Breathless

English: Chrystalleni Trikomiti, a rhythmic gy...

I am desperately unfit. I am not exaggerating when I say that a few minutes of dancing around the living room with my little one and I am breathless. It is shameful, really. I used to be a rhythmic gymnast. I practiced 20 hours a week and competed at national level (albeit it in a very small nation, Portugal) for eight years. After that I stayed active, as well as teaching Rhythmic Gymnastics for a couple of years, I have done rowing, dance, kung fu, chi kung, yoga and zumba – some of it quite seriously, particularly kung fu… and now this. I can barely go up a flight of stairs without wheezing.

I eat really quite healthily and yet, what kind of role model am I being to my child? What kind of mother am I gifting to her, even, when I am so unfit?

This I share with you now, by way of a kick up my own a*se. I need to get out and do more exercise. I mean I walk quite a lot… but it is becoming less and less and has a lower impact now that I find I no longer carry Pipoca in the Ergo (as I did for her first two years of life). Something needs to change.

English: Heart diagram with labels in English....— — —

How about you – are there areas in your life you are realising you need to step up to for your own health and wellbeing as well as to become a role model to your child, so they too may be inspired to live as healthily as they can?

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PS no, that is not me in the photo!… but yes, I was once super flexible, I was fit (ish) and could jog 30 minutes or so without it being a big deal. Now my ambitions are lower but I do want to get heart-fit. Even a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, right? I need to start my journey. Won’t you join me and tell me about yours?

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Be the umbrella (or how not to rain emotional stress on your little ones)

English: Maayan holds her umbrella (Israel, 2002)

An old boss of mine once said her job was to be an umbrella, that no matter how much sh*t rained from upper management, her role (in her eyes) was to make sure none of it affected us, her team, so we could stay happy, engaged and productive.

I think the same is true of parenting, somehow. No matter how much emotional stress I am under, I feel it is my job to keep it from passing on to my little one. I need to be her umbrella.

It is not about being fake, it is about being conscious, it is about being aware of the energy I am bringing to this relationship, at this time and about choosing to channel, release and express my anger or frustration in ways that do not negatively impact upon her… as much as I can. This also doesn’t mean she shouldn’t see me being angry. Anger is okay, it is natural – but I want to learn to model healthy ways of expressing it, rather than being blindly lead by it or repressing it all together.

This is the intention. Aim for the moon, if you want to hit the top of the trees (… with your umbrella??)

For anyone left wondering, here are some suggestions of healthy ways to express and/or release your anger:

  1. Talk to a trusted, non-judgemental, grown-up friend
  2. Exercise, dancing, jumping, running… basically getting physical and releasing that pent up energy
  3. Shout with your child(ren), somewhere deep in nature, near the train line as a train passes, inside a car on the freeway, with the windows up, or in space – anywhere where no-one can hear you.
  4. Sing, at the top of your lungs – maybe an angry song, maybe not, maybe just something that gets you going
  5. Punch a pillow or the mattress
  6. Let all the sound out of your body. Okay this sounds weird but it is amazing. I used to do it in the shower or in ‘meditation’. You just open your mouth and breathe out sound – loudly. Let it all out, whatever sound comes out. Often it is quite primal, guttural (much like birthing groans, actually)
  7. Laugh – sometimes humour is the best way to get some perspective and get past the little stuff
  8. Ritualise… hmm… it is hard to put this in words, as it may get misconstrued (or I might just explain it really badly) but, sometimes when you feel an urge to hit somebody you can tickle them instead or if you want to shout you can mock-shout instead – essentially take the seriousness out of the moment but let that energy move forward in the direction it wants to go. It is kind of like taking the horns out of the bull but still letting him tackle you (horrible as that image is – for the bull); or it is like how some people will say sports are tribal violence ritualised – you still get the factions and the belonging and the adversarialism without the killing. Anyway, the important thing is that you don’t deny but transmute the energy of anger into something lighter and more fun. Experiment with it – start with the little things – and let me know if it works for you.
  9. Meditate – in whatever way makes sense to you. It is important that this isn’t used as a sneaky, spiritual way to repress your anger, though. Don’t let the fragrance of spiritual peace fool you into thinking anger is something to be avoided. Enlightenment is not being ‘free’ of emotions but being beyond them or detached from them, does that make sense? Let the anger be there. Find out for whom the anger arises. Knowing yourself and being in tune with that – that is what we are aiming for here.
  10. Spend time in nature, breathe it in, feel the wind, listen to the waves, sit under the tree. You will experience healing of the Heart, for sure.

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What activities would you add to express, release or transmute the energy of anger in healthy ways?

Could there be a bright side to childhood illnesses?

Soap bubbles

Image via Wikipedia

Nobody likes to be sick. Most mums hate their kid being sick even more! It can be so scary to see our little ones looking so vulnerable, even minor symptoms can get turned into major meltdowns in our minds…

Yet I come from a natural health background. I have a slightly different take on disease than many other people I know, so much so that I see many illnesses as good and helpful (even as my mind, too, can go into overdrive – I need to work to keep it in check, sometimes). And amidst it all, I always remember that Rudolf Steiner believed that childhood illnesses – if completely expressed (not repressed) – actually have a cleansing effect on the body which in turn liberates the mind. What he observed was that following a bout of illness, especially one which includes a fever, a child often experiences a developmental leap.

Now, the theory that illnesses can actually be good for us – that they are an outward sign of the body’s activation of an ’emergency cleaning protocol’, when the congestion/pollution get to overwhelming levels – is not exclusive to Steiner by any means. All naturopaths and homeopaths hold some version of this vision of health and disease. This school of thought holds that the body is always acting in our highest interest and doing its utmost to return to balance using the means it has at its disposal (including excretion through skin, lungs or colon and through fever). In this way of looking at health, it is our responsibility as stewards of our own bodies to nourish, trust and support our body in its every effort to keep us healthy – including through acute illnesses, such as those commonly experienced in childhood like measles, chickenpox and the like. Steiner’s take is interesting because he adds this childhood-developmental-leap twist. Could it be that diseases, when ex-pressed fully (that is, when all the morbidity, toxicity and waste of the body are expelled through the skin as rashes, through the bowels, through mucous, etc. with none of the symptoms being suppressed) are helping to keep not only the body but also the mind tip-top, ‘clean’ and functioning to its highest potential?

Let’s be careful here, I am not saying ‘don’t treat illness’ or anything of the sort but we can treat it in different ways. If we chose to approach imbalance by supporting the body to mobilise its defenses and handle it itself, the body responds in a different way. You can, for example, chose to build the body’s defenses, help clear elimination pathways and eat only simple, natural foods and herbs that help the healing process – as opposed to just suppressing (admitedly scary) symptoms without concern for the impact on the rest of the body in the short and long term. What I realise is that when you help the body do its work it, in turn, repays you…

The question is, now that you have heard this about illness and fevers clearing the way for developmental leaps, will you see it? I heard this theory of Steiner’s years ago and have been looking out to see if it did or did not hold true with the children I know. So far, I have got to say, I so often see a child bounding back from an illness (one that has been completely resolved, that is) with renewed energy and even with mastery over new skills – as if they had just had a month’s rest followed by a breakthrough :)  With an open mind, I ask: could it be?

And now I have the chance to witness it it with my own child. This week we have all been sick. I got the stomach bug first, followed by Nica, then NinjaDad. We all got different manifestations of it. It was not fun. But yesterday, as the fever passed, along with the other symptoms, Nica was talking up a storm, with crazy-long sentences, and even her imaginative play seemed to kick-up to a whole new level with a visit to the ‘store’ followed by a ‘picnic’ in our living room. My curiosity remains peeked. What about yours?

What has been your experience? All fear aside, once the disease (the emotional bit for us mums) is resolved naturally, without use of antibiotics or other suppressive medicines, did you see a cognitive or developmental leap occur with your child? This is purely anecdotal, of course, but stay tuned and come share your experiences…

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Disclaimer: the above represents my personal views and should not replace the advice of a qualified medical practioner. If your child is or becomes ill please take care and consult with their pediatrician, immediately. 

Take Good Care of Your Body – Louise L. Hay – Heal Your Life.

5 steps to losing weight the AP way

Attachment parenting II

Image by bricolage.108 via Flickr

I was a size 6 before I was pregnant. I don’t know what size I was immediately after birth, I just lived in old sweats (hah!) but when Baby was about 8 months old I celebrated getting into size 8 jeans! Now, I am a size 2. That sounds tiny to me. I am one size away from the infamous size 0. How the heck did that happen?!

This is controversial I know. There are two kinds of mamas out there, I reckon, the ones who didn’t lose the baby-weight and don’t want to talk about it and the ones who did lose all the weight and dare not talk about it. Anyway, I am going to break rank and brave the topic even though I am on the skinny-cow side. I am not crazy skinny, so don’t go getting jealous or anything like that. I am actually a flabby (non-toned) size 2 – if that isn’t too much information! And I am spotty and have a big c-scar, remember, if you need it for balance.

I have not dieted (certainly not with the intention of losing weight) and I don’t do any organised exercise… at all. So how did I do it? I credit Attachment Parenting. Here’s the rundown of what worked for me.

Weight loss the AP Way:

  1. Breastfeed at will/on cue: if your kid is anything like mine it will be a big challenge to consume as many calories as they are sucking out of us each day – and I, for one, love to eat! If I eat light for even a few days (and by light I don’t mean ‘less’ I just mean better quality/more greens, soups, salads, etc.) I find I automatically lose weight, without trying. This was especially noticeable in the first few weeks as my uterus contracted back into place, magically and seemingly overnight. And now, in the long term, I can see that breastfeeding is definitely linked to my new shape.
  2. Co-sleep: … which basically means you continue to do the above – breastfeed on cue – even through the night! Ooops, I just dropped some more calories just thinking about it, I think- and certainly without trying.
  3. Baby-wear: I have been pretty much exclusively wearing/carrying my baby since she was born. She is now 18 months old and at the 90% percentile for weight. I still carry her most places – if it is too far for her to walk or just easier to carry her. That has got to help, don’t you think?
  4. Walk: not strictly an Attachment Parenting practice but it definitely falls squarely within the Natural Parenting movement, especially if it is used as a greener alternative to driving. I love walking. For the longest time there, especially when Baby was smaller and hated to be in the car seat, I would just go for long walks – sometimes one or two hours at a time – with her in my front pack. I am not super fit, but I can walk and, again, I am sure this really helped the weight drop off.
  5. Eat Healthily: I try and eat as green, alkaline and fresh as I can… I am far from perfect, but I don’t eat wheat/gluten, dairy or meat and I limit refined sugar (the almost permanent stash of chocolate doesn’t count, right?!). The couple of times I got the flu, since Anya was born, I did nothing but eat ‘green’ for two or three days: all vegetable soups (with no carbs). I recovered quickly and I lost weight. You gotta be careful with this. You don’t want to lose too much weight when you are breastfeeding as it will affect your supply (it did mine) but eating healthily is always a good thing, to my mind.
So I lost lots of weight. Still, I want to acknowledge the role of luck in all this. This month I am this size, I hope it sticks but my love of eating has got me in trouble before, let’s hope I can keep balance, stay healthy and get way, way fitter so I can keep this trimmer figure which I am so enjoying (even now I don’t have the super-boobs, anymore).
Really this post should be about being healthy, the AP way. It is not about trying to lose weight, it is about doing what feels right for your family, going with the flow and taking care of you, too. If that so happens to bring a more optimised weight for you, hooray! I know plenty of hardcore AP mamas in all sizes and shapes. They nurse and baby-wear, eat healthy and still feel weight-challenged (and/or are happy and celebrating their womanly curves) so this is not a cure-all that works easily on everybody. But it worked for me. I guess now it is about finding what will work for you, but you can’t really go wrong with walking, breastfeeding and eating a diet with lots of fresh, green veg, can you?

Even breastfeeding for a week is helpful!

A woman breastfeeding an infant.

Image via Wikipedia

This is a really lovely guide to some benefits of breastfeeding according to how long you do it: ‘if you breastfeed for four to six days…’, etc: peaceful parenting: If You Nurse Your Baby…. It does have a bit of a bias toward extended breastfeeding perhaps but nonetheless it does encourage and support women to breastfeed for as long as works for them and their families – knowing every little bit helps and we are all doing the best we can!

Breastfeeding with teeth: does it hurt?

sitting up and nursing

One of the most common questions I get, when people are surprised that I am still nursing a one year old (which isn’t that often as it isn’t surprising to that many people) is ‘does it hurt?’ and the answer for us has been: ‘no!’ Okay, there is an exception and that is when baby is teething. At those times her latch gets a little – shall we say? – funky and, especially at the end of a feed when she is not really getting any milk anymore but is comfort sucking and/or drifting off to sleep, then she lets go of the strong latch and – yikes – it hurts as her teeth feel sharp like needles on my nipple. Yowser. The worst has been if she has, at that time, actually pierced the skin, then each time I go to breastfeed, that same tooth that caused the problem naturally finds the groove it pierced last time and digs into the wound – not good.

I dealt with that by just feeding consistently in a position different from the one in which she caused the pain in the first place. Since it was when she was falling asleep that she bit me and hence we were lying down at the time, I basically just feed her with me sitting up (classic cradle position) for a few nights and have found that gives the breast enough time to heal, totally.

But as you can see, that is an exception that proves the rule – and the rule is that if she is breastfeeding it doesn’t hurt (it is only if she isn’t actually breastfeeding but falling asleep with my boob in her mouth while teething that there is danger). So, Anya has had teeth for months and months now and I can sincerely say it has been a great experience 99% of the time… thankfully. Afterall it is all about the position of the mouth. I can suck my thumb without biting it, can’t you? I guess babies evolved to not bite the boob that is feeding them.

NB Photo is not of me and is by HoboMama.

You know you are a hippy-mama (or papa) when…

How many of these can you tick? Frankly, two or more and you are a hippy-mamma! I know, I know, you don’t think of  yourself as a hippy… the question is ‘do other people?’

For the record, I am not the hippiest hippy in the valley, I tick 14 out of 20 of those. Now, fess up and leave a message if any of these sound like you :p  Feel free to add your own on, too!

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Edit [Jan/6/2013]: Yes, I went for sillyness here rather than full acuracy. My back never ached wearing my baby – who I continued to carry in an ergo until she was past 2, for example…