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All Posts By

Claire Larson

Image of rainbow colored thread going through the eye of a needle

Mother Love Happenings

By Uncategorized

For months, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Executive Director, Brie Oliver, would come into her office, sit down at her desk, prepare to dive into work for the day and glance up at her whiteboard. The words ‘Mother Love’ stared back at her, giving a little wink as if to say, “hey, I’m still here waiting to get off of this whiteboard and out into the world…” Brie nodded back not knowing exactly how to make that happen but patiently knowing it would, when the time was right.

Then, one day, it did. Through the magic of a few aligned circumstances, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies of MT was awarded a mini-grant by the Maternal Mental Health Task force of the Greater Helena Area Early Childhood Coalition. Suddenly, HMHB was given the means to focus time, energy and passion into launching Mother Love, a safe space for families to connect, share stories, creatively express their experiences (both struggles and triumphs) and, ultimately, to heal and thrive in community.

So far, Mother Love has launched a podcast and hosted two healing arts events at The Holter Museum of Art in the heart of downtown Helena, Montana. Although things are still just getting off the ground, Mother Love has already begun to work its magic, helping moms and families reflect on their experiences and work through sticking points together.

At the two February Mother Love Stitch & Story events, moms from all different ages and backgrounds gathered together to work on their own simple embroidery projects, stitching the words, ‘You are enough’ into colorful fabrics that will remind them of this important idea in their daily lives. One stitch at a time, a circle of women sat and listened attentively while they took turns sharing birth stories, self-care challenges, sibling rivalry woes and chuckling about the silly things people sometimes say to new moms. They touched on ways their babies had transformed them, taught them how to be calm, patient and resilient and how to surrender and go with the flow even when it seems impossible to do so. At times, stitches got tangled and moms got stuck in their embroidery flow. When this happened, another mom was quick to offer help untangling knots and smoothing the threaded mess, like moms do.

On the first episode of the podcast, Trista Vonada, a local social worker and mental health professional bravely shared her story of postpartum depression. If you’d care to have a listen, click here. This podcast will be an ongoing project and the conversations and content will vary but will mostly focus on birth stories, maternal mental health, the transition into motherhood and what it is really like to create and maintain a healthy family.

We are so grateful to have the opportunity to introduce Mother Love to the world and to reach more Montana moms and families in these new ways. If you’re interested in learning more about HMHB and donating to the organization, please visit our website at www.hmhb-mt.org.

 

Believe Her.

By advocacy, birth, Maternal Mental Health, pregnancy, The Power of Story

Recently, I’ve been listening to women. And, you know what strikes me? That really listening to women is a radical act. Believing them without minimizing or dismissing their experiences (even if what they’re saying makes you uneasy) is downright revolutionary. This is especially true when it comes to experiences around pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum journey. In many cases, women are second-guessed in crucial moments of their perinatal experience. There seems to be an inherent mistrust when it comes to a woman expressing and advocating for her own body. I’ll give you a couple examples.

I have birthed two babies in two very different ways. My first was reluctant to emerge. Ten days past her due date, she was still hanging out in there. She likes to do things on her own watch, still. The more you pressure her, the more she resists. Her entrance into the world was no exception. I tried everything, I hiked up a mountain, I ate an entire pineapple, I choked down the spiciest food I could find. Hell, I even went for a run which is not something I recommend doing when you are a week overdue. But, what I didn’t know, is that I could have, and maybe should have, just chilled out and trusted my body. I didn’t know that listening to my own intuition may have been the best choice of all. And when I begged and bartered for a few more days, my doctor didn’t listen. Instead, she presented me with facts and figures until I was scared enough to agree schedule an induction, which led to lots of other medical interventions, me feeling incredibly disconnected from my body and, ultimately, an emergency c-section that felt to me like a monumental failure. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful we all survived, but I can’t shake the feeling that things may have gone very differently had I trusted my own instincts, had my doctor given me more space to voice my needs and taken them seriously.

My second is an entirely different story with the same theme. Let’s start with the fact that, in my town, I couldn’t even attempt a Vaginal Delivery After C-section or VBAC. It’s against hospital policy. Let’s continue with the fact that I had to talk my husband into driving an hour and a half in February to the next town over that would allow me to birth my baby the way I wanted to. Let’s go even further to the part where I show up at that hospital in labor, with actively intensifying contractions and the nurse doesn’t believe me. She instructs me to take a hundred laps around the labor and delivery ward to see if I’ll dilate more. I circle around the nurses station and pass by the rooms of real patients, which feels ridiculous and embarrassing considering I’m getting ready to bring a new life into the world. She is unimpressed by my lack of progress. The pain is coming regularly now. She tells us to leave, go out to dinner, maybe come back later but says we’ll probably just have to head back home and try again another day. Go out to dinner? Um, yeah, no thanks. The noise, the smell of food, the niceties, the people all around me just, ya’ know, eating dinner while I’m enduring labor pains? Maybe some other night. So, we check into the Super 8 Motel (that’s currently ongoing construction) but is closest to the hospital and cheap. At least there’s a bathtub, I think to myself. A few hours later, when I can no longer stand the pain and the intensity increases to what feels extremely urgent, we go back to the hospital. They allow me to lay down in the sort of limbo room and check me. Apparently, they aren’t going to let me in to have a baby unless I can prove myself through ample vaginal dilation. I can’t. But after they poke and prod at my most sensitive bits with no sensitivity at all and leave the room to compare notes my water breaks and I think, Well,  they can’t turn me away now. I’m in.

All moms have a different birth story, it’s true. But, one thing I hear all too often is, “They just didn’t listen. They just didn’t believe me.” This isn’t right and it isn’t fair. It shouldn’t be normal for women feel bullied, pressured or neglected during labor and delivery (or at any other time in their lives). They shouldn’t have to prove they’re in need of care. They deserve to be heard. They deserve to be trusted and honored. They deserve to be praised and supported in their process. They’re trying to tap into a deeper wisdom than that of policy and procedure. These are our life-givers. Hear them, believe them, please.

The Importance of Being Seen

By Parenting, Self-care, Self-compassion, Uncategorized

Yesterday morning, my good friend (and fellow mama) was recapping her morning. She exuberantly recounted all that had taken place in the past 12ish hours: last minute book report that required modeling clay and her participation in molding said modeling clay into a character’s face, strategically relocating the elf on the shelf, playing the role of tooth fairy, letting the dog out several times in the night due to a canine tummy bug, getting her daughter to school early for student council and making an extra trip to the grocery store to supply holiday treats for a class event. As I listened to her run through this very normal but highly stressful list, I felt deep compassion and empathetic anxiety for her. I felt my chest seize up and my breath go shallow. I thought to myself, Dang, that’s a whole lot to handle before even coming to work for the day. And I was so glad to be the one to listen and breathe and laugh with her about just how ridiculously overwhelming it all can be. If I hadn’t been there to see and hear her, all of this would have gone completely unrecognized. It would just have melted into the giant, steaming cauldron of stuff moms do behind the scenes. And she would have done what we do – she would have mustered up the strength and stamina from that deep mama reservoir and kept on truckin’. By the way, she forgot to leave the tooth money under the pillow and had to get very creative in the midst of all of this in order to redeem the tooth fairy’s reputation. Because, you know, she didn’t already have enough on her plate.

So, when there’s so much going on in parenting land, a good friend is good medicine. Pour out the crazy that might be trapped inside. Drink a glass of water while looking out the window. Find a deeper breath or two. Laugh or cry. Express the hard, not just the good. And, if you don’t have access to a compassionate ear you may have to try to be that for yourself. Take stock of all you’ve managed and navigated in the past little chunk of time and give yourself the gift of recognition. Give yourself your own, dang that’s a lot. You deserve it.

Claire Larson is the Program and Communications Assistant at Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: The Montana Coalition which is dedicated to improving the health, safety and well-being of Montana families by supporting mothers and babies, age zero to three. (Featured image captured by Michelle Gustafson.)