Holding on is believing that there’s only a past; letting go is knowing that there’s a future. ~ Daphne Rose KingmaRead More
Portland-area mom and life coach Maggie Helm offers her real-life wit and wisdom in contributions to Bridgetown Baby’s e-newsletter - and now she’s offering an incredible offer on coaching services to help you move your life in the directions you want to go.
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There are times in our lives when we need additional support to grow in the right direction. Times of crisis or forced change (job loss, divorce, death of a loved one). Times you are contemplating making change (career change, relationship evolution, big life stages like expanding family). Overwhelming, confusing transitions.
Maybe you are considering changing careers, or you are struggling to balance work and family? Maybe you feel stuck, but are having trouble articulating why. If the old ways of coping aren’t working & you want to examine your life in a new way, Coaching is the right support at the right time.
Utilizing the skills of a Coach is an opportunity to create and implement a new way of life. One that is free of fear. One that feels like coming home. One that embraces grace.
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The accumulated wisdom of Those Who Have Gone Before (i.e. the parents whose children can read and wipe their own bottoms) has a lot to offer to those of us with babies and toddlers as we face the holiday season. Who among us wouldn’t benefit from travel tips, or some tried and true techniques for gracefully fending off unwelcome advice? But the real value, in learning from these Elders of the Parenting Realm, is the reminder that as we grow our families, we have the opportunity to define or redefine what the holidays mean to us, and shift our ways of celebrating for a decrease in stress and an increase in authenticity and connection.
Here’s some advice to consider as we rapidly draw near to the end-of-year holidays:
Learn to say no. This may not be the year to do a tour de force of 14 (or 4, or even 2!) relatives’ homes. And you may feel exhausted simply thinking about the countless invitations to holiday events and gatherings you might once eagerly have attended. Give yourself permission to not overcommit. Gently remind yourself - and others, if they need some education - that having a new baby changes the balance in a family (and this balance continues to shift as infants become toddlers become preschoolers). The holidays *are* a time for family - but sometimes the needs of your young family have to come first. There will be other years for all the rest.
Travel wise. If you’ll be traveling, here are a few things veteran parents recommend:
Use a baby carrier to make it easier to cart kiddo through various airports and on and off airplanes, to provide closeness and comfort to baby, to encourage sleep, and to keep strangers’ hands away from baby
Keep multiple changes of clothes close at hand - for baby and parents!
For a young baby, bring a few favorite toys to rotate throughout the trip; for an older child, pack a few small, new travel toys or activities, to bring out at intervals throughout the trip
You can never have too many snacks
Consider timing car travel to your child’s nap schedule
Don’t panic - *most* people are incredibly kind to parents traveling with kids
Prepare for the onslaught of advice. There are some topics that are just bound to come up: “You’re breastfeeding?!? You’re NOT breastfeeding?!? You’re STILL breastfeeding?!? Certainly you’ve read what they say about co-sleeping! Your baby STILL doesn’t sleep through the night? You haven’t started solids YET? A little screen time won’t hurt. All babies love X, Y or Z.” And the list goes on.
If there are things you know may be points of contention with family members, give yourself a pep talk before you go, reminding yourself of the reasons for your decisions. Then, have your answers at the ready. A few ideas: “Our pediatrician recommends…,” or “our postpartum doula really helped us understand how babies’ sleep needs evolve,” or simply (since, really, you don’t owe anyone an explanation), “we’re doing X, and that’s what works best for our family.”
Set boundaries. Only you know your baby, with their particular quirks, needs, or health issues. And only you know what works for you, your partner or your family system. You’re the final authority, no matter how many babies Aunt Jane raised! Here are a few thoughts from parents with experience:
Using a baby carrier can keep unwanted touches to a minimum and germs at bay. And whether you have a newborn or a toddler, frequent hand washing in flu season just makes sense - don’t be afraid to ask that family members wash their hands!
The decision around when your baby has their first solid food is yours alone to make - no matter how much a distant family member would like to witness it. See above re: “preparing for the onslaught” and stay strong in your convictions!
Consider how you’ll support your toddler or older child when hugs or kisses are requested (or demanded) - meeting and greeting a slew of unfamiliar relatives can be stressful for young children. A high five or a wave, or whatever feels good to your little one, is a fine substitute.
Keep gift giving simple. If your celebrations include gift exchanges, you hereby have permission to K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Sweetie.) Shorten your list, give a virtual gift or a gift of time together. Gift certificates are easy and appreciated, and many of us would rather a gift be made to charity in our honor than take home another tchotchke. If you must shop, shopping online is a lot easier while managing the realities of life with a new baby or young child.
Take time to take care of yourself. Feelings, friendships and family relationships can fray under the stress of the holiday season and its myriad expectations. Optimize sleep for you, your partner and your littles; take time out for yourself, while your partner or a trusted friend or family member holds your baby or entertains your toddler. Balance indulgences with good nutrition, and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate (you’ll feel better, and, if you’re breastfeeding, this will help with your supply). Connecting with others is so much easier when you can be connected to, and responsive to, your own needs.
Make room for new traditions. As our families grow and change, some holiday traditions take on increased meaning, while some may begin to feel out of reach, or out of keeping, in your new reality. It’s okay to let new-baby fatigue set the pace for celebrations this year, or put off elements of celebration that a toddler just can’t make it through without undue havoc. And it can be fun to get creative with new takes on old practices, or inventing a way of celebrating that expresses the values and budding traditions of your new family.
Over all, the big take-home message is take the pressure off. As they say, “you can’t be all things to all people, all the time.” Similarly, this holiday season doesn’t have to be the be-all, end-all of holiday seasons. There may be room in the future for Pinterest-perfect decor, all-scratch meals, and handmade gifts that put Martha Stewart to shame. But maybe in taking this year to draw inward, we can give ourselves the opportunity to consider how a new baby or a new balance can shift us toward more connection - to self, to others, and to the true gifts we can find within our growing families - in the holiday season and beyond.
Do you remember that commercial for the US Army (think back to the 80s or 90s) that said, “In the Army, we do more before 9 AM than most people do all day?”
Well, I’ve amended it for the modern mom.
“Moms do more by 9 AM than most people do all day.” True. Fact.
I sometimes think what the feminist movement afforded us was the opportunity to do it all, vs what we hoped for: the choice to do what we want. Spoiler alert: I don’t want to do it all! And I especially don’t want to do the dishes or the mopping.
Let’s do some more amending. New Year’s is right around the corner, and there will be tons of pressure to “be all you can be” in 2019 from best mom to best wife to best team player at the office to fittest gal in the yoga class. I call bullshit on this notion.
You are already an amazing mom and already go above and beyond for your spouse, your friends and your colleagues. And you look awesome, BTW. Your body is a miracle. Especially if you’ve birthed a baby. It’s a fucking miracle, that body of yours. And it’s lovely just as it is, right now, right this second.
The plain truth of the matter is: we women are doing too much for others already. Especially us moms. Whether it’s hard wired in there from generations of gender conditioning or societal expectations, women are set up to reach for unrealistic expectations - and because we’re so goddamned capable and resilient, we will ultimately flame out trying. I know I get burned out from the constant pressure to be perfect. While I’ve given up any hope of being a Pinterest mom, I still make vain attempts to clean my house when guests come over. All because of a made-up expectation of what a messy house might say about me as a mom and woman.
My new year’s recommendation is for all moms to do less for others, and more FOR THEMSELVES.
So to that end, I want to invite you to set a different kind of intention for 2019:
Do ONE THING everyday that feeds YOUR soul.
Yep, I’m talking about self-care. It’s a term that is getting thrown around a lot, about everything from binging Netflix shows to sitting down with a glass of wine. Those are nice, for sure. I’m into both. But I want to encourage more for you, because you deserve it. Self-care is about being clear on boundaries and prioritizing your self-worth - and your serenity.
Here are some examples to inspire you:
· Say no to invitations
· Allow yourself indulgences (hello, Netflix and a glass of wine!)
· Outsource tasks that drain you
· Forgive yourself / allow imperfection
· Communicate your needs (vs avoiding potential conflict or fear of disappointing others)
· Embrace vulnerability
· Nurture genuine connections, like old friends
· Make space for meditation/spirituality
· Feed yourself delicious, flavorful food
· Exercise for mental and physical health
· Get acupuncture/massage
· Go for a soak at Everett House or Common Grounds
· Ask for support to get the alone time you need
· Volunteer for causes you are passionate about
· Join a rec league soccer team which plays 1 night a week (while partner watches kids!)
· Advocate for fair & equal distribution of household details
· Advocate for fair & equal distribution of parenting details
It’s super easy to allow our wants and needs to go by the wayside, once kids come into the picture. And it’s complicated because as moms, we WANT to meet all of our kids’ needs. I think it’s a biological imperative, as old as the human species. But things have changed, and as women take on more and more in all realms of modern life, it’s time that we get real clear on our needs, responsibilities and expectations.
Since the resolution is to do one thing every day for yourself – only ONE THING – I believe we can all rise to the challenge.
Let’s do more of what we love and enjoy, to ensure that we thrive! Because when mom thrives, the whole family thrives.
Maggie Helm is a Portland mom, life coach and contributor to Bridgetown Baby’s newsletter. In addition to the gritty wisdom she offers here, Maggie is offering an amazing discount offer on a coaching package to get you started off strong in your new year.
by Michael Gill
The holidays are coming up. I’m sure it doesn’t feel real now, especially if you have a newborn or infant, but they’re on their way. This article will give you a few easy tips to help you make healthier choices through the season, while still feeling like you’re celebrating.
Holidays aside, celebration is something I like to explore with my clients. When nutrition plans are based on denial (as most are), it’s easy to feel like you’re missing out. At best, you feel like you’re trading something you want (health) for something else you want (celebration). At worst, you’ll hate that you can’t have those foods that you want. Either way, sustaining that lifestyle probably won’t happen.
Let’s look for some easier solutions. Here are the tips:
1) Let yourself celebrate the holidays in whatever way most feels like celebration to you. If that includes unhealthy foods, so be it. Celebration is an important part of health.
2) When you’re going to holiday parties, eat a meal beforehand. The food that’s there will be mostly regrettable. Try whatever you want to try, or whatever you need to make the host feel appreciated, but don’t arrive hungry.
3) If you’re making treats, use 2/3 or 3/4 of the sugar called for in the recipe. You probably won’t even know the difference. If you want to take it a step further, for every cup of white sugar called for, use 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup xylitol. If it’s brown sugar, use 1/2 cup coconut sugar or maple syrup and 1/4 cup xylitol. Again, you probably won’t even notice the difference.
4) If you can, bring the kids into the kitchen when cooking. They’re learning about what it means to celebrate, just like you did when you were a kid. Making the celebration about cooking, instead of cookies, will help them make healthier decisions as adults.
If you want to go deeper on this, consider your ideas of what it means to celebrate. Look at how you choose to celebrate holidays and birthdays. Look at how you celebrate life’s little victories, for you and your kids. Ask yourself, “Where did I learn that this is how to celebrate?” and “Is this something I want to continue doing?” Ask yourself, “What other things do I love doing? What makes my soul sing?” Consider adding some of these to your holiday celebration.
There are no wrong answers. You may find that asking these questions makes no difference. You may find that it helps you celebrate in a way that is more enjoyable, better for your kids, and kinder to your body.
If you’d like to take things a step further, Michael is offering Bridgetown Baby readers a holiday special - between now and December 15, receive a free breakthrough phone consult and 40% off a coaching plan to create a healthier approach to the holiday season. Click here for more information.
Michael Gill is a Portland-area practitioner offering coaching around food and stress relief. He meshes nearly 20 years of studies and practical work in Health Sciences, Holistic Nutrition, massage therapy, herbalism, meditation and energetics with deep understanding of the realities of modern life, to help clients adopt healthy lifestyles that fit into busy lives.
October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. We stand with the families, in our Bridgetown Baby community and around the world, who have lost a child - and we want you to know that you are not alone. If you are seeking support as you navigate this particular grief, we invite you to start with this short list of resources and narratives:
Still Birthday: Support for grieving at any stage of pregnancy or infant loss, including long term support services and resources, access to bereavement doulas, and personal narratives:
Postpartum Support International: Resources for loss and grief that provide non-judgmental support,information, and connection with others.
Compassionate Friends: Highly personal comfort, hope, and support to every family experiencing the death of a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, or a grandchild, and helps others better assist the grieving family.
Perinatal Hospice: Offers general information and support for families, caregivers, and providers related to perinatal hospice. Provides information and links to order books related to perinatal hospice and bereavement.
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep: Offers the gift of healing, hope and honor to parents experiencing the death of a baby through the overwhelming power of remembrance portraits.
Faces of Loss: An online gathering place for families to come together and share their stories and their faces with others who may be looking for reassurance that they are not alone.
Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support: A community for anyone who experiences the tragic death of a baby, serving parents, grandparents, siblings, and others in the family unit, as well as the professionals who care for grieving families. Share is a national organization with over 75 chapters in 29 states
Still Standing Magazine: Gives a voice to grief, connects hearts around the world who have similar life experiences and provides a resource for friends, family and medical professionals, to know how to support someone enduring child loss and/or infertility.
Mending Invisible Wings: A workbook for healing families.
Perinatal Loss Resources for Families: Various resources, including websites for specific perinatal diagnoses.
Trigger warning: infant loss.
I know you are 5 because June is 8. She’s our record keeper. You’re always in her roll call. She always counts you — even when, especially when we forget.
I know you are 5 because Onion is 1. He showed up on our front steps right before your birthday last year. A little kitten with fleas and worms and testicles. We hemmed and we hawed. And then I came downstairs on the morning of November 10th and out of all the pictures on the mantel, yours was the one he had knocked to the floor in the middle of the night. Glass shattered and your face staring up at the ceiling. And I said “okay, okay Paul. We get it. We’ll keep him.”
I know you are 5 because Diana finally asked last week. I was tucking her into bed and it was cold. And I said “here, let’s use Paul’s blanket too.”
“Mama, who’s Paul?”
“Paul is a baby we had before you. But he died.”
“He died with his blanket?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know.”
I know you are 5 because someone mentioned you to Papa at work yesterday. Everyday he goes to that hospital on the hill. That salty, sacred ground of your birth and death. “I can’t believe I cried at work” he said. “I can” I said.
I know you are 5 because I woke up and my lower back hurts. Maybe my body remembers — you, head down in my pelvis. Getting ready to push out all 6 pounds, 2 ounces of you. It seems so silly now, but you know what I was thinking about when I was pushing? I was so thirsty and I was staring at a water bottle on the table at the foot of the bed. “Kate, you get to drink all that water when you’re done. Just get him out of your body and you can have the water.” In the end it wasn’t enough.
I know you are 5; but in some other universe, not quite yet. Because you and I both know you were due in December. So in that place you’re running around, excited for your birthday. The boy in the middle — one sister above, one sister below. What do you love? What do you hate? What would we be doing in this alternate universe?
The trick of you is that most of the time you let us forget. And no matter how many times I tell myself in the days leading up to your birthday that I’m fine! That life goes on! That you’re still with us! It could be so much worse! The fact of your birthday is in my body. The fact of your life, your soul, your death. You were here. So we mope around and bake a cake.
Just now the doorbell rang. A big man with a booming voice said, “Hi! Is Paul here?” I said, “ha, yes he is.” He was holding flowers. He said “well, these are for Paul.”
You are always here and you are always gone. It’s a riddle.
But I pulled a fast one on that guy. He walked away thinking you’re alive! “Thank you” I said. “I’ll give them to him.”
Kate is a Bridgetown Baby Mama of three, June, Paul and Diana and a powerful writer. This piece originally was published on Medium Nov. 11, 2017, Paul’s 5th birthday.
The postpartum doula world was a buzz when previews were released for Diablo Cody’s newest film, Tully. Having loved Juno, also written by Cody, for its realistic slice-of-life depiction of a supported teen pregnancy, we had high expectations that Tully would show how postpartum doulas aide the transition into parenthood.
The movie opens with actress Charlize Theron, playing a very pregnant Marlo, lumbering down the hall to wake her son. You can feel the exhaustion of the third trimester as Marlo sets into motion the cascading responsibilities of the day. Quickly you are introduced to the struggles that she has been through, from caring for a ‘quirky’ son to struggling with a previous perinatal mood disorder. In an attempt to stave off a resurgence of Marlo’s ‘hard time,’ her brother Craig, played by Mark Duplass, offers to pay for a night nanny. Taken aback with mild offense and slight trepidation, Marlo reluctantly takes down a number to call “in case [she changes] her mind”.
After the baby is born, the movie goes on to portray the early postpartum period in a way that may feel all too real to recent parents: a repetitive whirring of never-ending, circular tasks done on little sleep, minimal energy, and dwindling patience. Director Jason Reitman catches shots that make us as parents laugh, gasp, and nod empathetically. After weeks of feeling alone, empty, and exhausted, Marlo decides to take Craig up on his offer. Enter Tully, a twenty-something night nanny played by actress Mackenzie Davis. Early on in their working relationship, Tully reiterates to Marlo that she is ‘[there] to take care of [Marlo]’. Feeling both apprehensive and relieved, Marlo welcomes Tully into her home, accepting the kind of helpful support that a postpartum doula might typically provide - support with breastfeeding, emotional processing, baby care, and household tasks.
Marlo’s journey with Tully takes some unconventional turns as Tully steps out of the role of a postpartum doula (imagine a wine-fueled hot tub conversation and sexual fantasy, adolescent makeup parties, and a night of bar-hopping together in the big city). Much to our dismay, the film’s end reveals Tully to be a delusion-- a symptom of postpartum psychosis. A psychosis that went unnoticed by Marlo’s husband and family.
Yikes! And let's pause for a reality check. While this movie demonstrates a real issue that affects a very small portion of the population (statistics tell us that .001% of childbearing women will develop postpartum psychosis), there is a larger - and quite serious - story to tell. Postpartum psychosis, though rare, is an extremely concerning ailment that requires immediate medical support: among the women who develop postpartum psychosis, approximately 5% will commit suicide; there is a 4% infanticide rate associated with the illness. And while postpartum psychosis is uncommon, other perinatal mood disorders are more prevalent:
80% of postpartum parents experience the baby blues-- feelings of sadness, stress, and/or difficulty bonding with baby;
14% of women suffer from postpartum depression;
4-10% of new mothers experience postpartum anxiety/panic disorder; and
3-5% of childbearing women are affected by postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder.
Any of these perinatal mood disorders (which can affect partners, as well, though at different rates of prevalence) can make the postpartum period more challenging - and less magical - than families often expect it to be. A perinatal mood disorder can interrupt bonding between parent and child, which can have impacts over the longer term. The statistics - and the story of "Tully" - demonstrate the importance of awareness surrounding perinatal mood disorders, their symptoms, and where families can go for help.
Perhaps the most important message of "Tully" is that every family deserves support in the postpartum period, a period that encompasses all pregnancy outcomes including miscarriage, abortion, and fetal/infant loss. If you are struggling with your perinatal experience, or even if you are simply preparing yourself and your family for a new addition, you don’t have to go it alone - I encourage you to explore (and use) the resource list that follows.
Camilla Rae is a Bridgetown Baby Postpartum Doula and INNATE Postpartum Care- Certified Provider. With loving compassion, Camilla enjoys caring for the expanding family, sharing baby rearing wisdom, and holding space for the transition into parenthood. When she isn’t caring for her clients, she can be found snuggling her 4 month-old, Maverick, volunteering at the Moreland Farmers Market, traveling the world, and homesteading.
*Statistics are provided by the CDC and Baby Blues Connection.
Multnomah County Crisis Line: 503.988.4888
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.8255
National Hopeline Network, Suicide & Crisis Hotline: 1.800.442.4673.
Community Information and Referral Services: 211
Portland Area Mental Health Crisis Line: 800.716.9769
Perinatal Mood Disorder Support
ABC Doula :: 503.752.1691 :: abcdoula.com
Birthingway College of Midwifery :: 503.760.3131 :: birthingway.edu
Birthing Stone :: 503.718.7574 :: birthingstone.com
Bridgetown Baby :: 503.970.9554 :: bridgetownbaby.com
Doula Love :: 503.766.3495 :: portlanddoulalove.com
Doula Match :: A website to help you find birth and/or postpartum doulas in your area. :: doulamatch.net
Doula My Soul. :: 360.545.3356 :: doulamysoul.com
It’s a Belly :: 503.493.7390 :: itsabelly.com
Kindred Mother Care :: Sejal Fichadia :: kindredmothercare.com
Baby Blues Connection :: Baby Blues Connection is a parent-to-parent support service based in Portland. :: 800.557.8375
Brief Encounters :: A safe place for parents whose babies have died before, during, or after birth. Brief Encounters provides nonsectarian group meetings for bereaved families. :: 503. 699.8006 :: http://briefencounters.org
Postpartum Support International :: Postpartum Support International is dedicated to helping women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum depression, the most common complication of childbirth. :: 1.800.944.4773 :: http://www.postpartum.net
The Postpartum Stress Center :: The Postpartum Stress Center, LLC, is a premier treatment and professional training center for prenatal and postpartum depression and anxiety.
WellPDX :: WellPDX is a collective of Portland metro area acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists and naturopathic doctors.
Camilla Rae is a Postpartum Doula and INNATE Postpartum Care-Certified Provider at Bridgetown Baby. This article first ran in NW Kids Magazine July 2018. http://www.nwkidsmagazine.com/2018/06/july-2018/
At Bridgetown Baby, we are honored to work with a vast spectrum of family cultures and geometries. With Papas and Partners Day (aka “Father’s Day”) around the corner, and in light of the binary ways in which our broader culture recognizes parents, we see clearly the need to improve our online resources to better represent the diversity of the clients we serve and the diversity of family/parenting experiences across the continuum.
The stories featured in the Partners and Papas Day issue of the Bridgetown Baby e-newsletter were donated lovingly by our clients and friends, and we are so grateful for these gifts. We hope that, while they come largely from a cis-male perspective, they will be relatable to a wider community of partners and parents.
We also hope that you, our readers, will help us to continue to diversify! Are there resources (books, online, local) that you’ve found helpful in climbing the parenting learning curve as a LGBTQIA family?
We invite you to read - and add to - the resources shared by members of the Bridgetown Baby community on our Facebook page.
Becoming a parent is easily one of the biggest changes that we experience in our lives. Traditionally, during pregnancy and postpartum the focus has been on women: mom is the one carrying the baby, preparing for labor and delivering, and then perhaps doing the heavy lifting of breastfeeding; more often, it’s moms who choose to stay home with their baby; it's moms we watch for signs of the baby blues. “How’s mom doing?” is a common question during pregnancy or after the birth; if we ask how dad is doing, it’s often brief and cursory. Dads—you might wonder “where am I in this equation?”
As a marriage and family therapist with a focus on new fathers and couples with small children, I hear these things from both women and men. I have always felt that new parents needed extra support, but it wasn't until I became a dad that I realized how few supports are offered to dads. In being a therapist, a dad, and facilitator of the Portland New Fathers Group, I've been privileged to see the tremendous variety in dads' experiences.
Whatever that experience is, what dads go through is just as real and valid as what moms do—and “how dad is doing” is incredibly important to a healthy child and family. So, dads, let’s start by acknowledging that some of the factors that affect moms after the birth of a new baby may affect us, too: sleep deprivation; a radical change in focus from our self and our relationship with our partner to a focus on our baby; social isolation; lack of family support; financial stresses; lack of spontaneity; disconnection from our partner; decrease in sex and intimacy; and lack of free time. And this list doesn’t even incorporate the added impacts when there are complications.
If a family has multiples, or experiences a premature birth, traumatic birth, complications after birth for the mother or baby, a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), etc., both moms and dads are affected in ways that we often don’t realize. A dad who witnesses a traumatic birth can be affected by Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) even if his partner doesn’t develop it herself. A baby who is in the NICU may only be able to have one visitor at a time, and that's often mom. A mom having severe difficulty breastfeeding may be struggling in herself, and dads may feel helpless in the face of this—we can’t fix it, and we can't even give our partner a break by taking a turn with breastfeeding. As dads in these situations, our feelings of powerlessness can be overwhelming.
Even in situations where trauma or complications aren’t present, dads can also suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety, though at a lower rate (just over 10%, as compared to up to 20% for moms). Many people aren't aware of this, in part because it looks different—generally speaking, we, as men, aren’t brought up to easily talk about our feelings, or show sadness or other emotions that may be considered “signs of weakness,” in the face of new and challenging circumstances. Rather than opening up when experiencing depression and anxiety, men often withdraw from friends and family and become irritable. We may end up looking like we don't care or are uninterested, pushing people away rather than asking for or seeking the help we need.
So, now that we've acknowledged the cracks in our armor, you may be wondering, "what's the next step?" We all want to be competent, loving dads who support our partner and care for our children. We all want to raise healthy, happy, well adjusted kids, even if it doesn't look the same for all of us. Here are a few ways, over the years, that I’ve seen dads work toward being the best dads that they can be:
Show up. Being present and doing the best you can is more important than "doing it right." You don't have to be perfect.
Get some realistic expectations. This is the new normal. It won't be like this forever, but things aren't going back to "the way it used to be,” either. Take into account that you have a lot more obligations and responsibilities, and you just aren't going to be able to get as much done as you used to. Make sure your expectations—for yourself and for your partner—are reasonable.
Know that what you are going through is normal. It's common to be concerned about your ability as a father, whether it’s worrying about the impact of your own experiences as a child, or just feeling the pressure of taking on a new, big role.
Take the bull by the horns and figure out what kind of dad you want to be. We often don’t have good examples of what a loving, caring father of a baby should look like and end up doing the best we can by feel. Build your confidence by looking to sources both local and virtual for new role models—learn from parents you think are doing things right.
Seek out other dads. Social isolation is at the root of a lot of our problems. Meet some other dads in your neighborhood, go to a support group, or join a dads meetup (or a group/forum online, if getting together in groups isn't for you).
Try not to mourn the relationship you had before kids. Be aware that relationship satisfaction takes a real nosedive after the birth of a child for most people. It will come back over time. Figure out how to do things that fill you up as a couple in new ways. Don't get hung up on having to do the things that you used to do.
Don't freak out about the lack of sex and intimacy. It comes back, but it may take time. You and your partner will figure things out, but right now that isn't the focus. Be patient.
Know that you don't have to carry everything alone. It’s not just about you anymore. Ask for help so you can take care of yourself - for your sake and for the sake of your child, your partner, and your relationship.
Don't wait until you are in a crisis to look for support. If things are getting really rough for you, your partner or your relationship, find a therapist. A therapist is non-judgmental, is there to help you get to a more healthy place, and will keep everything you talk about confidential. Cost can be a concern, but depression, anxiety, and marital conflict take a tremendous toll on you, your partner, your baby, and your relationship. Divorce or other severe long-term problems end up costing more in the long run.
The most important thing to remember…this hard time won't last forever. Acknowledging it and doing something about it will make it far easier to manage and may even help you enjoy it more.
Click here for Sam's list of resources, including books and Portland-area support groups.
Sam Stevens is a marriage and family therapist in private practice in Portland, OR. He has a practice focusing on new fathers and couples with small children, and facilitates the Portland New Fathers Group, as well as volunteering for Baby Blues Connection. He speaks regularly on the topics of postpartum depression in men and the adjustment to fatherhood. You can find out more about Sam and contact him at his website, or see the schedule for upcoming dads’ groups at meetup.com.
Paternity leave in America means wildly different things depending on circumstance. However, whichever side of the spectrum you’re on, from four months paid to one week of pieced-together sick time and unpaid leave, there are some basic things to keep in mind.
On June 20th, I had my second son. Like with my first, I fit together three weeks of paternity leave. But this time around, something was different. As I’ve found things rarely do in life, it went according to plan. It was exactly what it was intended to be: a protected time to bond with our new little miracle. My first was different. Aside from the normal new parent anxieties (support the head! Is he eating enough?! Is that poop color normal!?!), we hurt ourselves with some rookie mistakes. Here’s how to do better than we did:
1. Say no. Paternity leave is all about you, your partner, and your new baby. It’s about discovering a new identity as a family. It is a deeply personal experience. You are recalibrating your entire existence in a way that happens very rarely in life.
Despite all of this, there is a very real force that will be pulling you outward. Family will want to visit, obligations will arise, and you will be tempted to do things for others rather than your family.
So plan. Have time limits. Be the bad guy. Work out with your partner how long a visit should be, and then thank your visitors for coming and show them the door. It’s so easy to have a quick pop-by turn into a full evening of hosting. You’re excited! You want to show off! I get it, but there will be more than enough time for that later. Until then, say no.
2. Say yes. There will be a special few (or many!) who will offer to help. Maybe this is bringing a meal or cleaning up your bathroom. Say yes. If you’re anything like me, the idea of a friend or family member scrubbing around your toilet is deeply uncomfortable. Get over it. Now’s the time to accept these favors. Say yes.
3. This isn’t your time. Paternity leave is about your family. It isn’t free time to come up with a new business idea or use some of that extra wood in the garage. Trust me, your partner doesn’t want another so-so homemade bench. What they want is for you to take the baby so they can sleep, take out the trash, or take on the stack of baby announcements that need to be addressed and stamped. So, do those things. This isn’t your time—it’s your family’s time.
4. Buy a Kindle. Or download HBO Go or Netflix onto your phone. There are going to be many hours where you are stuck in a chair with a little baby breathing contentedly on your chest. Intense awe tops out at 30 minutes. 45, tops, if you’re really in touch with your feelings. After that you’ll want something to watch or read, but be sure it only takes one hand. Trying to turn pages without disturbing a sleeping baby is next to impossible. So buy a Kindle.
5. Take photos. There’s a close to worn-out cliché that life with a baby is the longest shortest time. But clichés become clichés for a reason. Never will a day go by as slowly as when you are learning life with a newborn. Also never will a collection of days—say a paternity leave—go by more quickly than when you are learning life with a newborn. You’ll want something to look back on. So go ahead. Embrace the annoying dad role. Take photos.
6. Go out. Look, it’s hard having a newborn. Obviously. But that doesn’t mean it’s all poop and crying (well, it is a lot poop and crying). Newborns also sleep insanely well once they’re down. As they get older, you will develop a sanctified routine involving noise machines, pacifiers, and ballet-quality tiptoeing. Now, though, when they are this young, take advantage. So, if it feels right, go out. Depending on your situation, your partner has gone without a drink for close to a year. Hit up the pub, get a booth, and lay baby down on the bench seat. You both get some adult time, she gets a drink, and you get to blow the waiter’s mind.
7. Don’t expect much of your friends. Look, I hope I’m wrong on this one. I hope you have friends who totally get it and are there for you, every step of the way. But, especially if you are one of the first in your group to have a baby, I’m not wrong. To many of your friends, having a kid will seem more or less the same, commitment-wise, as getting a new puppy. A wiggly little prop that photographs well and can still be put away somewhere when it’s time to have fun. Look, they’re not bad people, they just don’t know any better. So, keep expectations low.
8. Write down your birth story. Try and do this within a few days of the birth. Be as detailed as you can. No, a Facebook post doesn’t count. Write it somewhere where you feel safe. In a journal, on your computer, anywhere private where you can express all of those embarrassing details, fears, irrational and not, and the unexpected jolts of joy that make it hard to think back on without crying. It’s crazy how much will get lost in the months and years to come, and this record, which might feel like homework in the moment, will become a priceless relic. Also, when you read what your partner wrote, it will unveil so many more layers to the experience and make it that much richer.
BONUS TIP: Have lots of sex—not really. She just gave birth, man, lay off. Instead of thinking about your physical needs, ask how you can help her, tell her she’s doing a good job, and rub her feet.
Timothy S. Lane lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two sons. His first novel, Rules for Becoming A Legend was published last year by Penguin Random House and can be bought wherever books are sold. This post first appeared at lovechildmag.com.
Mothering is a collection of stories. In honor of Mother’s Day, we celebrate our collective journey— and acknowledge that within that collective journey, our individual experiences of mothering can differ widely. Some stories of mothering are threaded through with sadness, making Mother’s Day a complex sort of celebration. Bridgetown Baby client Saranna’s full story will be featured later this year in our Client Stories, but, in this snippet, she shares a moment of healing in the aftermath of loss, part of the arc of her growing family’s story.
After we lost our son Spencer at 20 weeks gestation, I felt I was stuck for a long time at a certain point in my grief—grief support groups didn’t feel welcoming; the things people said, however well-meaning, made me feel more alone, as if there weren’t room for the grief I was experiencing. And when our daughter Neha was born a year and half later, the way people spoke of her (“now you have your baby,” as if that could fill the hole left by Spencer’s death) made me feel fiercely protective of her; I didn’t want her to bear the burden of feeling like a replacement for the older brother none of us ever got to know. So I took that burden on, too—and felt even more alone.
But perspective and healing came in an unexpected moment in the kitchen one afternoon. Neha ran up to me, bursting with news.
“Guess what, Mommy? Mocha (our dog who had passed about three months earlier) and big brother Spencer are driving around in a big red car in heaven together.”
“Oh, wow, Neha—that’s neat. Can you tell me more?”
“No, it was just in my dream.”
“Oh, I see. Do you miss them?”
I asked her if she had more she wanted to share with me; she said no, and went running out of the kitchen as fast as she’d come in.
And I thought, ‘wow, just…wow. Here I am just cutting vegetables for dinner and, in a conversation that must have seemed so simple to her, she allowed me to experience my grief in a different way.’
In that moment, I suddenly felt that I didn’t have to hold all of the weight and responsibility of remembering this person, and honoring this person, and missing this person…Neha has integrated it seamlessly and lovingly into her story; the weight can be shared. It was as if my heart said, “I don’t have to bear this burden alone. And everyone’s going to be okay.”
~as told to Bridgetown Baby doula Brita Johnson
Self-care as yet another responsibility
Self-care has become a popular concept lately, and for good reason. Stress, exhaustion and burnout can take a huge toll on your well-being, and self-care can help mitigate those factors. However, for parents of young children who are already feeling depleted by the demands of caring for others, engaging in self-care can sometimes seem like adding yet another person whose needs must be managed. That can feel burdensome, rather than restorative.
Instead of suggesting you work on your self-care by yourself, I offer the idea of self-advocacy. For the purpose of self-care, the process of self-advocacy can be defined as figuring out what would be particularly meaningful or restorative for you—no-one else—and asking someone else to help you.
Why not just do it yourself? There are many reasons to elicit support, but I think the strongest reason is that feeling cared for and supported has a tremendous impact on our overall resilience and well-being. My daughter was in and out of the hospital for the first couple months of her life, and we provided hospital-level care at home 24 hours a day after those couple of months. Of course, this was an incredibly stressful, demanding and scary time in my life as a parent. However, when I look back on that time, most of my emotions are very positive. I attribute my positive memories of that time to the fact that I was very well supported. Not just the typical supports of meal trains and running errands, but support in ways that were particularly supportive to me.
For example, my mother took over all the household’s laundry. She wasn’t just gifting me her time, she gifted me freedom from the full responsibility of laundry. I didn’t have to think about it at all. My daughter had severe GERD so there was A LOT of laundry to do and having clean clothes available was very important. Also, my daughter’s doctors had me on a specific diet, so another important support came from a friend that took it upon herself to organize other friends to bring us two meals a day at the hospital that adhered to those dietary restrictions. This freed me from the responsibility of having to figure out how to follow a new diet. These supports did not change the fact that my involvement in my daughter’s care still had to be nearly constant, but they kept me afloat at a time when I could have easily collapsed.
Support languages + styles of support
Identify the style of support that makes you feel most supported/cared for/not alone
Everyone can benefit from support, but it can be hard to ask for; after all, often the people to ask are also busy and overwhelmed. Furthermore, what they offer may not be a great match for what we need. Therefore it is helpful to identify the type of support that will have the maximum impact for you.
Types of Support:
- Taking full responsibility—so it’s totally off your plate. With this style, a task such as laundry or washing bottles is one less thing to worry about or manage.
- Introducing fun/levity—it’s amazing what a well-timed joke or being forced to go have some fun can do.
- Making decisions—someone thoughtfully helping with decision-making is an under-appreciated contribution.
- Time with kids/having fun with kids—some parents find they don’t spend enough quality time with their kids. They may feel supported by their partner or another adult making dinner or taking on another task to allow for time to just enjoy their children.
- Time for health—time for sleeping, cooking a healthy meal, exercise, visiting the doctor, therapy, etc.
- Recognition—being noticed for what you contribute, how you are feeling, etc.
- Active listening—validation even if your supporter can’t personally do something about the issue.
- Time away—or time alone at home.
- Being treated—massages, you name it. Emily, my postpartum doula, would always make me a healthy, delicious smoothie to help with my milk production whenever she visited and, even better, she taught my husband and mother how to make them as well. What a treat. This five-minute gesture that they would do for me consistently made me feel noticed and nurtured, so I could better focus on nurturing my daughter.
How to identify what you should advocate for
Self-advocacy starts with self-awareness
For some people, it's quite easy to identify what would feel restorative. For others, the following suggestions can help you figure that out. It can be helpful to keep a note in your phone where you add things as you notice them:
- Notice every time someone does something for you and it feels particularly good, you feel yourself relax a little, or you feel energized.
- Ask yourself:
- What do you feel annoyed by/complain about most often? Complaints can actually be really informative about what’s important to you and your well-being.
- E.g. “All I do is work” (concerns about needing fun/levity,) "I’m a mess” (concerns about health,) "Nothing would get done without me” (concerns about having final responsibility.)
- When do you feel relaxed?
- What are you doing when you procrastinate? This helps identify what you would prefer to be doing.
- What things do you procrastinate on? This identifies things you might find particularly challenging or overwhelming.
- What do you feel annoyed by/complain about most often? Complaints can actually be really informative about what’s important to you and your well-being.
If you are feeling challenged by the idea of self-advocacy, and I imagine many of you are, there is help available. I credit Emily at Bridgetown Baby with helping to ground me in my needs during the vulnerable period of new motherhood. She gracefully modeled how I can engage my loved ones in the sort of support I needed as I tried to learn how to be a good mom, and stay connected to myself, in those early months. Therapy can also help in working through any barriers you might have to speaking up for your needs and for learning the skills necessary to communicate and negotiate for those needs effectively.
As luck would have it, the weekend that I'm writing this article about self-care, my daughter came down with a bad case of croup and I have a cold. I’m exhausted, but I’m getting through because I am identifying my needs and asking for support. You can do it, too.
Matia Kelly is a mother of one and a psychotherapist in Portland, OR. She offers individual therapy and couples counseling specializing in relationships, infertility and the intersection of life transitions and identity, such as becoming a parent. Check out her practice here.
Bridgetown Baby doula Camilla Muldrow welcomed her son into the world on February 15th, and shares her reflection, full of wonder, on the day she became a mother.
I never knew the way my heart could beat outside of my chest. As I hold you close, just moments after our oneness became two, I know I have never loved as deeply, as fiercely, or as devotedly as I do in this moment. I am in awe. In awe of you.
You. Tiny hands. Tender skin. Knobby knees. Inquisitive gaze.
I sigh in relief. My son. My sun. The warmth of your new breath between my breasts. My anxious anticipation subsides as we settle into soft exhaustion.
Mother-Baby. A new iteration of our dynamic dyad.
You. Me. Us.
For years, I held other babies and dreamt of you. Nothing could ever have prepared me for this.
You. Here. Now.
Your beautiful chest rising and falling as you sleep. You. My son. My beautifully wide eyed son. You are my wildest dream alive. Resting after your long journey Earthside.
You, my sweet child, have made me a mother. And now I watch my heart beating. Outside of me. Inside of you.
By Katie Rose Alexander
My husband had a vasectomy.
“Congratulations!” my friends said.
“Good man! Halleluiah!”
They did not understand that although I was grateful, for me the severance of his vans deference was tinged with sadness and regret. It is not that I want more children. My logical brain knows that three is enough, more than enough sometimes. But some place inside me wants to be pregnant again, watch my body swell with life, feel those secret flutters inside. Part of me wants to meet another baby for the first time, have another chance to breastfeed, feel the baby’s weight melt against me. Then I think about the lack of sleep, how another baby would take me away from my existing children, how my body has yet to recover from carrying twins. And I know. Time to call it good. I am almost 43. We are at capacity for what we can handle. So, yes, my husband’s vasectomy was a gift, but probably not a necessary one.
Before our first son was born, we tried for five years to make a baby. Those years were filled with special diets, acupuncture, meticulous monitoring of my cycles, fertility treatments, miscarriages, confusion, loss, doubt, regret, self-loathing. And then, a baby! Four years after that, I gave birth to twins conceived through IVF with chromosomal screening. Not too likely that we would have an “oops” baby in our forties.
And here’s the thing, as much as I wanted all of my babies, that early postpartum time was not so good for me. I never had enough milk, despite pumping and herbs, massage and heat, special foods, drugs to increase lactation. Instead of focusing on my miracles, I was focused on their weight gain, how many ounces I could pump, soliciting donor milk, and using as little formula as possible. Both times, I suffered crushing sadness. The truth is, part of why I want to have another baby is to try again to get it “right.”
My twins were supposed to be my second chance, but as soon as I saw those two heartbeats flickering on the ultrasound monitor, I knew my dream of successful breastfeeding was not to be actualized. I hoped that I could handle it all with grace and not be so sad the second time around. I completely underestimated the lunacy of newborn twins with an older sibling. I knew I would be overwhelmed, but I do not think there is a way to understand what it feels like to be devoured until it happens. From the outside everyone was impressed with me. Inside I was lost. I had no idea who I was. Maybe if it had been just one baby, it would have been ok. Maybe if I had another baby, it would be different.
Once my period returned, my husband asked me, “If you did get pregnant, would you be willing to terminate?”
I replied, “No. Absolutely not.”
“Ok. I am going to get a vasectomy.”
I said, “Really? It seems an extreme measure for something that is such a remote possibility.”
He said, “I don’t think you understand. Another baby would kill me.”
“I am serious,” he said. “I am done with babies.”
I continued to laugh.
“If you got pregnant, I would be urging you to have an abortion while driving you to the hospital to give birth!”
I laughed harder.
“I can’t believe you are laughing. I am telling you how I feel, and you are laughing at me.”
I guess I wasn’t the only one who felt devoured.
Our babies were hard on my husband. He didn’t do well with no sleep and little time to himself. It took some convincing to get him to try for another child, and even more to agree to IVF, but once he was in, he was all in. He was the one who decided we should go ahead and put in two embryos, and he wouldn’t trade in any of our children if he had the chance, I know. But, two babies at once was, perhaps, a bit much for him. To ask for another child would be unfair. Unreasonable. A little bit crazy.
I spent almost an entire decade trying to make babies. My mind became acutely attuned to my internal workings. I always knew when I ovulated. My period was always a disappointment. To my surprise, that did not change once I had three children. I found a box of pregnancy tests in the bathroom cupboard recently and thought, I should give these away, but instead, I put them back where they were. Just in case.
Pregnancy tests or not, that door is closed. It has been months since my husband’s vasectomy, and with each period that comes, the sense of failure lifts just a little, and gradually a sense of liberation replaces it. The gift my husband has given me is not freedom from more children or freedom from birth control, it is freedom from trying to make more babies. He has, by going under the knife, cut me free from the rollercoaster of hope and disappointment that is the quintessential experience of infertility. He has freed me from the internal ticking off of symptoms and days. He has freed our sex life from the pressure of the fertile window, and he has made an honest woman of me. If he had not had that vasectomy, I would probably still have secretly tried for another child for another ten years, and what would have happened if I had succeeded? Could our family even survive a fourth child?
As my twins grow from babies into toddlers, and my older son becomes a strong lanky boy, I am beginning to view my postpartum self with more compassion and respect. I am trying to forgive her all of her imperfections. I am trying to cultivate gratitude towards my body and all it endured to bring these children into the world. The reproductive period of my life is over. It is time to close the door on those dark hours spent rocking tiny babies and turn, open armed, into the fullness of the life I have created.
This was first published in Mutha Magazine Dec. 19, 2017 at: http://muthamagazine.com/2017/12/the-end-of-reproduction/
By Mary Mulliken
The holidays bring such a rush of excitement that the list of to-dos can quickly become overwhelming. Creating a "family motto" at this time of year is a simple way to keep what's most important to you in perspective as you navigate your calendar, your wish lists, and your daily life. Distilling your personal motto into one word makes it easy to remember and keep alive.
How do you come up with a family motto? (and how do you say it in one word?)
I suggest asking yourself the following 3 questions:
1. When it comes down to it, what's most important to me/us this season?
(For our family it was "keeping the holiday meaningful and non-commercial")
2. What's the best and most fun way to accomplish that?
(For our family it was "by doing crafts and making as many of our gifts as we can")
3. How do we say that in one word?
(Our family chose "make")
At our house, we hang a banner that says "make" in our living room and it guides us the whole month of December. Our friends chose "calm" to remind them to say no to most holiday obligations. You might come up with something entirely different and that's what makes each family special.
What motto inspires you this season?
Mary Mulliken creates fun and inspiring one-word banners to hang in your home. You can choose from a large selection of banners or have one custom made. Visit her shop at familymotto.etsy.com
Today is World Prematurity Day. According to the World Health Organization, 15 million babies are born preterm every year. Here in Portland, NICU Families Northwest is working hard to support families whose children are in the NICU, through peer support, resources, and love. We are proud to partner with NFNW to offer discounted postpartum support for NICU families, and today, we are honored to feature a story from a NICU Mama.
By Anna David– Founder, NICU Families Northwest
This is Miranda. She was born at 26 weeks and 4 days at Randall Children's Hospital in January of 2013. She was born early because of Preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome and weighed 1 lb. 2 ozs. at birth due to Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR).
We discovered Miranda wasn't growing on schedule at our 20 week ultrasound, but I wasn't exhibiting any of the typical symptoms for Preeclampsia. We tried to remain optimistic and confident that she would be born healthy and at full-term, but each week without answers made it challenging to not become more and more anxious. At just past 26 weeks I was admitted to the Labor & Delivery unit after a concerning non-stress test. In three days my condition worsened, while the cause remained a moving target, culminating in an emergency c-section on the final day.
There were many challenging things about being in the NICU, but I think one of the hardest was trying to manage other people's expectations and understanding of Miranda's hospitalization. Because she had a relatively uncomplicated stay, many friends and family focused on the fact that we were lucky she survived. They would say she was a miracle. I think they expected me to be overflowing with emotion— gratitude, and relief. What I think was hard for them to understand was that I didn't want to think about her ever having been close to death.
For a long time after she was born, I couldn't manifest a lot of emotions that were visible on the surface, especially not happiness. If I allowed myself to get too happy it would easily cross over into a great and deep sadness that was hard to control. I feel like my emotional wires were crossed for a long time after the NICU, and moments of gratefulness or relief would bleed into a profound sadness for what Miranda had to endure, and our fears and anxieties during her 80 day stay.
I started a support group for families at our hospital before we were discharged, and would walk the halls posting notices on each door, hoping to make connections with other parents. Connecting with peers normalized our experience and created a community of people that understood all the acronyms, accepted our fears and concerns, and validated our feelings. If it weren't for those first families who accepted me and helped support me, I might still struggle with crossed-wires, but time and community have helped me heal. The impact of being in the NICU is significant and often life-changing in many ways. NICU families are unlike any other families I know, and I would have chosen to be one— but I am truly proud to be one.
We've been home over four and half years, and I remain inspired by our NICU experience and the way Miranda overcame her challenges. In 2015 I founded NICU Families Northwest to expand the network of peer-to-peer support for local NICU parents. The strength and determination that our children are born with, and the courage and love their parents give them from day one motivates me to do all I can to help NICU families heal and thrive
Anna David is the Founder of NICU Families Northwest and the proud mama of two gorgeous kids.
By Michael Gill
Welcome to the world of fatherhood! Whether your young one is brand new, crawling or teetering around the house, you’re in for some treats. I never wanted kids, but now that I have a pair of boys (one 5 years old, one seven months old), I wouldn’t trade it for anything. There is the daily feeling that the part of my brain that recognizes “cute” is about to explode. There is the incomparable feeling that comes hearing the word “daddy” spoken with joy and trust, and knowing it’s directed toward you.
All of that said, there are some major challenges headed your way. Most likely they’re there already. Give a nostalgic wave goodbye to uninterrupted sleep. As the wee ones grow, it will start to creep back, but better that you treat quality sleep as a welcome surprise when it shows up than something to be expected. What to do about that? I’ll pass on a few tips to help you improve what sleep you can get and to help boost your energy when you’re awake. Before that, I want to talk about being tired and being in a relationship.
Take a moment to think about how your child acts when (s)he is sleepy. That’s usually when the angry crying comes out, right? Adults aren’t so different, we just have coffee. Oh, and we have words. Here’s the thing with that: we use our words to show our anger at whatever we think is making us angry. When you’re tired all of the time (and that will be the norm, at least for the first year), you’re going to get angry and frustrated. Our tendency, when angry, is to find an external source to blame our anger on. Who is there all of the time? Who is also tired, angry and imperfect? Who makes the perfect scapegoat? Our partner. This is something I see over and over; that first year or two of parenthood ruining relationships. Fortunately, avoiding that trap isn’t rocket science. Understand that everything that is so frustrating in that moment is temporary. Understand that your anger is coming from you, even if that other person is doing something frustrating. Understand that using your words to intentionally hurt your partner will not help you. It won’t make them perfect (and if it did, how do you think that plays out with your imperfections?), it won’t help your frustration, but it might just permanently damage your relationship. Hang a punching bag in the basement, or find a gym that has one; find another way to work out your frustration. Side benefit- this will help your sleep much more than starting a fight with your partner!
On to the tips!
1) Make your peace with going to bed early, at least for now. Take the last 30 minutes before bed and make them free of screens. No TV, no computers, iPads, iPhones, etc. I know this is heresy to western culture. I know the siren song of Netflix, especially when exhaustion knows no bounds. Still, sleep is more important right now; you can binge watch Game of Thrones another time. Why is this important? Our bodies release hormones in response to changing light conditions. In a natural setting, we become primed for sleep as light fades. When it’s dark, we’re ready to sleep. Now, nightfall comes with the flip of a switch. Along with that, those screens are making your mind more active (unless you’re watching a Bob Ross marathon). To summarize, you’re hitting the bed with an activated mind and a body that thinks it was midday a few minutes ago. You might be able to get away with the sleep problems this causes without kids. With a newborn in the mix, you won’t be able to get away with it.
2) Avoid eating within three hours of bedtime. This is less important for breastfeeding moms, but relevant for everybody else. Eating bumps up your blood sugar, giving you energy. This is good in the morning or midday, but not right before bed. Doing so will make sleep harder and weight gain easier.
3) Add a few supplements to the mix. Vitamin D affects energy levels, the immune system and nearly everything else. If you’re in Portland, you are guaranteed to be deficient if you’re not supplementing. The vitamin D council recommends 5000 IUs per day for a 150 lb body. Like vitamin D, magnesium deficiency in the US is around 70%. Magnesium helps with stress and proper sleep. Taking it before bed will help your body sleep well during those times when sleep is possible. For a full explanation and protocol, check out this video. Vitamin B is also helpful for both stress and sleep; a simple B-complex is a good way to go, though you can also find ones designed specifically for stress and energy. All three supplements are affordable and easily available. All are very safe, if used correctly.
4) Adopt a whole food diet. I know, time is already impossibly limited. Here’s the thing: the more nutrients in your diet, the less sleep you’ll need to refresh yourself. The more alcohol/caffeine/chemicals you’re putting in your system, the poorer your sleep will be. The healthier the milk going to the little one, the more nourished they are. The more nourished they are, the better they will sleep.
If you can follow all four of these tips, you might see a profound difference. Even if you only take one or two to heart, you probably will still see improvement. You’ll still be tired often, but that’s the price of parenthood. The trick is keeping it manageable enough to enjoy those random amazing moments.
Michael is a father of two who has been in the natural health field for more than 15 years. His specialty is helping working parents boost their energy and improve their sleep, using natural methods. He has a BS in Health Sciences from Portland State. He is national board certified in holistic nutrition and is a licensed massage therapist. Check out his practice here.
The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Bridgetown Baby does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions or other information that may be mentioned on this website. Reliance on any information appearing on this website is solely at your own risk.
By Alethea Lyons Dalton
Hello, Beautiful Mothers, Fathers, Creators, and Growers,
As I think on this upcoming day of gratitude and celebration for the amazing mothers and mothering figures in this world, I am struck by the galactic capacity of our being. We were created from the tiniest blueprint with the most far-reaching capabilities– capabilities that may not always feel accessible. It is my wish on this day of gifts and admiration that we also give to ourselves permission to be daring. To explore and accept the universe of possibility and capacity that lives within us.
There are many ways to offer and receive recognition. On my personal journey, the most powerful one has been offering myself recognition in front of family or friends. Every morning, after waking and cuddling, but before we venture to the kitchen, my children and I meet in front of our big mirror. Here, we practice self-recognition– short and sweet on a school day– and we often surprise ourselves with the power and joy of the experience.
Recognition and acknowledgement are a powerful practice of self-love, and it begins with I AM.
Muster the courage to say anything and everything that speaks to the truth of your galactic capacity.
I AM VIBRANT
I AM EXPANSIVE
I AM STRONG
I AM CAPABLE
I AM LOVING & I AM LOVED
I AM AMAZING
I AM BEAUTIFUL
I AM FIERCE
I AM CONNECTED
I AM PATIENT
I AM RADIANT
I AM A WHOLE PERSON
And work that metaphor muscle!
I AM A RAINBOW INSPIRING THE SKY
I AM A BRILLIANT STAR THAT LEADS COURAGEOUSLY
I AM AN ALCHEMIST OF CREATIVE DARING
I AM THE MACGYVER OF RESOURCEFUL ACTION
As a transformative life coach and wholistic organizer, Alethea empowers people to embrace their galactic capacity, to create earthquakes of change, to find the poetry of their souls, and to thrive in courageous being and doing. Find her work at High Fidelity Space.
By Jackie Hanselmann Sergi
As the Mother's Day holiday approaches, I find myself in a place of reflection and gratitude for the support of postpartum doulas. With our first child, I thought I was prepared for motherhood because I read all the books, blogs, and attended all the classes in addition to my former nanny experience and treasured Auntie status. I had a phenomenal team of midwives that helped me prepare emotionally and physically for the arrival of our little girl. I even had a beautiful water birth with no complications. However, please note that I did almost have her in our Subaru on the way and my husband earned a few more gray hairs from that drive full of screams. But, in all seriousness, I wasn't ready for what happened after she arrived. I remember loading her into the car and thinking, I can't believe they are letting us leave with this little life unsupervised. It was a mix of joy and fear wrapped into one moment. And I didn't realize that the recovery and post-partum experience would rock my world.
In the movies, the new mom seems fresh and recovered immediately after giving birth. I was barely able to walk, wearing a new mom diaper, and leaking. In the movies, the baby immediately latches onto the boob and is happy. I was battling my body's shock of milk coming in and a baby who had no idea what to do with my firehose oversupply coming at her. In the movies, the new mom has a support system to help her take care of the baby and support the new transition into motherhood. I was alone and grappling with the newness of motherhood and sadness of not having my own mother to take care of me or reassure me that it was all normal and going to get better. The movies sold me a false bill of goods. Not shocking for anyone reading this, but it was kind of shocking for me. Instead of a dreamy post-baby glow, I was living in the real world where I was a hot mess of hormones, wearing disposable underwear with a much coveted cold pack, and crying because my boobs were in so much pain and my poor daughter was not latching and losing weight. It was awesome and I had no idea how to ask for help.
In my Asian culture growing up, I was told that a new mother was taken care of in her first month postpartum with special soups and the support of family. Sadly, I didn't have a mom to come take care of me or a village of relatives to relieve us from our new reality of parenthood. Culture said one thing and reality gave me another. I was a kid that grew up and left home at an early age without a healthy connection to my childhood. My husband and I had a few friends in town to bring us meals but we didn't feel comfortable asking for much more than that. My saint of a husband took on the brunt of the work and did his best to support me, but he was as clueless about this new rollercoaster of recovery and life with a newborn as I was. It was hard and I was hard on myself for not doing it "right" and I didn't know how to ask for help. I promised myself that the next time it would be different.
When we found out we were expecting our second child, we prioritized postpartum recovery and seeking the support of our village as well as professionals. As a leadership coach that specializes in supporting working parents, I knew this was not only an opportunity to live what I coach in seeking out and accepting help, but also an opportunity for me to honor myself in allowing time to heal and recover. Many would assume that since we were not first time parents we didn't need the help of others, but in fact we needed it even more, as we had a spirited two year old at home and a baby due during the Christmas holidays. We sought out help from doulas to help us stay focused on recovery for me, ease the transition for our firstborn, to enable my husband to not feel like he had to do everything around the house, and for all of us to have the time to bond with the new little human in our world.
After my first conversation with Merriah and Bridgetown Baby, I knew that she and her team were the right fit for our family. She listened and helped craft a plan for to make my postpartum recovery very different from my first. It was going to be okay and someone was going to be there to help me recover and adjust after this new little life joined the world. We encouraged our friends and family to gift us with doula support instead of the traditional gifts. We didn't need another pack 'n' play or noisy light-up toy, so when folks asked what we needed, I would send them the link to our plumfund. From cooking us meals and making lactation cookies with our toddler, to baby-wearing while helping us with the ever present mounds of laundry, our doulas provided us with the support that we needed and appreciated. They helped me give over the control of trying to do it all "right" and just be in the moment of bonding and transitioning into a family of four. Instead of suffering in silence, I had the support of the amazing women at Bridgetown Baby, and for that I am forever grateful. Through their work, they helped me recover, bond, and grow to be a healthier and happier mom to my children.
Jackie is a proud new member to the two-kid club. When not helping her three year old daughter refrain from smothering her baby brother with love, she is joyfully supporting other working parents as a leadership and career exploration coach at Radical Spark Coaching.