On Helping the New Mother

Recently quite a few of my friends have either just had a baby or announced new pregnancies. In fact, just this week I became an Aunty again to this sweet baby girl. Isn’t she beautiful? I have loved soaking up all the newborn cuddles.

It got me thinking back to those precious first weeks with Eleanor. Where the days and nights seem to roll into one. You are utterly exhausted but completely smitten. The housework gets left by the wayside and there are times you don’t leave the same spot on the couch for hours. It is a whirlwind time of learning how to care for this new little life you’ve brought into the world.

Since becoming a mother I’ve really come to appreciate the ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ proverb. Particularly if it’s your first time, and even in consecutive pregnancies, you find yourself soaking in every bit of golden mothering advice and encouragement your friends have to give. Not to mention their wonderful practical help after your baby’s birth. There is nothing more comforting than knowing you are supported.

But how do we best help a new mother? What are the things that will really support her during this exciting, but exhausting time? And what might we avoid doing to ensure she feels encouraged in her new role? I’ve penned my thoughts.

Respect her need for privacy – Every new mother would agree that the birth of a baby is a truly special thing. However, not all women’s births are the stress-free experiences they hope for. Birth can be a painful, draining and traumatic time for some mothers. They may need several days or even weeks before they are ready to see people and introduce their new baby. It is important to be respectful and sensitive to each mother’s needs. We all enjoy those newborn cuddles, but our friend’s well-being should come first. In my case, Eleanor’s birth went smoothly but we chose to only invite our direct family to visit at the hospital. I was exhausted from lack of sleep and overwhelmed by all the information I had to soak in as a first time Mum. Trying to hold lots of conversations and entertain others would have been too much for me. Every new mother will react to birth differently. It is important to see how your friend is coping at the time and respect her desire for privacy if she needs it.

Keep in contact – The flood of well wishes and lovely messages you receive on the announcement of a new baby is so comforting. I honestly remember feeling warm and fuzzy for days! But after the first week has passed and you are knee-deep in navigating this new life with a baby, that’s when you really need ongoing support from your fellow mothers. Speaking from personal experience, there is nothing more reassuring than knowing other women are cheering you on and are ready to help the moment you need it. Don’t wait for your friend to send you a text message. Chances are she is sleep deprived and might not have the energy or mental capacity (thanks baby brain!) to keep in touch as regularly or quickly as she used to. She may not need visitors or any practical help at the time, but a word of encouragement or message to see how things are going could make all the difference in her day. My beautiful sister-in-law was this person for me. Almost every day in those first few weeks she would message me to see how I was and if there was anything I needed. Most of the time it was the same response from me, “We’re going great, just tired!”. But it was so nice to know that I had someone to talk with not only about the important baby care questions, but also the monotonous motherhood moments as well. It can be a hard adjustment for women going from working and having a full social calendar, to being at home with a newborn who relies so heavily on you. I know I struggled for the first couple of months with having less adult interaction and independence. Keeping in touch with your friend will help her to still feel connected socially and part of adult life outside the ‘baby bubble’.

If you are visiting, try to arrive on time – This is general courtesy, but even more so when your friend has a newborn baby. In the first few weeks mothers are establishing a rhythm in their day for when feeds, wake time and sleeps are happening. If your friend has other children, she will also be working around their daily activities, like school drop offs and outings. It can be quite the juggling act. Similar to my first point, we need to appreciate that our friend has set aside a part of their day for us to visit and be there at the requested time. If you are going to be late, let her know in advance that you aren’t running on time and might need to re-schedule your visit for another day.

Another thing to remember is that unexpected visits can be a source of stress for new mothers. Having arranged visits means that your friend is not going to be disturbed when they are trying to catch up on sleep, shower or do important tasks around the home. Obviously, some people are more than happy to have their friends pop by as they please. Just be mindful that not everybody is comfortable with spontaneity and checking first is the best way to avoid causing unnecessary angst for a new Mum.

If you are sick, don’t visit – This is an absolute non-negotiable. Even if you might only have a slight cough or runny nose, it is best to wait until you are 100% well before visiting. A newborn baby’s immune system is not able to fight infection like an adults and they can become very sick, very quickly. Being patient for those first newborn cuddles is the best show of love you can give.

Keep visits short and lend a practical hand – Just two final points on visiting a new mother. Try your best to keep your stay short (half an hour to an hour maximum). Also try and help practically in a small way. Stack the dishwasher, hang a load of washing or even do a quick vacuum before you leave. These seemingly small tasks to complete will mean so much to your friend.

Home cooked meals mean the world – Flowers and gifts will always be appreciated on the arrival of a new baby. But if you really want to know the way to your friend’s heart, provide her with a nourishing, home cooked meal. There is nothing (I mean NOTHING) better in those first bleary-eyed days and weeks with a newborn than when your friend turns up at your doorstep with a meal. It is amazing how the simple task of preparing dinner becomes such an overwhelming one when you have a baby. Not having to juggle being in the kitchen while attending to the needs of your newborn is the biggest help. I will never forget the outpouring of love from the women in my mother’s group when Ellie was born. We had a home cooked meal delivered every night for the first 2 weeks of being at home! I know, I have the best friends.

Have a listening ear – Last but not least, have a listening ear. There is nothing quite as life changing as the arrival of a new baby. Your friend will cherish the time she has to debrief with you about her birth and talk about how she is settling in to life as a new mother. If you have had children yourself, remember to be sensitive when comparing your own experiences to your friend’s. For example, she may have an unsettled baby who isn’t sleeping particularly well (that was me!) and hearing how your baby slept for hours on end might leave her feeling quite discouraged. We want to focus on our friend’s journey and ensure she is continually reminded of the wonderful job she is doing as a mother.

These are just a few of the ways you can help support a new Mum, but ones I found particularly helpful and practical. I would love to hear about what you appreciated most from your friends after birth and how you like to bless a new mother. Please leave a comment below and share your advice. There is nothing quite as powerful as when we mothers join together.

Sarah x

Ethical Christmas Gift Giving with Oxfam Australia

I don’t know about you, but I often find myself struggling with the issue of poverty. We live in such a wealthy country, yet millions of people around the world are barely able to meet the basic needs of their families. It’s a harsh reality that regularly tugs at my heart strings. How can we make a difference? Where do we start? If you are feeling like me, please read on.

With Christmas just around the corner in 6 short weeks (where did this year go?), it really is such a special time of giving. I enjoy picking out gifts to share with those I love and seeing their faces light up when they open them. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive. This Christmas, more than ever though, I have been conscious of making better choices when it comes to buying gifts. I’ve been searching the internet this week for items and brands that ensure their products are made ethically. If something is made ethically, it means that the person or people who made that item (a piece of clothing, furniture, decorative textiles etc.) is being paid fairly for their work. It means that they are being treated equitably and earning a proper wage that can help lift themselves and their family out of poverty.

You may have heard in the media recently that Baptist World Aid has published its 2017 Ethical Fashion Report. I appreciate so much the work that this organisation has done in providing truthful information about which brands are operating ethically and not exploiting their workers, particularly when it comes to forced and child labour. You can download the report here, which provides a list of some of the most well-known Australian brands and their ethical rating from A+ to F. It was a shame to see that some of the brands/stores I regularly purchase from only received an average or less than average rating. It has definitely given me a greater awareness of the fact that what I buy does have a direct impact on people and their quality of life.

In my search for ethically made gifts for Christmas, I came across the Oxfam Australia website. I had heard of Oxfam before and knew they were and organisation who helped aid those in poverty. But what I didn’t realise was that they have an extensive online shop selling beautiful, affordable and ethically made gifts. You will find jewellery, cushions, floor rugs, stationery, clothing, artwork, kitchenware, leather goods, skincare products, soft toys and even gourmet food hampers. What I love most, is that every item has a blurb explaining who has made the product and where the product was made. A completely transparent shopping experience and so nice as a buyer to know who you have supported through your purchase.

So why not give a double blessing this Christmas and purchase ethically made gifts. Even though we can’t be there to physically help those in poverty, we can ease their hardship by buying the wares they work so hard to make. You will not only bring joy to your loved ones, but to families who need it most.

Oxfam have just brought out their Christmas Catalogue for this year and are offering free shipping for all orders over $50 with the code FAIR50. And for TODAY only, they are also offering 20% off their entire site! It really is the perfect time to get organised for the festive season and make a difference too.

This collection of gifts are some of my favourite finds currently available in the Oxfam store. There is something for every member of the family and to suit all budgets.

1. Jute shopping bag – $49.95
2. Stoneware teapot – $59.95
3. Jade Bead Necklace – $24.95
4. Peony Butterflies Barrel Mug – $16.95
5. Glass Copper Star Decoration – $8.95
6. Red Gass Bauble – $9.95
7. Tembusu Wood Salad Servers – $29.95
8. Marbled Ceramic Bowl – $19.95
9. Cotton and Silk Blend Mustard Scarf – $19.95
10. Organic Salted Caramel Truffles – $9.95
11. Khmer Citrus Press – $39.95
12. Embroidered Arrow Cushion Cover – $29.95
13. Polka Dot Apron – $19.95
14. Eco Leather Shoulder Bag – $149
15. Fuschia Lotus Earrings – $14.95
16. Hand Woven Collapsible Basket – $19.95
17. Floral Garden Wall Hanging – $79.95
18. Soft Elephant Toy – $39.95
19. Arabesque Small Bowl – $9.95
20. Farm House Set – $29.95

Happy ethical shopping.

Sarah x

This is not a sponsored post. 

Taking Stock in Spring

I have long been an admirer of Jodi and her Instagram page and blog, Practising Simplicity. Every once in a while Jodi takes stock, using this list as a way of slowing down and taking the time to appreciate life as it is right now. I have decided to take a leaf out of her book and take stock as well. I really enjoyed this writing activity and the way it provides a snapshot into our family’s comings and goings at the moment, as well as my motherhood journey. So here’s what I’ve been up to…

Making: haste to get my washing on the line before it rains. We have had some fierce storms this past week.
Cooking: this amazing chocolate cake (it’s the one I made for Eleanor’s first birthday). I use this vegan chocolate icing recipe.
Drinking : peppermint tea.
Reading: nothing currently. Need some new book suggestions please.
Trawling: the internet for ethically made Christmas gifts.
Wanting: to have a nap but needing to clean the floors.
Looking: forward to our trip to NZ in just over a month.
Deciding: on what to cook for dinners this week. I think fresh salads will be in order – it’s hot here at the moment.
Wishing: for a vegetable garden we can grow our own produce in.
Enjoying: my days at home with Eleanor. One is such a delightful age.
Waiting: for December 1st when we usually put up our Christmas decorations. I think I’m going to break tradition and start early this year.
Liking: getting back into exercise. My body feels much better for it.
Wondering: if I’ll ever get my laundry in order. Clothes are clean but the folding is another story.
Loving: being a mother. It really is the most rewarding job.
Pondering: what type of pavers to use on the side path of our home.
Listening: to Audrey Assad on Spotify. Such a beautiful artist.
Considering: giving Ellie a daytime bath today to help clear her runny nose.
Buying: new cleaning products. I love Norwex and their simple, green cleaning philosophy.
Watching: the ‘Victoria’ series on Netflix. Such an inspiring woman.
Hoping: we’ll have Saturday night free this weekend so Pete and I can watch a movie together.
Marvelling: at how hard my husband works. He never stops giving.
Cringing: at the state of our garage. It has become a bit of a dumping ground of late.
Needing: to organise Christmas presents in the next couple of weeks. I’d love to have everything wrapped before our trip to NZ.
Smelling: delicious beef brisket simmering away in the slow cooker.
Wearing: my pyjamas. We are having a quiet day at home.
Noticing: Eleanor starting to say ‘real’ words and not just sweet baby babble. ‘Birdy’ is her current favourite.
Knowing: that I need to cherish every single day.
Trouble-shooting: how to make our home more environmentally friendly. I long for less waste.
Thinking: about what adventures are in store for our family in the coming months.
Admiring: the beautiful Jacaranda trees in full bloom at the moment.
Bookmarking: easy, low calorie, veggie-filled recipes on Pinterest.
Opening: Eleanor’s bedroom door to watch her napping.
Closing: the fridge door after sneaking a piece of this slice for morning tea.
Feeling: beyond blessed.
Dreaming: of a world where people aren’t hurting.
Hearing: my sub-conscious telling me to not fret about the little things.
Celebrating: a wonderful first year with our baby girl.
Embracing: all that life as a wife and mother holds.

Hope you are having a wonderful week.

Sarah x

Photos – Taken last weekend at my beautiful parents-in-law’s home. 

 

 

Eleanor’s Birth Story

I’ve been wanting to write Eleanor’s birth story for months now, and her turning one has definitely been the push to finally get it down. There really is something so special about a birth story. Even before I was pregnant, I was drawn to reading how other mothers laboured and birthed their children. Every journey was different, but so incredibly awe-inspiring. I knew that, when my time came, becoming a mother would be my greatest achievement.

For me, birth was (and is) the most incredible experience of my life.  It required all of my courage and determination and showed me a deep inner strength I didn’t know I had. Being our first baby, we attended antenatal classes to help us understand what to expect from labour and birth. When we realised there wasn’t a whole lot we could do to predict or control the birthing process, Pete and I adopted quite a relaxed mindset. We had no official birth plan, only that we were opting for a natural birth if possible. We were open to me using pain relief if I needed it and to also having a c-section if it was required. Whatever was going to provide the safest way of welcoming our baby into the world.

I was blessed with a very stress-free pregnancy. Up until 16 weeks I experienced mild morning sickness, but other than that everything progressed like a textbook. At my 36 week check-up we did encounter a slight complication. The midwife had trouble trying to hear a consistent heartbeat, and decided to perform an ultrasound on the spot. The machine wasn’t particularly precise, but she was able to get a good enough picture of how our baby was positioned in the womb. It didn’t take her long to conclude the baby was almost certainly in the breech position and it was likely she wouldn’t move this late in the pregnancy. The midwife explained that breech babies are usually delivered by cesarean section at our hospital and that I should begin to prepare myself for this being a high possibility.

I must admit, I left that appointment feeling quite discouraged and overwhelmed. I thought up until that point that I didn’t mind how our baby was birthed, but clearly the longing in my heart for a natural birth was far greater than I realised. As any worried mum-to-be would do, I started Googling all about breech babies and births as soon as I got home. I found out a lot of information about particular exercises and stretches I could be doing to help encourage our baby to get into the head-down position. I remember doing all sorts of weird pelvic rotations and head-first leans over our bed to try and get her to move. It would have looked hilarious! But in the end, I gave up on the exercises and just trusted that whatever way our baby was going to come into the world, whether naturally or via cesarean, everything would be okay.

Much to our joy, the next scan at 37 weeks revealed that our baby wasn’t in the breech position and was head-down ready for birth. It really was such a relief to know we could opt for a natural birth again. But importantly, preparing for the possibility I would be having a c-section really helped me to understand that there is no ‘lesser’ or ‘right’ way to birth a child. Whether naturally, via cesarean, in a hospital or at home. Babies are delivered healthily and thriving in so many different circumstances.

Two more weeks passed and I think I had cleaned almost every nook and cranny in our home. In fact, the day before I went into labour I had a crazy nesting frenzy. Scrubbing the bathrooms, vacuuming, mopping and washing every last towel. My body definitely knew I wouldn’t have the chance to do this for weeks to come. I woke up around 3am the next morning to go to the toilet and noticed a popping sensation and a large amount of mucus. They had talked to us about ‘bloody shows’ in antenatal classes, so I recognised this might be my mucus plug dislodging. I had also developed slight period-like cramps but nothing overly painful, so I decided to head back to bed and get as much rest as possible. I woke again at 6am with slightly more intense period-like pain and by 8am, it was coming in waves every 10-15 minutes. I rang the hospital to them know that I was having what I thought were contractions, just so they were aware of how I was progressing. The sweet midwife on the other end told me to rest, watch some TV and have a cup of tea to keep my mind off things. So I took her advice and just pottered around the house for the morning, relaxing as much as I could.

The contractions remained steady every 10 minutes and at 2pm I was feeling quite tired and lay down to try and sleep. I think I nodded off for half an hour, but woke needing to go to the toilet. As I rolled over to get out of bed a huge gush of water came flowing out onto the mattress and carpet. My waters had broken. I was already aware from previous ultrasounds that I had extra amniotic fluid, but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how much extra. I was leaking absolutely everywhere!

I quickly rang Pete to let him know that my waters had broken and we needed to head to the hospital. It was 2:45pm, almost the end of the school day, and I could just imagine the excitement of his high school students in the background. They had all been hoping it would be their class that got ‘the call’. While Pete was driving home I rang the hospital to let them know that my waters had broken and we would be on our way soon. I hopped in the shower and then got dressed in my comfiest grandma undies and loose fitting dress. I had to wear three giant sized pads to help absorb all the leaking and it still wasn’t enough!

The drive to the hospital was equal parts exciting and terrifying. We had practised the route so many times beforehand and knew it was the quickest way. We made our way into the maternity ward and all of the memories from our tour during antenatal classes came flashing back. Ringing the midwives to keep them updated about my progress proved to be immensely helpful, as someone was already waiting to assist me upon arrival.

We were whisked into an examination room where I lay down and the midwife placed a heartbeat monitor around my stomach to see how our baby was going. My contractions were definitely strengthening. After a few minutes the midwife said everything was looking fine and if I was coping well enough with the pain we could go home to continue labouring there until things progressed further. She did an internal examination and confirmed I was 2cm dilated. I got up off the bed and had a walk around while we waited for the midwife to have our baby’s heartbeat information cross-checked.

In the time it took for the midwife to come back, which felt like forever but was only about 10 minutes, the pain had increased significantly and my contractions were getting closer. I was hunched over and unable to stand. I knew in my heart there was no way I would be going back home, and as soon as the midwife saw me she knew it too. She asked me to hop back up on the table so she could examine how far along I was, and sure enough I was now 7cm dilated.

Seeing how quickly things had progressed, we headed straight to the birthing suites. My midwife asked me if there was any particular way I wanted to continue labouring (on a bed, in the bathtub, standing up etc.). I really had no idea which option would be best, so she suggested hopping on a birthing ball under the warm shower water. I will be forever grateful to my midwife for her guidance, as this decision was absolutely pivotal in helping me have a calm and effective labour. The warm water running on my back relaxed me instantly and ended up being the only pain relief I needed. I must give a huge shout out to my amazing husband who stood for the entire duration of my active labour, back bent over, watering me like a pot plant. He was a champion.

I didn’t know what I would be like in labour. Whether I was going to be loud, talkative, emotional or really quiet. But the moment I hopped on that birthing ball my mind and body shut out every distraction and focused all of its available energy into breathing and moving through every contraction. I was totally ‘in the zone’ and didn’t feel the need for people to talk or fuss. In fact, I don’t think I even spoke a word for the first couple of hours of active labour. What I did find the most comforting was just having my husband and midwife in close proximity to me. I remember as I was getting nearer to birth, my midwife had to duck out of the room for a moment and I really began to panic inside. I needed her and what if she wasn’t going to be there? Just having her close by was such a necessary security for me.

After 4 hours of intense active labour I began to feel the contractions getting extremely close. I let me midwife know and she had me get down on my hands and knees to check where our baby’s head was. I was hopeful it might be time to push, but unfortunately we needed to wait a little longer. It was at this point that I got a bit teary and I remember looking at Pete and saying “I’m so, so tired”.

But sheer determination kicked in and I kept breathing through the contractions as best as I could. After another 45 minutes had passed I began to feel the overwhelming need to push. I couldn’t control the surges and my whole body began to shake. Our midwife had me get down on my knees again to help position the baby for birth. After a few big pushes I could feel our baby’s head crowning. I was struggling a little to coordinate my pushing with the contractions as my body was so physically exhausted. But with lots of guidance from my midwife I gave two more almighty pushes, and within seconds our baby girl was born. I will never forget the feeling of relief that came over my body to know she was here. That first cry was music to our ears! As I was on my hands and knees I didn’t get to see the moment Eleanor was born, but Peter did and he was absolutely overwhelmed with emotion. I remember turning around and seeing our baby in the midwife’s arms and my jaw physically dropped. I couldn’t even move or speak I was so in awe.

After I was up and steady on my feet, we moved to the bed where Eleanor had her first breastfeed and the placenta was delivered. It was the most beautiful moment. I ended up having second degree tearing which needed to be stitched and honestly, I think the stitching hurt more than labour! But having Eleanor to hold was the best pain relief in the world.

I could not have asked for a better birth and am so grateful to God every single day for the way he protected both Ellie and I. Nothing will ever compare to the moment we first met our baby girl. Labour and birth truly is a team effort. Without the support of my husband and the guidance of  wonderful midwives (or ‘angels’ as I call them!), I know it would have been a far more difficult experience. It still amazes me, the way our bodies work as women. That we can grow and nurture and birth another human being is nothing short of miraculous. How blessed are we? I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes. It so perfectly sums up how I feel about being a mother.

‘Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.’ Elizabeth Stone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah x