Great Green Smoothie

In my classes I talk a lot about nutrition during pregnancy.  I really feel like nutrition is very important at all times in our lives, however, pregnancy is often a turning point for many women.  It’s a point when they first begin to look at what they are putting into their bodies for the first time.

I encourage all moms (pregnant or not) to eat a balanced diet, consisting mainly of whole foods.  I have my students track what they eat over the course of their childbirth education, and try to help them come up with ideas to fill in the gap where their nutrition may be lacking.

One area that I’ve notice many moms struggling with is eating enough leafy greens.  At this time of year, greens are just coming into season again, but one can only eat so many salads before they grow tiresome.  I wanted to share my favorite recipe for a simple green smoothie, so yummy,  even kids (at least mine) will be begging for you to make more.

This recipe was given to me by local midwife, Jen Anderson-Tarver, but I’ve played with it a bit to suit personal tastes and moods.

To a blender add:

1/2 pound kale, tough stems removed
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sliced frozen peaches, or approx. 1 frozen peach, unsweetened
And 1 of the following of your choice:  either 1 whole carrot, 1/2 a banana, OR 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Blend until smooth, pour into glasses and enjoy!

The original recipe calls for the half a banana, but I don’t really care for bananas in smoothies.  They are a bit too sweet for me.  So I substitute the carrot, which is a little sweet, but not too much.  The blueberries are a good choice if you don’t want your smoothie to actually be green… great for those with an aversion to green foods.

This is the smoothie my four year old and two year old ask for over and over.  My husband usually makes it with a carrot for me, and they like it just fine.  They’ve even bragged to the neighborhood kids about how good it is.  So if you’re having trouble getting enough greens in your diet, try a green smoothie – yum!

Book Review: Taking Charge of Your Fertility

Before I had children, my husband and I discussed me getting off the pill, not so we could have kids, but so I could quit taking hormones, as I had done for three years straight.  I knew that taking hormones wasn’t good for my body and that oral contraceptives have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

At that time, I didn’t really know any other methods of birth control except abstinence (which wasn’t going to happen), and condoms.  As you might guess, this situation is what led to my being pregnant with our first baby.

I was (and am) thankful to have him, but I was not quite ready to have another right away, so I started looking at natural birth control methods that actually work.  Now don’t laugh.  I know we all know some family with a dozen or so children who were using the rhythm method of “birth control.”  That is not my idea of birth control!  There had to be something better, right??

Well there is!  I was fortunate enough to read Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health by Toni Weschler.

OH MY GOODNESS!  Why the heck didn’t they teach us this in sex ed all those years ago?  I learned an awful lot about my own body that I had never known before.  Weschler writes, in practical terms, how easy it is to prevent or achieve a pregnancy without the use of hormones or other drugs, simply by observing your body, and knowing your cycle (not the typical 28 day average, I might add).  This book is incredible!

Women need this book.  We need to teach it’s lessons to our daughters.  Weschler teaches you in simple terms about your anatomy, your monthly cycle (which is more than just 5-7 days of bleeding) and gives you an easy system for tracking your cycle to either achieve or avoid pregnancy without the help of doctors or ovulation kits.  I was totally blown away by this book, and it really helped me on my journey towards whole-person health.

Ms. Weschler takes the book one step further by providing you with her website, TCOYF.com, where you can track your cycle online, or print off charts for your use at home, as well as providing up to date fertility information and community forum.  All in all, Taking Charge of Your Fertility is highly recommended.

Crazy Pregnancy Dreams

One thing many pregnant moms are surprised to find is that they often have vivid and sometimes very strange dreams.  During my third pregnancy, I had a lot of dreams about labor in odd situations.

Once I dreamed that I sat in my midwife’s home waiting my turn to give birth, as she called her clients in one by one, had them squat and then caught their babies.  Just before it was my turn, a mom came in in advanced labor, and I let her cut in front of me while I hung out, waiting on my yoga mat.  I was totally cool with this arrangement.  My husband got there and I told him he was just in time, as I was next.  Another dream involved me just hanging out with my midwives, going to book stores and coffee shops… while I was in labor.  When I shared these dreams at prenatal appointments I felt a bit like Dorothy waking up from Oz – “and you and you and you were there.”

But not all pregnancy dreams are so low key, pleasant, or easy to share.  During my first pregnancy I had a downright disturbing dream that my baby was born looking like a pig and that the hospital staff took her away and feed her whole peas and chopped carrots.

Worries over being a good parent and lack of sleep can cause crazy dreams of your newborn baby talking or otherwise doing things they could not developmentally do yet, or worse.  It is not uncommon for these kinds of dreams to carry over into the postpartum period as well.

Some pregnancy dreams are surprisingly sexual.  There’s a saying in the natural birth community that “what gets baby in, gets baby out.”  Apparently my subconscious took this literally and I once dreamed that my husband and I had to conceive on a hospital table with doctors, nurses and interns all observing, taking notes, charting, and doing cervical checks.  Finally, they rushed in at the last minute to drop the bottom of the bed and make sure conception happened in a position easy for the doctor observe.  Um… yeah.  No.

All of these represent themes that are common for pregnant women to dream about.  But what causes such weird and vivid dreams?  A study was done in 2007 that linked a pregnant woman’s increased hormone levels, increased anxiety and disrupted sleep patterns (have to go to the bathroom yet again?) to the dreams.  Many pregnant women experience a heightened level of stress or excitement during pregnancy, contributing to the list of things our subconscious that to work through during our dreams.

Bizarre dreams during this time in your life may be a window into your feelings about birth and parenthood.  Perhaps you are excited about giving birth.  These vivid dreams may provide you an opportunity to explore those feelings further, enjoy it.  The increased hormones often lead to sexual dreams for the first time during pregnancy, sometimes with partners other than your own, or even movie stars.  Or, at times a mother’s negative feelings or fears may not otherwise arise until her birth and these dreams may be providing an opportunity to get these fears or anxieties out in the open ahead of time so they can be dealt with and resolved.

In any case, if you are having strange dreams during your pregnancy, be comforted in knowing you are not alone.  It’s very common for women to have these dreams.  it may be helpful (or at the very least, entertaining) to keep a dream journal.  If you find recurring themes, talk about them with your partner and care-providers.  You may be happy to find the more disturbing dreams go away after they are discussed out loud and your feelings acknowledged.

The Birth of a Mother

For me, ‘childbirth’ is a misnomer.  When my son was born, I didn’t see it immediately, but I’ve realized now that really it was my birth.  I became a mother, and was changed more in that moment than at any other time in my life.

My husband and I were not going to be parents.  I was unsure about kids.  I felt that I was too selfish to raise children, and, well… I never was a baby person.  To be completely honest, I just thought they were gross little poop/spit up factories.  As crazy as it sounds, I didn’t know that babies were people.  I thought they were little empty shells waiting for a personality to be dropped in by their parents sometime during childhood.

But then we met a couple that had a daughter.  The mother was healthy and fit, and didn’t wear “mom jeans” (you know the ones… with the waistband at the arm pits).  They went to friends’ homes and had friends over.  They stayed up late and drank wine and margaritas, with their daughter sleeping in her bedroom down the hall.  In other words, they still had a life.  It hadn’t occurred to me before then that it was possible to have children and not give up having a life.  God was preparing my heart.

We were surprised to find ourselves pregnant, and only months after meeting these hip parent friends.  I was panicked.  I forgot everything I had seen in our friends’ lives, and started believing my life was officially over.  I was going to be a fat, boring mom, stuck in my house with a drooling poop factory for the next 18 years.  And someone was going to call me ‘mom’ for the rest of my life…  Oh the humanity!!  How could this be happening to me?  Why was God punishing me???

My poor husband.  He struggled during this time, as he was ecstatic about having a baby, but trying to quiet the fears of his panicking wife at the same time.  It didn’t help that I threw up everyday for the entire nine months.  Friends would ask us if we were excited, smiling expectantly as they got a stone silent response from me.  How could I tell them I was scared to death?

We took childbirth education classes – 12 weeks worth.  And while this calmed all fears about pregnancy and birth (and in fact gave us a lot of confidence and empowerment, even over future parenting decisions), it didn’t do much for my fears of motherhood itself.  What if I hated it?  What if I hated the baby?  What if I was an awful mother?

Labor began for me around 1:00 am.  Contractions were a minute long and two minutes apart from the first contraction until his birth ten hours later.  While they were strong contractions, I was relaxed and confident, and calm.  My husband was an amazing coach, and being at the birth center with a supportive midwife was great.

As I transitioned into the pushing stage, the baby’s heart tones started dropping rapidly.  My midwife was concerned, so we transferred to the hospital.  I was not afraid, and trusted that it was God’s plan, even if we ended up with a still birth.

Thankfully, our son was born without complication… pink and screaming and perfect.  And I loved him the moment I saw him.  Suddenly, all my fears were gone.

Besides the frequent leaky diaper (I just couldn’t get the hang of that!), I found motherhood to be quite natural for me.  We took our son everywhere with us, even snowshoeing at only three months old.  We ignored criticism from friends and family who thought we shouldn’t be so relaxed.  We were determined to make our baby a part of our lives, not make our lives about our baby.

We had parties and friends over and played loud games and music late into the night with Henry asleep in the next room.  We went to friends’ homes and played cards until 2:00am with our son in a pack-n-play.  We went to a bed and breakfast, and took him along.   We planted the garden and took him to the farm.  He played with worms and dirt and bugs, and got covered in mud.  We were actually having fun!  And best of all, even from birth, our son was a little person, waiting for us to get to know him… this boy was no empty shell.

We decided to do it again.  This time, my fears were relegated to “How in the world will I be able to take care of two without neglecting one of them?” and “What if our son hates this?”

But my pregnancy was much better the second time around.  I wasn’t nearly as sick after the first trimester, and I was able to say yes when people asked if we were excited.  We decided on a home birth this time, and picked a wonderful midwife, Julie, to help us.

I expected to be in control, calm and collected during this labor and birth.  I had been through childbirth once already, and I imagined that this second birth would be somewhat similar to the first.  But while our son’s birth was ten hours long, this labor was probably a ten on the intensity scale.

The contractions I had this time, built slowly over hours of pre-labor.  By the time labor was active, there was only an hour and four minutes of it, and the contractions were very powerful.  And while I pushed for just seven minutes, I felt completely out of control, and quite afraid during his birth.  My midwives were a huge support and very reassuring when I felt so uncertain, and my husband was calm and confident throughout (not to mention, quite unabashed about lying to me that these contractions were just like the ones I had with our son, no matter how many times I asked him if HE felt like they were just way more intense).

The strength of this labor and birth were perfectly contrasted by the serenity and peace of being at home in the calm of our own bedroom.  The midwives treated us with so much love and respect, and really honored what we had asked for in our birth experience.

I had another perfect, pink baby boy.  And again, my fears dissipated with one look at him.  Our first son and my mom had come home from the museum while I was pushing, and were able to meet the new baby, right after he was born.  Our older son was so excited to meet his brother, and even now can barely keep himself from hugging and kissing the baby all the time.

So now, I am the mother of two!  I feel utterly transformed my becoming a mother.  I don’t look at the world the same way.  Some things that I thought were important before, just don’t seem to matter at all, and things that I had no idea about are monumental.

And I know that all my fears; being boring, having no life, being trapped with drooling poop factories – were completely irrational.  I don’t feel nearly as selfish as I thought I would be.  I actually like sharing my husband with our sons.  I don’t mind loosing some sleep when one of them is sick, or when the baby needs and extra feeding.  Breastfeeding is not at all gross, and I actually enjoy the quiet one on one time with my babies.

I’m excited to see who these little people become.

*originally posted on my personal blog on July 26, 2009.

Breastfeeding in the News (Again!)

This week these was a lot of hubbub over some comments made by a radio personality in South Carolina about breastfeeding in public.  The female show host made some pretty destructive and bigoted comments about breastfeeding in public, including calling it indecent.  I do not wish to post a link to the radio show because I believe that her comments are hurtful to breastfeeding mothers, and I don’t wish to promote her.

Instead, I’d like to link to Kourtney Kardashian’s blog about her breastfeeding her son, Mason, despite negative comments from those around her. Kourtney says,

“Mason is now six months old and has only been fed breast milk up until this week! I just started incorporating solid foods into his diet. We began with a mixture of rice cereal, oatmeal cereal and mixed grain cereal with some breast milk added. When I introduced it to him, he seemed confused — but ready and excited for it!

I still want to continue breastfeeding for maybe another six months or as long as Mason still wants it. I’ve heard that some babies just get over it and stop nursing. But personally, I’m still loving it. I love the bonding time, love that it’s natural and what your body is made to do, love the benefits for his body and mine. I find it to be such an amazing womanly thing.”

I just love seeing celebrities out there doing things like breastfeeding and talking about co-sleeping and other natural parenting issues.  It seems to normalize it for a lot of people in our culture, and I think that is a good thing.

Additionally, one good thing came from the radio show – I found a link to Kate Hansen’s beautiful art blog.  She refuted the radio host’s ignorant comments with some beautiful artwork of nursing mothers.  I loved it.  Her post was part of a Nursing in Public blog carnival.  Click the badge below for more articles on breastfeeding in public.

Art by Erika Hastings at http://mudspice.wordpress.com/

Keeping Your Body in Balance: Squats and Pelvic Floor Strength

A few weeks ago, I read an article on the Mama Sweat blog about pelvic floor strength and not doing Kegels.  Mama Sweat interviewed Katy Bowman, who is the director of the Restorative Exercise Institute.  The article was fascinating, discussing why traditional Kegels can actually do more harm than good.

A lot of people were shocked by her revelation that our bodies are designed to work as a system, that “YOU REQUIRE YOUR BUTT MUSCLES!”  One of the best quotes from the article is this:

“There aren’t any extraneous parts on the body! Every muscle is really a pulley that is holding your skeleton just so. When you let your glutes go, you allow the bones of the pelvis to collpase into themselves. The squat is the most effective and natural glute strengthener–using the full range of motion and your body weight. It is entirely more effective than any gym machine or contrived exercise. The hunter-gathering folks squat multiple times a day (or at least once in the morning), so they had a nice routine down over a lifetime. Doing this four to five times a day, every day of your pregnancy will improve the delivery as well!”

So what’s a girl to do?  It can be confusing when you hear “do Kegels” and then the next day (bear with me, I know what I posted yesterday), you’re hearing “don’t do Kegels.”

Well, folks, there’s a reason that I posted Kegel exercises yesterday.  Because you still need to do them.  But you should not do them alone.  Not as in Kegels-are-fun-to-do-with-a-partner, though I suppose that could be true.  But as in, you should not be only doing Kegels and neglect to do other pre- and postnatal exercises. And not just 2 billion flex and release exercises per day either.

Pregnant mamas should be squatting like crazy (postpartum moms typically do this naturally chasing after babies).  This is why your childbirth educator talked about it during the first week of class.  Dr. Bradley wrote about it.  Hunter-gatherer societies did it as part of everyday life.  They squat.  Squatting prepares your muscles to give birth.  Not just your leg muscles.  Squatting balances the kegel exercise – pelvic floor strength involves the glutes too! Even Katy Bowman said,

“Add two to three squat sessions throughout the day (anywhere). The glutes strengthen and as a result,they pull the sacrum back, stretching the PF from a hammock to a trampoline. Viola!”

Katy did a follow up interview with Mama Sweat on the topic, and you can read that here.  I was very intrigued by what I read there.  So I poked around on Katy’s website, katysays.com.  It is filled with all kinds of wellness tips and exercises.  Recently she posted more about the pelvic floor.  Tips for women like not wearing high heels (it disrupts the allignment of the entire body) and, get this, not sitting on your sacrum!

That’s right, sit up straight.  Have good posture.  Your mother’s been right all these years.  To quote Katy’s website,

“In addition to your pelvic floor muscles, your organs are also held in place by ligaments.  One major ligament to the uterus is attached to the sacrum, so if the sacrum is pushed into your pelvic bowl, the uterus moves down.  Even a diligent exercise program can’t override the constant and displacing physical pressure.”

The easiest way to avoid sitting on your sacrum?  Get off the couch.  Tailor sit (a.k.a. indian style) on the floor.  Get an exercise ball for your desk.  Didn’t your childbirth educator mention this one too?  There’s a saying that the couch is the number one cause of c-sections today.  While no studies have yet to be done on it (and, although there’s a measure of jest here), I’m pretty sure bad posture and it’s tie to pelvic floor strength could be a real contributing factor.

So, yes, Kegel on, but balance yourself (preferably on a birth ball) with tailor sitting, and squatting.  Everyday.  Ditch the high heels and the comfy couch.  Your pelvic floor will thank you for it!

Advanced Kegel Exercises

Lots of doctors, midwives and birth professionals often recommend women do Kegel (a.k.a. the pelvic floor, the PF, the pubococcygeus muscle or the PC muscle) exercises during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Here are a few compelling reasons why they do so.

  • Kegels can help shorten labor
  • Kegels can prevent incontinence
  • Kegels can prevent or correct vaginal or uterine prolapse
  • Kegels can increase sexual pleasure

Sounds like a good deal right?  Flex that little PC muscle and get lots of great benefits!  What woman doesn’t want a shorter labor or better sex? And the exercise is easy to do. Continue reading