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Twelvemonthababy!

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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:

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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!)

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Happy Halloween!

pumpkingoddessesHaving a one day old baby last year on Halloween eclipsed my years-long blog tradition of making a Halloween-themed blog post. I was taking a walk down memory lane reading older Halloween blog posts today and gathered them together into a new mini-post. A constant in the pictures for each is my Halloween troll pin. It was a part of my massive troll collection as a kid and I wear it every year! (I have two of them, so that’s why the hair color is sometimes different from year to year!)

In 2010, I was Scully: Happy Halloween! | Talk Birth

In 2011, their skeleton sweatshirts were new (Tanner now wears Alaina’s and Alaina wears Lann’s original from 2006): Happy Halloween! | Talk Birth

In 2012, I was Luke Skywalker wearing Yoda on my back: Happy Halloween! | Talk Birth

2013 was significantly more adventurous and involved wearing a gypsypriestess costume to Sirloin Stockade while wrangling five kids through the buffet by myself. It also involved some fabulous kid-quotes:

Let’s go to another park and continue this torturefest.” (as we were leaving the wet, cold, stormy park after homeschool playgroup)

And… “I guess this is the ‘trick’ part of the day.” (as we staggered to our various destinations)

Source: Happy Halloween! | Talk Birth

This year I dressed up as a sort of elf-priestess for my parents’ Halloween party:

October 2015 072And, as already shared in other posts this week, the boys went as Freddy and Bonnie from the computer game Five Nights at Freddy’s.

October 2015 037Tanner was an epic tiny Draco Malfoy:

October 2015 070Alaina went as a “nursing mama witch” to my parents’ party and as Bellatrix Lestrange to the playgroup Halloween party and to Trunk or Treat:

October 2015 038IMG_8839We love going to Trunk or Treat at the University, because the students always recognize and appreciate our kids’ costumes and hardly anyone there has to ask who they are–they recognize them without needing explanations! It makes the kids happy and this year it made me super thrilled because I was so tickled by my tiny Malfoy that I loved having him appreciated by all the college students!

IMG_8861The boys carved really good pumpkins this year and Alaina had the mummy pumpkin:

IMG_8838Childbirth educators will enjoy knowing that Halloween clearance can be used for CBE teaching aids in this post from Science and Sensibility: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators: Trick or Treat – Halloween Spoils Make Great Teaching Aids
Stacie BABE3 Two other tangentially related Halloween posts that I usually share around this time of year are:

What Really Scares Me: Social Attitudes Towards Women | Talk Birth

Fears About Birth and Losing Control | Talk Birth

 

Tuesday Tidbits: “Bad” Homeschooler’s Lament…

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Draco, Freddy and Bonnie from Five Nights at Freddy’s, plus “Nursing Mama Witch.”

Sort of a mish-mash round-up of posts for this week! Homeschooling has been on my mind a lot since this summer, when several of my friends decided to send their kids to school. Recently, we toyed with idea of sending Alaina to preschool, but after an impassioned discussion during our nightly walk on the veranda, we decided against it. As I’ve learned over and over again, usually our family is pretty happy until I get a bee in my bonnet to start monkeying with our “school” routine and issuing sweeping decrees about what must be done to whip us into shape into More Awesome Homeschooling People. Then…we’re all miserable, including me, even though we’re doing more of the “right” things. What happened this time is that I found this cool-sounding, do-it-yourself, homeschool journal workbook, and decided it would be perfect for my kids (I still think it could be!) to liven up our very stale homeschool routine, which has been pared away to virtually nothing after a busy summer and now a busy fall (it is really easy to keep coming up with endless excuses about why we can’t do school today…or today…or today). Anyway, short story is: tears for all.

A few nights ago, I was making rice crispie treats for the kids and Mark was doggedly laboring over phenomenal homemade costumes for the boys. I was holding the baby, a home-raised-by-us chicken was in the roaster for dinner, Alaina was painting Christmas decoration presents at the table, and the boys were advising Mark on costume fabrication. I noticed that I had a “tape” playing in my head about what a “bad mom” I was and, yes, what “bad parents” we both are. I was feeling bad because I keep not having time (that is also grabbing-baby-hands-free) to sew Alaina a neat felt goddess that she’s been wanting me to sew for her for at least three weeks. This was rolling around as well as homeschooling woes, some snappy moments, and listening/empathetic failures, and a few other miscellaneous woes over the last week. I suddenly thought: hold on. Where are these “bad parents,” of whom I think? I see a mom making rice crispie treats and a dad making costumes. Why am I doing this to myself?!

Anyway, I suspect I am possibly doing the same thing with New Homeschool Plan of Awesomeness. Last week, we took the kids to Magic House in St. Louis (while I was having a mini-mother blessing for a friend who lives there. The Magic House tickets were prizes they earned from the summer reading program at the library). We spent ages on Halloween party prep and enjoyed a fabulous Halloween party extravaganza at my parents’ house. We had some best friends visit from out-of-town and stay overnight, during which we had a cookout on the veranda and brainstormed collaborative business adventures. The boys spent tons of time on the trampoline and also playing computer games. They also read every single day and drew every single day as well as helped me with cooking projects (we’re digging roasted vegetables lately and also Chocolate Covered Katie’s almond butter brownies, except we use peanut butter in them. And, speaking of “digging,” the boys also helped Mark dig up a bunch of potatoes that we grew in our garden!). We finished watching the second Hobbit movie and moved on to enjoying the Worst Cooks in America. Perhaps we’re doing all right after all…

So, all that said, I read this article about what schools are like in Finland:

Once Morning Circle—a communal time of songs and chants—wrapped up, the children disbanded and flocked to the station of their choice: There was one involving fort-making with bed sheets, one for arts and crafts, and one where kids could run a pretend ice-cream shop. “I’ll take two scoops of pear and two scoops of strawberry—in a waffle cone,” I told the two kindergarten girls who had positioned themselves at the ice-cream table; I had a (fake) 10€ bill to spend, courtesy of one of the teachers. As one of the girls served me—using blue tack to stick laminated cutouts of scoops together—I handed the money to her classmate.

Source: The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland

I thought about how people devalue caregivers of all kinds:

What’s really going on here is we are discriminating against people who have to care for others, which is a role that society needs people to play. Right now we’re focusing on the problem that, if you’re at the top and take time out to take care of others, you’re knocked off your leadership track. But much more important is that, if you are a woman in the middle class or a low-income woman and you take even a day or two off to care for others, you could lose your job. You get docked pay. You don’t have access to affordable day care.

Source: Nurses, fathers, teachers, mothers. Why do we devalue someone the minute they care for others? – The Washington Post

I laughed about how we’ve been having babies for “too long”:

The maternity clothes you wore during your first pregnancy resemble the ones your mother wore much more closely than they resemble the ones you wore during your most recent pregnancy.

Source: 17 Signs You’ve Been Having Babies For Too Long – So-So Mom

(I didn’t actually identify with that many of these signs, but they were funny! I do identify with having spread out my parenting years quite a bit longer than many people I know!)

I thought about being an extroverted-introvert and how this is a challenging personality type to pair with the relentless “on-ness” of parenting, the constantness of a homeschooling family + home-based business.

4. You find it easy to connect with others and exhibit both introvert and extrovert qualities. You love meeting and interacting with other people and at times can be the life of the party but eventually, you have to go home and recharge.

Source: 13 Signs You’re A Classic INFJ | Thought Catalog

And, I mused about being a mother of sons and how that relates to “funny,” memes of the “hands off my daughter” variety:

The idea of threatening young women to keep their hands off young men is ludicrous, yet when roles are reversed it’s completely accepted and even encouraged. Why? In order to raise a generation of kind and respectful men we have to stop telling our boys they’re inherently bad (but it’s not their fault because hormones.) In order to create a culture of strong and competent women who can save themselves, we must first stop teaching girls that they need to be saved.

Source: Please Don’t Threaten My Son For Dating Your Daughter | Kasey Ferris

And when one family’s offhand joke becomes a viral reinforcement of the old message that a girls’ sexuality is somehow a negotiation between her father and her boyfriend, it’s just not so funny any more.

Source: Stop cheering for the old “Hands off my daughter!” shtick – Salon.com

My new school session began this Monday and runs until almost Christmas. My uncle is visiting from California starting tomorrow, we’ve got our playgroup Halloween party, then Tanner’s first birthday followed by Halloween, my aunt comes to visit from California, and we’re hosting Minecraft Club and then a Pink Tent event (for mothers and daughters) next week. I’d better stop blogging, we’ve got a lot more bad-parenting to pack in before the end of the year!

Look at this “bad mom” (gasp!) having FUN with her kid…

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Wednesday Tidbits: Books, Babies, and Breastfeeding Mama Ornaments

In February of 2014, I sat on the stones in the woods, came face to face with a raccoon in the tree and suddenly knew that I was pregnant again. In October of 2014, I sat on the stones in the woods awaiting the imminent arrival of my new baby boy. This week, I sat on the stones in the woods with a baby boy who is now approaching his first birthday. The wheel spins quickly.

12074630_1672247639654118_5798984318455904624_nAfter feeling a little fried and exhausted from parenting this teething whirlwind of a toddling boy, I enjoyed reading this article about motherhood as a spiritual practice:

Motherhood is a deeply spiritual act. We birth another human soul at great personal cost, and are tasked with providing for that baby and raising them to adulthood. The daily grind of being a mother, of constantly putting somebody’s needs before your own is the most character-building exercise I have ever had to do. No spare time is squandered, no act of love too great. On those days where the house is a mess, everybody is crying and I’ve made five cups of tea all gone cold, taking the time to remember the sacredness of what I am doing, the beauty and the impact of my every decision on these little one’s lives. I am the Mother. I am not the clean, clinical mother with the apron tied around her waist but I am infinitely more valuable than that.

Source: Motherhood and Spirituality — Mama Bird

(Note: I also know awesome mothers who rock aprons!)

It made my heart so happy to read these words from Rachael at Moon Times about my new Earthprayer poetry book: “a beautiful book of poetry that calls to earth women, earth mamas, wood pixies…”

The book is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK as well as from our Etsy shop. I’m also working on developing a free companion e-course!12115561_1673721906173358_8351932066983960577_nSpeaking of books, I contributed to the Indiegogo campaign for Pam England’s newest book. I love Pam’s work and it has left an indelible imprint on my own births, life, and work.

Support Birthing From Within’s new book and our vision for changing the conversation about birth.

Source: New Birth Book: Ancient Map for Modern Birth | Indiegogo

Is it too soon to mention Christmas? We’re working on some Christmas ornaments! I’m excited to see holiday lights behind these luminous mamas.

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I was interviewed by KNOWHEN this week, talking about TTC, birth empowerment, birth education, and pregnancy loss: Molly Talks About Childbirth & Her Own TTC Story – KNOWHEN

And, speaking of pregnancy loss, in October we honor Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Please feel free to use this photo as your own profile picture on Facebook if you need to do so:
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Elevenmonthababy!

IMG_7742Somehow, our little October baby boy is now eleven months old! Here is what he has been up to over the last month:

  • Adds hot, chicken, dance, and pepper to his vocabulary (but also slips backwards in terms of speech and starts favoring baby-Chewbacca-style of communication instead. Not quite as “adorable” as Chewy though, even…)
  • He likes to nurse with me flat on floor and his head facing away from me, so my nipple is turned at a 90 degree angle, pointing the opposite way of the side he is actually on). Despite this, I still identify with this meme:

IMG_7811Only for me, it is more like, “nap time!” or, “he bonked his head AGAIN!”

And, experienced nursing mothers will recognize a certain subtle detail in one of our newest breastfeeding mama sculptures:

IMG_7847Yes, she is tenderly cradling and holding hands with her baby, but she’s also preventing him from twiddling the opposite side at the very same time…

Back to this elevenmonthababy:

  • He does dance steps and moves! Rather than the bobbing in place baby-style dance, he actually stomps his feet and does a little “soft shoe” dance step. Sometimes accompanied by frenetic arm flapping, head bopping, and a big smile of enthusiasm.
  • He specifically asks for harmonica playing and for the radio to be turned on. Also, drums with gusto.

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    He got this drum and set it up and played it this way himself, even though we never play our djembe like that, nor has he seen one played like this.

  • Problem solves in what seems like a genius manner. i.e. This week, Zander was setting up a big cushion and Tanner was knocking it over and Zander didn’t want him to do that. So, Zander stood behind the cushion blocking it with his legs so it wouldn’t tip. “Ha! You can’t knock it down now!” he said, and Tanner instantly reached out and tipped the cushion towards himself instead of pushing it down away from himself.
  • He rips apart my Christmas cactus relentlessly. He likes how the little segments pop apart and is dogged about going after them, up to and including moving chairs, going around to the back side of the porch rail and leaning over to get to it, and reaching through cracks in the baby gate to de-segment it. He also loves to pop apart big baby legos (quatros). There is a certain thrill to the pop.
  • Pushes his little friend around on a bike.
  • Loves to go out to the veranda with us.
  • Switches to taking big steps instead of careful half steps and falls down more often. Also attempts to put on burst of speed when escaping.
  • Is verbal enough to do what is asked of him, such as “go get your spoon and bring it back to me.”
  • Speaking of spoons and verandahing, is obsessed with poking them down the cracks in the porch, never to be seen again unless a brother is willing to crawl under and retrieve them.
  • After playgroup at the river last week, I had to share on Facebook that another milestone that doesn’t have a sticker for the baby calendar is Baby’s First Leech. Ugh!
  • While at GGG, Tanner earned the nickname “Lightfingers,” because he is super skilled at quietly and delicately making off with other people’s possessions without them noticing.
  • And, speaking of fingers, he took Mark’s homemade-from-a-wine-bottle guitar slide without anyone noticing, broke it on the floor and cut open his finger. I don’t think I’ve ever had an 11 month old who bled from cutting himself before! 😦

I can’t believe that this time last year I was walking around pregnant, thinking I might have twins! I like to take re-creation photos from significant points from pregnancy, so while last year at GGG I was 35 weeks pregnant and posed for a picture at Venus Sanctuary, this year, we looked like this instead:

September 2015 077 September 2015 074Here are some more pictures from the last month, many are from GGG, where he did much “helping” with my booth:

The first year after a baby’s birth is filled with so many precious moments and so many poignant moments. It is like traveling out of a labyrinth, rounding familiar the curves and passages, and taking the same kind of journey with people and through places as I took while I was pregnant, but this time…coming out again, with the baby in my arms.

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Thursday Tidbits: Happy Birth-Day!

September 2015 008This week, our oldest son turned 12! I can hardly believe that it has been twelve years since Mark and I were snuggled up in bed marveling over our new baby boy! Lann is an amazing big brother, a helpful, responsible son, and a creative, imaginative, sensitive kid. He loves Minecraft, computer games in general, and making gaming videos for YouTube.

We had his birthday party earlier this month, so his actual birthday was pretty low-key (minus me scrambling to catch up with backlogged work from being away and poor Tanner being a crying, stumbling around, stressed out little mess from the same). We put up his nice new birthday trampoline and went out to dinner and had cake with my parents.September 2015 137Twelve years ago this is what I was doing…

…I felt very internally focused and yet still aware of the people around me, though I wasn’t talking to them much and spent a lot of time with my eyes closed. They kept commenting to me and to each other about how calm and focused I was being and how “in control” I appeared. I don’t think I was really showing how intense and back-to-back these contractions were for me. I also started to have lots of internal pressure feelings during contractions when I was on my hands and knees.

My First Birth | Talk Birth

On Sunday night, Alaina, Tanner, and I got back home from Kansas after five days away. Gaea Goddess Gathering was an experience, as always. Vending was a rewarding experience with lots of lovely connections woven, but many other elements felt like something we survived! It is quite physically taxing to be there–not enough food, water, or sleep, too much climbing up seventy steps up a steep hillside while breastfeeding + babywearing! And, weather extremes this year—90+ degrees, then rain and wind, then cool. I couldn’t have done it without my mom, who helped me way more than I should have expected her to. It was also fun to spend so much time with my sister-in-law and my little nephew (she also helped me a lot!)

September 2015 077The other day I told my husband that it is interesting to me how I was “maxed out” when I only had one little baby. And, now I have four and I’m still maxed out (but that first little baby is now a twelve-year-old who helps take care of the other babies, so in some sense it is easier to have more kids than less kids!). I also told my mom what the midwife for my second baby told me: one kid takes all of your time, so a second one can’t possibly take any more.

There are a lot of things that are easier about having an older kid and some things that are harder:

And, I no longer smell like piss. So, there’s that.

Sure things have gotten easier in ways. I can leave the house now without small humans attached to me. I sleep for stretches longer than three hours. And I haven’t been vomited on in at least a few months. But in some ways, it’s so very much harder. (Plus they aren’t as cute and easy to forgive anymore.)

Source: It’s a Lie; Mothering Doesn’t Get Any Easier Scary Mommy

What this article doesn’t address is the complexities of having both big kids and little kids at the same time. That is what feels hardest right now and I think it may get harder before it gets easier. Time always feels shorter than I dream of it feeling.

When I was nursing infant Lann, a moment with my then-teenage brother still stands out to me: he walked in while I was nursing Lann to sleep at my parents’ house and said, “oh, he’s having nursies.” The normality of “nursies” to a teenage boy is important (and now that teenage boy is in his twenties and has a breastfed baby boy of his own). I’m surprised to realize that Lann will remember more about me nursing Tanner than Tanner ever will.

What did they learn from those experiences? Well, hopefully, they learned that human bodies are just that, bodies. We respect them and we revere them and we don’t shame them. Because they don’t deserve any of that.

This is where the change starts. With my kids and your kids and the kids who see us feeding our babies without embarrassment. Things become normalized one act a time.

I’ve given my kids the opportunity to see something I hope will serve them in their lives. My son’s partners will never have to be concerned that they won’t be supported. My daughters will know the normalcy that is child birthing and feeding and rearing.

Source: Breastfeeding and Teenage Boys | The Leaky B@@b

Thinking about the swift passage of time from that tender, new mother and soft, fresh baby of twelve years ago to the boy whose head is now past my shoulder and who records tutorial videos, reads about the solar system, totes his little brother on his hip, and fixes breakfast for everyone, I feel oddly comforted by the information that some cells from each of my kids, might be with me forever:

The new study suggests that women almost always acquire fetal cells each time they are pregnant. They have been detected as early as seven weeks into a pregnancy. In later years, the cells may disappear, but sometimes, the cells settle in for a lifetime. In a 2012 study, Dr. Nelson and her colleagues examined the brains of 59 deceased older women and found Y chromosomes in 63 percent of them. (Many studies on fetal microchimerism focus on the cells left behind by sons, because they are easier to distinguish from the cells of their mother.) Experts now believe that microchimerism is far from rare. “Most of us think that it’s very common, if not universal,” Dr. Nelson said. But it remains quite mysterious.

Fetal cells are frequently found in breast tissue, even in milk, for instance. The researchers argue that children might thrive more if their fetal cells drove up milk production.

Mothers also nurture their babies with body heat. The thyroid gland, located in the neck, acts like a thermostat, and fetal cells in the thyroid gland in theory could cause mothers to generate more heat than they would otherwise.

Source: A Pregnancy Souvenir: Cells That Are Not Your Own – The New York Times

 

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Guest Post: Postnatal Mental Health

11998990_1661958487349700_7935437715757927025_nI received notice of a new article published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology looking at the types of distress experienced by postpartum women and the type of support available. It indicates that current classification of “postpartum depression” and other postpartum mood disorders are inadequate to convey the range of women’s experiences, nor do they properly account for the role of support in their lives.

Before I share the article, I wanted to note something I’ve done recently to support postpartum health. I donated to the fundraising effort to buy a permanent location for WomanSpace, the local community center devoted to supporting women. It is spearheaded by Summer Birth Services, an organization offering birth, postpartum, and breastfeeding support to Rolla area mothers. We can’t undervalue the importance of organizations like this! WomanSpace offers meeting space for groups, classes, and workshops for a wide range of purposes for all ages, stages, and phases of a woman’s life.

For women in any community, you might want to check out a free virtual retreat for women (unaffiliated with any of the above): Nurturing You.

Postnatal mental health: Are women getting the support they need?

“I really did not feel like I fitted the box.” New research indicates the need for postnatal support that encompasses all mental health issues, not only postnatal depression.

The study, published in Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, examines the postnatal symptoms of distress experienced by women, and the support options they were offered. Rose Coates et al. argue that “Current classification and assessment of postnatal mental health problems may not adequately address the range or combination of emotional distress experienced by mothers.” To understand women’s own experiences, the team interviewed 17 women, all of whom had a child under one and had experienced a postnatal mental health problem.

Through the interviews, the women reported a number of different postnatal mental health symptoms, with tearfulness and anxiousness the most frequently mentioned. In addition a number of women each reported feeling: stressed, isolated, lonely, angry, low, panicky, frustrated, worried, scared and overthinking. Despite these symptoms of postnatal distress, the women found that they didn’t identify with postnatal depression, and many of them were left “bereft of information, advice and support” about other types of distress. The paper notes that “there was a perception that health professionals were focussed on postnatal depression and once it had been ruled out there was no further investigation.”

At the time of their distress some of the women had been assessed for postnatal depression by health care professionals through answering a questionnaire. This paper questions whether this alone is really sufficient to identify distress, and suggests that alternative methods of assessment would be conducive to identifying and supporting women with a number of different postnatal mental health issues. The authors conclude that “Identification and recognition of symptoms and disorders beyond postnatal depression needs to be improved, through evaluating different approaches to assessment and their acceptability to women.”

Post provided by Taylor and Francis Group.

Tuesday Tidbits: Parental Leave

centeredmamaI’m teaching Introduction to Human Services right now. In this class, I emphasize systems theory and the complex, dynamic interplay between people and the environment. I cannot stop being a birth activist, nor can I stop being a social worker, so of course, one of the examples I use in class is adequate parental leave. Yes, parental leave. We talk about maternity leave more often in the U.S., but I consider it practically criminal that so many workplaces expect fathers to return to work within a few days after a baby’s birth. This isn’t fair to babies, mothers, fathers, or to workplaces or communities. As I explain to my students, we place people into abnormal situations and expect them to cope normally. When they don’t cope “normally,” we decide they have a disorder and need some medication or possibly parenting classes (or even removal of children). I also make sure to share this quote: It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society (Krishnamurti).

For Natasha Long, who was back three weeks after her third child, Jayden, was born in 2012, the worst part was missing out on bonding time with her son.

Long, who was 29 at the time, was determined to make sure Jayden got breast milk. But the factory where she worked, ACCO Office Supplies in Booneville, Mississippi, didn’t have a lactation room. So when she was on breaks, she had to run out to her truck. She sat in the cab, worried that someone might see her, and pumped, while tears rolled down her face and over the plastic suction cups attached to her breasts.

Long cried because she wanted to be holding her baby rather than sitting in the parking lot of a factory in her old Yukon Denali. But exhaustion clearly also played a role in her emotional state. Her job was simple—to place stickers with the company logo on the bottom right-hand corner of plastic binders and then box up the binders. But the shifts were long—from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.—and she put in four or five a week. Because the factory was an hour’s drive from her home in Okalona, Mississippi, Long had only 10 hours left in the day to do everything else, including tend to her three children, spend time with Jayden’s father, and sleep. By the time she got back in the evening, her children, who were being looked after by her father during the day, were on their way to bed. To pump breast milk before leaving for work, she had to get up at 4 a.m.

After just a few days of this crazed schedule, Long began to develop strange symptoms, including a headache that never seemed to go away and a choking sensation that left her feeling breathless. She started biting her fingernails to the quick—something she’d never done before—and crying a lot. “I felt like I was alone,” says Long. “I wanted to fall off the face of the earth.” Long had never been depressed. But when she went to the doctor, he surmised that her physical symptoms were rooted in her mental state, which was itself rooted in her schedule. When her doctor said he thought she was depressed, Long worried that if child welfare authorities found out, they might take her children away. She had seen other people’s children put in foster care. But when her doctor prescribed her antidepressants, she took them.

Source: The Real War on Families: Why the U.S. Needs Paid Leave Now – In These Times

The issue here is not women’s inability to cope, it is that society’s expectations are disordered.

Here is another good article about the perils of no paid leave in the U.S.:

“I was in the car with my candidate with my brand new baby, a first-time mom, and I was driving to a fundraising meeting to shake somebody down for some cash,” Spradlin said. “I mean, I’m still bleeding. So I’m like, well, what pants do I fit into that are black, just in case I bleed through them. And these are not reasonable ways to behave. I mean, postpartum hemorrhage is a true and real cause of death of women.”

Spradlin is now a lactation consultant, a health-care professional who helps women having trouble breastfeeding. Too often, she said, “trouble breastfeeding” is really just a symptom of a deeper problem—a system that denies too many women the chance to heal and bond with their babies because they can’t afford to take more unpaid time off of work…

Source: Bleeding Wounds and Breastfeeding Hell: The Costs of No Paid Maternity Leave in America

I’ve mentioned several times before that in my ten years in breastfeeding support, I’ve more often marveled that a woman continues to breastfeed, than I’ve wondered why she doesn’t.

I feel like almost every woman I meet or every one I speak to online is seeking community. We’re looking for the “tribe,” we’re looking for the village. We don’t want to do this alone.

The truth is, creating a village sometimes just isn’t possible and there have been many times as a mom a “break” isn’t realistic. Balance, thriving, creating time for you — sometimes, those helpful tidbits tossed out to drowning moms just make me feel like yet another thing I’m failing at…

Source: To the Mom Without a Village – Babble

The problem I note with self-care advice to “ask for help,” is that most people are in similar situations–it is hard to ask for help when the people you ask, also need help!

As we muddle our way through our own home-based life, often “too busy” and “too chaotic” and “not enough time,” I absolutely loved this article about messy importance of the every-day, the real, and the complicated:

…Joy will be there waiting when we’ve adequately tidied our lives, is simply another disempowering cultural story. A story that has an entire generation of humans (and particularly mothers) feeling bad about ourselves, scrambling to “keep up,” and futilely spending billions in attempts to find solace…

Source: Revolution from Home » Blog Archive Life Is Meant to Be Messy (You’re Not Doing It Wrong)11998990_1661958487349700_7935437715757927025_n

 

Talk Books: Maternity Leave Excerpt, 19 Days Old…

This is an excerpt from the new novel, Maternity Leave, by Julie Halpern, released today and previously reviewed here.

19 Days Old

Two days and counting before Zach goes back to work as an IT specialist at a local bank. “What are you so worried about?” My mom holds Sam as I drag a pen along the seams of an envelope. Two half-finished thank you notes jeer at me. “I raised you kids without your dad around, and you turned out decent.”

“I’m not worried about Sam being decent. He barely has a sporting chance, what with being your grandson.” I smirk. “I’m worried about generally sucking as a mom,” I explain.

“Let me let you in on a little secret: all moms suck much of the time. The beauty about being a stay-at-home mom is that there is no one to watch you fail. It’s not like Sam is going to tell anyone. You’ll be back at work before he learns to talk anyway.”

“Mom, you’re wigging me out a little. And yet, you are very wise. You sure you don’t want to move in for a few months?”

“Oh, you’d love that. We couldn’t spend two days in Lake Geneva without the battle of the air conditioner. No, I’ll just be around for support when you need me. At least until I go to San Francisco next month.”

“I can’t believe you’re still going. You have a grandchild now!” I’m worried more about me not having her to help than my mom not seeing Sam, but it sounds better when the baby is the one being the baby.

“He won’t remember. And you’ll make it without me. What if I were dead? You’d have to do it without me anyway. In fact, pretend I’m dead. It’ll be easier.”

“Ma! Why do you always have to go to the dark side?” I ask.

“It’s part of my charm, I guess.”

Doogan looks at me, and I swear I detect a shrug. “She’s your mother,” he says.

I have managed to take care of Doogan for seventeen years. I’ll take that as a good sign. Then Doogan bites me, and I shove him off the couch.

I’m screwed.

20 Days Old

Zach goes back to work tomorrow. I am terrified, scared shitless, and entrenched with fear. I have to be alone with this baby all day, every day, and I don’t know if I can do it.

“You’re going to be fine. You’ve been doing it already for three weeks,” Zach tries to comfort me as we watch “Supernatural” on the couch. Sam sleeps peacefully on Zach’s chest. I give him the stinkeye, just in case he can sense I’m not happy with him.

“I haven’t been doing it for three weeks by myself. At first I was in the hospital, and you’ve been here the whole time, playing a supporting role, as has my mom in her morbid kind of way. Plus– fine? I don’t want to be fine. I want to be the best, most kick-ass mother on the planet. And beyond. I want to nurse him lovingly whilst I bake cakes and keep the house so clean you can hear little chimes of sparkle ringing from the countertops. I want Sam to learn sign language and ten other languages and to fit all the right shapes into that ball with the shapes cut out that five different people bought for him. Fine wasn’t good enough for me before I had this baby, so it certainly should not be good enough when we’re talking about the health and happiness of our first born son!” This would be the start of many a sleep-deprived diatribe on the subject of mama failure. But Zach will soon be lucky enough to get away from it all for ten hours a day, five days a week. Son of a bitch.

Middle of the Night

Full-on panic that Zach goes back to work tomorrow. Thank god for QVC. I don’t know what I’d do without the hypnotic beauty of twenty-four hours of gemstones.

21 Days Old

First Day Without Zach Goals

  • Feed, clothe, change, etc. Sam
  • cut fingernails
  • paint toenails
  • bake chocolate chip cookies
  • take nap
  • master Moby Wrap

Zach is gone, and so far so good. Nothing out of the ordinary, and I did manage to write three more thank you notes. Perhaps I will send them before Sam’s first birthday.

I spent much of the day practicing intricate wrappings of the Moby Wrap so I can wear Sam around when I go places. Working with at least twenty feet of fabric to somehow transform it into a safe nest in which Sam will lay seems semi-impossible, but I’ve made it my quest for the day. Or maybe the week. Why rush these things.

First Day without Zach Accomplishments

  • Blah blah blah Sam
  • Managed to knot my Moby Wrap and watched it fall on the floor
  • Fell asleep while on toilet (nap?)
  • Ate half a roll of refrigerated cookie dough (baked in my stomach?)

When Zach arrives home, the house is the same mess it was before he left. My face is still the same mess it was before he left. Zach looks like he just returned from a three week trip to a spa. I pray for a gigantic, dribbly poo to slither into Sam’s diaper so I can hand it off to Zach, but for once Sam’s baby buns have clammed up. Not that Zach would care. “I missed you so much!” he proclaims to Sam as he swings him around the room. I should take my act on the road. How much does an Invisible Woman make?

Copyright © 2015 by St. Martin’s Press LLC.

Maternity Leave by Julie HalpernMATERNITY LEAVE by Julie Halpern
Published by Thomas Dunne Books
On-sale September 1, 2015
ISBN-13: 9781250065025 | $24.99 | Hardcover

Tenmonthababy!

August 2015 060Tanner is ten months old and stepping out all over the place. When I started keeping notes for my ten month update post, I’d put that he was crawling around with rocks in each hand clicking on the concrete floor—crawling fast, and clicking along so you can hear him coming. As August progressed, that crawling-fast baby disappeared and turned into an all-out walking baby! I knew the day was rapidly approaching and I actually was surprised when he wasn’t walking at the start of nine months, given how skillful his furniture navigation skills were at that point. In our family, we don’t count the baby as truly walking until they go ten steps in a row unsupported. He did 27 steps in a row on August 19 and hasn’t stopped since. He skipped over the sweet, heart-breakingly darling “walk to Mama!” stage and has never once walked holding onto our hands the way babies do (breaking your back at same time). We tried, “walk to Mama! Walk to Daddy!” and he would get so excited he would jump and jump and fall down. He started walking by walking away from us, back to us, heading out across the living room or kitchen from my legs. From the 27 steps, he moved quickly on to walking while holding items, pivoting, changing direction, turning completely around, squatting down to pick stuff up and walking away with it, etc. He also climbs onto the couch and apparently stepped down the steps at my parents’ house alone too (touching wall for support). His steps have been adorably tiny—less than a half foot-length between each and with a slightly hunched forward posture (prepared to catch self in fall) and we joked that he isn’t really walking, he’s just rocking his feet from side to side and propelling himself forward upright that way! (kind of penguin-style) But, even the last few days have seen bigger steps, more confident about not falling down. In the same week he shifted from fast crawling and careful walking, to choosing walking most of the time, no matter what else is happening or where is trying to travel. I sense that the last vestiges of a crawling baby in the house will be over by the next week or so.

August 2015 006

Like mother, like son. “Grinding corn” at the Newburg Children’s Museum two weeks ago.

Can I take a few minutes to :::::sob:::::? While I delight in baby milestones, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been “cheated” out of the last three months of having a baby! He is remarkably toddler-like and not just the walking, but the talking too. He actually asks for things saying, “me, me, me?” or, “meeeeeeeeeee!” with lunge + grab, when not getting his fair share. We’ve heard him say high five, bad, cat, ow, bye, ball, yum yum, rock, dad, doll, block, and “away” (while putting blocks away in tub: “bock. way.” Is that a sentence before ten months? 😉 )

He also kisses baby dolls on the head and snuggles his face into theirs. And, he makes music with everything—rattles bracelets, drums on surfaces, strums the wires. He is remarkably good at figuring stuff out—i.e. dropping something between slats and then staring at it, trying to reach through to get it and that doesn’t work, so bends down and reaches around and under to retrieve it instead. He loves to eat whole peppers from the green house and merrily rides out to pick them with Mark every day.

He crushes All. The. Things. It is nonstop chore keeping him from ruining the rest of the house and the people in it.

Working at our table at Mamafest last weekend.

Working at our table at Mamafest last weekend.

He is also a very rough nurser—preferring to nurse upside down with legs standing up over my shoulder, while I’m lying on my back (usually attempting to practice yoga). He makes the same “bratty” face that all my kids have made and that I remember my youngest siblings making too: nose wrinkled up, smirky smile, and a snuffing, hissing sort of sound with tongue against teeth while doing something intentionally naughty or destructive. (He also says, “bad” while getting some things, which makes me really annoyed with my other children, who have been known to holler “BAD!!!!” at him when he is getting into their things.) He also has a knack for raising one eyebrow in surprise. I can’t do that myself, but all of my kids can and got it genetically from Mark. Tanner seems really young for it though!

Tanner is a morning baby compared to all of our other kids. He is ready for bed at about 8:30 and wakes up at about 8:00 each morning with big smiles, hugging me, snuggling, and ready to go. When I pick him up, he adds an extra oomph/leap to it so that he flies into the air and into my arms. He will lean from my arms  to hug and snuggle everyone else in greeting–face leaned against chest or head, saying good morning.

At the end of last week, we went to Magic House with friends in St. Louis. The kids had free tickets from the summer reading program at the library. We had an amazingly good time. I figured I might as well put the photos from it into this post as well!

August 2015 053Last year, when we went to Magic House, I was pregnant with Tanner. What a difference a year makes! That is what I mean about being “cheated” out of three months of baby. This time last year, I was pregnant and there was no Tanner in the house. Now, there is a toddler boy! What happened?!

Recreating pregnant picture from previous year as well as modeling new silk skirt from my mom!

Recreating pregnant picture from previous year as well as modeling new silk skirt from my mom!

August 2015 063

The tiny judge in this picture cracks me up every time I see it!