Friday, May 03, 2013

To Savour

 The Thinker was cranky and overtired this evening so while The Carpenter was putting The Smiler to bed, I took him in the tub with me.

As I sat there, water still running, supporting his head while he floated - quickly calming - I looked into his deep pools of amazing that we call eyes and was overcome with tears of love and awe for this little creature.  I pressed my face against his little face, his little body, and just let the feeling rush over me.  I kissed his little fingers and carefully examined each hand, I rubbed his round little tummy, I watched as he gently moved his legs in the water.  I noted how his short little bits of hair swayed with the water, I looked at the dimples and creases in his arms and legs, I noted just how his little belly button looks, how his nose is, what his little rosebud mouth looks like in every little expression he makes...  I wished so hard that I could freeze that moment in time to come back to whenever I like.  It was sublime.

It hit me that in just a few days, he'll be 4 weeks old.  A month.  No longer a newborn but a tiny baby.  He has changed so much already and I know from watching my older child grow that he'll change so, so much more as time goes on.  I look at older pictures of The Smiler now and I can hardly believe how different he looks.

I thought about what it would be like if we didn't have a camera; if we didn't have event artists and paint and how badly I would wish I could always remember every special way my babies looked as they grew.  I was overcome with tears again thinking of all the mothers gone before me who must have wished they could freeze countless moments to savour again and again.  How precious these moments with our children are.  Even the simplest moments.  Sigh...  I know there have been times with The Smiler I've promised myself I won't forget that have already begun to fade.  That thought made me weep again.

I told myself I'd go write something down about this special moment in the tub with my baby and by the time I'd gotten out and dried off, I had nearly forgotten.  So quickly I was distracted from the beauty...  So I sat another moment and enjoyed my precious baby more.  There is no such thing as relishing in your children's awesomeness too much.

I just looked at his sweet fuzzy hair as it dried before my eyes, I noted the way he moved his hands and head, how he shaped his little mouth so deliberately as he looked at me...  I told him I loved him again and again.  I watched as his eyelids grew heavy on him and thought about The Weakerthans' song The Last Last One.  It's actually about letting go of a relationship but this seemed so poignant in the moment: "We fell a little deep, I watched you fall asleep - and nothing happens in the end... But I remember when I could remember when.  Seems like a long time ago."

I don't ever want these special moments to seem like a long time ago but I know they will - sooner than I think.  Savour your children.  Savour every bit of it.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Birth, The Second

There is some information in my first birth story that will probably give you a bigger picture of how I was dealing with events surrounding my second birth story.  I see no need to reiterate because, frankly, I'm lazy, and the first birth story is here on the blog, too.  If you'd like to read it, search for it yourself.  Just kidding.  It's here.  Oh, also, a note: because it was either just me or just me and The Carpenter for all of early labour, there are no photos at the beginning of the post (save for the first few).  Don't let that deter you, though.  You will be rewarded with photos to hold your interested later in the story, rest assured.

40 weeks
 After much stress and hard work, here we were in our new home (yes, we moved when I was 37 weeks pregnant - again), getting settled in and unpacked and I was still pregnant, which I'd never expected.  Each morning that I'd wake up still pregnant, I couldn't believe I'd gone another day.  Having had my first baby at 36 weeks and 4 days, making it to 40 weeks was a crazy feeling, never mind 41!  I wondered if this baby would come on April 6th, since my mother is born on February 6th, I'm born on December 6th, The Smiler is born on May 6th and both of my babies were conceived on the 6th, as well.  When April 6th rolled around, I was bound and determined to have a baby that day.  Alas, at 11:30 The Carpenter and I tucked into bed, me still very pregnant, and him saying to the baby, "Well, you have a half hour left to make an appearance, little guy!"

41 weeks
At 12:15 am, The Smiler woke up (yes, my nearly three year old still wakes up every night) and The Carpenter went to get him from his room.  I could hear him screeching that he only wanted Momma and refusing to let The Carpenter pick him up.  I called to him down the hall, saying Daddy would bring him to me but he wasn't down with that.  After a few minutes of this (it's a problem pretty much every night), I got annoyed, flew out of bed, stomped down the hallway, flung open his door and grumpily said, "It doesn't matter who comes to get you!  I'm right down the hall, Daddy brings you to our bed when you wake up!"  The Carpenter had just left the room to go back to bed and - SPLASH - my water broke all over the floor.

I started to laugh.

I called to The Carpenter that my water had broken and asked him to bring me a towel as The Smiler whined at me to lay down with him in his bed.  Not wanting him to come in to our bed since I expected to now be in labour all night and thinking this was his last time being an only child, I obliged, towel between my legs, and laid with him a while.  I was cold and wet, though, and the hormones were giving me the shakes pretty badly so I crept away a little too soon.  Within minutes of leaving the room, he was up again and calling for me.  I felt very annoyed at the universe for that.  Thankfully, The Carpenter was able to calm him and get him back to sleep.

I called my dear friend C, who would act as a secondary support to me at the birth to let her know my water was broken and that I'd call her once things kicked into gear.  Then I debated whether or not to call the midwife.  I knew I couldn't settle for anything less than the amazing family birth I had with my first baby and wanted to feel certain I could still have that if I had an attendant there.  I know so many people who've had attendants promise them that only to completely change their tune come the birth.  On the flipside, I knew and understood why The Carpenter wanted someone there who could provide emergency care in the event something went wrong with me (he knew I would know what to do if there was a problem with the baby but was concerned he wouldn't react well if something happened to me).  I thought about it a lot and decided that my midwife really did understand and respect my wishes for my birth fully so decided to call her.  She was off call for the night (of course, right?!) but the one other midwife who I'd met with a few times and connected well with was on call in her place.  I let her know what was happening but told her not to come yet since I wasn't sure if things were going to start moving fast or what.

Well, sure enough, after a few good rushes, things petered out.  I called both C and the midwife back to tell them I was going to try and sleep and they should do the same.  I put on my Hypnobirthing CD and ended up sleeping from about 1:30 until 7 in the morning, waking up with some light rushes a few times but nothing to complain about.  In the morning I had some more convincing rushes and sent The Smiler to my parents' just around the corner thinking I'd be labouring all day.  My midwife called to see how I was doing; my primary one (we'll call her midwife A) was back on call now and the secondary one (we'll call her midwife B) would come as a second attendant when I felt ready for them.  These were the two women who fought for me to have care and who supported my wishes fully throughout my pregnancy.  They never once pressured me and consistently respected my intelligence, knowledge and capability to make informed decisions about my prenatal and fetal care without question.  This was the first moment in the entire pregnancy where I felt certain I would be comfortable being attended at my birth trusting my wishes would be respected.  I told midwife A that I would call her when things got moving and then started puttering around the house to distract myself.

She called me around lunch to ask if I wanted her to come check fetal heart tones and to let me know she was supposed to offer antibiotics after 18 hours of ruptured membranes and consult with an OB after 24 hours.  I declined heart tones and antibiotics and could hear the smile in her voice as she said, "Okay!".  She explained that at 24 hours she had to call an OB who would then make a recommendation of chemical induction in hospital at which time I could decline (again, I heard the smile in her voice as she said, "Which I assume you'll do.") and she would still attend me at home as planned when I was ready for her.

Around 1:00 when I would usually put The Smiler down for a nap I texted my mom and told her that I still wasn't in active labour and if she wanted to send him home for a while, that would be okay with me since I would probably need to send him back later once things stepped up.  So The Carpenter brought him home.  I decided to nap with him but before we went to sleep, The Carpenter was debating whether or not to cancel the much needed appointment for the dog to get groomed at 3 pm.  I finally told him to go since there was still nothing convincing happening and it wouldn't take too long.  He decided we'd kill two birds with one stone and he'd go buy the vacuum we wanted while he waited for her.  Off I went for a nap with my big boy.

Around 3 I woke up from sleep with a rush.  I put on my Hypnobirthing CD and tried to relax.  Another one broke my concentration and I decided to time them for a while.  They were coming about 10 minutes apart but lasting quite a while at a minute to even a minute and a half long sometimes with a decent peak, though still manageable pain-wise.  By 4 they had jumped to about 6 minutes apart and were getting more intense.  I expected The Carpenter to be home by then so I called and he said he was still waiting for the dog.  I was having a hard time dealing with The Smiler during rushes so I told him to hurry home!

At 4:45 I texted C to tell her things were about 5-6 minutes apart and about a minute long.  The Carpenter came home around the same time and, with no sense of urgency, started assembling the new vacuum as The Smiler watched excitedly, exclaiming that he wanted to try using it.  By this point my rushes were about 3-4 minutes apart and I was at the place where I didn't want to hear sounds, be talked to or have to talk during them.  I told The Carpenter to hurry up and get that kid dropped off at my parents' already and went and ran a bath.

In the bath tub, the rushes started to ramp up again and I had two or three where I couldn't find my groove.  As with my first birth, I felt like a dog spinning to make a place to lay.  I was looking for a physical position or movement to use as a ritual until I realized being upright was relieving the discomfort as much as was possible and the real issue was in my head.  I had felt very resistant to giving birth throughout the last weeks of my pregnancy and even during labour, I kept thinking that I wanted the baby but didn't want to do the work to get him.  Through the rush, as I felt the long fingers radiate out from my spine, wrap around to the front and pull rhythmically, I thought over and over, "This will bring your baby.  This sensation will bring your baby.  This opens the path for your baby."

The Carpenter came home and I leaned against the back wall of the tub as he sat on the bathroom floor keeping me company.  I breathed through rushes and kept mentally repeating my mantra.  I told him more than once that I didn't want to do this part of it.  He was wise.  He just looked deep into my eyes and said, "I know.  It's okay.  I know."  C called at one point and The Carpenter talked to her.  She said she'd be over within an hour.  I think that was around 5:30 or so.

My tub in my ensuite is quite large and I thought it would be good for birthing in but after a while I got tired of the hard bottom and wanted to stretch my body out more.  I asked The Carpenter to fill up the birth pool I had borrowed from a friend, instead and I was so glad I did.  The inflated bottom of the La Bassine pool is so soft and comfortable - much nicer than the hard bottom of a regular bathtub.  Plus it's even bigger and the sides are equally soft, supportive and comfortable.  As he filled it, I got out of the other tub, put on a bikini top and skirt and walked around the house a while, holding on to doorknobs during rushes and swaying my hips.

I decided to call A since things were definitely getting intense at this point.  She said she'd drop her daughter off at home and head over.  That was around 6 or 6:15, I think.  I went back into the bedroom feeling anxious to get into the tub but it wasn't quite full yet.  I got up on the bed on my knees and tried leaning forward through a rush just as The Carpenter tried to ask me something and I yelled, "I don't care!  Ooooh!  Shut up!"  He quietly continued on - smart man.

I got into the tub finally and it felt much better.  I was having continuing pain at my pubic bone in between rushes by this point and it was making me feel very frustrated because it came with a sensation of needing to pee but not being able to.  I heard some rustling of papers in the kitchen and looked around kind of confused so The Carpenter said, "C is here."  I told him I wanted her to come see me.  She came in and asked how I was doing and I complained of the sensation of needing to pee and not being able to and the pain at my pubic bone not stopping between rushes.  I lamented, "Why did I do this again?" and she said, matter-of-factly, "Because you're having another son."  Then she said, "You're shaking.  Are you cold?"  I said, "I don't know...  I don't really feel cold but I can feel myself shaking."  Then I whined, "Unnhhhh!  Another one's coming!" and had another rush.  I told her I didn't think I was in transition, yet and she quietly said, "Okay."  Afterwards she told me it was obvious I was totally in transition at that point.  At some point in there I felt it necessary to tell her that if I said I felt like throwing up, I wanted to throw up in the white bowl, not the stainless steel bowl.  I have no idea why I thought that was important but I sure felt that way at the time.

The Carpenter came close to me and I asked him to rub my back - side to side, not up and down, not in circles, just in this exact area - the same way I had during my first birth.  C offered me water and I drank.  I leaned forward with my shoulders against the wall of the tub and my face resting on the edge.  I stretched my legs out long behind me, as if I was doing a push up, and mostly stayed in this position thereafter.  I felt such a need to stretch out long, which was different for me since with my first birth I was on all fours or rearing upright.

I felt my breath catching at the start of the next rush and C said gently, "Don't hold your breath, Amy."  I realized I had just pushed a bit and whined, "I feel pushyyyyyy!"  and she softly said, "Okay.  That's good."  I complained to The Carpenter that I wasn't getting a break, that I just wanted a little break to rest a minute.  He lovingly said, "I know.  You're working hard.  You're doing so good."  With the next rush I started to squeeze my hips and The Carpenter immediately used his free hand without being asked to squeeze on the one side for me so I could keep holding myself up with one hand, too.

I vaguely remember hearing a bit of rustling around outside the room, C telling me, "A and B are here." and ignoring it all.  The Carpenter tells me I actually said, "Ugh, I don't care." though I don't remember that.  Later C told me that a few minutes later A came to the doorway and mouthed, "Is she pushing?" C nodded and A walked away again.  I am so grateful that she respected my wishes for an unhindered experience.

I felt myself push at the beginning of each of the next few rushes and then all of a sudden a rush came on and I felt myself start to bear down hard.  I was surprised to hear myself groan - long and loud and guttural - because I didn't make any sound pushing my first baby out.  I immediately felt the baby's head move down a lot and was shocked it was moving so fast!  I honestly didn't even believe it was the baby at first (like, what else would it be?!).  I reached my hand down to feel and was even more shocked when I barely had to reach inside at all to feel him there.  I felt myself bear down again, this time quietly I'm told, and kept my hand there to feel him moving. The rushes didn't seem to end at that point, I would just catch a breath and then be pushing again.  He was moving so fast!  I said, "He's right there.  He's right there!" a few times, I think.  Later I told The Carpenter that I was surprised I had been so loud and he looked confused.  He said, "You only groaned  loudly with that first big push, after that you were dead silent again, just like last time."  I was sure I'd made a lot of noise but I guess just that first loud push stuck in my mind, is all.

I was still in the push up position and then moved to a genuflect position as I felt his head start to crown.  I really didn't want to tear with this birth so I started to blow my breaths out, trying to slow myself down but it didn't do much, that baby was moving so fast.  C told me later she could hear me trying to slow it down and could see that I couldn't.  I felt his head slide out and breathed as I waited for the shoulders.  I could feel the rush starting to wane and all I could think of was that I really didn't want to wait for another one before getting those shoulders out of me so I turned my hip a bit, gave a little nudge and out he came.  With my hand on his back, I started to sit back and I have such a beautiful image of his face coming up in the water, eyes open, arms spread wide as though asking to be picked up, looking right at me.

The Carpenter and C were both surprised to see a baby coming up as I sat back - neither realized he was that close to being born at that point.  Later C said that it was about 10 minutes where my breath caught at the beginning of each rush and then another 10-12 minutes of active pushing before he was born.  A far cry from the 2 or so hours I pushed with my first baby!  B said she and A were starting to unpack their stuff when she heard me talking and she said, "I think baby's here, we probably don't need to unpack."  It was 7:15 pm when he was born.

I pulled him up and started talking to him.  I rubbed his back and he took a moment to come into himself fully as he looked at me.  I softly said, "Hi, baby, hi.  Momma's got you." and some other little things as he transitioned and The Carpenter looked at him excitedly.  He gave us a lusty cry and then almost immediately started rooting around.  I took off my bikini top and just let him rest near my breast and within a few minutes he latched on.  I remember saying, "Oh, he's not that big after all." and C saying, "Ummmm... he's pretty big, Amy."  A said the same thing when I said it to her later, too.  I have no idea why I thought he wasn't that big, especially now when I look at the photos.  I had been worried about a big baby for the last few weeks of the pregnancy, though, since this baby had just shy of 5 weeks more cook time than my first!

A very large clot floated up (probably about 6" in diameter and 3/4" thick) so I called A in to show her though I wasn't particularly worried about it since there was barely any blood in the water at all; she judged it no big deal and also commented on the lack of blood in the water.  No one bothered me to get out of the tub or asked to do anything to the baby.  Everyone was silent, just as I had requested.  In fact, A left the room right after looking at the clot, I didn't even have to ask her to.  I finally decided I wanted to get out of the tub maybe 10 minutes later and The Carpenter helped me out.

I had a bit of the shakes again so put on my housecoat and wrapped it around myself and the baby but then I started to feel like I wanted the placenta out so I had them put a bowl under the toilet seat so I could sit down.  The cord was much shorter than The Smiler's epic-length cord had been and I was having trouble sitting comfortably while The Carpenter held the baby so I decided to cut it.  It was limp, thin and white by this point, anyway.  I sat some more, just looking at the baby, stroking his cheeks, looking at my husband, telling them I loved them.  The Carpenter told me I did awesome and he was proud of me.  The placenta didn't come, though.  I didn't feel crampy, either.  Same as with my first birth.

I decided to lay down and rest a while and let the baby nurse some more to see if it would help.  After probably a while more than 30 minutes, A very gently said, "It's been 30 minutes.  I have to offer you pitocin now.  Would you like to accept or decline that?"  I said I was declining and she kindly said, "Okay, keep trying to nurse him." and left the room again.

I talked to C about The Smiler's birth and the placenta not coming (it was just sitting in my birth path but I had no crampiness or anything).  I talked about how with his birth I kept feeling like pulling on the cord and then kept telling myself I shouldn't do that because it was dangerous.  That was the only part of his birth where I didn't follow my intuition and regretted it later.  I was feeling this yucky, 'want this placenta out of me' feeling - something I had felt with The Smiler's birth, too - so I called A back in and told her to look and see if the placenta was just sitting there.  Sure enough, that's exactly what was going on.  She said, "It's right there.  Give a push and I'll tug a bit."  I pushed and she was pulling so gently that I finally said, exasperated, "Oh, A.  Just pull it out already.  I don't want it in there anymore, it's making me feel baaaad."  She laughed and pulled it out.  I immediately felt better.  A said I had a barely 2nd degree tear, we discussed it and I opted not to get sutures.  B came to the doorway and very respectfully asked if she could come look at the baby and I happily invited her in.  Later A joked that in all her years as a midwife she'd never had anyone tell her to just pull their placenta out.

In any event, the placenta was out and deemed beautiful by all; the cord was precisely centred and there was one perfect hole in the membranes which were otherwise fully intact.  My only regret is that we didn't take a photo of it.  Particularly the part where The Carpenter nonchalantly chowed on an apple as A showed him the placenta in detail!

At this point I said I felt comfortable with A doing a quick newborn exam.  Baby was very peaceful throughout the process and Daddy and I talked to him the whole time.  He weighed in at 8 pounds 13 1/2 ounces.  A full 2 1/2 pounds bigger than my first baby!

My first birth was 27 hours from rupture of membranes to onset of what I consider actual labour, then 9 hours until birth.  My second birth was 15 hours from rupture of membranes to onset of what I consider actual labour, then 4 1/4 hours until birth.  So things were basically cut in half, which I understand is generally  the case with subsequent births.  Very manageable.  As with my first birth, while it was happening I kept thinking I wasn't as far along as I actually was and really steeling myself for what was to come.  As with my first birth, when I felt myself pushing, I was shocked I was that far already.  As with my first birth, when it was all said and done, I was honestly surprised that it wasn't as hard as I was prepared for it to be.

I felt like getting up soon after baby was checked over and did just that, holding my new boy wrapped up against my skin under my housecoat.  I drank some water and lemonade, chatted joyfully with the midwives and C and The Carpenter and lounged on my couch while marvelling at my son some more.  I called my mom, told her baby was here and that I'd send The Carpenter up to get The Smiler so he could come meet his brother.  I asked her to wait about half an hour and then she and my dad could come see the baby, too.  The Smiler was very happy to meet his baby brother and immediately pronounced him "dorbul" and gave him kisses.  It was a wonderful moment.

My parents came to visit and brought some leftovers which The Carpenter and I ate voraciously.  After they left, we spent some more time as a family before all climbing into bed together.  Everyone but me slept.  I had insomnia but I didn't mind - I had the best view in the whole wide world.

I'm a compulsive editor so I've already been back in this post making teeny edits here and there.  Hey, it's my blog, I can do what I want here.  In all seriousness, though, I feel the need to add that I can never express how grateful I am to Mother Nature for not only one but two beautiful birth experiences.  I have read more birth stories and watched more birth videos than I could ever count, I am involved with a lot of birth-related groups and I know there are many, many people who don't get to have this kind of experience even once despite the most careful planning and diligent preparation.  I am so, so, so filled with thankfulness and appreciation each time I think about my boys' births and the beautiful moments I get to treasure for all eternity.  Each time I think about them, I send out love and healing light to those of you who have had less than ideal birth experiences.  I want you to know that your experiences are valid, your babies are perfect and your feelings are real and right to have.  I want you to feel held in love and safety each time you reflect on your experiences and know that I honour you and your strength each time I reflect on my own.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fruity Frozen Yogurt

I love using my ice cream maker.  A lot.  It's so easy to whip up a quick batch of vanilla and then add whatever flavours I like to it, especially since I tend to like flavours that aren't common in most brands (well, except Marble Slab, which costs an arm and a leg).  When I make it at home, I get the added bonus of knowing exactly what whole and natural ingredients I'm putting into my ice cream, too.

The Smiler happens to know that I like making ice cream and also has a very special talent for recognizing ice cream, regardless of what sort of container it comes in.  As of late, he's developed a rather annoying habit of asking to have ice cream for breakfast, then having a total shit fit when I inevitably deny said request.  I was venting about this very problem to my mother who said, "Oh, he's probably waking up with sore gums and wants something cold."  I was gobsmacked.  Of COURSE that was the problem.  He's been working on those two year molars like crazy (hellish beasts that they are) and obviously something cold would be nice after a long, difficult night of trying to sleep through pain.  My mom suggested I have frozen yogurt on hand to offer him instead and that sounded like a helluva good idea.

So, last night, as The Carpenter and I sat around after a very nice, early bedtime for The Smiler, I decided I would go whip up a batch of granola.  As I started getting the stuff out, it struck me that there couldn't be a better time to try my hand at a batch of frozen yogurt, as well.  I've never made it before, nor did I have a recipe, but I knew I didn't have enough straight up yogurt to make a whole quart so I figured I'd add some cream and/or milk and fruit and see what happened.

Here's what I came up with and, honestly, I wouldn't change a thing except that maybe I didn't need any sugar at all since the berries I used were fresh and very sweet:

1 650 g container iÖGO
1/2 cup 10% cream
1/4 cup 2% milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup blackberries
1 cup strawberries

Put all ingredients in your blender, blend well (I like the fruit to be basically pulverized) and pour into the ice cream maker, churn to desired thickness and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The REAL Report on Attachment Parenting

In light of the recent media buzz attachment parenting is getting, I have a few things to say (certainly more than the reporter I spoke to quoted from the long talk we had for the not-so-well-written article in my local paper).

Little remarks like, "And [sic] she breastfeeds, and will continue to do so until such time that her child opts to swap breast for sippy cup. Or maybe just a regular drinking glass." made in the article speak to the underlying misconceptions people have about what is generally called attachment parenting (AKA intuitive parenting, responsive parenting, peaceful parenting, gentle parenting and several other monikers, too, no doubt).  

I won't dwell on this point long but I want to mention that toddlers and preschoolers don't breastfeed like newborns do.  There is a slow transition where breastmilk becomes a supplement to food instead of food being a supplement to breastmilk (bonus: no worrying about gaps in nutrition for picky toddlers or sick little ones).  As this happens, nursing sessions are dropped and, organically with time (and little to no encouragement from anyone), the child cuts back to only nursing a couple or few times a day, usually for sleep or comfort (interestingly, the last nursing sessions to go for most families are the ones associated with sleep - brains grow during sleep and breastmilk is loaded with all the best stuff for this job).  The child slowly needs breastfeeding less and less, just the same way a child needs their inanimate comfort items less and less, or the way a child needs help with tasks less and less.  Even in countries where children are allowed to self wean as the norm, the children all stop eventually.  

The idea that children raised in AP homes are needy, coddled, 'ruling the roost', being done a disservice, poorly behaved or that AP parents are unstable, poorly adjusted, permissive and damaging their children (and a host of other awful things on top of that) couldn't be farther from the truth. Unfortunately, attachment parenting and permissive parenting often get lumped together into one large category and that's just plain incorrect. 

A good friend of mine and the co-leader of the local group I run for attachment minded families often says, "Attachment parenting isn't about not saying no, it's about saying no with compassion." and she is so, so right. One need only read the comments on the article linked above to see what a bad rap us gentle parents get from un/misinformed individuals. People are sure we're insane and so permissive that we're totally ruining our children. One person goes so far as to comment, "Children need to be told No [sic], often and firmly." Wow, I'd hate to be that person's kid...  And for the record, permissive parenting is something altogether different from attachment parenting.  That's why one is called attachment parenting and the other is called permissive parenting.

Being AP isn't about keeping to a set of actions that are required from some list in a book or on a website, as the media has been making it out to be. Sure, there are things which are known to assist in fostering healthy attachment, such as Attachment Parenting International's principles or Dr. Sears' Baby B's but all the focus on the actions - particularly breastfeeding, babywearing and close sleeping - is missing the bigger picture. To be AP, you don't have to do all or even most of these things, necessarily. Attachment parenting isn't about things or actions at all, it's about feelings and connection. It's about understanding and empathy. It's about the fact that children are people, too and are worthy of just as much respect, love and understanding (in my opinion much more, actually) than any adult. It's about imagining what it must be like to be a child and remembering how things made you feel when you were little. It's about remembering that children have a very smal frame of reference for life experience and hardship coupled with immature emotional processing capabilities and a very small set of coping mechanisms. It's about understanding that children look to you for guidance. It's about treating your child as an individual with specialized needs and desires, with feelings and dreams, with a strong desire to please you and not abusing your position of power in their lives. It's about setting an example for your child of the kind of person you want them to be.

I want my child(ren) to grow up to be loving, sympathetic, empathetic, generous, kind, gentle, compassionate, motivated, cooperative, easy-going, accommodating, soft-tempered, thoughtful and friendly. Since they'll be watching me and their father more closely than anyone else in their lives for cues and examples of what kind of person to be, I must deal with them and with others in my life using those virtues if I want them to do the same.

Being a gentle parent means welcoming a child as they are without pushing them to the next stage. Children are dependent because they're children, not because they need to be forced into independence.  Dependence begets independence.  It's a natural and instinctive drive in all species to become independent, it's just that humans take longer than any other species to do it.  When a child is allowed to be dependent and not pushed or prodded toward independence, this inherent drive will manifest and unfold slowly over time.  When children's dependency needs are met, they feel safe and secure to venture forth more and more independently.

What's more, no one is truly independent.  We all lean on one another for various things because the nature of our species is to be communal.  As adults, we turn to others for support in times of need and we should teach our children that seeking out support (physical, emotional, spiritual, at work, at home, with friends, etc.) is healthy, normal, effective and positive.  If people were more willing/able to say what they need, express their feelings and needs in a healthy way and ask for help, the world would be better, not worse, for it.  Emotionally connected children who know their feelings and needs are important to their parents (even when the answer is no) are better able to accept and work through disappointment and be resilient, they are better at expressing themselves in healthy ways, they are happier, they have fewer behaviour problems and they grow into empathetic, emotionally stable, well-adjusted adults.

Now, I can't speak for everyone but I can certainly speak for myself and the other 150 or so families whom I've had the pleasure of knowing that are a part of my local group. AP children stand out and it's not for the reasons the naysayers would have you believe. It's not because they're sniveling, whining, needy, bratty, poorly behaved little hellions. It's because they're cooperative, easy going, confident, loving, gentle, empathetic, expressive little individuals who are secure in themselves, their place in their families and their parents' presence and love. They deal with problems better, they have fewer huge emotional outbursts, they listen well, they aren't fearful or angry, they are open and friendly.  The parents I know don't coddle their children, nor do they let them run amok, nor do they stifle them.  They have rules and expectations, they state them clearly and follow through with their instructions.  They support their children in their (long) journey to independence, constantly encouraging them at each new step and opportunity along the way, showing them that they believe in them and will always be there, telling them that it's okay to take things at their own pace while encouraging them to keep trying, even when they don't succeed with ease.

If you're not an attachment parent already, I hope you'll consider some of these ideas and even if you don't change your parenting, maybe you won't look so harshly on mine.

I'll leave you now with some of my favourite quotes about parenting and a list of more resources (though not an exhaustive one, by any means) thereafter.

"I believe in radical acceptance, respect and equality for children. Anything else is assuming they are not yet human beings." -Sharon W. Allison  

"The first thing you have to do if you want to raise nice kids, is you have to talk to them like they are people instead of talking to them like they're property." -Frank Zappa 

"Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff." ~Catherine M. Wallace 

‎"It is the nature of the child to be dependent, and it is the nature of dependence to be outgrown. Begrudging dependency because it is not independence is like begrudging winter because it is not yet spring. Dependency blossoms into independence in its own time." Peggy O'Mara, Editor, Mothering Magazine

“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” -Buddha 

“Rewards and punishments are the lowest form of education.” -Chuang-Tzu, philosopher (4th century BCE)

"All his time the Sun never says to the Earth, "You owe Me." Look What happens with a love like that. It lights the Whole Sky." ~Hafiz

"Breastfeeding is an unsentimental metaphor for how love works, in a way. You don't decide how much and how deeply to love - you respond to the beloved, and give with joy exactly as much as they want." ~Marni Jackson

"The more the child feels attached to the mother, the more secure he is in his acceptance of himself and the rest of the world. The more love he gets, the more he is capable of giving. Attachment breeds self-control, self-esteem, empathy, and affection, all of which lead to an increasing ability to develop literacy. We don't know why, but it seems to be true. Attachment is as central to the developing child as eating and breathing." -- Robert Shaw, M.D.   

“I am struck by the fact that the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think that the same is true of human beings. We do not wish to see children precocious, making great strides in their early years like sprouts, producing a soft and perishable timber, but better if they expand slowly at first, as if contending with difficulties, and so are solidified and perfected. Such trees continue to expand with nearly equal rapidity to extreme old age." - Henry David Thoreau 

"In our family, we let our children nurse until they’re done, and the earth’s position relative to the sun does not change our philosophy." -Mayim Bialik

"Love and violence, properly speaking, are polar opposites. Love lets the other be, but with affection and concern. Violence attempts to constrain the other's freedom, to force him to act in the way we desire, but with ultimate lack of concern, with indifference to the other's own existence or destiny. We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love." -RD Laing

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Parting on the Other Side

Those of you who don't know me in person will have to trust me when I say I change my hair fairly often.  Okay, I change something pretty much every time I get a haircut if I'm honest.  People often ask why I change the colour and style so much and come up with interesting hypotheses like, because I wasn't allowed to when I was a teenager, I crave attention, I don't know who I am, want to mask myself or even if I'm trying to emulate some famous person, "Hey, are you trying to be like Pink or something?"

Maybe there's some subconscious psychological thing going on because I was only allowed to dye my hair natural colours when I was a teenager but I don't have any conscious resentment.  Though I'll likely let my kids colour their hair any colour, I can see why my parents felt natural colours only was a fair rule and don't begrudge them that rule.

Yes, I used to smoke.  For about 15 years, actually.
Smoke-free since September 19, 2009!

Do I crave attention?  Well, I don't make company listen to me sing along to Tina Turner songs and perform dance routines anymore like I did when I was a little girl but sure, I like to stand out in a crowd and be noticed.  I don't think not wanting to blend in is a bad thing, though.  I feel good when I stand out.  I feel unique and interesting and that's a nice way to feel.  I make no apologies for enjoying comments and compliments about my appearance - you shouldn't, either!  It doesn't bother me in the least when a sweet older couple on the bus asks how I get that colour in there or when a child calls out across the grocery store, "Mom!  LOOK!!  That lady has purple hair!"  In fact, I think it's adorable.   

As for knowing who I am or masking myself, I think I have a relatively good idea of who I am at this point in my life...  And masking stuff is just too time and energy consuming for my taste nowadays.  Over the years, I've become less and less concerned about pleasing everyone and more and more concerned with my own opinion of myself.  As Kurt Cobain said, "I'd rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I'm not."  My relationship with myself is ongoing, of course, so I'm sure I still have much more to learn in due time.

No, I'm not trying to be like Pink.  I didn't even know what Pink looked like until like, late 2010.  That shit's not on my radar.  This T-shirt is from Value Village.  I pulled it out of the laundry basket this morning, smelled it, tugged at the wrinkles a bit and then put it on.

Truth is, every time I change my hair, I get to look at myself in a new way.  It gives me an opportunity for life change because it's a different or new 'me' looking back in the mirror.  It motivates me to freshen my spirits and work on things I want to grow better at.  It reminds me that I am beautiful and that it's good and right to feel that way.  It reminds me that I am different, unlike anyone else and perfectly me.  And then six to eight weeks later, I can start again.

Today, I felt tired of my hair so I did something I haven't done in years - I parted it on the other side.  It felt really weird at first but through the day, I'd surprise myself when I caught a glimpse in the mirror and then not mind the look.  Soon, I kind of liked it.  Even though I didn't go for a haircut, I'm feeling that 'new car scent'-y kind of feeling right now and I'm going to roll with it.  Had a good night with The Smiler and my mom, got some supplies so I can work on my latest Waldorf doll, The Smiler's sleeping...  And I wrote a blog post!  Something I haven't done since January.  *blushes*

Anyway, my point is, if you're in a funk and want to get into the spring spirit, now's the time to do it!  Consider making just a small change in your appearance to spur you on.  Seeing a physical change can help you get past your own definitions of yourself.

Now, because I worked so hard blogging and thinking about my hair, finding a way to make haircuts into a personal development project, I get a frozen yogurt bar.  Positive Reinforcement for the win!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Dying Play Silks With Kool-Aid

A friend and I recently purchased some silk scarves from Dharma Trading Company to use as play silks for our children.  There are many places to purchase play silks from, both plain white or pre-dyed, so if you're looking to get some yourself, do your research and get something you love!

We decided to go with the Habotais because they came well recommended from another friend who has some and they were affordable.  When we opened them we were impressed with the softness and beauty of them.

We looked into dying options and decided to use Kool-Aid.  There are lots of options out there so I suggest you do your research on dyes, too, if you decide to dye at home.  The Kool-Aid appealed to us because it was cheap, readily available, offered vibrant colour choices and only needed boiled water and vinegar to use.

We used this site and this site to help determine the colours we chose.  You'll notice both sites show a noticeable difference in the shades of red but we tried to do one long play silk in a fade effect with three shades of red and the colours look almost exactly alike on the silk.

The process we used was easy enough, we boiled a large amount of water, added a cup of vinegar to it and then poured it into the bowls with the flavour crystals (I guess I should mention that you don't add the sugar to the mixture).  Stir to dissolve the crystals and then submerse the silk.  If you want a uniform colour all across the fabric, us a lot of water and crystals for each colour.  We used about 1-1.5 litres (4-6 cups) of water and three packages of crystals per two silks and our colours are strong but came out mottled and tie-dye looking.  We like the look, ourselves, it's very natural and hippy-ish, just like us!  When you place the silk into the mixture, you can literally watch the colour leave the water and enter the silk.  After only a few moments the water is clear or nearly clear.  If the vessel isn't large enough and there isn't a lot of water in it, the silk can't open up enough to get even colour absorption all over so the outer layers get more colour and the inner layers are lighter.  With a larger bowl and more water, you'll get more even results.

I recommend using a pair of tongs or other device to work with the silks in the water as the Kool-Aid will stain your hands.  Keep in mind that it can also stain other stuff, like porous rock surfaces, woods, linoleum and laminates, among others.  You'll want to put several layers of newspaper and/or some old towels over anything you don't want getting stained.  If you do get a stain on something, bleach may help get it out if you get at it quickly.

Once the colour has all or mostly left the water, remove the silks and wring them out.  It seems that once the colour has taken to the silks the colour is not as likely to transfer so your hands should be okay at that point but please, wear gloves if you have a fancy dinner date later or are getting married the next day or something. No point risking purple fingers!

Allow the silks to hang dry, making sure they're not touching or hanging in a way that drips can fall on other silks as the colour may transfer.  Once dry, you can iron them if desired (this will help set in the colour a little more, too) or just leave the wrinkled texture that results after wringing and hang drying.  Only hand wash wash them if necessary using a very mild detergent and hang to dry again.

Now, the moment you've been waiting for!  Pictures!!!  I have photos of the dying process, the drying process and the dried scarves but none of us playing with them.  That's not for lack of use, though!  It's because we were having so much fun I couldn't be bothered to stop and grab the camera!!  The Smiler absolutely LOVES these things!  He was playing peek-a-boo, wearing them as capes and hoods, pretending they were food, putting them in a pile and just sitting in the middle, kicking his legs among them and squealing with glee, putting them on the cats and the dog, on his Uncle James, hiding his toy cars under them and then saying, "Boo!" and just running around with them all bunched up in his arms.  It's adorable, quite frankly.

The colours we used, from left to right, were Kool-Aid Cherry, Kool-Aid Orange, Crystal Light Lemonade, Kool-Aid Lemon-Lime, Kool-Aid Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade and Kool-Aid Grape.  We used the Crystal Light because we couldn't find Kool-Aid Lemonade.  And when I say 'we' I mean 'my friend's husband who walked back and forth between two grocery stores late at night before being told to give up and come home by his wife and then my friend who went out after that to find another solution'.   It's also worth noting that Kool-Aid Tropical Punch has a dark turquoise package but is not blue, it's deep red.  The aforementioned husband got Tropical Punch to use for blue and the aforementioned friend had to run to two more stores today mid-dying to find the Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade.  I got to play cars with the boys while she was gone :)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Shampoo and You

I haven't shampooed my hair in nearly two years.

There.  It's out.  Now you all know my little secret - I'm 'poo free!  That's right, I don't use shampoo or conditioner at all.  Instead, I use baking soda to wash and apple cider vinegar (ACV) to condition and I am sooooo glad I made the switch!  You may think I'm crazy but I assure you, my hair is far softer, more manageable and my scalp is healthier than ever before since I made the switch.

Here's the deal: washing your hair isn't bad for you so much as the chemicals in shampoos are, specifically drying agents like SLS.  These are not just bad for your skin, they're bad for your whole body.  But, hey, they make more suds and are a really cheap filler, right?  Right.  Even most products marketed as 'natural' contain this ingredient and it's probably one of the first or second things on the list.  Anyway, I won't go into too much detail on that because I'm sure my seven readers are more than capable of researching the topic if they so choose but what I will tell you about is how to transition to 'poo free and get hair as awesome as mine.

To wash your hair, take about 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a container and mix it with about a cup of water.  Stir it up with your fingers (I do this right in the shower, myself) so the baking soda doesn't just sit at the bottom and then pour it all over your head.  Firmly massage your scalp for 1-2 minutes.  You should feel the baking soda while you're doing this.  Don't be shy to add more or to do a double wash if you don't feel clean enough.  I would like to point out that the goal here is to clean your scalp, not your hair, so don't worry about the lengths during this part of the process.  Clean scalp = clean hair but clean hair does not = clean scalp.  Rinse well and repeat if necessary.  Your hair should feel like it's been washed.  Mine actually squeaks a little as I rinse it, just like with shampoo.

My hair, right after a wash.

To condition and re-balance your hair, take about 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in a container (same one is fine) and mix it with about a cup of water.  Pour over the lengths of your hair and gently rub/squeeze it into the lengths.  Now, here is where some people differ in opinion.  Some people don't use the ACV at all while others think it's important to rebalance the pH of the hair and scalp.  Some people use straight ACV while others think it's a waste of money to use that much when a dilution is fine.  Some people leave the ACV solution on without rinsing while others rinse it out.  Some people avoid their scalp (ACV can be a little bit irritating to very sensitive skin, for example) while others just dump it on willy nilly.  I fall into the latter group on all these points.  I find my hair feels better and is more manageable when I use the ACV, I like it diluted, I rinse and I don't worry about getting it on my scalp (disclaimer: I have pretty short hair so it's nearly impossible not to get it on my scalp).

A lot of people jump at the idea to go 'poo free and I commend them but many of those same people give up quickly because they're not ready for the adjustment period.  Now, likely since birth, you've been cleaning your scalp with harsh chemical shampoos and doing it far too often, as well (think more than once or twice a week).  That harsh chemical shampoo has been sucking every last drop of healthy oil off your scalp every time you use it, for years.  Because of that, your scalp has been waaaaay overproducing oils to compensate for being dried out so often (I shudder to think about people who shampoo daily).  For most people, it will take a while for their scalp to bring its over production back to normal levels and this is what I call the adjustment period.  During this period, lasting from 0-8 weeks (most people say 2-3 weeks on average) your hair will feel greasy, it will be limp and luster-less, it will be hard to manage and you won't have much body.  I know, I know, very convincing, right?  But I promise, if you stick it out and don't get drawn back into the shampoo downward spiral, it will be worth every bandanna, pony tail and hat day you have to have.  Seriously.  It will be.

Once you go 'poo free, your hair will be healthier, softer, shinier, more manageable and sexier (yup, sexier, 9 out of ten 'poo free-ers agree).  Now, I hear some of you out there saying things like, "But *I* have really oily hair." or, "But *I* have curly hair." or, "But *I* have dandruff and need special shampoo." and the like.  I swear to you, YOU people are the ones who are most in need of going 'poo free!  Shampoo is doing that to your hair and scalp, not the lack of shampoo.  Just give it a try and I swear, you'll love it and never want to go back.  What have you got to lose, save for reputation and dignity, walking around with greasy hair for a few weeks?

You can still colour your hair, as well as blow dry and heat style.  In fact, colour seems to last a lot longer using this method.  You can still use styling products, though you'll likely have to double wash, depending on what you use.  Baking soda is actually recommended by a lot of stylists for getting rid of product build-up.  If you love scent in your hair products, add a drop or two of essential oils to your rinse! 

One more thing: I often get asked about things like frequency of washing and what to do about the hair dresser.  I do a 'no poo wash 2-3 times a week and that works for me.  Others only do it once a week and still others do it every second day or more.  The great thing about this is that you're really just cleaning the dirt off your scalp and hair and absorbing excess oil (not all oil) so you can do it as often as you feel comfortable with.  As for the hair dresser, you can either bring your own little container of baking soda for them to wash with or wash at home before you go.  

Happy washing!  

PS: I want to hear about your experiences if you decide to take the plunge!