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.
-Michelle Carrozza, @michellemybelle.c
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.
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...
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
It’s a diagnosis most of us know by name, but we don’t really know what it entails.
We may think it’s someone who rocks back and forth and is kind of asocial, or maybe you have seen rain-man or what’s eating Gilbert grape and think that’s how autism looks.
The truth is it can be all of the above, it’s a wide spectrum.
Before my daughter received the diagnosis I didn’t know to much about it either.
From the time Grace was born she was different. I felt it in my bones. She didn’t react like everyone said she would. She rarely cried when she was hungry, and she didn’t even like being fed most of the time. But I was a first time mom. So what did I know.
As Grace grew older feedings became worse and worse. My whole life revolved around feeding and it was a huge stress factor. We found a chair she liked sitting in to take her bottle and that was about it. Yes she was bottle fed, because breastfeeding was to much of a struggle and even though both, myself, my husband and our doctor, said it was the right thing to do the guilt still gnawed at me. I kept telling myself around 6-7 months we would do solids and soon struggles with feeding would be gone. But solids didn’t come naturally either and Grace wouldn’t really have any of it. She likes taking her bottle (“liked” it was still a struggle, but at least most times she would dream fed and I knew she got what she needed). Around 6 months she had a feeding study done, and it showed no physical reason for the issues.
By 10 months she was enrolled in early intervention for feeding therapy and I had high hopes. She was also meeting most of her milestones..a little late but they were being met. I started looking at autism for some reason. I still had that weird feeling in my bones. Some of the signs were there, some weren’t. By the time my little princess turned a year I was 5 months pregnant with her little brother and starting to worry about the feeding situation. We were told “just make her.. they will eat when they are hungry” We’ll Grace did not eat, in-fact she did still not show signs of thirst or hunger. And seemed to be content not eating at all. Her therapy went okay, but it was a constant progress and regress situation back and forth.
By the time our second was born it was clear bottle feeding was still something she needed. I managed to bottle feed to babies at once and got pretty good at it if I may say so myself. Our little boy was a good eater from day one. His love for food, showing us sign of hunger, how he progressed and kept progressing made it even more clear to me that I wasn’t just being a worried mom and that something was different with Grace. Talking and making sounds was also an area of concern as she seemed to regress with. For a while she stopped talking all together. When I brought it up with her speech therapist I was told no way she had autism. So I thought it was all in my head. By 24 months I asked our pediatrician for a referral and we got in super fast with a pediatric neurologist who fairly swift and certain diagnoses our girl with autism. At that point he also told us she might never talk. That part broke my heart.
The autism diagnosis was honestly a relief as I had suspected it for a long time. But the mere thought that my daughter might never talk kept me up for many nights. We proceeded with trying to get her in to more therapy, that proved harder that I thought. We were met with people not believing the diagnosis and just brushing it off. Some places she was to young to get into and other places simply didn’t offer what we needed. As her younger brother started babbling suddenly so did she. And over months and months of patience, practice sign language, speech therapy etc. Grace is trying to communicate and while it’s not as advanced as someone her age, we are so proud and optimistic. We saw her neurologist for a follow up and he did mention she does have better eye contact than other children with autism, but that just means she is progressing and she is on the higher functioning part of the spectrum.
There are many difficult parts of being an autism parent. Not being able to communicate with your child, seeing then frustration in their eyes. Seeing them struggle. The meltdowns causes by a change in routine that you couldn’t prevent, and all the little ticks and stems you have to get use to. But the hardest is hearing people say “oh she just needs to learn. She just needs to do this and that” knowing that professionals don’t grasp the struggle my little girl faces everyday and assume she is just doing it because she is misbehaving.. now that.. that’s the hardest part.
My advice is find a dr you trust, don’t be afraid to change drs, therapist etc. it’s your child. They see them once or twice a week. They don’t know them like you do. And get parent training, we are currently enrolled in parent training and it’s providing us with tools to handle the hard times and learn to understand our daughter.
I’m currently expecting our 3rd child, and while I know it will come with challenges I know God meant for us to have this new little one. I would say being a big sister has helped Grace progress a lot.. and I hope and pray that she can continue to progress and grow. And yes we still bottle-feed. After 2.5 years it’s not as bad :).
Autism has many faces, many ups and downs. Often the struggles are shared -But it’s not all struggles.. it’s beauty in seeing growth, and it’s supporting your child in new ways. It’s learning a patience I believe we can only receive from God. And it’s loving your child unconditionally the way only a parent can.
-Lilly Clausen, @andlilly
The story of my son's birth wasn't originally intended to be a homebirth. Originally, we had planned to have our son at a free standing birth center, but due to circumstances beyond our control, the midwife who owned that center decided to close it down and we were left with three choices:
- Continue our care with said midwife, but deliver in the hospital
- Find a midwife in our area willing to take us into her practice at 36 weeks gestation
- Stay with the other midwife from said birthing center and plan a homebirth
We decided on the third option, since we had gotten to know this other midwife quite well and trusted her. The way we saw it, the whole point of us planning a birthing center birth was that we wanted to have our baby outside of the hospital, but weren't sure if we would get moved into our new apartment in time for a homebirth (spoiler alert: we did).
It was quite the whirlwind experience, those last two weeks. All of a sudden, we were planning a homebirth we didn't expect to have to plan for. Fortunately, I have some amazing people in my life and was able to borrow a birthing tub for free, which really took a lot of stress off of us. So now we waited.
The day of our son's birth started early and unexpected. With our older child, I gave birth at exactly 38 weeks and here I was at 38 weeks 3 days, thinking to myself, "I was spoiled with my first pregnancy. This kid is going to go past his due date." I had no signs of labor like I had with our daughter. No contractions, no mucus plug, nothing...until the wee hours of the morning he was born.
I woke up at around 2:30am having some pretty intense contractions, but figured, I would just breathe through them because with my luck, I'll wake everyone up, get my midwife here, and everything will just stop because that would totally happen to me. I let my husband sleep and just quietly breathed through my contractions, timing them. They were about 10 minutes apart. You would think I would've woken my husband up by now, but you'd be wrong. When his alarm went off at 3:45am (he worked first shift), he woke to me breathing through a contraction and asked, "Am I calling in to work today?" I said I wasn't sure.
He said, "Well let me know by 4:30 because that's the latest I can wait to get ready."
I got out of bed to get in the tub, as my contractions were more intense and about 8 minutes apart now. I called my husband into our bathroom and told him, "You are definitely not going to work today." So he called in and got our birth tub all set up in the living room, in record time, I might add. I figured I should probably call my midwife now, so I called her and she headed our way, which was about an hour from her house. I sat in our bathtub, pouring water over my belly, changing positions, and listening to my Celtic radio station on Pandora. At one point I had to pee, so I sat on the toilet and even after I peed, I continued just sitting there for about 10 minutes because the design of a toilet is actually quite beneficial to the progression of labor and, man, did it feel great!
After our tub was all set up, my husband came in and asked if I needed anything.
"Can you go to the store and buy some grapes? I want some red grapes."
"Are you serious? You want grapes right now? Are you going to be okay if I go?"
"I'll be better once I have some grapes."
So he left to go to the grocery store at 5:30am for red, seedless grapes. Apparently, when he got there, the produce clerk was stocking the red grapes and watched my husband awkwardly grab a bag of grapes from their freshly stocked display. On the way back home, he called me and I had several contractions during our phone call.
"Babe, you know those were only about 3 minutes apart, right?", he said.
Oh, I was aware. This kid was coming fast.
When my husband got home, I was in our living room, wearing my husband's robe, kneeling on the floor, leaning against my birth ball, just rocking my hips, and riding every contraction out, reminding myself to breathe. He brought me some water and the grapes I requested, which were amazing, by the way. Probably the best grapes I've ever had. He also set up my birth affirmations that my friend made for me to remind me of all the things I was capable of. It might seem kind of silly, but seeing those mantras written out truly helped me stay focused and centered in my birth process.
By this point, it was about 6:00am and my midwife arrived. She asked if my water had broken yet, which it hadn't, so she made a quick run back to her car for one more bag she left out there and my husband went with her, so she could get back into our apartment building.
They probably hadn't even made it to the parking lot yet and my water broke. And when I say it broke, I mean BROKE. I literally HEARD it pop and there was a massive gush of amniotic fluid, paired with a pressure relief that one would need to experience to understand. Shortly after, my husband and midwife walked through the door.
"My water broke."
"Are you sure?" my midwife asked.
"Oh yeah. I'm sure. And honey, it kind of soaked your robe."
"First my shoes, now my robe." my husband said.*
*When my water broke with our daughter, it soaked his shoes. Apparently, my aim is impeccable.
At that point, upon my request, my midwife checked my dilation and I was already 8-9cm, so my husband helped me climb into the birth tub. Let me tell you, if anyone is ever on the fence about whether or not to birth in a pool, try it! I officially endorse birthing in a pool. Wow! I instantly became so relaxed and continued breathing through my contractions, entering an almost hypnotic state. With contractions on top of each other, I kept reminding myself to surrender to the pain and ride it out. Fighting it was useless and energy draining, so I allowed my body to sink into the water, deeper and deeper as I delved into each wave.
As transition took over, I began to lose my focus, crying out for my midwife to just "get him out!" and even biting my husband's hand as a knee jerk reaction to the pain (sorry, my love!) But my husband, with his naturally calming demeanor and gentle tone, said in my ear, "You are strong. You can do this."
And you know what? He was right.
I repeated those words to myself and remembered just who the fuck I am! I am a mother, a warrior, a goddamned sacred vessel of life and I can do this!
Upon my midwife's suggestion, I reached down and felt my son's head as he was making his way to our family. I knew he was ready and so was I.
I breathed through one more contraction and finally was ready to bring my son earth side. As I pushed, I imagined my body opening up to help my son find his way and I breathed down and into the depths of myself. With a few solid pushes, my son's head was out and my midwife had me stand up for my final push, as my son's umbilical cord had a marginal insertion, which means it was attached more to the side of my placenta rather than the center like it usually is, so she wanted to carefully guide him out.
With one more deep breath, I pushed and felt my son enter the world at 7:40am. All I could say was "I did it! I did it!"
As I sunk back into the warm pool, I cradled our son, kissing him over and over, memorizing his scent and etching that experience into my memory. We waited until the umbilical cord had stopped pulsing before clamping and cutting it. My husband cut our son's cord, as he had with our daughter, something he describes as "trying to cut through a garden hose." After 15 minutes (I think, really, I'm just estimating timelines), my husband held our son for some skin to skin time as I laid on our couch to deliver my placenta. I don't really recall feeling anything. I was preoccupied with admiring my husband become a father for the second time and riding an intense surge of oxytocin that made me feel like I was floating. I guess that's what they mean when they say "on Cloud 9".
After I delivered my placenta, my husband brought our son over to be nursed and he latched on instantly and camped there for a good hour or so, as my husband and midwife took the birth pool down. We then got his measurements (8lbs 5oz; 21in) and my husband made eggs & toast for me. After all the excitement died down, my midwife loaded my dishwasher (because she's a gem and a half) and helped me wash my son's hair, which we then covered with the very hat put on me when I was born. Once my midwife was confident we had it from there, she congratulated us again and went home. We all just kind of sat there, my husband, our daughter, and I, admiring our new addition and taking turns loving on him.
After it was all said and done, I just kept telling my husband, "I can't believe I just did that."
"You're so fucking metal." he said.