“The more anxious we are, the more high-functioning we will make ourselves appear, which just encourages the world to lean on us more.” – Sarah Wilson
Need a place to start? Try the following resources:
Mama, you don’t have to do it alone. I know you’ve probably been fed a steady diet of American culture your entire life. You’ve been taught to value independence, hard work, self-sufficiency, and stick-to-it-iveness. If you happen to be a Texan like me, you were brainwashed at an early age to respect those who don’t aren’t dependent upon others to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get shit done.
But, Mama, what if I told you that’s all an impossibility? What if I told you that, while life does call on us to dig deep and be our own heroes from time to time, it’s often the grace of receiving that truly pulls us through.
It is hard to receive, so hard to accept help when it’s offered, much less dare to ask for it ourselves. So many of us would prefer to struggle under our burdens with forced smiles rather than to accept assistance when it is offered.
Because accepting help is admitting lack. Admitting lack. Everything in me recoils at the thought of that, of admitting that I’m lacking. There it is again, the culture rooted deep telling me that I’m supposed to have it together. I’m supposed to have it in me to be self-sufficient. I’m supposed to have, not lack.
But, Mama, we do lack. We do and that’s okay. The illusion of doing it all, juggling all the things, being self-sufficient, above all not being needy, it’s all a lie. It’s all an impossibility designed to alienate and isolate us.
I think it’s difficult to receive for a number of reasons. I struggle with it quite a lot, that feeling of shame for needing and lacking. But I think that receiving well pushes us out of our comfort zone beautifully. It’s hard to admit that we’re lacking in any way, and yet I don’t believe that “lack” has the power to change anything about our personal value or our identity, not in the way our culture would have us believe. Friend, the amount we do, the things we accomplish, the items we tick off our to-do lists, the amount of laundry folded (not put away, let’s not go completely crazy here), none of that truly speaks of our value as people. And more than just people, our ability to achieve or the fact that we lack bears no reflection of our worthiness as human beings carrying souls inherently anointed with dignity.
Obviously, I’m asking you to swim against the current. I’m asking you to reach out in a world that shames you for needing. But, Mama, I think we can both agree that we’d like to raise children who are able to ask for help when they need it. We want our kids to reach out to us when they need something, whether that’s demanding another trip to the bathroom (during which they’ll tell us to leave), or to help navigate middle-grade friendships, or to ask our advice on how to soothe their new babies so their wives can rest. If we want to raise these people, we have to be these people ourselves.
Receiving well requires humility. We have to be okay with our own lacking. We have to own our story and be willing to be vulnerable (for more on that, go read all the Brene Brown you can). And there’s always the argument that allowing people to help us is a blessing to them. Receiving big things from others is an opportunity to allow others to practice charity, something sorely needed in our communities. If someone offers something to you, whether its a small thing like a meal or something of more monetary value like an expensive stroller or a flight to visit your family, they’ve offered that thing because they wanted to, because they love you. The people in your life want to bless you. They really do or they wouldn’t offer.
All of this rambling to say, Mama you do not have to do this alone. You are allowed to want and need help. Hiring a postpartum doula or a housekeeper is not admitting defeat, it’s practicing good self care and allowing another person to provide for her own family, which is an amazing gift in and of itself. Using formula instead of breastfeeding is not “taking the easy way,” it’s choosing the right path for your baby and body. Texting a friend with the hard, harsh, honest truth about how you’re feeling is not being needy, it’s finding support when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Seeing a mental health professional is not a sign of failure, it’s a sign of strength.
Mama, you don’t have to do any of this on your own. You may be lacking, but it is our lack that makes us beautifully real. Our lack is not a deficit, but an opportunity. If you’re struggling to receive, don’t make snap judgements. When you’re offered something (a gift of time, money, assistance, etc) take a moment to think through why you’re inclined to turn it down. Is it because of shame? Shut that liar up. Is it because you feel like an inconvenience? Remember that people wouldn’t offer unless they truly wanted to give the gift. Is it because it genuinely wouldn’t be a help? Respectfully decline and feel free to be vulnerable and tell that person what would actually be helpful.
Are you turning down help because you don’t feel worthy? Mama, you are worthy. You are so worthy of time and love and acceptance and rest. Be gentle with yourself. You were not made to do it all. You were not made to transform into a doormat, beaten down, and weary from your vocation. You were, however, made for community. You were made for friendship and sisterhood. You were made to give and receive help. You just have to open yourself up to it.
Sometimes 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.
Between 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!
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.
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.
About You – Brittney Melton. Mom of 2. This will be about my second child. A much different birthing experience. This time I wanted a VBAC.
How did you find out you were pregnant? It was a surprise. I planned. We went on a vacation and I suspected we were. Took a test along and everything. Negative… came back from trip still thinking I may be. Waited and knew my cycle should’ve surely started. Took a test. Positive. I didn’t know if was quite ready for another. My first was only 19-20 months old. God had other plans. And I’m so glad.
What was your birth philosophy before you gave birth? How were you expecting it to be? I knew I wanted different this go around. Having had an emergency csection – completely unaware about csection and thought I’d never have one – I was determined for a VBAC.
How did you approach planning your birth? Did you take classes, read books, meditate, or seek out guidance from someone in particular? We actually took a class! We hadn’t the first time because my doctor told me we’d prob not need it because she’s be there telling me what to do. Well, she wasn’t there and baby wasn’t doing well so c-section it was. This time I asked to try for a VBAC and it was denied by my doctor who said her practice wouldn’t perform one. So, I sought out a new doctor. Bye old doctor. Changing doctors was scary but in the end such the right choice! He listened to what I wanted. Gave me the risks, looked over previous medical history from my first birth and said I’d be a great candidate. I trusted him fully with the plan. I wouldn’t have changed a thing and loved my second doctor.
How did you plan to deliver? VBAC with my OB. For precaution we would have an epidural in case things went south quickly. Otherwise they’d have to be me out to perform [a c-section] and I did not want that.
What were the most important goals or areas of focus for you in respect to your birth? I just wanted the vaginal birth I’d dreamed of. I wanted to actually experience and “do it” myself. I felt that was taken away from me. And I am in no way saying it’s not real birth… c-section IS birth – with scars to prove. I just wanted a chance at what my heart desired. This doctor gave me that chance.
And now for the good stuff…Here’s Brittney’s second birth story! Just like my firstborn… my secondborn was late. Her due date was 2/12. I had one false labor on 2/8. Doctor even though it was go time and admited me overnight. Being a VBAC patient he wanted to insure that we were super cautious. So any intense contractions for longer than a few hours he wanted me in to be checked in case of an emergency.
They were strong alright. Strong enough to not talk, shhh, close my eyes strong. And I couldn’t walk. Sometime from being admitted at 5, eating dinner with friends and watching the super bowl… the high intensity wore off around 3 in the morning. I was no longer struggling through them, and by morning they weren’t there. I was so sad. I thought this was it. My doctor did too. But I also hadn’t progressed any.
My doctor gave me three options. 1. Stay, hope they came back (highly unlikely), 2. Have a c-section (not ready for that yet) 3. Go home ( and I was slightly scared to because I was afraid something bad may happen. We chose 3. And the following day had a check up. My doctor said to go ahead and schedule the c-section. He wouldn’t let me go a week past being a VBAC patient. I respected that protocol. So we scheduled for 2/18. He joked that sometimes when you give the baby an eviction date – they’ll choose to come on their own.
2/14, false labor #2. Intense contractions but something I now realize I could’ve probably labored at home with. I mean geez, I’d labored for like a week already. But I was anxious and DID not want 2/18 to come. I think I was mentally trying to will it – again – just like my firstborn. We were admitted for safety reasons and … sent home again.
12/15 evening it changed. There was some strong ones but this was something else. I was hunched over the couch and my mom was like uhhhh yea it’s time – go. Such a painful car ride to the hospital. We get there and I’m at a 4! Praise Jesus. They gave me a medication to wear off the top end of the contractions to which I was so grateful for. Anesthesiologist came in to administer epidural and MISSED 3x…. urregggh. 4th time finally. And I felt relief. I’m thankful to my doctor that he asked to have a certain dosage administered so I could still feel low end of contractions. I could still feel and labor along with them.
We went into the next day. 2/16. When I was at an 8 they broke my water. Talk about a weird relief. I got to a 9 and stalled. Checking baby with both hand and u/s they determined her head was turned into my hip. Stubborn thing. The nurse went in and flipped baby’s head – owwwwwwwww. She said you’ll immediately start to feel pressure on this next contraction. Ummmm yes ma’am you are correct. She said, well, it’s time, I’ll call the doctor back in. And I’m like REALLY!?!!! The VBAC is gonna work!? And she said yea, baby is already passed the scar line. She’s coming. BEST news ever.
Doctor came in. Told me push when I felt contraction… I led the whole way. I felt all the stretching. I don’t know what I was thinking but I honestly thought – isn’t the epidural supposed to help me feel ummm nothing? So yea, I felt it all. They said it was too late for the epidural to do anything… so didn’t feel full contraction but felt everything else. Which now, looking back, I’m glad to have had that experience. Feeling it all felt so miraculous. And that my body was working. An hour of pushing and she was finally here!!! Such an amazing feeling that I will never ever forget.
What was the advice that you found to be most helpful in preparing to give birth? Keep asking questions. Always get a second opinion.
What was the most surprising thing about birth for you? That it worked! I thought it wouldn’t have! I was proud to have a VBAC.
What was the most challenging part of birth for you? Waiting and the unknown. Would the VBAC work or was I head for another c-section?
What was your favorite part of your birth? Feeling it all. Strangely enough if I ever have another that’s what I’d desire. Pain – yes. But an amazing experience. Feeling her head and shoulders and hips all coming. My baby placed on me. Miracle.
What do you wish someone had told you before you gave birth? Honestly I felt more prepared this time around than ever. And it was a whole new experience. And also – someone to tell me my babies just like to be stubborn and late. (This one 4 days late)
How did your perception of birth change after you experienced this birth? I desire more kiddos. I hope that happens someday. A prayer of mine. But also not to fear the pain. The pain helps you know what to do.
Birth photography by Janeane Marie Photography.
About You – Brittney Melton. I have 2 kiddos, but this is the birth story of my firstborn. Logan, who is now 4.
How did you find out you were pregnant? Felt suuppper tired and was wanting to take a test but waited til my husband and I were together as I was out of town. Took a test. Positive. Took another because let’s face it – we all do. Also positive. And then I bawled.
What was your birth philosophy before you gave birth? How were you expecting it to be? I thought it’d be easy to know when I was in labor (for me – false). I knew I’d have a hospital birth and would probably get an epidural. That was it.
How did you approach planning your birth? I took no classes and only asked my OB various questions. I did ask a few friends but really went in mostly naive and not wanting to know a lot.
How did you plan to deliver? Hospital with OB and I knew I wanted an epidural
What were the most important goals or areas of focus for you in respect to your birth? We were away from all family so I really just wanted my doctor (didn’t happen) and my husband. I didn’t know honestly when to go in except timing contractions and calling the doctor. I had no other knowledge or didn’t really see myself laboring long at home. I was super nervous.
And now for the good stuff…Here’s Brittney’s birth story! I was due 9/28 and here it was October. I bawled thinking OH MY GOSH!! A whole other month!!! It was definitely a mind trick. We had one false alarm on 10/1 where I thought my water broke. Using the bathroom and liquid just kept slowly trickling… but it was not pee. Went in and did a test – at this point ink Braxton Hicks the week prior and no real contractions. It wasn’t amniotic fluid so they sent us home. I think I was SO anxious about KNOWing when and how and what that I just felt on alert. My OB saw me a few days later. We went ahead and scheduled an induction for 10/7… a whole 9 days past my due date and it felt like forever. She wouldn’t deliver on weekends because she didn’t work then (not my favorite). Low and behold, I go into labor the day before. Sunday, 10/6. Labored all night with contractions getting closer and more intense.
Up until this point I was measuring like 1… 1.5 because my doctor wanted to be generous. The week before I wasn’t measuring at all. I was so tired and just wanted this baby here! So we headed into hospital per staff instructions after calling in and I was at a 3. Whomp. Really? A whole night of pain and a 3!? They hook me up and tell me I’m staying since I’m inducing the following day anyways, baby could come tonight.
So, I labor. And I move to like a 4/5. I’m so tired an anxious I just say yes to the epidural, not having enough knowledge to know it could slow things down. I’m stuck at a 5/6 and for an hour baby’s heart rate plummets over and over with each contraction. I’m beside myself. What’s wrong with him!? Is he ok? They’re having me turn side to side with each contraction. The on call doctor comes in and tells us, “We are prepping you for a c-section. We do not think this baby will last or be strong enough for delivery if his heart rate drop continues. You still have 6+ hours before we’d maybe even get to pushing.”
With tears for my baby, and fear for me.. we go ahead with it. I was so fearful. Anesthesiologist changes the epidural for csection and I’m shaking terrified on that table. I felt the pressure of the cut – not the pain… felt all organs move and baby removed. Again, just pressure – no pain. And I finally hear the cry.
He was ok.
I threw up on the table, and they wiped my face and handed him to me, only to take him a few minutes later and I was left alone with doctors while I was stitched up. Husband and baby gone.
I was relieved he was ok, but felt something was taken from me. I knew I wanted it done differently the next time around.
What was the advice that you found to be most helpful in preparing to give birth?Learn! Take a class (even if is your second and you want more info). Ask questions. Get what you want if you can.
What was the most surprising thing about birth for you? It was completely outside my control. I wanted to weirdly WILL it into action. Baby comes when baby comes (and I hate that saying by the way)
What was the most challenging part of birth for you? Being overdue!!!! It felt like forever. And also being helpless thinking something was happening to my baby and he wasn’t ok.
What was your favorite part of your birth? Well. I didn’t love it to be honest. But the moment he cried I felt SUCH relief. And seeing his little face look at mine under that curtain. I’ll never forget it.
What do you wish someone had told you before you gave birth? C-section is still birth. For me it was scary. But it is birth, a hard birth at that. Birth is not just physical pain or stamina. It’s mental and very much spiritual too.
How did your perception of birth change after you experienced this birth? I knew the next go around I’d fight for something different. I’d be aware of what I wanted and seek out the answers.
Birth photography by Captured Simplicity Family Photography.