Introducing the Mama Bird Community on Facebook

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We are so pleased to announce the Mama Bird Facebook Community.

Here pregnant and postpartum mamas can find encouragement, support, and advice from one another as well as from our featured pregnancy experts from time to time. We want this to be a safe and uplifting place for you, mama!

Join us in the sisterhood!

Encouragement for when Motherhood Doesn’t Come Naturally

Encouragement for when Motherhood just Doesn't Come Naturally - Mama Bird Box - Milk Drunk Blog

I was never a great babysitter. in high school, I much rather would have been spending my summers working for Kilgore’s Pharmacy’s side businesses than taking part in any form of nannying (shout out, Snow Cone Alley and Plant Shack!). I believe “under my skin” is the phrase that best describes where children in my care would typically end up.

Here’s a picture of me around my Snow Cone Alley days…eating a blooming onion.

Encouragement for when Motherhood just Doesn't Come Naturally - Mama Bird Box - Milk Drunk Blog

I wasn’t the pre-teen at family reunions asking to hold the twins and sitting with the adults at the dinner table. I was outside convincing all the kids around my age to come along for adventures in the barn and on the farm equipment or to take part in plays that I was both writing and directing.

I have always been bossy, not parental. Somewhat caring, not nurturing.

I love to throw a party but have to #werk to remember to be a host. It is actual effort for me to tap into my southern heritage and remember to offer guests a glass of water (bless her heart, they say).

Those sweet eCards that spam your Facebook now like to remind us that a woman becomes a mother when she conceives, a man becomes a father when he holds his baby for the first time. Pardon me for poopooing on these gender role expectations, but in my case this was not so.

My whole pregnancy felt surreal at best. There’s a baby in there? It’s part me and part him? It will come into the world? I am to be one of its caretakers?

I did not feel immediately maternal.

I don’t think that all people experience the same thing I did. I whole heartedly believe that there are some men and women in the world who are born with parental instincts. They have been mothers and fathers, in one way or another, their whole lives…searching for someone to nurture, to hold, to raise. I am thankful for this lot of you because I’m certain, for one, that you helped raise me. But, for two, you’ve become my litmus test for knowing what action to take with my own son when and if my motherly instincts haven’t caught up.

WWMD is the bracelet I wear around my arm now…What Would a Mom Do? (JK, but what if…would you wear it? Would you pay me for it? Dibs.)

What I’m trying to say is that I know you exist and I’m grateful.

What I would also like to say is that I know that my breed exists too. We’re the ones that are still waiting to feel like parents long after labor or adoption. The ones that would never quite consider themselves “kid people” unless that kid was their own or in a group of a specific few others…maybe not even then? The ones that have a hard time not talking to 4-year olds like they’re your buddies…not your little buddies…your friends, your peers, small adults if you will.

I think we bring our own strengths to the world, but I think we’re also hesitant to share this reality out loud (especially as women in this culture) because it makes us feel…defective? What chip did they forget to install inside of our mushy mom hearts that makes some of this stuff not entirely natural?

I waited my whole pregnancy to feel like a mom, but figured that if that eCard wasn’t correct, maybe it would come through for me in the “way it does for dads.” Maybe I would become a mom when I held my baby for the first time.

My emotions were likely compromised on the flip side of my two-day long labor. I was tired and hungry and fresh out of surgery when I saw my son for the first time and…whereas I thought my heart would explode into a millions fairies filled with love and world peace in that moment…I looked at him and thought, “That one’s ours?…I should…probably feed him, no?”

It didn’t help that he looked even less assured and comfortable than I was…

Encouragement for when Motherhood just Doesn't Come Naturally - Mama Bird Box - Milk Drunk Blog

Luke and I went to a movie when our baby was a month old and for an hour it felt like it was still just the two of us in life together–incredibly disorienting but also not. We traveled to Galveston when he was four months old and, at that point, I just didn’t feel the distance. My dad said we’d have to fight hard to have anything else to talk about on dates and we just…didn’t…at first.

I have worried on more than 75 different occasions that I’m not “feeling the right feelings” when it comes to parenting. Naturally, guilt has followed.

But now, nine months into motherhood and a year and a half out from conception, I am able to shed most of this specific guilt and see this truth more clearly: I am becoming a momma like I became most significant things in my life…gradually, and through trial and error, and eventually with confidence and conviction. 

Encouragement for when Motherhood just Doesn't Come Naturally - Mama Bird Box - Milk Drunk Blog

It wasn’t when the test read positive. It wasn’t when I first nursed him out of the OR.

It was when he looked up from his bottle and grabbed my chin at the end of a hard day and rubbed it back and forth with his soft, tiny thumb. It was when he sat up in his crib and whimpered “meh-ma, meh-ma” for the first time. It’s the nights that I hold him long after he’s fed and fallen asleep, and I let myself cry (hard) because I am so overwhelmed by his life and the fact that I get to be such a unique part of it. It’s how he’s grafted into this family and I don’t even know when it happened but there is a big void when he’s gone. My hand flies up at the girgly threat of spit-up and I want him to feel loved and challenged and known with every drop of blood coursing through these limbs of mine that wrestle him into pajama pants every night.

I miss him when he sleeps.

I talk to him in the car like he can answer me, excited for the season when he can tell me about his time away.

I am unable right now to fully wrap my mind around this impossible existence of being someone’s mama. He is simultaneously entirely mine, and entirely us, and entirely other…his own being, wholly new to the world, ready to discover and be discovered as we all have done and also as no one else has ever done. I have never felt so fully creator and spectator all at the same time in my entire life.

I am finding myself saturated with this almost uneasy level of undomesticated care, protection, connection, and love for someone I didn’t know a year ago and I helped…to make? In and amongst all of the very real questions, lack of sleep, irritability, and heaviness that is postpartum, lies this kinetic energy slowly building inside of me on behalf of this bundle of humanity I call my son.

Encouragement for when Motherhood just Doesn't Come Naturally - Mama Bird Box - Milk Drunk Blog

(Check out how I made sure he was fed and clothed and in his carseat LIKE A MOM WOULD DO.)

Motherhood wasn’t automatic. And in a lot of ways it still isn’t natural. But it is evolving and deepening while all of the competencies it takes to fulfill this role as parent are also finding their way into my skill set…slowly, surely. With them comes confidence. And with confidence comes a new thing which I now feel I can call instinct.

 

Britney Lee writes and runs Milk Drunk Blog where this article was originally published. Click here to view original.

The Magic of a Bath in Motherhood

Image of a bath and bathroom

An evening bath has a magical, intangible quality to me in motherhood. My mother and sisters would agree. My sisters and I grew up seeing our mother’s daily routine include an evening bath. In high school I was a shower girl, and I never really understood why our mom always took a bath. (High schoolers can be ridiculously judgmental over trivial things.) She said she didn’t like showers because of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Maybe. Or maybe she needed to say, “I need a bath to wash away all the stress that has been put on me with two teenagers and an elementary kid. You are a handful and I need to forget about all of it for 10-30 minutes. Alone.”

In my younger years, I enjoyed the occasional bath but only if I was extra cold in the wintertime or I wanted to use a fancy bath product, not at all a necessity.

Within this time I saw my older sister Amy step into motherhood and take on this nightly bath ritual. Before kids, she was the same as me; baths were nice, but not everything. I don’t think we talked too much about why she started taking a bath every night after she became a mom, but if we did I wouldn’t have understood, not really.

The routine of a bath for me started when I was pregnant with my first child. I avoided baths and hot, hot water in my first trimester, but then my belly started growing and my back started aching. During my first pregnancy I had the tub of all tubs at this time, a claw-foot tub. A perfect one. Not too wide, not too deep, and the ideal reclining angle in the back where my head would rest perfectly on the curved edge. I was told getting in the water would help relieve my back pain, but I didn’t have a pool I could access. So I would fill up my perfect tub and feel the weight of my belly float away. And so the ritual began.

The first two or three months after Nora, my first kid, was born, there was no routine for me. Same for when Wesley, the second kid, was born. Everything was interrupted. Babies will always have this sixth sense for needing you the moment you step into the bathroom. For mamas with newborns, setting aside time for anything is impossible. But then, my kids (and so will yours) figured out this thing we call routine. With or without routine, though, after having kids, my person – mind, body, and spirit – calls out for a bath. I still just need a bath.

So why have I come to care so much about taking a bath? For me, I need to wash the day away. I have some days that seem mostly good. There are days that feel all bad and the only redemption in them is that they are over. Most days, however, are a mix of good and bad. Regardless of how the day has gone, I am done at the end of it. If I showed patience with my kids all day, I do not have an infinite amount of it. My patience depletes drastically with each minute that passes before they are in bed. I want to hang on to the good day; I want to end it on a good note, but even holding onto a thread of patience wears on me. It makes me feel tired and emotional in my inner being. So even if my husband sees us having a great day, I want to walk away from it before I snap and undo all of its goodness.

I have had a few occasions when I need to walk away completely when my husband gets home. Out of the house, into my car, and somewhere else. Honestly, most days are not that bad at all, but I still want to have a place for a small retreat. And one that doesn’t require spending money or interacting with other people. I crave time to be alone with my thoughts or a book but without the guilt that there is something more productive to be done. When I’m in the bathtub I’m still kind of productive…good hygiene and all that. But that evening bath that happens after my kids are in bed is more to me than that. I get a quiet time alone, and I come out of a bath with a better perspective on my life. You may scoff, but for me it is so true.

Your “bath” may be actually be a shower or your couch or your car or the streets you run or a solo trip to the grocery store. From this mother, let me encourage you to find a simple thing that can be a part of your daily routine, and retreat, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. My mom would tell you the same thing, too. We are better mothers for it.