The Importance of Community

I had this epiphany last week while at a sound meditation….and first of all, holy fucking shit, it was one of the craziest experiences of my entire life. A husband/wife team play these gongs and sound bowls and I don’t even know what happened, but I had all these amazing crazy thoughts and then suddenly it was an hour and a half later and I’ve never been more inspired in my entire life. It was like…the coolest. ALSO, I was expecting a lot of hippy dippy looking people my age (33) and I was maybe the youngest one there. All these older people getting WOKE as fuck. If you ever have an opportunity, DO IT. Even if you don’t have major experiences, I can’t imagine it being anything less than relaxing as hell.

So! Back to my big epiphany! A lot of it had to do with my business specifically, and I’ll obviously be sharing more as my thoughts around it unravel and I’m able to put more structure to it, but the main theme was COMMUNITY. Community among mothers and mothers-to-be…I mean, it’s just everythinggggg. When I had my first child, we had just moved to a new neighborhood. All of my friends were either still in the city or elsewhere. It made the first few months of motherhood LONELY. My parents were 20 minutes away so we’d drive to them often, but that was in the evening since they both still worked. 

I started signing Mack up for activities more so that I would have something to do than actually wanting my 3 month old to participate in music class or expecting her to learn how to swim at 6 months. It was something that got us out of the house and TALKING to people. I would have to say the best activity I signed up for was more for myself. Three morning a weeks I did a Stroller Strides class through Fit4Mom. It was an hour long workout where you keep the kids in the strollers and throw snacks at them so you can do your burpees in “peace”. Looking deeper into it, the reason I enjoyed it more was because I was connecting with other women who were going through the same thing I was going through. Sure in the beginning it stayed pretty surface, “Oh yeah, not sleeping through the night yet, but we’re hanging in there!” or “I love my husband but he’s worthless with the dishes.” When maybe in reality it was more like, “I’m so fucking tired I could cry and I only came here today so I wasn’t alone with this little monster who kept me up all night.” And “My goddamn husband won’t lift a freaking finger to help in the house after I’ve been busting my ass keeping his offspring alive all day.” But still. It was something. It allowed for a little bit of that human connection that we all needed…and the calorie burn didn’t hurt either.

With my second, I felt SO much less lonely. For one, my parents lived a mile away and I saw them way more often. Two, by that time a lot of my girlfriends had moved out here with their kids and I also had made friends in the neighborhood to hang with. Also, my oldest was almost 3 and while not the most inspiring of conversations, at least she was someone to talk to. AND, something that I am obviously so glad I did was hire a postpartum doula. She started coming after my husband went back to work. The first week she came for three hours on three different days, the second week she came twice and the third week she came once. It was just so nice. She was kind and considerate and so nonjudgmental. She helped with the dishes and folded laundry. She took Mack to the park and read her stories. She held the baby while I napped, and honestly, she just chatted with me. The days she came didn’t feel so long, and knowing she was on the calendar the next week made it all seem so doable. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the time in the days because I had friends, family, and the doula’s support.

So what you may be catching onto is that the point I’m trying to make is that building a community and support center around yourself can make such a difference in those early days with baby. Sometimes tackling the outside world is a little much at first so having people who are around to just BE there with you is everything. This is something easier said than done, but I hope it will inspire you to consider your community for after you’ve had your child when the reality of having this extra little human who needs you so much sets in. There are tons of online communities these days. There are lactaction consultant meetings where it’s super easy to meet other moms, and there hopefully is postpartum doula support available. Postpartum is a time when all the focus can be put on the baby, but it is SO important that we take care of ourselves too. I hope that this thought will encourage you to not only take steps to create your own support system but to be that support system to others. AND, and to be sure to accept this support that is offered. This journey of mamahood is so rewarding yet so hard. We must be in it together.

Why I Am Becoming a Doula

Ok. First I have to say, I am writing this blog right after my first parent/teacher conference ever. And I have to say, I thought the idea of a preschool parent/teacher conference was kind of silly. It’s an amazing play based school so they’re learning through play without any strict requirements in terms of letters, numbers, etc. Anyway, can I just tell you…I was in fucking tears the entire time. I have noticed so many amazing changes in Mack since she started school. She is more courageous, more confident, and honestly just cooler. But to sit down with her sweet teachers and have them echo the same thing, just reinforces to me how lucky I am to be able to watch her grow. I’ve learned more on this journey with her than I have doing anything else in my life. Yes, she’s completely out of her gourd with emotions some days, but that’s happening less and less and she’s becoming more and more secure with herself and in this world. Ugh. It’s just the best to witness.

Anyway, speaking of becoming more secure with your place in the world. I felt the need to put into words the many reasons that I’m becoming a doula. I’m in the process on scheduling my certification classes and I’m getting HYPED. Haha. So yeah. The reasons. Let’s go.

 

EMPOWERMENT

I have to tell you guys that coming out of a birth with a positive experience where I felt I was completely in control and respected changed my postpartum experience in a way that I can’t even explain. When I came home after only one night in the hospital after my VBAC, I was excited and ready to start my new life as a mom of two. I am absolutely positive that that confidence came from how amazing my birth experience was. I barely needed the hospital staff during my birth so I barely needed them during my postpartum. Do NOT get me wrong, if you want to stay at the hospital and enjoy the amazing support they are willing to provide, you damn well should. To me personally, that was just the proof that I needed that I felt capable of anything.

Having an empowering birth experience, empowers you in your whole life. Ever since my second has been born, I have found myself. I have made time for myself and my dreams because I know that I can do anything I set my mind to. I don’t feel I have to set those things to the side until I’m done parenting because parenting is all I can handle. Yes, being a mom fills me in a way that nothing else can, but I also understand that my children will have their own lives some day and I want to start building now what will fill my life once they’re out of the house. And I truly believe that my amazing birth experience gave me the motivation to be willing to work to make those things happen now.

 

MODELING

With this new sense of empowerment, I realize how important it is for me to follow my dreams in order for them to have the courage to follow theirs. Being a stay at home mom is hard work, but when I’m honest with myself, it doesn’t light me up. Playing with my kids and hanging out with them absolutely does, but most of the time, I’m actually just making them food, cleaning up their mess, doing the laundry (does the laundry ever END), etc.. I want my children to witness me working on something I care about. Something that brings me home with a smile on my face and more energy and love to give to them. It’s so important that I model this behavior to them. I’ve read so much recently on how our subconscious is built between the ages of 0 and 7 years old. I’m confident I’m screwing them up in all sorts of ways, but I want their subconscious memory of their mother to a be a confident and fulfilled woman who works hard and goes after what she wants. I do all this in the hopes that they follow that path with their own dreams someday.

 

HOPE

Our country is in such a weird/ugly/beautiful place right now. There are so many terrible things happening. However, the beauty that I have seen come out of these terrible things has left me awestruck. People are stepping up and are becoming unwilling to accept for things to continue on as they have been. When I look at the statistics of mother and infant mortality rates in our country compared to other developed countries, it makes me sick to my stomach. (PLEASE go watch, The Business of Being Born.) There is so much broken with how pregnant women are treated during the birth process, and the lack of postpartum support in our modern world is heartbreaking. We used to take better care of each other. I want to increase the number of positive birth and postpartum experiences, even if only by one. Any small step is still a step in the right direction. My only goal in this is to give mamas the space to grow, adjust and snuggle into their new roles with more confidence and ease. However small, the more positive energy we put into the world, the better off the world will be. And fuck, we need some more positivity, don’t we?

 

LESS ANNOYING

Ask any of my friends: pregnant, mamas or not. I am SO annoying when it comes to talking about pregnancy, healthcare, birth, postpartum. I get so raged up talking about how broken our system is (see: HOPE section) and how much good information and support is available for those who want to avoid becoming victim to the system. HOWEVER. Most these rage fests are unwelcome and sometimes even end up making people feel uncomfortable. That is not what I want. Everyone must follow their own path, and their path is absolutely the right path for them. I need to channel the energy and passion I have about the birth and postpartum experience towards those who want to receive it. I respect everyone’s right to choose whatever they want for their own birth, and I want to be there to support them with the knowledge that I have. And, guys, it’s going to be so much FUN.

So, yup. That’s a lot of it. I will be sure to keep everyone posted on my progress, but for now, I’ll just be posting here every other Wednesday. Much love, peeps :) 

“Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself.” - Rumi

How I Crushed My Unmedicated Birth

So a couple weeks ago I went through my tips for preparing for a natural birth.

This week I want to talk to you about the actual labor and share what I did in my second birth to provide myself the best chance to have a natural labor, meaning unmedicated. I’ll also provide a few links to other blog posts that I found super helpful when I was preparing myself for what to expect in each of these stages of labor.

Early labor, active labor, and transition all comprise the first stage of labor. The second stage of labor is when you push and deliver your baby. So much fun to be had! One important thing to note that I have heard said and written frequently throughout the natural birth world, the intensity of emotion and pain you feel in birth should match the extreme (and beautiful) way your life is about to change. Shit is going to get real in labor….and then your world at home is going to be turned upside down. I think being prepared for both of those things to happen is one of the biggest tools you can have. Because then, when you’re in it, it’s what you expected, and maybe it’s even easier than you thought.

 

EARLY LABOR

Such a cool time. I remember my skin feeling like it was buzzing when I realized labor was starting. Contractions have started and are maybe random. For more detailed information on everything that’s happening, check this out. During this period for me, I puttered around my house, a lot of pacing in my closet. I actually had diarrhea which was LOVELY. Sitting on the toilet actually made me feel like my vagina was about to explode, also lovely.

I had called my midwife and my doula and both separately told me to follow the 4-1-1 rule which means head to the hospital when your contractions have been 4 minutes apart, lasting about 1 minute for about 1 hour. (I used this app to track my contractions.) If you feel nervous being at home, I received some great advice to go to the hospital before this and just walk around outside and at the gift shop until you’re at the 4-1-1 marker. Walking and moving are so important during labor and once you’re at a hospital the hospital staff may be wanting to hook you up to machines and contain you. This is definitely not conducive to the natural progression of labor.

Because I was trying for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean), I was committed to being at home for as long as possible because while the hospital I was delivering at was supportive of VBACs, they did require electronic fetal monitoring and I didn’t wanted to be constricted by the monitor if they didn’t have a wireless one available. So I stayed home for a while. Took a long bath. Took a hot shower which felt AMAZING. I made my 2 year olds breakfast while my mom and husband were anxiously watching me like I was insane.

 

ACTIVE LABOR

I had probably transitioned to active labor at this point. Here is a great article to read about what happens in active labor. We finally left for the hospital when my contractions were probably closer to 3 minutes apart, but obviously do what you’re comfortable with while considering the advice of your doctor/midwife. In birth, I think listening to your intuition is the most important piece of advice I could give you because everyone’s different and so is every birth.

When I got to the hospital, I had planned to diffuse essential oils. I had made birth art I planned to look at for inspiration. I even made playlists (Upbeat Birth or Relaxing Birth). I brought my own nightgown because hospital gowns are disgusting and you should wear whatever you want to make you more comfortable. I ended up wanting silence, didn’t want any essential oils and was just naked because “fuck it”. Anything extra felt like a distraction. Allow yourself to just go with the flow and do what feels right for you.

Another great tip for active labor is to actually picture your cervix opening. Not only does it give you peace to understand what the contractions are actually doing, it gives your mind something to focus on and allows your body to follow suit. When you’re one centimeter dialated your cervix is about the size of a Cheerio, a Ritz cracker is about four centimeters, a can of soda is about seven centimeters, and a bagel (fuck) is about ten centimeters. So don’t stress about what the doctors or nurses are saying, just breathe and keep focusing on the next largest dialation. Your body will respond, I promise.

At this point, the hospital staff or your doctor may mention Pitocin. Other people know more about this subject than me, but basically, Pitocin is a drug that intensifies contractions to get your cervix to dialate quicker. Hospitals often love to push this drug because it speeds up the process for them. The problem for the mama is that Pitocin contractions are WAY harder to deal with than contractions that progress naturally. Pitocin will increase your chances of needing an epidural because the intensity at which the contractions come on is harder to prepare yourself for than a steady, natural increase of intensity.

For the actual contractions, remind yourself time and time again that you can do ANYTHING for one minute. The contraction will come and it might suck, but it will be over soon. I would breathe heavily in through my nose and out through my mouth during each contraction, and at the end of each one, my doula would say, “good, now blow that one away like you’re blowing out a candle.” A deep breath out and relax. Some hospital and most birthing centers have the options of baths and/or showers during this time. There’s different positions to try to get things moving. Spinning Babies is a great resource for different things to try to get the baby in the correct position.

I’ll be honest. I never even considered an epidural. It just wasn’t in my mindset. However, if you’ve been in labor a long time, sometimes an epidural can be a good opportunity to allow you to rest so you can save energy for the pushing phase. I would definitely say to consider putting this off as long as possible once you’re fairly far along in terms of dialation because once you have the epidural, your movement will be restricted at this point and it will be harder to move things along if you still have awhile to go. My doula recommended waiting until at least 7 centimeters.

 

TRANSITION

The good news is if you’re feeling like you just can’t handle another contraction, you’re most likely getting closer. This is the point that even women who are committed to a natural birth start begging for an epidural or even a c-section. Read more about the transition stage here. I was annoyed at EVERYONE. I wanted everyone to shut the hell up and be silent. I was leaning over the side of the hospital bed and all of a sudden two contractions in a row were just DIFFERENT. I literally felt like I was about to shit the baby out. I yelled to my husband and doula, “I HAVE to push.”

 

PUSHING

Almost there! I kept my eyes closed the entire time. My doula had called my midwife in. I was laying on the hospital bed even though many people will tell you this is the worst way to push, but it worked for me. A lot of people do well on hands and knees or squatting. (Sidenote: the reason other positions are often discouraged is because it is inconvenient/harder for the doctor to catch the baby this way. Eyeroll.)

When pushing during contractions, my doula gave me this amazing advice: hold your breath and push to the count of 10. Stop pushing and then take huge deep breath and do it again. When the contraction is over, make sure to take long deep breaths to give yourself and that babe as much oxygen/energy as possible. It will help sustain you both during this phase. I also love the advice, very similar to my doula’s but with more of a visual, that I read in the book Mama Glow. When pushing, think of your vagina as a tall building with an elevator and the lowest level is the base of your pelvic floor. Take a deep breath and relax the walls of your vagina, hold your breath and push as you envision the baby going down the elevator and being pushed out the basement of the building. Then blow out your breath and do it again. Sounds crazy, but it totally resonated with me and I think it will for you too.

On the mental side of things, stay as focused as possible with your eye on the prize. You will be meeting this baby soon, and it all will be more than worth it. I kept imagining myself doing the hardest thing I’ve ever done (run a half marathon) and the most inspiring, tough woman I’ve ever known (my grandma who birthed and raised 11 children). It reminded me that I am strong, and that women are strong. We’ve been doing this whole birthing thing forever, and you are no different. You are fucking awesome.

And when it’s all over, early labor, active labor, transition, pushing, all of the things, everything melts away because you did it. You and your baby, already crushing it together as a team. So high five your little nugget and bask in those ocytocin vibes. Not much can compare to that.

Until next time…much love.

My Best Tips To Prepare For a Natural Birth

When a girlfriend asked me about what I did and what my doula recommended I do to help me have an unmedicated birth, I felt a rush of excitement. I went back to my old Pinterest board and reviewed the almost endless amount of links that I had saved on my phone about tips on how to prepare for a natural birth.

And while I was putting together an email to send to her, I had the thought that I should really turn this into a blog post. I was hesistant to do so because the preparation for my second birth was maybe the most committed I’ve ever been to something in probably my whole life. And while I am so proud of that time I spent researching and mentally and physically preparing for it, I was almost obsessive. I don’t want my dear friend or women, in general, to think they have to be obsessive. My obsession was a result of my first birth which was an unplanned c-section (more on that another time.)

I guess what I really want to say before I dive into this subject is that don’t let this preparation be a stressful thing for you. Yes, it’s important to prepare, but the most important thing during pregnancy is to stay calm and to take care of yourself. Going into birth panicked that you didn’t prepare enough is wasted energy. Do what feels reasonable and empowering for you, and then you can carry that sense of peace with you into your labor.

So here are the things I did every day. I also added some links for reference. It seems like a lot. It definitely seemed like a lot to me when my doula and I talked about it...but once I was in a routine, it was total manageable. My husband did think I was crazy when he saw me gobbling up dates or laying on the ground with my legs up on a bench, but he also saw me shit myself in my first labor so he clearly has seen worse.

  1. Ate 6 dates a day (I cut them put them in oatmeal for breakfast): Eating Dates to Shorten Labor
  2. Drink raspberry leaf tea every day of third trimester (I usually drank it at night before bed while husband enjoyed a beer, the lucky bastard): The Truth About Red Raspberry Leaf Tea in Pregnancy
  3. Forward leaning inversion (This felt a little silly doing, but I swear I actually felt it working): How To Do A Forward-Leaning Inversion In Pregnancy
  4. PSOAS Release for 10 minutes (I usually did this before I got my toddler in the morning just to get it out of the way): Don't Forget Your PSOAS 
  5. Squat for 10 minutes. (I just held a squat while holding onto the arm of the couch with one hand and looking at my phone on my other. Other people recommend actually doing squats. To each their own): Speed Up Labor with Squats 
  6. Walk a mile (my doula highly recommended this one): No link, just freakin’ walk.

Here are some other posts that give good recommendations on how to prepare:

·      How to Have a Natural Birth (My husband and I did her online birth class instead of doing an in-person one. We loved it. I drank my raspberry leaf tea. He cracked his beer. We wore our pajamas. Way better vibe for us than going to a class.)

·      7 Easy Exercises For An Optimal Labor

·       7 Keys To A Blissful Birth

One last thing. I hate even talking about it because I don’t want it to be a real thing, but it is. You really need to discuss your intentions with your doctor and maybe even consider changing if they are not supportive of a natural birth. You don’t want to do all the prep, only to find out your doc insists you start Pitocin immediately or wants to schedule a c-section at 40 weeks. It’s a hard conversation sometimes because we’re kind of scared of doctors. So we HAVE to remember: They’re not our parents. We are their equals, in fact, we are their clients. They should be kissing our fucking feet. Haha, not really, but they do scare us more than they should. We feel we are are not as educated as them. We feel silly and stupid and don't want to waste their precious doctor time with questions. Whatever. That's their job, to talk to their patients. AND, it is your body. It is your baby. It is your birth, and you should get to have the experience you want. So just know this is a thing. That some doctors will dismiss your wish for a natural birth because it disrupts their regular process. They are not bad people. They are just a part of a system that likes to use the drugs and the tools to get you out of there quicker. Some of them are amazing and supportive and will let you create your own experience, but it is important to know what you're dealing with. If they don’t seem supportive of your wishes, then you need to decide what’s more important to you, having the doctor you’re comfortable with (and this IS important) or finding a new doctor who will let you have the experience you want. I’d recommend bringing in a birth plan as a way to start these discussions. I used this one from my online birth class.

Beyond all that, I want to say that after any preparation you have done, when your first contractions are starting, look at yourself in the mirror or rub that big ol’ belly of yours and tell yourself and your baby that you have done all that you needed to do and that you are prepared for whatever happens. You and your little teammate are going to be just fine, and you’ll be enjoying those newborn snuggles soon.

Things That Keep Me Sane: Exercise

First blog post. Woo!

I’ve worked hard to be here, people. I’ve tried many, many times…or at least thought about trying to sit down and write this post. I had many different ideas. Found many pockets of time to make it happen, but then, inevitably, mama life happened instead. I prioritized the laundry, emptying the dishwasher, playing with my kids because I felt guilty doing something for myself and not for them.

So I did something that I am very lucky, blessed, privileged to do, I got a babysitter and here I am about to maybe, one day get to the topic I have decided to discuss. Here we go! Very differently than finding reasons not to do THIS, I will always, always make myself time to exercise. The deciding factor on whether I have won the day (maybe more like scraped by) or lost the day is whether or not I worked out.

Even with my babysitter at my house for the express purpose of babysitting so I can write this blog post, I went to the gym first. I got a run in so I could feel clear, and settled, and ready for the rest of my day. Working out is NOT about weight loss for me anymore. It’s a habit that I created and forced and willed into something that has become a part of my daily life, and it essentially keeps me sane.

When I first came home from the hospital with my oldest kiddo, I remember looking at her and being like, “who ARE you?” and also, “and now who the fuck am I?” I quit my job. We had just moved. I had gained a million pounds because it was my first pregnancy and FULLY lived by the “eating for two” philosophy.  Forgetting that the second person is like a fucking tadpole not another 30 something adult with a deep, deep love for double meat Chipotle burrito bowls WITH guac.  So that led me to the elliptical machine. It started with my deep desire to get the baby weight off and also maybe kill some time, and then became my daily reminder that I am strong and capable. It also gave me something to do besides read a mind-numbing amount of books to the little blob that can’t understand a word I’m saying (I know it’s important for their development. But it’s still boring as shit.)

That daily work out was the highlight of my day, and my little nugget was so good. Watching me from her little rock n play, and then from the ground. And once she got too mobile, I moved the workouts to nap time. I’ll be honest, while I got stronger, and obviously more badass, weight did not fly off. Food is a hardcore issue for me, but even with extra weight, exercise gave me the confidence I needed to believe I could take care of myself, this baby, this new house. I found myself again through exercise. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it brought me back to who I was. I struggled with weight most of my adult life, but I never struggled with being active. My parents did a killer job of instilling that in me. And now, I will instill it in my little girls (not by telling them they need to work out to lose weight) by showing them that working out makes you feel happy and accomplished like their mama.

That same baby of mine, who is about to be 4, and I work out together every day. We put her sister down for her nap and it’s “time to work out”. We talk about how strong we are. We talk about how high we can jump. And we talk about how sweaty and stinky I am. It’s a part of our routine. We bond over it, and I’m beyond grateful for it.

I am not here to tell anyone that they MUST find a way to fit working out into their life, but I would highly recommend it. Because when we’re in the thick of this mamahood thing, anything we can do to remind us of our strength and our power is monumental. It’s what gets us through when shit gets reallllll ugly. (I’ll spare you the stories I want to tell about my kids and actual shit. Maybe another time.)

Also, if you’re interested, here are some people whose workouts I have done and love. I tend not to commit to one thing; I like having options, but all of these women are badasses:

  • Karena and Katrina of ToneItUp.com: They are my daughter’s personal faves. They're young and fun and GORGEOUS. They have tons of awesome (free!) cardio and toning videos on their YouTube channel. They also have a nutrition plan and a subscription based app that offers new workouts
  • Lauren Roxburgh: Definitely a lighter workout. She swears by two different pieces of equipment-the foam roller and the rebounder (trampoline) to roll out and then flush toxins from your body. I tend to foam roll after other workouts or do her trampoline workout when I’m looking for something quick and easy. Plus, my daughter loves any chance to jump on the trampoline. You have to buy her videos and stream them online, but she might have some free shorter YouTube videos too.
  • Bizzie Gold of Buti Yoga: This chick does not mess around and is my current obsession. She does a mix of tribal dance and yoga. It’s fun and flies by. My little hasn’t quite taken to these yet because the movements are a little more complex, but she likes to watch me look like an ass trying to keep up. I believe she has a subscription that gives you access to a ton of workouts. I currently just own a few of her DVDs.
  • Tracy Anderson: I have to be in the right mind frame for her workouts. She’s a dancer and she also doesn’t cue you with words so she just kind of bounces around doing different dance moves and you have to do your best to keep up. It’s hard as fuck though, and I’m always sore in weird places after which to me, means I’m working underused muscles. My kid hates these. “What is she doing? Why isn’t she smiling?” Haha. I just have a few of her DVDs, and I’ve found some free stuff on YouTube too.

Ok, I did it! I wrote a blog post, and am not even just saying this, now I'm going to go get a double meat Chipotle burrito bowl to celebrate. #withguac