Little Miss Hope has been the fussiest of my newborns, or “fuzzy” as my 5-year-old says. While I wouldn’t call it full-fledged colic, it has been pretty stressful for us. For the first month+ of her life, she was often unhappy. During those fussy periods, she would usually protest if I tried to nurse her. She wouldn’t take a pacifier. Being in someone’s arms wasn’t usually enough to soothe her, and neither was rocking. When all else failed, bouncing on our birth ball would at least soothe her to some extent.
One year ago today I started yoga teacher training! It seems sort of surreal… did that really happen? I was a totally different person then. And a new person again by the time I graduated. And then I birthed yet another version of myself when I brought my fifth baby earthside on Christmas day. I wonder who I will be next Valentine’s Day?
As I reminisced about my first weekend of yoga teacher training, looking over my notes and recalling so many beautiful epiphanies and experiences, I thought… gosh I miss this. It has been several months since I had a daily yoga/meditation practice (a casualty of the third trimester, I suppose). Given a choice between doing yoga or relaxing/sleeping/taking a bath, well… yoga lost just about every time.
I think maybe I need this beautiful watercolor painting created by one of my yogi friends Siri Kirti Kaur. Yogi Bhajan always urged his yoga students: “Keep up and you will be kept up.”
Last Sunday I was talking with a new friend who had her first baby just seven weeks ago. As my kids gathered around, we admired the sweet bundle asleep on her chest. Addressing my oldest daughter, I pouted and said, “I remember when you were that tiny! And I was like I don’t know what I’m doing!” Turning to my new friend, I added, pointing to my oldest daughter, “And look! They still turn out OK!” Seeing my friend starting her path as a mother brought back so many memories. One day you’re just a girl with a belly full of baby, and then BAM… a brand new person is in your arms, and you begin a crash course in motherhood. Tomorrow will mark the twelfth anniversary of my initiation into Mom-life. My first baby is turning twelve. Wha..?!
Here are some pics from my daughter’s first year (from the fat and elaborate scrapbook I somehow had time to make for her but not for any of my other kids… you know, back when people were still scrapbooking with actual printed photos and actual paper… and the photos were taken without a digital camera, and half the roll of film was always out of focus or just bad shots…ha).
Almost four years ago, I wrote a post called Healing Your Home in which I shared my passion for air-purifying house plants. I also shared info about how poor air quality during the prenatal and neonatal period has been linked to preterm birth, reduced fetal growth, preeclampsia, respiratory problems in infants, reduced intelligence, mood and behavior problems, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). House plants can do a great job of removing toxins from the air. I have plants in almost every room of my house partially for this reason.
One source of toxins in indoor air is often overlooked: mattresses. I know I never considered the possibility that our mattresses could be harming us until I learned some valuable information about SIDS. I shared this in my house plant post:
Their research demonstrates that SIDS is the result of accidental poisoning due to toxic gases released from baby mattresses. These gases are produced by the interaction of common household fungi with phosphorus, arsenic and antimony, chemicals which are either present naturally in the mattresses or which have been added as flame retardant chemicals (Source).
Since then I have learned more about the toxic gas theory. Here’s an explanation from Prevent SIDS, quoting Lendon H. Smith, MD:
Before World War II, unexplained infant deaths were unusual. But after 1950, the governments of nearly all the rich industrialized countries required treatment of baby and child mattresses with flame retardant chemicals. Phosphorus and antimony were most commonly used; arsenic was sometimes added later as a preservative.
Last December, a friend of mine extended an invitation. She wanted to know if I would come speak at a church women’s dinner meeting in February. On February 3, I gave my speech. Here is part two…
You can read Part One HERE.
When Jehovah introduced Himself to Moses, of all the hundreds of names He could have chosen, the name He chose was: I AM. Peter taught, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The name of Christ not only saves us from our sins but it can also save us from our sorrows and heartaches, if we do not use it in vain. How are you using the name of Christ? Would The Great I Am approve of the words you are using with His name?
Almost exactly four years ago, I wrote a blogpost about making your own no-sew baby wrap. August of 2009. My third child had been born in April of that year, and he was the first of my children to be “worn” regularly. I had made my own ring sling while I was pregnant with him, and then when he was several months old, I made my own stretchy baby wrap.
The first time I recall seeing a baby wrap was back in 2007. An old friend who had become a midwife came to a little reunion at my dad’s house with her new baby strapped to her in a wrap. I thought it was cool, but I didn’t really see another wrap until my doula training in February of 2009. There were a lot of moms with nursing babies at the training, and a couple of women with wraps. But still… wraps were something I only really saw at gatherings of crunchy women or on crunchy websites. They weren’t trendy in the slightest.
When I started wearing my infant son in a stretchy wrap, I came to know just how unusual it was. Everywhere I went, people seemed to have never seen anything like it before. I felt like a walking advertisement for babywearing because I spent some time nearly every outing talking with one or two strangers about what it was, how to make one, that it’s easier to use than it looks, etc. I enjoyed those conversations immensely. It made me happy to spread the joy of babywearing and to imagine how those women’s lives might improve and become easier through making contact with me and my happy wrapped baby boy.
That was four years ago. My blogpost about making your own baby wrap did get a reasonable amount of traffic, but nothing to raise my eyebrows about. Then something happened in 2010-2011. Pinterest hit the web.
This morning, a friend posted on my facebook page wall:
“Do you have a full list of things you recommend to bring for people who choose to have a hospital birth? I would love to pass a list on to my sister and friends who are pregnant, if you have one.”
I told her I didn’t have one, but she had given me an idea for a great blogpost. I should preface this by saying that I didn’t bring any of these things to my hospital births. But if I could go back in time, I would! Ten years of studying childbirth have taught me a lot!
Aside from the usual change of clothes, toiletries, and baby gear, here’s what I’d recommend you pack in your bag to ease your hospital birth and postpartum experience.
A week or two ago I had a little epiphany. Ever since, I’ve had that song stuck in my head… “I wear my sunglasses at night…” I’m a child of the 80’s. Actually, that’s the only line of the song I really know, so I’ve just had that one line repeating over and over in my head. Ha. What is that song even about?
Seriously though, if we’re going to wear sunglasses, we really should be wearing them at night (unless we’re driving, of course). And because of all of this pondering about light and sunglasses, I’m becoming convinced that every woman transferring in labor to a hospital should wear amber (blue-light blocking) eyeglasses. At least until she gets situated and comfortable and labor is continuing to progress.
Let me explain…
It might help if you read these posts first:
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.
Last night I felt something unwelcomely (is that a word?) familiar.
And the fact that I was feeling panic made me panic even more. Ack.
People tell me, “Everyone has ups and downs,” but this is different. Once you’ve felt it, you’ll never mistake it for “normal.”
Coincidentally, I received a copy of a book in the mail yesterday called Pros of Prozac by Beca Mark. About the book:
Beca Mark wished she could have found this book when hopelessly struggling with depression and anxiety after having her first child.
She takes you on a heartfelt journey and shares how healing only came when combining a daily Prozac prescription with a commitment to be her best self.
By sharing faith-based, personal details about her life, she hopes to soften the cultural stigma surrounding mental illness, shedding a more positive light on these issues.
“Most children’s shoes ought to come with a government health warning.” -Tracy Byrne (podiatrist)
When I was pregnant for the first time, I was fresh out of college and my husband was starting graduate school. We answered phones after-hours as live-in caretakers in a mortuary (seriously) for four years so we didn’t have to pay rent while my husband finished his schooling. He worked in addition to his graduate school responsibilities, but we had very little money.
Not all families start out as low on funds as we did, but I know many of them do. The marketing targeted at first-time moms is overwhelming. Magazines, television, internet ads, and sometimes friends and family can fill our heads with so many “must-haves” for our babies. After 9+ years of motherhood, I think often of all the baby paraphernalia that seem so essential when you’re pregnant for the first time but really aren’t necessary at all. It’s astounding how much stuff you can accumulate once a baby joins the family. And when we had our first baby, space was at a minimum in our tiny apartment.
If you’re looking for ways to keep your stress levels at a minimum, simplify, and cut clutter and costs as you enter parenthood, here’s my personal list of items you may want to leave off your list.
1) Changing tables. We got by just fine with a towel (for leaks) on the floor or on our bed. My goal was always to not leave my bed for night-time feedings and diaper changes… none of this going to a changing table in the middle of the night thing. They may be nice to store all the diapers and wipes, but a nightstand, closet, or cupboard works just as well for that. I’d also include the entire “baby nursery” as unnecessary, but that could be a whole other blogpost in itself. ;-)
2) Baby lotion. We got bottles and bottles of the stuff for baby shower gifts as first-time parents. Most of them got re-gifted to other new parents… you know, let’s spread the useless wealth, right? Here’s the reality… babies have lusciously soft skin as it is, and baby lotion may actually be harmful. If you’d like something to use for baby massages or skin irritations, I’d recommend coconut oil or olive oil.
3) Pacifiers and bottles. I realize that these are life-savers (or absolutely essential) for many moms, but if you’re certain you want to breastfeed, you probably won’t need them. My babies simply wouldn’t take any size or shape of pacifier (except our pinkie fingers or my own real-life nipples). And they wouldn’t take bottles either. We wasted a lot of money trying different brands and styles in search of “the one.” In the end, it was just easier to breastfeed exclusively… and the good news was that we never had to break our children of their binkie or bottle addiction.
Doing Your “Hamwork” – Part II
By Kristin B. Hodson, CSW, LCSW and Alisha Worthington, BSW, SSW
In our “perfect is as perfect does” culture, it’s hard for Moms to admit to themselves or others that perhaps motherhood isn’t the blissful, organized, make-up-and-hair-done-after-working-out-at-the-gym world we thought it would be. We want so much to appear like we have everything under control and are now fully content and satisfied with life because we have a baby. And, unfortunately, some of us just about drive ourselves into the ground desperately clinging to the cultural idea that we have to put on our big girl panties and keep trudging forward no matter the difficulty or the cost.
What we are coming to understand is that that idea can be harmful to ourselves and those around us. There are times when we simply don’t have the emotional and/or mental ability to “go the extra mile.” We’re barely making down the hall to the bathroom.
“Postpartum mood disorder” isn’t a popular phrase. It doesn’t ring well. It sounds like “I’m a bad Mom” all wrapped up in three little words, but that’s a negative stigma that has been attached must be unattached—just like no longer lopping off the ham when you have a pan that fits it just fine. Due to the negative connotation, there are too many women silently suffering, needlessly, through a treatable and all-too-common condition. Just talk to the women around you about what they experienced after their babies were born and you will begin to hear stories. Maybe not all of them will have one, but the statistics show one out of eight will. That’s a lot. Maybe you’re one of them and aren’t sure what to do.
I haven’t been able to bring myself to blog here (or anywhere) for awhile. The things I love… writing, researching, thinking about birth, taking photographs, cooking, gardening… they’ve all fallen by the wayside. I’m in survival mode, and it’s taking everything I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. This trial has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever been through. Every trial probably feels that way when you’re in the middle (or even the end) of it, I suppose. Even so, this one feels especially hard and long. I thought it was over when I wrote this post, but alas I was wrong.
For someone who has spent the last decade of my life passionate about birth and motherhood and babies, it seems so strange that… at present… I have to confess… seeing pregnant women makes me feel anxious, seeing babies makes me feel anxious, thinking about ever being pregnant again or having another baby makes me feel horrified. How awful is that? I just helped write a whole book called The Gift of Giving Life for crying out loud! How did I get to this place? I hope with all my heart that I will be able to once again see the beauty and joy of giving life someday soon.