Childbirth Educator? Rockstar? Do I Have to Choose?

Rockstar

If wasn’t a Childbirth Educator, I’d be a Rockstar!

Not that I’d actually be a Rockstar, I’m not that good – but I can dream, right?!

I just came off of a “Work Weekend.” My job as a Childbirth Educator is all evening and weekend work. It’s one of the things that makes this position so incredibly family-friendly. During my days, I’m a Stay-At-Home-Momma. I’m sure there are plenty of people at my kids’ school who are completely unaware that I work outside of the home in addition to the work I do inside the home as primary caregiver for our four children.

I’m almost always there for drop-off and pick-up, and I’ve gone on a fair number of field trips over the years (although, these tend to be the ones that involve ballet or theater performances. The Zoo in rainy April? Not so much). I appreciate the flexibility of my work schedule so I can be at home, but still maintain a career and not have to pay for childcare. If we had to cover those costs, I’m pretty sure I’d have to work a full-time job just to pay for it! (I realize this is completely absurd and how many families have to do just this. It shouldn’t be a luxury for families to choose more flexible work hours in support of raising their children in a way that remains financially feasible. But that’s a post for a different day…)

This past weekend, was a full work weekend. This means on Saturday, while everyone else was still asleep, I tiptoed around the house getting ready so I could be at my workplace by 7:30 am – a little earlier than usual, but we’ve had a few AV issues I needed to address so the full-day Saturday Seminar class would go smoothly. And it did! Twenty-one couples, three observers, two educators and nine and half hours later, evaluations were gathered and I’m happy to say they reflected the passion that my fellow educator and I have for the work we’re honored to do with these expectant families.

Sunday rolled around and I was back at it again, only this time “teaching” four mini-classes: Maternity Tours. I can’t help it, even on a tour I find ways of providing education about pregnancy, birth and parenting. Tours are just another opportunity for me to do what I love most in the world. But it meant another full day which started at 10 am and didn’t end until 5 pm. Now, before anyone starts feeling sorry for me – don’t. I set my own schedule, for the most part, and I purposefully set up these full work weekends so that even if I’m away from my family for two days in a row, there will be less weekend days worked overall in any given month. Plus – I love my work, so there’s no reason for me not to want to work weekends (but it does help when the weather is crappy and cold as opposed to sunny and warm – I’m not going to lie).

No matter the size of the group I’m teaching, I try to give them 110% of my attention and energy to keep them engaged and learning. I want to share with them what I consider to be most important in our interaction with one another:

Birth is a normal, physiological process and it’s not only their right – but their responsibility – to fully participate in their labor so when they look back on this event, they remember it as a positive, empowering experience. I want them to have a birth story they are proud to tell – where they are the hero of their own epic journey. 

This requires a lot of energy output from me. Being the most extroverted person on the planet, most of the time this works to my advantage. I get energy back from being with a group of people – especially if that group contains at least one other extrovert. More energy coming from the group, just means more energy pouring back out of me. Actively engaged participants who respond positively and obviously to my use of humor, or otherwise engage by asking lots of questions, helps keep that energy transfer balanced.

After my full Saturday class, I felt pretty good. The class was with us the whole day and I felt that strange post-teaching buzz that can happen when the flow of energy has been moving back and forth freely. This continued into Sunday morning’s two tours as well. But my two afternoon tours were not balanced in the same way. I was searching for a little more energy transfer from these groups – and it was not forthcoming.

So by the time the day was done, I was feeling zapped of energy. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, because I could go home to the bosom of my (crazy!) family and find respite (and lots of energy! Everyone in my family is an extrovert.)

But on this particular day, a friend of mine was celebrating her 40th birthday with a gathering of girlfriends at a place called VoiceBox – a set of private suites that allow small groups of people to have their own Karaoke parties.

What to do?

I was beat. I’d been talking for the past six hours, and my voice was shot. So I texted my friend to say I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to come out for the party. She responded with, “Please rally.”

And then it happened.

The pull of spending a few hours doing my other dream job, being a Rockstar, won out and I rallied. Oh, yes I did. At first, I just drank my beer and sang along while others grabbed the mic. But eventually, I got up to do my best with a few songs that I really love to sing. Songs that are all in my wheelhouse: I know the lyrics and can hit the notes. I’m pretty sure I said, “I love this song!!!” as each was cued up and ready to play, no matter who was singing. The sense of exhaustion was erased with every note.

This might sound really obnoxious but when I’m up in front of my classes and I’m teaching, I kind of feel what I think a Rockstar might feel when they’re in the groove and singing a crowd favorite. Everyone is listening for those parts that they know by heart and letting the parts that are true for them settle in their souls – happy for a moment to be with this group of people who are all in the same place, at the same time, experiencing the same thing.

And I can tell when I’ve hit the exact, right note – that my words have landed not just with the folks in the front row, but the people all the way in the back of the room.

And it’s the greatest feeling in the world!

So. While I’m not a Rockstar – figuratively or literally – it sure is fun to pretend to be one at a friends’ 40th birthday party, and I feel lucky to get a glimpse of what I think it might be like to be one when I’m really in the flow and in front of my class.

And for your listening pleasure, here’s the latest song I love to sing when I’m needing to feel like a Rockstar in my off hours. And if you’re ever in Portland, Oregon you have to check out Karaoke From Hell – this is karaoke on steroids as you’re singing live in front of an audience backed by an amazing full band. It’s as close as you can get to feeling like a real-deal Rockstar. I’m sure this will not come as a surprise – I love it!

PS – As it turned out, one of my former students was at the Karaoke party the other night. It was so much fun to have my two worlds come together this way!

What is it that you do in your day-to-day world that makes you feel like a Rockstar? What could you be doing differently in your off-hours that could fill you up in this way? (Note: You don’t have to be an extrovert or sing Karaoke to get this feeling!)

I’m a Literary Mama!

LMToday is the day!

I received the official news from the editors at Literary Mama that my essay I submitted to them in late Summer, which eventually went through six revisions, has gone live!

I’m so excited for this “origin story” to be out there in print. It tells how I came to be a writer, a title which I am finally beginning to own. The process of working with the editors at LM was wonderful for me. They were patient, encouraging and I could feel with each back and forth that they were really wanting my piece to be the best version possible. I think we achieved that together: my words + their editing prowess.

If you’re interested in great writing by women, who also happen to be mothers, please do yourself a favor and head over here to read some amazing stuff.

And while you’re there, read my essay and join the revolution, won’t you?

Thanks so much for your continued support of me and my writing. It means everything to me!

PS – If you have a story to tell, or a personal revolution you’re wanting to start – but need guidance just how to do this in an authentic way, I highly recommend Jeffrey Davis and his Tracking Wonder team of professionals. Jeffrey is leading this group of amazing individuals who are committed to doing business as unusual, and unlocking your best potential.

Class Is In Session

Sex Ed

“Mom, do people have sex when they’re not wanting to have a baby?”

And there it is. The opening for me to have a great conversation about sex with my 10 year old daughter. I know a lot of people who have a really, really hard time talking with their kids about all things sex-related, but I’m not one of them. I love to talk about sex with my kids. There’s nothing off-limits or taboo in our family.

Sex is everywhere in our society and it gets thrown in our children’s faces from such an early age, it’s no wonder they have questions – and lots of them. What’s supposedly “sexy” is on display everywhere: the sides of buses, magazines, billboards. Nearly every commercial that tries to sell us something, sells it through sex. And the internet offers up lots of versions of “sex” that I don’t want my kids exposed to – at any age.

My kids are fairly sheltered when it comes to what type of media we let them engage in at home. We don’t let them watch PG-13 movies until they’re at least 12 years old (the latest Star Wars being the exception, not the rule), and SNL has to wait until High School. My 16 year old watches just about everything now, but that’s only happened recently. We try to keep the stuff they have access to in our home pretty PG.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have access to it just about everywhere else! I know there are lots of parents who are more permissive than we are and that my kids are consuming media we’d prefer them not to when they’re away from us (or maybe they’re sneaking it on their own from time to time! That’s what I did when I was a kid.)

But on the playground nothing has changed since I was in first grade. Kids are still trying to identify private body parts with names that don’t match their anatomical description or definition and they continue trying to figure out what the “p” word, the “a” word, and the “s” word are all about – even in Kindergarten! (Although, I won’t lie about being relieved to hear that the “c” word still means “crap” to a first-grader. Phew!)

So, when my kids are very small (like, two or three years old) I start talking to them about their bodies in a very no-nonsense, no-need-to-laugh-or-smirk-about-this, kind of way. I don’t push it too far. I keep it short and simple and in words that I know they’ll understand.

I’ve found that kids are really self-aware and when they’ve had enough talk about sex, they’ll let you know by suddenly getting very distracted about something they see outside. This means that this particular session has ended. But this is what I know will never change: 

Kids are curious about their bodies.

Why shouldn’t they be? They’re pretty amazing in all their uniqueness and differences, one from the next. And from an early age, kids want to know the whys and hows of this whole baby-making thing. And they want to hear it from us, their parents.

Today, my daughter wanted to follow-up her original question she’d asked a few months back. We had the rare opportunity to be alone, siblings all gone in different directions, so she felt safe to bring it up.

“Mom, you said before that people have sex when they’re not trying to have a baby because it feels good. How exactly does it ‘feel good?’”

And with that, another 30-minute sex ed class was conducted while we sat in the car parked in the driveway. At one point, I called on Siri for a little help. “Ok Google – Illustration of a vulva” and then we talked about the various anatomical structures of the vulva and where and why there might be pleasure sensations happening when engaging in sexual activity.

There are lots of other topics to discuss in these impromptu sex ed sessions. I hope that no matter what, my girl knows that I’m a practical, info-heavy resource on a topic that she’ll probably always have questions about. I hope she realizes that I’ll never freak out about having these kinds of discussions. And I hope she’ll keep asking me questions so we keep having discussions about sex, love, life, death – all the big stuff.

Because I want my kids to feel comfortable asking questions about the big stuff from someone they know only wants the best for them. I’ll continue to have these discussions on their terms, when they want the information – a little bit at a time. I’m happy that this allows me to talk about how our family values fit in with all the big stuff.

Our kids may be growing up in a time when sex is being discussed in the classroom and on the playground and for sure, it’s never going to stop being plastered all over the media. But in our home, sex will also be discussed as a family at the dinner table – and when more privacy is needed – in the car parked in our driveway.

I may not be able to control all the messages they’re exposed to, but I’m grateful I can contribute to the conversation.

How was sex, and the other big stuff, talked about in your family? Was it off-limits and taboo? Or was it an everyday normal topic of conversation? How will you talk about the big stuff with your kids as they grow up? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

The Eyes Have It

Eyes

There’s an article that I just read from the BBC about a project called “One Day Young” from London photographer, Jenny Lewis, who for the past seven years has been capturing a stolen moment in time in the lives of new mother/baby pairs within 24 hours of birth. I encourage you to look at all of the photos she’s taken for this project. Then come back and read the article and see if you agree with what I’m about to say.

All of her photos are mesmerizing to me and I recognize my own self as new Momma in the disheveled hair, the still pregnant looking bellies, the exhaustion visible in every pore. I love that the photos are not retouched and appreciate that the photographer has really attempted to show a more realistic image of new motherhood.

But to be sure, I see myself more in the faces of the women who have a slight smile on their lips, maybe a bit of a gleam in their eyes – those women who seem to be thinking, “I can’t believe I just did that! I’ve got a secret… I totally kick ass, and this baby is my proof!” At least that’s how I felt after the birth of my first baby and I’m pretty sure a picture taken at that time would have reflected my inner rock star.

Eyes2

(Photo by Jenny Lewis)

But the images that linger in my memory, are ones like this:

EyesHaveIt

(Photo by Jenny Lewis)

“I am not entirely sure who is to blame for the rose-tinted vision of motherhood. It doesn’t matter how many times someone tells you how tough it is to have a baby. Before you have one, you never quite get it. I often think about vulnerable mothers in tough circumstances and how they manage.”

Gitta Gschwendtner, mother of Til

There are photos in this collection where there are no Mona Lisa smiles. These are the ones that show a different set of emotions: “I have no idea what I’m supposed to think of you, let alone how to take care of you.” Or, “My birth was traumatic and I feel ripped off!”

You can sense the fear, anxiety or anger behind those eyes that are averted or avoiding direct eye contact with their baby. And while there are only a few pictures from the entire collection that have connected narratives in the original article from the BBC, they seem to complete one another perfectly. The image and words just fit for that baby’s first day of life, that woman’s first day of mothering.

But this leads me to ask a question… Oftentimes, new Mommas suffer from PMADs (Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders) in complete silence, their outside demeanor belying what hell they’re going through on the inside. How does this happen? If during those first 24 hours a photographer can capture these images, what are we missing? Because I’m sure you’ve seen the photos of women who’ve been struggling with a PMAD months after their baby’s birth and in all the pictures from that time, you’d have a hard time knowing it: they look joyful, happy, as though everything is wonderful – while inside they’re falling apart.

But in these One Day Young photos, the difference between the women who are suffering and unsure, versus those who look eager and excited to take on their new roles is obvious.

It’s purely speculation on my part, because I haven’t interviewed any of these women and have no idea about their medical history or how their births turned out, but I would be willing to guess that unmet expectations definitely played a part and contributed to their looks of disillusionment and overwhelm.

This is not their fault. Like Gitta says above, there’s a rose-tinted vision of motherhood that is pervasive in our culture and this doesn’t do anybody any favors.

Parenting is hard. It’s the hardest thing that I’ve ever done in my life on every possible level. And we need to be sharing this message with more people and more often.

There might be naysayers who cry out, “You don’t want to scare them!” But realistic expectations are not scare tactics. Different aspects of parenting will be more or less challenging for each individual (as an example, for me,  it was the entire year each of my children turned three…) Knowing that it’s not all rainbows and unicorns allows women to understand what they’re getting themselves and their partners into.

Even though I’m just supposed to be talking about getting a baby born in my classes, I throw in some info now and again about the realities of life with a newborn, so that they’ve at least heard it from one person before the baby arrives.

This is going to be hard. There will be days that you hate it. There will also be days that you can’t believe how much you love it. You’ll be stretched to your absolute limit – multiple times. You’ll have a mirror held up before your face every.single.damn.day and even though you try your hardest to be the best version of yourself, oftentimes you’ll fail and be a version of yourself that you really don’t like that much. You’ll compare yourself to others, but why? You, your partner and your baby are unique and the only “right” way to parent your baby is the way that’s working for your family – today. Because, it’s not going to work a month from now. You will never “arrive” as a parent. Because it never ends. There will always be a new challenge to learn from.

The photos of these women in their first 24 hours with their babies are raw, they’re real, and these women have just gone through the most intense transformative experience of their lives and they’re not able to mask their true emotions and vulnerabilities.

And I think we need more of that. All of us. We need to put down our armor and share openly, first with ourselves, and then with those people we love, about what’s really going on inside. But then, that circle needs to expand.

We need to be willing to share with other new parents our highs and our lows of parenting. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Find your tribe now. Find that tribe of people who will celebrate your parenting successes, and listen to your parenting fails – followed up by sharing a few of their own.

Knowing just how challenging this parenting job can be and having realistic expectations about what’s to come, is empowering to new families. When they feel prepared and armed with realistic expectations about their roles, unfettered by rose-tinted visions, they’ll end up feeling less isolated, alone and incapable and more able to partner and parent with confidence: all the things we should want for our new families.

How can you bring more realistic expectations into the work you do with new families? If you are a parent already, how could you help expectant parents have more realistic expectations about this time in their life? If you are a new parent, how could you reach out to other parents to find your tribe?

ZUMBA!

Zumba

I arrived at my class this evening ready to teach. It had been awhile since I was last at this location, and with the recent “ice storm” I left early not knowing what traffic would be like at rush hour. It wasn’t that bad and I was happy to clock in right on time to start prepping my classroom.

This particular class meets in a conference room in a clinic. It isn’t the best set-up for a Childbirth Education class, to be honest. The space is a little on the small side, it can get really warm, and the lighting is either ALL ON or ALL OFF.

So to get around these drawbacks the class size is limited to eight couples only and more recently, a table lamp has been purchased. In my opinion, it’s all worth it if it makes life easier for these families to have this option as a closer location, or one that works better for getting their classes in before their due dates. And in any case, the people who work at the clinic are really nice and I love my job, so it doesn’t matter that much.

But I still appreciate having a little extra time to set up when I’m at this location. I usually have to haul tables around to maximize the room space and the computer is a little slow in accessing my PowerPoint slides. It’s nice to be there with plenty of time to feel settled before my families start showing up at 6:15 for their 6:30 class.

As I came around the corner around 5:35 this evening, I heard some really loud music blaring from my classroom and the door was closed. I turned to someone who works at the clinic and asked, “Do you know what’s going on in there?”

“Oh, it’s a Zumba class!”

Wait, what?

“Ummmm… I’m supposed to be teaching a Childbirth Preparation class in there for 16 people in an hour.”

“I think they’ll be done by 6 pm.”

Okay… Not what I wanted to hear. But I wasn’t going to interrupt the class, they were in full swing and I could here them getting down to some serious Zumba-esque tunes.

(If you’ve never done a Zumba exercise class before, you really should try it at least once in your life. It’s a complete blast! The music is always ridiculously loud, like rock-concert-level-loud and has a lot of Latin or Indian (think Bollywood) influence, plus it’s one of the best cardio work-outs of all time! You will sweat like you’ve never sweat before. I’ve taken it as an exercise class before and really enjoyed it. And a couple of years ago, a girlfriend of mine had a big birthday party where we were encouraged to show up up in 80s work-out gear (think Olivia Newton John in her “Let’s Get Physical” days). We drank lots of Margaritas and ate mountains of chips with guacamole and then we did a 90-minute Zumba class. Seriously, it was one of the best birthday parties I’ve ever been to! But, I digress…)

Despite my fondness for Zumba, what I’d just heard put me in a bind as I needed/wanted more than 30 minutes to set-up for my class. I texted my supervisor to let her know what was happening and asked that she try to get to the bottom of this so it didn’t end up being a regular gig, and started setting up as best I could in the hallway outside the classroom.

At 6 pm, I poked my head in the room and found that I had to holler above the outrageously loud thumping club music, “I HAVE TO TEACH A CHILDBIRTH CLASS TO 16 PEOPLE IN THIS ROOM IN 30 MINUTES!” A young woman turned toward me and said/shouted, “OH! I’M SO SORRY! I DIDNT KNOW THERE WAS ANYTHING SCHEDULED FOR THIS ROOM! WE’LL BE OUT OF HERE BY 6:15!” And then the door closed.

Well, shoot. (For the record, that’s not the word I was repeating over and over in my head at the moment.) That just cut my set-up time in half – again. I went from having an hour to get the room all set-up to having only 15 minutes.

At this point, my students started showing up and I was forced to have them wait in the call center for a little bit, encouraging them to “get to know one another a little bit better.” To their credit, the Zumba class attendees sprung into action at 6:15, trying as best they could to help me set up the classroom. There wasn’t a whole lot they could do for me, but as I walked into the room I could feel the heat and – definitely smell the sweat – of about a dozen Zumba enthusiasts hit me full-force. I looked at the group of them assembled and begged, “Can you please find me a fan?” Which, thankfully, they did.

The students started filing in, and even though I was still taping things up and my classroom was not set up to my personal standards, class went off without a hitch. In fact, I actually covered more information tonight than I was supposed to, and so next week I have the luxury of being able to do some review and maybe even cover a little extra information at a more leisurely pace.

The reason I’m sharing this with you, is that I find it so interesting when I’m forced to “practice what I preach.”

I talk so much in my classes about how birth is too big to be planned and how you can’t really control it no matter how much you might want to – and that’s actually true of life.

You can set all the plans you want about how your day is going to play out, but in reality none of us has absolute control over any of it. We might leave early, in order to get somewhere with extra time to set-up and there’s an accident on the highway and you’re delayed by 30 minutes, or there’s ice on the roads and class needs to be cancelled, or there’s a group of sweaty people working out their Zumba-booties in your classroom when you arrive – and guess what?

You figure it out. You take a breath, realize that no one was trying to make the situation difficult for you, attempt to be as pleasant as possible (it makes it so much easier for everyone involved), suck it up and do what needs to be done.

There it is.

Birth, work, parenting, life – not as much control as any of us would like. And it’s nice sometimes to be reminded of this and realize that we have a choice to view any situation we’re in as either an opportunity or a challenge.

It’s not what’s actually happening that matters, but how you respond to what’s happening that matters.

Wow – very philosophical post today and written in one go right after my class ended, but a nice perspective to share: so happy that I’m still learning after all these years of teaching.

(And, of course, how could I reference ONJ without sharing a little bit of this goodness with all of you? I think it would make a really great song for a Zumba class, don’t you?)

Empty Nest

It takes a torrential rain or windstorm to blow the last remaining leaves off the trees revealing what was so well-hidden in the uppermost branches throughout Spring and Summer: one, two, sometimes up to three bird’s nests. They vary in size and shape, and I have no idea if these nests were constructed just last year for a whole community of birds to share some space together, or if they’ve been there for years and yet are so sturdy as to withstand several winters. But one morning, after dropping my kids off at school I looked up from my parked car and this is what I saw:EmptyNest

Instantly, I thought of all the families who’ve been preparing in excited anticipation for their babies arrival only to end up with an empty nest. Whether it be through miscarriage, infertility or infant death, these families don’t get to celebrate all they’d hoped for when they began their parenting journey.

Truthfully, I’ve been sitting on this post since early Fall, wondering if I’m the “right” person to talk about this. After all, my husband and I have been extremely lucky in our personal parenting journey. But, despite writing dozens of other posts, this image of the empty nest and what it represents won’t quit me. And since I first made that connection I know several people who have experienced miscarriage and infant death personally. While I may not have experienced these things directly, I do know something about the pain of it – at least, vicariously.

Working in this field, miscarriage, infertility and infant death are realities. And after 17+ years and thousands of couples, I know families I work with who have experienced all of these things. Sometimes I’m privy to this information – a family will choose to share the details of their parenting journey with me. But oftentimes, I’m not.

As their Childbirth Educator, they might not feel comfortable sharing with me (or anyone else in class) their history of miscarriage as we’re just getting to know one another. So they remain silent about any struggles they might be having with their current pregnancy. Despite feeling especially vulnerable about the health and welfare of their baby, they might not be willing or able to reach out for support.

And even if I might have played an important role in their preparation to become parents, if a family has experienced infant death, this might be just too painful to share with anyone outside their immediate circle of support.

I respect a family’s desire to maintain their boundaries and privacy around such intensely personal events. Families should never feel pressured to share their parenting journey with anyone other than whom they choose.

I’m dedicating this poem/post to all of the families I’ve known, personally and professionally over the years who have suffered through miscarriage, infertility, or infant death as a part of their parenting journey. I’m not sure how often these realities are acknowledged. But I think they should be.

Empty Arms

“We’re pregnant!”
We want to scream it from the rooftops
But, we’ve done that before
And remember what happened last time
Parents and siblings trying on their new identities:
Grammie and Pops, Auntie Jen and Uncle Matt
Friends joking, “You’ll never sleep again!”

So,

Instead we check the test results over and over again
Like a nervous tic
“Is that a plus sign?”
“Do you see one line or two?”
And we keep the news to ourselves
Locked away
Silent, mute, anxiety-excitement
Heavy in our hearts
We won’t tell anyone

Until…

Morning sickness becomes all-day sickness
The baby starts moving –
A lot
We’re past that day, that week, that month

Because…

We need to feel the weight of the baby in our arms
The emptiness has been almost too much to bear
We can’t go through it again
Everyone else’s excitement crashing down
Heavy, crippling us under their collective grief

So,

We wait
With the breath of hope caught in our throats
We wait
For the right moment to whisper
Only to a select few
“shhhhh – we’re pregnant.”
Please keep our secret – don’t tell anyone
Don’t get excited – don’t believe it
We don’t – we can’t

Not yet

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Every time I see a baby
My heart somersaults in my chest
And I wonder

“Why can’t that be me?”

If her baby is crying and she is frustrated, or angry, or too slow to respond
I wonder
How much better I would be at this:

Mothering

Because –
Why, exactly?
Because – I want it more
Because – I deserve it more

These are not rational thoughts
I’m not proud of these thoughts
But it is completely irrational that I’m not a mother
That we’re not parents

We’ve made the decision to stop trying
But we never decided that we didn’t want to have a baby
That was decided by someone – or something – else

And no matter what bargain we tried to strike
No matter what promises or prayers
We whispered long into the dark nights
Our arms remain

Empty

We still long to be parents
That desire doesn’t just go away –
That desire to be a family
Never goes away

Not ever

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I came into this place I was a mother
Because my baby was still alive
Not of this world, yet
But alive in the world created inside me

I could feel my baby’s every movement
Stretching my belly skin taut like a drum
Pushing my ribs out of place
Tap dancing on my bladder
Beautiful pain and exquisite discomfort
Now only a ghost memory

How can we leave this place now?
Arms empty
Breasts full

We have a car seat, a stroller, a bouncy seat
And there is a room in our home
A room with a dresser, a crib, a changing table, a diaper pail
All of the trappings of what was supposed to be
Our new little family

Intolerable cruelty
How will we ever get through this?

The pain is hot and sharp
It pierces and stabs
The pain is cold and dull
It throbs and aches

A constant reminder of how much
We were willing to love

How will we
How can we
Ever allow our hearts to love this way again?

Know that I grieve deeply with you if you’ve ever experienced miscarriage, infertility or infant death. And while these are such painful realities of many parenting journeys, they deserve to be shared and talked about – if and when you are ready to do so. These experiences are important chapters of your parenting story.

One national resource that might help you process is Share: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support.

I’d also encourage families to consider individual and couples counseling. There are many therapists who specialize in working with families who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss.

Lastly, I’d like to remind all those who work with families to be aware that the parenting journey may include these painful issues and our families deserve our full support and compassion wherever they are in telling their stories.