Tag Archives: parenting

If Becoming a Parent Was a “Real” Job

 

Google has a funny idea of what "postpartum" looks like.

Google’s idea of what “postpartum” looks like. Google is sadly mistaken.

 

You got hired for a new job. Congratulations! You’re told it’s the best, most rewarding job on the planet. You will be paid in things worth more than money, more than gold, things you can’t fully fathom yet. You get instant tenure, and your significant other is your co-worker. Many people want this job, but not everyone gets it. People have paid thousands and thousands of dollars to get this job. Some people spend their whole adult lives hoping for, wishing for this job.

You’re promised 40 weeks of training for this job, though you may wind up with a few more or a few less depending on your boss’ schedule. This training is not easy- it includes many challenges such as fatigue, extreme physical discomfort, financial risk, illness, mood swings, extreme weight gain. Some people enjoy the training, but many more hate it. Even more hate it but never say they do out of fear of judgement because the perceived “norm” is to love every moment of the training. Training includes a few classes, monthly visits with experts, books, literature, panicked late-night Google searches, and peeing your pants when you laugh. As the weeks go by, it becomes more and more clear that soon your training will end and you’ll be out on the floor, finally earning your new job title.

After many months, you’re given your final test, and lucky you: it’s open-book. All your hard work and studying are about to pay off, and you go into the test with a handy cheat sheet of your exact answers to all of the questions you studied.

Unbeknownst to you, some jerk switches the test out last minute for a different test, one longer and harder than you expected. You TOTALLY DIDN’T STUDY FOR THIS. And yet, you pass. You’ve earned your name badge, and the second your test is over, you’re officially employed by a tiny, screaming person that only you and your co-worker can please.

Only, your employer speaks in an ancient, mystical tongue that you can’t understand. You and your coworker proceed to spend every waking moment (and they’re all waking moments, aren’t they?) scrambling to decode this ancient tongue and figure out how to make your boss stop screaming at you. You find yourself exhausted, dehydrated, starving, and mysteriously bleeding heavily for weeks, all while feeling guilty for wondering why you ever wanted this job in the first place. You and your co-worker, who used to get along famously, barely speak for weeks and even months. You both trudge along, taking rides on an emotional roller coaster through moments of pure, unconditional love and pure, crazy-making frustration. The days are long, and to quote Melisandre from Game of Thrones, “The nights are dark and full of terrors.”

 This is the initial postpartum experience for many first-time parents.

One day, you wake up and things are easier. And certain things keep getting easier, while others stay challenging and even increase in difficulty at times. You and your coworker slowly learn how to meet your boss’ needs while juggling your own (and each other’s). Eventually, you start to let go of control and begin the humbling process of admitting you have no idea what you’re doing. You do what works to get the job done, and throw away the rest. You do all the things you said you never would and bite your tongue when cheeky seasoned employees of other tiny bosses call you out on changing your plans. Your new normal is still a challenge, but when the joys start to outnumber the frustrations, your boss becomes the most amazing person on the planet, and obviously a smarter, cuter, better boss than anyone else’s.

And it really does get better, and all the people who you want to smack right now for telling you this with a pitying smile are right. And you will survive this. Ask for help. Demand help. Take breathers. Be patient with yourself. Kiss your partner. Kiss that baby. Drink lots of water. And know you are not alone. Somewhere out there at 3 am, there is a new mom feeding her baby in a dark room, just like you, staring out the window at a big world that she no longer knows how to fit into.

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As in labor, in the postpartum there is an important difference between pain and suffering. Please don’t hesitate to use these resources if you need them and talk to your partner and healthcare provider about how you’re feeling. Please.

1-800-PPD-MOMS

The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety (in plain mama English)

International Cesarean Awareness Network

 

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Hindsight

Pregnancy is humbling. Labor is really humbling. Living in the postpartum and looking back on my pregnancy and birth is extraordinarily humbling. Many lessons were learned the hard way, but I think that’s the way many have to be learned and earned. Here are some rambling observations that I’m still dissecting:

 

  • Babies change everything.
  • Everyone says “You’ll never sleep again!” It’s annoying, but they mean well. They’re also mostly right.
  • Just when I think I’ve got it all figured out, the baby changes it up. Example:

Monday: (bragging) Babby slept for 4 hours straight last night, then was up for a feeding, then asleep for another 4 hours! Life is good.

Tuesday: Babby slept for 5 hours straight last night, then was up for a feeding, then asleep for another 4-5 hours! Life is blissful.

Wednesday: Babby slept for SIX HOURS STRAIGHT LAST NIGHT, then was up for a feeding because I freaked out that she slept so long and then slept for another 4 hours! Life is blissful. Parenting is easy!

Thursday through End of Time or End of Sudden Growth Spurt, Whichever Comes First: Babby eats every 2 hours, day and night. She is also a catnapper during the day, sleeping in no longer than 1 hour increments sporadically throughout the day. Life is tired. Parenting is coffee.

  • Though my experience as a doula was invaluable before I became pregnant myself, I now can’t imagine hiring a doula who hasn’t experienced birth/motherhood personally. I get it now, on a whoooooooole ‘nother level. Not to say that a doula who isn’t a mother herself isn’t worth her salt, just that going through labor and birth yourself gifts you with a magnitude of empathy, compassion, and first-hand experience that completely alters the way one doula-s.
  • It took a solid 3 months to begin feeling normal again, or at least to feel comfortable in my new normal. I didn’t even fully stop spotting until Week 13. I still sometimes pee my pants. My maternity jeans are too big, my pre-pregnancy ones are too small; yoga pants are the answer.
  • It also took 3 months to remember I have a husband. Our first real conversation happened during Week 12. We now snuggle and laugh and are best friends again… but it took time, and it’s something we actually have to work on and make time for now. It’s harder, but we appreciate each other more now than ever.
  • It took 3 months to love my pets again. Oh, my poor sweet babycats. Thank god Steve is a responsible adult, because I forgot to feed them for at least 2 months. They went from being All Important to Total Annoyances for awhile there. I threw around the term streetcats a few too many times. Luckily they still love me and even love the baby who turned their lives upside down.
  • Increased breastfeeding retention and quality maternity/paternity leave go hand in hand. Period. I do not believe for one second that I would still be breastfeeding if Steve hadn’t been home for almost 2 months. Paternity/maternity leave in this country is shameful and affects every one of us who have been a child or a parent (see: everyone). Leave needs to be long, it needs to be paid, and it needs to be available to every. parent.
  • Now I have All the Motivation, All the Creativity, & All the Great Ideas… and none of the time.
  • Key relationships have evolved. Some for the better and some for the worse. Being judged for my birth story and parenting choices does not sit well with me. ALL births are to be respected, no matter what they look like. Fanatics on both sides of the homebirth/hospital birth spectrum would be wise to lead with compassion and not judgement or pity. (The pity is the worst for me… just because I had an induced hospital birth doesn’t mean I was traumatized or fooled into falsely believing my experience was beautiful and powerful, thanks. I could go on and on here… and I will! In a later post).
  • The bills just keep coming. One perk of this is that I no longer feel anxiety over money, which used to be my biggest anxiety trigger. Acceptance in these matters is vital to my sanity.
  • Breastmilk poop does stink. Maybe not at first, when kiddo is going 3 times a day. But when her Poo Schedule becomes once every couple of days… yeah. It smells. Like cheese. It’s horrible. “Breastmilk poop doesn’t stink” is one of those Whoops! Lies of Ignorance I told when I was doula-ing before becoming a parent myself. Very sorry about this one, guys. Oh, and while I’m at it I need to apologize for “Sleep when the baby sleeps” (really good advice in a perfect world, but not gospel).

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I Screamed into a Pillow Yesterday

I don’t really want to think about yesterday. It was hard. And long. In a cruel twist, the universe decided that the baby would start teething and I would start ovulating at the same time (Read: 9 weeks postpartum). This means that yesterday, teething was in full spring as was my period. Even exclusively breastfeeding, with no bottles or pacifiers, and baby not sleeping through the night (though last night she slept for 6 hours straight… go figure). I didn’t realize how terrifying the first one after birth could be. The day ended with Steve coming home from work and taking the baby, and me taking a moment to sit on the couch and cry into my hands for a few minutes, then composing myself and heading into the kitchen to eat my first food in 10 hours.

I’m not going to recap everything. Instead, read this blog entry by PA doula and mother of 2, Brittany, to get an idea of how One of Those Days as a new mom can go. Brittany has a newborn AND a toddler, so, yeah. I can’t even imagine.

Some days… some days are really challenging. Luckily today is a new day. Fingers crossed, deep breath, here we go.

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9 Ways to Relax a Baby with Infant Massage

IMsleepygirl

After a stint of NO day naps due to teething, my kiddo now gets massaged every day after her morning bath… and we’re rewarded with a nice long afternoon nap. WOOHOO!

 

Infant massage has numerous benefits, a major one being relaxation for your baby. Research shows that infant massage reduces stress and lowers cortisol levels and improves sleep patterns and can help babies sleep more deeply (and awake well-rested). Many parents ask me to teach them specifically to help with their child’s sleep habits (or non-sleep habits, I should say!) Every baby, including my own, goes through different day & night sleep/awake phases as they grow, develop, and hit new milestones. Some parents sleep-train while others find that baby-led routines work best for them. Infant massage classes can help new parents no matter what style of parenting they choose- parents leave class with a better understanding of infant behavioral states and learn hands-on techniques for relaxation.

Here are some tips to help make the infant massage experience more relaxing and enjoyable for both you and your baby. Try them out and see if they work for you and your family!

 

  • Use a natural, plant-based oil

We know that using an oil during massage can cuts down on friction and thus makes massage smoother and more flowing, as opposed to jarring. Studies have found that, as compared with infants who received massage without oil, infants who received massage with oil were less active, showed fewer stress behaviors and head averting, and their saliva cortisol levels decreased more.(1) Check out my article at Our Mom Spot to read more about choosing the right oil.

 

  • Focus the massage on one body part at a time

If you don’t have much time but want to get a massage in (something that occurs in my life quite often), you may want to save time and massage two areas at the same time, as in both arms or both legs simultaneously. One great thing about attending a class and learning all of the techniques properly is that once you’re comfortable with them at home you can adjust the routine as needed. Instead of massaging two areas at once, try spending less time on each area, or only doing certain techniques. Rushing and massaging baby too much at one time could be counterproductive to the relaxing experience you’re hoping to create.

 

  • Only one parent massages at a time

Having more than one person massage at a time may be overstimulating for the baby. It’s tempting to, for example, have mom massage the left leg followed by dad massaging baby’s right leg, but another option is to have one parent massage in the morning, and the other in the evening (or any other system that you find works for you).

 

  • Set the mood

This isn’t always possible to do, but it may be worth a try if relaxation or deeper, more restful sleep for your baby is a goal. Think about the type of environment you enjoy when getting a massage- maybe a warm temperature, dim lighting, and soft music, and set a relaxing mood before beginning a massage.

 

  • Relax yourself before beginning the massage

In class, we always do a relaxation exercise before beginning massage. This is a great habit to get into as your baby can sense your stress and become stressed himself. And consider this: studies have shown that when mothers and babies make eye contact, their hearts beat in sync! Imagine the effect that your actual touch can have on your infant’s systems.

 

  • Find a comfortable position for both you and baby before beginning

Your baby (though sometimes not at first) may enjoy being massaged for 15 minutes or longer, so it’s important that you are in a comfortable position to start with. Try propping yourself up with a pillow or two to keep your bottom and lower back comfortable, and keep some water next to you.

 

  • Follow your baby’s cues and don’t force the massage

Infant massage is all about reading your infant’s cues and meeting your baby’s needs. If your child at any point is giving you “no” signs, like fussing, crying, arching the back, or a clue that is unique to your baby, stop the massage and give your baby what she needs. You can always try again later!

 

  • Use enough pressure to be gentle but effective

Using a pressure that is too light may tickle your baby. Always use your best judgement when applying pressure, be extra gentle around joints and knees, and stay below the ribs during tummy massage.

 

  • Use “Resting Hands” before each massage

Resting hands is a technique taught in class that is to be used before each part of the massage begins. For example, if you are about to massage your baby’s left leg, heavily rest your hands on top of the leg before going into your strokes. This way, your baby has a moment to understand that that particular body part is going to be massaged. Using Resting Hands will help to not overstimulate or startle your baby. Touch Relaxation is another technique learned in class which over time may help to “wire” your baby for relaxation at your touch.

 

Infant massage is science and evidence-based, but it’s also an art. Don’t stress over perfecting the techniques- enjoy the one-on-one quality time with your baby! They’re only so little for such a short period of time.

 

I. Field, T., Schanberg, S., Davalos, M., & Malphurs, J. (1996). Massage with oil has more positive effects on normal infants. Pre and Perinatal Psychology Journal, 11, 75-80.

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To the Mother on the Cover

To the Mother on the Cover:

Man, did I hate you.

A few weeks ago, I couldn’t even stand to look at you, and kept the book turned face-down at all times. I loathed everything about you; your perfectly coifed hair, fresh face, relaxed posture. You look so at ease with your little baby, gently holding him in cradle position without need of a Boppy. From what I can tell, you’re either gazing down at baby with a very pleased expression, or even WORSE, you’re sleeping, because apparently you’re not only lucky enough to feed your baby easily, you also get to sleep. You’re even wearing real clothes, which upon further inspection, are pressed and… wait, are those some sort of skinny jeans? Effffff yoooouuuu.

You see, you represented breastfeeding success in my eyes, and my experience was anything but successful- my baby had trouble even latching onto a bottle. And despite finally getting a proper breast latch at Day 3 with the help of our lactation counselor, my baby was too exhausted from hunger to try to eat most attempts. Her bilirubin levels were fast approaching “high-risk status”according to the hospital staff and our pediatrician, which meant that we didn’t have the luxury of time for experimenting with positions and techniques- she needed to eat in order to poop out that bilirubin and no longer be neon orange. Finger feeding colostrum and using a syringe were all well and good, but they took too long, and we needed to get as much food into her as possible in our tiny window of time before she passed out again to conserve her energy. We tried everything we had, even basically force feeding her colostrum with a syringe while she was sleeping… the thought of doing this makes my stomach churn even now, weeks later. It seemed like my milk was never going to come in.

We gave her three ounces of Similac in the early morning hours of Day 4. It was the right thing to do, period, and I don’t care who says otherwise- our baby was EATING. The incessant cries of hunger ended. My husband and I breathed shaky sighs of momentary relief, and I collapsed into happy tears. That afternoon, my milk arrived. I thought things would be so much easier once that happened… but things only got more challenging.

Mother on the Cover, there are a thousand comparisons I could draw between our early breastfeeding experience and the one I’ve created for you in my mind. The biggest could be the difference in how I felt during a feeding, and how I imagine you felt while being photographed… you appear content, peaceful, rested. I felt miserable. I dreaded every feeding. I cried, a lot. I freaked my husband out by being dismissive and angry towards the baby when she needed to cluster feed and my nipples couldn’t take anymore. “I can’t do this.” “She hates me.” “I don’t want this.” “Bad mommy.”

All latches hurt. My nipples cracked and bled. I suffered through every feeding for fear that if I broke a latch, she’d never latch again. Every feeding, every latch, was precious. And painful. But we kept trying, and trying, and trying. Some days were easier, some more difficult. All were challenging, either physically or emotionally or both. If not for my husband being home with me, I would have starved and my milk production would have plummeted- he kept me fed and hydrated as I dealt solely with feeding our little one. A good friend told me that it takes one month to start to figure things out, but with each day dragging, one month seemed an eternity away. I pleaded with my daughter to latch, please, even one that hurt. “Please eat, baby. Mama wants to feed you, but she doesn’t know how, I guess.” Oh, how I hated myself, hated breastfeeding, hated how much I craved, needed to breastfeed to soothe my pain and fill the emptiness from the nonexistent relationship with my own mother.

And then, time slowly shifted from burden to blessing. A month passed, and I was healing from birth and eating more, taking better care of myself. Jaundice was no longer an issue and sometimes baby let me try different positions. Sometimes cradle or cross cradle worked, and sometimes laid back breastfeeding, and sometimes even side-lying (we still haven’t been able to make football hold work). We had more tiny victories than I ever thought possible, and though breastfeeding wasn’t “easy” still, it was doable. Some latches hurt, and others were just”okay”, but when I gently unlatched my daughter, I trusted that eventually we’d have a more comfortable (even if not “perfect”) latch. I trusted myself more, I gained patience. And Mother on the Cover, I loathed you less and less.

Today, I realized that instead of hating you for your success, I needed to realize my own. All mothers who feed their babies in any way are successful, even if their methods vary from what they originally intended. You are nourishing your baby, period- how can I hate you for that? And who is to say you never struggled with breastfeeding, or pregnancy, or labor, or motherhood? No one can be sure of what your breastfeeding experience looked like in the days and weeks before your cover photo was taken. Maybe you had long days and even longer nights. Maybe you cried, or felt helpless, or hopeless. Maybe you would have to put the baby down and walk away, give yourself a few minutes to compose yourself. Maybe your postpartum didn’t wind up looking how you always thought it would. Though on the cover you make motherhood look easy, it is only a moment in time, and no one knows your personal journey.

I originally thought that you were the goal, that breastfeeding success would look controlled, and postured, and clean and neat. But so far, for us, it looks more like this:

 and (deep breath)… this:

…completely exhausted, with a body I no longer recognize that’s 30 pounds heavier than I’m used to, with more joy, pride, and peace than I’ve ever known. And of course, frustration. Baby girl and I are only human, after all.

To the Mother on the Cover: You’re doing the best you can, and I support you.

Sincerely,

This New Mom

To stay abreast (see what I did there?) of the happenings with our new little family, follow me on Bloglovin’!

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Natural Oils are Best for Infant Massage ~ on OurMomSpot

Just a few benefits of infant massage!

Just a few benefits of infant massage!

 

I had a wonderful opportunity to be a featured guest writer on OurMomSpot. It’s a really unique site dedicated to parents and has lots of great forums to participate in (my personal favorites are Parenting Talk and Homestead Talk!) The article is entitled Natural Oils are Best for Infant Massage and includes some things to look for and consider when choosing a massage medium, as well as a short video by Linda Storm of Infant Massage USA, who explains the basics of baby massage.

Working with new families is absolutely one of the most rewarding things I get to do, and teaching infant massage is a deeply meaningful experience for me- I get to watch parents fall in love with their babies… for some it’s for the very first time and for others, well, they fall in love with their child all over again! New parents often become more comfortable in handling their infant through massage, and learn to communicate with their babies and recognize/respond to their cues. There are countless physical and emotional benefits for both infants and the adults who massage them, and watching parents strengthen their confidence while bonding with their little ones is priceless.

During my training with Infant Massage USA, I witnessed live breastfeeding for the very first time, which completely rocked me to the core in the most positively powerful way. I also experienced parents coming to classes gushing with excitement about changes they saw and felt in their babies’ health, sleep patterns, and behavior. I hoped that after my initial training, I would keep the joy that I felt during my time spent with my learning group, and I have. Infant massage is that amazing.

Read Natural Oils are Best for Infant Massage on OurMomSpot and watch the video, choose an oil that’s right for you, and enjoy some special time with your baby today!

 

Also check out:

Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents

Find an Infant Massage USA instructor near you here!

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Please Don’t Talk Badly About Your Kids

I’m going to start this post with some very telling Google searches from 2 seconds ago:

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I have this person who lives in my neighborhood. We see each other a few times a week during one of my walks. I’ve been avoiding her whenever possible during this pregnancy because 9 times out of 10 she makes comments that make me uncomfortable.

This woman has never said “Congratulations!” regarding my pregnancy. She has never actually acknowledged my pregnancy, but chooses instead to hint around the subject. For example, she’s said things like “Oh, GET READY” while looking at my bump. And things like “You just WAIT, your life is GOING TO CHANGE FOREVER.” If her two young (6 & 7, I believe) daughters are outside playing, I always say “Hi girls!” with a smile and a wave, and am almost always met with my neighbor’s “You want ’em? TAKE ‘EM!” My favorite thus far has been, “Enjoy it now, because it’ll all be OVER soon… heh…”  

So yesterday morning when I saw her step outside during my walk, I started to brace myself for what I was sure was going to be some sort of weird interaction. As I approached the house I plastered a big smile on my face, rubbed my belly, and said “Check out this bump!” I figured by starting the awkward conversation, I could control it and thus have it end sooner rather than later. Our conversation was as follows:

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Me: ((smile)) Check out this bump!

Her:  Yeeeep. Get ready.

Me: We are really excited.

Her: Get ready, if you have a little monster like mine, than you are in big trouble.

Me: Oh, your girls are so sweet. If our daughter is as half as wonderful as your girls, we will be so lucky.

Her: ((snort)) Looks are deceiving, honey. You have no idea.

Me: Alrighty, have a great day.

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Some people could probably chalk this up to just “stuff parents say” or something innocuous that I am reading too much into. But due to all prior interactions with this person, I am assuming (and possibly wrongly) that I am not the only person to whom she refers to her children as bothersome monsters. Maybe I’ve blown all of this out of proportion, and maybe my neighbor was just “trying to make conversation.” Maybe I’m just weepypregnant and my protective MamaBear hormones are making me a bit too sensitive. These are possibilities I am willing to consider.

The truth is, she’s not the first person to say things like this to me about their kids. I have had parents I do not know at all speak harshly to me about their newborns, infants, toddlers, kids, teenagers. People in ShopRite love to make comments about their own children after seeing my bump, and especially love to warn me about how horrible raising children is. These conversations have all happened in stores:

((eye contact is made))

Them: Boy or girl?

Me: ((rubbing belly, smiling)) We’re having a girl!

Them: Ouch, good luck with that one, then.

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((eye contact is made))

Them: Don’t worry hon, just 18 more years ’til freedom.

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((eye contact is made))

Them: ((motions to babytoddler in shopping cart crying)) This is your future.

Me: Aw, he’s very sweet.

Them: ((leaning in)) Honestly if I knew it was going to be like this…  Just remember, you have choices.

It really feels that now that I am pregnant I am part of some exclusive club where people just think it’s appropriate to say whatever they want to me with no regard for my feelings about pregnancy or motherhood whatsoever. It also kills me that so many parents are having a rough time. Where is their support? Why is there so much resentment in parenthood? Why is it so acceptable to speak so negatively about one’s children, and why is it assumed that because I’m pregnant, I will automatically agree with them?

For any adult who experienced abuse in their childhoods, adolescence or adulthoods from their parents or close family, comments like these can act as an emotional trigger. When we hear someone else talking badly about their children, it stings for us. We hurt for those kids, because we were those kids. Sometimes uncomfortable memories rise to the surface as we relive moments of our own lives when someone spoke harshly to us, or when we overheard nasty things being said about us.

After I met my husband, my sister and I had more than one conversation about how we felt partners should treat one another. We would talk about how shocking it was for us to overhear others bashing their spouses, when our loves would never ever ever do that. It’s one thing to vent to or seek advice from a close friend regarding important relationships in our lives, but another entirely to bash a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, child, to anyone who will listen- and this happens all the time, it seems. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that everyone reading this has at one time or another overheard someone speaking poorly about someone important in their lives and also that at one time or another, we have been that person, regretfully talking badly about or partner or child to someone who we barely know. We all make mistakes, we’re human, and we’re stressed, but perhaps by knowing better, we can do better.

So, please don’t bash your children to me. Just because they are small doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of respect. Just because they are developing and perhaps “aren’t as smart” as you are, doesn’t mean they’re stupid. Kids hear things, and they sense things. I told my father “You and mom are getting a divorce” when I was 8. They divorced when I was 13, “seemingly” without warning. Kids pick up on little things and can feel your pain, your anger, and your resentment. And then they internalize these feelings because what else are they supposed to do with them?

As I listened to my neighbor “just make conversation,” I was cringing inside. I rubbed my belly as I continued my walk home, telling the tiny person growing inside of me that I would never use her as a negative topic of conversation. I want to always respect her and honor her, even when we face difficulties as mother and daughter. This is not to say I will never feel frustrated or angry or disappointed with her actions, obviously, but despite her actions, I respect her, as a human, as a woman, as my daughter.

Now everyone go and give your kiddos a big hug, okay? You are lucky to have them, and they are lucky to have you.

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In-Between Parenting.

I will cloth diaper. I will breastfeed exclusively and let my baby wean herself. I can’t wait to babywear. I am having a homebirth. I have a midwife. I have a doula. I am a doula. I love infant massage. I teach infant massage. I’m having my placenta encapsulated (AND turned into art AND into a tincture AND into a broth). I enjoy a good Tibetan singing bowl cd. I like to meditate. I make my own cleaning products. I compost (sometimes). If we have a boy in the future, we won’t be circumcising. I make my own paper. I toast the pumpkin seeds of my jack-o-lanterns every October. I drink nettle infusions and pregnancy herbal tea. I only drink almond milk. My second home is Goodwill, lair of bargains. I love birth art. I love acupuncture. I collect books. And cats.

However…

I eat sugar. I use a microwave. We are vaccinating. I use Pond’s Cold Cream. Since getting pregnant I have begun a pretty serious affair with paper plates. My cats get whatever litter is on sale. I hate green tea. We have a TV (and BASIC CABLE). I eat, and enjoy, meat. Sometimes I forget to take my prenatals, and I don’t stress over this. I ate a brownie for First Breakfast yesterday. We only buy organic when we can afford it (See: rarely). I don’t own any crystals or keep crystals in my birth bag… I don’t carry much in my birth bag at all actually, because I believe my most effective tools are my eyes, hands, and heart. I wear hand-me-downs… but some of those hand-me-downs are WalMart brand. I don’t own a Vitamix. Whole Foods is far too expensive (though being there does make me feel fancy and I will say their hot, spicy chais are worth every penny).

It seems I’m just not crunchy enough to be… crunchy.

It has been recently been made clear to me by a few “natural mothering” advocates that I am just not crunchy enough to be a part of their “clubs.” (I’m calling them clubs. They’re more like “websites”).

And I will admit, this stings a bit.

Nevermind that my hairbrush “smells like bread” according to my husband, because I decided to go shampoo-less and used a yeasty concoction of corn starch and baking soda instead. Nevermind that I am battling the aftershock of a major breakout because I so desperately wanted the oil cleansing method and Bragg’s apple cider vinegar (yes, with ‘the mother’) to work for me. Nevermind that because of me, and me alone, my husband now makes, eats and LOVES spinach, turnip, mustard, and collard greens with dinner. Nevermind I use coconut oil for everything under the sun that doesn’t involve my face. Nevermind that I truly believe my teenaged niece has “Bird Energy.” Nevermind that I support our local farmer’s market, would totally only buy fair-trade coffee and chocolate if we could afford to, and vow to someday own and operate our own hobby farm and cat rescue. I own more than 30 mason jars of varying sizes, damnit.

I’m a “everything in moderation” person. I consider myself to be a realist. I want our daughter to eat healthy, fresh, real food but also enjoy sugary cake and ice cream at birthday parties, if those foods agree with her. I love to hike, and I also love a nice drive. I’m not a natural birth advocate, but I am a respectful-birth advocate. I love birth art… I’m not a fan of chanting. I love tai chi. I don’t like yoga. I intend to follow the gist of attachment parenting but also feel I have something to learn from every parent.

And I’m so okay with all of these things. I’m not a true hippie, and I’m certainly not modern. I’m an in-between. I live in the gooey nougat center of pregnancy and parenting. We’re a middle class family on a budget, doing the best we can. Sometimes I live on beets and kale. Sometimes I eat waffles for dinner.

shrug.

If you’re in a similar boat, please allow me take the pressure off of you right now. You don’t have to be crunchy. You don’t have to be not-crunchy. You can be whatever you want to be. You can wear your baby in a sling on Monday and push the baby in a carriage on Tuesday. You can feed your baby in whatever way you feel is best. You can diaper however you want to diaper.

What’s important is putting in the time to research things you have questions about, trying different things, having the right support, and then choosing what is going to be the best for you and your family. “Best” is relative and subjective. What works for your sister, friend, mom, aunt, internet pal might not be the best for you– BUT isn’t it great that we get to change our minds?

Learning, trying new things, and finding what works for us comes with what some of us deem as “failure.” Sometimes, things just don’t work out. You try a brand of clothing detergent only to find out that your kiddo has sensitive skin. You try to grow your own herb garden and then find that gardening is not your forte in any way, shape, or form. You put an expensive thingymabob on your registry that came recommended by everyone you know and your baby just flat out hates it. You choose to vaccinate or not vaccinate, and then 5 years later you meet someone who impacts you and you can’t turn back the clock. That’s not a failure, that’s just life.  Whether you consider yourself more or less crunchy than most, it’s all good. If you’re an in-between parent, that’s good, too. At the end of the day we all just want the best for our families, don’t we?

If you love and respect your child, and you’re doing the best you can with what you have, you are doing a fantastic job. This is me giving you a virtual hug. Doesn’t that feel good?

So, where do the quasi-crunchy mamas live on the internet? Where do the meat-eating vegetable lovers lay their heads at night? How do the label-less explain themselves? How do the in-betweens connect?

If you can relate to any of this, let me know. I know there are more of us out there, lurking in the pregnancy forums of the intrawebz, gasping at the price of pink Himalayan sea salt, biting our nails with anxiety as we, deep into the night, compare every stroller, baby food maker, wrap, diaper, and vitamin we’ve ever heard of.

In-between parents, UNITE!

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