Letting Go of My Girl to Fully Embrace Boy Motherhood.

My 10 year-old boy yesterday handed me a water bottle from his backpack, leftover from several days ago. I’m sure in all the excitement of summer vacation he neglected to think about emptying his belongings. At least until he was packing for a sleepover (a bit heavy a half-full water bottle is you know). His simple, “Here mom” as he handed it to me sparked a rare moment in my heart where I melted into myself.

Usually the words would have passed right through me as I continued to think about my grocery list, check my latest e-mail, or curse out the thunderstorms that are wreaking havoc on my newly planted flowers. But I happened upon a moment in which I was fully present, and was able to accept this simple exchange from him, feeling so full and grateful in my heart.

“Here mom.”

So brief and yet so profound. How many women are just aching inside to be blessed with those few simple words, and yet through every effort imaginable cannot concieve a baby of their own? How many have held their children so briefly, without opportunity to hear their voice at all? Even still, those grief stricken mothers who will never hear it from their children’s precious lips again?

How easy it is to take for granted those everyday moments.

Working as a labor nurse is an open invitation to bear witness and experience with other families great joy…and great pain…when it comes to bringing their own children into this world. It’s like looking at a photo; a snapshot moment of someone’s life. I am allowed to be in that labor room as their little miracle arrives, sometimes even when her own mother is not. I am there too as she delivers her child by c-section when things don’t go quite right, wiping some tears of dashed expectations away, helping them focus on the joy of their birth despite the unexpected route.

And I am there with them when we cannot find the heartbeat. When they hear instead their newborn baby will not breathe with the life of this world. I witness the visceral screaming of a mother’s heart torn to shreds. I hold their hands, watching as the child is placed into their arms, looking heartbreakingly perfect…except for the missing rise and fall of the little round belly.

I have three boys.

Occasionally I will be asked if I will try “one more time” for a girl. Or someone will look at me with pity, that my third was not the girl I had presumably hoped for. My middle son even asked me one day if I was ever sad that he wasn’t a girl.

I will never deny that I had visions of fairy princess parties, giggly girl sleepovers and wedding dress shopping with my unborn daughter. I learned to french braid my own hair in the seventh grade, a skill that has yet to be proven valuable. I torture my young niece to come sit next to me so I can run my hands through her long locks, satisfying a small piece of a deeply rooted craving for that mother-daughter connection.

But I have three boys. I will tell you with my entire being I was nothing but thrilled when my husband announced as such to me at their births (all three were surprises, the one really good surprise I feel is left in this life to choose).

They are energetic. They wrestle, love trains, cars, video games, and football. I can barely keep up with their energy, constantly telling them to “quiet down” or “take it outside”. I cannot keep a single pair of jeans without a tear in the knee for more than a few weeks at a time (even the good brands). There are no barbies. No quiet moments of coloring. No frilly tu-tus or ballet lessons in this house.

And I love every moment of it.

I was pregnant once between my second and third son. It took my husband and I a long time to reconcile to the idea of a third child. I was ready, he was done. We talked. We fought. I cried and he resisted. We had finally chosen, together, to try and bring one more child to this world. I was thrilled to have it finally come to fuition. It was a dream come true.

Seven days later she was gone. I know in my heart it was my daughter that had rested so briefly in my womb. As devestated as I was, I will forever be grateful for the short time we had together that summer. She taught me so much. She taught our family so much. One of the most feared but valuable lessons in life is one of great loss and grief.

Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

The day she left me I had been helping other women become mothers. I watched my own child’s life drift out through my blood, and yet there was no choice but to contiune on through my day. I will never forget the moment I returned home, knelt to the floor and held my entire family with all the stregnth I had left. My two beautiful boys and my husband encirlced around me as we all cried helplessly together for this lost piece of us.

When I realize I have allowed the moment of being called “mom” to be taken for granted, I do not chastise myself. It is such a normal part of my day there is no reason to believe it is anything but an ordinary moment. Instead I find gratefulness for that glimpse of bliss being present afforded me. I relished in the sound of my son’s voice calling me the most beautiful word I am privledged to be known as.

When I scrub the mold off my next forgotten water bottle, or pick up the dirty gym socks off the floor, I hope a fragment of that gratitude will return to me. As fiercely as I wanted a little girl to care for, the universe gave me the boys I really needed. My baby girl was with us as long as we needed her to be. To show us the healing power of release and comfort found amongst those you love in times of great sadness and loss.

For those of us who desire to, are fortunate enough to now be, or have ever been known as “mom”, there is not a more powerful, more beautifully spoken word. It is the challenge of us as mothers to see the greatness of what we have through the the pain of what is lost, or what might have been. But the journey of becoming mom is where the love is let into your heart.

Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash

It is only in the act of releasing through our grief that we are able to see life’s greatest gifts. For me, the blessing of my boys will never be lost in the shuffle of everyday life, even if I hold that in my heart without much conscious thought.

And when my son asks me if I am ever sad I got a boy instead, I can vehnemently and honestly reply,

“Never”.

How could I have ruined my baby’s teeth??? What EVERY expectant mother should know…

One of my lovely co-workers is also a mother of three beautiful children. We treated our pregnancies very similarly. Conscious of every food choice, staying active (admittedly she more than I), getting ourselves to every prenatal visit with our midwife.

In other words, we both took the very best care of ourselves and our unborn children from the moment of conception. My friend was even a little braver than I, delivering her children at a local birth center. All went smoothly, she has three beautiful, perfect, lovely kids.

Well, almost perfect.

Her first born started showing signs of tooth decay because of poor tooth enamel at a very early age. She hadn’t expected this turn of events, being that she fed her kids a very healthy diet – sugary foods and drinks not even available – and had breastfed her children as long as her body and baby would allow.

They all had healthy dental hygeine habits…singing ABC’s along with their light-up toothbrushes, ensuring they brushed long enough twice a day.

So how did this happen?

Photo by: Sarah Pflug on Burst

The culprit? A Vitamin D deficiency.

Now wait. Didn’t she eat a healthy diet? I know she did. I watched her eat salads, fruit and veggies, feeding her unborn baby organic, untainted food.

Certainly these foods would have provided her baby enough Vitamin D?

Not always.

It’s a common misconception that when eating a generally heatlhy diet, along with prenatal vitamins that have enough folic acid, you will consume exactly what you need to feed your body and baby duirng pregnancy.

Actually, it wasn’t until recently, (the first article I found was dated 2008) that scientists linked the lack of Vitamin D in utero to a child’s dental health. Click here to read more of the facts.

Basically speaking…low vitamin D levels in pregnancy may affect tooth calcification, leading to enamel defects (the coating that protects our teeth), which in turn leaves the tooth subject to cavities.

What can I do?

It’s actually pretty easy.

Prenatal vitamins will not give you enough of the good stuff to protect your baby. The bottom line is you need at least 2000 IU of Vitamin D a day in pregnancy. Most prenatal vitamins have between 400-800 IUs. (Don’t double your vitamin! Getting too much of the other stuff is not okay!).

Vitamin D is found in milk, cheese, fatty fish (such as salmon), cod liver oil (ummmm yuk???) and eggs.

Fortunately for our taste buds science has found a way to give us cod liver oil efficiently through supplements…just look for fish oil or cod liver oil supplements at your local vitamin supplier (yea for our taste buds!).

Photo by Dakota Monk from Burst

There’s also plenty of Vitamin D in sunshine…but don’t count on living in a sunny state like Colorado as being enough. It wasn’t for my friend. And of course there are risks of too much sun exposure.

So…no, you can’t get your doctor to write a prescription to spend your nine months on a tropical beach for health benefits (sigh….).

Taking the extra supplements, as well as getting higher doses of dietary Vitamin D and some of that good ‘ole sunshine, will give your baby the best chance of forming good enamel on their teeth. Plus it is also shown to aid in brain and heart health, as well as decreasing the incidence of inflammatory linked diseases. Plenty of good reasons – besides good teeth – to get plenty of it throughout your pregnancy.

Teeth start forming as early as 14 weeks of pregnancy, so don’t wait! You cannot overdose on this fat-soluable vitamin so taking it even before conception is okay.

Photo by: Tamara Chemij on Burst

The lesson.

Guilt plagues my friend, as she watches her daughter struggle with the result of something so easily avoided. She knows intellectually – as a nurse – that there was nothing she could have done differently, soley beacause she didn’t know. But as a mother – it is difficult not to blame oneself. Your job is to promote your child’s health, and in her eyes she failed at that.

The fact that my children don’t have the same issues is actually a surprise. It’s possible the glass of milk a day my mother got me in the habit of drinking is the only thing that saved my kids from the same fate.

Whatever the case, the lesson is to keep your eyes and ears open because there is always something new science uncovers. I’m simply lucky that this didn’t happen to my kiddos, and my friend is happy to share her story with others so they don’t have to go through the same trauma.

Natural or medicated? How to experience bliss after labor.

One of the most common dilemmas as a pregnant mom is whether to have a baby naturally or with some sort of pain management. There is so much controversy, conversations and opinions surrounding this subject. There is such judgment placed on the mother’s choice; by friends and family, caregivers and spouses. The people I find to be most unforgiving are the pregnant moms themselves. The perception being that an epidural or other medications during labor is like admitting a weakness, disqualifying them as a good mother. The ultimate failure.

What is it in our culture that has brought us to this point? I cannot imagine a time when a woman will go to the dentist and choose to have a tooth extraction without any kind of analgesia, just to prove their strength and worth as a human being. Even less likely still, a man who would choose this with his wife’s encouragement. Telling him he is less of a man if he gives into the novocaine. Really????

My nursing perspective

As a labor nurse I have watched many struggle with this choice. The peer pressure typically steamrolled by the ultimate choice made in pain, with regret and self hatred soon to follow. I will never forget a teenage girl I cared for, holding so dearly to a fear of paralysis that she refused to listen to knowledge and reason. In more than eleven years, I have not witnessed nor heard of an epidural causing permanent damage. Unfortunately she refused to listen, and consequently was completely miserable in her experience. She was so exhausted and in so much pain by the time her little one arrived she did not seem to enjoy the precious moment of holding her newborn son. It was incredibly sad to watch, mostly because it was unnecessary.

As a momma

I can speak about this from the other side of the bed as well. I have labored three times, and had very different and beautiful experiences with each one.

My firstwas very typical of a first time mom. My water broke at home, the contractions started and slowly built in intensity. I was able to manage well until I hit about 6 centimeters, and then was overcome by the intense pain so many fail to describe. I went from walking the halls with my husband to doubled over with tears streaming down my face. I was unable to fathom the will of a woman who chooses to endure such an experience. The epidural soon followed and I delivered my beautiful baby boy eleven hours later. It was bliss.

My second son was a different story. I had planned on an epidural again, remembering the intense pain and ultimate relief of my first experience. When my water broke promptly at 11pm, I thought this baby would be the same. By the time we were halfway to the hospital my husband was driving close 100 miles per hour, mostly because I was scaring the bejeezus out of him. When we arrived at 12:18 AM I declined to wait for a labor nurse to pick me up, desperately needing that epidural I knew would save me. My husband eagerly drove my wheelchair to the labor unit and an IV was placed…I was almost there! Alas, the urge to push prompted my labor nurse to check; I was indeed 9 centimeters dilated. She was nice enough to pretend the epidural was on its way (thank God for kind labor nurses), and as I delivered my son at 12:37 AM the doctor hardly had time to put her gloves on. It was the most intense, exhilarating and surprisingly wonderful experiences of my life. I now understood what the hubbub was all about! This was amazing! This was bliss.

So I had nine months with baby number threeto decide. What was my choice going to be? I knew I had the physical strength to be without medication for my delivery. Now it came down to making that my choice. Honestly I wasn’t sure I could do it. But as these things go, I was presented with the option. My labor was not strong like my second one, I had decided to go for it! I could do it, what was the big deal? I had already passed the test. The test of all mothers…I was a superwoman!!! When my midwife wanted to break my water I avoided her at all costs. I was waiting for my husband. Then I walked the halls. I couldn’t bring myself to let her do it, I knew what was in store. Oh the doubts that floated through my mind! Was I crazy??? Why would I intentionally go through such an experience a second time? I was so torn.

The decision

Eventually I gritted my teeth and got it over with. I warned my labor nurse I would beg for the epidural at some point, and asked for her help though that moment. It wasn’t much later that my husband recognized my behavior as the same in the car ride 6 years before (he was pretty grateful to be in the hospital room at that point!). I wanted nothing more than to wipe the smile off my nurse’s face when she told me I was almost completely dilated. Didn’t she hear me? I CAN’T DO THIS!!!! But she was a dutiful nurse, and a very dear friend, so she did what I had asked when I was lucid and sane. (Come on… was I really sane when I made that choice?) She got my my midwife and they both coached me through the last few minutes of my labor (wait…it wasn’t hours???). One very intense hour and 15 minutes after my midwife broke my water, I was holding my sweet precious boy. It was…bliss.

Your power

It was so empowering to deliver my baby like this. With nothing but my own strength as a woman, a mother, hell a HUMAN BEING to guide me. The truth??? I did not feel any less empowered or any less like a strong beautiful momma with the epidural. Nor so when I had no choice in the matter. It really and truly didn’t matter. Each birth was special, unique and incredible beyond words.

The bliss

I am convinced it has nothing at all to do with how you deliver your baby but is really about the belief you have in yourself. So many factors go into your birth, many of which are completely out of your control. My advice? Trust your doctor or midwife, trust your labor nurse and trust yourself. And above all…know yourself for the beautiful mother you are and are about to become. Nothing in the universe can change that. It doesn’t matter how you get there, participating in and bearing witness to the amazing beautiful miracle of your child’s birth is simply put…bliss.