Amanda - Maternity & Milk Bath

“Before you were conceived I wanted you. Before you were born I loved you. Before you were here an hour I would die for you. This is the miracle of Mother’s Love.”

– Maureen Hawkins

Amanda Milk Bath -8859.jpg

Oh this beautiful mama to be is just around the corner from meeting her sweet bundle of love. It has been such a pleasure getting to know Amanda these past months. It is an honour to be her Doula and to be alongside her and Graham and document their journey as they transition into parenthood.

I met with Amanda a few weeks ago to do her maternity session outdoors in the forest. She was absolutely stunning and the light just emphasized her beauty. A short while later we met at my house to do her maternity milk bath—and believe me, it does not disappoint.

Amanda has such a light to her, she is radiant, bubbly and her smile just lights up a room. Her laughter is contagious and her heart is so genuine. She is going to make such a fantastic mother.

Little baby, you are going to be born into a world so incredibly full of love and light.

Here are some sneak peeks into Amandas maternity sessions.

We Are All Mothers - Kaila

We Are All Mothers

“I found the adjustment pretty easy into mothering. I struggled juggling all the balls, working, keeping the house clean ect. I could do the mothering easily but couldn't keep up with everything else by myself.”

Meet Kaila

WeAreAllMothers-Kaila(13of20).jpg

I met with Kaila when she was in her last trimester of pregnancy. She was pregnant with her third baby, and they were so excited to meet him. Kaila told me a bit about her story, and as I was her Doula as well we got into chatting about her previous births and labor and what motherhood was like for her.

If you met Kaila, right away you would love her laid back personality. She is so down to earth, kind hearted and just a very relaxed person. She has the ability to calm a space just with her presence, and has a heart of gold. Her laughter is contagious and the way she lights up when she talks about her family is just beautiful.

In Kaila’s previous relationship, she carried most of the load. While her partner was away, she not only did all the mothering roles, but all the household duties were placed upon her as well, on top of working and raising two kids. While the mothering role came easy to her, the vast amount of responsibility on top of the children was definitely overwhelming at times.

I think we all can relate to this. Being a mom is a full time job in itself. We don’t get sick days, we don’t work a 9-5 job, our work is constant. And no, I’m not complaining about this, but it is reality that being a mom can be really difficult on top of all the other jobs we may indeed do at home, or at work. This goes for fathers as well!

I want to emphasize the importance of a village here. Finding your village, whether that be family, friends, aunts, uncles, sisters, mothers, nurses, midwives, doulas, you name it—is so crucial to making it out of motherhood alive! Make sure you have a village you can trust and rely on in times of need. Sometimes we can isolate ourselves by playing off everything as “A OK” when behind closed doors we truly are struggling. It doesn’t make us weak to ask for help, it doesn’t mean we are failing, or that because Sally next door works full time and always appears dressed to the nines doesn’t mean that she isn’t struggling as well. There is such an emphasis in society that mothers must be put together. This generation of mothers especially has so much pressure to eat healthy, don’t use technology, exercise, etc etc. Sometimes its okay to eat chocolate for dinner. It’s okay that you haven’t showered today. It’s okay that your kids aren’t wearing Guess clothing. It’s okay that you don’t work a full time job and parent and do every other household chore there ever was. It’s okay that you work full time and are struggling managing the other household duties, let alone having the energy to parent. Most importantly, it’s ok to take time to yourself. This here is actually a necessity. And no, I don’t always mean taking a bath — yes if that is your hour of self care, great. But I mean, check in with yourself. When was the last time you had a glass of water, or a bite to eat? When was the last time you got out with your girlfriends? When was the last time you went to the dentist? These are things we so often shove to the back of our to-do list.

If you’re struggling, reach out to those who care. Join a mom and baby group, join an exercise class, put yourself out there and make friends. Confide in someone you trust. Just make sure you aren’t struggling in silence. There are always people who care and who love you. Remember that.

WeAreAllMothers-Kaila(14of20).jpg

These are the responses Kaila has shared in regards to the project questionnaire. As always, be mindful, be respectful and remember that Kaila has chosen to share her story with us, and for that, we honour her.

Kaila, thank you for sharing these details of your life with us. You are strong, you are brave, you are beautiful, you are loved, you are worthy and you are enough. Never forget that.


Did you have a traumatic birth experience? Ex: emergency caesarean, neonatal resuscitation, stillbirth, miscarriage, etc. 
Nope, just super fast labours 

Did you experience any anxiety or depression during pregnancy? If yes, did you feel comfortable sharing with your health care provider or close family/friends about these experiences?

With my first I was a bit anxious but I was also 19 and had just started college and had a partner who travelled the majority of the time. I was lucky I had moved close to my Mom and Aunts so I had a good support system and ended up with the easiest baby ever.

Did you struggle with breastfeeding or feel pressure to breastfeed or formula feed?

I didn't struggle with breastfeeding itself but I went back to college when my first was 6 days old and pumped for her the first 11 months of her life. I struggled when I switched her to formula for the feedings she was missing when I was at school because my body just wouldn't produce enough to pump a bottle during the day anymore. She self-weened at about 2. I also felt guilty when I weened my son at 17 months because all he wanted to do was nurse all day long and didn't want to eat real food. I remember telling people and feeling like I had to justify my decision to them even though we had a good run. 

Did you struggle with body image after the birth of your child(ren)?
Yes! For the first year after both kids. 

Did you struggle with any postnatal mood disorders such as Postpartum Anxiety or Depression?
No

Did you have a good support group during pregnancy or postpartum that you felt comfortable sharing your personal experiences in?

More with number two, I was so busy with my first and school. My family has always been very supportive though.

Were you aware of the resources available within the community of Powell River and Regional District for new moms and pregnant mothers? 

I am now with this one (#3) I moved back when Bo was 3 weeks old and didn't really know what was available and didn't access anything other than play group in Lund. 

Did you and your partner struggle relationship wise after the birth of your child(ren)?

Yes, my partner at the time travelled a lot and wasn't home very often. I think he resented the time and energy that went into the children. We separated a year after my 2nd was born. 

Did you find the adjustment into motherhood easy and natural or did you struggle with finding your identity?

I found the adjustment pretty easy into mothering. I struggled juggling all the balls, working, keeping the house clean ect. I could do the mothering easily but couldn't keep up with everything else by myself.

As always, I like to share a few resources in the community here for new parents.

If you are looking for some great resources for mom and baby or dad and baby groups check out

The Family Place - on Facebook

Family Friendly Powell River - on Facebook

PRYCFS - on Facebook

ORCA BUS

These pages have a bunch of great resources available to families in the community. Reach out—its worth it.

XOXO

Julia - Maternity

“Giving birth and being born brings us into the essence of creation, where the human spirit is courageous and bold and the body, a miracle of wisdom.”

-Harriette Hartigan

Julia Maternity-7532.jpg

I’m finally getting around to sharing Julia’s maternity session. This mama to be is just stunning! Julia and I met in Lund at Divers Rock (a well known local spot) and the moody clouds were just the most gorgeous backdrop. The ocean was calm and peaceful and this mama was radiant. A few weeks later her little babe was born — that’s another post for another day! In the meantime, enjoy a sneak peek into Julia’s gallery.

Julia — you are absolutely stunning. You have such a huge heart and you have a warmth to all the people around you. You truly will be a remarkable mother.

XOXO

We Are All Mothers - Brittny

We Are All Mothers

“Motherhood just came to me, I found it somewhat easy to adjust with the first baby and found it a lot harder with number two. It was just so much chaos. With the girls being older this time around I’m hoping that adjustment to a mom of 3/4 will be a lot easier.” - Brittny A.

Meet Brittny

DSC_0077.jpg

A lot of the women who have participated have talked about their struggles with postpartum anxiety and depression, body image issues and relationship turmoil. While these topics have recently been getting more attention in the media and other outlets, there is still such a stigma around motherhood — especially postpartum. For some moms, motherhood comes easily with maybe only a few hiccups during the road. For others, it can be a whirlwind of emotions, highs and lows and a total complete loss of identity. Add in multiple children to that mix and it can feel very isolated and lonely at times.

I’ve known Brittny for quite a few years. I’ve always known her to have a smile on her face and when she talks about her children joy just radiates from her. We met and chatted about motherhood, our experiences with PPA/PPD and throughout the process got some beautiful photos of Brittny and her growing belly. Brittny struggled with Postpartum Anxiety after the births of both of her daughters. She has experienced body image struggles, relationship turmoil and lack of support. You’ll see some of Brittny’s tattoos in the gallery below; the story and meaning behind her tattoos is so beautiful. It takes a lot of courage to be able to ask for help and admit that things aren’t ok—especially for mothers. Being able to acknowledge her PPA and find support is one of the most courageous acts Brittny can do as a mother.

Brittny has a beautiful loving heart. She is bubbly, cheerful and so real. Conversing with her is so easy and she has the ability to make everyone in the room feel at ease. Isn’t it funny how so often the ones we assume just have motherhood come easy to them are often the ones fighting a silent battle inside? Postpartum depression and anxiety is like a silent illness. It is not often talked about and it can just fester inside of us, isolating us and creating this feeling of utmost loneliness.

If you are reading Brittny’s story and you’re saying to yourself yes…this resonates so deeply with me I want you to know that you are not alone. The women in this project have so bravely and openly shared their stories with us for this reason: to build community, to create hope, and to let the readers know that they are not alone.

Brittny— You are strong. You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are honourable. You are an inspiration. You are enough. You are loved. You are an incredible mother. Your daughters and son have one hell of a mother to look up to. The way you carry yourself with grace amidst any battle you are fighting is something we all can learn from you. Thank you for being brave and sharing your story with us. Thank you for being open and destigmatizing postpartum mental health. Thank you for being you.

DSC_0006-2.jpg

When you read Brittny’s responses be mindful and be respectful. These are Brittny’s words. This is only a part of Brittny’s journey. These experiences have helped build her into the incredible woman she is today. Here’s what Brittny had to say in response to some of the questions for the project.

Did you experience any birth trauma or trauma during pregnancy/postnatal?

No dramatic birth as of yet. I would say the most trauma that happened was the cord being around Braelyn’s neck and the doctor giving me a blank stare like she didn’t know what to do. The nurse then took over and got it all under control. She retired after my delivery for good. Eastyn’s was traumatic in the sense that once it happened it happened so fast that I couldn’t even think - she also came out so fast I was bleeding a lot and the doc wasn’t sure at the time where it was coming from so there was some concern but in the end all was okay.

Did you experience any anxiety or depression during pregnancy? If yes, did you feel comfortable sharing with your health care provider or close family/friends about these experiences?

I was okay during pregnancy, but post baby I had issues - I didn’t know what they were for along time so didn’t say anything as I felt “crazy” but since have got help from a lot of different health care providers and councillors. I have been on medication this entire pregnancy as its what keeps me stable and sane. It helps me tremendously. 

Did you struggle with breastfeeding or feel pressure to breastfeed or formula feed?

I loved breast feeding - I found it extremely rewarding. Both of my girls breast fed until 12 months old, exclusively and I hope to do that with this babe as well.

Did you struggle with body image after the birth of your child(ren)?

YES, majorly. I was a smallish girl before I had my girls.. after Braelyn I stayed small, i got lucky being young, 18, and having a baby. The weight just came off.. but even 2 years later at 20 with eastyn and terrible eating habits, things were a lot different - I didn’t lose, I kept it all on. One day, enough was enough (2 years post babe) and I started working out and eating healthy and the pounds just came off - working out and eating healthy is the BEST way to lose weight - no gimmicks.

Did you have a good support group during pregnancy or postpartum that you felt comfortable sharing your personal experiences in?

I didn’t have much of a support group other then my medical team before the babies arrived, even with this pregnancy I haven’t had much of a support group other then myself, google and my man. I found the weigh in’s at the hospital on Thursdays helpful with my girls - the public health nurses were a lovely help and I plan to go back this time as well.

Were you aware of the resources available within the community of Powell River and Regional District for new moms and pregnant mothers?

I wasn’t and really still am not aware of the resources we have for our children or help within pregnancy.

Did you and your partner struggle relationship wise after the birth of your child(ren)?
My relationship was rocky as it was before children, it made it a lot more rocky with them. I wasn’t in a good place with my relationship when I had my girls but this time around my little boy will have a solid set of parents who love each other dearly. We are already more of a team then I ever had with my ex. Cole is amazing.

Did you find the adjustment into motherhood easy and natural or did you struggle with finding your identity?


Motherhood just came to me, I found it somewhat easy to adjust with the first baby and found it a lot harder with number two. It was just so much chaos. With the girls being older this time around I’m hoping that adjustment to a mom of 3/4 will be a lot easier.

I have linked a few great resources in the community available to new parents who are struggling with anxiety and depression in a few posts back. I will link some great resources below as well.

http://postpartum.org

http://powellriver.fetchbc.ca/service.html?i=316

XOXO

We Are All Mothers -Chelsea

We Are All Mothers

“Once I actually became a mom I truly realized how being a mom means being much more than just that. You become comfort, discipline, teacher, referee, cheerleader, nutritionist, and all around 24/7 365 your child's everything. Even now its intimidating to be someone’s everything. But I wouldn’t change anything in the world for it because he is my everything too. As long as I know in my heart that I am doing the best for him and doing everything in my power to provide and care for my son and making sure that he is loved I think that is all the identity in motherhood that I need.”  - Chelsea R.

Meet Chelsea.

DSC_9592.jpg

So often the mothers role is overlooked. Maybe it is because it is expected, maybe it is because it is such a common thing, or maybe it’s because it’s easier to just look at the beautiful blessing it is to raise children, rather than looking and appreciating the hard work, effort and emotional sacrifice it takes to be a mother.

DSC_9530.jpg

Chelsea’s story is raw, honest and real. Chelsea has experienced prenatal anxiety, postpartum depression, breastfeeding troubles, relationship hardships and struggled to find her identity after having her son. Do these things define her? Absolutely not! However, they are part of her journey and story and it is so important to honour and talk about these issues to work through them, and to help normalize so many of these things that new mothers face, often in silence.

As you read what Chelsea has so bravely and rawly shared with us, you’ll often hear her talk about struggling with these issues quietly, or that not many people were aware of them. So many women are struggling right now, and doing so silently because of the stigmas that surround maternal mental health and wellness. It takes an immense amount of strength and bravery to reach out for help, and to share a story so personal and intimate. As you read Chelsea’s story be mindful of this, and recognize that it is so incredibly important to pause and really reflect on yourself and friends around you who may be struggling, without us even knowing. Reaching out can be the one thing that reminds a person they are loved and worthy.

Below are a set of responses that Chelsea has shared with me to a series of questions as part of this project.


Did you experience any anxiety or depression during pregnancy? If yes, did you feel comfortable sharing with your health care provider or close family/friends about these experiences?

Most of my pregnancy was quite smooth sailing, it was during my last few weeks that I found myself really struggling with anxiety. I didn’t share a lot of it with my family or my partner. My mother knew some of my anxieties towards the end of the pregnancy but she thought I was just impatient to have my baby. When in reality I was scared of not knowing what was going to happen or what to expect. My doctor was amazing when I expressed my concerns with her, the last week or so before I had my son my blood pressure was very high and I was really scared I was going to end up with pre-eclampsia like my mom did during her pregnancy with me and being a high risk pregnancy due to my size that I would have to be flown down to Vancouver to deliver on my own. My Dr. assured me that I wasn’t at risk for it I was probably just stressing myself out and gave me tips to relax and stop the anxiety attacks. 

Did you struggle with breastfeeding or feel pressure to breastfeed or formula feed?

I struggled with breast feeding from the start my son was so sleepy for the first 24 hours after he was born I couldn’t get him to latch and even after he was more alert we had issues getting him to latch. Most of the nurses were amazing and helpful during my struggles, there was one who really wasn’t helpful and we even had her barred from my room. I took all the supplements, drank all the teas, made “jungle juice” which my dr reccomended to help increase my supply, drank a disgusting stout beer to try and help and had no luck, tried different nipple shields with no luck. When my son was about 3 weeks old our house flooded and was no longer safe to keep him there so we had to move as well, so being stressed out didn’t help my milk supply at all. My son was also a big wiggler, he wouldn’t latch or hold his attention long enough to get a good latch to breast feed. When he was 2 months old my supply ran dry and we switched to formula for his sensitive stomach, we were just happy he was eating and gaining weight finally.

Did you struggle with body image after the birth of your child(ren)?

Surprisingly no, I have struggled with body image my whole life but once I had my son I felt empowered and the most beautiful I have ever felt in my life. My body had managed to create a whole human being. A functioning little body and an amazing little person. I am proud of my stretch marks they are my “strength stripes” that allowed me to grow to carry my son.

Did you struggle with any postnatal mood disorders such as Postpartum Anxiety or Depression?

I had awful post partum depression after my son and for so long. Its hard to write about it even now just reflecting because I wish I was able to be more present and the mom I should have been for my son back when he was littler. Because of all the stresses we had with my son; having to find a new place to live, move into a new place, my son was colicy, being flown to Childrens hospital when he was 2 months old, having to return to work when we returned when he was 2 months old as well. Life was a crazy world wind after my son was born and it felt like we could never get on solid ground so I was stuck in a big slump for nearly the first year of his life. I had so many different medications to try and help me and they all just made me feel worse until I just gave up on them and just dug myself out of this self loathing ditch I had put myself in. I had to open myself up to my family and friends about how I was feeling and they all helped me find myself again and start being the mom I wanted to be.

Did you have a good support group during pregnancy or postpartum that you felt comfortable sharing your personal experiences in?

Pregnancy yes, I had a lot of friends and hung out with a lot of people during my pregnancy. Afterwards all of those friends fell away. A lot of my friend either had their own kids or didn’t have kids and didn’t understand the struggles I was going through having a colicy baby who threw up all day every day. Especially between working and my son I just had my partner and my parents. My mom and step dad were the biggest help after I had my son they babysat every day I had to work and kept him over night on the days or nights I was suffering and struggling with my son during his colic when I hadn’t slept for days.

Were you aware of the resources available within the community of Powell River and Regional District for new moms and pregnant mothers?

I was more aware of them after I had my son, I joined Bond for the first 6 months afterwards. I had a nurse come into my house a couple days after we brought my son home and that was about it. Didn’t know how many other things there were. Also hard to go to “mommy and me” groups with a work schedule. 

Did you and your partner struggle relationship wise after the birth of your child(ren)?

Boy did we ever. We thought we had prepared ourselves but really nothing besides experiencing it first hand could have prepared us for all the strains it put on our relationship. While there were a lot of strains that came along with being young and first time parents we also had a lot of triumphs; sleep training, first laughs, smiles, crawling and walking etc. A lot of resentment grew between us, at least on my end at least. Having to go back to work and miss so many of those firsts with my son it made my relationship with my partner harder and isolating at times. Sometimes it isn’t all teamwork and trading off. Sometimes parenting can feel more like one taking on more slack than the other.

Did you find the adjustment into motherhood easy and natural or did you struggle with finding your identity?

I struggled so hard with finding my identity and I think I still struggle with it now as my son grows because some days he needs different parts of me more than other parts.. As my son has grown up so have I. As he’s changed and learned, I’ve had to learn right along with him. From the time I was small the only thing I could ever imagine being was a mom. My mom was a stay at home mom for most of my life and I thought I would flow as easily into motherhood as she did and she was even younger than I was when she had me. Once I actually became a mom I truly realized how being a mom means being much more than just that. You become comfort, discipline, teacher, referee, cheerleader, nutritionist, and all around 24/7 365 your child's everything. Even now its intimidating to be someone’s everything. But I wouldn’t change anything in the world for it because he is my everything too. As long as I know in my heart that I am doing the best for him and doing everything in my power to provide and care for my son and making sure that he is loved I think that is all the identity in motherhood that I need. 

DSC_9577.jpg

So much of what Chelsea has shared is so relatable. SO many of us experience maternal mood disorders whether in pregnancy or postpartum. So many of us experience relationship turmoil after the birth of a child, we experience body image issues, feeding stigmas, and identity crisis. It takes a lot to be able to sit back and reflect on all of these things and even more so to share them with the world.

One of the things that really stuck out to me in Chelsea’s story is how she describes being a mom as being the comforter, provider, teacher, referee, etc. This is so true. A mother’s work is never done and if we are experiencing any other issues ourselves, it can be so incredibly hard to focus on doing all of the tasks we often face and are required to do when we are mothers. It’s ok to take time to yourself. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to struggle and be scared. None of us really know what we are getting ourselves into when we become mothers. Almost all of us will have unrealistic expectations about feeding, sleeping, and pretty much everything when it comes to having a baby. What is not ok, is struggling in silence.

As a very small community, it is imperative that we build and create more support groups for new mothers and fathers, grandparents, etc. Even more so for working parents. Being aware of the resources within our community such as BOND (Babies Open New Doors), Public Health, Breastfeeding Supports, Mental Health supports, financial supports, etc will make the transition into motherhood not only “easier” but less lonely. Because of the stigmas that surround maternal mental health so often we are afraid to speak up about the intrusive thoughts, anger, sadness we may experience as new mothers. As we continue to share stories like Chelsea has we will continue to break down the stigmas.

Chelsea, you have so bravely shared your story with us and for that I am forever grateful. You are beautiful, you are strong, you are loved, you are worthy, you are enough. You are an amazing mother. Your story is one that so many people can relate to and look up to. You will have touched so many other women by sharing your journey with us, and for that, I thank you.

I have linked some great resources in previous stories, but will link a few below as well. Remember, you aren’t alone in this journey. You are loved and you are worthy.

XOXO

http://postpartum.org

http://www.vch.ca/public-health/pregnancy-parenting

http://powellriver.fetchbc.ca/index.html?t=17

We Are All Mothers - Annika

We Are All Mothers

If I can share any wisdom at all, it’s that the first year or two of motherhood is submerged in fog – and as your child gains independence and becomes their own little person, that fog slowly lifts – akin to a metamorphosis—It gets better!” - Annika C.

Meet Annika

DSC_9010.jpg

I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am that Annika has shared her story with me. Annika and I have been friends since elementary school. We have been through many of life’s biggest moments together and I am forever grateful to be able to share and go through motherhood with her by my side.

Annika has shared what early motherhood looked like for her, through challenges of afterbirth pain, body image and adjusting to new life as a mother while grieving the loss of what life used to be like. So many of us experience grief over the life we had before motherhood, and so we should. We go through immense changes through body, mind and self and it is an incredible transition we must all work through as we navigate the early months/years of motherhood.

Here is Annika’s story. Be mindful and respectful when you read what she has shared.

“While my birth experience could have definitely been worse, I did feel traumatized after birthing my son and I still have a difficult time seeing pictures of and/or hearing stories about childbirth. I believe my trauma stemmed from not being able to control the situation. My cervix refused to widen, I was prepped for a c-section and then told that it would not be necessary, I was frozen from chest to toes and then asked to “push” my child out of my birth canal. All the while, the nurses were anxiously watching my son’s heartbeat on the monitor as it became fainter and fainter – telling me to push harder even though I couldn’t feel any part of my lower abdomen. It brings me to tears just thinking about it now – 2 years later. I thank god (or whoever is watching over us) every day that I was able to hear Danilo’s cries seconds after he exited my body. Hearing his first little wails was and always will be the very best moment of my life. 

I wish that there was more awareness about the after-birth pains that many moms face. We hear such scary stories about how painful giving birth can be but very seldom are the after-birth struggles shared. I could barely walk out of the hospital when we were discharged three days later. I burst my episiotomy stitches (in my vagina, yes) carrying my son five blocks in his  infant car seat to his first doctor’s appointment when he was one week old. It took me an hour to go across the street and grab groceries in the second week of his life. I felt a secret gratitude for my son experiencing jaundice because it meant that I was able to rest just a little bit more (how awful!). The dull, throbbing pain in my pelvic floor area took about 8 months to fully go away.

I felt very lucky to be able to breastfeed right from the get-go. My son had his tongue tie cut by a doctor at the hospital about an hour after he was born and he started suckling right away – no latch or milk issues. However I seemed to spontaneously “dry up” about 5 months after exclusively breastfeeding. It was a mystery to me at the time, and I felt a few pangs of guilt for feeding him formula because I intended on breastfeeding for the full two years as was recommended by Health Canada at the time.  The guilt quickly subsided when my son started sleeping for significantly longer stretches at night and when I realized that I no longer had to schedule my life and diet around his eating preferences – it was marvelously freeing, which was an aspect of my pre-motherhood life that I had been grieving immensely.  

As expected of a millennial mother, I was also grieving my pre-baby body and I worked myself to the bone to get it back. I tried every form of fitness class offered in my neighborhood, I counted my macro’s, went vegan – the whole shebang.  I now believe that insufficient calories was likely the cause of my loss of breastmilk. I knew that I had a problem when I started looking at myself in the gym mirrors and feeling proud enough to take a picture, but then editing those pictures when I got home so that I could present an even “fitter” Annika to my social media friends. I also refused to be intimate with my partner for a significant period of time after having my son. At first it was because I was in pain, but then it morphed into a feeling of being grossed out by my own body. I’m not sure when I came back to reality, or if I even did (maybe I just lost the weight and my skin tightened back up over time), but I can now honestly state that I feel comfortable in my body again. I wish I was more in-touch with why I struggled and why I don’t anymore so that I could impart some wisdom on other new moms, but it just happened. What I can say is that it felt much more rewarding to work towards bringing my body back to functionality, rather than working out for sheer aesthetics. 

So, as you’ve likely gathered, the beginning of motherhood was difficult for me at times. Along with the pain and body image issues, I was also the first of my friend group to have a baby and  despite nearly all of my friends being the best, most excited and supportive bunch ever (!) I still felt very isolated at times. There were days that I cried because I missed the freedom of being a normal, baby-less, early-twenty-year-old. And that pain was of course compounded by the guilt that followed because I loved my son more than words could describe. I experienced the “baby blues” for the first week or two after Danilo was born and I quickly learned that wine at night time was a bad idea because it put me into a negative headspace. Other than that, I believe I was mentally healthy during my postpartum phase. I experienced joy often and I was a happy camper so long as I was able to go to the gym and get 4-5 hours of sleep at night. My partner was a saving grace more often than not which I feel very fortunate about. Now that Danilo is two, we seem to be butting heads a bit more because our cultural upbringing and parenting styles differ, but we work through it. I’m always excited for a new day with Nilo and I can’t even remember who I was before he existed! If I can share any wisdom at all, it’s that the first year or two of motherhood is submerged in fog – and as your child gains independence and becomes their own little person, that fog slowly lifts – akin to a metamorphosis—It gets better!”

DSC_9030.jpg

I am sure that so many of us can relate to so much of Annika’s story. The beginning of motherhood is hard. So often we aren’t told about what postpartum will look or feel like. It can be immensely discouraging. Add in breastfeeding challenges, body image dysmorphia and mom guilt, and then sometimes it truly feels like we are sinking.

Afterbirth pains can be really challenging, especially if we were not truly aware of what postpartum can look and feel like. Finding a care provider that you trust and feel comfortable talking to is so crucial. Ask the questions, read about postpartum bleeding and aftercare. Read about the importance of the first forty days after birth. Educate yourself and find support in friends, parents, health care providers etc. Postpartum, especially the first six weeks afterwards truly aren’t talked about enough. If you experience birth trauma be sure to get help and talk to someone about it.

Like Annika said, the first year is often submerged in fog. It does get better though! Ensuring you’ve got support systems in place and doing research and educating yourself while pregnant on things like postpartum healing, bleeding, breastfeeding, and how your body heals can often help us from creating these unrealistic expectations. Educating yourself on infant sleep helps to prepare us for hourly night feeds and learning to thrive off of smaller amounts of sleep. Being mindful that our bodies have just gone through an enormous transformation of growing a baby to birthing a baby and that you won’t have a “pre-baby” body back overnight is also really important.

We will always experience mom guilt. But that doesn’t make you a bad mom. The fact alone that we feel guilty and love our children proves enough that we are good mothers. We won’t all parent the same and that is ok. You don’t have to have the newest most expensive baby gear, or the outfits that look like they came from out of a magazine to be a good mom. You don’t have to breastfeed or bottle feed to be a good mom. You don't have to stay home or go to work to be a good mom. All you have to do, is love your children and remember to love yourself. Without taking care of ourselves we truly aren’t able to care for our children.

Annika, thank you for sharing your story with us. You are brave. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are resilient. You are empowering. You are worthy. You are loved. I truly am so thankful that you have shared your story. I know so many other women and families will be able to relate to what you have gone through. Your story is inspiring and I know that you will have helped so many mothers by sharing your motherhood.

I am going to link some helpful websites to read about some of the common postpartum challenges we may face. If you have the option to join a mom group, do it! Make new friends who have children similar in age. Put yourself out there to build those support systems. It is so worth it.

www.evidencebasedbirth.com

http://postpartum.org

http://breastfeedingmadesimple.com

We Are All Mothers - Chloe

We Are All Mothers

“Time and its limitations are emphasized when you have a child. You want to prioritize time to yourself, you want to prioritize time as a couple, you want to prioritize time together as a family. It can be very difficult to balance these things with the demands of life.” - Chloe L.

Meet Chloe.

DSC_8492.jpg

I’ve known Chloe since we were children. We grew up just a few houses away from each other and spent countless hours together, especially walking down to the beach at the end of the road. Chloe has always been a friend that I’ve felt close to, no matter how much time or distance has come between us. The hours we spent together as teenagers during some very emotional times for both of us created a bond of friendship I am eternally grateful for. When I started this project and Chloe came to me saying she was interested I was absolutely thrilled. Chloe is an incredible artist and writer and she has one of the most beautiful souls.

We got together at her family’s home early in the morning and did some photos of her and her son, and then did some breastfeeding photos as well to commemorate their breastfeeding journey. We chatted about motherhood and how it was going and it truly was so wonderful to reconnect with one another.

A topic that I think most mothers (and parents) can agree up on is that there never seems to be enough time. Time is so fleeting, especially as we grow older and have our own children. So often we must sacrifice time to ourselves, our relationships, friendships, work, you name it. It’s become such a norm in society for women to give all of themselves to their children, partners, work, education, etc. that time to ourselves usually is one of the last things we think of. However, it is one of the most crucial parts of being a mom/parent that so many of us overlook.

I received Chloe’s responses to some of the questionnaires that I provided for this project and I truly resonated with so much of her story. Chloe and her partner both underwent major life changes; one being an illness and the other of transitioning into parenthood.

Below is some of Chloe’s story she has been so generous to share with us all.

“During my pregnancy I recall feeling extremely distracted. I wished the only thing required of me was to lay in a comfortable position and read about all things baby and birth related, or day dream about what I would eat next.  When I was half way through my pregnancy my partner became very ill. His condition was concerning to the point I didn’t often think about being pregnant at all for many months. There was some amount of social anxiety. He did not look well. I was getting increasingly pregnant. There were days of sadness and worry and we got a taste of the sleep deprivation that was to come. Eventually he received a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, but it would be months before he was out of excruciating pain. Fortunately my prenatal doctor agreed to take my partner on as a patient and I was able to talk to her about the whole experience: the joy of watching my belly grow with our child, and the stress of watching my partner unable to sleep or eat. I don’t think I spoke much about this experience while I was in it. After the birth of our son, and with my partner on a medication that deals with most of his symptoms, I am able to share more about what that time was like. It was intense. We were both so vulnerable. Constantly balancing our own and each other’s physical needs. When our son was born, my partner took our parental leave and we both were able to be home with our son for months. We were both able to heal.”

DSC_8509.jpg

“I have struggled to some extent with anxiety and mood disorders in the time since having my son. I love being a mother. I love him so intensely. I love my life at this time. Still some days when I have not cared for myself or felt cared for, when I have had little sleep, or little time to think and reflect it can be difficult to maintain my mental health. I feel like I have had to work harder since having my son to keep anxiety at bay. I am self-employed and balancing work and life can be really challenging with a new baby: when you’re work hours are fluid and you are self-directed. It can be a challenge with the time constraints of having a small child to balance working, self-care, and housework in the little time I have alone. I have realized it requires about a equal division in thirds of these three things to sustain happiness and productivity. Breastfeeding, worth noting, is as a major contribution to my wellbeing. The chemical responses in the brain during this time of closeness, skin-to-skin, and forced rest have done wonders to ease my chaotic mind. I have learned to be highly productive in the windows of time I have alone, and I have learned to be deeply at peace and present in the moments with my son.”

DSC_8488.jpg
DSC_8506.jpg

“My partner and I bonded in new ways during the pregnancy with his illness and again as we fell in love with our son. It was a transition of care and attention that he handled very gracefully. I see how this causes a lot of tension in relationships. I am grateful we spent many (eight) years together before our son joined us.  We have high levels of trust and intimacy that provided us both with a sense of security despite trying and sometimes distant times. For the first half of  our son’s first year, he was on a journey to health, and I immersed in new motherhood. We were fortunate to share the home for months and assist each other as we could: making meals together, driving to doctors appointments together, and spending many hours staring into our the eyes of our new child. The level of physical intimacy between mother and child is extreme. I think fathers miss out in some ways in the beginning. I try to remember this and be inclusive and encourage his engagement with me and with our son. Time and its limitations are emphasized when you have a child. You want to prioritize time to yourself, you want to prioritize time as a couple, you want to prioritize time together as a family. It can be very difficult to balance these things with the demands of life. I think after a year and half I think we are no longer transitioning to parenthood and it feels settled as though it has been that way for almost always. Falling in love with your child does change your love with your partner. I love my partner more than I did before. But I also love my child in a way that is incomparable. Sharing this fact brings us closer.”


Some of the things Chloe shared with us, such as dealing with a partner having a life changing illness, being constrained for time to self, relationships, work, etc. as well as struggling with anxiety can all be huge factors on how our transition into motherhood either thrives or holds us back.

We live in a society that pushes all of us to our maximum extent. We work endless hours, whether that be in the house, or outdoors, or in an office. We have relationships that go through a continuum of highs and lows, and when you add in an illness or a major life transition, such as having a baby these factors can really cause a sense of overwhelm and anxiety.

One thing that is so important is taking time aside for yourself during the day. Burnout is a real thing, and anyone can experience it. Men and women both need to ensure they are taking care of themselves because in order to fully care for our children we must first be taken care of ourselves. During the fourth trimester especially, accept all the help you can. Depending on the type of person you are (I am very much a do it myself type of person) it can be so hard to accept that we need help, but oh it can make all the difference. Take time for your relationships. Your children did not just appear out of thin air, it took the love between two people to create them and both parents deserve to spend time with one another. Remember that it is a journey, while you may have birthed a baby overnight, it will take time to become accustomed to this new life, love, emotions, body, etc. We don’t just learn to love another human being when we have a baby, we learn to love a new person within ourselves.

If you or your partner are struggling with anxiety, overwhelm, stress, etc be sure to find someone you are comfortable talking to. Accept help, ask for help and remember to take time for yourself during the day, even if it is just 30 minutes. The dishes, laundry, vacuuming can wait. Work can wait 15 minutes. Enjoy a few extra minutes in the shower, or drink your tea slowly. You deserve to. Join a parenting group, spend time outdoors and just remember to take things slow. Time itself can cause a lot of anxiety, but even though time seems to be flying by it is important to stop and remember to drink up these moments. They may be long and exhausting but they do get better.

Chloe, thank you for sharing your story with us. You are brave, strong and you truly have such a beautiful soul. I know that so many other people will read your story and truly resonate with so many of the things you said. This project is about building community, and I thank you for being a part of this. Your story will touch many and give hope and light to others.

Below is a list of helpful links/resources within our community.

https://www.prcyfss.com - Powell River Child Youth and Family Support Services

https://www.familyfriendlypowellriver.ca/listing/cranberry-child-development-and-family-resource-centre/ - Cranberry Child Development and Family Resource Centre

http://prepsociety.org/familyplace/ - Family Place

Healthy Babies Drop-in - Public Health Nurse available. Thursdays 1:30-3:30 @ Powell River Community Health Unit - 604-485-3310

Emily - Maternity

A Prayer for One Who Comes to Choose This Life
by Danelia Wild
May she know the welcome
of open arms and hearts
May she know she is loved
by many and by one
May she know the circle of friendship that gives
and receives love in all its forms
May she know and be known
in the heart of another
May she know the heart
that is this earth
reach for the stars and
call it home
And in the end
may she find everything
in her heart
and her heart
in everything.

Emily - Maternity-5963.jpg

A few weeks ago this beautiful momma to be and I made our way to Inland Lake to do her maternity session. She braved the cold, pouring rain and powerfully and beautifully stood in front of my camera with not much more than a scarf to cover her up.

For Emily’s maternity session I really wanted to capture the pregnant body in it’s natural beauty. Where we live is world renowned for our magnificent forests and foliage, so of course it only made sense to go somewhere lush, green and full of life to do this session. To be pregnant really embodies womanhood. There is nothing as miraculous and beautiful than being able to carry life inside of us. Watching Emily grow through this pregnancy has been such a joy. She truly is stunning inside and out.

Emily you are going to be an amazing mother. You have such a kind and generous heart and your smile lights up the room. You have a peaceful energy about you, and you truly radiate joy. Your little one is so lucky to have a momma like you. There are so many people who cannot wait to meet that little baby growing inside of you.

Here’s some images from this gorgeous gallery.

XOXO

We Are All Mothers - Heather

WE ARE ALL MOTHERS

“As women growing a child inside of us, we spend ten long months impatiently waiting to meet the beautiful human we created and you imagine the perfect moment that you get to meet your child for the first time. Sadly, not every mother gets to experience that “perfect” moment. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, any birth that a mother deems as “traumatic” is traumatic. That’s it end of story. It’s trauma, it hurts in places you didn’t even know it could hurt and above all it’s incredibly stressful.” - Heather G

Meet Heather

DSC_8708.jpg

Back when I first started this project I knew there were certain topics I wanted to open up a dialogue to. One of those topics included birth trauma. I attended Heather’s birth and when she messaged me telling me she wanted to participate in this project I knew in my heart that her story is one people needed to hear. Not only would it help Heather by talking about it, but I know that there are hundreds and thousands of other mothers out there who also have experienced birth trauma, in whatever way that may look and they deserve to know they aren’t alone.

I met with Heather and her son, Dax, early in the morning. Dax had just woken up from his nap and he was all smiles as per usual. We did some photos in the living room and then in Dax’s room and chatted away about how life was going, how her family was doing and how motherhood was. She later sent me her story via email and it brought me to tears.

Below are the words written and expressed by Heather about her sons birth. Some aspects of this story may be a trigger to other women who have experienced traumatic births, so please take heart when you read this. Be respectful and mindful that Heather is sharing an incredibly personal and emotional topic with us and she deserves to be recognized for her bravery and strength.

“For the past seven months that I’ve spent raising my son, very few people have heard the real story about the first week of his life. When I finally got the courage to tell the few people I did tell, beyond our family, I felt anger and hurt. As women growing a child inside of us, we spend ten long months impatiently waiting to meet the beautiful human we created and you imagine the perfect moment that you get to meet your child for the first time. Sadly, not every mother gets to experience that “perfect” moment. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, any birth that a mother deems as “traumatic” is traumatic. That’s it end of story. It’s trauma, it hurts in places you didn’t even know it could hurt and above all it’s incredibly stressful. I soon found that sharing our story soon became a contest, people tried to make their situations sound worse and tried to steal the attention away from the stress and emotion of what we went through and how we felt. That was never okay with me, trauma is trauma and there needs to be more empathy in the world for people that do go through a traumatic birth no matter how big or small. A traumatic birth can be listed as so many different things, it could be complications, an intense labour, and sometimes a mother experiences a moment that she thinks she could be leaving the hospital without her baby, and that mother was me.

            I spent the last final months of summer beyond incredibly pregnant and I was so done with the swelling, the water retention, and the heat. I resorted to castor oil a day after my due date, which I said I would NEVER do, but I was done. I needed to meet my baby and it needed to happen now. I just expected that everything was going to be absolutely perfect. I soon learned that my labour ended up being fairly quick and quite intense. It was about 3 in the morning the day of my son’s birth I was told that I was 2 cm and I could stay or go home, I chose to go home only to return two hours later and had already progressed past 6 cm. From there things moved so fast that I almost didn’t know what hit me. The pain from dilating so quickly was starting to be unbearable and I chose to take the epidural, which was my saving grace at this point. From there things were smooth, I was feeling great. By 8am I was fully dilated but his head was still too far back and before I started pushing my doctor decided we should try and use gravity to bring the head down. I was happy, I was laughing I couldn’t wait to meet this beautiful soul I’d been so anxious to meet. Time went on and right before I started pushing, the OB in town came into my room to inform me he was just downstairs and that if I needed anything he would be right up to help and my response was “but we’re not going to need help and everything is going to be just fine.” This remark of mine was just before I learned that the cord was around his neck and that his pulse was dropping with every contraction I had. I was told calmly at one point I was going to have to stop pushing so they could unloop the cord and then I would be able to finish delivering. The pushing started, and it went on, and on, and on. At this point I had no concept of time but I believe the total time I was pushing was 3 hours. It was obvious to me instantly that this head didn’t want to progress smoothly down the birth canal. Nearing close to delivery my epidural wore off, I was in so much pain I couldn’t’ even open my eyes, the doctors couldn’t even lift my leg without the pain making me vomit and It was clear that I was hitting my wall. Luckily, there was an anesthesiologist available to push another round of epidural because at that point I think everyone knew I was approaching a c-section even though no one said it out loud. I gathered every last ounce of strength that I still had left and with my partner at my head giving me the last bit of extra strength I needed he was crowning, but then I went almost 6 minutes without feeling a contraction.  The next push did it, head came out, cord was removed and then the rest of that 8lb 7ox boy followed right behind. I was relieved it was over, until the doctors laid a limp blue baby on my tummy and my whole world fell apart and stopped right then and there. Only seconds went by before the doctors called code blue and the room filled and filled with hospital staff and they had to move my bed into the middle of the room to make way for everyone to access the baby. I remember 2 people in the room. 2 people in the room out of about 30 as I was sobbing and trying to look over and I just remember saying “he has to be okay, he has to be okay.” Those minutes that all the doctors and nurses worked on my baby I didn’t even realize that another doctor had delivered my placenta and I was still just trying to reach across the room with one amazing human being who stopped doing her one job to keep me focused. They kept telling me that he was going to be okay, but he wasn’t crying he wasn’t screaming, in my eyes he wasn’t okay. 4 minutes of infant resuscitation will forever be the longest 4 minutes I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. There isn’t enough words to describe the pain and the emotions that one feels during this time. By the time I finally had my boy back on my chest I was scared to hold him, I couldn’t be happy he had arrived. I laid there stunned with all emotion lost when I got to look into those beautiful blue eyes for the first time.

             Due to the experience we had just went through as a family. Our parents and my step-children outside the room watching the doctors and nurses flood into the room while slamming the crash cart into the wall upon entering the room is something no person whether a loved one, a sibling, or a mother should ever have to experience. We didn’t’ want to announce the birth immediately because we were worried and wanted to make sure everything was okay before introducing Daxin Thomas into this world. Next came the troubles of living in a small town. People already had started talking, the assumption was there that I had had the baby and the messages started flooding in and so did the rumors. For the next two days that we spent in the hospital in town, on top of all the doctors coming in, above average vital checks, many blood tests, and leads being connected to my brand new baby because his resting heart rate was too low, I also had to deal with the bullshit of being in a small town. There were people visiting and over-hearing conversations they shouldn’t be. There were many, many phone calls down to the neo-natal unit at children’s hospital. The first night I was scared to sleep because I didn’t want to take my eyes of my beautiful son. That newborn bliss didn’t exist in my world at this point.

            After two days in the hospital, after hearing about a conversation to potentially go home the decision was made that we would be flying out to a NICU. I went from thinking I was going home so my fur babies could meet our new bundle and our family could be all together to flying over my house in an air ambulance and recognizing the gazebo on our deck from in the sky – and I finally cried. Cried real tears not just sobs and for a brief moment I hated that this is what my birth experience was.

             Upon arrival at the NICU I could immediately tell that this was the best place for us to be. The nurses and the doctors were already so amazing to us and I felt much safer about the situation that we were in. It was at that time that I learned there was a couple times that he forgot to breathe, which in medical terms is desaturation. No one in Powell River informed me of this which made things even scarier and for a couple hours it only got worse. While attempting to feed he desaturated again and the nurse had to rip his latch and rub his sternum so he would breathe and there I was holding a grey baby in my arms for only a matter of seconds and it will always be a couple of seconds I’ll never forget. I sat in the isolated NICU room with my new son watching his monitors repeatedly go into alarm because either his heart rate or oxygen levels were too low and I couldn’t help but to feel the tears rolling from my eyes as I waited in desperation for my fiancé to arrive after taking the ferry. There were chest x-rays, the pinning down of a 48 hour old baby to get good images and it just looked painful for him and I was so sad. I just wanted to meet him, I didn’t’ want any of this to happen and worstly we had no idea why it had happened. An investigation had started into the trauma of his birth and after many tests on his current condition it was apparent to the doctors that his body was stressed out from his birth and resuscitation and that’s why his resting heart rate was so low.

             For his first four days he was connected to leads, we could see what his heart rate and oxygen levels were at on a constant basis, he had an ultrasound done of his brain to check for damage due to the event of being without oxygen for so long and then the time finally had come that we were told we could go home. I got to bath and remove my baby’s leads and dress him for the first time and we were going home. That, was the scariest moment of all. Something that should be exciting and blissful and I was terrified because there wasn’t a computer on him anymore to tell me that his heart was beating fast enough and that he was breathing. I caught myself in a panic many times over the next couple weeks because suddenly I thought he looked funny, or I couldn’t see his chest rising and falling. Seven months later and I still wake up in a panic and have to look over and focus and make sure that I can tell he’s still breathing. For me, that’s the worst part of it. I felt robbed of a beautiful birth and meeting my son for the first time and now I’m in a constant state of panic and anxiety that he’s still not breathing. So many times I’ve had people tell me that their child was blue, or the cord was around their child’s neck and that it’s not a big deal. The reason I’m bearing through my emotions to tell this story is that it IS a big deal, and will always be a big deal to me and my family for the rest of our lives. Why do people feel the need to try and compete on whose traumatic birth was worse, or act like it’s no big deal that this beautiful boy had quite the entrance and a rollercoaster of a first week in this world. It IS a big deal and will always be a big deal and there needs to be more empathy in this world for people that have felt like their heart was ripped out of their chest, or who had the thought that they were leaving the hospital without their baby. Those feelings and the anxiety are still with me on a day to day basis and what makes it the worst is people acting like it’s no big deal. I don’t think that any mother should have to experience something like that whether it’s at birth, weeks, months, or years down the road. Experiences like that change us, they change our perspective and the way we feel about our precious children. I hold him tighter, I hold him longer and multiple times a day he hears “you are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey, you’ll never know dear how much I love you, so please don’t take my sunshine away.” On the best days and some of the worst days that song will always tear me up because for 4 minutes I thought my sunshine was taken away.”

Birth Trauma can occur via various different ways. Sometimes it looks like an emergency cesarean section, sometimes it is a procedure done without consent. Other times it is the loss of a child, or a traumatic outcome after birth. Whatever way the trauma occurs, it is crucial to be mindful that when a woman says her birth was traumatic, that we understand and believe that to her, it was traumatic.

Birth trauma has lasting effects on our body, physically, emotionally and psychologically. It can affect us by various different symptoms. A very helpful website Vancouver Birth Trauma lists some symptoms such as:

  • inability to sleep

  • delayed/and/or reduced milk production

  • agitation and hyperarousal

  • emotional numbing and dissociation

  • intrusive and upsetting flashbacks of the birth

  • avoiding reminders of the birth

  • feeling sad, angry, or helpless about the birth

“Around 30% of women are traumatized during the birth of their child1-4 and between 2% and 6% go on to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a consequence4-10.” - From Vancouver Birth Trauma This number is huge. Not only is this number largely upsetting, but it is also a number that majorly lacks support. So often our health care providers are unaware, or misdiagnose birth trauma as postpartum depression, and there truly are not enough resources in Powell River, or BC or let alone Canada for this large issue.

If you are a parent who has experienced birth trauma, please be sure to find a safe space to share your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Talking to a counsellor who has experience in dealing with birth trauma can be extremely helpful, especially if you are suffering from PTSD. It is hugely important to start the conversation with your health care provider if you are struggling.

While we are definitely lacking in this specific area for supports in Powell River, here are some resources within our community as well as surrounding areas in BC.

http://www.vancouverbirthtrauma.ca/

http://www.bcwomens.ca/health-professionals/refer-a-patient/best-birth-clinic

http://www.bcwomens.ca/our-services/pregnancy-prenatal-care/choices-in-birth

http://www.katyasivak.ca/birth-trauma.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/therapists/trauma-and-ptsd/bc/powell-river

Birth Trauma is a serious issue that we need to have an open dialogue about. It is a largely under discussed topic that deserves more supports put in place. It can have lasting effects on a parents health in various different aspects. Furthermore, if you have experienced birth trauma or are struggling with PTSD, please get help. You are not alone. You are not a failure. You are worthy and you are loved. A huge thank you to Heather for being willing to share this story. Heather you are strong, you are brave, you are a fighter and you are an incredible mother. You are so loved and so many women look up to you.

XOXO

We Are All Mothers - Emily

WE ARE ALL MOTHERS

“I think I expected my transition into motherhood to be seamless—and I think THATS what made it a harder pill to swallow; I truly felt I was made to be a mom, but it was these expectations I placed on myself that made the realities of motherhood difficult. Why wasn’t this coming easy to me, and why wasn’t I a natural?” - Emily J.

Meet Emily.

DSC_7528.jpg

I arrived at Emily’s house in early March and she was the very first mom I met with regarding this project. I arrived at her home (with my two month old in tow) and the atmosphere was relaxing, warm and very welcoming. I did some photographs of her and her daughter while her husband and son were out adventuring, and then we sat down to have tea and talk about motherhood, pregnancy, birth, postpartum and how life had been going thus far.

When I listened to Emily talk about her children, the love she has for them both is so enormous. Her eyes truly light up when she talks about them and plays with them. We talked about the birth of her son and daughter and her postpartum period afterwards. This is some of what Emily shared about her postpartum period with her son.

“With my son I went through a difficult postpartum period and that was coupled with extreme anxiety. I was living in a pretty difficult living situation (fire/flood in our rental apartment that led to an eviction when our son was ten days old, and a move to Powell River in motion) so it’s hard to tell whether it was a natural hormonal dip or if I was struggling environmentally. NO concerns after my daughter.”

DSC_7512.jpg

Emily and I talked about her support system, and because they had moved to a different town knowing no one after the birth of her son, it was really hard to have a solid support system; especially with her family living out of town.

When we talked about her pregnancy with her daughter she told me about her anxieties and fears through that pregnancy as they found out during her twenty week anatomy scan that her daughter’s umbilical cord only had one artery and one vein. So now again, this opened up a whole new world of anxieties and fears and she disclosed with me that she didn’t feel comfortable sharing with her family or friends her concerns and anxieties until many months later.

With my daughter, I experienced anxiety in pregnancy and had a harder time coping with mothering my son and keeping on top of my emotions and level of worry. I also went through my pregnancy with my daughter preparing for the labor and delivery and postpartum experience I had with my son.”

DSC_7548.jpg
DSC_7595.jpg

One thing that Emily and I talked about that added to the anxieties and just overwhelm of new motherhood was feeling disappointed in ourselves because of the expectations we had about labor, childbirth and motherhood. For Emily in particular, feeling let down after the birth of her son due to it not going the way she expected truly negatively affected her. When we hold ourselves to these huge expectations and we don’t meet them, it can really negatively affect us. We feel let down, like a failure, and because why? Society tells us so often that we must act, be and do things a certain way.

“I think this idea of letting yourself down, your baby down, or that feeling of not doing enough when it comes to pregnancy, birth or mothering needs to end; and it wasn’t until after the birth of my son that it all really hit me, I had a plan in my head and felt like I failed. Long story short, after three weeks of prodromal labor, and an extremely long labor and delivery, I decided to abandon my ‘hospital brith plan’ and have the baby at home. After he was born, I passed out and the midwives called 9-1-1. I then opted for a precautionary trip to the hospital to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. At the hospital I was given a catheter, and it just felt like I couldn’t even have the “home birth” that everyone talks about and that I even “failed” my changed birthplace. Funny to look back at now, and funny to think that was actually my thought process.”

DSC_7526.jpg

So many moms struggle with anxiety, depression and anger postpartum. So many of us are too scared to speak up about it for a multitude of reasons; mainly because there is such a strong stigma against maternal mental health—still. Often times we play our anxieties and frustrations off as normal motherhood exhaustion from the sleepless nights. Othertimes it may seem easier just to act as if everything is ok, even though on the inside we may be screaming for help.

One thing that is so important to note about postpartum anxiety, and Emily mentioned it when I met with her; is the importance of feeling safe around our health care providers and family and friends. If we don’t feel safe sharing certain things, it leads to more anxieties and isolation. This in turn fuels the fire and the vicious circle of anxiety, depression, etc. It is SO crucial to find a village and find a support system that you feel safe and comfortable sharing your fears, concerns, thoughts, etc because if you are struggling there are people out there who can and want to help.

If you are struggling, please don’t wait. There are people who want and can help you. It can be the most terrifying leap to actually seek and accept help, but you won’t regret it. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to need help. Being a mom, or any parent for that matter, is extremely challenging. We go through an entire transformation in nine months and then must relearn to love a new body, new life and new person. Postpartum anxiety doesn’t mean you are a bad mother or that you’ve failed yourself or your child. Sometimes things don’t go as we expected or planned, and that is truly ok. You deserve love, you deserve to be happy and you deserve to feel good. If you are struggling, make sure you have someone you feel safe talking to.

A huge thank you to Emily for welcoming me into her home and for participating in this project. Emily is an amazing woman, and an amazing mother. She brings joy to every room she enters and she truly has the biggest heart. Emily has struggled with postpartum anxiety just as many other women and parents have.

Emily, you are beautiful. You are strong. You are brave. You are courageous. You are enough. You are a gift. You are loved.

I have linked a few resources available to help with Postpartum Anxiety and some local resources within our community.

http://postpartum.org

http://www.perinatalservicesbc.ca

https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/tn9653

http://powellriver.fetchbc.ca/service.html?i=417

https://find.healthlinkbc.ca/ResourceView2.aspx?org=53965&agencynum=17676837

Some signs and symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety include: Your thoughts are racing. You can’t quiet your mind. You can’t settle down. You can’t relax.

  • You feel like you have to be doing something at all times. Cleaning bottles. Cleaning baby clothes. Cleaning the house. Doing work. Entertaining the baby. Checking on the baby.

  • You are worried. Really worried. All. The. Time. Am I doing this right? Will my husband come home from his trip? Will the baby wake up? Is the baby eating enough? Is there something wrong with my baby that I’m missing? No matter what anyone says to reassure you, it doesn’t help.

  • You may be having disturbing thoughts. Thoughts that you’ve never had before. Scary thoughts that make you wonder whether you aren’t the person you thought you were. They fly into your head unwanted and you know they aren’t right, that this isn’t the real you, but they terrify you and they won’t go away. These thoughts may start with the words “What if …”

  • You are afraid to be alone with your baby because of scary thoughts or worries. You are also afraid of things in your house that could potentially cause harm, like kitchen knives or stairs, and you avoid them like the plague.

  • You may feel the need to check things constantly. Did I lock the door? Did I lock the car? Did I turn off the oven? Is the baby breathing?

  • You may be having physical symptoms like stomach cramps or headaches, shakiness or nausea. You might even have panic attacks.

  • You feel like a captive animal, pacing back and forth in a cage. Restless. On edge.

  • You can’t eat. You have no appetite.

  • You’re having trouble sleeping. You are so, so tired, but you can’t sleep.

  • You feel a sense of dread, like something terrible is going to happen.

  • You know something is wrong. You may not know you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, but you know the way you are feeling is NOT right. You think you’ve “gone crazy.”

  • You are afraid that this is your new reality and that you’ve lost the “old you” forever.

  • You are afraid that if you reach out for help people will judge you. Or that your baby will be taken away.

Not everyone will have all of these signs and symptoms, but if you go through this list and you notice yourself saying yes to quite a few of them, it’s probably a good idea to check in with your health care provider.

2018 Breastfeeding Challenge

On Saturday, September 29 2018 mothers in Powell River joined an international breastfeeding challenge.

2018 Breastfeeding Challenge-5774.jpg

There were 11 moms total breastfeeding this year! There were prizes, babies playing and lots of yummy snacks! This year the breastfeeding challenge led up to the beginning of Canadian World Breastfeeding Week. It’s great to see our community supportive of breastfeeding promotion and support. Although we don’t have many breastfeeding resources we are lucky to have many health care providers and a wonderful La Leche League group who are supportive and helpful in promoting breastfeeding.

Here’s some images from the challenge! Maybe next year we can have an even bigger turnout! Lets continue to support, educate, and promote mothers, fathers, grandparents, families etc on the benefits of breastmilk and breastfeeding. Education, support and promotion is key to establishing your childs health right off the bat—and don’t we all just want the best for our children?

PS. To all of you who could not breastfeed or choose not to breastfeed, I see you. I respect you & you too are doing the very best for your child. XO

We Are All Mothers - A Project by Julia Stride - Little Bird Birth Services

In every essence of my being, I have understood motherhood to be raw. There have been days where I question every part of myself--my body, my mind and my soul. I have learned more about myself in the last two years then the twenty six that I've been on this earth. I have grown to accept all types of people, regardless of how they choose to live their life. I have grasped at the end of the rope for far too long to question why someone chooses to do the things they do. Instead I now choose to reach out my hand for the others who may be grasping at whatever strings they may have left on the end of their rope. My struggles have taught me that regardless of the struggles we may face, the barriers in our way, the culture we grow up in, we all have a story. We all have hearts and we all have struggles. In every essence of my being I know one thing that is true:

We Are All Mothers.

We Are All Mothers - logo-9733.jpg

For the last five months I have spent countless hours cultivating, growing, and delving within this project. I have met with 10 amazing mothers in various stages of motherhood (pregnancy, newly postpartum or with children up to three years old) who have willingly shared their stories with me and bravely share their stories with you. Upon meeting with them in their homes I photographed them and their children in a documentary type style photoshoot, then they shared their story with me. This project is about empowerment. It is about  bravery, strength, maternal mental health and destigmatization. It is to celebrate every type of mother. It is to celebrate uniqueness, but also to celebrate the sacred interwoven connectedness that all mothers have. This project is meant to honour mothers and to share resources within our community. It is to celebrate that even amongst the struggles we are beautiful. It is to honour, respect and validate the fact that regardless of how we choose to parent, choose to live, whether we have struggled with maternal mental health issues, grief, loss, or birth trauma we are mothers.

These amazing mothers that stand beside me in the above image have bravely shared their stories with me and you, in hopes of building community, support and a village. Over the next 11 weeks I will be sharing their stories on my website and social media platforms as part of this project. With each story, you will see these mothers in their normal everyday environment--their home with their children. Each story is shared with permission and I ask that when you read it you respect and honour their stories. Along with their stories, I will be sharing resources that are available to mothers and parents in the community of Powell River. 

I strongly believe that story telling is a vital part of bonding and community. By sharing our stories we become vulnerable yet also relatable. We open up a part of ourselves when we share our stories. Our worlds seem less lonely and there is nothing better then knowing that you aren't alone in the path you must walk. Parenthood is hard. Pregnancy is hard, child birth is hard and postpartum is hard. It is transformative and beautiful amongst the chaos. Some days when we are in the thick of it, it is hard to remember that we aren't alone, but if you are reading this I want you to remember that you aren't alone.

At the end of the eleven weeks once I have shared each mothers story in the series, I will be sharing our final group get together that I recently held and photographed with the wonderful Tara from Tara Glenn Photography - You can find Tara on Instagram and Facebook. This group get together was held to have each mother meet with each other and build a village amongst ourselves. It was held to celebrate their journeys and as final thank you to all of the moms who participated. The images provided of us in our undergarments were to celebrate our bodies and our awesomeness. Postpartum is an intense time, and we all deserve to celebrate our own self worth. The beautiful photos that I have provided on this blog post are courtesy of Tara. 

If you've stuck with me this far, thank you. This project is dear to my heart and I have spent much of my time creating and building it. While there are like projects amongst social media this project is unique in the fact that the sharing of each mom's story is presented and photographed in her own home. This creates an even more intimate and relatable experience because we all know how many dirty dishes and piles of laundry motherhood entails. I hope that when you read these stories you find a sense of belonging and courage. I hope this project reminds you of how beautiful your story is, regardless of the path you are on.

 We are beautiful, We are strong, We are courageous, We are brave, We are worthy and We are enough. 

We Are All Mothers.

The Birth of Lana

“Birth matters and I believe the way a child is brought into the world has an important impact on the rest of life.”

- Anjil Aurora Hinman

Lana Birth-3166.jpg

Beautiful Lana,

this is your birth story.

On September 4th, I met your parents at the hospital early in the morning. The sun had not began to rise and the air was crisp and cool. The season was beginning to change as fall quickly was making its presence known. When I walked up to your parents they both were smiling and very eager to meet you.

We made our way up to the maternity ward and the hospital was quiet and peaceful at this early hour in the morning. They got your momma into the room and did some assessments and paperwork and your parents changed into their hospital gown and scrubs for the OR. Your big sister, cousin, auntie and grandma joined your mom and dad and it was so awesome to have them all included in this special day.

Your mom and dad were both laughing, and then would share some quiet bonding time just between the two of them. Your big sister was cuddling with mom and dad and those last moments of her as the baby are some of the most treasured memories.

At about 7:30AM your mom and dad began to get ready to head down to the OR. They said their goodbyes to the rest of the family and I followed them down to the doors of the OR. I was unable to join them, but your dad managed to take a few amazing shots off of his phone of your entrance into this world. They spent some bonding time downstairs and then you and your dad made your way back up to the maternity ward around 10AM. You were welcomed upstairs by your grandma, auntie, cousin and your very excited big sister. It had been a busy morning for your big sister but as soon as she saw you, you could see the excitement and curiosity shining through her eyes.

You snuggled against your daddy’s chest against his skin until your momma made her way up to the ward. The moment that I remember so vividly was when your mom was brought into the room and she was flooded with an overwhelming amount of emotion as she looked at you and your dad and your big sister. The love that shone through her eyes at that moment was beautiful and very emotional. A single tear streamed down her cheek at that moment and it is one of my very favourite photos from that day.

Lana, your world is filled with love. You have so many people who surround you that love and cherish you. Being there as you entered this world was an honour and I am forever grateful that your parents allowed me to take part in this beautiful day.

Carly and Alex, thank you from the bottom of my heart for bringing me into this sacred space with you two. The bond you two share is undeniable and you both have an incredible ability to light up any room you are in. The way you both love your daughters is beautiful and so incredibly special. Carly, you are such a beautiful and strong mama. You never faltered during that morning and you so naturally transition into motherhood as you hold and mother your children. Alex, you have a hilarious soul and such a big heart. The way that you love your children and Carly is beautiful.

Lana, you are going to grow up with an amazing big sister and mom and dad. The family that you have is a very special one, and I hope you always remember how loved you are. It was my pleasure to be there as you entered our world. Always reach for the stars and follow your dreams little girl.

Welcome earth-side beautiful girl,

You are so incredibly loved.

XOXO

Julia

A Westcoast Maternity Session

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.”

- Diane Mariechild

Christine Maternity-4203.jpg

A few weeks ago, at the very last days of summer I headed over to Vancouver Island to do a maternity session for a very close friend. This session was particularly special because it not only was to celebrate and honour this pregnancy and life inside of her, but also to remember and celebrate the rainbow baby that she is carrying and the precious child she lost before. This is her rainbow after the storm.

It was absolutely a west coast day… meaning, it was torrential rains and a beautiful gray day. That didn’t stop us, or this mama to be as she bravely got into the ocean for me to do some photos. We went to the ocean and then did some family maternity photos at a beautiful lake and near a forest.

This little baby is already so loved. With a wonderful mom and dad and a precious big brother, and an entire family who already loves this little one, it is sure to enter a world full of joy. We all can’t wait to meet you little one, and it’s been such a pleasure of mine to be able to watch your momma grow and to be by her side during this journey.

Here’s some images from this beautiful session.

XOXO

The Birth of Wyatt

“A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love.”

-Stendhal

Wyatt Machin - Birth-1569.jpg

Wyatt Revel,

this is your birth story.


On August 16th, early in the morning I met your mom and dad in the parking lot of the hospital. They both were beaming and excitement was radiating off of both of them. It was a beautiful morning and the sun was just coming up causing a lovely pink glow on the walls on the hospital exterior. They entered through that main door and their lives would forever be changed as they moved from a family of three, to a perfect family of four.

We made our way to the maternity ward and your mom got checked in and gowned up and they did some assessments and paperwork and then we waited as they prepared your momma to make her way down to the OR. Your dad was cracking jokes and your mom had a smile on her face pretty much the whole morning.

At around 8AM your mom and dad got up and ready to head down to the OR, your mom didn’t know, but her best friend and her best friends mom surprised her. Tears immediately streamed down her face as she was hugged by both of them and it was so evident that this visit meant the world to your momma.

I was unable to go into the OR with your mom and dad; however, their amazing midwife agreed to take photos for me while she was in there. Although I missed your birth, and it may have gone a bit different than your mom and dad initially imagined, you came into this world with a beautiful head of hair and surrounded by so much love. You snuggled with your daddy for the first little bit and then they brought you down to meet your momma and I can only imagine what a beautiful moment that was.

Wyatt Revel, the love that surrounds you is undeniable. The way that your dad and mom gaze at you is heartwarming and you have the most amazing big brother to grow up with and learn from. It was an absolute honour to be there to photograph your entrance to this world and that first hour after you were born truly was so special.

Ashley and Dan, thank you from the bottom of my heart for choosing me to photograph Wyatts birth. It’s been great getting to know you and you both radiate joy and happiness. You two are exceptional parents and your kids are lucky to have parents like you. Ashley, you are beautiful and strong. Your journey of being pregnant has had its fair share of struggles but when you talk about your children and your journey the light that shines through you is truly remarkable. Capturing moments of you watching your boys and taking in every detail of your new baby has been my absolute pleasure. Dan, capturing you holding your son for the first time and the way you protected him with that warm blanket as he stayed close to your skin was such a beautiful moment. I am so thankful I was there to photograph those moments and to listen to your jokes during the morning. Thank you to the both of you for allowing me capture this beautiful transformative time for your family.

Wyatt Revel, you are surrounded by love. I hope you live a life full of laughter and are surrounded with joy everywhere you go in life. It was an honour to be there for your entrance into this world.

Welcome earth side little man,

You are so incredibly loved.

XOXO

Julia

Why Breastfeeding is the Foundation for Life

The #worldbreastfeedingweek2018 slogan is Breastfeeding: Foundation for Life.

So, to honour this, I wanted to write my own post about why I believe that Breastfeeding is the foundation for life and why it is so important that we are all educated and informed of the benefits of breastfeeding.

BREASTFEEDING DURING INFANCY, TODDLERHOOD AND BEYOND

I could write pages and pages about why breastfeeding is so important for infant development and nutrition. For the sake of this post, I'm going to keep this short and sweet.

Breastfeeding during infancy has numerous benefits, but some of the more remarkable and relevant benefits include decreased infections, lower risk of chronic diseases, decreased rates of obesity, lowered risk of childhood cancers and so much more. Babies are hardwired to breastfeed. It is the biological norm for mothers and babies to breastfeed. That being said, there are certain medical conditions that make this not possible for some mothers/children and we are very fortunate to have donor milk and breast milk alternatives available. 

A woman's breast is able to adjust the composition of the breastmilk dependant on baby's gestational age at birth. That means that a preterm infant will drink breastmilk that is modified to best suit that baby's needs. Our breasts produce colostrum, which is filled with amazing antibodies and immunological protectants to keep our babies healthy and safe. Did you know that babies and children do not develop their own antibodies till at least one year of age? That means that while you breastfeed your child, our antibodies will pass through our breastmilk to protect our babies. This is why it is safe to breastfeed your child when you are sick because your body will share the antibodies to protect your child from developing your cold/bug. 

The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of life, with the slow introduction of solids and continuing breastfeeding for two years and beyond. When you nurse a toddler, you are not only providing with extra nutrients and antibodies, but you're providing a key part of his/her development by offering a sense of security and love and belonging. Breastfeeding is so much more than food. The developmental benefits that children receive by breastfeeding are tenfold. 

A NOTE ON BREAST MILK ALTERNATIVES

One specific important aspect of breastfeeding is that it saves lives. When you give a breastmilk alternative, such as formula it is SO crucial to ensure sterility and proper handling. This means that we need clean and safe water in order to properly make formula. In many countries, this is often not available, or the cost of formula is too high so mothers and families are forced to purchase coffee creamer or other alternatives. This leads to infection, malnourishment, and death in many children. There is often a misconception that bottle feeding is better for the baby in these countries, but unfortunately this is not the case. If we all had access to proper information and support and breastfed our children, millions of lives worldwide would be saved. 

IN CONCLUSION

Right from the moment that we are born any amount of breastmilk that we take in will help to build to foundation of our health for the rest of our lives. Research has proven that breastfeeding an infant provides lifelong health benefits. While we are fortunate to live in a world that provides alternatives when breastfeeding is not an option, breast milk is still the biological norm for human babies. This means that it is the safest, healthiest most nutritious food a human infant can have. The benefits go beyond babies and toddlers and provide health benefits to mom too (thats a post for another day). 

I also wanted to add in that breastfeeding can be extremely difficult for many moms. While it is the biological norm, we are often not told that our babies sometimes don't just latch on perfectly. It is something that needs to be learned by both mom and baby as the breastfeeding relationship develops. Every baby is hardwired to breastfeed, and mothers are most often well equipped to do so. Be sure that if you are struggling you find someone to help support you to meet your breastfeeding goals. I wish I had sought out help with my first because I could have avoided so much excess stress and anxiety, so if you are struggling with breastfeeding please don't be afraid to ask for help! To all of you who persevered and did everything they could to breastfeed and met your goals, you're amazing. To all of you who tried and tried and gave it all you had, but had to stop or have a different feeding experience with your baby than you had hoped for, you're amazing too. 

Sending so much love to all of you!

Thanks for reading and happy #WorldBreastfeedingWeek! 

XOXO

Julia