My 5 year old daughter LOVES her body. She loves everything about it - she told me the other day that one of the freckles on her arm is "SO cool."
It is heartening and heart breaking.
As adult women we've been bombarded for almost our whole lives with the message that our bodies are never good enough. It's exhausting, it's controlling, and it's something that with every fiber of my being I can't stand having my daughter (or son) be defined by.
It's something that's come up in every single one of our circles. How pregnant bodies seem to be an invitation to comment - "Are you sure its not twins?" "You don't even look pregnant!" "You're gaining too much/too little weight." Or how in a pandemic we feel truly invisible even though we're literally growing a human being.
Then we're supposed to "get our body back" after giving birth - like it's something we've lost instead of something that grew and birthed a baby (or two or more). Even though we did the most amazing thing in the world, we still feel devastated when our clothes don't fit or someone's judgmental comment brings our insecurities roaring back.
Disrupting this system and changing our own thought patterns is HARD. But living in a system that benefits off of our body shame, that keeps women, minorities, and differently abled people out of positions of power, is so much worse.
This year has been really hard and very different, to say the least. It’s been a far cry from previous years and the shifts in our communities have put a big spotlight on the amount of time and energy that goes into motherhood.
It’s pushed many of us to our absolute limits by stripping our families of their support systems. It's made many of us make gut-wrenching, life-changing decisions.
Whether you are pregnant, living life with a newborn baby or you have small children, the physical community that maintains the regulation of our society has largely evaporated.
I know it’s been really hard. I am here to put a big old mirror up and say, “look at what you did! You did it!” You have navigated an enormous amount in the middle of a global pandemic. I say this because, if you’re like me, I’ve often been focusing on what I haven’t been able to get done - and believe me, that list is a long one.
Fall is all about letting go. Even the leaves are letting go of their branches for that glorious wind-swept tumble to the earth.
Something that keeps coming up for me when I think of letting go is the word should (and her sister shouldn't). I hear it - and used to say it - all the time.
"I shouldn't rock my baby to sleep"
"I should cook more"
"I shouldn't give up my career for my kids"
"I should be able to do it all without help."
"I shouldn't need to ask someone else if I can take a shower."
"I should enjoy playing with my kids more."
In working with so many families and seeing all of the diverse and wonderful ways to do this whole parenting thing it's made me get really curious about the "shoulds." Especially as they relate to being a mom and raising children.
This past week I saw our October theme in action -
On Friday a dear friend texted me about an incredibly productive day she had - she made meals for families in need, participated in 5 different zoom meetings, got her flu shot, and made weekend plans for her daughter.
All I could think was "how?!"
So I asked her, and she said, "You know, I finally said 'no.'" She had a big project that she was being pressured to jump in on and after weeks of trying to fit it in she finally said "I can't do it." The next day, after dropping her daughter off at school, she used the time and space she had created (in between zoom meetings) to connect to her community, check a few things off her to-do-list, and set up a weekend break for herself.
By saying NO to someone else, she was able to say YES to herself. This comes up so often in motherhood - we will often put our own health and wellbeing last to avoid disappointing someone else. Which is not only a physical and time burden on our lives but also an emotional one.
Thank you for diving into our September Theme - What do I need? We talked about checking in with our bodies and our feelings, texting friends for accountability, getting sleep, making time for yoga and meditation, and so much more.
Now, we're taking the next step - Being open to receiving support.
When was the last time someone offered to help out and you said "Oh yes! I'd so appreciate that. Thank you!"?
Likely, your automatic response is "Oh it's ok, I've got this." Even if life feels completely overwhelming.
Because in our culture we're supposed to do it all.
We're well into September and tomorrow marks the Autumn Equinox - the point at which the sun shines directly on the equator and we (in the Northern Hemisphere) mark the start of Fall. It's a time we can feel anticipation - think squirrels hoarding nuts for winter - but also the need for more rest. In traditional Chinese medicine this big shift is explained: energy that previously flowed outward turns inward in preparation for the winter ahead.
I was talking with a dear friend who has a 2 and 4 year old this morning about restorative yoga - she asked, "what's the deal with that? Should I do it?" My question to her was "when was the last time you rested but were not asleep?" And the answer, predictably, was "never."
I'm here to dive in with you on starting to answer the question "What do I need?" And we'll begin with two more questions:
1. How do I feel right now?
To me, this is the first step in figuring out what I need - checking in with how I'm feeling. We usually notice a feeling when it is REALLY present - like complete exhaustion, pure joy, overwhelming stress, etc. but with practice we can check-in on the more subtle or nuanced feelings - check out this excerpt from Do Less by Kate Northrup on tuning in to ourselves.
Remember, all feelings are valid! This great Brené Brown Podcast with Mark Brackett (author of Permission to Feel) has other great ideas for getting in touch with our feelings.
It can be helpful to write these down. We can only begin from where we are and acknowledging that is the first step. Then, move on to the next question -
We had big dreams for this community. We wanted this to be a place you could go for advice, to feel supported, make connections, and meet up in real life (remember what that was like?).
Because it was already hard enough to be a parent. It was already isolating and lonely. And now this. Our vision for this community (and, lets face it, most of what we wanted to do in 2020) was completely derailed by Covid-19.
But now the need is greater. The isolation deeper. The parenting so much harder. As a friend of mine recently wrote to me, "I've never felt such a convergence of heaviness and turmoil." Me either.
So we're here to figure it out together. Amidst caring for ourselves and our children, trying to maintain relationships, managing risk tolerance, and taking on a completely overwhelming and unreasonable amount of emotional labor.
This month we're going to start to figure out what we need.
We're often given the advice "ask for help!" Which is great, and incredibly powerful when receive it, but we have to know what to ask for.
We may ask ourselves: What will actually help? Maybe it's a shower every morning. Someone to take your kids for a day (or a month?!). It could be a scholarship so you can take a yoga class or join a mamas circle. Or a really big ugly cry. The time and brain space to read an anti-racist book to your 4-year-old and talk about it. A social media detox. Long walks as a family. A visit with an elderly relative. The reminder that you're not in this alone.
We're here for you - to teach and learn and completely mess up together. We always love your feedback, thoughts, honesty, and realness.
Thank you for being a part of our community!
This week, we hope you'll feel empowered to trust yourself and choose care providers who listen and support you. This is especially important for your OBs, midwives, and pediatricians, but also extends to those caring for you and your children on a daily basis. It's never too late to make a shift - one mom in this community changed providers at 38 weeks pregnant! We'd love to hear your stories, too.
This week we’ll explore how to get sleep and rest (they are different! Read on for more!). This continues to be a challenging area in my life between work, kids, and everything else, but I notice that when I am able to prioritize giving my body and mind a break it makes all the difference. I have more patience for Aiden's 2-year-old-ness, more energy to share Caroline, and more kindness toward myself.
I hope you’ll take the time to read these wise words from Robyn Gordon about prioritizing sleep and rest.
We'd also love to hear how you make time for sleep & rest during pregnancy, early days with a newborn, and well into years of parenting.
Thoughts on pregnancy, birth and motherhood.