My 5 Favorite Labor Essentials

It's almost go time! 

Over the past few weeks, you've probably feeling signs of your upcoming labor with plenty of Braxton Hicks contractions, the urge to nest, discomfort in your lower back, and perhaps more. As you put together the final preparations for Baby Day, you're looking for the top items to have on hand as you labor. Here's a quick list of my five favorite labor essentials. 

1. COMFORTABLE HAIR ACCESSORIES

Childbirth is hard work, y'all. The last thing that you want to have to worry about is your hair falling into your face. If you're including hydrotherapy in your birth plan, then with even more reason you'll want to account for these. (Otherwise, prepare for hot, sticky hair on the nape of your neck - no thanks.) Find a hairstyle that is comfortable for you, and plan to have extra accessories on hand. Hair bands, ties, clips, and even satin scarves are all awesome ideas! Check out our board for labor hairstyles on Pinterest here!

2. YOUR FAVORITE COOL BEVERAGES

Laboring exhausts a lot of calories! Having lots of chilled, full-calorie beverages on hand helps you to feel refreshed and refueled. Homemade labor-ade is a common favorite for many laboring women, as is coconut water, sports drinks, smoothies, and other juices. Get fancy with it, and purchase that specialty fresh pressed bit of something that you love from your favorite local vendor! #delish

3. A DANCE-ABLE BIRTH PLAYLIST

It's time to get funky, funky, funky... That's right! Create a playlist of your favorite beats or songs to have on repeat during labor. Staying mobile and rocking your hips is a wonderful way to help your baby lower into the birth canal efficiently. This also is an excellent way to cope with the physical sensations of labor. Be sure that you've got your charger, headphones or a wireless speaker, and batteries on hand if you need them. Pro Tip: If you forget your speaker at home, toss your phone into a bowl or deep cup for sound. 

4. MOOD LIGHTING

This isn't about romanticizing about the birthing process, though it may help with that as well. Low lighting is known to increase the production of the hormone oxytocin. This hormone is also responsible for the continued progression of labor. Increase your calm, relax with mood lighting, and help your labor along in the process. Flameless LED candles are the perfect addition for you to pack in your hospital bag while string lighting is a great option for while you labor at home!

5. AN INSPIRING REMINDER

Keep your head in the game with a special memento your birth space. For some women, printing affirmations and posting them around their birth space is just what they need. For others, having a baby book, your ultrasound picture, or perhaps Baby's first outfit in clear view makes laboring feel more intentional. Choose something that isn't too cumbersome, but that also inspires an emotional connection for you with your baby. 

Happy laboring, insha'Allah! 

xo, Chelsea

Let's Be Real: Sex After Baby

Alright, ladies. It's time we had a little chat. 

Let's check our inhibitions at the door - we're about to get real about postpartum sex. And please, for the benefit of everyone involved here, let's rise above the need for formalities or political correctness.  There's no space here for clutching your pearls, alright? You've just had a baby, for goodness sake. We all know how that happens...

After 40 weeks of pregnancy, your body is now yours once again. (Kind of. Maybe. You may be breastfeeding, which means you may still be feeling like shared space, but alas, here we are.) While you might have experienced an increased libido and easier achievement of the Big O due to increased blood flow from the second trimester forward, odds are that by the time you reached the tail end of your third trimester, you were ready to call #allthefouls in the bedroom. And for good reason! Late pregnancy comes with a slew of discomforts, and it may be particularly difficult to feel sexy with all of the physical changes you've experienced over the weeks and months prior. 

But nowNow things have changed. Now that you've had your baby and are acclimating to postpartum life, you may be feeling more attractive than ever. Exhaustion from caring for a newborn aside, you're in a good place. Physically you're feeling lighter after having lost the water weight associated with pregnancy, your hair is thick and shiny, your nails are strong and growing nicely. Not to mention the fact that you now have the blessed mobility to reach your legs and lady bits for the wax or shave you likely craved for the past few weeks. So... You're ready to get back to it again. And I, my dear, am here to help you with these quick tips to make it as pleasurable as possible. 

BE PREPARED FOR DIFFERENT

You're likely to find postpartum sex a little different from the sex you left behind. Your body has experienced a good bit of change, and you may find that the sensations of sex take some getting used to again. You may find that your breasts are tender or sensitive, and your hips and pelvis may just not feel "normal" - perhaps they are tight or perhaps even a little too loose due to the adjustment from round ligament softening in late pregnancy. Positioning may be a challenge the first few times. Don't be shy about saying what feels comfortable and what doesn't. 

WHEN YOU FEEL SEXY, 'THE O' COMES EASY

Pun intended. I strongly encourage you to do what you need to get yourself in a mindset for sex prior to involving your partner. This may mean doing your hair, putting on your make up, or painting your nails. It's my firm belief that just as new brides are provided with a number of pampering rituals and gifts intended for intimacy, postpartum women should be in receipt of the same. Create a ritual for yourself! Here are a few tips for this:

  • Purchase yourself a bit of new lingerie.  I recommend checking out Frederick's or Hips & Curves for good quality items in a variety of styles and sizes.
  • Spritz on a bit of perfume. Once a young woman asked Coco Chanel where one should apply perfume, and she replied "Wherever one wants to be kissed." You're welcome.
  • Dress to impress. Queen Bey said best: Pull out the big guns, and put your freak'um dress on
  • Turn up the volume. Consider putting on a bit of music that makes you feel sexy - whether that's nature sounds, drum tracks, or trap music. 
  • If you don't use it, you lose it. Be sure to practice kegels throughout the day or, if you're feeling adventurous, try using beads to help tone your vaginal walls.

THINGS MAY NOT GO AS PLANNED

Let me tell you this right now because it's totally possible that no one else will. Things likely are not going to go as planned - especially the first time you hit the sheets after baby. For you, your body still may be impacted by a number of hormones that affect your body's responses to sexual stimulation. You may go from 0 to 60, and then stall out unexpectedly. Be prepared with a good quality lubrication at the bedside. Understand that if you are using contraception, you may need to take account of compatible lubricant formulas. Some women choose to use natural lubricants like coconut oil. If you're looking for a water based variety, LELO's personal moisturizer comes highly recommended. For your partner, there may be another challenge - he's likely gone for anywhere from six to eight weeks (or more) without sex which can result in the first few times being a shorter experience than you might prefer. Show grace, and remember that this is normal.

There's a saying in Spanish that goes el primer polvo no cuenta. Essentially, "the first time doesn't count." Things will improve - promise. 

PLACE PARENTHOOD ON THE BACK BURNER

Look, I get it. You've got a baby who has your attention 100% of the time, day and night. If you're following the AAP's most current sleep recommendation, then your little one is sleeping in your room. As you'll learn over the upcoming years, there's nothing like having plans for something for yourself to set off your little one's sixth sense. But please, do yourself the favor of being present during intimacy. If baby wakes, but isn't in immediate need of anything, you can feel comfortable focusing on yourself and your partner. If it's difficult for you to do the deed with your baby in the room, don't feel obligated to stay. Explore intimacy in other areas of your home. The novelty can be a great addition to your overall experience! If you have older children, toss them some snacks, and pop in a DVD. Distraction is your friend. 

THE ONLY LOCATION THAT MATTERS

Let's get right to the grain of it: the clitoris. To help guarantee that sex is enjoyable for you, please do take the time to pay this little bit of your anatomy some attention. Encourage your partner to take part in foreplay and to spend some time pleasing you before engaging in penetrative intercourse. Clitoral stimulation here is an ideal way to warm up your body for penetration, and the possibility of reaching clitoral orgasm is an added benefit. When you're ready for intercourse, it's recommended that you start slowly - especially if you've experienced a tear or episiotomy during childbirth. Once you've gotten comfortable with penetration, you can work together to reach vaginal or blended orgasm (more about that here)Speaking of orgasm, understand that some of hormones responsible for sexual stimulation are also tied to milk production. Don't be surprised if you feel let down during intimacy. Using nursing pads or having a small towel nearby is helpful for quick clean up. 

CONSIDER ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS

While you may be wanting to hit the sheets, please do be sure to check in with your doctor or midwife to be sure that your body is ready for sex again. In the meantime, consider alternative options like manual or oral stimulation. Sex is not limited to penetration, and there are definitely other routes that can be taken. A steamy make out session, oral sex, intimate massage or trying out toys together might be all you need to make it through the weeks following childbirth without feeling like you've said goodbye to sensuality. These options also provide choices for you and your partner to select from if you're unsure of what you plan to do in terms of birth control - but that's a chat for another day.

A Lesson From Beyonce

This Wednesday, Beyonce released a series of photos along with an announcement sharing that she and her husband, Shawn Carter, are expecting twins, masha'Allah. The photos have been nothing short of show-stopping. In fact, with all of the political banter that's been had over the past few weeks (ahem, months), I believe that the photos were a welcomed interruption of our scheduled broadcasting. 

The series of images show Beyonce posted alongside floral arrangements, draped in colorful fabric, and posing with her daughter, Blue Ivy. In the most circulated image of the series, Bey is seen kneeling in front of a floral display in a burgundy lace bra with a pink bow and satin panties, veiled, and looking powerfully at the camera. 

This single photo has begun conversations in every corner about why she chose this set, this outfit, those flowers, and that veil. Photographers and fans alike have been, in many cases, disappointed by the image calling it anything from "beneath her," to strange, to downright tacky. 

What's this have to do with you? Hang with me, we're getting there...

Both Beyonce and her husband are multimillionaire powerhouses of the music industry, and together their net worth places them just under the billion-dollar benchmark. Do people really believe that Beyonce didn't have the budget, the contacts, or the styling team to give her anything short of what she wanted for her maternity shoot? No, she hired who she wanted, styled the shoot how she wanted it, and made it public because she was proud of it. 

Odds are, she knew that people would have an opinion about it. Odds are, she knew that many would find the photos tasteless or confusing. Odds are, she didn't care.

As Muslim moms, there is a lesson here that we shouldn't miss. 

I'm not saying to drop to your knees and pose semi-nude to announce your pregnancy, don't get me wrong. What I am saying is that there is empowerment in placing the thoughts and opinions of others by the wayside. 

From the time you go public about your pregnancy, comments about what you should do, how you should do it, and why what you're doing isn't 'the best' option will abound. Everyone has an opinion about what sort of prenatal vitamin you should take, whether or not you should get the epidural, if vaccinating your baby is the right choice, if you're holding your baby too much or not enough, and the endless list goes on... 

For the Muslim mom, even more questions are likely to come. Why did (or didn't) you shave your baby's head, what's with the dates in the delivery room, and are you planning to make your daughter wear that thing (with a circling motion around your face) when she's older?

While motherhood for us includes some of the same trials and challenges that might be found in the mainstream, there are so many added possibilities for criticisms to arise. The question is: Will you bend to the opinions of others or will you face them head on and do what's best for you? Will you feel confident enough in your footing as a mother to look right into the camera of life with that same fierce and proud spark in your eyes? 

Will you remember that you have inherited a wealth that supersedes the monetary riches of even Queen Bey herself? 

Will you take comfort in the fact that while you could choose from any other path, by the grace of Allah, you've been given the richness of His mercy and His religion?

Abu Huraira, r.a., said: The Messenger of Allah, p.b.u.h., said: “Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers.”
[Sahih Muslim]

I encourage you to remember that we are strangers. The proverbial doors of opportunity will swing wide open for negative commentary to come our way, but with support and sisterhood available to you, it makes the weight of those comments a bit easier to ignore. 

So here are my two recommendations for you:

1. Take this lesson from Beyonce, and just do you. You were chosen to mother your children, and you are not only capable, you're ideal. And,

2. Join the free Birth Under Wraps group on Facebook so that when you're feeling unsure, you can have immediate access to a community of supportive sisters just like you who are more than happy to give you glad tidings in your journey. You can get free access to our group here

xo, Chelsea