Monday, November 19, 2012

Webster Chiropractic: Not Just for Pregnancy

I have blogged about my hip/sacroiliac problems before. They were so bad that my husband and I considered not having any more children, and then surprise! In August of last year, I found myself pregnant with my third baby. We started that pregnancy with trepidation. I had heard stories of a woman in similar circumstances not walk after the birth of her third baby and I was terrified that would happen to me. As the pregnancy progressed, I was again surprised to find that my hip wasn't giving me the trouble that I thought it would. I made it all the way to the third trimester without much complaint.

It was then that I noticed that the baby was stuck in a very awkward position. It felt like she was trapped against my hip bone and this was uncomfortable to me. It must have been uncomfortable for her too. At times she certainly seemed unhappy. Since I was obviously dealing with positioning issues, I turned to Spinning Babies to try to get the baby to move. One of the best ways to reposition a baby is using a Rebozo. Lucky for me, a doula training was being held around that time in my area so I signed up and volunteered to the resident pregnant lady for everyone to practice on.

We found that the rebozo helped but she still seemed trapped. She wasn't breech but both my midwife and I agreed that a referral to a Webster Chiropractor would be helpful. Thanks to a recommendation from a woman at church, I found a chiropractor in my area. Since then I have realized that she is the most recommended Webster chiropractor in Seattle.

Let me tell you, finding Dr. Gita was an answer to prayer. She informed me that Webster Chiropractic is not just for pregnancy and baby positioning but that its for pelvic balance and issues impacting the  sacrum at any time of life and for any gender. If only I had known! I could have started seeing her when I was postpartum with Belle and saved myself 2 years of discomfort and difficulty.

The Webster technique is a specific chiropractic analysis and diversified adjustment. The goal of the adjustment is to reduce the effects of sacral subluxation/ SI joint dysfunction. In so doing neuro-biomechanical function in the pelvis is improved.

Dr. Larry Webster, founder of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association discovered this adjustment as a safe means to restore proper pelvic balance and function. This specific sacral analysis can be used on all weight bearing individuals to determine S/I joint dysfunction/ sacral subluxation and is therefore applicable for the entire population. The assessment includes heel flexion to buttocks, with restricted flexion indicating the affected SI joint. Correction is made with a diversified, sacral adjustment. It is used on all weight bearing individuals presenting with this biomechanical restriction. Common symptoms include (but are not limited to) low back pain, sciatic neuralgia, and symptoms associated with sacral subluxation and/ or S/I joint dysfunction.

Since I started with the Webster technique during my third trimester, we were able to get the baby to move from LOP/LOT to LOA. I felt more comfortable and I did not experience any of that tightness in my hip and back that I experienced at the end of Belle's pregnancy. After birth, I did not have any flair ups. Each time I start to feel the familiar ache, I was able to get an adjustment and it would go away.

With my previous chiropractor, the technique she used was not as gentle and my hip actually seemed more likely to slip out of joint after an adjustment.  I stopped seeing her and started seeing the Upper Cervical Chiropractor, which helped but was not as effective as the Webster technique. I go more time between the first signs of discomfort with Dr. Gita than I did with the UC.

I was so surprised to learn that Webster is not just for pregnancy. As a doula and as a mother, I know that Webster is the thing to do for breech babies, but it goes so far beyond that. Its not just pregnancy, its not just birth (though that is the population who frequents a Webster DC most), but its for any one with SI, hip or sciatic issues. Both my father and my grandfather could have greatly benefited from this type of treatment.

Another funny thing is that both my older children are prone to the exact same sublaxation that I am so when they visit Dr. Gita, she performs the same adjustment on them as she does on me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I wish I had known

When Willem was around 18 months old, he read the letters on my husband's T-Shirt, complete with ASL fingerspelling. "C-A-L...Cal."

I was blown away but at the same time totally lost as how to encourage next steps. I knew I wanted to avoid drilling, flash cards and employ child directed learning. Even when he started recognizing all the letters, I still didn't know where to go next. Now I regret that I didn't seek out what I could to learn about the natural development of reading skills then.

Even as a preschool teacher, I learned how to instruct children in pre-reading skills, but I was not taught the next steps. We were basically trained to leave that to kindergarten teachers. Additionally, I was familiar with the European model of early education which maintained that children were not instructed in reading and writing until age 8 or third grade--obviously not a popular practice in the United States. What I didn't realize--and what I wish I had known--is that it has been a tradition in Jewish and Japanese communities for children as young as three years old to start reading, naturally in a child directed way. That definitely would have sparked my interested and I would have been all years to learn how it is those ends were achieved, in order to decide for myself if that was developmentally appropriate (much in the same way I was incredulous about elimination communication but learned that it is indeed possible).

Its better late than never, though. I didn't know about EC when Willem was a baby and started late with him, but when Belle was born, I did have that knowledge and started with her from the beginning. And now it is now with reading, Belle is starting late (based on the following steps written about in the book The Secret of Natural Readers (available for free download).

The book offers case studies of a number of children who were intent on reading at a young age and led their parents along in learning about letters, their sounds and words to the extent that they were definitively reading during early preschool. There is some background, historical information as well as a discussion of implications for early readers in the school system, but the meat of the book is Chapter 11 where the How, When and Where are described. Parents are offered a framework for how to support their children's print awareness and tips for bridging to the next steps (which is what I needed). The strength of the book is that is employs "talk story" to illustrate the methods that children found most interesting and helpful to inform their skills.

One thing I realized is that teaching reading comes more naturally to some parents more than others. I definitely needed this book to provide a framework and introduction to reading acquisition because I did not figure it out on my own.

With that information, now I feel like I can run with it and find creative and fun ways to turn phonemic awareness into games. Belle, who is now 42 months old, is totally in to it. She has a love for story time and reading out-loud that Willem is just discovering (for some reason, he was totally resistant to sitting down and being read to until just recently). We find that the car is a great time to sing songs about the letters and sounds, in particular the LeapFrog Song for the letter sounds. For digraphs, we sing a variation of "Here we are together" that put letters together like B and R or S and H (Belle's favorite AND its helps to calm a fussy baby).

Stages for the Development of Reading Skills:
Stage 1: A preliminary period of gaining awareness and general knowledge about books and prints (starting any time during the first year).
Stage 2: Learning the names of the letters and acquiring a beginning sight vocabulary (starting between twelve and eighteen months)
Stage 3: Learning the sounds of the letters (starting between twenty and twenty-four months)
Stage 4: Putting words together (starting between twenty-four and thirty-two months).
Stage 5: Reading aloud from familiar books (starting between twenty and thirty months).
Stage 6: Sounding out short, unfamiliar words (starting around thirty-two to thirty-four months).
Stage 7: Independent reading of easy, unfamiliar books (around thirty-sex months). 
Stage 8: Reading for enjoyment of content (around forty-eight months).
Other resources we are using include, The Starfall Speedway Game, Bob Books, and The Reading Lesson. Pinterest is also a great resource for DIY reading games. Also recommended to me was Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons but the online reviews convinced me that The Reading Lesson would be more kid-friendly. So far, the guide regarding attention span ability by child's age (3 pages at a time for a 5 year old) is right on.

Willem also requested that I start teaching him piano lessons and after a generous gift from a neighbor complete with Teacher's Guide and all the Level A books, we are having lessons about twice a week.

But you are probably wondering, what did Willem decide regarding homeschool? In my last homeschool post, I mentioned it was up to him. He did decide to go to kindergarten (the school is just around the corner from our home) and he is really enjoying the classroom culture and the other children. In the last 2 weeks, the novelty has worn off and I am beginning to suspect that near Christmas time, he might tell me that he's ready to switch to homeschool. I will cross that bridge when we get to it, but for now, I am trying to keep a low level of academic parental involvement that runs parallel to the school curriculum. Maybe that will offer a low-stake way of getting some positive homeschool interactions under our belt and build up our confidence and comfort with working together as teacher and student.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: The Conflict

The Conflict, written by Elisabeth Badinter tells about the cross-section of feminism and attachment parenting, making the case that the attachment parenting movement is a retrenchment from the feminist movement of the 1970's and 1980's. The book is not subtle about its main argument: Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women.

I'll be honest, I was dreading reading this book because its very common for books written about me (because I am one of those "modern mothers" she is writing about) to be offensive in their characterizations of their subjects. Not surprisingly, I was right. The author writes about AP mothers, relying on research and prior journalism to make her case, rather than actually interviewing any women who were examples of the mothers of whom she was writing. In doing so, she fails to go to the source to understand modern mothers' motives and decision-making.

In describing the historical arch of women adapting to culture and society amidst the changes of the last 60 years, Badinter paints a picture of mothers today responding with dissatisfaction to the way they were parented by their mothers 20-30 years ago.  On that, she does indeed accurately capture my experience. I am the daughter of a "liberated" woman and after seeing the gender roles she lived, I decided I wanted a different kind of life for myself when I became a mother.

My mother who was a teenager in the late 60's, worked my whole childhood. Unlike her childhood, I was not cared for by grandmothers while my mother worked. My grandmother was a real anomaly of the early 50's. Influenced by the entry of women into the work force during WWII, she took my mother to work for her early months. After that point, my mother was cared for by grandmothers until she entered kindergarten.

Both my mother and grandmother were lucky to be able to bring their babies to work for the first few months, but after that point, I was in childcare from 9 months on and I remember spending a large portion of my childhood in after school child care, at my mother's office, and with my bipolar father, while my mother was cared for by her grandmothers. Throughout my childhood, I often found myself reaching out to my mother but feeling guilty that I was interrupting her work to do so.

Because of my experience, I quickly realized that I would be able to be more available to my children by staying home to care for them. At the same time though, I was educated and found that the pace of staying at home with a baby was a hard adjustment intellectually. My graduate program and thesis was just the outlet I needed.

Because of my education in child development, I easily incorporated the research regarding attachment parenting into my parenting philosophy. Scientifically, breastfeeding makes sense, co-sleeping makes sense, homebirthing/out-of-hospital/unmedicated birth with midwives makes sense. Politically and philosophically, homeschooling makes sense.Though Badinter does a good job describing the research regarding the benefits to mothers and babies to the name parenting behaviors, her tone remains snide toward mothers who seek to be guided by the research promoting healthy development in little humans.

Contrary to what Badinter portrays in The Conflict, attachment parenting is not mutually exclusive to women working. Instead of attacking an employment/economic system that compels people to live to work, she attacks mothers for choosing the path they feel brings them the most happiness in the face of such a inhospitable and family un-friendly system. It seems evident to me that Badinter is not familiar with some of my favorite books on the topic of family friendly, worker-friendly emplyoment policies, namely: Equally Shared ParentingRadical Homemakers, The War on Moms, and The Motherhood Manifesto. Though she had nothing but disdain for the choices I--and my peers--are making in regards to making motherhood and womanhood work, I find a good deal of satisfaction in envisioning and engendering a part-time worker/part-time parenting team with my husband. I do believe that the longer we are at it, the easier it will become; in part, because we will get better as we go along and because cultural and policy changes will occur to be more respectful of workers' desires to work to live and then to life fully outside of work.

The greatest failing of The Conflict was the author's inability to take into account the ocean in which women are swimming. The author appears to blame children and parenthood for why women and men cannot compete in the marketplace of professionalism, without taking thought on the ways that professionalism is a cultural construct that did not develop in a way to promote the natural state of procreation and parenthood that ensure the survival of the species. The history of employment is built on the twin pillars of slavery and exploitation--the big boss man taking advantage of all that a serf/laborer/employee will give him, and then twist his arm to take some more. At some point, a generation is going to turn the employment structure around to value the workers are the basis for the success of companies so that workers, of whom 80-95% are parents, make a living wage and are present and involved as the primary caregivers to their children. Badinter appears to throw her hands up in defeat towards any efforts to alter attitude towards workers' family lives without taking the next step saying that its just a matter of time before culture progresses in such a way that employment respects and values the contribution parents make towards an equal and balanced society.

In the end, the author concludes with a point that I can wholeheartedly agree, "insisting that the mother sacrifice the woman delays her decision to have a child and possibly discourages her from having one at all." if only that had been the framing used for this book, instead of an attack on parenting in general. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Homeschool Plans and Prep 2012

I don't know yet if we will be a 100% homeschooling family this fall or not. Our neighborhood elementary school is right now the street from our house and my son knows its up to him to choose whether he goes to afternoon kindergarten or if he stays home to carry on with our homeschool curriculum. Supposedly, he will make his decision after he gets a tour of the kindergarten classroom later this month.

As we've jumped into things, I am surprised to find that we are doing quite well. By following his lead, we have practiced first grade math skills (counting to 100, counting by tens, addition, subtraction). He's been introduced to multiplication and division and gets the concepts. Physics has also been a big topic in the house (thank you, Angry Birds). Thankfully, he has encountered a surprising amount of learning opportunities and extension activities through the game, including a love for construction, archery/sling shots and storytelling. He claims he wants us to make an Angry Birds birthday cake but we'll see where his interests lay 6 months from now.

We have also been discovery some excellent resources that he is adopting into our curriculum. I love that he is leading his learning and that my daughter who is two years younger is also getting into the fun and starting to guide me to what she is interested in understanding. Between all the materials we've found, I feel confident in my ability to facilitate their learning for the whole year.

In my more anxious moments, I fear not knowing or being able to teach my son to read in the next year. While I'm familiar with the methods of Reggio Emilio and other European methods which introduces reading around the 3rd grade, I know that many children do show the interest in learning during the kindergarten/first grade year if not earlier. I expect at some point, Willem will show that he is determined to learn to read but I'm not sure if I am comfortable if he were to not show interest in the next year. That, I recognize, is more my problem than his, and could become a much greater problem if he were pushed to do something he is not ready to do. Given his personality, it could be quite detrimental. My goal is to find a common ground where we continue to follow the curriculum and diligently cover pre-reading skills and concepts in the hopes that I do not push him too hard and that he discovers the desire to crack the code of written language.

Due to these anxieties, I've built in regular reading skills into our curriculum using the fairy tales from Oak Meadow, and their first grade curriculum. I also attempt to work through one Bob book with him each week and then to set out Brain Quest worksheets practicing handwriting and letter shapes. Don't bother hating on these strategies because I know. I'm not a fan either, but its a token effort to at least keep appearances that we're working on learning to read. At least, I recognize it and am willing to admit it.

Life Sciences
He's more interested in biology and math, which is both my husband and I highly value and appreciate. Because of this our curriculum is very heavy in life cycles, botany and agriculture, environmental science, animal behavior and physiology. Thankfully both the book series Herb Fairies and Beatrix Potter's Complete Works combine reading in with all the biology concepts that he cares to learn about. Both also emphasize nature illustration which is a hobby of my husbands so there are times that the two of them sit down at the table together and work on various illustration projects. Both series also extend into the kitchen and garden so we continue to try to produce our own food and then use math concepts to cook the food. We will also be using the book Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades to mesh our garden efforts to our local environment.

Borrowing from Waldorf, we are following the Pagan Wheel of the Year to observe natural life cycles of the seasons and moon phases. This summer he participated in a week long wilderness camp where he spent all day outside exploring farm and forest. I love the idea of the school year length nature preschool that convenes once a week from September to June. I have 4 objections to it based on known habits and needs of my family: 1) too expensive ($2000 per child), 2)requires a commute, 3) starts too early in the morning and 4) weekly is too much for our routine. However, there is a wooded area near my house where we could spend 2 days a month outside all day exploring and discovering nature. I plan to sync out wilderness days to the new and full moons each month and use this Handbook for Nature Study for homeschooling families, in addition to Herb Fairies since it tells the stories of children fending for themselves in the forest.

Music and Movement
Willem has also expressed interest in taking piano lessons so I am looking for a teacher who can get him started. He will continue gymnastics classes and he is excitedly looking forward to turning 6 when he can start the tumbling class. Watching the Olympics has only got him more intent on learning floor exercises so he can run, flip and fly through the air.

My husband says that he learned to read by his family's tradition of reading scriptures every night before bed. Starting when Willem turned 5, we have been reading through The Book of Mormon (my favorite book of scripture next to the New Testament). That is part of our bedtime routine: usually we read some fairy tales, say a family prayer and then read 10-15 verses from a chapter. There is a book on teaching children to read using the Book of Mormon but I'll admit. I'm not a fan.

Each Monday night, we join together for Family Home Evening where we review morals, values and ethical rules of conduct. After a brief lesson on some skill or concept, we play games, and share a treat. This is also a time for singing songs. Lastly, the children attend 2 hours of religious education each Sunday when we attend church where they are learning the basics of Jesus's teachings and God's plan for people. We likely will be visiting various churches in the coming year as we discuss the meaning of religion and culture with an emphasis on finding precious perspectives on truth in all religious paths.

That's about all I have planned for this year. I think it will be plenty--plenty of fun that is!

We started homeschooling in January when Willem turned 5 and gave ourselves a 9 month trial period seeing how well we interacted around learning activities (I don't have good memories of working with my father who was a teacher as a child so I worried that similar patterns would bleed into my parenting relationships with my children). Thankfully, that has not been the case and I am been impressed with how much my son has learned and how well we are doing with structuring our days and weeks for learning. That's been enough to show me that we can do it and it can be good for our family. I just needed the confidence boost of a trial period.

Links to Resources
Oak Meadow First Grade curriculum
Herb Fairies by Kimberly Gallagher
Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Baker
Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter
Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades
Handbook of Nature Study
Wheel of the Year
Bob Books
Angry Birds
BrainQuest Worksheets
Sunday School Lessons (Willem is in the CTR-4 class this year)
Learning to Read Using the Book of Mormon

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Test Kitchen: Young Children Learning Responsibility

The other night my three year old asked me when she would be able to make dinner all by herself. She followed that up with, "When I'm a mama, I'm going to make dinner for all my childrens!" She says that rather frequently. Sometimes I think that means that she doesn't like the way I do things and want to do it her own way--at least, that's what older children mean when they say that...

I feel quite strongly about the value of family work and that it is at home that children learn to work. At first it is through the example of seeing their parents work hard to maintain and care for the home and all the people in it, but from a young age, children can be involved in household care. Being a part of clean-up from early toddlerhood is one of the most obvious ways that children become involved in work, but, as my children have shown me, the kitchen is also a very excellent place to extend that learning.

In my early childhood education training, recipe boards were really common to provide opportunities for language arts, fine motor and math skills to develop. I'll be honest, I don't do that much at home, though perhaps I should...

With all those thoughts swirling around my head, I realized that a plan is starting to take shape. We're 5 years into this parenting thing and I've figured out some practices that have worked for our family in teaching my children the necessity of contributing to the overall needs of the household. It feels good to feel like I got something figured out. But now my thoughts turn towards the future, where do we go from here.

Below is an outline of what has worked with my children thus far, listed by ages when certain tasks are likely to be developmentally appropriate (with typically developing children):

0-2 years: babywearing from newborn to young toddler, then parallel play with utensils and kitchen materials while parent is cooking, transitioning to helping with simple tasks like dumping, shaking, retrieving ingredients.
2 years: put plates on table
3 years: fully set table with plates, silverware and cups, clear off table
3 years: take turns helping in the kitchen with dinner preparation (2-3 nights a week per child where the focus is on helping them learn and practice tasks)
3 years: help load dinner washer (minimally)
4+ years: increasing opportunities in more complex tasks
5 years: stationed at sink to rinse dishes before handing them off to be placed in the dishwasher

Now the next milestones I look forward to discovering is at what age is a young child capable to fully preparing a simple meal for the whole family and when can a child load a dishwasher without supervision? And what could possibly be the most simple meal for a child to learn to prepare?

The first meal I ever remember preparing (and being taught) was Scrambled eggs. Easy enough to break some eggs, mix them up, pour them into a hot pan and scramble. Next I got adventurous and put in salsa and some spices to make Southwest scrambled eggs. If I remember correctly, I was 8 or 9 and my parents didn't put much effort into teaching my cooking until that time. Both my older children show me that they really enjoy being in the kitchen and being a part of food preparation. So it makes me wonder, will they learn simple recipes before 8 or 9 years old?

Then there is the holy grail of parenting, when will they be able to take some of the work load off me? When will they be capable of significantly contributing in reducing the amount of housework the parents do?

I can't reliably look to my childhood because my parents did not place much emphasis on sharing household, particularly mealtime responsibility. Perhaps being an only child had something to do with it because I do find that somehow having more children makes sharing seem a lot more natural.

Currently, my oldest children take turns with setting the table and clearing it off. For one week, the same child sets the table each night while the other child clears it off and the next week it is switched. Both will readily admit that they look forward to the time when their baby sister can take over that job.

My son asked me what he'll get to do when baby sister is old enough to help and I told him that he'll get to move loading the dishwasher. I may try in a few months to get one child to do both setting and clearing off the table while the other helps with dishes.

I have also considered having a designated kitchen helper (dare we call them sous chef?) in the kitchen a couple of nights each week. This would be perfect with 3-4 kids over the age of 3 so my family is not quite there yet. However, I do enjoy when my 3 year old spontaneously joins me in the kitchen and we cook together. Give her a stool and a wooden spoon and she is very happy, especially if you let her do some dumping.

I find that one of the ways that my children feel loved is through connecting with our food and it starts in the garden. They truly enjoy the process of planning, growing, harvesting and cooking what we grow. I realize that I can love my children through these activities and cooking and baking is a natural extension of that. Shopping can be too. Costco in particular makes my life a little bit happier since my children are happy to come with me for the "zamples!" as my 3 year old says it. I enjoy that time talking with them about our meal plans and what we can make with the various ingredients we take from the shelves.

These are some of the reasons that the thought of sending my children to school does not appeal to me. They are learning some very valuable concepts through the shared experience of everyday life. Its not about exploiting their labor as much as it is connecting with one another, learning necessary life skills, and discussing academic and complex thoughts while using real-life applications.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The 10-20 year midwifery plan

I've had a number of friends who are in basically the same situation with me: mothers of young (or frequently homeschooling) children who also have a passion for birth and a desire to *someday* be a midwife. I've been trying to take it slow, but also seriously. Its a constant balancing act but with the mentoring of the midwife I was able to apprentice with, I saw a way that it could be done. My preceptor basically did just what we are attempting to do now, but she was doing it 25 years ago.

The following is a list based what I've learned from her example and my limited experience in the area. I like the way that I have entered the field so far. I personally feel like direct entry midwifery and training through apprenticeship is the way to go for mothers who do not feel that full, or even part time schooling will work for their family or their budget.

I've also included the approximate cost of the things I can.

1) Read, take notes, outline and annotate Holistic Midwifery Vol 1 and Vol 2 by Anne Frey (about $290 on amazon). Also get the Diagnostic Manual and Healing Passage (another $200)
2) Take a class on birth assisting or midwifery skills lab. Birth Assistants NW has a good class but the AAMI Skillslab is also really good. ($450)
3) Watch midwifery skills training videos like those from BirthJoy Midwifery.
4) Take NRP, CPR, AIDS/bloodborne pathogens training. Karen Strange's class is basically the only way to go and that is $220. CPR for Professionals is about $100
5) Start apprenticing with a midwife.
6) Work towards CPM designation through NARM.
7) Take additional classes/workshops/seminars (doula training, breastfeeding education, Rebozo, herbs, emergency skills, etc.) Classes are generally somewhere between $40 and can be upwards of $400-500. Keep a record of all trainings in a portfolio.
8) Take any additional classes required by the state for licensure (this may become the case in Washington state if certain advocacy efforts are successful).

I love the work at your own pace nature of this approach and how one can shift focus at any time. Right before I got pregnant with Elizabeth, I felt like it was a good time to share my time between my children and my work/training. Now with a new baby in the house, I'm obviously taking some time off, but I will soon be trying to take on a lesser load than I had when I was pregnant.

During my apprenticeship (I don't want to believe that its over, but I think it might be for now...), I felt so awkward every time I was asked what my plans for becoming a midwife are. It has been a process to really own the answer that feels the most correct for me. Maybe sometime soon I will be able to answer with confidence that I am a midwife in training on the 10-20 year plan to starting my own practice and becoming licensed. However, given how fulfilling my experiences during my pregnancy were, it just feels right to do it that way.

Who knows maybe that could be accomplished in 5 years? It will be interesting to see what the future brings...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A week in a full and joyful life

Every so often, I realize that I am very blessed in my life. I love that my family has a balance where I am able to pursue work that is meaningful to me and to be engaged with my children in their learning and play.

This last week, I've been busy with a project I've been working on. The midwife who attended Elizabeth's birth and I worked with as her student during my pregnancy is on the board of directors for the state midwifery association. She is working on a committee to reform the licensing laws in Washington to make it easier for the state to evaluate people's applications to become licensed. I've been working closely with her to develop the new paperwork. On June 5th, she invited me to go to the state capitol to present to the council that reports to the licensing board. Its been a dream of mine to work as an adviser on public policy issues so I've been really excited about and enjoying the opportunity.

I also got the registration forms for kindergarten for Willem. He and I both are leaning towards homeschooling but the elementary school is right down the street. I want to at least do what it takes to give him the opportunity if he wants it. I'm happy to continue his learning at home and we've been having a lot of fun with it. This morning he asked me, "What is the number before infinity called?" I'm impressed by that question!

In spite of considering kindergarten at the nearby public school, I did order the appropriate homeschool curriculum for Willem from Oak Meadow. I've been enjoying reading their books on learning and teaching theory and I am already better parent for it.

I was finally able to get the kindergarten forms because, Peter finally came home with the news that he will be staying for another year to finish his PhD. He had applied to a university for a job opening there but did not get it. We are not surprised but once he's finished with school, he will look so much more attractive to them. Right now, he has his name on 4 publications but by the end of the next school year, his name should be on 10 or 11 and he'll be Peter W. Alderks, Ph.D. He is also applying to another school in California but he expects that the result with be the same as with the first school.

I'm just happy to know where we will be living this next year. I am very tempted to get a dog since the children want one very much and we have a perfect yard for one. We also have the perfect yard for a chicken coop and a rabbit hutch but I'll compromise on a dog. The children are also very much wanting a large trampoline and a playground set for the background. I've heard that they resell in this area quite quickly and for between 1/2 and 3/4 of the original purchase price, so I will admit that I am considering it.

Its been very hard for me wanting to live life to the fullest and create an enjoyable childhood for my children and to also know that nothing we do right now is permanent. I've decided that it is better to live like we are going to be staying here and move when its time to move and say goodbye to all we've built up and created here than it is to constantly feel like everything about our life is temporary. So part of me want to say, yes! Let's get a dog, a trampoline and a playground set, plant our garden, build a coop and raise chickens! The other part of me says that its too expensive, we won't get our money's worth and it will be such a hassle to move or sell or say goodbye to those things.

The baby is doing well though we are still struggling with her latch. Its either tight and uncomfortable for me or its more comfortable and she slips off frequently, swallowing a lot of air which is resulting in a good deal of spitting up and crying. Its not as stressful as the early days with my first child since I understand what is happening and am working with it. Every couple of weeks, we see a craniosacral therapist to help her open her mouth for a deeper latch and to promote proper growth of her jaw and face. We also see our pediatric chiropractor weekly. I'm looking forward to having some resolution with this, and I hope it doesn't involve a labial frenectomy to release her upper lip. We've been doing all the therapy in order to avoid that. I keep telling myself that if she is still spitting up and frequently gassy when she's 3 1/2 months old, I will seriously consider the frenectomy. I'm praying we can avoid it. Other than all that, I've been having a lot of fun with my play sessions with the baby. She's working on social smiles and is overall a pretty easy baby (either that or I'm getting better at this new mom thing).

So there you are, that is what is going on with us. We are well and happy for the most part. Peter and I are truly blessed to have each other. Our children bring us so much joy and appreciation for life and we have a great deal of fun teaching them. I can't say I grew up with a particularly happy childhood so I'm honest when I say that the last year has been the happiest of my life. I'm really looking forward to continue to build on the work of the last year to make the coming year (thinking along the academic calendar) even better.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Blessed Daughters

I have daughters now. Two of them. The reality is just starting to set in. With my first daughter, I've basically spent the last two years wondering how in the heck am I going to raise a girl in this world? At first, I didn't feel like I had many answers and more than anything I was feeling intense responsibility mixed with confusion and a healthy dose of anxiety. I've come a long way and since Beth's birth a couple of weeks ago, I've had some breakthroughs. I feel more prepared, grounded and capable of raising daughters than I have before.

The reason for the breakthrough is probably brought on by my recent reflections on the phases of womanhood and how to honor and celebrate not just pregnancy and birth but womanhood in general. I had planned a blessingway/mother's blessing and prayer circle with a friend to honor and celebrate becoming a mother to my third baby, but that baby had a different plan and she was born before we could have the party. It was going to be a fun party so I didn't want to cancel it all together so I figured it was a special opportunity to adapt the blessingway into a welcoming celebration for a new girl into her matriarchal community. Since I had already thought of two different times to honor a woman (both during pregnancy and at birth), I starting thinking of times in between those times when a woman could be honored in a rite of passage ceremony and blessed by the women in her life.

I came up with a list of a number of times when a girl could be initiated into various stages of development. They are adapted for girls who belong to the LDS community and culture. You can read about them here if you are interested.

Its interesting that the one that I've been thinking about most lately is menarche, or the transition to menstruation which has symbolically been linked to the beginning of womanhood and is literally linked to the beginning of fertility. I know a number of friends who have asked about how to honor menarche for their daughters. It even came up at Beth's welcoming party. Another friend told me about these books: Becoming Peers: Mentoring Girls into Womanhood and The Diva's Guide to Getting Your Period both written by Deanna Lam. Since I'm babymooning and in need of reading material, I got both of them to add to my library in preparation for a few years from now when my daughters will be experiencing menarche.

Now I'm thinking about how I will want to teach my children, not just my daughters but my son also, about sexuality and the biology of their bodies. One of the first questions I had to settle for myself was to define when I believed womanhood began and when a girl becomes a maiden.

In the Maiden Mother Crone model used by Deanna L'am, a girl is a maiden until menarche when she becomes a woman. Another traditional view is that maidenhood ended when a girl lost her virginity which I just find troubling, especially in a world with a history of arranged and forced marriages and a rape culture. However, I seem to have a slightly different take on maidenhood. In my mind, maidenhood is a distinct stage after childhood and it starts at puberty. Then it ends at taking on adult responsibility either through choosing marriage, setting out on one's own or becoming a mother (and hopefully for my children, becoming a parent will come after marriage).

I see the span of time between menarche to motherhood as a preparatory period, like an initiation to fertility. This time offers the opportunity for a young woman to understand her cycle and her sexuality before she can be burned by participating in sex not knowing the implications or being ill-prepared to handle the consequences of such participation. With mentoring and education, she can know the risks she is taking with her life (thinking STIs, unplanned pregnancy) and she will be prepared to deal with whatever consequences she experiences if she makes that that choice can bring. Hindsight being so reliable, I like to think if I had known to think of it that way when I got my period, I would not have had sex for the first time at 14.

My theory for my own daughters is that I will teach my daughters about fertility signs soon before or soon after menarche and gift a book like Cycle Savvy (written by the author of Taking Charge of Your Fertility.

Preferably, my daughters can experience a phase between maidenhood and motherhood which I like to call priestesshood. This is a period of time when a young woman can dedicate her life to an important work, apprenticeship or service. Many young women serve missions for their churches, but many also study, go into military, or the Peace Corps. I consider this a time for young women to gain experience, skills and knowledge that will give her life experience that will serve her in each phase of the rest of her life. I also hope that in this phase, my daughters will learn their responsibility to serve and protect others throughout their community and world. In my teaching to my children, you bet I will be talking up all the things that can be enjoyed by putting off potential childbearing.

Hopefully my daughters will experience a good long while between the time of menarche and their first experience of sex. During this time, I will try to teach them about their fertility or encourage them to learn about it on their own. In borrowing from pagan traditions, I can imagine conducting a series of full moon mysteries mother/daughter circles through the teenage years where each full moon, we will explore a different aspect of becoming a woman and maturing into the women they hope to become.

During this time I also plan to encourage them not to repress their sexuality but to deal with it in healthy ways, and encourage them to understand their physiology and what feels good to them. I greatly appreciate that some marriage and family therapists (including the author of And They Were Not Ashamed)recognize that solitary sexual exploration is good preparation for marriage. I will however include the encouragement to remember balance and not over do it since it can be quite easy for that activity to turn into an obsession. If its a short-lived phased, great, and I anticipate in most cases, that will be the case for most young people. This is one area where strict prohibitions do not serve well and moderation and balance is key.

If a daughter of mine were to choose to have sex before marriage, I do not plan to shame or condemn her. I would hope that it was her choice and that she did not experience rape. If it were her choice, I would expect that she is prepared to accept whatever consequences come out of it and embrace their new phase, whether it is priestesshood or motherhood. If she were to become a mother as a result, awesome. I do not personally believe that teenagers are ill equipped to be parents and that with community and parental love and support, they can be empowered to become excellent parents. So if I faced teen parenthood with one of my children, I plan to support and love them and teach them everything I can about parenthood (there are analogous phases to manhood as well and you bet my son will get similarly appropriate education). If my teens are sexually active and they are lucky like I was, then I teach them repentance and moving into priestesshood/priesthood.

I sound so prepared and like I have so many answers, don't I? We shall see about that. I hope that this preparation will prove helpful to me when the time comes to begin teaching these things to my children. If anything, I'll have this post to remind me of my conceptions!

Welcoming the New Girl

I didn't realize it at the time but when we hosted a blessing party for Beth soon after she was born, we were doing a variation of not only a blessingway post-birth, or a woman centric blessing ceremony equivalent to the LDS name and blessing ceremony, but also the Jewish Simchat-bat, a naming ceremony for girls. The party was even held on the Jewish Sabbath!

Originally, her blessing party was supposed to happen with her still inside me and it was going to be a mother's blessing for me in preparation to childbirth. Alas, she was born a little earlier than I anticipated. I was pleased to still have the party and with the help of some wonderful friends, I did very little in preparation for it (i.e. I showered and fed a baby, and made a phone call or two to order things for the party).

The prayer circle was so touching that I wanted a way to record it and share the words spoken with Elizabeth as she grew up. Click on the link below to view the book I look forward to sharing it with her as she grows older.

Click here to view this photo book larger
The new way to make a photo album: photo books by Shutterfly.

Thank you for being a part of welcoming my newest daughter as a reader of my blog. I hope you will add a hope/prayer/blessing/wish for her in the comments.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A brand new birth

The third time around contractions started on their own with no efforts on the part of my husband and I to get labor started! In fact, labor started two weeks earlier than we had been hoping. But true to form, my third child was born in a different month than the due date indicated.

Baby Elizabeth was born on Tuesday March 27 at 7:43 am after two days of early labor and about 8 hours of active labor.

I woke up with contractions 15 minutes apart on Sunday. I knew based on the week before that I wasn't going to make it all the way through church but that the walk there and back would at least be good. All through the first hour, I felt contractions but they were very mild. After the meeting, I went home and decided that I would take a longer walk to see if I could get contractions going that way. When I couldn't get a hold of the friend I really wanted to talk to, I posted a shout-out on facebook for someone to call and talk to me while I walked.

I was disappointed that walking seemed to cause the contractions to space out more. I think all I accomplished was getting my hips sore. I did get a hold of the friend I had wanted to talk to (my best friend from fourth grade) and was able to talk to two others (both of whom are doulas). Upon getting home, I took a nap while dinner was being made and then went to bed after dinner. Throughout the day, I saw that I had lost a little bit of mucous plug and the contractions became slightly stronger. It was not a great night sleep, not because of the contractions but because my throat was getting increasingly sore and dry. It was difficult to breathe because it was so raw. Finally, I fell asleep and got about 7 hours.

The contractions were interesting because they were short and mild. They seemed very easy to deal with. By Monday afternoon, I was starting to believe that I was going to be in early labor for a few more days. Since I had had a good night sleep, I knew I could keep it up, if need be. Monday morning I took the children to their gymnastics classes and visited the chiropractor. I got an adjustment and the doctor said that it should do something to the contractions, though she wasn't sure if either they would stop or progress. I went home to just see what would happen.

That day I was supposed to have a midwife appointment but I just did not feel up to it knowing that I also would be going to other appointments. I called and said I wouldn't make it. My visit that day was supposed to be with a group of pregnant women, based on the Centering Pregnancy model. I just wasn't feeling social enough to be contracting every 8-15 minutes through that meeting. However, I still was able to get a prenatal visit in that day because my midwife's partner lived near enough to me that she came and did a home visit. Based on her assessment of what she was observing from me, she too thought that I could continue in labor for a couple of days.

It was at that point I started wondering what the heck was going on. Why were the contractions so easy? Why weren't they going away? Why weren't they progressing? I got really tempted to check my cervix to see if anything had been happening. I even posted to my local birth group my frustration and asked for opinions on whether or not it was worthwhile to check. A funny thing from that conversation was that the henna artist I had scheduled for the following week to come and do a henna belly for me volunteered to reschedule my appointment to the next day, in hopes that I could get the belly done before the baby was going to be born. We made the appointment and waited to see what would happen.

I also got a call that day from a good friend who had been planning to lead a blessingway ceremony for me the following weekend. She called because she kept feeling like she needed to talk to me about it. She was glad she did when she found out that I was experiencing early labor. She quickly volunteered to call me that night and do a little ceremony by phone. I spent the rest of the day waiting for 8 pm to roll around and just settled in for whatever was in store.

That night, she called and spoke to me about the history of LDS women giving blessings to pregnant women and calling on that tradition, she prayed for me. I will post her prayer on my spirituality blog if you are interested in reading through it. After she closed her prayer, she suggested that I get the older children in bed and then get as much sleep as I could, and get to sleep as soon as I could. As it turned out, contractions changed in intensity and became slightly longer and stronger as I was cuddling children to sleep. My son was quite sure that the baby would be born that night and he excitedly told everyone just that. It sounded almost exactly like what he said on Christmas Eve when he announced that Santa was coming.

At 1 am, I gave up trying to sleep and called my midwife's partner. I still wasn't convinced that I was in active labor but I asked her to come over and see what she thought before I sent her home or called the midwife. The partner came, she checked my cervix and found that I was 5 cm. She settled in to sleep but before she was even able to sleep, the contractions shifted again and became stronger.

Check out that hippie having a homebirth!
At 2:00 am, we called the midwife who then headed to my house. At 2:30, I headed downstairs to the bathtub. My mom was so sweet making preparations as I took over her living space. She gathered candles and laid them out in the room. She plugged in my aromatherapy diffuser and got my favorite fuzzy robe into the dryer. She arranged the towels, gathered seating for midwives and my husband and stayed to hang out with me and chat between contractions. She had never seen a homebirth before and didn't have great births with my brother and I (I was a induction turned c-section for undetected breech and my brother was stillborn). While my mother made her preparations, my husband got my ipod set up and turned on my birthing playlist.

I did not want to be alone during my labor at all, so when the midwives got there, I invited the assistant in and asked her to talk with me. After all the birth supply preparation was taken care of, everyone joined me and we listened to music, laughed and talked.

At one point, my mom asked me if I was hungry and I wanted anything to eat. I didn't really have an answer for her at that point but it came to me awhile later when during a contractions, blackberries occurred to me. I opened my eyes, looked at her and said, "Blackberries." That confused everyone in the room except my husband who was the first to suggest that someone go upstairs and get me a bowl of frozen blackberries. Those were excellent to munch on between contractions. A little later, the midwife made me a fruit and yogurt smoothie and some red raspberry leaf tea.

The midwife really loved the music I had playing. Since it was on shuffle, we got some interesting juxtaposition between songs. For example, Give Said the Little Stream was followed by Bohemian Rhapsody. A little later, Laurie Berkner's  Song in My Tummy came on which caused everyone to laugh. My midwife requested that I share the playlist with her because she really enjoyed the mix of music on it.

They were also surprised that for the most part I was able to continue talking and laughing through contractions. All of us kind of believed that not much was going on. We knew that the baby was moving down because the place where we detected her heart rate became lower and lower on my abdomen. Each time heart tones were recorded we used the fetoscope to listen, just as I requested.
Listening to heart tones with the fetoscope

At one point, we couldn't hear the baby's heart beat. We could find mine and the placenta but not the baby. For the most part, we were listening through the placenta to hear it anyway and at this point, it was difficult enough to hear. We tried a couple of different times but not having success, I did consent to try with the doppler just until we found it and heard it. Once I found it, the doppler went off and we knew the baby was just fine.

Around the time I started pushing, one of my favorite gospel anthems came on called Arise and Shine Forth. As I listened, something that my friend prayed for earlier happened. She had asked that I feel encircle about with the love of my heavenly parents and with angels and the spirits of my loved ones. I I felt just that and started to cry. The midwives were also concerned about me, thinking that I was upset and they began to reassure me that everything was okay. A contraction came on and I knew I couldn't explain to them what was actually going on so I managed to say "Its a happy cry, don't worry. I'm okay." I don't think they've heard the explanation for that yet, actually.

Pushing this third time around was the hardest yet. The baby was descending slowly and I knew for quite a long time that her head was still high. The midwife asked if she could go a vaginal exam to see how high the baby was but I was able to tell her just based on what I was feeling. It was around that time I tried to will myself to get out of the bathtub and head either to the toilet (which can help a baby descend) or to the stairs (since she was probably acynclitic). Each time I would try to raise my hips out of the water, the contractions became so intense that I would immediately change my mind.
Getting out of the tub seemed like a good idea, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. 

After quite a while of pushing, I told my husband that it would be a good time to wake up the older siblings to come and witness the birth of our new baby. My husband took one look at me and said he didn't think that was a good idea. I realized that the reason he said that was because of how hard pushing had been for me and he was concerned that it would be too intense for the children to see me working so hard. Through each contraction, I was yelling quite loudly with effort.  So they stayed sleeping and we let them sleep until they woke up on their own.

At one point, the midwife asked me how long I had pushed with my previous births. The longest had been with my first, a whole 45 minutes. At that point, I had been pushing for longer than 45 minutes. I finally started feeling like the baby had moved down and that I might be able to feel where the baby was if I reached for her head. I couldn't feel her head but I did feel a intact and bulging bag of water. Just then a contraction started and I felt the bag of water break over my hand. Looking at the water of the bathtub, you couldn't tell at all which is always a good sign.

With the bag of water out of the way, her head descended quickly. It was just a couple of more contractions before she was crowning and I was at the crazy point of feeling my body push involuntarily and trying to stop pushing because I felt my tissues stretching and stinging. It took a few moments to integrate and coordinate the movements and with the next contraction, her head was part way out. I could feel her ear off to the side of her head and her soft thick hair floating in the water around her head. The next contraction, her whole body came out and she floated up in the water to my hands.

I picked her up and realized that the cord was quite short. I held her against my stomach as we waited for her to breathe. Right before her body came out, I felt her feet kick inside me so I knew she was awake and alert, but when she got to my arms, she was still. Her face looked at rest like she had decided it was time to sleep. I think that's when I told her rather forcefully that it wasn't time to sleep, that I knew she was awake and it was time for her to breathe. She started making some respiratory effort but it wasn't enough. Everyone who could reach her started stimulating her body tactically. That's when the first assistant noticed the cord was rather tightly wrapped around the baby's back and neck. My second baby completely tangled in her cord! We got her unwrapped and the primary midwife reached for her and gave her a rescue breath mouth to mouth and that's finally when the baby seemed to come into her body. She did not like being breathed into and she yelled and then started breathing. 
Into Mama's arms and telling her to breathe
Throughout the resuscitation, the midwives had been talking about her as he. When she was back in my arms I asked if it really was a boy because I hadn't seen yet. My husband and I looked together and saw that our first surprise baby was our second daughter!

I cuddled her to my chest and she with much enthusiasm launched herself at my nipple. She surprised me with how she even knew that there was something she desperately wanted behind that bathing suit top. We got her access to the nipple and she attempted to latch on immediately. Since she's my third baby, I knew immediately that something was really wrong with her latch. In spite of her enthusiasm, we knew that getting her latched on would take some work and that it was best that I get out of the tub at that point and settled into bed. On the way out, I birthed the placenta (which by the way, the midwife said was the most perfect, healthy placenta she had ever seen).

Cuddling with my baby for the first time

Once in bed, her temperature was below the outer limits of normal (97.4) so we got very busy trying to get her temperature up--using a heating pad, blankets, skin to skin and a hat. Because her latch was so wrong and wasn't getting better, I couldn't give try to get her some colostrum to help regulate her temperature. The midwives then recommended that she be given a dropper-full of glucose water (made with blackstrap molasses instead of processed sugar). Once her temperature got up to 97.6, that was stopped. We were all surprised by how long that took to happen.

I then spent the next 24 hours hand expressing colostrum and feeding her with a pipette while I waited to get a Lactation Consultant to the house. When she was less than 3 hours old, I had already called around to get someone over. One LC that I spoke to by phone suggested giving a craniosacral therapist a call (especially after I described her birth) and when she was 4 hours old, she had already seen her first therapist. The next day, we saw the Lactation Consultant and she was diagnosed with tongue tie. I'll post all about that experience in a separate post.

Elizabeth was born at 7:43 that morning, with our children still sleeping upstairs. They didn't wake up until 10:30 or so when they came downstairs and met their baby sister. I was right, they even got to unwrap her just like the a Christmas present since she was so bundled up.

Later that night, we had a little birthday party for her. My husband went out and got a cake and then brought it to us singing Happy Birthday. We all then tried to get the best night sleep we could.

In total, her birth was longer and more exhausting than I thought it would be. I had hoped that hers would be longer than her sister's birth, which I got, but I never even considered that her birth might be longer than her brother's! If I count all the early labor, her labor was 49 hours long, with a 1 hour pushing stage. It was however, a very easy 49 hour labor with only about 2 hours that I would consider intense enough that I had to really get serious.

All together

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Homeschooling just got easier

My husband has been ambivalent about homeschooling our children since we first started discussing the topic. I found that I enjoyed being home with my children, playing with them and educating them more than I thought I would. Considering, I did not have a stay at home parent as a role model and had a tenous relationship with my parent who was an educator, I didn't see my taking naturally to that role. I figured I would rely on the school system to give my children what I couldn't provide for them at home. It was a pleasant surprise where I found myself hoping and even sometimes believing that I could give them better opportunities than the school system.

As the years have gone on, I've begun to consider homeschooling more seriously. Between my husband and I, we still discuss the pros and cons to homeschooling. In particular, his greatest concerns are regarding quality of science instruction, extra curricular opportunities (music and sports) and social interaction.

If we stayed in Seattle, I feel like I can cover most of those concerns. In the Seattle area, there are homeschool resource centers that offer classes for homeschoolers that act like electives. If a family feels like a child has a particular interest or talent in an area and the parents do not feel qualified to teach them at their level in that topic, the child can join other children in that class to learn. They get the classroom experience but its not all or nothing. Instead of committing to 7-8 hours a day, a schedule can be structured to be just a couple of hours a few times a week or one or two longer days a week.

I have been impressed at the communities of families that develop in these settings and find that ample opportunity is available for children to interact. Also, informal homeschooling groups provide those opportunities and many communities have groups of homeschoolers that get together on a regular basis for social activities, field trips, group work and service. There are so many sports and musical ensembles offered to children that those opportunities wouldn't be lacking either.

Science education is one of my husband's biggest concerns. Understandably, he's about to be a PhD in biology. He cares a great deal about science education. My own experience in private school meant that my math and science opportunities were lacking and he believes that its public schools who have the resources to teach students in lab settings. Some public school systems will allow homeschoolers to come into regular classes to pick up a subject. Even though that is an option, it wasn't ideal to us. Homeschool resource centers might be able to handle those classes well, especially if my husband were the parent teacher of the class...

He might be seriously considering that possibility now however. I don't understand what possessed him but last year, he found an old good quality telescope on ebay for a good price. He decided that was a learning opportunity he wanted to bring into our home and share with your children (who are only 5 and 2, mind you). He went all out and got 2 sets of mounted slides--in total 400 slides of various life forms from the plant and animal kingdoms as well as a slide preparation kit so we can mount our own slides with the children.

He kind of undercut his own argument by getting a better biology/telescope set-up than most high school labs have, and having more qualified instruction on hand for one and one interactions. I think he's completely lost that argument since we got on the mailing list for a certain catalog. It is a natural science supply store that basically supplies educators with tools and curriculum for science education. They sell pails of frogs and animal hearts for dissection for goodness sakes!

Especially exciting to us were the AP science curricula, and lab kits for children ages 8 and up. I can completely see my husband and I leading our children through the labs for AP biology, chemistry, physics and environmental science and supporting them as they prepare for the AP tests. That would be the kind of idealized science education where we were sure on the quality of instruction and felt like we had found a way to do it even better than the school system.

Obviously that is many years down the road at this point. For now, my son is a homeschooled kindergartener that is undeclared with the state since he technically does not qualify for state kindergarten. I get very frustrated with the age cut offs and my solution was to celebrate his 5th birthday with beginning kindergarten at home. If at some point we do put him into the school system, he'll go in at his age matched grade level but for now we are doing our own thing.

I'm just happy as the more I learn and discover about what all is out there, the more confident I am that we could homeschool our children and that they would get a good (if not better) education with us as their instructors. I'm especially confident in my children's abilities to seek out learning once they learn to read and write. That to me seems like the biggest challenge but I do believe that when they become motivated and see how much latitude and freedom they get from those skills, they'll be just fine in directing their own learning and getting everything they need from the education resources around them.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Home of Uncertainty

My husband is nearing graduation from his 6 year PhD program. He's hoping to finish this spring or the end of summer at the latest. Because its not clear when he will finish, its not clear where and when we'll be going or even to what we'll be going--postdoc, job, unemployment? As the spouse of PhD candidate, I'm just waiting to hear when/where we'll be going. I used to be much more impatient about things like this and the uncertainty would be killing me. I guess I've mellowed a bit and now I'm more curious than anything else.

Everytime, my husband comes home and mentions another possibility for a job or postdoc opportunity, the first thing I do is locate the university and search for real estate nearby. I get an idea of whether or not our family would enjoy living there based on what I find. Some things I generally look at: homeschooling laws, nature attractions, access to organic and local agriculture, birth community, etc. So far I have surveyed places like Brisbane, Australia; Ithaca, New York; Provo, Utah; somewhere in Florida that I can't remember; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Humboldt, California. This is probably the most exciting and interesting part. Its fun to daydream about possibilities and exciting new adventures.

The flip-side is the fear of What if? What if he has a hard time finding a new position and we're stuck where we are? How will we get by? He'll lose his stipend Will he be able to get a job in another field when he's at the same time riducously overqualified and underqualified at the same time? Will he be able to find a position nearby so we wouldn't have to move?

Instead of making no plans, or making plans that are based on dreams, I'm trying to be practical and prepare myself for the possibility of a few months with no income. I've stock piled some food so if we have to go lean for a few months, then we're prepared in that way. I'm still planting our garden this year in hopes of getting some fresh vegetables without relying on the store. We're trying to save money where we can now so we can continue paying utilities and such.

I'm trying to grow my doula and family services business with plans to offer classes in Signing Time, and a playgroup and take a few doula clients this summer. I would really like to gain enough midwifery skills to be able to be paid as a birth assistant by the end of the summer. It will tricky to see how well that can work with a new baby. My husband and I will try our hand at equally shared parenting if this is the case. Hopefully the baby will transition between my husband and I easily enough. I've found that birth work with non-breastfeeding children works really well for an equal partnership, but breastfeeding will definitely complicate things. I'm hoping a combination of pumping and visits from baby and husband while I'm away will allow the baby to get exclusive breastmilk.

My husband's plan to bring in money and to share income requirements is to turn his woodworking and photography hobbies into an income stream. For the last year, he has been turning wooden pens and salt and pepper grinders. Next, he'll be branching out to turned wooden bowls and decorative boxes. Already there is a local retailer who would like to put his pens up for sale in her store and everything else will be put up for sale at Etsy (since Etsy is already overrun with pen turners!).

There is a part of us that kind of hopes that this is what the summer will be like but that some good opportunity will come up for fall. If we find that job sharing and childcare sharing works, excellent. We'll know that the experiment worked and its possible and if it doesn't, then we'll be back to the stereotypical world of professor husband and stay at home mom (who has her part-time work on the side).

However, the ideals of radical homemaking and equally shared parenting are providing quite the emotional comfort in this period of uncertainty. Who knows what the future will bring, but we're pretty sure that whatever it is, we'll have the skills and know-how to keep going comfortably.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Attempting to Correct Pelvic Prolapse and Two Reviews

A few months ago, Rixa at Stand and Deliver posted about a giveaway opportunity to review a new product designed to help women address their pelvic floor prolapse issues. Since that has been one my most major concerns this pregnancy, I volunteered to be a reviewer.

After getting pregnant again, it became clear to me that my hip issues were connected to other places where I have been experiencing pain. Back when I was pregnant with Belle, there was situation where I found myself 28 weeks pregnant with a resistant toddler just when I saw the bus we needed to get was pulling in across the street. The toddler (Willem) wouldn't walk and I didn't want to wait another 30 hour with a tired, hungry toddler at the bus stop for the next bus. I grabbed him and ran. As a result, I pulled a ligament on my pubic bone. It was that ligament that caused me to stop participating in my Irish dance company because the weight of the pregnancy and the pain in that ligament was too much. My hip issues then started a few weeks later and continued intermittently. The ligament didn't give me any more trouble after Belle's birth; that is, until I got pregnant this third time. Its been bothering me more than my hip has the last few months.

Between pregnancies, I also noticed that I was experiencing some minor prolapse issues with my pelvic floor. It seemed to be worst when I was wearing a heavy 25 pound toddler on either my front or back. My hip would also start hurting and I'd feel that familiar ache into my thigh bone. It with those experiences that I concluded that all my hip trouble is likely related. My pelvis has been through a lot the last 6 years of childbearing and mothering!

My goal for this pregnancy was to find some effective ways to address these issues so they would not get worse after this baby was born. I've spent the last year trying to strengthen my body with regular exercise through a gym membership and personal training. I think its made a difference because here I am 32 weeks pregnant with only minor stiffness and achiness in my hip joint.

I had considered for quite a long time finding a skilled Physical Therapist to address the pelvic floor issues but for various reasons felt that I wasn't sure about the effectiveness in regards to the cost. I wanted to learn more before I made that investment.

Some friends introduced to me the company Whole Woman about the time Rixa posted about reviewing the Laselle exercisers. For Christmas, I purchased the First Aid for Prolapse DVD and its a good thing I did because I started using the Laselle exerciser before and it became much more effective after learning the principles taught in the DVD.

Since receiving the Laselle exerciser, I've tried to use it for about an hour at a time a few days a week. Usually, I use breakfast time for it because I'm able to focus on my posture while I cook and sit to eat.

At first, especially before viewing the Whole Woman DVD, I found the Laselle exerciser more annoying and discouraging than anything else. It seemed like it didn't matter what I did, but the exerciser would not stay positioned and I'd have to reposition it every few minutes.

After viewing the DVD, I learned that the explanation was probably in my posture. After spending a couple of weeks trying to retrain myself to hold my body, I started using the Laselle exerciser again. I find now that I better understand how to isolate my pelvic floor muscles and focus on holding the LaSelle exerciser in.

Because the exerciser is a weighted ball, its unlike something that is designed to stay inside the vaginal opening without falling out. It rolls out and the goal is for the woman to be able to use her muscles to hold it in and prevent it from rolling out.

I do plan to continue using the exerciser now that the review period is over. I'm especially greatful from what I have learned from the Woman Woman DVD and will continue to remember those principles of good posture. Because I am currently pregnant, I find that I cannot easily do all the movements in the Whole Woman DVD. Its not designed for pregnancy at all so I will pick up with that after the early postpartum period is over. I believe it will be a wonderful DVD to use to get back into exercise after the baby is born.

Until then, I find that using Spinning Babies for baby positioning, pelvic rocks, hands and knees position, focusing on proper posture, using the Laselle exerciser and belly dancing (using my new Belly Dance for Birth DVD!) are all helping my hips feel good and to address my pelvic floor issues without making them worse with the advancing pregnancy. A good diet of plenty of protein and fiber has also been really important to prevent constipation. Green smoothies and rice and beans are my new best friends.

In conclusion, I highly recommend learning the principles of Whole Woman posture because that is what I have found most helpful in addressing my prolapse issues. The Laselle exerciser is a helpful way to practice and ensure that I'm getting the posture right. For that reason, I feel like the Laselle exerciser would be more effective if the product included more information regarding its use, specifically counseling women on good posture to prevent and correct prolapse issues from occuring.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Top Fifteen List: Birthing Songs

Its time to start getting excited about my baby's upcoming birth. This pregnancy has been nice, albeit slightly confusing because I feel like I have very little to prepare. We've got all the stuff for either gender of baby. I know exactly where it is and know that it can be set up quickly when the time is closer. Knowledge wise, I'm prepared. If anything I know too much and it can get in the way of enjoying a nice normal healthy pregnancy. My birth path is solid and secure. I'm approaching this new birth with confidence that I know how to birth babies and I'm trusting that I am prepared for whatever is coming my way (knowing that its probably going to awesome).

The confusing part is the wait. What do I do with myself in the meantime? 9 months is a long time for feeling prepared and ready and needing to put off the basics until later on. My answer has been in a combination of distraction/keeping myself busy (which I've been doing through certifying as a doula and midwife apprenticing) and inner work.

One thing I felt like I could early on in the pregnancy (starting about 15 weeks) was to expose the new baby to the voices of his/her life and music. From my daughter's pregnancy, I have a birthing playlist of music that I love and enjoying listening to during labor. Why not start listening as soon as the baby has ears to hear? During the day, I put the playlist on for background music or I put in my earphones and sing my favorite songs. Many of these songs have a message that reminds me of the special sacredness of carrying and birthing a baby or contains a message that I would like my children to internalize, or its reminds me of my feelings in labor and gives me a form of expression to those feelings, or its just a song that makes me happy regardless of what is going on around me (for example, Bohemian Rhapsody is on there).

The list contains 60+ songs for about 4 hours of music. I won't list them all for you, but I'll share my favorites. I couldn't fit it into a Top Ten list, so here's my Top Fifteen songs to enjoy while in labor*:

1. Hear You Me (May Angels Bring You in)-- Jimmy Eat World
This one reminds me of singing a baby into its new home, as well as singing a loved one into the afterlife. Listening to this song makes me think of my dad and remembering that he's not on the earth to share grandparenthood with my children always makes me sad. But I'm also reminded that I believe that he's in a new existence on a different plane and that he knows and loves my children and he continues to love me. I'm also reminded of the circle of life that as loved ones die, I'm blessed to be in my childbearing years and I can balance the losses with the gains of new family members. This song serves to invite my dad into my birthing space and to know that we are being looked over by angels.

2. It is You (I Have Loved): Dana Glover from the Shrek Soundtrack
I've blogged about this song before and why I find it so meaningful. Because I had encountered a good deal of loss before my children were born, I didn't feel very connected to this life. It felt like I had nothing keeping me tied to the earth when it felt like my whole family was gone already. I wish I could say that falling in love with my husband made me feel connected to earth life, but it wasn't until my son was born that I felt like my place was here and I was needed for an important purpose. Turns out that it was my children that I loved all along and I needed them to come into my life to feel connected to life. I hope that also serves to explain the tagline of my blog to you.

3. Good Morning Starshine: Oliver
If I could cue any song to play at the moment of my child's birth, it would be this one. I'm not planning anythings elaborate to ensure that happens, but I love how easy the song is to sing to a small child. Its especially poignant to sing this as the child's welcome to the world. For each child, I have designated a special song that I sing throughout the pregnancy and continue to sing to them after their birth. For Willem, it was "It is You I Have Loved." For Belle, it was "For the Beauty of the Earth." And for whoever this one is, its "Good Morning Starshine." I expect I'll be able to annoy the pants off a teenager who does not want to wake up by singing this song at wake-up time in a few years.

4. I Want to Break Free: Queen
This one just makes me laugh. I imagine a fetus experiencing contractions and working its way into the world would share the sentiment of this song. I also find this song appropriate when I get to that point in labor where I just want it to be over and have my new baby in my arms.

5. There's A Song in My Tummy: Laurie Berkner
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I adapted this song so it could be sung "There's a baby in my belly and she wants to come out...and when she does she's going to cry and shout..." Thusly, it deserves a place on my playlist and on my favorites as well. Its fun to sing this through pregnancy and labor to remind me what I'm looking forward to when the labor part is done, and the real work begins.

6. Drive: Incubus
This one I find most appropriate because of the atmosphere of fear and conformity that surrounds birth. After my first experience giving birth, I realized that I couldn't trust the predominant culture when it came to birthing choice. I struck out on my own, chose my own path and felt like I had taken ownership of my birthing responsibilities and it gave me the confidence to continue taking ownership of many other aspects of my life. While in labor and during pregnancy, this song gives me confidence in my choices and reminds me of why I make the decisions I do.

7. Best Years of Our Live: Baha Men
Because you need some happy, upbeat dance music during labor. My husband and I seriously love our lives together and these years wouldn't be the best years of our lives without our children. Its the perfect song of celebration at the birth of a new baby and makes me happy every time I hear it.

8. Pardon Me: Incubus
This song encompasses the anger and frustration that I feel regarding the cultural influences that are working against homebirth and women's rights to choose where and with whom she gives birth. As I'm in labor and I hear this song, I feel vindicated and like I'm expressing my freedom to be different, to do what is right for me and my family. There's something immensely satisfying about belting during pregnancy and labor, "I've had enough of the world and its people's mindless games. So pardon me while I burn and rise above the flame. Pardon me, pardon me... I'll never be the same!"

9. I'm not Doubling Back Now: Jason Mraz
This song inspires perseverance and determination in me while I'm in labor. The last thing I'm going to do when I'm working to get my baby out is to double back and go back the way I came. This helps me visualize constantly moving forward, advancing the baby through my pelvis and closer to my arms. Its got a good beat and is enjoyable to dance to in labor which is only going to help position and move the baby down.

10. Arise and Shine Forth: Relief Society Soundtrack
There is nothing like a strong, spiritual anthem. Its this type of testimony of Christ that I want to pass on to my children: a vibrant, energetic joy that has the rafters filled with powerful, optimistic voices. I love singing my testimony in this song and hearing it reminds me of the fire that burns within me and gives me strength to do whatever is required of me.

11. Don't Stop Me Now: Queen
More high energy here that matches my fiery personality. When I'm faced with a challenge and its doing work I find rewarding, I get really determined and this song (at least the chorus, and maybe the first verse) is something like a personal anthem for me when I'm working hard to accomplish a goal. I find it perfect to inspire determination in me during labor. This song says to me, "I'm having my baby. Don't mess with me!"

12: Sleeping to Dream: Jason Mraz
I spend my pregnancies fantasizing what this new little being with be like so this song captures that wistfulness, as well as that bit of frustration that comes at the end of pregnancy when mama isn’t sleeping well and just wants to meet her baby already. There’s also a point in labor when all I want to do between contractions is to sleep and I’m wishing so much to have the birth process be over and have the baby already that its practically a dream mixed with that euphoric delirium of laborland. I sing this to my baby during labor to communicate just how much I look forward to his/her birth.

13. Happy Together: The Turtles
This song is obviously written about the love between a man and a woman, but I find myself wishing for that kind of love as expressed in the song to exist between myself and my children. Before my children were born, I loved thinking of my love for my husband in terms of this song, but I find that love just grows and becomes all that more sweet when I think of including my children in that circle. Do you remember that commercial with the video game characters skipping through a sunny meadow with this music in the background? That’s the kind of joyful exuberance I want to share with my children.

14. Do You Believe in Magic?: The Lovin' Spoonful
There’s something undeniably magical about giving birth to a human being and seeing that little human learn and grow. This song just makes me happy since it makes me think of all the magical, happy times that accompanies parenthood. I hope that my children have childhoods that are optimized by this song so I consider this another song of welcoming to my new little one as s/he enters our family.

15: Sacred Birth:
I wish this one were on iTunes so I could buy it and add it to my birthing playlist. This song is an original work by the singer in the video. She also happens to be a sister LDS birth worker. There's not much music specifically about the power and beauty of birth out there. There needs to be more. And this needs to be available on iTunes!

* You'll probably discover I have a slightly quirky preference for labor music and you'll either think I'm crazy or be amused. You might even find something fun that you would want to add to your birthing playlist.