PUTTING PRIDE BACK IN OUR MOTHERS

IMG_5900.JPG

Originally, this was going to be three different posts. Epidural vs. Natural, Breastfeeding vs. Pumping, and a quick Instagram post on how easy it is to judge Mothers for the choices they make and the situations they find themselves in.

Ultimately, I realized I really only had one point to make in all of this. The message I want to put out there is that us mothers make plans. We think about the best thing for us and our kids, but that doesn’t mean everything will go according to plan. Things happen that are out of our control and it’s just not realistic to expect one person to have all the answers and the ability to carry out those answers for everyone.

***

Now that I’m two kids in with two very different labor, delivery, and newborn experiences, I’ve learned that even the best intentioned mothers can appear weak or scattered on the outside.  

It’s far too easy to judge the results of someone’s circumstance without knowing the road that lead them to where they are. It’s easy to say that motherhood is simple and that there are natural things we should all have the ability to do.  Mothers face a lot of judgement and criticism these days. Everyone has their own standards and if you don’t meet them, that’s one more person who will write you off as “not doing enough.”  

And this is what I really wanted to say. What I really wanted to talk about.  

The pride of our mothers. 

I think it’s time to realize that carrying a child for nine months, laboring and delivering that child, and then feeding that child in those early days is not a simple thing. It’s not what you’d expect it to be. It’s not always something you have the natural ability to do (or want to do). Yes, creating humans is one of the most basic instincts we have and it’s something billions of people have done without the help of medicine or breast pumps, but that doesn’t make it easy and that doesn’t mean any one experience is more successful than another. 

So for the sake of our mothers, I want to talk about a few things I’ve experienced that can help us all give perspective on how different motherhood can be for us all. A perspective that can hopefully give all us mamas a little boost of pride. 

Putting Pride Back In Our Mothers

Like I said before, the experiences I had between my first and second son were very different. The pregnancy was mostly the same, but as soon as labor hit, they were polar opposites.

My experience with my second son gave me a lot of pride and congratulations because everything I did was brave and the right way to do itWhile I am proud of myself, I also carry some resentment that I couldn’t have done the same for my first child. I remember the embarrassment I felt when I finally threw in the towel and got the epidural. The shame I felt pumping to feed him when the boob just wasn’t working out. I found ways to be proud of myself that first time around, until I did all the things I wanted to do with my second. Then, I started to feel the shame all over again. 

And that’s when I realized, it’s not that either experience was more successful than the other. I just had a very specific view of what makes a mother successful and I think it’s time for that to change.

  • IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE BABY WEIGHT | I was a little backwards when it came to weight gain with my kids. I gained a lot of weight with my first, but somehow managed to stay fairly fit with my second during pregnancy.

    Of course, after you give birth people like to comment on how good you look and how much weight you’ve lost. Then, when you have a second baby they like to compare how your body looked the first time vs. the second.

    Beyond that, if you’re a mama that has trouble losing the baby weight (or even if you’re not), you’re probably going to compare yourself to others who seem to bounce right back to their pre-baby weight the second the baby comes out. Maybe you feel like you’ve failed or you’re lazy because others seem to have an easier time.

    So being someone who’s experienced a hard and easy time losing the weight, just know every baby is different. Every body is different. Every pregnancy is different. Also, having a baby is exhausting and most of us aren’t leaping out of bed every morning to go work out. Frankly, in the postpartum stage, your body has been a tool for so long and will continue to be a tool as long as you’re using it to feed your baby. You need time to recover from that at your own pace. Baby weight should be the last thing you have to worry about. You’re doing a great job and when most people look at you, all they see is a wonderful mother who is doing exactly what she needs to do.

  • HAVING A BABY IS INCREDIBLE NO MATTER HOW YOU DO IT | So, with my second son I really wanted an epidural but by the time I got to the hospital I was too far along. With my first son, I didn’t want the epidural but my labor was so painful and lasted so long that I had to cave in for the sake of my sanity.

    I’ve known moms who have wanted so bad to have a vaginal birth but had to get an emergency c-section. Of course, every mom wants to wait until their baby is to term but I’ve known moms who’s bodies and babies decided otherwise.

    There’s this idea that the strongest of women have completely natural births, at home if you’re a real warrior. It’s so idealized that anything less can seem weak. People who have never given birth can think, “Just get through the pain, it’s not gonna last forever!” People who have given natural birth can think, “I did it, so why can’t you?” Then people who willingly or unwillingly have a different experience can often think, “I’ve failed. I wasn’t strong enough.”

    At least that’s how I felt when I got my epidural. And when I didn’t have an epidural, I actually did feel more proud and then I felt shame for my first experience. Then, I was sad because I still gave birth the first time and that should be enough for me. I still went through pregnancy and sleepy newborn days. So then I had to ask myself why I was so ashamed and I realized it was because I felt like other people would look down on me for having the epidural the first time.

    The bottom line is, everyone’s pain is different. Between pain tolerance, how severe the pain is, how long that severe pain lasts, how healthy the baby is, how big the baby is, how healthy the mom is, etc. etc. you get it. There are so many circumstances that come into play when delivery is involved that no one but mama has the right or insight to judge their choices. Even if there’s not. Even if you walk into the hospital for a scheduled induction and immediately ask for an epidural before the pain starts, you’re still having a baby and that will always be impressive.

  • BOOB IS NICE, BUT IT’S NOT EVERYTHING | Ahh breastfeeding. Probably the number one thing a mother will be judged for. I know this because I pumped with my first one. I was very set on him getting breastmilk, but when it came to actual breastfeeding, that was not going to happen.

    If I’m being honest, I probably could’ve powered through, but I hated it so much. Every time my first got hungry, I resented him for what I was about to endure. The pain, the exhaustion, the struggle with getting this helpless kid to just latch on already. If I hadn’t switched to pumping, I may have resented my child for most of his infancy.

    I know that sounds terrible, but my point to saying all of that is to show the struggle that some moms can go through. The choice to not breastfeed beats most of us up inside. I for one cried for days before and after choosing to pump exclusively. I felt like I was a failure, I felt like I was failing my son, and part of me believed that we’d never bond properly because I was making this choice. And then, the looks you get when you tell perfect strangers that you pump. People who know nothing about you, your baby, or your experience affirm your feelings of failure.

    Now that I’m breastfeeding my second, I still have feelings of guilt and fear that my first will feel like I let him down because his experience was different than his brother’s. I still have moments of fearing he’ll think I love him less or don’t care as much because he wasn’t breastfed and his brother was.

    So if you’re a mama struggling with breastfeeding just know you’re not alone. You’re child won’t resent you for it. And if you’ve never experienced struggle with breastfeeding, just now it’s real and sometimes the healthiest choice is to avoid it altogether. And no matter who you are, know that the way a mama feeds her baby is the right choice for them. Even if you’ve heard differently, even with all the “breast is best” that’s out there, the reality is that mama knows best and all she needs is support and understanding because the choice she’s made may have been a hard one.

  • EVERY EXPERIENCE IS UNIQUE AND NO ONE WILL TRULY UNDERSTAND BUT THE MAMA WHO WENT THROUGH IT | If you’ve had a kid, if you’ve never had kids, if you’ve had 500 kids; you still don’t know for sure what another mom’s story is. This is something I didn’t quite understand with my first, but I learned very well with my second. I relived my first experience during the first weeks with my second and I compared heavily. I investigated every detail to understand what made them so different.

    In part, it was me. I wasn’t as prepared the first time. I wasn’t as patient. I was still learning how to let go of myself to give to another.

    But it was also my kids. They have so many similarities, but the experience I had the days leading up to meeting them and the first few days of having them were so different.

    This taught me that you really don’t know what to expect as a mother, but you really really don’t know what another mother has gone through. You really don’t know their bodies or medical history. You don’t know their babies or the environment they delivered in or the staff that helped them. You don’t know the information they had, the life experiences they’re pulling from. So how can any of us know what’s truly right for another?

***

There are so many factors that come into play when deciding what kind of mother you’ll be. What my motherhood looks like will be different just within my own family with each individual child. I’ll shape and mold to each of their needs the same way every other mother will do the same in her own way.

I think understanding this is something we all need. Understanding that the only mother who is truly failing is the one who isn’t trying. Then, understanding that what may look like failing to you could be the very thing that is helping another to succeed.

Above all, the only thing any mother truly needs is support and the permission to feel pride in the mother she chooses to be.

CHARLES NICOLAS JONES: A BIRTH STORY

IMG_5836.JPG

It all started with a negative pregnancy test. Actually, three negative pregnancy tests.

My husband and I were ready for our second kid and for some reason, I was convinced that our most recent try was the one that stuck. Even after three negative pregnancy tests, I still had that lingering feeling that there was something happening.

Sure enough, Charlie was there, beginning his journey to existence.

***

My pregnancy was strange in that it was exactly the same as my first. From how he moved to the food I craved, my two boys have been very similar from the start. The biggest difference was, I had a toddler this time to keep me busy so time didn’t move quite as slow.

So let’s fast forward to the day Charlie was born.

At 4:45am, I woke up to a sharp pain. It was dull, but I could tell contractions have begun.

This continued for the rest of the night. They were so slight that I could almost sleep through them. They were coming about every 30-45 minutes for the better part of the day.

My doctor had an induction scheduled for the next day and while I didn’t really think I’d make it to that, I was also convinced that I was going to need to settle into labor for a while so I decided there was no reason for any of us to make a fuss and that everyone should go along with their day while I made myself comfortable on the floor with a trash bag and towel under me just in case my water broke.

It wasn’t until the afternoon that my contractions started coming in a little stronger and closer together. Between 12pm and 3pm, they went from mild at 15 minutes apart to somewhat painful at 5 minutes apart. That’s when I knew things were moving forward and moving forward quickly.

With my first, my contractions were 3 minutes apart and off the charts painful for a good 10-12 hours, most of which was spent at the hospital. So that’s what I was waiting for. I was waiting for that level 10 pain to kick in and stay for hours and hours and I didn’t believe that anything but that could actually be productive.

But even as they got closer and closer together, my contractions were never too painful to talk or walk through. They never got that bad.

SO BY THE TIME WE CALLED THE HOSPITAL, I wasn’t convinced anything was really happening.

I took a bath around 3pm where I had my first contraction that hurt bad enough that I thought it may be productive. At the very least, it hurt bad enough to remind me that labor hurts and I wanted to get to the hospital to get an epidural ASAP.

I hadn’t made up my mind about the epidural during my pregnancy. Basically, my plan was to decide once I got to the hospital. If I was far enough along, I’d go without.

Once labor really kicked in, I made my mind up about the epidural: if I could get it, you better believe I was going to get it whether I was far along or not.

SO IAN CALLED THE HOSPITAL AT 3:30pm to let them know we would be coming in today.

Even with my more painful contractions coming in, I still wasn’t sure if it was time to go to the hospital. I decided to wait an hour, but when my next contraction came along, I knew we needed to leave immediately.

When we got to the hospital, my contractions had gone from pain level of 7 to 9 in a matter of minutes. Honestly, I didn’t connect the dots that maybe now that things were moving, they’d start moving fast. I was convinced that real labor had just started and that I’d be cozied up at the hospital with my epidural for the better part of the evening.

Then the nurse checked on me. I was 7cm. She knew I couldn’t get the epidural, though she kept saying, “We’re just waiting on one thing and then they should be ready.” In the back of my head I knew it wasn’t coming, but I still had hope that each of my contractions would be the last and that the epidural fairy would come in and save me from the torturous pain that is labor.

Instead, my doctor came in and said it was time. I was going to birth a baby with no epidural.

I didn’t feel quite as scared as I thought I would. I knew that this meant labor would be over soon and if I could just get through “the ring of fire” I’d be golden.

So they broke my water, because oh yeah, that still hadn’t happened yet, and told me it was time to start pushing.

AND THEN, THE BOY WAS BORN AT 5:40pm.

Only two hours after we called the hospital to let them know we were on our way. Only two hours of intense labor.

Right before pushing, I whispered to Charlie, “Help me out son.” And then I pushed a couple times, felt that dreaded ring of fire, and there he was.

It was actually a very euphoric experience. Something about pairing the relief of the pain being done with holding a baby in your hands that creates a really special moment.

Charlie immediately wanted to eat and continued to eat for almost two hours before the nurses were like, “Okay kid, it’s time to move on.”

He was born the exact same size as his brother: 8 lbs 15 oz and 21 in.

And now he sits in his hand-me-down swing in his hand-me-down clothes in true little brother fashion. He sleeps like a dream, eats like a fiend, and is beloved by us all. He looks just like his dad down to the tip of his toes and even the two year old thinks he’s the cutest.

I didn’t know for sure if we’d be able to handle two, but the minute they put him in my arms, I had a wave of confidence rush over me that hasn’t gone away. Because of course we’re ready for Charlie. He was always meant to be here and now that he is, I couldn’t imagine life any other way.

JUST TELL ME HOW TO HELP

IMG_5744.JPG

I haven’t really known what to say.

When I first heard, I was very angry. The bill was passed as I entered my third trimester of my second pregnancy and I was extremely sad and confused by who and what kind of people could choose to kill a healthy baby that they had been holding onto for so long. A baby that’s moving, hiccuping, seeing shadows, hearing your voice. Foolishly being soothed at any vibrations coming from your vocal chords. Even the ones declaring it is no longer wanted and no longer deserves to live.

As time has gone on, my anger has subsided, though my sadness still grows stronger. Every kick I feel from my own baby, I get a flash of what it must be like deciding to go through with a late-term abortion, having the injection, and wondering if every kick you feel from then on is your baby, who you’ve gotten to know so well, in agonizing pain. A kick that’s followed by silent cries of confusion and fear as their life slips away from them.

Every time I hear a story of women who have gone through with a late-term abortion. Telling their tale of their full grown, otherwise healthy babies being flushed down a drain or pulled from their body, limb by limb. Hearing of babies who are left in buckets, struggling for air, crying for help as medical professionals who have taken oaths to save every life, no matter what, watch these poor babies die. Unloved and unwanted by every person they’ve ever encountered for no other reason than simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It really makes me wonder if the difference between life and death should really be a uterine wall.

I’m not trying to be morbid or fill anyone with guilt. This is literally where my brain goes. I just can’t help it.

***

I’m not a religious person. My values aren’t driven by a higher power. To me, it’s just simply be kind and treat everyone with respect because it’s the right thing to do. Because I don’t have the right to decide one person deserves kindness or respect over another.

So then that brings up the debate, when does life really start? Who really has rights and who really doesn’t? What is the fight that’s really worth fighting? Who’s baby is it really and who’s body is it really? Take religion out of it and you’ve still got a mess of opinions and bias to get through, regardless of any facts you can find on the matter. Opinions and bias that are shaped so early on by our own personal experiences, so in our core that at this point, you can’t convince me and I can’t convince you that anything we believe is right or wrong. And you know what? That’s okay.

I’m not here to try and convince a women who has come to the conclusion that her baby shouldn’t live that she is wrong. While I can’t understand what you have gone through to get to that point, I also can’t tell you that your life experiences and opinions are anymore or less significant than my own.

***

I guess at this point, I’ve reached the conclusion that open discussion is important. Not a bickering match about who’s right and who’s wrong based on XY and Z. But real discussions surrounded by respect for the fact that we are all different and have different opinions and somehow try to come to a middle ground of, at the very least, mutual respect and understanding.

***

Really, what it comes down to for me is that this has raised a lot of questions. It’s put a lot of light on society and it’s morals and values.

I’ve realized how one track minded adults can be. How difficult it is for us to step outside of ourselves and simply try to understand. It’s difficult, as someone who believes that every baby deserves to live and that every father (unless proven to be unsafe for mom and/or baby) has rights too, to understand all of this. It’s difficult for me to even want to understand sometimes.

But the bottom line is, if we truly want equality and we truly want a kind world, we have to be willing to hear and care for each other, whether we agree or not. We need to stop having discussions and making posts for the sake of convincing people we’re right. I think the only way to really help is to respectfully share ourselves and our experiences in order to help each other see every side.

***

I can’t tell you that all of this is right or wrong. All I can say is that it makes me sad for those babies and it makes me wish they had the opportunity to have someone who was capable of loving them the way they needed. The same way I wish every human could be given the opportunity to have someone love them the way they need to be loved.

I can’t say that the people who choose to terminate their pregnancies are bad people because I don’t know them. I don’t know what has brought them to that conclusion and I don’t know what it will do to them when all is said and done. I am very sure that the last thing they need, the last thing that will help, is for me to project my own opinion on them and their lives.

***

All of this being said, all I really can say to everyone is, I want to help. I want to give the world the love it needs. Yes. I am against abortions. I couldn’t choose to have one personally. It makes me incredibly sad thinking about this happening in the world. Thinking that there are babies who are happy, alive, and well who are killed for no other reason than being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

But I’m not against people. I want to help adults and babies alike, I just don’t know how. I don’t want to strip people of something they feel they need and deserve, but I also want to save the people who have no choice in the matter at all and I honestly don’t know how to do both. Short of offering to adopt every baby who’s mother doesn’t want them, I don’t know what to do.

***

For now, the best I can think to do is say all of this and to end it by saying, I’m here.

I’m here to listen. I’m not here to judge. I have my opinions. I have my feelings. I am a human being and I can’t help that my brain is a functioning one that feels and forms opinions based on my personal experiences. I can’t help that I have bias, but I do have the self control to not let that bias turn me into a cruel, close-minded person. I have enough self control to be kind and respectful and caring no matter where you stand. And I want to find a way for every human to have rights. For every person with a beating heart to get the love that they deserve.