Author Archives: Cassandra Okamoto

SPFMissingOut

fear of missing out.

I am so pleased to welcome back Cassandra as a guest blogger today. I so treasure her introspection into her own motherhood journey. Her thoughtful approach and consideration continues to inspire me in my own motherhood. Thank you so much for contributing today, C.O. <3, K.B.

I have major FOMO (fear of missing out) within my current role as stay at home parent and full time care taker of my young children.

I will preface this post with the fact that everyone’s family dynamics are very different and my situation is fairly intense right now. My 15 month old daugher was exclusively breastfeeding until very recently when she began eating solids. She currently can only eat a handful of foods and I can only leave her for ~1.5 hours (possibly 2) at a time, and really only with my husband/her dad at this point.  She only sleeps 45 minute stretches at night (but has had a couple 2 hour stretches recently though so… hope!) and it is pretty much all me, all of the time. We do not live near family or close friends and my 4 year old son does not attend any kind of school, he is also solely cared for by me during my husband’s fairly long working hours and then by both of us when my husband is home.

This FOMO could be attributed to starting my motherhood journey young, I was 22 when I became pregnant with my son, but there was a lot packed into those years prior to that. I got married, graduated college, got a job, bought a house, traveled to Europe 3 times, yet my heart is constantly aching for all of the things I feel like I am missing out on. While I am in bed nursing, on the couch nursing, walking around my neighborhood for the 3rd time that day, cleaning up the same mess every night, washing the exact same loads of laundry over and over and catching glimpses of myself in the mirror (after I have cleaned and groomed and fashionably dressed my children) only to be caught off guard that I may in fact seriously start being mistaken as a homeless person – I think about all of the fun “out there” that is being had and start getting seriously worried about parts of myself that may never actually exist again.

 

Yes the internet is a glossy place where everything looks better than it really is and yes I am immensely grateful for every single second I have with the healthy, tiny humans that have literally come into existence & remained alive from the cells and blood within my body but LOOK AT ALL THE FUN THINGS ALL OF THESE OTHER PEOPLE ARE DOING.

Maybe I should go back to work so I don’t feel like I am missing out on a career?

Maybe I should move closer to family so I don’t feel like I am missing out on helping hands?

Maybe I should never talk to any adults that do not have children so I don’t feel like I am missing out on what it would be like to not have the incredible weight of responsibility that is a helpless human’s life?

But really I don’t want to do any of those things. And I know children grow and they won’t be entirely helpless forever. These are some of the hardest years and everything is always changing. My daughter won’t be nursing on demand forever (although it very well could be a really, really long time). I know my husband and I will spend time together, alone, again at some point, but there are still some things that are just not going to happen, for me, for us. They just aren’t.

After years of this burden I have been carrying around of all. the. things. I can’t do right now and might not get to do and want to be doing coupled with the, at times, overwhelming fear of never being an autonomous being again, I recently had a very inspiring moment of clarity.

It is all a season. 

My season to accomplish outside of the home, to travel, to spend more time on self care than will ever be necessary, to reconnect with my passions, will come. But it is not about waiting, no not at all. It is about experiencing the current season for all it has to offer.

Recently on Bunmi Laditan’s Facebook page  (who will never fail to make you actually LOL & possibly wake the children) she mentioned in a post something along the lines of a friend with one very easy going child who thinks he understands how to influence’s children’s behavior positvely and offers advice ya da ya da and how it doesn’t bother her and she doesn’t say anything  because “life will be his teacher.”

This could not be more true of my experience the last five years since becoming pregnant. I now do not believe that I know much of anything, I am not in control and I actually am simply here to learn and grow as much as I can. My children are here to teach me. This season is here to teach me, to stretch me, lengthen me, make me uncomfortable and make me better.

So instead of living in fear of all of the things I may not ever get to do I am adjusting my focus to LEARN ALL THE THINGS. But seriously, to focus on growing myself – can I have more patience today than I had yesterday? Can I take a couple of moments on this walk to completely clear my mind? Can I enjoy myself right now even though I feel uncomfortable with the state of my kitchen or I don’t actually like this game my son wants to play? This is what my season has to offer and I want to get as much out of it as I can!

 

I should also probably delete Instagram, Facebook, Bloglovin’ & the like off of my phone and block all of my childless friends from texting me too 😉 What season of life are you in? What does it have to offer??

Summer Reading List – Mama version

Surprisingly, I have actually managed to finish quite a few comedic and/or “chic lit” books so far this summer. TV shows being on hiatus combined with trying to rest more have been an awesome combination for extra reading.  But I have also pulled out some new and old parenting books that I plan to read or re-read this summer too, if any mamas are looking for some family related reading they are all below with a few thoughts!

paperbacks!

Sacred Pregnancy: A Loving Guide and Journal for Expectant Moms
Anni Daulter

sacred pregnancy book
If you find yourself less inclined to stay up to date with the week-by-week pregnancy updates online or via a phone app during a subsequent pregnancy but feel like you don’t want to completely ignore the changes taking place in your body each week, this is a great alternative! The book is set up for a few pages each week talking about various things that may be happening with you or baby that week, way less clinical and more spiritual, and also gives a topic you can journal about that week and a small activity to honor yourself and/or the baby growing inside of you! I have this on Kindle version but so wish I would have ordered a physical copy as the illustrations look so beautiful and there is probably room to journal right inside the book which would make it such a special keepsake even once the pregnancy is over.

Parenting from the Inside Out
Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. & Mary Hartzell, M.Ed.

parenting from the inside out book

I love everything about this book! It is NOT an easy read by any means and I have only made it about half way through but if I ever get some quality, uninterrupted time to read I like to pull this up on Kindle and am always highlighting passages and taking numerous notes. It is written by a psychiatrist and early childhood and parent educator and is very straightforward and scientific at times. It delves into how memory works, how certain parts of the brain develop and work, and is centered on emotional intelligence, self understanding and reflection. It also lays out very specific ways for us as parents to grow and understand ourselves and our children more. Everything is very practical and I learn a TON every time I pick it back up. Before the book begins it states “This book will encourage you to build an approach to parenting that is founded on basic principles of internal understanding and interpersonal connection. The anchor points for this approach to the parent-child relationship are mindfulness, lifelong learning, response flexibility, mind sight and joyful living.” These are all principles that were important to me and my husband long before having children, so this book really resonated with me on all levels. I would highly recommend if these are things that are important to you in your life as well!

How to Raise a Healthy Child… In Spite of Your Doctor
Robert S. Mendelsohn, M.D.
I have had this book for awhile now and have never actually read it, I have just used it as a very useful reference guide. The index has everything you could possibly be wondering about and you can flip right to the appropriate page. I really want to sit down and take it in cover to cover though, I know I won’t remember everything but I think there is probably a lot of useful preventative information that would be nice to have in the back of your mind before you are in the thick of a OH MY GOODNESS MY BABY IS PEEING BLOOD AND HAS A FEVER OF 104!!!??? episode. It does a really great job of providing a balance between treating at home and when to seek care, most everything I have read doesn’t seem too liberal or too conservative, just logical paired with the author’s actual experience as a medical doctor.

kids are wroth it!
Barbara Coloroso
This book was recommended by my wonderful doula and mama to seven, Rose, so I knew it would be a good one. I have only got through seven of sixteen chapters but have really loved it so far. Chapter Two talks about “three kinds of families” and I found it to share a lot of similarities with Dr. Laura Markham’s (the next author on the list) four parenting styles. Some parts were a tad overwhelming to me as they address some very typical patterns and behaviors that we have fallen into with our toddler without even realizing and/or thinking about it. It definitely prompted me to want to make many positive changes in the behaviors we use to encourage him to change his behavior. There are also a lot of tools of self reflection in this one, ways in which to honor our own feelings as parents and how to work through them while still being our best selves for our children. One of the main themes throughout the entire book is how to empower children, something I really appreciate and try to keep at the top of my mind at all times, can’t wait to finish the rest!

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids
Dr. Laura Markham

I have probably said this before, particularly when I reviewed seeing Dr. Laura speak earlier this year that while the book is very feel good and has many great messages, I find most of it very hard to apply to toddlers in particular, especially ones that are not yet verbal. There are only 17 pages specifically for the toddler ages, 13 months – 36 months, which is obviously what I am most interested in right now. I think there is a lot of “big picture” information too, showcasing what ideal circumstances will look like when you and your child are connected, instance, etc, but it was sometimes hard for me to find information helpful for specific circumstances we find ourselves in that are hard to deal with. Some of the techniques are helpful, like offering choices, making a game out of hard times like bath, brushing teeth, etc. but I also find us a lot of time going through all of those tools and still ending up in a tense place. I think there is a lot of great information for “preventative” work with our children though, and the overall theme does really seem to be self care and connection to help avoid as many negative situations between child and caregiver as possible. I am happy to keep this book around and think I will re-read it many times during the school age years!

The Discipline Book
William Sears, M.D. & Martha Sears, R.N.

I picked up this book when looking specifically how to handle discipline with my two year old. I found that during age 1 he was still learning and exploring and there was only keeping him safe and guiding him, no discipline. As we approached his second birthday it was clear that “discipline” was needed. Discipline has a very negative connotation but I am not referring to punishment, just a way to reinforce important rules to keep him safe, provide structure, and understand age appropriate behaviors along with what I could expect him to understand, etc. Because this is what I was looking for I only read Chapter 1 “Our Approach to Discipline” and Chapter 3 “Understanding Ones, Twos and Threes.” I really liked the information as it was easily presented, easily digested and practical. I did feel that some parts were focused on setting limits and providing structure around “age appropriate behaviors” but what exactly is age appropriate wasn’t defined, as it varies from child to child? That was a hard one for me because it was what I had struggled with before I even picked up the book, what is appropriate to expect from my 18 month old? What does he actually understand? What is he actually capable of? This has gotten easier as he has transitioned into two and now into two and a half. I have a better grasp on his understanding and capabilities even though he still doesn’t talk much, and revisiting this book as well as reading ahead will definitely be helpful!

What are your favorite mama or family focused reads? Is there anything you have heard of but just haven’t picked up? I know I have been meaning to find Raising Your Spirited Child as well as The Whole-Brain Child I just need to get through the rest of the above first!

 

 

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.

prez

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 :)

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!

Wordless Wednesday: Home Birth Edition

Our sweet, sweet baby girl was born at home in late January, time is already flying by. You can read her birth story over on the Sweet Pea Births blog, but I wanted to share the images here today in honor of Wordless Wednesday. All of the photos were captured by the amazing Kirsten Redding, who I still can not say enough good things about and the birth was attended by the wonderful women of Wise Mama Midwifery & Tiger Lily Midwifery.

It was a beautiful Wednesday morning and a very, surprisingly fast delivery (which is why there are no captures of anything before “pushing”). These photos are definitely ******* NSFW ***** so beware :).

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P’s birth was nothing short of truly amazing and being able to share in all of it’s peace, beauty and tranquility as a family is something we will never forget.

x and o and birth,

Cassandra

the number of days until my due date - AHHH!

Monday Musings: do I actually know what I need?

I felt fiercely private and protective of all aspects of my first birth, leading up to and then beyond my due date. I didn’t want anyone to know I was in labor, I didn’t want anyone to be there except my husband and my doula and later my midwife, I didn’t want anyone even talking out loud about their predictions or how they envisioned it unfolding for me: day/time/outcome/etc. And… it worked out well. I spent most of the day going about regularly scheduled activities and during my 5 hours of active labor and then 1 hour of pushing it was just me, my husband and my doula (and later my midwife) with nobody else being any the wiser. I had no idea what to expect and I needed to experience it by myself with no outside disturbances or distractions, I very much felt like I *knew* exactly what I needed and it seemed to be perfectly true. I wanted to focus entirely and completely on the task at hand, nothing to break my concentration. I barely talked and there was no conversation between contractions, it was all very intense the entire time – but worked well, the entire labor & birth were very efficient.

the number of days until my due date - AHHH!

the number of days until my due date – AHHH!

This time I seem to be behaving exactly the opposite. Part of it has to do with the fact that now it is not just my husband and I but our son too and he requires more, a friend will be coming over to play with him and take him in and out of the house as he wishes. This friend may have another child with her so it could not just be him running around but one of his little best friends too.

Part of it is that our living situation has changed, our location and the fact that I know longer work for a paycheck full time, my full time is now spent looking after our son. Because of this a doula was not a viable option this time, *but* my midwives have a couple of women they work with that love to come to births to lend a hand, just because they love to. I haven’t actually met them yet but told my midwife I would adore and appreciate any extra help, emotionally, physically, even just help around the house as things are much more chaotic than last time.

And then there is birth photography. Photography was not even a consideration with my first birth and the farthest thing from my mind. My doula said she would snap a few shots for me and thank goodness for her because her three or so pictures are all that I have of that day and night and I actually LOVE looking at them. A few weeks ago I saw these photos of a girl I know that lives near us and I fell completely in love. I couldn’t stop looking at them for days (she is totally going to think I am a creep the next time I see her) and when I found out the photographer is actual a home birth mama herself any reservations I had about the process were gone and I just wanted her there too.

So now the count for my birth is: my husband, my son, possibly one of his toddler friends, one of my friends, two midwives, a possible free doula I have not met and a photographer – and my house is less than 1,000 square feet. It feels completely insane yet entirely right to me all at the same time.

The other day my son & I watched this birth video and I felt even another huge shift in how I envisioned my birth.

I didn’t want it to be me in an intense, unbreakable, focused place tuning out all of the people and probably inevitable pseudo craziness around me, I want to be a part of it. I want to talk and laugh with the women around me like in the video, and I see the entire environment much more light hearted in general.

I re-read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth this pregnancy and something in it really stuck with me. I can’t remember exactly what Ina May said but it was something to the extent of not being a crazy, dramatic, shrieking woman towards your partner during labor, that they (your partner) deserve positivity and for you to be nice, not slinging insults their way, etc. She talks a lot about “relaxation of the cervical sphincter that correlated with positive and loving words spoken during the most intense phase of labor” and “how the words [you speak] affect [your] labor” and then goes on to tell stories of mothers that would tell husband, baby, midwives and the friends helping how much she loved/appreciated them and Ina May added that “[she had] never noticed anyone’s cervix remain tight and unyielding while speaking loving and positive words”

I felt that during my first birth a lot of my rest between contractions was spent anticipating and bracing myself for the next one – and I would really like to have a go at some laughter and breaks in the tension and intensity this time around.


But then I think… am I crazy? Why fix something that isn’t broken? My labor with my son was swift, straightforward and effective. Can I really get the job done in a completely different environment? Is what I see for this birth actually right for me (and subsequently baby)?

I am a very changed person since the birth of my son, I feel like a lifetime of joy, tears, love, growth and sleep deprivation have taken place in the three short years since he joined us earth side. And I am also a vessel for an entirely different human being this time. Her wants and needs may not align with her brother’s in the slightest.

And so… I am just going to trust. Trust that everything has come together exactly as it should. Trust that when I say or do something without thinking about it first it comes from a place of inner wisdom. And trust that everything is fluid, no matter how the birth environment is it can always change if I or baby need it to.

How have your births differed from child to child? Has becoming a mother once changed the way in which you give birth again?

Do you *know* what birth holds for you and your baby while pregnant? Has envisioning the kind of birth you want come true for you? I would LOVE to hear other people’s experiences <3

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A Blessingway for Baby #2

Blessingways or Mother Blessings come in all different variations these days. Traditionally, the “blessing way” is a Navajo Ritual “created to spiritually support and empower the new mother for her journey of birthing and motherhood.”  They have since been adapted to honor the pregnant mother, honor the baby waiting to be born, or as a more family centered version of a baby shower.

The Sacred Pregnancy book I have been reading describes the blessingway as “a ceremony in which people bless the way of the baby and the mother as she readies herself to birth her baby into existence.”

I worked together with a great mama friend of mine to come up with what my baby and I saw our blessingway as: women close to us gathering for a relaxed afternoon tea, beading a bracelet  for me to wear before/during labor, sharing affirmations/hopes/prayers and participating in cord binding where each woman wraps a string around her wrist one or more times and then gives it to the person next to her, at once making everyone connected. Each women then cuts their cord to create a bracelet they wear until my labor is over. Prior to the birth, when they see their bracelet, they can think of me and send good thoughts. :)

It was such a nice afternoon with friends that traveled from all over the state to be there. They left me with a renewed perspective towards birth and shifted a lot of my tension and anxiety to excitement and joy. I thought I would recap some of the awesome affirmations and prayers that were given to me… for any other mamas to be or women with friends that will be birthing soon, let us share and pass on the wonderful feelings of empowerment and love they provided.

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This one actually came from my husband before we left for the gathering, it is so beautiful and simple, I imagine easy to recite in moments of intense labor and or doubtfulness.

We are the boat, we are the sea. I sail in you, you sail in me.” 

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This Advice From A Tree is applicable in so many different facets of life but I am finding it so cheerful for the rest of my pregnancy, reading through it just makes me smile.

Advice From A Tree

Stand Tall and Proud
Go Out On a Limb
Remember Your Roots
Drink Plenty of Water
Be Content with Your Natural Beauty
Enjoy the View

 

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This provides such a great visualization for me that I can use in moments of weakness and doubt and I know will be useful during particularly difficult moments in labor and “transition.”

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This is especially useful for second or subsequent babies and something that helps focus my perspective that this birth and baby bring with it an entirely new experience that I know nothing about yet. I hope to honor the process with no expectations.

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“My courage is stronger than my fear”

“A women in birth is at once her most powerful, and her most vulnerable. But any woman who has birthed unhindered, understands that we are stronger than we know.”
-Marci Macari

“Breathing in relaxation. Breathing out tension” 

“she believed she could, so she did”

and my favorite of all of them…
“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star” Friedrich Nietzsche

 

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“I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born, says The Lord.” Isaiah 66:9

“I am not afraid, I was born to do this.” Joan of Arc

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.” Isaiah 43:1-3

“There is no force equal to that of a Determined Woman.”

 

In addition to sharing the affirmations, each woman brought a bead to string together on a bracelet or necklace for me, they all had different meanings and sentiments and all represent the love these six other women have for me and my baby girl awaiting birth. It is a bracelet now, but I plan on turning into a long necklace I can easily stare down at.

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Another special gift I received was this Unakite bracelet. I did not know the power and uses of Unakite for pregnancy and childbirth before that day and I have not taken it off since!

IMG_4129You can also see my brown hemp cord in the photo above from the cord binding ceremony.

Overall it was an extremely special day with an energy that I plan to draw on the remaining 7-ish weeks of my pregnancy. The affirmations are all going to be placed on a wall in the room we plan to birth in next to a shelf that will contain an essential oil diffuser, sage, quartz and pearls that were also gifted to us.

I hope any or all of these can be used/shared/appreciated and passed on to other mamas to be,  alone or paired with a blessingway they have been very uplifting to my soul.

Has anyone attended or had a blessing way themselves? What kind of ceremonies took place? If you have any other affirmations or prayers to share we would love to read them!

Love and birth,

Cassandra

Second Pregnancy: Fears & Affirmations

First pregnancies are known to bring about many fears: fear of an expanding body, fear of giving birth, fear of becoming a mother, fear of the unknown, for me personally it was mostly the fear of the pregnancy itself. I was in a constant state of fear that something was or could go wrong while growing my baby. It just seems so delicate, so mind blowing that an entire human was growing inside my belly while I barely felt anything at all. I worked through those and was blessed with the experience of a very successful full term pregnancy and birth at the end so I  have not had many of those concerns the second time around. We sought out confirmation via doppler and ultrasound in early pregnancy and now as the third trimester begins a very active baby in my tummy keeps my mind at ease everyday. I am full of other kinds of fears this time though – surrounding birth, the postpartum period, and my responsibilities within a family of four. They are pretty overwhelming and all consuming sometimes, coupled with the fact that we have done absolutely zero to prepare for this upcoming birth or baby’s arrival I feel like I am often carrying a weight of anxiety too heavy to bear lately.

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the weeks & baby’s growth are both happening so rapidly this time around!

I have employed the help of some visualization techniques and affirmations that I thought I would share here in case any other mamas may find them helpful too. The visualizations can be used to get rid of fears, worries, or negative thoughts we just don’t want around and the affirmations, while some of them are specific to birth, postpartum or new babies, the others can be used anytime during the crazy ride of motherhood.

Visualization #1: Drifting Clouds
This was taught to me during a meditation in a yoga class recently, I really loved it and have found myself using it a lot at night before going to sleep.

Picture a serene, beautiful place with yourself seated or laying down comfortably gazing up at the sky. It is a brilliant, clear blue and there are big, white, fluffy clouds passing by. See your fear, negative thought, emotion, source of tension appear in one of the clouds and watch it drift away out of view. Repeat with each thought or feeling you would like to get rid of until the clouds are floating by empty. Notice how your body or mind feels differently after releasing these into the atmosphere and continue to relax and take in the beauty around and above you.

Visualization #2: Stones in the Ocean
This came from the Sacred Pregnancy book, it was described as an actual physical activity to go do, which I have been intending to and will, but also works great for a visualization in the moment and/or if you do not have access to an ocean or lake.

Visualize yourself at the edge of the ocean. Gather many large stones and place them by your feet. On each stone write in bold black letters a worry, fear, negative thought, problem or the like that you have been holding onto. Walk to the water and throw the stone into the ocean, watching as Mother Earth literally absorbs and carries off this fear or unwanted thought for you.

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I know the postpartum period is not a friendly time for myself, physically or emotionally. I plan on writing these down and placing them somewhere I can see from my resting place in bed.

“There’s value in showing my kids my vulnerability.”

“I am healthy and I will heal.”

“A new baby is like the beginning of all things – Wonder, Hope, a dream of possibilities.”
– Edna J. Le Shan

These below also are applicable to the postpartum period for me but have been helpful at times during this pregnancy and I anticipate will be very useful as we transition to a family of four.

“Now all you can do is wait. It must be hard for you, but there is a right time for everything. Like the ebb and flow of tides. No one can do anything to change them. When it is time to wait, you must wait.”  
-Haruki Murakami

“Not loving every moment of motherhood doesn’t mean I don’t love being a mom.”

“The decisions made by other moms do not need to dictate mine.”

“I am enough.”

“I am present. My presence is enough.”

I find these are especially helpful when I repeat them over and over to myself while walking or at the playground with T or in some other situation where my thoughts can get away with me. It really does help redirect my energy and like I mentioned before is a great tool to use before I go to sleep.

Are there any other affirmations or visualizations or even other types of activities that have been particularly helpful for you during a time of fear or tension? Anything that stood out as especially helpful during the healing and adjustment phases after birth, I would love to hear anything and everything!

 

 

 

Toddler Tooth Health

Over the past six months I have filtered through, purchased, read and absorbed every last bit of information that I could find regarding tooth health and then specifically tooth health in children. It is a long, windy road of events and information but I thought I would try to briefly summarize in a post that may be helpful for other families feeling the urge to shy away from modern dentistry.

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While making the move toward a more healthy and holistic lifestyle during our time living in Arizona, a friend and herbalist recommended an unbelievably great dentist, Dr. David Lewis. His practice is no frills and so inexpensive that we found my dental insurance at the time to not even be beneficial for my husband and I anymore and therefore did not have to renew it. He does not use harmful X-Rays and sticks to the very basics of tooth health. We loved and appreciated receiving cleanings from him (if you are in AZ and looking for a new dentist definitely check him out!) but unfortunately we moved away from the area when my son was ten months old and I never got the chance to ask him if he sees children.

Fast forward a little more than a year and I discovered my son has some brown spots in between his front four teeth. I had already discovered he had an undiagnosed lip tie (which I am sure was the culprit for our zillion breastfeeding troubles) and this seemed to be another by-product of that.

From Mommypotamus.com: “When a lip tie – also known as a maxillary frenum attachment – is present the mouth has trouble clearing milk away from the top four teeth. In Katie it caused the breast fed version of what is commonly called “bottle rot.””

After tons of reading, including the holy grail of holistic dentistry, Cure Tooth Decay, I decided we would make some changes and give his teeth some time to heal and restore and then take him to visit a holistic dentist in a few months to a year when he is older (the recommendation for first dental visit was 3 years old for quite some time and has more recently been pushed up to 2 years and 1 years) and has a better understanding of what will take place during the visit, etc. Below is everything we have implemented as of today.
Please remember: These are simply my own opinions based on my own thoughts, gathered knowledge, and experiences. I am not a Doctor or any kind of health professional so please consult a professional before making any changes to your diet and health. Please do what is right individual to you and your family. 

Traditional Foods Diet
For us this is: no grains except soaked oats, no added sugars except honey, organic free-range chicken, organic grass-fed beef, organic grass-fed butter, bone broth, farmer’s market fruit & vegetables, organic nuts & seeds, local raw cow’s milk and raw milk cheeses. We eat occasional organic beans and legumes too. We roasted a whole chicken on Sunday to have on hand for the week for lunches and made bone broth with left over vegetable ends, the chicken carcass and some chicken feet for extra gelatin. Eliminating juice and crackers from my son’s diet was actually a lot easier than I thought, if we don’t have it in the house it is really not an issue. We still indulge in the occasional treat out and I don’t stress if he grabs some of his friend’s crackers during play dates, etc.

Fermented Cod Liver Oil
More info found here. I ordered the Green Pastures Arctic Mint Liquid. No it is not easy to get my 2.5 year old to take it but it is worth the battle, in my opinion.

Tooth Soap
I used this DIY recipe for tooth soap to use most days a long with our homemade tooth paste every once in a while.

Tooth Tissues
We brush my son’s teeth once in the morning after breakfast and once at night before bed. Before nap time I wipe his teeth down with one of these tissues, if he does have a sugary treat during the day I also wipe down right after.

No Food After Brushing
We encourage my son to snack before bed so he sleeps with a full tummy but he now finishes all of his snacks and then brushes teeth right before getting in bed to read books. He knows that once teeth are brushed that means no more food. If he does happen to stay up later and grab a banana or something then we just wipe down really well with the tooth tissues above.

Probiotic
I purchased probiotic capsules, break them open and add the powder or gel to T’s water. Dr. Ohhira’s is an awesome brand and doesn’t need to be refrigerated, albeit pricey.

This is everything we have implemented so far, I have on my to-do list to check out some homeopathic supplementation and to look more into added calcium and phosphorus though. I hope these are helpful, even for preventative ideas to implement with your babies, toddlers or children! There is so much more information out there regarding holistic tooth health and the detriments of modern dentistry on overall health but I really wanted to keep this brief and straightforward as I have continued to feel extremely overwhelmed every time I sit down to go over the available information on the subject!

What are you experiences regarding your family’s teeth? Any other helpful tips I can be using with my toddler??