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Young Moms: Making Childbirth Education Relevant to Them

This guest post is part of my blog break festival. The festival continues throughout December, so please check it out and consider submitting a post! Also, don’t forget to enter my birth jewelry giveaway. This guest post is about making childbirth education relevant to young mothers. I have a previous post about the classes I taught for a local Young Parents program (some handouts are included): Young Parents Program Prenatal Classes. Another related post, though not specific to childbirth education, is this one about Rites of Passage Resources for Daughters & Sons. If you’re interested in providing birth education specifically for young parents, you might also enjoy checking out CAPPA’s Teen Educator certification program.

Young Moms: Making Childbirth Education Relevant to ThemLoriblessingway 117a

by Keri Samuelson

In this day and age, encountering young mothers is common. With so many of our daughters fitting into this category, updating the ways we educate these expectant mothers should be a top priority. Young people may think they can handle everything on their own, but the truth is that they may still need to learn the basics when it comes to childbirth. They need to know what to expect and how to react. Here’s my take on how to tackle the experience:

Update The Imagery
We have many tools at our fingertips, but some of them require a bit of updating. For instance, it’s imperative to revamp the video and online databases that we frequently employ in hospitals, high school classrooms and the like. Young people today simply do not relate to the characters depicted in movies from the 80s or 90s. They want to see people they can relate to experiencing what they themselves are about to. Do yourself a favor – avoid these outdated resources, and make suggestions to libraries or clinics that still use them.

The Whole Truth
Tell girls the truth – this will need to encompass more than just some action shots of women giving birth. If you are for instance sponsoring a program for expectant mothers, invite women who have recently given birth, and have them detail everything from the beginning to the end of the laboring process. This way, mothers-to-be will have fewer surprises in tow. Also, make sure there is time for questions, and be sure to allow questions to be asked confidentially (on slips of paper, for instance, that you collect and read without announcing the asker), so that the session is truly as relevant as possible.

Technology
Show them that birth is unlikely to be like the shows they watch on television or the movies that they have seen. It sometimes can take many, many hours. It can be exhausting and might be very painful, but it is also very normal and usually safe.

Celebrity Guest Spots
Information is a wonderful tool, but the presenter of this information is what can make or break its effectiveness. In this day and age, celebrities are given the floor more than medical professionals, and so it can be a wise decision to have celebrity mothers give their own testimonies of and their experience. Obviously, not everyone has access to a celebrity, so perform simple Google searches for celebrities you know of that your clients might identify with, and see what they have to say about motherhood on their website, or in interviews. If this still doesn’t work, look for local superstars whom you know have given birth – athletes, state officials, teachers, etc. that you know your young clients will look up to and listen to.

These are, of course, just a few ideas for making childbirth education a little more relatable to youth that are expecting a child. It begins with accurate information, presented by someone who they feel they can trust, and delivered in a manner that doesn’t sugar coat the process either.

Keri Samuelson writes about health promotion, motherhood and helping young people find the best accelerated nursing programs.

Guest Post: Nine Reasons to Choose Independent Birth Eduation

This guest post is part of my blog break festival. The festival continues through December, so please check it out and consider submitting a post! Also, don’t forget to enter my birth jewelry giveaway.

I’ve been an independent childbirth educator since 2005. For many years, I’ve taught one-on-one classes to local couples and it has been wonderful to connect on a personal level with such individualized classes. Now, I’m teaching Birth Skills Workshops in collaboration with Rolla Birth Network. I’m still an independent educator—one not employed by any other organization or hospital—but now, rather than exclusively one-on-one, small groups of couples come together to practice hands-on skills for birth in a private, comfortable setting. I previously explored my own take on why choose independent birth education and here are some additional reasons!

Nine Reasons You Should Choose Independent Birth Education

by Jan Haley

Whether you still have a few months to go before the birth of your baby or the due date is right around the corner, it’s not too late to look into some independent birth education. Why are these educators an excellent decision? Read on to find out!

At a recent workshop.

At a recent workshop.

Personalized Attention
In a class, everyone has to work on the same components at the same time. However, with independent birth education, the program is tailored to your own needs. If you already know the answer to a particular question, you need not spend countless minutes listening to a lecture on the subject matter.

Personalized Questions
In addition to not hearing information of which you are already well aware, independent birth education allows you to ask the questions that pertain to your specific situation. Whether it’s about the birthing process or how to handle your baby immediately after birth, the concern will be addressed.

Personal Information
Let’s face it: when it comes to giving birth, you need to be comfortable revealing some personal information about yourself. However, that doesn’t mean it must be done in a room full of strangers. Working one on one with someone allows you to still maintain a level of privacy.

Generalities
In a hospital program, the educators might have to answer questions in a very diplomatic way, because that is what their work policy requirements. When it comes to independent education though, no such requirements exist, unless the person is attached to a hospital or other type of program.

A Customized Plan
Many mothers write out a birth plan, but some of them may feel forced into certain decisions. An independent birth educator will know a lot of information and will be able to offer many details and ideas for structuring a birth plan. A good independent educator will also remind you that a birth plan is not a substitute for good communication with your health care provider!

Partners
Some women choose to give birth at home. Doing so can feel like a lot of pressure on dads, so it’s common to ask independent birth educators for referrals for doulas to be present and support the process (some independent educators are also doulas and may be available to attend births). Birth partners can also feel totally comfortable asking questions in a private setting and they will also learn many useful comfort measures to add to their own labor support “toolbox.”

For Single Moms

Speaking of going it alone, it’s important to address single mothers when it comes to independent birth education. Being pregnant alone can be a really lonely road, and these educators provide not only an instructor, but a friend to such individuals.

Formal Instruction
Some educators are certified. Therefore, they are not only providing their personal experience as mothers, but also information that was garnered from a reputable course or program, so you’re really gaining the best of both worlds.

Confidence

It’s easy to feel embarrassed about giving birth or anxious about everything that is going to happen after the baby is born. Fortunately, independent birth educators are able to give women the boosts of confidence that they need, because as they get to know you, they can help you figure out what works best for you.No matter what plan you ultimately wind up choosing for your birth, be sure to at least consider independent birth education to have a method that is tailored to you. I tried this track, and I never looked back.

Jan Haley writes about motherhood, health and more. A home nurse, she enjoys writing about the profession and helping aspiring nurses find the best RN-to-BSN Programs for them.

The Amethyst Network December Blog Circle: Holidays After Loss

I’m a founding member of the miscarriage support organization, The Amethyst Network. We’ve been hard at work over the past month restructuring our website, clarifying our vision, and expanding our offerings:

As part of our efforts at sharing stories and creating healing circles, we are launching blog circles here at TAN. Each month we will post a brief message introducing the theme for the month, and inviting you to participate in the circle. All you need to do is put your name and link into the Mr Linky widget at the end of this post, and your blog post can be included in the circle. Posts are welcomed throughout the month (and beyond if you write something later and want to share). We hope you will participate!

The theme of the December Blog Circle is Holidays After Loss.

To participate in the blog circle, I immediately looked up an old blog post from the Christmas season in 2009. I experienced my first miscarriage in early November and so when I hit the holidays that year, my loss was very fresh and raw and I remember countless moments of sitting with family members having “happy” celebrations and feeling at the desperate edge of tears the entire time, but trying to be good spirited for my other kids and also not “ruin” the holidays for everyone else.

This is what I wrote…

Missed

Posted on December 21, 2009

…I no longer have the feeling that I “should” be pregnant. It feels “normal” to not be pregnant now, whereas a couple of weeks ago I felt the loss of the physical experience keenly—that embodied connection—and I still “felt pregnant” for about three weeks or so following my miscarriage. I would have to keep reminding myself, “I’m NOT pregnant.” Now, I feel “normally” not-pregnant and I actually feel really good in my body and pretty good in my life. There has been a shift from “I SHOULD be x number of weeks pregnant” to “I WOULD have been x number of weeks pregnant.”

Today, I would have been 21 weeks pregnant and it has been a hard day for me. Our family has a tradition of having a winter solstice party each year. We host at our house (my mom then hosts Christmas) and it is a nice time. We use the occasion to reflect on the past year and the things we’ve accomplished and then set goals for the year to come—things we’d like to “bring into the light” as it were. We also give our immediate family gifts to each other on this day.

Anyway, I just really missed the baby today and also missed the pregnant-self. I felt really strongly how I would have been really looking pregnant by now and the baby would have been making himself well-known to others around me with kicks and rolls and so forth. I can’t describe it in words, I just really FELT it today. The non. The closed door. The two boys instead of three. It started when I opened up my set of Growing Uterus charts and The Birth Atlas from Childbirth Connection. I’ve always wanted them and I ordered them a couple of months ago when they had a wonderful deal. When they arrived, I had Mark put them away for Christmas. I didn’t think it would bother me to open them. I am still interested in birth, birthwork, and childbirth education. I’ve been reading other birth books and not having any “issues” with them, but opening the charts and seeing the point at which my own pregnancy and baby and hopes and dreams and plans arrested, was really difficult. The “cut off”/stopped/ended road point was right there in black and white and I had a strong and unexpected reaction to that. Later in the afternoon we went outside to go for a walk and also to place Noah’s memorial plaque. Standing there looking at it, I just MISSED him. And, I missed the experience of “would’ve” been 21 weeks pregnant–with my hand on my full belly, feeling my baby from within and outside, and having that communion and connection with him. I felt at the edge of tears for most of the rest of the day and just “down” and distressed feeling. I thought it would help me to write about it, but I’m not finding the words easily. I can’t explain or describe what it was I felt today.

As I mentioned, we use today as a time to reflect on our plans for the coming year. In past years, we’ve also each shared a wish for the coming year while lighting candles (the whole “even in the darkness, new light comes again” type of metaphor). In the past, I feel like people have tired of having to take turns saying too many things (we do the goal sharing and reflecting on whether we accomplished last year’s goal and some other things), so this year I just shared a little prayer—feeling like it summed up nicely what we each would wish for in the coming year:

Make me strong in spirit,
Courageous in action,
Gentle of heart,

Let me act in wisdom,
Conquer my fear and doubt,
Discover my own hidden gifts,

Meet others with compassion,
Be a source of healing energies,
And face each day with hope and joy.

(Abby Willowroot)

That year, I bought a special ornament for our tree with Noah’s name and birthdate and also the words, Born at Home. As I’ve shared several times, it is very important to me to have miscarriages acknowledged as birth events and it really, really mattered to me to have a homebirth specific ornament to recognize my baby. This year, it hangs on the tree next to our new family ornament for 2012.

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In 2010, when I got maternity photos taken, I made sure to include Noah’s angel bear in several of the photos to acknowledge his presence and place as a member of the family. And again, in 2011, I also included the bear in a photo session with me and the kiddos.

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This year when we got our family pictures taken, I made sure to wear my baby-in-my-heart pendant, so that Noah, still, was there with us in the pictures as part of our family.

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In September, my friend’s baby Tossie died at 36 weeks. To honor Tossie’s memory, she’s started a blog to help other loss mamas: Tossie’s Tree & Painted Rocks. One of the first rocks she painted was for my own little Noah. She took a picture of it at sunrise by her own baby’s special tree and it is lovely!

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The other posts in this month’s blog circle so far are:

Hope and the Holidays ~ Bainne Mama

Thankgiving After A Loss ~ Bainne Mamai

Special Ornaments ~ Mindful Serenity

Michele–Holidays After Loss (this post was especially good, very poignant, and from it I went to a variety of other interesting posts on her blog. Michele also runs Mending Hearts Bellies which focuses on childbirth education and doula support for post-loss families).
Holidays After Loss: Spirit Babies Ceremony

Guest Post: A Secular Sabbath

This guest post is part of my blog break festival. The festival continues through December, so please check it out and consider submitting a post! Also, don’t forget to enter my birth jewelry giveaway.

I was happy to review Sarah’s book earlier this year and I absolutely love this guest post from her explaining how digital sabbaticals work in her own life. At our own house we have been observing “computer off day” every Sunday for a number of years. It is most excellent—amazing how much “more time” appears in my life when the digital noise is silenced for a spell. I do need to make sure I commit to having Sundays be “app off days” too, because I didn’t have those devices when I started the practice and it is very easy to trick myself into thinking it is okay to check, “just one thing” on Sunday as long as it isn’t on a computer! (Of course, these days I use my i-devices more often than my laptop anyway)

A Secular Sabbath

by Sarah Whedon

“It is one thing to race or be driven by the vicissitudes that menace life, and another thing to stand still and to embrace the presence of an eternal moment.” -Abraham Joshua Heschel in The Sabbath

 I love that I had the mental space to generate the idea for this guest post while I was taking a short break from everything to do with blogging.

 You see, my dreams at night had begun taking the distressing form of social media streams: Facebook, Twitter, Hootsuite, Google+, GoogleReader, email, Moodle, Skype, WordPress. (Side note: these are all web-based tools with free versions that I use regularly. There, now if you go look one up, reading about taking a break was also productive.) 

I spend most of my time at home with young kids, but I also manage to volunteer for a couple of reproductive health and justice organizations, Chair an online seminary department, and manage a blog, because I can do most of it online from home using those apps.

My dreams were a warning sign, though, about how I was managing my time and mental resources. I listened, and I decided that once a week I would observe a social media Sabbath. I originally got the idea of limiting technology use once a week from Michael Pollan, whose version is about greening your lifestyle, which is also appealing.

He, of course, got the Sabbath idea from Jewish tradition, in which the day is a time to rest from work, and focus on family and holy things. Michael Pollan’s version doesn’t borrow much from the rich traditions of Jewish observance, my version isn’t exactly like Michael Pollan’s version, and if you decide to observe a secular sabbath, yours won’t be exactly like mine.

Here’s what I do: from 6:30am to 6:30pm on Fridays I’m officially off social media (in practice it’s usually a few hours longer). I don’t use any of the apps I’ve listed above, nor do I do “just one quick Google search” to look something up that I get curious about. I do use my smart phone to take pictures of my kids, navigate around town, and (gasp) talk to loved ones, because those aren’t the uses that were causing me trouble. 

When I observe my version of a secular Sabbath I find that I’m more present all day Friday, and actually all the other days, too. Nobody minds that I’m offline for a day, especially because I set Friday posts to run in advance, and let people know I won’t be available. I don’t dream about social media anymore. And when I step away from the constant input of internet data, I can have my own ideas, like the idea that while Molly is trying to take a bit of a break, I can share how I take my break. 

So that’s how I’ve been claiming some rest time each week for the past month or so. Do you take technology fasts or Sabbaths? How do you do it?

Sarah Whedon is Chair of the Department of Theology and Religious History at Cherry Hill Seminary and is the founding editor of Pagan Families: Resources for Pagan Pregnancy and Birth. Sarah’s teaching, research, and advocacy work center around topics of spirituality, feminism, and reproduction. She makes her home in San Francisco with her partner and their children.Whedon2crop.jpg

Guest Post: The Women’s Lounge

This guest post is part of my blog break festival. The festival continues through December, so please check it out and consider submitting a post! Also, don’t forget to enter my birth jewelry giveaway. This post falls into the Motherful category and was written by my own mother (I’m the 11 year daughter mentioned in the story)!

The Women’s Lounge
by Barbara Johnson

“Excuse me, there’s veal in your baby’s ear,” whispered the stolid-looking, well-groomed businessman seated next to me on the crowded airplane (who had spent the entire trip trying to project himself into another realm where traveling women with multiple children were prohibited from invading his space). I glanced down. Sure enough, there was a pool of tomato sauce, with veal, in my sleeping 6 month old infant’s ear. I grabbed an inadequate airline napkin and swabbed ineffectually away, while Mr. Businessman began searching around in his brief case – presumably to avoid further contact or conversation with me. I seized the moment of his inattention to duck my head discreetly and quickly lick up the remainder of the mess. Slightly gross, but highly efficient…..This episode apparently unleashed some hidden reservoir of chattiness and my seat partner proceeded to produce volumes of photographs of his family, accompanied by amusing anecdotes. No further mention was made of veal.

I managed to extricate myself (holding sleeping baby girl and an insanely oversized diaper bag), my two –year-old high-needs son (understatement), and my two older daughters (ages 9 and 11) from the plane. I was met by an airline representative to be transported to our connecting flight gate. This had been carefully pre-planned, as I knew I had only a 25 minute layover and many small bodies to transport. I was smugly proud of my maternal organizing skills, never reckoning on the embarrassment of hurtling through the Salt Lake City air terminal, honking warning sounds at innocent travelers. We were crammed onto the hindmost seat, facing backwards with our feet braced to avoid being thrown out on our faces every time the vehicle accelerated. The cart reeled past all manner of passengers, including many people certainly more in need of transport that we were. A young man pushing 2 occupied wheel chairs, an elderly woman with a walker, and a blind man with a cane. My humiliation mounted as we beeped them out of our path.

The diaper bag was a massive affair, having been carefully selected for maximum capacity. Its depths contained not only diapers, but boxes of juice, a variety of snacks, my purse and personal items, as well as activity selections for 4 age groups. Oh, and my book that I had been carrying with me for 10 years, hoping for random opportunities for quick reading (hah!). Toys, crayons, tiny cars, stuffed animals, granola bars……It weighed a ton. The relevance of this information will be revealed later.

I could have saved myself this ride had I bothered to check any of the departing flight monitors. They would have told me what I found out upon my jubilantly prompt arrival at the gate. My connecting flight was delayed. Well, that’s not so bad! We can surely occupy ourselves for a while in the airport! No problem! Since there was no departure time listed, I parked the kids in a waiting area and lined up to ask a few questions.

Traveling companions circa 1990

My organized-traveling-mom-with-four-children veneer cracked a bit when I heard that the plane was delayed for 6 hours. This was not good. Must make the best of it! Not to worry! I’m a 24 hour a day parent! A woman of the 90’s! I can do this! No problem!

I returned to my gang, suggesting that we tour the airport and see all the fun sights, like airplanes taking off and landing over and over, and expensively fragile gift shops. Everyone was tired of this after an hour, so I broke out the snacks. Not good enough – the restaurants and vending machine items looked vastly superior to the eyes of my children, but not to my traveling budget.

My 2-year-old son began to melt down. My daughters needed to use the restroom, but I had an irrational and paranoid fear regarding restroom perverts, so we all had to shuffle in together (including the burdensome diaper bag). Exiting the facility, my toddler spotted a candy machine and hurtled headlong towards it, shrieking and maniacally pulling knobs. The baby in the backpack was pulling my hair while bouncing. The big girls were totally loaded down by the diaper bag (it took both of them to lug it around). We were a public spectacle! Oh, the shame! There were still 5 loathsome hours to wait in that sensory-overloaded airport. It was too noisy, to bright, too loud, too hot and too stinky for any sane person to endure for that long! Argh!

There was a gentle tap on my shoulder and I turned to look way up into the face of a burly security officer. Was I to be arrested for disturbing the peace, or possibly vandalizing the candy machine? I cringed.

“Excuse me, ma’am”, he said. “Did you know there’s a women’s lounge over there?”, and indicated a door near the restroom that had a small plaque reading “lounge” on it. I, in my ignorance, had supposed such doors thus marked to be solely for the secret use of airport personnel, and certainly NOT for traveling mothers. But no, apparently I was allowed to enter! The large and kind officer hoisted the diaper-bag-from-hell and led the way, tipping his hat politely at the door as I staggered through it.

An amazing oasis in that desert of chaos greeted me. It was a small, cool sitting room with a couch, table, several chairs and a sink (with paper towels! Oh joy!). As I removed the baby pack, using the handy counter, and collapsed into a chair, a woman of greenish-white complexion emerged blearily from beneath a blanket on the couch, offering weakly to make room for us. “No, no!” I gushed. “We’re fine! There are plenty of chairs. Just settle back down!” She gratefully did. We exchanged stories while I nursed the baby and passed out snacks. She had been compelled to actually miss her connection due to motion sickness, and was actually too ill to continue. Well, that was certainly not fun and possibly worse than my situation. At least we weren’t throwing up. I like to use the reverse psychology of “it could always be worse” to comfort myself under adverse conditions… “Have a cracker?” I offered. She took it and actually seemed improved. Maybe the diaper bag was worth it after all.

The door opened, admitting a cacophony of airport noise, along with a desperate-looking young woman loaded with a rotund infant and a crying 3-ish girl, clutching her stomach. She thrust the infant into my arms, saying “Would you mind holding him? She’s going to throw up!”, and ran out. The baby and I stared at each other. I offered a cracker, which he solemnly accepted, and I hoped was acceptable to his mother. Actually, she looked harried enough to not even notice or care. He was content to merely hold it and watch my kids as they played.

The door opened again, and all eyes turned towards it, expecting the return of the baby’s mother. But no, it was an Asian woman accompanied by a miniature, elderly woman using a walker. They looked around hesitantly, smiling shyly and bowing. Hmmmm……Ms. Airsick, revived by the cracker, shifted around to make room. The elderly woman inched through the children, avoiding fingers and toys, and eased down with an audible sigh. “Many babies!” said the first woman. “Well, they’re not all mine”, I said. She looked puzzled. “I don’t know this one” indicating the solemn fellow on my lap. “Ah”, she replied. “His mother left him with me because her daughter was throwing up, but I never saw any of them before in my life” I babbled. “Ah!” she repeated, clearly baffled. The tiny raisin of a mother (I guess) barked a question in what I supposed was rapid-fire Chinese. “Ah!” said the woman. They both beamed at me and I beamed back. I asked them if they had a long wait, but apparently our conversation about babies had exhausted their English vocabulary. They did say “Hong Kong, many hours, much trouble”. I could read the rest in their eyes. Without a working grasp of the language and a special-needs traveler on top of that, they were trying to travel home and it was not going smoothly. After a while, an Asian-American airline representative came to fetch them. They bowed away, repeating “Thank you very much! Bye-bye!” I wished I could have understood more of that story.

Meanwhile, Little Vomiter and her mother returned. We discussed various stomach complaint home-remedies. Ginger Ale? May try that next time, but of course there’s none available in the airport – perhaps on the plane? Our babies had birthdays only 2 days apart and before you knew it we were exchanging labor stories. Ms. Airsick looked better. Perhaps tales of other people’s discomfort helped take her mind off her own stomach.

The door opened again, admitting a woman with twin four-year olds who looked miserable. We squeezed together to make room. She was having a nightmare trip in which her flight had been totally cancelled and there was a luggage mix-up causing her bags to be sent to Atlanta (they thought). My paltry delay was beginning to seem like a pleasant gift.

This pattern continued throughout my sojourn in the women’s lounge. Women of all ages and backgrounds took solace there. We helped, comforted and commiserated with each other, waving a cheerful farewell as each departed, knowing only the basic fact of TRAVEL INTERRUPTED. In the minutes of our contact, we each forged a bond. It felt as if we were all connected, and fulfilling some cosmic destiny by being thrown together in that haven to support each other. I never asked anyone’s name or more than their travel destination, but we learned so much about each other anyway. The bond of femaleness and motherhood bound us together, allowing us to trust and help each other. I sent my daughters to the restroom with a total stranger, no longer fearful of lurking criminals. We shared an unpleasant, but not unbearable, travel experience and emerged from it enriched. We were like ships that pass in the night, recognizing our bond in a vast ocean. We were all suspended and isolated in a sea of people sailing towards their destinations.

I passed through the Salt Lake City airport many times in the subsequent years, but never faced another delay and never again sought out the women’s lounge. I picture it still exactly the same, with an ongoing stream of stressed women finding peace, comfort and support. I’ve felt this support before, from family and friends in troubled times, but never before I had I been stranded in such a way. The women’s lounge was a haven for us all. The interesting part of it was how quickly we bonded and trusted each other. We were completely united in our efforts to protect our families from the rigors of the airport, and recognized that it was time to band together – no whining allowed. We took care of each other, but it wouldn’t have been possible outside of that room. That space provide a place for us to focus on the needs of ourselves and our children without the mad, jumbled stimulus of the terminal. Bolstered by the peaceful interlude, we were all able to withstand our delays, gathering strength from each other as we prepared to travel onward.

Barbara Johnson was a homesteading, homebirthing, homeschooling, traveling mother of 4 when this trip happened in 1990. Her children are now grown and married, and she enjoys spending time with her 3 grandchildren. She is the director of Shannondale Craft Camp in southern Missouri.

Guest Post: Motherful at Midlife

This guest post is part of my blog break festival. The festival continues through December, so please check it out and consider submitting a post! Also, don’t forget to enter my birth jewelry giveaway.

I was happy to preview Peg’s book earlier this year and enjoyed receiving a post from her reflecting on being Motherful at midlife…

Motherful at Midlife

by Peg Conway

“Life is so unnerving
for a servant who’s not serving.”

These opening lines from “Be Our Guest” in the musical Beauty and the Beast popped to mind during our daughter’s recent fall break from her freshman year in college. The departure of our oldest son two years before had certainly impacted the household, but with both of them away and the youngest now a licensed driver, the house feels like the empty castle that Belle happened upon in the story.  A sense of expectation surfaces, waiting for  . . . what?   Like a phantom limb, my routine was accustomed to more coming and going, more conversation, just more people around.

The Sunday when Kieran was home, we planned a brunch for after church.  As Joe and I worked in the kitchen together to put the meal on the table, a sense of having donned a familiar garment came over me.   “This feels like ‘us’ in a way I haven’t known in a while” I said.  Although our family table has long anchored our life, especially through the busy teen years, something didn’t fit quite the same way. Providing a nourishing meal was not creating the same satisfaction as before.  In early September, my life felt unnerved by fewer nurturing tasks to perform. Just six weeks later our adaptation became clearer, with Kieran home on a weekend when I was booked with several activities related to ongoing commitments I have made.  I had less time and energy for the style of nurturing that had been an essential part of my life for a long time, and I didn’t mind.

Yet at the core I remain a mother. The emotional and spiritual transformation wrought by the physical processes of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding feel permanent.  What does this mean?  Does one cease to be motherful when the children are grown?  Or rather, how is one motherful at midlife and beyond?  Physician and menopause specialist Christiane Northrup advises that the hormonal changes as childbearing wanes cause a shift in women.  We truly are less nurturing than when we were caring for young children, but what emerges in its place can be creative, powerful, and immensely fulfilling.  Rechanneling motherfulness, women’s midlife initiatives may arise from old passions re-discovered or the pursuit of new paths.  I know several women who have entered politics, local and state-wide, now that their children are grown.  Another started a school for young children to implement her unique vision for learning.  Someone at my church took up pottery making and donates the proceeds from sales to charity.  I can think of two other women who have started consulting businesses.

My own standard for future endeavors is the deep satisfaction I derived from homeschooling, especially being part of a weekly co-op where I team-taught writing and history with other mothers.  I have struggled to articulate just what made it so rewarding, but I think it has a lot to do with community, forging relationships with a diverse group while engaging in a project of personal importance.  Of course my enjoyment also related to spending generous time with my children, but I have had to accept the finitude of that experience.  Grieving and letting go are significant motherful activities at mid-life.

Professionally, I’m still finding my way, but writing is figuring prominently.  I started a blog two years ago, and last month realized a long-held dream by publishing a book, Embodying the Sacred: A Spiritual Preparation for Birth. Involvement in several local non-profits is helping me discern further.  I’m also discovering that simply being present to young people is a motherful mid-life outlet.  Recently I began spending delightful time with my 2-1/2-year-old niece.  We read books, take walks, play with plastic food and dishes, dolls, and blocks, talking all the while about what’s happening then and there.  I also savor moments with my young adult children as they become companions present to me.  The memory that endures from my daughter’s visit is not the food that I cooked on Sunday morning, but the hike we took together with our dog on Monday afternoon…

Peg Conway is a writer and community leader in Cincinnati, OH.  She blogs about life and faith at pegconway.com.  As a childbirth educator and doula, she was certified with Birthing from Within, Doulas of North America, and BirthWorks.  She earned degrees from Xavier University and Northwestern University.  Peg is in the process of becoming certified as a celebrant through Global Ministries University.

Guest Post: Don’t Touch Me… Don’t Even Look At Me

This guest post is the first in my blog break festival. The festival continues through December, so please check it out and consider submitting a post! Also, don’t forget to enter my birth jewelry giveaway. This post falls into the Motherful category…

Don’t Touch Me… Don’t Even Look At Me.

by Veronica of Mormon Monkey Mama


Being a monkey mama isn’t all it’s cracked up to be sometimes. My kids still cry. I still have to discipline and direct my 3-year-old. Yesterday was especially difficult. Squirrel Monkey, 3 years (SM) is getting sick and Owl Monkey, 5.5 months (OM) is still sick. When SM is feeling sick, she is very testy. So, yesterday, she kept doing things she knew she shouldn’t to get my attention, acting out her physical feelings. She didn’t want to eat anything I gave her, she was whiny, and she mostly wanted to watch TV all day. So by the time my husband, Gorillaman, got home, I. Was. DONE. But I can’t be done. I have a nursling. And though that is often very zen… it wasn’t yesterday.

We put the girls to bed at 8:00. That never happens here. SM is usually up until 9:00 or 9:30. She went to bed easily. But OM, who usually goes to sleep pretty easily, was fussy because she couldn’t breathe.

So the mother abuse began…

FACTS:

*Baby toes are like a velociraptor‘s. I have bruises on the insides of my legs from OM taking her big toes and digging them into anything she comes in contact with. Most of the time, especially when we are nursing lying down, that is my leg, groin, or stomach, as she writhes around being frustrated about her inability to breathe easily.

*It’s especially uncomfortable, verging on vomit-inducingly painful, when the baby goes from nursing peacefully to clamp-and-twist in 0.2 seconds. It’s even worse when you have a recurrent plugged duct because of said baby’s latch. I know from experience… a lot of it.

*Babies have unbelievably strong fingers… the better to pinch you with. I have bruises on the insides of my arms and the tops of my breasts from aggravated little fingers that find purchase and CLAMP DOWN! Hand wrangling should be a class for pregnant moms.

*Toddlers/preschoolers have sharper elbows than the coffee table corners we protected them from a couple of years before.

My normally sweet and gentle Owl Monkey has become a baby badger. Ow. Add that to the bone crushing antics of a testing toddler, well, is it any surprise why I avoid any sense of intimacy on a day like yesterday? By the end of the day, when I have been poked, prodded, pinched, and pummeled by tiny hands, feet, and toothless gums, I don’t want to be touched. By anyone. I don’t even want to hold hands. My lucky poor husband, who has been away from his doting family all day, wants to come home and have some sort of physical closeness, even if it’s just to sit together on the couch and watch our show. It’s not fair that our jobs give us seriously different needs. But such is life so we both make sacrifices. So sometimes I snuggle, though it makes me feel like crawling out of my skin. And sometimes he takes a cold shower. 😉 Such is this life of parental bliss. And bliss it is. For just as you think you can’t handle any more, your 3-year-old crawls into your arms again and needs you to snuggle her to sleep. Your 5.5 month old flashes that gummy, milky grin. And suddenly your heart is full again, the bruises don’t matter, and you hug your husband that much closer knowing that only the two of you truly understand…

It’s all worth it.

Veronica is a semi-crunchy stay-at-home mom to two girls and a sweet English Bulldog boy. She is passionate about breastfeeding, gentle parenting, co-sleeping, and babywearing. She spends her days chasing her 3.5 year old with her 23 lb 9 month old on her back! She hopes to encourage and support other LDS (Mormon) moms as they embrace the mommying counterculture and parent instinctively.

Originally published on Friday, July 13, 2012 at Mormon Monkey Mama