Natural Solutions for PMS

June 10, 2013 at 5:02 am

“Every month, not just once or twice a year, [the moon] retreats into darkness before returning to the her fullest brilliance. As a woman, I need a similar reprieve every month to access the most brilliant parts of myself, spiritually, physically and mentally.”  -Monna (Organic Mama Cafe)

962944104391438_a-4a2a3642_uDAZUw_pmFor several decades of a woman’s life, a magnificent monthly hormonal symphony occurs within her body. Each cycle demonstrates her body’s deep investment in the continuation of life. Sometimes that investment continues for nine months. Sometimes that potential for life passes away, and her body cradles that fallen egg in a brief embrace before letting it go to make way for new life again.

The aches and pains associated with menstrual cycles vary from woman to woman and over time. For me, the hardest part of my cycle is typically the few days before my period begins. If I’m going to have PMS, this is when it strikes. And there have been times in my life when it has struck with a vengeance. Over the years, I’ve found some natural remedies that seem to help. Based on my experience and research (this is not medical advice), here are my PMS tips:

Supplemental Support

May 26, 2013 at 10:08 pm

I was talking on the phone with a friend last night. She’s been experiencing some depression lately. One of the things we pinpointed that could have been contributing to her mood swings was nutrient deficiencies. She had left her stash of vitamins and supplements at a family member’s home while on a trip, so she hasn’t been taking them.

During my first three pregnancies I was pretty lax about taking prenatal vitamins. But after seven straight years of being pregnant and breastfeeding, my body was seriously depleted. I suffered from some depression during my fourth pregnancy, but once I began taking a whole-food prenatal vitamin, my depression disappeared. When my baby was about a year old, after getting lax again with taking vitamins, I began suffering from anxiety and depression. It wasn’t until I began taking my whole-food prenatals again (among other positive changes) that I felt my mind-body-spirit regaining balance.

Raising Wailing Women

May 14, 2013 at 5:15 am

“Your pain holds the key to your purpose.” -Reggie Littlejohn

Image: Luc De Leeuw 2009

A few weeks ago, I made the mistake of reading a horrifying news article right before going to bed. In it I learned of hoards of women undergoing forced sterilizations and abortions in China and other parts of Asia. I saw a photo of some of these women lying in a row on the ground following their surgeries. As I lay in bed afterward, I couldn’t sleep. All I could do was weep.

After my father began his training as a mental health counselor, his parenting style began to shift. He began to say things like, “It’s OK to cry,” when I felt sad as a small child. Those words were new to me, but I remember what a relief it was to hear them.

I want my own children to know that I will always be there to listen when they are hurting inside. In her book, The Courage to Grieve, Judy Tatelbaum says, “Tolerating another’s tears is a very meaningful gift.” This is a gift I want to offer, especially to my children. I want them to know that it’s OK to cry, especially for someone else.

After all, God has commanded it. Much of parenting feels like fumbling in the dark, but there are some things about which God has given us specific instructions. “Teach your daughters wailing,” God has said (Jeremiah 9:20).

Meditation as Medicine

May 9, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Last October, my friend Felice started teaching meditation webinars. I had been battling anxiety/depression for months. Felice had been trying to get me meditating for years. I figured, “Hey, it couldn’t hurt to try.” The week I started meditating with her was the week I started to feel like myself again. Coincidence? Perhaps. A lot of things had shifted in my life at that time. But the more I learn about meditation, the more I want to meditate.

Last week a reader recommended the book Meditation as Medicineby Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., when I wrote about my panic attack. I checked it out from my local library and started reading it yesterday. I wish I could just sit and read this book all day. I love the author’s writing/teaching style.

I’ve been learning a lot lately about the healing power of sound (see here and here).  So I’ve been seeing the world through that lens, frequently asking myself, “What sounds am I hearing? Do they feel good to me?” Interestingly enough, yesterday in the car, my daughter said (completely out of the blue), “This song sounds evil.” I changed the station!

I particularly like this quote from the preface of Healing at the Speed of Sound:

“When we speak of being of ‘sound mind and body,’ we seldom realize that sound itself is the root of being. That sound itself is the route to acquire those things we want so much, a sound mind and body.”

Film Review: Birth Story

April 24, 2013 at 4:52 am

“Some of the best birth footage out there–a must-see for anyone even remotely interested in the subject.” -Ceridwen Morris, CCE, childbirth educator, and co-author of From The Hips

When I received an email last week asking if I’d be interested in reviewing the film Birth Story on my blog, I immediately responded, “Yes!” I received my copy of the film over the weekend. My husband watched some of it with me, in between doing the dishes. I was impressed at how much it didn’t seem to freak him out. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. He’s been married to me for almost twelve years, after all.

Restoring Balance and Fertility

April 18, 2013 at 6:05 am

For a couple of decades, my menstrual cycle was like clockwork. Every 28 days without fail (except during pregnancy/breastfeeding). It didn’t really matter what I ate, how much I slept or exercised, or how much sunshine I frolicked in. My body just did its thing no matter how much I failed to take good care of it. But, alas, this body of mine ain’t what it used to be. Now that I’m in my thirties, my menstrual cycle is a lot more sensitive to environmental factors.

During last year’s drama, my cycle was cut short by a few days nearly every month. I thought it was just the stress. As I healed and gained weight, my cycle slowly returned to its 28-day norm.

When my period arrived two days early this week, I was a little confused. Wait a second, I thought… Didn’t my body heal from all of that craziness? Then I remembered that I had spent many nights last week staying up past 1:00 a.m. working on my new website and doing research. I’ve been extremely sleep-deprived. That reminded me how I spent months last summer experiencing medicine-induced insomnia. This was fortunately the only side effect I really noticed from my medication, but it was horrible. Maybe the sleep-deprivation had been a big contributing factor to my wacky menstrual cycles last year?

All of this got me wondering… is there a link between sleep and fertility? I started digging and found a whole lot of information I wanted to share. If you’re trying to get pregnant and you’re finding your cycles less than regular, here are some things that may bring your body back in balance.

Gift ideas for the pregnant woman you love

December 4, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Being pregnant this time of year is great. For one, you can blame the holidays for the ten pounds you gained from November through December. ;-) But I also just think there’s something special about carrying a child during such a love-filled season. Whether you’re pregnant right now or know someone who is, I hope it’s a magical month for you and those you love. And in case you have a pregnant woman in your life, here are some gift ideas that will make her month even merrier.

1) Body pillow

If she doesn’t already have one, she needs one. I got a body pillow during my first pregnancy, and I slept with that thing through all four of my pregnancies. It was the best.

2) House plant

Not only would this lovely little friend remind her of your love and support as she prepares for birth and then adjusts to her new life as a mother, but it would also purify the air in her home, keeping her and her baby healthier. I’d be sure to give my new momma friends the most tolerant and low-maintenance options, of course.  Rubber plants and snake plants are very forgiving when it comes to neglect from busy caretakers. (See this post for more info).

Beautiful crucible

May 10, 2012 at 5:49 am

I felt like I wanted to die.

In my head, at this moment, two weeks ago, a part of me was wishing for death.

Someone very dear to me has lived with deep anxiety for much of the past decade. He has also spent much of the past several years abusing drugs and living in a variety of rehab programs. But as I felt my whole body/mind/spirit breaking into unfamiliar pieces under anxiety’s crushing blow, I suddenly got it… why he has turned to drugs, why he has contemplated (and perhaps attempted) suicide, why some days are a massive feat of endurance for him. I understood, to some small degree, just how horrifyingly debilitating anxiety can be. Anxiety is real and raw and ravaging. And I will never again jokingly use the phrase “nervous breakdown” because now I’ve experienced a taste of what it actually feels like. And it’s no joke.

But. But here is what I also know now.

There is no darkness too deep, no fear too profound, no soul too shattered for love to reach.

Finding my valentine, part 4

February 15, 2012 at 4:53 am

There I stood… Reid to my left—mysterious, humble, thoughtful, older man with a stunning smile. Isaac in front of me—silly, loud, hilarious, younger man who was much less threatening to my carefully-laid plans for my future. Should I accept Isaac’s invitation for a drive and enjoy an evening of laughter and silliness? Or should I decline the invitation and continue my conversation with Reid?

The truth is, it wasn’t really a tough choice at all. I knew the instant that the words came out of Isaac’s mouth that I was going to disappoint him. Remember, I was high on those giddy twitterpation hormones, and I was dead set on getting into Reid’s head, so it only took me a moment’s thought before I looked at Reid and then looked at Isaac and said, “Umm, I think I’m actually going to stick around here.”

I’ll never forget the look on Isaac’s face. He was clearly shocked. He had been given no warning that anything inside my head had changed. I am sure he had expected me to smile and cheerfully accept his invitation. He was stunned into silence for a minute. Then he looked at Reid and back at me, and I watched it dawn on his face that he understood what must be happening. He said something like, “Oh, okay,” and slowly turned and walked away. I felt a little bit bad, but mostly I was relieved to have Reid to myself again.

Finding my valentine, part 3

February 15, 2012 at 1:52 am

Reid smiled back, and then he said something that stopped me in my tracks. He said…

“Hello, Lani!”

And, for a moment, the world stopped spinning. Really! Or maybe not, but that’s kind of how it felt in that instant. From Reid’s end of things, he’d say that there wasn’t anything particularly significant about his remembering my name. He just used to be really good about remembering people’s names. But I tell him that he’s lucky he did, ‘cause, the truth is, I don’t know if we’d have ended up getting hitched if it hadn’t been for his excellent name-recall. For me, it was that very moment, hearing those beautiful words—“Hello, Lani”—that really catapulted Reid onto my radar screen.

I’m not really sure why those two little words had such a profound impact on me, but they really really did. It wasn’t just that he remembered my name. I think it was the fact that I didn’t expect him to remember my name. I was really taken by surprise that someone who had barely made a blip on my radar screen was greeting me personally. It shocked and enthralled me. All of a sudden, the cogs and wheels in my head started spinning and speculating and reading into things. All of a sudden, I was determined to get inside of this Reid character’s head. Unlike Isaac, he was a quiet, mysterious, keep-to-himself sort of guy, so there was so much I suddenly wanted to know about him. I don’t think I thought of anything else for the next few hours.

Finding my valentine, part 2

February 14, 2012 at 10:02 pm

Never ones to pass up an opportunity to converse with new friends, we decided to chat with his roommates (whom we had never met) instead. At first it was just one or two of them, and then a third showed up… some kid who liked to run. I think his name was Reid or something…

He was a scrawny one. Looked like a high school kid rather than a college student. He was nice, but I think I forgot his name two seconds after he told us what it was. I have a way of doing that with names.

And I continued to hang out with Isaac off and on. When I was with Isaac, I don’t think I ever stopped smiling (or laughing). But after several weeks of silliness, it was starting to wear me out a bit. I often thought to myself… umm… Okay, Isaac, enough fun and games. Let’s be real for a change. I don’t think I ever did feel like we had a real conversation.

Finding my valentine

February 14, 2012 at 6:23 pm

My cousin Chris once bet me that I would be married by the end of my freshman year at college. That may seem outrageous to some of you, but it’s actually quite common for Mormon women to marry “young.” Even so, I knew Chris was going to lose. I made one thing very clear to all the males I encountered that year: I am going on a mission. And I was going to study abroad and surely graduate before I got married. After all, I had been indoctrinated by my PhD stepmother all of my life that those were the things I ought to do. And I was determined to take that path.

I managed to avoid all but one eager 24-year-old in my first semester. Despite his efforts to convince me I was ready to get married, I knew I wasn’t. And, even if I was, I knew it wouldn’t be to him. He was a great guy and actually pretty handsome, but there was absolutely no chemistry (at least from my perspective). We went on only one or two dates, and from there on out it was just friendship, though I must admit I was flattered by his admiration.

Eventually, I found myself spending all my free time with a 19-year-old young man. I have so many happy memories that include him. He was a wonderful (best) friend and very safe since he was definitely not getting married yet. Hence, Chris lost the bet. I left campus in April… free and clear and single. Of course!

Red and Powerful

December 2, 2011 at 11:39 pm

I’m blogging over at The Gift of Giving Life this week. Here’s a teaser from today’s post…

My oldest daughter is eight years old. For the past several months, I’ve been thinking a lot about the rite of passage she will soon be passing through as she leaves her girlhood body behind and transforms into a woman.

For me, that transformation was frightening. The only place where anyone talked to me about puberty was at school. The only peer I knew of who had experienced “it” herself was an awkward girl people made fun of. I wasn’t eager to follow her footsteps.

When I started to bleed the summer before I turned thirteen, my whole heart and soul cried, “No!” I was horrified. I felt like my body was dragging me forward into a future I wasn’t ready to embrace. But there was no turning back. I was now one of them whether I wanted to be or not. And my attitude toward my monthly cycle for the next decade+ was a reflection of that shame.

I kept my new status a secret from everyone but my best friend for several days.  Finally, after much fearful stalling, I broke down in tears and told my stepmother I was bleeding. She held me while I cried and told me about when her period had started. She had been in the shower when blood started coming out of her. She screamed because she thought she was dying.

Horror. Shame. Crying. Screaming. “No!”

I refuse to let this menstrual legacy continue. I want my daughters’ experience of crossing that threshold from girl to woman to be everything it wasn’t for me but should have been. Triumphant. Celebratory. Joyful. Peaceful.

Blood is loaded with meaning in the scriptures. It is life. It is death. The middle of each cycle demonstrates the body’s deep investment in the continuation of life. Sometimes that investment continues for nine months. Sometimes that potential for life passes away, and the body cradles that fallen egg in a brief embrace before letting it go to make way for new life again…

Read the rest of the post HERE.

Oozing oxytocin

October 25, 2011 at 8:00 am

IMG_4273Several weeks ago, I was at a friend’s house while she was babysitting a newborn.  This little one started to cry not long after her momma left.  Try as she might, my friend couldn’t console that little baby.  She wouldn’t take the bottle her mom had left either.  Eventually, my friend turned to me and said, “Do you want to try?” So I took that little baby. Within moments, she was calm.  Soon, I was able to get her to drink some of her bottle, and she fell asleep for a bit in my arms.

I don’t think my friend was doing anything “wrong,” and I don’t think I was doing anything “right.” But it was apparent that this little one could tell a difference between us. Knowing what I know now, I’d say she could smell and feel that difference. I’ve often heard and read that babies prefer the smell of lactating women to non-lactating women. I’m a lactating mother. I (or, more accurately, my boobs) smell good to babies. But I don’t think it was just the smell of my milk that calmed that little one.

Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg has been studying oxytocin longer than most. In her research, she discovered that injecting male rats with oxytocin would create a domino effect of sorts. The other rats in the cage could smell the increased oxytocin levels among their cage-mates and their own bodies responded by releasing more oxytocin. They also became more calm as a result.  I’d say it is reasonable to assume that we, too, respond to the oxytocin levels of the people around us. (Via Hug the Monkey)

Antepartum depression

October 9, 2011 at 6:36 am

Sometimes I feel like God gives me blogpost assignments. This is one of those. I actually had a few other blogpost ideas lined-up, including the follow-up to my “Mate selection” post about smell and bonding. Then, as I sat nursing my baby a few mornings ago, I got the distinct impression that I needed to write more about my experience with depression during my last pregnancy.  Perhaps this is God’s way of answering one of your prayers.  Who knows? But I’ve learned, over the years, to listen to those whispers that come into my mind, prompting me toward some action. I usually only find out why the prompting was important when I choose not to listen and then suffer the consequences. Listen to those voices, friends! I am choosing to take action on this prompting because maybe, just maybe, one of you desperately needs to know you’re not alone.  And I can’t bear the thought of not speaking up and letting you know that I care.

I mentioned in my recent long drawn-out birth account that I experienced a period of darkness and depression in the middle of my pregnancy. I described it this way:

 I’ve always claimed to be happier and more emotionally stable while pregnant than while not pregnant, and in my previous three pregnancies that had been true.  But not this time.  In September, I got on an emotional roller coaster like nothing I had ever seen.  And I wondered multiple times a day whether taking that flying leap off the cliff of surrender had been the stupidest thing we’d ever done.  If it had been right to welcome this baby on God’s timetable, then why on earth was I so ridiculously miserable?  I was bombarded with seemingly incessant waves of darkness and misery.  Some afternoons, when my husband arrived home from work, I fled immediately to my bedroom or closet, locked the door, and let myself weep and writhe and wail without restraint.  To make matters worse, I felt guilty and horrible that the beautiful, special baby growing inside of me could probably feel my dark thoughts and feelings, and I felt even more guilty and horrible that many moments my thoughts were resentful and rejecting toward that special child.

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