Thursday, January 31, 2013

Out Of The Mouths of Babes

My kids make me laugh. A lot. Sometimes it's a giggle, and sometimes a guffaw.

As maddening as some moments can be, I often find myself laughing in the midst of the chaos. I love conversing with my kids, and the way they see the world is innocent, honest, and interesting.

Following are some of the funniest things they have said recently (at least the ones I've been able to write down. Things move fast around here!). Some are silly, some are gross, and some are just melt your heart sweet.

*Sofia falls, screams*
Me: "Are you ok?!"
Sofia: "No! I broke my ankle!"
Me: "Where does it hurt?"
Sofia: *Points to her elbow*

Alex: "Mommy, when I grow up, I can't wait to get a job where you can cut people up and see what's inside them."

Alex: "I want to plant an apple tree."
Me: "I want to plant a lemon tree."
Sofia: "I want to plant a lollipop tree!"

Alex: "You say no to everything, except the things you say yes to. You say more no than yes, and I don't like it. I'm having a horrible life."

Me: *Sings to Adele on the radio*
Alex: "Mommy, are you singing?"
Me: "Yes."
Alex: "I can't tell, 'cause you sound just like the lady on the radio."
Me: ♥ ♥ ♥"

Sofia: "I hurt my butt! Somebody kiss it! Somebody kiss my butt!"

Sofia: "Mommy, this puzzle is hard, I can't do it. I need my brudder."

Alex: "Daddy is really good at making frozen stuff, because all he has to do is put it in the oven."

Sofia: "What's that smell? It smells like kangaroos."

Sofia: "A birdie! They make me happy. I want to catch one someday."

Sofia, looking at a book: "What is this boy doing?"
Me: "Climbing on the monkey bars."
Sofia: "But, he can't, because they're for monkeys."

Me: "What's that smell? It smells like rotten garbage."
Sofia: "Maybe it smells like Daddy."

Sofia: "Buuuurp."
Husband: "That's gross! You should say excuse me."
Sofia: "You should shave your butt."

Sofia, after I playfully smacked her butt: "That's my private part. Stop touching my butt or I'm going to poop on you."

Alex: "Mommy, XXXX is my girlfriend. We're going to get married and move to Paris."
Me: "Oh yeah? Do you know what it means to marry someone?"
Alex: "Yes. It means that you love them. I want to work. Not now, when I grow up."
Me: "What do you want to do for your job?"
Alex: "I don't know yet. I don't know what kinds of jobs they have in Paris."

Me: "I love you."
Sofia: "Thank you."

Sofia: "You're the greatest Alex in the whole world!"
Alex: "Thank you."

Sofia, after spinning around for five minutes: "Mommy, our house is moving."

Sofia: "Mommy, the sky is blue and it looks like water."

Alex, wearing goggles: "Mommy, I have gargles."

Compiling this list has reminded me of all the things my kids have said that I *haven't* had the chance to document. I'll be sure to start writing things down again.

Do your children make you laugh?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Letting Go of the Fear of Birth: Three Writing Activities to Let Go of Your Fear and Pain

Currently, I am 34 weeks pregnant. Although I had already thoroughly researched my VBAC vs repeat C-section options, had already researched providers and had even made the decision to choose a midwife practice covered by my insurance, but with the nearest office located 45 minutes away and a birth center located over an hour away, about six weeks ago, I sat down to write my birth plan, and freaked out. I found myself looking at my first birth plan (the one that had actually ended in a c-section with my son three and a half years ago) and I found I could not stop crying. Panicked, I called my doula. "I need help with my birth plan! I said I'd discuss my birth preferences with my midwife at our next appointment and I can't seem to stop crying!"

After a few moments of questions, my doula gently pointed out that she didn't think I was quite ready to be writing out a birth perferences list yet because it sounded like I still had some fear left from my birth experience. I was shocked. I knew my body was strong. I was no longer afraid of the pain of labor (having already experienced that for over 24 hours in my last birth). I knew I could trust my midwife practice because I had thoroughly researched them. I thought I was ready, but what I didn't realize is that while I knew I could birth this baby with my head and my heart, I still felt the fear and the pain I hadn't fully dealt with yet from my first birth and, like it or not, it was bubbling up as soon as I even thought about my next birth. I may have read all the books. I may have thought and planned circles around myself, but labor is not an intellectual acitivy and I was not able to intellectualize my way out of my feelings. They would have to be "felt" through. My wise doula pointed out that the good part was that this was coming up long before I was in actual labor and so I had time to deal with my feelings. She suggested some fear release activities and, even though some of the ideas seemed a little kooky, I decided to do them. Figuring it was better to work on this now rather than when I was in the midst of labor, I decided it would be worth it to try them. That decision has made all the difference! Six weeks later, I feel like I am in a much more peaceful and stronger place to face labor in three to six more weeks. I have finally come to a place where I am giving myself permission to do anything I feel I need to do to make this birth happen and then when I am full term, I will let go and let God and this baby show me the birth I'm supposed to have. This is huge for me. I am a bit of a control freak. This is especially true when it comes to my babies, but letting go is probably the most important thing I can do when the time comes and that is what I'm working to do. I know that by letting go of my fear and my pain, I have paved the way to let go in labor. So, take some time alone for yourself and try some of these activities for yourself and see if they help.

Activity 1: Writing Letters

The first assignment my doula gave me was to write a letter in pencil to myself really letting myself express everything I felt I had been repsonsible for that had gone wrong in my first birth. She also suggested I write a letter to anyone else I felt I needed to talk to about my first birth or anything else that was coming up before my labor (any issues with men, authority, family, etc.). She then said that I should read each letter three times aloud to myself and then burn them. I know, I know, it sounds a little crazy, but she said the smell of the carbon in the pencil burning and the act of hearing my own voice say my fears would give my body permission to let go of those feelings. I have to say, there was definitely some satisfaction in watching those hurtful, painful thoughts burn. Afterwards, it just doesn't seem like those old painful thoughts and memories have the same power over me and whenever I think of this new birth now, I just don't see it as connected to those old feelings of regret from my first birth.

Activity 2: Mind Shifting
This is another kind of strange activity that seems a little kooky, but can yield some surprising things about what you really believe about yourself, about birth, and about life in general. The key is to pick an aphorism that you want to believe or that you think you should believe, but aren't sure you do, yet, and to write it multiple times until you hear your mind either arguing or agreeing with it and then quickly write those thoughts down, too, switching back to writing the aphroisms whenever you feel yourself running out of things to say. So, for example, you could write "I believe that birth is natural and safe and doesn't require thought," "I believe that birth can be successful in any environment," "I belive that I am strong enough to birth my child any way my baby needs to be birthed," or any other aphroism that appeals to you. This was actually very powerful to me because I did it awhile after I did the first activity and after I'd already done some serious soul searching, so I felt empowered by the lack of new things that came up for me. It made me realize just how far I had come and how much more mentally prepared I was to make this a new birth.

Activity 3: Birth Visualization (Two Variations)
This last activity took the most time and was probably the strangest one for me. Because I had taken a hypnobirthing class during my first pregnancy and had already started listening to some of my old hypnobirthing tracts to prepare for this birth, she suggested I get in contact with a local hypnobirthing practitioner about coming up with a special, individualized tract for this birth. I got in contact with the practitioner and she suggested that what would be most effective would be for me to write a tract for myself, record it, and then to try to relax and listen to that tract everyday. She also sent me some of her class materials (she is not offering any classes right now, but I really wish she was because her class seems amazing) and in her class materials, she talked about writing a letter to a close friend post dated about a year after the baby's birth detailing all the positive things I wanted to happen during the birth, after the birth, and in my family over that year. The letter is to be read daily until the baby is born and can be written very early in the pregnancy and can help set your mind to focus on the positive over the next year and to commit yourself to making those things happen. So, I did that immediately and it was actually very fun to imagine the relationship my children would have with one another a year from now and how I could feel about this birth a year afterward. I even wrote about how awesome I hoped my relationship with my husband would be at that time! She had told me that my birth visualization tract would probably be most effective if I listened to it in the last four weeks or so before birth, so I found this script online and I changed it into first person and added personalized details and things I really thought it was important for me to hear and I recorded it. I'm not going to lie. It was really surreal to record it and it felt a little weird saying some of that stuff aloud, but ultimately I feel the more times I allow myself to envision my body giving birth naturally, the more I give my body permission to give birth when the time comes. It couldn't hurt anyway!

Ultimately, I have no way of knowing exactly what shape this birth will take, but at least when it is all said and done, I can tell myself I did everything I could to make the birth I felt I, my baby, and my family deserved and if I end up with another outcome, I will give myself permission to say, "I did everything I could. This was just what was meant to be." That seems like a much more healthy place to be than where I was before!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Time To Break The Silence

Two months ago, I had a freebirth, and it was the best experience of my life.

Since, it hasn't been the easiest transition with breastfeeding and having a five year old that is used to undivided attention, but I could always look back at my birth and remember how empowered I felt, how amazing it felt, and just remembering the moment I pulled her out of the water could make me smile.

Since having my freebirth (after having a cesarean with my first), I haven't been shy about telling anyone and everyone about it.  I was nervous the whole pregnancy about discussing our plans because of fear and worry, and honestly, I didn't want people to judge me or call me brave or discuss the risks I was taking.  Ever since?  I can't seem to shut up about it.  Which is how birth should be, in my opinion. Women should want to share their experiences.

Anywho, I have had no trouble since she was born discussing her birth, why we chose to have a freebirth, who was there, what we did to prepare, and all that jazz.  Most people would change the subject if they got uncomfortable with it, or they would say I'm "brave" (an entire issue all in itself).  Some have made fun of my baby by giving her a nickname based on the color of the pool water when my husband sent out the announcement text (probably 15 minutes after she was born so I was still in the pool and yes, it was red, but yes, to me it was the perfect announcement).  Others just talk behind my back.

Until yesterday.

I went to the CNM in my area for a diaphragm, and the nurse took my history, finding out our second daughter was born at home, but she thought it was really neat we informed ourselves and made the choice right for our family.  Then comes the CNM.

She looks through my history, sees the homebirth information and asks which midwife in the area we had at the birth.  I told her we didn't have a midwife, and so she decides to go on a rampage about how she had a dead homebirth VBAC baby come in last week and if we have more children we need to rethink the risks we are taking because they are very real, very dangerous, and it's likely one of us would die if we tried again.

Now, this was just after we finished talking about the seven babies we lost inbetween our daughters.  I know how much it hurts to have a baby die.  I've lived that over and over.  I would never take that big of a risk just to have a freebirth.  I knew my limits, I knew my baby's limits, and in the end, we rocked it.  I would have transferred in a heartbeat if I even felt something was off.

After she told me this, I couldn't even speak.  I know a lot of VBAC moms get played the "dead baby" card, but they are normally PREGNANT when it happens, not holding their 9 week old and just asking for birth control.

I left the office after so angry I was almost in tears.

I've had a lot of bad providers in the last five years.  Some that wouldn't listen, others that just patted me on the head, but this?  This was the worst.

It made me realize something though.  Providers only go as far as we let them go.  I needed to get the diaphragm, so I couldn't leave the office yet before she did the exam and ordered it for me.  So she kept talking.  Had I left or been able to leave?  The situation would have been entirely different.

How many times as women are we forced to sit through a situation where someone talks down to us and we aren't able to leave because we either need something, want something, or are just too afraid of the consequences?

Providers won't learn if we keep sitting through it.  Providers are still telling women their baby will die, and hoping they scare them enough they stay.  Providers are hoping that we sit through it, and some of it seeps into our mind and stays there.

Pregnant women are prone to worry more than others.  You're caring for two people at the same time, one of which is your growing baby.  It's easy to scare a pregnant woman.  I don't know anyone that would risk the life of their baby simply for an experience, but along the same line, providers shouldn't be downplaying that experience just so women don't walk out the door.

No, I didn't get a medal for my freebirth (though I think I totally should have ;) ), but that experience can never be taken away from me.  Instead of treating women like patients that don't know what they're doing, providers should be treating us like we are in charge of our births, because we are.

It doesn't matter where you're birthing, if you have an OB, an MFM, a Midwife, or no one at all, you should be getting the respect you deserve.

And if you're not?  Find another provider.  Interview, ask doulas in your area for recommendations, ask midwives or doctors what other providers they recommend.  The interview process is crucial to finding your fit.  You do not want to be sitting at an appointment wanting to punch your provider, but knowing you can't run away.

That is not how this system is supposed to work.

And if in the end you have no other choice, or feel like you have no choice, file a complaint.  I felt trapped listening to the CNM blather on about how my baby could have died, but that doesn't stop me from filing and hopefully helping her realize it is not okay to scare women.  We shouldn't be letting this cycle continue.  In the end, we might be the difference between a provider continuing the way they are or maybe stopping for one second before they say something.

We can't be silent any longer.  That starts for me today.

Monday, January 28, 2013

real mom confessions

My good friend and momspiration, Elise, recently did a post on her True Confessions. They were great. So honest, and so damn spot on! So, here are my real mom confessions:


1. I consider it a parenting success that my daughter loves Edward Sharpe and the Magnificent Zeros, and calls Home "her song." Similarly, I was a little annoyed when she loved a CD of kitschy children's songs we were gifted (don't worry, I didn't share my annoyance with her!).

2. I do my best to get Gwen to eat a good variety of foods... but nights are rushed to begin with, so if she's begging for pasta, again, sometimes its just easier to eat pasta. Again. But we always have a fruit or veggie too.

3. I love spending time with my daughter, love playing games with her, but when she breaks out the blocks, I pray she asks her dad to help instead of me. I can only "build another house, Mommy" so many times before I just don't want to build another house! I've also hidden books once or twice after we read them 20 times in a row.

4. My husband is much better at the crafting stuff then me too. I'm a little terrified of the mess it would create if we pulled out paint together. 

5. Being married after having a baby(s) is hard. I love my husband, but parenting together is the hardest thing we've ever done.

6. I save way too many of those scribbley pictures that she brings home from daycare.

7. If its a choice between cleaning the house or playing with my girl, I will always chose the later. Yes, my house is messy.

8. I hate hearing that she gave my husband a hard time on a night that I'm out (for work or yoga), but part of me loves hearing how much she missed me. She gets bigger every day, its nice to be needed. And yes, I need those nights to do "me things" too. I don't feel guilty about that.

9. That whiny voice makes me want to pull my hair out.

10. I hope that we can be as close as we are now when she is 16 and beyond. I will always be the mom first, but that doesn't mean I can't want to be a confidant, an enjoyed companion, and yes, a friend, as well.

What are your mom confessions?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

To the "New Moms on the Fence About Breastfeeding"

This evening I came across a piece titled "6 Reasons to STOP Breastfeeding," and while I hate to give it any additional traffic, I feel compelled to respond.  I acknowledge there are plenty of legitimate reasons many women have for not breastfeeding, either by biological force or by choice, but I cannot get behind any of the ones provided in the manner that they are presented in this article.  However, despite being in complete disagreement with her rationale, I have no problem with one woman declaring this list as it applies to her own life that I'm not living.  It saddens me a little bit, but in no way angers me that one mother may make these choices for herself and her children.  What I do find infuriating and somewhat dangerous is the closing statement, "I'm writing this for all the new moms out there who are on the fence about breastfeeding. I think there are plenty of real, but non-medical reasons to stop breastfeeding. And, they're valid reasons, at least in my opinion."

As I've already admitted, no, I don't think these reasons are valid, and addressing new mothers with such brazen complacency, acting like this is the solution to every frustrated mother's problems is astonishing.  Again, if these are issues/solutions for her - so be it.  Many would say there are ways around most of them, but I'm not here to speak to the woman that wrote that piece and tell her how to live her life.  I would like to address the same group of "new moms out there who are on the fence about breastfeeding." 

My daughter is 2.5 years old.  As I've discussed before, we did not have an easy start to our nursing relationship with her in the NICU and myself recovering from a c-section, but we persevered.  I am a stay at home mom to one child and I am fully aware of the luxuries that affords me when it comes to nursing.  My daughter was exclusively breastfed until just under 8 months, and I don't think I've touched my pump since she was 4 months old. So I fully grasp the kind of commitment this woman is referring to.  She still nurses at least 5 times a day, but I will be the first to say that if I was working full time, I do not think I would've stuck with it so far beyond that first year.  That, like the decision every other mom makes when it comes to breastfeeding, would be my choice and I'm not here to condemn anyone for choosing differently.  Again, I understand there are plenty of women who may not be physically capable, or arrangements with employment make it too difficult, or any number of other things that may deter achieving a successful breastfeeding relationship.  This is for the women who are able to nurse, but are still unsure about the impact it will have on their life. 

After reading the article above, I had the overwhelming urge to say one thing to those very same women she was speaking to.  It is such a SMALL portion of your life together with your child, and it means so very, very much.  When I'm 70 and my daughter is 36, this time in our lives will be nothing but a blink of an eye.  And I don't even have to wait that long.  On a day to day basis can the sleep deprivation and demands of being a mother make some days seem longer than others?  Of course they can, but other days I cannot even fathom that 2.5 years have already gone by.  Do I miss partying and doing what I please without consequence?  Hell yeah!  And believe me, a large glass filled with nothing but 3 shots of Jack Daniels used to be my drink of choice, so I'm well versed in the bar hopping lifestyle.  But that was what I did in my 20's, and now is the time that I'm spending growing and nourishing my child (hopefully children one day).  I guess I've always felt like parenting was more about self-sacrifice in the name of your child's best interest.  And while I'm certain sacrifices will continue to be made throughout her life into adulthood, I know that my daughter will not always require the level of commitment that she does now, and one day, a day that will come all too quickly, I will long for these days of incomparable intimacy with her.  The days when I can still pull her close and nurse her and have that connection with her.  There is really nothing like it, and nothing that would deter me from doing it again for as long as I could if we had another child.  I will never be able to get this time back, or have another chance to have such a tremendous impact on the overall health and emotional well being of my child.  When my body is finished making and nourishing babies, then I'll worry about appearances.  But even then, I wouldn't trade in my stretch marks or breasts that are no longer what they once were for anything, because they helped make the one thing that is the most beautiful thing in my world.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Irony of Natural Living

Green, natural and holistic living are things that are very important to my family. These mean different things for different people, but for us, it means, among other things, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, alternative medicine, pesticide free and organic eating, and chemical free cleaning, toys, and personal care.

Since "natural living" is now a trend, there seems to be no shortage of "green," "holistic," and "natural" foods and products on the market. That's no surprise--our consumerist society ensures that if there is a demand, manufacturers will supply. What is startling is just how much it can cost to "live naturally;" which seems counter intuitive, since one of the general ideas of living naturally is to use less; and one would think that natural products, whether they be toys, cosmetics, or cleaning products, since they are more straightforward in their contents, would be cheaper. Right? Wrong.

Before I begin, let me say that I'm in no way criticizing anyone who buys these products. After all, I've bought or buy many of them myself. I'm not denying that many of these things enhance my life or make certain aspects more entertaining and enjoyable, but if I'm looking at need vs. want, and I'm being really honest with myself, the vast majority fall into the want category.

This is a commentary on the consumerist trap that we seem to fall into despite our best efforts. Sometimes it feels like we're being brainwashed to think that we absolutely need all these different products as if our survival or happiness depends on it. Buy what you will, but do it because you want to, not because someone out there has convinced you that you cannot do without it.  It's also a commentary on the obscene mark ups on natural products and organic food. 

Speaking of food, it seems incredibly unfair that the organic stuff costs so much more than its conventional counterpart, almost every time. Just last week, I purchased organic frozen peas for $2.99 (10 oz box). That's a whole dollar more than the regular frozen peas. I paid $4.50 for one, one, organic red bell pepper.

I read a factual, sobering article on GMOs this past week, and it couldn't have come at a worse time for me. The new year has brought with it a need and a desire for our household to budget--and unfortunately that includes buying less organic food, because it's simply not feasible 100% of the time for our large family. We polish off things like grapes, apples, and berries at record speed around here. The unfair pricing of organic food seems even more unfair to me now, since eating organic is the number one way to reduce your consumption of GMOs.

As for personal care, a bottle of Burt's Bees Baby Wash will set me back $9.99 (and believe me, I know that Burt's Bees is not even the most natural wash out there). If I wanted to go really natural, California Baby would cost me a whopping $19.99 (for less ounces than the Burt's Bees).

When it comes to natural cleaners, I've found that the more natural they claim to be, the more they cost. I have a few favorite brands, but oftentimes my budget doesn't allow me the luxury of buying them. I ran out of dish washing liquid and I got one the natural brands at my local grocery store that cost me a ridiculous (overpriced) $4.99. That 99 cent container of bright orange Joy looks really appealing in those moments. Laundry detergent is also pricey, and with a family of five, those costs can really add up.

So what's a natural living gal to do? Well, a few things. First, I've limited my organic food purchases to the Dirty Dozen (for the most part, unless there is a really good sale on something organic that isn't on the list). This makes me incredibly sad, but it's the only way we can continue to eat healthily and not dip into our kids' college funds to pay our grocery bill (I jest. Mostly.).

I've also started shopping in bulk. I apologize, Mother Earth, but as there are four people using our commode (and will be five in a couple years' time), I simply cannot justify spending more than a dollar on a *single* roll of recycled toilet paper (which, I might add, is not the softest stuff around. No fluffy bouncing little bear on that packaging). I bought a huge bag of toilet paper from Costco that worked out to something like 30 cents a roll. Also at Costco are organic apples, organic carrots, and organic whole chickens. Who knew? They also have their own brand of organic pantry and canned items (a 9 pack of organic chopped tomato cans for around $6!!).

I make as much of what we use as I can from scratch, from food to cleaners. As I talked about here, DIY cleaning products are dirt cheap and so easy to make. There are certain things, like dish washing liquid and laundry detergent, that I won't make on my own because I find that they don't clean as well as the manufactured stuff, but maybe it's just a matter of finding the right formula. I will keep looking! Making most of my own every day cleaners allows me to have the budget to splurge on the good stuff for my dishes and clothes (imagine--being able to use products not loaded with carcinogens is a "splurge!" Oh, the irony...). The Naturally Clean Home is a great book with 150 recipes for green cleaning.

As a family, we are consuming less. Not food, but everything else. We were once again blessed to have a happy, healthy, and bountiful holiday season. We all gave and received lovely gifts. And now, that's done. We've limited material purchases to must-have only (with an occasional blip here and there, we are human, after all!), and instead are focusing on things we can do. We've also made a commitment to purchasing and consuming less for subsequent holidays and birthdays. For me, having a budget has actually allowed me to become more creative and I'm rather enjoying coming up with ways to have a great time while being thriftier.

I didn't touch on toys above, but I adore cloth and wooden toys for my children. I do not adore their prices. It is an exercise in restraint and self control to go for the one nice toxin-free wooden toy than the five lead-laden made-in-China-ones. I took out my middle daughter's beautiful wooden toys from storage (which my youngest daughter is now using), and felt a great sense of satisfaction that though they are few, they are lovely and useful. I'm not against plastic toys and will certainly purchase them at some point. But I'm going for quality vs. quantity. 

Finally, I shop at discount retailers online. As much as I love going local and do so whenever I can, the online retailers really have the advantage on this one. Sites like Vitacost and Oompa Toys are instrumental in my being able to continue providing my family with products that aren't filled with chemicals and toxins.

These are a few of the things that have made a difference for my family. How do you live the natural life on a budget?

Monday, January 14, 2013


Everyone has things in life that they fear. As parents, some of those naturally involve your child(ren). When Gwen was born, I was struck with the incredible realization that I was in charge of this little life. That her thriving or failing, rested on my shoulders. The responsibility was heady and terrifying.

It still is. I worry about feeding her the right things, getting her outside enough, keeping her strong and healthy. I worry about sickness or accident taking one of us from the other. More so though, I worry about the way this world is changing. I swear that the world has gotten scarier since my innocent babe came into it. Bullying, drugs, violence... they have always been around, but maybe because of the influence of social media, these bad things seem so much bigger and badder now then when I was a child.

Source: PostSecret
During our day-to-day, I am happy and in the moment. I keep my fears in check, definitely keeping them out of her sight. At night though, sometimes I lay there, and I feel them wash over me. My sweet, innocent, loving child. I know I can't protect her, life needs to be lived fully. That means broken hearts, fights with friends, and people who just don't like you. I know that, but still I wonder... will she make friends easily, or will she be lonely? Will she be picked on? Will she even be safe in her school?

These thoughts break my heart. When I was in high school you had to worry about someone starting rumors about you (bad enough), now you have to worry about someone posting something online that can be seen by thousands and will be there forever. And heaven knows I shouldn't have to worry about if my baby will come home from school, but more and more that has become a scary reality of our times.

Why am I sharing this? No reason, except that I couldn't keep it inside anymore. I want hand holding and hair petting and reassuring words. Except that I know there are none to offer. In which case, I can only hope for a little commiseration, and maybe some hope.

What are your biggest fears?

If you find that your fears become overwhelming, making it hard to live your day-to-day life, please talk to your doctor. Fear is normal, anxiety that disrupts your life is not. Postpartum Anxiety is real, and it can be helped.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Six Steps To a More Relaxing Day

Every mom has heard the advice to take care of yourself so you can be better equipped to take care of your children. But what comes to mind when you hear the words self care? A large block of uninterrupted time like a spa day or girls' night out? A long bath while Hubby takes over the bedtime routine? Regularly scheduled "me time" away from the kids? 

Personally, I prefer to think of self care in terms of small ideas I can implement daily to help stay relaxed and focused. Because when I remember to do these simple things, I feel better and it shows in my mothering. 

1. Go to sleep. As tempting as it is to stay up well past the Agents' bedtime (and they are night owls), I make it a point to have lights out no later than 11:00. For the most part, the girls sleep all night without incident. Agent A will wake up two or three times, but because we are co-sleeping it's not that big of a deal.

2. Get out of bed first. No matter what time we all go to sleep, I aim to be awake first. Even just 15-30 minutes is enough time to make coffee, read a chapter of my Bible, and check e-mail without someone climbing on me. It's such a small thing, but it makes all the difference in the world.

3. Eat and drink. Obvious, no? But I cannot tell you how many times I'll get to lunch time and realize when I made breakfast for the Agents I failed to eat any myself. Or conclude at 5:00 p.m. that I haven't had anything to drink all day except my morning coffee. As you may have guessed, this does not exactly put me in a good mindset for dealing with any afternoon craziness that may arise.

4. Talk less. I have found that most of the time when I am frustrated with my children, it's because I don't know when to stop talking. I go on and on with my reasoning when really I intended to make a simple request. Or I turn something into a much bigger issue than it actually is by verbally overanalyzing it. Or I spout off some "consequence" that I know is never going to come to fruition because I don't know what else to say or do in the heat of the moment (*cringe*). 

5. Slow down. Other than church (which we don't attend consistently) there really isn't anything we do with a strict time constraint. Oh, we need to make it to the Y within the parameters that the child care is open, and we will occasionally make plans to meet another family at the park and want to show up approximately when we said we would, but . . . for the most part our time is our own and we have no reason to be in a such a hurry. For instances when we do have a "time sensitive" event to consider, we allow way more time than we need so we don't feel rushed.

6. Breathe. I tend to be very future-oriented. This is why I chose a word for 2013 that will help me to remain in the present and not obsess about things that haven't even happened yet (or for that matter, may not happen at all).

What little things do you do each day to help stay calm and centered?

Thanks for reading and have a blessed day.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"No Greater Sacrifice:" Cesearean Birth

Recently, I recieved a message from a friend of mine on my personal facebook page that started like this: "So I see all the stuff you post about vbac and natural childbirth and a few of them had made me feel you think less of moms who have had csections. I had one and it was terribly disapointing but I also needed my child to arrive here safely [. . .]" The message really stunned me because I am currently in the process of planning a vbac in about nine weeks (or less) and am a cesarean mother myself. I realized that, perhaps, in my own exuberance at the chance of giving birth naturally once more, and in making my own emotional struggle with my cesarean largely private or on here only, I may have missed the chance to be clear about how I feel about cesearen birth. I do realize that cesarean birth can seem like it has a bad reputation with mothers who want to experience "natural" birth. I will admit that I, and many of my like minded friends, probably post links about natural birth, its beauty, and how to avoid unnecessary cesarean sections so often that we may forget that people may not always know where we are coming from. So, here is where I'm coming from.

A few months ago, I attended a screening of the film "Freedom For Birth: The Mother's Revolution: Women Take Back Childbirth," in addition to being a great film, the discussion afterwards featured a comment that made me cry and not just because I'm pregnant. A Certified Nurse Midwife, Sameerah Shareef, the only nurse midwife who attends birth in the entire city of Lansing, where we currently live, made the comment that she could think of "no greater sacrifice" in birth than that which a birthing mother makes when she births on an operating table instead of naturally. She went on to describe the heartbreaking desecration of laying youself prostrate and allowing yourself to be cut open not just spiritually, or emotionally, or metaphorically, but literally in order that your baby might live and be born. It was the first time I found myself thinking of my son's birth as something other than shameful and I cried tears of relief to hear her words. I wish I had been able to record them so that I could share them all with you, but I didn't and while the literal words have left me, the spirit hasn't.

A mother who births through a c-section is an unsung hero. At no other point in your life will you have a major surgery performed on you (with all its risks and side effects) and not only have no one really pay attention to your recovery, but will also be told repeatedly to be thankful for it (even though it causes you great daily pain and has permenant repercussions emotionally, mentally, and physically for you). "Healthy mama, healthy baby," is the mantra I was told over and over again, but I have to tell you that post c-section, especially if that c-section was unexpected and the recipient is not sure if it was or wasn't completely necessary, most mothers feel anything but "healthy." When you go in for a c-section, you sacrifice a lot. Often you sacrifice your ability to be the first one to hold your baby, you sacrifice your ability to hold your baby skin to skin right away (in our case, my husband was allowed to step in and give my baby that, but it tore me up to see that I would have to wait), you sacrifice your own health, you (sometimes) sacrfice your ability to breastfeed successfully (I was lucky in that I did not have this problem, but it is very, very commen for women with c-sections to have all sorts of post-surgery delayed milk production and other breastfeeding issues), you sacrifice your own mental and emotional health (many women find that the trauma of a c-section is much more than they ever thought it would be; not all, but many) and sometimes you allow yourself to sacrifice your own ability to say you "birthed" your baby, preferring instead to say your baby was "delivered" (I still struggle to think I "birthed" my baby through a c-section). I've met many women (me among them) who felt that their agency in the birthing of their own children had been negated just because they had a c-section. I often have found myself apologizing or giving excuses for my c-section as if I had let everyone down (most of all myself and my child), by allowing myself to be lain on a table and sliced open to give birth instead of managing to do it on my own. Sameerah's words did much to reshape that image in my mind.

A mother who births through c-section is a warrior in her own right because she fights not just during her birth, not just during her immediate physical recovery, not just through her emotional recovery (which can often take longer), but also through any subsequent pregnancies where she now faces increased risks both if she chooses VBAC or she has necessary repeat cesarean. In fact, in the paperwork the hospital where I am planning my VBAC had me sign, the risks for maternal death, infant death, and other serious complications are the same no matter what course she chooses and those risks are increased compared to mothers who have not had a cesearean. That is a lot of physical, mental, and spiritual work for any woman to have to take on, and currently in this country around a third of all women who give birth face just this challenge. (A third! When in many developed nations both maternal and infant mortality rates remain lower than the US AND cesarean rates are less than 10%!) No one is denying that c-sections save mothers and infants, but many are dedicated to making sure that the c-sections that happen are absolutely necessary and do save lifes.

So, make no mistake, if those who advocate natural birth are anti unneccesary and uninformed c-section and are very vocal about it, it is not because anyone feels that women who birth through c-sections are lesser than or somehow not as strong as mothers who birth vaginally. Most (like many of the women on this site who gave birth through c-section and are intimately and painfully aware of just how strong and hard c-section mamas have to be) are actually motivated by the sacrifice and pain women go through and want to make sure that the only mamas who go through that kind of pain and sacrifice are the ones who need to in order for them and their babies to live. Mothers who birth through cesearean sections are amazing, strong, and face challenges that mothers who birth naturally often do not have to face. I am in awe of them. I am in awe of myself. I have come so far and been through so much and am taking on so much more in planning my VBAC that I can have nothing but respect for mothers who birth through c-sections. We are a very strong, resiliant group of women to allow ourselves to be permanently scarred, broken open, emotionally torn, and under appreciated all while performing all the duties that new mothers must perform to keep our babies thriving. I have nothing but love for women who must birth through c-section, but I also want to make sure that no one goes through all that without reason, including myself.

Thank you for reading,

Thursday, January 3, 2013

"French Kids Eat Everything," and now my kids do, too

If you know me well, you know that much of my life revolves around food. Not only do I love eating food, I love preparing it, I love cooking it, baking it, and thinking about it. I plan my week's meals ahead of time, and I buy groceries according to what I'm cooking that week. If there's a holiday coming up, watch out--cookies and other baked goods leave my kitchen with stupendous speed. I love planning holiday meals and meals for special occasions. I make 95% of what we eat from scratch; and I'm damn proud of it. I buy local and organic as much as possible, and love cooking and mastering different cuisines.

This is why it's so difficult for me to admit my dirty little secret: up until two weeks ago, my kids didn't eat dinner with my husband and I. As in, not at the same time, and not the same meal.

This isn't the case for any other meals. We eat breakfast together, and there are no special or separate orders prepared. Lunch is a freebie--we eat what we want, unless we go out or unless I'm making something special. Our snacks are pretty much universal--having next to zero processed food in our house means we all munch on fruit, nuts, and the like. So why the dinner disconnect?

My son was a really picky eater (still is). I learned pretty quickly that it was easier to serve up chicken nuggets (organic ones with whole wheat breadcrumbs!) or pizza (Amy's Organic! I swear!), or pasta with sauce (organic too!) rather than fight with him about eating what I was serving up for my husband and I. I was insanely neurotic about my son going hungry--I figured through giving him what he liked, at least he would eat, and then eventually he would join us in our meals.

With my middle daughter, I was determined make a change. I made all her baby food and started feeding her "table food" as soon as she would have it. However, eventually I fell into the same trap I did with my son. The "kid meals" were easier; faster; and my children loved sitting and eating together. My kids would eat dinner around 5:30; my husband and I, 6:30 or later. I reasoned that this made sense because I didn't want them eating too close to their milk and bedtime. I didn't want them going hungry, waiting for my husband and I to eat. This was a good thing. Until it wasn't.

Inevitably, the food battles with my daughter began around age 3, as they had with my son. This made me realize that food battles are not about food, but about control. Whereas my daughter was eating eclectic meals just weeks before, now she was turning her nose up at seemingly everything. We began arguing at every sit down meal.

After a year of my kids rotating through the same four things for dinner, I finally had enough this past Christmas. Faced with another round of holidays where our children would not join in the family feast, I decided that was it. I didn't make a huge deal about it, but I told my kids that there was not going to be any more frozen pizza, frozen chicken, grilled cheese sandwiches, or pasta with sauce and cheese (unless it was what we were all planning on eating).

You know what? This was one of the easiest transitions I have ever made with my children. It's amazing how, when there are no other options, the kids will just eat what's there! They don't always finish, and that's ok, but they are ingesting things I never thought would be possible.

You may be reading this and laughing, or thinking "No duh, genius," but if you aren't, I have some good tips for you that are working for us. I recently came across a blog post about a book called "French Kids Eat Everything," and though I haven't read the book yet (it's on my reading list!), in it there is a list of ten unwritten French rules on eating with children that I think are fantastic. If I may pat myself on the back here, I'm happy to say that once we started the family dinner meal, we used all of these rules before we knew they existed. Once again, you may be thinking that this is simply common sense and what's the big deal? But if you're not, here are the rules, and my take on each.

1. Parents: YOU are in charge of food education! This is absolutely true, and something we take very seriously in our home. We talk about food a lot, where it comes from, how it's prepared, and when our local farmer's market starts up, we attend as a family as much as possible. I know that when my kids get older they'll eat stuff that's bad, but as long as what they eat is under my control, I will work as hard as I can to influence them in a positive way. Growing up, my mom cooked simple, delicious meals with wholesome ingredients, and though I went through a heavy McDonald's phase in my late teens and early twenties, my mom's way of cooking and treating food was instrumental in the way I feel about food and eating, and what ultimately brought me back from the Dark Side.

2. Avoid emotional eating: No food rewards or bribes. This is difficult, but ultimately is for the best. I use food as a reward or a bribe only when everything else in my arsenal is exhausted. I've started offering a cookie not as a bribe, but more as something to look forward to once the meal is finished. I've also started avoiding saying, "If you don't finish your dinner, you're not getting a cookie, etc." It's helping a lot, and the kids eat simply because its time to eat!

3. Parents schedule meals and menus, and kids eat what adults eat. Hooray! This is one I'm most proud of, and while I've done the meal planning for years, we are finally eating the same food! Someone give me a cookie!

4. Eat family meals together. Probably my favorite part of this transition, I love sitting down with everyone, kids included. The mealtime conversations we are having are wonderful. As for my youngest daughter, we've started giving her tiny morsels of whatever we are eating, at every meal. She's fallen into place, just like that! It's ok if this means that the kids go to bed a bit later some nights. Family meal time is so much more important.

5. Eat your veggies (think variety). We are all about the vegetables here. At least one veggie accompanies every meal, and I love to cook vegetarian and vegan meals. I'm so excited to share these with the kids.

6. You don't have to like it, but you have to taste it. This is exactly what it sounds like. We put every component of our meal on our kids' plates, and they have to try it before they say they don't want it. They both tried and loved red bell peppers. They tried and hated fingerling potatoes. Next week I'm making cauliflower!

7. No snacking! It's ok to feel hungry between meals. This is absolutely true in the hour or two before dinner, but if we are out and about and not planning to eat until we get home, you can bet the snacks are out in full swing, especially if we have to wait somewhere or have a long ride ahead of us. I'm not sure if the book is nixing all snacking or just close-to-dinnertime snacking, but either way, we have to adapt these rules so they make sense for our family. Snacks have saved my hide more times than I can count. I never leave home without them.

8. Slow food is happy food--as in, eat slow. This is a work in progress for us. I eat like someone is chasing me because frankly, someone usually is (to nurse, or read a book, or wipe a butt). Now that we are eating together, since we are all engaged in the same activity, it's easier to slow down. But I still need to remind myself to do it! My husband and I both also have a bad habit of rushing our kids while they eat. Work in progress.

9. Eat mostly real food. Another area where we do well, as stated above--I make nearly everything we eat from scratch. It's wonderful to be able to share my love of fresh ingredients and good-for-you food with our children.

10. Remember, eating is joyful. Relax! Now that we are all eating dinner together, I can't believe it took us this long, and can't imagine it any other way. It's so awesome hearing my kids exclaim over parts of the meal they love and ask questions about what everything is. They wander in the kitchen while I am cooking and ask what we are having, and look forward to what new thing they are going to try (for the most part. Middle daughter was not enthused about trying the fingerling potatoes). I'm so excited to instill in my children my love of food and cooking.

Does your family eat all meals together?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Learning from my First Year as a Mother: New Years Resolutions

Every year, no matter what particular new year day we like to pick to ritualize, we find ourselves reflecting on the past and planning for the new start that will come in the next year. Usually, I'll admit, that time for me is in the fall. There is something about the start of the school year (even when you aren't in school), that makes me consider the year as being new, but this year the fall was too busy for my usual reflection and with a new baby on the horizon in 2013, I find myself thinking about these things on actual, regular new year's day.

When I think about the last year, however, I see a lot that was good and a lot that was not so good. All in all, it was a pretty normal year. In the context of the great scheme of my life, I've realized since my son was born that I am in the midst of what will be called the best years of my life. I will likely never be happier than I am right now as a stay at home mom with my child (one day soon, children) with me every day and even with all the hardship, I know that I will always look at these times fondly and will likely wish myself back in them once they are past. In other words, as bad as some days are, I know deep down that it doesn't get better than this. That said, I do seem to remember a lot more of the harder times of my first year experience as a mom of an infant and those memories drive me to reconsider what my second "first year" as a mom will look like, so this year I have resolved not so much to do anything differently, but to try to think of things differently.

This year I resolve:

1. To go to bed early and not look at the clock at night no matter how many times my baby or my three year old wakes me up.

2. To remember that there will be plenty of time to clean the house when both children are over a year old.

3. To accept that I may not be the best mom I can be all the time, but I can keep trying to do the best I can.

4. To not worry so much.

5. To just say how much I love my family whenever I am in doubt of what else to do. Even when my child is in meltdown mode and screaming the opposite, it can't help to remind him that I love him, right? Even when my new baby is screaming and inconsolable, s/he needs to hear that I love him/her regardless, right? I'm sure my husband could use that more than my crazy, sleep deprived crying fits I had last time . . .

6. To let go of any expectations I have of myself or my children to be anything than who they are in the moment. Sure, we are not perfect and sure we will not measure up to others from time to time, but we are who we are and we can love and be loved where we are.

7. To have fun for at least five minutes every day

8. To remember that a year only lasts twelve months, no more and no less. If it seems to be going slow, it's still only twelve months; if it's flying by, it's because it's only twelve months!

9. To forgive myself.

10. To perservere and breathe.

Thanks for reading,