Take Care

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As is usual for most mornings these days, I was forced out of bed prematurely by my hungry belly. I scrounged around in the fridge for something to eat, and then decided since I was up and my husband and son were still snoozing, I might as well enjoy this bit of quiet. I made myself a mug of rooibos tea, and settled in to do a bit of coloring with the twinkle lights on. As I was enjoying this quiet time, I was thinking about how much it helps me to have moments like this, where I can relax and think freely, without being constantly interrupted. I’m able to be so much more patient with Noah, so much more cheerful, and just generally a better wife and mother.

Noah did wake up before I finished my tea, haha, but I was still refreshed by that bit of time, and was happy to see him. He’s napping, now, and I’m taking some time to eat (always with the eating) and write out some thoughts that have been swirling around for a while now.

Before I had children, I knew, based on my observations, that I needed to take care of myself — in all ways — in order to best serve my family and those around me. I have seen far too many burnt out moms, ignoring their needs and being busy caring for those around… until it becomes too much, and their health begins to fail, mentally or physically or both. And then they aren’t able to help as much, or at all… or, worse, begin to harm those they once cared for.

Sacrifice is absolutely, inherently a part of committed parenthood. You give up so much, right from the start. Your body is not your own, your time is not your own, and so on, on a level that’s really inexplicable… you have to experience it to fully understand. It is a good thing; it helps us to grow as people.

But. The sacrifice of parenthood does not mean that you no longer matter, that you no longer have needs… or that fulfilling those needs is somehow selfish.

It’s NOT selfish, not if it’s done right.

I’m sure some parents harmfully ignore their children in the name of self-care, or send the message that they are more important than their children–and that isn’t right, not at all.

But as I’ve read elsewhere, self-care isn’t inherently, “Me first!”; it’s “Me, too.”

My dad likes to say, quoting Jim Rohn — “You take care of you for me, and I’ll take care of me for you.” Except, of course, our little ones can’t take care of themselves for us, not right away, and so this makes us caring for ourselves all the more important!

A happy, healthy mom is best for everyone. I don’t think there’s any doubt there!

Often times we need to make sure we do what is needed to make that happen. If we wait around for other people to know exactly what we need and make it happen, it’s highly unlikely to ever happen.

We need to take nap/quiet times to do things that speak to our minds, our spirits, our creative side. We need to take those brief minutes to sit and breathe and drink some tea, or coffee, or whatever. We need to stop rushing and start looking–really take in these sweet, curious, splendid little people we have been given. We need to make big batches of healthy food so we don’t end up skipping too many meals or eating too much junk. We need to get out for walks, alone and with our little ones. We need to spend quality time with our husbands. We need to take the showers and paint the nails. We need to ask our husbands or our family or friends to watch the littles for a bit, so we can go somewhere or do something without being constantly needed and on alert, and come back ready to go into the fray once more.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to cost money. It doesn’t have to take a long time.

But we *do* need to take care of ourselves, whatever form that happens to take for you at this time. It needs to be a priority, because we are so vital to the home and to the culture at large. We need to be functioning as well as possible so we can be more patient, more creative, more energetic, and so on.

How to Avoid “Starvation”…

… after getting your wisdom teeth pulled. As a mother, both during pregnancy and now nursing, food has become a huge part of my life… everything revolves around food. Lol. I am constantly hungry most days! So one of the things I was most dreading while waiting for my appointment to get my teeth out was being super hungry afterwards due to the mush diet. I planned out a bunch of food, and thought I had maybe planned too much, but no. It barely lasted me the 5-7 days I needed soft food.

I’ve promised a few people I’d write a post about what I ate, so here it goes.

 

Here’s what I started with in the freezer: Ice cream, mango sorbetto, fruit juice popsicles (which I didn’t eat but should’ve), and frozen fruit–mangos, peaches, pears and bananas. (the last 2 I froze myself)

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And in the fridge… I love pudding so I wanted to take full advantage, lol. Yogurt was also nice to have. The yogurt drink was a good idea, I wish I’d had a few.

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And my pantry items (Well some)… Blended soups are a GOOD IDEA. Get/make lots. (I had enough with these 2 but more might’ve been good. I added peanut butter or goat’s cheese for more protein.) You’ll want savory food and these are perfect. Mac and cheese was good toward the end. Applesauce is a nice easy soft food. I didn’t use the broth but you might.

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First thing I ate– Organic vanilla ice cream! I needed something cold, something soft, and something to make up for what I’d just been through. Ha.

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I did several smoothies… I tried some fun ones, which cheered me up. Peach green tea (http://reciperunner.com/peach-green-tea-smoothie/) and pear ginger (http://reciperunner.com/pear-ginger-smoothie/). I also had a chocolate peanut butter one.

I added chocolate bone broth protein powder to my pudding, along with some whipped cream. Yum.

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I discovered that avocado and goat’s cheese are quite a nice pairing! At least I thought so. And it made me feel like I was eating real food, which was a plus.

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Blended soup and mashed potatoes, yum.

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I found some decent jello (no artificial dyes and such)… I really enjoyed it, haha.

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Cottage cheese is another good option. I found when I was pregnant with Noah that honey and cinnamon is pretty tasty on it, if you like sweet with your cottage cheese.

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Starting to eat more normally… mac and cheese and blended soup with goat’s cheese.

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Sweet potatoes and grits. The grits are a little risky at first because of the small hard pieces (you don’t want anything going into your holes!), so I’d caution using that till at least a few days to a week out.) I also just ate a baked sweet potato on it’s own.

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Another transition food was scrambled eggs (no picture).

If I was going to do this soft diet again, I think I’d plan even more savory food. I was rather sugared out even with how carefully I’d planned. More soups, maybe refried beans, creamed spinach, stuff like that. Steamed, mashed veggies could also work. Protein is a big challenge, too, so keep that in mind. A protein powder you can add to stuff helps. Also a soft cheese helps, like the goat’s cheese I mentioned a few times. Or just melted cheese.

Hopefully that was helpful to some of you! 🙂 Also just be really careful to follow the after care instructions (no straws, rinsing the sockets with salt water after the first day, etc). I was, and I didn’t have any complications. Phew! It really wasn’t as awful as I’d imagined,  including the procedure (which I was awake for)… I had literally been dreading it for like 10 years. 😛 So glad it’s over though!!

Underneath the Surface

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It’s a really interesting aspect of social media and our culture–we have such a flat perspective of one another. We usually only see what someone posts. We don’t see all of their history and character and current reality the same way we would if we were only interacting with the same people face to face over the course of years. (Obviously one can still hide a lot face to face, but it’s quite different.)

I’ve been thinking about it lately as I’ve been sharing things that go along with my current obsessions, interests, beliefs, station in life, etc. And as I share them and read comments I’m reminded of how easy it is to base our response purely on that interaction and not on all of who a person is.

So for me lately… a few topics I’ve been posting, and then some background, some underneath stuff. The rest of the iceberg, so to speak.

Gentle Parenting/questioning spanking

I was spanked till I was 14 (though much less toward the end). I know what it’s like. I remember many spankings vividly. I don’t remember learning much. I do remember being hurt and confused.

I used to be completely convinced that spanking was the way to go and that if you didn’t spank you were soft and going to ruin your children.

I’ve read many parenting books, starting in my young teens. This isn’t a topic I’m just beginning to explore, but rather I am continuing a study of a little over a decade, and plan to continue for the next several decades and probably beyond.

I’ve already spanked several children of different ages. (My siblings, when I was in charge) I’ve seen first hand how it makes me feel, how it affects them, etc.

I’ve also used a gentle but firm approach to many children, some not my siblings.

I am not really a naturally gentle person. Or a naturally patient person. I am really ashamed of the way I treated my siblings in the past and have apologized to them. I’m thankful they have forgiven me and our relationships are healed. These are things I have been working on for many years and I’m really thankful to God for the progress that has been made. I’m not perfect and don’t expect to be in my parenting.

I quite enjoy sword fighting and nerf and other “violent”, active games (though unfortunately I haven’t been able to do any for awhile). I play wrestled my brothers and will play wrestle my son and teach him to sword fight (with care) and climb trees and so forth.

I am open to being wrong and changing my mind. I do it often as I learn new info.

I enjoy reading a variety of perspectives and then forming my own. I don’t subscribe to any one parenting philosophy and likely never will. I just don’t work like that.

Pictures and videos of my son

I try not to crop all the mess out, but I do admit that sometimes I use angles to make the background more appealing.

I always feel like I’m not doing enough with him, and that I’m not paying him enough attention.

The things I do with him are super simple and don’t take much time, even though they may look like it at times.

Childhood development 

This has fascinated me long before I was a mother…

I continue to be amazed at these little people and how well they learn. I don’t think it’s so much the parent’s job to teach them, but rather to keep them safe and provide opportunities for them to learn.

I really wish our culture was more accepting of and gracious to babies and children… one thing I believe might help is better understanding of how they develop and what is appropriate to expect from them. Which is one reason I share.

One of the biggest things that changed when I became a parent was my perspective on getting children used to things. I realized that babies change so drastically themselves that even if everything around them seems the same to us, it isn’t the same to them. So you can’t really get them used to things or train them the way I imagined. (Of course it is still helpful to them to have a predictable environment! I just didn’t realize how drastically they change during leaps and how suddenly their behavior can completely change, and it has nothing to do with your parenting.)

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I could go on, but I’ll stop there. It’s just interesting. And a good reminder to myself that other people have similar experiences and former beliefs and so on below the surface of their posts.

How to Survive Rough Nights

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The first step is to surrender to the fact that they will happen, and that it’s okay. Babies are not machines, they are living creatures that are developing rapidly and experiencing many challenging things. Sleep is developmental; there will be many ebbs and flows. Don’t expect that at any certain age they will magically sleep 10 hours straight. It often takes a few years for them to get there consistently. There will be leaps, teething, growing pains, colds, and gassy nights. It’s okay. It’s part of life with a baby. You will get through. ❤

You will probably cry. You will probably get frustrated, annoyed, even angry. You will likely have thoughts of harming your child. But you will get through. Here are a few thoughts that help me during those rough nights.

This won’t last forever.

My baby needs me right now. I am glad I can be here for him.

I love my baby even when I don’t like him.

Sleep is developmental. It isn’t his fault he’s having a hard time.

Someday he will be a grown man (with his own baby who won’t sleep.)

I am learning patience.

I am practicing real love and surrender.

Right now there are women WISHING they could trade places with me. Women who desperately long to have babies but aren’t able to. Women who are mothers of angel babies who would give anything to have their sweet baby crying in their arms once again.

I would miss this terribly if something happened to him.

My short term comfort is not worth risking damaging his long term emotional health. (when I’m tempted to try some form of Cry it Out)

I am not alone. There are other mothers awake right now; pacing the floor and praying their baby will sleep.

Other things I do are…

… ask my husband to take a turn. I try to do it as long as possible, since I know I can nap and he can’t. But at the end of the day, we are both parents and sometimes I. Just. Can’t. handle it anymore.

… step outside for a minute with him.

…be gentle with myself the next day. Nap. Take it easy. Don’t try to do all the things, just do the essentials.

…Squeeze my baby and tell I love him. Over and over. Sometimes I need help remembering it. Ha.

… Pray

… Rock him in our big rocking chair in the living room

… deep breaths. The calmer you are, the calmer they will be.

Other ideas are lavender essential oil, soft music, etc.

If I’m really getting angry and realize that I may actually hurt him (sleep deprivation combined with the crying can really mess with your mind) I put him down for a minute and breathe.

What do I do with Noah when he won’t just nurse back to sleep? Well, I keep trying to nurse, lol. But after that–I walk him while gently bouncing. I pat his back to try to burp him. I change his diaper just in case that was the issue. I hold him with gentle pressure on his belly or in a sort of squatting position to help relieve any gas. (also can try bicycling their legs or massaging in a clockwise direction) I rock him. I hum or sing or just talk soothingly. I keep everything dark and calm, even if he’s acting wide awake.

Hopefully that was helpful to some of you. Much love and best wishes for many good nights and few rough ones. ❤

Preparing for Sleeping with Baby

The first thing I want to say is that it’s going to be okay. I know a lot of people are super discouraging about how tired you’re going to be and how many millions of times baby will wake in the night. I’m not going to try to whitewash–you WILL be tired; but you’ll be okay. You’ll wake up after a rough night and your baby will smile at you and… you’ll be okay, after all. And you’ll get a nap. And you’ll muddle your way through with coffee or tea and lots of water. I’m a 9-10 hours a night kind of girl, and I’ve been getting very interrupted sleep for the past 10 plus months. And I can’t drink coffee. But I’m still functioning (almost) normally. You can do this. ❤

The second thing I want to say is that I am not a sleep expert. I’m just a mom who likes to read. And share what I’ve learned so far. But don’t take my word for it: research for yourself as well, and definitely don’t think that just because something was safe for us it’ll be safe for you. Everyone is different. Life in uncertain.

The third thing I want to say is that BABIES ARE NOT BROKEN. They are meant to wake up multiple times during the night for the first long while. They need the calories at night. They need the reassurance that they are not alone. They need help getting back to sleep between sleep cycles. They need to wake frequently to prevent getting into a really deep sleep– for a newborn, sleeping too long artificially (by a parent sleep training them) can be dangerous. They are still so new at breathing that if they go too deeply into sleep for too long, their brain may not keep signaling them to breathe. Sleep doesn’t really get consistent for most children till after age 2-3, maybe later. Don’t freak out! Just accept it. There are usually plenty of good nights mixed in there. You will be okay, remember?

There, got those out of the way. Now… here’s what I’ve learned and what worked for us.

There’s a lot of controversy about Bed Sharing. Many organizations will tell you not to do it at any cost. The problem? BABIES DON’T READ THOSE PAPERS. They don’t believe in sleeping alone on their backs on a hard cold crib. And why should they?? Sleeping alone is scary even for adults! No one likes a really hard bed. And no one likes being cold. ESPECIALLY not newborns, who have experienced nothing but warmth, mom, and being snug. So many parents, in an effort to reconcile both of these things, end up falling asleep while holding their babies… out of sheer exhaustion. They’re not in bed–they’re on couches or chairs.

This is FAR more dangerous than bed sharing safely. Even the AAP now says that breastfeeding mothers who tend to fall asleep while nursing should bed share. (Nursing, by the way, produces a hormone in both mother and baby that makes them sleepy. This is how it’s naturally intended to work. Keeping baby in another room is the artificial way.)

Here’s an article that talks about all that.

The beauty of bed sharing is that in most cases, it makes it so that you get WAY more sleep than people who don’t. No getting out of bed and walking to baby! Baby wakes less! You wake less! It’s amazing! (There is some getting kicked involved…. but otherwise it’s brilliant) Haha, sorry for all the exclamation points. 😛

So how do we safely bed share?

This is what it looks like for us…Noah is sort of cradled in my arm, and he tends to roll onto his back automatically.

My knees are bent up, both for comfort and to protect against my husband accidentally rolling on him. (this is far less of a concern in real life than in imagination, by the way, in most cases. I found my husband was hyper aware of him at first and has continued to be careful in his sleep.) Noah’s legs are all folded up these days, or failing around on my legs or belly. You’ll find you pretty much can’t roll on them when you’re like this. Not only that, but breastfeeding mothers are very aware of their babies, even in their sleep, and pretty much won’t roll on them. (I’ve found this to be true… I sleep deeply when he’s with me, but just the slightest hint of trouble breathing from him or other problems and I snap awake.)

So what can you do now?

First step… don’t bother with a crib!

A pack and play and/or rock and play are good for situations where no one is available to hold baby during naps, but MOST naps, particularly the first 3 months, should be on your chest or while being worn. It’s best for everyone. Your breathing stimulates theirs, for one thing. Your heart keeps theirs steady. Your breasts regulate their temperature up or down. Your presence is comforting. You’re their HOME, their safe place, their mother. It may sometimes seem like they will never nap alone… but it’s not true. All too soon… they will, and you will miss those sweet, sweet days of them sleeping so contentedly in your arms. So prepare yourself now for months of sitting and lying around with a baby sleeping on your chest. No guilt. Don’t stress about all the things you could/should be doing. This is a real Thing that no one but you and your spouse/SO can do regularly for them. It’s very, very important.

Second step… think about how you will keep your arms warm at night. You’ll want the blanket to stay low to prevent it from being a suffocation hazard. Also think about getting a lighter blanket if yours is heavy.

Third step… mentally prepare. Re read this if you need to. Learn about infant sleep patterns. Be aware that sleep habits changes many, many, many times over the first months and years, between teething, gas, development and so on. It’s actually likely that your newborn will sleep really well after the first couple weeks–but it will change, usually around 4 months. Our motto is “don’t get used to anything”. If it’s a hard pattern–don’t stress; it won’t last. If it’s a good pattern — enjoy it; it won’t last. Share all this with your spouse, whether by sending him articles or by sharing little tidbits as you learn. It’s important that they understand what to expect as well. It’s much less distressing if you are aware that it’ll keep changing.

And that’s about it before baby is born. 🙂

Preparing for Breastfeeding

img_6556Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things there is. It is a wonderful experience to watch your baby grow and be content from your milk. However… it can be very challenging, especially in the first weeks. Here are some ideas of things you can do during pregnancy to increase your chances of being successful at it.

  1. Find a good CLC (certified lactation consultant) or IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, years more training and experience) in your area. Contact or meet her if possible. Otherwise, just keep her number handy. In your phone or on the fridge. You may think you won’t need one–I didn’t think I would since my mom was there and she’s nursed 8 babies. But… I had complications she hadn’t experienced, and I was so glad I already was aware of a local CLC who could come help.
  2. Build a support team. Educate your husband/SO as you learn. Let them know how much you will need their support and encouragement. Find another woman who has breastfed successfully and ask her to be your support person for late night texts and questions and commiseration and so forth. SUPPORT IS EVERYTHING. Breastfeeding during the first weeks and months is TOUGH.
  3. Join Expressions! Lactation Services group on Facebook. We have a couple IBCLCs and several CLCs on our team to help answer questions. You can also learn a ton just by hanging out there and reading. (I am one of the moderators)
  4. Buy/borrow a good book on breastfeeding. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by the LLL is a good choice.
  5. Wear cotton bras and/or go braless when possible
  6. Get sun on your chest for a few minutes a day if at all possible
  7. Only use water to wash on and around your nipples. They’re self cleaning and soap will dry them out. Plus it is a good habit to be in for when your baby is born–you wouldn’t want baby accidentally eating any residual soap.
  8. Buy stuff… The only things you NEED for nursing are breasts and a baby. However, a nursing pillow (My Brest Friend is a good one, better than the boppy according to many women), nice cotton sleep nursing bras (comfy and you will probably want a bra on at night due to leaking), and reusable and disposable nursing pads are my suggestions as far as stuff. A pump is a good idea, just in case your baby can’t/won’t latch for the first couple days like Noah. (But otherwise it is NOT to be used until after 6/8 weeks.) Nipple butter  (or coconut oil) is nice, but you can also just leave milk on and let it air dry… works wonders. Nipple shields should NOT be used unless under the supervision of an IBCLC. They can cause issues and don’t really solve problems, just mask them. Nursing covers are optional, of course. Personally I just used a blanket to cover my breast. I don’t feel it necessary to try hide the fact that I’m nursing, but I do cover that much just out of respect for my peeps. Trying to ease everyone into this whole nursing in public deal. 😛 The two shirt method also works well.

And that’s about all you can do while pregnant. No need to take any supplements, rough up your nipples, etc., etc. Mainly just learn as much as you can and be super determined. Don’t give yourself the option to quit. It’s the most important thing you can do for your baby and yourself. It will improve your health (lowers chances of breast cancer and several other things) and your baby’s health while nursing and over the long term.

Make a list of reasons why you will keep going even when it’s hard and refer back to it on rough days. You can do it!!! ❤

P.S. I am not getting reimbursed for any of the suggestions I make here… these are just things that worked well for me.

Preparing for Postpartum

There’s a lot of focus on labor and birth–understandably, because it’s an amazing, intense, joyous, strenuous, life-altering experience.

However… it’s the short part. Postpartum is the long part, and there are many things to think about and do during pregnancy that could help it be a little smoother. I’ve been thinking about some ideas, particularly focused on mom.

All the basic things in your life are about to become considerably more challenging. Even just going to the bathroom. Not only will you be bleeding and sore, but your baby will still be expecting to be near you 24/7 like in the womb. It takes them quite a while to realize they aren’t still connected to you and be okay with that. I had to hold (and sometimes nurse) my baby while using the bathroom several times. Kinda TMI, but this is a postpartum post, sooo…. Yeah. Postpartum just is TMI. haha.

Anyway, here they are:

1. Food — Make and buy snacks/food that you can eat with one hand with little to no prep. (Also come up with a list of ideas for people who want to help, or church ladies who sign up to bring meals) Enough to get you through (think pregnancy hunger, plus some. You need about 600 extra calories per day) a couple weeks. It sounds silly now, but it’s ridiculously difficult to sit down and eat with two hands like a normal human for the first month + of your baby’s life. Babies don’t like being put down. Like, at ALL. They also like to nurse as close as possible to 24/7, especially during the 2 and 3 week growth spurts. There’ll be a loooot of snacking in bed and on the couch.

Veggie sticks, cheese sticks, berries, small apples, muffins, protein cookies, granola/protein bars, trail mix, peanut butter or almond butter (right off the spoon. you’re a mom now it counts as meal), jerky, liquid soups (drink from a mug), toast, wraps, etc. are some good ones.

2. Shower plan — you’ll need help at first. After that, plan to have Daddy watch Baby while you shower and/or bring him/her in the bathroom in the rock and play. Warn him of this. Haha. Also just be mentally prepared that this is going to be a Thing. It’s not a joke. It’s real.

3. Stock the bathroom — wash cloths, big pads, underwear, peri bottle, Earth Mama Angel Baby bottom spray (that stuff is the best!!!) etc. Also consider a stool softener and/or lots of prunes and other fibrous foods. It was difficult for weeks after giving birth. The drastic change in pressure on your bowels combined with the huge shift in hormones and all the time sitting/lying around causes some serious issues. Not to mention you’re rather sore. A stool also helps.

4. Drinks — you’ll be super thirsty. Tea (EMAB Monthly comfort is very nourishing for your recovering uterus), water, coconut water, recharge, broth, flavored water (with fruit), etc are good to have on hand. I was drinking 4 tervis tumblers a night (my husband was the refill guy, he was amazing) and much more during the day. You’re also going to want plenty of straws or a plastic or stainless straw. And a big water bottle.

***Make sure that before you’re alone for the day you have plenty of water and snacks close by the bed and couch.***

5. Healing — EMAB tea, sitz baths, arnica tablets (helps a lot with muscle soreness and bruising!) EMAB spray, coconut oil plus lavender (2-4 drops with 2 TBSP oil) for any stitches, cold rice sock for engorgement, warm rice sock for aches and pains, etc.

6. Entertainment — shows, kindle books, etc. There’s going to be a LOT of sitting and lying around while nursing or holding a sleeping baby. Embrace this time. Don’t worry about cleaning or anything like that. There’ll be time enough later on. If help is offered, accept it gracefully. Your job is to snuggle and feed and love your baby. That’s IT for the first month, especially, and really the whole first 3 months.

7. Clothes — You’ll need several things that are comfy, easy to nurse in (think button down or super stretchy), pretty-ish, and not maternity (I thought I wouldn’t care, but I really didn’t want to wear maternity after I gave birth) but bigger than normal. 😬 Robes are good, stretchy tunics and leggings are good, tops with short skirts… stuff like that. Also maybe some kind of accessories — new necklace, head band, etc. Something easy to make you feel pretty even in pjs.

Hopefully that is helpful for some of you! 😊

P.S. This isn’t an Earth Mama Angel Baby advertisement, I promise. I just really liked their stuff. Here’s a link to their postpartum goodies.