda Osterhus (Childbirth and Family Education Manager at Centra and Mama), Danielle Hunter (Mama and Birth Plan User), and our moderator Erica Wolfe.

We often field questions about birth plans in our small groups and online community.  Last year was the first time we had an entire Café devoted to the topic and when we surveyed our mamas, it was listed as one of their favorite Cafés.  So today we’re excited to again devote an entire panel to writing a birth plan! Our panelists include a care provider, a hospital representative and a mama who very recently wrote (and used!) a birth plan.  Here are their thoughts on what topics should be addressed, how to word things and how birth plans are received by your care providers.

First of all, what is a Birth Plan? Katie tells us that the history of birth plans is ambiguous, but they likely first appeared when alternatives to standard hospital procedures became more prevalent. The idea that each pregnancy and birth is not the same and therefore should not all be handled in the same way was a catalyst in the rise in popularity of birth plans. The process of creating a birth plan forces a family to consider various labor events and how they would like to handle them. A birth plan is the start of a conversation, deciding with your partner and your medical support team what the best choices are for you during labor.

Brenda tells us that the goal of a birth plan is to let your care providers know what your choices and decisions are. This is especially helpful when nurses and doctors rotate during your delivery. It is also an opportunity to make sure, well before labor, that you and your care provider are on the same page. It is a way to educate yourself about the choices and decisions you can make about your birth. Nurses and doctors are people too, and will each have their own ideas about how birth should go. It is important that your opinion is known to them, so that you will get the treatment you desire.

Danielle was lucky enough to have her care provider deliver both of her children, but this is not usually the case. A birth plan gives you the opportunity to do your research and decide what your priorities are. She says that not having expectations for how her birth will go keeps her flexible. She keeps an open mind so that she will be able to handle any unforeseen circumstances and take them in stride. A conversation with her midwife about her birth plan allowed her to remove some items that were unnecessary (like procedures that are not standard in our hospital). Sample birth plans and templates are available online (some here, here and here on our website).

Audience members shared both positive and negative experiences approaching their care providers about birth plans. One mama was nervous to approach her OB about a VBAC, but was met with his approval and willingness to work toward that goal with her. Another mama tried to broach the subject with her provider, but it was dismissed as something she didn't need to do. Her lack of education at the time robbed her of the confidence to push the subject although it was important to her.

Top Ten DOs for Writing Your Birth Plan: Tips from an L&D Nurse (from the blog Nursing Birth) #1 DO keep your Birth Plan short, simple, and easy to understand (1-2 pages max). Bullet points are fine! #2 DO keep the language of your Birth Plan assertive and clear. #3 DO use your Birth Plan as an impetus for doing your own personal research about your preferences for childbirth. #4 DO include your fears, concerns, and helpful things for the nurse to know. #5 DO review your Birth Plan with your birth attendant and ask him/her to sign off that he/she read and understands it. (Signing may be unnecessary and could even imply a lack of trust in  your care provider in some situations.) #6 DO make your Birth Plan personal (don’t just copy/paste) and DO make sure that you understand and can elaborate on everything in the Birth Plan if asked. #7 DO look at examples of great Birth Plans online to get some ideas. #8 DO run through scenarios in your mind about how labor could unfold and actually talk these scenarios out with your labor companions and doula (or perhaps even your childbirth educator or birth attendant too!) #9 DO try to treat researching and Birth Plan writing as a fun and exciting experience, not a chore! #10 DO remember to bring your Birth Plan to the hospital!!

Another positive result of a birth plan is having your choices in writing. If you decide during labor to veer away from your birth plan, your care providers and labor support can remind you of your initial intentions and help you either stay on track or choose a new path for your labor. It is also worth noting that birth plans are not just for natural births. Whatever your intentions, it is important for your labor team to know them.

After care is an aspect of labor that is often overlooked. These choices can also be included in your birth plan and will make your decisions much easier during your recovery time. Have your pediatrician lined up and ensure that they are on board with your choices for newborn procedures. Keeping your partner on board and informed about all of your choices will also help ensure that things go as planned.

Café Recap: 4th Annual Girlfriend's Guide to Birth

Welcome to a new series here on the blog, the Café Recap. After each Café Monday, we will post a summary of the information discussed on the panel. We hope to better include and inform those who are unable to attend the Café, and to serve as a resource for those who were present but can't quite remember all the details (hello, cute and distracting little babies, we're looking at you!) Please note that the article below is not professional advice. The Motherhood Collective does not claim responsibility or ownership of any of the ideas found below. Please consult with your Care Provider regarding any changes to lifestyle or habits. At The Motherhood Collective we encourage you to take a salad bar approach regarding this and all material. Take what you like. Leave the rest.

Its that time of year again! The 4th Annual Girlfriends' Guide to Birth, will have you laughing until there are tears in your eyes. Sometimes birth books just don't cover everything. If you are pregnant, come and join us for a candid morning filled with stories about birth from mamas you know. If you're not pregnant, join us and share something you wish someone would have told you. Whatever season you are in, the Annual Girlfriends Guide is sure to make you smile.

Our wonderful panelists: Lora Cartrett, Amanda Boywer, Erin Baird, Alisha Meador and our moderator, Lauren Barnes.

We see the movies; gushes of water, rushing to the hospital, followed by screams of pain and then a baby bursting forth. So what’s it really.... like? Lora's was just like the movies. Some didn't break until pushing.

Erin has had every behavior during labor- singing, screaming, bossing others around. Amanda, who is normally a quiet person, was a screamer and just didn't care who could hear or what they thought. With her second she nearly gave birth in the car, and the experience was so quick she found her self still in shock afterwords.

Husbands, wonderful as they are, are often less helpful than we'd hope during labor. Lora's big, burly husband turned into a crying mess, while Alisha's husband (a therapist) was almost too calm. Many husbands offer "advice" that is more or less helpful. A husband telling you how to push, or reminding you that women have been doing this for thousands of years, is not what a laboring woman wants to hear. Some husbands surprise us by being amazingly helpful and involved; moaning along with their wives, massaging, and offering support when needed.

Pushing positions: Stirrups are the "traditional" pushing position. For some this is helpful, when grabbing your legs is an impossible acrobatic feat. Some find that squatting or hand and knees is a more comfortable position for others.

Did you try to speed up your labor? Alisha found the shower to be soothing, as well as chanting and a glass of wine to keep her comfortable. Lora's blood pressure kept her in the bed for her first delivery, but with her second she moved and swayed to stay calm. A "peanut" ball is a comfort to some mothers who need to be in bed due to an epidural or other factors.

Pain coping mechanisms employed by our panelists include screaming into a blanket, negotiating with yourself internally, counting through contractions, chanting and listening to the sound of your own voice, and listening to a friend talk aimlessly. Amanda says that being mentally prepared and calm before getting to the hospital helps her.

What does pushing feel like? Our panelists said, "It's kind of like the biggest poop of your life." "You can't push with your legs, you have to push like a poop." "Something's happening, I'm not doing this. It's like the best/worst feeling ever. A painful feel good." "Pushing naturally felt good...with an epidural it's like psychic pushing." "Like reverse vomiting." "Something terrible is happening." Others don't feel the need to push, and feel that it is a much less involuntary process.

Poop during labor is something that many women are terrified about, but by show of hands actually pooping during labor is not especially traumatic. Some are not even aware of the fact, since there is so much going on during labor. Nurses are often excited by a labor poop, as it is generally caused by the head coming through the canal and is a sign of progress.

Did you know where to push? Or did you need direction from your labor team?Alisha and Amanda felt that they knew how to push when they were ready. Trying to push too early, though, does not feel natural. The placenta delivery also requires pushing sometimes. Others hardly notice the placenta delivery, while some find it to be painful to their already-sore bodies.

Our panelists would like to remind soon-to-be new mothers that your first labor does not have to be indicative of your second labor. If things didn't go as planned the first time, the next time it may! Use your previous knowledge and use each birth as a learning experience. It doesn't matter how you became a mom, even though sometimes external pressures make us feel inadequate. Motherhood is more than your birthing experience, and going from pregnancy to motherhood is an amazing accomplishment. Prepare as much as you can, but remember that when it comes down to it birth is out of your control.

We are so thankful to our great panelists and our audience for their participation. This was such a fun cafe, full of hilarious labor jokes and stories!

When it isn't love at first sight

"Oh my gosh, he's got a little pig nose!"This was my first thought when I saw my son, Benjamin, when they lifted him above the curtain that separated my eyes from the surgery that brought him into the world on that autumn day six years ago.My 2nd thought was this: "No! I can't believe that was my first thought about my baby!"

I don't remember what my first thought was about Micah, Benjamin's twin brother. I just remember praying that he would live as they whisked him away to the NICU without even letting me kiss his fragile, white face.

I didn't get to touch my sons until many hours after my c-section. I gingerly held Benji in my arms, painfully conscious of every wire, tube, and IV in his tiny 4 pound body. Cuddling was impossible.

I kissed his head. His stubby hair felt rough against my lips.

Holding him felt strangely foreign. And I didn't want to hurt him so I quickly let the NICU nurse put him back in the isolate.

With Micah, I gently stroked his foot as he received an emergency blood transfusion. I didn't get to hold him until the next day.

My husband and I were prepared for the NICU. We knew the boys would be premature, would have to stay in the hospital for a while.

What I wasn't prepared for was how detached I felt from my twins after they were born.

Who are you, little ones? I wondered, my eyes searching the faces of my babies, who looked more little little old men than chubby newborns.

Who am I? 

This was the thought I couldn't wrap my mind around. I didn't feel like a mother. Mothers gushed over their newborns, exclaiming delight, rapture, love at first sight!

I didn't feel anything.

After two weeks, the boys came home from the NICU in all their 4 pound glory and I plunged my life into caring for them. I was determined to breastfeed; when that didn't work (at first) I pumped around the clock. My children would have "the best." After all, isn't that what "good" mothers do?

My days at home with my preemie twins fell into a predictable, robotic pattern: First cry Warming bottles Feeding Burping Changing diapers Swaddling Back-to-crib Pumping Washing bottles and pump parts

Repeat

I didn't cuddle my babies or gaze in their eyes, stroking smooth cheeks and smelling necks. If I let myself indulge in a snuggle with one, I felt guilty for not cuddling the other. So, in the name of fairness, I didn't waver from my routine: First cry, warming bottles….

Other friends and my sister-in-law gave birth just a few weeks after I did. They posted on Facebook about how they had never felt such a love, how the baby filled every corner of their heart.

I inwardly rolled my eyes. They are lying. They are just trying to make themselves feel better. Motherhood is ROUGH!

But really, I was jealous of them. What was wrong with me as a woman, as a mother, that I didn't feel the way I was supposed to feel about my babies?

I definitely felt maternal. I took care of them to the best of my ability. I did my very best. I loved them, I really did! But the most I felt toward my newborns was "responsible."

Mostly I just felt broken, defunct.

The weeks slipped by. One month. Two months.

Then, a gift.

We were sitting on the couch, doing some eye gazing and one of the boys (I wish I could remember which one!) looked at me and smiled for the first time.

Oh! My heart actually jumped in my chest and tears sprang to my eyes. And in this moment, I felt true warmth toward my baby.

I felt the LOVE I knew was there but had been missing emotionally.

That smile was a seed that began to grow in my heart and I began to realize a shocking, startling truth:

Perhaps not every mother "falls in love at first sight" with her baby. Perhaps, maybe…some love stories start out slowly, growing deeper and truer over an entire lifetime.

Birth is just the beginning.

My twins are now six and a half years old. They are active, wild, funny, affectionate little boys. Every day when I pick them up from Kindergarten, they run like crazy maniacs across the street and fling their arms around my waist, yelling "MOMMY!" at the top of their lungs.

And my heart feels that same warm glow that began six precious years ago.

I still stare at them sometimes ("Mom…why are you looking at me? Stop!") and think:

Who are you, little one?

And instead of being filled with fear and uncertainty, this question fills me with eagerness to get to know my sons more and more as they grow each day, each year to adulthood.

I will never stop wanting to know them more completely, love them more throughly.

Because sometimes you don't fall in love with your baby at first sight . Sometimes love grows slowly with purpose and strength over a lifetime.

Meet The Motherhood Collective© Staff: Danielle Hunter

Ever wonder who’s behind The Motherhood Collective? Over the next few weeks we’ll be introducing you to our dedicated team of volunteers. These women are all mothers – once, twice or many times over. While they come from different backgrounds and have various approaches to pregnancy, birth and parenting, each one is dedicated to creating a place where ALL mothers can find education and support. Meet  Danielle Hunter. She is quite possibly one of our greatest supporters, sticking with us through thick and thin. She currently serves as our "New Mama" Gift Basket Coordinator, but Danielle has worn many hats with us as we've grown.

Danielle found us the way many did, through our original outreach, The Motherhood Café.  Yet many might not know that she was the founder of our Playgroups. Week after week, she drove 30 minutes into town to "host" our Playgroups.  These gatherings provided an opportunity for our local mothers to connect with each other outside of our Café setting.  Some amazing friendships were formed between these early playgroup participants and has greatly strengthened our organization. We are so thankful for her vision and the hard work she poured in to create this valuable program.

One of our favorite aspects about serving on The Motherhood Collective© Staff is that we acknowledge the seasons of motherhood and strongly encourage our mothers to put their families first. We love to use Danielle as an example. Her "roles" with us have changed, but her support has never waned.

Currently serving as our "New Mama" Gift Basket Coordinator, Danielle hand-assembles small congratulatory gifts for our mamas upon the birth of their babies. This volunteer role is one of love and attention to detail, and we are thankful to Danielle for her constant commitment to the care of our mamas.

On Café mornings, Danielle distribute the Gift Baskets and then you will find her leading and facilitating the Pregnancy and Birth Small Groups. She is a wealth of knowledge and is a most gracious listener. We know you will enjoy your mornings with her!

Thank you, Danielle, for serving the women and families of The Motherhood Collective©, and for quietly reminding us of our simple mission to "Nurture the Mother to Grow the Child."

PS – Interested in donating a hand crafted item to Danielle's Gift Baskets? Fill out a volunteer form here and specify your skill in the "special skills and qualifications" portion! We will put Danielle in touch with you!

Meet The Motherhood Collective© Staff: Kayla Becker

Ever wonder who’s behind The Motherhood Collective? Over the next few weeks we’ll be introducing you to our dedicated team of volunteers. These women are all mothers – once, twice or many times over. While they come from different backgrounds and have various approaches to pregnancy, birth and parenting, each one is dedicated to creating a place where ALL mothers can find education and support.022 Meet Kayla Becker! Kayla has worn many hats in her years with The Motherhood Collective©, but currently she serves as the other Managing Director, Workshop Coordinator, Info Booth Administrator and Bump Club Director. (sheesh... )

Kayla was originally brought on as our Treasurer due to her fantastic skills with numbers, but has transitioned into the many roles above as her dreams for our organization have grown.

The mother of two, Kayla visited our Café after the difficult birth of her first son and found much more than she expected. She likes to tell of the healing she found and the relationships she developed with mothers of the Collective© - both of which helped transform her second pregnancy and birth.

Passionate about our mission and focused on serving women through education and support, Kayla works daily to sharpen our focus, develop new programs and increase awareness in the community as a Managing Director.

Kayla has two exciting projects debuting in the New Year; the Info Booth and Bump Clubs. The Info Booth will serve to further connect women attending our outreach programs to the greater efforts of The Motherhood Collective©. The Bump Clubs (official name TBA) are still in development, but are the solution to the pleas we have heard from you, our mamas, to deepen relationships with mothers walking through the same milestones of motherhood.

We are so excited for our upcoming 2014 Workshops and Kayla is, yet again, the force behind these wonderful evening events!

Come January, on Café mornings you will find Kayla behind the Info Booth in the first hour, then actively participating in the Pregnancy Small Group during the second hour. She looks forward to connecting you to this collective group of mothers!

Thank you, Kayla, for serving the women and families of The Motherhood Collective©.

PS – Interested in helping serve as a volunteer on one of Kayla’s projects? Fill out a volunteer form here and tell us so!

Grief: A Sneaky Little Bugger

Before I begin, let me take a moment to note that I have experienced loss in many ways - as a daughter, granddaughter, niece and friend, etc, but I have NEVER experienced loss as a mother and I can't speak to how these types of loss compare to that of a mother losing her child. Now I can continue with my story. Shortly after my daughter, Miss E's, first birthday, I was enjoying a child-free shower. My husband, J-man, was home which meant I could really relax and enjoy my shower time. Translation: I could think. That was probably my mistake. I was trying to put together something in my head I could use to post about Miss E’s first year. As I was thinking, I remembered that at this time last year while we were excited to celebrate Miss E’s first month in this world, friends of mine found out they weren’t going to be so lucky. And that is when it happened; I started crying, and then sobbing. I shed tears for that sweet angel baby who never opened her eyes. I sobbed for that mother who didn’t get to experience all those firsts. I cried for that father who would not get to revisit the toddler years.

I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pull myself together when J-man and Miss E walked into our room. Luckily, I was able to stop. I wasn’t sure how I would explain that I was grieving over someone else’s child. It wouldn’t come as a surprise to him though. Last year, as this friend shared her story via a blog, I would read it and my husband would always know by the tears rolling down my cheeks. He once asked why I read if it upset me so much. I explained to him that this poor friend was living my greatest pregnancy nightmare. In my own way I felt that by reading her posts, I was supporting her across so many miles. Even now as I think about it my eyes fill with tears for their loss. I can’t begin to imagine what that must be like.

About 22 years, ago my mother had a miscarriage. I’ll admit I don’t always think about it. I was about 10 maybe 11 when it happened. We didn’t know what she was having, but I always say it was a little girl. You see, when my mother was pregnant, so was Elly Patterson, the mom from Lynn Johnston’s comic For Better Or For Worse. (Read on, this thought isn’t as random as it sounds.) I had always liked that comic strip. I liked the artwork.  And the children, Michael and Elizabeth, were about my older sister’s age and mine. After our loss, April was born to the Pattersons. As weird as it sounds, after that I think I was more invested in the comic strip. Sometimes I would read April’s exploits and think that my "sister" would have been about the same age, doing similar things. I guess it was part of my healing process. To this day, whenever I read For Better Or For Worse, especially if April is “starring” in it, I think of her, my baby sister who wasn’t.

Why the story about April Patterson, my mother and her miscarriage?

I was trying to figure out why I feel like I am grieving my friend's loss so strongly. Then it hit me; I feel like my daughter is my friend's "April".  Seeing Miss E grow, change and experience the things kids do, it reminds me of how I've always felt that connection to the fictional child the same age as my sister.  Grief is a tricky thing and understanding the connection makes me feel less silly about mourning so personally for my friend.

Labor Pains: A note from our Executive Director

When we began this website, we posted The Motherhood Collective's "Birth Story" and we invited you to come along with us as we continued to grow and we referenced our possible, future labor pains. Well, here we are and are writing about it. The Motherhood Collective© is experiencing some exciting changes as we continue to increase awareness and network in our local community and beyond.

Many of you have been encouraged by our local outreach, The Motherhood Café. This is one of our favorite ways to serve as it brings us face-to-face with the mothers of our local community. We desire to continue this particular service for years and years to come. That said, we have had to have some hard talks about making the Café as sustainable as possible.The Motherhood Collective

Over the next years we hope to take our passion for education and support to a new level. This might mean providing scholarships for childbirth education, certificates for lactation consultants, supporting local postpartum depression groups, providing increased opportunities to for you to gather with women in your seasons of life, and even planting "chapters" in other communities around the country.

We operate on a limited, donation-supported budget and wish to employ these funds in the best way possible. Currently a large portion of these dollars is used to supply Café food and coffee. While this is a worthy "cause", its reach is not far and we feel there are needs much greater (such as those projects mentioned above).

We are not doing away with food altogether, but rather opening up a conversation. What would you, the women we serve, prefer to see? No food at all or food that costs you a small amount? We know that our incomes vary and that honestly, priorities vary. We are working on several ways to continue offering some type of refreshments, but with different options.  We've discussed providing vouchers for first time attendees, selling prepaid punch cards and gifting punch cards in our new mom baskets.  Please know that making our mothers feel comfortable and cared for on Mondays is still very much part of our intent.  We do not make these changes lightly.

We know that many of you care passionately about this organization and you are the very women we serve. So, would you take a moment to fill out this survey and share your opinions with us? We long to continue in our efforts to Nurture the Mother to Grow the Child and your help would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you!

Community: A Cure for the Mom Wars

Holding HandsCall it what you want, “mom wars”, “mom-petition”, “avocado pointing”, the tension between moms has been getting a lot of attention in the media (or at least on blogs) lately. It seems like all summer long, there was at least one link in my Facebook feed on regarding this topic. This is not one of those posts. Over the summer I posted this on my Facebook wall…

“I know some of you have asked if I need any help now or after the baby comes. I am putting together a list of ladies who would be willing to bring a meal after baby. (My sister in law will be coordinating this). Also looking for one or two women who might be able to come sit at the hospital with me for an hour or two during my stay, in case Josh has to work at some point. (C-section stay is a bit longer and hard to pick up baby on my own). If you are interested in either of these just PM me with your e-mail address or comment here with it. Thank you ladies so much. Blessed to have so many wonderful women in my life.”

What followed was a beautiful string of replies and e-mails offering love and support. But my mother’s reply has played in my head over and over again for the past two and a half months.

She said, “Women helping women birth babies into the world: a song as old as time.”

Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? It’s not about simply saying “you do your thing and I will do mine”, but reaching out and actively doing life with each other.

As people, there is something deep within us that is designed to live in community. I believe that, as women, we feel this urge on a visceral level-- maybe never more deeply than when it comes time to bring a baby into the world. And yet, gone are the days of mothers, sisters and aunts being the ones by our side as we birth our children.

We live in a time and place where often births take place in a hospital and are attended by a staff of medical professionals we have never met, rather than by the women who know our hearts. We have taken the community and the support out of the birthing process and perhaps, by extension, taken it out of the mothering process as well. For some women, it has led to a return to home births attended by midwives and doulas, mothers and sisters. But for some women, for whatever reason, this isn’t an option. So where does that leave us?

We no longer live in a society where community comes naturally. It seems the days of knowing your neighbors and the names of all of your children’s friends’ parents, have passed. And so we must make our own community. We must choose to be actively involved in one another’s lives. Community isn’t easy. In fact, it is often messy, inconvenient and painful. We have to make the choice to invite people into our lives, and step into theirs. It’s not always easy or comfortable, but the rewards are beautiful. If you are busy investing in and loving on other moms, other women, other people, it’s a lot harder to judge them. When we choose to take an active role in one another’s lives, when we choose to love on one another, when we choose to do true community (no masks, no cliques) maybe the mom wars will fade away.