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A Surprising Thing Soil and Breastfeeding Have in Common

Have you had a chance to get your hands dirty? Spring is the best time of year to break ground on new outdoor projects, gardening and landscaping alike. If you are like me, that first hint of warm sunshine sends the message to your brain, “time to shift gears” break out the rakes, shovels and grill, it is Spring!
 
That first touch of moist garden soil brings me to a sacred place, an ancient, yet familiar place. The place where many women who came before me, bent to hand and knee, placing their hands in the earth to grow food from seed.
 
Woman and mothers are the caregivers and nurturers to the children and family. She is also, historically, been the primary gardener in households around the world. It is no wonder I feel so at home in my garden with my little daughter tugging at my skirt seams, leaving paths of trodden freshly planted seedlings in her wake. Recent research in neuroscience has shown that when the brain detects the scent of humus (rich soil) it releases oxytocin!
 
Where else have I heard the word ‘oxytocin’? Oh yeah, that’s right, it is one of the primary hormones involved in childbirth, maternal bonding and lactation! Oxytocin is a hormone which plays a key role in the neuroanatomy of intimacy; intimacy with a lover, a child, and apparently the earth itself! We understand it is released immediately after a baby is born and causes everyone in the room to fall in love with the baby, especially mama. This makes sense in an evolutionary sense.
 
This new found knowledge linking the release of oxytocin in response to the smell of soil is revolutionary.  It is a great argument for our deep physiological need to be close with nature! Although, this is a breakthrough in neuroscience it is very logical and easy to understand. I immediately understood this research to be true because I can “feel” it happening to me as I dig my hands down into the dirt year after year. Something magical takes place and I am transported to a peaceful world of contentment where time is no longer essential and all things are connected. When else have I been to this peaceful world? When breastfeeding my beautiful baby girl I, experienced it on a daily basis!
 
When we take the time to nurture life, we nourish a deep relationship for the creation of new life that is fundamentally sacred! I once wrote about SkyWoman, who tended the Earth with her bare hands and deep gratitude.
 
As you break ground this season may you feel the many blessings tending the Earth brings.

Till Next Time, Be Well!

Green Blessings to you and yours!

Due Dates, Midwives and Old Wive's Tale

Twins always arrive early. Right?

That's An Old Wive's Tale.

I look at my striated belly with the doughy soft puckers that have never flattened back into that gentle swell that used to be my belly. If the twins had been early, I would not have this.

At 36 weeks, my belly was a gigantic, unblemished orb.

I had 1 or 2 stripes at 37.

By 39 weeks, my midwife and I were laughing at the incredible, angry red vortex radiating from my bellybutton. The stripes were something out of a science fiction story. Like the chick pecking the egg from the inside, it looked like my stomach was getting ready to rip open.

At 40 weeks, I wasn't laughing anymore.

In truth, I wasn't doing much of anything at all! Eating, cat-napping, going to the bathroom, and having sex. Lots of sex and massage. In a futile attempt to bring on labor.

For two weeks I tried every over-the-counter remedy and Old Wive's Tale I could find: Spicy Lamb, Evening Primrose Oil, Caulophylum, spicy food, massaging pressure points, squatting, visualization, Raspberry Leaf tinctures and teas. I read about castor oil and shuddered. I was sure of my dates and my first baby had been born 11 days "late."

On the eve of "The Deadline," the last day my midwife was comfortable having the twins be born at home, I called a Resonance Repatterning Practitioner I worked with during my pregnancy. She had helped me overcome all my fears of being pregnant with twins, of being the mother of twins, of having a homebirth and of having a vaginal birth after a c-section (VBAC).

She muscle-checked what I was resonating with. She said, "Hmm. Interesting!

You and one of the twins is resonating with the word 'Stop.'"

She muscle checked what I needed to do, had me do some breathing patterns and eye movements and checked the resonance again. The baby and I no longer resonated with "Stop." I didn't feel much different, but I did feel relieved to have some kind of reason for the extended pregnancy.

The next morning, I made an appointment to have acupuncture to stimulate labor. My midwife came to check on me and left. The babies were head down, with strong heartbeats, and active. I felt about the same: Restless, impatient, huge and ready to give birth.

15 minutes after she left, the first wave hit me. Then another, and another. Contractions one on top of the other. My husband held me through them for awhile until we finally realized we should probably call the midwife.

She was surprised, and asked, "How far apart are the contractions?"

He said, "I don't know, they've been coming so fast, I haven't had a chance to time them!"

She reassured us, "I'm on my way back! I'll have to call my husband to bring my kit." It took her about 40 minutes to come back and her husband arrived with her kit shortly after.

The rest of the day is a blur now. The pain was intense and I kept running from it. She and my husband kept bringing me back into focus. By 6:00 pm I was allowing the pushing contractions to do their work and working with them.

Steven was born at 6:35 and Angela slid out, still in her caul, at 7:05. The two babies looked very different in terms of gestation. Steven was 7'10" He looked plump, fresh and covered in vernix. Angela was 6'0" and had very little vernix. Her skin was wrinkled and peeling.

It is still a mystery which twin wanted things to stop! Did Steven want things to stop because he wasn't ready yet? Did Angela want things to stop because she was still so tiny?

I have never forgotten the way the repatterning worked. I learned the system and use it regularly in my work with parents and in my own life. 

The family tale is that Angela kicked Steven out because she wanted to stretch and she was ready be born. After birth, Steven cried inconsolably until she came out. Maybe he cried because he wasn't ready to be born or maybe he missed being plastered up against Angela and thought she was gone forever. I still don't know, but they are very close, still good friends and still have that dynamic of pushing and pulling each other.

Childhood Perceptions of Breastfeeding

Do you ever wonder how children’s perceptions of breastfeeding evolve as they get older? I do! I am interested in how children’s perceptions change specifically in the period surrounding their wean time, as well as the next couple of years after weaning.

It seems obvious to me that a child’s relationship to breastfeeding evolves from the time they are a newborn till the time they wean. What happens then? Breastfeeding which was always a personal experience for the child becomes something of a spectator sport, something which they no longer participate in, but will often see other children in the act.

Recently, my 2 ½ year old daughter and I were at the library socializing with other children her age. A nursing toddler, a little girl Rita’s size, caught her eye. She hurried over and asked “Are you nursing?” The mother replied “Yes” politely while the nursing toddler went about her business.

Awkward-Extended-Breastfeeding-Explanation crisis averted.

Then Rita asked “How come your still nursing? You're not a tiny baby!” I started to cringe a bit, wondering where this conversation would lead. The mother smiled but paused for a moment and responded “Because she still likes to.” A great answer in my book and Rita seemed content with it too. 

What strikes me as comical about this situation and others similar to it is that Rita breastfed long beyond being a “tiny baby.” In fact when she weaned only a few months previous, she was quite a big girl, weighing in at over 30 lbs and past 2 years old! Yet, for some reason, at this point, Rita only associates nursing with tiny babies.

Perhaps, I am the culprit to Rita’s association of breastfeeding with tiny babies.

As Rita was fully weaned, every so often she would try to nurse on me (she still does this six months after weaning every once in a while). I would respond to her nursing attempts by saying “What are you doing trying to nurse? You're not a tiny baby anymore, you finished up all mama’s milk.” At this she will laugh and forget about her prior request.

Did I oversimplify the breastfeeding relationship to my daughter throughout the weaning process? Granted she is only two, so naturally many of our explanations to her are probably oversimplified. But, after our interaction at the library I felt like I may have fallen short.

My daughter and I breastfed longer than most,  and yet she didn’t understand the relationship when she saw another toddler-mother pair modeling it! I am thinking through continuing to educate her on the evolving role that breastfeeding can play in a child’s life and emphasizing that it is unique to each child.

I have one memory from my youth of breastfeeding.

Growing up, I was not exposed to breastfeeding. It was Christmas and the whole family was together. I drifted from the group and wandered into the seemingly empty living room. There was my Aunt Nancy, with my newborn cousin, silently nursing. I felt like I had interrupted, didn’t belong and snuck out just as quietly as I had entered. That’s it. My only memory of breastfeeding comes from my Aunt isolating herself from the rest of my family to nurse.

I will never forget the first time I saw a group of mothers breastfeeding together.

At that point I was a breastfeeding mom myself and it blew my mind. It kindled an ancient memory in me, as if I, deep down in my cells, remembered a time when women gathered and tended their children together.

I don’t want my daughter to grow up with the minimal exposure to breastfeeding that I had. I want her to understand it as a natural part of our lives, something that does not need to be secretive or concealed.

 I want her to know how it filled me with pride to breastfeed her!  It fills me with joy to think about her experiencing this same relationship someday! As she grows and her memories of being at the breast grow foggier, I will strive to continue educating her about the normalcy of breastfeeding (at any size or age). I’m not trying to turn my two year old into a lactivist by any means; it is simply my hope that as she gets older she remains comfortable with the breastfeeding relationship when she observes it! As with most situations in life, a bit of compassion and understanding go along way!

Till next time, Be Well!

How come you're nursing? You're not a tiny baby!

Do you ever wonder how children’s perceptions of breastfeeding evolve as they get older? I do! I am interested in how children’s perceptions change specifically in the period surrounding their wean time, as well as the next couple of years after weaning. It seems obvious to me that a child’s relationship to breastfeeding evolves from the time they are a newborn until the time they wean.
 
What happens then? Breastfeeding which was always a personal experience for the child becomes something of a spectator sport, something which they no longer participate in, yet they still see other children doing. Recently, my 2 ½ year old daughter and I were at the library socializing with other children her age. A nursing toddler, a little girl, Rita’s size, caught her eye. She hurried over and asked “Are you nursing?” The mother replied “Yes” politely, while the nursing toddler continued breastfeeding.
 
Then, Rita asked “How come you're nursing? You're not a tiny baby!” I started to cringe, wondering where this conversation would lead. The mother smiled but paused for a moment and responded “Because she still likes to.” (A great answer in my book!) Rita seemed content with it too and an awkward 'extended breastfeeding' explanation crisis was averted. What strikes me as comical about this situation and others similar to it is that Rita breastfed long beyond being a “tiny baby”. In fact when she weaned, she was quite the big girl, weighing in at over 30 lbs and past 2 years old! Yet, for some reason, at this point Rita only associates nursing with tiny babies.
 
Perhaps, I am the culprit to Rita’s association of breastfeeding with tiny babies. After Rita weaned, she would try to breastfeed from time to time.  I would respond to her nursing attempts by saying, “What are you doing trying to nurse? You're not a tiny baby anymore, you finished up all mama’s milk.” At this, she would laugh and forget about her request.
 
Did I oversimplify the breastfeeding relationship to my daughter throughout the weaning process? Granted she is only two, so many of our explanations to her are simple. But, after our interaction at the library, I felt like I may have fallen short. My daughter and I breastfed for an extended time, yet she didn’t understand our relationship when she saw another toddler-mother pair modeling it! I think I need to educate her on the evolving role that breastfeeding can play in a child’s life and emphasizing that it is unique to each child.
 
Growing up I was not exposed to breastfeeding. I have one memory from my youth of breastfeeding! It was Christmas and the whole family was together. I drifted from the group and wandered into the seemingly empty living room, there was my Aunt Nancy with my newborn cousin, silently nursing. I felt like I had interrupted and didn’t belong, I snuck out just as quietly as I had entered. That’s it, my only memory of breastfeeding comes from my Aunt isolating herself from the rest of my family to go nurse.
 
I will never forget the first time I saw a group of mothers breastfeeding together. At that point I was a breastfeeding mom myself, and it blew my mind! It was as if it kindled an ancient memory in me, as if, deep down my cells, I remembered a time when women gathered and tended their children together. I don’t want my daughter to grow up with the minimal exposure to breastfeeding that I had. I want her to understand it as a natural part of our lives, something that does not need to be secretive or concealed.
 
I want her to know how it filled me with pride to breastfeed her!  It fills me with joy to think about her experiencing this same relationship someday! As she grows and her memories of being at the breast grow foggier, I will continue educating her about the normalcy of breastfeeding (at any size or age). I’m not trying to turn my two year old into a lactivist by any means; it is simply my hope that as she gets older she remains comfortable with the breastfeeding relationship when she observes it! As with most situations in life, a bit of compassion and understanding go along way!

The Healing Energies of Children

Hello Mamas! The season of our lives when our families are blossoming is a precious time filled with abundant love, joy and satisfaction. But inevitably, we will all experience pain and loss in our lives. This can be hard to deal with when it pierces the bubble of the happy family; particularly, because we tend to be more emotionally vulnerable during these special years. I wanted to take a moment this week and write about the magnificent healing energies of children.

Isn’t there something quite special about how a small child can light up a room! As parents we share this experience in grocery stores, walking down the street or standing in line at the bank: random strangers offering smiles and blessings towards our little ones! I have had several opportunities to experience this on a grand scale when taking my daughter to a nursing home to visit both of my grandmothers. As little Rita made her way through the homes the whole atmosphere seemed to change. Tired faces were suddenly transformed into smiling joyful ones, laughter and small talk would follow us.

It fascinated me and filled me with joy to witness the happiness and hope which makes up the medicine of small children! Children seem to have an innate ability to diminish pain and grief. Perhaps, this is because they encourage us to be present in the moment, to be fully alive in the now! Typically our pain lies not in the present, but in the past (especially when we are speaking of emotional pain as opposed to the physical pain of an illness or injury). Therefore, by opening up the space for us to be present in the moment children allow us to momentarily forget past hurts.

By creating a space where pain and loss are not the dominant emotions, children open up a space in us for love and joy to once again flow freely! There are so many benefits to spending time around small children, undoubtedly it is important for the balanced functioning of societies. For in each stage of our lives children have something different to offer us; whether it be showing older children how there story began and how much they have grown, teaching young adults and new parents responsibility and patience, or offering hope to the elderly; children are healers!  

Children’s miraculous healing powers stem from simple medicine. Theirs is not the medicine of chemistry and pharmaceuticals nor that of herbs and ancient meditation techniques; the medicine of children comes from within. Children offer us heart centered healing energy.  Next time you find yourself feeling down or caught up in past emotional trauma take a walk with your child, hold their tiny hand and allow yourself to be healed.

Remember that as a parent of a small child you are blessed with their cosmic healing powers on a daily basis and that many others can benefit from this as well! Embrace the random stranger who smiles and coos at your child, take a moment to let your child interact with them, who knows the small miracle your child may have to offer!

Till Next Time, Be Well!