When There Is No Glow- Nymphai and Nurturing Our Own Healing

by Jessica Martin-Weber
I have a tattoo on my upper right arm that starts at a three pointed scar on my inner arm and wraps up and around my shoulder. A twisty, viney type of tree with swirls, knots, and sharp looking points. The tree looks like it has grown around many obstacles and against the wind. It isn’t a tall, straight tree, it is a tree with gnarls and curves, marked by it’s struggle to survive. A beautiful tree that springs from a scar in the soil. Flapping their wings, 6 birds that may have just been resting on the curved and hunched branches of this tree are taking flight. Delicate but obviously powerful, these birds are majestic and strong. I dreamed of this tattoo for years, shared the vision with my tattoo artist Colin Kolker, sketched many variations with my husband Jeremy, and eventually Colin captured the essence in the design that is permanently etched into my arm. This tattoo means so much to me it is now woven into Tekhni fabric to carry babies. Find your opportunity to enter in a Tekhni giveaway at the end of this article!
This is why.
When pregnancy isn't glowing

Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography.

“You look terrible!”  There was concern in her voice, not malice. I did look terrible, frightening even. I could have been auditioning to be an extra in Schindler’s List. I knew I looked bad. Not wanting to explain much, I tell her I’m ok, I’m just pregnant. She looks horrified and whispers “I thought pregnant women glowed.”

No, nope, nu-uh. Ok, well, some pregnant women glow. Maybe even most. I don’t glow. Unless you count the green tinged pallor I sport in pregnancy a glow.

In my head pregnancy is going to be this serene existence of light, one with the earth, I’ll feel like a goddess, my body humming with the growing life within and a sense of wisdom and peace filling me. It radiates from me as I float along my every day life where everything suddenly has more meaning. I had expectations.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what happens.

Instead of floating, I crash to the ground in a heap of extra saliva and a stomach that rejects all food and liquid all day, every day. This causes my skin to lose elasticity, my body fat to burn off quickly, my kidneys to release toxins, my eyes to sink deeper into my skull, the tiny blood vessels in my face and neck to burst, my complexion to take on a green yellow hue, my head to spin when I shift my weight, my other organs to work harder as they dehydrate, and my veins to go into hiding so that every IV attempt results in bruises the size of plums up and down my arms. I don’t even know how to tell youHyperemesis Gravidarum.

Decidedly not glowing.

Every pregnancy I hoped the results would be different. There were plans, you see. Plans for how I would eat, how I would prepare for my coming baby. Plans for a level of physical activity and creativity bursts. Plans for how my baby and I would grow together, healthy and strong. Plans for how my friends and family would share in my pregnancy, how we would celebrate and enjoy the journey. Plans for how everything would go the way it was supposed to go. Plans that never came to be.

Because no glowing.

I hate being pregnant.

Cue a new glow, those fuming at me for not fulfilling my role of goddess mother because I dare to admit I don’t love pregnancy. Even Kim Kardashian, who people love to hate and hate to love, can’t state that pregnancy isn’t an experience she enjoys without encountering more vitriol than normal.

 

Pregnant mothers are supposed to glow and love pregnancy.

You can fail being a mother before your kid is even outside of your body.

All because you didn’t. feel. the. glow.

When pregnancy isn't glowing

Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography.

We have a romanticized version of all aspects of motherhood upheld in our society. A version that is always glowing, radiating from some isolated pedestal of unattainable idealism. While sometimes we may feel like a goddess in our mothering, for many of us those luminescent images require metaphorical if not literal special lighting, makeup, shape wear, and most elusive of all, a nap. In other words, the river goddess nursing her baby in the stream may be beautiful and remind of us some inner peace we’ve made contact with a time or two but for many of us it is heavily staged.

Most of my moments in parenting haven’t been glowing. Some of them I was barely surviving.

When pregnancy isn't glowing

Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography.

It can be crushing to realize that your experience with conception, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding aren’t a breathtaking image of serenity, that your reality isn’t naturally incandescent. When all you want is to glow, to radiate, to enjoy the path that gets you to your baby but what you get is near destruction, it can be hard to separate the journey from your own personhood. Sometimes it can be hard to separate the journey from the gift. There were times when my baby felt like my enemy, my torturer, my reminder of my failure. Those times were dark and twisted. But they were nothing compared to the times when I felt my baby suffered because I just. couldn’t. glow. The agony that my babies paid the price was by far the most painful to endure.

  • Infertility.
  • Pregnancy loss.
  • Pregnancy complications.
  • Birth trauma.
  • Relationship problems.
  • Financial stress.
  • Disrupted bonding.
  • Feeding difficulties.
  • Postpartum depression.

Whatever it is, the grief is real, the suffering is profound. And the shaping is valuable.

Even if you aren’t glowing.

Specially if you aren’t glowing.

Poopins front wrap Tekhni Nymphai

Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography.

When there is no glow, particularly when there is no glow when pure radiance is what is expected, how do you go about being honest with yourself and others? And how do you start to heal while accepting what it is?

Here’s what has helped me.

Journal. Write it all down. The reality, the struggle, the loneliness, the fear that the fact that you feel this way or have experienced these things means you’re not enough. All of it, write it down.

Cry. Yep, cry. You’re going to anyway. Give yourself permission and cry. And don’t dismiss it as hormones or being a woman or overreacting or whatever. Cry because you’re human and humans cry when something hurts. It is not weakness to cry, it is a strength to stop pretending.

Art. Whether you enjoy expressing yourself through art or not, drawing, coloring, painting, sculpting, dancing, playing music, you name it, artistic expression can be incredibly cathartic because sometimes words alone just art enough to full get those feelings out. And taking in someone else’s artistic expression can be just as powerful.

Talk. You may be afraid that people may not like hearing your journey because it isn’t warm and fuzzy but more often than not sharing your story will actually help someone processing their own glowless experience. That sharing can help you and them. Be it in person or online, opening up about our struggles builds community that values authenticity and that can actually help save lives.

Commemorate. An event, big or small, to honor the journey (but please don’t do a balloon release, it’s littering and hard on animal friends); a special purchase that holds a lot of meaning for you; a ritualistic occasion that connects deeply with you; a meaningful plant/tree/shrub planted in your yard as a hopeful yet gentle reminder; compile mementos in a book; create something unique that captures the profound nature of your journey.

The tree on my arm represents me, the birds my daughters. My tattoo turned Tekhni woven wrap, named for the nymphs of Greek mythology who nurture nature, has helped me glow. From reclaiming my body to having a beautiful woven wrap that represents so much healing, hope, and promise in nurturing that surrounds other moms and their precious children, I have found a glow I can’t contain. May we all glow with honesty and hope.

When pregnancy isn't glowing

Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography.

________________

Thank you for reading my story, I would love to hear yours as well. Comment here sharing your glowing or not-so-glowing experience with parenting, how you’ve found healing, and how you commemorate that experience.

If you’d like to share your story with a larger audience, submit your story with photos, your bio, and the subject #MyStoryMatters to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces).

________________

Jessica Martin-WeberDrawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com,co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and co-creator of OurStableTable.com, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book and a children’s book.

 

Enter for your chance to win a ring sling with a pattern based on my tattoo. This beautiful Tekhni Wovens ring sling in Clover is yours for the winning! Enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Share

Of The Overwhelming, Bad Days, and Normal Feelings

by Jessica Martin-Weber

This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo Feeding

Brand-Ad_29APR16

____________________

 

Parenting can be really hard. Even when you love it and feel this is what you are meant to do it can be really hard. Every parent has times when they are overwhelmed and question whether or not they made a mistake in becoming a parent. These feelings crop up in certain circumstances or in the midst of a difficult day. That’s totally normal and usually it passes pretty quickly, is lifted in talking with an understanding friend, or things come into perspective when you get some time alone.

But there are feelings that go beyond this. If you’re experiencing more than occasionally feeling overwhelmed, it isn’t your fault and you’re not a bad parent for feeling how you do, but you may need help. While it is common for most parents to experience moments of questioning and doubt along their parenting journey, a persistent and reoccurring presence of these feelings may be more normal for a postpartum mood disorder.

postpartum depression illness

If you find that you identify more with the normal of a postpartum mood disorder, you’re not alone even if nobody knows you’re struggling this way. Many parents have been there before, you are not alone and you’re not some kind of broken freak. It is possible that you have a medical condition that needs treatment. In reaching out and sharing the experience we can better recognize the normal symptoms of postpartum mood disorders leading to better care for ourselves and our families. We need to understand the normal feelings and thoughts for a postpartum mood disorder.

    • If you have the recurring feeling that your child would be better off without you, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If you are feeling that you don’t want to be a parent and that feeling lasts for more than just a moment, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If you are having feelings of wanting to hurt or abandon your child, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If fear dominates your thoughts and actions, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If you have anxiety that won’t let you sleep or makes you not to want to leave the house, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If you have fantasies of hurting yourself or disappearing from the world, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If you regularly feel rage toward yourself, your partner, or your child(ren), this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If you feel that you don’t deserve to live, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If you can’t get out of bed every day or you hide away from everyone, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.
    • If sadness and despair color most of your experiences and interactions, this is a sign that something more serious is going on.

 

postpartum depression postpartum anxiety

These feelings are not just what every mom feels on their bad days, these are all signs that something more serious is going on and you need help. These are normal feelings when you have a postpartum mood disorder. Every parent has hard days and every parent has moments when they feel they need a break, but the feelings listed above are more normal of a postpartum mood disorder including postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. If you have a postpartum mood disorder, you are not alone, others can relate.

Depression and anxiety are real illnesses but because they don’t present with an apparent physical ailment, often they are ruled as just a bad day or a lack of strength or character. This is a lie.

If you recognize yourself in any of these signs, please know that you are not alone but these aren’t the feelings everyone should expect in parenting, these are the feelings that are common with depression and anxiety or a postpartum mood disorder. That doesn’t mean you are broken but it may mean you are unwell. Everyone deserves health as much as possible and that includes mental health. If you had strep throat you would get care and treatment. So it is with mental health. It isn’t a weakness to get help when you are sick, it makes us healthier and stronger for living life with those we love.

Please, let someone know how you are feeling and reach out for help. These crisis lines are available to any parent in crisis:

USA: 1-800-422-4453

Canada: 1-888-603-9100

UK: 08457 90 90 90

And if you know of someone struggling with any of this, reach out to them, here are some tips as to how. Sometimes we need someone willing to help us walk through the process of getting help. To support us and believe in us and to refrain from judging us. You could make the difference in someone’s life by simply caring.

You matter, you are enough. We care about you.

 ____________________

Jessica Martin-Weber

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.
Share

2016 Infant Feeding Guide with Product Reviews + Giveaway

by The Leaky Boob Community

The CDC says that the number one reason for women who intend to breastfeed but don’t end up reaching their breastfeeding goals is lack of support. Support goes a long way in making a difference in our feeding journeys. From familial, social, medical, and employment structures, there are many ways we can find and experience support. With story sharing, information sharing, and resource sharing, The Leaky Boob is dedicated to making support for the infant feeding journey easier to find. It may be breastfeeding that brings us all together but through support and finding community we stick around for the connection and rally behind the boob, bottle, formula, and solids. Our infant feeding guide pulls together information, resources, product reviews, and tips from our community to offer that support we’re committed to.

Not much is really needed for feeding a baby in those early days, provided everything goes smoothly. But since it doesn’t always go smoothly, sometimes we need some products to support the journey. Plus, even when it does go smoothly, there are some things that help make it easier and more fun.

After flipping through our guide, be sure to enter to win every product featured in our guide this year!

And we’re giving it ALL away! Every single item included in our 31 page guide is being given away. Divided into 2 separate bundles, we’re excited to be able to give 2 different Leakies each one of these bundles from our guide. Use the widget below to enter and tell us which bundle you’d want to win in the comments.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and a huge thanks to all the brands that wanted to make this possible!

Share

Bump, Baby, and Beyond Product Guide 2016 + Giveaway

by The Leaky Boob Community

We asked around from our favorite parents (you!) and put together a guide of the products we love for pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn care. Introducing our Bump, Baby, and Beyond 2016 Product Guide! But that’s not all, our readers gave us their best tips and advice they wish they had received about pregnancy, birth, and having a new baby. There’s a lot of wisdom here! Take some time, browse through this issue, and comment letting us know what you love, what you’re interested in, and what you think we left out, there are so many great products and advice, we’re bound to miss some.

And we’re giving it ALL away! Every single item included in our guide (over 50!) is being given away. Divided into 3 separate bundles, we’re excited to be able to give 3 different leakies different bundles from our guide. Use the widget below to enter and tell us what 2 friends you have that you’d like to win the other two bundles in the comments.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and a huge thanks to all the brands that wanted to make this possible!

Share

The Serious Injury No One is Talking About: Diastasis Recti

by Nicole Nexon, MSPT
This post made possible by the generous support of Belabumbum

BelabumbumLogo_200x60

____________________

Sometimes I feel like exercise has become a dirty word in the mommy sphere. I can understand that.

We get this message that we need to do everything – work, raise babies, maintain perfect households, create Pinterest worthy projects, not burn dinner… and erase any shred of evidence that our bodies have created life. Society settled on the idea that skinny = perfect and the backlash from that led to a movement of pride in our bodies. Which somehow turned in to “ real woman have curves “ and all kinds of craziness about skinny girls and curvy girls and…

It’s out of control.

And what has been missed in all of this is the truth of the matter – it’s not about skinny. It’s not about having curves or not having curves. It’s not about “mummy tummies” or thigh gap or muffin tops.

It’s about being healthy.

And not “healthy” in a way that has been co-opted by people meaning “stop eating junk food you fatty!” Healthy in way that allows people to live their lives in a manner they choose. Healthy in a way that allows you to lift babies and chase toddlers and carry laundry wherever you need to carry your laundry. Healthy in a way that makes you feel confident, that lets you sleep well and go about your life.

What happens when you’re injured…and you don’t even know it?

When I was pregnant with my second daughter, I began to feel a pretty distinct pain by my belly button. It was so specific that I was fairly certain I was developing an umbilical hernia. I brought it up with my midwife and was told it wasn’t a hernia. I was developing a diastasis recti – a split between the muscles and muscular tissue that runs down the center of the abdomen. The pressure inside from an expanding uterus/baby was just too much for the abdominal tissue to handle so the tissue and muscles were separating.

With my first pregnancy, I worked in an outpatient clinic that was less physically demanding. With this second pregnancy, my current position required a lot of physical lifting as a physical therapist in a subacute center for patients who were not sick enough for the hospital, not well enough to go home. I already had work restrictions due to the physical requirements of my job; working with those restrictions AND dealing with a developing case of Diastasis Recti made the restrictions even more difficult.

It was in this position that I recognized a growing group of people in need of support, awareness, and healing of Diastasis Recti: new moms.

Here were these women, trying to juggle new responsibilities, healing from the changes their bodies went through during pregnancy and subsequent post-partum recovery and there was little to no support or even awareness about the problems that Diastasis Recti presented.

Diastasis Recti can affect your body in some pretty drastic ways.

  • -Incontinence
  • -Irregular bowel movements,
  • -Lower back pain, spinal or hip injuries due to your abdominal muscle’s inability to support your body when you’re lifting or bending
  • -Pain during sexual intercourse
  • -Increased chance of sciatica or disc issues
  • -Increased chance of umbilical hernia
  • -Postural instability due to poor strength of the abdominal muscles

The effects are numerous.

Now it was MY body that was going to need to be supported.

My body that was going to need help carrying a car seat. A baby. My toddler. The laundry.

My body that was going to be more prone to injury- that would need me to completely rethink how I went about my day. I worked out through my pregnancy because I knew what was ahead of me. I knew my core was going to be compromised. I wanted to achieve a VBAC and I knew I would need endurance (among other things) to prevent a repeated OR experience. I went back to my books and read studies on exercise efficacy. I reviewed exercise programs for pregnant women, post partum women, and people who had just had abdominal or back surgery. I had a plan, and I HAD to be as physically strong as I could when I returned from maternity leave so I could perform my job effectively.

I ended up with a VBAC, a baby girl, and a three-finger diastasis.

*when I say “three-finger diastasis” I am describing how many fingers I can horizontally fit across the tissue separation. To find this, lay on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift up your head slightly and contract your abdomen muscles gently. Find your belly button and make the “scout symbol” with your fingers…see how many you can fit in there. i.e. 1 finger, 3 fingers, etc. Check the same line down by your pelvis, and again up towards your ribs. Different points along your abdominal muscles may be different fingers of separation.

recti article image

I feel blessed that my passion and my education allowed me to understand what my body needs to function well and heal from my condition. I am grateful for my colleagues and friends with whom I can discuss ideas or count on to help me with the hands-on techniques I can’t perform on myself. I know I am lucky to have access to the information that I have.

I want other women to have this valuable access to connections and resources that are out there for those recovering from Diastasis Recti.

I want women to know that sometimes “mummy tummy” can actually be caused by a medical condition.

I want women to know that the media are not medical professionals and there is a wide range of “normal” when it comes to our bodies.

I want other mothers to know that exercise and eating well are available to them.

I want women to know there are safe exercise routines that WON’T injure a body healing from Diastasis Recti. That recovering doesn’t need to be a series of scary, out-of-reach experiences. They don’t need to spend hours in the gym (Though you certainly can, if you enjoy it!).

Recovering means that you can take a walk, be it pushing a stroller or wearing a baby. You can do squats in your living room, jumping jacks, and eventually pushups and planks. (But until you’ve healed from your diastasis, it is best to do modified planks so that you don’t further separate your diastasis or have your abdominal muscles work against you or push on that separation while you’re healing!)

I feel sad when I hear people say “I can’t workout because…”

I feel sad because they are being taught that only the big efforts count.

That’s not true.

I work with people for whom sitting at the edge of their bed is enormous effort, and standing requires assistance of others. When you see the enormous joy on a person’s face brought by these small yet enormous victories, you begin to understand the true beauty of the movement our bodies are capable of. What may seem like a small victory may be an enormous triumph-a giant step towards hope and healing.

Misguided emphasis on skinny and perfect or the fear of never being _____ enough WILL STOP US in our tracks.

Enough.

You are enough.

It’s ok to start small.

It’s ok to fail.

It’s ok to not be perfect.

It’s ok to be YOU.

It’s not about meeting someone else’s standards.

It’s about taking care of yourself, teaching your family that our bodies are a great gift and we should treat them well. It’s about understanding that you are worthy of the time and energy it will take to begin, to HEAL, and to build healthy habits that facilitate that healing and well being.

Let’s get moving, because moving not only transforms your body, but it transforms your mind, no matter what size jeans you wear.

Some Exercises to Get You  Started:

Some Other Tips to Start Healing:

  • Sitting with the best possible posture: (Pull your belly button in towards your spine. Keep breathing while doing this. Pull your shoulder blades onto your back. Keep breathing!)
  • Kegels/pelvic floor exercises (contracting the pelvic floor muscles-the ones you use to stop your pee, if that makes sense!).
  • Standing on one foot while brushing your teeth while pulling your belly button in towards your spine.
  • Stretching before you get out of bed.
  • Taking a walk or parking further from the store.
  • You can climb your stairs.
  • Swim.
  • Dance.
  • Work out with a DVD program or take a class.
  • If pregnant, getting an abdominal/belly support band to help support your abdomen and relieve pain you may be experiencing.
  • If in post partum recovery, gently binding your belly to help pull the muscles together and support you in those first few weeks of initial birth recovery.

starting pt image

arms image

leg image

plank image

Where am I now? I’m down to a one finger split at my belly button. I am confidently back to work full time with no restrictions. I’m still doing pelvic floor exercises and modifying my workouts to protect and strengthen my abdominal muscles so I don’t re-injure or reinforce the Diastasis Recti. I’m teaching my daughters that exercise and eating well are ways to treat your body with respect, to give it what it needs so when you need your body to work for you, it will. I’m teaching them that strong is beautiful, that healthy allows you to follow your dreams, that food is a tool and a pleasure and size is just another physical trait that varies from person to person.

Final thought… can we all agree to stop using the words “mummy tummy” ? Please? Your tummy is awesome, mommy. Growing a human is beautiful. A body that shows the results of growing a human is also beautiful!

For more information on Diastasis Recti click here.

*Want to know where to get the great active wear featured in this post?  In our video and corresponding exercise photos, Nicole is wearing the Belabumbum maternity and nursing active wear.

 _____________________

nicole nexon image
Nicole Nexon is a mother of two, working full time as a physical therapist. Nicole has her master’s degree in Physical Therapy, and has been working for 9 years in both the inpatient and outpatient fields of physical therapy. She is a complete nerd when it comes to the human body and wants to encourage others to take the opportunity to treat their bodies well at whatever stage of life they are in. She is also a Beachbody coach and has found it to be a great platform to spread her mission of health and wellness. In her spare time, Nicole enjoys traveling and snowboarding. You can follow her at www.facebook.com/nicolerosenex )
Share

12 Surprising Possible Realities Of Your First Postpartum Periods

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Sorry for the Buzzfeed style title. It’s that time of the month and there wasn’t enough chocolate to get me through writing this and coming up with a clear yet titillating title too.

The last 5 days we’ve been bleeding our hearts out on The Leaky Boob, Beyond Moi, A Girl With A View, and a little bit with What Love Tastes Like, opening up and sharing all about periods. Free bleeding information and experiences, debunking myths and being honest. In that time we’ve learned a lot. Like a girl having her first period (called menarche), there were a few things that surprised us and at times we found ourselves overly-grumpy. But mostly we felt like we were in good company and that commiserating was cathartic.

Also chocolate. Or bacon. Sometimes chips. And wine.

As we all shared the activities of our uteruses together, we started noticing a pattern. Not completely regular but consistent enough to chart and make a prediction:

Most women will be surprised by their first postpartum periods.

Not all and the surprises weren’t always unpleasant in nature but many women had no idea what they experienced was possible. Like, at all. And they thought they were the only one in the world to experience it.

Since we’ve already aired all our period panties to the world, it’s time to shed some of the mystery like a uterine lining. Here it is, our list of surprising possible realities of your first postpartum periods.

  1. No matter how long your postpartum bleeding lasts (lochia, which is not a period and you can read more about here), it isn’t an indicator of what your postpartum periods will be like.period week is coming
  2. It could take months for Aunt Flo to visit after you have had a baby, even over a year and for some it could be two years. Breastfeeding exclusively makes it more likely your favorite auntie won’t be around for a while.
  3. But it is no guarantee. Because we’re talking hormones and Aunt Flo, there’s only so much you can predict. Don’t be unprepared because you could be one of those that gets it back at 6 weeks postpartum and is like clockwork every month after. Even if you’re breastfeeding and your child never sees another nipple but yours. Yes, even if you’re breastfeeding twins.postpartum period surprise meme
  4. It could take a while to really get going, there could be brown spotting for a few days a month for several months while your body is indecisive. Get your period undies ready.
  5. OR it could come back with a vengeance with a gush that will feel like a scene from Game Of Thrones playing at the most inopportune moment. You may want to have supplies with you at all times just in case.brace-yourselves-cramps
  6. Essentially, there’s no guarantee when you’re going to start riding the crimson tide again after you have a baby.
  7. There’s also no guarantee that it will be the same as what you had before you had your baby. It could be lighter, shorter, and less uncomfortable. It could be heavier, longer and more painful.* Or any combination. Or different every time.
  8. The products you used before may still be your favorites. But you may suddenly hate them. Many women find they want to try something new and don’t be surprised if you see disposables as stinky, uncomfortable, and gradually building a mountain of waste that will be around when your children are having children. Which is a disgusting thought, your period supplies slowly rotting in a landfill when your grandkids are being born. And since you’re more comfortable with the weird things your body does (childbirth can do that to a person), the idea of washing cloth pads or to put a cup in it doesn’t seem so crazy any more. Diva-Cup-Evangelist
  9. If you’re breastfeeding, shark week may mean that your nipples protest someone latching on. Nipple sensitivity AND cramps? So not fair but often so real. Thankfully it usually doesn’t last long and chocolate can help.
  10. Even more annoying, periods and/or ovulation can cause a dip in milk supply if you are breastfeeding. So not only are you annoyed, your hungry baby is too. Most of the time this indicates a magnesium deficiency and supplements may fix this problem (see more here) but only after the most emotional and sensitive time when you have a hungry kid frustrated at your boob. You know what has magnesium? Chocolate. period week chocolate
  11. Just like a girl may experience irregular periods for about a year, postpartum women may find that it takes their cycles a good year to establish a regular pattern. The upside to this is that it is completely reasonable to always eat chocolate since you never really know.
  12. Health care providers may not have a clue what’s going on either. They should and many will but some don’t. You may have to educate them.

Be prepared for anything. Postpartum menses seem to like surprises.

Keep calm and menstruate on

*It is important to note that severe or debilitating pain or extremely heavy bleeding is a sign that something is wrong and may need more than chocolate and wine to address. It is well documented that women are more easily dismissed by health care providers about their pain and discomfort when it comes to health concerns. If your concerns are repeatedly brushed off as being normal but you feel something is wrong or your normal life is disrupted, please speak to your health care provider or find another one. Be persistent until you find one that will take your concern seriously. Menstruation is a normal biological part of life for most healthy child-bearing age women, it isn’t a pathology that women just have to deal with on a monthly basis and if it is interrupting your normal activity and lowering your quality of life, something more serious may be going on.

 

_______________________

Have you survived mastitis? How did you get through?

_______________________

Jessica Martin-Weber Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.
Share

A Poem on Postpartum Depression; A #MyStoryMatters

by Melissa Hoos

depression and motherhood

I’m mama to one amazing 10 month old boy. Having been diagnosed with clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder at age 15, I knew I was at a high risk for postpartum depression. Pregnancy gave me a wonderful break from depressive episodes (my psychiatrist would tell me, just get pregnant! It’ll solve all your mental health issues!), but after my son was born, the relief didn’t last long. The hormonal high lasted a few short, awesome days, and then the baby blues set in. My husband went back to work, and I spent that day’s midwife appointment sobbing on her couch – partly because I just couldn’t stop crying, ever, but also because she said the words I was hoping to never hear her say: I think you need to consider going back on medication.

I’d worked SO hard to get off the medication so I could get pregnant, and I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed if I took the same medication again. So I was determined to overcome PPD/PPA without it. My husband took some more time off work, we made a plan, and my mom came to help for a while. It worked, for a few weeks, until it didn’t anymore. 

I knew I loved my son. I knew I could take good care of him. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was just not good enough to be a mother, and he would be better off without me. He wasn’t a colicky baby, and it wasn’t very often that he just cried and cried. My inner monologue often went along the lines of “what kind of mother gets angry at her baby? He’s just tired/hungry/wet and now I’ve made him scared too!” 

No matter how calm and rational I made my thoughts, I just could not translate that into calm and rational actions. It was like being stuck inside my own head, watching someone else pick up my baby with rough hands, hearing someone else say to my baby “what the f*ck do you WANT??” And then the next instant it was me again, sobbing and hating myself because how could I have lost it again? Nursing him after those awful moments was just as much an emotional reset for me as it was for him.

One night as I laid in bed crying, watching my baby in his bed after over an hour of fighting to get him to sleep, I wrote this poem. The first sign of a depressive episode for me has always been the loss of my creative side. I normally love to write, and I decided that despite the fact that I did NOT want to, I needed to. Even if it’s only to unscramble my brain so I could sleep. I let my husband read it in the morning, and I think it was the first time he truly understood how I felt. 

I don’t know exactly what snapped me out of that awful episode. It had been months. I knew the whole time that I should probably stop trying to muscle my way through and just take the damn medication. And then one day, I realized it had been a few days since I last felt out of control. I think, for me, the worst part was the anxiety. I was suddenly able to say to myself, “Hey, if he wakes up, it’ll be okay. I’ll just nurse him back to sleep.” Or, “Hey, if I can’t get him back to sleep, hubby will take a turn and I’ll go get a glass of water.” I started being able to recognize the start of a “bad brain day” and could take self-care measures to prevent another episode from beginning, just like before I was ever pregnant. The cognitive behaviour therapy, anxiety classes, and counselling started coming back to me.

It’s not completely gone now. And since depression and anxiety has been a part of my life for well over a decade, I doubt it ever will be. I don’t know what the next postpartum experience will hold, but I’m writing down ways to cope so that next time, maybe I can bypass a little more of the darkness. Ignoring it just doesn’t work, so I hope that shining a little light on the topic can help someone recognize PPD/PPA in themselves or someone they love, and get the help they need. 

This is my poem

When he’s screaming I can’t 
think and everything starts to look 
red and I just want to
scream right along with 
him, this baby I waited so
long for and asked
God for and 
thank
God
for

Where does my heart 
go when I’m so
angry because it isn’t 
here loving my
son, it is somewhere else and I just
can’t quite reach it

My brain tricks me into
thinking how dare he cry, but he’s just a 
baby and he’s telling me momma I 
need you which these ears fail to
hear with all the 
screaming

I just want to be a good
mother but all I seem to do is 
lose my mind and this isn’t 
me, it isn’t 
me, someone please 
help
me

In the dead of night I watch my baby
sleep in his crib and 
wonder if he will remember the
angry momma or the loving one and the
thought breaks my 
heart because what if he
remembers the
angry one?

He is a piece of me and I
love him fiercely but 
he deserves 
better than
me

God help me

____________________

For more information about postpartum depression visit Postpartum Progress.

  If you’re seeking for advice and guidance, here’s an article on postpartum depression and anxiety.

____________________

If you’d like to share your story with a larger audience, submit your story, photos, and your bio, with #MyStoryMatters in the subject to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces).

____________________

Melissa Hoos

I’m mama to one amazing 10 month old boy. Having been diagnosed with clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder at age 15, I knew I was at a high risk for postpartum depression. 
Share

When Lipstick Is My Lifeline: Coping With Mental Illness

by Kileah McIlvain

I stood in front of the newest display of NYX Suede lipsticks at the local beauty store, hands trembling from the newest round of psych meds I’d started that week as I picked out the last shade of Stone Fox…my newest most-coveted lip color. I carefully placed it in my shopping bag, already running through eyeshadow shades I’d be wearing to match it. My husband was in the car with 4 cranky and probably hungry kids. But this 5 minutes? It was mine. Even if it was 5 minutes over some damn grey lipstick. It was mine. My shaky hands browsed the sample aisle before I meandered my way back to the front counter to complete my purchase and walked back into the screaming hurricane that was my minivan. I sighed. I could finish this day. I could maybe do it. For 5 minutes, I didn’t contemplate death, or removal of myself, or running away, or that I was having to wean because some medication was supposed to make me not crazy, or the crazy burning pain over every inch of my skin that wouldn’t go away, or overwhelming floods of anxiety. Five Minutes. It. Was. MINE. 

___________________

You do what you can. You say the words. You make the motions.

You feel like like a broken shell. Fragile. Incomplete. Lost.

IMG_1534

This is what I feel like. A lot.

You feel like a muddy flood. Nothing is clear. Everything is swirling.

Being co-responsible for bringing 5 precious lives into the world, 4 of which are living, in the midst of figuring out how to wade through the deep waters of mental illess and a yet-to-be-diagnosed myalgia condition means I don’t have a lot of control. Things come out, feelings wash over every inch of me and it feels ugly. It’s there. It isn’t pretty. It’s part of my journey. It’s my story.


I can’t control the pain. I can’t control the way the new medication I’m trying out makes me feel like shit. Or how many times I have to say no, or flake out because I know that if I expend one more bit of energy…I’ll be paying for it for the next week. My body, my time, my soul, is a precious commodity around here. To myself, my partner, and my kids.

IMG_0695

My first blueberry bush.

So? You can’t control the ocean. Sometimes you can’t even find the damn shovel to dig yourself out of the pit you find yourself in. But? I CAN hold a small container of lipstick. Grasp the small tube and spread it around on my lips and try my best to make an even line with shaky medicated fingers. Because it’s a small thing. But it’s something that I can have a say in. I can tell it where it goes. I can make it as dark or bright or outlandish or as grey as I want to. I can use this lipstick as a badge on my face that declares “I AM STILL HERE. I AM ME. AND THIS ILLNESS INSIDE OF ME WILL NOT CONSUME ME. NOT TODAY.”

It may be something else entirely different for you. Sinking your fingers into the earth and growing seeds. Knitting and stroking and spinning beautiful things from frail fibers woven and twisted together. It may be speaking healing words into a fragile heart, or stretching warm silent arms around the shuddering shoulders of a grieving friend. It may be watching your baby’s breathing as she sleeps…blissfully unaware of the harshness and darkness that life can bring.

IMG_5004

My littlest hobbit. Napping.

Whatever that thing is. Small or great. Cling to it. Whether it’s a tube of lipstick, or a piece of yarn, or a sweaty curl on your newborn’s head, or a plate of food handed to someone who’s belly is empty. Cling to it.

Because really? It isn’t so much about the thing you cling to.

It’s that you are clinging.

So cling, dear heart. And when your hands and arms and soul are tired, we will cling together. 

Because? You are always, and always will be, enough

IMG_4781

Stone Fox lips. Mine.

 

Share

Bipolar Parenting- The Fear My Children Would Be Better Off Motherless

by Joni Edelman

In 2005, my oldest sons were five and seven years old. On a summer afternoon I found them in a hurricane of kicks and slaps, a disagreement over legos or hot wheels. I raised my voice, yelling, STOP. Unfazed by my clenched fists, my volume, the anger in my eyes and in my scowl, their fighting continued. My rage reached boiling. I scanned the room. My eyes landed on a wooden chair near the door and brought it down on the hardwood floor in a crash, splinters flying, the flooring scratched. The fighting stopped and their expressions told a story of terror.

I remember those faces — still. It’s been 10 years.

***

In the summer of 1983 my best friend ever in the entire universe came to my house for a sleepover. My house was the best house for sleepovers. We had Twinkies and microwave popcorn, fruit roll-ups and A&W Root Beer — and all the things 9 year old’s dreams are made of. The cabinets were organized alphabetically; Twinkies by the Triscuits, popcorn by the Pasta-roni.

I had a daisy comforter and three decorative pillows, my own TV, and eight Cabbage Patch dolls. My mom would sometimes be gone all night — which only added to the allure.

Me and my best friend forever ate the popcorn, and everything else, and watched whatever was on TV (which wasn’t much). And went to sleep.

When we woke up Saturday morning, the house was quiet, and I had a new stepfather. Steve worked construction and smelled like stale cigarettes and tequila and freshly milled 2X4s. He yelled a lot. I didn’t like him. He had three pesky, filthy children, who I also didn’t like.

Friday night, my mom and Steve went to Vegas. And Saturday morning I had a new family. The next week, in the middle of a school day, my mom picked me up. From school we went to Steve’s house, which was dirty, remotely located, and surrounded by flooded groves of walnut trees and fields of cotton. I didn’t like it either.

I never saw my school — or my desk full of Hello Kitty pencils — again.

This may seem like odd behavior, because it is, but it wasn’t for me. Sudden changes in locale, housing, men, stepsiblings, schools, all typical. I loathed it. I was accustomed to it.

***

Ten years later I was living on my own and helping my sixth stepfather raise my 4-year-old sister. My mom was living in some remote city in Northern California, with the addict who would ostensibly become my seventh stepfather. I was in college, married, pregnant, terrified.

In early adulthood the bipolar disorder that was my genetic destiny was pushed around — shuffled from doctor to doctor, city to city, misdiagnosis to misdiagnosis. Deeply distressed, consumed by sadness, it was just “postpartum depression.” If I had manic energy, it was “drive” or “passion” or “dedication.” Snap decisions, irresponsible, risky, promiscuous, it was just “life learning.” I never finished anything I started, something always got in the way. It was never Bipolar Disorder.

It was always Bipolar Disorder.

I wanted children, a family — stability to heal my wounds. And I knew the truth, I was very sick. I wanted desperately to be anyone but my mother, but, always suppressed, always explained away, I was exactly like my mother. All night sewing marathons, consuming obsession with fitness, organization, church, gardening, decor, 17 kinds of crafts. My magical thinking, my invincibility. The rage. The waves of crippling depression.

I had three children who were pushed aside, when I was sad, or busy, which was a lot of the time. I yelled. I cried. I retreated. I apologized. I did it all again — an infinite loop of dysfunction.

I wanted to be the best mother. The opposite of my mother. I wanted to do it all, and well. But  I wasn’t doing it well. I was doing what I could. But sometimes what you can do isn’t enough.

There was always fear, the fear of the unspoken truth, the elephant in the room — in my life, all around me —  as much as I didn’t want to be my mother, I was. I ignored it, ultimately medicating the long troughs of depression, celebrating the months of boundless energy, denying the dysfunctional behavior;  the out of control spending, the risk taking, the defiance, the promiscuity, the rage.

For 20 years.

***

When I was 40, I met my psychiatrist, a diminutive man, who drinks lattes and eats Sun Chips during my appointments. The man who mixed a complicated cocktail of psychiatric medications, and finally leveled my moods. The man that rose my depression, and stole my mania, and bridged the gap between crippling sadness and dangerous madness. The man who changed it all.

Despite the bridge, my moods still shift from time to time. Lately they’ve been low, I’ve planned my death seven different ways. And so we adjust my dosages. Three months ago they were high, high enough that I didn’t want to sleep. But I continued to swallow the usual pills, and the extra pills he prescribed to force the sleep I hate, to shut me down. We move my meds up and down, in spite of the sometimes crippling side effects. In the name of sanity. In the name of trying to be a safe place for my five children.

Bipolar Parenting, Joni Edelman

I’m still scared. I’m scared that the 10 years I lived in denial hurt my children, irreparably.  I’m scared that they will grow up and write something like this, recounting a childhood of fear and dysfunction. I’m scared that the cocktail that keeps me alive may stop working — that the depths of depression will take hold, and I won’t be able to shake it. And I will die. And leave them motherless.

I’m scared that they might be better off motherless.

I’m scared that one of them will have this cursed gift. I’m scared they will blame me, like I blamed her. I’m scared that someday I’ll be her, and not even know.

Every night I brush my teeth and I swallow five pills and I hope that I can be better, that I am better.

___________________________

IMG_0670 I’m Joni. I’m lucky enough to have 5 amazing kids (19, 16, 15, 4 and 2), one fantastic husband, an awesome sister and a yarn addiction. When I’m not raising up people I’m a freelance writer, RN, and the momma behind mommabare. Love is my religion. I like cake and crafty crap. And yoga. In that order. 
You can follow Joni on Instagram here and on Twitter here.
Share

Fennel and Sausage Breakfast Casserole for the Milky Mom

by Carrie Saum

Mornings are nightmares in my house.

Even before having a baby with some extra needs, I struggled to feel like a human before 10:00am. I know now that I need thyroid support. I need extra vitamins B and D. I need sleep. I need no talking until coffee has kicked in. I need to wake up slow with a silent, sweet cuddle from my toddler.

LOL. I know. These things will never happen.

But I do know what I absolutely need to be a good person during the rest of the day: Breakfast.

I also know I need extra protein and veggies in the morning. I have a hard time taking care of myself. This is NOT NEWS. But I have a specific behavior that pops up when I start to feel overwhelmed and stop taking care of myself.

What is it, you ask? Well, I eat trail mix. For every meal. With a side of coffee. (Or maybe coffee is my main meal and trail mix is a side?)

I started the trail mix/coffee routine when I was exclusively pumping. I ate a limited diet in order to help my son thrive. Nuts, beans, and seeds, thankfully, were never an issue for either of us, so I kept a bag of homemade trail mix next to my pump and snacked while I pumped. I also ate other things, like gluten-free toast and quinoa and oats with a side of salad for breakfast. I ate bags of frozen veggies sautéed in olive oil and topped with an over-easy egg, (until my son reacted to the egg through my breastmilk).

When the challenges I faced far outweighed my capacity to cope, the first thing to go was breakfast. Those simple, warm, fueling meals turned to snack and convenience foods. Which was TOTALLY OKAY for that season in life. I was in full survival mode and I give myself a total pass.

But the reality is this: I need a hot breakfast to be at my peak, and really to even start climbing that mountain. I can handle prepping and eating a hot breakfast every morning, now. I have the capacity.

So, last week when I started eating trail mix, a tiny warning bell went off in my head. Taking care of myself often gets filed to the bottom of the pile when work, family, and community are all scrambling for my attention. Which is crazy because food is kind of My Thing.

I have compiled a list of ways I can restart and ensure my path to self-care. Yours might look different, or there might be more steps, or there might be fewer.

  1. Eat a hot breakfast.
  2. The end.

The easiest way to I’ve found to consistently care for myself is to eat a hot breakfast. I prep a breakfast cassarole on Sunday and portion it out for the rest of the week. Then I reheat it in the toaster oven and eat it while it’s piping hot not ice cold.

FrittataCloseUp

Ingredients:

  • 12 eggs
  • 1 cup cheese (I prefer parmesan or asiago, but any cheese will do)
  • 1/2 cup half and half, or milk of your choice
  • 1 lb of browned sausage or cooked bacon, crumbled (I prefer mild Italian sausage, but you can skip meat altogether to make this vegetarian.)
  • 1 medium onion, diced and sauteed
  • 1 large fennel bulb, sliced and sauteed
  • 12 oz chopped broccoli
  • 2 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes or 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch of swiss chard or spinach, roughly chopped
  • 3 Tbsp of fresh herbs of your choice, or 1 Tbsp dried herbs. (I use rosemary, basil, from my garden, and fennel fronds from the bulb if available.)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Directions:

  1. Whisk together eggs, milk, herbs, salt, and pepper.  Mix in shredded cheese.
  2. Add protein and veggies, and mix thoroughly.
  3. In a large, greased baking dish, bake at 350 degrees for one hour, or until the middle is cooked all the way through.
  4. Remove from oven and serve immediately.  Cut into individual portions and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
  5. To reheat: Place in the oven or toaster oven for 12 minutes at 350 degrees and eat.

I am a better person with this method.  I am a nicer mom and functional human for at least three hours of the day. Until it’s lunchtime, but that’s another post for another day.

Take Good Care,
Carrie

*Note: It’s important to point out that most women aren’t going to need to eat food with the intention of upping their milk supply, if everything is working the way it is supposed to, your baby will know how to up your supply just fine themselves. Skin-to-skin and feeding on demand are the best ways to increase breastmilk supply to meet your baby’s needs. (Concerned you have low supply? Read this to help figure out if it is something you need to be concerned about.) For those women, galactalogues just happen and they don’t need to think about it. But some women, like me, do need a boost. As a mom who ended up exclusively pumping and indeed having low supply such that I ended up on medication solely to increase my milk production, I know what it’s like to look for anything, anything at all that would help my body make even just a little more milk to help feed my baby. With the support of my health care providers, we tried everything. It becomes “I will eat all the cookies, I will drink all the shakes, I will eat all the parfaits!” if it even just makes me feel like I’m doing something to address the low supply struggle, it is worth it.

______________

If you like this recipe, check out this  recipe for Garden Vegetable Frittata or Brown Butter Apple Crumble Cake  over on Our Stable Table.

______________

CarrieHeadshotCarrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.
Share