by Jennie Bernstein
You know all of that time I have to get ready every day with 4 kids under 7? No? Well neither do I! Which is why putting on clothes that are breastfeeding-friendly and carrier-friendly should be a no-brainer. Sometimes before this mama brain has had coffee, trying to wrap my head around picking out a functional outfit that doesn’t look like “I gave up on today” can be somewhat of an olympic feat (at least to me!). So, I chose these looks to help us (ME) along with the process. Because no one mama should have to live through wardrobe crisis when there are little ones to keep alive! I’ve gotta say that it always makes me feel a little better about those nighttime marathon nursing sessions when I feel and look good during the day!
So. Sit back, grab that coffee you’ve probably warmed up 3 times already (no shame!) and see my latest inspiration for this week! xoxo-Kileah
Look #1: Nursing Chic
Maxi dresses are one of the best ways to look fabulous without a lot of effort and brain crisis. They’re comfortable, breezy, hit your curves in the best way and you can dress them up or down with jewelry or a jean vest! (Yes, jean vests are IN, ladies! and they look good with almost EVERYTHING.) I paired a Sakura Bloom sling, an Amy Michelle Zebra Diaper Bag, and a gorgeous chewbead necklace from Nursing Novi. Pops of color. A Wide-brimmed black hat means that non-showered hair suddenly becomes beach chic! I added in the super-comfy Rose Mousse Contour nursing bra by Cake Lingerie and BAM. Look made. Zero effort.
Look #2: Put It On and Go
Jessica asked me to do a look last week that was “something more than yoga pants” but still comfortable! So, here it is! Remember those boyfriend jeans I keep raving about? Well I’m doing it again! Playful You nursing bra by You! Lingerie paired with your favorite nursing bra under a Sly Fox Threads t-shirt and hoodie. An inexpensive but cute embellished hat and Toms cordones lace-ups (I have these. I also live in these when I’m not living in my doc martens.) are finished off with a Beco Carrier in “Steps.” This? This outfit is magic. It’s a take on the “t-shirt and jeans” but stepped up a notch! Ready for Mom Life!
Look #3: Easy Chic
This tunic-type striped dress is BRILLIANT because it has a waist-tie you can use to accentuate as little or as much as you want of your shape! It also has an easy v-neck bodice that you can pop out a breast to feed baby easily while carrying them in this red Ergo Original carrier. (I mean, just LOOK at that red! LOVE.) I added in the Forever Yours Emerald nursing bra from Hot Milk Lingerie because it’s comfy lightweight, and the Babymel Ruby Rucksack in Mocha. This bag is a veritable organizers dream. (or my dream. whatever. ha!) Add in a nice strappy sandal and a statement piece of jewelry (I added in a hammered brass bracelet!) and you’re ready to rock your day in comfort.
Like these looks? Tell us! Put together your own look and tag us on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest to show us how YOU rock your mom look! We may FEATURE you in an upcoming look!
Once upon a time I found the whole idea of wearing a child who could walk completely… ridiculous. Seriously, how is that helping them? They can walk, you’re just trying to keep them little longer and probably inhibiting their development. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO, CARRY THEM ALL AROUND THEIR COLLEGE CAMPUS?
I figured if you kept carrying your child after they learned how to walk, you’d end up looking like this.
Then I had a kid. Our first turned out to be a late walker and didn’t really become mobile until between 15 and 16 months old. By that point the other toddlers in our circles were running circles around her and I began to panic, in spite of our pediatrician’s reassurance, that she was never, ever going to walk. Worried that
her my dreams of an Olympic gold medalist were fast slipping out of reach, I become a little pushy to get her to walk. And also because carrying her was killing my back and arms, back then we didn’t have any carriers with a high enough weight limit and I just plain didn’t want carry her. Well meaning people around me warned that she was just using me, being lazy, and would never become independent if we “let” her make us carry her all the time. We were “spoiling her” and we’d have to carry her FOREVER. So I pushed. Walk, you’ve got two legs, use them! Besides, you have to become self sufficient and independent some day. Sheesh.
You guys, she was really still just a baby.
But even after she started walking she wanted to be held a lot. In fact, she was timid and scared and insecure. To “help” her through that, I pushed her to be more independent. I’m not proud of this, in fact, it makes me sad. Looking back, me pushing her to walk when she wanted to be close to me was really a jerk thing to do. I would refuse to carry her or carry her for just a moment and then put her down even if she wasn’t ready. My fears were completely unfounded, today she walks and runs and dances ballet just fine. Not only that, after some therapy and healing, she is a self sufficient independent introverted 16 year old who has taught me that connection is more important and respecting individual personal ways of interacting with the world is what makes you not be a jerk of a parent. She didn’t need me pushing her to walk, she needed me available for lots and lots of connection until she was ready. To this day she prefers to observe the world from a bit of a distance before racing into it. But when she does race in, watch out, she has found her confidence and her voice to make a difference.
Since our eldest taught us about respecting our children as individual people, we’ve had 5 more children but it wasn’t until our 3rd that we began to wear our toddlers on purpose. Another introvert, our third daughter felt safest close to a parent and would for several years. Meaning when she was three and four, she still wanted up in certain settings. Instead of traumatizing her with environments she wasn’t ready to navigate independently, we listened to her. When she was ready, she would progress into the world around her on her terms and now confidently moves through the world secure in her steps and returning to us to share her adventures and discoveries. Now, with our almost 3 year old Sugarbaby, we let her set the pace for how she interacts with the world. All 6 of our children have unique personalities, some have loved being close and super snuggly for a long time, others just have moments they need to check in before rushing off again. Every single one of them has, at times, requested to be held and carried even after they could walk. Sometimes for physical reasons, sometimes for emotional reasons. All of their reasons are valid.
And so far, of our older girls, they each also reach a point where closeness doesn’t require us carrying them and we grow together in developing other ways to connect.
Because it turns out, you can’t spoil them by respecting them, they will eventually not want you to carry them everywhere.
Last year, just before she was 2 years old, Sugarbaby accompanied us to India, a culture of amazing people that adore children and love to touch young ones. Another introvert (we have a pretty even blend of introverts and extroverts in our home), she quickly learned 2 things: how to clearly say “go away, don’t touch!” and “Beco up!” From her safe position on my back she would offer high fives to the people who wanted to hold her, kiss her, and touch her face. Happy and secure in a place she knows to be safe, she interacted with those we encountered in a way that respected her unique way of being in the world. She runs, dances, jumps, and climbs freely but when she needs to be close or when her little legs are tired from all that exercise and strengthening, up into a carrier she goes on mommy, daddy, or even a big sister. Our long family walks or forays into downtown to go to markets and explore happen with a combination of her walking, running, hoping, and twirling (always twirling, she doesn’t really walk right now, she twirls everywhere) and when she’s tired, on somebody’s back. Occasionally she keeps me company during meal prep on my back when she tires of her spot on a stool.
And from the spot on my back and sometimes on my front she whispers in my ear “I love you mommy.” I don’t know how much longer she’ll ask to “Beco” but I’m willing to as long as she does.
For me the question isn’t why would you wear your toddler or preschooler, the question is why wouldn’t you.
7 reasons to wear your toddler/preschooler
Do you wear your toddler? Want to but aren’t sure if you should? What are your thoughts on toddlerwearing?
For a limited time you can enter to win the same carrier pictured in this article by going here.
So this week on The Leaky Boob Facebook Community, I put it to your vote: Choose YOUR favorite look and I’ll do a #flatlay collection featuring a boob-friendly look based on that theme!
Bohemian/Hippie Mama and Beach Mama came in First and Second by a landslide with Portlandia Mama a close Third! So without further adieu, I give you Leaky Boob Looks: Leakies Edition.
I found this A-MAZ-ING paisley bohemian dress that functions as a wrap-style dress (I need this. In all of the colors.). The bodice and skirt hit all the right spots and give a flowing freestyle look while the neckline is perfect for easy feeding access! I paired this up with the Glamour Mom Nursing Bra Full Bust Long Top. Sleek, comfortable, crafted to celebrate your beautiful curves! I added in a Luv My Bag in Namaste Poppins and some bangled gladiator sandals (it’s like they were MADE for this dress!) and finished it off with some coordinating Chewbeads bangles and necklace. Because teething. And distractions.
I wanted this Beachy look to be comfortable and easy to throw on and go! Stripes for this loose cotton shirt and the cut is longer so it can work over fitted jeans OR shorts. I added the Bella Materna Anytime Nursing Bralette both for its comparable range of sizes but also for its all-day comfort! I had to include the Ju-Ju-Be “The Admiral” bag (because ANCHORS, Leakies! Seriously. Cute.) and the Ergo Original Carrier in Marine. (Whales. Beach. Follow me? :D). Finished off the look with easy on-easy off Birks. Because no one wants to get sand in their shoes!
This look was so fun to put together! I am a PDX mum myself (disclaimer I live in Vancouver. I love it. We locals affectionately call it either Vantucky or the Suburb of Portland. But Portland is basically my second skin. And just a 3 minute drive away! Long live Vantucky!) I confess that I have these particular boots and I live in them. And they make me feel like a badass mom. Amazing how shoes can do that. Ok. Moving On I centered this look around one of my favorite sweatshirts from Sly Fox Threads over a Naked Nursing Tank. We Portlanders are pretty laid back, eclectic and a little particular, but we really value our comfort. Boyfriend jeans are super “in”, flatter nearly every body shape and go with just about any kind of boot, shoe, sandal or loafer that you put with it! AND they don’t look like mom jeans. WIN. We are really conscious of our choice in natural and organic anything. Hence the Alexa Organics teething necklace! Finished off this look with a great wool Fedora and a low-profile diaper handbag and now YOU can rock the Portlandia look!
So many questions. So many answers. Information at our fingertips as we crowd source for support and scour the internet to validate our choices. And still, with all the resources in the world, so much still unknown.
Until we figure out we’re answering the wrong questions. We’re framing our dialogues wrong. We’re talking, but we’re not really saying anything. We’re hearing, but we aren’t really listening. We’re trying to reach, without teaching the things that equip and empower women.
So stop for minute. And consider a better lesson….
The reproductive right that belongs to women. The informed choice she can make when taught all the information. The answer to every single question:
Teach children about anatomy. Equip and educate on reproductive choice early and often. Teach the history of breastfeeding. That autonomy always mattered. That milk is custom to species. That women weaned. That nursing a child is part of the reproductive journey.
Teach what alternatives were used besides the mother’s breast to nourish the offspring. Animals, meat stocks, slaves — hundreds of options that tested our humanity along the way. Teach the history. The good, the bad, the ugly. Teach the injustice. Teach the risk they carried. Teach that babies died early. That infant mortality was horrifying. That we used and exploited women’s bodies.
Teach that we wanted to breastfeed. That we wanted to wean. That we wanted to dry up our milk completely. That we were once unknowingly stripped of a choice. That a pill and a shot were just par for the course. That women and children were at risk. That our options were hit or miss.
Teach the advancements in our journey. How far we have come. How we’re still not done. How amazing that is. That women and children live. But that for some, those same horrors still exist. Teach that we are still working on it.
Teach the socio-economics. Teach the privilege. Teach the realities and the limits on women. Teach the strides we’re making. Teach the change in legislation. Teach that we can and have and will succeed in decisions.
Teach that nursing is a learning process. That seeing breastfeeding matters. That we need observation and exposure. Teach that qualifications have no place. That normalizing keeps women and children from hiding under cover in shame.
Teach about the imperfection in reproduction. So no one is taken aback because a myth told them it was for everyone. Teach how to handle the griefs and losses for women who had their reproductive choices stripped from them.
Teach how to dry the milk. Teach how to wean. Teach how to latch a baby. Teach the laws on breastfeeding. Teach people everything.
And don’t assume a woman will decide to nurse and don’t assume she won’t. Ask her. Trust her answer. Trust her answer might change. And empower her along the way.
So if she says: “I do not want to use my reproductive system this way,” you say: “Okay, here is information on all your options. From drying your milk to stopping engorgement to offering your child their developmental requirement. Here is what’s safe. Here is what isn’t.”
So if she says: “I want to use my reproductive system this way,” you say: “Okay, here is information on all you’re offering. From latching your child to expressing your milk to never forgetting to be kind to yourself. Here is what’s safe. Here is what isn’t.”
But don’t battle about if a reproductive process has benefits. Don’t project your personal preference. Don’t ignore the anecdotes. Don’t ignore the evidence. Don’t tell. Listen. And ask the only relevant question:
“What do you want to do? Because it’s your body, it’s your call. And I want you to know I’m here to help you. Through it all.”
How would you answer the above question? How have you asked it in support of other women? How are you giving support forward?
“I always feel bad sharing my story because I don’t want to make others feel bad, breastfeeding my baby was so easy for me, it was just perfect. I almost feel like my story doesn’t count.”
The woman standing in front of me had a sleeping little one strapped on her back and a worried expression pressed on her face. She shared briefly in this rushed moment with hundreds of people around us that she rarely talked about her breastfeeding experience when she knows so many women struggle in their own journeys. Concern that sharing her own story may cause them pain, she keeps it to herself.
Another woman before her told me she didn’t talk about her breastfeeding journey except around a few key friends because it was so discouraging and difficult she didn’t want anyone else to feel sorry for her or not try breastfeeding out of fear that they would have a similar experience.
And before that a mother told me that she never talked about her experience feeding her baby for fear of judgment because she switched to formula just a few weeks in due to difficulties and postpartum depression compounded by needing to return to work. She just couldn’t take hearing more of the inevitable questions that would follow if she shared, asking if she tried any number of herbs and medications for her supply, if she saw the right kind of breastfeeding support, or how she felt about poisoning her baby with formula, or that if she truly loved her son she would have tried harder to give him breastmilk.
Following all of them was the mother that loved breastfeeding, had overcome a few difficulties, and went one to breastfeed for 3 years before weaning and starting all over again with a new little one. But she was a quiet person and not comfortable with breastfeeding in public, it was even challenging for her to do so with a cover and she preferred a private location away from other people. Awkward and very self-aware, she hated breastfeeding in public and she never posted breastfeeding pictures online (does that mean she even really breastfed if she didn’t take and share a #brelfie? Would people think she was lying?). So she didn’t talk about breastfeeding much because she felt like a fraud. There were some points she would love to tell but not all of it and not to just anyone. Her past history of sexual abuse made it even more difficult for her and she didn’t want to share more about her infant feeding path than she was comfortable with but that seemed inadequate and wouldn’t really help anyone.
All of these women and thousands of others I have heard from felt that their story didn’t matter. They felt their stories weren’t happy enough, dramatic enough, perfect enough, difficult enough, strong enough, smart enough, right enough, important enough, painful enough, humble enough, promising enough, advocate enough, bold enough.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.
You aren’t perfect and you never will be, whatever perfect means.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Your highs, your lows.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.
The good, the bad, and the ugly.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.
The flab, the stretch marks, the skin and bones, or the extra padding.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.
The moments of pride, the moments of shame.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Your hurt and your joy.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Your vagina, your scars, your breasts, and your bottles.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Our children are watching, long before you will realize they are aware, they are watching. Every criticism you bestow upon yourself eats away at your confidence and how you view yourself. Which eats away at your child. How they will grow to see you, how they will grow to believe you see them, and how they will grow to see themselves. Are you treating yourself as well as you want your child to be treated by themselves and others some day? We are their models, is this what we want for them? And are we treating others, our friends and peers, how we want our children to treat others and how we want others to treat our children?
Will your child look at you and see that you are enough?
Will your child look at themselves and see that they are enough?
Perfection is far too high to aim for and since it is unattainable we are setting ourselves and our children up for failure if we tell them they are perfect and berate ourselves when we’re not. Someday they will know the truth that they aren’t perfect and we will have been the ones that lied to them.
But enough is enough. Within enough, there’s room for growth but still acceptance of where you are. When we are enough we can see how our stories matter. All of ours.
TLB is celebrating its 5th birthday this month. A month long celebration of our community and the thousands upon thousands of stories shared there. For 5 years families have been finding support in their journeys, receiving support and giving support. After finding the support they needed, many stay to pay it forward. Support forward. #TLBSupportForward. There is no better way to celebrate this milestone than going back to our roots, sharing our stories of feeding our children, our babies. To share your story with our community, email it to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces). All stories are welcome, we will have to be selective in what we publish to be sure it is a good fit and due to the volume of submissions it is possible we won’t be able to publish them all, but your story matters; so whether it is published on TLB or shared in the comments and interactions of our community, we hope you share your story. You can help encourage others with your story by making your own sign like above and taking a picture of you holding it to share on social media with these hashtags. Whatever it may be, from pure bliss of rainbows and sunshine to heartache and pain, your story matters. In sharing it you testify that you are enough and encourage others that they are enough too.
And together we all can say #IAmEnough #MyStoryMatters #TLBSupportForward.
Don’t ever believe a pregnancy announcement made on April 1st.
I grew up in a home that enjoyed practical jokes. A good prank was appreciated with gusto in my childhood home; run the hot water in the kitchen while someone was taking a shower so they’d get a blast of cold water, cover a door knob in Vaseline, fill someone’s hand with shaving cream while they were sleeping then tickle their nose and watch them slap their face with the shaving cream, create trick food such as mashed potato ice-cream, or cover the toilet in plastic wrap under the seat; it was the stuff family bonding is made of. It taught me a lot and I’ve learned to laugh at myself easily… along with everyone else. To this day I have a deep appreciation for practical jokes and an enduring sense of humor.
Then I fell in love with and married someone who has a great sense of humor but doesn’t have the same appreciation for practical jokes as I do. He was a bit more sensitive in his jokes, aware not only of his own feelings but the feelings of others. Pranks I played were sometimes met with laughter but just as often were met with frustration that I would want to laugh at his or others’ expense. The ones that hurt him the most, even if I didn’t pull them on him but someone else, were those that were an oversight of someone’s personal struggles. Just plain insensitive. Because causing others pain is not funny. It was eye opening and I slowly realized that humor was great but humor without sensitivity can be very damaging and hurtful.
Social media introduced a whole new way to prank people and April Fool’s quickly became the perfect platform for pulling ALL. THE. JOKES. None became more popular (and overdone) than the fake pregnancy announcement. And why not? It’s easy, it has an easy shock value, and for many it gets a lot of laughs after putting people on for a bit.
But really, there is a big reason why not. Because it causes others pain.
Only those that have struggled with infertility or pregnancy loss may really understand this but it is enough for me that there are those that have indeed been caused pain by this attempt at humor. I have no doubt that those pulling the prank aren’t intending to hurt anyone, they are just having fun. The reactions from their friends and loved ones gives them a laugh and they are able to move on. What they may not see, however, are those friends and loved ones who don’t comment, don’t “like,” don’t laugh. Those friends and loved ones for whom a pregnancy announcement is no joke. Not because they don’t have a sense of humor but because there is a deep ache within them to have a real, not a joke positive pregnancy test of their own. It’s not funny, it’s painful. It isn’t necessary to understand or relate to that pain, it’s just human decency and kindness not to cause them more pain once you’re aware of it.
Please, before you pull that overdone April Fool’s prank announcing a fake pregnancy consider that for those struggling with infertility, a pregnancy announcement is no joke. Humor is great but not when it causes others pain.
What other April Fool’s pranks ideas do you have that are sensitive and fun?
We asked sleep consultant Rebecca Michi to come help us all get some more sleep and we asked the Leakies to rate how they were sleeping on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best and to tell us about it. Here are a few of the responses followed by Rebecca’s support.
Brittany: I would say a 4. my 13 mo wakes up every 1-2 hours and wants to nurse like a newborn. We co-sleep and started to transition to his crib. but I’m still not getting sleep he sits up and cries cause he can’t find the boob. He has never slept more then 3 hours. We have been on a bedtime routine for months now started bedtime at 7:30p and nothing seems to work. Read books about sleep did everything and still a short sleeper.
Rebecca: How long do you think he could go between feeds during the night right now? 3 hours? He could probably do without a feed at all during the night, but as he is used to feeding lots his tummy will be hungry if you drop to no feeds or have a long time between those feeds during the night. Get a little nightlight that you need to turn on before you feed at those 3 hour intervals during the night. This is the cue for a feed not just because he woke up. In between those feeds times do whatever you can do to help him back to sleep, rocking, walking, patting, singing, dancing, shushing, anything! If your partner can help in between those feeds it would be very helpful. Maybe you could both take short shifts. If you are trying to get him to sleep as it wasn’t a feed time when he woke and he doesn’t fall asleep, but you get to a feed time, turn that light on and feed him. Don’t worry if he falls asleep feeding. As he gets used to not being fed at every wake up and so often he should begin to increase those periods of sleep. You can continue to work on this until you are comfortable with the amount he’s feeding (or not!).
Lauren: I get less then 5 hours of sleep at night. In short 2 hour chunks. My son is 14 months, and barely goes 2h between comfort nursing. I would cosleep, but then he crawls all over me, and pinches and nurses all night long. I can’t take it any more. He hardly eats solids, and barely eats during waking hours. I love the snuggles, but have seriously contemplated bottle feeding my next child just so he/she isn’t so attached at the hip to me. I have never been away from my son for more than 4 hours in his life. It is very tiring, and does affect my relationship with my husband and older daughter (4).
Rebecca: If he’s getting the majority of his calories during the night he will wake often to nurse. Try as best you can get a few more nursing sessions into him during the day. Often people have success feeding before or after their child has napped, the room is dark, their child is relaxed and there are very few distractions around. You can also try offering solid foods little and often throughout the day. You can always add breastmilk to his solid foods.
During the night set your feed times, how long can he go between feeds? 3 hours? Only feed at those times. Have a little nightlight as your cue for feeding (turn it on before you feed) and help him back to sleep any way possible when it’s not a feed time. Don’t worry if he wakes after 2 hours, help as much as you need to, if he hasn’t fallen asleep at 3 hours since the last feed, turn the nightlight on and feed him. Continue through the night. He will have fed less during the night so make sure you are offering more nursing and solid foods the following day. Stick with the 3 hour feedings for 3 nights and then stretch out a little further (3 ½ or 4 hours?). Having your partner help with this would be a huge benefit as it will become more of a challenge before it gets better.
Tearra: My 5 month old was such a good sleeper only waking every 4 hours at night. Untill he reached about 3 months old. For the last 2 months he has been waking every 1 to 2 hours at night wants to be nursed back to bed every time. Will not take a bottle. He sleeps in his own room. He’s my 3rd baby, and I can’t Cosleep. It’s not comfortable to me. I’m so tired. I don’t know what to do. My other little now 2 and 5 never did this and our still great sleepers.
Rebecca: There is a very big shift that happens with sleep at around 12 weeks of age (52 weeks from conception, so it does depend if they were born early of late), children shift from having infant sleep cycles to having adult sleep cycles (they are shorter than ours). From then on they have REM dream sleep and a deep sleep (they didn’t before). They also begin to produce melatonin (a sleep inducing hormone) when they get into a dark dim environment. Going through this shift can make very big changes to the way a child sleeps and as parents we get to help them through that. It’s not unusual that this began around 12 weeks of age.
First off I would take a look at the day routine, whenever I work with a family we always work on the routines first, it can have a huge impact on night sleep. Have a maximum of 2 hours awake and then a nap, have a 10 minute nap routine (really consistent and within your awake time), all throughout the day. Being awake for longer can result in short naps and then overtiredness when going to bed at night, when we are overtired we struggle to fall asleep and remain asleep.
As you are not bed sharing it doesn’t look like you will be over helping (where you are helping too soon), I presume he is wide awake before you are going and helping (this is a good thing to do, we want to make sure he is awake and actually needing help when you go in). Have you tried not feeding? Sending your partner in to help? If feeding is the only way you can get your child to sleep (at the beginning of the night and as back to sleep during the night) you may want to consider some gentle sleep training. My technique, The Michi Method is a very hands on gentle technique. This will gradually and gently teach your child to fall asleep more independently and back asleep more independently, when it isn’t a feed time. He may still need a feed during the night until he is around 12 months old, just not every 2 hours and not as they only way to get back to sleep.
We’re so excited to be giving away 4 of Rebecca’s books Sleep And Your Child’s Temperament to 4 lucky Leakies! Use the widget below to enter.
Comment here if you have a question you would like Rebecca to answer next time.
Parenting is at once a lot of overwhelming work and a precious beautiful joy. The saying, “the years are short, but the days are long”, while cliché, is so true. Each day can be long and quite frankly, full of actual poop. They aren’t always fun. And though they drag, they go by quickly. Amidst the poop, sleep deprivation, stress, and whining, there are cuddles, giggles, dance parties, and heart melting smiles. It’s the best, with moments that can be the worst. Worth every second of the poopy stuff. Though it’s impossible to enjoy every moment of our parenting journeys, there are so many special moments to cherish. I propose that we make memories, commemorate them, celebrate the stages, and create a narrative that keeps it all alive in our hearts. Inspired by the many ideas shared on this post, here are some of my favorite ways to celebrate our mothering journey and the stages of our children. There’s much to honor in our journeys, pregnancy, birth, feeding, play, sleep, and milestones or just the whole journey itself. What you focus on depends on what is the most important and moving for you, there’s no right or wrong way.
Whether you start it when you find out you’re pregnant or sometime after your baby has made their entrance, a journal to share with them later can be an inexpensive and meaningful way to honor not only their journey through childhood, but your journey as their parent. It doesn’t have to be filled with long profound thoughtful entries, brief, honest looks at that moment can hold a lot of meaning. If a journal is overwhelming, a baby’s first year calendar may feel a little more manageable while still helping you record those special moments. Some days are red letter days, some are green, some are purple, and some are black. Whatever color you use, using a calendar for a baby’s first year or two can be a precious way to look back at all their firsts and big moments in their start to life.
You may start with documenting your bump growth or it may not occur to you until you see their adorable little face, but pictures are an easy way to celebrate the big moments and the most mundane. In this digital age we can snap as many photos as we like, it’s no big deal to scrap 30 shots if they don’t turn out and that could easily be what it takes to have that one perfect capture that immortalizes the look on your 18 months old face when daddy walks through the door each day. Same with video, smart phones make it easy to forever grab the moment when they first take tentative steps feeling grass under their bare feet and trashing the times when they refuse to put their feet down at all unless of course, that moment is a laugh worth holding on to as well. Saving these files digitally and converting a few into photo books or sharing with friends and family on social media lets you look through them over and over. While it can be fun to create clever staged photos, some of those more candid ones may very well end up being your favorites. Just make sure you don’t end up never being in the photos with them, you’re worth remembering in your different stages too so don’t be too much of a momarazzi and practice the art of a good #selfie and handing the camera off.
That sweet dress can be handed down to future children, future grandchildren, or passed along to friends and with all the clothes a baby will go through, you can’t keep them all. But a few can be repurposed, specially your favorites. A quilt made out of the softest pajamas, several pieces deconstructed into a whole new outfit, a scrap of that little onesie they came home in added to a shadow box, that cute t-shirt from your sister becomes play clothes for a favorite plush animal, or even just displaying that frilly dress as part of a room’s decor. If you’re not personally ready to cut up your baby’s clothing to create something new, there are many incredibly talented work at home moms that take custom orders that can create something special for you.
Mini time capsule
Take the hospital wrist band, a piece of the hospital cap, a snip of the swaddle blanket, the first pair of socks, or any other small memento and put it in a clear class ornament available at craft stores. Write baby’s name and the date for a mini time capsule ornament for a holiday decoration. Or gather similar items and display in a shadow box. An actual time capsule, hidden in the ground or even just under your bed or in the attic, can be added to annually, the contents reviewed together with your child on their birthday.
If you’re artistic, creating your own piece of art that captures the essence of your parenting journey or your child’s spirt can be especially meaningful. It can be a continual work in progress, adding to it over time or it may be a complete work. If storytelling is your talent, a self published story book can capture your own unique narrative. If you’re not comfortable creating your own art, purchased art can be just as meaningful and some artists are happy to create commissioned pieces inspired by your family, you can find some on Etsy, and here are three of my favorites: Katie M. Berggren, Kate Hansen, and Claudia Tremblay. Taking commissioned work even further, some may want to honor their parenting journey with ink on their own body. Whether they be symbolic or representative, tattoos can fit both your personality and your journey. I wrote about the meaning of my tattoo here.
A special piece of jewelry, intended specifically to celebrate parenting and/or your child, be it personalized or more general, is such a meaningful expression. Again, you can have one custom made and it can honor your parenting or child(ren) in a more general way (such as birthstone charms) or some specific aspect such as breastfeeding. A breastmilk pendent, created with your own milk, a curl bead the incorporates a lock of your child’s hair, or some other specific area of focus are all possible and unique you can find some at Baby Bee Hummingbirds. A designated necklace, bracelet, or ring, something you wear every day or just for special occasions makes for special conversations in the future. My children love when I wear my mothering necklace, it means a lot to them that being their mother is so beautiful and important to me that I have a special piece of jewelry just about that.
What would you add to our list of ways to celebrate and honor our children and our own parenting journey?
I have never shared this publicly but as I reflect on last year I think I’m ready to share it now:
I had pregnancy loss this time last year.
March, 2014 we were headed to India with International Teams, Initiative 31.8 and a group of people who would go on to become some dear, dear friends. This trip would be filled with beauty, ugliness, joy, pain, learning, teaching, listening, speaking, and the beginning of the end of our relationship with ITeams. Fresh clean water would flow in communities that hadn’t had fresh clean water, our lips would burn with “mild” curries, we would hold hands and listen to stories with those many years our seniors in a language we couldn’t understand, and we would paint a wall with the words of that language with kids who smiled easier than we did. There was singing, dancing, laughter, conversation, and bonds forged sitting in dirt with women breastfeeding their babies.
The entire time I would be bleeding from a twin pregnancy loss and D&C 4 days before we left.
I was a conflict of emotion. Earlier in that new year, I was surprised and quite frankly, upset when I discovered I was pregnant. We had decided to wait on a permanent decision regarding having more children for another year but when our prevention method failed I was filled with fear. Fear that the timing wasn’t right, that our finances wouldn’t survive another pregnancy at that time, fear that hyperemises gravidarum would be too much to handle away from the support network we had previously had in Houston now that we were living in Portland, fear that I wouldn’t be able to handle my job and pregnancy without that support, and fear that the judgment many others have about a large family of 8 adding another person wouldn’t be held quietly inside by those around us and their critical words of hate would reach my amazing children’s ears. Almost immediately upon getting the positive test result I wished I was comfortable terminating the pregnancy.
We decided to tell nobody but my best friend while we tried to figure out how to prepare for the months ahead. Really though, we just avoided talking about it, avoided preparing. Every time we would discuss finding a care provider I would end up in tears. My friend was going through her own nightmare with a messy divorce with an abusive soon-to-be ex husband and was overwhelmed with the stress off that. When I started bleeding near the end of February, I was relieved and then immediately felt guilty. Prior to this pregnancy, I had experienced 4 losses and now I hoped this would be a loss too.
And I had a new fear, maybe I was really a shitty mother because I didn’t want my babies.
The ultrasound showed twins but things didn’t look good and the measurements were off by 3 weeks. There wasn’t even one heartbeat, let alone two. Maybe my dates were wrong but the bleeding didn’t stop.
We had a choice: stay home and not go to India and see what happened while Jeremy led the trip, go to India and take a risk of complications in another country, or have a D&C and go to India. This trip I had dreamed up, envisioned, advocated for, recruited for, and worked hard with an amazing team to plan for over a year called to me. And then, so did my babies. The next day my bleeding increased and I felt certain I was miscarrying. We made the difficult decision to have the DNC. And then I knew I wanted them, wanted them to stay, wanted them to survive even though I was still relieved they hadn’t. I was torn between loving them and being glad they weren’t going to be born and hating myself for feeling that way. It called into question everything I knew or thought of myself as a mother. How could I be any kind of good mother if I was relieved my babies weren’t going to be born?
It shredded me.
A day later I boarded a plane for Chicago where just 24 hours after having the inside of my uterus scraped, I spoke at MommyCon Chicago’s VIP Meet and Leak, a day after that I spoke in two seminar sessions, one while breastfeeding our one and a half year old as I spoke. At MommyCon I hugged hundreds of women, listened to their mothering journeys, cried with them, laughed with them, and was honored to receive the stories they chose to share with me. All the shredded parts of me received them, even as I was wrestling with my own worthiness as a mother.
Four days following the procedure we were on our way to India.
I couldn’t tell my team at the time, not because of them, because of my inability to talk about it. One of our team members was dealing with infertility and the grief that goes along with that, another was figuring out their own family planning, and still another was facing joblessness when they returned. All of us were dealing with some kind of recent loss and unfolding on that trip was our own loss of our place within the organization. My own emotions were a conflicting mix of sadness, freedom, gratitude, and anger over both the pregnancy and the unavoidable reality that we would be parting ways with this organization and work we loved so much.The truth was it was time for us to move on, to focus on other work but we didn’t want it to end so painfully and what seemed to be so senselessly. But that wasn’t our reality and so I was frustrated and yet peacefully determined to not lose myself in the process. The truth is, if our financial situation and support network had been different, we would have been glad to be pregnant. But that wasn’t our reality and so I was at once heartbroken and relieved. When I returned home from the trip amidst drama between us and the organization, I was still bleeding and I was bleeding still when we were officially dismissed from ITeams for reasons that to this day I still don’t understand. Even still I can’t help but feel a connection between the pregnancy loss I don’t understand and the job loss I don’t understand all somehow connected to love, joy, beauty, grief, pain, loneliness, and India. And all the shredded parts of me. We went to India to learn, support, encourage, get clean water flowing, what I ended up finding was beauty and healing even as my heart and my uterus were bleeding.
Last week I spoke at MommyCon Chicago again and as I walked into the same room where I had spoken a year before, I remembered that shredded version of myself. She was stronger than I realized then and I honored her, the conflict and turmoil and grief to come.
Wholeness has come again, there is still grief and relief in my scars but I’m not so afraid that I’m a shitty mother, I believe I’m just a human one with human feelings. Sharing this, I know I will likely be judged for a good number of things, but that’s ok, my wholeness is not determined by the judgment of others and if it touches one other shredded and very human mother, it was worth it. I don’t regret the procedure and I still feel confident it was the right choice for me and my family but I do wonder how it all would have played out if we had waited or if the pregnancy had stuck. Today as I look back on the first anniversary of the loss of the babies I never knew, I still have that same mixture of emotions with the added inner wisdom that our family and our work is exactly right for us in this moment. In an odd way, though I don’t think the timing was right, I miss our babies though I never held them, never named them, and wasn’t ready for them. They have impacted me and helped me forgive myself to find wholeness, accepting what is and all the loss. The conflict within me hasn’t lessened much, it is only subdued by the rightness of my family right now.