Friday, February 5, 2016

Birth Body


I'm coming to terms with my post birth body. We were at odds for a bit.

After I had Henry, the first time I got up in the hospital to walk, I knew this body was different now. And as weeks went on and I healed, I still noticed that this body isn't the one I knew before. All my bones and joints felt different. My hips felt literally stretched out. I even walked differently! It took so long to get use to the one I had before (Yes, "skinny girls" wish they had different bodies too. We all want what we don't have! I wanted those curves, girl!), and now I had to get to know this one too.

Most women have scars and stretch marks after birth. But some how they are still "shameful". People are terrified they will get them, and are mortified when they show up. BUT IT'S NORMAL!

I read this article http://weseekjoy.blogspot.com/2013/12/babies-ruin-bodies.html?m=1 and WOW. I began to see my body differently. I hated my post birth body. My stretch marks are mostly on my breasts, and one in particular. They aren't pretty. The marks on my left breast cover the sides and all underneath and will peek through if I wear anything low cut. There go the days of bikinis on the beach! I know I am blessed in the weight department. All the weight I gained was the baby and as soon as he was out, so was the weight. Cool I suppose. Everyone comments on it. "You don't look like you had a baby!" But I do underneath what you can't see. I bear the marks of a baby who lived inside of me. I have a small section on my side that has stretch marks from where I kept him safe and warm inside my body which doesn't bother me at all, and the majority of the scars on my breasts after he came into this world as I fed him with this body that God made.

A couple of months after my baby was born, and I was still down every time I looked at my body, I asked my husband to take pictures of my stretch marks as a way for me to heal and process them. And it was healing for me. I didn't just want to take pictures of the scars, but I wanted to take pictures of them with my baby next to them, as a reminder of the breathe taking creation they came from.



                       





So why do I feel like I need to share these publicly? I could just have them for myself for my own personal healing. But I guess I just want others to know it's okay. My body is perfect. Your body is perfect. I want to be another voice to eradicate the media's ideal of a perfect body. All bodies are beautiful. Especially when I think that these particular scars are directly tied to the birth and life of my son.

You may have more or less scars than I do. You may have a lot more. But this is my story. No one is more or less fortunate in their post birth bodies. They just are. And they are beautiful because they carried LIFE.

Look, I don't LIKE them. But they are mine. These scars are a part of my story. They will stay with me. They remind me of the journey we took as a family, growing and preparing for this baby to join us. They tell me I am strong. They tell me I am patient. They tell me I am loving. They tell me I am mom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I wrote the above post 2 years ago. I have written many versions of it but I wasn't quite ready to share it. But I am now. And when I look at these pictures 2 years later and see that gorgeous start of a smile on my sons face, the scars fade away. And just as a reassurance to some, all those scars faded away. You can still feel them, but you can't see them anymore. The ones on my side are special to me as they are so close to where I carried my child. When my hand accidentally brushes up against them I am reminded of those days when I pondered if I could ever love him as much outside the womb as I did inside. Well of course I love him more outside but it's still a very special thing, those months with your baby so very close, just you and them, growing together. Our bodies are weird. And strong. And precious. And bad-A. Be kind to that body. Learn to love that body. It is yours. It is not perfect. But it IS perfect.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

How (Not) to Inspire a Child's Creativity

Last week I let my son paint with some oil paints. Art has always been very important to me. I come from a family of very artistic people and my parents never withheld quality art supplies for us to experiment with. Crayola colored pencils? NO WAY. We had Primsmacolor colored pencils - the good stuff - at our finger tips as young children. And I want this for my son too, even at 2 years old. I want him to experiment with all kinds of mediums and create how ever and whatever he wants to.

So back to the oils paints.

I thought this would be a fun idea - something we could hang in his room. And then I immediately regretted letting a 2 year old paint with oil paints. Not only was this messy - like how the hell are you suppose to get oil paint out of clothes?! - but he mixed all of the colors together and the canvas literally looked like a giant poop smudge. And I might not have even minded a poop colored oil painting if there was any kind of pattern or cool splattering effect. But it was all covered in a giant blob.

A few days after letting it dry, that poop colored blob starting me in the face, I decided to make it usable. I couldn't have that hanging in his room...but maybe I could fix it. So I took my son Henry's painting and I used the back of a pen to carve out a big letter "H". Ahhh much better. Now it has purpose. Now it looks cool. Seriously, it looked kinda cool because the colors underneath shown through. So I carved it out and let it dry for a few days.


But each time I passed that big "H" my heart felt heavier and heavier. I had taken my child's work of art and made it my own. My son is only a toddler, but toddlers are smart. This says to him "I'm better at this than you." "What you made isn't creative" "Your vision of art is ugly" "Your art is not good enough" "You are not good enough". 

Henry liked his painting. He smiled when he made it. He laughed when he mixed the colors. He was enjoying being creative. He was delighting in his art. It was beautiful simply because it was beautiful to him. 

And I ruined it. 

I took a beautiful painting and I made it into something I thought had been redeemed but in turn I ruined it. How could I do this when creativity is something so very important to me? Giving my children full reign of their art experience is a core philosophy for me! How could I have done this?

And while I am sad that I took my sons art and made it into my own, I am glad it happened. 

It reminded me of what matters. It reminded me that art and creativity are vital parts of humanity. It reminded me that art is about the process, not the product. And if art only exists to please others, we've missed the point. And I never want my child to make art solely for others. I want him to do it for himself. Because he finds joy in the process. Because he laughs when he experiments. Because HE finds it beautiful. 

I decided to take a better look at his art area in our house and make it even more Henry friendly than I had it set up like before. My goal is for him to have an creative space where he has: 

1) Access art materials at his level at all times and that

2) Those materiel be appropriate for use without close supervision.

I removed all of the art supplies that were at his reach that I could get frustrated over ending up on the walls or floors: basically I only left washable materials at his reach: ultra-washable crayons, markers ink pads and stamps. If any of these get on the walls or floor they are very easily wiped away! No problem!  

I moved the sheets of paper down at eye level so he could grab one whenever he wanted. I moved all the paints, watercolors, colored pencils and other materials that needed more supervision up high so I could bring them down when we wanted to try a new art medium with careful supervision. 





Friday, January 15, 2016

Down to the River to Pray - A Self Weaning Journey

My sweet babe has begun to self-wean. I have been asking my husband Wes to take pictures because very soon, any day now, I will look back and realize it was the last day I nursed him. So I am cherishing these moments. Remembering the long nights of nursing every 45 minutes during a growth spurt. Nursing to sleep every nap and every night and every wake before the sun came up (until just a few weeks ago).

For those unfamiliar with breast feeding beyond a year, it is commonly referred to as extended breastfeeding. The World Health Organization recommends "Exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond." There is no real number for when a child is ready to wean on their own, but it's generally going to be between 2 and 3 years old. 

Extended breastfeeding looks much different from the early days of nursing, but it is still very important for the toddler as well. We often see breastfeeding as purely nutritional—only nurse to feed the baby—but nursing is calming, centering, and soothing too. My child will nurse when he falls down, when he's having a tantrum, or when he is overwhelmed and just wants to be close. I am a centering figure for him to look towards to feel confident and independent and curious and adventurous. And I am blessed to be that. I know not everyone is able to breast feed, for various reasons, but if you can breast feed—do it! It is messy, it is frustrating, it is beautiful, and it is glorious. Now my child is finishing this journey. And all children do. I am so thankful that I’ve been able to wait until he is ready to wean on his own.

It is a hard journey to breast feed. It is one of the most tangible ways a mother gives of herself. It is giving your body up to nourish that precious baby who needs you to live. What a wonderful gift that is. An amazing thing to go through...my body sustains life! I remember being pregnant and thinking "Yeah, sure I'll breastfeed. It's cheap - it's FREE." (If you know the penny-pincher I am, this shouldn't surprise you). I had no idea. I had no idea the power it would give me. The love it would trigger. The bond it held together. The sisterhood it created.

I could not have gone through this journey had it not been for the amazing women who came along side me, who told me it was okay to text them at 3am if I didn't know what to do (and I did text them!), who skyped me and watched me nurse and helped me position my baby in a more comfortable way to promote a better latch—the women who came over the week after his birth and listened to me cry because it hurt and because I didn't know if he was getting enough—and the women who told me it was okay to nurse as long as both my child and I wanted to. (Thank you. All of you. You know who you are).

A few weeks ago, on Christmas Day, my family was sitting around and singing (as we often do). My brother and Aunt and I started singing "Down to the River to Pray" and we began to sing the verse that says:

"O Mothers let's go down
Let's go down, come on down
O Mothers let's go down
Down to the river to pray"

Just as I started singing the words, my sweet baby came up to me and asked to nurse. I cradled him in my arms and sang these powerful words about mothers as I looked into the eyes of my child. Love overflowed in my heart and tears welled up in my eyes. Everything else faded away as I sang about mothers while participating in a part of motherhood that is as old as they come. That ancient practice that connects child and mother to one another. It was as if the voices of those women of the past enveloped me with love and courage, swirling around me, binding us all together in beautiful harmony.

That night I felt incredible joy as I reflected on my story of breast feeding and the community of women who surrounded me in love and wisdom. I have had a beautiful breast feeding journey. Everyone's journey is different. And this is mine. 

Just a few days old

Look at those eyes!
Look at dat latch! :O
One of my favorites - a candid shot
Beautiful Photoshoot I got to be apart of for Breastfeeding Awareness
taken by the amazing Kristy Powell
(Henry and I are on the far right)
Self Portrait for World Breast Feeding Week
All the laughs
My happy boy
Early morning hammock nursing - relaxing!
I call this "Selfies and Nursies"
More Selfies and Nursies
Most recent (and probably last) picture of Henry nursing
"I'll love you forever, I'll love you for always
As long as I'm living my baby you'll be"

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Henry's Montessori Bedroom - Two Year Update

I can't believe my little baby is now a full fledged toddler! Henry just turned two years old last month and we are loving the terrific twos! (I wrote about my anticipation of the "terrific twos" here)

With his ever growing independence, Henry's room is changing right along with him (click here to see how we had it set up at 10 months and click here to see how we had it set up at 18 months!) Here is how his Montessori style room has been arranged for this season of life:


We've switched this corner from a creative play area to a larger reading nook. Henry loves books and I love that he can get any book he wants whenever the mood takes him! There are also 3 blue baskets on the bottom shelves that have finger puppets, trains and train tracks in them. The top middle basket has our musical instruments in it.


Henry still sleeps on his floor bed! My husband and I switch off cuddling Henry to sleep each night. It is truly a cherished time for all of us, and we will continue to spend those precious moments with him as he falls asleep until he does not need it anymore. He still wakes once a night around 4:30-5:30 (night waking is actually normal until 5!) and comes into our bed at that wake up to cosleep with us for the rest of the night, usually waking up for the day around 7:30am.


This corner was the reading area and now houses a toddler bed! I am a nanny and so when children come over to my house they often take their naps in this bed while Henry sleeps in his floor bed. Sometimes Henry will ask to sleep in this bed...maybe once a month. In the right corner we have a bin of his favorite stuffed animals, which he is SO INTO right now! He picks about 5 or 6 of them to sleep with at night now. It's very sweet :) We also have that awesome road rug - Henry often plays with trucks or trains on that great rug. 


Our bookshelf has the bottom two shelves accessible to Henry. They have a hammer toy and a basket of toy foods, and a drum and a basket of sensory bottles and juggling scarves. The top shelf has the diapers and his socks and hats. 


I just recently put up this adorable mirror (which he calls a "camera"...too many selfies I think! Ha!) He absolutely adores this and loves to talk to himself or show his stuffed animals what they look like. Eventually I want to have a self care section where he can get dressed on his own and use the mirror to brush teeth and hair by himself, but space is limited! 


This sleep journey and figuring out what works best for our family has been a wonderful experience. There are so many options so have courage that you will find something that feels right for you!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Terrific Two's

Two is hard.

Picture this: a frazzled looking mom juggling groceries in one hand, diaper bag in the other, desperately trying to hold onto the hand of a screaming toddler who has half their body flailing on the ground and the other half clawing at the mothers grip. And then an old lady appears from the shadows sharing that age old phrase with warning in their voice "Uh-oh! The terrible two's. Good luck!" and she walks away as quickly as she came, leaving them in the middle of the grocery isle.

I mean, this is what two's are all about, right? Two is terrible tantrums and ear piercing screams! Two is "mine mine mine!" and "no no no!" Two is awful. But is it? Two is HARD, yes. These precious beings are growing into their independence, learning how to navigate language, exploring boundaries. They have big feelings in a little body, and they are processing so much.

If you expect two's to be terrible, they probably will be.

My son Henry will be two years old next month, and honestly I'm not scared. I'm not afraid of how I'm going to handle that famous age everyone has been warning me about. I am EXCITED for two!

My mom is a wonderful and warm human being. When I was growing up all I ever heard about the two's was how much my mom GUSHED over them. When each of us (4 children) were two years old she would scoop us up, showering us with hugs and call us her "terrific two's". Because yes, two is hard.

But two is magical.
Two is full of wonder.
Exploration.
Experiments.
Little details.
Wildflowers.
Rocks.
Mud.
Running in the rain.
Smiles that reach all the way up to their ears.
Giggles deep in their bellies.

Two is hard.
They yell.
They learn anger.
They learn to hit.
They learn "no!"

They learn that they are a person too.
They learn to whisper.
They learn to hug so tight you think your heart will explode.
They learn love.

Two is hard.
But two is glorious.
Two is beautiful.
Two is fun.
Two is silly.

Two is terrific.




Friday, July 3, 2015

Henry's Montessori Bedroom - 18 Month Update

When my son Henry was 10 months, we decided to rethink where and how he slept. After talking with others about our options for a gentle sleep solution, we decided on a Montessori style floor bed and bedroom set up. Read here about how we set up his room from 10 months old -18 months old and the philosophy behind a Montessori bedroom. As he is growing we have changed the room to fit his needs. Here is a quick 18 month update on how we've set it up now!

THE BED


Henry still uses his floor bed but now we have his own toddler sized pillow and blanket made by his great grandma. He is obsessed with dogs! We still cuddle to sleep for every nap and night time (my husband and I switch off every other night). When it's my night to cuddle we nurse before drifting off to sleep. Recently he began sleeping all the way through until morning about 3 times a week. The other nights when he wakes up in the middle of the night, my husband gets him and he joins us in our family bed for the rest of the night.  

PLAY AREA


This area was his quite reading corner and has been turned into an exploration/play area! We moved the puzzle mats that were around the bed over to this area and connected them to make a big square. We still love cozy pillows in this corner too!

READING CORNER


This area use to be a place Henry could read books in our laps or cuddle and rock as we sang songs. He soon learned to climb up on that rocker by himself! So for safety reasons, and wanting to keep things developmentally appropriate, we changed it to his own little read.ing area with a small toddler sized reading chair and his books right at his level. We also decorated with a poster from one of my very favorite children's books, "Where the Wild Things Are." He loves it!

We are so thankful that we found a bedroom layout and sleep time routine that works for our family. There are so many options out there! We love his floor bed and our cuddles goodnight, and so does our sweet toddler. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

My 10 Baby Must Have's (and some we didn't need)

As our first year with our first baby comes to an end I've been thinking about what baby items we really loved and used during those early months and through the year. These are of course what worked for us, and every family is different! What are some of YOUR top baby items?? Let me know in the comments!

Here are our top 10 baby items:

10. Empty water bottles - If you already have a kid, you know these pieces of trash are GOLD! They are basically Henry's favorite toy. I even made a few sensory bottles with pipe cleaners and sand in them, but seriously just give your baby an empty water bottle and watch the fun happen! Who knew!?

9. MAM pacifiers - Henry had a strong need to suck from the get go, and with the go ahead form our lactation consultant we introduced pacifiers. We tried every single one, and Henry would ONLY take MAM's. I think they are super cute, and it's awesome that they are the same shape all around - doesn't matter if the baby accidentally puts it in their mouth upside down!

8. A backpack diaper bag - Any backpack would work, but we LOVE our backpack diaper bag. I need to use all the hands I can get, so with this on my back, my hands are free! We got the Eddie Bauer one which we like a lot - very durable with nice organized pockets.

7. Aden and Anais muslin swaddle blankets - I used these for EVERYTHING. Baby need a place to lay on the ground? Pull out a muslin blanket. Baby need swaddling? Pull out a muslin blanket. Baby just spit up everywhere? Pull out a muslin blanket. Love love love these.

6. The jungle mat - Any of the play mats are awesome! Henry loved to try and reach for the dangling toys, look at the twinkling lights, and listen to the music. This would entertain him forever!

5. Scratch-me-not sleeves - These saved our lives when Henry was going through his reactions to dairy and egg (before we pin pointed the problem). He would scratch his head and body all night long, and would rip off socks or mittens we tried putting on his hands. Seriously, if you have a child with eczema or an itching problem these are a MUST HAVE!

4. Coconut Oil - This is seriously THE BEST. Got dry skin? Chapped lips? Need a leave in conditioner? Baby scratched his face? Put coconut oil on it! Amazing. Jut google uses for coconut oil and you will be floored.

3. A bouncy seat - We used several (one in each room) and they were awesome for Henry. Even if you are a hippie dippy crunchy mama (which I sorta am) you've got to put the baby down sometimes! And this was a spot Henry could sit in for awhile and stay entertained! He loved to be in the reclined position that the seats offer so he could see everyone, and when he moved, it bounced so the movement helped soothe him.

2. Rock'n' Play sleeper - Henry slept in a rock'n'play sleeper for the first 3 months of his life. He had intense gas pains (which we now know was food allergy related) and being in a reclined position helped him feel some relief. I kept it right flush to the side of the bed. It was also nice because it's super light and portable, so I could pull it into any room I was in so he could lay down or nap next to me. This didn't work for much older than 3 months, but it was awesome!

1. A baby carrier (specifically the ergo) - My life saver. If I had to pick ONE baby item this is it. The ergo is perfect for keeping baby close while giving you free hands!! Throughout this year I have used the ergo almost every single day, especially during teething or any time Henry isn't feeling quite right and just wants to be held. He also naps in it (still!) a few times a week when I am nannying at different houses. I put him in the ergo, do what I need to with the other children and Henry falls asleep within 15 minutes. I can then just unbuckle the carrier and lay it and him down on the floor under some blankets and he naps happily right there!



And a quick list of 5 items I thought I'd need (and bought) but were a waste of space (for us)!

1. A crib - Henry literally never slept in his crib! Thank God the crib we bought turns into a toddler bed!

2. A changing table - The bed is amazing, especially when you've got a wiggle worm.

3. A diaper genie - Seriously, just use your trashcan.

4. A nursing cover - Aint nobody got time for that! (especially Henry)

5. A wipe warmer -hahahahahahah