Posts in Editors Picks
Home Sweet Home
shea2

When we moved into our new apartment I was really excited! We downsized so that I could quit my job and become a stay at home mom. I have always loved the idea of city living with a small space for our family of four. Much different than my upbringing in typical suburbia, in a house where I had my own bedroom and shared a bathroom with my siblings.

This ain’t suburbia. Our kids share a room and we ALL share one bathroom. But it is our sacred space; home sweet home.

In an effort to cut costs and get creative with our storage space, we have embarked upon quite a few DIY projects. By we, I mean my husband. He is quite the handyman thanks to YouTube videos, Google and a tool kit from my dad. As his projects come to an end we are finally feeling settled. 

Summer has taken her warm breeze and officially moved on and with it, I find, so has my excitement. I look around our quaint space, I see pots and pans hanging from a pegboard over the stove, clothes neatly folded in baskets on shelves, books stacked in their book case, my art table tucked away with paints and canvas in the corner. The toys and in their toy box (or hidden under the couch). But something in this sacred space is still in need of some TLC.

I’m too tired to think about more projects. The babies are crying because I am taking too long to make their breakfast. I still haven’t brushed my teeth and am probably wearing yesterday’s clothes. Again.

Then it hits me like a smack in the face.

I need TLC. I am the next DIY home project.

Let’s be real, how much do I invest in my own TLC? How often do I prioritize self care? When is the last time I have looked on Pinterest for ideas on how to maximize the space I live in every day?

That space being my own body.

I need to start thinking of my body as my home, remembering it is my babies’ first home. This was their sacred space.  So sacred that I sacrificed my wants for their needs.  I changed up my eating habits and cleaned up my lifestyle to maximize their development inside my body, their home.  So now, again, this sacred space needs TLC every now and then--more now rather than then. How can I be fully prepared to engage with my family in a meaningful and present way if I am constantly feeling gross and covered in baby slob, this morning's breakfast crusted on my shirt and I may or may not have on yesterday’s deodorant. Did I even put any on? Wait, is it still in the bathroom cabinet? When is the last time I took a shower? Have I had a conversation with another adult besides my husband today? What was I doing again…?

I start to wonder how my mother was able to take care of herself while raising five kids under one roof. Husband at the 9 to 5 Monday through Friday with Law School crammed somewhere in between. There had to have been many times when she was overwhelmed. I get overwhelmed with just two.

She took care of her sacred space; her body, her home. My first home. She found time for herself, outside of being a mom, and even outside of being a wife. When I visit my parents I always stare at the framed picture of her newspaper clipping, where she is running with her two best friends who also happened to be mothers with the same first names. I am sure they had stories for miles. She enjoyed herself, by herself. No kids. No husband. Friends or no friends. Perhaps she even forgot about being a mother and a wife for just a few moments.

I deserve to self care. My family needs me to feel good when I look in the mirror. My family needs me to wake up ready to take on the day with them. They need me to enjoy this thing called life once in awhile. They don’t want to see their mama and wife run down, barely hanging in there. Not to mention, I don’t feel good barely hanging in there.

I paint and practice yoga in my home day after day. I go for long runs along Lake Michigan. Sometimes I even paint my fingernails. Isn’t that enough? No.

The DIY self care I am talking about removes me from the space of being a mother and a wife. Self care that involves getting in the car or on the bus or taking the train and venturing out of our little world. Saying bye bye to our typical family friendly chicago neighborhood for just a few hours. Self care that has me feeling like a powerful and magnetic woman again. Or for the first time. Either way, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I honor who I am by taking care of myself. Remembering that it is ok to put me first.

I want my children to have the memories of home and their mama like I do. Remembering what the air smelled like when mama opened the windows on that first crisp Spring day. The way her skin felt as I would crawl onto her lap after bumping my head. Or getting a hug from her just because... because she had energy to hug me. Home sweet home.

I want my husband to never forget who he married. A strong and vibrant young woman who lived life to the fullest. Ready for whatever adventure was in front of her. If I am able to put down a dirty dish to take a longer shower to feel sexier for my husband who knows what adventure may be there once the babies are in bed.

I have the ability to take care of myself just as I did when I carried my babies. Held them in my womb, their first home. This was their sacred space, so sacred I sacrificed my wants for their needs.

So I must now, again, sacrifice my wants for their needs. I WANT to put them first ALWAYS, but they NEED me to put myself first SOMETIMES. They need me to take care of my body. My home, their first home. This sacred space of mine.

My self care, my self preservation has to become more of a priority. Not because I am doing a bad job. But because I deserve to put myself first more often. Embracing that my sacred space IS worthy of tender love and care. A little DIY for MY home sweet home.

I am trying my best, DOING my best. The days of removing baby slob with baby wipes, looking for a shirt not crusted in this morning's breakfast and reapplying fresh deodorant over yesterday’s are far from over. But putting my self care up on a shelf only to be pushed behind tonight's leftovers must come to an end.

I smile as I pick today’s lunch out of my hair and get ready for a shower. I have scheduled a night out with friends in a couple weeks. No babies, no husband. Just mama, taking care of home sweet home.

Journalist:  Shea 

The Mother Behind The Picture: An Interview

A raw and honest look at postpartum

"This is what 24 hours postpartum looks like. Baby in sling. Skin to skin. Adult diapers. And a rosy glow. My body feels like it ran a marathon and my heart is wide open from yesterday's travels. Birth opens us like an earthquake opens the earth and I am still in the intimate, fragile throes of that opening. I feel raw. Emotional. Different. I feel like I'm on the undulating surface of the rippling ocean being tossed back and forth between happiness, gratitude, melancholy, and grief. 25 hours ago I held life within and 24 hours ago I surged and transformed allowing life to flow through me, into my waiting hands. The emptiness in my womb brings a heavy feeling crashing into reality but then this new little life whimpers, searching for the breast with soft rooting, and I feel whole again. I am still processing the beautiful transition my whole family has traveled through and I am in complete awe of our strength as humans, women, and mothers. This time is simply unlike any other."

 

 

I'm sure you all have seen this beautiful image of Erica and her newborn son over the past few weeks after our friends over at Sakurabloom shared it causing the images to go viral online-- but what about the mom in this image? I talked with Erica who contributed a must read article in Issue no.2 this past week to get her thoughts and take a deeper look into this amazing birth worker.

K- How I wish I had an image like this to gaze upon before I gave birth to my first daughter. Reality and whats portrayed in the media is so different, I find this image so raw, real, and refreshing. What advice do you have for new moms and the changes their bodies inevitably go through?

E- New mamas, be gentle and loving to your body. Yes she may look and feel differently but the gift she just helped you to create and the journey she just traveled with you to bring this little soul earthside is paramount. Be easy on yourself. Loving, kind, and nurturing. Be sure to rest and eat well and to stay hydrated. Take time for your body to heal, for your baby to transition, and for you both to bond. Don't rush back to life. Live as long as you can in that dreamy babymoon. This time is short and only experienced a few times in your life. Soak it all up! You will also feel many, many feelings and they will feel BIG! Don't run from them. Sink into them and then let them go. Your heart is open wide during this time, so avoid unneeded drama and negativity. Surround yourself with love and support. Give yourself what you give your baby...security, warmth, love, and the best food!

K- Why was photographing and sharing this image so important to you, and why do you feel so many mothers resonated with it so deeply?

E- I took this image to capture forever that moment, that magic moment of new motherhood. It doesn't matter how many times you become a mother, that look, that glow, that feeling is there. This was the last time I was going to see her & I wanted to remember forever how she looks. To be quite honest, I was shocked that the image resonated so much with so many; however when I really began to think about why it was resonating...I cried. It felt so much bigger than me. To see and hear how almost universal those feelings are. That so many mothers had stood where I was...looking into the eyes of their new self, holding new life, feeling different and sad and happy and amazed at all once was beautiful to me. I found comfort in that, that I wasn't alone in those feelings and I think other mothers did too.

K- I often feel that the pressure to ‘bounce back’ after birth can be unrealistic, especially when the reality is that it took almost ten months to create life, its quite acceptable that it should take some time to heal as well. Why do you think taking the time to do just this in the fourth trimester is so important?

E- I believe so strongly in the fourth trimester. That this time is for allowing you the space to become a new mother (even if it's your sixth baby!) and space for your new baby to transition to life outside the womb. This time facilitates bonding, breastfeeding, routines, and learning the language of each other. Not to mention the space for the mother's body to heal and to rebuild. Taking care of your body during those first 12 weeks by eating, resting, and hydrating well gives you the best foundation to begin focusing on "getting your body back" if that is something you are aiming for. Taking this time also helps to support the health and strength of your pelvic floor greatly reducing the risk of prolapsed uterus and bladder!

K- I admire your confidence and strength in sharing this image with us all, what have you taken away from this experience after it becoming the main topic of internet conversation?

E- Well it seems that what you share with the world is there for the taking. Many outlets just shared the image without ever contacting me. That was an eye-opener. But more importantly that these images need to be shared more often. That us mamas, sisters, women need to (when and if we feel called) to share our true moments, our experiences, our stories. It is a global village now and we can all use more inspiration in life!

K- Many media outlets and publications have asked you many questions about this stunning image, if you could tell our audience here at The Village anything, an answer to a question that you haven’t been asked yet what would it be?

E- I would love for every women to fully embrace her beauty...even during those moments where we feel rugged, drained, anything but beautiful... For those are the moments that often your true beauty shines. Do not hide away after the birth of your baby. Be in the pictures, be proud of yourself and your body, it just brought new life to our world and it truly is a miracle that deserves to be celebrated as do you!

K- Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me and share with The Village. Any exciting plans for this upcoming year?

E- I will be releasing my first book during the spring/summer transition...a book of birth stories from during my apprenticeship. I will be doing a pre-order soon if any mamas would like to read some incredible birth stories told from the perspective of the birth worker.

K- How amazing, I know I'll be ordering myself a copy!

E- Thank you for asking me these wonderful questions and for your love and support! I adore being apart of The Village!

Interview by- Krystal Donovan | Editor in Chief

You can find out more about Erica over at Blooming Lotus Photography.

Defined By Love

I stood on the corner of 51st and Lexington, pretending to be brave as I waved good bye to the yellow cab driving my mother away. I had been waiting for this moment since I was old enough to dream, and now I was eighteen years old, fresh out of high school, moving to NYC to pursue a life long dream. I was bold and confident, but I missed my mom before we ever said goodbye. I can still see those iconic tears that rolled down her face, and the way she lifted her head out the back window to get one more look, as if to freeze that moment in time. I can still hear her voice, high pitched and cracking, like it always sounded before she cried. “I love you my e,” she yelled. It felt straight out of a film, only it was my real life, in a quick city rhythm, and slow playback time. It’s a moment forever engrained in my mind, one of those moments I told myself to never ever forget. I have a stock pile of never ever forgets, and with them I have been most faithful.

That moment was equal parts thrilling and painful, and I can assume my mother felt just the same. But it’s only now, ten years later that I can reflect on the magnitude of those emotions. Only now can I get a glimpse into my own my mother’s heart. A glimpse only accessible through walking in her shoes, and becoming a mother myself.

Before I became a mother I had such a calculated approach to motherhood, even before I knew the first thing about it. Which is rather ironic because I am not a fan of assumptions, and there is nothing calculated about me. I wasn’t going to be the mom who let motherhood swallow her whole. I wasn’t going to put all my stock in this one area of my life, and I was not going to allow motherhood to define me. I was going to keep all my previous passions alive so as my children grew older they would know me, and if I was lucky, they might even find me interesting. I would have something tangible, just for myself, so I would be prepared if, and when I found myself years later, waving good bye to my own daughter on the corner of 51st and Lexington.

To be brutally honest, I used to pity women who gave everything for their children. I misunderstood that stedfast, all consuming, love for self deprivation, and stifled dreams. That visceral love that makes a mother weep when her child is in pain, or a mother beam when her child feels joy, is not necessarily a woman living vicariously through her children. These tiny humans that came from my body are indeed their very own people, but my body was their first home, my heart their first sound of music. I am no longer my own entity, and I believe that transformation happened the day I vowed to share my life in marriage. I could strive to maintain a strong sense of self, without my family, but it would all be in vain, because I am them and they are me. The lines are forever blurred, and I learned rather quickly that if you’re so concerned with loosing yourself, you will leave little room to find yourself. There is so much to find, it would be a shame to miss it.

I don’t believe that my mother rode away from me empty handed that day. Knowing what I know today, I would have cried far less, knowing she rode away with everything. She was left with everything, because she gave everything. It’s that counterintuitive truth that leaves no room for logic, and relies solely on unconditional love, and impulse. She didn’t reserve a space inside her bones like the world told her to. She didn’t preserve her old heart, before her children, so she could reunite with it years later. She did not insulate herself into organized compartments in order to make her life a little easier the day I left home. She allowed her love to bend and fold, adapt and transform, she allowed herself to be honest with the now. She let it swallow her whole, because she knew that living life one foot out the door is hardly life at all. She loved me unconditionally and endlessly, but I think her approach was less about me and more telling of her character. I still find her to this day, digging into the moment with an unmet enthusiasm. It wasn’t just motherhood, it’s who she is at her very core.

I consider my mother one of my best friends, and I have enjoyed being around her most of my life, but I’ve spent a lot of that time convinced we were very different people. I mistook our diverse preferences for style, music, food, and then looked no further. Today I sit here with a humbled smirk, because I see now that the way in which we navigate life is eerily similar. I am not a save your money for a rainy day, type of girl. I don’t buy jeans a size too small in hopes of motivating me to get back to a pre pregnancy size. I don’t pick the premature bouquet of flowers so I can enjoy them a few days longer. Instead I buy an exquisite cup of coffee with the $5 left to my name. I buy jeans for my current body, so I am comfortable in my skin. I pick a bouquet of flowers in full bloom, to be enjoyed at their peak, right now. These are seemingly trivial details, and yet they are an invitation into my heart, because just like my mother, I let the present swallow me whole. I should have known motherhood would be just the same.

This is not to say I am not a believer in the necessity of quiet, restorative time to myself. This does not mean I don’t look forward to a day of dance classes, or a cup of coffee with friends. These things are thoroughly enjoyed, and vital to my well being. It just means I feel most at peace when my life weaves together into one close-knit piece of fabric, where the individual threads of he, she, them, or I, cannot be discerned or deciphered. Like most things I once said surrounding parenthood, I’m going back on my words, those mental notes, and promises to myself, because I can’t physically bare the pain of a heart half way inside motherhood, for fear of what I will be left with years from now.

Sure, it is true, my children do not define me. Their words, and kisses, their tantrums and messes, their mistakes and triumphs, and all of their choices, none of those things define me. But, how I teach and guide them, protect and love them, it might just be the most defining thing about me. Motherhood, I am most honored to say, does in fact define me. And like my own mother, I have no fear of what I will be left with once they are gone because I will have been honest with my heart every step of the way. I will have been defined by my love. 

Erin DeLaney, The Village Journalist

...but for today

Every day I go about my life: drive my children to and fro, make breakfast, lunch and dinner, and change my baby's diapers in my four-walled house,  while the world buzzes around me,  busy and fast. My little plays on the floor and I watch him pluck toy after toy out of the large box in the corner of the room, and although my life is rich with many things, I think about you because I miss the village.

I miss the village that I never had. The one with mothers doing the washing side by side, clucking and laughing hysterically, tired in body but quick in spirit. We'd know each other so well: annoying one another from time to time, but never staying mad long, because the truth is, we need each other.

The children would wake up early, as they tend to, and run outside, finding each other amongst the tall trees. They'd disappear into the field and forest for a day of play as we'd start our sacred work. We'd knead bread side by side, the littles at our feet, breasts, on our backs and in our arms. It would be impossible to tell whose children belonged to whom -- we'd all attend to the group of toddling wee ones, check on the deeply breathing babies, wave little hands off of our floured table, pinch cheeks and kiss boo-boos.

The days would be full of conversation as we expertly flexed a muscle that has since gone weak: the art of listening. Quiet empathy in lieu of passive judgement, and when called for, gentle, sincere advice. In our village, our members are our estate,  and we build them up.

We'd laugh -- too much and never enough at the same time. Whether it be stifled giggles overflowing out of covered mouths like a pot of water bubbling over or donkey brays loud enough to wake the children, we'd be skilled at finding the joy in the mundane.

We'd cry -- never alone, but shoulder to shoulder over unborn children gone too soon,  or men who'd changed their minds. We'd stitch back the frayed edges of each other's lives the best we could, wiping the tears off of each other's cheeks. If any of us became lost in the darkness, we'd journey into the depths of her heart and pull her body back to shore.

When mealtime came, we'd set the food out on long tables and the children would eat happily and hungrily, as they tend to when in the company of other small people. They'd talk about their adventures and, to their exaggerated disappointment, we'd make them take the younger children this time to teach them what we already know: we exist for each other.

When one of us was feeling sick or needed extra rest from a long night up with a child, we'd swoop in and tend to her children as we would our own, and for as long as necessary -- no need to even ask. She would drift off to a healing sleep with full confidence. We'd want her to be well because we'd know that we're only as strong as our weakest member -- and not only that, we'd love her, not with the sappy love of greeting cards, but with an appreciative love that has full knowledge of how her colors add to our patchwork.

You'd know me,  and I'd know you. I'd know your children, and you'd know mine. Not just on a surface level -- favorite foods, games and such -- but real, true knowledge of the soul that flickers behind their eyes. I'd trust them in your arms just as much as I'd trust them in mine. They'd respect you,  and heed your "no."

 As our children grew up and out, and our skin went paper thin, we'd keep making bread, sharing it with tea, stories of beautiful grandchildren, and how things used to be.

I miss that village of mothers that I've never had. The one we traded for homes that, despite being a stone's throw, feel miles apart from each other. The one we traded for locked front doors, blinking devices and afternoons alone on the floor playing one-on-one with our little ones.

What gives me hope is,  as I look at you from across the park with your own child in tow playing in her own corner of the sandbox, I can tell from your curious glance and shy smile that you miss it, too.

Maybe we'll have it again. But for today, I'll invite you and your little one over for tea, and maybe bread.

-Anonymous