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    A Mirror of My Selfishness

    Before having kids, I wasn’t what you’d typically call a “party girl”, in the sense that you wouldn’t always find me out on a Friday or Saturday night. I’m quite the opposite really, a homebody by choice and definitely introverted. So, when it came to having kids I assumed I’d be pretty damn good at selflessly caring for their needs before my own. I wasn’t afraid of not being able to hangout with the girls or get dressed up for clubbing. To my surprise I am actually really, really, really, really selfish. That sounds really bad, but I honestly love my kids more than anything. They are my whole world and they truly make me the happiest…they are my greatest accomplishment!

    The harsh reality is that as their primary caregiver I’m responsible for their every tiny need, mind you, those needs are sometimes quite smelly and sometimes insanely cute! I take the responsibility of motherhood extremely seriously because these tiny humans are the future, I want them to experience a joyful childhood and remember a caring Mother. But yeah, sometimes I really do wish I could take a 30-minute shower like I use to, or eat my dinner without sharing, or even just write blog posts like this without my adorable toddler screaming at me because he wants my attention.

    Here’s to taking an hour to get ready, here’s to doing nothing on a Sunday, here’s to sleeping in, here’s to clean clothes without stains, here’s to working out alone, here’s to blasting my sometimes-inappropriate music in the car, here’s to the selfish person that I didn’t even know I was. Cheers! In light of all this, I still don’t feel like I’ve “lost” anything, maybe a bit of my independence and definitely some of my sanity, but I’ve just gained WAY more. I’ve gained two amazing babies who I am insanely proud of and obsessed with and I’ve gained a new sense of what it is to truly love selflessly.

    Being a Mother is one of the toughest jobs on the planet, it can be mentally and physically exhausting. But we are freaking superheroes! We’ve mastered the skill of multitasking, we carry babies in our bodies for 9 months, in our arms for years and in our hearts forever, and we still manage to look bomb while do it! So, if your missing your pre-baby life, just know your not alone and you don’t need to beat yourself up about it. Feel the feeling and look around you, you are blessed Mama.

    xx

    -Michelle Carrozza, @michellemybelle.c

    How Babies Can Affect Your Marriage [Part 1]

    Photography by Lindsey Tuscany

    I am not a marriage expert. I am not a baby expert. However, I am a wife and first time mom. 

    I have been a wife for almost three years, and together we have an 11 month old daughter. Putting those two things together has been the greatest blessing of my life. However, it has not been easy.

    Before having a baby, my husband and I had an amazing relationship. I don't want to say perfect, because I don't think any marriage or relationship is perfect. However, we were pretty damn close to perfection. And we still are! But...things are different now.

    We used to do whatever we wanted, when we wanted. If we wanted to go out and try a new restaurant, we did. If we wanted to go see a late-night movie, we did. Now, we have a bedtime to think about. We have a tiny human's well being to think about.

    Date Nights

    In the past 11 months, we have only had three date nights. My family lives 300 miles south of us, and his family lives 600 miles south of us. So, you can see where the issue lies. I do have a cousin who lives within 10 miles of us which has been amazing. But I try not to constantly bother him with babysitting gigs, even though I'm sure he doesn't mind. Yesterday we asked him to babysit, and we went out to dinner [without the baby]. It felt nice to connect with each other just like we did before we became parents. If you are wondering if we physically connected...We were in bed by 10pm. And by bed I mean asleep. Which leads me to my next point...

    Sleep Deprivation

    On top of not having the ability to go out whenever we want, sleep deprivation has been a HUGE factor in how having a baby has affected our marriage. Our daughter is breastfed, so for about 7-8 months, I was the main parent who had to get up 2-3 times in the middle of the night to feed her. My husband would help out when he had days off, but he is a police officer, so he needs to be well rested during his 12-hour shifts. Even though I insisted on getting up to feed our baby most of the time, I couldn't help but resent him. Just a little. [You would too if you were dead tired, with a baby attached to your boob, looking over and seeing your husband sleeping peacefully]. Ever heard the expression, "I don't want to sleep like a baby, I want to sleep like my husband?" No truer words have been spoken. 

    T sleeps through the night now [for the most part], but we are no less tired. This little ball of energy keeps us on our toes. Quite frankly, I am still recovering from the many months of sleep loss. No amount of coffee can make me feel wide awake.

    Part 2 coming soon. Thanks for reading!

    -Kristin, owner + creator of Free the Mother

    The Journey of a Home Birth

    When you think of a birth story, you might just think of the labor and delivery part but in the case of me and my son, Silas, getting to that part was a whole story on its own. I wouldn't be doing either of us a justice if I didn't talk about the hard work it took just to get to the contractions and the pushing and finally, the baby. For me, I had envisioned going through labor, I had thought about the logistics of birth, and I had tried to imagine how it would feel to become a mom. But not once did I think about what it would take to get there.

    Since my diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes, I had been going to a perinatologist every single week to check Baby's weight and size and to make sure that I wasn't having any complications from the GD. On Thursday, April 27th, 2017, the doctor told me that according to the ultrasound, Baby's shoulders were looking really big and was at risk for shoulder dystocia, which is when the baby's shoulders get stuck in the birth canal. It's a pretty serious thing and can cause very serious complications for mom and baby. I knew that Baby was going to be big but I wasn't prepared to be told that he was so big, he might get stuck! What she told me next was devastating - she told me that I should schedule a C-Section FOR THAT DAY!!! I left her office and as soon as I got to the lobby, I started crying. A C-Section was NOT in my birth plan. I called my midwife immediately. 

    Thank goodness for my midwife, Jocelyn. She listened to how I was feeling, she calmly told me my options, and discussed with me what would be the best route. She suggested that I go back to my perinatologist and ask if she could perform a membrane sweep, which is a procedure where the doctor would insert a finger into the opening of my cervix and gently (but firmly!) separate the amniotic sac from my cervix in an effort to induce labor. I marched right back up to the Dr's office and she was happy to do one for me. I am so thankful Jocelyn suggested getting one done because that first membrane sweep set off a series of events that were an upwards swing for not only my mood but also getting labor started. Upon doing the membrane sweep, the doctor found out that I was already 1.5cm dilated and 80% effaced! She was completely shocked at how far along I was and after the sweep, said I was now a good 3cm dilated. I was ecstatic and immediately called my midwife to figure out what to do next. 

    My midwife had already been on the phone to the perinatologist negotiating a timetable and had also spoken with the OB/GYN at the hospital. It was decided that I could go until Monday - my actual due date! - before I would need to go to the hospital to be induced or schedule a C-Section. While several days had just been bought, I was still rocked - I had gone from "Oh this is your first baby, you probably won't give birth until 41 weeks!" to "You have 4 days to go into labor." 

    I was determined to go into labor naturally. I wanted to start natural induction by doing a series of pumping sessions combined with ingesting castor oil but my midwife didn't feel I was at the point where it would be safe to do. Instead, I would continue to pump only once a day for about 20 minutes (which I'd already been doing since 37 weeks), get acupuncture designed to induce labor, do stretches to help open me up, have another membrane sweep in 2 days, and try to have a lot of positive thinking. Since I was in this to win this, I also forced myself to eat spicy food - lots of spicy food! - which if you know me, you know I don't prefer!  

    And so it began - the journey just to get to the journey! It was like I'd planned a trip and now all of a sudden I was rushing to book tickets and pack. I was overwhelmed and completely stressed out. I kept thinking about getting cut open and being in a hospital and it was soul crushing. I know some other people might have chosen to schedule that C-Section right away but for me, if that was the end result, I wanted to get there as naturally as possible. I suppose it could be seen as selfish but I felt like my body had already started working on getting Baby out and I needed to honor that.

    That same day, I got my first round of acupuncture. I stretched on the stairs and took a bath to relax. I ate spicy food and got lots of rest. On Friday, I got a second round of acupuncture where I felt intense contractions. I made my mom do acupressure on me on all the spots that are supposed to induce labor. I envisioned Baby moving down and my body opening up. Saturday finally came and I was able to get another membrane sweep which opened up my cervix to almost 4cm! My midwife felt now I was a good candidate for the castor oil and pumping method to naturally induce labor. Let's be honest for a minute - if you don't know what castor oil is or what it's supposed to do, let me enlighten you. Castor oil is a thick oil that is mostly used topically because when ingested it REALLY gets your digestive system going. If you're still confused, let me be more frank - it gives you diarrhea...a lot of it. The thought is that the contracting of all those muscles will start your uterus contracting, thus inducing labor. This sounded...well...it sounded fucking horrible. But I was determined. I hadn't come this far to give up now. Plus, I was allowed to mix the castor oil with ice cream to help it go down easier. For someone who hadn't been allowed to eat sweets for 3 months because of my Gestational Diabetes, I was *almost* excited! (PLEASE NOTE - you should not try to induce labor with castor oil without medical supervision!!!) I wasted no time and within the span of 2 hours, I'd done 2 rounds of castor oil and over an hour of pumping. I was exhausted. I still had more castor oil to ingest and more pumping to do but I was spent. I listened to my body and went to sleep...only to be woken 2 hours later to vomit up all that ice cream.

    It was about 1:30am on April 30th when I ran from my bed to the bathroom to throw up all the castor oil I'd consumed. Despite only getting 3 hours of sleep, I didn't want to go back to bed. The Hubs had only just gotten home from work a couple hours prior and I wanted him to sleep so I headed into the living room. Thank goodness my mother is a night owl because she was up and ready to sit with me. It wasn't until about an hour later that she suggested she start timing my contractions. Oh my goodness - it was happening! I had worked and prayed and sent so many good vibes to get to this point and suddenly, I was there...I was in labor. 

    Contractions started getting longer and closer together. I knew I shouldn't call my midwife, Jocelyn until contractions were 5 minutes apart and at least 1 minute long over the course of a full hour. After several contractions I would request an update from my mother. With every contraction the intensity grew but I reminded myself it was one step closer to meeting Baby. With every contraction I rose to my feet off the couch and swayed and moaned and allowed my body to open up. Upon it finishing, I would drop back down onto the couch, exhausted. The stronger the contraction, the louder I got and at some point the Hubs came to see how I was doing. To his credit, my husband is a champ. I had warned him that I probably wouldn't want much interaction once things really started going and he honored that so well. It must have been tough to see me in pain and not being able to reach out and console me but for me, knowing that he was there was enough. 

    When my contractions had finally gotten strong and long enough, we called Jocelyn. I honestly have no idea who talked to her or what was said. I just remember that we needed to call her again once contractions got stronger. Maybe it was when they were only 2 minutes apart or maybe just 1 minute, I don't remember and at that point I didn't care. It was nice to know that someone else was taking care of the logistics of timing the contractions and calling the midwife because I was so focused on myself and on Baby I never would have been able to. Looking back, I had such extreme tunnel vision on the task at hand. With every contraction, I focused on envisioning Baby moving down and sometimes I would bear down a bit and feel like I was helping Baby along. 

    At some point, I moved from the living room to the bathroom. I liked laboring on the toilet - I was by myself and the white noise of the fan going was actually comforting. It felt more normal to have a deeper contraction, a deeper pull when I was sitting on the toilet as opposed to the couch.  My mom had taken a break from tracking contractions and my dad had taken over. Despite me being in the bathroom, he could hear me all the way in the living room! Around 6am, I wanted Jocelyn to come. I didn't even know how far apart my contractions were but I knew that they were close enough. When the Hubs told me Midwife Jocelyn would be coming in an hour, my first thought was "Holy Shit, I have to do this for another whole hour?!" To be honest though, that hour passed in a blink of an eye and before I knew it, I heard a gentle knock on the bathroom door and Jocelyn's calming voice asking if she could come in. It was so nice to see her. This is the part where I'm so thankful I chose to have a midwife. I knew Jocelyn, I trusted Jocelyn, and most of all she gave me the space to labor the way my body needed to. 

    At this point, I was ready to have a baby. Going over the birth notes, it was even recorded that I wanted this baby "out"! Baby's heartbeat would slow down when I contracted on the toilet so Jocelyn suggested I try moving to the bed to see if the heart rate would go up. I didn't want to move. I would have had Baby right there on the toilet if given the opportunity but somehow I managed to make my way to the bedroom. At some point during my labor, the sun had risen and I remember thinking how bright it was in the bedroom and how everyone was going to see EVERYTHING. Then a contraction hit and I didn't care who saw what - it was Go Time. 

    I was ready to push. I asked that my parents be told to come in so they could be present for the birth. My dad is a professional photographer and before him and my mom came to visit, I had asked if he would want to be our Birth Photographer. I feel so incredibly lucky to have such amazing photos from that day (all the photos on this post are ones that he took!) and I think it'll be incredibly special to share them with my son when he gets older and tell him Grandpa took them. So in came Mom and dad with dad snapping away, capturing the whole thing. I was later told that our pup, Cornelius, faithfully stood at the door and watched the whole thing!

    Pushing felt like a bridge that kept getting longer. I had labored and pushed on my side for a bit with Hubs holding up one of my legs but I hated that position. Midwife Jocelyn suggested I lay on my back and try pushing. At this point, I felt so weak and exhausted. I would push and push and push and feel Baby moving down only to feel Baby slip back in once I stopped. Now, I know this is normal. I know that Baby comes out and slips back in then comes out a little farther the next time. But in the moment, it feels so incredibly discouraging. I was getting frustrated! My husband had been instructed to make sure I got water in between contractions and dutifully he would ask if I wanted some in between each contraction. It was around this time that when he asked if I wanted water, I shouted "I don't want any more fucking water!" Luckily, he didn't take it personally but he never asked if I wanted water again! Sometimes my pushes were so intense that my moans turned into screams. I knew I sounded unhinged but it was like I was listening to someone else.  Jocelyn kindly reminded me that I needed to stop screaming and pull all that energy into a push. I was given an oxygen mask and told to relax after each push session to allow my body to rest up for the next one. It was feeling like an uphill battle. I would push and push and push and surely Baby was almost out but when I asked someone, they would say they could just see the top of Baby's head! At one point, I asked Jocelyn if she could just pull the Baby out. She kindly said that no, she could not.

    Suddenly, Baby was crowning and it wouldn't be long before Baby would be out. From the birth notes, I know that Baby crowned only 7 minutes before the whole head came out but oh my goodness, it felt like days. The intense burning feeling made me feel like my whole vagina was about to fall off. Jocelyn would assist in helping my body stretch a bit but it felt like I was being ripped in half. The Hubs was on the bed with me, holding my head and shoulders so I could crunch down into the push because I was still on my back. I was focused on holding my legs up and in and pushing as intensely as I could muster. There were moments were I would break down and insist that I couldn't go on, I would insist that I just can't do it. Jocelyn would calmly remind that I could, that Baby wasn't far away from being in my arms. Finally, Baby's head was out. One more push - I could do it! Jocelyn told me to reach down and oh my stars, there was my Baby! I pulled Baby onto my chest and started ugly crying "My baby! My baby!" I turned towards Hubs and proudly told him "We have a baby! I did it!" 

    The insane feeling of giving birth is indescribable. But I'll try anyways! I felt so incredibly proud of myself. I had felt all the pain and continued through it. I had felt like I couldn't go on but I had. I had felt so incredibly weak but I was really so powerfully strong. Holding my baby, feeling the warmth of our bodies together clicked a switch in me and I knew I would never be the same. I was so incredibly happy, I had forgotten to ask if it was a boy or a girl! It was a boy...our little Silas had been born in our home at 9:26 am and was healthy and absolutely perfect. He weighed 8 pounds and 12 ounces and was 21 inches long. I later learned that Silas's arm had emerged first and Jocelyn helped pull it out a bit so nothing would get stuck. My mom told me that the most insane moment was after his head was out. It was turned to the side and all by himself, Silas rotated so he would be face up. Hearing that, I couldn't help but think about what Jocelyn had told me several times throughout my pregnancy - "Trust Baby." 

    Silas stayed on my chest with his umbilical cord intact until I delivered the placenta about 15 minutes later. My placenta was huge - at least a pound - and beautiful, juicy red, and healthy. The Hubs cut the cord and Silas was his own person. He had bravely emerged from his watery world to come join us Earthside. Him and I did skin to skin for about an hour or so and then it was Hubs turn to do skin to skin while I took a shower. Jocelyn examined me and decided that despite me tearing a bit, stitches weren't necessary. Then our tiny family got to relax and nap all together and Silas got to latch and start feeding before Jocelyn took Silas's height and weight. I am so grateful for that time together where we could become acquainted with each other as a family. 

    Silas's birth story wasn't at all how I had envisioned it would be. No birth playlist was played despite me making one. It was early morning despite me thinking he would be born at night. I didn't even remember to put on the bra I had specially bought just for the birth! Most of all, despite having originally planned a water birth, I never once got in the bathtub or shower. Yet, I wouldn't change it for the world. I feel so lucky that my parents were able to witness the birth of their first grandchild and despite the incredibly personal nature of the photos, I'm so happy my dad put on his photographer hat and snapped the most beautiful photos. I'm so fortunate I have a husband that supported me and never made me feel selfish or out of control despite me crying out once "Get this fucking baby out of me!" And I am so grateful to Jocelyn and her assistant, Johanna, for taking such good care of me. Their calmness and confidence anchored the birth in a way that I don't think would have been possible without them.

    -Lauren Archer, @loveofalittleone

    Check out her blog, loveofalittleone.com 

    Just Because It's Natural, It Does NOT Mean It's Easy

    I’m currently a mother of two little boys under the age of two. As if that weren’t enough of an adventure, I also decided that I wanted to take on breastfeeding with my second. I would like to mention that I was THAT naive mother that never took any breastfeeding classes, never talked to a lactation consultant outside of the hospital, and assumed my maternal instinct would just takeover and the magic of boob nourishment would just happen. NEWS FLASH: I was wrong! Just because it’s “natural”...does NOT mean it’s easy. I supplemented coming home from the hospital due to jaundice levels (nothing serious), but also because I hadn’t fully convinced myself that breastfeeding was something I wanted to do. My first baby was formula fed, so I knew what the “other end” of the feeding spectrum looked like. During the first few days of waiting for my milk to come in, I felt comfort in knowing I could easily make a bottle and everything would be fine. AND THEN IT HAPPENED...my milk arrived, my boobs grew twice their size, my shirt was constantly covered in milk stains, and it seemed like my baby was ALWAYS attached to my boob.

    After about two weeks of fumbling with bruised nipples, warm/cold compresses, pumping, nursing, latch trial and error, and a bottomless pit of an infant, I decided it was time to ASK FOR HELP. I made a plea for help through my IG stories and within an hour, had over 30 MESSAGES from moms offering advice and product recommendations! I immediately felt encouraged and wanted to continue to fight through the first stage of breastfeeding. While I continued practicing the art of breastfeeding, I did supplement one bottle a day. I did this to ensure he was getting SOMETHING since nursing him didn’t give much detail as to how much he was consuming! For that first month, my nipples hurt, I found out my baby had a lip tie, and I (like most mothers) had to constantly remind myself to drink enough water! LOL...I was a hot mess: walking around in my fiancé’s boxers, no bra, with a baby in one hand, and a lactation bar in the other. I was CONSTANTLY washing those dang pieces to my breast pump and I hate washing dishes. 

    After that first month, I decided to GO OUTSIDE. I packed the boys up and ventured out of the house to run errands. This was the first time I would have to potentially feed my baby in public. I will never forget the turning point of my breastfeeding journey...I was grocery shopping with both my boys and OF COURSE right in the middle of our trip the baby starts screaming of hunger. I had no pumped bottle, my nursing cover was in the car, my cart was half full of groceries, and as I stood in the middle of the toothpaste aisle full of nerves and confusion, I made a choice. I whipped my boob out and fed my baby. I have never felt more powerful! My baby needed me; he needed my body. As I fed my baby, picked out the toothpaste I needed, and continued our shopping trip...that was the moment I knew: I AM CAPABLE! I can do this. I CAN do this!

    After that I stopped giving him formula. I realized I was using formula as a safety net, and was therefore dependent on it. For every bottle I gave him, I was taking away from what my body was already going to give him whether I saw it or not. My baby boy is now 3.5 months old and while that isn’t a very long time, I am so proud of myself! The temptation of being able to just made a formula bottle and “keep it moving” still exists, but as I see my baby grow because of the nourishment I am able to provide, I continue! 

    I had a miscarriage before giving birth to my first son. His birth felt like an accomplishment that my body WAS CAPABLE of creating and giving birth to a baby. With my first I put breastfeeding on the back burner because him being earth side was more important to me. When I found out I was pregnant with my second I felt confident in my body’s ability to create life, so I could put my energy into the next step: breastfeeding! I have spent a lot of time thinking about why I keep breastfeeding, and the only real reason I continue is to prove to myself that I CAN. It’s also more convenient financially, if we are being honest. 

    This has been such a crazy, incredible, cool, confusing adventure and I am excited to see where it takes us...and for how long. If I could offer any advice to mothers who are new to breastfeeding, it would be this:

    “YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Ask for help. Surround yourself with PEOPLE WHO UNDERSTAND. You are capable, but even more than that...YOUR BODY IS CAPABLE. Even if your breastfeeding journey only lasts a week, be proud of yourself! Breastfeeding is not for everyone, but eating is. As long as you love and care for your baby, how they are nourished becomes secondary...you are still an amazing mother and powerful woman!”

    -Lauren Miller, @inthemuddleofmitchells

    A Baby's Gotta Eat!

    I was out shopping with a friend when baby got hungry. I had nowhere to sit and feed him and I didn’t want to sit in a bathroom stall for 30+ minutes. So I decided I was going to shop and feed at the same time!

    I got quite a few stares and dirty looks but I said screw it and I did it anyways. A momma’s gotta shop and a baby’s gotta eat!

    That was when I realized no reaction would ever stop me from breastfeeding in public.

    From that moment on, I felt so powerful and strong! 

    -Breana, @bregoettle27

    Read more on her blog http://thegoettlelifestyle.wordpress.com