Dear Struggling Mom

Every once in awhile I receive an email from a struggling new mama who feels hopeless, and alone, and they ask for my advice. The thing is… I don’t have advice. For the most part, all I can offer is support, encouragement, and some tips that I learned from trial and error. Because the truth is…I am there with you! I struggled to!

The biggest mistake that we make as mothers is not supporting each other by being honest about our experiences.

We do each other an injustice when we pretend that we are perfect.

We fear talking about our struggles, because we don’t want to be judged. But, the truth is, we ALL feel that way at some point, and we SHOULD talk about it.

So, I’m going to talk about it….

I struggled, and I still struggle sometimes.

If you struggle, here is my letter to you…

Dear Struggling Mom,

I want you to know that I FEEL you!

Many of the struggle stories that I hear are part of my own story as a mother.

Just because I have a blog, post high quality photographs of Kaia being cute, and talk about how sweet life is on Instagram, doesn’t mean that I am perfect. Sure, our little family is happy a lot of the time, but that doe not mean that we are always happy. The truth about life is that it is bittersweet; and that means sometimes it has to be bitter. (And, nothing is “wrong” with bitter, it’s just part of being alive!)

luke old phone pics 310So, what was my experience?

Birth was exhausting, tough, beautiful work, which left me exhausted for weeks after. I had a complication that made my recovery hell-ish, and I was stuck in bed for nearly two weeks; unable to even carry my newborn baby, Kaia.

Next came the breast feeding. Breast feeding was the most difficult thing I ever did. I remember feeling so tired, and hopeless, that I almost gave it up several times. My breasts were painfully engorged, and I couldn’t get Kaia to latch for days. She had nipple confusion, and was very fussy, and I didn’t think we would even make it to 2 months (You can read the breastfeeding full story in Ellen Fisher’s blog here).saras baby outfit 071

During this time I remember thinking “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this? Other moms make it look so easy! Why am I the only one who struggles so much?”

Then came baby carrying. Let me tell you: I was NOT prepared for how physically demanding motherhood would be. I returned to my 110lb pre-pregnancy weight very fast, and Kaia was a heavy baby, weighing in at nearly 18lbs by 4 months old. I was in a lot of pain trying to carry her around. I remember the same challenges and feelings that many new moms describe when they are trying to baby wear.

I remember thinking “Why can other mothers do this? Are they stronger than me? Are their babies smaller than mine? Do their babies like the carriers?”

Since Kaia didn’t like the carriers, I ended up having to carry her in my arms almost constantly, and she only ever wanted to face outwards, never towards my chest. As I am sure you already know, that is awful for the spine, and creates horrible back pain. When she was 6 months old she finally let me use the carriers, but by that point I was in the worst back pain of my life. I finally decided to see a chiropractor when Kaia was 15 months old, and that helped tremendously.

Sounds rough, doesn’t it?

It wasn’t all that bad. I actually loved all of this. It helped me learn, and grow as a mother (and as a person).

You see, I am not telling you about this to complain. I am actually very thankful for my experience, and would not change a single thing about it. The reason I am telling you this, is so that you understand that you are not alone.

I think every mother finds themselves in this place where they had plans for how they wanted to parent, and they come to find that sometimes things just don’t work out how we expected. Sometimes our babies have other ideas of what they want, or circumstances like physical barriers that hold us back. All I know is that I tried my absolute best. That was the only thing I could do.

Taking care of a young baby is the toughest job on earth. I truly believe that. It is also the most blissful, beautiful job, but it is also the toughest. It is very physically demanding, and many of us moms are not prepared for that. The truth is that as humans we were designed to raise children in tribes.

saIn tribes, all of the women would help care for each others children. If we still lived in the tribe, this would benefit us tremendously. We would have someone to leave the baby with so we could care for ourselves, we would have a woman to ask for advice when it comes to breastfeeding, baby wearing, and so on. We would have a support group to help us through these tough moments. We would share the responsibilities of taking care of all of the babies, and children.

Sometimes, doing all of these “natural” parenting techniques without our tribe can feel unnatural (or like it is TOO much work) because we are lacking our “sisters”.

Now, that doesn’t mean that natural parenting doesn’t work, because it does. It simply means that we either must find our own tribe (or support team), accept that we are going to have to work extra hard to make everything work by ourselves, or in some rare circumstances accept that we have to make compromises with our ideals.

Don’t feel like a failure because you can’t fulfill every aspect of being a “natural” parent, instead take comfort in the fact that you are doing your best, and that you have a lot of victories to celebrate.

I’ve learned to imagine a scale in front of me that weighs how secure Kaia feels due to my parenting techniques, and I always try to keep the scale favoring the “secure” side. I’ve come to understand that I won’t be able to do it all, and that is ok.

As long as you are loving your baby, and offering your best, you are doing it right! 🙂

Sometimes we just need to hear “You are a good mom”, so I am telling you right now, “YOU ARE A GOOD MOM!”

I may not know you personally, but I know you, because I am you!

 

So, does it get better?

234Now that Kaia is a toddler we have our fair share of ups-and-downs. Most days are fun, beautiful days playing in the sun. Others are cranky, temper tantrum days, where we both are not feeling our best. I am learning how to parent a toddler, and she’s learning how to be a little human. It’s bound to get a little messy, and that’s ok.

So remember…. when you’re struggling, and things feel bitter…. Smile! Because you are not alone, and a sweet moment is around the bend!

 

With so much love,

Sara

 

PS*If there’s anything I want you to take away from this… it’s that you aren’t alone. We are all feeling this way. We are all worn out, tired, and struggling from time-to-time.

 

8 Weird Ways My Body Changed AFTER Pregnancy

pregOh the joys of pregnancy.

We all know the normal stereotypical pregnancy “symptoms” & many of us have experienced them. The nausea, vomiting, fatigue, hemorrhoids, sore breasts… I don’t need to remind you… But no one really talks about the weird ways our bodies change AFTER pregnancy.

So, here’s what happened to me…

#1 Sensitive teeth – This one started happening while I was pregnant, and never went away. Another way that pregnancy affected my teeth is that my wisdom teeth started breaking through during my pregnancy. After I delivered the baby the wisdom teeth stopped growing, and now they are half way grown in (and causing no pain- but I have to get them removed soon).

#2 Stomach muscles split– If you’re really lucky (like me) you will get diastasis recti after your pregnancy. Which basically means your stomach muscles are separated, and you have to do special exercises to put them back together.

#3 Rib cage flare – One day, months postpartum, I was laying down and noticed my rib was sticking up really high. The left rib was sticking up way higher than the right one. After a google search I found a lot of women’s rib cages move after pregnancy. My chiropractor wasn’t surprised at all, and said “It happened because your baby kicked you!” But, I had no idea that my rib cage would flare up!

#4 Stretch marks – This is probably one of the more common post-pregnancy changes. But for me, I didn’t get any stretch marks on my stomach. I only had stretch marks on my breasts (which went away after about a year). I didn’t expect that. (It could also be from when they grew into melons during my painful engorgement when my mature milk came in.)

#5 Darker hair – I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence, but ever since my pregnancy my hair has been getting darker & darker. I used to have fairly light blonde hair, but now (14 months post-pardum) it’s nearly dark brown. It has never been naturally this dark.

#6 Scar tissue  – Any woman who had a vaginal birth can tell you their vagina never feels the same. For me, I have scar tissue that took a long while to feel better. Sex was painful for nearly 10 months post-partum.

#7 Moles, Moles, Moles! – While I was pregnant, many of my moles swelled up like an inflated balloon. Then, after I delivered Kaia they deflated. Which, I later found out was normal due to the high blood volume while pregnant. Another thing that happened was that I got several NEW moles. Which, again, after a visit to my dermatologist I found out was something normal that happens while pregnant.  (However, always get those moles checked… just incase!)

#8 Gas bubbles are never the same – ok well this one is off topic. But I had to mention it. Every time I have a little gas bubble I remember back to when Kaia used to move around in my belly. Sometimes It makes me go a crazy & consider having a second baby (good thing I have all these wonderful reminders why it’s not a good idea!) 😉

 

7 Things I’ve Learned Since I Became a Mother

kaia treeSince I have to write this while my 13 month old is taking a nap, I will skip the intro & get right to it….

#7 – My parents are people too

Growing up I always felt like my parents knew everything! They almost weren’t even human. But, it turns out, they are just regular people. They were babies once, who grew into children, who grew into adults, who had a baby of their own and had no idea what they were doing (just like the rest of us)!

 #6 – How to do everything one handed

Before my daughter was born I decided to “baby carry” and to never let her “cry it out”. It was a personal choice… a very demanding personal choice that I have (during many late nights) thought about abandoning. BUT I never did, and while my left arm was full of baby, I had to figure out how to do lots of new things with my right. Sure, I could have used a baby sling, or wrap, and sometimes I did, but other times it was just easier to pick her up and hold her. Who else has learned how to rip toilet paper, open a jar, & spray off a table with one arm? It can’t be just me.

#5- To thank my Mother

I don’t know if I ever thanked my mom as kid. I don’t even remember feeling grateful for her. I guess it’s just beyond a child’s mental capacity, or maybe I was just selfish. Either way, I am thanking her now. I thanked her while I was pregnant (& apologized). I thanked her after I gave birth (& apologized). I thanked her during my 2 month sleep deprivation (& yup you guessed it I also apologized). I can’t thank her enough now, and I hope one day my daughter does the same.

*My LO just woke-up which leaves me to type with one hand as I nurse her. Which brings us back to #6 & forward to #4….

#4 – To value my alone time

I don’t remember the last time I set out to do something alone, and actually did it alone. Even going to the bathroom isn’t always accomplished alone. Babies need their mamas, and they don’t know that sometimes we want 5 minutes to our selves. I’ve learned to enjoy the moments I have alone. Showers have a whole new value to them, and I’m sure I am not the only mother who learned to enjoy the peace and quiet that exists in the shower walls. (However, I know that my daughter won’t need me this much forever, so I enjoy her dependence as much as I can without going crazy.)

#3 – Not to judge other people, especially parents

I guess I had the luxury of having choices when I was childless, and that made me think that everyone had choices. But, I’ve learned that sometimes (espiecally when you have a baby), you have very limited choices. We may set out to do something one way, and end up doing it a completely different way. For example, I didn’t want to be induced, but it happened. I never thought I’d consider giving up breastfeeding, but I almost did. I didn’t want my daughter to watch television, but she does. Sometimes the choices you want to make are just too difficult to see them through. I will never judge another parent for their choices, because I have learned that we are all doing the best we can in our situations.

#2 – To live in the moment

From the moment my contractions started, until this moment right now I have had to live in each and every moment. When you have a baby you have to always be alert, and pay attention. Especially when you are a stay-at-home mom. One second away from the baby could mean a finger in the outlet, a choking hazard in the mouth, or a roll off the changing table. It is a curse, and a blessing. A lesson about life, indeed.

#1 – To see the miracles

Looking at my daughter reminds me how miraculous life is. My husband and I made her! We made life! I look at her little toes and can’t believe that they used to kick me in the ribs. How incredible is that? And if that isn’t enough, kids have a way of always seeing the beauty in life, and they don’t hesitate to point it out to you. I love when my daughter brings me into her world, and reminds me what it was like to be a child. I look forward to seeing the world through her eyes… to see all of the miracles.

 

Kaia tree blossom (placenta burial)

The placenta. What is there to do with it? Most people I know don’t even consider it. It becomes the hospitals waste, and disapears into the unknown. Not many people really care about them at all…and even go further in thinking it’s weird to care about them.

However, for me, I knew from early on that I wanted to do something with our placenta… It was too beautiful of a thing to discard of like a piece of garbage (I mean spiritually, of course, because physically it looks like a gooey brain). Even though I knew I didn’t want to toss it out, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. So, I did some research to find out what my options were.

I read that some women consume their placentas. So, I researched the benefits of consuming the placenta, and I considered it. I did some digging on the internet to find out what other moms did. I found out that some ate them raw, some whipped them up in a smoothie, and some made them into capsules to be swallowed. I questioned if it were something I may have done if I were in the wild, and if wild animals do it. Which they do.

kaia treeAfter much thought I weighed the options. Consuming the placenta seemed like the most natural thing to do, and had many health benefits. However, I just couldn’t imagine doing it. The thought of eating it felt gross to me. The placenta isn’t appetizing. It looks like something from a Fear Factor episode. I knew it was something I wouldn’t be able to stomach. So, I decided not to eat it. *With that said, I want to mention that I respect all the mommas out there who were able to consume their placentas. I know they probably get a lot of flack for doing it, and I’m not trying to put them down. I think it’s a good choice out there. It just wasn’t for me.*

Even though eating the placenta felt gross to me, it wasn’t the only reason I chose not to eat it. I also felt that I wanted to honor the placenta, and I couldn’t imagine eating something I wanted to honor. So, I decided to research how other cultures honored their placentas. What I found was that the Hawaiians honored their placentas by planting them in the ground with a tree. I loved this idea, so that’s what we did.

The following weeks after Kaia’s birth the placenta remained in our fridge while we waited for the ground to soften. A big tub with the word “PLACENTA” written on it sat next to a jar of peanut butter. It was a funny sight. Then, when Kaia was a few weeks old we went to a local farm and picked out a tree. The tree was bare and looked dead, but the farmer said it would grow pretty pink flowers over the summer. The species was called a “Pink Valure Crape Merdle” or something like that.

Kaia PlantingIn April, my husband dug a hole in my parent’s backyard, while Kaia and I were resting in the shade. The three of us buried the placenta under the tree, and then said a little blessing. It was a beautiful moment, and I was really happy we were able to do it. I was excited for Kaia to grow with the tree, and to have her visit it over the years.

It took awhile, but over the next few weeks the tree started growing small dark green leaves. By the time it was August it finally began blooming it’s first flowers. I noticed them a few days ago when I saw a pink blob on the tree from our window. It was on the same day that I became inspired to start Loving Kaia.

I took a walk outside to appreciate the beautiful tiny flowers that were blooming. They smelled fresh and were soft to the touch. I decided to take Kaia out to see them. I ticked her face with the pedals. She laughed.kaiaflower

Kaia’s tree blooming on the day I started Loving Kaia feels like a beautiful symbol of what’s to come. In my heart, I feel that this community will enrich so many lives and help so many people—or at least I am hopeful. I’ve never felt so inspired before and I feel that the energy of the universe is creating this through me.

Everything seems to make sense to me now, in a way I’m not sure I can put into words. ….but I’ll try….

Compassion starts at conception. Without compassion we create an apathetic world. A world that is angry, a world that tortures animals, a world that is materialistic and careless, a world that doesn’t help its fellow men, a world that is full of fear and hatred, and a world that has stopped unconditionally loving.

The answer to our problems can be summed up in one word: Apathy –and perhaps we develop this apathy because we aren’t cared for as children… because our continuums were not met, and we became afraid… Afraid of everything… Even to love. So, that’s why this is so important. Because, creating compassionate children creates a compassionate world.

Well, that’s how I feel at least.

Last minute advice: If you aren’t sure what to do with your placenta, and you can’t work yourself up to eating it, then placenta burial is something you should consider. If you’re like me and live in an apartment, you can ask someone close to you if you can plant it on their property. I was lucky to have supporting parents.