5 Things to do While Feeding An Infant That Won’t Numb Your Brain

Two weeks ago we welcomed our third child, a girl, into the family. We’ve enjoyed the days at home together as a family, resting, bonding, and adjusting to our new dynamic. As any new parent knows, newborns spend the majority of their time eating and sleeping. I’d forgotten, however, just how much of my time would be spent feeding her… (Continue reading at Parent.co)

Third Time’s the Charm: A Method for Overcoming Pregnancy and Childbirth Fears

A recent study indicated that mindfulness practice during pregnancy helped women have more positive experiences during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. (read the findings here or the Times write up here) My recent experience with my third pregnancy, labor and delivery are evidence of this study’s findings.

Leading up to my third pregnancy I had a lot of fears surrounding childbirth and pregnancy. This was in large portion due to the fact that my last experience with pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum was very challenging. I knew going into this pregnancy that I would need a new method of preparation for the birth if this was going to be a positive experience for me.

I had heard of Hypnobabies and Hypnobirthing before, but honestly I felt a little freaked out by the name. The “hypno” part of the title immediately brought to mind a picture of a man with a twisted mustache and a top hat, swinging a pendulum in front of someone’s eyes, or the creepy guy at Senior grad night who hypnotized the shy kid into riding a blow up pool toy around the room as if he were a rodeo cowboy. Hypnosis? Weird. No thanks.

But I had several friends who had used Hypnobabies to prepare for their birthing experiences and every one of them had really great reviews. They had also clarified for me that it is not some kind of creepy hypnosis, but is rather a course that teaches you how to deeply relax all your muscles and relax your mind. The person doing the exercises always maintains complete control. As my pregnancy progressed and the big day drew nearer, my anxiety began to mount. I knew that I needed to find something to help me and decided to give Hypnobabies a try.

For clarification – hypnobirthing refers to the use of deep relaxation and mindfulness during pregnancy and labor. You will find several books by different authors on hypnobirthing and there are surely classes in your area along these lines as well. I read a couple of these books and they were helpful for understanding the mind-body connection during pregnancy and labor. What you will read or learn from different books or classes will vary from one to another as hypnobirthing is not a branded method, and each author or teacher has their own specific techniques and take on things.

What I highly recommend for anyone who has anxiety or fear related to pregnancy and labor is the Hypnobabies method (and no, nobody is paying me to endorse this method. I just had such a wonderful experience with it that I want to share.)

I bought the materials used through our online community yard sale site and paid $80 for the six CDs, textbook and companion book. Best eighty bucks I’ve spent all year. You may even be able to find it at your local library and check it out for free.

I honestly did not use the textbook a ton. I skimmed it but I did follow the schedule they give of what tracks to listen to (a lot of the textbook content is pregnancy education information that I already felt familiar with.) But the CD tracks were enormously helpful for me. They recommend that you listen to two tracks daily. One is the Positive Pregnancy Affirmations track and the other is whichever relaxation track you are on that day.

Guys, this daily practice proved hugely beneficial for me. I had struggled somewhat to maintain an emotional balance during my pregnancy. While some of this was surely due to hormones, I feel confident that a lot of it stemmed from the underlying anxieties I felt about the upcoming birth.

Words have incredible power and so do our thoughts. The things we say to ourselves internally really shape how we view our lives and the world around us. The positive pregnancy affirmations are basically empowering statements that you repeat aloud or in your head. They are positive messages about your ability to have a healthy and positive pregnancy and a beautiful birthing experience. I noticed after just one week of listening to these affirmations that my whole attitude about my pregnancy had changed. I felt great. I had more energy and mental clarity. And I felt happier. I listened to this track in the car while I was driving to preschool pickup or on errands. It is safe to listen to the affirmations while driving because they do not involve relaxation.

The other part you do every day is one of the relaxation tracks, in the order laid out for you in the textbook. The tracks are each about 30 minutes. I would do this practice when my kids were in their “quiet time” each day and if that didn’t happen I would do it at night before bed. The woman on the CD coaches you through deep relaxation, teaching you step by step how to gradually relax all the muscles in your body and also to clear your mind of distractions. When I first started these exercises I fell asleep every time because I became so relaxed. By the end I had learned how to deeply relax my body and mind with my eyes still open and could even walk around if I needed to while maintaining the relaxation.

I started preparing with Hypnobabies at the beginning of my third trimester. They recommend using it your whole pregnancy and I think I would have felt better earlier in my pregnancy if I had. Because I listened to the positive affirmations while driving each day, I really only had to invest 30 minutes a day into my mindfulness/relaxation practice. And it was so worth it, guys.

Birthing Day

When my labor started I used the breathing and relaxation techniques during contractions. When the contractions intensified I turned on my Hypnobabies track (there is one specifically for Birthing Day that helps coach you through your contractions.) I labored at home until I recognized that I was soon heading into transition labor and we left for the hospital.

I listened to the track on my phone on the way to the hospital and put my earbuds in when we got there so I could continue listening. This helped me remain relaxed and “in the zone” as my contractions intensified. When we checked into triage I am sure the nurse thought she would be sending us home. I was so calm (at this point in my previous labor I had definitely not felt calm.)  I would simply breathe deeply through the contractions but was keeping my body relaxed the whole time. She asked me skeptically “When was your last contraction?” Then when she checked me and saw how far along I was she looked up and said “Wow, whatever you’re doing is working.” She then made arrangements to get us checked in to a delivery room.

The staff at the hospital was awesome. They were extremely supportive of letting me labor the way that I wanted to. They arranged for me to have a room with a labor tub and they gave me the space to do my thing. We had brought an ipod dock that we used to play the tracks and honestly the whole thing went so smoothly. It was a really beautiful experience.

Hypnobabies does not set you up for a pain-free birth. I don’t think there is such a thing. More manageable? Yes. Beautiful and powerful? Yes. But you will experience a good deal of discomfort. I had delivered twice previously without pain medicine. With my first I used the Lamaze method which focuses on breathing and imagery. That was also a beautiful experience. With my second I thought I would be able to call on the skills I had used for the first and I did not spend much time preparing for the labor. She ended up being posterior and in a rather stuck position that caused me to labor (at a nine and 100% effaced) for several hours. That labor and delivery was traumatic for me. While I had had one positive and one negative experience with childbirth, I found that this third time I handled the labor more calmly than either of the others. I was much more capable of maintaining a calmness during the contractions because I was just so relaxed. This baby was also posterior and man, those transition contractions were crazy intense. But the experience was so much more positive than my previous posterior labor had been. I felt happy and at peace throughout and would even say that the majority of the labor was pleasant. If I were to do it again, I would spend some time preparing for the pushing phase as I feel like I lost my relaxation at that point. But thankfully the pushing phase was quick – like 7 minutes quick.

Whether you plan to have pain medicine or not when you give birth, I highly recommend mindfulness practice as preparation if you have any fear or anxiety about pregnancy and childbirth. It will improve how you feel during your pregnancy and help you manage your labor more calmly. According to the study, you will have a better postpartum recovery period as well. My daughter is only one week old, but so far I feel great.

*A quick note on where we deliver: During my pregnancy I had considered delivering at a birth center, as some midwives I was familiar with had recently opened one. We decided just to follow through with our plan to deliver at the same hospital where the other kids were born. They are a “baby-centered” hospital and are extremely respectful of a mother’s wishes during labor.

When my labor actually kicked into gear and I had labored at home for a few hours I remember thinking: “Man, I wish I could just finish my labor here where I am so comfortable.” I am not a big fan of strangers poking and prodding me and was thinking it would be so neat to have a baby at home.

I am so grateful that we delivered at a hospital. Delivering there really did not change my labor experience much at all. The staff was incredibly non-intrusive and allowed me to labor how I wanted. They were encouraging, helpful and supportive. I would have used my birthing method whether I delivered at home, at a birth center or at a hospital. But my daughter’s experience could have been entirely different. When our daughter was crowning, it became apparent that the umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around her neck and was strangling her. Her face was white as a sheet and she was unresponsive. The medical staff quickly clamped and cut the cord and rushed her to the pediatric staff that was in the room. My husband asked the OB “Is she ok?” and the doctor responded “They are assisting her.” He quickly uttered a desperate prayer and we waited. The staff administered oxygen, pumped fluid out and did who knows what else. After a few minutes (that felt like hours) we heard her first cry. They monitored her the rest of the day and night and she was doing well enough that we were able to go home the following day.

When we took her for her first check up with our pediatrician, the doctor commented on how skilled the OB and staff were that took care of her on the morning of her birth. She has seen a lot of similar situations that did not end so well where the baby had immediate brain damage or passed away. She was surprised that our daughter didn’t even have to stay at the NICU. I feel so deeply grateful to those people who assisted her quickly and skilfully and am also thankful for the amazing facility where she was born.

Deliver wherever you feel good about. That decision is yours alone. But I am incredibly grateful for the immediate medical assistance that our daughter received in a situation where every second counted.

*Photo credit: “Little Piggies” by  Kai Balbin, Unsplash Photos

To My Daughter Before The Baby Comes

Dearest daughter,

I am lying here, snuggled up next to you in your tiny toddler bed. My giant belly and bent legs take up most of the mattress space, but you have graciously rolled into the corner so we can share. Lately I have been letting you fall asleep on your own for naps and at bed-time, in an effort to help you increase your independence before Baby Sister comes. But not today.

I lie here and watch you, cuddled up in your sparkly, mint fairy dress, as your breathing grows deeper. We breathe together, my arm draped across you, your dimpled hand resting on mine. And I feel struck, suddenly, by the utter impermanence of childhood.

In a number of days or hours your life will change dramatically. With the arrival of your little sister, you will no longer be mama’s baby. Another body will constantly fill that familiar spot on my lap, which has shrunk in recent months with my growing belly. She will take over your morning snuggle space when she nurses in my bed each day and will monopolize my time and attention. I know this will be hard for you. You will adjust well, spend even more time playing with your older brother. You will find many ways to help and new roles to fill.

Yet some part of me wishes that we could freeze our relationship right here, right now. That this little, magical Eden we’ve created around you could continue to exist forever. As I watch you peacefully sleep, surrounded by pink gingham in a room of Peter rabbit books and stuffed animal friends, I reflect on the miracle of your child world. So unencumbered, so safe.

I think about how this baby will arrive and you will grow up a bit faster now. You will be full-time big girl and big sister. And that growing up will only continue to accelerate from this moment on. What, I wonder, will you experience in the years of life that stretch before you?

Learning, exploration, friendships and myriad experiences I cannot offer you surely will fill your life and your vibrant spirit will meet these with enthusiasm. You will give and receive, follow and lead, and learn to sort through, accept and reject the constant messages that others will send you. You will nurture and comfort, fight and stand up when needed, share and love always. These are things that you already do.

My girl, you are a beautiful child and your physical beauty will affect your life experience. I think about how boys and men will treat you because of your beauty. How girls and women will treat you because of your beauty. Know that your appearance does not define you and says nothing of your worth. Your true beauty, the beauty of your soul, is surpassing. It is breathtaking and cannot be confined to your body alone. Let that true beauty be your guide. It will always guide you to goodness.

Someday, daughter, you will experience deep pain – something you have been sheltered from thus far in your life. You will learn that others live in sickness, fear, starvation, suffering and violence. I hope that your life does not lead you through such experiences. But I know, in the helpless mother place inside of me, that I will not always be able to control the environment around you.

As you grow and experience more of the light and darkness that make up this world, I pray that your experiences will move you to compassion. That you will choose to counter cynicism with optimism. That you will constantly seek out the one on the fringes, the person you needs you. That you will always be strong, but never hardened.

Daughter, I hope you know that the magical time we have together right now, this world we have created that protects and nourishes you, will continue to exist. I know that it always will. It will live inside of you and inside of me and continue to nurture, protect and strengthen us in the years to come. This home-place will give you power to make the world a little kinder, a little safer, a little calmer. And the light that you shine will draw on it for energy when you feel weak. As I look at the baffling world around me, I know that this home-place inside is all that I can offer you to strengthen you in times ahead.

As you enter a new phase of life this week and as your childhood world begins to dim in the coming years, know this: the home-place inside you is real. It is vibrant and indestructible and can sustain you in ways that you may not be aware of. Let this place live. Let it be an eternal reminder of my great love for you.

I love you,

Mommy

*Photo credit: Let Me See You Sparkle Photography

Why Is Pregnancy So Hard?

Currently I am 8 months pregnant with our third child and my distended belly looks like a full, rising moon. This home stretch of pregnancy – also known as the “pee-when-you-sneeze” stage – often takes me by surprise, even though I have been here before. I knocked over a Pepsi with this belly at a party the other night while reaching for a napkin and the days of feeling rested after a full night’s sleep are now just memories. Continue Reading at Her View From Home.

 

 

The Wiggles

Some days I feel like our whole house is one big wiggle. Each morning at 6:30 my four year old worms his way into our bed and shoves his little feet under my pregnant belly. Then he wiggles and shifts and wiggles and shifts by my side, rolling up the sheets with his limbs and assuring that I can’t get back to sleep. His wiggling body is only separated by an inch or so of skin, fat and muscle holding in the other wiggle – my 36 week old baby girl. She contorts and twists and kicks and hiccups until, no matter how I try, I can’t ignore all the wiggling and I finally succumb to getting up.

Once I’ve wiggled out of bed (you know this third trimester maneuver – roll to one side, drop the feet to the floor and wiggle off of the mattress) I wiggle into my clothes and then walk down the hall to the kitchen. Even my walk these days looks more like a wiggle as each step bounces my enormous belly and causes me to sway my hips from side to side.

We breakfast, clean it up and then proceed with our wiggly day. My two children flank me on the couch and wiggle as we read picture books. We all wiggle up into our seats when we load into the mini-van to head off to preschool or the store. I wiggle down to the floor to play cars or trains or Duplos with them. Even our mealtimes are wiggly – which often results in preposterous amounts of food ending up all over our kitchen floor. At the end of the day I lie next to each child and tuck them in while they toss and wiggle until their breathing gets heavy and they finally lie still. Ahh, at last. Stillness.

In the case of our family, the phrase “get your wiggles out” seems rather presumptuous. Our life is one big wiggle. And for now, I am ok with it.

Say Goodbye to Ear Infections

Moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents–whoever!! You need to know about this simple remedy for the age-old ear infection.

I was an ear infection kid. I had several as a baby and young child. Along with that came a lot of antibiotics. And somehow as I grew older, I seemed to always be the one who got sick out of us four kids.

My sweet children inherited some of the aspects of my immune system. Within the first year of my son’s life he had several ear infections. “Technically” I remember the doctor admitting, he should be scheduled to get tubes. But our little guy had at that point already been hospitalized for respiratory issues and we decided to give him some time and see if things got better.  But they didn’t. Ear infection after ear infection cropped up. Every time we went to the doc there was an ear infection, even if he didn’t have symptoms. Because he had been on antibiotics for so many of these infections, he began to develop some symptoms from the antibiotic use. Food sensitivities showed up early on. He became resistant to one of the medicines. He developed yeast related issues (caused by the depletion of his gut bacteria from antibiotic use) that caused him a lot of digestive distress. And then there were the respiratory problems, especially during the winter. Keeping him well and out of the ER felt like our main focus for a while.
 
 And then we moved to a new state and met an inspired neighbor. I mentioned to her that our son seemed to have a bad ear infection and I was dreading taking him in and putting him on more antibiotics. And she introduced me to one of the greatest home remedies of all time. It is so simple it seems stupid. Mothers have used this for generations to cure ear infections. And yet after probably 15-20 ear infections, I had never even heard of it. This simple remedy requires only two ingredients, and you probably have them sitting in your pantry right now: garlic and olive oil. My neighbor explained how making an oil using fresh pressed garlic and dropping a drop in each ear several times a day would clear up an ear infection in a very short period of time. She also mentioned an herb called mullein which we have also had a lot of success with, but today I’m talking garlic and olive oil because it is so doable for any body. The ingredients are cheap, accessible, and easy to store for a long time.
 
In the two and a half years since we have started making and using this oil, my two children have never had to take antibiotics for their ear infections. Between the two of them we have probably resolved about 15 ear infections. For us the symptoms clear up within one to two days of starting the drops (which means more sleep for EVERYBODY). Our doctor knows that we use this remedy and when she catches or diagnoses an ear infection, we treat it at home and come back to have her check the ears two weeks later. They have always been clear. Without exception.
 
So, are you ready to learn the recipe? It’s so easy you will wonder why you never knew about it before.
 
WHAT YOU NEED:
 
2-3 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
An eye dropper (you can find one at any pharmacy)
A fine knit kitchen towel, cheesecloth, or fine strainer to strain it with
 
METHOD:
 
Heat your oil. You can do this on the stove, but when I have a fussy kid I am all about efficiency to I usually zap it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds or so. You want it nice and warm, almost hot really.
 
Next mince the garlic and add it to the oil. Or, using a garlic press, press it into the oil. Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes. You will not want to use it on your child’s ear until it has cooled to room temperature.
 
Once it has cooled you can strain it through a kitchen towel and you will end up with a nice oil without any chunks. I typically pour it into a baby food jar or mason jar to keep in our medicine cabinet for future use.
 
Using your eye dropper, suck up a couple of drops and drop into the infected ear. This is perfectly safe to put inside the ear. The only time it would be unsafe is if the ear drum has ruptured (you would already know this because your child’s ear would have been leaking fluid).
Place drops into the infected ear or ears several times a day, before bed, and if the child wakes in the night. Continue until all symptoms have completely cleared up. If my child has had a severe infection, I will continue this for a few days after symptoms have resolved. Typically they are feeling better within a day or two in my experience.
 
NOTE: If you don’t have an eye dropper and can’t get out to get one when you need to try this, just dip your finger in the oil and let it drip into the ear.
 
This simple remedy has saved us a lot of trips to the doctor (I start the drops as soon as I notice symptoms and it usually resolves so quickly we don’t have to go in). It has also allowed us to forego antibiotic use several times when we had not caught the infections and they have been diagnosed by the doctor.
 
As always, parents should consult with their physicians as needed and trust their intuition. But believe me, this remedy is worth a try. It’s time for you all to start sleeping again.
 
Best of luck, and let me know how it goes!
 
*Photo courtesy of LoboStudio Hamburg, Unsplash photos.

How To Make Personal Time When You Are Never Alone: This Tip Changed My Life

 

This piece was originally published at Her View From Home.

It’s 2:00 pm and I’m sitting all cuddled up on our old, brown couch with my son’s fleecy construction-themed blanket draped over me. I can hear him playing contentedly in his room. His sister is taking her daily nap. And here I am, alone. Oh, it feels good.

This time of day didn’t always look like this in our house. Traditionally this hour was the start of the rapid descent into late afternoon bedlam—the time of day when my overwrought children would turn into goblins and the harried, exhausted mommy became terrible. That was all before the days of quiet time. Ahhh…quiet time.

I’ve learned since becoming a mother that I really have to be intentional about carving out alone time, or it will not happen. These blessed little bodies are always around me. And I love it. I absolutely love that they want to be wherever I am. In my lap if I am sitting. At my side if I am working in the kitchen. Under my feet wherever I am cleaning or working on a project. I LOVE it. In fact, I live for it. The very reason we chose this lifestyle for our family (as in, me staying home with them 24/7) is because we wanted this for them. And I still do. More than anything else. More than having as much alone time as I might like.

But you know what? Sometimes it is hard for me to be around people all of the time. As beautiful and fulfilling as this job is, it can be extremely draining if I am not intentional about assuring that my internal needs are met consistently. And one internal need that I am very aware of is the need to be alone sometimes.

A few months ago I vented my frustrations to my husband as we climbed into bed, knowing it would only be a few hours until two little bodies would join us there. I expressed that it was frustrating to never have a minute alone. The kids were around me every minute of the day and even climb into our bed part way through the night and sleep on either side of me, their little arms wrapped around my torso. I couldn’t even use the bathroom or shower in solitude.

I explained to him that it was hard for me to do personal things while on the mommy clock, because I felt that it ended up being at the kids’ expense. I also had found out quickly that desperately scrolling facebook for an escape, while my 3 year old was asking me to read to him, was not relaxing or rejuvenating in the slightest. I hated the feeling of ignoring my kids while doing something for “me” but I was becoming completely exhausted by not having any time for “me.” How could I get some time to recharge so that I wouldn’t feel shriveled up inside?

That night as we talked over some ideas, this is what we came up with: the institution of a daily household “quiet time.” And I can safely say that the daily quiet hour in our house has changed my life.

We all need time alone with ourselves. Even the iconic social butterfly Marilyn Monroe stated “I restore myself when I’m alone.” Our modern world has convinced us that the opposite is true and that we ought to be constantly connected to each other, even when we may be alone in a room. These online connections, however, are often superficial and can leave us feeling empty rather than restored and restless rather than settled. Now more than ever moms need to be intentional about making time to be alone and recharge. Different things have worked for me in the past – joining a gym that has childcare while I work out, becoming a part of a mommy co-op that trades daytime babysitting, etc. But today I focus on the merits of a regular “quiet time,” which you will find can benefit every member of your family.

The idea of “quiet time” is just like it sounds—everyone in the house goes to a place to be alone and quiet for a designated period of time. Kids can play, read or nap. Mom gets to do what she wants. Here are some simple steps to get this routine started in your house:

1) Find a time that works well for your family. Could be after lunch or preschool pick-up. Maybe it’s during a younger child’s regular nap. This will become your family’s daily “quiet time.”

2) Explain to your child or children what “quiet time” is. It is a special time when they will get to spend some time alone playing or looking at books. Mommy will be taking quiet time alone too. A regular and scheduled hour alone gives kids the opportunity to learn to use their imaginations and entertain themselves. As tempting as it will be, try not to let them take tech toys like phones or iPads into quiet time—as this will not allow them to be alone with themselves and will inhibit them from solitary, imaginative play. It may prove helpful to have designated “quiet time toys,” toys that are only brought out during that hour of the day. The novelty of playing with these toys may be helpful as your children adjust to this new aspect of their routine.

3) If you want to avoid having your children constantly shouting “Am I done yet??” have them help you set a timer at the beginning of their quiet time. They will hear when it beeps and know the time is over. This one is a big deal for my son, as he is very aware of details and boundaries. When he knows that this will signal the end of his “quiet time” he is not as likely to continually ask me to be done.

4) Set clear boundaries about “quiet time.” In our house, if my children go to “quiet time” when I ask them to and don’t come out of their rooms or shout during the designated period, then they are allowed to play quietly in their room with the door open. If either of them comes out of their room or shouts and yells, I close their door for the rest of the time.

The first few days we instituted this kind of “quiet time” it was rough. My three year old was not a fan and I would spend the first ten minutes of the hour holding his door shut until he gave up on getting out and chose to go play with his toys. But after just a few days of being consistent, he really adapted. Now he walks to his room on his own after I start his timer and will stay in there quietly playing until the time is up. He has become very comfortable being alone with himself and is really good at using his imagination.

As for me, this daily hour alone has become a sacred space in my life. I try to be very intentional about how I use it as the minutes are so few. Sometimes I find myself ending up on social media or drifting around online, but I really am most fulfilled when I use this time in activities that feed my soul. These are often reading, meditating, or writing. Sometimes, it’s a nap, a bath or crossing a pressing “to-do” off my list. But however I use this time, I almost always come out of it as a more balanced person and mom and my children come out of it in a more balanced state as well. My husband also has noticed a difference in our house since we started this practice.

So, take it from me—if you are the harried, stretched-thin mom that I was several months ago, you may want to give “quiet time” a try. It is simple, easy and free and will likely prove to be a great benefit to your family. Every mom deserves some time each day to be alone.