It wasn’t until I had daughters that I truly realized how far our society has to go in regards to gender equality. I considered how I would raise them, and what values I wanted instilled in them, and how I hoped they would view themselves one day. It wasn’t until then that the reality sunk in, and I saw so clearly how differently women and girls are viewed and treated. I think I always knew the reality, but it was the life I had always lived. There’s comfort in what’s always been. I knew no different, and the fight to change things seemed too exhausting. There was no fire or passion, but then I gave birth. I had a daughter, and that intense, protective, fierce, powerful love took over. I wanted something different for her. I was not willing to accept that society view her as less just because she was born with a vagina. Suddenly the fire was lit and the passion was there. I knew I would fight for her until she could fight for herself. I would not ever accept those around her treating her different just for being female. Then I had another daughter, and that fire only grew. The flame burned fiercely.
Now when a stranger in the grocery store looks at my daughter, and says, “You’re such a pretty girl.” I calmly look at that person and say, “Thank you. She’s also smart, funny, kind, and creative.” Then as we walk away, I look straight at my daughter and say, “You do know you are more than just pretty right? And that there are far more important things than just being pretty?” She always responds with a smile, “Yes, I know.” I am also conscious to never talk negatively about my body or myself. She will only ever hear me lift myself up. I refuse to be the negative voice inside her head one day saying, “I need to lose weight. My hair is so ugly. I need a tan. I need to wear more makeup. I don’t have a thigh gap, etc.” I refuse to be the voice in her head that says, “I am not enough.” My oldest is almost five. I know I have many more challenges ahead of me, but already I can clearly see how society’s message on what is gender appropriate setting in. My daughter has recently changed her favorite color from green to pink. I ask why, and her response is, “Pink is a girl color.” My response is that there are no such things as girl and boy colors. Boys can like pink, and girls can like blue. It’s okay if she wants her favorite color to be pink, but it should be because she likes it, not because it’s a girl color. She says she knows. We walk through a store. She asks to look at the toy section. I tell her that’s no problem, but we can only go down a few aisles since we’re in a hurry. I ask her which ones she wants to go down. Her response, “Let’s go look at the girls toys.” I sigh, and once again explain that there are no such things as boys toys or girls toys. I ask her where she’s learned this from. She doesn’t remember. Despite my husband and my best efforts, society still manages to tell our girls what is and is not ‘appropriate’ for them, and we are left to fight back by gently reminding them and those around them that they are not to be stereotyped.
One day, I imagine all these reminders will annoy them, but I’m hoping it always rings true in their hearts. Honestly, it’d be easier to just ignore, move on, and hope they figure it out one day. Not risk the looks I get from the stranger with my responses. But the fact is, my daughters deserve far more than just the easy way out. They always have, and they always will. They deserve for me to stand up for them, until they can stand up for themselves. So as I write this blog and address this topic, I’m tempted to take the easy way out, but I won’t. The easy way out would be just to let it go and not risk offending many of my friends and others. I mean, after all, this is just about a hashtag, and my kids can’t even read yet. Really though, it’s about far more than just a hashtag. It’s about the meaning behind it. It’s about the mindset of many of those people using it. Whether they are doing it consciously or not, they are putting my daughters, and honestly their sons too in a box. They are feeding gender stereotypes, and once again labeling actions, behaviors, characteristics, and objects as exclusively belonging to one gender or the other. This puts limits on my daughters, so once again I will speak up. At almost 5 and 2 they can’t do that for themselves, but I can, and I will, because I hope that the society they raise their children in is a very different one.
I’m sure you’re wondering by now, what hashtag I could possibly be referring to. Well I’m talking about #boymom #girlmom. I cringe every single time I see those hashtags. I see #boymom a lot more, but maybe I just have more friends with sons. To be fair, I’ve seen many posts that the hashtag is used just to literally say, “I am a mom of boys”. Those posts don’t bother me. The ones that do bother me is when they are identifying a certain action or object as being an issue or benefit for a boy or girl mom.
Caption under instagram picture:
“He loves to play with bugs. So gross. #boymom”
“She loves to cook in her play kitchen. #girlmom”
“I took my daughter to get a pedicure today. #girlmom”
“My floor is covered in play dinosaurs. It’ll take forever to clean this up. #boymom”
“Helping clean the truck. #boymom”
“She looks so adorable in this pink tutu. #girlmom”
“Adam and Joey will not stop making farting noises, and then they fall on the floor laughing so hard about it. #boymom”
“Brandon will not stop climbing on and getting into everything. He’s just so physically active. #boymom”
“Lucy just LOVES princess movies. #girlmom #typicalgirl”
“Christopher is obsessed with space. He loves learning about planets and stars. #boymom”
“Adam and Joey are always wrestling and hitting each other. #boymom #boyswillbeboys”
And the list could go on.
Here’s the thing, when you talk about how gross your kids are, and then follow it with #boymom, you are implying that your children are gross, because they are boys. In reality, my girls are pretty gross too. The little one is obsessed with bugs. In fact, she often asks me to dig in the compost so that she can play with worms. Sadly, she’s also prone to putting her hand in poop and picking her nose. The older one thinks the subject of poop and farts absolutely hilarious. In fact, in the car yesterday she sang a lovely song all about “toots”. One I would have recorded had I not been driving. When you talk about your daughter playing with her play kitchen and her baby dolls and follow it with #girlmom, you are implying that these are toys specifically for girls. My girls love their play kitchen and their baby dolls. They also love super heroes, their tool kit, their bug catching set, their microscope, their dinosaurs, and their cars. There are plenty of boys out there that if not restricted would gladly play with toy kitchens, doll houses, and baby dolls. Do you know what those boys are learning? Get this, they are learning how to cook, clean, and be a father. My husband does 90% of the cooking in our house. He does the dishes and the laundry. He helps me clean up and do other household duties. And get this, he also parents. I know this is a shocking revelation, but I leave him all alone with our children on a regular basis, sometimes 24 hours plus, when I’m at a birth or training event. I trust him to do far more than just keep them alive, and he comes through. So I would say these are pretty important life skills, ones that not just girls need to know.
I could go on and on with examples. I could continue talking about gender stereotypes, but for now I will trust that you know they exist. All I ask now is that before you label a photo or status with #boymom or #girlmom, consider the message you’re sending. Look at what you’re posting and see if maybe you might just be implying that boys are more likely to play with bugs or be physically active or better at something. Look closely and see whether or not you are limiting your daughter by implying that girls are more likely to perform domestic duties and look pretty. Basically, think before you post. Carefully see whether or not you are sending more of a message than simply, “My children are boys” or “My children are girls.”
Now if you really have the desperate desire to use these hashtags, you know what I’d like to see. I’d like to see you using it to FIGHT gender stereotypes.
“My son loves watching Rapunzel. #boymom #fightgendersterotypes #boyscanlikeprincesstoo”
“My daughter loves her new hulk shirt. #girlmom #girlsarestrong”
“Check out John playing with his new baby doll. #boymom #hesgoingtobeagreatdadoneday”
“My kid is singing about farting! #girlmom #sogross”
“Adam wanted his toenails painted just like mommy. #boymom”
“Isabelle loves building with her new tool set. #girlmom #futurearchitect #ormaybeengineer”
“Amy gets into everything these days. She’s climbing up on things I never thought possible, and outsmarting all the child locks. Ahhhh, help me! #girlmom #ineedadrink #toddlersconquerall “
“Jacob just cooked me this ‘delicious soup’ and ‘cupcakes’ in his play kitchen. #boymom #justlikedaddy”
“Matthew is obsessed with pink lately. We just bought him this awesome pink shirt. He won’t take it off! #boymom #butitsgonnaneedtobewashed #hesgonnacrywhenwedo”
You get the idea. Turn those stereotypes around. Don’t limit my daughter by implying that boys are more likely to play in mud, like superheroes, hit, be physically active, interested in bugs, dinosaurs, space, etc. And really, don’t limit your sons, by implying that girls are more emotional and sensitive, and that only girls are allowed to play with dolls, cook, clean, sew, and like pink. Before you use those hashtags or any words in general think about what you’re implying. Think about how you may be saying more than you realize. My daughters deserve far more than for you to put limits on their abilities and interests, and your sons deserve more too!
Last month, I attended my 50th birth as a doula! Exciting stuff, right? I can think of something unique that I’ve learned from each and every one of those births. Each mama and family I worked with was so amazing. It’s been such an honor and privilege to work with each and every one of them. I thought I’d share a quick run down of facts from those first 50 births!
July will mark 4 years since I attended my very first birth as a doula. It’s been an incredible and amazing four years. I’ve learned countless things and have grown and gained more knowledge from each birth and from every mama I’ve had the honor of supporting. I’ve worked with some really talented and wonderful midwives, OBs, and nurses. I also managed to give birth to my second child within that time frame. I’m looking forward to the next 50 births and hitting the 100 births attended milestone in a few years. A huge thank you to every single one of my clients! Being with you as you welcomed your newest family member into the world was such an incredible honor, and I will forever appreciate you allowing me into your birth space <3
A few months back, I received a facebook message from a “friend”. It went like this, “Hi there. I’m sure by now you are wondering why I deleted you from my friends list a few weeks ago. I was offended by all the selfies you post while breast feeding. I’m not trying to be rude, but they are really disturbing. It’s fine that you breast feed, but do you really need to flaunt it to the whole world. Really I get that’s a personal choice, but it’s not a choice I would make, so I really don’t want to have to see it. Furthermore, once again not trying to be rude, just informing you of how it makes some others feel, your daughter is way too old to be breastfeeding still. She’s getting to the age that she might remember it, and could you imagine remembering sucking on your mom’s nipples? That could cause some major mental and emotional damage. Not to mention, even if she doesn’t remember it, nothing you post online ever truly gets deleted. Who knows what she’ll think if she finds those pictures as a teenager? The last picture you posted was just the final straw for me. I just had to unfriend you, because I never knew when a breast feeding photo would pop up on my newsfeed.”
My first reaction when I read this was to gather up all the breast feeding selfies I’ve ever taken, and even maybe ask my friends to send me some and send them all her way. But I refrained. Then I thought maybe it was a joke, but I checked my friends list, and sure enough I was no longer “friends” with this person. Then I was annoyed, and then sad. I told my husband what had happened, and that I was upset about it. He said, “Do you really care that you are no longer friends on facebook with this person?” I said, “No, I honestly didn’t even realize she had removed me before she messaged me. I’ve only met her once, and I certainly wasn’t close enough to her that her opinion of me mattered. What makes me sad about this is not that I lost a facebook friend. She wasn’t the first one I’ve lost. She probably won’t be the last. I’m a strong woman. I can be very intense. I’m an advocate of women’s right. I’m raw. I’m open. I’m honest, and I fully understand that can rub some people the wrong way, and I’m okay with that. I won’t apologize for it, but I get that not everyone will appreciate it. What upsets me about it, is that she really isn’t the only person who feels this way. The truth is a huge part of our society finds the idea of breastfeeding, especially a child older than one, disturbing. Or they are okay with it, as long as, they never have to see it. Many women hide it or cut their breastfeeding relationships short, because society makes them feel ashamed of it.” Below is my response to this ‘friend’, and any other person who has an issue with seeing a woman breast feed her child.
Hi (insert name ;p),
Thanks for sharing your opinion with me. I can’t say that I agree with it, or that it will keep me from posting a Brelfie. Yep you read that right. Breastfeeding selfies have their own name. You should check out the hashtag on instagram, and see all the amazing, beautiful women who are proud of the breast feeding relationship they have with their child. If anything, I’ll be sure to post more brelfies in the future. Why? You may ask. Well I promise it’s not to be spiteful or vindictive. It’s not because I want to “flaunt” it. It is, because you reminded me of something I forgot. You reminded me how a lot of our society views breastfeeding. See since I became a doula and became much more involved in the natural parenting community, I have lived in somewhat of a bubble. A very large bubble, mind you, but still a bubble. I have been so fortunate to be surrounded by women where breastfeeding is the norm. Don’t get me wrong. I have friends that formula feed or exclusively pump or do a combination of both, and each one of them are incredible moms. It’s just it’s rare for me to go to a play date or get together with my friends and not encounter at least one mom openly breast feeding their baby or toddler. Usually it’s several moms doing it, and many times it’s me. You see, breast feeding uncovered is my normal. It’s what I’m use to seeing. However, it hasn’t always been ‘normal’ to me. It’s not something I’ve always been exposed to, and I thank you for reminding me of that.
When I was younger, the idea of breast feeding disturbed me, but then again, a lot of things disturb teenagers. My mom breastfed me until I was two. That thought horrified me. Once again though, teenagers are horrified by a lot. The first time I ever saw a woman breastfeed I was in high school. I was rather uncomfortable with it at the time. In retrospect, I’m glad she did it, but I still wonder why this was the first time I ever saw a woman breast feeding. As I grew up, and became a young adult, I realized that if I were to ever have children, I would try to breastfeed. There was too much research out showing the benefits of breast milk. Still the idea of it bothered me. Then I got pregnant, and gave birth to my first born. I tried to breast feed her. She wouldn’t latch. We used a nipple shield, and she would latch with that. There was absolutely nothing disturbing about breast feeding her. It felt completely normal. It was a bonding time. It was a way to connect and provide for my daughter. There was nothing sexual or uncomfortable about it. Unfortunately, her latch continued to be an issue, as well as, inadequate weight gain, so after about a month I did switch to exclusively pumping. I cried many tears over the fact that I could no longer breastfeed my baby, but I continued to pump and provide her with my milk for 14 months. You see, something I thought would be uncomfortable and disturbing was the furthest thing from it. It was something I was devastated to lose.
Then the second baby came. You know the one who’s in all those brelfies you’re complaining about. Well I knew from the beginning that I planned to breastfeed her. Or I hoped to anyway. At this point, I knew there was nothing gross about nursing a baby, and I had seen many other women nurse their babies and toddlers. To my surprise, this sweet girl latched on immediately after birth and is still going strong 20 months later. Our goal has always been to make it until at least two, as the World Health Organization recommends, but if she nurses longer, then that’s okay too. I don’t think many people in the United States when they have their first child start out with their goal being to nurse into toddlerhood. It’s just not the norm here. In most other countries it is, but here sadly it is not. However, once you start breast feeding your child, it only seems natural to continue breast feeding. Why is 6 months or 12 months the magic age to wean? Every baby, every child is different. Each need to wean when they are ready. Breast milk does not suddenly become useless at a certain age. It’s nutrients, calories, and immune boosting properties do not suddenly disappear when your child turns one. There are multiple studies out there that show the benefits of ‘extended breastfeeding’. As for her 'remembering breast feeding', I honestly hope she does remember it. What better way to begin teaching her that her body is meant for so much more than just other people's sexual pleasure. If she chooses to, one day her body can grow a baby, birth a baby, and then be that baby's sole source of nourishment. Her breasts and the milk that she creates can literally keep another human alive and allow it to grow. That's pretty amazing stuff right there. Why wouldn't I want her to know and see the power of the female body?
Unfortunately, most of society, chooses to ignore this message and instead embrace the message that breasts are sexual. You see, I grew up with the same messages from our society that you grew up with. The message that the primary purpose of breasts is first and foremost for sexual pleasure, and this could not be further from the truth. If you just took a second to think about it from a biological stand point. Why do we have breasts? Women have breasts to feed their babies. It’s that plain and simple. The fact is, breastfeeding is not in any way, shape, or form a sexual experience. Ask any breast feeding mother if they get turned on while nursing. I can guarantee the answer will not just be a “No”, but a “Hell no”. It doesn’t matter whether the child is 2 days old, 10 months old, 2 years old, or 4 years old. There’s still nothing sexual about it. The fact is women do not have breasts for sexual pleasure. Can they be used that way? Yes, but technically so can hands, and I have yet to hear of anybody finding someone picking up or holding a baby with their hands a disturbing act. Our breasts primary function is to provide nutrition and comfort to our babies.
I post breast feeding selfies for two reasons. One, it is a sweet time between me and my child. It’s a time of cuddling, comfort, and bonding. No one seems to think twice if I post a picture of her asleep in my lap or cuddling with me, but add nursing into the picture and suddenly it is inappropriate. The second reason is that your opinion on breastfeeding, my former opinion on it, is way too common, and it is also wrong. Breast feeding is normal. Breast feeding is natural. Breast feeding is not sexual. Breast feeding is a woman using her body to do something useful and powerful, and not merely to be pleasing to the eyes. Whether you consciously realize it or not, your disgust with breast feeding is degrading to females. You are disgusted with it, because society says women’s bodies are meant to be pleasing to men. If a woman is doing something useful or empowering with her body, such as giving birth or breastfeeding, then it needs to be hidden. This is society’s message. This is a message I REFUSE to accept or abide by. I post breast feeding selfies to help normalize breast feeding. I post my birth pictures to help normalize birth. I post both to show how powerful women are. I post both to show that our bodies are beautiful, incredible, and powerful. I don’t post them for attention or to disgust people. I post them so other women know what is normal. If one less woman hides in a disgusting bathroom to feed her baby, because I posted a brelfie, then it’s worth it. If one less new mother fears going out of the house, because she’s afraid to breastfeed in public, then it’s worth it. If one more mother gains confidence that she can breastfeed her baby or one more mother realizes it’s okay to not have to wean at one, despite societal pressure, then every breast feeding selfie I posted was worth it. And it was worth all the ‘friends’ I lost over it. I appreciate your honesty with me. It has motivated me and reminded me why I do what I do. Thank you for that. I will not apologize for offending you or anyone else, and I hope in time you come to realize how truly wrong you are. It’s okay if one day when you have children you choose not to breastfeed them, but it’s not okay to put down others for it. It's not okay to suggest that a woman should cover up.
Do you stand in line at the grocery store turning magazines around, because the covers are so offensive? No? Then, why are you reporting any breast feeding pictures you see on facebook as 'inappropriate sexual content'?
Are you looking the other way or covering your children's eyes every time you go to the mall and walk past Victoria's Secret? No? Then why are you steering your child away from a breast feeding mother or asking her to cover up? Breasts are breasts. You can't say they are okay in one setting, but not another. I've yet to see anyone attack cosmopolitan magazine or victoria's Secret, the way uncovered breast feeding mothers are attacked.
No? Of course not. No one in their right mind would be offended by these pictures. Well guess what? Then these pictures below shouldn't offend you either!
Because both set of images are showing the exact same thing. Both show a child being fed and nourished. Both show a baby bonding with a parent. Both show a baby being comforted and loved on. And that is exactly what breast feeding is, a way to feed, nourish, and grow a child. A way to bond with a child. A way to show love. A way to comfort a child. So next time you see a mother breast feeding a child, whether in person or online, I hope you realize that it's not disgusting. I hope you know that it has nothing to do with showing off or flaunting. I hope you see what it truly is, love in one of its purest forms!
Now excuse me while I go post a brelfie! ;)
Bottom two breast feeding images taken by Amanda Ditzel at Raleigh Birth Photography
October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. An estimated 1 in 4 (possibly more) pregnancies end in loss. To me 1 in 4 is not just a statistic. It is Me. I have been pregnant four times. I have given birth to only two living children. The other two were lost in early pregnancy. Today I will take time to remember my babies, as well as, all those I know who have lost babies. I want to share with you my story about the babies I lost. I want to share, because it’s a story worth sharing. I want to share, because miscarriage is nothing to be ashamed of. I want to share, so that other women can know that they are not alone in their loss and not alone in their feelings.
In January of 2010, I found out I was pregnant for the first time. I had gone off the birth control pill in November of the previous year due to some of the side effects it caused. My husband and I were not ready for a baby yet. We had been married less than a year, although we had been together for three, but still it just wasn’t an ideal time in our life to have children. We had been careful, but clearly not careful enough. My period was a few weeks late, but I thought this was still due to getting off the pill. I finally broke down and took a pregnancy test. The line was faint. Really in retrospect too faint to be six weeks pregnant, but I knew very little about pregnancy and birth back then. I just knew that a second line was there, which meant life was inside of me. I was pregnant. I cried, not tears of joy, but scared tears. I didn’t want a baby. Not now. Maybe not ever. Still I sucked it up. We would figure it out, and we would raise a child together. I took a test the next day. The line was a bit fainter, but it was still there. And a line is a line. Then two days later I began to bleed. I was confused. I was scared again. I didn’t really want this baby, but still I knew that this baby existed. My body had already changed some. I was bloated. My breasts were sore. I didn’t really want to lose this baby either. And was this what was happening? Was I having a miscarriage? So I did what any sensible person would do and I consulted google. I came to the conclusion that I was probably miscarrying, but still there was some hope. Some people had reports of bleeding and cramping without miscarrying. Maybe that’s what was happening. Only time would tell. I waited a few days. I had painful cramping and a lot of bleeding. More than a normal period. I knew what was happening. I took another test and that second line was gone, and I knew the life inside me was gone with it.
I still look back on that time, and I honestly can’t tell you what my first reaction was. Part of me felt so much relief. I didn’t want this baby. I wasn’t ready for this baby. I’ve always been hesitant to mention that I felt relieved. I knew people would look down on me for feeling that way, but I share it now so that you know whatever emotion you feel is right. It’s okay to even feel relief. My emotions were everywhere. I felt relief. I felt guilt over feeling relieved. I also felt sadness, because though I wasn’t ready for that baby. It was still my baby. It was still living for a small amount of time, and it still died. I felt so many conflicting emotions after that first miscarriage. I felt relief and sadness. I felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders, but that a new, very different kind of burden replaced it. I was confused, but they were all my emotions, and they were all okay and normal emotions, even if I didn’t know it at the time.
This first miscarriage changed me. We had never shared with anyone that we were pregnant, and after I lost the baby I only told my best friend about it. She was very comforting about it, and a huge help. Still I battled with my feelings. Tyler and I had decided when we got married that we most likely would never have children, and if we did it would be several years down the road. Something about that positive pregnancy test though. It made me want a baby. Then that same friend I had confided in about losing my baby told me she was pregnant after a year of trying. I was so happy for her. She deserved it, but that just made me want a baby so much more. So Tyler and I talked about it. We went around and around for a couple of months. Then finally we decided to try to get pregnant beginning that May. I told my best friend, and she was so excited for us too. We were going to be pregnant together! I mean clearly I had no trouble getting pregnant the first time, so why would it be any trouble this time? And when I did get pregnant, clearly that baby would live. People don’t miscarry twice. Right? Oh how wrong and naïve I was.
In May of 2010, we began to try for a baby. This time we wanted it. I researched monthly cycles and learned all about how to get pregnant. I learned in more detail about how to know when you are ovulating and when to have sex. I knew so much more once we started actually trying. That knowledge was empowering and really helped me to understand my body more, but well it didn’t seem to help us get pregnant. May passed, and my period came. June passed, and my period came. July, August, September, still it came. I felt defeated. My body had failed me. Maybe I couldn’t sustain life inside of me. Then October came. My period was late. I waited a week. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Then I took a pregnancy test. It was positive! The line was faint, but not nearly as faint as my first pregnancy. We were going to have a baby. FINALLY!!!!! I was so excited. I remember doing the math in my head and realizing this baby was conceived right around the first baby’s due date. I took it as a sign. What an amazing gift! This baby’s due date was in June, and I always imagined it to be a boy. We kept the baby a secret. I told a close friend that I worked with about the baby, but that was it. I wanted to figure out a cute way to tell everyone else. That and in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but wonder, “what if this baby doesn’t make it either?” I go to my primary physician for all my GYN care, so I began to search out an OB (I knew nothing about midwives at the time). I found one, based on some friend’s recommendations, and gave them a call. They said they would not see me until I was 7 weeks, and they happened to have no ultrasound appointments the week I would be 7 weeks along, so they scheduled it when I was going to be almost 9 weeks.
Another week went by. I took another pregnancy test. The line wasn’t getting any darker. It stayed the same. I also didn't feel nauseous or have any other pregnancy symptoms. This concerned me some, but still at least the line wasn’t getting any lighter, and maybe I just would have an easy pregnancy. Then I waited another week. I was 7 weeks along at this point. I took another test, and the line was lighter. I knew deep down inside that something was wrong. This baby wasn’t growing and thriving, but still I hung on to the hope that there still was a line, no matter how faint. Then one more week passed, and I began spotting. Oh how my heart sunk the second I saw the blood on the toilet paper. I knew what was happening, but I didn’t want it to happen. I wanted this baby. We tried for this baby. How could I just lose it. I called the OB, they said to keep my appointment for the next week, but if I was miscarrying that things would just pass on their own, and I could come in the next week. This wasn’t good enough for me. I needed to know for sure what was happening, and I needed to know now. I called my primary care physician. She worked me in immediately. She had me take a pregnancy test. It was negative. Still she said a lot of women spot in early pregnancy and that maybe my dates were off. They ran blood work, and said they would call me the next day. By the next day, I was bleeding a lot. I was having very bad cramps. I knew that once again I was losing a baby. I decided to leave work early that day, as the pain was pretty intense, and emotionally I wasn’t up for staying there.
On my way home, my doctor called me. She told me my hCG levels were very low, and while she couldn’t confirm it without ultrasound, she did believe I was miscarrying. I told her how much I was bleeding and about the cramping. She said most likely the baby stopped growing a while before. I was just passing everything now. She talked to me for a little while. She made sure I was okay emotionally. I told her I was fine. She told me that it was okay to be upset, and that if I needed anything at all to call her. I told her okay, and once again I told her I was fine. I lied. I wasn’t fine. How the hell did this happen…..again? My body truly was broken. Would I ever be able to have a child? I called Tyler, then I called my mom. For some reason, in that moment all I wanted was my mom. She came over after I got home. She held me, and comforted me as I cried. There was no relief this time. This baby was suppose to live. This baby was suppose to be different. We tried hard for this baby. There was only sadness and pain. There was only grief. There were no conflicting emotions this time. Just emptiness and truly thinking that maybe I wasn’t capable of carrying a child. The baby I wanted so badly, the baby we tried for months to conceive was dead, gone. The little summer baby boy I imagined would never take a breath.
The next week ultrasound confirmed what I already knew. Then I lost it. Not that night, but in the days and weeks after. My grief, laid on top of so much previous trauma (see "I refuse to be ashamed") was too much for me to bear. We decided to stop trying. I couldn’t deal with losing another baby, and I couldn’t deal with anymore disappointment of trying and then not conceiving. The weeks following his loss are hazy still. I’m sure I was just functioning on auto pilot. I didn’t track my cycles. The doctor had advised that I wait at least one cycle before “trying” to get pregnant again. Well I wasn’t trying to get pregnant, but then again I didn’t take the time and energy to prevent getting pregnant either. I never got a cycle back after we lost our summer baby. I waited for it and waited for it. Then finally, January 5th, 2011, just a few weeks shy of one year after I found out I was pregnant the very first time, I once again had a positive pregnancy test. The line was dark this time. Darker than it had been with either of the other two. From the very beginning I felt this baby healthy and strong. This didn't stop me from worrying constantly about losing her. I suffered from very bad morning sickness, and any day I wasn't sick, I spent the entire time worrying if she was alive or not. Still something always told me that this baby would grow and thrive. And my how she has grown and thrived. She is now an amazing, kind, loving, beautiful, awesome, 4 year old, who brings so much joy to my life! I’m so thankful for her and her little sister.
I have had two healthy pregnancies and births since losing my first two babies. I have not miscarried again. I know had either of those babies lived I would not have the children I have now, but that doesn’t make me think about them any less. It doesn’t keep me from wondering what they would have looked like and who they would have been. My girls have brought me a lot of healing, but I still remember those other two babies, the ones I never had a chance to meet or hold or feel move or watch grow. I did love them, even if only for a very short time. I know now that my body never failed me. I know now that there was no shame in anything I felt during those times. I wish I had been more open about them at the time. Maybe I would have been able to heal faster, but I was so ashamed. At the time, I was under the impression that there were just some things you don’t talk about. I was so wrong. I kept my miscarriages quiet for a few years. Then I slowly became completely open about it. Why? Because 1 in 4. As I’ve stood behind and known so many amazing women, friends and clients, who have suffered loss, whether it be miscarriage, still birth, or infant death, I can’t help but mourn with them.
Think about it. 1 in 4. That means there are many other women I know and you know that have felt this same pain and have remained silent. If this is their choice and what they feel is best for them, then that’s okay. But I would never want any woman to remain silent about her loss, because it’s a taboo subject or because they feel ashamed. Other women need to know they are not alone in this. It is not something to be ashamed of. You did nothing wrong. Your feelings are valid. Never be afraid to share about your losses. It may make other people uncomfortable, but if telling your baby’s story helps you heal, then your healing is more important than their unwarranted discomfort.Your baby's memory is more important. Do not be afraid to talk about it. Your story can help so many other women going through a similar situation. Raise awareness. Break the silence surrounding pregnancy and infant loss!
As a mom it’s really hard to find the time to take care of ourselves. We are so busy taking care of others, especially these little children who depend on us, that we neglect ourselves. We often neglect our needs in order to serve others. Over the last several months, I’ve been increasingly guilty of that. I’ve poured so much time, love, and energy into my kids, my business, and others, that I neglected to make sure my needs were met too. I found myself run down, exhausted, and unable to give as much as I would like. So I’m making an effort to make this month a month of self care. I’m setting goals, and I’m encouraging every other woman out there to do the same. The fact is that it’s impossible to take care of others, when you don’t take care of yourself. If the glass is completely empty, then there’s nothing to share. Your children, your partners, your family, your friends, your work, all benefit from you taking time to take care of you.
So I’m coining September, Self-care September. Each day, I plan to find some way to practice self care. I’m encouraging everyone else to do the same. I’ll be posting pictures on my instagram and my facebook page of the ways I’m practicing self care that day. I would love it if anybody else would do the same. Use #selfcareseptemberJND and tag me, if you want. I’d love to see how others are taking time to nurture and love themselves. My personal goal is AT LEAST 30 minutes each day, and AT LEAST 2 hours every weekend doing something that is just for me. Something that refreshes my soul and relaxes my body. Your goal may be way more or less. All I ask is that you make a goal for yourself and stick to it.
Practicing self care is going to look different for each person. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. It doesn’t have to be a exotic vacation or a spa day. Don’t get me wrong. It can be, and if you have the opportunity then go for it! But it can also mean taking time each evening to read a chapter from a book you’ve been wanting to read while sipping on a glass of wine. It may mean waking up early one morning to go for a run or do yoga BY YOURSELF. It could mean asking your husband to get up with the kids for one night or to wake up in the morning with them so you can sleep in. It could mean planning a ladies night (kid free), or getting your favorite dessert (and not sharing it). It could mean a nice long bath with no interruptions. Or going to a movie or a fancy restaurant, some place you’d never attempt to go with children. It could mean taking a day trip someplace special. It could be going to get a massage or pedicure. It could be going to get your hair styled. It could be taking a pottery class or dance class or karate class or any class that you have been wanting to take, but didn’t feel you had time to. It could be taking the time to learn something new, painting, sewing, baking, a new language. It could be going to a therapy session or support group. It could be curling up on the couch and watching an episode of your favorite show, with no interruptions. It could be shopping alone or sending your children off for a few hours with someone you trust, just so you can have time to yourself. It really doesn’t matter what it is that you do to take care of you. It just has to be something that you enjoy. Something that doesn’t feel like an obligation. It has to be something that is going to help replenish you and make you feel better. It has to be something that you are doing for you. In the end, it will benefit all those around you, but do it first to benefit you. Love yourself. Take care of yourself, so that your cup is full enough to pour out to others. Don’t let it run dry.
Follow me on facebook and instagram to see what I’m doing for self care. Please share this with others. I want to see as many women as possible taking time for self care. Remember use hashtag #selfcareseptemberJND and tag me @joyfulnoisedoula when posting your pictures <3
Shame (noun): a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
There are things that the majority of society tells us we should be ashamed of (or at least not openly share with others), but really we shouldn’t. Sexual abuse, miscarriage, periods, breastfeeding in public, details and images of birth, depression, mental illness, and the list goes on. Many of these are women centric issues, and I will save my rant for another day of how the patriarchy has caused many of these topics to be viewed as shameful. Today I want to address something that affects men and women alike. More females are victims of it, but I do think male victims feel even more shame from it. I’m talking about sexual abuse. And really I’m not just talking about it. I’m sharing my story, my experiences, my past. You know why I’m sharing it? Because I’m NOT ASHAMED. I spent years feeling guilt and shame over something I had no choice in, but not anymore. My story is worth sharing!
I was molested by a family member for several years of my childhood. I will clarify that it was not my father. Mainly because people I feel typically jump to it being the father, and I wouldn’t want any doubts there. It’s hard to say how old I was when it began. I was young. I remember where we were living at the time, so I was under six, but I couldn’t tell you exactly when it first started. I do remember the last time it happened. My molester told me, “This is the last time I will touch you, because you’re getting too old.” I was in 4th grade, nine years old. At that time, I really didn’t understand what that meant. In retrospect, I can see it meaning several things, none of which really matter. All that mattered was that it was the last time. As a child, I never told anyone about what happened. This person was someone I trusted and in all honesty I was just confused. Every time it happened I went dead. I functioned on autopilot. I stepped out for a while. My mind knew it couldn’t process what was going on. It was too much for a child to deal with, so it chose to push it away and lock it up somewhere safe until I was ready to deal with it. In one way, our brains are amazing for doing that in times of extreme grief and trauma. It saves us, because we would break from the mental anguish. Unfortunately, it comes with a price. Ask me about my childhood, especially anything before age nine. I can’t remember much of anything. In the effort to push away what it couldn’t handle, it also pushed away the good times. I mourned for a long time the loss of my childhood. I realize now that it wasn’t truly lost. As I processed the abuse as an adult, good memories came back. Not many, but still some. I’ll never remember most of what happened during those years, but I’ve come to accept that.
Fast forward a few years, I was in high school. I hated school. I had a lot of anxiety and suffered from depression on a regular basis. I was put on anti depressants, which helped a lot, but then after a while they would wear off, and I’d have to up the dose or switch medications. I went to multiple therapists. None helped, but then again I wasn’t exactly transparent with them about anything. I still have my journals from those years, and they’re dark. This path continued once out of high school. I moved out on my own at 18, but I partied a lot. I wouldn’t have ever considered myself an alcoholic or a drug addict, but I was high or drunk a good portion of the time. It numbed the pain. I dated guys, who in retrospect were quite vile. They didn’t respect me. They were abusive in every sense of the way, except physically. But that’s what I deserved, right? That was okay, because that was what I learned. Women aren’t worthy of respect, and especially not this girl.
Then through a series of fortunate (although they seemed unfortunate at the time) of events I got a bit of a wake- up call. I straightened up my life a lot. I ditched the drugs and the drinking. I ditched the toxic friends and guys. I walked the straight and narrow, but always looming around the corner was the emptiness, the pain, the knowing that at any moment I could lose it and slip again into a deep, dark place. And I did a few times. It was always there. I always knew my ‘happy’ state was only temporary. I would lose it again. I always did. One day I finally told my mom what had happened during my childhood. I don’t think she truly believed it. She actually confronted my molester about it, and amazingly he admitted it. But he never showed any signs of remorse. He still owned the old, ratty couch that he molested me on multiple occasions, and did not understand the issue in still having (and cherishing) it.
Finally having someone know was somewhat relieving, but still no one seemed to understand. Then I met Tyler. We became fast friends, and within a few months we were dating. He treated me (and still does) like gold. Seriously, I had never had a man treat me so well. I put him through A LOT those first few years of our relationship. I didn’t think I deserved him. I pushed him away on multiple occasions, because commitment was scary. Plus I might as well end things now, because one day he would realize how pathetic I was and leave me anyway. He is one patient man though. He continued to comfort me, console me, assure me that I was amazing. He knew my past, and he thought no less of me for it. He knew my constant struggles and pains, and still thought I was worth it. I can never thank him enough for who he is. He’s never been anything but patient, kind, and supportive of me. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. So about two and a half years into our relationship we got married.
Things improved some, but still always that looming darkness, always those fears, always knowing that eventually I would fall back into depression. It was only ever a matter of time. About a year after we got married, we decided to start trying to get pregnant. I had suffered one miscarriage prior to us “trying”, then it took several months of trying before I actually got pregnant. I was so excited when I got that positive test. We were going to have a baby! Then I lost that baby, which I will go into more detail in a later post. That miscarriage was a breaking point for me. I completely lost it. It was like my mind couldn’t handle any more traumatic events. It had pushed them all down for way too long. Everything came spilling out. I hit a new low, and I went to a very, very scary place. I would have flashbacks where I truly felt I was being molested again. I’ll never forget that. Tyler never will either. It was very scary for him too. I was seeing a therapist, who worked alongside a psychiatrist at that time. Their solution? Stronger drugs and talking. I had already been diagnosed with PTSD. Talk therapy is not typically effective for PTSD. I was no exception to this. Trauma affects the whole body. A sensory, whole body approach is needed. And the stronger medications just made me numb. I felt like a zombie.
The first cycle after I miscarried, I promptly got pregnant again. Everything stuck this time. I got off all my medications, as most were not safe to take while pregnant, and I never returned to that therapist. I actually managed pretty well during pregnancy. I mean I’m not the happiest pregnant person in the world, but I managed to get through it without having any depression issues. Then I gave birth. The craziness that was Alice’s birth. I had an unplanned natural birth with her. It was so scary, because nothing went as planned. But I came out of it feeling empowered and amazed that my body could do something so incredible. It was the first time that I had felt proud of my body. It was the first time I felt like my body had been used for something good. It was most definitely a life changing moment.
All continued to go well for the first few months of Alice’s life. I was truly happier and more at peace than I’d ever been. However, around the time Alice was 4 months old, I felt my old friends, anxiety and depression, creeping back in. I knew I had to do something. I could not allow my daughter to have a mother who wasn’t present. She deserved better than that. I was determined to find help. I had a friend who was seeing a therapist that she loved. I looked into her. She was a certified trauma specialist, and her therapy approach was very unique and different. I needed different. Nothing I had tried in the past had been successful. I went to her, and within just a few months I had rapidly improved. She reassured me that sexual abuse is not just something you "get over" and can just "move on" from, and that everything I had experienced throughout the years was normal for someone with PTSD. Her therapy is a program. No set time, as some people take longer than others, but the goal is to go from victim, to survivor, to thriver. It took about a year and a half, but I did it. I found strength I never knew I had. I found courage. I found passion. I was no longer a shell of a person. I found the real me. Maybe not who I would have been had the abuse never taken place, but who I could be, despite the abuse. My abuse doesn’t define me. I've learned to love myself. I've learned to love and appreciate my body. I still have my moments. I still doubt myself at times, but I no longer fear depression. I no longer expect the worst to come. I haven’t hit rock bottom in over three years now. I’m confident. I trust myself. I know I deserve to be treated well, and I teach my girls the same thing. Women are amazing. Our bodies are amazing, and every birth I attend continues to convince me even more of that.
Part of me still feels very vulnerable sharing this. I wonder what will people think, but the truth is what does it matter? Anybody who would think less of me for it, is not someone I need in my life. I’m proud of who I am. I’m proud of the hard work I did to no longer be a victim. It was a rough road, but I did it. I refuse to ever be ashamed of that.
5) Write a birth plan: Writing a birth plan is very beneficial. It not only lets your provider know your desires, but it also forces you to really research and look into the choices you are making for your birth. It helps you to become informed. You will know the benefits and risks of each decision you make. It also opens up the doors of communication with your provider. When discussing your birth plan you will easily be able to know if they are supportive of your desires. Most doulas will assist you in writing a birth plan as part of their package.
6) Research, research, research: Research everything. I mean it. Do you plan on having an epidural during labor? Research the benefits and risks. Do you want to have a water birth? Continuous monitoring during labor? Push in different positions? Research the benefits and risks. Plan on circumcising? Giving the Vitamin K injection? Hep B Vaccine? Research the benefits and risks. Research it all and decide for yourself what you feel is best for you and your family. Please also make sure you are getting your research from credible sources. www.childbirthconnection.com and www.evidencedbasedbirth.com are two great sites to look into.
7) Surround yourself with Support: Having people around during your pregnancy that will support and encourage you in your birth choices is priceless. Are some of your family and friends negative and less than supportive of your birth choices? Let them know that kind of negativity will not be tolerated. If they can’t say something positive, they don’t need to say anything at all. If you don’t have many people in your life that are supportive, then be active and seek out a support group. Try to begin to build a “village” now. These same people who are supporting you during your pregnancy and birth will be absolutely essential to have around during the early postpartum period and as you travel on your parenting journey.
8) Read: Read inspiring, encouraging books about pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. I’m not talking about your run of the mill pregnancy books. There are many books I recommend reading, but my personal favorite is Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I also recommend, Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: the Complete Guide by Simkin, Whalley & Keppler , Gentle Birth Choices by Harper, and The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Goer. A great book for partners to read is The Birth Partner by Simkin. If you plan on breastfeeding, it’s also a great idea to read a breastfeeding book ahead of time. I recommend La Leche League’s, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Huggins and Lawrence. Also if you are looking for a book on newborn and children’s sleep, I highly recommend, La Leche League’s, Sweet Sleep.
In the end, you can never guarantee that your birth will go exactly as planned, but you can do everything possible to set yourself up for success. If things come up that you didn’t plan it’s important that you are fully informed so that you can make the best decision for you and your baby.
Originally I was going to title this post 8 steps to help you achieve a natural birth, but then I realized these tips are helpful no matter what kind of birth you desire.
1.) Choosing your care provider: I believe what care provider you choose is probably the most important decision you can make in regards to your birth. You need to make sure your provider is supportive of your birthing choices. Do you want a natural birth? Then you want to go with a provider who will not force you to labor on your back attached to monitors. Are you planning a VBAC? If so, you want to go with a provider who has a high successful VBAC percentage rate. You don’t want to go with a provider who will insist that you have a repeat cesarean at 39 weeks, if you have not gone into labor on your own before then.
If you have not yet chosen a provider, I first suggest you research the different model of cares. Research the midwifery model of care versus the medical model of care. Which one appeals to you? Based on that, you may want to go with a midwifery practice or a practice with OB/GYNs. Note that some OBs follow the midwifery model of care and some midwives follow the medical model and many are somewhere in between.
Sometimes it may be hard to tell what your provider supports. It may take a little bit of digging to find out. Be open and honest about your desires for your birth from day one. Tell your provider what you want and watch their reaction. Is it positive? Do they seem truly supportive of what you want or do they just seem to be appeasing you? Ask a lot of questions. Ask what their cesarean rate is. What percentage of their patients receive epidurals? When do they typically try to induce labor, and in what situations? What time limits do they put on length of labor and pushing? Will they be okay with you laboring and pushing in whatever position feels comfortable, or do they want you stuck in bed? Ask how they feel about about pain medications, natural birth, VBACs, etc. Find out if their answers line up with what you want out of your birth. Also ask around. Find out other women’s experiences with that provider. If at any time you feel uncomfortable with the provider you have then SWITCH. It doesn’t matter if your 14 weeks or 41 weeks, if you do not feel your provider is supportive of your choices, then switch to one who is!
2)Birthing Location: Where do you want to give birth? At home, at a hospital, or at a birth center? Choosing your provider and birth location usually go hand in hand. Most providers only attend births at center locations. If you want a hospital birth, research hospital policies. What kind of amenities does the hospital have? Do they have tubs? Can you birth in the tub or just labor? Do they have telemetry (wireless) monitoring? Is that monitoring waterproof? Will they allow you to eat and drink during labor? Or is that left up to your provider? Will they require an IV? Think about the birth you want and find out if it’s possible to achieve that kind of birth at the location you choose. If you want to give birth at a birth center find out what their transfer rate is. Find out what hospital they would transfer you to. If you want a home birth, research the laws in your state regarding home birth. Find out which midwives service your area.
3) Take a QUALITY childbirth class: For the most part I suggest you take an out of hospital childbirth class. They seem to be more comprehensive. Many hospital childbirth classes could be appropriately renamed “how to be a good patient class”. Not all are this way, but a lot are. Before finding a class, look into the different methods of childbirth education. There’s Lamaze, Hypnobabies, Birthing From Within, Birthworks, The Bradley Method, and many others. Research each method and decide which one most appeals to you. Search for a childbirth educator in your area that offers classes with the method you have in mind. If possible, ask for references.
4) Hire a doula: Yes I am a doula so this step may seem very self serving, but it’s not I promise. The word "doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "a woman who serves". It is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and just after birth. Women who hire doulas to attend their births generally experience shorter labors, are less likely to request an epidural or pain medications of any kind, are less likely to use pitocin, have a reduced likelihood of having a cesarean section, are less likely to have a forceps or vaccuum assisted birth, and have an increased likelihood of rating their childbirth experience as positive and satisfying. There have been no risks found with using a doula.
A doula can help you to achieve the birth that you want. She will know your wishes, and will help to make that happen. Her goal is to help you achieve the birth you desire, not the one that she thinks is best. In the end, she wants you to feel empowered and satisfied with your birth. A doula is a benefit in any type of birth, whether it be an unmedicated birth, a medicated birth, or a cesarean, and in any type of setting, hospital, home, or birth center. To find a doula, I suggest going to www.doulamatch.net or www.dona.org and searching for a birth doula in your area. I also suggest contacting and interviewing several doulas to find one that you really ‘click’ with. You are going to want to feel 100% comfortable with the doula you choose for your birth.
Steps 5-8 will be posted tomorrow :-)