Parenting is hard work! Those first few months are often a sleep deprived whirlwind of boobs, bottles and diapers. Most new parents are in survival mode, and many are barely surviving. I often hear things like “People told me it would be hard, but I had NO idea how hard!” or, “I don’t think I should really be driving like this.” This shit is no joke! Read More “Sleep changes everything”
Self-Care Made Simple
Aside from the fact that parents these days are spread thinner than ever, we do have a small advantage over previous generations: “self-care” is actually a thing. It is a term that crosses our lips and enters our minds as something we should, just maybe, prioritize.
That being said, it is still super hard to figure out just how to take care of one’s self when one is also responsible for the (numerous, urgent, and much louder) demands of others. As a self-employed/working/work-from-home/stay-at-home mother of three (including 3-year-old twins), some days self-care looks more like self-preservation: locking myself in the bathroom to breathe for a minute so I don’t hurt anyone, for example. When my twins were babies, I remember posting to a mom group on Facebook, saying just how tired and overwhelmed I was. I got some well-intentioned but infuriating responses about how important it is to recharge, and to “carve out the time” to take care of myself. (THEEEEEEEENKS, you think I don’t know that???) Much easier said than done. However, the past seven years as a parent have taught me a thing or two about identifying and prioritizing the things that feel like self-care to me, ranging from those that are fun to those that truly feed my soul. Often, it may be something that your pre-baby self did on a regular basis and took for granted. But if you notice it, savor it, and remind yourself that you are doing this to take care of YOU, then it counts!
I used to be a long distance runner and hardly considered yoga a workout. Since having children, however, yoga is by far my favorite form of exercise, and I know beyond a doubt that it nurtures me in mind, body, and soul. If you can find a class geared especially towards postpartum women, all the better. And remember: some is better than none. For example, I would ideally practice yoga three times a week. In reality, I am lucky to go once a month, but I always appreciate it.
Eat a hot meal, sitting down, slowly, and with two hands.
Luxury, right? But seriously, do it. Give the baby to your partner, or Grandma, or hire a postpartum doula! Take your meal up to your room, put down your phone, and put on some relaxing music (or don earplugs, if necessary). Breathe, chew, taste, ENJOY. Ahhh…
Go to Target… by yourself.
Picture this: your body is unencumbered by diaper bag and babies. You walk boldly through those magical sliding doors, shoulders back, mind clear. You see a tired mom buckling her fussy toddler into a cart, another baby on her back, and you give her a gentle, understanding smile before stopping at Starbucks. You sip your latte as you leisurely stroll to the diaper aisle, stopping to look at a t-shirt, or to try on pair of cute shoes you don’t need, JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN. The world is your oyster, mama. Own it!
Take a long, hot shower
This one seems so simple, but most moms know it can be a challenge! It’s not gonna happen every time, but aim to get at least one shower a week when you are not interrupted by the pit-pat of toddler feet coming into the bathroom, or rushing to get done and feed the baby. Take a drop of essential oil and rub your tired shoulders for a few seconds. Let the hot water fall on your shoulders and lower back. Breathe. If you really want to make it a spa day, shave your legs and finish off with moisturizing after the shower. This is YOUR time–go crazy.
Take a (coffee) break
Ok, so I am biased. A hard-core coffee lover. But seriously, coffee (or, as I call it, the sweet elixir of the gods) makes everything better. As a brand new mom to my first child, I remember re-heating the same cup of coffee four times before I could get it down. Blehck. Now, my THREE children all have TV time in the morning while mommy makes and drinks her hot, delicious cup of french-pressed coffee, because… SANITY. Also, coffee drive-thrus are the most brilliant invention IN THE WORLD. The summer that my girls were about six months old and my boy was not quite five, sometimes sh** hit the fan and everyone was a mess. I would load them all in the car, queue the music, hit up the Starbucks drive-thru, and just… drive. Babies buckled safely in the back. Coffee. Quiet.
Get a massage
Especially if you find a practitioner who is tuned in to the specific needs of pregnant or postpartum women, massage therapy is the perfect way to receive nurturing during this time when we give so much of our time and our bodies to our children. Even if it is a twice-a-year splurge, your tired, tight nursing shoulders will thank you!
Netflix, pajamas, and ice cream
Ok, so this just might have been my nightly routine for, like, YEARS of my life. Kids asleep, pajamas on, Netflix series du jour ready to go, and my pals Ben&Jerry by my side. There have been nights when I literally giggle to myself with delight as I settle into the couch, leave my day behind me, and immerse myself in somebody else’s world for a while.
Read a book for fun
Speaking of immersing yourself in another world, what greater luxury than plunging into a good? (No, not a book about sleep training, or baby-led weaning, or parenting with presence, or any of the myriad options that sit on your night stand untouched). Personally, I aspire to read again, but it is a work-in-progress. I think the last novel was I completed was circa 2009, when nursing my first baby. My mom’s book club is on our fourth book, and I have yet to finish one, although I still go to see friends and drink wine (see number 10, below).
Spend time alone
Research shows that our brains need time to be quiet, time to turn inward to assimilate and process everything that happens throughout our day. I totally dig this. But whether you have one child or five, the demands can feel constant… so how do we find time alone? To REALLY count for me, it has to be time when I am alone AND can rely on not being interrupted or needed for a set period of time. (So… naps are ok, asleep for the night is better, somebody else responsible for the kids is best, preferably taking them out of the house.) I know this ideal situation can be hard to coordinate, so just be on the look out for “alone” moments that you can steal. Take some deep breaths. Notice. AND–when you do manage to secure a chunk of time alone, DON’T use it to do something you think you should do! I hereby give you permission to spend that alone time on something purely selfish and frivolous and luxurious, because you can’t fill other people’s cups if yours is empty. My very first mother’s day, my husband took our son to visit my in-laws and I was home alone for SIX HOURS, which I speant cleaning and making homemade baby food to freeze in ice cube trays. Now, I’m pretty sure I would take a nap.
Spend time with friends
My girlfriends are my saving grace. Some are old friends, and we have become mother’s together over the years. Some are “mom” friends that I met because we are in a similar stage of life in a similar location with a certain number of common interests. All of them keep me sane. If you are a new mom, try meeting with other new moms once a week to walk, or to sit around and nurse, or to watch your babies play outside as the weather gets warmer. Next, try seeing girlfriends at least once a month WITHOUT children in tow, and preferably WITH a glass of wine. Motherhood is joyous and amazing, and scary and intense and HARD and, no matter which phase of it that you are in, it always helps to know that you are not alone.
One of the hardest things about welcoming a new bundle of joy into your life is that BABIES DON’T COME WITH MANUALS.
If you’re like me, you wouldn’t even assemble a bookshelf from Target without reading the instructions and following them meticulously… and in the right order. Read More “So Where is the Manual?”
I have been running new parent support groups for over fifteen years. I love being there for the triumphs and even the tears. I love to see these parents share their stories and support each other. I know, without a doubt, this work makes a difference. But here is the thing that sucks, support groups are great, but parents have to find them, travel to them and they are typically only weekly or less. It is utter nonsense that we push new parents out the door of the hospital, with a 2 or 3 day old newborn, and leave them to fend for themselves.
It’s like a bad dystopian novel, “Survive The Newborn Days”. You have six weeks to figure everything out about this tiny new human and who you are yourself, and as a couple, now that your entire world has been flipped upside down. You have to do it completely on your own, sleep deprived, after likely completing the equivalent of an Iron Man triathlon and/or major surgery, and go back to everything you were doing before. Ready? GO!
How does that even make any sense? I know you have heard your friends speak of “barely surviving” the early weeks with a new baby. Are you hoping for a different postpartum experience than this? I want to let you in on a secret. It does NOT have to be this way! You can change the story of newborn parenting to one of joy, confidence and peace and it’s simple. Line up nurturing care for yourself and your partner. Ask your best friend to put a meal train together for you. Surround yourself with nurturing happy parents. Ask for help with the day to day stuff, and be specific so you can focus on your baby, your family and yourself. Ask a neighbor to walk your pup or utilize doggy daycare for their first few weeks postpartum. Schedule weekly postpartum massages. Hire professional support.
Professional support is a bit different than a family member or friend coming to help. Having a trusted resource you can reach out to anytime as you work to understand your new little one is invaluable. A trained and knowledgeable professional who offers support without judgement or opinions can be life changing. Our society puts so much focus on birth and we ignore that after birth… there is a BABY! I heard a wonderful women describe it as “focusing on the wedding instead of the marriage”. I truly love how much families prepare for their birth experience, but there is more to bringing a human into the world than birth. Investing in your postpartum weeks can allow you to enter parenthood nurtured and cared for. It is known to reduce stress, increase confidence, and may even reduce the risk of postpartum depression. Here is the best part, by changing your newborn parent story, you are helping our society as a whole! If you are able to come through those early weeks feeling rested and cared for and in love, and you share with friends how and why you did it, other parents will feel more confident in asking for and hiring help. You are a smart educated adult, I am sure you agree that planning for a supported, positive postpartum experience makes sense.
That was a direct quote from me one year ago. And I totally meant it! Every word! I could not even begin to fathom picking up a clients placenta and taking it to my house. Have you ever been to my house? It’s not awful, but we do have two adults and up to five boys living here, plus 2 very long haired, 100 lb dogs. It’s a bit like controlled chaos. I actually love it! But does it seem like a good place to drain, steam and dehydrate an organ from your body that you hope to ingest? I mean, I know I eat a little dog hair in my soup every once in a while. I am totally ok with that, but in YOUR placenta? NO NO NO! That is disgusting, and guess what? I am not the only doula who has kids, or pets, or a standard messy house.
And don’t even get me started on the horror stories of clients receiving the wrong placenta. Ya, that is just as awful as it sounds. You can see how that might happen right? Like if I’m processing multiple placentas at once? Oh, you think that is gross too? I agree! This is why I swore, out loud, I would NEVER process placentas.
So fast forward a few months and I come across a brand new concept in placenta encapsulation safety. Processing in the client’s home only! You transport your own placenta (in a special kit, we provide). We come to you, bring our own sanitized equipment, process your beautiful placenta into pills, and leave your kitchen cleaner than when we arrived. Your house may not be spotless, but it is YOUR stuff, not mine. Our doulas are blood borne pathogen certified and trained to the highest safety standard available. While we are there, we are available to answer questions about your new baby, your recovery, breastfeeding, hemorrhoids..whatevs!
DING! DING! DING!
Everything has changed! BirthME is offering this service now and I actually love doing it! I know that it is safe for our doulas, their families and of course our clients. You only get one placenta, why would you take a chance with less than the best?
Working with Partners at Births reminds me of characters on a show I watched as a child. Zan and Jayna were part of the Justice League on a Saturday morning cartoon called “Super Friends”. These brother and sister superheroes put their rings together and could take on the shape of a bucket and water to put out a fire! Or become any other combination of things all based on what the situation required. I consider them to be the ultimate super heroes!
I am often reminded of Zan and Jayna when attending births. I work very closely with partners and primary support people to be sure they have the tools to support the birthing Parent as needed. I encourage them to use techniques like light touch and resting hands to increase oxytocin levels and decrease discomfort in Labor. Could I do these techniques myself ? Of course, but they are often more effective when done by the partner. I will hop right in when support people need a break to eat or rest. But I believe it all works best when the partner is in very close proximity to the laborer. Birth can be an intimate time for a couple and I love to help encourage this closeness.
As Doulas we are there for reassurance, information and physical support. Often our reassurance is directed at support people. We are able to help them understand that what they are witnessing is normal and expected. We are essentially walking childbirth classes. We may give technique pointers or demo a comfort measure for partners right in the moment and then help them adjust to get it just right. At that point we can step back and let the couple do their work together. We are able to take the pressure of partners to know what to do next or what techniques, if any, to try. Removing this pressure from partners allows them to be fully present for the person they love as well as opens a door for them to have their own experience. I have also worked with partners who have some anxiety about birth or even general nervousness. Having a calming presence in the form of a birth expert can go a long way to help these partners feel calm and confident.
As I leave a birth, or I visit new parent’s homes after their birth, I often hear something like, “I can’t even really put my finger on what you said or did, but we are both SO glad you were with us!” To me that is the best compliment I can get. It says I did my job exactly as I should. I wasn’t the focus, I wasn’t absent, I was there supporting both the birthing parent and their partner, assuring they each had exactly what they needed. I imagine myself as Jayna, the bucket carrying the water to put out the fire. The water (partner) was the vital tool, the bucket simply helped carry the water to just where it was needed to be.
Finally. You’ve reached the end of the long forty weeks of pregnancy. Your due date is so close! You’ve been nesting for weeks, there are newborn clothes washed and folded, the car seat is ready, your bags are packed. It’s time! Read More “Pamper Your Baby Out”
Know a mom that needs spoiling this holiday season? Here are five Maine-made ideas to get the warm and fuzzies flowing. Read More “The Official Maine Made Mama Spoiler Guide”
My pregnancy was an unplanned one. We threw caution to the wind one too many times and as a result we now have a wide-eyed, gassy baby boy who balloons me with love every time I am near him. Which is almost all the time.
With pregnancies like mine the worries and fears appear from the get go. As soon as those blue lines spread across that tiny window, like something rising out of the deep, I knew we were in for it. The monsters started creeping immediately- Read More “Pain”
I’m fairly certain I ruined my son’s life when I decided to give him a sibling. Of course, being the
overachiever that I am, I gave him not one sibling, but two. At once. TWIN. SISTERS.
Just like his daddy and I, the poor kid was blindsided. Read More “Sharing the Love”