Perinatal Anxiety: How do I know if I’m ready for another baby?

My most recent pregnancy was wretched. I didn’t have much morning sickness, I was just the normal amount of tired, the baby grew beautifully, and I had no medical complications. But I had perinatal anxiety, and that made everything suck, and it still sucks.

Perinatal Anxiety: How do I know if I am ready to have another baby? Observe women's mental health month by sharing this with a pregnant woman you love and care about.

It started in my first trimester with an increase in panic attacks. I normally get them a couple of times a year, but they started happening a few times a week. The doctors kept telling me that I was just anxious about having another baby, but I knew it wasn’t normal pregnancy anxiety.

As the weeks went by, I started having panic attacks so frequently that I was checked into the local hospital. I simply could not catch my breath in between the episodes as they were just compounding on top of one another. In addition to the panic, I was also having very depressing and suicidal thoughts. I knew I had no intention of ever killing myself, but the anxiety made me feel that I might be going crazy and eventually take my own life without my consent. It was such a dark time, you guys.

The hospital stay set me up with a new dosage for my anxiety meds as well as a therapist and a psychiatrist. I visited both of them frequently throughout the rest of my pregnancy, and I found a bit of comfort when my psychiatrist told me she would set me up with a women’s mental health clinic if or when we ever decided to have another baby.

Theodore Patrick was born on February 18, 2015, and almost instantly, my anxiety vanished. While it was reassuring to know that it was pregnancy hormones causing all of this (and not me actually going insane), it left me with the question: Do I ever want to go through this again?

We’ve always wanted a large family, and we still do. After our older kids were born, we knew we would get pregnant as soon as we were able again. But this time was much different. It’s not a given that I will go through the same suffering the next time, but I am at a much higher risk.

And that’s where we are right now. Do we want another child? We do. Am I ready to face that same type of pregnancy if God asks me to? I don’t know.

There are days when I am positively positive that I am ready for another. Theodore was so worth it, after all. But, the majority of days I am too scared to face the same fate again.

Our plan for now is to wait until the good days outnumber the bad days. And we pray. Lord, let us know what you are asking of our family. If you would like us to bring new life into the world, make it abundantly clear, and help us to feel peace in your request. We desire more children but fear the implications on my mental health. Thank you for all of the blessings you have already bestowed on our family. Help us to leave the future in your hands and to suffer well if you so ask it of us. Amen.

Giveaway

God brought good out of my story. He filled me with the Holy Spirit and enabled me to write a book filled with all of the tips and tools I use to manage my panic and anxiety. Check out 30 Days to Calm in my Etsy shop, and enter for a change to win one here.

To Enter: Follow me on Instagram (@callherhappy), and then comment here telling me that you did (or do). I will choose a winner June 6, 2016!

xx

Share your story at Flourish in Hope or read more stories like this one.

How to Plan a Mother-Daughter Sleepover

Disclosure: I have received free Netflix streaming and a streaming device as part of my membership on the Netflix Stream Team.  All opinions expressed within this post are my own.

My daughter is the only girl amongst boys, so we have a special relationship. Lately, when we want to spend a little quality time together, we plan a sleepover. Here is your guide to organizing a simple sleepover that will help you connect to your baby girl. This is parenting done right. | kids rooms | i love you | parenting tips

© aliasching / Dollar Photo Club

The Plan

Choose one night to put down the devices and forget the to-do list and just connect with your daughter by inviting her to a good, old-fashioned sleepover.

The Invitation

You don’t need to anything fancy here. The idea isn’t to impress your daughter with details. She just wants to spend time with you. So, sit her down and pick a date on the calendar. That’s it!

Supplies Needed

  • pillows
  • jammies
  • nail polish
  • favorite snacks
  • favorite drinks
  • Netflix
  • a few good books

The Schedule

When Ellen (3yo) and I had our sleepover, it looked a little something like this:

After dinner (it was a simple weeknight), Mike did the clean up and took care of the boys while Ellen and I got ready for bed. We went up nice and early so we would have time to get in all of our fun.

We climbed into my bed and synced up our show on Netflix. While we watched a couple of cartoons, I painted Ellen’s nails and we chatted about the show she picked. We also ate the snacks Ellen chose: popcorn and chocolate milk. Yes, we ate it right in my bed because it was a special sleepover, and you get to do special things during special sleepovers.

When it got near bedtime, we read a couple of books Ellen had chosen, we said our prayers, and we turned out the lights. The rule in our house is that everyone must sleep in their own beds, but for the sleepover, Ellen got to spend the night in mom and dad’s room. She was pretty thrilled about the special privilege.

Tips

  • don’t stress about making this a fancy event
  • plan out some of the details (like snacks) the day before
  • get your spouse on board so you have someone to manage the rest of the house while you’re partying
  • leave your phone downstairs; don’t get distracted during this special time
  • bring your own book too; if your kids go to bed early like ours, you might find yourself bored once your daughter is sleeping
  • our favorite (calm) shows on Netflix: The Hive, Curious George, Magic School Bus, Little Einsteins, Clifford

My daughter is the only girl amongst boys, so we have a special relationship. Lately, when we want to spend a little quality time together, we plan a sleepover. Here is your guide to organizing a simple sleepover that will help you connect to your baby girl. This is parenting done right. | kids rooms | i love you | parenting tips

 

What are some of your favorite ways to spend quality time with your kids?

Treating Maternal Anxiety

I struggled for many months with whether I should write about this part of my life or not. When Katherine from Half Kindled reached out to me about her blog hop, I knew it was time to tell this story. Besides, everyone already knows I’m open about my anxiety. Why not keep sharing? AND, bonus, May has been named Maternal Mental Health Month by several organizations. So, I’d say it’s perfect timing.

While many women are worrying about a post part belly (don’t!), many women are suffering greatly through post and ante natal depression and anxiety. If it’s anxiety remedies or depression recovery you’re looking for, read some encouraging words from moms who have been in the trenches and want to offer you love. Pregnancy related disorders are hard enough; don’t suffer alone. | inspirational quotes | love quotes | love sayings | pregnant quotes

My Anxiety Story

Throughout my life, I’ve always dealt with some sort of anxiety disorder. In my early adult years, my anxiety started manifesting itself as panic attacks. With each pregnancy, the panic attacks would get worse, and with this third one, the episodes were starting to happen daily – sometimes every few hours. Because of the relentlessness of the attacks, I started to feel hopeless and depressed. Dark thoughts entered my mind, and I could not control them. I began to worry I was a danger to myself and my children.

One morning after a particularly hard night, I woke up with the expectation that a night’s sleep would have shaken off my anxiety. But, I found myself in worse shape than before. I laid in bed unable to move, but still managed to start calling around for help. I Googled help lines, called local programs, spoke with professionals, and finally decided I needed immediate help. I couldn’t live another day in that fearful state. I wasn’t eating, I could only sleep fitfully, I was scared of harming myself, I was hopeless and I was pregnant. A terrible combination.

I was hopeless and I was pregnant. A terrible combination.

I Asked for Help

I decided to check myself into the hospital where I would stay four days under the care of many specialists and volunteers. I was assigned a psychologist and a therapist, had my meds evaluated, and was taught various coping mechanisms to help in the short-term. After work, Mike would stay by my side until I fell asleep, and my parents watched my kids during the day. It still turns my stomach to think about a time in my life where I was unable to care for my own children. But I sought and received help.

After leaving hospital, I met frequently with my doctors and therapist. I took a refresher course in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I still have my team on stand by in case I ever have severe attacks again. And even though I was getting the help I needed and seeing results, I was still worried.

My Fears

I worried that if people found out that I checked myself into a hospital, they would think I was truly crazy and unable to control my own mind or actions. I thought people would treat me like I was sick. I thought it would mean that I wasn’t in control of my life and I had failed.

But what would I think if a woman told me she sought help for a mental affliction? I would think she was brave and strong. I would think it was an incredibly bold and necessary move. I would be proud that she looked past the stigma and took charge of her mental health. And I am deciding to extend those same praises to myself. I am going to love myself and the decision I made.

I am deciding to extend those same praises to myself. I am going to love myself and the decision I made.

How I Am Today

Now, after having our third baby, I still have an anxiety disorder. In fact, I may have it for the rest of my life; it’s my cross. And, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t still worried that the darkness will come back. It’s hard to forget an experience that shakes your confidence with such intensity. But, when I do start to feel the anxiety come on, I know I have the skill set I need to combat it, and I’ve used it with success. I also am comforted by the fact that I have a team standing by to help if things ever get bad again. If I hadn’t taken such a drastic step, I would never have been set up with such powerful tools.

Find Help

You may be fearful that you’re a failure if you ask for help. You may have told yourself that you’re not the kind of person who needs a big intervention. You may have been told that you can pray away your suffering. You may think you’re a failure if you can’t. I’m telling you that your prayers may not result in a miracle cure. More than likely God will give you enough strength and courage to ask for help. Listen to Him and get the help you deserve. Maternal anxiety can happen during and after pregnancy. Visit Postpartum Progress for information on all maternal mental disorders. Contact your local hospital or visit adaa.org to find a help center.

You’re loved and I’m praying for you. xo

For more encouragement and help, head over to Half Kindled to read Katherine’s story. And, many other women have joined us today. Find hope in their posts as well: A Knotted Life, This Felicitous Life, Mama Needs Coffee, Check Out that Sunset.

What I Wish I’d Known About Breastfeeding

My mom works at a home for homeless pregnant women – Mary’s Mantle. These women are my sisters, right? My sisters in Christ. And when I visit them, we chat just like sisters.

They see me walk in with my entourage of kids, and they are curious. They are traveling this road to motherhood and want to know what they are in for. And they want to hear it honestly from a friend. So that’s what I try to do for them.

I’m no expert, but I have three kids. And I never want to scare anyone or “just wait” anyone. Nope. I just want to tell the good with the hard so that these moms are prepared for things that took me by surprise. Motherhood is THE BEST. But is it not surprising? Let me answer that: it’s surprising.

One of the questions I get most often from these women is, “Is breastfeeding difficult?” And, my honest answer? Yes. It is. But isn’t everything that is worth doing a bit difficult?

Ellen nursed for 14 months, Sam for 13 and Theo is going strong at three so far. I’ve learned a little along the way. So, I want to tell you everything I wish I had known about breastfeeding before I began.

And, I wish I didn’t have to say this, but I will: writing a post about a subject does not mean that I look down upon the alternatives. It’s what we chose and it’s what I know. Simple as that.

If you’re considering breastfeeding and pumping for your child, read my honest thoughts about what it has been like to breastfeed three children so far. My intention is never to scare; only to encourage and prepare! | breastfeeding photography | breastfeeding foods | breastmilk storage | breastfeeding clothes | breastfeeding foods |

© doble.d  / Dollar Photo Club

Pros

  • I never have to worry about bringing supplies to feed my babies while we’re out. I always have the equipment at the ready.
  • Breastfeeding is free. It can save you up to $4k annually.
  • Breastfed babies receive immunities from mom and tend to be sick infrequently.
  • You can apply breastmilk to cuts and infections to clear them up quickly.
  • The longer you breastfeed, the less risk you have of breast cancer.
  • Breastfeeding triggers your uterus to contract and shrink. It also helps you lose baby weight quickly (demanding up to 1000 calories a day). So, your body can recover quickly from childbirth.
  • I have a large supply, so I was able to pump and donate milk to a mom who was having trouble breastfeeding her child. You can actually share your milk with other babies.
  • You can pump and freeze your milk so other people can feed your baby while you take a break.
  • When you start a nursing session, your body releases chemicals that calm you. It’s so incredibly relaxing.
  • You don’t need to worry about how much to feed your baby because she will eat as much as she needs until she is full and then stop. If you think she’s not getting enough because she eats a lot, that’s so normal. Just feed her extra. She’s probably going through a growth spurt (they do that a lot!).

Cons

  • Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally to a lot of women. There is a learning curve. And if you can stick it out for three months, I just KNOW that you’ll have it down by then. Be patient with yourself. Ask for help.
  • While most lactation consultants will tell you it shouldn’t hurt, it will hurt a bit in the beginning. Your nipples need to get used to all of the use. But after a couple of weeks, it gets better. Try using your milk and lansinoh cream to help yourself heal quickly. Also try a nipple shield for extra protection while you get comfortable.
  • Pumping is a commitment. It may sound easy to just pump a bottle, but it’s time you take in addition to feeding your baby. But, it’s so nice to have a stock of milk in the freezer in case you want to leave the house for a longer period of time.
  • You’ll need to take your baby with you places if you don’t pump. But, that’s ok. They’re cute company!
  • Breastfed babies tend to eat more frequently. You might be getting up every two hours in the middle of the night. It’s because breastmilk is metabolized quickly. But, you’re going to be tired anyway (you knew that!) and the sleepy nighttime baby snuggles help.
  • People *might* give you weird looks. Might. I’ve never had anyone ever say anything to me about breastfeeding. I think the world is coming to its senses and realizing that breasts are for feeding babies. But, you may get an occasional old person or weirdo telling you to cover up or something. But, you can just smile and laugh and shake your head and their poor, uninformed brains.
  • People will try to suck you into being militant about it. “Breast is best!!” Ok, I know there are a lot of studies out there about the health benefits of breastmilk. And I believe them. BUT, those studies don’t take into account many other factors that might make formula a better choice for some families. So, you breastfeed and do what is best for your family, and let other mamas do what is best for theirs.
  • You will probably be super thirsty and hungry, but, um, more food!

What else would you add to these lists? What do you want your sister-moms-to-be to know about choosing to breastfeed?

More on Mary’s Mantle

If you’re considering breastfeeding and pumping for your child, read my honest thoughts about what it has been like to breastfeed three children so far. My intention is never to scare; only to encourage and prepare! | breastfeeding photography | breastfeeding foods | breastmilk storage | breastfeeding clothes | breastfeeding foods |

And, if you want to help me in supporting the women of Mary’s Mantle, you can find out more about their home here. In short, it’s a Catholic home for homeless pregnant women. All faiths are welcome. This house is not just a place to crash either. It’s a program where women learn life and mothering skills, are helped in the job and house hunt, and receive life-long assistance in the after-care program.

In recent Mary’s Mantle news, they have a new house to better serve these life-choosing women! If you would like to directly support that project, they have set up a Go Fund Me page.

Help support their general mission by using their donation page.

And, I am always very careful about where my money goes. If you are like me, please check out this full, second party disclosure of all of Mary’s Mantle’s funds and expenses.

After the Great Stretching

This post first appeared on Whole Parenting Family.

How to Love Your Body Right Now: After pregnancy many women find themselves with a new body. You don’t need to focus ALL of your energy on fitness and healthy eating. Those things are great, but learn how Nell figured out how to love her new post-baby body where it is right now - during the postpartum belly phase.

 

I wrote about loving your body after a baby after my last baby. I had to re-read it since I’ve had this one. Postpartum is this awkward transitional time when your skin tries to remember where it was before the Great Stretching, and your breasts try to gauge how much milk to make for this baby, and your belly jiggles and your face has lost its color, and you’re just plain in the middle of it all.

As I write this, our little baby is almost three months old. I’m still so postpartum. I haven’t lost much weight since I had him. My body feels that heavy jiggle jiggle never-wear-a-bathing-suit-again feeling. My hair has clumped out on the side of my head, leaving the look of a bad side side bang job. I still occasionally slip into a hot bath when everyone is done with a day of needing to be held, loved, sternly glared at, fed, diapered, read to, praised, censured, hair patted out of their faces. The hot water like a deep breath for my skin, my motherly parts all tuckered out.

My girlfriend Blythe just wrote this beautiful post on her blog, The Fike Life, about loving the nursing mom who had to dash after her toddler, displaying her soft tumtum to the world inadvertently. And how it gave her permission to not be perfect, not worry about being beautifully put together. We need that permission.

But one day I watched a veteran mother of many pop up from her shady spot under a tree to chase a wandering toddler away from the street. I watched her run with a newborn at her breast, soft, postpartum belly exposed, underwear bunched up above the waistline of her jeans… yelling, running, towards the 2 year old on the sidewalk. And I loved her for it.”

We live during a time when sexy (not motherly) is celebrated, and even the rare times a celebrity sort celebrates their motherhood, they do so in a sexy in shape way. Way to go, Olivia Wilde (whoever you are) for nursing your son in Glamour’s September issue. Do you also show your stretch marks or wrinkled belly skin that longs to dive into your belly button like a deep sea diving adventure but can’t? I don’t think so. That’s okay. You probably have a personal trainer and dietician and chef. Go you. The rest of us aren’t hating on you; we just probably don’t look like you.

Projects like the Fourth Trimester Bodies one are so important for me, personally. The project is crowd funded so check out sponsoring them if you feel moved to. I look at these awesome women who grew babies that are proud of their post baby bodies and think okay, if they’re proud, I should be too. Not that the pride means I shouldn’t eat healthfully and work out to maintain muscle tone and health. Not that the pride means I shouldn’t curb my insatiable desire for ice cream and dessert. Sugar addicts need to be kept in check, people.

But the pride means it’s okay that I will never look 21 again (oh! the difference a decade makes–haha) insofar as my skin is older, my face is wrinklier, and my tumtum has pushed out three times with a baby. Even if I get back in stellar shape (hopeful on this one), my body never won’t be scarred and changed. Double negative.

This sounds trite: “love your postpartum body!” But for me it’s not. It means accepting my changes, accepting imperfect older me. Accepting the physical external changes of being a mama that mirror internal changes, too.

I didn’t feel this strongly after my first, or even my second, but with my third, the body changes are more permanent, more real. I’m thinking about how I tore, and that I’ll probably tear along that scar tissue again. I’m thinking about how nursing three takes a toll on what was an upright upper chest. I’m thinking about how three kids’ worth of poor sleep has wrecked my face and puffed out my eyes for infinity. I’m thinking that, once again, I have to believe I’m beautiful and feel confident in order to embrace my new body // new reality. My perception of myself is really in my own hands.

So go hug yourself. And your kids. And mostly feel peace at your changes. Know me & others out there are working towards that too.

And find something to do for you as an outlet–a real break.

Nell and Jenna like to work in the fiber arts. For Nell, it’s sewing and knitting for her organic mama & babe goods shop Whole Parenting Goods on Etsy. For Jenna, it’s embroidering necklaces and custom hoops in her Etsy shop, Call Her Happy.

What is your outlet?

How to Love Your Body Right Now: After pregnancy many women find themselves with a new body. You don’t need to focus ALL of your energy on fitness and healthy eating. Those things are great, but learn how Nell figured out how to love her new post-baby body where it is right now - during the postpartum belly phase.

How to Love Your Body Right Now: After pregnancy many women find themselves with a new body. You don’t need to focus ALL of your energy on fitness and healthy eating. Those things are great, but learn how Nell figured out how to love her new post-baby body where it is right now - during the postpartum belly phase.

How to Love Your Body Right Now: After pregnancy many women find themselves with a new body. You don’t need to focus ALL of your energy on fitness and healthy eating. Those things are great, but learn how Nell figured out how to love her new post-baby body where it is right now - during the postpartum belly phase.

red-pinterest-button-1

The Dignity of Your Health

There are so many nights when I want to rush through bedtime. I’m emotionally (and sometimes physically) spent, and I still have to convince two toddlers and a baby that stopping their play and laying still until they fall asleep is going to be a good idea. The worst is when my husband feels the same way as I do. That totals two exhausted parents lacking patience and vigilance against one small army of headstrong and curious children. A few months ago we had one of those nights. I was picking up toys while my husband was manning the bathtub. Sam, now 23 months, was finished with his bath and was watching his sister get a scrub down. Their splashing and giggling was stunted by a deep cry from Sam and my husband’s call for me to, “Get in here now!” I imagine every mother whispers a silent prayer when she knows she is heading into what might be trouble, and that is what I did. And when I arrived, and I will spare you the details, Sam had stepped on a rusty razor blade. We all have one of those lying around, right? A pink razor blade that has spent too long in the humid shower? Now turned rusty, I kept forgetting to take it out, and my husband decided to remove it. He had placed it on the floor so he would remember to toss it, but Sam saw it first and crawled right over the top of it. Wrapping Sam’s foot in a towel, we rushed over to the ER, which thankfully is across the street from our house. And, once there and waiting to see a doctor, all of the emotions and questions started running through my mind: Why didn’t I pay more attention? I put my child in danger. Will he need stitches? This is all my fault. Is he up on his vaccinations? What can I do to make him feel better right this moment? What are these doctors and nurses going to think about my parenting? Processed with VSCOcam with x1 preset During our talks with the health professionals, they were nothing but kind. They reassured us that Sam would be fine with just a bandage and no stitches. They confirmed he was up on his vaccinations. And they calmed our family down and assured us that accidents happen. They not only took care of our Sammy boy, they took care of our emotional well-being too. You see, when your child is in the ER, it’s not just the child; it’s the whole family who is affected and is being treated. Communication, empathy and kindness can be the difference between a good and bad experience—even when all outcomes are equal. Leaving the ER, I couldn’t help think how wonderful it is that there are people in the world who are gifted enough to take care of others when they are at their worst. Even more amazing is being treated by a professional who takes the entire person into consideration. So, thank you to all of the health professionals who we have come in contact with throughout the years. And thank you to all of those we have not. Your jobs are not easy. I know this. But, thank you for having patience and kindness for your patients each and every day. We are all someone’s mother or father or child or loved one. And remembering that in times of distress can be incredibly comforting.

Thank you to Dignity Health for inspiring this post. Please visit their website here.



 

Are You Done?

Nosy Friend is ecstatic that I’m having a baby boy.  She arrives at my doorstep, flinging her cross-fit toned arms wide open to hug and congratulate me.  I grab the package of mouthwatering French macaroons straight from a Paris bakeshop off her hands, but she snatches it back.

“Hang on. You get this after I get to cross examine you,”  she says.

I’m slightly nervous.  My old friend from law school is a pro at squeezing witnesses, and she already knows the vast majority of my most embarrassing moments so a round of Q & A would stuff her arsenal with more things to blackmail Anabelle Hazard with.  But the macaroons, oooh, I gotta have them. “O-okay. Shoot.”

are you done

“So, now that you’re having a boy, are you done?”

“Define ‘done’.”

Eyeroll.  “Are you done having kids?”

“Didn’t you read my blog post about letting God plan our family size two pregnancies ago?”

She shakes her head.   After I hang up her lamb’s wool coat, she perches on the bar stool of my kitchen island.

“What kind of friend doesn’t subscribe to her friends’ blog?” I ask.

“The kind who is in court or with clients wracking billable hours.”

I sigh as I slip in beside her. “Okay, in gist, my husband and I are practicing Catholics who understand, believe and abide by the teachings of the Church.  Every marital act is self-giving and open to the fruit of love…children.  Frankly, I’d feel used if all he wanted was the pleasure of sex without the gift of children and responsibility of parenthood.”

Her dark red lipstick is turned downward. “You’re not getting fixed?”

Vasectomy or tubal ligations are also against Church teachings. Mutilating the co-creative/self-giving nature of sex is like unwrapping a precious present, throwing away the fertility eggs inside, tying up the gift back up and returning it to sender with the tag: ‘No thanks, God!’

return to sender2

I hand her my i-phone. “You must not have read this blog post from a colleague on vasectomy:  Why fix something that isn’t broke?”

“I don’t do blogs.”  Nosy Friend pushes my phone away.  “That’s like reading opinionated cliff notes or case digests in comics form.  Its’ for people who can’t read big stuff.”

“What?” I shriek.  “I write plenty of big stuff!  I write explosive posts with deep reflections, like the time I rammed into a truck and hopped on a motorcycle.  I wrote about the time I went on vacation and got the stomach bug and my husband wheeled me in a baggage trolley with my arms wrapped around a trash can… well maybe I meant to, but anyway, that’s major stuff because I wound up in the ER! The E.R.! I could have died and you wouldn’t have known it.”

“You rode on a baggage trolley?  Gross.  Why couldn’t your husband get a wheelchair or sweep you off your feet and carry you?”

“There were no wheelchairs in the resort, he has a bad back, and I was carrying extra pregnancy weight.”

Another lipstick-ed pout at the word ‘pregnancy’.  “You’re close to forty. Don’t deny it.  Your dermatologist sister did an awesome job zapping away your sunspots, but I know we both graduated the same year.  Do you really think your body is capable of another pregnancy?”

“I know God wouldn’t call me to be a mother, if He didn’t give me all available graces to answer my vocation.”

“But didn’t God also give you contraception and birth control?”

I pause and scrape my chair back a smidge. “God gave me Christ. Christ gave me the Church.  The Church gave me theology to understand that natural family planning, which involves self control, is an even better gift that God gave me.  You really should read my blog post on the number of law suits surrounding birth control side effects.  There is no way I would think it’s a gift from God. Its from hell, more like.”

“So you’re not done?”  She shudders.  I can almost read her mind. She is thinking of her travels all over the world to five star resorts with her rock star husband, tasting exotic cuisine, and coming home to luxury linens, a yipping Japanese Pomeranian, and weekly nail spa appointments, everything posted on Facebook for me to drool on, which I have, by the way … except for the dog with matching owner’s pink pedi.

“That’s a loaded question,”  I say. “If you mean ‘will we use artificial birth control and resort to sterilization’, then no, we’re not. If you mean, ‘would we like to have more children’, yes, we’d like some if God gave us more, but we’re also grateful enough if He doesn’t. But if you mean, ‘are we going to have more children’, then I don’t know.  Next year, God could bless us with twins, we could discern serious reason for spacing or avoiding pregnancy (which the Church allows) or we’d have a fourth miscarriage –“

“Wait. Wait. You’ve had three miscarriages and you’re willing to get pregnant again? You’re crazy!”

I shrug. “I’m also afraid of losing another baby and winding up in the ER or the OR again, I’m only human.  But faith overcomes fear.  This life is only temporary. I can look forward to eternity with my children.  Catechism says children are your crowns in heaven and three of them are already there! I have more reason to look forward to heaven, and teach my children on earth to aim for it at all costs…  But not so fast, I’m enjoying their childhood.”

“You mean you actually like children?  Want a whole gaggle of them?” Her smokey shadowed eyes are practically sending SOS smoke signals to the Chikasaw tribes.

“Yes! No one held a gun to my head to quit the firm to stay at home with little people. I love them: girls or boys.”

“Even when they break your kindle, stain your carpet, deprive you of sleep or ruin your figure?” She skims her eyes and stops at the pudge in my middle section, which will never go back to its concave unstretch-marked origins again.

“Yes.”

“So none of them were unplanned?” She clucks her tongue.

“Our third pregnancy which resulted in my first miscarriage was a surprise,” I say.  “But she was certainly planned by God.”

“So how many surprises do you plan on having?”

“I’m counting on a lot. It comes with the territory.” I smile. “Did I ever tell you about the time I went shopping with my middle child and she shoved a size 18W dress at me, insisting it would fit me perfectly.  When I told her it was at least 10 sizes too big, she said “What exactly does 18 W mean?”  I said, “It means 18 women.”  She said, “What?!  How can 18 women fit in there?”

Nosy Friend laughs.  “Children can be funny.  But pesky, too, and a lot of work.”

“I’m not saying it’s easy.  I’m saying ‘No sacrifice, no true love. no cross, no crown.’  If you have no further questions, can I have the macaroons? Want a piece?”

She slumps down on her barstool.  “I need a drink.”

I pour her Sunsweet Prune Juice, a favorite for, er, digestive reasons. “Now, can I ask you why you and Barry never had kids?”

“We can’t have any,” she says.  “We’ve tried IVF (in vitro fertilization) and both times they’ve failed.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,”  I say.  I am sorry they couldn’t have children and that they used IVF.  Again, the Church teaches against IVF because procreation is a marital sexual gift and since life begins at conception, the status of the embryos are not ours to determine:  whether to be thawed indefinitely or dispensed with.

“We wanted one. Just one.”

“You know, Nosy, we struggled with secondary infertility.  Catholic friends recommended we consult a Napro physician who could help us with our issues in the ways the Church permitted.  But we couldn’t afford that, so we had a holy priest pray over my womb and voila! Miracle baby! Blog post June 2014.

“Well you didn’t tell me you wrote about that.”  She finishes up the prune juice.  “I may just start reading your blog.”

“You should. You’ll be on it tomorrow.”  I motion to her glass.  “Do you want a refill or are you done?”

“I don’t know.  Are you done?”

macaroons

I pick up another macaroon.  Mint chocolate. “Why? I’m just getting to the good part.”

+AMDG+ (Work of fiction.  Any similarities to real persons are purely coincidental but the questions are not imagined.  They have actually been asked, and those are my honest answers.)

abAnabelle Hazard is a practicing Catholic and a non-practicing attorney. She is a managing editor and columnist for Catholic Stand but a disorganized novelist and long-winded blogger at Written By the Finger of God.

#5Faves: The Better Gift Guide for New Moms + Giveaway

If you’ve had a baby, you’ve probably been given your share of receiving blankets, cute onesies, stuffed animals and personalized knick knacks. And, while I am not one to ever complain about a person’s generosity and thoughtfulness, those suckers get played out.

And, after birthing a child, aren’t you a little bit, “What do I get??” Besides hemorrhoids and post-natal hair loss, not much.

So because everyone will be buying the new bundle a gift or two, stand out from the crowd and make the momma feel special with my Better Gift Guide for New Moms. Trust me, she will love this.

 

Create a new mom gift basket with these 5 inexpensive (and one optional spendy item) gifts. Sometimes I feel like maybe I want a little something after giving birth! My favorite part is the secret knot headband! I wear mine every day.

-1-

Nude Quick-Dry Nail Polish: Nothing makes me feel more put together than having my nails done. Nothing makes me feel grungier than chipped polish. So, give a new mom a nice, nude polish that dries fast, looks classy, and doesn’t show chips as easily. This is Sally Hansen Bare It All.

-2-

Knot Twisted Headband: Doing my hair means a top knot, and I’m totally cool with that. But, what if I want to fancy it up just a tad? Maybe I want to cover up some of that grease…because it’s not going anywhere. I love my Knot Twisted headbands for just those reasons. So. Freaking. Comfy.

-3-

Simple Pedometer: Make sure you let the new mom know that she’s beautiful and not fat. But, what mom doesn’t want an easy way to burn a few calories and increase energy after being pregnant? I clip one of these to my pants and just try to get 10,000 steps somehow. It’s an easy, measurable goal that doesn’t require alone time, a gym membership or Jillian.

-4-

Wild Orange Oil: I had to add something citrus in here, because it is so darn good for your mood and energy levels. Lotsa moms deal with PPD and other variants of that demon (or even just baby blues), so give a new mom a boost with some sweet orange smells.

-5-

Graduated Water Bottle: Water makes ya skin nice. It makes ya lose weight. It keeps ya energy up. It makes ya feel better. I love the numbers on the side of this one because I know if I drink two, I have met my water intake for the day. Again, measurable goals work for this mama. Drink up.

-6-

BONUS FAVORITE – Netflix Subscription: She’s going to be spending time on the couch. Let’s face it. Let her face it with a binge sesh of Gilmore Girls, Arrested Development, Sherlock, Portlandia, Parks and Recreation, Friends, ooh and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt...easily my new favorite show. I’m getting away with myself. Stop me.

Some links may be affiliate. Disclosure: I have received free Netflix streaming and a streaming device as part of my membership on the Netflix Stream Team.  All opinions expressed within this post are my own.

The Better Gift Guide for New Moms Giveaway

Link up your #5Faves below. But first, take a minute to enter the Rafflecopter for yourself or a new momma you love. You or her will receive a nude polish, a large flexi, a pedometer, witch hazel pads, a graduated water bottle and a 1-year subscription to Netflix. Woop.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

5 favorites

 Loading InLinkz ...

7 Helpful Gifts for the Postpartum Mom

One of the sweetest things I can think of to do for a newly postpartum mom is to bring something for her.  So often, people bring something for the baby, which is lovely and generous, of course, but a gift for mom is a beautiful, tangible way to let her know that her job is important and that she’s remembered, too.  And usually baby is already well taken care of; it’s mom who needs a little TLC, right?

When we really look at it we can be honest and admit our postpartum culture in our wonderful country stinks.  It really does.  In most places around the world and throughout history a woman would have a whole community of women gathering around to help for at least six weeks.  She barely gets out of bed, doesn’t have to think about cooking or cleaning or tending her other children, and is able to focus her primary attention on nursing, bonding with her baby, and healing. 

but what we can do is think of small ways to show mom that she matters, too

Here?  We get maybe a week, two if we’re lucky, sometimes with a couple meals from lovely friends dropped off at the door (and often those friends have their own brood of little ones to tend to), and then we’re done and expected to be back to normal life again.  When a woman has a need to be cared for physically, mentally, and emotionally and when the community has the chance to truly show their support of new life, we kinda fail.  It doesn’t foster a culture of life and doesn’t breed well for healthy motherhood.  It’s no coincidence that our rate of PPD, postpartum physical issues, and nursing complications is higher.

We’re not going to change that overnight, especially when many of us are running our homes and raising little ones, but what we can do is think of small ways to show mom that she matters, too. And maybe in that way do our own little part to support a culture of life.

A woman in your life just had that sweet baby boy or baby girl. Bring her one of these new baby gifts to show that you really care about her and put some thought into what might be most useful and helpful to her during this transitional time. My favorite is the last one. So so simple and beautiful.

© ondrooo / Dollar Photo Club

Food

Always food.  A ready made dinner is wonderful or something frozen that she can easily take out on a rough day.  So is a batch of healthy muffins or an egg casserole for breakfast.  Or a bag of basic groceries.  One of the greatest way to help is to organize a meal schedule and pester people to sign up (and yes, sometimes you have to do a lot of pestering) so that at least that first month postpartum has a meal brought every other day.  Both Care Calendar and Take Them a Meal are super convenient (and free!) resources for online scheduling so people can pick a day that works for them.  A gracious mom would, of course, never snub any meal brought but a gracious giver also should take into account the family’s eating style, preferences, and (of course) allergies.

If a homemade meal is not doable, a gift certificate for any local restaurant that delivers so that she can pick the day she needs it most, is also a wonderful idea.

Nursing Basket
I sometimes like to give these at baby showers but they’re great for a postpartum gift as well.  Possible things to include:  a water bottle, some healthy granola bars or other snacks, a magazine or book, good breast pads, some Mother’s Milk tea, some nipple cream or lanolin, maybe a nursing cover (if you think she’d appreciate that).  I’ve even included a nursing tank at times if I think mom would use it.
 .
Certificate for Cleaning

Oh my, I would be thrilled to get something like this postpartum.  What a generous gift that would be!  Often you can find deals for housecleaning on sites like Groupon and the like and they’re not too unreasonable.  Why not go in on one with a group of friends?  Or, if you know she’s not the type of person that would feel guilty and can accept your help, maybe you could offer to come for a few hours yourself and scrub some bathrooms and vacuum while she rests and snuggles that little one?

Bath and Body Items

I’ve made homemade crunchy-type baskets full of personal gifts for the mom and baby but you could certainly do it with store-bought things as well.  I like to include some homemade herbal bath packs and bath salts to help with healing, some homemade salve, tea (either a breastfeeding tea or a red raspberry leaf tea would be a good choice to help her body recover), and maybe some calming essential oil blends.  If you know her favorite lotion or soap, you could put that in, too.  Earth Mama Angel Baby makes some wonderful natural products specifically for postpartum moms – balm, bath herbs, and bottom spray to name a few.

In-house Massage .

A few of our local massage therapists have just begun offering in-house postpartum services!  Wouldn’t that be lovely to give?  A gift certificate (again, maybe with a few friends if you can’t afford it on your own) for a half hour or hour massage where mom didn’t even have to pack up baby and leave her house?  Luxury.

Help with Any Older Children

Some moms are more comfortable if you come stay at the house and simply keep the kids busy and fed.  Others would love for you to come take the older kids away for a few hours so she can have a little bit of quiet and rest (especially if you have your own children that will need to be there).  Ask her which one she would prefer and respect her boundaries with what is allowed and not allowed with her children.  (And please don’t bring them back high on sugar or too overtired! ;)

A Spiritual Bouquet

One of the absolute best gifts I think you could give a mom is the gift of prayer.  You can do it yourself or, even better, arrange for a group of friends to offer their own Rosaries, Masses, sacrifices, and other prayers for her during this special yet often difficult time.  Let her know in a card or some other way the things that you are all doing to lift her up in prayer and support her.  Maybe attach a Blessed Mother, Saint Brigid (patroness of newborns), or Saint Monica (patroness of mothers) medal or prayer card along with it.

I’m confident that helping and supporting and valuing postpartum mothers more is vital to building up a culture of life.  Got any other ideas of tangible ways we can support these moms?  Please share any ideas you have (or things you valued or would have loved to have had yourself) in the combox!

Mary Haseltine is a mom to four (and another currently in womb), a certified doula, and writer of things at www.betterthaneden.com where she blogs about babies, birth, her faith, marriage, homeschooling, and any other random ridiculousness that strikes her fancy.

 

#5Faves: Ways to Detox a Pregnancy

Anna is here again, and this time it’s a double whammy. A #5Faves and an announcement. Bet you can’t guess what it is. I bettttt…

After the pregnancy announcement is over, it’s time to start thinking about how you should be taking care of yourself and that baby girl or baby boy in the long run. And, I think some of these detox ideas will surprise you. Follow this detox diet to make this your best pregnancy ever. And remember, it’s not just about how you look; treat yourself like you are beautiful…because you are.

Oh, a new little baby.

A new immortal soul, a new little light in the world, shining without being seen. The only tangible proof that there’s a baby even there was a line on the pregnancy test, my uncharacteristically intense craving for Pepsi, and a bloat that could propel me to India if you put a propeller on my bum. Like a happy and nauseous dirigible.

These pregnancies are starting to feel like the academic years. Nine months on, three months summer, nine months on again–at least this time around. I’ve found myself looking at this long stretch of time sort of like I did back at the start of a new school year, all psyched to start fresh, do my homework before I was tired dead shell of a human, wear a cute outfit every day, an excel in everything. About a week in, I’d usually lose a lot of morale and settle on wearing a hoodie every day and doing my homework during Oprah commercials.

But now, I’m hoping to start off the pregnancy right. My last one I gained more weight than I should have, ate way too much ramen (I was pregnant with a boy, after all, and he might as well have been a college guy as he came out the size of a line-backer), and was a cranky and tired mess. Perhaps that’s just pregnancy, but I’m going to try a five new things:

After the pregnancy announcement is over, it’s time to start thinking about how you should be taking care of yourself and that baby girl or baby boy in the long run. And, I think some of these detox ideas will surprise you. Follow this detox diet to make this your best pregnancy ever. And remember, it’s not just about how you look; treat yourself like you are beautiful…because you are.

© rohappy / Dollar Photo Club

-1-

I will strive to only do things I consider beautiful or useful. Like the way people manage the clutter in their house, they strive to only keep possessions they consider beautiful or useful. I’m hoping to do the same in my daily life—not using pregnancy as an excuse to binge watch Sister Wives, but perhaps to pray, read, sleep, or talk to a real human when I have a chance to decompress. And when I’m with my kids, not sit idly on my iphone while I supervise them, but talk to them, engage with them, or at least LOOK at them while I work on something else. This does not mean constantly being productive—this only means to do things that will really help me with my short term goals of that moment—help me truly rest, help me work, help me grow in grace, even when I’m uncomfortable.

-2-

I’ll only put in my body what is beautiful and useful. Is chocolate beautiful and useful? You’ll bet your sweet a** it is. But I’ll try and stick with only a few pieces, not enough to make me grow a third thigh in addition to a human. I’ll only eat the frivolous stuff to the extent it is useful—in giving me a small treat, a lift, but not a sugar or caffeine high. And just because I may not be in the exact mood for a salad or a sweet potato, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t just suck it up and eat it to nourish myself the right way. I’m hoping this will physically make me feel better overall through the pregnancy. My future child has a whole lifetime to eat a massive bag of Doritos in one sitting—let’s give him/her a chance to start AFTER he/she emerges from the womb.

-3-

Reflect OFTEN on how this is a fleeting season. Looking at my first two, my pregnancies with them seem like such a side note. They felt awful during, but look at what we received: beautiful, unique humans who will grow, eventually sleep through the night, eventually won’t poop their pants, eventually won’t need ME at all. This will pass. And it will faster than I realize. I will not be the size of a parade float forever.

-4-

I’ll ask for and take help easily. I am pregnant with my third baby. My first two are still very young and needy. I will be very needy. This means there will be days when I will look like the hind leg of a mountain goat and be about as friendly as one if there was an annoying chipmunk behind it. Therefore, I’m going to push my pride aside and accept the help of people around me who offer it, and try to recognize days when I genuinely need to ask for it, and accept it BEFORE the point of desperation.

-5-

I’ll forgive myself (and others) easily. I won’t hit all my goals every day. I’m knocked up. It’s okay. Also, those around me won’t be able to read my mind. I’ll probably be an irritable grump that may be an irritable grump to those around me. But instead of being a crotchety pregnant lady, asking for grace in the times where I want to be mad at someone close to me.

Hopefully my resolution will last more than a week before I dive off the deep end into a kiddie pool of ramen noodles and the last 40 seasons of Gilmore Girls, but I’d appreciate your prayers as I grow this next kiddo.

 

Anyone have any words of wisdom on raising three? Something beautiful to tell Anna?

 

 Loading InLinkz ...