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Pulling a Double Shift: Working with a Baby: The Calm in the Chaos

Pulling a Double Shift

Hello Mamas!

It has been a whirlwind of a week in my part of town! With gardening season in full swing, my daughter’s seemingly exponential pace and zest for life, my husband in Manhattan for work, dog sitting, and my GMO education outreach here in town, my head has just slowed to a stationary position (from full on spinning for the last couple days).

Silly me, I double-booked myself again! Since I have become a mom, I have developed the unfortunate habit of double-booking myself. Planning to be in two places doing three jobs at once! Three jobs because if I am working my daughter is by my side.

This past week I had scheduled myself to the point of no return… I had volunteered to dog sit (my mother’s lovable pup) and to man an outreach table at Farm Fest on campus on Thursday, all while my husband was out of town for business!

He returned last night and the dog was picked up this morning, hence my ability to write cohesive thoughts on the page. After day one (of three days total) of dog sitting, outreach at Farmfest, and hubby out of town; I felt rusty. Rusty in my bones; when I put Rita and the dog down to bed for the night I was done. I was still done when Rita awoke at 5:30 the next morning to begin our next fun filled day of adventure!

But, this is more than a rant about how hectic my last couple of days were; this is the story of achievement on the cosmic level! This past Saturday, (Day 3 of dig sit/ no hubby fest) I managed to meditate for the first time since Rita has been born.

Seriously, for almost three years now my mind has been so hyperactive that I have not successfully meditated, or truly quieted my mind in that space of time, until yesterday! Blissful is the quiet mind! After harvesting some greens around the yard to throw into a recipe I found myself with the space to sit in my yard and meditate.

A space just for me, but, at the same time for the whole universe. I fell into the void: out of myself and became one with everything else again! I was content. I had achieved some kind of nirvana amidst chaos, yes! Finding calm within the chaos… I am so surprised to report that the first time I have truly meditated in years coincided with one of the most hectic weeks of my adult life!

If you would have told me to “keep calm and meditate” when I ranted about my busy, over loaded week, I probably would of went lioness and ripped some heads off! But, seriously I think there is a lot to be said about finding calm in the storm.

When we are able to maintain inner calm, emotions like happiness and joy just seem to flow toward us and emanate from us! I think part of my ability to find this place of inner calm within myself was because I felt accomplished: Super Mama!

I had handled all of my life’s tasks by myself, plus some extra work, including outreach, gardening and dog sitting! I also managed to succeed at most of these things! (As anyone of you who work with your young children around know, for every one task accomplished three more projects are created! Ask me about how Farmfest outreach went with toddler in tow for a good laugh).

Meditate on this: How amazing is our ability to thrive! I truly believe in the power of positive thinking. I can think back now to the time wasted worrying about what a hard time I was going to have while my husband was out of town.

In retrospect, it was all for null because my daughter, dog for the weekend, and I were a great trio! Within us all lays great strength and the ability to do more than merely to survive but to flourish. Let us all work to live in a space where we recognize our true potential at that of those around us!

Till next time, in the wise words of Willy Wonka: We are the Music Makers, We are the Dreamers of the Dream… Be Well!


Mother and Daughter: Friends Forever

Hello Mamas! Today I experienced my first writer's block in a long time. Looking for inspiration, I asked my daughter, “What should mama write about today?” She replied “Write a note about what daddy does at work all day.” That made me laugh! Although I find my husband's career path quite captivating, I will spare you all the details of a day in the life of a Community Outreach Director!
Instead, I want to chat about the evolution of mother-daughter relationships! Of course, all of my feelings apply to a mother-son relationship as well, but I chose to highlight mother-daugher for two reasons 1) because I have a daughter (Thanks, Captain Obvious : ) ) But, also because so much time and resources have been dedicated to the precious often tumultuous mother-daughter duo.
“I’m always gonna be your friend, always!” Rita exclaimed in her sing-song toddler speak. With those few simple words my heart melted. Lately, Rita and I have had our fair share of battles. Mini battles which stem from day-to-day tantrum prompters like brushing her curly locks, getting shoes and a coat on, or, our latest episode: who gets her out of her crib in the morning, mom or dad. If mom arrives surely she will cry out for Daddy, and vise versa! Very annoying first thing in the morning. After the third morning of her rejecting my open arms and calling for dad, the tears came! Mama’s feelings were hurt!
Surely I put my mother’s tender heart through the blender more than a few times! Lately, I constantly have to remind myself not to take Rita’s little mood swings and off color comments personally. Most of all I remind myself: She is only 2 years old and does not understand that some words truly can cut like a knife! In the midst of our mini battles (much worse when Dad is not around to mediate) I have to take a step back and say “Hey, you are the adult here, don’t start throwing your own fit!” I have noticed that for the first time since Rita is born I have given her some “attitude”. Meaning, she hits that last nerve of mine and I get sassy and change my tone with her, almost like sisters! I do not like this; it makes me feel very childish! But, apparently there is still a part of me who feels rejected and disheartened when I feel unappreciated and mistreated by my loved ones. Naturally, right?
It seems to me as mothers we often put aside our inner emotions for the sake of others, and it sucks! Sometimes, it is so important to express these emotions to our family members so they understand where we are coming from and we walk away feeling like our emotions are rational and justified. Letting it out every once in a while is way better than blowing your top at any given moment given the proper stimulus. Nobody likes to watch a toddler meltdown, but nobody, I mean nobody wants to watch a mother publicly meltdown!
Even though we have all been there, we look upon that mom losing it with her kid in the grocery store and think, "Man, what kinda mother...?” From now on, I am going to make it a point to give a little smile or reassuring “I’ve been there, Sister” because for me, nothing is worse than feeling like you are going through the tribulations of motherhood in isolation!
So, can mother and child be friends forever? I absolutely think so! I feel it is our responsibility to help foster that friendly, fun-filled relationship with our children. Not that we should dismiss role of disciplinarian and life guide, but rather that we can have our cake and eat it too. We can raise children who respect us but also think of us as a friend, how revolutionary!
Till Next Time, Be Well! To Flourishing Friendships!


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!

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