motherhood

I Should Feel One Way But I'm Guilty For Feeling the Opposite

As I sit here typing this, I’m 17 weeks pregnant. I can feel this little bean moving around now and my husband has felt her/him kick twice. My breasts are bigger and tender. I’m still nauseous and eating is a struggle to keep the food down. I’m emotional and weep at most movies, regardless of the genre. I have a small bump but really, it’s mostly a layer of fat from winter hibernation. The reality that I am pregnant after four recurrent losses should excite me. I’m FINALLY pregnant! I should be ectatic! But I have a confession: I’m not excited. I’m scared senseless.

Pregnancy #6: 14 weeks here and the night before my husband and I both felt baby kick! 

Pregnancy #6: 14 weeks here and the night before my husband and I both felt baby kick! 

For a long time, I thought I needed a second child to complete my family. The primitive and physiological desire for a baby overrode my logical mind. I had to have two kids and they had to be no more than three years apart and boy, did I try to make that happen! The need consumed me for almost five years and like I’ve mentioned previously in other posts, 2017 was full of loss and grief but also of acceptance and peace. A second child no longer holds the same weight it once did. A second child doesn’t feel necessary anymore. And I feel incredibly guilty for saying that.

 

Just because I wanted this doesn’t mean it won’t be hard

We have a good life as a family of three. We all sleep through the night, our daughter is toilet trained and she can independently play without me worrying what she’s getting into. She goes to daycare two days a week so I can work and write and clean without distraction. We can travel without hassle and she can communicate her needs and frustrations. We have our routine and our life and it’s perfectly imperfect for us. This new baby will change everything!

I’m scared of losing my autonomy as a person, as a woman. I’m afraid this baby will be a nightmare baby; one of the ones that are colicky and don’t sleep and grow into wild, difficult toddlers (re: the opposite of our daughter!). I’m afraid of the toll sleepless nights will take on my marriage. I can confidently say I’m a horrible person when I’m tired. Exhaustion seems to be the one common thing other moms are telling me about the transition to two kids.

The early days when I believed even having one child would ruin my life because I'd be the worst mother ever. I think we're doing okay though. 

The early days when I believed even having one child would ruin my life because I'd be the worst mother ever. I think we're doing okay though. 

I’m scared I won’t have time for my business, Potions, or my non-profit, The Family Fertility Fund of Saskatchewan. More, I’m worried I’ll no longer make time to fulfill my dream of becoming an author and that the book I’ve been working on for months now will fall to the back burner among the other things that will become neglected: exercise, self-care, showering and probably laughter.

I’m scared I won’t be able to manage my priorities and I’ll become that person who loves the “I’m too busy” or “I’m too tired” excuse. I worry that the things that are important to me as a woman now will become obsolete as I try to keep a newborn alive while simultaneously taking care of my daughter, husband, two businesses and home. And my dreams? What dreams? I've always wanted to be a writer but put those dreams on hold because of my fears and beliefs that I was inadequate. Now that I'm facing those fears and writing anyways, I'm scared to lose the momentum and that those old beliefs of not being good enough will resurface.

I’ve met countless women who, when asked who they are, automatically start with “I’m a mother of two, (name) is (age) and (name) is (age).” I’m afraid I’ll become her: the one who identifies solely as a mother and who has forgotten who the woman underneath is. The mother who believes she isn’t worthy of a quiet bubble bath. The mother who gives so much of herself, selflessly, that she doesn’t feel like there’s time or money or even the energy to invest in herself. I’m scared I’ll lose the person I’ve grown into. I’m scared it’ll take me years to find her again once the second baby is in school. I can’t imagine 3-5 years of just “momming.” Being a mother is an amazing gift and one I am blessed to have received but I don't want to lose myself in the vomit, poopy diapers and haze of exhaustion. I'm horrible for it, I know. 

I wanted another baby with such a desperation and hope that I looked crazy to those not involved in the infertility community. I wanted this! But I’m so scared. And I’m not sure if that’s normal because I’ve been too ashamed of these feelings to ask fellow mothers (of 2+ kids) their opinions.

Amidst all of this swirling anguish and worry, deep down I know I’m speaking from a place of fear. I know once this little rainbow baby is in my arms, I will fall madly in love and all previous doubts will vanish. I will probably willingly accept the sleepless nights and constant sleep interruptions. I know the primitive side of me will awaken and I will just know what to do and how to do it and I’ll mostly do it with love as my motivation. I know my husband and I will argue and fight and probably sleep separately for a long time and I’m sure there will be some nights when it’s welcomed.

Our family of three on vacation to Vancouver Island in June 2017. Vacations will be on pause for awhile but I hope we can take both kids back out west to enjoy!

Our family of three on vacation to Vancouver Island in June 2017. Vacations will be on pause for awhile but I hope we can take both kids back out west to enjoy!

I know this baby will complete our family; probably in a way I can’t even comprehend right now. She or he will be a delight some days, a nightmare on others. And somehow, I know we will all survive these next few years. I hope my tribe will remind me that underneath the messy hair, vomit and soaked breast pads, there’s still a woman in there. She’s just busy right now trying to raise her family but she’s there. She’ll emerge eventually. My time will come to focus on me. My dreams will just be on hold, not crushed as I’m imagining now, as I try to raise the best children I can for my community and planet.

I’ll probably worry and continue to feel scared for these huge life changes coming our way. In the meantime, I’ll be shopping for better breast pads and sleep training books. Wish me luck!

Presence please as a new chapter begins

By Wendy Winiewski

It's been more than two years since the day we found out I was pregnant and 17 months since my daughter was born. I can comfortably say I was at peace with my body for nearly a year after her birth. Although I didn't conceive naturally I carried a pregnancy to term, easily recovered from a cesarean and kept my girl alive exclusively from my body for the first six months of her life through breastfeeding and just recently at more than 16 months of age, we finally had our final feeding.

 

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It's a job I've enjoyed. It was tough the first few months as I fed at her beckon call whether my tired body or aching boobs wanted me to or not. As the months have worn on breastfeeding became one of our favourite times of the day. After a long day of work for me and a long day of toddler-ing for her, it was our moment. The world slowed, our eyes would lock, her free hand felt smooth and light as a feather as it rubbed lovingly along my arm. I've spent the better part of 66 entire days feeding her according to my rough calculations. In our final months it would happen as naturally as most daily tasks. My lap and my legs knew exactly how to fold, my arms found their positioning and her baby body would slide into its spot like a hand in a pair of well worn gloves. Until her final day, we hadn't missed a single day since she was born. I appreciated our feedings as it's something my hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA) ridden body shouldn't even have been able to do. 

Uncertain if she will be the first and last baby I ever have, I hesitated to eliminate this bonding time, if it weren't for that lingering question that's been bouncing around in my brain increasingly in the past few months - "will my cycle return when I stop breastfeeding?" 

"Return" is an interesting concept to me. How can something that hasn't happened naturally for me in more than a decade "return"? I began taking oral contraceptives in 2007. My last 'natural' menstrual cycle would have been immediately before that. Somewhere in there my body lost its rhythm and I'm hoping that the surge of hormones produced during pregnancy, will have been enough to kick start my reproductive system. Nothing I've read scientifically proves this happens, but we've all heard the story about so and so's friend who conceived via reproductive technology then, voila, got pregnant with another child out of the blue. 

The pressure to have a second child is heavy. Not nearly as heavy as the pressure I put on myself and others put on me, to have a first child, but it's still heavy nonetheless. Realistically, it's the only reason I've eliminated breastfeeding. 

We're building a new house. It has three bedrooms on the second floor. It doesn't escape me that tradespeople we encounter during the building process refer to the bedrooms as "the kid's rooms". After-all, any true family has at least two children, right? Many of those within my circle of friends who had children around the time Aeralyn was born, are now pregnant with another. It doesn't escape me that I'm not. It doesn't escape me that I may never be. My cycle may not miraculously return. The remaining embryo, Aeralyn's sibling/twin, waiting for us at our clinic may not survive being thawed. I may not have it in me to go through infertility treatment again.

And so here I am, caught in this place where I wanted to hang onto these special moments with a child who is possibly my one and only, yet knowing I needed to move forward to explore whether we can have a second child.

While it's difficult to enjoy the present while feeling restless about the future, I have managed to do just that. I fully and wholeheartedly breathe her in every. single. day. I put my cell phone away, our television is off during her awake hours, I try to complete the majority of my daily tasks while she's napping, and this allows me to just be present with her. I'm present. It's something I struggled to achieve pror to Aeralyn's birth. It's something I still struggle with now in other elements of my life. Somehow though, I have found present-mindedness, with her.

This poem is one I read years ago:

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It's one I bring to mind often when my days seem busy or my girl is standing in the kitchen reaching up to be held with a book in hand and I have a list a mile long that needs to be completed. Before long I find myself sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor with Aeralyn in my lap, food on the counters, and Old Mother Goose - nursery rhymes animatedly rolling from my mouth... because I never know when it will be the last time.

Her last time nursing is a moment I'm comfortable with. I've been weaning her ever so slowly since roughly eight months old. Eliminating feedings one at a time, and the last feeding, the one before bed literally being eliminated over the course of a month and a half getting progressively shorter each day. I breathed in the moment. My heart fluttered. My emotions came to my eyes but didn't spill over because I know the end of one journey means the beginning of the next.

Now a new journey begins, and that's the journey to growing our family. I hope to be present. Wish us luck...

Take Control of Your Fertility

It seems so easy for some and so difficult for others. What can we do to help our bodies conceive? Photo cred: infertility blogger wakeupsurvivesleep.com

It seems so easy for some and so difficult for others. What can we do to help our bodies conceive? Photo cred: infertility blogger wakeupsurvivesleep.com

As an infertility blogger and advocate and director of an infertility based non-profit, I receive a lot of messages/e-mails in a day. The number one question I get asked is, “what can I do?” They want to get pregnant, have a beautiful full term baby and enjoy the newness of motherhood either again or for the first time. However, it’s not happening as they expected and they’re frustrated with a medical system that continually fails them. Unexplained infertility is on the rise. PCOS diagnoses is on the rise. It seems there are environmental factors at play preventing these women from conceiving that we can’t confidently identify yet. Knowledge is power so here are a few of the tips I suggest*:

*Note: I am not a doctor. I just know what has potential to help and I am sharing my own knowledge and advice based on my own experiences. Consult with your doctor or fertility physician before starting any of these.

 

SUPPLEMENTS and VITAMINS

  • Chasteberry (Vitex)

The go-to herb for women’s issues for centuries, chasteberry is believed to help with fertility hormones via the pituitary gland. It helps increase progesterone production and helps increase the luteinizing hormone hormone (the hormone that triggers ovulation to occur). It’s used to treat mild endometriosis. chasteberry has also proven effective in regulating menstruation. If you lack a proper cycle, take chasteberry. If you’re irregular, take chasteberry. If you need to stabilize your period after coming off of birth control, take chasteberry! It also helps reduce cysts growing in the uterus. DO not use if taking hormone supplements. It could interfere.

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  •  Evening Primrose Oil

Another great fertility aid, evening primrose oil (EPO) offers an array of help for fertility in women. For one, it helps improve overall uterine health and reduces inflammation and PMS symptoms. It also increases cervical mucous production- a vital key in helping sperm make their way home. Sperm need mucous to swim to the ovum. EPO is one of few plants that contain GLA: an omega 6 fatty acid, Gamma Linolenic Acid: a necessary acid required to make prostaglandin E. Prostaglandins are like messengers that tell the cells what to do and when. They are all over the body and therefore secretion is more immediate whereby it helps control the regulation of hormones. These same omega 6 fatty acids are believed to have a direct effect on the uterine cells. It helps the uterine muscle contract and relax, essentially toning and preparing itself for pregnancy. DO not use after ovulation. Natural Fertility Info suggests 1500-3000mg 1-2x a day for cycle days 1-14 if you are actively trying to conceive.

  • Red Raspberry Leaf

Raspberries are delicious but their leaves have immense benefit for the body as well. The leaves are rich in carotendoids, citric acid, vitamins A, B complex, C and E and fragrine; this contributes to its delightful capabilities as a uterine tonic, as an astringent to stop heaving menstrual bleeding, and an aid boost egg quality and nutritional deficiencies. A nutrient rich uterus is far more liable to conceive and carry a healthy baby. It’s also good for uterine trauma: if you’re recovering from a surgery red raspberry leafs healing and toning properties will help in the recovery.

Recommendations show drinking 1 cup, 1-3x a day HOWEVER because of its effect on the uterine muscles, if you have a history of miscarriages or a weak uterus and are wanting to conceive, start drinking this 3-6 months PRIOR to prepare your body and uterus for pregnancy. Similarly, do not drink after cycle day 14 if actively trying to conceive.

There are many other vitamins and supplements you can take such as nettle leaf, fish oil, dandelion and folate but I would be here all day with you explaining them. I chose these three because I believe they are the most effective and beneficial for immediate fertility health. Consult your physician to discuss which course of action is best for you and your diagnosis.

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NUTRITION

The food we put in our body is a big factor to our health, obviously! If you’re eating a lot of greasy, deep fried foods with little to no water and no nutrient dense meals each day, your body won’t give you a baby. We need a variety of fruits, vegetables and proteins combined with lots of water to give our body the optimal nutrition needed. If PCOS is your diagnosis, I strongly suggest seeing a nutritionist to discuss a change in your eating plan. No doubt that person will tell you to eliminate inflammatory foods such as diary, sugar and wheat. Inflammation wreaks havoc on the body. Eliminate the foods that cause you bloating, discomfort, swelling, sore joints etc. for optimal health. Also, eat for the seasons. This was impressed upon me by my homeopath and Carly Rae, a pelvis care specialist and they were both right. It is hard on our bodies to break down cold foods and it’s even harder in winter months. Our bodies work in overdrive to digest these cold foods. It’s suggested you focus on warming the body. In winter months, eat a lot of soups, stews and warming spices like cinnamon and turmeric. Drink golden milks and avoid raw foods (which are also hard on the body to digest). In summer months, eat foods that are in season and cooler. Follow the foods of the seasons and see if that impacts your nutritional health.

Food is thy medicine
— Hippocrates

SEX

This is tough because we all know that conception sex when you’ve been struggling to conceive is ugly and lifeless. We wait til the ovulation test says GO and we mechanically get the job done. But Aimee Raupp, an infertility specialist in NY, suggests having sex three times a week, EVERY week. A lot, I know but hear me (or her!) out. Our bodies see sperm as invaders. It’s actually quite crazy how a baby is even conceived when the body does whatever it can to prevent the sperm from meeting the egg. There’s follicles along the fallopian tubes to trap them. There’s a current they must swim against. There’s two routes to choose with only one having the egg. The egg isn’t easily penetrable. Needless to say, it’s a treacherous journey. With constant sex though, we prime our bodies to be more hospitable to those sperms.

 

ORGASMS

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Again, this is tricky. You could be in the midst of your journey where you stiff star-fish and hubby gets the job done because you’re sick of trying or maybe you’re one of many women who can’t orgasm. But the studies are there and they’re screaming loudly that female orgasm helps conception. The contraction of the uterus during an orgasm helps move the sperm up faster, getting more of them to the egg for optimal penetration (during ovulation of course). Another study showed that when women had their orgasm 45 minutes after male ejaculation (45 minutes though? Does that actually happen?!-just sayin’) there was still significant sperm retention. The retention was even greater when the woman climaxed one minute before her partner (that sounds more like it!). Basically, get your freak on and get it on often and with lots of orgasms. Fellas, take note.

THINGS TO AVOID

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Take a look in your bath tub or medicine cabinet. Look in your make up drawer and under the kitchen skin. Check the ingredients in your products. The products we use affect our health. If your shampoo is loaded with parabens and phthalates, change them. If your cleaning product ingredient label are words you can’t pronounce, ditch them. The internet is riddled with homemade, effective cleaning solutions. More and more companies are exploding into the market that are all natural and safe. It only takes six seconds for a product applied on our skin to get into our blood stream. Many mainstream products are essentially poison. Sodium Lauryl Sulfates (and variations of it) are in many products, usually as the number one ingredient after water, (ingredient labels are labelled in order of highest to lowest concentration), and is what gives us “lather.” It’s a known skin irritant and there’s strong link to hormonal imbalances (not good for the woman with fertility/reproductive issues!) among other issues such as poor eye development in children. If you are unsure about the product you’re using, download the app Think Dirty or check with the EWG.org website. Ditch the chemicals and spend the extra time and money on finding products that enhance your health, not endanger it.

OPTIONAL PROCEDURES

Fertility massage or ATMAT  can help break down adhesions and promote better circulation

Fertility massage or ATMAT  can help break down adhesions and promote better circulation

To maximize fertility, there are a few other options to consider. Fertility acupuncture is available. Chiropractic techniques can help in aiding fertility. Massage for promoting circulation and fertility are viable and relaxing options too. If your period colour is a deep burgundy red, your circulation is poor. You should have periods that are an oxygenated bright red colour. If it’s not, see your doctor or a homeopath or naturopath. Homeopaths and Naturopaths offer a completely different approach as well. My homeopath helped me strength my uterine lining, oxygenate my blood and ensure my nutrition was on the right track. Yoga for fertility is also an option. There are a lot of videos and practitioners willing to do sequences to maximize uterine health. Arvigo Techniques Maya Abdomnal Therapy (ATMAT) is another modality to consider. It’s a massage technique designed to align the internal organs and the uterus in their proper place. It improves the flow of fluids and energy and releases physical and emotional congestion. Look for a provider near you. If you’re in the Saskatoon area, I highly recommend Carly Rae for this. Perhaps if your infertility is unexplained; I would suggest a reiki session. It's an energy modality that helps release emotional and physical blocks and channel positive, universal energy that can work wonders on the physical body.

I hope this blog post leaves you feeling educated, empowered and inspired to take different actions. There’s much we can do for our bodies if we only have the knowledge and wherewithal to do it. Some are financially feasible while others may require some saving on your part, especially if you don’t have benefits. Some changes are difficult (what do you mean give up ice cream and cheesy buns?) and some may seem simple (ok, I can have a cup a tea today). Whatever you decide to do with this information, make sure you consult with your doctor. If you have a diagnosis already, much of this information may be futile to you. If it’s unexplained, this could be very beneficial. However, knowledge is power. Take this power and take control of your fertility.

 

 

Excuse Me While I Disconnect

I am addicted to my phone. I’m the first to admit it and the first to get defensive when someone calls me out on it. My husband is the same. And a phone addiction does not bode well for marriage or family life. He would get mad at me for using mine and I’d get mad at him for his. We were at a stalemate. We both knew we had no right to complain about the other because we were both equally terrible; him for his games (I curse you Clash of Clans!) and Flipboard, me for social media and working outside of work hours. It was out of control. Plus, we were becoming increasingly concerned over how our bad habits were affecting our daughter. She’d repeat herself over and over because we weren’t listening and had recently started saying, “look up from your phone!” RED FLAG, right?

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Science is showing there’s huge issues with cell phone use and, specifically, social media. It’s time we start listening and doing something about it, especially if you have little kids who are always watching. The notifications we receive trigger the release of dopamine, the pleasure juice, in our brains. That little sound or symbol announcing someone has reacted to us in some way keeps us hooked to it, the same way people become addicted to drugs or sex: the pleasure dopamine releases keeps us coming back for more. Dopamine is created in many areas of the brain and is linked to many brain functions such as thinking, sleeping, mood, attention and reward. We’re a society addicted to instant gratification and our phones are the perfect tool to obtain it. We’ve become addicted to social media and its likes and shares. We’ve become addicted to gaming. We’re addicted to the “know”: if you need to know something -- anytime, anywhere -- Google it. I’m addicted to social media and the “know”, plus the habit of constantly looking at my phone mindlessly. It was becoming a serious problem for me but there aren’t steps or help available yet for internet/phone/social media addiction. I had to do something though so, after some careful research, my husband and I agreed to both implement some changes.

I have to believe there are many more people in this same boat: addicted to social media and the “pings” of likes and messages or hooked on games or obsessed with watching stocks or watching YouTube videos. So here’s what we did to start:

 

1.       Make folders on your phone. Organize your apps. Put them into the folders. Push them to the second ‘page’ of your phone. Dopamine loves colour and we now associate certain colours with certain apps (blue, anyone?) so keep your main page void of triggering and brain excitable colours.

The main page of my phone. Limited colour, no "fun" apps. 

The main page of my phone. Limited colour, no "fun" apps. 

The second page has all my folders and apps

The second page has all my folders and apps

2.       Delete the apps you really don’t need. Do you really need four recipe apps? For me this was Facebook, games and my Kindle.

3.       Turn off notifications. Don’t let those “pings” get to you!

4.       If you do a lot of work from your phone, download Hootsuite or another similar app to schedule posts. Take an hour to get them ready and scheduled and walk away! The app will do the rest.

5.       Start with a simple rule to get into the flow of change. For us, it was no electronics in our bedroom. This meant no more computers, phones or TV allowed. It also meant investing in an alarm clock.

These few rules were easy to get into. Logging into Facebook from my web browser felt more like a pain than it was worth so my social media time cut back significantly and immediately. I had thought turning on the Night Shift display on my phone wouldn’t trigger my brain as much so I was constantly using my Kindle before bed. But I quickly learned that the disease I thought I had from my constant, unexplainable exhaustion was in fact from using my device before bed. What a relief to know I wasn’t dying!

Those five rules still apply but we’ve now gone deeper since. We’ve now decided no phones AT ALL after 7 pm. They get left in the kitchen and we walk away. Of course, if the phone rings we will answer it but it rarely happens for us these days! Once we are ready for bed, phones go on silent. I thought it would be a hard transition but the benefits are outweighing the discomfort. Here’s how:

1.       I never realized how addicted I was to my phone until I didn’t have it beside me. Now, when I’m in bed and I pause while reading or journaling, I will AUTOMATICALLY reach for my phone without thinking! How crazy is that!? Think of how many times I was picking up my phone unconsciously with it always so close! However, knowing this makes me fight harder to get over this and be more conscious when I do have my phone nearby.

2.       My quality of sleep has improved 1000%. Like I mentioned before, I was beginning to think there was something seriously wrong with me because I was so exhausted all the time. I was lethargic and foggy, moody and irritable a lot of the time but especially in the mornings. I changed my diet, bed time, number of hours I was sleeping, pillows, you name it only to discover it was using my phone right up until bedtime that was keeping me from a restful sleep. I sleep like a peaceful baby now and sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night blown away I have so many more hours to sleep because I will feel so rested already by 2am or so.

3.       My circadian rhythm is re-balanced. Similar to above, my body is more in tune with its natural rhythms and cycles now. Before we would stay up later than necessary only to find that second wind that would keep us up even later and in turn, we’d sleep in later than we wanted. We now go to sleep when our bodies demand it, usually around 9:30 and are up at 6am with no troubles. We wake up refreshed, energized and ready for the day! Also, a 6am wake up sets a really good tone for our day. We are usually up before our daughter so that means we can get some quiet, uninterrupted things done. For me, that’s typically a yoga session and a hot cup of coffee. For my husband, it’s stretching and a long, hot shower. We make a healthy breakfast now instead of mad dashing to the kitchen to throw smoothies together before running out the door as we did previous to our phone disconnection.

4.       My marriage is improved. Can you say pillow talk?! Lots and lots of pillow talk! My husband and I communicate so much more now that sometimes I look at him and think, “I’m still learning so much about you and its been over a decade together.” I feel like I’m falling in love with pieces of him all over again and learning new pieces that have since fallen into place in him. We actually talk now in the bedroom versus us getting into bed and picking up our phones. There’s no showing each other videos or articles, music with headphones or social media. It’s just chats and whatever else is supposed to happen in a marital bed! Our bedroom is more intimate and cozy now; something that wasn’t at its full potential with phones and TV in the way.

5.       Our family time is more meaningful and plentiful. We spend more time together as a family. We bake goodies, play board games, snuggle under the blankets with the occasional movie or TV show and we talk more. We’re currently teaching our daughter about gratitude and spending time each night to share what we are feeling grateful for that day. I don’t know if our more mindful presence is the contributing factor but our daughter is also a better listener and helper. I don’t have to ask twice for her to clean her room anymore!

Just one of our new family evening hobbies: baking! She's always so excited to lick the beaters!

Just one of our new family evening hobbies: baking! She's always so excited to lick the beaters!

6.       I’m more conscious of the time I do spend on my phone. I run my business, a non-profit and my blog from my phone so it’s easy to be a slave to it. I was so scared of losing business or readers or opportunities if I wasn’t available 24/7 that I kept my phone near me at all times. Now I know that I can operate on normal business hours and the messages and emails can wait until “open” the next morning. When I do want to surf because, let’s face it, social media and the internet can be really fun and informative, I set an alarm on my phone and will give myself an allotted block of time for it. Otherwise it’s easy to start scrolling only to look up and see that an hour or two has passed. It sucks you in! An alarm keeps me in check and knowing I have only 20 minutes makes me more apt to read articles that interest me (like mindbodygreen.com) than to scroll Facebook.  

7.       I’m already detaching from my phone. When I’m in public or with friends, I keep my phone put away now. This has allowed me to have nice conversations with strangers, witness beautiful things happening around me and be a more active listener for my friends and family. I’m actually annoyed now when I’m with people who are constantly texting/on their phone in my presence. Be respectful of your friendship/relationship and be present. In that moment, that connection is all that matters and it’s more meaningful than anything you’re seeking through text/social media/internet. BE PRESENT.

All of these changes began about a month ago so the transformation is quick and incredible. I can only imagine how life will be in a few more weeks or even months as we become even more present and mindful. If any of our addictive habits with our phones/electronics resonates with you, I urge you to adopt a couple of our rules and try it yourself. It really is a huge benefit to yourself and everyone around you.

 

The Curse of Woman

I recently attended my first women’s retreat just outside Saskatoon, SK. It was a wonderful getaway filled with crafting, laughing and connecting. I have never spent that kind of time with a large group of women before and I was blown away by the similarities between all of us despite all our many differences: when asked “who are you?” 17 out of the 19 women started with “I’m a mother of (number of children), (name) is (age) and (name) is almost (age).” The second similarity I found was this: every single one of them could name 4+ flaws about themselves but yet, they struggled to name one positive thing that made them special. The third similarity I discovered was that they all loved so deeply but were almost cursed by it because they felt either taken advantage of, felt guilty for taking personal time or felt it wasn’t reciprocated the way they wanted. The fourth, and maybe saddest, similarity was each women’s confusion when asked what made her happy.

MIND BLOWN.

I started calling these similarities "the curse of woman". Over 98% of us identified ourselves as mothers first. We all felt lost trying to find a special quality and we were quick to berate ourselves. Most of us saw our loving nature as both special and flawed. Few of us could remember what made us happy.

If that many women felt that way in that small room, there must be more of us.

Think of how many people you know whose entire existence revolves around motherhood. I’d bet she feels guilty for doing things for herself. I’d also bet that she gives and gives and gives and has a cup that seems to always be dry. I bet she’s exhausted but happy to dote on her children. I bet she doesn’t spend much time away from them. She probably feels guilty for leaving them with Dad or Grandma or a babysitter. I bet she doesn’t know what makes her happy anymore because she’s been trying to help her kids find theirs. I bet she feels happy that they are happy but utterly lost when she takes a small, fleeting moment to contemplate her own. This is the curse of woman.

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As mothers we have the most important role in life. It’s our job to keep them alive, fed, clothed, hydrated, healthy and clean. We ensure they use their manners, do their homework and try at least one sport a year. We kiss them, cuddle them, tickle them and sometimes want to throttle them. We are trying to teach them how to be functional members of society while also fostering their innocent wildness so they become the unique individuals they are destined to be. We are the teacher, the moderator, the voice of reason, the judge, the boss, the discipliner, the nurturer, the driver, the coach, the rememberer, the confidant. It is exhausting. But want to know what’s more exhausting? Trying to do all that on the fumes of the person you used to be. This mom guilt over self-care needs to end now. We are no good to anybody if we haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in months or haven’t had a shower in a week. You need energy and vitality and, even more than those, you need a life you don't want to escape from. 

I don’t berate mothers for putting their role as mothers first. It’s important and special and wonderful. For some women, it becomes more than a role. Motherhood is their life. Motherhood is their identity and reason for living. That’s a beautiful sentiment and belief. BUT, is she also making time for herself, as a women, as an individual or even as a wife? Is she setting a good example for her kids if she’s frazzled and unkempt and not doing anything outside of motherhood to benefit herself?

You can't fill another's cup if your own isn't overflowing with energy, love and self-respect. Honour your body. Love yourself. Mothers need it most. 

You can't fill another's cup if your own isn't overflowing with energy, love and self-respect. Honour your body. Love yourself. Mothers need it most. 

Also, the flaws! Goodness, the flaws these women see in themselves is bonkers! When asked what made them special, many floundered and couldn’t come up with anything to say confidently or with surety. But when asked what their Darkness was, they had lists.

WHY?

Is it human nature to do this? Is it societal influence that’s molded us into belittling ourselves? Has some collective unconscious shift happened that makes us focus on our Darkness instead of our Light?

It seems we all do it. And those that don’t get judged as conceited or arrogant or self-absorbed. It’s a lose-lose, really.

When prompted to acknowledge their special attributes, many said their ability to love. Is the influence from motherhood or the Divine Feminine running through our blood that makes so many of us love so fiercely? We love our partner and our children and our families and friends and pets so hard that sometimes we look at the actions we’ve taken in the name of love and wonder, was it worth it? Was giving my all in that unreciprocated friendship worth all that time? Or did it benefit me to lose half of myself in that man? Did dedicating myself so fully to motherhood for so long leave me bereft of pieces of the person I use to be?

Which leads to the last similarity: few women could confidently list what makes them happy. It’s understandable when you’re so busy raising children; Who has time to focus on what makes them happy? Even when we know, we feel guilty for indulging in it. It’s a common story for moms who spend so many of their hours dedicated to their family. We spend a lot of time putting others first. Actually, it may be fair to say we spend all of our time putting others first. What is happiness on a personal level when you’re wanting your kids to be happy and maybe also your husband, pet, co-workers, boss, friends and/or neighbours?!

These curses all tie together.

Woman + baby + societal influence (or some other factor) = a Mother with no time to herself, guilt over the time spent on herself if she takes it but she’s not actually sure what makes her happy because she’s so busy and involved with others and because of that, she’s lost her personal happiness and a small bit of the person she was Pre-Mom life

 

 Does that resonate with you? It sure does for me!

I used to feel guilty for wanting alone time. I used to feel guilty for spending money on myself. I feel like motherhood has given me so many blessings but has taken a lot from me. My freedom is gone, my carefree lifestyle is gone. My independence is gone. I obviously wouldn’t trade it for the world but there’s this dark side to motherhood we rarely discuss openly, let alone on a public forum like this! I’ve spent so much time focusing on my husband and his business, my daughter and her upbringing, our new house and maintenance, my business and its success that sometimes when I stop and reflect, I’ll think, “Kelsey, are you still in there? What can I do today to love you?” Lately, I've been committing to small steps that lead towards my best life. I'm cooking for pleasure more. I read more books and do yoga in the living room where my daughter can see me. Sometimes I just like to scroll social media and watch Instagram stories. The guilt will attempt to weasel its way in but I can quickly squash it because I know that it’s important that I make time for myself now. Self-care is more than escaping the chaos. Self-care is doing little actions that have big benefits, specifically long term. My dream life requires a lot of work so self-care is a priority. So my mornings consist of exercise, yoga, journalling, working on my business, planning blog posts, cleaning my house and/or snuggles with my daughter. My family knows when I’ve been putting my self-care on the back burner; it shows. So I also make conscious efforts to spend time with myself. From bubble baths to daytime naps to having a hot cup of coffee before the rest of the house wakes, I am loving myself by filling my cup as best as I can. My advice, despite my lack of expertise: take more bubble baths. Find a monthly women’s circle. Massage your own feet. Read ten pages of a book each night before bed. Walk in the forest.  Show your kids how amazing life is. Make time for yourself. It’s allowed. Hell, it’s welcomed! There should be zero guilt when you are teaching your kids the importance of loving yourself. Lead by example and the kids will thrive in their own journeys towards self-fulfillment, self-love, success and self-care.

Little eyes are always watching, absorbing and processing. They mimic. Let them mimic love. Photo cred: Ellen Elizabeth Photography

Little eyes are always watching, absorbing and processing. They mimic. Let them mimic love. Photo cred: Ellen Elizabeth Photography

So it’s time to break the curse of woman. It’s time to love yourself like you are your most sacred, most beautiful best friend in the entire world. You need to love her like she deserves to be loved. You need to be able to confidently and loudly say, “THIS is why I’m special. And this is too. And that too. I am all kinds of unique and awesomeness.” The time has also come to accept our Darkness. You can’t have Light without Dark, nor Dark without Light. We are imperfect beings. We always will be. Trying to shine Light and illuminate every single little flaw will only drive you crazy with self-loathing and be a waste of your time. So own your flaws. The people who love you know them and accept you for them regardless. More often than not, your good qualities will far outweigh the bad. If they don’t, well, that’s another post! It’s also time to welcome acts of self-care into your world. Motherhood is hard; motherhood is harder when you’re running on empty. Ignore the guilt that tries to encroach upon you and see the benefits to everyone around you when you fill your cup. Your filled cup is what paves the way for an incredibly full and vibrant life for many around you, especially your children. Self-care shows them the importance of doing the crappy little jobs that lead to big rewards later (like saving 10% of each pay cheque or getting up at 6 am everyday)! It teaches them the value of honouring your body. It's teaching by example how incredible life can be when you work towards the things you want and desire. It's so much more than bubble baths and chocolate -- although, both are wonderful!

The time for the Woman to rise has come. It’s time we rise up to meet our full potential and embrace the dirty, messy, glorious, wonderfulness that is Her. Mothers are the most special creatures on Earth; they deserve the bubble baths and girl's nights out and make-out sessions and sleep-ins and yoga memberships. So rise, Woman. Be the divine, loving, happy woman who shines so brightly, others want to know her and are inspired by her. Be your best self. Do it for your family, your community and more importantly, do it for yourself.

 

 

Motherhood. It's #allofthethings

Last week my sweet baby turned one. He is a legit walking, talking (okay mostly babbling) little human being. A little human being who has amazed me, challenged me, and taught me more about life and love in the last year than I could have imagined possible.

Motherhood is way more than I thought it would be. It's all encompassing and it's full of surprises. It's exhausting, its thankless at times and it's FULL of rewards.  In the last year I have experienced every emotion the human soul can, I've done things I didn't think I was capable of doing, I've felt like a superhero and I've been sure I was a failure. There are no parameters to motherhood, no hard and fast rules, and no way to be prepared for most of it. Motherhood is SO many things.

It's seeing the adoration in his bright little eyes when he looks at you like you are the only thing in his world.

It's eating bites of food off his highchair tray in between sips of re-heated coffee for breakfast. And sometimes lunch. And sometimes dinner. 

It's a top knot and sweatpants. And probably food / milk / puke on your shirt.

It's turning absolutely anything you say into a song to calm the crying. Or whining. Or both.

It's waking up at 12am. And 3am. And 5am. Its learning to power through on broken, interrupted sleep. 

It's seeing him take his first steps and cheering and clapping, and then bursting into tears. 

It's struggling to accept that your body is forever changed. It's leaning into and celebrating the change. 

It's being out for a much needed drink with your friends and praying the text that just came through says "He's fast asleep!" instead of "When can he have advil...?" #teethingmonster

It's wanting a break SO BAD and then missing him when you get it. 

It's watching him sleep and listening to him breathe instead of looking at your to do list. 

It's forgetting if you've done something/ bought something / called someone back.... seriously I can't remember shit... #imsotired

It's being exhausted and emotional and still being expected to be all of the things to all of the people. 

It's learning to sleep sitting up with him on you, or beside you, or between you, because getting him to sleep trumps where he sleeps that night. 

It's the feeling you get when he only wants his mama. 

It's playing peekaboo through the shower curtain so you can wash your damn hair (but probably not blow dry it).

It's missing out on plans, and parties and spur of the moment things. And being totally okay with it (like 95% of the time). 

It's asking for help. Because it really does take a village. And sometimes the village is family and friends.... and sometimes it is the Superstore click and collect and a Starbucks drive through #allofthecoffee.

It's your heart bursting and breaking at the same time. With love, and awe, and wistfulness at the time going by way too quickly. 

It's a 24 hour a day gig. And it's the best gig I've ever had. 

xo. 

Megan

photo: Nicole Romanoff Photography

photo: Nicole Romanoff Photography

Angel Babies and Silver Linings

I never wanted to have kids. Ever. I was eight the first time I remember saying I didn’t want to ever be a mom. I had big goals and motherhood wasn’t one of them. Then I entered a relationship in my early 20’s that had me living in a new world immersed in love, affection, deep conversations, mutual support and more.  I finally understood why people want to have children. We want to create an expression of the intimacy we share with someone; a joining of two to blend our love and lives forever. The idea of becoming a mother to his child took root. It felt right and wanted. We knew we would be together forever. We stopped using contraceptives and banked on our affection bearing a new love between us, of us.

My handsome hubby, Clayton and I 

My handsome hubby, Clayton and I 

 

But years of endometriosis, surgeries, debilitating periods, tears and frustration led us to believe that maybe we were destined to be the cool Aunt and Uncle, not the cool Mom and Dad. We made peace with my infertility. We envisioned travelling the world, sending exotic gifts to our nieces and nephews. We began to focus more heavily on a future that involved successful careers, long hours and hard work.

Fast forward to age 28. I’m in the middle of my degree and working full time. I’m standing outside Subway on Cumberland Avenue in the frigid winter sunshine, tears spilling out of my face as I call my fiancé (and now husband) to tell him I am pregnant. To say we were shocked is an understatement. We had JUST accepted our childless future six weeks prior and we had finally found peace. A baby no longer fit into our plans. But what’s that saying? Tell God your plans and you’ll hear Him laugh? So here we were, January 2013 expecting a child, unprepared for our future as parents and scared to death.

After having an easy pregnancy, we met our healthy baby girl and the future we had envisioned no longer held the appeal it once did. I didn’t know how empty my life was until she entered it. She was an exceptionally happy baby who slept through the night by 13 weeks and who showed me what unconditional love looked like. She was ecstatic to see us every day. She woke up every morning with a smile and a look of “I’m alive? I get to do this again today? Wow!” She was and still is, amazing.

As we got to know her, we wanted more kids. We wanted to grow our family and continue reveling in this newfound joy and different way of being present in the world, as individuals and as parents.

At the time of writing, the Universe seems to have made different plans for us. Or rather, an undoing of plans.

It's been four years since welcoming our daughter and I have had as many miscarriages. The first was during our daughter’s first birthday party, when I started miscarrying at 10 weeks. The second took place the day before a trip to Banff, when I was seven weeks pregnant. For the third, I made it one week more before my miscarriage started at eight weeks. My most recent was the shortest pregnancy, at five weeks it came to an end while we were camping this summer.

Sometimes I wish I had the infertility card back, not the recurrent miscarriage card. With my infertility I never learned what this kind of hope felt like. My hopes as an infertile woman were full of longing and prayers and anticipation that this treatment would work.  Pregnancy after miscarriages brings a flicker of hope that never fully catches ablaze. My days of pregnancy excitement are behind me. Now, a positive test means despair, anxiety, fear and horrible thoughts. All while desperately trying to convince my body and heart that THIS pregnancy will be the one that sticks.

One of the many positive tests I've gotten that left me with negative feelings

One of the many positive tests I've gotten that left me with negative feelings

 

I spend those early days moving slowly so as not to induce bleeding. I take progesterone and vitamins and homeopathic remedies. I talk to the Universe/Spirit/God/ [insert whatever you connect with here]. I pray fervently and meditate daily. I go for acupuncture and practice yoga. I repeat mantras and affirmations incessantly. And still, I miscarry. Those spiritual exercises cause me to doubt the entire Universe. I doubt my intuition. I question every food I ate, every move I made, everything I could’ve or should’ve done but didn’t.

I don’t share this to make you feel sorry for me but to illustrate how tragic this journey has been. Not only for me either, but my husband and daughter, our family and friends. Watching someone you love suffer renders most people helpless. There’s not much anyone can do except hold space and witness as we’re grieving a loss.

I do share this because I have found so many silver linings in my dark clouded days. I started my blog, What We Don’t Do, when I was pregnant with my third angel baby. Having an outlet to share my grief and anger allowed me to release it as opposed to bottling it up and letting it fester. Blogging saved me. I used stream of consciousness while I wrote so I inevitably released a lot of thoughts, feelings and emotions I hadn’t recognized before. It was cathartic, liberating and more importantly, healing.

Another silver lining was, while I couldn’t necessarily always help myself, I was able to reach and help hundreds of women in similar circumstances. The messages and emails I’ve received since starting WWDD has made every tear shed worth it. My words have helped others cope and there’s no better feeling than knowing you are helping someone, somewhere. I am serving a community of largely voiceless women by becoming an obnoxiously loud voice for our fertility community!

Also, I had the bewildering experience to be invited on to CBC Saskatoon’s morning radio show to discuss my miscarriages and the response the miscarriage blog post received. That post was read in over 25 countries and over 7,000 times. Writing those numbers still brings tears of gratitude and awe! Through that interview, I reconnected with an old co-worker who approached me with an idea she had: she wanted to start a non-profit organization that raised money for families to help pay for fertility treatments. She asked for my help in making it a reality. From there, Dr. Adrian Gamelin, the Director of the Aurora Fertility Clinic in Saskatoon, who was co-interviewed with me on CBC, introduced us to Wendy Winiewski, a Global news anchor and fellow infertility Phoenix mama (a woman who has heroically risen from the ashes of infertility/pregnancy loss/perinatal loss). Her daughter Aeralyn was conceived through IVF and Wendy has shared her journey and reached hundreds of women through her Instagram account a.voice.of.infertility. The three of us are an unlikely combo but yet, we shine together. We’ve raised almost $10,000 in three months and will continue to raise more as we increase awareness surrounding infertility and fight for affordable treatments.

Dani, the brains; me, the soul; Wendy, the heart behind the Family Fertility Fund of Sask

Dani, the brains; me, the soul; Wendy, the heart behind the Family Fertility Fund of Sask

 

The final and most significant silver lining is how much I’ve changed. Prior to my struggle, I never knew heartbreaking loss before. I had never lost someone close to me. I had never faced death or severe illness nor knew anyone in my inner circle of friends and family who did either. I always had a roof over my head, food in my tummy, clothes on my back. I never had to struggle for basic survival like millions of people do on this planet. I didn’t know tragedy or true despair. Until four years ago, I had it pretty good. I still have it pretty good but my pieces have crumbled to nothing only to be put back together again, albeit differently. I believe that through pain comes incredible new beginnings. Sometimes we can’t appreciate the good without knowing, really knowing, the bad.

a captured laugh at our FFFS photo shoot

a captured laugh at our FFFS photo shoot

I am stronger now. I have a resiliency and emotional intelligence that was never there before. I am wiser yet softer, more forgiving and understanding. I appreciate the mundane in each day and take time to stop and take in moments more often. I find the joy in a summer thunderstorm and feel the comfort of a campfire like a warm blanket. I love harder and hug longer. I listen better and hold unwavering faith. I am not ready to back down yet. I still want another baby and I will try to have another baby. I have fight left in me.

But regardless of how my story ends, I know it has been exactly how it’s meant to go.  If I never give my daughter a sibling all of these struggles were to teach me a bigger lesson than having a baby can bring.  Life is unfolding and undoing exactly as it should. I’ve made peace with my recurrent miscarriages. I have four guardian angels watching out for me now and guiding me towards the Light. That’s a silver lining that can’t be denied. We need more women who are strong, resilient and rising again to become the change the world needs. I’m happily stepping forward as a Phoenix Mama and can only pray my growth doesn’t end here. The lessons are in the journey, both in the good and the bad. But whatever may come, I will rise again.

 

The Difference A Year Makes

Today I turn 34 years old (happy birthday to me!). Birthdays are milestones, and milestones cause reflection for me, this year perhaps more than usual.

Flashback to one year ago today- I had just days before my 33rd birthday found out I was pregnant (surprise!), and my entire life shifted in every way possible. The year to follow would turn out to be one of the most challenging and rewarding of my entire life. I met the love of my life almost 5 months ago... his name is Asher, he is an amazing and beautiful tiny human and he is my son.

Last March I was running a business, managing a team and creating jewelry on the side. Fast forward one year.... I spend my days nursing, changing diapers, singing rounds of "How funky is your chicken" and making faces to get giant smiles out of my little mister. I get puked on roughly 12 times a day. All of my clothes were black...now they are puke stained black. I am a different person now that I have a child. I didn't think I would be, but it is impossible not to be - I have another human being who is an extension of me. Through the ups and downs of the last year, going through a not so comfortable pregnancy ( that is a whole other blog post!), and navigating the early days of parenthood with my partner, I have learned many things - and many things have shifted.

Most of my life I struggled with saying yes - to people, projects, plans. I wanted to do #allofthethings, and I wanted to do them myself. Instead of delegating tasks and projects at work -something my boss had been trying to teach me for months (hi Anna!)-I hoarded them all because I wanted to be a part of everything. It wasn't really working for me then, and it very quickly stopped working for me when I became pregnant. It was then that I (finally) learned a very beautiful thing... I learned to say no. I learned to delegate to my team, and how to lift people up and help them grow by playing to their strengths. I learned how to put myself first, because now I really had to... and I learned that is not selfish, it is powerful.

Asking for help has never been my forte, in any setting. I could do #allofthethings myself, and handle any curve-ball life threw at me alone, why would I ask for help?! Another beautiful lesson that I learned this past year. You know what happens when you ask people for help? They help you. I know right?! Whether I needed help with a project at work, moving into our house before baby came, or now needing support in taking steps to deal with post partum anxiety - I learned asking for help means my people will help me. With love, and without judgement.

"Living in the moment" has taken on a new meaning to me. What used to mean spur of the moment plans, or turning a morning breakfast date into afternoon patio drinks and laughs with my bestie, became letting Asher nap on me for 2 hours and soaking in his little baby snores. It's pressing pause on writing this blog post 5 times to bring him laughing onto my lap and play with his little baby feet. While I miss those all day adventures, and staying up late laughing into the night, I know they will come again. This little man will not cuddle me all day forever (whyyyyy?!), and so I pause, and I enjoy. Most days don't go according to plan right now. Plans go awry, tasks don't get done on time and now? I go with it.

I've always found the little things in life to bring the most joy, and I've realized a new appreciation for those little things in the last year. A full cup of hot coffee, an extra long hug, five more minutes of sleep (any more minutes of sleep!). A partner who tidies the house as he walks in the door from work, a friend who sends a simple heart emoji in the middle of a rough day, a gummy baby smile from my son. I have found that these little things are the big things to me now.  A year ago I packed a million tasks and plans into my days, rarely taking the time to slow down and pay attention, opting instead for the self inflicted busy-ness I thrived on. In the past year, I have discovered a newfound appreciation for my partner, for myself, for time. These days I find supreme excitement in purchasing the stroller I wanted instead of new suede booties for myself, I plan Asher's outfits for outings instead of my own (because I will be wearing puke stained all black, obviously). Social engagements after 7:30pm require more planning and a breast pump and wandering the aisles at Superstore doubles as "me time". I find myself content and really, I wouldn't change a thing.... except the puke stained clothes.

xo,

Megan