Category Archives: Toddler

The #1 Reason to Wash Your Baby’s New Clothes

laundryLike many things that shaped my new parenting experience, I found out quite by accident about washing my baby’s new clothes. When my daughter was a newborn, a visiting aunt said, “You know it’s important to wash her clothes before she wears them.”

Not thinking to ask why (it just made sense!) I put that into practice. Only later did I learn about the prevalence of formaldehyde in new clothes.

Formaldehyde is added to clothes for many reasons – to prevent wrinkling, resist mildew growth and stains, and to set in the color. Those who are most aware of environmental and health issues in the apparel industry are beginning talks on reducing or eliminating its use, but they’re far from being implemented across the board.

You can recognize formaldehyde by its chemical odor, which is more intense depending upon how much of it has been used in a given garment. Though for health reasons I’d advise you not to sniff it and just throw it in the laundry instead.

According to the CDC, breathing too much formaldehyde can cause sore throat, cough, scratchy eyes and nosebleeds. And prolonged exposure can cause cancer. Because formaldehyde is a carcinogen. But your colors will be brighter, so… tradeoff.

To eliminate as much formaldehyde as possible in your child’s clothing, and yours (you’re his parent, so your health is top priority too!):

  • throw all new clothes in the washer, at least once.
  • air dry them or hang outside after machine drying.
  • dry-clean only clothes should be hung outside to dry
  • keep washing them and/or hanging outside until you can’t detect the smell of formaldehyde (a sharp chemical smell)
  • buy used clothes! wash these too to be safe, but likely the formaldehyde is mostly gone after it’s been cycled through one or more wearer.

As parents, it can be overwhelming to learn about the long list of potential health hazards facing ourselves and our kids. What’s helped me to navigate these is to take as much reasonable action as I’m inspired to do in any given moment. Throwing new clothes in the wash before wearing is a no-brainer for me.

To your health!

Why favorites are not my favorite

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Like many conversations with children, it’s almost innate. “What book is your favorite?” “Which ice cream flavor is your favorite?” You like Sesame Street? Which character is your favorite?”

Harmless, right? It seemed so. But as I watched my daughter integrate the implications of this question, it created a shift in perception that was dark and disappointing.

It happened around age 3. At first, it was a total anomaly to her. What is this “favorite” they’re asking about? Initially she didn’t respond to the question. And it kept on coming.

As understanding dawned, she took some time to process this new idea. It was as if I could see the wheels turning in her head. “You want me to rank these things – to put something above something else.”

Toddlers are full of joy, wonder and amazement. They love everything – well, most things, and they shower those they trust with unconditional love.

So this shift from unconditional to conditional was difficult for me to anticipate – I’d never read or heard another parent’s account of the conceptual shift – and altogether disappointing.

Suddenly, my child, who’d embraced her surroundings with the wonder we all aspire to, had somehow become jaded. For her world had categories. And these categories not only elevated some things – the effect we’d anticipated – but they also made others worse.

Serendipitously, around the same time that her understanding of favorites took hold, we hired a fantastic babysitter. She was fun, childlike, compassionate, and she brought her ukelele with her to let my daughter play with it. And after one session with her, my 3 year old approached me, darkness in her eyes.

“Mommy,” she said, “Steph is my favorite person.” I was taken aback. Deep breath. “How wonderful that you love your new babysitter!” I managed with genuine enthusiasm. But her small, pensive face was clouded with conflict.

What could it mean to a developing toddler, to feel she has to rank someone above the person who for her whole life was her safe place? How might that compromise her feeling of safety, of attachment?

I did my best to explain that we could like “this and that.” That people didn’t need to be ranked above other people. That parents especially didn’t need to be ranked. We have special relationships with our parents, and they will always be special in ways that other relationships aren’t.

But it was too late. Sure, my ego was bruised briefly. But for her, the concept of favorites made her world a little less safe, a little less open, and a little less welcoming. For suddenly she felt compelled to make and declare a choice that somehow lessened her primary relationship.

If I could take it back I would. In our world it’s not altogether realistic to avoid the concept of favorites. It will emerge eventually. But to extend that joyful, unconditional innocence of toddlerhood; I’ll do my best to keep “favorites” out of my vocabulary the second time around.

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Miriam KatzMiriam J. Katz is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year, where you can find a guide to safe co-sleeping and other fun tools. Miriam is an intuitive life coach whose passion is to help others overcome internal blocks to living their life purpose. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children.

Toddler Identity and the Scam of Product Marketing

Last week, I took my two-year old daughter to Target. It was intended as a quick in and out trip, with the intention of picking up a baby shower gift. She begrudgingly held my hand ( a requirement for walking in public places), and off we went to the baby section. Typically, I try to avoid any displays that are too enticing and invite wild displays of passion for whatever Target has decided to put at toddler eye-level.

Unfortunately for me, I missed the mega display of Disney princess, glaring pink plastic ride-on cars. Ugggh, seriously Target? Her eyes lit up, and she ran to the shelf like a moth to a light. I reasoned: “these aren’t ours, so we can’t play with them.” I encouraged: “can you help me pick out a gift for the baby party?” Nothing worked, except whipping out a box of raisins for her to eat as we walked.

I was a bit angry with myself for resorting to the last option, but we avoided a total meltdown, and she happily walked away. However, it got me thinking.

What is it about products marketed to toddlers that is like crack to their little developing minds? I can’t control what Target puts on their shelves (at eye-level, no coincidence), but I can control what enters my home and takes from my wallet.

Megan, co-author of The Other Baby Book, sent me an article link that explores the allure and concern of the Disney princesses. And not to pick on Disney Princesses or the Disney company in general (full disclosure: the hubs and I met at Disney World and also married there), but this article has an important message, specifically for mothers of little girls.

What role models should we put in front of our daughters? The anorexic, big-breasted, lusciously maned princess (who more likely than not, needs some rescuing), or a strong-willed character like Anne from Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, Laura of Little House on the Prairie, and Harriet of Harriet the Spy, to name a few?

Listen: my daughter is a normal toddler. Given a choice, she would watch cartoons all day, play in and with Princess garb and maybe even take to a Bratz doll. They’re colorful, sparkly, and have excellent (read: big money) ad campaigns.

But as a parent, I have a choice. And my choice is to pick the “boring” but reliable toys and role models that will build her self-confidence, inspire her creativity, and encourage her independence.

So the next time you’re in a big-box store, dragging your toddler away from the mega-display of Bratz themed candy (or whatever), while looking around to see who is watching, know that I’ve been there. And perhaps the princess line of little girl stuff is innocuous and isn’t harmful in the long-run. But who really knows. We have limited time to make a precious impact on our children, male or female. To shape their identity into one of strength and inner resilience.

What we spend our money on speaks to what we value most. It’s not easy to avoid the typical stuff geared toward little girls, but I’m pretty sure it’s worth it. And my daughter, who thinks her Pippi Longstocking doll (vintage: aka mine from childhood) and books are the best thing since breast milk, will be just fine.

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Kate is a full-time mama, part-time professor, and lover of early childhood methodologies and gentle parenting ideas. When she’s not testing out new activities with her spitfire of a two year old and turning their house into a home, you can find her moonlighting as a blogger here on TOBB.

Mama Musings: The Home Birth of Auden

It’s boggling to realize that it’s been over nine weeks since the birth of my second child, Auden. I marvel at this stunning little person, so easily distracted by her hair, her cat-like stretches, the downy fuzz on her ears and the way she purses her lips in a way that instantly recalls memories of her brother at this age.  In the span of her little life, parenting has become a strange experience of contradictions. Life is both easier and harder; clearer, yet more disorderly; more expansive, yet also very limiting. My days are measured in moments of undiluted joy and blinding exasperation. Now that I think of it, these are all ways in which I would also describe her birth.

The evening before Audie’s birth, my husband took our toddler son to our local children’s museum for the evening. I decided to use the time alone to indulge in some needed solitude. I poured some tea and a bath and read a little in the tub. I got lost in the quiet, watching my belly thump and stretch to the rhythm of the one-girl dance party inside.  I took my time shaving my legs. A friend had given me lovely handmade lotion bar, and I used it generously afterwards. I blow-dried my hair and dabbed on a little perfume. It occurred to me that I was behaving as if I were getting ready for a date. Maybe I kind of knew on some level she was coming, I remarked to my husband later the following day as we lay next to each other for a nap in our bed, a freshly born daughter dozing serenely between us.

I had woken up around 3am on my due date with contractions. This was not a new experience; I’d been awoken numerous times by similar sensations over the course of the previous weeks. I laid in the bed watching my husband and son sleep for a few moments, realizing that these contractions were coming pretty regularly. I got up to use the bathroom, thinking, If I could just go to the bathroom I’d feel better. But I didn’t feel better. For about an hour, I used an app on my phone to time the contractions while I stayed in bed, unconvinced that these were the ticket to the big show.

With my son’s birth, I lost my mucous plug early one morning, had bloody show that evening, and about 5 minutes after that my water broke. Contractions started within the hour. That was my only frame of reference for how my body managed birth, so this is what I expected to unfold again. But I hadn’t lost my mucous plug; I’d had no bloody show; my water had not broken. The contractions were lasting anywhere from 50 seconds to a minute, coming every 4 – 5 minutes. When I was no longer comfortable laying in the bed, I crawled out of the covers and creeped over to my husband’s side of the bed. I told him in a whisper that I was having regular contractions and was going downstairs to take care of a few things. I encouraged him to stay in bed and told him I’d let him know if I needed anything.

Just after 4am, I went to the kitchen and brewed some coffee, but no sooner than the pot had filled, coffee suddenly seemed like a terrible idea. Feeling a little hungry, I pulled out a sauce pan and started gathering ingredients to make oatmeal, but no sooner were the ingredients all collected, oatmeal suddenly seemed similarly disgusting. The contractions still continued to come, and I braced myself on my cold granite countertop until each one receded. There was a fresh pineapple in our fruit bowl on the counter in front of me, and it was all I could smell. I took deep breaths of pineapple and swayed through a few more contractions. I swept the kitchen floor and wiped down my stove top in between contractions that made me feel increasingly unsteady. You know, because insignificant chores are what all ladies who are in slight denial that they are about to have a baby do. In hindsight, I think I was desperately trying to distract myself from from the intensity of it all.

I texted my midwife, Linsey: 4:16AM, Feb 9: Having regular contractions this a.m. since about 3am. About 50sec-1min long every 5min or so. Feeling ok, trying to rest. Will check in again soon. 

A minute later, she responded: 4:17am, Feb 9: Ok. Thx.

I pulled some bagels out of the freezer and gathered some apples and bananas. I grabbed the pineapple, thinking I might slice it, too, but just the thought of that suddenly seemed like way too much effort.  I plucked a sampling of tea bags from the cabinet and arranged them next to a jar of honey, some lemons and a few mugs. You know, just in case we’d be having guests–the kind who birth babies for a living–for breakfast.

I texted my in-laws, who were on-call for birthing day toddler duty: 4:40am, Feb 9: We might be having a baby today. Will keep you posted. Reg contractions since 3am. Everyone here still asleep. XO

My husband came downstairs briefly to check on me a few moments later. I told him that I was managing, that I might try to sit in the bath for a little bit. He asked if he should get the birthing pool ready. Fearful that a poorly rested toddler might present some challenges for us as the morning wore on, I told him that we should probably let our still-snoozing son sleep as long as possible. The plan had been to inflate the pool in our bedroom, but I worried the pump for the pool would likely wake him. If that didn’t, our scurrying in and out of the room surely would.

I went back upstairs and poured a bath. I couldn’t get comfortable in the bathtub. I weathered just a couple of contractions there, got out, dried off, and put my pajamas back on. Apparently the idea that a baby was on her way was beginning to sink in because I didn’t bother putting my underwear on under my yoga pants.

My head started to feel a little fuzzy. I’d been listening to Hypnobabies scripts for the last half of my pregnancy, but suddenly couldn’t remember which script I needed to listen to at this point.  I went to our tv/playroom and rifled through my Hypnobabies home study book trying to find the answer, but I couldn’t focus on the words and quickly gave up and laid down on the couch. (I had a great Hypnobabies birth with my son, and I knew these scripts by heart–I think my gridlocked brain had everything to do with the tsunami of intensity of this fastly unfolding birthing.) I tried to breathe through a few more contractions, but my breaths involuntarily came out as groans. I was toppled by a wave of nausea. I grabbed a bowl from my my birth supply basket, convinced I was about to vomit. I felt like I was on fire and started profusely sweating. I opened the door from our tv room that leads out to our front balcony and stood in the doorway taking in the winter morning breeze. When another contraction came, I braced myself on a nearby rocking chair. The contractions were so powerful, almost paralyzingly so.

I started to feel my composure slip away; I started to vocalize a lot. It came reflexively, the loudness. The I-don’t-care-who-hears-me-ness. My husband came into the tv room and closed the balcony door. I thought he’d done it so that neighbors wouldn’t hear me. Later he told me that he’d actually closed the door because the room was freezing in the 30 degree breeze. The chill never registered to me. I was somewhere else.

I texted my midwife: 5:39AM, Feb 9: I think I forgot how intense this can be. Got in my bathtub for a bit but could not get comfortable. frequency is slowing some but each wave feels harder. 

She messaged back: 5:41AM, Feb 9: It is intense but its manageable. 🙂 Let us know when you’re ready for us. We can come any time. Sounds like you must be having some nice alone time right now. 

With one of the following contractions, I sank to my knees. I was kneeling in front of my couch, prayer-like. My husband kneeled down beside me, and I started to openly sob. This hurts. I am struggling. I don’t remember it being this hard.  It wasn’t like this with Arlo. Oh god, this is awful. He would whisper, You’re doing great. And I would breathlessly say, But you don’t understand. 

Oh, transition, you wicked, wicked thing. 

I could feel everything shifting between my legs. There was this uncontrollable force of downward motion in my body. My body was moving the baby. I tugged down my pants, but couldn’t get them all the way off. I was frozen in that kneeling position and could not pull the waist of my pants beyond my knees.

My husband scuttled between the bedroom, checking on a sleeping Arlo, and the tv room, checking on me. I was still kneeling on the floor in front of my couch, burying my head into the cushion and reflexively vocalizing with each contraction. I tried to be quieter, but my body was in control, not my mind. In my head I kept repeating, This is only temporary. Listen to your body. This is only temporary. Listen to your body. 

At some point my husband had returned to my side, and I heard him say, Hey, buddy. Our two year old was standing in the doorway. He’d woken up, padded down the hall to the tv room and was surveying the scene. As my husband scooped our toddler up, I said, Call Linsey. Call her now. It was just a few minutes before 6am.

My back was to the door, so I didn’t realize that Linsey, my midwife,  had arrived until she was suddenly kneeling next to me. She listened to the baby quickly with the doppler and then began gently placing big waterproof pads under me. She was quietly empathetic and encouraging.

I felt my body pushing again, and I joined with it, pushing a little too. I had one of my hands between my legs, and with that little push I felt a trickle of water on my hands. My bag of waters. Good, Linsey encouragingly said to me.

My husband was out of the room with Arlo, who was protesting his ban from the room. He began to cry.  I was so worried about scaring my toddler. I don’t want him to see me like this, I said to my midwife. She said, He’s okay. He just wants to be with you. I needed my husband, and I was worried he’d miss something. I asked for him to come back into the room, and with him came my happy, unfazed toddler, who hopped up on the couch next to where I was resting my head between contractions. He gave me a bubbly greeting, Hi, Mommy!

I buried my face into my folded forearms with the next contraction, and Arlo said, I hide too! and he buried his face similarly. He handed me a book, Mommy, read? We all laughed. 

The baby will be here very soon, Linsey said. My in-laws still hadn’t received our texts and calls. Arlo, it appeared, would be there to see his sister born.

She checked the baby with the doppler again. I pushed when my body pushed, and a gush of water came with it. With the next push, the baby was crowning.  I could feel that she had hair on her squishy head. Keep your hand down there, Linsey encouraged. I think it’s helpful.

I pushed carefully with the next couple of contractions, fearful of repeating the third degree tear I’d had with Arlo. It was so hard to be patient–it burned to hold her there like that. Her head was nearly out.

And with the next push, her head was out. From behind me, I heard Arlo chirp, Hi, Baby! I later learned that Arlo had been very interested in one of Linsey’s flashlights, so she had given it to him to play with. The kid I was so worried about scaring was actually standing behind me with a midwife’s flashlight taking the scene in like it was zero amounts of a big deal. So incredible.

We were so blitzed by this labor that we’d completely forgotten to call our birth photographer. Our midwife snapped a few pictures with her phone for us, and there is one particular shot that absolutely steals my breath. It’s grainy and dim, which adds to its magic. Audie’s head had just emerged, and there is her face, so perfect, peaceful, and recognizable. Beneath her head is my hand, cradling her head, and under my hands are my husband’s two hands, open and ready to catch her.  Oh, how I love it: that perfect face, those three eager hands. 

I held her there again, waiting for my body to guide me through the next push. And then she was out, into my husband’s hands, with a big gurgly cry. My husband was positioned behind me and passed her to me back through my legs, and there she was, the baby I never expected, but wanted so much: slick, pink, whole and perfect. Lots of hair. Long fingers. I sat back on my heels, admired my daughter, and clutched her to my chest in relief. And joy. But lots of relief.

And there was our birth photographer, quietly on the scene after finally being summoned by our mindful midwife, snapping pictures of these first few minutes of our daughter’s life.

I nursed Audie briefly and marveled again at her features. She reminded me so much of Arlo. I handed her to my husband, and with my midwife’s assistance I stood and delivered my placenta with ease.

I walked back to my bedroom so that I could get cleaned up and changed, and there at the foot of our bed was the half-inflated birthing pool. The limp sight conjured up a little sad trombone for a moment, but I could really only smirk at it–yet another thing that I’d ardently planned out, but went in a completely different direction. We’d planned a water birth, but instead my baby was born about two feet from a pile-up of Arlo’s matchbox cars. Hah! I never mourned the whole not-in-water thing; once I was down in that kneeling position, I knew that’s where my baby would be born. There really was no moving at that point, and it was a very easy thing to accept. I had no choice, really. I did what my body told me to do.

I changed, nursed and cuddled my gooey baby some more, and then turned her over to my midwife for her exam. Audie checked out beautifully. She measured two inches longer than Arlo and was nearly a pound heavier. My midwife checked me out. I had a tiny labial split (not significant enough for a stitch), and no tearing of my perineum this time. Huzzah.

My midwife and her assistant cleaned up where we’d birthed, took down the birthing pool, and completed paperwork. Linsey spent some time peeking at Audie’s latch, and she went over all my postpartum aftercare information.

It was a blessing that my son was present for the birth. I’d thought I was pretty certain I didn’t want Arlo there, and I am now so thankful and excited that he is a part of his sister’s birth story. I love that  he was the very first person to greet this little girl and that he took the whole birth in with curiosity and ease. He may not remember being present for her birth when he grows up, but he’s a charming part of the story of the beginning of their siblingship, a story that we will tell them both over and again. May it be just the beginning of the all the times they are there for each other. 

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Arlo and Audie

Rhianna, a former social worker and current stay-home parent/human napkin, blogs from her adopted hometown of St. Louis. She has a masters degree in social work and credits this education and experience for priming her to be a gentle, attached parent. You can read previous posts about her home birth experience here, here and here

5 Toddler Springtime Activities that Foster Independence

I love this time of year. Here in the southwest, the weather is mild and breezy, flowers are starting to bloom, and the birds are building nests. And just as the earth has decided to be fruitful and grow, I’m reminded that my toddler daughter needs some new responsibilities and activities to further foster her independence.

We follow a lazy form of Montessori and Waldorf methods in the home. Here’s the quick rundown: limited toys and stimulation (so she can focus on one activity at a time); natural materials that are inherently beautiful to use and work with; real, child sized tools and objects; and toddler-appropriate responsibilities.

With that short list in mind, here are 5 activities we’re working on right now:

  1. Bird-watching: Two weekends ago, we hung a bird feeder outside one of our sun room windows. The past week or so, our new morning ritual has been to sit in the sun room and look for birds and other urban wildlife. This has been a great time for me to savor my morning cup of joe while helping her learn about nature. You can easily make a bird feeder with items around your home or purchase one for under $10. Bonus activity: read books about birds so that you can identify the specific types that you see.
  2. Gardening: Last weekend, we started our seedlings and our daughter was enthralled with the whole process. Even the youngest toddler can help with this. We put the soil in the starter cups and made a hole, but let her carefully drop the seed in. This required her to concentrate and use her fine motor skills to complete the task. Toddlers can also help observe and watch for growth and water the plants. Give a child a small hand shovel and let them dig in the dirt next to you. If you don’t have access to a garden space, try container gardening and let your child pick out some herbs to plant. Bonus activity: allow your toddler to pick a bunch of flowers and give them a vase in which to arrange them. This includes filling it with water, carefully trimming the ends (with adult help), and placing the flowers “artistically” in the vase. Then the toddler can place it on a table or other special place at their eye-level. And yes, 2 years olds are perfectly capable of doing this.
  3. Prepare snacks: While this is not an activity only for the spring, I find that this is the time of year we desire to eat more fruits and veggies. The winter is over and fresh life is all around. Toddlers love to help in the kitchen, especially when it is snack time. For the youngest toddler, wash some berries (or other ready to eat fruit) and have them transfer the berries from the colander to their bowl. They could also help rinse them if you have a smaller colander in which they are able to hold it with two hands. For the 2-3 year old, take a banana and slice it, with the peel on, into small rings. Then show your toddler how to carefully remove the peel and place it into a bowl of scraps. The banana pieces are then transferred to the other bowl. Once all of the banana has been peeled, they can sit down with their snack. Bonus activity: for the 3-5 year old, teach them how to use a butter knife to cut the banana into smaller pieces. All of these variations can be completed with other fruits and veggies as well.
  4. Nature Walk: Go walk your neighborhood, a park, or some other area outdoors and have your toddler look for interesting objects: sticks, rocks, flowers, etc., that catch their eye. Take along a basket (a discarded Easter basket is what we use), to carry home the found treasures. Then once back home, create a nature display. Bonus activity: pick up a book at the library that corresponds to the object that most caught their attention, i.e. a book about rocks or flowers, for instance.
  5. Spring Cleaning: This activity is not just for adults. Help your young child to go through their toys and find ones to donate to others. Too many toys (especially ones with missing or broken parts) are distracting, and really, a child can only play with 1-2 toys at a time anyway. Explain why you’re going through the toys (i.e., to help those who have less, to make the home more orderly), but allow the child to be the one to physically put the items in the give-away box. This can be a hard lesson, but encourages reflection and inner discipline. Bonus activity: take your child along when it gets donated, especially if it is to another family in greater need than yours. Learning to serve together is a wonderful reminder of being part of a global community.

You may be thinking that some of these activities are inappropriate for young children. Before I researched and tested out the Montessori method, I thought the same thing too. But my newly two-year old daughter, while I think she is the most brilliant child in the world, is really a typical toddler, and can complete all of the activities above. Give your child the chance to take on a little more responsibility than makes you comfortable, and I promise you will be pleasantly surprised.

For further reading and ideas, check out these sources:

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Kate is a full-time mama, part-time professor, and lover of early childhood methodologies and alternative learning ideas. When she’s not testing out new activities with her spitfire of a two year old and turning their house into a home, you can find her moonlighting as a blogger here on TOBB.

3 steps to trim your baby’s bangs in 2 minutes or less

I’ve seen some moms struggling to get straight lines when cutting their babies or toddler’s bangs. Often they give up and go to the salon.

I’m all about easy, cheap and getting good results. So I’ll share this fabulous trick to get the perfect face-framing bangs, every time. I used to use this technique on my own bangs, and now it saves us a lot of time, money and hassle.

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Step 1: Pull the hair you don’t want to cut back into a ponytail, or secure with a headband. The remaining hairline should be an approximate semicircle, from ear to ear.

Step 2: Pinch the bangs into a point at the center of the forehead, between the eyebrows.

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Step 3: Cut the bangs. They will be arranged in a small circular clump, like a bouquet of flowers.

Voila! Release, brush forward and take a keepsake photo. Seriously, it’s that easy.

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Parenting from the ego vs. intuition

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Gabrielle Bernstein’s newest book, May Cause Miracles

I’ve been reading an amazing book these days, Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein. I went to summer camp with Gabby as a teenager and was thrilled to see that she’d released several wildly successful books and has been on an active speaking circuit, including on Oprah.

The main theme of Spirit Junkie is tapping into your inner guide, the source of wisdom and intuition. In order to better hear its voice, which is always speaking to us, Gabby walks readers through tools to override the voice of the ego, which is based in fear.

What types of things does the ego lead us to do? It has internalized past hurts and projects them onto current relationships in our lives, forcing us to relive our painful pasts time and again – in situations that have absolutely nothing to do with the original hurts. And for parents, it’s the source of the anger and frustration that leads us to lash out at our children.

When I look at the difference between punitive parenting and conscious parenting, I see the difference between parents who are acting from their egos and those who are listening to their inner guides. Punitive parenting comes from the belief that humans are flawed and children must be made to hurt in order to prevent them from hurting others. Sadly, being hurt is just more arsenal for the ego to bring forward and justify attacking others in the future. Conscious, or natural parenting, comes from a place of faith in humanity, a belief that children are innocent and look to us to model love and respect, and set fair limits.

All of us have experienced varying degrees of hurt in our lives – that’s part of the human experience. The big question for us is how do we process that hurt before passing it along to others. It’s easy to act from the ego – it’s the dominant voice in our minds, and it takes active, repetitive effort to take back our thought space. But for those parents who have endeavored to work on themselves in order to pass on even more love to the next generation, the journey is well worth the effort.

Conscious parenting is gaining ground, and the very best books out there, like Raising our Children, Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort, or Connection Parenting by Pam Leo, recognize that the most important work we can do as parents is to work on ourselves.

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Miriam is a work from home mama who literally can’t stop kissing Dalia, her delicious 2 year old. Miriam’s other loves are her husband Misha, and escaping the Boston winters with friends and family in Israel. She loves reading parenting books, lunchtime yoga classes, crafting and helping others find their purpose through life coaching.

Mama Musings: Operation No More Night Boob, Part One (Or, Why We Night Weaned)

Some time around the beginning of my second trimester, once the disbelief about this second pregnancy had begun to settle, I came to the conclusion that it might be time to seriously reconsider the possibility night weaning my then 19 month old. I am open to and hopeful about tandem nursing, but the thought of tandem nursing at night? It made me want to weep big, hot tears.

You see, at 19 months, my kiddo had never slept through the night. He was still waking every two to four hours to nurse. There were times when this night-nursing frequency felt unbearable, but also times when it was decently manageable. We bedshare, and while I solidly credit this practice with strengthening our nursing relationship, I also quietly worried that our family bed set-up could be a giant stick in the spoke on our journey to ever sleeping through the night.

Sleep, oh, infinitely precious sleep! Like any new bleary-eyed parent, I’d done a fair share of reading about infant sleep, some of it instructive and insightful, and some of it…? Well, not so much. I remember one time taking a sleep book with me to a salon to read during some much-needed mama pampering , and it wasn’t until my stylist asked me, “Can you, um, relax your shoulders a bit?” that I realized how tensely I reacting to the dispiriting book I was reading. (Who does that? Reads about infant sleep while they’re supposed to be relaxing? A desperate and exhausted parent, that’s who.)

I don’t mean for this post to be about sleep, per se; you and I could probably sit down together over a pot of tea and talk all night about all of the sleep literature that’s out there and how it jives (or doesn’t) with our respective families’ needs.  After reading the good stuff and the garbage, these three tenets undergirded my personal philosophy about sleep: 1)Nighttime parenting is just as important as daytime parenting; 2)We share sleep  safely; and 3)Sleep is a developmental milestone like any other for my son, and he’ll get there at his own pace.

I’d tried to night wean my son in the past, and it was a pretty gnarly experience. I’d long held on to Dr. Jay Gordon’s approach for night weaning for bedsharing families, like a hopeful how-to manual  for balancing what felt like, to me, the competing goals of sleep and gentle nighttime parenting. This approach relies heavily on the non-nursing partner’s involvement, and the non-nursing partner in this house is much slower to rouse than me. By the time he awoke to parent our son back to sleep, our son was wider awake and more difficult to soothe than he would have been had I just simply popped a boob in his eager mouth. After a few nights of these shenanigans, I figured it was easier on everyone if I just kept on keepin’ on with the boob-poppin’. The kiddo relaxed back into sleep faster, the husband hardly stirred and was better rested for his work day, and I was better able to relax next to a toddler who wasn’t steadily ramping up to a full awakening.

I had hope for the No-Cry Sleep Solution, but it, too, was a stunning exercise in defeat for us. The Pantley Pull Off (the gentle removal method) was simply too confusing for my son: Wait, I get the boob, but then you take it away? And then I get it again, and you take it away again? WAAAHHHH!  And, similar to my experience with Dr. Gordon’s plan, I found that it was decidedly easier to just nurse him back down all the way. I came to slowly understand that it wasn’t that these approaches were unhelpful (I know peeps who’ve had good experiences), but rather it was that my son simply was not ready to be night weaned. I decided to table our night weaning efforts indefinitely.

Enter the unexpected, yet someday-hoped-for second pregnancy. Suddenly, sleep seemed like it would never recover from its endangered status anytime in the foreseeable future. More than six months after our last attempt at night weaning, I heaved a big, weary sigh and decided it was time to test the waters again. Thus commenced Operation No More Night Boob.

In the next week I’ll be sharing more detail about how we night weaned, but here’s a sneak preview: my approach wasn’t anything I’d read in book or on a website. My approach had everything to do with listening to my mothering gut and to my child. Stay tuned!

Rhianna composed the bulk of this post from her family bed in St. Louis, snuggled next to the cutest and snoring-est two dudes she knows. She is currently scratching her head over the best way to introduce a future night-nursing sibling to their shared sleep set-up.

Photo credit.

Hospital or Home: How Did You Decide Where to Birth Your Baby?

As I creep towards the halfway mark of my second pregnancy, I’m confronted by questions around which I’ve been tip-toeing: Where, oh where, will my baby be born? Should I go the hospital route again? Should I get my homebirth on this time?

Between my heavy crush on the idea of birthing my baby in the intimacy of my own home and the biting admonitions of a certain blogging skeptical obstetrician, I’m kind of, well, lost. I know what I want, and I know what I absolutely do not want, and I’m feeling a bit uptight and weary about the ability to marry the two.

You see, I got a whole lotta love for my first birthing experience. It was  empowering, awe-stoking, and filled with support and respect. My birth plan was honored nearly to the letter (there was a small hiccup with my request for delayed cord clamping), and even if I could I wouldn’t change a single thing about how my unmedicated, doula-assisted, Hypnobabies-bolstered hospital birth unfolded. (Okay, maybe I could have done without the stubbornly posterior bebe and the third degree tear.)

2012 National Rally for Change in St. Louis, MO, advocating for informed consent and evidence-based maternity care.*

But what I recognize about my hospital birth is this: the circumstances of my hospital birth experience aren’t du jour. In fact, I don’t think it’d be improper to describe those circumstances as exceptional. I worked in the women’s and children’s care center in the hospital where I delivered my son. Day in and day out for years preceeding my pregnancy and my son’s birth, I worked elbow-to-elbow with those professionals–the L&D/postpartum care/NICU nurses, lactation consultants, obstetricians, neonatologists, and pediatricians– in the position to care for me and my baby.

When the time came for me to choose an OB, I already had a pretty sound understanding, based on my professional experience, of which ones I didn’t want anywhere near my vag. When I had questions about how experienced my nurse co-workers were in supporting a patient aiming for an unmedicated birth, or how receptive they would be to the presence of my doula, or if I would be able to take my placenta home with me, I simply walked a few short strides from my office to that of the L&D nurse manager, plopped my pregnant rump down across from her, and asked my questions. When I had questions about breastfeeding resources and support, all I had to do was wave over one of my fantastic lactation consultant colleagues, and they eagerly shared their insight. I had a ton of support and intel at my fingertips long before I was wheeled up to L&D rockin’ 9cm of righteous dilation in my amniotic fluid-soaked yoga pants.

I will openly admit that I enjoyed an uncommon measure of comfort, privilege and preferential treatment birthing my baby and recovering amongst my hospital friends and co-workers. I do not hesitate to credit my unique circumstances for much of the ease I experienced navigating hospital birthing care. The biggest takeaway from my birth experience was this: the relationship you have with your care providers is integral, immeasurable, and irreplaceable.

Happy birthday, my sweet boy

I left that employment for stay-home mamahood, and our family has since relocated out of state to St. Louis. While I understand that each pregnancy and birthing experience is unique, I am acutely aware that the level of care and support I received in the past simply cannot be replicated here. And I have deeply felt reservations about a hospital birth this go ’round.

I’m currently under the care of an OB who as a reputation for supporting patients who desire a less interventive birthing, but I’m full of uncertainty about the hospital where she delivers. Sure, I could switch care providers; I could select an OB who delivers at a hospital with a better rep. Even still, I am nail-biting my way around the implicit fact that a hospital birth here would involve a few things on which I do not wish to compromise. (For example, I want my son to be integrated, when appropriate, into the birth experience of his sibling. And I do not want to be seperated from him for any great length of time, and especially not overnight. We’ve never spent a night apart.)

All signs seem to point to homebirth. Except, you know, those angrily flashing ones on the blog of a certain skeptical obstetrician. I fell down that rabbit hole, reading post after post about the inherent irresponsibility and acute risk of birthing your baby anywhere but a hospital. My cage? Rattled.

I interviewed a highly and repeatedly recommended certified professional midwife here in my neighhborhood, and I left feeling a bit lighter about the prospect of a homebirth. I am considering transferring to her care. In the coming days I will be following up with my insurance company to ascertain the extent of my benefits for an out-of-hospital birth. If nothing was covered at all and I needed to pay the full cost out of pocket, the math shows that I’d be spending just a couple of hundred dollars more than what I paid for my OB and hospital birth with my son. Cost, as I understand it at this point, is not a deterrent.

There is a birthing center scheduled to open this fall about an hour’s drive from where I live in the city. I’ve spoken with the certified nurse midwife heading up that effort, and she, too, was lovely and resourceful. Still, I’m uncertain about the idea of driving an hour away to have my baby. But maybe it’d be worth it?

Help a hormotional pregnant lady out: Did you struggle with the question of where to birth your baby/ies? What helped you confidently forge a decision? What resources/reading did you find particularly helpful?

*Wanna know more about informed consent and evidence-based maternity care? Check it out here.

Rhianna blogs from her adopted hometown of St. Louis, and never before has she missed her former hometown (and its awesome nurses) as much as she does right now. Things keeping her awake at night: crane-kicks to the kidneys courtesy of her bedsharing toddler; in utero dance party courtesy of wiggly fetus; and the anxiety surrounding the place in which the two will meet for the first time.

The Hoped For, Yet Unexpected Second Baby

We trudged down a long, rugged road to conceive our son, and while future children were always in our hearts and hopes, we had anticipated a similarly turbulent course to further expanding our fam.  That disheartening path of our family-building past has undoubtedly shaped my parenting ethic and has emboldened my aspiration to be an attached, gentle mama. One specific element of my personal parenting ethic–breastfeeding–grew to become a profound and potent combination of attachment and empowerment.  Becoming a mama was such a long-held dream, and breastfeeding had become so meaningful; I made these things–dwelling in my blissfully realized motherhood and nurturing my nursing relationship with my son–my priorities.

When discussions about adding to our brood would crop up between me and my husband, these conversations were always left open-ended. I wondered about child spacing. Worried that we’d get lost on that too-familiar, dark and long path again, I wondered if it’d be prudent to wean my son altogether in order to get a jump-start on trying for another baby. In the end, I found peace in focusing my energy and attention on the relationship with the child I was already so fortunate to have. (Zero judgement towards anyone who has decided differently. That is some seriously heart-wringing stuff, and I have the utmost respect for people who have to contend with making that decision.)

Life, as it tends to do so masterfully sometimes, demonstrated disregard for our difficult decision to table growing our family. My period returned on its own at 14 months postpartum, and after three postpartum cycles, I discovered I was pregnant. It was a surprise that spun my head and world around, one that filled me with a jaw-dropping, Niagra-sized waterfall of disbelief, awe and question.

I was saturated in competing emotions: joy and trepidation; peace and anxiety; gratitude and ambivalence. I suppose these confusing feelings are par for the course when life grants a hope you long ago released. As I now trek into the 17th week of this pregnancy, that deluge of conflicting emotions has evaporated, leaving only faint water marks in its wake–now nearly invisible reminders of how stunned we were by this deeply wanted, yet entirely unexpected bit of fruit in my ute.   

In so many ways–from conception to morning sickness to support system–this  pregnancy has been strikingly different from my last. Though I’ve experienced pregnancy and childbirth before, I feel like I’m learning entirely new lessons this time. It’s exciting. And humbling. 

If you’ll join me, I hope to take you along for this journey. This pregnancy has already thrust us into big changes–my toddler is now fully night-weaned (I will share that story soon). I’m currently navigating the decision about where to birth this bundle of bebe, preparing emotionally and physically for a new bambino, and hoping to learn what attached, natural, gentle parenting looks like when you’ve got two to snuggle and wrangle. I hope that we can trade insights…

How about you? Did a struggle to conceive/sustain a pregnancy influence your parenting ethic? Have you ever debated altering your attachment tools in order to grow your family? Ever had your world rocked by a pregnancy–first, second or otherwise? How did you manage these experiences?

Rhianna blogs from her adopted hometown of St. Louis. She gives thanks to the Goddess of Elastic-banded Pants for her roundly unattractive, but so, so comfortable apparel.  Now if only the Goddess of Morning Sickness would heed her pukey pleas…