Posts in Postpartum
Our Hours go to Motherhood
 
 

At what point does exhaustion become the norm? I only ask because here I sit at 4 a.m. (again), claiming to be a morning person, but yet wonder why I am not in bed. Because it's Saturday morning. And my eyes are heavy. I suppose part of it lies in the fact that a restless 2 month old could stir in a half hour so why bother. Or a 4 year old could call for me and ask for a drink of water. I suppose another part is to satisfy some scientific theory that early risers get more done, are more content and blah, blah blah. I often wonder if those theories apply to motherhood.

In early motherhood, friends, families and even strangers ask about sleep. How are you sleeping? How is the baby sleeping? If the baby sleeps more than 4 hours at a time, the collective assume you've adopted a similar routine in a blink of an eye and conclude that you are sleeping well. Yes, I'm sleeping well. My head hits the pillow, and I'm instantly knocked out for a period of time until I'm called to duty once more. In an instant, I can be up, changing a diaper, nursing, rocking a babe and quietly singing a lullaby.

The next question wonders if you're ultimately tired. If another momma asks this question, I know where in her heart this question comes from. Oh, do I ever. I'll give a knowing look, a tiny smile and shrug those shoulders. I don't even need to share a word with another momma. I don't want to admit it. I don't want to say it out loud. Outwardly admitting exhaustion isn't defeat. Admitting it actually forces us to come to terms with the fact we are sleep deprived ... but then we start to adopt the collective way of thinking - "I'm getting those four hours of sleep, so I am sleeping. I'm not tired." I get it momma. You're a fierce warrior that will do anything for that little one. Even if that means sitting up at 4 a.m. trying to justify the reasons why we don't get more sleep. We give ourselves. Every single inch. And every single hour. If you ask me, I don't consider it a sacrifice but just a way of life. Our hours go to motherhood.

As time marches on, the pendulum swings and the questions about sleep or exhaustion are no longer asked. Baby turns to toddler, and before you know it, a four year old sleeps 10+ hours a night ... if you're lucky. Your former self does a high-kick and expects to get a few more hours of shuteye, but there's that school project, tomorrow's meal prep, another load of laundry ... and on and on. Priorities shift. Nighttime cuddles swap with picking up stuffed animals. We still feel it. Our hours go to motherhood.

Perhaps we don't admit the tiredness because everything else feels heavier. The satisfaction. The unconditional love. The calling. All the things they never told you about motherhood. It's heavy. It weighs on a heart more than a few missed hours of sleep. And although I will be remiss if I didn't encourage my fellow mommas to actually get a few hours of sleep (or steal a nap every once in awhile), I understand why the question about being tired is trivial. No one needs to ask. Our hours go to motherhood.

 

Written by- Ann Ehnert

 

 

My Body Knows Just What To Do
 
 

When I was pregnant with my son, I repeated these words each week with eight other expectant mothers and their partners at the end of our childbirth preparation classes. We changed the emphasis to a different word each time we repeated the phrase, working through all of the words in the sentence.

My body knows just what to do.

My body knows just what to do.

My body knows just what to do.

At the end of the session, I declared with equal parts hope and skepticism, “My body knows just what to do.” Does it? I wondered. Labor and childbirth were such a mystery to me, covered over with almost mythic stories of unendurable pain, as well as lyric rhapsodies of birth as the work women are designed to do.

I wasn’t ready to commit to either side just yet.

When it was time for my baby to arrive, my body took over in a way I had never experienced. I labored for days, walking the stairs of my midwife’s old Victorian house, where my husband and I had chosen for our baby to be born. I clambered into the shower, where the hot water massaged my taut lower back.

Even when I tried to rest, my body kept on with its faithful work. The night before I met my son I straddled the toilet facing backwards, my head resting on the toilet tank, the only place I could find relief.

“How is this baby going to be born?” I whispered to Gina, our doula. “Your body knows what to do,” she reassured me.

She was right. On a Tuesday afternoon, my son and I worked together as he entered this world, surrounded by my husband, Adam, our midwives, and Gina. They held sacred space for my body to labor with the pain as I did some of the best work of my life, delivering my son Julian safely into this world.

That was sixteen months ago, and in the time since then, I have developed a whole new appreciation for my body’s work. I see my whole body and spirit giving birth to my precious son, my breasts swelling and leaking in the early days as Julian and I struggled to learn the rhythm of nursing, my hands smoothing Johnson’s baby lotion on his strong legs, my ears straining to hear the tiny noises of his sleep, and my arms carrying him across the room so he can climb up the stairs on his own. Daily, Julian becomes more aware of the power and mystery of his body, and so do I.

Last night Julian woke at midnight, with sharp, inconsolable cries. Adam changed his diaper and handed him to me. I was sitting in our gray armchair, ready to comfort him. But Julian refused to be comforted. His body stiffened as tears streaked down his small face. He did not want to nurse, did not relax when I sang him lullabies.

I did not know what to do, but I kept going. A tiny part of me softened, in the midst of concern for my boy. My brain slowed down, just a bit, as I let my body take over. My hands brushed the hair out of his eyes, stroked his back. My voice sang the love song that we made up for him as a newborn. My heart spoke to his. “Mama is here. I love you. I’ve got you.” The rhythm of our breathing filled the room.

Over time, Julian’s sobs quieted. I offered to nurse him again, and this time, he accepted. I shifted in the chair, and cradled my little boy in my arms as his body relaxed. Mine did, too.

Julian drifted back to sleep, and I gently placed him in the crib. As I crept back to my own bed, a well-loved refrain drummed out its rhythm.

My body knows just what to do.

My body knows just what to do.

My body knows just what to do.

JOURNALIST: Jordan Miller-Stubbendick

Photo: Anna L.

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.