Nothing can quite prepare you for motherhood. There are too many variables. Even the most up to date parenthood class or seasoned mom’s advice will not completely cover what you will experience for 18 years and beyond. Then, add in multiple kids and you are in for a whirlwind. One thing I never thought I would have to experience with my newborn was a natural disaster. On September 13th, Hurricane Florence came and wrecked North Carolina. More specifically, my hometown, Havelock.
I have lived in NC my entire life. I was born and raised here. I have been through several hurricanes, Bertha, Matthew, Andrew, Floyd, Irene are just a few I have experienced. Now, NC may not know how to handle a snow storm but most people here have been through a hurricane or two and we know how to bunker down and wait for the storm to pass. This time was different. I had two children, 2 and under, totally dependent on me. I watched news updates like a hawk. A category FOUR hurricane was heading our way. We were going to take a direct hit of a huge, slow moving storm bringing buckets of rain and winds of 130+ mph. I shed many tears anticipating the arrival of this massive storm. My husband and I had long discussions of what would be the best for our family? Would we stay and take the risk of us being in our home and a tree fall on the house? Would we leave our home and potentially not be able to get back for days or weeks because of flooding? Additionally, evacuating costs money-all of our family is here. We don’t have a lot of options besides costly places to lodge. It wasn’t just about my husband’s and my safety. We had two children and one furry one that we were 100% responsible for. Talk about a mama’s heart being heavy and torn.
After much debate, heated conversations, prayers, tears and even a phone call to my mom whose advice was to “follow my heart” *more tears*…We decided to stay but we were going to relocate about a mile down the road to my parents’ home. I was confident we made the right decision. Florence started to decrease in strength and would hit the Carolinas at a Category 2. (Ultimately recorded as a Category 1) Now this doesn’t mean that this storm was to be taken lightly. This hurricane left millions without power, shelter, water and food for days. Many people are still without essential items & trying to recover. This hurricane will be talked about forever and we hope its damage is something that we only have to deal with once in this lifetime.
After we made the decision to stay, I took a video of my home. Opened every drawer and cabinet. One, to remember our belongings for insurance and two, it would be a nice memory to look back on if we were not fortunate to come back to our home. I started putting things in bins and placing them high up. It’s really an unexplainable feeling deciding what you value most in your home. For me, it was photos, scrapbooks, and important documents like my son’s 7 week old birth certificate. Things that truly couldn’t be replaced. I am still shocked that I didn’t have more bins filled up before we left for my parents’ house. I was trying to gather things I thought were important, but really, I had everything I needed loaded up in my car. Four days worth of food, clothes and my babies.
The storm slowly crept up on us about 8 pm. I look back and think how convenient. We usually put the kids down at 8. We tried everything for more than two hours while eerie noises surrounded us, the kids were in a different setting, power was out…things were starting to get sticky and hot. Those postpartum and breastfeeding hormones are no joke! Tornado warnings hit our phones. If you want to know the definition of stress you could have just looked at me, trying to put two babies who had no clue what was going on, to sleep all while my heart is pounding out of my chest. Thankful I had remembered AA batteries for the white noise machine. I turned it on as high as it would go. That finally did the trick. Now I have a toddler who doesn’t usually sleep with us kicking me in the face, and a brand spanking new baby sleeping right next to me that was waking up to nurse every two hours. I really don’t know how I made it through the night or even the following days without power. The next four days were not pleasant. We were sticky and hot, needed showers. I can clearly remember smelling like spit up, sour milk and sweat. Let’s be honest, every postpartum mother’s highlight of her day is a shower.
Trying to keep a two year old entertained with no lights, AC or technology was very challenging especially with a new brother. We were all still trying to find our new normal. Looking back, we were so fortunate!! We woke up each day to a roof over our heads, food to eat, my family. Lots of people were not as lucky. Homes flooded, roofs ripped apart, people had to be rescued from their roofs, trees falling every which way on to homes. Today, most people in Eastern NC are still trying to recover from Florence in one way or another. I sit here, a year later and it feels like déjà vu, only this time I have a one and three year old. Eight/nine days shy of being a year apart and we sit and wait for hurricane Dorian. A Category 5 hurricane that has kept us on our toes for over a week. When will it get here? Just how bad will this hurricane be? Do we stay or evacuate? Do we have enough supplies? The list goes on and on...
Mamas, if you are feeling torn on what to do or how to do it during this (hurricane) season, just remember each “storm” is completely different. Trust your motherly instincts, follow your heart and don’t look back.
<3 Lauren C.
A week ago at the Maternal Mental Health conference at WakeAHEC I saw this slide and immediately my heart sank.
My first pregnancy and postpartum experience everything on this list of culturally relevant risk factors applied to me: we moved, both me and my husband started new jobs, my Father in Law passed away, we bought a house and moved again, I had PTSD and negative feelings about my birth because my birth resulted in an unexpected cesarean and during the process I felt unheard and unsupported, every effort to breastfeed did not work, I went back to work full time, and we ended the year by my husband losing his job when our daughter was 3 months old while I was still back paying on health insurance premiums from when I was out of work for my unpaid maternity leave.
WHY do I share this? Because these factors directly influenced my maternal mental health, my relationships, my confidence, my ability to bond with my daughter, and the list goes on.
This right here is why postpartum support is CRITICAL. We all have our own "stuff" we are dealing with. If I had had someone who was outside of my family and friends that I could have shared what was going on with me, I know I would have been relieved. We had so much going on I didn't want to burden anyone with my "stuff" that seemed trivial. Birth didn't go the way I wanted? A healthy baby is all that matters. Breastfeeding didn't work out? That's what formula is for (not to knock on any type of birth or feeding choice but everything I prepared and hoped for did not happen and I was very disappointed). When we layer stuff on stuff and we have no outlets to turn to, the stuff starts to overflow or even worse- gets hidden underneath a "I have it all together" exterior while internally we are suffering from intrusive thoughts (explained in video linked), depression, crippling anxiety, and more.
And the part that gets me the most? I had NO idea all these factors were a trigger for me until I had my second child. After she arrived and was a couple of months old it "clicked". With respect to the hardships I faced the first time I can recognize the culturally relevant factors were unmatched this 2nd perinatal period. This time around, I researched, advocated, studied, and set up a perinatal support system. All the little things I did differently this time around did make a difference, as well as my current season of life situations.
My take away from this post would be this: integrative maternal health matters. For women, babies, families, and society. We absolutely must make maternal health a #1 priority.
Check out my quick testimony I filmed a year or so ago on a piece of my postpartum period here:
The postpartum period is a time you should have to bond with your baby. It should be stress free and magical to finally lay eyes on the being you have carried or waited for for months to come. Everyone does not have the stress free postpartum period that they need and deserve.
As many people know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that this month is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month? On October 25, 1988, President Ronald Regan designated the entire month to this cause.
"When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.”
1 in 4 women experience pregnancy or infancy loss. I hate bringing up statistics but these numbers help people to see that this is more common than anyone would like to think. It is very possible that you’ve encountered these women. Many grieving families deal with this painful loss in silence.
I am one of those women.
My husband, Tony and I always discussed having four children. Our three beautiful daughters made this dream a reality. Their pregnancies and deliveries were uneventful. When we got pregnant for the fourth time, we were ecstatic.
From the moment I saw the plus sign on a test, I started to have hopes and dreams for this little person inside me. Is it a boy or a girl? What will their name be? Will they look like my husband or myself? What will they be when they grow up? But those hopes and dreams were cut short.
In April 2012, I went through the worst experience a parent could go through. Losing a child. I miscarried twins at twelve weeks in a traumatic, emergency situation. I remember lying in the hospital bed praying that this horrible nightmare would end. In that moment, I felt utterly alone. In the days and weeks following, I struggled with all of the emotions I was feeling. Who could possibly understand what I was going through? I decided to open up to my friend, Kristen. She had experienced the same devastating loss with two previous pregnancies. Through our grief, an unexpected blessing occurred. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank her for the gift that she gave me - A loving, nonjudgmental bond of friendship, which can never be replaced.
If you are going through or have faced pregnancy or infancy loss, you are not alone. No one person’s experience is the same but there are others who will listen with an open heart to your story. Lean on those people! For when that happens, our babies will always be remembered.
Please join me on Monday, October 15th 2018, for International Wave of Light at 7 pm in your time zone. Light a candle and join the worldwide wave of light as we remember our little ones together.
Proud Momma of Gianna, Sofia, Tessa and Santino
In loving memory of my sweet angel babies and my beautiful friend, Kristen.
We opted out of birthday parties this year. We always always spend a massive amount of money we don’t have entertaining everyone and then attempting to find places for the new toy load for three boys. So, we decided to make memories with them instead (Which I highly recommend, by the way. Semi low stress, happy kids, and fills up your instagram with cool pictures.)
Our first stop was the “animal park” in Wilmington. It is closer than the zoo and was the perfect amount of walking and attention time for the boys and myself. The birds said hello. The monkeys danced for peanuts. The lion licked himself. The Giraffe stunk. And, the goats made friends for hand fed corn.
I hadn’t taken the time to read about each animal...I was just trying to say hey and bye to get through this as painless as possible in the heat of the day with no stroller. However, at the very last stop I noticed two monkeys in a special environment. I read the plaque featuring their information and stopped dead in my tracks—“If they “get this” why can’t we??”
Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you the Owl Monkey. What fascinated me about this creature, besides the obvious cuteness, was the way they “interact” as parents. The mother carries the babe, births the babe, and cares for the babe for only the first two weeks of the monklet’s life (new word for ya). Then, the mommy monkey is only responsible for nursing the babe. That’s it. The daddy carries the babe and is responsible for the training and socialization.
Do you know why???
So the mommy can survive.
Go ahead, read that again...I’ll wait here.
Yes, so she can sustain her life.
Now, I ain’t saying we need to switch roles because I love my duty as a mother and take pride in raising my children on the daily. Buuuuttttt, I think we could stand a teeny bit more understanding about this “metabolic cost” issue. If the female Owl Monkey is solely responsible for the babies she will expend so much energy it would be detrimental to the survival of the species.
So, what does this have to do with us? I’ve often pondered what it would look like if we were able to get back to the tribe concept in regards to mothering. This shouldn’t be pinned on just the parents but our community as a whole. If we shared in supporting mothers while they were pregnant, laboring, postpartum, and beyond I do believe it would alleviate many problems we face such as isolation, illnesses due to sleep deprivation, and burn out. All of us love our children but we just need help carrying them.
Our two directors, Lauren and I, attended a DONA International Postpartum Doula training hosted in Asheville, NC on April 6th-8th of this year. Our trainer, Jen Chandlee, hosted the training where she works at Homegrown Families Health & Education Center. Their education center is absolutely beautiful and all inspiring! My personal dream is for our organization to open a similar center right here in Pitt County, North Carolina, but that is a five-year goal for the future. :)
At this training, we learned a wealth of knowledge we have already carried back and used in our Eastern North Carolina communities (currently we have assisted over 10 women and family units! That is not including the emails, calls, text messages, and other inquiries we have received). Our trainer has over 20 years of experience in this field. Through case studies, scenarios, art, digital media, conversation, and so much more, our group shared 27 in-person hours together in an environment that was extremely conducive to learning.
To get a little more specific, the two of us as new postpartum doulas learned about and how to: our scope of practice and how to stay in it, DONA's Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics, common shifts, client intake process, effective communication, postpartum physical changes, acting in the role as an educator, multiples, breastfeeding, integrating baby into the family unit, perinatal mental health, resources and referrals, loss and grief, and more. The conversations were unforgettable. The wealth of knowledge that was imparted on us we are still processing and soaking in! As we have begun to work with clients, we are seeing how first-hand this training was invaluable to our mission and work to be done here in Eastern North Carolina! We are honored and excited to have Jen agree to come conduct this same training for our doula collective members next month!
And if the super thoughtful and kind gentleman who works at Trader Joe's in Asheville, NC is reading this, thank you again for these beautiful flowers! What a treat they were and they made our afternoon training session a little more lovely!
This post is written by one of our area coordinators, Jessica!
I wasn’t sure I wanted to have children. Although I cannot imagine that now, the old Jessica thought she was not capable (and that she would end up like her mother, but I’ll save that for another post). We tried very hard for well over a year to conceive our first, and in true divine fashion, he was formed at just the right time.
Something about each of my three children unlocked a part of me that I did not know was there…the part that was known before I was formed I’m sure. Here I am, almost six years after my first birth, and never in a million years would I have dreamt that I would be doing this. I could write about every victory and defeat that led me here, I’ll save that for the book though. Until then, here goes:
In every civilization, since the beginning of time, no woman was alone during birth or the postpartum period. In ancient cultures around the world—before Pinterest offered advice on what to pack in your hospital bag—we have proof through writings, carvings, and sculptures that women were supported by other women. Like literally held up, y’all (which goes way beyond the ultra-modern thumbs up emoji, by the way). After her baby was born, she was waited on hand and foot. To this day, some cultures still insist that the mother not do anything for herself the first month after the birth. She nurses her baby and that. is. it. Bathed, fed, house kept, other children entertained by the other women in her village…what a novel idea.
I became a Certified Lactation Counselor 5 years ago because I needed evidence-based support regarding feeding my children at my breast. I remember mentioning my struggles on social media and asking for help—a fellow mother private messaged me…when she “swallowed her pride” regarding breastfeeding and gave her baby formula it was better. <however you feed your baby is your business but supporting a mother where she is will go a long way…just saying> But, I can’t be mad at it because it catapulted me into my first love…lactation. Since then, I have been available to mothers to encourage them in their breastfeeding journey.
I became a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator because women in this country are dying in childbirth and shortchanged when it comes to being given evidence that backs up birth. You can eat. You can say no. You don’t have to lay on your back.
I became a doula (birth and postpartum) because we have a problem where I’m from—women are not supported. I’m not sure if it’s that we don’t think that we need support or that it maybe we don’t INSIST that we support other women. Probably both. I’ll give my opinion here and say that a family should not have to want for help—Just don’t make no sense to have a slew of empty dates on a meal train calendar, y’all know what I’m saying?!
I became a volunteer with Postpartum Support International because we shouldn't spend our time as mothers thinking we are crazy and will be like this forever.
I became a partner with Hope Women and Family Services because those girls (now, us girls) have a vision and are actively doing something about it. This week I was laboring with a friend. We started in triage where there are two beds. Two hours into our stay another mother was escorted in by an older gentleman. I thought—my dad would be the last person I would want to have in the hospital having a kid. It turned out that he was an ambulance driver this momma was alone.
Full-blown active labor alone.
Now, I did the “weird” thing and peeked my head through her curtain, introduced myself, and offered my support. She quickly obliged. I let her squeeze the mess out of my hand and I massaged her lower back while she screamed and moaned.
"Relax. You are in a safe place. I’m here. You’re doing awesome. That one’s over now. Breathe. You’re a beast, Momma. You are freaking rocking this."
Her baby was born early Wednesday morning and she is still alone.
I returned to my first momma when she was able to get the epidural. The babies were born minutes apart. Then, I visited with her before heading home at 4 in the morning. I learned that she had no idea how she was getting home. The baby was 3 weeks early she wasn’t prepared for that and again, she was alone.
Don’t y’all worry now, you know I hooked that momma right on up with some nearby friends and the best support. And, y’all also know that I laid hands on her and prayed for her and her baby.
Last week, I spent the night with a new momma from Congo who only speaks French. She was alone too.
If I ever doubted my path as the one-stop birth shop, those doubts were vaporized in the past two weeks and I am so thankful!
If you’re reading this and you are as saddened as I am that women aren’t supported like we should be during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period—and want to do something about it—you can donate to HOPE Women & Family Services Inc. by clicking the "donate" tab at the top. Our first priority is our training goal for this September!
Welcome to the HopeWFS blog!
I want to personally welcome you to our little corner of the internet. We view our website as being our "house" and our social media accounts as our "yard". With that being said, welcome to our house! We hope you feel welcomed here and leave feeling inspired and ready to make a positive impact for women and families here in Eastern North Carolina!
Why were we founded?
We were founded in July 2018. You can view a snippet of my personal story for launching HopeWFS here. I am extremely passionate about our mission and vision because I know there is a gap in support here in Eastern North Carolina. The very fabric of our society is centered around family. If our family units, however they are comprised, are not receiving the critical support they need at such a transitional time, what an injustice that is to our local families and inevitably society as a whole.
Our culture is one that thrives on the idea of postpartum women returning to "normal" as soon as possible. Back to normal work schedules, back to regular weight, back to regular self-care time and date nights. What our culture at large fails to realize is normal is illusive. Normal is defined as "conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected". Welcoming a child, regardless if it is through childbirth or adoption, is the birth of a new mother and a woman who has to navigate molding her previous life and sense of self with her new title and child. The industrial age has brought many positive changes to our societies. One thing that has been lost in the passing years is the idea of "it takes a village". Many of us are in our own little silos, trudging along and feeling like we are on autopilot. A majority of members in our society are working long hours and are struggling to keep their households afloat. The need for a village has never left, our society has just changed the narrative.
We were founded because we believe tangible, hands-and-feet support is what our society is missing. We recognize and applaud the efforts and hard work of our local obstetricians, pediatricians, social services, and other invested efforts. We first-hand recognize how critical their work is. We know that their workloads are overflowing. Our projects (you can view who our projects aim to assist here) aim to provide birth doula services, in-home postpartum doula support, educational opportunities, and more. Through these in-person meetings we will help our clients to feel confident, competent, and heard.
Stay tuned for our future post to cover the following: What exactly has happened in the past year? Who are the women behind-the-scenes working for this cause? What signs have presented themselves to keep our team's fire ignited for this cause? What were the takeaways of the training's we have attended? Where are we going? And much more!
P.S. Me writing this blog post since my husband took all three of our kids over to a friend's house so I can work. Anyone with three kids under 5 will likely sense the radiating peace coming off the photo!