This morning, I took E in the shower with me to give him a good steam, since we were both congested and half-frozen from getting the two big kids off to school in this ridiculous weather (side note: anytime they start busting out the phrase 'polar vortex' in the forecast, you can just count me out. We need legislation against this kind of weather.) And as I was washing my hair, watching my sturdy little person jump in the water and fill up any cup he could find only to dump it out again a moment later, I just had to scoop him up and kiss his little belly. This kid has the best, belly-est belly laugh of any toddler I've ever met and if you really get him going, he starts squealing in delight. I just can't get enough of it. And as I was kissing his little round toddler belly, I just had to notice his bellybutton.
Integrity is a word that gets tossed around a lot these days. I hear it a lot, but I wanted to find the actual definition, so here it is from Merriam-Webster: "the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness."
So what does that mean in the birth world? Is that us? What does morality have to do with supporting new parents?
Part of our work is to help expectant folks prepare themselves for becoming parents. And it's a delicate thing, you know, because... it can't be done. I mean, I think we do an excellent job, but the process is always necessarily incomplete. Because the thing about parenthood is this: you can't prepare for it. Trying to prepare someone for parenthood is like trying to prepare a rock for sitting at the bottom of a riverbed for a hundred years.
The stone has been sitting happily on the riverbank for a long time now, enjoying the sun and the insects and the fresh air and the sound of the water rushing past. And the stone says, "listen. I can do this.
In my kitchen here in Brewster, there's a jar. It seems pretty utilitarian, but it has a secret: it's magic. This magic jar is always there for me when I need it. It's perpetually full of good-quality ground coffee so that whenever I want to brew a fresh cup, it's easy. The jar sits right next to our coffee maker, nestled in next to the sugar dish, always prepared to help me out with a soothing cup of hot coffee.
Now, you might think this post is about coffee, and while I could wax poetic about it all day, what I actually want to talk about is the magic of having that jar always full.
Birth is powerFULL. We all know that. It has the strength to make us quiver and shake just by thinking of it, it has the energy to bring us to our knees, it has the intensity that provokes self-doubt, and it has the sneaky magic of reminding us just how strong we really are. Birth. We won't let you scare us. Bring it.
As your resident Rising Tide Women's Whole Life Wellness certified labor doula, witnessing birth is what I get to do. It's actually my job. Some may think I'm nuts, but that may stem from the negativity and bad rap that birth gets. Let's face it, many pregnant people (not all!) dread labor and birth, no matter how prepared they may feel. And you know what? That's totally cool with us. We understand!
What new parent wouldn't want a relaxing soak or a dreamy hour to snooze? Many new parents can only imagine this being real, and many believe they aren't deserving of such a postpartum reality. It's hard to believe, I know. If you ask any new mother about treating themselves to some downtime, most likely there will be a hint of guilt in their answer. Okay. If they aren't comfortable taking a tub (or, maybe there isn't one where they live!) or napping, how ELSE can we give new parents hands on support? How can we change the drained, overwhelmed, and exhausted face of postpartum or life with a newborn?
If you are (or if you know) a pregnant person, this is for you. This is how to set yourself up for the best birth experience possible. And when I say that, I don't mean that you will get exactly the outcome you are hoping for; anyone who says they can guarantee that is selling you something. But it means that you will be well-prepared to have a birth where you are heard, where you are empowered, where you are a key part of the decision-making process. Where you can feel like you made the best choices you could, given any circumstances. Where you are supported and held. Because that's what we want for every birth-giver in the world: to be seen and heard, to be respected and treated as a human being with dignity and wishes, to understand the things that are happening to them. We all deserve that.
So are you ready? Here goes:
Dear Mom who struggled with breastfeeding,
I see you. Whether you're near me on Cape Cod or the South Shore or far away, it's everywhere. As you travel the internet this week, you are inundated with images of women who are seemingly effortlessly nursing their babies. In most of the pictures, the moms have clean hair and their babies are content and clean. No one is crying in these pictures. It looks so beautiful, so painless, so easy in these pictures. And it hits you like a punch in the gut, every time. The articles touting the benefits of breastfeeding, the experts saying it's a 'no-brainer' to nurse your child. Maybe you feel some guilt or shame because you didn't meet your breastfeeding goals. Maybe you feel anger at a system that promotes breastfeeding but doesn't actually support nursing parents appropriately. Maybe you feel like a failure, like your body let you down.
Since we are heading into World Breastfeeding Week, I obviously want to talk about breastfeeding and chestfeeding. (If you know me in person, you probably know that's not limited to just the first week in August; I kiiiind of talk about it all the time.) One of the things I like to talk about with this subject is what I call our 'Cultural Knowledge Deficit' around breastfeeding. As a mainstream culture, Americans know very little about how breastfeeding works or what it looks like or what's normal.
One of many, many things I love about this work is when I meet someone new and they ask me what I do (unless they already know what my husband does for work; then they almost never ask me what I do. Which tells me we have a lot of work to do around expectations of women and work and spouses. But that's another ranty post for another day, I guess). I love getting asked what I do because when I take a second to think about it, I feel so full of possibility and I can feel my eyes start to sparkle.