Making Peace with Imperfection

Writing is a tool that I rely on to organize and make sense of my thoughts and feelings. Whenever I feel anxious, confused, or overwhelmed I often can’t find clarity until I’ve sat down to write it out. Somehow during the process I start writing truths that I don’t know until they flow from the pen, though I spend plenty of time thinking (and overthinking); it’s like my brain doesn’t know the thing, but my hand does.

Sometime in 2020, amidst the pandemic pregnancy and the long lockdown, I stopped writing here and even journalling for myself – probably the worst time to take a break since I had so much to work through! The fact that I stepped away from it at a time when I felt particularly isolated and didn’t have access to my other form of mental processing (running!), probably explains a lot of the inner discontent I struggled with that year.

The main reason I stopped writing in 2020 was because of the self-imposed pressure I felt from Instagram. After scrolling past all those perfect, curated squares with their carefully edited captions, I started to feel like I couldn’t (or shouldn’t!) post anything that wasn’t in its final finished state and this kept me from writing at all. Part of this pressure came from myself; a part of me believed that as your average stay-at-home-mom, I’d never have anything important to say. But the other, more rational, part of me failed to see that Instagram is a collection of finished products; no one is posting their shitty drafts or their unedited photography. We’re putting our best foot forward on that app at all times.

For creatives (or anyone really) this can be discouraging to witness on the daily. We don’t see the countless hours that artists devote to their crafts, the workshops they attend to get better, the terrible rough drafts and pages and pages of brainstorming for ideas, the time when an interior designer paints an entire room the wrong colour and it just doesn’t work, the unfinished novel that never made it to print, the poem that sucked, big time. We don’t want to mess up our perfect feeds by posting the ugly processes we go through to achieve end results.

So this is me recommitting to imperfection.

It’s tough for a Type A to come to terms with, but most people have to commit to the mess before they get to the beautiful ending. A runner needs to go through the sweaty, slow training sessions before they can run a marathon. A writer needs to carve out time to write the messy rough draft before they can publish the novel. An illustrator needs to sketch out their ideas before they arrive at the finished canvas. These are necessities of art. We’ll all be amateurs on our way to greatness, and if we’re growing and evolving there’s a good likelihood that we’ll look back one day and think the great art we’re doing now was the work of an amateur.

So I’m gonna lean into the knowledge that I don’t have to be perfect and give myself the freedom to post often and fret less. Hopefully this will help me get back to writing and processing, even when my thoughts are unpolished. Whatever space you’re in, I encourage you to do the same!

I’ll leave you with [this awesome graphic] I found recently (on Instagram of course. Eyeroll, lol). Here’s to making shitty art, so we can maybe one day make better art.

Colic Mama Trauma: What Do We Do When Crying Triggers Us Years After Colic Has Ended?

Well, you’ve done it. You’ve made it to the other side of colic, though every day (or every minute) you swore you wouldn’t survive. You’re an incredible and resilient bish and you’re ready to leave the Colic Days behind you! But what happens when months or even years later, you still find yourself getting triggered every time your child cries?

Unpacking our triggers is one of the hardest parts about parenting. Sure we can skate by without doing the work, but we run the risk of having excessive reactions when our kids do something mildly annoying and developmentally appropriate that probably wouldn’t bother us if we didn’t have some kind of PTSD / trauma surrounding it. Sometimes these emotional reactions are even fuelled by our own negative experience being parented a certain way.

OBVIIIIII, therapy is the best route for us to work through our baggage but we don’t always have access to it when we need it, especially in countries that don’t have affordable health care. So where does a parent who identifies as a Colic Survivor even start?

I really don’t know, but I’ve thought a lot about it in the past six years. Like, daily, because that’s how often one of my children cries and triggers what I call my Colic Mama Trauma. I’m very much NOT a therapist, just a two-time colic mom who’s been through the wringer with crying kiddos, but if you’re in the same boat as I am and want a jumping-off point, I’d love to share the only thing that helps me, in the hope that it’ll help someone else. What I’ve found when I’m being triggered by post-colic crying is grounding myself in reality in as many ways as I am able to in that moment. Let’s get into what that looks like mentally and physically.

Mentally, this looks like reminding myself what is true rather than getting swept away by emotions that are not rooted in my current reality. I repeat truths to myself in my head as I hold my crying child and reassure them that they are safe and loved (sometimes this reassures me as well, ha). The truths I have to remind myself about are going to seem glaringly obvious to someone who doesn’t have a tendency to spiral, but this is just what helps me. Some favourites include:

“The colic is not coming back just because they’re crying in this moment.”

“They won’t be crying forever, this moment will pass.”

“They won’t be sick forever. Everything is just a phase. Nothing is permanent.”

“I am the best mother for my child.” (this is one I tell all colic parents)

Say whatever you need to say to yourself to bring your mind back to those truths. As you can probably tell, my colic PTSD tends to manifest as catastrophic thinking (“this is my life now! I’m going to have a crying child forever! I can’t do this! I’m a bad parent!”) so the grounding truths I have to tell myself might seem silly. Write out a few that you think will help you and put them somewhere you can find them again next time you’re feeling triggered by excessive crying.

Grounding myself in reality in the physical sense means getting myself outside in any way I possibly can. This advice is some of the first I received as a mother, back during the colic days with baby Hennie. I had become a total hermit, terrified of leaving the house in case my infant cried. She was a November baby and I stayed inside almost the entire winter, just bouncing on my yoga ball and crying. Finally I confided in a friend who encouraged me to go for short walks around the block every day. “It’ll make you feel good” she told me, “and if worse comes to worst, her cries won’t seem as loud if you’re outside.”

She was right, of course. I found that my colicky baby cried less when we were out walking around, and when she did cry I felt much less anxious about it. Being outside made me feel like a more capable first-time mom, even though they were very short walks at the start, and seeing other people going about their normal days offered perspective that I desperately needed and reminded me that the phase I was in wouldn’t last forever.

These days, in my post-colic, three-kids life, I still try to get outside every day and it still helps and offers much needed perspective. As I cart my whiny kids to the park around the corner or school drop-off or even just playing in the yard, I often find that their moods change and take on a lighter feel when they’re outdoors. And if they don’t, well, their whining doesn’t seem as loud when we’re outside. Thanks for the advice, Amber.

When all else fails I try for a Hard Reset. Sometimes it’s the kids who are being difficult but sometimes it’s me. When one of the kids is having a tough time I find it manageable but there are times when all three are struggling. When that happens I often wake up with an attitude of discouragement and defeat right off the bat, and that makes it pretty much impossible for any of us to get out of our slump (do you also find sometimes that parent’s attitudes set the tone for the day rather than the other way around?). When I find myself in that headspace I choose a high energy activity to do and decide it’ll be a hard reset for my attitude. Then I do it for as long as I need to to feel a little better. Sometimes this means doing a peloton ride while the kids watch a show or going for a solo run if my partner’s at home. If I have the kids and it’s not raining I’ll go for a fast, long walk and put a podcast on my headphones. If it’s pouring rain sometimes I’ll blast a killer playlist in the kitchen and bake/dance. For me, this helps me get out of my head and back into my body.

*Please note that the Hard Reset really only works for a bad day, not a deep dissatisfaction in general. I am absolutely not suggesting that dancing or going for a walk are going to solve your probs if you’re in a critical burn out stage of life or going through something exceedingly difficult. It’s just for when we wake up a little crabby and impatient and need to run it off.

Once again, I’m not a therapist and I’m certainly not trying to tell anyone how to live their life. But I’ve spent six years working through my Colic Mama Trauma and have developed a few coping tools that make my tough days just a tad easier for me. There are a lot of us Colic Parents out there, so I hope one of them helps you, even if it’s just a little.

“What Should I Wear Today?” and Other Unanswerable Questions

Lately I’ve been trying to pull like 15 minutes of thought each day away from the kids and toward myself. The purpose of this very minor pivot is (major cliche alert, btw) to try and rediscover who I am now, in this new phase of motherhood and life.

The past six years my life has been deeply defined by family planning and survival mode. For six years I’ve been in a cycle of pregnancy, postpartum, and breastfeeding (repeat 2x). Finally now that the kids are 1, 3, and 5 I am none of the above and I find myself with a few moments, just here and there, to ruminate on who I am becoming and what my own personal purpose may be, y’know, outside of my family.

The first thing I found myself considering was actually my wardrobe, which would surprise anyone who knows me. However you choose to define style, I’ve never had it. I like tee shirts, I like jeans, I don’t really brush my hair. That’s pretty much it. So how the hell have I ended up thinking so much about what I wear?

The thing is though that since my life is so busy and chaotic, the only small thing in my world that I have control over is what I put on my body each day and of course for six years this  has been largely dictated by pregnancy, postpartum, and nursing, too. While pregnant we dress for expansion, while nursing we dress for access, and while postpartum we dress for sheer, soft, comfort. In all of these stages our bodies are deeply in flux. We dress strictly according to function and it’s okay and it’s necessary. But what I’ve been missing these six years is the clothes that bring me joy, that make me feel like myself, rather than a workhorse of motherhood who lives only to serve my offspring (even if that is undeniably who I am right now).

So it feels expected but still a little odd that I’ve been finding myself in my mid-30s with three young kids, asking myself every morning “what do *I* want to wear today?” which leads to the discomfiting next question: “well, who am I?” and the answer: hell if I know. Because in my journey to figure out who I am and how I want to dress in this phase of life I’m realizing that I’m not sure I ever knew who I was before I had kids.

So I’m trying to pay attention to things I wear that make me feel like me, outfits that feel comfortable and confident and “put together” by my own (very loose) interpretation of what that means. Many questions have arisen from this. Do I not like wearing dresses, or are they just not functional for me at the moment? Do professional clothes secretly suit me but I just have nowhere to wear them? Do I actually enjoy wearing skin tight clothing or have I been influenced after working in pubs for 13 years and having my tips depend on how much skin I had showing?

Every day I try to take a second to put aside my perceptions of what I should look like, and dress according to how I feel and what makes me happy and comfortable. So far the things that make me feel like me include: Stud earrings. Denim. “Masculine” button-down shirts. Combat boots. Tee shirts, pref cropped. Tomorrow I’m gonna try a dress out; will report back. 

One thing I do know is that I’ve never been the type to dress up. But after a solid six years in leggings I feel it might be time to consider just… getting dressed.

Beating those Bleak Mid-Winter Blues

I can’t imagine I’m the only one who’s having a tough start to the year. With the Fifth Wave circulating, stressful decisions about school closures, and the usual “bleak mid-winter” darkness of the Pacific Northwest, I think we’re all just hanging in there until the spring. Inspired by my friend Mel’s recent post about self care I wanted to share some of the ways that I’ve been keeping my head above water so far in these first trying weeks of 2022.

Movement. I don’t want to say exercise because that often suggests a “weight loss” agenda, especially at the outset of a new year, and that isn’t at all what I mean. Moving your body helps so much to keep things in perspective, get yourself out of the house in the winter, and just to clear your mind. I’ve been making it a priority to move every single day and it’s been having a super positive effect on my headspace day to day. Some days I’ve felt energized and motivated to do a more intense movement like running or cycling, but some days I just do stretches before bed or a short yoga video. Sometimes I only have time for a kitchen dance party with the kids but other times it feels good to do a heavy, slow strength workout with dumbbells.

Meditation. I’ve had problems falling asleep since I was a teenager and had mostly gotten a handle on it, but pandemic parenthood has given me a lot more to ruminate on after the sun goes down and it’s been back with a vengeance lately. Doing a 20 minute sleep meditation in the evenings has really helped me acknowledge and breathe through my anxieties without letting them take hold of my mind. I used to think it was a bit “woo woo” but there’s something to be said for mindfully acknowledging your feelings without the pressure of trying to turn them off, ignore them, or change them.

Creative Projects. Bob Seger once said that he writes most of his stuff in the winter and I must admit that my own creativity spikes in winter, too. The summer makes me feel too lethargic to get anything done but the energy of the new year always makes me feel invigorated. Just like I need to move my body I also need to move my hands, and I’ve been revisiting half-finished crochet and sewing projects and constantly jotting down ideas for new articles and blogs. Is it easier to create when we have less stimuli? Who knows, but I’m embracing it while it’s here and I have the time.

Home Improvement Projects. I’ve always been a homebody but even I’m not used to spending quite this much time in my own house. Small-scale, achievable, budget-friendly DIY home improvements always help me feel like I’m steadily moving forward through the fog of January and February toward brighter days. I know I’m gonna be super busy with work this summer so it’s been nice to get things done to help us continually fall back in love with our home. Sometimes these projects are fun, like painting (my fave!) and sometimes they’re tedious, like organizing bathroom clutter or going through kids clothes, but they always make me feel light and happy once they’re done. Everyone likes the feeling of accomplishing a task, right?

I do want to acknowledge that not everyone has the time or energy these days to get stuff done and if you’re not there right now, by all means bask in the joy and contentment of Doing Nothing! Rest is so important and I sincerely hope we all get some. But if you feel that your mind needs some distraction or you just need something to propel you through these next two months (anyone else counting down the weeks until the time change?) then hopefully you can gain some motivation or learn something new!

Hope you’re all having a healthy month.

2021: A Year of Endings, A Year of Beginnings

I woke today feeling the soft tenderness that always comes along with January 1st, at least for me. It’s more difficult these days to find the stillness and quiet that a person needs in order to reflect when they’re feeling introspective, but I’m able to snatch a few moments here and there between naps and snacks.

If I had to characterize 2020 I’d say that with pregnancy, Covid, and then colic, it can be pretty solidly defined by the word anxiety. Actually, maybe the word would be discomfort. Just a constant state of discomfort from morning sickness, an unrelenting news cycle, and lockdowns with two young children at home. Then recovering from my third birth in four years, adjusting to life with three at home, and spending sixteen hours a day bouncing a screaming baby. Discomfort. Like many other families, 2020 was not our finest or our favourite year. We did not flourish.

For us, 2021 was more chaotic but thankfully also much more fun. There was a sense of finality and newness, of endings and beginnings. The pregnancy and baby years closed for us with the year, taking with it the bittersweet experience of raising a last baby, of seeing all the milestones of her first year knowing that we’ll never have another one. 2021 was also the last year I spent as a breastfeeding mother, a journey I loved and felt so rewarded by. These little finalities made the year both challenging and rich.

Amidst those tender conclusions were beginnings that herald the start of a new chapter for our family. Our first child started Kindergarten, kicking off the seventeen years that we’ll have one or more kids in school. A new and deeply-loved, rewarding job for me outside the home after five years out of the workforce. A lot of new friendships after starting a local mom group totally on a whim. There have been many bittersweet, complex, rich, euphoric, and mournful feelings for me in 2021 as I finally carved out a little sliver of self identity from the long fog of early motherhood.

The little things have been pretty sweet, too. Learning how to chop wood and make a fire. Trying new recipes. Making breakfast in a sunny kitchen. Bonfires at the neighbours house. Organizing kitchen cupboards between nap times. Hennie’s excitement when we pick her up from school. New library books. A freshly mowed lawn. Good coffee after a full night’s sleep. Painting. Building. Running. As the world has felt in a real upheaval these last years it has sure given us fresh perspective and a new appreciation for our privilege and our simple, small luxuries.

Happy New Year, friends! I hope that even amidst the anxiety of 2021 you are able to tap into gratitude for all you were given.

YOUR Kindergarten Prep Advice!

The Basics

First off, none of the advice I received (like, not ONE comment) was academic-based. No one cares if your kid can write their name, recite their ABCs, or memorize a times table. What’s most important for Kindie-going kids is that they can do basic tasks independently. In the lead-up to September practice the basics with them: opening and closing their backpack, lunch box, and water bottle. Going to the bathroom solo. Putting on and removing their coat and shoes without assistance from a teacher. If you’re planning to send your kids in lace-up shoes or with an elaborate bento box that they can’t open themselves then it’s time to find some new functional accessories for them that will help them start kindergarten with confidence.

Your Best Kindie Advice

  • Label everything, but especially coats, sweaters, gloves, hats, and other items that kids take off frequently when they get too warm. Also label their accessories – lunch box, water bottle, etc. Teachers can’t send your missing items home with your kids if they don’t know who they belong to!
  • No tiny backpacks! They’re cute but your child’s backpack needs to fit a large library book. Don’t get one with 25 pockets because it’ll just weigh them down. Keep it simple and basic.
  • Keep your evenings free for the first few months; kids come home from school exhausted and it might be too much for them in the beginning.
  • If your child takes a long time to eat practice setting a timer for lunch and having them finish their food in 12-15 minutes (or whatever the allotted time is at your school). One of the most common complaints about elementary school is that there isn’t enough time for the kids to eat.
  • If your child is neuro-diverse, let the teachers know all relevant information ahead of time so that not just your child but his teacher also feels prepared for the start of school. Consider noise-cancelling earmuffs for kids with noise sensitivities who quickly become overstimulated.
  • Practice good hand-washing and hygiene! They’ll be using these skills a lot.

Your Best Kindie Purchases

  • a good quality backpack that will last
  • functional lunch box that a child can open and close on their own (You Recommend: YumBox, LunchBots)
  • good quality raincoat and outdoor gear (especially here in the PNW!)
  • supplies that are functional and that a child can easily operate rather than “the cute, cheap shit” haha. Your words, not mine!
  • name labels (you recommend: Oliver’s Labels)
  • shoes that they can put on themselves – no converse, no laces! (You recommend: HeyFolks)
  • water bottle with a straw that closes to hide germs (You recommend: Yeti Jr)

Best School Lunch Ideas

  • so many of you said that charcuterie style food is key: have everything unwrapped and ready to eat to give your kid as much time as possible to eat lunch. Peel and slice fruit, unwrap cheese, open all packages.
  • A few of you mentioned @kids.eat.in.color on Instagram as a great resource for ideas
  • Your ideas: sandwiches cut with a cookie cutter, quesadilla, tortellini, perogies, cinnamon raisin bread, hard boiled egg, pizza buns, fruit, pita with hummus, bagels with cream cheese, apple sauce pouches, muffins, tortilla roll-ups cut like sushi, small wraps with guac, mini pretzels. There were also a LOT of votes for the good old fashioned PB&J but many classrooms are a nut-free zone so be aware of your school’s policy before sending.

Good luck to all starting Kindie this September and all the kids going back to school in the higher grades! If you have more advice drop it in the comments so we can all be as prepared as possible. But at the end of the day, these kids are gonna have fun and do so well, I just know it.

What Does a Mom Do All Day?

She cooks. Loord she cooks. She makes snacks ten times a day to keep the tummies full. She bakes muffins and preps dinner and makes playdough from scratch. She makes lovely fragrant granola that makes the kitchen smell like coconuts and maple and then she makes snacks again while dancing in the kitchen because she likes to make her children food but she also likes to make her children smile.

She cleans. Looord how she cleans. She does two loads of spit-up covered laundry and spot cleans the felt pen off the couch when her toddler finds the markers. She cleans the tub and toilet and dishes and blender. She cleans up the activit the kids did for 5 minutes after she scrolled Pinterest for a dang hour to find the perfet one. She cleans their faces and bums and their jammy fingers and then she wipes the walls because stickiness always prevails.

She reads. Loooord she reads. The same books over and over and over and over until she can recite them from memory long after the kids have ripped the pages out. She reads instruction manuals and recipes and ingredients to make sure no one is eating too much sugar or secret dairy because it makes the baby fussy. She reads the words engraved inside her wedding band because she misses her partner in the next room and she tries to read parenting books but falls asleep instead.

She plays. Oh my goddddd she plays. She rides pretend ponies and swims in pretend oceans and eats pretend food. She does it until she thinks her brain has turned to mush. She plays in forts and wishes she could fall asleep in them for a minute but when she closes her eyes her son does a bum drop on her head and her daughter pries open her eyelids and the baby cries. She plays “folding laundry” and thinks she is tricking them but they throw the mismatched socks in the air and scream that it’s raining and then they end up with her underwear on their heads.

And she laughs. Lord, does she laugh. She cries sometimes too but mostly she laughs because it feels so impossible to keep up and so improbable that it’ll end and when it does end her couches will be as ruined as her poor nipples after three teething babies and the house will be in shambles but the memories that they’ve made will be so sweet, will fuel her when she is eighty in her creaking rocking chair thinking “I wish…I wish…I wish…I could just go back for one more long, long day with them.” So she laughs because it is hard now but she already knows that she’ll long for these days when she is old, and all that she can do right now is inhale the smell of their freshly washed hair after a bath and laugh.

Preparing Myself for A Winter in Isolation

Yes, there is still a global pandemic happening, and yes, we are on the brink of cooler weather here in Canada. These two facts have got me a little terrified lately, to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in love with my life and my family, but the prospect of being housebound for an entire Canadian winter (approximate length: Nov-April) with three children under school age is a little daunting, especially considering that Tom and I are struggled to keep our heads above the chaos for the last month even with both of us at home full-time.

The fear of him going back to work in mid October has been so intense that I’ve had to fight this past month to stay in the joy of the present moment. In an effort to alleviate some of the dread and anxiety I’ve felt about it, I’ve been trying to prepare myself in advance. For me this means two things: 1. coming up with a plan and 2. putting that plan into list form. Type A’s you feel me? So here are some ways I’m hoping to soften the blow.

Setting Myself Up for Success: on a very basic level, figure out what the most difficult parts of your day are. For me with two kids plus a newborn this is easy to figure out: I don’t have enough hands for the amount of kids I have! My challenges this winter will be feeding the kids (and myself) when I don’t have hands, and putting the newborn down for a nap (it can take a while, and the other two will be either destroying the house or standing outside the door screaming). To prepare, I’ve been focusing on stocking up on one-handed snacks and meals just like I did when I was in university. Overnight oats for breakfast and pre-made burritos and salad in a jar for lunch. I’m also preparing the kids lunchboxes the night before just like I would if they were going off to school, which saves me from having to think about feeding them during the day. This past week we’ve also attempted to get our one-month-old onto a (very loose) nap schedule (lol, a losing battle). Other than that I’m keeping expectations very low and as long as we make a small amount of progress over time I’ll be happy.

Giving Myself Something to Look Forward to (however minor): I’m an introvert and a homebody and I still find it depressing af to have what I call “empty day timer syndrome” (aka nothing to look forward to for an entire winter except for maybe a chat with a public health nurse when the baby goes for her 2 month shots). Ideas could include: a nice morning coffee ritual, date nights at home, a weekly rain-or-shine meet-up outdoors with a friend, a regular virtual coffee date with your mom, Saturday morning Starbucks, a new season of a favourite show, Sunday morning hikes, or outdoor bootcamp classes if you’re fortunate enough to live somewhere that’s on the warmer side in the winter. I’m making sure I have something small planned for each week; it’s nice to have a reason to do your makeup once in a while, even if it’s just for a Zoom hang.

Giving My Day Some Structure: since we have no kids in school or preschool this winter there is no structure whatsoever to our days, especially Monday to Friday while Tom is working. As much as we talk about kiddos thriving on routine I think I need it even more. I know that listlessness for me always seems to lead to sadness (boohoo!) so I try to carve out the most minimal of routines without putting too much pressure on myself (because the fourth trimester is tough enough). Taking the kids for a walk each morning, baking on Mondays, painting projects on Tuesdays, Wine Wednesdays (just kidding, not really), movie nights on Pizza Fridays, just finding any way to keep the weeks tickin’ along!

Making Some (Regular!) Time for Myself: this is something I have previously been so bad at. Like..I haven’t done it yet and I’m on my third child. When I read the part of “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle where she talks about how our children need “a model not a martyr” it really resonated with me, but I haven’t put it into regular practice yet (I’ll blame pregnancy and postpartum for that). I have an appointment with my pelvic floor physio coming up and I’m hoping she’ll clear me to start running again – this activity, for me, is the holy grail combo of exercise + therapy (cardio is stress relief!) + getting out of the house (SAHM’s need time outside of the house) + no cost + pandemic friendly + can do it year-round.

Treating my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder): I have always struggled with this, but I no longer “treat” it by going to a tanning salon (ugh! Can’t believe I used to do that so often!). I’m thinking about trying Light Therapy this year and maybe Vitamin D pills as well. Please let me know if you’ve made any strides treating SAD! I’d love to hear some success stories.

Practicing Gratitude (at least more often than I practice negativity): the focuses that we feed become bigger over time, and being thankful for what you’ve got is a practice that you can strengthen like a muscle. It can be stress-relieving to have a good rant once in a while but I’ve been trying not to get too caught up in all of the things I can’t do this winter and all of the negative aspects about this pandemic. During a really tough time in my life I started writing down 3 things I was grateful for in a little dollar store journal every day, and I highly recommend it for anyone who feels bogged down by negativity (it’s a practice I stole from Liz Gilbert, the author of “Eat, Pray, Love”).

I’d love to hear any ways that you’re preparing yourself for the upcoming winter, especially if you also live in a place with a long winter! Hopefully we will all emerge in the spring time with our sanity intact, freshly vaccinated against Covid-19 and with good habits and wonderful tools for self care.

How to Support Your Breastfeeding Partner

Before I write this post I want to acknowledge that not everyone is able to breastfeed and a fed, loved baby is best. I can only speak about my own experiences so I’m never going to be able to write about pumping or bottle-feeding because those things just weren’t in the cards for me. So when I speak about breastfeeding it is never because I think anyone else’s decisions are wrong on uninformed, it’s just because it’s all I know. I’m also doing my best to use inclusive language here because not everyone with a uterus and milk ducts is a woman/mother, and not every partner is a man/father, so if you read “she” and “he” here sometimes, please know it pertains to anyone who might be fulfilling those roles.

The fact is that no matter who you are or how you feed your baby the first year is usually wrought with some sort of troubleshooting. Too much milk or too little, supply issues, schedules, allergies and intolerances, there’s just so much information out there and it can be super overwhelming, so always trust your gut instinct. I always defer to the KellyMom website for the best information but I’d highly recommend seeing a lactation consultant if you have serious issues that you need to work through. An LC helped me through Hennie’s reflux and diagnosed Wells’ oral ties when I was having recurring painful nipple blisters and clogged ducts. They really know their shit and if you run into problems and are absolutely determined to have a successful breastfeeding relationship it’s worth spending the money for a one-on-one consultation or attending a group workshop (once covid isn’t so prevalent). It’s much cheaper to hire an LC once than to pay for formula for a year! And again, I know this is a hot topic so let me reiterate that however you feed your family, I support you! There is a multitude of reasons why someone may not be able to or want to breastfeed and they are all valid.

The research shows though, that one of the biggest contributing factors to a successful breastfeeding journey, whatever that might look like for you personally, is having a partner who supports and encourages you in your breastfeeding relationship with your baby. You may have a whole village of supportive people around you but when the inevitable midnight struggles hit it’s generally your partner who is by your side. I have been extremely fortunate to have what I think is the absolute best husband in this regard. He is calm and confident as a parent and is weirdly naturally intuitive about breastfeeding for a man without breasts. So I’ve compiled a list of the many ways that he has continually supported me in my breastfeeding journey with three babies, just in case anyone out there wants to know how best they can support a breastfeeding parent.

  • STAY CALM. Like I said, my partner is nothing if not consistently calm, and this is a quality that I believe Is specifically important for breastfeeding. Babies take their emotional cues from those around them, so when mum gets frustrated while breastfeeding (and it will happen, in the first month and beyond) it can help to have a grounded, calm partner nearby to take the baby and calm him for a minute so everyone can gather their composure for another try.
  • STAY UP. At least in the first weeks as breastfeeding is being established, stay up with her and be there for moral support while she feeds the baby. She will be spending a LOT of time up in the night over the course of her breastfeeding journey and it can feel quite isolating. A little encouragement goes a long way. 
  • HYDRATE. Don’t ask your partner if they’re thirsty, just make sure there is water at their side whenever they’re feeding, especially in the first month when feeds can take a while. Breastfeeding requires heavy hydration and makes you so thirsty (and hungry for that matter). Keep the water and snacks close at hand, especially if your baby is the type to take a full 45 minutes to complete a feeding.
  • BE INFORMED. Read some research about breastfeeding. I was surprised at how important it was to Tom that our babies be breastfed if I was able. It turns out he had read about the medical (and magical!) benefits of breastmilk, like how babies receive the mother’s antibodies and immune system etc. I think if a partner knows the benefits of breastfeeding he or she is much more likely to encourage their spouse to continue.
  • LISTEN AND LEARN. Your partner has enough to focus on with their postpartum recovery, so when your midwife/doula/lactation consultant shares tips for breastfeeding or explains different breastfeeding positions, try to memorize them for when you need to remember them in the middle of the night. I can’t count the amount of times that Tom has corrected my position, pointed out a bad latch, or suggested I try something new that actually worked wonders. He has turned out to be much more intuitive than I’ve been with breastfeeding somehow (Rather than feeling emomsculated™ about this I actually love it. Y’all know I stan the crushing of gender norms).
  • STEP IN. When things are going poorly, ie when your partner and baby are both in tears or about to be, the best thing you can do is give them a minute to calm down before trying again. Tom always notices when I’m about to lose my cool. He asks to take the baby and will calm her down and give her back to me when she has stopped crying and I’m ready to try again. Then he sits beside me, quietly observing, and if he has an idea how to help he asks if I would like to hear a suggestion (lol, he’s so gentle with me postpartum when I’m at my snarkiest).

Where to Start:

  • I suggest learning what a GOOD LATCH looks like on day one from a maternity nurse, your midwife, doula, lactation consultant or any other care provider (they should all be able to tell you!). Please also know that if a latch looks good but doesn’t feel good, then it isn’t right. It’s normal to have sore nipples the first few days of nursing and sometimes when baby is cluster feeding but it isn’t normal to feel pain all the time. 
  • I’d also encourage you to get to know the BASIC HOLDS, which include the cradle hold, laid back position, football hold, and side-lying. There are lots more you can learn and some are especially suggested for certain ailments (like koala position for a baby with reflux or feeding laid back for a mama with hyper lactation issues like me). If you know the basics you can suggest a new one if your partner needs to change things up. 

Good luck, my friends!

Rumi’s Lovely (and Fast!) Birth at Home

The last few weeks of this third pregnancy were hot and I was miserable. We had a pretty mild summer for our area and it’s never easy being heavily pregnant in August, especially with a third pregnancy and two other children to keep up with, so when my due date rolled around with baby 3 I was pretty miserable at the thought of potentially going another two weeks. My first two babies were born at 40w2d and 40w4d but at 40 weeks with the third I had felt absolutely NO twinges, pangs, or signs that she was getting ready to make her arrival.

It was a hot day the morning of her due date, a Wednesday, and would turn out to be the last hot day of the summer. I had had a cervical sweep on Monday morning and was disappointed that it hadn’t worked to induce labour, but as with all other attempts at natural induction, they really only work if your body is super close to going into labour anyway (sorry to disappoint the heavily pregnant women reading this, but no amount of dates or pineapple will kickstart labour if your body and baby are not ready). Because I was so miserable, Tom took a break from work to take the kids and I for a trail walk before the day got too hot. I was uncomfortable and walking slowly. We saw a few friends on our walk but it did nothing to lift my spirits.

Wells went down for his midday nap at 1pm and I took the opportunity to lie down, hoping that I could make the day pass faster by sleeping through as much of it as I could (if someone had told me I would have a baby before dinnertime I would have had a hard time believing them). I woke up half an hour later (because good sleep isn’t a thing when you’re heavily pregnant) and felt some mild cramping. It was the first time I’d felt my uterus do anything so I didn’t want to get up in case it stopped, as I assumed it would. I laid in bed for a bit and then got up to walk to the end of the block to check the mailbox (late pregnancy is basically just going on multiple walks a day until you go into labour). There was a tee shirt in the mail box from a friend and I came home and took a selfie and posted it to Instagram around 3:30.

My cramps were coming on and off but were so inconsistent that it almost wasn’t worth timing them (some 11 minutes apart, some 18 minutes apart) but I timed them anyway because it made me feel hopeful. Suddenly at 4:30 they ramped up to a consistent 3-5 minutes apart and the intensity made me stop what I was doing and breathe through them. The “rule” my midwife gave me was to call her when contractions were 5-1-1 (5 minutes apart and 1 minute long for at least an hour) so I settled in to wait diligently for my hour of contractions. In between them Tom and I were scrambling to get things ready, filling the birth pool with nice warm water and putting waterproof liners underneath the sheets in our guest bedroom. The kids were at the kitchen counter through it all, happily helping my mom prep veggies for dinner and totally oblivious to their mama who stopped every few minutes to lean over the counter and breathe heavily through a contraction. I still didn’t call the midwife yet but I texted my doula and she sped right over, arriving just before 5pm. A few contractions later, at 5:14, my water broke and we knew that things were about to ramp up even faster. The first contraction after my water broke I felt an unbelievable amount of pressure, so I got into the birth tub for the next one, hoping the warm water would alleviate some of the pain. The next contraction was even more intense and my doula, Jane, asked if I felt the urge to push. I said no, I just felt so much pressure. During the next contraction I absolutely roared, it was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. In hindsight I was already in transition, the most painful but shortest phase of labour when the baby is moving down the birth canal and is almost ready to be pushed out. During the contraction I reached down and could feel the top of Rumi’s head, and that I was almost fully dilated. I said “she’s coming out on the next contraction!” and Tom quickly jumped into the birth pool behind me. On the next contraction I didn’t even push; my body had the Fetal Ejection Reflex (involuntary pushing) and her head came out! It was absolutely wild. Tom said he had her head (weird, lol), and Jane told me I would need to push out her body on the next contraction. When I felt the contraction rising I pushed and her body came out and Tom had her! He put her up on his own chest because I was facing away from him and couldn’t turn around.

She cried immediately and was nice and pink so we knew she was okay. Tom stayed in the water and held her to keep her warm. I was in total shock and having bad cramping as my body tried to get the placenta out; this is normal and it can take up to half an hour for the placenta to come out on it’s own. I couldn’t turn around to see my new baby without having to lift a leg over the umbilical cord so I stayed put for a while until the midwife arrived. While we waited the doula went and got my mom and the kids and brought them in to meet Rumi! It was a really fun and special moment to be able to introduce them to the new baby right in our own home, one of the many reasons I was excited about having a homebirth.

When the midwife arrived we all had a good laugh about how fast everything had gone. She cut the cord and helped me deliver the placenta (one easy push) so I could get out of the pool and rest in bed with my new baby! The midwife checked out me and Rumi, told us we were both doing well, and that was that! A few measurements and some clean-up and we were done! The midwives were on their way around 7:30pm, less than two hours after Rumi was born, leaving us to put the big kids down, eat take-out and cuddle our new baby in our own bed.

I’m so excited that for my last birth I was able to have the homebirth of my dreams! It was a wonderfully empowering and exhilarating experience and while we never planned on Tom catching the baby it was so cool that he did. I don’t think we’ll ever forget it!