Buy your copy here.
"As a motherless mother and doula, I have been inspired and encouraged by Amy's insights into motherhood, labor, spiritual reflections, and the thing I've always struggled with processing the most...death. Her book fell into my lap when I needed it most and I believe it was no coincidence. For any of you crossing any of these thresholds yourselves or with others, I promise you will be more at peace with the intensity of the experience and come away strengthened. Her meditations are heartfelt. You would never know she is a 'new' author because she writes so beautifully. She very eloquently expresses an understanding of human connection and the importance of compassion at a deep level. What a blessing she has given others in her life whom she has personally supported and to the rest of us with this book. To my fellow birth workers especially, you will not be disappointed! Thank you, Amy."
Buy your copy here.
Keegan wrote this acrostic poem in his first grade class this year. I cannot tell you how much this makes my heart full of happiness. It is the best gift I've ever gotten!
(He was not happy that his teacher placed them in a pile because he said he spent a lot of time getting the tissue paper to look like really pretty flowers... and now 'they're flattened! And at least two are missing!')
I guess that must stink after working on what he considered a piece of art. :) But I hugged and kissed him all up and told him how much I love his words and how thoughtful all of it was. How much it means to me to know that I'm appreciated and to hear what he loves about me! What a glimpse into his mind. I smiled. He smiled. I got joy out of seeing how happy he was to see how happy I was! Haha!
This blog post is dedicated to all motherless mothers and the three moms I'm missing this Mother's Day - my mom, Mary Calnan, my grandmother, Kathleen Moran, and my friend, Shanna Michael. Some photo slideshows are at the bottom.
It's a bit of a sad and personal post, so I promise there's a follow up uplifting heart swelling positive post following... link at the very bottom! :) :) :)
... I was supporting a wonderful couple this past Sunday, on Mother's Day. It was really a blessing to be with such a nice family as they were preparing to meet their first son. I knew I could redo Mother's Day with my family next weekend or whenever. What a gift to give birth to your first child on Mother's Day?
Her mother and sister stopped by, maybe a little uninvited, which was funny and sweet all at the same time. Mom rolled with it. Her mom just HAD to come check on her baby!
But eventually, I just sat quietly next to this soon to be new mom. She'd been in labor all weekend and was finally resting with the help of an epidural. She was enduring far more than she had expected. And little did we know that later that night she would endure even more than she thought she ever could when she'd push for 3+ hours until finally being able to hold her little one. Well, not that little - 9'1" and 21 inches! I sat and thought, gosh, this is it.
This is motherhood. Up and down, always unexpected, and you just have to roll with it.
This is why I believe labor and birth is such an important part of the journey towards motherhood. It prepares you... in the most honest, inescapable way! :) So I continued working on this blog (in my head) as I had been doing for weeks. Ok, more like months or years. An ongoing journal entry of sorts. I just keep getting more material to add, so it has... grown! Unsure I'd actually publish it or leave it sit just for me to reflect on how I feel this year, I wrote (thought) on... I knew I wouldn't have time to finish writing the blog post on Mother's Day, so I just posted my most pressing thoughts on my Facebook page on Sunday:
"Happy Mother's Day today to all the mothers out there (including the one I'm with as she's preparing to meet her first son!) 💗 Whether you're a wise mother to many, a new mother, mother to be, a struggling mother, a mother who has experienced loss, or a mother at heart. I'm thinking of all the mothers I've cared for and those whom have mothered me along my way. Today my heart swells as I'm cherishing my two boys and feeling so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to mother them. My oldest son is the age today that I was when my mom died. So thankful I get to see him continue to grow and learn. Thinking of my own sweet mother who didn't get the chance to mother me beyond 9. I know her love continues to guide me. Sending extra love to my fellow motherless mothers out there, this day is always so incredibly bittersweet. 😘😘😘 #happymothersday#motherlessmothers #feelinggrateful #remembering#mothersdayphotoshare"
And here goes...a bit of Lori's story.
My mom passed away when I was 9. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at 37 and died at 41. I was an only child.
She stayed at home with me or brought me to work with her at a nursery school until I went to school full time. At 9, she still was my everything, my world.
Sometimes people say, "Do you remember your mom?"
Yes, I'll never forget her.
For that, I feel lucky. The intensity of the pain and memories have faded some over time, but I think a lot has stuck for me, as I hold on to the pieces of my mom I can still feel and reach. Many motherless daughters and mothers won't have any memories of their mother, some just stories from relatives as they were too young to recall. For some, it may be painful to read or hear others share their memories. I understand that too, as it's always hard for me to hear anyone recall memories of their mother beyond the age I was when I lost mine. So if that's too hard for anyone reading, I understand. Just skip the next paragraph...
My mom, Mary, liked to sing. She crocheted. We use her afghans still! She loved children. She cared about people. She visited our elderly neighbors. She was a Beatles fan. She made me grilled cheese and tomato soup and taught me how to make ants on a log. Did I mention her loving to sing? We would sing in the car all the time. Guess who sings in the car till this day? Me. And my boys. :) My mom taught me how to swim. I remember her liking to bring me out far in the ocean. I'd be scared and she'd smile and tell me she'd hold me. When we'd go out, I'd feel safe in her arms. She loved the water. She was comfortable there, she would float over the waves. She was so relaxed. I'm glad she always wanted to share that with me. Guess who else loves water? ;) I remember her letting me climb into bed with her when I was scared. And on hot summer nights, she'd set up my mattress on her and my dad's bedroom floor so I could sleep in the only air conditioned room, too. I remember her saying goodnight to all my stuffed animals just because they were important to me (As an only child, I think these were the closest thing to 'siblings'... for a time!). I remember her habit of leaving things on top of the car and pulling off. One time a freshly baked homemade peach pie she had spent the day making for a family potluck picnic. She got back in the car and cried. Guess who else has this same habit? The only good thing about that similarity is that when I do it, I smile because I realize that she is a part of me and I of her. I remember her snuggling me, reading books together, talking to me, and dancing with me. I read to my children every night since they were babies because my mom read to me and it meant that much to me. I remember her happy dancing to Twist and Shout. My heart would swell with happiness to see her so happy and wanting to share her moment with me. So I dance with my kids. I also remember her sad. I remember her feeling things I couldn't relate to as a child but I understand now. I remember her looking in the mirror and running her fingers over her scarred chest where her breast used to be. I remember the sadness in her face and wishing her eyes weren't so full of tears. But what I remember most is how she made me feel so special and loved. She spent time with me and enjoyed it. I treasure these memories and I enjoy every minute I relive them with my own children.
Mother's Day was a really sad day for me every year from 1990-2006. There was nothing to be happy about on Mothers Day. It seemed everyone had a mother except me. Sure, I went to see my grandmothers whom I loved and I would bring them flowers. But I missed my mom so much, I dreaded Mother's Day. It was a reminder that even the best times were shadowed with her not being a part of them. Every softball game that I made a big play in, every soccer game I scored a goal, every time I proudly made honor roll at school, every time my dad and I enjoyed a simple afternoon together, prom, learning to drive, graduating high school, going to college, getting married, becoming a teacher, you get it. I remembered her. I was able to track down the perfume that she wore all those years before and I put it on on my wedding day so I'd have her scent with me. But I cried uncontrollably on the way to my wedding because still... she was missing it.
I felt her absence the heaviest on the happiest day of my life...the day I had my own child. But after that, Mother's Day changed. It didn't have to be just sad anymore! I had something to celebrate finally! Me! Motherhood! I loved being a mom! My son became my everything and I was overwhelmed with joy at this little baby filling up so much of that emptiness I had felt for so many years after losing my mom. :) So, Mother's Day would always be a strange mix of emotions as I simultaneously think about the two experiences that have impacted my life more than anything. Losing my mom and becoming a mom.
I have climbed a fence on my mom's birthdays and many Mother's Days since becoming a mom. A real fence. This fence surrounds a playground for a nursery school where my mom used to teach. There is a wooden bench inside that fence with her name on it.
It's a place to go. And I'm thankful for it. I wanted my children to think about her this day, too. The grandma they will never know. The one they hear mommy talk about throughout the year. Two years ago, I couldn't climb the new fence but my 7 year old son could. He put beautiful potted African Violets on her bench and took a few pictures for me. I worry because I'm not sure if anyone who still works there knows that I come to her bench. I wonder if one birthday or Mother's Day I will climb the fence and her bench will have been replaced by some new bench or worse yet, the nursery school will close and no one will know that "Mary" has a daughter who would be heartbroken to see the bench had gone.
This year, 2016, marks 26 years that I have been missing my mom. 26 years that she, so unfairly, didn't get to live. I don't think I will ever make peace with that.
Sadly, last year would be the year I lost two more very special people to me. First, my grandma at age 92 whom I had a very special relationship with...my mom's mom. She lived a full life and I learned a lot from her. And though I wouldn't want her back the way she was, it's especially hard to accept her loss because not only have I lost my phone buddy, but I feel like the final piece of my mom is gone. She was in a sense, my memory keeper. I hope I retained enough of what she's shared with me.
A month after grandma passed away last year, my dear friend Shanna whom I've known most of my life and lived with in college for 4 years, lost her battle with breast cancer. At age 35, and a mother of 3. Her first birth story is on my site. I share it often because it's so inspiring! She gave birth to her 11'9" baby boy without any pain medication after just 5 hours of labor, most of which she spent walking. She continued to be a strong and amazing mother. I will miss my friend. We shared a lot of memories together. I hate that she had to go through what she did. I'm so thankful she is not stuck in her body like that anymore, though. I promised her she would live on in her children. While I know too well what a void will remain in her family's life and I don't have any grand answers to manage that pain, I also know that energy doesn't die, it just shifts. I believe you can find your loved ones in your daily life, in your being, in your interactions with others. Their energy (soul, spirit, light, goodness, whatever one prefers) does live on.
I don't bother asking why anymore. Death is unfortunately a part of life we all will have to meet one day. I think I've had to say goodbye to too many people I loved, but I don't get to request otherwise. One book that was helpful two years ago after my pop pop passed away was Amy Glenn's Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula. My review of her book is here.
Another tough part of this year, for me, is that my oldest son is the age that I was when my mom died. I cannot believe that, first of all. I know people say it all the time, but I honestly do not know how it's possible that 9 years have gone by since I first held this little peanut.
But see, this is the year. 9.
I've always hoped I'd make it to see my sons beyond 9, beyond the time my mom got with me. And here I am, mothering longer than I was mothered.
I've also hoped to get here because I know he'll at least remember me! And yet, I've also really really feared this time for years now.
I have shared this freely with others, and always people ask, "why?" Well... in short, I don't know what mothering looks like beyond 9. I've felt the uncertainty creeping up more in recent months. I've pretty much had the best teacher ever up until this point - my mom. I hope I can continue to trust my instincts, draw upon my compassion, and be a 'good enough' mom without having her memories guiding me anymore. I have to believe that she will still guide me, as her love was the true guide. But, to be very honest...it is uneasy. I don't have memories of what its like to be mothered at 10, 11, 12, 13... I spent a lot of time on my own. My sons have a very different life. And I imagine, to some extent, many parents are parenting children that have a different life than they did. I try to find comfort in that.
Tonight, my son and I went on a date together, just him and I. And I'm such a sap, I caught myself tearing up at least 3 different times looking at him and just loving him so so much. He's such a sweet innocent boy, with such a good heart. He has his struggles and he experiences the ups and downs of life just like I do, just like my mom did, just like everyone does. But I could go on and on about all the things I noticed in him just tonight that made me proud. How lucky I am to be this boy's mother. I know that my son reaching this age is a big deal to a mother who has lost her mother as a child. I want to acknowledge these feelings but be able to see that I will get beyond. A book that has been enormously helpful to me is, "Motherless Mothers" by Hope Edelman, she talks about how mother loss shapes the parents we become and more. She surveyed more than one thousand women on their experience and shares the commonalities with readers in a way that is comforting and healing.
Losing my mom has been the single most defining experience that has shaped my being. It has caused a deep pain like most people can only imagine or fear. It was a loss of more than just my mother but also of a grandmother to my children, a mother in law to my husband, a wife to my father. All these years there has been and will continue to be a void. Yet, all that said, I believe my empathetic, compassionate, and grateful side comes from continuing to experience this painful loss.
So, yes...this is my 'doula' blog, and however personal this post may be for me, this topic is so relevant to my doula work. I've worked with countless women without mothers over the past 7 years now. I have supported more than 150 families as a doula. And I can tell you, ladies, it's been an amazing journey! One that I hope to continue for many years to come. :)
But, here I am...after all these years alone finally getting to meet, hug, and empathize with other women who are preparing to transition...many, like me, from being Motherless Daughters to Motherless Mothers!
My own doula was a Motherless Mother as well. Thanks to Jane for being an inspiration to me! Like she held that space for me, I lovingly hold that space for ALL other women, no matter how they are entering motherhood. I always wonder about the way the universe seems to sometimes choose time so carefully when placing certain people in each others' lives. <3
One important thing I've taken away from this last year or so, is that life is unpredictable...and so so short. We've got to LIVE while we're living. Allow yourself to be present. imperfect. vulnerable. forgiving. unafraid. LIVE every moment. It's hard for some of us not to get caught up in the sad of the past that still so much affects our present and future. But, today I say to all the other motherless mothers out there - I see you! We are holding each other up as we walk bravely into unchartered waters and embrace every day of motherhood that we are given.
Miss my Shan!
Next post... NO SAD, only happy!!! A heart swelling Mother's Day Poem from my 7 year old!
Both Pennsylvania Hospital (Pennsy) and Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), two of our biggest Philly hospitals with L & D, earned the distinguished, "Baby Friendly" designation last month. It took a lot of work and time! #6 and #9 of the ten steps (found below) are really challenging for hospitals according to the nurses who I took my CLC training with. Though many policies and procedures endure intense modification and there needs to be a willingness to embrace change. So thanks to all the staff who've pushed for this, are taking their trainings to heart, continuing to learn alongside every patient, and working with compassion to set moms and babies up with the best start. I see you!
I know other hospitals are trying, too, and I truly hope they can all get there soon!
The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding are:
This week we get yet another report based on even more research that says less interventions is healthier for moms and babies! And it gives this wonderful visual aid on how to make it happen and how the path is too often and unnecessarily detoured. Guess the top suggestion to avoid more intervention towards a lower risk birth? Have a DOULA for support! There are doulas out there for nearly every budget and make great baby shower gifts when a mother is desiring a safer and healthier birth with personalized support along her journey. Other suggestion is for both the staff and mother to BE PATIENT. :) :) :)
This is such a transitional time of year for many of us! Summer to fall. Warm to cool. Back to school. And for me, back to being on call.
With transition, there is usually some discomfort and anxiety but also excitement. And while I will no doubt miss spending these amazing summer days with my two sons, I send them back to school this week hopeful for a wonderful schoolyear full of new experiences, relationships, and engagement with whatever it is they are learning. And I look forward to the time I'll have more of to reconnect with friends, return to more births (yay!), post partum work (👶👶) and supporting all my truly awesome clients as they prepare for their births and babies and become mothers or new families. My heart is full of love to spread. 💗💗💗 And whether I'm completely ready or not, here we go! I accept this transitional time with all of the feelings it's brings... and hope you are all finding your peace as well. What helps you during these times? For me its quieting my mental to do lists by carving time for yoga, no or little caffeine, eating and drinking lots of good for me stuff, connecting more deeply with my kids and how they're feeling, and always reading with them and alone before bed. What the word mommies? My fellow birth workers?
What does the evidence say about the prevention and treatment of Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM)?
Evidence Based Birth compiled research for us again on another hugely important topic that seems to effect so many women's births! Just since 2009 when I started doula-ing, I've seen many of the different ways Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM) is managed by a great variety of care providers and birth locations. Sadly, my own client statistics that I keep show that those who are first time moms are at the most risk for both infection and cesarean birth when PROM is how their labors begin. After many discussions with other birth professionals on this topic and hearing that other midwives and doulas have noticed similar stats for their first time mom clients, I have always had an interest in learning more about PROM. But, as Rebecca, the author of Evidence Based Birth, notes, the research is either lacking or not easy to interpret. Plus, there are so many factors. The largest study TermPROM is discussed in great detail in her article below as are a few other issues surrounding PROM prevention and management.
What can you do as a first time mom? Well, a lot is still unclear. However, the image below is the best take away and one (I believe) everyone can agree on. This tends to be one message I find myself sharing consistently when I teach childbirth classes, am discussing a couple's birth preferences, or am reminding a mom of at the beginning of or during labor. It continues to be backed by evidence... and as usual when talking about any vaginal exam, the benefits are slim to none. Keep outta there!!!
Please share far and wide the image below that Rebecca has made as a great reminder!!!
My mission is to support new doulas by matching their passion with some practical tips and guidance as well as emotional support for all the ups and downs this work may bring. My mission stems from my own experience as a doula. I remember how energetic I was after my doula training! I felt so prepared! As I started taking clients, though, it became clear to me that there was no way any training could cover all the many questions I would have and decisions I would have to make as I jumped into each new experience with all my heart. Like many doulas, I had a passion and growing knowledge for birth and serving women and families, but I was clueless about the business aspect of it. I also found myself surprised to experience a range of emotions after attending some births. This work is wonderful, but it can be quite challenging for a multitude of reasons that one does not really understand until one experiences. Soon I realized that I needed support! There were a few births in the beginning where I felt like I needed a doula to doula me through my doula-ing!!! So, I sought that support out. I pulled advice from many different doulas I met throughout my certification process, I processed the intensity of some births with other birth workers, and I networked with those more experienced. I'd happily refer my clients to those doulas whom I respected. Whether it would be for childbirth classes or some other service those doulas offered that my clients could benefit from, it was also a thank you for talking with me and helping keep me on my path. Through the support of my mentors, I continued to grow into the seasoned doula I am today. Still learning, always, but much more confident in how to run my business, how I’ve defined my role as a doula, and how and when to implement all the wonderful tools I’ve learned along the way. And, most importantly, I STILL LOVE MY JOB... despite the challenges! I have met so many amazing families. My heart has been warmed by the experiences with various care providers and nurses. I have gotten to doula for repeat clients and watch as the moms and their families grow. I want all inspired doulas to have a better chance at having these experiences. I want to help more doulas succeed in their goals of supporting women. I want that for them and for the women we serve. I believe that the more doulas there are, the more women will get to have a doula. As the supply and demand continue to grow, our profession grows. ACOG published this year that there is evidence showing that doulas are a benefit to women's health, specifically as preventative of cesarean delivery.
I know mentorship makes a difference in doulas making a difference. I offer this mentorship one on one and with confidentiality. I promise to give my mentee doulas support from both my head and heart. ~
If you are interested in being a mentee doula, visit here for more information.
If you are interested in hiring a mentee doula, visit here to meet them.
I just loved this article. :) What a summary!
Raising Awareness with Black Breastfeeding Week! Yes, they deserve a special week in world breastfeeding month! :) Please read on if you have a different opinion or don't understand why. Black breastfeeding moms absolutely face more challenges than other mothers in the US AND they need the benefits of breastfeeding even more because they and their babies are even more at risk. If you don't know, read on. Studies, surveys, CDC reports and more support this. "The barriers are financial, cultural, systemic and logistical. When dominant culture women aren’t aware of the challenges that women of color face, that lack of awareness becomes a barrier of its own." And please remember that race matters not just in breastfeeding, but in life... everyday. Whether you think it does or doesn't or should or shouldn't - race impacts everything.
And...Why Ferguson has everything to do with Black Breastfeeding Week
SO CATCHY! "All the...all the babies love it!" :)
...And just because it's relevant to race and the times (not breastfeeding fyi), I have to include this as well as another example of all that is holding us back from moving more towards equality... If you're interested, go for the link below...