postpartum depression

World's Okay-est Mom

I was chatting recently with a wonderful photographer friend of mine (who you must check outher maternity+newborn+family photog is out of this world). We were talking about the pressures of being a good mother, and she joked (although, I’m not sure it was actually a joke), that she wanted a t-shirt that displayed the words, “World’s Okay-est Mom”. We laughed, but I think we may have both breathed a sigh of relief; we are both those moms, and we are okay with it (most of the time). 

It’s okay to not be perfect. You’ve heard this before, and you’ve nodded your head in agreement, but somehow, not being perfect still feels like not-quite-enough. 

One of my close friends has been my back-yard neighbour since we’ve lived in our current home, almost 8 years. We were both a part of a local "peaceful parenting" online group for years before meeting. We knew each other by name, but we’d never met, until we were both pregnant with our youngest, and my middle son and her oldest were toddling around in our neighbour hood playing together. When we put together where we knew each other from, we couldn’t believe we’d spent all of these years as neighbours, living parallel lives, listening to each others baby’s cry and…

 

Oh no. She’s heard me.

 

All this time, my fellow ‘peaceful parent’, has been a secret witness to the inner happenings of my messy life. She’s heard me fight with my husband, yell at my kids, and she’s definitely seen my toddler running around bare-foot, without clothes, on more than one occasion. 

I was mortified, and I was closing doors and windows every chance I got after this horrible discovery. I needed to make sure she only saw the best of me, after years of probably hearing and seeing things I’d never want anyone to know. She wasn’t going to want to be my friend. She was probably going to out me on our local parenting group, and tell all the other perfect moms that I’m actually not the perfect, peaceful parent we were all striving to be. 

Except, she didn’t. She’s actually apologized to me on occasion about some or other parenting moment that she’s been ashamed of. She accepted me, and perhaps…she felt like she wasn’t alone. We aren’t the same. She has a gentler, softer way about her, and I admire her in so many ways. But she isn’t perfect either; she’s another OKAY mom, and we get to pretty candidly walk that journey in closer quarters than most, and I’ve stopped feeling like I need to measure up to the invisible expectation I’d set out before me. 

 

It’s okay to just be okay. It’s okay to feel like you fall somewhere in the middle. It’s okay to have days where you shoot for the stars, and days where you feel like you are somewhere situated at the bottom of a filthy water well. Sometimes it’s one step forward and 3 steps back, but it’s a journey that we are all on, and no one's looks quite the same as the other. 

 

We live in a world where we tend to only see and share our proudest, sexiest, most put-together moments; we’re all just trying to portray the best version ourselves. We want to remember and celebrate the moments that we feel like we shine, but let’s not forget that WE ALL have some pretty cloudy days and some really ugly moments that we mostly keep to ourselves. 

We need to take a good look in the mirror and stop tearing ourselves apart and instead tell ourselves what we love, because negativity breeds negativity. Affirming our best qualities doesn’t mean ignoring our worst, but when we really begin to believe the exceptional and beautiful things about ourselves, those are the things that will flourish and multiply in our life.

There will be some things our kids will remember that we wish they’d forget. We will fall short of our own expectations, and we will probably compare ourselves to the people we think are doing a better job than we are. But let’s go easy on ourselves, and let’s be honest, we are all just OKAY. 

 

The Necessity of Non-Judgmental Support

For most of my life, I haven't been known to be quiet about my thoughts or feelings. I've always been pretty fiery and passionate about things that matter to me, and I can quickly formulate a spitfire response to just about anything I have an opinion on. For those that have known me more than a decade, they are nodding their heads in agreement. For those that have come into my life more recently, they might be surprised to learn this about me, because becoming a mother and a doula has changed this part of me, dramatically. 

I'm still as passionate as ever. I always have a fire burning in my belly about the things I care deeply about, and I will often write pages and pages of unpublished literature on the things that feel pressing or important to me.

 

I've learned through the challenges and choices I've faced as a parent, that what I have to say isn't always important or relevant to everyone else, and that's okay. 

 

Before my oldest son was born I had all kinds of ideas about what I'd look like as a parent, and  one of the most important things to me as a new mother was to breastfeed my baby.  I didn't have many reasons to believe I wouldn't be able to, nor did I have any real awareness of the obstacles that might present themselves. 

Well, the obstacles - they presented themselves, fiercely. Just about everything that could go wrong went wrong, and I cried many tears over the pain and struggle of feeding my baby. I spent the first few months balancing painful, toe-curling breastfeeding sessions with expressed bottles of milk and some formula supplementing. I'll never forget bottle-feeding breastmilk to my baby in the corner of Starbucks, trying to integrate myself back into society as a new mom, and feeling like I'd failed to do the one thing that matter most to me; I was embarrassed and ashamed. I cringed at the thought that moms everywhere were judging me, and that nobody would know my struggle; nobody would know how hard I'd fought and the reasons why I was just about ready to give up on it. More experienced moms would ask me how breastfeeding was going, and I could only assume they'd have nothing but insensitive remarks about 'breast being best'. I couldn't even handle the thought of hearing or reading those words. 

 

What I did need to hear was that I was enough, and that no matter the choices I made for myself and my baby, that I'd be unconditionally supported without judgement. 

 

I didn't hear those words, though they may have been spoken. What was loudest above the noise were things I heard and read, like, "breast is best", and "don't worry, it'll get easier". But it didn't get easier, and meanwhile, no one was actually walking in my shoes, and I wasn't comfortable in them. 

Recently a colleague shared her perspective on this subject; one I could have used 7 years ago when I was drenched in guilt on my breastfeeding journey:

"Our legs are made for walking and yet we invented cars. They both get us places but in different ways. Each with their own conveniences/inconveniences, pros/cons, safety/dangers. There is a fetishizing of 'natural' that runs counter to most of the ways we live our modern lives. Breast milk and formula are different ways to feed babies. I choose to avoid words like better or superior because they aren't necessary, they add judgment that isn't needed."

- Emily Pelton, Ownerof Doulas of Baltimore and the Director of Training and Development with ProDoula

This idea that there is no best, there is only you and your unique journey and experience, is somewhat radical, but so incredibly essential. Non-judgmental support is an empowering and unique gift I can offer women; it's one that is scarcely offered in a sea of opinions and scrutiny we are drenched in, daily. This doesn't mean avoiding the uncomfortable and sensitive subjects, it means becoming a safe space for truth to be shared. It means listening and hearing what is both spoken and unspoken with acknowledgement and validation: no strings attached.  

 

- Andrea Postal 

 

 

 

Top Pick Tuesdays - The Best Techniques To Soothe a Fussy Baby

When it comes to calming a fussy baby, you’re likely to get all kinds of suggestions, some helpful, some not, and probably a huge variety of one-off ideas that fall under the category of, “this is what worked for me”. 

What we have found to be consistently effective though, are “The 5 S’s for Soothing Babies”, that are the foundational points in Dr. Harvey Karp’s book:  “The Happiest Baby on the Block”. 

Time and time again, these 5 simple rules for calming a fussy baby are incredibly effective, so much that we needed to share them with you! 

The basic premise of Karp’s theory is based on the idea that babies are born with the need for a 4th trimester - an additional three months on the outside (give or take), that mimics what they experienced on the inside for the last 9 months. These 5 S’s will almost always quickly calm a fussy baby within minutes, unless there is another medical or physiological issue that needs to be addressed.

 

The 5 S’s are:

 

1st S - Swaddle

Your baby has been tightly packed in the womb for 9 cozy months. Recreating this environment through swaddling helps calm their startle reflex and stay soothed longer. It’s important to keep their arms wrapped tightly, and the hips loose and flexed, and just during fussy times or for sleep. 

2nd S - Side or Stomach Position

Baby’s are often fussiest on their backs, and while this is the safest position for putting them down to sleep, your best bet to calm them down is holding them on their side with their tummy to you, or over your shoulder with their tummy against your chest. 

3rd S - Shush

The womb is far from being a silent sleep sanctuary. The whooshing of your blood and pumping of your heart has been lulling your baby to sleep her entire life. Karp has specially engineered sounds he recommends for helping infants sleep, and also suggests that simply a loud “ssssh” sound close to their ear while they are swaddled and held will help them relax. 

4th S - Swing

Rocking to sleep all your baby knows up until now. Your walking, dancing, stair climbing - every movement you made while baby was in utero, is still comforting and familiar to baby earth-side. Karp recommends small, quick movements no more than 1 inch back and forth while you are holding and ‘sshhing’ your swaddled baby. This is very different from shaking your baby out of frustration; be sure that you are always soothing your baby while being calm yourself.

5th S - Suck

Babies are born with the reflex to suck, not only for nutrition, but for soothing. This isn’t always a necessary component for calming a baby, but nursing or sucking on a soother can definitely be the tipping point to lull your baby to full relaxation and sleep. 

 

It’s important to try and remember that these don’t need to be seen as “crutches”, or “bad habits” that you’ll need to break down the line. Baby’s will naturally become more efficient at self-soothing and self-regulating as they grow and adapt to this new environment; needing help getting there is all a part of the process of adjusting to life on the outside. 

Make sure to watch this video for a glimpse into the 5 S method, and check out Harvey Karp’s Book here, for a more complete explanation of his method. These techniques take practice and time; give it a chance and let us know how it worked (or didn’t work) for you!