Mother Knows Best

A worriedmotherdoes betterresearchthan the (1)
I recently came across the following quote, “A worried mother does better research than the FBI.” If you are a reader of my blog, my guess is that you can relate to that. I certainly can.

From the time I found out I was pregnant to present day, I’ve found that to be so true. Of course I don’t take it literally, but I do find that when a mom is concerned about her child (I like the word concerned more than worried) and X, Y, or Z, she will research the heck of out it, talk to others who know about the topic, and then research it some more until she finds the answers for which she is looking. That’s in large part what my blogging has been about all of these years — addressing topics like home birth, circumcision, cosleeping, vaccinations, child-led weaning (breastfeeding), babywearing, home schooling, unschooling and more. As I have researched what was best for my family, I then passed that information along via my blog for anyone who was looking for it.

One of my favorite sayings over the years has been “Knowledge is power.” I truly believe that when we as moms know better, we do better. I also believe that what is “best” for me and my family may differ from what is best for you and your family and I LOVE that we all have the right to choose what that looks like.

I don’t believe in telling people what they should do. I believe in offering information, educating, and allowing them to make the decisions that work for them.

What is something you have recently researched or something you are currently researching?

As for me, I’m working on a tricky one. I sometimes yearn for the “simpler” issues from the baby and toddler years. Of course at the time, those were the tricky issues.

I’ve been researching anxiety disorders (one variation in particular) as they relate to children. I’ve learned a lot in the past couple weeks. Anxiety isn’t anything new in my child’s life, but now that I’ve had a health professional bring it up, I’ve been pushed back into research mode. I want to make sure we are doing what we can to help rather than hinder and address the issues that need addressing.

Not surprisingly, this isn’t the first time I’ve broached this topic on my blog. I wrote nearly four years ago about how “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” I wrote in rather vague terms then and I am now as well because I don’t feel it’s fair to my child to delve into it too deeply in a public forum.

But here I am, nearly four years later still trying to figure it out, get answers and help. Hopefully we are on the right track. I’ll keep on researching, getting help where appropriate and doing the best that I can. That’s all a mama can do, right?

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Encouraging our Kids to Dream Big (Despite our Fears)


My friend Jill recently posted a link on her Facebook page to How to Mentor a Kid with Big (Possibly Unrealistic) Dreams by Lori Pickert from Project-Based Homeschooling. The article touches on something that I’ve struggled with in the past. What’s the “right” way to respond to your kids when they have dreams that are beyond what you think they can accomplish – either now or ever? Do you encourage them even though you *know* it’s not going to work? Do you attempt to let them down gently to avoid disappointment and tell them you don’t think it’s possible? Maybe we are trying to save them from embarrassment or even save ourselves from embarrassment. Maybe we are afraid of failure — either for ourselves or our kids.
What’s a mom to do?

For example, my 6-year-old son has often said when he grows up he is going to invent a machine that makes him become a kid again or he’s going to time travel or become a super hero that does X, Y, or Z. When he first started voicing these lofty goals, I wasn’t sure how to react. My first thought was, “that’s probably not going to happen, buddy” but I didn’t say that out loud. Instead I’d try my best to encourage him, even if I felt like his ideas weren’t based in reality, but it was a struggle for me. Was I doing the right thing?

Pickert says:

Before you move to stop your children from trying to do the impossible, take a breath and remember what your job is: to mentor and support, to brainstorm and listen, to remind and reflect. Your job isn’t to step in and tell them their ideas won’t work and their plans are doomed.
Remind yourself:
You don’t know what your kid can do.

One example shared in the article is about a child who wants to write a novel and have it published by a real publisher. Something similar came up for my daughter a few years ago. Unfortunately, I hadn’t figured this all out yet and rather than encouraging her and then (potentially, but who knows?!) see her fail, I thought I was being a good mom and tried to prevent disappointment by explaining how hard it would be to do or something along those lines.

Pickert points out that when you respond that way, “You haven’t prevented disappointment — you’ve only brought it from the misty future to the right now, and you also killed all the learning and skill-building that would have happened in the interim.

Choose to deliver your bad news — that her dream is statistically unlikely — and what will happen to her ambitions? What will happen to her idea of herself as a writer? Will she wait and start her writing career at 15? At twenty? Never?”

Had I encouraged her, who knows what would have happened. But I’m not beating myself up over this either. I live and learn, just like the next person. All I can do is hope to do better the next time.

There are a lot of great examples and quotes in Pickert’s article (and comments following it). So many that I want to quote here, but I will just recommend that you click over and read it yourselves. If you have a big dreamer in your life, it is worth the read.

You cannot predict the path an authentic, self-motivated learner is going to take. When you guess — and then decide to go ahead and pull the plug because you know it won’t work out — you eliminate all the learning that happens along the way.

It really goes along with the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” The journey is all about the learning, the trials and tribulations, the mistakes and the triumphs, the tears and the joy. When we tell our kids, “This just isn’t going to work,” we remove the opportunity for them to experience all of those things.

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Boys, Girls, Bathing Suits and Inequality : a recycled post

This post originally appeared on my blog three years ago on June 17, 2010. As summer is in full swing once again, I thought it was a good time to revisit this topic. Has anything changed in three years?

My son started wearing a swim shirt for a few years (which I felt evened out the playing field a little bit and kept him from getting sunburned — win-win!), but then we had an unfortunate experience where his head got stuck in one while I was trying to remove it (the shirt, not his head!) and he pretty much vowed to never wear one again. Interestingly enough, my daughter (who is 9 now) no longer brings up this inequality issue. Perhaps it’s because she’s more aware of the difference between girls’ and boys’ bodies or culturally conditioned that breasts *should be* covered up. Hmmm, I might have to ask her about it sometime to see what she thinks.

————————

June 17, 2010

As I was getting the kids ready for an afternoon of carefree fun at the pool today, my almost 6-year-old surprised me with this question, “Mom, why do girls have to wear bathing suit tops or shirts, but boys don’t?”

I wanted to shout, “Patriarchy!” as I like to blame most things on the patriarchy and I know it would have made Denise proud, but somehow I was pretty sure that response wouldn’t suffice.

It occurs to me now that this may be the first time she’s really had to deal with inequality in the world (or the Puritanical society in which we live). Yes, I know it’s only a shirt (or a bathing suit top), but this may be the first time she’s realized that different rules exist for different people. That’s a pretty big deal.

Back to my story. I can’t recall exactly how I replied (I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t study! I didn’t know there was going to be a test!), but it was something to the effect of blaming “the man” for making “rules” like that. She didn’t think it was fair. I can’t blame her. It’s not.

Later that evening I mentioned her question to Twitter and asked how they would respond. I received an interesting mix of replies.

I think my favorite came from Denise (Eat Play Love) who said, “Tell her breasts make people really really nervous! ;)” I have to agree. That pretty much sums it all up right there!

Emily (Mama Days said, “best answer: men have it easier in basically everything in life ;)” While I tend to agree with this statement, it wasn’t the message I’m quite ready to give to Ava.

Cassie (Cassie Boorn) said, “I totally had a fit about that when I was young. It was my first sign of feminism ;)” I get the feeling many little girls find the notion off-putting.

While Amy (Entertainment Realm) said, “I went shirtless when I didn’t have any boobs i.e. at that age. no biggie.” Interesting. I can recall my little sister toddling around without a shirt when she was 2 or 3, but probably not as old as 6.

InnerWizdom said that personally she wouldn’t enforce that “rule” because she finds it “bogus.” She added that her kids do go topless at the public pool or beach, but not in stores because nobody is supposed to go shirtless there. She also said that she doesn’t know how anyone can explain to a 6-year-old “that adults see their chest as sexual, as something to hide away, even though it looks the same as a boys.” Yeah, I really didn’t want to get into sexuality with her at that point. Also I admire her for not “forcing” her kids to do something just because that’s what society says they should do. I don’t know that I could do that.

So what do you think? What would your response be if your 6-year-old daughter asked you the same question? Would you blame anatomy? Blame the patriarchy? Blame the Puritans? Blame the American prudery (as my friend‘s husband suggested)? Or is the answer: “that’s just how it is?”

Photo credit – Flickr: bunnygoth

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The Apple Never Falls Far From The Tree

The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing,
we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger,
but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.
–Robert Cushing

It’s no secret that anxiety has played a big role in my life. It’s something I’ve blogged about time and time again over the past two-plus years as I diligently tried to find a solution that worked best for me and to let others who might be dealing with this know they aren’t alone.

Around the time when I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), I recall asking my (then) therapist, “Why is this just showing up now out of the blue?” And she replied that it was probably something I’d been dealing with for a long time, but it took time for the symptoms to compound in number and severity until I reached the point where I sought out help and was eventually diagnosed. At the time I wasn’t sure I believed it, because the whole thing still felt like it came out of nowhere to me. However as time has passed and I’ve reflected on various events in my life, I’ve come to the conclusion that anxiety is something I’ve dealt with since childhood — I just didn’t know it then.

This is where this blog post gets a little tricky for anonymity reasons. How much can I share without sharing too much? Ya see, I have my reasons to suspect that one of my children also is dealing with anxiety. I had hoped that this wouldn’t happen to either of them and certainly never expected it when they were still so young, but now here it potentially is — staring me right in the face (literally). And why should I be surprised, right? The apple never falls far from the tree and all that, but yet I sure hoped those apples would.

While there has been no official diagnosis, after talking to a friend, reading the book “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Anxiety,” reading the blog Child Anxiety Mom, and searching my soul, my suspicions have certainly not lessened. When I compare some of the things I did and experienced in my adolescent years with some of the things my child is experiencing/doing now (but at a seemingly accelerated rate than I did), it seems obvious to me that anxiety could be playing a factor. I won’t go into detail as I don’t think that would be fair to my little person, but if you have questions email me directly and we can discuss it further there.

I’m not sure what the next step will be, but this is a subject that certainly weighs heavily on my mind. Everything I’ve read says the sooner anxiety is dealt with, the better. And I believe the more I read, the more likely I will figure out what direction we should take. I’d been considering therapy, but perhaps other things — such as The Anxiety-Free Child Program or simply reading more of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Anxiety (I admit I just started it) or perhaps another visit to the pediatrician (now that I feel I have more pieces of the puzzle) — would be useful as well.

“Courage is saying, ‘Maybe what I’m doing isn’t working;
maybe I should try something else.’”
— Anna Lappe

Then again it’s entirely possible that anxiety isn’t what’s going on with my child or perhaps it is just one part of the whole picture. After all, I’m not a psychologist or doctor, yet I am a mom who knows her child better than anyone else. I also know what it’s like to live with anxiety and if my child is experiencing this, I want to figure out what’s going on sooner than later. I don’t want to just assume X, Y, or Z behavior is “just a phase” and it will pass or that he/she is simply acting out or trying to manipulate me. I’ll continue to do my research and try to get to the bottom of this. Nobody should have to live their life in fear.

Photo credit: apdk via Flickr

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HAS CRUNCHY DOMESTIC GODDESS RETURNED FOR GOOD?
If you are wondering if I’m back to blogging again on a regular basis, I have to say your guess is as good as mine. 😉 I will continue to write when I feel moved to write. Now that I’ve gotten my first “return from hiatus” post written, perhaps that will be more often. 🙂 Like I do with many things in my life, I will take blogging one day at a time. Thank you if you’ve stuck around in my absence. It truly does mean a lot to me. xo.

Portrait of a Home Birthing Couple: Guest Post

I’m currently on hiatus from blogging (read more about the reasons why), but want to continue to provide interesting and insightful content on my blog in the meantime. For a while I will have guest posts from various bloggers interspersed with posts by me when I am moved to write. Thank you for your understanding. — Amy (CDG)

This guest post comes from Courtney who blogs at A Life Sustained.

Portrait of a Home Birthing Couple

If you had asked me a year ago to envision a “home birthing couple” I probably would have described a pair of long-haired back-to-the-land hippies living in a cabin in the woods and shunning any and all medical advances. That, or some sort of religious extremists. I definitely wouldn’t have described myself or my husband, we’re far too run-of-the-mill, but that’s exactly what we’ve become. As of this February we have become a home birthing couple.

I’ll fully admit that I never really gave much thought to what my birth experience might look like. I assumed that I would go to the hospital, scream a lot like they do on TV, and then be handed a swaddled little bundle o’ joy. But by the time I got around to seriously considering having a child, my life had begun to change in much larger ways. After a quarter century or so of flitting from one thing to another, never having a real job, and pretty much just coasting through life, I decided that that was no longer how I wanted to live. I was desperate for something deeper. More meaningful. I wanted to take more responsibility and make actual decisions rather than just falling into the next stage. Words like “mindful,” “sustainable,” and “deliberate” took on new and profound meanings for me. All elements of my life were suddenly under a critical lens and my plans for childbirth were no exception.

My mother was 30 years old when she gave birth to me. She wasn’t particularly planning on having a natural birth, but ended up with one because the window of opportunity for any drugs had already closed. After a very short labor, I was handed to her still covered in vernix and she had an intense urge to lick me clean. She held me to her chest, drank in my new-baby smell and was immediately ready to have another one, she said. This is the story of my birth and it has completely shaped my notions of what a “normal” birth looks like. I thought that all births looked this way.

It was at a fundraiser for my local women’s clinic that I saw the film The Business of Being Born. It didn’t necessarily convince me that I wanted to birth at home, but it did show me that I had made a lot of assumptions about attitudes and practices towards birth in the hospital setting. It also made me realize that if I thought my birth experience was an important thing, and I did, then I needed to take responsibility for that experience, educate myself, and come up with a plan.

After much, much reading and visiting with other soon-to-be-mamas, I took the easy way out. That’s right. I chose a home birth because, for me, it was the easy option. I knew that I wanted a natural water birth. I also knew that I cave easily under pressure and all it would take would be a stern word from anyone in a white coat and I would abandon my plan. Even just a “why don’t you get that epidural, honey,” I knew, would cause me to falter and I just didn’t want to deal with that pressure. I talked it over with my husband, who, although skeptical, trusted me to make an informed decision and was willing to surrender to the fact that I was the one giving birth and so I should be the one to have the final say in where that birth took place.

Not too long after I turned 30, I got pregnant. And I panicked. What should I do? Who should I call? I didn’t even know how to go about finding a midwife who would attend a home birth (Direct Entry Midwives, those who usually attend home births, cannot legally practice in my state, making finding care a bit more challenging). I did, however, remember that a friend of a friend was a doula (a word whose definition I didn’t even know a year prior). Even though I didn’t know her very well at that time and I am incredibly shy, I contacted her, shared our good news, and begged her for help. She, like most midwives and doulas that I’ve met, was incredibly kind and compassionate and she set up a time for us to meet with her and the midwife with whom she works.

We met in the warm and welcoming environment of her home and I knew immediately that these two women (well, and my husband) were the only people that I needed next to me when I went into labor. I didn’t need time to think it over. It just felt right.

Over the next nine months they provided in-depth and personalized care. There was no waiting in waiting rooms and each appointment lasted at least an hour. During this time, the midwives did all that would be done at a prenatal appointment at the hospital (check weight, blood pressure, urine, listen for fetal heart tones, etc.) plus a lot of time was spent giving full answers to our many questions. A lot of time was also spent laughing. These women were fun and they helped me to see that labor, although an intense experience, could actually be enjoyable, something to look forward to, and nothing to fear.

I should have known that I would soon be going into labor because I stereotypically cleaned my house from top to bottom. I justified this uncharacteristic behavior, however, with the fact that we had a prenatal the following day and I didn’t want the midwives to see just how lackadaisical we really were with housework. At 1:00 A.M. I woke up with contractions, although I didn’t really recognize them as such. I was more annoyed than anything because for the first time in three months I was actually comfortable and was having a fantastic night’s sleep, but then these cramps just kept waking me up.

In denial that this was it, I labored alone for three hours and let my husband sleep. When I finally needed some help coping with the contractions I woke him up. Even at that point I didn’t really think that I would be giving birth that day. My contractions were 5 minutes apart and a minute long, so we called the midwife to let her know. Normally this would be the point when things are just getting rolling, but when she heard the vocalizations I was making, she said that she would be right over.

Because I was at home I was able to move around as I wanted. I spent most of my time in a half bend over a waist-high dresser, but also spent some time on the floor and kneeling on the bed. I felt completely free to make as much noise as I needed to (which turned out to be quite a bit) without feeling self-conscious. I believe both of these things were really key in how quickly and easily I dilated. I felt safe and my body took that as permission to do what it needed to do.

My water broke three hours later after which I got into the tub and after two hours of pushing my son was born and laid naked on my chest. He was perfect and I was without words. I’m pretty sure the first thing I said was, “it’s a baby!” and of course, I cried.

Throughout most of the labor my midwives mostly just stayed out of my way. They offered constant reassurance and support, but they let me move and proceed as instinct dictated, offering gentle suggestions on how to modify what I was already doing to make it more effective. They monitored the safety of the situation, intermittently checking fetal heart tones and came prepared with emergency equipment. At no point did I ever feel that this wasn’t a safe decision. I was confident, and I still am, that birth is a natural process that our bodies are perfectly designed to cope with.

For the 90% of pregnancies that are low risk, like mine, birthing at home is such an opportunity. It was an opportunity for me to find out how strong I am. To share an intimate experience with my husband. To bring my son into the world in a manner that was calm, gentle, safe, warm, and loving. After we were all cleaned up, the midwives tucked the three of us into bed, made us breakfast, and started a load of laundry. They came back to the house to check on us (Housecalls! I didn’t have to figure out how to transport a newborn to the doctor’s office in the dead of winter!) the next day and again at one week, two weeks, and six weeks.

Our home birth was such a positive experience, but it was also so…normal. When people ask us about it, I think they expect to hear some long nail-biting tale in which we “almost didn’t make it” or for me to start talking about what a moon goddess that I am. They are always surprised by how simple and straightforward the whole thing was; exactly as it should be.

Courtney is a Midwestern mama who is striving to create a home that is simple, mindful, and full of nature and beauty. She is passionate about treading lightly on the Earth, supporting local craftspeople, and all things natural and handmade. She blogs about her transition to living a more sustainable life as well as her transition to motherhood at A Life Sustained.

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Baby-led Weaning with Real Food: Guest Post

I’ve decided to take a little break from blogging (read more about the reasons why), but wanted to continue to provide interesting and insightful content on my blog in the meantime. I asked for help and my tribe answered my call, so for a while I will have guest posts from various bloggers interspersed with posts by me when I am moved to write. Thank you for your understanding. — Amy (CDG)

Today’s guest post comes from Abbie who blogs at Farmer’s Daughter.

Baby-led Weaning with Real Food

As an advocate for real, healthy, local foods, I was dreading introducing solids to my son.  I just couldn’t imagine having his first food be processed cereal.  I’d also seen jarred baby food and was completely grossed out by it.  Nobody could tell me that those were the best choice for my son’s health; my instincts said we needed to take a different route.  After discussing the topic of introducing solids with some twitter friends, I got recommendations for two books that I love and recommend to all parents:

What I learned was basic — to allow Joshua to choose what he would eat and what he didn’t want to eat; to allow him to feed himself; to offer him plenty of healthy foods to choose from; to put away the food mill and spoon; most importantly, to relax!

Instead of giving bland cereal as a first food, I looked to the season.  Joshua turned six months in September: apple season.  It has always felt appropriate to me that Joshua was a spring baby, and it seemed fitting that Joshua’s first food was applesauce.  Homemade, chunky applesauce made from apples grown on the farm where I grew up, that I picked as I walked through the orchard with my mother and carried Joshua on my back.  While processed cereal didn’t feel right, applesauce sure did.  I spooned a small bit of applesauce into a bowl for Joshua and allowed him to squish it between his fingers to his heart’s content.  He wiped it in his hair and it got on his bib and on the floor.  Not much made it into his mouth, but that didn’t matter.  Breast milk supplies all of the nutrition he needs, and solids at six months are about learning: taste, texture, aroma and hand-eye coordination.

Cold apple slices quickly became a favorite for my teething baby.

Now nine months old, Joshua has sampled all of the following (in no particular order):

  • Fruits: apples, applesauce, banana, avocado, blueberries, raspberries, cranberry-applesauce, dried papaya
  • Veggies: butternut squash, potatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, snap peas, green beans, corn, green squash, cucumber, vegetable broth, salsa, tomato sauce, (sometimes veggies were topped with olive oil or butter)
  • Meats: beef (steak, ground beef), pork (pork chop/roast, sausage), turkey (roasted and ground), chicken, salmon, haddock, scrambeled eggs
  • Dairy: cream-top yogurt (banana, blueberry and peach flavored), sour cream, cheddar cheese, monterey jack cheese, American cheese, cream cheese, butter
  • Bread/grains: toast, pizza crust, whole wheat tortilla, bagel, pasta with and without tomato sauce, Italian bread, pancakes, stuffing, organic puffs and teether biscuits

And most certainly other foods that I’ve forgotten to mention.  At his nine-month check-up, his doctor was impressed that we don’t buy baby food and told me to continue to introduce foods using the baby-led approach.  The doctor said most advice about solids including which foods to offer in which order are based on old wive’s tales and not on sound science, and that holding off on introducing foods such as meats can deprive babies of essential nutrients (like iron, which is more easily absorbed from breastmilk and meats than from fortified cereals).  The only foods he said to wait on are peanuts and peanut butter, honey and cow’s milk.  (For safety information on introducing solids, see the books listed above.)

Joshua loves to feed himself and while this approach is messy, it has been a perfect fit for our family.

Abbie is a wife, mother to one-year-old Joshua, environmentalist and teacher who believes in following her maternal instincts and being a steward to the Earth. She blogs about simple living, sustainability, gardening, cooking and mothering at Farmer’s Daughter.

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Stress of Parenthood: Guest Post

I’ve decided to take a little break from blogging (read more about the reasons why), but wanted to continue to provide interesting and insightful content on my blog in the meantime. I asked for help and my tribe answered my call, so for a while I will have guest posts from various bloggers interspersed with posts by me when I am moved to write. Thank you for your understanding. — Amy (CDG)

Today’s guest post is from Nancy Massotto, the founder and executive director of the Holistic Moms Network.

Stress of Parenthood

You startle awake in the middle of a deep sleep. Your heart pounds. You listen closely. You hear motion, coughing, maybe a cry for help. Or nothing at all, but your body is on alert. Perhaps you listen for your teen arriving home safely. Your mind races. Anxiety attack? Insomnia? No, just another night of parenthood. Yes, parenthood. Ever notice how parenting can put your body into a state of stress or crisis? Perhaps the noise volume in your home leads to a tension headache. Sleepless nights provoke adrenal overdrive. A tantrum-prone two year old leads to seriously frayed nerves.

Being a parent is no easy job. In fact, having a baby has been ranked as high as sixth out of 102 stressful life events (Dohrenwend et al. 1978). And it can make you feel like you’re in state of crisis. It can provoke a physiological stress response that throws your body out of equilibrium, physically and emotionally. Chronic parenthood stress differs from acute traumatic stress from sudden disasters, accidents, or crimes but impacts the body in powerful ways nonetheless.

As Melanie Merola O’Donnell of the National Organization for Victim Assistance explains, “Chronic stress is one that occurs over and over again – each time pushing the individual toward the edge of his or her state of equilibrium, or beyond.” Scientists have long believed that when your body experiences stress, you react with a “Flight-or-Flight” response designed to mobilize your body into actions. During this time, your adrenalin pumps, your physical senses become more acute, your heart rate increases, and your breathing patterns may change. If this stress is prolonged, exhaustion and burnout are inevitable.

Interestingly, though, newer research shows that men and women tend to experience stress responses differently. The classic “Flight-or-Fight” response appears to be prevalent among men, while women react to stress with what researcher Shelly Taylor et.al. of UCLA describes as a “tend-and-befriend” response. As Taylor states, “Tending involves nurturant activities designed to protect the self and offspring that promote safety and reduce distress; befriending is the creation and maintenance of social networks that may aid in this process.” As such, women gravitate towards social support, characterized by tending to young children and allying with those around them to increase their likelihood of survival and success in stressful situations.

The benefits of social support are huge, both for those experiencing acute, ongoing stress and those in traumatic crises. Having a strong social support network can help you through the difficult times, as well as strengthening your day-to-day coping mechanisms that empower you to manage routine challenges. In addition to building emotional support, love, trust, and understanding, social support groups embrace communication and create a space where people can share experiences and ideas on a personal level and can begin to integrate them. Social support networks, like the Holistic Moms Network, can offer emotional, informational, and instrumental support, and can open up an opportunity for reassurance and to make awareness raising more sustainable – ideas are reinforced and validated. Participation in social support is – in and of itself – also linked to lower rates of depression and psychological distress.

Social connection, both formally and informally, can create physiological well-being and enhance our quality of life. The more diverse one’s social networks, the greater the benefits. Social support can range from an impromptu coffee break with a friend to a formal meeting of a social group or hobby club that you participate in. Connecting on many levels, with friends, co-workers, family members, and individuals who share a specific cause or passion, increases your well-being and reduces stress. Making such connections a priority will help stave off long-term chronic stress exhaustion and help you to regain your equilibrium.

Our guest post today is by Nancy Massotto, the Founder and Executive Director of the Holistic Moms Network, and mother to two boys. She holds three graduate degrees, including a Ph.D. in political science, specializing in gender studies and feminist theory.  Before founding the Holistic Moms Network, Dr. Massotto spent several years working for non-profit research institutes, including the Women’s Research and Education Institute (WREI) and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), while residing in the Washington, D.C. area.  She is passionate about empowering women, supporting mothers, and raising her two sons as naturally and sustainably as she can.

Photo credit: Flickr English106

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The Last Time I Breastfed: Guest Post

I’ve decided to take a little break from blogging (read more about the reasons why), but wanted to continue to provide interesting and insightful content on my blog in the meantime. I asked for help and my tribe answered my call, so for a while I will have guest posts from various bloggers interspersed with posts by me when I am moved to write. Thank you for your understanding. — Amy (CDG)

Today’s guest post comes from Amber who blogs at Strocel.com.

The Last Time I Breastfed

Every morning, now, I look at the calendar and take note of the date. Because every day could be the last day I ever breastfeed my son Jacob. And maybe the last day that I ever breastfeed for the rest of my life. My second-born is weaning, and while I have pangs, there aren’t any more babies on the horizon for me right now.

I breastfed Jacob’s big sister, Hannah, until she was almost three years old. A whole lot of factors led to her weaning, including my desire to conceive again (I wasn’t having much luck), my increasing physical discomfort as my milk supply dwindled, and my belief that Hannah was ready to move on. I took a fairly active role in the process, which happened over a number of months.

I still remember the last time that I nursed Hannah. It was December 22, 2007. Some part of me likes that I know that date, and remember the occasion. Breastfeeding played a big part in my relationship with my daughter in her early years, and it feels fitting that I marked its conclusion, as well as its beginning. I want to do the same thing with my son. I don’t want breastfeeding to pass away without notice, even though that’s exactly what seems to be happening.

Having a snack at the midwives picnic
Breastfeeding my daughter Hannah at a picnic

Jacob is 31 months old, right now – three full months younger than Hannah was the last time that she breastfed. I didn’t expect I would be here so soon with my son, to be honest. Most of my friends and acquaintances nursed their second babies as long or longer than their first. I’m not trying to get pregnant right now, and I have less angst in general over the state of my breastfeeding relationship with Jacob. I thought I would nurse him until his third birthday, at least.

But Jacob, as it turns out, is a different person altogether than Hannah. He’s gradually decreased his nursing all on his own. When he asks to nurse and it’s not a good time, he’s much faster to accept an alternative like a drink of water or a cuddle. There are no tears when I decline his request, no existential anguish bubbling to the surface. He’s a pretty easygoing kid, and he’s moving on to the next phase of his life without a lot of fuss.

I’ve breastfed for the past 6 years, with a break of a little under eight months during my second pregnancy. As I contemplate the potential conclusion of my nursing career, I feel a little wistful. Can it really be possible that I’m not pregnant or breastfeeding? That I am no longer the mother of a nursling? Is this the last gasp of babyhood leaving my family? I’m not sure I’m ready to close this chapter in my life.

Jacob nursing
Nursing Jacob as a baby

And yet, when I consider Jacob’s imminent weaning, I don’t feel sad. I feel remarkably content. For him and for me, this feels like a fitting end to our breastfeeding relationship. We’re both moving towards it in our own way, and at our own pace. He’s ready, and I’m ready. I’m ready to have my body entirely to myself for the first time since I conceived my daughter almost seven years ago. I’m confident that I have given my son the best start I could, and that he has gotten what he needed out of breastfeeding. I don’t feel a need to encourage him back to the breast or prolong our time as a nursing pair.

And so, again today, I looked at the calendar. He nursed once, and I tried to remember the details. Where were we? What was it like? Will this be the last time? I memorize as much as I can, in case Jacob doesn’t breastfeed tomorrow, or the next day, or ever again. If this is the last time, I don’t want to forget it.

I’d love to hear about your own weaning experience. What was it like for you? Do you remember the last time you nursed, or not? Were you happy with how things ended? Please share!

Amber is a crunchy granola mama who lives in suburban Vancouver with her husband and two children. She blogs at Strocel.com, and she runs an online course for moms about living with intention and passion at Crafting my Life.

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Emerging from the fog of depression

“It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s been six weeks since I last blogged. Six. Weeks.

I’d like to say I spent the last six weeks doing something terribly exciting or productive – like taking a European vacation or building a chicken coop or perhaps an entire barn – but the reality is I didn’t do much at all.

I was tired.
I slept. A lot.
I couldn’t focus.
I existed.
I stayed afloat.
But most importantly, I began to wonder if something might be wrong with me.

I’ve been living with generalized anxiety disorder for a couple years now (at least since I was diagnosed), but I’ve never been diagnosed with any other mental illness. I may have had some situational depression in the past, but I muddled through and it always passed.

Although I’ve been seeing a therapist regularly for a while now — especially since my sister died — it wasn’t until I started talking with some friends that I realized I might be depressed. At my worst, I slept in four hours past when my kids got up because I just. couldn’t. get. out. of. bed. I took a nap one day while they played in the backyard. Yes, we have a fence and they were safe, but if something would have happened I would’ve been clueless. Despite thinking about this as I laid in bed about to fall sleep, I didn’t care. It was that feeling of being so tired I honestly didn’t care about my kids’ well-being that triggered something in my brain to think perhaps something was amiss. I’m not generally the type of parent who just “doesn’t care.” Sure I have my “bad” days like anyone else, but this was more than a bad day. I honestly was neglecting my kids on a regular basis and I didn’t feel I had the ability to do anything to change it. I felt lazy and like a failure.

I began to think perhaps I had anemia again since I felt so tired. As I did some online research, I began to look at possible reasons for excessive sleep. Depression popped up. Although I had several factors in my life that could contribute to me being depressed — my sister dying, my dog’s failing health for two weeks which culminated in having to euthanize her, and several other things that I’m not able to blog about — I figured since I wasn’t crying all the time, I wasn’t depressed. After taking a quiz from WebMD and receiving the results, “Your answers are similar to what individuals suffering from major depression usually provide,” I decided to talk to some friends about it.

“Take the first step, no more, no less, and the next will be revealed.”
— Ken Roberts

My friends — who’ve had experience with depression themselves — encouraged me to call my therapist and tell her what was going on — the sooner the better. I decided to email her and told her the same things I told my friends and that my friends thought I should contact her. She spoke with my doctor and they agreed that I was having classic signs of depression and suggested I increase my anxiety medication (Zoloft) by 50 milligrams. I was hesitant to increase it that much and told her I prefer to take an additional 25 mgs first for a few days and then do 50. She said she talked to the doctor and he didn’t think I would have any side effects since I already had the drug in my system and it would only help me start to feel better.

The next morning, which was March 21, I took my new dose. I also had acupuncture that morning (another thing I’ve been doing regularly to try to combat my migraines). I began to feel an almost immediate improvement in my mood. I was no longer tired all the time. I wanted to plan things to do with my kids. Over the course of the next week, I got out in the yard and did a bunch of clean-up work. I signed the kids up for swimming lessons. I began caring about my blog again. I got my hair cut (it had been more than four months since my last cut). I have the motivation to start exercising again, to cook dinner more regularly, to plan a family vacation, to think and care about the future.

I’m not sure when the depression started — it was definitely a gradual buildup starting after my sister died — but I feel so very fortunate I was able to recognize some of the signs and connect the dots with the help of my friends and my therapist. It had really gotten to the point where it was no longer manageable. Now that I’m on the right dose of medication for me for right now, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t feel hopeless or simply disconnected from my life. I can live it again.

I’ve worried in the past about “needing” to take medication to treat my anxiety. It was absolutely not my first choice, but after trying many other things I realized it was the right choice for right now. I don’t know that I will ever go off medication for anxiety/depression, but that’s not something I have to worry about right now. Right now I know that it’s helping me be a functional person and an attentive parent and that’s good enough for me.

In the past week I’ve noticed a significant improvement in how I feel and am able to function. My days aren’t perfect now, but I’m not shooting for perfection. I am hopeful. I am finding more joy in my life. I am excited to do things with my kids again. I am excited for spring and gardening and baby chickens! I still miss my sister like crazy. I don’t think that will ever change. But I’m able to live. To quote Robert Frost, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.”

I’ve added the symptoms of depression below. If you think you may have depression, I strongly encourage you to talk to your doctor.

And now for a bit of bloggy housekeeping:
Moving forward on my blog, I will have some guest posts from various wonderful bloggers while I continue to blog as I can. Just wanted to give you a heads up that it won’t be all Amy all the time, or as has been the case for the past six weeks, NO Amy all the time. 😉 I am grateful these bloggers have chosen to share their posts with me. If you have a post you think would work well on my blog, feel free to email me: crunchydomesticgoddess AT gmail DOT com. Thank you.

Detecting Depression from WebMD

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:

  • difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • fatigue and decreased energy
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • irritability, restlessness
  • loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • overeating or appetite loss
  • persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) — or the deaf hotline at 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889).

Photo credit: Flickr: jronaldlee and aidanmorgan

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Booby Traps Set Up Breastfeeding Moms for Failure

Many mothers start out with the best of intentions when it comes to breastfeeding. Health experts agree that “breast is best” and the benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother are numerous. Yet while a lot of people give lip service to the importance of breastfeeding, there isn’t a lot of support for women once they make the decision to breastfeed. In fact, our society offers very little support to breastfeeding moms and often sabotages breastfeeding altogether.

How many times have you heard about a mom being told to cover up her nursing child on an airplane or at an amusement park or at a store or at a restaurant or even asked to leave or had the police called on her? How many times have you seen formula ads in parenting magazines and on television? How many times have you read a magazine article giving incorrect breastfeeding advice (or should I say formula advice) or heard of a well-intentioned pediatrician giving parenting advice that compromises the breastfeeding relationship? Has a can of unwanted infant formula ever mysteriously appeared at your doorstep?

The examples above all have one thing in common – they are Breastfeeding Booby Traps. Best For Babes (a non-profit that believes “ALL moms deserve to make an informed feeding decision and to be cheered on, coached and celebrated without pressure, judgment or guilt, whether they breastfeed for 2 days, 2 months 2 years, or not at all”) describes Breastfeeding Booby Traps asthe cultural and institutional barriers that prevent moms from achieving their personal breastfeeding goals.”

Some Booby Traps include:

  • sending moms home from the hospital with a “gift bag” of formula,
  • having family and/or friends who are uncomfortable with you nursing and ask when you are going to give the baby a bottle,
  • or having a pediatrician who is unable to answer your questions about breastfeeding.

This post is not to debate breastfeeding vs. formula-feeding. Parents have the right to decide how to feed their baby. But they also have the right to be presented with factual information and the right to not have their feeding decisions undermined. Best For Babes is working to help accomplish that.

Here are some more Booby Traps that have set the blogosphere abuzz.

Amber from Speak Her Truth wrote Marketing and Breastfeeding, Who Hasn’t Been Duped? and said she is not going “to join in on this back and forth bashing of breastfeeding vs formula feeding mothers.”

As long as we fight amongst ourselves on this one symptom we cannot unite against the disease. The disease of markets that profit solely on the belief that our bodies are not good enough, not good enough to be sexually attractive, not good enough to give birth and not good enough to nourish our babies afterwards. A simple statement that could bring down this entire empire of insecurity: “Not only are we good enough, we are better just the way we are.”

Maya from Musings of a Marfan Mom wrote about Babble’s partnership with Similac – in which Similac sponsors Babble’s Breastfeeding Guide – after first reading about it on PhD in Parenting. Maya said:

You might ask why I care whether a formula company sponsors a breastfeeding portion of a website. I care, because I want women to have a choice in how they feed their children. I care, because women aren’t being given proper information on nursing, which sabotages the attempts of women who want to breastfeed. I care because, believe it or not, formula advertising has been shown over and over again to have a negative effect on breastfeeding relationships. Formula advertising not only affects women’s choices in how to feed their children, whether they are conscious of it or not, but it results in drastically higher costs for families who choose to feed their children formula (who do you think ends up paying for the “free” samples given at the hospital and sent in the mail, as well as all those commercials and Internet ads?). That affects their choice as well.

Tumbling Boobs pointed out its not just parenting websites promoting Similac’s latest marketing ploy and included screen captures of a few medical providers that are actively promoting Similac’s feeding hotline to moms seeking breastfeeding help.

Annie from PhD in Parenting also pointed out that even WebMD’s breastfeeding guide is sponsored by Gerber (which is owned by Nestle). There are six Gerber ads on the page that is supposed to help mothers with breastfeeding! Annie, who said, “There has to be a way to stop this incredibly unethical and predatory infant formula marketing on websites pretending to offer breastfeeding support,” urges her readers to take action and lists a few ways to get involved.

Jem wrote a review of the book The Politics of Breastfeeding (which I will be adding to my must read list). She believes the book should be read not only by nursing moms, but by all women.

Reading the book frustrated me on so many levels. I’ve talked before about Nestle’s marketing practices before, but it goes beyond that. The origins of formula; unnecessary death of babies in both developed and ‘third world’ countries; the undermining of women because we’re “not good enough”/”not reliable enough” to maintain life; the supplementing with formula without permission from mums; the strange habit of separating babies from their mums in hospital, etc.

This book has changed the way I look at so many aspects of birth and infant care.

Taking a more light-hearted approach to the subject is Dou-la-la who’s humorous, but also disturbing post Breast is Best, Sponsored by Simfamil: Don Draper Explains It All For Us is sure to be enjoyed by many a Mad Men fan. Heck, I thought it was awesome and I’ve only watched about 15 minutes of Mad Men.

What is the solution? How do we stop undermining breastfeeding moms?
I think the best start is if formula companies would start following the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing Breast-Milk Substitutes. We all know formula exists. We all know where we can get some (even for free), if we so desire. The marketing and the deceit need to stop. If you are upset about the Babble/Similac partnership or the WebMD/Gerber/Nestle partnership, follow Annie’s lead and take action. Let the companies know you disagree with their choices and why and then spread the word.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

More Breastfeeding Booby Trap Posts:

Photo by benklocek via Flickr

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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