Monthly Archives: June 2015

Monday Musings: A Better Postpartum

Despite reading about and trying to prepare for the postpartum period while pregnant with my first baby those first weeks after his birth were a pretty miserable experience for me. I think with your first baby it is going to be a huge shock no matter what you do, everything that comes with being entirely responsible for a tiny human life is brand new and your body is undergoing rapid changes that have never happened to you before. That being said, I had an absolutely wonderful postpartum period with my second born, a blissful first week and then another wonderful two weeks after that spent at home. There are obviously a TON of factors that differ from first borns (knowing what to expect, your body’s physical memory, being used to interrupted sleep or very little sleep, etc. etc.) but there are a few things I did differently this time in hopes of a better postpartum that I wanted to share.

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Expectation & Household Help

Be very up front with your partner about the household needs if you are to remain in bed all day during those first days/weeks. Everyday I…. sweep, do one load of laundry, do two loads of dishes, pick up the playroom before dinner, wipe down the counters, etc. Personally, having my house out of order makes me feel out of order, you may be tempted to get up and do what you would like done, you may start to feel frustrated or resentful that your partner doesn’t see or know what needs to be taken care of – in my opinion it is best to have these conversations prior to birth and as frank as possible. If after understanding the requirements and expectation your partner isn’t up for the job then you can make arrangements to hire temporary help or ask friends or family members to take on specific duties (that you now have entirely listed out). I know it feels very strange and impersonal or uncomfortable but it is SO WORTH IT when you have a tidy home and can completely enjoy resting and responding to your newborn uninhibited.

Community

Which leads me to my next example, community. This is much harder with your first born as you may not have many friends that are mamas, or mamas of young children, but if there is any way for you to connect with other pregnant women or new moms or moms of your current child/children if this isn’t your first, DO IT. And while you can, before you are pregnant or before birth, show up for them. Make meals for new moms in the group, offer help to pregnant or new moms with their older children, reach out with flowers or anyway you can and when you have your baby they will do the same. We were showered with meals, snacks, flowers and gifts every single day that first week and it was nothing short of a continuous warm & fuzzy feeling.

Nourishment

At the advice of my midwife this time around I followed a vegetarian, high fat diet post birth. I really believe that this made such a HUGE difference for me. Nothing processed, no refined sugar or grains, big batches of nourishing smoothies, soups with seaweed, vegetables, soft cheeses, lots of ghee and butter, stewed fruits and nuts. This made going to the bathroom such a breeze (which seriously can be just as scary as birth itself that first week!) and I felt wonderful. Good fats are so important for hormones and there is evidence that they help combat postpartum depression, read a little more here & here. I will be forever grateful for all of the food preparation my husband did for me those first couple of weeks, and all of the generosity of our little community here made that possible. Him, my toddler and my mom, who was at our home helping out, never had to worry about anything to eat and I had endless options for quick grab-and-nurse foods in addition to everything my husband had prepped.

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Postpartum Lounge Wear

This point may seem vain and unnecessary but after an ultra nourishing postpartum diet I am going to put this up there as my next biggest game changer for baby #2. I lived in ultra tight Lululemon with teeny underwear prior to having my first baby and in the last few weeks of pregnancy it was the same pair of maternity tights and tank top that still fit. Once he was born I found myself so uncomfortable in those first weeks (months) with nothing to wear, my pre pregnancy clothes WAY too small, even my comfortable pajamas were squeezing me in various places, I had no underwear to accommodate large pads, I needed easy nursing access for my baby and it felt impossible to be slightly presentable, even just being in bed. This perpetuated more of the loneliness and isolation that is often felt after the birth of a first child. I wanted to at least try and see if that could be different this time. During Black Friday and some other holiday sales and with the help of my very generous mom I picked up some nice loungewear for after birth. A silky pajama set, two pajama sets I wouldn’t mind going for a walk around the block in, two pairs of comfortable high waisted jogger sweat pants, two nursing camisoles from Belabumbum and a few pairs of black boy short underwear in a size bigger than I normally wear. I didn’t wear any of my purchases prior to birth and everything was so fresh and nice and new to me when she arrived. I would take a lovely sitz bath and change into a nice, new pair of pajamas and I felt great. Now at 5 months postpartum I still wear every piece all of the time at home, definitely a good investment.

Perspective

I really wanted to make the most of our time home as a brand new family of four. Besides some aspects that are just kind of shocking, I think one of the hardest parts of postpartum is the guilt, the unrealistic expectations, the “shoulds”, the “have tos”, so I took some time before the birth to give myself some personal perspective. I was going to ask for and accept help, I was going to accept that my son was well cared for by someone other than myself, I was going to stay in bed, I was going to take a bath every day, I was going to take time and eat good food, I was going to see this as a blissful almost three weeks at home as a family, we would never all be home together for that amount of time! I was not going to power through pain or negative emotions, I was going to rest, cuddle and nurse the baby, and when someone else was cuddling her I was going to cuddle my son. And that was it. Instead of feeling trapped inside the house I was going to view it as my personal sanctuary, a spa like place, that was tidy from the help I requested, that served amazing food and where I took hot baths with and without my new baby. There was nothing else I should or had to be doing, this was it.

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A friend recently posted a link to this article on her Facebook page and it is so true. We have lost so much as new mothers in this country and I really hope little by little we can support each other and help change the face of postpartum (which really extends throughout the first year, IMO!), even a little bit. What did you do to have a better postpartum? What do you recommend to new mamas? How did your postpartum experience change with each child? We would love to hear your stories :)

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Update + Reflections on Attachment Parenting

UPDATE:
So it’s been a while for me. **Huge** thank you to Cassandra for keeping this little blog alive while I was homeschooling this year!!

I also want to extend my gratitude to all of you have remained loyal readers – we appreciate you.  It is good to know that there are others like us in the world, and that we are not alone on this journey.

Now that we are (almost) on summer break, I have plans. I will be sharing some of the things that we have been doing since the last time I posted in (gasp!) February.  My favorite project from our 2014-2015 school year has been planning our Preschool Playdates.  For the first time in a long time, I got to use my creativity instead of following a course outline from a homeschool curriculum publisher.  If you follow us on Instagram (@sweetpeafamilies), you will have seen the pictures.  As I have more time, I will be posting the pictures here, along with more details and links to the printables that I used.

Here are some random thoughts I want to share with you:

1. It has become painfully clear to me that I am not going to be a super-blogger anytime soon.  I had the opportunity to attend the Birth Without Fear conference in Austin (October 2014) – A.Ma.Zing.  Besides all the incredible information that I received that weekend, I also realized something else: super-bloggers bleed on their pages.  As a person today, I am too private to reveal that much of myself on the internet. I also have serious concerns about what my children and their friends will read about as it relates to our family, so you will continue to see helpful, informative posts that (hopefully) encourage and inspire you as you grow your family.

2.  I have accepted that I have a full-time job: homeschooling our four children.  It was so much less stressful on us this year when I wasn’t concerned about getting posts up two times a week, and then watching the ticker to see who was seeing what…besides the fact that I do not have the time or the interest to keep up with the paperwork that accompanies blogging for income.  For now, I will keep on having blog-envy when I see blogs with slick pages, lots of sponsors and popularity buttons, all while maintaining my sanity for the benefit of our whole family!

3. There are a lot of posts half-written in my mind: mothering, self-acceptance, and toddler tantrums are my top three.  I am looking forward to sharing them with you as our school year winds down and I can use some of that open time to type them in their completed form here.

REFLECTIONS ON ATTACHMENT PARENTING:
For today, I want to encourage you once again in attachment parenting.  We had the pleasure of attending a program at the library with The Singing Cowboy yesterday.  One of his messages to the children was to be kind to their animals, specifically to horses.  The audience was captivated by his horse, who performed amazing “tricks” to the delight of the children.  Some kiddos kept asking, “How do you train him?! How does he do that?”

His answer was that the horse was his friend.  He does not abuse him, hit him, or incite fear or pain – his philosophy is to just have fun with him.  Although it takes longer to train this way, he uses kindness and encouragement instead of pain and consequences.

It was exactly the message I needed to hear yesterday.  If a human being can take this much care with an animal, can we take as much care or more with our children? Aren’t they worthy of our very best efforts every time we interact with them?

The concept of attachment parenting where we honor our children as whole, completely functioning human beings really does take more time. I cannot see a way around that because it is intentional and purposeful; by definition it takes longer.  In some cases, it requires us to exercise self-control instead of instant behavior modication.  I propose that it is worthy and important because we are not training animals – we are raising up human beings, the future of our society.

I have been a little louder than I like to be these days – Peaceful Mama is struggling hard against turning into Crazy Mama.  The summer months are my nanny-free months, so I am not only wrapping up our school year, I am also the full-time cook, laundress and daily housekeeper (Thank goodness we have someone come once a week to help with the cleaning!!).  This year I have the additional task of preparing our beloved summer home for sale, plus the stress of packing or parting with everything we have accumlated here over the last seven years.

Yesterday was the poke at the heart that I needed.  My children are not my friends…they are more than that.  They are the big souls in little bodies that have been entrusted to ME. What an honor to love, nurture and cherish these amazing human beings. In spite of the added stress I am feeling, my Sweet Peas are still children: they have no idea about the stresses I carry or why I carry them.  And I don’t want to them to carry them with me – their lives will get complicated soon enough.

I also need to acknowledge that all the acting out I am seeing these days is a reflection of their own stress about selling our summer home. Three of them have known this place from the dawn of their memory.  I was pregnant with them here, so they have experienced these sounds since before they were born.  They learned to crawl on these floors.  All four of them have shared childhood adventures within these walls.  I am not alone in my anxiety about selling our haven of rest and relaxation.

What I realized yesterday is that we can all have more fun if I can slow down a minute to think about the big picture.  If I can have them help me, I don’t have to bear my burdens alone.  However, it’s not just about getting the chores done – it’s also about teaching them and treasuring our time as a family.

I had already started the week by creating “clean teams” – the two younger children help me with breakfast clean up, the two older children help me with lunch clean up, and then they take turns as “boy team” and “girl team” helping their father with the dinner dishes.  Now I want to add more fun – upbeat music as we clean up, maybe let them come up with team chants that we can use for encouragement and team-building.  I know there are also some laundry games we can play, and the older two can learn to use the clothes washer if I relax about controlling every aspect of doing the laundry.

Next on my list is finding a way to make the packing and parting meaningful to them.  If you have any ideas, please share them in the comment section.

We have the opportunity to create the lives we want for our families.  Let’s make the most of those every day.  While taking the time to add joy to mundane tasks may mean it takes longer, I am going to take it if it means more smiles for everyone involved.

Sibling Preparation Part II: Post Birth

This is part two of my (Cassandra’s) sibling preparation journey, what we did after the birth of our daughter in January to help my son (2.5 yo) with the transition. You can read what we did during pregnancy in part one here.

It has only been four months since we welcomed sweet baby P into the world (see photos of her birth here) and although we still have moments here and there we have established a pretty good routine as a family of four, our son is honestly thrilled to have a baby sister 99% of the time… Our son, T, is definitely a rise-to-the-occassion kind of guy. He really never does anything until he absolutely *has* to, case in point, he slept through the entire night without waking for the FIRST TIME EVER the night after his sister was born, he was almost three. He has also since decided he would start talking. That being said, he really took to his role as big brother and embraced our changing family, it could have absolutely nothing to do with what we did before or after. BUT these things did help everyone feel more at ease and help us get into a nice, new rhythm that now included a baby.

1. Help for our son

We asked my mom in advance to visit after the baby was born for additional help, mostly for our son. Her trip coincidentally was planned for the very evening our baby P was born, we had a great day resting as a family of four post birth and the next day my son was SO excited to see his Granny. She stayed for more than a week and I think it was one of the best things we could have done immediately for our son. He was so busy having fun with her, out and about all day he didn’t even notice that I was at all restricted. Another lap, another set of hands and undivided attention for him.

2. Mama Milk Access

My son hadn’t nursed in many long months but was still used to his share of milk cuddles, I knew shutting him out when baby was nursing would trigger him emotionally, causing him to act out. I always welcomed him to snuggle me while simultaneously nursing the baby, we talked about how the baby didn’t eat food and needed lots of milk to grow bigger and stronger so she could play with him and he got into a routine of coming to “kiss baby P milk” each time we nursed, he would give a quick kiss to her head or my breast and then usually run off. It’s not always easy when he climbs all over us or I am feeling touched out or the baby was fussy at the breast but over the long haul I think it was really important to welcome him into our nursing time in order to combat jealousy.

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3. Only Positive Reinforcement 

This was actually a tip from one of my midwives, to only focus on and model the positive aspects of his interactions with the baby and not the negative. So very basically, instead of “don’t be rough with the baby” say and show him “we are very gentle with the baby, we touch her gently and kiss her gently” We did this with EVERYTHING and we also refrained from making things “because of the baby.” If the baby was sleeping and we needed to be quiet we didn’t say we need to be quiet because the baby is sleeping we would say we need to be quiet because we are having quiet, restful time and we can be loud and crazy as soon as we get outside or something a long those lines. I tried to ONLY mention ANYTHING about the baby in a positive manner to him. I felt like it was really important at the very beginning, that although fantastical, he did not feel the baby was affecting him. Obviously everything was going to change but if the change was gradual and organic for him rather than abrupt I knew we would all fair better.

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5. Keeping it Low Key 

I was on my own with both kids for the first time when my daughter was two days away from turning 3 weeks old. I was feeling fantastic so that was a MAJOR plus, but things were obviously still very new and scary and taking a tiny almost three week old baby out of the house is not comfortable for me. My son and I rarely ever stayed home the entire day though and I knew keeping things similar to his normal routine would have the best results. For the first couple of weeks I did some of our same activities, just toned down a bit. I invited one of his friends over to play, instead of the usual 3 we have play dates with. I walked to the closest coffee shop (instead of our usual spot that is farther from home) and then the park across the street. I went to a nearby science class as our outing for the day, instead of planning anything before or after as we usually would. This helped me from feeling entirely overwhelmed and it was really nice for all of us to gradually transition back into “normal” life.

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6. “Pretend Me Baby” & Snuggles

Pretty soon after the baby was born my son started asking to “tend (pretend) me baby” and would want to fake cry while I rocked him or make sucking sounds over my shirt or pretend we were driving and he was crying in his car seat. I embraced this and it gave us a good time afterwards to talk about him being a “big guy” and how he differs from the baby, etc. At four months postpartum he still likes to play this game and we always get lots of laughs out of it. Whenever he would start getting frustrated about diaper changes or wanting mama I would ask if he wanted to PRETEND he was a baby and have a pretend diaper for a moment or have a good cry, etc. it almost always works! I also try to give him as many extra snuggles and physical contact as possible, even if it doesn’t seem like he needs it. As soon as baby is sleeping in her swing I check in with him for snuggle time or cuddle and read books and we play lots of tackle and wrestling games when possible. I know that once he is depleted it is much harder to fill his cup back up so I try to be mindful of frequent mood lifting activities.

 

At four months postpartum there are already new challenges on our journey as a larger family (toy possession, baby’s increased need to being “put” to sleep and quiet, etc.)  but these above were all extremely helpful for surviving the fourth trimester and setting the stage for our new normal. What else have you done before or after the birth of a sibling that have helped the transition, emotionally and physically?

 

 

 

Sibling Preparation: During Pregnancy

Krystyna has wrote various pieces on preparing siblings for the arrival of a newborn brother or sister and even specifically preparing them for a home birth of that sibling over on Sweet Pea Births blog, but today I am going to share what exactly we did with our 2.5 year old son during pregnancy and birth in anticipation of his sister’s arrival.

We talked about the pregnancy, baby, breastfeeding, what he could expect, etc. every day in all different contexts and situations, it was a regular topic of conversation and everything was always positive. In addition to that ongoing dialouge the following was all extremely helpful in easing the transition.

1.  Big Brother Books.

We picked up all sorts of different books: I’m Going to be a Big Brother , Daniel Tiger’s The Baby is Here and Big Brother, Babies Can’t Eat Kimchee and were gifted Berenstains Bears’ New Baby and The New Baby. We read them throughout the pregnancy and he still likes reading them today (3 months post birth).

2. Watching Birth Videos.

We were planning a home birth so towards the end of the pregnancy we watched home birth videos online quite often. I searched for ones with siblings present and we talked about how this is what it would be like when baby sister arrived. We talked specifically about what labor was like and how she would come out and join us.

3. Breastfeeding: Remind, Remind & Remind Again.

We were in the process of weaning when I found out I was pregnant. My son was completely weaned very early in the pregnancy but still was interested in and asked about “milk” ALOT. I knew that breastfeeding might be a point of frustration / anger / sadness for him when the baby arrived so we talked about it early and often. We talked about how babies have mama’s milk when they arrive (and watched newborns nurse in the above mentioned birth videos), we watched animals nursing online, we talked about how little babies need mamas milk but he is big and has things like yogurt and ice cream that babies can’t have. I asked him over and over again what the baby was going to do when she got here so he could respond with “mama milk!” and over and over and over just kept the conversation going and always kept it very upbeat.

4. Big Brother, Little Sister Gift.

We talked a lot about how when little sister got here she would bring a gift for him (my parents and grandparents so generously purchased him an iPad mini! We wanted it to be something notable) and we took him around my due date to a local children’s store and let him pick out a gift for her. He picked out a little plush giraffe and a couple hours after the birth he started asking about his gift and was extremely excited to give baby her gift too! This really worked like a charm for us and definitely promoted his interest in her when she arrived I believe.

5. Recognizing & Pointing out Siblings.

As soon as we started talking about a baby joining our family we started emphasizing siblings wherever we went. We talked ALOT about his friends that had babies and what it was like for them and how exciting it was that *he* was going to get a baby too, just like them. When we would see babies at the park I would always point them out and say “a baby like your baby sister that is coming”, etc.

These are all extremely simple and were not hard to implement but for our family they really did make an impact. Our son knew exactly what to expect during and after the birth and I could not have been more pleased with the immediate transition. I feel like a large portion of the work actually came *after* she was born in order to preemptively mitigate tension and maintain peace within our day to day though. Stay tuned for those in part two, Sibling Preparation: Post Birth, coming on Thursday!

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What else did you do to prepare your older children during pregnancy? We would love to hear in the comments, cheers to siblings without rivalry!