Let’s start by talking about the broken neon sign that I discovered last night as I was ushering my kids into bed in anticipation of solitude and wine. This particular neon sign was given to me and my husband when … Continue reading
If you’re reading this, you probably have a woman in your life that is, you guessed it, still nursing her child (or children). Whether she shared this article with you or you struck out on your own in search of … Continue reading
Nourish, verb 1. to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth. 2. to cherish, foster, keep alive, etc. 3. to strengthen, build up, or promote Nurture, verb 1. to feed and protect … Continue reading
This month our little man, our rainbow baby, perhaps our last little spawn, Dr. Baby himself, will turn one. On Thanksgiving day, no less. The full gravity of that didn’t hit me until I sent out the call for Booby Award … Continue reading
“Is this your first?”
This seemingly benign question throws me for a loop every time. One in four women have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss so I’m in good, although mostly unspoken, company. A brief back story: we lost our baby girl named Gabriela during our first pregnancy, at 22 weeks gestation. That’s right. We knew she was a girl and we gave her a name. People always seem surprised by that. I suppose it is because everyone grieves differently. I imagine some people want to forget the whole thing ever happened…not me. I’m exactly the opposite. She was and still is so important to me and that’s why “Is this your first?” is such a complicated question!
I was fortunate enough to find myself pregnant again fairly quickly. About the time my baby bump became apparent is when the uninvited questions from strangers and acquaintances start rolling in. “Is this your first?” was a frequent inquiry. I always paused and offered a reluctant “yes”. Inevitably, my hesitation was noticed and followed by a laughing, “What, you don’t know?”. “It’s complicated”, I’d say. (Thanks, Facebook!) What people were really asking was whether or not I had any other children. At that point, I didn’t but my second pregnancy, with Evelyn, wasn’t the first time I had felt a baby move inside my belly. It wasn’t the first time I’d put together a nursery or the first time I’d done research on car-seats and strollers. It wasn’t the first time I had thought of my future as a mother and dreamed of what my daughter might be like. Having to answer the question “Is this your first” is a unique dilemma that accompanies pregnancy after a loss. I never knew whether to respond with “Yes, this is my first.”, forsaking Gabriela, or to say no and open up the door to more uncomfortable questions. No, this wasn’t my first pregnancy. That was the answer tugging at my heart and the reality of my situation…even though it could potentially make a conversation very awkward for the person I was talking to. Why did I seem to care about someone else’s awkward feelings more than my own? Gabriela was and very much still is my daughter and nothing could ever change that.
Pregnancy after loss is so different than a primary pregnancy. At least for me, it was. It was never as excited about the journey the second time around, but more focused on the finish line and the prize. My first pregnancy was a constant state of bliss and excitement and, from my perspective, my body was doing exactly what she was supposed to…until she wasn’t anymore. My body had always done everything I had asked of her. She had varsity-lettered as a Freshman in two sports. Then, she betrayed me and grew a baby that was incompatible with life and that was the root of the anxiety that I experienced during my pregnancy after a loss. It was as if I could no longer trust myself. I was emotionally unavailable to bond with my unborn child because I had been there before. With Gabriela, I had only the anatomy scan and opted out of other testing but with with Evelyn, we tested everything. We hired a perinatologist in addition to my regular obstetrician and I had an appointment every 2 weeks because it was my threshold for inner calm. Inevitably, around 12 days after each doctor’s visit, I found myself no longer able to combat the feelings of doubt and suddenly needed someone (a medical doctor) to remind me that everything was still okay.
I didn’t enjoy pregnancy small talk with other expectant mothers and I quite impatiently awaited becoming a mother myself. My birth plan and preferences drastically changed between my first and second pregnancies. The first time, I had imagined joining an ancient sorority of women who experience birth completely naturally but with my second, I had mounting feelings of doom as I approached and then passed my due date. I couldn’t trust my body to take care of the baby she was growing and couldn’t calm the irrational thoughts, so I opted for an induction. I know induction isn’t some women’s ideal birth experience. From my perspective, though, I had the perfect birth which resulted in the perfect baby for me.
“Is this your first?”
Now I can answer this question with confidence. Yes, this is my first. This is the first baby I have had the pleasure of intimately bonding with through breastfeeding. This is the first time I have cared about the color and frequency of anyone’s bowel movements. This is the first baby I’ve rocked in my arms. I’ll make all the silly mistakes other first time moms do because she’s my “first”, but…Gabriela was the first to make me a mom.
Gabriela Brake – 8/06/2013
Evelyn Marie Brake – 6/26/2014
Lindsay is from East Lansing, Michigan and moved to Beaumont in 2012 when her husband accepted a job at Lamar University. She has two Golden Retrievers, an orange kitty and a daughter born June 2014. Lindsay is looking forward to raising her daughter to be a strong, educated and compassionate woman with help from the WMC community.
There’s a saying that you’ve no doubt heard a thousand times; ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Most of us hear this and automatically think that the village is there to benefit the child. But it has application for parents as well. If you’ve considered this in the past, then you may be wondering who the village is for, and where your village is.
In our culture (the US, specifically), we’ve lost the wisdom in this maxim. We’re so wrapped up in our own lives and pursuits that without sustained effort, many of us have little time to visit our relatives, much less worry about an entire village. As we’ve become more focused on our little nuclear families, we’ve lost the knowledge of how to both build and sustain that village.
When we say ‘village’, what comes to mind? Most of us think of a small, close-knit community. Maybe this community is made up of relatives; perhaps it’s an intentional community of like-minded people who’ve come together for a common goal. In either case, it’s clear that the members of that community belong there. Each individual member is committed to the common goals, and benefits from being involved in it.
Much of the same is true about your village. As a parent, we have ‘villages’ around us as well, made up of the same types of people – family and friends, and the communities around you that you intentionally involve yourself in through the internet, playgroups, hobby groups, mommy groups, church groups, exercise groups and the like. For most of us, especially if we’ve lived in the same area for a while, it’s easy to access some of those groups. Small towns (or medium-sized towns that feel like small towns), like Beaumont, tend to be somewhat church-centered, and so for many women as new mothers, a MOPS group, or other mom-focused group is often the first step into the ‘mommy village’. We find older moms who’ve been there, done that, we find moms who seem to have everything together and make motherhood look like a breeze, and we find kindred souls who know our particular struggles intimately – and we start making ‘mommy friends’.
Mommy friends are different from your ‘regular’ friends. These are women who band together for commiseration. You may find what my small circle of intimates call ‘platonic life partners’ – BFFs for life, and that’s a wonderful thing – but it’s much more likely that you will meet women who are in your life for a season. These women serve a specific purpose in your life – to support and nurture you as a mother. As your children get older, you will find that you fulfill that role for younger mothers.
The shift from being the supported to being the supporter is amazing. When you’re a new mother, seeing those women around you who seem to have it all together is both awe-inspiring and enviable. There’s always the mom who embodies everything we want to be as a mother, and that can be really intimidating. Forming a relationship with her lets you in on the secret: She has just as much trouble as you have. That’s the big secret, isn’t it? We’re all struggling – and yet talking about it is taboo.
So here’s what I’ve learned, both from being the mom who needed the village, and being a mom who helps maintain one:
- Reach out. our culture likes to isolate new moms. As interdependent creatures, we need to be around other moms. Get out there! Look up playgroups, storytimes, or local eateries with a playland to meet other moms. Don’t underestimate the value of ‘mommy groups’. They’re popular for a reason!
- Get help. If you have depression, anxiety, social issues or PPD, a fellow mother might be your first sympathetic ear. So many moms struggle with these issues, and they can help you. There is hope. You are not alone.
- Share your joys – and your hardships. Motherhood is fraught with doubt and unrealistic ideals. Being honest with yourself and your village about your successes and failures helps us all to keep them in perspective. It helps us grow and learn new or better ways to accomplish what we set out to do with our kids.
- Don’t leave the village just because your kids are older. New mothers need the wisdom that more experienced moms can share. Listen to the newer moms in your circle and be there for them when they need you.
- Mom’s Night Out. Don’t underestimate the importance of nurturing yourself! Whether it’s date night with your partner, or a girls night out, or Mom’s Night Out with the local playgroup, nurture yourself. Recharge so that you can nurture your children.
It might have been after I threw up on my OB’s shoe…again. Or maybe it was when I found myself telling the cold tile floor that it was the only one who loved me. Possibly it was when I described my pee as “Coke…like Yankee Coke, not Sprite-is-Coke-Texas-talk.” Perhaps it was when I had to lift my head out of the toilet to read the positive sign.
Whenever it was, I realized early on that for every “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” special there was one like this in which I and everyone within earshot knew I was pregnant every single moment. It was not an auspicious start. After a miscarriage, I developed what I thought was the worst stomach bug ever. My assessment was close in that it was horrible, but the 9 month duration was unexpected.
With my daughter I ate for 2….villages, so when I found myself completely unable to eat this time, I was a bit perplexed. I am awesome at fluffy. I am the only person who could deliver a baby and leave the labor room weighing 10 pounds more. This time though, at six weeks along, I was in my OB’s office playing “name the shade of purple on the ketone stick”, watching the dial of the scale move backwards for the first time in my life and throwing up in his waiting room, scale area, sink, toilet, floor, and shoe in that order.
He prescribed me Zofran which tore at my hippie heart. All my crunchy friends had suggestions. I wore Seabands like Rolexes, drank enough ginger-peppermint tea to float a ship, and tried every trick in the book. It only intensified, and I was now throwing up 15-20 times a day. At eight weeks I went back and was given the diagnosis of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). You might recognize this as the pregnancy illness that Kate Middleton had only without the clothing/make-up/spray tan/hair-holding-back team. My plans for a midwife birth were shot, and I continued to drop weight like a prize fighter. Finally, at 12 weeks, I began to get IV fluids and was receiving the highest dose possible of several meds.
Nonetheless, my HG was not impressed. I had lost over 15% of my body weight, was throwing up blood from bile burning my throat, my hair was falling out, my veins had collapsed, and I was separating ribs from the constant vomiting. My reaction was deflection via humor: “My bikini career is finally taking off. Pregnancy is an amazing diet. I love the smell of bile in the morning.” My OB’s reaction was a bit more pragmatic and he admitted my miserable ass to the hospital. I was expending too much energy vomiting so I was ordered not to eat or drink anything and was given all my nutrition via IV for several days. As I told my OB, “If you wanted to take me out for drinks, you should have chosen a nicer place.” He wasn’t amused and soon after discharge I was a mess again. This is when my angels arrived: home health. I was given a Zofran pump which meant I had to stab myself daily and have medication going under my skin where I couldn’t throw it up.
The tube going into my stomach left delightful bruises, and it actually looked like my baby was trying to kick his way out. Adorable little Alien. Once we got the medication dose right I was closer to “normal morning sickness” with chronic nausea and vomiting several times a day. I was not gaining weight but no longer losing it. I looked like Skeletor, felt like death, and smelled like wine (chronic ketosis). Home health continued until I was 26 weeks pregnant at which time I was able to wean off the pump and fluids.
I never got completely off the oral meds, but was able to function most days until the last 3 weeks of pregnancy when it returned with a vengeance. When my water broke I was still wearing pre-pregnancy jeans and weighed less than what I started at.
So, what did I learn from having a disease that only strikes 0.5-2% of all pregnancies?
First of all, some people are horrible. They’ll tell you the meds are killing your baby, that you’re lucky you’re so skinny, or that it’s just psychological. This includes some medical professionals, so arm yourself with information and be prepared for battle. There are some excellent support resources on the internet for pregnant women women who find themselves dealing with HG that include standard HG protocols and tips and tricks from other women whose babies are literally eating them alive. Help HER is an amazing organization that includes support forums, suggested treatment protocols and educates providers on how to most effectively help their patients who have HG. There are also many Facebook groups that act as support forums as well. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) and Hyperemesis Gravidarum Sufferers and Survivors! are the two that I found most helpful.
Another thing I learned is that those experiencing pregnancy complications are often treated only for the physical symptoms and not the psychological ones that can occur. Pregnancy and postpartum depression are absolutely rampant in HG mommies along with anxiety and even PTSD. The disease is horrifically misunderstood and often mismanaged. However, if you’re looking for full neglect, ask what psychological support these mothers are given. Typically it is none. I am very lucky that I had an amazing support structure and natural coping mechanisms, but many are not that fortunate. Ultimately, if you are looking for an effective diet, I can’t recommend HG.
I wouldn’t sign up to do it again. In fact, we’ve decided that a permanent birth control situation is the best option for our family. My husband may have been forced undergo surgical intervention to prevent his swimmers from ever finding their way out of the isolation ward they’re now confined to, but we got our adorable little Minion out of the deal and we all made it through relatively intact. 😉
For a stay-at-home mom, it may seem like spending quality time with your child is a given. After all, you’re there within arm’s reach (more or less) of your beloved all day long. But lately I’ve felt disconnected. All the stress and anxiety stemming from an out-of-state move we may be making in the near future for my husband’s job, mixed with the normal frazzled-ness of life,and telecommuting to work for a local organization I’ve recently joined… Mama has been a bit tense.
It makes me feel terribly guilty that I’ve let the things going on in my life affect how I interact with my daughter. For all of her drama and craziness, questions and negotiations, Shelby is a pretty cool kid. She’s also extremely tiresome at times. That mixed with the afore mentioned worries has left me at my wit’s end, and I’ve been ready to about jump off a time or two! But that’s no excuse for a short fuse with the preschooler I adore.
So…. Now that I’ve confessed to not being Mother of the Year, what am I doing about it? Well, I’ve moved my laptop- my social and business lifeline- to the dinning room table. It’s situated perfectly where I can survey the entire living room and most of the house, as well as be close to the kitchen to grab snacks and juice when she calls for them. It also prompts me to want to take more breaks because of the crummy seating (antique = cool, not necessarily comfy). But the biggest perk is that Shelby can sit right beside me and do whatever, all the while, we can talk and I can listen to the new song she’s made up. I have a pack of new crayons I keep in the kitchen for just these occasions. They’re only for the table, and only when I’m sitting at it. This A) keeps them from getting broke/lost/used for mischief and B) it entices Shelby to sit next to me, color and visit. We love to draw together, and I make sure to post our creations on the fridge at the end of the day.
Are there other things that I could do? Of course, there always are. But until Bootsie gets tired of our current setup, it’s what works for us. And I’m getting lots of art to add to her scrapbook.
What do you (or can you) do to stay connected to your kids? If you have any tips, tricks or ideas, don’t be stingy- share ‘em! We’d love to hear.