It doesn’t matter how you gave birth

“Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby”  That’s all that matters, right?  I hear it all the time, “Well, it was okay because I had a healthy baby.”  Yes, we all agree, having a healthy baby and a healthy mom is important.  But, in our baby-centric culture, “Healthy mom and healthy baby” often means, “healthy baby, living mom.”

After birth, we dismiss the emotional and physical challenges of birth (before birth we  don’t talk about birth at all or we find the most horrific stories possible to scare moms) . Mothers who experience complications, discomfort, or pain often get a message that their particular concern is invalid, because they have the gift of a healthy baby.   We assume the recovery from a surgical (cesarean) birth is ‘normal’ because many women experience that type of birth.  But healing from surgery is not ‘normal.’  It’s different from healing from a vaginal birth, just as healing from a five minute second stage may look very different from healing from five hour second stage.

In addition to the obvious physical differences, there are also emotional differences.  A mother welcoming her rainbow baby at thirty seven weeks has a different experience than a mother at 40 weeks birthing her fourth baby from her fourth pregnancy.

Women on the other side of birth are looking for ways to process their experience and heal from the emotional and physical events.  They are often met with platitudes and unrealistic expectations to “bounce back.”  Birth is a big deal, yet in our culture we want women to instantly become competent and confident mothers all while instantly returning to their pre-baby bodies and schedules.

For most women, healing from birth requires time.  It requires space.  More for some, less for others, but every woman deserves to have her birth story treated with honor and respect.  Birth can be an amazing, transforming event in a woman’s life and it can also be disappointing, difficult and even traumatizing.  There needs to be space for a discussion of the experience, good, bad, painful, and exhilarating.

So, if you come up against a well intentioned platitude about birth, remember:   It doesn’t matter how you gave birth.  Birth is a big deal.  Your birth was a big deal and Your experience of birth matters.

Reclaiming Postpartum

Changing What We Are by Changing What We Say

What do you think when you hear the word Postpartum? For most people, the word has come to be synonymous with Postpartum Depression or Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs).  But, Postpartum is not a disease or disorder.  It is a timeframe.  A timeframe of a year that every woman who births a baby goes through.

Today, in our culture, the only word that we have to describe the sacred time after a woman has a baby has been conscripted as shorthand for a disorder.  I hear all the time, ” I think I had a little Postpartum.”   What she means is, ‘I think I might have had a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD).’  You don’t have Postpartum, You ARE Postpartum.  We’ve taken the only word that describes this vulnerable, magical time of transition and changed it into a disease.  And we wonder why there is so much pressure for women to bounce back, get back to work and get back in shape.   

So, what do we do?  In my case, we take cute phrases like ‘4th Trimester’ and ‘Newborn Mothers’  so that we can discuss the Postpartum period without making everyone think that we are talking about mental health issues.  But, I don’t like doing that, because those phrases fall short. They imply a time period of about three months and Postpartum is a year.

So, I am making an effort to use the word, ‘Postpartum,’ and the acronym, PMADs when I speak.  I want all the women I meet to have a way to talk about the amazing, transformative and sacred time that is the Postpartum period.

I want there to be a word that embodies everything that we hope for a postpartum mother.  That she is cared for, supported, and pampered.  That she has good food, and time to rest and heal.  That she is recognized as a whole person, separate from her child, but no less worthy.  And that she is given space to evolve and grow into herself as a mother.  Maybe that word is Matrescence or maybe it really is Postpartum with all of its’ baggage and misuse.

Regardless, let’s stop using ‘Postpartum’ as a way to say PMADs.  It’s one step on the way to honoring the amazing transition as a woman becomes a mother.  Because no matter what you call it, the time after a baby arrives is sacred.  So, let’s use our language to create space.  Let’s create space for women to rest, heal and grow after the birth of their babies.

Stretching for Balance

Dr. Alexandra Sacks, recently did a TED talk on the word matrescence. She explains that similar to adolescence (describing the period of transition from child to adult), ‘matrescence’ is a word that we need to describe the transition to motherhood. And she goes on to say that, this time of change, physical, mental and emotional is not easy, in fact, it is hard.

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It is hard because we are now constantly pushed and pulled between the ever present needs of our children and our own needs and desires. And our society tells us that if we are not blissfully happy with this new balancing act, then we are selfish, ungrateful, un-motherly and unwomanly. With the arrival of Millennial Mothers, we are starting to have real conversations about what motherhood is really like. We are starting to be honest about the constant push and pull of motherhood, careers, marriages, and last, but not least, ourselves.

As these public conversations were beginning, Courtney and I created 4th Trimester. In the past three years this class has been informed by experts in our community and beyond and it has changed as our own experiences and practices have grown and changed. This fall, we are refocusing on the 4th Trimester Series and Itty Bitty Yogis, bringing the practices of yoga to newborn mothers in an accessible and realistic way.

If you are in the middle of rocking a screaming baby, sitting down to feed for the 45th time today, or feeling like you would pay obscene amounts of money for an hour of sleep, you may wonder how yoga is going to help you. Yoga helps you stretch and balance. The physical practice of yoga can help stretch and balance your body, but the larger practices of mindfulness can help you find balance amid the push and pull of motherhood, without pain and without suffering. Join us in a safe and welcoming place to explore your own matrescence and the amazing, messy, beautiful world of motherhood.

Good Fences make Good Relatives

A friend of mine is having her first baby. I was inquiring about what she wanted for shower gifts and I made a joke that a roll of fencing would make the best present, because good fences make good neighbors and relatives. And although I’m not planning to give her a 30’ roll of 12-gauge welded wire mesh fencing as a shower gift, I do think that creating and maintaining firm personal boundaries is one of the keys to a restorative and fulfilling postpartum period.

 

We spend so much money, time and attention on buying stuff prior to the arrival of a baby. I found out when I had my first baby that I didn’t need that much stuff. What I did need was time to sit, reflect, and form intentions and guidelines (a.k.a boundaries) to serve me in birth, postpartum and throughout my journey as a parent. I spent time setting up a registry, painting and assembling cribs, but I didn’t realize there was a whole other side to preparing for a baby – a side that doesn’t lead to ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaaahs’ at showers; a side that makes you take a hard look at yourself, your relationships and decide what will best serve you in this phase. Who and what is nourishing and affirming? What do I need to put aside or keep away right now?

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Having a baby is like putting a magnifying glass up to yourself, every hang-up, bad habit, piece of emotional baggage, every fear, every bad relationship from the past can come roaring up to the surface during what may be the most vulnerable point in your life. Yes, vulnerable – because no matter how your baby enters your world (via your vagina, an incision in your uterus or via an airplane from China), it rips you in two. It’s like an explosion that rips open your heart, your body and spills the contents of your brain out onto the floor (you get to collect that in 2 years or so).

So along with onesies, swaddles and swings, start to look at what you want and what you need. Where do you want to be? What place feels safe and nurturing? Who will care for you? Who is a nurturing presence in your life? Who sucks your energy like a vampire? Do you thrive on company or solitude? Do you get cabin fever easily or is it scary to go out? Who can you call for help?

When you have some answers, write them down. Discuss them with your family. And then start to set up some guidelines for yourself and your family around visiting, meals, sleeping and events that help you feel comfortable, protected and ready to welcome your baby. Set your boundary and then learn to say ‘no’ with clarity, kindness, and firmness.   When you get off track, go back to your intentions and adjust your plan so that you can rest, heal, and nurture yourself and your baby. What you want and what you need to make it through the biggest transition of your life is important because you, mama, matter.

Working Moms Group

For so many of us, when we have our first baby, we leave the support network we have at work.  We leave the people that see us every day, that know what we like to eat for lunch and which co-workers annoy the hell out of us.  We leave friends that may have seen us through break-ups and marriages, who have seen us fail miserably and come back in the next day to pick up the pieces.  And we leave them to be home, mostly,  home alone –  with a non-verbal, eating, pooping, puking machine.

And then, if you are lucky again, you meet some mom friends.  As you slog through this new and unknown realm of being a mom, you find support and community.  Most of the time it looks really different than what you may have found at work.  No one is gunning for your position – bleeding nipples – no thanks!.  The women in your group are all fighting their own unique and hard battles.  Mom friends are a new thing.  They are different from work friends.  You talk about poop and then you talk about sex.  You are all struggling to find your way on this very new path and the bonds can form quickly and tightly.

And then it’s over. Then you are going back to work.  Back to a place where Susie might just want your corner office and Joe is nice, but he’s more interested in your next monthly report than how sleeping training is going.  And just like when you left, when you come back to work, it can feel like you are cast adrift again.
And that’s why Working Moms Group is important.  It’s a chance to reconnect and recharge.  To be back in that place of moms and babies, where we don’t always have black and white answers and an quantitative goal to achieve.  This is a place where all we really want to do is to build you up, so that you can leave and know that you can go out there and do it again this week.

Working Moms Group is a continuation of the same community and support that you relied on during maternity leave.  It’s a continuation of the same concepts that Katie Madden developed for Pumpin’ Mama’s Blueprint (take that class).  Moms returning to work already have so many hurdles to jump.  Use your weekend to build back your reserves.  Fill up your cup with support, community and laughter.  See you on Saturday, mamas.

10 Reasons why you should not come to class at The Space

It’s 9:30 on Tuesday, you have been planning to come to class for three weeks, your diaper bag is packed, you got the baby in the seat and then…..

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  1. You are hungry. Most days we have some snacks in the space. We also welcome you to bring your own food and eat it. In the studio room, in the kitchen, in the sitting area. Mi casa es su casa and no new mom should go more than about an hour without food.
  2. Your baby is fussy. We love fussy. No, actually, we do. We love giving you a break from fussy. We love holding your baby and bouncing him while you get coffee, go to the bathroom and just feel what it is like to have two hands again.
  3. You are using a nipple shield or struggling with breastfeeding. We have struggled to breastfeed and we know that it can be awkward and stressful.  That you need space, with your pillow and your water and that your baby is going to scream. Come sit on the couch, and we will get you your water and give you some space to let your shoulders relax.
  4. You are formula feeding. We welcome formula feeders. You can come here and feed you baby without an explanation. How we feed our babies is so fraught with baggage and judgment. You’ve got this and we support you.
  5. Your baby is a puker. Yes. we know about those. We have paper towels, burp cloths, extra clothes, etc. Pretty much everything you might need. Bring your puker – we can handle it.
  6. Your baby had a blowout.   Right. Before. You. Walked. Out. The. Door. Yes, you have been planning on this class all week. Leave that baby in the carseat and come on over. We have wipes, new clothes and everything else you need to get cleaned up.
  7. You are running late. Of course you are. You are a new mom. Don’t worry, you will get this down and be 5 minutes early to everything again. Right now, don’t worry. When we say 9, we mean 9-ish.
  8. It doesn’t fit your baby’s feeding pattern. Come early. Come late. Sit on the couch. Feed your baby. Have a snack. Have some coffee (or tea if that’s how you roll).
  9. You didn’t shower. We should have a sign, “no shoes, no shirt, no shower, no problem.”   We welcome you however you are. We are just happy that you are here, that you made it out. If you are in your jammies, we might give you a sticker – no really, we might.
  10. You are tired. Not tired like you pulled an all night-er in college. Tired like you have never imagined. Tired like you are not sure how you are alive.   You need to nap, but you also need to get out of house,talk with adults, maybe have a laugh, maybe have a cry. Only you can decide what will be best for you, but if you decide to come out, we promise to make it worth your while and give you a tip for getting a great nap when you get home.  And sometimes, nothing is more important than sleep and that’s okay too.