My Mother's Handwriting

Every so often, I run across something of my mothers that I have never seen, or haven't seen for years. Sometimes it's a piece of clothing, or jewelry, or an old birthday card tucked into an undiscovered box in my fathers basement. This time, I found an envelope full of essays, short stories, and notes that she had written for what I assume, was a creative writing class. Something about seeing her handwriting always resonates with me on the deepest level. It brings her back to me. I can feel her spirit close to mine when I look at the words that her hands had written. I'm comforted by them, regardless of what they say. This essay in particular, gives me so much insight into the kind of woman my mom was, what kind of woman she would want me to be, and sadly, how much I long for her advice on motherhood. Luckily these little pieces of her were left behind for me to find, always when I need them most. 

 

The original

The original

A Personal Progress Story                                                                   By Karen Metzelaars

 

     After having Experienced the grief and loneliness of a stillbirth, the agonizing pain of  an artificially induced birth and the violation of a cesarean birth, I considered myself to be somewhat of an "expert" on survival. A survivor of modern childbirth. I had endured the tests, the ultrasounds, the OB's, the IV's, the monitors. I had lived to tell about anesthesia, incisions, stitches, staples and gas pains. I could relate to episiotomies and epidurals, pushing, panting and panic. I knew firsthand of grief and sorrow, quiet suffering and the greatest of joy. 

     I had two beautiful, healthy children and an overwhelming appreciation for the miracle of life. What more could I want? What more did I need? The answer was easy. I wanted more. I wanted it better. I wanted to do it myself! I wanted an unmedicated, natural childbirth. No tests, no tubes, no scalpels. 

     Some would question my sanity here. All I can say is I (a healthy human woman) had a tremendous need to give birth (without the procedures) to a healthy human baby. I knew it could be done. Women had been doing it since time began. Why in the name of modern medicine are so many women made to feel incapable of giving birth without it?

     One who questioned my reasoning and my sanity was my trusted obstetrician. After giving me the good news (I was expecting again), he got out his calendar and asked if I wanted to go ahead and schedule the cesarean that day. I was three weeks pregnant!

     "No," I said, "I would like to try for a natural birth here doc, you know, no fuss." He quietly laid down his file, sat down and said, "Karen, with your history, your previous cesarean, you shouldn't try it, if something happened you would surely end up in the looney bin. Best not to take any chances."  "But," I argued, "I'm ready for this, it's important to me, I've done the homework, I know the facts, I can do it!" 

     It was a conversation I will never forget. He tried his best to convince me that I couldn't do this without his monitors, IV's, staff and experience. That without theses, I would surely fail. And when I left his office that afternoon, I was convinced. Convinced I needed a different doctor. 

     But as I found out, he was not alone in his "professional opinions." Other obstetricians I talked to agreed with him. It seemed that they had all studied the same manual, "How to Make a Woman Feel Incapable of Natural Childbirth." The more I interviewed, the more adamant I became that there must be a way. 

     Finally, I found my way. It seems I had been talking to the wrong group of people. Instead of talking to doctors, I should have been talking to patients, people rather, mothers in particular, who had accepted the "risks", believed in themselves and followed their hearts.

     I was introduced to a wonderful woman, Linda French, a midwife whose philosophy on childbirth was exactly what I had been searching for. Instead of trying to discourage me from taking the risk, she empowered me. She provided me with information. She gave me books to read, encouraged me to "tune-in" to my body and to the baby that was growing within. We discussed nutrition, exercise, stress and all the aspects of prenatal care. Another important thing I gained from her was confidence. Simply by discussing concerns and fears with someone who was experienced and willing to take as much time as needed, I was comforted. She had access to all of the technology, such as ultrasound and fetal monitors. Knowing that I was opposed to these things, she always left the decision up to me. It's nice to know that the machines were there should a problem arise, my objection was using these tools as routine practice. 

     The pregnancy proceeded smoothly. In the seventh month my husband and I attended childbirth classes. These classes were taught by a good friend of mine. Unlike other popular methods of childbirth that teach artificial breathing techniques and encourage laboring women to focus on something outside of themselves, this class taught natural relaxation methods, deep breathing and encouraged the participants to focus within. 

     We also learned how to make a birth plan. This enabled us to think about and actually write down how we wanted our individual birthing experience to proceed. This information was shared with out healthcare providers, hospital staff, and anyone else who might be attending. 

     When the months of waiting, planning and anticipation were finally over, I was very excited. Now was the time to prove myself. 

     My labor was very slow and easy for the first 12 hours. I was in touch by phone with the midwife, she even volunteered to come to my house to be with me. My progress was indeed slow. I had decided to stay at home for as long as possible to avoid the routine monitoring. Had I gone into the hospital during this early labor stage, I probably would have had to lie down and take the monitors, the IV's, and a number of outer routine hospital procedures. As it turned out I was at home, able to walk about, eat, read, and basically do whatever I wanted. It was a very relaxing time. 

     Almost 24 hours after my labor had started i knew that the baby was coming. We arranged to meet the midwife at the hospital and away we went. 

     Just thirty minutes later we had a brand new son, beautiful, healthy, and perfect in every way. 

     I was delighted with each of my babies. This time I was not only proud of the new life, but proud of myself as well. 

 

                             Dictated by Katie Metzelaars

 

My mom had my little brother, Joey, in 1989. She died 17 years before I had my daughter and I found this last week (My daughter is 16 months). There are so many things still that I would like to ask her about her experiences as a mother, but her courage, determination and her beliefs have been made so apparent to me in this piece of writing. Feel free to share your thoughts  and personal experiences here. Love and solidarity to my fellow mothers!

 

 

 

On Loss...

My beautiful mother and I (and some super 80's gear) 

My beautiful mother and I (and some super 80's gear) 

Feeling so nostalgic today.

My dad brought over 6 big plastic tubs of my old stuff, one full of old pictures. My mom, Karen, died a month shy of my 12th birthday, and after I had my baby, I felt like this whole extra missing part of me made itself apparent. I can't begin to tell you how many times I wish I could ask her for advice, or hear stories about what her pregnancies were like, our births, and what my brothers and I were like as kids, from her point of view. I have thanked her in the darkness so many times for feeding me, tending to me while I cried in the middle of the night, for changing my diapers in the dark, holding me close and rocking me to sleep when she was so tired, and all she wanted to do was sleep herself, but didn't because I was more important. I thanked her every time I found myself doing these things for my daughter, and knowing that every mother that came before me faced these same challenges, these trials, and these overwhelming joys.  

From what I can tell, my mom and I would have been best friends. In some ways, I feel like we still are. I know I'm not the only "mother"  who lost their own mom too early, and to those of you who've faced this same fate, I share my heart. For those of you lucky enough to still have your mom in your life, please know how blessed you are to be able to share this part of your life together. My biggest wish now, more than anything, is to be around for my daughter when she has her babies. I don't doubt that my mom is still with me and my daughter everyday, and that she is a very proud momma!

-KM

My mom cuddling with my brothers, and me cheesin' in the foreground. Typical. :)

My mom cuddling with my brothers, and me cheesin' in the foreground. Typical. :)


Some Unsolicited Advice From One New Mommy To Another

 

1. Fuck Nursing Bras. Seriously. Find a comfy sports bra or bralette, a tank with a shelf bra, whatever. Basically anything you can pull down and whip your boob out of easily and don't need to mess with clasps at 4 am when you cant even open your eyes, let alone maneuver a god damn engineerial feat. Plus, they're way more comfortable on your abused boobies than traditional nursing bras, so you can sleep in them. Trust me, your giant, overused boobs will appreciate the nighttime support.

2. Invest in like 4-6 (depending on how often you do laundry) of the giant 47 x 47 in muslin swaddling blankets. My favorites are here and here. Then follow this youtube link to double swaddling.  (For the record, I stop at the double swaddle, I don't put babe in a sleep sack as well..mostly because I am always freezing and keep my heat around 71-72) ..... Anyway, it will save your life. No joke. I (and hence...baby) was sleeping for 6-8 hour stretches at roughly 6 weeks (when I discovered this miraculous little baby oragami trick) 

3. One item that you could live without, but shouldn't? ( If you like freedom anyway... ) Is the rock n' play sleeper (or a variation of said item). I used this little gem every single day, throughout the day, for the first 4 (ish) months of baby's life. It's super light and portable - think like one hand portable, since your clinger monkey baby will be attached to the other arm for a solid year or so.  You can put it in the bathroom so you can take a shower, brush your teeth, etc....you can take it outside, baby can nap in it, or chill for a minute while you (ahem) relieve yourself....or throw in some laundry, what have you. Once baby can sit up, this little gem isn't safe for the nugget to play in, so it's in storage after that... but those first few months..ahhhhh. Lovely. 

 

4. Consider a diaper delivery service. There are plenty out there for whatever diapering style you so choose. We here at the wild purple are quite fond of Jessica Alba's Honest brand diapers and products. Plant based, eco friendly AND ridiculously cute?! Oh, Jess..... you had us at biodegradeable. A few other mommas have shared love for the gdiapers, diapers.com,  and amazonmom.com, among others. I promise you, getting any kind of diaper delivered to your door automatically once a month (and getting email alerts about it) is one less thing you need to worry about and thus, allows you to focus your (incredibly limited) energy elsewhere.

5. Since we're on the subject of diapers - just dress your kiddo in onesies and leggings when you're at the house. Easiest diaper changes ever. No pants = no problem.

6. Find and join (or create!) a group of other moms in your area. Share your stories, worries, advice, etc. Vent until your little heart is content, or just read what others have to say. It feels SO GOOD to know that other moms are going through the same things you are, that they have the same concerns, thoughts, heartaches, and triumphs. There are a number of facebook groups out there like this, look for one specifically in your area. A lot of the time the groups will have play dates, so you can meet the fellow momma's in your area. Even if you'd rather remain just a name, it's nice to have somewhere to get advice that isn't from your friends/family and is from moms who have been there. 

7. Bind your belly. Right away. Like the day you leave the hospital. There are specifically designed belly binding wraps that you can purchase. (I'm fond of amazon.. (options!) but you can google specific sites - please read reviews!!) Spanx work too - especially if you already have them. Binding your belly is an ancient practice, and helps your organs to find their way back to where they belong. It is thought to help your belly muscles tighten up and help with postpartum bleeding and cramping. If nothing else, sucking all of that "baby space'' up in to a tight little elastic casing does wonders for your self esteem (when you decide to actually put on clothes and get out of sweatpants and hoodies), while you work on taking care of that nugget. (Let your momma body rest and recover before you go balls to the wall trying to get back your 20-something body... (hahahahahaha)... sigh.) 

8. Speaking of post baby bodies. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, go clothes shopping for AT LEAST a few months after you have that little bundle of joy. Unless of course, you like crying in dressing rooms at kohls. Then, whatever.... knock yourself out. Don't bother weighing yourself either for like, at least 3 months. You aren't Kate Middleton (sorry) and unless you have a nanny watching your kiddo for 3 hours everyday so you can go to the gym, you aren't gonna have a six pack. The weight WILL come off. Eat right, don't be lazy, give it time, and don't be so hard on yourself. Your body just did some pretty amazing things.

9. Make sure your partner (if you are lucky enough to have one) knows EXACTLY what it's like to take care of that little creature for a full 24-48 hours (you can be there... because God knows men are helpless) but let him take the reins and don't help him unless he NEEDS you to, (or unless baby isn't safe!...let's hope that's not the case.) Let go. Put some ear plugs in. Take a long shower. Let the baby cry and let him figure it out, let him feed her, swaddle her, change diapers, rock her to sleep, let him get up 5 times in the middle of the night and feel like a zombie throughout the next day. Let it happen. Let him FEEL how hard it is to do what you do, day after day. You can tell him what it's like 100 times, but until he does it himself he won't understand (did I mention - men are dense?). Your man will respect you so much more after he realizes what you go through AND, hey, maybe he will like it, and take some of the responsibility on himself once in a while. 

10. Last, and most importantly... Don't take anyone else's advice. Be polite, nod your head (tell them to go fuck themselves, in your head of course), and then do whatever you want. EVERYONE is going to give you advice, whether you ask for it or not. Especially when you are a first time mom. Realize they think they are helping you. It's annoying sometimes, but MOST of the time, their advice is coming from a good place. No one else knows what is best for YOUR child. YOU are the mother, you are STRONG, and you are CAPABLE. Trust your intuition, and your heart. Make educated decisions, believe in yourself, and love those little humans with everything you have, and you will not fail. 

Baby girl cozied up in the rock n' play!

Baby girl cozied up in the rock n' play!

GOOD LUCK MOMMA!

-KM