Empowering Yourself in Pregnancy

There are so many things that I didn’t do during my first pregnancy due to stubbornness and resistance. It took almost 3 years and a lot of work, conversations, prayers, tears, and the unconditional love and light that Lincoln brings into my life that helped me soften into my role as a mom. Plus I learned that with resistance I only get more resistance and ultimately struggle and unhappiness. I also was desperately trying to cling onto an identity  that it was time for me to graduate from, and resisted the opportunity to let my self be reborn and recreated through the birthing of a child. (Sorry to everyone in my life who I made things more complicated for during this process. Thank you for standing with me and loving me anyway. )

Anyway…this post is about how to empower yourself in your pregnancy and to make things easier and more pleasant for this part of the journey. These are things I wish I would have considered and spent my money on instead of being a grouchy pregnant lady and they have supported me in this pregnancy and I want YOU to know about them.

A pregnancy pillow . And maybe even if you’re not pregnant you should get one. Literally one of the greatest things I’ve ever bought. Due to some consistent discomfort I’ve had in my pelvis this time around, this has made sleeping much better. Especially at the end. Also great if your partner doesn’t like snuggling (or complains it’s too hot to snuggle with you longer than 3 minutes) or if you need something to snuggle with.

A chiropractor that specializes in prenatal care. See the aforementioned pelvic pain. Going to see a chiropractor regularly has supported me in that experience and has also helped me keep my posture neutral as my body shifts around and grows what I can only imagine will be a linebacker. My belief also is that so much of postpartum healing (think diastasis and pelvic floor issues) start during pregnancy with the way you carry your body.

Maternity clothes. (I’m not linking this because there are literally thousands of options). This may be a little different from the first time because my body grew differently the second pregnancy. (read faster, and bigger). At this point I have a limited selection of what I can wear in my closet (where as last time I lived in yoga pants and those stretched with me). And I’m grateful for the few cute pieces I have! Find piece you like and make you feel good. Thankfully we are out of the decade of 80’s maternity wear where the only options were giant bags with sleeves and large lacy collars. Since it’s summer most of the year here in Houston, dresses have been my favorite go to option, and allow me to be super comfortable.

Body Oil. Alright so this is a repeat from the first time. The practice of abhyanga is something I practiced in my first pregnancy and on and off for the last few years. It’s a sweet way that I take care of my physical surface, and I rub oil on my belly (and other parts) every day. It’s a reminder to what I’m creating and taking care of everyday. While oil might seem like it would be too oily, it actually absorbs better into your skin than lotion so there isn’t the leftover just sitting on top of your skin. I like doing this after a bath or shower when my skin is still damp. Coconut oil is also another good option, and because of it’s properties tends to trap heat in your body more, which for me in this pregnancy and in Houston, isn’t ideal until the week we have winter.

After birth support. It seems like there is a lot of stuff about what to do before the baby comes, during labor and delivery, and even what to expect with your baby once she/he arrives. There isn’t a lot (or a lot of women in America) practicing extensive self care post baby. This book is incredible, and while I’m not following it word for word, it’s giving me the support and permission I need to let my body go through the healing process after baby arrives.

Asking for support. (also no link of this one). I over estimated my energy capacity in my first pregnancy. I wound up sick a lot. (I think I had a cold every 6 weeks or so). I was exhausted and wasn’t able to do a lot of the work I wanted to do to get my nest ready for baby bird. This time, I allowed myself to be taken care of by my husband, family, and community in a different way. I didn’t over commit myself and erred on the side of doing less rather than doing more. My energy has been much more steady and consistent, and I’ve had far less emotional breakdowns. This is probably a good practice generally, even if you aren’t pregnant.

Movement. This could be anything. I don’t recommend signing up for any new high impact activities, and keeping your range of movement and your body moving is good for you and baby. Good for blood flow, good for hormones, good for your mental state.

I hope this supports you in someway in your pregnancy, or helps you support somebody else in theirs. Remember each is different so listen to your body and give yourself what you need!

Power of Changing a Conversation

There are so many things I would like to see happen differently for women who are pregnant, women who have given birth, and women who want to have babies. A majority of it lives within the language we speak and the language we tolerate from others. As all things are generated from language first, this will be the first step before we can do anything differently in the world (policies, laws, etc).

One incorrect belief that I find that we hold unitedly is the belief that women’s bodies are downgraded after pregnancy and birth, and that because of that, there is a body to recover, or to get back. This is a belief that I would like to see eradicated by the time I leave this planet. So I’m starting here, to offer another point of view through language, and will continue to encourage people to change their minds.

Here’s what I believe to be true:
1. Just like any other intensely physical experience I’ve had in my life (a yoga practice, discovering new strength I didn’t know existed), my birth served as this amazing (painful, yes) experience that demonstrated the power that my physical body holds. Because I chose to have a medicated free birth, the work, (and yes pain)was handled all by my body. While I was glad that I had a team there to support me, especially at the end, my body knew exactly what it was doing and my mind was the one catching up. ( I recognize that this isn’t the case for everyone who experiences birth, and that there are complications that arise during this process. Yay for modern medicine)

2. Being pregnant again and having a 3 year old has taught me that I don’t have to think about making a baby for my body to make one. It innately knows how to make one,and I don’t have to block off hours of my day to concentrate on making lungs, or fingernails, or a spine for another person. This is incredible. How is this amazing process worthy of a downgrade?

3. Women’s bodies are also capable of not only growing a baby for 9 months, but then continuing to grow a baby once it’s in the world. Babies can be sustained for a long time on the milk that is produced through a woman’s body, without anything added. This milk not only provides nourishment to help a babe grow, it also serves as a way to keep the babe healthy through antibodies from the mama. (also have you read any of the studies that they are doing that women’s milk is the new cure for cancer?! Amazing to say the least). (*also, I recognize that this isn’t the experience or desire of every woman out there)

4. Women are literally the reason that the human race continues to exist. The process of becoming a mom is challenging: physically, emotionally, and mentally. Getting pregnant can be hard, and they don’t always go as planned. And then for some reason we agreed to the idea that women’s bodies need to go BACK to something. Yes, there is strength to be regained, and a new body exists that women can choose how they want to create it.

5. Nobody in my life has loved me less because I have stretch marks and cellulite. My body doesn’t work any less powerfully because of these things either. Nothing in my life has been profoundly impacted by any of this. What has profoundly impacted my life, my body, and my mind, is knowing and OWNING what my body is capable of through the growing and birthing of a child. I have learned what I am capable of physically, and what I can do, and also through this experience learned the reverence of rest and taking care of my body. Some of both practices were missing before.

So let’s start a new conversation, and use new words. Instead of on insisting that we go back, can we create brand new and even better than before as we stand in our power as women and creators of life?

Where has the discipline gone?

Don’t worry. This isn’t a blog post about spanking kids or putting them in time out.

This is about you. And that we as parents are possibly disciplining the wrong people.

Imagine that you have taken a brand new job, that has a completely different set of rules than your last job, that your boss literally told you when/how to do every part of your job, and you were responsible for anything that they didn’t tell you to do, and they were doing it all in a different language. While this example may be a little extreme, it seems like something similar to what children experience. Before you shut down your computer in a huff, hear me out.

Children have very few options in everyday life. They are told what to do, how to do it, where to go, and all the while trying to understand with whatever limited cognitive skills they have to process what they’re being told. They are taken places that are not always appropriate for their level of attention, (read: restaurants for a long dinner with you and your friends, or even a long dinner over the holidays), and then expected to behave a certain way once they are there. As adults, we have more choice in the places we choose to go, or the things we do, and for the most part children do not, and are expected to still behave in a certain way once they are there. If you were overly exhausted/emotional/uninterested in a certain gathering, as an adult you could choose not to attend and do something else with your time and your energy and save yourself (and the public) from whatever mood you might be in. Children on the other hand are usually taken anyway, and while they have much less self control, or the ability to choose something else, they are expected to behave a certain way.

Please somebody explain this to me because it seems absolutely insane.

Furthermore, when children don’t get their own way, or want something and don’t get it, they get upset. Have you ever been upset by something you didn’t get that was really important to you? Sure, another toy from the store may not be important to you as the adult, and it could be to your child.

The point of all of this is to say that as the adults, as the ones who have been here the longest, who seemingly know more, are the ones who should be responsible for our own discipline, as well as what it is that we expose our children to that is not appropriate for them at the time. When you get upset, remember that you are teaching things all the times to your child-if you discipline your child for getting upset when something happens that they don’t like, do you in turn do that for yourself? Can we add in more compassion for our children who are literally JUST learning things about how to be on the planet, and even if there wasn’t a lot of grace bestowed upon us as we were growing up and learning, doesn’t mean we need to be stingy with it now. Take the time to teach the things that are important and be gracious with them as they learn, just as you would want somebody to be gracious with you as you learn a new skill, and remember that your kids do not have the same priorities, brain development, or ideas as you. So when things fall apart, or your child doesn’t behave the way you want them to in a certain moment, remember that YOU taking responsibility will have a far greater impact on you and them, than you getting upset with them. That is the discipline of responsibility that we get to carry and practice as parents.

Where could a shift in taking responsibility give a whole new perspective and atmosphere to you as a parent and in your family?

Lay down, and just lay down

Do you remember in one of my previous posts, when I talked about feeling hesitant in my first pregnancy about who I would become and how people would view me once I had a baby? There is a new kind of competitiveness that we have as females to outdo each other in our jobs, families, children, etc. While there may be some good side effects from this, it is mostly ego driven and essentially provides nothing in the long run, especially for our wholeness.

When I would dream or plan about my life when I was younger, and dreamt of having babies, I rarely thought of the time period immediately following birth. It was until my midwife explained and highly encouraged that I take the first two weeks following birth to rest and essentially stay in bed. It seemed like a great idea and went against the grit of what I had unknowingly planned on doing, which was getting “back” to my life. In her adaptation from the ancient Chinese practice of sitting the month, she recommended 15 days of absolute rest: no chores, no moving, no exercising, lots of baby bonding time, and lots of sleep. The reasons being that the postpartum body is still in recovery (even longer than those 15 days, and even longer still than the 6 weeks the doctor tells you to refrain from sex and exercise), the organs have massively shifted around, and while you may be mentally ready to “get back to it”, your body needs more time to heal. After undergoing one of the most challenging physical experiences of a drug free birth, and experience all of the intensity that it brought physically and the intensity of being so overwhelmed with love, the best thing for me to do was rest. It allowed for immediate bonding with Lincoln, allowed my body to heal and rest, and for my insides to recover. I think sometimes we have a disconnection from what’s happening inside our bodies because we can’t see it actually happening. 

If the thought of resting gives you some kind of anxiety, remember that there isn’t anything more important than taking care of  your body after it’s done some thing so incredible, especially not getting back in shape or proving that you can get back out there fastest and first. Those actions will most likely leave you with some unfortunate side effects emotionally, mentally, and physically (can you say no pelvic floor recovery). And there is nothing more important than bonding with your baby in those first few weeks, so you can learn everything about them: every sound and every movement.

Here’s how to be successful in this process if you’ve never done it before:
1. Ask for help. Yes this principle shows up again. Practice it often if you’re going to be successful as a parent/human being. Ask for help with food prep, house cleaning, and even for company as you need or want it. Schedule people in your life who are going to come see you anyway to bring you food. Clear communication about what you want and what you need will always make things easier.
2. Be clear that you aren’t entertaining people. If people are coming to visit, they should be contributing to your family in some way. This is not an opportunity for people to drop by and hang out for long periods of time. Feel free to tell people to go home if they have overstayed their welcome.
3.  Enjoy the time you have to rest with your precious new baby! Sleep as much as possible (your body recovers best when it is sleeping/resting) and remember that anything else other than sleeping, bonding with your baby, and eating are not necessary at this point.
4. Continue to give up the idea that you should be doing something and that you are lazy/not doing enough because you are resting. Remember that your body just worked really hard for 9 months and still is to provide nutrition for your baby.
5. Be willing to face criticism from people who don’t understand what you’re doing. Remember you’ll want to be able to have full control of your pelvic floor when you’re 60 and that’s part of the reason you’re doing this-to take care of you, not to take care of other people’s expectations of you.
6. Plan to eat well. This doesn’t mean eating everything you weren’t able to eat during pregnancy (although I’m looking forward to a donut or 12 in my postpartum recovery), it does mean eating nourishing foods that provide vitamins and things to heal your systems.

I know that this list could possibly be longer, and I will update it once I have an idea of how to do this with an older child and all of the above things still apply. And include your older child in your rest and recovery. Make sure they get some sweet snuggle time with you as well during this period. Part of asking for help will be to make sure that they have somebody to tend and entertain them in those first few weeks ( a spouse or grandparent is a great idea for this), so they don’t feel completely left out of the new family dynamic.

What do you think about this? Would you give this a chance in your recovery or would you recommend it to a friend in their recovery?

Retirement and Rebirth again

Pregnancy is an adaptation of life on all levels: eating, sleeping, body, general movement, exercise, sex, daily interactions with self and others. And if you are willing to adapt to all of this, it can actually be ok (unless you feel like garbage all the time, in which case pregnancy just plain sucks).

In both my first pregnancy and this one, as the pregnancy progresses, I feel more and more like I’m moving towards retirement. There is an end to the current life/being/relationships that I have and there will be something new on the other side. Unlike other seasons and situations in my life, I can’t quite see what IS on the other side, and that’s where faith comes in. Trusting that all is and will be well.

I’ve never retired from anything before. I’m not really old enough, nor have I done many things long enough to retire from them. As I move onward to July 2nd, I feel more and more like I’m moving into retirement. My life and relationships as I know them will shift and change, because who I am now, will no longer be. When a women gives birth to a child, there are actually 2 births that happen. The one where the child is born, and the one where the woman is reborn into something brand new. My perspective of the world was completely altered after I had Lincoln. Things that I thought that were important, no longer held as much or any significance, because I suddenly had a new perspective that I’ve never been able to get, even through years of training and transformational work. How many chances do we really get in life to be reborn?

This is a process I look forward to and have some apprehension over as well, largely due to the fact that I cannot see as far as I usually think I can, and there is no way to predict exactly how it will go.

Trusting this process and trusting the divine plan and Maker, gives me ease as I steadily march towards a new beginning and leave the old self behind.

How are you feeling?

This is the question I get asked most often it seems during pregnancy. This question stumps me, and I usually just respond with fine, good, happy, etc. Its similar to the question one gets asked when not pregnant: how are you doing? It’s such a loaded question, and seems to have become a type of greeting, rather than an interest in the one in question’s life. Do people really want to know the answer? Are they referring to my mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual state? How much time does this person have to hear what I have to say and do they want to know?

So here are the things that I feel now, and at any given point (this is not an extensive list) and just to give you an idea:

  1. Hungry. Seriously, it doesn’t happen to all pregnant women, and this baby may end up being a linebacker.
  2. Nauseated. This has mostly passed for me, and occasionally it pops back up.
  3. Tired. Also, different that being pregnant the first time, when I could come home and rest/nap leisurely if I needed to. Not so much anymore.
  4. Happy and excited. I get to have another baby!
  5. Nervous. This baby has to come out at some point. I’m beginning to remember what that was like…
  6. Mindful of the future. What will it be like to have 2? Will I be able to love the second one as much as the first?
  7. Sad. We are getting ready to close a chapter in our lives and begin a new one. The ending of something so sweet and wonderful makes me sad.
  8. Nervous. Am I going to mess something up? Am I eating enough protein?
  9. Content. Everything is happening exactly as it should. This feeling replaces all other feelings when I can feel my little guy moving around and turning somersaults, or doing a round of Journey Into Power.

Thank you to everyone who demonstrates such tremendous levels of love and support for me on a daily basis. Even simply asking me how I am, demonstrates that you care, even if I’m not sure how to answer.

What are other questions we could ask each other to demonstrate our care, love and concern for each others well being?

Taking Care of the Basics: Part 3

This post is about connection and the connection to different things and people that can create a beautiful balance for the newness of becoming a parent. There are several things to look for as you make the transition into parenthood: connection with self, connection with others, and connection to your very own interests.

It seems easy to lose connection to self when becoming a parent, throwing out self care practices, ignoring body signals all for the noble cause of parenting. Remember that if you are going to do this job well, you can’t neglect taking care of your body. Unless its a regular pre-parenting practice to go days without showering, don’t do that. Make sure you eat food, (especially if you’re nursing) and get sleep. Ask for help when you need it so you can do all these things to take care of yourself. Nobody is handing out medals for you doing it all on your own.

Being able to connect with another adult human is really important as a parent. Kids are wonderful and amazing, and sometimes, you need to speak to somebody who understands all the words you use, or who will respond without drooling. Reach out and ask for company, a phone call, or a coffee date when you need it. Connection also refers to the connection between you and your partner. Even if you aren’t ready for the most intimate of connections right away or all the time, talk to each other, hold hands, and get and give lots of hugs. Sometimes the physical strain of being a parent (especially if you’re breastfeeding) can be overwhelming, and you need to be restored through another kind of connection.

Continue to connect to the things that you find interesting. Yes, there may be a period of time before you can resume some of those activities, (i.e. physical exercise). Staying connected to these things will give you different insights as a parent, as well as teaching your child from a young age to that self care and self interests as a parent are important, thus teaching them a healthy level of boundary in the relationship. Don’t completely give up things you find interesting simply because you’ve had a baby. You may have a shift in the things that interest you, and that’s ok too. Make sure you are filling your own cup so that you can continue to give and feel fulfilled.

Where have you lost some connection that you could simply reconnect with? Where could you reach out to ask for help to build even more connection?

Let your children do the teaching-Sabbath Learnings

Sunday was another beautiful day spent wrapped in the cocoon of family time and rest.

I am amazed every week at the brilliance of this plan in our lives right now and the ability to be able to carry it through. It’s become a necessity in my life and the compounded impact that it will have on our family in the future is immense.

Spending time watching my son play and grow has been so restorative to me and I have been overwhelmed with the love that he has stored in his little body.

At one point on Sunday evening as I was getting his bath ready, he wrapped his arms around my leg and hugged me and I realized in that moment that there is an unconditional amount of love that he has for me. Toddlers are finicky, yes, and the way they love is pure. It isn’t clouded by reasons, or circumstances. How often do I love other people based only on circumstances? How often do I love people only when I get my way, or I’m happy, or the world is spinning at the right speed? How often is my love clouded with disappointment or only handed out sparingly, and how much do I reason about the love that I allow myself to give away?

This little being that has been entrusted to my care has so much to teach and show me about the things I think I already know. And if I’m humble enough, I’ll be able to learn the lessons that he has to teach me.

How to Speak to a Pregnant Woman

Pregnancy is so interesting in and of itself. The other thing that is interesting is that people seem to feel that they are free to have unlimited commentary about you and your body. I wouldn’t ever think it appropriate to comment on another humans weight gain, say after a stressful few months, and yet people feel at liberty to do this with the people who are responsible for repopulating the planet. Here is a short tutorial on how not to speak to pregnant women and how to speak to pregnant women.

When speaking to a pregnant woman, refrain from saying things like:
1. Are you sure you aren’t having twins?
2. Wow. You sure are big. (RUDE.)
3. You have HOW much longer left?! (as if to suggest that since I am already so big, how could I possibly get bigger)
4. Anything that you wouldn’t say to somebody who isn’t pregnant. Remember that pregnant women are people too and have WAY more feelings than most people and all at the same time. It makes for an exciting 10 months.

What you could say instead:
1. You look amazing. (she probably won’t believe you and you should tell her often. Look at the difference it made with some apples here.)
2. Here I brought you this snack (only say this if you actually have a snack. My experience is that when I’m hungry, I turn primal and would eat you if you didn’t actually have a snack)
3. What are you most excited about becoming a parent for the first (second, third, forth) time?
4. How is ______ in your life going? Amazingly enough pregnancy is usually only one of a million things happening in a woman’s life during those 10 months (yes it’s actually 10 months). Sometimes it can feel like everyone forgets that and I’ve become a baby only making machine.
5. Is there anything I can do to make your life easier?( Who wouldn’t want to hear this? Also, like #2 only say it if you are going to actually follow through.)
6. Hand them a pile of cash. Just kidding. Sort of.

 

 

Taking Care of the Basics: Part 2

I have discovered the importance of food during this pregnancy. When I was pregnant with Lincoln, I felt so sick, I barely wanted to eat, and had to force myself a lot of times to eat food.

This pregnancy is completely different and I’ve been hungry almost the entire time. While there is the old thought that you can just eat as much as you want or whatever you want while pregnant, it’s not actually a good idea to follow this. For one, while we are becoming more aware of how bad sugar is for our bodies, this is even more so in pregnancy, as the pregnant body digests sugars differently. This includes fruit. Too much fruit can cause an increase in amniotic fluids. Additionally since your body doesn’t necessarily differentiate  between different kinds of sugar (sugar is sugar is sugar), including fruit, too much can also grow a really big baby.

Anyway. This blog post isn’t about what you should eat while you’re pregnant. I will also be the first to confess that I haven’t been a good example of the above statement, and it’s usually due to lack of preparation when it comes to food. A lot of times, the easiest thing to grab and eat when I’m hungry (an experience that goes from 0 to 60 immediately)is some kind of carb. Protein and veggies are almost less handy, and the exact thing that sounds good is also almost less available. I would almost always rather eat a cupcake than a piece of chicken.

When I plan out our meals and I’m honest with myself about what I will actually eat for breakfast/lunches/snacks, and buy those things at the store, instead of buying what I think I should buy, I am way more successful when it comes to eating to feel good and keep my energy up. Eating is sometimes a stressful thing in my life, because I don’t plan for it and I wait till the last minute to get something together to eat. By that time, I’ve depleted my energy and caused unnecessary stress to my body. Given that I have plenty of money, time, and resources, eating shouldn’t be as stressful as I’ve let it become.

Creating and planning for meals is something that I’ve shifted my attention to again. This is one of those vital areas where as a parent, we should be spending time, and when allowed, money to nourish our bodies. It is after all an important task to do to continue with all the things we need and want to do. I have also found that when growing a baby and a toddler, I am more productive in my role as a mom (and wife, daughter, employee, citizen, human) when I’ve eaten, and eaten good nourishing food. I used to have the belief (up until like 3 months ago) that eating out was really luxurious, and so we did it often. The real luxury is to have a plan, and to eat good whole foods that we can cook ourselves. Not only does this give us what we need to nourish ourselves, it also gives us more connection in our family to prepare our food together and cuts down on the stressful conversations we would have nightly about what to have for dinner.

I’m not going to tell you what kind of diet to follow. I think different bodies require different things and at different stages in life. And food is supposed to make you feel good. If the food you eat doesn’t make you feel good, or leaves you feeling drained, or sick, consider something else. Take the time to prep your food. What could you cut out of your schedule in order to do that?