postpartum

“B” IS FOR BURNOUT

 

Let’s set the scene:

A young woman wearing boxer shorts and an oversized t-shirt sits on her couch watching television. A handful of popcorn goes cascading down her front as she misses her mouth entirely. She shrugs, flicks to the next episode of America’s Next Top Model, and slouches back into the squish of her sofa. An irritated look paints her face as she absentmindedly pets the grumpy cat siting next to her. Suddenly, the cat flies across the room in an explosion of screaming as the woman yells at the television “WHAT ARE YOU DOING MARJORIE?!?!?! GET YOURSELF TOGETHER, YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS!!!!” A feline death glare containing the rage of a thousand suns radiates from underneath the neighboring table. The woman pats the cat’s head, “I’m sorry kitty, it was important!”

This past weekend, that woman was most definitely me.

I can always tell when I’m reaching the point of burn-out when my irritability is ramped up ten-fold. That, and when I spend an unusual amount of time watching (and yelling at) reality TV shows in my boxers. Self care can be difficult as a doula, but we know that it’s even more difficult as a parent.

Becoming a parent means you are suddenly thrust into a position where taking care of yourself is no longer the priority. And honestly, a lot of the time it’s not even remotely on the radar. Your little ones become an extension of yourself, and caring for them quickly occupies the tiniest nooks and crannies of every day life. Of course we know that you love your kids! But for many parents, not having a minute to themselves throughout the day can feel incredibly draining, suffocating, isolating, and even alarming. Especially for parents whose self-care routines are integral to healing from mental illness or past trauma.

 

If you find yourself snapping at your kids more than usual, feeling guilty/inadequate, or in general feeling floaty/detatched, there’s a chance that you’re approaching or already experiencing burnout. Recognizing burnout ahead of time can be incredibly helpful. Not only so that you can change course for a more sustainable day-to-day routine, but also to conserve energy, and ensure you’re feeling like the amazing parent that your kids already KNOW you are!

Here are a few things you can do to prevent burnout from happening even in the hectic whirlwind of parenthood:

1. Take 5. Even taking just 5 minutes a day for yourself can make an enormous difference. Whether you’re a new mama taking care of your newborn or a seasoned parent who’s been around the block a few times. Everyone meets their wit’s end sometimes. So take a breath, set a timer, and spend that 5 minutes doing whatever you gotta do to center yourself. Sit in a closet for some peace and quiet, listen to music, call someone who makes you smile, or even just lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling (this can be weirdly therapeutic). It’s okay to reset and collect your thoughts.
2. Prioritize. Pick the things that absolutely need to get done today and save the rest for later. Your house doesn’t need to sparkle 24/7, but the baby needs to eat and Jimmy does need clean underwear for school tomorrow. Put your energy where it is needed most.
3. Nix the comparisons. Comparing yourself to other parents is tempting, especially in today’s parenting culture. Everyone wants to be “The Best Parent Ever.” But the secret is, your kids already think you’re the best. Do what is feasible and makes sense for YOU as a parent. Ease up on the criticism and try seeing yourself through their eyes because they already think you’re pretty great! 🙂
4. Teach your kids to do things independently. This one can seem daunting because kids can be so stubborn sometimes. But especially as your children get older, pushing through that resistance can save a lot of time and energy in the long run. Not having to worry about the little things like chores and getting everyone dressed will allow you to save your energy for the things that the kids can’t help out with. Plus it instills them with a sense of confidence and accomplishment!
5. Change your expectations. You don’t have to be perfect to be a good parent. It’s okay to not finish everything on your to-do list, and an extra few minutes of tv-time will not melt their brains into mush. Loosen your grip on those expectations of yourself and tell your self-critic to take a hike unless they plan on paying rent! It’s hard enough to be a parent, so cut yourself some slack.
6. Intentionally set aside time for yourself. I know this one can seen downright impractical, or even impossible. But it is so necessary. Making sure your own needs are met will allow you to feel more calm, collected and present (aka what every parent needs in the face of a tantrum). Your kids need you to take care of yourself because you can’t pour from an empty cup. So get out there, hand your kids over to your partner/ family member/ friend/ playdate/ babysitter for a couple hours, and go do something that makes your soul happy. No guilt whatsoever because a parent’s gotta do what a parent’s gotta do.
7. Ask for and accept help. Reaching out does not make you weak, and there is no shame in accepting help when it’s offered. The image of “Super Mom” is enticing, but I assure you that she’s just a myth! It takes a village to raise children because no one can possibly be everything for everyone. Communicate your needs with loved ones and ask for help/support when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Being a parent is a full-time job and there’s no reason to make it harder than it needs to be!
8. Spend time with friends. No one can lift your spirits or put you at ease like your friends. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’re losing yourself in the everyday life of parenthood, grabbing coffee or calling a good friend for a few minutes can help remind you of all that good stuff that’s already inside of you. Plus, venting and talking with other parent-friends can do wonders for lifting some of the weight off.
9. Be kind to yourself. Turning kindness and compassion inwards toward ourselves is a game-changer. By changing the way we talk to ourselves, we give ourselves room to feel, grow, and exist as people. Instead of berating yourself over the things you “should have” done, try a few of my favorite reminders: “I’ve done my best for today. I will keep trying tomorrow,” “It’s okay that I’m not perfect,” and “I will show myself the kindness and patience that I show others.” And if those don’t work, sometimes a good old fashioned  “No one is bleeding or in immediate crisis so that’s good enough for now” will do the trick 😉

If you find yourself nearing the Yelling-At-Reality-TV-In-Your-Boxers point of burnout, take a minute to breathe. You are human and deserve rest too. Give one or two of these a try every once in a while to see if they resonate with you. Above all else, please remember that you are not alone in this.

YOU CAN DO THIS. WE BELIEVE IN YOU. 

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: BIRTHWORK GALORE

On this lovely Thursday afternoon, we shine our Community Spotlight on the amazing Jessica English!!! If you’re looking for a birthwork super hero, you’ve pretty much found her! When she’s not running Birth Kalamazoo, she’s doing amazing work training doulas, childbirth educators, working as a doula, and advocating for parents in her community. So if you’re interested in any of these things, keep on scrolling! 🙂

Jessica English, AdvCD/BDT(DONA), PCD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE

Jessica English trains birth doulas for DONA International and childbirth educators for Lamaze International, traveling the country from Ann Arbor to Honolulu. She is one of just 48 advanced DONA birth doulas worldwide, and she still attends births and also cares for families as a postpartum doula. You’ll find her every Tuesday night teaching her 8-week childbirth class in Southwest Michigan, where she runs the state’s first and longest-running doula agency, Birth Kalamazoo. As a trainer, Jessica has also developed specialties in coaching doula agency owners and teaching hands-on labor support techniques to nurses. You can learn more about her trainings at heartsoulbirthpros.com or explore her agency at birthkalamazoo.com.

What brought you to support moms and babies?

Very simply, I had a great birth. After going through IVF and having this very high-tech conception with my son, I knew I wanted a low-tech birth experience. I did everything I could to stack my deck for my best chance at a great birth experience, including an independent childbirth education class, long walks every day, a midwife and a doula. 

After my son was born (such a beautiful, straightforward, physiologic birth), my doula said to me at our postpartum visit: “You’ve had a birth experience not many people in our culture get to have. I want you to think about what you’re going to do to share that with other people.” I wasn’t sure where to go with that, because I had a great job in public relations at a university, and a new baby that I had no idea how to take care of. But her challenge stuck with me, especially as I connected to other new parents who were not having great births – actually, their births were often pretty traumatic. 

I decided what I could do was teach, which seemed like a nice little sidelight in addition to my full-time job. I got trained and certified as a childbirth educator, and then my students started asking me to come to their births. That led me to train as a birth doula, which led me to… all the things. I’ve been doing this work for 14 years now, and I don’t miss university PR one bit. I’m so grateful I found my calling. 

If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?

I’d love to bust a couple of myths! 

For birth professionals (or future birth professionals), let’s bust the myth that you can’t make a full-time living as a birth professional. I have trained so many doulas and childbirth educators who are absolutely thriving in their home communities. I love watching them each find their niche and develop their own unique mix of services. This is heart work, but it absolutely can be financially rewarding too. Even for those doulas who are called to exclusively support under-resourced parents, I’ve watched them found or join nonprofits that can support them while they support families. 

For parents, I’m not sure if I’d call it a myth or a misconception, but I definitely see an assumption that if you just read enough, learn enough, practice enough, and hire the right doula, you can have a positive birth with any provider or any birth place. No! At least not unless you have a whole lot of luck working for you. The provider and birth place you choose will have an immeasurable impact on your birth experience, from the messages they send you about your ability to birth, to your risk of being induced or having a cesarean. And that doesn’t even address how you’re likely to be treated during your birth. I’ve seen such a huge difference in philosophy and approach among the providers in my area. If you want to know who the most respectful, patient and natural-minded providers are in your area, ask the doulas. 

OK, actually, I have one more for parents… I think especially in the Midwest, we have this pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps myth that families don’t need professional support postpartum. I understand that we are very capable here in the heartland, but new mamas and other parents need so much TLC — and not just for a few weeks, but for several months after birth. If we can take better care of the whole family, we can increase bonding and confidence, and potentially head off postpartum mood disorders. It’s not a badge of honor to talk about how terrible it was after your baby was born; it’s a tragedy, and it doesn’t have to be that way. I’d like to see people investing at least as much in birth and postpartum doula care as they might in their wedding or a new vehicle. Your birth and your settling-in time with your baby are 1,000 times more important.

You asked me for one myth, I hope you don’t mind that I gave you three. There are just so many myths that need busting!

What do you enjoy doing when not working? 

I’m in a very busy work season of my life, but I also have two amazing teenage boys and a husband that I love to spend time with. I’m a travel hockey mom times two, which is great fun (and super intense). We also love to fish or do anything on the water, whether that’s summers in Michigan or spring break on one of the out islands of the Bahamas (I call it the “rural Caribbean”). I’m part of a sweet little book club that rarely reads books together anymore but still meets often. And I love a nice glass of cabernet or rosé.

What moment are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the way my doula trainings have grown over the years. That’s not an exact moment, but a series of many moments, sharing my passion and seeing new doulas light up. It was a revelation to find that I have a unique talent for training adults, and it’s such a gift to me to help other people get started in this amazing field.

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know. 

Informed choice (consent or refusal) is the legal and ethical right of every person giving birth. Childbirth educators should be teaching it, doulas should be supporting it, and providers should be practicing it — every time, for every parent (especially for black women and other women of color, who are even less likely to receive respectful care than everyone else). That’s the hill I’m willing to die on.

 

 

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: CHIROPRACTIC CARE

This week’s Community Spotlight is giving a special shoutout to the wonderful Dr. Andrea Hoglen!!! Dr. Andrea does truly incredible work with parents from all walks of life. So if you’ve been looking for some amazing quality prenatal/postpartum chiropractic care, keep on reading!

DR. ANDREA HOGLEN

Dr. Andrea is a chiropractor who practices in Plymouth, Michigan. She utilizes the Webster Technique for pregnancy, as well as a number of gentle chiropractic and muscle techniques for expectant moms and babies. She is supportive of moms regardless of their birth plan, and she is passionate about supporting moms throughout their journey of motherhood. She is a runner, a crafter, a military wife, and a loving mom to one energetic 3 year old boy.

What brought you to support moms and babies?

I have always been passionate about supporting moms and babies! I took all of the maternity and pediatric courses that I could when I was in school. I had the opportunity to support moms and babies in my practice for years, but having my own son made realize how important it really is for moms to get musculoskeletal care during pregnancy and postpartum. I don’t really know how moms can go without!

If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?

I think there is a lot of misconceptions about chiropractic. People are afraid that it is unsafe for pregnancy or babies. People fear that they will have to go back forever. Both of these are wrong. There are specially designed techniques that are not only safe for pregnancy, but like Webster Technique, actually relieve pain during pregnancy and may help with optimal fetal positioning. I never assign anyone to care “for life” but many of my patients choose to return for occasional wellness visits just like they go in for a dental check-up.

What do you enjoy doing when not working? 

I love spending time with my son in nature. We love riding bikes, hiking trails, swimming, and playing. In addition, I do a lot of volunteering. I help teach safe baby wearing, I serve on the board for my local Chamber of Commerce, and I frequently teach at local moms groups.

What moment are you most proud of?

When my son was born. Isn’t that always the answer? But really, the whole journey of my labor brought so many elements together. I had been treated with chiropractic my whole pregnancy, I had my doula and my midwife. I had the whole birth team and I did “everything right” (if there is such a thing!). But in labor, my son got stuck sunny-side up and it stalled my labor. So my chiropractor and good friend came to adjust me during labor. During the adjustment, my son finally was able to turn and my labor progressed very rapidly. Within a very short span of time, he was earthside. Obviously a lot changes in that moment when you become a mother, but I also learned how much that I, personally, could do to help support mothers in that transition. These days I tell my patients to call me if something like that happens to them (or better, have their doula text me throughout their labor) and I have been known to make hospital visits for moms in labor. So not only did the birth of my son change my personal life, it changed my practice as well.

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know. 

You don’t have to struggle! Chiropractic can help with so many facets of new motherhood. Whether its back and pelvic pain during pregnancy and postpartum, or neck pain from holding a newborn and staring at their sweet face. It can also help babies too! Some babies struggle to nurse because they can’t turn their head completely or open their jaw fully. There are gentle, painless solutions that are safe for you and your baby!

FOOD FOR THE POSTPARTUM MOOD


The clock strikes 3PM. The tiny, warm, newborn bundle of joy in your arms has finally settled down and dozed off to sleep. A moment of peace surrounds you when all of a sudden you realize you haven’t had anything to eat all day! No wonder you’re exhausted! (you know, aside from the fact that your bundle of joy was only seconds ago a bundle of screaming). If you’ve ever been so busy that you’ve forgotten to indulge in your basic physical needs, you’ll completely understand this phenomenon. And now with a newborn it’s even easier for this to happen! Well have no fear.

Here are a couple tips and tricks to keep up on your postpartum nutrition even when your tiny bundle is keeping you busy: 

  • Eat when you can! Parenthood can be incredibly hectic, especially those first few months postpartum while you’re getting used to your new role and routine. So whenever you have a moment, whether it’s while baby is napping or skin-to-skin during feeding, try munching on a snack. Not only will that keep up your energy for when baby’s especially fussy, but it’ll also improve your milk supply if breastfeeding/chestfeeding is part of your plan!
  • Snack snack snack! With a new baby it’s common not to have the time or energy to prepare full meals on a regular basis. We highly recommend snacking many times throughout the day, not only out of convenience, but because it’s more effective at keeping your blood sugar up as the day goes on. Parents that breastfeed/chestfeed are much more likely to have blood sugar crashes due to so much of their bodily nutrients going to their milk supply, so please make sure to snack if your tiny human is suckling away!
  • Overstock your favorite foods. If there’s a food you’re always in the mood for, don’t be afraid to overstock! Your body will be working overtime to heal after your baby’s birth. So this is a fool-proof way to make sure you’re providing your body with the energy it needs to heal, especially if your appetite is being funky as you adjust.
  • Foods that are easy to eat with one hand. Convenience is key! Leaving some one-handed snacks on the counter so you can grab a few grapes as you walk by can make things SO much easier.
  • Stash non-perishables around the house so you don’t have to get up. End up having an unexpected moment of peace but don’t want to disturb your little one by moving? Good thing you stashed those granola bars in the drawer next to your sofa so that you don’t even have to move to grab a bite!
  • Stock up on foods that require minimum prep. Again, convenience is key. Save your energy for those times when your baby doesn’t want to settle down! Protip: precut fruits and veggies are a godsend.
  • Have your support people (e.g. your doula, significant other, friends, family, etc..) prepare food for you!
  • Prepare and freeze meals before you go into labor. Meal planning before your tiny human arrives can be a lifesaver. By making and freezing nutrient-dense meals ahead of time, you’ll be able to just throw that healthy meal in the microwave while folding clothes or changing baby’s diaper. Easy peasy!

Need some ideas for low-maintenance healthy postpartum snacks? We got you 🙂 

  • Precut fruits and veggies
  • Blueberries
  • Grapes
  • Crackers
  • Nuts
  • Nut butters
  • Popcorn
  • Pre sliced cheese/ string cheese
  • Greek yogurt
  • Granola
  • Protein bars
  • Dried fruit
  • Hummus

 Here are some additional postpartum nutrition tidbits to keep in mind to ensure you’re on your way to feeling your strongest: 

  • Nutrient dense foods for the first few months. A healthy, nutrient-rich diet is one of the biggest deciding factors in healing and gaining your strength back after birth. Instead of defaulting to quick and easy processed foods (although a little dessert never hurt anyone 😉 ), make sure you’re doing everything you can to nourish your body with each bite! You just carried a baby in your body for 9 months, and now it’s time to take care of you too. If nursing is part of your postpartum plan, it’s also important to remember that your baby eats everything you eat, and you both deserve the absolute best in your tummies.
  • Protein-rich foods: Eating more of these foods will not only help strengthen your body, but will also facilitate tissue healing/repair which is vital after birth. This is especially the case after C-sections or physically traumatic births. Examples of these foods: cheese, yogurt, meat, beans, nuts, eggs. 
  • Healthy whole-grain carbs. After your little one has arrived it’s super tempting to switch gears to losing that “baby weight” as soon as possible, but losing it too fast can interfere with your ability to produce milk and leave you feeling fatigued. Investing in some whole-grain carbs is an easy way to keep your energy up as well as provide that extra boost to your milk supply if your’e breastfeeding/chestfeeding!
  • Foods that promote collagen-formation. When it comes to collagen-formation Vitamin C, beta carotene, and zinc are must-haves. Collagen promotes the healing of skin and tissue. Vitamin C and zinc also boost your immune system to prevent common illnesses! Examples: carrots, sweet potatoes, red meat, citrus fruits. 
  • Leafy greens. Let’s not forget those leafy greens because they’re a fantastic source of iron and Vitamin A! Vitamin A promotes the formation/maintenance of bones, teeth, soft tissues, mucus membranes, white blood cells, and the immune system. This is especially important for new parents, and even more so for new babies. Don’t worry, nursing babies get all of this good stuff from breast milk!
  • Vitamin B-12. This one’s a biggie. Vitamin B-12 is involved in the metabolism reactions that occur in every single cell of the human body because it helps break down nutrients and enhances nervous system function. Making sure you’re getting adequate amounts of B-12 can improve your postpartum healing experience 10-fold, and also  decreases the likelihood of postpartum depression and anxiety. Breastfeeding/chestfeeding parents also need extra B-12 because it facilitates healthy brain and red blood cell function/development for both the parent and baby. Examples: lean beef, yogurt, cheese, eggs. 
  • Fiber. In your postpartum life you will find there will already be a lot going on down there. No need to add constipation to the mix 🙂 
  • Iron. Anemia is pretty common during and after pregnancy because extra hemoglobin and red blood cells are needed to bring oxygen/nutrients to your baby before they’re born. By getting enough iron, you’re also replenishing your red blood cells! Examples: lentils, leafy greens, lean beef, dark beans. 
  • Hydration nation. Your body is mostly water, so drink up! Plus, water decreases constipation. Need we say more? 🙂 

Now let’s nourish that postpartum body!