Dear Quarantine Babies

Congratulations, you were conceived in 2020! Pandemic babies, corona-babies, quarantine babies… whatever people call you, you’re coming into the world at a very interesting time. There are a lot of memes and jokes going around that say your parents “stocked up on the wrong kind of protection,” or that they failed at social distancing. There are people joking that you’re the product of boredom or “Netflix and chill” gone wrong.

Babies, I need you to know that you are oh so right. You are not a mistake, you’re a miracle. You’re not just a by-product of a pandemic, a result of miserable time spent in lockdown, or a visual representation of your parents’ inability to cope with 2020 by watching The Office for the 800th time. Babies, you are here for a reason.

You are important.

You matter.

You are valuable.

You are needed.

I’m sure there are people out there who think that it’s a tragedy to bring another human into this world. And it’s true that our world is a tough place. There is tragedy, violence, pain, and hardship here. There is hate and hurt and lots of selfishness. We’ve got greed on speed dial and jealousy on repeat and don’t even get me started on the racism, sexism, intolerance, and comparison we’re wading through.

But, babies, that’s why we need you.

We need you to remind us that the world can be different. We need you to show up and give us a reason to hope, ideals to work toward, a future worth creating. If we won’t work to fix things for you, then who will we fix them for?

Babies, we need what you are. We need your softness and your smooshy little feet. We need you to remind us of the raw humanity into which we’ve all been born. We need you to be an example to us of fresh eyes and unsullied perspective. We need you to draw us out of our own selfishness and teach us what it really means to sacrifice ourselves for another. We need you to break us and strip us of who we think we are so that we can find the people we were meant to be. We need you to show up and melt our hardened hearts, so that we’re better able to embrace our vulnerabilities and faults and then grow because of them.

Yes, you’re being born into a world full of fighting, corruption, and abuse. But you’re the answer. You’re the second chance, the eggs in our basket, the potential change we’re nurturing and growing not under the illusion that we’re leaving you a perfect world, but in hopes that you will make a difference.

When you kick in the womb, you’re proving that you’re here to take up space. When you scream at 3 am, you’re proving your ability to speak truth into darkness. When you dirty yet another diaper, we see that you’re capable of affecting change…even if you have to make a stink to get it done. Your heartbeat alone should be cause for us to sit up and take notice. You’re here and you’re already making waves.

Babies, this is a complicated time and your parents might have complicated emotions when it comes to welcoming you. That’s okay. It’s real and it’s normal and I promise you’ll probably have complicated emotions welcoming them into parts of your own life at some point. I promise we’re all doing our best to be worthy of you. Forgive us when we mess up. After all, it’s a total myth that we grown-ups have it all together. The sooner you know that, the better, honestly.

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that I’m glad you’re here. I’m so excited you’re going to be joining us earthside and I can’t wait to see what you make of things. It’ll be messy, for sure. Birth and life always are. But there’s beauty in the raw realness of it all and I can’t wait to see what beauty you make of this muddled world you’re entering into.

Saints, Uncategorized

Saints for Childbirth: Our Lady Star of the Sea

The communion of saints is an especially beautiful part of the Catholic faith. As Catholics, we believe that the saints who have gone before us are able to intercede on our behalf and many of them have passions for particular needs, just like they did while living. If you’re not familiar with this practice, it’s basically like asking your close friend or family member pray for you for a particular need. I’ve got a handful of people here on earth who I know “get it” and are very faithful in prayer when it comes to certain situations and since we believe in eternal life the saints do the same thing. They’re the all-star holy squad ready and willing to pray for us for any manner of needs, childbirth included! This is just one example of graces that are available to us that, when utilized, can help your pregnancy and birth to be a holy and sacred experience.

When it comes to picking a patron saint to befriend during your pregnancy, there are so many amazing ones to choose from. There are solid, more well-known options like St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary, or St. Elizabeth who felt St. John the Baptist leap in her womb, as well as lesser known saints like St. Colette. While living, St. Colette prayed for a mother struggling through a very difficult labor; the baby was successfully delivered and later grew up to be a sister in St. Colette’s convent! For more patrons of childbirth, visit Mary Haseltine’s list or even better, read her book Made For This: The Catholic Mom’s Guide to Birth. I highly recommend both her book and blog.

You can also just do a quick Google search to discover new saint friends to accompany you on your way to birth. The options are pretty much endless, which is something I love about the communion of saints. There’s one specific depiction of Blessed Virgin Mary, however, that I think is particularly suited to be a patroness of childbirth.

Stella Maris or Our Lady Star of the Sea is one of my absolute favorite images of the Blessed Mother. Frequently depicted standing on the turbulent waves of the ocean almost like a lighthouse to guide lost ships, Stella Maris is the patroness of seafarers and many coastal cities.

Given the fact that labor contractions are frequently referred to as waves, I think this makes Stella Maris the perfect labor companion. When the waves get high and seem too much for us to manage (during transition, maybe?), we can lean on Our Lady who lights the way to Christ. Just as travelers depend upon the North Star to guide them on their journey, so does Our Lady Star of the Sea guide us back to Jesus when we are feeling lost and hopeless. I can’t think of any more beautiful symbolism for labor: awash on an ocean of waves we can’t control, laboring mamas frequently need a reminder that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. And when Stella Maris points us back to her Son, we get a beautiful reminder that we are never alone. Stella Maris guides us to the one Who has gone before teaching us how to lay down our lives for our babies just as He laid His down for humanity.

Hail, bright star of ocean, 
God’s own Mother blest,
Ever sinless Virgin,
Gate of heavenly rest.

Taking that sweet Ave 
Which from Gabriel came,
Peace confirm within us,
Changing Eva’s name.

Break the captives’ fetters,
Light on blindness pour,
All our ills expelling,
Every bliss implore.

Show thyself a Mother;
May the Word Divine,
Born for us thy Infant,
Hear our prayers through thine.

Virgin all excelling,
Mildest of the mild,
Freed from guilt, preserve us,
Pure and undefiled.

Keep our life all spotless,
Make our way secure,
Till we find in Jesus,
Joy forevermore.

Through the highest heaven
To the Almighty Three,
Father, Son and Spirit,
One same glory be. Amen.

Ave Maris Stella: Traditional Hymn

Here’s my favorite version of this hymn sung by Marian Grace.

And check out this awesome Stella Maris shirt from Brickhouse in the City…such a perfect reminder that you are made for greatness, mamas! Get it here.

Do you have a favorite saint associated with parenthood, pregnancy, or childbirth? I always love to hear which saints people are drawn to, so let me know in the comments!


2020 Coping Skills: Perfecting Your Vision for Pregnancy and Birth

A potential client reached out to me asking, “How are the pregnant moms you have worked with recently handling being pregnant during this ridiculously rough year?” Man, this is a good question. From COVID-19 to the devastating struggles we’re experiencing with racism, this year is high stakes with a lot of added pressure, especially if you throw pregnancy into the mix.

From what I have personally seen, I think people are handling it all in a myriad of ways, which is exactly what I’d expect. I’ve had clients who dropped off completely and decided to go it on their own (which I totally get). I’ve had others who have really leaned in and wanted more from me, especially dads seeking more in-depth virtual training so they can more intentionally support their wives in labor.

I have seen some mamas who are incredibly anxious and hyper vigilant over social distance and other safety measures. I’ve spoken to others who are feeling depression settle in due to the constant strain of anxiety, stress, and long separation from friends and family. I’ve sent distance resources to a mama who tested positive for Covid when she went in for an induction. I’ve watched from a distance as my clients grapple with changing hospital policies and their roles as parents in a broken world. As a doula, I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to fears, encouraging, and validating, (which is my favorite part of the job anyway).

Overall, the people I’ve seen who seem to be coping well are the ones who have leaned in and made a concerted effort to control what they can control. They are the folks who dig in and do the work ahead of time to make sure that they’re physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepared for birth however it plays out. (Side note, these are the same types of people who rock their births in times when there’s not national upheaval around every corner. Nothing can replace preparing your whole person, heart and mind for birth. Ever.)

Ultimately, my takeaway is that if we’re not intentional about identifying where we’re feeling tender, where we feel fear and sadness, or where we have experienced trauma, then we’ll carry all of that into childbirth with us. A tense body has a harder time in labor, as pain is felt more acutely through tense muscles. We need to be relaxed in order to open up and deliver our babies, so it’s imperative that we do this hard mental work ahead of time, pandemic and social unrest or not.

So, how do we do that? What does it look like to prepare for birth during such a tumultuous time? Here are a few of my suggestions:

Get physical! This is the time to double down on those fundamental health habits like eating well and getting plenty of exercise. I know it’s maybe not fun or easy to focus on our health when we’d much rather cry into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, but it is necessary and truly pays off in labor. We can’t control the pandemic or politics, but we can control how we treat our bodies, how we build them up and prepare ourselves physically for birth. At the end of the day, pregnant bodies are gearing up for some serious physical work, so it never hurts to keep moving and well-nourished.

I always recommend that my clients do the daily activities from Spinning Babies. I also love @mamastefit on Instagram for lots of awesome info on exercise during pregnancy and prepping for labor, as well as some fantastic explanations of pushing positions.

Exercise those mental/spiritual muscles, too. Pregnant or not, when the world is in turmoil this is when we need to lean into the word of God. Beginning a practice of studying sacred scripture and filling your heart with God’s truth is incredibly important and helpful for all of us, but particularly for expectant parents. Besides the Bible, a great place to start is Mary Haseltine’s book Made for This: The Catholic Mom’s Guide to Birth. I also recommend looking up @liturgiesforparents on Instagram for some particularly beautiful breath prayers that are absolutely perfect for labor.

Be careful about what you’re allowing in. There are so many unknowns. Information keeps changing and bad news keeps rolling in, so it’s incredibly important for expectant parents to protect themselves mentally and to be intentional about what they’re allowing into their minds and hearts. I don’t mean that pregnant mamas should hide under a rock and pretend everything is fine, but I do think it’s wise to know when to step back from the news and/or social media.

Give yourself grace and be creative. So much of navigating this tumultuous time is found in taking things day by day and giving ourselves tons of grace. Gobs of grace. Mountainous piles of grace, grace, grace. You may not be having the pregnancy you expected and you’re annoyed. Give yourself grace. Your labor and delivery experience might not end up looking like what you’ve envisioned and you’re feeling very afraid. Grace. Maybe you’re struggling more than you think you ought to or you’re less than excited to be pregnant right now. Give yourself the grace you need to feel all that.

You are allowed to mourn and be bummed, angry, scared, or frustrated. You’re allowed to struggle with things and to feel your feelings. Mr. Rogers said so.

Moving forward through those emotions, I truly believe that the key to navigating the current climate is to approach every situation and person with an open heart and a creative spirit. Now is not the time for a hard and fast birth plan with no wiggle room. It is the time to think outside the box and find new ways to prepare for baby. You might focus on how to better communicate with your spouse, research alternative labor and delivery options, or take advantage of the virtual birth prep resources your hospital or provider offer.

Perhaps consider making a list of birth intentions rather than a traditional birth plan. For example: “I will let go of my expectations of this day and embrace however imperfectly it unfolds” or “I will welcome my baby into a sacred space where she is treated with dignity and care.”

I offer virtual Birth Brainstorm sessions that I’ve found to be particularly helpful to clients especially recently. A Birth Brainstorm is a guided discussion that offers a chance for parents to check in with each other, narrow down their goals and intentions, and polish communication and support techniques so that they’re on the same page when labor comes. These are some of my most favorite sessions to do with couples because it is such a gift to see couples come together in such an important way.

At the end of the day, we all need to approach every situation and unknown with a sense of curiosity and creativity and give others the benefit of the doubt. Everyone is doing her best right now. More than anything we need to extend grace to ourselves, our fellow humans, and then get cracking on finding creative solutions!

Control what you can control. Take responsibility for the things you are truly responsible for and let the rest go. The world is deeply hurting and incredibly broken. You are not responsible for fixing it all on your own. You are responsible for doing your part. You are not required to fight injustice in the same ways or to the same capacity that others are. During pregnancy, you may only be able to have limited involvement in causes you’re passionate about, and that’s okay. Let whatever you’re able to do be enough. Remember that the world didn’t get broken overnight, so we’re playing the long game in fixing things. One day at a time.

And ultimately, do you know what the world needs most? Your baby. Your wonderful, perfect baby is the way you’ll impact the world most and it is incredibly necessary that you honor the importance of that work. So much of the vocation of motherhood is easily swept under the rug and chalked up as “just” taking care of kids, but it is the very work that will affect change for generations to come. Your work as a mother may seem little, but it is little by little that greatness grows. By all means, you should write the letters, send the texts, read the books, donate, speak up, and be involved if you feel up to it, but please don’t let the world tell you that “just” focusing on your pregnancy or home life isn’t enough. It is the most important work you can be doing right now to make the world a better place.

How are you coping with present-day pregnancy? What have you found to be particularly helpful?

As always, I’m here if you need me! I’m happy to help you navigate this crazy world as best I can, to offer resources, virtual services, and lots of heartfelt encouragement and planning assistance.