Motherhood

Too much too; Not enough enough

Motherhood is full of questions.

Questions about baby. Is baby gaining too much weight too fast? Is baby gaining weight too slowly? Am I spending too much money on disposable diapers? Am I letting him cry too much? Am I letting him nurse to sleep too much? Am I being too rigid with a schedule? Am I being too flexible without one? Did I do enough research on vaccines? Do I wear my baby enough?

Questions about ourselves. Have I gained too much weight? Am I snacking too much? Am I drinking too much coffee? Do I exercise enough? Am I getting enough sleep? Am I producing enough milk? Am I drinking enough water? Do I swear too much to be a mother? Do I spend too much time on my cell phone? Am I too anxious?

Questions about our relationships. Do I sleep too much when I should be spending time with my partner? Do I depend on family too much to help with baby? Does each side of the family get equal time with baby? Do I try to control too much?

Questions about finances. Did I spend too much money on groceries this month? Do we have enough money for that vacation we so desperately need? Does my spouse make enough for me to stay home? Do I make enough money to send my child to the best daycare?

Ask any mother and I can guarantee she has asked herself these questions more than once. More than once per day, most likely. What we are really asking, though, all boils down to one question: Am I enough? Am I enough for my baby? Am I enough for myself? Am I enough for my partner? Am I enough for my employer? Am I enough for the amount of grace I need to get through the next 17.5 years? Yes, mama, you are enough. Give yourself permission to let go of all the “too” and embrace the enough.

Breastfeeding · Motherhood · Postpartum

Fitting in in a new world.

The first time I went to Milk Moms, it was two days after my baby’s tongue tie revision and it took everything in my power to get myself out the door. I arrived and it was packed. All the other moms were wearing jeans and mascara… I sure didn’t fit in. I left early. On my way home, I called my mom crying, telling her that I’d never fit in with these moms because they are so much better than me with the jeans and the mascara and babies happily nursing and napping. I had rendered myself unworthy of their friendship because I assumed I didn’t fit in. I assumed they had it all together. I assumed their babies cried less than mine and probably even slept in their cribs. I assumed they knew more about breastfeeding and birth and raising babies than I do. I assumed I was the only one who wasn’t completely on the cloth diaper bandwagon. I assumed these women didn’t have space in their life for this clueless mommy.

My mom reminded me that the most important thing is to just keep showing up. So the next week, I put on jeans and mascara and showed up to Milk Moms. And you know what? Those same mamas were wearing yoga pants and ponytails just like me. They are just other mamas who, like me, want to make new friends. Mamas who just like me had dealt with tongue tie revisions and painful breastfeeding. Mamas who are going to stay home just like me. Mamas who studied marketing in college just like me. Mamas who use disposable diapers! I’m not the only one! Mamas who love their babies and try to give them the best, just like me.

Turns out, I might not “fit in,” but I do belong. There is space for me, my loud laugh, and my disorganized diaper bag full of ‘sposies. As Brene Brown would say, fitting in is not belonging. I don’t have to be anything other than myself to be worthy of friendship. I don’t have to change anything to fit in, because I belong – ponytail, yoga pants and all.

 

 

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding Was Harder Than I Expected.

One lesson I continue to re-learn is that life is all about expectations. When you expect things to go a certain way, even if you don’t realize it, you get attached to your expectation, and any differing outcome turns out to be a disappointment. One of my main reasons for desiring a birth free of medical interventions was to give myself and my baby the best chance for developing a successful breastfeeding relationship. I expected that because I was successful in achieving my natural childbirth, that breastfeeding would come easily. And while I will say that I now have a beautiful breastfeeding relationship with my baby, I will also say that it was harder than I expected.

Here are a few things I learned during the first 5 weeks of my breastfeeding journey:

1. Pain is an indicator that something may be wrong.
As with anything, there is an adjustment period and a learning curve to breastfeeding. Some initial pain or weirdness is normal, but pain at every feeding and pain between feedings is an indication that you should check with a lactation consultant.

 2. Nurses and pediatricians are not a substitute for certified lactation consultants.
Even though I birthed in a baby-friendly hospital, the advice I received was not in line with my personal ideas. For example, I was told to use a nipple shield and I was also given medicated ointment that must be washed off before feeding baby. These unnatural things did help in the short-term, but I wanted a more natural solution and to be able to latch without the use of these items. My pediatrician, who I have come to adore, missed my baby’s tongue tie. In fact, she told us we had nothing to worry about. But I still had pain and I knew something was wrong. One night I was in so much pain that I was crying and seriously considered giving up on breastfeeding. The next day, I visited a different lactation consultant who referred me to a pediatric dentist who specializes in tongue tie revisions. I got my baby revised (in four places) and that put us on the path to pain-free breastfeeding.

3. You might have to teach baby how to latch.
I am sure that some babies do it perfectly without help, but after the tongue tie revision, I had to teach baby how to latch correctly. This was the biggest turning point for me. It was NOT easy. It took lots of practice and hands-on assistance from a certified lactation consultant. The latching advice that saved me:  1) bring baby to you, not breast to baby and 2) if it hurts, it’s wrong – take baby off and try again.

4. You WILL question your supply, even if your baby is perfectly happy and gaining weight. 
I am 11 weeks into breastfeeding and I still question my supply sometimes, like when my baby cries right after feeding, or when my breasts don’t feel full after 8 hours of sleep. But please, please, please, do not give up if you think you have low supply. Chances are, you don’t! From what I’ve learned, the majority of mamas are fully capable of producing enough milk for their babes. Seek the help of a lactation consultant before you make any decisions!

5.Oxytocin is a powerful thing.
You may have heard that one of the benefits of breastfeeding is the happy hormone that you produce which helps you bond with baby. However, the release of oxytocin can also exacerbate feelings of anxiety and loneliness. Because I was feeling alone and anxious already, breastfeeding was fueling my anxiety. If this same thing happens to you, this does not mean you’re not bonding with baby, it means you’re a normal human being who potentially just went from interacting with hundreds of people a day to sitting alone nursing a baby who can’t yet speak or even grin in the early days. The loneliness can only be cured by connection. Find yourself a tribe of other mamas – I promise they’re going through the same things you are!

I never even considered the option of not breastfeeding when I was pregnant, but there were definitely days in those first five weeks I wanted to give up. I would not have been successful without finding a knowledgeable lactation consultant, pediatric oral surgeon, and my wonderful Milk Mamas. If breastfeeding is your desire, you can do it – just know that you may experience some hard times before smooth sailing. Get the right help, find your tribe, and just keep loving that baby with all you’ve got!

 

Breastfeeding · Natural Childbirth · Postpartum · Pregnancy

All The Feels: Postpartum Anxiety

My name is Jenna and I am a planner. The unknown has never been my friend.

During pregnancy, I studied the Dr. Sears library, read a few thousand blog posts about natural childbirth, took a Breastfeeding 101 class and the childbirth prep course offered by our hospital. I meditated. I did yoga. I walked. I squatted. I was ready for birth. All of this preparation paid off and I achieved my desired natural hospital birth.

What I wasn’t prepared for was every single thing that happened starting the second that birth was over. While in the hospital, I had shivers, swelling, exhaustion, and soreness. Each of my concerns was met with “that’s normal.” I was afraid to go to the bathroom for the first time. Normal. My baby cried nonstop from 9p-3a his second night out of the womb. Normal. I had pain from breastfeeding. Normal. All of this normalcy led to the hospital allowing me to discharge and take home a two day old, seven pound tiny human.

Non-Expert Tip: Don’t just practice putting the carseat in the car. Practice putting the baby in the carseat! The nurse isn’t supposed to help you with this part, for legal reasons, but thankfully mine did because I had no clue how to strap him in there. One minute alone with my little guy and I was already a failure of a mother. This is where my postpartum anxiety story begins.

I had been instructed to feed my newborn baby every three hours, even if he was sleeping. To offer him both breasts every time and to let him feed on demand. And so I did. I didn’t watch tv. I didn’t eat anything but chocolate covered almonds and various bars. I barely spoke to my visitors or my husband. I just nursed this baby. When I got the courage to let someone else hold him so that I could sleep, I would set an alarm for two hours later but, like clockwork, one hour into my nap I would imagine that I heard my baby crying. I would rush into the living room to find a peacefully sleeping baby. I obsessed about his temperature. He was too hot in the swaddle. He was too cold without it. I obsessed about his breathing. It’s too fast. It’s too slow. I obsessed about his feeding schedule. What time did I feed him last? Which breast did I offer first? When was his last wet diaper? Luckily, there is an app for that. I downloaded it and religiously tracked my baby’s every move.

During all my childbirth preparations, I heard many times that if you have any thoughts of harming yourself or your baby to immediately put your baby in a safe place and call for help. I never had these thoughts. Not once. But I worried. And I cried. And I googled. And I worried more. And I cried more. Every other thought through my brain was, I CAN’T DO THIS.

Eleven days postpartum, imaginary baby cries woke me from a nap and once again I rushed into the living room to find a peacefully sleeping babe. I collapsed on the kitchen floor in tears. I called the nurse’s station and told her that I couldn’t stop crying. “Do you have any thoughts of harming yourself or your baby?” she asked. Of course not, people, I would never harm myself or my baby. I’m not depressed. I just can’t stop crying. She instructed me to call my doctor’s office immediately. And so I called. And they said to come in immediately. So I packed up my not-even-two-week-old and went to visit my doctor.

Our visit was a short one. She asked if I had any thoughts of harming myself or baby. No, doctor, I would never. I just can’t stop crying. Well, here is a prescription for Zoloft. Take it and come back in two weeks. I told her I didn’t want to take medication. Well, she asked, what exactly where you expecting when you came in today? I was expecting you to say that this is normal; that this too shall pass. “It’s most certainly not normal” were her exact words.

I left that doctor’s appointment in tears as I had spent many of my waking hours. I called my husband, told him I had been diagnosed with post-partum depression, and also told him I wasn’t depressed. I called my mom and told her the same thing. I asked her to come back and be with me. I headed to my amazing chiropractor who helped me understand that I was stuck in “fight or flight” mode. She asked what was bothering me the most. I blurted out: the schedule. Worrying about when he needs to eat next. She said, what if you stopped setting alarms and let your baby tell you when he is hungry? But the nurses had said to feed him every three hours. And, just like that, my next feed alarm and my baby went off in unison. Maybe I could trust this tiny human. After all, he hadn’t let me down yet. I deleted that stupid app. That was my first step to recovery.

My mom arrived and things got a little bit better, but when the time approached for her to return home I was again flooded with doubt, insecurity, anxiety, and fear. Through many tears, we decided that I would return home with her for a week. I couldn’t bear the idea of being away from my husband for a week. Even more, I couldn’t bear the idea of my son being away from his dad for a week. But I needed constant physical & emotional support. I needed my mommy.

While I would never discourage someone from taking medication if they needed it, I knew in my heart that taking an antidepressant was not the answer for me. Not only did the mere thought of taking it create more anxiety, but I didn’t want to simply stop myself from feeling the anxiety. I believe our emotions have something to teach us. I wanted the anxiety to go away, but I wanted to understand why I was having it and what thought patterns needed to change to put myself on a path to wholehearted motherhood.

During that week at my parents’ house, I went to two color therapy sessions where I explored my fears about becoming  mother. I got a second opinion from a trusted doctor who believed that I could refill my self-care cup without the assistance of antidepressants. I got a postpartum massage with my baby laying on me. I slept. Soundly. I still woke up and rushed to my baby. But day by day I was able to sleep a little bit more soundly. I meditated. I laughed. I watched tv. I went outside. I took vitamin B, vitamin D, NevaTon, and probiotics. I ate real food. I googled less (but still way too much). I returned home a week later, and it was difficult. I was alone for most hours of the day. I was still crying, but not as much. I was still worrying, but not as much. I just kept trusting my baby and he taught me to trust myself. I leaned on my incredible husband who is the strongest person I have ever met. Together, we made it through.

These days, I think twice before checking Dr. Google. I tear up every now and then, and when I do I don’t judge myself for it. I just let the tears fall and move on. I still worry, but I am a mother after all!

I’ve read many stories of other mamas’ postpartum experiences and each one of them is beautiful. There is so much power in sharing our stories. Mamas – whatever your struggle is, whatever your postpartumthrive looks like, YOU ARE NORMAL. You are loved and supported by your baby and the sisterhood. One of my favorite parts of prenatal yoga was when Darci would remind us of the millions of women to which we are connected through the act of childbearing. So on the dark days, reach your hand into the endless bucket of love that is available to you. On the bright days, exhale joy & love to all the struggling mamas out there. We are never alone on our motherhood journey. Together, we thrive.

Interested in this gorgeous babywearing art? Check out my mom’s page!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natural Childbirth

You really don’t need a hospital bag.

Sorry, pinterest, but you missed the mark on this one. The truth is, you really don’t need to pack the perfect hospital bag. In fact, you really don’t need a hospital bag at all. There are things that might be nice to have, but the only thing you truly NEED is something to dress your baby in to leave the hospital. Technically, you could take your baby home in the hospital-provided diaper and then you really wouldn’t need anything.

This is not a minimalist rant. It’s just true. I spent hours pinning and making lists of what I thought I needed to pack. Then I waited too long to even pack. When I knew I was in labor, I was scurrying around throwing items in that I thought I needed. Once we were at the hospital, the items I was glad I had were my DoTerra Console essential oil and my lara bars, but the hospital had excellent room service that I only used once. My big comfy pillow was nice to have, but I would have survived without it.

The one item I wish I had packed is the Lanolin-Free Nipple Butter that I mentioned in my baby registry redo post. It wouldn’t have solved my breastfeeding issues, but it definitely would have eased the pain.

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In a moment, your whole world changes.

What items were truly glad you had packed in your hospital bag? What could you have lived without?

Natural Childbirth · Pregnancy

“I think I’m in labor…”: My Birth Story

My birth story starts on a Friday morning. I woke up feeling slightly off. I took my temperature – 99.something. Not high enough to be admitted (100.4) but I knew I needed to rest. I called in sick to work and stayed in bed all day. IMG_4330[1]

Saturday morning: prenatal yoga at Yoga Bliss Edmond, my pregnancy sanctuary. My amazing yogi sister, Darci, led a beautiful class and gave us some zentangle yoga birth coloring sheets to take home. That night, my husband and I sat on the love seat and I proceeded to color the entire thing in one sitting. That should have been my first clue something was up!

We went to bed at our usual time, but for some then-unknown reason we both woke up around 2:00 am. I thought it was strange that we both woke up, but figured it was the pizza and movie candy! I went back to sleep but Will stayed in the living room on the couch. At around 5:00 am, I woke up feeling what I thought were contractions. I immediately drew a warm bath but it brought me no comfort. I took a hot shower instead. Then I came into the living room and told Will “I don’t want you to freak out, but I think I’m in labor.” I went back to bed and was able to fall asleep between contractions – about every 15-20 minutes. I texted my sister because I didn’t want to give my parents a false alarm. She said it could be 1-2 days before I actually had the baby!

I will do my best to recall the next 17 hours with accuracy, but I make no promises.

Once I couldn’t sleep through the contractions anymore, I whipped out my bag of tricks. The heating pad helped a bit, the ball was okay, but all I really wanted was for Will to press down on my back when the contractions came and to hold the DoTerra Console essential oil up to my nose. Will started timing the contractions. They were irregular – a sign that you’re not ready to go to the hospital. Then I had a contraction that lasted 6 minutes!!! Will called the nurses station and they said to come on in and get checked. Much to Will’s dismay, my hospital bag was not packed and I insisted on doing it myself! Thirty minutes later, we were in the car. I think I had two contractions on the way to the hospital, but I could still “talk through them.” What a terrible way to measure intensity! I thought they might send me home, but the wonderful nurse at the nurses station said “I can see it in your eyes. You’re staying.”

She put me in a room and said that I could labor for an hour and they would see if I had made progress. At my previous appointment, I had been 1 cm dilated and 0% effaced. At my first check, I was still only 1 cm dilated. I am very thankful for the nurse’s skill and heart because she easily could have sent me home at only 1 cm. She instructed me to walk around for 40 minutes, but I didn’t make it farther than the bathroom in the hospital lobby. I was sure I was going to barf, but I just sweated and cried. We walked back to the room to get checked again.

Here is where my memory goes really fuzzy! I can say with 100% certainty, getting “checked” is the absolute worst part of early labor. Ladies, can I get an amen?!

I had made some sort of progress because she kept me. There was a yoga ball, many trips to the bathroom sink (the cold felt so good on my forehead), and pizza vomit. Yes, I threw up pizza all over myself. Not my shining moment. I asked the nurse if that normally happens and she said yes, but they usually have a little more warning! I was for sure in labor now, but my brain hadn’t really caught up. I was still thinking it could be days before the baby came.

Will was absolutely amazing. I told him I didn’t think I could do it and he told me “you already are. you’re doing it.” There was a moment where I turned to him and told him “if this gets much worse, I want the epidural” and he fully supported me. But it never got much worse, honestly. The pain level of the contractions stayed about the same, they just got closer together. One specific detail I remember is at 5:19 I was sitting up in the hospital bed and I remembered I was supposed to have dinner with my cousins at 5. I text them “rain check on dinner. I’m in labor.” At some point I made the decision to text my parents and let them know they should head our way.

By 7 or 8 pm, my water still hadn’t broken (turns out this is a good thing), but I was feeling the urge to push. The nurse said she was going to go ahead and call my doctor. When my doctor got there, she asked if I wanted her to break my water – this meant the contractions would become “more intense” but that the baby would be here soon! Dr. Hansen asked me if I had thought about delivery positions, which I hadn’t. She said she’s been doing this a long time and the good old-fashioned way (yes, feet in stirrups) works the best. So I flipped over and started pushing. Will stood right by my head and my nurse stood on the other side. I had NOT prepared for or practiced pushing – it is not how I thought it would be! I assumed you used the exhale to push, but you actually hold your breathe and push into it. Once I got the hang of it, I could make stronger pushes but I was getting very tired. In between contractions I was telling Phillip we were ready to meet him. During contractions, I was screaming just like in the movies “get this baby out of me!”

At one point, the doctor said she could do an episiotomy which would make the baby come, but I said “please don’t cut me.” (I hadn’t prepared for this decision either, that was a gut reaction.) And she said, well then you’re going to have to keep pushing. I looked at Will. I just needed a quick time out. A little rest. Maybe an iced Americano. But those aren’t options. The only thing you can do is go with it. Will saw that I was getting so tired and he bravely looked down toward the doctor. Then, he looked DEEP into my eyes and he said “he’s right there” and that gave me the energy I needed. Two more pushes and my slimy son was born at 10:19 PM. What a WEIRD feeling. They lay the baby so far up in your grill that you can’t even really look at him. It was so strange. I hadn’t known what to expect, but it is absolutely true that the SECOND he’s born – the pain stops, and you pretty much forget how bad you were just hurting.

I achieved a natural birth in a hospital with my husband’s support. If you’re hoping for or considering a natural childbirth, I want you to know that you absolutely can do it. The benefits far outweigh the pain. Yoga, walking, and chiropractic care were huge factors in my pregnancy, but the most powerful thing I did to prepare was that I journalled my birth story. I physically wrote out by the moment what was going to happen. I affirmed the opposite of my fears.IMG_4779[1]

How did your labor and delivery surprise you? What do you remember most about the first moment meeting your  bundle of joy? Share your birth story with me!

 

 

 

 

 

Breastfeeding · Pregnancy

Registry Redo

I said during pregnancy that first-time moms shouldn’t create their own baby registries and boy was I right! In the first few days home from the hospital, I realized what I thought I needed, what I really needed, and what was nice to have! I want to share with future first-time mamas out there while you’re planning your registry! No promises that your baby will love the same things mine does, but it never hurts to try.

First and foremost: the sleeping situation. I’m (not) ashamed to admit that I really, truly believed that you laid a baby in a crib and the baby slept. (If you’re a new mom and you didn’t just LOL, we need to talk! I need your secret!) So where does my baby sleep? Well, for the most part… on mama. 90% of his sleep occurs on good old mom. Baby Boy Myrick was held in someone’s arms for, in all sincerity, probably the first three weeks of his life. Day and night. And while I joke about going off to college with him, I do want him to eventually sleep somewhere else. So far, I’ve had the best luck with this: Serta iComfort Infant Sleeper. It folds up nicely for travel, is soft and warm, and has a light that is just bright enough for a diaper change without waking anyone up! I scooted the ottoman into the bedroom and set it on there, but if your bed was big (and firm) enough you could set it right on your mattress! I even put it in the crib sometimes in hopes that it will become more familiar to him.

Second, but MORE important: a ring sling! I registered for and received both a soft and a structured boba wrap. The soft wrap came in handy a few times, but it is 1)hot and 2)time-consuming to put on. The ring sling is so quick and easy to put on and doesn’t make us both sweat profusely! I am actually wearing baby in the sling as I type this. When I put him in it, it’s a matter of a few minutes of walking, bouncing, or swaying and he is out lik. He will sleep in the sling for 2+ hours. My sweet mama bought mine for me from The Laughing Willow in Dallas, TX but there are many similar ones on the market, like the Moby.

Other items worth mentioning:

  • a boppy pillow. Now I’m sure most other mamas went ahead and registered for one of these, but I thought regular pillows would work just fine – wrong! Go ahead and get yourself a boppy and a cute cover.
  • Baby swing. We now have a swing at both our house and my parents’ house. There have been times he has napped in it, but mostly it’s just a really good place to set the baby down for a few minutes of play time. I have a Graco which works nicely. I have yet to detach and use as a bouncer or utilize the vibration, but they are nice features to have! They have both music and white noise with adjustable volume and 6 speeds of swinging. *Baby Soothing Tip: When trying to calm your baby, match your bounce/swing/rock to the intensity of their cry and gradually settle as they settle!*
  • Nipple Butter – yes mamas! This stuff is magic. Y’all – breastfeeding is hard and it hurts. I was gifted this from a friend, but didn’t put it in my hospital bag and I feel that this could have saved me! Warning: it stains clothes! Use with disposable nursing pads!
  • Nursing Bras: I purchased and returned several different nursing bras before I found ones that fit. I had the best luck with these. The ones from Target just didn’t cut it!

The best presents I got at my baby shower were of course the ones that you could never register for – like his personalized name blanket and the quilt from my mom. But the other stuff is necessary, and I hope a few of the items I’ve discovered work out for you or an expecting mama you know!

What baby item did you eventually find that you never knew you needed? Share below!