Time alone. Oh how glorious that time is... how relaxing... how rejuvenating... and how utterly INFREQUENT. But, oh, when that time does come, how I revel in it. How I relish it! How I bask in it's rare and shimmering splendor. And do you want to know what I do with this heavenly time? As of late, I have been known to lounge luxuriously in bed with whatever edible delight I happen to fancy in the moment (like really salty tortilla chips... apples with honey and cinnamon... spoonfuls of nut butter with dapples of chocolate chips... ), watching whatever the hell I want on Netflix. No Caillou fo' YOU! I might get creative and sit down to draw something worthy of a picture frame.... like a tattoo design for my uncle! I often find myself turning on my favorite music and.... CLEANING! (Wait, what? Cleaning???) It's true. You know why? Because for once, I can get really into what I'm doing and not be interrupted by little people wanting to eat or be picked up or have a fight mediated or all of those other needs that are totally valid and important, but oh so distracting when I have my hands in a toilet bowl. Plus, once a room is clean, it will actually stay clean for the entire duration of the time that I'm all by myself. On really nice, warm days, when the flowers are blooming and white fluffy clouds are lazily drifting overhead, I will go out onto my front deck, hang up a big towel so the neighbors can't see me, and lie naked in that nourishing sunlight. This is one of the truly luxurious things that I do (though not nearly as often as I'd like) when I get time alone. As I lie there, I express gratitude for the solitude. I give thanks for all of the blessings and opportunities in my life, and affirm that I am worthy and open to receive even more. And then I eat cookies. I have had to break the habit of frantically trying to figure out what activity would be the most fulfilling to me, knowing that my time alone is limited. For awhile I would find myself pacing around the house, contemplating whether to clean, cook, watch a movie, go for a walk, paint my toenails, etc. because ideally I wanted to do all of those things, but in reality I'd have to pick and choose. In the end, I would accomplish nothing except hastily cleaning up something and then starting a movie that I wouldn't be able to finish while worrying that I'm not doing something else that I'd like doing better. Not very fulfilling. What I learned is that whatever I feel like doing most in the moment - whether it is starting an involved arts and crafts project, cleaning my house uninterrupted, or sitting on my arse the entire time watching episode after episode of American Horror Story, the fact is that it's what brings me the most joy and relaxation, and so I do it. No guilt. No regrets. Just pure, unadulterated bliss.... and cookies. So now I want to know: what do YOU do when you can do whatever you want?
I am a mother of two young daughters. I am a daughter. I am a wife. I am a domestic Goddess. I am a start-up farmer. I am a customer service representative. I am responsible for a variety of tasks on a daily basis that help meet the needs of all the living creatures, big and small, inside of, outside of, and around our household. I seem to play quite a few different roles in life, and while I graciously accept each one and carry it out to the best of my abilities, there comes a time when I feel so absolutely exhausted and drained that I forget about the most important role... ME. I am ME. I am a person with individual needs, desires, likes and dislikes, and I have my own ways of regrouping when I'm feeling tapped out and overwhelmed. It has taken me a really long time to be okay with taking care of myself, but I've finally realized that if I do not allow myself the time and space to relax, re-center, and do the things that I enjoy doing on my own, I will become angry, irritable, depressed, distant, and/or resentful. And it's nobody's fault except my own. Despite the fact that women's and men's equality has come a long way from where it once was, there is no denying that women are naturally considered to be the nurturers; the caregivers; the emotional ones. I think it's beautiful, and powerful, and frustrating as hell all at the same time, but I also think (no... I KNOW) that these parts of ourselves can help to cultivate some truly strong and loving relationships as long as we pay attention to our needs. For instance, I am a highly sensitive person, and I need a lot of time alone. Now, I'm sure some of you just chuckled, or perhaps guffawed out loud, or are thinking, "Don't we all?!" And if you did, I totally understand that response! If you have children, "alone time" is something that often seems to be a daydream wrapped inside of a bubble being hurtled through space as far away from you as inhumanly possible..... yeah. Regardless of how distant the idea of taking care of yourself may be, the fact is that you have to consciously make the effort to tend to yourself, or else you aren't likely to get many opportunities to do so. What kind of atmosphere do you need to recharge? For me, I need to be completely alone. I don't want to hear the kids yelling or crying or laughing or bouncing off the walls; I don't want to hear the lawnmower going or the dishwasher running; I want to have the house to myself, or be outside alone, to do what I want and know that I will not be interrupted or disturbed. Sometimes, if it just doesn't work out to where my husband can take the girls out, I will lock the door to our bedroom, turn on some music or a movie, and do my best to ignore the goings-on outside of my little space bubble. Think about what atmosphere you need to breathe, and recharge, and then try to create that space for yourself as often as you can. What do you love to do? If you had a few hours alone to do whatever you wanted, what would you do? What are you passionate about that perhaps you don't get to spend much time doing? Gardening? Meeting up with a good friend for some adult conversation? Eating something awesome that you don't have to share while watching a movie that you'd be embarassed about if anyone else knew you were watching it? When you get the chance to do what you want, DO IT. What brings you peace? There are so many different activities that bring people peace, and it took me awhile to figure out which activities gifted me the most relaxation and inspiration. I like writing, sewing, and walking outside, but you may find the stroke of a paintbrush, your hands in the soil, or the smell of the amazing homemade baked goods that you whipped up (and that you totally want to send me) sets your spirit free! Take time out each day for self-care. This may seem easier said than done, especially if you're raising children or have a really hectic work schedule, but even taking 15 minutes out of your day to check in with yourself and identify what your needs are can make a world of difference in regards to your attitude throughout the day. Getting up 30 minutes earlier each morning, before the rest of the household awakens, allows you to create a morning ritual of intention and self-love that can help you start your day on the right foot. Make yourself a cup of hot tea or coffee, watch the sunrise, smudge, do some yoga or deep breathing exercises... whatever makes you feel alive and joyful, do that. If for some reason you aren't able to create this space in the morning, try to carve out time in the afternoon or evening to unwind and tend to your needs. It needn't be a complicated routine, just something for YOU and only you. Self-care (Self-LOVE) is crucial for every human being. We often feel as though we aren't deserving of having our needs met, or that we can't tend to ourselves until everyone else around us is happy, but these assumptions are wrong and completely draining. Please make time to care for your body, mind, and soul, and see what a difference it makes in your life, as well as the lives of those around you! Do you have a self-care routine? What is it? How do you make time to recharge? - Our Resident Mom, Lindsay Lewis
In days past, families grew up surrounded by not only their immediate relatives, but extended family as well. Even if everyone didn't live in the same house, they generally lived on the same land and worked together to grow their food, carry out seasonal tasks, and raise their children. They were connected to their community, and everyone helped out. These days, most of us grow our families alone, without the large support systems that folks once had. Many parents are working outside of the home while others are living off of the land, and almost all of us are trying to reach a common goal of being self-sufficient. Now, being self-sufficient is truly a wonderful thing to be, but it is often a misunderstood term in that people assume that self-sufficiency equals doing everything by yourself with no help from outside sources. Let's be honest here and admit that nobody knows all things, and nobody can provide all things to everyone, so cultivating a support system to help out with some of those things can bring immense relief, as well as the opportunity to learn new things! Think about the people who you trust the most. Are they available to come and help? Whether it's once a week or once a month, having someone you know and trust to come and be with your children, assist with a home project, or teach you and/or your children a new skill is invaluable. This does not have to mean just family, either. If you know people in your community who are apt at a certain skill, they may be able to help, or point you towards someone who can assist. What sorts of programs or events are available in your community? Are there 4-H programs or parent/child classes to participate in? Does your local preschool cooperative offer afternoon or summer programs? Look into community happenings for opportunities to expand your child's (and your own) experiences, interactions with others, and interests. Putting your child into an afternoon preschool program can give him/her the chance to play with other children, learn new skills, and adapt to socializing outside of the home. Your local library may offer a children's reading hour and art time once a week, or you may even find some "Mommy/Daddy & Me" classes locally to get out of the house and do something fun! If you need help financially, have limited or no transportation, or aren't sure where to turn for specific resources, you may qualify for government programs that can help you with your and your child's needs. Contact your local DHHS office or go to http://www.211.org/ to find local resources that will get you ahead when you need it the most. Resources are everywhere even if sometimes we don't realize it. People want to help! All we have to do is ask. :)
It's been nine months - maybe ten - and the big day has finally arrived! Labor has started, you are nervous and excited and cannot wait to meet the tiny human being who has been safely nestled in your womb all this time. You give birth, and if you are in the hospital you cannot wait to get your baby home! If you birth at home, you cannot wait for quietude and bonding time. Regardless of how or where you give birth, there are a few things that may happen once the excitement of labor and birth have passed, and it is important to be aware of them should they arise. Even though they are normal, they may cause challenges for you and it is so important that you take care of yourself and ask for help when you need it. 1. Breastfeeding will cause uterine contractions. Our bodies are so amazing, and every natural occurrence that takes place within are so wonderfully synchronized to assist the body as a whole, even if at times they are a bit unpleasant. Breastfeeding causes the body to release oxytocin and prostaglandin which bring on uterine contractions after giving birth. This is necessary for bringing the uterus back down to its normal size over the course of the first few weeks. The pain of uterine contractions is usually the most intense during the first day or so after giving birth, and can be milder for first time mothers since they generally have better muscle tone. Personally I had pretty intense uterine contractions that lasted for a week before they went away with my first child. With my second child, they were actually more mild than with my first, proving that everyone is different and no experience will be exactly the same. Deep breathing exercises can greatly assist in coping with the pain of these contractions, as can warm water bottles. If you feel the need to take a pain blocker, please consult with your OBGYN or midwife for recommendations on the safest method. 2. You may experience vaginal soreness. The simply act of pushing a baby out of our vaginas is enough to cause vaginal soreness, but if you had an episiotomy or tore at all, then you may be sore for a bit longer (and don't even get me started on hemorrhoids). Even though you should be resting, sitting can be very uncomfortable for a woman with a vaginal tear or stitches. Sitting on a pillow or doughnut (we're not talking Krispy Kremes here, folks) can help quite a bit. When you go to the bathroom, use a peri-bottle or cup to wash yourself with warm water afterwards, and try pressing a washcloth or cloth wipe firmly against your wound when having a bowel movement. Ice is your friend! Wrap some ice in a washcloth, or soak a cloth pad in cold witch hazel to keep against you to help with swelling and pain. Because constipation is common after giving birth, your healthcare provider may recommend taking mild laxatives to help ease bowel movements which can exacerbate vaginal discomfort. 3. You may experience night sweats. If only we looked so glamorous. After your baby is born, your body will begin to get rid of all of the excess fluids it was hoarding in order to nourish the growing fetus while in the womb. Again, this is a completely natural occurrence, and can best be handled by making sure to drink plenty of fluids, keeping your room cool enough for comfort, and lying on a soft blanket or towel to prevent having to change the sheets on a daily basis. Night sweats can last for a few weeks, so just try to be patient and make yourself as comfortable as possible until your hormones begin to regulate again. 3. You may be very emotional. Ah, hormones again. Hormones are really the main cause for most of these post-partum phenomenons, and the emotional aspect is no exception. When I brought our first daughter home from the hospital, I went through periods of great joy and relaxation, hysterical crying, and moderate anxiety... sometimes in the matter of a few hours! I sobbed because my baby was no longer snuggled safely within my womb. Even though I could now hold her and smell her wonderful "new life" smell, and let her curl her tiny fingers around mine, I missed her being inside of me where I knew she was safe and warm. My experience in the hospital with her was less than ideal, and I could not stop thinking about all of the ways in which I felt slighted, and disrespected, and how I had wanted so much more for my daughter and myself, and that got me crying uncontrollably, too. Amidst my mood swings, my husband remained extremely nurturing and understanding, assuring me that everything was as it should be, and we were all safe, healthy, and loved. And I am so grateful for that, because I honestly thought that the mood swings would never end! Obviously, they did end, and after the most intense part of my hormonal shifts happened, things calmed down and I felt much more balanced. It is completely normal to experience a wide range of emotions in the first few weeks (even months) postpartum! Try not to feel embarassed or ashamed of these feelings, as you have just done a tremendous task! You brought a life into the world, and now your body is working to release what needs to be released, and readjust itself to accommodate the new requirements of your physical and emotional self. If you find yourself becoming depressed, uninterested in your baby, or are having harmful thoughts towards yourself or your baby, you may be experiencing postpartum depression. It is imperative that you reach out for help immediately if this happens to ensure that you and your baby get loving care and assistance. For more information about PPD, please visit this link: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/basics/definition/con-20029130 4. You will bleed...maybe a lot. Now, it makes sense that if you just pushed a human body out of a usually small orifice that you are going to bleed for a little bit afterwards, but the blood released after child birth is actually sloughed off tissue, leftover blood, and vaginal mucous which helps to cleanse the uterine walls and vagina. Within the first few days up to a week or so, this bleeding will be at its heaviest. Laying chux pads down on your bed, wearing menstrual pads (cloth is so much more comfy than disposable, but obviously the choice is yours!), and resting will help to minimize the amount of blood shed at one time, plus it will make you feel more comfortable. This is a time to bond with your baby and take it easy. As women, sometimes we feel as though we cannot afford to (or aren't "allowed" to) take the time that we deserve - at least a month - to relax and be cared for as we connect with our new little ones, but if it is at all possible, it is to your and your baby's benefit that you do. Trying to do too much too soon can create very real complications, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. I tried to do a load of laundry one week post-partum (I felt guilty that I wasn't helping around the house) and ended up with gushes of blood and huge clots! I honestly thought that the midwives were being overly-cautious when they told me to stay in bed or lay on the couch for the first few weeks. WEEKS?! What?! Yeah, right. Who does that? Ahem... women who just had a baby, that's who. 5. Your breasts may be very sore and/or leak breastmilk I remember wondering when my milk was going to come in, and what exactly Maya was getting for nourishment when she was nursing the first couple of days, because I couldn't seem to squeeze anything out, and my breasts didn't appear to be very different than they had been just before she was born. Then, on the 2nd or 3rd morning, I woke up and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror on the wall. "HOLY $%*!!" I exclaimed, and then proceeded to spin around to my husband and open my robe. My breasts were bigger than they had ever been in my life.... noticeably! It would have been pretty exciting except for the fact that they were extremely sore. So I sat down and began to nurse, and suddenly there was milk dripping down and soaking through the front of my clothing. "Oooooh.... now the milk's come in." It can be pretty uncomfortable for some to sit around in a wet shirt or bra, but cloth breast pads can be a wonderful aid in absorbing excess milk. If you decide not to breastfeed and aren't sure how to deal with engorgement, wearing a snug, supportive bra can help stop milk production. Do not try to squeeze milk out or rub your breasts as this can signal more milk production. 6. Your baby will not sleep through the night. There seems to be some differences of opinion as to what is considered sleeping "through the night" for a newborn baby. You should not expect - or encourage - a baby to sleep a full 8 hours or more at a time! It is necessary for babies to wake at least every few hours to nurse, and babies simply will not sleep for more than 3 - 4 hours at a time usually. That being said, babies sleep a lot during their first few weeks, so even if you aren't getting the sleep you were once used to at night, you can always nap with your baby during the day and know that you will be able to get some quality rest. One of the common factors here is rest, which is so important in the first weeks after your baby is born. It is a time of healing, of connection, and of slowing down and enjoying this new Life that you helped to create. Be kind to yourself, ask for help when you need it, and try to take as much time as you need to recover. What was your postpartum experience like? - Our Resident Mom, Lindsay Lewis
Is it me, or does it seem like there is a LOT of (social) media coverage surrounding breastfeeding lately? Nurse-ins, "to cover or not to cover" debates, uproars about public establishments shaming breastfeeding mothers, and defending the right to post breastfeeding photos online are everywhere. Why is this such a hot topic? Because too many people have gotten the wrong idea about breastfeeding: what it is, and what it isn't, and it's time for a little re-education. In this post I'm not going to go into too many facts about breastfeeding and breastmilk, because anyone who is interested in it can easily do a Google search and pull up all sorts of information about it. What I do want to talk about is why breastfeeding is important, but also why you shouldn't feel ashamed or "less-than" if you cannot, or choose not to breastfeed. Let's shine some light on the most important fact regarding this subject: Breastfeeding is completely natural. The design of the female body is truly amazing, as we are able to perform seemingly miraculous functions that males cannot. Our biological make-up creates the perfect environment to literally grow another human being, birth that human being, and provide exactly what that human being needs to survive and thrive during the first few years of his/her life (and beyond). How's that for impressive? The breasts are masses of fat, tissue, and milk ducts which normally become active once a woman gives birth. These milk ducts bring forth the nourishment that feeds our babies the perfect mix of proteins, fats, amino acids, enzymes and other critical nutrients that encourage healthy growth and create the best immune-builders on the planet for our children. Mama's milk is liquid gold. It adapts to the individual needs of your child, and no woman's milk is exactly the same as any other woman's milk, which is pretty incredible in itself! As your child grows, your milk changes to provide exactly what your child needs at his/her particular age and stage in life. Breastfeeding even just to 6 months can reduce the risk of certain cancers for both mother and baby, and can protect against a myriad of childhood illnesses including (but definitely not limited to) severe ear infections, meningitis, pneumonia, intestinal illness, and the common cold! Now let's shine some light on the other most important fact regarding this subject: Breastfeeding is not sexual. Just because a breast is exposed does not automatically qualify it as being "sexually explicit." I don't quite understand how the same people who would view a nude painting like DaVinci's "Madonna Litta" as beautiful, classical, and even romantic, could view modern-day mothers nursing their children as "obscene," and "distracting." It's ridiculous and sad. What's worse is the message being given to our children who grow up viewing breastfeeding as the normal, non-hysteria-inducing activity that it is. For many young children who breastfeed, and/or who have seen younger siblings breastfeed, pretending to nurse a beloved doll is an extremely common occurrence. And yet for some reason, because it involves breasts, there is a large part of society who frowns upon this undeniably innocent act, fearing the lure of sexual predators, or attempting to shame these childrens' parents because they failed to teach modesty and "acceptable behavior." How is pretending to bottle-feed any more or less acceptable than pretending to breastfeed, especially since breastfeeding is a normal, biological function? Regardless of whether you breastfeed or formula-feed, I think we can all agree that there is a serious need for social reform when it comes to this subject. We all want what is best for our babies. And regardless of whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, you are making the choice to nourish your child in the best way you are able, and there is NO SHAME in that, ever! If you have questions about breastfeeding, need support, or want to connect with other women who breastfeed, I would encourage you to seek out your local La Leche League group. This can be an invaluable source of much-needed education and support for women and families, regardless of whether or not you currently have a child. Find your local chapter here. There are also an abundance of breastfeeding groups on Facebook, as well as natural parenting websites like this one. These groups can be a safe space to discuss your concerns, challenges, triumphs, and questions regarding breastfeeding and all things related to raising children! If you do, or have, nursed your little ones, did you ever experience negativity about it? Or has it been a mostly positive experience? Our Mom In Residence, Lindsay Lewis