#11 | Building Community and Trusting Ourselves as Parents: Interview with Award-Winning Author Peggy O'Mara

February 19, 2020

Peggy O’Mara has been a role model and icon for generations of mothers, including us. As an award-winning author and journalist and the owner of Mothering magazine, Peggy became the voice for the attachment parenting and natural living community. This interview with Peggy provides a glimpse into her all-embracing, solution-focused and deeply trusting mindset, which demonstrates how she took a once-fragmented, seemingly-radical community of natural parents in the late 70s and turned it into a movement of intellectually-curious and accepting mothers and fathers who learned to relinquish judgment in support one another in their mutual quest to raise their children conscientiously. Even the most casual conversation with Peggy is loaded with wisdom and golden nuggets of truth and inspiration. In this episode Peggy provides countless suggestions for creating your tribe, and shares her thoughts on trusting the birth and parenting process. We also discuss the impact of social media on postpartum isolation, and much more. Finally, be sure to check out the numerous resources Peggy provided for this episode.

Peggy O'Mara
Off Her Back, by Cynthia Overgard
Six Reasons to Break Up With Your Prenatal Caregiver, by Cynthia Overgard
Sarah J Buckley
Michel Odent
Family & Home Network
La Leche League
Holistic moms network
Attachment Parenting International
Resources for Dads
Postpartum Guide for Dads
Birth Resources for Native Women and Women of Color
In Defense of Mothering
Trusting Yourself as a Parent
Benign Neglect
US Family Policy & Family Fun Pack

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Please remember we don’t provide medical advice, and to speak with your licensed medical provider related to all your healthcare matters. Thanks so much for joining in the conversation, and see you next week!

View Episode Transcript

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast.
Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

Peggy O'Meara was the editor and publisher of mothering magazine from 1980 to 2011. In 1995, she founded mothering calm, and was its editor in chief until 2012. Peggy's books include natural Family Living, having a baby naturally and a quiet place. She's the recipient of the La Leche League International 2001 Alumni Association Award, the International Peace prayer day 2002 women of Peace Award, the National Vaccine Information Center 2009 courage in journalism award, the holistic mom's network 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award, and five Maggie awards for public service journalism. She's the mother of four adult children and grandmother of three. Well, we're so excited to talk to you, Peggy.

Thank you. Thank you so much. So we just love to start with having you tell us this. Let's go back a bit and have you tell us a little bit about how you came to be the voice of natural parenting?

Well, I was really fortunate. I mean, really, it's a Cinderella story. I was a young mom living in southern New Mexico. It was a hippie back to the lander. This was in the late 70s. I had my kids in the mid 70s mid mid to the lights. 70s and early 80s and I have written an article called in defense of motherhood because when I had my first child I actually I was ecstatic I had I was not prepared for the ecstasy that I would feel, because all I had heard was the scary bad things. And I know you share that experience because of the article that you wrote in mothering, in which she described something similar. Sort of I wrote this article in defense of motherhood. I sent it to Redbook. They had a new mother's story. It was rejected. I sent it to New Age magazine. And then I went up to Albuquerque. I was living in southern New Mexico, as I said, and I saw this magazine. I was, couldn't believe it at mothering magazine. It was, I thought, why didn't I start this? Where did this come from? I picked it up, I devoured it. I sent the article to mothering. They published it. They published a poem, and then the gal who had started it Addy Evanson called me up when I was pregnant with my third child, and asked if I would be an editor. You know, I mean, I was just it was over the top, I could not even believe my good fortune. We were moving to Albuquerque. She was moving to Albuquerque from Colorado. So I moved up there. I worked with her for about a year, but I couldn't I had three kids under five, I really couldn't do very much. So I kind of quit. I did quit. And she decided to sell the magazine. And she sold my husband and I the magazine without any down payment. In the beginning, I said, I want to put, if I put the high heels in the lipstick on this magazine, it will fly, you know, everyone will, will, in the sense that I wanted to present it in a way in which the ideas were available to everybody. So it grew over time. It was really small in the beginning 3000 circulation, it ended up with 100,000 circulation. And I just addressed the issues that were in my life. And people would often say to us, oh, you can't believe that you're printing this. That's just what I've been thinking about. But we were a community of mothers that were making this magazine and so We printed the things that were important to us and of course they were important to others. And then over time I wrote my editorial I think that helped me become the voice and it's hard for people to imagine now without the internet, what it was like at that time to have something that spoke to your values and it supported you as a parent and considered you the expert is the parent. People would read it, they would rip it open before they even got into their house from their mailbox. It was so important to people we got so many letters and it was a community and people felt that they could contribute they did. We printed a lot of photos of the readers in the your letters section are really beefed up the your letter section is I really wanted to hear the voices of our community 1980s when I bought the magazine, you know into the 2000s I don't think I've ever to this day seen any magazine or read from any resource that took on such controversial topics in such a non judgmental way. I mean, you just brought them all to the forefront. For me as a mother. I think I even shared with you the story of how I opened an issue once I actually I read it from cover to cover page by page. And my friends who read the magazine said the same thing we just absorbed it for starting with the first page going to the last. But there was an article about a woman who had a lotus birth and I caught myself starting off that article with judgment like well, this is just really I mean, she never cut the cord. She just carried around no placenta attached to the baby until it I started off with that just classic, quick judgment. And by the end of the article, I was crying. I was just, I was so deeply moved. I still revere the placenta as this incredible organ. It's just, it just you chant you changed me 15 minutes at a time with each article. And it was just so beautifully done with your staff of writers and it was honestly such an honor for me to um to have my first publication in the field chosen by mothering because, you know, your staff of writers were just so exquisite, and it's truly an honor.

Peggy I was exactly that mother. I was the one who was running to the mailbox and read the magazine. Before I even got back inside my house. I still have all my mothering magazine detail. I have my collection. I yeah, because it was really the only resource that I went to as a pregnant mother.

Although there wasn't a lot out there. There wasn't. I mean, again, in contrast to the internet, there wasn't a lot of support for making your own decisions. Most of the parenting magazines were pretty standard fare, you wouldn't get these controversial issues. And I really appreciate your saying that Cynthia about the controversial issues. That was my intention, because I, I knew that you couldn't wait five years for to get information about something that was important. You know, I felt like I had to get these topics out there because somebody could be dealing with it right now and really need that information and Cynthia, your article which was really, you said it was the first it was published in November, December 2007. But it was really about your decisions to find the kind of birth experience that you wanted after going to a birth attendant or obstetrician who had a really high cerium rate. So again, I think that's one of the things that we hoped to do is to empower people to make their own decisions, because we knew that they're the only ones that would be living with those the results of those decisions 20 years later, so I appreciate your, you're saying that because that's, that's what we hoped to do.

When my article was picked up by other magazines, we used the name taking charge of giving birth, but yours was the first version of it published and your editor changed the name to off her back, which was clever because it was implying I kind of got that obstetrician off my back who was pressuring me unnecessarily but she took that name because when I went on the tour of the birthing center in Connecticut, the midwife said you can birth on the bed and the tub in the shower. And she ultimately said, we just ask that you not give birth on your back. And it was just so clever that they took that anecdote from the story and made a title out of it.

Well, you got off your back, I think that you were positive, you know that you were dynamic rather than passive in your birth experience. Yeah, it had. They said to you, I love that. They said, Remember who's in charge? You are. I mean, that was what people kept saying to you, when you went to the midwives. They kept saying, What do you want, you're in charge, and you hadn't had that experience before. Other people were just telling you how was going to be what they were going to do. birth is not an intellectual activity. It's this instinctual animal experience. And so if you're really overusing your intellect, not overusing it in a bad way. But if you're really, you know, as is rewarded in our culture, highly intellectual, highly accomplished. You may not you may or may not be in touch with your instincts, and that's what's going to help help you in birth. And so when you approach birth you may have if you approach it kind of the way you've done everything else you think it's a B CX y, z let me do this, and this will happen. You. There's no other experience in life that is so unpredictable by nature. You can't control birth by nature. And you can set up all the things to have the best birth experience you can. But you can't predict exactly how it's going to be because the baby's involved. And there's no there's really the baby's birth. We talked about it like it's our birth, the baby, it's the baby's birth. So I find that you know, who is a woman in touch with her instinctual nature? And how does she get in touch with that, if not through birth?

Yeah, we talk about that a lot on this podcast, and that's, you know, that innate trust that a woman has to build within herself and her body and with her baby, that connection with her baby because you're so right. It is not an intellectual process.

Well, it's about surrender, isn't it? It's so much about surrender, surrender, the birth experience parenting, you're always surrendering to what is You have these ideas of what's how it should be, but then you look what's going on. This is what's happening. Now, my kids are acting like this. They don't act like this other way that you know, you make up, whatever they tell you it should be. So it's really having the courage to face what is and respond to that and come into the moment and learn and change as that demands.

You had mentioned right at the start of this interview, that your experience of being pregnant, or birth or becoming a mother was ecstatic. And I just am a little curious. I want to hear more about what your expectations were before was that sort of your natural inclination to feel that way about pregnancy and birth? Or was it something in the process that inspired that and how did that how did that play out for you?

It wasn't my natural inclination. You know, I was as you're describing, educated and I had all these drawings of the birth little places where I was going to put the bowls in the Whatever is gonna heat up the towels are all the things that I thought you did. It was ridiculous. So I wasn't like yeah, no wasn't nets, naturally my inclination, but I lived, we had a little farm. And so we had goats and chickens and the goats had babies and I would get up in the morning and I'd go out in the cold had a baby. And I'd be like, okay, the goat had a baby. Don't do that. If the goat have a baby, I can do that. So I was inspired by the natural world very much. So by my cats, by the goats, especially by the goats, because it was like they were bigger and they were like, have you babysit and they had to give birth to hooves. How does anybody do that? They come out like, please. I didn't thought about the hooves. It's so intimidating when I think about it.

Again, I lived in southern New Mexico, I tried to find a midwife. So I was kind of going to have this stealth home birth with these people that were maybe going to come and it was the best that I could Come up with at the time because I couldn't find the no licensed midwives in the state. So my birth experience ended up. I wanted to have a home birth with my midwife friends were going to attend ended up in the hospital because I had a very long pushing stage had a satisfactory birth in the hospital. The reason that I felt ecstatic was that I didn't have any drugs during my birth, and that there's a hormonal. Sara Buckley writes about this Dr. Sarah Buckley from Australia, she writes about this sort of hormonal cocktail of birth, that's when it's undisturbed creates this ecstasy that you feel afterwards so that you are in love with the baby. So they're ready to be a mother. That's the way it's supposed to be. That you're that you get this hormonal boost to help you be a mother. So I think that's what I got that because it wasn't drugged. When I got home. I just felt like ecstatic. And I think it was because of the hormonal chemistry that I had an at least in my body by having this kind of, you know, natural experience because it was undisturbed. Everything was able to work together in the way that it was supposed to.

When I think of my birth, it was very challenging. I was at home, I felt, I didn't have the right birth attendant ended up having this transfer and all these things, but in the sense of it being undisturbed, and just going along in its own way, it definitely was undisturbed. And you're right. And that's a good word to use. Because I think, Michelle against says that, in order to women want to birth in a place where they feel safe and free from dogma. And so whatever the dogma is, you want you don't want these rules, you just want to let this natural process unfold.

And when I had my children, I always thought after I gave birth, naturally to them, I would feel some kind of ecstasy and to my surprise, what I felt was the deepest contentedness I'd ever experienced in my life. And it was truly It was truly a sense that everyone in the world is okay right now everything in the world is everyone is feeling this. This piece and I don't know if I've ever known piece like that any other day of my life. I always have a heavy heart and I think about The world's problems but there was something really intense and irrefutable about what I felt physiologically when I was holding my newborn. So since you have that experience, did postpartum ever hit you hard? I mean, did you really just coast from that blissful hour to write into an easy postpartum experience? Or did you ever feel kind of sideswiped by how monotonous or isolating it is? Or did you have community and did you circumvent all of that, that so many women experienced today?

I think I was really lucky with my first birth. I didn't feel postpartum depression, I felt the continue to feel very good with my first birth with my first child. I did have community. I was actually the leader. I joined. That was pretty much the support group that was available to me and it was a fabulous support group. Because I went to meetings every month. I saw the people breastfeeding. I could ask questions about breastfeeding. I saw mothers that were Little bit ahead of me. And then I became a mother that was a little bit ahead of others, and could share my experience. So that was that. I feel like well actually taught me how to be a mother by what I saw others doing. And by also teaching me to breastfeed, because breastfeeding taught me how to be a mother by responding to my child through breastfeeding. I learned how to be a mother and what my child needed. I with my other children, I mean, because I had my children close together, that my first two are 18 months apart. And my second and third were two years apart. So as I had more children, I did feel more overwhelm. But I was isolated. I was very isolated where I lived, I lived down this dirt road. I mean, again, reading with moms every month and getting on the phone with moms through College League, I think was the things that mainly gave me my community.

Breastfeeding taught you to be a mother. That's, can you expand on that for us a little bit, and how the way You followed your breastfeeding instincts helped you trust yourself as a mother?

Well, I think as we go, when we go back to talking about the over intellectualization of our world, you would think and we hear in approaching feeding a child again, these rules and these ideas of how to do it. One of them, of course, is that the baby shouldn't nurse too often. So I think, by the way that breastfeeding taught me to be a mother was that I've learned to respond to the needs of my baby. So if I thought, Oh, my baby should nurse every two hours, but my baby was really nursing every 45 minutes. And I responded to that, then I learned to respond to my children rather than to impose my idea of how it should be on them. And, and not that I thought that that was like some easy bullet that I did right away. That's that was the whole process of being a parent is that dichotomy or that tension between how I think it should be and how it really is, as I mentioned before, And how can I align myself with how it really is and parent to that, rather than try to impose this other thing on my children that may or may not be? what's right for them? What is it, they really need? This is in the 1970s, the late 1970s. So we were still coming out of the 60s and the hippie time. So I had a community of people that had that I had met in this area, and we were all what we call back to the landers. So there were there were about, you know, five or six other couples families that I knew. So they, we had very similar values being that we were wanting to live naturally, we wanted to kind of do our own thing and and we didn't buy into the commercialism of society. So I think that helped us to make decisions with our children that were that it helped us to make our own decisions. I guess that's what I'm trying to say. We didn't buy into all the cultural beliefs and so we were trying to figure out how To do things ourselves, make our own fine cotton clothing, make our own herbal remedies. So we were inclined to investigate things look into things. And that community supported me as a parent. So we had a pretty close knit community of friends. And then through our little league, I had my, you know, special mothering friends, where I could talk more about breastfeeding and mothering and parenting, I think it's there in any community. And I think you have to find out, where does that community of natural living live? How can you find that community because once you find someone in that community, you find all these other people, all these other organizations, all this other support? So I guess we've got Lola actually attachment parenting International, holistic moms network, and mocha moms. And you can find all of those online. I also have an article on my website about support for parents, that people can get links to those organizations.

Do you feel today's mothers are different in any way, or are facing unique challenges. How have things changed from what you've seen?

When I was a new mom, I felt so isolated even though I had this community. I always tell the story about we had a phone, we had a party line, we had an eight party line on her phone. I mean, that's what there was back then. So it was, can you explain, Peggy, can you explain that? When you share your phone line with eight different people, so if you lived in a rural area, you didn't have your own phone line? Oh, you had a phone line that was shared by all these people. So you'd have to be a conference call? No, you mean you all down and get in conversation using the phone? So you have to wait. You had no privacy on your phone calls then? Right? I mean, people could just pick up okay, well, no, but you know, and I don't think people I mean, who knows? But I didn't feel that a lot. It was just that because why would they weird is that you know, compared to the internet that's so so One word. You don't even know what it is. I love the trust. I don't think people listen.

Okay, go ahead. Yeah, you could hear the click though. I mean, you can hear, you know, it was honest when somebody Yeah, I mean, you had to have some manners with that kind of situation Sure.

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Okay, so you had this party line with eight households.

So that was just to say how real that was. And I often wish that I had, we wrote this article, it was in the early days of mothering, and is about this woman who woke up in the middle of the night with her baby. And she said, What if I could just call another mother or, you know, just be in touch with somebody else. And so now we have that with the internet. We have so much connection, so much lack of isolation. But I think the downside of that lack of isolation is there's sort of this relentlessness of information, you know, you can always tap into someone else's opinion, more information, things to encourage yourself doubt. And so I think that the thing that parents now face is a lot more perceived judgment of about their behavior or ideas about what they should be doing, like these ideas that I was doing family bed for long breastfeeding, home birth. I mean, nobody was doing them back then there was it was nuts. There was no name for it. There was no attachment parenting name. There was just we were just doing these things, because we discovered they were good ideas. So now there's a name for everything. You're either a detachment parent or a helicopter parent or a tiger mom, or, you know, all these things that ultimately degrade parents, and just sort of put them into some little box. When in fact, being a parent is, you know, it's this improvisational experience, and it's totally unique to you, and maybe you pick and choose from different things, but I don't think there's a whole lot of us that start out saying, I'm going to be this kind of way. I mean, I want to, I want it to be different than the way I had raised. I was raised. I wanted to be appreciative of my children's emotional experience, but I didn't start out saying I was Gonna be guess what you know a name to it. You know what I mean? It's like you discover yourself through the process. You keep getting to know yourself better and better. Do you sometimes feel like all of the social media though, is a false sense of connection because I really worry about our postpartum moms. I think it's the guise of connection and the guise of friendship. But, you know, there's nothing like when you go to that La Leche League meeting, and women are sitting on the floor, breastfeeding, and they've got their hair in a messy ponytail, and they're happy to talk about how tired they are. And it's not like the photoshoot women are posting on Facebook where everyone else looks like they're so refreshed and that it's they're taking motherhood in stride, because I don't really know that anybody does. So isn't that kind of the double edged sword?

I love what you said. That's absolutely perfect. That's absolutely true. You see the strictures of breastfeeding? I'm like, How much could we more could romanticize breastfeeding and with the, you know, the falling off the shoulders, how flitz like breastfeeds like that. I love how you describe that meeting. Have moms and that's exactly how it is. So I think you're right. I mean, it gives you this, the texting, the quick ability to ask somebody a question or connect with somebody really fast can be really reassuring. But nothing beats being in touch with people and being in the same room with them. And it increases your feelings of well being, by being with a group of people in real life. So I agree with you and I. And I think that moms are more isolated. Now, even with social media.

I think that's so true about they're more even more isolated because of the social media. It does give that false sense of connection. So it is very convenient. And it does help us find information and have access to more people and more information. But it also, because we feel this connection through social media, we don't make the effort to get face to face and we don't make the effort to create that group. And you're so right you cannot replace the feeling and the connection that occurs. When two people are making eye contact, or when somebody reaches out their hand and puts your hand on their hands that you can't replace that no matter how good social media is, yeah, and as a young mom, you need to get out of the house. You know, I mean, that's just even I remember as a young mom just walking out the door, which would usually be an event to try to get everybody ready. whatever it took to be crazy. But the minute I walked out the door, I felt better. You know, I just felt more. I just didn't feel closed in you know, I didn't, I felt so much better when I would get just go even go for a walk, you know, just get out of the house. And I think if you said about social media kind of it either is glorified, where we say these like, how wonderful we are and self important. Or people are kind of ragging on themselves or complaining about things. So I think you feel a little bit hesitant to kind of have a false self on social media. So many people present a false self on social media, that it's hard to really deeply sharing that context.

The other thing about social media that has concerned me for a long time is that I feel like it's increasingly become a platform for people to tell each other how beautiful they look. And that really worries me because that's something Americans are already doing too much of and working in the postpartum field. I feel like when most women encounter, let's say, an associate from work, who had a baby or an acquaintance in the store, I feel like they believe the most supportive complimentary thing they can say to that postpartum mom is Oh, you look like you got your body back. And it's I feel like saying, Can we not be evaluating each other's bodies in any way? Let's not talk about that. And it's, we're already so hard on ourselves. You know, in our life after birth support group, there's always a session where women, one woman finally brings up how much she's struggling with her own changed body. And it doesn't help to walk around and have people feel that it's Their role to tell you how good you look because then we just start evaluating ourselves more. And that's what I feel like social media starts to become. And that wouldn't imagine walk into a La Leche League meeting and women are all telling each other how beautiful they look, that just would never happen because it's so authentic. It's just such genuine listening and accepting of one another. No one's even thinking that way. Right? I mean, so I feel like that's something I feel like it was always a trait in American culture that is now exacerbated by this platform that we're on and so much more accessible.

Like I said, either the ideal either you're presenting some ideal image of yourself or you're just becoming a victim, but let's talk about then Okay, so how do we deal deal with social media with some kind of right because it's not going away? So we mother yet because it has gone you use it? And I think it's like anything, you know, what's our diet like? What's our diet of social media, our diet of screentime our you know, you Unit when you talk about even drug use, you know, there's use and there's abuse, there's alcohol use, and there's abuse. There's what's, what's the use of something that can be addictive? I think that's, I think that just by starting that conversation as an individual, rather than feeling that addictive nature of I have to look at it and somebody's texting me, and what's important now that can interrupt me from what's very important that I'm doing at this minute. Like even a newspaper when I was a new mom, I mean, I cried, if I read the newspaper, I was so open. I didn't want that much input from the outside world because it overwhelmed me.

I like the term conscious or conscientious consumption. So trying to become aware, and I'm struggling to teach this to my teenage daughters. But trying, you know, trying to become aware of how you consume your content and what it does for you. Can you self regulate? And can you shut it off? I feel so great. For that I didn't, you know, iPhones didn't really come around until shortly after my daughter my second was born. And when I had those really lonely moments, I just left the house like you did Peggy and it we now know it is an antidote to depression and we find ourselves going outside because we just have to, we naturally gravitate but had I had an iPhone in my hand. I'm not sure I would have even noticed the time going by. It's good when you have those moments where you say, I gotta get out of here. Because that's how a healthier it's healthier and it will uplift the spirits. More than that distraction. So I feel such compassion for today's moms. Because of course, we go to the iPhone for entertainment, of course, we're looking there for connection. I just feel so much for them because they deserve so much more. They deserve fresh air and they deserve the eye contact of one another and to be in the same space. I used to see women in the grocery store if they had a baby and there was a part of me like thinking And how weird would it be to walk over and just say, Can we be friends? Can we just Can we just take a chance here? Because I just I had such a longing to be with other women in my shoes. It just was so appealing and enticing. Basically happened to me that you did that. Yeah. And I was at a grocery store when I had my baby. And another mom approached me and she's like, I think I know you did we meet before. I just didn't remember her. But yeah, we apparently we met. Like, I've seen her before at the library. But she approached me in a grocery store. I was like, you know, for me, she was a stranger. And it was, it was amazing. But yeah, we're still friends.

Yeah. Wonderful.

Yeah. And then but we know the one thing at the root of all perinatal mood and anxiety disorders is isolation. Yeah, so that's what concerns me about social media because it is this guise of being connected, but it is not the kind of connection we're looking for when we need to remove isolation.

It's also not just the guise of being connected, but it's also the thing that provides the distance reaction to get through the uncomfortable moments of feeling lonely. And if we can sit in that uncomfortable moment of feeling lonely and not distract ourselves with some quick entertainment, could we then find a solution more easily? Would we then take the step to call the friend to actually get out and be face to face? So let's talk about limits articulate those things that a mom can do in those situations. She can go up to a mom in a grocery store that she sees and say hi, and see what happens and pretend that they met before I like that nice. Boy, you know, check these organizations and see if there's a local chapter or start one. She can go to meetup or Facebook and see if there's any real in time meetings that are happening among families or moms in her community.

What else? She can Yeah, what else, she can go to her birth educator or practitioner and To be connected with other moms, it's a big part of my lifestyle. And it changes lives when women form those connections. One thing that works really well in the postpartum support group that we do is it's a six week program and the Women Grow extremely close by the third or fourth week. And we always say to them around that time, if we're doing our job, well, you're all going to be at each other's first birthday celebrations with each other. So what that means is that seventh week when we don't have our group anymore, and you all miss it, you see each other that day. So think about it. And next week, we'd like one of you to step up and volunteer, to name a location in public, or open the doors to your house and allow everyone to hang out. But we want you to know now before the six week program is over, that you have plans that seventh week, I can't tell you how relieved and happy they are and how quickly women start saying well that you can come to my house, and then they're making plans on their page together. So I think they need that push that encouragement even though they're so close. in that space together, I still am concerned about the shyness that tends to ensue. So we say no, you it's your job you guys you need now What's your plan? What are you doing that seventh week we make that a part of the program?

Oh, that's beautiful. It makes me cry, actually. Because that's what I thought of as you're saying that is that we're, we're embarrassed to say that we need each other. Especially right. I think it's that we're embarrassed to be vulnerable. And Renee Brown, I don't know if you know her other than a brown, right? I mean, she just changed my world. Totally. I was like, Whoa, I can be vulnerable. That's my greatest strength. What is she even talking about? So in our culture, we tend to be you know, like, rugged individualist, we can do it ourselves. Anyone you asked about the postpartum will say, Oh, you know, I'm different. You know, I'm going to be fine. I'd be good with that. They just have no idea what its gonna be like, and how much rapid change will happen in those first six weeks. But I wish everyone could be having the support groups like you're offering that they would be just normally Part of the childbirth experience instead of just like, oh, you're done now there's your childbirth education. Bye bye.

I had a client from the UK who said when they give birth over there, their midwives put them in touch with all the women in their neighborhood who had babies, and I just could have cried when I heard that I thought that was so beautiful and thought, Oh, my God, I feel like we're doing it all wrong here in so many ways.

I know the thing that keeps coming to my mind is the word permission. Like, can we just give ourselves and others permission to ask permission to reach out permission to need? How can we instill that message in mothers, give yourself permission to rely on others to create that support group to create a space where you can be vulnerable and where you can express yourself and where you can connect. But yeah, it's that feeling in women that they that like, you know what you said about just like everybody Just thinks they can do it on their own.

And when they think they're weak if they can't, yes, they think they're especially men, especially the fathers, especially in traditional male female relationships, and probably in non traditional relationships as well. Going back anyway, just I think the one partner often feels like, you know, especially men that they can't be weak. There's no cultural message for men to be weak. So they have to handle it all and very hard for them to express it. 10% of men actually experience postpartum anxiety or depression. When you think of the lack of support for women, I can't even fathom how difficult it is for some men. We had a mom in our postpartum support group two months ago, not our current group. But we had a woman who, whose husband was suffering such severe postpartum anxiety that they lived across the street from a park and he wasn't willing to cross the street with the baby to get to the park. Even With as a family of three, even with his wife there, he was just terrified that a car would just come out of nowhere. And they wouldn't make it to the other side. And it's heartbreaking. Because who is he going to talk to? Who does he have to talk to? Well, no one's warning him that that can happen to him.

So there are some fathers. I have an article on my website about resources for fathers, there are some groups that meet so it same thing we're saying for moms, you know, just Yeah, because I mean, I'm with you on this one. I just think this is the Heartbreaker that we don't support this period. And exactly, mother, your grandmother, are you the same type of, quote, mother as a grandmother, because what we experienced and see so much as well, is that let's say I'll give an example of a health conscious mom who doesn't want the child exposed to too much, let's say television or unhealthy food or sugar, but the grandparent comes in like Oh, just Let me spoil them a little let me bring lots of toys and let me buy them ice cream. And it's this unfortunate discord then between the mother and her mother. What's happening with grandparents? I mean, are they right? Do they just have better perspective to say just lighten up a little bit? What's what happens by the time we become grandparents where we just lighten up? What do you think?

You know, it's funny, I'm different with my different grandkids because with one of my grandkids, her mom is more into sugar and television and the screen than I am. So with her I'm like, wanting to limit those things and giving my daughter a hard time about that with my other grandkids whose parents are no sugar and not a lot of screen time, can I kind of want to sneak them a little sugar? You know? You said I want to so you're making a little grandma you know, like this little that says so much make her a little troublemaker. Yeah, well you're on a special relationship and your own special relationship with your grandchild is so but you know, but you asked about like, but you do get looser. You do see that? Yeah, those things but because what I see with my kids is, you know, I mean, they didn't have sugar? We would not we wouldn't I think they, maybe on Sunday we would have something I don't know. But my friend said to me, You know, I saw your kids buying things out of the vending machine. And then I found that my kids had a bag of candy under their bed. So I realized that my rules were backfiring. Right? So at that point, that was when I was raising my kids, I let go of all the rules and then I found that they found themselves their way back to the natural world anyway.

It's almost like you have more faith. Now you just you trust the child. You just yeah, you trust the process more you trust the child more.

You know, you have to believe that the child is is going to do okay, you know, and But I think by doing the best you can most of the time, you know, you're going to do a really good job. And by always keeping the love that you have for your child, firm in your mind when you act, and that's going to direct your actions and the best way to trust your children, you know, you bring these children into the world, they're one of a kind. I mean, they're never, you know, there's no one else like them in the entire history of the world. It's born at exactly that moment to those parents. And then we try to make them like everybody else. But I think our job as parents is really instead to trust them trust their experience, and know that we can't control all of their experience that they're also going to have experiences and pains and go through life the way we did, trusting our kids and trusting ourselves and you know, providing an environment in which there's, if there's safety, you know, that the home should be a place where you can fall apart, we can come home and fall apart and not be this perfect person that the world expects you to be. And you know, again, allowing your children to have that kind of comfort in the home.

Yeah, we are meant to have a rich human experience. And it's a lot of pressure for parents to put on themselves, to want their child to be in a happy state all the time. May children be in a peaceful state, maybe they feel at peace with themselves and at peace in their lives. But we are really meant to experience all the emotions. We're supposed to know what betrayal feels like and what disappointment feels like and frustration and anger in addition to all of the positive emotions, and to try to protect them from that human experience is to rob them of something. Not to mention, it's impossible. Anyway, so it's almost putting pressure on them that we have expectations that they should be in that happy state all the time.

Yeah, yeah, for sure.

So Peggy, can you tell us a little bit about what's happening for you today? Are there any projects that you are in the thick of right now?

Well, I think you know, you know, I've just been doing this my whole life, I've been doing my own website called Peggy O'Meara calm. So I've been still publishing the same kinds of articles that I hope will be, hopefully helpful to parents. I've started working, doing some volunteer work with family and home network. So I'm learning about family policy on the national level. And I've always felt that we needed some kind of leave for parents and kind of direct payments to benefits to parents. And I've started to write fiction, which is something I wanted to do, always and just never really had the competence to do. And I'm happy to say that I've finished a children's adventure book for eight to 12 year olds. So I'm still busy on the web and addressing issues that are of concern to parents. I you know, one of the things I want to write about now is everything's all right. You know, there's so much fear in the culture and fear about the future with the climate. A change and there's, again, so much good news on those all those fronts and, but also by just encouraging people to just drop into their own family in their own lives and let that be enough.

Wonderful. Well, Peggy, you're living legend is such a thrill to speak with you. You always wish that the young mothers of today could could see all the lives you've touched, and how you've shaped us as mothers and how we've modified our decisions and you've given us a voice to just forge your own path and do our research and do things differently. Because we've all been there. We've all been that person who was a little more conscientious than maybe the mainstream at times and to have the confidence and support and doing that is priceless.

And thank you for being our inspiration.

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I just love talking to both of you, you are inspiring to me as well to see these ideas spread so well is just overwhelming for me really. And I guess what we've learned what we were talking about. And what I think mothering tried to talk about and what you're talking about in your own lives is really trusting yourself as a parent, trusting yourself as a person. So that's what I would say to young parents is to trust themselves and see where that goes.

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About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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