A Modern Day Village: The Birth Worker’s Inspiration

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I recently had a conversation with a client who is about to be a first time Grandmother. As I listened to her speak about her worries about her daughter’s upcoming birth, her struggles during pregnancies with depression and Hyperemesis Gravidarium, I was completely struck by the feeling of isolation that she was describing in her daughter. She is the only one of her friends pregnant, and although she does have a Fiance, he is  not operating on the helpful wavelength that she needs.

Immediately, my head swirled with questions to find out more.

“Who did this new soon-to-be-mama have to ask questions to other than the doctor she sees once a month?

Why is no one there for her other than her mother? Is the doctor leading her to support groups, mothering circles, moms with prenatal or postpartum depression? What will she do when she actually HAS the baby? If she’s struggling with depression now, who will watch out for the signs/symptoms of it in the postpartum months? Who will help this woman!!!!!!!??????”

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A little voice in my heart spoke up right then.

You, silly. You’re a birth doula. You have all she needs. Help her.

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Almost moved to tears, the words fell out of my mouth reflexively. “I remember those feelings all too well in both of my pregnancies,” I said sympathetically. “It sounds like she could use a birth and postpartum doula.”

The only difference between this mama and me when I was going through those same terrible feelings while pregnant was, I wasn’t actually alone. I had my doula there one phone call away at any moment. I had the cohesion of care between my amazing midwives, my doulas, myself, and my team. I had created my village.

After explaining what a doula is and does to her, (if you still want to know what that is, reference my Demystifying Doulas post here) it occurred to me that in some cases, women have no idea of the need for a village.

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Photo Cred Doulamatch.net

Back in the day, we lived in literal villages that would commune together for the birth of a new village member, and either call the midwife or have one on hand. 9 times out of 10, the birthing mother had a sister, mother, friend, neighbor, SOMEONE, with her until the midwife could arrive to her. Thus, the doula is born. Even female elephants know the importance of gathering around to form an impenetrable barrier of support for the birthing mother. I frickin’ love elephants.

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While modern-day women and birthing communities are certainly bringing doulas back, there is still too large a proportion of women who go unsupported during the pregnancy, birthing, and postpartum process. Why, you ask? Mostly because, they do not know we exist. It is the lack of conversation, or the lack of clarity on our exact role, that I sadly have to believe is one of the main reasons that birth has the potential to be such a traumatic experience for some women.  Having the guidance of your doula to shepherd you into the parenting life with grace, provide you with materials to support you every step of the way, can provide you with your lifeline if when you need it.

A glorious benefit in making the choice to hire a doula is that he/she may in turn lead you to your permanent, modern village.

Truth is, the years of preconception, pregnancy, transitioning to becoming a mother of one, two, three, multiples, etc., can come with many mixed emotions. No matter what your situation turns out to be when you find out you are pregnant, the feeling of isolation can be sudden and agonizing. When hiring a doula, you’re not only receiving the personal care of a hands-on teammate in your birthing journey, you are also DSC01327choosing an expert in community, local resources, birth education, knowledge of primary care givers specific work, and access to birth related evidence, articles, and, yes, even a postpartum sounding board. The doula will, in essence, be your trail guide for navigating the rough and unknown waters of this new chapter.

It is time, now, that we stop isolating ourselves as mothers. Let’s remind our world that we have been supporting each other proudly and strongly for…well…since the dawn of humankind. We do not need to do it alone. It may feel too daunting a task going to these mothering circles full of strangers, organizing birth class dinners at your house, or even seeing a therapist to get the necessary prescriptions to aid you. What if, in lieu of uncertainty of the support you need, you could Call. Your. Doula.

We can support this adventure every step of the way. We are here, so that you can be here and present through the whole process.

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Now that I have you convinced of the awesomeness of unconditional education and no-judgement support during your birthing years, let me illuminate the steps necessary to finding your perfect doula.

  1. Ask a friend: Ask around for a connection or connect with the doulas in your area by using the ultimate doula search engine: Doula Match  
  2. Interview a few: Find the right candidate by sitting in the energy of several different people.  Remember, you are hiring for a job, so the right fit is important. Birth is a vulnerable experience, so pick someone who will make you feel completely safe, who makes you feel confident, and someone by whom you and your birth partner feel empowered.
  3. Ask all the questions: Make sure you understand their vision of care, fees, and schedule and those align with what you had in mind for your birth vision. After all, it is your birth, the team you hire should complement it in every way with encouragement and advice that makes you feel informed. Do you want a doula just for prenatal education and birth? Do you know you’ll need postpartum care? Do you even know what that means? Does this person have the resources for all of that?
  4. Contract: You should always enter into a contract with your doula. That way there is an expectation of care that is agreed upon by all parties. This agreement is key, as mentioned above, it will be the catalyst for your new life as a mother.
  5. Get excited: Your doula should help you feel connected to birth classes, books, and other materials to prepare you for your upcoming experiences and all outcomes!

We all need the help. It is up to us to choose, in this modern world, just what our helping hand will look like. Most of us consider this calling a service to womankind alike. I am here to let you know it’s out there. I am writing to speak aloud that we are everywhere. We are your friends, neighbors, sisters, mothers, co-workers and colleagues, gym members, professionals, and tradeswomen.nature.jpg

We are your village, and we are here for you.

Kristy is a doula, massage therapist, energy worker and mom of 2 in Virginia.

 

Bug off! Non-toxic home pest control

It’s that time again! The end-of-summer showers have arrived, bringing with them lots of humidity loving… BUGS. Yep, just when you think school’s back in session and you are solidly on the way to a pumpkin spice latte, the summer heat and showers hang around and make it feel like these bugs are here to stay FOREVER.

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Ok, ok, I exaggerate. But here, near the water, I feel like we’ve had more than our fair share of creepy crawlers this year, and  kid-friendly, non-toxic methods to deal with these seasonal pests is something that I find moms ask me about ALL the time. And I’m all for supporting eco-systems and letting bugs do their thing outside, but when they come inside on repeat?! Whole lotta NOPE.

So, when the little crawlers have you creeping, or shall I say “bugging out”?? (Who’s got mom jokes??) Have no fear, we got you. And as moms, we are particular. We want bugs out, but no toxic pesticides in either. Here are our go-to (and I don’t know if I can say stylish in this arena… but not-totally-smelly-and-disgusting-looking in the very least) methods for kid-safe/pet-safe indoor pest control to keep the summer bugs at bay.

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The offender: Fruit Flies

Look. I love a beautifully arranged fresh bowl of produce as much as the next guy, but the GD fruit flies are really cramping my style. I am absolutely certain that every time I reach for a lime, those little suckers have multiplied. But homemade methods for trapping fruit flies can seem borderline sadistic. You know, the mashed-up fruit with the funnel in a cup trick? And the sticky paper?! No. The solution shouldn’t be more disgusting than the problem, people! Enter the saviors at Garden Supply Co. with this little beauty, pictured below.

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This actually nice-to-look-at soapstone dish comes with two odorless bait inserts that lure in fruit flies and trap them. And it works. Like within days, you’re done. (Maybe the best part, even when emptying, the flies are OUT OF SIGHT!! Yes!) You can leave the simple, clean, soapstone container out on your counter preventatively and no one gets fruit flies in their wine. Win.

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I want to think of them being cute.  I just… can’t.

The offender: Ants, Spiders (and other crawly friends)

I really just can’t even list the names of all the summer crawlies. But thankfully, I don’t have to, because there is a natural, non-toxic solution that works on all of them called Diatomaceous Earth (DE). DE can be used indoors or outdoors, and deters ants, spiders and the like. It is made of the fossilized remains of phytoplankton (yes, REALLY!) and is completely odorless and about as worry-free as it gets. It’s harmless even if baby gets some in her MOUTH. (Little known fact: Humans actually can and do eat DE, as often farmers sprinkle DE in and around their grain to keep the bugs out of the grain.)

To use, sprinkle the powder where you think the little critters are coming in (vacuum excess if using indoors) and let this stuff do its magic. It takes a couple days, but we saw a drastic decrease in our stubborn sugar ants pretty quickly. For more information on DE and how it works, check out this article from SFGate.

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The Offender: House Flies

Oh my flipping word… if another fly buzzes past my head at a summer meal!! Am I right?! Ugh, let’s just say I struggle to find the redeeming qualities of house-flies when the sight of them inevitably reminds me that they probably sat on poo before they sat on my kid’s sandwich. Every.single.time.

Common solutions to flies are often ineffective, smelly, loud, or visually pretty gross. Think fly-zappers, smelly traps, and yet again, the sticky paper. Why the sticky paper!? I don’t want to look at live flies, but I also don’t want to see them stuck to my wall. Instead, here are some quiet (maybe even interesting) and non-toxic solutions we use in my house.

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Venus Fly Trap

For real. You can get a plant that will eat your house fly problem. OK, carnivorous plants are basically just cool.  While interesting (and maybe fun in an odd way?) and happy to digest any victims of the fly-swatter, our Venus Fly Trap wasn’t up to the job of actually ridding our residence of flies. (Side note: did you know venus fly traps are actually native to the Carolinas?! They originally grew wild in boggy areas of North and South Carolina, gobbling up swamp bugs! Sorry, I digress. But really, that is cool.)

Indoor Silent UV trappers

UV light trappers are not new, but the quiet, indoor models are. (Trust me, this is not the porch zapper of our childhood.)

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I love this method because it emits ZERO chemicals into our home and the clean, non-offensive look of this trap (pictured above) in particular that comes with a lot of solid consumer reviews, makes for a tidy and non-toxic but effective fly-catcher. (Works for mosquitoes too!)

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Whole home: Essential Oils

Another method for cleansing your home of pests is essential oils. While they won’t trap or rid your home of infestations, they will smell nice, and have a deterrent effect that can help keep pests out instead of drawing them in. Some great scents to try include Rosemary, Citronella, Lavender, and Tea Tree oil. Always diffuse with care and according to instructions.

Try a drop of each in a carrier oil such as ghee butter, olive, grapeseed, coconut, or avocado oil. Rub it all over as a deterrent. If you wish to diffuse it, grab a diffuser from any health food store (don’t make it expensive) and place 3-6 drops of each oil each in your blend if you are relaxing outside.

When in doubt: go with Hollywood. Honestly, the best pest deterrent is pure garlic oil. Crush a clove or two….or three… You’ll have to bathe after, but you won’t have West Nile. (Or vampires.) I’m just sayin’.

Wishing you a pest-free weekend and a fresh, clean home! I’ll be here, doing my no-fruit-fly happy dance. From my fruit-bowl to yours, you’re welcome.

 

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and fly-swatting ninja.

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

Zen As A Mother: Kristy’s Simple Guide to Creating Your At Home Zen Space

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Oh, there you are!

Now that school is back in session, I have found gratitude in some straight up sol-i-tude. Know what I’m sayin’? Rather than spending this time binge watching “This is Us” (no judgement if that is how you relax) or adding on work hours that would leave me depleted when the kids got home, I’ve decided to dedicate this time where I am transitioning in so many ways to starting each day with some zen time.

This has always been a hard concept for me, because my house has never felt…well….zen-able. I have struggled with the ability to turn off my anxiety in order to sit peacefully without the checklist of things that I have to get done before I turn my “mom” back on. I realize now, that that notion is no longer working for me.

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So, I put on my Namaste big girl pants and tackled a space in my house that has been many things. A guest room, a Massage Room, the room where I kept all my LulaRoe clothing inventory (yes I did do that for a time) and now, I have transformed it into a loving and welcoming environment for all those family members who wish to find peace with meditation.

SOOOOOOO, without further Ado, I give you my guide to making your seemingly impossible chaotic space….zenified.

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  1. Find a subtle corner: It doesn’t have to be an elaborate room or even a huge space, if you feel at peace in a corner of your bathroom with Cindy Lauper blaring, do that.
  2. Declutter your space; Declutter your mind: Make sure you vacuum, sweep, remove any trash or clutter items, so that energy can flow nicely and there are less distractions in your space. In the Ultimate Beginners Guide to Feng Shui, (Feng Shui being an ancient Chinese version of creating harmony in your living or working space) “In a clear and organized space, energy can flow freely and feelings of guilt and unrest might vanish too.” I know that clutter makes me feel irritated and judegmental of myself and my surroundings, and disorganization of my space adds to my anxiety and scatter-brained moments. So, clear answer is a clear space leads to a clear mind.
  3. Meaningful Decorating: For me, it is super important to feel inspired by the art that surrounds me. Whether it invokes a sense of peace, a pleasant memory, or makes me feel cloaked in the guidance of a loved one who has passed, each piece in my zen space has meaning. My personal space has some living energy in the plants that remind me of divine guidance and the readiness of life to bloom at any moment.
  4. Sacred clearing: Not only do we declutter our space of “things”, we must also declutter our space of energy. If you haven’t heard of smudgingimg_0031 with sacred sage before, now is the time to jump on that train. It can be a smudge stick, or it can come in spray form, but the idea is the same. According to Jane Alexander in her article Smudging, “It [smudging] is the equivalent of spiritual spring cleaning.” There is a ton of information out there about the origins of this practice, but for our purposes here, I will explain my intentions. Sacred sage, for me, allows any energy that will influence my mediation practice to be cleared. I believe the smoke from burning the smudge stick will attach to the energies. So, I fill the room, open all the windows, and blow the energy out to the earth. This way, I am clear of any influences or energies that are not my own.
  5. Sound Elements: Sound therapy is always a plus for keeping energy flowing and clear as it is moving through your space. In this amazing book, How to Heal with Singing Bowls, Suren Shrethsa explains that “clients have experienced a wide array of benefits from deep stress relief and relaxation, to a reduction in chronic pain.” One can also use music of all kinds, guided meditation tapes, or water elements such as this fountain for the sound therapy as well.
  6. Get Cozy: In my zen space, I use a sham pillow that’s cushy and cozy to sit on. You, however, may choose to lay, sit in a meditation chair, stand, or even do yoga. The choice is yours, just get comfy so your body can fully relax.
  7. Set up your Altar: There are a million ways to set up your altar space. Setting up an altar with statues, figures, photos, intention candles, or relics that pay homage to your higher power, can help ground your reflections and connect you to that source you find most comforting. It does not have to be about an organized religion, but just think about what makes you feel unconditional love, and place your reminders on your altar. Mine has a heart that reminds me of the sacred union between my heart and the universe, and a mantra that reminds me to light my soul’s fire and be fearless in that. I also love to remember that the world is full of magic, so I am inspired by peacock feathers and a fairy next to my orchid.
  8. Protect your space: believe it or not, it’s super easy to be effected by the energy of others while creating sacred space for you. If your kids are at home, or your neighbors are cutting the grass, their influential distractions can take their toll. I like to put up special mirrors, called Bagua mirrors that deflect negative energies and keep them from entering your space and on the other side, keep positive vibes in. Rad, right?
  9. Time for zen. Now, it’s up to you. Go forth, my loves, and get your zen on, whatever that means to you.

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Kristy is a doula, massage therapist, energy worker and mom of 2 in Virginia.

Strong Women Series: Introducing Dr. Sara Smith Wellness.

We all hopefully have someone in our life that inspires us regularly. That inspiration can lead to anything. Slowing down and focusing, reaching out, emboldening dreams, or recognizing the need for change.
In this series, we at Real As a M*ther hope to lift these strongly and fiercely motivated women up by featuring them specifically on our blog. Today, I am delighted and honored to call to the world’s attention to my friend, Dr. Sara Smith. 
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I met this caring and soulful practitioner back in the day when we worked together at a chiropractic clinic. In that year of commiserating about life and work, we discovered that we have a bond that goes beyond the workplace. We share a common love of mind-body work and spiritual empowerment. I observed her actively seeking positivity which I find truly admirable – especially in this modern world of so much negativity.  I have since found her insight to be invaluable in the many seasons of my life since.
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So, enough about our relationship! Let me gush, now, about her expertise and experience.

She is a Certified Wellness & Life Coach with a professional background as a Doctor of Physical Therapy (PT) and Certified Yoga Instructor. She is a working mother of two, and a super badass wife to her husband and a prominent member of her community in the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

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Professionally, with her “multifaceted knowledge base, intensely caring attitude, intuition, and light touch of humor she guides her clients to find simple solutions to their most stressful and seemingly habitual problems so they can finally move forward with confidence and ease.” She is described as having “a gift to help her clients reconnect with their own core confidence so that they can tap into their innate wisdom, courage, and strength to find balance amidst very demanding professional and/or parental obligations.”

In her PT practice, Sara focused her studies in women/men’s pelvic health as well as chronic pain management. She has found that when we are not connected physically and mentally to our pelvis and core, when we lack physical strength and healthy “core” habits, we also tend to falter emotionally and spiritually. Woah – that’s deep. Literally. Her beautifully designed programs and gentle intuition remove the layers of resistance to help uncover those core weaknesses and transform them into core confidence and strength. True healing from the inside out.
She has lead numerous mind, body, and spirit conscious workshops. She combines these modalities in ways that create EASY habit change.  In these retreats, Sara mentions that she has been witness to “sacred sharing amongst other women that creates a level of profound awakening and healing and atunement to the people they are around.”
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When I asked her what her general energy was around starting healing retreats, she said “I want people to know that the frustrations they’ve had, the real life anger, anxiety sadness, the BIG EMOTIONS that make us feel ‘less than’…. within those things… it’s ok. And those can be very helpful to us.” Her upcoming retreat this November, for example, is focused around a blend of acknowledging the REAL emotions we feel as women, and the dreams and “crazy” yearnings that keep tapping us on the shoulder that we feel we need to push away cause it isn’t “practical”. This is a safe place to release the energetic gunk that holds us back.
It can be a quiet, sacred place to hear and deeply KNOW the next step to creating an action plan. This is for women, like me, who are hardwired to help others..so much they seem to keep putting themselves on the back burner BUT they know, truly know, something must change. I can show them how, and I am so honored to do so. A sacred small group has specifically been chosen in order to generate great power of group healing.
Ummmmmmmm, Sign a sister up! And thats exactly what I did after interviewing her. I am so excited to get my rejuvenation on.
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I have to say that one of the inspirations for featuring Sara today is my experience with her being her birth doula.  I had the honor of being with her for the birth of her eldest son, who has since been diagnosed with a very severe form of Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Her strength showed through from those first moments and through each hurdle along that path since. She has become an active advocate for her son, and has been celebrating the milestones along with him in his speech development journey.  If you are not familiar with Apraxia, here is some information about it.
Sara’s blog is dedicated to the emotions that come with being surprised with a special needs child in the family.
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It has rocked so much of our life and through education, awareness, and love, I hope to teach other adults and children that unforeseen differences can be the greatest gifts.
Right on, Sara. Right the freak on.  In a world of differences, it is my hope today that we can find a commonality in pursuing self reflection, and the gratitude with finding peace within our personal growth.
Please give it up for Sara Smith, personal life coach to this blogger, and general badass mama, lover of healing, and one amazing woman.
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Thank you for showing the world your insides, so that we all may have a better perspective on life.
I love you, girl
—Kristy and the Real As a M*ther crew.
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Welcome to Real

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In the beginning

Once upon a time (circa 2000), in a faraway land (Maryland), four young ladies found their soulmates in high school. No, not dudes. Best friends who balance each other in the best way and support each other through (literal and figurative) thick and thin.

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Fast forward 18 years…  We are now a doctor, a lawyer, a doula, and a financial planner deep in the weeds of young motherhood who learned to laugh together, cry together, learn together, and support each other through this season of life via one (in our humble opinion) very real, very wise, and brilliantly entertaining text chain, which is the foundation of much of this blog’s content.

We decided one day, on a whim, to start sharing our collective experience – the good, the bad and the ugly – with other people out there. The core value: keeping it #real with advice on parenthood, health, home, style, money and just whatever else comes up. LockersToLittles was that flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants adventure and wow, that was somethin’ else!

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That blog life

The last 3 months have been a profound learning experience. We’ve laughed our buns off, cried in frustration and all 4 of us have learned more about ourselves than any of us thought possible. And most importantly, we discovered that there are other people out there who want to share our experience – you!! Wow! Our feedback and followers have blown us away with their support, ideas, and general awesomeness over and over.

We are taking that feedback and blasting off into a whole new level of the blogosphere peeps! You spoke and we have listened are are ready to serve.

To Infinity and Beyond

We are here to help others grow into the best version of themselves, and in the process are working to do the same. The best workouts for moms with no time? We gotcha. Best way to save for retirement no matter what age you start? You bet! Kids won’t eat vegetables? Coming to the rescue! Wondering what’s up with eating brie in pregnancy? #answeredthat. Just want to commiserate about this season in life being hard AF sometimes??? Oh yeah. Between the 4 of us we’ve had a whole lot of life happen and if it hasn’t happened to us, trust us, we know a guy.

People! The sky is the limit. Or is it?

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So if you haven’t visited with us before, then WELCOME. To all our returning followers, THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS. You’ve been with us this far and we cannot wait to share what we have in store with you.

To reach our much desired goals, we need YOU! Please enjoy and visit or lightly stalk us on our various social media outlets. Got a topic you want covered? Give us a comment, girl! Share your experiences, this is #momtribe and #parentlife and we’re all in this together. Oh, and share! ALLLLLLLL the sharing!

Welcome to REAL AS A M*THER!

xo, Annie, Christiana, Kristy and Margo