I’m proud to share this guest post from a fellow mom who is so articulate and strong, her words need to be shared far and wide. Enjoy. ~ Darla
Prior to becoming pregnant, I had put a lot of time and energy into myself, especially my body. I did yoga daily, was on a diet that I was eating primarily vegetables, went for runs, and spent a lot of time being concerned with how I looked. Were my muscles showing? How did these clothes fit? What size could I fit into? As I look back on old pictures and try and fit into old jeans, I can only see in hindsight just how tiny I was. I can remember having tricked myself into thinking that I was finally confident in my skin, but would then be so self-critical every time I stepped in front of the mirror. I was strong and healthy, but I wasn’t comfortable and I wasn’t happy.
During my pregnancy, maintaining that active lifestyle became too much to handle. Physical activity gave me anxiety and I worried that I would hurt the baby. Eating felt good so I caved into every craving that I had. I kept telling myself that I was young and would want my old routine back once I had my baby and would “bounce back”. The result? I gained 90 pounds in 9 months.
Once Neera was born, I quickly realized that falling back into my old workout routine wasn’t going to be an option. I needed to recover from my delivery. I was exhausted and sleeping whenever she was. Breastfeeding tired me out. Breastfeeding also made me want to eat everything in sight. Sure, breastfeeding helped in shedding some of the weight I had gained, but not all of it, and it didn’t “fall off” like articles I had read said it would. Instead, it stuck. It stuck to my hips and my thighs and my belly and my love handles.
The only part of my old routine that I maintained was the self-critical stares in the mirror.
When would I “lose the baby weight”? Would the stretch marks ever fade? Would my body ever look like it used to? When would I get to reclaim the body that my baby had taken over for nine months?
Pretty sad thoughts to be having.
What I should have been asking myself is, “When will my perspective change? When can I learn to love myself?” I don’t know what sparked it, but eventually I looked in the mirror and decided that I was going to love that reflection. I decided that I was going to focus all of my attention on being a good person and a good mom, not a “good” body – because every body is a good body! I decided I was going to celebrate my body for bringing the greatest thing that ever happened to me into this world. And I decided I wanted to talk about why I felt any of this in the first place, and why many mommas do.
All too often, on top of all of the other new pressures and expectations when you become a momma, there is an unfair focus put on your body. What was my body before? What is it now? What did it go through? Will it ever be the same?
When I search #postpartumbody on any social media platform, the majority of photos are regarding what it took to “loose the baby weight” or tips to get fit quick.
I’m sorry, but this just isn’t real for me. It is hard enough for me to find time to make a healthy meal, let alone get to the gym multiple times a week. And you know what? We shouldn’t feel like we have to do any of that!
Don’t get me wrong, I still strive to be a strong and healthy momma, but I think it is well past time time that we start to shift the conversation about what that looks like, sounds like, and feels like. The size of clothes that fit you does not mean strong and healthy. The number on the scale does not mean strong and healthy. Limiting your diet so you feel guilty every time you want a cheeseburger does not mean strong and healthy. “Losing the baby weight” does not mean strong and healthy. To me, strong and healthy means balance: fuelling your body with good food but not feeling bad about the wine and chocolate – trying to get outside for walks but not feeling bad about binge watching Netflix while you cuddle your baby – having goals for living more actively but not being self-loathing about where you’re at. Be a rebel and love yourself, as you are, where you are, for all the glorious things you are!
I “lost the baby weight” the moment that Neera entered the world. I love my body, as it is, for being capable of such an indescribable, miraculous feat: creating a human life. The extra skin, the push and pull, the scars; they all serve as reminders of what my body is capable of and the space that it gave me to grow a new life. My focus, now, is on the love and connection I have with my child. My focus is on the light and love I see in her eyes every time she looks at me, and how much easier it is to manifest that love for myself than it ever was before.
I think one of my friend’s kiddos said it best. Every time she is in her bathing suit her son points to her tummy and asks, “Did I do that, Mommy?” And she responds, “You sure did buddy.” Then he smiles at her like he created the most beautiful piece of forever artwork. And you know what? He did. They do.
I hope that one day, all of us can look at ourselves the way that children do. I hope that one day we can search #postpartumbody and see mommas who are celebrating their bodies as they are and not attempting to live up to some ridiculous body ideal that the rest of the world has. I hope that mommas can be the ones to shake the way we see one another in the world, because body positivity doesn’t just affect mommas; body positivity affects us all.
So here is me and my daughter, stripped down and as real and raw and honest as we can be. This, to me, is what really matters. Let’s start filling our social media feeds with photos like this; with photos of reality and of love.
**these wonderful photos were done by molly.jeanine.photo – check out her amazing work on Instagram**
This post originally appeared on The Momma Moments blog, and it was shared with permission. Read more about Jess here: she is a mom, daughter, partner, sister, teacher, writer, yoga enthusiast who uses her talents to help break down the stigma around mental health. She is part of a revolution to normalize talking about our struggles as moms. You can find more of her work on the Mothers Empowering Mothers Blog.
Did you know that oxytocin plays a role in motherhood, not just in birth? And that if you increase your oxytocin, you will feel better, happier, and more loved? We all know that if we take care of ourselves, we have more to give our babies and partners.
Specifically, if you raise your oxytocin, you will be more relaxed, contemplative, and companionable; you will be more tolerant of monotony and boredom (which can come in handy as you experience long days of doing the same thing over and over with your new baby!); your digestion and appetite will be better; you will have lower blood pressure; wounds will heal quickly; it helps with letdown if you are breastfeeding; and best of all…it is contagious! So if you have high oxytocin, it will flow over to your partner, children, other family.
Sometimes a steaming cup of tea is all you need to boost your oxytocin.
Here are some examples of what can raise and lower your oxytocin:
|Things that raise oxytocin
||Things that lower oxytocin
Eating comfort food
Meditation, Yoga, Exercise
Touch, including skin-to-skin
Anything you love!
A crying baby
Books and experts
Social isolation or too many visitors (you need the right kind of visitors! This video talks about that.)
With new moms, it’s important to try and avoid anything that can lower oxytocin because once a mom becomes stressed, it’s a lot harder to care for a newborn, which while a lovely job, can be a demanding and tiring one. (Just as an example: if you’re breastfeeding and stressed, it’s that much harder to get the baby to latch on. Then the baby is crying. Then you are crying. It’s a vicious cycle. In this case, you need to stop and breathe, think of something that brings you joy, and try again.)
This is where her village of friends, family, postpartum doula comes in. It’s time to call on all those people who said, “Let me know how I can help when the baby comes!” A mom experiencing stress or worry over any of the above oxytocin killers might need someone to hold the crying baby to give her a break, or someone to do the laundry or cook a meal. She needs to be given the confidence to know that the answers to her baby lie within her, that she is the expert, not the author who has never met her baby.
This mom also needs help boosting her oxytocin! And there is a simple way to do that: by making and following your own self-care plan. It’s actually pretty simple:
- make a list of all the things that bring you joy
- pick 2 or 3 and determine how you will do them and when
- write down your intentions and put the reminder somewhere you will see it regularly
- try these for 6 weeks and see how you feel!
Here are a few examples:
- When my partner is home from work, I’m going to garden outside for an hour by myself twice a week.
- After my baby goes to bed, I’m going to read a chapter in my book before I go to bed each night.
- Every day I’m going to take the baby and I for a walk, even if it’s just down the street.
- My baby and I will bathe together, since I don’t have much time to myself, and we will do it when baby is happiest, so mid-morning.
Not everyone has a village or support: if you are a single parent or solo parenting with a spouse who has to work away a lot, there are still ways to take care of yourself. This post explains one such example.
The video below will walk you through how to create your own self-care plan and give you more examples of oxytocin boosters!
I would love to help you boost your oxytocin or hear what are your favourite oxytocin boosters! Shoot me an email below and I will hook you up with your own self-care plan template and follow up with you in 6 weeks so you don’t have to add that to your to-do list (thus, lowering your oxytocin!).
[contact-form to=”email@example.com”][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”1″ /][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”1″ /][contact-field label=”Yes, I’d like the oxytocin boosting self-care plan!” type=”textarea” required=”1″ /][/contact-form]
While Andrea Ulmer, RN, IBCLC, didn’t always plan or dream of going into nursing, she found her calling once she made the decision to enter the college. She works in postpartum at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon and the passion and love she puts into her work deserve to be highlighted. In addition to having a huge heart and a desire to help women as much as she can, she recently added to her skillset and became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Here is her story.
Q: Did you always want to work in postpartum? How did you come to work in that area?
You could say being a nursing student taught me a lot about what I did not want to do with this career. What areas I never saw myself working in. I really had no idea what areas did or did not interest me when I first started the program. I was not exposed to postpartum till 3rd year and I was nervous in the beginning. I specifically remember being absolutely terrified to bathe a newborn!
It was in 4th year that I fell in love. There is no question in my mind the RN I was placed with as my preceptor had a direct impact on my career; she was the nurse I wanted to be. My first shift with her I was extremely nervous. She appeared as though having me as her sidekick was likely as fun as having rocks in your shoes; annoying! But we grew to work well together and I am forever grateful for everything that woman taught me. I was fortunate enough to work alongside her as a colleague for several years until she retired, and it was an absolute honour. It is safe to say she had a major impact on my choice to stay on postpartum.
I also remember vividly having an interview with the manager at the time when I was considering working there as a Grad Nurse. Coming out of nursing, many expect new grads to take jobs on medical or surgical floors to gain experience and maintain skills. Now I knew I did not want to do that, but the pressure and comments made had me second guess my path. When I mentioned this in my interview, this manager simply asked me “is that the nurse you want to be? Do you want to be the nurse with those skills?” And I answered with confidence” no”. And her reply was then “why would you choose an area you do not enjoy to keep skills you do not want?” She was the first person that gave me the feeling that it was ok to choose postpartum as a new grad. It felt like permission to choose a path less traveled. Without her I would not be where I am today, so I owe a lot to her as well. Plus she gave me a job so she’s high on my list of wonderful women!
Q: What do you love most about working in postpartum?
Oh where to start?! I get the pleasure and sometimes challenge of working with people from all walks of life. I have the privilege of being a part of some of the most important moments in families lives. I have witnessed unimaginable joy, and also heartbreaking and devastating sorrow. While each shift has similar routines and expectations, there is not one day the same as the next.
Helping families get to know their newborns is truly a gift. I cannot describe what it feels like to witness the joy in a mom’s face when her baby latches well for the first time. Or when a dad tucks his baby in skin to skin and he/she stops crying. I have laughed with families, I have cried with families, and I have been honoured to participate in many monumental memories with each of the families I have encountered.
I am also exposed to so many different cultural and personal beliefs, I am learning something new every day.
Q: What do you find most challenging about working on postpartum?
The general complaint that I think most nurses across the board would say is staffing. I am forever saying that we could be providing so much more for our families with the proper resources and time. When we are short staffed, or left to run at a busy pace based on our current models, the care we provide and the families’ experience suffers. And I never feel ok with that. Nothing feels worse than walking out at the end of a shift knowing there was so much more that needed to be done in that 12 hours for those families. It’s hard knowing what kind of nurse you have the ability to be, but working in such limiting environments and not having the opportunity to give your full potential.
Another challenge is differing opinions, practices, and approaches amongst coworkers. Again, I think this is found in any area of work. There will always be people doing one thing two different ways. Postpartum is an area with great leeway in terms of practice. I can go to work and give 95% of my efforts, and have the following nurse come on providing very little but essentially getting the same things accomplished. Only the experience for the family can be drastically changed based on who they interact with. It’s proven to be extremely hard to uphold standards in terms of providing the absolute best for the patients. I would say that is my greatest battle there. But I just keep showing up and try to give my best effort every time. It’s all I can do.
Q: Has becoming a mom impacted how you view your work on postpartum? How?
Absolutely yes. Before having a child I could only imagine what it felt like, could only assume what the sleeplessness and sore nipples and torn vagina was really all about. And then I experienced it. All of it!
My personal breastfeeding journey was not a pretty one. I went into it with the idea of “if it works, great, and if not, I am not going to wear myself down working for it”. I had witnessed so many women put so much pressure on themselves, and I swore that would not be me. And then, it was me. It started off alright, though there was some discomfort. Now being a postpartum nurse who happens to be extremely stubborn and struggles greatly with asking for help, I battled through the beginning and probably could have benefited from some advice. But by about the 4th month, my supply started to dwindle and my son’s weight gain was slowing. And I tried really hard to keep it going, taking domperidone and pumping every chance I got. But it was not enough, and on Dec 28th, 2010 I was standing in line at Walmart buying formula and crying. The girl behind me asked how old my baby was and when I said almost 5 months, she made a comment about why I was not breastfeeding. So here I was, trying to explain to a complete stranger that I had trouble with supply, and her response was “I had so much milk I could have fed other kids as well as my own”..oh the defeat, and the utter disappointment I felt was enough to send me into a spiral of sadness. Clearly it is a moment that has stuck with me, I remember the damn date!
So coming back to work, I vowed that if I had a mom willing to break her back to try and breastfeed, I would break my back right alongside her. I would come to know the strong desire to make it work, and the willingness to do anything for it. My heart still bleeds for those that struggle, and I often share my own story when it seems appropriate to do so. Sometimes a woman just needs to hear she’s not alone.
It’s also helped to have the ability to relate to labour stories. Again, knowing there are no two labours the same in this world, but hearing similar stories or symptoms to my own has been a great way to connect with patients.
Q: Why did you decide to become a Lactation Consultant:
I had a moment with a patient just over a year ago now. It was a quiet shift and I had lots of time to dedicate to each family. There was one couple I was working with who had just had their first baby. She was having a very hard time latching the baby and it was an uphill effort the whole time. At one point she asked me “are all the nurses up here LC’s?” And when I replied “no” she said “well you are great at your job then, thank you so much for helping me”…and it was truly my light bulb moment. It’s the best part of my job, when I have the time to do it. So why am I not focusing on it. Two days later I was going to a breast pump presentation with one of our LC’s and I blurted it out in the elevator with her that I wanted to pursue it. That was January of 2016, and 11 months later I have successfully been certified as an LC! It was a real ride…
Ultimately, breastfeeding can account for the majority of the work we do on postpartum, and if the proper supports are in place, it can be a real game changer in terms of a mother’s successful journey. I came to find out I want to play an even bigger role in that area of practice. I want to be a part of their journeys, good or bad.
Q: How do you think now being an IBCLC will impact your work?
I think it will keep me accountable to do my single best every single time for each mom I come in contact with. Sure, that is something I have always strived for, but now it’s professionally necessary and expected. It’s also an area of practice I have seen myself enjoying more in the last few years. I am excited to see where it can take me, how it can improve my practice, push me to be better for all the mom’s that want the chance to breastfeed their babies. Plus I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I want to impact the way we practice as staff on postpartum. One of our long time and well respected LC’s just retired. She was an absolute trailblazer in that field. She made change happen. I can only hope to be half of what she was to the profession. I want to improve the way things are for women entering our facility. No matter what you choose, or how you choose to do it, I want everyone to feel respected, accepted, and heard. I feel like earning this certification is only the beginning to the work that needs to happen. But I’m excited to do my part.
HAYLIE LASHTA BScKin, MPT, Certified Pelvic Floor Therapist
Owner and Operator of Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness
As the owner of a successful business, Haylie Lashta knows all about the struggles that come with trying to balance work and family.
“Balance doesn’t come daily. It’s a balance over time.”
And because she is a mom, she has a unique understanding of many of her clients: in her work, Lashta prides herself in helping raise awareness around pregnancy and postpartum pelvic pain, noting there is no reason to be experiencing that kind of pain.
Lashta graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelors of Science Kinesiology with Great Distinction (2009), and Master of Physical Therapy (2011). She has been practicing in Warman since 2012, and opened Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness in the fall of 2014. In 2016, it was a finalist in the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce ABEX Awards for New Venture, and in May of 2016 Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness was a finalist in the Warman & Martensville Business Excellence Awards (WMBEXA) for Best New Business, Business of the Year and Marketing categories.
“As a physiotherapist that works with women who are pregnant and women’s health (pelvic floor physiotherapy) and a mother myself, I find that often women have many questions while pregnant. ‘Shouldn’t I be sore? Isn’t it normal to have pain while pregnant? A little bit of pee when I sneeze/laugh/stand up is ok, though, right?’”
Lashta says the answer to these is no! In clinic, she works with patients to determine the cause of the pain and how to treat it, sending patients home with a plan.
“My motto is if I am able to do something in-clinic to help a client to feel better, then I should be able to provide a home exercise to help keep it that way.”
Read why a healthy pelvic floor isn’t just about strength
Some days are heavier work days, and some days are heavier family days, “and I do my best to find some time for me, which doesn’t always happen. It’s why my fantastic husband is currently renovating our bathroom, to give me a soaker tub,” she laughs, half joking.
Lashta is due to give birth to their second child this June.
Being a business owner means her maternity leave will look different from someone who is employed because even though she will receive a mat leave (different than the first time), she will still need to do work for the business weekly, if not daily.
“This is important for my identity. I will always work because it’s a part of me, and it fulfills me.
In addition to working extensively in pregnancy and postpartum physiotherapy care, Lashta’s practice also focuses on infant development, general orthopedics, urinary incontinence, and pelvic pain.
Working with women’s health means that Lashta has completed continuing education courses for assessment and treatment of urinary incontinence as well as pelvic pain.
“Every mother just wants to take care of their new, beautiful, perfect newborns. I can help you so that your body can do the things you want to now, as well as still have fun with your children as they get older (yes, even jump on a trampoline!)”
Lashta is currently taking her Level III Orthopedic Upper Quadrant Course for the spring as well as an IMS needling course fall of 2017.
Being that Haylie works extensively with the perinatal population, she identified a need for an exercise class to help address issues within this population in the area. Being a physiotherapist, Lashta is easily able to modify exercises to increase or decrease difficulty for each client as needed. She runs a postpartum fitness class for moms no matter where they are postpartum (and may just continue to offer this after she and baby #2 adjust to their new lives). A lover of baby carriers, Lashta will happily wear your baby while you focus on the class!
Lashta is proud to be raising awareness for women surrounding available Physiotherapy options for women who are pregnant and post-partum, as well as urinary incontinence and pelvic pain in all ranges of the lifespan.
While I didn’t know the exact definition of family-centered maternity care (FCMC) when I was pregnant and planning my birth, the birth I envisioned and hoped for fit that model without my knowing it.
I came to be more interested in the concept when I joined a patient and family advisory council for maternal services for our local health region. I joined not because I want all moms to have my exact experience, but so they may each have the experience they desire and their choices respected.
There are various definitions of FCMC but the main gist is that it respects and takes into consideration the patients’ preferences and empowers patients to be responsible for their self-care. It also reduces the use of interventions that are unwanted, inappropriate, or not needed (more on this definition can be found here, though there are many others as well). Reducing the use of unnecessary interventions matters because interventions can directly affect breastfeeding.
It was fitting then when last fall I was contacted by a postpartum nurse/instructor who is also a PhD student focusing on obstetrical research. She wanted to speak to a woman about her birth experience to see how it fit into the FCMC model. I’m always happy to share my birth story, and I was even more excited because she wanted to make a video project. My only regret, if you can call it that, from our birth is I forgot to call our birth photographer we’d booked – baby just came too fast and it slipped our minds! My doula took some pictures, which were amazing, but of course not quite the same.
This nurse and I discussed how my birth fit into the principles of FCMC. Here they are in more detail:
- Childbirth is seen as a wellness, not illness, and a normal life event.
- Care is personalized to the individual needs of the family.
- The hospital team assists the family in making informed choices for their care during pregnancy, labour, birth, postpartum, and newborn care, and strives to provide them with the experience they desire.
- The father and/or other supportive persons of the mother’s choice are actively involved in the care.
- Whenever the mother wishes, family and friends are encouraged to be present during the entire hospital stay including labour and birth.
- A woman’s labour and birth care are provided in the same location unless a cesarean birth is necessary. Whenever possible, postpartum and newborn care are also given in the same location and by the same caregivers.
- Mothers are encouraged to keep their babies in their rooms at all times, and nursing care focuses on teaching and role modelling while providing safe, quality care for the mom and baby together.
- Parents have access to their high-risk newborns at all times and are included in the care of their infants to the extent possible given the newborn’s condition.
These don’t sound like outrageous expectations, but they are not the norm for every family when they go to give birth in a hospital, and that’s a shame.
Why does this matter? Because a mother’s birth experience has a direct effect on her postpartum experience. We already know we need to do more to improve postpartum care for moms. A good first step would be improving her birth experience as much as possible so she gets off to a good start and doesn’t have to add dealing with a traumatic birth on top of healing her body and taking care of a newborn.
Watch the video below to see the beautiful representation Darcie did of our birth and how it fits into family-centered maternity care. I’d love to hear how your experience fits into this model of care or how it could have been improved to better reflect it.