Fierce Mama Feature: Chelsea Skaggs

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Larken is a name meaning fierce and was chosen out of the recognition that motherhood is beautiful, but it isn’t always easy. Larken presents #fiercemama, a series dedicated to spotlighting the many fierce mamas out there and shining an honest light on both the beautiful and challenging motherhood moments.

We are so fortunate to have connected with Chelsea, one of the strongest mothers we have met. She is a mama to two little ones, Emerson (2 1/2 years old) and Sage (5 months old). Sage has a Congenital Heart Defect, and Chelsea focuses on raising awareness around CHD and also uses her blog and social media platform to build an incredibly supportive and honest community for mothers. Read on to hear more about Chelsea’s journey through motherhood, what exclusively pumping has been like for her, and her advice for how we can all support friends and family members with little ones facing a health condition. Also be sure to go check out her blog at www.strivelesslivemore.com and connect with her to learn more about her postpartum community course!

Tell us a little bit about you and your family.

I am a momma of 2- Sage (5 months) and Emerson (2.5). Sage is a Congenital Heart Defect baby (surgery today!) As a momma I do some work from home and am currently working on developing a postpartum community course. Prior to being a mom, I have worked in education and public relations. While I have big dreams and goals for my career, I also feel abundantly blessed to have these early years with my kids. I came from a small town, went to a small college, and found a lot of myself through travel and immersing myself into the communities I've lived in as much as possible.

You've talked openly about how you are using your social media platform differently now than you did after your oldest son was born. Can you share more about how and why your approach has changed?

During my first pregnancy and postpartum, I was part of a network marketing company that was fitness-related. I thought that getting my "body back" after baby was a top priority. I saw pictures of others "bouncing back" and was told that I'd be a happier mom and wife if I was taking care of myself- that translated to- if I was able to jump right back into working out and fitting into my old jeans. Turns out, that actually left me stressed and never feeling like I had lost enough or was doing well enough. I put a lot of pressure on myself and in return it manifested in the relationships around me. The second time around, my priorities shifted. I found freedom from the pressure and found celebration and acceptance in the journey. I found that I am most fulfilled as an individual, mother and wife when I honor and respect myself with a pressure to fit some "standard." It has been incredible to hear from other women who have experienced this pressure and come together in a way that feels more holistic and purposeful.

Can you share more about Sage's heart condition and what that journey has been like for you and your family?

Yes! We found out about Sage's heart condition at our 20 week anatomy ultrasound. What we thought was just going to be a gender reveal ended up being a life-changing day. Prior to this, we were pretty unaware of congenital heart defects. We discovered that she has what's called Tetralogy of Fallot which is considered a critical heart defect- meaning open heart surgery. This was really scary for us. I've always been a "look at the bright side" person and this was the first time I really let myself mourn. My husband and I spent about a month in a season of mourning (I also lost my grandmother 2 weeks after the diagnosis). During this time, we really have dug into what faith is for us, how to prioritize our time and relationships, and letting go of things that don't serve us and aren't worth worrying about. It has definitely brought our family closer together.

You've shown incredible strength as you've prepared for Sage's upcoming heart surgery. What advice would you give to other mothers with children experiencing medical challenges? How can we all better support friends and family members with children going through similar situations?

The most helpful thing people have done are remind me they are on our team and been comfortable with the pain, the questions, and not being able to "fix" anything, but be present with us. I believe in vulnerability and sharing our journey because I think it's important to normalize things. Medical challenges can feel so very isolating and having friends who reach out, give encouragement, let us cry, etc. without huge expectations is so healing. Ask questions about their child's diagnosis and then do some research so that you're informed. Show up even when you don't know what to say and it feels super awkward. Send a note, a gift card, a favorite snack- those little things show up at just the right time and are such a bright spot. Also, don't stop inviting (even if it's a season when the friend can't show up as often).

What has your nursing and/or pumping journey been like and how has it been different this second time around?

With my first, I nursed almost exclusively. He latched on right away and breastfed for 16 months. I pumped only for when I would be away from him (for vacation, date night, conference). I loved that part of our relationship. When I found out my daughter couldn't nurse (she also has a cleft palate in addition to her heart condition), I had to mourn that. I also had to think about how our relationship could have just as meaningful parts but in a different way than I anticipated. Pumping is such a labor of love- but it really has been incredible to have the ability to do it. Now, it takes more time because of pumping and then feeding separately. It requires more equipment and more forethought when going anywhere. I am a believer in the power of breastmilk, though, and am always grateful to give it to her. This time, the evidence of pumping is all around our house (and van!) I fall a little more in love with my husband when he does the night feedings or has all the pumping equipment washed.

What advice would you share with other moms who are or who are considering exclusively pumping?

Find as many ways as possible to work it into your natural rhythms. I honestly despise when I feel tied down to my pump. Having the ability to be hands free and portable have changed my relationship with pumping. I feel like a total badass when I'm able to cook, work, etc. and pump. Again, it's a labor of love and takes time- so as much of that time as you can reclaim, the less you feel burdened by it. Also- celebrate milestones! Maybe that's writing a note on the bag of pumped milk or getting yourself a special treat for your commitment- it should not be taken lightly and is definitely worth celebrating! Follow others on social media who are pumpers so that you don't feel alone on the journey (if that's your thing!)

What are you most proud of as a mother?

I'm proud of my commitment to diving into figuring out my own values and laying a foundation for my kids. I've always been introspective, but I also spent a lot of my life as a people pleaser. As a mom, I realized I didn't have time for people pleasing but for really knowing our family values and aligning with people and things that fit that.

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