“A life well lived it usually messy”
That sentiment is on a kitchen towel my mother-in-love recently purchased for me. I love it. I feel it encompasses my life. J I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. I went over to a friend’s house to borrow cookie sheets and she opened the door with “I’m a hot mess today!” I was just thinking she looked great (she got the “hot” part right) and was admiring her tree. My sister-in-love recently asked for prayer because she “was a mess” due to recent circumstances. And I’ve told my awesome husband that I feel like I am “a hot mess” (to borrow from my friend). I also heard a family member mention that if only she hadn’t fed her child so many preservatives (in food) when he was younger, he wouldn’t be this way.
I was devastated when I heard that. Being an outsider, I can see that this family member did their absolute best and the particular way this child is, and has been from birth, has nothing to do with preservatives and everything to do with genetics. Being an outsider, I also saw the beauty in my friends “hot mess” and was enjoying hanging out with her. Being an outsider I can see my friends and family are doing their absolute best with their children, family, and life. I enjoy watching their journey. But I get it. I feel the feelings they do. I say the same things they do. I put pressure on myself, blame myself, obsess over things…I’ve done it. You’ve probably done it. My friends and family do it. Why?
Is it society? Is it internal pressure? Is it something in our make-up gone array? Is it our children, our family, our partners? What makes us feel as though, as women, we need to apologize for the messiness of life? Life is messy! “A life well lived is usually (almost always) messy.” It’s a fact. It’s a joy. It’s a mess. J I don’t think we should apologize for it. I would say, 90% of the time, when my friends say “I’m so sorry my house is a mess…” I’ve been admiring it, I’ve been thinking it looks great, I’ve been enjoying their life. Most of the time, when I say to my husband in exasperation “our house is a disaster!,” it really means we spend 6 minutes picking up toys (& socks) and its clean again! (I can’t wait for our babies to reach the age where they can finally begin to pick up their own toys…although I’m not excited about the “fights” that I am sure will ensue around picking up their toys.)
I read a book recently and it had a story about “The Moms Club.” The rules are easy to understand but harder to follow. I also think everyone should follow them. One of the rules is “don’t judge other moms/families.” Another is “don’t clean your house before other mom club members come over.” I think both of these should just be rules of life. Don’t judge other moms/families. Haven’t we all been there? And, if people are coming over to hang out, eat dinner, etc, don’t spend hours cleaning your house. Sure, pick up the dirty clothes and wipe down your toilet, but otherwise? Don’t clean! We have toys on the floor at our house; your toys aren’t offensive. We have coats by our door, it is cold outside; your coats don’t offend us. Don’t succumb to the pressure to have a “perfect” house when people come over, especially other Moms.
And what is perfect anyway? My perfect includes toys on the floor, handprints on the walls and color pages on the table. Why? Because my husband and I struggled for 5 years to get pregnant, we had years where we believed we would never have children, I cried for months. Now, I cherish the things that remind me that we do have children, two miracle babies, who steal my heart every day. Their laughter erupts and my heart bursts with delight. Are there times I don’t want to be around them? Sure! I am human. I do need time to rejuvenate myself and my marriage. But I wouldn’t trade toys everywhere, hand prints on the walls, and food in the carpet for anything! My life is messy. I have children. I have an awesome husband. I have family and friends. I have feelings, needs, desires, dreams, fears, emotions. I have a life! I want to live a life well lived, mess and all. Who is with me?
So, to help myself, and anyone who wants to join me, in living a messy life and enjoying it I’ve come up with a couple ideas/goals:
Share your messy life stories below! I’d love to hear from you.
Have you seen the stunning photos flooding social media under #normalizebreastfeeding? They are all beautiful and unique. They are called a tree of life "brelfie" - breastfeeding selfie with a tree of life going from the mom (breast milk) to the baby (helps baby grow and blossom). :) Quite clever if you ask me! They show a different point of view, story, journey and family. I can't get enough! Did you know breastmilk contains over 700 bacteria species?? So cool! (To learn more, visit the livescience article).
Do you know how the tree of life brelfies all started? A mom and photographer named Cassandra. She lives in California. Cassandra says: “I currently am nursing my 13 month old daughter and I plan on allowing her to naturally wean. After celebrating my 12 month anniversary of nursing my daughter, I wanted to commemorate with a nursing photo that I could hang on the wall. I had recently learned about how breast milk was considered a living organism and that having fascinated me, I chose to try and incorporate that into our photo. We had a rough beginning when we started nursing so this was something that was truly special to me. I came up with the idea to use Photoshop and create a flower, with the vines going from my breast to her brain. A metaphor for her having “blossomed” into this beautiful child. While nursing her one day, I took a photo of her on my cell phone and decided to play around with it, kinda work out the idea I had come up. I looked into photo editing apps that were similar to Photoshop so I could draft my idea and found the Picsart app. I was able to add a flower to the photo, but didn’t really like the way it looked. That is when I decided to try a tree instead. It gave it a kind of artsy look through the app’s many filters they offer and I just fell in love with it. I had originally intended to take a professional photo with my camera and do this all on the computer, but I really loved what I had created."
She had never shared a photo of herself breastfeeding (which I am sure most of us can relate to), but decided to share the beautiful image she created to a breastfeeding support group. Overnight she had women sharing her picture, creating their own and asking her to edit their pictures into beautiful works of art. So far she has edited over 800 images! What a kind and beautiful soul! To share with us her ideas, talents, and support.
Cassandra goes on to say: I don’t want to just normalize breastfeeding, I want to naturalize it. I feel like the word normalize means that it wasn’t normal to begin with. I feel that if we can naturalize it, women will feel more comfortable to nurse in public without judgement and get support when needed. I recently read a statistic online that by 6 months of age, only 18% of babies are still breastfed. I can’t help but wonder if breastfeeding had been more naturalized in society, these women would have nursed longer (assuming they did not stop for medical reasons of course). Naturalizing breastfeeding is crucial. Breastfeeding is natural and beneficial and absolutely beautiful. No one should ever be embarrassed by it" Preach it, sister!
As a person who struggled for months to breastfeed my daughter, and then was forced to wean at 9/10 months because I was pregnant again and my body stopped producing milk, I cherish those memories of my time breastfeeding. Even through the stuggle, the tears, the nipple shields and the sleepless nights. :) I breastfed in public and was not embarassed, at least I did not set out to be. I am a femininist, I am strong, I am independent, I am not ashamed of my body! And yet...the first couple of times I breastfed in public, I covered up with a blanket, I found the seat most away from everyone else, I felt myself getting embarassed and felt my cheeks get hot! Me?! I was shocked at the feelings that over took me without my permission. But I kept on, I finally got rid of the blanket, because I mean really! I could not breastfeed with that thing, I felt like I flashed more breast and skin trying to keep covered than I did when I just breastfed naturally. (Not to say that there is anything wrong with using a cover or blanket. If you are more comfortable that way, use it! Just please use it because it makes you more comfortable, not because it might make the stranger near you more comfortable.) The more I breastfed in public the more comfortable I became with myself, my body and my baby. I was just feeding my baby after all. I did not have one person say negative comments to me. It was not until later that I learned my husband would intimidate everyone around us who would even dare to look at me in a negative way, whenever I breastfed. :D (What a supportive partner!).
If you have had someone say a negative comment to you, I am sorry! We've all had negative comments of one kind or another; about our breastfeeding, our weight gain during pregnancy (are you sure you aren't pregnant with twins?!), the spacing of our children ("girl, get some cable, it is cheaper!"), how we raise our children ("you're doing what with vaccines?!") or even what our children look like ("he must look like his father.." "do you think he will lighten up at all?" "who does she look like?"). Sheesh people, keep it shut! :) What happened to the old antage "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" Have we raised generations who did not grow up watching Bambi? Bambi is filled with life lessons! :)
May I encourage you to stand up for you! For your baby! For your rights, and your respect! However you choose to feed your child(ren), my hat is off to you! #fedisbest Thank you for taking care of your child, for loving and caring for your children. Thank you for standing up in the face of adversity and negativity. Thank you for focusing on the good. Because, you know what? The good is normal! If you think about it, how often do bad things happen to you? Is it that often, or do we just notice them and become focused on them because they aren't the normal? I know some days it feels all bad...I've been there and will be there again, but a child to love is always good. Look into their eyes on your bad days. See their pupils dialted (did you know your pupils dilate when you look/see something/someone you love?? even a baby's pupils will dilate <3). Believe in them! Believe in love!
Let us all work together to #naturalizebreastfeeding and #normalizebreastfeeding and all types of feeding and to, most important of all, support one another! We can relate. We can understand and empathize with one another. Reach out this week to a mom friend, or a new mom you don't know yet. Share your beautiful picture to open the dialogue and ask to see her beautiful picture. Work to encourage. #breastmilkfromabottle #formula #breastmilkthroughatube #breastfeeding #fedisbest.
How to Create Your Own #TreeOfLife Edit
Share your #brelfie in the comments!!! I would love to see them all!!!
Awesome Normalize Breastfeeding Campaing Blog
Doula Rachel has put together a blog of resources, info-graphics, and articles, with an occasional self-published blog. Enjoy!