The Mothership was born out of a desire to bring mothers and families together to form meaningful connections and a strong community. It only makes sense that preparing our space to be a welcoming retreat took the work of four dedicated women and their families, friends, and neighbors. There was painting - SO. Much. Painting. - cleaning, planning, designing, shopping, leveling, permitting, and did I mention painting? And no one told me there'd be math involved, but there was and we rocked it.
As we sit here at The Mothership, enjoying the quiet before we officially open our doors next week, we are filled with gratitude for the support we've received from our community. When you walk in for a childbirth class or a new mama support circle we hope you'll feel the love that went in to making this gathering space for you all.
by Elizabeth Gillette of Porchlight Counseling
Your Postpartum Team: How Having a Postpartum Doula and a Therapist Can Shift the Postpartum Period from Survive to Thrive.
When you are preparing to have a baby, there can be a lot of talk about your birth team: the care providers you choose, whether you will birth at home or a birth center or a hospital, and if a birth doula is right for you. What I have noticed is that there isn’t much as discussion of your postpartum team and how important it is for you to have good quality care once you have settled in at home and realize the impact of this new baby on your day to day life. The time after the birth is critical because it can significantly impact bonding with baby, parents’ mental health, and the changes a partnership experiences as people adjust to parenthood. So here is my suggestion: consider adding a postpartum doula and a perinatal mental health therapist to your team.
This time period is so unique, and seeking out professionals who specialize in it is important. The role of postpartum doulas and perinatal therapists are complimentary. Doulas are in the home, supporting you through the daily challenges of life with a newborn. They see you in all of your realness and rawness, your most vulnerable times. They are there when you break down in tears and encourage you to please take a nap because they can see how much you need it. They support your self-care on a very functional, critical level. Postpartum doulas notice when your mood has dipped significantly, when events from your past have resurfaced and make it difficult for you to function in this new role. They can help you clarify the challenges and sort out what could be helpful to talk about with a therapist. They can provide a solid referral for a therapist they trust and believe you would work well with.
As a perinatal mental health therapist, I support my clients as they are working through the challenges of parenthood: how does being a parent change who I am? What is happening to my relationship with my partner? How do I know if I have postpartum depression or anxiety, and what can I do to feel better? I support new parents in navigating the emotional ups and downs of parenthood (and there are many), address scary intrusive thoughts, and learn strategies to manage depression and anxiety symptoms and feel better as soon as possible.
We are recognizing more and more the strong connection between challenges in feeding your baby and perinatal mental health. Previous breast trauma (from injury, sexual assault, surgeries, etc.) and breast pain can make nursing even more challenging; if you wanted to nurse but are unable to do so, the grief and loss that can surround the topic can be hard to cope with. Having support from a postpartum doula, who is extremely knowledgeable about all ways of feeding your baby and can support your journey in the way that works for you, can make all the difference in your mood and feelings of anxiety. Postpartum doulas can make referrals to lactation consultants to obtain further support if needed, and have your back when you feel burned out around feeding. Perinatal therapists provide a safe space to explore feeding challenges and support you in working through your feelings if you’re facing difficulties.
The doula and therapist combination provides wraparound support—in an ideal world, all families would have this. The doula is in the thick of life at home, witnessing and supporting families in concrete ways. The therapist is at the office, allowing an opportunity for time out of the home, reflection, insight, and focus. Both have the goal of supporting families in ways free of judgement. Being supported physically, emotionally, and mentally is exactly the way it should be: a team supporting your well-being, the relationships in your family, and the development of a strong bond with your baby.
by Molly Rouse
It may seem like a no-brainer, the first foods that most parents give their babies are powdered iron-fortified rice cereals (starting at 6 months on the dot), and then commercial baby foods in jars, right?
I totally understand the convenience of these foods, however, they are not the most ideal foods for babies to start with. The type of iron used in fortified cereals is harder to digest than the iron naturally found in foods, and processed fruits and vegetables in jars have lost a lot of their nutrients compared to the freshly prepared organic variety made with a caregiver's love.
Here are the foods I recommend for nutrient-packed additions to breastmilk or formula as baby learns to eat food. Most are quick to prepare, and can be made in batches.
by Carrie Hike and Elizabeth Bloomquist
Surviving Postpartum: Tips for bringing your baby to a music festival.
Live music with a baby? Yes! Being a parent does not mean that you have to let go of your love for live music. Especially now that many of us, who once enjoyed the scene so often and so completely, now have children of our own. Some of my favorite memories are dancing with my babies. I love experiencing it with them and seeing the joy as they notice every small note and passerby. Live music is a way for me to connect with my kids while meeting my own needs.
Some festivals are definitely more family friendly than others. We are lucky in Asheville to have LEAF, one of the most family friendly festivals around, and also to be within driving distance to many others. However, even festivals and shows that are not necessarily marketed to families can be family friendly with the right planning on your part.
Here are 8 tips to successfully rock out with your baby.
Pack All the Things
We recommend overpacking for festivals with your baby. Even if you leave half of the stuff in your car, you have it if you need or want it. These are what we consider the essentials for a festival with toddlers or babies.
Have A Plan, But Be Flexible.
Have a plan, but be prepared to ditch the plan. Check out the schedule of events in advance, decide beforehand what bands you really want to see, and give yourself plenty of time to transition between different stages. Also, accept that you will probably miss some of it. Responsibly bringing your children to a festival means that you need to put their needs first, and sometimes that means nap time in a quiet area during your favorite band. Kids have a way of throwing off the best laid plans, and even if you plan everything down to the last onesie, sometimes you are left with a screaming (and not in an excited, loving the music way) baby in meltdown mode. That brings us to the next tip...
Know Your Baby!
You know your baby, and you know when your baby is having an off day. Even the most easy going of babies can have days that are incredibly cranky and filled with meltdowns. Don't push it. If it does happen to be an off day for your child, and your child can not pull it together, know that you may need to leave early (or not go at all), in order to meet your child's needs (no matter how much you love the band!) Babies before bands, y'all!
Set Up Your Space
Find a good space to set up a blanket, and spread out your stuff. Set up your chairs, stroller, and belongings and create a little home base for yourself, your family, and your friends. I like to set up near other families, and create a family safe zone where the kids can play, and the adults can socialize and enjoy the show. Usually, this means more on the periphery and to the back, not close to the front of the stage where people will be standing and enthusiastically dancing. You can carry or wear your baby if you'd like to get closer to the stage and dance with the crowd, or walk around the festival, and then return back to your home base to put baby down and relax.
Bring a Stroller and a Baby Carrier
Having both a stroller and a soft baby carrier covers your bases, and your baby's moods. If you are going to an indoor show, a stroller is a hassle and unnecessary, but if you are going to an outdoor show or a festival, a stroller is very helpful. In lieu of a stroller, a wagon can also be a great baby bed, and way to carry your all your family's gear.
It can be hard to navigate a stroller around a crowded festival, but you can use it to carry your gear, set up your home base, and then leave it with your picnic blanket while you walk around to check out other stages or get closer to stage. You can also put some battery powered fairy lights on your stroller to help keep it visible to partying festival goers, and make it easy to find for your friends and family.
Know Your Venue.
You may be pleasantly surprised at how accommodating some venues are, or dismayed by how inflexible some seem to be. This is where advance preparation is important. Find out if your kids need their own tickets, if there is a age limit, if you can bring your own food and drinks, the best parking places, can you reenter the music area if you leave or go to your car, and where the first aid station and bathrooms are.
Plan Your Escape.
Don't forget where you park, and consider leaving before the show is over. Many festivals have shuttles to parking, and thousands of people trying to leave at the same time. I know it can be hard to leave before the encore is over, but leaving a big event can be a huge hassle, especially if that is when your child decides they are tired, hungry, and over-stimulated. Usually, you can still hear the music as you walk to the lot, and you can still avoid the crowds.
Have fun, and keep rocking parenthood!
by Carrie Hike
This isn't our first rodeo. As experienced mothers (we have 15 children between our five doulas at Labor With Love!) and busy doulas, we know good baby products, and we know that many products marketed to new parents are unnecessary pieces of plastic that take over your house. We've done the legwork to bring you some of the best baby products available. Doula and mother approved!
These are fairly new to the baby scene, but I predict that they are the next big thing because they are just so awesome. DockAtot is an all in one breathable and hypoallergenic baby lounger, sleep positioner, portable crib, cosleeper and bassinet. They are meant to "reinvent the womb" and offer a safe, cozy, and soothing environment for babies. They also reduce the risk of flat head syndrome, which is one of the many reasons why I like them more than the Rock and Play. Also, I know of several babies who have never slept longer than a couple hours in a row sleep more than 5-7 hours in this thing. Ahhhhhhh.
The Comotomo bottle is fabulous. Most plastic bottles leach gross toxic chemicals. The Comotomo is made from medical grade silicone, one of the safest materials available. It's wide mouth is also easy to clean, it has anti-colic vents, and it is a great bottle for breastfed babies, especially those who refuse other bottles.
Beauty Counter Baby
_Have you read the labels of your baby shampoo and wash lately? It's a chemical sh*tstorm. Even if you are shopping at the health food store, most products that you can buy are filled with known carcinogens, phthalates, and synthetics linked to hormone disruption. Babies easily absorb all these chemicals through their skin. Beautycounter has meticulous testing and only uses the safest ingredients, has a stellar rating on the environmental working group data base, and you can be confident that you are using the safest and highest quality baby products available. The baby balm is a miracle diaper cream, and works unbelievably fast on even the worst diaper rash, and the baby oil is fabulous for cradle cap, eczema, and soothing mama's stretch marks.
Baby Bjorn High Chair
Let's be honest. Every mother with a toddler knows that high chairs get disgusting. The nooks and crannies get food stuck in them, and the straps are hard to take off and wash, and they get filthy after a while. That's why we love this chair. The Baby Bjorn high chair has no straps, seat cushions, or nooks that inevitable will be covered with avocado and sweet potatoes. The tray slides right up to your baby, and it's easy and quick to clean. It's also compact and won't take up most of your kitchen.
Ergo baby Organic Baby Carrier
Oh, Ergo, how I love you! The Ergobaby carrier is probably my all time favorite piece of baby gear. It definitely has the most staying power of any piece of baby gear you will buy. It is Asheville mother approved and will take you to brunch at Sunny Point, for a beer at the Wedge, walking downtown, to LEAF, hiking in the woods, and anywhere else you need to go. Visit the Littlest Birds in West Asheville to try one on and see for yourself.
Aden + Anais Silky Soft Swaddle
These blankets are incredibly versatile, and are lightweight enough so that babies don't feel too constricted or overheated. We love them because they are the softest blankets ever, made from eco-friendly bamboo, and they have the cutest prints around. I wish I had one my size.
What are your favorite baby items?
What do you think? Is there anything missing here that you feel is baby registry must have?
by Molly Rouse
Blessing the Mothers-to-be
Whether you are expecting your first or your fifth baby, Mother Blessings provide a time and place to focus on the transformation that a new baby brings to your life. These ceremonies differ from baby showers in a few ways:
1. More focus is on the mother's connection to herself and her circle of women, receiving their support.
2. More focus is on preparing the mother for birth and motherhood.
3. Less focus is on the baby and gifts for the baby.
Australian postpartum doula Julia Jones says, "The birth of a mother can be more intense than childbirth." We don't hear about this much in our society, but I believe it to be true. In the US, the focus tends to be on pregnancy, birth, and the baby. As a postpartum doula, I work to shift the focus and celebration to the HUGE TRANSITION that a new baby brings to a mother's life. Mother Blessing Ceremonies are a great way to start that shift!
Here is the scene: the space is intimate, peaceful, gentle, and subtle. The list of attendees is be kept small, between 5-10 guests, with no invitations out of mere courtesy, but people who are supportive of the mother's philosophies on pregnancy, birth, and parenting. The elements of the ceremony might include sharing poetry, blessings, or prayers; singing; creating a visual symbol of support - a mobile made by the group, string tied around each woman's wrist, or candles that will be lit when labor begins; and feasting (yum!).
Depending on the expectant mother's style, personality, and preferences, her Mother Blessing gathering can take many different forms. It can be spiritual or secular; formal or relaxed; focused on art, words, silence, or food. In the end, the intention is to focus on connection and support. These elements go a long way in helping a woman on her birth- and motherhood- journeys.
I chose to have Mother Blessing Ceremonies before the births of each of my 2 children. The first one, in 2006 was held in the community where I grew up, and included about 15 women (mostly my generation and their moms). Everyone brought a poem (I still have them all in a scrapbook my sister made) and a piece of 2-dimensional art to be added to a birth collage, which I planned to have with me in the hospital room when I gave birth (which didn't happen, but that's another story). There were so many unknowns, and it helped to hear many of the other moms in the group share their birth stories. This gathering was followed by a bigger party and baby shower. All of our families joined us as we feasted and opened gifts. It was all lovely; my husband and I felt super loved-up and exhausted at the end of it. When our son was born, this same group of people brought us food and checked in with us as we transitioned to parenthood.
The ceremony that my sister led just before the birth of my second child 6 years later, was a different scene. Held at a good friend's home, there were seven women with me in the circle. I had two miscarriages before this pregnancy, and with heightened emotions, this intimate gathering was just what I needed as I was about to give birth. We all decorated cardboard birds to be hung on a mobile, and then, in a circle, each woman spoke from her heart to share a blessing just for me. My tears flowed as I received words of honesty, admiration, and support. Next, I was asked to speak about my pregnancy journey. Each woman wrote down words phrases that stood out to her. Two friends collected the papers and a few weeks later, used them as inspiration to compose a song for baby Alma. Hearing myself speak about my own journey was an amazing gift, as was the song that I still sing to 3-year-old Alma. This sweet ceremony was followed by painting my big belly with henna, and a relaxed and delicious multi-course meal. As I fell asleep next to my husband that night, I felt so ready to bring Alma into the world.
From these experiences, and attending and hosting ceremonies for other mamas, I can say that Mother Blessings are wonderful whether held in addition to baby showers or instead of them. After your first baby, you often don't need all the stuff for the baby, but for every birth, you need the support and love of your community. The members of your circle of support want to raise you up in this holy time of life.
I celebrate you, Sweet Mama!
Note: Mother Blessings are based on Blessingways, a Navajo (Diné) tradition of marking rites of passage. I choose not to use the word 'blessingway' out of respect for a tradition I do not belong to.
by Rachel Ansari
I stood at the kitchen sink after dinner feeling nervous about what was to come… bedtime. I love my four wild things like there’s no tomorrow, but sometimes at bedtime I feel like tomorrow may never come and we’ll be stuck in eternal bedtime, Groundhog Day style. Even on good nights it takes a serious chunk of time to put four children to bed. As soon as I utter the words “time for bed” everyone needs something. Thing one is absolutely famished and how could we dare put him to bed with his belly aching from hunger. And no, snacks won’t do. This kid wants a burrito… ok dude. Thing two wants to talk about major life events like passing gas at circle time. Then he drops bombs like “I want you to have another baby” and I feel compelled to dissuade him by pointing out all the awful and annoying things his siblings do. Thing three wants to be reassured that we’re not going anywhere, like ever. Oh, and water. She wants water. Thing four is 18 months old and he wants to read his books, over, and over, and over (I am totally into this part of bedtime. I’ll take all the sweet snuggles and books I can get). And he doesn’t want to miss out. His sweet little ears perk up anytime the other children make a peep in our modest-sized house. By the time our routine is done SO AM I. If only I had a bedtime doula to provide non-judgemental physical, educational and emotional support so we can all have a positive bedtime experience...
2011 was my year of miscarriage. I had one in January and another in December.
It was also my year of poetry.
Yep, poetry. Poems were constantly writing themselves in my head while I recovered from the first miscarriage. My body wasn't expelling the baby, and so I elected to have surgery (a D&E) rather than be induced at 16 weeks gestation. Afterward, I had trouble getting my immune system running and I spent a lot of time in bed. I was depressed, but surprised by the fact that I had gone through something that I previously thought would take away my desire to live. Not only did I want to live, I wanted to celebrate every freaking person I saw...because just getting here, into this world, is a MIRACLE.
Poetry was my way to celebrate that miracle, and to be with the mystery of loss. I was keenly aware of the small beautiful things in my daily life and routine. My 4 year old son was the absolute embodiment of miracle. I had scattered thoughts, my feelings varied widely, and my memory became photographic. I remember telling an old friend that I was writing at least one poem a day for weeks after the miscarriage. In that moment, it occurred to me that my body, mind, and spirit had been so intensely creating a baby, and my creative energy needed a place to go. All the books and websites I read didn't quite connect with how I was feeling, and so I wrote my own words. I worried that I wasn't processing things 'correctly,' that I was avoiding the pain by not grieving in typical ways, but in retrospect I see that I was doing exactly what I needed to do.
I also did other things: a ceremony with family and friends to say goodbye and thanks to a baby we never got to hold, but whose presence brought so much learning and connection into my life; a bellydance class to help me move the emotion through my body (so amazing!); and allowing myself to be pampered by my circle of friends.
Since 2011, I have continued to write poetry from time to time, AND I have encouraged other moms going through loss to find their creative outlet. Some draw or color, some dance, some write, some cook, or garden, some brush my advice off. We all go through these transitions in our own ways. Our society is still very uncomfortable talking about loss in any form, but especially loss of a baby that was still in utero. My hope is that we each honor our own ways of processing the shock, grief, and disappointment that miscarriage brings, our lives made richer through this experience.
Are you planning a trip with your baby?
There was once a time when I traveled alone from North Carolina to Massachusetts with four children under six. My oldest daughter was six, my middle daughter was four, my son was a barely walking (but wanting to do it all himself) 18 months, and my daughter was still a baby. I don't know what I was thinking. Well, actually, I do. I was thinking that it was my Dad's 60th birthday, and my siblings and I were all coming home to surprise him. Not being there was not an option. Hugh couldn't miss work, so I decided to go alone.
I'm going to be honest. It was so hard, it actually broke me. I cried. When we finally arrived, and I managed to schlep all my kids and their 4 giant carseats and suitcases and double stroller onto the shuttle, and my teething, tired, overstimulated baby wouldn't stop crying (for what felt like hours), my 1 year old was crying because I wouldn't let him eat various debris on the shuttle floor, and my tired 4 year old was in tired 4 year old meltdown mode, I put my head down and started crying myself, right there on the shuttle. It was a traveling fiasco. I do not recommend traveling alone with 2 babies, a 4 year old and a 6 year old. It's crazy. Absolutely looney tunes. It can be done, but it is likely that you will suffer some sort of emotional breakdown.
Good news! Traveling with one baby is totally doable. Yes, you need to be super prepared, and anticipate everything that you and your baby may need, but with some good planning, your travels can go as smoothly as possible. Here are some tips to save you from a public breakdown like mine.
by Molly Rouse
There are multitudes of parenting books on the market, some of them real gems. There are also some amazing books that aid us in our parenting journey that aren't specifically meant for parents. Two of these have been particularly helpful to me, both as a parent and more generally as a human being trying to make sense of myself and the world in which we live: