Sometimes, being a good mom means asking for help. It is so tempting to think we need to do everything ourselves. I am one of those people who wants to be in complete control of my life and family. I like figuring out routines and knowing what will happen at any given moment. When my mom watched my 10 month-old son for an overnight, I put together a detailed schedule that she could follow to make sure his routine didn’t vary much. I have repeated this for every overnight since – with an amended schedule as he got older. However, even I remember two distinct times while parenting my son that I really could have used some help from someone else.
This sleep regression hit my husband and me so hard! Our son had been sleeping so well! He would reliably sleep 7 hours for his first stretch for over a month. And then, right around Thanksgiving, that gradually grew shorter until he was up every hour. We tried everything!
Nothing seemed to work! We would have a good night and try to mimic exactly what we did the day before…and then we’d have a horrible night. I remember pushing my little guy in the stroller for hours to try to get him to have a nice long nap during the day – and then complaining to my grumpy baby in the middle of the night that he was supposed to be sleeping well after all that napping.
My husband and I were so. tired. We needed a break. We needed someone to come in and help us wrap our heads around this lack of sleep. What we did was read a bunch of opinions and buy a bunch of stuff that was supposed to help.
In the end, he eventually started sleeping better at some point. I also decided to just accept waking up three times a night. That acceptance made it much more manageable. But if I could have gotten some more sleep before then, I probably would have been a much happier person.
This was such a difficult phase in parenthood that I don’t even like thinking about it! I was so stubborn and unable to accept that my little one needed something different. I was used to a specific routine – one that had worked amazingly well for months. So when my baby started to resist his afternoon nap, I tried to power through. I would rock him for over an hour. Outwardly, I was calm and loving. But on the inside I was brimming with anger. Just go to sleep! I would think to myself, over and over. I even rocked a bit too fast and rubbed his back a little harder than was necessary. I was at my wits end, thinking about all the things I had planned to do during that nap that just wasn’t happening.
I could have reached out. I could have asked some other moms what they thought was going on or looked into parenting resources. But I figured it was my job to sort it out by myself. I was the mom, after all.
There will be times in parenting that a little help can go a long way. I wish I had surrendered some of the control at those points in parenting. I would still be “mom” but maybe just a calmer, better rested mom.
Are you struggling right now? If so, please take a moment to think about ways that you could let go or let someone else help out. Remember – your needs matter, too, and you deserve a break just like everyone else.
A few days after my son was born, my husband and I needed to buy something from the drug store. I don’t remember what it was, I only remember that at first we assumed my husband would get it but then decided that he should watch the baby and I would walk the few blocks to the store. It was a beautiful August day. I let the warm sun soak into my skin and marveled at how nice it felt to do something so ordinary. Bringing home our son felt like all the pieces of our life were thrown into a bag, shaken up, and then scattered onto the ground. I felt completely changed and had no idea when normalcy would return. That walk felt amazing.
When I got to the store, I found what we needed and impulsively picked up a king-sized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups pack while I waited in line. (It took a few days for me to remember it was in my bag and finally get to eat it.) When it was my turn at the register, the cashier and I exchanged pleasantries and remarked at how beautiful the day was. She lamented the fact that she had to work. “By the time I get off work, it’s supposed to change to rain,” she sighed. I felt a bubble of desire to explain what I had been doing before my trip to the store – the baby at home who was either crying, sucking desperately from my sore nipples, or sleeping on my chest – but it seemed too surreal to mention in the fluorescent-lit store. How could I explain the combination of joy and exhaustion to this young clerk? Could she possibly understand what it’s like to have another being depend solely on you for survival? Were there even words in the English language to express how hard it was for me to be just a few blocks away from my new son even though I desperately craved a break?
I ended up saying nothing – just smiled and nodded at her wish to be outside. When I got home, I learned that baby boy had slept all of 5 minutes after I left and screamed the rest of the time I was gone. This started the struggle I have continued to have with leaving him with not-Mom. And I still don’t know how to explain to people without children what it’s like to suddenly be a parent and carry so much weight.
All families are different and responsibilities settle themselves in various ways depending on the individuals. However, the majority of the time, there is one individual who becomes the “default parent” and it is usually the mom.
The day my son was born, I tried to determine the emotion I felt. I knew people often referred to that day as being “the happiest day of their life.” But that didn’t seem right. To me, it was like an eclipse occurred. I was no longer the center of my universe but now this new person shared the space with me. And while my life has settled down for the most part and I can go for a walk by myself without feeling torn, I still cannot do anything without first considering how the act will impact my son. My heart and soul have grown to include another being.
How do we tackle huge obstacles? Do we just jump in head first and try to accomplish it all at once or is it easier to take small steps, spreading it out over time? As someone who has trained for many endurance events, I know the latter is the best policy! No one should run a marathon without training for it, just as making gradual payments for a doula can make the process much easier to accomplish.
At New Day Doula, we know having a baby today ain’t cheap! Not only do you have many, many prenatal doctor’s appointments and a birth to pay for, but there are all those teeny-tiny clothes, car seats, strollers, cribs, and miscellaneous-extras-that-babies-just-have-to-have to add on! With all this to worry about, it’s no wonder expecting families are a little overwhelmed with the prospect of paying for a doula.
We want to make this easier for you! Having a doula can greatly improve a woman’s overall satisfaction with her labor and delivery. Even ACOG (the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) is promoting the use of a doula! We want you to be able to hire us so that we can help you have the best birth possible. To help you do that, we’ve created an adjustable payment plan. This plan breaks down payments into easier chunks, which you pay every 5 weeks. The one here starts at 20 weeks, but it can be adjusted to start however far along you are.
Small steps can make a daunting prospect seem much more attainable! We are more than happy to help you in this task as well as your birth goals! Just let us know you’d like to consider a payment plan when you schedule your consultation.
The upcoming election has me thinking about options. We are so fortunate in this society to have so many options surrounding where we live, what we eat, the clothes we buy, who we vote for, and even how we choose to watch our favorite television series. Having children will drastically change one’s life and we are so fortunate that individuals here are able to make that decision for themselves.
As a doula, I know a lot about birth and babies. I also know a lot about pregnancy and the amazing toll it can take on a woman’s body. Women have to sacrifice comfort, eating choices, and sometimes health to grow a baby. There is so much joy and wonder surrounding new life and everything involved in creating it. But for every positive, there is often something about the mom or her partner that needs to be forsaken or at least put on hold.
Each step of a child’s development has its own set of challenges. We need to function on very little sleep accompanied by nagging self-doubt with a newborn. Breastfeeding can bring pain and struggle, while formula may bring guilt. The toddler years turn the most patient people into screamers and preschoolers are the best negotiators in the world. Need I even write about tweens and teenagers?
But all the superficial struggles aside, likely the hardest part about parenting is what we end up losing. There is little flexibility in life once children enter the picture. Not only do we need to account for children’s schedules, but we also need to make sure that someone can be with them at all times. It is nearly impossible to fully commit oneself to work when having to make sure there is backup care in the event of running overtime. Doulas know this struggle well!
We also need to schedule in self-care as children suck up negativity and stress like sponges. Any disruption in our personal equilibriums can sabotage an entire day. If I don’t sleep well, I need to load up on caffeine and positive affirmations so I don’t get a tiny bit agitated, thus creating a downward spiral of behavior – his and mine.
I love my son more than anything and am so grateful that I was blessed with him. I also had to put a lot of what I love on hold. There are many things that used to strongly be a part of who I was that may be gone forever. I have chosen to raise my son in a way that puts him in the forefront of my life. I am fortunate that I was able to make that choice, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t mourn for my pre-child life from time to time.
Raising a child takes a lot of work. Everyone who has done it or is doing it knows that. It is a lot of work and there is rarely any acknowledgment that you are doing it “right.” None of us want to raise jerks and we’re all trying our darnedest to make sure we’re making as few mistakes as possible.
I love seeing the creation of a family at birth. New life is precious.
But it is not for everyone, and I firmly believe in giving people options.
Few people today end up living in the same town where they grew up. We move states and countries away from our families for jobs, climates, and "livability". The distance from family can make holiday get-togethers logistically tricky and can be almost debilitating when a new baby enters into the picture.
We all know that new babies, while precious and heart-warming, bring a myriad of challenges from non-stop crying to exploding diapers to seemingly endless nursing. And with many spouses needing to go back to work after a week or two at home, the majority of newborn care falls on the mother's shoulders, regardless of how prepared she may feel for this new role.
Need I mention that our proud United States is tied with Papua New Guinea for the least supportive maternity leave laws? This leaves mom at home grappling with motherhood while knowing that she will likely have to go back to work soon if her household relies on her income to stay afloat.
Grandma, Grandpa, uncles, and aunts - what can you do to help when you are too far away to step in with laundry and meal preparation yourself?
Here are 5 ways a long-distance family member can help out:
1.) Send a care package with healthy snacks that can be eaten with one hand, light-hearted movies or tv series, lip balm and nipple cream, magazines, a HUGE reusable water bottle (preferably with a straw), assorted tea bags, and chocolate.
2.) Get a pizza delivered. No one ever says no to free pizza.
3.) Hire a postpartum doula. Many doulas (this one included!) offer gift certificates so loved ones can send a new family some support.
4.) Call, text, Skype, FaceTime, email, send a carrier pigeon - whatever your favorite way of checking in is, do it! If the new mom is stuck at home all day with a baby, she will welcome a friendly conversation. If you're concerned about waking a sleeping baby, send a text before calling.
5.) Check to see if they have a registry on Amazon or other websites for last-minute baby needs. Often accessories like a Moby Wrap or Sleep Sheep don't seem necessary until deep in the trenches.
Even if you can't be there in person, your thoughtfulness can go a long way in supporting the new family. And remember - thinking about it doesn't count in this case. Don't wait for them to have another sleepless night without help - do it now!
New Day Doula
Rainbow and Mary share thoughts on pregnancy, birth, and the parenting journey.