Ada’s Birth Story

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(One of my favorite pregnancy photos)

The evening of Friday, January 13th 2012 I started feeling cramping while out at dinner with friends.  I decided to ignore it and not say anything as I wasn’t sure if it meant anything.  Shortly before midnight as I was trying to fall asleep the cramps started to intensify for short bursts.  I watched on the bedside clock and saw that they were coming about every 8 minutes.  I was so excited!  I decided that since I couldn’t sleep  would get up and have a half glass of wine and take a bath as my midwife said the best thing to do during early labor was to try to sleep.  I also filled a big sock with rice and heated it in the microwave to use to ease the contractions while I tried to sleep.  I was pleased with myself for thinking to use  my belly band to hold it in place and it remained banded to me for most of my labor.

I was able to sleep on and off until about 5am.  Zeke woke up soon after and we were both really excited.  He decided to go up to the roof and film the sun rising on the morning of what we assumed would be the day our child was born.  We then went out to breakfast and to pick up some things from the farmers market.  I was in pain but it was pretty manageable at this point.

We had been planning to have a home birth.  I had done a lot of research and found that it was just as safe as a hospital birth and carried less of a chance of infection.  I also really wanted the chance to have a natural birth and knew that hospital births often involve lots of interventions that I wanted to avoid.  My biggest fear wasn’t the pain, but having to go to the hospital.   I was especially afraid of having to have a c-section but I knew that by attempting a home birth I would only end up having one if it was really necessary.

We called my midwife at some point during the morning to let her know that labor had started. She asked that we call back when things intensified more.  Zeke and I spent the day laboring at home and took several long walks around the neighborhood.  We found that the contractions sped up when we were walking.  I loved the feeling of laboring and walking and made up lots of strange ways to handle the pain through vocalizations and dance-walking. The hormones were surging through me and I felt as if I was on top of the world.

That evening the contractions started to intensify.  My midwife, Stacey came over around 9 pm to assess where we were.  She did an exam and found that I was only dilated to 2cm.  This was somewhat upsetting news.  She said that it was impossible to say, but I would probably would have between 6- 18 hours of labor left.  We felt somewhat deflated by this and Zeke and I were both pretty tired after not sleeping much the night before and laboring all day.  My midwife left and we decided to call my friend Rebecca, who is a doula, to see if she could come over and assist.

Rebecca got there around 1am and soon after Zeke was able to get some sleep while Rebecca helped me through the contractions. After a few hours Zeke woke up and I decided to labor in bed for a while with Zeke helping me.  I was able to sleep between the contractions but would wake up writhing in pain every 5 minutes of so when another would come.  Zeke helped by massaging me and talking to me.

The next morning, which was Sunday, Zeke went up to the roof to film the sunrise again, as we were pretty sure today would be the day!  The contractions had been getting longer, lasting about a minute and a half to two minutes but were still coming only about every 5 minutes. Stacey came back mid morning and at this exam found me to be 3-4 cm. She stripped my membranes, and tried to stretch me out a bit, which was extremely painful.  It was pretty disheartening that in the past 12 hours I had only dilated a little more than a centimeter.  She gave me some positions to try out (including standing on my head off the couch)  to try to move things along as she thought the baby might be in a less than optimal position.  She gave me black cohosh to take every hour and also told us to contact an acupuncturist.

Knowing that this could be going on for a lot longer we sent Rebecca home to get some rest and decided to take another walk while we waited for the acupuncturist to arrive.  It felt good to be outside but we had a lot less energy than the day before.  The acupuncturist came and did her thing, I’m not sure if it helped but it gave us some hope.

I’d been laboring for so long everything was becoming foggy.  All of my previous life was erased, and this was the only existence I knew.  Zeke and I decided to labor just the two of us for a while.  At some point on Sunday night/ Monday morning I insisted that Zeke try to sleep. I knew that he needed to rest and was glad that he was sleeping, but laboring on my own was physically draining and my energy was starting to fade.

Monday morning the pain started to become really intense.  I was having continuous back pain between and during contractions.   I decided to take another bath which really helped with the pain.  The contractions were coming about every four minutes or so and still lasting over a minute.  Rebecca and Stacey both arrived during my bath.  We were all frustrated that the contractions weren’t getting closer together.  This is when I first voiced my desire to go to the hospital.  I was totally exhausted after several nights of not sleeping. We decided to go for a walk together to see if a change of scenery might move things along and to consider our options.

Walking was becoming difficult.  I felt like I had cement between my legs and in my pelvis.  We walked for a while and agreed that Stacey would examine me when we got back.  It was around 2pm on Monday and I was measuring at 5cm.  I realized that I had been laboring for 62 hours.  I was really frustrated and tired.  We talked to Stacey about how much longer I might have.  She said it was impossible to say for sure but that upon examining me she had been able to feel the baby’s head and that it was turned occipital posterior, or “sunny side up”.  I couldn’t believe it!  I had been sitting with good posture for the past month to try to avoid having the baby in this position!  Stacey said that sometimes it just happens.  She explained that labor with occipital posterior babies is often very long and painful as the head doesn’t push properly on the cervix to help it to open.  She also said it  would explain my back pain as this position causes what’s known as “back labor”.  We could continue to do the exercises to try to moving the baby but until it repositioned, labor would likely continue to progress slowly.

Zeke and I agreed that it was time to abandon Plan A and move on to Plan B which included a large dose of pitocin and an epidural so I could rest.  We called a car service and soon we were at our Brooklyn neighborhood hospital, Woodhull.

Dealing with contractions while filling out paper work was kind of strange, but before I knew it, I was in the labor and delivery room getting my epidural.  They pumped me full of pitocin and we all watched the contractions and the baby’s heart rate on the monitor. Everything was going well and the baby was tolerating the contractions without an issue.  My hospital midwife, Nicole, examined me at around 8pm.  She found that my waters had broken somewhat on their own but then during the exam had broke more fully. She had me rest on my side in an effort to get the baby to move.  I was finally comfortable, and talkative again.  Zeke commanded me to pipe down and get some sleep since I hadn’t truly rested in 3 days.  I napped on and off as my contractions intensified and became more frequent…

Around 11pm I started to feel the pain of the contractions again.  I was somewhat surprised when I had to start breathing through them. Not being able to get out of bed made it really difficult to manage.  Around 11:30 I expressed this to Nicole who said that she wanted to check me out before bringing back the anesthesiologist as the epidural had run out.  She examined me and said that I was at 10cm and it was time to push!

I was so excited!  I was also happy to see that it wasn’t midnight yet and was still the 16th as I liked the idea of my baby sharing a birthday with my friend Lydia.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really could feel the contractions and was able to use that to know when to push.  Everyone gathered around and they put a large mirror in front of me so I could watch my baby emerge.  I was sitting up with my legs pulled out to the side but bent,  which actually felt pretty good.  I pushed for about 10-15 minutes and then the baby slid out.  The baby had moved positions luckily making the delivery much less difficult. I only tore a little and required 3 stitches.

Nicole put her on the bed in front of me as I had requested so I could check her out before picking her up.  We looked down at her and Zeke announced that she was a girl.  We were both pretty surprised by this as we had guessed we were having a boy.  She was so cute!  I was surprised that she didn’t look more squished up!  I picked her up and cuddled her.

552270_10150782146459203_100104118_nThe next three days were spent in the hospital negotiating the bureaucracy of policy, some of which we refused, some of which we begrudgingly accepted.  Some of the hospital staff was wonderful, while others blindly wielded hospital policy.  Finally, after three days of negotiation, a bout of post-partum pre-eclampsia for me (high blood pressure), a touch of Jaundice for Ada, and Zeke sleeping on a chair, we were able to bring our sweet baby home.

It certainly wasn’t how I had imagined Ada’s birth to play out, but ultimately I’m just happy to have a healthy baby.  Birth is an amazing experience and I still strongly believe in attempting home birth, although next time I hope it can play out a little more smoothly!

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Ezra’s Home Birth Story

My first child, Ada was right on time so we expected this baby to be on time or early.  My husband, Zeke was able to take off the week before my due date and we had a wonderful time as a family going on hikes and hanging out together at home.  Every night we went to sleep wondering if tonight would be the night and every morning I woke up a little disappointed, but excited to spend another fun day with Zeke and Ada.  Starting a few days before my due date I began to feel increasingly crampy but nothing too uncomfortable.

My due date came and went, which was coincidentally our wedding anniversary.  We decided that maybe the baby wanted to share a birthday with Zeke and that August 24th would certainly be the day.  As the day passed I became less sure of this but in the early evening the crampy feeling began to intensify and I started to have very light contractions.  The next day, the 25th, was a new moon and I thought that would be a perfect time for a new beginning!  I figured this could be it so I did some final gardening I hadn’t gotten to just in case.  While putting in a plant I lost my mucus plug and got a little excited.

We had Mexican takeout and ice cream cake on the deck.  I put extra hot sauce on for good measure.  It was a beautiful night and we had a lovely meal as a family of 3.

That night Ada woke me up around 1:30 to bring her to the bathroom.  When I laid back down I felt what seemed to be a real contraction.  It was still very mild but the way it wrapped around my uterus and back made me giddy.  I laid in bed eagerly awaiting another, which came 20 minutes later.  I enjoyed breathing and imagining myself as an ocean.  Not because it was particularly painful but more just for the fun of it.  I decided to get up and have a glass of red wine to help me get back to sleep.  Sitting alone waiting for the next wave was exhilarating, but I knew I needed to stop being so excited and forget about it so I could rest up.  

I went back to bed with my birthing meditation on repeat and drifted in and out of sleep for the rest of the night.  Around 7:30 Ada and I woke up and we cuddled on the lounge chair outside as she drank her “latte” and I had my coffee.  Zeke woke up a little later and we all had breakfast on the deck.  It was another beautiful, sunny and clear day and I hoped that this would be the day we would meet our baby.

Around 9 we started to talk about how we should spend our morning.  My contractions were still about 20 minutes apart so I figured we should do something to distract ourselves.  We talked about going to a nature preserve in town and started to get ready.  I decided to call my doula and midwives to let them know that I was in early labor.  By 9:30 we hadn’t left for our hike yet and the contractions were starting to get closer together and intensify.  I suggested we just go for a walk up our street.  By 10 we hadn’t left and I decided I only wanted to sit on my birth ball.  By 10:30 I told Zeke no one was going anywhere.  

10365985_10152828051259203_5987408448782017926_n(This is me laboring while Ada eats ice cream cake and goldfish for lunch… Papa was in charge that day! Lol)

We set up the umbrellas on the deck so that we had a big shady area for me to labor with Zeke and Ada playing and hanging out nearby.   I decided for this labor to create a playlist mostly of classic rock and indie stuff.  Last time I used a meditation album mostly and in retrospect it felt a bit too serious.  The music was really nice and kept me relaxed and in good spirits.  From 11-1 the contractions were about 4-5 minutes apart, lasting 30 seconds.  I spoke to Nancy, the midwives assistant around 12 and she suggested I try to rest.  I checked my cervix and guessed I was about 3 cm.  I could feel the baby’s head, which was really cool! I laid down in bed but quickly decided that the time for resting had passed as it was very uncomfortable to be in that position and I felt like I needed to be moving my body.  I also realized it was much better to have Zeke alternating hot and cold packs on my lower back during contractions.  I had myself set up at the edge of the deck with towels as a pillow on the railing while sitting on the ball and staring out into nature.  I was drinking lots of labor aid and some fancy Kombucha that Zeke served me out of a champagne glass. That was fun.  Between 1:00-2:30 the contractions increased to 3.5 minutes apart and were 45 seconds long.  I was texting with my Doula, Kharis and asked her to come over soon.

She got there around 2:30 and I decided to stop tracking contractions.  I also immediately lost my focus and with it the intensity of the contractions. I felt like chatting with her upon her arrival and it gave me a break from the intensity but I quickly decided I wanted to return laborland.  I realized that I did better when I avoided talking and making eye contact with Kharis and Zeke.  Ada didn’t seem to break my focus though surprisingly.  

We tried some different positions as I had been on the ball for quite a while.  Squatting while hanging from the deck railing was intense in a good way.  Kharis suggested I try laboring on the toilet a bit as she said this would intensify things. Doing this made contractions come on fast and hard.  I decided to go with it.  Also, I took several showers and had super intense contractions while leaning on the window in the shower looking out into nature.  Walking around the yard on my own brought them on too.  It seemed that being on my own helped me to really get into the zone but I also would start to feel a little lonely if too many contractions passed in solitude.  My legs were getting crampy and Zeke massaged them which was really helpful.

Around 4 my sister Lauren arrived to help out with Ada.  This was a big relief as things were intensifying and I wanted to make sure Ada was taken care of and having a good time.  Plus I wanted Zeke all to myself!  Nancy came over to check on things and again the arrival pulled me a bit out of the zone.  She didn’t seem to think I was too far along, which was somewhat discouraging.  I didn’t completely believe her though as I knew what I was experiencing was much more intense that what I had experienced during my last labor, when I had ended up getting an epidural at 5 cm.  

Zeke and I went for a walk around the yard for a few contractions.  Ada and Lauren were having a picnic on a blanket in the yard and seeing them happy and enjoying themselves was great.  I decided to sit down in the grass as the coolness of it felt so good.  Things were getting intense.  I remember thinking about what a relief the epidural was last time but then quickly reminding myself that that wasn’t what I wanted.  I also took a moment to reflect upon how amazing it was that I got to labor outside, just as I had hoped I would.  I had been looking forward to that since finding out I was pregnant and then that we were moving to the country.

Deep breathing during contractions had been so helpful but it was starting to get harder and harder to keep my breathing under control.  I was also starting to feel overwhelmed in general and unsure where I wanted to labor and in what position.  Around 6 Ada and Lauren went out to get dinner.

Zeke, Kharis and I moved into the den where we tried various positions for laboring.  The best for contractions was me on the birth ball with Kharis behind me pressing ice into my lower back while I burrowed my head into Zeke.  I asked Zeke to do the low vocalization with me and for Kharis to verbalize what was happening with the contraction, saying it was about to peak and then that it would subside.  I started to feel nauseas and they brought a bowl, although I never actually vomited.  The contractions were now going to a peak that made me feel like my body was jumping away from the pain at the top of it.  I felt myself screaming in the middle, although Zeke and Kharis say I sounded the same as I had for the past few hours and wasn’t actually screaming. They didn’t realize my labor was moving as fast as it was.  At some point during this I realized that I really needed to concentrate on relaxing and that the only way to escape the pain would be to push into it.  I imagined myself opening with each contraction and in between reminded myself that soon this would all be a distant memory and I would have my baby.

After about an hour of laboring in the den I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom.  I also wanted to check my cervix again.  I went into the bathroom and when I reached inside myself I felt a strange bulge which I guessed was the bag of waters pushing out of my cervix. That was pretty cool and made me realize that I was close to having this baby and the pain wouldn’t last much longer!   I sat down and immediately had crazy feeling!  It was like my whole body was bucking and I made some loud, gutteral sounds.  Kharis came in then and told me to stop pushing.  I didn’t even realize that “pushing” was what had been happening.  My body had totally taken over!  She immediately had Zeke call the closer of the two midwives, Susan, and told her to come right then.  

Kharis and Zeke helped me out of the bathroom and into the birth pool on the deck.  It was around 7pm now and the sun was setting.  Kharis helped me to breath quick breaths during contractions to hold the baby in until Susan got there.  I felt so hot so they helped me to pull off my dress and gave me a cold washcloth for my forehead.  I told Zeke to get Ada back from dinner as I really wanted her present at the birth.   I had a few crazy pushing contractions in the tub that I had to hold back before Susan arrived.

As soon as I saw Susan I felt so much relief.  I knew that meant I could stop holding back as that was even harder than breathing through contractions.  Susan only managed to get one glove on before the next contraction came.  The baby’s head pushed right out.  I reached down to touch it and I told Susan the baby was coming out now!  She asked me to hold on as the cord was wrapped around the neck and she wanted to move it aside.  As soon as she said ok I pushed the rest of the body out and we both pulled the baby up.  It was amazing!  I pulled that little blue bundle right up to me.  They gave me towels to dip in the warm water and put over the baby.  We were in a state of bliss just like that for a few minutes as the baby began to cry and pink up.  Then I realized we hadn’t seen the sex of the baby yet.  I unwrapped the towels and saw that we had a little baby boy, Ezra.

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Susan, Kharis and Zeke helped me out of the pool and into the bedroom where they had set up wee-wee pads over the bed.  They laid me and Ezra down and covered us with warm dry towels.  During this time Ada and my sister returned from dinner, shocked to see that the baby had already come!  Ada was so sweet and excited.  She loved meeting her baby brother and was so gentle with him.  The other midwife, Cathy and Nancy arrived at some point during this as well.  I birthed the placenta and Susan examined me.  I was so happy to hear that even though Ezra shot out so quickly in just a few pushes I didn’t have any vaginal tears!  

Everyone helped to clean up and to settle me into bed with Zeke, Ada and Ezra.  It was just like I had always imagined and so perfect.  Giving birth on the deck while the sun was setting is about as good as it gets! That night we cuddled into our cozy nest as a family of four.  

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First cuddles…

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Ada and Ezra the day after he was born…

My Essential Oil Obsession

magnets.pngA few months ago I finally got around to attending an essential oil workshop at my friends house.  I had a feeling I would like it but I didn’t realize how life changing it would be for me.  For real.  As I sat listening to her talk about all the ways she uses oils in her life it was like the missing piece of my life was being explained to me.

I used to hear people talk about essential oils (or EOs as we call them) and I thought it was just a bunch of people who felt relaxed by nice smells.  I like smells, I thought, but I can’t imagine why they are SO into them.  Then I went and learned.  EOs are the oils of various plants that are extracted through specific distilling practices that allow them to retain various healing compounds.  Just in the same way that eating herbs and spices can be very healthy for us, consuming EOs, through inhalation, application on the skin or internally feeds our body with those same healing compounds.  They help to support our body’s systems to bring it back to balance.  They are also full of super high levels of antioxidants.

My friend’s talk was about Young Living essential oils specifically.  I was a little skeptical about why these oils would be worth so much more than the oils at health food stores but after her talk and then doing a lot of my own research it all made sense.  Young Living owns 9 of their own farms around the world where they grow, harvest, distill and bottle most of their own oils using BEYOND organic and sustainable practices.  They use essential oils instead of pesticides and weed by hand.  I’m big into organic gardening and permaculture so this is important to me.  They have also been around for over 20 years with this same mission.

All of the other companies I could find seem to source their oils from a variety of places and can’t have the same level of oversight in the production.  That’s really important since EOs are a largely unregulated industry where companies can pop up overnight and claim to be “therapeutic” or “100% pure” without any oversight. Many EOs on the market are completely synthetic, have fillers, were made with chemical solvents or were made with high heat and high pressure distilling practices which affect the healing qualities of the oils. It’s definitely a time where you get what you pay for.  It takes 27sq ft of lavender to make enough pure essential oil to fill a 15ml bottle.  If you find it somewhere for $5 then there is NO WAY it’s actually pure oil.  It just doesn’t add up.

Essential oils each have distinct fragrances as well as individual healing components.  My favorite is Frankincense, which is high in sesquiterpenes which stimulates and oxygenates the limbic system of the brain which helps to elevate our mood and helps us relax.  I LOVE it when I’m feeling stressed out in the afternoon or before a meditation.  It’s SO good!

Another favorite oil of mine is Thieves Blend.  This one contains clove oil, which is one of the highest antioxidant oils available!  I like to put a drop in my tea or on the soles of my feet when I’m feeling run down.  It tastes great and really helps me to feel better fast!

Lemon oil is probably the one I go through fastest!  I like to have a few drops in a big glass of water with a sprinkle of mineral salt (which helps it to disperse) to start my day.  I can really feel the difference when I forget to take it!  Lemon oil is great for helping to cleanse the body and support the liver and lymphatic system.  It’s also awesome as a natural version of goo gone and for helping to soothe acid reflux when rubbed on the throat!

RC is my husband’s favorite blend. It helps to support the respiratory system and he likes to put it over his sinuses when he’s feeling congested.  It has the added bonus of helping him to breath better and cuts down his snoring!

Peppermint is one of the strongest oils and Young Living’s peppermint really packs a punch!  It’s very soothing when applied to the temples if your head is aching.  It’s also nice on sore muscles and is even helpful for digestion when you rub it directly over your stomach or have it in a drop of water!

Peace and Calming II is the oil that my daughter asks for the most.  It’s a lovely blend and she says,”it helps me feel calm and control my body better”.  Many parents swear by this or the original Peace and Calming (which is often out of stock due to the seasonal availability of Blue Tansy)  for helping kids calm down from tantrums.  It’s also very soothing for adults and I like it as an everyday fragrance!

I could go ON AND ON!!! Just ask my friends!  Lol.  But really, essential oils have been such a positive addition to our lives.  They have helped me to get rid of a lot of toxic products around the house and have give me so much more energy and I feel better than ever!

After hearing my friend present I knew that I NEEDED to get some Young Living oils for myself and that because I would OBVIOUSLY be telling everyone about them I should probably just go ahead and make a hobby business out of it.  Definitely let me know if you are interested in getting started on your own oily journey!  Sharing these amazing oils brings me so much joy 🙂

The best way to get started with Young Living essential oils is to become a member by purchasing the Premium Starter Kit.  The kit includes eleven of their most popular oils, an essential oil diffuser and a bunch of samples.  Becoming a member is a no stings attached way to get your Young Living oils at 24% off of the retail price for LIFE as long as you spend $50 a year to keep your account active. I always recommend becoming a member and starting with the Premium Starter Kit as it’s the best way to really start USING your oils! The kit has a great assortment of oils and you have something on hand to help with anything that comes up.  Becoming a member also gives you access to our members only Facebook groups where you can connect with lots of other Young Living members and hear about all of the ways they are using and loving their oils.  Below is my link to get started.  I also offer ongoing classes locally in Westchester County NY and occasionally in Maine. Send me an email if you need any help or have questions!

Leah

LMKOLENDA@gmail.com

https://www.youngliving.com/vo/#/signup/start?sponsorid=3365922&enrollerid=3365922&type=member

If you want to read more about how Young Living works read my post on it here:

http://sustainableandjoyful.com/2016/03/29/how-to-get-started-with-young-living-essential-oils/

Sometimes you just want to night wean!

81tSHqoZ0SLThe topic of night weaning often comes up on various mama groups I’m in and I just can’t help myself from responding. It’s a topic that weighed pretty heavily on my mind during my daughter’s second year. Some nights there was nothing sweeter than waking up just a little bit when my daughter would rouse, pulling her close and then both of us falling back asleep while she nursed. Other nights I dreaded having to pull myself out of my slumber, even a little bit. Especially on the nights when she would wake every few hours.

What works for our family is bed sharing. It’s not what I planned on before having kids but like so many parenting decisions, it was what worked. Also, I have come to find that I love it! There is nothing sweeter than cuddling in with my littles. Especially at the end of a particularly difficult day. It’s impossible to feel anything but the deepest love when you look at that little angelic face as magical dreams pass through her head. It’s the cutest!

My cycle returned when my daughter was about 20 months old. With it came very sensitive nipples during ovulation.  At that point I decided that allowing her to nurse to sleep was no longer working for me.  The first step I took was to discuss with her how tonight we would be nursing for a bit then she would fall asleep cuddling, rather than nursing. It went surprisingly well!  She was fine with it.  I did a ten second countdown (other people sing a song) to let her know when we were almost done.  She would pop off before I got to one.

The first night of this she happily cuddled in and fell asleep.  I was struck with how sweet it was to watch her face drift to sleep.  There were other nights when she got upset with this arrangement, but I held her close, rocked her when she needed it, and she was able to eventually relax.  If she got really upset I would offer ten seconds of nursing, and it seemed to take the edge off and help her to reorganize herself.

We did this for a while. Maybe a few weeks, or a month?  I can’t really remember.  But at a certain point I decided I was ready to take the plunge and night wean her completely.  I bought the book, “Nursies When the Sun Shines” by Katherine C. Havener.  My daughter was very into books and I really think this helped her understand what was happening.  We also talked about it too.  I was careful to not talk about it too much, or too far in advance.  I think I really only brought it up the day before?  

So then, I picked a night when we would start and crossed my fingers!  The amazing thing was that it went MUCH more smoothly than I had imagined it would!  She woke up ONCE the first night and cried in my arms on and off for about a half hour.  Then she slept the longest stretch she had since she was a newborn!  Over the next few days we had similar results. I think the longest stretch of waking was about 45 minutes?  By the fourth night she slept through the night, cuddled next to me. It was blissful for all involved!

The most important lesson I learned from this process was how adaptable little people really are.  You hear “people” talk about setting up habits and getting babies “used to” doing certain things.  But I just don’t really buy into that.  I say, if it’s working, let it work.  If things aren’t working anymore, try something different!  Our kids will likely adapt and be fine with it.  This process was definitely harder for me than for her!

And now… as my son is nearing 18 months I’m starting to think it might be time to night wean him… This time around I’m not as scared that it will be hard.  I’m more just a little sad to think about the end to our lovely middle of the night cuddling and nursing.  But then I remember how good sleep feels… and how nice it is to to cuddle WITHOUT nursing… I don’t know… to be continued I guess!

 

 

Elimination Communication and why it’s so great

1518631_10153153510534203_9009319638392895772_oWhenever the topic of “potty training” or cloth diapering comes up I can’t help myself from suggesting people consider looking into “elimination communication”. A few years ago people had no idea what I was talking about but now, more and more I’m finding that people have at least heard of it. Although they still think it sounds pretty strange.

It does sound strange.  And it did to me too.  Having been living within a culture where “diaper training” (I’ll get to that in a minute… lol) is the norm, it seems like an impossible idea to imagine that babies could actually be telling us that they need to pee or poop.  Or that we could somehow know that they need to go!?!?  But I ask you, how do we know that our babies need to be fed? Or that they are tired? Sometimes we know, other times we make an educated guess, or a desperate stab in the dark as to why this little being won’t stop crying.  So it’s really not much different!

Elimination Communication, or EC, is a practice that has been done since the beginning of time all around the world.  In nations where they don’t have easy access to disposable diapers such as India, or some parts of China it is quite common.  My husband’s grandmother who was raised in Ireland did it with her kids.  But she didn’t call it EC.  She just called it, figuring out how to raise four children.  It’s how her parents raised her and the generations before. Why hand wash and line dry cloth diapers for years when you can help your baby to stay aware of their bodily functions and learn to use the potty years earlier?  His grandmother claims her kids were all potty trained by a year old!

The basic premise is that humans are born not wanting to soil themselves or others.  If we give them opportunities for elimination outside of their diaper they will often take it. When we put a baby in a diaper 100% of the time we are teaching them that diapers are where they should pee and poop.  We are “diaper training” them essentially.  Then a few years later we are frustrated when they don’t want to switch to going in a potty.  In order for elimination to happen a human needs to be relaxed and comfortable.  Would you be able to relax and let go in diaper?  Probably not because at this point you we are conditioned to only do that at the toilet.  So EC keeps the options of where acceptable places to eliminate are.  Why not help them to realize that they can pee in both their diapers AND a potty?  It just makes sense, right?

So how do you start doing this magic I speak of?  The best time to start is between birth and 6 months, but you can really start anytime.  You can even use EC methods as part of traditional “potty training”. The first step is to start to get an idea of what your babies “cues” are.  For some babies it’s quite obvious that they have a special cry when they need to go, or maybe they wiggle in a certain way?  Or they pop on and off the breast while nursing, stare off into space,grunt or just make a strange face?

A great way to tune into the cues is to have some diaper free time for your baby when you are together paying attention.  Perhaps lay them down on a towel naked for a while and then observe what they do immediately before peeing.  Then, when you see them pee make a shhhh sound, basically mimic a river.  It helps them to associate peeing with that sound.  I also think as you move forward with it the sound helps them to relax and release.  They make a connection between the sound and peeing. The same way that we often feel a need to pee when near running water.  It’s just in our biology.  So later, you can “cue” them with the shhh sound when you are offering them a “potty-tunity”.  I love that word!  Haha.

The other way to start is based on timing.  Which, to be honest is much easier than learning cues for most babies.  My daughter was very clear in her cues, and my son occasionally gave out some pretty clear signs, but timing can be more consistent and easier for the parent to start getting catches.  The time when a baby is most likely to need to go are upon waking from a nap or in the morning.  This is especially true in the morning as they have been holding it while sleeping.  Many people do EC only in the morning.  There have been times when this was our only catch of the day. And I’m totally fine with that.  It keeps baby aware of their bodily movements and helps avoid what can be a pretty messy diaper!  Other good times are after being in a carrier or car seat for a while.  If they start to squirm that can be a sign.

One big thing to keep in mind when doing EC is that it’s about communication more than anything else.  If baby is telling you that they really don’t want to go now, or go where you are offering it’s important to listen to that.  I also recommend not getting into using praise or bribes to encourage your baby to use the toilet.  It should just be a normal thing.  I do verbalize what is happening and often say, “what a relief!  You had a lot of pee in you!” which just helps them make the connection to what’s happening in their body.  You really want to avoid toileting becoming a power struggle.  This can also be avoided by experimenting with different locations for pottying.  Some babies prefer a seat reducer, a tiny potty on the floor, the sink, being held over a toilet or even outside!  And like everything else with babies, their preferences can change without notice.  Or based on a particular mood one day.  You have to just take a relaxed and flexible attitude towards it.

Which brings me to the “learning curve” of EC.  There really isn’t one.  You can have weeks without misses followed by weeks without catches.  How many catches you have is completely dependent on the many seen and unseen changes going on with baby and with life.  Getting caught up in tracking or seeing “improvement” will lead to frustration and stress for you and baby.

There is also no promise that this will lead to early potty independence.  It often does though!  My daughter was in underwear around the clock by 17 months with very few misses!  It was pretty awesome! My son is currently 16 months and has days when he walks to and points at the potty for most of his pees.  But you never know.  Regression is part of the process.

A common misconception is that doing EC means that your baby has to be “diaper free”.  It’s 100% untrue.  I kept my babies in cloth diapers, and occasionally paper diapers, except for the times when they were actually pottying.  Some people can handle full on “diaper free”, but that’s too much for me.  I like having the freedom that a diaper offers me in that I don’t always have to be paying attention to cues.  I use diaper free time as a tool to help me to hone in to cues when we have lost that connection.  It can also be great for older babies who want to use the potty on their own.  But it doesn’t have to be a part of your EC if the thought of it is stressful to you.

The thing to always keep in mind with EC is that you need to be enjoying the process and enjoy the premise.  I love the idea that my children are staying aware of their bodily functions.  I love that we are using less diapers.  I love that it’s good for the environment and my wallet.  I love that potty learning was a fluid and stress free process.  For me, those things kept me motivated even on days when we weren’t getting many catches.  Or when it was just too much for me to focus on trying to get catches!   And if it’s too much, we let it go for the day.

People often ask about EC at night.  Many people who use EC find that their babies are dry all night, even when night nursing!  The most important thing to always focus on in getting enough sleep.  Really.  EC is all well and good but sleep deprivation is a very real problem that affects many parents.  When we are sleep deprived our bodies and minds just can’t function fully.  So don’t get caught up in trying to make catches in the night if it’s too much.  That being said, many people find that if baby wakes up and is having trouble falling back to sleep, bringing them to potty can help them to settle down much more quickly.  So you really need to just figure out what works for you and your baby.

Lastly, make sure the focus is always on communication first.  If you are changing a poop diaper and verbalize that they just pooped, you are doing EC!  If you can tell your baby is peeing in their diaper and you verbalize that to them, you are doing EC and you just had a catch!   The journey is the destination with EC and it should be something that you and baby are enjoying.  You can sing songs together while on the potty, read books, play games, whatever!   Keep it fun and keep it light.  Don’t take it all too seriously. The attitude and experiences we share with our baby will benefit them more than anything.  Even more than catching pees.  Although, that’s fun too!

 

 

Leaf blowing in suburbia

My family lives in an area that is considered “semi-suburban”.  When we look out off our deck we see the forest and mountains in the distance and it can feel like we are out in the middle of nowhere.  We have enough privacy that laboring during my son’s birth on the deck all day seemed perfectly normal and private, but that’s another story for another day!

In fact, we often don’t see other people, except for a few cars driving down the dead end road.  But on a beautiful day we hear the almost constant hum of leaf blowers.  What is this?  It was a strange sound to me when first moving here from the city as leaf blowing was hardly a thing in Maine when I was growing up.  What happened to raking?

After having our back yard cleared of bramble and invasive plants and replanted we got an education in what this blowing is all about.  We couldn’t resist the offer from the landscaper to sign up for weekly yard maintenance.  And it is glorious.  A team of people come and mow, weed wack and then clean it all up with their magical leaf blowers.  But, now I’m part of the problem. But wow it’s nice to have this taken care of when you have small children and don’t want to spend hours mowing with your small but eco friendly electric mower.

We decided to forego the service as it moved into fall and the grass slowed it’s growing.  But now the blowers are out in full force all around us.  Echoing through the meadows, over hills and down streams.  They are calling out the siren song of those who want every leaf removed from their lawns and from their property.  Because leaves are bad?  Or useless?

When I started my garden I found a big pile of decaying leaves beside the road on our lane and counted myself quite lucky to have found such good organic material to build my soil with!  I mulch it with my mower and add it as part of my “lasagna gardening”.  It’s great!

This year I took my crazy nature loving self a step further and asked the neighbor’s landscaper to blow all of the leaves they were clearing into the wooded area between my lawn and the road.  My hope is that the extra organic material will act as a mulch to help to slow the growth of invasives plants in the area I cleared out there.  I also love that the leaves will provide a home to lots of little creatures like caterpillars that will become butterflies in the spring!

I recently learned that worms aren’t actually native to the US and that prior to 1600 they wouldn’t have been found here.  At that time the layer of leaf litter in the forests would have been about a foot deep as the other bugs that break it down work slower.  The faster decomposition of ground covers, along with the destabilization of the natural ecosystem due to the presence of humans and overpopulations of some animals, such as deer, could definitely be a part of why so many of our forests are covered with invasive bushes and vines that are choking out the trees.

So, yeah, let’s keep trying to create closed systems in our yards and use the gifts that are right in front of us.  Those leaves can be better used than just being sent “away” for composting.  They also are just lovely dipped in beeswax and taped to the window, you know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

A blog seems like a good idea

I’m one of those people who gets really excited about stuff and wants to talk about it.  A lot.  Too much sometimes.  So, a blog seems like a good idea.  Right?  Sustainable and Joyful is a place where I want to talk about the things that matter to me.  The ways I’m living my life that are helpful and the mistakes I’ve made or am making.  I just can’t shake the idea that questioning authority is always a good thing and for me that often means the authority that is mainstream thinking.  We all want to believe that the world is good and that what we are doing is right but that doesn’t always make it so. I am constantly shocked at how our consumer culture can lead us astray.  It can veer so far from what used to be natural and normal that to do things in the old ways is now unheard of.  I’m trying to reclaim that wisdom.  I want to find the secrets to living a healthy, contented life where I follow my passions and see where that leads me.