**GIVEAWAY CLOSED**Nebo Skincare Products New Years Giveaway!!!

fullsizerender**GIVEAWAY CLOSED** Congratulations to Gretchen!!!!! 🙂

As you all know, I am very passionate about both supporting small businesses and caring for the planet. I was so excited when I received an email from Nebo, a wonderful duo of beekeepers who make their own clean and amazing skincare products. They generously offered to sponsor a giveaway and I am SO excited to share these gorgeous products with you! I am obsessed and will definitely be ordering from them in the future! Not only are these products incredibly beautiful, smell amazing and are of an impeccable quality, the family is making a huge difference by lovingly caring for their bees. As you know, bees need all the help they can get these days. And without bees, this planet cannot exist.

Nebo is a family owned operation, and they live, work and play in the beautiful rolling fields and quiet northern woods of the Connecticut River valley in New Hampshire. (SWOON!) Over years of beekeeping, they accumulated a wonderful collection of beeswax and began to transform it into their simple, all natural, small batch lip balms, soaps and lotions. Other ingredients come from the family’s own garden and neighboring farms.

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Nebo generously sponsored a giveaway for an entire Box Set! (See box details below).

 

 

 

To enter the giveaway, simply:

  1. Follow Nebo on Twitter or like them on Facebook
  2. Subscribe to this blog (links for Nebo directly below, enter email at top of this page to subscribe to this blog). (Having technical trouble subscribing? My bad…I’m working on it. Just send me an email in the contact form below and state GIVEAWAY)

Winner will be selected via email so make sure to both follow or like Nebo and subscribe! (Tap links below to follow or like and enter email at the top of this page to subscribe to this blog).

Nebo Twitter

Nebo Facebook

Now, let’s talk about us what this awesome boxed set includes! (Description from Nebo.storenvy.com)

“Surprise your special someone (or yourself!) with this little box full of big goodness. Soaps, lotion, and lip balm bursting with natural ingredients, like beeswax from our honeybees, pure essential oils, and clay from our brook, will take care of the body and mind, and be easy on your wallet too!” -http://nebo.storenvy.com/

Comes in a kraft box with happy green tissue paper.

Includes:
1 Lemongrass, Rosemary Goat’s Milk Soap Bar
1 Lavender, Tea Tree Whey & Clay Soap Bar
1 Herbal Lotion in WinterNights
1 Peppermint, Rosemary Bee•U Lip Balm

 

fullsizerender-41 Lemongrass, Rosemary Goat’s Milk Soap Bar
1 Lavender, Tea Tree Whey & Clay Soap Bar

 

 

 

 

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1 Herbal Lotion in WinterNights

 

 

 

 

fullsizerender-21 Peppermint, Rosemary Bee•U Lip Balm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winner will be announced next Wednesday, January 4th, 2016! Winner will be notified via email and tagged on applicable social media accounts.

(sorry, US applicants only at this time!) Per Instagram, Twitter and Facebook rules, we must mention this is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Twitter or Facebook Inc. By entering, entrants confirm they are 13+ years of age, release Instagram, Twitter and Facebook of responsibility, and agree to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook’s term of use.

On Setting an Example of Balance

Click here for my latest Monday Morning Coffee Rant “Let’s Talk Body Image”

(as promised, the Apple Crumble recipe is posted above under the ‘Recipes’ tab, enjoy!!!)

img_2110I don’t think it’s a shocking revelation that becoming a parent is one of the MOST beautiful, stressful, all absorbing, all consuming life events that can happen to a person. Being a mom is without doubt the greatest gift I’ve ever been given. It’s also the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. The love you experience as a parent washes over you like a giant ocean wave and consumes your entire heart and soul.  As my mom always said, watching your kids really is like watching your heart walk around outside your body. I am completely, head over heels, in love and obsessed with my children. And no, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I do, however, think that this presents an interesting challenge. While they occupy my every heartbeat and breath, I also have to find a way to take care of myself not only because I am a human and have needs too, but because I want to give them a mother who is interesting, who has passions, who can teach them how to be their best selves by being my best self.

And no, I cannot do this every day. Sometimes (oftentimes) the mommy they get needs a shower, is emotional, tired, and drained. And sometimes I force my smile and pretend I actually got sleep last night. And sometimes I put on Veggietales so I can answer work emails in img_1994peace for ten minutes. And that is ok. We cannot be perfect every moment of every day. What matters is our long term approach. I want my daughter and son to grow up with self respect and self esteem, I want them to be brave and feel confident and deserving of pursuing their passions. I don’t want to give them a mom who is a potato, thus possibly leading them to one day become potatoes themselves. I want to give them a mom who is full of life, passion, drive and balance, and inspire them to become such people as well.

fullsizerenderBut if they grow up with a mother who does none of these things, what am I teaching them? If I never take care of my own needs and desires, never do anything just because it brings me joy, what does that show them? Is that the example I want to be? Heck no. And motherhood is sacrifice. An absolutely worthy sacrifice but sacrifice it is, there’s no way around that. Most days I drink my coffee cold, I buy their clothes and needs first, and I don’t always get a shower. And as I’ve said before, I think that’s the way it should be. I chose to bring them into this world, not vice versa. And I find joy in the sacrifice. I will continue to put them first, always.

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PC: @renegadedrifterphotography

But I do think it’s important to set an example of personal respect and self esteem, and that entails doing things for me. And don’t get me wrong, my children DO bring me joy. THEY are for me. I have never experienced such complete, utter happiness in my heart and soul as I experience watching my children flourish and thrive. No craft project, baked cake, or career achievement could even begin to come close to that feeling.

But I do love to sew, to bake, to write, to play music. And I do want them to learn to love such things also. And they will learn to pursue img_2103what brings them happiness when I share with them what brings me happiness. The joy I have in watching their little personalities develop is unequalled, my daughter is obsessed with cats and Pooh Bear. My son is obsessed with Duplos and figuring out how things work, they both love books and pianos. I want them to celebrate those unique qualities and feel confident in pursuing things they love, and so I am going to do my best to show them that by doing things I love too.

It really is all about balance, isn’t it?

**GIVEAWAY CLOSED**Plum Organics Eat Your Colors Giveaway and Review

img_1666Like many naturally minded mamas, my plan was to make all my own baby food. And I did try, I still make some. But frankly, life is CRAZY and I just don’t have the time! So, while I am willing to bend on not making everything, I am not willing to compromise the quality of food my children eat. And I had suuuuuuuch a hard time finding clean, simple baby food! It was so disheartening to see all of the junk that is put in ‘natural’ baby food! Not to mention, wow does that stuff get expensive! To my relief, however, I found Plum Organics. And we LOVE them. They’re organic, clean, delicious and budget friendly! We especially love their new Eat Your Colors pouches! Check out my video below to see why! (And don’t forget to sign up for the giveaway! Details below!)

Plum Organics Giving Back Programs (click each for web link)

The Full Effect

B Corp

To Enter Giveaway:

(Winner will receive six total Eat Your Colors pouches, one each in red, orange, yellow, green, white and purple).

Follow @themamaplaybook and @plumorganics on Instagram

Like and repost the Original Instagram Giveaway Post or like and tag a friend in the comments

Subscribe to this blog (enter your email at the top of this page, those emails are how I will notify the winner!)

Giveaway closes Wednesday December 21st Midnight MST (winner will be notified via email and tagged on applicable social media accounts).

(sorry, US applicants only at this time!) Per Instagram rules, we must mention this is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm they are 13+ years of age, release Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s term of use.

SnoofyBee Changing Pad Review

img_1538**DISCOUNT CODE AHEAD!! I will only, ONLY ever feature products on my blog that I have personally sought out and use and love. My heart in reviewing products is to be able to test drive them for you mamas, and then if I deem them worthy of your love, I will procure a discount code so you can enjoy them also<3**.

Months ago, I discovered a product called the SnoofyBee and have been wanting to get one ever since. A SnoofyBee is this incredible product that keeps babies hands safely out of their diapers at changing time while simultaneously keeping them entertained. No, I have no idea why I waited this long to get one. Simply put, as I know many babies do, my wee ones each LOVE to turn into a rabid octopus at changing time. Arms, hands, legs and whatever toy is nearby are doomed for a poopy demise. I mean seriously how do they somehow seem to sprout six extra limbs suddenly?! Short of sitting on them I’ve been at a loss as to how in the world to keep them out of the mess at changing time. Clothing, toys, baby and me often get wiped out. But! Enter the SnoofyBee! Mine arrived this week, and all I can say is, HOW DID I EVEN GET THROUGH DIAPER CHANGES before! Mamas, you need this. Dads, you need this. Every parent grandparent aunt and uncle needs this. Seriously, it’s worth every penny and henceforth shall be my go to baby gift (and a cost effective one at that!). Please enjoy my demonstration below, then click here to shop and use code THEMAMAPLAYBOOK for 10% off!!!

 

A Story of Life Inspiration: Shekinah Clay

Preface

img_1174I am so honored to have my dear Aunt Lynne share her story with us today of the birth of her beautiful Raku business, Shekinah Clay. Lynne has been an irreplaceable and important part of me and my family’s lives since literally before my own birth. I am so grateful that my little girl will grow up being able to look up to her, strong women arise having learned from strong women. I want my little girl to have the confidence to pursue her dreams and bring them into reality as Lynne has done. It takes much strength and determination to accomplish and make what we love a reality in our lives. Pursuing that which we love in an effort to bring to pass our hearts desires can be scary, take a TON of work, and don’t always have an immediate payoff. Watching Lynne bring her love to pass, share her heart in her work and truly bless countless lives with her beautiful pieces is such an inspiration and privilege. Please check out her shop, www.etsy.com/Shop/Raku4u (click link).

 

The Story of Shekinah Clay

By Lynne Anderson

img_1173I had just returned to school (and..rather late in life…like in my mid-forties!) to get my Master’s Degree in Art Education. Throughout the years of raising my family and teaching Art K-12 in a rural District, I’d always promised myself that when the children had ‘flown the nest’ I would return to my Alma Matter (University of Northern Colorado) for my advanced degree…and this happened for me in 1994.
Similar to undergraduate programs, the Master’s Degree required some electives and in my first semester, I signed up for an elective course in Ceramics….and that’s when it happened to me. Sitting on a potter’s wheel, with hands muddied up with clay and slip, quite simply…. I fell in LOVE: in love with clay, in love with the malleability of it, in love with the ‘add to it’ or ‘subtract from it’ freedom of sculpting with it, in love with working on the potter’s wheel and slipping into a ‘zen’ state where all else fades away except for hands & clay working together, in love with the process of a clay item being fired into a usable item and in love with the serendipity of the glaze firing process ….that feeling of it ‘being like Christmas when opening the kiln afterwards’ to reveal the unique coloration.
As a result of this new LOVE, I immediately declared Ceramics as a second and equally important part of my Master’s Degree….and I am still as passionate about and involved with it today as I was on day 1 of discovering it!

fullsizerender-3One of the firing processes I learned about ‘back then’ was Raku, and this became my firing process of focus. Raku was learned from the Japanese and has roots in the Japanese Tea Ceremony which pays high honor to its participants. The teabowls, which are hand made of clay, are pulled direct from the firing while they are red hot – a vastly different approach than the more widely used firing process where the kiln cools very slowly so as not to stress the ware inside. Japenese Raku is very organic in nature and more closely resembles some of the more ancient ware seen in our country.
Artists here in the west became interested in Raku in the 1950’s and began experimenting by using glazes with metallic colorants. Over time, Raku in the West yielded stunningly beautiful one of a kind raku pieces captivating many…..myself being one. I’ve always loved iridescence and metallic finishes, and raku certainly captures that.

fullsizerenderThere came a day in the late 90’s when I knew it was time to open a business for the many Raku items that were piling up in my studio. Opening a checking account was a first step – I arrived at the bank parking lot, but in my excitement, I realized that I needed to give the business a NAME and this was the first time it occurred to me! I was a complete newbie at opening/starting a business….hey, I’d always been a teacher in Public Ed!
So, in my car…..in the parking lot at the bank, I prayed….asked God what I should name it to bring glory back to Him? And the answer was immediate and undeniable. SHEKINAH CLAY. And I loved it!….knowing from Biblical studies about the Shekinah Glory….that incredible luminous spiritual light. Loved the name…..but couldn’t remember for sure how it was spelled, so immediately returned home to my Concordance…then back to the bank lol!

fullsizerender-2For many years, my husband and I participated in roughly 2 juried Fine Art Shows per month in a multi state region and I cannot begin to tell you how many times the question was asked of me ‘What kind of clay is Shekinah Clay?’….then would begin a conversation of a more spiritual nature.
To say that I am thankful….that I am grateful….cannot even begin to express the depth and the meaning… working in the medium of clay has brought to me. In essence, I feel it is one of the reasons I am HERE….that I EXIST…it is a means of expressing a gift given me from above….. for the enrichment not only of myself, but others as well. My heart felt mission statement for each item I create is “ Just as words can minister grace to the hearer, may this art work minister grace to all who view it and to the place in which it resides.”

Lynne Anderson, Raku Artist

www.RakuByShekinahClay.com

www.etsy.com/Shop/Raku4u

Every Baby Is an Individual! And, Let them be Little

img_1335As I have said frequently, there is nothing like parenting to change your most carefully laid plans. It is astonishing how easily these tiny little humans change everything, and challenge literally everything that you thought you knew. Being a parent requires flexibility, humility and patience, and trust me that your beautiful little beings will work their completely unconscious hardest to make certain they teach you these lessons every day. Being a parent can be so overwhelming, here you are with this fragile new life doing everything you think is the best for them and questioning EVERYTHING you do. And then things seem to not be working, doubt enters your head and you are assaulted with a million different opinions as to what you’re doing wrong. Why won’t my baby sleep like that/eat this way/play like that?! Why aren’t they crawling/walking/talking yet? Well, there are no babies who are exactly alike. They each will develop in their own way on their own schedule. I CANNOT STRESS THAT ENOUGH. Just because one baby crawls at 7 months doesn’t mean there is necessarily anything wrong with the other baby who crawled at 11 months.

Two things that frustrate me intensely about our culture are the curve expectations placed on children and the competition that exists (even subconsciously!) among us mothers. When my twins were about 5 months old a friend nonchalantly asked me how far behind the curve twins normally are. While I’m certain she meant no harm, it sent me into a bit of a tailspin. Were they too behind?! Should they be doing more?! And please understand, I absolutely advocate intervention in serious cases of developmental delay, but the facts are that acute delays are not the norm and most of the time your baby is just fine.
img_1340So what if your baby started sitting up two months after your friends baby did?! Maybe your kid will talk first. Maybe they won’t. Chances are though that your baby is doing great, and that sweet little human is going to do things when they’re dang good and ready. A friend posted that her son was FINALLY accomplishing a milestone and my heart broke for her. Clearly something or someone had caused her to feel he was behind. Which he isn’t, at all. He’s simply doing things as he is ready. This should be celebrated, not judged.

img_1339Why do we push our babies and children so much?! You know, I am without doubt all for educational enrichment. I read to my babies, they listen to a wide variety of music and languages and I choose many toys based on their educational value. But I also let them chew on the books, listen to happy silly songs, and play with brightly colored rolling ducks. We dance and wave our arms and make silly noises. I believe teaching JOY is equally as important as learning the alphabet. They are learning every moment whether you are teaching them or not. But what are they learning? That they are competent and smart? That they are capable of learning anything they want and can actually enjoy doing so and become confident in the process? Or are they having it pounded into their wee heads that they aren’t learning enough, or as quickly as they should? That their friend is better/faster/smarter?img_1342

I don’t like the competition I see so often (especially on social media!) among mothers on whose child did what first. Of course I think every mother should see her child as amazing, (I talk more about that in this post, click here). But as possibly new and insecure mamas, we do not need to see our friends bragging (even if they don’t mean to cause harm!) about how their child is so superior and advanced and thus question if our own babies are doing ok. A friend posted a while back that after her baby had his pediatric checkup their doctor said her five month old was “basically functioning at the level of a year old baby” and that the doctor called him “Baby Thor”. This made me have to work with my head that my also five month old babies were doing alright since their doctor did not call them baby thors and they were definitely not functioning at a year old level. I call this type of thing “brag shaming”. And I’m sure this mama didn’t mean to, she was genuinely proud of her son as she should be. But I’d like to offer this for consideration. Be proud of your wee ones. But be sensitive to the fact that your seemingly innocent post about how advanced your kiddo is might make another mama question if her also absolutely perfect baby is doing ok.img_1341

And you know what? Your baby is only little once. While I FIRMLY support and believe in practicing involved parenting and actively teaching them, our culture has placed such a rush on growing them up fast and forcing them to become competent little humans as quickly as possible. (And I’m well aware this isn’t just our culture). I absolutely will teach my children respect, how to focus, self discipline, social decorum and how to behave politely as the situation may demand, but I will also let them shriek and run, play with abandon, and cry on my lap. They don’t need to practice algebra at two and play Mozart by three. If they end up doing so, great. But I’m not going to ruin their childhood by pushing them until they’re miserable. I was chatting with one of my piano student parents the other night and she shared that her daughters school wants to place her in the gifted program, and while they want to give her more, they’re not going to push her past what she wants to do. I have SO much respect for them. This child, she is balanced, she is wicked smart, she is motivated and driven, she is HAPPY. She has focus, confidence, and empathy well beyond her years. And her mother is wise in giving her as much as she wants without ruining her thirst for knowledge by shoving too much down her throat. This child is one of my best students. Never once has she said “that’s too hard” or “I can’t”. She’s happy and focused and a delight every lesson.

img_1336If a child is taught to love learning, without fear, and views new concepts as exciting and not scary, they’re far more likely to be motivated to push themselves to do more, to do better, in confidence and on their own, without having us ride them and make them miserable. A child is born looking at the world in wonder. We have a tremendous responsibility to teach them about this world without destroying that starry eyed fascination. It took a little while for my babies to crawl. Could I have done more tummy time, or pushed them harder so they would crawl faster? Absolutely. Did they crawl when they were ready? Of course they did! I now have speed demons blasting all over everything, my son just the other day went fearlessly four wheeling over rocks by the river. In my opinion the extra tears and stress of lots of tummy time wasn’t worth it. We did tummy time of course, but only as long as I could read to them and keep it a mostly happy experience while we did. I did not deem the frustration and intense tears to be worth them crawling a few weeks earlier.

img_1338Of course we cannot prevent all frustration. Not every learning experience will leave them filled with happiness and wanting more. But I believe that if they have this foundation of confident joy filled learning, they can handle the not so glorious moments.

I was homeschooled growing up. A tremendous sacrifice my mother made for her children, and a gift I will be forever grateful for. While ensuring I had a balanced education, she allowed me to pursue subjects I was passionate about and patiently allowed me to conquer those I was less than interested in as I grew. For example, for a while I was obsessed with phonics. I completed more phonics workbooks and projects than most people do in a lifetime. Math, on the other hand, was not my favorite. But she experimented until she found what I connected with, a way to learn that didn’t scare the pants off of me or make me feel stupid. And we did do tests, she prepared us for this real world of college testing and scary expectations. But because I had that foundation of joy, that love of learning, I was able to face the scarier real world and conquer it.

I firmly believe this concept also applies to emotional growth and understanding, but I’ll save that for another post.

img_1337In closing, my dear fellow mamas, please don’t allow our social media and culture to make you question your baby or yourself. We are all doing the best we can, trust in your child and allow them to bloom on their own schedule. They’re only little once, celebrate these moments and don’t allow fear to rob you (and your child!) of the joy of watching them grow and thrive according to their own personal schedule.

 

I Gave Birth to a Cling-on?! Or, The Fourth Trimester

img_1332Being a new mom is exhausting. (To put it mildly…!) Crying babies are stressful, and as I explained to my loving patient husband after multiple times of yelling at him for no reason as my babies cried, us women literally have a physiological reaction to our babies wails. Our milk lets down, we sweat, heart rates elevate and our natural biological response is to respond to our babies. Thus, when our baby is crying and we cannot figure out why, it is obscenely stressful. We are programmed to answer our offsprings needs, and when they are young they have one way of communicating their needs, and that is crying. You can safely assume that if your baby is crying, they have a legitimate need. They’re hungry, scared, cold, perhaps something hurts (colic anyone?) but they will not cry to manipulate or because they are selfish. A baby cannot be selfish or manipulative, they simply do not have that extensive of an understanding of the world.

When I brought my twins home, I did not plan at first on co-sleeping (read more on that in a previous post, click here). That decision changed the second night of their being earthside, and it is without fail one of the best parenting choices I have made to date. As I said in that earlier post, the minute I would set my babies down they would scream as if they were on fire. Now, I understand why. Thankfully I had my own parents loving example to follow in attachment parenting and thus when things ‘weren’t working’ with my wee ones I was confident to change them. fullsizerenderLet me elaborate. Have you heard of the fourth trimester? I hadn’t. The fourth trimester is the months that follow a baby’s birth. No one, not my nurses, not my midwife, not the pediatrician for darn sure, NO ONE mentioned to me anything about this fourth trimester business. Let me try to explain this succinctly. Up until birth, your baby had zero unmet needs. They weren’t hungry, they weren’t cold, they weren’t afraid, absolutely nothing required them to communicate their needs. Suddenly, that all changed. In a split second they went from a warm dark place where they were quite literally connected to you, to a bright, cold, foreign space where not only are they no longer attached to you, but they get hungry, they get uncomfortable, and you know what, THEY DONT UNDERSTAND. They have no way of grasping what has happened. Suddenly things hurt, they’re alone, and it’s terrifying. So they do the only thing they know how, they CRY.

fullsizerender-3And our culture expects this scared little human to be ok sleeping alone in a crib/cot/bassinet and new mamas are left questioning what on earth they’re doing wrong because their new little charge won’t sleep or stop crying! Mamas, you are doing NOTHING wrong! Your baby is crying because it wants YOU. They want to feel safe, fed, and CONNECTED. Your uterus was a lot more welcoming than the softest blanket on earth could ever be. There is nothing wrong with your baby because it looks to you for protection and nourishment 24/7. And the nicest, warmest, softest cot can not replace your beating heart and the smell of your skin, no matter if it sways, vibrates, sings or flies. You are truly the only thing your baby knows. That baby does not need to learn independence right now, independence is born out of confidence and confidence is born out of knowing their needs will be met. And they learn that their needs will be met when you answer their cries. No, you won’t be able to prevent their crying altogether. And some times you may have to put your baby in a safe place so you can pee, or cry yourself for a moment. Babies want to be touching you constantly, and yes it’s exhausting! And sometimes you just need to take a second and BREATHE. And they may cry. But setting them down briefly, that is different, that is an exception! That is not training them that their needs are insignificant.

img_0633In addition to cosleeping, I started wearing my babies. And things became infinitely easier. They slept on me while I made dinner, or did grocery shopping. And no, they didn’t stop crying altogether. They didn’t magically fall asleep every time. But because I was holding them, at least I knew that I was trying to answer their pleas for help. I wasn’t ignoring their cries, even if I couldn’t always prevent them. I wasn’t teaching them that their needs didn’t matter. When a baby cries and is ignored, they learn they don’t matter. They learn their needs will not be met. I fail to understand how that is a recipe for raising a confident human being.img_0634

It is infinitely frustrating to me that this concept of teaching our babies to function without mama is portrayed as necessary to being a ‘good’ parent. Human babies are born more dependent and helpless than any other species, and yet we are the only species that tries to force them to be ok without their mamas so early. And in doing so, many mamas are left feeling that they are failing, or that something is wrong with their baby because they won’t succumb to this cultural expectation. I cannot tell you how many times I had someone tell me, ‘eventually you have to let them cry’, or ‘you’re spoiling them, they won’t ever sleep alone’, or my favorite as someone told my husband, ‘stop babying them’. Stop babying them?! They’re BABIES for the love of all that’s holy! I hate the blame game that is played, somehow in our culture it becomes the mothers responsibility to teach their child that they don’t need them. Yes, you read that correctly. Mothers are expected to teach their babies that babies don’t need their mothers. And no, it makes zero sense.

fullsizerender-2It wont last forever. One day your tiny little cling-on won’t want to be attached 24/7, you will pee in peace, and they will sleep in their own beds. And they will do so when they are ready, and armed with the confidence that they are safe. As painful as it may be to consider the fact that one day my babies won’t need me as they do anymore, I want my children to grow up to be confident people who know who they are and go into the world empowered, people who can make a change in their world because their own is a solid one and they are strong in knowing who they are. And I personally believe that teaching them that who they are matters, that it is ok for their needs to be met, is crucial to them developing into confident, kind, empathetic strong human beings. It is hard to see another persons needs as important if you never believed your own needs to be important.

So mamas, hang in there and hold those babies close, don’t feel like a failure because they won’t sleep without you, or because they cry when you go out of sight. Be confident and know that although it’s hard (especially some days!) you are teaching your baby that they matter, that they are important, and that will never be something you regret.img_1333

The Postpartum Experience

fullsizerenderAs I’ve mentioned before, my mother is Italian, and I come from a loving, high energy and very effusive family. No emotions on lockdown when I was growing up, (nothing has changed in that). Open expressions of love and feelings were never prohibited, and I’ll say with amusement that my energetically open, affectionate and readily communicative style of living was definitely something for my sweet husband to adjust to. But despite having grown up with such love and depth, I wasn’t prepared for the beyond intense, past all consuming feeling that is being a mom.
I don’t think anything, or anyone, can actually prepare you for the insanely, crazily beautiful, soul devouring, complete passions igniting, space vacuum roller coaster of love that is being a parent. You feel things you never imagined you could feel with an intensity you could not have imagined possible. You would jump in front of a speeding train for this tiny human, and every emotion in your body is woven tightly into their every breath.

I know things have gotten better in some ways, but in so many other ways I believe new mamas are left to hang dry in our culture post birth. I was blessed to have an incredible support system of husband and family and it was still the most grueling experience I’ve ever had. fullsizerender-3 Everyone says your life changes the moment your baby hits your chest. That wave, that feeling of joyous uninhibited love didn’t happen as suddenly for me as I fought through postpartum depression for a while after my twins arrived. PPD is a tricky beast, I found myself experiencing this completely overwhelmingly intense soul consuming love for these two tiny beings while simultaneously feeling terrifyingly emotionally dulled and vacant. I remember waiting for the wave to hit me after they handed me my babies, but all I could think was, where did these things come from?!
My room was filled with people within an hour of my twins being born. Well meaning family but it was too much. Thank God for the nurse who kicked everyone out for me so I could rest and try to wrap my head around what had just happened. (Standby for my full twin birth story post next week) In hindsight, I’m giving myself permission with my next kid to not see anyone for a while after birth. My life at the time my twins were born was pretty high stress, I was teaching 7 days a week and looking back I realize that is partly why I wasn’t able to identify that my feelings of depression were more than environmentally triggered. I believe the trickiest part when fighting a mental battle is how easy it is to lay blame for the situation on anything physically present, especially yourself.

You fill out a zillion forms after your baby is born scanning for the ‘baby blues’, but I, as I imagine most new mothers do, had no intention of admitting anything other than my joy at being a new mom. I had nothing to be sad about right, I had two healthy new babies! And in no way shape or form did I want anyone to think I was anything but completely capable of being their mom. I had literally waited all my life for this moment, no way was I admitting that I was anything other than fine.
As I’ve mentioned before, due to our circumstances I went back to work at three weeks postpartum. It was horrible, and I could (and will) go off on the ridiculousness that is ‘maternity leave’ in this country. My poor husband didn’t even get a week off. My parents stayed with us after the twins were born and I can truthfully say I wouldn’t have made it through without them. I was so blessed to have a mom who wanted to be there and support me in my new journey.

But despite my circle of support, going back to work that early meant many more people around me and my babies, and it would have been overwhelming no matter what but adding PPD to the mix meant I went into hard core survival mode. My goal every day was to get through hour by hour until it was over. I was completely shut down emotionally, but still had no intention of that showing so I put on a face and faked it like I’ve never faked it before. I could feel the precious moments with my babies slipping by and that made it so much worse. Every day I felt I was losing my long awaited time with them as I paddled desperately through my exhaustion and mental fog, and every day I felt more like a failure and more heartbreak over my lost time.

It is shocking how overwhelming it is to be a new mom. Not only do you have these tiny humans literally relying on you to SURVIVE, everyone has an opinion on how you should be doing it. Every day was like getting a fire hose of emotion to the face.
I wrote in a previous post that sometimes as a mama you are forced to pour from an empty cup, and I don’t believe there is ever a time where that is more true than when you have a newborn. This tiny human needs you, and needs you 24/7. You’re going through recovery from LITERALLY making and bringing a new life into this world, and you absolutely must dedicate everything you are to someone else. I mean, it’s hard to have time to PEE let alone heal and recover. You are completely and utterly the sole source of life to this tiny new being. No matter how supportive your spouse is, and no matter how much supportive family you have, I truly believe you will never experience any pressure in your life that is more intense than being a mom. Nothing has ever made me feel so tiny. And I had the support of my loving husband, parents, and sisters. Not all women are so fortunate.
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Add to this new mom pressure the social pressures and expectations of family friends and work and I believe it is a recipe that can quickly end in disaster. I was expected to be social, see people and have them see my babies. It was like pouring acid on my nerves but I strapped both my babies on me in wraps and a smile on my face and I slogged through. I love this article (mothering the mother, click to read it) from the birth without fear blog, it discusses the horrible lack of postpartum and bonding time that is allowed to mothers in our culture. As it says, in many cultures women are given 40 days to do NOTHING post birth but heal and bond with their baby. And think about it, can you really imagine any task more intense than MAKING AND GIVING LIFE? I remember reading in one of my mama groups of a mother in my area who stayed in bed for ten days post birth doing nothing but being with that baby. I was green as a crocodile in envy as I told my husband about this. And she wasn’t just being lazy and having a vacation. Heck no. She was adjusting to having birthed an entirely brand new human! Yet spending that time with your baby seems so excessive in our cultures eyes. I will never understand why we treat birth as a serious illness that needs massive medical intervention but the need for postpartum recovery time is so often slid under the rug and dismissed.

My twins will be a year old next week, my PPD has improved significantly, it does eventually fade. I still fight guilt and cry for my lost moments with my babies, and I know there are things I will do differently should we have another child. I yearn to see a culture where birth is treated as a natural process and postpartum recovery is held on a pedestal of tremendous importance. Imagine yourself in that scenario. I wonder if I could have avoided or at least short circuited the PPD I dealt with. What would it have changed for you mamas? I hope sharing my story can one day touch some mama, more than anything I feel new mamas need someone who understands. Who can say, I get what you’re going through, and it’s not fair. One day I hope our culture changes and women can truly be there for each other in support like this, I hope our expectations of new mamas can evolve to where we see being a new mama for the serious matter it is, and as a culture respect it. I believe the health of our future depends on it.

Mamas Have Needs Too?! Or, Self Care is Haaaaard

img_9806Self care is hard. As a mama, it’s literally almost impossible sometimes. They say you can’t pour from a cup that’s empty but sometimes as a mom that is just what you have to do. Sometimes my kids don’t sleep, so I don’t sleep, and you know what? When they wake up the next morning I don’t get to just ignore them while I catch up on my zzz’s! Nope! They need fed, diapers changed and someone to watch them so they don’t knock out a tooth or stab out each other’s eyes. And yep, I am that person!
Sometimes I don’t get that glass of water or get to pee in a timely fashion because my babies have needs that can’t wait. Call me crazy but it’s really hard to go to the bathroom when my son is screaming because he pooped his diaper and it’s burning his little butt. So I change his diaper, and then eventually, I get to pee. Typically with a kid on my lap (or two). And as you might know from my last post, (click here to watch my rant on sharing love not germs) I just finished having the stomach flu. And nope, motherhood didn’t ‘pause’ whilst I fought that nasty virus.
I used to lecture my mom on self care. I still do sometimes since her kids are adults and she still doesn’t care for herself as she should. But, being a mom myself, I get why she doesn’t. Someday my kids will be adults and I I’ll probably need the self care lecture because let’s face it mamas, decades of a habit is hard to break. img_9796
And you know, I chose to bring these little beings into the world, they didn’t really have a say in it. So I don’t think it’s unfair that their needs are put before mine. That doesn’t mean though that some days aren’t so hard I want to cry, and sometimes I just want to eat my dinner without it getting slapped to the floor or shoveling it in my mouth at a race rocket pace. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my kids, or that I don’t want them more than anything. It doesn’t make me a bad mom that I look at photos of women with their hair and makeup done, their cute jeans obviously freshly washed and feel a pang of absence of my self worth.
Motherhood is HARD. Do I love it? With all my heart. Is it worth it?! Without question! I wouldn’t trade being a mama for ANYTHING. But. It. Is. Hard. So hard. Being the primary caregiver to tiny humans is no joke. There are literally lives DEPENDING on you, 24/7! HUMAN. LIVES. Whether or not your child survives let alone thrives is all on YOU. That’s one heck of a privilege and responsibility y’all.

img_9677I’m trying to remember to do little bits of self care when I can. Having a third cup of coffee (even if it gets cold), taking the extra 30 seconds to not only rip the ponytail off my head before bed but actually brush my hair, putting on a quick show for the babies so I can wash my face without screaming in the background. These things seem small but mamas you know, those small things are the first to go when you’re prioritizing your moves like a military captain for efficiency.
This won’t be my last post on self care, so tell me, what do you find is YOUR biggest challenge as a mama in caring for you? Let me know in the comments!

Hang in there mamas, and go buy some wine, I prefer the big bottles. A glass may help (I find it heavenly, and yes you can have it even if you’re breastfeeding!!!!). But I’ll go off on that later.fullsizerender

On Mom Shaming

imageI’ll readily admit, before I had kids I didn’t really buy into the whole “mom shaming” concept. Of course I was, and still am, fully aware of the judgement that exists, both from other moms and myself. However I somehow had it in my mind that I would be immune to the judgment, that somehow it wouldn’t bother me, that perhaps I just “wouldn’t let myself” be exposed to situations which could leave me feeling judged. And don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of judging, I mean, this entire post is me judging others for judging for goodness sake.

But anyway, as I said before, if parenting does one thing for you it will teach you to never say never. It wasn’t until I had my own munchkins that I realized my idyllic sense of no judgement was not only unrealistic but naive. It started before I even gave birth to the twins. “Oh, you’re not scheduling a- c section? Oh, you don’t want that toy/blanket/clothing it will absolutely maim/harm/kill your child. You’re eating what? You’re walking where?!” Still I clung to my foolish belief that it would dissipate after the twins arrived and everyone saw what a capable mother I was (ha ha).

It did not. It increased, exponentially. Strangers feel no shame in approaching me to berate me on my mothering choices. “You’re not sleep training?! You haven’t gotten them on a schedule yet?! You don’t have a set bedtime?!” “Oh…you’re letting them have screen time already?” (Yes, I needed to pee. And it’s really hard to pee when every muscle in my body is tense because my children are screaming like they’re being torn asunder. Don’t worry, I’m only letting them watch The Exorcist so it’s cool). image
And then, “you’re BREASTFEEDING?! TWINS?! YOU HAVEN’T FED THEM SOLIDS YET?! You know you can now right…” (Really I had NO idea, I’ve been a mom for nine months now but have been living under a rock so had no idea of common practices and approaches to raising babies). “Oh wow, they’re not crawling yet? You do know it’s important they crawl right …” Actually I hang them from their ankles at night to prohibit crawling, but thanks for your concern.

Clearly, I have not only lost my marbles but probably had none to begin with. And my poor children, well obviously they’re hopelessly screwed, at least according to the general populace.

Moms are vulnerable, especially new moms. I am no exception to that, and despite my wonderful support team of husband, family and friends I will admit that the judgement has shaken me more than a time or two and caused me to retreat home viciously questioning my own abilities as a parent. Why weren’t they crawling?! Was it tummy time?! Maybe I didn’t do it enough/well/right?! They are stressed today, is it my lack of scheduling?! Why do they hate car rides so much?! It’s easy to have your “mama knows best” resolve shaken when well meaning friends and relatives have no hesitation in criticizing you or sharing their opinion.

What I truly abhor the most is the brag shaming. “My child is Superman, he crawled at 2 months!” “My pediatrician said my baby is basically the next improved version of Einstein, he’s speaking 7 languages at 7 months old!” While I am proud of my children and of course personally think they are the brightest most beautiful creatures to ever grace the planet, I do not make post after post about this. I know how it feels to see that and immediately wonder why your child hasn’t reached that milestone. Every child is different, and while everyone says to celebrate that and that every child learns at their own pace (which IS true) many frequently make that statement and then immediately post as to how advanced their child is compared to every other single child in the universe. And they should see their kiddo as amazing, beautiful, unequaled. They’re the parent. That’s their job. (Now don’t get me wrong, I do not believe in teaching your children that that they poop gold, sneeze rainbow dust and in general do no wrong, thereby giving them not only a false sense of reality but also turning them into insufferable jerks, but that’s another post for another day).

imageJudging is part of human nature, we can’t help it. But we can shut our mouths about it. So judge away, mamas, I’m right there with you, but let’s keep it to ourselves. We never know when we might be at the  receiving end.