Friday, May 22, 2015

Dear Hardworking Mama {Featured Post}

This morning dawned early and your eyes felt gritty when you tried to pry them open - possibly with the help of someone small and demanding. You made breakfast, lunches, snacks. You filled and refilled sippies, negotiated juice rationing and gave in more than a few times. You hauled laundry up and back two flights of stairs and marveled at just how much there is, especially since the 3 year old won't keep pants on for more than 5 minutes at a time.

{Featured over at Mamalode. Please take a moment to come by and read the rest!}

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Prepared Post Partum

Having 7 kids in 11 years, one thing that never ceases to amaze me is how little is told to new Mamas about the post partum period. Not just the first time around, but over and over - because it is different. It's different for a first time Mama than it is the second time Mom with a toddler to watch. And that is different again from what I'm experiencing now, with older kids to help out. Post partum is in some ways always the same, but the variables change as the family does, which makes it tricky to pin down a plan. I thought I was all knowing and prepared last time, but an extremely colicky baby threw a wrench in my intentions. This time around, I was cautious in my preparations because of that experience, knowing that I may need more support than I thought. Here are a few things that I wish I knew that first time around, that I wish I had remembered the second, third and fourth times, and that I'm practicing now.

Prepare a Plan. Ok, so that seems a little broad, especially in light of what I just said about sometimes things not going the way you thought they might. People write birth plans, knowing full well they might be tossed out the window when the rubber meets the road. I think a post partum plan might be actually more important. When you get home, it is just you and your partner. Communicating your needs in the fog of post partum hormones can be tricky and emotional. I find a post partum plan to be an easy way to direct your care with minimal conflict during a crazy time of life. This time around my plan included the kids' regular chore lists, activities for them and grocery lists for things I'd want and need to help give J some direction.

Be Prepared to be Hungry. I eat so much more post partum than I do pregnant. The nonstop nursing makes me positively famished. In the past, I wasn't prepared for this. That is, I'd eat whatever I laid eyes on, and lots of it. This time around I made a list of good, healthy, nourishing food so I wouldn't end up eating nothing but king sized snickers bars and wondering why I had a raging sugar addiction and wasn't losing any weight. Good healthy food tastes good and gives your body the fuel it needs without sabotaging everything else. Of course I'm still eating chocolate every day (I totally deserve it), but I'm also laying the foundation for the diet I want to have following pregnancy. Lots of fruit, yogurt, salads, eggs, protein.

Be Prepared to be Thirsty. Following delivery, women lose a lot of fluid in a variety of ways. It is so important to drink enough! I get crippling headaches post partum if I don't drink enough water. I'm not ordinarily very good at drinking enough water, so I set a timer on my phone. A glass every hour. So far that seems to be keeping headaches at bay and keeping me sufficiently hydrated.

Be Prepared to feel Invincible.   I might feel that way - but I'm not. I still need to baby myself. I need rest. Sometimes that's really, really difficult to do when I just want to run out and accomplish everything on this hormonal high, but truly that would be a mistake. I know cosleeping isn't for everyone, but I do sleep with my newborns. She sleeps so much better when next to me, and waking up before she's full blown screaming allows me to feed her and get us both back to sleep quickly. I've been averaging a decent 8 hours of sleep a night plus an occasional nap.

Be Prepared For The Meltdown. At around 2 weeks post partum for me, it hits. A full on crash. The sky high euphoria of birth fades and crash! I come down to a place of being completely overwhelmed, emotional and anxious. I know this about myself. I know it's coming. So when the family is invited out to the lake this weekend and I really do feel well enough to go - I think of the inevitable crash. And how something like a long weekend away from home is precisely the type of thing that would trigger it. Hard as it is to miss out, I stay home. Getting enough rest and having good nutritional reserves helps soften the blow.

Be Prepared to be Unsteady. I never considered belly wrapping/binding post birth until my last little one and wow, does it ever make a difference! I felt like it sped recovery both last time and this, gave me the support I needed to move around my home without that sickening wobbly feeling and (vanity plug here) helped my stomach get back to it's normal state within a few short weeks. This time the binder I wanted was my only purchase for post partum and it already so worth it.

Be Prepared to be Attached. To the baby, to your other kids, to your husband. I am so incredibly needy post partum, I barely recognize myself. I want my people around me at all times. Thankfully this time my husband actually has paternity leave (the first time ever!) and the kids are homeschooled so they are around. If I'm not holding the baby, I'm wearing her. Slings and wraps are my favorite for this age.

That's how life looks right now. Good food, sleep, water, baby snuggles. Post partum can be a wonderful time of life, time to soak in connection and support and love. Taking the time to figure out how that feels for you can make all the difference.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Why We Resist Rest

She's five days old and absolutely perfect. Each day is like waking to a fairy tale - her precious tiny whimpers the first thing I hear, knowing she's looking for me. She's mine and I am all hers.

Still, I find myself resisting it. Finding it so tempting to just sneak down stairs and wipe down a counter, sweep a floor, do something. You'd think I'd embrace this time that I get to slow down completely, sit and hold my new baby, but it's a struggle for me. So much of what makes me feel like myself is in the doing, the caring, the working. When all that is taken away, I feel...useless. Restless. Incomplete somehow. The novelty of ample time to knit and read wore off days ago. Odd since I don't feel like I am particularly tied to accomplishments, but I suppose the habit of work is something hard to kick.

On Saturday while I was laying in bed with my baby, my parents took my children on a walk to visit my Grandmother in her retirement home. My kids came back talking all about it and I thought, yes, this is good. It's good to visit, to bless someone with your presence, to serve them with your love and attention. My grandmother is Mama to six of her own. She worked hard her whole life. Yes, I want my children to serve this wonderful woman. It is so easy for me to embrace this gift for someone else, but for myself? A little bit harder.

Why do we think it is bad for children to occasionally have to serve an adult? Kids should be kids, yes, but kids need to grow into adults and adults who never learned to lend a hand when needed are seriously disadvantaged. It is good for my sons to poke their head in my bedroom door each day and ask if I need anything. It is good for my girls to bring me breakfast and hold the baby while I shower. Just as good as it is for them to visit the elderly or sick, or to push a toddler sibling on a swing for a bit. Fortunately, it is built right into the structure of our family. Everyone serves. Everyone has their turn to be served.

I resist rest because getting something done feels good. It feeds my ego. It makes me feel indispensable, necessary, irreplaceable. Being taken care of, on the other hand, feels like being a nuisance. A liability. A job for someone else. Not because of how I'm being treated, but because of my own inner monologue of what has value.

The truth is, the worth of a person is never dependent on what they do. Never. Being in need of assistance, rest, healing - these things do not make you less than what you were before. These things give you the opportunity to grow in humility, to recognize the innate worth of every human regardless of what was accomplished that day. To set aside ego and allow yourself to be vulnerable. They give the people around you the chance to practice mercy and charity, service and grace.

As I start feeling a bit better, the temptation to do something gets stronger, but I've been through this enough times to know that recovery can be set back to square one by jumping back in too soon. And so, I let them serve. Let them love. Let them practice what we've been teaching them their whole lives. People matter - all people. And serving one another in love is a joy and a privilege.

It's another day and he brings me coffee in bed where I sit nursing the baby. Today, it's my turn to be cared for. Some day it will be his. This is how we live. This is how we practice our faith, our worldview. How we show our children how to live in this world. This is life.

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