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Amy’s Blessingway

Guys, I love Blessingways. I love them so much, but sometimes it feels like zero other people even know what a Blessingway is. In my extremely unbiased opinion (cough, cough) I think our American culture does a really wonderful job of preparing families for new babies with things, but not preparing them emotionally or mentally for the changes that come with a newborn. Baby showers are absolutely amazing and totally necessary, but birth is so much more than an opportunity to collect clever onesies and stock up on diapers. We do mothers a huge disservice when we only prioritize things for their baby and neglect their mental and emotional health.

 

Enter the Blessingway.

 

Blessingways, or Mother Blessings, trace their lineage back to traditions of the Dine Navajo people. A Blessingway differs from a traditional baby shower in that the focus is solely on preparing the mother-to-be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for labor, birth, and welcoming a new soul into the world.

 

I had the privilege of helping host a Blessingway for a dear friend and doula client the other day, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to show off what the morning looked like and what we did!

 

It was such a beautiful day. The mother-to-be, Amy, hosted in her home and we had a delicious brunch with a small group of her close friends. I think it’s important to remember to keep your guest list short. It’s best for the vibe to be intimate, so make sure you’ve got a group of people who feel comfortable being a little vulnerable together. By vulnerable, I mean a group of pals who feels safe to you, who are okay with speaking truth to your heart, praying together, things like that.

 

At Amy’s Blessingway, conversation was joyful and uplifting. We spent a lot of time talking about our own shared labor experiences and got on our soapboxes about how women are far more capable to birth than our culture believes. We talked about the funny parts of our birth stories and bonded over our shared identities as mothers.

 

Amy asked that everyone bring a card with a scripture or quote that would be an encouragement to her as she prepares for baby. Blessingways are not necessarily religious, but the definitely lend themselves to many different faith traditions. The beauty of a Blessingway is that you can customize it to include whatever speaks most to your heart. Birth affirmations, scriptures, quotes, mantras, and prayers all work well here.

 

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We were also asked to bring a bead to Amy’s Blessingway. Beads are a common Blessingway tradition. I’ve had clients string them into necklaces to wear during labor or just put them on a string to hold or look at while they’re laboring. Beads can be a tangible way to count your way through contractions or could be a visual to focus on during labor. When each person gave Amy their bead, we explained why we chose that particular bead and what it symbolized. This is such a beautiful opportunity to speak truth to the heart of a mama and to remind her how strong and capable she is.

 

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Amy’s dear friend, Karolann, explaining her gift beads.

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A Blessingway can be as elaborate or simple as you’d like. Some folks like to include henna art for the expecting mama and her guests. Amy was gifted some beautiful henna belly art before her Blessingway by Kera Marie of Traditions HennaI mean, can you even believe how gorgeous this is? She incorporated the handprints of Amy’s other kids and even Amy’s favorite animal, an octopus…gold stars if you can spot him!

 

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After we finished up all the activities, attendees were given a candle to light when Amy was laboring and a blue string to tie around our wrists to remind us to pray for her. It was a truly lovely and special morning.

 

Ultimately, throwing a Blessingway is just such a beautiful way to hold space for expectant mothers and honor their journey toward birth. Blessingways can also be very healing for mothers delivering babies during or after difficult circumstances like the loss of a baby or another family member, a deployment, or after a difficult previous birth. These ceremonies are also wonderful for preparing mamas for VBACs or even a scheduled c-section. The options are endless! If you’re interested in hosting a Blessingway for a friend or having one for yourself, I do offer Blessingway services. Feel free to hit me up and we’ll plan an event customized to your personality and birth. Happy Blessing, everyone!

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Finding Peace in the Paradox

We live in a paradoxical time, do we not? As parents we often find ourselves living in a bizarre balancing act of “long days/short years” meets “just wait for when your kids (fill in the blank) meets “do what makes you happy” meets “live in the moment” meets “if you don’t do or plan XYZ for your family, you’re failing” meets complete and total mental breakdown.

 

As mothers, we find ourselves in a time in which society is beginning to place more value on self care and mental health, but in which our culture also admonishes us to be true to ourselves while simultaneously placing illogical and impossible expectations on us as mothers raising families. We cannot be all things to all people, and yet we’re kind of expected to be.

 

So, what’s a gal to do?

 

I honestly don’t have one great answer to finding a peaceful middle ground on all of this. But I sure identify with feeling pushed and pulled toward many different ideas of thought. And the truth is, there’s a lot of value in each of these ideologies. It’s completely true that the days are long and the years are short. It’s also completely true that we cannot expect women to love every moment of pregnancy or motherhood. We need to temper our need to plan for the future with some good quality mindfulness that helps us appreciate the everyday moments we might otherwise miss. We should cherish those baby days, but we’re certainly allowed to look forward to a time when we’re not wiping butts all day.

 

While I don’t have an answer for solving the world’s problems (mother-related or otherwise), I do think I’ve stumbled upon some things that sure help take the edge off. When I’m feeling pushed, pulled, frustrated, and overwhelmed with my vocation as mother and then feeling guilty about how I’m feeling, these are some tried and true methods that have helped me come back up for air when I feel like I’m losing it.

 

Identify your stressors then plan ahead.  When you’re in a calm state of mind, take a moment to assess which things contribute most to your sense of chaos and stress. Are you annoyed by a particular person posting on Facebook? Do you find yourself slipping into comparison mode on Instagram? Are you unable to avoid unwanted advice from a particular co-worker? Identify a few things that you can easily see contributing to your anxiety and, this is key, problem solve how to stop them.

A priest recently counseled me that we have to have a strategy for avoiding the things that trip us up. It’s not good enough to identify stressors, complain about them, and then go on our way. We have to strategize ways to react to stressors in the future in order to experience any sort of change. Remember, if nothing changes nothing changes. So, take apps off your phone, unfollow people, prepare quick responses and changes of subject ahead of time so your co-worker doesn’t take you by surprise again. Strategy is everything. If we can head anxiety off at the pass, then we’ve made some real progress!

 

Cultivate a peaceful environment. I’m naturally a very messy person, but I’ve come to realize that a clean house is quieter than the slob hole I naturally create. So I make it a priority to try to keep things clean. My clean home is truly only motivated by the fact that it is quieter, more restful, and peaceful when things are put away. That, and the fear of unexpected company. I hate cleaning, but I hate poor mental health even more, so I pick up. My clean environment also includes the air and the volume of my home. If I’m stressed, I put on the diffuser and take time to play a calming podcast for the kids or use music to otherwise set the tone. Cultivating a peaceful environment can also mean planning ahead and having good, filling food available specifically for times when things are crazy. Take the time to put together a snack plate that’s ready for the after school/work rush and crash.

I rarely actually want to do these things in the moment. January Harshe calls this “ugly self care.” I may have to actually force myself to clean the kitchen at night, but I do it as a gift to my future self. I never actually love meal prepping for the week, but my future self appreciates it on a Wednesday night after the whole world has got to pot. We may have to get scrappy with ourselves and force ourselves to prioritize these things that aren’t second nature to us, but ugly self care is better than no self care at all.

 

Cultivate a gentle environment. Take stock in what you’re putting in your brain. If a particular childbirth or parenting birth causes you to feel waves of shame or worry, it’s probably not the right fit. If you’re struggling with feelings of inadequacy, it’s probably not the time to scroll Pinterest or watch shows featuring “perfect” people and homes. This goes for the music and shows you’re putting on for your kids, too. If mama’s feeling wound too tight, this is not the time for annoying character shows with high pitched voices and lots of jumping and flashing lights. Just cut that crap right out. Make sure that the things you’re reading, watching, and allowing to fill the background noise of your space are encouraging and gentle. This is the time for Mr. Rogers, Reading Rainbow, and Wall-E. Let the newest season of Making a Murderer wait and cultivate gentleness in the media you consume.

 

Remember what is true. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in the what-if’s and the could be’s, especially in pregnancy and motherhood. What if I have to be induced? What if my toddler hates the new baby? What if my kid never starts sleeping and I can’t function at work? What if I fail as a parent and my kid turns out to be an axe-murdering hobo? 

When the hypotheticals start taking control, I always remind clients to make a list of what we know to be true. Writing down the facts is incredibly grounding and helpful. have created a birth team who loves and supports me. I have worked hard to educate myself on my options. I have detailed contingency plans in place. I can change my mind at any time. I can trust my intuition. My children know that I love and adore them. I am valued by my boss and co-workers because they said so at the staff meeting.

We can swim around in hypothetical situations all day long, but we’ll never get anywhere unless we temper that with truth.

 

Prioritize rest. Contrary to popular belief, you’re not more deserving of love if you’re busier. You don’t get gold stars for working yourself to death or for not feeding your body properly, or burning the candle at both ends. You’re no good to anybody if you’re burnt out, so prioritize rest. There is no shame in giving your body what it needs. And your body needs rest. It’s a non-negotiable.

 

Self-care and chaos-killing strategizing are my go-to tricks for beating the “caught in the paradox” blues. What helps you fight feeling overwhelmed when you’re pregnant or in the trenches of motherhood? As always, don’t forget to love yourself, and be gentle with yourself. You are worthy and deserving and I guarantee you’re doing just fine.

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5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Hire a Postpartum Doula

Wondering if a Postpartum and Infant Care doula is right for your family? You may want to take the following into consideration while making your decision.

  1. You Live in a Village. One question I get asked quite often when someone finds out I’m a Postpartum and Infant Care doula, is: “Why would I need a postpartum doula when I have my mom?”  It’s a very honest and legitimate question. Here is my answer. If you are blessed enough to have a mother (or other close relative or friend) willing to help you out after having a baby, great! That’s wonderful, and I am so happy for you. But family isn’t always close by. Families are now spread out, not only across the country, but across the world! Gone are the days of having relatives down the block, able to pitch in at a moment’s notice. We are separated by distance now. Furthermore, even if a relative could make the trip and be with you after giving birth (or if they happen to live nearby) many have responsibilities of their own to take care of. They have jobs and families of their own to get back to. They may be able to offer you a few days, maybe a week’s worth of help, but that may be it. A nice respite, sure, but hardly sustainable. A postpartum doula steps in to fill this need  for as long as the family needs.
  2. You Never Need Help. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, errands, meal preparation, older child care, pet care…plus getting to know and caring for a new baby all while healing from labor and delivery? “No big deal”…said no mother ever. The fact of the matter is, we all need help sometimes. A postpartum doula is there so that you can spend more time healing and bonding with your baby and family, and less time worrying about the laundry. Each visit from a postpartum doula will be tailored to fit your family’s unique needs that day. Need someone to care for baby while you take a much-deserved shower and nap? We do that. Need someone to fold laundry, wash dishes, or meal prep while you tend to baby? We do that. Need help handling older children and a new baby? We do that. Need a non-judgmental, supportive ear and a shoulder to cry on? We do that. Our goal is to see the family experience a smooth and joyful transition during this time.
  3. You Never Have Any Questions or Doubts. If you never have any questions concerning postpartum recovery, breastfeeding positions, latch, bottle-feeding, reflux, bathing, co-sleeping, or a myriad of other questions that come up during the postpartum stage, then you may not need a postpartum doula. However, if like most of us you do have questions, a Postpartum and Infant Care doula offers a wealth of information and non-judgmental support during this confusing and overwhelming time.
  4. You Never Need to Sleep. Let’s face it: Most of us need adequate sleep in order to feel our best mentally and physically. Unfortunately, the time when you need rest the most-a time when your body and mind need to take time to recover-is when most families experience the least amount of sleep they’ve had in years. A postpartum doula is here to guarantee that you get the rest and sleep that you deserve and need. Whether it’s a cat-nap in the afternoon, or a few hours sleep at night (yes, postpartum doulas offer night-time care as well! Sleep well knowing your baby is being lovingly cared for.), a postpartum doula will make sure you get adequate rest.
  5. You are Wonder Woman. Actually, scratch that. I’m sure even Wonder Woman could use unbiased support and a chance to ask questions and voice frustrations without fear of judgment. Everyone needs someone in their corner cheering them on.

 

Stacie

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Feature Friday!

Each Friday we share a company, product, or individual that we think is worth a follow! Read about them below and be sure to give them some love!

 

This week’s Follow Friday features Laurelbox, a company that creates boxes specifically curated to offer love, sympathy, and support to women experiencing loss. Whether you’re shopping for something comforting for a friend experiencing miscarriage or stillbirth, something to tide over your sister while her toddler is hospitalized, or you want to show your best friend she’s thought of as she wrestles with the loss of a spouse, Laurelbox has you covered.

 

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Shop here!

 

I’ve personally used Laurelbox to love on a friend undergoing surgery and I was so impressed. The items are timeless and feminine with a nostalgic vintage feel. The thought that goes into creating these products is unparalleled. Selections range from jewelry to coffee cups, teas and oils specially blended for comfort, and hand made prayer shawls that literally wrap your loved one in a hug when you may be apart. You can order individual items or purchase box subscriptions that will make sure your recipient doesn’t fall through the cracks in the long months after a loss. Boxes are curated for specific types of losses or you can build your own, so the sky’s the limit on how you want to spread the love.

 

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Shop here!

 

I love that this company is run by two cousins,  Johanna and Denise, who clearly see that they’re doing more than just running an online shop. They have such a gift for putting into words all the emotions that can be so difficult for our hearts to articulate. They hand write each note on a gorgeous card that is included with your purchase. If you’re not sure what to say, they’ve even got a suggestion for that! They’ve literally thought of everything.

 

 

Also, don’t miss the Laurelbox blog, which has really great posts on topics such as what to say to a grieving friend instead of “how are you,” tips for bringing food someone suffering a loss,  and much more. You can follow Laurelbox on Facebook and Instagram @laurelbox or find them on their website, www.laurelbox.com.

 

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Shop here!
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We’re Expanding!

66F3604F-4979-4E11-B65E-7C49638D3A1FSometimes life hands you a friend and things just click. It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to a dear friend of mine. Stacie Loughrin is a birth and postpartum doula, homeschooling mama of four, and essential oils guru. Stacie and I began our doula certification journeys roughly around the same time and she has been my right hand girl for so many moments. From watching each other’s kids, to backing each other up on births, to late night coffee dates discussing all things birth, we’re two peas in a pod.

 

 

We recently teamed up for a birth and loved it so much that we’ve decided to join forces! Bright Birth Doula Services will no longer be a solo gig, but the combined talents of both Stacie and me. We’ll be able to expand our services, giving clients double the expertise, double the access to information, and double the support. Birth clients will have access to both Stacie and me for prenatal meetings and text support and we will take turns being on call when birth month rolls around. If a client has an especially long labor, we’ll be able to sub in for one another ensuring that clients get the best care we can possibly give.

 

93CEE140-588D-4A2F-BBD5-C17D3C0404B4Between the two of us we’ve personally given birth to eight babies with experiences ranging from external versions, epidurals, unmedicated births, home births and hospital transfers, and even an unassisted homebirth (I told you Stacie is amazing). We’ve supported women in home and hospital births, medicated, unmedicated, and c-sections, and Stacie’s experience as a postpartum doula is an incredible resource for families. Together, we’re passionate about evidence-based research and guiding families in making decisions that will get them to their best birth, whatever that looks like for them.

 

Both Stacie and I are thrilled to be working together and we’re just brimming with ideas for the future. Be on the lookout for more digital resources and services, and make sure you’re following us on Facebook and Instagram so you can catch us on live videos and be a part of the community we’re working to foster online. We’re so grateful for our clients and we’re looking forward to serving you and walking with you on your journey to your own bright birth!

 

To learn more about Stacie or myself, check our About page!

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If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

Today, while on a walk, a friend and I were asked if we run an at-home day care.

 

We each have four children.

 

Earlier this week, while playing at a nature center, I was told that I’m, “like the old lady who lived in a shoe.” You know the one… “had so many children she didn’t know what to do.” So much humor. Many laughs.

 

Let me reiterate: I have four children. Four. Also, these comments were just the ones that stuck out this week. I’m told on a daily basis how full my hands are. So many people are concerned with the fullness of my hands. They’re just so incredibly thoughtful.

 

I honestly don’t consider four to be that many kids. I mean, I realize it’s above average, but I’m not a Duggar, y’all. And even if I did have a “large” family, THOSE KINDS OF COMMENTS ARE NEVER HELPFUL. Zero times have comments on my family size ever made me or my kids feel anything but negative, judged, icky, gross, less than, or in the way. It is never appropriate or helpful to make those kinds of comments. Nev-errrrr.

 

And I feel like this conversation has been had over and over and over. I could list and link and count a bajillion (yes, exact number) examples, personal experiences, blog posts, instagram stories, tweets, etc, etc, etc, discussing how very inappropriate these kinds of comments are. And yet, the comments keep coming. Like a thoughtlessly asinine lava flow of verbal diarrhea, they just keep on a-comin’.

 

The friend I was walking with today metioned that a gentleman at church saw her last week and said, “You look so much better! I guess you guys are all done, now!” I couldn’t even pick my jaw up off the ground if I wanted to. She looks better than what?? Than the gorgeous life-bearing goddess she is and always has been? Gracious, I was riled by that. Very, very riled.

 

This all falls under the umbrella of “people are insensitive and judgemental and they say dumb things.” Okay, okay, I get that. I totally understand how difficult it is to communicate with strangers without first considering how my words may make them feel. I know how hard it is to keep my opinions to myself, especially since I’m always right and it’s my personal duty to let people know that their sex lives and baby spacing methods are just not normal, nor are they acceptable, thankyouverymuch. I know how difficult it is to choose between a negative, judgemental comment and one that is encouraging and uplifting. Such a tough call to make.

 

I see the struggle, y’all, so I’ve compiled this helpful list of possible talking points for folks who *gasp!* encounter families of more than 2.5 children. Please enjoy.

 

  • “What a beautiful family you have! I bet you have so much fun together!”
  • “You’re doing such hard, important work…I know it must be challenging sometimes, but it looks like you’re doing really well!”
  • “Thank you for bringing your kids to the nature center/library/church. It’s so nice to see families learning together!”
  • “Hey, there. May I entertain your toddler while you get those groceries onto the belt?”
  •  “I just love seeing energetic children exploring the world. Have a great adventure!”
  •  “Children are such a gift. Speaking of gifts, all of your children must be gifted because they’re clearly all Mensa material!”
  •  “You are a magical unicorn beast of womanly power and beauty. Thank you for raising strong humans to take care of us all in our old age!”

 

All snark and sarcasm aside, can we just be nice humans already?? This obviously doesn’t apply only to family size conversations. It’s applicable to families with brand new babies, families who look like they’ve possibly adopted or are doing the beautiful work of foster care. It applies to literally any human in any situation, not just in motherhood/child bearing circles.

 

Please hear this: It is more important to be kind than to be right. It is more  to be kind than to have your curiosity satiated. It is more important to be kind than even the teensiest bit judgemental.

 

It is more important to be kind. 

 

And just like I tell my huuuuuuge family of four children, if you can’t be kind, be quiet.

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Read This on Repeat

I have four kids. They’re 7, 5, 4, and 2. The middle two are sixteen months apart, while the third and fourth are separated by twenty-one months. (Let’s hear it for efficiency!) We get a lot of comments, but the most common one I get is, “I don’t know how you do it.”

 

 

 

This is usually partnered with some sort of comparison in which the speaker judges her own situation as “less difficult” than mine. As in, “I only have one (or two or three) kids. I can’t imagine having four!” Or, “I can barely handle my two kids, so four would be impossible for me!” You’d be surprised (but probably not) to hear how self deprecating the mom crowd is, constantly berating themselves for not handling their own lives “better” as compared to how someone else is doing. It’s simultaneously complimentary of the mama with the full hands and heart, but judgmental of self. “You’re doing so much, so well! I’m failing at the comparatively little I have.”

 

I hear it a lot, y’all, most recently from a friend of mine:

“I think you’re amazing. Whenever I have a hard time with my one, I feel humbled by your four.”

 

And here’s my response to that: Don’t be humbled by me, friends. Please don’t. Please.

 

There’s this line in Man’s Search for Meaning, in which Viktor Frankl says that suffering fills the soul like gas fills a chamber. It doesn’t matter how much gas you put in a chamber, it always expands to fill up the entire space. Now, hopefully, being a mother isn’t the same as living in a state of actual suffering, but I think the point remains the same. It doesn’t matter how many or how few children you have, whether your work lies inside or outside the home, or with what apparent ease you parent in public. The struggle always expands to fill the entire space of your heart. This gig ain’t easy. Period.

 

So, mamas can we please stop comparing? Please? I completely understand trying to size up how we’re doing because I am a constant affirmation seeker myself. But at some point we have to learn, and I mean really learn, that there’s no right way to do all this. Every mother is different, every child uniquely needy and quirky, every family fueled by different goals and values and dreams, plagued by different demons and frustrations. There is no standard measuring stick to tell us we’ve made it.

 

And while we’re at it, can we stop saying we’re “just” anything? Like, stop saying you  have “just” one kid, or you’re “just” a stay at home mom, or the dinner you fed your kids after working a full day at a demanding job is “just” McDonald’s. “Just” sucks. It just does.

 

Y’all, I can think of about a million reasons that having one kid is “harder” than having four. You’re their sole entertainment, comfort, lifeguard, everything. That. Is. Exhausting.

 

I can think of about a million reasons that being a working mom is “harder” than staying home. You’re constantly running, planning, juggling, and I guarantee you probably struggle when you have to say no to work or kids. Constantly balancing is exhausting.

 

I can think of about a million reasons that being a stay at home mom is “harder” than working out of the home. You don’t get tangible return on your work, there aren’t ever finished projects, you’re never alone but always lonely. It’s exhausting.

 

I can think of a million reasons that having four kids is “harder” than having one. Socks. There are never enough effing socks and sock hunting is exhausting.

 

I am not a hero or supernaturally able to handle “more” because I have four kids. We’re all handling the huge load we’ve been given and amounts don’t matter because every load is heavy as hell. I’ve been saying this and repeating it for years and I still suck at doing it myself, so I’m going to keep preaching…to you, to me, to anyone who will listen: Give yourself grace. Show yourself mercy. Encourage and lift up that mom of six you see navigating life like a goddess! You should absolutely be in awe of her! But don’t be in awe of her at the expense of your own heart. Don’t forget to love yourself, mama. Please don’t. Because I guarantee that you’re doing so much better than you think. So, so much better.