Being a First Time Mom, Again.
After the birth of my first child I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety. I remember people telling me “it was normal” to feel what I was feeling and I remember thinking to myself “if this is normal, something isn’t right”. I had my second daughter in November 2018 and had the amazing fortune of having my mother, brother and sister in-law here to help for 10 days after the birth. I delivered my daughter at 10:14pm at the Birth Center in Boulder Colorado and was home in my own bed before 3am that next morning. I slept in my own bed with my brand new daughter and a house full of people who supported and loved me so incredibly through the labor. Only 19 hours after delivering my daughter I was at my oldest daughters Kindergarten Thanksgiving performance, baby and all. I felt euphoric, alive, whole and complete in a way I had never felt before. Now I know that being a first time mom and being a seasoned mom bring two different experiences in and of themselves but this was something deeper than motherhood, this was support at the most basic, raw and primal level. After my eldest was born my mother had to leave three days after coming home from the hospital. The world caved in on me when she left and that cavern within myself lasted and festered until it became depression, fear and anxiety. I reached out to my doctor, I got help and I healed; it took me years to heal from the postpartum transitions I experienced. Becoming a mother was the single most incredible experience of my life. The joy and fulfillment I felt after both my daughters being born was incredible. The support and love I felt for myself was completely different after each birth and that made a difference.
Please do not tell a woman in the postpartum period that what she is feeling is normal. No experience is the same and therefore each is unique and while the ups and downs are expected, I believe that normalizing the depression and anxiety can be dangerous. Please tell her you support her, and are sorry she feels sad or lost or scared or anxious. Please do not tell her not to worry or to stop trying to do so much or that she needs to just relax. Please remember that a mother who is in the postpartum period is wounded and is healing and is for a short time transformed into something that is both perfectly primal and yet completely unmatched for society as we have it set up. A woman who is healing in her postpartum period should be surrounded by those who love and support her fully.
In 2019 I wish everyone support, love and healing as that is what we all deserve. Parents and non-parents alike.
Tis the season to be.......so stressed!
The holidays can bring a lot of thoughts to the surface. Thoughts of love and warmth, cozy by the fire and family memories being built. The holidays can also bring up elements of frustration and stress for some. Regardless of what your holiday plans are or who you will be spending this years “season of joy” with I urge you to find moments in every day that do bring you joy. This year I lost a friend at too young of an age and a great-uncle who lived a full life. What I learned is that aging is a gift; the years that we spend together, that we watch fly by and that we fill with activities and events are all a precious gift. I know that in the moment things can feel desperate, they can feel unbearably stressful or anxiety inducing but remember that the alternative is that you are not there in person but there in memory and that option is not one any of us want. The stresses that are put on us as adults to perfect the holiday season is not fair. They are the “shoulds” that steal our time and give us wrinkles and they deserve none of your attention or energy. This holiday season try to look through your child’s eyes and see the wonder and joy that can fill our homes when it is cold outside, the fireplace is on and there are always sweets stashed somewhere. While it may not be perfect, it is a moment in time that we all have the fortune of experiencing. I wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season filled with moments of laughter, love and living.
The Choice of Privilege
Sometimes it can be easy to forget the privilege that is choice. We look at what people have and what people do and who they have become but we forget too often that many times these are the results of choice. Choice for many of us really begins at the age of adulthood. For some of us that is earlier and for some it comes later. For all of us there is a choice when we become parents. Many different choices are made when a person finds out that they have become a parent but a choice none the less is made and from that point on choice is forced to be a part of who we are. In raising another life there are choices every day. There are choices about prenatal care, postnatal care, food given, diapers used and parenting styles imprinted. All of these choices make up not only who we are as parents but also who our children will become. Within the work I do, I speak with many families about the choices they have made leading up to their child’s early years. These choices range from exposure to technology and social activities to scheduling requirements for food, sleep and behavior. In every parent I have spoken to, regardless of the choices made I find a a similarity. That similarity is the fear or choice itself. Being a parent is not easy, we all know that. Regardless of what the hard times are, there are hard times. Middle of the night illness, life stresses that come between you and your parenting abilities and perhaps even just life in general.
One of the most powerful pieces of each of us parents is our ability to choose. We have been given the gift of guiding our children through their younger years in a way that sets them up to be the adults we wish them to be and the adults we wish for the world at large. So how do we do this and why is it so decisive to make one choice or another? In this article I want to focus on the choice of preschool and kindergarten, the path or educational philosophy and public versus private education. Our generation of parents grew up with a very different model for early education care. Public school and daycare settings were seen as the normal route in which the majority of children would grow and learn. The very few and fortunate were able to afford the best care settings or perhaps private nanny situations and private schools for their children. Our generation was one of the last to see a normalized view of basic childcare/public education. The generation we are raising has a unique and decisive mix of experiences. Childcare is no longer seen as a placeholder in the early years. The more research that is done and the more educated we become as child advocates the more we learn about the need to support a child’s early years of development with the most deliberate of intentions.
My husband works for NASA, he is an incredibly smart and educated man. He grew up in a small, poor and uneducated Michigan town and went to public school until he applied for and was accepted on a scholarship to a private engineering school just outside of Detroit. From there he applied and was accepted with a scholarship into the graduate program at the University of Colorado Boulder and went on to work for NASA following his earning a masters in Aerospace. I was raised in Santa Barbara, California and attended private school through 5th grade until I decided I wanted to attend public High School. My family was very poor but my mother worked in private education and so my tuition was free. I went on to apply and be accepted as an undergraduate at the University of Colorado Boulder and then applied to and was accepted as a graduate student at the University of Colorado Denver. We are both successful, smart and affluent adults living in one of the most desired towns in the country. So when our daughter was ready for school we sat down and had some decisions to make, we wanted to know; does it matter? Does the beginning really make a difference? My husband a product of public school and I a product of private school. Do our children need to be sent to a school in their early years that costs us between $10k and $20k a year? It is a choice.
In the world we live today there are a plethora of choices for where to send our children to school starting when they are six months old. There is value in almost everything we expose our children to at a young age. If the choice is made to keep your child home until they begin kindergarten they will gain experiences and knowledge that children who are placed in care at six weeks will never gain and vise versa. This is true for every age. They are all choices. We as parents make choices based off of who we are, who our children are and who we want our family to be. Sometimes those choices are forced by time, schedule or money and sometimes they are forced by our internal wants and desires for our children and for our family. No choice is wrong, I want to ensure that every parent reading this understands that when another person judges your decision as a parent it is most likely because of their own insecurity surrounding the choices they are making or unable to make. We as parents are all insecure, we all fear that the decisions we have made are the wrong ones for our children. It is okay to doubt, it is okay to care too much. I want to advocate for the fact that the decision to place your child in a care setting, at any age is a choice like any other. The more you know, the better you will feel about what choices you are making. I urge you to not go into the decision about where to send your child to school without knowledge and education. I advocate for educating yourself or reaching out and asking for education on the schools in your area, the philosophies being taught, the social and emotional support being offered and the aspects of each academic facility in your area.
I want to leave you with this thought. Think about how much time you have spent in the cereal isle, the shampoo isle or the prenatal care section educating yourself about the ingredients of a product, the care of the company making the product or the motto of what the product stands for. Translate this same care of what you put in and on your body into what is being put in and on your child’s young mind. Empower yourself, learn more, ask questions and make sure that your child’s school is not just the best school but ensure that it is the best school for them. It is a choice, it is a privilege or choice and both you and your child/children deserve it.
Getting Used to a Cold Shower
Life over the last few weeks has tested both my physical and mental patience. My husband and I decided earlier this summer to take our daughter to Italy for a last big trip before she becomes a big sister. We have family in Italy which made the idea of traveling abroad, six months pregnant with a five year old a little more comforting. The first four days were incredible. Long days on the beach with picturesque waters and nothing to do but swim, relax and eat. Then reality hit, the big bad wakeup call that is life. First my husband got sick, spiking a fever, body rash, aches, chills, congestion, coughing- you name it, he had it. I tried my best to clean sheets and keep germs at bay but when on a small island in Italy without a dryer, consistent hot water or lysol spray….it became apparent very quickly that we were all going down. My daughter was next. First the cough, then the fever and then the chest cold with complaints of an inability to breath and no way to get hot water in the shower for steam. Okay so here is where my story begins. Life happens, when we don’t want it to or need it to or really when we aren’t even equip to deal with it. Being a pregnant mom with a sick child in a foreign country is one of the last things I would wish on anyone. It is scary, it is helpless and it is real. I was lying in bed one night reciting the verse from Going on a Bear Hunt (Rosen, Michael 1989) saying to myself “I can’t go over it, I can’t go under it, I have to go through it”.
There are times as a parent when life hands you something that is godawful. It has no shortcuts or roundabouts, there are no substitutes to take over or fixes for the problem. This was one of those moments. My daughter pulled through as did my husband with a few long nights of cold compresses and no sleep. Then it was my turn, down and down I went. We had to delay our travels home and then travel 24 hours and 3 plane rides to get to our beautiful front door. We walked in at 9pm at night, ready to collapse, needing steam and showers and medicine and voila….the hot water heater was broken. No steam, no showers, no help. Thank you world. So here I am after 4 days of being home, multiple technicians and visits to Low’s, phone calls to the home warranty company, service companies and my mother (a necessary outlet) and still no hot water. We have been boiling water at night for my daughter to have a warm bath and my husband and I (all diagnosed with rhinovirus and enterovirus) taking cold, not kind of cold, we are talking out of the ground cold, showers every day. Still recovering, still coughing, still exhausted but cold showers none the less. I have gotten used to it, not because I like it and not because it is what a pregnant sick mama deserves but because it is my only option.
Some things in life don’t give us a choice, what school you send your child to is not one of these choice-less decisions. Too often in life we often get used to the things around us. We use what we have, we deal with the situations that we must and we consider our options at every step of the way. I do what I do because I do not want parents to feel trapped by their decision to choose a school for their child. Feeling unable to help or support your child is one of the most gut wrenching terrible feelings I have had as a mother and I do not want school choice to be something that feels hopeless. I do not want any parent saying “I can’t go under it, I can’t go over it, I have to go through it” about their child’s school experience. Your child deserves better, you deserve better. There are choices, there are options, there are ideal situations and my job is to help you find those so that you can scratch this one thing off your list. What I want to help you do is to find a different standard for your expectation of what a school can and should be. Because I do not want you getting used to a cold shower!
For the Love of Learning
Our children are growing up in a time when the value seen in schooling is not academics alone but is also the social and emotional lessons a child is exposed to. Our current generation was on the cusp of an educational revolution moving from what we know as formal education to what is known as alternative education. Our parents and generations before them grew up in a schooling system that was organized as a one-size-fits-all concept. Over the last few decades, academic research has reported on the changes in education due to the growing awareness of the brain in young children and how brain development works. We now know that children’s brains before the age of six are equivalent to a super computer. They are able to absorb, process, connect synapses and learn at a rate that most adults cannot even fathom.
“Surprisingly, the brain of a 2-year-old has trillions of connections — double the number that an adult has! The brain grows connections in response to all kinds of input in order to be adaptable and survive. Over time, certain connections are used again and again while others fall by the wayside. This normal process, [is] called neural pruning…”
-BabyCenter, L.L.C. 1997-2018
Educators have learned that things like emotional stability, personal safety and having basic needs met are major contributors of success in young children’s development and in allowing synapse connections to form healthy connections in the brain. “The fact that children are affected by their surroundings is too obvious to bear repeating. Child development specialists have produced decades of research showing that the environment of a child’s earliest years can have effects that last a lifetime” (© 2018 The Urban Child Institute.). With this growing knowledge about what the brain is capable of and what the brain needs in early developmental has also come what I perceive to be a misconception of what early education (birth through six) should look like. The environment they are exposed to in preschool matters, it will set them up for a life of success or failure.
Children need to learn in their younger years ways to handle their social and emotional psyches before they can truly understand how to navigate an academic setting. I agree with the concept that schooling cannot be a one size fits all model, in fact I advocate for this with every family I help. I do not think that children under the age of six should be forced to learn in a traditional environment and have the pressures of academic success placed upon them. So the question I keep asking myself is; why does the phrase play-based school feel like s misconception of what children need? It was in an ordinary moment that the answer came to me. What parents want out of early education in part is for their children to love school. Similarly, preschools also want their students to love school. So how could this be bad? Why was I stuck on feeling like this concept of “loving school” was so right and so wrong at the same time?
Simply put, loving school is not enough. If I want a child to love coming to my house to play with my daughter I can make it very easy. I can bake cookies, I can place a plethora of toys in the living room, I can blast the Moana soundtrack and paint their nails. I believe that every child coming to have a sleepover with my daughter would go home exclaiming that they “love my house!”. Why? Because there are ingredients by which children of a certain age “love” things. For the same reason we as parents soak up those moments of giving our children ice cream and hearing “I love you so much!”, child designed activities (including early education centers) also enjoy ensuring that they deliver the ingredients needed for children to express admiration towards them. In order for a child to love school you need to have thoughtful teachers who care and show kindness, gratitude, empathy and love for the children. You need an environment that is filled with open ended materials, objects to experiment with and opportunities of social, emotional and physical exploration. Most play-based preschools have put endless amounts of thought into these necessary components of making school a place that children will love. The theory here is that when children love school they will assimilate to the environment, feel comfortable with the space and will want to be at school. This enthusiasm is then seen as a success; we have taught children that school is a place they love. This is where I believe we have missed a major component that is fundamental for the success of our future generations. Children love preschool, yes. Children will soon transition to elementary school or beyond where they will have academic expectations placed upon them. Perhaps not until 6th grade or 9th or college or a career but at some point they will be faced with the expectation of knowing how to learn.
Children need not only to love school, children need to love how to learn.
I know this is a hot topic, I too want every child to have a childhood filled with outdoor time, free play, open ended materials, social exploration and emotional development. I want all of this for my child and for every child out there. I also want to be grounded in my expectations of what the world will expect of these growing minds and I want to be honest with myself, with you and with the academic world about how important it is to teach children to love learning.
I will not begin to try and teach or suggest how to encourage this lesson of learning, that is not what my expertise is or what this article is about. This does not need to revert us to a time where children sit at desks, get slapped on the wrist with rulers and flood with fear from getting the answer wrong. On the contrary. Children need to be taught that the world around them; no matter where they are, whom they are with or what materials they are given is an opportunity to learn, to discover, to explore and to wonder. The introduction of mathematics, science, social studies, reading and writing literally cannot be done too early. Our children’s brains are waiting, craving and desiring lessons and knowledge of every kind. We as a civilization are designed to crave new information, “When a child is learning to walk and falls down 50 times, they never think to themselves, “Maybe this isn’t for me”” (Johanna Burkhardt). I understand that the heart of every school is focused on ensuring the success of each child who passes through their door. My experience has unfortunately been that children love school until school becomes the capacity and ability to learn, at which point they are left looking around saying to themselves “I never learned how to do this”.
My message is simply to ask that every preschool/parent and caretaker regardless of philosophy finds a way within their school walls to ensure that every child not only loves schools but learns how to love learning. Teaching a child to understand the concept of discovery, the feeling of turning failure into success and illustrating how hard work translates into knowledge is the best gift we can offer our children. We as parents will not always be there to guide our children, lift them when they fall or help them through times of struggle. All we can do is arm them with the tools they need to be successful, knowledgable and happy in life. We try to instill in them good manners, social awareness, self confidence, kindness and work ethic. We now need to add the tool of loving to learn into our list and give our children the gift of seeing learning as a tool for success.
MA Human Development and Educational Psychology
I am Just a Mom
While on a walk with my family this weekend I overheard two college-aged adults talking about someone they knew and how she had decided to "just be a stay at home mom". I have heard people use this phrasing for my whole life; in different forms of course but with the same message. "I am only a mom", "I am just a mom", "she is just a mom" and my very favorite "she doesn't work, she is just a stay at home mom". Now I have heard this over and over and before becoming a mother myself I used to think it was an unfair categorization but one that was simply part of how society views woman. Now, remember please that I am not an expert, I am a parent and I have my own opinions so here they are. After 5 years 8 months and 7 days of parenting I view every other job on this planet (with the possible exception of hard labor, plumbers and those who risk their lives on a daily basis) as a walk in the park that pays; as compared to motherhood.
There was no interview process, there was no list of "expertise needed". There are no coffee breaks, Labor Day vacations, lunches, bathroom breaks, paychecks, gratifications or awards. We as woman, we as mothers-and men/fathers for those of you who stay at home- didn't choose this path because it was a way out. We chose this path because the ability to raise the next generation and to impact the future of this planet by creating children who become the best human beings they can be is a fundamentally important and necessary career. If cars seize to be made the world would go on, if doctors seized to practice medicine the world would go on, if parents stopped creating children and being parents our entire civilization would stop. Everything else is secondary to the necessary job of brining human life, the next generation, into this world.
I tried to defend phrases about "just a mom" for so long, before and after having my daughter. I realized this past weekend that defending it is giving it power that it is something in need of defense. I say now to all of those woman - and men- out there that are "Just a Mom" - OWN IT! Wear it proud, say absolutely I am just a mom, would you like to try it out for a day? Would you like to see what #Justamom feels like for a short 24 hours because please do and let me know at the end of it if there is any other job on this planet which warrants a higher praise than being called "Just a Mom".
Goodnight to my child and goodbye to my patience
When I was a child I remember bedtime consisting of lights out and an exhausted “goodnight” from my parents. I was one of four children and can only imagine how long the days must have felt. Parents today are urged to practice a routine with bedtime. To have an order to the very tail end of the day and to ensure that the mindfulness we all strive for outlasts the sun shining in the sky. I was at a breakfast the other morning and a friend of mine commented that she hated bedtime, that she didn’t mind missing it at all. She had her mother (who lives with her) do it as often as possible. I have to admit that many mother’s I speak with feel a glimmer, or more, of this truth during the evening hours. That last push of bedtime can be compared to the last day of school before summer break. You feel checked out, over it and are ready for some freedom and downtime! I understand this from the deepest place of parenthood. I understand how sometimes those last 60 minutes of the day can feel like a battlefield filled with traps, unknown hurdles and surprise attacks. While I understand this and sympathize with this I ask of every parent out there to hear me out and to try to make bedtime a practice of patience, mindfulness and focus because our children need us in these precious final moments of each day.
Often times when I pick my daughter up from preschool and I inquire about her day I get something like “I don’t know” “I don’t remember” or “I don’t want to talk about it”. Because of both my professional and personal background I know what a terrible time post pickup is to question a child about their day. These moments of transition for children are harder than we as adults give them credit. Their minds are processing at the speed of light everything that just existed in their reality away from mom and dad and are easing into the idea of being back at home, the child, the sibling etc. Even though I know I am not likely to get an answer, I ask. I want her to know I care. It is not about the answer, it is about the effort I make to demonstrate my desire to understand all that she wants to share. Here is what I want you, parents to hear louder than anything else in this article; It is bedtime, the moments of chatting with my daughter after bath and brushing teeth, after getting in pajamas and picking out books that she begins to unravel the inner workings of her mind. I don’t have to ask, I don’t have to pry. I simply am there and I am holding her against me and the questions, comments, concerns and moments come spilling out.
I want to be clear that I have days when I would rather clean the entire house by hand than spend another routine driven evening asking over and over for my daughter to get in the bath, brush her teeth, brush her hair, hang up her towel, pick out clothes for the next day, come back please, stop doing that please, pick stories out or ask why are you sitting on the dog? It is these moments when mindfulness kicks in, when I remember all the nights I have spent with her snuggled up getting to share in her day and in her life at a time when she is ready to let me in. On those hard days (especially when my husband is out of town) when I am tired and burnt out and my patience is gone I try to remember the beauty that comes from pillow talk with my child. Moments when I can assist in the processing of her day and all the intricate elements that cause her to feel happy, scared, confused, alone, hurt, supported and influenced. I know that being a parent comes with hidden jobs which no-one talks about and exhaustion that is inconceivable before parenthood but I ask of you one more thing. Twenty minutes at the end of the day, to connect, to reflect and to support your child.
One day your child will no longer want or need you at the end of their day, they will push you away and need their own space. Children are supposed to grow away from us, when they are ready. As parents we can only do what we can do in the few short years they allow. I know the days are long, I know the minutes last forever but the years will pass us by at light speed and when you have just sent your child off for college and close your eyes in search of distant memories please know that the last 20 minutes of every day will build memories that will fill you will love and the peace of mind that you gave it your all, every day, every hour and every moment that you could. Last night while putting my daughter to bed she looked up at me and said “tonight can we talk instead of stories and songs?” Yes my child, tonight we can talk.
Pre-partum, the Silent Struggle
We talk about the loss of a child, of an un-born child that was barely given a chance at life. We talk about the children we have and the moments that go along with parenthood. We talk about postpartum and the journey of recovery that goes along with child birth or child receiving for every mother, no matter how joyous or painful. What we forget to mention is the prepartum period that so many woman and couples experience. The time between when a decision is made to have a child and the time it takes to bring that child into the world. Not through loss but through a lack of possibility.
The prepartum period is real, it is full of ups and downs, of false hope, tears, pain, loss, dozens of “not pregnant”, confusion, anger and perhaps worst of all a feeling of being betrayed by your own body. I spent a better part of my 20’s doing everything in my power to not get pregnant. Feeling as though if I made one small mechanical error my life would be thrust into motherhood before I was ready. Once I met my husband the same precautions were taken until we were “ready” at which point we thought “okay, this is happening NOW”. The irony of the entire situation was that my mind was ready for a child but my body had a different path.
Months passed where tears were shed, darkness rolled in and pain filled my body where a baby should have been. Just as with any phase of life that is difficult, people came to my aid to tell me to have hope, remain positive or stop thinking about it. I am not sure there is anything harder to overcome than someone (everyone) telling you to just stop focusing on the thing you want more than anything in this world. Imagine if I told an olympic athlete or a medical student to stop thinking about their goal, to just stop “trying” and see what happens. The prepartum period feels like this cruel joke of a reality where the mothers around you are telling you how stressed they are and how they miss their child free days, how every woman you see has the magic capability to be pregnant or already have a child and how every single activity you try to engage in feels empty, heartless and meaningless next to the expectation of having your own child.
One of my favorite lines was “you need to stop being so stressed out about this or it will never happen” which is turn cranks up the stress-o-meter to full blown panic mode. So I want to say to every expecting, prepartum mother and parent out there; you are validated in your pain, your anger, your frustration and your feeling of betrayal, whether you are trying for baby number one, two three or beyond. You are allowed to fixate on this because it is what you want and what you need with every cell in your body.
I am not sure that men can understand the craving that prepartum brings. That evolutionary need to have a child in your womb. The emptiness that is felt with each passing monthly cycle and the euphoria of peeing on hundreds of overpriced sticks (ladies, buy the test strips on amazon!). All I can say to the adoring husbands or partners who are desperately trying to support this prepartum period is; please be patient. Be patient beyond even your own capabilities. Remember that the woman you love is being controlled by tens of thousands of years of evolutionary need and while she is a strong, capable and amazing woman, she is powerless to this need. Allow her to cry, allow her to mourn the loss of a possible pregnancy every month. Allow the pain to flow out of her so that she can continue to push forward and prevail on your journey to be parents.
Prepartum can end in a successful pregnancy, it can end in medical assistance with pregnancy, it can end in adoption or it can end in a forfeiture of the dream for parenthood. Whatever end there is to your story remember that it is your story, it is real, it is full of you and your partners needs. Allow all of this to come in waves and process every step, make certain that regret will not be the ending to your prepartum story.
"Parenting begins the moment you may any conscious effort to care for your own health in preparation for enhancing your child's conception." —Carista Luminare-Rosen
To my child's preschool,
I know this child is new, I know that there will be times when this child brings you joy and times when this child brings you frustration. I know that you will teach them what they need to know in order to thrive, learn and grow. Please help my precious child make friends, navigate social endeavors, learn that failing is learning and understand that trying your best is all we can do. Please do not shelter my child from mistakes, anger, natural moments or fear. But please do protect my child from harm, from judgment and from ridicule. Please allow my child to be who they are and who they need to be. I know you have not met my child but I love them with every piece of me. I grew them, cared for them, raised them and am now trusting you. I trust you to be my partner, to help me with right and wrong, to accommodate my learning and my child’s learning so that we can all learn together. I am a parent; I too will make mistakes, will need room for error and will ask for your patience. I promise to believe in what you do. To my child’s preschool, please help me raise the best possible person we can.
The Balance of Life and Everything Else
Far too often as a mother and a wife I find the pressures of “the shoulds” overwhelming and impossible to conquer. The shoulds as I will refer to them through this article are those pressures that we hear from all around us. The pressures that are suggested to us, handed over to us or suggested upon us by both ourself and those around us.
I believe that the shoulds are one of the largest struggles to face as an adult, a parent, a partner and a person in our society. Sometimes I wonder if other countries or other cultures struggle with the pressures of what should be done as much as we do. I was recently speaking with an old friend of mine who has spent years living abroad. Her husbands line of work has allowed them to live in multiple countries and they actually began their family of four while living outside of the US. Recently they have come back to live here in the states and speaking with her highlighted the pressure that our culture of the shoulds places on us. What I took away from our conversation was that in other cultures there is a place for a mother and child, there is room to be a new mom and a new human being in this world. Mistakes are welcomed, lessons are admired and advice is given from the heart and not from a place of judgment or ridicule.
I sat for a moment after our conversation and imagined what it would have been like to raise our daughter in a culture that nurtured the newness of it all and supported both the mother and the child. I feel that here in the United States we nurture the mother of a new child as long as that child is still within the womb of the mother. Suddenly when that baby is born the mother is expected to live up to every expectation, every should and every image that society places upon her. She is supposed to loose the baby weight, look polished before walking out the door, regain her self esteem, remain emotionally stable, prepare meals, use disposable diapers, breastfeed, regain her sexual desires, maintain a clean home, host and care for visiting family members, go back to work and find the perfect preschool for her child. All while ensuring that her new born baby never cries, always sleeps and poses perfectly for photos.
Ladies, take a moment and read that again…
How? How can we do this, what mad-man or woman ever thought that any of these shoulds were maintainable, sustainable or supportive of a new mother? A woman who just became a new person, a new mother, a new self. A woman who is stepping into the largest life-changing moment she will ever go through. This country is lacking the support needed which would allow a woman to focus on the monumental task of becoming a mother let alone the support needed to take charge and respond to child birth the way we should.
I provide a message to every new mom out there fighting her shoulds; Let yourself fall, let those around you catch and support you. Cry when you need to cry and allow your body to heal, your mind to settle and your heart to absorb the amazing change of becoming a parent for the very first time, second time, third time and so on.
Many people give the advice of sleep when you need to sleep, forget the dishes, leave the laundry and just stay in bed. This sounds great doesn’t it? Let’s however have a reality check. First, sleep when you need to sleep? Okay so baby just went down, you have not showered or eaten or sat down for a moment of silence in what feels like an eternity. So rather I urge you to do what you need to do in order to help you feel nourished and calm in that moment. If putting a load of laundry in does this so be it, if it is a bath, a cup of coffee in the sun, a quick snooze. Do what you feel like you need to do in order to take care of yourself. It is all you can do, it is all you should do.
Forget the dishes? Okay is there a postpartum fairy that comes in to do this for me then? If you can afford the assistance of a doula or house help please allow yourself this gift. If you cannot, take a deep breath and allow yourself to eat straight out of the pan, order pizza, or do whatever else it takes to intake calories and minimize the mess. I remember when my daughter was six weeks old and my husband had to travel for work my dinner one night was peanut butter straight out of the jar and a glass of red wine. I had all my bases covered; calories and relaxation. Remember that priorities have to change, that having a baby in the culture we live in means giving yourself a lot of self support and a lot of allowances to do what you need when you can.
Unfortunately we do not have the support system that we should or could have and because of that woman are often thrown to the side when baby is born. While this thought saddens me beyond words I also know that every woman who goes through the process of becoming a mother has the strength to advocate for herself. It might be hard, uncomfortable and ugly at some points but that strength to listen to your body, to your heart and to your intuition is there and remember that you are valuable, needed, important, necessary and essential in this world and in your family. You should do nothing more than what you must to care for you and for your baby.
“There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” – Jill Churchill
I am a mother, not a wizard. I share what is hard, what is scary and what is real. The rest I leave to you.