Archive for the ‘motherhood’ Category

What Self-Care Really Is

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

A long soak in a nice, hot bath. A glass of wine. Going to the local salon for a mani-pedi. A girls night out. Reading a good book. Chatting with a friend. Scrolling through Instagram. Raiding your chocolate stash and telling your kids, “It’s spicy.”

All of these are thought of as examples of self-care when they are really only an escape. Some of them are wonderfully delicious escapes. For years, I thought these escapes defined self-care. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Granted, we all need an escape now and then. Even if it’s just five minutes alone to pee. Each escape can provide us with the break we need to re-center ourselves and show a kinder, calmer face to our family. However, escape doesn’t even begin to cover what healthy self-care really means. 

Self-care is giving yourself what you need.

It is making sure that your spiritual, physical, emotional, relational, and mental needs are adequately met.

That’s my definition. I didn’t even google it. 

It grew inside of me through experience, reading, and counseling. It came to full blossom during the past year or so, and this is the first time I have condensed it into words. This definition grew out of a burgeoning realization that, while a mani-pedi is scrumptious, I still have to come home to everything I left. None of my load is lifted by having sparkly pink toenails. No matter how much they make me smile when I look down.

Am I saying that we shouldn’t bother with mani-pedis or chocolate? Not at all! What I am saying is that we should see those things as only a drop in the bucket of what we really need. 

Some things to think about:

What we really need is to evaluate our lives, and see where the gaps are that leave us weary, discouraged, or empty. But who has time to evaluate their whole life? Certainly not me. But I can evaluate my week. Sometimes, it has to just boil down to this very day, or even the very next hour. 

I can ask myself, “What do I need, right now?” For me, the answer is usually food. Literal, actual, nourishing food, because I’ve skipped breakfast. Again. Once I have met that need in a minute of self-care, I can re-evaluate and decide what I need next, because my blood sugar isn’t tanking, and I am no longer hangry. 

Don’t wait until you can afford a Fitbit to go for a walk.  If you are anything like me, you will give up if you cannot do everything all at once. So, pick just one area of self-care that you believe will be the easiest to implement today. Yes, today. Do not lie to yourself and tell yourself you can’t fill need X until you line up Y, Z, A2, and Q11 just right before you can start. 

And remember, something is better than nothing. Make this your mantra. Say it over and over. Tape it to your bathroom mirror. So you forgot about the cauliflower crust you intended to use for your own homemade pizza on pizza night last night, but you remembered to make a salad to go with the normal pizza. Something is better than nothing, and you managed some veggies today. Breathe. It’s okay. No throwing babies out with the bathwater. 

Here are 20 things that actually might count as self-care

They each meet a spiritual, physical, emotional, relational, or mental need. Some cover multiple areas of need:

  1. Attending religious services
  2. Taking appropriate medications for whatever reason – medical or mental health
  3. Going to the doctor
  4. Joining a 12-Step group
  5. Going for a short walk, especially in nature, or at least outside
  6. Taking 3 deep, abdominal breaths with eyes closed
  7. Going to a counselor, even once in a while
  8. Trading help with a neighbor or friend – combine your laundry and do it together, for example
  9. Combining your taco shells and fish sticks with your friend’s veggies and ramen, and doing dinner together for an end-of-the-month-we-have-no-food extravaganza
  10. Getting a massage, chiropractic adjustment, or other bodywork
  11. Signing up for a Zumba class
  12. Abstaining from processed sugar
  13. Pleasure reading at the end of the day to unwind instead of Netflix
  14. Having a good cry, alone or with an empathic friend
  15. Drink water
  16. Buy clothes that fit well, no matter your size
  17. Buy that Fitbit and post your steps every day
  18. Educate yourself about shame, and learn shame resilience (thanks, Brené Brown)
  19. Listen to podcasts that educate or uplift you
  20. Let the kids sit in front of a screen and get something done that has been bothering you

I could keep going. But I am pretty sure this is quite long enough.

Self-care. Do it. Start today. Go fill up a glass of water and drink it. Then, pee alone. Because you’re going to have to in about five minutes. Sometimes, it can be nearly imossible. But those “sometimes” are not “all times.” Just do what you can with what you’ve been given today. It may not be enough always, but something is better than nothing.

~Tiff

 

 

 

Faith, Family, Midwifery, and Such

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

I long for real community. A place where women and their families can come together to connect, support, and just do life together.

As I stood over my cutting board, processing 40 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts by myself, I thought how much more enjoyable the task would have been if I had had someone alongside me. I’m tired of being independent in everything. I want to lean on someone. I have no problem at all being alone, doing things on my own, because I can. Quite simply, I’m pretty good at just getting things done, and it rarely crosses my mind to ask anyone to come along.

I don’t want to anymore.

I want a friendly face beside me, just doing things together. Laundry. Bulk cooking. Spring cleaning. First my place, then hers. Like they did 150 years ago in rural areas, not because they liked each other so much, but because it enabled better survival and created a safety net of people who would rush to your aid when your barn was on fire.

I have so many ideas in my mind of how to make this happen. First of all is to invite others into my space and set the example. (So if anyone wants to split that 40 pound box of chicken next time, hit me up!)

Another idea is to use the NextDoor app to reach out to my literal neighbors, and host small gatherings. I’m actually thinking of making a ton of apple cider on Halloween/Reformation Day, and ladling out hot cups of it from my front porch and meeting my neighbors. Or starting a neighborhood Bible study, unconnected with any local church.

I have already done a freezer meal session with my best friend, and it was amazing! We managed to put together 11 meals for our families, and loved the time together! She used several of hers to bless other families in need by taking them dinner. So the ripple effect of our efforts touched far more than just our families. I love that.

I have also determined to ask for more help. After spending about five hours (at least) looking for a good deal on a winter coat for my eldest, I realized I could have just posted on Facebook to see if anyone had a hand-me-down. With how many clothes I pass on to smaller people, it makes sense to try and look for people who would be willing to pass down to my kids.

One of my favorite things to do is to call up a friend, find out what their plans for dinner are, and combine forces. Another of my best friends–I’m an extrovert, I have more than one best friend–and I used to do this all the time. We would combine her pasta with my veggies and a few random sides, and create dinner together for our families. Especially when it was near the end of the month, and we were both short on groceries and cash. The weird meals we made were not Pinterest-worthy, but they were appetite-worthy, and brought us together as families. Totally worth it.

Acitivies, events, and playdates are all great, but I want more. Because when you go home from the playdate, you still have 87 piles of laundry to do. You still have to cobble together dinner at the end of a long day of errands. You still have to be a decent human being to your spouse. And that can only happen in community.

So, that’s my heart. This is what I want to do here on this blog. Write about faith, family, and community. Midwifery, birth, and all that jazz are intimately connected to those topics. And I find that I cannot write about one without writing about the other.

Welcome to my renewed blog, where you get all of me! Not just the birthy me. I hope you find a comfortable place to pull up a chair and read!

How do you find yourself creating or participating in community?

Grace & Peace,

Grace Under Pregnancy: Responding to Horror Stories

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Created using Canva.com

Created using Canva.com


We’ve all heard the horror stories. The homebirth turned cesarean. The induction gone wrong. The horrible hemorrhage. Cracked and bleeding nipples. Breastfeeding sabotaged by circumstances. And more. There is almost a compulsion to tell these stories, and we are often left feeling a little dazed as we walk away.

These are valid experiences, but hard to hear. Even harder is our response. Smiling and nodding seems shallow and awkward. What do you say in such situations when it doesn’t seem like there is anything right to say? None of us want to be trite, or offer mere platitudes, but what else is there?

Some advocate for setting firm boundaries and asking that only positive stories be shared. This may work among our own circle of acquaintance, where people know us and can understand where we are coming from. However, that often doesn’t feel right to do with someone we don’t know well or have only just met. It just feels wrong to hold up our hand and stop someone from telling their story.

I would like to offer another option.

Listen to their story.

Then, validate their experience. “Wow, that sounds like it was really hard for you.” A simple statement that honors the fact that they have shared part of their life with you.

Go a step further and ask them one question:

“If you could go back and change anything about your experience, what would it be?”

No one has likely asked them anything of the sort. More than likely, they have only been told “At least you have a healthy baby, and that’s all that really matters.”

Imagine what that one question could do for someone struggling with a traumatic experience. Someone who has told her story dozens of times, only finding those who could one-up her story, or who spoon fed her “healthy mom, healthy baby” platitudes.

Imagine being the first person to open up the door in the wall between this precious woman and her own healing. Perhaps no one has confirmed her struggle. Perhaps she has not been allowed to grieve what she lost. Perhaps she has been expected to get over it, no matter how much it hurt, or how few answers she has about her circumstances. Perhaps her experience has only ever been marginalized, even by well-intentioned loved ones who are simply uncomfortable with trauma.

Imagine what you could learn from hearing the answer to such a question. The information that may be between the lines of her answer that can help you confirm or change the decisions you yourself are making. Perhaps her story will be the means of preventing your own traumatic experience, and make you better equipped to handle unexpected outcomes.

Imagine being the means of turning horror into healing.

How have you handled horror stories in the past? How might you handle them in the future?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Grace Under Pregnancy: Responding to Negativity

Monday, April 27th, 2015
Created using Canva.com

Created using Canva.com

We’ve all seen those blog posts listing all the hilarious, snarky retorts we can have at our disposal when well-intentioned people make comments about our pregnancy, parenting, or birth choices. There is definitely a place for a well-placed one-liner, but not everyone will see the joke. Those remarks are most often only appreciated in theory, not in practice. Of course, it often helps us to alleviate the stress of constant, unhelpful remarks. Who doesn’t need a good laugh after several “Haven’t had that baby yet” moments?

Granted, most of us just politely smile, nod, and walk the other way, keeping our irritated sarcasm to ourselves. We think sarcastic thoughts, or post them on Twitter, but we choose manners when we are in the moment. We none of us really want to be rude, even if we feel like it. We know that answering rudeness with rudeness often just escalates the situation.

Some people, of course, are just rude. It’s best to just walk away in that case. But, what can we do when we feel a strong need to respond in some way? Are sarcasm and snark the best approach? Sometimes, probably. Some people need the wake-up call. However, most people don’t realize that they’re being rude — however well-intentioned they may be — and grace goes a long way. You never know. You might be the one who helps someone treat the next pregnant lady a little better. Isn’t that worth biting back a stinging remark, then going one step beyond and extending grace?

So, what does responding in grace look like?

“You’re having a home birth? Aren’t you afraid of –insert random, rare emergency here–?”
Snark says: “You had hospital births? Weren’t you afraid of –insert random, common intervention here–?”
This kind of response is designed to shut down conversation, and while the person may deserve snark, isn’t a little kindness more powerful?

Grace says: “I appreciate your concern, but no, I am not afraid.”
There is no need to explain your decisions to anyone since you are the one who walks it out, but this kind of response may invite questions and conversation that could benefit the hearer in long run.

“Wow! You are getting sooooo HUGE!”
Snark says: “Thanks! So are you!”
While hilarious in theory, (I’ll admit, I chuckled) two wrongs don’t make a right. People really don’t know what to say, and aren’t necessarily comfortable with just a friendly silence.

Grace says: “Thanks! I’m so excited to be able to grow such a healthy baby!”
This can encourage people to view the full-term pregnant body as something beautiful, normal, and healthy, instead of just weight gain. They won’t expect the kindness.

“Let me tell you ALL THE HORROR STORIES surrounding my births!”
Snark says: “Well, at least you have a healthy baby, right?!”
This can add another layer of sorrow or regret to the woman who opened up to you, and can be just as hurtful to hear as her horror story was to you. Again, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Grace says: “Wow – what a rough ride. If you could go back and change anything about your births, what would it be?”
Women learn in community. It’s why we write and read blogs, attend La Leche League and MOPS groups. Such things have replaced the old quilting bees. It’s also why we are compelled to share our birth stories, positive and negative. Perhaps, this woman has only ever been told she should be grateful, because her baby is healthy. Maybe no one has acknowledged her experience, or made space for her to process it. Maybe you have just been given the chance to help a fellow human being take one more step toward healing by your validation of her experience. Plus, you might learn something.

Kindness goes so very far when we see others as humans who make mistakes. Really, haven’t we all said insensitive things without meaning to, only to learn our mistake later? Can’t we all recall that one time we really blew it by putting our collective feet in our collective mouths? We all cringe at such memories, right? How beautiful was it, in those moments, when someone extended grace to us?

Well, why not make those moments a little less cringe-worthy in your turn by extending grace to our sometimes clueless fellow human beings? Maybe they don’t deserve it, but we all have undeserving moments. That’s the whole point of grace– it’s unmerited favor.

Remember: In the end, it is love that wins the day, not wit or cleverness.

What would you add? When have you responded with grace instead of sarcasm? What other comments can be hurtful, and what might you say or do instead?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

EMAB and Doulaparty Team Up

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

 

 

Join the #doulaparty on Twitter or follow along at DesirreAndrews.com, June 22nd 6pm PT/9pm ET to kick off summer birth work with something extra special!

 

I am very excited that Earth Mama Angel Baby is sponsoring this weeks live chat. EMAB has amazing products for all types of birth professionals and families.

 

A note from the EMAB Team:

 

Are you a midwife, doula, nurse or obstetrician looking for pure, safe products to comfort postpartum mamas and brand new babies? You’ve come to the right place! Earth Mama Angel Baby offers safe alternatives for your clients who are concerned with detergents, parabens, 1,4-Dioxane, artificial fragrance, dyes, preservatives, emulsifiers and other toxins. Earth Mama products are used in hospitals, even on the most fragile NICU babies, and they all rate a zero on the Skin Deep toxin database, the best rating a product can receive. Earth Mama only uses the highest-quality, certified-organic or organically grown herbs and oils for our teas, bath herbs, gentle handmade soaps, salves, lotions and massage oils.

Earth Mama now offers a Birth Pro Cart for wholesale pricing available for birth support professionals! Join Earth Mama Angel Baby on the #doulaparty chat Friday June 22 to talk about their new shopping cart plus answer any questions you may have. Earth Mama will be giving away Postpartum Bath Herbs and Monthly Comfort Tea, Mama Bottom Balm, Mama Bottom Spray, and a grand prize of their new Travel Birth & Baby Kit!

Book Review: “The Vaccine Book” by Dr. Robert W. Sears

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Image from goodreads.com

First of all: You have to know something about this book. It is not pro-vaccine. It is not anti-vaccine. It is pro-informed-consent for parents. It’s about information, not influence. Okay. Keep reading.

I thought this book was the most informative look at vaccines I have ever seen. So much “information” is so heavily biased, and contaminated with emotional “dead-baby” appeals, that I have been more confused than ever on what might be right for my kids. This book is filled with information straight from product inserts, and has a Resources section in the back for all those who want to read studies for themselves. Everything is documented, and when Dr. Sears is sharing his opinion – you know that’s exactly what he’s doing, because he labels it.

It is so refreshing to read something like this about a controversial topic!

This book helped me decide what I want to do for my kids, without ever telling me what to do. I feel as though it is an excellent tool that all parents should read before their first child is born. This is a book I am going to buy for my lending library as a doula and childbirth educator. Stat.

What’s the best book related to the childbearing year you have read? Do share!
Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Some Say I Am Brave

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Image from http://www.vickidonlan.com

Some say I am brave for choosing homebirth. To me, that’s like saying I’m brave for having a big wedding. No matter how involved the planning, we all know the real work of marriage starts when the wedding is over.

So it is with birth. Our childhood, our growing up, and our pregnancy is the training ground. Birth is the opening ceremony. Motherhood is the marathon.

Some say I am brave for choosing homebirth. Others would counter that choosing a hospital birth is brave.

I say choosing to become a mother is brave, no matter where you choose to bring your child into the world. I say learning to make fully informed decisions — guided by a beautiful hybrid of evidence-based information and your intuition — is brave.

Doing this often means going against the flow of society in general, and the tide of modern obstetrics in specific.

It means navigating endless resources, asking questions, and taking time to figure out answers. It means identifying, confronting, and processing fears, anxieties, and stressors that hinder you from being able to fully trust your body and your chosen care provider. It means letting go of a process we have very little control over, when all is said and done, and forming realistic expectations about your birth based on your unique emotional health, health history, and risk factors.

It means being able to tell your well-meaning loved ones that you appreciate their input, but that you are choosing a different way than they did. It sometimes means being willing to give up your ideal for reality — whether that entails a homebirth transfer, an unplanned cesarean, or an accidental homebirth.

The location of your birth doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you got there.

Navigating the road on this journey isn’t as simple as using GPS systems to decide where to turn. It’s less like a road trip, and more like a sea voyage. You may have all the tools in the world in your boat, but unless you use them, the horizon looks exactly the same no matter which direction you look. Sure, you can guess which direction is the right way to go, but you can’t really know unless you have a destination in mind, and you’re able to use the tools around you.

It’s up to you to pick up those tools and make use of them. No one else is really in that boat with you.

It’s up to you to be brave.

Where do you want to go?

Do your homework. Take nothing for granted. Never say never. Then, when you know where you want to be, pick up the tools you have and get yourself there. No one else can (or will) do this for you.

Some say I am brave for choosing homebirth.

What really made me brave was my willingness to open my mind and look beyond the status quo at all the options available to me. That was the hard part. What continues to make me brave is looking four little ones in the face each morning, and loving them in spite of the challenges that mothering them presents.

Some say I am brave. I say that all mothers are brave; some just have not figured it out yet.

When did you realize your bravery as a mother? In what moments have you been brave as a mother?

Pick up good books. Take an evidence-based childbirth class. Know where evidence-based information resides on the internet. (It’s not typically at BabyCenter, just FYI.) Ask questions of your care provider every appointment. Hire a doula. Look outside your box. Interview providers you might not have considered. Confront your anxieties and fears about birth – with professional help if you think you need it.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

 

Bikini Bodies at Six Weeks?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Image from linked article.

First, read this article, then come on back.

Now, I will grant that many celebrities simply have the genes to be in a size 2 at six weeks postpartum, and I want to be clear that this is not a knock against naturally skinny moms. Or moms who very literally worked their rear ends off to get back to skinny.

I think the point is that no woman, especially celebrities (whom I think may not actually live in the real world), should be bragging about her size. It’s unproductive, irresponsible, and reinforces the message that the rest of us will never measure up to their arbitrary, unrealistic standards.

I prefer The Shape of a Mother – a site where honesty and support for women of ALL shapes and sizes and colors rule the roost. A place where both skinny moms and not-so-skinny moms are welcomed, loved, and accepted for who they are.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

 

Super Power Sight (a Guest Post)

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

By: Jackie Miller: She is my husband’s aunt and my long-time friend. Along with her sisters, she raised up a generation of loving mothers and fathers. She and her sisters shared nursing duties when their kids were little, some had home births, some did not. Each of them supported and provided a loving “village” to train up their children together – the way it was meant to be. This post illustrates the importance of nighttime parenting – even if you find yourself in the “granny years” now. The granddaughter in the following story is eight years old, not a toddler. She is “old enough” to be in her own bed, and this story could have turned out differently. Read and learn from a mother (and now grandmother) who knows that those long nights with littles can be so hard, but that those nights and moments are worth it. Her children are proof. Her grandchildren will be, too.

This hasn’t happened to me for a long time, maybe 10 years, maybe longer. I was out of training, so I didn’t know if my skills were up to the task, but I accepted the challenge anyway. It all started by someone calling out my name in the middle of the night. “Granny, I had a bad dream and I’m really scared, can I come into bed with you?”

My reply was out before she finished the question; I said, “Of course Sweetheart.” As I pulled back the blankets and moved my pillow over so my granddaughter could share it with me, she ran and hurled herself into the very center of my being and pushed back in against me with every fiber of hers. My arms were there and ready to envelope her. To comfort and love her.

As I kiss her head and hold her tight I start to pray over her, that the Lord would take away her bad dreams and help her to relax and be able to rest. At first she is stiff and trembling, but the more I prayed, cuddled and loved, the more relaxed she became until total peace had filled her little body.

I had not lost my touch; my mommy (Now Granny) super powers were still active. They were just a little older and a lot more mature. Amazingly, I discovered with beautiful clarity, I now had super power sight. Oh what a beautiful gift Jesus gave me last night, as I lay there, half asleep, holding her close to my heart. A flood of memories came back to me in that precious moment as her warm little body warmed my very soul.

How many times in my life have I done this before? How many nights in my life had I begrudgingly wished my kids would just sleep through the night so that I could sleep? How many times had I laid there uncomfortably, while little arms and legs wiggled and poked me? Just waiting for them to get tired enough for me to carry them to their own bed so I could have my space? I remembered each time, each child, and I almost wept with the overwhelming wish that this moment in time, right now while I held my granddaughter, would never end.

Now was not the time for desiring to go back to sleep, NO! Now was a time to share our hearts, our dreams, and yes – some laughter. I whisper into my Em’s ear, “How would you like to get up with Granny and have some hot chocolate?”

I think she was out of bed before I could finish saying it. I gave her my big fuzzy red robe to wear, and it trailed behind her on the floor as we walked to the kitchen. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Hot cocoa in our hands, we sat wrapped in the same blanket on the sofa and listened to Taylor swift (Her favorite singer) on her Ipod, and of course we sang along… “Some day I’ll be living in a big old city, and all you’re ever gonna be is mean.”

I really really really love my life!

For more of Jackie’s heart, as well as tips and ideas for decorating and remodeling, read her blog: We Treasure the Little Things.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Pain’s Message

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Photo from vi.sualize.us

“Labor will hurt. Probably a lot. But whether this is negative is another matter… A laboring woman can be in a great deal of pain, yet feel loved and supported and exhilarated by the creative forces flowing through her body and her ability to meet labor’s challenges.” ~ Henci Goer

Pain in general is not a good or bad thing, in and of itself.

Pain is simply a message from our body to our brain that something needs to change. It tells me when to move my hand away from a hot surface. Pain tells me to lie down and rest for awhile. It tells me to take a bath.

In labor, pain is part of that creative process moving through my body. It does more than just tell me to get moving.

It empowers me to take what control I can in an otherwise uncontrollable event; it places me squarely on the crest of each contraction wave, where I can ride it out in some measure of peace. It tells me to seek comfort – in a warm bath, in the arms of a loved one, outside in the sun, in a dimmed room with soft music, in the motion of walking, and even in the simplest relief of emptying my bladder.

Pain signals the release of huge amounts of endorphins, bringing me to the brink of ecstasy as I feel the baby slip out of my body and into my arms.

Pain experienced in loneliness or perceived isolation is excruciating. Pain experienced in an environment of peace, comfort, and perceived safety is empowering and moving. It is life-changing and educational. It is powerful, intense, and sometimes indescribable.

The pain of labor is not suffering.

In life, as well as in labor, I find that it is often only through pain that I can experience pleasure at its fullest.

The agony and the ecstasy of labor and birth often go hand-in-hand. They are experienced in the same moments. Even at the height of a contraction, there is knowledge in my mind and heart that I will soon forget my pain at the joy of my child being born into the world. In my face, one can see unbounded joy, awe, and underlying it all – the pain of motherhood that never really goes away. We carry it with us as we agonize over every mothering decision.

Motherhood and its inherent pain is a baptism unlike any other on earth.

Being immersed to a depth we did not know we had, to emerge in the clear air of a role we somehow know without being expressly taught.

Pain in labor is what teaches us, and proves to us beyond all doubt that we have what it takes. We can rise to any challenge.

“You can’t scare me. I’ve given birth!” is our rousing, unarguable cry!

The pain of labor and birth, no matter our experience of it, or how we choose to manage it, tells us in a voice of authority: “We CAN be mothers.”

Photo from JustQuotes.org

What is/was your experience with pain in your labor(s)? How did you use the various tools available to you (everything from natural methods to medication is welcome to be mentioned here) in order to meet the challenge of your labor pain? Would you change anything about how you managed your pain? Why or why not? Did you experience a painless birth?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany