“What Should I do?” – Delving Into Mommy Groups Number One Relationship Question.

If a man were to be judged based solely on posts and comments women in Mommy Groups on Facebook share, the majority would be considered adulterous, abusive, selfish, and terrible at fatherhood.

Every day I read from a woman seeking the counsel of other women in these groups. Out of a place of desperation and heartbreak, these women are searching for an answer on how they should feel and if they should stay in terrible conditions. Many women are married, many are not; most have children with their significant other. They are hurting and confused. They want to know “What should I do?”

It breaks my heart to see the pain men are putting women through. It makes me fearful for our future sons and daughters. It seems there are men reverting to boys and women forgetting their worth in order to save a child from being fatherless. Women are being forced into an unhealthy independence that they were never meant to shoulder. Hearts are hardening, women are settling, and cycles are being created that will become more difficult to break as time progresses.

It seems all hope is lost. But, it is not!

There are actual MEN out there!!

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(photo credit: Red Juliet Photography)

My husband happens to be one of them. I have a most supportive and loving spouse. He encourages, inspires, listens, and partners with me through life. From my dreams and goals, 50 pounds heavier or lighter, dressed up or down, in a good mood or irritable, he is always there and always supportive and loving. I thank God for him, daily.

After my fair share of boys, it is refreshing to have a man. I now recognize the necessary traits. There are qualities a supportive man possess that we as women need to be seeking out.

I read recently “Being polite these days is so rare that it’s often confused with flirting.” Very true and how very sad.

I believe women are falling for a momentary encounter with politeness rather than a long-lasting allegiance to morals and loyalty. 

The true test of a man is not in the words he lavishes upon you, but in his actions.

While respect, attractiveness, honesty, and more are all traits of a good man… I’ve listed 3 additional attributes I believe supportive men posses.

He must:

Encourage

A man encourages his partner. He pays attention to her talents and motivates her to put her all into pursuing her passions. He does not get jealous of her desire for life outside of the relationship. Rather, he nudges her to find that place of her own because he knows it is healthy for her and for the relationship.

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(photo credit: Red Juliet Photography)

Listen

A man listens to his significant others concerns and does not belittle her for her feelings. He will recognize that there are times he doesn’t need to provide a solution, only a shoulder. Even if he can’t understand where she is coming from, he knows that because it matters to her that his support is needed. At the same time, he will communicate with her in a loving manner. Just as there will be times she will let him know he may be out of line, he will also guide her back in love.

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(photo credit: Red Juliet Photography)

Be A Safe Place

In the arms of a loving man; there is no safer place. With the right person, a woman will feel secure and able to fully be herself. She will feel desired and wanted. Yes, there will (and should) be a physical sense of safety; that is important. But, there needs to be a sense of safety in vulnerability as well. A woman gives her heart in a way that is more powerful and intense than a man. He needs to be deserving of it. He will understand this and make her feel like the only woman in the world. If he does not, he is not a safe place.

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(photo credit: Red Juliet Photography)

While the above are my top 3, they may not be yours. Deep down we all know what love is. It is instinctive.

When it hurts, belittles, takes more than it gives.

When it disrespects, mocks, controls, and ignores.

When it feels one-sided, when it publicly embarrasses you, physically hurts you, or betrays you without repentance and change. When you have to ask others  “What should I do?” or you question how you should feel on a regular basis….

It is not love and he is not a true man; a good and decent man. Your gut is telling you what to do. My best advice is this: Go with what you know and not what you feel.

XoXo,

Rachel

 

 

 

 

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Silence Isn’t The Answer

Why is it so scary?

Why can’t I just open my mouth and say it? I’ve walked around the past few days wondering if people can see a difference in my physical appearance. I feel like some sort of phony.

“Hi!” smiles

“How are you?”

“I am great, thanks.”

I suppose I am sharing this as part of my therapy. Writing has been therapeutic for me since I received my first journal in the 7th grade. I believe that I am also sharing this for you, for you sweet lady, who knows where I am currently. If I could hug you this very moment, I would.

I recently had a miscarriage.

I was in the very early stages. I had been feeling very sick and unlike myself for 2 weeks. I could not imagine why. Pregnancy didn’t really enter my mind because it wasn’t supposed to happen. We were taking all the precautions. To be sure, I took 2 tests; negative. A few days later came the positive tests.

Admittedly, at first, my husband Brandon and I were in complete shock. This news was nothing like the stunned squeals and tears we experienced with our first pregnancy. After many years of wanting children and never having any, we thought children may be out of the question for us. So when our first pregnancy occured, it was an absolute thrill.

Our second, we were stunned silent for a good 30 minutes or more. Thoughts of “how did this happen?” “What are we going to do?” flooded our minds.

Statements such as “You are starting school in a few months. I am about to start training to become a Breastfeeding Counselor. We are barely making ends meet as it is!!” came barrelling out of our mouths.

Slowly, after phone calls to those closest to me( besides my Mother as she was out of town) I shared my shell shocked news of baby number two with two people. Those calls really changed my perspective and I began to get super excited. I then shared all the positives of being pregnant and having another child with Brandon and we began to laugh, looked at our 1 year old son with joy and pride…he was about to be an amazing big brother!! Life was awesome and we were ready for this journey.

Shock turned into pure bliss. I connected with my baby. Rubbing my stomach, talking to the sweet soul growing inside my belly. My son loves to lay his head on my stomach. Whenever he would, I would tell him to say hello to his little brother or sister. It was so sweet. The moments, so tender. We couldn’t wait to share the good news with the rest of the world.

A few days later, it happened.

Everything about this process is different and heartbreaking in a way that is not easy to explain. Besides the emotional aspects; pain, heartache, grief, sadness, confusion, guilt, doubt, anger…there are physical symptoms that when added to the emotional, become exhausting.

I feel as if I have been hit by a bus, or run a marathon, or getting over the flu…or all of the above.

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Why are so many women silent about miscarriages?

Miscarriage happens so frequently, but is almost considered taboo. “According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage; more than 80 percent of miscarriages occur in the first 3 months of pregnancy.” So why the silence? Why are we encouraged to wait 12 weeks to announce our pregnancy? Is a life more precious…valid even, at 12 weeks verses 5, 6, or 7 weeks?

I believe there is taboo because, even though we are told it is not our fault, we believe it is. As a parent, it is instinctive to want to protect our child/children. When we become pregnant, we become parents from the very beginning. As women, our motherly instinct kicks into high gear to protect the life inside of us the moment the pregnancy test reads positive. Even if we are scared for the changes that will occur bringing an unplanned baby into the world, a part of us becomes excited. If a pregnancy ends in miscarriage, it can look like we have done something wrong to end the life of our child. Therefore, we silently grieve because in our minds to admit to our loss may be admitting to a failure on our part.

But  I also have to wonder if it is because of how women are treated when they announce a miscarriage. There may be a split second of, “Oh how awful, I am so sorry.” , but that is it and then we are expected to just pick up where we left off pre-pregnancy and go out into the world with our superwoman capes on and continue to be brave.

I love this quote that I found in an article by The Washington Post: “During a successful pregnancy, silence forces us to make excuses for being tired, for missing work to go to doctors’ appointments, for running to the bathroom. During an unsuccessful pregnancy, it forces us to suffer alone. In both cases, it causes us to shy away from asking for help when we need it. In a world of Facebook and Snapchat, where oversharing our frivolous news is the norm, under-sharing our more sincere news cheats us out of the connections that make life meaningful, and it cheats others out of the chance to step up and assist.”

I really hope this changes because men, your women need your support. They need your sympathy, encouragement, arms to wrap up in, and shoulders to cry on. Friends, your girlfriends need your random check ins, even if she doesn’t respond. She needs flowers, a dinner invite, an “Are you really okay? I know this must sincerely hurt. I can’t imagine your pain.”conversation. She needs permission to grieve this loss, take time off, and rest, because that’s what this is…a loss.  A Mother has lost her child. Her 4, 5, 6, 7+ week old child that matters as much to her as a full term baby.

Physically, right now, I am doing okay. I am not 100%. I am tired, no; exhausted honestly. I am a little sore and worn down. Emotionally? I am confused and sad. I do have more moments that are happy than they are blue. But I am sensitive right now. Easily agitated and irritable. I know this too shall pass. However, I will always remember those positive pregnancy tests and the moment the shock wore off and I looked at my husband, squealed, shouted CONGRATULATIONS, leaned in for a kiss, and told my son

“You’re going to be a big brother!!”

To mamas past, present, and future. You are beautiful and your hurt is oh so valid. You deserve tears, grief, counsel, and love. You are a mom no matter what society tells you. You are strong and I am so proud of you. Give yourself grace and tell someone your pain. It is worth hearing and you are not stupid for grieving a baby that you only learned about 5 days ago verses 5 months ago. You are a Mother and you are worthy of peace and healing.

XoXo,

Rachel

 

 

 

The Truth About Breastfeeding

I’ve discovered there are different truths for everyone when it comes to breastfeeding. However, I have also discovered there are universal truths for every…single… mom who decides to make this relationship a top priority.

Every mother and child relationship varies from another.

Some find their journey almost unbearable in the beginning and then like second nature once things progress. Other moms never have any difficulty in production, latching, or convenience.

(bless them)

Below are a few statements I have discovered to be true when speaking with any mom on the breastfeeding.

Not all breastfeeding journey’s are the same

Prior to Gabriel’s birth I watched videos on latching. I read blogs on milk production. I also studied every hold there is. None of this really prepared me for what would be my journey with my child. I learned that babies born prematurely will have a harder time than babies born closer to their due date. Some babies are born with tongue or lip ties that make latching near impossible or can cause extreme pain for mommy. And then there were some mothers that I learned never had a single issue.

From the beginning, I discovered that what Gabriel and I had set before us was uniquely ours. It was a groove that we were going to have to find and a trust we were going to need to build in order to save what was beginning as a set up for failure. Between unapproved formula being administered to my child via a syringe to nipple shields, we had serious kinks to work out in order to save our journey.

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Burpie time when he was a little bitty

You may not be supported

Some people just do not understand breastfeeding, or, some people who had a bad experience and quit early on may try to make you believe that you will also. Phrases like, “You can use formula if this doesn’t work” or “Don’t be discouraged if in a few days you realize how hard this really is and want to give up.”

While it would be fantastic for all moms to support you. While it would be amazing to not worry if someone is going to give you a dirty look in the restaurant…this isn’t always the case. You will get stares, you will feel unsupported at times, and you will have to simply ignore it.

It is an emotional journey

Breastfeeding is the one thing my son and I share that no one else gets to share with him. We women carry this child for 9 months and we go through all that entails. Once our baby has arrived, they can be quickly “taken” from us and passed around to each grandparent, aunt, friend, in-law there is. Breastfeeding is a way to ensure that mommy and baby have their much-needed time together. It is beneficial and crucial, not only in the first few months, but even for seasoned relationships.

When baby is sick, tired, hurting, teething, scared, clingy, nervous, or unsure, breastfeeding offers a safe haven.

It is what is best for you and your child because it is the path you have chosen

The advantages of breastmilk are so astounding that if pregnant women were required mandatory education on the benefits of breastfeeding prior to giving birth, I truly believe that more moms would not only decide to forego the formula, but that they would try harder when times felt tough. (not intended for those with supply issues or that simply can’t breastfeed)

Not only is it best health wise, it is best because it honestly does not matter if you decide to breastfeed 3 weeks, 3 months, or 3 years. That is what is best for you both because that is your decision. And it is okay if people don’t get that. It is okay if they think you need to stop. It is okay if they silently criticize. They aren’t your childs mother.

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15 months old and he is still my little nursling

Breastfeeding isn’t without challenges

There may be clogged ducts, mastitis, cracked nipples, latching issues, low milk supplies, and more. But there is education on each and every one of these challenges. Through research, blogs, support groups like mine on FB, and counselors or consultants, there is help to overcome these obstacles.

Not all Pediatricians will be supportive or fully educated. Some may make you feel you aren’t producing enough milk, some may not understand why you decided to delay feeding solids until baby is a year old, some may think it selfish and just for your own gain and self pleasure that you are taking this route. Unless your child is malnourished or lacking vital nutrients, then either ignore snide or even blatant remarks or find a Pedi that is supportive.

Finally, Breastfeeding is for you and your child alone

It can be for the mom who wants to pump and breastfeed, for the mom who wants to supplement and breastfeed, and for the mom who wants to breastfeed exclusively and on demand. Whatever that looks like Mama, it is yours, you know best, and it is no ones business to tell you otherwise. You just let it go in one ear and out the other and when someone nods in approval, applauds you, or gets you…you just look them in the eyes, smile and know that they get it!!

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Nurse on, Mama!!

XOXO,

Rachel

 

The Weighted Miracle of Love

Several months back I submitted the following to a very well-known and respected short-story journal/magazine. They were having a contest and I wanted to take a chance on me. I read that getting published in this magazine is harder than getting accepted to Harvard and that although they read all submissions, unless you are accepted, you do not hear from them. I submitted my entry, received an e-mail that it was received and would be read. Sure enough, I was advised that if I was not a winner I would NOT be contacted. Months later, I was contacted. I had not placed. But wait, I wasn’t supposed to be contacted unless I won?? I received the following:

Dear Rachel,

Although “The Weighted Miracle of Love” did not place in the March/April 2017 Very Short Fiction contest, it was a good read. Thank you.

We look forward to seeing more of your work!

I looked further into the receipt of the e-mail. Turns out, they do not contact you if you do not place, unless they really enjoyed your work and DO want to see more. I was bummed about not placing, but stoked to hear back. I hope you enjoy the following I wrote as a short-story about my sons birth.

XOXO, Rachel

The Weighted Miracle of Love

Like a crush anticipating that very first call; a lover awaiting the return of her traveled heart. She waited, she waited for 17 long and painful years.  Fists of rage towards the Heavens with despair covering the 4 AM soul cries like the darkness that enveloped the night. The only difference in the black of the night from what was entangled in her sobs, were the stars that shone down from the sky provided a light that was non-existent within her conscience.

Until that day when two thin lines between loss and gain appeared. Mourning sickness became morning sickness.

An anticipated 280 days turned into an unexpected 238. Suddenly, all the countless tears that once wet her face were replaced with a single stream of water down her thigh.

A quivering phone call to her partner filled with premonition would soon turn into a venture into the unknown.

She lay in a hospital bed with machines hooked to her weighty belly. Signs of life appearing on the monitor beside the bed proving what she knew all along but could not fully believe. There was life inside of her and this life would be making a debut swifter than the years that lay behind her. At first she truly believed she could handle this moment in time. She prepared herself mentally for the journey that presented itself, or so she thought.

Panting, moaning, and grunting. Rolling like a broken down car being heaved upon by strong, sweaty men in an attempt to gain some momentum in moving forward; back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. One, two, three. Three, three, three, progress coming to a halt. The clock pulsating much slower than the heartbeats inside her body. Strength turned to doubt as she attempted to avoid the drug that promised to bring relief and provide an opportunity to relish in the moment. Would this mean she was weak to accept the injected remedy?

“In my place” she thought. “In my place, I will allow these lines to be crossed in an act of selflessness in order to present the best part of myself to you. I will seek some sort of relief from this distracting pain if it means you can have all of me.”

Calculated minutes turned into 3 long hours of pushing and panting. Screams of pain and cries of defeat filled the small room, echoing the halls, intimidating the other expectant mothers. She felt like a fly trapped in the web of a spider. The other people in the room were all insects to her that were smart enough to avoid this web. Their conversations were akin to the noise an anxiety ridden person feels in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Forks, knives, simultaneous conversation, chewing, ice clinking, fans whirring, all of it coming together to create a cloud of insanity. When would this end?

The support of her husband, encouragement of midwives, nods of approval from mothers, other women who tread this road before all seemed like lies. With each transition came a heave from her body that forced everything she ever had and everything she ever didn’t out; bittersweet tastes in her mouth; more progress. The fire that burned deep within was so strong that it began spreading outward, spilling, if a fire can, outside her body. Was she close? Was this it? Was this the moment she waited for?

“I can’t!” she screamed. “Come out of me!” she pleaded. Sweet release, a collapse; two dark, strange, cloudy eyes gazed into her soul with recognition. An alien, “Welcome to Earth, little one.” the Midwife whispered.

This 6 pound gooey, soft, mass of skin and heat was placed on her stomach. It relieved itself onto her belly. Rooting, whimpering, pleading for a first taste it crawled upward toward her chest.. A chest that had longed to be filled with love for someone exactly like him. “You don’t know how ugly and lovely you are.” she said.

 

where is the beauty?

In the beginning, prior to giving birth, I fantasized about how beautiful and loving a breastfeeding relationship with my son would be. I, of course, had many friends that loved my “idea” of nursing, but their encouragement only went so far.

“Don’t be disappointed if you have to give up early.”

“Breastfeeding hurts really bad, you will want to stop.”

“I wanted to nurse my son, but I did not produce enough milk. Be prepared!!”

I chose to let their words go in one ear and out the other. I had been put on bed rest for 4 months…so I felt like my prayers to God to “please allow me to be able to nurse my son!” would surely be answered. I mean…4 months of bed rest? Breastfeeding being a breeze for me was surely going to be my reward.

Not so much. We initially had latching issues. You would think that baby is born, baby find mommy, mommy offers her breast, baby latches and all is a success. Such a wonderful experience. What you don’t foresee is all the clumsiness, all the uncertainty, the mental questions.

“Is he/she latched?” “Is he/she sucking?” “Is anything coming out?” “Why does this hurt?”

If you are blessed enough to have a Lactation Consultant on hand, or a breastfeeding counselor, God bless you! PLEASE utilize her and ask away. Have her crawl in the bed with you and show you to the inth degree, every minute detail, of how to nurse. I live in a smaller community, so at the beginning of my breastfeeding journey, there was not a consultant on duty at the time. I had to wait.

Due to his blood sugar levels and against my wishes, formula was administered. Unbeknownst to me, formula would make our journey more difficult. Formula fills baby’s tummy quicker than breastmilk and baby does not have to pull or suck as hard to receive formula from a syringe. Latching became a greater issue after this.

When baby is born our bodies begin making colostrum. (A thick, yellow sticky milk) It is super high in carbohydrates and protein. It also helps to keep your baby healthy. One drop is so highly concentrated that it can provide all your baby needs for several hours. It even helps promote that first stool. About 2-4 days after birth, colostrum bids its farewell and your milk will become white, thin, higher in volume.

Because we had latching issues, I would have to hand express colostrum onto my finger and feed it to my baby by hand. I was devastated. Where was the beautiful moment of me in my gorgeous gown, gazing lovingly at my son while rays of sunshine billowed through the windows and enveloped us in warmth? We just could not get a groove going. He just could not attach.

The next day I asked for a Lactation Consultant to come see me as soon as she was on duty. God bless her! She came into my room, laid in my bed with me, and helped me try to get my little man on. We latched again! It was awesome! I was doing it!!!!!

Then he pulled off and couldn’t get back on. We tried for almost 2 days when a nipple shield was finally suggested. (This is another topic for another day) Slowly, but surely, we were able to find a groove with the shield (which is controversial for some) but it saved our breastfeeding relationship.

When we are pregnant, if we choose to nurse, we imagine all the beautiful scenarios about that first attempt at feeding. We imagine how warm and loving it will be. How tender and special. We can foresee the closeness, the bond, the touches, the gazes of love. When the unexpected occurs it can really hurt.

Is something wrong with me?

Am I not doing something right?

Does my baby have latching issues?

Am I not producing enough milk? Will I be able to satisfy my baby?

How long am I suppose to feed my baby?

These are all questions that pop in our head. Even if there are no issues, we can question or doubt because while it is natural, it is a new experience for mommy and baby and not necessarily easy.

Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Read up on breastfeeding techniques. Watch videos. Hire a breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant if one is not on hand at the hospital. Get with your mommy friends who support breastfeeding and ask away. But mostly, trust yourself. You are your little ones Mommy. You know better than anyone. Even if you think you don’t.

So, it isn’t all beauty and dreamy in the beginning…but those moments do come. Hang on and nurse on, mama!

XOXO,

Rachel