Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Circle+Bloom's Natural Cycle for Fertility

Having tried to get and stay pregnant for three years, I had tried things all over the map.  From charting to not charting, from relaxation to actually trying, from acupuncture to seeing a doctor and having 8 ultrasounds in 8 weeks.  My energy has gotten better with different things, but nothing has had that "edge" that I have been looking for.  Nothing was really working to keep me pregnant.  And the stress of it was getting worse every cycle.

A few of my friends in the infertility circle had tried Circle+Bloom's meditation tracks and absolutely raved about them.  A few got pregnant and stayed pregnant, a few didn't but still swore by the program.

I was at the point where it didn't matter what I would try, I wasn't so much trying to get pregnant, but relax and release the stress I was building up with each day and cycle that passed.

Circle+Bloom has been absolutely amazing and sent me the download to their Natural Cycle for Fertility Program.  I was already on cycle day 19, but that didn't matter.  Their tracks are made so you can listen to and start on the day you are on, you don't have to wait for a new cycle, which is a huge plus since you never know when you need to start listening and waiting for another cycle can be stressful in and of itself.

The first time I listened to one of the tracks, my best friend and I were at acupuncture.  I put the track on my Kindle and made it loud enough for both of us to listen since she is trying to get pregnant also, and I wanted her opinion on it.

The beginning of all the tracks start with relaxing.  I am still amazed, even after doing this for 5 days, that I can get to such an incredible state of relaxation within minutes.  Except that first day, I have done them all right before bed so I can relax the day away and get ready to fall asleep.  Each track is about 15 minutes long, so enough time to relax without staying up too late, and then because you are so relaxed, it is easy to shut off the track and fall asleep.

I have a lot of trouble trusting my body after what I have been through, and the day 19 track talked about how negative thoughts and feelings won't hurt your baby, but keeping those thoughts and feelings in will cause stress which isn't good for trying to get pregnant and while pregnant.  Everyone always tells me to think positively, and to let go of the negative energy, which is great advice, but after six losses and three years of trying, it is so much harder to do than they believe.  Having a mind body connection knowing that my negative thoughts on my body won't hurt the growing egg was absolutely invaluable.  It was so refreshing to know that it is okay to be worried and scared.

Another one of the best days was one completely concentrated on my circulatory system and getting fresh oxygenated blood to my uterus and growing baby.  When you concentrate on certain parts of your body, you can feel them getting stronger, and for myself, they feel energized.

For fifteen minutes a day, I was able to relax deeply, focus just on myself, and work with my body rather than against it.  I was able to feel focused and exhilarated after just the fifteen minutes.

I'm still in the two week wait, but already this cycle is so much different than the others.  I am more relaxed, I am listening to my body more, and I am able to let the stresses wash away better.  I am still worried about getting and staying pregnant, but that is something that I need to work on for more than 15 minutes a day, and slowly I am getting there.  I do think that the meditation tracks are working, and that in and of itself is huge.  I have a lot of fear to let go of, and anything that helps is amazing in my book.

This program is $59.00 for the download right to your computer, and $69.00 for the CDs sent to you.  It does feel a little bit pricey, but considering how much money a lot of people spend on Ovulation Prediction Tests, Pregnancy Tests, and other trying to conceive products, this is just one more expense, and one I believe is so much more worth it than other things you can buy.

There is nothing like the feeling you will get when you listen to this program, and the relaxation is just one part.  The Mind-Body connection is so powerful and using that while trying to get pregnant can be invaluable.

I received the Circle+Bloom Natural Cycle for Fertility Program to review, no other compensation was given, and the views expressed are my own.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Home is Where Your Mom Is

By the time this is published, my family will be living in a state several states away from the one in which we became a family. We are making this move because we truly believe it is the right one for us. We will be near extended family and will be in a community where my husband has deep roots.

Yet, I feel deep trepidation about this move. It is an uprooting of everything we have built together over the last almost two years. (Has it really been two years? Has it only been two years?) Already, our nascent family has traditions. We have a path around the neighborhood we've been strolling since our baby's colic days. We have our favorite places to eat. We have a library program that we love. I know that a walk to our local library is exactly 2.94 miles round trip and which grocery store sells the rice cakes my son loves at the best price. Every Thanksgiving, we cook a tiny turkey just for ourselves and every Easter, I cook a tiny ham roast from a local farm. It makes me sad that my son will not remember these traditions which are so tied to our current geography.

I know, of course, that our family will simply develop new traditions or, in my husband's case, will re-adopt traditions from his childhood and his family. I think what I will miss will be the freedom we currently feel to make them up as we go along. Once we are in the proximity of our families, ours will not be the only impulses we will need to consider. I also know that those new rituals will be richer because they will be imbued with the love of generations and that our son will grow up knowing both sets of his grandparents far better than he would have had we stayed in our home in Vermont.

Still, I can't help but feel a little sadness and a sudden appreciation for what my mom (and other military spouses) go through. It's hard to uproot the only home your children have ever known and to resurrect them in new locations. It's heartbreaking to make memories that only you will be able to revisit in your own mind. When I was a child, I loved each move our family made. I loved the adventure of starting life over. I loved the idea of wiping the board clean. I realize now that it was my parents who taught me to look at each move in such a positive light. Eight years of living in the same town in Vermont (the longest I have lived anywhere in my thirty years of living so far), has taught me that familiar has its appeal as well.

However, packing up and moving has reminded me of a lesson that I never knew I had learned. Home is not a geographical location. It is not even a physical location. It is, instead, connection with your family. Perhaps that is why I never dreaded moving as a child, but fear it as an adult. When I moved as a child, it was up to my parents to make me feel at home. Now, I must do the job for both myself and my family. As a child, I was virtually oblivious to my surroundings, but I was deeply attuned to the people within my family. I have no idea what the first three or four houses we lived in looked like, but I know exactly what it felt like to watch my brother try to cheat at cards and who will be most likely to help me scheme creative ways to stay in the game monopoly long after my money has run out. I recently saw a decorative pillow in a magazine embroidered with the words "Home is Where Your Mom Is." Now that I am the mom, it is my job to make sure that my little boy learns the same secret lesson I did.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Do You Know The Risks?

"Well, as long as you know the risks of birthing at home, I'm sure you'll be fine"

Women that birth at home are some of the most informed and educated women I know.  I'm not trying to put down other groups of women, but working with this group specifically, I see how incredibly smart they all are.

At prenatal appointments they ask insightful questions, they have done research on their own, and they are prepared and understand the "risks" as so many put it of birthing at home.  They are taking charge of their birth and bringing their baby into the world in the most calm, peaceful, and gentle way they know.

They prepare their bodies for labor and birth.  They learn about labor, about what is normal and what isn't.  They form a very special closeness to those that will be attending this very intimate and sacred event.  I count myself so lucky every day that these women allow me to view their births.

When people give you that line, not only does it put down the women that are truly taking control of their birth, it shows how very little faith you have in them.

No woman I know would purposely put herself and her unborn child at risk.  Even if they want a great birth experience, they would not put themselves or their child in danger just to get it.  That isn't how motherhood works.

You are implying that these women might be smart enough to gauge for themselves what the risks are, but you aren't really sure.  When the fact is, most of the people that say things like that have no idea what is even involved in a homebirth.  They wouldn't have the slightest idea what a midwife brings or what is at home.  A lot of them actually think that all homebirth midwives wear ridiculous hippie clothes, bring a piece of leather for the mother to bite, bring sheets and towels and buckets of hot water, and chant in the corner to keep the evil spirits at bay!

If it wasn't so sad and ridiculous, it would be funny!

Instead, what if the tables were turned?  If you told someone you were birthing in the hospital, and they asked if you knew the risks, would you know how to answer?  Do you *truly* know the risks of birthing in the hospital?

Regardless of what people say, it isn't the safest place to have a child.  Women are dying in childbirth, as are babies.  The very horrible thing is that more women are dying now compared to 1982.  The United States is one of the worst first world countries to have a baby.  With all the advancements in science and medicine, you would think it is the opposite.

Birth is meant to be left alone, to happen on its own.  When you start messing with a natural body function, you can make it so much worse.

Imagine a set of dominoes.  You line them all up so you can push the first and start a chain reaction to have them all fall over.  You have them set up, and then someone walks by and decides to change the middle domino.  Even moving that domino an inch can mean that either the chain will stop there, keep going, or it will veer down another path.  Would you want to take the chance to mess up all that work just to see if things will still come out the same?

It goes the same with childbirth.  You have a great pregnancy, are still low risk, and *wham*!  You are induced, augmented, or taken for a cesarean, for a very non-medical and non-emergency reason.  Your dominoes were lined up, they were moving together and had almost reached the end.  And then someone decided to move that middle domino.

So, I repeat, do you know the risks of a hospital birth?  Have you researched your hospital, not just your doctor or midwife?  Do you know the nurses, the standard procedures?  Do you understand informed consent and refusal?

In a homebirth, you get to know your midwife very very well.  You meet her assistant and her back-ups.  You are in your *own* home, your place of safety and trust.  Most midwives end up friends with their clients for years after the birth.  They create a friendship, a bond.

Do you have that relationship with your OB?  Do you sit and giggle and talk in prenatal appointments for an hour or more?  Are you friends when you leave, still talking to them regularly about every day things?  How about your nurses?

Birth is about so much more than the "risks" that people perceive.

No matter where you are birthing, whether in a hospital, birthing center, hotel, car, airplane, under a tree or home, you need to educate yourself on the benefits, the risks, the middle ground.  It isn't anyone else's job to tell you that you should be fine as long as you know the "risks".

It is your birth, take control of it!  Whether that means sitting down with your OB and truly becoming friends or having a midwife that you can be yourself with.

Your birth needs to be about you and your child and your family.  No one can take it away from you, and you will carry this birth with you for the rest of your life.

Be an active part of it.

Even if that means going against the grain, learning the "risks", and having a homebirth.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kid's Kitchen: A Cook Book Review

My niece, Celeste, aged 9, is everything you could ever ask for in a kid, she is outgoing, curious, smart, funny, curious, ambitious, and did I mention curious? 

Being Celeste's aunt prepared me in many ways for parenthood. She taught me that babies don't always sleep the way you see in the movies, that 4 year olds really DO hear EVERYTHING you say (and repeat it at daycare), and that being bored can always be remedied by making a big huge mess in the name of experimentation. Like the time she decided to see what would happen to the soapy bubbles in her bath if she turned on the jacuzzi jets & filled my parent's entire bathroom with suds. 

There have been a lot of big changes in Celeste's life in the last two years. Oliver, and Celeste's little brother, Charlie, were born within just two months of each other, and while she loves them both and is an amazing big sister and play mate, the boys often mean that our time together when I babysit is spent baby wrangling and not getting into trouble like we used to.

That's why when I saw Kid's Kitchen: 40 Fun and Healthy Recipes to Make and Share from Barefoot Books, I knew that it would make the perfect project for Celeste and I to do together. I set up a play date at which there would be helpers to distract the boys, and promised that we would have some fun together. 

The Kids Kitchen cook book is actually not a book at all. It is a set of bright and flashy colour coded recipe cards that come in a great box with a flip lid. The first few cards explain about the different food groups and  the different kinds of nutrients we get from our diet. 
I love that this information is included and presented in such a clear and fun way. It's a good feature for kids learning about nutrition, and a great reminder for health conscious parents. 

I had originally planned to let Celeste go through all of the recipes and pick one or two for us to make together, but when I saw a card proclaiming 'Specked Vanilla Ice Cream' I knew I didn't even have to ask. Of coarse we were going to make our own ice cream!
Our kitchen date was also scheduled for the same day that a local church was holding their annual Strawberry fair fundraiser, so our second recipe choice was 'Fruity Faces'. The recipe card calls for dried apricots, but we went with fresh strawberries instead and it worked out beautifully!

I really liked that the recipe cards all include a list of items, as well as ingredients that you will need to have ready to make the dish. I really REALLY liked this feature, I am that person who gets half way through making mashed potatoes without realizing she doesn't own a potato masher. 

I had Celeste read each ingredient and step out loud as we went. The instructions were all clear and very easy to follow, except for the measurements being in Imperial. 

Both Celeste and I are Canadians who learned basic math skills after the 1970's. We are most comfortable using the metric system, and all of our ingredients and measuring tools are marked in metric, a recipe calling for 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate totally blew our minds. 

How's this for a math problem?:

If you have a 170 gram package of dark chocolate in 6 cubed pieces, how many pieces of chocolate do you need to make 1.5 ounces?
Luckily both of the recipes we used were super forgiving and both turned out very well despite my less then stellar math skills, and Celeste got to learn about unit conversion. 

 We also learned that a custard won't thicken smoothly if you accidentally let it boil while you are sneaking chocolate chips, that chocolate dipping strawberries and adding white chocolate chip faces is a fine art that only a nine year old can truly master, that separating egg yolks is harder then it looks, and that fresh vanilla beans make things taste and smell about a million times better then artificial vanilla. 
When our dish was finished, I could only snap a few quick photos as the pack moved in to feed. 

 Cooking with kids is a great way to encourage healthy eating, (or in this case, eating deserts with fresh and wholesome ingredients) and a good way to teach a number of valuable lessons in a practical setting. But more then that I have to say that cooking with kids is just FUN. 

Even though I am someone who really enjoys cooking, I find that too much of the time I am rushing through my routine making dishes I've made a dozen times before just trying to get it done so I can move on to the next thing on my list. 

My afternoon cooking with Celeste reminded me of all the things I love about cooking, about trying new things and experimenting in the kitchen. It reminded me what it was like to cook for the fun of it without knowing exactly how it will turn out or if you're going to like it, and not caring one way or another. More so then that, Celeste's pride in what we made and the enjoyment she got from watching everyone else enjoy her creations reminded me to put the love back in my kitchen and really cook to nourish my family body and soul. 
If you would like the chance to win Kid's Kitchen, or any other book of your choice from the Barefoot Books online catalogue, please visit our giveaway! You can even get an extra bonus entry by completing the following step:

Post a picture of your family cooking or eating together on The Connected Mom Facebook wall, then leave a comment on THIS POST telling us that you have completed this step!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday School: Grocery Shopping

Welcome to the Connected Mom Sunday School. No matter what the coarse of your child's education, be it unschooling, homeschooling, or conventional schooling, The Connected Mom Sunday School aims to provide you with fun and easy activities for children of all ages and stages. (Have an idea for a Connected Mom Sunday School activity or theme? Either comment below or send your idea to connectedmom (dot) julian (at) gmail (dot) com.)

This week's theme is food! All of our activities this week center around a trip to the grocery store or farmer's market. They are meant to not only keep your child engaged and occupied during your shopping trip, but to encourage healthy habits from trying new things to list making and meal plannning, to being aware of where our food comes from and making sustainable food choices.  


For toddlers it's best to keep games short and simple to hold their attention and reduce frustration. A game of 'what's that?' Is perfect for this.

As you walk through your produce section or farmer's market hold out items for your toddler to see, touch, smell (hold off on tasting until you've decided to purchase it, or if you're not sure about pesticide use) and ask 'what's this?'

For a perverbal or beginner start with easy foods that they have eaten before and will recognise. Then answer you're own question 'it's a banana!'. They will love hearing new and old words matched so clearly with objects they recognise. Keep in mind that if you sign with your child, this would be a fun time to introduce a few new ones!

Older toddlers love to show off their knowledge and will happily play along by answering your question! But be sure to keep introducing less common or recognisible foods to keep the game interesting.  Have your toddler stretch his exploration muscles and ask YOU 'what's this'. Perhaps he'll show interest in foods you never thought he'd like you to cook!

Giving your child knowledge of the great variety of healthy foods out there is a gift, it may seem like a silly game now, but this knowledge combined with your child's natural curiosity and sense of adventure will open up a whole world of good health and fun. 


To ensure that your child is not only eating enough fruits and vegetables every day, but also getting a wide variety of nutrients, it helps to think of your daily diet as a rainbow. There are 6 colours in the food rainbow: Yellow, orange, red, green, blue and purple, all of which carry different antioxidants, vitamines and minerals. 

Using an old cereal or tissue box (It's good to reuse and recycle!) cut a circle of cardboard. With a ruler and pencil, draw a line across the center of your circle dividing it into two sections. Turn it 90 degrees and draw another line to make four sections, then once more to make 6! kind of like how you would cut a pie.

Have your crafty preschooler colour in each section, one for every colour of the food rainbow!

Next you will have to choose a spinner. Feel free to 'upcycle' one from an old board game like Twister, but any craft store will carry them, or you could fashion one from a small crayon or pencil tied to a string. Fasten your spinner of choice to the center of your circle so that when you spin the point falls on one of the 6 colours. 

Now take it for a spin! In the produce section of your super market, or at your local farmer's market, have your child spin the pointer, if it lands on green have him choose a food that is green, if it lands of red have him choose a food that is red... take turns spinning! Not only will your cart fill up with all the colours of the rainbow, but this excersise may help a fussy eater open up to trying new foods.

(If you'd like more information on making sure your child is eating a rainbow every day, check out Connected Mom Kayce's review of the Today I Ate A Rainbow Kit!)

School-aged Child:

The children I know around the ages of 5-10 love to help, but they love even more to be 'the boss'. Start at home by having your child write down (or draw, depending on writing level) the items from your shopping list in her own list book or paper. Don`t dictate your list to her, but rather have her create it by asking questions. `What would you like to eat this week
?``what do we need to make that?`. She may not know everything that goes into her favourite meal, but you`d be surprised what her palet picks up. Leading her through this will make meal planning and mindful shopping second nature to her, skills that are vital to a healthy diet!

When you get to the store have your child read off the items on her list one by one, and check them off. For older children you can add to the fun by having them read price stickers, or weigh your produce. This will not only stretch their reading and math muscles, but continue to build good shopping habits.

(Remember to keep your own master list just in case, but if your child is sensitive you may want to keep your back up list on the sly)

Older Child 10+:

Print out a list of foods available in your imediate area (within about 100 miles) and a simple map of the world and have your child mark off the countries your food comes from as you shop. Many grocery stores have this information printed right on the price sign under the name of the product.

If you're shopping at the farmer's market where everything is local that's awesome! Have your child write down everything that's available locally and then take them on a comparison shop to the supermarket. You know best how your child learns, if you think they would benefit from creating a graph or chart to compare their findings then chart away! Some children may prefer just looking at the map they made, or organising their findings in their own creative way.

Notice how many foods available locally are still imported from far away places? Or maybe you notice a lack of diversity in your local agriculture
? Why do you think that is? This is a great way to start a conversation with your child about making sustainable food choices. Just remember that these conversations are not meant to be lectures, make sure to listen to what conclusions your child draws on his or her own. You may be surprised what kind of revolutionary ideas are born from a kid`s point of view!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Me and the In-Laws: Letting Time do the Telling

Like many new parents, when we had our son, we were on the receiving end of quite a bit of well-meant advice. Some of it, we sought out or asked for from people we trusted; our midwives, or friends who had just had a baby a few months before us. My husband and I had done a lot of reading, so we felt informed about the first few choices we would be making as parents – to co-sleep, to breast feed as long as possible, to use cloth diapers, and to skip a lot of the things (swings, play yards, and other various items) that the Baby Industry declare as necessary when you become parents. For us, we had everything we needed to be parents: my sling, diaper service, clothes and each other.

My family – from my mom, my step-mom (the one who partially raised me), my dad and his current wife, my aunts, even my grandmother (who largely disagrees with my parenting) – however, did not give advice. They all agreed on a few key things about new babies and new families: that the first few weeks are the most special as a new family, that you are figuring out who you are as parents and who your baby is. The first few weeks are when you discover your routine. The first few weeks are intimate, and the new family is best left alone – unless they ask for help or advice.

My husband’s family, on the other hand, had different views – and the culture in their family is completely different. After the birth of my son, my mother-in-law visited for one week by herself, and then two weeks later, she and my father-in-law both visited for the week over Christmas. They offered their advice freely, simply because that was what had been done to them and that was what they did to my husband's sisters. And it had never occurred to them to question the accuracy of the advice they received or if it lined up with their gut instincts about how they wanted to raise their children.

I, in comparison, was raised to question everything and to do enough research to know why I felt the way I did. So, when my in-laws offered such things – that they assumed were true – as “let the baby cry, it’s good for it’s lungs” or “if you always hold the baby, it will always want to be held” or “if you always nurse the baby to sleep, it will never go to sleep any other way” and other such tidbits, I tried to be polite, but firm in my response, whether I said, “He doesn’t need to cry to strengthen his lungs; they were fully developed and healthy at birth,” or “I don’t mind nursing my baby to sleep or holding him – it’s such a short period of time in the long run.” My in-laws offered up other parenting advice, why my six week old needed to get a grip and learn to self-soothe, he needed to learn how to put himself to sleep, the merits of corporal punishment at home and in the schools (I didn’t think corporal punishment was still legal in the schools, but in Texas, it’s still used and my husband went to schools where it was used.) I spent so much time trying to be polite and firm and deflecting their advice (some of which I found appalling) that by the time they left, I was exhausted.

And I felt criticized and judged – sure, my newborn nursed every 30 minutes because he was constantly hungry (he was also constantly growing – at the end of 6 weeks, his 3 months sized clothes no longer fit) but other than that he was a gorgeously happy and content baby. Did they really think we were so off track in our parenting that we needed advice without asking? Granted, in my family, we have the common saying that unsolicited advice is criticism. Still, I had tried my best to be polite, because while my in-laws are from Texas, their culture is completely different. And still, my responses did not go over well. My in-laws went home and wrote my husband a letter about how I was oversensitive to all of their unsolicited advice when clearly it came from their love and experience.

Needless to say, this did not go over well with me.

(Okay, actually, I don’t know if I’ve ever been so hurt or angry before in my life.)

There were a lot of other various things that did not work about my in-laws lengthy visit that I don’t necessarily need to go into; I will say that while I got along with my in-laws before the birth of my son, after their visit, our relationship was rather strained to say the least.

And I was fortunate – my husband’s work took us overseas for a year. While my in-laws visit their other grandchildren every six to eight weeks, they had no desire to visit us across the globe in Singapore or Bali. Without meaning to, my in-law relationship was put into a much needed time-out. By the time we returned to the states and had settled into a home, so they could visit us again, it had been two years since we had seen them. They hadn’t seen my son since he was six months old.

Their visit was last weekend.

Overall, it went well. Surprisingly well. And I realized a couple of things that I had no clue about when my son was a newborn. Mainly, that time was on my side. It didn’t feel like it then. When my in-laws appalled me by their views on corporal punishment, I wasn’t really in a position six weeks into new parenthood to say that we wouldn’t be punishing or even giving our child a time-out – I had nothing except my gut instinct and the books I had read to support me, while they based their views in the rearing of their three children and what my husband’s sisters did with the other four grandchildren. But over the course of their weekend visit, my son behaved the way he always did and they could see our child rearing works – for us. We don’t let our son walk all over us, and there was no point over the weekend, where any kind of punishment would have been necessary.

Or over two years ago when my father-in-law told me that if I always held my baby, he would always want to be held? And this last weekend when my father-in-law asked my son, “Can I hold you?” and my son took off running to discover something? Okay, yes, in my head, I was snarky and thought something along the lines of “guess that piece of advice turned out to be true.” But I didn’t say a word.

I let my son and who he was speak for himself. As they say, the proof is in the pudding.

If I had a chance to talk to who I was as a new mom feeling bombarded with advice from the opposite end of the parenting spectrum I don’t know what I would tell her. Despite the two years of strain, I am glad I tried my best to define our boundaries as a family. My husband says I permanently cured his parents from ever offering advice again. And there were moments this past weekend when I could tell his mother was biting her tongue – at our choice to not enroll our son into pre-school or that we don’t know what we’ll do for his education, but we’re looking at something along the lines of home school or traditional public school alternatives.

But now I have the gift of knowing that how we are with our son, and how we’re raising our son – and the child that will soon arrive – works for us. It doesn’t need to work for anyone else. Just us.

Friday, May 20, 2011

My Pre-Eclamspia Story

May is Pre-Eclampsia Awareness Month. Pre-eclampsia is serious pregnancy complication marked by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Though its cause is unknown, it is estimated to cause 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year. But I do not want to focus on statistics. Instead, I'd like to share my personal experience with this scary disease.

My second pregnancy was not exactly easy. When I was about twelve weeks along, I slipped and broke my leg in two places. I healed in a couple of months and thought I would sail through the rest of the pregnancy. I was wrong.

About 34 weeks, my body started to signal that something was wrong. I had been feeling more tired than usual. Others noticed, too. At least one co-worker each day would comment about how tired I looked. I chalked it up to being in the third trimester. I also suffered from horrible heartburn and indigestion, often so bad that it made me sick. At times I would get bright spots in front of my eyes. (Again, I attributed this to pregnancy and getting up too quickly). I swelled quite a bit. I did not notice it in my hands or face, but maybe that was because I was swollen everywhere! My legs retained so much water that they got stretch marks. Then I showed up for my 34-week prental checkup and learned that I had gained nearly 20 pounds in a week! At that same visit, my urine test indicated traces of protein.

My midwife ordered a 24-hour protein test and sent me home with orders to rest with my feet up whenever possible. I was working full time then, and I did not take the condition as seriously as I should have. In fact, I was on a work trip out of town when I received a phone call that my protein levels were elevated. I began to slow down a bit then. Around 36 weeks, I took my blood pressure at home and it was very high. I don't remember the exact number, but I do remember the number I got hours later at an emergency midwife visit: 160/106! I was told to go home, grab my hospital bag, and prepare for delivery. I said a teary-eyed goodbye to my 17-month-old, and off I went. The day itself reflected the gloom I felt, and just as we took off, the gray November sky began spitting snow.

Fortunately, my story has a happy ending. I checked in to the hospital, was hooked up to magnesium, and rested overnight before the induction began. They started pitocin at 7 a.m., broke my water at 2 p.m., and I gave birth to my beautiful Isaac at 3:33. At 36 weeks, he weighed 8 pounds and (except for some jaundice) was a healthy little boy. I am grateful to my midwives for supporting a fairly low-intervention vaginal birth, despite my urgent condition.

I was lucky. Some women develop pre-eclampsia at 20 weeks or earlier. At 20 weeks, you may still only having monthly pre-natal checkups. This is why it is so important for you to pay attention to your body. If anything feels off, please call. Don't wait until your next appointment. The main warning signs or pre-eclampsia are:
  • Hypertension: high blood pressure; you can check it with a home cuff or on a drug store machine.
  • Proteinuria: protein in the urine; can show on the urine test strips you take at your prental visits. You can purchase the reagent strips for home use if you are concerned.
  • Edema: swelling, especially in the face or hands; "pitting edema," where your finger leaves an impression after applying pressure, is also concerning.
    Weight Gain: more than 2 pounds in one week.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: normal "morning sickness" usually clears up after the first trimester; nausea and vomiting that suddenly appears mid-pregnancy can be a sign.
  • Abdominal, Shoulder or Lower Back Pain: can be mistaken for indigestion or growing pains. Pain that is more acute than muscle strain or increases when lying on the right side can signal HELLP syndrome, a more serious form of pre-eclampsia that involves the liver.
  • Headache: dull or severe throbbing headaches that will not go away.
  • Changes in Vision: temporary loss of vision, sensations of flashing lights, auras, light sensitivity, and blurry vision or spots.
  • Racing pulse, mental confusion, heightened sense of anxiety, shortness of breath or chest pain, sense of impending doom.
If you have had pre-eclampsia before, it's not the end of the world. You can go on to have a healthy, natural birth--even a home birth if you choose! After Isaac, I went on to have an uncomplicated pregnancy and a healthy daughter nearly two years later. It always haunted me, though, and probably will throughout any future pregnancies. I pay close attention to the signs. A few other measures may prevent or treat pre-eclampsia. Some risk factors (such as multiple pregnancy or autoimmune disorders) are out of your control, but there is one that is not: obesity! Going into pregnancy at a healthy weight has lots of benefits. Many practitioners swear by a high-protein diet for fending off pre-eclampsia. Some studies also suggest that a calcium deficiency could contribute to pre-eclampsia. (Though I have no proof, I've always thought my pre-eclampsia was related to my broken leg.) Prevention methods are still debated, but overall good health and nutrition can't hurt.

Above all, pay attention to your body. If something feels wrong--whether it's pre-eclampsia, or another complication, or not even pregnancy-related--do yourself a favor and have it checked out. I'm glad I did!

For more information, visit the website of the Pre-Eclampsia Foundation.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

I grew up in a family that used positive reinforcement, patience and love when disciplining. I did, however receive spankings as a child. They were few and far between and reserved for especially bad behavior. I remember them never hurting and I also remember my parents were always calm and deliberate when dolling out a punishment. My parents quickly learned that spanking was quite ineffective and they quit doing it all together. They never spanked us hard enough to hurt, and we began not caring whether or not we received a spanking as a punishment. I was certainly never abused and much of the way I parent my child is based on the positive experiences I shared with my parents when they raised me.

My son has reached a bit of a violent stage. He is three years old and lately when I discipline him or give him an answer he doesn't like, he hits me. I know he is acting out like many children do, but it is still incredibly frustrating. My husband and I were discussing how to discipline this behavior since we'd like to be consistent. Time-outs don't seem to make a difference to him when he is frustrated enough to start hitting. He just doesn't care whether or not he has to sit in time out. It's completely ineffective.

During the discussion on how to discipline our toddler, my husband stated that he wants to discipline our son without spanking whenever possible, but that he also believes in the phrase "spare the rod, spoil the child." I admit that I had never even heard of that phrase before. It took me a little off guard. My husband also stated that it was a quote from the bible. (I researched it. It's not in the bible. It originated in a poem by Samuel Butler back in the 1600's) I was completely taken back by this. I couldn't imagine a worse way to describe disciplining a child. Spare the rod, spoil the child sounds so harsh and uncaring. It completely lacks any love or affection. It certainly doesn't describe the parenting style I would like to adopt.

My husband is an all-around great guy. He is considerably more affectionate and kind than most people I know. I was surprised we would even be having the "should we spank our kid or not" talk. Admittedly, I used spanking as a form of discipline on a few occasions (that's how I was raised) and felt horrible about it and made it a personal decision to never do it again. It wasn't something I discussed with my husband though. I suppose with our schedules being opposite to minimize child care needs, there are many important conversations that we haven't had yet. We also don't need to punish our child very often. He is usually very well behaved and responds well when we just talk to him about appropriate behavior. Well, as we started talking about our views on spanking we realized that we both had very different ideas as to what was appropriate punishment and what wasn't.

We decided to ask the opinion of a friend who also happens to be a professional family councilor. He stated that, in his experience, most parents don't discuss beforehand how to discipline their children. Many parents just "wing it." In a world with limitless information right at our fingertips, many parents don't seek out parenting advice and instead adopt the parenting strategies their parents used. Why not? My parents are awesome. I don't see anything wrong with parenting my son the way my parent's raised me. Well, it creates a perfect setup for a marital dispute. For example, if I don't like the way my husband decides to discipline our son and I say so, not only am I insulting him, but I'm insulting the way he was raised. All of the sudden it becomes intensely personal. So, our friend suggested we research many different parenting styles (we are going to be doing a LOT of reading in the next little while) and choose what fits the needs of our family best. By drawing from the same source, we will have much better success in maintaining consistent and loving discipline.

As my husband and I continued to discuss discipline over the coarse of several days it became evident that we both wanted the same thing. While it took my husband a little longer to realize it, we both feel strongly about not using any type of corporal punishment on our son. We also discovered that we both feel strongly about natural consequences, positive reinforcement, and most importantly teaching by example.

Loving, effective, and consistent discipline can be difficult. No parent is perfect. There is no one-size-fits-all solution either. For our family we have decided to make a better effort to utilize all the resources we have available to us and really research this parenting business more. There are experts out there. While we may disagree with some, if not many, I'm sure we will find a solution that fits our family without resorting to spanking.

"I was out in the front yard with my boy the other day and he was playing with his little friend and he hit his friend, and I went up to him and I said "Hey, (smacks his boy) we don't hit." He looked up at me like "Here's your sign, dad.""
-Bill Engvall

What parenting books have helped you the most? Did you talk about discipline with your partner before having children? Do you talk about parenting styles and goals with your partner regularly? I'd love some feedback as we are putting a lot more effort into a united purpose and goal for discipline in our home.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Who is Raising Whom?

I've always been a bit of an "indoor" kind of girl. Don't get me wrong . . . I'm not exactly a "girly girl," (although sometimes I wish I were one . . . I'd probably look a lot better!) but when you are allergic to every plant in the grass family and most weeds and you have asthma, well, the great outdoors is not exactly your playground. (Not that the indoors is that much better for me. I am also allergic to dust mites and most household molds. I'm on allergy shots that have made life a little better.) However, becoming a mom has taught me that I am not now the person I was before I had my son.

Just because I have spent 99% of my life being an "indoor" girl, it does not mean that I am an "indoor" mom. I have a son who is enthralled with the world and who am I to impede the love affair? It is with this new found sense of self-explorative adventure that I found myself buying a pair of rain boots for my birthday this year (I discovered quickly that even though my son owned frog rain boots, it did nothing to keep the puddle water from splashing me when we went outside!) To my great surprise, it turns out that I am an excellent puddle stomper. I might even be able to go pro, if a pro-circuit for puddle stomping actually existed. I find that I don't even mind the way that some mud gets inevitably splashed on our clothes. My son's giggles are more than enough and if my pants get permanently stained . . . well, pants can be replaced at a later date. Joy is only found in the moment.

Before my son was born, I had a pretty good idea of who I was and of what I am capable. After meeting my son (and the challenges I have encountered by being his mom), I have learned that my view of myself was far too limiting. Recently, I was talking to some friends about this and I came to the realization that being a mom hasn't really changed me so much as it has stripped me of my illusions I had of who I was. What I never realized until my son came along was that the idea I had of myself in my head was not an accurate picture of who I could be. Being a mom has stripped me of those pretensions and has made me vulnerable in a way that I never could have imagined, however, once stripped of them, I realize that I am stronger without them.

I thought that I could never follow a strict diet, but my little love and his food allergies have taught me that I can if it means the health of someone I love. I thought I hated sleeping with anyone touching me (my husband and I always had a strict snuggle and then retreat to opposite corners of the bed policy for sleeping), but now I sleep a good portion or every night with my arm around a toddler wedged right beside me (half the time, he even puts his hands in my face as he sleeps), and I sleep just fine! I thought I would never be able to write a blog. Now, I write three or more times a month (and people who don't share genes with me actually read it sometimes!) Basically, I've come to believe that I was in my head more than I was in the moment. My darling boy has changed that for me.

And so, I find myself actually looking forward to rainy days (of which there have been plenty this spring or "mud season" as it is called here in Vermont). I look forward to feeling a soft little hand in mine as we head out after nap time to find the perfect puddles for splashing (deep enough to give us a satisfied "thunk" as we stomp or booted feet in them, but shallow enough that my toddler won't lose his balance and fall in the cold water). While others complain about the rain, I think of all the indents and potholes in our parking lot that will soon become pristine afternoon puddles teeming with little bugs we can observe once the splashing has rippled away and worms that wriggle beautifully on the pavement as we carefully step around them. It turns out that, sometimes, I can be an "outside" kind of girl. My son taught me that. Who says that we raise kids? I rather think that my son is raising me!

(Here's a video of our first puddle stomping adventure . . .pre-rainboots! You can tell that I was still timid here!)


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Yeast, Be Gone!

In five years, I have only ever had three yeast infections.  The first one, I didn't know any better and used Monistat.  The next two have been the last two months.

I understand more about chemicals that are put into my body and what they can do.  I haven't taken synthetics for about two years, and I am happier that way.

So when I started itching last month, I had to find a way to get rid of the blasted yeast without using Monistat.

I had so many recommendations, and I was so amazed how well they all worked to stop the infection from increasing, and how fast the yeast is zapped and leaves that I had to share.

Ways to make yeast wish it had never started to bloom, all the while not putting crap in your body

1.  Probiotics - If you're at the store, you will probably recognize Acidophilus instead of probiotics, but they are the same thing.  Probiotics are made of live bacteria that are beneficial to the body.  They aid digestion, but they are also great for the immune system.  While you are on antibiotics, sick, or fighting an infection, probiotics are the way to go.  It's a good idea to take them all the time, but that is up to you.  If you get probiotics in gel capsules, you can insert them vaginally so it gets right to fighting the yeast, but taking them orally does the same thing, albeit not as fast.

2.  Garlic - This one might sound gross, and a little bit weird, but a clove a garlic can break the back of yeast really fast.  Garlic is great for infections to begin with since they kill the bad bacteria while leaving the good, and they strengthen your immune system in the process.  Garlic capsules are a great idea for general health, if you don't mind them being garlic ;).  For yeast, you will get actual garlic, break it into the individual cloves.  You only want to take the wrapping and shell off one clove at a time.  Once the skin is peeled off and the soft inside of the clove is exposed, you decide how potent you want your garlic clove to be.  Exposing the inside of the clove makes it more potent.  Depending on how bad your infection is, and it's best to start treatment right when you start feeling itchy and not wait until the thick vaginal discharge, decides how much of the garlic you want exposed.  For myself, I cut the top and bottom off, then slit the clove down the middle.  The more you cut the clove, the more potent, so if your skin is very tender from the yeast, it will burn a bit.  Once it is inside and working, it should stop, but it might linger.

Another thing to do is threat the clove.  If you want to stick the clove in without string, have at it, but speaking for personal experience, the clove likes to work its way inbetween your cervix and vaginal wall and it takes quite a bit of digging and position changes to get it out, and it hurts since your skin is a little bit sore from the yeast.  Threading the garlic gives you a string to pull on when you are done with that clove so you don't have to go digging.

Garlic will make your discharge a little bit more soupy and thick, but that is what it is supposed to do.  Also, it is best to do the garlic at night.  Your vagina and mouth are very connected, and for a lot of women, putting garlic in vaginally leaves a garlic aftertaste in your mouth that you can't brush away.  But, as soon as the garlic is removed, so is the taste in your mouth.

3.  Vinegar - Now, I wanted to kick this yeast's butt fast, so I used both Apple Cider Vinegar and White Vinegar.  You don't have to use both, though the Apple Cider works better, they both have great results.  There are a few options with each of these, so it isn't just a one shot wonder.

One option is taking a warm bath with Apple Cider Vinegar.  I don't really measure, just put a splash of the vinegar in the bath and soak.  This regulates your pH, and kills the yeast.  Plus, it calms the itching down, which is my biggest complaint with yeast.

Another option is to take a peri bottle, like the kind you use after having a baby, and fill it with warm water and put a splash of either Apple Cider or White Vinegar into the bottle.  After you pee, shower, bathe, or just are itching more than normal, use this as a rinse.  It calms the itch down, and kills the yeast, just like the bath.

The last option, and this is better for UTI's than yeast, but a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in an 8 oz glass of water will help get rid of the infection on the inside.  It tastes awful, but it does help.

4.  Frozen Coconut Oil Balls - This may sound a bit weird, but coconut oil is an all around healer.  Coconut is a great antibacterial oil, and a great moisturizer.  For yeast, if the itching is really bad and you don't want to use an OTC anti-itch cream, take coconut oil, roll it into little balls and freeze them.  The cold helps get rid of the itch, and the coconut helps kill the yeast.  It's a win-win!

5.  Ice - If you don't have coconut oil on hand, ice cubes on your vulva can help take the itch away.

6.  Limit Sugar - Yeast *thrives* in a sugary environment.  One of the best ways to keep yeast at bay and to kill it fast is to limit your sugar intake.  This goes for everything yeast can do from vaginal yeast infections to thrush.  I know for me, limiting sugar sucks, but it does help kill the yeast that much faster if I follow it.

If you are vigilant, and keep on it, especially with the garlic, the yeast will be gone in 2-3 days.  With last month and this month, I caught the yeast as it was itching, and with everything on this list, my yeast was completely gone in two days.  And I didn't have to use anything that isn't natural, which was amazing.

Is there anything you would add to the list?  Yeast can suck, how do you get rid of it when it shows up?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Barefoot Books Review and Giveaway

One of the things I love and look forward to the most about motherhood is sharing my love of books. Nothing can compare to the tense little face of a child eager to find out what will happen on the next page. 

At nearly 20 months Oliver is already an avid reader. Since about 12 months he has been able to select specific titles off of the shelf when asked, and can 'read' to friends and toys by signing and making sound effects for the stories he knows the best. 

Books are the easiest way I know to introduce children to new concepts, and to connect them with the big wide world around them. Books give us the freedom to live in a world that is anything we want it to be, and the opportunity to see the world from many different views.  Barefoot Books is a company that really gets this.

Started by two moms who, like me, were eager to provide their children with books that would engage and capture their imaginations, Barefoot Books has a great selection of stories that are bold, colourful, beautiful, and foster connection with our environment, community, and the world.

When I opened our package from Barefoot Books containing 3 titles for our review and heard Oliver's squeals of delight I just knew that the titles they sent us would become instant favourites!

Bear About Town by Stella Blackstone and illustrated by Debbie Harter is a simple repeating story (which kids LOVE) about all of the places in his community the main character goes throughout the week. 

What really makes this story great are the small details. Each page holds so much action and Oliver really loves to point out all of the little details, from cookies at Grandma's Bakery to bees at Sunny Park, fun new details seem to emerge upon every reading. 

Listen, Listen by Phillis Gershator and illustrated by Alison Jay is a story about the changing seasons, a perfect book to receive in the spring! It focuses on all the things that you can hear throughout the year. At the moment Oliver seems to be more interested in onomatopoeia then actual words, so the focus on sounds makes it great fun for us to read.

The art in this book is by far my favorite of any picture book we own. It is full of interesting perspectives and warm colours, and each picture has this amazing crackled effect which makes each page look like the epic stories depicted on ancient Grecian urns. 

Kid's Kitchen: 40 Fun and Healthy Recipes To Make And Share by Fiona Bird and illustrated by Roberta Areson is a book I requested specifically for my niece, Celeste, who is often disappointed that Oliver and her little brother, Charlie, take up so much of our time together when I baby-sit. To make it up to her we scheduled a date to work on a project together, this project was so much fun that it will get it's own post next week! So watch this space!

We also took a moment to check out some of Barefoot Books free multi-media offerings. The YouTube channel was our favourite, it was full of colourful animations and catchy songs for Oliver to boogie to. There's even one about pirates. We like pirates! There is also a great collection of crafts, activities, and online story books, and a podcast that you can subscribe to!

Barefoot Books has generously offered to give away an item of choice to one of our readers. I couldn't be more excited about all that Barefoot Books has to offer. For any age group, any interest, and any occasion, it seems that Barefoot Books has a little bit of everything for everyone.

The prize: 

One lucky reader will get to choose any item they want off the Barefoot Books online catalogue!

The Rules

To enter you must be either an American or Canadian resident (Sorry to our readers from other parts other parts of the world!)  You must also have a valid street address for shipping as the prize cannot be sent to a PO box.

To enter, you must complete the mandatory entry step listed below. Any bonus entries you complete will not count if you don't do the first one!

You must leave a separate comment for each entry step you complete in order for them all to count.

As always, be sure to leave an e-mail address or some other way for us to get in touch with you if you win. 

The contest will run Monday May 16th to Sunday June 5th. The winner will be contacted as well as posted here and on the Connected Mom Facebook page on Monday the 6th. If we don't here back from our winner within 48 hours we will chose another from the remaining eligible entries.


1)    (Mandatory!) Go to the Barefoot Books online catalogue and tell us which title you think your family would love! (If you win, this title will be your prize unless otherwise stated when you contact us to claim your prize!)
2)    "Like" The Connected Mom and Barefoot Books on Facebook and update your staus to tell your friends about this giveaway. (Please tag us in your status update so we know you have completed this step)
3)    Follow both @theconnectedmom and @livebarefoot on twitter and tweet about this giveaway. (Please @mention us in your tweet so we know you have completed this step)
4)    Follow us publicly through Google friend connect.
5)    Tell us in the comments, if there were a Barefoot Books storybook about your child, what catchy title would it have?

Good luck everyone and don't forget to read with your children today!