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A Healthy Baby

“Just be thankful you had a healthy baby”

“Just be thankful you could even get pregnant, some women would kill for that”

…………

These are things women who have experienced traumatic births hear all the time. This is not to invalidate feelings associated with infertility or loss, by any means. However, it should be understood that childbirth trauma is very real, and what mothers experience in going through a traumatic childbirth is just as valid a feeling as experiencing loss or infertility. But what, exactly, is birth related trauma? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that results from childbirth. This also includes many women who don’t meet all the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of PTSD, but who exhibit many of the symptoms. Generally, when you think of PTSD, you might think of soldiers, rape, or natural disasters. PTSD results from a life-threatening or serious injury-threatening event to you, or a person close to you. Women with birth trauma often have intense fear or anxiety when reliving their experience, flashbacks, nightmares, and persistent re-living of their birth. Experiences which remind them of that event, including television, other women’s stories, and more may give them anxiety. Sufferers of birth trauma may not want to talk about their birth at all, or they may find it healing to talk about their experiences. Many women will have difficulty sleeping, concentrating, eating, and doing other day-to-day activities. It’s also very common to be angry, depressed, irritable, and hyper vigilant.

Some women experience clear-cut events that you’d not doubt they’d have some type of emotional trauma related to the experience. But there are even more women who do not experience some type of dramatic event that triggers childbirth trauma, but other factors such a loss of control, loss of dignity, a feeling of not being heard, lack of informed consent to medical procedures being performed on themselves or their baby, or negative/hostile attitudes of those around them (including doctors, support persons, and nurses). According to The Birth Trauma Association, there are many risk factors for Post Natal PTSD which include both objective (e.g. type of delivery) and subjective (e.g. feelings of loss of control) factors such as:

  • Lengthy labor, or short and very painful labor
  • Induction
  • Poor pain relief
  • Feelings of loss of control
  • High levels of medical intervention
  • Traumatic or emergency deliveries (e.g. emergency cesarean section)
  • Impersonal treatment or problems with staff attitudes
  • Not being listened to
  • Lack of information or explanation
  • Lack of privacy or dignity
  • Fear for baby’s safety
  • Stillbirth
  • Birth of a damaged baby (a disability resulting from a birth trauma)
  • Baby’s stay in NICU
  • Poor postnatal care
  • Previous trauma (for example, in childhood, a previous birth or domestic violence)

Women, and even their partners, can experience PTSD or symptoms like long-term distress after traumatic birth. These symptoms are very real, and the biggest problem is lack of support and understanding. Many women who have experienced birth-related trauma, like myself, find themselves isolated from other mothers. It can be difficult to connect with other women who do not understand the lasting effects of trauma. Many women find themselves without a voice, in a world which doesn’t understand and expects mothers to get over it very quickly. These women find themselves with no one to turn to for help or support, because those who have not experienced trauma related to birth find it difficult to understand just how real these feelings are. I, personally, have been made to feel guilty, lonely, weak, and depressed because I just could not shake the feelings I have about the birth of my son. I also feel torn between wanting more children, and fearing pregnancy and childbirth again. Some women are so fearful that they lose interest in sex completely, burdening their marriages.

According to ImprovingBirth.org, 36% of women surveyed reported that they’d describe their births as traumatic. Thirty-six….

As I sit here at my laptop, the tears have begun to roll down my cheeks. I have spent months (11.5, to be exact) feeling guilty for “not letting it go”. I have spent hundreds of hours telling myself to “stop being so dramatic” and that “he is healthy, who cares how he got here?” I have felt incredibly guilty for my inability to shake my feelings associated with the birth of my child, despite therapy, group, church, meditation, writing, and medications. But the reality of it is, that I am doing everything I can to overcome this trauma. Maybe time will heal me, maybe a healing birth will “fix” me. But to those of you who do not understand, just know that “at least you have a healthy baby” or “it’s been __ months/years, just move on” can feel incredibly cruel and dismissive. Moms who have experienced birth trauma have real feelings, that, trust me, they DO NOT want to have. Try and find it in your heart to validate those feelings, or to just not comment on them if you do not understand.

 

Resources for moms who’ve experienced birth trauma, or for those willing to learn more:

https://improvingbirth.org/resources/

http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/help-support/what-is-birth-trauma

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/inside-the-painful-lonely-experience-of-birth-trauma_us_5751a7cae4b0ed593f142c91

 

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They Say the Truth Hurts

But if my being authentic about MY feelings and MY struggles is offensive to you, YOU are the problem. I’m done apologizing for how I feel about things, and you should be done too.

Most of my life I’ve been made to feel guilty by someone about anything. I went through a phase of not believing in God and was told not to talk about it because it would offend people. I struggled with depression and anxiety but was told only to talk to my therapist about it because people don’t want to hear that type of stuff. I had a horribly painful and sick pregnancy, and I had to shut my mouth about that too. But I will be DAMNED if I turn into one of those fake social media moms who only talks about the wonderful moments of motherhood.

Opening up about my struggles, my needs, and my feelings not only opens up for advice and support, but it also reminds other moms that they’re not alone. Solidarity is everything in momlife. When you are a mom, you know what it’s like to have a teething baby, a colicky baby, a sick baby, a lack of alone time, a lack of adult time, a lack of friends, a lack of sleep, a lack of lots of things. That doesn’t mean that we would change being a mom for anything in the world, by any means!

Find me a mom who has NOT wanted to throw in the towel before. Find me a mom who has not cried in the bathroom or laundry room from being touched-out all day. Find me a mom that doesn’t miss her friends. Find me a mom who doesn’t miss her freedom. But I bet all of those women still wake up every day and do it all over again because we love our babies. Being a mother is hard work. It isn’t beautiful and wonderful rainbows and unicorns all the time. There will be messes, tears, tantrums, illnesses, attitudes, injuries, loneliness, anger, frustration, and plenty of other not-so-nice parts of our journey. But if it wasn’t the absolute most worth-it, rewarding, motivating job in the world, we wouldn’t be doing it.

So, I truly am sorry that some people find my honesty offensive. But I’m not sorry that I’m honest. For all you other moms out there struggling with momlife, I see you. I am you.

Every mom has different needs. Some don’t need time out of the house, but a nice quiet bath alone would be a luxury vacation. Some need time with girl friends once a month. Some want a date night with their husband once every other week. Some want to go to the grocery store alone. Some want one or more days a week to run errands, work out, or do WHATEVER they want alone. Spending more or less time away from your kids doesn’t make you a worse or better mom. You know your needs better than anyone; don’t be afraid to acknowledge them and nurture them. I know that not everyone can afford as much time away as others, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t find time to care for yourself in some way or another. Personally, once a week away from my kid is a NEED that I acknowledge and use to refresh ME (not mom-me, not wife-me, not student-me… just me-me) so that I can be the best wife and mother I can be. And that is ok. I do not, and will not ever be made to feel guilty for taking care of myself. I know my child, my house, and my husband are well taken care of. I know I am a great mom and wife. And I know I am still, first and foremost, a human being with needs that must be met.

Take care of yourself, and don’t feel bad about it.

Solidarity is everything in momlife.

The Perfect Parent…

… DOES NOT EXIST.

I think parents know that we were the best parent on earth  before we actually became parents. We would eat organically, not allow tv, never lose our tempers, never complain, have the best sleep schedules, read all the books on discipline, etc. Then we actually became parents. Maybe not everything we believed in was thrown out the window, but we quickly realized how hard parenting was. We soon felt guilty for silently judging the mom with the tantrum-throwing-toddler in the store, we soon felt pretty dumb for saying we’d never do this or that. Because things change. Maybe even what worked for your first kid didn’t work for your next. The biggest misconception of all, and one that constantly makes me angry when I am confronted, is that parents can’t complain.

Maybe you don’t yet realize it, but I promise you that once your baby comes out, rainbows and unicorns don’t just shoot out your baby maker 24/7. Not that I would ever, in a million years, trade being a mom for an “easier” life. Children are absolutely the best reason to struggle with exhaustion, irritability, loneliness, and loss of sense of self. But that’s just the thing, you WILL struggle with one or more of those things at some point (many points) during your new life as a parent. I was recently told that I am ungrateful for being a mother because “all I do is complain” and “dump my child on his grandmother”. As you can imagine, that angered me to my core, to the point of tears and shaking. I went scrolling through months of my Facebook timeline to count the number of times I had complained about my son (not to brag, but it was 6 in 4 months, mostly about how I wish his daddy could see him more but he’s at work, or that I wish my baby could cut his tooth because he is in so much pain). I’ll admit, I’m still pretty shaken by this, if you can’t tell. But that’s usually when my best blogs come out. I would also like to add that my amazing mother-in-law loves my son to pieces, and loves to spend time with him. I typically will spend some alone time with my husband once every other week for 4 hours or so while also allowing my son to bond with someone who loves and cares about him, and I do not think there is anything wrong with that. (Side note, if you don’t have kids, I promise you will be so thankful if you have someone who provides free and safe childcare to you so you can take some time to yourself… you will need it).

The thing is, I have to sit down and give myself a pat on the back for being a good mom, we all do. Seriously, right now, pat yourself on the back for being a good mom. I do not care if you have lost your temper on your child or your spouse, I do not care if you have complained on social media about being drained/lonely, I do not care if you bought fast food all week because you hadn’t had time to cook, I do not care if you stuck your child in front of the TV so you could finally tackle that mountain of dishes, I do not care if you put your baby to bed and cried in the bathtub about how tough of a day you had. If you ever felt guilty, if you ever promised your child you’d be a better mom tomorrow, if you ever called a friend to cry about how hard of a day you had, if you ever Googled techniques to deal with tantrums/teething/sleepless nights… I promise you’re a good mom. You are a good mom because you care.

Being a good mom doesn’t mean home cooked meals at the table every night. It doesn’t mean extended rear facing, breast feeding, baby led weaning, music classes, and nightly book readings (although if you do those things, great for you). Being a good parent is knowing when you need a break, and asking for it. It is taking care of yourself, because your baby deserves you at your best. It is venting out your struggles, because it’s better to voice them now then blow up later. It’s knowing when you need some help, and taking it when it’s offered. I see you, Mama. I see you feeling guilty for complaining, feeling like people look at you like you’re ungrateful for your child. I see you draining yourself past empty, because you don’t feel like you need a sitter. I see you fighting the clock to get all the housework done and still spend enough time with your kid, because you don’t want to ask your husband when he walks in the door from work.

I see you doing your best job. You are a human. You are allowed to vent. You are allowed to complain. You are allowed to have YOU time. You are allowed to ask for help. You are allowed to feel lonely, tired, frustrated, beaten down, angry, irritated, or depressed. It does not make you any less grateful for your child. In fact, I believe admitting how you feel, asking for help, and taking a break might even make you a better mom. I know that I have learned my honesty in motherhood, and life in general, has brought me new and cherished relationships with other women who feel they can relate to me. I chose to open myself up, and maybe I got one or two nasty and horrible comments about myself as a mother, but I have gotten so much more positive feedback. You are not alone in your feelings, Mama, we are out there with you. Love yourself, because your babies sure do!

What the 1 in 9 Can Do

Roughly 1 in 9 mothers develop postpartum depression, although many mothers may experience “baby blues” shortly after delivering their baby. The Baby Blues share many symptoms of postpartum depression, like:

  • mood swings
  • feeling sad, anxious, or overwhelmed
  • crying spells
  • appetite loss
  • trouble sleeping

However, the Baby Blues start about 3 to 4 days after birth, and generally go away within around 10 days from the onset of symptoms.

Postpartum depression (PPD) starts within the first 6 months postpartum, and lasts more than a few weeks. Along with the symptoms of The Baby Blues, postpartum depression can also include

  • lack of motivation
  • feeling worthless, hopeless, or guilty
  • unexplained weight loss or gain (unrelated to expected body changes postpartum)
  • feeling like life isn’t worth living
  • lack of interest in your baby
  • over-attachment to your baby
  • sleeping more than usual
  • feelings of wanting to harm yourself or your child

Call your doctor, nurse, or midwife if

  • your baby blues don’t go away after 2 weeks
  • symptoms get more and more intense
  • symptoms begin within 1 yr of delivery and last more than 2 weeks
  • it is difficult to work or get things done at home
  • you cannot care for yourself OR for your baby (e.g. bathing, eating, grooming)
  • you have thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby

Only a professional can diagnose postpartum depression. Your doctor may ask you a series of questions, or even test your hormone levels through a blood test. But there are plenty of things you CAN do, aside from seeing a doctor and taking medications.

  1. You’ve heard this before, but I am telling you again… rest as much as you can! SLEEP WHEN THE BABY IS SLEEPING! If someone offers to come over so you can take a nap or a shower, LET THEM!
  2. Piggybacking on #1, ASK FOR HELP
  3. Make time for YOU. Go out with your partner, friends, or to go pamper yourself when you can. You have to take care of you to take care of your little one. (This one took me quite a while to actually do, and to get used to) And do not let yourself feel guilty for taking a break. Every job you’d do “in the real world” requires breaks. Being a mom IS A JOB, and you DO need a break!
  4. Talk about your feelings with your partner, as well as supportive family and friends.
  5. Talk with other moms, so you can learn from their experiences. But, again, remember not ALL moms have experienced PPD. Do not feel guilty because they don’t understand how or why you’re feeling this way. This is not your fault!
  6. Join a support group! Ask your care provider for a list of groups in your area, or do a little bit of Googling.
  7. Keep a journal to express your feelings if you need to. Sometimes writing can help you really put into words what is going on in your head.
  8. Celebrate small (and large) achievements. Did your baby finally sleep 4+ hours? Celebrate it! Did you drop a pants size? Celebrate it! Did you make a delicious meal? Celebrate it!
  9. Get moving! Exercise produces endorphins. Endorphins make you happy! (But make sure you’re cleared by a doctor before working out, and take it slow and easy!)
  10. Don’t skip meals. Balanced blood sugar reduces mood swings. Being “hangry” is real.
  11. Naturally increase your serotonin levels by what you eat. (Foods high in Omega-3’s like salmon), healthy fats like coconut oil, and high proteins (especially those high in tryptophan like free-range turkey).
  12. Soak up some vitamin D. Get outside and enjoy some sun!
  13. Meditate, or try guided meditation. I use an app called Just Breathe which helps me check in on how I am feeling by selecting different moods, and then the app gives me a few options on meditations or mindful walks! *It’s a free app!!!*
  14. Be authentic! We so often walk around wearing a mask, denying how we feel because we don’t want to make people uncomfortable. Or maybe we just don’t want to feel weak. Being real with yourself (and the ones you surround yourself with) is so freeing.

Don’t beat yourself up if you need anti-depressants. While there are natural options like CBD oil and other herbs, taking medication under the eye of your doctor is nothing to be ashamed of. Remember that you have to take care of yourself first to be a good partner and a good mother. It is not your fault that your brain is just a little off balance right now, so don’t make yourself feel guilty trying to figure out why you aren’t feeling yourself.

I would love to hear from you, if you or someone you know is or has suffered from PPD about what helped most! For me, I love art, and I spend a lot of my bad days painting or blogging!

 

Drum Roll Please….

The moment all moms have been waiting for:belly-body-clothes-diet-53528.jpeg

On this day, the 9th of February in 2018, I buttoned up my pre-pregnancy jeans. Yep, one week shy of 5 months postpartum, I squeezed into a size 3! Not to toot my own horn **beep beep** But I really owe most of this weight loss to breastfeeding. I know everyone’s situation varies case by case, but studies show that exclusive breastfeeding for 3 months shows a small amount of weight loss results. So, if you’re on the fence about breastfeeding your next baby, or you just like learning new things, there ya go. That’s a medical study. Make no mistake though, I am still sporting some new cellulite on my thighs, a few stretch marks on my muffin top, and a few more inches to grab on my tummy.

I used to work out every day. I mean all of my life I was an athlete. Mostly gymnastics and competitive cheerleading. I even won a national championship in 7th grade *beep beep* Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, I worked at a holistic pet food store and carried around 40 pound bags of feed all day every day, THEN went to the gym after a 9-7 shift. Man, I miss those days. Throughout my pregnancy, I constantly wondered if my body would ever look the same. If my body would ever perform the same. Gosh, how ungrateful and selfish is that?! God gave me the ability to literally grow and nourish a human being. I grew a heart, fingers and toes, eyelashes, and a button nose. I sustain his life outside the womb with food created from my own body. And I’m worried about getting my body back?! Really?! I mean, am I happy that I’m sitting at home in my Miss Me Jeans? Yes. But this whole idea of the time period we are supposed to “bounce back” from pregnancy is just ridiculous. Like think for a second about what your body did.. about how your skin stretched, your organs moved around, your muscles squeezed and your hips opened and you created life. Each and every one of us has a body better than before. My before body didn’t get to snuggle the cutest thing in the world. So give yourself a break if you aren’t in those cute ripped jeans you used to rock on Margarita Wednesdays or the bikini you used to sport lounging by the pool. You have something so much better than a pre-baby body.

pregnant-pregnancy-maternity-mom-161485.jpeg

Rest for the Weary

IMG_5524
Just five more minutes, please.

As I stated in my last blog post, I attend a moms' group at my church Wednesday mornings. Thank the Good Lord for this group, or I'd never have found THE most helpful and insightful book I have ever read. "Unsuper Mommy" by Maggie Combs has entirely changed my outlook on the downfalls of motherhood. I strongly suggest it as a shower gift or a gift to a mom who could just use a little help (*hint, hint* that's all of us). This is a Christian book, that I highly, highly recommend. So let's talk about chapter 2, Releasing Expectation's for Baby's Sleep.

If you, as a mother, haven’t had a change in your sleep schedule since bringing home your baby well good for you because you’re one of the few. For most of us, however, we become zombie-like creatures running on fumes. Not every baby is sleepless, and not every night is sleepless.. but oh, there will be nights where tears roll down your cheeks as you plead for your little bundle of joy to sleep for a few hours straight. There will be nights you look at your husband sound asleep next to you after you’ve gotten up 3, 4, 5 times a night and begin to contemplate smothering him with his pillow. I mean really, how can you sleep through this?! He wakes up in the morning and asks, “did he sleep through the night? I never heard him.” And steam almost literally bellows from your ears. Sometimes even getting angry at your sweet baby and begging them to let you get some sleep, then crying harder because you feel guilty is totally normal. It’s hard. It is really, honestly, one of the hardest parts about motherhood.

I remember being pregnant and people always telling me to “sleep while I can” and I wished I had listened. Granted, I feel blessed in a sense that God gifted me with a baby who did only wake once a night until he was 4 months old. Maybe we’re going through a sleep regression, or maybe this is his new thing.. but I promise you that’s not the case anymore. Now he’s one of those normal babies that wakes every 3 to 4 hours. I had nights I cried, I begged God, I begged my son, I begged my husband to just PLEASE let me sleep!! I needed it. I couldn’t be a good mom or wife without that sleep. There’s just no way I could do laundry, clean the kitchen, work on my 6 college classes, take care of a baby, and cook dinner for my husband on a few solid hours of sleep. Or could I? This is where I wish every single mom had this book handy.

We have every reason to wallow in our exhaustion, right? Wrong. Take that word, exhaustion, and release it to God. I can’t tell you how many times a day I told myself, my husband, my friends and family, that I was just so exhausted. That word became an obsession. Sleep became an idol. God sees your need, and he will fulfill it. God’s mercies are new every single day. Interestingly, this book gained some perspective for me on just HOW great God is. We need sleep, but He does not. The book says, sleep isn’t important because we need it, it’s important because He doesn’t. If you miss the purpose of sleep as a reason to be humbled before God, you are missing the point He wired us this way entirely. Our lack of sleep is a reminder that we need God to sustain us. Your struggle isn’t being overlooked by God, He is still going to flow His power through you. Here is an excerpt from the book that I loved:

“God tells you to trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make straight your paths (Poverbs 3:5-6) Human understanding says if you get enough sleep, you can be a good mom. Trust says that God knows your needs and your baby’s needs, and He will shepherd you through your sleepless fog. God’s plan probably isn’t leading you to the Mommy Hall of Fame, but you don’t really need that. His path will always lead you precisely to the one thing you can’t live without: more of him. Give up your exhaustion to El Shaddai, the God who sustains you. He knows your needs. He sees your physical and mental exhaustion. Will you believe?”

Matthew 11:28 says, “come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Rest, not sleep. What is the difference? Rest or peace is something only God can provide us with. When you trust in the promises of God, He will give you rest. If you’re like me, each time you wake up you count the number of times and the hours you have left until you know your baby will be up for the day. You meticulously watch the clock in hopes that you can get a certain amount of sleep. And trust me, there is never enough time to give you the sleep you feel you need. Sleep is good, but peace is better. As advised by the book, I have begun to pray every night before bed asking God to multiply my hours of sleep into the rest that He knows I need. This prayer has helped me feel a hundred times better at each dawning of a new day. I feel God’s peace and power flowing through my veins. I feel more eager to read my devotional, clean out that closet, and sing songs to Elijah. He knows exactly what I need, and by placing my trust in his sovereignty, He has shown He keeps His promises. Every time Eli wakes up, I tell God how thankful I am for reminding me how great a God I have to never need sleep. I can’t even begin to tell you how much better I feel with this rest He is providing me. You can only find out by asking for Him for yourself.

Where to buy Unsuper Mommy by Maggie Combs

Here, On Mom Island

On Wednesday mornings, I go to a mother’s Bible study group at my church. This is seriously the highlight of my week. All of the moms are separated into groups by year their firstborn was birthed, so everybody is kind of on the same page in life stages of their little ones. Whether you’re a Christian or not, I strongly recommend (to stay-at-home-mommies especially) that you find some sort of group where you can gather with other moms to talk and support one another. When people tell you, “you find out who your friends are when you have a baby” they aren’t kidding. Getting pregnant at 21 years old and going from a full-time working, adventurous, outdoorsy, spontaneous socialite to a woman who is home 7 days a week watching a baby and doing schoolwork online doesn’t really appeal to my old friends. It is such a blessing, don’t let me come off to you as ungrateful. I’m aware many moms would love to afford to do what I do, but it is SO isolating. Lord, it is lonely. Yeah, my almost 5 month old son is here, but he’s not much of a talker. I feel as if I wait all day for my husband to come home, because my only other forms of communication are through Facebook and my phone. When you do meet other mom friends, it’s almost impossible for schedules and finances to line up to meet. And let’s be honest, the task of dressing your child, filling a diaper bag, and hauling around all the crap you have to take literally anywhere you go with you kid isn’t the most appealing idea. At least in my case, when I have that hour or two of free time, it’s generally spent getting housework done, making a grocery list, watching the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy, or if I’m having a really blessed day, A NAP!

The hours seem to run together between the diapers, the laundry, the feedings, the housework.. suddenly you realized you haven’t seen a non-family member in weeks, months even! That hits hard when you replay all those “I can’t wait for the baby to be here” and “let me know if you ever need anything” claims over and over in your head. Know this, Mama, you are not alone. Say it out loud, I am not alone. God is here with you. God sees you. He hears your cries. My grandfather once told me that the only one there from you from day 1 (even before) is God. Many people would answer that as “themselves.” Wrong. Every one of us has days where we doubt or condemn ourselves. “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me” (Psalm 27:10). Even those closest to you will turn away or leave you at some point in life. God will always safeguard you, love you, and look after your needs.

One of many things God has taught me in my journey of motherhood is to be intentional in your time with others. Give grandma a ring and ask her about her life, when you visit with friends listen more than talk, and one day when that friend needs help offer it. Do not resent the ones who didn’t stick around in your new life, instead ask God to comfort you in your loneliness and trust that He will bring you someone in life that you can cherish.

 

Lord, I pray that every mother suffering from loneliness will be comforted by Your embrace. I pray that in these times we are crying out for attention and companionship that You remind us that You are with us every step of the way.In you gracious name we pray, Amen.