The Dreaded Baby Bump and Why it Just Won’t Disappear

 

 

“I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump. From now on, ladies, I will have a bump, and it will be my baby bump. It’s not going anywhere. Its name is Violet, Sam and Sera.”

-Jennifer Garner

Like Jennifer I too have a lovely baby bump. Having had nine babies there are those that will tell me it’s just part of motherhood and I should embrace it, but I don’t accept that!

Most share this message to say love your body. Of course I agree with that, but today I have a different message. It’s fine to be sad about your bump. It’s ok to wish it away. It’s normal to have your feelings hurt when people ask if you are pregnant. It’s understandable to hate the fact that none of your clothes fit right. It’s perfectly acceptable to cry about it. It’s common to wear shape wear. Ladies it is ok to do whatever you want to do so that you can walk out that door feeling confident and beautiful. You are amazing and you deserve to feel like your outside reflects what’s on the inside!

It’s especially ok to say “I’m not going to let this baby bump hang around!” Yes, we need to have realistic expectations. We need to give ourselves time, but a baby bump does not have to be permanent. A long-lasting baby bump is often the result of a condition called diastasis recti, and I’ve got good news for you, YOU CAN HEAL IT!!!

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis recti occurs when the left and right halves of the abdominal muscle (Rectus Abdominis) separate. You then only have a thin band of tissue connecting these two halves of the muscle which is not enough support for all of your internal organs. Your belly then bulges out because there isn’t anything strong enough to hold it in.  Diastasis Recti can also lead to other problems such as a weak pelvic floor and lower back pain.

After my 6th child I had a gap that my entire hand could fit inside. Through careful work I was able to narrow that gap down to two fingers and keep it there throughout pregnancies 7 and 8. Three months after baby #9 and I don’t have a noticeable gap at all.

Preventing Diastasis Recti

The focus of both prevention and healing is to focus on exercises that pull your core muscles in and up while avoiding exercises that cause them to push forward. For example sit-ups are absolutely horrible for diastasis recti, yet most people are regularly doing them! Pelvic tilts, on the other hand are excellent. When getting out of bed I’d be willing to bet that you sit straight up and then swing your legs over the edge of the bed; am I right? If you struggle with a baby bump try this instead, roll onto your side and then push up with your arms to avoid putting pressure on those stomach muscles.

Prenatal yoga is one of my favorite ways to strengthen my body in a safe and gentle way. It is important to maintain focus on pulling the navel in and up throughout the session. Yoga moves can easily transition from helpful to damaging if you allow your form to engage incorrectly. Be especially careful during twisting moves, as these can tend to push muscles outwards as we try to twist more than our body is ready to do correctly.

When doing other exercise programs simply be careful to focus on keeping that abdominal wall pulled in and up throughout the program. If joining an exercise class keep in mind that most instructors are not educated about the cause and risks of diastasis recti. It is best to research specific modifications on your own before attending class, so that you will know what to do.

Wearing a maternity support belt during pregnancy is another useful prevention tool. By relieving  giving extra support to your abdominal muscles you can help prevent the ligament stretching that causes a stubborn gap.

Healing Diastasis Recti

So how do you know if you have a problem? Follow the steps in this video to find out if you have diastasis recti and how big your gap is.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is especially true when talking about diastasis recti. While many women are able to heal their gaps through a focused exercise regimen combined with belly binding there are those who need to consider surgery to repair the stretched out fascia muscles. Unfortunately this seems to have a lot more to do with luck or genetics than it does how hard you work postpartum to close the gap.

There are arguments both for and against belly wrapping as a healing tool for a large gap. Many say that it allows the ligament to retract and regain it’s tight elasticity. Others say it can squeeze your internal organs out-of-place leading to a uterine prolapse or bladder incontinence. Here’s what I think after doing a lot of research: binding is helpful, when done properly and in conjunction with an appropriate exercise regimen. Binding should be snug, but not tight. You should still be able to move and breathe easily. Binding should not be worn all day every day, your muscles need a chance to work on their own if you want them to get stronger. I use a Squeem for every-day wear under clothes. Supportive shapewear is also a good option for support without excessive squeeze. I also have an EzyFit for a little extra support without too much squeeze while working out. I do not wear my binder to bed and only wear it for a few hours each day. I would not recommend a tight corset, waist trainer, or anything that restricts your breathing or movement.

 

Binding on its own will do more harm than good. You also need a good exercise regimen. An exercise program needs to focus on strengthening the abdominals in conjunction with the pelvic floor and back. As a former Certified PErsonal Trainer I am comfortable just working out on my own at home or at the gym. You aren’t likely to find a DR friendly class at your local gym. Armed with the knowledge shared here, however, you should eb able to modify any program to work for you. If you don’t mind working out at home there are several great options.  Lindsay Brin has an excellent post natal slim down DVD if you are looking for a simple work-out. If you want a more intense program check out the MuTu system or The Dia Method. These are a bit more expensive, but are also more focused specifically on healing your diastasis recti.

Love Yourself, but Strive for Your Best Self

Now I have to add that it’s important to love your body the way it is. You have accomplished something amazing by growing and birthing a new life. Honor those tiger stripes mama; you earned them! Then go ahead and tell yourself this isn’t the best you can be and you want, no you DESERVE more!  You are of infinite worth and should be able to look in the mirror and be happy with what you see. Sometimes that just means altering our mindset, but often it means working on altering our physical appearance in a healthy manner. Most often it requires both working together. Give yourself grace to be where you are while still striving to be the best self that you know you can be.

Do you have diastasis recti? What methods have you used to heal it? Please feel free to share any additional tips or resources in the comments.

Ducks in a Row- 4 Tips for Balancing Motherhood and Business

balancing work and motherhood | being a work at home mom | WAHM | large family logistics | managing a big family | working from home with lots of kids | motherhood management

What is life like in a 940 sq ft house containing 8 little ducklings ages 9 and under?

A bit crazy.

Add in a dash of homeschooling, a pinch of Dad being gone 90% of the time trucking and a heaping tablespoon of Mom trying to run a business and you have a recipe for utter chaos!

ducks in a row| baby makes a mess | large family | big family | homeschooling | chaos |work at home mom |business owner | mom boss
Run it all out little ones, then maybe we can get a nap!

Getting my ducks in a row…or not.

So how do I manage? How do I get my ducks all in the same pond, even if ducks in a row is completely out of the question?

Well first of all I just have to learn to embrace a bit of the craziness. Let’s face it. Life in this home will NEVER be calm even if the house doubles in size and the kiddos are all five years older. I sighed and rolled my eyes as I picked up the recycling mess today, but who can resist smiling at that proud little one year old who found the prized soda can that she was after?

Second I’ve had to learn to be flexible while still maintaining good routines. Kids need to know what to expect, but with this many people and the joys of running a business, it’s pretty much impossible to keep a set schedule. We have a morning routine of getting dressed, feeding the animals, feeding ourselves, then having outside playtime. In the evening we feed animals, have dinner, get ready for bed, then have our family scripture time. I also try to give my kids as much warning as I can when it’s time for an activity change, so that they aren’t being yanked around feeling like they have no control over their lives.

Third I’ve had to practice some major time management with my businesses. I’m still working on this one. Sometimes I get lost in the tiny details of a digital painting or spend way too much time putting together LuLaRoe outfits. Every now and then I look at the clock and say to myself “Oh crap, I have children to feed. Guess I’d better make lunch now that it’s 1:30.” One thing I have discovered that really does help me out is using Cinchshare and Hootsuite to schedule my posts. This is especially useful when I’m doing an online party. I can schedule out all my posts in advance when I have time (usually after kiddos are in bed), and then all I have to do is focus on interacting and having fun with my guests.

Fourth I just pray for serenity and hide for a bit in my room when I just need a break! Seriously though, self-care is a HUGE part of maintaining my sanity. It is so easy to get caught up in the needs and wants of everyone around me that I often forget to take care of me. No one can get water from an empty well, so I have to make sure I have time to fill myself if I’m going to be able to adequately care for my family and business. I try to make sure I have a little me time at the end of every day to decompress and relax before bed. I’ll watch a show, read a book, edit some personal photos, do some art, or take a bath while sipping my Mother’s Milk tea mixed with sleepy time tea.

digital painting | muchnessmama.com | digital artist | St. John the Baptist Cathedral | Savannah Georgia | watercolor painting | photoshop painting
I love taking photographs and turning them into paintings. Such a relaxing activity for me.

I’d be lying if I told you that this life is perfect. It’s hard. We have our struggles. I have my days where I just want to give up on it all. Overall though I do love my crazy chaotic life. The sticky kisses, too tight hugs, and numerous “I Love You’s” make it all worth it! Organized little ducks in a row will never happen here, but we are happily splashing away in our little pond quite content to be there.

If you’d like to chat with me and other women who are trying to figure out this whole work/life balancing act come join the Muchness Mamas community on Facebook!

Self-Care is NOT Selfish!

self care is not selfish | self love | put on your own oxygen mask | take care of yourself | self care for mom | self love quotes | self care quotes

“You have to put your own oxygen mask on first” How often have you heard that phrase? I know I’ve heard it every time I fly. I’ve also heard it thrown around a lot in reference to motherhood and wifehood. What does it really mean?

Often as women we find ourselves putting everyone else first. We serve, serve, serve, until we are totally burned out. Now don’t get me wrong, selfless service is a VERY good thing, but even the best things in unhealthy amounts can be damaging. So how do you determine when you need to back off, say no, and practice some self care?

I’ll let you know when I figure it out! Seriously though here’s the difference in my mind. Self-care is putting your NEEDS above other people’s WANTS. Selfish is putting your WANTS above other people’s NEEDS.

self care is not selfish | self love | put on your own oxygen mask | take care of yourself | self care for mom | self love quotes | self care quotes

 

Usually determining this is pretty easy. I NEED to eat breakfast. My kid WANTS me to play with them. The hard part comes in when you and another person have conflicting needs. I NEED sleep. My baby NEEDS to be fed in the middle of the night. Now I have to figure out how we can both get what we need. Sometimes determining if something is a need or a want can be difficult too. We all want time off to just relax and rejuvenate. At a certain point this becomes a need. Once the need has been met it once again becomes a want. It is especially difficult in marriage to balance this seesaw between things that can at any time be a want or a need for either spouse.

What is Muchness, and Where did it Go?

what is muchness | muchnessmama.com | you've lost your muchness| finding yourself | stay at home mom | working mom

A few years ago I watched Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and absolutely loved it. As I watched, however, it took a lot to fight back the tears. It was like watching a fantastical version of my own life. Precocious imaginative child grows up to become a mere shadow of her real self. She has completely forgotten who she was. While doing her best to please everyone around her and live up to societal expectations she loses her muchness and now believes “I don’t slay, I couldn’t even if I wanted to.”

I’m not sure when exactly everything changed for me. When I stopped being the real me and started being what I thought everyone wanted from me. The result was, however, that I was a pretty empty shell of a person. My mouth smiled, but it rarely spread to my eyes. I would answer the question “how are you ?” with “Great!”, then feel sick inside because I knew it was a lie. I had a hard time sleeping, even though I was perpetually exhausted. I spent my days cooking, cleaning, booger wiping, diaper changing, and doing everything else to take care of my family. No matter how hard I worked I felt like a failure because I never got my to do list done. I often did nothing other than the necessities to keep my kids alive. Why bother busting your butt to achieve perfection when you are just going to fail anyway? I was a total mombie!

 

muchnessmama.com | alice in wonderland | mad hatter | tim burton | alice in wonderland quotes | mad hatter quotes | muchness | you've lost your muchness

I wasting my life away trying so hard to make everyone around myself happy. Now don’t get me wrong, there is great value in serving others and some of the greatest joy in life is found in service, but I wasn’t doing it the right way. I was so focused on what others wanted, not what they needed, and they all wanted different things. I would never be pretty enough, good enough, talented enough. My house would never be clean enough, or children as well-behaved as they should.  Pleasing everyone is just impossible and the more I tried the more of my muchness I lost. I completely lost sight of the importance of self-cer in my life.

Just like Alice I was lost in a world where everyone told me who I should be, and who I was. What I should be doing, and what I shouldn’t. This left me feeling empty, drained, and completely inadequate. One day, just like Alice, I finally woke up. “This is my dream…I make the path!”

I choose who I am. I choose what I value. I have a choice, and I can slay my Jabberwock. I can’t really tell you the story of the moment when everything turned around. It’s not just my story to tell. I can tell you it was with the help of one kind compassionate friend who told me “Whatever you decide I will support you 100%”.  I was set free. I was empowered to make a choice that was best for ME and follow it through knowing that if I fell it was ok. Someone was there to catch me and help me learn how to fly.

It was time for me to stop making excuses and start making changes. I was no longer willing to be a passive observer in my own life. As I started living my life with more intention and thoughtfulness things have begun to fall into place. I have been blessed to meet people and have experiences that I never imagined possible. I have learned so much about myself and who I am. I have a voice again. The precocious child who knows who she is and what she wants in life is back! I’m back. I have my muchness. I know who I am.

I am not ashamed or embarrassed by others negative thoughts on large families. I hold my head high when other women tell me that I am damaging their feminist movement by choosing to stay home. I ignore those who tell me that I am somehow hurting my kids by homeschooling them, or worse hurting the rest of the world by not having my kids in public school. I create the art that I love, without guilt for spending time on it or fear that others won’t like it. I am open and honest about my needs and desires with my spouse. I’ve put more appropriate limits on my children and taught them to be more independent. I bought new clothes for myself, at retail instead of from the thrift store, and they have the fun colors and patterns that I love. I get up, dress up, and show up for my life every day (well almost every day, every girl needs a day to veg out in their pajamas with netflix every now and again) I’m even planning to dye my hair crazy colors as I always dreamed, but was afraid was inappropriate.

And now I am ready to carry what I’ve found forward and use it to bless YOU!

If you are struggling to find your muchness don’t give up. You can do it. You are a wonderfully unique individual and the world needs your beauty! Just jump, because if you do you just may fly and if you don’t, well then pick up the pieces and move forward with your head high. Failure is nothing more than the quickest path to success.

It’s your life. YOU make the path.

If you’d like to talk to other women who are on this path of self-discovery come join our Facebook community!

Motherhood is Beautiful- Loving My Mom Body

When I first saw this family photo it was a small thumbnail in our gallery of birth photography images, and I loved it. It was a lovely real life moment of our family. Something I’ve never had captured before. Even though the moment is so beautiful I almost didn’t share it with anyone.

birth photography | Smithsquad.com | meeting baby number eight | all natural hospital birth
Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

When I made the image large the first thing I thought was “wow, I look fat! No makeup, messy hair, and I’m in my pajamas. I don’t think everyone needs to see me that way.” I even considered for a moment whether I could possibly liquefy myself a bit smaller in Photoshop. Then I stopped. “What on earth is wrong with me?!?! This is less than 24 hours after giving birth to my eighth child. I can’t believe that I am being so hard on myself! I’m Super Womb-an.”

I now believe that this image is even more beautiful because of my appearance. This is a body that has carried and fed eight little humans. This is a body that has given birth naturally eight times. This is a body that has been pregnant, nursing, or both for the last nine years. This is the body that allows me to read, play, and laugh with my children. This is the body that cooks, cleans, teaches, and so much more. This is the body that my husband loves. Most importantly my body is an amazing temple of God and I need to show it more respect.

I am beautiful. My body is amazing. I will share this image with pride knowing that it is a truly beautiful moment that my children and their children can treasure for generations.

motherhood is beautiful| smithsquad.com | love your mom body | Exist in photographs
Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

Mom’s please love yourselves. Love your bodies for the amazing things that they do. Don’t hide from the camera or hide away the photos because you are ashamed. There is no shame in motherhood. You are beautiful even with 20 extra pounds, no make-up and messy hair. Motherhood is beautiful in every shape and size. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to celebrate it. Show your children the beauty that created them. Give them something to treasure for the rest of their lives. Exist in photographs, it is the best gift you can give after giving them life.

I would love to document these moments for you. Whether it’s a birth, newborn, or family life session I promise you we will walk away with a treasured memory. Contact me for more information.

Have you ever had a photo of yourself that you judged too harshly? What amazing things has your mom body done? I’d love to see your favorite documentary images of yourself! Share links in the comments so I can check them out. 

My New Baby Must Have Products

My new baby must have products| Smithsquad.com| With a small budget, large family, and tiny home I have to be rather minamilistic with new baby supplies

With only six weeks left until my due date I am thinking a lot about making sure I have everything that baby needs. Fitting a family of 8 in a 980 sq ft house is no easy task. I have to really focus on only bringing into the house things that will truly bless us and get used on a regular basis. I don’t have a baby nursery, or even much storage space for clothes and such. I definitely don’t have room for EVERY awesome baby furniture option out there. Here are a few of my baby must have products that are worth making room for.

Muslin Swaddle Blankets

New Baby Must Have Products- Muslin Swaddle Blankets | SmithSquad.com | What things are absolutely necessary on a tight budget or in a tiny space?

My mom introduced these muslin swaddle blankets to me a few babies ago. She runs the Show Care at Tuacahn Center for the Arts and uses them all the time. They are perfect for swaddling because they are larger than most receiving blankets and thin which makes it easier to get them tight. The are super easy to layer when you need a bit of warmth and make a great light blanket when it is warm. They are also great as a breastfeeding cover or spit-up cloth.

Breastfeeding Essentials

As a stay at home mom I usually can just feed at the breast. It is nice, however, to have the ability to leave daddy or the sitter with a bottle of milk so that I can get some much-needed mommy time off. My favorite Bottles are the Breastflow bottles by “The First Years”. They mimic the way that baby gets milk from the breast so that there aren’t as many issues with nipple rejection or confusion. For the last few babies I have only had a simple Madela Harmony hand pump. It is inexpensive and works beautifully, but can be quite tiring on the hand that’s pumping. It’s great for moms who only pump a few times a week. If you are pumping daily, especially if returning to work, then a double electric is the best choice. Most insurance companies will cover a great one now days, so make sure you check with them before buying one out-of-pocket! In the past I have used the Madela Pump in Style and loved it. This time around my insurance sent me a Hygeia pump. I’ve heard great things about it, and am excited to try it out. I have also heard great things about the Spectra S2. You will also need storage bags and breast pads as a breastfeeding mom. My favorite for both is Lansinoh (bags, pads). Last, but certainly not least it is important to have at least two comfortable supporting bras. My absolute favorite brand is Bravado. Bravado bras are super comfortable and very supportive without having underwire. I love that they have a little bit of stretch to them to accommodate for changing cup sizes between full and empty breasts.

Baby Carrier

New Baby Must Have Products- Baby carrier | SmithSquad.com
This is a kangaroo carry in a woven wrap, perfect for teeny newborns.

I am a huge fan of babywearing! I detest carrying around a car seat, and find strollers that are suitable for newborns bulky and inconvenient. My three favorites for the newborn stage are stretchy wraps (Moby, Boba), woven wraps (Dolcino, Ellaroo, Didymos, Storchenweige, and more), and ring slings (Maya, Becco). You can read my full post about babywearing benefits and carriers here.

Car Seat

It kind of goes without saying that a good car seat is necessary for any baby. Even if you don’t have your own car chances are your baby will be in a friend’s car or taxi and will need a suitable seat. Me personally I prefer to get a good convertible seat and skip the baby bucket seat altogether. They can go from rear facing as low as 5 lbs in infancy to belt positioning booster for your 100 lb child, so you won’t have to buy anything other than a simple no-back booster if needed when your child is older.  It just makes more sense from a financial perspective, and as stated above I don’t take the seat out of the car, so portability isn’t a concern. Many moms prefer to get a travel system that includes a stroller, car seat base and a detachable seat. If you don’t have the same negative feelings towards strollers and carrying seats that I do it is a great option.

Clothing

New Baby Must Have Products- Clothing |SmithSquad.com| bodysuits and footed jammies are all you really need
Babies spend 90% of their time in footed jammies or bodysuits.

I am very blessed to have been gifted plenty of adorable hand-me-downs from friends and family. Really though babies don’t need much at all in the way of clothing. If you are buying your own on a budget stick to the basics. Bodysuits and footed jammies are what my babies wear 90% of the time. Unless the girls are picking the outfit, then they end up in the most frilly and sparkly outfit that can be found! How many to buy depends on how much storage space you have and how often you want to wash. Most babies go through 1-2 outfits a day thanks to diaper leaks and spit-up. If you have a major spitter though, you may need a few more.

That’s it Folks!

Seriously, that is the end of my list. Everything else is just fluff. There are tons of nice to haves and adorable things that are fun to have, but if you’re really working with a minimum budget or tiny space I think you will do just fine with only the things on this list.

Do you think I forgot anything? What are your new baby must have products?