A Call for Story Sharers!

As 2017 approaches, we are looking for new ways to reach the women we serve. One of those ways is through a consistent team of contributing story sharers on our blog. Yes, story sharers. You don't have to be a 'writer', have your own blog or have anything published to contribute. We want real-life mamas sharing real-life things. Good things like the joys of motherhood; ways you have learned and grown as a woman; ways you have been empowered through your story or struggle. Hard things like depression and anxiety; miscarriage and loss; unmet expectations. Stories of the day to day and what that looks like...and how it changes. We're looking for women who would be willing to contribute 5-10 posts/YEAR. That's it! Sometimes we may ask for a specific topic, other times we will just share what it is that you're passionate about sharing. We want YOUR STORIES...your beautifully messy, imperfect stories. If you are interested, please contact our blog editor, Alisha, at ameador@themotherhoodcollective.org. We can't wait to hear from you!

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!

My Long and Winding Road to Motherhood

My Long and Winding Road to Motherhood

Time seemed to stand still. Maybe it was because I was unconscious, but three hours later we were on the road home with 14 fertilized eggs incubating in a dish. 

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.

To the mom of only one child… and for those who wonder why she doesn’t have more…

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Last week I tried to buy a bike rack. I found a good deal on a quality one and had dreams of family bike rides through Lynchburg trails with the summer wind blowing in our faces. All those dreams came crashing down when I realized my husband’s truck hitch wouldn’t fit the rack. Today, I bought another rack, one that fit my trunk and our budget and my expectations for quality. After school, I picked up my son and we took our bikes to a local park to ride our hearts out before a spring thunderstorm was to strike. I’m not sure what makes an 8 year old boy ride through every mud puddle, but he did and the whole backside of him from ankles to head was covered in splatters. It delighted him (and me) as his laughter and whistles competed with the wind.  

A close friend and I recently chatted about the pain of only having one child when our arms ache for more. For me, the years of infertility and the experience of an angel baby has left me a bit dried up and searching for who I truly am, when I was “supposed” to be the mother of a houseful of noisy children, who made Christmas dinners entertaining and left dirty socks in every corner. It doesn’t help that we live in a city where having children is almost a religion and only having one child entices many to ask… “Are you going to give that boy a sister?” Or the pitying looks from those wondering if I’m every going to conceive again. When Ethan was 5 or 6, the questions of when we were having another seemed to fade away. If we lived in a metropolitan area, I’m pretty sure no one would bat an eye at our only having one child. But today, it took me off guard when the owner of our favorite Mexican restaurant asked me that very question. In all fairness to him, we haven’t seen him in years as he runs multiple eateries, but it still surprised me.

 

A few years ago after we lost our baby, we went through fertility treatments. Physically and emotionally, I knew I was done, one afternoon. Sitting in the waiting room full of eagerly expectant moms with swollen bellies sealed the deal for me. I was done trying. Done with painful procedures. Done with daily temperatures. Done with ovulation kits and intimacy for the point of procreation, and that horrible two week wait after ovulation, wondering if I had conceived that month. Moving on from these lifelong dreams, however, cut me like a knife. Would I ever have a daughter to dress in bows? Would Ethan feel like he was missing out on life without a brother? Had I failed him in some way? Would I grow old one day and live alone in a nursing home with no one to visit me if Ethan lived across the country? How was I going to wrestle with my maternal instincts that seemed to be on overdrive? That wrestling led me to a new career pursuit of becoming a Lactation Consultant. Never in all my years of practicing my nursing career would I have dreamed I would work with breastfeeding babies and mommas. But it fits somehow, like a puzzle piece. This love for babies and nurturing has redemptively turned into a love for educating women and loving on their babies.

 

Yet, There are moments when I see adorable, chubby faced babies in bows, or that picture of a perfect family with parents surrounded by multiple cherubs in a field of grass with the sun casting a warm glow on their little family… that my heart aches. I have cried many tears in the shower over the loss of my baby almost 4 years ago…of the loss of my dreams of how I thought my family would look. Death of dreams demands attention.

 

I inwardly cringe every time I hear someone refer to a newly expectant baby (after the loss of another baby) as a rainbow baby. Perhaps because rainbows do not happen for everyone in that manner. It hasn’t for me… I went for a walk last week at the park and ran into a woman I had cared for at the hospital. Her adorably chunky baby was smiles and sweetness. I knew this woman had wrestled with difficulties in conceiving and had experienced a miscarriage. Some women exude joy in parenting. This momma is one such woman. She loves being a mother and is doing an amazing job. But she was wrestling with whether or not she wanted another child or not. She asked me the pros and cons of having one child, aware of my story.

 

I love that Josh and I have been able to parent Ethan with such individual attention. That my son has his passport and has been able to travel to other countries. He absolutely adores Mexico and wants to go to Europe. That he plays the violin, and I can actively participate in that experience with him. That we can have calm bedtimes and snuggles with him. That he doesn’t have to share our attention with other children at this time in life.  But I ache that he doesn’t have a brother to share a room with and be scolded with for whispers past bedtime. That I am the playmate at times on lazy Saturday afternoons, instead of a brother or sister. My heart is incredibly grateful for the neighborhood kids and the dear friends (who are like brothers to Ethan) who Ethan has shared incredible memories with. Mercies for my heart…

 

When that first bike rack did not work out, I was disappointed. But then another one came across my path a few days later. I chewed on this… This thought that one rack was not better or worse than the other. They were...simply different.  And so it is with my family and every other family with one child, whether by choice or not. We are not better or worse than any other family structure… we are simply different. We are us… and our child is an absolutely precious gift. Perhaps society can begin to accept the variations of families that don’t all look like alike and lay aside any personal judgements and ideas we hold others and ourselves too. And perhaps as mothers we can begin to address that our identities as women supercede being mothers. That who we are is more than the chores of changing diapers and washing dirty laundry. That we have a loving nurturer inside of us. And we can throw that love into raising our families…whether with one child or 20. And we can spread it to others outside our family too… as for me… breastfeeding mothers and their babies. Because we are strong and loving women who need the support of one another and need to extend grace to ourselves and our differences.

 

And speaking of washing dirty laundry… a little boy’s muddy clothing and shoes are asking to be cleaned.

 

Julie Brown, Mother to Ethan, RN, BSN, Breastfeeding Educator, IBCLC candidate

Julie serves as a leader for The Motherhood Grief Group which meets the 2nd & 4th Wednesdays of the Month at 12 noon. Please visit their page for more information.

 

 

 

New Dreams

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One of my most treasured parts a a Café morning is having opportunity to sit in a small group with the women who attend. Last Monday in the late infancy group we discussed our well-being as women. How has motherhood changed us? Are we the same women we were before? Each of us said that we had difficulty discovering the new woman who is the mother. Our identity has changed, and with that; our hobbies, interests, and dreams.

We spoke about the struggle to surrender to the new woman who has been birthed through motherhood. Some of her life goals may remain, and how wonderful! Some of her life goals may have shifted, and that's wonderful too! But we must give ourselves the freedom to dream new and more incredible dreams. We must give ourselves the freedom to grow and expand with each new season we encounter.

We are ever evolving and ever growing women. We are mother. What dream will you grant yourself the permission to dream today?

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Dreams

Café Recap: Taking Care of Mama

Our panelists: Stephanie Fournier (PT, DPT, WCS, CLT-LANA), Jilayne Luckey (PPMD Support Group Leader), Debbie Perdew (DONA) and Lisa Wixted (LLL Leader and Yoga Instructor), and our  moderator, Lauren Barnes.

Being a mother means caring for others, sometimes above yourself. Today we are talking about the importance of taking care of yourself as a mother. Below are a few difficult but necessary pieces of advice for your new role as a mother: 1. Be realistic - you have less time now that you have a baby 2. Simplify your life - focus on what is most important 3. Establish a new routine - it takes time to find a regular rhythm after having a baby 4. Ask for help - let family and friends assist you 5. Learn to let go - trying to do too much doesn't leave enough time for what's most important

Stephanie emphasizes number 3, establish a new routine. You will not be able to jump back into your former way of life like tv and media would let you think. Debbie says that simplifying your life is crucial; trying to do too much will not be in the best interest of you or your children. Jilayne says that keeping each of these items in mind will help you balance your new lifestyle. Lisa encourages asking for help and then accepting help. She knows our natural instinct is to say "oh no we're all fine", when really there are plenty of things we could use help with. Via show of hands, our audience acknowledges that we all struggle with each of these items.

Physically, our bodies have been through a lot after birth. Stephanie says that our pelvic floor muscles have been "running a 9 month marathon". During delivery they are under even more stress, and stretched up to 120%. We need to give ourselves a break and rest so that our bodies have a chance to recover.

Lisa encourages deep breathing exercises as a way of relaxation. It is a simple way to give yourself a quick few seconds of rejuvenation. Jilayne finds that remembering to stretch can feel so much better physically that it will help mentally as well. She also actively pushes the negative thoughts away, not letting herself get trapped under a messy house or other superficial worries. Our audience suggests simple things like having a snack (mamas get cranky without energy, too!); reading a non-parenting book; getting outside to let kids get out their energy and yelling; doing something that makes you feel like a person outside of being a parent; spending time with your spouse (put the baby down early and relax together).

There are many changes during pregnancy that are to be expected and many of these issues will continue 6-8 weeks postpartum. If there are still issues after 6-8 weeks postpartum, or new issues, check in with your doctor. If something doesn't feel right, don't hesitate to talk with your care provider.

How do we find time to shower and cleaning during motherhood? Debbie recommends putting infants in a safe apparatus, and teaching older children how to behave and help you around the house. They can get their own snacks, help pick up, etc. Lisa did the familiar "put the baby in the bouncer right outside the shower and play peek-a-boo while you clean off" routine. Audience members remind us that a baby crying will be okay for two more minutes while you rinse out your shampoo. Others find that they need peace in the shower and will create a new routine, or put the baby tub in the shower with them.

The following self-care tricks can help you refocus and relax: 1. Mommy Break/Mommy Time Out 2. Mom's Night 3. Pamper Yourself 4. Relax

Exercise can be a challenge for mothers. Finding time to work out is not easy, but Lisa suggests getting your kids involved. Wear a baby sling and do simple toe-raises or squats. Mommy and Me Yoga incorporates moms and children working out together. Stephanie says to do kegals, tightening your pelvic floor muscles. To do it correctly: breathe, don't use your butt muscles, don't bring your knees together, and squeeze gently. Do kegals when nursing, before standing up and while sitting down, and as often as possible during the day. Make an effort to keep your posture correct throughout the day as well. Don't bend at the waist and hunch over to pick up kids' toys; instead, sit on a stool and keep your posture upright or squat (if your body is ready).

Debbie suggests living room dance parties as a way of exercise- kids love it! Try sit ups with a baby on top of you, push ups with a baby on the floor, etc. Stephanie cautions that if we have diastasis (splitting of the ab muscles), we need to be careful about the exercises we do. When the ab muscles separate during pregnancy (normal in the 3rd trimester) they sometimes come back together naturally after birth but other times require special steps to recover. If you do situps and see a little bump in your abs, you have diastasis and should see a physical therapist.

Neck and shoulder pain are also common postpartum; because of the way our weight is distributed during pregnancy, our posture suffers. If you don't take care to actively work on your posture after birth, then neck, shoulder, back and wrist pain are likely. Using good posture when nursing and feeding baby is important: put a small pillow behind your back (lumbar spine); add a boppy or nursing pillow to your lap (bringing the baby up instead of slumping down to meet him); roll your shoulders up and back, then down; and finally, bring your chin up and back instead of tucking it down.

In preparation for your first child, here are some suggestions to get yourself ready mentally: 1. Learn as much as you can 2. Talk to people you trust 3. Think positive 4. Don't be afraid to ask for help

Remember, mamas, that by taking care of yourself you can take care of your children. Set the example of living a healthy, balanced lifestyle and your children will learn to do the same.

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.

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.

Not Yet Ready for Motherhood

A major surprising thing that’s recently happened to me was when I discovered I was pregnant. I didn’t expect to get pregnant at my age. I’m nearly approaching my 40’s, and I believe conceiving a baby at my age sometimes poses some explicit risks. Also, another thing that troubles me is my tight budget. I’ll need to find ways not only to support my needs, but also those of my unborn child, on top of supporting my adopted young daughter on a day to day basis.

I will need to bravely deal with my unexpected pregnancy, though. My husband and I have searched for the best tips on how to deal with unexpected motherhood. We’ve come up with a list of tips that we think may prove to be useful in helping us out.

 

Image from Flickr

Resolve Potential Sibling Rivalry

I’m well aware that a new parenting task I’ll be facing is resolving sibling rivalry between my new baby and my 6-year old daughter. I think as early as now, I should start contemplating the resolution I would implement in order to resolve the issue of possible sibling rivalry between my kids once they start growing up together.

It should be expected my little kids may likely get into arguments and quarrels, particularly when playing. I won’t be surprised if each of my kid refuses to share the toy I’ve bought for them for Christmas. It may be beyond my power to prevent this scenario from happening when my budget is tight, and I only have so much money to buy one toy for Christmas.

To make both of my kids happy, I would buy little treats for each of them that fit my budget, such as candies and chocolates. These treats should make my kids happy, and it should avert any fights that may occur between them.

Relive Tantrum Days

And, to think I would have had enough of tantrums from kids! I thought I’ve already gotten past the stage of having to deal with a little child crying whenever he doesn’t get what he wants. And here I go, expecting the same scenario all over again.

In the past, whenever I took my daughter to a playground nearby our local park, she would always throw a fit if her playmates didn’t do what she wanted them to do, subsequently embarrassing me in front of a crowd.

After I give birth to my unborn child, I plan to strictly discipline my child to let him know he can’t always throw tantrums and get away with them scot-free. I would take away privileges from my child if he throws a tantrum a lot of times within the past month. By doing this, I can teach my child a lesson that rewards such as movie time, or a new toy only comes alongside good behaviors.

I’d likely consider engaging in interactive play with my younger kid in the playground to guide him how to act appropriately during moments that he can’t get everything he desires. The benefits of playground interaction of parents and kids are overwhelmingly immeasurable. Engaging in interactive play with my younger child maximizes opportunities for my kid to gain more friends, rather than enemies, in the playground.

The Age Gap Burden

Obviously, two kids with big age difference will likely have trouble relating to each other during play. One kid may have different ideas on how to play as compared to those of the other kid. Idea differences may cause arguments to break out between my two kids.

One of the most essential parts of motherhood is being there for your children, especially during their younger years. I, for one, wouldn't hesitate to come to my kids’ rescue when it comes to providing them with invaluable lessons on how to cope with sibling age difference.

Imparting lessons to my kids on how to cope with sibling age difference through creative storytelling would likely inspire my kids to extend their patience and understanding to each other. My kids are likely going to be inspired with the successful scenarios within the stories that I have to tell. After hearing these stories, I’d look forward to seeing them become the better big sister/ little brother or sister to each other.

Unprepared To Take Some Time Off From Work

Since my first child is a bit older and independent now, I was expecting to take some more time away from home working. I needed to earn additional income because I have been on a tight budget.

Now, I would have to make the transition in adjusting my busy schedule to spend more time bonding with my new baby after he is born. Spending more time playing and bonding with younger kids positively contribute not only to their emotional and social development, but also to their day to day safety, as well.

According to an article in Playgroundequipment.com, one out of every four kids becomes a prey to a bully, or to a number of bullies. I’m particularly alarmed of the risk of my little kid getting bullied, at school, in the playground, or wherever he may go. With this said, I’d be more than willing to adjust my schedule to spend more time with my young child after he is born to prevent avoidable untoward incidents from happening before it’s too late, even though it may be difficult to do so.

As a soon-to-be parent again, I need to be my unborn kid’s mother, friend and protector all in one package. I need to be the mom that my kid can proudly look up to and admire.

A mother is a child’s safe haven against the troubles this chaotic world constantly brings into his life. Having said this, us mothers, should in turn, hail our children to be the best blessings God can ever give us in this lifetime.

Tips and Tricks for Maternity "Leave"

maternity As a business owner, the idea of maternity leave is a tricky situation. Finding the balance between work and family, that unending internal battle that we all struggle with, becomes even more of a puzzle now that your family is growing. Taking a true break from work when your company depends on you is likely not an option; read on to see choices I have made and decisions I have struggled with in this new chapter of life.

 

First of all, having the option and ability to work from home is such a blessing and not one that I take for granted. The idea has always been that I will continue to work from home, running this web design business, and also staying at home with our children as they grow up. With the birth of our first son in April, I have implemented a few changes in my routine to accommodate both work and family.

Plan Ahead In the middle of my pregnancy, I took advantage of my high energy levels and worked overtime. Having the opportunity to get more work done than usual made me feel a lot better about taking some time off later. Financially the company had our best few months ever during this time, which means I had a nice cushion going into April and May when the baby was taking up the majority of my time. Knowing that I could continue to draw a paycheck for many months without any additional income was a relief, and worth the extra effort that I put in ahead of time.

Be Flexible Newborns run on their own schedule, and no amount of effort on your part is going to successfully change that. While we have gotten into a decent routine, there is no telling what time the baby will be feeding or napping each day. I take advantage of every free moment to get even little tasks done. Replying to emails on my phone while holding the baby, making quick updates for clients during nap time, etc. have all been crucial to my continued productivity. I made the mistake early on of thinking that I knew when he would be awake or asleep, but banking on that only left me frazzled when I was wrong.

Rely on Others My husband works nearby and is an equal partner in raising our kids. I try to squeeze in a bit of work during “normal” business hours, but when he gets home it is his time with our son while I catch up in the office. During these first weeks of Isaac’s life, Adam has been able to work part time at home. This has been a HUGE help in the transition to a family of three. His job allows him to be flexible, and he has used saved up vacation time to spend more time at home. Whether he is taking care of Isaac so that I can catch up on sleep/work/everything or getting things done around the house while I have the baby, he is a huge help. We had other family, my mom and sister, visit and help out for a few days as well. But even once you’re past those first few big adjustment days, it is not easy to find time for everything in the day. Use others to free up some of your time for work priorities.

Be Realistic During the last weeks of my pregnancy, I was very aware of my schedule and work-load. I was careful to coordinate projects so that they would either be done by the time the baby arrived, or could be put on hold for a few weeks at that time. In these first few weeks I have not been taking on new projects, making current clients the priority instead. This ensures that existing sites continue to run smoothly and are up-to-date, without overwhelming my limited time in the office. Now that I have my energy back and am able to get more done, I am talking with potential clients about new projects. I am aware, however, that my availability will not be what it was. Timelines for projects are longer than before, giving me more time to get my work done and avoiding a decrease in quality due to time constraints.

Those are my tips for life (and work!) after baby. Any other working parents out there with some advice to share?

Green Diets For Mothers-to-be

During my first pregnancy, I read articles for pregnant women about what do and what not to do, what to eat and the food must be avoided. It’s amazing to see how modern discoveries have set a new diet plan for pregnant women, and with these came new terms that were formerly unheard of. One of these is folic acid.

 

According to one article, taking folic acid before and during pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of your baby's brain and spinal cord. Among the foods rich in folic acid are green leafy vegetables – the darker and leafier, the more concentrated is the foliate. So is green diet good for pregnant women?

 

The Green Benefits

Surely, green diet has its benefits. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, plus fiber that are essential in prenatal months. Aside from its dietary benefits, these plants are useful for pregnant women in more ways. Try including lettuce, for instance, in your indoor plants. Lettuce likes plenty of sun from south-facing windows. During my pregnancy, these greens helped create a relaxing mood, plus the added oxygen it brings to my home helped relieve the nauseating feeling. Not only that, it is counted as one of the fast growing plants, so it’s sure to grow way ahead before your baby is born. Now that’s proof of plants being one of the health and productivity hacks.

 

Add More to the Green

Yes, dark green leafy vegetables may give you your needed fiber and 0.4 mg of folic acid, but that’s not all there is in a pregnant woman’s diet. There are other essential nutrients that a green diet cannot offer, so don’t forget to add these in your meal plan:

 

·         6-11 servings of bread and grains

An expert says you should consume about 300 more calories per day than you did before you became pregnant.

·         2-4 servings of fruit, plus 4 or more servings of vegetables

Citrus fruits like orange, lemon and grapefruits are good sources of vitamin C, while yellow vegetables like carrots and pumpkins are good sources of vitamin A.

·         4 servings of dairy products

This will help ensure that you get your needed 1000-1300 mg of calcium daily

·         3 servings of protein sources (meat, poultry, fish, eggs or nuts)

These foods are rich in iron too.

·         Use fats and sweets sparingly

 

The Green Drink

For a pregnant woman, especially the picky-eaters like me, this recommended diet sounds too much to take. Plus we do not want to put on the unnecessary weight. The good news is, there are trends in diet that allow us to take all the needed nutrients in a convenient and appetizing way. Try preparing a green drink. This is a mixture of green vegetables, plus every other healthy ingredient that you might find in your fridge, like avocado. Don’t be afraid to experiment with other ingredients like apples too. Put them in a blender to prepare a juice or a smoothie. If it works well for the health buffs and the weight conscious who count their calorie and nutrient intake, it should work well for pregnant mothers too. But don’t forget that this is not meant to replace your meal. It is simply a dietary supplement.

Eating for Two

 

 

It’s not just the greens but all the colored fruits and vegetables – red, orange, yellow, purple and white – that ensure a variety of nutrients for you and your baby. Interestingly, expert dietician Karin Hosenfeld adds, “During the later stages of pregnancy, the baby 'tastes' the foods you eat through the amniotic fluid. So if you expose your baby to a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables in the womb, you'll increase the chance that your baby will recognize and accept those flavors later on."

 

As a pregnant mom, you don’t need to go on a special diet to ensure the nutritional needs for you and your baby. All it takes is a good variety, balance and moderation. Remember that what you eat today defines the well-being of your baby. So go and give him a healthy headstart so he is well-prepared to face the world.

 

About the author:

EMILY HARPER - I am housewife, a mother, and active member of our neighborhood watch. I empower families on how to ensure safety by investing in home security technology.

You can read more by Emily on her blog at www.securityocean.com

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.

Combating Morning Sickness

As I’m sitting here in my office this morning, I can't help but think about all of the phone calls I have gotten over the past couple of days concerning morning sickness. It seems like quite a common topic with my pregnant clients and friends. Even as I was driving to work this morning, my daughter called facing the same dilemma in her pregnancy. With that being my fourth call this week, I thought that it would be a common enough topic to interest you. Homeopathic & Herbal Remedies for morning sickness:

Morning Sickness

There’s a strong connection between nausea in the beginning of pregnancy and low blood sugar. Probably one of the best things you can do before adding any type of remedy is to make sure you eat a small meal and/or snacks quite frequently throughout the day. I would also advise not to go more than 90 minutes between snacks.

A couple of things to keep in mind when you’re snacking is to eat protein-rich snacks, such as nuts, hummus & crackers, bananas, guacamole, etc.

Increase your Iron and Vitamin B supplements, especially Vitamin B1 and B6. Vitamin B deficiency can also cause morning sickness.

Avoid spicy and greasy foods when possible.

Try to eat crackers or something similar before getting out of bed in the morning.

Drink a teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in 8 oz. of warm water first thing in the morning.

Drink 1 or 2 cups of raspberry leave tea or infusion each day

Other teas or infusions to calm nausea in pregnancy:

  • Make tea from dried peach leaves
  • Drink peppermint tea or infusion
  • Ginger root – tea or infusion

You can go to any health food store and buy Peppermint and/or Spearmint Oil (not extract) – put a couple of drops on a wet washcloth and lay beside you. You can also do this with lavender as well.

Something that women don’t think about that can help tremendously – go outside and walk a mile or so a day, if approved by health care provider. Chemical byproducts can increase hormonal activity and cause a buildup in the body, which can stimulate and contribute to morning sickness. Walking can help to get out these toxins and reduce the chance of buildup.

Morning sickness is a very common side effect of pregnancy, but with these few tricks of the trade, I hope that it can be something you can quickly overcome so that you can enjoy your pregnancy feeling wonderful and full of energy.

 

*All information was gathered from Susan Weed’s Wise Women Herbal for the Childbearing Year. This is a wonderful book that I would recommend to any woman who is pregnant or interested in pregnancy/childbirth.

 

 

Disclaimer:

Anticipation and Beyond uses all reasonable effort to provide accurate, up-to-date and evidence-based information for teaching and counseling purposes. All information that is written for blogs, social media posts, and websites is to be used for education and informational purposes only. All data and instruction from Anticipation and Beyond should not be intended to replace or substitute professional or medical advice from your health care provider. Direct all of your family’s concerns, questions, and health issues to your health care provider.   The information provided is not and may not be applicable to every situation. The purpose of Anticipation and Beyond providing guidance and education to new families is two-fold. The first purpose is for the intention of teaching parents about the many choices and alternatives that are available to them. The second motivation is to encourage families to dig down deep and research themselves from reliable resources that will help to enlighten their new journey.

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.

Happy Birthday Addy!

This birth journey was quite that--a journey!  It is my own story of welcoming my second baby and my first daughter in a way that I never imagined or even wanted.  However, even the worst of situations can help mold and define us--if we let them.  I hope my work with women as a doula encourages them to do just that--use all their life experiences to become better mothers! 58F05-11-5(4-37)

Tomorrow is my daughter’s 7th birthday.  She is such a joy—easy to parent, fun to be around, full of desire and love for life.  She is the complete opposite of me.  She is quiet and she thinks things through. She loves cuddles—her eyes light up at just the thought of a hug.  She loves sports and she really dislikes anything pink or purple or overly girly in any way.  Being a girly-girl myself, people joke me about this all the time.  Honestly, I love that she knows who she is and that she is not afraid to be different.  I love to watch her play with intensity on the soccer/baseball/basketball/swim team.  She never takes a short-cut or chooses the easier road—I have learned a lot from her, my first daughter Addy.

 

Her pregnancy was easy—the joy I felt to be carrying a girl after my first son was immense.  At 36 weeks when my water broke unexpectedly, I was excited to meet this child that I had dreamed about for 9 months (or really, longer than that—as my greatest desire in life has always been to be a mommy.)  I went to the hospital, was hooked up, and was told her heart-rate was too high and I would need a c-section.  At the time, I knew nothing about birth—I went into my first birth totally uneducated and it turned out fine (or so I thought at the time—it was a vaginal delivery with an epidural—that’s how we have babies in America, right?)  Here I was, about to have my second baby, and I still had no knowledge about the process of birth.  If I am to be completely honest, when the doctor said c-section, I was not upset.  I am sad to admit it now, but I thought to myself: “Well I thought I had a long labor in front of me, but I will be holding my baby in less than an hour.”  That, mixed with the fact that the doctor used the fear that every mother carries about her baby being healthy, sent me happily into the OR.

 

The experience in the OR was intense.  I was aware of the anesthesiologist warning me not to freak out: “One false move from you, and I will put you all the way under.”   I remember being scared, as my arms were strapped down and the curtain was raised, but everyone seemed so calm—like this was something that happened all the time (which it is.)  I pushed my fears aside, prayed silently, and held my husband’s hand.  I fought the urge to scream and vomit when I felt them tugging on my uterus, when I felt them moving organs and placing my stomach contents on my belly—this is normal, I kept telling myself.  It was not long before she was born with a healthy cry—7 pounds, 1 ounce and perfect heart rate.  They held her up, Dad snapped some pictures, and they wheeled her away.  This is how I met my first daughter—the little girl I had dreamed about for so long.

 

The recover was painful.  I remember them lifting the sheet to move me from bed to bed.  I remember being cold and shaking uncontrollably, I remember thinking: “Where is my baby?”  The nurse told me I had to be able to wiggle my toes before I could see her—I tried so hard.  Eventually (after 3 or so hours) they brought her in.  I was overwhelmed with love for her, but also overwhelmed with wondering how I was going to take care of this tiny baby when I could barely even wiggle my toes.  I told the nurse I was in pain.  She said: “Of course you are in pain, you just had major surgery.”  I was shocked—no one had called it “major surgery,” instead it was just a c-section, as routine as a root-canal.

 

My painful recovery did not end in the hospital.  I went home, and after a day or two the pain became unbearable.  I began to spike really high fevers, followed by uncontrollable chills.  I would soak the sheets with sweat at night, telling my husband that I would just rather die.  The entire time, I was trying to nurse (around the clock) and take care of my baby, which seemed like a major chore.  People kept telling me: “Just be thankful you have a healthy baby.”  I was thankful, but I could not fight the feeling that something was taken from me.  I was not enjoying anything about her, which added more guilt to my already wounded heart.  I know you are wondering why I did not go to the hospital, as everyone knows that these are signs of infection.  We called my doctor every day—something multiple times a day.  Every time we called, she told us not to come into the office that she thought I had the flu and she did not want to get the other patience sick.  She told me that recovering from a c-section was hard, that it was in my head, and that I might be struggling with postpartum depression.  If someone who you trust, who is an educated, experienced doctor tells you this enough, you being to think that you are going crazy.  I was sure that it must all be in my head, that despite the temperature readings, I was making myself sick.  Besides, I thought, I just had major surgery—I guess the recover must be this hard.

 

You know by now where this story is going.  I finally went to the ER after a week (and after I passed out at home and my husband became even more concerned) and they admitted me with a ragging Staff infection.  I spent 6 days in the hospital, getting IV antibodies, having my wound opened and drained, getting my incision packed and cleaned, and finally getting a PICC line to go home with so that I could have IV antibodies for the next few months from home.  I also had Home Health Care, and a nurse (a bright ray of sunshine with red hair and a happy face) came to my house every day to change my packing in my incision.  I was not able to nurse or even see my baby (who was just a week old) because of the infection and the medication.  It was painful and awful and I was mad and upset—wondering why things had to go this way for me.  The worst part was my own conscious and guilt telling me that I was a bad mother because I did not even care about seeing my baby.  My mother-in-law brought her to see me at one point, in an effort to cheer me up, and I did not even want to lift my arms and hold her.  Looking back, I know that I was so sick and my body was so tired and just needed time to feel better.  However, in that moment, I was a shell.  My ability to have a baby had been taken from me, and my ability to mother was gone as well.   I was worse than upset—I became emotionless.

 

I went home after a week, and began to feel somewhat better being surrounded by my own things and the people who loved me—the family and friends who were committed to caring for me.  In my safe place, I began to hold Addy and even enjoy her.  I started to pump (I had to dump the milk because of the medication) and I was hopeful that one day I could nurse her again (and I did—for over a year.)  Like a wilted flower—I began to regain my strength—to stand up tall, to open and grow.  It was not on my own power—I prayed a lot and I know a lot of people prayed for me.  I read scripture with new eyes—as some who was so broken, as someone who needed something, anything to make it through the day.  My soul was parched, and I accepted the living water that only the Lord can provide.  I began to see glimpse of myself again.  My husband took me to get a Christmas tree, promising I could pick out the biggest one on the lot.  My sister-in-law picked me up and we went shopping for decorations.  My Mom came and pulled all the weeds in my flower bed outside.  My mother-in-law, fresh out of surgery herself, cooked and cleaned and made everything run like normal.  My Gran came and stayed for a week—she would sit in the chair by the couch and tell me stories, wonderful stories from when she was young. My new friend (at the time) brought cookies, and just sat and chatted with me.  I began to see this family and community that God had blessed me with—people brought food, helped take care of my older son, or just called to check on me.  I was surrounded by people pouring out love, watering my soul, bringing me slowly back to my former self.

 

Would I take it all back?  Never.  During this time in my life, I found a sister who loved me, a new best friend, and a husband who served me faithfully and with no concern for himself.  I found a church that was faithful to serve someone in need.  I looked at my daughter with new eyes—the eyes of someone who had faced hurt and pain and conquered it.

 

Most importantly, I found my passion in life.  From that moment on I began to get educated about birth.  I read—no, devoured, books.  I talked to other moms and really thought about how women give birth in America.  I watched documentaries, and was sure that there was a better way to have a baby.  When I had my 3rd and 4th babies, with midwives, I had beautiful, natural VBACS that made me believe in myself and other women as well—if someone would just tell them: there is a better way.

 

I’m thankful for Addy’s birth journey, and I think as women who have had c-sections and are looking for other options, we have to get to that point emotionally before we can have future vaginal births.  We can’t hold ourselves responsible for the things we did or did not know, for the decisions we made, and for the way we gave birth.  We have to move on and see it as part of who we are—tightly woven into every aspect of our being.

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On your 7th birthday, sweet Addy, I want you to know that you are the child who helped Mommy find herself.  Through everything, you helped me find a rebirth in myself.  You helped me see that I am strong and capable.  You started me on a journey to serve women, to educate, and to give options. Your birth story might not be one that I cherish, one that was joyful and easy, but it is important—so much more important—because it opened my eyes.  If I ever do anything worth while in my life, being your Mommy will be first—helping others find their own strength while becoming mommies will be second.

All my love,

Mommy