Being a Mama

To the Mama who got a C-Section


It’s C Section Awareness Month, and I talked about my C Section a bit here last year.

Often, mamas are expected to heal emotionally from birth trauma just as fast as they heal physically. The purpose of this post is to bring light to the fact that C sections can be traumatic and emotional. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but there needs to be more empathy and compassion for mothers who have had a C section, or have experienced birth trauma.

Mothers need to be supported both emotionally and physically. A C-section is a major surgery, and is often not what a mama has envisioned her baby’s birth to be like. How a baby is born, and how a mother experiences her birth the way she chooses to or has to (and how she is given grace to process it afterwards) makes a significant impact on her adjustment to life with new baby.

I was expecting a home birth. After my C-section, I felt like I was rolled into the hospital and ordered a baby. I felt like I missed so many important “firsts.” A nurse came into the recovery room as I was coming to, and muttered, “Baby Girl. 7lbs 2oz.” at me and walked away. (Juliette’s birth story here)

I felt robbed, powerless, and weak. I wished that I could have had the birth that I envisioned. I felt like I needed to be empowered. I was lucky to have help with the practical things like meals, child care, and laundry for the first week. And though I am thankful for those things, the things that really helped me through the healing process were the people who affirmed me as a person as a mother. Those who stopped to ask how I was doing helped me in more ways than one. Although my incision healed very quickly, the emotional healing was a long process.

I was told to “get over it.” Although well-intended, I was pushed to recover and “toughen up.”  But this mama was so broken and I needed space and grace. I was sad even though I had my healthy baby, and I felt guilty because I was sad. I felt guilty because I was scared to hold my baby because I didn’t feel like she was mine, since I never saw her come out. I felt guilty because our bond was slow and not instantaneous. I felt guilty because I was scared to look into her eyes. I was scared because every time I looked at her, I was painfully reminded of how close we were to losing her. I feel guilty even saying this, but it was hard for me to gaze into my baby’s eyes because I was reminded of the birth trauma that I had just experienced. There was so much guilt and shame from feeling the way I did. There was no doubt about it – I was over the moon for my new baby, and I was so thankful and relieved that both her and I were alive. But it did not take away the sadness or my need to process trauma.

We need to support other mamas so that they do not have to feel guilty about grieving the birth they envisioned. Feelings are valid. We need to hold our fellow mamas’ hands as they heal. We need to trust that mamas will heal, instead of pushing them into healing, as healing cannot be coerced or forced. Mothers are powerful, no matter how they brought their children into the world. Mothers are strong, and they do not need to be “toughed up,” or told to “get over it.” Although it is well intended, I did not like hearing that one day I’ll look back and realize that I’ll be just that much stronger after I “get over it.”

No, I didn’t need to “get over it,” to be strong. I was strong then, and I am strong: I was strong as I healed, and not because I healed. My powerful, maternal strength allowed me to find healing within. All I needed was affirmation of that strength within me. I needed to be reminded of that strength.

We just need to give mamas the grace and space to find their own strength. We need to help mamas unlock their own strength through affirmation, instead of pushing them into “getting over” trauma. All mamas have that strength, sometimes they just need a little help to find their strength when it is a little dark. That is how we support those mamas who have experienced birth trauma via C-section: we empower  them with their own strength without guilt, shame or coercion. We come along side and show them that they already have what it takes to pick up the pieces, and sometimes we pick the pieces up with them as they regain their bearings. As I thought about C-section awareness month, I was inspired me to write this letter:

Dear C-Section Mama,

You are brave, you are strong, and you demonstrated self-sacrifice so that your baby could have the best chance at life. You have strength.

You put yourself down on a cold, hard table, and said “Cut me open and sacrifice my well being, so that my baby may have the best chance to thrive.”

You are not less. Your birth story may or may not be how you envisioned it to be, but it is not any less valuable or powerful. It does not hold any less strength or power than any other  birth story. It does not take away the time that you spent nurturing your baby inside your womb.

You may feel broken, but you are not any less valuable. Kintsukuroi is the art of repairing  broken pottery with real gold instead of throwing the pottery out. The break becomes a feature of the piece, and the gold content makes it even more valuable. There have been studies to show that C-Section scars contain fetal cells from when the baby was pulled out. Your story is your gold. Your scar is filled with beautiful gold in the form of fetal cells.

Nothing could ever tame your strength or the love that you have for your baby. There is so much power deep within you, and if you give yourself space and grace, you will find it. Once you find that power and strength, it will ignite and your journey to healing will begin. Just know that that power and strength is already within you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You are strong now, and you are strong – your display of strength is not contingent on what your road to recovery and healing looks like. 

You are entitled to grieve over a vaginal birth if you had wanted one. You are entitled feel all the hot tears that come flowing, and you have every right to feel sad. Let the tears roll down and let your cries roar.

When people point out the painfully obvious, “At least you have a healthy baby,” it’s okay to feel a rush of emotions, or wish that you had a different birth. Do not feel guilty if you wanted or hoped for a different birth scenario. You are not ungrateful if you need to grieve over your birth story. You do not love your baby less if it is taking you time to heal. And it is okay if you feel broken.

Surround yourself with those who are brave enough to see your strong, maternal being emerge as you heal. Build boundaries around those who coerce or  pressure you to heal and “get over it.”

Give yourself time to heal because healing in itself is a journey. Know that you’ll get in touch with your inner power because it is there. And once you find that healing, celebrate with all your heart, because your story is worth celebrating.

You got this mama. 

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To the boy that made me a forever mama…

To the boy that made me a mama…
In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed that your limbs are getting longer, and you no longer need me to pick you up at the grocery store anymore but would rather walk alongside the shopping cart. Even though you’re only 6, I am painfully aware that you are no longer a baby. You’ll always be my baby, but I know that you’re not a baby anymore.

You are my first baby, and my eldest baby. With that, we always be experiencing many firsts as a mother-child dyad. Most recently, sending you to kindergarten was one of our very firsts together. Just like how you were the first baby I ever nursed, the first baby I ever worried sick about, the first baby I ever sent to preschool, the first baby that I ever taught how to walk, you are also the first baby that I am going to be releasing into the world. This terrifies me because I don’t always know what to do.

I don’t always know what to do when you are angry. Especially now that you have a strong opinion and are able to debate and rationalize with me, I don’t always know how to level with you. Sometimes I don’t know if I should give you space or if I should run after you when you storm into your room.

You’re my first baby, and I know that that means you get the “guinea pig mama.” I will admit I spied on you with your toy binoculars when I first sent you to preschool. I promise I won’t do that when you go to high school. Mama doesn’t always know what she’s doing because I’ve never had a 5 year old. I have never had a 6 year old, or a 7 year old, and so forth. We are experiencing these stages together for the first time. I’ll be a little more experienced with your siblings, but am your “first time mama.”

But I promise you this:

I promise to hold my hand out to you even if you don’t always take it.

I promise to listen to you when you tell me that you’re angry.

I promise to not be the first to let go of a hug.

I promise to respect your voice when you tell me your feelings.

I promise that I will wait for you outside your room when you need space.

I promise to listen to you when you tell me that I am wrong.

I promise that I will always be your mama, and your FOREVER mama.

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Balance// Like an Ocean

Balance. As a momprenuer, this word is very elusive and intangible to me. I’ll preface this guest post with this: I think it’s impossible for me to achieve balance perfectly. Needs, situations, circumstances are always changing and our world is constantly moving and shifting. As a mom, I will always put my kids first, and because their needs are constantly changing, I will always need to adjust and adapt my responsibilities so that I can be the best mother that I can be. And as a business owner and mom, this means that I have to be intentional and careful with the choices I make. I’m going to be honest- this isn’t easy for me because I have so many dreams and plans for my business and I often feel torn because I love what I do, but I am also going to be a mother and wife before anything else. It’s even difficult to admit that I am torn because I even feel guilty that my heart feels like it is tugged in so many directions. While I’ll probably never achieve perfect balance, there are some things that I remind myself of each day that helps me. I’m all about self-talk and giving myself little pep speeches, so I’ll share some below!

1.) Keep your values close to your heart.
The two main roles I juggle are mom and business owner. (Ok, I guess wife is pretty important too!). At the beginning of 2017, I told myself that I needed to clearly define the priorities and values that I have for each role, and to base my choices on those values. As a business owner, I value the quality of my work and take pride in the pieces that I handcraft. I want to ensure that I am not making sacrifices on the quality of my work or cutting corners, so I made the choice to not outsource handmade process to anyone else. As a mother, one of my top priorities is to be present with my children both physically and emotionally. Because of this, I made the choice to make sure I didn’t take on too much at a time and have since implemented order limits. These two choices are going to be cornerstones for me as I attempt to find this elusive work-life balance.

2.) Recognize that you make choices everyday- big choices, small choices and micro-choices. Be intentional with each choice. Each of these choices will either help you find balance, or take you further away from balance. Personally, I’m working on my little micro-choices because I make little choices that take me away from balance without me even knowing it. For example, I’m learning to let the dishes go unwashed so that I can spend more time with my children. I’m also learning to make the intentional decision to put my phone down when I go to bed so that I don’t stay up until 3 AM. My Instagram scrolling habit may be just a habit, but when I don’t get rest, I can’t find balance. Being aware of the little choices that I make and how it affects the big picture is something that helps me find balance.

3.) Learn how to say no. This is a tough one for me. I like to get things done, and done well. I like to give it my all and I have a hard time turning down opportunities. I’m learning that if I say “yes,” to everything that comes my way, I’ll be drained of time and energy, and it will be counterproductive in my journey towards balance. Which brings me to the next point….

4.) Quality over quantity. I would rather pick 5 things to do and be known for doing them well, than do 10 things and do a mediocre job on each one. This is my mantra for my business lately: as my business grows, order volume is growing as well. I would much rather be known for the workmanship and craftsmanship of my work, than fill as many orders as I can receive. It is hard for me to say no because I have a fear of being left behind or that I am going to miss out. I also have a habit of saying “yes” to everything because
I can feel insecure in my abilities, and that I won’t be able to do the few things I do say yes to. (So I say yes to everything!). But this year, I am going to challenge myself to be courageous. I am going to dare myself to believe in myself enough to know that I don’t need to do everything, but that I CAN do a few things well.

5.) Fill your cup and give yourself self-care. You can’t pour from an empty cup. It is not selfish to indulge or take the time to pamper yourself. When I fill my cup and surround myself with things and people that energize me, I am taking care of the people around me because they need me to be whole, healthy and well so that I can give them everything I have. Taking care of me, means I’m taking care of the ones I love.

6.) Find your tribe. The search for balance is often a lonely one. As I open up to friends about my struggles with balance, I’m realizing more and more that though we all have different circumstances, each person that I share with shares some of the same struggles. We can be sounding boards for one another as we seek balance. It takes a village!

And now it’s your turn! If I trick myself into believing that perfect balance can be achieved, I won’t be doing myself a favour. Like the ocean, balance always moves and changes with each wave and tide. The 5 things that I listed above are mantras that act as my anchors so that with each wave, I can stay afloat and keep my values close to my heart. Balance isn’t always about knowing how to divide your time and energy up into perfect little pie slices, but more about being able to stay true to your values and goals with each wave.

All images by McLachlan Studios

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10 Things I Want to Tell My Daughter on her 1st Birthday

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Photo by McLachlan Studios

 I knew it was going to be different the moment that I met my daughter for the first time. You see, I had a bit of a traumatic birth with her. (You can read about it here). Long story short, we almost lost our lives and I experienced a lot of trauma from the birth and I have since learned so much about myself as I recovered.

As they wheeled me into my room and brought her to me, I didn’t feel like I was ready to hold her because I was still shaking from the anaesthetics. I was barely awake at this point and my eyes were half open. I was about to tell them that I wanted to wait to hold her because I was scared that I’d drop her.  But deep down, I was afraid because I have an estranged relationship with my own mother, and I was scared that I wouldn’t know how to love her as a mother who didn’t know what a mother-daughter love is like. They didn’t hear my mumbles and thrust her into my arms anyways. I fell in love instantly. She taught me how to love bravely and fiercely, and that’s where it all began. And in doing so, my daughter has taught me so much, and there is so much I want to tell her.

  1. You are beautiful for your heart. Yes, those sweet little eyes are beautiful, but what matters most is what is on the inside.
  2. Thank you for challenging me to be strong for you. We had a rough start, you and me. People around us threw rocks at us because we were supposed to “get over” our traumatic birth, but we knew we needed to take it slow.  But together as one, just like when you were in my womb, we prevailed. We advocated for ourselves.
  3. It’s okay to not please everyone. You know this too well. You are fierce and strong in your ways, and you don’t even let your big brothers get in your way.
  4. Never lose your stubborn ways. You had trouble breastfeeding and we tried all sorts of things (bottle, SNS, finger feeding, cup feeding). But you would cry and cry until you got the flow of milk you desired. Nothing could trick you. You were determined, and you didn’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
  5. You’re smart – don’t let anyone ever overlook that. Our society places value on females for their outward appearance, but you don’t ever have to be minimized  to just “a pretty girl.” You are more than what society tells you that you are.
  6. Be a wildflower. Don’t be afraid to go against the current – know that you never need to conform to anything.
  7. Surround yourselves with empowering women. After your birth, we took a while to recover. Those that truly loved us and supported me for as long as I needed, and didn’t rush me. Mama is surrounded by so many women who love her, and in turn, love you. I wish for you to see what true sisterhood looks like, so that you too, will one day have your own sisterhood. It takes a village.
  8. Always tell me when I am wrong. Never let me forget how to be humble so that I can set an example for you.
  9. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and for others. Your little voice is already so strong. There is so much strength and tenacity in your voice. It demands to be listened to. Use that powerful voice to do good, and never to bring others down.
  10. I love you. I promise to listen to you when you cry. I promise to tend to you. I promise to love you with unconditional love, forever. I am your forever mama.
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(Photo by McLachlan Studios)
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(Photo by McLachlan Studios)
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Lookin’ pretty rough. This was about 5 days post c-section.
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How her older brothers initially felt about her….

 

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5 Tips for Nursing in a Wrap

Babies love to nurse, and sometimes they like to nurse non-stop. Often, they want to nurse when we have things to do or are out and about. (There’s nothing like mama comfort, right?) Because all 3 of my babies have been avid comfort nursers, I’ve had to master the art of nursing in public with hands free to be able to supervise my other kids. 
Enter: Beluga Baby Wrap! This wrap is one of the most comfortable carriers to nurse in because of the 4 way stretch. Can you believe that I’m nursing in this photo below? Scroll down because I’m going to share a few nursing tips!

  1. I pull my top down and my breast out instead of pulling my shirt up. But don’t worry! The side pass will keep you covered if you prefer privacy!
  2. Lean forward while supporting your baby’s back to allow gravity to give the wrap a little stretch while you establish a latch. Sometimes I do a little shake to really get my breast in between us for a latch. 
  3. I like to wear Juliette very high up when out and about, but when I need to nurse, I temporarily loosen and re-tie the knot so that she can be more “boob-level.” Though I’m am smaller framed, I am a bit busty so I find that this helps a lot!
  4. If she falls asleep nursing, I tighten it back up while she’s latched. 
  5. Need to adjust your latch? I sneak my hand into the wrap through the side instead of into the wrap from the top as the side panel allows for very discreet nursing. Most people can’t even tell that I’m nursing!

I hope these tips are helpful for you! Nursing in a wrap is easy once you get the hang of it, and it makes going out so much easier for us! 

These opinions are my own, and the post is not sponsored. I truly wanted to share these tips as I get asked all the time! Make sure you check out Beluga Baby below!

Instagram: @shopbelugababy

Shop:  http://www.belugababy.ca

Facebook: Beluga Baby

*Disclaimer- These are my own tips, and each mama will have her own. Please be careful when loosening the wrap and also when letting your baby sleep in the wrap and monitor their breathing and ensure their noses are not blocked. 

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6 Reminders that Keep Me Going

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Photo by Kaylyn McLachlan of McLachlan Studios from her Day in the Life Shoot! 

As many of you know, my husband is out of town and will have been for about 4.5 months by the time he returns. Ive’ had a lot of questions about how I “do it all” with 3 kids aged 5 and under. I run this business on my own, I am on a board, and I only depend on family help maybe once every few weeks. I am by no means a supermom as I know there are tons of moms who single parent every single day. To those moms- hats off to you. You are truly supermoms!

The short answer to a lot of questions that I get is this: I don’t do it all. I can’t. There are things I have had to scale back on and compromise on. And I do have a wonderful nanny who has become part of our family.

But… I’ve come up with a list of things that helps me. I thought I’d share them with you too!

1. Cheat. I buy pre-sliced cheese and cook a lot of frozen dinners. By frozen, I mean the ones that come out of a box!

2. Don’t say no to help! Take all the help you can get and give yourself permission to rest!

3. Make a physical reminder of something that motivates you to keep going. My kids motivate me. And most of all, when I feel frustrated, exhausted and desperate from all the mothering and parenting I do- what motivates me is that I want my kids to know that they are unconditionally loved and that they can feel vulnerable with me. My reminder is my FOREVER mama necklace. I fiddle with my necklace when I feel overwhelmed and it helps me stay focused on what I value so dearly.

4. Give yourself a treat on a regular basis so you have something to look forward to. Starbucks Frappacino. Every other Friday. 🙂

5. Surround yourself with positivity and create boundaries so people that do not respect you, cannot hurt you. Cynical, right?! But it’s true. Positivity energizes me. I am SO thankful for all my wonderful mama friends for this.  Now, for the boundaries part… I won’t go into it, but the short form of it is this: My children depend on me, and they require every ounce of my emotional and mental energy. I would rather spend my emotional energy on them, than on people that do not reciprocate or respect my emotions. Surround yourself with friends and family who can walk this crazy journey of motherhood with you. And protect yourself from those who do not respect you, or those that you feel like you have to prove yourself to.

6. The days are long, but the years are short. Lastly, I know that this period of complete neediness and dependancy that my children have for me is very short. Though it is intense, these short years of babyhood and childhood are so beautiful. When my 3 children cling to me as I cook dinner, I remind myself that one day, I’ll be lucky to be able to give them a kiss in front of their friends! This short phase comes and goes in a very short amount of time. And though they are my babies forever, they will grow up and out of my arms eventually.

So there you have it. These are 6 little things that help me when I feel like I am at my wit’s end. Every mama is different, and each of you may have a different list. I’d love to hear what your tips are!

xo.
jessica

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