Hi Natural Mamas. It’s been a really long while. I hope that you all had a beautiful festive season with your families, and that each of you managed to find a little bit of time for yourselves.
The task of finding alone time as a mother is most definitely not an easy one. I was given the advice of doing something special for myself, something where I can just “be”, at least three times a week. The reality of it is that I battle to do this just once a month.
I now officially have crossed over into the world of being a working mom. From when Matt was about three months old, I started a new business with five other women which is in essence my dream job. It’s all about helping others, but through craft and design. Within three weeks we’d opened up a shop, and are now in the process of applying for funding, and setting up a production centre.
I keep thinking of that quote I saw a while back: “And she created the life of her dreams, while her child watched her every move”. That’s what this is about for me. It’s about living my my dream.
The difficulty comes in in finding the balance. Being the best Natural Mama I could be was a challenge in itself, and now, trying to get a job done well and trying to a be committed, loving Natural Mama and wife at the same time is even more of a challenge. With a young baby thrown into the mix, is definitely turned up! Matt’s sleep took a dive in November, about the time that the shop opened, and well, let’s just say that I was taking a bit of strain.
Anyway, the point of this post is not to go on about how challenging life can be, it’s about how to overcome those challenges. It’s about loving yourself. You see, what I’ve now learned is that in giving that little bit of alone time, relaxing time, to yourself, the more fulfilled you feel. And if you feel more fulfilled within yourself, you’re able to give more to your children, your family, your friends. And if you’re looking after your relationship with yourself, and with your family and your friends, then you’re able to give even more of yourself to your work.
And that Mamas, is the order it should be in. Self. Family & friends. Work. At the end of last year, I had it all mixed up. And I kept making excuses as to why I didn’t have the time to give to myself. But in the end, they were just excuses. They always are.
So, whether it’s reading your favourite book, lying in a bath, going for a walk on the beach, meditating in your garden, or flipping through your favourite magazine, the time that you give to yourself is the most important thing. It means you’re saying to yourself, “I love you enough to give this time to you”, and when we’re loving ourselves, we’re able to love our children and husbands, our friends and our work that much more.
The time leading up to Matthew’s birth was a rather emotional one for me. I had been extremely stressed because of the event I organise being 4 days before his due date, and then going 10 days passed his due date definitely pushed my buttons too. Eventually, my midwife Mandi suggested that I take castor oil on Wednesday 17th July, but when the two doses of it started labour and the labour fizzled out, she said it was time to see the gynae. Mandi booked me an appointment for Friday the 19th at 9am. Even Mandi was concerned that I was going to be told to have a c-section because the odds seemed to be against me. We could tell the baby was really big and was lying posterior (extremely painful births especially with a big baby). My cervix was still really high, which generally means you’re not close to going into labour, and our natural induction hadn’t worked.
Both Mandi and I were feeling desperate. As a very last resort on the Thursday she gave me one last dose of castor oil and told me to do a pose with my bum in the air and shoulders on the ground. Her plan was to slightly disengage the baby so that if the contractions did kick in, the baby would have more chance of being pulled into an anterior position. I did this at 13:00, cried the entire way through the pose, and phoned some family and friends to tell them that I was probably going to have a c-section. My sister-in-law talked me through a hospital plan, I pictured the entire process and in some way came to terms with it. After all, I knew the most important thing was for my baby to be born safely.
About an hour after the pose, I felt a contraction. A lot more painful than the ones that had fizzled out the day before. And then another. And another. I called Mandi, who came over as soon as she could. Because I was saying they seemed more intense than the ones I’d had yesterday and were actually quite painful, she was pleased. She massaged me for a little bit, showed Graeme how to massage me in the same way, and then went off to have something to eat, saying I should call her when the contractions were about 1 minute 10 seconds long. Ha! Pretty much as soon as she drove away, my labour kicked into second gear. The contractions started coming one after each other, just a couple minutes break in between, and they got longer and longer very quickly. Within half an hour, I told Graeme to call her back, and asked him to start getting the pool ready. I was in a lot of pain, but at the same time, was completely overjoyed. Our baby was coming. At home, naturally.
Mandi arrived back at 16:30, and she could tell that I was in active labour. She doesn’t believe in doing a lot of internal exams and thank goodness for that. She just let me wander about my bedroom, lean on the massage table and make all the noise I wanted, reading my body for signals as to how everything was progressing. I’ll be honest, it was an incredibly painful time for me, a lot more intense than Lily’s labour. I’m guessing it was because of both the castor oil and his size! But every time I had the thought that I wasn’t sure I could handle it, I just said to myself, “Sarah, remember yourself crying a couple of hours ago? This is what you wanted!”
It took them quite a while to get the pool filled and the water temperature right. I will never be able to fully explain the relief that I felt when climbing in. I’ve read that birthing pools are the second best pain relief after an epidural and it totally makes sense to me. The warmth relaxes your muscles, the water surrounds and holds you. A calm, safe place.
I had a strange urge to push after a few hours of being in active labour. By now the second midwife, Anneri had arrived, but both her and Mandi asked me to try not to push because they felt it was too early. They left me in the pool for a little longer, and then asked if they could do an internal. I climbed out the pool and lay on the bed. I was fully dilated! This was around 19:00.
I could tell that the contractions were a lot stronger and closer together when I was out of the water, so tried to stay out for as long as I could, just to move things along more quickly. I leaned against the massage table a lot, mostly tilting forward and moving my hips. I loved that whenever Mandi took the baby’s heartbeat, we could see that the position had moved from the side of my belly, all the way around to the front and was getting lower and lower. This meant that the baby was no longer posterior and was so much closer to being born! Everything flowed just perfectly.
My darling little Lily came into the room every now and then. I can clearly remember lying on the bed at one point with Mandi rubbing my back, hearing some whispering and then feeling this tiny little hand also beginning to rub. I wasn’t able to talk to Lily or focus on her at all, but just having her presence in the room gave me so much strength.
Around 21:45 the urge to push returned, in full force. There’s something about this stage of labour that I quite enjoy. It’s because I know that we’re nearing the end, but also because I’m able to exert energy, instead of purely absorbing it. Up until the pushing phase, I’d been doing a lot of rocking back and forth on my knees, and a lot of swaying or spiralling my hips. But with the pushing, I can actually use the pain to move things along more quickly.
We were hoping that Graeme could catch the baby when it was born, but Mandi had warned him that because it was big, it’s quite common that their shoulders get stuck. She explained to him what he’d need to do to help them if this happened. Thank goodness she had! After a few pushes it suddenly dawned on me that we were finally going to find out if we were having a boy or a girl, and so I was suddenly filled with renewed energy. Mandi went to the bathroom, expecting things to take a while longer, but the next thing, I could feel the head coming out. Anneri asked me to hold it there until both Mandi and her were ready. Not an easy task! Once Mandi was out, and their gloves were on, I was allowed to slowly push with the next surge. The rest of the head came out easily, but as they had worried, his shoulders got stuck.
In a heartbeat, Graeme had lifted me up out of the water onto my feet. Mandi and Anneri lifted my one leg onto the side of the bath, but the baby didn’t budge. So they put that one down and the other up. It worked, and out the baby came. Next thing they had me right out of the bath and on my back on the bed, with the baby still attached in between my legs. He wasn’t breathing. They suctioned his nose, he gave a little cry, but still no breath, so they had to give him oxygen. It was only a couple of minutes since his head had popped out, but it felt as if time had stopped. And then he cried!
The amazing thing was that during those last couple of minutes, although everything slowed down, I didn’t panic at all. I suppose I was too high on hormones and too tired after the labour. Plus, I just had this deep sense of knowing that there was no way after all the emotions I’d experienced and how smoothly the birth had gone, that anything would happen to our baby.
I think it took another five minutes before we even asked whether it was a boy or a girl! The funniest thing was that when Anneri said she’d go fetch my parents so they could meet our little man, and opened the door, the two of them practically fell into our bedroom. They’d heard the cries and were waiting right outside! It was so special to be able to have them join us for the weighing and tests of our little man, another reason why I love homebirths so much.
I absolutely could not believe that Matthew weighed 4.78kg. I couldn’t believe that it was actually possible to give birth to such a large baby without pain medication, but there you go. It totally is. And after all of that, I am more passionate about the natural birthing process, and about having a baby at home, than ever before.
As time passes, I’m settling in more and more as a mom of two. We have a loose routine worked out so that we can keep things as calm as possible and I’ve set aside time where I can focus on each individually. I must say that we’re still struggling a little bit with Lily, and someone suggested that I take her on a date every week. Every Friday she picks something that she’d like to do and then we spent that time doing it, just her and I. Last week was an ice-cream and playing in the nearby rock pools :)
What I’m enjoying the most as a mom second time around is that I don’t need to be quite so rigid about my parenting style. Even though I didn’t follow a strict routine with Lily, I can see now, how anxious I was about certain things. I cared a lot about what other people thought! And I was so worried that if I rocked her to sleep I’d be doing it for the rest of my life. Or that if I fed her too often, people would think she was using me as a dummy. I had so many set ideas about the sort of mom I’d be and the sort of things that I would and wouldn’t do. Most of them though, just turned out to be ideas in my head, because they often flew out the window the minute I was presented with challenging situations. On so many occasions, all I felt was guilt and frustration.
In other words, I was incredibly attached to being a certain way, a certain parent and also attached to the outcome of my actions. For instance, if I started to rock her to sleep and it was taking forever, I would carry on rocking and rocking, even if I was feeling completely frustrated. I started to get anxious that she was sleeping too often in the sling and was determined to have her sleep on her own. Second time around, if Matt doesn’t drift off to sleep easily, I’ll just pop him in the sling and he can sleep on me while I work. No big deal. I’ll actually say to myself, “I’m not attached to how and where he sleeps today”. Nor am I attached to how often he feeds. If he feeds every two, three or four hours, it really doesn’t matter. There’s not so much weight behind my every decision.
I saw an article on Facebook recently about parents letting their children cry themselves to sleep and how bad this is for their psychological needs. I used to be hugely anti this too. Not that I’m totally for it either, but what I can now see more clearly, is that parents need to choose whatever works for them. Perhaps leaving a child to cry themself to sleep is psychologically damaging. But then, what about the child who gets screamed at or shaken because they won’t go to sleep. The mom hasn’t had a good night’s sleep for 18 months and is at her wits end. Which is better, crying to sleep or being yelled at by a raging mom? I think it’s pretty hard to say.
In a nutshell, I think being too attached to any parenting style or to any school of thought, can possibly just be setting parents up for a fall further down the line. Ultimately, what I’ve learned, is that as long as the decisions you make are truly from your heart, are done with full love, and are not based on any expected outcome, then you’ll be just fine. And so will your children :)
I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to figure this one out, but I’ve just recently discovered that being organised with our food shopping is one of the best ways to save time and money. It was only after Matthew was born,when Graeme was doing all the shopping and commented on how time-consuming my weekly routine is, that I realised how much easier I could make my life.
I need to go to about six different shops in Knysna to get everything that we need, and I was going to most of these every week. With a three-year-old tagging along, it was always quite a task, but with the two of them, it was plain exhausting. Now I’m planning and writing lists for the entire month and visiting each shop just once. It’s amazing.
I also order all my fresh goods from a wonderful local online store, Farm Fresh Direct, and every Thursday I have the most beautiful farm produce delivered to my door.
And Faithful to Nature is still where I buy my cosmetics and cleaning products from, and other bits and pieces too.
So, now I have so much more quality time to spend with my kiddiewinkles because I’m not madly rushing about town, clipping and unclipping carseat buckles. And I’m spending less money because I’m not picking up extra little things which I don’t really need.
Nature is all about structure and systems, and I guess that’s why it feels so good to be more organised. It’s inherent in all of us, but sometimes takes a little time to get into. Being a mama of two now, I’m really glad that the instinct is starting to kick in :)
Natural Mamas, I’m terribly sorry that I haven’t filled you in on the birth of our little guy. Yes, it’s a boy, and his name is Matthew. There’s just no way that I can begin to describe how happy I am or how in love I am. There’s something about this experience (possibly because it could be the last baby I have, or because it’s a boy, or maybe because I’ve experienced it before) but this time it feels more real, more tangible. I’ve had the most blissful six weeks, snuggling and cuddling to my heart’s content. We’ve had so much love and support from visitors and house guests too. All in all, it’s been a magical time.
I’m not going to give you the full birth story now because it’s still “under construction“. What I will say is that it was incredibly intense, but also incredibly beautiful. I’m feeling more empowered than ever (I pushed out a 4.78kg baby!) and am more passionate about the natural birthing process than ever.
I also just have to say that I know you’ll have noticed that my posts have been dwindling over the last six or so months, and for that I want to apologise. Besides being kept very busy with family life (I know you all understand this one), I’ve also been getting more and more involved in the career side of life too. A few amazing opportunities have flown my way which are just a little too perfect for me to push them aside. So I’ve been juggling many balls to the best of my ability, and unfortunately this blog has suffered. I’ve received some really thoughtful and kind messages from fellow Natural Mamas, and that’s what has encouraged me to keep trying and keep writing. My passion for all things natural continues to grow, as do my heart and soul, and I so hope that I’ll be able to continue to share my lessons with you :)
Isn’t it amazing that through our kids, we are able to learn so much about life, about ourselves – even when they’re still in the womb. I’m now a week passed my due date, and have been on one incredible journey in this time. I’ve stayed mostly inside my safe little bubble at home, but even here have battled with my emotions around being overdue.
I’ve heard tons of stories now of woman going to 42 weeks, and fully realise how normal and natural it is for baby to take longer than 40 weeks to be born, yet it’s been incredibly difficult to trust in the process and to let go of all anxiety and fear of judgement that surround it. Mostly, for me, it’s about letting go of control. I can’t plan or decide when this baby is going to be born, and because it’s not arriving on “my time” I’ve been left feeling pretty insecure.
What’s interesting is that it seems that that’s very much how many of my family and friends are feeling too. I think in general, people like to know when and how to expect things so that they can plan their lives accordingly, and so that they can feel assured that everything is “safe”. I suppose it all ties in with our age of instant gratification, receiving things when we want them and having all the answers. We’re used to quick fixes, convenience, science and being able to affect the outcome of events if we choose to.
Now, in a situation where no one is in control, I feel a little lost. I’ve kept going into my head, becoming analytical, trying to figure out why this is happening to me, what if there’s something wrong with me, my body, my baby, my emotions, my spirituality and then, trying to figure out what I can I do to fix it.
This Natural Mama has been forgetting about nature.
My midwife was here this morning and totally reassured me how happy and healthy my baba is. I can feel that my body is really healthy and strong, I’m even sleeping incredibly well at night. We can see that my body is in the very early stages of labour, and the chances are that it’s taking things slowly because Baby Bean is big, like Lily. So my body knows what is best for it, my baby knows what is best for it, yet I’ve been choosing to worry about it because it’s not what I wanted. Hmmm…
Lily continues to teach me about unconditional love and the setting of boundaries, Bean is teaching me about truly trusting the natural processes of life and letting go. Aren’t I lucky mama to have these little beings show me these lessons so that I can continue grow? Have a think what your children are trying to show you. If you’re open to the lessons, even the difficult ones, you’ll be amazed at how wise your teachers are :)
So, I’m 40-weeks-and-2-days pregnant. Yes, I’m officially overdue. The crazy thing is that I never imagined getting to this point because I have been so busy with work-related things. I was convinced that all the stress and rushing around would bring baby out early. It didn’t. I finished everything I needed to do last Friday, and so have had a few blissful days of family time and rest. And now, we’re waiting…
What I’ve been finding the most difficult are the comments, advice and questions that I’ve been getting about being late. I think it’s part of living in a small town, because wherever we go, there’s someone I know. I know that everyone means well, but it’s starting to make me feel anxious. Lots of jokes about driving on bumpy roads and eating hot curries, lots of shop assistants having mini heart attacks when they ask me when I’m due, and lots of, “But what are you going to do if baby takes much longer?”.
I’ve been chatting to my midwife and homeopath, and they’ve both been great in re-assuring me how totally normal it is to get to this point. Maybe it’s because our general Western society is so used to scheduled caesars, and two-day-late inductions, that people aren’t used to women going passed 40 weeks. And that’s another thing. A due date is such an estimate, the chances of it being exact are incredibly slim.
What I’ve decided to do is just stay at home and take this last little while really easy. I imagine being in a highly-hormonal-full-term-pregnant-state is the largest part of the problem, and that’s why my safe little bubble is the best place for me to be.
So, the birthing pool, pilates ball and medical and baby things are all patiently waiting on standby. I’m taking a homeopathic remedy to encourage my labour naturally, and am otherwise trying to make the most of this peaceful time.
A precious soul is going to be separating itself from mine within the next little while, and then I get to physically hold and snuggle him/her to my heart’s content. What a blessing to be waiting for…
Something that I’m becoming more aware of me, and within myself, is competitiveness. It’s one of those topics which people will most probably agree or disagree with quite strongly. Some people believe competition is healthy, and is what gets you ahead in life, others will say it’s all about the ego, and not for them. I think I lie somewhere in the middle.
I can see the value in having a competitive streak in this day and age. In our survival-of-the-fittest-society, ambition and drive are needed to make money, to live a comfortable life, to fight against societal problems, and even possibly to improve oneself emotionally and spiritually. We can use it to make sure that we’re always growing, evolving, and never stagnating. I think the problem comes in when this drive, ambition, or need to be better than others takes over us. That’s when it’s all about the ego, about being right, or stronger, or prettier, or having the more intelligent children. I’ve even heard stories about circles where moms silently compete on whose child’s birthday party is better. Surely there are more important battles to be fought?
(image via vanuax.com)
I think it’s pretty difficult to escape the feeling of wanting to compete. It’s so built into most of us. And like I say, I think if you use these feelings to motivate yourself to grow as a person, to be the best person that you can be, then it’s not such a bad thing. Maybe the way to go about it is to purely compete with yourself. Are you a gentler, kinder, more compassionate person than you were last year? Has your intelligence and general knowledge grown in the last five years? Are you doing more for the environment this month than last?
I think when we compare ourselves to others, though, it just gets dangerous. It’s harmful to ourselves, and those around us. Often it’s just “stuff” in our own heads which no one else knows about it, but the pressure that we feel because of it does us no good. Like for me, as the birth of our second child draws closer, I can’t help but compare myself to other moms who have birthed in the last few years. And I can feel this silent pressure that I’m placing on myself to have a quicker, more calm, more pain-free birth than them. Can you believe it? My competitive streak is actually turning my birth into a battle! Fortunately, I’m conscious enough to take note of this aspect of myself and to say to it, “Competitive streak, you have always been a part of my life. Sometimes you serve me well, and other times you do not. This is one of those times where I feel that you are not serving me or my baby for our higher good, and so I am asking you to please step aside”. And that’s that. Every time I feel myself place pressure on myself in this area, I repeat the same words in my mind, slowly de-activating the power that the streak has over me. And that’s why I love the image I’ve used above. I love how this female warrior has lowered her sword, and is rather focusing on the Light.
There are certain parts of our lives where I think competition should not enter at all, and that’s when it comes to birthing and raising our children. Because ultimately, all that parenting is about is the joy, love, and lessons we learn along the way, and there’s just no measure for that. No way to compare, to compete with others, and absolutely no reason to. If we want our children to grow up as adults who don’t feel the need to be better than others in each little area of their lives, and to know which are the important battles to compete in, then the only way to teach them that is by living it ourselves.
I hadn’t mentioned it before, but at my 22 week scan I was told that my placenta was lying too low. I needed to have another scan at 33 weeks to double-check that it had lifted. The scan was yesterday, and it has! Although I was being as positive about the situation as I possibly could, the thought that I would be forced to have a caesar was always at the back of my mind, and so I’m totally overjoyed to be able to put this aside, and focus 100% on birthing at home :)
One of my very favourite ways to prepare for birth is to listen to or read affirmations. I did this during my first pregnancy, and have being doing it in this one too. It’s a great way to calm your mind, and fill it with positive beliefs about how easily, calmly and beautifully your child will enter the world. I listen to Marie Mongan’s Birthing Affirmations, but you could just as easily say them to yourself everyday, or even read them out and record them. Here are most of them:
- I put all fear aside as I prepare for the birth of my baby.
- I am focused on a smooth, easy birth.
- I trust my body to know what to do and I follow its lead.
- My body and my baby know how to work together in harmony.
- My mind is relaxed, by body is relaxed.
- I feel confident, I feel safe, I feel secure.
- My muscles work in complete harmony to make birthing easier.
- I feel a natural tranquility flowing through my body.
- I relax as we move smoothyl and easily through labour and birth.
- My cervix opens and allows my baby to ease downward.
- I fully relax and turn my birthing over to nature.
- I see my baby coming smoothly and easily from my womb.
- My baby’s birth will be easy because I am so relaxed and confident.
- I breathe correctly and eliminate tension.
- As my labour advances, I go deeper within to my baby.
- My baby is correctly positioned for an easy birth.
- I turn my birthing over to my baby and my body.
- I am prepared to calmly meet whatever turn my birth may take.
- Each surge of my body brings my baby closer to me.
- I deepen my relaxation as I move further into labour.
- I am totally relaxed and at ease.
- As my birthing advances, I go deeper within to my baby.
- My body remains still and limp.
- I meet each surge only with a breath.
- I see my baby descending through tissues that are pink and healthy.
- My baby emerges and my blood vessels close to the appropriate degree.
- I eat right and take care of body and baby.
- My baby’s size is perfect for my body, and we birth easily.
- I look forward to birthing with joy and ecstasy.
It’s also important to add your own affirmations if there are any little worries that you may have. For instance, my hips really hurt during my first birth, so this time I keep saying to myself, “My hips will easily and painlessly allow my baby to birth”. And I also kept placing my hands on my lower belly, sending it love and visualising my placenta lifting up and up. Seems to have done the job :)
I’ve had a bit of a sad time since I last wrote. My Grandpa passed away. He was old and ready to go, but for anyone who is close to their grandparents, you’ll know how it feels to lose one. Especially someone who was larger than life, like he was.
From death there always comes lessons, and my biggest lesson of all is to be grateful. Grateful that I had the opportunity of loving and being loved by grandparents for so many years, grateful that I have such an amazing family (who place huge amounts of importance on things that really count, like relationships) and grateful for all the happy memories that I have of my Gramps.
Something else that has come out of his death is the urge to continue looking at my life for ways to make it fuller, happier and healthier. The end of one cycle is always the opportunity for another to begin. There have been a few things I’ve been meaning to get going with for ages and just haven’t done, so I reckoned that when I came back to Knysna from the funeral, it would be the perfect time to get started.
I’m finally ordering vegetables from a nearby organic farm (as close to organic as they can be for now) to supplement what we grow, and to make sure that I don’t buy any more out-of-season, chemical ridden veggies. See how fabulous they look! They taste amazing too :)
And then we’ve started, as per the suggestion of raw food guru, David Wolfe, to have a raw smoothie, juice and sprouts everyday. We’re making them pink so that Lily buys into the whole concept, and so far so good. In fact, it’s her that asks me in the afternoon when we’re going to make our pinkalicious juice! We’re each getting in about six different raw fruits, six raw veggies everyday and raw nuts, seeds and sprouts everyday. The change in energy levels and improved digestion was almost immediate. And I now wake up craving my smoothie so it doesn’t feel like an effort to make it at all :)
Have a beautiful weekend, Natural Mamas. You’ll be hearing from me again soon…