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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.apple toddlers new baby new paltz

There's something remarkable 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!

An Infinite World of Possibility!

Hello Mamas!

In previous writing I have spoken about the unadulterated innocence of small children and how truly inspiring it can be. Young children live in a world where the realm of possibilities is infinite; the world truly is their oyster!

Recently, I have found myself completely enamored with my 2 ½ year old daughter’s perspective! Her imagination has grown in leaps and bounds over the last six months and it never ceases to amaze me.

“Someday when I’m a kitty I will do that too!” Little Rita Cassidy profoundly exclaimed this to me after I explained to her how our cat cleans himself by licking. This line of thinking was very amusing to me. In her world there exists a someday in which she will be a cat!

We often hear phrases like “Kids say the darndest things”, (in fact there was a whole TV series with this title in the 90’s!) But, it seems these are mostly laughed off without any further thought into what this can tell us about child psychology. I am by no means an expert in child psychology; nevertheless the minds of small children fascinate me.

I cannot help but think that these imaginative statements are more than just children being silly. They represent the mind set that small children carry; a world without borders, improbability, and universal laws such as gravity, chemistry and physics!

Imagine a world in which no real rules apply, (except of course to be nice to thy neighbor and such) this is the world typically left to authors of fiction and artists. When we allow ourselves to partake in this world and go on a journey of imagination with our children, we are able to break our old rusty cage of possibility and become unencumbered by risks and odds.

Instead, we begin to live in a world of chance, a world in which the universe is always on our side just waiting to help our dreams take flight! Even if we only allow our imaginations to run free a couple times each month while we indulge our children there is an exhilaration and simple joy that can be found while letting go of traditional states of being and the laws of the universe.

This may be the spark which gets that fire burning in us again to follow a dream or path we have been putting off with skepticism, inspiring in us a child-like eagerness to achieve that which may seem impossible!

I have always felt strongly that children have just as much to teach us as we do them. Perhaps, some of the greatest lessons they have to teach us involve forgetting the notions that have begun to weigh us down as adults. From our children we can learn to break down borders; to see the forest for far more than just the trees!

For a moment imagine a world where global peace is possible, where parents can let their children run and play freely without fear of exposure to harsh chemicals and environmental contaminants, a world where woman help woman and men are not defined by traditional roles of manhood.

This world is achievable, a place most of us would be happy for our children to live out their days in. Let us work together to make today’s dreams tomorrow’s realities; our children can show us the perfect place to begin our journey, at heart’s center where nothing is impossible!

 “Do not be satisfied with the stories that come before you, unfold your own myth”
- Rumi, A poet, theologian & mystic

Till next time, Be well and Dream on!


Celebrating the Woman Within the Mother

Happy, Happy 2014!

As we take time to embrace a new year, it is important that we also take some time and embrace ourselves. That is, give yourself a little pat on the back! A pat on the back for all the hard work you put in and the love you pour out as a mother.

Take some time to enjoy some activities simply because they make you happy! You as a person, as an individual with needs, beyond the all encompassing realm of motherhood!

“I mourn the life I had before I was a mother,” a dear friend of mine and mother of two beautiful young children articulated in a recent phone conversation of ours. These may seem like the words of a new mom burdened with the many duties and responsibilities of motherhood or from a woman adjusting to the idea of herself as a mother figure, but no!

These words come from a strong, devoted woman who always saw herself as a mother within her lifetime. A mother who chooses to stay at home with her young children, to raise them, to exclusively breastfeed, to grow a garden to provide her family with optimal nourishment, ultimately a mother whose greatest priority is providing her children with the best start in life she can!

What is it that calls her to mourn the life she had prior to becoming a mom?

It is apparent she finds her role as a mother most fulfilling! However, it is not the mother within her who mourns, it is the woman! The woman who spent her maiden days wandering through the forest, creating art and poetry, going to rock and roll concerts, baking birthday cakes for friends, and simply reading books, this woman inside grieves!

As fellow mothers, comrades on this spiraling journey, we understand all too well how few and far between moments meant for idleness and indulging in one’s passions come along. Most of us find joy in the simple pleasure of brushing our hair and teeth before leaving the house! When we can barely find the time for oral hygiene, where do our needs as women fall?

All too often our needs as a woman, within the mother, fall by the wayside. This neglect for the woman within us leaves us feeling frazzled, totally drained and mundane. The frazzled mother grieves for the woman who once ruled her days, not because she wishes to go back to that time in her life, but rather because that woman is still inside her begging to be indulged!

That woman calls to her from within! But, surrounded by the seemingly never-ending tasks of motherhood, her cries remain unheard and unanswered. When these calls remain unanswered for too long the results can be destructive; sadness and depression, hopelessness, and devaluation of oneself for not finding happiness in motherhood. At the end of the day there exists a mother and a woman who is unhappy.

This is a call to action!

Take the time to nourish your inner sacred reservoir! This sacred reservoir is the place where the woman in you resides. When your reservoir is depleted just getting through life’s daily tasks can seem daunting.

Conversely, when your sacred reservoir is full you are able to flow through each day in sink with the universe broad stepping daily inconveniences without a negative thought! In this fulfilled and optimally nourished state of being you are able to be the sacred blessed mother you strive to be!

How do I nourish my inner sacred reservoir?

The answer to this question is different for each mother and can be formulated by listening to the woman within! Some woman may require more creative independent time than others, while an indulgent bath may do the trick for some, a solo walk in the woods or a visit with old friends may be necessary for others. Only you can stake out the path, the perfect mixture of “me time” which will sustain you as a mother and nourish the woman within!

Be an advocate; recognize this need in other moms!

As mothers we are often able to recognize the signs of burnout in a fellow mother. Be the first to tell a friend, “It sounds like you need a break”. I find it helps to emphasize the fact that taking time out for your self is not selfish, but rather it is compassionate, because understanding your needs as a woman will allow you to find the balance you need to be a joyful mother.

Perhaps you can help out a mother in need by offering to host a play date at your place allowing her some free time or try to entice her with an afternoon out on the town while dad stays at home with the little one. Of course, we can always help each other by providing a shoulder to lean on, someone who will listen without quickly countering with how difficult your day as a mother was, a caring friend!

Whether you’re an earth mama or a rainbow mother, two cups of coffee to start the day or a strictly herbal type of gal, you have needs! Always take some time to nourish your inner sacred reservoir and listen to the woman within, after all she is wise and lives at the core of your being.

The thought of mothers looking out for mothers and creating a space of compassion, makes my heart full! It is my hope that we never lose touch with our inner voice, the woman within who guided us on our path to motherhood. May she be ever nurtured!

Till Next Time, Be Well!

Maternal Archetypes: Earth Mothers & Creative Mamas

Hello Mamas!

Lately, I have been thinking about maternal archetypes. Archetypes are collective and are influenced by social groups and culture as much as by individual experience.

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Most of us, if asked to describe “a mother figure,” have a set group of characteristics that define the role of mother. This is the "maternal archetype." From home to home and culture to culture, this archetype will vary, but there are many universal commonalities. We can rattle off a few traits that describe most mothers: caring, nurturing, loving, etc.

Many of these archetypes have remained remarkably unchanged throughout our history.

In ancient Mayan culture existed a belief called “La Ultima Madre.”  During pregnancy, Mayan woman were told of two types of mother, “Rainbow Mother” and “Nurturing Mother”. Rainbow Mother does not nurture her children, but rather inspires them through the energies of art and dance. Nurturing Mother, on the other hand, raises her children and nourishes them by growing corn.

While browsing a book of quotes about motherhood I came across a quote by Lynn Andrews, an author and shaman, which really caught my attention. Andrews has taken the ancient Mayan belief and made it relevant to the present day mother.

She describes two maternal archetypes that most women fall into; Earth Mothers and Creative Rainbow Mothers.

Earth Mothers nurture their children through feeding them and providing for their basic needs. Earth mothers thrive on their responsibilities as a mother. Meeting the needs of her children brings fulfillment to the mother as a person. This is the more iconic role of mother in our society.

Creative Rainbow Mothers, on the other hand, inspire their children without necessarily having meals on the table on time. These mothers nourish their children by inspiring them. Often the lives of the children are structured around the mother’s need to keep her creative energies flowing. For many Rainbow Mothers, having a creative outlet is necessary to their general well-being, and allows for them to be the best mother possible.

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What comes to mind when you think about maternal archetypes and the “role” of a mother?

Do you fit into one of these archetypes? Do some aspects of your personality fit more easily into the box you define as motherhood? I think many of us probably fall somewhere in the middle, carrying with us elements of both rainbow mother and earth mother. Over the last two years of raising Rita, my personal struggle has been to find the right balance between my nurturing and creative sides.

Perhaps it is when we nurture our rainbow mother that our inner earth mother is able to shine.

Until next time, be well!



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