Postpartum body appreciation post!💖 This is your friendly reminder that your body is wonderful exactly as it is. There is a lot of pressure to “bounce back” after pregnancy. For some of us it can be a positive nudge to take care of our bodies even better than before, especially after pregnancy complications (such as gestational diabetes, severe tearing, etc…). But for others it’s just endless fuel for body shaming. Squish, rolls, and curves are beautiful. There is nothing wrong with you or your postpartum body. Yes, your body has changed AND (not but) you still deserve to be nurtured and nourished. You do not need to “bounce back” because you are whole and worthy of love exactly as you are.
By Anna K.
The last few months have been hard on all of us. Not not only on a personal level, but on a global scale. At first it was hard to separate sci-fi apocolypse movies from reality because everything seemed so panicked and surreal. The world was on fire. But over time the pandemic has morphed into a beast that is both similar and enormously different from what it was a few months ago. We have the same problems: number of COVID19 cases, deaths, fear, quarantine, racial disparities in healthcare, companies going bankrupt, lack of access to testing, essential workers putting their lives on the line, and us doing everything we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Except now, even though we know more about the virus, we have all of these same problems plus the added bonus of public denial, political gas-lighting, and the fear that so many of us have about schools opening this fall. It’s a lot. It’s overwhelming. And it’s exhausting. Especially because we need to continue to stay vigilant as case numbers increase again.
In healthcare, our doula work, and our personal lives we’re starting to see the long term mental health effects that this constant “survival mode” has had on our minds and bodies. Our bodies are not built to withstand this long-term anxiety and such an intense fear for our own survival for so many months on end. There’s a reason that anxiety disorders and long-term trauma wreak havoc on the mind and body. Fight or flight by nature is intended to get us out of immediate dangerous situations and carry us to safety on a last-ditch burst of energy. Not to sit in it for months on end. That being said, there’s a lot to process, a lot to feel, so much to grieve, and a lot to work through just from existing in the world right now. And even more so when you add in managing work, homeschooling, figuring out where your next paycheck is coming from, taking care of the kids, and for some, bringing a new baby into the world.
We are unfortunately experiencing a collective trauma that will likely continue for more months to come. I entered into the pandemic already as a survivor of trauma from an awful event I experienced in my late teens. Clinically, the 6 -year war I fought with my own mind was diagnosed as PTSD, but I personally just called it “hell.” I am grateful to have since recovered and have healed through many ugly years of demolishing and rebuilding myself. Now, thankfully, that specific event is no longer the main thing I see when I look at myself in the mirror, but rather just a formative part of my past. In many ways my previous experiences with fighting for my own survival have helped me throughout this pandemic. I already had a tool kit packed for if I ever needed to operate out of constant survival mode again. Don’t get me wrong, even as a seasoned vet I’ve still been struggling to navigate all of this. But there are a lot of small, very tangible things we can all do to make this whole experience a little bit easier on ourselves.
So whether you entered the pandemic as a trauma survivor or with perfect mental health, these are my tried and true methods for making this period of constant uncertainty and fear just the slightest bit easier to get through. If you can do them all in one day, cool. But if you can’t, that’s totally fine too. I personally aim to do at least one per day.
So let’s get started…
A little tidbit I have learned throughout my healing process: Trauma has a posse. And it’s not a great posse. And while not everyone will have a full blown PTSD trauma response to everything that’s going on with the pandemic, I’ve definitely noticed the majority of the people in my life (even those who haven’t struggled with mental illness in the past) being visited by one or more members of this unfortunate group:
- The suffocating vice grip of panic
- The stale fog of insomnia
- The slimy voice of self doubt/self-invalidation
- The heavy tendrils of lethargy/depression
- The cracked wasteland of numbness/denial (dissociation)
- The non-stop hamster wheel of hyper-vigilance (constant anxiety)
- The hellish rage to fight this thing (fight)
- The quick-footed sprint to flee somewhere else, somewhere safe (flight)
These reactions are all normal under these circumstances. It is our brains trying to protect us. And this is your reminder that you will get through this. You HAVE gotten through this, and you will continue to do so because this will not last forever. And simply recognizing which member of this posse is visiting you on any given day can help identify the things that might help to alleviate their ickiness.
17 things that can help make the pandemic even slightly better:
1. Establish a routine. Some people are naturally spontaneous. But when it comes to crisis situations and issues of mental health, our minds and bodies do much better with a routine. It eliminates the element of the unknown so that our brains know what to expect and how to prepare for the day. That way they’re more willing to get out of survival mode. Of course it’s not reasonable to expect that every single day will look the exact same. But integrating small repetitive elements can do wonders. My brain knows to expect that when I wake up in the morning I will have my cup of tea, I will go to work, at lunch I will always have my cup of coffee, and before I go to bed at night I will watch some Netflix, read a few pages of my book, and go to sleep. And as long as all of those things are happening, everything is A-OK. In a way it’s kind of like looking after a scared pet.
2. Give yourself some grace. It’s okay to be social one day and anti social the next, angry one day and then fine the next. The flip flopping emotional roller-coaster is just our brains figuring out how to handle all of this while protecting us. Be gentle and patient with yourself. If the emotional roller-coaster becomes too much to handle, I highly recommend touching base with a therapist. My therapist is honestly my favorite person right now, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need references!
3. Go for a 20 minute walk 3 times per week. Some people are getting buff during quarantine which is AWESOME. Power to those who are! But for a lot of people it’s just not feasible. Initially, I tried to do a 20 minute walk every day but it was just… not happening lol. Sometimes I’m tired and don’t want to walk around! But setting a goal to go for a walk 3 times per week at least ensures you’re getting up and moving twice during the work week, and once on the weekend. Vitamin D and movement are important for the mind and body. So take care of your body like you would your little ones. Even if you can’t become a body builder (like the majority of us), just make sure you’re moving. Even if it’s just stretching. Doing what you can is okay. I personally use Pokemon Go to get me up and moving (yes I’m a dork, I love catching all the pokemon).
4. Give yourself a pat on the back for the little things. I do this by having my favorite tea throughout the day. Then when I get home from my day job I make a point to get either boba tea or eat a coconut popsicle. It’s a smaller version of “treat yourself.” Existing in every day life with the constant din of anxiety in the background consumes so much energy. It makes everything just that much harder. So you deserve these little rewards. Give yourself some credit!
5. Boycotting/immersing in social media. For this one, you’ll have to be super honest with yourself because your needs may change from day to day. Sometimes social media is so over-stimulating that it makes me panic. Sometimes it makes me feel relieved because I get to bond with others over shared experiences. It’s important to check in with yourself. Listen to what you really need. The news will be there tomorrow. Anything immediate will be announced through emergency alerts. But if you need to watch funny videos on facebook to keep yourself sane, absolutely go for it.
6. Give your body some slack. Unfortunately, there’s a loooooooot of body shaming going on right now. This is your reminder that there is NOTHING wrong with your body changing. Specifically, there is nothing wrong with gaining weight. I’ll say it again: GAINING WEIGHT IS NORMAL. A lot of us are less active than we were in February, so of course it’s going to happen. And even if that weren’t the case, gaining weight or being fat is not a bad thing. Curves, rolls, and squish are beautiful. I don’t know about y’all, but my body has changed a lot since March and that’s okay. This body is the body that got you through the pandemic. It is strong, it is resilient, and it is worthy of love.
7. Make yourself as comfortable as possible. Unless I’m at work, it’s No Bra Central over here at my house. Take it easy and wear your comfy clothes when you can. Things are going to be stressful and unpredictable regardless, so you might as well be comfortable while working through it.
8. Remind yourself that it’s not just you. It’s easy to feel alone in a time period that requires us to be physically distant in order to heal. This sense of isolation makes it even easier to be hard on ourselves since we’re not surrounded by our usual goals and support systems. A lot of us are working from home, so “supposedly” our productivity should increase, right? Nope. Sorry. You’re not just “working from home,” you’ve been forced to work from home during an international crisis. There’s a lot to worry about, and even just going to the grocery store takes so much extra thought and planning. Your productivity will probably take a dip at some point if it hasn’t already, and so will your kids’ if they’re going back to school this fall. This is all okay. And it’s important to be patient with yourself. You’re getting through it. Getting through it is the goal, anything else is just a bonus. You’re doing enough.
9. Sleep as much as you can! Life is exhausting for a lot of us right now. Sleep when you can. Naps are a godsend. And don’t feel guilty about it! You’re giving your body what it needs, and it needs that extra energy and rest to conquer the day.
10. Be honest with yourself. About everything. Boundaries, your limitations right now, alcohol consumption, how you’re feeling, exhaustion level, finances, what’s good for you, bad for you. All of it. No shame or guilt whatsoever. If you’re honest with yourself you’ll be able to see clearly where you have leeway and where you’re running low on reserves. It’s okay if you drop some balls here and there. It’s just a matter of which ones are made of rubber and which are made of glass.
11. Talk to your loved ones when you feel up to it. Isolation, both emotionally and physically, creates an excellent breeding ground for the trauma posse. So please don’t forget to talk to your loved ones. Zoom exhaustion is real though, so of course don’t over-exert yourself socially. But there’s definitely something to be said for a sense of community counteracting anxiety and depression.
12. Save the things that make you laugh or smile. I personally take so many screenshots and send so many videos to my loved ones. That way I can spread the joy, and look back on them later if I’m having a case of “Pandemic Brain.” Get the laughter, smiles and peace wherever you can. Pinterest has also been a godsend in this respect because you get all the pretty pictures and crafting ideas without the facebook fights. I especially recommend beautiful nature photos as a grounding tool. They’re a great reminder that some things are still effortlessly beautiful. For me especially, if the photos have people in them, I can picture myself standing exactly where they are in the photo with the wind in my face. Visualization is powerful. The sense of peace just comes naturally.
13. Take things minute by minute, and day by day. When everything feels so overwhelming that you can’t think clearly, take it one thing at a time. Slow down and breathe. Just get through this hour. Then this day. And before you know it the weekend will be here. Baby steps still move you forward.
14. Watch happy TV. Life is already stressful. The media you consume doesn’t have to be. Sometimes this rule falls to the wayside for me though. I love Grey’s Anatomy too much.
15. Make your bedroom cozy and a place you feel safe. Somewhere you can retire to for sleep, sexy time, and to reset when everything feels too heavy or overwhelming. Over time your brain will start associating your bedroom with safety. There will come a point where your brain will automatically decrease the levels of stress hormones in your body simply from the act of you walking into your room. There’s a reason professionals suggest this for insomnia and anxiety! Pro tip: Plants and twinkly lights go a long way.
16. Make sure your basic physical needs are getting met as much as possible. Be sure to eat, drink water, and sleep when you can because Maslow’s hierarchy of needs isn’t fiction my friends. If your basic physical needs aren’t met it’s easier for your brain to leap into survival mode because your body is physically already that much closer to it. It’s unbelievably difficult to achieve emotional stability if these basic needs aren’t met. Physical/emotional safety are also big factors as well. If you’re in need of temporary shelter due to emotional or physical threats to your safety (including but not limited to abuse and homelessness), please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for resources or to any of the following organizations: SafeHouse (Washtenaw County), Coalition On Temporary Shelter/COTS (Detroit), Common Ground (Oakland County), First Step (general Wayne County area), and Detroit Trauma Project (general Wayne County area).
17. Cry it out if you need to. Do it. You’ll feel better. Even in labor, if we notice that a birthing parent is feeling frustrated, stuck, or if their labor is stalling during active labor we will often suggest crying it out. It releases SO much tension and allows people to move forward both physically and emotionally. There’s a lot of pressure to hold everything together right now. So if you’re feeling stuck, cry it out. Let the pressure go.
There’s been a lot of emphasis on finding a “new normal,” and while that’s definitely a goal to strive for, I, myself, have struggled with this. Because nothing about this is normal. And accepting this lack of normalcy has lifted a huge weight from my shoulders. It has forced me to focus on the little things in my day that I do have control over. So please remember, that regardless of how you’re coping with the pandemic, you’re doing just fine. You’re getting through it. And that is more than enough for now.
We may be nearing the end of Black History Month, but the influence of Black folks in birth work and every other aspect of society continues 365 days a year. Black History Month is a time to recognize the pivotal role that Black folks have played all throughout history, and celebrate the richness they have cultivated, despite society’s continuous efforts to hide their accomplishments. However, it’s not enough to stop at just Black History Month. We need to continue celebrating Black folks in the past and present as well as making sure that our doula practices are accessible to Black parents. For us, creating equity is a continuous and intentional act of centering the voices and needs of marginalized communities in our doula work.
When it comes to our particular field of work as doulas, if you haven’t seen the statistics that have been zooming across news outlets and social media: Black parents are dying at 3-4 times the rate of white parents, and Black babies are twice as likely to die during childbirth as white babies. Furthermore:
“Education and income offer little protection. In fact, a black woman with an advanced degree is more likely to lose her baby than a white woman with less than an eighth-grade education.”
-Linda Villarosa, New York Times
It’s not okay. And it’s horrifying. There’s no explanation/reason that could ever make this statistic okay or any less devastating. Black parents deserve better.
(To learn more about HOW this happens, be sure to read this article from Lamaze International. They do a great job of breaking down the statistics, the vibrant history of Black Midwives in the US, and their importance in modern America.)
That being said, it’s not enough to simply state that we’re allies of Black parents. “Ally” isn’t just a label that we can pin to our chests and call it a day. It’s a constant commitment to equity, growth, and advocacy. And beyond that, a promise to uplift justice, action, healing, and mindfulness. A simple label won’t absolve our communities of the weight of the maternal mortality crisis, or the racism that still exists in every aspect of our society. That weight is inter-generational, centuries in the making, and has existed since Africans were first brought across the sea against their will as part of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Here at Tree Town Doulas we want to say thank you to all the Black birth workers that have paved the way, from Margaret Charles Smith to Racha Tahani Lawler. If you’re a Black birth worker and would like to connect to gain experience, exchange resources/networks, or more please don’t hesitate to reach out!
If you’re a non-Black birth worker committed to change but don’t know where to start: Check out this article that amplifies the words of DONA’s Black doulas themselves. This article might be a few years old, but it’s still applicable. An oldie but goodie.
To Black people who are looking to be parents and are looking for a doula for their birthing process, we will actively work to hear you and center your needs. We understand that we’re not a fully Black staff, so if you’re in southeast Michigan, below is a list of Black birth workers and parenting groups in the area.
Black Birthworkers and Parenting Groups in Southeast Michigan
Our Village: African American Expectant and New Mom Group
4260 Plymouth Rd, Ann Arbor MI 481905
Link for their facebook page
Link for their schedule/event page
Black Mothers Breastfeeding Socials through Washtenaw County WIC Breastfeeding Support:
WIC office, 555 Towner St, Ypsilanti MI 48198
Contact: (734) 544-6800 or message their facebook page
A lovely article about their work
Mosaic Midwifery Collective
Homebirth midwives: Heather Robinson, Cynthia Jackson, and Jahmamma Selasie
Contact: email@example.com or call (248) 965-9539
Main website: www.mosaicmidwiferycollective.com
Link to their facebook page
Organizations dedicated to professional, childcare, educational, safety, mental and reproductive health support for Black parents:
WIN Network Detroit
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (313) 874-4581
Main website: winnetwork.org
1400 Oakman Boulevard, Detroit MI 48238
Contact: (313) 494-5500
Main website: focushope.edu
777 Livernois, Ferndale MI 48220
Main website: motheringjustice.org
There’s nothing quite so powerful as a story. In particular, our own personal stories. The vulnerability we create by sharing and owning our stories (when we feel safe and comfortable enough to do so) holds so much power. That vulnerability opens up opportunities to learn alongside each other, but also to open minds, change opinions, and empower others. It gives us permission to feel, to dig into the deepest depths of ourselves, to question, grieve, play, laugh, empathize, and to explore. And in many cases, reveals to us the true beauty and complexity of what is within our reach in in every day life. With a single collection of words, our stories (and we ourselves) have the ability to fulfill one of our most basic human needs: the need to feel like we belong, and to know that we are not alone.
So here is your friendly reminder: You are not alone.
Regardless of where you are in your parenting/life journey, you are not alone. We’re in your corner. There comes a point in every journey where we need to lean on the wisdom of others, and if you’re there right now (and also if you’re not!), that’s totally okay. As doulas, we have our own stories, but we have also witnessed the many successes and struggles of other families too. And if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that parenting can be hard, and sometimes we all need a little extra TLC. That’s where we come in. Of course we love getting to meet your beautiful baby, but we’re also here to check on YOU. To help you get your needs met while you look after your little one. We know that if parents are nurtured and cared for, their babies will be too. We are professionally trained to support parents without judgement and in ways that make sense for their unique relationships with their babies. We don’t have an agenda for how we think you “should” parent because we know that parenting is already hard enough. We don’t expect you to be perfect or to know everything. We don’t judge, and we know that sometimes you’ll want to think of something other than parenting. Above all else, we embrace and honor whatever decisions you have made for you and your family. Instead of giving you directions, we walk with you. We’re just here to listen and to help.