Monday, 14 December 2015

Durban Doula's Pregnancy Diary Week 24!

Another fortnight of pregnancy flies by!

In some small, intimate way it has been a week of mourning for me.

Maybe first time moms have it a bit easier - they have no idea what to expect. As a third time mom, who has had both an easy bay and a high-needs baby, I know that even an easy baby changes life in so many irrevocable ways. My youngest (4) has been out of nappies for a while, weaned a year ago, and loves getting herself dressed, while my oldest (6) can run a bath, and make tea and sandwiches with the help of a strategically placed chair. They are pretty self-sufficient and keep each other quite busy most of the time, when they're not trying to scratch each others' eyes out that is.

So anyway, my point is that the days of jumping in the car without a whole extra nappy bag and a whole extra hour of preparation are drawing to a close. Also, moments to lie in bed and read, sitting down to a cup of coffee with friends, eating with both hands, leisurely baths, and wearing dresses - these will become luxuries again. (If you're wondering about the dress thing - I don't own any dresses I can breastfeed in.)

I picked an awesome husband who really does see himself as a fully fledged parent, not just 'mom's sidekick'. This means that I have had far more freedom to do my own thing, freedom normally enjoyed by men / dads, and more freedom than many other moms I know, to do things I love, like doula work, writing, singing in a band and things like that.

Two links about this:
Why I’m Done Asking My Husband To Help Me Out
My Husband; Five Reasons I Am Not Lucky to Have Him

I found an animated GIF maker!
Some lightheartedness in
an otherwise sober week.
The other day he was talking about getting involved in a club of sorts and asked if I might also be interested. I was, but I mentioned that I wasn't sure it was an option with the baby coming along. He made the point that no matter how much he helps, there are some things that only I will be able to do - like giving birth and breastfeeding - and some of those things intrinsically limit my options in ways he doesn't experience. He has a deep appreciation for how I fulfill those roles and that does make things a bit easier.

Take doula work for example - he has always supported me in dashing off in the middle of the night to be with birthing moms, which means getting the girls ready for school and then taking over my portion of our parenting duties while I catch up on sleep the next day. But even with that support, taking on clients won't really be an option for at least 12 months, perhaps more. I only started doula work when my youngest was 18 months old and even that was a challenge at times.

I know there are husbands who leave their wives to hold the fort while they go on business trips, but I'm not sure I could justify it considering the amount I earn from doula work, and how erratic the hours can be. Also, breastfeeding and being away from baby is a challenge - I can't guarantee that I'll be able to express for my own babe while I'm helping a mom give birth to hers. I don't think it would be fair to the birthing mom either that I'm not able to be fully present with her.

So that's why I say there's a moment of mourning happening in our house. Of course I know that the moment I hold his squishy body against mine, waves of love will crash over these sand castle concerns, but that doesn't change how I feel now.

I think it's hard for moms to acknowledge these feelings. Surely being a mom is 'enough', who could want 'more' than the privilege of being a mother?


I do.

I love being a mom, more than I thought I would for sure! I don't regret having a third child in the least. But I am not primarily a mother. I am so many other things. It's important for my children to know that. They are not 'obstacles' in my life, but they need to know that this family is a team that works to fulfill the needs and desires of every member of that team - and that 'mom' is not just a name for a glorified domestic servant.

Shauna Niequist puts this far more eloquently than I ever could in the following video - 'Things my mother taught me'. It is just under 18 minutes long, but worth every second. I make a point of watching it at least once a year.

I do realise that this intense period of mothering is just a season and seasons will pass as they always do. Recognising seasons has been pivotal to my 'inner peace'! I'm not going to store up snow in my deep freeze so I can build a snow man in summer, I'm just going to enjoy summer for what it is.

I do love my children fiercely and I find parenting immensely fulfilling, but I don't think it's fair on any child to expect them to be the primary source of a woman's sense of value and affirmation. That responsibility is too great for any person, never mind a child. When I get my sense of value and affirmation from an infinite source, it makes me more able to give into my relationships as wife, mother, friend, daughter and sister.

As Niequist says:
Everyone benefits when women tap into the passions and use the gifts that God has given them. The church benefits, families benefit, marriages benefit, businesses and non-profits benefit. Everyone wins when women discover and live out of the gifts and passions God gave them.

And now for something completely different...

After a big lull, there are so many women due around the same time as me! Many of them are births I would have volunteered, nay, begged to attend as a doula. So while I'm sad that I may not be able to walk alongside these ladies in their births, I trust we will be able to walk our baby journeys together!

And the baby?

Apparently baby is as big as an ear of corn now - 30cm long from crown to heel, weighing 600g - and feeling as pokey as if I really had an ear of corn in my belly! A-maize-ing! (Sorry I couldn't help it)

I'm having to do the sumo sit quite often, because if I sit upright with my knees together, baby pokes my belly where it touches the tops of my thighs... Having said that, I really do love the sensation of him moving about in my belly. It's like having a little friend with me wherever I go.

He can hear now too - so the girls are having great fun talking to him and kissing my belly and pretending to listen to his replies. It is very sweet. Speaking of sweet, he is also developing taste buds, which would totally explain my craving for Lindt Strawberry Intense chocolate bars.

I'm looking forward to getting some sorting done when I go on leave next week - we still have stacks of boxes to unpack from when we moved in just over a year ago. I keep saying I want to do it before my belly gets too big, but my belly already feels big!

A note on empathy when talking to pregnant ladies - when a pregnant lady says: 'I feel so big!', the response, 'But you're so small' may not be the most helpful. You are essentially telling her she has no right to feel that way - or that her feelings are untrustworthy. 

In my case, I did ballet for 25 years, and I have a fine tuned sense of where my body is in space, and this little belly feels massive for me. That is my experience.

Some possible alternate responses: 'Are you finding it a challenge?' will draw out what the mom means - is it sleeping or getting in and out of the car or getting dressed that she is finding particularly challenging? And then empathy is always a good follow up: 'Having to deal with two young children and a belly in this heat must be quite something! Either way, I think you're looking lovely! Is there anything I could help with?'

Empathy is a powerful thing!

Rather than feeling invalidated a woman feels heard and understood - something I believe everyone appreciates. 

On that note, bloggers feel heard and understood and affirmed and validated when you comment on their blogs, and especially if you share the posts you feel are relevant to your circle of friends so...

Does any of this resonate with you? 
Have you felt guilty for feeling like there's more to life than being 'mom'? 
Share your thoughts below...

(If you missed last week's installment about clinic visits, camping adventures, clothing solutions and feminist frustrations, you can find it here: Week 22)


  1. Hey Leigh

    This was one of the best morning reads I have had in a long time. It was so great to hear you talk from the deepest corners of your heart.

    I love the moving gifs as well, what fun :-)

    And you look great, you know I think bumps are just the best.

    Oh and there is a new Lindt store in the Pavilion or Gateway the opening was a few days ago, something I am deeply regretting not attending.

    Great post! Cant wait to read more :-)


    1. Thanks my friend! It's always a bonus when people enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing!
      I know gifs can be a little corny (couldn't help that one either) but I thought these were fun :-) Super easy too!
      I think we may *need* to make a trip to the Pav branch... This is one hungry baby ;-)