Happy Belated Mother’s Day everyone! I hope you all had good days…whether you have one child or ten, you deserve wonderful things! It’s a big, full-time job nurturing life.
My mom blogger buddy Bonnie Way and I have written a book on pregnancy, birthing and early days with a newborn and are offering it free this week until Thursday on Amazon kindle. With 14 kids between us both, we have plenty of experience, and hope our tips, experiences, and birth stories can help support you on your journey to motherhood!
You don’t need a Kindle device to read it—you can get the free Kindle app on your phone, iPad or tablet as well. Here’s the link:
You may wonder why we say tips for all four trimesters, instead of three, but this is not a typo! During the first three months of a baby’s life, they are still so completely dependent on their mothers to keep them alive, safe and secure. There is nowhere my nine week old son prefers to be, than snuggling on my chest, sleeping to the drum of my heartbeat.
At the same time, a mother’s health and happiness depends a lot on her baby. If he is nursing well, sleeping well, and generally content, so will she be. That means her snacking lots to keep up her energy for nursing, eating well, and napping with the little one, because newborn days are pretty exhausting—but with gentle care—happy baby, happy mama. This is why we call it the fourth trimester…not so much a time to rush into getting “back to normal,” but a time to move slowly while you continue to nurture fragile new life, grow into this new role of being a mom, and find the rhythm and support you need as well.
Huge hugs to all my fellow mamas! I hope you enjoy reading our birth stories!
You know you’re working hard when your kitchen whisk breaks—actually snaps in half like mine and become garbage. This pandemic is pushing us all hard…but instead of scrambled eggs we’ve been dealing with a scrambled world, and for a long, long time. Over a year.
It’s an exhausting long haul, and none of us wants to snap like that whisk and become useless. Surviving covid is like being on a tour of duty that just won’t end, though we can hope it’s coming closer. So in light of all this I’ve been thinking about resilience…and what it really means. My sister’s professor said something really wise about resilience that I’ve been mulling over a lot:
“Our one prof spent the last afternoon talking to us about how most of us equate resilience with a stubborn determination to keep slogging but that rejuvenation should be valued just as much. If not more.”
Rejuvenation—becoming young again, refreshed, restored—not just grimly slogging on without stopping for water breaks. This is a more sustainable vision of resilience…one that doesn’t involve pushing oneself to the breaking point. It means not just having strength but also the humility to know that everyone needs breaks and gentle self-care, especially at times when life feels like a marathon.
This all makes so much sense, but can be hard to put into practice when you’ve been in emergency mode for a long time, as our world has. Despite everything we need to relax, play, enjoy little moments and rest.
Babies are good at this. They nap a lot, cause all their growing is exhausting, and they make sure to eat well and often. They ask for help whenever they need it. Sometimes they cry, and other times they coo, but most importantly, they trust that they are loved unconditionally. This is the part we adults most often forget.
I’m giving myself this lecture as much as you. When my dad got really sick with his cancer last fall, and I had the honour to care for him in his last weeks, I resolved to be strong. To be there for him. To do all that I could, despite wanting to crumble and break. When he died, I had to keep being strong. Plan the funeral. Bury my beloved father, who was my biggest cheerleader and one of my best friends.
After that, as his executor, months of paperwork. Serious responsibilities requiring me to be, you guessed it, strong. But now, almost six months after his death last year on November 9th, I wonder if part of me has become petrified—so strong it has turned to rock—and in that sense not fully alive. Avoiding the grief I couldn’t find time for. Fearing the tears that might cause these walls to crumble.
This is not true resilience. I know this. Having been through deep grief before when I lost my baby Josephine 6 years ago in labour, I know that recovery involves going through grief, not trying to put your emotions on pause. So I’m trying to give myself permission to feel sad sometimes, with the longing that is simply love prolonged. I’m trying to give myself permission seek serenity before productivity…which means taking little breaks to refill my cup, rather than always pushing myself to keep going.
This is hard for me. Do you struggle with this, too? Are you harsher on yourself than you’d ever be with those you love? Can you be brave enough to believe that you deserve rest, joy, and serenity just as much as anyone else? Perhaps if we all support each other, and encourage each other to be kind, even to ourselves, the world will be more filled with resilience and hope.
If you’d like more encouragement on this topic, check out Jenn Dean’s Families Matter Most podcast. It is awesome, and filled with simple, doable ideas: Three Things to Get Through Hard Times. Plus she is funny, warm and honest. Listening to her is like chatting with a great friend who builds you up. Cole’s notes version: every day, connect with your peace, your purpose and your people. The three P’s. Even I can remember that.
More than one thing has been gestating during the past year of isolation at my place…and I’m excited to tell you that on the same day my son was born last week, my new book also made its way into the world, thanks to my friend and co-author Bonnie Way. Our Beginners Guide to Growing Baby: Tips to Help You Through All Four Trimesters is now available as an e-book on Amazon, with the paperback version to follow shortly.
Here’s our blurb about it:
To give you a better idea of all the things we wanted to share with you, here are the table of contents. We keep thinking of more and more chapters, because there are so many experiences we would like you to learn from faster than we did, but we had to stop somewhere, so here’s what we chose:
As you can see, something that makes our book a little more personal, besides the fact that all our advice is based on our personal experiences, rather than on theories, is that we share all our birth stories with you. Not some overdramatized movie versions of birth, but our honest, actual stories. Keeping’ it real.
Another tidbit I’m rather pleased about is a little surprise tucked in between each section, that is, one of my poems for each trimester, birth and beyond…because the beautiful, feminine mystery of giving birth is something beyond mere prose.
I hope Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby will be a helpful resource for both new and returning mamas and help empower them to make healthy informed decisions about what’s best for them and their babies. Bonnie and I are not medical experts, but after 14 births between us, we are certainly very experienced!
Other important credentials include the fact that as I lay cuddling my four day old infant, I am wearing an International Women’s day outfit worthy of a superhero…or at least some kind of fertility goddess/Star Wars fan gone wrong—Baby Yoda pj pants and a green cabbage bikini—see Fourth Trimester chapters on breastfeeding engorgement to learn why the heck I’m doing that!
If you’d like to be informed when the physical version of our pregnancy and baby book is available to order online, leave me a comment and let me know so I can keep you posted. I’ll also be ordering a box of copies, so if you know me personally and prefer to pick one up from me, let me know to add you to our pre-order list and save on shipping.
Bless all the bellies and babies out there! Time to give my little one a midnight milkshake. 😋
After a big wait, I’m happy to announce that my little baby boy was born last night, just before midnight. After a very slow pre-labour, things picked up with the help of some oxytocin (which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be) and we filled the birthing tub at the hospital. About 40 minutes after climbing into that warm embrace of water, and holding off as long as I could to let my body prepare to release him without tearing, I gave a few big pushes, and there he was. A tiny little snuggly darling all covered in white vernix and snuggling on my chest.
After a few wet kisses to the top of his head, he got passed to his Daddy, to hold swaddled while I got dried off and into bed. After some anti-bleed medicine and some pain meds for after cramps, I was ready to hold my baby and eat my midnight meal, amazingly dropped off by our sweet friends Peter and Sophia at the hospital at 10:30 pm that night!
Here we are!
It doesn’t take baby boy long to wake up and smell the milk…and within minutes, he’s nursing like a little pro. See how he’s rooting already? 🤣
It’s nearly 11pm. I’m sitting propped up in bed with tons of pillows behind me, and more under my legs to prop up my feet, slowly chewing a ginger candy to fight the heartburn that creeps up my throat and threatens to explode there when I lay down. The baby in my belly keeps stretching and fluttering, and having some kind of contest with himself about how far he can fit his little feet up under my ribs.
I’m so sleepy but at least I’ve already had a nap when I fell asleep with our toddler this evening, so the exhaustion isn’t so desperate as it was at dinner, when I could barely keep my eyes open. The little bean, now more like the size of a bunch of celery, seems to think I should wake up at 4 or 5 am and stay that way till morning, so the days are feeling awfully long.
I have appreciated having the quiet time alone to read or listen to audiobooks, but the hours aren’t exactly ideal for someone required to keep functioning normally in the day time. So as exhausting as the first few weeks with a new baby can be, I’m looking forward to resting in bed and taking naps with the little one. At least a cuddly newborn is better company than heartburn deep in the night!
My blog has been rather serious lately, so I decided it’s time for a laugh. What better way, when up with pregnancy heartburn and insomnia, than to write a spoof of a Johnny Cash country song? When you’re seven months pregnant and can’t sleep, you get to do stuff like that—it says so in the manual, pg 136. (What manual?? This girl is making stuff up…)
So put on your cowboy hats, strum your imaginary guitars, and enjoy…and if you’re up with heartburn, too, just pretend your TUMS are marshmallows…
Earlier this week, while trying to recover my homeschool room from the storm that was unsupervised making of thanksgiving posters and crafts, and involved strewing crayons and paper all over the floor, I discovered an old poem I had written years ago, in a beat up spiral notebook. I thought it had been lost forever, and regretted it as I could only remember the first metaphor in it, and wanted to know the rest.
The poem was written early my fourth pregnancy, which followed rapidly on the heels of my third, and writing this poem was part of my trying to wrestle through my mixed emotions I had at the time. Funny how blessings come in disguise…despite my misgivings, this little baby girl turned out to be my most gentle, sweet, affectionate and undemanding child. Her siblings have said this themselves, in all honesty. We are all blessed by her quiet kindness. Here she is a toddler…now she is 9!
Without further ado, here is the old poem from my notebook, long before my blogging days began. I’ll transcribe it above the photos, so you don’t have to try to decipher my scrawl.
I am like a winter tree
laid bare, stripped, naked,
yet secretly bursting with spring,
life swelling through my bare windswept skin.
I feel at once empty and ravenous
as a winter wolf or a nursing bear
emerging after a winter of sleep…
Yet inside me is a miniature universe,
a tiny piece of the puzzle of humanity,
forming rapidly in the dark warmth
of my womb.
I feel like a shipwrecked treasure chest
washed up on shore,
a waterlogged vessel filled with diamonds,
waiting to sparkle for the first time in the sun.
Inside me, a heart the size of a pea
is beating its way toward laughter, sorrow and love.