Mom schedules—Some days you win them and other days you lose the will to live.
Each day, I try to have a defined plan for my kids that lasts until noon and makes everyone happy—or at the very least, distracted. By the time the littlest one is down for her nap, the older two have settled into their quiet time, and the afternoon seems to happily hum along. But without fail there is a moment which happens each and every day. For YEARS it took me by surprise. Two words…
Witching. Hours. Here’s how mine goes.
4pm – 5pm: Baby is clawing at my ankles for a snack. I’m listlessly staring at my cup of coffee, stirring a pot of yet defined dinner, and chain texting my husband for back up. (ASAP, OMG WHY DID WE HAVE KIDS AGAIN?!) There is a blur of older children running past me from room to room, fighting with each other and screaming for more snacks, more screen time and more of everything I can’t give them right now. In this moment, the easiest thing to do is let my children dictate what kind of evening we will have. I am out of energy, I don’t have a plan for the chaos, and I just stop pushing. I’m too tired. (Understandably so!) So, often I let events unfold and I lose the opportunity to create the environment that I want for me and my family.
It’s a fact that by 4pm I will have physical and mental exhaustions that will not allow me to be the best version of “mom” that I wanted to be at the beginning of that day. Yet, at the same time, I wanted to reclaim the hours past 5pm to work for me, for my husband, FOR TEAM FAMILY.
I’ve noticed that if I don’t create the mood I want, then by default it befalls the tiny dictators. And I want to enjoy my evenings, dammit!
During my favorite nights with my family there are dance parties, candles, wine, and family dinner at the table. I connected my love of scheduling and winning back the witching hours by setting a reminder on my phone every day at 5pm. This reminder says to “light the candles and start the music.” Just a few realistic things that I knew I could do consistently. Those two transitional prompts don’t just create the mood, they serve as a living reminder that the night is mine again. (Batwoman?)
Now, I try to not let the evening hours pass by feeling defeated. And for the most part, I get to decide how our evenings go. Somedays it’s harder than others, and if I’m being honest, sometimes we just blow out the candles and drive through Chick-Fil-A. But even still, I’m calling the shots (both decisions and tequila), and that’s all that matters.
Here are a few other tricks we use to win back the evenings at our house:
- Carry your baby from their nap bed to the high chair for a snack and drink so they don’t get hangry. Prepare a pre-dinner snacks for older kids before they ask.
- Save screen time for when you meal prep.
- Meal prep in the mornings if time permits.
- Dance cleaning party every day at 5 pm.
- Set up an outdoor activity for kids while you prep for dinner.
- Porch cocktail hour with special drinks for the kids AND the adults. Eat outside!
- Ask your older kids to shower and put on jammies while you make dinner.
- Ask your kids to prepare a show or dance or dramatic reenactment so you can enjoy a quiet dinner.
- Ask for highs and lows at the dinner table to make your conversations meaningful and less about them picking at their food.
- Eat in the dark! Light all the candles and play smooth jazz.
- Pack a picnic and eat in the park.
- Drive thruuuuuu.
What’s your favorite type of night with your family? How can you remind yourself that you’re in charge of those hours and take back control of the evening?
*raises the wine glass*
c/o MotherLift—A sister trio: Designer, Doula, and Therapst.
This is the job.
A few years back, a friend of mine said some honest words that dramatically shifted the way I viewed my role as a parent. When my eldest (of three) was in his “terrorizing his way through Walmart” phase, I complained to my friend how hard it was to get any shopping done. I kept having to stop and “deal” with his tantrums. This sometimes looked like abandoning an actual shopping cart to reset his feelings outside the store for a few minutes. I mean, it was exhausting, right? “How are we to get any household tasks done,” I asked? Her words at the time turned my perspective of parenting on its side.
“This is the job,” she said. The shopping isn’t the job. The kid is the job.
Ummm…had I forgotten that navigating my kid through Walmart was more important than navigating through Walmart itself? The job of forming our children shouldn’t come second to the chores of motherhood. Discovering and parceling through my toddler’s feelings about the world would be my work. He’s the job. Note taken.
The years tallied up and even though I liked the idea, I kept finding myself in similar patterns as before. Keeping my kids the main job was what I wanted to do, but it didn’t come naturally to me. Upon reflection I realized that minding the chores has always been my primary default response to stress; Compulsively, I’ve looked to physical tasks to relax and unwind my brain.
As a young child, I cleaned, dusted and vacuumed my room every Sunday afternoon, unprompted. I don’t just love the satisfaction of something getting done, I actually enjoy the process of doing it. Also, rearing young children might be the most intensely stressful part of life for women. (There were no less than 10 violent eruptions in my house today alone, and today was a good day.) It only makes sense that given the multitude of triggers for stress, my brain would begin to create a way out. My out is (and probably will always be) staying busy and getting shit done. It’s easier for me to turn on a podcast and create a masterful pile of laundry than to sit still and work through what these tiny ones think, feel, and do.
So here’s where I’m at—Shaping my children into tiny positive forces on the earth is challenging work, it takes focused time and energy. The job of parenting my kids right now is like 90% looking at them and talking to them. BUT for whatever reason, keeping my body moving actually does relieve stress for me at a time when stress relief is needed. I will always be a busy-body.
So, how do I connect my children’s needs to the needs of my own?
- Inviting my kids (one by one) into whatever I’m doing. We end up having more focused talk time than when I’m doing the task alone. FYI, it will take longer. But my kids seem to open up when they are moving and working with their hands. As do I.
- Allow more mess into my life than I’ve typically been comfortable with. (Does that add its own set of problems? Yes, but I’ve decided to take that problem over not connecting with my kid for the day.) If my body is telling me it needs to move, I channel that into a together activity, like jumping on the trampoline or a family dance party.
- Finally, and this one just sucks: I’m trying to let go of all my own expectations for the day. Usually, I have an itinerary when I wake up about what I can accomplish around the house and in my work that day. If my nine, six and one year olds were fully-functioning and contributing members of our household (adults) I might be able to accomplish all of them. But guess what… they are still KIDS in training. Even the most highly functioning people have bad days, and I want to allow space for my kids to be kids. Letting go of expectations relaxes my control, so that I’m not frustrated with the way my day plays out. Therefore, my “plans” for the day have to become more like “suggestions” of what I can realistically get done within the job of parenting. It’s been hard work to shift my mindset this way. But I think it’s going to be worth it.
If you’re in my shoes and have “opted out” of the real job for any reason at all, I am with you as we dive back in day, and day again. And if you’re a mom who is doing the real work now, forming your little ones and neglecting those dishes, I see you. My friends, this is the job. And jobs are hard. Let’s do the work now and look for the fruit to come.
c/oMotherLift—A sister trio: Designer, Doula, and Therapist
@MotherLift did a virtual interview with Taylor Plattor (@_lovemultiplies) about her ongoing losses in pregnancy, and attempts at IUI. The honesty and vulnerability she shares is humbling. Scroll on to read the full interview.
Your Name: Taylor Plattor
Kid’s Names & Ages: Kase- age 2.5, 5 heavenly babies
Your Age at 1st Conception: 21
Occupation: Postpartum RN & Doula
Relationship Status: Married
Where do you live? Round Rock, TX
Type of Birth: Vaginal
How do you define “Motherhood”?
Motherhood is…so many things. It’s like hopping on a roller coaster full of love, pain, fear, excitement, tears, laughs, strength, smiles, “boo-boos”, smudged fingerprints all over my windows. It goes a different pace every day- fast, slow, upside down, backwards. And I never want to get off.
What was unexpected for you in the process of becoming a mother? Positive and/or Negative
I don’t think anyone expects to go through recurrent pregnancy loss. I know I didn’t. How could I? I exercise, eat healthy, take my vitamins. Yet here I am, 6 pregnancies deep. Nobody told me how incredibly hard and lonely this journey can be. I can’t remember the last time I went a whole day without thinking about how my heart is so broken. But I trudge forward because I know it’ll be worth it. Motherhood is worth it.
How have you handled (or not handled) all the changes you’ve experienced? (i.e. learned coping tools, leaned on friends for support, got professional help, medication)?
At first, my ways of coping consisted of bottle up emotions and self isolation. I was afraid to talk about my miscarriages. I felt ashamed, like people would think I was doing something wrong that was causing the miscarriages. I stopped going to friend/family functions. Anytime I was invited somewhere where a pregnant person or something to do with babies was going to be there, I just didn’t go. Do you know what it feels like to be the girl in the room who’s grieving and everyone is looking at you because they know you’re grieving? It sucks. I didn’t talk about my feelings and nobody asked. This was so unhealthy, and I knew it was, but I didn’t know how else to handle it. I finally just had to start talking. I told my friends and family how I was feeling and what I needed from them. Some encouraged me to seek some sort of counseling, which I eventually did. I learned that it’s okay to express my emotions and how to recognize when they are leading me in unhealthy directions. I still have bad days, but I’m not so quiet about them now.
At MotherLift, we’re big believers in therapy. Do you feel like it was helpful for what you are going through? How did you find your counselor?
Oh yes! It’s very helpful to lay your thoughts and feelings all out on the table. It’s one thing to say “oh I’m grieving”, but it’s a completely different thing to look your grief dead in the face and say “oh I’m grieving and this is why I feel what I feel and this is what I’m going to do about it”.
I did Grief Share through my church. I knew I didn’t want to sit down one on one with a counselor because I felt like I would just cry the entire time. I mean, I still cried a lot in Grief Share, but it’s different when you’re surrounded by people who get it (and who sometimes cry along with you). Something I didn’t expect to feel was shame. I felt ashamed. At that time I had lost 4 babies and I wondered if the people in my grief group would roll their eyes at the reason I was sitting at them, like how dare I even think about categorizing my grief with theirs (my grief group was totally awesome btw). Women who have had miscarriages fear that their grief from it isn’t legitimate or valid. Read that again. Isn’t it terrible?
What has stayed the same about your marriage through loss? What has changed?
I have said this from the beginning of our relationship, even before we were married- Dustin and I are complete opposites in several different aspects, but it forms the perfect complementary relationship. He keeps me wild, I keep him grounded. When it comes to our emotions it’s a little different. He’s definitely more rational and I’m ready to jump off a cliff at any given moment. This has never changed about us, which I’m grateful for because the grief that stems from loss comes and goes in waves and, with that, comes a balancing act between logic, reason and emotion. Whenever I’m having a REALLY hard day, the kind where I want to go feet first off a ledge, he can always talk me down. I’d choose to be at the other end of the board any day. But, that being said, our relationship has changed in some ways too. When two people are throwing everything they have at a situation and aren’t getting the desired result, it feels incredibly defeating. Sometimes that feeling comes off as anger. Sometimes it comes off as guilt. It stems from a good place, one where we want to give the other person everything they could possibly ever want, but realizing you have no control over this one thing. This one thing you want so badly. And then the negative thoughts creep in. Does he think I’m a failure? Does he think I’m doing something wrong? Am I still enough? I’m not sure “changed” is the right word. I think it’s “challenged”. This journey has definitely challenged us.
Is there anything you would tell partners of those with multi-losses?
Lean into each other. Be open and honest with one another. Have hard conversations. I’ve learned that whenever I’m having those negative thoughts it’s actually me writing my own answer to a question I haven’t even asked yet. No matter how helpless you might feel, YOU are your partners support system. Pregnancy is a special, intimate bond that you share together. Pregnancy loss is the same. Don’t be afraid to seek help if you feel like you need it. There is no trophy for getting through grief without help.
Can you tell us a story of your experience as a mother? Like a day in the life of YOU as a mother? This can be the good, bad, and the ugly, whatever you feel like sharing.
I was a stay-at-home mom for the first year of Kase’s life. Just him and I, all day long.
It’s 8:00am and we are up for the day. As Kase is nursing, I’m thinking about all of the things I need to do today- do the dishes, fold the laundry that has been sitting in the basket for who knows how long, sweep the floors, and we’re out of the essentials so I better go to the grocery store. I change Kase out of his clothes just before he projectile vomits all over his new ones. Shocker. We change again and head into the living room. I dump all of the laundry onto the couch so I can fold while Kase is playing on his mat. You have to give him a new toy every 3 minutes or else he gets bored and starts screaming. Three pairs of pants later and Kase wants to be held. He’s teething, so he’s extra clingy lately. He wants to eat again, but I don’t blame him because I think he spit up his entire first meal this morning. Another diaper change. We rock for a little bit and read a book.
Back to the living room we go, we’ll try the exer-saucer this time. I get a few more things folded and he wants to be held again. I throw on the baby wrap and stick him in it. Do you know how hard it is to fold laundry with a baby on your chest? At this point I’ve heated up my coffee 3 times. He finally falls asleep, so I quietly slip him in his crib so I can get a few more things done. First nap means it’s probably 11:00. When you’re a mom you basically live from one nap to the next. He wakes up, we feed and we change. He decides to pee on me mid diaper change. When you’re a boy mom you get peed on. A lot. We put on new clothes and a new diaper. We play. We bounce. Have I even eaten today? Diaper change. We eat again. Another diaper change. Is second nap soon?!?! We play some more. He finally goes down for another nap, which means I can try to get my workout in. Nap is cut short when the doorbell rings and the dog goes ballistic.
So, now I’m doing lunges while holding Kase. He seems to be enjoying it but me not so much. Feed, eat, change. How has Kase not had a blowout yet? Oh wait, I spoke too soon. Change again. What is the dog chewing on? Oh another one of Kase’s toys. Great. The Ellen Show is on which means one hour until dad gets home (YAY). I’m still in my pajamas. What the heck is that smell? Oh, it’s baby vomit in my hair from this morning. I feel bad for my husband sometimes. He probably thinks I lounge around in my pajamas all day doing nothing LOLLL. Oh crap I never went to the store. I hope we have a frozen pizza. Dad is finally home and the dog is so excited that he tries to hurdle the couch and knocks over all the folded laundry in the process.
Before I know it, it’s bedtime. Kase has already had a bath and we’re in his room rocking. Rocking is his favorite (besides nursing). “Why can’t I just lay you down and you go right to sleep?” I wonder. He finally drifts off to sleep after what seems like hours of rocking, so I lay him down in his crib and quietly creep out of the room. Tomorrow is a new day, but it’ll probably be just like today.
Kase is almost 3 now and he still likes to rock. I can’t believe I used to hold this little boy in my arms and now we can both barely fit in the chair. I remember a time when I couldn’t wait until the day I didn’t have to rock him to sleep anymore. And now I never want it to come.
What would you tell someone struggling with what you experienced?
I truly live by the saying “grow through what you go through”. It’s so easy to sit back and let your feelings and emotions completely consume you. I really do believe we go through hard shit for a reason. Find that reason and let it be the fuel to your fire.
On the days when that feels, or has felt impossible, what pulled you through?
Simply this- Jesus. And maybe coffee. And a good cry in my car haha. But in all seriousness, I can usually wake up and just know it’s going to be a bad day. One where I’m counting down the minutes until it’s tomorrow. When that happens I just get out of bed, head to our front room and I let it all out. I give it all over to God. My worries, my frustrations, my anger, my fears. Everything that burdens me I lay at His feet. And then He gets off His throne of perfect love, perfect timing and perfect plans, meets me in my brokenness, and reminds me that my life is made up of just that- perfect love, timing and plans. Knowing that overwhelms me with peace when I need it most. Then I go get coffee and cry in my car hahaha (it’s my form of selfcare, okay?!).
What do you need the most in the midst of your experience?
Someone to be there for me. Someone who will sit with me. Someone who will listen to me. I just need someone. This journey is lonely enough.
Is that what you asked for in your conversations with friends and family?
It took time, but eventually yes. I think at first people felt uncomfortable bringing up a touchy subject, but to me it felt like they didn’t care (and being the type 2 that I am, I need people to love me LOL). Unfortunately I can still count on one hand the number of people who check in on us from time to time, but I guess that’s better than none. It hurts to even type that, but it’s the truth.
What’s one thing someone said or did for you that was meaningful for what you were going through?
My very best friend left me a thoughtful gift on my porch on what would have been the due date of our last baby. That loss was the toughest one, so it meant a lot that she acknowledged it and went out of her way to support us. She is the only person who said or did something for us on that day.
Is there a specific way that you have memorialized your losses?
Not anything specific. I mean I think about them every day and I have certain dates burned into my memory, but we don’t do anything special. I will say with our last loss we knew it was a boy, so we went out and bought blue flowers and ate blue cupcakes. But other than that, no. I really don’t know why, we just chose to not let that be a part of our healing process.
Have you found answers or diagnosis in your loss?
Kind of. We have done so much testing and the only abnormal thing that has come up is I have a MTHFR gene mutation. Of course I have the most severe form of it because why wouldn’t I? The mutation has the potential to cause clotting issues which can lead to miscarriage. However, MTHFR hasn’t been heavily studied and many doctors don’t even believe it can cause issues, so it can be really frustrating trying to find a OB or RE who takes it seriously. Luckily both of mine have agreed to put me on blood thinners when I do get pregnant again.
What has transpired with your body in preparation for getting pregnant again?
After being diagnosed with MTHFR I started doing my own research and learned I needed to change a few things. Folic acid is a big one. When you have a MTHFR mutation your body cannot process folic acid or B vitamins like it should, which can cause health issues. I have to take the methylated forms of these and I can’t take folic acid at all- it needs to be folate. So yeah those $6 walmart prenatals I took with Kase were essentially doing nothing for me, which is totally scary. I’m now one of the lucky people that gets to spend $60+ per month just on vitamins and I’m not even pregnant yet! It was also recommended I avoid dairy and gluten. I was already pretty much dairy free, but gluten has been a little harder. It’s in everything it seems like! I also switched to decaf coffee, though I do have regular every now and then. (When you’re a mom sometimes you just gotta.) And then of course exercise. I was already exercising a lot prior to trying to conceive, so I’ve just kept at it. Some days I don’t make it to the gym, but I try to at least move my body in some way when I don’t.
What do you know about yourself now that you didn’t know before beginning becoming a mother?
I can do hard things. Also, “this too shall pass”.
How would you finish these sentences?
All mothers need: encouragement
Motherhood is not: easy
Motherhood is: empowering
You can follow more of Taylor’s journey through her instagram @_lovemultiplies.
Once again, thank you Taylor for sharing your real, raw and emotional journey with us.
by Macy Morrow
Building a mom-squad is hard. If you’re not in an active pregnancy group leading up to the birth of your child, the aftermath can be isolating. Heck, even if you’ve done all the things, new motherhood is hard.
Old friends struggle to fit in your babyland. New friends are too fresh to ride the postpartum waves.
Where do you go from here?
Although there are many ways to build a squad. Here are 5 unconventional ways I’ve built mine:
1) Put yourself out there. I get it, ok. You’re sleep deprived, you haven’t showered in 3+ days, you feel like the substance that’s currently smeared on your leggings. It’s hard to remember that you have something to offer to the world, but you do. Remember when you used to sing karaoke? When you stayed up all night to drive to California? How about the time you knitted your own pair of shitty socks? Those are fun stories that someone would love to hear. I promise.
About three and a half years ago I was sitting at a coffee shop where the table rose just above my bulging pregnant belly. A hot cop approached, smiled and began flirting with me, and I totally let him. At the end of the conversation he tipped his head and said, “mam.” And HONEST TO GOD I’ve been living on this interaction for THREE AND A HALF YEARS. Now, just imagine that the hot cop is actually a really cool girl that you could actually grab coffee with (and not commit adultery). Neat, right?! You never know what’s out there until you take the first step. “I like your shirt!”, “Cool phone case!” these are just two phrases you could use to open with. It helps to remember: most people feel just as nervous as you do.
2) Don’t count out the singletons. My first postpartum experience, I sought out companionship of only mothers because I thought it would provide me with some comfort. Misery loves company, right? However, the more I solely associated with other moms, the more I realized that I was just swapping war stories with other overrun, scraggly women. Do you need mom friends? ABSOLUTELY. They have the closest understanding to what you’re going through, but you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Collectively, new moms can be kind of needy in postpartum. More than kind-of. We are really needy. During the #fourthtrimester you need friendship, flexibility, empathy, babysitting, comic relief, style and design advice, willingness to talk about nipples and/or vaginas, etc… Sure, other moms understand this stuff, but we’re all so tired, and truth be told, a bit “flakey.” Not because we suddenly only want to be with our babies, but because there are so many variables in getting two moms together to hang out. Did we sleep well last night? Did we just get thrown up on? Have we run out of coffee? We don’t know what the minute-to-minute will be like, and we need someone with adaptability to show up wherever we are.
Friends without kids provide rejuvenating stories, and spontaneity. They help remind us of who we were before the baby, and what we still hope to prioritize in ourselves! Look for the singletons, for they will enliven your life.
3) Bring the baby. Listen, sometimes you can’t find a sitter, or your partner (if you have one) is busy doing godknowswhat. Usually, that’d be an instant veto for hanging out, BUT what about if you just did the damn thing and loaded the baby in the car/uber? True, you won’t be able to cut loose as much as you were hoping, but it’s a start, and it’s a change of scenery.
One of the most liberating moments I had as a new mom was passing my baby off to a friend at a brewery, and drinking a pint with both of my hands free. BOTH, I TELL YOU! It’s not normal, and you’ll definitely get some weird looks, but I guarantee: if you give your friends the option of you with a baby or you not at all, they will choose to hang with you no matter the plus one sitch!
4) Find a commonality/try something new. I found out I was pregnant with my second because I had a catastrophic meltdown in which I questioned my existence. I sobbed to my husband at the dining room table. It felt like I was slipping into the role of wherever I was needed in our family, and was thus losing myself, and my interests. He opened up the community college website and helped me enroll in my first few classes that night. I can’t tell you how many times I puked in the Austin Community College bathroom with morning sickness, but I finished that semester, and every semester since, making friends along the way. School friends are built in. They serve a purpose per semester, and if there’s no connection, there’s no commitment in continuing on after the semester is over.
For me, school been a fulfilling and productive outlet to remind myself that I can do hard things. Oftentimes while nursing a baby, or doing Kegels. If you can’t commit to school right now, try looking in your city’s organized activities to see if there is something you can commit to. Austin has a great center for continued education. Pottery, painting, collages, writing. There’s no time like motherhood to jump in and try something unconventional to make friendships.
5) Start something. If signing up for something isn’t feasible for you right now, try doing something in your own home. OR if that’s overwhelming, just offer your home to an already existing group. In the past two years I’ve hosted: A Christmas Craft-a-thon, A book club (I’m sorry we’ve not been meeting bb’s! We’ll get back to it ASAP!), a DIY cocktail night, a clothing swap, Bachelor night, and floral arrangements. There’s never a shortage of things to invent in the spirit of hanging out. Organizing an activity is a soft cushion to get to know people better, and takes the initial pressures off.
Making new friends can be daunting, but if you pick any number from above, you can plant the seeds that eventually build your squad. Stop trying to force the mom-friends, and let the mom friends come to you by finding yourself, and inviting others to know you too.
Ugga Mugga, Mugga Fuggas,
By Morgan Messick
This is not a piece about postpartum in the time of covid, difficult as it is, with less human contact and access to resources. No, unfortunately the postpartum period at any time, under any circumstances is woefully under-supported in our society and it’s a big problem. We read about the magical policies of other countries, where families are supported and granted parental leave for sometimes up to a year (or more!). Fathers are encouraged to be at home with their new children, sometimes even required to be! In these foreign lands, mothers walk away from their delivery with baby boxes full of all the postpartum and baby supplies they could possibly need. Magic money appears in their bank account allowing them to transition more easily during this fresh new phase of life.
Not in America. In America, it feels like a dystopia where decisions are being made on behalf of our mothers. Oftentimes, by individuals who are not mothers themselves. In this, my homeland, mothers are being deprived of basic needs and support for things like breastfeeding and lactation. Not only that, but we’re being given mountains of paperwork to fill out after traumatic births, being shuffled out the door with a bill that will break the bank, and then being asked “hey, when are you going back to work?”.
You’ve probably heard that birth is a business, and sometimes it feels that way. And when the contractual business of having a baby is done, our society stops caring about the mothers. Instead, new mama’s are thrown out to fend for themselves physically, mentally and emotionally.
The amount of appointments you attend while your baby is in utero can feel clunky and excessive at times. Some moms are constantly going in for check ups, trying to juggle life, kids and so much more while attending back-to-back appointments. We check on our unborn babies a whole lot — and that’s a good thing! But, once that baby emerges, the appointments slow down, and the focus shifts.
The mother is no longer looked after. Her body and mental state is no longer regarded as a priority. When we go into the postpartum period (#fourthtrimester), we may have 1-2 check ups from providers, but often the most we get in those appointments is a series of paper surveys gauging whether we are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety (the Edinburgh PostNatal Depression Scale). Even with proper evaluations, the onus is on the mom to reach out and circle the number that screams for help. There is an immense mental and emotional burden that mothers are bearing on their own, and it’s a big problem.
So, we don’t have support in America. But not only do we not have support, we’re often exploited for work so quickly after birth, it’s staggering. This might be upsetting for many people to think about, but if you’ve actually birthed a baby and experienced postpartum first hand, it’s mind-numbing to think of women getting back out there (some on their feet all day) weeks, or even days after giving birth.
We are being asked to work like we don’t have children, and mother like we don’t have jobs. Being a parent is a full time job, having a job is a full time job, and keeping a home in order is at least a part-time job. Add in those who have pets, or other family to care for, and – in this pandemic – possibly homeschooling and MORE. Many new moms are being thrown into some combination of these circumstances the moment they give birth. It’s overwhelming. It’s unmanageable. It’s horrible, and it’s sad that it’s not at all shocking in our country.
I’m a first time mom, and I am 11 weeks postpartum while I write this. Here are the resources I was able to tap into for my journey:
- I had the best prenatal care available in Austin (shout out to the Austin Area Birthing Center)
- I had adequate postpartum care through six weeks
- I had a doula to support me before and after birth
- I have an amazing partner, committed 100% to co-parenting with me and sharing the load
- I had an astounding amount of maternity leave by US standards (took 12 weeks, partially paid)
- My partner was able to take 12 weeks of paternity leave (PAID) and has been by my side the whole time
- I left my birth center with an enormous support group (thanks to the Centering Pregnancy program) that I am able to reach out to 24 hours a day through a group text
- I am able to buy the best baby products available to help my baby eat, sleep and live her best life
- I have had access to free lactation consultants through my insurance to help me wade through breastfeeding difficulties
I have some really great support right now, and I STILL find myself drowning in the day-to-day new parenting moments. Even with all of this help laid at my feet…it hasn’t been enough. From this mountain of privilege that I am lucky enough to be on, it’s not enough for me and the vast majority of new moms get much less than what I have to work with.
I am just about to return to work, and I am devastated inside with how difficult this is going to be for me. I am so anxious about what it all will look like, and how I will be able to cope, and how in the world I’ll get it all done. It’s not a contest for who has the most problems to contend with, but rather a bleak outlook for all mothers. No matter how big or small our troubles or successes: we are all in this boat together, and the boat has been sinking for years. We could all use more support.
When it comes to postpartum care, we are looking at a systemic problem in our country. The system is broken; mothers are treated very clinically during their postpartum time and we don’t proactively prepare women for what this period can be like. Instead, women are given statistics like “1 in 10 women will experience postpartum depression.” “According to some experts as many as 70-80% of women will experience the baby blues,” and “Many will go on to experience more severe conditions such as postpartum depression or anxiety, and it can hit at any time during the first year of your baby’s life.”
We are given this information to carry — on top of carrying the emotional weight of a new child, being sleep deprived, having a body that feels wrecked and generally tired in so many ways. We are asked to contend with the possibility that we may end up being a part of these statistics, and we may or may not be able to get the help we need — either way, it feels like it’s up to us to navigate on our own.
So, we become our own teachers, and through this we get lost in our roles from day-to-day and the moments fly by, self care is thrown out the window and before you know it you’re back at work, or it’s laundry day again, or you forgot to feed the dogs. Time is a thief, and sometimes it’s hard to catch your breath.
New as I am to motherhood, what I know is this: There’s so much trial and error, and sometimes it can feel like a stack of failures have piled up around you. And Mama, there will be moments that feel like failures. Wear them like a badge, because failing so much, so often, is not a sign of not succeeding, it’s a sign of love, effort, and a path to victories. It means you care enough to persist, to be resilient, and for that you’re the greatest mom in the world. And Mama, know that you’re not measured by the amount of ounces you can pump or whether you feed your baby formula (fed is best) or the hours of sleep your baby gets or how many dishes are in the sink or how many pounds you lost after the baby was born or or how many milestones your baby is hitting a month or how much work you are able to get done outside of mothering. You are measured in the love in your baby’s eyes — and they do love you so much!
We are thrown into a new world, given (less than) the bare minimum of support and we are coming out the otherside. Postpartum is hard, motherhood is hard, but we can do hard things.
They say it takes a village, but we don’t get one. (America, let’s do better M’kay?) In the meantime, find your supports where you can get them, Mama. Reach out. Ask for help. Join local groups online (in person, when it’s safe again!).
You’re strong as a mother, and I believe in you!
Morgan Messick is a first time mom to baby girl Marlo Jean, just coming out of the fourth trimester in Austin, TX. She’s a marketing professional with a passion for her dogs, fantasy, pop-culture content and crushing the patriarchy and systemic inequities. You can follow her blog MorganizedMess.com for all the things.
From the time my son was conceived, I asked myself, “how can I balance being a working mom?” It was no secret that I wanted to go back to work, and my husband was 100% supportive in that.
I love to work, I love my field and I love making my own money—even if the money isn’t great, #hellosocialwork! One of the hardest realities I faced in new motherhood was the lack of my own paycheck hitting direct deposit while I was away on maternity leave .
Besides financial gains, my work also keeps my mind in a relative perspective. My profession deals with acutely psychotic, predominantly homeless populations. Therefore, it has become an easy reflex to have reflective “heart checks” (reality checks) regarding the severity (or lack thereof) of stressors in my life.
The fact that I spilled my coffee, my kid pooped as we were walking out the door or that I forgot to make my smoothie (again) becomes absolutely minuscule in comparison to the feats my patients are facing every day. With this relativity comes gratitude. My work has taught me to be thankful for my coping skills, thankful for my ability to communicate needs with my partner and thankful for a brain that does not betray my ability to maintain reality and self-awareness.
So, I’m a working mom… and I love it. Not only that, but I feel encouraged that I get this opportunity over being a stay at home mom.
Stay at home moms (SAHM’s) are teachers, entertainers, short order cooks, house keepers, etc… That’s a job I feel overwhelmed by. Though the expectations from SAHM’s can run very similar to some I experience at work (such as problem solving with a very demanding population) the thought of stepping into this role for my own family without the ability to unplug made me feel anxious .
When I’m with my son, the choices I make directly affect the choices he has to live with. At my job, however, I’m able to distantly facilitate choices being made by my patients (or on behalf of them) for betterment of their lives. The merit of those pressures weigh differently on my conscience.
Although, I haven’t directly sourced the anxiety for why the two feel so differently weighted, much stems from the explicit mandate of doing these things daily with Pinterest creativity and an Instagram photo op moments. At my work, I know my “influence” and guidance can only create healthy patterns—there’s a clear line to walk. At home, I walk a crooked line, taxed with a melting pot of social media posts chiding me for all the things I could be doing in “betterment” of my child.
This work is exactly where I want to be, yet, I still have my doubts, and heavy doses of mom guilt for not wanting to be a SAHM. I’m not free from the pangs of missing my child while I’m away, but sometimes the days can slip away from me.
My work demands a fast pace, and insists my full attention. In fact, most days I’m so busy I almost pee my pants. From the time I arrive, to the time I leave, my thoughts and efforts are geared toward the needs of others . Countless times, I’ve gone through the day only to realize I have no idea how my son’s day went . Things I usually do to connect with him, like checking his daycare app, or texting with my husband, who is with him right now, are forgotten .
Occupationally, I teach empowerment, self-awareness and mindfulness. In personal practice, however, the shame and guilt following the days I forgot to check in seemed to be all-consuming. Convicted by my own lack of coping, I began to pinpoint my own practice of mindfulness to connect with my son throughout the day. In sharing this list, I hope that all working moms know they’re not alone, and that it takes a lot of effort to become aware of your needs, and make a proactive plan to meet them.
Here are a few of mine:
- I carry a paci in my pocket. Every time I reach in for a pen or keys I receive a gentle reminder of my little one.
- I check his daycare app, or text my husband; I set aside time to check in . (Even if it’s only a minute or two!)
- I bring my son into conversation more— using him as a focal point with coworkers. Connecting them and myself with his new words , or a story I found funny .
- I changed my inner dialogue from “ I wonder if he’s ok ?” to “ I wonder what he learned today? ”, from “Is he going to be less bonded to me ?” to “ developing friendships and different attachments makes for a healthy well rounded child”, and from “Am I being selfish for wanting to work” to “ having passion for more than one thing is not selfish”.
- When I walk in the door, I try to put my phone away, and leave work at work. I choose to engage fully . When I’m home , I’m home . (This is my hardest , and a constant work in progress.)
When I think about “learned behaviors” for my son, I want to engage with him in a practice of grace. I hope that by extending grace to himself, he will also excel in grace toward others. I would love to say I’ve identified my specific needs, embraced them 100%, and no longer struggle with mom guilt, but that would make me a robot and not a woman. So instead, I try to celebrate the days I succeed and gain better understanding on the days I struggle.
I’m essential personnel, which means I’ve been working through the pandemic. The steps I’ve taken to establish connection while I’m away from my son feel extra necessary right now, and are a comfort to me in the unknown.
To all my SAHM , y’all are badasses. To all my working moms, go ahead girl go ahead get down.
This is Jaeda’s honest story about the grief that comes with infertility. And the joy that she experienced when she was able to give birth to her twins Fiona and Porter. She holds nothing back as she shares her emotional experience undergoing IVF while she watched her friends get pregnant around her. She showed such courage in sharing her true feelings and we are honored to get to listen in to her story and learn something from it. Isn’t it interesting how motherhood opens our eyes to deeper emotions we never knew were under the surface?
What does “motherhood” mean to you?
It means abandoning a level of selfishness that I never knew I had. It’s the most important job you will ever have in your entire life. It’s finding and immersing yourself in new levels of love, anger, joy, patience, loneliness, and all the emotions in between.
Was there anything unexpected, traumatic or significant for you in the process of becoming a mother?
Like most people, I thought I would become a mom much quicker and easier than I did. Dealing with “unexplained fertility” was so utterly frustrating because there is nothing to pinpoint and say “Ok. We fix this and we will get pregnant.” I was not prepared for the emotional toll and lonely journey of infertility. As a woman, you can’t help but feel like your body is failing you, even if that’s not the situation. We are built to create life, but mine wasn’t doing that. We tried the good old fashion way for about a year before we started seeking professional help. It was the typical testing for both of us (HSG test, HSG test, semen analysis, bloodwork) and all looked fantastic. Next it was four different rounds of IUI, with no success. We took a medical break for a little over a year since fertility treatments were not covered. I had tracked my cycle in every single way possible, peed on strips and sticks, charted, drank and ate “fertility friendly” foods, rested in some cirque du soleil poses for optimal sperm flow. We decided to start looking into adoption, and something made me check our insurance again (it updated yearly through my husband’s employer) and shockingly, we now had enough to cover ONE round of IVF.
They retrieved 22 eggs which turned into six mature eggs which turned into six fertilized. We knew we wanted to do two, so the doc grabbed two five-day blastocysts and they stuck. I took a pregnancy test two days before my blood test, and seeing “pregnant” for the first time was the most surreal thing. When my blood tests kept coming back with stellar results, I had a feeling they were both in there. At six weeks I saw them on the ultrasound for the first time.
Seeing “pregnant” for the first time was the most surreal thing.
We had four embryos frozen. In March of 2018 when the twins were 10 months old, we got the news that our embryos were no longer viable due to a MASSIVE hospital disaster with a freezer tank. Although they would cover another round of IVF, I couldn’t see going through that entire process again with two toddlers and my now “geriatic” eggs. I think about those embryos every single day. There is no doubt in my mind I would have had one more transferred by now.
Infertility never really goes away. Even though we have our family, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I still get jealous of people who can try for a baby and make one just like that.
What was it like to open up about your infertility to others? Good experiences and bad experiences?
Luckily, it was mostly good! I slowly opened up to friends and found a couple others struggling. It wasn’t until I opened up on Instagram that I discovered a whole community of people on the same journey as me. I even had a group text with two other women from high school since we were all struggling. I had another friend pass a Giving Key on to me that said “HOPE”. I wore that every day until the twins were born. After, I felt it was time to pass it on to the last of high school friends from the group who had yet to conceive. (She too wore it every day and finally had her IVF miracle baby two months ago!)
The bad part was related to other moms who were super fertile. I didn’t want them to feel my jealousy, but I felt a mix of joy and devastation when another pregnancy was announced. It was sometimes difficult to hide.
How did you cope struggling with infertility? I had to to learn to let go of what I couldn’t control and started seeking things I could control in regards to becoming a mother (adoption). One of the hardest things was trying to “not try”. That’s what the generic advice is: “If you just stop trying it will happen. That’s what happened to ‘so-and-so’!” It didn’t matter if I wasn’t checking my basal body temperature or peeing on an ovulation stick, I KNEW when that hot window was each month and there was no ignoring it. All you could really do is focus on making your life and environment as “family friendly” as possible. If you’re unhappy in your career, leave. If you’re unhappy with your health, make dietary and fitness changes. Find new ways to restore positive energy in your body.
How did you change in the process of your experience? I found a level of emptiness I didn’t know I had. I felt so alone on the journey and constantly felt inadequate. It led me to taking charge and finding more spiritual ways to deal with finding patience.
Describe these spiritual ways: I did more yoga. Learned how to meditate. Picked up running again and trained for my second half marathon. I tried surrounding myself with more spiritual people and had more conversations around that. I also started getting Reiki to help balance my energy.
I knew that one day I would look at a child and know exactly why it took that long to get them. I just had to find a way to accept that it may take longer than I wanted it to.
Were there any mantras/affirmations or ways of thinking that helped you move through your experience?
I was gifted a beautiful, handmade set of mala beads and used them as a point of centering. I remember making the drive across town for work, and rolling my fingers over each bead on the way repeating the same thing to myself over and over:
I am strong. I am patient. I am fertile.
What would you say to women facing infertility? If you feel alone, try to find the strength to open up about it. The fertility community is much larger than you may think.
These women are your friends. These women are your tribe. These women are your strength on the days you need it most. They will be there to lift you up in ways no one else can. Motherhood is generally the same for everyone, but the journey is different and unique. Yours will make sense to you one day. And while you’re in the middle of the shitshow, and you feel like you cannot take another crushing month of trying,
Remember that you are not alone.
Motherhood is hard enough, but when we face the challenges of pregnancy and motherhood all alone, it can be so lonely.
At Motherlift we want to tell stories that inspire, educate, and remind you: you aren’t the only one.
We want to allow women to share honestly about their experiences without all the fear and anxiety we usually find on the internet. We will be posting stories of joy, anticipation, surprise, grief, endurance, and most of all, strength. Consider this blog a place to listen to a friend’s experience of motherhood.
Come as you are.
Leave your anxieties at the door.
See that you aren’t alone in your story.
We are asking for stories from women who experienced the unexpected when they were expecting. If you want to share your story about conception, pregnancy, childbirth or motherhood, submit it here.
Have you ever thought about what it must be like to be a kid experiencing the world for the first time? If you’ve ever been in a foreign country you remember the feeling of looking out the window and there are signs with symbols you’ve never seen and letters that seem to be pushed together to form some word that has meaning to everyone else but you. Then you see that everyone seems to be behaving in similar ways but you can’t seem to fall in line. Maybe you don’t want to fall in line. Maybe you want to rebel! Or you wish they drove on the right side of the rode and followed the appropriate amount of personal space, and didn’t talk so loudly or so quietly. You wish they were like the people in your own country.
I’ve been thinking about how a kid might encounter our world and its unspoken rules at each developmental stage with newfound awareness/confusion. We assume they will fall in line with our mini-culture in our family. We try to speed through the “learning” then “modeling” process that is our job as parents. When they learn to talk we are surprised, sometimes irritated when they speak too loudly. They scream their new words happily in the car, but then they do it in the middle of church. We forget they don’t know the difference between the car and a nice restaurant.
When they begin to have an opinion, they get to have choices. They choose their shirt for the day, they choose what drink to order. But then they think they can choose to paint on the wall too! Right? We forget they don’t know there’s a difference between those choices.
Oh lordy, what about puberty? When they begin to open their eyes to romantic relationships. This has to be like visiting the Italian Riviera for the first time, having never stepped foot out of the monotonous suburbs! They see everything in brilliant emotional color. We forget they’ve never experienced this kind of admiration, love, infatuation- even if it’s just with their own reflection! The newness of all the hormonal firsts is all consuming.
We forget that at the beginning of each of those developmental stages they get saturated by the newness. They don’t know the rules and boundaries. It’s our job to show them without judgement. Give grace. And Model! Maybe we can relive some of those moments with them. The firsts. The firsts that cause all the conflict in a family and cause us to set new limits as parents. But the firsts are where they stretch their legs and grow into the humans we hope they will be. And isn’t it exciting!?
Morgan Myers, LPC-intern is a family therapist specializing in adolescent counseling and adult counseling. Issues include depression, anxiety post partum depression and parenting concerns. She currently seeing clients in North Dallas at Hope Child & Family Center of Texas. Beginning Fall 2018 she will also be seeing clients in East Dallas. For a consultation and to setup an appointment for you or your child, call 469-203-1533 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.