10 Things a Pregnant Woman Deserves

I stumbled across this article from The Huffington Post and was thrilled to see a husband writing about how to support his wife during her pregnancy! I hope you enjoy this, too.

My wife, Mel, is seven months pregnant with our third child. We’ve been married for almost ten years. Her last two pregnancies were eye-opening for me. Being pregnant is hard on a woman both physically and mentally. It’s something I can’t experience. I can only observe. As a husband, I often feel helpless. Like I’m just some cheerleader on the sidelines, hoping everything turns out OK. I often wish there were some way I could help her more than I do. Some way I can be more supportive. I mean, I can’t carry the baby for her, but there are things I can do to make her experience a little easier.

Below is a list of a few things that I have been doing — or plan to start doing — to help Mel’s pregnancy go easier. However, I’d love to see ideas from readers on how husbands have made pregnancy easier for their wives.

1. Tell her she’s beautiful.
While pregnant, Mel often describes herself as: Fat, bloated, and spotted (near the end of her pregnancy she always develops little red splotches on her face and neck). Obviously she doesn’t feel beautiful while pregnant, even though I still think that she is. She needs constant reassurance. So when she is pregnant, I often make it a point to tell her how beautiful she is (in person and text message).

2. Excitement.
I know that some men, myself included, see a pregnant woman like a ticking time bomb. I mean, I’m excited to have a baby, but the first year of a child’s life can be hell, with all the sleepless nights, spit-up and dirty diapers. This is not to mention the cost of a new baby. But at the same time, it’s very exciting for a woman, and being negative can really depress your wife. I think it’s important to share in that excitement. I am good and bad at this one. I often exhale, loudly, when talking about things we need to buy for the baby. But I also crouch down, talk to the baby, and then kiss Mel’s tummy. I also enjoy feeling the baby kick. I think this really helps her realize that I am excited too.

3. Judgment (lack thereof).
Let’s face it, women act differently while pregnant. Sometimes I joke that the woman I married is not the woman who has been pregnant with my children. The woman I married would never eat an entire loaf of French bread. She also wouldn’t wear bright red compression tights that make her look like Doctor Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog. Although we joke around, being pregnant has made Mel do and wear some strange things. It’s best just to let it happen without comment or judgment.

4. Flowers.
Mel loves flowers. They seem to make everything better (I don’t understand it, but I know it’s true). Last week I bought Mel some flowers. The cashier was a woman in her mid 30′s. She asked me what the occasion was. I said, “She’s pregnant. I just thought she could use them.” The casher smiled and agreed. If I could afford it, I’d buy Mel flowers every day that she’s pregnant.

5. Naps.
This is one that I’m not very good at. Being pregnant is exhausting. I can see it in Mel’s eyes. She also tells me about it, too. I often suggest that Mel take a nap, but with the craziness of having two small children, me working two jobs, and Mel in school, it’s difficult to get her to sit down. I think she feels selfish when taking a nap. And honestly, my knee-jerk reaction is to get a little jealous when she gets to take a nap. But I really need to think about the fact that she is growing another person and she needs her rest. I need to be more assertive about picking up her slack so she can feel comfortable dozing for an hour or two during the day.

6. Tell her to sit down.
Standing all day while having a baby wiggling around inside your body, throwing off your equilibrium, must be really difficult. I often see her rubbing her lower back, or her upper legs. I tell Mel to sit down, but just like with naps, I think she feels selfish sitting when there are things to be done. She holds a real sense of duty, which I love about her, but at the same time she needs a rest now and again.

7. A restful night.
Getting a good night’s rest can really change Mel’s disposition. We have a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old. Both are OK sleepers. But they still tend to get up in the night now and again. I will admit that I sometimes sleep through their cries, but for the most part I make it a point to get up in the night so Mel can sleep.

8. Time alone.
This is another one I need to work on. Being pregnant is emotionally draining. There is no doubt about it. The first time Mel was pregnant, she started crying because I asked her to water the Christmas tree. Sometimes I think she just needs a moment or two to simply be alone. I’ve been trying to make it a point to take both our kids out of the house for one reason or another so she can have some time to herself.

9. Company at the OB-GYN.
Often, Mel meets with her doctor while I am at work. We live in a small Oregon town, which means Mel has to drive almost an hour to meet with the doctor. Long story short, I have not been able to accompany Mel to the doctor as much as I’d like. But when I do go, I can tell she enjoys it. I think it makes her feel less alone in all this. Like I am really there to support her.

10. Ask about her needs.
I like to think that I know what’s best for my wife, but that really is a ridiculous assumption. I need to ask her this simple question more: What do you need right now?

Clint Edwards is the author of No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook.

Maintaining Personal Power in Helpless Situations

power-of-attorney-480x450Personal power: it’s something we take for granted. We make our own decisions every day, from what to have for breakfast to where to live. But what if you found yourself in a position in which your personal power has been taken away? For example, a medical emergency could land you in the hospital. In this scenario, it’s very important to maintain the position of “calling the shots.” However, if you’re unable to for any reason, you must have an advocate who will.

We don’t usually sit and think about possibilities like this unless we’re dealing with a disease or long-term illness. It may be unpleasant to ponder, but drawing up a Medical Power of Attorney and a Living Will is just important as paying your car, health and life insurance every month. It’s also a very basic part of self-care, just like visiting a doctor once a year for a check-up.

Planning for the unexpected will not only make sure you are taken care of, but will take the confusion out of these situations for your loved ones. I have heard countless stories of someone falling ill suddenly or having something go wrong with a routine procedure. Without a Medical Power of Attorney, your healthcare decisions may be left in the hands of doctors who do not know you, as opposed to someone who knows you well and will make the decisions that are best for you and in line with your wishes.

These documents are readily available on the Internet and from area hospitals in most states and can be notarized and filed with the person you have chosen, as well as with your lawyer. In fact, you can have your Medical Power of Attorney put on file with any hospital that you wish! It’s a simple process, but may end up taking the complexity out of a sudden and dire situation.

Heroes Among Us: Finding Our Inner Strength

I was very touched by a couple of the posts on our site last week. One written by Stacey on Thursday  (click here), was about Ryan Ferguson, a young man who spent 10 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Yet, instead of becoming bitter and resentful, he chose to find meaning in his experience by speaking up about it so that other families might not suffer the way his did. The other written by Jennifer McCullough on Saturday (click here), was about her emotional struggles after becoming a mom and losing her own mom several months before giving birth. She described how her self-care and self-esteem suffered, how she slowly rebuilt her life and finally, reclaimed her self-worth and began practicing self-care again.

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As I grow older, I am less in awe of people who accomplish extra-ordinary feats and more by “ordinary” people who weather the storms life thrusts upon us and emerge intact, often stronger and wiser than before. Some of these “heroes” become known to us like Ryan Ferguson. Others may not be known publicly like Jennifer but they are no less heroic or accomplished in what they have done. In fact, there are many heroes among us, perhaps even ourselves, who go unacknowledged but are no less deserving of our admiration and praise.

Robert Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that may never  be and say why not?” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” These quotes define what heroism means to me and provide inspiration when I experience a “dark night of the soul” like Ryan and Jennifer went through which Stacey wrote about on Friday (click here).

This week, take  time out to reflect on what heroism means to you? Who are your heroes? When have you been heroic in your life? What did you lose? What did you gain? Let us know.

Namaste.

Self Care: How Not To Do It

jennifer_mcc_portraitToday’s Self-Care Month Guest Blogger is Jennifer McCullough. She is a 20-year PR and Marketing professional turned stay-at-home mom slash blogging fanatic. You can learn more about her and read her crazy mom antics at http://www.mommyhooddom.com. Please stop by and say hello. She’d love to meet you!

After my son was born in the fall of 2011, with the exception of two trips to the pediatrician’s office, I didn’t leave my house for a month. I mostly just cried all day and ate Peanut M&Ms. The idea of self-care, or taking even a minute for myself, was nowhere on my radar.

At the same time I was getting my sea-legs as a mom, I was mourning the loss of my mother, who had died a month before my son was born. In the course of a year, I moved to a new city far away from friends and family, had a baby and lost my mom – that’s a pretty good recipe for emotional upheaval!

One of the main reasons I didn’t go out more right after my son was born was because I wasn’t comfortable breastfeeding in public. My breasts were humongous and hard to conceal. Pumping hurt, so I didn’t like to do that either.

I didn’t much like breastfeeding in those early days, but my son LOVED it. It seems like he wanted to nurse every 20 minutes, around the clock. I found out what real sleep deprivation is like. It’s not the kind you experience when you’re having fun in college. It’s the kind that goes on for weeks on end and that is actual torture.

During that first month, I didn’t talk to many people. I rarely showered. I guess maybe that’s why they didn’t talk to me. I don’t know.

To say I neglected my needs for basic things like sleep, nutritious food, exercise, shampoo and emotional support would be the understatement of the century.  I was a case study in self-care:  how not to do it. Those first 30 days were tough to say the least, but things slowly got better.

I will never forget the first trip I made to the grocery store, which was also my first time out of the house alone, about a month after my son was born.

I guess my brain had forgotten how to process so much sensory stimulation because I remember being overwhelmed with all the colors and shapes lining the shelves! I couldn’t focus on any one thing. The barely audible overhead music combined with the sounds of shopping carts and occasional chatter from the other shoppers bombarded me like a Mardi Gras parade.  I realized I needed to get out more often or else risk becoming someone who could not go out – at all. And that thought frightened me – a lot.

I wish I could say I started going out all the time after that grocery shopping experience, but I really didn’t. Living in a new place where I didn’t know anyone made it tough. The weekly trips to the grocery store and the occasional weekend trip to the mall were big adventures. Mostly, we stayed at home, my infant son and me, while my husband was at work. The long winter days melted together.

The next spring, my son and I did start having a few play dates here and there. It was great to connect with other moms. My son loved the social time with other little ones. We worked our way up to visiting the library.

When it warmed up, we walked around our neighborhood. I remember being so happy just to get fresh air. It was such a small thing, but after being inside for months on end, fresh air felt like such a luxury!

Eventually, I started getting my hair done again. For the longest time after my son was born, I either cut it myself or went to one of those drive-thru hair cutters for the easiest, most low-maintenance style possible. It’s called a pixie and it takes forever to grow out!

My son turned two-years-old a few months ago and to celebrate, I went out with one of my girlfriends and got a manicure and a pedicure. It was awesome! It was only the second manicure I’ve ever had in my life and it was my very first pedicure! I thought surely they’d give me a discount! They didn’t, but that’s ok. I’m still going to go back.

I still breastfeed my son several times a night and before his nap, and whenever he gets an “ouchy.” But, I do sleep a little more these days. I’m still looking forward to getting a good 8 hours of uninterrupted slumber. I know it will come, eventually.

I joined a health club last week. Crazy, I know! I haven’t actually worked out yet, but I don’t want to do too much too fast. They say you should start slow. I figure I’ll get ON the treadmill around the first of March.

I started a blog called Mommyhooddom. Writing is great self-care therapy for me. I like to write sad stories about missing my mom and funny stories about being a mom. Connecting with other parents online is a huge blessing! They make me feel human on the days I feel like a wind-up mom.Mommyhooddom_logo150

I have a long, long, long way to go before I can say I’m good at taking care of myself. But, I have high hopes that by the time my son starts pre-school in the fall, I’ll be well on my way to remembering what it was like to have both of my legs shaved at the same time.  One can dream, even while awake at night!

©2014 Jennifer McCullough

Getting to the Heart of This Matter

Please excuse my tardiness! I usually like to have a post ready to go first thing Thursday mornings, but I knew that I would have an interesting day.

Being actively involved with my local police department, law enforcement and prison issues are of interest to me. So when my neighbor invited me to go hear Ryan Ferguson speak at a nearby college, I was enthusiastic.

I was not disappointed by Ryan’s calmness, maturity and reluctance to say anything nasty about those who took away 10 years of his life. When asked how he handled any feelings of hatred he said, “Hate and anger are natural emotions to feel in situations like this. It’s how you express these feelings that really matters. I took this enormous energy and channeled into bettering myself and advocating for those who can’t do so for themselves.”

Wow. This, from a guy who was arrested at the age of 20 for something that he did not do and because of unethical prosecutors, witnesses and law enforcement personnel, spent the next 8 years in prison. There was NO physical evidence at all linking him to the crime; in fact, this evidence should have immediately exonerated him.

After hearing from his mom, dad and girlfriend, it became evident that this young man had an amazing support system. He had already accomplished many things in his life before he was arrested, including achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. He never wavered during his 9-hour interrogation, which included lies, threats and yelling from the officers and detectives. He never got in one altercation during his time in county jail and prison, despite lengthy stretches of 23-hour lockdown and no outdoor privileges. He never acted out or lost his temper, even after the judge put a $20 million bond on him, basically forcing him to stay in jail even though he was still, “innocent until proven guilty.” If this young man hated anyone, it was never evident today or in any of the numerous videos presented of his interrogation, trials and sentencing.

And in spite of his amazing journey, Ferguson told the audience to please remember one thing: that a man had died and no justice was done. He wanted us to think of Kent Heitholt. All I could think of was compassion, but maybe that was his real point.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Don’t Forget to Love YOURSELF!

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We Can Only Control Ourselves, or NERDS RULE!

jgreenIt’s no secret that most people make their own stress. We worry over things, which accomplishes nothing, and ruminate about the past, which is equally useless. I’m pretty good at catching myself when I am out in the worry-zone. This is a result of years of practicing present-moment awareness, which is something that I find extremely useful to manage my stress. My daughter, however, is another story.

She is a freshman in high school and a bit of an over-achiever (I have NO idea where she gets THAT from!). My husband and I both have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders, so we made a special effort to raise her in a laid-back atmosphere, which also helped us chill out. She seemed to be pretty mellow until about 6th grade, when the homework increased. And when I say increased, I’m talking going from an hour or so nightly to 4+ hours of homework every night. Part of the reason that happened is because she took many more pre-AP (pre-advanced placement) classes than she had before. This sent her into overdrive in junior high. Her anxiety levels got so high and she was so distressed that we got her some help from a therapist and a psychiatrist. That seemed to help a lot…until high school.

Now, she gets very upset if she makes a low A or (heaven forbid) a B in a class on her report card, progress report or even an individual assignment. I was obviously concerned with this unnecessary standard she has for herself, so I asked her why. She claimed that “everybody” already knew what University they were going to and what they were going to major in. She was worried that she wouldn’t be “good enough” to get into whatever college or University she decided to go to (and yes, she has some choices picked out). All I could think of was my 9th grade self, totally oblivious to colleges and majors. After all, I was a freshman. My college kind of got picked out for me when I was a Senior because I got a free ride to Blinn Junior College for graduating in the top 10% of my class (I still don’t know where that overachiever gene comes from). And even after I transferred to the University of Houston, I changed my major a couple of times. I always thought that college was where you figured out “what you wanted to be when you grew up.”

My daughter tells me that times have changed and that things are just more competitive than they used to be. That may be true; I have seen evidence of it in my readings and from parents of other (and older) high schoolers. But that pressure is nothing compared to what she puts on herself. I have a friend who teaches at my daughter’s high school and she told me that the friends that my daughter hangs out with are the “high stress” crowd. You know, the nerds. While I am proud that my kid has such great taste in friends (Who rules the world? Mean girls? No…NERDS!), their influence seems to be counterproductive to my daughter’s overall stress management.

It’s been my challenge to try and explain this to my sweet girl. Nothing I say seems to get through, to the point of frustration. She knows about present-moment awareness and uses it in extreme anxiety situations. She knows it works. But she won’t or can’t use it when it comes to her future. As a parent, it kills me slowly inside to see my daughter suffering while I hold the key to the “cure.” But I can’t make her take it. She has to get there on her own. The only thing I can do is be supportive of her, answer her questions honestly and tell her that I’m proud of her. Oh yeah, and stay in my own present moment, even if she won’t. I am the adult with more life experience and I know that this, too, shall pass.

Namaste’

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The Science Behind a Happy Relationship

I had the honor of being a “pioneer” at Happify, which is a site (an app) that uses scientific methods to help the user increase his/her happiness levels. They have just released this infographic, and I am “happy” to share it with you!

Click on the image below to view the entire thing.

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Woman Plans; the Universe Enhances

Like most of us, I keep a calendar to make sure that I am aware of my daily appointments and things to do. However, on more days than not, my day ends up looking a lot different than my calendar! The opportunities that the Universe presents are abundant if I just keep my eyes open.

I am active in our local Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, so I am often up at the Police Department, helping them out with whatever I can. Yesterday, I was up there installing a new computer for our association to use (the old one still had a 3.5″ floppy disk drive in it!). My plans were to visit with a friend afterward.

I was finishing up when an officer came in to the workroom and asked the volunteers present if anyone could help him out with a CIT (Crisis Intervention Training) class that he was teaching that day. He needed two people to role-play mentally ill folks in crisis so that the trainees could practice what they had learned. I called my friend, who was happy to come up and help, and so we ended up helping to train local police officers on how to deal with the mentally ill!

Not only was this a great opportunity to assist the police department, but also a chance to speak up about the stigma of mental illness and give feedback about how we, in the role of someone in a mental crisis, felt we were treated by the officers. The scenario I chose to play out was one of a severely depressed and suicidal new mother. Basically, I was re-visiting my past and got to see what might have happened had my crisis gotten so bad that my husband had called the police.

Being trained police officers, all of the trainees, save one female officer, were lacking empathy and ended up escalating my anger with their approaches rather than making me feel like cooperating. After the role-play, we did a de-briefing in which I got to tell them about how I felt about what they said and did. Only one team even picked up on the fact that not only was I suicidal, but that I had a plan (I kept asking for the time because my “plan” was to walk out into rush hour traffic). It was a wonderful opportunity to educate the officers about subtle clues and essential questions to ask should they come across a woman in that situation.

I left feeling great that not only had I assisted the police department in general, but also educated the class about postpartum depression! My schedule just “happened” to be open that afternoon, allowing me to participate. The Universe does things like that all the time…we just have to pay attention! So, keep your eyes and ears open, evaluate each opportunity that presents itself, and act on the ones that your intuition says “yes” to!

Namaste’

Validation

Diane’s video reminded me of one I first saw years ago, before TJ Thyne became famous for his role in Bones. It’s not what I expected, and that’s what’s so great about it. It’s a little over 15 minutes long, but I hope you take these moments for yourself and watch the whole thing. And then maybe pass it on… Namaste.