monthly theme, May 2013: “body image”

Body image after having a child is a tricky enough subject– but what about body image after an ALI journey? For many mothers, there is an inherent conundrum of feeling like less of a woman at the exact moment in time that they have less time than ever before to focus on themselves and their body/health.

With summer quickly approaching, I’m guessing that many of you will have thoughts on this. I know that I personally have struggled with embracing my post-baby body, and beyond that, I have struggled to find the time – or really, to MAKE the time – to squeeze in exercise and to make healthy meals for myself and my family, even though I know how important it is.

This month we are curious to know how you feel about your body now that you’re pregnant and/or parenting after an ALI journey. As always, here are some prompts to get you thinking, but feel free to write on any topic:

  • How do you feel about your pregnancy / post-partum / post-adoption body?
  • Did you have weight gain in addition to pregnancy gain because of depression, fertility meds, etc?
  • How did you handle the psychological effects of weight gain from a pregnancy(ies) that you lost?
  • If you adopted, did you turn to food during the seemingly endless waiting period?
  • How do you / have you made time to focus on your health/body since becoming a mother?
  • Do you focus more on healthy food, good exercise, or a mix of both?

As always, if you don’t have a blog we welcome your comments on the topic below and we’ll link your comment in the post listing.

Entries for this month’s theme are due Wednesday, May 22nd at midnight, EST. The full list of links will go live on Thursday, May 23.

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featured post: “how breastfeeding almost made me fail as a mother” by the infertile housewife

About ten days ago I was scrolling through my personal Twitter feed, catching up on the day’s happenings. I saw a recent tweet from The Infertile Housewife about the difficulty she was having processing her feelings about her breastfeeding experience. I messaged her back that if she wanted to talk, I was always just a tweet/DM/email/whatever away.

My position on feeding babies is this: FEED YO BABEEZ! It doesn’t matter how you choose to/need to/have to feed your baby. Feeding babies is HARD WORK and however you accomplish this, you have likely busted your ass to do so. But, as I am sure we can all attest, not everyone feels this way. It’s that extra layer of crushing guilt and shame about how we feed our babies that I think we could all do without.

ANYWAY. A few tweets later, she sent me an email what ended up being this post “How Breastfeeding Almost Made Me Fail as a Mother”. I teared up when I read it and my heart went out to her. Her experience was, to say the least, devastating:

The lactation consultant did finally come back to talk with me.  She tried giving me more tips to try, but I think she realized just how defeated I was becoming.  She told me to keep on trying, but if I needed to supplement with formula, it wasn’t a big deal.  Well, it was a big deal to me.  I did NOT want to do that.  I felt like if I didn’t breastfeed, I was a complete loser.  I definitely got that impression from the nurses.  I was in so much pain though, and I started to feel completely helpless and alone.

When the nurse came in, I couldn’t even look at her.  I felt like such a failure, but I knew deep down that I couldn’t carry on like this any longer.  Booger was not getting enough to eat, and I was in agony.  I had to feed every hour at this point.  Enough was enough.  She didn’t say much when Truck Driver Burt told her I was in too much pain and that we needed formula.  I could feel her disapproval though.  It was palpable.

Folks, this post really got to me. Not being, hell, not feeling supported as a new mother is a tremendous obstacle to overcome. Reading this, my heart broke for The Infertile Housewife. It made me so sad, and so angry that she was made to feel this way and experience this treatment. I could commiserate with her on dealing with hopsital lactation consultants. I declared on our tenth and final visit to the lactation clinic that if I heard “try harder” one more time I was “quitting” breastfeeding. Fortunately, I had a lovely woman who not only helped me, but made me feel supported and validated in my efforts, struggles, and choices. I wish T.I.H. had felt the same, truly. I wish we all did, in all things parenting.

It brings me peace of mind to know that she has found some peace in feeding Booger. I hope that writing out her experience, publishing it, and allowing us to feature it here brings some peace and some validation too. We’ve all struggled to feed our babies somehow, some way. Please pop on over to The Infertile Housewife in a fist pump of solidarity and check out her raw and honest post.

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The Infertile Housewife in her own words: My husband and I struggled with infertility for three years.  In May of 2012, I found out I was finally pregnant with our first child.  On January 29, 2013, our son was finally born.  

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march monthly theme: high standards

It it took us 3 years to conceive. Three years of trying and hoping for a child. When I wasn’t researching infertility treatments I filled a lot of my time with researching parenting itself. I read books on newborn development, sleep theories, feeding theories. I devoured studies from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization on the benefits of breastfeeding. I looked into when it was best to introduce solids, why was rice cereal the ‘go to’ first food and was there an alternative? I even researched local preschools and theories of education. All for a child I didn’t have yet. All so that if I was ever so lucky to have a child, I would be ready to be the best parent EVER.

When we became foster parents I delved more into researching. I studied the effects of secondhand smoke and neonatal drug exposure. I read up on psychological issues that foster children are more apt to have, like Reactive Attachment Disorder and anxiety disorders. All so that in case we got called for a child available for adoption, I would be prepared to parent the heck out of that kid.

In some ways all this research was an escape for me. Infertility focuses on so much of what is not possible, not being able to conceive, not getting pregnant month after month. At least researching parenting and child rearing theories let me escape to that dream world where I had a child. And in that dream world I was kicking butt in parenting.  But don’t take this the wrong way, I wasn’t researching all this stuff so I could ‘compete’ with other parents. It actually had nothing to do with other parents and everything to do with me.

With my infertility. I couldn’t get my body to work. I couldn’t do what most women could do. I couldn’t get pregnant. So if I was ever so lucky to have a child, I was darn sure I was going to do it “right.” My body may be screwed up, but if I ever had a child there was no way I would ever let myself make even one mistake. Not after the battle we went through to have that child. Not after weeks, months, years of feeling like a failure. Parenting, was one thing I could 100% prepare for and not fail at. My body may have failed, but my ability to learn ALL. THE. THINGS. about parenting? That was still possible.

I have held myself up to some incredibly high standards. And I then experienced the crash of when I didn’t meet my own high expectations. When Stella was so jaundiced that she had to be readmitted to the hospital, it was ‘my fault.’ I didn’t nurse her enough to get the jaundice out and now she needed treatment. Never mind that jaundice makes babies not want to eat and I had literally stayed up over 24 hours straight trying to get her to nurse as often as I could.

Or when one night a few months back she wouldn’t stop crying. She didn’t want to nurse or be snuggled, she wouldn’t sleep. She was chewing on everything and had a very slight fever. Ok, maybe she’s teething. We had baby Tylenol and I went to get it. Then I read the ingredients and saw there was high fructose corn syrup in it. And so I literally panicked about giving her the Tylenol. What if she’s not really teething and doesn’t need it? Am I giving my baby this just so she’ll sleep? She’s never had anything but breastmilk and now if I give her this she will have had corn syrup and artificial coloring, is that ok?

High standards. They can be really good, wanting the best for your child is a good thing. But they can also be really bad. When we hold ourselves up to some unachievable standard or berate ourself for failing to meet some goal that we have set for ourselves.

This month we are curious to know, do you feel you hold yourself up to a higher standard when it comes to parenting after Infertility? Here are some prompts to get you thinking, but feel free to write on any topic:

  • How has infertility affected you as a parent now? 
  • Did having more time to think and plan (due to infertility) make you a more ‘researched’ parent? If so, do you feel it has paid off?
  • Do you feel the time you spent trying to become a parent means you should know more than the ‘average’ parent?
  • Do you hold yourself up to a higher standard? What specific parenting standards do you have for yourself? (Are they about feeding, sleep, education, etc.)
  • Is trying to be ‘succesful’ at parenting one of the ways you cope with having struggled with infertility?

As always, if you don’t have a blog we welcome your comments on the topic below and we’ll link your comment in the post listing.

Entries for this month’s theme are due Wednesday, March 20th at midnight, EST. The full list of links will go live on Thursday, March 21st.

Please submit your entry using the form below:

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featured post: “never going back again” by arch mama

What does it mean to heal from infertility?

This week, we’re featuring a post by Arch Mama, who has a unique ability to put a complex issue into just the right words to make it click. That’s what her post “Never Going Back Again” did for me. I’ve been thinking around a topic for a week and knew what my thoughts were, but not what the topic was. Turns out it was healing, and how I plan to manage healing from IF when I haven’t yet finished building my family, or while I’m still knee-deep in this community. I know how to avoid the rain by staying indoors in a storm; I’ve not yet figured out how to hold my umbrella at just the right angle to keep my legs and feet dry when the wind picks up.

It’s something I wrote about in a post syndicated over at BlogHer and something I mentioned in my contribution for PAIL’s vlogoversary: we, as individuals and as a community, sometimes do ourselves a serious injustice, unintentionally and otherwise, by sabotaging our paths to healing. We forsake healthy boundaries and repeatedly expose ourselves to trauma. And we guilt and judge others… who try to find new footing beyond their infertility.

An excellent question pops out from between the lines in this paragraph: how can we move on when we’re still right here? More specifically, how can someone manage the delicate balance of personal growth and momentum toward healing while remaining steeped in advocacy and dedication to one’s personal history with infertility and loss? And on the flip side, if someone chooses to move on from an infertility blog, to cut the majority of her blog reading list, to shut down her blog entirely and walk away, is she a deserter to the sisterhood and to her own personal history? Is it possible to spare oneself and not “repeatedly expose ourselves to trauma” while making an active and conscious decision to remain knee-deep in a world built around the very notion that infertility is ongoing and seeps into the experience of parenthood?

Forgetting infertility would mean forsaking something incredibly sacred to me: my journey to motherhood. It would degrade the very inestimable meaning of my parenthood experience.

My point in all of this: Some of us aren’t repressing our infertility experience as a coping mechanism; we’re healing. We’re not IF deserters; we’re healing. There is a distinction, and it should be acknowledged and respected.

This post is a two-parter. Normally we shut down comments to encourage our readers to head straight to the post we’re featuring and leave comments there. Today, we’d like to ask you to visit Arch Mama and read her full post “Never Going Back Again” (and if you can, play the song while reading it– trust me). The post in full is a real eye-opener and may set a blog post in motion for you like it did for me (that draft may be sitting for a few days while I try to process). We’d also like to invite you to comment below and share some of your thoughts on these questions inspired by Arch Mama’s post:

* * * * * * *

Where are you in the path towards healing?

What is helping you to get there? What is holding you back?

What role does infertility play in your identity, and how actively do you participate in that part of your identity?

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featured post: “I became a mother, and died to live” by Renegade Mothering

Last week, Stephanie of Blawnde’s Blawg sent us a link to a post by renegademama entitled “I became a mother and died to live.” She said, “I think many of us struggle with our identity once we become mothers. This article portrays in a beautiful, yet funny at times, way of how it is the most challenging, rewarding, heartbreaking, breathtaking moment. And that moment doesn’t go away. It is with you daily, and you realize that all along this person, who is now a mother, was always there.” Here at PAIL, we decided that Stephanie was spot on with her recommendation of this post, and we are pleased to share it as our Featured Post for the week!

renegademama starts off her post by describing what a huge transition it is to become a parent.

You know, when we hear those words we hear them like it’s no big deal – “become a mother,” like you might “become a doctor” or “become a pet owner.” As if it’s just this thing that happens, without anything else happening – it’s just this exciting addition to one’s life. You add this new thing and go about your business.

However, she goes on to say…

What I’m saying is that it seems to me that every woman who becomes a mother, no matter how much she loves her kid or wants to be a mom, will most likely, at some point, mourn the loss of her previous identity.

And it will hurt.

Um, sucker punch me in the gut, whydontcha?

I sometimes wonder if people coming from the ALI journey perspective find this particular sentiment even harder to acknowledge than the average mother. From what I’ve read on friend’s blogs and from what I’ve felt myself, it seems that we often feel we’re being “ungrateful” if we acknowledge that this life change that we hoped and prayed for can actually be HARD and feel really isolating at times. Your friends don’t invite you to events, you can’t just up and leave and run an errand, it’s hard to keep up with the physical and emotional intimacy of your relationships…there are a multitude of situations that can make us miss the “before” times – but that doesn’t mean we don’t love our kids. Why is that so hard to say out loud though?

There is so much more to this blog post – I feel like I could copy/paste the entire thing here, but that would defeat the purpose now, wouldn’t it? As always, comments here are closed so you can go visit Janelle (renegademama). Please head over and read her original post and share your thoughts there!

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Janelle @ Renegade Mothering in her own words:

I am a 32 year old woman and a mother and a wife. My favorite line from any song ever is “Everybody who’s anybody in my opinion, at one time, lived in somebody’s hallway.” Since I once lived in a hallway (I think), I must be somebody. Therefore, I should write a blog.

I have no pieces of wisdom or advice on mothering and I definitely don’t have any “straightforward parenting tips.” People who have straightforward parenting tips are generally full of shit.  I don’t know what I’m doing as a mother or on earth. If you know, please tell me. Actually no. Don’t.

To read more of her bio, click here!

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