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Let Them Throw Sand! (Sometimes)

We were on the beach and it was very windy. There was nobody close by. My girls were throwing sand and pretending to be Elsa, blasting their magical powers and creating ice! The sand (ice) was flying through the air for a good distance. We live in Australia, what do you expect, they’re desperate to see snow!

I let them do it because there was no one standing down wind. But, a little nagging voice in my head said, “If you let them do it once, they’ll always want to do it!

*Shut up little voice!*

I remember so clearly being told as a kid that: “If we let you do it once, you’ll think you always have a license to do it! So NO!” Whatever it was that I was asking for, I forget now, but I always remember that response.

Oh, how I used to get so outraged! The feeling that I wasn’t trusted to use my own judgement, made me furious and frustrated!

And, I understand why adults used to say it, I mean, nobody gives adults a child rearing manual with step-by-step instructions on how to handle every scenario. So, ‘no‘ is often a safe answer…

The truth is, behaviour that is undesirable in one setting, may be perfectly acceptable in another. I realised that my daughters had an amazing ability to use their better judgement, providing that their needs for connection and understanding had been met.

If I always try to control their every move, when the time comes that I really need them to listen, they might not, because they’re so sick of me always saying ‘no‘!

So, when I say ‘no‘, there’s generally a good reason why. If I can let them do whatever it is that they’re asking to do (throw sand for example), then I certainly do. If it’s not appropriate to throw sand, I tell them not to.

I also allow my kids to complain, cry and rage when I say ‘no‘, but the answer  is still ‘no‘. Allowing them to express their feelings about the answer is an important part of the process of democratic parenting.

My kids can’t throw sand at people, but I let them throw sand sometimes.

They have to hold my hand across the street sometimes and other times I let them walk across by without holding hands, if it’s not busy.

Most of the time, they can wear whatever crazy outfit they picked out, but I just won’t let my four year old wear a sweaty poofy dress-up when we go out, only because then I can’t clip her into her car seat!

I let my kids binge on junk and sometimes I say no.

Sometimes, I let them buy whatever they want at the shops and sometimes I say ‘No‘.

If I can give them a good back scratch before bed, I do it, and if on other nights I can’t, then so be it.

Sometimes I let them run amuck… and sometimes I don’t.

What’s interesting is that allowing for variety seems to create more cooperative children!

My kids are never really confused by this apparent change of rules or inconsistency. If anything, they’re relieved that the answer isn’t always ‘no‘. In fact, they almost always ask my permission before doing something, even if they know there’s a chance I’ll say ‘no‘… because often there’s a chance that I’ll say ‘yes‘.

They won’t lie or hide things because they know that I’m mostly fair when it comes to their requests. They don’t feel so desperate when I do have to say “no“, so they’re less likely to act out.

Allowing for variety does make parenting a little more tricky in the short term. If the answer isn’t always ‘no‘, that means there’s room for negotiation, and negotiation takes effort. BUT, I imagine them as adults. Imagine they’re given a situation that’s unfair, do I want them to sulk away thinking they have no chance?? No way! I want them have the skills to use their voice and to understand when to speak up and possibly when to shut up.

Wouldn’t life be boring if we had to eat the same foods every day?? Well, that’s how I feel about rules at home. There needs to be some variety. There needs to be times when we can let our kids do things that they normally can’t do. That way, when the time comes when we need their coperation, they’re more likely to give it.

 

Elimination Communication Four Month Update

Elimination Communication update, for those who are interest in following this part of my journey.

My little guy is four months old and I can safely say that the early months of doing EC have been very similar to doing EC with my two girls. I usually use nappies as a back up (saves the stress in case in case I miss something). I found that right between the 3-4 month mark they will not poo in their nappy anymore. Hooray! This happened with all three kids and it makes using cloth much MUCH easier. Read the rest of this entry

How I Honored The Fourth Trimester

I didn’t leave my house at all for the first six weeks after my son was born at home. Staying home during the early post partum period was one of the most profoundly healing and beautiful experiences of my life. I wrote about my experience here. Often, the post partum experience is expected to end at six weeks, but I feel like my full post partum recovery lasted until about 3 months.

The fourth trimester is a term I only heard about after the birth of my second, but it basically means the time period, about 3 months, after birth when you and your baby are recovering from pregnancy and birth. You take time to nourish your body and soul. And, you spend time bonding with your new child and responding to the baby’s needs. Looking back on my previous babies, I think it took a similar amount of time to adjust to new life when they were born.

After my six weeks without leaving the house, I was very reluctant to go out. The world was big and fast and seemed like it was waiting to devour me. I was surprised at how very fragile, both physically and emotionally, I felt.

The six weeks didn’t just end and I took my first step back into ‘reality‘ and that was that. Oh no… after entering the world, it took at least another 6 or 7 weeks to adjust. Keep in mind, this was with my THIRD baby, no longer a rookie parent, and it still took time.

At first, I had to be very careful when choosing which activities to do. I tried not to do anything too stimulating, (especially for the baby’s sake) and I avoided the elements as much as possible. It was entering summer in Australia when I started to leave the house, so it was hot and sunny. The temptation to take the bigger kids to the beach every day was so inviting (and they begged me)… but I generally had to say no. Doing that would have made me so tired and hot and would have not been enjoyable for my baby. The wind was especially annoying to be out in. Instead, we walked around the cool air conditioning at the shopping centers near our house. And, in the afternoons, we all had big cuddly naps. The few days when I did too much (hello, when we went to IKEA??) I almost always landed myself a massive headache the next day and got easily grumpy with the kids. I had to really watch it and not over-do it!

My son grew very big, very fast, and my body was not strong enough to carry him around for long periods of time. I’m usually as strong as an ox, so it was a shock to me that I was feeling sore from something as simple as babywearing a newborn! But, at six weeks, he was already over 6 kilos (13 pounds). I remember after only taking a short walk one day, with him in the baby carrier, that my feet and joints became sore. This happened for a couple of weeks until I got strong enough to carrying him around. After the three month mark, I noticed that I could carry him for much longer and I didn’t feel so tired.

Here we were at 3 1/2 months, and I still felt a like big adventures were a little too much for us…

Another interesting experience I had during this time was hyper-sensitive senses. Sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. It was really bizarre, like I was on drugs or something. I remember craving weird things, just like when I was pregnant. The feeling of steaming my face with eucalyptus oil and hot water, was something I felt drawn to. Daily warm oil massage was something else I craved. On a hot day, getting in the car, smelling and feeling the air conditioning on my skin and breathing the cool air in, was almost orgasmic! I sort of wish those sensations would have lasted longer because it was fun, everything was new! I don’t remember feeling this way with my previous births, so I think it was because I had been at home for six weeks and had received some very deep rest. I was extra aware and in tune this time around.

Some things I DID NOT crave were things like exercise and socializing. I felt like I needed to save my energy for breastfeeding and things like having patience with my older kids! And, talking to people, even friends, made me really tired.

My daily activities were enough to make me strong. I did go surfing a little, after 2 1/2 months and that helped me to gain my strength again, but surfing is a sport that I’m used to doing, and it can be done sort of moderately. We made sure to take lots of naps and laid around reading books on some of the really hot days.

So that was the physical part of my return to normalcy, but there was also the emotional and mental recovery as well! Getting used to an extra kid, when out and about, took a while. Before, with two kids, my attention was divided, but with three, it felt scattered (even though the baby was usually asleep and in the baby carrier). So we tried to stick close to home that at I could feedback him comfortably at home. Not because I’m uncomfortable with feeding in public (if you only knew how many years of breastfeeding in public experience I have up my sleeve) but because it was much more relaxing that way.

Although I spent 6 weeks bonding with my son at home, I still had to get used to how he would respond to being out, in the car, etc. It wasn’t bad, but it was still something I had to get used to and it was pretty stressful the first few times.

I’m so glad that I honored the process of birth and recovery. Lots of my friends on social media had babies around the same time as me. It would have been easy to get worked up, comparing what they were doing and how they were looking, with my own experience. But, I wanted this post partum experience to be authentic and deep. For once, I felt the need to really listen to myself and to the true needs of my entire family.

Slowly leaving the fourth trimester is a little sad. I still get remnants of it here and there, as my son is only just under 4 months old and still holding on to those small baby qualities, but now he’s starting to change fast. And, I’m starting to change too! Slowly, my attention is being pulled away from the mother-baby bubble and is starting to focus on everyone else’s needs. Life is moving on. There’s no going back. The few months after a baby’s birth is a once in a life time opportunity to take it easy, simplify and tune in. It fills my heart with joy that I honored my needs, and the needs of our new little person, during the few months after his birth. I feel so complete, like I finished writing a chapter of my life and I couldn’t have written it better.

 

Dear Cotton, Oh Where Did You Go?!

When will the open shoulder sleeves go out of fashion? Soon please.

It’s summer. It’s Australia. It’s hot. After a big wardrobe cull last year and spending the better part of the year either pregnant or post partum, my wardrobe has been depleted, so I dragged the kids to the shops and began searching for a few cotton shirts to replenish what had been stretched out, puked on or torn.

I know that with a baby in the house, there’s no point in buying anything nice. Kmart, Target, Big W…. that was my scope at first. I mean, you can almost always find your basic cotton shirts there, right? And, with three kids in tow, I wanted to do a quick in and out, but I soon realised that I wasn’t going to easily find what I was looking for. Everything I found was either made from polyester, polyester/cotton blend or viscose. Hmmm… no thanks. I mean, in summer?! Read the rest of this entry

Nature vs. Nuture: How Much Does Our Parenting Matter?

Years before I had children, I went to a talk by the spiritual leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Somehow the question came up on parenting. Although he’s not a parent himself… he is an enlightened guru, so he gave some insightful advice.

He said that 50% of a person is just how they’re born, it’s their nature, you CANNOT change that. The other 50% is something that CAN be changed by their environment/parents/experiences/nurturing, etc.

This idea of nature vs. nature is not something new that he came up with, and lots of people have talked, researched and written about this topic. In fact, I’m sure there’s some expert out there could argue the exact contribution that our parenting makes towards the outcome of our children, but I like to think 50/50 is a good start. Anyone can observe that sometimes kids who come from even the most nurturing families still turn out a little um… like maybe they need a hug… While sometimes people who come from horrible, abusive or traumatic childoods, turn out to be outstanding citizens of their society.

Hopefully it makes some of you reading this feel a little lighter. While we do have a big responsibility to do our best as parents, at the end of the day, we can only work with what we’ve got! Our kids are still little people who come with their own set of qualities. These qualities, are traits we might love or might drive us bonkers!

And, it does make me feel better to know, that when my kids are acting like lunatics, even after I’ve tried every trick up my sleeve, that I can just shrug my shoulders and leave as ‘just their nature’.

I Feel Like I Could Do This Forever

“It’s a thankless job“, said the elderly lady in the shopping center. She sat on a bench licking an ice cream cone while my kids ate some sushi roles next to her. She peeked at my 2 month old son, sleeping in the baby carrier, and complimented me on how well behaived my kids were acting.

I smiled back at her.

Thankless‘ I thought… what is she talking about?! I feel like I could do this shit forever!

There certainly are days when I wish the time away.  But right now, I’m so in the thick of it, I can’t imagine doing anything else with my time.

The good times make it easy for parenting to be a ‘thankless job‘. But, I also don’t mind too much wiping up messes, listening to cries, feeding mouths, cooking like it’s Groundhog’s Day, tackling Mt. Foldmore (not that I really fold my laundry anyway), picking someone up who needs to be carried, getting in the car and out of the car 800 times a week (if I had a dollar for every minute I spent waiting outside the car for a four year old to organise themselves, I would honstly be a millionaire). I mean, I could easily do without the challenging parts of parenting, but for now, I don’t mind them so much, it’s part of the package.

Children spend their lives so much in the present moment, it’s sort of contagious. I don’t find myself counting on my fingers the numbers of years left of hard work to be done, I just do it. And, most of the time, I do it with a half smile/borderline mad woman smirk on my face.

I realised that I don’t find myself wishing for ‘freedom‘. I’ve had that sort of ‘freedom‘ and I know that even living the most carefree life, in a tropical paradise, you can still make yourself miserable and stressed!

One thing that makes the thankless bits easier is that I take my self care seriously. Daily showers are a must (don’t laugh… unless you forget what it’s like to have your first newborn). Yoga and meditation every day, also a must. Exercise and getting out of the house for paid work occasionally is important for me. Staying at home is hard work, and it just happens to be unpaid.

Once every year or so, I do a silent meditation retreat to really get my energy back to par. I take my self care seriously so that I don’t burn out doing the mundane stuff that would otherwise be the end of me (dishes, wiping butts, etc). So, it’s not like I’m doing all this ‘thankless‘ stuff on an empty cup!

Maybe, one day, when I’m as old as the lady in the shopping centre, I’ll look around at all the young mothers and say that you couldn’t pay me to go back to those days… maybe… but for now, I’m doing it 100%, no regrets and no feelings that this will get boring any time soon.

They Can Know The Truth And Still Believe

When my oldest was 2 years old, she was petrified of the dudes dressed up as Santa in the shopping centres. It was real, legitimate fear.

Without thinking twice, I told her that anybody can dress up like Santa. It took her another year, but after a while, she wasn’t frightened anymore. She’s 6 1/2 now, and we still ‘do‘ Santa. On Christmas Eve, we put cookies and (rice) milk out for him (daddy). And, sparkly oats and carrots for the reindeer… My kids know the truth and it’s still fun. Something that adults often forget is that children have an amazing imagination. They can know something isn’t real and still play along with all the enthusiasm as if it were real.

I generally don’t lie to my children about anything, and let’s face it, telling kids that Santa is real, is actually a big fat lie. I know it’s a nice, sweet, well intentioned lie… but it’s still a lie.  I know a lot of my friends are conflicted about whether they should ‘keep the magic‘ of Santa, or tell the truth and then Santa is ruined. So, that’s why I’m sharing my experience. You can do both! Tell them the truth and still have the fun.

Not pictured is my 4 year old… for some reason, she was terrified of Santa this year. I’m not really into the pictures of crying kids on Santa’s lap and I mean… really, look at the dude, he does look pretty scary. (He was actually the nicest Santa ever)

The Benefits of Post Partum Belly Wrapping and How To Do It

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My Ayurvedic doctor recommended to me that I wrap my belly for six weeks after birth. I had heard of the benefits of belly wrapping (or belly binding) with my second baby, but when I was told about it, I was already 7 weeks post partum and sort of past this ‘golden window‘ of opportunity for belly wrapping. Luckily, each time you have a baby, you get a chance to reap the full benefits of belly wrapping. So, when I found out we were having a third, I was happy to know that I could give post partum belly wrapping a try.

I guess there’s two schools of thought when it comes to post partum belly binding and they sort of overlap.

One is more scientific and the other is more spiritual.

The western view of belly wrapping is that it brings your abdominal muscles back together. I had a three finger split (diastasis recti), in my abdominal muscles. That sort of split is typical during a third pregnancy. I remember having to cough an hour after my son was born and MAN did that huuuurt! However, when I went to see my midwife at our six week post partum check up, she was happy to say that my split was less than one finger wide (that’s about as good as it gets after three babies). So, my post partum belly wrapping helped in bringing those muscles back, according to the western ideology.

The ayurvedic or eastern approach to belly wrapping is slightly different. By the way, the practice of belly wrapping is present in many cultures around the world, but I’ll just talk about the ayurvedic background.

To understand the ayurvedic approach to belly wrapping, you need to understand what vata is. There are three different sort of energies that govern the body (I’ll make this simple). One of these energies is a called ‘vata‘. Vata is movement and air and cold and dry. It’s the energy that makes the baby come out in the first place. My ayurvedic doctor was saying it’s hard to translate the meaning in English, but when the baby comes out, there is a void (a space) where the baby was. This vulnerable space is vata. If you can heal the space (by wrapping), a woman can feel the benefit from it for the rest of her life. If the space is not healed correctly, after six weeks, it seals anyway and can sort of trap a whole array of ailments. Because, when vata is unbalanced, it causes all sorts of mental and physical problems. Following me??

Apparently, the mummy pouch that so many mothers find nearly impossible to get rid of, is excess vata! That’s why sometimes no matter how much weight  a woman loses, the belly still seems to be there.

Belly wrapping helps to bring all the organs back into their places and it also helps to balance the hormones. When I wrapped my belly, it felt so comfortable. It took away that jiggly feeling. A woman’s digestive system is very delicate after having a baby, so it is really important for her to eat easy to digest food. Warm, soupy, slightly oily food that is easy to digest, is the best for post partum.

How to Wrap

There are many ways to wrap your belly. The idea is that you lift the belly in and up. I chose the quickest way to wrap. Even though I made the decision to stay at home and not leave the house for the first six weeks post partum (you can read about my experience here), I still wanted to make this easy on myself.

Compression Shorts

A friend of mine gifted me some SRC compression recovery shorts. I called these my uniform, as I wore them the most. Everyday, after a warm oil massage and a shower, I would put these on and wear them all day. You can start wearing compression shorts from about 4 or 5 days post partum. These shorts are really great as they offer good support while being very flexible and super easy to put on. However, they are expensive and can be hot in summer! A few weeks ago, I was walking by the undies section in Target and I saw these body firming shorts that look almost identical to the compression shorts and they are only $20, so worth a shot if you don’t want to dish out $190 for the recovery shorts. There are some off brands out there too. You can find them online. I haven’t tried them and they are about $40. You can also find compression shorts second hand on Gumtree or Craigslist for about half the price and usually in good condition.

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These are the SRC compression shorts.

 

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I saw these body firming shorts in Target and I think they would be a good substitute for the compression shorts. Make sure it says ‘firm’ support. Not bad for $20!

 

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These were shorter body firming shorts that I bought after the six week post partum period and they donn’t go up as high. The shorter pair was a good transition short to go from wrapping everyday to not wrapping. At 10 weeks post part, I’m still wearing them sometimes for light support.

 

Post Partum Belly Wraps

Another wrap I wore quite often, mostly at night, was this bamboo belly wrap. I got it second hand off gumtree. There are lots of similar ones you can find on line. I liked this one because I could make it really tight. (In ayurveda, they recommend that you wrap fairly firm). However, it was pretty stiff and hard to sit in, so I used it mostly at night, while lying down.

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Traditional Wrapping 

I tried using a woven baby carrier wrap a few times… never really felt as good as the purpose made ones and it took too long to put on. But, it is an option. You can google ‘post partum belly wrapping with a woven wrap’ and Youtube tutorials should pop up. You can also use long bandages. Some cultures use a super long and narrow strip of cloth or muslin and wrap it around and around the abdomen. Do a bit of google searching if any of these approaches appeal to you. I looked, and while it looked beautiful, it all was a bit too complicated compared to the propose made wraps.

Heat and Oil

At night, I would sometimes give my wrapping a break and instead go to bed with a hot water pack resting on my belly. The warmth helps with your delicate digestive system. Massaging your belly with warm oil, in a circular motion (clockwise to follow the intestinal tract) also helps. Wrapping afterwards and the combination of warmth with oil helps reduce the vata. Daily warm oil self massage is also recommended in ayurveda to help reduce the vata. This is a great tutorial on how to do warm oil massage.

How Often Do You Wrap

In ayurveda, you’re meant to keep the belly wrapped most of the time. I gave myself a few breaks of an hour or so here and there, but if I left my wrap off for too long, I would feel all gassy and bloated (that’s the vata, the air creeping in). I would put my wrap back on, do a few big burps and farts (haha, yup, that’s the vata coming out) and feel back to normal. The western view says to not wrap all the time because you need your muscles to get strong but I don’t agree with that one. If you had to wear a cast or a brace to heal a wound, you wouldn’t take it off, right? I felt the same with the wrapping. Anyway, I noticed that my muscles were ready to get strong again quickly after six weeks.

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I’m not one to bounce back quickly after pregnant, but this was my belly at 2 weeks post partum and I was pretty happy it. Much flatter at that stage than I had been in subsequent pregnancies without wrapping. Anyway, the point of wrapping is to reduce the vata, the flat tummy in incidental.

What If You Missed The Six Week Post Partum Window?

If you plan on having more babies, you can do it again after their birth. If you’re finished with babies, you can still bind your belly and do oil massage and be mindful of your data (if you feel yourself getting jiggly and bloated). Getting enough sleep, meditation, eating warm soupy easy to digest foods, especially during cold winter months will help.

I Didn’t Leave the House AT ALL For Six Weeks After my Baby Was Born: It Was Fantastic!

imageWhen my first daughter was born, I’ll never forget my grandmother telling me over the phone, “Now, Katie, a winter baby stays in the house for 4 weeks, a summer baby stays in the house for 2. Your baby was born in autumn, so you should stay in the house for 3 weeks.Read the rest of this entry

Clean As You Go People… I Can Never Be Like You

imageMy husband can’t understand the disaster zone I create after every meal. To start, I DO clean as I go. A little. Trust me, you would see the difference if I didn’t tidy a few things while I cook.

Let me help you understand. Have you ever seen a toddler in the middle of his imaginary play stop what he was doing to pack away?

Nope.

Would you stop in the middle of your run to take a shower because you’re sweaty?

No!

You would logically wait until the activity is over.

Can’t you see that I’m CREATING something?! Something that you will eat and something that will be exposed to your judgement?!

One simply does not stop to ‘tidy up‘ whilst cooking. Cleaning up while cooking, to me, is like getting stuck in traffic.

Plus, I’m probably starving, and for all I know, YOU might be starving too! I don’t want you to starve to death just for the sake of cleaning while I go. I’m a Jewish mother, my DNA requires me to worry that your tummy should be full before you even know that you’re hungry.

Also, it’s almost garunteed that I will barely have enough time to cook before some small child needs my attention. The eating part has to happen in a timely fashion. The cleaning part can wait.

After the meal, then we can clean. Anyway, isn’t the person who cooked not supposed to clean? (Ahem) Ok, that doesn’t always work in our house. My precious family runs away from the kitchen table as soon as they eat their last bite. I have to remind them every stinking time to at least put their bowls near the sink (the kids are still little, ok). Then, I usually end up cleaning anyway (we don’t have a dishwasher *yet*). An hour later, I look in the kitchen and think, “Wow, who cleaned up?” One hundred percent forgetting that it was actually I who cleaned. Seriously, that happens to me a lot. #babybrain So, either way, I do end up cleaning, and I’d much rather do it after my belly is full.

Anyway, I know YOU can clean as you go, you have some special quality that allows you to stop and go, dividing your attention between creating and maintenance. But, I don’t posses that trait. I’ve thought about it… I’ve TRIED it… I really have! But… I just cannot..