Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hide-and-seek memory game for an activity bag

This post was submitted as part of the March “Families, Create!” Carnival, hosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children and Dionna at Code Name: Mama.

The theme for "Families, Create!" this month is Animals! I actually did a few animal crafts this month but somehow have lost the pictures for the first couple. Let's assume they're moldering on the external hard drive, but since I have just one hour to go before it's not March here anymore (cough…procrastination…snort), I'm going with what I have on my laptop.

Which is…activity bags!

Kristin of Intrepid Murmurings posted on Natural Parents Network about "Toddler and Preschooler Activity Bag Fun!"

"The main idea is that you assemble or make a self-contained activity that fits into a small bag. When you need a quick (or long) activity to occupy your bored or busy kid, you bust it out! Some are great for on-the-go, airplane or car rides, at the doctor’s office, etc, while others are a bit more messy and best for home. These can also work great for homeschoolers — and you can obviously cater the contents to any age, topic and ability level."

I loved this idea for ways to amuse Mikko when the new baby's here and I can't always be as active and hands-on as I am now (which, let's face it, is not all that much anyway, but I digress…), or when we're out at restaurants or friends' houses or traveling. The idea wasn't foreign to me, because I actually had collected just such contained activities for our latest trips, but I didn't know they had a name. And that there were so many ideas for them!

Take a look at this list Kristin later posted on her blog to see: "Idea List for Toddler & Preschooler Activity Bags."

Contest: Write for NPN's cloth diapering book!

Exciting news! Natural Parents Network is publishing a book — and some of YOU will be writing it!

Tentatively titled The Natural Parent's Guide to Cloth Diapering, this book will be a Cloth Diapering 101 class to everyone who wants to cloth diaper but is intimidated by all the choices and logistics of going full-on fluff. This print-on-demand volume will make the perfect baby shower and new parent gift and will be an invaluable resource for any parents who already cloth diaper — or wish they did.

We are holding a writing contest to fill up the chapters with your fine contributions. We've picked out what we think are the crucial elements to cover in a book on cloth diapering, and we invite you to write one or more of the chapters and submit it to the contest for possible inclusion in the final book.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Big brother gift

He picked this present out himself. This is how he poses with things if you ask him.

He also picked out the wrapping paper.

This is the other way he poses with things.

Tying the bow.

Satisfied with the inscription: "BABY."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Calling for submissions for the April Carnival of Natural Parenting!

We continue to be delighted with the advice and stories our Carnival of Natural Parenting participants share, and we hope you'll join us for the next carnival in April! (Check out January, February, March, and the full list of 2010 posts if you missed them.) Your co-hosts are Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Lauren at Hobo Mama.

Here are the submission details for April 2011:

Theme: Compassionate Advocacy: As parents who believe in many “natural parenting” practices, we sometimes find ourselves educating (and inspiring!) others about those practices. How do you advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately? Remember: you don’t have to be “outspoken” to be an advocate; you can be a natural parenting role model/advocate simply by living.

Deadline: Tuesday, April 5. Fill out the webform (at the link or at the bottom) and email your submission to us by 11:59 p.m. Pacific time: CodeNameMama {at} and mail {at}

Carnival date: Tuesday, April 12. Before you post, we will send you an email with a little blurb in html to paste into your submission that will introduce the carnival. You will publish your post on April 12 and email us the link if you haven't done so already. Once everyone's posts are published on April 12 by noon Eastern time, we will send out a finalized list of all the participants' links, to generate lots of link love for your site! We'll include full instructions in the email we send before the posting date.

Please submit your details into our webform: This will help us as we compile the links list. Please enter your information on the form embedded at the end of this post, or click here to enter it on a separate page: April Carnival of Natural Parenting participant form

Monday, March 28, 2011

Postpartum sex vs. sex before kids

Hoo boy! I started this post in October 2009, based off a different post I was writing about "How to have sex when you're cosleeping". The point in that post came up that "the difference is greater between pre-kids sex and post-kids sex vs. cosleeping sex and separate-bedrooms sex."

So I started writing about the differences between pre-kids sex and post-kids sex, intending for it to be a quick write followed by a speedy publish before I thought about it too hard.

Mm-hmm. So here we are in March 2011, and I'm pregnant with baby #2 and anticipating my next postpartum sex experience. I figured I'd better publish this as a sort of refresher for myself, and I can update sometime after the birth (like, in one and a half years?) if needed.

Without further ado, this is my own take, from my hetero/married perspective after a low-trauma vaginal birth. Your sexual experience may vary.

I wrote before about how to have sex when you're cosleeping and promised that I would write again in a more general fashion. I had come to the conclusion then that it wasn't so much cosleeping affecting our sex lives as it was just having had kids at all, so I want to explore that further.

I am writing under a fierce deadline here, so I refuse to do any research or talk to anyone about this. I am just going to post this off the top of my head, and you'll have to deal with whatever fluff therein resides.

Got you intrigued, don't I?

I dig this topic, though. I think the more we talk honestly about sex, the less that expectations will be raised foolishly high, and the less people will be disappointed with themselves or their partners (or their kids) when having kids changes things, sex-wise.

Um, it strikes me that I need to put some sort of warning flag on this post that it will be TMI and NSFW and all that. I think that should be fairly obvious, from just the title, but I'm trying to intentionally head you off if talking sex will discomfit you.

All right. Here are the barriers to sex post-kids, as I see them:

You need time to recover physically from birth

As Jessica pointed out eloquently in a guest post about the gentle lying-in period that should follow birth,  women's bodies need time to recover from birth.

I had heard that six weeks was the minimum to wait after a vaginal birth before resuming penetrative vaginal intercourse. (I think it's similar for after a c-section, but I'm not doing research, remember?)

Let me go on record here as a scoffer. Six weeks? Six weeks? Really.

What sounded so...very...long to Sam and me before I pushed a 12-pound baby out of my vaginal canal started to seem woefully inadequate when I was faced with vaginal intercourse at the famous six-week mark. To be perfectly honest, I think we gave it a try around 5 weeks, so yes, I suppose I was breaking rules and maybe that voids my warranty here.

But...ouch. Just, ouch. I was not ready. My vagina was not ready. There, I said it.

I had had a "normal" — in the sense of uncomplicated and vaginal — birth. I had a couple small tears in my hymen tissue (no, seriously — pseudo-virgin birth right here, folks!), with a few stitches that had since dissolved. There was no medical reason I wasn't physically ready to have intercourse. I just...wasn't.

It hurt. Everything was still stretched out and sore. I needed more time.

What surprised me was that, even after the ouchy pain went away, intercourse didn't feel good for a long time. About nine months is what I recall, give or take. I was kind of too depressed about the experience to journal it at the time. Intercourse stopped feeling bad and moved to nothing. Well, if it went on for too long, I felt chafing. Use one hand to rub the back of the other back and forth for awhile. Does it hurt? No. Does it feel good? Not especially. Would it hurt if you did it long enough? Yup. That was sex for me, for about nine months. It was a total bummer. There was some excitement from just the idea of intercourse, my memory that it used to feel good, but I had no physical sensation of pleasure from it, and I was so sad about it. I didn't tell Sam, because I didn't want him to know I wasn't enjoying it. If he asked for sex, I agreed, most of the time, but only if I couldn't distract him from forgetting that he'd asked that night. If he didn't ask, I didn't offer. Why would I?

I was even having trouble achieving orgasm for the first time in my life. (I told you this post was TMI — if you don't listen, you deserve to be shocked!) It's not that I couldn't. It's more like I couldn't be bothered. I would tell Sam to never mind, to just go ahead with the intercourse and get it over with. I wouldn't use those terms out loud, but in my mind I was totally the stereotypical Victorian woman, raising her nightgown, lying back on her pillow, and thinking of England. It just wasn't interesting to me, because it didn't feel good.

The good news? It came back. The sensations came back, the pleasure. I almost wept with joy. I think I surprised Sam by saying something like, "Hey, that actually felt good!" Since, you know, I hadn't told him it hadn't been feeling good for a long time. I was never so happy in my life to feel sexual.

You need time to recover mentally and emotionally from birth

What I was mentioning above intersects with this, because it's kind of hard to separate the two. Far from our Greek dualist idea of body below and mind above, of course we're all one holistic being. Our bodies are ourselves, and what we experience physically affects what we experience emotionally and vice versa.

Particularly when hormones come into play.

Your body is awash in hormones following a birth. You're crashing from intense chemicals. You'll notice it physically in the blood that won't stop seeping out of your crotch. Some women have lochia for six weeks or more after birth. It's messy, and constant. It doesn't mean anything bad, but for me it was a vivid red reminder of a traumatizing miscarriage I'd had before getting pregnant with Mikko. I knew it wasn't the same at all, but it played out identically.

I also had this weird reaction to touching my vulva or seeing the stitches down there. I was tender physically from all the stretching that had happened, but I was even more tender emotionally.

I had an intense squeamishness at the thought of looking at the damage. I had a horror of touching the stitches, which I imagined to be black and stabbing into my skin in several sensitive places. Several weeks later, at a time the stitches were supposed to have dissolved, I gathered my courage and had a peek with a hand mirror. I couldn't tell much, but I did see something long and stringy that I thought was a line of mucus. I pulled at it to brush it away, and it tugged the skin with it. I squealed and dropped the strand. I had touched one of my stitches. They were clear, not black, and I had been tricked into touching one!

Every day for the first couple weeks I took a sitz bath, which I grew to believe was something akin to magic. Mikko and I would relax together in a warm, shallow bath. Sometimes I would pour in a handful of steeped herbs from my home-birth package. Sometimes I decided the warm water was enough. I felt the water swirling around the privates I was too afraid to touch and healing them, gently. I imagined the blood flowing to the area, attracted by the warmth of the water, and restoring it gradually.

Remember, again, that my pushing was not traumatic, and my scars not extensive. Still, every time I stretched my legs apart too far, I was rewarded with a twinge of pain to remind me to keep them together. If that's not enough to put a girl off sex, what is?

Besides the emotions attached to the physical symptoms, there are emotions caused by the swirling hormones. You're going through a chemical crash after birth. Remember how all that lovely retained hair started falling out in clumps a few months postpartum? It's because the body transitions, fast, from nurturing life through a placenta to nurturing life through breastfeeding (or not, in which case you'll also be going through the emotional and physical toll of weaning).

You might notice also that as the mother you're not getting nearly as much attention as when you were pregnant. Pregnant ladies are fawned over, their bellies worshiped. Once the baby's out, all the attention diverts to the newborn. And who even knows how shuffled aside your partner is feeling! Even if you're not as immature as I am as to have mourned the loss of that special pregnancy attention, there are a myriad of these big, emotional shifts you have to deal with, right away, while caring for a newborn. Sex can seem like one emotional hurdle too many.

You are caring for a child

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but sometimes partners in particular don't realize quite how obsessed your mind is with the tiny bundle in your arms. It might be a survival thing, the way mothers can be less impressed even with their own, older children once a helpless newborn is in the picture.

But, even as your newborn grows, you're still all day and every day, the mother. It can be hard to break out of that role, and sometimes you don't want to.

You are being touched all day long

Another reason sex can be challenging is that you can start feeling like you're getting all the physical touch you need from your child, and then some. I don't know that this is particular to breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing parents — I imagine most babies end up being held quite a bit — but I could see that attachment parents might have a special insight into going from touching when the adult wishes, to being touched all day long, whether the adult wishes or not.

There might be times when your partner reaches out to do something innocuous and pleasant, like give you a backrub, and you shrug off the invading hands. You're not allowed to deny your baby's needs, but you figure your partner can understand and show some patience.

That can be true, and then again, it can end up extending unhealthily. At some point, the type of touch I was receiving from Mikko and the type Sam was offering finally diverged in my mind, and I could welcome both. But it took awhile for my sensors to reset.

I found also, that with breastfeeding, the sensation in my nipples is completely different now. It doesn't bother me to have them suckled — whew! It does bother me to have them twiddled. It really, really does. And it doesn't matter a bit whether it's Mikko or Sam doing the twiddling. I'm hoping they go back to normal after I wean, but till then, they're just not the same breasts anymore, sexually speaking.

Your body looks different

I never had a bikini body. I thought it would therefore be relatively easy to go to really not having a bikini body. But my postpartum body hurt even my low sensibilities. My stomach, with its stretch marks and lopsided flabbiness, looks like something out of a special effects shop. My breasts got huge. Not necessarily a bad thing there, but another difference that makes you realize just how much your body has been through — and how it will never again look the same as it did before.

You might or might not enjoy visiting The Shape of a Mother, a site where women can send in pictures of their changing bodies. In my weaker pregnant moments, it horrified me to see what I could (and would) become. In my more forgiving, expansive moments, I feel a spiritual connection to all these women's bodies, to the beauty of birth stretching and scarring and marking us forever as mothers.

But, regardless if you're feeling sanguine or spooked, your body is a new one — to you, and to your partner. I never felt Sam recoil at what I perceived as its ugliness (thank you, dear!), but I had to take time to accept the changes and not make the altered bits off limits for touching or loving. Speaking of which...

You and your partner need to adapt to the changes in your body and your lives

As you are going through changes, so your partner is going through the changes with you, but from the outside.

One odd thing to bring up here is that, if you're breastfeeding, your partner will have to get used to the possibility of breastmilk entering into your sex lives, either through leakage or through an inadvertent mouthful. I preferred not to go topless during sex during the early months, because a cami would put some pressure against my nipples and stop the downpour of milk that, in my mind, interfered with the sexy atmosphere.

I don't know what to say about the perceived tightness or otherwise of the vaginal canal post-sex. I did once ask Sam about it, and he told me he couldn't tell a difference. Whether he was protecting my feelings, or whether my Kegels were worthy of celebration, I do not know. Suffice it to say that it is still possible for both partners to enjoy sexual pleasure post-birth, whether vaginal or C-section, but it might take time. A lot of time.

One of the biggest reasons I had sex before I was ready was fear of displeasing Sam. This is not a coercive relationship we're talking about here. If I had refused, he would have accepted it graciously. But the fact is, he had not been through the physicality of birth. His sexual bits were functioning just fine, thank you, and his hormones weren't rampaging, except in normal fashion. I know that, even when six weeks off was sounding way too short to me, it still sounded way too long to Sam! I understand that, mentally — in any other situation, if you told me in advance that sex was verboten for six weeks, I'd be chafing at the bit, too. So I felt I owed it to him to try. This is a delicate balance: pleasing your partner without harming yourself. I can't tell you what's exactly right in your situation. In mine, were I to do things over again, I don't think I'd do much differently, except that I might be more insistent about stopping if things sharply hurt. I did stop us a couple times, but of course, I felt bad for Sam in those instances.

After it felt neutral, I think I would still let Sam lead the way in requesting sex and try to "give in" most times even when I didn't feel like it. It's not like I think that was great sex or anything, but when it wasn't actually hurting me, it wasn't a bad thing to give that to my partner. Fortunately, now I know that eventually the good sensations will come back for me, too, so I'll have that to look forward to instead of wallowing in the fear that it will always feel bad. In the meantime, I think it's reasonable for Sam to expect some sexual attention even in the early months when I don't much feel like it.

My partner's point of view

I was talking with Sam about this article, because I have a habit of publishing posts about our marriage without, you know, getting his input ahead of time. He'll just read them and go, Huh, well, here's what I would have said...

But, this time, you have lucked out. I was supposed to have posted this eons ago (or a week or something equally appalling), but I didn't, and I therefore chanced into mentioning it to Sam, and he gave me some insightful aspects to add. I should do this more often.

Sam was pointing out that, once you have a baby (or once we had a baby), there's not as much time just to cuddle. We used to always sit next to each other on the couch. With breastfeeding, I preferred sitting in the glider, leaving Sam by his lonesome. We actually did make an effort after awhile to correct this and sit next to each other more.

However, we usually are not sitting next to each other alone. Usually there is a very wiggly toddler either wedged between us or squirming on one of our laps.

And when he's asleep, that's not our cuddle time — that's our holy-crap-I-have-to-get-so-much-done time. We are usually lost in our own mental worlds of concentration, making up for time that's been lost to parenting.

And if you have interests outside of parenting (!), something might suffer — well, it almost certainly will, at least in the early days. You have to choose between following your interests, sleep, time to decompress, and time with your partner. The good news is, it's not a permanent situation — or doesn't have to be. You might just need to make allowances that you won't be able to do absolutely everything when you have a newborn or even older kids, and be gentle with yourself and your partner as you try to prioritize time together.

Some links I came across while waiting and waiting and waiting to publish

  • "VII - Happily Ever After The End Part, or LUCKY" at Honest to Betsy, wrapping up her experiences with having a hysterectomy soon after the birth of her third child:

    "In three more weeks I will visit my doctor and surely he will tell me that I've healed spectacularly and that I may now resume my daily activities including vacuuming and also sexual intercourse. I have some pamphlets on this -- about when you can "resume" vacuuming and sexual intercourse.

    And it's precisely the thought of "RESUMING" that has me freaked out just now. I don't mean I'm afraid of vaccuming. I'm not even sure what that is. But I'm a little afraid of having sex. …

    … I'm afraid I might not want to, like ever again. … I'm afraid that when I invariably do want to I'll find that everything will be different. Because I'm different. Because this experience has changed me. Because it is a trauma -- a sexual trauma. Kind of like having a baby is, although having a baby is also wonderful. And oh right, I just had a baby. And, well, you know, resuming can be kinda hard.

    There's something about making love for the first time after having a baby that is TERRIFYING. It's not really the physicality of it. I think it's the realization that there is just no going back to the people you were. If you haven't been utterly changed by the process of childbirth, you've done something terribly wrong. Quite suddenly there are two strangers in your bedroom -- one is your husband and the other is YOU! And there's just no getting back at it in the bedroom, because we aren't the same people. And so there's no RESUMING SEXUAL INTERCOURSE after these events, there is only starting again."

    I'm probably quoting way too much, but isn't that awesome? Go read her whole series for more good stuff.

  • I had a good link to give you about sex after a cesarean, but it's gone dead now. Sigh. Such is the internet.

  • Finally, for more of a balanced view, here are several takes on the subject compiled by Luschka at Diary of a First Child: "Natural Childbirth: Changes In Sex Life." If you haven't yet had your first child, maybe you won't be as scared after reading that there is actually a range of postpartum experiences…

I will end with a true story.

One night, Sam and I were whispering to each other as we prepared to go to sleep in our family bed.

"We forgot to do it," one of us said.

"Oh, that's right," said the other, "we were going to do it."

Mikko, in quintessential toddlerhood, sleepily spoke up from the bed: "My turn to do it."

And this is how children kill the mood quite effectively.

If you're inclined to share, what has been your postpartum sexperience?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Surf: Lots of birth, breastfeeding, & a book

Welcome to the Sunday Surf! Here are some of the best links I've read this past week.

I am being called to come and play, so here are the links, right quick! If you want some exciting news, skip to the little nature boy in the cloth diaper. (Just an idea.)

  • "The Anterior Cervical Lip: how to ruin a perfectly good birth" from Midwife Thinking's Blog: As someone who was told to ignore my pushing urges because I was "only 5 cm," I so appreciate this explanatory article about how the cervix dilates, and how pushing can naturally begin before complete dilation! I wasn't allowed to push until the cervical lip had been pushed out of the way by the nurse-midwife (but at least she did so, and then I was allowed to continue with what my body was SCREAMING at me!). My favorite quote here:
    "This [pushing urge] is called the ‘Ferguson reflex’ – probably after some man."
  • "Telling the real story of my #Twitterbirth" from Thought this was such an interesting story of how Twitterbirthing can be misunderstood, as I'm wondering if I'll Tweet my own birth. I think too often people who aren't on Twitter think people on Twitter are wanting attention from strangers — when, most often, they're wanting attention from friends (and giving the same back as well). Virtual friends, yes, but still friends. Nothing wrong with that!
    Earth Day Blog Carnival
  • "Join us for the Earth Day Blog Carnival" from Monkey Butt Junction and Child of the Nature Isle: Cool green carnival!
    "The one requirement we have for this carnival is that your post reflects eco-actions and lifestyle choices that you have taken or are working on. We want to hear about green living as you live it, or want to live it. It could be small or grand; something that affects just you or your entire neighbourhood; a one-off gesture or something you do everyday – all we ask is that you keep it REAL!"
  • "The worst/best sleep advice in the world" from Geeks In Rome: This is pretty much our own crappy sleep advice… I always feel sheepish sharing it, but it works for us. (Most of the time, just like any sleep arrangement, I suppose!)
    "I always warn people when I comment on their blog post about their baby waking them up all night that I am the worst person in the world to comment. That’s cuz my philosophy is extremely costly yet so worth the price."
  • "Breastfeeding Women Viewed as Less Competent" from Miller-McCune — I totally agree. I would be much better at math if my boobs would stop getting in the way.
            (NB for those whose sarcasm detectors are faulty: That's me joking through a heaving sigh.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Send your guest posts for the babymoon!


Speaking of guest posts

I will have a brand new newborn in two short months and, if memory serves, will find it very challenging to keep up my blog posting during the babymoon phase — those alternately dreamy and harrowing weeks of bonding, breastfeeding topless, and catching sleep wherever it can be found.

I'm looking for guest posters who'd like to be featured on Hobo Mama in June or July.

See, this is the two of us, sharing blog posts, in a kitchen that is much cleaner than mine at the moment.

FAQs (that haven't actually been frequently asked yet):

How fabulous will Hobo Mama be at promoting my guest posts during the babymoon?

Very, very unfabulous. It will be up to you, the guest poster, to do what you can to drive traffic to your post — by putting a blurb on your blog, Tweeting the post, or putting the link on Facebook. I will do what I can, but let's not rely on me during the newborn fog, 'k?

Does my post have to be original?

Normally, I'd prefer that. But, due to the limitations of the above lack of promotion, I'm fine with reprints of wonderful articles from your blog, as long as it's been at least 90 days since it was published.

Of course, original posts are marvelous at any time!

What topic can I write about?

Anything relevant to Hobo Mama readers. Broadly speaking, this means attachment parenting and a natural lifestyle. If you need particular topics, take a gander at the categories list in the sidebar.

And just because I haven't written about a particular topic doesn't mean I wouldn't love to host it. I have my own limited parenting experience to write from — if you have a unique perspective to lend, I would appreciate adding it to this blog. For instance, I'm not a SAHM or a WOHM; I'm a white, middle-class, 30-something woman who lives in the U.S.; I haven't had a C-section; I haven't exclusively pumped or formula fed for any length of time; I don't have experience with adoption or special needs or single parenting; I'm not particularly concerned or well-versed in matters of specialty eating habits; I have just the one child of preschool age so far; I've never crocheted; I have yet to launder my own cloth diapers; etc. How are you different, and is there anything you can add that Hobo Mama's missing?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Preparing an older sibling for a new birth at PhD in Parenting

older sister and new baby brother

I am happy to have a guest post today over at PhD in Parenting on "Preparing an older sibling for a new birth."

I talk about some of the aspects of birthing we've gone over with Mikko, along with lists of resources that have helped our family prepare: children's books, helpful DVDs, and online birth videos. If you're adding to your family now or in the future, it's a post I hope you'll consider bookmarking so you can check back for information on the books and videos as you need them.

I cover talking about pregnancy and conception, going over the birthing process in both humans and other mammals, telling your older children their own birth stories, and figuring how to arrange your birth plan to include your other children — whether that means having them present or giving them trusted caregivers to take care of them elsewhere.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Quite the snake

boy at preschool playing with play-doh
After another tearful drop-off (yes, still), it was such a pleasure to arrive at preschool pickup and see Mikko happily engrossed constructing a gigantic play dough Schlange (snake) rather than hiding from me under furniture. Hooray!

boy at preschool playing with play-doh
(Forgive the camera phone quality.)

boy at preschool playing with play-doh
Stamping his letter initials into his creation.

play-doh snake
He even wanted to take a picture of his masterpiece before we left — and so he did!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Read Poetry of a Hobo Mama!

I have a book out, my lovelies!

It's a real, live (self-published…shhh…) book of parenting poetry!

Poetry of a Hobo Mama: The First Three Years
Poetry of a Hobo Mama: The First Three Years
My side boob is forever immortalized on Amazon.

I compiled all my parenting-related poetry, from my first pregnancy and miscarriage, then Mikko's story from conception (don't worry — it's not that kind of poetry) through pregnancy through the newborn phase and all the way up to toddlerhood. I sent it off for publishing in May 2010, so…um…there were a couple design hiccups that held things up. But it's published now! Woot!

If you're a fan of attachment-style parenting, you'll enjoy reading poems written for your experience: breastfeeding, babywearing, cosleeping, gentle discipline, and more. And if you're a fan of truth in parenting, you'll appreciate my honesty as I detail the highs and the lows of three years of getting used to this new roller coaster ride.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Surf: Lazy Sunday

Welcome to the Sunday Surf! Here are some of the best links I've read this past week.

Due to an early morning working on a guest post, a late morning spent putting the same puzzle together three times (can you tell Mikko likes it?), an afternoon playdate with some super-charming girls, a completely gratuitous dinner out downtown with a side trip to the carousel at the waterfront, and a much-needed pregnancy-excusable nap, I'm late getting started on Sunday Surf today. Ah, Sundays!

I somehow thought I hadn't read much this week, but my Reader shared items queue is chock full. If I put off sharing another week, it just might burst. So let's get to it!

(Just noticing: I think I must have been reading on my phone, because I don't think I commented on, like, anything. Oops!)
  • "Cloth Diapering Papa" from Anktangle: Fun interview to get the perspective of those who are rumored to be hardest to convert to cloth diapering (though Amy & I never faced any opposition). My own CDing papa's got a picture there!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Breastfeeding through pregnancy: Third-trimester update

Now that I'm firmly in the third trimester, I thought I'd give an update of how breastfeeding Mikko is going.

If you didn't see my original second-trimester post, it's here.

I don't necessarily want to repeat that post, so I'll keep this one short (I think). Mostly, things are the same physically, except that I feel, emotionally, a lot better about everything.

1. It still hurts.

A lot. I've been favoring one breast over the other, because it tended to hurt less — lately, they've both been hurting equally. I guess I helped that one catch up?

It's a stabby, cringey pain. I try to blow my breath out on latching and intentionally relax. Good Hypnobabies practice for birthing, I suppose!

It feels better after he's latched on, but never fully comfortable. I can't sleep through it, for instance, and I yelp if his latch gets lazy. I mostly nurse in very conventional positions now, to ensure that he's stable. I also remind him not to wiggle around — or, if he does, I make him come off the breast until he's repositioned himself.

One thing I've noticed — but don't know how much stock to put into it — is that my nipples are particularly white when they come out and hurt the most, particularly on the more tender side. I was diagnosed with Reynaud's phenomenon when I was about 10 — I have circulation issues anyway, and when I experience a change in temperature, my fingers and toes will sometimes go completely white and bloodless and feel numb. I had never witnessed a Reynaud's attack in my nipples, though I knew Reynaud's of the nipple happens to others during breastfeeding. My breasts have changed during this pregnancy, which surprised me, since I figured all the hormones that could go through that area already had, given that this is my third pregnancy and I've been nursing now for almost four years. It's possible that this nipple blanching is a new manifestation of Reynaud's — or that it's a bad latch, which was another thought of mine. Mikko's latch looks good, but I can't go on whether he's getting enough milk out or how good it feels — since neither's happening.

2. Mikko has not weaned.

Not even close. He seems to want to nurse more. I've been putting more time limits and using distractions a lot.

I pretty much never nurse in public anymore, because it seems like just too much of a spectacle: a pregnant woman and a three-and-three-quarters-year-old. I don't want to think of breastfeeding a preschooler as abnormal, and I don't, but I know other people do. My aversion to wanting to nurse at all (see point #1) makes it easier for me to refuse. Our compromise is that he always follows me into public restrooms and has "nummies on the potty" — a quick two seconds on either side. It's a compromise that works for both of us, so I'm fine with that. Unless there's an automatic flush. Then he kind of freaks out. (Please, auto-flush manufacturers, have some pity on us moms of preschoolers who run away from loud flushes!)

His latch still seems, from the outside, to look good (but see above about the nipple blanching). It will be interesting to see how much he will want to nurse (and how much I'll let him) when the baby arrives and my milk comes in.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Healthy eating

This week's topic at Natural Parents Network is Healthy Eating. I feel a little intimidated by the type of people who have good photos to submit to such a topic, because my version of healthy eating is a little more…emotional than straight-up nutritional. I have such a skewed relationship with food that I've been spending the last couple years just trying to enjoy it, and I've been hoping my son will be able to do the same. He's become such a picky eater that it makes me feel kind of inadequate when I see all this photographic proof of other children eating raw veggies (gasp!) and the like. I mean, he eats some things that anyone would consider "virtuous" (broccoli, for instance), but we tend to take photos of Mikko eating only fun things, making it seem like he eats nothing else: Witness pancakes with white, Muddy Buddies, and french fries. Which perhaps also suggests it's all I eat, to judge by a few — only a few — of the comments I got on a recent post. But, um, no — because I'm not 3 (and taking pictures of me eating is really dull). But regardless of his limited diet at the moment, I think the idea of enjoying food and taking responsibility for it is sinking in and will help him as he gets his taste buds back in order. Here, I'll show you:

happy face pizza
Happy Face "Pizza" Mikko and I made from a
High Five Magazine recipe for an actual pizza. We had none of the ingredients for the recipe on hand, so we substituted pretty much every part. He enjoyed the making and ate none of it, but I thought it was tasty.

planting seeds for seedlings for the garden
Helping plant the first seedlings for our garden. He rarely wants to help in the actual garden, but I hope it becomes a tradition he grows into — and that he'll eventually consent to eat something, anything, that we grow!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How to take in a baggy maternity shirt: A tutorial in tucking a seam

taking in shirt — before, baggy shirt from front taking in shirt — before, baggy shirt from side

I bought this shirt online from Old Navy on sale. I liked that it was a little more elegant than my usual stretch-jersey shirts but wasn't thrilled about the shapeless fit through the midsection.

taking in shirt — before, tucking shirt with hand

I held it in with my hand and thought, "Hey, wouldn't this look better if I tucked in the sides?" You can see the difference between the side I'm holding in place and the poofiness on the other side. I realized it was an easy fix (easier than dealing with the restrictive new mail-only return policy for maternity items).

So here's my little tutorial on how to take in a baggy shirt. It doesn't have to be a maternity shirt, by the way, or even a shirt at all — feel free to try this technique on dresses, jeans…pantaloons! Yes, pantaloons! I learned how to make alterations when volunteering in the costume department of our college's theater group. I had the teensiest actor assigned to me, and we kept having to take in, take in, take in his vest and pantaloons. (It was a Shakespeare play.) Just as Old Navy should have done a better job at measuring real humans when designing this shirt, so might I have done a better job measuring the actor in the first place. But, the good news is, I have a skill now! A very small but helpful skill!

Does anyone care to know that I'm 25 weeks pregnant in these photos? Well, just in case, I am.

taking in shirt — pinning tuck while wearing shirt

Pin the shirt smaller while it's on you while pulling it out from the side seam. Is this easier to do if the shirt's on someone else? Yes. But I assume you're a do-it-yourselfer or you wouldn't be reading this. So contort as necessary, and pin, and try not to stick yourself in the side.

I recommend pinning at least three places: up near the armhole, in the middle (probably the broadest tuck), and toward the bottom so you know where to stop making it smaller. See, in my case, I wanted to retain the waistband's width, for presumed growth during the third trimester, and I really didn't want to mess with taking out the sleeves or anything complicated. So I wanted just a gentle curve round about my boob line to most of the way down my belly.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Surf: Cutting down

Welcome to the Sunday Surf! Here are some of the best links I've read this past week.

unread messages count in gmail inboxIn my ongoing quest to minimize, I was fed up with my bloated personal email inbox and spent some time (I think it took me a good two hours) purging — from over 2,000 unread messages (yup) down to 42. I thought that was pretty good progress.

It's my personal inbox, but most of the email is, of course, not personal at all but various mailing lists I subscribe to. I figured if I hadn't responded to an email or offer from two years ago that I was unlikely ever to. Pretty perceptive, huh? The businessy ones were deleted; the personal ones archived in case I ever needed to refer to what I hadn't answered…

Another upside I hadn't counted on? My phone can now load my inbox reliably and doesn't crash the Gmail app as much. I had wondered if that was the problem.

Now — on to my Hobo Mama email account. I'm a little warier there, because I feel more obligations to respond, even if it's been awhile.

Simple Blogging ebook by Rachel MeeksI'm really tempted to download this ebook: Simple Blogging: Less Computer Time, Better Blogging from Rachel of Small Notebook, if only for the chapter on "how to deal with email guilt and make peace with your inbox." No — really, for all of the book. I'm feeling overwhelmed with bloggy commitments, especially given the baby on the way. Has anyone read the book who can give me a review? (It's $8. I should probably just buy it already and give you a review, huh?)

Anyway, on with the links, which are very minimalist this week. Or not. Whatever.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Experiments in early writing

preschooler copying a father's drawing of a bus
Sam's drawing of a bus next to Mikko's drawing of same. (Can you tell which is which?)

You know how sometimes parents compare their children to other people's kids — whether intentionally or just coincidentally as such opportunities arise?

Well, lately I've been remembering how my mom swears I learned how to read at age 2, and then a certain unnamed friend online (cough, Dionna, cough)1 posted a picture of her son writing his name out legibly — and he's a good six months younger than my 3.75-year-old son.

Despite these inducements to be paranoid and pressuring, I have resisted all urges to force Mikko to step up the pace. (No, seriously! Well, ok, I did playfully check while we were making "decorations" to see if he could write his name legibly — um, no.)

So you can imagine my surprise and delight when just the other day, he suddenly spoke up and created a writing lesson out of his own head.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Robot!

mikko robot boy with colander on his head

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Top 10 reasons to choose midwifery care

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Top 10 reasons to choose midwifery care

One of our fabulous midwives (the one with us through our labor) with a grumpy-looking newborn Mikko

Oh, I know, I've been complaining recently about some comments my current midwife made, but I'm allowed to think midwives are still pretty swell. I truly am happy to be under midwifery care again rather than under the auspices of an obstetrician for this pregnancy and birth.

I want to write this post not because I think everyone can or should choose midwifery care, but just to put out what I feel are my top reasons for doing so, and why it might also be a good choice for you to consider if you're in a low-risk pregnancy (which is most pregnancies, fortunately).

I should be clear that I live in the United States in Washington state, so the midwives I'm talking about are independent licensed midwives (LMs, also called CPMs for certified professional midwives) who do not work in hospital institutions and instead offer only birth center and home births. I'm not going to talk about midwifery care in other countries and states, not because I'm unaware of some of the differences but because I'm not qualified to speak knowledgeably. Also: Not all midwives are created equal (same with physicians); I fully realize some pregnancies and births require a more intense level of medical care; and this is not intended as some sort of bashing of other choices. These are simply my generalizations from one and a half pregnancies and one birth (so far) with two different sets of midwives.

With Mikko, I saw midwives throughout the pregnancy and had planned a home birth but ended up transferring to a hospital after 39 hours of labor, at which point my midwife and the student midwives with her moved into the role of doula and I still had my natural birth a few hours later, but in a different location. This pregnancy, so far so good — we're seeing a midwife (a different one this time, because our previous midwives are on an extended break — one of them decided to have a baby, if you can believe it) and planning a home birth that will hopefully stay at home this time.

1. Midwives treat you like a person first.

Midwives don't see pregnancy as a disease, so they don't see you as a problem to be solved or managed. They want to know your particular history and story, and they listen honestly and respectfully to your plans for pregnancy and birthing — not paying lip service to birth plans but truly considering any requests and requirements you have, and talking with you forthrightly about what they in turn feel comfortable with. I was afraid I'd be laughed at for wanting to do Hypnobabies and a water birth – no problem with midwives!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Surf: Third trimester already?

Welcome to the Sunday Surf! Here are some of the best links I've read this past week.

So — I'm fully into my third trimester. I can't believe how fast pregnancy goes when you already have a child. I'm not sure if it's the child or just having a faster-paced life in general. I'm sure the child contributes.

I feel this baby move — flop, shudder, kick, turn — so often now. Sam says he hopes it's not claustrophobic. Heh.

I'm really looking forward to meeting this active little one. I keep imagining it's a girl. Sam says it kicks just like Mikko, so he pictures a boy. I had this vision the other day that we had a boy and I was so surprised. Either will be fine, I've discovered — emotionally speaking, I mean.

My bellybutton's getting flatter, a sure sign that I've popped. Here are a couple bad mirror photos to prove the point:

26 weeks belly pic pregnant 28 weeks belly pic pregnant
Around 26 and 28 weeks; the second was on my way to a tea party — an actual tea party. Like, with tea and scones. So I wore pink with sparkles.

I pee all the time. All. The. Time. The baby seems to love using my bladder as a kickboxing bag, and I swear — well, I just don't have the reflexes I had before my last vaginal birth. I'm lucky I haven't peed myself yet. Yet.

I've been practicing my Hypnobabies again, and two things are interesting the second time around:
  1. It's easier, because it all comes back to me like a muscle memory. The fingerdrop, the release, the anesthesia flowing like a light.
  2. It's harder, because my meditative calm is punctuated: "What's that in your ears, Mama? … Oh. Can I wear headphones? … What's your special music, Mama? I can't hear it. … Turn it up, Mama. I can't hear it. … Nummies, Mama!"
At least I'm learning calm in the midst of storm. Good preparation for birthing, yes?

What was I doing here again? Oh, right. Links:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bilingual boy: Update at 3.5 years old

This post is part of the February Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism, hosted this month by Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things. Subscribe to the carnival newsletter at Bilingue per Gioco to receive notices about participating in future months.

I don't know why it's been so long since I wrote about our progress in raising Mikko bilingually in German and English. Maybe because I've got nothing to brag about?

As a refresher for those who don't know, Sam and I are monolingual English speakers, but I lived in Berlin in junior high and subsequently studied German in school. Far from being fluent, I still thought it might be beneficial and possible as a non-native speaker to give Mikko some exposure to a second language as he grows, in that early period when it will be most natural for him to learn.

He also attends a language immersion preschool for half-days twice a week, which used to be German but is now staffed by two teachers, one of whom speaks only German and one who speaks only Spanish to the kids.

Mikko's loving his new learning of Spanish (more so than German, which I guess he probably just considers old hat!). He frequently asks me what words are in Spanish. If I don't know, I just tell him in German, and he seems satisfied for now … . He loves to count in Spanish but in a super goofy way where he loses track around cuatro, and he consistently says "rojo" for red. Beyond that, I couldn't really tell you how proficient he is in Spanish, since he doesn't speak it around me. I take it he hasn't been traumatized by the switch to including Spanish at his preschool. I took Spanish in high school, so I'm trying to pepper in a few expressions here and there, and I've checked some Spanish-language children's books out of the library to read together and supplement our fortunately substantial German-language selection. It is so much easier to find Spanish-language materials and resources in the U.S. that I'm almost giddy (and jealous still with regards to German).

Mikko speaks almost exclusively English at home (aside from a few specific words), and he's apparently pretty quiet at school, but I'm confident he understands everything that is said to him in German (or everything that a three-year-old would be expected to understand). I'm not surprised or disappointed that he speaks English at home, since I'm such a loser about remembering to speak German with him. I probably remember every day to speak German … but not most of the day. I've had a goal, which I think is a sound one, to speak exclusively German to him on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays — but, the thing is, I get so "behind" on it that anytime I think of speaking German to him, I figure I'd better, no matter what day it is. I think I'd do better to enforce my own rule, though, and try to be more consistent about speaking German the whole time several days a week.

Of course, this would be easier if I were better at German!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Fluff surprise

A little bit ago, the ever-so-lovely Arpita from Up, Down & Natural contacted me and let me know I had won her 100 Facebook fans giveaway.

package of cloth diapers

Well, obviously, I was excited — but then look what came in the mail! (To another country, no less.) I had no idea my prize would be so fabulous!

stack of cloth diapers

Eleven cloth diapers plus inserts:
A selection of BumGenius 3.0 pocket diapers
and AMP Duo diapers.

This baby is
set, my friends.

piles of cloth diapers

My very own fluff stash, and it's so pretty, too!

Please go "like" Arpita (I do!).