With Cassandra McCoy MAT, ATC, LAT & Guest Julia Jones of Newborn Mothers
In this conversation, Cassandra talks with Julia Jones, founder and owner of Newborn Mothers, about care for new moms during COVID. Also, we discuss a bit about the notorious “Mommy Brain/Baby Brain” and how it is a necessary part of motherhood!
“Maybe he would sleep better if you would put cereal in his bottle.”
“Just let him cry it out.”
“Just give him the titty!” (hilarious courtesy of my precious dairy farmer grandmother, who nursed SEVEN children)
“When I had babies… *insert advice here*.”
I remember it so very well and tend to have almost had a fight or flight, gut reaction when the memories peek back through the doorway of my mind. The first 6 months or so of my oldest child’s life went a lot like this, on repeat.
None of this advice came from a place of malice, selfishness or anything other than the generations before me seeing young-mother me struggle and wanting to offer help. Possibly while regaining *just a moment* of the magic from when their now-adult babies were oh so very small, too. I cannot fault them for that. It’s nice to be needed. Amazing to feel helpful and sometimes awkward to find conversation starters when you want to be supportive and the new mom is beyond exhausted, holding it together with some intermittent sleep, a dash of mascara and soggy nipple pads, desperately ready to talk to other adults but still wanting time to hide away with her new babe (rightfully and biologically so).
After playing a rousing round of “pass the baby” then it would come, unassumingly, sweet and well-intentioned but like a MACK TRUCK out of nowhere, squishing the frog that would be your last shred of sanity clear across your self-esteem highway. It may have broken your brain a little, even.
“Is he a GOOD BABY?”
Wait, what?! Hold on. BACK. UP.
Is there such a thing as a “BAD Baby?”
Do I have a BAD baby?
You think back and start comparing your baby to other babies, friends and sisters babies, the ever happy babies who do just fine in the nursery at church or daycare. The babies that aren’t SCREAMING adult-sized screams just for simply being AWAKE. The babies that don’t demand to eat every five minutes or that let you put them down to pee by yourself.
Your baby isn’t like those babies. But, Is your baby really that BAD?
Come in really, really close and commit this to the deepest parts of your memory. Make it a mantra. Say it to other people, often. Sharpie it to your forehead. Rebuke your doctor when they ask this useless question.
Repeat after me, “THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A BAD BABY”.
Not a single one. Honestly, there is no such thing as a GOOD BABY, either.
You can tell them that, too.
These innocent and well-meaning questions from experienced mothers and caregivers had me absolutely convinced that my firstborn was a BAD baby and of course, it was my own fault.
My firstborn, Boy Wonder, had colic from DAY ONE. I loved him as any mother would, but I would be bold faced lying if I said I didn’t feel disconnected from my own child because I, his mother, could not adequately comfort him. Looking back, it wasn’t necessarily my *fault* but I can *see* now where a lot of our problems started and how being more informed even before birth would have eased some of the undue stress.
Our first 4 months were simply surviving and trying to get him to STOP CRYING (please dear goodness, make it stop!) and be comfortable. He wasn’t a “typical happy baby” because his tummy hurt near-constantly. Misinformation on the adequacy of my milk supply, how supply and demand hormones work, what constituted a “good” breast pump, dismissive physicians who weren’t tongue tie friendly, limited access to lactation consulting and the elimination of choice in labor and postpartum by hospital staff all contributed to switching between breastmilk and formula, ultimately causing excessive gas for him (which first-time mom me, didn’t understand could be an issue). From colic, we went straight to teething. We just couldn’t win.
I started to lose hope and became resigned to having a BAD baby when other moms had been blessed with GOOD ones. (Hold on, we’ll get to that, I know what you’re thinking).
By the grace of survival instincts, the miracle of science that brought us formula simply to keep him fed and alive, and the love language that is coffee, we survived babyhood with Boy Wonder (who is now 3 and introducing me to the 9th ring of hell that is
potty training) and were surprised with our second boy, The Tiniest Giant, age two months at time of article.
The Tiniest Giant has since solidified my theory that babies do NOT possess the capability of choice to be “bad” or “good”. He is already SO. MUCH. DIFFERENT. than his older brother.
First-time-mom me would be jealous of how “GOOD” this baby could be considered. I didn’t know babies could smile, play or even show joy so early because Boy Wonder had such a hard time even existing in his first few months. All I had known until now was screaming, and pain, and constant bouncing, music and shushing, looking for some kind of light at the end of a mythical tunnel. That is not to say that my second is anything more than a normal baby, with normal baby needs and normal baby exhausted parents.
All of which made me realize that those same well-meaning ladies would undoubtedly have called my first, a fussy baby and my second, a good baby – (as if my boys could make a choice on their infant behaviors?) but they would be WRONG.
The truth of the matter, the point, you ask? Babies do not know how to “behave”, they simply know how to express their immediate needs for survival. That’s it. Babies cannot manipulate with malice. Simple. They can learn and adapt to what brings care and comfort *faster* (fake cries anyone?) but true ill intentioned manipulation is not possible by infants.
Why the heck were my two boys so different?
First and foremost, they’re different, individual people.
Second, ME. I was different.
My understanding and experience. My education. My advocates. My giving myself grace.
I had learned how to seek and discern information (and information will be ever evolving, know better, do better, forever and ever, amen). I became empowered to advocate for myself and my children (also known as being exceptionally stubborn). I understood what is normal for my babies and what isn’t or might not be. I’d done most of the hard stuff before and can recall what *generally* works and what doesn’t while accepting each child has different needs. I was able to give myself a little grace in the gaps. I wasn’t accepting what was “common” when I knew it wasn’t “normal” ( a little phrase I borrowed from our founder, Cassandra)
Could my first still have had colic for other reasons even if I had known more? Absolutely. Hindsight is 20/20, but I could have been more mentally and emotionally equipped to deal with it and request the help I needed but was embarrassed to need. I could have possibly enjoyed motherhood more while he was small, and had a fighting chance with a loaded “mental toolbox”. I would have known that Informed consent, education, advocacy backed by responsive resources and overall support are crucial, and that everything else can come after.
But what about my second? My GOOD baby?
Plot twist, the perpetuation of the “GOOD” baby also presents the false idol of the “LUCKY” mom and that isn’t fair, either.
As in, “You’re so lucky! She’s such a GOOD baby!”
What’s a lucky mom? Glad you asked, she is, of course, a mother with the “GOOD” baby. She has a baby as we profiled above. Sweet, happy, doesn’t cry, sleeps, is generally convenient. This mom doesn’t need help, is perfectly happy, gets enough sleep, cooks healthy meals by herself, doesn’t feel overwhelmed, is level headed, assumes her normal life immediately and needs zero help. Her baby is independent and shows no signs of the “Fourth Trimester”. She contributes to pinterest. She is the absolute envy of all the moms with “BAD” babies.
Here’s the reality though, just as the baby above doesn’t exist, neither does she.
By deeming babies GOOD (with an understanding that can mean some are BAD), we dangerously simplify what is considered typical or normal for babies and place unnecessary blame on tiny humans just trying to survive.
By allowing the “GOOD BABY” myth to continue, we assume that mothers don’t need adequate postpartum support, it makes support almost seem too much or an extra nicety. As if a newly postpartum mom is being dramatic or selfish needing help, patience, or understanding while finding her new normal. “Because she chose to bring a baby into the world, she’s lucky it’s a good baby, I had a BAD baby and didn’t get any support, why does she need our help, right?” Look, if that’s your train of thought, please don’t ask “when do I get to see the baby?”, you’re definitely not someone who needs to be around a new mom or baby. STAY. HOME. PLEASE.
Postpartum Depression is not an accessory pack to BAD babies. GOOD babies don’t exclusively sleep through the night (and they shouldn’t necessarily as a safety reflex) nor do they eat perfectly. LUCKY Mothers’ bodies do not “bounce back” from the physical feat of making a human for the better part of an entire year and expelling said human any faster when they have GOOD babies. Newly postpartum moms can especially struggle no matter what their baby’s temperament is, (it’s new, they’re recovering, baby comes first for them, duh.) and they’re afraid to admit it and have their child labeled “BAD” or even be labeled themselves, as a dreaded complainer. Because why do they have the right to “complain”? They have a GOOD baby, they’re a LUCKY mom.
This type of thinking can, in turn, overwhelm already emotionally maxed out parents who simply need extra support or resources to adapt into somehow thinking they themselves are inadequate caregivers. (Let’s stop that cycle, okay? Having a baby is already hard enough.) We tend to forget that ALL babies tap parental resources (physical and emotional) into a survival mode to some extent. Babies create demands that CHANGE their parents. Ever hear anyone say change is hard? They’re absolutely right.
Instead of perpetuating the “GOOD BABY” myth, let’s support mothers, parents and caregivers with better vocabulary and chit-chat choices. No one needs the speech police, but this could certainly be more helpful than uncomfortable small talk.
A few alternatives to try out:
“How are you feeling?” (Seriously important and underrated)
“Are you getting enough time to eat/sleep/take care of yourself?”
(especially if you’re willing to offer a goodies drop off or maybe to sit with baby while she showers or takes a quick rest – Keli Kirwin has a good piece on this subject’s specifics: find her article on Postpartum Care HERE
“How are you adjusting?”
( and then LISTEN. Nope. Hush. LISTEN. )
“Are your doctors listening to you/visits going well? Anything lacking?” (New parents tend to crumble under “authority” such as medical professionals, not realizing it’s okay to question if something doesn’t feel right)
“Do you have any worries or concerns? It’s SO normal to have those.” (because every mom wants to “have it all together” and may not realize how valuable just talking it out and with another experienced caregiver can be.)
“What a beautiful baby! Good job, momma!” (slam dunk, no more needs said)
Simply put, please be kind. There’s so much you’re not privy to that your words can have great influence and weight over in such a fragile time as being a new parent.
(biological, adoptive, however that happens for them)
The point I’m attempting to express is THIS: There is no such thing as a GOOD baby or a LUCKY mom (*yes, we’re all lucky to have our children, that’s not the point of this verbiage, I promise.*). They’re *beautiful* fairy tale concepts we would all love to live out. The sooner we let go of our white knuckle grip on them, we can start to help our mothers, fathers and caregivers be their best and raise healthy children without sacrificing their own mental, physical, or emotional health quite so readily. The world just might be a better place for it.
Do small things with great love,
Images subject to copyright, Sara Herrell, Herrell House Photo
submitted and licensed exclusively for coordinating article use by Positively Balanced, LLC.
From labor and birth to post partum, mothers need someone to “hold the space”. Protecting the sacred space for mothers creates a sense of safety and peace. This environment is optimal for the hard work done not only labor, but also after birth. Parents need time to bond with a tiny new person dependent entirely on them for survival. Mothers have physical recoveries as well as mental; heavily affected by the very hormones that brought the tiny bundle of joy Earth-side.
Traditionally, across cultures, women are doted on for approximately the first six weeks following birth. The women do not sweep the floor. They do not clean the dishes. They do not cook dinner. They do not pick up their husband’s clothes from the floor, nor wash their children’s. The women do receive massages- sometimes daily. They are fed. Their home and older children are not meant for them to concern themselves with at this time. They have only two jobs- recover and love their new baby. In addition to the obvious physical recovery, mother’s brains are being rewired and are awash in hormone changes from pregnancy to new motherhood. Even women with multiple children undergo this mental change with each birth.
How can husbands and partners protect and provide for new moms in our modernized, industrialized society?
Reset Expectations -recognize that postpartum recovery is so much more than modern society allows.
Stay – Stay home as much as possible. That new grill can wait. Six hour workouts can wait. Video game marathons can wait. Avoid leaving during severe weather. Mom needs your physical presence and mental energy.
Do Everything – Literally. Run the home for six weeks. But also….
Build Your Village – Guide friends and family into the support roles you need. They want to help so show them the areas where they can help. Ask someone to set up a meal train. Ask someone else to accompany mom to appointments. Find someone to sweep and vacuum.
Enforce Visiting Hours – Some guests want to be entertained or don’t recognize when it is time to leave. Hold the space. Recognize when it is time to see guests out the door.
Learn Baby Care – Change diapers, burp baby, dress baby, talk to baby. Hold the baby and sing while mom takes a shower. Learn nursery rhymes and lullabies.
Dote on Mom – Keep her water and snacks filled. Physically assist her in moving from the bed to the toilet. Prepare her peri bottle. Take care and love on her.
Bottles? Pump parts? – Wash them. Learn how to properly store pumped milk or prepare formula.
Mental Health – Learn the red flags for postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety as well as postpartum psychosis. Connect with care providers for proper support whenever necessary. Familiarize yourself with the typical hormonal struggles of postpartum.
Self Care – Most often preached to moms, husbands and partners need to care for themselves as well. Take care of your hygiene and sleep needs. Eat nutritious food. Find mental and physical outlets for resetting. You care for others best whenever your own tank is full.
Hold the space.
– Keli Boyd
What an honor it is to care for new moms! Every desire to protect and provide is fulfilled in this role. Supporting new moms through the initial six weeks postpartum is about more than being a savior deserving of praise. It is about setting the standard of care for those we love the most intimately.
I see you Mama… you have just received your new mama cape and have achieved a whole new level of “Wonder Woman “ status.
You’ve just carried a young one in your womb for 9 months, creating life, creating breath, and creating the precious little child you’ve been so meticulously chosen to care for. You’ve labored and breathed your way through contractions bringing you to bear down and bring your little one earthside. No matter if you were unmedicated, had assistance, or birthed your baby via C-section… your body has gone through a marathon. Nine months of hormone fluctuations, bones and body parts rearranging themselves to make room for that precious baby have culminated on the joyous occasion of your baby’s birth day.
Mama don’t rush this beautiful journey.
As new moms, we are put under a tremendous amount of stress to “get back to pre-baby weight” or to “get back to our pre-baby body.” Let me tell you, that body no longer exists. The minute you conceived, that “pre-baby body” started to fade away.
What you are left with, is a body that is capable of so much more than it was before. You grew a human, you birthed a human, and now your body is different. Your “Mom bod” is beautiful, your “Mom bod” is strong and you need to care for it differently.
When you think about that Mommy pooch you’re carrying around, don’t think of it as the last five pounds you need to lose. Think of it as the five pounds that are hanging on so that you can feed your baby and produce enough milk to help your baby grow big and strong.
Mama, don’t rush yourself to get back to that place you once were, you’ll have plenty of time to do that in the future. If you’re not done having kiddos, guess what? You’re in for a whole new round of changes with baby number two.
I’m not saying don’t take care of yourself. You still have to eat right and exercise, so that you are at your best to take care of you and your family. What I’m saying is don’t stress about this societal pressures that come from every direction.
Would you rather spend your time at the gym getting back to where you “once were?” Or would you rather spend that time with your precious new little one, getting to know his face, getting to know his cues, exploring each other and growing together?
There are so many pressures to lose weight after your baby is born. Blogs, Facebook groups, postpartum posts all steer conversation to losing the baby weight. But I saw a post the other day on Facebook from Kindred Bravely that said, “Your rolls are their pillows” and it made me think… We are told not to rush the baby stage; to soak it all in. So why then do we worry so much about losing the weight?
Take it from someone who couldn’t wait to get back to working out once I had my son. I thought that the sooner I jumped right back in, the less chance there was that I would lose all the progress I had made before I got pregnant. But boy was I wrong…
I promised myself that I would wait a full 6 weeks before I started back. I promised myself that I would give my body the time it needed to heal. Fast forward to 2 weeks after I had my son, and due to circumstances as a business owner I was forced back into teaching group fitness.
At two weeks postpartum I was teaching group fitness classes again. Not the place I wanted to be, not the position I thought I would be in as a postpartum Mama. I knew there was a chance I could injure myself and that I could potentially create bigger issues.
What I didn’t know was that starting back so soon; even if I was “taking it easy and not doing the whole class”, was causing me to delay the natural healing process my body should have been going through.
I had hemorrhoids (I know, the not so glamorous side of delivery) and slight pelvic prolapse. I found that these are not two things you want to take lightly. The pressure I was putting on these two areas of my body from the inside was tremendous, even if I did think I was taking it easy. My whole reproductive anatomy had gone through an earth shattering process just a couple of weeks before and I was asking my body to do things it was no longer capable of doing in my delicate postpartum state.
You may be thinking to yourself, what is a prolapsed pelvic floor and how do I know if I have a prolapsed pelvic floor? According to an article published by Crystal Run Healthcare, a minor prolapse may not cause symptoms. In fact, in many cases, a woman’s doctor may discover prolapse during a routine pelvic exam. If you do have symptoms, they may include:
A feeling of fullness, pressure, or bulging in your pelvis (many women describe this as a feeling of sitting on a small ball)
Feeling that something is falling out of your vagina
Difficulty with urination or defecation
Low back pain
Painful sexual intercourse and/or bleeding with intercourse
Discomfort while walking
Symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse often become worse when standing, jumping, or lifting heavy objects. There are also different stages of prolapse ranging from 0-4. A zero would represent a strong pelvic floor with no sign of prolapse, a four would indicate that the entire organ is outside of the vagina.
If you think you may have any level of prolapse, the first step is to get assessed by a professional, either by your doctor or a pelvic floor specialist. After you have been assessed and diagnosed, the next step would be treatment.
When seeking treatment, be sure you find a professional who knows a woman’s anatomy and can give you good direction on how to heal. If you suspect that you may have prolapse, contact someone in your area to assess you for an official diagnosis. If you are not sure of where to start or want to start on your journey to healing, book a consultation with Cassandra (our founder) here: https://square.site/book/RWSTPNNZR77YF/positively-balanced-llc-collinsville-ok
This a way that you can create your game plan and find out what you need to do in order to improve your health.
So Mama remember, there’s no hurry to get back to your pre-baby body. That version of you is a past version of you. Now you have a chance to embrace the new you, the “Strong Mama” version of you.
Another great resource:
As you read “organ falling out of the vagina” you might automatically visualize your bladder or rectum falling out . The actual prolapse is the organ pressing on the vagina which is what is seen upon diagnosis and what is felt when you might feel a bulge. Sometimes it freaks women out as they think their bladder is literally outside everything. It is not. More importantly to note, you can improve over the next 18+months post birth and see a major reduction in your prolapse. if you begin to rehab your body while giving yourself rest. – Cassandra
“What gift should I buy for my best friend’s baby shower?”
“Top 10 baby shower gifts!”
“Most useless baby shower gifts”
Etc, ad nauseam.
Let’s get straight to the point: the most powerful gift you can give to a new family is to care for them. Mow the grass to give that time back to the family. Bring meals to them. Drop off some coffee. Love on the family. Your gift of time and service is immeasurably valuable. This includes gifting a cleaning service or having food delivered. Give without judgement and without expectations. -unknown source
New parenthood is beautiful and poetic. It is also raw and really, really difficult. Even the “best” pregnancies, labors, and births are hard work. The smoothest birth is preceded by months of round the clock work, typically unacknowledged until well into the third trimester when others can finally see significant evidence of pregnancy with their own eyes. Before then, mom receives scrutiny for her exhaustion. Surely her body is not working that hard, she has only been pregnant for 9 weeks or 18 weeks or, or, or…
Postpartum is also ‘invisible’ work. Mom changes thick pads and breathes through after-birth pains as her uterus shrinks. Her bottom hurts and she struggles to choose between sitting to rest and literally getting off her sore rear-end. Her nipples are sore and cannot see beyond the exhaustion. Her hormones are shifting dramatically. She attempts to stay level-headed and logical whenever she feels the changing tide. Can she tell anyone that she cannot sleep because of her irrational anxiety?
Was she respected during birth? Does she feel that she was supported? Does she have access to appropriate care postpartum? In addition to the initial 6 weeks with her midwife or doctor, are chiropractors or physical therapists accessible? Are there other providers she could benefit from? Support can be given here; child care for older children, accompanying mom to appointments and watching the baby, perhaps monetary gifts to ensure these appointments are financially sustainable.
We care for others the best whenever our needs are met. Meet the needs of the parents so that they can better care for their home and their family.
What can you do to enrich this time in their lives?