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4 Reasons you NEED a Birth Plan

As a doula, one of the most helpful tools I can share with my clients are birth plans, or as I like to call them, birth preferences, because let’s face it, we can’t really plan our birth but we can definitely prefer one thing over another.  Having a client write out their birth preferences helps me better understand what they’re hoping to achieve during their birthing and lets me know how I can best assist them towards those goals.  But, that’s just one facet to the power of birth preferences.

Far beyond being a way for me to understand what my client wants for their birth, birth preferences are a great tool for communicating with your support team.

When we think of a birth plan we often think of it as a sheet of paper that was put together one afternoon after downloading a template we found on some popular baby website full of colorful pictures or bullet points.  But the truth of the matter is the birth plan that goes with you to your place of birth should be a final draft in a series of many rough drafts or outlines that has been worked on over the last few months of pregnancy.

I promise, I’m not trying to add the stress of homework assignments to the list of things you’re already busy doing while preparing for your baby.  What I am suggesting is start thinking about your birth preferences early so you can figure out how best to achieve those preferences.  For instance, try starting a list on your phone or in a notebook and as you think of something you’d like to look into or discuss with your provider, write it down. This can be the beginning of the rough draft that will eventually become your final draft.

Birth Preferences are very personal and unique to every pregnant person.  I’ve seen preferences that are very brief and concise and others that are much more detailed.

And yet, one of the questions I often get asked is “do I really need a ‘birth plan'”? And my answer is always YES.

So why do I emphatically recommend putting together a list of your birth preferences?  Well, there are a few reasons.

1. Gives you a chance to really visualize your birth

Have you stopped to imagine what your baby’s birth day will be like? Have you thought about how you’d like to be comforted?  What your room will look like?  Visualizing your birthing day with as much detail as possible- who’s there with you, what’s the temperature in the room, is it daytime, nighttime, etc.- and visualizing it often, helps to condition your mind to create it for you.

Take for example, athletes.  It’s long been known that some of the most successful athletes use visualization to help them prepare for big games.  They imagine themselves, in great detail, making big plays, running up and down the field, passing to a teammate and eventually winning the game.

Visualization helps us create an expectation.  The more we focus on those expectations the more our minds work to make them our reality.

So now imagine how you see your birth and think about what you’ll need in order to make that expectation your reality; a birth ball, a doula, massage, dim lights, aromatherapy, nurses with low voices, etc. Then, write it into your preferences.

Remember, visualize your birth often and with great detail and you’ll more easily achieve that goal.

2.  Helps your Partner know how they can support you

Preparing your preferences with your partner is a great way to help them better understand what you want during your birth and how they can support you.

Partners are far too often pushed to the side as an unnecessary player in the birth arena.  And for some partners, this exclusion can be distressing and in some cases, traumatic.

Your partner is a tremendous asset to your birthing because they are the only other person in your birth room who can speak on your behalf in regards to your care, (not even your doula can do that) so it’s important that they are given the opportunity to be an active participant in the preparation for and the birthing itself.

Now, there are partners that feel more comfortable letting someone like a doula or the care provider take a more active role in the birth and those wishes should be respected.  Your partner may have their own expectations so developing the birth preferences together will not only open up communication with each other but can also help you both determine how each other’s needs can best be met.

3.  They can help you determine where, and with whom, your baby will be born.

Choosing your provider is one of, if not, the most important factor in whether or not your birth preferences will be met.  And, depending on where the provider you choose has medical attending rights, this will also determine where your baby will be born.

Let’s say, for example, you’ve had your heart set on a water birth only to find out that the only facility that offers a water birth is located 2 hours away from home and the doctor you’ve chosen doesn’t attend there.  Or, perhaps the facility is in town but outside of your insurance network.  So basically, if your doctor is supportive of your water birth yet the hospital in which they have rights to attend doesn’t offer a water birth, you’re not having a water birth.  At least not with that doctor or in that hospital.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that once you’ve chosen a provider, you’re stuck with that provider.  And that’s simply not true.  You have a right to change providers at any point in your pregnancy for any reason.  Having said that, the doctor also has a right to not accept you as a patient at any point in your pregnancy.  So while I don’t recommend changing doctors at 39 weeks pregnant, yes, it is possible.

So, why would someone consider changing providers?  Just as there are many reasons we choose to  stay with a provider there are many reasons we choose to switch.  Going back to our water birth example, we may think Dr. X is amazing and wonderful but they don’t attend water births so, we may decide to find a different provider who does.  Or, Dr. X is amazing and wonderful but they don’t attend water births so in order to keep Dr. X, we decide to forgo the water birth.  These are very real options, among many others, and they are most definitely reason enough to change providers should you want to.

Just as important as who will be your provider is where your baby will be born.  Dr. X may be amazing and wonderful and super supportive of your birth preferences but is the hospital they will be attending you at as supportive?  Some doctors have attending rights at multiple hospitals allowing their patients to choose which facility best meets their needs.  However, keep in mind that that same doctor’s standards of practice may vary depending on which facility they attend your birth because they are bound to each hospital’s policies and protocols.

Talking to your doctor about your birth preferences is a great way to open up the conversation and communicate to your doctor not only what you want during your birth but also how and if they can accommodate those preferences for you.  Just as you and your partner have preferences, so too does your provider.  Openly discussing your needs with them will help you find a common ground or, if necessary, help you decide whether or not to go with another provider.

Once you and your provider have settled on how your preferences will best be met, you can start to finalize your birth preferences making sure to leave space at the bottom for your provider to sign.  Taking a signed copy of your birth preferences with you when you check in to your place of birth will let the nursing staff know that you’ve discussed your options with your provider which will help them understand how they can best support you as well.

4.  They ensure you DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

Let’s be honest, birth plans aren’t always welcomed in a hospital setting because they’re too often seen as being these long lists of requests like “I’d like my baby to be born listening to a gentle waterfall playing in the background” or “I want everyone in the room to be wearing only white”, (granted, I’ve never seen either of these requests in a birth plan, but, as a doula, if this was in a client’s plan I’d do my best to honor their requests).

Unfortunately, I’ve seen and heard of far too many instances where nurses and even some doctors have scoffed at a mom when presenting her birth plan.  I’ve seen eye-rolling, disregard, and downright disrespect. So why would I so strongly encourage you to create your birth preferences?  Do I want you to succumb to the same ridicule?  ABSOLUTELY NOT. Here’s the bottom line: if your provider has a problem with you having a birth plan that lays out what you would like for your birth and you’ve presented it to them so that you can both discuss your options, that is a problem.

I once had a client who’s provider gave her their birth plan for her birth. She promptly changed providers.

Now, here’s the thing, when a provider sees a birth plan, they may assume you’ve downloaded said plan from one of those aforementioned popular baby sites without necessarily researching what each option is much less the risks and benefits associated with them. And that, too, is a problem.

Ask yourself, do you really know the risks/benefits of delayed cord clamping? Do you really know the risks/benefits of a pitocin induction? Would you feel confident discussing the research that helped you make your decision to have a medicated/unmedicated birth with your provider? If you’ve answered no to any of these hypothetical questions, you need to DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

Doing your homework benefits you in many ways: you’ll learn all about your options and their risks and benefits, you may learn some things you hadn’t considered before, your provider will better understand how important your choices are and be more compelled to support them, and perhaps more importantly, you’ll be able to confidently give informed consent and informed refusal. That’s empowering!

It’s your birth, go ahead and take the wheel

So, more than being just a sheet of paper with your playlist options, baby feeding preferences and laboring position of choice, your birth preferences, or birth plan, is a way for you to step into the driver’s seat of your birth while everyone else goes along for the ride, having full confidence that you know the best route, as well as alternate routes just in case, to get to your desired birth.

Below you’ll find links to some of my favorite and trusted websites for reliable information about pregnancy and birth options you may consider.  I also strongly recommend looking into childbirth education classes to help you learn more about your pregnancy and childbirth options.

Evidence Based Birth

VBAC Facts

ICAN

BellyBelly.com

ACOG

Did you have a birth plan? What did your provider think? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

5 Pieces of Advice from Mom-of-Four-Me to New-Mom-Me

New-Mom-Me Lety Knight

There are fewer people harder on themselves than first time moms. And with social media continuously pumping out filtered photos of picture perfect parenting, the pressure to get new parenting “right” can be seriously overwhelming.

As a mom of four now, I often look back at my first at-bat as a new mom and think, “Lady, if you only knew how awesome you’re doing”.

I was so hard on myself for just about everything: sleep schedules, sleep habits, feeding schedules, educational activities, playgroups, breastfeeding, covering up, not covering up, introducing foods, not introducing foods… And the kid wasn’t even a year old yet!

They say hindsight is 20/20 and honestly, a lot of the lessons I’ve learned had to be learned the hard way.

I was 28 when I had my first baby and yet I was one of the first in my circle of close friends that started having kids. I was the only breastfeeding mom I knew so I had to find resources that could help me on my own. We were also living in California and away from close family for the first few months after he was born, so, without my mom I had to figure things out quick.

I threw myself into every single online, in print and in person resource I could. I sorted through all the recommendations and advice for raising a happy healthy baby and found the tips I liked best and went from there. Through tears of joy and sadness, frustrations and victories, opinions and facts, I had compiled, maybe not a manual on how to raise my baby but, definitely a pretty solid outline.

And, as time has passed, that outline, like any rough draft, has been expanded and edited, researched and revised and eventually scrapped altogether.

One thing I’ve always been sure of is I don’t know it all which is why I fully understand and appreciate that every day presents an opportunity to learn something new. And so, here are a few of the lessons Mom-of-Four-Me would’ve loved to be able to share with New-Mom-Me.

1.  Just say NO

I remember telling myself that I wasn’t going to let my life change so dramatically after having a baby that I couldn’t still do the things I liked like going to lunch with friends or wearing heels or planning last minute trips. I’d receive invitations to parties and dinners and wrack my brain for days trying to figure out how I’d make it work with a new baby in tow. Add to that the stress of dealing with breastfeeding for the first time in public places, packing a diaper bag with everything I could possibly need “just in case” we got caught in some catastrophe and had to live off the land for at least a month, and just being away from our safety bubble at home.  I’d be so stressed that day I wouldn’t even enjoy where I was because all I really wanted was to be home.
After a while I started declining invitations and would feel terrible about it. I felt bad for saying no to my friends.  I felt bad that I couldn’t get my shit together enough to go.  I felt bad for wanting to be home. But, in all honesty, the more I started to say no, the easier it was to say no.  I realized I was forcing myself into these social interactions for the benefit of others’ feelings and completely disregarding mine and my baby’s.  So, I missed a few birthday dinners and girl’s trips and happy hours, but I gave myself an opportunity to embrace my changing life.  The great thing is I have a wonderful circle of friends and family that easily forgave my absence and let me jump back into the game as if I was never absent for any of it.  That’s my village.  So practice saying NO and I promise, it’ll get easier.

2.  Just say YES

Now the flip side is just because it’s easier to say no to some things, that doesn’t mean you should say no to all the things.  As a new mom, we’re so willing to sacrifice whatever we need to for the health and well-being of our sweet little babes.  However, new moms are also notorious for sacrificing way more than they need to at the expense of their own health and well-being.  Learning to say no to people is challenging because we’re so conditioned to be accommodating and helpful and that doesn’t easily go away when we become parents.  And while it’s difficult to say no to others, it’s surprisingly easy to say no to ourselves.

So why not be more accommodating and helpful to ourselves?  Wouldn’t giving yourself just 5 extra minutes in the shower be re-energizing?  Wouldn’t giving yourself a lazy day in bed with your baby be relaxing?  Wouldn’t an extra hour alone outside of the house be invigorating?  Now, stop right there, because I know what you just did.  I know your brain just imagined the chaos going on outside the bathroom in those 5 extra minutes you’re in the shower or the pile of laundry just getting bigger while you’re being luxuriously lazy.  Just STOP! Stop thinking of reasons you shouldn’t give yourself time and JUST SAY YESSSSSS!!!

3.  Accept Help

My house sits comfortably within a 5 minute drive from both my mom’s house on one end and my mother in law’s on the other.  So you would think new-mom-me would be swimming in grandma help 24/7.  Well, you’d be wrong.  I was so determined to do things on my own and my own way that in an effort to not inconvenience anyone else (even desperately willing grandmas) with my rigid rules on parenting, I did everything I humanly could on my own.  I was never away from my baby for more than an hour in the first year and a half and then it bumped up to no more than 3 hours after that.  Needless to say I was a ball of stress and anxiety making sure I followed these rigid rules I’d made up myself.  I was so unforgiving.

Here I was swimming in offers to help me and I rejected them all because I wanted to prove I could do it.  I saw these offers not as a helping hand to give me a break, but instead as an accusation that I was a bad mom that couldn’t cut it.  My insecurities as a new mom were screaming back at me so loudly that I couldn’t just accept help.  And not just from my parents but anyone.  I look back on those days and I could cry all over again.  How many exhaustion filled days I could’ve spared myself.  How many tear-filled showers I could’ve avoided.  How many overwhelming doubts I could’ve ignored if I had just accepted some help.

So please, accept the help, in whatever form it appears to you, accept it.  It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom.  It doesn’t mean you’re not enough for your baby.  It means you’ve found yourself an amazing member to add to your village.

4.  Listen to the experts then do what you want  

One of my favorite pieces of advice I ever got was from the chaplain that married my husband and I.  We met with him a few weeks before we were set to get married so he could talk to us about what our expectations of marriage were and how to better communicate our needs to each other.  I remember he told us that no one else will know our relationship better than us but that won’t stop people from giving us advice about it. “So” he said, “listen to the ‘experts’, and then do what you want”.  This has stuck with me my whole life and not only when it comes to my marriage.  It really pertains to all aspects of life but, probably more so now as a mom.

The “experts” are everywhere; online, in person, at school drop-off, mom groups, family get togethers, EVERYWHERE!  And they all have ideas on how you should raise your baby.  Well, guess what, no one knows your baby or your family better than you do, they only know their own.  So what worked for them might work for you but, then again, it might not.  So listen to their advice (even if you’re really just running down your to-do list in your mind as they’re speaking), say “thanks, I might try that”, but then do what works best for you.  All the advice does is it makes us doubt what we already know.  Because whether you believe it or not, you really DO know what’s best for you and your baby.  It’s just that all the noise, I mean, advice, can make it difficult to hear yourself out.  So, more than anything, trust yourself.  You are, after all, the only expert that matters.

5.  Always forgive yourself  

This is perhaps the most challenging for new moms.  I was talking to my mother in law one day about what the kids and I had to do that day.  It was this long laundry list of errands, appointments and a playdate that was going to have us out and about for most of the day.  I stayed up late the night before to have the kids’ clothes laid out so they could just wake up and get dressed. I packed snacks and had lunch planned out so the day would run as smoothly as possible.  She tells me “I don’t know why you do that to yourself”.  Her statement, while admittedly at first pissed me off a little, really threw me.  Do “what” to myself?  I’m not doing anything to myself, what I’m doing is for my kids.  But, the more I thought about it the more I realized, “why the hell am I doing all of this?”

I knew that all the prep work I’d done the day before wasn’t only so the day could go by easier.  It was done so that my role as a mom would seem effortless.  I realized that the perception other people had of me as a mother was important to me and that needed to stop. I think I needed their perception to hold me accountable for my actions, to push me to do things I didn’t want to do but forced myself to do so that I’d be seen as a good mom.  And when things didn’t work out, I’d beat myself up for days about it.  I’d relive what I could’ve done differently, what I could’ve said differently, how I could’ve parented differently.  I couldn’t forgive myself.

I started to resent myself for not exceeding these made up expectations I had for myself and I’d had enough.  I decided to eliminate should, would and could and replace them with did or did not.  Have you ever noticed that all advice includes should, would or could?  Then, those shoulds, woulds, and coulds get stuck in our heads and create doubt in our minds making it harder for us to forgive ourselves.  But what if instead of wondering what we “shoulda, woulda, coulda”, we decided to accept what we did or did not do? No doubts, just acceptance.  We would allow ourselves to forgive what we “shoulda, woulda, coulda” done and just accept what we did. Other people’s perception of you wouldn’t matter because you’ve accepted your decisions fully.  So just take a step back from all the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” and forgive yourself.

You got this, New-Mom, I promise

As each new baby came into our lives the way we parent evolved.  It changes every day and adapts to every situation.  And that’s the thing about being a new mom.  There’s no right or wrong way to be a mom because it changes every day.  I’ve since learned to trust that ebb and flow and just go with it.  I say yes when I want to  and say no when I need to.  I find myself on the receiving end of advice (solicited or not) and then turn around and do whatever the hell I want to do.  But more importantly, being a mom of  four for over 10 years now, I’ve learned to forgive myself.  I forgive myself for forgetting about parent teacher conferences or award ceremonies.  I forgive myself for being a forgetful Tooth Fairy.  I forgive myself for letting the baby sleep in a wet diaper all night so that I can sleep a few minutes longer.  I forgive myself, and so should you.

What are some things you’ve learned as an experienced mom or what are some lessons you hope to carry with you as a new mom?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Mom-of-Four-Me Lety Knight

Calm or Chaos: a Day in This Life of Mine

2:39 am- My almost 3 month old baby boy starts to stir indicating its time for his nighttime feed. I strategically place my pillows around me so I can “comfortably” sleep on my side while he nurses. Should I change his diaper? Nah, he’ll be alright. Back to sleep.

4:15am- Awaken to the sounds of little feet leaving my bedroom. My 4 year old is walking out with a set of clean pajamas in his hands which he found on his own in the dark because he’s just peed on his freshly washed bed sheets which he peed on the night before. Luckily Hubby (by some miracle) heard him walking around as well and helps him change. Being too exhausted to deal with changing sheets from having had a minor heart procedure done less than 48 hours before, Hubby lets him in our bed where the baby is still sleeping. Side note: Thank goodness for tax returns and Groupon deals on king sized beds.

6:03am- I wake up (again) 27 minutes before my alarm is set to go off so I can get my 7 and 9 year olds ready for school. I should try to nap for a few minutes before I actually have to get up (baby stirs, again). Maybe he won’t completely wake up and I can… nope, he wants the boob.

6:30am- Alarm unnecessarily goes off since I’m already awake. Maybe the kids will sleep in and they can just stay home. I mean their dad is home again after having been in the hospital for a few days. That takes some adjustment, right? 9 year old is already up and getting dressed. Oh well, let’s wake 7 year old up to get dressed for school too. I can take a break from making breakfast by letting them eat at school. We’ll just have to leave the house by 7:10 to get there on time. For now, COFFEE!

7:16 am- On our way to school. They’ll have enough time to eat, right? I mean, I’ve seen them shove toaster strudels down their throats in less than 45 seconds. They’ll be alright.

7:42 am- Pulling into our driveway after sitting with the kids while they ate their school breakfast. Glad I wasn’t the only mom rubbing crusties from her eyes. Fight on Momma, fight on. Hopefully Hubby, 4 year old and baby are still sleeping when I get inside. Ugh, I should’ve left the dogs outside while I took the kids. Here’s hoping they don’t bark… Success!! No one barks and everyone is still asleep. Now, what to do? I could sneak back into bed to nap and hope the baby doesn’t feel me laying down triggering him to wake up. Or, I could sit on the couch alone and watch the morning shows. I should probably open up my computer and get some emails out of the way.

8:05 am- Work it is. Crap, computer battery’s dead. Need the charger. Okay, all set. Plugged in, password entered and…

8:06 am- Baby’s crying and hungry. Close computer and try again later. Nurse the baby.

8:47 am- After some cuddles and mindless social media scrolling I should probably make Hubby some breakfast. I need him to get better quickly. To the kitchen I go. Let’s hope baby stays happy in his rocker long enough for me to make us all breakfast and so I can eat with two hands! I hand Hubby and 4 year old their plates when baby starts crying. Oh well, bowl of cereal for me and booby for the baby. A few drops of cereal milk on his head won’t hurt.

9:34 am- Take advantage of baby falling asleep while nursing and watch a little Netflix. Did I pack 7 year old’s lunch? I think so. Of course I did. Okay, now that we got the daily panic attack about whether or not my child will starve at lunchtime because I may have forgotten to pack her lunch out of the way, maybe I can take a nap with the baby. He’s so sweet. He looks super uncomfortable though. Let me just fix his hea… And he’s awake.

10:20 am- Try to answer emails while holding a very squirmy baby being entertained by 4 year old. They’re getting so big so fast. Hubby records 4 year old’s wild version of peek-a-boo. Baby’s not too impressed anymore. He sounds tired. I think it’s time for his morning nap. Hubby can handle 4 year old for a bit.

11:04 am- Happy Nappy Time for mommy and baby.

12:46 pm- Well, that was a rare and much appreciated nap. A few interruptions here and there but not complaining. Interesting. Baby’s still asleep. I wonder if I can get up to make lunch without him wakin… And he’s awake. Good thing he’s cute. And now he’s crying. Booby it is.

2:50 pm- On my way to pick up the older kids from school. I usually leave at about 2:45. It only takes about 5 minutes to drive there and they don’t get out until 3:05 but sometimes, when the littles can stay home with Daddy while I go, it’s nice to just sit in the quiet car for a few minutes. Today I was able to sit alone for about 3 minutes. It was glorious.

3:28 pm- Finally home. 9 year old decided to stay a little longer to “finish homework”. I’m pretty sure he stuck around to peruse the book fair going on this week. Time to make them some PB&J’s to hold them over until dinner. Here’s where I’m pretty spoiled. I’m pretty lucky to have super supportive parents and in laws that help us out with the kids tremendously. I can’t imagine what this weekend with my husband in the hospital would have been like had we lived in another city. I certainly would not have been brave enough to have 4 kids if I didn’t have their support. Hubby was in the Marines before we decided to have kids. I think I was too scared of being a military mom dealing with deployments like so many of my friends were. I honestly have to hand it to single moms and military moms. They’re superheroes. So, in a sense, i guess you could say it’s our parent’s fault we have so many kids. But, I digress. My mom called earlier to check in on hubby and invited us over for dinner. YESSSSS!!! Anytime I don’t have to make dinner is a major WIN! Love my mom.

3:47 pm- After-school snack turned into Oreos and milk. Judge me, see if I care.

4:29 pm- Cuddles! With a side of guilt for not yet washing the dishes in the sink. I’ve also been yelling at the kids for the last hour to get their homework finished and get out of their school clothes. I’ve checked myself out at this point. They can walk to my mom’s house for dinner. I’m DONE!

5:25 pm- Dinner at my mom’s house before baseball practice for 7 year old at 6:30. Mom made enchiladas with a cheese they brought back from Mexico. My dad tells us a story about an old man from his village who, after making quesadillas for himself and his wife before bed, weighs the wheel of cheese without telling her. The cheese is so good he wants to make sure she doesn’t eat any without him. The next day, when he returns from work, he goes to weigh the cheese and discovers it weighs less than it did the night before. He’s so upset he kicks his wife out! My mom then tells us that this morning as they’re eating breakfast my dad says to her “I weighed the cheese”.

6:17 pm- 7 year old is off to practice with my mother in law who thankfully offered to take her so I wouldn’t have to rush all the kids to finish dinner and go. Meanwhile, my father in law picked up Hubby to take him to class (told you I’m spoiled). He missed school on Monday due to his procedure and has to go today to review for a test he has next week.

7:25 pm- Head to the park to meet 7 year old and grandma and hoping to catch the end of practice. When we get there practice is over so we decide to wait a bit so we can head over to daddy’s school in time to pick him up. He should be getting out any minute. My father in law is already there waiting so we head home instead. The kids are bummed because they had hoped to have more time at the park but by this time it’s 7:51 and they still need to wash up and get in bed.

8:18 pm- Were home and the kids are washing up for bed. I throw 2 peed-on sets of bedsheets in the wash (I hadn’t yet washed the sheets from the night before last, I’m told I need to accept I have a bed-wetter) and put new sheets on 4 year old’s bed. I made sure to grab one of my nieces pull-ups from my mom’s house before we left. Should he have another accident, at least I know I’ll only be changing a diaper and not the whole bed.

8:43 pm- Kids are washed up and in bed but I can hear them giggling and jumping. Hubby yells for them to be quiet and go to sleep when 4 year old jumps into bed and bangs his head on his bed frame. I go give him a hug and kiss his head to calm him down. He lays back down and cuddles his elephant named Peek-a-Boo. Meanwhile, my 7 year old is struggling with sleeping by herself. I get it. The boys have someone to share a room with. Daddy and Mommy share a room where even the baby sleeps. We thought it’d be nice for her to have her own space. On weekends she’s allowed to sleep in the boy’s room if she likes but on weekdays she has to go back to her own room since I struggle the most to wake her up for school. It’s rules like this that make me question what the hell I’m doing. I feel like I’m punishing her on a daily basis. Some nights she doesn’t mention it at all and falls fast asleep but then others she pouts her lip and asks to sleep with her brothers. Maybe it’s my own stubbornness that wants her to stay in her own bed so I’m not hushing then yelling at three kids to be quiet and go to sleep. Maybe it’s because I think it’ll somehow make her eventually enjoy having her own space and independence. But, maybe all that’s completely wrong and all it’s doing is making her afraid of being alone. How do I find that balance and what am I willing to compromise? Then I realize, this is where having a great partner in this makes all the difference. While I’m now washing up the baby, her sore and tired Daddy is laying in bed with her so she can fall asleep with her heart at ease. If anything, at least I know she’ll grow up to expect nothing but the best from her future mates.

9:18 pm- The 9, 7, and 4 year olds are sound asleep, finally. The baby fell asleep while nursing but we’re not in the safe zone just yet. The safe zone is when he’s in a deep enough sleep that if I move him he’ll (fingers crossed) stay asleep. If I dare move him before, he’ll wake up and the process begins all over again. For now, we wait…

9:31 pm- Nope. Too soon. Way too soon.

10:03 pm- SUCCESS!! Time to fix lunches for tomorrow.

10:54 pm I’m washed up and finally in bed. Thinking about what to make the kids for breakfast since they’re not crazy about what the school will be serving tomorrow. Pancakes sound good.

All in all today was actually a pretty good day. These days few and far between. There were no tantrums today. Very little yelling. Nothing was spilled or broken and no one got into a fight. I never did get to answering those emails. The dishes didn’t get washed. I did, however, manage to get a nap in so today was definitely a win.

They’re not all good days and they’re not all bad days. When I woke up this morning I decided I’d chronicle the day no matter how it went. Today we had calm. Tomorrow we may have chaos. They seem to coexist in this house. Sometimes in the same room.

As for tomorrow, I’ve got a mountain of laundry to tackle and baseball practice for the 9 year old in the afternoon. I expect the baby will wake up later around 2:00 am for his nightly feed and a whole new day will start again. So, come what may, calm or chaos, spills or kisses, tomorrow’s another day.

A Memoir for Mamí

My husband and I were on our way to enjoy a rare and much appreciated childless brunch at one of our favorite local breweries. As we’re driving I notice one of those inflatable air dancers in front of a shop and quickly point it out to my husband. I told him about a little game the kids and I have with the air dancers. Every time we see one floating around we quickly turn up the radio to see which song he’s dancing to. We’ll flip through until we find the perfect song and laugh as it flings it’s arms up in the air to the music. I told my husband I hope that becomes one of their favorite memories of me and that maybe, if those air dancers are still around, they share the game with their own kids. That got me thinking about my favorite memories with my mom.

I remember the very first time I ate a kiwi.  My mother used to clean guest rooms for a large hotel when we were little. It wasn’t often but when the hotel had leftover fruit from food service they would let the cleaning staff take some home.  Sometimes she would come home with oranges and apples which were always a treat for us.  But I’ll never forget the day she came home with kiwis.  I must have been about 4  years old but I remember looking at how exotic it looked, like it came from some far off beach where beautifully bronzed bodies roamed the sand devouring the gorgeous fruit like it was caviar.  She only had two kiwis with her so she cut them in half for myself and my three sisters to share.  Then she grabbed a few spoons and showed us how to scoop out the lovely bright green fruit inside.  I thought this must be the most luxurious eating experience of my life. I was eating fruit reserved only for people rich enough to stay at a fancy hotel and eating it as they would.  By that time I had only ever eaten fruit with my hands like a savage!  This fruit, however, was special and merited flatware.   When I finally took a bite I knew instantly I’d love kiwis for the rest of my life.  I wanted more but my half was gone far too quickly.

Every time she came home from work after that day I prayed she’d have another kiwi in her bag.  A lot actually so I wouldn’t have to share mine.  She’d come home with apples, oranges, the occasional slightly bruised banana.  She came home with raisin bread once which was lovely but it wasn’t a kiwi.  The days a kiwi came home with her were like winning the big prize at a carnival. I’ll never forget that. Now, every time I see kiwis at the grocery store, they remind me of my mom.  It saddens me to think my kids won’t have that memory with my mom but I wonder what their memories will be of me.

Blowing out my birthday candles 


I’m sure they won’t remember every day happenings just as I don’t.  They’ll remember stand-out moments like vacations or birthday parties. So I try to add to their memory bank by doing things like stopping the car without warning and running through sprinklers at the park with them.  Or, by dancing in my underwear and shaking my butt until their sides hurt from laughter.  Or singing songs that seem to have no end because we change the words up with every verse.  Of course, some days are easier than others to try to build memories because, well, life, but I do try to do something fun or memorable with my kids when the opportunity arises.

Some of my favorite memories of my mom involve us laughing or travelling, or me helping her out at the grocery store or in our kitchen. The majority are pretty great memories.  I don’t really remember too many times she lost her patience with us.  That’s not to say those times didn’t exist.  Raising six kids was undoubtedly stressful.  On weeks where we struggle to make ends meet with our own three kids I honestly wonder how my parents managed to make ends meet for all six of theirs.  As an adult I can see now how they must have struggled.  But as a kid, sitting on the cooler between my dad driving and my mom making us bologna sandwiches as we made our way from Illinois to California for the first time in our lives for my cousin’s quinceañera in our conversion van while driving through tunneled roads along the Rockies, we were living the life!

And so, its in their struggle that I find hope.  Hope that even though I may have yelled at them for doing everything BUT brush their teeth for bed, they’ll remember the fun little pranks we play on each other.  Hope that for every time I ground them for not cleaning their bedrooms, they’ll remember movie nights and “Jumbo Bed”, a family favorite.  Hope that for every weekend that my husband and I had to work which meant they’d miss out on the latest Disney production in town, they’ll remember all our fun times spent in “our city” (what my kids call downtown El Paso).  Hope that for every book left unread at bedtime they’ll remember the books that were read and the funny voices mommy made for each character.  And hope, that one day, when they have babies of their own, they’ll share some of their favorite memories of me with them and then build their own.

As kids we all have different memories of same experiences so I asked my siblings what some of their favorite memories with our mom were.  One sister remembers our mom jamming the radio full blast to the likes of José Luis “El Puma” Rodríguez and Julio Iglesias.  This was definitely not one of my favorite memories because it usually meant she was using their velvety voices to wake us up to clean.  Although, it did help me remember how she always sings a half-beat behind the music.  That is one of my favorite memories.  My other sister reminded me how it  was and still is impossible to get the exact time from our mom.  If we asked her what time it was in the morning (because the only clock in the house was likely the one on the microwave in those days) she’d say “Time to get up and clean!” or “It’s almost noon and you’re still just laying there!” when it was really closer to 10:45 a.m. While at the time this memory frustrated us, it’s pretty endearing now. Sort of.

My mom is very sentimental so she keeps things that have special memories for her like old documents from Mexico, jewelry and clothing.  When my siblings and I were all finally out of the house she somehow managed to fill every closet in the house with all her dresses and blouses that weren’t currently in her daily rotation but, perhaps one day the right occasion would merit their return.   Occasionally she’ll pull out some of her older pieces to see if it’s time for their comeback.  Then, when we come over for a visit she’ll pull out outfit combinations she’s been thinking about wearing for mass, upcoming baby showers or birthday parties.   Aside from her wedding dress, one of the oldest pieces she’s kept over the years is a brown mini-dress with little white flowers sprinkled throughout that she wore in her early 20’s.  I love that dress.

My grandfather’s birth certificate 

When my brother told me his favorite memory it made me laugh because it was something I just did for the first time with my own kids.  At breakfast, where most moms would crack eggs on the edge of a bowl or on the counter-top,  our mom would line us up to crack the eggs open on our foreheads.  First, she would slowly and carefully find the hardest spot on our forehead which would add to our anticipation of what was to come. Then, CRACK! I remember it hurting for a quick second but the thrill we felt after risking potentially being showered with raw egg made it too fun to notice the quick bang to our hard heads.

This is an obvious statement but I’d be lost without my mom.  She’s the home my compass always points back to.  I have a great many more wonderful memories with my mom and plan to make many more with her.  And so, it’s to my wonderfully courageous, hula-hooping mom (yet another awesome memory), that I dedicate this memoir.  Thank you for filling our hearts with some incredible memories Mamí.  La quiero mucho.

My momma as a kid

Las Memorias de Mamás

Mi esposo y yo íbamos a desayunar a uno de nuestros restaurantes favoritos sin nuestros hijos.  Es un evento raro y bien apreciado.   Durante el viaje me encontre unos de los monos de aire bailando en frente de una tienda.  Lo enseñe a mi esposo y empeze decirle de un juego que tengo con los niños.  Le expliqué que cada vez que vemos un mono de aire, pronto buscamos una canción en el radio que le queda mejor a el baile que hace.  En cuanto encontramos la canción perfecta nos ponemos de risa a ver el mono baile y baile a la canción.  Le dije a mi esposo que me gustaria si este recuerdo podra ser uno favorito para mis hijos de mi.  Despues me puse a pensar en mis memorias favoritas con mi mamá.

Me recuerdo la primera vez que comí un kiwi. Cuando mis hermanas y yo eramos pequeñas, mi mamá trabajaba en un hotel limpiando cuartos.  No era frecuente pero cuando sobraba fruta del servicio de comida, dejaban las trabajadoras llevarse lo que gustaban.  A veces mi mama llegaba del trabajo con naranjas or manzanas que nos encantaban.  Pero nunca me olvidare de la primera vez que llego con kiwis.  Tendria yo como unos 4 anos de edad pero me recuerdo que facinada estuve con ver que exotico se me parecia el kiwi.  Como si fuera de un pais extranjero donde la gente recorre las arenas blancas de una playa comiendo esta fruta maravillosa como si fuera caviar.  Este dia mi mama llego con solo dos kiwi en su bolsa.  Los partio por la mitad para repartirlos con mis hermanas y yo.  Luego nos dio cucharas y nos mostro como comer nuestra fruta preciosa.  Pensaba que esta experiencia era la mas lujosa de mi vida.  Estaba comiendo fruta reservado solo para los ricos clientes y comiendolo igual que ellos.  Hasta entonces solo había comido fruta con mis manos como una salvaje! Pero esta pieza de fruta era especial y merecida cubiertos.  Cuando al fin lo mordi me di cuenta que me iban encantar kiwis por el resto de mi vida.  Quise mas pero me comí me pedasito demasiado pronto.

Cada día despues rezaria que quizas tendría otro kiwi en su bolsa.  Realmente rezaba por muchos para no tener que compartir con mis hermanas.  Llegaba del trabajo con manzanas, naranjas, y a veces con platanos maduros.  Un dia llego con pan de pasas que era un placer pero, bueno, no era un kiwi.  Los dias que llegaban kiwis con ella eran como si me habia ganado el premio grande del carnaval.  Nunca se me olvidara.  Ahorra, cada vez que veo kiwis en el mercado me recuerdan de mi mama.  Me entristece pensar que mis hijos no tendrán esta memoria con mi mamá pero me pongo a pensar en que seran las memorias que mis hijos tendran de mi.

De seguro no se recordarán cosas que pasan día a día igual que yo.  Recordarán momentos especiales como vacaciones y fiestas de cumpleaños.  Es por esta razon que intento crear varios memorias con mis hijos.  Memorias como corriendo entre los rocieadores en el parque o balilando en mis calzones hasta que les duele la cintura de risa. O cantando canciones que duran un eterno porque cambiamos la lírica de cada verso.  Unos días son mas fáciles que otros para crear memorias por que, bueno, asi es la vida, pero lo intento con cada oportunidad.

Mis memorias favoritas con mi mama son de nosotras viajando o riendo o ayudándola en la tienda o en la cocina.  La mayoría son memorias lindas.  Casi no me recuerdo de los tiempos que la hicimos perdir su paciencia con nosotros. No es por decir que esos tiempos no existen.  Sin duda, creando seis hijos era muy estresante. En tiempos que mi esposo y yo batallamos que alcanze el dinero me pongo a pensar como le hicieron mis padres con todos nosotros.  Ahorra de adulta me doy cuenta en como de seguro batallaron ellos tambien.  Pero de nina, sentada sobre la hielera por medio de mi papa manejando nuestra camioneta y mi mamá arreglando nuestros lonches de bolonia viajando por primera vez a California de nuestra casa en Illinois para la quinceañera de una prima sobre carreteras dentro de un túnel por las montañas, estaba viviendo la vida a lo máximo.

Y entonces, es por las luchas de mis padres que encuentro esperanza.  Esperanza que aunque les grité por haber hecho todo MENOS cepillar sus dientes, se recordarán de nuestras bromas.  Esperanza que por cada vez que los castigo por no limpiar sus cuartos se recordarán de nuestras noches de películas y “Jumbo Bed”, un favorito de nuestra familia.  Esperanza que por cada fin de semana que tuvimos que trabajar yo o mi esposo y resulto que no podrian ver el estreno de cualquier espectáculo de Disney, se recordarán de todos los tiempos divertidos que pasamos en el centro de nuestra ciudad.  Esperanza que por cada libro que se queda sin leer antes de dormir se recordarán de todos los libros que si les leí además de las voces chistosas con que las leí.  Además, esperanza que por un día, cuando tengan niños ellos mismos, compartiran sus memorias favoritas de mi y crearán sus propios recuerdos.

Como niños, todos tenemos recuerdos diferentes de la misma experencia y por eso les pregunté a mis hermanos cuáles son los recuerdos favoritos de ellos.  Una hermana se recordó como nuestra mamá siempre aumentaría el volumen del radio cuando escuchaba “El Puma” Jose Luis Rodriguez o Julio Iglesias.  Este recuerdo definitivamenta no era favorita de mí porque siempre indicaba que era tiempo de limpiar.  Aunque si me recordé de que mi mamá siempre canta un medio latido despues de la musica.  Este si es un recuerdo favorito mío.  Otra hermana se recordó como era y todavía es imposible pedirle el tiempo exacto a mi mamá.  Si le preguntabamos qué hora era (porque en esos tiempos el unico reloj de seguro era el del microonda) ella responderia con “Ya es hora qué se levanten a limpiar!” o “Y es medio dia y ustedes todavia hechadas!” cuando en realidad eran mas cercas a las 10 de la mañana.  A ese tiempo nos frustraba pero ahorra es estrañable.  Bueno, un poquito.

Cuando mi hermano me dijo de su recuerdo favorito me dío risa porque era halgo que acabo de hacer con mis hijos.  Al preparar el desayuno, cuando otras mamas quebrarían los huevos sobre la mesa o por el borde de un tazón, mi mamá nos pondria en fila para quebrar los huevos sobre nuestras frentes.  Primero muy lentamente encontraria la parte mas dura de nuestra frente.  En cuanto lo encontraba nos daba un golpito rápido.  Me recuerdo que dolía un poquito pero era tan divertido  que pronto se nos olvidaba.

Esto es una declaración obvia pero sería perdida sin mi mamá.  Es la casa a qué mi brujúla me dirije.  Tengo muchas mas memorias lindas con mi mamá y planeo crear muchos más.  A si es quá a mi mamá valiente, bailarína de hulahoop (otro recuerdo maravilloso) le dedico esta memoria.  Gracias por llenar nuestros corazones de recuerdos increíbles, Mamí.  La quiero mucho.

I’m not yelling at my kids today…. maybe

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#imnotyellingatmykidstoday

I consider myself a quasi-attachment/cloth diapering/natural minded/feminist/breastfeeding supportive/environmentally conscious/nouveau hippie type of parent.  When my kids are upset I’ll hold them close and repeat “breathe and calm down, breathe and calm down…”. They’re so used to it that they even console each other with that little mantra and for the most part it works beautifully.  I teach my kids to be kind to the world and to find kindness in even the darkest corners.  I try to teach them not to give such high regard to material things but, tablets are cool and sometimes they’re life savers.

So, while it may sound like we have this airy-fairy kumbaya family dynamic, make no mistake, I can and do lose my shit.  I’m not a spanker and I don’t hold judgments for those who do because to each their own.  But I am a yeller.

I am lucky enough to work from home for the most part.  I do most of my marketing and correspondence from home then teach classes, meet with clients and attend births outside of the house.  This can be a blessing and a curse, however.  I love that when days are slow and the house is clean I can sit and be lazy with my babies and watch whatever weird new cartoon they’re into on Netflix or Hulu.  We’ll swim, paint, make bracelets and sit together for lunch.  But on busy days when I’m sending out emails, invoices, press releases or making phone calls that I’ve put off for days, the fighting, bickering, nagging for snacks, potty training, messy rooms, meal preps, and repetitive requests to PICK UP YOUR TOYS is frustratingly overwhelming.

And that’s when I lose my shit.  That’s when I don’t care if they breathe and calm down.  That’s when the toy I’ve been tripping over the whole week gets thrown in the trash along with any other collateral damage in it’s vicinity.  That’s when privileges get revoked. That’s when they can forget about whatever fun outing I half-heartedly promised to take them to if they just listened for the rest of the day (I knew they’d fail miserably, it was just my shameful attempt at some peace and quiet during a client call).  That’s when I STRAIGHT LOSE MY SHIT!!!!

I yell things like “Are you kidding me??? How many times do I have to tell you?? CLEAN YOUR ROOM!! Am I talking to myself?!?! Say ‘okay, mommy’ say ‘okay, mommy!!” And then the countdown begins “1…2…” followed by their “Okay mommy!!” as they sob out of my line of destruction.

To be honest, this is a daily occurrence and no, I’m not proud.  I feel bad every single time I yell at my kids.  I remind myself that I’m teaching them to yell in response to frustration and that makes me feel worse.  I’ve yelled so loud before that I’m sure my neighbors have heard me and I feared, if even for a second, they’d call CPS.

Last night I was preparing my son’s lunch for a school program he’s attending this week.  I know the challenges he has in the classroom and I knew he’d be working with a teacher he hasn’t worked with before.  My immediate thought was, great, they’re going to know I haven’t done any practice work all summer.  They’re going to know I haven’t helped him with completing his work which is something he struggles with in class.  I got annoyed at the prospect of judgment I’d be facing the next day.  That annoyance would normally turn into frustration which would then turn into anger which I’d likely take out on my kids.  Instead, when I went to kiss him goodnight I sat on his bed and told him, “Okay, so tomorrow you’re going to have some work to do at school.  You’re probably going to remember most of what the teacher is talking about but you might have to try really hard to remember other things.  So tell yourself right now that you’re going to try your best and work super hard tomorrow to finish all your work.  Pray to God, too, if you want and he’ll help you when you’re stuck.”  Then I kissed him goodnight and went to finish his lunch.  I wrote him a mommy love note that I tucked in his lunchbag  to remind him of everything we talked about and then, I just let it go.  That’s when I decided that I’m not yelling at my kids today. #imnotyellingatmykidstoday

Because in all honesty, yelling is an immature response for me and for a lot of people.  Instead of dealing with the situation calmly I fly off the handle and act out.  Much like my kids do when they’re frustrated.  I felt good about the way I handled the situation with my son.  I felt good about recognizing the pattern I could’ve easily fallen into because it’s all too familiar to me and deciding to respond in a more positive and calm manner.

It’s 2:00 p.m. as I’m writing this and so far I haven’t yelled at my kids.  Granted, one of them is at school and the other two are happily making a mess in their bedroom that I’m sure will piss me off later but, #imnotyellingatmykidstoday.  And hopefully, I’ll end the day with #ididntyellatmykidstoday.

And while I’m sure you’re all that picture perfect kumbaya family that would never yell at your kids, humor me as I challenge you to not yell at your kids today.  Share your story and mine with your friends and family and add the hashtags #imnotyellingatmykidstoday or #ididntyellatmykidstoday. But most of all, good luck.  Here’s to us not losing our shit on our kids.

All that remains…


 October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month so I felt it appropriate to share my story to help raise awareness and to help families struggling with loss find a sense of peace. We are not alone in our grief and we stand together in our healing.

My husband Matt and I became pregnant with our fourth baby back in May and miscarried at the beginning of August.  I was eleven and a half weeks along in my pregnancy.  We waited before telling all our family and friends (something we never really did before) so only our immediate family members and very close friends were even aware of our pregnancy and loss.  Losing our baby has been the most difficult experience of our lives and while the wound has healed the scar remains.  

This is our story.

All That Remains…

My pregnancy with my fourth baby was uneventful and exciting.  I had just become a certified Hypnobabies instructor and I was looking forward to not only teaching the course to expectant moms but being a student once again.  Using the hypnosis techniques and cues with my third pregnancy was amazing.  I felt so connected to my baby and I couldn’t wait to experience that again with my fourth pregnancy.

I felt so confident in my body’s ability to nurture my growing baby that I let nature do what it needed to do.  I waited to see a midwife because we were between insurance carriers and I really felt no rush.  I felt great.  I was tired for a few weeks in the beginning  and had very little nausea but by about week 8 I was feeling great.  Almost like I wasn’t pregnant at all.  I felt lucky and excited and soon we started telling our family and close friends.

3 days into my twelfth week of pregnancy I noticed a tiny clot when I wiped.  I still felt fine and figured I would pay attention to any other signs if they came up.  I went to the restroom again and noticed a little more pink.  Of course I started my early pregnancy Googling and was slightly reassured when I found out a little spotting was pretty normal early in pregnancy especially after a night of intimacy which it had been. My family and I made a trip to the grocery store and as we were walking through the aisles I felt more discharge.  I went to the restroom only to find it was closed for cleaning.  I told my husband Matt we should hurry home so I could keep a closer eye on the situation.  I texted my midwife I used with my third pregnancy and she reassuringly told me to take it easy and get some rest.  We hurried home, put groceries away and got ready for bed.

On my last trip to the restroom I noticed more blood.  I tried to stay calm but I was very scared.  I wasn’t sure if we should go to the hospital.  I didn’t want to go for fear of hearing a doctor confirm my fear.  We decided to stay home and hoped and prayed the bleeding would subside by morning.

Matt left for work at about 6:15 the next morning.  He gave me a kiss goodbye and told me to keep him updated so he could come home in case I needed to go to the hospital.  He left and I couldn’t fall back asleep.  I hadn’t slept very well that night because I was cramping.  I’d wake up and practice my hypnosis cues to calm myself down and minimize the pain.  But it was morning now, and I knew I had to face this.  I went to the restroom at about 7:00 a.m. and the blood was undeniable.  It was heavy and bright red.  I called Matt and told him to come home.  We needed to go to the hospital.

I texted my mom to come over to stay with the kids while we went to the hospital and she rushed right over.  I was scared and crying.  Matt wasn’t home yet but he wouldn’t be long.  I stood in front of my closet knowing I needed to find something to wear but the cramping was making it hard to focus.  Then, I felt it.  My water broke.  I remembered the feeling because I felt the same surprising burst with my oldest and youngest babies.  Only this time it felt almost violent.

I was scared and ran to the bathroom because I could feel my baby slipping out.  I called out for my mom and told her he was coming out.  I was sobbing.  What I had feared all night was too real. Too real and painful. My body impulsively pushed my baby out despite my protests.  I cried to my mom “The baby came out! It came out!”  She tried to be reassuring and said it may still be inside and told me to go lay down.  Matt arrived to find me sobbing on the toilet.  My children stood around me as I cried asking what was wrong.  All I could think to say was the baby was sick.  He picked me up and took me to our bedroom to get dressed and go to the hospital but I knew my baby was gone.  My mother stayed in the bathroom.  I knew what she was doing even if I didn’t want to wrap my head around it.  Then she called for my husband.  I paused for a second trying to decide if I could take the step into the hallway to face them.  I had to.  I stepped out of my bedroom and saw my husband’s face after seeing his tiny baby.  I bolted for the bathroom to see it myself.  My mother begged me not to but I just had to see my baby. He was small, much too small for over 11 weeks.  I knew something was wrong.  I was hysterical.  Inconsolable.  Empty.

We went to the hospital where they drew blood then performed an ultrasound.  The doctors and nurses were so compassionate and caring.  I was grateful for them.  I wondered how many women they must see go through this.  Before we were discharged the Physician’s Assistant came in one last time to give me the blood and ultrasound results.  I wasn’t surprised by either.  She referred me to an obstetrician and gave me a brief description of what I could expect in the next few days.  Then as she stepped out of our room she said, “I’m sorry for your loss”.  There it was.  The first audible recognition of what happened.  We lost our baby.

We came home and the next few days were a blur.  I couldn’t distinguish what happened from one day to the next.  I remembered my baby and wondered very briefly what my mom had done with it.  I wanted to know and didn’t want to know at the same time.  What would I do with it?  Could I bring myself to see it again?  I couldn’t say what day it was that Matt told me my mom and mother in law had kept it for me.  They had wrapped it up and placed it in a tin box which they placed in our deep freezer.  I think we were all at a loss for what to do but I’m so grateful they did this.

The baby stayed there for a few days.  My mind couldn’t complete a thought as far as what to do with it.  I considered planting it with a tree or flower in our yard but the thought of possibly moving into another house and leaving it behind or the plant dying was too much to bear.  I needed another option.

I asked my mother in law to call funeral homes to see if they could cremate the baby even as tiny as it was.  Unfortunately because of how small and underdeveloped it was I wouldn’t get much if anything back.

I remembered going to the restroom in the hospital right before we left .  As I was sitting there I felt my body pass a large lump into the toilet bowl.  I knew it must have been the placenta.  I thought how I wished I had been as brave as my mom and reached in to take it out but seeing all the blood was too hard to deal with.  It was too raw a reminder of what had happened.  I wished I kept it because I could have had it preserved the way some mothers choose to when they encapsulate their placentas.  Then it hit me.  Maybe I could find someone to preserve my baby like a placenta.  But who would do it?  Do people do this?  Would it be too morbid a request?  Am I crazy for thinking this?

I remembered a doula/midwife named Pati Garcia I had met a few weeks back and feeling some kind of connection to her.  We had only said maybe a few words of hello and goodbye but there was something about her in her “Partera” baseball cap that spoke to me.  I had contacted her before for my resource list for my Hypnobabies students but we had never met or spoken.  I looked for her website to see if she did placenta encapsulation and was relieved to see she did.  But would she be willing to do it?  I sent her an email with my request.  She soon replied for me to text her and after a few messages and a phone call she agreed to help.  We decided to meet later that same day.

I was nervous about telling Matt about what I had decided to do with the baby.  I wasn’t sure how it would be received.  I should’ve known he would be completely supportive.  He thought it was a great idea (even if he didn’t fully understand it).  We dropped the kids off with my mom and headed to Pati’s.

Her apartment was just as I imagined. Cozy, earthy, smelling of incense, and what looked like a square scarf hanging on the wall with a large drawing of the female genitalia in the center.  She very politely asked us to remove our shoes and invited us in.  We hugged as we said hello and I couldn’t help but break down in her embrace.  All I could think was I hope this would bring me the peace I needed.  Pati invited us to have a seat and we talked about what we were hoping to get from this process.  I honestly wasn’t sure.  I just knew I wasn’t ready to let go of the baby and keeping it in the freezer felt wrong.  I hoped this would feel right.

She went into her kitchen to get a few things ready.  She came back with some sage and a lighter.  She told us she would start by smudging us.  I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what that meant.  I had never experienced a smudge or even heard that word before. As she lit the sage and the ribbon of smoke swirled around it I found myself fully accepting the experience.  I stood there with my arms out inhaling the herby smoke and closed my eyes to let myself go into a state of hypnosis.  I wanted this experience to go deep into my subconscious so I could recall it when I needed the memory of it.  She then smudged my husband.  Again he amazed me.  He was so receptive and supportive.  It was obvious that his pain and loss were in need of an outlet and some relief.

We then followed her into her kitchen where she had prepared her dehydrator.  I held the small tin box my baby lied within.  I knew we would have to take it out but I froze at the thought of opening the box.  Then Matt took the box and started opening the bags the baby was sealed in.  This was the first time I would be seeing the baby again since the morning I had birthed this tiny being.  And tiny it was.  I remembered the baby looking pinker with the beginnings of what would eventually be an eye.  When I saw it again it scared me a little.  It was darker.  I turned the tiny flesh over to find the eye to make sure I hadn’t imagined it.  I saw it and just held it in my hand.  I cupped my tiny baby in my hands and prayed.  For what, I don’t know.  I just prayed.  I gave thanks for having this little life growing inside of me even if it had been for a brief time.  I could faintly hear Pati’s voice telling me to release the baby’s spirit into the world until it was ready to come back to me.  Then I placed it on the tray of the dehydrator.  She grabbed a bottle of Agua de Florida and anointed my head, hands and feet as well as my husband’s.  The scent was powerful and precious.  It was such a humbling experience to know I was handing my baby over to a woman who had recently experienced her own pregnancy loss and was treating my tiny baby with such a great deal of honor and respect.

I think Pati was surprised at how small the baby actually was.  I knew the baby must have passed weeks before.  It was far too small.  Perhaps if I had gone to a midwife sooner I would have learned of the baby’s passing.  But what would I have done then?  What would the midwife have wanted me to do?  While the experience of losing my baby has been devastating I’m grateful for how it happened.  My body let go of my baby when it was ready.  And now my spirit, with Pati’s help, could do the same.

She returned my baby’s remains to me the following day in a small clear box wrapped in a gold gossamer bag.  I looked at the little flecks floating around and sticking to the walls of the clear box and felt at ease.  Now I could keep my baby.  Not as a novelty but as a memorial.  To the pregnancy, to my baby, to the pain, to the deeper connection between my husband and myself, and to Pati.

Pati and I sat and talked for a few minutes about the baby and how in her experience a baby at the gestational age of 11 weeks is more definitively formed.  She confirmed my suspicion that the baby must have passed weeks earlier.  I told her about an article I had read a few months earlier about how women often blame themselves for their miscarriages and how having read it allowed me to release any guilt I may have had.  Miscarriages are as common as pregnancy and birth.  They don’t happen because we overexerted ourselves or we fought too much with our husbands or yelled too much at our kids.  They don’t happen because we were too negative or ate something a book told us we weren’t supposed to.  I couldn’t have prevented losing my baby.  I took care of myself and my growing baby.  But somewhere along the line, nature decided the baby wasn’t ready for the world.  And I accept that.  I don’t blame myself or anyone else.  I wouldn’t change a thing about my pregnancy prior to losing my baby.  My body did what it could for this baby but the ingredients weren’t all there.

So I gave my baby’s spirit back to the world in hopes that we will meet again one day.  I will keep my baby’s remains for as long as my spirit needs to hold onto them.  I will heal a little more with every passing day and some days will be harder than others but they will always get better.  Pain may be inevitable but life is a gift.  I’m grateful for my children’s laughter and their tears. For my husband’s unconditional love and unfaltering support and our disagreements.  For my family who would drop anything to be by my side.  And for friends who will always listen and never judge.

For now, all that remains is a family as it should be with three wild children, two patient parents and an angel looking over us all.  We will eventually have our fourth baby and it will grow and I will feel it kicking and turning inside me.  And life will be as it should.  I am not incomplete, nor do I feel a void.  My baby’s spirit is with me, and I will always have proof.

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