Guest Post: How Wrapping My Hair Saved My Mommy Self-Esteem

 

 

wrapped-breastfeeding

By, December Fields-Bryant

 

As I brought my son home to began healing from my cesarean, relished any short hot shower and wearing clothes that would eventually accommodate my deflated boy, I wondered if I would ever return to the woman I had been. Would I ever see the woman in the mirror who cared if my clothes were anything other than comfortable? Would I ever plan an outfit around anything other than whether or not I could nurse in it? Where was the woman who wore makeup without worrying if it might smear on my son’s head, and did something with my hair other than combing it with my fingers and throwing it into a ponytail. I hoped that she was still there, behind the tired eyes and spit-up breast milk on my shirt. I didn’t really worry about her until my son was 6 months old and my hormones and sleep schedule settled into something resembling normalcy. It was then that I began to look at my clothes, my hair, and the mess that was me as a mother. I felt depressed and completely cut off from the person I had been and, at the same time, I had guilt over being so shallow.

I was a mother after all. Everyone was looking at the baby anyways, not me. Shouldn’t my only goals in life now be based on the care of my son? Who cares if I live in nursing tanks and maxi skirts so long as my baby is fed and happy? Well, I cared and I was worried my husband cared too even though he told me I looked beautiful no matter what. “No matter what?” That was a blow to the ego.

I did what I could to feel better about myself. Losing weight and feeling how loose my pre-pregnancy clothes were on me helped but I still felt like a hot mess going anywhere. I couldn’t wear make up and no matter how nicely I dressed (complete with baby carrier and diaper bag accessories) I felt incomplete and bare. I tried wearing different shoes but anything other than a sturdy flat caused my back to hurt after carrying the baby around. I tried wearing hair accessories but my son assumed that, since they were in reach, they were for him to yank out and play with. I donned hats but they obviously looked like they were attacking me and made the baby scream bloody murder until they completely disappeared and I proved to be safe and whole.

Finally, I tried hair wrapping. Hair wrapping, head covering, or pagan veiling was something I’d been looking into for a while and drawn ever since being called into the service of the Goddess Frigga. I started looking at tichels (traditional Jewish style of wrapping hair in a scarf) and decided to give it a shot. Not only did my son approve by giggling and smiling at me (a great improvement from the earlier screaming over the hat) but I felt and looked awesome. I was simply amazed at what a scarf could do for my ego.

I found wrapping to be a great benefit to me as a busy mom. Didn’t have time to shower…again? Wrap my oily head up until later. Can’t find my hairbrush among all the baby stuff? Wrap my tangled mess up and pray it doesn’t become a rat’s nest. Cold out and no time to dry my hair after my rare shower? Wrap my head and stave off the sniffles. The best benefits I’ve found are that wrapping protects my hair from being pulled by playful baby hands and keeps my hair out of my face when trying to nurse and type and drink cold coffee all at the same time. Score!

Wrapping also completed my outfit. I feel very put together and confident when I go out with a wrap that matches the same colors in my clothes or brings together the colors I’m wearing that wouldn’t match otherwise. This confidence bubbles over in how people interact with me. I have had less people bustle me about in stores or at events, more people open the door for me, and less men in particular saying anything rude around me. Wrapping brings attention to my face, for better or worse. More people look me in the eye and respond to my polite smile with their own. It’s a strange rush to be treated with friendly respect even if it is only over a change in how I accessorize my hair.

My self-esteem has been bolstered not only by wearing a hair cover but also by joining a community of many women of all walks of life who also cover their hair. Groups, boards, forums, and more exist for women to share their looks, gorgeous selfies, tips on wrapping, and sales on scarves and wrapping supplies. A surprise among this community is the solidarity and support given. I’ve seen women of all faiths brought together to pray for a fellow wrapping woman as she escapes an abusive husband and women respond with vehemence against businesses who discriminate against women who wrap.

Being a part of this has reminded me that I am more than a mother. I am a sister to other women who wrap. I am a face behind the baby carrier and stroller and car seat and diaper bag. I am a woman who deserves self care even if it’s only in the minute it takes to wrap a scarf around my head before I face the day.

 

 

wrapped-breastfeeding

December Fields-Bryant is a Northern Tradition Pagan and earthly handmaiden to Frigga. Her magical life is blessed with inspiration from her little imp of a baby boy and her Viking blacksmith husband. You can read more of her work at www.Terrestrials.earth or on Twitter @TerrestrialsAK.

Paper Airplanes, Raising Boys, & Solo Parenting

 

Paper Airplanes, Raising Boys, and Solo Parenting

 

Today I learned how to make paper airplanes.

Big A has been begging me to make them for several weeks now after he discovered there was such a thing.

When he first asked me to make one, I froze. I had no clue how to make one. I never thought I would ever have to make one. I’d always assumed that these sort of things would be taught by “Dad”. But Dad isn’t here to teach his kids how to make paper airplanes. There’s only me.

I had this same reaction when it came time to help Big A transition to potty training. When I began having children, I always assumed that “Dad” would be the one to teach the boys how to use the potty, and I would teach any girls that we had. But when it came time to help Big A learn how to use the potty, there was only me, Mommy.

Little boys are fun people. But as a solo mom, I’ve struggled with a lot of insecurities. Am I good enough for my boys? Will I be able to show them strong and powerful feminine energy, while also ensuring that they’re surrounded by strong and wonderful masculine energy? This all applies to my daughter, of course, but I think that the way society enforces gender roles has really been making me second guess my ability to raise boys well. The only thing that has really helped in this area is that I have been fortunate to become acquainted with quite a few powerful feminine forces who are raising their boys with the kind of love and guidance I hope my boys see in me.

It wasn’t that difficult to make a paper airplane. A quick visit to YouTube land and a whole three minutes later, and I had the process down. I was pumping out paper airplanes on a factory scale, or so Big A’s incessant begging made it feel. After about an hour of making paper airplanes, Big A decided he had enough to reach peak satisfaction.

After I finally escaped the paper plane factory, I rubbed my achy hands, poured myself a cup of coffee, and smiled as I watched Big A and Little a zoom around the house with their parchment aircrafts. My momentary happiness turned into a twisted sort of feeling of both pride and sadness, an emotion that I’ve recently discovered since becoming a solo parent.

I’m still in that early stage of solo parenting where I can’t feel a sense of pride in what I’ve accomplished without feeling the pangs of regret and loneliness. It’s no where near as strong and painful as it was when I initially began this journey, but it still creeps up.

Does the regret of leaving behind someone who was a part of your family, because it wasn’t working, ever go away? I don’t know. Does the feeling of loneliness when your children do something fabulous and you turn to tell your partner, only to realize they’re not there, ever go away? Probably not. What I do know is that, every morning, I look at myself in the bathroom mirror and whisper, “I’m enough”, and I try to make the day as wonderful as I can for myself and the kids.

 

Breast Pumps, Postpartum Depression, and Single Parenting

 

Disclaimer: This is a selfish post, but these are my feelings, nonetheless, and people read blogs for the feels, right? Oh, and for super mom brag posts. This isn’t a super mom brag post, this is just about the feels. This post was also written a few months ago, but pumping has finally gotten much easier for me. 

 

Breast Pumps, Postpartum Depression, & Single Parenting

 

This afternoon I sat at my computer, pumping milk while brushing up on some doula business topics before seeing a client. I was crying. The tears were not because the pump hurt, nor were they due to jitters related to my impending visit with a prospective client. I was crying because I felt sorry for myself.

It all started when I grabbed my pump and milk baggies out of the dusty box I had been storing them in. They had been in there for quite some time, back when Little a was still quite small. It’s the same little hand pump I’ve had ever since Big A was placed in the NICU nearly 4 years ago.

That little pump signifies success, but also a great deal of pain.

My little man, my Big A, spent the first 7 days of his life tucked away inside of the hospital’s NICU. I pumped every two hours to ensure that my little guy could get the very best food I was able to get for him. Those nights were spent in tears, being pinched by poorly fitted breast pumps. I couldn’t sleep, especially when I was sent home from the hospital, but my baby wasn’t.

This little person that had been living inside of me for 9 months was suddenly gone, replaced by some machine that attempted to stimulate the milk that was supposed to be for my little babe. It felt as if my baby had died, as if he had been ripped out of me and all I was left with were scars and that bloody milking machine.

When I would go to the NICU during the day, and I went every day and stayed as long as I possibly could. I would try to nurse him from my breasts. He had a lip tie, I was a new and very inexperienced mom, and the hospital staff were not inclined to help me. Big A and I had a very rocky beginning.

Several of the NICU nurses told me that I would have to switch to formula, because my baby would never latch right. One nurse in particular, who was very adamant that I formula feed, would feed him bottles of formula, instead of the breast milk I had worked so hard to pump every night for him. When I found this out, I requested that she not attend to my son any longer – I was livid.

I eventually was fitted with a better pump, the little hand pump I still have. With it, I was able to pump larger quantities of breast milk during the night so that the nurses wouldn’t be tempted to just feed him formula. When Big A finally got to come home, I packed away the pump and read everything I could get my hands on about breastfeeding. Even though his latch was always horrible and often hurt, he and I breastfed for 13 months without any supplementation.

I have no issues whatsoever with bottle feeding or formula feeding, but after Big A’s birth going horribly wrong, I was absolutely determined to have one thing go right for me, and that one thing was breastfeeding.

With Little a, her lips never touched a bottle. I was quite proud of myself for this. My little pump was used a few times during her breastfeeding, but only so I could pump excess milk to donate to local families in need. The aversion to my pump was still there, but it was made easier knowing that I was pumping for a good cause.

Fast forward to today, while I was pumping and crying. It had been two years since I used that breast pump. I had hoped to only ever use it with all of my babies if there was someone in need of breast milk locally. I had hoped that I would be able to stay at home with each and every one of my babies until they were done nursing, so that they could get their milk directly from the breast.

But today, I was pumping so that my 3 month old son would have milk while he was with the sitter. I had that same feeling I had all those years ago, that feeling deep down in the pit of my stomach, the feeling of my womb aching for the baby that had been whisked away from me and placed inside a NICU incubator. It was the same feeling I had felt within my breasts, the longing to have my new baby be the one getting his milk, and not a machine.

So many emotions were running through me as I pumped. At first, I wanted to blame his father for promises not kept. I felt like I shouldn’t have to be working away from home, when I was told I would never have to while the kids were little. I relived the feelings I felt when Big A was in the NICU, those feelings that I now know were signs of Postpartum Depression, which eventually became worse, but healed some after Little a’s home birth.

Having to constantly fight with hospital staff about my choice to breastfeed, all while healing from an episiotomy and bad birth experience had only made the depression worse. THOSE feelings, those horrible feelings, all came creeping back today.

As I left my babies to go see my client, I chanted to myself, “You can do this; You’ve got this”. I catch myself saying that a lot lately. It works. I conjured up what little bit of a smile I could and drove on to my consult.

I love what I do, I really do. I’ve wanted to be a doula for a very long time. It’s doing it alone that I never anticipated. I’m doing everything I always dreamed of doing, only, I had planned to do it with him, my children’s father, by my side. Now I’m doing it alone.

Like I said at the beginning, this is a selfish post. I know there are women who wish they could breastfeed, who wish they could have children, who wish they could work a job that they love. I try to write posts that are not all a pity party for me, but about the happy endings in my life and the joys that life has brought me. But in this situation, I’m still working on building the happy ending and to find the joy. Those things aren’t here yet, but I can see them. I’ve been working my ass off to get them and I finally see them closing in. But sometimes, in order to experience joy and a happy ending, you have to have a good cry over those who are not there with you when you finally taste that sweet achievement.

 

Spring is Upon Us

Spring is upon us,
Persephone emerges from below
Spring is upon us,
Demeter rejoices for her daughter is home
Spring is upon us,
Hades will mourn over his lost love
Spring is upon us,
Wildflowers emerge from their sleep
Spring is upon us,
Hedge Witches will forage and soon they will fly
Spring is upon us,
Hades awaits Mabon

spring upon us

Bitty A’s Homebirth Story

Bitty A's Homebirth Story

Bitty A has finally arrived! Okay, he’s actually been here for a few weeks now, but I’ve been so caught up in snuggling my new squish that I haven’t felt like blogging. Can ya blame me?

Anyway, he is perfect, healthy, and an absolute dream. If any baby could heal a broken heart, this rainbow baby is the one to do it, or at least, that’s what he’s done for me. So, without further ado, here is my newest little love’s birth story…

At 4:30am on October 24th, I awoke suddenly to the feeling of water running down my thighs. It was only a lite amount and, for a moment, I thought that I had merely peed myself (because what preggo mama hasn’t?).

 

I was 43 weeks and 6 days pregnant and had pretty much given up hope that I was ever going to have this baby. In fact, the evening before, my midwife had discussed possible natural induction methods to try within the coming days because she had never had a client go so far over and she was beginning to grow concerned. My fluid levels had begun to drop, so I too was growing concerned, and miserable, and just wanted my baby out.

That night, after my midwife left, I binged on chocolate and had a Once Upon a Time (I love that show!) marathon with Big A to help ease my anxiety of being overdue. Big A and I had stayed up until 1am, which is something I rarely let him do, but he can always sense when I’m stressed, so that was keeping him from sleeping.

After only 3 ½ hours of sleep, I woke up to water running down my legs and a rather intense contraction. I had been having prodromal labor on and off for well over a month now, so waking up to a contraction wasn’t that alarming (I’m very good at denying the obvious, in case you haven’t noticed.).

Bitty A's Birth Story4
Laboring in my bed.

Of course, this was one of the few nights that Little a had decided to sleep with me. I quickly moved her out of my bed and into the nearby pack n play so that I could change the sheets on the bed. After I moved her and fixed the bed, I decided to clean myself up.

What I found while I was cleaning myself up was what finally convinced me that my little rainbow baby was actually coming.

There was mucus plug everywhere! Yay! I finally lost the damn thing!

As I was cleaning myself up, another contraction hit. This time, it was intense and took my breath away. Okay, I was FINALLY convinced that this was it.

Quickly, I climbed into the shower to help ease the discomfort. While in the shower, another contraction hit me that knocked me down to my hands and knees. The contractions weren’t painful, but they were so intense that they required every bit of focus I had. After the wave of that contraction passed, I called my mom. I asked her to call my midwife and tell her it was time. I could tell with how intense and close together the contractions were, that my little guy would be arriving quickly and I didn’t want to wait until it was too late.

I labored in the shower for about 30 minutes before deciding that I wanted to move to my bedroom. I was so tired and just wanted to rest for a bit. My mom moved Little a back into her room (thankfully the kid sleeps as hard as a rock) while I propped pillows under me so that I could labor on my hands and knees on the bed and still rest. During this time my midwife and her apprentice arrived.

Bitty A's Birth Story

The majority of my laboring happened on my bed. I tried numerous positions to try to see what was most comfortable, but none of them helped. The only positions that actually seemed to help make things progress was being on my hands and knees or wrapping my arms around the apprentice’s neck as I labored sitting up.

As I labored, I felt this wonderful, comforting presence, as if I was surrounded by Wise Women. My midwife, the apprentice, and my mother all worked together to make my labor as comfortable as possible. It felt as if their collective presence tapped into a time of old when women would come together for a birth and make the place magical and sacred. I will never forget that amazing, peaceful feeling.

During labor, I could tell something was different about this baby. It felt like no matter which way I sat or stood or squatted, I was having a hard time laboring. The night before, my midwife had told me his head wasn’t fully engaged, so she didn’t think I would go into labor any time soon. But I continued to trust him and to trust my body. I followed my intuition and moved my hips, changed positions, meditated, whatever I had to do to help him descend.    

Bitty A's Birth Story3

At around 8:15am, I decided I needed to be in my bathtub ASAP! I felt this huge urge to be in the water and I wasn’t going to be satisfied until I was in it (maybe it’s the Pisces in me?). The tub was filled and I climbed in. By this point, I had already been pushing (naturally) for a few minutes, but with minimal success. Well, the tub helped! As soon as the warm water touched my body, I could feel my baby descend. I began to feel the natural urge to push again.

As his head emerged, I felt something was a little “off”. It felt as if he was stuck, or something. Since I was on my hands and knees in the tub, I placed one of my legs on the side of the tub, to help widen myself. It helped!

I felt that lovely ‘ring of fire’ as my baby’s little head came tumbling out of my body. The midwife’s apprentice muttered to me that Bitty A’s cord was wrapped around his neck as she worked quickly to unwrap it.

All I thought about during this time was that this would probably be the last time I would be doing this — giving birth.

It was such a bittersweet moment and I felt tears welling up. Not only was this my little rainbow baby, a baby conceived after my miscarriage, but he was likely to be my last and I was giving birth without his father there… I was giving birth as a single mom.

It wasn’t at all how I imagined the birth of my final baby playing out, but at that moment I knew that I needed to just let go of all of the fear and pain and bring my little man earth side.

Bitty A's Birth Story2

It took several pushes for me to be able to get him out. When he did finally come out, he landed into the apprentice’s hands, because it took every amount of focus I had to get him out that I wasn’t able to catch him myself.

He didn’t come out crying, but he was looking around and was very alert. I immediately brought him up to my chest and held him close. After some vigorous rubbing from the midwife, my little guy finally let out a cry that made me let out a sigh of relief.

My little rainbow was alive, healthy, and finally in my arms.

 

8 Things Different with a Pregnancy After Miscarriage

8 Things Different with a Pregnancy After Loss

Becoming pregnant again wasn’t exciting

I dreaded conceiving again. When my husband first asked if we could try again, I shut him out. I didn’t want to hear it. I wasn’t ready, mentally or physically. My body, nor my heart, could handle going through another pregnancy. In some ways, it felt like all conceiving again would accomplish was a horrible attempt at trying to replace the baby we lost. But the biggest fear was trying again, only to lose another.

Eventually, we did try again, and conceived. At the time I write this, I’m 42 weeks pregnant with the baby that we tried with again. When I found out I was pregnant, I wasn’t happy, nor was I sad. Honestly, I was just indifferent.

I check for blood every day

Every. Damn. Day. I check for blood in the toilet and in my underwear. Of course, now that I’m 42 weeks, a little bit of bloody show would be a good sign, but still… This entire pregnancy I’ve constantly feared seeing blood, just like I did the morning I woke up miscarrying.

No point in this pregnancy feels like “the safe zone”

There’s no such thing as a “safe zone” (past the first trimester) with a pregnancy after loss. Every single day, every single trimester, feels like a “danger zone” until this baby is safely out of my body and in my arms.

Bonding during pregnancy has been almost impossible

I have never had a difficult time bonding with my babies while they were in the womb. I’ve always felt a very strong connection to each of my children as they grew inside of me. With each, I knew their gender before it was ever revealed. I also kind of knew what their personalities would be like before ever meeting them. But with this baby, it has been so hard to have that same connection.

Sadly, I’ve realized that this lack of connection is all my own doing.

I’ve been so scared to bond with this baby. He’s tried to connect with me. I’ve felt him reaching out. But I’ve shut myself off because this entire pregnancy I’ve been so scared of losing him. It all seemed like it would be easier to go through this pregnancy if I just didn’t try to open myself up to him. Instead, its made this pregnancy even more agonizing.

This pregnancy is nearly over and I’m just now realizing that my fear is preventing me from knowing him. I’m working on acknowledging my fear and trying my best to show my baby that I am scared, but that I know he and I can do this, together.

October and February are two bittersweet months for me

I miscarried in October and the baby I lost was due in late February. The baby I carry in my womb  now was conceived sometime in February and is due anytime now, now being in October. I certainly didn’t plan things to end up like this, it’s just kind of how it all happened.

In a way, it’s sweet. But at the same time, I feel like I jinxed myself from being able to have time to grieve. I’m trying to find the joy and peace behind these two months, and honor the blessings and the losses.

I question myself constantly

Before my miscarriage, I had such a strong belief in myself, the birth process, and my body’s ability to deliver a healthy baby. Ever since my miscarriage, I have found myself questioning my beliefs and what I know to be true.

I ended up doing a few things differently this pregnancy, like getting an ultrasound, but ultimately, I have found my way back to trusting in myself and my baby. It took time, lots of tears, and LOTS of research, but I eventually found my way.

Having PPD is a legitimate fear this pregnancy

This time around, I’ve been terribly afraid of having Postpartum Depression (PPD). With my other babies, I never had that fear. I’ve had PPD before, after giving birth to Big A. Even though I had it with him, I never worried about getting it with Little a. I knew that the PPD I had with him was due to a horrible hospital experience and his NICU stay preventing us from bonding.

This time around, though, I’m worried that no matter how perfect Bitty A’s birth goes, I’ll have PPD due to unresolved grief from my miscarriage. This fear has only been exacerbated through mine and my husband’s separation. But I have hope. I have herbs, foods, and a minimal stress environment now, so I’m hoping those will help me as much as possible.  

I will always want the baby I lost

I’ve always known that nothing would replace the baby that I lost, especially not having another baby. Despite knowing this, it has still been hard coming to terms with what I lost and knowing that I’ll never meet my little baby.

I’ll never hold him in my arms.

I’ll never be able to kiss him as he nurses.

I’ll never watch him grow and learn.

But I did know him. I knew him in my womb. Even though we never truly got to meet one another, I felt as much love for him as I’ve felt with each and every one of my other babies. His time here was short, but he was well loved and wanted and he taught me so much. And in the end, knowing that I felt all that for him in the few short weeks I got to know him helps me to continue on.

8 Things Different with a Pregnancy After Miscarriage

One Year After Miscarriage

Thoughts and feelings one year after a miscarriage

One year ago today, I woke up to blood. I had been 15 weeks pregnant…

My worst nightmare as a pregnant mother had come true; I had lost my baby. The miscarriage took an entire month to pass the little baby that I would never get to meet. It was agonizing, waking up every morning to the sight of blood and going to bed every night with the visible reminder.

On October last year, I lost so much. I lost a baby, I lost my confidence in myself as a mother and as a person, and I eventually lost my husband. Miscarrying my little baby shook my family in a way that we were unable to repair from. But I also gained a few things while experiencing that loss.

I learned that there’s another side of me. A side of me that can feel bitterness and anger. There’s a side of me that has experienced emotions that people typically try to shun. Instead of shunning them, I learned to accept them. It was a side of me that I hadn’t known before, but I learned to accept this part of me. In the end, it helped me grow as a person. It was a step in my life that, apparently, I had to take in order to grow as an individual.

I still haven’t healed from this loss, not completely. Even though I have another baby dwelling within my womb at this very moment, he doesn’t fill the loss that I felt. My life still isn’t back to “normal”, but I’m trying to learn and adapt to a new normal.

Losing my little baby made me realize what I want out of my life. It made me become more determined to be a doula, so that I can help woman. I want to be able to help and support them as they experience the joys of birth and welcoming new life. I also want to be able to help and support the few who will experience loss, so that they won’t be alone like I was.

This candle is in honor of the baby I lost. Even though I never got to meet him, he taught me so much about life and about myself. For this, I am eternally grateful.