Posts tagged post partum
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)

10 Ways to Help a New Mother

Dear Friends, Fellow Mothers, Grandmothers, Great-Grandmothers, and Friends,

Today I write to you from my heart. As a once new mother, an expecting mother, and as a friend of many mothers, I know there is wisdom to be gleaned from this tribe about how to support the new mothers joining our ranks. I write about the friend, mentor, and mother I want in my life during this season. I write as a reminder to myself and to all of us about what a new mother really needs during those precious first weeks of Motherhood.

So, here I will pour my heart out to you in 10 ways we can support each other through the season of early Motherhood.

1. Listen

Listen to my story. Listen to my confusion. Listen to my pain and my joy, my complaints and my revelations. If you are a mother and have walked this road, then none of these words will be new to you. You’ve heard them before when you spoke them in your own new-mother haze. You have your stories, and there will be a time for us to bond in our shared experiences and worries and joys and journeys. But for now, in these first precious weeks, please just listen to me. Whether I’m crying tears of joy for all this moment meant to me, or tears of exhaustions for the lack of sleep, please just listen to me for a while.

I know I may not make sense and that my body is raging with hormones. Likely many of these moments cannot be fixed and you know, because you’ve been here, that there is another side: a side where the feeding schedule becomes like a 2nd nature, and sleep comes back, and the body recovers. So please, just hold this space for me. Come hold my hand, hand me a box of tissue, and just listen for a while.

2. Be the friend with no expectations of her for this season

New Mamas are overwhelmed with expectations put upon them. Whether it’s the first or fourth baby, that amazing woman has demands on her body, sleep, emotions, home, family, and soon enough maybe her work too. So be the friend with no expectations of her in this season. Let it be all about her for a while, even if you don’t understand. Don’t expect quick responses or initiation of conversation. You may serve and listen a lot in this season and feel like you are getting nothing in return, but that kind of service in friendship with a new Mama could truly be a lifeline for her.

3. Be the one who doesn't need to hold the baby

This may sound silly, and Lord knows we ALL LOVE holding babies. There are few things more precious than having that warm bundle in your arms, all floppy and smelling like a slice of heaven. But, poor Mama, she needs to hold, and smother, and feed and bond with that baby, and after all she’s been through, she deserves it!

Family and friends will likely be visiting and waiting in line to hold the baby. This is only natural and truly there is nothing wrong with it. But you, you can be the one person not asking to hold that bundle and focusing on what Mama may need. Be the one person not asking anything of her, not even to hold her baby. Likely, this will make her want to offer up that sweet smelling bundle to you anyway. Trust me.

4. Serve her practically when she’s not looking

Sneak in her house and load the dishwasher. Stick a load of laundry in when you visit. Wipe down the bathroom sink after you pee. Grab some extra groceries and drop them on the doorstep. And if you really want to go crazy, grab a few friends and spit clean the whole house before the weary parents and baby come home from the hospital, complete with fresh flowers.

The point is, if you ask what you can do, she will likely say, “Nothing!” So don’t wait to be asked. Just do something, big or small, to serve this Mama in a practical way when she isn’t looking. No guilt. Just love.

5. Come bearing food, and make sure others do too

Along the lines of serving practically, whether it is homemade or her favorite take out, bring on the food! Ask if anyone is setting up a food train, and if not, jump in! Please make sure that family is fed and that no one has to cook.

I always think this is a given, and in some communities it is, but when a Mama is the first of her friends to have a baby, or if her mother isn’t around, no one may have thought of this. Or maybe it’s a Mama’s 3rd or 4th baby and you think she might have it down by now…but she REALLY needs that food.

You don’t have to be her best friend to jump in and make sure this simple task is taken care of for 2-3+ weeks. Ask her likes and dislikes. Take note of allergies and sensitivities. Steal the baby shower email list and send a meal train. Ask people to include disposable plates and cutlery and bring everything in disposable containers. Dinner with no clean up? It’s like all their dreams coming true.

6. Take her other kids (human or animal) out for a walk

Another practical idea, but this one is really about creating a moment of quiet for Mama and baby, especially if her house is crazy. Try and help Mama remove herself from the crazy for a quiet moment to bond with that baby. If she doesn’t have a house full needing to be entertained, offer to watch the baby so she can have a 20-minute nap or shower. Help her break up the crazy somehow and get a little peace and quiet. She probably misses the sound of all the voices in her head.

7. Buy her practical things most people don’t think about

This one goes out to you veteran Mamas! While everyone else is buying cute baby clothes and blankets and toys, be the savior and put a basket together for the shower or hospital full of everything she will need, but doesn’t know how to use yet.

Some ideas: witch hazel pads, nipple shields, pacifiers in every brand and shape so she has options, her favorite snacks, a big pack of granny panties, travel toiletries for the hospital, nipple cream, a bag of snacks for the nurses station, a big box of Oxi-Clean for all those poop stains, Chapstick, big fuzzy socks for nighttime rocking chair sessions, honey sticks for labor, and anything else you can think of.

These are some of my personal favorites, and I always get the funniest looks at showers. But seriously…you, and the Mama, will thank me later.

8. Keep tabs on her long after those first 6 weeks. Commit to being her person for the long haul

Babies come with a host of excitement, expenses and accessories, but eventually life moves on. Grandparents go home, everyone stops asking how the baby is doing, the meals stop coming and even the Dr. says goodbye after that last 6 week check up. But for so many of us mothers, that’s when the realization of our new life really sets in. This is who we are now: a mother. A mother who doesn’t sleep, or shower, or eat or clean on a regular schedule any more. Or maybe we are on our way back to work and finding new routine and schedule. Either way, everyone else has moved on but we are still here trying to figure out this new life.

So, be that Mama’s person, committed to checking on her long after those first 6 weeks. Willing to serve and jump in and listen at the 3 month and 4 month and 5 month marks. She will need you at some point. Thanks for staying committed to her for the long haul.

9. Send her a card about what an incredible job she is already doing

Send it so it’s waiting for her when she gets home. And again at 6 weeks. And again at 20 weeks. And again when that baby is 5 years old. She’ll never stop thanking you for being such a source of encouragement for this, the best but hardest job she has ever had.

10. Give her permission to walk through this season in whatever way she needs.

I’ve supported Mamas who walk through this season a complete mess. Heck, I have been that Mama that doesn’t know up from down and day from night. But I’ve also had seasons in early Motherhood where from the beginning everything just fits and energy comes and nursing is easy. I’ve watched Mamas fall apart and I’ve watched Mamas gracefully juggle it all in the beginning in a way that looks so easy, and maybe they even have their hair done. Mostly I think we all

know that every day is different and just because yesterday we were a mess doesn’t mean that today won’t be the best day we’ve had so far.

What I want to say is, from one Mama to another, let’s give each other permission to walk through this season of new motherhood in whatever way works for each of us. There is enough grace and friendship to cover it all so don’t let someone else's experience make you feel insecure in your own, and please don’t let it hold you back from lifting up someone else in this season.

Whether you can do all of these things for your best friend who just had her first baby, or you can do one for the neighbor you hardly know but who just had her 5th.

In the end we are all mothers, and that’s a tribe we’ll belong to for the rest of our lives. Let’s let the initiation be one of love, encouragement, grace and servanthood.

Written By, Rachael