Three experts in the field of motherhood are my guests on Episode Eleven of The Healthy Matters Podcast. What makes them experts? They are moms. While no other credential is needed for this conversation, at least two of them are also healthcare professionals and the third is the parent of one. In addition to hearing unique perspectives from each about her experience with childbirth and thoughts about parenting, I also asked them to share advice for the next generation of moms. The field of motherhood takes us on an international and cross-country journey in this episode, starting with my friend and colleague Bolo Diallo-Young, a nurse practitioner in family medicine.
For some reason, she doesn’t remember her own birth that took place in the northern part of Senegal.
“But according to what I’ve heard,” she said without missing a beat, “I was born at home with the help of a doula.”
She then explained how in Africa, after the woman gives birth, she doesn’t have to do anything.
“Somebody may hold your child after your nurse, so you can go to sleep. And everybody’s bringing food – you don’t have to cook. Some will come and give them massage. So you don’t have to do anything for like a month or two. It’s called a ‘birthing period’ or something and you just eat and sleep and be with your baby.”
There’s something nice about that – and I’ve been to Bolo’s hometown and witnessed firsthand the kindness, joy and hospitality of the Senegalese people, so it doesn’t surprise me how they rally around new moms.
Bolo is the mom of two amazing kids, and she offers this advice on parenting:
“Being a parent is learning new things every day. And every stage of life is different from baby to whenever. So you have to adjust your mothering style and you have to adjust to that stage. And also, it takes a lot of patience and self-reflection.”
Mandy Hoffman is a labor and delivery nurse and certified nurse-midwife who is a new mom to four-and-a half-month-old Jasper. She also happens to be my niece, and this little guy has been the biggest joy for our family since he entered our lives.
I asked Mandy to share her thoughts on being a new mom, especially from her professional perspective. How those two paths converged was quite interesting – and beautiful.
Even after witnessing and assisting with numerous births on the job, she described going through her birth experience as “surreal.”
“Being a labor and delivery nurse, and also as a new baby midwife being on the other end of things, of going through pregnancy birth, the postpartum period, new mommy-hood, new parenthood, all myself has just been kind of, kind of mind-blowing. It’s totally different to go through it on my own. I’m learning as I go, there are things that you don’t learn in school until you go through it.”
Mandy now feels like she’s joined this club of new understanding, “of what it feels like to be a parent, to be a mother experiencing growing a human for nine, ten months and witnessing life. It’s incredible. It changes you.”
“Be gentle with yourself. I think we are bombarded with so many images and ideas of what motherhood is supposed to look like. It takes a long time to grow a human. It takes a long time to recover after growing a human and every day you are evolving. I’m a new person in one way, but I’m also the same person. Being gentle with yourself is a process, a never-ending process. Give yourself a lot of grace.”
I didn’t have to look to far to find my third guest. I’ve known her for 56 years and she still loves me – even after countless diaper changes, a death-defying disappearing act, and a few mischievous behaviors that required very little discipline. Yep – my mom, Joan Hilden shares her own experiences about giving birth back in the fifties and sixties and how parenting differed than what it looks like today.
My sister Julie was born when my parents were 21 and my dad was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. Often the main order of business at military hospitals is delivering babies, so back in the day, they had a no-frills approach.
“My first (OBGYN) appointment at the new Air Force Base Hospital – along with dozens of other women at 7 a.m. and of course, you didn’t have your own doctor. You had whoever was available.”
My sister Amy was born when my dad was stationed in California, and my sister Kari and I were born in Madison, Wisconsin when my dad was out of the service. But during the fifties and sixties no dads were allowed in labor rooms or delivery rooms. My dad was with the other guys in the waiting room watching TV.
“Yeah. Watching the ball games,” Mom said. “The nurses were very supportive, but we labored alone. I thought it was a little bit hard because you didn’t have anybody really to talk to. The nurse would be in and out, but I knew nothing different.”
After delivering three fine baby girls and rounding out the Hilden clan with a perfect child (just kidding) born with perfect timing (again, just kidding), mom recalls what it was like for her to raise kids versus how things are now:
“When you kids were little, the climate was so different. Kids could play outside and just be free and you didn’t worry about them. There was a lot of playing outside. You just would go and play and come back in a while. And I don’t think kids get to do that anymore. And of course, I think all these computer games are not the best thing for kids. I think they should play with each other more.”
Wise words from three expert moms, a trip down memory lane (and a laundry chute) with the Hilden family, and gratitude and appreciation for the important roles of moms are covered in this special episode of The Healthy Matters Podcast.