A Mother’s Rights #15: You have the right to change your priorities.

Maybe before you became a mom, you were a fucking lion at work and hammered out 12 hour workdays, ate leftover Indian for dinner and got weekly massages. Maybe you spent most of your monthly budget on lingerie and had Outlander-style fantasy sex with your partner every day.

Then after holding a sweet heavenly baby in your arms for the first time, your world underwent a seismic shift. You stopped caring about the things that were happening at work. Instead you hid behind your desk skyping your baby and knitting booties. You abandoned beautiful lingerie for whatever bra worked best for pumping. You got sad being away from home and couldn’t eat Indian food anymore because it gave you heartburn. And every time you had sex, you peed a little because your pelvic floor was a like a stretched out old rubber band someone left in the sun.

Amidst all this change in your life, it may occur to you that your priorities have changed too. You may be looking around and saying: “Well, who the fuck am I now?”

 

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Goddess, yes, things are changing. Your life is changing. Your body is changing. Your priorities are changing. YOU are changing. It is tempting to hold so tightly to the way you used to be that you cannot see the gift of who you are becoming.

Who you are becoming is someone with different priorities. You have to be. There’s a person now or more than one person who requires you for bonding and play and learning and care and sustenance. We are important.

To move deeper into the majesty of ourselves, we need to let go of who we thought we were just a little bit and little bit more. Because motherhood changes us in every way and it is 100% ok to let motherhood change you. To allow your desires and preferences and needs to slowly or suddenly shape your life into a new thing.

Maybe you taper down to 8 hour days at work or maybe you use your savings to stay home for the first year. Maybe you start cooking casseroles for God’s sake and trade your massages for baby and mom yoga. Maybe you wear organic cotton over-the-head bras with thick nipple pads and spackle your nipples with balm while your lacy bras gather dust in the back of their drawers. Girl, it’s fine.

Accepting the ways your priorities change is so healthy and good and nourishing. Letting the love that bonds you to your child sweep over your life and transform it is a natural and necessary thing. It is not just transformative to your life but to the world. Because the world needs women who let the elemental forces of motherhood sweep through them, sweep through their relationships and priorities.

These elementals forces help shape the future into one where motherhood is important and profound and sacred. Just like that sweet baby is important and profound and sacred and just like you are important and profound and sacred.

You have the right to change your priorities and to trust that whatever you dive into in this precious moment in your life, the essence of you and your goddess beautiful self will remain perfectly, exquisitely you.

A Mother’s Rights #6: You have the right to exercise every day.

 

There’s an author named Candace Pert who wrote a book called, “Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind.”  I love, love, love this concept. It makes so much sense! All things that happen in your life and the way you feel about the things that happen are stored in your body and mind. Our bodies have intelligence and preferences. They are not separate from our existence but integrally a part of how we interpret and process the world, including our inner world. To keep those energies and emotions and thoughts fluid and flowing, we must move our bodies if we can.

 

 

you have the right to exercise every day

 

 

Bodies love exercise. They need it.

But no two bodies are the same. I know my body is not the same as Charlize Theron’s body.  Pretty sure about that one. Not the same as my husband’s or my kids’. There are exercises that feel good to me that may not feel good to them. There are different kinds of movement that used to feel good before I had children that don’t feel as good now.

It’s ok to meet yourself wherever you’re at and find something that feels good to you now. This is all about asking the very important question:

What does your body want now?

And finding a way to get it.  Is walking around the block exercise? Yes. Yoga? Playing catch with your kid? Climbing up the playground slide? Dance party with your baby? Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

We often sneak ourselves into a corner by thinking that exercise only counts if you’re at the gym or in cute workout clothes or it lasts for at least an hour and your kids aren’t there. If we set aside the mind for a moment and pay attention to the body, you may get some clues about what your cells really need. Maybe soft flowing dance, maybe wind sprints, maybe 50 squats before you sit to pee, maybe a little movement every day or maybe something big 2 times a week.

It may be a 10 minute postnatal core strengthening focus (this one has modifications for diastasis recti) so you feel like your insides aren’t that delicious pudding dessert your aunt makes. Or 15 minutes of tai chi during naptime to calm your emotions and re-center.  It could be an hourlong hike if your kids will sit in a stroller or wagon or be happy in a carrier. Like these guys occasionally would:

 

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Awwwwwwwww.  Those walks were crucial to my body’s health and well-being whether they lasted 5 minutes or 45 minutes. So bend over and try to touch your toes every now and then for God’s sake. Your body sooooo needs you to.

 

Podcast Episode 2: Birthing in the 70’s Interview: Part 2

 

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Did your mom or grandma have access to birthing balls and acupressure for labor? Did she have a chance to sit around and chat with mom groups about what life was like after giving birth? Do you think her pediatrician or gynie (as my mom would say) checked in about how nursing was going?  If they were laboring in the U.S., most likely not!

La Leche League started in 1956 and the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners was not founded until 1985. Postpartum Support International was founded in 1987.  So how did moms back then get what they needed when there were not a lot of resources available beyond advice from family and friends? What were things like when Western medicine docs hadn’t yet caught up to the importance of women’s mental/emotional/spiritual and physical health care needs before during and after birthing?

Did your mother or grandmother have support? What kind of support did she have?

You will never know unless you ask. Women’s stories need to be shared, so if you haven’t yet heard the story of your birth or your mother’s birth, I highly encourage you to ask.

Talking to my mom about her birthing experience has given me a deep sense of appreciation for what I went through birthing my own kids. The resources, doulas, midwives, books, groups and available support that I had access to: those things did not exist for many women in 1970, including my mom. I learned where I may have gotten my passion for hearing and encouraging stories about major life events (As she shares in this episode, I was listening to stories like that as a baby in a baby carrier!)

In Part 2 of my mom’s interview, we pick up the story with my mom talking about how her life path changed after having babies and experiencing some postpartum depression- namely, entering a doctoral program and studying how new moms feel about being moms.

Isolation and connection, search for community (1:30)
Can a pregnant woman fit into a desk made for them (3:15)
Do mothers of young children value themselves and their work? (3:45)
Always bring coffee and donuts if you want people to show up (4:30)
Women working outside of the home viewed themselves differently than stay-at-home moms (6:00)
Being a mom has a job description and value (6:45)
The importance of new moms connecting with other new moms (8:00)
Modern birth centers vs being knocked out and laying on a gurney (9:00)
Steak and champagne after c-section (11:00)
Rapid fire questions (12:50)

 

 

 

A Mother’s Rights #5: You have the right to shower every day.

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This one seems like it shouldn’t be hard to accomplish and sometimes it might even seem like not that big of a deal. But I propose that taking a shower can sometimes be the only 10 minutes of truly alone time you may get. It may not be enough, but it can be a few minutes of heaven that you truly need in order to recharge.

It also is one of the only places where the sound you are surrounded by may actually be louder than the sounds of your children. Which means your ears and brain get a small break from the hard work of filtering demands, requests, arguing, outbursts, sharing, questions, wailing, and insistences that they are still hungry even though you JUST FED THEM DINNER.

I recommend carving this time for yourself, even if it means setting your little one in a pack and play with a soft toy, or setting your child in front of PBS Kids in a child-safe room with a bowl of Goldfish crackers. And…this is important-

put your child in a room other than the bathroom you are showering in

It doesn’t count if they are just on the other side of the shower curtain! For toddlers, you know they’re just going to peek their head in at you and ask: “What is that? Ewww” while they point to your pubic hair.  And for older kids, there’s no reason they need to be in there.

Once your kids are settled, spend a second just appreciating your naked bod. You are amazing. Then pretend there is a personal assistant speaking in a sexy Australian accent with a tray holding your favorite cocktail and a CBD joint saying,

“How do you stay so beautiful when you work so hard? Now, I’ve already prepared your gourmet meals for the week. Why don’t you just take your time in the shower and I’ll be right outside the door waiting to give you your foot massage when you’re done. No rush.”

While you’re at it, splurge on some body nourishing and activating items. Sugar, coffee, and dead sea salt are all super cheap, probably already in your cupboard and make really easy feel-amazing scrubs.

You deserve 10 minutes of hot water on your back !! Take a shower already.

A Mother’s Rights #4: You have the right to revise your sex life as needed.

We are four posts into the 15 Mother’s Rights.  Ready for #4?

 

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When I interviewed my mom for my podcast. one of the things she said she wished had happened differently through her early parenting years was that there was more education about what happens to your pelvic floor and your sex life after giving birth.

These stories are different for every woman, but over the course of partnership, pregnancy, nursing, and parenting, our relationships to our bodies change.

Maybe we used to be kind of into our boobs, they used to feel sexy and now they feel like milk dispensers and you don’t want your partner anywhere near them.

Maybe our pelvic floor is like a loose stretched out rubber band and when we have sex, we’re so afraid pee will come out, we refuse to orgasm.

Maybe postpartum anxiety leaves us so stressed that the idea of getting intimate with someone is overwhelming and you’d rather read a book and take a bath.

Maybe you have weight that just won’t come off and you don’t feel like yourself, so how could you possibly want to share your body with someone else?

We have so many insecurities and expectations for ourselves. Adding an expectation that there is a minimum amount of sex we are required to have in order to fulfill our duty is an outdated notion. You do not need to meet a quota. Your sex life is YOUR sex life. If your libido is down and things have changed for you, talk to your partner and make some adjustments. Or get thee to a therapist and talk some more.

It doesn’t have to be a certain way. It is the way it is. Your relationship to your body and your sex life can change and grow. It’s ok.

 

 

 

A Mother’s Rights #3: You have the right to wear clothes that fit.

A few days ago, I started a feature: 15 Mother’s Rights. It started with a Mother’s Rights #1: You have the right to get 8 hours of sleep every 24 hours. Number 2 on the list was about taking time to eat.

Here comes number 3:

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So I am going to admit that I wore the same pregnancy yoga pants and shirts for way too long, beyond postpartum, particularly when my baby weight stayed past its welcome like an unwanted house guest.

What I did not do was shop for clothes that actually fit.

For a period of about 2 years, I vacillated between 3 sizes, not just in pants and shirts, but my shoe size changed too. I tried desperately to work myself into that one size- the size I was before pregnancy- but that shit was not happening.

My metabolism slowed to a crawl after my third baby and I reaaaaaally like red wine and dark chocolate. And grains of any kind. And a good cheeseburger. And cheeeeeese.

Though it can be kind of fun to shop for maternity clothes, it’s not as much fun shopping after the baby arrives, carrying 20 extra pounds, admitting your postpartum body does not fit into pre-pregnancy sized-jeans.

It’s tempting to do nothing and just put up with feeling uncomfortable and unpolished for months and months. Like I did. Not proud. I encourage you to choose something different.

After-baby weight can last for months or for years. After-baby weight can just become, well, your weight. So embrace it, love it, and buy some clothes that fit your beautiful new body.

Old Navy, thrift stores, Target, and amazon all have options now for inexpensive clothing that can help you adjust to your new body. I particularly like Mod Cloth and Athleta if you want a spend a little more. Love your amazing bod however long it maintains its current shape and size, whether it be 2 months or 20 years.

And get some duds that you feel comfortable and confident in. You deserve it.

 

A Mother’s Rights #2: You have the right to eat a meal, sitting down, from start to finish.

Yesterday I kicked off the first post here featuring the 15 Mother’s Rights. It started with a Mother’s Rights #1: You have the right to get 8 hours of sleep every 24 hours.

Here comes #2

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Why is this a thing? Of all the possible ways we neglect ourselves in motherhood, why does eating at a table make the list of rights?

Here’s why.  Food restores our health. It is not only fuel, but also comfort and nourishment. I am not going to tell you to go out and buy an organic veggie box and only eat the bone marrow of grass fed cows, but I will say that most traditions encourage taking a bit of time to eat so the magic alchemy that happens when food is broken down in the digestive system can take its full effect.

The above Right is something I stand by. Having this kind of meal every day when you have a newborn or young kids feels like an extravagant luxury and maybe even out of reach for a lot of us.

Like most things that seem out of reach, taking microsteps will eventually get you there. I recommend setting this Right as a goal for at least one meal a day. And if you can’t find a way to make it happen, it’s ok. Instead, see if you can be mindful of any of the options below.

 

7 Tips for Mindful eating:

 

  1. Eat hot food while it is still hot. In Eastern and Ayurvedic nutritional practice, eating warmed food is nourishing to the system. Warm food stimulates digestion and can help restore some of the energy spent in our busy days, especially if you are recovering from birth. (See The First Forty Days by Heng Ou)
  2. Chew thoroughly. Your stomach has no teeth. Let’s imagine that food is filled with all kinds of tiny nutrients and minerals that are wanting to be absorbed by your your body as it digests. Chewing slows down your eating and makes digestion a little easier on your body. It’s a way of being good to yourself.
  3. Smell, taste, and appreciate your food. Whether it is a Hostess cupcakes (that’s right, I just linked to Hostess cupcakes, bitches) or an organic sweet potato, savoring and actually experiencing what you are eating is a way to bring yourself into the present moment. This kind of mindfulness is good for for every system of your body.
  4. Eat without interruption. Ok, this seems like a high bar, I know. Best hope is to realize it’s important and see if you can aim for one meal a day uninterrupted. If that’s too tall an order, start with one meal a week. Why do this? Because being interrupted adds stress and stress impairs digestion.
  5. When eating food, remember its source. The original saying goes, “When you drink water, remember its source.” But the benefits hold true for food, particularly food that comes from the earth. Following this tip slows your eating down and allows nourishing yourself with food to be a whole body and mind experience. It also enhances the connection between you and the fuel that runs your body, and the earth that creates that fuel.
  6. Give gratitude for the nourishment. Gratitude is never a bad idea. But when it comes to food, it is an essential. Food keeps your body alive…so mustering up some thanks for that is pretty easy. On top of that, giving thanks for how your food came to be on your plate is never a bad idea. How tired would we be if we had to harvest and hunt all our own food? Giving a little thanks for the efforts of others that go into allowing us to easily access grub…it’s a no-brainer.
  7. Eat sitting down. Don’t even ask me how many times I have eaten in nibbles while making dinner for others. Or hunched over with a slice of pizza over the sink while doing dishes. Even if you know you can’t avoid getting interrupted, sitting and eating is so much more beneficial than eating on the run. It is better for digestion, better to take a moment for yourself to relax and enjoy your food.