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,

My Little Stinker is Nine

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

So, Dain is nine now. As of August 9th.

How, may I ask, does such a thing happen? The passage of time is incomprehensible to me, and it gets old quickly. This kid. What can I say about him? He is my challenge and my joy. Snuggly and little one minute, rambunctious and loud the next. I don’t understand him all the time, but I love him deeply.

He is my last born, the bearer of all my “last firsts” as a mother. He often gets overlooked, to both his detriment and his benefit. The downside is that I often plan the least for his birthday, and think of him last when planning playdates and sleepovers. The upside is that I forget that his brother was doing a lot more around the house at his age, so I have to be conscious in spreading the workload a little more evenly.

His freckles just melt my heart, and his eagerness to please touches my warm fuzzy feelings. I’m a bit of a sucker for him, as hard as I try not to be. And I overcompensate sometimes by being harder on him than I should.

He is sweet, cuddly, hilarious, goofy, serious, devoted, friendly, and affectionate. He is challenging, mysterious, soft-spoken, clever, and distracted. I can’t wrap my brain around him, and I’m done trying to understand him. I just love him. With all my heart. Always.

Happy birthday, Dain!

Life is Good

Monday, July 18th, 2016

I do not have it all together. Not only that, but there is very little in my life that is truly “together.” If I have given you a different impression, I apologize.

My life is good, but good does not equate to easy, happy, fun, or perfect. Or even #blessed, as we say in Socialmedialand.

What do I mean by “good” then? I mean it in the same way someone says eating healthy or exercise or gardening or art is “good.” They really mean that it’s good for you. Meaning that it will do you some good. It will make you better somehow.

So, yes. My life is good.

Because it is hard.

But it’s not third world hard. Or inner city hard. Or being born black hard (#BlackLivesMatter).

It is refining fire hard.

“Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” –Psalm 66:8-12 (NIV)

As much as I want my life to be easy, it’s not. It’s quite easy enough, though, and I sometimes wonder when the other shoe will drop.

Until then, I will keep working.

Because life is good.

London In September

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

two red haired kids holding a sign that says all hail the red orange and pale

Image credit: theodysseyonline.com

Audrey watches me scroll through Facebook, and this video, alerting the world to a ginger pride festival coming up in London this September, catches her eye.

“Mom, are all those people red-haired?” She inquires, wondering if what she’s seeing is real.

“Yes, it looks like it,” I reply, smiling.

“Is this a real thing?” Her eyes widen.

“It is. It’s in London this September.”

She jumps up and down, “I wanna goooooo!!!”

I sometimes forget how aware she is that she is different, because of her hair. There are a lot of things that make her different, but this is the one she feels the most. From the time she was a baby (a.k.a. “public property”), kind strangers have reached out to touch her hair, and I found myself guarding her more than I ever did the others. I wore her a lot more than the others because of this. People are far more reluctant to breach an adult’s personal space than a child’s (which is a whole other issue).

As she has grown, the touching has stopped, to be replaced by comments everywhere we go. Most of them complimentary, to be sure, but often a little disconcerting to her. She doesn’t understand why strangers feel the need to say something about her hair. She cannot get a haircut without the hair dresser exclaiming about how much money people pay to get hair that color. Then there are the “Does she have a temper to match,” comments. “I bet she’s a fiery one!”

And always the ubiquitous “red-headed stepchild” phraseology so prevalent that no one thinks about it any more. It’s disrespectful to redheads AND stepchildren!

Sigh. She feels every single one of these more than the average bear.

She’s a highly sensitive child (1 in 5 kids are–it’s a variation of normal), and is acutely aware of facial expressions, body language, and other non-verbal cues that many people miss. So, I trust her sensations of unease over the smiles of strangers, and have taught her how to be polite without feeling obligated to engage with someone she’s not comfortable with, strangers or no.

I often forget how acutely she feels her differences. She is very small for her age, fair, freckled, red-headed, and highly intelligent. She is intuitive, tender-hearted, and extroverted. Sensitivity and extroversion aren’t traditionally associated with one another, but they are paired interestingly in her, and often mistaken for defiance.

So, when I see her ecstatic reaction to a ginger pride festival, I wonder at myself for being surprised.

Of course she wants to go to a place where she wouldn’t stand out. A place where no one would comment on her hair, because everyone’s hair is the same. A place where she might feel normal for a day. What a relief that would be for her!

I only wish I could afford tickets to London in September.

Of course, she is very normal, but she doesn’t feel like she is. And no amount of telling her so will convince her.

Grace & Peace,
Tiff

30 Days of Thanksgiving, Days 5-9: Because Procrastination

Monday, November 9th, 2015
Our very first butterfly kit.

Our very first butterfly kit.

Today, though I am behind, I just want to take this chance to express gratitude for my four children.

Day 5: I am thankful for my firstborn, because it is he who made me a mother for the first time. It is he who has had to endure the first and worst of my parenting mistakes. It is he who will always be the guinea pig of the family. It is he who is teaching me so much, though I feel like I am having trouble learning what I am supposed to learn. On the verge of young manhood, I am perplexed and nervous about the next phase in his life. I have made so many mistakes already, and I fear the worst are to come. So, I thank God for this gift of a firstborn son, who loves me, and who still needs me to be the best mother I can be, and who forgives me so readily when I ask him. I am grateful for his affectionate, loving nature, and I pray I can nurture that part of him over the next few years, and help shape him into a loving and gentle man.

Day 6: I am thankful for my firstborn daughter, who has shown so much self-discipline lately. I am certain (because I asked her) that it stems from the trouble she sees her siblings getting into, and she wants a different path for herself. Still, little does she know that this self-discipline is exactly the quality she will need to achieve whatever God sets before her in life. So, I am thankful for this characteristic in her. She is so much better than I was at her age. I am thankful that she is a bit of a mystery to me, and that I have to work to bring her heart to the surface, where I can know her better. I am thankful that I must open my eyes and ears more purposefully with her, otherwise I would miss who she is.

Day 7: I am thankful for my redheaded third-born. High-strung and sensitive, this one is a great challenge to me as well. It seems that she will not capitulate to anything without first fighting it out in some form or fashion. She is quick to anger, but quick to repentance and grace as well. She has high highs, and her lows plunge her into the “depths of despair,” much like my own personal Anne Shirley. She is a puzzle, longing for more freedom than she is ready for. She is the one teaching me patience and grace. To be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. I am thankful for her refining personality, and the strength I can see growing in her, that will allow her to stand firm among giants, in spite of her small stature.

Day 8: I am thankful for my youngest, of the long lashes, brown eyes, and freckled little-boy face. That child has taught me, more than any of them, that not all children are the same. Teaching him to read has been one of my biggest parenting challenges, but I managed it. His brain just works so very differently than any of the others, that I marvel. Sometimes, I wonder if I am really the right mother for him, but he helps me to remember that God chose me specifically for him. There can be no better mother for this child, in spite of appearances. He has taught me to trust that God makes no mistakes in the paths he sets before his children, and that I can, indeed, do “all things” through Christ who strengthens me.

Day 9: I am thankful that the virus going through our house the past few days is very short-lived, so that we can each just move on. I am thankful that Saturday was incredibly productive for me, so that I could take a true day of rest on Sunday, though it meant taking a rain-check on a much-needed outing with one of my dearest friends. Perfect timing, stomach bug. Perfect. (Note: there really should be a sarcasm font…) This illness running through the house is teaching me to be thankful in everything. It also taught me not to let these things derail me quite so much as they used to. To instead just roll with it, and be grateful for strong immune systems.

God is good. All the time.

And I’m thankful today.

Pardon any typos, I don’t have time to proofread this morning, as I do need to get started on our homeschool day, like, two hours ago…but I couldn’t let the morning pass without acknowledging the goodness of God.

What are you thankful for today?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

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