Comparing myself to others. It's a dangerous thing in many ways and usually leaves me feeling inadequate. No one is perfect, but when I feel like I'm failing it's difficult not to focus on the bad. Working through labor, birthing babies, parenting children...these are not feats for the weak-hearted. And when you're in that vulnerable state of figuring things out, it's very tempting to ask, "Well, how does she do it?! How are they making it work but we aren't?"
Having previous experience or knowledge on the said topic helps but does not guarantee a straightforward experience. Despite your level of experience or how much you think you know, I think it really comes down to attitude and, let's be honest, the cards you're dealt. Sometimes we're dealt really crappy cards. Have you done this two or three times already? It may be very different this time around. It doesn't always come naturally and when I say "attitude," I don't mean you gotta be 100% positive. It doesn't mean you're not entitled to feel exhausted, confused, angry, or just plain over it. It means that you do the best with what you have where you're at.
Take a proactive approach. Getting your ducks in a row before baby arrives can help you feel more prepared. I am a firm believer that planning ahead helps me meet my goals. Reaching out for support and gathering resources is HUGE. Hiring a doula, taking classes, choosing a care provider that you feel comfortable with...these are all things that can potentially help you have the best experience. You can customize your preferences as you see fit, which will help you feel more at ease.
Sometimes though, no matter how much researching and planning we do, we hit a few speed bumps or stray from our original plan. When this happens, it can be devastating. It may feel so overwhelming that you may not know what your next step will be. Hopefully, you have your people to lean on and your trustworthy resources close by. I also think it helps to:
Validate. Remind yourself that this is hard work. Take your time. You are not alone in this. Remind yourself that you're doing your best. Or, maybe it's not your "best," but under the circumstances, you're doing a pretty darn good job. Breathe. Things will fall into place.
Reframe. I am my toughest critic. What feels like failure to me may feel like success to others. Basic example: I was consumed by my grades in school. I always aimed for all As. I was a perfectionist, and it was a high expectation that I set for myself. If I landed a B, I was very upset. Others may have been very pleased with a B. Often, I needed to step back and look at the whole picture. "Okay, you got one B but four As," or "You weren't the only one who had trouble with that final." Pros vs. Cons lists really help me sort out my feelings, too. I can reason with myself and realize, hey...this stinks but it's not the end for me. It ain't all bad.
Troubleshoot. Tell yourself what's done is done but ask, "How can I make this better?" Find your support people and talk with them. Process your experience and take time to acknowledge the feelings that you have- don't brush them under the rug. Find folks who have had similar experiences- you may learn from them and find comfort that they understand where you're coming from. Or you may want to sit down with a professional who can be objective, nonjudgmental, and who can help you navigate what's to come.
Comparing ourselves to others cannot benefit us because it belittles our personal experiences. We're all doing what is best for ourselves, our babies, our families. You are different than your mother, your neighbor, even your best friend. Find what works for you and embrace it.
It was a cold and gray Sunday afternoon. I lit a couple of candles (Crossroads Caramel Apple makes the whole place smell divine), tidied up a bit, and hopped on Spotify for some mellow music. Two friends, Amy and Leah, arrived at my house early with flowers, food, and beautiful fabrics and decorative pillows.
It was the day of my mother blessing.
Mother blessings are customized, sincere, and full of love. Don't get me wrong-- baby showers are fun. Showers involve silly games, tons of baby products, and most importantly…cake. But baby showers and mother blessings are very different from one another.
It's at a mother blessing that we celebrate a woman becoming a parent. Close friends (primarily women) of the mother gather around to help mama prepare herself for birth and motherhood. At this gathering, we do not lose focus on this new being that will soon be earth side, but we take the time to recognize how this little human will change the woman as a person. Although mama may be given birth and postpartum gifts, it's not about consumerism and products and all that fluff that's typically paired with baby's arrival.
This ceremony is about sisterhood and community. Feeling connected and supported as a new mom greatly affects the postpartum period. How could it not? The mother blessing ceremony includes activities that acknowledge this time of growth and the new role the expectant mother will soon take on. Every gathering is sacred and will look different depending on the mama's needs and desires. I believe we should celebrate every mama and parent this way as they enter into this exciting, and sometimes overwhelming, stage of life.
At the end of the day, I felt full. Full of gratitude, acceptance, and intuition. These women remind me to trust my body and my baby. They encourage me and tell me that I am enough--that whoever this little being is, he/she will love me through and through. No matter how new or lost we feel in parenting, we all have innate abilities and characteristics that guide us in our experience. And when we have a hard time believing in ourselves, our village of people will be there to lean on. To acknowledge the struggles, the triumphs, and the "holy shit, we made it through" moments.
I'm so very thankful for my village.
If you are interested in putting together a blessing ceremony for a friend or would like more information, please contact Leah Rose Hagen of Birth Journey Doula Services. She is sure to help you have the best experience possible!
Sunday. It was once known as a day for rest, but nowadays it seems that most of us are using this spare time for other things….things like playing catch up or preparing for the week ahead. I find myself doing this often. Tidying up the house, throwing in loads of laundry, making a trip to the grocery store. Of course, some of these chores you cannot put off.. and when you do, well…it's very obvious. Last night we avoided going to the grocery store and around 8pm, realized we'd be eating breakfast sandwiches for dinner. Ha!
There are so many things on our plate right now at the Maxwell household. Our house is an insane mess and there's really not much I can do about it. Our guest bathroom is completely gutted, we're using the nursery for storage, and what doesn't fit in there is in the garage. Really though. There's a toilet in our garage. I've been nesting like crazy and I just want it all to be done!
But as this weekend comes to a close, I begin to think about self-care and renewal. As much as we need to tend to everyday, mundane tasks to keep the big picture rolling, how about we take some time for ourselves today? If it's only for 20-30 minutes, you will feel a sense of renewal. Even a few deep, cleansing breaths can feel great and that only takes a couple minutes! Are you taking those big, long breaths now? As you're doing it, I bet you're thinking, "When was the last time I did that?!". Do something for YOU! Maybe some meditation, a walk around the block, read a magazine or book, get a pedicure, call up a friend…anything your heart fancies. Taking care of yourself not only increases your level of happiness but can prepare you for feeling good the rest of the day.
Today, I will:
..But I'll also carve out some time for yoga, brownies, and Netflix. I'll probably snuggle with my husband, too. I deserve to take care of myself. I hope you understand and will do the same. <3
Feeding my Family
Grocery shopping. Woof. When our fridge starts looking bare, I cringe at the thought of going to the grocery store. It's always so busy, my shopping list is lengthy, and you can bet I will forget something on that list. I should have the list memorized by now and yet I always manage to space going down a certain aisle.
Now that I'm no longer working 40 hours a week in an office, I do feel as if I have more time to compile a list of what we need, meal plan, and get organized. When I shop, it's only for my husband and me (okay, so there's three of us if you count the human I'm growing)...but it still feels like we need a good amount to get through the week. My husband eats so damn much. I don't feel bad about sharing this with you because he knows it's true, too. Earlier on in our relationship, he looked at me during dinner one night and said, "Babe, you know how much you need to eat to feel full? Well, I'm bigger than you and I need like..three times that amount." Fair enough. I married the man and promised to support him always, even when he cleans out the pantry.
I often think about how our lives will change in these coming months. As much as I daydream about our labor and birth experience, I think about the postpartum period even more. When I talk to expectant folks as a doula and childbirth educator, there is a lot of focus on birth. I get it-- it's the unknown that is captivating, exciting, and maybe even a bit anxiety-inducing. But what about parenting? Labor and birth is a short amount of time compared to the rest of our lives. Raising a child is big stuff and incorporating a new person into your life *forever* seems a bit more overwhelming to me.
When you have a baby, even the simplest tasks get put off because...well, it's just hard to squeeze it all in. It's challenging to take care of ourselves and take care of another human 24/7. As a new mama, even feeding yourself can be a challenge! And when you're running low on sleep, haven't showered in a day (or 2 or 3? Not judging.. this will be me soon. We're in this boat together, sister), and have only eaten a bowl of cereal and a banana in the last 24 hours...you're going to feel pretty shitty. Plain and simple.
So...when this new person is born, promise me this one thing: that you will eat! Even better: promise me that NOW, when you're still pregnant, you will start planning for the postpartum period, not just for labor and birth. As new parents, it's hard to focus on your needs, but ya gotta give yourself some TLC so that you can be there for your babe. The laundry, the baby shower thank you cards...those things can wait. Nourishing your body is more important!
Keep in mind that two of the most amazing things you can stick on your baby shower registry are a meal train and a postpartum doula. Your doula can help with cooking, remind you to eat a little something, and even run errands for you (like that shopping trip you've been dreading!). There are great websites out there that can help you start up a meal train (to name a few: Take Them a Meal, MealBaby, Meal Train). Send the link to your meal train via email to family and friends prenatally. Folks can sign up to bring over a meal as often as you'd like (every other day, three times a week, etc.). You can include food allergies and limitations, your time frame for dinner, and even how you'd prefer the food be delivered ("If the front door is shut, please leave the food in the color on our porch.").
Aside from meal trains and postpartum doulas, you can also prep your meals ahead of time. Freezer and crockpot meals are a smart option for the postpartum period, and Pinterest makes it easy to collect yummy recipes without aimlessly surfing the web. Below I've listed some of the best recipes I've found on this genius website. I say "the best" because they are healthy, relatively easy, and for some of 'em, you can even eat with one hand. :)
Do you have any quick, simple meals/snacks you love and would like to share? Please post in the 'Comments' section below!
Why I Love My Midwife
Did you know that October 5-11 is National Midwifery Week?
Of course, we should celebrate the compassion, integrity, and tranquility that midwives provide everyday. But in honor of this special week, if you know a midwife, give her a shout out. Give her a big 'ole hug. Let her know how important she is and how much you value her work.
At the beginning of my college career, I had no idea what a midwife was. I may have been familiar with the term, but the work that a midwife does? I'm not sure I knew about that. When I enrolled in a class at I.U. focusing on labor, birth, and the family, that's when I began to learn about midwifery. Through volunteer work in my early years at BABS as well as through doula work, I put faces to the term "midwife." These women are thoughtful, educated, and fun people to be around. No wonder many women feel at ease in their presence! No doubt, this is important for birth as laboring women need to feel comfortable in order to let go and bring their babes earth side.
Naturally, when we found out we were pregnant, hiring a midwife for our birth was a no brainer. I can idealize what my winter birth could be like: At home, snow falling outside, husband holding me, midwife and doula close by, a cozy atmosphere, birth pool set up in the living room. I get mushy just thinking about it.
But, just as any other life event, sometimes things don't go as planned. I may not get the soft lit room or even want to be touched by my husband. :)
My midwife doesn't promise me those things, but she supports me in knowing it's what I prefer. She understands that pregnancy and birth are normal. She helps me to understand that I have options. My midwife is not just there to "deliver" my baby, although she is highly skilled and very knowledgable. She is there to help guide me and remind me that my body is strong…that I am a woman and am capable of giving birth. My midwife sits down with me prenatally and takes time to listen to me and answer any questions I have. She provides evidence-based care and gives me the information that I need so that my husband and I can make informed decisions for our baby and family. My midwife is hands-on and gets to know my husband and I as people, not patients. She knows that every woman is unique--that each mother's experience is different but always life-impacting.
These are just a few of the reasons why I love my midwife.
As most of you may know, Josh and I announced our pregnancy earlier this summer. We are so excited to have a baby! It felt very surreal at first and sometimes I still catch myself being like, "Huh..guess I really am pregnant." The first trimester was easy and hard at the same time. I wasn't showing, but I felt very different. Actually, I knew I was pregnant almost the moment that it happened. Did any of you feel that way? You know, I've heard women say that from time to time ("I just knew!") and I always thought they were full of shit. But then…it happened to me. I had butterflies in my stomach for a few days in a row, followed by LOTS of bloating. I took two pregnancy tests but both were negative because it was too early to tell. Two days before my (missed) period and there I was at Kroger, grocery shopping. I was planning to buy fresh salmon when I thought, "Well, if I'm pregnant I can only eat so much fish per week." I skipped buying it and instead went home and took another pregnancy test. BAM…my digital test read, "Pregnant." I couldn't believe it. I was in a state of shock and pure happiness and cried in the bathroom when I saw that word. It was a weird, but good experience. For the past four years, I've been helping other women on their journey to motherhood and supporting families in the transition with their new babies... then I realized, "Hey…I'm gonna be a mama, too!" I had to wait TWO WHOLE HOURS before Josh got home from work, and then I had to talk him into walking into the bathroom so he could read this:
Anyways, I wanted to stand on the rooftops and share our good news with the world, but we decided to take precaution and wait until we hit the double digits just to be safe. When I was 10 weeks along, we posted a little somethin' on good 'ole Facebook. I have to thank Pinterest for the onesie idea. What would we do without that damn website?
Being a doula and childbirth educator, I felt fairly well prepared of what was to come. But guess what? There were quite a few symptoms that surprised me. I mean, I had heard it all before. Sleepiness, cravings, morning sickness, etc. But it wasn't until I experienced it for myself that I truly understood. Here are my Top 10:
**Disclaimer: Some of this may be TMI but I'm here to educate so..enjoy :)
1) CRAVINGS-- Seriously, give me anything salty and I'm good to go. Are there pickles on the menu? Please add it to my meal. My grandma actually canned pickles from her garden and gave them to me for my birthday. That's love, y'all.
2) "MORNING" SICKNESS-- "Morning." What a joke! This hit me so hard Memorial Day Weekend that I was pretty much in bed the whole time. It felt very much like flu-like symptoms. Nothing sounded good and I had to make myself down Sprite and crackers. I was very nauseous for about two weeks straight, then I felt much better. Still feeling kind of sick in the mornings but it's much more manageable. **Note: Do not attempt to take out your trash in the first trimester..you will probably puke. It's even harder to play it cool when your neighbors see you do this. Also, I can't brush my teeth without gagging.
3) SLEEPINESS-- A.D.I.D.A.N (All Day I Dream About Naps). Yep, I was pushing my snooze button countless times in the morning. When I was at work, especially after eating, all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch in our office and nap (I refrained as residents at the leasing office would think I was crazy). When I came home from work, I wanted to crawl into bed around 8pm. It makes sense…it's extra work for your body to grow a human, but man…I had no idea I would feel so tired! It's tapered off now that I'm in the second trimester, but I still find myself wanting to lounge/have lazy days more often.
4) PEEING--Do I even have a bladder? Is it the size of a pea? I can't believe how often I'm going to the bathroom. I'm currently 19 weeks pregnant and they say the babe is only the size of a mango. I think I'll be living in the bathroom when I'm carrying around a watermelon (see photo below).
5) DREAMS-- Dude, the power of pregnancy hormones is so real. My dreams these days are insane and very entertaining due to the surge of hormones I'm experiencing. Example: I dreamt that Josh had a bachelor party and all of my ex boyfriends attended. Also, my best friend had Laura Prepon over to her house for a dinner party but didn't invite me. Yep, that's the kind of world I'm living in when I sleep. No dreams of breastfeeding our cats yet, although I hear ones like that are very popular, too. <-- I'm also loving the "Meet the Parents" reference on this thread. "I have nipples, Greg. Could you milk me?"
6) BLOATING-- I was told by my doc that this has to do with the increase of iron in your diet, thanks to that prenatal vitamin I've been poppin' on the reg. Increased iron = constipation. After a month or so of taking the vitamin, my body adjusted. But in those first few weeks of the 1st trimester, I felt SO big.
7) EMOTIONS-- I feel like I'm a pretty emotional person as it is so I wasn't completely surprised at the fact that at times I became moody, irritable, and sad in a split second's notice. But the *intensity* of it is what really got me. Still does, actually. I did laundry the other day and shrank one of Josh's BRAND NEW shirts. I sobbed. There have been times when residents have complained in the office and I am on the verge of tears. And don't make me watch "Stepmom" while pregnant. That's an ugly cry that you do not wanna see.
8) BOOBS-- My boobs were only sore in the very beginning, but now they're just bigger. When I was in college and packed on the Freshman 15, I was a C cup. Before I got married (September '13), I was a small B. Now I think I'm closer to a C again. Breast changes in pregnancy are to be expected as your nipples darken and get bigger, too. I feel like the majority of people only focus on belly growth in pregnancy, but I'll admit that seeing how your boobs change is pretty cool, too.
9) DIZZINESS-- Your blood pressure drops in the 2nd trimester, which attributes to the lightheadedness you may feel during pregnancy. Getting up too fast and not eating every couple of hours may make you feel like shit. I've learned to always have extra snacks on hand because there is nothing worse than that moment of clammy, sweaty nausea when you feel like you're dying.
10) VAGINAL DISCHARGE-- Wow, it's fun seeing that phrase in all caps, isn't it? An increase in hormones and blood flow to the vaginal area is what's responsible for this lovely symptom of pregnancy. It's possible that you're feeling juicy all the time. And, no…not like a "turned on" wetness. You're just…wet. Yeast infections are more common in pregnancy due to the juiciness. If you are one of those women who go through your whole pregnancy without experiencing one, you are a goddess. Also, I think you're lying.
I would love to hear some of your 1st and 2nd trimester pregnancy symptoms. Make me laugh, help me feel normal, and share your experiences below. XOXO
Bring on the New Year!
2013 had its ups and downs, but overall, it was a fantastic year. Here's what made it so great:
Josh proposed on Christmas Day 2012, and the days that followed were filled with love and support, not only from my hubby, but from our close friends and family members. We want to thank everyone for your kindness and enthusiasm throughout all of the festivities. Married life does not feel any different, but I believe we have a stronger sense of community since our special day.
The Maxwell clan grew in 2013 as we added a new kitten, September, to our family!
Thanks to Colin McClain and Katie Vernon's amazing artistic abilities, I got a rad tattoo.
Josh and I traveled to North Carolina and Florida for a couple mini-vacations. A little fun in the sun, hiking and rafting, and catching up with old friends made for fabulous getaways!
I supported many new and growing families as a birth and postpartum doula. It was a pleasure getting to know each and every one of you! Thank you for welcoming me into your lives.
I had the opportunity to meet amazing families through my involvement at Bloomington Area Birth Services as a childbirth educator and volunteer birth doula.
I provided childcare to a few of my favorite families in the Bloomington area. I also helped lead the summer program at Harmony Education Center--full of outdoor activities, arts & crafts, field trips, and phenomenal little humans.
And last, but not least, I accepted a job offer as a leasing consultant at Abodes, Inc. I've been at it for a little over a month, and I really enjoy the work! This job is really the opposite from other gigs I've worked-- as I am now in an office full-time, Monday-Friday. The consistent hours are definitely different from what I'm used to, but it feels good. Unfortunately, because of my new position, I can no longer take on birth doula clients. I do believe the skills I practiced as a doula have carried over into my new profession. Being an active listener and helping people feel comfortable in their homes is a huge part of my job as a leasing consultant.
With that being said, I want folks to know that I will still be offering postpartum doula services in the evenings and over the weekends. I also hope to continue teaching childbirth education when I have free time, too. Although I am sad that I will not be attending births in 2014, I know that this community is full to the brim with compassionate birth workers who can help Bloomington families advocate for healthy, happy birth experiences. I will miss the prenatal meetings, the exciting, "I think I'm in labor!" phone calls, and seeing the look on parents' faces when their babies are born. I do hope I can return to the birth world someday in the future when the time is right-- I can't imagine staying away for too long!
Happy New Year!