My track record for back-to-school is riddled with epic failures like the time I accidentally sent my daughter to her first day of school wearing pajamas. The worst may have been Back-To-School 2014. My kids were starting at a new school, and all of us were a little nervous. We had missed the open house and didn't have an opportunity to meet the teachers or see the classrooms. I dropped my children off in the morning car line and watched them walk into their beautiful new school, full of possibilities.
At the end of the day, I picked them up and listened excitedly as they recounted their days. They loved it! I breathed a sigh of relief. When we got home, I began sorting through the mountains of back-to-school papers to be filled out and signed. One of them stood out above all the rest.
As a way for the teacher to get to know her students, my daughter's 4th grade teacher had her students write about their families, favorite foods, favorite colors, and what they wanted to be when they grew up. I smiled as I read about my daughter's favorite food being sushi and her favorite color being yellow. But my jaw hit the ground when I read about her aspiration to dance on a pole! On the back of the paper, in red marker, her teacher wrote a note to me. She said she asked my daughter more about her desire to live in the mountains and to work as a pole dancer. She explained that my daughter meant the Cirque Du Soleil type of pole dancing and not the Club Nikki kind of pole dancing. What a first impression!
Today marks the 8th anniversary of my daughter's birth. It's not very often that I share my personal birth choices, but today I want to share the story of my daughter's birth to highlight the importance of physical and emotional support, the kind of support you receive when you have a doula on your birth team. Emotions and thoughts can affect the birth process. Birth support does indeed make a difference.
I watched my due date come and go. Then another week passed. Every day, my mother would ask me, "Do you think the baby will come today?" I think she could sense how much that question annoyed me so, she stopped asking. I was in Carolina July heat, 900 months pregnant, and done. My parents had been very supportive throughout my pregnancy, but they were a little freaked out by my decision to have an out-of-hospital birth. In spite of their trepidation, they kindly agreed to babysit my other two kids, ages 4 and 1, at my house while I delivered at their house, just over the South Carolina state line.
When I finally started contracting at almost 42 weeks, I felt relieved. I called my parents to tell them that they should plan on babysitting later that day. My father answered the phone and said that since I didn't "look like [I] was close to having the baby,” they decided to take a “little road trip” to Florida. They were 30 miles from the Florida border! They were attempting to sell some real estate in Florida and drove down to check on the property. My feelings of relief and excitement were suddenly replaced with disappointment, anger, frustration and panic. My husband and I had to find someone else to babysit our kids whom we had never left before. Stressed, my contractions stopped. I was hopeful that I could hold out until my parents returned from Florida. That was, until about 11:00 that night when I suddenly felt a hard contraction. It was so hard and lasted so long that I couldn’t move. Fortunately, the cordless phone was within reach and I was able to call my midwife. She told me that for only the 2nd time in her 16 years of practice, she had 2 moms in labor at the same time and she didn’t know which one of us needed her first. Again, that sense of abandonment started to rise up in me. She assured me that either she or her partner would be there, just keep her posted. My older children were sleeping so my husband and I were able to sneak out when the last-minute babysitter arrived.
We called my midwife around 4AM. My contractions were super hard but still 5 minutes apart. She told me that she had just delivered the other baby and would be by my side in about 45 minutes. When I saw my midwife, I immediately felt relief. My contractions were so painful; I didn’t know what to do. I would describe them as sharp rather than hard, as if someone was shoving a knife up my rectum. My midwife asked me to labor on the toilet. I tried and quickly decided I didn’t like it. We tried a birthing stool, on the floor, in the tub, on the bed, on a mattress, on a chair, on top of my husband, on a birthing ball. Every contraction invoked the fight or flight response in me, and I definitely wanted to flee. My midwife remained by my side and continued to calmly offer suggestions. I didn't feel abandoned!
I ended up laboring in the garden tub with the jets running. I had been awake all night enduring powerful contractions. I had reached a point of exhaustion and didn't want to be there any longer. I wanted to be home with my babies who were awake and crying for their mother. At one point, I turned the jets off, told my midwife that I just couldn’t do it anymore, and decided I was going to drown myself. Then I slowly slid my head under water. She pulled my head out of the water, propped it up on a towel, and had her assistant give me a snack and some water. I made it through another contraction and then my midwife began talking to me in a nurturing voice. She asked me what I was feeling (emotionally). Of course, I denied anything was wrong, but inside all of the feelings of abandonment started coming up. I thought about all the times I needed people and they weren't there. I thought about the saddest times in my life, when I was away at school as a teen and didn't have my parents. I remembered past traumas that no one saved me from. I even thought about the time when I fell off my bike in the 3rd grade and no one was around to help me. All of the past hurts and times I felt like I had to do hard things alone. Everything came to the surface, including things I hadn't thought about in years! My midwife told me to release those feelings, to let go of every emotion I was holding onto and suppressing. Holding on to those feelings was preventing me from opening for my baby! My sadness went away, and I noticed a beautiful sunrise through the blinds.
My midwife told me she wanted to check my cervix. I agreed. As soon as she stuck her hand in the water, I screamed. She reached in further and said the head was out. She said she wanted me to push the baby out with the next contraction. When the next contraction came I screamed for 9-1-1, vodka, Cognac, and then my voice turned into that of a demon as I yelled, “GET OUT OF ME!” With that, my baby was born. It had been an incredibly emotional journey for me, but thanks to the support I received from my midwife, I didn't have to walk that journey alone. I didn't need the physical support or the words of encouragement. What I needed was for someone to hold space for me, to make it safe for me to feel the big emotions, to show up for me and not abandon me. That's what professional birth support can do!
My father wrote this essay for Mother's Day 1983.
Mothers are indeed something special, and every Mother’s Day I try to make a trip back home to spend that special day with my mother.
This year, the plans were all set but a myriad of things cropped up at the last minute that prevented me from being in Baltimore.
It seemed awkward not being with my mom on her day, but I used the occasion to reflect on events that happened in my life that made my mother seem extra special.
Growing up in Baltimore was nothing special, yet in a sense it was - because mom always made it seem that way. She constantly impressed up the Pittman kids that they were different - not better, but different.
While we did the normal things that kids do, like play all sports, skate in the street, play cards, stick ball and step ball (Baltimore was noted for its marble steps - you’d get a rubber ball and while one player bounced it off the steps, another would hit it back toward the house).
We had our rules for when we could play and how long. We could never play cards or any type of ball on Sundays, and during the long summer vacations, it was a must that our day include reading a few pages from any book.
It was also a must that we take a nap or just come into the house to spend some time with mom. The other kids in the neighborhood never understood why the Pittmans had to take naps or read books, or why we couldn’t just run aimlessly up and down the alleys. I might add that the Pittman children didn’t understand either.
It was just that mom wanted it that way, and we seldom questioned her reasons. Her favorite line whenever we had the nerve to question was, “You just can’t do what the other kids do because I know what’s best for you.”
I don’t mean to imply that was a tough disciplinarian. In fact, she was just the opposite. She was a caring and loving mom who just knew what she wanted for her children.
Learning By Example
She often talked about her younger days when she grew up in Lumberton, NC and how she graduated as valedictorian from high school. But she never put any pressure on us to perform in school. However, she did manage to raise all honor students, a National Merit Scholarship finalist and a valedictorian.
Mom was always a very pretty lady with long hair, and when we were younger we’d take turns combing and styling it. This was her way of letting us stay close to her, hoping that we’d continue to grow up to emulate her. I think that all the kids would agree that mom knew her role and played it very well.
The family consisted of three boys and a girl, and all the boys had athletic inclinations. My two brothers played baseball and I played football. My father, who was a real sportsman, took credit for this.
While he actively pursued and encouraged our athletic careers, mom never watched any of us play because she feared we’d get hurt or take losing too seriously. I still remember the first time she came to watch me play in college. It was actually the first time she’d come to see any game I played in. I didn’t get into the game until the second half and when I did, I never touched the ball.
I was so disappointed because I never had a chance to show her what her son could do. As a result, I was the last one out of the locker room after the game. But when we got together afterwards, she consoled me only the way a mother can do. She said, “Well, at least you didn’t get hurt. Just think, you still have three more years to show me you can play. Just be patient. You’ll get your turn.”
She was right again. Patience paid off and she watched me perform on many occasions at Penn State. Whenever she was in the stands, it gave me a little more incentive to play well.
Mom never saw me play professionally because she could sense, as only a mother could, the disappointment I was experiencing as a pro player. When I finally decided my playing days were over, she probably experienced a relief that I was never seriously injured during my years of playing.
I’m sure that during the many times you see an athlete say, “Hi Mom” after making a great play on national TV, you wonder why they salute their moms instead of their dads.
Well, I can answer it the only way I know. While all moms are special, moms with children who are athletes are even more special. Mothers keep meals warm because of a late game or practice. They organize car pools and wash and clean uniform after uniform. You can’t even count the physical aches and pains they nurse.
And if, by chance, the team loses because of your error or fumble, mothers just don’t seem to let it bother them. They manage to keep it all in perspective. And I guess for no other reason, my mother has always managed to help me through the years to keep everything in perspective.
Even now, when times get sort of tough, she still manages to find the right solution to make life better.
And even though I didn’t get to see my mother this Mother’s Day, it was quite nice just to take time to reminisce about the things we often take for granted. Somehow, no matter how old children get, mothers never stop being mothers. And for this I am thankful. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
My father wrote this essay for Father's Day in 1984. It ran in our local newspaper in honor of his late father, Charley J. Pittman (1922-1975).
For Mother's Day, I wrote about my mom. For Father's Day, I guess it’s only fair that I write about my dad. Besides, that’s the way Dad would have liked it.
He advocated for equal rights, especially when there was a Pittman involved. Charlie James Pittman was the backbone in the Pittman family and no one ever questioned his role as leader. Dad was tough because he had to be. But he was far from being perfect - because I believe that’s the way he wanted to be.
Laying Down the Law
He set tough standards for his children and expected us to live up to them. He desperately wanted our lives to be better than the one he had to endure. Born and raised in Red Springs, NC as one of six children, he was forced to drop out of school in eighth grade to help support his family.
After becoming a Master Sergeant in the Army during World War II, he married my mom and went to work as a steelworker in Baltimore. There, he worked for 29 years before dying of cancer at the age of 53 in 1975. You see, my father was no one special. He had no degrees or titles. All he knew was what he wanted for his family -- and what he didn’t want them to be.
He knew the environment that we grew up in didn’t lend itself to producing successful people. He showed us first hand what life in the streets was all about and what heavy drinking could do to your family life.
His philosophy definitely was “Do as I say, not as I do.” He expected excellence from his children and got it. If we didn’t achieve what we were supposed to, the worst words in the world coming from Mom were, “Wait until your father comes home."
Dad was not the type who accepted excuses. I remember once how, while playing first base in a critical baseball game, I missed a low throw on the back end of a double-play that almost cost us the game. After making an excuse about missing the throw, my dad said, “Charles, the ball never gets too low to catch -- now go to bat and do something about that error.”
Wouldn’t you know it, I hit the game-winning homerun in my next at bat.
Dad supported all of our sports activities and came to almost every game. He offered encouragement when times were tough. When I was a freshman at Penn State, I called home one night complaining about how tough things were at school and how the coaches were not treating me fairly. I told my mom I was coming home from school and like a caring mom, she said, “Okay.”
But Dad got on the phone and said, “NO!” - emphatically. “Do you want to work in a steel mill all your life?” he asked. “You stay there.” He went on, “If the other players can stay there, so can you.”
Thanks to Dad, I stuck it out.
A Tough Leader
His methods were different. I believe to this day that he convinced us of all the wrongs of the streets. He decided one day never to drink, smoke or gamble again. He settled down to push us all through college and encouraged us all to pursue athletics to its fullest.
Because fathers, then, were different from what they are now, we never really got a chance to tell Dad thanks.
It seemed, then, not to be permissible for fathers to show affection or emotion. They knew their roles as head of the household, and most of them played it well.
I’m so very thankful my dad did.
And to Tony, Kira and Mauresa - Thanks for the breakfast on Father’s Day. Don’t worry about how it looked, because it really tasted good. And Kira, thanks for your missing tooth. It was awfully big of you to give it to me for Father’s Day rather than save it for the Tooth Fairy.
Carowinds is a local theme park that straddles North and South Carolina. My family has been season pass holders for many summers. My husband joined us on occasion, but usually I took all 4 kids on this adventure alone. I’ve done Carowinds with babies, small children, and now with teens. Here are my Top 10 Tips for Taking Tots to Carowinds:
5. Get a good parking space. When you arrive at the park, scan the parking area as soon as it’s in view. There’s a divider that prevents you from turning into the first several aisles of the parking lot. Be patient. As soon as there’s an opening, turn your steering wheel all the way to right and whip your minivan around the corner. Drive all the way down to that first aisle and look for an empty spot. That’s if you’re going to ride some of the attractions before hitting the water park. If it’s blazing hot and you want to go straight to the water park drive straight through the parking lot to the back entrance. Park as close to the water park area as possible.
6. The best times to go to Carowinds is during off-peak hours. I try to avoid evenings, weekends and holidays.
7. I don’t recommend taking valuables to Carowinds, but if you must, you can hide them inside a disposable diaper and stash it in your stroller. Otherwise, you could spend the extra cash and get a locker.
8. After entering the gates, go straight to guest services and ask for a Kid ID bracelet. The Kid ID bracelet contains your child’s name and your cell phone number. If your child is lost in the park and found by a security guard, the guard will take that bracelet off of your child and call you.
9. Use a waterproof pouch for your cell phone. That way you can keep it safely in your possession without having to worry about it getting damaged or stolen.
10. There are plenty of benches throughout the park, but if you're bashful about nursing in public or just want to kick your feet up in air conditioning, head to Planet Snoopy. There's a blue house across from the carousel that has a breastfeeding nook and diaper changing facilities. The people who staff that little house are always friendly too!
There it is! Those are my tried and true tips for enjoying a summer at Carowinds. I’d love to hear how these tips work for you and if you can add to the list.
I have to give a shout out to the woman a few stalls down from me at the Harris Teeter. Every mother knows the difficulty of trying to use a public bathroom with a toddler in tow. You'd almost rather bust a gut than have to face the peril of being immobile in a public bathroom with your toddler on the loose!
Your toddler will either open the door and expose you to the masses or crawl onto the nasty floor and escape. The latter happened to me.
Not only did he escape, but he climbed into a neighboring stall with a complete stranger! I heard a friendly voice say, "Why, hello there!"
Mortified, I said, "Please tell me my son isn't in there with you."
She laughed and said, "Yes, but don't worry about it. I have 3 boys of my own."
This is the time of year when the wheels begin falling off of the mom train. It's harder and harder to get the kids dressed for school, pack lunches and arrive at school on time. I think parents look forward to the end of the school year more than the kids!
My kids try to help me out when they see me struggling. My kindergartener, for example, packed the "hand sanitizer" in her lunchbox and threw in a napkin before we all raced out the door to school. The next morning I went to pack lunches again, and this is what I found. I mean, anyone could have made that mistake, right? The bottles are similar. But why did it have to be MY kid? Mercy! Let this school year end already!
Returning to work after having a baby was probably the single most difficult time in my life. I was starting my days at 4:30AM so that I could be home with my daughter in the afternoons. My husband watched the baby during the day and worked at night. Neither of us was getting more than 4 hours of sleep a night, and some nights, those 4 hours were not even consecutive. I reflect back on those days and don't know how we did it. It certainly wasn't graceful! Here are some tips for sleep-deprived parents trying to do the best they can.
Keep a complete change of clothes (including shoes) in your vehicle at all times. One day I was so tired I didn't realize that I had left the house still wearing my fuzzy animal slippers. Fortunately, I had an extra pair of shoes in my car and was able to change my shoes before anyone noticed.
Keep a complete change of clothes (including underclothes) in your vehicle at all times. I can't describe the level of exhaustion a new parent feels when the baby wakes up at 4AM to nurse and you have to leave for work by 5:30. Yes, I was so tired, I forgot to put my bra back on after breastfeeding my infant. That may not be a big deal to some people, but I wear a 38K while breastfeeding. Going without a bra is not an option. Fortunately, I had a sports bra in my gym bag that was in the trunk of my car.
Have a good friend at work that will look out for you, someone that will tell you the truth. I am so thankful for Marsha who was the only person in my office who told me that I was walking around with spit-up in my hair and running the full length of my back and left leg.
Have another good friend that will bring you coffee or encourage you to take a brisk walk outside to get coffee. Vanessa on the second floor saved me when I had gotten very little sleep after a night soothing my child through teething. TWO YEAR MOLARS ARE NO JOKE!
Pump before the meeting begins. My poor co-worker sprung a leak during a meeting that was supposed to be less than an hour but lasted much longer. Fortunately, she was armed with a legal pad and was able to clutch it to her chest to cover the wet spots developing on her blouse!
Being a working parent is hard. It's so important to find the humor in challenging moments because if you don't laugh, you'll cry.
Recently, I paid a visit to a client who was about two weeks postpartum. Her baby boy (pictured here) was a little fussy. I demonstrated how shifting the baby's position, as pictured here, could help with gas pains. The baby stopped crying almost immediately. Having a doula around during those early weeks is a great way to learn tips like this and help build your confidence as a new parent.
Living the JACK'd Life
I am a certified birth doula (BAI) in Charlotte, NC . I provide information and support to pregnant individuals and couples so they can have satisfying and empowering births. I am a married mother of 4 trying to navigate life, unafraid of sharing my truly JACK'd up missteps.