A group of flamingos will all mate at the same time so that all of the chicks will hatch together.
This makes good sense if you have flamingo mating skills. You experience the joys and tribulations of pregnancy with your friends. You celebrate milestones together. Birth is still vivid in your best flamingo friend's brain when you compare stories. You raise your wee flamboyance with your pals.
What if you find yourself without a flamingo village? No one who is in the same stage? No current experiences to draw from. Bird analogies aside, no one to receive tips, tricks, suggestions, etc. No one to commiserate with. No one to give you current, sound advice. You might feel isolated. Like your people have flocked off on you.
I was in a funny position when I had my son, Andrew. Many of my friends and family had already had their babes. They were pre-schoolers and beyond. I had very few people "in the thick of it" when I was having Andrew. My family was all out of town.
If you are flying solo in pregnancy for reasons such as that your friends have mostly already been through the "birth and baby stage," and are now experiencing new adventures with their little ones, are the first of your group to get pregnant, your family or friends live farther away, you're experiencing a multiple pregnancy, versus a singleton pregnancy.... whatever this looks like, the excitement can feel disconnecting.
Pregnancy, birth and postpartum can be isolating enough. You may be missing out on lunches with friends while you can't stomach the smell of a restaurant cooking chicken. You might be staying home from games night cause you can't stay up past 8:30 p.m. Your friends might not know how to engage with you without going for drinks, and you're not into being the D.D. I was lucky to have mostly amazing and supportive people in my life, who understood I needed to be in early, or would tweak plans to include tea instead of wine. I almost never hosted things at my home, as I'd want to go to bed early. Some people I disconnected from naturally. It happens. That's kind of a life cycle.
Here are a few tips for connecting, surviving, and thriving in a time where you may be feeling left out:
1) Join an online group or forum for folks due around the same time as you are.
2.) Try to connect with other pregnant folks. Perhaps less awkwardly than what I'd likely say, "I see you are currently anticipating the arrival of a tiny human, I, too, am gestating." Seriously, connect with other parents-to-be and pick their brains... what are they doing about the heartburn that could scald a desert cactus?
3.) Find a village: Parent and baby groups, library story and song times, breastfeeding groups, play groups at Early Years Centres.... whatever. Find people in the same stage and try and connect. Get out of the house. Often. If no one in said group has started a Facebook page from it, START YOUR OWN. Plan playdates. Get out with other people in the same stage. This saved my anxiety and my sanity.
4.) Don't expect your older family members or your friends with teens to remember. They've blocked out the shit of it. Their time was different. That's ok. They're also more likely to just worry about YOU. They will want to hold baby, but they will want to ensure you're eating and sleeping. Your friends who don't yet kids might not get you right now. They will try really hard to connect with you, though. Work with each other if you can. They really love you. They just don't know yet how to love you through this.
5.) For the pre-natal and postpartum period: Get help. Get long phone chargers to stay connected during marathon nursing sessions. Consider hiring a doula. Get support. Someone to reach out to when stuff is overwhelming that knows the local resources. Can share what other parents they know are doing. Someone know KNOWS you likely haven't showered in three days and the dry shampoo has met its match.
6.) Know that one day... your world will get easier. We promise. Someone had to tell me this. They were in my colony, but had been through it before. Thank you, Lindsay. <3
On my last day off, I spent half of it getting my hair done. Cut, highlighted, lowlighted. Then I rushed home to pick up my son from Pre-School. I generally look forward to a good change. I love a pedicure, a manicure (preferably with acrylic tips!), and a new lip colour. It freaking feels lovely. But at the same time, I will hastily schedule in a massage, a chiropractor appointment, etc. into my already busy work day to occur on my lunch break. Almost an afterthought. Why?
Why is using my "time off" sans family used for my appearance? When was the last time I used my day off to actually make it to a yoga class, take a hike, do something artistic? Quilt? I do not feel fulfilled having my hair cut. I like a quick change. It meets my short term needs.
When we suggest "self care" to people, why does it always involve freaking bubble baths? Aesthetics? Is it simply because I don't need to worry about asking someone to mind my child on a day I'm off work and he can go to Pre-School? Honestly, it feels like a sense of duty. Ok, this is my day to "treat myself" this month, so I better make it count. Why does "treating myself" or my "Jackie Day" need to involve my looks? Pressure to keep up, insecurity, sheer neglect all come to mind. Fitting into a feminine mindset. Not wanting to trouble family to watch my son on evenings I don't work. I wonder what it will take to shift that focus to things that might fill my bucket, help me work on my goals, and provide me actual breathing space. I'm the one creating my schedule on these days. I'm the boss of me.
Monday is my next day off. I'm spending it with my Mum. She now lives in town, and I'm so so grateful to have this day off with her. We will lunch and shop. This will fill my bucket. I would like to make an effort to journal on Monday. At least a blog post, but preferably a real, sit down, journal entry.
So many layers. Much like my new hair.
Somedays, I just feel like I know NOTHING. Not a thing. Nothing about how to parent in an emotionally responsive way, how to support those in my life. How to manage a home while working full time and owning a business.
Recently, my tiny human, age 3.5 has begun becoming highly emotional on the way to Pre-School. It's a new school for him. The first week of drop offs were amazing. Then...the tears. The screaming. The saying "Don't Leave, Mama." Heart broken.
I just don't know how to help him. I try and get him to talk it out. I try to make the mornings easier to help fill his bucket. More time with Mama, less missing, maybe? I'm not sure. Today was better. Drop off was outside so he was excited to show me his climbing.
Time changes... I let him nap long, then kept him up late the night of the change. Attempting shorter naps at pre-school. Some nights work. Some don't. I have no idea what's next. I just want him to sleep through.
I'm not sure how I'm supposed to have social connections at this stage in my life. I work two nights a week, and one weekend a month. I'm on call a lot. I do breakfasts with some of my doula gals, as therapeutic debriefing most of the time. Drinks after work are hard. My husband handles a lot of the pick ups, drop offs, etc.
Anyway.... I'm just saying. Some days are easier than others with feeling like you know your ass from your elbow. Real talk.
I am a doula and parent with privilege. I am white, married, from a dual income family, educated, employed, and have social skills.
When my clients' babies are fussy, solutions I offer include options like seeing lactation consultants across the city, teething oils bought in the next town, and sound machines. I can suggest infant chiropractic, baby massage techniques, and buying probiotics at Costco. I offer these solutions as these are choices I made from my position of privilege.
When I'm tired, I call on my partner. A privilege.
When I struggled, I sought healthcare. And medication I could easily attain. A privilege. Attended a Parent and Baby Group. Swimming. Privileges. Even when my PPD was hard, I had my iPhone. I could reach out. Connect. I can call on our friends during our home sale to help with our son. I could attend pregnancy and infant loss support groups.
How do families without cars make it to appointments easily? How do you get a tongue and lip tie revision to help with breastfeeding without benefits or disposable income to put that money out? Several appointments out on a bus with a newborn is not easy. It's not impossible. But it's not as easy as I have it. How about being racially judged as a new and breastfeeding parent? Or advocate for support when you've got an open file with CAS?
I'm a supported doula. My partner can jump in and take my son so I can work my passions. I can drop and go. I can sneak out after work for a postpartum visit. I can pay for occasional trainings, snacks for my doula bag, and a rebozo. I'm not made of money, but I have support and a vehicle to get where I need to be.
Am I judging families based on 'have and have nots'?
Am I offering a variety of realistic suggestions for my clients?
How am I phrasing my suggestions?
Am I serving people fairly?
I'm just in a reflective mood today, grateful for the position I have. I'm not sure the point of this for my blog. I am starting to reflect on the type of birthworker I am. I suppose this applies to the type of worker I am in social services, as well. I will be reaching out to Doulas smarter and more experienced than I am to help me be equitable in how I hold this space.
I think today was the last time I will have made up your crib.
After a late night watching Game of Thrones, we dozed off and forgot to set an alarm to wake you to use the ducky potty that stands guard beside your crib. Trustingly, it is set up for the midnight pee. You wet through your bedding. Not your fault.
As I change your sheets today, I'm struck with the realization that this is most likely, the last time I will make your crib up. We will move you to a single bed tomorrow to prepare our home to be "open house ready" in the coming month or two. De-clutter. You're contemplating climbing out of your crib. Gratefully you look at me, one leg up on the crib rail and ask first "It's too deep; Will I fall?" I tell you that you might and you put your leg down. I sigh. I unceremoniously grab the closest cleen sheets. Yellow. From Tante Louise, and they're perfectly summery soft. Makes my heart happy, as you love your Tante so much. I lay down the cashmere helicopter blanket that you've come to adore from Parker, much too small for you to be covered by. Finally, the bunny quilt. You dread when it's in the wash, as you like it to be pulled up under your chin before you roll over. Made by Auntie B, she hand pieced this quilt and presented it at my baby shower. That osa dear memory to me. She knows me so well and knew exactly what we'd love. It's been washed so many times (thank you, potty training!) and still so sturdy and just gets softer and softer. I place Walnut. She was actually a gift from my sweet, crunchy friend, Frankie. I perfect brown bunny. You adopted her as your own. Will you know that the generousity of five different people provided you with the comfy, cozy bedtime routines you have come to trust? Our village, again. Loving us through the wake ups, early mornings, and graciously deep sleeps.
You're three and a quarter. All your toddler friends are in toddler beds. Race cars, fire trucks, captain beds. You'll be in my great-great grandmother's antique Jenny Lind bed. It's got a good mattress, and was slept in by six generations.
It'll be easier to not need to lift you over the crib rails when you doze off in the rocking chair. It'll be easier to get you out for midnight pees, as you're dead weight like a limp noodle. It'll be easier to change your sheets, not fighting against crib rails. We will enter a new phase of keeping you in bed, in your room. Not easier.
Why is this so strange? As you are most likely our one and only...I'm trying to imprint this transition to my brain. We breezed past so many. Your last breastfeed, your last bottle... this is one of the last "baby things." I write this blog with a view of your room as it is.
I'm not looking back. At least, I don't think I am. I'm just acknowledging that these transitions are heavy. Am I ready to not have a "baby baby" any more? We give this crib back to my super generous boss who loaned it to us and that's it. That's making the decision that we are done. This is heavier than I thought. How many bedrooms does our next home need? Three. One for him, one for us, one for guests.
And maybe we will need to change all the bedding again tomorrow.... parenting. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
There is a place in this world for home births. Studies show they are safe for the right birthing person. I love the idea of tucking a new parent into bed with their new babe. Their pillows, their sheets, their shower, their snacks. 24 hour pizza delivery.... you know: necessities.
Many parents want their older children there for the birth of their new baby. Here's what Guest Blogger and Home Birther Krista Meyers has to say about having her sweet girl, Grace at home during the birth of her son, Gavin! .
Birthing With a Toddler:
"It was so important to me to include my 3 1/2 year old daughter throughout my pregnancy and birthing journey. My birthing experience with her was incredibly empowering, and I wanted her to see the extraordinary strength and beauty of a woman in natural labour. My darling daughter attended every midwife appointment, and was very much involved in preparing for the arrival of her baby brother. Months before our wee man arrived earth-side, my daughter and I would snuggle up and watch home birth videos on YouTube. She watched in amazement, and I would answer every question she had. We talked a lot about birth and the anatomy of a woman (using all of the proper body part names, of course!) Since I was very vocal while in labour with her, I had an inkling it would be the same for when I was in labour with my son. I wanted to make sure she understood that I was going to make very loud noises to help the baby come out. The YouTube videos were great for showing her what a woman in labour looks and sounds like. I must have prepared her well for it all, because she was never scared as she stood by the pool and watched the entire process. When it came time to get the pool ready, Gracie was there to help. She even got into the pool with me for a few minutes to rub my back...a little doula in the making! My darling daughter continued to be involved, from watching the umbilical cord being cut, to the placenta being birthed (she thought it was disgusting), to the weighing of her brother, and whispering encouraging words to him as he latched on for the first time. I am so happy that we experienced the birth of her brother, together. Even a year later, she is still reminiscing about it. I can't think of any cons in this...all pros here! I wouldn't change it for the world!
Scroll down for more photos of Krista's home birth!
Practical tips for birthing with a child at home:
Prep for the birth:
Doulas can help you with your plan. Contact me to assist you plan for your birth day! <3
At my last postpartum visit with Michelle, she graciously provided me with a lovely gift; a beautiful photo of her family, and a bath set from my favourite bath and body line, Barefoot Venus. We talked about how far she had come. Her resiliency, her neverending love for her girls and husband, and her progress. "I could write a book about all this!" She mused. "Do it." I encouraged. "Actually, start with a guest article for my blog! Talk about your transition to motherhood. Talk about what you needed. Lets normalize this." So.... here we are.
It takes true grit to face the beast that can be postpartum in the face. Michelle is sharing her experience so beautifully, openly, honestly. I will always be in awe of her strength. Serving Michelle and her family as a doula was a gift. I was a doula who needed a doula. I partnered with Renee Dias-Riley from Your Village London for care for This family. Renee was intrigal in securing extra hours and in home after care support for the family. I will be heart grateful always to Renee for being available when we needed her.
Michelle. Kevin. You are remarkable. Thank you for sharing your story.
Jackie has asked me to write about my experience into motherhood. It has taken me some time to get my thoughts written down because every time I start to write, a new version comes out. My journey into motherhood is far from what I imagined it would be. From complicated pregnancies and preterm deliveries, to challenging babies and postpartum mood disorders. Oh postpartum, how you can be so unkind to me. Not only am I working on figuring out this mothering thing, I’m having to work hard to bring myself back from the beast that is depression, anxiety and OCD. Not an easy task.
Within 24hrs of the birth of my first daughter, my rainbow baby, I knew something was wrong with me. I had no idea at the time what it was and no one else saw the warning signs. I also didn’t care. My daughter was born via urgent c-section due to breech presentation and an extremely fast, progressing labor. She was born 7 weeks early and was in the hospital for a month to grow and learn to eat – I was too busy to focus on myself. Finally,when my girl was 10 weeks old, I recognized that what I was feeling wasn’t normal. Sleeping 4hrs in 4 days and massive weight loss wasn’t normal either. I felt like I was in a deep dark hole being pushed down by the weight of an elephant, on my chest, further and further into darkness. I didn’t know which way was up nor how to get out. I couldn’t put this into words at the time. I would cry all day, every day. I hid in the back of my closet, trying to escape my thoughts and feelings. I wanted to run far away from it all. Surely my baby didn’t need me, my husband didn’t need me and he was fully capable of taking care of her alone. I was worthless, useless and undeserving. How dare I think that I could bring a child into this world and be a good mother!? I went to my doctor and broke down. She prescribed me an antidepressant and recommended I see someone for counselling. It took me another 5 months to seek that counselling. While the medication worked absolute wonders, I had SO much to work through and it took me that much time to get the courage to do so. I worked hard. I participated in physical activity groups, support groups and private counselling. No way was I going to be stuck and continue to miss out on my daughter’s life. I wanted to find myself again and enjoy this new family I had made with my husband. I wanted to rebuild our relationship. And I did just that.Even though I gained so much and recognized my strength as a warrior mama, I still lost a lot. I lost the first 6 months of my daughter’s life. Depression and anxiety robbed me of my time with her and put a black cloud over what “should” have been one of the happiest times of my life. I missed a lot of firsts. I didn’t connect and bond with her for almost a year. I had to heal both physically and mentally before I could that. Thank goodness for taking photos and videos so that I could re-experience that time with a different, healthier state of mind.
A year and a half later, we decided we were ready to grow our family again. This time, I would become mentally prepared. I would prepare for another complicated pregnancy with risk of preterm birth, c-section, not being able to breastfeed, etc – just like my first. I would be monitored closer. We knew the warning signs, we could catch this or even outsmart it. I had a stronger community network this time around also. I had the resources. I wasn’t afraid anymore to speak up about what I went through and what I was currently going through. I also decided to encapsulate my placenta as I had heard it helped postpartum depression. I invited a doula into my journey for the support. We were SO ready to do this. And wouldn’t you know, the damn beast found me again. This time, it came differently, and with a little bit more.
My second daughter was born 4 weeks early. I had been on bedrest since 20 weeks, receiving hormone injections since 16 weeks, hoping to keep her in longer than my first (yay me, I did!). It was very difficult on my whole family. I continued my counselling and group therapy throughout. I knew I needed those outlets and supports. I was admitted and treated for threatened preterm labor at 33 weeks. I pushed on for 3 more weeks until needing to have another urgent c-section for breech presentation after a tough labor. Different this time was that my baby was healthy and happy AND got to come home with me! Over the next 3 weeks however, we took hit after hit. Breastfeeding issues, dehydration, hospital admission, genetic test scare, a c-section wound infection – the list goes on. All of that stress finally got to me. My brain and my heart had had enough. I crashed hard. But pushed even harder for the help I needed. Never have I been so scared for myself. I felt like my brain was 20 feet outside of my body. I couldn’t control what I was saying or how I was acting. My OCD was out of control. I knew I was anxious, couldn’t stop the racing thoughts nor put them into words. All I knew was that I was getting worse and was not safe to be left alone with my children. I never feared that I would harm them or myself, I feared that I would get so far down, so locked into my brain, that I would shut off. Then,my girls would be left helpless and alone for who knows how long. I called my husband, a friend, Jackie and my mom. Had I not had this knowledge nor this community in place, who knows what would have happened.
My husband. An amazingly strong man. I cannot get through this life without him. He is the steady and slow calm to my quick, busy nature. He makes things clear when I am swirling around lost. He knows when he has to just do, and he did just that. He understood that something was wrong and I needed to get help. My friend brought me to the ER where we met a team from the mental health inpatient unit. I was admitted to the hospital for 6 days. I needed a break, I needed to rest. I needed to get back on proper medication. Jackie organized my life at home with my husband while I was admitted. Once home again, my mom took an emergency leave from work to come take care of my girls while I continued to heal mentally and physically. Finally, after 3 weeks, I felt capable to take care of my children again.
So here I am today. My baby is just over 3 months old and my older daughter is 2.5 years old. I am still battling through motherhood (a lifelong journey I have come to realize) as well as this beast of maternal mental health. It is a roller coaster. There are definitely more ups than downs now, but also many straightaways, where things seem to not want to change. It does not happen overnight. Along that roller coaster, I have been grieving the loss of what I thought was suppose to be my “normal” start to motherhood. The loss of contentment. The loss of feeding choices. The loss of having a squishy, term newborn. The loss of the ideal of what I thought I was going to do and be. Preemie parents face so much loss, I could write a whole story on that too! I’m learning to accept what is, versus what I thought it “should” be. I continue group and individual therapy, seeing a psychiatrist, being open to friends and family, being physically active, etc. I am in the process of changing from antidepressants to mood stabilizers. I try and take time for myself and fill my mom cup. I could go on and on about what I am doing to climb out. Mostly though, I am learning to be kind to myself. I am human. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am amazing. I love my family more than I have words for. I am so happy that I am finding my way back to them, they are too important to lose.
It sounds cliché, but it’s the truth, it does take a village. A community of men and women, to fully raise and support a family. My husband and I have many people in our life that saved us when we were struggling through a storm. Jackie is one of my saviours. I wish she could be my life doula. She is an extremely amazing, sweet hearted person and this world is a better place because of her. When I was in the darkest, deepest part of this second-time around journey, she was my sounding board. She pulled together a community to help support our family. I will be forever grateful for having had met her and for her touch in our lives.
My final note. Please ask for help. Please ask your mama friends if they are doing ok. Spread the word. Share my story. Share your story. There is no shame in fighting a mental health illness. Lets increase awareness. Resources in London and area are available. Please also join me for the Climb Out of the Darkness event on August 26 at Pinafore Park in St Thomas, ON. You can find the information on the events page on Facebook.
Michelle, St.Thomas, ON; 2017
Tomorrow, your baby comes home.
You've had some time to get your head around this... or maybe not. It is the greatest Christmas Eve. The night before so many long nights and short days. I hope you're having a date night, or at least doing something for yourself. I hope the nursery nook is organized. I hope you slept last night, cause you probably won't tonight.
I hope you know you'll rock this. Even when you think you can't. Even when giving up seems like the only option. I hope you know you'll find a way. I hope when you can't find a way, you call for help. There is no shame in this.
You'll fuck things up. We all do. You do what needs doing. No shame in this either. Your family has gone from two to three overnight. You're the grown up. You're somebody's parent. Some days, you're gonna suck at it. What seems impossible is only a moment in time. Breathe. You might not know how to love that baby right away. It will come, and when it does, it'll be bliss.
It is normal for routine to make you feel empty, but to need it for yourself and for baby at the same time. Babies throw curveballs. Expect the unexpected. It's ok to wish past phases, and hope for a difficult patch to be done soon. You don't need to love and cherish every moment just because you're a parent now.
Just because you chose and wanted this, doesn't mean you need to be grateful for the shit of it. It's allowed to suck. Make a matcha and sit in the suckage. Then move along when you're ready. You're also allowed to grieve your old life. Even the best situations, maybe weren't your original plan.
When in doubt, try a bath for baby. Try a walk. Get out of the house. The tides will change. Your parenting instincts will shock you. You're going to be the expert on this tiny human. You will know in your core when you're sure you're doing the right things, other than the times you will doubt yourself to the moon and back. You count in all of this. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
I hope you know how much they will love you, and how lucky that tiny human is. I hope you know you have a village. I hope you always know you are enough.
*Written with the generous contribution of Mom's Club London members.
Ok the toddler runs the world. After that....Girls!
So, update... the scheduler kept me very much on track today. There were a couple things I didn't get done, but for the most part, I did ok. I paid attention. That is the first step.
One thing I liked was how I could see a limit of time for tasks. Given that it was a Friday, I was less than focused to start. I did pick up the three hole punch that goes with my planner. I won't be worried about running out of paper! Also, the planner is super pretty. So, there's that.
I'm now going to get some things done for the next bit... cross them off my FlyLady chart. Bam!
How are you doing organizationally?
Or at least, organize her life.
I'm a blogger. Ish. I'm not a woman who blogs often, but I'm still a blogger. I have my own business (shameless self promotion, yes!) and we know that comes with its blessings and its challenges. I am also a parent, a partner, and a full time employee at a day job. Oh and I'm supposed to have a social life, be active, and have a hobby. Right now, scrolling Facebook for an hour before bed is my hobby and it's also part of my problem. While I genuinely learn so much from Facebook (the obstetrical violence conversations are overwhelming this week!), I am also not focused or working towards anything. I end up rushing after wasting time. Part of it is FOMO, part is how my mornings are spent snuggling with a coffee, an iPhone, and a three year old and that time is precious. But, I got shit to do.
So, loyal reader and Blog follower, I'm going to boldly try something new.
I'm going to commit to two full weeks of "time blocking" on the daily. Organizing my day. I'll update you about it. Probs not on the daily, but enough so you know I'm working on it. Going to see what changes over two weeks.
Scheduling feels challenging when you don't know what you want to do, or what kind of mood your 3YO is in. Having said that, isn't some loose plan better than no plan? Maybe I'll just feel worse that nothing is crossed off my list? But isn't it better to have a list than NO list. Right. Right? Another thing I get excited about and lose track of? Anyone else have like 14 reallllly pretty journals?
On the other hand: it could help. Like, really help. Less guilt about wasted time. I'll be prepared for the risks when I'm ready to take them. More time in the now. More stuff off the list.
I believe in setting goals, being present, having a plan, and making progress. So.... let's apply it!
I'll be using my planner from Michael's. I still adore it although I got it months ago and haven't used it reliably.
I also have a task chart on the fridge that I was inspired to make after reading some of FlyLady's stuff. If you haven't read her stuff about organizing your life, starting at home and with your routines, you SHOULD. My chart includes being romantic. Hope, you're reading this, husband.
Anyway, folks. I'm going to do the thing. Feel free to check in!
Jackie Anger is a London, Ontario doula, a mama to an amazing toddler, a community advocate, and a lover of coffee.