Labor offers lessons for motherhood, Austin author Julia Aziz says

With her new book, “Lessons of Labor: One Woman’s Self-Discovery Through Birth and Motherhood,” Julia Aziz says she wanted to “reach out to women that were struggling with anxiety and perfectionism in motherhood.”

Mothers, she says, have so much external input from friends, family, the media and Internet that they often begin to question if they are doing the right things. In reality, “No one knows what they are doing,” she says.

You have to find what works for you in this moment, at this time.

The Austin mother of three and licensed social worker is the director of student and career services at the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin, has been a hospice chaplain and has worked with teens and families in private counseling.

She wanted the book to connect women who are all going through similar-yet-unique experiences in motherhood. “We are all in this together, but we are all different,” she says.

In the book, Aziz takes you through her three labor experiences of having Kaleb, 9, Jeremiah, 6, and Marisa, 4. Even though she had all three naturally, each birth experience was very different.

With her first child, she was trying to get ahead of the pain and control it. She had a doula and a hospital birth. Her second child arrived at home with a midwife. That birth was filled with cussing, but she found ways to get through the contractions by spelling her son’s name over and over again. With her third child, she was in early labor a long time. She kept doing things around the house and taking care of her sons. Then, after the kids were asleep and she and her husband had watched a movie, she realized she was in active labor and had a baby about an hour later. The midwife got there just in time to catch the newborn.

Through each birth story, she delivers lessons she learned and how it now relates to raising children. Each chapter has a different lesson, including “Asking for Help,” “Facing Fear,” “Responding to What is Real,” “Change Happens,” “Best Laid Plans,” “Less Can Be More,” “One Foot in Front of the Other,” “Real Acceptance Brings Real Change,” “Flexibility” and “That Old Friend Worry.”

She also shares lessons of loss when she talks about a miscarriage early in her marriage.

This isn’t a book only for women who have done natural childbirth, she says. “It’s OK to do it however you want to do it,” she says. “There are as many ways to give birth as there are women.”

Women who have Cesarean sections, induced labors or choose epidurals still have many experiences that leave them feeling out of control and anxious about what is happening.

One of the early lessons Aziz learns is about letting go of the need to control what is not in your control. Your body naturally knows how to give birth; you just have to let it, she says. With children, control quickly goes out the window because no one is getting any sleep and children get sick. They also change so rapidly that just when you think you’ve figured them out, they’ve moved on to another stage. What worked before no longer works.

“It has to do with trust and letting go of needing to control things and being able to embrace a certain level of chaos and uncertainty,” she says. “It’s about admitting what you don’t know and going forward anyways.”

And, like her three very different births, she has had to be a different parent for each child because each child needs something different.

Remembering her children’s births also reminded her that, while parenting is very child-centered, it’s also about the health and mental well-being of the parent.

“Parenting is a lot more about us than we admit,” she says.

She remembers the first year after her second son was born being particularly rough. She was worn out with a very active toddler and a new baby.

“I remember dreading every day and not wanting to do it,” she says. “I was feeling overly stressed by all the things going on.”

Postpartum depression, even long after the baby is born, is not something many moms will talk about. They see other moms doing it seemingly well and think there must be something wrong with themselves.

When Aziz’s daughter came around, her boys were older and starting to go to school and preschool. She took a part-time job that gave her a refuge that was not about the children for a couple of hours a day. She had figured out what worked for her.

Now, Aziz sees herself in a good phase of parenting, with two children in elementary school and one in preschool. But she knows — like the birthing experience — there’s always the next stage that will bring the unexpected. That’s when you do the best you can do, take a deep breath and go with it.

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