Mothering

My Blooma Journey: Gratitude, Motherhood, & Connection

I’m laying on my side, facing my 5 week old baby, his tiny limbs gently exploring the air.  There is soft music playing in the background, sun shining through the window, we’re warm and comfortable.  Strong hands reach to my neck with intention and massage my neck, my shoulders, my back, all the way down to my feet.  Unconsciously, a couple of big tears roll down my checks. It’s such a relief to move my nursing, mama body into powerful poses, to lay down to rest, and then to receive someone’s tender touch and affirmation.  With hormones shifting, emotions raw, and exhaustion all encompassing, these are tears of gratitude. Thank you for this space, thank you for noticing me, and us, together and connected. At a time when every waking (and sleeping!) moment is consumed with giving care, I have a sweet moment at Blooma where I am the one receiving.

In those early weeks and months of Samuel’s life, yoga at Blooma was the place I went to receive.  Parenting young children is so physically demanding, but I don’t think it’s ever more demanding than those first few weeks after giving birth.  In that space of newness and recovery, yoga was the sanctuary of our day. It was the place I went to be acknowledged, celebrated, and encouraged.  A place where I could connect with other moms - where our stories, our concerns, our joys (and sometimes our babies’ cries!) could be heard.  

Samuel is my 4th child, and it hasn’t been like this with my other babies.  There was no sanctuary where I felt that sweet connection and relief. My older kids are in 6, 9 and 12, and  Blooma wasn’t even in existence when I was pregnant for the first time.   Perhaps Blooma’s offerings weren’t as developed when I had the chance with my middle children, but I think the biggest factor was my desire to take care of myself wasn’t as developed.  I look back on those years and I think how much easier things would have been if I’d had this community. And I should have known better, I’ve been involved with the birth world for over 20 years.  

When I was 19, I had the rare opportunity to shadow the village midwife in a small fishing village in India and attended many births with her.  I came back to college, completed a doula training, and attended births in my early 20’s. I became an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner, and opened my practice in 2007 focused on women’s health, specializing in fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum care. I have walked alongside women becoming mothers hundreds of times, always encouraging excellent self-care and valuing of their well-being.  But now, with more things than ever on my to-do list, I finally see this equation from a different angle.

My assumption with my first three babies was that time spent caring for myself took away from the well-being of my family.  I would fit in an acupuncture treatment or massage, but there was no foundation of support that offered consistent care. Now, I recognize that the most important thing for my home, my children and my practice (which has now grown into a much larger women’s health and fertility center) is that I take top-notch care of myself.  Because Blooma has classes where I can bring Samuel with me, and offers childcare on-site, this is much easier to achieve.

My journey with Blooma started with barre class at 14 weeks of pregnancy.  I’d been dealing with very significant pain in my sacrum for a couple of weeks.  I knew that I needed something to help stabilize and strengthen my pelvis and decided to try a barre class.  After the first class the pain had significantly decreased and I was hooked.   I made an effort to get to barre class at least 3 times/week-- it became one of my main priorities.  If I didn’t go, the pain would start to return, so I was motivated. I was also determined to do barre regularly because I remembered how much strength it takes to care for a baby-- to hold and wear a baby, and then a toddler--for long hours, and especially to lug that infant car seat everywhere!    

I had done weight training and exercise during my first pregnancy, but by the time I was recovering from my third birth, I was physically weak and depleted and had a variety of physical ailments related to this.  This time around I wanted things to be different and I was determined to emerge from this pregnancy strong and vibrant.

Samuel is now almost 5 months old and I have marveled so many times at what a profound impact Blooma has had on the ease of my postpartum journey.   We try to make it to babywearing barre at least a couple times each week. Postpartum can be an incredibly isolating and lonely time, especially in the winter months. Getting to class regularly not only boosts my energy and my mood, but has provided connection and community, laughter and support.   

The staff at Blooma and the other women in my classes have witnessed my baby grow within my belly and now out in the world.  They have celebrated with me and sympathized with me, and I have done the same for them. They’ve witnessed me when my baby is adorable and when he’s inconsolable.  By showing up again and again I have not only become stronger and more comfortable physically, but I’ve also learned to be more vulnerable and more compassionate with myself and others.  

For everything I have received at Blooma I am so grateful.  Thank you amazing teachers and staff. Thank you Sarah. And thank you to all the women in the classes who share this space with me.  

Kara is a Blooma Mama and the founder and senior practitioner at Fertile Ground Women's Health and Fertility Center.  Fertile Ground is a holistic women's health center in Southwest Minneapolis offering acupuncture, Chinese medicine, therapeutic massage and Maya Abdominal Therapy for women facing fertility challenges, who are pregnant, postpartum or dealing with other women's health concerns.

Is This Really Happening? Becca's Birth Story

"Ugh, here we go again," I thought, “more Braxton Hicks contractions.” I was sitting down to eat dinner with my three-year-old. We had just gotten home from the neighborhood wading pool, where I unabashedly stuffed my gigantic belly into a swim suit and floated on my hands and knees among all the small children in the pee-laden pool water. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions through the second half of my pregnancy, but in the last few weeks they had really picked up momentum. They had become intense, and I was certain I would have to endure them for another week, at which point my midwives would tell me my time was up and I had to schedule a c-section. I was trying for a VBAC, so I was on a much tighter time schedule. My first was born at 42 weeks and six days via beautiful c-section, after 45 grueling hours of labor. Even though I was really hoping for a VBAC, I was unconvinced it was something my body was going to do. My care providers told me, "Trust your body," and that was a really nice idea, but I was having a hard time getting there. 

So there we were, Arthur and I, still in our swimsuits, eating dinner. My husband, Mike, was at work. He wasn't scheduled to work that evening, and even though it was my due date, he was also unconvinced that this baby was coming any time soon. So, he picked up an extra shift. About ten minutes into dinner, I realized the contractions were happening pretty regularly. "Huh," I thought, "maybe I should download one of those contraction-tracking apps." So I did, and I immediately realized I was having contractions that were one minute long and five minutes apart. "Hmm," I thought again, "maybe I should pay attention to this."

The contractions kept coming at regular intervals, and I took Arthur in the backyard to play with the neighbor boys. After 30 minutes it seemed like things might be getting more intense, but I was in full denial that this was actually labor. “Mommy, are you ok?” asked my sensitive, perceptive little guy. “Yeah, mommy’s ok. I just have a tummy ache.” I was sure this would pass and we would continue on with our night as usual. But I was feeling pretty uncomfortable, so I called my mother-in-law, Susie, and asked if she would come over. She got so excited and asked if she should take Arthur to her house for the night. "No," I said, "I'm sure this is nothing. Will you just come play with him for a while and help me with beditme? I'm sure this will go away." Well, in ten minutes, it most definitely was not going away, it was getting stronger. I called over the fence to the neighbors, "I think something might be happening. Can you watch Arthur until Susie gets here?" I went inside and frantically started picking up the house, and before I even realized it, I was bracing myself and breathing through contractions. Time to text the doula. 

Me: Something's happening.

Nicole (one of my amazing doulas): Oh yeah? 

Me: But I'm sure it's nothing.

Nicole: Do you want me to come over?

Me: No, I don't think so. 

Nicole: Are you having contractions?

Me: Yeah, they're a minute long and five minutes apart.

Nicole: Well, that's something! Is Mike there?

Me: No, he's at work.

Nicole: Maybe you should have him come home.

Me: I don't think so. I'm sure it's nothing. 

 

But, I went ahead and texted him…

 

Me: Hey babe, I'm feeling some intense stuff here.

Mike: Great! Ignore it.

Me: I know, right? I'm sure it's nothing.

Mike: Keep me informed. I love you!

I continued to brace myself and breathe through the contractions. "Maybe I should take this seriously," I thought. "Nah, I'll just get in the bath." But first I called Nicole. We talked through two contractions, and she said she was coming over. "You're in labor!" she announced. "You think so?" I asked. I was still unconvinced. "I'm going to take a bath," I told her, “and it will probably go away. Door’s open – come on in when you get here."

I called Mike and told him he should think about coming home. "Ok, should I keep taking tables? Or just finish out what I have?" I told him he should probably finish his tables and head home. "Do you think this is it?" he asked. "I don't know. I think so. I don't know," I said.

I sat in the bath for exactly 30 seconds and said aloud to myself, "Get me the hell out of here." I was so uncomfortable.

I think that's when I finally accepted that I was in labor. I started frantically throwing Arthur's overnight things in a bag. "He can't see me have a contraction," I thought, "he'll be so freaked out." Susie came bursting through the door then, and I shoved the overnight bag at her, and asked her to get Arthur out of there as soon as possible. She watched me have a few contractions and joked that I might have a home birth after all (which is what I had wanted with the first one). She was very concerned to leave me alone. I knew Nicole would be there soon. I couldn't get Susie and Arthur out of there fast enough. I knew I couldn't let my body do its thing until Arthur was out of my care. For months I had been in tears every time I thought about this moment - letting go of Arthur as my baby and turning my attention to a new baby. I had envisioned this would be a heartfelt moment, with prolonged hugs and kisses, as I said goodbye to my little boy who would be a big brother the next time I saw him. But there was no time for that. In between contractions I gave him a quick kiss and shoved him and his grandma out the door. 

A few contractions later Nicole arrived. "Is Mike on his way home?" she asked. I wasn't even sure. Did I tell him to come right home? Things were getting so intense that I couldn't really remember or bother with my phone. Thank god for doulas. The details get a little blurry from here, as I instinctively moved to my hands and knees and started making that all-too-familiar moaning sound I had made three years earlier. I was kneeling on the floor with my head on the couch, thinking, "I can do this. I got this. I can do this for ten hours." I had prepared myself to last 12 hours; that was my max. I knew I could labor that long. Past that, I was giving myself permission to wave the white flag. I was determined not to have a repeat of the marathon labor I had with my son. I was left traumatized by that birth. Deep down, I didn't really care how this baby came out - via VBAC or via c-section. What I did care about was having a different birth than the first - one that didn't last for 45 hours. I was already one hour in. I could do this for quite a while longer. And hey, I could get an epidural at the hospital. Yep, I got this.

Thirty minutes later Mike came through the front door, saw me on hands and knees, and heard the familiar moaning, and he knew it was real. “That’s a noise you don’t really forget,” I remember him later telling the doulas when the birth was over. "Ok guys, I'm going to pee, then we need to go," I announced. This most definitely WAS happening.

On the short walk from the house to the car, things got ugly. I crawled into the backseat and turned circles like a dog trying to find a comfortable spot. This was really happening. Like REALLY happening. In the next five minutes I had five contractions. I was panicking and climbing the walls of the backseat - I was no longer in control. I let the pain come out of my mouth and screamed through each contraction. They were coming one on top of another. "I'm losing it!" I cried. "I need a fucking break! They're coming so fast!" We weren't even on the freeway yet. We still had 20 minutes in the car. "Mike, I need an epidural as soon as we get there! Ok?" "Of course, baby. Of course," he calmly reassured me. Poor guy. I’m sure the last way he felt was calm.

Nicole was following us to the hospital. Our other amazing doula, Liz, was meeting us there. Nicole was a labor and delivery nurse at Methodist at the time, and she was scheduled to work that night. Our plan was working perfectly. She was going to be my nurse that night, while Liz was going to be our doula. At our last clinic appointment, we had joked with Vida (our favorite midwife) that we would see her on Friday night, which was her on-call shift at the hospital. And here it was, Friday night. My dream team was all in order. And it was my due date. Was this really happening?

It was, and very quickly at that. Somewhere on Hwy 100, I started to feel pressure. Liz's all-knowing doula powers kicked in and she called Mike right at that moment. "Tell her to pant like a dog," she instructed. Thank god for that. I crawled and screamed and swore and panted the rest of the way to the hospital. What a ride!

Liz opened the car door and I fell into her arms. I clung to her all the way to triage, and I clamped my eyes shut, firmly telling anyone around me who could hear that I wanted an epidural. They checked me. I was already at a seven. Holy mary mother of god! "I want an epidural! I want an epidural! I want an epidural!" As I screamed and grunted my way to the delivery room, everyone reassured me the epidural was on its way. Before I got into bed, I leaned over through a contraction, and my water exploded onto the floor. Vida appeared, and I calmed down long enough to say hi to her. I asked yet again for an epidural. I got up onto the bed and she checked me. "Becca, you're at a ten. Look at me." When Vida tells you to do something, you do it. I opened my eyes for the first time since arriving at the hospital. "Becca, you're complete. You can push." WHAT?! I didn’t think those were words I’d ever hear. Those were words reserved for women who had vaginal births. Was I going to join that club?

I was in agony, but I felt amazing. And I also realized I wasn't getting an epidural. But what I didn't realize was how good it would feel to push. I mean, not good, but at least now I felt like I could do something with the pain. Pushing was hard. Really fucking hard. After 20 minutes I thought to myself, "Shit, some women push for hours. I don't think I can do this for hours." But lucky for me, Liz is a master at describing how to push. If it wasn't for her, I think I would have pushed for much longer. "Becca, push that baby across the room!" Every time Liz said that, I pushed in a different way. And every time I pushed like that, everyone who was looking at the business end of things started cheering. I guess pushing isn't just pushing - there is a specific way to push that creates a lot more progress. "I want this baby out!" I screamed. It was time. Two more hard rounds of pushing, and someone was saying, "Becca, reach down and grab your baby! You're having your baby. Open your eyes! Reach down and grab your baby!" I couldn't reach down and grab my baby – all I could do was keep pushing. A few seconds later, a warm, wet baby was placed on my tummy, and Mike paused, looked, and announced, "You have a baby ... GIRL!" Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god! "Mike, I did it!” I cried. “Mike, I did it! Mike! I DID IT!" 

I'll never forget that moment. Maybe one day I'll think of it without tears welling in my eyes, but not today. It was the most profound feeling of accomplishment that I've ever felt and will ever feel. And it was over. Thank god, it was over. In only four hours, our family of three was transformed into a family of four.

Everyone who knows about Arthur's birth asks me if Francesca's birth was healing. No, no it was not. I did need to heal from Arthur's birth, but I needed to do that by honoring his birth, not by replacing it. All I wanted was for this birth to be different that my first, and it couldn't have been any more different. The births of my babies are both beautiful in their own ways. Birth is such a mystery until it happens. You never know what kind of birth you will get, and I am lucky to have birthed my babies in completely different ways. I may not have yelled "I did it!" after Arthur was born, but I should have.

Francesca Felice was born on her due date, 7/7/17, and she weighed 7lb 7oz. Lying there with my new baby girl on my chest was the best feeling I think I'll ever feel. It was over. I didn't have to labor anymore. And look what I had to show for it! A baby girl! I did it. I did it. I DID IT!

Written by Becca, Assistant Manager at Blooma Minneapolis, Prenatal Yoga Teacher, and Mama of two.

 

Honoring the Significance of Pregnancy & Birth: The Fourth Trimester

Carrying a baby, birthing a baby, and mothering a baby is one of the biggest life experiences.  This transformational journey continues once baby joins a family earthside.  Each mother deserves time and space to heal from the effort of birth, honoring her own unique circumstances and needs.  Planning ahead for the fourth trimester can impact your entire postpartum experience.  Studies have shown that care, nourishment, and guidance during this time can result in long term health benefits to mother, baby, and the entire family.  

No matter what type of birth you experienced, your body went through a significant transformation.  This time is about you mamas and your body needs rest.  In Chinese culture, “Zou yuezi is a sacred 40 day period following birth that is a time to shower the new mother with nourishment and self care through therapeutic baths and deep oil massages.  In Western culture you may not be able to set aside a full 40 days and we understand that, but try making your first two weeks postpartum a sacred time, bonding with baby and resting.  

“Mothers cannot give from a depleted source.  Every mother needs emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual validation, nourishment, and support.  When a mother is respected and well cared for, she, and her whole family, will benefit.” - A motherwoman principle

In our childbirth education classes at Blooma we encourage students to abide by the 5-5-5 rule the best they can.  New mothers should plan to spend at least 5 days in the bed, 5 days on the bed, and 5 days near the bed.  Do you remember birthing your placenta?  There is a wound that size that needs to heal.  Low activity and rest can promote healing of the perineal tissues, allow birther’s organs to reposition themselves, and reduce the length of postpartum bleeding.  Have your partner or others bring you anything and everything you may need.  Request warm nourishing foods from your support team.  According to research, warm, soft foods such as bone broth, soups, or a good combination of carbs, protein and fats can help aid in digestion and provide the needed energy to nourish you and your babies body.  

 

 

After speaking with several postpartum mothers about their postpartum experience, responses were very individual and unique.  More than once, however, mamas noted they wished they would have asked more for what they need.  You are the gatekeeper of your space.  You may decide to decline visitors until you and your partner have enjoyed alone time to connect, get a handle on breastfeeding, and rest.  It’s important to keep in mind that following birth you will experience physical and emotional changes, many of which happen within the first 2- 6 weeks.  This can be a sensitive time.  If you don’t feel comfortable being naked, crying, or sleeping in front of certain family or friends here are a couple ways to decline visitors until you are ready.

*Avoid posting on social media outlets unless you are ready for people to start reaching out.  

*Ignore your phone.  Honestly, this is one of the times in your life it’s totally acceptable to be severely tardy in your replies to text, emails, and voicemails.

*Leave a nice sign on the doorstep saying thank you for celebrating in the arrival of our little one, we are not quite ready for visitors but will let you know when we are.

You may be a mama who is dreading all the alone time and know you will crave connection with others.  Make a list before baby arrives that includes family and friends who have flexibility in the daytime or evening to stop by and keep you company. A postpartum doula can be an amazing lifeline and worth every penny.  Postpartum doulas have specialized training for childbirth recovery, emotional well-being, and breastfeeding.  Postpartum doulas can help during the day or night.  If you would like a list of local postpartum doulas please reach out to a Blooma staff member and we will hook you up!

Regardless of what kind of postpartum choices you envision will best suite you and your family, have a list of people nearby you can call on to help you feel nourished, held, and supported.

Attention family and friends of a new parent: Consider asking, “How can I help you?”  or think “What can I do to make your life easier?”  Instead of bringing a baby gift, bring a meal.  Something that can be put in the freezer is a gift that will be received with gratitude.  Offer to help with laundry, care for baby so mother can take a healing bath or nap, or bring the older children to school.   We’ve included a great list of helpful “gift” ideas for new moms below:

Origins herbal heating pack for muscle tightness in the shoulders/back, etc or make your own rice pack

Padsicles (see Educator Jamie’s recipe here!)

Healing Herb Soaks (we sell a variety at Blooma St. Paul & Minneapolis)

Gift cards for Massage

Set up a meal train or drop off a meal on the front steps  

Robe (mamas keep this by your door and put it on before someone arrives to give the hint they shouldn’t stay long)

Build Your Nest: A Postpartum Planning Workbook

The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother

 

Written by Amy Kelley, Doula, Childbirth Educator, Prenatal Yoga & Kids Yoga Instructor and mama-to-be.  You can find me on Instagram as @amykelleydoula or visit my website at www.amynkelley.com

Building a Fort

For months, maybe even years, my husband and I have kicked around the idea of setting up a modern outbuilding in our backyard. A studio or workspace or a sauna. A big garden, a little escape.

But, as we’ve been busy having children, and I was busy for an inordinate amount of months with “morning sickness”—clearly, someone who never experienced morning sickness named that—I was either puking outright and/or completely revolted by the smell of herbs, flowers, or a simple spring breeze, which meant many of those plans fell by the wayside.

Last summer, we had pulled up a gnarled old Charlie-Brown tree that was the unfortunate centerpiece to our front yard. In the back, we broke up a weird old cement slab. My mother-in-law gave us some of her lovingly tended, Jurassic-Park-sized hostas. The foundation was there. In the fall, we planted 200-some coral-colored tulip bulbs along with about 50 multicolor hyacinth bulbs.

When the coral tulips rose out of the ground (we had a daily watch) and the hyacinth cast their hypnotic, heady smell in our front yard, we were completely inspired. (As were some of the passersby, who asked to take photos.) So William dug a new flowerbed opposite the tulips, leading to our front door. We went to town, planting and planting and planting boxwoods and shrub roses, hydrangea bushes and irises, and a beautiful magnolia tree. We transplanted other plants and pulled weeds.

And then my husband lucked across some pallet racking and some beautiful cedar, and he put his design skills to work. Two solid weekends of sweat equity formed the skeleton for a two-story fort. Yeah, you read that right. A modern fort. For the kids.

Ruby knows what it’s for, but Remy, who I think doesn’t, seems to have the same magnetic pull toward it each time we go in the backyard to play.

The beautiful thing is watching Ruby’s wonder as each step is completed, her complete enthusiasm for the process, and the clear case of twitterpation that she has come down with as she watches her dad construct it.

In the last couple of weeks, Ruby’s conversations revolve around such gems as: “Daddy is the hardest working Daddy and the cutest.” Or “Daddy is the strongest Daddy.” Yesterday, as some servicemen were here working on our air conditioner, Ruby asked me: “Can I tell them about the fort Daddy is building in the backyard?” She is also acting out elaborate pretend scenarios, cooking breakfast in the area that will become a little play kitchen and inviting Daddy to have a sleepover in her “second bedroom.”

This weekend, William let Ruby wield a drill and screw some boards together with help. Exhilarated, she said, “I want to do that again and again! And when I get more bigger, I want my own drill just like Daddy’s!”

And she doesn’t even know about the twisty slide yet.

To be honest, I’m not sure who’s more excited about it.

By Katie Dohman // Katie Dohman is a St. Paul-based freelance writer and Blooma mama of Ruby, 3, and Remy, 1. A former style editor, her work has appeared in Minnesota Monthly, the Star Tribune, Experience Life, Midwest Home, and Naturally, Danny Seo, among other publications and works. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @katiedohman

Lessons I Hope My Kids Learn From Prince

I can’t imagine this headline is what most parents were considering back in 1978 when Prince made his debut with “Soft and Wet.” Or maybe even what they envisioned in ’91 when Prince performed at the American Music Awards with yellow brocade buttless pants. Maybe a few just keeled over reading it today.

Loving Prince is like breathing to me. He has been around my entire life, simultaneously mystifying and thrilling me, like millions of others. He was such a fixture in my house that we had Purple Rain on 8-Track AND vinyl. My mom tried so hard to keep me from seeing and listening to things I shouldn't before my time. This is the peril of having teenage kids (my siblings) and a tot (me): Trying to keep your baby from growing up too fast. "No Friday Night Videos!" she'd warn when she left my brother or sister in charge—but it was moth to flame. Tone E. Fly recorded my first radio spot when I called up and asked him to spin “7” for me.

Ruby already knows “Raspberry Beret,” “Purple Rain,” “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” and “Little Red Corvette” because I sing them to her at naptime and bedtime. “Mama, sing the hat song,” she asks.

Behind some of the lusty, lascivious lyrics and beats were some other moral imperatives that I learned, and that I hope my kids learn, from Minneapolis’s most enigmatic son:

The things that make you different make you awesome and interesting. Nothing in the mainstream handbook about sex appeal or masculinity suggested Prince could become a worldwide sex symbol, but he did it anyway. Warner Brothers didn’t want to release “Kiss” as a single. It became a number-one hit and won Grammy awards. His proprietary musical blend crossed lines and blurred lines and, at least in the case of Purple Rain, created a diamond record. In life as in writing—the more specific and honest you are, the more people can relate.

It’s OK to nurture your mystique. Always leave them wanting more. Prince left his heart wide open in his music and performances, but he didn’t let us inspect his medicine cabinet. We wanted to, but he said no, and he meant it. He also didn’t offer much in the way of explanation. Let ’em wonder a little.

If you love something, pursue it doggedly. Prince didn’t become a guitar virtuoso or lyrical wizard by scrolling Facebook for hours at a crack. “They” say it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at a task. Prince was way beyond that. If you’re serious about a craft, you better get to work.

It might be mainstream to be X, but you can be a superstar if you do Y. Prince stayed in Minneapolis, mostly. He wrote what he wanted. He refused interviews and photo shoots and record-label commandments. He carved his own way. You can be non-traditional, different, unexpected—and still do something interesting or feel fulfilled. It doesn’t mean you are entitled to worldwide fame and fortune. But you can make a big difference, change the way people think, and even disrupt the powers that be for the powers that should be.

When in doubt, wear purple. If you’re feeling it, add lace. Eyeliner. Heels. A motorcycle. I take that back, no motorcycles. Moto jacket is A-OK though.

Work hard, then let it go, and let it speak for itself. If you really want to be a badass, be strict about not letting anyone dictate those terms to you. It might make waves. People might say you’re a jerk. They might say you’re weird. But you will be creating your life’s work—so who should have final authorship?

Living the life of a true creative spirit isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Do it your way. The right people will respond.

Do good works. You don’t have to take credit for it, either. Share what you have. Even if you don’t own the masters to a wildly successful Warner Brothers catalog, you probably have a wealth of other things: knowledge, kindness, time. When you give generously, you will feel filled up. Abundance is limitless. Empower those who need the extra lift that your privilege provides.

When it feels like the apocalypse is coming, get your butt up and dance. All night long, if you have to. Life is a party, and parties weren’t meant to last.

 

By Katie Dohman // Katie Dohman is a St. Paul-based freelance writer and Blooma mama of Ruby, 3, and Remy, 1. A former style editor, her work has appeared in Minnesota Monthly, the Star Tribune, Experience Life, Midwest Home, and Naturally, Danny Seo, among other publications and works. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @katiedohman

Baby Turns One!

How did we get here already? You are one.

When I found out I was pregnant with you—a combination of absolute elation and complete terror—I also thought, “I got this.”

But it is the role of a baby to flip expectations on their heads, isn’t it?

My pregnancy with you almost broke me. Every day I would think, OK OK, tomorrow will be the day I won’t puke. This has to get better soon.

Spoiler alert: It never did. You made me work really hard for you. Such was the prodigiousness of the morning sickness that Ruby used to announce, “I’m Mama!” and then put her face over the toilet, making retching sounds. I had volcanic heartburn. Sciatic pain sometimes rendered me completely incapacitated in the midst of my repeated march between the bathroom and the bed.

The only thing that sounded remotely appetizing were spicy chicken sandwiches from Wendy’s. Baby, that is all I fed you for a good few weeks, and every night I would say to William, “You know what we should have for dinner? Buffalo chicken!” like it was a brand-new idea. Seriously, though, I think Wendy’s may have sustained me when the winter was long and dark and I would drive the icy freeway to my midwife. St. Wendy was right on the way.

And then after a brief bedrest, you announced your arrival, one sharp contraction after another, very quickly and urgently—and this reaffirms my stance that babies arrive in the way of their personalities. Though I’d been through this before, still I thought, like a big dummy, This is probably not really happening right now.

But it was. Thank god for my mom, because when I called her to casually mention that maybe I was in labor and it might be time for Ruby to go to Susie’s but maybe we didn’t have time to wait for Susie, but I didn’t think I could really be in labor, oh hang on a second, this really hurts, she interrupted my stream of thoughts and firmly said/yelled: “KATIE! Hang up the phone, bring Ruby up here, and get to the hospital,” in the way only a mom can. Otherwise you may have come into this world on my bedroom floor. We left our Thai food waiting for us on a restaurant counter, and I begged your dad to please drive faster because laboring is bad enough, but laboring in a moving car is whole other level of torture.

My sweet, you arrived 45 minutes after we got to the hospital. I felt like I wasn’t going to make it even to check in, that you might arrive in the parking lot. But we made it inside, and suddenly, you were there, in my arms, just the most beautiful newborn I have ever laid eyes on (sorry, Ruby, you were beautiful, too). You have porcelain skin—look, I’m sorry, I tried, I married an olive-skinned guy— and the halo of dark hair you were born with turned sandy blonde. Your eyes started out the deepest ocean blue, mysterious in their depths, but have since marbled into green, gold, and brown, like your daddy’s.

You smiled in your fourth week Earthside, while I sang “At Last” with Pandora and Etta James as I folded laundry with you in the Rock and Play. On subsequent serenades, you would smile so wide it was almost as though your face would crack, and tears pooled in your eyes. You have just one cartoony itty-bitty tooth at 12 months and I am in no hurry for the rest, even though I can see them coming—in fact, your own pediatrician told me to give up on sleep for a while because this is going to be a wild ride. Good thing you have already given me so much practice in the no-sleep realm, right? Please for the love of all that’s good and holy, would you sleep already?

You are one of the great loves of my life, dumpling, even though you have pushed me to the absolute brink of sanity—by which I mean I could actually envision myself hanging on the cliff by my fingernails some days—with your tenacious preference for me. I mean sometimes I cannot even look in a different direction, or you primal scream as though I am ripping you limb from limb.

But you run to me in your uneven, unpredictable gait and when I scoop you into my arms, you press your cheek to mine, sometimes turning my face with your hands to yours, to better give me a good, long kiss on the mouth.

Rem, I worried about how I could replicate the intensity of the love I feel for Ruby. But like so many experienced parents promised me, I took one look at you and even if I didn’t fully know you yet, it still felt like you were always meant to be here. As time has worn on, the initial jolt of love and surprise I felt coalesced into intense devotion.

Remy James, you have pushed me beyond what I thought were my parental limits. I have never felt so tired. I have moments where I feel like my life isn’t my own. I have “eyebrow frowns, “ as Ruby says, and I have discovered more than a few white hairs. But then I have coffee with a friend, or tap out a story in the office while your dad takes over, and I think to myself: “I wonder what my teddy bear is doing right now?”

That’s some magic, baby.


By Katie Dohman // Katie Dohman is a St. Paul-based freelance writer and Blooma mama of Ruby, 3, and Remy, 1. A former style editor, her work has appeared in Minnesota Monthly, the Star Tribune, Experience Life, Midwest Home, and Naturally, Danny Seo, among other publications and works. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @katiedohman

Twosday: Three

Ruby Susanne, it is the week of your birthday. You are three. Your hair is a perfectly highlighted blonde with no discernible part, which make your hairstyles wild and unpredictable. Your eyes are wide, deep cerulean seas, framed by the darkest, thickest lashes. You are a long-lean-string-bean with skin as porcelain as your mama’s—“I have tender little skin,” you say. But that’s not all, of course. The electricity in your brain is practically visible as a corona around your head as you learn and practice new skills—jigsaw puzzles are your new favorite and you are shockingly adept at them—and your heart has been forged to a high-polish gold, from your fiery and passionate personality.

You are bold and unafraid in ways I couldn’t have conceived of when I was a child. I was scared of everything. Not you. You confidently stride up to kids at the park or library and introduce yourself and ask them to play. You can be shy with adults but warm up eventually and share your colorful world with them, too. You are a mix of spicy and sweet, my favorite combination.

Darling, you are everything I dreamed of, and then some. You recite from heart all of your books, plus any of the library books we have in rotation at our house. You love to help bake or cook, or have tickle fights after dinner. You love to inhabit the worlds of Tumble Leaf and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and you love to pretend that you are Ryder from Paw Patrol and I am SuperWhy. You tell your dad and I once when we ask why few girls inhabit your imaginary world: “I love boys because they can be awfully fun!” You are not afraid to ever say you can save the day. You told your dad the other day that every girl needs tools, and that you can fix stuff.

At night, after you are supposed to be asleep, you stand in your crib and talk to your animals by the light of your Twilight Turtle. The other night your dad reminded you that it was time to lie down and close your eyes and go to sleep. “Sometimes I have to talk about it,” you responded. And how could we argue with that? You are already therapy-ing your way through life, laying out all the ways in which we have told you no during the day, but also hitting some of high notes, and explaining your way through big concepts that you are struggling to understand. (A recent favorite: “It’s hard to wait, when you are waiting for morning.” Truth, girlfriend.) It’s a fascinating look inside your brain as I strain to hear you while I am rocking your brother to sleep in the other room.

Speaking of your brother: He is 19 pounds of delicious, sweet, juicy baby, and on that we agree. Thank God. He is made of Velcro and is glommed on to me at all hours if he has his way, which means that sometimes you have to be extra independent or extra understanding that you have to share me. You rise to the occasion, mostly magnanimously, certainly far more than I think can be asked of a 2-now-3-year-old.

You rose to the occasion of becoming a big sister so dang beautifully that sometimes it makes me weep. You hand your brother toys and Puffs. You sing to him when he cries, an off-tune, off-kilter rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle” that brings down the house. One day without prompting, you wrap your arm about his shoulders and say, “Remy, I’m going to keep you forev-oh.” You hug him so hard you grit your teeth. You don’t pronounce your Rs or Ls , but much of your toddler talk has evaporated into the ether.

In fact, the other day you asked me to arrange Cooey, your favorite doll, which you named, underneath your shirt. You stepped back and admired the belly, rubbing it, then getting up on the couch next to me and crossing your legs, hiding a shy smile.

“Mama, I have to talk to you about something. I am growing a baby in my belly and you are going to be a big sister soon. I have a book you can read about it,” she says. I struggle to keep a straight face and play along. I feel like I see you imitating me and also being 30-year-old you, all at once. I wish that you can always come to me, sit down on the couch, and tell me what is in your heart.

The passage of time makes me ache. I tearfully pack all your too-small clothes every time we need to sort them out of your dresser drawers, even though I know that each stage of your life has brought me immeasurable joy. You can put on your boots and feed the dogs their dinners and wipe off the coffee table when you spill. And yet, you will still sometimes fall asleep in my arms, on my lap, in the rocking chair at naptime. I take a photo each time you do, because I wonder if it will be the last time you want to do that with me.

Ruby, it is my greatest hope that no one ever dims your light, dulls your sparkle, makes you doubt yourself. You are capable already of so much. I see so much of your dad in you—problem solver, industrious worker, fed by some unending spring of energy that actually makes you hop in place all day long, always thinking and thoughtful. It has been a delight to see parts of me, too. But to see you come into your own personality—you are not me, or your dad, and I never get that confused—has been a thrill and a privilege.

You came flying into life, confident in many ways and independent and loving, and helped me realize so many things about myself—primarily, how much I loved being your mom. That’s why January 17 is your birthday, but I’m the one who got the greatest gift. Happy three, my baby-baby.

Twosday: Resolutions

Last year, I had one word for my New Year’s resolution: Survive. I was can't-tie-shoes pregnant with Remy. By February, I was on bedrest. With a toddler. Both my husband and I run our own businesses, so we had those to attend to. Ruby was in for a big shock—that baby we’d been talking so much about? He didn’t go “back to his home” in March, when he arrived Earthside. He stayed.

When I think about life a year ago, it’s like an alternate reality.

Now I look around and I have a nearly three-year-old who can recite the words in her library books after the second or third reading. She is looking less and less like a baby every day, stretching out, exploding with skills. I have a nine-month-old who went from being a blinky, cuddly little blob to a long-and-lean mover and shaker—from rolling over to sitting up to pulling himself to standing in what was perhaps a week’s time. He loves his sister, biting my face, and trying new food, as evidenced by his purposeful use of the sign “more.”

Last year kicked my butt. Going from one to two is…exponential, not double. Delicious, but also all-consuming.

There are glimmers that some of the life I had cobbled together before Remy’s birth are re-emerging. The day after Christmas—and that was SOME input for my noise-averse son—he woke at his usual time, then fell back asleep in my arms. My husband tiptoed out of bed, retrieved Ruby, made espresso downstairs, and tiptoed back up, leaving a steaming coffee on my nightstand. Talk about love. It was the first thing I saw when Rem and I re-woke, at 10:30. The kids played together on the living room floor while I drank it and listened to my new Johnny Cash record.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s basically nothing I love more than tiny babies. But there was something so incredible about those minutes, watching my two babies build their friendship, worshipful Remy at his sweet sister’s feet, game for anything she’d allow him to participate in, while I enjoyed my country and caffeination on the couch.

It made me think: What’s this year’s resolution? I’m still not quite sure I’ve nailed it. But I do know that whatever it is, I want to be present every day. Mindful. Grounded. (A little organization wouldn’t hurt, either.) I want to write more, because memories get hazy, or completely discarded so quickly—baby brain is real and it’s even worse the second time around, people—and I don’t want to forget anything.

I want to lead this merry band of babies into a year of love, patience, and peace. Make sure this home is a sane, safe, sweet corner of the planet.