Tuesday Tidbits: How to Make Life Easier as a New Parent


In all my years as a birthworker, I still find that one of the most overlooked topics in childbirth preparation is adequate preparation for postpartum—those early weeks, or months, with a new baby. In my personal life, I experienced a difficult postpartum adjustment with my first baby, an easier one with my second baby, and two delightful, nurturing babymoons with my last two babies. Years after training as a postpartum doula, good postpartum care remains one of my passions, so I really enjoyed this post from a mother of five. Her feelings of rushing to get back to “normal” feel very familiar even though almost twelve years have passed since my first, tender, postpartum adjustment:

“I remember coming home from going out for the afternoon with Hero at 7 days postpartum. After we got back to our tiny apartment I came down with a fever. I was probably wearing the cutest non-comfortable outfit I could squeeze into. I probably didn’t think that 7 days after giving birth required anything of me other than “getting back to normal.” Life went on, and I urged it faster. In fact, that’s the way I parented, too. Smile, laugh, roll over, sit, crawl, walk, run, milestone, milestone, grow, grow, grow…

When I think back on my postpartum times (for the most part) I remember being exhausted, being emotional, being upset at Kirby for not doing enough, feeling fragile, feeling sad, and feeling weak. And then I got pregnant with Peter… And by the time I had him, I had interacted with enough wise mothers who had screwed up enough to know better and they told me what to do and I listened. After five babies I could finally say I did it right. I’m not saying you have to do it like me. Maybe you’ve already got your postpartum flow down and you need no such advice. In that case, a w e s o m e…”

Now I realize that some moms can just go, and they are happier that way! I get that. But it took me too long to realize that that’s not me. And I don’t want you to spend too much time thinking that should be you if it isn’t. Don’t spend four days, don’t spend four weeks, and certainly don’t spend 4 entire babies feeling like a shell of a person trying to figure it out…

The Fike Life: How to postpartum like a boss.

Unlike my early memories of my first son’s life, rather than looking back with sense of regret and fatigue, I look back on the weeks postpartum with Tanner (fourth and final full-term baby) with a tinge of wistfulness for the sweet, delicate, care-full time we spent together, nestled in bed in milky, marveling wonder. The author of the post above describes it as a “little sacred space,” and that is exactly how I feel. It also needs to be fiercely protected.

I look at that one week postpartum as a little sacred space that I will never get back. It’s a space where, for the most part, it’s just that brand new baby and me. And I’m selfish about it. And not sorry. Life will keep plummeting forward rapidly and I won’t ever stop it. But I can have a week with a floppy new baby on my chest in my bed and I’ll take it. And I’ll protect it.

AND IF THAT DOESNT TUG AT YOU MOTHERLY HEARTSTRINGS KNOW THIS… (super practical advice I got from my midwife with Peter)

When you have a baby you are recovering from an injury that is deeply internal. Your blood needs to stay concentrated there to bring essential nutrients to heal your organs and make you strong again. When you get up and walk around, your blood abandons your core and flows into your extremities, which can massively prolong your recovery. Stay rested and keep yourself down as much as you can. Just think of your organs! They need you!

via The Fike Life: How to postpartum like a boss.

It isn’t just the weeks following a new baby’s birth that matter, the first hour matters too and can set the tone for the rest of the postpartum journey:

…The way your baby is cared for and nurtured immediately after birth significantly impacts their transition from the womb to life outside.

In a culture that commonly separates mothers and babies for routine procedures such as cleaning, weighing and measuring, most babies are missing that critical time of being skin to skin with their mothers, which has short and long term consequences for all.

As these procedures are not necessary to maintain or enhance the wellbeing of either mother or baby, there is no reason why they cannot be delayed beyond the first critical hour.

via 7 Huge Benefits of An Undisturbed First Hour After Birth | BellyBelly.

Why doesn’t this uninterrupted hour and subsequent caring postpartum support happen for all new families? One reason is related to the “treatment intensity” of the US birth culture:

The questions you post in your article are good ones: Are midwives safer than doctors? How can homes be safer than hospitals and what implications does this study have for the US?

It’s a super knotty issue and it shouldn’t be about the superiority of midwives over doctors or homes over hospitals. The debate we should be having is over “treatment intensity” in childbirth and when enough is enough. The concern is that patients can be harmed by doing too much and by doing too little–in the US I worry that we cause avoidable harm by always erring on the side of too much.

via An Unexpected Opinion on Home Birth | Every Mother Counts.

Another is related to routine hospital practices that are not evidence based:

1. Start with giving the birthing woman antibiotics in high doses so that the baby develops candida (thrush) and colic. Then mix in a lot of stitches, either to repair the perineum or the lower belly/uterus.

2. Separate the mother and newborn. Make the mother walk a long distance (with her stitched body) to be able to see/feed her newborn…

via 6 Point Recipe for Making New Parenthood as Difficult as Possible | Wise Woman Way of Birth | by Gloria Lemay.

On a related note, we find that breastfeeding gets off to a better start when birth is undisturbed. We also find that decisions about breastfeeding may be made months before the baby is actually born:

…Recently, a nurse contacted me asking for ideas for teaching an early pregnancy breastfeeding class. I think this is a great idea, since mothers’ decisions about breastfeeding are often made before the baby is conceived and if not then, during the first trimester.

via Breastfeeding Class Resources | Talk Birth.

11800191_1651989138346635_1607714063463262593_nIt isn’t just postpartum during which we need these reminders about the “cycle of care.” The cycle of care of young children can be largely invisible, both to those around us and to ourselves. I’ve taken some time this week to appreciate my investment in my baby and cut myself a little slack on the other things I always want to “get done.” Brain-building is important work too!

Speaking of said baby, who has been taking his first steps this week at nine months old, I was amused this week to come across one of my older posts on family size decisions, in which I decreed my doneness with my childbearing years. Instead of embarrassing, I find the post oddly affirming or reinforcing that at some level I really did know that we weren’t quite “done,” there was still space in our family (and our hearts!) and there really was one more baby “out there” for us.

We decided we’d make the final, ultimate decision after she turned two, because too much longer after that point would make more of an age gap than we’d want. I posted on Facebook asking how do people know they’re “done.” I had an expectation of having some kind of blinding epiphany and a deep knowing that our family is complete, as I’ve had so many other people describe: “I just knew, our family was complete.” I didn’t have that knowing though—I vacillated day to day. What if I never know for sure, I fretted. Perhaps this sense of wistfulness and possibility with continue forever—maybe it is simply normal. One more. No, finished. But…ONE more?! And, I have a space in my heart that knows with great confidence that four (living) children would be the ultimate maximum for us. I definitely do not want more than four…so, does that mean there still is one more “out there” for us?

via Driveway Revelations (on Family Size) | Talk Birth.

However, I also find it to be true that four is most definitely the ultimate maximum. We laughed earlier this week remembering that a couple of weeks after Tanner was born I kept saying that I thought maybe we’d picked the wrong name for him. Mark asked me what I thought it should be and I said I kept thinking that maybe it should have been “Max.” While we joked at the time that this was because he is Maximus Babius, I only now caught on to the unintended double joke that he has definitely pushed our family size to our “max”!

Other tidbits:

I got this book about midwives in Mexico to review and have been zooming through it. It is SO good!

We’ve been working on new sculptures!


(read more: Sneak Peek: Pregnant Mama – Brigid’s Grove)

We’ve added some new Moon Wisdom/First Moon bundles to our shop:

11825154_1650996815112534_7593072070926503121_nAnd, our new blessing cards came in. We were printing these on regular printer paper and are excited to have nice, professional cards instead!

11800234_1650792701799612_305310151573875723_nWe also still have five spaces left in the Red Tent Initiation program beginning at the end of the month:

Sign up for the Brigid’s Grove Newsletter for resources, monthly freebies, + art and workshop announcements.

And, as is our tradition, in honor of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month, you can get 10% off items in our shop throughout August: WBW10OFF.


July 2015 045I find the NINO point with all my babies to be bittersweet: nine months in, nine months out. As I think about things I did last year and see old pictures going past via the “memory” feature on Facebook, I’m regularly stunned by how quickly time has passed and what an integral part of our lives our little T-bot is. It is also interesting to me how the Return to Non-Pregnant Woman feels. Pregnancy is so encompassing and then, it is over, and the physicality of it, the unity of it, the specialness of it–that thoroughly embodied and yet somehow transcendent state–becomes a memory. A poignant memory, yes, but one I find that fades in terms of being able to thoroughly mentally “touch.” On the same note, I also notice that I am only two pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight (which was actually about 10 pounds over where I feel most comfortable/happy). I’m fascinated by how it takes nine months to transform into Fully Pregnant Woman and nine months to restore one’s old self.

Speaking of poignancy and NINO, my brother, SIL, and nephew were visiting at the end of the month during his first birthday and we took some more re-creation pictures based on the tandem pregnancy pictures my mom took of us while we were waiting in July of last year for the birth of their baby. I notice now after excavating last year’s pictures, that I did not actually pick out the same outfit to wear even though I was certain I had picked it correctly!

What a difference a year makes! I also wish we would have re-created this one somehow:

IMG_5959Okay, so back to the ninemonthababy. He has his first tooth and his second! (7/23 and 7/31) He loves music, especially rattling rattles (which he also bangs on the floor really hard). One of his dancing moves is to wiggle his arms really fast and enthusiastically. I put a short clip of dance action with arm skillz is on Instagram here and the longer video is on my Facebook. I’m so glad my mom took it! Super cute!

While not clearly enunciated by any means, he seems to say: raisin, more (+ the babysign), brother, yay, mama, kitty, and that sound that means “icky” that moms make to tell babies not to touch stuff. As I’ve noted before, he also seems to ask to nurse by requesting, “mama, wa-wa” (mama water!).

He points and claps. He likes to find rocks to eat. Also, he used his talents to “catch” a leech at the river on our mini vacation. Yes. I looked down to see him carefully pinching up an absolutely gigantic leech and kind rolling it thoughtfully around (I suspect in preparation to eat it). He still makes his cute little “Cabbage Patch” face (see opening photo) and I’ll be sad to see it go now that the teeth have come in.

He seems to have dropped his second nap. He pinches the tender skin on the back of my arm in a horrible manner and leaves bruises all over me.

July 2015 023He loves Daddy extra-much. Mark told me the other day, “he likes me the way I always hoped our babies would like me.” He will go to Mark when sad and loves to go with him to explore outside (often, leaning out of my arms and into Mark’s and then looking back and waving, “bye” to me!). He crawls super fast to greet Mark when he comes inside and in the mornings leans over from my arms to give him a “hello again!” hug and snuggle.

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Featuring Cabbage Patch face!

Mark describes Tanner as being like a “force of nature”—i.e. not caring what destruction it may leave in its wake!

He remains a super up-down, up-down, up-down baby, meaning that as soon as he is picked up, he wants down and vice versa. Repeat. It can be extremely wearing! He also doesn’t hold on to be carried, but instead leans forward, propelling you with his momentum and almost flinging himself out of your arms. He pivots and twists and leans forward and “surfs” with only his feet touching your body and the rest straining into mid-air. He retains the keen sense of injustice that I think may be most acutely experienced by those who are the youngest of four. He has a funny little half kneel, half squat that he does to reach up. He stands alone all the time (plus can squat up and down unsupported) and has taken two steps in a row unsupported.

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Soon to be a scene of the past!

We went to Six Flags in late July. I hope to write a separate blog post about it soon, because it was such a great time! We also went on a mini-vacation to a lakeside cabin near the river at the very end of July. He still hates the car, but does okay if I’m sitting in the back with him and Mark is driving (not always possible).

July 2015 058

Looking down from the top of Colossus (ferris wheel).

It is hard to find time to write a nine month blog post because said nine month old absorbs a lot of energy! And, he bangs the keys and eats the mouse whenever possible.

July 2015 003I took the kids to playgroup at the skating rink in July and Tanner was playing on the slide for the first time. I sat at the bottom looking up at him and remembering the other babies and little children I’ve waited for at the bottom of this same slide. For him, it was new. A discovery. For me, a bittersweet déjà vu and pang of re-recognition: the world spins so fast. I thought of how much changes and how much stays the same. The different friends who’ve opened their arms to babies at the end of that same slide with me and how many of them have moved away, had more babies, experienced changes, and I’m still there: at the bottom of the slide. My oldest son is almost 12. Yesterday, he was a baby on the slide. I wondered if in 11 more years, I’ll still be taking kids to that skating rink….the wheel rolls.

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Tuesday Tidbits: Does Breastfeeding Really Matter?

August 2015 060Does breastfeeding really matter? Or, is it just one possible way to feed a baby?

Breastfeeding matters. It matters for women, babies, families, workplaces, society, and the whole world.

But, is breastfeeding hard?

It is true that in the early weeks many women experience difficulties with breastfeeding. Coupled with the lack of support many women also experience from partners, in-laws, extended family members, and employers, they may stop breastfeeding long before they originally hoped and planned. Is that breastfeeding’s fault though? Is it inherently difficult? No, but it turns out that our prevalent images of breastfeeding may contribute to difficulties with latch and milk flow. Laid-back breastfeeding (nursing the baby draped across your body tummy to tummy rather than sitting upright with the baby in the crook of your arm) may be the answer to many early breastfeeding challenges:

In the commonly used cradle, cross-cradle, and football/rugby holds, mothers and babies must fight the effects of gravity to get babies to breast level and keep their fronts touching. If gaps form between them (which can happen easily with gravity pulling baby’s body down and away), this disorients baby, which can lead to latching struggles. The pull of gravity makes it impossible for a newborn to use his inborn responses to get to his food source and feed. For baby, it is like trying to climb Mount Everest. Instead of mothers and babies working together as breastfeeding partners, mothers must do all of the work. Instead of being able to relax while baby helps, most mothers sit hunched over, tense, and struggling.To complicate things further, in these positions, gravity can transform the same inborn feeding responses that should be helping babies into barriers to breastfeeding. Head bobbing becomes head butting. Arm and leg movements meant to move babies to the breast become pushing and kicking. Mothers struggling to manage their babies’ arms and legs in these upright breastfeeding holds have often told me: “I don’t think I have enough hands to breastfeed.”

How Natural Breastfeeding Can Help

In Natural Breastfeeding positions, baby rests tummy down on mother’s body, ensuring the full frontal contact that activates his GPS. Baby’s weight pushes the pressure buttons on his front, which improves his coordination for easier feeding. Natural Breastfeeding makes it possible for babies to be the active breastfeeding partners that nature intended. But it’s not just good for babies. Mothers can relax completely and rest while baby feeds, often with both hands free. And gravity helps baby take the breast deeply, so there’s no need to micromanage baby’s latch.

via Many Moms May Have Been Taught to Breastfeed Incorrectly: Surprising New Research – Mothering.

I learned about laid-back breastfeeding before my third child was born. It made a huge difference in her ability to latch well and nurse comfortably (I then didn’t discover she had an upper lip tie until she had dental work at two!) It also made a dramatic difference for my last baby, who was my easiest, most comfortable, almost-painless-from-the-start, early breastfeeding experience (they all got easy with time and I nursed each for three years, but the early weeks were more challenging with the first three compared to the last!)

August 2015 034
Isn’t modern formula close to breastmilk though?

No! Breastmilk is a living substance, customized to your specific baby. It is amazing how many unique things breastmilk can do!

Vitamins and minerals that we all know are present only represent a very small proportion of what’s in our milk. There is a huge range of other components. Components, for instance, that dispose of harmful bacteria in different ways. By absorbing them, engulfing them, destroying them, lining the gut and preventing them from entering our baby’s blood stream, preventing them from using our baby’s iron stores to grow (pathogens need iron to thrive), etc…

And these are targeted responses to specific pathogens, because our baby’s saliva goes into our blood stream and informs us of anything harmful they have been exposed to in the last few hours. Our body immediately produces the exact antibodies for that specific infection, and feeds it back to our babies via our milk within the hour.

via The composition of Human milk | Breastfeeding Thoughts.

Notice I do not say that breastmilk is “perfect.” What it is, is normal. It is the species-specific, biological appropriate food for human babies.

I’ve heard that our bodies make different kinds of milk and you have to be careful to separate the foremilk from the hindmilk though? Doesn’t that mean I’ll need to pump to make sure my baby is getting enough of the cream?

If you have pumped and put your milk in the fridge, you have noticed the same phenomenon. As the milk cools, the fattier, more opaque milk rises to the top and the bottom portion of the milk appears thinner, more translucent. Perhaps you would call this milk more “watery.” But, it isn’t watery. It doesn’t lack nutrients. It is just lower in fat.

Breastfeeding moms read a lot about foremilk and hind milk and for lack of a better term, obsess about it. I talk about this with moms way more than I care to. Why?

Because, in my opinion, this is a completely nonsensical and irrelevant topic 99% of the time.

We don’t know the fat concentration of your milk when the baby first starts nursing, nor do we know the rate at which the milk gets fattier.

via Balanced Breastfeeding – “The Good Milk” Foremilk/Hindmilk.

What about postpartum depression? One of my friends said that her doctor told her to wean because of depression.

While this is a common recommendation, it is not evidence-based. In fact, breastfeeding helps protect mothers’ August 2015 001 mental health by mediating the effects of stress:

Research over the past decade has shown that breastfeeding and depression intersect in some interesting and surprising ways. All of this work has shown something that makes sense. Breastfeeding does not deplete mothers, nor does it cause depression.

Breastfeeding problems certainly can do both of these things—all the more reason why women need good support and accurate information. But it does not make sense for something so critical to the survival of our species to be harmful for mothers. And it is not.

Breastfeeding and stress

One of the initial areas of research was in examining the role of breastfeeding in turning off the stress response. Of particular importance was breastfeeding’s role in lessening mothers’ levels of inflammation (which is part of the stress response). The molecules that cause inflammation can lead to depression. When inflammation levels are high, people are more likely to get depressed. When inflammation levels are lower, the risk of depression goes down. The great thing is that breastfeeding is specifically anti-inflammatory. This is one way that breastfeeding protects women’s health throughout their lives. It lowers their risk of depression. It also lowers their risk of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes…

via Mothers’ Mental Health and Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding Today.

Side note: why is depression such a risk for mothers anyway?

…When you consider the isolation, lack of support, history of abuse or other trauma, and, particularly in the U.S., the need for mothers to return to work almost immediately following the birth, the increase in depression rates is hardly surprising…

via Mothers’ Mental Health and Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding Today.

What about the sleepless nights everyone talks about? I want my partner to be able to feed the baby at night so I can get more sleep.

Similar to mental health, research has actually found that nursing mothers get more sleep, not less.

And, on a related note, many people share the misconception that it is normal and desirable for a breastfed baby to “grow out” of needing to nurse during the night. This actually depends on multiple factors, primarily the storage capacity of a mother’s breast:

In other words, if you are a mother with an average or small breast storage capacity [which is unrelated to breast size], night feedings may need to continue for many months in order for your milk production to stay stable and for your baby to thrive. Also, because your baby has access to less milk at each feeding, night feedings may be crucial for him to get enough milk overall. Again, what’s important is not how much milk a baby receives at each individual feeding, but how much milk he consumes in a 24-hour day. If a mother with a small storage capacity uses sleep training strategies to force her baby to go for longer stretches between feedings, this may slow her milk production and compromise her baby’s weight gain.

via Do Older Babies Need Night Feedings? — Nancy Mohrbacher.

Am I creating a bad habit by allowing baby to breastfeed to sleep? April 2015 090

Your child’s desire to nurse to sleep is very normal and not a bad habit you’ve fostered. Don’t be afraid to nurse your baby to sleep or fear that you are perpetuating a bad habit. Baby often will seek the breast when sleepy or over-stimulated because it’s a comforting and familiar place to him. To associate the breast with wanting to relax enough to go to sleep makes perfect sense. As adults, we also do things to relax ourselves so we can go to sleep: we read, watch TV, get something warm to drink or a snack, deep breathe, get all snug under the covers, etc. Breastfeeding does the same thing for your baby.

via : Breastfeeding to Sleep and Other Comfort Nursing.

You may find that nighttime nursing is surprisingly peaceful and undisturbed. I remember finding my first baby often puzzling during the day, but at night, it felt like we were in perfect harmony…

…So we feast together in the darkness.
Till we are both full-filled.
Me. You.
You. Me.

via A Poem for World Breastfeeding Week 2015 #WBW – The Story Witch.

Breastfeeding matters. It is woven through our lives and through the interlocking systems of society. It has important impacts on physical, mental, and emotional health for both you and your baby. In fact, breastfeeding is a type of “shero’s journey,” one that impacts a mother and her child through the rest of their lives:

Breastfeeding is the day in and day fabric of connection. It is a huge physical and emotional investment, the continued devotion of one’s body to one’s baby. Breastfeeding support may not as exciting or thrilling as birthwork for me, but it is so very REAL and so very needed, and part of the nitty-gritty reality of individual mother’s complicated lives as they find their feet on the motherhood road. It really matters.

In what ways has breastfeeding been a hero’s journey for you?

via Breastfeeding as a (s)hero’s journey? | Talk Birth.

Breastfeeding Blessing Pocket Altar (mini birth altar, medicine bundle, doula, midwife, mother blessing, lactation, nursing)Sign up for the Brigid’s Grove Newsletter for resources, monthly freebies, + art and workshop announcements.

And, as is our tradition, in honor of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month, you can get 10% off items in our shop throughout August: WBW10OFF.

Guest Post: Five Common Surrogacy Myths

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Special request still in progress for a friend whose family was birthed via a beautiful surrogacy experience.

North America’s leading surrogacy agency, Family Source Consultants, highlights five of the biggest misconceptions about surrogacy

Chicago – June 4th, 2015 – If you’re thinking about becoming or using a surrogate, you may feel inundated with information and unsure where to start. There can often initially be a lack of understanding about the process involved and a lot of misinformation out there, too.

Staci Swiderski, Co-Founder of Family Source Consultants, says: “If you’re in a position where you’re contemplating an alternative path to family creation, you might be overwhelmed and possibly apprehensive when looking at the many choices you have before you.  It is our mission to alleviate the pressures all parties are facing and to help make this experience positive and fulfilling for everyone involved.”

Here are five common misconceptions about the surrogacy process: 

  1. The child is genetically-related to the surrogate. Although this can be true if the arrangement is considered to be a traditional surrogacy, with a gestational surrogacy arrangement, the embryos are created with either the intended mother’s eggs or an egg donor – never those of the surrogate.
  2. Building a family via surrogacy is only for the wealthy. Based on Family Source Consultants’ experience, many intended parents have an average income. Additionally, there are financing options available from lenders who specialize in reproductive arrangements, as well as cash discounts and payment plans.
  3. The surrogate may not give up the child. Surrogates have to already have their own children and completely understand that they are helping another family to have this child. Of course, the surrogate will care for the child and have an emotional bond, however, she is fully aware that the child is not her’s to keep. Surrogacy agencies should always work with attorneys who specialize in reproductive law and, with the correct legal procedures in place, intended parents are the legal parents of the baby. In addition, a surrogate (and her partner if applicable) must undergo a psychological evaluation prior to entering into a legal agreement with the intended parents.
  4. The surrogate needs the compensation or is poor. Many surrogates who are enrolled in Family Source Consultants’ surrogacy programs have a full-time career, are financially stable and often have a partner who has a secure, well-paid job, too.  Family Source Consultants have actually worked with many surrogates who are considered to be the breadwinners of their marriage or partnership. A surrogate should never fully depend on the compensation that she receives in order to live a stable lifestyle. Financial problems or any indication that a surrogate candidate is motivated by money can be reason for disqualification.
  5. Intended parents who live in a less surrogate ‘friendly’ state cannot utilize surrogacy as a family building option. Family Source Consultants’ intended parent clients come from all 50 states and internationally. The important factor is that the surrogate must deliver in a state where her legal rights as a parent are protected. Some of the best states for surrogacy law include Illinois, Florida, California, Nevada, Arkansas and Connecticut and some of the less-friendly states include New York, Michigan, Washington and Nebraska.

About Family Source Consultants

Family Source Consultants is one of North America’s leading surrogacy agencies, with offices in Illinois (Hinsdale and River North in Chicago) and Florida (Cape Coral).

When matching and facilitating Gestational Surrogacy and Egg Donation arrangements, Family Source Consultants work with traditional, gay or lesbian couples and individuals of all races, religious and ethnic backgrounds. They provide personalized support throughout the entire process and work with the very best reproductive law attorneys and doctors.

What’s unique, is that 75% of its employees have been a surrogate/egg donor/intended parent, including Founders, Staci Swiderski who completed her family through surrogacy and has been an egg donor twice; and Zara Griswold, who built her family via surrogacy using the assistance of an Egg Donor.



Telling About It: Tree Pose Yoga Goddess Pendant

In tree pose, she finds her balance 11223536_1643434975868718_5733380625052658785_n
despite asymmetry.
Flexible, yielding,
strong, and steady.
One-legged and whole…

I created our Tree Pose pendant to remind me that “balance” does not need to be perfectly symmetrical or even. Balance is about finding your center (even if one “leg” of your life is taking more time/attention than others…)

I encounter many other women who express teetering on the edge of finding that elusive and possibly-not-actually necessary “balance” in their work tasks and mothering tasks. I have a friend who describes balance not as making things “equal,” but as being like tree pose in yoga—you want one leg to be firm underneath you so you can stay standing up, but your two sides do not have to actually be “equal” in order to be balanced. Sometimes my balance is weighted towards work-at-home tasks, sometimes toward parenting, sometimes toward teaching, but I know it will continue shifting and I’ll still be standing. Find your center. That is the mental reminder that instantly pulls my own literal tree pose into balance for me during my daily morning yoga practice. Find your center.

I’m in one of those off-balance positions right now while I finish up the summer school session, work with my Womanrunes class, and prepare for our Red Tent Program beginning in August. I got out my tree pose goddess and put her on as a reminder to me, both to find my center, but also that this sensation is not new or terrible, it is just is here again. I re-read this past post:

…As I’ve alluded to in the past, usually online teaching blends seamlessly into my day, often taking roughly the same amount of time and energy that checking in with Facebook would take. During the two weeks each session that papers are due (fifth and seventh weeks out of an 8 week session), the work suddenly feels unmanageable and incompatible with motherhood and I feel taut, tense, and drawn. The kids are need-factories and I’m distracted and impatient and consumed with the NEED to get these freaking things GRADED and OUT OF MY HEAD!

via The tensions and triumphs of work at home mothering | Talk Birth.

And, Tanner fell asleep clutching my pendant:



June 2015 037

At river!

I’m mired down in paper grading and classwork right now, but I don’t want to let too many more days pass without a quick update about my eightmonthababy! This little guy continues to speed his way through life.

As of 8 months, this is what we’ve got going on:

  • Climbs stuff. For real. If he sees a box or an unsteady lid, or a stack of toys or laundry, he climbs up to boost his reach.
  • Smiles a funny, quirky closed mouth smile more often than a huge gumbly grin. It is kind of wryly amused smirky smile. I don’t remember my other babies doing this.
  • No teef! Not sure where they are, but its okay.
  • Claps to music. Loves music.
  • Also still loves to go outside. And, loves, loves, loves, water and swimming and baths.
  • Waves and says bye and hi and mama and wa-wa. More than once, has pulled my shirt and said “Mama, wa-wa,” which I take to mean he wants “Mama Water” (i.e. nursing). Had total Helen Keller moment with washing his hands and while they were under the water he June 2015 065suddenly made the connection. Later, when recounting the story of this lightbulb moment to others, he, sitting and looking with his little smirk, announced “wa-wa, indicating he had heard story and was confirming account!
  • Has specific noise that means, “something fell on me.” Happens with relative frequency due to aforementioned tendency to find things to climb on.
  • Weighs 22lbs! Is a big chunk. Is heavy and long.
  • Stands up alone from ground periodically. Also, stands unsupported when you set him down on the floor. And, just yesterday, took two steps alone supported only by bacon. Yes, was eating bacon (locally raised and nitrateless! Crunchy points intact?!?!). Had it sticking out of his mouth and Mark reached out for it for some reason and had one end of the piece and Tanner walked towards him like he would if his hand was held.
  • Is extremely energetic, grabby, reachy. Always spinning around trying to reach things and leans forward while you’re carrying him to “steer” you in proper direction. Very hard to hold! My dad described him as being like trying to hold “liquid metal.” This is very true.
  • Speaking of my dad, Tanner loves him very much! He also loves my mom and he goes over to their house with June 2015 039the rest of the big kids almost every day!
  • Realized that the days of the “softly furred scalp” have passed. He has tons of blondie-blonderson hair instead. I miss the little ripe-peach head, but the fuzzy hair head is very nice too.
  • Crawls fast. Puts on a burst of speed to catch up. Goes to find me. Looks in rooms for me.
  • I don’t take enough video!!!! My other kids are always after me about this in a semi-accusatory manner. My iphone is perpetually out of storage space and that’s why. I need to get with the program because he isn’t going to be an adorable, burst-of-speed crawler for much longer!
  • I still sit next to him at naps. Takes a long mid-day nap (with much flopping around and back-patting to stay asleep, hence the sitting next to him) and a short late-afternoon nap (usually on my chest). I finally feel like he nurses enough during the day and my milk supply is in sync now with how often I often to nurse him and how much he actually wants to nurse. This has led to much better night sleep for me, which for a while was a challenge—he was nursing probably eight times a night or more for a while (to make up for only little snacks during the day, due to being so on the go) and now it is more like three times. Clearly, at 22 pounds, all is well.

June 2015 013I think that the most unconditional love I’ve experienced is from my babies TO me. I’ve never been loved so intensely and wholeheartedly as my babies love me. I know that might sound weird and that we think of parents as the ones having unconditional love for their babies, not vice versa, but the depth of the mother-baby attachment is extremely profound and incomparable. It is also feels so simple and uncomplicated. I had the same depth of attachment with all my children, but with each one I feel more aware of how short-lasting this period of intensity is and I just love how much my baby loves me. While we’ll always love each other deeply, right now we are a motherbaby—a single psychobiological organism and there just isn’t anything else like it.

June 2015 067

At summer party/family ritual. I am nursing, babywearing, eating homemade cotton candy, and scattering rose petals in our summer mandala + holding scissors for trimming flowers…all at the same time.

Tuesday Tidbits: Self-Care

I spent the past weekend out-of-town at a faculty conference. The whole family went and they brought Tanner to me to nurse on Friday, which was a whole day event (7:45-7:30). He fell asleep in the Ergo after walking around campus and so I took him back into the conference room with me and he snoozed there for about two hours while we talked about assessment measures and course content. It is hard for me to feel grounded and rooted while traveling, particularly in a city. It feels hard on my nerves and even my own sense of self.

After the conference, we spent an extra night at the hotel and then met up with my parents, my sister, and my brother, SIL, and nephew for some Cousin Power and family fun. Each of us only had a roughly two-hour trip to meet in Columbia, instead of traveling all the way to someone’s house. We rented a basement apartment from Airbnb and had a delightful time. It was so much better to visit that way than in a hotel! Very nice! Before our visit we also went to Red Lobster for lunch, Target for dolls, Barnes and Noble, Toys R Us (coincidentally arriving right before they started a free Jurassic World Lego build kit), Shelter Gardens (like a mini botanical garden place), and Hy-Vee (for lunch after the conference ended Saturday morning).

I’ve been working really hard for the last month preparing my Womanrunes Immersion course and I feel a little unbalanced and skewed off-center. I keep telling myself that it is okay to keep working hard, because I’m “almost done,” and sometimes pushing is exactly what is needed. But, I’ve realized as I participate in my own course, that since there is always something else immediately around the corner, that “break” I keep holding out for never comes. I have to create it for myself. The course is going so well and has been really inspiring and magical so far, while also needing a lot of energy from me. I’ve committed to working through the course myself, not just guiding others through it, and I’ve already had to take a deep look at several issues…feeling on the verge of some kind of breakthrough now. From yesterday’s lesson this reminder:

When we lack proper time for the simple pleasures of life, for the enjoyment of eating, drinking, playing, creating, visiting friends, and watching children at play, then we have missed the purpose of life. Not on bread alone do we live, but on all these human and heart-hungry luxuries.
–Ed Hayes (Simple Pleasures)

And, then from another article:

“The more fully we experience life’s beauty, the less regret we have that we didn’t live and love in the ways we most longed to.”

Barefeet, watermelons, and sunburns – it’s summer!

Part of what I’m noticing is that I spend so much time keeping up with tasks online, whether teaching, or maintaining social media, or working on etsy listings, that I feel like I do not have enough time for physical, grounded, embodied, real-life practices that nurture me. I also recognize that part of this is having a baby and that by necessity, some things get pared away. However, I worry I’m letting things of real value get pared away though, while striving to “keep up” with all the rest.

This article makes the point that no matter how much the wellness industry burgeons, it cannot overcome overwork:

No amount of multivitamins, yoga, meditation, sweaty exercise, superfoods or extreme time management, as brilliant as all these things can be, is going to save us from the effects of too much work. This is not something we can adapt to. Not something we need to adjust the rest of our lives around. It is not possible and it’s unethical to pretend otherwise…

via No, it’s not you: why ‘wellness’ isn’t the answer to overwork.

What I’m working on, primarily, is self-created and self-directed, which feels very rewarding in a different way than working for someone else, it is still definitely possible to self-direct into overwork:

“These 24/7 work cultures lock gender inequality in place, because the work-family balance problem is recognized as primarily a woman’s problem,” said Robin Ely, a professor at Harvard Business School who was a co-author of a recent study on the topic. “The very well-intentioned answer is to give women benefits, but it actually derails women’s careers. The culture of overwork affects everybody…”

…Underlying this disparity are deep-seated cultural expectations about how men and women should act. Men are expected to be devoted to their work, and women to their family, as Mary Blair-Loy, a sociologist at University of California, San Diego, has described in her research.

“It’s not really about business; it’s about fundamental identity and masculinity,” Ms. Blair-Loy said. “Men are required by the culture to be these superheroes, to fulfill this devotion and single-minded commitment to work.”

“Women have an out,” she said, “because they have an external definition of morality or leading the good life, which is being devoted to their children.”

via The 24/7 Work Culture’s Toll on Families and Gender

While I initially committed this year to focusing intensely on baby-mama’ing and letting our business grow with its existing products and services, I’ve found myself feeling creatively consumed by new and exciting and yes, fun, projects, that have actually created a lot of new work for myself! (My motto for the year is to follow the inspiration and the inspiration can be so all-encompassing!) While parenting often feels like it directly conflicts with all the creation that is bursting to emerge, I also know that my children unlocked this in me. I would not be the way I am today and offering what I’m offering today, without having been cracked open by my babies!

“Art is mirroring and life became more complicated and richer in my opinion after Scout was born,” explained Harvey. “But the world was also much more terrifying to me.”

Riots and wars in the news— hundreds or thousands of miles away— feel more acute. In the fleeting moments of daily life— a baby’s first tooth or day of school— parents often become hyper-aware of the Sanskrit term kalpa, or the cosmic passage of time. Sarah Sze, mother of two daughters and celebrated sculptor whose work Triple Point was featured at the 2013 Venice Biennale, echoed the sentiment in an interview with The Guardian. Now that she had children, she explained, time was “more significant” and had “more weight.” And ultimately, Harvey believes, this intensity that motherhood brings isn’t a hindrance — it’s “an extraordinary gift for art.”

via Why can’t great artists be mothers? – Women in the World in Association with The New York Times – WITW.

Returning to the feeling of spending too much time online though, I enjoyed both of these articles, with their different messages. The first, on why it is okay to be on an iphone and at the park at the same time:

But you know what else? If you go around insinuating that women are somehow “bad mothers” for devoting some of their precious attention to their phones instead of their precious children, then frankly, I don’t have time for your big bag o’ guilt candy.

via On Parents and Phones at the Playground – Every Other Moment.

And, the second about the dangers of so much distraction:

Social media has created a cornucopia of opportunity for us to curate our experiences and serve them up in an endless buffet of images, phrases, ideas, pithy quotes, filters, and rants…

Without down time to unwind, restore and fill our senses, our bodies and brains sense something alarming and signal the amygdala, the brain’s 911 center, to contact other areas in the brain like the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. The chemistry of stress tells the heart to pump faster, push more blood and oxygen into muscles so we can get ready to run if we have to, and raises blood pressure and inflammation. After all, that’s what the body does when we have a wound of any kind. Stress is the wound we can’t see.

Another reason we’re distracted is that we practice monkey mind. Our thoughts are racing and mocking for position. We can’t “think straight”…

via Redirect your focus before it’s too late.

When I was on the Board at Citizens for Midwifery, I was discouraged by the amount of time we spent on the Outrage Du Jour—what I called “putting out fires” work—rather than on the truer, deeper work and mission. It seems like every day on Facebook there is something new to get worked up over and to write outraged blog posts over and then that “crisis” passes and “everyone” is talking about something else. I try to avoid participating–whether it is birth-related, personal, or celebrity-related–because it just doesn’t have lasting value. So, I appreciated this post on Outrage and Letting Go:

“…Perhaps what we need is a reduced dose of Outrage and a higher dosage of Letting Go. You see, letting go of Outrage is not the same as embracing Apathy—Outrage and Apathy are obverse sides of the same coin. By refusing to be offended by life’s minutia, we refuse to step into Outrage’s blast radius, and thus we refuse to cast judgment arbitrarily. Ultimately, avoiding the Outrage is how we can approach controversial and interesting topics with honest, worthwhile discussions…”

Fake Outrage: Dealing with Criticism – The Minimalists.

Yesterday, a new book arrived for me to review and I’m really looking forward to it! (It does join a large stack on my desk.)

1978706_10155723230680442_8659481311478884417_nThis morning, I read a memorial article about Sheila Kitzinger too:

In writing her own fantasy obituary for a newspaper many years earlier, she imagined dying at the height of her powers: “She died as she would have wished, flat on her back on a table with her legs in the air, in front of a large audience, demonstrating with vigour the dangers of making women lie down, hold their breath till their eyes bulge and strain as if forcing through a coconut to push a baby out. She claimed that treating the second stage of labour as a race to the finishing post … could result in cardiac arrhythmia and even a stroke. She made her point.”

Rather than the melodramatic early death she conjured up here, Sheila died quietly at home surrounded by her family, at the age of 86…

via How to plan for a good death | Life and style | The Guardian.

Yesterday in response to my own Womanrunes prompts, I literally went outside to smell the roses.

11227964_10207110812918713_5387391899479469362_nIt was just what I needed and I need to move these experiences up in priority in my day, instead of being the last things I attend to. I’m also participating in this free offering:

Enchant Your Everyday: 108 Day Pilgrimage to Your Beautiful Life – Vanessa Sage.

This is a beautiful world. Don’t miss it!