Being a Mama

Kintsukuroi – Beauty in Brokeness

In honour of Cesarean Awareness Month… I thought this would be a pretty good time to make this post. Fellow c section mamas, this is for you.  <3

Kintsukuroi is my new favourite word. What does it mean? And why? I’ve probably started and restarted this blog post about 10 times. It’s something that is heavy on my heart but I want to share. I’m not going to lie… I’m feeling a bit vulnerable right now. This is my story about my road to healing. I was hoping to be able to write a lovely birth story for my 3rd child like I did for my first two children. The first two were born at home, peacefully and smoothly in the birthing tub. But this “birth” story is more about my road to healing than anything else.

In November, I had a c-section. I’ll try to keep things brief because it was a very complicated and fast ordeal.

I had an infection at 37.5 weeks with no symptoms that caused my placenta to suddenly abrupt (separate prematurely from the uterine wall). I bent over to pick up a sippy cup and started bleeding profusely. It felt like someone turned on the tap down there, except it was bright red blood. I called the ambulance and my midwife. Within 30 minutes, I went from a planned home birth to a very fast, scary c section under general anesthesia. All this happened before I even got to go into labour with my baby. I was very scared because I did not know if I or my baby was going to make it alive. That’s how fast the blood poured out of me. This was about 4 months ago, and I have had to process a lot in the last 4 months, both physically and emotionally. I have had two peaceful, easy home birth deliveries before this, so to go from that to an emergency transfer and c-section was very difficult. I didn’t even get a chance to experience labour this time, which I was looking forward to!

I’ll preface what I am about to say with the fact that I am very grateful. I am grateful for my midwife, and the wonderful team of doctors and nurses at the hospital who ensured the safety of myself and my beautiful daughter. Everything happened as smoothly as it could, though everyone was in a state of panic because I was losing blood, and a lot of it. I am very thankful, but it does not negate the fact that what happened was very traumatic and that I have a lot of healing to do.

While I am extremely thankful that we are all healthy and well, and that Juliette didn’t even experience any deceleration in her heartbeat, I have had to grieve.  I am still grieving over the fact that I didn’t get to experience labour with her- something that I enjoy and was looking forward to for almost 9 months. I still feel guilty that my placenta abrupted, even though pathology results showed that it was caused by an acute infection, something that I could not have had any control over.  I am grieving over the loss of a beautiful, peaceful home birth. I’m sad that I wasn’t the first person to find out her gender (I found out the gender when someone told me as I was waking up in the OR). I’m sad that I wasn’t the first person to hold her or see her, since I was under general anesthesia. I’ve cried because I don’t remember our first nursing session very clearly. I didn’t hear her first cry. I spent the first 5 hours awake after my c section shivering, shaking, and trying not to throw up from the pain medication instead of being on my bed at home snuggling with my new baby. I was put to sleep on a cold operating table pregnant, and woke up with a painful incision on my abdomen. I felt like I went to the hospital and ordered a baby- like I would order fries at the drive through. If you know me, you know that I’m very passionate about birth and that I enjoy labouring naturally. I’m still coming to terms with the fact that any birth after her will be considered an “after caesarean birth.” I lost a sense of independence as I was not very mobile for 6 weeks. If I’m being honest, I feel like I still have a lot to grieve and a lot of healing to do.

I feel broken. Cut. Wounded. Scarred. Defective. Weak. I feel this not only on a physical level, but also on an emotional level. I cried for days, and I sometimes still cry and feel sad about how the birth played out (while still very thankful). I’m working on accepting the scar that now sits above my bikini line. There were things that happened right after the c-section that also caused me a lot of hurt and it didn’t help my fresh wounds. But since, with the support of my midwife, care providers, loving friends and my husband, I have done a lot of healing. I have bonded with my daughter. We overcame breastfeeding and latching issues, and I am finally starting to feel like I am on the road to healing and recovery.

It’s been difficult, but when I came across the word kintsukuroi, it really helped me reframe the c-section. What does this word mean? It’s the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with a paste made out of pure gold. Instead of throwing the broken pottery away, the artist will mend and put the pottery back together using this precious gold. When the piece is finished, the breakage becomes a feature and focal point of the pottery because of the beautiful gold that fills the breakage. The potter treated the breakage as a feature of the finished piece, and the breakage becomes a story. The break does not make the pottery damaged or defective, but instead- the pottery becomes something beautiful, unique and precious. I am learning to reframe my c-section this way. I have a long ways to go before I fully heal emotionally, but this reframe has been integral to my healing.

In fact, here’s another thing for fellow moms who birthed their babies via c section: Fetal cells have been found in c section scars. These fetal cells are believed to have a role in the healing of the c section scar. Here’s the link to the article and to the study, here. Those fetal cells are like the gold that the Japanese potters use on the broken pottery.

I know my story may not seem relatable to those who have never had a c-section, or those who have not given birth. Or perhaps, those who had a c-section but were able to cope with it much better than I did, or someone who had a positive experience with a c-section. But I think we are all broken people. We all have things that have happened to us that have made us feel broken and I wanted to encourage you with this word because it has brought me so much peace. Whatever it is that happened that caused you to be broken does not make you any less beautiful, worthy or whole. In fact, just the opposite has happened. Sometimes we don’t know the power of our strength until it is tested. Please don’t let your brokenness make you feel inferior, unworthy or defective. It is the opposite that is true. You are beautiful in your brokenness, and it is what makes you, YOU.

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A Letter to My Future Postpartum Self as a Mama of 3 Babies

Keepin’ it real… a makeup-less bathroom selfie at almost 30 weeks pregnant!

(Before I continue, please don’t get me wrong- I am so incredibly thankful to be able to carry babies healthily, and so thankful for our fertility! SO incredibly thankful. I will never take that for granted.)

Tonight, at about 30 weeks pregnant with baby 3, I realized how far out my belly button has really “popped.” It was quite frightening. It’s popped much farther out than it ever did with my other 2 kids. In fact, it’s popped out so far that it’s like my bump has a bump. (Please don’t get me wrong- I am so incredibly thankful to be able to carry babies healthily, and so thankful for our fertility! SO incredibly thankful. I will never take that for granted.) And then it hit me: will my belly button go back to a somewhat reasonable size? I began to imagine what it might look like after baby 3 is born and it scared me. I panicked.

But then I remembered that I needed to be gentle with myself,  so I decided to write my future postpartum self a letter. This is for me. This is something I need to say to myself now, so that when I see my freshly postpartum body, I have something to go to. I know this might seem like an incoherent, disorganized ramble… but it makes sense to me, and I hope it might to you too. Its something I wanted to write to myself in preparation of having a newly postpartum body again, and I wanted to share it with you! I’m going to be really vulnerable here… deep breaths!

(Please don’t get me wrong- I am so incredibly thankful to be able to carry babies healthily, and so thankful for our fertility! SO incredibly thankful. I will never take that for granted.)

Dear Postpartum Mama of 3 babies:

You’ve been through so much. Out of the last 4.5 years (54 months), you have been nursing for approximately 38 of those months. You would have been pregnant for about 27 of those months. Your body has been through a lot: pregnancy, nursing, labour and birth. Your body has stretch to house three precious human beings, and will probably house many more. Yes, it doesn’t look the same… but life isn’t really the same as what it was like before kids either, right?

You have kissed countless boo-boos, wiped an abundance of tears, cleaned more diapers than you’d like to count, calmed the stormiest of terrible-two tantrums and nursed away bonks and bruises, as well as fevers and ear infections. You have the ability to soothe your babies like no one else does. You are irreplaceable, because you are their mama- their one and only. Your body made you their mama. You are their mama.

Not only has your body housed a growing baby, your body serves as a vessel, a haven, a sanctuary, a place of warmth and a source of nutrition for 3 of the most precious beings in your life.  You are their mama. And how beautiful is that? The stretch marks aren’t just “tiger stripes” that you earned. It goes much deeper than that. It’s physical proof that you and your babies were once intertwined together physically, joined by one beating pulse. How beautiful is that? As those stretch marks grew, so did those little feet that liked to curl up right under your right ribs. (To this day, that certain child still likes to hook his toes onto things). How beautiful is it that you were able to learn about your child’s quirks before he was born? As that belly button popped, chubby, delicious rolls developed around little wrists. And as your hips expanded in anticipation of the birthing event, as your belly stretched and grew, that little baby’s brain connections also formed. Those little connections formed, and your babies came to be familiar with learned to be comforted only by your voice, your heartbeat, your touch and your smell. These beautiful, instinctual connections formed while all these “unsightly” changes were happening to your body.

Take a step back and remember the first time that those wriggly, fresh newborn babies were plopped onto your chest. Try and remember what it felt like when your skin came into contact with your baby’s fresh newborn skin, still coated in vermix. It was a beautiful moment that you will forever cherish. But this time, as you cherish that memory, try and take a step back and notice the stretch marks and newly sagging skin as that very moment happened. It all makes sense if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture- your body worked incredibly hard for 9 months to reach that special moment where you first meet your baby, and it’s only natural for there to be physical evidence of all that hard work. Those stretch marks, extra pounds, saggy skin, funny new breasts- happened in anticipation of that very moment that you cherish so much.

The world may have certain standards for beauty. But let me tell you something, mama. You are beautiful. What you have is beautiful. Don’t be fooled by the world’s beauty standards because it doesn’t know the love you share with your children. Find perfection in imperfection. I know how saggy you think your breasts are. I know you see ripples in your once perfect and flawless belly. Sometimes you wish that the ripples in your skin weren’t there. And hey! I know you’re probably missing those rock hard abs. And yes- I know, you wish you could fit back in those size 0 jeans sitting in the back shelf of the closet. You nit-pick at your body, and it’s so hard to not criticize yourself. Next time you run your fingers across your stretch marks, be reminded not of the “unsightly” changes that have happened to your body, but be reminded of what has come out of it, which is a love so deep that words can’t describe: a love between a mother and her children. And how beautiful is it?

Those changes that have happened to your body aren’t just “worth it,”but they have been part of the beautiful transformation you have made from a girl into a mama. I know it’s easier said than done, but try to celebrate those changes you see in your body. As you remember the very first time you embraced your babies and they were plopped onto your chest, embrace those stretch marks. Those changes that you despise so much are part of your beautiful metamorphosis into  a mama that happens each time one of your newborns were plopped onto your chest.

Now go and hug your little monkeys. And then go sniff that newborn baby…and as you do- run your fingers along those stretch marks and be proud that they are there! 

(Please don’t get me wrong- I am so incredibly thankful to be able to carry babies healthily, and so thankful for our fertility! SO incredibly thankful. I will never take that for granted.)

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Imperfections.

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As sit here on my yogurt-stained couch, looking at the dried pieces of cheese trapped in the shag carpet, I can’t help but wince a little bit. This post is probably a reminder for myself. I’m a perfectionist, and I don’t really like it, but it’s in my nature to want things to be done a certain way and for things to be cleaned a certain way. (Okay, I just like things to be sparkly and clean, period). Oh, that photo up there? I turned around for a couple of minutes to stir the pasta and I come back to find that my lovely children had TPed the entire family room.

But the thing is- I am a pregnant mama with two young kids. One of which just exclaimed, “Ahh… I got a booger!” The reality is that my house isn’t going to be clean all the time, sometimes my house isn’t going to smell very  nice, and it’s certainly not going to be organized all the time. I’m just going to have to learn how to live with an imperfectly clean and organized house. The photo below? The kids decided to colour their faces with a washable blue marker, and my youngest fell asleep in his highchair, mess and all.

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I realized that I needed to challenge myself to let it go and embrace the mess and imperfections that comes with being a mother, and that this applies to things outside of having a perfectly clean house. Not only am I going to have a slightly (okay, very) messy house most of the time, my body won’t be the same again. I have stretch marks that have left a silvery mark on my previously chiseled abs. My hipbones are a little wider from childbirth. One foot is larger than the other, and when I laugh really hard or sneeze, I pee a little bit. Holding myself to a standard of unattainable perfection isn’t healthy for my mental health or emotional health. Of course I make sure my house is hygienic, and that I take care of my body… but to expect things to be perfect, is not good for me or my sweet children.

Sometimes I yell and am impatient with my children. It’s hard for me to even admit that. There are days where I sit on the couch and turn the TV on for the kids. I am an imperfect parent. I don’t think any parent can be perfect, and I think it’s time to give ourselves grace, because in doing so, we give ourselves room to acknowledge where we can make improvements. No, life won’t be perfect and I won’t be a perfect parent, but I think it is important for moms to be honest with each other so that we can dialogue with together and provide each other support and encouragement.

Having a messy house, having what society deems as an “imperfect” body (that’s for another post!) and having an imperfect house without a sparkly white kitchen that’s perfectly tiled doesn’t make me any less of a mom or any less of a person. And being active on social media, my tendency is to pretend that my life is perfect, when it isn’t. It’s tiring to pretending, and it doesn’t feel very authentic.  I realized that I was afraid of embracing the mess in my life and scars on my body because of a few reasons. I was afraid that I was going to either fall into complacency. And I was worried something was terribly wrong with me, that I was somehow defective because I have stretch marks from my pregnancies, or that I can’t keep the house clean no matter how hard I try. I was afraid that if people really knew about my imperfections and saw the messes in my house, that they would think that I was a bad mother or a defected person.

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But here’s the thing: being imperfect, learning to live with and love the messes and quirks our lives is brave. Life is real and raw, and there’s something extraordinary with unveiling the mask of perfection that we seem to place over ourselves. My stretch marks formed because I nurtured two sweet babies with the warmth of my body for 9 months. They are physical reminders that my babies and I used to be sustained by one heartbeat. My hips are a little wider because my body prepared itself for two magical home births. The messes in my house are made when we share a meal or a snack together at playtime. The finger prints on my patio doors are from my two boys playing and giggling with each other from opposite sides of the sliding door. When I am impatient with my kids, it gives me an opportunity to teach them how to apologize through example.

So here’s my challenge to myself over the next week: I’m going to challenge myself to share something with others that shows these “messes and imperfections” that I have such a hard time embracing. Whether it’s on my personal Facebook profile, on social media, or on here, I challenge myself to embrace raw, real life along with its imperfections and share it with other moms who might also be feeling the same way. Anyone else want to join me? So, how ’bout another shot of that lovely redecorated family room?

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Tips for Helping Your Toddler Adjust to Wearing Glasses

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A few months ago, I took a photo of my son with the flash on the camera and noticed a strange haze on one of his eyes. I had read that this could be a sign of something serious, so I took him to the optometrist to get checked. Thankfully, everything was okay but we discovered that he needed glasses to ensure that his eyes developed evenly. Within a few weeks, we had to get him to wear glasses full-time. Along the way, I’ve learnt some things that have helped me with helping him adjust to wearing these new spectacles. These tips may or may not work for you, but this is how I did it! I’m by no means an expert on child behaviour, but this is what worked for us. You know your own child best!

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