Mothering http://www.mothering.com/articles Mon, 27 Apr 2015 23:33:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mothering no Mothering http://www.mothering.com/articles/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://www.mothering.com/articles Counting Stars http://www.mothering.com/articles/counting-stars/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/counting-stars/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 22:51:01 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=74538 Mo-om!” my son calls to me in the harried minutes before dinner. In haste, I join him and his 20-month-old sister in the living room.

“What is it, sweetheart?” I ask, wooden spoon forgotten in my hand. A bit of sauce drips on the laminate floor. I let the dog lick it up.

“She took my tractor!”

My spirited 5-year-old had us, and all his toys, to himself for almost 4 years. It is a struggle sometimes to share. To learn to give, to let go. And his baby sister can be feisty. As he rips the toy from her tiny hand, she reaches out and whacks him in the face.

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By Amanda Linsmeier for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

“Mo-om!” my son calls to me in the harried minutes before dinner. In haste, I join him and his 20-month-old sister in the living room.

“What is it, sweetheart?” I ask, wooden spoon forgotten in my hand. A bit of sauce drips on the laminate floor. I let the dog lick it up.

“She took my tractor!”

My spirited 5-year-old had us, and all his toys, to himself for almost 4 years. It is a struggle sometimes to share. To learn to give, to let go. And his baby sister can be feisty. As he rips the toy from her tiny hand, she reaches out and whacks him in the face.

Before I even try to handle the situation, my son stomps off, murmuring under frustrated tears, “I wish I didn’t have a sister.”

Usually, my oldest is gentle and patient with her. On a recent afternoon, I walked past the living room with a basket of laundry and there they were, unprompted, sitting close, holding hands. It was one of those cup-runneth-over moments.

However, when one or both of them refuse to share, or are in the way, or something else equally annoying, occasionally that phrase comes out, and I cringe internally. I think about what his father and I went through to have a second child, his baby sister, who looks at him in such adoration, but I don’t say anything.

My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. It was quick, and straightforward, at 7 weeks. All the same, it broke my heart. When I conceived my son a couple months later, I was terrified. But, he came along, born spontaneously on his due date, beautiful and healthy. After that, I did not worry. I had mastered the secret, I thought. When I conceived shortly after his first birthday I smiled wryly. I was both scared and thrilled he would have a sibling so close in age. It never entered my mind that would not happen.

Read More

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The Evolution of My Birthday http://www.mothering.com/articles/evolution-birthday/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/evolution-birthday/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 21:30:02 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=73578 Throughout the years, the meaning of my birthday has changed. As a child it was a celebratory day for parties and presents. Entering into adolescence, it became a marker of milestones — driving, voting, drinking — all bringing me closer to independence and adulthood. Around my 23rd birthday, my father was diagnosed with Leukemia. The […]

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Throughout the years, the meaning of my birthday has changed.

As a child it was a celebratory day for parties and presents.

Entering into adolescence, it became a marker of milestones — driving, voting, drinking — all bringing me closer to independence and adulthood.

Around my 23rd birthday, my father was diagnosed with Leukemia.

The next birthday brought the return of his cancer.

Years flowed into each other as my birthday vanished into busy life. There were family gatherings, but they weren’t the same without my father. My birthday was a reminder of his illness. All the magic of birthdays from my childhood were lost.

Then life changed with the arrival of my daughter. Her birthday became my focus. Her birthday became magic.

I was 29. Lost in the plans of her first party when my health declined.

Two days before her birthday, I woke up from a biopsy with the news: cancer.

That one moment changed everything. My daughter’s birthday passed in the background of hopes — hopes that I would be alive for Christmas, hopes that I would watch her open presents one more time, hopes that I would live.

Winter passed, chemotherapy and radiation failed to put me in remission. An unlikely surgery was my only chance of survival.

The surgery was scheduled two days before my 30th birthday. My birthday present that year was going to be my release from the hospital.

It took another year, and another birthday to realized I gained something more than a hospital release.

I was given another chance at life.

A flood of gratitude washed over me that year. My birthday was reborn, a celebration of my re-birth. A celebration of being alive. My father may have passed on, but I was still alive. That was a miracle.

Time went on. I focused on healing. I focused on motherhood.

Two years after diagnosis, I was celebrating my birthday as a single woman, living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and surrounded by friends that cared for me while I was sick.

Three years after diagnosis, I was celebrating in Hawaii, in the company of my daughter, and the man who won my trust and my heart.

The next year, we celebrated in California as a family united by our marriage. We had a fairy tale love story. We wanted to continue the story, and have another child. The doctors were telling us that was impossible.

But my birthday has come around again. This time, my present arrived a week early — the birth of our son.

Birthday Boy

As I begin to celebrate another trip around the Sun, I reflect on the blessings and adventures of these years. How much has change. How much I have changed.

Five years ago, I was wheeled into surgery, unsure how many birthdays I had left.

Today I write this post watching over my son. My healthy, beautiful, perfect son. The son I was told was an impossible dream. The son I knew would be born.

Gratitude washes over me. Change and healing are possible. Miracles surround us everyday.

I am alive, and my son has been born.

It is a wonderful birthday indeed.

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CARE Launches Urgent Appeal for Funds as Death Toll in Nepal Rises http://www.mothering.com/articles/care-launches-urgent-appeal-for-funds-as-death-toll-in-nepal-rises/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/care-launches-urgent-appeal-for-funds-as-death-toll-in-nepal-rises/#comments Sun, 26 Apr 2015 21:03:40 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=74930 Looking for a way to help families in earthquake-struck Nepal? CARE, an international nonprofit that works with the poorest communities on our globe, has aid workers on the ground. Known for their work with women and children, CARE is in need of donations to aid their efforts. Read more in the press release below, or visit their […]

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Looking for a way to help families in earthquake-struck Nepal? CARE, an international nonprofit that works with the poorest communities on our globe, has aid workers on the ground. Known for their work with women and children, CARE is in need of donations to aid their efforts. Read more in the press release below, or visit their coverage of the relief efforts here.

A good roundup of other organizations working to help those affected by this natural disaster can be found on Public Radio International.

CARE is responding to a devastating earthquake that struck between the Nepalese capital Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara yesterday.

The death toll from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake is expected to reach the thousands, with hundreds of thousands of people having lost homes. Vital infrastructure including electricity, water and roads have been severely damaged by the massive quake.

CARE’s emergency specialists from across the world are now on their way to Nepal, and CARE has over 150 staff in Nepal already working in the majority of the most affected districts. CARE has launched an urgent appeal for US$40 million to help those hit by this devastating earthquake.

CARE’s Emergency Response Coordinator in Kathmandu, Santosh Sharma, said earthquake survivors have spent the night gripped with fear due to severe aftershocks.

“Almost everyone has slept outside and they are creating temporary shelters with what they have. I am seeing women and children suffering a lot…they are living outside their homes and fear going inside,” Mr Sharma said.

“There is no electricity, and soon there will be a scarcity of water. People have been pooling their resources together, but there will soon be problems with food and with water.”

Mr Sharma said the needs in response to this catastrophe would be immense, and CARE staff on the ground were now putting plans in place to assist up to 75,000 people with temporary shelter, ready-to-eat meals, water purification and toilet construction.

“More than 40,000 people are getting treatment in hospital, but there is no room inside the hospitals. Many are getting treated in the compound of the hospital. Medical supplies are an urgent need.

“All of the particularly vulnerable – children, breastfeeding mothers, people with chronic diseases – they have been suffering a lot. It’s essential to get help to these people as quickly as we can.”

CARE has launched an urgent appeal to help those hit by this devastating earthquake. To donate visit www.care-international.org. US$75 can provide food for 15 days, US$112 can provide clean drinking water for 12 families (with water purification sachets and buckets) and US$220 can provide emergency shelter to a family.

CARE has worked in Nepal since 1978, in areas including food Security, HIV/AIDS, health, education, water and sanitation, and the empowerment of women and girls. CARE responded to massive landslides in Nepal’s Sindhupalchowk district in August 2014, and works in 33 of 75 Nepal’s districts. CARE has more than six decades of experience helping people prepare for disasters, providing lifesaving assistance when a crisis hits, and helping communities recover after the emergency has passed.

Image: Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Published April 25, 2015. Wikimedia Commons, Orginally MapBox on Flickr

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BirthKeeper Summit: Ongoing Coverage http://www.mothering.com/articles/birthkeeper-summit-cliffsnotes/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/birthkeeper-summit-cliffsnotes/#comments Sat, 25 Apr 2015 01:21:25 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=74802 As I write this, an epic gathering is coalescing. From points around the globe, renowned midwives, physicians, doulas, childbirth educators, lactation consultants, human development educators, myriad cultural and human rights leaders, environmental activists, medical ethicists and a neonatologist will come together next week in Northern California with a single unified intention. We will assemble at the BirthKeeper Summit to discuss and […]

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ImproveBirthRallyAs I write this, an epic gathering is coalescing. From points around the globe, renowned midwives, physicians, doulas, childbirth educators, lactation consultants, human development educators, myriad cultural and human rights leaders, environmental activists, medical ethicists and a neonatologist will come together next week in Northern California with a single unified intention.

We will assemble at the BirthKeeper Summit to discuss and promote our most precious birthright: being born healthy and loved into a flourishing and just world, which honors women and protects the life-giving relationships of MotherBaby & MotherEarth.

The BirthKeeper movement understands the relationship between the health of the environment and the health of future generations of life. “Healing birth is healing our Earth.” It also understands the necessity of supporting the primal period of human life — from before conception to a child’s first birthday, including birth –as a human rights issue.

At BirthKeeper Summit, The Personal is Political

This famous feminist rallying anthem is powerfully relevant to this gathering’s roots and to its reasons.

Roots — The late midwife, yogini and sacred feminine educator Jeannine Parvati Baker coined the term “birthkeeper,” and a portion of the Summit’s proceeds is earmarked for training new midwives in JPB’s honor. I knew Jeannine. Here is a note I sent to her family after her passing in 2005:

All I can say is that this earth (along with her population of birthing humans) has lost one of her fiercest lioness protectresses. My introduction to her was as a young woman, intuitively guided to buy Hygeiea: A Woman’s Herbal… and how often I giggled at the image she invited me to enter — of a flowing woman on her period, squatting in the garden to return her power to the earth. It may have taken me a few years for those seeds Jeannine sowed to take root — over 20!! — but sure enough, once we moved to our next home, and my inner gardener emerged for the first time in my life, and I became a lover of antique and English roses… what became the most special fertilizer?? Yep… thanks to Jeannine. (No, I never did actually deliver it directly via squatting… but how many women, unless persuaded by someone as powerful as Jeannine, would soak their cotton tampons in a pitcher of water, then actually wring them by hand of all the juicy redness to return it to the soil…??!!)

JeannineWhispersShe was an original, a spitfire goddess who spoke with a flaming, clear-eyed voice, who reinvented language so it expressed what the soul (and the planet) needed, and who challenged, challenged, challenged. APPPAH brought us together, and over the years we plotted, we collaborated, we chatted, we huddled. We commiserated over husbands, lovers… we disagreed with loving respect over tough issues like abortion. All of us are now orphans in some small and huge way, with the loss of Mother Jeannine. I can only imagine her up there (why do we think of it as “up there”… when it’s more likely a dimension we cannot even begin to fathom, more like indownoutweavethroughaboveenterpermeation...), free of her body which just couldn’t contain her anymore — like Tinkerbell with a scepter and an attitude!

Rock on, Jeannine. We are all your body now.

Reason – Indeed, we are all Jeannine’s body now, carrying on her vision — a vision shared by many wise ones: a grassroots social call for a paradigm shift bringing a MotherBaby focus of care and compassion to life and birth systems. And that includes the ways that pregnancy, birth and postpartum influence lifelong wellbeing — both for the individual and for our global family.

That very issue will guide the Friday evening plenary panel, whose question is What kind of humans are we growing? I’ll be on that panel along with Michel Odent, a few of whose ideas proved controversial in my prior post on possible connections between oxytocin system disruption and such conditions as autism.

I’ll Be Your Embassadress: What’s Your Question?

Think of me as your representative at this Summit. Do you have a challenge, a question, a rant? Post it in Comments and I will voice it at this gathering.

I’ll Be Your Proctor: What’s Your Guess?

BirthKeeperFeaturedImageMy solo presentation, Birthing the Next Generation of Peacemakers, spotlights ways in which pregnancy, birth & postpartum are “Nature’s Head Start Program,” instructing baby what kind of world to prepare for: to express optimal growth in a loving world, or to prepare to defend in a hostile world. I’ll be going over practical ways we can harmonize with Nature’s plan at these three stages for hardwiring our children with the brain circuitry for such essential peacemaker capacities as self-regulation, imagination, trust and empathy.

After pointing out the rather simple mammalian requirements for a straightforward physiological birth (i.e., a greatly diminished likelihood of stalled labor — so unhelpfully termed “failure to progress”), I will be asking the audience, What are some things even the most supportive birth attendant or partner might do to inadvertently disrupt a laboring mother’s optimal neurochemistry and slow down labor?

Would you care to take a guess?

*** If you’d like to keep up with significant Birth Summit developments, be sure to check
this post again; my intention is to continue revising & updating these CliffsNotes for you! ***

 

Top image by greendoula, through a Creative Commons license

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On Sex and Cosleeping http://www.mothering.com/articles/on-sex-and-cosleeping/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/on-sex-and-cosleeping/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 18:16:16 +0000 http://testvb.mothering.com/wp/on-sex-and-cosleeping/ I got married back in November, after knowing my husband for 7 years.  He is my best friend, my soul partner, my rock, my clown, all of those good things.  And we often don’t sleep together. “Gasp!  What?!  You don’t sleep together?!  Doomed for sure…” I can imagine some people thinking. But I am writing to […]

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I got married back in November, after knowing my husband for 7 years.  He is my best friend, my soul partner, my rock, my clown, all of those good things.  And we often don’t sleep together.

“Gasp!  What?!  You don’t sleep together?!  Doomed for sure…” I can imagine some people thinking.

But I am writing to dispel the myth that cosleeping leads to a sexless relationship, as well as the notion that couples have to sleep in the same bed in order to have a happy sex life.

A common sentiment expressed when the topic of cosleeping comes up is that it must destroy marriages, and that “poor dad” must be kicked out of the bed so mother and child can use it.  But that is not true for most cosleeping families; many bed-sharers sleep all together, with both parents and however many children they might have.  And even in my situation, where my spouse and I do sleep separately most of the time, it’s not because he’s kicked out of the bed or playing second fiddle.  It’s because it works for us, all three of us equally.

”Doesn’t it ruin intimacy?” people ask.  ”When/where do you have sex?!” they want to know.

Do you really want to know?  If so, read on.

We have sex multiple times on weekends, and sporadically throughout the week in the evening, as that is what his work schedule allows.  We mostly have quickies on weekdays, and long, slow sex on the weekends.  We sneak away to “nap” and “give each other massages” as often as we can.  We have sex on the couch, on the other couch, on the living room floor, in the kitchen, on the kitchen floor (the kitchen sees a lot of action; I guess I look good cookin’), on the chair in my painting studio, on the chair in the dining room, in the guest bed, outside in the yard, in the van…  Yoga mats, piles of blankets, and tons of coconut oil helps.

The idea that cosleeping can somehow ruin a relationship implies that all or most sex must take place in a bed.  Clearly that is not the case, and I’d argue that it makes it more fun and interesting.  It also makes using a bed somewhat of a luxury; a big playground :)

This has been an easy arrangement for my family, because when my husband and I got more serious in our relationship, I had been a single parent and my son and I had already been cosleeping, just the two of us, for four years.  I knew the benefits of cosleeping when my son was born, and we’ve done it since birth.  We had our rhythm, our preferences, and both of us are light sleepers.  My husband gets up for work at 5am to the sound of NPR on his alarm, and I would inevitably wake up every morning at that time if we were bed-mates, and I don’t want to.  We love to take (actual) naps together and have an excuse to sleep together, like staying in a hotel.  But for day-to-day living, it works better for our son and myself to cosleep, and my husband to have his own sleep space.  We are going to practice sleeping together more often when our new baby comes in April so we can all be closer together.  But for now we are happy and it works.

And we still manage to have an active, passionate, loving, healthy sex life.   Sleeping in the same bed, and sleeping without a child in the mix, can be a benefit to promoting intimacy, but it is not essential.  There are so many other ways.

I read a quote once about women, but I think it applies to any gender; something to the effect of: “A woman is like a crockpot.  You have to turn her on in the morning for her to be ready by dinner time.”  This rings true for me in the sense that I want my day to be charged with love and closeness.  My partner and I make sure to touch each other daily.  He leaves me a love note every morning.  We have a long hug when he gets home from work.  We stop what we’re doing to embrace often.  We hold hands when we talk and give each other quick massages when time allows.  Both of our Love Languages are physical touch, followed by quality time and words of affirmation, so we act on those as often as possible.  We let each other know how desired we are; I tell him how good he looks to me, and he tells me the same.  We try to make life easier by sharing household and parenting duties evenly, working together happily to make our life comfortable, healthy, and simple.

We thank each other a lot.  I thank him for working so hard for our family, for being open to our unique relationship, for doing the dishes after I cook, for “being the train” every night to carry our son up to bed, for his emotional intelligence, for talking things through, for fixing stuff and shoveling and mowing the lawn.  He thanks me for being a gentle mother, for embracing who he is, for cooking yummy healthy food, for “taking such good care” of him, for doing the dishes on the rare occasion that I get to them first, for the helpful reminders, for being a good partner.

Showing appreciation and love fosters more closeness and intimacy for us than snoring next to each other without a kid in the bed ever could.  This is what works for us.

I was going to say that cosleeping doesn’t affect my relationship, but it does– positively.  It helps our boy sleep peacefully and prevents bedtime battles.  Cosleeping helped me tremendously as a single parent, allowing me to breastfeed successfully, sleep often, and feel bonded with my baby while figuring out motherhood alone.  And it continues to be a beautiful blessing in my family.

On Sex and Cosleeping

Originally published on Mothering in Feb 2014

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How Motherhood Saved My Life http://www.mothering.com/articles/motherhood-saved-life/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/motherhood-saved-life/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 00:24:27 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=74170 “With the hopes that I’ll one day look back at this notebook and realize how far I’ve come, I’m going to attempt to write about my eating disorder.” I felt chills as I read the words I wrote in a composition book in July 2002. It is now about 11 and a half years later […]

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“With the hopes that I’ll one day look back at this notebook and realize how far I’ve come, I’m going to attempt to write about my eating disorder.”

I felt chills as I read the words I wrote in a composition book in July 2002. It is now about 11 and a half years later and I am doing just that – revisiting a couple of old journals from some dark times in the depths of my eating disorder to prepare to write about where I am now. It’s amazing how you can be transported back in time when reading the words of your younger self. I almost wish I hadn’t looked – the words and feelings that are forever inked on the pages seem to be from someone I don’t know. They are the sad, desperate cries for help from a young woman living in the midst of complete mental turmoil. Its hard to imagine that it was me – the same person I am right now. How can that be? It feels like I’ve lived several lifetimes between then and today. I am so thankful and lucky to have somehow survived it all.

From about the age of 12, I’ve struggled with an eating disorder. I don’t really remember a life where food and body image-centered thoughts didn’t occupy my brain. The history of my eating disorder is complicated – like many fragmented pieces of a large intricate puzzle. I could fill a book with the origins and details of my struggle but that’s not what I’m writing about here.

I’ve read many things about bulimia and anorexia – informational textbooks, articles, fictional stories, personal memoirs and have seen documentaries, talk shows and movies about eating disorders. As a recovering anorexic/bulimic woman, I know that (for me…and I’m sure I’m not alone) it’s a topic to tread very lightly upon. Just about anything and everything can be triggering (meaning it evokes thoughts, feelings, emotions and/or urges) and/or read like a how-to guide (there’s just no need to share specifics about behaviors and numbers).

I went through some insanely self-destructive, dark and difficult times and many times wanted my life to just be over. Over the years, I treated myself pretty badly and did a lot of harmful things. I want to share my story of life on the other side. There is light at the end of the tunnel…survival. The aftermath of a totally destructive storm that was my life turned into a gorgeous, sunny day. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to change my self-destructive ways and choose life. I know women who lost their battles and left holes in the hearts of their friends and families. It inspires me to do what they couldn’t – go on to live a happy and healthy life.

I’m definitely not unique or special. I know several amazing women who have also chosen life and have become wives and mothers. We are forever bonded by sharing the knowledge of what its really like to go through what we have. These ladies, though I don’t talk with them as often as I’d like, inspire me to keep on the path of recovery.

Something that I’d like to help others understand is that eating disorders, like most other psychiatric illnesses, aren’t always universally defined, easily cured problems compartmentalized into specific titles. So very complex, every person’s experience with an eating disorder is individualized. Different backgrounds, different fears, different behaviors, different symptoms, different desires (or lack thereof) for recovery. It’s not as simple as talking with a professional who’s checking boxes on a symptom list to diagnose this deceitful, deadly disease. For me, bulimia and anorexia are intertwined into one big nightmare- yin and yang.

I hope to see eating disorders talked about more by survivors – I feel that it can help others come out of their secret, shameful shadows to ask for help. Just as I believe in the importance of sharing positive birth stories, I feel that people who have come out on the other side of an eating disorder have the power to inspire, uplift and give courage to those who feel alone and like there’s no hope for recovery. If I can inspire one person to tell someone they’re struggling, then I’ve accomplished my goal. I am absolute living proof that you don’t have to live the rest of your life consumed by this disease!

I’ve had several attempts at recovery, including a few months at an inpatient treatment center. Over the years, I’ve had times of doing well and times of relapse. Now that I’m a mom, I can see how painful and difficult it was for my mom. I can’t fathom the agony she must have felt – seeing me struggle so intensely and not being able to fix it.

It wasn’t until I met my husband in October 2005 that I really began to ‘live recovery’ seriously. When I met Jake, the last thing in the world I was looking for was a boyfriend. Dating was the furthest thing from my mind. I had recently moved back to Pennsylvania after living in San Diego for a couple years for yet another ‘fresh start’ of my life. I had started out doing well in California but fell back into the pits of my eating disorder and gradually everything went downhill. Shortly after returning to Pittsburgh, I took a job at a bank and was sent to a small branch to shadow a teller as part of my training for a week. The bank ladies were excited to introduce me to Jake, ‘the cutest guy in town,’ as they called him. I remember the first time I saw his blue eyes, I think it was an instant mutual connection. We ended up going out a few days later and have been together ever since.

We connected so deeply, so fast that he knew all about my eating disorder and the secret self I hid from others. To my disbelief, he didn’t run. I never would have believed that there would be a man out there who would love me and want to spend his life with me…but there he was. We talked a lot about my eating disorder and made a pact that practicing my eating disorder was ‘not an option’ (I’ll never forget those words). He was going to be there for me, to help me deal with my issues but he wanted the commitment from me that I was going to work toward recovery. I agreed.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t totally smooth sailing. I came with some huge emotional baggage that wasn’t going to just disappear. I remember telling Jake that despite my problems, I was a ‘good investment.’ He proposed to me on our 2nd dating anniversary and we were married the day after our 3rd. I always said I wouldn’t get married until I could eat a bite of my wedding cake. We had a pumpkin cheesecake and the picture of Jake and I feeding each other a bite is definitely special to me.

On December 11th 2009, I took a pregnancy test and passed with flying colors. For the first time in my life, I was sharing my body with another life. It wasn’t just mine anymore – it was a vessel to grow and birth another human being. The choices I made each day about what I put into my body weren’t just for me. I had to take care of myself in order to take care of the precious life that was growing inside of me. I was thrilled and ecstatic to be pregnant- definitely a lifelong dream of mine to become a mother.

I had stopped having a period for about a year while I lived in California…at a point when my body was absolutely starving. I definitely had fears in the back of my head that I might not be able to become pregnant…that I had damaged my body too much. But those two pink lines were there, and I took about 10 tests just to be extra sure.

Motherhood is physical- growing and protecting a baby for those beautiful, mysterious 9ish months…giving birth…breastfeeding. I gave my body to my child completely and, wow, was it life-changing. I really was able to begin to see my body in a new light and felt a new respect for it. Instead of allowing negative thoughts to take over my brain as my body grew and changed during pregnancy, I focused on my baby and how miraculous it was that my body could do such an astounding thing. Giving birth to Jack, although it didn’t happen as I had hoped and planned, was a rebirth for me: when a baby is born, so is a mother. I shed my old skin and started completely fresh, right along with the brand new life of our baby. I began to grow into my new role and find my way, following my instincts and mothering by heart.

On September 2nd 2013, I gave birth to my second son Wyatt. He was born at home with a midwife in the most peaceful, gentle way. I had an awesome pregnancy and took great care of my body and soul, which made me feel confident and capable. After experiencing birth with zero interventions, I appreciate my body that much more.

I’ve been breastfeeding since 2010, it feels right to me to nurse my kids until they outgrow the need. To impress me even more, my amazing body began producing enough milk for both of my boys – tandem nursing is awesome! Instead of feeling that my breasts were extra fat on my body that I didn’t want there, like I did when I was consumed with abusing my body, I have learned to appreciate and respect them as they provide complete and perfect nutrition and comfort for my boys.

It is so important to me to raise my children to be confident in themselves, both inside and out. I want to teach them to make healthy choices about food and instill the importance of treating their bodies well. Something that has always been a struggle for me is black and white thinking…all or nothing. I want them to experience balance and moderation. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. I find myself biting my tongue when I want to complain about feeling fat or ugly. I want to talk to myself with the respect I would expect others to treat me with. I want to set the best example possible for them. Motherhood is a mirror. I am trying to be what I want to see in my children.

Recovery doesn’t look like I imagined. I’d love to say that I have complete freedom from my eating disorder… but truthfully I don’t. An eating disorder is a tricky addiction to overcome, you can’t simply avoid food. I have to eat and have to find a way to make peace with food. With most other addictions, the addict can remove the substance/activity or themselves from the situation (not to say that it’s easy by any means!) I have to live with food each and every day for the rest of my life and in order to teach my children to have a healthy relationship with food and their bodies, I need to keep reminding myself that food is not the enemy.

There are still many ‘food rules’ in my head…still certain foods that I will never eat…still scarily real fears that eating will automatically make me gain weight the second I swallow it. Sometimes I’m aware of the irrationality of the negative thoughts but in disordered eating thinking, the lines of reality and imaginary are very, very blurred. I still hear myself asking my husband to remind me that it’s ok to eat…that I’m not instantly going to gain weight after a large meal. I am so very lucky to have a man who is so patient and loving that he will tell me over and over again, no matter how annoyed he feels. I still feel cravings to practice my eating disorder sometimes. Recovery is continuing to make healthy choices and combating the ED voice in my head with truth.

I don’t know that I will ever see myself without the veil of distortion but I do know that I can trust in the way my husband and children see me. I want to love myself the way they love me. Recovery is a journey, not a destination. It’s waking up each day and making the choice for life, all day every day. It’s not perfect and it’s not a linear progression. There are many times I’ve been doing well and suddenly fell off the wagon. It’s about getting back up and trying again. Luckily, every day is a chance for a fresh start. I’ve had a lot of those. A therapist once told me to “do the next right thing” when I feel lost. I find myself thinking this when I’m struggling. When the ED voice asks, “should you eat that? Won’t it make you gain weight the minute it enters your mouth?,” I counter it with “yes, I should eat…no, it’s impossible to gain weight from eating a normal, healthy meal.” It really is work- recovery is a road that I will have to walk for the rest of my life. But I choose to walk my road to wellness feeling proud and lucky to have the chance to keep going.

I’ve learned that I feel best about myself when I’m active – daily walks at the park and making time for yoga make a total difference in how I feel about my body. I’ve been a vegetarian for the past 19 years and eating organic, whole foods makes me feel good about eating. I’ve learned that no matter how critical I am about my body, my husband and sons will always see me as beautiful…and that’s really all that matters. I’ve learned that I am worthy of happiness and love. I don’t wish away the struggles of my life they’ve made me who I am and have given me strength I didn’t know I had. Maybe we have to go through our worst times to arrive at our best.

Maya Angelou said “I do my best because I’m counting on you counting on me.” This really resonated with me in terms of my recovery journey. I want to choose life and health and be my best self because my husband and sons are counting on me. It’s not an option to get pulled into the whirlwind of self-destruction ever again. I am forever a mother now and it will never be “just me.” Taking care of myself matters in a different way now – it’s simply not an option to practice self-destructive behavior. I have two sweet, amazing little boys who depend on me. Taking care of me IS taking care of them. We are one.

Originally published in Holistic Parenting magazine

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The Benefits of Placenta Encapsulation http://www.mothering.com/articles/benefits-placenta-encapsulation/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/benefits-placenta-encapsulation/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 23:49:24 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=71346 Thank you to Lauren Agro for this guest post. We’ve all heard the horror stories about baby blues and postpartum depression. And as expectant parents we all want to avoid that. We want those first precious days to be about bonding with our baby and enjoying the new addition to the family. We want to feel […]

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Thank you to Lauren Agro for this guest post.

Powder

We’ve all heard the horror stories about baby blues and postpartum depression. And as expectant parents we all want to avoid that. We want those first precious days to be about bonding with our baby and enjoying the new addition to the family. We want to feel joy.

Those first few weeks are difficult for many reasons. Your body is physically exhausted from the birth and recuperation time is hard to come by. You might be inundated with visitors. Your baby wants to eat constantly and breastfeeding may not be as easy as it seems. It’s hard to find the time to shower, let alone cook nutritious, healthy meals for yourself. Your hormones might take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Some moms get weepy and sad and may not even be able to name a real cause.

It’s no wonder that 80% of new mothers experience some form of postpartum mood disorder in the weeks following the birth of their baby.  There are steps you can take to prevent baby blues. Rest and support are important, being prepared with freezer meals, and enlisting help with older siblings gives you time to focus on your new arrival. However, in addition to that, your body actually prepares a supplement to help you recover from childbirth: the placenta!

Your baby’s placenta, prepared in the form of a capsule, is believed to:

  • Be perfectly made for you
  • Contain your own natural hormones
  • Balance your system
  • Replenish depleted iron
  • Give you more energy
  • Lessen your bleeding postnatally
  • Increase your milk production
  • Hasten return of uterus to pre-pregnancy state
  • Help you have a happier postpartum period
  • And later, be helpful during menopause

Placentophagy, the act of mammals consuming the placenta after childbirth, has been practiced in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. And placenta encapsulation is a practice that has recently increased in popularity in the United States.

So why does placenta encapsulation work? It’s theorized that the placenta contains many different vitamins and minerals that can help fight depression symptoms, such as vitamin B6 and research has proven that it is rich in iron and protein; all of which are useful to women when recovering from childbirth. Along with replacing hormones, the placenta is a great natural postpartum supplement. There are some wonderful research studies being done at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas to help determine the actual contents and effects of placentophagy; including a long awaited double blind placebo research study.

If you are interested in encapsulating your own placenta, start by contacting a local placenta encapsulation specialist. They will come to your home, clean and sanitize your kitchen, clean the placenta and prepare it for dehydration. The placenta then dries overnight. The next day the placenta encapsulation specialist returns to your home to grind and encapsulate the placenta, leaving you will capsules and instructions. Many placenta encapsulation specialists also make broth, tinctures, salves, placenta art prints, and cord keepsakes. It’s important to find someone reputable and certified who has the knowledge and experience to handle your one and only placenta.

Find out more about Placenta Encapsulation at www.placentabenefits.info

Locate a specialist in your area: www.PlacentaSpecialists.com


Lauren Lauren Agro is the Vice President of US Operations with Placenta Benefits, LTD.  She has been a Placenta Benefits Certified Placenta Encapsulation Specialist and Mentor in Baltimore, Maryland since 2008. She has worked with over 250+ new families and has been a certified DONA Birth Doula for 13 years. She is a mother to a wonderful 13 year old young man who makes her proud every day. Lauren spends her free time doing user experience work for a federal government agency, horseback riding, waiting for the next baby, dreaming of scuba diving, and looking up new recipes for the perfect gluten-free chocolate chip cookie.  She can be found at www.agrowingbelly.com

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A Letter to My Nursing Toddler http://www.mothering.com/articles/a-letter-to-my-nursing-toddler/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/a-letter-to-my-nursing-toddler/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 18:43:11 +0000 http://testvb.mothering.com/wp/a-letter-to-my-nursing-toddler/ You were tired. It had been a long morning in the car and then visiting with strangers. You rubbed your eye with one hand and said, “Nurse?”

At home I would have scooped you in my arms and cuddled you close while you nursed yourself to sleep. Then, I would lay you in bed and give you a kiss. But this time I reacted differently.

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By Megan Leary

My dear toddler,

You were tired. It had been a long morning in the car and then visiting with strangers. You rubbed your eye with one hand and said, “Nurse?”

At home I would have scooped you in my arms and cuddled you close while you nursed yourself to sleep. Then, I would lay you in bed and give you a kiss. But this time I reacted differently. You saw me look sideways at the room of strangers who have never been a part of your life and meant nothing to you. You saw me shift awkwardly in my seat. You saw me blush. You were confused. I hurt your feelings and you didn’t understand why. I made you feel like I was embarrassed by you. I was. You took a step back. You looked around the way I had, wondering what made me nervous.

I looked at your confused face and made a decision. I picked you up, pulled up my shirt, and nursed you. I kept my eyes on you because I didn’t dare look at the room. I put a soft smile on my face so that you would know everything was okay. In that moment I made an unspoken promise to you to never make you feel ashamed for asking to nurse again.

You don’t understand that its taboo for a mother to nurse her toddler in our culture. You don’t understand yet that the natural act of nursing makes people uncomfortable. Why would you? It’s not something you were born to understand. It’s not something in your nature for you to feel shame for. It’s not embarrassing for you to find comfort in something you’ve been doing everyday of your entire life that brings you close to me. Something that makes my busy legs stop. Something that makes my busy hands caress your hair and cheek.

My love, I promise to never do that to you again.

xoxo, Mom

Originally published on Mothering in Feb 2014

Megan Leary

About Megan Leary

I am a work-at-home mama of one darling girl and handsome baby boy! I am an advocate of natural and home birthing. I am passionate about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, eating well, and most things natural in a mama’s life. Visit me and my friends at our blog www.hippieswithbabies.com.

 

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Sugar on Snow: Helping Kids Experience the Importance of Local Foods http://www.mothering.com/articles/connecting-community-visit-sugar-shack/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/connecting-community-visit-sugar-shack/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 22:48:44 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=73498 Spring is known for two major things in Vermont: mud and maple syrup. Depending on the weather, sugaring season can begin as soon as temperatures reach 40 degrees during the day and 20 degrees at night, typically mid-February to mid-April. This winter has been especially harsh and cold, but thankfully winter’s grasp is starting to […]

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cover maple

Spring is known for two major things in Vermont: mud and maple syrup. Depending on the weather, sugaring season can begin as soon as temperatures reach 40 degrees during the day and 20 degrees at night, typically mid-February to mid-April. This winter has been especially harsh and cold, but thankfully winter’s grasp is starting to loosen a bit. It seems the sap is beginning to flow, although much later in the season than usual.

The Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association dedicates one weekend a season to a Maple Open House. Sugar houses around the state open their doors and welcome guests to come and view their operation and of course, taste some maple syrup. We headed out to one of our favorite sugar shacks and we were able to learn about the whole process of how maple syrup is made.

Living in Vermont, we are lucky to have many sugar shacks to go and visit. I love taking my kids to experience and learn at the same time. An outing to the sugar house is a great way to teach them about the art and work that goes into this delicious food. Just like going to a farm or an apple orchard to pick your own food, showing your children how and where their food is made is a great way for them to appreciate and understand the value of it. It also is a great lesson regarding the value of buying local. Quite often we have no relationship with whomever grows and processes our food. When you get to visit a farm or a local sugar house, you get to personally meet the people behind the package and that is a lasting impression.

Before heading out, we had a delicious breakfast of french toast smothered with pure maple syrup. We talked about what we liked about maple syrup, where they thought it came from, and what we liked to eat with it. My 5-year-old was surprisingly informed on how maple syrup comes from trees (thanks to a favorite Curious George episode). My 3-year-old just repeated everything his brother said! They kept calling it sweet honey, which is also sweet, nutritious, and delicious, but today was all about maple. We came up with a fun rhyme to help them remember: Honey comes from bees, maple comes from trees!

Tapping a tree causes it no damage when done properly. There are some trees that have been tapped for over 100 years and are still thriving. Sap is created as the tree mixes ground water with sugar and, amazingly, it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.

Pure maple syrup is not only delicious, it also has some pretty amazing health benefits too. Pure maple syrup is 100% organic and natural, with no preservatives. Nothing is added to the syrup, instead water is actually removed from the sap. To make pure maple syrup is a true art form. Families have been working their maple businesses for generations.

sugar shack

As we drove up to the sugar house, we could smell the sap boiling away. It is a wonderful, delicious smell. It was a chilly day so they had a campfire roaring for their guests to warm up to. We took a quick tour inside the sugar shack and the boys all got to see the large vault where the sap was boiling. By boiling the sap and evaporating the water, the sugars become concentrated and caramelized. This produces the subtle and delicious maple flavor. The sugar makers know when the exact consistency has been reached and the sap has become syrup.

The boys loved seeing and smelling the sap boiling, but the best part is in the tasting of the sweet syrup. A true local treat is called ‘Sugar on Snow.’ This is made by boiling maple syrup to the perfect temperature, about 255 degrees Fahrenheit. Too hot and the syrup melts the snow, too cool and the syrup becomes watery. The perfect heated syrup will form a lace-like pattern across the top of the snow and quickly harden. The syrup is poured onto clean snow and then lifted with a small wooden stick, such as a popsicle stick. The soft candy is traditionally served with donuts, sour dill pickles, and coffee. The pickles and coffee serve to counter the intense sweetness of the candy.

maple candy

Every region has something to offer, and for Vermont it is definitely maple syrup. Learning, tasting and seeing how maple is made is an important way for our children to connect with their community. What are some ways that you connect with your community?

campfire

Hanging around the campfire, sipping on pure sap water and telling jokes.

Owen Maple

Sugar on snow, a delicious treat!

sugaronsnow

Making sugar on snow.

 

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Mothering is Hard: Here’s Why I Think It’s Vital That We Keep Saying It http://www.mothering.com/articles/mothering-har/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/mothering-har/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 22:26:06 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=72914 I say that motherhood is hard.  I say it a lot.  Especially when I write. Sometimes I feel self-conscious about this.  I don’t want people to read what I write and come away with the impression that I define motherhood as hard.  I don’t. To me, motherhood is all things beautiful and amazing.  Most everything […]

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I say that motherhood is hard.  I say it a lot.  Especially when I write.

Sometimes I feel self-conscious about this.  I don’t want people to read what I write and come away with the impression that I define motherhood as hard.  I don’t.

To me, motherhood is all things beautiful and amazing.  Most everything good that can be experienced through life can be experienced through the family.  The love and struggle and compassion and mercy and camaraderie, and warmth… it’s all there.  We don’t often need to look much further.

And yet I am constantly saying it is hard.

I write mainly for my girls.  I write so they can look back years from now and know me then.  I want them to know how very fulfilled I was doing this work that I am doing now.  I want them to understand how much joy they bring to me.  I want them to know what it was like being their mom.  How much they changed me.  How much they challenge me.  How much they help me become the person I want to be.

And yet I am constantly saying it is hard.

And I will continue to say this.  Not because I have a harder time than most with it.  Not because it is how I define motherhood. Not because I want sympathy.

But rather, just because it is true.

It is hard waking up in the middle of the night for months on end.  It’s hard putting your head down on the pillow knowing that the next time you open your eyes it will be to go comfort a crying baby.  It’s hard to maintain patience when multiple people are asking for something every moment of the day.  It’s hard having no privacy.  It’s hard having too much to do.  It’s hard having everything you do be undone.  And it’s hard loving so very much and sending that love out into the world and praying that the world will treat it gently, will nurture it, and will give it back whole.

And it’s hard being mom because mom is more than a title.  For many of us, it’s the title.  We might have a dozen other titles and names, but mom is the one that always calls us home.  Mom is the one we judge the others by.  Mom is what fuels us and inspires us and what sometimes eclipses the other names even when sometimes we wish the others could have a little more time to shine.

And it’s hard being home.  It’s hard being the one who is always needed because… well, you are always needed.  Mom and Dad are the two words in the English language that can’t be replaced.  You can quit a job and someone will come after.  You can resign a post, leave a friendship, move out of town, but you can’t escape those titles or the responsibilities they carry.  Because when you are mom, no one else can be you.  And that’s an honor.  And it’s hard.

And I say all of this, I write all of this, I preach all of this because we need to acknowledge that it’s hard.  That it’s overwhelming.  That most of us feel like we are failing most of the time.

Because that’s the secret we keep.  That’s what we don’t tell each other.  We might share stories of sleepless nights or endless piles of laundry, but how often do we share those deep feelings of inadequacy?  How often do we tell each other that we wonder if we are enough?  If we will ever be enough?  How often do we confide just how lost and confused and scared and lonely we all are in this mess?

And yet we are.  I would bet every single one of us, in our dark and quiet moments, feels at least a little bit of that doubt, of that uncertainty.  And I bet all of us at maybe more times than we wish feel the weight of that responsibility.

And we keep it inside.  I think maybe because that’s what our culture tells us to do.  It wants us to portray motherhood as this crowning glory of every woman’s life.  And for many of us it is.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard.

Mothering is about love.  It’s about more and less, but when it comes down to it, being a mom is about being love for someone else.  And that’s supposed to be beautiful and honest… but they try to tell us that means it’s also easy.  And it’s not.

So I write this because I want you all to see that you aren’t alone in your moments of doubt and sadness and worry.  I want my girls to know that being their mother is the most fulfilling role I have ever filled.  But I also want them to know that when they are mothers and they are sitting in a dark room in the middle of the night sharing sobs with an infant that they aren’t alone. They aren’t weird for feeling the weight of it all.  No.  They are normal.  This is normal.

Life is about balance.  And motherhood is about balance.  It’s about balancing the needs of oneself and another.  About balancing a marriage with children.  About balancing responsibilities with caregiving.

And it’s also about acknowledging the balance between the easy and the hard.  The good and the bad.  The peace and the chaos.

There is not a single thing in this world I would trade motherhood for.  It fulfills me in ways I never knew were possible.

But I won’t stop saying it’s hard.

That wouldn’t be fair to me.  Or you.  Or my girls.

If motherhood were easy, there would be no glory in it.  When we love so deeply, we feel so deeply.  And when we feel deeply, some of those feelings will be unpleasant and hard.

But I have yet to find anything worth keeping that wasn’t hard.  It’s the challenge that makes it what it is.  It’s the glory in giving our all that helps us understand who we are and who they are.

So yes, motherhood is hard.

And it’s beautiful.

And it’s challenging.

And it’s joy.

It’s all of it.  And it always has been.  From the first time a mother laid eyes on the first baby, this world has known the all encompassing power of motherhood.  And it has been passed down through the ages from mother to child all the way to us and our little ones.

I’m proud to be a part of that tribe.

And I’m proud of the struggle.

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