Posts tagged Motherhood
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

 

 

Of Place & Being
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If I could take a piece of every place I’ve loved; a feeling, a smell, a moment, and bottle it up as a remedy for sadness, I could give it to the world and make it a better place, I know it. A quote I have always loved by Helen Keller says “What we have once enjoyed we can never lose, all that we love becomes a part of us”. There is something about where we’ve been, we carry it with us, which shapes so much of who we are. It’s woven into our soul – these magical fibers of peace and belonging; of experiences, that, when taken as a single thread, may seem inconsequential. But when placed next to the important and mundane creates a rich tapestry that we can more fully appreciate and enjoy if we look at all those moments combined.

I have been blessed in my life to have lived and experienced many places I have called home. I am no world traveler, but I have seen bits of the world, and each of those bits has made me who I am. Whether it was getting lost, completely alone, in the streets of a foreign city, traveling the country in a car with my family, a quick weekend trip to the city with my love or taking a spontaneous trip to another country with an acquaintance I barely knew (that one didn’t turn out so well) – all these experiences are encapsulated in my heart. I can look back and tell you what it felt like to slip on the wet cobblestones of Dublin, or the feel of a warm pebbled beach on the Northern California coast, the smell of warm hay on the prairies of Texas, or watching the fireflies glow at dusk on a humid southern summer night. And one thing these moments have in common is a feeling that was created. Each place we have been makes us feel something: it may be something new, it may be frightening, and it may be exhilarating and wonderful, but it’s the feeling of being that we take with us from these places. I am because I’ve been, because I’ve lived, and I continue to live within these moments and live on so that I may create new ones with the people I love.

I have carried one place in particular in my heart for the past few years, as it was my family’s most recent home before our current one. Ever since we left Laie, Hawaii three and a half years ago, I have yearned for the community we lived in on the island. Never have I experienced such a sense of togetherness, of shared bonds with so many people from so many cultures and walks of life. It may have been that we were poor college students just starting our family like so many others, or perhaps it was the Aloha spirit that permeates the land, or perhaps the signature slowness of Hawaiian culture – that relax-no-rush mentality of island living. Perhaps it was all of these things combined. But nothing quite compares to the unique situation that we lived in while there. Impromptu dinners with multiple friends, potluck style where everyone brings whatever they can scrounge up from their low supply and miraculously we would all share a delicious meal together. Or when your beater car stopped working it was so easy to ask a friend to borrow theirs, oftentimes it was volunteered before you could even ask. Watching each other’s kids was the same, you didn’t necessarily have to ask (but you would to be polite) it was just a given that we help each other get by. People shared and donated clothes and household goods to people in need who had very little. And it wasn’t just common courtesy, it was out of a deep love and care for each person and family. Letting a friend live on your couch for a month wasn’t a chore or an obligation, it was just pure friendship. Baking meals for those in need, helping an acquaintance pay for groceries – these were all just natural pieces to the community puzzle. Everyone was called Auntie and Uncle because we were one large family, whether or not we even knew each other’s names.

Now that we live “on the mainland” it has been hard to find a community with such tight bonds. Our shared experiences have quite a lot to do with how we connect to one another, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. It has now been my dream to recreate that sense of community that we experienced on the island, regardless of whether I share common experiences with others in my new community. I want my children to grown up knowing that helping others is not an obligation but a joyful opportunity to get to know someone you might not necessarily have thought to get along with in the first place. Now that I have three small boys and one more on the way I have found that it can be difficult to cultivate this sense of community I’ve always wanted, especially if the desire for togetherness does not already exist. My personal life finds me so busy at times that all I can do is just survive day to day. Yet even on the busiest of days I still know the importance of togetherness (you may not think that when I’m telling my kids to get away from each other but it’s true!). The sense of community starts in my home and it starts with me. As a mother it is my role to mold an environment for my kids in which they can live in harmony with one another, as well as with others in the world. Only my husband and I can provide the safe place for them to be educated and nurtured in the way that will provide them with the ability to be positive, contributing members of society. We can start small, in the little community of our home, by offering them stability and responsibility, by teaching them they are a piece to a whole and we need them – and all their little talents and traits – in order to live in harmony. That one day they may be able to go out in the world, judgement-free, capable of seeing others for who they are and desirous to connect with people from all cultures and backgrounds.

Just as I carry with me all the places that have shaped my life and made me who I am, I hope that my children can remember this place, each place, which we call home. That their experiences in our home and in our community will have made positive memories that shape who they are. That they may look back as I do, on a warm summer night running through sprinklers, or a cool, fall Saturday morning playing soccer, or a rainy day spent by the fire playing board games, and remember joy and comfort and a sense of belonging. And that armed with the confidence of knowing where they’ve been, they will be able to go forth knowing who they are, who they want to be and how they can make the world a better place.

Journalist: Ashley Oborn

Dumping Desks & Changing Minds
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I was the girl with the broken-down desk, contents spilled out from its flappy wooden cap. My teacher had dumped it. Dumped it right there in front of the whole class, girls and boys all slack-jawed, making me hot with shame, frozen with embarrassment. This was supposed to cure me of a messy desk, heal me through shame.

She dumped it twice that year.

I am the woman now, with children, ages six, three, and four months. I am older now and married to a man, who, at one point, may have thought I'd be a rad house tender, a home-artisan of sorts. No, he may have never been under such illusion. He saw the trunk of my car, laughed through nausea at the forgotten lunch Tupperware, turned science experiments.

I promised him there, "It won't always be like this."

I live here now, with my crew, in a narrow home in Kita-ku, Tokyo. It's a good thing we are a slim people because there are some places in the home you cannot really exhale or stretch out in. This is my challenge, my life's challenge: creating clear space so the artist can think, so the kids can grow, unchoked by clutter. So my husband can see beyond all that I should do to get this place in order, so he can see me, see beauty. I’m rather like Sisyphus. Sometimes I take on every task myself and overwhelmed, forget how to breathe.

I  call out for help, then pull my weight, I think I can manage the space and I nurse my infant girl, race to drink coffee and make breakfast. I cycle through manic "where do I start" and Supermom, creating the space for my kids to make collaborative smoothies, paintings, fireman station-boat-amazon in the living room, and we even manage to roll around the gook of rich almond and cashew butter and all the fixings for energy balls in their gooey little hands.

Again, I stuff it in, believing that a mother, woman, wife, an adult, any human should surely be able to maintain space by herself.

I can make my narrow house narrower. I can make myself suck in all the damn day. I can grow quite tired. It’s an exhausting place between trying and apologizing, working and hiding the little progress I make.

And yet, peace is breathing out. Freedom is an exhale, is it not? An expansion of space. I love in the poetic Psalms, King David sings, "You have enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip", and this, "He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me because He delighted in me." Psalms 18:36 and 18:19.

I deserve to participate in this kind of peace, the kind that cuts a path through the physical and lands in my mind, even expands my heart. An exhale. I need refuge and sanctuary, heck, at least garbage and clutter swept off my floor. So I ask for help.

I scrawl the number a friend suggests I call. I write, "Laisa", phone number, and pertinent details. And then I promptly lose the paper. I lose it between all of my mother-days, all of the space between nursing, breaking up arguments and changing diapers. Almost two months later, I find it. I call. If I could "do-over", I might have tattooed it to my thigh or at least taped it to a wall. I call. She will come.

I freak out and have to phone my mom. It doesn't matter that we are nearly 7,000 miles away; I am a thirty-seven-year-old woman with a desk that may be dumped. I'm afraid of what this woman, this yet-stranger with think. I need systems. I want clarity, want the verdant beauty of those frilling fig leaf tree over my dresser. I want some magazine-look in my room, want sexy, smart design, and a place that is mine, ours, and so nice, that I don't shoo our children out for fear they, too, will inherit my dust.

"Mom, what do I do? What if she says it's too messy, that I'm beyond her services?" The little girl in me wants to stuff the mess away, hide the junk in bottomless drawers, but I'm off of room, honestly. And yet, I recognize the health that comes when we throw open the doors and yell, "Healing!" Nothing good lives in darkness. What life can thrive in closed, secretive doors?

That teacher was right---we must throw open those doors and let light in, let others see--- she just went about it with a motivation that didn't work for me. Shame should not be the key.

Here in Japan, there is an expression for the face one shows others, the outside world, and the face of our reality, the one reserved for our private reflection, for family, maybe, behind tightly locked doors. Typically, people in this culture meet friends out, even brunch with family out.  Everyone's houses are small. We will never see any friend's clutter, never help them climb out.

I believe, though, that there is a certain level of health that may be measured by how open one's door is, how much light creeps through the crack or comes in like a torch light.

See, because we all have a mess, somewhere, don’t we? I am finding, most of us have a junk drawer. I hope we also have a friend who is willing to dig in and go spelunking, helping us release that which we no longer have need. Partners who will allow us to cry and get all snotty and need dozens of tissues. I hope we call out to friends who will laugh and howl with us as we blow open the lid of our secret lair, the place where we can't fully create all the artwork, can’t fully walk out our blessed roles, the place too littered that we lose our own peace and can’t find the important notes.

"Melissa, you can apologize twice to her. No more than that." My mom knows me well. It’s sage advice. In the end, I don’t apologize, but I thank the woman summoning all the dust from around the washer, the one in all of my stuff. I could slump down, cheeks burning with “I’m sorries”, embarrassed in that seven-year-old way, but this being vulnerable is okay; I’m moving towards change. I stand up straight. Someday I'll fall in love with making space, with carving and curating. I'll go pitter-patter to negative space, to the place of possibility and I won't have to chase my children out. I'll be like Marie Kondo. Together, we'll survey the space, how light just dances about, we'll see room, not limits. We'll fall headlong in love with breath, with how continuous our breath is, no stops, no making our shoulders rounder, our bodies more compact.

We busy moms, we giving women, we converse here, teach our babies on these floors and counters, rise up and lay down in our relationships, in our marriages. The space is for us to enjoy. It should be clear. Gorgeous, even. Pretty, somehow, despite all the mining and extracting it may take to get there.

A peaceful space is for our spirits to expand. We were made to create and engage with our world, showing our daughters and sons how to stand and leap on legs, strong, on foundations that don't tremble. Eyes that span the horizon and look upon on own humble households with love, not tension or derision.

I'll stand on my land, my little plot here in clustery Tokyo, and I'll have the authority to quite gracefully, open the door and let others in. I’ll open all the windows and plunk fresh flowers down on every table, choosing the strength to vulnerable, seen, and never abandoned.

Journalist: Melissa Uchiyama  (@melissa.uchiyama.946)

Letting Weakness Shine
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I never wanted to be strong.

But from the age of 16, when my spine was fused together with titanium, and my typical teenage problems disappeared into the bleeping of ICU monitors, I was told to be strong. I had to get out of bed the next day and learn the shape of my new spine.

Physically, my spine twisted for no apparent reason. There was no underlying condition. I was just a dancer and a dreamer, struck by this lightning.

Thankfully, scoliosis didn’t take away my dreams, but when my daughter’s terminal diagnosis 12 years later brought me right back to the same ICU, face to face with the same surgeon in the same hospital, I felt it was too much to bear. This doctor fixed me 13 years ago, but he could not fix my child. This was just a formality.

I longed to protect her. She was too weak for any surgery. Her bones simply broke from lack of usage. She lived three bright, beautiful years and then she was gone.

Stay strong, mama.

I rejected that phrase like I rejected her diagnosis of Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

No one could tell me my daughter, my sweet, gushy, 4 month old, longed for daughter was dying from a disease that was literally eating her strength. Run the tests again, I asked, because this is impossible. I believed if my strength was big enough, the outcome would change. And then I went to bed and vomited. I was sick for days. Heartsick and broken.

Stay strong, mama.

I rejected that phrase when at 13 months, my daughter was intubated and we were told to leave the room. I went into complete, animal shock, dizzy from anxiety and trauma. I begged them to let me stay in the room. I’ve seen a lot, I told them, I’m not afraid, please, please, let me be there.

And like officers of the law, they gently escorted me from the room and told me I might faint. They told us to wait in the empty ICU family room with bone dry Tetley teabags and saltines. Food for the weak. Food for the sick at heart.

Stay strong, mama.

I rejected that phrase when I went for a massage, for some self care, and received a call from my daughter’s home nurse and from my husband. Something was wrong with Florence, would I please come home?

I screamed and wailed, willing the traffic to move faster, wishing for a way to get home faster. When I got home, she was so upset, in so much pain. I threw my stuff down: what happened? What the hell happened?!

I was just changing her diaper, the nurse replied calmly, and she has not stopped crying. Crying for my daughter required a lot of strength and often put her into respiratory distress.

I was 20 weeks pregnant, sick to my stomach, when my husband and I went to the ER with her. They asked us what happened and eyed us suspiciously when we said there was no fall or accident, but she was in pain. Something was wrong. I filled out a form. They were assuming we did this to her. I didn’t care what they thought, but I needed to help her. Hours later, they confirmed both her femurs were fractured. I thought I couldn’t lose any more of my mind, but when they said that her disease had simply caused her bones to become brittle and thin, I lost the part of me that I still haven’t found.

What more could we handle? Why this complication? Wasn’t a fatal diagnosis enough? Why did she now have to suffer with pain and osteopenia?

I wanted to rip the hair right from my scalp, when prayers for strength came pouring in. What I didn’t realize then, but perhaps realize now, is that those prayers were meant to call forth the God of strength that resides in me. Just as my daughter’s bones needed to be infused with medication to help prevent fractures, so too did my bones need to be fortified with an otherworldly strength.

I am not very strong, and I’m happy this way. My strength was gone long ago. It was a facade that caved in over time. Motherhood demands that we stay strong, but it’s simply unkind to ask parents to do the impossible.

The kind of strength I possess now is the strength that I inherited from my daughter. I believe my little girl was tied to heaven her whole life, linked by a gossamer cord, like a bean to a sprout, a baby to an umbilical cord. 

I have learned to milk the strength from that cord, a cord that appears ethereally thin and threadbare, but it is substantial.

It’s the kind of strength I hope to pass onto my son. 

When my son is afraid of something, I call forth his middle name, Brave, and ask him what it means.

“Don’t ‘fraid,” he replies with his two-year-old tongue.

“That’s right,” I reply, “don’t be afraid, to be weak, to be soft, to be tender.”

Don’t be afraid to be afraid, I whisper.

In my darkest moments, when I was at my lowest, I learned to let the weakness in. I delight in my weakness, if you will, and I let my son see it all.

Mama misses your sissy. Mama is sick. Mama has an owie. Mama is sad.

My son sees me in my weakness, and yet he sees me rise each morning, filled with strength. He sees me laugh and he sees me cry.

I am teaching him that it is okay to be weak, because when we are weak, we are strong. When we are real, we are strong. When we are truthful, we are strong. When we are soft, broken and vulnerable, we are fully alive.

Journalist: Michaela Evanow  (@micha ela_evanow)

Photographer:   Jozi Grant Photography

Strength in Stillness
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I wonder if there is a more difficult time to write about one's strengths as an individual mother than in the early postpartum days.  The truth is that this article has been started multiple times by the light of my iPhone, in the wee morning hours while I rock my newborn son.  The nightlight beside me and the soft sounds of his suckling keep me on the thin edge between wakefulness and deep deep sleep, and the loneliness of these quiet hours often brings silent tears.  But the sun will soon rise, and with it the demands of my sweet children which newly outnumber me three to one.  So I take advantage of these quiet moments to spill out my thoughts onto the glowing screen in my hands.

Strengths as a mother...hmm...

Do I even have any strengths?  The sleepy mind has gone blank.

At first I tried to write about intuition: one of the greatest strengths of any mother.  I believe that the ability to trust one's intuition about the needs of our children is a strength indeed.  Especially today as it puts us against the grain of the information age where it seems all others know our children and their needs better than us, the ones who carried them and brought them into the world.  Yes, intuition and the ability to trust our gut in every season and in every age is a great asset for all mothers.

I tried to write about patience.  Seeing as this is a great weakness of mine, and not a strength that comes naturally, I did not get very far down this road.  But yes, patience must be a great strength to have as a mother.  I envy those to whom this is a more natural state of being.

Then I gave empathy a good solid try.  In my experience the journey to and from the darkest corners of motherhood and ultimately humanity is the only path to empathy.  It is from this journey that we become fuller versions of ourselves as women and mothers.  It is on this journey that we learn to fully embrace each and every emotion that comes our way in life and motherhood, from the best to the worst, all in an effort to live as more empathetic individuals.  Then we are able to look our children in the eye and put ourselves in their shoes as they experience the highs and lows of each emotion for the first time.  And then it points us to our Mama friends in their bright days and their dark days, coming along side them that they may not rejoice or weep alone.  Empathy is a strength indeed.  What kind of mothers will we become if this is not a part of our equation?

But that's as far as I got on empathy.  I fell asleep and when I woke the inspiration was gone.

Many other false starts.  Many other rabbit trails.  Many more half written sleepy ideas about strength and motherhood.

And then, in the midst of our crazy first outing on day 10 as a family of five, which I will tell you did NOT go as smoothly as I'd planned or hoped, I took a quiet moment.  I took a deep breath.  I sat still for a fleeting second, closed my eyes and was still.  And while this moment didn't dispense with the crazy as I opened my eyes and watched the big kids still running around like banshees, and I was still trying to get a newborn to nurse in public with little success, and my husband was still looking bewildered and overwhelmed, my mind had gone quiet.  No one else could care to notice, but I noticed. 

To be still then, I thought in that moment, must be thing that gives all other strengths, both natural and learned, room to breath in motherhood.  Whether it is in these early postpartum days, in the pregnancy days, on the potty training days and first day of school days, and on the good days and on the bad days: to be still.  To take a deep breathe.  To give your weaknesses acknowledgement, and your strengths room to rise up and be seen.  To quiet the crazy in our own hearts and minds, giving ourselves a little gift no matter how briefly, fleetingly, or quickly. 

It is a simple thing, much like this article. It is not a long drawn out answer, or a long-term solution to the deepest woes of motherhood.  It is simply, a way to get by.  To let ourselves be seen, if by no one else then at least by our own inner eye.  To let our intuition, patience, empathy and many other strengths come to the surface and hopefully stifle the yell that's on the tip of our tongue.  Sometimes it will still escape, and I'll go ahead and give myself a freebie.  For this is not an easy task, this mothering.  And there are no easy answers.  And no one, hear me: NO ONE, is the best version of themselves all the time.  But we can all be still, just for a moment, and give our strengths a fighting shot to shine through the exhaustion, frustration and loneliness.  For one moment.  For one fleeting second. 

Be still.    

Journalist: Rachel Hope   (@havenblog)

Fear

Fear. That's all I wrote for my final article proposal as a contributor here at The Village. At the time it was I could think about and all that I could feel: fear. 

I thought surely by the time I sat down to write, months away, the fear would have disappeared and I would have learned some great lesson to share in the journey. And yet, here I sit, writing on the day these words are due, still wondering where to even begin.

Motherhood is many beautiful and wonderful things. But it also can quickly be defined and hedged in by fear. From the moment the strip turns blue as they say, this whisper in the back of our hearts begins to make it's presence known.

I've given and been given the advice before, to try and not be overcome by fear during those pregnancy months, and to try and revel in the miracle. There are so many rules, so many choices, so many (usually conflicting) studies, statistics, and unsolicited opinions to read and consider. But no one really prepares you for the fear NEVER ending. In every season, in every decision, in every correction, in every moment, the fear speaks to you, asking if you're sure? 

Are you sure you're ready for this whole "being a mother" thing?

Are you sure that's the kind of mother you want to be?

Are you sure your instincts are trustworthy? What about the experts?

Are you sure you're willing to defend this decision to your family and friends?

Are you sure there is nothing else you could have done?

Are you sure you're not becoming your worst nightmare of a mother? 

There is rarely a moment on my journey as a mother that these questions aren't running through my head on a loop. Should I be feeding (organic/non-organic) formula because I'm not producing milk? Am I sleep training correctly? What is the right sleeping arrangement for our family? When do I start to discipline? Am I disciplining the right way? What is the right style of play for him? What is the right style of education for her? And heaven help me for even mentioning vaccines.

I could literally make lists of fears and lists of circumstances my fears invade ALL DAY LONG. 

The fear of this journey, of this life, and of this thing called motherhood, were never mentioned before I had kids. No mother ever sat me down and prepared me for anything more than the happy glow that would most certainly set upon me as soon as that bundle of joy was set in my arms. 5+ years, 3 children and 3 miscarriages later, the fear is still there. An infant, a toddler and a Kindergartener, and the fear is still there. And as I sit here writing next to a Mom and Dad making plans with their daughter about to graduate High School and all they have to do to prepare, I'm pretty sure that their fear is still there too.

And I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in my fear and doubt. But I’m still missing where anyone is really talking about the toll that fear is taking on our mothering souls. So, in the name of hard-core vulnerability, I’ll mention three ways that’s I’ve started to battle with the daily fear. No revelation came, but I believe some daily baby steps can help us calm the war raging in our hearts and minds.

1. Accept that fear will always be there. 

I accepted this idea after reading Elizabeth Gilbert's incredible book, Big Magic. While not a book about parenting, her ideas about accepting fear as a part of the process of creativity struck more than one chord in my soul. She speaks to fear as if it must be accepted as a part of the journey, using the metaphor of our journeys being a long road trip. As parents we must accept that fear plays an important role in keeping us and our children safe, and therefore we can not kick fear out of the car on our road trip. Fear will never go away, and we probably don’t want it to totally disappear anyway. But, fear also does not have to rule us. We must not let fear be a back seat driver to our lives, our parenting, or our passions. I can accept fear as a passenger on this journey as a mother, but as Gilbert says, it will not be allowed to change the temperature of my car, suggest detours, choose the music and it NEVER should be allowed to drive completely. 

Gilbert's words are more eloquent than mine could ever be, and I encourage you to go read them. But I hope even my summation of them helps make it clear: we must accept fear as a part of the journey of motherhood. Therefore, let's make peace with that whisper in our hearts and work hard to never let it become a scream drowning out our every day lives.

2. When the whisper does become a scream, seek professional help. 

Fear can go by many other names than just fear. It will manifest itself as anxiety, depression and control, just to name a few. These other traits ultimately boil down to fear in our lives that things are not going as they should be, how we expected, or how we think is right. And I've struggled with all of them. Truly. 

Depression has been a sidekick for longer than I'd like to admit. I am a recovering control freak, as my OCD tendencies will tell you. And the anxiety I’ve experienced during my third to term pregnancy, which came directly after two back-to-back miscarriages, was so crippling I thought I wouldn't survive it. It is in those dark times, I've learned that this journey is not one anyone should have to endure alone. 

It is a very difficult thing to admit that I don't necessarily have the strength to dig myself out of the hold fear has on me sometimes. And it is rarely financially convenient for our family for me to seek professional help in these moments. But, I've also put it off in for to long in the past, and the suffering has effected not only me, but my family as well. 

There are many other issues and questions that could be addressed when it comes to talking about getting professional help and counseling, and the stigma and even shame around it can be great. But the freedom that can come from not being alone is great and the prospect of living in crippling fear will always make the rest worth it to me.

We do not have to suffer alone in our fear, no matter how it is manifesting itself in our every day lives. When you can't hear anything else but the fear screaming in your ear, and the cry of our child only adds to the feeling that you're doing it all wrong, find someone to talk to.

You're not alone. You are brave. Get some help. Get some healing. I’ll be here, cheering you on.

3. Get some perspective.

Ultimately what I’ve learned in my journey with fear is that a fail safe way to get fear back in the closet at the back of my heart is to get some perspective. For me, being behind the camera lens is often the best place to go to put blinders on my heart to all else but the blessing of a happy child and a little bit of sunshine. Sometimes, it is truly that simple and the rest can melt away.

Often times perspective comes when I shut off the phone and spend some time away from the opinions and statistics on Facebook and Instagram and all the rest. And then there are those rare days when the community I have on social media, and the vulnerability and honesty of other mothers online is what reminds me that I am are NOT alone in my struggles.

And sometimes perspective comes when I simply remember how blessed I am to stress about all these things in the first place. The daily ins and outs of my life, my daily parenting struggles, and my anxiety about doing it all “right,” I ultimately choose to see as a privilege because I don’t have to worry about feeding my children, providing them shelter, water, or any life sustaining comfort. Sometimes, a little perspective, even in the most obvious ways can truly help center your heart and silence those fears, putting them into perspective of a bigger picture and a bigger world. 

So, whether it’s a creative endeavor, some time away from the world, or a little truth talk to yourself, I can’t recommend getting a little perspective more.

As I approach the completion of our family with the upcoming birth of our third child, I feel as though I’ve finally made my peace with the fact that fear will always be a part of my journey as a mother. Not a day will go by when fear doesn’t whisper in my ear. But that doesn’t mean that my future will be crippled by that fear, as it has done in the past. Every stumble has lent itself to a new perspective, a quicker willingness to seek help and healing and ultimately a new and better version of me: strong woman, confident mother, joyful friend.

Journalist: Rachael MacPhee

Courage
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We are women and mothers, much like our mothers and our mother’s mothers. At some point, each of us have looked to past generations for guidance, but have realized this journey we are on is completely unique and we, as women, should embrace that. We must see our fellow women and mothers, realize the magnitude of differences in our paths and still brave uncharted waters hand in hand. Accepting we are all doing things a little bit differently and extending nothing but love, because we are aware of the amount of courage required for this tireless, yet rewarding, trek. After all, with each corner turned, each hill climbed, and many dark valleys traversed, courage is what has kept us moving.  

I am a mother to both a daughter and a son who are a short fifteen months apartI became pregnant at the youthful age of nineteen, three months into marriage and totally oblivious to the immense amount of responsibility soon to consume my life. Unaware of how I would struggle – of how I would change, and also unaware of the capacity of love that I, soon, would have the ability to possess. I remember in those first terrifying, yet blissful moments, the realization that came over me as I inhaled my daughter’s perfect scent; the challenges bound to come in this life would be fought with every fibre of my being, for her and for my new family, as a whole. Instantly, I became the roof above her, the walls around her and foundation beneath those tiny, precious feet. As I brought our second born – our son, into this world, the emotions I felt with our first born that I was certain could not possibly be replicated, indeed, were. I had never characterized myself as a strong, courageous person, but on those two glorious days, I had no doubt I was capable of that and much more. I became a mother, and motherhood demanded it of me; it goes hand in hand really, motherhood and courage. How can you be a mother – in all of its overwhelming beauty and joy, and also through inevitable times that aren't so beautifulcircumstances trying, heavy and sometimes lonesome – without courage? 

As many of us do, I have faced hardships in marriage, in motherhood and in my own spirit – each testing me in different ways, demanding courage which came from a place I was unaware existed – a place I believe faith, alone, has created in me. I didn't feel courageous thoughthrough those steep hills and dark valleys. I didn't feel courageous as we faced serious health issues with our son; times overwhelmed with worry and fear. Courage seemed nowhere to be found when, I, myself, struggled with health issues, resulting in the loss of my ability to bear children. I didn't feel courageous when marital issues rendered me broken, completely consumed by self-doubt which swallowed me whole. The psychological weight, itself, was crippling. I sought direction, finding it in a counsellor who helped reignite a flame I had subconsciously extinguished. She guided me, encouraging me to rid myself of toxicity that was resentment, doubt and fear. I was introduced to a group of women who created a safe environment, encouraging me to be unreserved as I shared with them my trials. My support system, comprised of my wonderful family and friends, is a true blessing, spreading life, love and encouragement over me, my children and my marriage. I am so very grateful to them and constantly appreciate all of the gifts I possess. My son and I have a clean bill of health, my daughter has always thrived and my marriage is now firmly grounded. 

My recent venture, though, might be compared to that of a dark, narrow path that has me feeling completely isolated. Myself, my husband and our children have moved four thousand miles away from all we once knew – away from my immediate family, my close friends made over the span of sixteen years and the loving support system I have relied on for the last five and a half years, since becoming a mother. I remain convinced the last thing I could be deemed is courageous. As I sit here at the end of a long day, tears perpetually flowing down my cheeks, I feel like I have failed, as if I have given my all and it isn't even bordering on sufficient. I am overly conscious of every obstacle this journey has presented, overanalyzing every hurdle I have managed to maneuver my family, my children, over, under and around. I fixate on the alternative courses I could have chosen, pondering if they might have been more suitable. Looking back in regret more often than looking forward in preparation for the many journeys to come, how will I possibly guide my children with as much grace as they deserve? Every memory of each shortcoming causes my heart to pang inside my chest, fearing how this all may shape them. I ache for the courage I long to obtain, but always seems just out of reach. How can I view my attempts as feeble and, myself, disabled, yet, the people supporting me see only the courage that I possess? If only I could see myself through their tender, loving eyes. But I am learning, and no matter how great the obstruction, I will, by strength that has been given graciously to me, help bring us through it. I am not perfect. I will fall short and my children have the front row in the audience, but it is also in that front row they will see my determination revealed. As a shelter after the storm bares proof of its struggle as well as its strength, I, too, will bare an impression, but, by grace, I am still standing, still protecting and will continue to do so, unceasingly. Maybe that's what a courageous heart does, recognizes its flaws but perseveres, carrying responsibilities, relentlessly. Perhaps, being courageous doesn't mean you have to boldly face your demons, but rather, recognize that in the end, you are still standing, undefeated.  

Each of us possess courage, but we may not all present it in the same way. It seems almost effortless to think back to the times we fell short, the times we felt our efforts were simply not enough as we allowed the grief of that to consume us. But, what if you wiped those tears from your cheeks and the defeat from your heart and challenged yourself to reflect on your journey, as a woman and a mother, in its entirety? It is in that very moment, as I grant the fog of self-doubt to disperse, when I am able to proudly behold the courage I have possessed all the while.

Journalist: Emily Earle

Coping with Change
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Feeling unheard is disheartening, particularly when it is by those who’s job it is to hear and assist you. Since the age of twenty-one, three months after the birth of my second child and immediately following the application of the intrauterine device, I've dealt with abiding health concerns. I wonder if every doctor I sought out didn’t take my concerns seriously because of my age? My youth may have given the illusion I was inexperienced or even attention-seeking with my descriptions of how I was feeling. To be sure, I urged them to consider otherwise. I needed to be heard, seen and alleviated, and after three years of battling, someone finally heard me, saw me and did everything in his power to help me. 

My diagnoses: High-grade abnormal cervical cells and chronic acute pelvic inflammatory disease, causing severe endometriosis and an iron level of two due to my body’s inability to regulate. The words “you are going to need a total abdominal hysterectomy” are forever etched in my mind. It is a devastating blow to any woman – the loss of such an honouring ability. At the time, though, it wasn't as devastating as most would think. I was all-consumed with being free of these health issues rendering me exhausted, irritable and depressed. A future with these burdens would be a grim one at best, with no relief in sight and already experiencing what one doctor called a “chemical pregnancy”. I had to view this as nothing more than an opportunity to close the door on these burdens, but in retrospect, I couldn't have possibly grasped the value of what I'd have to sacrifice - something I'd likely grieve the rest of my days. 

The day of my surgery arrived quickly. I sat in the pre-op room, being pep-talked and prodded with needles, while trying to calm my eager spirit. I remember saying to myself “giving the children you have a healthy mother outweighs giving them more siblings and remaining this way.” Soon after, my nurse entered the room to bring something to my attention. I braced myself, preparing to hear my irregularity caused my iron to be too low to preform surgery safely, and I'd have to wait. That would have been easy to accept compared to the news I actually received – the news I’ve yet been able to fully comprehend. She told me what I thought was simply irregularity, was in-fact much more. “You are having a miscarriage, dear.” Aside from the rapid, painful pounding in my chest, everything went silent and I felt like I was suffocating. I wanted to scream, tear the I.V. from my arm and run to my husband; however, I was alone and my only option was to pull myself together. But how? On the day I was to become barren, I was loosing a baby I was unknowingly carrying. “Emily? … Emily?” And I was brought back to reality. “What will I be telling the Doctor we will be doing?” I looked up at her, tears on my cheeks, and replied “well, I guess that confirms it then. I still have all of the health problems I came here with, and a uterus that can't carry a baby, so why keep it?” She left to inform the doctor we would be continuing as planned. 

For months following the surgery, I was content with my reality. Becoming well felt revitalizing. I could play with my children, I had energy and it was as if I was finding myself again - the parts of me that had lost their vibrancy through the dulling hinderances my health problems presented. One-by-one, as a result of this newfound passion for life, aspects began to fall into place – bringing fourth a flame in my marriage that had become merely embers. At nineteen and twenty-two, my husband and I hastily married. The first five years of our marriage consisted of a whirlwind of events, resulting in our passion and pursuit for one-another ranking in low on our list of priorities. However, this now-burning flame brought with it another, one I thought I had escaped the flames of. But like the first few years of my marriage, the flame of desire to carry life within me hadn't fully extinguished, even through times 

I was convinced it had. The burning embers that remained were now receiving the oxygen needed to flare-up and tear through me. 

My husband and I really know each other. We are truly happy, and are deeply in love - three gravely important things we couldn’t say about our relationship through the first five years of our marriage and our pregnancies. These realizations lead me to wonder what it would be like to experience a pregnancy and birth in this security; to actually try and conceive, to feel the overwhelming emotions together when beholding those two pink lines on a test. Crying those tears of joy and knowing even through the uncertainties pregnancy and life in general may bring, I could rest in the conviction of remaining hand-in-hand with my partner. The mutuality of these feelings brings me comfort, but also a hefty sense of guilt, being the one unable to make this dream of ours a reality. But, he reassures me and challenges me to stop and observe all we already possess – our divine, God-given reality. 

For as long as I can remember, my Creator instilled in me the desire to be a mother and, in His timing, I became one. Were we ready for this profound responsibility? Some might think no, but I believe our Makers plans were, and are, far above our own. If we had waited until we thought our marriage possessed the strength required for the journey of parenthood, my illness would have kept us from knowing and raising the two beautiful souls we have today. I may be unable to create and bring more children into this world for us to raise and our children to call siblings, but what I am able to do is equally as rewarding. I am able to vibrantly live a life of health, love and joy, with my husband and the two incredible children God graciously allowed us to call our own, for that, I am eternally grateful.

Journalist:  Emily Earle

10 Ways to Pamper Yourself

As a mother of three young children, as well as a wife, business owner and homeschool teacher, much of my life revolves around meeting the needs of others. As much as I aim to maintain a sense of peace and simplicity in our home, there is still always something that needs to be done at any given moment. At times, I forget to pay attention to my own needs. I neglect the little things that make me feel cared for and more human. I know that so many other women can relate to this. On the surface it may seem virtuous and selfless, but it simply isn't a sustainable life. Pouring into others constantly, without ever taking the time to fill our own cups, is a recipe for burnout. It’s impossible to keep going at that pace. Taking time to nurture yourself on a regular basis will make you a happier, more balanced person—more able to give to everything else in your life. 

Here are some small ways you can pour into yourself—commit to making at least a couple of these happen in the near future, and watch what a difference it makes.

  1. Take yourself out on a coffee date.
    Sometimes just spending an hour out in the world without children to corral and a diaper back slung onto my shoulder makes me feel so much more balanced. Schedule time to just be by yourself, and savor every moment of it. People watch, read a book, or invite a friend along for some conversation. It can be difficult to find the time, I know, but I know many moms who trade babysitting with one another in order to get that alone time every once in a while. 
  2. Have a spa day at home.
    Apply a mud mask, use a sugar scrub, shave your legs and pumice your feet. Let the conditioner sit in your hair a while. Use essential oils that promote relaxation. Paint your toenails. Pampering your physical self can work wonders to lift you up emotionally as well.
  3. Set aside an hour to get lost in a book.
    (Or half an hour. Or five minutes.) Nearly every mom I know wishes she had more time to read. Make the time whenever you can, even if it’s in brief little stints. We converse with toddlers on a regular basis, so making some space in our brains for some intellectual stimulation (or just a really great story to escape into) can really help us feel well-rounded and remind us of the world outside of our everyday life.
  4. Enjoy your morning beverage of choice slowly and intentionally.
    How often do we rush through the morning routine? Take it slower, savoring the comfort of a warm mug in your hands. Start your day by making yourself aware of all of your senses and thoroughly enjoy the simple pleasure of it. If it’s possible to get up even just slightly earlier than your kids and do this in complete silence, even better!
  5. Free-write for five minutes.
    Just allow your thoughts to flow unhindered. It's amazing how light I usually feel after doing this. You don’t have to be “a writer” to benefit from journaling. I tend to have a million thoughts in my head all at once, and that can cause a lot of tension until I take the time to get them out on paper. It’s as if I released pressure through a valve, and suddenly I’m so much calmer and more focused. 
  6. Drop everything and do five sun salutations.
    Stretching and breathing deeply are like a reset for my body and mind every time. I may not always have time for a whole yoga practice, but just a minute or two helps tremendously and makes me feel more connected to my body. This can apply to movement other than yoga as well. Do some push-up and squats if that’s more your style, or some simply stretches- or put on some music and dance your heart out (and have the kids join you—mine love this!). 
  7. Go for a walk.
    A change in your surroundings, a dose of fresh air and sunlight, getting your blood flowing... All of this can make you feel so much more alive. Being outdoors always boosts my mood and changes my perspective, and walking is such an easy way to take care of myself.
  8. Make yourself something delicious and nourishing to eat.
    What better way to care for yourself than in the way you fuel your body? Remember to eat, no matter how busy you are, and choose foods that are whole and healthy to make you feel your best. One of my favorite things to make lately when I need a boost is a green smoothie like this one from Megan Garcia (you can substitute ingredients with whatever you happen to have on hand). It’s so good knowing that I’m getting a good dose of veggies and nutrition in such delicious and quick-to-make package.
  9. Get caught up in something you enjoy.
    Learn a new skill and make time to practice it. Spend time doing something you enjoy, and get lost in the process. Do it purely for the joy and because it's good for your soul. Learn macrame, play the piano, or take on a new language. As adults, especially as mothers, we all too often feel we must be practical in how we use our time- that all of our activities must be tied to our responsibilities and obligations. It's so good to do something simply because you want to—that is never a waste. I started taking pottery classes—something I’ve always wanted to learn—and I’m completely fallen in love with it. Putting the effort into getting better at something that’s challenging, and doing something creative that has nothing to do with my job, has been so good for me. 
  10. Budget the time and money.
    Sometimes treating yourself to a massage or manicure, or going shopping for a new outfit can make you feel simply amazing. Budgeting and scheduling in order to make this, or any of the above ideas happen, is an act of self-care in itself. Make caring for yourself, mentally and physically, a priority. You are infinitely worth it

Journalist: Hannah Mayo

Worthy of Time
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This month began with a weary soul.  The soul, though weary, was happy - content in her role as mother, wife and homemaker - but a soul that somewhere along the way had left herself and the things that made her her, behind.  Consumed by those roles, passions which once lit her up before the powerful, luminous light of “wife” and “mother” was bestowed upon her, had drifted out to sea.  Ultimately, her life had more purpose than she’d thought possible.  But as time passed, like a hand plunging into soapy dish water, cautiously searching for any pieces left behind, she, too, was searching; probing for any remanences of herself she may have unknowingly, or otherwise, left behind.  Tirelessly, she quarried through the rubble of laundry, housework and other routine duties comprising her days and nights.  As the day drew to a close like every other and she tucked her sweet babies into their beds, their goodnight kisses brought a gleaming warmth to her tired soul, and in that blissful moment, quietened the search often tallying emotional weight to her existence. 

Ten minutes for myself, every day, for thirty days. Seems manageable, right?  Not necessarily.  There are many minutes in a day when I'm not chasing my children, when I’m alone and uninterrupted.  But rarely time when I’m not accomplishing an act of service for my family or working from home.  Most days, my “me time” is spent crawling into bed and planning things many might consider unworthy of mentioning, such as when I'll shower next, as I drift off to sleep. 

As time passes and my children grow, some aspects of life become easier while others become harder.  Through my almost-six-years as a mother, I've come to the conclusion that parenting doesn’t get easier over time.  Instead, it introduces different challenges with each transient year. 

Life with children, a husband, a home and a job definitely has me on a merry-go-round, demanding thought-out structure and consistency in order to keep its course.  Schedules must be made and followed to obtain order.  I proudly observe my schedule; carefully calculated to flow through daily tasks efficiently.  Like a puzzle, it all fits together; however, once presented with this challenge, I realize there is something unaccounted for.  The responsibilities I've been allotted consume me to a point where I sometimes forget to consider an incredibly-crucial part, the very foundation of our family’s intricate puzzle, firmly keeping its center intact – the caregiver: myself and my wellbeing. 

What would a puzzle be if time wasn't taken to find each piece and carefully complete its border?  I am deserving of the effort.  My hobbies, my passions, my soul – all missing pieces worthy of the chance to be found and nurtured.  So, I’ve revamped my schedule, allotting time for crocheting, prayer, friendships, writing and yoga.  I’ve picked up my crochet hook and began to create - not for a customer or my children, but for myself - quietly inviting my Maker to pour into and make whole my weary soul.  I’ve made time for friendships, time to call or go for coffee.  When I can, I sit in the sunlight beaming through the window and write, giving voice to the words of my heart, allowing them to flow through and wash back over me, replacing my restlessness with contentment.  In quiet moments, I retrieve my yoga mat, pose and focus solely on my breathing, the pull of my muscles and the pounding in my chest - casting aside any thought trying to penetrate my tranquility.  For the sake of ten minutes and a mind cleared of the hustle and bustle of my responsibilities, I become my main priority - something I hadn’t considered in a long while.  By doing so, my spirit awakes.  She dances freely to the rhythm of my heart and to the song my soul passionately sings, as the long-lost pieces of me begin to wash ashore. 

Beginning the search to find unfamiliar pieces of myself is a journey unto itself, and one that may require a lifetime to complete.  I was convinced I had figured out entirely who I was - what I held to be of utmost importance and what I aspired to be.  The desires of my heart seemed clear, but once I began to retrieve those scattered pieces on the shore, I was faced with things barely recognizable - parts I was unaware had gone missing in the first place.  Their level of importance had little to do with the fact they were unfounded or forgotten, but simply, as I grew, life and motherhood swept me up and carried me away.  Suddenly, looking at what lay behind me isn't as demanding as the gifts I've discovered before me. 

As pieces come back, I understand things about my present self, the deeply-rooted qualities I possess, driving me to react to circumstances in the manor I do.  Focusing on working through personal battles as they resurface throughout the journey brings peace to the restless parts of me; those areas I was once unaware needed calming. Parts I love and have missed dearly are revealed, the familiarizing with these long-lost treasures of my soul bringing colossal joy.  One thing I’ve come to realize, though, is how much I have grown, and I now understand how both trials and beauty I have been graciously given will continue to shape me.  The woman before motherhood I once knew seems so foreign to the woman I have become, and the growth in my life thus far brings me great pride. 

I hope my expressions have revealed just how crucial it is to carve out time.  So, it’s time to learn, time to dive into the search of your soul and time to discover who you really are and to reunite with pieces missing.  It’s time to work through past chapters left abandoned, unfinished; time to find the divine purpose of motherhood and all it has to offer. Pouring yourself into the life of your family is a magnificent responsibility, one you should not tackle without insuring you yourself do not run dry in the process. 

A mistake I often make is having high expectations.  Expectations of people or possessions to fill places within often render me empty and barren.  I’ve come to realize it is unfair to have such hopes.  Sure, you can look to your partner, family, friends - whatever outlet you see fit to bring fruit to your branches - however, you and your Creator, alone, know your true strengths and weaknesses.  Therefore, those are the only outlets we should expect to fill and nurture.  We should continue to make a conscious effort to make the process of self-pursuit a priority.  This process, containing one meaningful revelation after another, has the potential to allow you to begin learning all you are composed of and, to cultivate unending personal growth.  Your hobbies and passions, those left-behind pieces drifting aimlessly out to sea, are desperately yearning for the cries of your searching soul, calling them home. Ten minutes for yourself, every day, for thirty days - it takes effort, but I promise you, my darling, you are worthy.

Journalist: Emily Earle

10 Ways to Live an Optimistic Life

As I approach my 37th birthday, I never would have guessed that I would be where I am in my life right now. Back in the day, late 30s seemed so incredibly old. Ironically though, I am the happiest I have ever been. I am not worried about what others think about me, I have grown in wisdom and experience and I am excited to continue to grow and learn even more about myself. I can only serve my family and friends and community if I first take care of me. At one point when I was younger, in my late teens and early twenties, I had a more negative view of life and took on the role of victim in may ways. Living the optimistic life has served me far better and I would encourage anyone to begin living optimistically now. Don't wait any longer.

Self Care

Do something for yourself every day. What makes you happy or gives you rest? Is taking an extra five minutes stretching in bed in the morning helpful as you wake up? Spending some time in the evening crocheting or winding down with a good book? Even very small things like staying hydrated or stepping outside for two minutes of sunshine can make a big difference in your mood. Taking care of yourself first means that it will be far easier to take care of others.

Live in the Moment

Slow down. I cannot stress this enough. It took me years of hard life lessons to figure this out. Every moment matters and if we don't stop and look around and enjoy the right now, it will be gone forever. Enjoy the breeze fluttering through an open window or the sounds of your children's laughter. Watch them sleep...they will never be this age again. Since my eyes have been opened to the smallest moments of life, I have taken on a zest for life and an attitude of contentment that I have never felt before.

Let the Past be the Past

Sometimes the past is hard to forget or to let go of. Believe me, I know. Especially when parts of the past try to sneak up on you and infiltrate your life again. As much as you can, try to put the past to rest. You cannot change it, but you can certainly learn from it as you move forward in life. Past experiences can have a very positive impact on our right now life because of the wisdom gained. This does not, however, mean that the past should live with us and have control of us.

Turn Negatives into Positives

If you are anything like me, a rainy day can make you in to a total grouch. I used to lay around in bed and moan and groan at the world when it rained. I yelled at the kids because we were all too confined and driving each other crazy. Now a rainy day equals retrieving tons of blankets and pillows and curling up on the couch together to watch a movie. Or it might entail a jumping on the bed party, something that is reserved only for special occasions. When you are feeling down and negative, what can you do right away to see the positive in the situation?

Be Yourself

Are you someone who loves to host playdates and make pinterest-worthy projects? Awesome! Are you introverted and need your space? Great! Don't let self imposed expectations make you feel guilty. You are probably expecting so much more out of yourself than anyone else is. I have a friend who always apologizes for the state of her house when I come over. She has very young children and she is a fantastic mom. I truly could care less about what her house looks like because I just enjoy our time together. Please don't be afraid to be yourself, because you will feel so much better if you let go of what you think others are expecting of you. I know I would rather see a happy mom with happy kids in a messy house than a frantic mom and burnt out kids in a perfect house.

Be Realistic

Living an optimistic life doesn't mean that everything is all meadows filled with daisies and running through the fields of sunshine laughing all the time without a care in the world. Being realistic is a large part of living optimistically. When you are realistic about life, there are fewer let downs and missed expectations.

Practice Daily Rhythms and Rituals

What can you do each day that will help you get out of bed feeling your best? Do you look forward to morning quiet time before the kids get up? A short walk with the dog? Your morning cup of coffee? Time alone with each child and/or your spouse? What are some rituals you can establish for yourself for each and every day that can center you?

Surround Yourself with Happiness

Do you feel that your house or apartment is a home? Is it a place of joy and refuge? Your home does not have to be perfect to be happy. Your children's toys surrounding you may be a happy reflection of motherhood. Personal pictures and word art may be lovely memories for you to enjoy as you walk about your home doing the ordinary every day chores. For me, I love having a cozy corner with pillows and blankets and twinkle lights. I have pictures from my Instagram hanging with paperclips on twine, full of memories from last summer. Pretty baskets are scattered throughout my apartment to collect odds and ends if I feel like I need to do a quick tidying up. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Myquillin Smith, “It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.” Her words were a game changer for me. 

Do More of What You Love and Less of What you Don't

I'm not saying that if you don't love cooking to stop making meals for your family. But are there things you are doing that you don't need to do? That you are doing because you feel you must in order to be socially acceptable? Here is a fact. We think about ourselves way more than anyone else does. Anything that you are doing because of what someone else might think of you...re-consider your motives. If you don't love it and you don't have to do it, stop. If taking your children to playgroup is a nightmare, but you absolutely adore the time you spend baking with them...well, which would you rather be doing?

Treat Yourself

Whether it's a pedicure, a massage, coffee with a friend, a weekend away all by yourself...please treat yourself. You absolutely deserve it. You are person with needs and feelings and you do so much for others, I know you do. I am giving you permission to take some much needed time for yourself, guilt free. Having something like this to look forward to can help you get through even the toughest days. Write down your treat on your calendar and circle it, highlight it, whatever makes it noticeable, and allow it to catch your eye and remind you that you are worthy of time for you!

You are enough...you are more than enough. Life is too short let it pass by in constant negativism and guilt. You are worth so much more than that.

Journalist: Heather Legge

Changing Tides
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For a long time, I fumbled through the dark, searching for her.  It terrified me when I couldn't find her. There were times when I would accidentally stumble upon her, brushing past her in the darkness and I would think: this is it she's coming back, the light will be turned on and I'll see her bathed in sunlight; we will reach and embrace...lost love. This isn't how change works. We work our way through the darkness and as our eyes adjust, we see something else; something we couldn't see before when blinded by our own desperate search for something that has long gone.

At first it's hard to make out, we rub our eyes and blink and see the speckles of something, and it's peaceful, that moment. That small moment when you forget to search for the person you thought you lost and instead stare in wonder at the thing you can see. Is she really there? You wonder. Who is she? It develops oh so slowly and only in small glimmers and only in those moments of stillness. It's a sunrise, a new day and a new you, not the day that was once gone, not the you once known. She's different, you don't recognize her at first and you don't know her. But you will soon and you will see that change has done her good.

I’ve never been good with change, as far back as I can remember I resisted it.  I found comfort in what I knew, predictability of the past and fear of environments that felt unknown and unfamiliar. Each time I fought against the inevitable metamorphosis that comes when new environments are thrust upon us. I hadn’t yet learnt the art of standing still for long enough to allow change to wash over me; long enough to grow an attachment to my new surroundings, to allow the water to wash gently over my feet and watch them sink into the soft sand.

Motherhood was like one mighty wave that dunked me unexpectedly. I thought I would dive into this new change and swim gracefully through the water like I was born into it. I had always wanted to have children and thought I was “made” for the role of mother and nurturer. Instead the wave crashed hard into the sand and it churned up so much rubbish, I came out shocked and spluttering.

Perhaps it began with the first night when we couldn’t calm our sweet girls gasping cries, when we first began that long journey of sleep depravation, resting a hand on her chest until it went numb, handing our hearts over to this new being. I was one of those people who said motherhood wouldn’t change me. I would still hold true to my passions and my friendships, my life would still be my main priority and my children would learn to come along for the ride. I would teach them patience and tolerance, to sit still and to sleep on their own. Besides from learning the obvious, that my baby was not a machine to be programmed, I started to drown in incredible insecurity that had me crippled in comparison, constantly asking if I was doing enough and was I good enough. I’ve heard people say a mother knows what’s best for her child, but first I had to find those instincts, trust them and have the strength to use them, even when other well-meaning people had advice to offer, to stand firm with what I thought was best for my child.

All the uncertainties that come with being a new parent only led me on a never-ending search for the person I was before she arrived, when I thought I was confident and most certainly in control. I forgot to rest in the stillness of time, waiting to settle into this new role and see the new version of myself emerge. I reverted to my panic of needing to search to find this missing being. But it doesn’t do you any good, like a dog chasing it’s tail you will come up empty. Running with no end.

You see, motherhood does change you, not only in the obvious, physical ways of our bodies being stretched with the permanent markings of growing a human. It’s the shift in priorities. It’s the nights laid wide eyed in worry, not just worry over sickness, worry over her future, her happiness. No matter what I’ve achieved in life, her accomplishments will always give me a greater sense of pride. It’s the complexities of carrying the weight of a long exhausting day only to crave her cuddles once she’s asleep. It’s a love and a worry that knows no end. The person you thought you knew, measured by your dreams, your interests or your career, becomes fluid, perhaps it is my child who now defines me, this fresh-faced child learning about the world. I am fearless in my love for her and fearful of a life without her.

Where I stand now, change still washes over me, but I’ve swum past the breaks, I tread water in the depths and the waves of change lift me and move me, but I remain afloat, I sway with the movements. Change doesn’t always come from running, change also comes from standing still, letting it wash over you over and over again until the waves slowly cease and you emerge a little more refined (perhaps a little battered) but beautifully molded. Only in time after allowing the sand to settle and the waves to ease into their gentle rhythm do I start to see the beauty. The beauty in the unknown, in the tempers of the sea, the raging noise, the churning soapy, frothy waves and the soft glittering calm.

Journalist: Katy Andrews 

Krystal Festerly • Founder + Editor-in-Chief

I became a mother in secret.

In the quiet-- by myself. I wasn’t surrounded by sisters or friends. I wasn’t surrounded by women who had “been there done that”, besides my mother, I was surrounded by people that I did not know. I was missing the moms, the ones who were in the trenches. The ones who you could call in the middle of the night, and speak in whis- pers with, because they were up feeding their babies too. I was missing the moms who will pick up your children for a playdate, just so you can take a nap. I was missing the moms who will bring you food when you can hardly get out of bed to wash your face, let alone cook your family a meal. I was missing the moms who tell you that you’re a good mom, that the crying will end...eventually, and that the sleepless nights will become a distant memory. I was missing the moms who just... know. I was missing them-- they, were missing, and I didn’t know where to find them.

I was looking for sisterhood, I was looking for the one thing that I have never experienced as a woman. A camara- derie of women, to stand with, to walk with, to cry with, to laugh with, to just BE with.

I knew that something needed to change when I became pregnant again, I knew that this was not the way moth- erhood was supposed to be, motherhood is shared, no matter your creed, your race, or your socioeconomic status. The one thing that we all have in common IS motherhood. We are all connected to one another, there is always something, some facet of this journey that we can all relate to that bridges the gaps between us all, something that bridges the gap between the judgment, and the ridicule.

I know that if we can just get around all the crazy stuff that pulls us apart, if we can just see past the fancy wraps and expensive strollers, if we can just take the time to see past all that, and simply gaze at the core of one another, we will have a chance at sisterhood. We will have a fighting chance at a motherhood where we aren’t so alone. We can be mothers who are born out loud, not in silence or in secret...We can be mothers who are born and rejoiced, not shamed...We can be mothers who are united and support one another, like its supposed to be, like it used to be.

__

A perfect stranger is standing in the grocery store, she is red with embarrassment, staring in disbelief as her toddler is splayed on the floor, screaming at the top of their lungs, she’s thinking to herself , “I’m that mom ...” . In that moment you can look at her and she can look at you, and you can have “ that” moment, that moment where there are no words, no “hi how are you?” no, “how old is your child?” no, “what do you do?” none of that, because you know, you just know. You smile, and you nod as if to say “I know mama, I’ve been there, it’ll be alright,” and for that one moment you’re connected within the space called motherhood. There’s nothing like it, this is the one time in our lives where we can make bonds with each other that can last a lifetime. You think that you made all your friends in high school, or in college?! This is it! Look around you, she’s sitting next to you, she’s behind you on the bus, she’s in the car next to you blasting Miley Cyrus with three teenage girls in the back, she’s the mom across the street pushing a stroller, wearing the same clothes she had on yesterday, possibly the day before that, she is you. We can relate to one another like no one else can, I’m talking down to the bone relate. So why not revel in it while we have this brief common bond? This time when our hearts are the fullest, when our homes are filled with an insurmountable amount of joy and laughter.

Now is the time for bubble baths, little goodnight kisses, snuggles, bedtime stories, snack time, lunch time, dinner time, there’s beauty in the routine. My house may not be as clean, my face may be unwashed, and my clothes may be milk stained, but those are the badges of motherhood, the things that tie us together.

There will be time again for late nights spent out on the town, there will be time for making love without toys jabbing into your back, there will be time for date nights, there will be time for eight hours of sleep, but that time is not now. Though I know it’ll be here one day, I know deep down in my gut, in my heart, that I’ll miss this. That I’ll look back with fond eyes laced with a few wrinkles, and I’ll smile, because I did it. I raised the best parts of me, I had the chance to birth love incarnate, that raising them was the best thing that I ever did.

I’ve been told that I look at the world through rose colored glasses, that sisterhood is dead, that camaraderie is something that you find only within your circle of friends. The world that we live in has changed, we’ve come away from community, we’ve gone backwards, and isolated ourselves into thinking that we don’t need one another to thrive. I believe that this time in our lives, this bond of motherhood is in fact the rose colored glasses, that it’s time to change, that it’s time we bring back The Village.

- Krystal Donovan

Who she is: a mum, wife, lover of all things sweet, photographer, adrenaline junkie, and jewelry hoarder, striving to find beauty in the everyday.

"I started this magazine to connect, support, and inspire mothers everywhere, and to do my part in Bringing Back The Village™.

Welcome."

Finding Friendship

Growing up I wasn't great at having friends. I never had a proper model from either parent of what a good friend should be. 

Throughout elementary, middle school, and into high school, friends came and went and I never really understood during those different phases of my youth why it was that my friendships easily dissolved. Why friends slowly began to distance themselves from me while I just sat back and let them, never actually thinking twice about the importance they had in my life. Looking back it all is so plain and clear that the way I knew how to be a friend was no friend at all.

My mother especially didn't possess the ability to be selfless and to consider others before herself so this was something I never understood was a deeply important part of being a friend. She modeled to me from an early age how to use relationships for your own advantage, getting what you want from the people in your lives and then casting them aside. While I never consciously hurt my friends, I certainly didn’t understand all the subtle ways I did. Not taking the time to consider their feelings or helping foster friendships and keep them alive.

Not only did my lack of role models for a proper friendship influence me but the general instability of childhood made me into a fiercely independent person dead set on showing the world that I could handle whatever life threw at me using only my own devices.
Through those years I denied that friendship was something that was even important in life, while at the same time deep down I know deep friendship was something I longed for. 

Maybe it was that I didn't have a decent role model of tangible friendships to look to and much of my idea of friendship was based on unrealistic interpretations on television shows, movies, and even in books. I longed for a friend who was exactly like me that I could connect with on every level. We had similar childhood struggles, and dreams for the future, we liked the same activities and the same kind of boys, and the same kind of clothes. And if they didn't have all these things in common with me than they would never understand me, not only that but they would judge me for being different. 

As I got older, I met my husband, friends again came and went through my life never feeling too strong of a desire to keep anyone too close, it wasn't until motherhood that this all changed. It’s easy to say that this transition was what changed everything, it was a catalyst, yes, but it was also a long time coming, years and years of self-reflection, of learning to look within myself, see how I evolved into who I was, learning to be mindful of the reasons I approached life and social interactions the way I did.

But at the same time there is nothing like the birth of a mother to set all that self-reflection and mindfulness into hyper speed. Becoming a mother transforms you.  In those early months when you haven't yet met this unfamiliar little life making a warm cozy home in your womb, and you have all the time in the world to dream about what their little face will look like and who they will be but also what you will look like and who you will be as their mother. 

Motherhood makes you look deeply at who you are, what you've been through, what you value, and what you want to instill in your children. As mothers we worry if our struggles, our fears, our flaws, will negatively affect them. We worry how we can raise them to be good people in a sometimes scary world of hidden dangers. Motherhood more than any other life change really makes us look deep within ourselves and out into the world at who we are, what we want, and who we want our children to be. During those hugely transforming months of pregnancy it becomes easier for many to embrace their inner goddess and the sensitive nature that comes along with being a woman. We yearn for others who understand the deep ocean of thoughts and emotions we are faced being a vessel for new life. We somehow feel closer to all women, across countries, and generations. Understanding our own mothers more, and each person we see we may for a moment see a glimpse of them as someone's child, or someone's mother. We begin to realize that in motherhood, we are all sisters.  


When that new life is finally on the outside, in your arms, eyes open wide and looking to you for everything, this can be a terrifying and isolating experience for many. Not to mention caring for your newly birthed baby is undeniably hard! Those first weeks with your fragile unfamiliar newborn, trying to nourish them and not forget yourself. Trying to heal your body and keep theirs safe; on little sleep, with tired eyes, and sore nipples, and so many questions.
This is the time we need the most support. This is when we truly need a friend. This is when we truly need our sisters. Not just to give us guidance or advice but for encouragement and just to know we are not alone. 

Motherhood can transform a woman in a multitude of ways. For me even between my weakest hours it gave me the strength and eagerness to allow myself to start the journey to be the woman I had always wanted to be. Having a child of my own felt like the ultimate incentive. With her by my side, I felt like I could do anything, or at least be satisfied with the fact that I tried. I always knew having a child would jump start my soul and give me the push I needed to realize my dreams. Something about being needed, being the role model, being the mother, gave me the strength and the drive to finally be the woman I wanted to be. No excuses with her in my life. I would do it for her, I would do it for me. 

And now was the time to be the woman I wanted to be. And a big part of becoming that woman was finding woman, sisters; who could help me find who that was. Who could challenge me, inspire me, and support me. So I did something I hadn't really done my whole life.

I put myself out there. 

I opened my heart and I swallowed my fears and my anxieties. Of not being accepted, of not finding anyone who I liked, who liked me, who meshed with my unique personality. I joined a group for new parents and I went multiple times a week for months. I chatted with people I thought could be friends, and who I knew I wouldn’t ever see again. This in itself was unbelievably cathartic and helpful for me in those first few months to feel I wasn’t alone in all my daily struggles as a new mother but most importantly after a few months, I had made connections, real connections with real woman.  Some I may have written off years ago because we didn’t have enough in common, because they came from different backgrounds, had led different lives up until our paths crossed as mamas. 

But what I would have missed if I continued down that path thinking that all friends needed to share so many similarities. I would have missed out on a true sisterhood. For the greatest thing I’ve learned through the beautiful friendships I’ve developed is that friends don’t have to have the same style, the same religion, the same struggles or achievements. 

What I found is that our differences is what makes our friendships mean something, it is what teaches me lessons daily, what expands my mind and my heart in ways I didn’t know possible. Each one of my friends is different, each with their own personality, their own quirks and strengths, and each one teaches me more about myself than I could ever learn from someone who was a match of me. 

I have believed that this wild and crazy life we are given was meant to learn as much as we can, about ourselves and this world, and about each other. And with each friend, with each conversation I am given the opportunity to see the world through a different perspective, through someone else’s eyes. To understand the way they view the world through the lens of their life. Through all their experiences that have molded them into who they are today. 

What I discovered to be most important is to find genuine people. Real people. Who don’t want to hide behind who they are supposed to be. That don’t apologize for who they are or what they believe. People who you can be yourself with, even if it’s nothing like them. Ones where you can bare your soul without feeling judged, friends who you can whine to without worry, ones you can share your triumphs with, ones you can share laughter with and tears. That is what truly matters in the heart of a friendship and what every one of us truly needs.

Journalist: Holly Klisak

Comparison

You enemy. You trickster. You thief. The lies tangle our minds like a web, sticky and endless. Wrapping us in an unseen but felt presence, like the spider’s trap. Joy is sucked out of our lives like a vacuum when you dominate our minds. We know it's a choice, but your voice is so loud it feels overpowering at times. You beat us up and leave us for nothing. You’re subtle, yet powerful, whispering your lies. Comparison: you are a distorter of truth, a tidal wave of unwanted emotions and a distraction from our deepest desires. You prey on our weaknesses and blind us of our strengths.  Our value of worth does not lie in your measurements. We do not fit in your box, in your false assumption of perfection. Comparing ourselves to anyone else is futile, ineffective, and painful.

I would take a guess that many of us fight this battle regularly. We know it produces counterproductive results, and yet, there we are again dreamy eyed, staring and thinking of that person or life we measure ourselves with. I don't know about you, but these wishful wanderings leave me at a bottom of a pit unsure how to regain solid ground. It's a mental beating that kicks me down, hindering my progress forward.  

So, can I just say this? 

There is no such thing as perfect! I'm a recovering perfectionist who had a child and realized this profound truth. Yes, the mom in the MOPS group may seem stylish, fit, organized, showered, and all in all the incarnation of a life-sized Barbie, but that's only one side of that coin. No matter how hard people may work to appear put together, we all have crap going on.

Perfection is a mirage. It feels good, but is as fleeting as the wind. We may float on it for a while thinking we've achieved it ...but like the wind it moves on, always it moves on, dropping you back down to the ground. Take it from me, don't float yourself up that way, then crash back down to earth. It hurts. It's not a lasting sense of self or joy trying to be a picture of perfect to the world. Seeking perfection turns us, especially us moms, into competitors rather than teammates. We laugh at our children for playing with imaginary friends, but isn’t living life secretly desiring to be more like someone else just as silly? The damage it does to us is not laughable though, is it? It hurts to feel like you are not enough, to believe other moms are better, more scheduled and put together, more conditioned, and successful than you. It hurts to feel that somehow you are the only one missing out on a full life. I battle these thoughts daily even though I know the ancient truth is that my heart will follow what my mind consistently dwells on. 

Can I just say this? 

Your ability to mother well does not have to do with how your neighbor or friend is choosing to mother.  Showing up each day, intentionally finding connection and creating a safe place for your children is enough of a job to do, without adding to the burden by looking around and seeing how others are reaching their goals.

You are the parent that God gave your children. While a cookie cutter mold would be much easier to achieve desired results, with this job it's a unique task for you to creatively form for your family. It's a living breathing organism, not lifeless dough to be pressed about into a cookie cutter mold. Looking over at Mary or Betty sucks confidence and joy right out of our lives. She may be organized but struggles to find times to play, while you are spastic and messy, but playing comes naturally to you. You will not succeed as a mom if your efforts are going from trying to change your design as a frying pan to be more like the teapot because your think brewing is cooler than frying.

We are all uniquely talented, and cannot spend our time envying others for their strengths. Please know, this world needs you. Do not allow these sneaky lies to sit you down and disable you from your vital job! Your potential can never be reached in the efforts of throwing off your original design in attempts to become a copy of another original.  

Can I just say this? 

Comparing ourselves to others hinders as our ability to learn and grow. Sadly, I've spent far too many years focused on those around me than where I want to head and develop. When you look at someone for approval to see if you are not totally failing at life, you lose the ability to glean knowledge and new "tricks" from the differing people in your life. Comparison breeds insecurity, and insecurity immobilizes and destroys. You cannot gain new information and apply it to your life when you're in a place of insecurity. Existing in an insecure life creates barriers against newness because you do not want anyone to affirm what you already believe, "you are failing" "you are not good enough" "your life sucks" etc. In this place of existence, you keep everything similar so as to not crash your already weak state of being. This is the result of allowing a false measuring stick to preside in our life. Comparing ourselves causes us to shut down in a disabling way. When we focus on another's life, whether that be personality, things, or a season of life, we cannot learn and appreciate the differences we bring to the table that are complimentary additions to each other’s lives.  "Comparison with myself brings improvement, comparison with others brings discontent" (Betty Jamie Chung)  

Can I just say this? 

If you are in a valley and it seems you are the only one not on the mountaintop "living it up" know you are not alone. I love my child and my husband, but I'm in a valley at this time in my life. I’m tired. I’m not in an overly blissful state of being. I have so much to be thankful for and I truly am blessed by God. But this mothering of a young sleepless babe, while keeping up with "outside life" is hard work. Job situations for us is hard. Fighting continued sickness for the past 6 months is hard. But comparing myself to others around me made it harder than it needed to be.

The refining valleys of life make us into diamonds, but we cannot fight the process. Comparing your valley to another's time of refreshment on the mountaintop is even more painful and depressing. You are not alone in hard seasons. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and God does have a purpose for the pain. Embrace the hard times with the good and you will come forth as gold! If we experience only the refreshing tranquil beach seasons, we would remain an unchanged and immature individual. Allow these times of hardship to do their painful but necessary work.

During this season I have had many weeks of social media "breaks" because I was not strong enough to fight against the desire to compare my life to the glorious existence of those around me. Tuning out and turning in freed me to slow down and removed the pressure to stop trying to turn the winter season into spring when it wasn't springs timing yet. In doing so I learned this: even dreary winter has beauty like sparkling snowflakes. My snowflakes have been that I know God will never leave me, my husband’s unfailing care for me during my struggle with some health issues, and the joy of focusing on making my daughter laugh everyday no matter what silliness it took to achieve.  

So can I just say this? 

Stop. Join me in refusing to allow yourself to measure your worth by anyone else's life. I'm preaching to myself over here. Right now I'm telling myself to stop! The mind is the battleground. I remember I once heard a story that helped me better understand the power of thoughts. You have two wolves fighting. Their names are Truth and Lies. Whichever wolf gets fed the most will be the one nourished enough to claim victory. Your thoughts are the food and whichever one you give most of your time and effort to is the wolf that will win. Which wolf are you feeding? I know it's not always that simple. Lies and truth get muddled so easily. But, the truth will set you free. Lies entangle and imprison us while we sit in jail with the keys.

We have the power to free ourselves with the keys in our hand, but as long as we choose to believe what is untrue we will remain caged. It is silly, but challenging. We were never meant to compare ourselves to each other. The person and life next to us is not the measuring stick for which we evaluate our success. We will never find purpose in throwing out the original in order to copy another. Or in stomping another person down in order to feel closer to that imagined measuring stick looming above us. Free others to inspire you rather then conquer you. "Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid" (Albert Einstien).  So momma, you are not stupid! You just need to stop climbing and start swimming!

Journalist: Megan Gutierrez

10 Secrets to an Enjoyable Labor

1. Connect

With your body, with you baby, with those important in this process. How?

Daily walks can be so peaceful, they help make you in tune you with this new form, an extra perk is feeling that babe sway in your belly. Get on your yoga mat place your hands on your belly connect, savor these moments of unison between the two of you. Come to know that little one through your body.

Also make valuable bonds with those that will be present at the birth, you must feel safe and connected to each person present.

2. Be open, Be honest

This is so important! Allow yourself to be true, if there’s fear allow it to be heard. Tell you partner everything your feeling about birth and pregnancy. Allow yourself to get to know your midwife or obgyn on a more personal level if possible. You want to feel comfortable when laboring, so now is the time to make the foundation for trust and openness.

If all else fails in this area, hire a doula they're made for you to be able to be open and honest with.

3. Upbuild

Surround yourself in the ones that believe in you and what you want for your birth. Don't give energy to those that do anything but upbuild what you want on that day! You need to feel like a goddess going into this, you need to feel you are nothing but strong. You need A team just as focused on the choices you've made for your birth, so when it comes you can be confident. Even if things “go awrye” from that plan, well then you’ll have your up builders right there to keep you going.

4. Comfort

Be it your home, at a birth center, or hospital, you need comfort. Find essential oils that calm you, get a soundtrack of calming nature, or a personal favorite of my husband and I’s is a making a playlist of songs we've accumulated over my pregnancy, make an affirmation banner (this helped me tremendously to stay centered in my second birth), these things will center you of why you are here, and they can also make a lovely keepsake afterwards. 

5. Savor

During early labor, enjoy it, this can easily apply to those last weeks too (especially if your labor is quick), spend time with your partner. Get yummy take out, lay in the sunshine together, finish or make a playlist, the later is a personal favorite as we would add a few songs to our birth playlist in the easy moments of labor. Watch a comedy, enjoy laughter. 

These moments will allow your body to do what it needs and the more relaxed you are, the better. Don't allow yourself to want it to be over too soon, you’ll look back with fondness if you get a little sentimental with it. Be present.

6. Accommodate You

Theres nothing that'll make things harder if you’re not taking care of yourself and your baby. Don't feel obligated to have visitors during this time, after all you are in labor. If someone in the room is making you feel uncomfortable, don't feel bad for asking them to leave, its okay. Its important you feel at ease, even if it hurts others feelings at the time. I personally noticed in my first birth I had too many people too soon, it made me feel as I needed to perform and that in the end stalled things. So have the ones you need, follow your intuition.

7. Surrender

You cannot run from birth, you cannot fight birth, you are here, this is now, you are doing one of the most magnificent things you will accomplish in your life. Bring out your inner strength, allow this strength to be with your baby and body, you are strong enough. Let the waves (the contractions) carry you, know you'll come to the surface, you'll succeed.

"With my second birth I fought the waves in the beginning, they were uncomfortable and tiring. But I realized I cannot fight the tide (labor) they are coming whether I like it or not. I surrendered and it felt so good, it was still an effort, still hard, but much easier at the same time."

8. Embrace support

Allow your partner to be there for you, maybe you wont want his touch, or maybe you'll want a full on massage 24/7, but embrace the strength found in your birth partner. 

9. Together

 Kiss.

 Laugh together.

 Be strong together.  


Find THAT thing, “that” thing that helps you progress to the finish line, the thing that makes you open up allowing your baby to make its way to you.

10. Inner voice

It's so easy to become more and more vocal. But if you can, bring that energy into deep inward moans, find a mantra to mumble, it will allow your body to do much good, and also your energy level will also appreciate it. I figured out the magic of this and stillness with my second birth and its like gold to me now!

The after

YOU DID IT! Now is now… my last piece of advice is when you’ve got that beautiful babe don't feel rushed to share this moment. Bask in it. You have every right to this, every reason to be just you and your little family in these moments after. Be skin to skin, inculcate your bonds in these moments. There is time, everyone will meet this new little one. But first take care, of yourself, of your baby, of this moment.

Happy birthing.

Journalist:  Michelle Findley

On Balance & Peace
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Dearest mama, sitting there on the kitchen floor wondering why you can’t seem to do everything, be everything… why you can’t seem to balance all that you have on your plate—I see you. Often, I amyou. You are very much not alone. At times, it may feel like you’re the only one who can’t seem to have it all together. You wonder what’s wrong with you. The answer is absolutely nothing. I’m writing to tell you that I understand, and you are amazing—you are enough—exactly as you are at this very moment.

Throughout most of my adult life, the ever-elusive concept of balance has been the source of many journal entries, countless conversations, and quite a bit of frustration. It's something I've never felt good at—balancing work and marriage, self-care and motherhood, the keeping of a home and the necessity of time alone. I am interested in so many things, and I frequently lament the limits of time that prevent me from reading every book, experimenting with every art form. There are days when the work of running a business takes over my life. My house feels like a disaster and my children don't get the best of my attention. Other days, I'm an attentive and hands-on mother, perhaps even with meals planned and a clean floor, but I'm sorely behind on work tasks. (And sometimes, for the sake of true transparency, I can’t seem to do even one single thing right, in any area of my life.) For some reason, somewhere along the way I set the expectation for myself that I should be able to do everything, and do it well, all the time. I have a feeling you can relate. 

The more experience I gain in this dance of life, the more I learn that "balance" the way I once idealized it is completely unattainable. But it isn't the goal. We all have many things vying for our attention, and only so much of ourselves to give. Managing all of this is really more akin to juggling than balancing. Life is perpetually in motion. Only one thing can be on top at any given time, but it's constantly rotating and as long as there aren't too many things involved at once (meaning, as long as we prioritize wisely), everything gets enough of us in the big picture…in theory.

Balance doesn't require us to give one-hundred percent and attain perfection in everything we do; it's more about knowing how much we can handle and aligning each part of our lives with our deeper priorities. Whenever I feel chaos and overwhelm—or when, for the sake of the juggling analogy, I've lost my grip and allowed it all to crash to the floor—I try to evaluate each thing I'm attempting to handle at the moment. Are these things in line with my values and vision for myself and my family? Is there anything that needs to take back seat or be removed entirely? 

For me, this vision includes a sense of peace and joy in my home, and a life that is simple, uncluttered and unhurried, creative and close to nature. It includes physical health, nourishing food, great books, and ample time together as a family. My husband and I have seen clearly the need for time as a couple to invest in our marriage and keep it strong. I have learned that my personality type requires a certain amount of time alone to recharge so I'm capable of pouring into everyone else. These are some of the things that guide me as I edit which things I choose to juggle and which to let go of. But above all of that is relationships. Am I making sure the people in my life feel loved?

For me, the principle is this: Identify that which is most important, use it as a measuring stick for what you allow into your world, and then aim to be as present as possible in whatever is in front of you in each moment, and just let go of everything else that calls your attention away from what's truly important to you. And when you strip this concept of prioritizing down to basics, I think letting go andbeing present is really the key. More than balance, or a great juggling act, or trying to control everything, it's learning to let go that brings the sense of peace we're really chasing when we talk about balance. Letting go of the need for perfection and order, letting go of the idea that any one of us can do it all. When we not only accept, but fully embrace the fact that life is messy and often chaotic and that we are each only human, we are closer then to that sense of peace.

So now, when I find myself sitting on that kitchen floor—exasperated, overwhelmed, exhausted, defeated, feeling once again like I’m failing at this balance thing—I shift my focus away from balance entirely, away from striving and away from anything that even involves me. Instead I cultivate peace by centering myself in the present moment. I bring my attention to my senses, take deeper breaths, let all thought go and only take in what is happening around me right now—letting peace flow through my body and mind. Then, I remind myself of what is most important, which happens to be the one thing that comes most effortlessly to me (and to you too, mama)—my family is loved, fiercely and completely. We are wired to be the very best at loving them; it is innate to us, ingrained into the cells of our beings. That love is always enough. Everything else is excess. Let that bring you peace, and let that peace infuse and inform every other aspect of your life

Journalist: Hannah Mayo

Tiny Rituals
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The faucet drips methodically… tink, tink, tink. Mama is in darkness—other than a still, steady flame within the blackened glass of a candle.  A blanket of bubbles—the dry, satiating scent of lavender.  Tink, tink, tink.  Beyond that, the muffled sound of cartoons.  Her children are settled.  Satisfied.  Safe.  She exhales and sinks into the warm water, could be 10 minutes, maybe 20 if she's lucky.

Just minutes later the door creaks fully open; a blonde haired, brown eyed boy pops his head in, already pulling at the sleeves of his shirt. “Mama, I come take bath you!”  

“Of course, baby.” And as he runs in, Mama’s Me Time runs out.

~

This idea of “Me Time” is actually a source of contention in my busy, maternal mind. 

I’m told that I need to take time to myself often; that I have to take care of myself too.  And its difficult to come up with a socially appropriate response for that.  I nod, agree, and then just as quickly, dismiss it to my emotional vault.  I don't have time to even consider this “Me Time” thing and frankly, it feels like just another chore to have to actively take care of myself.  Its so much easier to neglect myself.  My husband and children need me, and whether I like it or not, I thrive on feeling needed.

As a working mother, with an older son who has hit this magical age where soccer practice lasts until bedtime, I barely find time to satisfactorily my address household responsibilities.  And in our brief respite of a weekend, I do my best seek adventure and fun, as a family.  Taking time to take care of myself is taking time away from them.  Perhaps it can be argued my Me Time primarily consists of We Time. 

The truth is that when I do find myself in moments without my children, the initial sense of excitement and freedom is followed by a growing wave of discomfort.  I quickly realize that I don't know how to act without my children present.  I don't know how to carry myself without a child on my hip.  I don't know how to hold a conversation that isn’t quickly interrupted by the needs of a little one.  My entire identity has become that of a Mama.  I barely resemble my former self in a physical sense and in character—nor do I want to.  I resent the idea that there is life beyond my little bubble of a family.  Because my life is full and fantastic within this bubble.

But through the forced moments of solitude, I admittedly experience a very obvious and positive shift.  My body physically relaxes significantly in ways it simply can’t when doing 3rd grade homework or chasing a booger coated toddler around with a tissue. My mind becomes clear and my mood pleasant. I notice the lifting of resentment that I didn’t even was there to begin with.  And best of all, reuniting with family is an exciting circumstance, wether its a night away or grocery shopping alone.  

And so I regress. Me Time is beneficial and it is necessary.  I’ll admit that.

But how? I always come back to “How” do I add Me Time to the chaos of my big, beautiful life?

Me Time is so often represented in my mind as a grand event that involves mascara, kissing the kiddos on the forehead and driving off into the sunset while daddy stays home to feed them an unreasonable amount of Oreos.  These circumstances are a rarity and usually involve the solitary-induced awkwardness that I described above.  

So in attempting to secure space for myself, in pondering what satisfies my heart beyond my family, I have found that I already do things that involve this self-care that I am am seeking.  Finding time for myself comes naturally and without notice when I engage in the smallest of tasks, the Tiny Rituals I do for myself that are for me and only me.

~

I begin each day with the spark of a match.  A flame kissed upon the blacked wick of a scented candle.  It burns through the madness of the morning. 

 Such a graceful ceremony it is to select jewelry and adorn myself to my own liking.  Upon the necklaces and bracelets, the names of my husband and our children— those alive as well as those never born. A reverent process that takes 60 seconds but they glimmer throughout my day.  

No matter how late we are running, I make my bed. The loving placement of pillows and the smooth stretch of the blanket makes me feel accomplished and clean.  

After the kids are secured at school and I’m off to work, Mama’s music comes on. Loud. Joyful. Expletives. 

Freshly picked flowers arranged artfully throughout our home.  

A bath full of bubbles… not the tear free kind.  

Four, maybe five, olives in my dirty martini.  

Pre-motherhood, these are things that are just part of life.  But for a Mama, these are gems.  The glistening necessities of our existence.  The Tiny Rituals in which we save space in our time to secure a sense of Self.  

My Tiny Rituals are unique to me.  Some are shared and some are sacred.   Pre-motherhood, these are the things that exist as a part of life.  But for a Mama, these are gems, the glistening necessities to our soul.

When we surrender to complete sacrifice for our family, we are satisfied enough knowing that they need us and the undying truth that we can give them something no one else can.  At the same time, there are some things that only we can give toourselves… the happy times together as a family, the brief moments of solitude, the off into the sunsets, the little choices we make for ourselves, the space saved in our time and tasks in which we secure our sense of Self through our own individual Tiny Rituals.

Journalist: Kelly Estrella

Sharing the Load

The first time he prepared my coffee was on the morning of our five year wedding anniversary. Our daughter was two, our son had just been born a few weeks earlier, it was nearing the end of the fall semester - one of the more overwhelming times on the academic calendar to which our family is beholden. We had no plans to celebrate until later that month, no gifts for each other, but his simple act of kindness was gift enough that morning for this sleep-deprived mother: a hot, steaming cup of creamy coffee perfection, waiting for me right at the table.

The best mornings now start when he gets my coffee ready. It's "my" coffee for several reasons, the most obvious being that he doesn't drink coffee - abhors the taste, hesitates to kiss me after I've had my cup. But he knows how much it's like a warm hug to me in the morning, to hold that cup in my hands as the day begins.

It was purely an act of love for him to learn the process: boil the water, grind the beans, measure it out, let it steep for no more than 5 minutes, pour, add cream. And it's an act of love each time he prepares it for me and there's a hot cup ready and waiting like a love note in the morning. It doesn't happen every morning, and I'm glad for that - I have a habit of taking things for granted. This isn’t one.

We struggle to give gifts like this in other ways. When we were still engaged, an older couple that we both admired had us over for dinner one night. They had two children who were right in the sweet spot years - not yet teenagers, but well beyond the preschool years, able to self-entertain. We loved watching the way this couple worked together, how they seemed energized by each other and so grateful for one another and their life. They were complete opposites in so many ways, much like us: he, a fun and funny but straightforward thinker: systematic, organized. She, a total flower child: loud with laughter, bright with personality, easygoing with love and by all appearances not tied down with a schedule.

We asked about what it was like to be married, specifically how they divided household tasks between them. I hadn't even quite thought about how we would do this, but since my husband and I both seemed like energetic people at the time, I assumed we would see what chores needed to be done and just complete them on an as-needed basis. Chore charts, assigned tasks, all of that - it seemed rather silly and a little too OCD for me, a Type B woman.

But our friends surprised me when they suggested a predetermined division of household chores.

"It should be clear whose responsibility it is to empty the trash, do the laundry, do dishes," they said.

Their reasoning then still sticks with me to this day:

"When it's not clear where the division of responsibility is, you can end up getting in more arguments. And," they added, "clear division of household chores allows you to choose to serve one another."

It’s serving each other with gifts in the form of noticing when the laundry needs to be done, and doing it on behalf of the person to whom it has been assigned instead of complaining that it hasn’t been done. Gifts in the form of not complaining when the trash hasn't been taken out (again), but choosing instead to lay down ourselves and sometimes even our justified grievances and take it out. Gifts in the form of laying aside one's own preferences for alone time to pitch in with yard work. Aim to outdo each other with service.

It all sounds lovely and beautiful, as it did that evening, but we are not exactly the poster couple for the "serve each other" movement. Not even close. We get in arguments sometimes, and I expect to some degree we always will. They’ve grown fewer and farther between over the years. We still try to stake our claim on our rights instead of choosing to think of one another first. The hope is that we'll grow in that, too. Honest conversations are healthy, good, and productive - we need to express feelings before they boil over, but we also have to assume each other’s best intentions.

But each step, each small thing done with great love, as Mother Teresa would call them, counts. One time, I mowed the yard with a baby on my back. Several times he starts the laundry and finishes it all the way through to being put away, enlisting our daughter to help him. He starts the dishwasher; I empty it. We alternate which child we put to bed each night, but occasionally we each step in and take on the challenge of both so that one of us has an evening to breathe or recover. (Ok - not all of the tasks feel like small things all the time. Putting two children to bed can feel pretty monumental, actually. Solidarity, mamas and daddies.)

I tape white index cards near the laundry hamper and near the sink. On them, in black Sharpie, is written the word “grace”. Grace: favor or goodwill toward one another. It can go both ways. It can look like making a conscious effort to get your dishes into the dishwasher (hey there, honey!). It can also look like choosing to turn a blind eye when someone has forgotten to put them in the dishwasher, and filling in the gap for them. It can be getting the clothes into the clothes hamper and it can be choosing to pick up the handful of socks that almost made it in...without complaining. It often involves reminding each other that we are on the same team. Always.

We are in the middle of the trench years, the ones that pull and tug at our every last thread of physical, mental, spiritual and emotional energy. There will be a lot of expectations to which we won’t measure up. What I hope my children see the most, however, is how we choose to love each other in this space, how we choose to share the load. I want them to see that love is not about taking, but giving. That it’s not about complaining, but appreciating. That it’s not necessarily about being nice, but being gently truthful with your partner when things are hard and you just haven’t had time to keep up with the piles and piles of laundry, or mow the yard, or get the oil changed in the car or sweep up the Cheerios that have been under the high chair for the past week. That love is not about demanding, but serving. It will always look like putting a bit of yourself down to lift the other up. Love may even look like serving hot cups of a beverage that makes your loved one’s mouth less than kissable, just because seeing the smile on their face makes it totally, totally worth it.

Journalist:  Catherine Gordon

Rebalancing Life

“You always look so put together and calm.” A friend of mine commented one morning as we were taking our children to preschool. I thought about few minutes earlier and replied “Thank you but sometimes I feel like I’m the only one sweating so much for how overwhelmed I feel.” Maybe to the outside world I may seem always poised, meanwhile inside everything is but that. 

I’m still on this year’s personal quest, to reclaim myself, to find a balance between marriage, motherhood, hobby and career. A mission that at times seems impossible: a mountain of laundry to wash and fold, assignments incomplete, a gym that I haven’t seen over months, after school activities that I have to rush the kids to and lack of sleep. Some afternoons all I want to do is crawl back to bed with a book under my nose and daydream about a different world. 

I’ve read numerous times that a balanced life is achieved by leading a healthy lifestyle. One thing I recently learnt is that I don’t need to change everything in my life at once. Taking small steps over time is the only way to get to my balanced being. These are few things I’m doing to rebalance my life:

1. HEALTH

One afternoon, as my little boy was having a nap, my girl was at a friend’s house for a playdate and our little bunny was in the garden munching grass, I felt the urge to crawl back into bed and read my many old magazines I haven’t read yet. I did just that but then realized that I haven’t done any workout in a long time so I got out of bed. I played my favorite workout video and worked out for ten minutes. By changing my mindset, I concluded that even if I don’t have a long one hour in my busy schedule I can carve out ten minutes to do a physical activity that will make my interior feel as my outside portrays. Because 10 minutes workout on a daily basis is better than nothing in a week.

2. DISCONNECT

Our modern world seems impossible to stay away from technology and social media. I’m one of those people who couldn’t stay a day without updating her life because after all I started blogging to distress. Then I added all the other platforms on top and I began to I feel overwhelmed. Lately I try my best to tune out from social media as much as possible, especially over the weekend. I don’t blog too much as before because that’s a hobby that I enjoy doing and I didn’t like the sensation that it was a chore.

3. STREAMLINE

In October we bought a house, a small house compared to the house we rented before. This fact has a positive and a negative side to it. We don’t have enough space for all the things we’ve accumulated over the years. However, this fact is helping us streamline. I’ve been purging my old clothes and my children’s since January and I’m still going strong. Few essential things used with love is better than items I haven’t seen or worn in years.

4. LET IT BE

I’m learning to let go because sometimes I can’t do it all. I’m not a super woman that’s for sure. I would like my house to look impeccably clean, have wonderful meals and play with the kids pretending to be on the moon non stop but one thing got to give. If I clean too much the kids can’t have fun, if I spend too much time cooking the kids will not see me enough. So, I ask for help. We don’t have our family living near us so a lady comes to help with the cleaning and a girl looks after the kids while I’m taking a moment to write or simply just organize my thought. My husband helps with cooking so we alternate days, in this way I can play with the kids when he’s preparing supper and he can to the same on the nights that I’m making dinner.

5. SURRENDER TO NATURE

I love camping, it takes me to Mother Nature as no-other medium is able to do. No computers, no cognition of time, just listening to your body and what nature tells you. Submitting to nature put things into perspective for me. Imagine a stormy night inside your tent which is not more than a waterproof material. During that moment you’re just a little being in the hands of the Almighty. When you don’t have nothing but your loved ones in that narrow space life surely rebalances itself. Soft steps of a deer by the tent at dawn, gently feet of a naughty bunny who escaped its pen. Sleeping like logs on a simple inflatable mattress, tight cuddles as the birds chirp to the sunrise among the chit chat of the leaves. My son’s smile as he hugs me like a bear, my daughter’s tenderness as she stretches closer to me like a pea in a pod, and my husband peacefully snoring his cares away – life rebalanced for me.

Journalist: Theodora Ofusuhima