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

Styled: A Social Commentary

Styled: A Social Commentary
Styled: A Social Commentary

Did you know that every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a result of an eating disorder?

5% of people diagnosed with anorexia will die. 1 in 5 of those deaths will be suicide. Just under 2% of people diagnosed with bulimia will die. 1 in 10 of bulimics will have a comorbid substance abuse disorder.

Research is inconclusive as to what degree societal expectations really have on the prevalence of eating disorders, but there is no doubt that there are particular pressures put on women to conform to a specific body type.

Styled: A Social Commentary
As a woman who has always been on the curvy side, battling the perception that I needed to be smaller was a constant. In high school, I got into the habit of hunching my shoulders inwards to make my breasts appear smaller and insisted on wearing boot cut or flared jeans to compensate for my wider hips. I was most comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt or sweatshirt that hid the discrepancy between my waist and curves. I had one thought constantly running through my mind: take up less space.

It took me years to find any kind of style that I could be comfortable in or reliably find clothes that were cut for someone other than a broadly built woman or an underdeveloped teenager — when I was right in between. Now, as a mom of two, my body has changed even further and I have the added pressure of getting my pre-baby body back. Going clothes shopping can feel like a nightmare. Often I grab a piece I think will look good on, only to be caught off guard by how poorly it fits. Then of course, there’s the models in various styles that they make look amazing, styles that I’m too scared to even try out when I’m 5 inches shorter and 50lbs heavier than your average super model.

Styled: A Social Commentary
Recently, the Trendage company approached me to review their new app Styled. Their mission for this app is for it to be a way for women to see what popular styles would look like on them in real life. They want to contribute to the body positivity campaign by allowing women to feel good about how they look in current trends and styles. You start by taking a selfie, which is then pasted onto an avatar where you select a hairstyle from the presets they have loaded. The third step is to select a body, either one from the presets or by setting your own measurements and selecting your proportions

Styled: A Social Commentary Styled: A Social Commentary Styled: A Social Commentary
After your avatar is created, you’re presented with a slideshow of different outfits. From here you can save your favorites to a section on the app, you can also write/draw on the images, and send them via the app.

Styled: A Social Commentary Styled: A Social Commentary Styled: A Social Commentary
As you swipe, you’re awarded coupon codes to use at actual retailers like Lands End. After a certain time period or number of swipes (I’m not sure which), you’re locked out for the day unless you invite friends to join the app. By swiping in each direction, you get to look at new dresses.

Styled: A Social Commentary Styled: A Social Commentary
What I Loved:

1. Getting to see some new styles on my body type was great! I chose to put in my measurements and proportions and felt as though it was a very accurate representation of myself. There were a few cuts of dresses I never would have tried on that I really liked.

2. The promo codes were a brilliant way of getting people involved in the app. Even though I’m not sure if I will use them, it’s a nice perk.

3. The app is easy to use. The only issue I’ve had is with changing my selfie (hence the goofy face in all the pictures 🙄). I do wish there was a tutorial (or maybe I missed one?) that explains what to expect as far as the app goes, but that’s just cause I like everything laid out for me. It isn’t difficult by any means to figure it out.

What I Wish Was Different:

1. The selection of clothes wasn’t what I was expecting. Granted, it’s a start-up and I know there will be changes over time. But I would have loved to see more shirts and pants mixed in with the formal dresses — since most of us won’t be wearing formal dresses regularly.

2. I felt like the promo was a bit misleading. They say that these clothes are from top merchandisers like Nordstrom, which is where I do most of my shopping. But there is no indication of where the clothes come from in the app itself. I would LOVE this app and rave about it everywhere if it allowed me to see what clothes I could buy looked like on me without the dressing room hustle. Let’s be honest, online shopping is a mom’s best friend. Essentially: I was envisioning a virtual dressing room and it’s more fashion Tinder.

3. The proportion of selfie to head is a little bit off. This is probably silly to even include. But it was distracting to me to see this giant face framed by small hair. Give those lock some volume, Trendage!

Overall

It’s worth the download to check out. The idea behind the app is fantastic and I love that they’re tackling body positivity in such an easily accessible way. I do believe that an app like this could help teenagers who are at risk for developing eating disorders and change the ways we look at ourselves (2D me is looking good!). I would love to see it be a bit more realistic though. Most women want to look great in the clothes they grab off the hanger when they’re running late — not the formal gowns to wear to an event they will prepare for. Having access to the retailers who sell the clothes they’re promoting and being able to fine tune the selection a bit would go far in making the app more versatile. Thanks for your efforts to contribute to a more woman-friendly society, Trendage! I’m looking forward to seeing where Styled goes.

What do you think? Can apps like these help us battle unrealistic beauty standards? Have you struggled with an eating disorder? Download Styled By Trendage and let me know in the comments!

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