On March 11th, I began the week-long stretch of upholding my civic duty by riding the bus downtown. My scheduled 2-days of jury duty stretched into five because I was chosen for a trial. It ended up being a beautiful and wonderful experience giving me faith in my community and hope in humanity by the end. But that's not the story I'm telling here.
One afternoon after a long day at the courthouse, I was sitting on the bus trying not to completely drain the battery on my phone. Instead, I was awake and observing the world around me. Across the aisle from me was a group of three women, just on the other side of middle aged. They all seemed to be coming from the same workplace, chatting comfortably as coworkers do.
I couldn't help overhearing some of the discussion about the baby. Because, well, that's my bread and butter. My passion, my heart. I didn't hear everything, but what I did hear was that there was a grandchild on the way for one of the women. Her first, I believe. And as they discussed their excitement about the baby, the pride in the grown children about to enter parenthood for the first time, the conversation turned to each one of their own birth stories, and their experiences and challenges as brand new parents.
The stories were specific and tinged with that bittersweet aroma of awe and gratitude. Amazement at how young they were, how much they didn't know back then, how they survived, scars and all. There was excitement about the new season for the expecting parents, and hesitation when they remembered how their own parents or in-laws handled their becoming, back in the day.
And as I listened to the words that rose to me above the grinding bus noise, I thought how nice it was to have this in common. Not everyone is a parent, or wants to be, but when we welcome a child into our homes and our hearts, we do most certainly change in ways that non-parents don't. We hold the story of our children's entrances onto the scene because it's a defining moment when our own identities as adults shift entirely, though almost imperceptibly ath the time, and when we look back years later, we remember our former selves. We recognize who we are now, and we notice that we haven't been that old self for quite some time now.
When a child is born, so is a mother. So is a father. So may be a sibling. So is a family formed that is entirely different than before this particular life entered in. These moments define us. We carry these stories and continue to tell them because they have changed our whole lives. When something is that important, that life-altering, the stories must be told. And told again. And by telling our birth stories, we are telling the story of who we are today. We are connecting with each other on a deeper level than small talk about the weather or the next project. We are connecting at a soul level. A human level.
As a birth worker witnessing this human interaction on the bus that day, I very much wanted to insert myself and participate in this moment of connection. But at the same time, I recognized the sacred nature of a seemingly unremarkable exchange of words. So I chose instead to listen, to sit with my fascination that these women whose babies were babies a lifetime ago were still telling each other their birth stories.
I want you to know that these stories don't come boldly out in your presence because grandma or auntie or sister or friend necessarily wants to undermine your experience or assert their authority over your family. But your new baby sparks their memories. These stories come from a place of identity. There may be grief for a season that's ended. There may be nostalgia for the days of unrelenting exhaustion and joy felt in the bones. They may be seeing themselves in your wide, worried and tired eyes. They are trying to connect. Trying to hold up a welcome sign. Trying to lead you away from the mistakes they made and toward the rose-colored magic they remember of those days.
Because soon enough, you might be the one on the bus sharing stories with your coworkers, wondering where the time went, and so excited to offer whatever you can to make your own children's journey into parenthood a smoother one than yours.
At The Womb Room MKE, we are working on defining who we are and how we intend to move while occupying that space as well as through our broader community. One of the statements we are exploring goes like this:
"We embrace the broken, messy, vulnerable, awkward, uncertain, confused, anxious and real in ourselves and others with intention, love and grace."
This is a personal value of mine. I formed the words around it because it says something about what we want to be true at The Womb Room. Personally, this sentiment informs many of my choices and relationships. But, friends, it is HARD to show up and set my self aside in order to live this intention. It is brutal. And it has taken me a LONG time to even be able to claim this as my heart. Because I fail. Constantly.
But that's why it's so important to keep making the effort. To keep showing up. Owning it. Because we need it. We need to be met where we are. We need to be heard. We need to be seen. We need to be loved at our worst so that we can feel safe enough to grow through the challenges of life and emerge better for conquering them.
I feel like this statement, "We embrace the broken, messy, vulnerable, awkward, uncertain, confused, anxious and real in ourselves and others with intention, love and grace," resonates with the people I've shared it with because the behaviors that would make it true are so rare. And if that's the case, it breaks my heart.
So what does it look like to embrace the messy stuff of life? In my own self? In yourself? In someone else? Let's dig a little deeper. Tell me what it would look like for someone to embrace the *real* you.
Last week, I met a very upset little baby. Mom was trying everything. That poor little baby just couldn't handle life that afternoon. Nursing didn't work. Bouncing didn't work. Pacifier. Nursing again. Lying down. More bouncing. All the things. Mom needed connection, but she waved off my offer to help a few times, anyway. Finally, though, I walked over and held out my arms. Mom gave in. And I shushed, bounced, walked a little, offered the pacifier, and soon, baby finally surrendered, too.
As a brand new parent, one of the hardest things to learn is that sometimes, your arms are not the answer.
Even this tiny little baby knew that Mom was supposed to be the solution to all the problems. So when Mom couldn't solve the problem, the poor baby just demanded more from Mom. Mom couldn't solve any more than before. Baby didn't know that and kept demanding. And so on.
Enter the interruption. The stranger. That day, me.
The baby recognized me as NOT the parent. Someone this baby had never learned to communicate with before. Being already exhausted and cried out, instead of attempting to start communicating with me from scratch, baby just did what was needed all along and decided to relax into sleep.
But as a brand new parent, this process can make you feel like a failure. Your job is to know your baby best, including how to calm them, quiet them, console them. You may not yet realize that kids of all ages are THE WORST for the people with whom they feel safest. Because they they know that you have to love them no matter what.
They don't know that about me.
Of course, I will love your baby when I spend time with your family. You know that your baby will be safe in my arms. You wouldn't hand your baby to someone you didn't trust. I know this. You know this. But your baby, well... doesn't. So even when they are so little and new, they sense how I'm different from family. So they don't know what to do. What to say. They shift gears. They may still look for you awhile. But then, they settle in to see what happens.
I want you to know that this is because of how AMAZING you are as a parent. NOT because of any failure or flaw.
Look, the baby phase is HARD. Parenting can feel BRUTAL and UNRELENTING sometimes. And people expect a lot of themselves as parents. Because we've been conditioned to feel like we have to have it all together, under control, be in charge and independent and self-reliant in all things. All. The. Time. Especially if we have had a demanding professional life. Especially if "type A" behaviors have traditionally impacted our past behaviors. Especially now that the one main thing this tiny, demanding human requires from us now is surrender, and we are WAY out of practice at surrender. So we read all the books. We scour the Internet. We kick ourselves when we're down. We're overtired and confused and feel like the biggest disappointment in the history of humanity when our babies behave like, well, like brand new human infants.
It's exhausting. It's too much. Too much for one person. Too much even for two incredible parents. Because we've put it all on ourselves alone.
Never is it more clear to me that this is the exact opposite of how we are designed than when I see new parents struggle to release their grip and rest in someone else's sincere offer to help.
You are not failing as a parent if your baby falls asleep in someone else's arms and not your own. You are stepping into a new role that requires community, dependence, vulnerability and yes, surrender. Babies are human, just like you and me. And as a human, none of us have all the answers on our own. But when we can find a way to connect and work together, we can learn, grow and allow ourselves some space to rest in the comfort of genuine community.
As you walk this path of parenthood, you will learn to embrace the worst your children can give. Because they will give it to you. And you alone. The real trick is to balance this embrace of the worst with the very real need to take breaks to breathe and rest. Because no one can be in the worst of the worst 24/7 without serious consequences to their sanity and well-being. So look for the helpers. The ones who mean it when they offer, "anything you need." Ask. Take a deep breath, and just ask. Take them up on their offers. Even if it makes you feel uncomfortable or a little bit like a failure in the moment (you're not) for needing the help, a little bit vulnerable to even just make the request, it's okay. It's perfectly normal to feel that way. Just make sure to do it anyway.
As for the mom who let me hold her baby, because she's a veteran in the trenches, I assume that she's already learned this much. But in case she's still in a place of vulnerability, guilt or uncertainty, still learning to practice surrender, I want her to know how strong she is and how awesome a job she's doing.
I'm always happy to help bring any amount of rest possible. I know how rare it can be.
There is a lot of advice floating around to slow down and find peace during the hustle and bustle of holiday times. You may be feeling the pull, as I am, to cozy up with a warm drink and a good book or favorite movie. My kids are definitely all about asking for more snuggles, dragging their quilts from their beds all over the house to stay connected to that coziness.
At the same time, the excitement simmers. The holiday lights shine, the decorations abound, and my 4-year-old is ALL about it. Seeing the joy shine from his little face makes my heart swell. I'm excited to give them a great time. I want them to enjoy their gifts and their family spending time together. I want to DO ALL THE THINGS! Because they want to.
Is there a balance to be found? I think so
Just like that, here we are in mid-November. October was crazy and overwhelming. I was proud of myself for putting up some boundaries. For saying, "no," when I needed to. Still. Of course I did too much. Yet still felt like not enough.
And October always brings with it a certain and subtle looming sense of dread. As soon as those clocks fall back, it's as though a fog settles into my psyche. I want to keep momentum and enthusiasm. But I just start to drag. My mental capacity becomes more limited just when I need it to expand. My body just wants chocolate and sleep. The earlier sunset just makes me sad. And the struggles that are manageable throughout the rest of the year settle heavily on my shoulders and won't be moved.
Since winter (especially January and February) often leads to the conception of autumn babies, I know there are folks out there who could use some postpartum help. However, the reality is that the ones who need it most may become lulled into a false sense of security by the swiftly approaching holidays when they know that their loved ones will be gathering around them. Then the last week of December hits, and everyone's gone except you and your newborn. Then what?
I'd like for us to help each other. Connecting with people keeps me going. I have a few ways to do that for myself. I'm taking karate classes 2-3 nights each week. I'm visiting new parent groups and networking with other local birth workers and other professionals. There are some Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings with friends and family being planned.
But as I sit here and think about all that I have, I also don't have a third-trimester pregnant body or a newborn to factor into my plans. If you are expecting a late fall or winter baby, my heart is with you. The nights are long. The comfort of family might be shifting in a new way that is hard to explain. You may be feeling pressure to show up or host without knowing if you'll still be pregnant or how your freshly postpartum body is going to take the effort. What are others expecting of you? What are you expecting of yourself.
Three things to keep in mind reaching term or giving birth around the holidays:
1. You don't owe anyone anything right now. No, not even your spouse or partner. You are allowed to cocoon yourself up and let others come to you. You have permission to take the rest you need. If you're pregnant, you find your cozy spot and stay close to it. If you have a newborn, enlist someone to help you rest, eat and shower. You don't have to decorate. You don't have to cook. You don't have to clean. If you have little in the way of support for these things, do them as minimally as possible. If putting up some strings of lights brings you joy and peace this season, do it, but at about 10% of your usual level. Of course you need to eat, so eat simply. Use the crock pot. Use a grocery delivery or pick-up service if you can. Stock foods that you can grab with one hand or that store and reheat easily. Use paper plates/bowls. Wear the same pajamas all week. The laundry and dishes will always be there. If someone is coming over, ask them to help you keep up. If not, then try not to worry too much.
2. You are the parent. The birth-giver or the life supporter. Be gracious when someone offers well-meaning comments or advice, but for the most part, ignore it. Trust your guts, your research, your preparations and your intentionally chosen support network of trusted people and resources. No one knows this particular tiny human better than you do. It's easy to get rattled when everyone has an opinion and their own "right" way of doing things. But trust yourself to know yourself and what's best for your family and baby. Understand that the mistakes you may make are yours to make and learn from. There is usually time to thoughtfully consider any particular bit of advice, solicited or unsolicited. Take time to think. To process. If you think something could work for you or your family, try it, and feel free to let the rest go.
3. Babies need their primary care people. It's science. Babies know their mother's scent, voice and heart beat. They thrive best with their familiar primary caregivers. Keep them close. It's a great idea, especially if you have a tender newborn among large groups of family members, friends or co-workers, to "wear" your infant in a soft carrier. They will often sleep long stretches this way, and other people may be more hesitant to grab them away. Look at stretchy wrap-style carriers and learn how to use one. Communicate openly with your partner or closest support people how you want to handle introducing baby to others outside your immediate circle. Some parents are comfortable handing baby off to whoever. Some won't let ANYONE other than parents hold baby for a certain number of days or weeks. Decide what you are comfortable with for yourself and your baby, and make sure everyone is on the same page so they can speak up if you find yourself unable to do so. If you are breast-/chest-feeding, make sure that you have extra awareness of baby's cues and routines so that you can make sure not to miss a feeding, especially early on. Keep that baby close. Stay hydrated. Set boundaries that work for you.
My intention for myself is to continue to make time for myself through this late autumn and winter whirlwind. I have things that must be done, but I don't have to do all of them. I will give myself permission to snuggle my kids. I will allow myself to take a "day off" here and there so that I can focus on offering myself the nourishment that my body needs. I plan to continue to force myself to exercise. To leave the house. To engage with close friends and encounter new people in my community. As much as I am able.
My intention for you, anyone reading this, any future clients or parents of winter babies, find your balance. Draw your boundaries. The colder weather and darker days drive us inward for a reason. Take the time. Unplug. Connect in person. Breathe in that sweet newborn baby scent. Let both the days and the nights leave room for surrender and slowing down. Time does march onward, and soon enough, too soon, we will wake up and be driven or expected to do all the things once again.
If you look at the dates on the first couple of posts here, you will see that I had them written over a year ago. Today I decided to take the leap and add the blog section on this website. Like, officially. I've always enjoyed writing, so why not write some of my stories as they relate to the work that I'm doing?
Here is the truth. I want to make this blog a place where I can be real and discuss my journey with this business. So you know where I'm coming from. So you have a little more information before you hire me. Or just so you can see that here is a real human who does a lot of the same things that humans do. And she happens to know some stuff about pregnancy, birth, postpartum and parenting. Maybe some of my words will resonate, maybe they won't. I'm good either way.
The real truth is that I will not be consistent. I would love to have a regular posting schedule. I won't. I've been down this road before. I will share when I have something to say. But often, I won't. So don't hold your breath for a daily, weekly or even monthly thought from me.
The promise that I can make to anyone reading this is that I am devoted to this work that I'm doing. This loving of people, of new families. I'm committed to learning new things every day, from anyone. I won't always have the most efficient business practices. Because I never wanted to be a "businessperson." I won't always write regularly. But I will engage. And I will be myself, as much as words can show. There's no point in trying to be anyone else. You'll see right through that.
What I hope you do see is someone who is actively engaging with her community and supporting the people around her. My circles sometimes feel small, sometimes big. But I want them always to feel open, inviting, so that they may grow and multiply. We are meant for connection. So here I am.
When my oldest son was born, I quit my full-time office job to stay home with him. When we realized I needed a paycheck to keep our family finances afloat, I took a retail job at our local Buy Buy Baby.
As a sales associate, it was my job to help our customers, mainly expecting and new parents, find the things that would meet their needs or solve their current problems. As a new mother, myself, this was easy for me to do. But the longer I worked there, the more I realized that my presence met a different kind of need for some of my customers.
In my early days of new, stay-at-home motherhood, I was lonely. The days were long. My constant companion only communicated by crying, cooing and the occasional, fleeting smile. Desperate to encounter another adult in my day, I would go to my neighborhood baby store, hoping someone else would initiate a conversatior or, at the very least, tell me how cute my baby was. Sometimes all I got was an exchange with the cashier, but somehow, it still helped me understand that there was still a world outside my home with people in it who existed.
Working at the baby store, I began to recognize the isolated new mothers. The ones who came seeking something they couldn't really name. I saw myself in their tired eyes. I saw their unacknowledged ache, the tears that they refused to shed in public but were sick of pouring out hidden inside their homes. I saw mothers stepping out into an unchanged world, shell shocked from the transformation that was still actively erupting through their own hearts.
I saw them.
I knew them.
I had been them. And I had become someone else. I knew how lonely it can be. I also knew how amazing it would be once they came out the other side, once the haze began to melt away, once they began to discover the wonder of their metamorphosis. Once they realized their babies were really fascinating people that they would become so eager to get to know. I knew from connecting with them as they shopped for nursing covers or the right bottle nipples or swaddling blankets. I knew they were grateful for the little I could offer.
And I knew that they would be okay.
And now, I get to offer more. And to tell you, I see you, too. I know what it's like. I'm here for you. And you will be okay.
I am beginning this journey to serve postpartum women with slight hesitation and a humble heart. I know how much of a joy and a challenge new motherhood can be. And I want to be an anchor to those who might feel untethered as they step into it.
I question whether I have what it takes to provide what is needed.
I envision my role as an encourager, a listener, a warm embrace. I want to be a comfort, offering nourishment for both the body and the soul. I want to help women find their strength in motherhood, their confidence and laughter. To illuminate and celebrate the tiniest moments of perfection, however fleeting they may seem in those early days. I want to walk with them through the messy bits and help them understand that they will emerge from the challenges with a grace and power they can hardly imagine.
I want to show new mothers how beautiful they are, in their rawness, even when they haven't had a shower or slept very much. Because there is love coloring every fear and sorrow and defeat. There is so much love. So much vicory there with it. It makes them radiant. I want to exist in that radiance with them. I want to reflect it back at them. I want to help their hearts to fill.
I trust that it will be amazing. For my clients, and also for me.