Why Women Need Other Women

I remember when I was in high school saying, “Girls are awful. I don’t need girlfriends anyways. Guys are so much better.”

I was tired of the emotional warfare that girls, especially adolescent girls, are so good at. This statement stemmed from a place of hurt, a place of not knowing how to work through the drama surrounding my female friendships, of being attracted to the apparent ease of intimacy with men.

In many ways, men are far easier to have friendships with. They don’t typically have a lot of expectations for emotional commitment, they {usually} just say what they mean, they are great at easy compliments, the kind that are awesome when you need a quick-fix confidence booster.

But men have no idea what it’s like to be a woman. They don’t battle the massive attack on body image, the constant criticisms of every role we fill {wife, mother, employee, etc.}, the oversexualization of our persons and paradoxical expectations of purity, the deep desire to be at once nurtured & protected, as well as nurturing & independent.

When my friend Melissa published a feature about the kids and I on her blog, I was completely caught off guard by the sweet things she said. My initial reaction was disbelief: Superwoman? Me? Yeah right.

But as I read & reread her post, something changed in my heart. I couldn’t help smiling, a swelling sense of being seen coming over me. Melissa is one of the most joyful souls I’ve ever met, you can tell she has so much love in her heart, and it’s infectious. I knew, even if I wanted to deny it, that she really saw in me the things she wrote about. In this little article I suddenly saw myself differently.

I realized, we need other women to tell us we are strong.

We need other women to tell us we are capable.

We need other women to tell us we are beautiful.

We need other women to tell us we are worthy.

We need other women to cheer us on.

We need other women to acknowledge the struggles of motherhood.

We need other women to pray for us.

We need other women to laugh with, to cry with.

We need other women to remind us who we are.

We need other women because we will always be looking at other women to see where we measure up, we need those authentic friends to come along side us and say “I see you. I see your beauty. I believe your truth. You are right where you need to be, let me walk with you. Let’s have a cup of coffee and focus on who we are today, not who we should be or could be.”

We need other women because there is a unique & special ability we have to understand the common hurts we all experience and the incredible gift of being able to empower each other with the things we admire in each other.

In the last couple weeks, I’ve been overwhelmed by the love I’ve received, the vulnerability I’ve been able to share, & the empowering affirmations I’ve been given. As someone who spent years with absolutely no sense of self-worth, the healing that has started even in the midst of heartbreak has been God sent. The effort it takes to find women of authenticity is worth it. I’m thankful for each and every one of you who has come into my life & made it a better place.

xoxo, B

Birth Story of Pippin Oliver James + Some Post-Partum Essentials

Birth Story of Pippin - My Alabaster Heart

I’m sitting here holding my tiny precious boy, a little blown away by the fact that he’s already been in my arms for a full week. Although I had no doubt, this one week has already made up for the nine months of hell we went through.

One Week Old - My Alabaster Heart

One week of the sweetest blue-eyed stare, one week of the sweet scent of newborn baby skin, one week of the most adorable coos and squeals, one week of itty bitty hands cuddled next to my heart, one week of watching my big girl step into the role of big sissy, one week of seeing my husband become a father all over again and falling even more in love with him.

Until he was born, I truly had no idea that I was missing a piece of my heart, now that he’s here, I can’t imagine life any other way.

For those who have asked, I wanted to share the story of Pip’s birth, his name, and the post partum items I found essential with my knowledge this second time around. Just an FYI, while I won’t go into detail, I suggest avoiding this post if the nitty gritty of birth makes you uncomfortable. (;

Me and AJ - My Alabaster Heart

His birth: After several weeks of back and forth, trying to decide the best birthing option for both of us, we were finally induced at 39 weeks at our birth center. While most professionals won’t let a baby with IUGR go past 38 weeks because of the uncertainties, my iron levels were too low to try and deliver outside of a hospital at that point, so given the fact that he was still growing and passing NSTs, if behind, we decided to wait. My body tried several times to go into labor on its own, but just like with Muriele, my contractions weren’t able to sustain a pattern if I rested at all. While this was frustrating, it turned out to be beneficial, since when I was checked prior to having my water broken, my cervix was favorable to the induction and I was dilated and thinned enough to get labor started.

Our midwives broke my water at around 3pm, and I drank the lemon verbena induction cocktail around 3:30. We moved into our room and started walking, squats, and sitting on the birthing ball to try and get contractions going. For hours contractions would get consistent, then ease off, then pick up, then ease off. We figured out that as long as I was moving, contractions kept coming, but the level of pain and intensity that they were coming at made it hard to face any kind of movement. At some point, Pip had moved from his perfect position to ROA, which was the reason for the intense pain, even though we didn’t know it at the time. It also made it harder for him to move down through the birth canal, prolonging labor. Throughout this whole time, Alec was being incredible and supportive, talking me through contractions and holding my hands when I needed to squeeze {can we take a sec to thank God for strong man hands?!}. Irregular contractions continued past midnight, and finally around 3:30-4 in the morning, our attending midwife suggested we try and get whatever sleep we could in order to have enough strength for pushing. After about a half hour of rest, I suddenly felt like I HAD to push, and I woke Alec up in a panic. He ran and got our team, and they helped me get to the bathroom. Originally I had wanted a water birth and had intended to finish labor and pushing in the birthing tub, but when I actually felt the need to push, I strongly felt like the birthing stool was the right option. Our midwives helped us get set up on the birthing stool, and they and Alec talked me through several contractions, during which I insisted I couldn’t do it… and they insisted that I could. The urge to push was initially just incredibly strong contractions, but at 5am exactly, my cervix was completely gone and I was truly pushing. Something switched in my brain, I suddenly had the ability to stay calm between pushes and could listen to my body, which I am confident made the difference between my first and second births. I only pushed for 24 minutes {even though it felt like hours} and suddenly with the tiniest little raspy cry, Pippin was in our arms, and we were finally done.

Meeting Pippin - My Alabaster Heart Muri with Pippin - My Alabaster Heart Dadyy and Pippin - My Alabaster Heart

We had no complications, no tears, and no hemorrhage this time, and although I am certain I could never do it again, I’m thankful for another natural birth and healthy baby. He did the breast crawl as soon as I was in bed and hooked up to more fluids, latched and nursed perfectly, and was {is} even calmer and quieter than his sister was! How we got blessed with the two easiest babies, I don’t know, but I’m trying to never take it for granted.

Now at a week old, he is still the best snuggler, loves to sit up and keeps trying to sit independently, loves to make eye contact and look around, sleeps best cuddled against mommy and daddy’s chest, and is fascinated by sissy. He makes the best faces and never cries unless he’s naked too long during a diaper change. We love him so much.

His name: No, he’s not named for a certain beloved ‘fool of a Took’ hobbit, although we understand the confusion. Pippin is a very old name, from assumed French or Germanic origin, and means “name of a king”. It was important to both Alec and I to choose names that came from our geneology, hence our daughter’s name, Muriele (traditionally Muirgheal), and names that are unique but historical. He has two middle names simply because I couldn’t choose one. Coincidentally, Pip and Oliver are the names of my two favorite Charles Dicken’s characters, and James is one of my favorite books of the Bible. And somehow, all three names fit this tiny bundle so perfectly.

Post-Partum: The blessing of a second baby is having an idea of what works and what doesn’t during pregnancy, post-partum, and the infant stage. Preparing for Pip was much easier this time around considering we knew we only needed the basics! I also felt much better prepared for what to expect after birth, and I have to say, my recovery has been remarkably comfortable. I didn’t have any severe tearing or stitches with either baby, so as far as pain there goes, I have no experience. However, after Muriele I was in pain for two weeks from swelling, got a kidney infection from not being able to pee from pain, then recurring yeast infections from using Dermoplast spray so I could pee. I have no empirical research to back any of this up, but I am convinced that the things I did differently this time have made all the difference in my recovery. So here are my top five post-partum essentials:

1. Ice pack as soon after birth as possible. I didn’t have this with Muriele, and OMG. I didn’t do the padsicles that everyone swears by simply because I didn’t have room in my freezer and TBH didn’t find the sound that appealing, but the ice pack right after made a HUGE difference in being able to sit and pee right after birth. If it’s not offered, ask for it! I promise it may seem kind of funny, but it’s worth it.

2. Arnica gel. I had never heard of arnica gel until I had a really bad bruise a few months ago and used it to help it heal. I will forever swear by it now. It’s a homeopathic remedy, so it’s not guaranteed to work for everyone, but there’s no harm in trying. After birth I had a horribly bruised tailbone to the point sitting was pretty hard, and I applied the arnica both around my tailbone and pubic area for some relief and it helped significantly.

3. Essential oils + coconut oil. Namely: peppermint, lavender, and clary sage. {DISCLAIMER: I have conducted my own research and consulted with my midwives before using these oils on myself. I won’t be using any of these on Pip until he is much older!} The peppermint has helped immensely with overall muscle soreness, the clary sage helped alleviate some of the cramping, and applying lavender and coconut oils during pad changes helped with pain and chafing. I didn’t know about EOs at all with Muriele, and I’m so glad I have them this time around. I use mostly Young Living, but any good quality oil should work.

4. Water, water, water. I think so many moms underestimate the amount of water our bodies need post partum, especially while breastfeeding. I know for a fact that I was severely dehydrated during the first few months after having Muriele and made it a point to keep up with hydration this time. I can tell when I’m lagging on water because my mood changes, cramping is worse, and my let down is painful. I have several 30oz shaker bottles around the house that I keep filled and make sure is next to me wherever I’m sitting. I would highly recommend investing in several oversized water bottles to have prepped and ready to go, since as a mom, especially of more than one, the least amount of thought you have to exert the better. It also helps to have one special cup to make all that drinking a bit more personalized… like my favorite initial Kate Spade New York tumbler.

5. Yoga pants, the kind with the foldover flap. Everyone tells you to make sure you have comfy clothes, and yes, any comfy pants are great. BUT this time around, I discovered the magic of yoga pants with the flap pulled up! It works kind of like a belly binder in that it helps support the abdomen as the organs settle and in my case, relieves some of the pain from SPD as my abs are strengthening again. I swear, if I was ever to get pregnant again, I’d make sure I had a pair for every day of the six weeks of recovery.

**

Overall, this experience has been so much better than the first time around. All of the craziness of my pregnancy has melted away, leaving me with the sweetest little family and looking forward to our next adventure.

Coming home outfit from LittleBubbers @ Etsy

I’d love to hear what others would recommend for new mamas. What was your lifesaver after birth? What would you do differently?

xoxo, B

The Taboo of A Hard Pregnancy

It’s been a few months since I’ve written, about as long as it’s been since we got the exciting news that our second baby was growing in my belly. I’ve kept an active social media presence and documented the highlights of the last seven months, but the truth is, it’s been brutal.

It’s taken me this long to figure out how to say what’s on my heart without also feeling the guilt and shame that comes with admitting I’m less than over the moon about being pregnant, even though that’s exactly what I’m writing about: the taboo associated with talking about anything negative having to do with pregnancy.

Today was the breaking point for me, at 32+4 weeks pregnant, highly hormonal, exhausted and miserable, complaining to my husband out of fear of being judged by anyone else, and reading the following post, innocently shared by a well-meaning individual:


I didn’t talk about my first pregnancy much at all. She was a surprise on the pill, I was only nineteen, and my prenatal care was all over the place. I really had no idea what was normal and what wasn’t and despite ending up in the ER multiple times for dehydration and pre-term labor, I attributed it to stress, not realizing that the fact that I threw up every morning, afternoon, and night for 30+ weeks straight wasn’t actually normal.

It wasn’t until being hospitalized at 4 weeks pregnant this time that I was retroactively diagnosed with hyperemsis gravidarum, a complication of pregnancy associated with severe vomiting and nausea that can lead to severe dehydration and malnourishment, even with treatment. From 4 weeks pregnant, a week after our positive test, I was on regular doses of zofran, then phenergan, and at 8 weeks, I was given a midline (before I had even seen the midwife!) and at-home hydration therapy, since I couldn’t keep any liquids down whatsoever. I was so dehydrated that my electrolyte balances were so far off I had to have two potassium infusions just to balance back out.

HG changed everything for me. We tried for 9 months to conceive a much wanted baby, and I prayed every month for a positive test. I cried over every negative after the first two months. I saw the mama friends I’d made after having Muriele announce their pregnancies, and I cried, wondering how I got pregnant so easily on accident but couldn’t seem to get pregnant on purpose. I started to be afraid that my birth control had damaged my body or that fibromyalgia had destroyed my chance at another pregnancy. I got a taste of what it feels like to desperately want a baby and wonder why your body won’t give it to you. Then it happened — that pregnancy test showed two clear lines. And at that moment I started praying that the constant vomiting and dehydration with Tiny had been a fluke, despite the fact that for the last three weeks I had been taking zofran due to unexplained nausea and vomiting. After the diagnosis, I started learning that HG tends to get worse with each pregnancy. I learned how many babies are lost due to medically necessary termination or the increased risk of miscarriage due to malnutrition. I learned that many women spent their entire pregnancies pumping anti-emetics into their bodies just to keep themselves functioning at the most basic level. I learned how hard it is to try and be a parent when you’re either sleeping (thanks phenergan) or throwing up and can’t move off the couch without almost passing out. AJ spent several mornings and nights holding my hair out of my face while I threw up the non-existent contents of my stomach. He rubbed my back when I lay on our bed sobbing over the failure of my body to allow me to safely and happily grow our sweet baby.

And I realized this was it. Emotionally, psychologically, physically, I could not go through a pregnancy again. 

At 22 years old, I’m done having babies. I have one of each — people tell us we are lucky, why mess with perfection? How do I explain how empty my heart feels, how robbed I feel? This wasn’t a decision made by me, it was made for me.

I comfort myself knowing that I have two healthy children. I am blessed. I am thankful. And we can adopt. We can foster. We plan to. But that doesn’t change the grief that comes with feeling forced to be infertile.

For years, we’ve seen the cost that the taboo of infertility has on women who are trying to have a baby. They feel isolated, abandoned, inadequate, like a failure. We do need to break the silence: offer them support, encouragement, prayer. Fund their adoption costs and encourage them through their foster journey. Hold their hand through each fertility treatment and procedure, be available for the vent when IVF fails, and go all out for the celebration of a confirmed pregnancy.

But we have to stop asking pregnant women to keep their misery to themselves. Post-partum depression and ante-partum depression are both very real and very lethal. Pregnancy can be brutal. And this idea that it should be ignored and hidden is devastating, especially when you’re in between like me… a pregnant mother who has also felt the bitterness of infertility.

Morning sickness sucks. Sciatica is awful. SPD is like hell on earth — it’s as painful as when I broke my femurs! Heartburn is terrible. None of these common pregnancy symptoms are exactly a joy to experience, and ironically, when they’re not associated with pregnancy, we have no problems giving advice without comparing the suffering individual to another.

“Oh you’re throwing up with food poisoning? I don’t want to hear about it — there’s someone out there who can’t even eat.”

“Your sprained ankle is giving you problems? Please keep it to yourself, there are people out there who can’t walk.”

Can we just give compassion? Can we stop comparing levels of pain and just give our support to each other? Can we stop asking others to be silent because we feel their struggles are inconsequential? Can we end this taboo that isolates mothers before they’ve even officially started their journey while still offering love to those who feel isolated in the fact that they can’t?

I’m thankful for a supportive group of HG warriors, but I can’t even explain how hard it is to feel afraid to tell anyone what I’ve been going through because at least I’m pregnant. At least I get my baby. I don’t take that lightly, I promise. But sometimes those of us who seem to have everything need some compassion too.

xoxo, B