Moms, Let’s Help Ourselves

We often forget that moms are individuals with a past and identity before having children. That moment when she finds out she’s pregnant, the focus immediately shifts from “me” to “we”, and that feeling only intensifies the older the child becomes. Therefore, in order to truly give something back to the moms in our lives, one must simply let her figure out how best she can renew herself. Everyone is different, the needs of one mom vary from one to another. One mom might need a night out with girlfriends, another a long hot bath and a good novel. The cure for what ails is bio-individual, but the need is undeniably there.

When I first became a mother, I was overwhelmed by the realization of that responsibility. Breastfeeding, tummy time, around the clock feedings and diaper changes all contributed to a culture shock I had mentally prepared for but not emotionally connected to yet. I felt extremely tired and the weight of responsibility was leveling. I had always been strong, but this new life as a mom required a higher, more intense level of resiliency I hadn’t acquired yet. I had to adapt, and I wasn’t sure how to do it. I was a fighting a losing battle against the tide, and I felt myself being pulled under.

It wasn’t until I had healed enough from giving birth and could workout, that I saw my first respite from the pull of the metaphorical undertow. The road became a lifeline to my former self to pull out of the constant drudgery of mundane daily tasks that motherhood requires. In the 30-60 minutes I was out on the pavement I felt lighter and lighter. Each step was a reclamation of my former self, and I breathed in the freedom I felt had escaped me. When I returned home, tired and exhilarated at the same time, I was at peace with my life again, and happy to dive into diaper changes, cuddling and even teething meltdowns.

Running and eventually yoga, weight lifting, and meditation, were the outlets I needed to be whole again–another mother may have a completely different set of requirements. I use myself as an example because it’s what I know for sure. What I also know without doubt is that as women, we are intrinsically selfless creatures. Sometimes we give so much of ourselves that the cup becomes empty, and that is where it becomes a matter of health.

Health is more than what is on our plates. It’s found in our relationships, our career, our connection with a higher power, and of course nutrition and exercise. It takes going inward to find out how we as mothers are doing in each of these categories, and then making the appropriate changes to make ourselves healthy and happy.

It may sound extreme at first for her to take 30-60 minutes for herself every single day, but if you think of the mother as the center of the home, it makes perfect sense to nurture her. The health and happiness of a home is almost always directly related to the sense of wellbeing of the mother. But no one can help a mother, she has to do the work and find what she needs to help herself. So mothers, do the internal work, and families support her. The result is a scenario where everyone wins, and the potential of every family member can be fully realized

DC’s Water Birth Story

When I was a child, my mother would tell me the story of my birth on my birthday. Even though by the time I was six, I knew it by heart, she always indulged me because she knew it made me feel special. As one of four kids, we constantly fought for attention (and the best cereal), and so she knew by telling me the details of that day, I was made to feel important on my birthday. I wanted to carry on the tradition while the memories are still relatively fresh, and detail my experience of bringing DC into the world so that he will always have it, and feel special too.

My youngest son, DC, (i.e. Douglas Clifford after his grandfathers) turns two years old on Sunday. If you’ve ever met DC you know that he is someone that plays by his own rules, and no manner of chiding, begging, or bribing will make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. There is a great deal of academic debate on the topic of nature vs nurture in determining the character and personality of an individual, but I have the opinion that most of who we are, and how we behave is derivative of nature. DC is so diametrically different in demeanor from his more timid and acquiescent brother, that sometimes I wonder how they can be related. Personalities aside, his birth, as is often the case, was indicative of his determined and independent personality.

Days before my due date (January 30th), my parents drove from Florida to help with soon-to-be older brother Nash for when the time came for me to leave for the hospital. Life was fairly unchanged, my pregnancy had been easy, and I was able to run, work, and sleep normally. On January 28th, my husband, Sam, left for an overnight work conference. Thankfully it was in Atlanta where we live. I spent the evening with my parents re-watching old episodes of Game of Thrones as they caught up on Jon Snow’s influence over the Wildlings, and then went to bed. I remember feeling extremely alert and having trouble falling asleep, but around 11 pm, I finally did. Around 1 am, I woke up with strong cramps, and I knew DC had decided to make his appearance while his father was away for the night at a conference. I was beginning to know DC.

Nash’s birth had taken exactly eight hours, so I knew I had time. I called Sam and he, in his quintessential, easy-going manner, said “Ok, tell me when your water breaks and I’ll leave.” (We naively thought this birth would go exactly as Nash’s had, where the water breaking with him had signaled us to leave.) I went downstairs and turned on the t.v. which woke up my concerned parents. I told them to go back to bed and rest because labor had just started and we wouldn’t need to leave the house for a few more hours. Adorably, both of them got out of bed and stayed with me, and so we decided the best course of action was to finish the Game of Thrones marathon. Finally, the contractions had become powerful enough to warrant a drive to the hospital, even though my water still hadn’t broken like it had with Nash. Since Sam was staying overnight at the conference hotel, my dad took me, and luckily we had just skirted the infamous Atlanta morning traffic.

There were a lot of vehicles on the road despite the early hour, and the winter sky was still dark. When we arrived at the hospital, my dad ran towards the Labor and Delivery entrance to see if we could enter there, or be forced to go through the main ER entrance because it was so early. While I waited for him, I texted my sisters, who both immediately texted me back with words of encouragement, solidarity, and love. I felt as if they were in the car with me, comforting and guiding me along. Soon my dad was running back to the car and leading me out of the cold and into Labor and Delivery.

At 6:30 am we checked-in at the hospital, and I was given a comfortable room, fitted with a large birthing pool. The midwife asked if I wanted to wait to fill the pool, warning that warm water will sometimes delay the progress of the labor. I smiled, and politely asked her to fill it up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my dad more miserable, and even though I wasn’t making any noise, he told me that just knowing I was in pain was torture for him as a parent. I told him to go to get some coffee, and I labored alone for a few more hours as women have done since the beginning of time.

My reliance on meditation carried me through the continuous waves of pain. I focused only on my breath, and imagined the safe delivery of my baby. I trusted in my body and the process, and knew that I would be fine. I never allowed fearful thoughts to take over, even when it was hard for me to catch my breath. I treated the pain like riding a wave, trusting that I wouldn’t drown. I let go completely and let my body guide me. The warm birthing pool was essential for keeping me comfortable and allowed me to easily change positions  as needed. The hours flew by and soon the sun was shining through the cracks of the closed blinds.

The midwife and nurses came in periodically to check the unborn baby’s vitals, acknowledging that all was well. Sam arrived at the hospital around 9:30 am, after not escaping the aforementioned traffic. DC was born an hour later in the birthing pool, and as soon as the cold air touched him, he cried out loud and strong. I know that I was waiting for Sam to arrive in order to give birth, and I still jokingly rebuke him for extending what would have been a perfectly fast and easy labor because he had work obligations.

DC came into the world happy and healthy, and we knew that our family was complete. Later in the day, my parents brought Nash in to visit us, and upon seeing them, I burst into tears. I broke down, not from exhaustion or the hormonal crash (which is very real) but because some of the most important people in my life, individuals whom I love the most, were all in the same room–every one of them feeling this intense, palpable love for this newest member of the family. It was a perfect moment that I will never forget.

We left the hospital the next day, and life ever since has been one chaotic but beautiful wild ride, thanks in great part, to the unbelievably cute and indefatigably rebellious DC.