Tuesday, December 29, 2015

4 Keys to Night Time Survival for New Parents

In parenting as in life, everything is about perspective. It is our outlook combined with basic biological factors which make the soundtrack of our lives, helping us transition through the common adjustments the postpartum period requires.

Becoming a parent is perhaps one of the biggest shifts in life, one that requires major adaptation. Not only do we adjust physically as mothers to allow room for another human being to grow and develop inside us, but we prepare psychologically to become parents. We seek out education, and look to our families, friends and acquaintances for guidance and example. But truly nothing can prepare us for the reality of early parenthood. Even the comprehensive and detailed courses that bring us information that is vital to new parenthood seem millennia away!

Awake late in the night, holding your fresh baby, much of what you learned seems out of reach. Being at home with that new little being can be overwhelming for new parents. There is so much to know and we feel often inadequate and afraid that one simple decision is the only thing separating us from calamity. Our perspective is coloured by desperate love and inexperience. The truth is that we have everything it takes. We always had it. We just have to trust it. But how?

There are four keys which MotherWit Postpartum Doulas use to help new parents develop strategies to balance life: NUTRITION, SUPPORT, LOVE and SLEEP.
  • NUTRITION is paramount to keeping a sleep-deprived, adrenaline-pumping brain in check. Accepting healthy meals from family and friends is key. Postpartum Doulas also bring food according to your needs.
  • SUPPORT refers to asking for help, calling on family and friends, asking questions, and seeking out respectful, non-judgemental resources. 
  • LOVE speaks to laughter, joy, allowing worry to melt away from time to time and relishing this new experience. It means loving yourself, your partner, and your new family member. And throw in a cart-load of forgiveness. You may as well start now! 
  • SLEEP... ah sleep.  I leave sleep for last because the lack of it is the wrench that can throw all of the above into chaos. When we are sleep-deprived our perspective can be very warped. If you have never been woken up every hour for days on end, suddenly have a tiny and extremely demanding life depending on you absolutely and completely, then new parenthood will feel like some sort of insane Amazing Race you can't get out of! Days and nights melt into each other and seem endless.
 Often family and friends can be a great support here. Having a set of arms to hold Baby as you nap can be a life-saver. But sometimes what is needed is a (nearly) full night's sleep. This is where overnight Doula support comes in.

A Doula, experienced in pregnancy, birth and postpartum care, is a great choice of person to care for you and your baby during the night hours, when things can seem even more overwhelming. Doula arrives as you are ready for bed and often spends a few moments making tea and discussing your concerns before tucking you into bed.

The Doula will take care of Baby's needs as they arise, tending to changing, burping, and soothing. If your baby needs your breast, they are brought to you for feeding, the Doula providing hand-on support and company in those challenging wee hours.  Doulas will also feed Baby with a bottle to help you get more sleep if this is your need.  A Doula will, however, know when Baby needs that comfort only mama's arms can provide. You don't need to worry that your baby will be missing you.  We can find the balance between as much sleep for you as possible, and ensuring Baby's needs for connection with you are met.

Burping, diapering and rocking are generally taken care of so the new parents can get as much sleep as possible. What is the result? It seems it is almost a miracle! Parents rise in the morning and coffee is brewing and ready. They often have time to shower before meeting Doula with a smile.

Our goal is for you to need us less, not more. Even one or two nights of restful sleep is often a turning point for many new parents. The brain is boosted with sleep, the over active adrenal glands take a break, and sweet relaxation takes over.

The many nights I have spent caring for new families in their cozy home are some of my most memorable moments as a Doula. It is perhaps the epitome of what it is to care for and nurture a new family into being. It is a sweet and gentle time, a time to move slowly and carefully. The world slows down, and in this moment space is created for your family to take its rightful place.

We no longer live in a world where "elders" are part of our cultural structure, but we can be sought out and utilized. Nothing is more comforting that sleeping soundly as the world is cared for by someone else. That is why Doulas do this work and carry this cultural tradition forward. It is important, valuable and often miraculous!

Millie Tresierra
Postpartum Doula
MotherWit Doula Care

Monday, December 14, 2015

Adjusting to Life with a Toddler and a New Baby

When we have our first babies, it doesn't matter where we come from or how well we have mastered other areas of our lives.  We all begin parenthood as newbies, and the learning curve is steep.  We fumble and falter, gain confidence and wisdom, run into stumbling blocks, and hopefully learn to forgive ourselves those days it feels like we should start making large deposits into our child's future therapy fund.

Despite what a balancing act having a child is, many of us venture to have more than one.  I went on to have four.  Parental concerns shift with subsequent babies from "How do I take care of a newborn?" to  "How will my toddler and I cope with my attention being so focused on the new baby?"

With older children it is different, because they can communicate their feelings more clearly.  Toddlers, who are often still in diapers and just learning how to string several words together, are the ones parents tend to worry about the most.

These are the most common concerns parents have about how their toddlers will cope with the new baby:

1)  What is the best way to introduce my toddler to the new baby?

Every family has different wishes for the first meeting.  Some parents experienced a rough birth and prefer their toddlers to visit when they're feeling less sore and more present.  Others want the toddler to be brought over right away.  Some are even present for the birth.  Whatever feels right for your family is likely the best plan.

What parents are often afraid of is their toddler reacting negatively to the new baby at that first precious meeting.  It can happen, and it is best to not take it personally, or as a sign that things aren't starting on the right foot.  Toddlers are unpredictable, and don't always show up emotionally in the way we hope.

Having the toddler be introduced to their sibling in the presence of someone else they are attached to is an appealing idea to many families.  If the older child becomes upset, Grandma or Uncle can be there as the safe harbour.  It is around this time many toddlers begin to see that it is not only Mom or Dad who can provide a loving haven.  And it can be hard for some parents to see this happening, as they interpret it as a withdrawal from them.  They feel guilty.  But in fact it is okay to let "the village" help.

Many parents have a tradition of giving the toddler a gift from the new baby, as a way to honour them for being a wonderful big sibling.  This can definitely smooth the rough edges for some kids.

Encouraging visitors who come to see the new baby to take time to connect with the toddler helps too. In all the new baby excitement, the older kids can definitely feel overlooked, which enforces their feelings of exclusion.

2) Will my toddler regress in behaviour?

Most likely?  Yes, to a greater or lesser extent.  Without being able to communicate skillfully with words, it makes sense they'll articulate their feelings, intentionally or not, through their actions.

It is normal for kids who were perhaps using the toilet to begin having accidents, or even giving up the toilet all together for a while. Night waking can be more frequent, and bottles/breast may be requested again.

Many parents want to have their toddlers be a little more grown up before the baby arrives, and think about stopping some of their comfort seeking behaviours. But stripping away too many of the things that may provide their toddlers with comfort (binkies, blankies, and bears, for example) at a time they may most need to have some security, may not be most helpful.

Either way a parent decides, if a new habit has been formed, regression for a while is normal.  This too shall pass.

3) Will my toddler be jealous with all the time I spend with the baby?

Yes, they will probably be jealous.  It is absolutely normal for a little one who is used to their parents' consistent attention to feel jealous when a new baby comes. We cannot reason that feeling out of a kid.  The reason parents ask this is not because they can't handle the behavioural acting out the kid will likely do as a result of their tender feelings, but because their hearts are broken at the thought of their beloved child being sad.

To minimize some of the jealous feelings, some parents play the "Being a Baby is SO Boring" game. It gently encourages the toddler to feel proud to be a bigger kid.  It goes like this: "See Baby having her milk?  Poor Baby, she doesn't get to eat big kid food like you do. She only gets milk.  And she can't understand the books we read together.  It's not as fun for Baby, because she's not big like you. How about you eat your snack and I read to you while Baby drinks her milk?"

The goal isn't to push the toddler into any given behaviour, but to suggest that it's kind of cool to not be a baby anymore. As cushy as baby life might look being in Mom's or Dad's arms a lot, baby life is comparatively limited.

4) How will I ever love my new baby as much as I love my toddler?

As a mother of four, I have learned that the heart is not like a loaf of bread.  It is not a finite thing that is sliced up into pieces and given away in increments, leaving the possibility of nothing left.  With the intense love we've shared with our older kid since their birth, we can worry we're down to the heel of the loaf.

The good news is that the heart is infinite.  It has an absolutely endless supply of love.  It has the capacity to welcome and include our new arrivals with as much intensity as we share with our older kids.

5) I hate to say this, but I find my toddler annoying.

What often concerns the birth giver most is that there can be a period in which they feel like they actually love the new baby more.  This can be unexpected and distressing, something they may not admit to people, even though it is quite normal.  Hormonally, our bodies are geared towards bonding fiercely with and protecting our babies. Toddlers can appear suddenly huge, loud, and demanding.

Let's repeat our parental mantra: This too shall pass.  In a normal situation, hormones adjust, toddlers adjust, and everyone finds their place a little more comfortably in the family.  The love will then generally not be seen as "more or less", simply as different, because our children are different people.

Parent hearts are often so very tender over the fact their toddler is having to go through some tough emotional adjustments.  As loving parents we want to spare our children from pain.  It hurts us to see them sad.  And the sadness that can be expressed in a myriad of toddler ways in response to Baby fills parents with guilt and worry.

If we think about it, almost all major life transitions contain elements of pain.  Growth can hurt.  It is a natural part of the process of being human.  Even for toddlers.  If we can connect with our toddlers time to time in the authenticity of their pain and simply love them without trying to fix the feelings we wish they wouldn't have, we honour the human growth work they are doing.

The acknowledgement, "you are sad, this is hard, and I love you exactly as you are," can be more effective in facilitating growth and healing than drowning out the reality of pain with gifts, distraction, or words like "but don't you want to be a good big brother/sister?"

While it can be hard to come to terms with the role adjustment of going from being "the baby" to being a big sibling, we do get used to it.  And we can even end up enjoying it.

Lesley Everest

Sunday, December 13, 2015

BellyFit Giveaway! MakeMyBellyFit

Winter is coming! (eventually) Mamas keep those bellies and babies snug and warm with a BellyFit by MakeMyBellyFit!
MotherWit Birth Essentials Prenatal Classes is honoured to partner with MakeMyBellyFit to offer someone a FREE BellyFit Jacket Extender!! 
The BellyFit is a jacket extender for maternity and baby-carrying. It allows you to keep using your OWN jacket through maternity and to extend around your baby-carrier. Included in the prize is a BellyFit, Warmth Layer (for extra toastiness) and any Zip Adapter necessary to make it attach to your jacket. 
To enter:
Like and Share our MotherWit Birth Essentials Prenatal Classes page. (please show MakeMyBellyFit some love and like their page too!)
Leave a comment on this post on why you'd like a BellyFit Extender! 
BONUS! We will also giveaway a 2nd prize: a $75 gift certificate towards MotherWit Birth Essentials Prenatal Classes!
We will pick 2 winners randomly on Sunday December 20th!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Just Eat the Monkey: Keeping it Simple in Birth and Breastfeeding

Guest post by MotherWit Doula Megan Tolbert

Doulas in a group tend to get kind of chatty. And in my neck of the woods, doula chatter swings from the ridiculous to the sublime in the blink of an eye.

One late afternoon, a smack* of doulas was sitting around my living room, enjoying a glass of wine in preparation for our evening reservation at a local spa. Naturally the conversation turned to how we would survive stranded on a desert island.

I'd tame a monkey, and teach it to breastfeed. I'd relactate, and survive off my own breastmilk!” declared one enterprising doula.

Lengthy, heated discussion followed about how one would tame this alleged monkey (it would have to be a baby monkey, it was decided), how long the relactation process would take (given the fact that the doula in question had not breastfed for eight years or more at that time), and whether the caloric expenditure involved in producing the breastmilk would be worthwhile in the first place.

Meanwhile, deep into a second glass of wine, I had an epiphany.

You GUYS. Why are you breastfeeding this monkey, when you could be EATING it?”

We all have a tendency to overcomplicate things sometimes. I see it done during birth in hospital settings, where a C-section can be proposed before even considering a simple solution, like changing positions to help baby descend.

I see it with new (and sometimes experienced) doulas in some of the Facebook groups I belong to, frantically listing all the things they've done so far to “fix” a clients long early labour—only to be reminded that maybe the best thing they could do right now is get their clients to sleep, and just leave them alone for a while.

I see it with new parents when I visit them postpartum, frazzled and exhausted, baby fussy and demanding—they've forgotten the first thing they ever learned in hospital about newborn care: Skin to skin. So back to bed we go, pillows placed just so, dress down mama and baby, and just....breathe. And suddenly this breastfeeding thing doesn't seem so challenging.

Going back to basics oftentimes gets the job done. Occam's Razor is a vital principle in my work as a doula, one I have to remind myself of over and over: The simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

In birth, in parenthood, in life: Keep it simple. And for goodness sake, stop breastfeeding that monkey and just eat the darned thing!

* “Smack” is the unofficial collective noun for a group of doulas, like a murder of crows, a pride of lions, or an exaltation of larks.