Motherhood: Fantasy vs. Reality.

Motherhood: Fantasy vs. Reality.

Our hopes and dreams create the passion we need to strive in life. However, the vagaries of reality can be disillusioning. Childbirth, and the transition into motherhood, is one of those times where our fantasies often do not match reality.

​The singer Freddie Mercury summed it up in his epic ballad, Bohemian Rhapsody:

“Is this the real life?

Is this just fantasy?

Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.

Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see.”

Motherhood: Fantasy vs. Reality.

During times when it feels like there’s no escape from the landslide of reality, it’s only natural to seek external inspiration. It’s tempting to jump online and read what others have done to make it work, and copy them. There are plenty of rosy stories with women who seem to have it all. There are also endless tips, tricks and advice articles. While none of this is necessarily bad, it can end up spinning you in circles with no clear direction. Keep in mind that inspiration is not mimicry, it should be a catalyst for finding your own way and methods.

During pregnancy, many of us have expectations for birth and the kind of mother we will be when our baby is here. These expectations can quickly become misaligned with reality depending on how labor goes, what your baby is like and how much support you have during the early days of motherhood.

It’s also important to listen to yourself and find birth professionals who are a good fit. There’s nothing like hiring an obstetrician who doesn’t remember delivering your first child or a lactation consultant who grabs your breast without asking.

A popular book that many women read during pregnancy is “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.” It’s filled with encouraging birth stories and advice to trust your body and instincts. Ina May’s books are relevant and important, however it’s important to remember they are also “inspirational.” Striving for an ideal birth can be empowering… but the flip side is that sometimes you just can’t attain it. Being able to accept a not-so-dreamy birth, after fantasizing about a perfect one can be difficult.

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Motherhood vs. Oneself

Motherhood vs. Oneself

I’m sure you had a life before the conception and birth of your child, I know I did. Who you are doesn’t magically change because you’re a mother. Yes, you have a new baby who needs your attention to thrive, but you’re still you with desires, goals and idiosyncrasies.

We’re living in what appears to be a collective renaissance of self-enhancement, especially where I live in Los Angeles. Everyone is trying to be the best version of themselves by keeping a healthy lifestyle and chasing their dreams. As with anything, you shouldn’t stop trying to be the best version of yourself when you become a parent.

If you’re a stay at home mother the household and lifestyle requirements still need to be maintained. A home doesn’t run itself, and even with a regular housekeeper, someone has to make sure that everything is being done to the desired specifications and that scheduled events like doctor’s appointments are met. Making a stable home life for your family is an important component of being a high functioning mother.

If you have a job outside of the home it can be daunting to stay connected to it while welcoming your new baby into your family. There are many thoughts and things to consider when you’re a working mother. Is your baby going to forget who you are when you’re gone? Are you going to miss out on opportunities to grow in your career if you take too much time out? Are you a horrible mother if you have to do daycare, because hiring an in-home nanny is too expensive? Can you even breastfeed if you go back to work? Is it acceptable to do formula?

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Doula Care for The Postpartum Period

As a postpartum doula and childbirth educator, a large part of my job is helping parents learn to care for their babies, and themselves, independently.

Parents often want to know how long they will need postpartum doula care. I say book enough time to feel like you are maintaining a happy medium of your old life and new one. If you would like to keep up your previous lifestyle, book for longer, and vice versa.

doula care

What works for each family varies, but some examples of postpartum doula care schedules are as follows:

If one parent works and one stays at home, the family would have doula support on workdays.

When both partners are home everyday, they would hire help for every other day to have time off to recuperate.

Families with twins will want help daily, and ideally nightly, until sleep settles into a predictable and consistent pattern.

When there is a toddler in the family who isn’t yet in school, have a daytime nanny dedicated to ensuring this child has care and attention and a postpartum doula for the new baby.

A family with a live-in nanny who works during the day, may choose to hire night help and weekend support as well.

Some families have support every night, even 24/7 care, up to a year and beyond.

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The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness

Natural Health after Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness by Aviva Jill Romm

With so much focus on the pregnancy and birth, many new parents are taken by surprise with the demands of newborn care and the mother’s need for rest after childbirth.

One of my favorite books for planning for postpartum care is Natural Health after Birth, The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness by Aviva Jill Romm. I discovered this book after the birth of my first baby and I remember thinking, I wish I would have known about this book during my pregnancy, it would have given me so much more perspective on planning for after the birth. I especially appreciated the recipes for teas and nourishing foods.

The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness

This book reads as if you are speaking with your no-nonsense friend, who did all the research already and has a balanced view of western and eastern medicine and care. In chapter two, which is titled: New-Mother Care around the World, we receive an overview of postpartum traditions from different cultures.

Throughout the book each chapter stands alone, the first half of the book gives more of an in-depth summary of becoming a mother and planning for postpartum, while the second half of the book guides you through common ailments experienced by mama and baby during the fourth trimester.

There are sections we can turn to for answers about returning to work, breastfeeding, bonding with a new baby and intimacy. Aviva also focuses on the father or partner’s role in postpartum care, how to create a support circle and asking for professional help when necessary.

The author is a mother, doctor, midwife and herbalist, trained in internal medicine at Yale, who specializes in integrative medicine for women and children. I highly recommend this book to pregnant and new mothers, as well as family members who will be caring for you postpartum.

fourth trimester

The Fourth Trimester and Postpartum Care

The fourth trimester is the baby’s transition to being outside of the womb during the 12 weeks immediately following birth.

One-reason parents often find themselves hustling to find a postpartum doula after the baby has been born is they’re having challenges coping with the changes brought by the fourth trimester.

A healthy infant’s goal is survival and it’s a 24-hour job meeting these needs, which are especially challenging when it’s the middle of the night, you’re exhausted and your baby is communicating in one of the only ways they know how: crying.

fourth trimester

 

Common challenges include, but are not limited to:

1. Newborns often have their days and nights mixed up, so you might see them fall into a pattern of resting more during the day and waking more to feed at night.

2. Intermittent growth spurts during the first 12 weeks of life, they usually last 2-3 days and baby can appear fussy, hard to settle and feed more often.

3. Baby will only sleep while being held and wakes as soon as you put them down in their bassinet or crib.

4. Doing everything to comfort your baby, checking the diaper, feeding, cuddling, and making sure their clothing is comfortable, the room temperature is appropriate, and they still will not settle into sleep easily.

5. Parental sleep deprivation: getting less uninterrupted sleep per night than what is recommended for your body to function optimally.

By having a postpartum doula, parents receive assistance with understanding their baby’s cues accurately. They gain the tools necessary to meet their baby’s needs with confidence, which helps the entire family to be happier and better rested.

Reference: The Fourth Trimester: Understanding, Protecting, and Nurturing an Infant through the First Three Months by Susan Brink

 

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