Guest Post: Holiday Coping: Dealing With Infertility or Adoption Process During The Festive Season

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I distinctly remember sitting through Thanksgiving and Christmas after the loss of my third baby. The sense of hollowness. The sense of having to put on a happy face. Guilt for laughing. Guilt for not laughing. Going through the motions. Pretending to be okay. When I received this short guest post on coping with infertility during the holidays, it brought back those memories of tension, strain, and grief.

Executive Director of The Adoption Consultancy and Nicole Witt–remembers a personal story of “holiday coping” years ago during the festive holidays:

Early on in Nicole’s marriage, before anyone knew that she and her husband were having fertility struggles, Nicole was at a family holiday gathering.  A family member started showing her pictures of a recent get-together she had had with her college girlfriends.  As she showed Nicole each picture, the only information she gave to her about each woman was what children she had.  Such as, “Here’s Susie. She has a 6 year old boy and a 4 year old girl.”  “And here’s Jodie who’s a stay-at-home mom to her 5 year old twin girls….”  It seemed to be how she defined each woman and it left Nicole wondering how this family member would define her to others.  Was Nicole nothing without kids?  This is just one scenario that someone may have to cope with this holiday season.

We all have that crazy cousin, drunk uncle, overly-concerned parent or blunt friend who might say or do something this holiday that will make us cringe, but here are some tips on how to cope from Nicole Witt:

  1. Think Ahead: Make a plan ahead of time.  This can include practicing responses to probing questions that you know you’ll be asked.  Or it can be a signal to your partner that it’s time to fake a sickness and leave.  It can also be recruiting and educating trusted family members on how & when to redirect inappropriate dinner table conversations so that you don’t have to.
  2. Take “Me” Time: Step away.  This was the most effective tip for me.  I would just take a few minutes in the bathroom to myself for some deep breaths and refocusing.  Once I had gathered myself, I would have the strength to rejoin the group, at least for a little while.
  3. It is OK to Say “No!”: Say ‘no’ to invitations that will be too difficult for you.  It’s OK to not accept every invitation you get.  Even if it’s for your family’s traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  Maybe create an urgent trip that you need to go on that week.  Although it may be difficult to do, if it’s easier than attending the event, don’t hesitate.

During the holiday season this year, The Adoption Consultancy and along with Nicole are inviting others to share their holiday coping stories via @AdoptConsultant and @BeyondIF with the hashtag #holidaycoping.  We would love to hear from your readers this holiday season to share their stories, whether they are funny, sad, frustrating or heartwarming.  Everybody needs a place to vent to an audience that truly understands.

Happy “Coping” Holidays.

Tuesday Tidbits: Breastfeeding while World-Changing

12247796_1680002715545277_7987491015769319276_oThese sculptures were created for three different customers, but on the same day, so naturally they wanted to hang out together for a little while, like a tiny LLL meeting on the shipping counter.

On my original book blog, my tagline was, “resting and reading and nursing the child, trying to figure out enoughness.”

…when my first baby was born in 2003, I once again became a truly avid reader. Why? Because of breastfeeding. As I nursed my little son, I read and read and read. This became the rhythm of our lives: suck, swallow, read, and consider.

Source: Breastfeeding as a Spiritual Practice | Talk Birth

The entrance of the iphone and ipad into my life in 2011 had a marked impact on my reading-while-nursing time, increasing my ability to respond to students, keep up with online courses, and now, update etsy listings and customer communications, but I still do a lot of reading and nursing. However, I see from this list of 21 Books From The Last 5 Years That Every Woman Should Read that I’m woefully behind in that I’ve only read one book from this list of 21 (I have also read 74 books this year that are not on the list, so I won’t bemoan my behindedness too much).

I’ve addressed the notion of breastfeeding as a shero’s journey a couple of times in the past:

“Why have I never written about the bloody, messy, tearful, painful parts of breastfeeding in my own personal motherhood story?! They’re there…”

Source: Breastfeeding as a (s)hero’s journey? | Talk Birth

I was reminded of it again today, while reading this blog post on the theme of “I’m an OB and I ‘failed’ at breastfeeding,” with its accompanying subtext that if even an OB “can’t breastfeed,” then it must be okay if you can’t too:

But when we went home two days after Safiya’s birth, she was still not nursing well, requiring me to pump breast milk and supplement with formula early on. I was a fourth-year medical student, and I had one month to study for the second of three exams required to obtain my medical license.

Source: An Obstetrician Finds Breastfeeding Isn’t Always Natural : Shots – Health News : NPR

However, as often happens in medical discourse about breastfeeding and why it “fails,” the systemic context is almost completely overlooked, the critical eye is turned towards women’s bodies and babies’ “demands,” rather than the often broken systems of support surrounding (or not surrounding, or even actively undermining) a family.

Elizabeth Grattan has written a very matter-of-fact analysis of how the personal choice narrative and a socially constructed idea that breastfeeding advocacy is somehow persecuting women who do not breastfeed:

…It is absolutely true that women facing this decision face unsolicited advice and shame. It’s also true that some white men get harassed for the color of their skin. It is true that some in favor of “traditional marriage” feel ostracized because the Constitution doesn’t side with them. Humanity is full of experiences in personal journeys that lead us to empathy on an individual level. But that gives us no right to pretend our personal anecdotes even compare to issues faced on an institutional level. It is not appropriate when the majority pushes back against minority advocacy. But that doesn’t seem to matter much to Jung, who treats both as pawns to gain her own notoriety.

Source: Overselling Breastfeeding? How One Author Exploits The Majority To Silence Minority Advocacy. — Elizabeth Grattan

She also has a good article about breastfeeding as a reproductive rights issue:

Because nutrition for our children isn’t really the argument. Reproductive freedom is.

Quite simply: Breastfeeding might very well be a decision women are making for a variety of reasons (nutrition notwithstanding), but lactating is not a choice. It is a biological process based on the anatomy of the reproductive system. Whether you deliver the child full term or not, pregnancy includes the production of milk in a woman’s body*. That milk is going to make its way to the mammary glands in the breast and if steps are not taken to stop the production or express the milk, engorgement, plugged ducts or mastitis are inevitable. A woman cannot will the production of milk away anymore than she could tell her body to go into labor at a certain time and place. Reproduction doesn’t work that way. And since lactating is triggered through the reproductive process, then every aspect of the discussion must be built upon the rights of women.

Source: The Reproductive Rights Discussion No One Is Having. — Elizabeth Grattan

This exploration reminds me of my own look at breastfeeding as an ecofeminist issue:

Breastfeeding is a feminist issue and a fundamental women’s issue. And, it is an issue deeply embedded in a sociocultural context. Attitudes towards breastfeeding are intimately entwined with attitudes toward women, women’s bodies, and who has “ownership” of them. Patriarchy chafes at a woman having the audacity to feed her child with her own body, under her own authority, and without the need for any other. Feminism sometimes chafes at the “control” over the woman’s body exerted by the breastfeeding infant.

Source: Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue | Talk Birth

Why keep yammering on about breastfeeding? Because it matters. And, it goes way beyond being a personal choice, it is a public health issue with many long-lasting effects on mother, child, and society…

the longer a mother breastfeeds in her life (one or more babies and the collective number of months), significantly impacts her risk for breast cancer; the protective effect of lactation on breast cancer risk is cumulative…

…In addition to offering protection from breast cancer to the mother, having been breastfed has a protective effect. One study cites a 26–31% decrease in the development of breast cancer in females who had been breastfed as babies; if you or she takes no other preventive measures against breast cancer, breastfeeding her alone sets your baby girl up for a nearly 1/3 lower likelihood of developing breast cancer later in her life

Source: Breastfeeding Protects against Breast Cancer: Primary Prevention – Breastfeeding Today

October 2015 115She might look like she’s “just” feeding her baby, but she’s healing the world at the very same time.

Tuesday Tidbits: Childbirth, Happiness, and The Sacred Feminine

November 2015 040Three articles to read this week:

  • 10 Unexpected Things To LOVE About Childbirth – Mothering. A lovely quote amidst several lovely quotes: “Contractions are beautiful in their own right. The peaks. The valleys. The steady, increasing rhythm of this glorious natural function. They are reflected countless times in the world around us, from the lapping of the ocean waves to the hills and valleys of nature, to the endless rhythm of the seasons. They come and go involuntarily, but unlike many other uncontrollable body functions, in the end you get a baby. Awesome.”
  • I’ve been heard to say: “maybe nothing really needs to change, just how I think needs to change.” And, my beloved Wayne Dyer always used to say: “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. So, I appreciated this article about why complaining is bad for your health: “Therefore, your first mystical scientific evidence: your thoughts reshape your brain, and thus are changing a physical construct of reality.”

Source: The Science of Happiness: Why complaining is literally killing you. | Curious Apes

  • And, wow! A treasure-trove of links within this article:

But virtually every world religion has some revered mother figure — Durga (Hinduism), Tara (Buddhism), Rachel (Judaism), Mary (Christianity), Khadijah (Islam) — and even some newer religions have strong female mother figures, such as the Heavenly Mother in Mormonism. Scholars say many are linked to the prehistorical idea of the “sacred” or “divine feminine” — the worship and reverence of the female.

Is there something intrinsically spiritual or religious in motherhood? In the feminine? How might this be a bridge between different faiths? What role does the ancient concept of the sacred feminine continue to play in contemporary religions? In the religious and spiritual lives of contemporary women who are — and are not — mothers?

Source: Spiritual motherhood: Finding common ground in the ‘sacred feminine’ | ReligionLink

Other news:

We are participating in a fun pay-in-forward giveaway on Instagram via Mother From the Heart.

We’re also part of the Holiday Goddess Gift Guide | The Motherhouse of the Goddess:

12208600_765905926889347_5019755900831306084_nOur Christmas ornament sales have been beyond what we imagined, so we’ve had to stop accepting orders until later this week to give us time to catch up!

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Tanner is ONE! I already shared his birth video in honor of his first birthday, but I also want to wrap up my “monthababy” posts with an update about this twelvemonthababy. Note the photographic continuity between the photo above, taken during his twelfth month for our Women in the Wild inspired photo shoot fundraiser, and this one, taken following my ceremonial bath and sealing ceremony after his birth:


This baby is full of fire. He accidentally gave Zander a bloody nose. He says, “whoa!” and “wow!” and he empties cabinets, climbs on tables, gets into drawers, climbs on surfaces and does a stomp-dance. He pulls books off the shelf. He throws a ball (and other things). He makes music with many things, some intended for music, others not. A friend with an 18 month old posted on her facebook that her child is kind of like having a pet chimpanzee: it was cute as a baby, but now it is bigger and dangerous and you maybe shouldn’t keep it as a pet after all. I identified with her description of what it is like to have a little person of this age in the house! I remember the boys calling Alaina, “the Destroyer of Worlds,” so I also know (hope) it will pass. There is an oppressive element to taking care of him lately that I also remember from other children and I “joke” that it is like living with an abusive spouse because of how he changes the rules all the time as well as what he likes or what will keep him happy. That said, he gives the best, most gentle hugs in the history of the world–flinging arms around my neck and lightly patting my back while kind of crooning to me. Baby hugs like this make me know I’m doing something right in parenting, as does the way he gently cradles baby dolls and kisses them on the head with a sweet smile. That’s what he knows! He hugs Alaina in greeting every morning, flinging arms around her waist and leaning his head on her stomach and seeming to say, “Lainey.” He will lean in to each brother in turn, patting back and seeming to sing-song their names. Sometimes he walks in the cutest slightly bent over crouch (like he’s sneaking up on something).

This isn’t the crouch, more of the race, but here he is ready to roll!

He likes to be walked to sleep in Ergo most of the time, nap and bed time. He has a different timeline than the rest of the children in our family, wishing to conk out at 8:00 or a little before at night and get up before 8:00 in the morning. This is great for me, who always thrives on fresh morning energy, but less great for our other kids who are more like 11-9:00 types (or 11-10, in Alaina’s case), because this means we always have kids up with us. There is no such things the mythological, “when the kids are all in bed, it is ‘me time,'” thing I hear other people talk about. I also end up staying up later than I personally prefer in order to catch up on work or writing.

When I first started writing this post, he had four teeth, but now he has eight! He can walk backward skillfully and climb up on couches. Not only does he do the baby-buns-dip dance, he also stomps feet while spinning in circle at same time to dance. I’ve never had a barely one year old who could do that! (He did it at 11 months.) He can step up by holding onto a door frame or wall instead of having to get on his knees first. Though, lest I fall into a trap of thinking he is too much of a genius, my friend reminded me the other day that he also eats dirt. ;)

Like I remember with two of my other kids, his talking has diminished a lot this month. He’s reverted to grunting and pointing and making a pretty awful strained sound to get what he wants.

I am an official elimination communication and cloth diaper failure this time around. Too many things to keep up with and catching poop and pee has fallen off my priority list.

I mentioned that my weight has returned to my pre-pregnancy weight and I’m actually only three pounds away from my pre-pre-pregnancy weight now (pre-Alaina). Possibly related, but more likely related to the fact that mothering him is a lot more like having an 18 month old than a 12 month old, my period returned on October 22. This is the earliest moontime’s return that I’ve experienced in my maternal career!

I can’t believe he is one and yet, hasn’t he always been here?

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In this picture, Alaina said, “Mom! Quick! Take a picture before you forget how little he is!”

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(I do see how little he is, but I also see her!)

Other posts in this series: _DSC0455f


Six years ago (warning: miscarriage/pregnancy loss)

October 2015 017I can’t let November 7th pass unacknowledged, even though our house is very busy right now packing up orders, visiting with out-of-state company, and more. On this day, six years ago, I was plunged into the depths of grief. Today, our house is full with our four energetic, demanding children, but we never forget the one who didn’t get to stay. The kids asked me this morning how old Noah would have been and what he would have looked like and how our house would feel if he was here now too. We talked about whether or not Alaina or Tanner would have been born without him and we thought how sad it would be to have them not exist, so we are grateful to Noah for making them possible for our family. I can hardly believe it has been six years. It is hard to remember sometimes how it felt and what is was like to be brought so low and to feel so sad, broken, and despairing. A lot of beautiful work came out of the death-birth of my little third son.

We remember you, little one. Happy Birthday!

Birth and Breastfeeding Goddess Christmas Ornaments!

October 2015 108I am beyond excited to share these with you! We are offering birth, breastfeeding, and goddess ornaments for your holiday celebrations this year! Perfect for nursing mothers, pregnant women, doulas, midwives, as well as for goddessy women in any stage of life, these ornaments are offered in four of our classic designs and in one mini-design. Each ornament is individually hand cast in clear casting resin from our original sculptures. Their beautiful translucency gives them the appearance of being glass or crystal, while still being extremely durable and nearly damage-proof (we have four energetic kids, so our products get a lot of serious product testing to make sure they can hold up to being dropped!).

Each ornament is about 3 inches tall and is $15. The mini goddesses are only an inch tall and are $6. Each is freestanding and can also sit on a mantle or table, or can grace your tree with abundance, empowerment, and bountiful blessings throughout the season!

These are extremely limited edition. We will be making them by hand from November 1-December 5th only. After that, they’re gone!

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National Fertility Awareness Week

October 2015 010In the UK, it is National Fertility Awareness Week, bringing attention and support to the #1in6 couples who experience challenges with their fertility.

We’ve created a series of images for use on social media and they’re available via the Brigid’s Grove blog: National Fertility Awareness Week (#1in6) – Brigid’s Grove