15 Filling Fall Recipes to Inspire You

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Fall is finally upon us! With the sun setting sooner and the weather cooling, we thought we’d share 15 recipes from Mothering members that are sure to bring some sunshine back into your home. From creative Dinosaur Eggs, to filling Pakistani Stir Fry and traditional Apple Pie, you’re sure to find something wholesome to love.

Enjoy!

1. Spinach Pie

A truly unique and inviting dish that will whip up in minutes and fill the whole family with warmth. Consider using fresh organic spinach when possible since our favorite leafy green came in at number six on the EWG Dirty Dozen list this year.

2. Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers

“These are our go-to burgers when we’re not actually having burgers.  They are great to freeze and are a breeze to make.  They’re also fun to make with your kids. We have them for dinner or I bring them along in our bento for lunch.  The only thing is, these are addicting!” ~Mothering member namontoya

3. Chicken Bacon Ranch Wraps

“You can easily use gluten free tortillas and use meat/dairy/egg alternatives if you like with these. We’re gluten free/egg free/dairy free and use a lot of our garden produce. So yummy!  Little ones enjoy layering the foods on the tortillas, the older will like to help chop the veggies. Perfect to use up bits of left overs.” ~Mothering member MrsKoehn

4. Lentil Herb Soup

This is one of our favorite soup recipes of all time! Warm, healthy, easy to make and frugal–it’s the perfect meal for any fall night. Serve with fresh rolls or crackers.

5. Easy Apple Pie

This apple pie recipe is as easy as it gets, but it comes out perfectly every single time. Bake with organic apples if you can find them since apples topped the Dirty Dozen list again in 2014.

6. Pakistani Kima Stir Fry

“Pakistani Kima is an Indian Beef Curry recipe with delicious flavor and aroma. The spices are very fragrant and the mixture of vegetables adds color and taste complexity. Even if you aren’t a fan of Curries or Indian dishes, you will likely like this dish as it has a milder taste. All of my kids love this recipe and will eat it by the bowlful.” ~Katie, Wellness Mama

7. Dinosaur Eggs

A fun and fairly easy recipe that will turn any hard boiled egg into an adventure. Small kids, especially those obsessed with dinos, are sure to delight in this dish.

8. Super Simple Peanut Butter Cookies

You won’t find a simpler peanut butter cookie recipe anywhere, but we’re sure you’ll be surprised by how scrumptious these morsels are. This is the perfect recipe to make with eager little bakers on a cool evening.

9. Breakfast Potatoes and Veggies

This delicious combination is perfect with scrambled eggs instead of toast in the morning. It’s a great way to get an extra serving of vegetables at breakfast and if you want to make this a meal in itself you can easily add some tempeh or beans.

10. Sweet Squash Corn Muffins

The fresh corn, flavorful squash and thick maple syrup combine together in this recipe to make an absolutely delectable muffin. Don’t have maple syrup on hand (we know it’s expensive!)? Consider using honey instead.

11. Creamy Asparagus Soup

This revitalizing dairy-free soup mixes fresh, local asparagus with cumin and dill for a real treat. Can be served up hot or cold, depending on your mood.

12. Sausage Apple and Cabbage Hash

“If you’ve seen any of my previous recipes, you might have noticed I’m a big fan of stir-frys. Anything that has great flavor and doesn’t take hours in the kitchen but is nourishing for my family gets an “A” in my book. This budget friendly stir-fry is a favorite of my husband. It combines the salty flavors of sausage with the sweet flavors of red onions and apples. It cooks in under 20 minutes and is a great meal for busy nights.” ~ Katie, Wellness Mama

13. Spaghetti Squash

Looking for an interesting and healthy pasta alternative? This recipes requires some unusual ingredients and a bit of time but is well worth the effort.

14. Favorite Macaroni and Cheese

A healthier spin on a old classic, this warm and hearty meal is a great party dish the kids will love! Make this ahead of time and keep for up to 48 hours for a fast meal on busy nights.

15. Gluten Free Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

“These delicious bits of sweetness came to me from a good friend while I was postpartum.  They are super easy to make and quite good for you as they are just the right amount of sweet.  They are also free of gluten, but you wouldn’t know it!”  ~Mothering member namontoya

Image: Anathea Utley

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California to Require Breastfeeding Rooms at Airports

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California governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill that will require the state’s major airports to provide a breastfeeding room for mothers by 2016. The bill details that the rooms must be private and include a chair and electrical outlet for pumps–while those in newly built terminals will also be required to have a sink. No mention is made about whether multiple accommodations will be required for busier terminals.

The bill, which was recently introduced by Democratic Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, states:

(a) On or before January 1, 2016, the airport manager of an airport operated by a city, county, city and county, or airport district that conducts commercial operations and that has more than one million enplanements a year shall provide a room or other location at each airport terminal behind the airport security screening area for members of the public to express breast milk in private that meets both of the following conditions:

(1) Includes, at a minimum, a chair and an electrical outlet.

(2) Is located outside of the confines of a public restroom.

Lowenthal has said her bill helps mothers who want to breastfeed by providing comfortable and private rooms for pumping. She says breast-feeding mothers should not be confined to the restrooms.

Read the ABC News Story

What do you think of this new law? Will it provide a much needed safe haven for nursing moms who are traveling, or is it just another way to force breastfeeding mothers to hide from the public eye?

The Breastfeeding Room at the Taipei, Taiwan Airport features the International Breastfeeding Symbol--a symbol created as part of a Mothering contest in 2006.

The Breastfeeding Room at the Taipei, Taiwan Airport features the International Breastfeeding Symbol. The symbol, now used across the world, was created as part of a Mothering initiative in 2006.

Breastfeeding Image: Daniel Lobo

Teipei Airport Image: Marie

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The Beauty of Siblings at a Birth

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Big Brother At Birth- Photo by Erin Wrightsman, used with permission.

I love sharing different perspectives on birth and giving different people a platform to share their passion and thought. About a week ago I met Jessicca Moore, a woman making a movie about medical doctors and other personnel who birth at home. I love this premise as I  myself have had many medical peeps (and more than half a dozen doctors) take my childbirth classes. People deserve to know that it isn’t just crazy hippies who birth at home but all kinds of people! Here are some words from Jessicca Moore about the presence of her own child at her home birth. This is good stuff. Love it. Share it. Change birth for the better.

Enjoy-

It’s hard to predict how young children will react during birth. It’s also hard to know how their presence may influence birth. I was open to having my son present for his sister’s birth, but my husband thought it might be too intense for him, plus he didn’t want to have to worry about taking care of him while trying to also support me during labor. We made a plan to have someone available to pick him up when I went into labor.

I went into labor around 3 in the morning. My son woke up soon after. We encouraged him to go back to sleep, that everything was OK, his
sister was coming. He lay in bed with his eyes wide awake—too excited to sleep.

The house was full of people he knew and everyone was going about their jobs calmly and quietly. He wanted to be a part of it. I remember him checking on me when I was in the tub, smiling and laughing with me between contractions. It was so sweet to have him there.

At one point during active labor when I was pushing I asked someone to take him out of the room, I couldn’t focus with him there.  He came back to greet his sister immediately after she was born. His two comments were, “What’s all that white stuff?” (vernix) and, “Where’s the placenta?” Soon enough he would see the placenta. He got a full tour, checking out the 3 vessel cord and everything.

When I asked my husband afterward why he decided not to call anyone to pick him up he said, “I didn’t see any reason to. He was totally
fine. I think it would have been hard for him to leave knowing what was going on.”

This is birth in his mind. It happens at home. When I went to attend and film two births this summer he asked, “Is it a kid birth?” He was
disappointed when I told him no, he would have to stay home. Birth is a family and community event in his experience.

I don’t know what will change for him in the years between now and the time that he has his own children, but I hope he doesn’t loose his sense of how wonderful and joyous birth can be.

(This post originally appeared on the Why Not Home? Blog.)

Jessicca Moore is a family nurse practitioner and filmmaker in Petaluma, CA where she lives with her husband, two children, and two sheep. She is currently in production on her first feature-length documentary, “Why Not Home?” The film follows hospital birth providers who chose to give birth at home. You can watch a trailer and get more information at www.whynothome.com. Check out her Kickstarter campaign and support completion of the film at bit.ly/whynothome before October 11th.

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Rocks and Rainbows

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By Karen Dempsey for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

Running along the bike path near our house on the way home from an ice cream outing, Liddy jumps into the air over and over again, determined to reach heights high enough to grasp a leaf off a branch. Finally, finally, she gets one.

Feels so good getting what I want,” she whispers fiercely to herself, repackaging and redefining Iggy Azalea’s omnipresent “Fancy” lyrics into something suited to the mindset of an eight-year-old.

Liddy holds onto the leaf all the way home, pleased not only with her success but with the precise shade of green the leaf holds, the smell and “crispiness” of it.

“You have to feel this, Mommy,” she says, holding the crumpled leaf out to me like a gift. “Smell it.”

At not-quite nine, there is still, for Liddy, such pleasure to be taken from ordinary things. She begs me to buy her a glittery ring as a memento when we are on vacation and I realize, following her eyes, that it is actually the tiny cardboard gift box it comes in that she’s after.

At home I offer her another jewelry box, inky blue and felt-covered. She examines it, opening and closing the hinged lid, and then asks breathlessly, “Can I just have this?” and slips out the spongey cushion inside. She runs with it to her bedroom and adds it to one of her collections of tiny, valueless (to the adult eye) treasures.

On Liddy’s bedroom floor is a large poster board—a work-in-progress she calls Crafts No One Would Think Of. She peels the outside frame from a sheet of stickers, leaving the stickers themselves behind, and uses the frame as a stencil to trace indiscernible shapes on the poster board, coloring them in with a bright pencils. Over the shapes, she tapes a curtain of fringe made from salvaged beige packing material.

“A rainbow! A rainbow!” she shrieks from the backseat of the car one day. I look in the rearview mirror and see that she is looking not at the sky but in her hand, where she is trying to catch hold of a shimmer of colors reflecting off the metal seatbelt.

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All Things Natural Birth: An Interview

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She’s had four natural births: two days of labor at home concluded with a hospital birth, a water birth in a birth center, a home birth, and, by accident, an unassisted home birth. Her name is Sarah Clark and she is a natural childbirth educator, also known as the Birth Boot Camp instructor. Throughout her classes and her gorgeously informative blog, Mama Birth, Sarah inspires us to learn what we can innately do with our own bodies and minds throughout the pregnancy, birthing and parenting process.

Sarah’s classes are educational, fun and interactive; with dolls, scarves, condoms and more, she constantly keeps each mother and father-to-be full of engaging inquisition. She takes couples through the many stages of pregnancy, labor and postpartum experiences covering various aspects of labor, spousal support, doula and midwife education, natural induction methods, relaxation techniques practiced in-class and at home, breast feeding benefits and how-tos, along with videos and personal stories. Sarah provides each couple with a small tote filled with a pen, a few labor snacks, two breastfeeding DVDs and a book, full of information such as summaries of labor stages, positive affirmations, kegel and food trackers, newborn procedures, and a guide to belly mapping – a way to connect with your baby and discover its often-changing position.

Eager to share her knowledge with others, Sarah happily agreed for an interview. After putting her youngest down for bed and nestling her other three with full bellies on the couch to watch The Princess Bride, she conveyed a bit of her experience and views on the power of women, men, children and entire cultures and how we are all a part of the birth process …

Jessica: Often women relate by sharing birthing stories, even though they’ve experienced various births. How have your personal births helped you educate women about birth and the body?

Sarah: Each birth that you get to experience is different. I think birth is always very humbling because you never know what will happen, no matter how well you prepare. With each birth, I’ve learned things about myself and been able to relate to other women. I remember with my first, I prepared really well and I had always wanted a natural birth. But when it was over (and I had a really long birth) I understood why people had epidurals; I realized how differently it could have gone if I hadn’t been blessed with the knowledge that I had going into my birth.

That is partly why education is so important to me. Even with my fourth, and I had been teaching for years by then, it was a completely different experience, and for me, the first time I actually wanted pain medication. That was also humbling and eye opening for me. I was at home and that was partly why I had a natural birth, but also I realized if I hadn’t had the confidence from my previous births, I wouldn’t have believed I could have gone through that labor because it was more painful than my others. I thought if I was a first time and that was my first birth, it would have been so hard, I would have gotten the epidural if I were in the hospital.  Now as I meet other women that have been through my class who have experienced a posterior labor that was painful, I am able to relate to them better.

Jessica: As a mother who has birthed naturally, you mention that you can understand how women have wanted an epidural when you personally experienced a level of pain with your last birth. What are your thoughts of women who have had medical interventions? Do you find yourself more or less judgmental? 

Sarah: I think a lot of things when I hear people’s birth stories (Sarah laughs). I think having more children has helped me a lot and made me more accepting in some ways. I still feel strongly that natural birth is the best option. I see some people, in the birth community in particular that have the attitude as if – everything is ok, as long as you do what’s best for you. I don’t believe that. I do believe natural birth is the best way, and I believe that because I am a natural birthing mother.

But as I meet women and I hear their stories, I care about them and I can find a way to understand why people make different choices – that doesn’t mean I always agree with them. I always feel sad for somebody who I know really wanted a natural birth and didn’t get it because I know it was important to them.

J: I often find some women proud to share their experience, while others feel ashamed of their birth stories. Why do many women take their births personally?

Sarah: Birth by its nature involves our bodies and our hormones and our emotions and everything in us. If everything doesn’t go as some women wanted, they often feel betrayed by their bodies.Sometimes even the language women use, such as saying, “the baby wouldn’t move, the baby wouldn’t drop down, the baby was stubborn” reveals an issue that the mother might possibly have felt that baby wouldn’t cooperate.  It’s very personal.

For a lot of women, it’s hard not to have body issues in our culture already – from the way we view women and the way we expect women’s bodies to be or to fit into a certain mold. If the birth doesn’t go as planned, often the blame is put on the mother with comments such as, “the mother wasn’t big enough” or “the baby wouldn’t handle labor with the mother.”

And lastly, I think a lot of women feel judged by other women. While some of that is real, some of it can be doubt about our own choices and feeling as if others are judging us because we’re not sure we made the right choice. There are a lot of reasons why things go the way they do, and some of that can be our choices – but it can also be the choice of care provider or the choice of birthplace.  And often a large part of how things go is totally out of our control. Sadly, I notice there’s always someone to blame when it doesn’t go as planned, and often that blame is placed on the mother who probably feels hurt already.

J: People often think birth is a woman’s experience. You’re teaching others that it is not only the woman’s experience, but also the man, the baby, even other support circles such as a birth center or a doula can impact the birth experience. Can you explain the importance or reasoning for this more communal approach?

Sarah: Depending on whom you ask, people would answer it differently. For me, I view birth as the life event. It is part of my belief system that family is important and birth is the expanding of the family, so to me it is sacred and involves more than one person. It always involves the child, if there is more than one child, it involves the others too, and the partner.  Since I teach couples, it’s amazing to see the growth, the way they work together and how much happier they are when they are able to go through birth together.

It’s really tragic for a family when things spiral out of control and the partner feels completely helpless. I often hear women mad at their partner because he didn’t say the right thing or do the right thing – or because he slept in the corner and didn’t know what to do. It can be really traumatic for dad if he feels useless and doesn’t know what is going on. If men are not prepared, that is often what happens, and it’s not a great start for a new family. I would want the birth to be a great experience for the entire family that brings them together, makes them love each other more and gives them the confidence to start parenthood – because parenting is much harder than birth. If you got through it together (often people fear it) and it was a good experience, that gives you the confidence for the things that are going to happen down the road.  It’s crucial for the couple’s relationship together and for the parenting relationship with the child. So yes, it is much more than an experience just for the Mom. It’s a family experience.

One thing that’s happened since the 1950s since men were brought into the delivery room is that we now expect men to be in the delivery room, but the sad thing is we haven’t prepared them how to be there. Women want men to be a part of the birth experience, yet almost always, they go in not knowing anything – about labor, about how things work in the hospital, about how she’ll act, the noises she may make. It’s tragic because we want him to be there, but we don’t give him any tools, which isn’t fair to anybody involved. No matter what people are planning, no matter how they want to birth, each couple should take a comprehensive class to help prepare them so they aren’t blindsided by the overwhelming experiences.

J: How do women work through fears of birth? Are there any common fears?

Sarah: As an educator, I think a huge part of it is education and understanding the process biologically what happens, emotionally what happens, even knowing what to expect from your care provider. All of that knowledge is helpful and will combat most of those fears.  Knowing what’s normal and talking to other women who’ve had good experiences versus reading the bad stories or watching what television feeds us empowers women as well. Often women share negative birth experiences, which builds fear. Building a community of supportive people is crucial so you can hear positive stories. You can do it in a class, with your birth team, or friends and family.

As far as common fears, for women who are birthing in the hospital, they worry about who their care provider is going to be. Almost every hospital and care provider in the country rotates call. This leaves women usually with a group of doctors and unable to know ahead of time who will be there at their birth. That’s a newer thing. Fifty years ago, when you had an obstetrician, he was your OB and he come to your birth, even if it was in the middle of the night. Obstetrics has really moved away from that, as well as hospital midwifery. I can see the professional reason for this change and the difficulty in working on-call, showing up on holidays, and I can see the need as far as insurance reimbursement and the need to spread out care, but it is a disservice to women. Honestly, I think that’s one of the reasons women chose a home birth because they know who will be at their birth.

Another fear is pooping in labor. For many women, that seems like such a private thing and people don’t want to do that in front of a nurse they’ve never met, a doctor or even their spouse. But that goes back to the importance of feeling safe about where you are birthing and with whom you are birthing. If you don’t know who you’re having your baby with, it can be scarier to know that you will literally let go in every way in front of them. Many women that are secure where they are birthing are not afraid of that, although there are a lot of factors that pertain to that fear. Ultimately, many women are afraid of losing control.

J: How do men or partners work through fears of birth? Are there any common fears?

Sarah: I feel as though I keep giving the same answer…education is huge for men. Often they want to know what’s happening in her body and to understand what the process is like. Almost across the board, when I’ve completed a class, men are no longer afraid because they understand the process. The process of birth is something even women don’t understand – it’s not something we often talk about.Even seeing a picture and seeing birth movies show how different women labor and the sounds that they make really helps men overcome many fears.

A big fear that men have is watching her suffer, watching her in pain. Often partners want to be able to save each other from something hard. I think that’s universal. Not only to men want to save their partner, women want to save their partner too. Men just need tools [no pun intended] so they can know specific ways to help – ways to touch, things to say say, things to do and working together even before the birth so they go in with confidence. Men want to know they can do this as a partner, they can help her and they can make her feel better. It gives the partner, the dad, confidence.

J: So what are verbal cues that are helpful for women during labor?  

Sarah: I include many in the book I give to all couples in my birthing classes. Being positive is crucial. Telling her, “You’re going a great job, I love you, you are amazing, I am so proud of you, I am amazed by your power and strength, we are doing this together, breath for the baby, I am right here with you” and “My hand is right here” are some words of encouragement women want to hear.  But some women aren’t going to want to be talked to.

The other positive thing about using positive words or affirmations is that it might make her feel better, even if she’s not asking for it, because often women don’t feel like they’re doing well. They may be quiet, but in their head they feel crazy. So just hearing, “you’re doing great” is helpful. If dad is saying, “look at her, she’s a natural, she’s so good at this,” nobody is going to argue with him and say, “no she’s not.” But if he says nothing, somebody might say, “Oh, honey, you look tired. Do you want something to take the edge off?”

J: With all the medical advancements, why would women want to have a natural birth?

Sarah: It’s the best way to do it!  Unless something goes very wrong – it’s great to have the medical advancements, but there were not invented just to be used willy-nilly on everybody. The purpose of a cesarean section or some sort of pain relief, in my mind is only for the people that need it, not to be used on everybody. And research tends to support that – natural birth, if possible, is the safest for mom and baby. Obviously there will be situations where it’s not, where the safest thing is a C-section or Mom needs an epidural to relax so that labor can progress. I know that happens and I am grateful it exists, but right now we are using the “what ifs” for every day and using it on everybody. There is some desire for that too, some people don’t want to experience all the sensations of labor.

J: Our culture promotes spending hours of planning a wedding, but many of us do not take the time to plan our births (besides decorating the nursery and buying cute outfits). Why do you think that is and do you think this way of thinking can shift?

Sarah: I think people don’t realize how important birth is until they have one. They don’t realize how much it is going to affect them, the way they feel, even the way they feel about themselves. I think people don’t realize the emotional impact that it is going to have on them and they can’t even really imagine it. I talk to some people that can’t get the money together for a class. I understand they are on a tight budget, but I have done it and I also understand the money is worth it. But you can’t always communicate that or convince others. And some women have to come to that on their own after a hard birth. I do not feel that it is my role to force it on anybody. When people really want to learn something, they’ll learn it. If they don’t want to learn it, they’re not going to – some women will come to it and some women won’t. I am opinionated about birth…I really think there is nothing wrong in having a strong opinion, in being passionate about something. But I respect people’s different opinions. You can’t make somebody have a natural birth.

J: My favorite final question to all my interviews: If you could teach people one thing you’ve learned in life, what would it be?

Sarah:  We have less control than we think we do. You prepare as much as you can, so that you can control as much as you can. Even with birth. You stack the cards in your favor, but you have to recognize that you don’t always get to pick happens. But you can still do your best – do your best with your spouse, do your best with your children – and then let go of the rest because you can’t control everything. You can’t control other people, and we all live with or around other people. There’s always going to be an element that is out of our control.

*

Since this interview, I have given birth and begun to raise a beautiful little boy. Nothing I planned happened. I was transported from my home to the hospital, the decelerating heartbeat taken from my abdomen. His birth, though not as I’d expected, was exactly how it was meant to happen. “I think birth is always very humbling because you never know what will happen, no matter how well you prepare.” These words that Sarah spoke to me over a hear ago now ring oh so true. Humbling. How humbling birth is, motherhood – this whole journey. But, though humbling and hard, it does not mean we can’t care, we can’t try, we can’t hope. We birth children squatting in homes, lying in hospital beds; we are ripped open and cut open, we are mended and healed. Each of us is stronger, braver and wiser through our birth – no matter what the outcome. That is what this journey is all about – our hope, our expectations and our trying and trying again and again, carrying us through our beautifully imperfect lives.

Get in touch with Sarah Clark on her blog, Mama Birth, or  learn more about Birth Boot Camp near you.

 

Photo credit: HC Photography

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-10 to 10: What’s Your Pain Medication Preference for Labor?

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The hands down best book I read about labor and delivery was The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. It was required reading when I began training as a doula and I wished I had read it before the birth of my son.

Of course one of the big considerations when preparing for birth is pain management. I’ve observed or studied quite a few birth education methods and across the board this is one of the most thoroughly addressed topics and one that moms (and dads) are most concerned about. And that makes a lot of sense. First-time-moms have never experienced these sensations before and it’s impossible to know how it will feel and to what degree you will feel it.

You don’t know what’s going to happen during labor. You don’t know if it will be fast and intense or a long and tiring marathon. You don’t know if baby is going to be posterior, causing most of the pain to be in your back. You don’t know when your water will break.

So in preparing for labor and birth, it’s great to focus on what you do know, and what you think you will prefer in terms of pain management and labor support.

As parents prepare for a birth, they are gathering tools they will need to cope. They gather knowledge of the process, wisdom from mothers who have given birth before, methods for coping, and learning the options that may be presented to them by their medical caregivers.

Especially when giving birth in a hospital, you know there will be many options for pain relief via medications. And it seems that the topic that is often fraught is the epidural/no-epidural debate.

Penny Simkin suggests examining your pain medication preference (found on this chart), because everyone falls somewhere on the continuum. One extreme (Simkin puts this on a numerical scale as +10) is a mother who has no wish to feel any pain and would wish to have an epidural even before labor begin (or even to be put under general anesthesia). This extreme is not very likely.

On the other end of the spectrum (listed as -10) is a mother who, even when faced with a cesarean birth, would decline any anesthetic. This extreme is also not very likely.

A zero on this scale would be total neutral, or having no preference which is also rare. Likely a mother would be able to identify on which of side of zero she lies. From there, she can narrow down exactly how much help she would like from medication.

Going in to both of my births, I was probably around a -7 or a -8. Which is to say, I absolutely did not want pain medication. I would have been upset if that had been offered to me during labor. (Which led to my planning a birth center birth and a home birth, where an epidural was not even an option. I wanted it off the table.) But, obviously, with extenuating circumstances, I would have accepted some. (Such as a cesarean.) It helped my husband and my caregivers to know this. In all our birth preparations, we focused a lot of energy on natural coping methods.

Someone at a +7 would wish for an epidural as soon as they arrived at the hospital and before labor became terribly painful. A +5 would be willing to cope with labor for a while, but want medication when it became difficult. And so the scale continues

One way to determine your own preference is to ponder: how disappointed will I be if I receive medication? Or, alternatively: how upset will I be if my wish for medication is not taken seriously or is delayed?

There are so many options in childbirth these days. When faced with these options, examining your pain medication preference is a great first step. Example: if you know you fall on the positive side of the continuum, you might like to birth in a hospital and choose your medical caregiver accordingly. This will also help inform your choice of childbirth preparation. If you know you have a preference for medication-free birth, you’d likely benefit from Bradley Method or Hypnobirthing classes, instead of the ones offered by a hospital.

It’s never too early to start the process of building your birth plans, and this is a great place to start.

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From Grief to Grace: A Brief Reflection on My Birth Story

baby_feet_large

My husband knew I was nervous because I’d asked him what I should wear at least three times that day. I still hadn’t lost my pregnancy weight and hadn’t realized that the hope of concealing my ripened motherly figure was just a symbol of the burden I carried from the trauma of my son’s birth.

I was meeting with my birth group for the first time since each of our births. There were four couples and we shared our stories in the order of birth dates. The first of the mother’s had a lovely, textbook, natural birth. Short. Simple. Magical. The second to go had an intensely bright and memorable birth as well, but a few complications crept up, resulting in her newborn taking a brief visit to the NICU. The third to go had the hardest story to hear by far. Her labor was intense. Long. Relentless. She felt let down by her birth team. It was up to her to draw inward to find her roaring strength. She was saddened and disappointed by the many setbacks of her birth. As with the stories, each of our voices shifted, first of illumination and slowly dimming with the darkening of the day. Lastly, it was time to share my story. A journey full of unexpected complications. Countless downfalls. Questions unanswered. With a night sky so black and the moon hidden.

Weeks following the birth, I was angry. I pitied myself and the story that unfolded that fall morning when I met my son, not in the warmth of my home as I’d so hoped, but under the bright lights of stark hospital ceilings. But I prepared, I thought. I’d done everything I could. Read books. Attended classes. Prayed. Meditated. Recited affirmations. Exercised. Ate nourishing foods. Hoped. Wished. Planned. Expected.

And then, as I’m often reminded in the expanding and contracting of my itty-bitty life, I recognized that I had no control. I was an innocent creature at the mercy of God atop a high tree stretching toward grace; the clap of thunderclouds and sting of lightening pierced the steadying branch on which I’d built my trust. In my innocence, I was begging for something that I didn’t quite know. Was I begging for the safety of my pride? The belief of my control? The wish to regain power?

As the weeks passed, it was as if the den space where I was burrowed began to widen. Acceptance and clarity emerged, and from within, I saw a bright light. The more I looked into the ocean eyes of the tiny, ancient spirit that rested in my arms, the more I saw in my own eyes a new perspective. That the opening of my body may have faced blocks and obstacles in our welcoming, but the expansion of myself did not stop from the womb – it spread up in to my heart and from there it was grown.

For me, for my story, it does not matter how my child entered the physical world, because for me, he birthed from my heart. A powerful surge pushed him from within me and placed him onto my chest. On a once-ordinary day in October, I held a rainbow in my arms. The bright lights of the hospital walls were rays of sunlight welcoming his tiny bird-like heart. I was in the tree and the lightening-bolt scar that pierced my skin is now a constant symbol of the humble vessel that I am.

We all expect. We all judge in our own ways. I judged myself. I judged others in birth, in motherhood, in feeding our children, educating our children and even in how to love. But as my tiny sage-child looks into my eyes, he’s shown me that we all have our own ways of loving. That instead of planning and expecting, preparing and plotting, we are to live with only one agenda: simply follow the heart so that all beat as one; in love, in light, in purity.

Today the sun has wakened hours ago, but for my child and me, our eyes slowly open to the ballads of birds that have most likely eaten and played for hours. I look into his deep, welcoming eyes and do not think of anything other than this moment. I may not have held him as quickly or for as long as I’d hoped during the first seconds of his unforgettable transition into this world, but there is a lifetime of moments I do have to hold him in my arms. He is here. I am here. We are healthy and there is more love than any birth plan could write. Soon we’ll rise and dress for the day. I do not know what I’ll wear and I remember there is no need to cover my tender skin. I should wear my new body with joy as a token for the life I grew within me. When I look down at the cushioned nest that housed my baby boy, I feel as though I could open my birdwings and soar.

This post was inspired by the excerpt, “Birdwings” from A Year with Rumi: Daily Readings. As with much of Rumi’s work, I was touched in many ways by this poem and was led to write a very brief piece around my life. “Birdwings” poem below:

Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror

up to where you’re bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,

here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.

If it were always a fist or always stretched open,

you would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence

is in every small contracting and expanding,

the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated

as birdwings.

Image: gabl menashe

The post From Grief to Grace: A Brief Reflection on My Birth Story appeared first on Mothering.

Posted in Sling Mom Communities | Leave a comment

From Grief to Grace: A Brief Reflection of My Birth Story

baby_feet_large

My husband knew I was nervous because I’d asked him what I should wear at least three times that day. I still hadn’t lost my pregnancy weight and hadn’t realized that the hope of concealing my ripened motherly figure was just a symbol of the burden I carried from the trauma of my son’s birth.

I was meeting with my birth group for the first time since each of our births. There were four couples and we shared our stories in the order of birth dates. The first of the mother’s had a lovely, textbook, natural birth. Short. Simple. Magical. The second to go had an intensely bright and memorable birth as well, but a few complications crept up, resulting in her newborn taking a brief visit to the NICU. The third to go had the hardest story to hear by far. Her labor was intense. Long. Relentless. She felt let down by her birth team. It was up to her to draw inward to find her roaring strength. She was saddened and disappointed by the many setbacks of her birth. As with the stories, each of our voices shifted, first of illumination and slowly dimming with the darkening of the day. Lastly, it was time to share my story. A journey full of unexpected complications. Countless downfalls. Questions unanswered. With a night sky so black and the moon hidden.

Weeks following the birth, I was angry. I pitied myself and the story that unfolded that fall morning when I met my son, not in the warmth of my home as I’d so hoped, but under the bright lights of stark hospital ceilings. But I prepared, I thought. I’d done everything I could. Read books. Attended classes. Prayed. Meditated. Recited affirmations. Exercised. Ate nourishing foods. Hoped. Wished. Planned. Expected.

And then, as I’m often reminded in the expanding and contracting of my itty-bitty life, I recognized that I had no control. I was an innocent creature at the mercy of God atop a high tree stretching toward grace; the clap of thunderclouds and sting of lightening pierced the steadying branch on which I’d built my trust. In my innocence, I was begging for something that I didn’t quite know. Was I begging for the safety of my pride? The belief of my control? The wish to regain power?

As the weeks passed, it was as if the den space where I was burrowed began to widen. Acceptance and clarity emerged, and from within, I saw a bright light. The more I looked into the ocean eyes of the tiny, ancient spirit that rested in my arms, the more I saw in my own eyes a new perspective. That the opening of my body may have faced blocks and obstacles in our welcoming, but the expansion of myself did not stop from the womb – it spread up in to my heart and from there it was grown.

For me, for my story, it does not matter how my child entered the physical world, because for me, he birthed from my heart. A powerful surge pushed him from within me and placed him onto my chest. On a once-ordinary day in October, I held a rainbow in my arms. The bright lights of the hospital walls were rays of sunlight welcoming his tiny bird-like heart. I was in the tree and the lightening-bolt scar that pierced my skin is now a constant symbol of the humble vessel that I am.

We all expect. We all judge in our own ways. I judged myself. I judged others in birth, in motherhood, in feeding our children, educating our children and even in how to love. But as my tiny sage-child looks into my eyes, he’s shown me that we all have our own ways of loving. That instead of planning and expecting, preparing and plotting, we are to live with only one agenda: simply follow the heart so that all beat as one; in love, in light, in purity.

Today the sun has wakened hours ago, but for my child and me, our eyes slowly open to the ballads of birds that have most likely eaten and played for hours. I look into his deep, welcoming eyes and do not think of anything other than this moment. I may not have held him as quickly or for as long as I’d hoped during the first seconds of his unforgettable transition into this world, but there is a lifetime of moments I do have to hold him in my arms. He is here. I am here. We are healthy and there is more love than any birth plan could write. Soon we’ll rise and dress for the day. I do not know what I’ll wear and I remember there is no need to cover my tender skin. I should wear my new body with joy as a token for the life I grew within me. When I look down at the cushioned nest that housed my baby boy, I feel as though I could open my birdwings and soar.

This post was inspired by the excerpt, “Birdwings” from A Year with Rumi: Daily Readings. As with much of Rumi’s work, I was touched in many ways by this poem and was led to write a very brief piece around my life. “Birdwings” poem below:

Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror

up to where you’re bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,

here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.

If it were always a fist or always stretched open,

you would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence

is in every small contracting and expanding,

the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated

as birdwings.

Image: gabl menashe

The post From Grief to Grace: A Brief Reflection of My Birth Story appeared first on Mothering.

Posted in Sling Mom Communities | Leave a comment

12 Alternatives to Punishment That May Actually Work

mom_daughter_parkBy Ariadne Brill. Thank you to Attachment Parenting International for sharing this article. Check out their site for more great articles and resources. 

Have you read about the benefits of skipping time-out in favor of other ways to guide children, but are not sure where to start? Here are 12 alternatives to punishment that give parents and children a chance to address choices and situations with the intention of maintaining a positive, respectful and peaceful connection.

These alternatives are mostly geared towards children aged 1 to 6 years but also work well beyond that, too.

1. Take a break together

The key is to do this together and before things get out of hand. So if your child is having a difficult time or making unsafe choices like hitting a playmate, find a quiet space to take a break together. Just five minutes of connection, listening to what your child is feeling and talking about more appropriate choices really helps. This is similar to a time-in.

2. Second chances

Ever made a mistake and felt so relieved to have a chance at a do-over? Often letting children try again lets them address the problem or change their behavior. “I can’t let you put glue all over the table. Do you want to try this again on paper?”

3. Problem solve together

If there is a problem and your child is acting out of frustration, giving him a chance to talk about the problem and listening to a solution he has can turn things around for the better.

4. Ask questions

Sometimes children do things but we don’t quite get it.  We might assume incorrectly they are doing something “bad” or “naughty” when, in fact, they are trying to understand how something works. Ask what they are up to with the intent to listen and understand first, then correct them by providing the appropriate outlet or information that is missing. So try, “What are you trying to do?” instead of, “Why in the world…ugh!!! Time out!”

5. Read a story

Another great way to help children understand how to make better choices is by reading stories with characters that are making mistakes, having big feelings or needing help to make better choices. Also, reading together can be a really positive way to reconnect and direct our attention to our child.

6. Puppets & play

Young children love to see puppets or dolls come to life to teach positive lessons. “I’m Honey Bear, and oh, it looks like you scribbled crayons on the ground. I’m flying to the kitchen to get a sponge for us to clean it up together. Come along!” After cleaning up together, “Oh, now let’s fetch some paper, and will you color me a picnic on the paper? Paper is for coloring with crayons!”

7. Give two choices

Let’s say your child is doing something completely unacceptable. Provide her with two alternatives that are safe, respectful and acceptable, and let her choose what she will do from there. By receiving two choices, the child can keep some control over her decisions while still learning about boundaries.

8. Listen to a song

Sometimes taking a fun break to release some tension and connect is all that children need to return to making better choices and all that parents need to loosen up a bit and let go of some stress. Listen to a song or take a dance break!

9. Go outside

Changing locations often gives us parents a chance to redirect behavior to something more appropriate. “I cannot let you scale the bookshelf. You CAN climb on the monkey bars. Let’s go outside and practice that instead!” Or, “Cutting the carpet with the scissors is not acceptable. Let’s go outside and cut some grass.”

10. Breathe

A big, deep breath for both parents and children can really help us calm down and look at what is going on with a new perspective. Take a big “lion” breath to get out frustrations or short and quick “bunny” breaths to feel calm and re-energized.

11. Draw a picture

A wonderful way for children to talk about mistakes is to make a picture of what they did or could have done differently. It’s a low-key way to open a window for talking to each other about making better choices.

12. Chill-out space

For a time-out to work, it needs to be something that helps everyone calm down, not something that makes children frightened or scared. A chill-out space is an area where children can go sit and think, tinker with some quiet toys, and have some space alone until they feel ready to talk or return to being with others. Using the chill-out space should be offered as a choice and not a command.

Every child and every situation is unique, so these tools are not one-size-fits-all but rather a list of ideas to lean on to expand your parenting toolbox. I find that striving to use proactive tools like these to respond to and to guide children towards better choices works far more positively than having to react when things have gotten out of hand.

Image: Donnie Ray Jones

The post 12 Alternatives to Punishment That May Actually Work appeared first on Mothering.

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Connecting with Older Children During Pregnancy

mom_childhoodBy Kathleen Mitchell-Askar. Reprinted with permission by Attachment Parenting International

When I was pregnant with my first child, I wrote in my journal nearly every day about what I felt and the changes I was experiencing. Once a week, I went to a prenatal yoga class and I listened to special meditations to connect with my baby. If I wasn’t at work or caring for the home, I used to just lie down and feel my baby sweep her elbows and knees across my belly.

Pregnancy with my second child brought an entirely different experience. In nine months, I went to one yoga class, took my older child to my prenatal visits with me, and had an extra set of hands on my belly whenever the baby kicked. And while I enjoyed the few moments before I slept, feeling the baby alone, my prime focus during pregnancy was to prepare my older child for the arrival of a new sibling.

Knowing that the nine months of pregnancy before baby’s arrival would be my last nine months of parenting a single child, I tried, like all mothers of second babies, to include my older child in preparations for the baby in a way that made her feel valuable and important.

When parents find out they will be expecting a second child they often wonder when and how to tell their first. Experts agree that the way in which parents tell their older child the news depends on the child’s age. The nine months before baby’s arrival may be an abstract idea for a younger child that doesn’t quite understand time; in this case, it sometimes helps to connect the birth to a holiday near which the baby should arrive.

A preschooler or kindergarten-aged child is bound to ask where babies come from. A child this age doesn’t necessarily want to know about sex but about where in the body the baby literally comes from. “The baby comes from the mommy’s uterus,” might be a good answer, especially if a parent has access to a developmentally appropriate, illustrated book about the body. A family’s religious or other values might lead to another response entirely; what matters most is that the answer be respectful and genuine.

When parents decide to tell their child about the new baby may depend on a past history of miscarriage. Some families may decide to wait until the second trimester, while others may not be able to contain their excitement and decide to tell their older child immediately.

During pregnancy, maintaining a strong bond with the older child is crucial. It may seem like everybody outside the home is focused on the mother’s belly and will constantly ask the older child what he thinks about having a new baby brother or sister, which may make the older child feel excluded or replaced. To keep an older child feeling important, spend ample time focused on him as an individual, rather than as a big brother-to-be. Spend time each day doing activities the child enjoys, like trips to the park or pool, family game time, and art projects. By allowing an older child to have time with Mom and Dad, doing the things he enjoys without talking about the baby, parents will maintain their child’s sense of his vital and valuable role in the family.

To lay the foundation for a loving relationship between siblings, parents can include their older child in preparations for the baby. Kids may have fun choosing potential names for the baby, picking out furniture and clothing, and helping assemble toys and furniture.

In order to prepare an older child for the shift to life with an infant, parents and their older children can look through pictures of the older child as a baby or go through her baby book. Talk to the child about special memories, silly things he did or said as a baby, how happy his mother and father were and still are to have him. It may also make the transition easier if parents talk about the attention a new baby needs, and if parents show pictures of the older child as a baby having a bath or snuggling with Mom or Dad, she can see how fun and tender life with a new baby can be.

Most bookstores and libraries have books about becoming a big brother or sister that can help a child understand what he or she can expect, such as The Big Sibling Book: Baby’s First Year According to ME by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby or The Berenstain Bears Baby Makes Five by Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain, and Julius, the Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes. There are also big-brother and big-sister journals in which the child can draw pictures for his sibling and record his hopes for the fun games they can play together and what he wants to teach his little brother or sister to do. Kids may even enjoy assembling their own journals or scrapbooks from scratch.

Once the baby arrives, older siblings often enjoy helping to change diapers and give baths. Other children may prefer to have their own “baby,” a doll or animal that they diaper, bathe, and carry in a sling. There will, of course, be times when the older child asks Mom or Dad for something when the parent must feed the baby or change a particularly dirty diaper. At these times, parents should avoid saying that they will help the older child after they have helped the baby; instead, something like, “When I have a free hand in just a minute, I will help you,” may prove a more acceptable answer to an anxious older child.

There will be times, too, when the family must wait for the baby to wake up before going on an outing. In this case, blame the wait on an expected phone call or urgent load of laundry rather than on the baby’s nap. In the meantime, play a game the child enjoys, draw a picture, or bake cookies; after all, naptime may be the only time of day when an older child can have Mom or Dad all to herself.

Many parents of only children wear the baby in a sling to keep the baby close and content. When parenting an older child and a younger one, wearing a sling or carrier becomes all the more essential, because the parent can then have her hands free to push the older child on the swing or help him tie his shoes. And having children who feel happy and loved is all a parent can ask for.

Image: Dave Jacquin

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