Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Confessions of a Mama on her Journey of Faith

Today, we close our May Confession Series with Nikki's story of accepting her infertility journey within the context of her deep faith.

© Nikki Powers 2012

"I have never actually been told that I cannot have children. After nearly ten years of marriage, however, I am beginning to think that it will just never happen for me, for us. For my husband, who told me five years into our marriage that he didn’t want to have children, this is somewhat a victory. For me, who has always longed for a child to hold in my arms, it is a bitter defeat.

The fact that this is the case, makes it all the harder for me, because he doesn’t understand my struggle. Despite the fact that he doesn’t want to have children, my husband, to his credit, said that we could “try” six and a half years into our marriage. His version of trying was more like not doing anything to prevent, but being young and na├»ve, I figured I’d be pregnant inside of a year. After all, how many unplanned pregnancies are there in a year?

When month after month came and went with not even so much as a thought of “I might be pregnant” I went to the doctor. Despite annual exams since I was a teenager, a new doctor discovered during a regular pap smear that I have two cervices and uteri. While this may not altogether prevent me from conceiving and carrying a child to term, it definitely won’t make it any easier. I also have had issues with out of control periods since I was a teenager, with no explanation or determined medical answer.

My doctors’ answer was to put me on birth control pills. I started doing that a full eight years before I’d ever had sex for the first time, on our wedding night. I continued on afterwards, afraid of what might happen if I stopped. I even had an episode where my period lasted for three months, despite the use of the pill. Their expert solution was to switch me to a different one. There were three strikes against me and in baseball, that means you’re out.

But life isn’t a baseball game, and the rollercoaster didn’t stop there. After two years of “trying,” my younger sister offered to surrogate for us. She has four children now, but at the time had three. At first, I saw this as hope, and my husband even agreed to consider and pray about it. And pray we did, together and separately. At the end of a week, we both clearly had an answer, the same answer: no. God used the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac to say no to the surrogacy, because He had a better plan, for them; and I hope, for us. My husband was apologetic. I felt like I might die from grief, even as I recognized the hope that ought to come from His answer. Gradually, I began to accept this answer from God.

I wanted to be obedient, even if it seemed as if my heart would break in the process. Nearly two more years have passed since then and most days I am okay, but there are just some days, where the mention of a child, especially an unwanted one, will tear open old wounds and the tears will flow uncontrollably.

I do not yet know if the second part of the “no” answer was also for me, or not, but I silently hold out hope and know that even if I never hold a child of my own in my arms, my obedience to His perfect plan, will in the end, garner much more joy than a child conceived in disobedience, even if I can’t even type that without those uncontrollable tears."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I'm a Mom and I've had ENOUGH!

Alright. That's it.

I told my husband if one more woman says she wants to be "Mom enough like Guggie", I would write this post.

Mom enough? Cool enough? Hippie enough? Super crunchy? Birthing rockstar? Are you kidding me? What is this, an island reality TV show?

All the things that make me not awesome enough:

I have been known to eat Taco Bell.
Disposable razors. And not the natural ones dipped in gold.
Wake me up at 6 in the morning and try to Skype with me then.
I only bake for my kids on their birthdays. (Who said Paleo/raw was ONLY for the health benefits?!)
Mt. Laundry, now viewable on Google maps.
Disposable diapers for trips. And not always the compostable ones dipped in platinum.
Where are MY KEYS! You took my keys! Oh wait, here they are, in my pocket.
Maternity clothes. After birth.
On busy days, the play room magically turns into the room called "dump clutter and close door."
Wearing a wide headband instead of showering
Family Guy, Futurama, South Park, The Cleveland Show, Rooster Teeth
Chobani Chocolate Chunk Yogurt
Yelling, "MOOOOOVEEEEEE" at the slow lady in front of me on the highway
Pizza Hut buffet
Taking the kids to a new park so I have a few minutes to read before they declare it boring
Pajamas when the sun is up. Scratch that. Pajamas when the sun is going down.
My son has a pet ant.

I am not perfect. I am not "enough" meaning I have not reached some level of Zen parenting that I can now sit back, relax and sip an umbrella drink in my spotless house while my children play with handmade wooden toys and speak multilingually, as the grass-fed, organic steaks cook themselves on my eco stove.

Don't get me wrong. I know some things and I've experienced some things that I passionately want to share with others. I have days where my husband wakes us up and we sneak out to watch the sunrise, cuddled together as a family, the golden-pink rays flowing across the top of my daughter's bouncy curls as I struggle not to sob. I have moments where suddenly I know that I'm enlightened about an important concept or that I've finally mastered the skill of nursing two kids and using my foot to answer my mom calling on the iPhone.

But, oh, oh! I am sooooo far from perfect! I am soooo far from enough, and yet, just by being me, I am enough. And so are YOU.

We are not mom enough. We ARE moms. Period. We struggle, we cry, we flail our arms and want to give up, but then we see the beautiful souls of our children and we get up and we do it all over again. We mutter under our breath. We pretend to go to the bathroom for a moment of peace, which doesn't really work b/c they knock on the door or put their hands under the door crack. But we'll take it. We stay up late at night, listening to their little puff-puff breathing, while we tirelessly research medical literature, picking up more medical terminology and microbiology than a resident student. We don't get accolades for our academics. But we wouldn't have it any other way.

We catch poop and vomit with our hands. We run into the room 10 seconds before the newborn wakes up b/c we are that in tune. And yet, sometimes the answers evade us, as we crumple onto the floor in a ball, sobbing with a sobbing baby, tired and hopeless.

Are you mom enough? Have you had enough of this comparing and judging and endless spiraling of trying to make ourselves feel better by judging the norm to be extreme? Do you think everyone has a spotless house, perfect angels, all perfectly spaced, always healthy and kind? Do you think a mom out there exists who never bickers with her partner? Who never ever eats some junk food or opens a box to make dinner?

We are moms, who have had enough. We are moms, and that's enough. 

Let's get real. Sometimes I don't even bake for the birthday!

S'mores. And not the vegan kind.
Pizza Hut!
Chicken nuggets on PAPER PLATES with PLASTIC UTENSILS! At least they are organic? LOL
A mommy tummy with mommy stretch marks all over it

Plastic contraptions used sporadically
Using a *gasp* stroller! And licensed character clothing not handmade from hemp!

Handmade Peace-Mama Nursing Pads Review & Giveaway!

We're starting off our first week of giveaways with TWO sets of handmade nursing pads. These adorable pads were handmade by eco-conscious mama, Sarah Beth Artel. She's combined excellent craftsmanship with whimsy at her store Baby Bleiu & Mama, Too.

I was impressed at how soft and comfy these pads felt, while still being thin enough to wear discreetly under my nursing bra. They are especially helpful if you have, um, the so-called square nipple issue so common while breastfeeding.

The yellow set features peace signs and heart print in cotton with a Zorb II soaker and hidden PUL, then lined with organic bamboo fleece. They are 4.5 inches in diameter and made to control heavier leaks.

Then for your lighter needs, Sarah has crafted a set in the same peace pattern with pink edging with a Zorb II soaker, lined with organic bamboo fleece, but no PUL. These are 5 inches in diameter.

These soft, comfortable pads have no wiring in them or anything that feels hard. They will discreetly and safely prevent annoying leaks without transferring any harmful chemicals or scents onto your breasts.

Giveaway is open to anyone in the U.S.A. Flat-rate shipping costs are included. a Rafflecopter giveaway

*It should be noted that I was not paid to promote or give a positive review. All opinions are mine and freely given after carefully inspecting the product.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Jury Duty and Breastfeeding

© Amanda Walley 2012

"To whom it may concern:

Did you know that only 12 states currently have family friendly jury duty laws that allow exclusively breastfeeding mothers to be excused from jury duty? Currently my state, Washington, is not one of them. Now in three weeks I am being forced to either leave my 5 month old, exclusively breastfed son to report for jury duty, or face criminal charges. What I am asking for, is publicity and awareness. If more people know that this is a problem, we can stand together to get it changed. A facebook page was just created to keep people in the loop as to what is happening, and to help come up with ideas to get Washington some family friendly jury duty laws. 

Please consider sharing this page on your page, blog and/or website.

Here is my story:

I received my first jury summons in my first trimester of pregnancy while on modified bed rest. I replied to the letter, and they granted a deferral. I got my second summons when the baby was less than 2 weeks old. They granted another referral, but only until May. (Baby was born at the very end of November). I called and was then told I was out of deferrals and had no choice but to appear. I explained that I would still be exclusively breastfeeding, and baby would be under six months old. She told me that she was sorry, the issue was out of her control and I had no other options. She told me I have to show up on the day, and speak with the judge, and the judge would "likely" excuse me. I asked if I could bring my infant son with me, since he cannot be away from me. She said no, and if I did I could be charged with contempt. I asked what would happen if I don't go and she said I would be charged with a misdemeanor.

I just received my new summons last week. The baby will be 5 1/2 months old on the day I am supposed to report. Even if I were to go in and speak with the judge, it will still take several hours of being away from the baby. He has never had pumped milk, formula, or even a pacifier. He is 100% exclusively breastfed. My body doesnt respond well to pumping, and I get next to no milk out. He eats every 2 hours, often times more (even at night). Thats way too long for him to go without nursing. I am in no way trying to "get out" of anything. I will gladly do my civic duties. I just don't think it is right to put me in a position to have to choose to do my civic duties, be charged/treated as a criminal OR care for my infant son. I will not be breast feeding forever, and will report for jury duty with bells on when it does not interfere with the well being of my children.

Thank you so much for your time.

Amanda Walley"

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Confessions of a Mama in her 40s

© Barb Reilly 2012

*Trigger warning: loss is mentioned*

"I stumbled across your blog and really enjoy it. Unfortunately I do have an infertility story to share with you.

I met and married my husband late in life. It wasn't any plan on my part; that's just the way life went for me. I was 41 when we began trying to conceive and aware of all the media hype about women "waiting too long." It infuriated me, frankly, and I decided I would not give into that negative energy. I researched online to find the best herb for promoting fertility. (It is red clover blossom.) I made infusions of the herb and drank it daily.

The night before my 42nd birthday, I conceived a baby boy who was born healthy in December of 2002. When my son was nine months old, and I was 43, I got pregnant again but miscarried that baby at seven weeks. It was a few weeks before my son's first birthday and to cheer ourselves up, my husband and I went to the toy store and over indulged our soon-to-be-one year old. In fact, he got tired of opening presents when his birthday came around but the toy shopping was fun and cathartic for us in the aftermath of the loss.

The following February, I got pregnant again and lost that baby at eight weeks. It seems like most "middles" of anything, that miscarriage is kind of lost between the first one and the third one.

Yes, I had a third one almost one year to the day since the first one. But this time I was 11 weeks along. We heard the heartbeat and we allowed ourselves to let our guard down. But, deep inside I knew. I woke up one morning and felt the tiniest, I mean tiniest of cramps and then it was gone, but my heart quickened. I laid there waiting, fearing, but nothing.

I didn't say anything to my husband but all day long I was constanly going to the bathroom to check for bleeding. That night we went out to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday and everyone was happy and excited about the new baby while inside a terrible dread had taken hold of me.

When we got home that night, my son was sound asleep and my husband quickly went to bed. I went to the bathroom, wiped...."there it is," I said out loud. Blood. I didn't wake my husband until about 2 am when the bleeding had progressed but even then I couldn't bring myself to tell him the full scope of what was happening. He assured me it would be okay. The same thing had occurred with our son, but I knew I wasn't being truthful with him. I went back to bed and woke up around 4 am with full blown hemorrhaging. This was six years ago and even still retelling this now brings tears to my eyes. 

Pregnancy loss is a loss and grief like no other. I lost my father when I was 24 years old and I never thought anything could rival that pain until I was lying in my driveway, passing out from blood loss, knowing my baby was gone. The next year I will say I came as close to having a nervous breakdown without actually having one that a person can claim. The grief was maddening. Of course I was infinitely grateful for my baby boy and he gave my days joy and lightness but at night, after he had gone to was like the Shrek movie where Fiona turns into an ogre.

My grief would come out as if to hiss at me and say, "You thought you could ignore me?" My breasts ached, physically ached to nurse another baby. I found out I have this blood clotting disorder and that was what was causing the miscarriages. Interestingly, red clover is a blood thinner, but I had stopped drinking it after my son was born. Why? I guess his conception and delivery were just "too easy" and I didn't fully appreciate how intuitively right I had been about the herb.

I have a lovely daughter now. We adopted - rescued - her out of foster care. She was my cousin's biological daughter but my cousin suffers from bipolar disorder and alcoholism. She wanted us to adopt her baby and yet it was a battle to get the baby out of foster care. I never gave up hoping to get pregnant again, even as I turned 50. I am 52 and my last period was in September so I suppose I can hang up the hope, though even now I dream of a "one last" ovulation that I am unaware of and that lands me pregnant.

I never went back to drinking red clover again. I truly believe I was too scared and that I never became pregnant again not because the sexiest men of science and medicine have a clue about the female reproduction system (there is evidence that suggests we actually DO make eggs our entire lives rather than the "born with all our eggs and they get old" theory) but because I could not abandon my fears enough to allow my body to become pregnant.

To this day I still want another baby so, so badly. I see babies everywhere I go and I wonder if I will ever stop noticing them. It seems hard to remember the day when I didn't notice them; when a trip to Target or the park wasn't an emotional assault. I am jealous and envious of people with three, four or more children and yet I am proud to say I am not bitter or resentful. I worked hard not to be as I knew women who had gone through pregnancy losses who resented women with babies. I even found a place within myself where I am grateful for my pregnancies despite the losses because for seven weeks, eight weeks and eleven weeks, I got to know that joy. I look at every baby as a sweet celebration and pray that neither my son nor daughter ever experience infertility or pregnancy loss."

Blood clotting disorders that result in miscarriage or stillbirth are often related to a genetic polymorphism abbreviated MTHFR. For more information:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Are You There, Baby?

This post was submitted anonymously.

Dear Baby,

Are you in there? Are you here with me now? I have this intense feeling, this knowledge out of nowhere that you are here with me, but I don't trust it. This has happened to me twice before, this hyper-awareness of my uterus, this strong sense of something happening down there, of pregnancy.

Both times, I bled before I could know for sure if there was someone inside at all. If I close my eyes, and focus all my attention on my uterus, I can feel this light, tingling, happy sensation. It's as if something inside me is singing. My friend told me to trust my body, and to trust my instincts. That if my body is telling me I am pregnant then I should listen.

But I'm afraid. I'm afraid that I am just having an extreme bout of overactive imagination, brought on by the years of wishing, and hoping, and praying, and paying too much attention to every slight twinge I feel, every symptom that could possibly mean something. I'm also afraid that if you are there, if there was something there the two times before, that you will leave. I am afraid that there is something wrong with me, or something just slightly off with you, and that you will not be able to stay.

I am afraid that you will not grow properly, be nourished and loved in my womb for 9 months, be born into my waiting hands here at home. I am afraid that if I bleed next week I will not be able to return to the lovely numbness I have been enjoying for the last few months. It was calm that I felt, and the acceptance that I had of never being a mother. It wasn't an ideal state of mind, and it worried your father quite a bit, but it was better, so much better than the despair I had been living with for too long.

The ready tears and anger had all but vanished, and I could get through my day to day life without breaking down at the sight of a small child in the grocery store, or yet another friend becoming pregnant and radiating everything I felt I could never have. But now I've had this. This burst of hope and anticipation. I'm terrified. I'm going to feel like such an idiot when my period starts, and I've had all this drama over nothing.

All this build up, and worry, and all the prayers, and hopes, and the friends that I told, and this letter I am writing now. All for nothing. Nothing but emptiness. Again. And again. And again. God help me, I can't keep doing this, how do people survive the years and years of it? How do I face a life with this empty house?

This house, silent but for the small sounds of my husband and I filling the hours with the internet and video games? How? What is the purpose of a childless life?

My tiny little one, if you are in there, please know that I love you. I have spent much time imagining how our life as a family will be, how much your daddy and I will love having you here and being your parents. If you are in there, please know that you were conceived in love. So much love. If you are in there, please stay with me. I have loved you and wanted you for so long, and I will do everything I can to keep you healthy and safe while you grow.

Something inside me is singing. Is it you? A small soul within rapidly dividing cells. Or is it nothing but a dream that has overstepped its bounds? I won't know for another week. I will spend this week as calmly as I can, and I will enjoy this feeling while it lasts, because who knows. This could be the beginning of something wonderful. This could be another bump in the road on our way to starting our family. This could be all I will ever get to know of pregnancy. Something inside me is singing.

Please God, please. Let this be it.

Photo © Stacie Robinson

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Peaceful Children in a Violent World

I'm a bit different from many of the mamas I meet on here. Most mamas are on a new journey of discovery when they come across my resources. They are perhaps the first (or even only) person in their families and social circles to question the mainstream methods. Often, they are the first to stop vaccinating or the first to bring an intact boy into the world and keep him that way. I have heard from many women who were the first to even see breastfeeding firsthand, from their own breasts when they decided to break the line of formula feeding in their family tree.

But I'm actually "second generation" when it comes to these topics. My mom was the pilgrim, the brave mama standing up against convention, paving her own way without cool iPhones or medical literature blinking on the screen of limitless internet access. She followed her instincts and followed her faith to make her own decisions about parenting. (Yes, by the way, there are some tones of faith in this post in case you need fair warning).

When mamas start on their journeys, no matter how confident they are about the research and the logic, I know in the back of their minds they are wondering what the finish line looks like for their children. How many times have homeschoolers heard, "But, how will they attend college?" How many people have listened to questions such as, "If they don't get vaccinated, they can't go to college!" Or what about those boys, unmarked by circumcision surgery? "How will they ever get a girl to like them?" (What about other boys anyways? Or no one if they choose to remain single or choose a religious vocation?)

Talk about busting a stereotype! 

Here is what an intact, vaccine-free teen who was born at home unassisted and homeschooled/unschooled from beginning to end looks like at prom.

Maybe this is why I feel more relaxed about the decisions I make. I experienced them. I lived them. I'm at the finish line (of childhood at least; I'm still growing and learning daily).

As time goes on, my other siblings are slowly making their way into the world, too. What do these people look like? Most of you know what a gently birthed, vaccine free, intact, peacefully raised child looks like. What about when they are adults? Who are they, what do they do, where do they go in life?

Two of my brothers pushed hard through high school. They dual enrolled at the local college to push harder through college, too. I was surprised when I heard them both announce they were joining the military. One brother signed a contract with the Air Force to work with planes, hopeful one day of working with NASA. The other brother signed a contract with the Army because he wants to be a Ranger.

Stop the music! My baby brothers want to join....the military? They want to carry guns and go to war? They want to enter a heavily regulated system? The what and the who now?!

I remember both of their births. Unassisted, both a bit exciting in their own way. They are intact, vaccine-free. They were raised gardening, canning, fishing, free-playing, barefoot in the grass. Whole foods, cooked by our parents every night, were their childhood staple.

Rations? Experimental vaccines?

They are both on the quieter side, one definitely on the gentler side. He was always giving out hugs and back massages, clued into the complex emotions of the adults around him. The other one always found the person who needed friendship the most. My mom was forever astounded at how he would go out into the neighborhood or park and befriend the saddest, loneliest, most bullied child, bringing him or her into our safe haven, giving out friendship without judgment.

Guns? War?

Okay, I kinda see the gun part.

I was deeply troubled. Not just troubled, but also worried! These were my little brothers, now grown men, choosing to go into a system filled with violence and darkness. I worried and complained until my husband gave me a bit of wisdom. He told me, "When you are given certain things, like a good upbringing, and you come to appreciate that, then you want to go out into the world and give the same to others."

That made a lot of sense to me. It's something I see every day. For example, women experience a gentle birth and become birth advocates to spread the word that ALL women and their babies deserve a gentle birth.

As we raise our children peacefully and gently, perhaps we don't sense much advocacy, passion or activism. I meet countless parents who tell me they are too busy raising their children to ever be an activist. They don't stop to ponder their daily hard work of raising their children in peace, raising them to be gentle and yet wise.

Our mom wasn't an activist. She didn't wear expensive tshirts with slogans. She didn't have cool bumper stickers on her beat up suburban. She didn't go to nurse-ins or appear on magazine covers. I never heard her harshly judge others for not wearing cloth diapers or using a bottle. And she never forced her beliefs onto us. We were given a childhood of normalcy.

Now, her children want to go out into the world and share that with others. For my two brothers, this means being strong enough to enter a violent system amidst uncertainty about our country and criticism from just about everyone in society. One brother took a vaccine exemption as his work remains here, but the other brother is sacrificing his body to go where he thinks his talent is needed.

Was our mom never an activist? Or does she represent the real activist, a person who has quietly, without reward or praise or popularity, changed this world for the better?

Today, two whole, gently raised boys went out into the world as strong men, willing to sacrifice their lives to bring peace to others. I know they will stay true to their principles wherever they go and whatever situation they find themselves in on their journeys. I trust they will bring light with them, sharing hope and peace with everyone.

"Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves." Matthew 10:16

Today, I salute my brothers, and all people who realize what was given to them and wish to share it with others in the systems. To those soldiers, doctors, nurses and more who walk a fine line, being wise yet innocent: I salute those who make sacrifices, who restrict their own freedoms, put their own health on the line, risk drawing criticism, hate and attack, all to reach out to others and give them the dignity they deserve. I salute those who remain true to themselves and committed to their principles even in the darkest areas of the world.

And most of all, I salute the parents out there who tirelessly work every day, raising whole, peaceful children who are strong enough, brave enough, committed enough to enter back into a world of violence in the hopes of helping others.

(Shirt says: Proud Army Mom.) Heather Bricklin

This man is someone's boy, someone's priceless, deeply loved, peacefully raised baby.
Heather Bricklin
Heather N. C.

Heather N. C.

The Air Force is not endorsing the photo however, permission was given to take photographs Breastfeeding while in their uniform. This shoot was done for Mom2Mom: Breastfeeding Support Group in Fairchild Afb, Wa.
Full post here



Jessica Blonk

Saturday, May 19, 2012

You no good, lazy, prudent, supportive....jerk?!

"Father, he's just so....sooo!!! So...."

Before I could decide on a word fittingly offensive enough to describe my husband's behavior, the kindly old priest smiled at me, a twinkle in his eye. He patted my hand and said quietly, "You know, an important step in your marriage will be learning how to love ALL of your husband, even his imperfections. Sometimes it's not them, but us."

What does that mean, to love all of a person, even his or her imperfections? I pondered this angrily. So, I'm left holding up the white flag? I have to ignore behavior I don't like? I have to accept things the way they are, ne'er a hope of changing or improvement? It's all my fault, eh? Sounded like a bum deal to me.

Fast forward 4 years.

Friday evening marked the beginning of a very stressful and busy weekend. I had schedule conflicts that would leave people I love unhappy. My kids were coughing and sporting green, runny noses. My little brother was leaving to join the Air Force and I was subconsciously trying to process this, grieving his upcoming absence and trying to show support for him. Oh, and zombie ants were slowly claiming my kitchen.

My husband stepped out of the car, a smile on his face, happy to be finished with work for the weekend. I breathed a sigh of relief. Time to tackle the to-do list! Time to be productive! Together we could do twice the work!

He didn't make it inside. Instead, the kids gleefully ran out to him, clutching at his legs and squealing happily. From behind his back appeared a box full of chalk. "Let's play!"

I admit, my jaw almost hit the floor. "The NERVE! How could he be so....soooo!!!! So...."

Words softly surfaced in my mind, quietly exposing something deeper.

How could he be so attentive?
How could he be so caring?
How could he be so whimsical?
How could he be so fatherly?

Yes, what does it really mean to love ALL of a person, even the "imperfect" parts? Maybe loving completely doesn't mean stoically holding up a white flag or begrudgingly accepting something unpleasant, scrunching your nose as if someone is handing you a bag of dog poo.

Maybe loving all of a person means loving so deeply and thoroughly and truly, that you begin to see something....more. Something deeper.

Was my husband lazy, or attentive?
Was he neglectful, or caring?
Was he impulsive, or whimsical?
Was he unproductive, or fatherly?

Who was my husband that evening, laughing along with our children, drawing Spongebob on the ground and kneeling in chalk dust without a care in the world? Whatever the label, I found another part of him to love unconditionally.

Maybe someday I'll meet that priest again and tell him how it turned out.

"The single most important tactic for short circuiting defensive communication is to choose to have a positive mindset about your partner." ~John Gottman, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail

How do we alter our perceptions when unconditionally parenting? Consider this list from the book Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka:

demanding or holds high standards?
unpredictable or flexible?
loud or zestful?
argumentative or committed?
stubborn or assertive?
nosy or curious?
wild or energetic?
extreme or tenderhearted?
inflexible or traditional?
manipulative or charimastic?
impatient or compelling?
anxious or cautious?
explosive or dramatic?
picky or selective?
whiny or analytical?
distractible or perceptive?

Do you want to be with a whiny, demanding, manipulative toddler or a charismastic, analytical toddler who holds high standards? Which labels demean our children (and partners) and which ones uplift and support them?

Which would make you feel better to hear from a parent or spouse? Which one do you think your child or partner wants to hear from you?

Unconditionally loving someone, baby, toddler, teen or adult, means accepting him as the person he is today, not the person you want him to become tomorrow. A child isn't going to become a person later; she's a person right now. Your significant other isn't going to be Mr. Right later down the road; he's your partner right now. Making a commitment to change your perceptions builds up the relationship instead of tearing it down over imperfections.

Try this unconditional partners exercise: Write down two imperfections you commonly hold against your partner. Now try to find a different label or see the good in them. Is he indecisive, or prudent and cautious? Is she irresponsible, or energetic and filled with a love for life? Consider sharing your findings to promote intimacy.

Try this unconditional parents exercise: the next time someone labels your child negatively, turn the label around within earshot of your child. For example, if your mother in law says, "Timmy is so anxious in public!" Smile proudly and say, "Yes, Timmy is very cautious and prudent!"

Are you unconditionally loving your partner and your child? Join my new page, unconditional partners who are unconditionally parenting:

If you liked this post....

My Purple Sister

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Triandem Nursing: Three is a Happy Crowd

Number 2 and number 3 nursing together

Number 1 and number 3 nursing together

During my last pregnancy, I wrote about our journey of nursing during pregnancy and tandem nursing. (You can read it here.)

Now that the baby is here, I can share our journey of triandem nursing! 

So, first off, what's not so great about triandem nursing? The obvious. I only have two boobs, but now I have three kids. Sometimes it looks like a scene from a Discovery show, with three hungry little kids shouldering their way in for the grub. Thankfully, I haven't noticed any hurt feelings or outright fighting. What helps is to pay attention to each child's individual needs. I know to feed the baby while the kids are happily playing, for example, so when they are tired out, they aren't stuck standing in line. 

And now, what's great about triandem nursing? For me, the part I love the most is the bonding. Tandem nursing provided many moments of sibling love, and triandem nursing has only expanded on that! It brings tears to my eyes sometimes when we're all quietly nestled together and I'm nursing two with one cuddled up against my shoulder, patiently waiting. They have a hand on each other's shoulder, head or are holding hands at all times. It's just beautiful. It's very hard to get photos during times like these, since my hands and often my legs as well are all being used lol! So the few photos that I have so far I treasure. 

I know that having my toddlers with me at the baby's birth and nursing immediately afterwards was very reassuring to them. DS1 (Dear Son 1) was the first to nurse with the baby. I could see in his eyes that he was finally accepting what I had told him many times. He was not being replaced, kicked to the side or forgotten. His brother fit into our family, too, and all would be okay in the end. 

DD (Dear Daughter) is only 3 years old, but she dotes on her youngest brother so much that she seems wise beyond her years. She will often tell me things such as, "Mama, you give the baby boobahs first. I'll wait." And I sat in awe the first time DS1 reached over and latched the baby onto my breast. He acted nonchalant, as if it was totally normal to just latch his little brother on while he was nursing as well! Very cute.

Like during pregnancy, I can get very hungry and need to pay attention to my body. I eat frequent meals and carry a water bottle with me at all times. Triandem nursing has only increased my motivation to care for my body, too. I'm not in the habit of calorie counting, but for the purpose of giving a reference, I probably consume about 3,000 calories daily. I eat to my fill and try to make the choices count (whole foods, nourishing foods, organic and clean).

Nourishment for the baby. I frequently get asked how I make sure the littlest one gets the nourishment he needs. Did my colostrum arrive at all? Yes, definitely, it arrived and all three of my children benefited from it. There was plenty to go around and my body made colostrum for at least 2 days (on the third day I became engorged...toddlers are awesome for that issue as well!)

Having older nurslings is also helpful for foremilk/hindmilk issues and oversupply, both things that I experience. My older children were more than happy to drink up all the fore milk and they could handle the strong letdowns so that my newborn could nurse on the fattening hind milk without being choked. It was a great balance.

After all three children nursed, I quickly hand expressed this colostrum. 

Sleeping. Everyone wants to know how this works for bedsharing families. It works well, but it's a bit tricky due to my personal anatomy. My breasts are not large enough for me to easily nurse two babies on my back. So it's a constant balancing act to find out who is sleepy first, who needs mama first, and then nurse that child to sleep, slip away carefully, then roll over to nurse the next child. When I do this right, the bedtime routine is very peaceful and amazingly easy. In 15 minutes, I can have 3 children happily sleeping. 

But if I make a mistake in this calculation, things can get hairy and I become very grateful for my husband, who will try to rock or sing to one or two of them while I help the neediest of the bunch. At any rate, it's not harder. It's just...more. It's more of what I've already been doing.

Here we are all together when the baby was a week old.
Interestingly, my oldest child is to the point of sleeping through the night, or maybe waking one time and going back to sleep quickly. And my youngest will sleep in fairly good chunks most nights. It's my middle child who has started to sleep like a newborn, wanting to be on the breast permanently and crying if I unlatch him. I suspect it's his 2 year molars and I try to be as patient as possible. 

If I could do it all over again, would I change anything? NO WAY! Even during the trying times, even when my back aches or I feel overly needed, I still feel intense happiness and gratitude for the ability to nurse my three children. I've been able to stick with my convictions (such as child led weaning and responsive parenting). I've been able to promote sibling bonding and reduce sibling rivalry. I have a very handy trick when it comes to toddler tantrums. And being able to nurse 3 kids down for simultaneous naps? That's da bomb! 

I know that nursing can be difficult with one child, let alone 2 or 3. I congratulate mamas out there who found themselves on different journeys ending in different ways and who are still loving their babies in all the ways they can. But for those mamas who are wondering right now what choices to make and who are pregnant right now and feeling discouraged, thinking they have to restrict their love and attention or change their methods....please consider tandem/triandem nursing! It won't hurt to try!

My oldest child, nursing at 3.25 years

My second child, nursing at 18 months

My youngest child, nursing at 2 months

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Custom Vaccines for YOUR Child

*All links open in a new window for your convenience.

© Vivian Gardner Westfall 2012

Vivian is a vaccine-education advocate who works to provide unemotional, evidence-based perspective to the vaccine topic. Her hope is that all parents will take the time to carefully research the information from all sides and perspectives to develop an informed stance on vaccination before consenting to vaccination on behalf of their children.

Blaring headlines, screaming experts, alternative salesmen and everyone else are trying to do the same thing: pull at your heartstrings. When you blow all the smoke away and ignore the high-pitched voices on ALL sides, you can get down to the basic, level-headed process of determining the health needs for YOUR child.

 Here is Vivian's summary on how to map out what your child needs and the specific risks for your child. Is your child's pediatrician doing this?

"First, determine if vaccines are necessary for your child. What are the real and direct risks of the illness for your child?

 Keep in mind that it is medically unethical to consider anyone other than the patient (your child) when choosing medical products at the doctor's office.

a. When was the last case of the particular disease in your country? In your state? In your town? Calculate this here.

b. Is it reasonable for a child the age of your child to contract the disease? For example, is it age appropriate for a child to contract a disease such as Hepatitis B? Is it reasonable for a child in your area or socioeconomic status to contract a Tetanus infection?

Second, if your child develops an infection, what are the real and direct risks from that disease?

a. Which illnesses are considered to be serious? What is the frequency of severe or untreatable complications from an infection? This is an important question because the complications are what cause concern, and complications in healthy children are rare. Read through the Mayoclinic's database to learn about illnesses. Dig through the CDC's pink book chapters to become informed on the various vaccine-related illnesses.

b. Have you or your child's doctor calculated the real and direct risks for your child? What is your child's risk of contracting the disease, developing a complication and suffering an injury from that complication?

Third, now that you have a basis for understanding the  real and direct risks of the illness and potential complications for your child, it is time to look at the vaccines. All medical procedures and products come with risks, including vaccines.

a. What are the specific ingredients in the vaccine that could be problematic for your child? At this point, a thorough family medical history should be mapped out to identify the risk factors. A family history of allergies, mitochondrial dysfunction, diabetes, other autoimmune issues and so on must be considered. Genetic conditions such as MTHFR should be tested for if your child shows any symptoms. Environment needs to be observed. For example, children of military families are exposed to more toxins, as are people in certain regions or near certain manufacturing plants. What is your child's individual susceptibility to the ingredients in the vaccines?

 b. What are the real and direct risks of the vaccines? Has your child's doctor studied the VAERS reports? Has your child's doctor calculated other statistics to ascertain the risks of vaccination? Is your child's doctor aware that the FDA/CDC admit that adverse vaccine reactions are very underreported in spite of efforts to encourage doctors to report the adverse reaction? Has the doctor looked through the VAERS reports to see if your family history might make your child more susceptible to an adverse reaction than other children? What about that Hepatitis B vaccine anyways?

‎c. Have there been any other adverse reactions in your family? Were these reactions acknowledged? Unreported? Dismissed? Has anyone in your family experienced conditions such as SIDS, colic, allergies, asthma, autism, ADHD/ADD, parkinson's, seizures/epilepsy, brain hemorrhages, psoriasis and eczema, strabismus, etc?

 d. Do not accept a greater good argument until the previous matters have been addressed and any benefit of this voluntary medical procedure clearly outweighs the risks of vaccination for your child. For example, if Polio is truly eradicated in America and no risk exists, can your child's doctor explain to you how your child will help a child living in a refugee camp in the Sudan to not get polio?

Fourth, what other treatments and procedures are available if your child get a disease for which she can be vaccinated? (Also called a vaccine-related disease). Keep in mind that even fully vaccinated children can still contract vaccine-related diseases and spread them to others. Vaccination does not guarantee immunization. It also doesn't guarantee protection for others. So, know the symptoms and the treatments available in case the vaccine fails.

a. So if your child should step on a rusty nail and contract tetanus, are there any other measures to address a tetanus infection to prevent serious complications? Oh yes, I am so relieved you should ask that question. In fact, there are things that can be done. A tetanus infection should be addressed quickly and aggressively and some of the measures that can be used are:

Proper wound care
Tetanus immunoglobulin (to neutralize the toxin)
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Since tetanus is a strict anaerobe after entering the body, hyperbaric oxygen therapy will instantly kill the bacterium as it cannot survive in the presence of oxygen. HBOT will superoxygenate even the extremities. This is why feet are of concern with Tetanus. The feet are the least oxygenated of our tissues and of concern in an older adult, particularly with compromised circulation such as in diabetics.

Have you or your child's doctor looked at each vaccine-related illness and compiled a basic treatment list like the one above for Tetanus? What about Measles? What about Chickenpox? What are the medications available? What are their efficacy rates? Side effects? Compared to the vaccine? What about alternative options? What about changing the diet?

b. You can also ask your child's doctor to run antibody titers to see what immune responses show up from vaccine-related diseases. If your child has already been exposed to the illness and developed an immune response, vaccination would clearly be an unnecessary medical procedure and therefore unethical.

 Any medical procedure must be evaluated for risks and benefits to the individual patient. The benefits must outweigh the risks and the procedure must be necessary and administered with full consent to be medically ethical."


Exemption laws and forms by state

You could spend hours evaluating individual ingredients and vaccines here

Guggie's pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine link lists

A long but very worthwhile article about vaccination and immunity

More links, including book lists

Real and direct: Meet the Children

Friday, May 4, 2012

Confessions of a Mama who Wanted Children

Continuing with our May Confessions Series on Infertility Journeys, Sarah shares her story. Her story includes pregnancy loss and might be triggering. Please take this into consideration before reading. © Sarah R 2012

"I knew from the time I was a young girl that I wanted to have children. I remember being about 6 years old, picking up babies in church and trying to rock them or hold them while their mothers would reach frantically to grab them away from me.

 A very strong memory from when I was around 10 is of me standing in a department store baby section looking at outfits and crying because I had so long to wait before I could be a mom. (In my mind you had babies when you turned 18!)

By the time I was 18 I was not only NOT a Mom but I was also not even in a relationship! I had some flings and wished for an "oops" but nothing like that ever happened. I entered my first serious relationship when I was 20. We lived together, got engaged and didn't try to prevent babies. In the entire time we were together I never got pregnant.

I struggled with that and began to realize that my dream of being a mom was not going to be an easy one - if it ever even happened.

We eventually broke up and I moved back home. I kind of withdrew for a while and focused on other things. When I was around 24 I became involved with my (now) husband. He was coming out of a marriage of ten years where they had tried to have children but had failed. I think we clicked on that level, of grieving that we may never be parents.

We entered our relationship knowing we were going to get married even if we never had children together. We never prevented because we assumed neither of us could have children. We were shocked when two months afterwards, I missed my period. I took a test and saw double lines and just about passed out with amazement.

Our families were excited and we were of course over the moon! I began prenatal care right away and did everything I was told to by the doctors.

We had multiple ultrasounds and saw our baby growing. We watched my belly grow and I began to feel those first movements. We passed the 1st trimester and set up a nursery. Life moved smoothly.

Then came January 6, 2005. I got out of the bath and felt a trickle down my leg. I was only just entering my 5th month of pregnancy. We called the hospital and I was brought to the ER. They checked me and said I was dilated to 1 cm. They had me listen to my baby's heart beat but I shut my eyes and just cried. I knew that my baby was leaving me.

They said there was nothing they could do for me. We tried to have my nurse midwife paged but she wouldn't come down. I was told to go home so I did. In the night my contractions worsened and I moved to my bathroom and filled the tub. I slid under the water and breathed through my contractions. My husband called the family in the early morning and everyone gathered in our home. Just after 7am I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy we immediately named Reuben. He was so perfect and so tiny. My husband cut the cord and carried him carefully out to show the family. I remember feeling dead inside.

I let out a deep, low wail and to this day still remember how it echoed in that bathroom. We buried our son that day on our farm. And many of our dreams with him.

Over the next few years I heard it all. The encouragement, the questions, even sadly, the finger pointing. We were told to look into adoption. Told to just accept our lives as they were. Told to be thankful. I couldn't understand how God could give us both this gift and then take it away so harshly. I wondered if we were being punished.

In 2006 we took in a boy with the intent to adopt. He was 12 and very troubled. We did our best by him but it became obvious he was too much for us and in the end he was moved from our home for everyone's safety. Shortly afterwards we took in two foster children, a sibling pair of toddlers. Our hearts burst open in full as they quickly began calling us "Mama" and "Daddy" but we were temporary care for them so we quickly set about trying to become permanent foster providers. This dream was dashed as the social worker decided to place them closer to the agency. The day they were driven away crying and reaching out the window for us was like losing our baby all over again.

We never gave up trying for another baby in all this time but we continued to not have luck. I would have early miscarriage after early miscarriage. Seeing a specialist was never an option as our income was meager and our insurance would not cover TTC. It was in 2009 when we finally gave up on the dream to be parents. I admit I was really hard hearted at that point. I gave away everything child related that we owned.

One day I just felt "off" so I took a test and two lines stared back at me. This was my 7th time being in that situation. Six times I had failed.. was this my lucky number? A few days later I began to bleed. I just about lost it. But then the bleeding stopped. I made an appointment with a doctor we had recently found. My husband had seen her for an injury and during conversation he had told her our story of our son Reuben. She had said she could help us. She immediately placed me on progesterone pills once she confirmed I was indeed pregnant.

During the years between my first pregnancy and this one I had read many articles, had stumbled into the attachment parenting side of the web and had learned all about natural and peaceful parenting. I didn't want to have this baby at the hospital if it survived pregnancy but I was worried my dream of a home birth would not be realistic especially with my history. Many people scoffed at me or questioned me. I was even called selfish for wanting to birth my baby at home.

My new doctor had birthed her babies at home and fully backed me. She worked closely with me and when I found a midwife she worked with her. I had the best of both worlds and was in control of every aspect of my about an empowering experience! I still had fears of going early into labor but soon I hit the 36 week mark.. then the 38th.. then 39 and a day before 40 weeks I was getting out of the bath and felt a trickle down my leg much like I did with my very first baby.

This time I went on to give birth to a healthy, beautiful baby boy we named Levi (the biblical brother to Reuben) in my bedroom surrounded by the most amazing midwife team and my husband.

Though we were warned not to TTC quickly after Levi's birth we never did stop preventing. I've always known I want a large family.. however we have been facing the same struggle of trying to have another full term baby to give Levi a sibling. This time though the pain is not as raw for me. I am incredibly grateful for this amazing two year old boy.

My heart is sad when each month comes by with no pregnancy but at the same time it is full of appreciation for the one child I DO have standing here today.

But I do often stare at those empty chairs around our table....."

Reuben's brother, Levi
If you have an infertility story to share, please email me or private message me on Facebook.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Confessions of a Mama who Waited 6 Years

© 2012 Nicole S.

"We got married in 2000 and I used hormonal contraceptives from May of 2000 to February of 2001. (Since then, my views on the topic have changed and I stopped using it.) My husband told me he was ready to start a family. I was excited to hear this because I had been ready on our honeymoon!

We tried to conceive (TTC) for about 5 months. During that time, I experienced very painful periods and pain during intercourse. I visited a gynecologist who said that I most likely had endometriosis. She told me because I was TTC I should see a fertility specialist and referred me to someone.

I had my appointment and was set up for a laparoscopy. She removed all the endometriosis and said it would come back in about 6 months and if I was not pregnant by then we could start treatments. She told me that it was normal to take about a year to get pregnant. After 6 months I was still not pregnant and started treatments. First it was clomid with timed intercourse then it was clomid with profosi (and injection) with timed intercourse. This went on for about 2 years. Then after that we did IUI and that did not work. After 3 years of TTC I was a mess. I could not look at pregnant women or babies.

My sister was pregnant; she was unmarried and hadn't been trying. I was so mad and hurt that I called her baby a bastard and would not speak to my sister for awhile. I feel bad about this because the baby died and all I could think about was how unhappy I was for my sister to be blessed with this baby!

When my SIL got pregnant I avoided her for 9 months. And when the baby was born I refused to see the baby at all. Just the sight of her made me cry. I was so depressed abut not being able to have a baby that I was suicidal and attempted to take a bottle of pills to commit suicide. Then I blamed GOD. It was his fault. I was in very bad shape.

After 5 years of TTC my cousin asked me to adopt his unborn child. I was through the moon. I was finally going to have my baby. I went to all the appointments and had a baby shower. I was ready to welcome this baby into our family!

But 2 weeks before the estimated due date (EDD), he and his wife left the state and left me without a baby. My husband and I were devastated and decided to try in-vitro fertilization (IVF). We were now into year 6 of TTC. I went through the IVF and lost twins. Out of the 18 remaining fertilized eggs, none of them were usable because they stopped growing after 4 cells.

I was told I had the worst embryos my doctor had ever seen for a 27 year old woman and that I would NEVER carry my own children. I was broken. Devastation doesn't even describe it. I went through the next couple of months in a haze. Hubby thought it would be a good idea to take me to Disney to cheer me up.

Well, a month later I found out I was pregnant. Four months after being told I would never have a baby, I was having a baby! To this day, it still takes me time to get pregnant. It took 15 months of TTC for my 2nd child and a little over 2 years for my 3rd child.

Those 6 years were the worst years of my life, but looking back, I think God gave me them for a reason. Now I can listen to women that are going through infertility and understand everything they are feeling because I felt the same way. There are a lot of negative feelings when experiencing infertility that our society does not recognize or respect. Our culture can invalidate or even mock those feelings, but I know from experience that those emotions are real and can't be erased or fixed.

I have now been blessed with three wonderful children and I hope to be blessed with at least one more. This is my story. Thanks for reading."

Nicole's first son after TTC for 6 years and being told she would NEVER have a baby

Nicole's second son after 15 months of TTC

Nicole's daughter after 2 years of TTC

If you have an infertility journey to share, please PM or email me.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Purple Sister

I have a sister. A lot of them, actually. But, I have this one sister. She's really close to me. In fact, we're one year and 2 weeks close.

Growing up, almost every birthday and Christmas consisted of gifts from grandparents in pink and purple. They weren't exactly up to date with the gender bending concepts regarding color schemes. So every year, two identical gifts, only one pink and one purple, would arrive for us. We worked out that I would get pink and she would get purple.

(When I take time to dig through tubs of family photos, I'll add our pink and purple photos to this blogpost. But don't hold your breath; sorting through 13 family members and decades of marriage is mission impossible).

Yep, even homeschoolers had awkward prom photo moments.

I'd get the pink Malibu Barbie and she'd get the purple one. I'd get the pink purse, she'd get the purple purse. And so on and so forth.

Looking back, I was always the neatnik. She was like a tornado, clothes tossed here and there, shoes in a pile, toys everywhere. I remember one day dumping out all her drawers and carefully folding them. "Why bother," she asked. "I'm just going to wear them again."

My purple sister was often underestimated during our childhood. She didn't fight to shine in the academic world. She wasn't star champion in a sport. I stayed inside the lines while coloring. She threw the book across the room and ran outside to enjoy life.

In high school, I decided I would be a neonatologist. She hadn't even thought about it, but maybe she'd be a graphic designer. I churned through college classes, grimacing as if I was ripping off bandaids. She wandered freely, making friends and memories.

Then I was off to the prim and proper life. I had the "dream" wedding. She had fun.

(Notice Purple Sister on the side there).

I did things the right way. The pink way. Or maybe I should say I believed things had a right way to them. She took after our dad. Eccentric, whimsical, filled with a light happiness and a come-what-may attitude. Her mottos? Things will fall into place. The experience is more important than the goal. Life is about family and friends and fun. 

It took me a long time to learn those lessons. My Purple Sister might not know it, but I admire her. Sometimes I've been jealous of her ability to be friends with anyone, to ignore lines drawn in the sand, to stir up happiness and cheer wherever she ventures. People would whisper that she wasn't the best or the smartest, but I knew otherwise. She is incredibly smart. 

She is fierce.

She is funny.

She is free.

She is purple.

My Purple Sister got married the other day. She found a Purple Man and they decided to have a Purple Wedding. (No, really, the color scheme was purple and black). It wasn't big and proper. It didn't follow the right customs. It was Friday the 13th, and it rained up a huge storm, complete with hail and tornado sirens. I smiled when I saw how stormy it was that day. Just the way my Purple Sister would want it. It wasn't about satisfying nosey bodies or making an impression. It was just for them, their families and their friends. 

Now I have a Purple Sister and a Purple Brother. I hope they have Purple Children and a life of Purple ahead of them. I hope they know how much I love them and how much I appreciate the wisdom she's given me over the years. 

Congratulations, Purple People. Go paint the world Purple.