The Weight of the World
It's a heavy, heavy time. Russia is invading Ukraine. There is an unrelenting assault on trans rights in Texas. We're about to enter year 3 of this pandemic.
I've been struggling with wanting to do more - more activism, more fundraising, more supporting communities outside of my own.
I've also been struggling with what to say about it all. The unfairness. The complete heartbreak. The seething anger at those who intentionally bring suffering to others.
I've gone outside. Played games with my kids. Sat in silence. Called friends.
I've let the grief take up residence and noticed how the guilt flows in and out like waves.
And I keep coming back to a lesson I've already learned a thousand times:
We are doing incredibly important work.
It's not all about gratitude
The holidays can be a mix of everything - deep gratitude, devastating grief, overwhelming joy, immense frustration, and so much more.
There are multiple layers in the national tradition of Thanksgiving - is it about gratitude? Or mourning? And on the individual level of our families there can be so many different dynamics as well.
I have found a few wonderful posts on instagram recently that I wanted to share with you as we enter into the holiday season - because they all say it better than I do :)
Reflecting on Rage
Over 3 days last week I received 3 emails in a row that inspired me to write this post - on my day off. Because it's so taboo and absolutely essential to talk about our rage.
When a woman in our community sent me her member story I had to stop everything. First, because of her incredible story and deep honesty and also because of her question to the community. She writes:
"I'm so disappointed in myself. I'm discovering that I yell at my toddler frequently. Can I get some communication tips for talking to an almost 3 yo? My husband and I have also made a commitment not to hit the children. We don't have effective tools/tips that aren't hitting. We are struggling with how to properly discipline and offer punishment."
It struck me because yes, we need strategies and new ways of thinking about behavior and discipline, but we also need to be supported so we don't feel so disappointed in ourselves all the time. The pressure to always be calm and patient while at the same time being expected to do it all without any breaks can make motherhood feel impossible.
What balls can you drop?
On Monday we asked our community, "how are you feeling about your bandwidth?" and - not that you'll be surprised - nobody answered that they're ready to take on more.
For many of us, our bandwidth is full. Overflowing. In one of our motherhood circles last week we discussed how overwhelmed we often feel and I was reminded of these words of wisdom from author Nora Roberts:
The key to juggling is to know that some of the balls you have in the air are made of plastic & some are made of glass.
In the juggling act that is parenthood, we have to decide what to prioritize and what to let go. Some balls feel like glass but are areas in our life where we may have more flexibility than we think - it may surprise us when we drop a ball and it bounces. Or we may think something is plastic then end up pick up the pieces when it shatters.
One of the key pieces of Jennifer Lynn Barnes' viral twitter thread on the subject is this:
Nora was not talking about juggling five balls. She was talking about juggling FIFTY-FIVE balls. The balls don’t represent “family” or “work.” There are separate balls for everything that goes into each of those categories. “Deadline on Project Y” or “crazy sock day at school”
THIS is what is often so misunderstood about motherhood. The hundreds of decisions big and small that we make every. single. day.
Reimagining Mother's Day
This past week in our circles you were so honest and vulnerable. Many of you shared the grief that can accompany Mother's Day - because you've lost a parent, a child, or have felt completely neglected on the day you're supposed to be celebrated. It's not always a happy "Hallmark moment" holiday.
And getting vulnerable produced magic. You were seen and heard by other moms. Nobody judged you for not loving "your day." And the ingenuity that comes from the sisterhood of motherhood shined. We talked about creating rituals to remember those we've lost, taking time by ourselves to heal, and completely redefining Mother's Day - even moving it to another day to be able to celebrate how YOU want.
Mother's Day can be joyous or devastating. And this year we invite you to redefine it how best serves you. Brunch with your family? Great! Time alone? Perfect! Connecting with someone else over the trauma that it brings up for you? Please!
We're celebrating you every. single. day. And we know that this whole motherhood thing is HARD and making our own way is the only way.
What's going to happen next?
I was just re-reading an email I sent almost exactly a year ago - and thinking about the past year I feel simply exhausted. We have endured so much and lost so many.
But sitting here on my porch in the sunshine, I'm also in complete awe of the wonder of nature. The breathtaking beauty of blooming magnolias, forsythia, and cherry blossoms truly lighten my spirit.
It feels strange to look back and think that we really had no idea what what the year ahead would bring and how it would change our lives. But the truth is, we never really know what's going to happen next.
Gilda Radner offers us some words of wisdom:
Can we savor the ambiguity? Delight in not knowing what's going to happen next?
You are Enough
This week in our newborn mamas circle we talked about the feeling that we should be doing more than just taking care of our babies. That it doesn't feel like enough to bring life into the world and keep these tiny humans alive.
And while sometimes we're motivated by the desire to move our bodies, or have clean laundry, or use our brains in a different way, so much if it is our culture telling us that we're not enough.
It's complete bullshit.
Mothering is hard. It's relentless. And the fact that it's completely unappreciated in our patriarchal culture makes me want to scream! And create CHANGE!
I have a whole lot more to say but for today (because my toddler is about to wake up from his nap) what I want to tell you is this:
If you have held a baby, lost a baby, cried with your baby, or been simply enraged at the unfairness of it all, you are enough.
If you work for pay or work for no pay, you are enough. All moms work. You are enough.
If you feel like you can't do it anymore, if you've set your crying baby down to go scream into a pillow, if you've melted into a puddle on your kitchen floor. You are enough.
I'm so over mothers having to pretend during the work day that we don't have children or be only grateful that we get to stay home with our kids. We are raising tiny people who are the future of our world, and that should be celebrated.
I hope that today you can find the space in your heart to know that you are doing the most important work. You are enough.
I came across this poem the other day -
It was just the reminder I needed. It was the day of slushy wet snow, when we got soaked and cold after being outside for 15 minutes. No big fun snow day was ahead of us. I was tired.
But instead of striving - to get things done around the house or to make it a "magical" day for the kids, we just played. We ate lunch. We watched a movie. And it was ordinary. It was joyful.
And more than being a reminder for treating my kids in this way, it was a reminder to me: do not ask yourself to strive. Instead, make the ordinary, or, as it's felt recently, the monotony come alive. Which in a way felt kind of daunting, but also like permission to just be.
We don't have to do extraordinary things today. Or this week. Or this year. We don't have to "lean in." We can find wonder in the ordinary activities of stacking blocks or preparing a meal for our families. We can allow ourself the gift of non-striving.
It's a lesson for what we teach our children, but also a lesson for how we live our own lives. Because we're learning that how we are in the world - what we say and do and how we live - is so much more impactful than what we try to actually teach our children.
How can you find the wonder in the ordinary?
Really Sick of / So Grateful for
So much of pregnancy and mothering is about feeling many conflicting emotions, often all at once.
"I'm desperately needing a break from my toddler but know I'll miss him when I have a few minutes to myself."
"I really want to go into labor but am also feeling apprehensive about how having a baby will change my relationship with my partner."
"I'm feeling great about staying home with my daughter and also sad about missing out on connecting with colleagues."
And for many of us, the pandemic has intensified these diverse feelings. You've told us you are both more anxious and deeply grateful. Quick to anger and also great at finding the silver linings amidst the challenges.
As a list maker, I came up with this one:
More that just zoom yoga showed up on both lists in the longer version. Because we can have so many feelings about the same.exact.thing.
We'd love to hear from you this week - what are you REALLY sick of? What are you so GRATEFUL for?
We're in this together.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Mamas, this is a crazy week.
We're living moment to moment and taking deep breaths (when we remember). It's hard to be in the DC area, hard to know what to tell our kids, hard to not feel on the edge of our seats.
No one wants to be going through this. The stakes are so high. Our physical and mental health is on the line. Although we are by no means in the same boat, we are all in the same pandemic storm. We are all afraid. We all want safety for ourselves and our families. And yet completely opposite approaches to the situation are also being forged. Ones where empathy and care for ourselves and each other are not mutually exclusive.
The Pain of Motherhood
Matrescense, or the process of becoming a mother, comes with a very particular set of growing pains. The physical pain of labor and recovery involves obvious discomfort, but truly there are so many growing pains that come with the larger scope of matrescense.
There are the pains of shifting friendships and relationships that pull at our heartstrings. There is the pain of not being able to go back to our old selves yet the uncertainty of which path to carve out for our new selves. There is the painful shock upon realizing that we are inherently and viscerally changed. There is the pain of distance from our children or the inevitable loss due to mortality.
The matrescence growing pains are real and vivid and yet, one thing is clear to me about them. Somewhere in the midst of the most intense pain, each one of us finds our voice and makes our way. Perhaps it’s even because of the intensity of the pain that we are able to find the clarity, the brightness or lucidity and it allows us to make the biggest and best decisions for ourselves and our babies.
When the stakes are high and the pain is intense, we tend to make those decisions with little reservation. I see this time and again at births: we know what is right for us and our babies in those heightened moments and we fight for it.
This has been a very hard week in what has been a very hard year. The pain is overwhelming. I see all of you, making decisions and fighting for what is best for you and your families in the midst of all the pain.
We will shoulder this pain together.
You Did It: A Sparkle of Hope
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.
Letting go & Shoulds
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.
“I let go of doing the dishes last night. Now what do I do?” asked a busy mom. That’s the dilemma isn’t it? What comes next? It’s so hard to let go, and once we finally do, we expect some kind of change or at least some relief. But the dishes are still there in the morning, along with everything else, and often we are left feeling discouraged.
Letting go is a practice. When our precious resources of time and energy are stretched to their limits, we have to let go in order to get through. We have to prioritize what’s essential and let go of what is not. We have to regularly practice asking ourselves: What is the most important thing to do or be in this moment? Letting future moments go until we get there, or have the space and time to plan.
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.
Grieving Loss in Community
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Our theme of the month is receiving support. If you have suffered the loss of a pregnancy or an infant, or if you ever do, we want to make sure that you feel supported by your community and know how to get help.
One of the hardest parts of losing a baby, outside of the loss itself, is grieving in isolation and without support. When I recall my own loss, the feeling of being alone stands out. I had never heard a close friend or family member talk about pregnancy loss. I had no idea how common pregnancy loss is. I wondered if I had done something wrong.
I questioned every choice I’d made in that short period of time: should I have not consumed that cheap coffee? Should I have not gone on that run? Should I have not yelled at my husband that day? One of these things that I had done might have caused it. I should have been more careful. These were the messages my vulnerable and isolated mind created.
The Equinox and what we need
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."
So. Much. Mud.
I know some of you are on the Siena Wellness email list so you may have seen my thoughts on suffering last week. I'm hoping we can go deeper into this topic together this week! Stay tuned for some questions and discussions... and thank you for being a part of this community.
Let's talk about suffering (please don't stop reading!).
Last Monday, I took my kids to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. I was hoping a nice change of scenery and fresh air would do us all some good - but what I got was an unexpected reminder
There were lotus flowers as far as we could see. It was amazing. And I immediately thought:
"no mud, no lotus."
We don’t expect babies to crawl or walk or talk perfectly the first time they try these things. We understand that it takes time and patience to learn new skills. This is true for the rest of our lives. Life takes practice. Mothering takes practice. None of us, not one single one of us, ever gets anything right straight out of the gate every time. Mothering is no exception.
We have to trust ourselves and each other to know better than anyone about our own unique experiences.
Pain isn’t without purpose. It is designed to get our attention and change our behavior.
For example, physical pain tells us to stop walking on an injured foot, or that we’re dehydrated and need more water (or that it is time for a baby to be born!) Emotional pain can tell us it is time to leave a job or make a change in a relationship. How do we learn from our pain in a way that allows us to grow and thrive?
How do you/can you feel supported?
Happy Mother's Day! It's a day for US - to feel celebrated, appreciated, and supported.
But many of us are finding this especially hard with stay-at-home orders and social distancing. Everyone is overwhelmed and we are doing more than we ever should on our own. We were meant to give birth and raise our babies and children in community!
Many of our conversations over the past few weeks have been about our traditional sources of support disappearing with COVID-19 - just a few of the ways we've heard your plans unravel:
-My doula can't come to the hospital to support me in labor
-I can't introduce my rainbow baby to my best friends
-My husband may miss the birth of our second child because my in-laws can't come to help
-The (relatively) quiet maternity leave I had planned to bond with my baby is now filled with toddler tantrums and homeschooling
-My sister who was supposed to come be with me can't fly in from California
-Daycare is closed and I can't get any work done with my kids at home
-I am feeling anxious and don't have anyone to reach out to
We've also heard so many creative ways to ask for (and say yes to!) support even amidst a pandemic - here are a few ideas:
Pregnancy and early motherhood are already filled with uncertainty - the added layer of a global pandemic may make it feel close to impossible to make plans and decisions.
What about my birth plan? Or family and friends who were going to come and help? What about childcare? Or any of the other plans we had for the next few months?
Here's an article from Motherly about how to adapt your Birth Plan. One of my favorite questions from the article: Are you making decisions out of fear or in confidence?
Thoughts on pregnancy, birth and motherhood.
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