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.
The Holiday Season is now officially in full swing! As we speak, the kiddos are gearing up for their favorite holiday festivities while parents rush around from store to store preparing for the perfect celebration. The holidays are a stressful time as it is, but it’s even more stressful with a new baby or a bun in the oven. Whether you’re fresh out of the hospital, in your second trimester, or months into raising your little one, this blog post is for you! Tree Town Doulas has put together a few tips and tricks for surviving the holidays as a new parent.
1. Give yourself permission to keep it simple
You may need to let some things go this year. And that’s okay! This one may be hard for those of you who are used to big, beautiful, extravagant holiday celebrations. Parenting in itself is a full time job. When you add a newborn or morning sickness into the mix, parenting becomes two full time jobs. As a new/ pregnant parent your priority right now is taking care of yourself and your baby. Take that extra time to rest and skip out on hosting festivities this year if you need to. There will be other holidays, we promise!
2. Establish your rules/boundaries ahead of time
If you plan on attending family festivities this year, it’s likely that the grand majority will want to hold your baby or touch your baby bump. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying either of these things if you’re comfortable with them! But figuring out your boundaries ahead of time can save you a lot of stress in the moment. Whether you’re completely fine with everyone holding your baby (gives you more time to grab a snack before pumping!) or whether you need your partner to act as a body guard against the bump-touchers and baby-holders. All of these options and everything in between are a-okay as long as you’re feeling comfortable and low stress. You call the shots when it comes to your body and baby, and you never need to feel guilty about that! A couple things to consider:
- Babywearing – keeps your baby close and calm in overstimulating environments. Plus, if you’re someone who doesn’t want everyone holding your baby, this provides you with a ready-made excuse to keep your little one with you!
- Washing hands – Another boundary to consider is whether or not you want people to wash their hands before holding your baby.
- Short and sweet – Would your stress level decrease if you appearance at festivities was brief this year? This can be a great compromise if you want to see your family members, but don’t have the energy to stay for a full-day celebration. Be sure to listen to your body and listen to your baby. 🙂
3. It’s okay to say “No”!
We can’t say this one enough: It’s okay to say “no” to holiday invitations! If your heart sighs with relief at the idea of spending the holidays curled up on the couch at home, there is NOTHING wrong with that. Give yourself permission to decline invitations. You have a great excuse for avoiding the stress of the holidays. Being pregnant and taking care of a baby is exhausting, so everyone will understand. If they don’t- no worries! There will be other holidays. There is only one you. Plus, they won’t be able to stay mad for long when they see your beautiful new baby 🙂
4. Stay Cozy
Those first few weeks postpartum can be a doozy for any parent. So regardless of the time of year, we always recommend that new parents stay comfy and cozy. Between the sleepless nights and finding a rhythm with your baby, the little things you do to take care of yourself will become extra important during this time. So put on those fuzzy socks, and wear your comfiest hoodie.You deserve it.
5. Plan your baby’s feeding schedule
This is a surefire way to prevent the dreaded Holiday Meltdowns of 2019. Take a moment to write out your baby’s usual feeding times, when they’re more likely to get fussy, and when/if you’ll need to pump. Keep a copy of this schedule with you, on your phone, or with your partner. If you’re someone who loses track of time easily (most parents start measuring times in terms of “how many times my baby has eaten today” so you’re not alone), set alarms to the times you know your baby will be getting ready to feed. The more you can plan ahead and anticipate when your little one will need that extra attention, the smoother things will go.
This is along the same lines as giving yourself permission to keep things simple. Write out a list of things that are important to you during your holiday celebrations. Circle your top 3 and leave it at that. A few examples: decorations, visiting family, gratitude, religious practices (if applicable), food, family traditions. On that list, include a friendly reminder that pre-made food (or even take-out) is a perfectly good food option if you don’t have the time/energy to cook 🙂 For the rest, focus as much as you can on self care, the rhythm you’ve established with your little one, and sleep. For those of you recovering from a cesarean section, this will be especially important!
7. Accept help
This tip goes for parenting in general! Accepting help can be really hard at first, especially if you’re used to being entirely independent. But raising a baby takes a village. A lot of family members and friends will want to help, but don’t know how, so don’t be afraid to delegate! Let your needs be known and allow your friends and family give you a break. You’re recovering from birthing a human, you’ll need a break every once in a while 🙂
8. Online Shopping is your best friend
Anyone who has ever chest/breastfed won’t be surprised at all that producing milk consumes 25% of your body’s energy. In comparison, your brain uses 20%. This explains why you’re so tired all the time! Already, just by producing milk and existing with your brain, that’s almost 50% of your body’s energy already being consumed. After expending so much energy simply by existing, shopping for holiday gifts may feel like an absolutely impossible task. Thank god for the internet. Sit down on that sofa, and order all of those gifts from the comfort of your own home. And when in doubt: Gift Cards 🙂 Take the pressure off where you can. And if you don’t have the energy for gift-giving this year, there is nothing wrong with that either! Which brings us to our last tip:
9. Cut yourself some slack
Things aren’t going to be perfect. Healing from birth can hit parents harder than they expect, whether your birth plan went exactly or not at all as planned. If you had a cesarean section you’ll be recovering from a major surgery on top of all this. So here’s your friendly reminder: recovering and settling into a rhythm are your number one priorities right now. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Give yourself the gift of peace. It’s okay if you don’t have the energy to host festivities this year. It’s okay to give gifts late, or not at all for that matter! It’s okay to take a break and to take care of yourself. You matter. And you can do this. You’re ALREADY doing it.
We wish you a holiday season filled with love, laughter, joy, and most importantly: SLEEP! 🙂
Happy Thursday everyone!!! 🙂 This week’s Community Spotlight is highlighting the wonderful Marlene McGrath!! Not only is she an amazing mother, but she’s also an incredible prenatal and postpartum yoga instructor. We HIGHLY recommend checking out her classes. Plus, she’s located right here in Ann Arbor!
To find balance in her job as a hospital social worker, Marlene began studying and practicing yoga in 1991. Now, Marlene is the mother of 3 teenagers, and teaches yoga full-time to students ages 18-99 with a specialty in prenatal and postnatal yoga. You can find her full class listing at: yogafocusannarbor.com !
What brought you to support moms and babies?
I was a yoga teacher before having children, but during my first pregnancy realized how much yoga helped me stay connected to my changing body and cope with labor, birth, and recovery. I then decided to pursue more training to specialize in teaching yoga to pregnant and postpartum women.
If there was one myth you could “bust,” what would it be?
The myth: that pregnant women just need to deal with significant discomfort and pain during pregnancy, that it is just part of being pregnant.
What do you enjoy doing when not working?
Working in my garden, walking my dog, having outdoor adventures with my children, family, and friends.
What moment are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the moments when I see my children negotiate difficult experiences.
Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know.
My hope is that women who practice yoga during their childbearing years develop a knowledge of and relationship with themselves that will serve them through parenting and all the transitions to come later in life.
People have a lot to say about pregnancy. Between the recommendations, cautionary tales, shoulds, shouldn’ts, educational literature and things your coworker says “Will Make You The Worst Parent On The Planet.” Everyone has an opinion. In all honesty, we’ve worked with so many parents who have been thoroughly freaked out and terrified by the horror stories that other parents, family members, and friends have told them about their own pregnancies. Of course these loved ones mean well and they just want those they care about to be safe! But sometimes adding that extra two cents can do a lot more harm than good by making pregnancy way more stressful than it needs to be. We’re here to give you strategies to manage the sea of opinions that might try to sweep you off your feet throughout pregnancy and parenthood.
So what should you do when you’re being bombarded by opinions from those around you?
First of all, DO NOT GO ON WEBMD.
We cannot stress this one enough! Talk to your care provider, doula (if you choose to have one) and people you trust if you have concerns. Reading an article that says you’re already dead will probably not help matters much.
To help with feelings of anxiety in the moment, we introduce to you the “Thank you for letting me know” technique.
This technique was coined by my magnificent roommate: Maggie. She’s your friendly neighborhood list-enthusiast and an accomplished educator of today’s 12-year-old youth. In other words, she is an expert at managing chaos. A few months ago after an exhausting day at work, she gifted me one of my favorite coping strategies to pass on to stressed parents. Maggie walked through the door, dropped her backpack, looked at me, and in a moment of exasperation said
“I swear, the phrase that I use the most at my job is ‘Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.'”
She went on to describe the chaos of her classroom; the consistently hilarious but exhausting interruptions of 12 year olds as they test the boundaries of social interactions, rifle off internet memes, and erupt in Fornite dances. To all of which, while suppressing laughter, Maggie’s response is “Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.”
“Miss Maggie!!! Sarah ate 10 packets of ketchup even though you said not to and now she has a stomach ache!!” Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.
“Miss Maggie!!! Jerrell is laying on the floor for fun and he doesn’t feel like moving!!!” Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat. (Also Jerrell get off the floor).
“Miss Maggie!!! Timmy buried his head in the snow and now his face is super cold!!” Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.
Believe it or not, this mindset has helped so many of our clients. I think it goes without saying that we don’t want you to take up yelling “THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME KNOW PLEASE TAKE A SEAT” at every person who expresses an opinion.
But the next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by someone else’s input on your pregnancy, birth, or parenting philosophies just follow these steps:
Take a deep breath. Inhale and exhale.
Pretend the unnecessary feedback/anecdotes/judgments are 12-year-old Sarah eating ketchup packets
Tell Sarah “thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.”
Picture the intrusive opinion (aka Sarah) stepping aside and physically taking a seat
Take a few more deep breaths
It sounds silly, but it’s actually a really helpful way of centering yourself through visualization. Plus it’s a generally recommended coping mechanism for anxiety! The “Thank you for letting me know” strategy allows you to acknowledge outside input but not let it overwhelm you, wrack your confidence, or disturb your sense of calm. This way you can see the situation for what it is, set the unnecessary information aside, create healthy boundaries, and focus on what’s important. Even vocalizing “Thank you for sharing this with me, but I’m going to continue parenting in the ways that make sense for me” can be a great boundary to set with loved ones as your due date draws near.
So there you have it. Whether you’re a new parent, a parent-to-be, a seasoned parent, or just someone who struggles with anxiety, you now have a new possible tool to add to your Mental Health Tool Kit 🙂
A note to every teacher out there:
When we think of superheroes, we think of Superman flying majestically through the sky or Batman mysteriously watching over Gotham City. But not all heroes wear capes. Within the walls of our schools work some of the single most dedicated, inspiring, and transformative individuals in the country: the kids themselves, who have the power to shape our future, and the superhero teachers, who have the power to shape the futures of our youth. This post is a shout out to all of the amazing teachers out there. The life-changing, and future-changing work you do every single day is not lost on us at Tree Town Doulas. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
As labor day weekend comes to an end, we plunge headfirst into the season of fresh notebooks, sharpened pencils, ripe apple picking, brisk nights, and cider mills. That first month back to school can be a doozy, especially for parents still in summer mode. Not only are we faced with developing a whole new routine from scratch, but now we’re also faced with a whole new set of challenges as our children grow into the next school year. Teachers often have their students set goals for the coming school year, so it’s only fitting that we do the same!
The word “mindfulness” is thrown around a lot with the images of spas, fancy art projects, and far-off lands. When really all “mindfulness” means is checking in with yourself. We recognize that most parents don’t have time to sit down, much less getting their nails done or get pampered at a spa. With this in mind, we’ve come up with a 3 minute exercise we’d like you to do. Obviously we’re not going to ask you to do homework because we know you’ll get enough of that with your little ones 😉
As the week goes on pick 2 of these prompts. Reflect on each of them for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Even set a timer if you need to! Focus on your thoughts and how you react to each prompt.
- What is your biggest win from the 7 days?
- What are 3 attitudes you want to embody this school year?
- What makes you feel calm?
- Have you felt stressed or anxious today? What did you do to overcome it?
- What realistic adjustment could you make to your daily routine to give yourself more energy?
- What have you recently said “yes” to that is not a “hell yes”?
- What does it feel like to go back to school after summer?
- Who is someone you have not talked to in a while that you’re grateful for?
- Is there an area of your life that needs to be more organized?
- What is something you’re anxious about for the coming school year? How can you reasonably prepare for this?
- What is one thing you need to let go of?
- What is your 3rd most unique strength? How can you make it as strong as your 1st and 2nd?
- What do you spend a silly amount of time on?
- When was the last time you laughed?
- What is important to you this school year?
- When do you have a hard time letting go? When do you feel so overwhelmed you “check out,” and what does that look like for you (e.g. checking social media too much, feeling irritable, etc..)?
- What is one long term goal you’re working towards?
- How have you shown yourself patience in the last week? How can you continue to do so?
Both you and your kids (and their teachers!!) will thank you for it 🙂
Happy Thursday everyone! 🙂 This week’s Community Spotlight will be shining on the founder of Sweet Momma Yoga, the fabulous Elise Bowerman!!! Elise is truly one of a kind. When she’s not busy running the Sweet Momma Yoga studio, she’s spending time with her family and instructing incredible Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Classes. Within the walls of her studio, she facilitates parents finding peace, empowerment, resilience, and reassurance within themselves and between each other as a community. So if you’ve been feeling the pressure of pregnancy, parenting, or just life in general lately, look no further!
What brought you to support moms and babies?
If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?
What do you enjoy doing when not working?
What moment are you most proud of?
Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know.