Love & Loss: Mother’s Day When You Are Grieving

Like many holidays, Mother’s Day can be a difficult day when you are grieving. And in my experience it changes with each passing year after a loss. Be ready for your feelings, be kind to yourself, and be sure to practice self-care any way you need.

It has been more than 10 years since my mother died, and we were estranged for over a year when she passed away. To say my grief process has been long and complicated would be an understatement. I was only 17 when she died, and in the years since I’ve moved through grief in various ways and become a mother myself.

The most difficult part of grief for me has been when it creeps in unexpectedly. A complicated, often taboo subject, it is difficult to navigate alone. I have found that having a plan has helped me manage my feelings and get through days that I can expect to be more difficult, like Mother’s Day.

The first year after my mother died, I didn’t realize that grief would come in waves and sneak up on me. I didn’t plan for Mother’s Day, and I was caught off guard when I found myself in heavy mourning all over again on the day. I learned that day through lots of tears to not let that happen again.

By the fifth year, I was ready. I created a routine. I was prepared with simple, healthy food, a cleared schedule, a book to journal in and another to read, and a candle to light as a way to remember her. But I was surprised again. Pleasantly surprised, to not be overwhelmed by tidal waves of grief. The day came and went. That's when I knew that I was finally through it. Not that I will never experience sadness when I think of my mom, but that I can think of her and not be swallowed up by the sadness.

Having a ritual gives you space to feel your feelings, time, and grace. If it turns out you don’t need it that is ok, but it is better to be prepared than surprised by your feelings.

Things to try in your ritual:

Journal

It doesn’t matter if its just a few notes in an old notebook, or you keep a beautiful and perfectly decorated bullet journal. Writing down feelings is a wonderful way of letting them out. Write down a favorite memory. Write a letter to your mom. Write a letter to your past or future self. Give yourself space and ink to let it out.

Find the perfect bag for all your journaling supplies.

Read

Reading whether for pleasure or processing grief is a wonderful activity to bring yourself some peace when you are grieving. If you are looking for books to help you with the loss of your mother, I recommend:

  • Letters from Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman
  • Brene Brown, honestly any of her work
  • If you had a complicated relationship with your mother, you might also enjoy Gabor Mate’s work, his book In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, in particular helped me gain perspective on my mom’s life and struggles with addiction

Watch a Movie

Maybe something comforting and cheerful from your childhood. Maybe something sad that feels good to ugly-cry to. For me, my comfort movie is My Neighbor Totoro, and I love to get comfy with a snack and relax with this movie.

Eat a favorite food

During hard times for me that's something healthy but easy, like a veggie sub. If I’m feeling more sentimental, I make a seafood chowder, which is a food that reminds me of happy times with my mom.

Make a playlist

Maybe its cheerful to help you keep your spirits up and distracted. Maybe it is sad, if you need to sink into your feelings.

Whatever your ritual, prepare it ahead of time and make it personal to you. Light a candle, create something, talk about it. Take time to acknowledge the person you are grieving. Say their name.

Motherhood & Moving Forward

When I became a mom myself, my experience of Mother’s Day changed again, but I still dread the day. As wonderful as it is to enjoy celebrating with my own young family, I’m not sure the day will ever come without a sting. It is a reminder of what is missing in my life. But I try to focus on the positive; acknowledge my sadness and move forward. Hugging my girls tight and wishing my own mother had had the chance to meet them.

When you are grieving on Mother’s Day, feelings of love and loss become messy and tangled and it can be hard to tell one from the other. The key is to acknowledge all your feelings but not let them take over completely.

Wishing all of those who are grieving this Mother’s Day joy and peace. Supporting each other during times of grief is so important.

What is a ritual you use to help with your grief? What do you miss most about the person you are grieving? Tell us in the comments down below.


About the Author

Caitlin lives in Alberta with her husband, 2 little girls, and too many animals cause she is a sucker for a rescue. When she's not chasing kids and changing fluff bums she spends her time crocheting, gardening, and binging true crime docs.


Self-Care: How to Fill Your Cup in Simple Ways

Before I had kids, I taught kindergarten. It was exhausting but at the end of the day I got to go home to my peace and quiet, self-care seemed easy.

Photographer: Nathan Dumlao | Source: Unsplash

‘Filling up my cup’ was easy because nobody else needed me.

I foolishly thought that teaching had somewhat prepared me for children. I was wrong. So so so wrong.

Motherhood, for me, has been all consuming. I have chosen to parent my children in a what is considered “attachment parenting.” I cannot even imagine parenting any other way but some days I find myself guiltily longing for that peace and quiet. My second baby has taught me that while parenting is hard, it is so so important that we prioritize ourselves too.

How can we be good parents when we have nothing left to give? We can’t.
We get frustrated more quickly, we lose our temper more often, we long for that peace and quiet more intensely. I have found a few ways to fill my cups in some quick and easy ways that allow me to be the best parent possible to my children.

Momma’s support your future
Photographer: Alex Pasarelu | Source: Unsplash

1. Start the Day with Self-Care: Coffee/Tea Time

This starts my day and I try to set myself up each morning for success. If I get to have hot coffee or tea, my day is infinitely better. I don't know why. I don't make the rules. It just works.

Too early for a Guinness
Photographer: Clay Banks | Source: Unsplash

So, every night, I set up an activity for my kids so that as soon as they wake up, they have something to do while I enjoy my coffee. It is the single best thing I do for myself.

Being confined for the summer in a remote cottage, all that's left to do is drawing, crafting, an dpainting rocks.
Photographer: Sigmund | Source: Unsplash

Some of my favorite activities are “The Floor is Lava” where I throw some pillows on the floor or some precut paper circles on a rug and tell my kids they can only stand on those. They jump from pillow to pillow or circle to circle and think it is hilarious. It gets them moving without much effort from me.

It was a normal Saturday morning at our house, and I pulled out my camera to document the happenings of our morning. My middle daughter put on some music and started dancing. The morning sun was shining through the windows beautifully as I caught her in mid twirl.
Photographer: Laura Fuhrman | Source: Unsplash

That is a win/win in my book.

2. Go on a walk/run:

Sometimes my kids just need fresh air. Heck, sometimes I need fresh air.

Sun rays beating down on mother and daughter walking in forest
Photographer: James Wheeler | Source: Unsplash

Some days I don't really feel like I can chase my kids as they run in opposite directions so I throw them in their stroller or wagon, give them snacks and put a bunch more under the seat/in the basket and just go. My kids have gone out in pajamas, and in just diapers, and in some really questionable outfits, but it works.

Fresh air and snacks relax them. I get a few minutes to not be touched or called upon and just get to walk. I usually put an ear bud in and listen to my favorite True Crime podcast. Other times, I call a friend to just talk and vent. A 10 minute walk can be enough some days to fill my cup, other days it takes an hour.

A girl pushing her baby in a stroller.
Photographer: Michael Kilcoyne | Source: Unsplash

3. Go on a drive: A Change of Scene for Self-Care

I won’t lie. This is my favorite one. I have it down to a science. I have a bunch of snacks and activities in my car ready at all times. I also keep water cups in there and diapers/underwear so I can just grab my own water to fill theirs and go.

Some days I drive through a coffee shop and get myself a nice treat and water. Some days I just drive around and listen to my music or my True Crime Podcasts. On good days, my kids take a nap and I get to chill with my coffee and my podcast.

Coffee
Photographer: Hussain Alolama | Source: Unsplash

4. Read a book while your kids play:

I love to read. I have loved reading since I was a young child and parenting has made it so difficult to find time for my reading. I have started prioritizing it and even a few pages make me into a new person and an overall better parent. As a bonus, my kids see me reading and also want to read sometimes so it ends up being a win-win.

My heart
Photographer: Iana Dmytrenko | Source: Unsplash

I know these all sound a little too perfect. Not all days go super well. Some days I have to take my kids into the car kicking and screaming because I so desperately need that time. Other days, I turn on the TV just to get those 5 minutes of peace and hot coffee. Parenting is a 24/7 job for me and I have learned one thing: I cannot be a good parent if I do not take care of myself.

There is no shame in choosing you. A stroller, TV, the car won’t ruin your child’s life but it can change your entire day. Your day matters. Enjoy those small moments because you deserve them. You are important, too.


About the Author

Jessica is a Latinx mom to a boy and a girl. She currently lives in California with her husband, babies, and a super cuddly pup. She has many hobbies but her favorites include dancing, hiking, and true crime podcasts.


What are some ways you fill your cup? How do you keep your kids entertained? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!

Cloth vs Disposable Diapers: The Truth about Cost, Time, & Sustainability

Cloth diapers or disposables? Sometimes it can feel like an either or choice, with the two camps pitted against each other. One side argues for reduced environmental impact and long term costs. The other speaks of convenience, accessibility, and up front costs. But is it really an either or debate?

With my first, I used disposables in the beginning. I wanted to adjust to some of the other realities of being a new parent before taking on the extra task of cloth diapering. Around one month we ran out of the case of disposables. It was time to start cloth diapers. She was in cloth diapers full time, day and night, from then until potty training.

My first in cloth on vacation at 3 months old.

When her little sister arrived, we waited a few weeks to start cloth again. We made the switch at around one month, gradually at first. A few cloth diapers a day. Now she is in cloth full time during the day, but we still use a disposable at night. She has been a naturally good sleeper. Even though we have successfully cloth diapered before, I just don’t want to mess with her sleep. I’d definitely call myself team cloth diapers. But our family still uses 2-3 disposables a day (technically, a night).

The truth is there is a time and a place for both. Lets compare.

Cloth Diaper vs Disposables: Cost

One barrier to cloth for people seems to be the start up cost. It takes money up front to build your stash, even if it does save money in the long run. That initial investment can be tough.

My second is using the same set my first did , so I can definitely say it has been cheaper to cloth for my family. Using cloth diapers across multiple kids or buying used (Did you know there is a Lil Helper Buy/Sell/Trade Facebook group?) is a great way to make sure it is truly cost effective. Lil Helper also offers a trial diaper deal if you want to try them out, save a buck, and aren’t quite ready to commit to a full stash yet.

When I buy our cases of disposables, it makes me feel motivated to stick with cloth. Every time you use cloth it offsets your costs, even if you only cloth part time.

Environmental Impact

This one is obvious. Most guesses put disposable diapers breaking down after about 500 years. The truth is we haven’t had the materials they are made of in use long enough to really know this. Regardless, they are here a long time.

While the PUL of your cloth diapers may be here a long time too, the volume won’t be. Many cloth diaper users can get away with 20-30 diapers comfortably. Used across multiple kids, or buying second hand, you are getting more use out of less, compared to putting literally thousands of disposables per kid in the landfill.

The Convenience Factor

This one, disposables probably win out. Most cloth diaper parents will tell you that the extra laundry becomes a regular part of their routine. But if there is a reason to choose disposables, it is probably this.

Convenience is why many cloth diaper users decide to use disposables for the early days of parenting. Less chores is key when you are in total sleep deprivation and often still recovering from giving birth.

There is a definite convenience factor to disposables, but there are lots of ways to make cloth diapers work in the early days too.

Choosing a one size fits all diaper like Lil Helper is a great way to get lots of use from just one set of diapers, and it is possible to get a fit on a newborn. Plus, if you are exclusively breastfeeding diapers don’t need extra rinsing. But still, its understandable that people choose disposables when life feels chaotic

Cloth Diapers vs Disposables at Night

One thing that many people (aka me) who try cloth diapering struggle with is taking the leap during sleep. Its one thing finding good absorption for day time when changing is easy. It is another thing to start experimenting with baby’s sleep. It can be pretty intimidating to already sleep deprived parents (aka me).

With our first, she took a long time to sleep through the night, so cloth at night seemed like no big deal because we were already up anyways. My second, however, started sleeping through the night before we made the switch. I don’t want to mess with a good thing, so we aren’t touching nighttime cloth for now.

With 2 under 3 at home, we don’t mess with sleep.

Overnight cloth diapering can be a challenge with the need for 12 hours of absorbing power, not wanting too much bulk, and building a good diaper for how your baby sleeps. Tummy sleepers may need more layers up the front of the diaper, for example. Lil Helper has you covered though with everything from overnight inserts to boosters and HELLO! A brand new crib sheet that doubles as a mattress protector just in case.

I miss when we were in cloth 100%, but if disposables are helping us get a little more rest, I’ll take that too.

I will also say, my little one has never removed a Lil Helper cloth diaper. But my youngest has removed a disposable. Inside her PJs and sleep sack. In the middle of the night. After a big poop. Oh the joys of parenthood.

Situations for Both

After experiencing that middle of the night poo-nami, I started combining the best of both worlds. When a situation comes up that I feel I just want that added convenience and absorption of a disposable, I still put a cloth diaper on over top of it. This guarantees that it stays in place and I have only on the rarest of rare occasions experienced my kids blowing out a Lil Helper. Those paper disposables just can’t contain the mess sometimes, so the extra cover on top helps!

At home and even on the go, for me I love a fluff butt. There is something so cute about the big booty of a cloth diapered babe, plus the adorable prints on the covers are much more appealing to me than the paper look and feel of disposables. But every rule has its times to be broken.

Sometimes I will reach for a disposable if we are doing a long car ride and I’m worried about compression leaks. Or sometimes on vacation, or to give your diapers a deep clean, you might decide its better to take a break from cloth. Some folks do cloth at home and disposables at day care/out and about. Its up to you and how much you think you can handle. There are pros and cons to both.

Remember, even if you only cloth diaper once a day, you are saving seven diapers a week from the landfill. If your kiddo potty trains at 2 (aka is a unicorn, it usually takes longer) that's 728 diapers saved from the landfill. Every bit helps and the more you use them, the more cost effective they become.


About the Author

Caitlin lives in Alberta with her husband, 2 little girls, and too many animals cause she is a sucker for a rescue. When she's not chasing kids and changing fluff bums she spends her time crocheting, gardening, and binging true crime docs.


On the fence about cloth diapering? Have a question about how to get started? Let us know in the comments below!

Safe Sleep 101: Popular Products & Keeping Baby Protected

At Lil Helper, we care about the well-being of kids and families. Its why we created our God Forbid Guarantee, and why we are thrilled to have teamed up with Shayna Raphael of The Claire Bear Foundation for this piece all about safe sleep. As parents, we’ve all experienced both the sleep deprivation of young kids, and the worry of wanting them always to be safe and well. To make that as simple as possible, Shayna shares her knowledge of AAP recommendations & baby products here.


Safe Sleep: The Basics

A Lil Helper fitted sheet (which doubles as a mattress protector) in a crib makes for a cozy, safe sleep space.

Safe sleep can seem overwhelming, but taking it back to basics makes it a little easier to understand. Let’s focus on the ABCs recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

A stands for Alone:

Babies should be alone in their safe sleep space, with nothing except for a fitted sheet, a sleep sack or swaddle, and a pacifier. Swaddling should end by eight weeks or baby’s first signs of rolling, and then moving to a sleep sack is a wonderful choice. Pacifier safety involves plain pacifiers, not attached to a clip or stuffed animal—but parents need not be afraid to throw a few in there so baby can reach them.

B stands for Back:

Babies should be placed on their backs at the start of every sleep. If baby rolls over by himself while in a sleep space, he can stay there, but you want to continue to place him on the back for every nap. Why? Well, babies are forever changing, and their development can sometimes come in waves. While one day a baby can roll all by herself, the next day she might be sick or overly tired and not have that same strength. So start out on the back, and let baby get there all by herself!

C stands for Crib:

Babies should sleep in a crib, bassinet, or pack n play. In the U.S., these items are highly regulated to meet ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards to keep baby safe. So if you’re ever unsure about a device, check out those standards for safe sleep!

Please note: Our guest blogger, Shayna, is sharing her wealth of knowledge based on standards in the United States. Always base your product use on the recommendations from the country you purchase your products in. In Canada, play yard’s are not recommended for sleep. For the most up to date guidelines in Canada, see here.

Infant Sleep Products

Being a new parent can be overwhelming, and if you throw in all these products on the market, it certainly adds to that uncertainty. Unfortunately, there are many products on the market that seem like a dream come true, but too many aren’t safety tested for infants. Did you know that nappers and sleepers aren’t actually regulated for sleep? While they have standards for their material, they don’t meet ASTM standards for safe sleep. Likewise, breastfeeding pillows, nests, and sleep positioners are also for awake time only. This can seem confusing when advertising shows infants sleeping in these products, but the AAP has made it very clear that the evidence shows babies are safest in regulated items.

Old School vs. Evidence-Based Practices for Safe Sleep

Perhaps the biggest obstacle when navigating infants sleep is sifting through older recommendations, new data, and family and friends telling us, “Well I did it, and it turned out fine.” Data and recommendations have changed over the years, and with that, new practices have been established. For example, inclined sleep is no longer the recommendation for congestion or reflux. It sounds counterintuitive, but babies actually clear their airways better when flat on their backs. If you are concerned about something like severe reflux or GERD, always talk to you doctor about your concerns. If they recommend inclined sleep, a medical grade monitor is much more reliable than at-home device. Sleep positioner, wedges, and bed-sharing are all practices that are no longer supported by the AAP due to risk for infants.

Don’t feel like you have to navigate this alone! If you’re in need of a safe sleep space or support navigating information, reach out to us at www.theclariebearfoundation.org.


About the Author

Shayna is an educational consultant in the Pacific Northwest where she lives with her husband. Together, they have had three beautiful daughters. Unfortunately, Shayna lost her second child to unsafe sleep at child care. Since that time, Shayna has become a fierce advocate for infant safety and founded a non-profit, The Claire Bear Foundation. She believes strongly, and knows first-hand, that safe sleep can save lives.