Strength & Softness: The Middle Way

by Mary Skerrett Koff

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Ahhh...motherhood. Here’s my story, with all of its bumps and bruises and beauty. I never “needed” to be a mom. I was never a person who was hell-bent on having a baby. In fact, the idea scared me a little bit, especially the whole giving birth part. Give me a dog or another animal, and I will love that being up like you’ve never seen, but I wasn’t sure those mothering instincts would transfer to a baby (side note: they did, whew!). But I was also was open to it and thought it would be an amazing adventure with the right person. At the end of the day my attitude was, if there were meant to be a child in my life, there would be.

And, today, I can say that Isaac Finnigan is here! He is a 6-month old bright light in my life like I never ever could have imagined.

The journey to Isaac’s being here has been a windy one. My husband and I had several misfires along the way. We were older when we got married, so I was surprised and delighted that, at the age of 42, I could even get pregnant. I was kind of amazed at my body and felt like something was trying to make its way into the world - but for whatever reason the timing or physiology wasn’t right: before Isaac, I was pregnant three times, all resulting in miscarriages between 8 and 11 weeks; the pregnancies also resulted in all-day-all-night nausea from about 4 weeks on.

At the end of each of those three pregnancies, when we were told it wasn’t viable, there was, on my part, a small feeling of relief that I would soon feel better. And this was a weird feeling for me - I didn’t really have the feelings of sadness and grief that I had heard other women talk about. I felt better physically, and, since it was so early on, I didn’t feel super bonded to the being inside of me. It was more like my body was telling me “not this one," and I trusted my body and nature to make the best call, even as I felt frustrated that so many weeks were “lost” and guilty on some level that I didn’t feel sad “enough.” Ultimately, I learned to accept my experience as it was; it didn’t have to be the same as anyone else’s. I learned to not judge myself; that acceptance was powerful.

Three years later, after more twists and turns and lots of sitting and pondering our path, we turned to science to help us get Isaac. IVF is an amazing thing, and we participated in a study that brought the costs way down. And miracle of miracles, at 47 years old, I found myself pregnant. And ... it stuck!

The physiological pattern was the same: the nausea kicked in and leveled me. Only this time it stuck around as Isaac grew. First trimester...second, and, yes, third...nausea all the way through. He was healthy and growing, and that was great. I, however, was nauseated and low energy and foggy in the head. Toward the end of the pregnancy, the nausea was so constant that I wondered if it would ever go away; I just couldn’t remember what it felt like to not be nauseous.

Needless to say, my relationship with food totally changed, and so did most aspects of my life. Cooking and eating were some of the things I had previously very much enjoyed. Cooking was a centering, grounding activity for me. In fact most of the things I did to center spiritually were no longer an option: exercise, coffee with friends, hiking, being out in nature. I even went to see a therapist to see if I had any symptoms of depression. After a long and very open talk she determined that there was no clinical issue, but that I was just “in the hull of the boat.” That was a phrase I hung onto daily. Texting and messaging with other moms who had been through it was a lifesaver - even if they only had it the first trimester, their empathy, the understanding of just how debilitating it can be, and the reminder that it was temporary were incredibly helpful.

The three misfires we’d had previously had given us some experience in how to deal with the nausea. I'd needed a soft place to land, and I saw David doing his best to try to provide it. I could see that there was some sort of intellectual understanding of the fact that I didn’t feel well, but he was not fully comprehending the depth to which it was affecting me – how could he? I don’t think I would have understood it had I not experienced it. I mean, take just my reaction to smells. Often smells he couldn’t even detect. The smell of food cooking, once a signal of a cozy and fulfilling home, now made me want to open all the windows or simply just get out of the house. How can you describe this to someone who has never experienced it? We both improved with incremental acceptance of each other each time.

But this fourth time, the nausea did not go away - and my husband was not shy about letting me know that it was hard on him. I am someone who tends naturally toward the caregiver side of things. But during pregnancy, the roles reversed and I needed to be cared for. I was giving all that I had to Isaac, who was growing like crazy inside of me, totally healthy and awesome. Whatever life force was left over was put toward showering, trying to find food, working and maybe going for a walk. And that was on a good day. There was nothing left after that.

Before, I'd had a lot more space for my husband, for his wants and needs; the reality during my pregnancy was that I was less soft and less patient. This was, understandably, very hard for him. He told me he felt pushed away and deprioritized. This was so hard for me to hear. On my end, all I needed and wanted was some acceptance of how life had changed for me. And some empathy. Just hey: you’re doing great. I love you as you are and I’m here for you no matter what. And I did hear these sentiments, for sure. Even on the worst of days, somehow he managed to want to hang out with me and trust that the “old” me was in there somewhere. But while I knew he wanted to be there for me, alongside those supportive words were phrases like “I want my wife back.” Which to me translated to: “You’re not giving me enough.” That was really hard for me to hear because there was no solution that I could provide.

In addition to feeling hurt, I also felt resentful. I thought about how he behaved when he had the flu for a couple of days. How his personality and behavior changed. This wasn’t me making a conscious decision to leave him out or not prioritize him or our marriage. Why could other women understand this so well but he could not?

Well, we muddled through, and once Isaac entered the world, I was instantly in love. As SOON as David put him on my chest I got it. I didn’t know that I would! I was so relieved to feel that about Isaac and to just want to be around him, like all the time. The snuggles, the smells, the sounds. He is an easygoing, happy guy and I feel so lucky that he is here with us.

But all the other things that I'd heard about started happening, too: the mom being the gatekeeper, the dad feeling like less of a priority. Plus sleep deprivation and hormones and trying to figure out how to co-parent...we were still in transition, and on the heels of an already challenging nine months.

Then an interesting thing happened. I decided to look at the challenges as a gift. As I leaned into the idea that maybe my husband was right, that the woman he married had gone away, the more it resonated with me. But not in a bad way. And maybe she didn’t actually go away as much as she was “added to.” Scientific research has shown that there is a bit of rewiring of women’s brains during pregnancy and childbirth so that we are, to some degree, different people when we come out the other side. As I leaned into this even more, I came to believe that this new version of me is a new and improved version, and she is on her way to being a much more authentic woman, wife and mother.

David and I both did the best we could during a challenging time. We will never thoroughly understand the experience the other went through. But we needed to fill ourselves up, or at the very least let the other one off the hook for not being able to give us what we perceived we needed. What better prep is there for parenthood? I can now understand, without resentment, that he missed me, and begin a process of education of how and why I’ve changed. He may not be the exact same person from before the pregnancy - he may actually be someone better.

And I am learning how to stand in my strength without anger, and I am learning how to stand in my softness and compassion, without capitulation. It’s a bit of a pendulum act right now, and can be bumpy at times as the pendulum swings from the “before” me, to a new slightly over the top me that’s not quite as soft as before. Sometimes she shows up like the new sheriff in town, guns blazing, instead of bringing that quiet strength. But I am confident that with practice and mindfulness, the pendulum will hover more right in the middle, holding strength and softness together at the same time. The middle way is my way, and it’s becoming much more natural for me to be there. That is the authentic me that is waiting to appear.

I’ll be honest, it is hard for a recovering perfectionist to see that I may have missed the mark, even given that it was the most challenging time in my life so far. So my job is a living amends, to myself and to my husband. I do this by catching him doing things well, and by catching me doing things well. By seeing us both as open, strong, compassionate, forgiving and easygoing. Finding those things in us each day and rewiring the grooves. Falling back in love, reconnecting with these new and improved models of us, as husband and wife and mom and dad. To have compassion for those parts of us that got hurt, and allow them to let us grow. For both of us, to understand ourselves and each other, get out of blame and into compassion. That’s where the good stuff is. The authentic new me holds strength and compassion together as one. Once the pendulum stops swinging, I think the new version of me is going to be pretty awesome.

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Care for a Mother's Body, Mind and Soul

by Dr. Raquel Muller, PhD

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Sometimes we have experiences that are so profound and impactful that they may leave us wondering how we ever lived our life before that point. This summer I was blessed to share such an experience with a group of amazing women, women who happen to be moms.

A moms' retreat, we all agreed, seems to be a foreign concept for most moms. It's like one of those "it-would-be-nice-but-let's-get-real" kind of pie-in-the-sky ideas. It may seem impractical, frivolous, expensive, selfish, even irresponsible to the many dedicated moms who believe that it is their duty to put their families first, or who don't feel deserving of spending time and money on themselves.

Yet, what we found out throughout our weekend together is how much our souls really needed this time to focus on our wellbeing. We got to feel nurtured by Mother Nature, and were nourished with healing foods prepared by a loving hostess. We had moments of quiet and reflection so we could listen to our inner wisdom and connect with the woman within the mother. We bonded as women and our hearts connected, each of us feeling supported and safe to be who she really is, with no pretenses of perfection. Most of all, we gave ourselves permission to receive, for a change, and we realized that caring for our own bodies, minds, and souls is the highest form of service to our families because everyone around us benefits when we are at our best.

I feel doubly blessed from this retreat because I not only participated, but I helped facilitate this transformational experience for other women. I realized how immensely satisfying it was to support these moms and to bear witness as they said "yes" to themselves, knowing that they deserve to be nurtured and happy simply because they are human beings, independently of how many things they check off on their "to-do" list.

Some of the key commitments that we walked away with from this moms’ retreat were:

To take time to just “be,” whether for a few minutes each day or a few hours each week. It is in these moments when we quiet our minds that we get to hear our hearts’ whispers, so that we can be guided by the infinite wisdom of the universe.

To stay connected with nature, allowing ourselves to be supported by her, for we are part of nature, and the rhythm inherent in her seasons offers us a call to renewal. We let go of the old, so we can welcome the new, just like a tree that must let go of its wilted leaves in the fall so that new, beautiful leaves can sprout in the spring and provide shade and nourishment in the summer.

To allow ourselves to receive and to explore our own path, so that we can better support our children in their own journey, staying invested in their happiness without sacrificing our own identity or making their actions or choices about us.


Even as I continue my own journey of growth, I am privileged to support other women who want to live a life of purpose and fulfillment, in which they are free to love themselves and to honor their own needs, even as they give to their families. It is my dream to bring this kind of experience to many more women in my lifetime, for this, I know, is my life's purpose. My wish for you is that you get to live a life of purpose and fulfillment, and that you never stop being a woman first.

As I close I invite you to consider these questions:


How would your life be different if you put yourself higher on your own priority list?


If you did prioritize your wellbeing and gave yourself what you need to thrive, who in your life would benefit from that choice?

Please consider joining me for a workshop for moms that will explore these questions and more. I’m extending a special invitation for Bridgetown Baby families - 50% off tickets to “Reclaim the Woman Within the Mom" on October 12, 2019. Learn more and register with code BB19 here.


Dr. Raquel Muller is a Mom Empowerment Coach and a motivational speaker. She specializes in helping high achieving working moms let go of the pressure to be supermoms so they can experience less stress and more joy and fulfillment. She is the creator of the Mom Empowerment Roadmap Coaching Program. She also offers free content via her FB page Joyful Imperfection Counseling.

Family Fun at Pickathon - Photos & Report

Our first year at Pickathon was a success!

We provided respite from both rain and heat in our cozy Family Feeding Nest. Everyone who came was so grateful for The Refuge when they picked up their perfectly cooled pumped milk at the end of the festival! We are already counting down the days until next year!

Take a peek at some of the sweet Family Feeding Nest photos below.

Finding Solid Ground in Mothering

By Annie Gilligan, CPD, M.A.T.

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I have always loved the strong feeling of my feet hitting the ground and carrying me forward into the beauty of nature. When I became a brand new mom, I wondered if I would ever feel as confident in mothering as I do when I am hiking in the summer. I knew that I wanted to be a mother, but when I became one, it felt like I fell off the edge of a cliff into a watery abyss.

I wanted to understand why this transition was so hard for me and for many women in our modern culture. As I explored birth, I felt very drawn to becoming a birth and postpartum doula, and I have worked with many families over the last decade.

What I have come to accept and appreciate about postpartum is that it is a very liminal space. It helps to know this. Of all our years as women, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum are time periods that require some of our most intense shifting and fluidity. Postpartum in particular lasts briefly, and for many it feels more like swimming in a vortex than like hiking to a favorite viewpoint.

When we know the nature of this time, we can more easily accept that we are okay as we move through this space. We can also more easily understand what we need. We need a way to stay afloat and swim ashore. Our broader American culture doesn’t yet understand how to best support the fluid nature of postpartum. It’s not yet common to hand a woman a life vest, in the form of regular physical and emotional care, while she moves through the waves of this time. But this is what all women deserve and need. It is up to us as women to be brave enough to ask for this imperative support.

In many cultures around the world, there is an understanding that postpartum women have certain basic needs: being provided with nourishing food, resting throughout the day, bonding with our babies, and receiving care from compassionate women. These are recognized as essential, non-negotiable needs for the first 40 days after a mother gives birth.

In our modern culture, if we are not handed a life vest, we need to ask for one. As we step into the shifting waters of postpartum, we need people around us every day who are caring for us, feeding us, and letting us rest. This is how we come back home to trusting ourselves in mothering. This is how we learn which rhythms and routines will carry us forward as a family. This is how we reclaim the strength of our own feet hitting solid ground.

Annie Gilligan is a postpartum doula with Bridgetown Baby. She focuses on helping women recognize their own strength through the birth year. She collaborates with the Threshold Choir and local massage therapists to offer a nourishing postpartum women’s circle called “Closing the Birthing Year.”

Sweet Cool Down Recipes for Kids & Grown-Ups

by Krystle Gard

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It can be hard to find cool treats for summer that aren’t loaded with sugar. Don’t get me wrong - every kid deserves an Otter Pop every now and then, right? But for my sugar junkie kiddos, these are fantastic recipes to cut sugar and add some nutrition to their daily diet. Make sure to read to the end for a slightly less ‘pure’ popsicle for adults only!

Pack-a-Punch Popsicles for Kids:

Mango-Pineapple Pops

Ingredients:

1 can cubed pineapple (14 ounces)
1 peeled, cubed mango or 1 cup frozen
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
Dixie Cups & popsicle sticks OR popsicle molds

How to Make:

  1. Empty pineapple into a blender, along with mango and water.

  2. Add lemon juice, then puree.

  3. Fill popsicle molds or Dixie Cups two-thirds of the way full, then add in a few pieces of mango and pineapple. If using Dixie Cups, insert a popsicle stick in each one, create a grid on top of each cup using tape to hold the sticks upright, and freeze. If using popsicle molds, follow directions from manufacturer for freezing. When ready to serve, cut open the Dixie Cups and peel them away from the pops.

Strawberry Beet Pops

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup beets (cooked and cooled)
3/4 cup apple juice
1 tsp lemon juice

How to Make:

  1. In a blender (preferably a high-speed blender), purée all ingredients until completely smooth.

  2. Pour into your favorite popsicle mold and freeze 3-4 hours, or until completely firm. Makes 5-6 popsicles.

Carrot Pineapple Pops

Ingredients:

1 can of coconut milk
1 cup of pineapple
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 cup of carrots (or 10 baby carrots)
2 Tbsp chia seeds

How to Make:

  1. Put the first four ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. The carrots make take a few rounds to become smooth, but they will.

  2. Add in chia seeds. Pulse once or twice to combine.

  3. Pour into molds, and put into the freezer. It will take around 6 hours to become hard.

Avocado Banana Pops

Ingredients:

1 ripe banana
1 ripe avocado
1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
2 ounces plain kefir or yogurt of choice

How to Make:

  1. First, soften the frozen pineapple by microwaving the chunks for 10 seconds. The liquid formed will also help the blender mix all the ingredients

  2. In a blender, add the kefir or yogurt, avocado, pineapple and banana. Blend. You may need to use a spoon or rubber spatula to mix the ingredients when the blender is turned off. You want a thick and smooth consistency

  3. Pour into freezer safe containers. Popsicles can be enjoyed once set, after around 2 hours.

Creamy Lime Pops

Ingredients:

1.5 cups pineapple (fresh or frozen)
1/2 banana
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/2-1 cup spinach
Zest and juice of 1 lime

How to Make:

  1. Purée all ingredients in a blender until completely smooth.

  2. Pour into your favorite popsicle mold and freeze 3-4 hours, or until completely solid. Makes 5-6 popsicles.

Finally, here are some Popsicles for Parents, for those times where just plain popsicles aren’t enough:

Gin and Tonic Pops

Ingredients:

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup limeade
1 cup tonic water
½ cup gin
Juice and zest of one lime
12 lime slices
12 Dixie Cups & popsicle sticks OR popsicle molds

How to Make:

  1. In a large bowl combine sweetened condensed milk, limeade, tonic, gin, lime juice and lime zest. Whisk until smooth and fully combined. Divide mixture among 12 dixie cups.

  2. Insert a wooden spoon or popsicle stick into the center of each lime slice and place into each cup, making sure there is no room between the mixture and lime slice. If using popsicle molds, cut lime slices to fit the filled molds and follow directions from manufacturer for freezing

  3. Freeze until solid, at least 5 hours and up to overnight.

  4. When ready to serve, cut open the Dixie Cups and peel them away from the pops.

Babywearing for Partners & Papas

by Amy Rainbow

Photo courtesy of Amy Rainbow

Photo courtesy of Amy Rainbow

The postpartum time is such a huge shift for everyone in the family. With the focus so squarely on the baby and birthing person, it often leaves the papas and partners wondering what their role is in this process. And they, too, experience emotional shifts and changes during their transition to parenthood! Postpartum doula care is a great support for the whole family - another tool that can help everyone through the postpartum chapter is holding baby on your body with a baby carrier.

Photo courtesy of Amy Rainbow

Photo courtesy of Amy Rainbow

Babywearing can help papas and partners through this phase by, of course, allowing them to do things with two free hands (hello, eating with two hands or playing video games!) but also by helping them feel more connected to their baby and more involved in baby’s care (1). The benefits of babywearing for both baby and partner are almost (but not quite as good) as skin-to-skin care (2): reduced cortisol for both parties; stable heart rate and temperature for baby; and, as a result of the reduced stress on our bodies, our brains are better able to grow and bond to our baby. 

Our "prescription" to experience noticeable benefit from babywearing is to use a carrier for about an hour a day, at least three days per week. It can be used for errands, going for a walk, doing chores around the house, or even a nap for baby (with the wearer continuing to monitor baby's airway and ensure the carrier is providing support while baby is asleep). This frequency can help papas and partners feel more confident when caring for their baby, more connected to the process, and have a deeper bond with their baby. Plus, two free hands!

For more information on choosing a carrier, encouraging babywearing, and getting a perfect fit (or just attending one of Amy’s awesome Beers and Babies gatherings), check out the Adjoyn website. Special for Bridgetown Baby families, use discount code BTOWN10 for $10 off the service of your choice.

Adjoyn provides infant safety assistance in the form of in-home and community classes for car seat safety, babywearing help, and infant CPR. Amy Rainbow and Marcie Berzinskas of Adjoyn are educators in both professional and volunteer capacities serving families in the Portland metro area. More information about their consultations and classes can be found at adjoyn.com.


1) Does Infant Carrying Promote Attachment?
2) Infant Calming Responses in Maternal Carrying

On Fatherhood & Training Wheels

by David Koff

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Best I can tell, there are only two kinds of fathers in the modern world: those who are scared to death when they learn that their wives are pregnant for the first time, and those who already have children.

Now that my wife and I are through the first six months of parenthood, I’m able to recognize how much the concept of Fear has played a role in my journey. I don’t say that with shame, by the way: I say it with a sense of pride — allowing, understanding, and even inviting my fear in to my life has been a huge part of the pregnancy, birthing, and parenting process.

Men in this country don’t talk openly of Fear, of course, so it’s essential that I share my own with you up front. I believe that keeping that Fear inside of us only sets men up for an entirely preventable failure. Not only should we men be talking about our fears when it comes to parenthood, we should understand and embrace what doing so can provide.

Experiencing and then talking about my fatherhood fears has been an invaluable teaching tool. I get that now. I didn’t before. Because even though my wife and I were prepared — even though we’d read all the books, taken all the classes, spoken to all the peoples, and purchased all of the equipment and conveniences — there was NOTHING that could have truly prepared us for pregnancy, birth, and parenthood.

Those are milestones you live through, life events that you just have to experience.

I liken it to riding a bike. Riding a bike is not something we learn by reading books or talking to people: it’s something we learn by doing — with training wheels at first — before we are able to physically understand the sensation of speed and balance and turning. Then, once we think we have it, the training wheels come off and we begin to understand that our learning has only just begun.

Then, we learn by falling.

I want to talk with you about falling and fear; about how these are not cruel or harsh punishments from an unkind Universe, but, rather, integral parts of our journey as men. As such, they’re experiences to be both accepted and expected. We will, all of us, experience fear and fall down metaphorically at some point in our journey to parenthood and even after we get there. I know that now. How could it be otherwise?! We are imperfect beings in imperfect relationships who are experiencing an imperfect pregnancy process all in an effort to raise the newest generation of better but still imperfect humans.

Our job, as I see it, is to bring as much joy as possible to that reality.

In our case, our story didn’t lend itself so easily to creating joy… We got pregnant four times. The first three pregnancies all happened within 14 months of each other and all of them ended in miscarriage, somewhere between weeks 8-11. That’s a lot of falling down. Worse, it all happened at a time when we had just lost both of my parents, my father-in-law, all four of our pets and my uncle. The third pregnancy got far enough along in the embryo’s development that we could see a small, fluttering heartbeat on the sonogram. Oh, I thought we’d made it! There it was, right there on the screen: LIFE! After two failed pregnancies, we finally saw life on that screen and allowed ourselves the luxury of becoming hopeful. We went home smiling and hugging. It was real. We’d seen it!

A week later, the heartbeat was gone. Another miscarriage. Another fall from the bike. Another death. Another round of devastation and depression. Another bout of fear if we’d ever be parents. We posted about the miscarriages after that on social media and learned that we were far from alone. Not only had a majority of people we knew also experienced miscarriages, but some of them had carried to term only to deliver stillbirths.

Can’t. Even. Process. That.

By sharing openly about our miscarriages, we gave others the permission to do the same. It opened a massive groundswell of support, so, if you’re like us, I hope you’ll do the same and invite the fear in and be brave despite it. The fear - in this case of other people judging us for not carrying any of our three pregnancies to term - was a falsehood that we had to see to believe. HUNDREDS of people commented on our posts. All in support. All in solidarity. And most of them sharing their own miscarriage stories. Our friends and their posts became our emotional and psychological  training wheels: they helped to get back up again and then keep us balanced as we moved forward.

More people should talk about this part of pregnancy, I believe, to help remove the shame, guilt, and negativity surrounding something that happens in as much as 43% of all pregnancies, according to this study of over 50,000 women. If miscarriages happen that frequently, then there’s no shame, friends: it’s just nature, running its course, and not allowing non-viable lives to be created.

As people in our 40’s who were trying to conceive, it was doubly important that we understand this. Nature was going to be a fickle friend. So we had to work with Nature.

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Our fourth and final pregnancy came via IVF. A friend of mine (talk about luck!) ran a fertility clinic, had heard our story and reached out with an offer: would we like to participate in a small research study he was doing? They would cover the egg retrieval, in-vitro fertilization, genetic testing and implantation. We’d have to cover our out-of-state transportation along with all medicines and hormones. We considered it a gift from God and accepted.

The gift, it turns out, came with some serious strings attached. Mary carried to term but her pregnancy was marred by nausea for the entire nine months. It was fucking awful, can I just say that? It was awful for her because she was in pain most of the day for nine straight months. She couldn’t eat the foods she’d liked, she couldn’t be around food or smell foods, so she avoided the kitchen. The near constant sickness meant she couldn’t sleep well either, so she moved into the spare bedroom and set up camp there, just trying to get by one day at a time.

But her pregnancy was also difficult for me. Her constant nausea made her quick to anger and impatience. We fought a lot. We rarely ate meals together. She spent most of her time in bed and rarely left the house, so we rarely socialized outside the house as a couple. The hormones and illness had caused her to become a different person than the woman I’d married. That forced a change on my end: I became a caretaker, far more than I was a husband or a partner.

My wife needed all of me to be able to help her. All of me. And she wasn’t able to give much in return. Some days, honestly, I wasn’t very good in my role, if you want to know the truth. More falls off the bike. We’d expected some amount of sickness during the first trimester: that had happened in our previous three pregnancies. But being that sick for the entire pregnancy?!? We just weren’t prepared for that.

And yet... the pregnancy continued in perfect health. We could feel him kicking now. And hiccuping. Life was growing inside of her, despite it literally changing her mind, body, and spirit.

My Fear kicked in. Would this shift in her personality become permanent? Would her patience and personality ever recover? What about after delivery: would she be able to co-parent with me? I didn’t have answers to these questions, so the Fear hit me hard. I spoke with teachers, mentors, and friends. I spoke to therapists, family, and God. Hell, I spoke to just about anyone who would listen to me. I was scared about what had happened to my marriage, and I was uncertain of the future.

“It is what it is,” is something my mom used to say. I grabbed a hold of that sentiment. It became my motto. It became my set of training wheels at a time when I desperately needed a pair. I had to learn how to let my fears inform me, not derail me. I became better at allowing my wife to vent but not take it personally. I hugged her more. In fact, I began learning how to give without expecting anything in return. But it took time, patience, and practice to get there. I was extremely imperfect in that journey. Maybe that shift is natural for others; it just wasn’t for me. My friends, family, therapists, mentors became yet another set of training wheels. And, boy did I ever need them in the last trimester.

Then, on December 1st, 2018, our boy was delivered via Cesarean section. He weighed in at 8lbs, 3oz and possessed a healthy voice that he didn’t hesitate to use. We couldn’t have been happier. Or more relieved. He passed all of his initial medical tests, so we knew he could hear, see, breathe, and think on his own now.

After delivering, we spent three days in recovery in the care of the staff: they helped us feed him, change him, nurse him, care for him, and get to know him. They also helped us work through emotional disagreements we had and shared another “secret” that no one talks about openly: most every couple has SOME kind of emotional meltdown on the second day after their child is born. That made us feel normal again. They were our community. They were our support. They were our training wheels.

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But then — and this is the insane part — they SENT US HOME. Home with a baby, with no prior experience at parenting; home with no manuals or support staff; home with no local family to help care for us.

I drove home with my wife and our son at about 5.5 mph even though we literally live around the corner from the hospital. Not even two miles away, but still: my first job as a new dad was to get us home safely. And, damnit: I did just that.

But we still needed help.

Never mind how “seasoned” we were to be parents our 40’s; never mind all of the “life experience” that we’d gathered: this was our first child and we needed help. My siblings gifted us something spectacular and essential for our peace-of-mind and well being: they paid for us to have nighttime doula care for 4-5 nights a week for the first two weeks we were home.

This is how we came to meet the staff at Bridgetown Baby. At first, I let my ego get in the way: “Do we really need night time babysitters?!?” Well, friends, we did, and I found out why very quickly: because we still needed training wheels.

Our doulas cooked food for us, fed and changed our son in the middle of the night while we slept, and made coffee and light breakfast for my wife in the morning. In short, we got to recover from the previous nine months of challenges, heartaches, and life changes and greet each morning having slept soundly for that night. The baby was cared for, yes, but WE were cared for as well, something I didn’t even know that I’d needed.

And my GOD, did we ever need it.

In fact, we needed it so much, that after the gift from my siblings had expired, we invested in hiring Bridgetown to continue providing the gift of sleep, sanity, and safety for us — this time twice a week — through the first three months of our son’s life. Was that a significant expense? Yes, I won’t lie to you about that. Was it worth every, single penny? Without question, yes, so I won’t lie to you about that either.

Our doulas became part of our family. Even better, they were experts who were on hand for us, providing advice, strategies, techniques, and kindness whenever we needed it. Our son needed it in the middle of the night and they provided that for him. My wife needed the security that comes from knowing that experts were in the home to keep a watch on our boy and to help us out with cooking meals, saving us both valuable time, and they provided those things for her. And I needed it, because I spent time talking, venting, sharing, and confiding in our doulas about MY story and my process; and they provided that.

Although some in our society have forgotten or don’t know this: dads have a story and a process as well. We might not go through pregnancy and morning sickness or surgery to deliver a child, but we most certainly go through a journey to parenthood as well. We’re thinking, feeling, emotional creatures, whether we’re able to admit that to ourselves and to others or not. What we aren’t is a disposable item that should be left behind emotionally when the child is born, although it can certainly feel that way at times.

Dads - just like moms - also need to talk, to be heard, and to be validated. We need support, caring, and kindness, especially at a time when our partners simply aren’t available to provide those things to us, because they need to focus on our sons and daughters. Our doulas gave that gift to me more times that I can say, and I will forever be grateful for that kindness, and that space they opened for me as my training wheels.

I leave you all with an open invitation: if you’re a man who needs to talk more about your process as an expectant or existing father (which, I think, should cover all of you reading this!) and you’d like to meet with other like-minded men who can support, uplift, and hear one another, I encourage you to reach out to me. I’m organizing a bi-monthly support group for men here in Portland metro area where we can talk openly about the deep emotional reality we all inhabit. I look forward to learning more about your stories as well.

David Koff is a Portland-based actor, writer and teacher - and dad. You can learn more about his work at davidkoff.com.

YOU Are a Magical Mama!

by Katie Slack, MSW

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As moms, we sometimes get stuck. We question ourselves, we have to “catch up” to a new stage our babies/kids enter, or as a friend of mine recently said... we need to ‘recalibrate.’ I love that.

We literally create a human being with our bodies, and yet within a few weeks or months we’re expected to get our “bodies back” and have everything in full swing again. No way can we ‘recalibrate’ that fast - this is a ridiculous amount of pressure. 

Truth is, when we add littles to our lives, there are A LOT of factors that come into play, and it’s not simple or easy. But at the same time, we are equipped. We are stronger and more powerful than we know. I’d even venture to say, you are magical... mama. 

You may not necessarily think of yourself that way, but to your littles, you are. You heal their boo boos with a single kiss. You hold them, and they know they’re home. And when you find yourself in mama bear mode, they know they will always be safe.

What I’d offer you this Mother’s Day, is ‘make sure you don’t forget to use all your amazing magicon YOU, too.’ If you ever forget - because we all get off track now and again - just remind yourself to bring it on back. Shine the spotlight on your own heart and soul when you need it, mama, because you deserve it, too.

Below are a few ideas to get you moving in the right direction (and I know you’ll come up with a few of your own, because who knows YOUR magic better than YOU?!).

Here are your Magical Mama Tips for May. Here’s to celebrating ourselves all month long!

#1 Practice being your own best friend. 
How would you talk to yourself, what good food would you treat yourself to, what small little nurturing things would you do for yourself on the daily? Befriend your own sweet little self and reap the benefits, baby.

#2 Try these 3 Magical Mama Mantras on for size, and see how they sit with your soul:
“I’m doing a great job.”
“I am enough.”
“All is well.”

#3 Last but not least, when the going gets tough, remind yourself that you don’t necessarily HAVE to get tougher.

Cut yourself some slack! You know, I happen to be uniquely qualified to give this advice (notice my last name), not to mention my status as a recovering perfectionist. Sometimes we need to soften, loosen our grip, do some healing, get some rest. Just trust yourself in that moment to know what you need. But most importantly, give yourself a break.

Because you ARE magical, mama, you are loved, and everything really is going to be ok.

Katie Slack is the founder of FULL LIFE DESIGN. FLD offers women entrepreneurs (who are usually mamas too!) business planning, personal growth and work/life design consulting services to transform and empower. 

The T-W-I-N-S Method for Thriving with Multiples + $100 OFF Package

Because twins are not easy, and YES, two is so much more than one

by Krystle Gard

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My twins are almost four, and I am constantly thinking that I should write something about having twins. But when I stop and think back on those early days, I can barely remember anything. I was so sleep deprived that I ended up with postpartum depression when my twins were eight months old. So, I don't have any flowery words about the wonders of twins. What I do have is practical advice, that I like to call the T-W-I-N-S Method, that will help you thrive during the first year, so you can enjoy all of the many sweet moments amidst the chaos.

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As hard it can be to admit we need help...admit you need help! We often feel we have to do it all ourselves - I certainly did. But we don’t have to. I wish a friend would have recommended a postpartum doula, or a family member who doesn't live close by would have bought me a gift certificate for some postpartum doula hours. It would have been life changing. Partners are wonderful and are priceless. And at some point you both need sleep and support. Imagine for a second… a wonderful, kind woman comes to your door. She sends you off for a nap, engages your older child (if you have one) in something fun while she washes, dries, and folds a load of laundry. She feeds the babies and preps some food for dinner. Then, with her help, you set a new record for getting everyone out of the house in under 36.8 minutes. Every twin mom, whether their twins are their first babies or not, deserves that kind of support.

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Looking back, this could have really changed how that first year went. I decided at some point I was going to follow the advice and “never wake a sleeping baby.” With my babies on opposite waking schedules, this meant I woke every two hours to feed one of the babies for 11 months, which really translates as For. Ever. This is where I lost all my sleep. Take it from me: Dream Feed* the twin that doesn’t wake up. It will save your sanity.

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You are going to hear the same things over and over: “Are they twins?” “Are they identical?” “Wow, you must have your hands full.” Or my favorite: “I don’t know how you do it.” If you get bothered every time you hear one of these comments, you will be stressed all.the.time. Accept that you will hear at least one of these each time you go out - and just let it go.

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To save time and give yourself more freedom, try to feed your twins at the same time. This may seem impossible, but practice makes perfect. There are a couple of great nursing pillow options** and several positions to accomplish this. Hiring a lactation consult is a fantastic way to get the help, support and knowledge you’ll need to feel comfortable nursing both at one time. A postpartum doula can help with bottle feeding, and she’ll come armed with a ton of pro tips and ideas to make it as easy and streamlined as possible. With some practice, you’ll be able to feed like a champ, even in public.

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Sleep deprivation is no joke. We don’t realize how bad it is when we are in it, and it can compromise relationships with our partners, older children, other family members and friends. Getting one or two nights a week of good sleep, or 4-5 consecutive hours of sleep in each 24-hour period, is absolutely necessary. Having a friend or family member come to help with feedings and baby care for an overnight once or twice a week in the early weeks can be a lifesaver. If you don’t have friends or family able or willing to help out some nights, look for outside support -  hiring a postpartum doula will give you the freedom to get a good night’s sleep while trusting your babies are in good hands. Plus a postpartum doula can also do some light housework and meal prep!

Twins are amazing and so adorable. My boys are now starting to call each other their “best friend,” which makes my heart melt into a happy puddle of mama-love. Twins are such a blessing - and when you have the support you need in those first few months, you can create some of the best memories of your life.

*Dream feeding refers to feeding your babies while they are sleeping, such that you can sleep more, too. You can dream feed just before you go to bed, or throughout the night if they wake up on different schedules. Read tips here and here to learn more.

**Krystle’s favorite nursing pillow for twins is the Twin Z Pillow. The My Brest Friend for Twins is also popular.

Krystle Gard is a postpartum doula with Bridgetown Baby in Portland, Oregon. When she isn’t writing or supporting other families during their 4th trimester, she is hopefully outdoors somewhere beautiful with her three young boys (including 3 year-old twins) and husband.

 

This Mother’s Day, Give Yourself the Gift of Support

For those families who need it the most, we are offering our Multiples Package at a $100 discount for the month of May - $1,190 (Regular rate $1,290)

The Multiples Package includes two 9-hour nighttime shift and three 4-hour daytime shift for two or more babies born within six months of each other.

Multiple babies are without a doubt, overwhelming and exhausting. They also give more smiles and snuggles as they grow. It may not always feel like it, but a family is very lucky to have multiple babies. A postpartum doula helps a family feel lucky. First and foremost, she helps the family sleep, which makes everything else better. 

A postpartum doula will do everything she normally does; support the mother’s recovery, provide healthy cooking, laundry and light housekeeping, plus teach valuable skills that will make it easier to feed, bathe and wear two babies. A postpartum doula can teach the parent/s, grandparents, and other caregivers. It’s a Party/It Takes a Village: The Multiples Package is an invaluable gift for every family expecting multiple babies, but especially those without extended family close by.