Thursday, June 27, 2013

A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

Have you read the children's book, Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? Poor Alexander, everything imaginable goes wrong, nobody will listen to him, and nobody wants to help him. Yeah, well, last Saturday, we had one of those on Oakdale Place.

During the week, I'm home alone with Shiloh. Since I quit my job a few weeks ago, Josias has continued to go to daycare, before we are off on our summer holiday. So, I still haven't quite mastered the art of making the weekend run smoothly with two kids under three in the house.  I mean, truly, IS there a way for one woman to manage the naps of an infant when there is also a rambunctious preschooler in the house? 

The morning started at 5am when the baby woke and wouldn't go back to sleep. Although his squeals were of delight, they woke Josias. The day beginning an hour and a half before Mama would like can only lead to heartache.

Lately these early wakings, which vacillate in cause between Josias and Shiloh, have been making for a sleep deprived and VERY cranky Josias. Some mornings are nothing but crying. Crying to get his way, and when said way is given, crying because it was. Um, okay? That's the illogical thought process and emotional roller coaster that is a three year old.

Right, so breakfast didn't go terribly well. Next, we hop in the car, and as Josias says, "drive around in circles (accompanied by corresponding circular motion of the hand)," so Shiloh has a prayer at some semblance of a morning nap. It actually worked. Josias read his Curious George tome and Shiloh slept for forty-five minutes. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. I was feeling pretty skilled in the mothering department.

But then, perhaps due to cockiness, it all went to H-E-double hockey sticks in a hand basket. It just fell apart. Josias wailed about everything; did everything I expressly asked him not to do; and pooped without a diaper on, which not only involves cleaning him, throwing away clothes and cleaning the floor and shoes, it also involves a lot of - you guessed it - crying.

In essence, Josias was doing everything a three year old is supposed to do. Especially in light of the fact that Mama was not paying him enough attention because little brother was teething and needed to breastfeed a lot.

It probably goes without saying that afternoon naps where a disaster. By this point, Mama was at the end of her little rope and was racking up charges of conduct not becoming an Attached Parent.

We were miserable. I knew I had to do something. If I only knew what. What to do, what to do? 

Going back to the book, Alexander is not much help. His day just keeps getting worse, and when he asks friends for help, they ignore him or make fun of him. I had pretty much used up those strategies already. 

By the end of the book, Alexander goes to his mother for comfort. She tells him that some days are just like that and hopefully, tomorrow will be better. Truer words were never said, but I am nothing if not tenacious, so I wasn't ready to give up.

What to do, what to do? By George, I've got it! GO OUTSIDE!

Although the getting ready process took at least five times longer than it should have, with Mama barking out demands in a disrespectful manner that were summarily ignored by Josias, we got there.

We arrived at the park with water sprinklers and Josias blossomed into the curious, funny and awesome guy that he is. Shiloh was as sweet as ever. Mama even displayed a few of her finer moments.
We did it!  We flipped the script on our terrible, horrible, awful, no good, very bad day.  Alexander and his mama could learn a thing or two from us!

Next time I see us going down this path, I will employ the back to nature strategy before 4pm.  Who knows if it will work, but we're gonna give it a shot.

Postscript: As I reread this post, I realized that the strategy was far less important than the fact that I didn't give up, no matter how late in the day. And what I also know, is that I have my mom and dad to thank for that.

What do you do to turn around a bad day?

Photo credit:s Jessica Wilson and author

Monday, June 24, 2013

Transitioning to a natural lifestyle

Earth Mama Yoga is excited to introduce guest blogger, Katie Moore.  You can find her over at Moore from Katie. Please check out her post and let us know what you think.

There is nothing as awe-inspiring as creating new life. At least, that’s how I felt when carrying my first child. So I really felt like I needed to take special care of my baby and myself during my pregnancy. Transitioning to natural living seemed like the best thing I could do and so my journey began. From diet and exercise to cleaners and clothing, everything slowly changed.

We live in a world that is bombarded by information. Weeding through all of the information to find what is best for you may seem daunting, but let me tell you what has worked for my growing family. It did not mean changing everything at once, nor did it mean throwing out everything I had and buying new, expensive natural products. I started at my doctor’s office. My doctor was my greatest resource during my pregnancy; every option from cloth diapers to my baby’s cord blood was covered and allowed me to decide what’s best for my family.

Natural living does not need to be expensive. Organic produce and other natural products are more widely available today. The prices are coming down and good sales are more frequent now than ever before, as demand rises. There are many co-ops for natural products including food, clothing and other baby essentials. Homemade cleaning solutions are almost always less expensive than their commercial counterparts.

Transitioning to a Better Diet

I began by incorporating more natural foods into my diet. By natural foods I mean fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and natural sugars. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of nutrients than their canned, processed counter parts. They also help to alleviate some of the common side effects of pregnancy, such as constipation. As finances allowed, I purchased organic produce, local cheese, honey and free-range eggs. Carrying a copy of the clean 15 and the dirty dozen will help you organize your produce list to avoid the most contaminants. These contaminants are harmful enough to our bodies, let alone our growing babies.

Buying fresh produce and organic products is good, but you have to use them too! I rearranged my pantry to reflect how I wanted to eat by placing processed foods on the lowest shelf and natural ingredients at eye level.  Tight grocery budgets may make you cringe at the thought of wasting food, so don’t. Use your processed foods up a bit at a time, donate them to a food pantry or use them to serve an ailing friend or neighbor. Creating a meal plan based around the family’s schedule helped me incorporate natural foods into our diet while cutting out the stress of what’s for dinner after a full day of activities.

Preparing a Clean Environment for Baby

Your surrounding environment plays a huge role in how you feel and your overall health. There are many factors to consider when evaluating your surrounding environment. What you wear, personal hygiene products, cleaners, even scented candles in your home could affect your health. Fortunately there are many safe, natural alternatives to all of the above.

Organic clothing is widely available now. I choose organic clothing for those pieces worn closest to the skin. Bedding and blankets are also a wise purchase for those looking to reduce their exposure to the chemicals found in clothing. How we clean our clothes matters, too. Sure commercial detergents smell good, but all we really smell are the chemicals that we are then putting next to our skin. Finding an alternative to laundry detergent was high on my priority list.

Many manufacturers are offering natural versions of their most popular products, like household cleaners and beauty products. Oftentimes a homemade solution is just as effective and 100 percent natural. From all-purpose cleaners, to facial cleansers and deodorants, recipes abound for those interested in all-natural household products made at home from common ingredients. Sometimes it is a single ingredient, such as vinegar, that can replace several commercially prepared cleaners. I have found vinegar to be just as effective as my previously purchased cleaners and less expensive too.

With these easy adjustments to your lifestyle, you will be doing your baby and yourself a huge favor by feeling better and growing your baby in a great environment. Even after my pregnancy, my husband and I kept our new natural habits up to raise our daughter in the best environment possible.

Katie Moore has written and submitted this article. Katie is an active blogger who discusses the topics of, motherhood, children, fitness, health and all other things Mommy. She enjoys writing, blogging, and meeting new people! To connect with Katie contact her via her blog, Moore From Katie or her twitter, @moorekm26

Photo credit: Ossi Petruska


Monday, June 17, 2013

Serenity Prayer

I was talking with a friend the other day, and she told me that she is struggling to get certain parts of her life under control. She has just joined a support group that employs the twelve steps. She went on to say that while she knows she needs the help and support of the group, the Serenity Prayer, which opens the meetings, is a stumbling block for her. The wording just doesn't feel right.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Her sentiments resonated with me. Last year was one of the most stressful of my life. In addition to the joy of having a baby, I was going through some intensely painful personal issues. One thing that I found helpful was the Serenity Prayer. Not just saying it, which I did over and over, but really understanding its meaning and trying to live it.

I, too, struggled with the wording of the prayer. It's not that I don't believe in God, although by my way of thinking, It's the Divine, or the Universe. The part of the prayer I take issue with, is asking a higher power to grant me a favor, if you will. I believe the power is already within me, and with this prayer, I am both acknowledging that and asking the Universe to help me muster the strength to use it.

The concept of the prayer really helped. So, I decided on this, albeit cumbersome, personal wording:
I ask the Universe to support me in calling forth my own power for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Now, some might think: that's a lot of new-age mumbo jumbo, or, that my wording is just semantics. That's okay. What I think, is that it genuinely means something to me, and that is:
#1 I can only do me. I have the power to decide to be the best me I can. That is not easy, nor it is necessarily going to get me everything I want. It is a heck of a lot, though. 
#2 No matter how much I want something to happen, or someone to change, it is not within my power to make it so. I have no control over what other people do, nor can I control the actions and beliefs of others.
#3 is the kicker: whenever I feel stressed, angry, disappointed, sad, etc. it helps to think about the points above and reassess how I approach any given situation and what I hope to get out of it.
It serves me well to remember all of this. It helped me through a very difficult time. The prayer didn't make the situation better, nor did it take away the pain and sadness. What it did, is help me understand who I am, who I want to be, and that in the end, that is what is in my control. It gave me perspective.

Even though things did not turn out the way I had hoped, I am steadfast in my faith that things will turn out as they should.

If you're searching for some Yogic wisdom on this topic, these two Yoga Journal articles are a good place to start: Spiritual Surrender and The Practice of Surrender.

No matter what you call it - Serenity Prayer or Ishvara Pranidhana, it's all Yoga to me.

How has prayer helped you?

Photo credit: Robert Kiss

Monday, June 10, 2013

Today the adventure begins

The Lotus flower symbolizes new beginnings
Today marks a new beginning for me, and my family. I've just quit my full-time job of almost ten years. It's margaritas by the pool for me from here on out.

Well, no, not really. I'll be with my sweet babies. I have a three year old, Josias, and a seven month old, Shiloh. And, to be completely forthright, at times I find it a bit challenging to meet the physical needs of the baby, while simultaneously meeting the intellectual and emotional wishes of the preschooler.

So, that is how I have decided to frame this adventure. An exciting challenge! I've been gearing up by reflecting on all my own beliefs about motherhood as well as the advice and strategies of those who I think have a lot to offer on the subject. Each day, I'd like to make it my job, my challenge to put all of that into practice as best I can.

You see, I have a stubborn streak, so it can be a huge challenge for me to let go of my own agenda (the arbitrary parts, anyway) and be there for my kids in the ways that they need and want; to guide them and support them in a manner that will help them become the awesome human beings that we all have the potential to be. Oh yeah, and I'd like to enjoy the journey too. Pretty ambitious, hey?

Yoga has helped me get to this place. I've made a fundamental, somewhat scary, life-change in order to more fully be the person I want to be. So, now that I'm on my way, I'm relying on yoga to guide me along.

For starters, we'll spend a good part of the summer with friends and family in the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Then, in the Fall, Josias will start his own adventure as he's off to preschool.

Actually, if the adventure begins today, Josias, Shiloh and I are off to the dentist for Josias' first visit. Challenge numero uno awaits! I hope you'll join me as (time permitting) I write about our journey on Earth Mama Yoga.

What guided you through a life-changing event or experience?

Photo credit:lezumbalaberenjena

Monday, June 3, 2013

My home water birth and the Divine

Time to have this baby
I was due on Monday. The Friday before, I decided I wouldn't be returning to work. I was HUGE and had fallen twice in one day. I took that as a sign that I wasn't meant to be out in the world any longer.

I left work a little early and when I got home, I started feeling a bit weird. I dunno, something was just off. I also felt something going on "down there." Could I feel myself dilating?
I got in bed for awhile and once Josias, my two and half year old, got home, I forgot about the feelings as I set about making dinner and whatnot. As we drifted off to sleep that night, some of the feelings were coming back and I started to think that tomorrow would be the day.  I slept well and awoke at 4 am with the same sensations, only this time they were coming and going in a pronounced manner. I knew labor was starting. Josias awoke at 5 am, as he is wont to do. Instead of being annoyed, which I sometimes get with his early risings, we snuggled and I savored the last morning I would have alone in bed with my big boy. We had such a beautiful time together in that hour. I will cherish the memory of that morning for the rest of my life.

Early labor
At 6 am I let Danny know that I was in labor, and we made a plan to keep Josias busy outside of the house. We had previously decided that Josias wouldn't do well with me in labor and that I needed space to do what I needed to do. Danny's brother happened to be around that day and Josias loves hanging out with him: the stars had aligned. A baby would be coming into the world and into our lives.

After Danny and Josias left, I started timing my contractions, which felt quite mild at that point.  They were lasting about 30 seconds and were one to two minutes apart. I made myself a hardy breakfast of toast, OJ and a feta cheese omelet and then I walked the dog. It was mid-November, but the day was sunny and warm. The contractions were increasing in intensity, but still what I would call mild.

Call the Midwife
At 7:30 am I called Mairi, my midwife, to let her know that I was in labor, but that nothing seemed imminent. She was at another birth and her midwife- partner, Erin, was at a conference. She said I should call her when things started picking up.

At that point, I began to fill the birth tub, which was set up in the extra bedroom. I was anxious to see how it would feel. I spent the next hour filling the tub and trying to watch "Saving Grace" on netflix.  As with the birth of Josias, I couldn't really do anything like watch a TV program or read a book while I was having contractions, so I gave up on any kind of diversion and just paced around the house.

I got in the birth tub and it felt like heaven on earth. I couldn't imagine ever getting out. I could still feel the pains of labor, but it all somehow felt dreamy.

By 9:30 am, the contractions were getting stronger, though I could still talk through them. I was also getting hot, so I detubbed to open a window and called Mairi to tell her she needed to start thinking about coming.

The instant I hung up, my water broke. In the  blink of an eye I had moved through transition into the second stage of  labor (aka pushing the baby out).  I cannonballed (not really!) back into the tub, and frantically dialed Mairi, which took at least five attempts to get right. I told her she needed to come immediately. I also called Danny and told him to come.

I was alone in the house, in the tub and all of the sudden the baby was coming NOW. With Josias this part of labor had lasted for hour upon endless hour, so I never imagined the baby would start coming so quickly.

How did I feel? I wasn't worried. I wasn't scared. I was just there. I was experiencing the labor and knowing that it was all going to unfold as it should. Very zen, very yogic of me, no? Well, yes, in fact it was. 

There are only two times in my life when I have felt like this - like there is nothing else to do, nothing else to think about, and I could just be. I could just be there in the moment, I could experience everything as it was happening, and I didn't have a lick of control over how things would progress, nor how they would end. And, I was okay with that. Those two times were called child birth.

Mairi told me to stay on the phone with her. Fortunately, the other birth she was at was not far from my house. She jumped in her Smart Car and like a bizarro-world police detective in one of those 70's cop shows, she was rushing to the scene of the crime. I can still visualize her barrel-assing through the streets of DC like a bat out of hell. 

On the phone I told her I had to push. I had no choice. Mother Nature was in control. Mairi told me not to push, but to breathe like I was blowing out birthday candles. She told me she was worried about me having a water birth unassisted and that I should get out of the tub. I let her know, in no uncertain terms, there was no way on God's green earth I was getting out the tub. 

The urge to push was so strong, that I didn't think I'd be able to do the, "pretend you're blowing out a birthday candle" bit any longer. Danny arrived and was now on the phone with Mairi. Finally, finally, Mairi arrived and gave me the all clear to push. I started to protest that pain was agonizing, and I recall Mairi saying,"push a few times and you will have instantaneous relief."

Although everything was happening at lightening speed, I could feel all the things the baby was doing. He was in a perfect position. With the first push, I felt him peep out and then retreat back in.  The ring of fire had been ignited and the pain was intense. But as each contraction faded, so did the pain. I would rest for a minute and then with a vice-grip on Danny's hand, I would scream that the contraction was coming. Danny had been rendered mute. He appeared more than a little stunned at the speed with which the festivities were progressing.

With the second contraction, his head came out and I could feel each distinct, perfect body part emerge - the head, and the neck. Another reprieve and then Mairi told me one more push and we'd make short work of it.

The final hurrah. I felt the shoulders, the torso, and then, as Danny said, the rest came out like butter.  As he emerged, Erin had arrived. I caught the baby with my own two hands, and Mairi placed him on my chest. He started to squawk as soon as he came out of the water. From the time the first midwife arrived to the time he rocketed out was approximately four minutes.

I am unable to find words to describe the elation I experienced. I felt the Divine alive within me and around me. It felt electric.

My first words were, "Hi Sweetheart, oh, baby, you came out soooo fast." Then, "He looks just like Josias," and "Oh, you're soooo small." (Point of fact, at nearly ten pounds, he was not SO small.)

I remember each moment as though I am still in the midst of it. After Shiloh was born, we all set about the tasks at hand: get Mama out of the tub, make Mama and Shiloh comfortable, get the afterbirth out, etc. Within the hour, Shiloh began to breastfeed like a champ, Josias came to meet his brother, Danny and Josias cut the cord and they emptied the birth tub.

That, my friends, is the long version of what happened that day. 

The Cliff Notes version is: my home water birth was DIVINE.

Have you experienced the Divine?

Photo credits: author