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Healing Hospital VBAC Picture

Healing Hospital VBAC Picture

I just recently had my daughter (almost 3 weeks ago) and I’ve had several ladies tell me I should share this photo from my birth… so here it is!

We had a beautiful, wonderful, healing VBAC in a hospital and this picture says everything. The support that I had from my doctor, my nurses, my doula, my husband, and even my birth photographer was incredible.

This is me squatting in the hospital room floor right as my daughter (all 9 lbs and 10 oz of her!) is crowning,  while my husband, my doula, and my nurse are supporting me. My awesome doctor is on his hands and knees next to me, getting ready to catch my daughter. How incredibly blessed we were for getting this experience after an unwanted (and unnecessary) c-section with my son two years before. Such an amazing and healing experience.

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{By Samantha Miller}
{Photo by Sweet Pickel Photography}

10 Tips to Plan a Mother’s Blessing

10 Tips to Plan a Mother’s Blessing

A Blessingway is a sacred pre-birth ceremony that has traditionally been performed by Navajo people, and celebrates a woman’s rite of passage into motherhood.

Today, a gathering known as a ‘Mother Blessing’ is gaining popularity in North America. Unlike a traditional baby shower where the focus is on gifts, a Mother Blessing puts the focus back on nurturing the woman. A woman’s closest girlfriends and family gather in love to build up her mind, body, and soul in preparation for her journey to motherhood. It is intended that the mother-to-be leaves bursting full of love, strength, confidence, and belief in the ability of her body to birth her baby.

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HOW TO PLAN A MOTHER BLESSING:
Keep the preferences of the mother-to-be in mind; after all this event is about her. Make her feel as comfortable as possible. Not all mothers will be into all the ideas below, so choose a few that best suit her.

(1) Pampering
Make a foot soak, and offer her a hand massage, foot massage, or back massage. This can be a beautiful time for her to sit and relax and have her friends take turns laying hands on her and transferring as much loving energy to her as possible.

(2) Flower Crown
Make the mother-to-be a flower crown to celebrate her beauty. Ask each woman coming to bring a flower from their garden to contribute to the crown when they arrive or just have a selection of stems for each attendee to choose from when they arrive. If you want to celebrate all of your attendees, you might want to have everyone make themselves a flower crown when they arrive.

(2) Paint Her Belly
Painting her belly, henna, or a belly cast is a beautiful way to celebrate the life inside her. Let the art radiate the life she carries.

(3) Circle Time
Gather all the woman to share a blessing with the mother-to-be. It can be a time to share their best mothering wisdom, an inspirational verse, or a song. You can meditate together, belly dance together, or sit and laugh and tell your favourite birth stories.

(4) Leave Your Guests Thinking About the Mother-To-Be.
During circle time, a beautiful activity can be binding everyone’s hands together in ribbon. After praying over or blessing the mother, each attendant cuts herself a small piece of ribbon to wear on her hand until the mother-to-be goes into labour. Every time they glance at the ribbon on their hand, they can send up a prayer for their friend’s upcoming birth. Once the birth begins, someone texts out a message to the rest of the group and they all cut off their bracelets together in solidarity. Another send home gift could be a candle that all the friends light when they hear the birth has started.

(5) Bead Ceremony
Ask attendees to bring a special bead to create a necklace for the mother to wear in the last few weeks of pregnancy and during birth.  After each attendee offers their blessing, they can string their bead onto the mother’s necklace. She will be reminded of the love and support she has in her community of friends every time she looks at each individual bead.

(6) Birth Flags
Have some plain cloth banners for attendees to paint with encouraging words and phrases. The mother can string these in her home and have them be a reminder of her strength leading up to birth. This is a great option for women planning a home birth since she can decorate her birthing space with them. Some women who are planning a hospital birth and may also want to bring their birthing flags to hang in their hospital room.

(7) Stone Painting
Ask each attendee to bring a stone that you will paint with encouraging words for the mother. The mother can place the stones in various spots in her house (one by the bathroom sink, one by the kitchen sink, one by her alarm clock) or place them together in an encouragement altar. Seeing these stones will remind her of her strength leading into birth.

(8) Bring Gifts for a Birth Altar
A birth altar serves as a focal point for the labouring woman. Sometimes it can be difficult to stay focused on the positive affirmations you read and meditated on during pregnancy, so the woman can focus her attentions to her birth alter to give her visuals of her end goal- her baby. Items for a birth altar can include a birthing goddess, ultrasound pictures, positive words, aromatherapy, candles, and any imagery that you find beautiful and inspiring.

(9) Eat!
Of course, sharing a meal with friends is the best way to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Ask your guests to each bring a dish to contribute to a potluck meal.

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(10) Let The Emotions Flow
Be open and transparent with each other. Share your joys and your struggles. Don’t be scared to let the tears roll.

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After all of this love and attention, the guest of honour is sure to leave bursting at the seams with good birth mojo.

Written and Photographs by: Cradled Creations Birth Photography.

Also at www.CradledCreations.com

My Belly, My Baby {Self Love}

My Belly, My Baby {Self Love}

This is a picture of my 15 month old and my belly. It has been well over a year, and I have slowly and peacefully accepted that my belly is going to be floppy and riddled with stretch marks for a very long time.

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She has helped me accept my body.  When she nurses, she often caresses my soft, pillowy belly roll.  She does not care about the stretch mark scars or the flap that I have to tuck into my waistband. She often pulls up her shirt to excitedly exclaim, “belly!”, then tickle herself and laugh and laugh. She does it to me sometimes, too.  She strokes my stomach gently, so lovingly as she falls asleep.  She loves my belly, so I have come to love it – hesitantly, sometimes begrudgingly.  But if she can love it unconditionally, so can I.

Plan Your Baby Moments {Baby’s First Year}

Plan Your Baby Moments {Baby’s First Year}

I recently posted about this new rad camera Canon sent me. Check it out here. I am an iPhone picture taker, but having this on hand has been a game changer!

Canon Canada is releasing a new app to help parents capture sweet memories of baby’s first year! This time is such a flies by so quickly, that it’s easy to forget to do so. I took one look at the app suggestions and knew just what to do! I asked a bunch of local moms with adorable babies to meet up at a park so we could get the cutest baby pictures ever!

Here are some inspired by the Canon Canada app. I’m not a professional photographer and these are not edited. We just had fun with beautiful families and a Canon Rebel SL1 and 50mm lens. Not to mention, these moms are happy to have these moments captured on camera to save forever.

First steps.

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And dirt.

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Kids usually love swings! This little guy had other thoughts.

You think he’s smiling…

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But don’t be fooled.

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He was so mad at us, but capturing these pictures was hilarious and great!

So we tried again with this cute little one and…SUCCESS!

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Love that little foot and smile in the background.

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Some babies love tummy time, some can’t stand it. This adorable baby loved it!

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Oh, but first we had to wake him up. Haha, thank goodness for a fast camera so we were able to capture it.

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Inbetween our sessions, I captured these candid moments between one mom and her son.

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The amount of bonding, releasing of hormones, growth and love by simply holding your baby is not only incredible, but important.

We have the dad hold.

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The gazing and smiling into each other’s eyes.

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Breastfeeding on the go.

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The hip hold.

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And of course we can’t forget baby wearing!

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Parenthood can be a blur and it’s hard to remember precious moments just as they are. If you can capture them, it will help you remember these sweet moments you otherwise may not (in such detail). Yes, put the phone down and soak in this time, but sometimes pick up a great camera and record the every changing first year (and beyond) of baby’s life!

What other special moments did you make sure to capture of your baby’s first year? Follow up post to come!

All photos copyright of BWF, LLC. Post sponsored in party by Canon Canada.

Breastfeeding and the Workplace

Breastfeeding and the Workplace

***When I wrote my piece on community support and its effect on breastfeeding, we had a huge request for a follow up piece about breastfeeding and the workplace. So mamas – here it is!***

Breastfeeding in today’s social climate is sometimes an uphill battle. Not only do we encounter booby traps from the media and cultural cues but we also have to avoid traps set by our care providers and hospitals and even from our loved ones and friends. Now, if we avoid all those negative influences, have proper educational sources, and hopefully some positive social support we have a decent chance of reaching our breastfeeding goals. But then the majority of us need to return to work. What is a mom to do? What are our rights?

Simply put, breastfeeding works easiest (usually) when the baby can be at the breast on demand and without interruption. That is how nature designed the system to work. Nature never expected us to live in a society where it takes two people working 40+ hours a week just to make a decent living. Our breasts simply don’t have that sort of knowledge, expectation, or wiring. Luckily the invention of the breast pump came into our lives.

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Mothers who work and continue to breastfeed, be it directly (baby comes to work or comes to visit) or through pumping, deserve major respect and kudos. I know as a stay-at-home-mom that I have it easier in many respects when it comes to maintaining my breastfeeding relationship. A working mother has to figure out not only the logistics of making sure her supply is maintained, but also the logistics of making sure her rights as a breastfeeding mother are respected.

Because of the many changes to the law, varying laws in some states, and the newest changes to insurance and breastfeeding coverage, I wanted to create one easy resource with all the information in one place. After all, you are a new mom and you have a baby on your breast (a lot) and you only have two hands and so many hours in the day. So let me do the leg (or rather mouse) work for you.

Starting at the federal level, I am going to look at the United States Department of Labor and what they say about nursing/pumping and the workplace. The basis of the federal law has to do with changes from the Affordable Care Act:

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care Act”) amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to require employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk. Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk. The break time requirement became effective when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010.

To break this down a bit further, there is a specific fact sheet HERE. Some highlights include a note that the number of breaks, duration, and frequency will likely vary from mother to mother. The location made available to the mother must NOT be a bathroom and must be private with some security from coworkers walking in. It does not have to be a dedicated space just for pumping, but needs to be available to the mother when she needs to pump. [As an example, some businesses will offer an office to use that has a lock.]

Now the cravat (and where many businesses fall through the loophole) is that if a business has less than 50 employees they are not required to provide pumping time or space if it would cause “undue hardship” to the employer. [Never mind undue hardship to the mother and baby I suppose.] They do have to demonstrate to the Labor Department that it would cause the hardship to the business. You are also not covered by this if you are exempt from Section 7 protection (however, State laws could cover you). The break time also does not have to compensated (unpaid breaks). These federal standards do not override any higher protection given by states in which the woman lives.

They provide a PDF of a handy card to carry with your rights on it HERE, and if you need a file a complaint you can do so HERE.

Looking at the state level, additional rights vary. An overview of state laws and links can be found HERE at the National Conference of State Legislators. While 45 states have laws ensuring mothers can breastfeed in public and 28 further protect that public feeding from indecency laws, only 24 states have laws related to breastfeeding and the workplace (along with D.C and Puerto Rico). Those states are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming, [As an authors note: I am happy to say that my states protects breastfeeding mothers in public, from indecency laws, and at work!]

I wanted to see which states go above and beyond the current federal protections, since some of the states listed above simply reiterate the federal standards. Those states include:

  • Colorado: the federal standards are extended to TWO years after the birth of the child, and the Department of Labor in that state provides a list of ways for employers to accommodate nursing mothers.
  • Hawaii: specifically prohibits an employer from denying employment, withholding pay, demoting, or in any other way discriminating against a lactating employee. Another plus for Hawaii: they also give any mother who is discriminated against at work or in any public place the right to a private cause of action against the person or business who infringes on her rights. This actually gives the public breastfeeding law there some “teeth” to protect the mother with more than words.
  • Indiana: any state or political places of employment must provide PAID breaks for the expression of milk. Any employer with more than 25 employees must make every effort of accommodate a mother to federal standards and also to provide a refrigerator for storage of milk.
  • Louisiana: state-owned buildings, educational institutions, and certain office buildings must all provide suitable areas for breastfeeding and lactation. (While not specific, this seems to imply that a lactation room is needed in these locations)
  • Maine: provides for a mother to provide milk for her child at work for THREE years after the birth of her child. They also specify they the mother cannot be discriminated against in the workplace for her choice to pump milk.
  • Montana: specifies that a storage location (fridge) must be available to mothers who express milk.
  • North Dakota: creates the term “infant friendly” that can be used on employment information if an employer complies with certain policies such as adequate break times and work patterns for expression of milk, safe and convenient space to express milk, and a fridge to store milk in within the work place.
  • Oregon: allows for a 30 minute break every 4 hour shift for the expression of milk (though some businesses can be exempt).
  • Puerto Rico: allows for women to have the opportunity to nurse their baby directly for 30 minutes during each full-time work day for up to one year.
  • Texas: creates the designation of “mother friendly” for businesses to use if they make efforts to accommodate working nursing mothers.
  • Vermont: provides protection of pumping right for up to THREE years after the birth of the child and creates a task force to encourage and improve workplace pumping policies.
  • Washington: also uses the designation “infant friendly” for employers, similar to North Dakota (above).

Any states not listed above all must still follow the federal guidelines. These above states simply have specific laws giving extra protections.

Now this next bit is where I will admit, I get confused. You might too. Insurance issues are swampy in this country (well, for American readers) due to the massive variety of coverage levels, copays, etc, etc, etc. Health insurance is enough to give me a headache. However, I am going to try to pry what I can from the changes at the federal level (though from what I have heard from mothers, some insurance plans or providers can still wiggle around; for instance plans that were “grandfathered” in).

On this fact sheet we see that breastfeeding and lactation services and products are mentioned. It states that pregnant and postpartum women be given access to coverage for lactation consultants and counselors from trained providers and have coverage for breast pumps and related supplies. They state that non-grandfathered plans must do this, but that they still have the freedom to decide at what level they will provide coverage and what they will cover. This leaves things very murky.

The HealthCare.gov page doesn’t really clear things up much either. The pump can be covered before or after baby gets here, at the insurance companies discretion. The pump covered can be rented (for a certain period) or yours to keep. It can cover a manual or electric pump, single or double. Again, this is all up to the insurance, not on you and your needs. Sometimes a recommendation from your doctor can override the basic coverage of a policy. For instance, many women report that a “prescription” from their doctor for a pump or pump rental allowed the insurance company to cover what they needed. Medela*** provides a helpful little list of list for figuring out your coverage. One thing that does seem to be clear is that for non-grandfathered plans, a lactation consultant should be covered with no co-pay.

The bottom line with insurance coverage for pumps and lactation help is to be proactive and get on the phone with your insurance company. Don’t take “no” for an answer – talk to as many people as you need to. Sometimes the person you first connect with won’t know the answers but might not admit that – they may just give a generic answer and hope to satisfy you enough to get you off the phone. One thing I have learned from my mom (an insurance-company-phone-talking whiz) is to write down each call you make. Write down the person’s name and extension, what you ask and what they say. That way if you call back you know everything you were told and don’t get flustered. It is also a good idea to write down your questions before hand.

The bottom line for navigating the workplace and breastfeeding and pumping rights is to know your rights and be prepared. Your employer may not have dealt with this before, so you don’t necessarily have to go in with guns blazing. But be ready to stand up and help educate them not only on the law, but also on the benefits for the workplace that come with your baby getting breastmilk. Working on preparing both your workplace for postpartum and pumping and navigating your insurance before the birth of your baby will make the start of your breastfeeding relationship smooth and less stressful.

Breastfeeding and Benefits for the Employer (further reading):

 Pumping Tips from the Pros (aka, other mamas!):

  • Having a picture or video of baby is helpful for letdown. You can focus on your little one and let the oxytocin flow.
  • Get a good pump. This will vary from mom to mom, but generally a double electric pump is the fastest way to get the most milk. However, some moms have better luck with single pumps, manual pumps, or hand expression.
  • Consider two pumps – one for work and one for home, that way you don’t ever forget your pump.
  • If your job means you are mobile, keep a manual pump with you in your purse or consider a battery operated pump or car adapter.
  • Relax for a minute or two before pumping. Take that time to have a drink of water, think about baby, and just unwind. Tension makes letdown harder.
  • A hands-free pumping bra can be a life saver. You can also “diy” one, just check out pinterest/google for ideas.
  • Try to pump at the same times each day if you can, it will help your body regulate and prepare for a good letdown.
  • Know what your employers breastfeeding/pumping set up and rules are before you have baby. You want time to negotiate for what you need.
  • Nursing at night can help bolster supply. Night feedings give the strongest cue to make more milk and provide the most fatty milk of the day.
  • Never hesitate to seek help or guidance if you feel supply is low or you need help with your pump.
  • Pay attention to flange size – if the flange is too large or too small it will not get milk out as well.
  • A little olive or coconut oil around the inside of the flange can help with soreness.
  • Be sure your child’s care provider is not over-feeding. This is a common problem for breastfed babies who also take bottles and will kill your freezer stash. Kellymom has a great guide HERE. (there is a PDF link as well)
  • There is a handy milk calculator to see how much your baby should need while you are gone HERE.

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***Birth Without Fear is not affiliated with Medela or any breastpump/breastfeeding supply company, nor do we promote any one company. This list was just a helpful source found for this article.

Capturing Sweet Memories

Capturing Sweet Memories

Recently Canon Canada contacted me about their Rebel SL1 and a new app they are launching. They asked if I’d like to try it out. Now, I’m a 100% iPhone pic kind of gal, but thought, “Hey, why not? I have a lot of kids and am always around cute babies!”

I started playing with it and absolutely fell in love. I am in just the beginning stages of learning all this Rad Rebel has to offer, so I can not wait until I know more!

A close up of my sweet girl.

Sweet Girl, Cannon SL1

Something I am already madly in love with is the continuous shooting option. When you choose this option, you can hold down the shutter button and it will take photo after photo. Something I can’t do on my iPhone as it needs to readjust after each shot! This comes in handy with 5 young children, especially my youngest spirited child. I managed to get a full tantrum on camera and it’s adorable (on film, not in person).

Expression of the spirited child, Cannon SL1

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After just a few hours with this camera in my hand, I’ve realized how many family memories and fun, sweet moments I have not been capturing and I am so glad I can now change that.

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These eyes are seeing the world through this amazing piece of equipment, including myself. Beautiful imperfections.

Imperfections, January Harshe

To be continued…

*This post sponsored in part by Canon Canada. All pictures taken with a Canon Rebel SL1 and Canon 50 mm lens and opinions are my own.

Feeding the Children: Memories of a Single-Mom Childhood

Feeding the Children: Memories of a Single-Mom Childhood

Several months ago, I wrote ‘Eating is a Family Affair‘, a post detailing the many ways my husband supports me in breastfeeding. I loved reading the comments readers left. There were lots of mamas tagging their partners and thanking them for their support (love!). Some comments were from moms whose partners did not support them in their breastfeeding (tears!). And some were from single moms who said, “Wow, I do this all on my own. I feel like a superhero.”

Props.

Big, big props.

Many single mothers have great support systems. But many do not. And it’s true that raising a child or children without support is a superhuman act – an act always driven by love, hard work, and sometimes a measure of desperation. Single mothers are an important part of the Birth Without Fear community. So today, I’m writing about the single mom I know and love the best: my own.

NB: Every single motherhood (and every single-motherhood) experience is different. I hope that as you read this post you take it not as a criticism of your own parenting, but as a story about the way hers was.

My mom was 38 when she had me and 43 when she had my sister. She cuddled, clothed, and fed us well up into each of our eighteenth years, at which point we left for college and I’m pretty sure she did a happy dance on the front porch.

She must have been tired – nay, exhausted! – looking after us but I rarely felt it. As a mom now, I know how easy it is to snap at my kids when I’m sleep deprived and stressed out. I am full of admiration for the gentle ways she treated us.

We had money problems. Stay-up-late-scheming-ways-to-get-money-to-pay-for-necessities money problems. She could simply have told us that we couldn’t get new clothes. Instead, she took us to the dustiest, cheapest thrift stores and let us run wild with the dollars we had. My clothes never matched or fit right, but I always looked… jazzy.

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I’ve never met a woman more confident about being on her own. If I were in her shoes, I would be tempted to look for a Man to look after us, and her. But she had no time for that. She just said, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” and fixed the plumbing herself.

Instead of forcing my high-needs little sister to go to school every day, she let her stay home when she needed to take a day off. This seemed so normal at the time, but now I see that every day she accommodated my sister, she made a sacrifice. It was the sacrifice of her own personal time, of that little sliver of non-kid identity I try so hard to maintain in my life now.

Instead of telling us to sit down and be quiet or using the TV as a babysitter, my mom restricted TV to one hour per day and installed a gymnastics bar hanging from our living room ceiling.

She took in foreign students. As a kid, I sometimes resented their intrusion into “our” family. As an adult, I can’t fathom taking on more responsibility when things were already so crazy. Twenty years later, she still gets Christmas cards from students I only vaguely remember but who, obviously, remember her.

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She made us dinner. She could have said, “I’m too tired, go fend for yourself.” But (usually) she didn’t.
(sometimes she did, and that was OK, too)

I went to a small alternative school that allowed me to read all day. We couldn’t afford the tuition. Instead of telling me I had to drop out, she became the school janitor.

There were always a few dollars on the kitchen fireplace mantle in case we needed to buy milk from the corner store when she was out. Instead of worrying that her kids would take it to buy candy, she trusted us. I never once abused it.

Some yahoos (her word) removed the STOP sign from a busy street corner near our house. I guess they thought it would be funny. Mom survived the accident but the car didn’t. We couldn’t get a new one. Instead of canceling our extracurricular activities, she bought an oversized adult tricycle and ferried us around in it.

Yup.

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We were embarrassed. But she wasn’t.

Years later, she bought a third-hand camper van and drove us all the way to Montreal. We had to pull over all the time because it was so top-heavy we were being blown off the road. No matter what, every day she made me come up to the front cab for a French lesson. She can’t hear out of her right ear and her left was drowned out by the rattle of the vehicle and the sound of Trans-Canada highway traffic. I remember shouting: “Je… SUIS! Tu… ES!! Il… EST!!!”  Conjugation quality time is the best quality time.

Hilarious, warm, imperfect, intelligent, sensitive, and willing to put everything on the line for her kids. My mom showed me what being a parent is all about. It’s not money, it’s not appearances, it’s not parenting according to a book or a guru or a website. In the poetry of Oriah Mountain Dreamer, it’s waking up “…after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and doing what needs to be done to feed the children.”

Thank you, mama.

In Pursuit of Perfection

In Pursuit of Perfection

Let me start this post by saying, “I’m a perfectionist.”

Yep. I’m a perfectionist, always have been. And I am about to admit to you that I AM NOT PERFECT.

I’m learning to live with it.

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Society in general is pretty obsessed with perfection. We want perfect bodies, perfect jobs, perfect houses, perfect lives. Messy relationships, screaming kids, stretch marks, boring jobs…not exactly the “American Dream.”

But the idea of perfection has been taken to a whole new level with women. As women, as mothers, as wives – we are held to ideals. We are supposed to be beautiful, skinny, smart, sexy. We are supposed to be Wonderwoman of the PTA, June Cleaver of the home, and alluring in the bedroom. Not only does society push these ideals on us, but we push them on ourselves and each other (aka, “Mommy Wars”).

This pursuit of personal perfection is what I really want to touch on. This is something I have been working on within myself. As Birth Without Fear has turned a spotlight onto self-love, I have noticed my biggest issues. (I know, not the core of self-love, but hear me out). I have found that the biggest way I am cheating myself is in this idea that I should be perfect. Not only should I be perfect, but I need to prove it to the world.

I have a Pinterest account with almost 1,400 pins.

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I mean, REALLY? When am I ever going to get around to doing 1,400 things? Most of which are focused on cute/non-essential things. Sure, about 150 pins are birth related. About another 150 are homeschool related. But other than that…basically it is one big to-do list for me. That is around 1,000 things that I felt the need to remind myself to do. And when I accomplish one of them? This is what I do:

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Yes, that is my fridge. I put baskets in it, because Pinterest told me to. Now granted, it really did help keep the fridge in order. But honestly, did I have to prove myself to Facebook? Did I have to let everyone know that my fridge was clean? Several days after posting this, a thought hit me. “What if I made someone else feel like they need to clean their fridge?”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we all stop posting photos of those moments when the laundry room is finally clean, or the walls get a new coat of paint. But I do think that we create a paradox here. If we only post photos and statuses of when we have out “$hit together”, we are telling ourselves we are only allowed to share our perfect selves. And that is not self-love.

I take pictures of my kids all the time, most moms do. But only a fraction are posted to Facebook or shared with family. Sometimes it is due to the blurry capture of a running child, or the fact that I have already posted a million things that day. But usually the biggest reason I decide not to post something? You can see a mess in the background. You can see crumbs on the carpet or the dingy soapscum in the bathtub. You can see the dishes I have not washed or the toys that seemingly procreate each night while we sleep. I don’t post the photos because I don’t want you to know that we have a mess in the house…a house with a three year old and six month old and two not-so-neat adults.

Who am I helping when I don’t share those photos? Surely not my children who are adorable and love taking pictures. Surely not my family who would love to see photos of every little thing we do. And I am not helping myself or you either. For myself, I am just reminding myself, “Damn, I haven’t vacuumed yet. This place is so gross.” And for all of you out in Facebook land, I am only showing the most perfect side of my life. As far as you know, my house is always spotless and my kids are always dressed nicely. And then you turn around and judge yourself by those standards, whether you realize it or not.

To give an example, lets look at a common mommy subject – potty training. I have majorly struggled with this within myself (with admitting my three year old is not potty trained, not that I can’t use the potty 😉 ). What is the one thing we usually hear most? “Oh, my child was potty trained at 10 months!”, “Oh, we were diaper free all the time, even for bed, by the time he turned two!” And you know what, if that was your kid that is GREAT! I would be excited too! I mean, who really loves diapers? But you really don’t see a mom say “My three year old refuses to poop in the potty and hates underwear.” Why? Because society in general has told us that there is something wrong if a child doesn’t “get” the potty at an early age. Not only are our mothering skills brought into question, but we also think someone might judge our child too. And so, we don’t share and we don’t ask for help or maybe we even tell a little white lie about how well the potty learning is going. And then we unknowingly add to this idea that all kids are potty trained by “x” age.

I find myself not sharing certain photos of me baby-wearing simply because the straps pushed my love handles into view. I go as far as deleting a photo totally if my REAL smile is caught on camera because I am really insecure about my teeth. I am striving to help other women feel inspired and beautiful and I am striving to teach my children to love themselves just as they are. Meanwhile, I am deleting photos of myself or hiding my love handles. I am not going to become skinny or have better teeth by doing this…but I am going to slowly wear down my self esteem. I am not living honestly.

We do this to so many things in our lives. I catch myself judging myself in all these little ways so often. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it. But I am striving to not only recognize these moments but to also push my boundaries a bit. Perhaps, just maybe, if I post that photo of my adorable toddler dancing complete with crumb covered carpet some other mom won’t feel so alone in her struggle to keep the crumbs away. Chances are, most people won’t even notice the carpet because my son is stealing the show with his amazing smile. I am going to focus on the fact that *I* made that kid smile…hell, I MADE that smile, literally. I created that ball of joy. Screw the carpet.

Why Mothers Measure In Months

Why Mothers Measure In Months

So often, I see memes like this:

meme

And you know what, they bug me. A LOT. Normally these are posted by people who are not to the point of having children yet, which makes it even more annoying.

Basically any mother will tell you that from one month to the next, our children learn and change drastically. During the first year it is the most drastic, during which time it is still “acceptable” to refer to your child’s age in months. But for some reason after that first birthday people like to make fun of referring to a child’s age in months instead of years or “1/2” measurements. This especially comes up in reference to full-term breastfeeding.

First I have to ask the masses, why does it bother you if I refer to my toddler as “30 months” instead of “2 and 1/2 years old?” Are your math skills not up to par? Does it take too much brain power? Does my reference to months actually effect your life at all? Some commenters and meme makers like to take it a step further, insisting that referring to our babies in terms of months is just a way to cover up our inability to let go of them being a baby and rationalize our child still breastfeeding/sleeping in our bed/being carried/[insert parenting issue here].

I simply have to assume these cynics have never paid attention to the development of a child, especially when that child is your own. For instance – my son at 12 months could not walk – at 13 months he could. What a difference a month made! At 29 months my son was still breastfeeding, at 30 months he had self-weaned. Again – the difference a month makes! At 18 months he had learned to jump down off the sidewalk at the park without falling. That month he also chose to go down the slide on his own for the fist time. He was 32 months old when his baby brother was born, I will always remember him singing Twinkle Twinkle at their first meeting and his avid interest in the placenta.

stairs

These are all moments after the first year that are in my memory at a specific time and place. To me the month it happened is important. It is a milestone, a special moment. It is something scribbled down in a baby book or documented in a photo. In my mind he was not “2 and 1/2” or “almost 3” or “a year old”.

23 months

One day when I am not living in this moment, in this day-to-day rapidly changing world, I will probably tell him “You were 2 and a 1/2 when you weaned,” or “You walked just after your first birthday”. But today, those vague time periods are not specific enough. They are not important enough to describe that exact moment he learned something new, that moment he became his own person a little more than the day before.

32 months

So next time you hear a mother say “He is 22 months old” don’t roll your eyes. Smile and know that this mother is simply relishing in this fleeting time in her life as a mother. She is giving homage to the breakneck pace at which her children are growing and learning.

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