The First 40 Days (post partum)

This is a book review, illustrated with my own personal experience and the intro to a lot of my upcoming posts. 

 

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This book, in my opinion, should be read by all expecting mothers. Wether it’s your first or your 6th child, if you are pregnant and haven’t read this book yet, I strongly suggest you do.

I was given this book by my friend Marisa Belger, the co-author of this book, and while I was not pregnant at the time, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, was gifting it and suggesting it to pregnant women, and I wished this book had been written when I was pregnant with one of my first 3 children as it is full of beautiful nourishing recipes, thoughtful tips and deep wisdom.

As luck has it, I ended up getting pregnant with my fourth child, Haumea, and had her a few weeks ago ❤

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So now I am home and I get live The First 40 Days, that were entirely inspired by this book. I am on day 24 now.

The idea of the first 40 days is a cultural thing. Many cultures around the world observe the first 40 days postpartum as one of deep healing, gentleness, inward living and care for the new mother and baby. One where neither the mother or baby leave the house and where they both spend their time just being with each other with minimal distractions and lots of nourishment, love and self care. A time where family steps in and comes to take care of the new mother so she can focus all her attention on baby. We don’t have this tradition in the US unfortunately. Quite the contrary actually!

In the US a mother is viewed as strong and capable if she is out and about with her newborn just days after giving birth. Extra bonus points if her physical body bounces back quickly. “Wow, you are so amazing being out with your new baby and you barely look like you have given birth!” Women are proud to show up places with their newborn in tow. “I got this, I can have a new baby AND be social AND even go back to work! I might even throw a welcome party for my baby”

There is pride in that. And I get it because I was like that with my first 3 babies. I was physically capable of doing it all and so I did. I was proud to be able to do it all. Since when has busyness become a badge of honor? I wore that badge with pride. Thankfully because of who I am and my genetic makeup I was able to handle the lack of early self care without it depleting me too much. But while my physical body was handling it fairly well, how was my emotional body really doing during those times?

This time around I am PROUD to have made the commitment to SLOW DOWN. I am PROUD to say I am staying home with my baby and doing the bare minimum. Because of who I am (physically active, social, mother of four, self imposed obligations of taking the kids out of the house and entertaining them often, self imposed duty of cooking from scratch), making this commitment to do the bare minimum took more work than it would have to just go back to living life the way I usually do. And boy do I need this time at home. I think it’s worth mentioning that I live in San Francisco, a big city with lots to do, lots to explore and lots of people to see. If I lived in the country or a more remote place, taking this time at home might not feel like such a big deal. I also think it’s worth mentioning that my mother passed when I was a child, and my father and step mom live in France. My husbands mother isn’t around either. So this leaves us with no grandparents to help us out and no mother figure to take care of me.

I am being very mindful of my diet. While I am usually someone who eats well, balanced and varied, the way of eating suggested by The First 40 Days isn’t only about the “healthy” factor, it’s about the nourishing and healing factor. While previously I would eat big salads and drink smoothies and smoothies bowls, because really, those things are healthy and packed with vitamins and yummy things, so why wouldn’t I eat them? This book has given me new isights on how to gently care for a body that needs comfort and warmth.

I have been feeling amazing everyday. My kids are being cared for by community so that they are not bored at home everyday, I am being fed nourishing meals by my community as well as the great prep work I put in while I was still pregnant, and I am receiving healing sessions from my community as well. My husband is being a rock star dad and taking the kids places as much as he can when he is not working in order for them to have fun and for Haumea and I to spend time alone. My brother is also staying with us and being helpful with the older kids so I don’t need to rush out of bed in the morning and can take my time nursing and snuggling Haumea. Not only do I feel great physically, I  have also recovered the fastest from all 4 births, and my emotional well being feels stable, centered, grounded and patient. I never thought this is the way I would feel after bringing a fourth child in to this already rambunctious home of mine. I know things will shift when I start to interact with the outside world more, and I feel so ready to take that on. Adjusting to life with a newborn in this way is setting me up for success as I am integrating in a peaceful, quiet way.

Not only that, but I am getting to spend such amazing quality time with my baby. Time that would so easily slip away if I were at the playground with the older kids, or in the car going places while she is strapped in her car seat, (probably crying because that is not where she wants to be), or at park meet ups or strapping her in and out of the carrier so I can shop and run other errands. We will eventually get to doing all those things. But being able to spend HER first 40 days out of the womb in such a thoughtful, low activity way, in the comfort of an intentional cocoon, I imagine is a much sweeter transition than being brutally thrown in the chaos of what can sometimes be this modern life. I get to spend long moments singing to her, massaging her, rocking her, soothing her, snuggling her. And the other kids are learning to treat her gently as well, honoring her space, her quietude and her transition.

This time at home is allowing me to replenish and feel ready to take on whatever shape my life will take once I start leaving the house again and having more obligations and duties. And it’s allowing me to fully tune in to Haumea so that I can make choices that are considerate of her once life resumes it’s busier pace. Although I have a feeling this time we are spending here is going to shift my perspective and desires around how much we do and how often.

And I attribute all of this to the inspiration I got from The First 40 Days. Before reading this book I felt like I was good at birthing, post partum and integration of a new being in our life. I would have not expected the amazing difference my inner world would experience by taking these committed 40 days. Because making this commitment goes beyond staying home for 40 days, it also involves being committed at caring for myself, on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. I journal, I write, I sing, I perform self massages. I oil my hair and take baths. I stretch, read and meditate.

I want to point out, that while I wished I had had this book with my first baby, I feel like this book is even more relevant to me now that I have several children. For those of you who are mothers, you might already associate with the fact that we can put ourselves last as mothers, or feel like we have too much going on already to take the time to nourish ourselves properly, be it with food or self care. It’s so easy to fall right back in to the “I need to do so much for everyone around me, if I have time I will do something for myself after” mentality.  So making this commitment during my pregnancy, talking to my husband about it and making sure he is on board and gathering my tribe, my community to support us all during this time, was even more necessary now that I have been a mother for 9 years than it was 9 years ago when my first child was born.

This book is a must have in my opinion. Unless you are a lucky person who comes from a culture who already honors this tradition and have been raised with these principles. For me, a lot of this information was new and I am so incredibly grateful to the women, Heng, Marisa and Emily, who put it into words and turned it into a book so that the rest of the world can learn about it.

And I am incredibly grateful to my husband and my community for supporting me in my decision. Even though this time spent this way is a necessity for the well being of myself and baby, because of the world we live in, a part of me cannot help but think of it as a luxury, a luxury I am blessed to be able to take in this fast paced, go-getter, keep moving and do do DO! world we live in.

 

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A Birth Story with a Recipe :)

September 14th, 2017

 

Drinking ceremonial hot chocolate as my contractions get stronger. I am waiting for you baby as you work your way to the birth canal. It is now 9am. I feel strong, confident and ready. Connecting with you in early labor feels sweet. You are gentle, patient and peaceful. No intense emotions or feelings of being rushed. I am eager to meet you my love. We got this. We are working together and in harmony. I love you.

Last night at 11pm is when it became clear that labor was starting. I felt this surge of hormones, I started getting fidgety, slightly irritable, impatient and warm. “The tub! We must blow up the birthing pool!”; “We need to move the TV, my birth altar is not set up!”; “I have to go to the bathroom, NOW and Taru is in there! Why is he in there!?” Oh shit this is happening. Am I ready? Running through checklists in my head. Do we have all “the things?” Did I prep enough? Do we have enough food? What are we missing? Leif where are you?? Oh right, you’re blowing up the pool…. I was so tempted to ask him to stop doing that so he could come upstairs and move the TV for me, but I decided to sit on the couch and practice patience. The baby was definitely not coming NOW. I won’t give in to my frantic mind. Slow down. Breath. Wait. I am so ready for this. I’ve been so ready. I have everything I need and I AM everything I need.

“Babe, can you please move the TV so can I set up the altar?” He had come back upstairs and was as fidgety and excited as I was “Oh my god, we’re having a baby!”.

Setting up the altar allowed me to slow down, tune in to the energies I was calling in for this birth: gentleness, patience, strength, warriorship, breath, connection with baby, softness. And it allowed me to connect with all my goddess friends who provided objects for me to put on my altar. Once that was done, I decided to take a shower and try to get some rest as the contractions were still mild and far apart.

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My sleep was frequently interrupted with contractions and trips to the bathroom, yet I was grateful to be able to rest. Around 3:30am the intensity picked up a bit and I had to focus my breathing in order to allow for the contractions to pass. But again, I was able to fall asleep in between them. At 6am they got stronger still and I was laboring in bed until about 7:30am when the kids came in. I decided to get up and wash my hair, because if baby is coming today, when will I get the chance to wash my hair again? Plus I want to smell nice for myself while I am in the heat of labor. The shower seemed to have slowed things down a bit so I tried to stay on my feet and move and dance and cook. I made curry in the crockpot. I was feeling somewhat impatient again. Is this going to pick up? Are the contractions going to get closer together soon? Or am I going to be mildly laboring for days? Can we just get this thing done? The mood swings between impatience and staying in the moment were an added indicator that labor was really happening. “With each breath, I oooooopen my cervix”; “Come on already, get stronger and drop that baby!”; “I gently welcome your arrival in due time baby”: “Why am I still smiling  and not crunched over my exercise ball in contraction agony??”.

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It’s 9am and the kids are outside playing with Leif. I make myself a ceremonial hot chocolate, light the candles on the altar and say my quiet thanks to all my support team, present at the birth and energetically there. I set up a few symbolic items next to me on the table (a felt heart for love and gratitude and softness, a butterfly for transition, change and happiness, a clear quartz crystal for amplified energy and connection to spirit). I pull out my journal and start writing. This is what I need to slow down and become fully one with what is happening. No more impatience, no more fidgety energy, it’s time to drop in and connect with baby.

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I feel strong, confident and ready. Connecting with you in early labor feels sweet. You are gentle, patient and peaceful. No intense emotions or feelings of being rushed. While I kept on expecting those and almost calling those in, I am grateful this is not how you are doing this right now baby. I am eager to meet you my love. We got this. We are working together and in harmony. I love you.

 

After this little focused moment of drinking and journaling, things started picking up. I let my midwives know that it is almost time, and I get to work. I walk and dance in order for gravity to work with me. I hum with each contraction and invite baby to drop. I don’t rush. I allow baby to set the pace and I allow myself to get taken by the pace of each contraction. My biggest work here is to fully surrender and relax as much as possible in to each contraction so that baby can do it’s thing. I stay on my feet as much as I can as gravity will help baby to drift downward more easily. Baby is doing most of the work here and I am supporting that as much as I can. I manage to step out of my own way and I surrender. That is my biggest work right here, right now. I have stopped wanting to rush the process yet a part of me wonders if this will be a long birth as everything feels so….peaceful. I keep on expecting things to feel so intense and draining. But it never really gets there. The contractions hurt, and they demand my attention and focus, and as soon as they are over I am able to be fully present to the outside world, not too caught up in my active recovery. This is a new way of laboring for me. I am aware of what is going on around me. I feel when Kekaula, my 5 yr old boy, comes to me and comforts me. I hear Tika, my 9 yr old daughter, and respond to her when she asks me if I need anything. I feel it when Leif, my husband, and Jolan, my 3 yr old son, come and use the tuning fork on my sacrum when the contractions feel very intense. The tuning fork helps so much in managing my pain.

 

Kristin, my doula and dear friend, arrives. She looks beautiful in her white dress with large green feathers. Festive and radiant. What a gorgeous gift to get to see her during this beautiful and physically painful and demanding time. She sprays me with some delicate essences and puts a cold cloth on my neck. I didn’t know I needed that until she did it. It’s the little things.

 

I keep dancing and walking around. Going to Leif for a few support contractions. In all honesty, I like laboring alone. I don’t feel the need to have Leif physically supporting me during the pain. It’s nice when he does yet I don’t seek it out or demand it. It’s almost easier to focus my attention on the work when I am at it alone. I go back to the ball on the ground. My favorite place to be for most of the hard labor. Nancy, my midwife, arrives close to 12pm. Kara, my other midwife, shortly after. I can smell Kristin’s amazing cooking coming from the kitchen. Ghee and onions. Something tasty is being created for us. I am laboring hard by then, yet still present and peaceful. This labor is so different from the others. I am grateful and a part of me still doubts. If things don’t pick up, can our baby be born soon? Is labor supposed to feel so sweet, so serene, so…..perfect?

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I throw up. Ok! I am transitioning! If I had any doubts about it before, I know myself in labor and throwing up is a sign that my cervix is opening up even more and I am moving in to the next phase of labor. And yet. This baby is not intense. This baby is not rushing me. This baby is not demanding of my energy or attention. Its is doing its thing and asking the bare minimum from me. In labor, the bare minimum is still a lot, but this my fourth time, it feels so simple and beautiful almost. Kekaula comes to me often with gentle touches and rubs. He is so sweet, and caring, and thoughtful. His energy quiet and loving. I am so grateful for his presence.

 

I feel the baby drop. The pain has moved from my belly and upper womb space to my pelvis and lower abdomen. And the pain is getting more sharp. It’s going to be time soon. My moans are becoming longer, more focused, more intense. And yet. I’ve experienced such excruciating pain in previous labors, is this all this is going to be? I mean it HURTS, and I want it to be over soon, yet I feel like it could hurt so much more. Or have my pain management skills improved since the last birth?

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“Aurore, do you want to get in the water?” Nancy asks. “YES”. I had been wanting to go in yet a part of me was worried that getting in too early would slow things down. I wanted to get in the water when it was really time to push. And it was time. Baby was ready, I was ready, the midwives were ready. It was going to happen soon. And I was grateful.

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The water is warm and I immediately feel better being in it. But the pool is uncomfortable. We got a cheap kid pool off Amazon because I couldn’t find an inflatable birthing tub for rent and I didn’t want the aqua doula. I was slightly regretting it then. I couldn’t get comfortable as my butt was at the bottom of the pool, making contact with a too hard surface: the ground below me. I couldn’t let my body keep opening the way it needed to for the baby to come out. I try to relax. I can feel Kekaula putting his hand on my heart and keeping it there. Giving me his love and strength as I work hard to get his sibling here. Jolan follows suit and gently touches my face. While I am loving the comfort from my boys I am having a hard time getting comfortable and allowing for contractions to really do their work. We try putting a towel under my bum but that doesn’t’ really do enough. I try to have a few more contractions and invite the baby to keep descending but it’s clear that my favored birthing position won’t work here. I flip over on to me knees, allow for my face to rest on the side of the pool and after a couple contractions there I know it’s time. I start to push. It hurts. I am not a fan of this position but it’s what I have to work with right now. I bear down again and push. I put my hand on my vagina to feel if the head is close. It is. I hear Nancy confirm that. Everyone is in position. Baby is coming. It’s all up to me now. Baby has done it’s part, now it’s all up to me in how long it will take for the baby to actually be born, it’s all in the pushing now. I know this. How hard I push, combined with how much I allow myself to OPEN will be the answer to how quickly we meet our baby. So I push. HARD. I try to ignore the sensation that my anus is turning inside out and about to be ripped off. I feel the head. I hear the voices telling me they see the head. “The head! It’s not all the way out Aurore, one more push.” I push hard and I feel the head completely clear. That took so much out of me. “You are safe, you got this, you are safe”. Kara’s voice in my ear as she hugs my head. I guess the effort this is requiring is being witnessed. It’s not just how I feel, I am actually working really hard to push this baby out. “One more push Aurore, you got this!”. It’s all up to me now. I can get this over with now if I choose. SO I PUSH. And I let out a warrior cry. And I reach down with one hand as the baby slips out of me and is being handed to me from between my legs. It’s done. I did it. WE did it. This was the hardest push of all 4 babies. But it was quick. And it’s over. I am so relieved. I lay back with relief and exhaustion and happiness. “It’s a girl! Is it a girl?” I lift the baby up off my chest. It’s a girl! Welcome sweet face!!!

 

It’s over. Well almost. Maconium is all around me in the tub. I need to get out. I can’t sit in here and deliver the placenta unfortunately. I need to go on the floor mattress. It’s those last little efforts once the baby is out that feel so incredibly demanding. Getting on the mattress is such a feat of strength. As I get out of the tub I feel a gush down my legs. “Ewwww! She’s pooping!” I hear the kids. Brown liquid all over me. Maconium in my waters. A lot of it. This is why you came early my little doll. It wasn’t safe for you in there anymore. Thank you for coming early and keeping yourself safe.

 

Once on the couch it took you minutes to find my nipple and you wanted to stay there for the first few hours post birth. It was so sweet and nice to see you latch on so easily and effortlessly and eagerly. Breastfeeding is a breeze with you. We lay peacefully together on the mattress as I birth the placenta and final birthing details happen (Did I tear? No. How is my blood pressure? Good. Do I have a fever? No.)

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Now I get to take a brief shower while the midwives check you out and make sure all is good with you too and then I get to snuggle with you in bed for a whole week.

 

I love birthing. I love the process, I love the outcome and I love the post birth week. It’s the sweetest week I ever experience. Falling in love with a new being, spending hours looking at her quickly changing features. Figuring out her cues and sounds and signs. The post birth week is one of my favorite weeks ever.

 

Welcome Haumea.

 

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Reflecting on this birth as well as all my other births, here are the things I wish to share.

From my own experience, the way a baby comes in to the world is somewhat of an indication of who this baby is. Who I am in pregnancy, is also an indication of who this baby is. From the moment conception happens, our energies are blended and we influence each other. By looking back on who I was with each pregnancy and how each labor went, and then seeing who my 3 older children are, that information is very relevant to me. I can describe my mood in pregnancy followed with my experience of labor with each child and explain how those impressions are present in each one of my children.

 

Being able to discern where my energy ends, where baby’s begins and where we are blended is something that came with practice and lots of awareness. I was too young and stuck in my ego with my first child to be aware of those things. It’s upon looking back that I became aware of the details and started paying attention in following pregnancies. With each consecutive pregnancy I became more fluent with this understanding and pregnancy became increasingly more spiritual and meaningful.

While this last birth was not the shortest, it was by far the sweetest. And I can say with certainty that the reason for that is because of who I was bringing in to the world and because of who I am at this point in my life. The increased awareness that baby does the work in labor and my job is to step out of the way really helped my body open and soften the way it needed to. Allowing for sweetness to take over. Because as soon as I regarded the labor pains as the actual work and effort that baby was doing to get here, instead of the dreadful experience that is unavoidable in birth, I became so much more accepting of and even touched by the contractions as I was seeing them as an expression of my baby. And instead of wishing the contractions away or struggling through them, I would softly speak to my baby, encouraging her and supporting her as I knew this was an effort for her as well. Isn’t that a sweet reminder of what parenting is all about? Releasing control and stepping out of the way of our children so they can do the work they came here to do, and just support them as best as we can in their endeavors.

 

I’ve always loved labor. I know it sounds kind of crazy but I do love labor. I like seeing how far my body will go, how much I can stretch my physical comfort zone. I like the feeling of working with my baby to allow for it to be born. I like the deep commitment it takes to be fully present with the experience. I like the meditative state that is required to labor naturally at home. I like paying attention to the phases of labor and how I manage myself in each of those. I love how much of a spiritual experience it can be when I allow myself to soften and have contact with spirit instead of being stuck in my pain.  And I really love the feeling of my baby coming out of me, the actual birthing part. There is nothing like the sensation of having life literally come out of me.

I was made for this. My body responds to pregnancy and birth in a way that makes it that I cannot deny that I was meant for this. And I am so incredibly grateful that I got to do this 4 times.

 

 

 Ceremonial Hot Chocolate Recipe:

(I got this recipe from a beautiful book “The First 40 Days, the art of nourishing the new mother”)

*2 cups milk of choice (I use homemade almond milk)

*3 TBS cacao powder

*1 TBS corn meal (for added thickness and texture)

*1 TBS coconut oil or ghee

*1 tsp cinnamon

*dash of cayenne (optional)

*sprinkle of seal salt (optional)

*sweetener to taste, I used about 2 tsp honey

Warm the milk in a saucepan. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high until everything is well incorporated. Drink warm.

This gave me some good sustenance for my laboring hours. And when I threw it all up, the coming back out part wasn’t too unpleasant as the flavors were so potent! Sorry if this is TMI, this is a birth story after all…. 😉

 

Garden Love and Gomassio

I finally started up my garden again this year after a couple year sabbatical. It feel so great to be playing in the dirt again, planting little seeds watching them grow, feeding our bodies directly from the earth and bringing awareness to my children of the importance of where our food comes from.

Growing up on an organic farm, we ate mostly from what my parents grew. And as a kid I took it for granted. That’s just the way it was! Food grows outside, we pick it, we eat it. During the summer time and school was out, we had to participate in the upkeep of the garden. It was a chore. All my friends were out playing and I had to stay back and put in my two hours before I could do anything. I didn’t like doing it. I complained often. But boy am I happy my parents did that! It is definitely one of those moments where my parents said “You will thank me later”, and I did 🙂

Having ma parents show me what real food was at such a young age, got me to grow into a food conscious adult, as well as bring awareness to the planet and living things. Now with my kids when we are out in our little city back yard, they observe bugs and ask questions about why I grow certain things and not others and talk about edible flowers. When having children, gardening becomes so much more than just eating from the source. And while I do not have the capacity to grow enough food to feed my family all the vegetables we require, it is still enough to have fresh greens daily and to involve my kids in something I find so important: Health and our Earth, and how the two are connected.

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We have been eating a variety of greens and herbs from the garden for several weeks now, but this is our first batch of radishes, and the kids were so excited to pick them!! Radishes are such a great vegetable for kids to grow because they are so easy, grow fast, are easy for them to pick,  and are cute and pink! Although they have a little spice to them, my kids didn’t seem to mind. I think the excitement of eating from the garden took over the slight spiciness 🙂 I remember loving radishes as a kid. When we ate them at my grandmas house we would put some fresh organic butter on them and then dip them in gomassio, this powder thing that my grandma would buy. For many years I reminisced about how tasty that was, thinking it was a childhood memory or that i had to be at my grandmas house to eat radishes that way. Until I found out that Gomassio was essentially just sesame seeds and salt. So I recreated this childhood memory with my own kids and it was perfect 🙂 We had some leftover gomassio and my daughter being the awesome little creative chef she is decided to use it to make a vegetable stir fry 🙂 I unfortunately have no pictures of that dish. IMG_2495

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp himalayan sea salt, or real salt

Steps:

  • smash them together until fine enough to dip radishes in it!
  • A mortar and pestle would be ideal here, but I broke mine a while ago and never bought a new one, so we used my daughters mini food processor

Food for Fuel

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photo source: Internet

Why do you eat? Why do you eat what you eat? Do you have a thought process before eating certain foods? Do you feel like your relationship with food could improve?

Food is essential for life. Without food or some form of it, we would not be able to live. Yet in these modern times, food is the cause of so much illness, poor health, sometimes even death. Why is that? Why is it that something that is designed to keep us alive, kills so many?

I think the reason why is because too many have lost contact with food’s primary purpose: FUEL. Then, nutrition.

Food is fuel for our bodies. Just like we need to put gas in our cars regularly, we need to put food in our bodies regularly. The highest quality gas will allow your car to run optimally. The right amount of radiator fluid and good oil, have the same purpose: to help your car to function properly. Too much or too little of these things will make it that your car will either overflow and not know what to do with all the extra liquid, or won’t be able to get you to where you want to go because of insufficient energy. While our bodies are much more amazing and intricate and complicated than a car, the basics are very similar. We need the proper kind of fuel to move optimally. The wrong kind of gas will break your car just like the wrong foods can create illness and poor health. Treat your body as you would your car, fill the tank with the right kind of fuel when it is empty, stop filling when it is full, give it the right kind of oil and at the right time.

Isn’t that great news? I think it is, because it really is THAT simple.

Too many people have lost touch with the simplicity of feeding one’s body and that is where eating disorders, obesity, poor health, etc…. arises. I don’t believe many foods to be truly evil. As a matter of fact, other than being a strict vegetarian, there is nothing I absolutely won’t eat. (Don’t quote me on this I might change my mind later). What I do believe in though, is eating the right foods at the right time. How do you do that? Well just think about what you are trying to accomplish. If all you are interested in is the pleasure of awakening your senses with delicious foods, then by all means, go for it, because, let’s not be hypocrites here, eating food for pleasure can be quite delightful. (Have you seen some of the recipes on my blog??) Even then though, I would suggest to be mindful about this. Do you eat for pleasure every time you eat? If that’s the case, I would suggest you make sure that what you find pleasurable also has a double purpose of properly fueling your body with nutritious ingredients. If it doesn’t, then maybe it’s time to revisit your relationship with food. If you are interested in being healthy and having your body work properly, then I suggest you start thinking about your meals and what you are going to be eating according to what your activities following that meal are. Are you going to be exercising? Are you going to be sitting at your desk for several hours? Are you going out dancing? Are you going to the park to play with your kids? Are you sitting on the couch watching a movie? Depending on what you will be doing, your body will require different forms of fuel. The foods I choose before an afternoon at the park running around, often are different than the foods I choose once the kids are in bed and I am reading a book or watching a movie. With this mindset I rarely feel deprived. If I MUST have a cupcake or ice cream or pizza or croissant, or which ever other foods that are not optimal for my body’s wellbeing, then at least I can make sure to eat those things at a time where my body can use those foods as energy instead of storing them as fat.

Subsequently, choosing the proper nutrition for your fuel will have an even greater positive impact on your health. I mentioned pizza, cupcake and such, and while I believe it is fine to let myself eat those things at times, it is rarely what I will choose to FUEL or FEED my body with when I have health in mind. Using the proper fuel will ensure optimal body function. While eating pizza at lunch when I will be going for a run later is much better than pizza at dinner when I will just be sitting and watching a movie, no pizza is best. So do not let yourself get trapped in the “FUEL” mindset, meaning you are using the fact that you will be using what you just ate as fuel for exercise as a reason to feed your body junk regularly. Combining proper fuel with proper nutrition is where it’s at if you are looking for optimal health. While a cookie might be lower in calories than some dried fruit and nuts, the benefits you will get from the latter outweigh the benefits you would be getting from a cookie. Wether you are burning off the calories or not.

I believe that the quality of your calories are far more important than the quantity of those calories, I will also argue that at which time you choose to consume those calories are almost equally as important than the calories you are choosing to consume.

It might take some practice at first but eventually this will be second nature. Reaching for a cookie at bedtime, or going to the gym on an empty stomach won’t make any sense to you. Having a big carb loaded lunch will sound awful if you know you are returning to the office to sit at your desk for several hours. By thinking of food this way you are bringing back your intuition to what feels best. Because in the end, isn’t that what we all want? To feel good? And I can guarantee you that the momentary “good” feeling you get from eating a “treat” is nothing compared the long lasting bliss that comes with eating a clean, nutrient rich diet.

So next time you reach for something to eat, ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish for my body with this food?”

Weaning from Mothers Milk

I have had several people ask me about how I weaned my kids from breast feeding. So I thought I would share it here in order to make it easier access for those who asked and also, hopefully, in order to help mothers who are in the process.

I have 3 kids. The baby is still nursing full time. My daughter self weaned at 2 1.2 years old. And my middle child had to be weaned about 9 months after his baby brother was born. So I have experience with both self weaning, and “assisted” weaning. For the purpose of this post I am sticking to “assisted” weaning, what I did with my son, what worked for us.

I am by no means a lactation consultant. I am just a mother who has her own experience with her own children. Every mother will have her own ways of doing things and what worked for me might not work for another, but I still feel compelled to share in case what I have to offer can help ease the stress for some.

Firstly, if you are looking for my tips and advice on night weaning, go here. I wrote about how I night weaned my two older kids at around age 10-12 months.

This post is intended to focus on the last daytime feedings of an already night weaned child.

The first piece of advice I want to give is: make a plan and stick to it. If you are really committed to weaning your child, make a plan, and stick to it. From what I experienced, being too flexible with dwindling down the nursing, just extends the time it will take for the nursing to stop. At first I was pretty vague with my son. I just said I would “slow down” or “limit” the feedings. If that  sounds vague and confusing, its because it is. Imagine a child trying to figure out what it means? I would say “Not now buddy, we will do gougoutte (french for booby) later”. When is later? After a coupe days of doing that with him, and him having fits because he wanted the boob now, I realized I needed to be more clear. For both of us. That’s when I decided to put him on schedule. It’s pretty known amongst parents that children in general thrive with routines and schedules. Children like to know what is coming next, it helps them handle situations more easily. I experienced the reality of this with weaning my son. As soon as I implemented a schedule, he was on board and within less than two weeks I managed to not only slow down the daily nursing, but I eventually cut it down to just the early morning feeding which was the hardest.

A little more detail. When I decided it was time to wean him, I stopped offering him the boob altogether. I waited for him to ask for it. Within just a few days I wanted to cut down even more and that’s when I tried saying no, later, but that didn’t work so well, so I implemented the schedule. I decided that he would get milk first thing in the morning when he woke up, and right after his afternoon nap. I told him this. I reminded him of it regularly. So when he would ask for the boob and I would say no, it wasn’t foreign to him.

Once I felt like he was doing well with this, I cut out the afternoon feeding. A very important note here: BEFORE he would go down for his nap I would tell him that when he wakes up, he is not getting gougoutte, he can have a banana or some water, or an orange, etc…. If I ever forgot to tell him this, he would freak out upon awakening. This seemed like a deal breaker for him. So I tried to never forget to tell him before he fell asleep that he was not getting the boob once he woke up. He would definitely ask after his nap, but didn’t get too bent out of shape when I would say no. I honestly think it took less than a week for him to get to that point. And about 2 weeks for him to stop asking altogether.

The last feeding to go was the early morning one. It was the hardest. Mainly because he would crawl in to bed where his baby brother was sleeping, demanding the boob and if I didn’t give it to him he would freak out and wake up his brother. So it took a bit longer to stick to my words as I didn’t want to wake up the baby. I essentially did the same thing as for naps though. Before bed time I would tell him that when he wakes up in the morning and he comes to my bed, we can snuggle but we aren’t doing gougoutte anymore. Little by little it caught on until he would just come into our bed and ask for a snuggle. Pure bliss. For real. I didn’t expect that stopping to nurse him would lead to such amazing snuggles. Here is a more emotionally charged post about this 🙂

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Although I had to wean my son, he still nursed until he was almost 2 1/2. I truly love nursing and he might still be nursing today if he didn’t have a baby brother. But I have noticed a growth spurt happen after the weaning. It’s like breast feeding him was the only thing keeping him in the baby stages. He is so much more verbal now, more independent. I feel like I can talk to him and have him understand me better. His brain doesn’t go into baby booby land just seeking comfort when something bothers him. He is just 2 1/2 now, I weaned him last october. And for a 2 1/2 year old he is pretty communicative and understanding. Although he still acts like a baby sometimes, for the most part, it seems as though the weaning has allowed him to start opening himself up to self soothing, or just needing a hug, which in a lot of ways is a relief for me.

So there you have it. My path to weaning my children. If you have any questions, I am more than happy to answer them. Again and always though, as a mother, follow your intuition and your heart, and do what feels best for you and your baby. We all have a unique bond with our children and it is important to stay connected and in touch with that bond in order to make intuitive choices.

I hope this post helps. Happy weaning!!

Intentions, Not resolutions

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The end of the year is fast approaching, and so are most peoples New Years Resolutions. I’ve stopped having new year’s resolutions a long time ago. Mainly because I have stopped waiting for a new year to get going on something that I know will benefit me, but also because I would find myself caught up in the all too familiar excitement of setting new goals, too many of them, going all out for a few weeks and then falling off the excitement train to go right back to my old habits.

Instead I have started reflecting, and setting intentions. This is something I do routinely, not just on the new year, but I find the collective energy so strong on the new year, that I like to participate in this momentary heightened state of excited consciousness and send out to the universe bigger intentions, bigger reflections and brighter goals than I do all year round.

What I did not like about resolutions, is that I found myself in a state of “want”. I want to exercise more. I want to eat better. I want to make more money. I want to do x,y and z. And while wanting definitely got me going for a while, it never lasted. Plus wanting those things just put me in an “end goal” state of mind, whereas with intention setting, I can focus more on the journey.  Resolutions has such a finality about it. Intentions has more of a lifestyle adjustment feel to it, in my opinion.

Thinking about my life with intention instead of resolve makes me feel happier, more free, more open to flexibility and change-of-course if things shape up somewhat differently than I had anticipated.

To some people, this is all semantics, and the wording you use might have no impact of what you set out to accomplish. In any case, I think it is nice to take some time to reflect on the past year, what worked, what didn’t, what I want to improve on, what I want to create.

Here is what I propose for anyone interested:

*look back on 2014 and think about all your triumphs and failures. Write them down. Allow yourself to sit with the uncomfortable feelings that arise while reliving your failures or the moments you didn’t live up to your best self. This is important as it allows you to release the negative emotions you might have brewing inside you about yourself. Remember that those moments have passed, you survived and hopefully you are stronger/wiser thanks to them. There is no need to hold on to those any longer. Holding on to those will only hinder your growth and your ability to manifest greatness. When thinking about your triumphs you can get better insight on where you excel and how that can support you in accomplishing more in the year to come. I think this is an important step as it is equally beneficial to let go of the past to be able to move forward as it is to acknowledge our strengths and be empowered by our own positive opinions about ourselves.

*write down the qualities about yourself that you feel allow you to accomplish things in your life, wether it be you are hard working, or easily motivated, or determined or outgoing and social. Acknowledging and looking at your qualities can give you more strength and power in your intention setting as it shows you parts of yourself you have a good connection with which in turn will assist you to stay on track with what you set out to do.

*write down your intentions and which qualities about yourself will allow you to accomplish those intentions. Say you are outgoing and social, and one of your intentions is to be more active, then maybe you can enroll your friends in a weekly hike, or join a bootcamp with people you enjoy being around.

*do not overdo it. Having too many intentions can quickly become overwhelming. Having just a few things to focus on can allow us to actually focus on them. If you get the hang of your new intentions quickly and it becomes part of your lifestyle, nothing stops you from creating new ones!

Are you setting intentions for yourself this year? How do you go about doing that? I find it fun to think about the future and how I can make it brighter 🙂

Intenseness Does not Equal Healthness

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(Healthness should be in the dictionary)

I used to be that person, the one who wouldn’t do a workout if I couldn’t give it my all. If I didn’t have at least an hour to workout, then why bother? If I can’t get a good sweat going, what’s the point? For years that attitude more or less worked for me. I was living a single life and worked as a trainer at a gym. I had the time and convenience of taking classes and working out during breaks or after work. And I made sure I sweat every single time. It didn’t count as a workout if I didn’t have to change my shirt and sports bra afterwards. It was a great feeling really. To have to peel the soaking clothes off my body, proving that I had given my all, that I had an intense workout worthy of a fitness trainer and an all out workout beast.

That was me in my twenties. Pre-babies. I was on fire and unstoppable. What size clothes I fit into mattered more than the long lasting health benefits of my lifestyle.

Although it took some getting used to and some ego-checking, I am so grateful for the shift in my perspective and my approach to health.

Today, every little bit of physical activity counts towards my goal of lifelong health.

I didn’t really “choose” to change my outlook on fitness, I kinda had to make changes according to my mommy lifestyle. I didn’t have the time or energy to spend so many hours at the gym. I had to find other ways to stay fit and active. At first I was still striving to get that “perfect” body (whatever that is), still trying to look the way I did before I had children. My workouts were solely driven by a desire to improve my appearance. It worked some, but not fully. It was way too easy for me to skip a workout, or reach for an unhealthy snack, as I felt I looked “good enough”.

After my second baby arrived I started viewing physical health quite differently. And it wasn’t until my 3rd baby arrived, that I really got a good handle on what true health means for me.

Today being fit and healthy looks so different than it did in my early twenties. And funny enough, I feel like I look better than I did before I had my first child. Even if under my own scrutiny I notice the cellulite and stretch marks that weren’t there before, somehow, I find myself more beautiful than I did back then. My skin was tighter then, my belly wasn’t marked, my breasts were fuller, and yet I didn’t have the appreciation for how I looked the way I do today. Not only that, but I am much healthier today than I was at any point in my twenties.

What changed is I shifted my intense workout attitude for a more healthy one. My intense workouts were driven by a superficial desire to look a certain way. This kind of mentality is neither healthy nor is it sustainable. One day I was bound to burn out on spending hours at the gym. Today, I don’t have time to spend hours at the gym, but I do have time to spend hours at the playground! Working out at the playground while hanging out with my kids is a very healthy way to move my body. I don’t put many expectations on myself when I am at the playground, other than do a minimum of two exercises. Sometimes that turns into 10 exercises, sometimes it’s just two. But at least I moved my body. The next day, I might be on a walk and I decide to do a few jump squats on a bench and some pushups. That takes less than 2 minutes. Or I will run some of my favorite stairs with my boys after I drop off my daughter at school.

Moving my body a little bit every day guarantees I remain consistent. And if that is my only goal: moving my body a little bit every day, I rarely let myself down. Some days I get a full on workout and it feels amazing. Some days, I focus on my cardio and run stairs intentionally to get a good sweat going, and I love it. Sweating and working out feels great to me. But those things are not my priority anymore. Feeling good is. And sweating every single day, getting an intense workout every single day, doesn’t feel good to me anymore. Mainly because I don’t have the energy given the amount of sleep I get. But moving my body a little bit every single day, is a MUST for me to feel good and have a Good Life.

My point here is that to be healthy, I needed to make choices that are sustainable and convenient. Doing a quick 15 minute workout in my living room, is very convenient. Working out at the playground is definitely sustainable as I will be going to playgrounds for years.

I still love intense workouts. I love kickboxing. I love sweating. Yet I don’t believe those things to be essential on a daily basis to be healthy. I do believe in connecting with my inner beast every now and then to push boundaries and see what I am made of. But that’s not my every day approach to fitness anymore.

Once my kids are all in school, I wouldn’t be surprised if my priorities change again. Once I have more time to myself I will probably find a different way to act out on my desire to remain healthy. But for now, intenseness doesn’t equal healthness.

Sleeping like a Baby

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Who ever decided that this phrase was to be used as a positive comment? I mean babies, generally, aren’t great at sleeping. New borns wake up every couple hours to eat. If I were to get up every couple hours and go to the kitchen for a snack I doubt I would feel like I was getting good rest, (not to mention the amount of pounds I would be putting on). If you are one of the lucky one’s whose baby just decided to sleep through the night at just a few weeks old (I hate you), you are very lucky.

I have 3 kids, one of them is still a baby. And in my world, sleeping like a baby means you don’t sleep enough, at least from a parent’s perspective. My daughter was a decent night sleeper, but a terrible napper. I couldn’t put her down. She slept well on me but as soon as I tried to lay her on the bed she would wake up. I didn’t mind too much as she was my first and I had nothing else to do but to carry her around, go for walks, clean the house and such. It was extra cuddling time. It was just frustrating when I wanted to get a workout in or take a shower. My first son, had digestive troubles for the first few months, so nights were awful. I would have to walk him around at 2am trying to help sooth his aching belly. He was a great napper though. I could put him down and he would stay asleep for at least an hour. Which was awesome. Since him and I would spend so much time together in the middle of the night, I welcomed the hour long break in the day. My baby now, is a terrible sleeper all around. He wakes up frequently at night, and I can rarely put him down for naps. He naps on me during the day, and is snuggled by my side at night, frequently waking up for a snack or just to make sure I am still there.( God forbid I went to the bathroom during one of his wakings.)

I’ve learned to adapt to this. I do a lot with him sleeping on me during the day. Heck, I’ve even figured out how to workout! (yep, that’s me in the video). But he wakes up easily if one of his siblings is too noisy.

I’ve learned ways to make my life more manageable on intense sleep deprivation. I would even say I’ve become quite good at it. There was a time I would wake up resentful, not feel like doing anything at all, just zombie around all day and couldn’t get the older kids to bed fast enough at night just so I could lay down myself.

But now, I feel like I live a life full of awesomeness. I am not getting any more sleep than a few months ago. My baby still wakes up several times a night. But I’ve adjusted and just like most things in life, it takes on average 6 weeks for our bodies to adapt to any new routine. So I guess you could say that I have hit a sleep deprivation plateau, where my body has gotten used to the amount of sleep I am getting and I can now sustain the lifestyle that I have without too much struggle.

For the most part, I have accepted the fact that my life right now is not powered by sleep. But there are days when I get frustrated and just wish he would sleep more. So when I see or hear the phrase “I slept like a baby”, and I think, “wow you must’ve had a crappy night”.

“I slept like a toddler”. Now there’s a phrase that makes sense to me!! Both my older kids sleep great. And as soon as we night weaned them, they started sleeping through the night and haven’t gone back. It. Is. Wonderful.

I live a very full life on very little sleep. I have never been so tired and so happy at the same time. Although I do not get that much sleep, I have stopped resenting that. Letting go of the thought that I NEED more sleep, made it that I have been able to allow myself to function at whatever level I can each day without judgement. Sure I regularly want more sleep, but I don’t believe I always need it. Some days I feel like I am awesome and I get so much done, and some days I can barely get myself dressed and out the door for school drop off without wishing it was 7pm already. But everyday I am accepting. And that acceptance has taken away a lot of the frustration, the annoyance and the short temperedness. These early days with the babies are the ones that go by the fastest. It won’t be that long before the baby sleeps through the night. And soon enough they will all be in school all day long. Finding out who I am right now, in these moments of sleep deprivation, is an interesting process to me. As long as I don’t make it about other people and lash out at my family, then all is good.

So there are my thoughts on sleeping like a baby. The eternal optimistic that I am has found many positives in my sleep deprivation to make me not hate life, but I won’t hide that I am looking forward to the day I get more than 2-3 hours of sleep in a row. I am not ready for night weaning yet, and that is why it hasn’t happened.

If you have a sleep deprived life, please share your experience and what you do to deal with it. I hope most people have a better experience than I do, because truth be told, it does suck to not get enough sleep.

 

Think Ahead, Lazy Parenting

Advance meal prep is where it’s at when trying to be a lazier parent. Although I truly love being in the kitchen and can spend hours creating, cooking, mixing, etc…. There are days when I don’t have time, or I just don’t feel like it. I started doing serious advance meal prep when I was pregnant with my first child, almost seven years ago (!!!!) And I have since done that at the end of each pregnancy. As the due date approached, I would start cooking like crazy and freezing a bunch of stuff so that we would have an abundance of wholesome foods to eat once the new baby arrived, without me having to spend much time in the kitchen, therefor having more time to snuggle with my new baby 🙂 Combine this with the generosity of friends dropping off food, we always had a very easy and healthy first 6 weeks postpartum. I did this with all three pregnancies, and for some reason, once we ate all the food in the freezer, I would go right back to cooking everyday from scratch. But not this year! I have already started filling up my freezer and will keep doing it.

I am sharing this post with you for two reasons:

  1. Maybe you haven’t been doing this for your family, and I can help inspire you to start making big batches of food and freezing them for future meals, therefor easing your stress around meal prep at times.
  2. To share with you some of favorite go-to freezer meals that we eat throughout the “winter”.

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This was my freezer last year at this time, since I was about to give birth to my 3rd baby. There are several batches of muffins: carrot muffins, zucchini muffins, blueberry muffins. There are several soups: carrot soup, butternut squash soup, lentil soup. As well as some veggie stews, and chili. There are some curries in there and some apple sauce. As well as my go to raw energy bites. I had also made huge batches of raw granola, that I kept in the pantry.

I cannot share enough how nice it is to have a freezer full of nutritious wholesome meals. If I have time and energy, I truly like prepping my meals fresh, but I also like to be able to stay out an extra hour if we are having a good time somewhere without the worry of having to go home and cook a meal. Or if I know ahead of time that I will be out late, I can take one of the pouches of food out and let it thaw in the sink all day so that when dinner time comes we will have a meal just waiting to be heated.

And I love having a variety of muffins ready to be grabbed for my daughter’s school lunches and snacks.

I use a vacuum sealer. It keeps food fresh longer, without the unfortunate layer of ice that can form in jars. And it also saves so mud space. The soups and stews can be stacked, avoiding the clutter of too many jars.

I hope you find this post useful. What do you do to make your life easier in the kitchen? Any tips are greatly appreciated!  I truly value eating nutritiously, and I also value having fun, being lazy and living in the present, which a little bit of thinking ahead can help me accomplish 😉

Natural Cold Remedy

If you have been following my blog, you are likely aware that I am not a fan of chemicals, especially going in to my body. I put extra effort in preparing wholesome meals and feeding myself and my family clean, nutrient dense foods for many reasons, and the biggest one is so we can be healthy and have a body that functions optimally, in order to enjoy life to the fullest. Sometimes though, our immune systems can’t handle things that are going around and we can get sick. Although this rarely happens, I like to be prepared in the event it does. Since I do not take store bought medicine or pills from a pharmacy or even really go to the doctor for that matter, I research ways to heal and fight illnesses naturally. I firmly believe in the healing powers of plants and all things that nature has provided for us, therefor I will always look there first before turning to a more “clinical” method. That is when I came across this site and recipe:

http://www.cauldronsandcrockpots.com/2013/01/elderberry-elixir/

I am so excited to have strained my elixir tonight and to be able to share it with you 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup elderberries
  • 1/2 dried elderflowers
  • 1/4 cup mullein leaf
  • 1/4 cup dried boneset
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamon
  • 1/2 peel of 1 lemon
  • alcohol (I used brandy)
  • raw honey (it is so nutritionally dense compared to the non raw kind

Steps:

  • Put all the herbs in a jar
  • Fill it a third of the way up with honey
  • Finish filling with alcohol
  • Screw the lid on top, give it a good shake
  • Keep it in a place where you will see it daily so you can give it a good shake everyday
  • Let it sit for 6 weeks
  • Strain, put it in bottles, label and store for a few years

When you feel any symptoms of a cold or flulike sickness coming on, take 1/4 tsp every couple hours until you feel better.

I haven’t tried the efficacy of this yet, and although I hope I never need to take it, I kinda hope to get sick just to see how well it works!