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What to do when you’re sad

If you’re anything like me becoming a parent fundamentally changed the way you react to certain things. Sad stories and scary things that happen to children in the news take on a whole new meaning when you’ve got kids of your own.

Take, for example, the tragedy in Mississauga yesterday or the anniversary of the Parkland shooting. These events now cut close to home in a way they never did before I had my own babies.

So, with that in mind, I’m revisiting a post I made back in June 2018 that I think might be appropriate for today:

 

Watching the news is so hard right now. It’s devastating, it’s sad, and as a parent it cuts into your soul.  It can be difficult to know how to cope with tragedy in the news.

When you are in the vulnerable postpartum period, everything feels heightened. It can be even more challenging to know how to process difficult news. Your hormones are shifting, you may be sleep deprived, and you are trying to figure out what your new normal looks like. So when you read stories of families being torn apart, or people being hurt it can make you think about your own family, and for some moms this can be incredibly overwhelming.

What can you do when the world feels too much?

It makes sense that hearing tragic news can be a huge trigger for new moms. When hearing about tragic news, it is important to know that your mental health is important. Taking care of your mental health during these difficult times will allow you to be the best version of yourself, and that is where true change can really happen. Here are a few suggestions to help you cope:

1. Be honest about how you are feeling. 

Is it triggering something from your past? Do you need to talk to someone about it? Take time to reflect on your feelings and thoughts, and do your best to understand them. Be honest with yourself, and with others.

2. Turn off the TV, and put down your phone.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, take time away from it all. Tell your family you don’t want to talk about it. It’s okay to be protective of yourself and your mental health!

3. Do something good for your body.

Take care of your body! Get outside and release some endorphins, and eat some healthy food. It will reenergize you and help you put things into perspective.

4. Do something good for your soul.

This will look different for everyone. It can be yoga, meditation, or even a nap. Do something that calms your mind and slows your brain down. I tend to be a fan of singing Broadway show tunes at the top of my lungs, but that’s just me…

5. Take a step forward.

Find a small concrete step you can take that makes a difference. Donate money or time to a cause you care about, support other local charities, or write letters to elected officials. Use your energy for positive change in this world.

 

Know that you are not alone in your thoughts and your sadness and if it feels like it’s too much – tell someone. Parents need a village so let’s lean on and support each other and we’ll make it through together.

This one’s for the dads.

two persons holding drinking glasses filled with beer
Photo by Tembela Bohle on Pexels.com

You may have noticed the theme in most of my blog posts has been about the birthing partner. The majority of the prenatal classes, workshops, articles and information tend to focus on moms. This is often for good reason – this person’s body grows a baby and gives birth to it. The mental, physical and emotional changes that take place are nothing short of miraculous.

But partners change too.

I believe our culture does a great disservice to dads. The images you see in popular culture tend to be of hopeless buffoons, absent fathers, or strict authoritarians. There seems to be no middle of the road dad. There aren’t a lot of examples or role models to look to. And if you’re the first dad in your group of friends it can be even more isolating!

As a result, I think sometimes our partners can be unprepared for what happens after baby arrives and where they fit in the relationship.

I think we can do better for our partners. What if we change the way we talk about them? What if, instead of assuming they are incapable, we assume they are equal partners in the care and keeping of the children? What if we give them the information and the tools they need to be a great partner?

With this in mind – Our Mama Village and I have created a prenatal class just for dads! It’s a safe space to ask the questions they’ve always wanted to ask and get the information they need to be the parent and partner they want to be! No judgment.

As a bonus – we’re hosting this event at one of Guelph’s newest breweries (Fixed Gear Brewing Co) and you will have the opportunity to try some of their fine small batch craft beer! It’s beer + babies – what’s better than that? You can get your ticket here

Not local to the Guelph area? Send me a message and we can connect online. I’m always happy to answer questions and support you and your growing family.

 

Surviving the Holidays with a Baby

Is this baby’s first holiday season? Maybe you’ve picked out the perfect ornament for the tree and a few cute outfits for all the parties.

Maybe you’re looking forward to showing off your baby and sharing them with family and friends and cannot wait for all the festivities!

child christmas baby cute

Or, maybe you want to crawl in bed until it’s all over.

Likely, most of us are somewhere in between.

This can be an incredibly hectic time of year for people, fraught with expectations of your time, energy, and money and with a new baby at home you may feel all three of those are in short supply!

Here are some tips on getting through the holiday season alive and with your sanity and relationships in tact:

Do what works for you: some babies have rigid schedules and some parents want to keep them. If what your family is asking doesn’t work for you – suggest an alternative. A few examples of what we’ve done with our family:

  • Have brunch instead of an evening meal so you can be home before bedtime
  • Host people at your house instead of going somewhere so you control the timing and keep your kids in their own comfortable environment

Saying NO is ok. I know this is easier said than done. Everyone means well and just wants to share in your joy but this can be overwhelming. It’s ok to not do EVERYTHING. If it’s causing you additional stress and anxiety, say no! Ultimately, your family will understand (eventually).

You don’t have to let anyone touch your baby. That’s right, not even great aunt Millie who drove 4 hours just to meet your little bundle of joy. Your baby – your rules. I always brought a baby carrier with me to family events. It was great to help soothe her and keep my hands free but it also protected her from unwanted kisses (and germs) and having too many people get up in her space. Now that my kids are a bit older the same still applies – they do not have to hug anyone. Ever. Their body – their rules!

Take a break when you need to. Even a few minutes alone in a room with your baby can help recharge you. If you’re nursing, this can be a good excuse to get away. You can also explain that the baby isn’t used to this many people around and needs some space for a few minutes.

Take time for you. Perhaps your partner is home a bit more now this time of year. Take advantage of this by taking some more time for yourself – do the things you need to do to feel good and well. I’m thinking – yoga and a festive manicure?

Create your own traditions. Man are holiday’s full of family baggage – ‘the way we always do things’. It can be hard to fit your new family into your old way of doing things. Maybe now is the time to embrace new traditions for your own family. For example – my family was big on cutting down a Christmas tree from the bush. Well, our little family of 4 doesn’t have a lot of time and I would rather spend my energy somewhere else. Instead, we get one from the local hardware store and spend the extra time going for night walks around our neighbourhood looking at the lights.

Check in with your mental health. The days are dark. Holiday’s are expensive. Maybe you’re grieving for someone. All of this can exacerbate feelings of depression and anxiety. It’s very important to check in with how you’re feeling and take steps to support your mental health if you need to.

Similarly, be mindful of your drug and alcohol usage. While these substances trick us into temporarily feeling better or forgetting they are ultimately not a solution.

Do less. What does your baby need for Christmas? Likely – absolutely nothing. They also probably won’t get much from the whole unwrapping presents thing. It’s totally ok to buy smaller gifts or necessities for them. My kids got bibs, towels, plates, and sippy cups for their first Christmases. We are the ones who put these grand expectations on what gift giving and holidays ‘should’ look like.

I read somewhere that holiday magic is made by moms. Do I ever believe this. At times it can feel overwhelming and exhausting. My advice to you is to be kind to yourself and be gentle with others. We’re all trying our best to make it work.

Remember, the newborn stage is temporary and so too is the holiday season. Every year will look different and it will get easier with time. Try to look for the simple moments of joy through your kids eyes. I promise you’ll find it there.

 

Ode to a Breast Pump

It’s the end of an era…

breastpump

My faithful pump that has served me for nearly 3 years of breastfeeding has been cleaned and sterilized for the last time and is on its way to another mama.

No, I really didn’t ‘enjoy’ pumping, but it did offer me a reprieve from being my baby’s only source of nourishment 24/7 and the freedom to be able to stay away for more than a few hours at a time. It allowed others to feed and bond with both of my babies and enjoy those close quiet snuggles.

But pumping is no picnic – it takes time and energy at at a period in your life when you sometimes feel short on both. Here’s how I made pumping work for me:

  • I bought a double electric pump. It is faster and you typically get more volume when you use a double pump
  • I brought it with me every time I was away and kept pumping at my regular nursing times (if I was in a hotel I brought a cooler bag with me or asked for a room with a fridge)
  • Once my babies dropped a night feeding I pumped at that time for a while to build a freezer stash
  • I kept my pump plugged in and ready to go right beside where I usually nursed and kept the pump parts in the fridge (if pumping multiple times a day instead of needing to wash and sterilize every time)*
  • I used microwave steam cleaning bags for easy weekly sterilization
  • I regularly replaced the membranes so the pump was as efficient as possible
  • I laid freezer storage bags flat in the freezer so they thawed quickly and were easy to store
  • I froze milk in 4oz portions as it was enough to fill up my babies and not have any left over

 

Now, double electric pumps can be pricey. Here are a few ways to help with the cost:

  • Some extended health benefits will cover up to $200 for a breast pump – you will likely just need a prescription from your health care practitioner
  • Shop around – I purchased mine off Amazon.com. It was much cheaper than the Canadian site – even with the exchange
  • You don’t need the fancy brand name milk storage bags – generic store brand work just as well for a fraction of the price
  • Check out mom’s buy and sell groups on Facebook. There are often brand new in the box pumps available (make sure you check them out in person)
  • You can buy used pumps and replace the breast shields, valves, membranes, and bottles (the only parts that touch your skin or milk) for around $30
  • Think carefully about your needs – hand pumps are extremely efficient and perfectly fine for occasional pumping and many hospitals and pharmacies will rent pumps too. You might want to try these options first if you are unsure about pumping

 

For reference – I used the Medela Pump In Style and I loved it. It met all my needs. The tote bag style was convenient to carry all the required paraphernalia and I loved the included battery pack and cooler.

Pumping isn’t for everyone, neither is breastfeeding. That’s ok. It has to work for you and your family. It worked for me which is why I share my story.

If you’d like some more info on pumping – or maybe even just some words of encouragement to keep pumping longer – send me a message! I’d love to chat.

 

*if your baby is premature or has other complications you should speak to your healthcare practitioner before doing this.

Reclaiming Mama’s Time – preparing for a night away from baby

Today I’m preparing for a weekend away with some friends – SANS kids (or partners)!! To say that I am excited would be an understatement. But it’s more than that for me at this point – it’s almost a necessity. Ok, I will most certainly survive without it but it’s definitely help me to be the kind of mom I want to be. Let me explain…

It’s been a trying month. I started a new job, my partner traveled extensively, and the sickness has made its way around our house. Mama is tired. My ‘to do’ list is long and my patience is short. It’s time for a break.

But this isn’t the theme of my post. I want to help YOU to prepare for a night away – because YOU deserve it.

No need to be fancy or elaborate –  sleeping at your parents house or crashing at a friends place is fine. We’re just looking for the opportunity to rest and restore your body and your soul and bring you back to the parent you want to be.

But I can’t leave my baby! My family won’t survive without me! What if someone needs me? No one else can handle it! This is impossible! 

Are you anxious yet? Have you given up on the idea?

Don’t! Let’s work it out step by step…

Start incrementally. If you’ve never even left for an hour maybe starting with an overnight trip is too much. Build up to it, even if it takes a few months to get there.

The bedtime routine is a place where we often feel anxious that no one can do it like we can. It’s true – it will be different, but that doesn’t mean bad. Try letting your partner or other caregiver handle a few bedtimes first before your big night away.

I want you to be confident that there are others who will care for and love your children and take care of them in a way that doesn’t stress you out!

Do the practical preparations. I know, you already do so much. But I promise you – a little forethought here will make all the difference in you actually enjoying your time.

Are you exclusively breastfeeding? Start to build up a freezer stash a few days or weeks beforehand. Have a little extra for your own peace of mind.

Do you do most of the cooking? If thinking about your family eating take out or fast food stresses you out – make a simple dinner ahead of time so it’s there for them.

Maybe you want to even lay out all your kids clothes or plan activities for them. If that’s what makes it work for you – go ahead. But maybe consider my next point…

Let it go (let it go….I am one with the wind and sky…) When I was away I used to always ask what my kids ate, how they slept, what they were doing and so on. Truthfully, that was a way of checking up on everything. It didn’t help me relax because I then started to focus on what I thought they should be doing/eating/wearing.

Now, all I ask is: Are you having fun?

Allowing your partner or other caregivers the space to make these decisions helps empower them too. It builds their confidence as parents and makes the next time easier.

Expect a mess. This was a huge learning curve for me. I would get so frustrated at coming home from being away and the house being a disaster and nothing that ‘I would have done’ actually got done.

Now, I expect it to be messy when I get home and I try my best to let it go and I make sure my partner is involved in the clean up.

Do what’s fun for you. Plan something that is fun for you and not just what you feel like you should be doing when you are away.

For example, this weekend for my friends is starting with Black Friday shopping. That’s a HARD Pass for me – so I will be drinking coffee and creating blog posts and meeting up with them later.

If what you want to do is go to bed early and drink wine in your pajamas that is perfectly acceptable. This time is about eliminating pressures and responsibility so you do you, mom.

Call when you need to. There is no rule that you have to maintain radio silence. If it makes you feel better to call and say hi or send a quick text – do it!

Know your limits. If staying away for a certain amount of time causes you more stress and anxiety then don’t do that! Figure out the right balance of time between enough to relax and too much so you’re anxious.

Expect things will be done differently. This is ok. Ultimately what is important is that your children are loved, cared for, and safe. It doesn’t matter what they wear or what they eat for dinner that day. Hey – I fed my kid a cookie with her breakfast today because – Friday.

It’s ok that your kids get used to someone else caring for them and the way someone else does things. This will make it easier the next time you want a break.

Also, our kids are way more adaptable and resilient than we give them credit for sometimes.

Let it go. This time I’m talking about The Guilt. It’s ok to ask for and plan for time to take care of yourself. It’s not indulgent. It also doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It just means you also value yourself.

 

Lastly, I know this is not a reality for everyone. We don’t all have the support available. But can you find ways for rest and recovery throughout the week?

Could you find a friend or a mom’s group and trade off for a few hours? You watch their kids for a while and they do it in return?

We need to find ways to take care of ourselves and help take care of our mama friends. Even starting with a few hours here and there will help – it is amazing the healing powers of a good nap and a hot cup of coffee.

adult beverage breakfast celebration
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