Ever since I became a mother seven years ago, I've had a love-hate relationship with Facebook.
I remember feeling really grateful for Facebook and a smart phone when I was a breastfeeding mom, holding my baby for hours and hours everyday. I liked the ability to be social with adults on Facebook, and only needing one hand to do it. That was great, because one hand was all I had available most of the time. The rest of my body was busy in the acts of motherhood.
But, I also noticed sometimes that the multi-tasking of engaging on social media stacked on top of the daily tasks of parenting an infant and toddler left me feeling stressed. Sometimes it felt like a good escape from the tasks at hand with the little people in my charge, and sometimes it felt like it created more stress and more resentment in me, more comparison of myself to other parents, and a quicker impulse to search for a solution to a parenting issue online from an "expert" rather than trusting my own instincts and parenting skills. I noticed when I engaged with other parents and moms on Facebook, I was harder on myself as a parent, quicker to put shame and guilt on myself for not being some perfect model of parenting (that I now know doesn't exist), and less patient with myself and my children.
Some days I find Facebook really helpful. I feel like it serves me in some way, connecting me to local events or resources, providing a place to discuss a particular topic or issue in a facebook group, providing me with a platform to keep a public diary about my life and to showcase the amazing work we do through Proud Mama Support Services, and giving me a window into the lives of my friends and loved ones. And who doesn't love pictures of babies and cat videos?
But, I don't like how ever-present it's become in my life. I don't like the habits it creates in me, and I know that they don't really serve me well. After I spend some time on Facebook, I don't really feel very good. I find myself sometimes scrolling endlessly, feeling beholden to check my notifications multiple times a day, and getting emotionally invested in hot-button discussions that in the grand scheme of things are really not that important. Even if the topics themselves are important, defending a certain position in a Facebook thread is probably not the most fruitful or effective way of making change.
This year, in my personal and professional life, I'm focused on living BIG--with Boundaries, Integrity, and Generosity (Thanks, Brené Brown!). With that being my focus, I've noticed that Facebook--the way I use it, how much I use it, and how I feel when I use it--doesn't always fit with my goals for my life and how I want to be spending the majority of my time.
I know that I'm not the only one who struggles with this. So, I'm making a public decision and inviting anyone who wants to, to join me in a month-long fast from Facebook. Yes, even as a business owner. If you're intrigued, read on.
Miscarriage: It happens all the time but hardly gets mentioned. Up tp 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage before 20 weeks gestation. The average friend or family member doesn't necessarily respond in a helpful or supportive way. It is often dismissed as a small incident that is easy to move past, especially once there is a successful subsequent pregnancy and the family welcomes a child. And yet, the real pain and suffering of having lost a pregnancy can stick with a family for years.
Many women find it hard to have an honest and vulnerable conversation about miscarriage because the way the heart feels about it sometimes doesn't match up with what the brain thinks about it. How can I have such big, unruly feelings about such a tiny little thing that existed for such a short amount of time? The truth is there is no right or wrong way to feel about it. Grief is not something we can put into a tidy box. That doesn't mean we don't try. If only it were neat, tidy, and contained, with a timeline. But grief is wild, fluid, and ever-changing. It is uncontainable, untranslatable, unpredictable.
We know it's likely that, if they knew, someone would say something well-meaning yet painful, like, "Well, there's always next time," or "You have two beautiful children so you have lots to be grateful for," or "It wasn't meant to be," or "You shouldn't get too attached in the early days, these things happen." Maybe we even say these things to ourselves, even though we would never say them to a friend. So we don't share our pain. We move on. We downplay and dismiss.
Please know that your pain and loss are valid. It's not a little thing. It's a big thing with big hopes and dreams attached to it. We are sorry you lost something precious, and we don't think your feelings about it--whatever they are-- are silly.
Because of the high rates of miscarriage in general, most people having a baby have experienced miscarriage in the past, or will experience it in the future. As postpartum doulas, we see many parents who are joyful about their new baby, yet still grieving a pregnancy or baby they lost previously. It all comes together, and it is messy. We can be a part of the net that holds you and all the messy feelings about life and death, joy and grief, together. We can also help you find professional resources for counseling and therapy that can be very effective in processing grief and trauma related to pregnancy and infant loss.
Here are some helpful links:
13 Things You Should Know About Grief After Miscarriage or Baby Loss
Empty Arms: Hope and Support For Those Who Have Suffered a Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Tubal Pregnancy
Please contact us if you are looking for local resources for professional counseling support.
Have you seen this book? Postpartum doula Rachel Brinker gives it a review! Read on to find out why she loves it.
Book Review: The First Forty Days, The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother.
--Rachel Brinker, MA, Postpartum and Infant Care Doula, owner of Proud Mama Support Services
This book brings fresh light and new perspective onto a very common postpartum practice in traditional cultures--a period of "cocooning" the postpartum mother for roughly six weeks (about 40 days) after birth. Historically, each culture has approached this period differently, with different rituals, restrictions on activity, and diets, but the basic premise across cultures remains the same: Pregnancy and birth is a huge tax on a woman's body and soul, and she needs time--a lot more time than just two or three days--to fully recover.
Our modern society barely acknowledges that the postpartum adjustment period exists, and the idea of a women--a modern, independent working woman with her own career, drive, motivation, and goals--taking FORTY days off of "real life" to nest with her baby and be taken care of, rather than being the caretaker of others, seems radical, backward, and out-of-date to most of us. But is it? In this book, Heng Ou beautifully describes why it's not backward or out-of-date at all. It's smart.
After the author Heng Ou, a first-generation Chinese American, gave birth, she was nourished and pampered by her "Auntie Ou" in the Chinese traditional "confinement period" of zuo yuezi, which is a forty-day period of rest, shelter from the outside world, and intentional replenishment of the nutrients lost during pregnancy and birth. Experiencing this traditional time of healing and rest gave Heng a unique perspective and highlighted for her the importance of finding ways to honor these traditional practices within our busy modern lives.
I wholeheartedly concur with Heng when she writes, "I've had a front-row view of what is sorely lacking in our contemporary culture--a dedicated space and time that allows a woman to "become" a mother at her own pace. It's hard to reconcile the unique needs of postpartum with the demands of our fast-paced, highly productive society--how can we slow down and do less in a world that's continually asking us to do more? All the often, women experience a stressful clash of the two. For many mothers, the joy of a baby's arrival is mixed up with harder feelings: isolation and loneliness after the initial welcoming buzz subsides; bewildering fatigue from trying to hold it all together, or confusion and shame when they cannot."
Looking across cultures, Heng identifies five insights that most postpartum traditions from around the world have in common. These are the factors that remain vitally important for postpartum adjustment and recovery, and the formation of a woman's identity as a mother. The specific foods, rituals, and herbs used can vary from culture to culture, and in our modern postpartum period, may disappear altogether. However, the importance of these five elements of postpartum care remains:
Whether or not you identify with a certain traditional culture, these five elements can be a part of your postpartum experience. Intentionally creating space for retreat, warmth, support, rest, and ritual in the first six weeks postpartum comes with long-lasting positive benefits for you and your family.
This is exactly what a postpartum doula does--we support you in finding ways to bring these five elements into your postpartum period, whatever that looks like for you. Even if you only have six weeks--or less--off from work, before the calls from "real life" must be answered, and you think taking herbs for lactation or placenta encapsulation is more "woo" than you're into*, a postpartum doula can bring an extra layer of support to the time that you do have, help ease the transition to the next phase, and be a source of emotional support when it feels hard and overwhelming.
Balancing motherhood and modern life is hard. It is a struggle sometimes. You don't have to do it alone. There are people who can bring more ease, rest, peace of mind, and nourishment to your experience. Unless you live in a traditional community where women support each other across generations, passing down wisdom and recipes for nourishing broths and rejuvenative herbal baths, those people are called postpartum doulas. Give us a call!
*There's nothing wrong with alternative medicine, placenta encapsulation, or natural methods of supporting pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. We love it all! We also acknowledge it's not everyone's cup of tea. Postpartum doula support is for everyone, and our support is valued by people all across the spectrum of parenting and lifestyle choices. We bring customized support to YOU. It doesn't look just one way for everyone.
Check out our Vision Statement below!
In our vision for the future, Proud Mama Support Services is a central hub through which independent birth support professionals who share our core values, are mentored and engage in collaborative professional and business development, and families can find top-quality, professional perinatal support that is the perfect fit for them and their family.
We work toward a future in which every person in Corvallis, in Oregon, in the US, and beyond, is aware that professional postpartum doula support exists. In this future, the postpartum adjustment for mothers and parents, early parenting, and infant development is studied, planned for, and supported as much, if not more, than labor and birth itself. This preparation and awareness begins before or during pregnancy, and is woven into the childbirth education, medical care, birth doula support, and the culture around pregnancy at large. Postpartum women, men, and all new parents have access to judgement-free peer support. Each person knows how to access professional mental health services, and those local services truly understand and respond appropriately to the uniqueness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) and other common postpartum struggles. Proud Mama Support Services is an integral part of the postpartum network of support in our local Oregon community.
Additionally, we envision a future where women who are professionally trained, carry specialized knowledge and experience in giving care and support to families during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period, are a valued member of the family's collaborative support team during this life transition. Doulas, who invest in knowledge and skills that benefit families, babies, and parents, benefit from affiliation with Proud Mama Support Services because we are able to have a broader reach in marketing and network as a group than as individual doulas, and because all affiliated doulas align with the core values of Proud Mama Support Services. Clients benefit from choosing Proud Mama Support Services because they can trust that our entire team upholds the same values and the same commitment to excellence in our service to families. Families who hire support through Proud Mama Support Services have access to the cumulative knowledge, experience, and areas of expertise of the entire PMSS Team.
Did you get a flu shot? Do you think anyone else has the right to ask you about it? Do you have a right to ask people who work with your children about their vaccination status, and the status of their own children?
At Proud Mama Support Services, we respect every parents' right to make their own informed decision about vaccinations for their infant, and their right to inquire about the vaccination status of professionals working with them. We also respect the informed decisions our doulas have made for their own health and the health of their families. We do not require all our doulas to disclose their immunization records to us or to clients. However, when a client makes a request for a doula with up-to-date immunizations, we will match that client with a doula who meets their family's needs.
Everyone has a right to make their choice. There are definitely circumstances where it absolutely is the parents' business to know the vaccination status of people who are around their children. Babies and children sometimes have compromised immune systems, and this is just one example of when it IS your business, and we will help find the right support team for you and your family.
Proud Mama Support Services was founded in 2015. What have we been up to for the last 2.5 years? Plenty!
Proud Mama Support Services by the numbers:
This post was written by Rachel Brinker, founder of Proud Mama Support Services in 2013, when she was five months postpartum. Happy Holidays to all the Givers in the world!
It’s Winter Solstice and Christmas time. I was recently invited to meditate on the following question: “Who are you during this season? What are you made of? What are you called to do, to be during this season?” In a delicious moment of silence, I had the following insights:
This year, I am foremost a mother of small children. This year, I am THE GIVER.
I give my milk. I give my sleep, my time, energy, love, and patience to my children. I give them my mental space.
Not just in this holiday season, but in this season of my life, I am the giver. I give my family the gifts of healthy food, structure and routine, security and safety, reassurance and a steadfast presence that can be trusted.
I’m ok with this (and I’m a feminist). The Giver is not the same as The Martyr. Martyrs operate as though their greatest worth comes from fully giving up themselves for others, with no hope or expectation of ever getting one’s self back. Givers know they can grow within themselves through the practice of giving. They find a deep well on which to draw from to nourish themselves so that they can do the work of nourishing others. It’s not the same as losing yourself. It’s making a long term investment in relationships that really matter.
I’m at peace with this role, because it is one of many seasons in my life. I can give this much because this is the season to do so, and I know that I will be replenished.
Someday, a soon day in the course of my whole life, no one will need me to turn the food I eat into milk for them to drink as their sole source of sustenance. No one will need me to rock them back to sleep at 2am. No one will need me to help them learn how to use the toilet, or how to button their shirt. Someday I will get a full night of sleep, and someday I won’t need to make anyone’s lunch but my own. Hell, someday someone will make lunch for me.
As exhausting as life is right now with a five-month-old and a two-and-a-half-year-old, this is how it’s supposed to be during this season of life. It Just Is. And it won’t always be. More space and time will open up for new pursuits, new challenges, and new dimensions of my self.
And to be clear, I sure as hell don’t always feel this gracious about my role. But today I do, and that is something worth writing about.
Did you know that acupuncture can bring relief for a lot of common discomforts in pregnancy and postpartum, including morning sickness, headaches, and swelling? Learn more about the benefits of acupuncture for pregnant and postpartum women below. We are excited that our new team member, Ashley Grandkoski, LMT, L.Ac. can bring acupuncture and massage to our clients right in the comfort of their own home!
Benefits and Uses of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine in Pregnancy Care
By Ashley Grandkoski, LMT, L.Ac.
Though its often not the first thing people think of when they think of pregnancy care, acupuncture and Chinese medicine have a long history of use for aiding in and preparing for conception, alleviating symptoms and problems during pregnancy, and helping with labor and the postpartum period. The great thing about using acupuncture during pregnancy is that it is very gentle and safe and has virtually no harmful side-effects for mama or baby. It can be used at any stage of pregnancy, and increases the overall well-being of the patient while also addressing many problems and discomforts.
Here are some of the things acupuncture is most often used for:
Nausea and vomiting – a common, but miserable side-effect of pregnancy, nausea is sometimes hard to shake! A few regular acupuncture sessions can help control nausea, bringing it down a notch or two and making symptoms much more manageable.
Pain - acupuncture is well-known for being able to alleviate pain of all types. From normal aches and pains of pregnancy to sciatica and carpal tunnel, this can help! I often use bodywork as a helpful adjunct to acupuncture treatment.
Breech presentation - there is a well-established, very simple protocol that has good rates of turning breech, especially when used before the last few weeks of pregnancy. It is totally non-invasive and doesn’t even require the use of needles!
Pre-birth treatments – these are a wonderful way to prepare your body and mind for labor! Weekly treatments from 37 weeks on help prepare the body for birth by balancing energy, calming the mind and emotions, helping open the pelvis, ripen the cervix, and get energy moving in the low belly. Reports also suggest that these treatments decrease complications during labor and may even shorten its duration.
Labor stimulation - a gentle, easy approach to jump-starting labor, this has become a popular method to try for post-due mamas, and those approaching the window for medical induction. It doesn’t force the body, but can be the little nudge it needs to get things moving.
There are also many other issues that can be addressed with acupuncture, including:
-constipation and hemorrhoids
-urinary tract infections, acute or chronic
-carpal tunnel, sciatica and other nerve impingements
-fatigue and insomnia
-anxiety, depression and emotional swings
-vaginal irritation and yeast infections
-high blood pressure
-stabilizing and supporting pregnancy for someone with a risk for miscarriage
In addition to all these symptoms, acupuncture and massage are just great for you! They help decrease stress, calm emotions, increase immune function and generally nourish the body/mind and spirit. Who doesn’t need that?
Here are some questions you might have about acupuncture, along with some answers:
Q: How many treatments will I need to see results?
A: It usually takes more than one treatment for acupuncture to be really effective. It works cumulatively, building up its effects as treatments progress. Some things will only take a few treatments to resolve, but others may be longer term issues that take some time and commitment to truly get better. After the first session, I will do my best to give you an idea of how your condition is likely to respond, and how long it might take to see results.
Q: Do the needles hurt?
A: The needles used for acupuncture are extremely small and thin, and generally cause very little discomfort. Most often, you feel a small poke as the needle passes through the skin, but not much else. Some patients report feeling interesting sensations of energy moving, pressure, or a tingling/bubbling sensation. I am always careful to work within your tolerance level, and will stop or adjust if anything feels too strong or painful. In addition, acupuncturists are trained to use many methods other than needles for specific kinds of therapies. These other methods are often used during treatments in addition to acupuncture and can be used in place of needles for sensitive patients when needed.
Q: Is acupuncture safe, especially during pregnancy?
A: Yes! Acupuncture is extremely safe, and can be used at all stages of pregnancy. Acupuncturists go through extensive training, and are well-versed in cautions and contraindications for pregnancy.
Q: What can I expect in a treatment?
A: Normally, a treatment session involves an intake interview, where your medical history and health concerns are shared, and a treatment, which could involve acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, and/or massage (all treatments are discussed before being administered, of course!). Lifestyle and dietary recommendations are sometimes also given. In addition, Chinese herbs may be suggested or prescribed if they are appropriate. Almost all patients report feeling very relaxed at the end of the session.
Q: Is it necessary to have a western diagnosis for a condition before seeking treatment?
A: No! Chinese medicine has its own unique system of diagnosis, involving feeling the pulses and looking at the tongue, that allows a practitioner to treat virtually any condition without any kind of western diagnosis. That being said, however, certain conditions are, of course, important to discuss with a doctor, midwife or other health professional.
Q: What is unique about a treatment with me (Ashley)?
A: I have a particular passion for working with pregnant women and new mothers, and have dedicated much time and research to learning about how to best care for them with Chinese medicine. I also often incorporate bodywork into my sessions to aid in relaxation and add a nurturing touch to all my treatments. In addition to having a sweet and calm presence, I am truly dedicated to holism in life and health and strive to treat patients on every level, meeting and supporting them wherever they are on their journey towards wellness.
by Sophie Grow
Eight years ago, I was excited to attend my first birth, the birth of my niece. Now, I realize that back then I had NO IDEA how to support a pregnant woman, let alone a woman in labor.
I was 24 years old and I remember I had just gotten my first iPhone. It was a generation 3 and I was really excited to take pictures of my new baby niece. I was young and hadn’t had children, but I had been a nanny for many years and was skilled in childcare. I thought I knew what a mother was experiencing. I thought she was just tired and a bit sore. She’s just tired, right?
I visited my sister-in-law in the hospital as a mere spectator. I didn’t know about supporting a mom with supportive words to bear witness for her experience. I never connected with her. I thought she had all she needed. I thought that since she was a strong independent woman, she didn’t need support.
She came home after an unplanned cesarean and collected her baby from the NICU. Knowing what I know now, this transition time is very critical for maternal mental health. Women and their babies need a support network of nurses, doctors, pediatricians, and county nurses to compliment family and friend support. If there are holes or delays in that safety net, mothers and their babies can suffer.
But I didn’t know that. I thought once they were home from the hospital, everything was fine with my sister-in-law, her husband, and their sweet baby. I made a mistake that so many well-meaning and supportive family members do: I made the assumption that my sister-in-law was too strong to struggle and that having a baby isn’t that hard once the birth is over. I was uninformed and ignorant of the complexities and scope of postpartum recovery. She didn't show me her vulnerability during that time because witnessing it was something I had not earned. I thought I was there for her, but in truth I was critical of her. Why does it look so hard for her? Why is she struggling? Isn’t having a baby such a gift? Why does she look so burdened? She’s so lucky. I was jealous she had started a family. I thought I wouldn’t struggle like that when I had my babies. I. WAS. WRONG.
Recently, after listening to my sister-in-laws tell her birth story again in her own words and reflecting on her postpartum experience as a professional postpartum doula, I now see the holes in the support I offered her then. (The details of her birth that are shared here are done so with her permission).
Now I know that birth isn’t just a physical trial, it’s an emotional and mental trial as well. The marathon of birth doesn't end at delivery of the baby.
If I could go back and support this woman who I admire, who is such an important part of my life, I would know the right questions to ask. I would listen, validate, and support her without judgement, and without making assumptions about her experience.
I would feed her more,
Let her rest more,
Help her breast feed,
Help her relax,
Help her more with chores,
And be there to help more with the practicalities of a c-section recovery.
I would know that physical recovery and adjustment to parenthood takes longer than 6 weeks. Most women feel it takes a full year.
I would pick up on the trauma in her story and acknowledge it. I would give her numbers for the county health nurse and contacts for postpartum mental health support professionals. I would encourage her to go to the mom and baby groups, knowing she is a social person and needs friends who are dealing with similar struggles. I would tell her about our perinatal group support meetings and encourage her to go, whether or not she felt like she had a diagnosable postpartum mood disorder.
I would tell her that she was doing a wonderful job. I would smile and rub her feet while she played with her baby. I would sit with her when she is feeling her lowest low. I would tell her she’s good enough and deserves love and light. I would tell her it’s normal to feel pain and sadness and loneliness. I would tell her she would be well soon with time and support.
Now, I know I can truly provide non-judgmental compassionate support for where the mother is in her journey without needing to change it or fix it for her.
I can work to provide peace of mind.
The truth is, new mothers DO know what they want and need from others. It's just hard to ask sometimes. Sometimes accepting help is hard, as well. As a postpartum doula it’s my job to help her pause long enough to recognize her own needs, and to help make them get met as best I can.
I bring a hot cup of coffee in a clean mug to mom while she sits on the couch and snuggles baby. I make sure her favorite nursing shirts and bras are clean and folded. The kitchen counters are cleared and sinks emptied. Her fridge is filled with prepped snacks and meals. Her stomach is full of nutritious food and her body replenished with fresh water. The baby’s diaper is changed and she’s bundled in a swaddle. Baby sleeping beside me while I fold laundry. Mom rests in her bed, or showers alone, or relaxes by watching her favorite show. I show mom and dad how to bathe baby. I make play dough with big sisters. I organize the outgrown baby clothes while playing Legos with siblings. I demonstrate how to bottle feed or breast pump. I help prep a back-to-work plan.
But most importantly, I listen to the mother. I listen to the father/partner. I listen to the siblings. I listen to the stories. I am present for them and model how to be present in the gift that is the moment rushing by us.
What's up with all the buzz about tongue ties? Read on to find out the basics of why this topic might matter to you and your baby.
Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia, is a physical condition that limits the movement of the tongue. Between 1-12% of infants are born with this condition (Ghaheri, 2016). This can occur near the front of the tongue (anterior tongue tie), or the rear of the tongue (posterior tongue tie). Because the mechanisms of breastfeeding rely on a vacuum system within the baby’s mouth, not a “stripping” motion of the baby’s tongue as previously thought, having an infant with a tongue tie or lip tie could interfere with having a successful breastfeeding experience. While tongue tie is only one of many possible reasons for a challenge in breastfeeding, if any of the following problems present themselves during early breastfeeding, the possibility of a tongue tie should be assessed by a qualified professional:
According to Ricke et al, “The presence of tongue tie triples the risk of weaning in the first week of life.” (Ghaheri, 2016). For parents who have a goal of continuing breastfeeding, but are experiencing any of the challenges listed above, it is important to rule out an anatomical reason for why those breastfeeding challenges are occurring. In other words, many breastfeeding challenges are common and can occur for various reasons, and tongue/lip tie may be one of them. According to Dr. Ghaheri, all published studies on the subject find that after tongue ties have been identified and corrected surgically, breastfeeding outcomes improved for both the lactating person and the infant.
When looking for a provider to assess for possible tongue tie/lip tie and perform a revision if indicated, the following are considered best practices: 1. The provider will fully release the ties, including posterior tongue tie and lip tie if necessary (release of an anterior tongue tie without release of the posterior tie will rarely lead to improvement in breastfeeding). 2. The provider is supportive and knowledgeable of breastfeeding and works closely with IBCLCs. 3. The provider does not use general anesthesia on infants.
For lactating parents who have the goal of breastfeeding, it is important that they feel supported in their goal. As postpartum doulas, we help families find and explore all the resources available that may help them reach their goal. This is important not only for the baby’s health, but also because we know that women who wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t have two times greater the risk of developing postpartum depression compared to women who wanted to breastfeed and were able to do so successfully for as long as desired (Maternal Child Health Journal, Aug 2014, as presented by Ghaheri, 2016).
If you have questions or concerns about your baby, talk to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). And, if you have concerns with the information you've been given and are not feeling like your breastfeeding struggles have been resolved, find a second opinion. Our postpartum doulas and certified lactation counselor can help you find the answers and resources you are looking for. Our goal is to help YOU reach your goals regarding feeding your baby and preserving your own wellbeing and mental health.
Presentation. Tongue/Lip Tie and The Impact on Breastfeeding. Bobby Ghaheri, MD. February 26, 2016, Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, Corvallis, Oregon.