Sexy, Savvy, Natural Mama

a blog space for pregnant ladies, new moms, feminists, and interested souls

The Essential Pregnancy Library July 18, 2010

As a pregnant lady, you may be interested in getting some good books. I mean, the internet just doesn’t cut it. And as I said, a lot of those sites end up with a bunch of scary comments about miscarriages and illness. I have known of pregnant ladies who stay away from reading any books or sites, but as you might have guessed, I’m not really that type of person. In fact, I highly recommend reading a good selection of books — but you don’t need to go overboard.

You’ll need …

A great reference book. I totally do NOT recommend What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It’s not written by doctors, and it just kinda tells moms to avoid every little thing possible. It’s information light, and condescension heavy. Instead, I highly recommend the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. This book is a true treasure — if you only buy ONE book for your pregnancy, this is really the one you need. It is divided into three sections — pregnancy, childbirth, and your newborn. It’s written by health care professionals, and has a non-conversational this-is-what-you-need-to-know kind of tone. It provides information on every option for pregnancy and labor, has charts for when you should call the doctor according to the week of pregnancy, and it tells you what to do with your newborn once you get it home. It’s well organized, well laid out, has lots of great information, and it will help you chill out when you perceive a potential problem.

For natural birth planners, you’ll need: Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein. Ricki Lake — she’s at her least ridiculous in this book — and Abby Epstein are the minds behind the eye-opening documentary, The Business of Being Born (available on Netflix instant). (I recommend this for natural birthers as well.) This is the companion book, which details why pregnancy and childbirth are treated differently in the U.S. than in other countries, and it tells American mothers about all of their options when it comes to their own births. Ricki and Abby both tell their own birth stories in Your Best Birth, all of which are vastly different experiences (hospital birth with an epidural, home birth with no medication, and an emergency c-section). The best part about this book to me was the lists of questions to ask your doctor, midwife, hospital, and doula. They also go over how to write a birth plan and the things you may want to include. A quick, easy, fun and thoroughly informative read!

For the natural birth planner, you’ll also want to read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I’ve already written a full review of this fabulous classic, and yeah, I still think it’s pretty much the best thing ever. Ina May Gaskin is a total badass — a rogue, self-trained midwife who started her own birthing center at a commune in Tennessee. This book is her guide, her philosophy, and her experience. The best thing? The first third of the book is written by her patients, giving glimpses of their positive, natural birth experiences. Then, Ina May details all of the different ways and methods to cope with labor — particularly the more difficult labors. She is unflappably calm and amazingly creative, and gives you a lot of ideas to hold in your personal labor arsenal. For example, if you open your mouth during pushing, you’re less likely to tear. If you’re muscles are tight, and someone rocks you back and forth, you’re more likely to relax and have it easier. And you get to read Ina May’s amazing statistics for her commune birthing center at the end. Also, it’s well written and has a good sense of humor!

For coping with labor pain in a natural way, check out: Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz and Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan. Both of these books are designed around a “method” to deal with labor, so you may want to choose one ore the other. However, I think checking out a little of both is important because it gives you a chance to gather more tools for your labor arsenal. Birthing from Within does have some wacky stuff about creating birth art to express your fear, which I’m not really into, but some people might find cool. What I really liked about Birthing from Within is the varied methods of coping with pain and the suggestions for how to cope with post-partum stress. Hypnobirthing has a lot about the history of childbirth, and it explains the self-hypnosis methods for dealing with labor. It has a great deal of wonderful information about pregnancy, and it explains meditation you can practice and use during childbirth. Also very well written and engaging. Highly recommended!

Breastfeeders will need … A good breastfeeding book. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding By La Leche League International comes highly recommended. It’s the one I have, and there’s a ton of great information in it … but … it gets a bit preachy. If you are someone who knows you’ll get cranky at super preachy breastfeeding dogma (i.e. “There’s no such thing as not producing enough milk. If you’re not producing enough milk, there’s something wrong with you.”), then don’t get this one. I haven’t checked any other ones, but The Nursing Mother’s Companion comes highly recommended as well, and I would definitely give Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding a good try since Ina May pretty much rules.

Everyone needs … Baby Bargains! As you know, I totally support Baby Bargains. The authors claim they’ll save you lots of dough when buying your baby gear, but I’m not sure if that’s the main benefit of this tome. The main benefit? I found out about everything available on the market, got familiar with brands, and got good ideas for what I needed and didn’t need. From this book, I got the crib recommendation that led me to choose Westwood, the idea to purchase the Arm’s Reach Mini Co-Sleeper, and the suggestions as to what brands to include on my registry. That said, the authors, Denise and Alan Fields, are parents and not consumer reports experts. It’s also good to get opinions from other sources — I choose friends and family, and Amazon reviews!

And if you’re interested in a book for your partner … Get The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. This is the to-go reference for the person in your life who will be supporting you through labor — significant other, friend, mom and dad … etc. This has all the information that that person can tell you throughout your pregnancy — exercises, health, nutrition, and all the stuff they can tell you about labor while you’re in it — medical interventions, options, and positions, and what you can expect after the birth — how to identify postpartum depression, how you can be supported in breastfeeding, and how to clean your baby. It’s good for that person in your life to have all the info. As much as you can cram in your brain, you won’t remember all of it, and it’s good to have someone there to remind you and make sure you’ve got what you need.

I’ll have another addition after Sam is born — the best books for having a baby!

 

Best Paint for Pregnant Ladies July 16, 2010

Hey everyone! I was just looking at my blog stats and saw that one of the more common searches that led people to my page was “best paint for pregnant ladies,” so hey, I give the people what they want.

The best paint for pregnant ladies is, of course, the lowest of the low-VOC, the paints that are qualified as no-VOC.

The paints that I have used are:

1. Benjamin Moore Natura — I got this guy mixed to match Glidden’s Fresh Guacamole for the nursery. The big advantage here is that you can get Natura mixed to match just about ANYTHING. Another advantage is that it has very little smell at all. Any paint sample you find anywhere? You can get it in Natura. The disadvantages are that you have to go to a Benjamin Moore store to get it, and it’s hella expensive at about 60 bucks a gallon.

2. C2 Lovo (available at Benjamin Moore Stores) — I used this for the master bedroom (in Potato Leek) and the nursery closet (in Chelsea). The advantages are that it comes in lovely colors and that it has very little smell. Again, you have to get it at Benjamin Moore stores, and it runs 55 bucks a gallon. And it’s low-VOC, not no-VOC. But it’s worked well for us in a couple of places.

3. Freshaire — Now, this is the best paint of the lot, I do believe. Major advantages include: you can get it at your local Home Depot, it has a small but very nice selection of colors, and it’s way cheaper at 30 bucks a gallon. It’s not going to be your cheapest option (you have to buy higher VOC paint options for that), but it’s probably down there with the cheapest of the cheap no-VOC options. Oh yeah, and for a cheaper paint, it’s super high quality, thick, and goes on smooth. And with absolutely no odor that we can detect! The only disadvantage I can see is that the color options are limited and somewhat muted. As in, you probably won’t be able to find a bright, charming nursery color — but if your tendency is toward the more subdued, you may be in luck.

A paint I’ve heard about a lot but have not used is Mythic Paint, found at Lowe’s. Check it out! I think it may have more color options than Freshaire, so it’s worth a look.

Of course, many of you pregnant ladies won’t have occasion to paint, or may be totally freaked out by the idea altogether. I will say that the no-VOC is just that. It has no volatile organic compounds, which is the nasty stuff that can give you headaches (and if you drink it, it probably won’t be good for your baby). But there’s no reason to shy away from using the no-VOC paint. It’s an excuse to exercise your nesting instinct in your baby’s room, and perhaps in other areas of your home. It’s water based, green, and non-toxic. As for painting, go for it! Get someone else to get up on the step stool, and take care of your back since you’re up and down a lot during the painting process. And enjoy!

 

Slow FE July 10, 2010

Filed under: pregnancy,Product Reviews,Products,Reviews — hokoonchi @ 3:00 am
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A plug for this amazing iron supplement …

Over fifty percent of pregnant ladies have anemia at some point in their pregnancy. I am one of those ladies. For weeks, and weeks, I have been feeling like total crap. Worn down, drug out, and totally fatigued. I found out I had low hemoglobin on Monday and started taking the iron pills my doctor recommended last night. Today, I’ve felt better than I have in a long time. (Just like my doc said I would.) Anyway, of course ask your doc what to do when you’re preggers and anemic, but I’m loving this supplement. It’s supposed to be a little less harsh on the stomach than most iron supplements, and it releases slowly throughout the day.

Of course, it’s cheaper on Amazon. Find it here.

 

Pregnancy and the Loss of Self: 27 Weeks June 24, 2010

When you’re pregnant, you think a lot about the things that you can’t do. I try not to get too bogged down in most of the things you always hear you can’t do — I limit my caffeine but I drink some here and there, I’ve eaten a piece or two of brie and I would never toss goat cheese off of my plate, and I’m probably planning to break the sushi vow pretty soon. Mmm sushi.

What people don’t tell you is that you can lose parts of yourself that you never expect to lose. Along with the unwieldy body that changes the shape of who you are comes the things you can’t do, the trips you can’t take, and the people you can’t see. Anyone who knows me well probably has figured that I love to be social, travel, and generally enjoy myself. For me, this has recently taken the form of taking trips with my girlfriends, or planning a romantic getaway with my husband. In the more removed past, it took the form of jaunting off to the Philippines to get a diving license and swim with whale sharks. When in California, my van rolled from Santa Barbara through Orange County, LA and San Diego and up the 1 to Monterey, Big Sur, Salinas, San Francisco, and Berkeley. It saw rest stops on the highway, empty fields and vineyards, and the wild and beautiful California coast for hundreds of miles.

This summer has been, and mostly will be, at home. I’ve been invited out to see my California friends in LA and again for a girls’ weekend unlike any other in Tennessee. These are trips I would have bent over backwards to make before — and I have for the past two summers. It has been so important for me to stay connected to that adventure life where I could plan a trip and leave my normal life for a moment, to return refreshed and relaxed.

It has hurt me to lose this from my life this summer — it has hurt me to have to say no. I had tried to plan for a trip to California, but after my work retreat to New York, I knew I wouldn’t handle it well with my fatigue and the swelling in my feet. What has hurt me most is missing my Tennessee adventure. But with an eight hour car ride at thirty-one weeks pregnant, or a flight I would likely not be allowed to take, combined with my husband’s worry, I couldn’t make it. With these simple trips, I feel that I’ve lost a part of myself, and I wonder what else I might lose.

I am well aware that there may be no more trips to Cebu or Kyoto, and that I may not even be able to show my son the coast at Big Sur for many years to come. I’ve been mourning those losses since we decided to get pregnant, and I tried to cram as much into last summer as I could — San Diego, San Francisco, Lake Michigan, the Outer Banks. I’ve been trying to enjoy being at home this summer, and I’ve been working to look forward to the time I will have with my little boy and my husband. But I didn’t know that not seeing my friends, not releasing myself to a long, solitary road trip, or a flight to a new place would hit me so hard, and I never knew I would feel as disconnected from the person that I have been.

I know now that I must look forward, but it hurts me to do this. I must now change my perspective, and in that, give away part of myself that I have so long struggled to hold on to. But in giving that away, I know that I will gain something tremendously valuable in return. My husband and I will be creating a family, building a home, and raising a child to create adventures of his own. I know that I will miss the person that I was before we moved to the East Coast, and my passport may well expire, but the adventures that I have will not disappear. Instead, they will be closer to home: catching fireflies in the summer, baking cupcakes, decorating a real Christmas tree, setting up a pool in the backyard, or watching our son realize that he is seeing his first snow.

I won’t ever say that my traveling life won’t remain valuable to me, or that I will opt out of any and all trips during the long, hazy days of summer. I may well keep many of the parts of who I have been, but they will be combined with the new task of raising a conscious, respectful, and curious human being who may someday take part in all of the adventures I dreamed of and many I cannot yet fathom.

 

Third Trimester Survival June 21, 2010

Filed under: pregnancy,Products — hokoonchi @ 10:01 pm
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I just officially entered my third trimester — or at least my iphone app tells me so. I’ll be experiencing this less delicate time during July, August, and early September. Perfect timing, right? I’m definitely freaking out a little bit that it’s all so close and so soon, but I’m taking measures to keep myself healthy and in check … But how do I survive it in the best way possible? Here’s my guide for the third trimester summer survival kit:

1. Yoga ball — my back has gotten to the point where it hurts to sit in certain ways or stand for extended periods of time. I would recommend using a yoga ball when sitting for long periods of time. It was a lifesaver for me during a long meeting last week, and I’m planning to start using it in my sewing room as well. Bouncing and rolling on the yoga ball also stretches out those muscles and makes the body feel a lot better. My doula also recommends bringing one to the hospital since it’s great for your body and your comfort to labor on the ball.

2. A nice swimsuit and a friend with a pool — This is the only thing that’s going to get me through. Unfortunately, my friend who has a pool is moving in July … so I’ll have to beg someone else. The pool is the only place I feel weightless. It’s great to stretch and just move your legs around in the pool. Total bonus.

3. A foam roller — What a fabulous invention. For those of you who have never used it before, it’s a revelation. When lying on the roller in various positions, you can give yourself the equivalent of a deep tissue massage. During pregnancy, it’s excellent to do this on the glutes, hip flexors, and lower spine. I also love stretching out my chest and shoulders while lying on the roller.

4. A yoga DVD or yoga class — My prenatal yoga class is a lifesaver. I’ve learned a lot of new stretches and techniques to alleviate pain, and you get to practice your meditation and detachment for labor. I can’t recommend this enough (full post on this to follow).

5. A tennis ball — I got this tip from my yoga class. Use a tennis ball or golf ball to massage your feet and hands. When we did this in class, my feet especially felt a lot different afterward. You can just put your weight on one foot, and roll the ball around on your other. It evens out the fascia and muscles, and it makes those summer-swollen feet feel a ton better.

6. A body pillow (or two) — Even though I’m not in love with my Leacho back and body pillow since it’s too big and bulky, I’ve started sleeping with it again. You really need a pillow between the legs while sleeping to even out the spin and support your belly … It helps the back feel better in the morning. I would recommend getting a cheap, long body pillow instead of a fancy maternity pillow like the Leacho. It will probably do the same job and take up less space in the bed.

That’s all for now! I may come back and add after experiencing more of my third trimester!

 

How Did I Get Myself So … Pregnant? May 28, 2010

Filed under: fertility,pregnancy — hokoonchi @ 1:08 am
Tags: , , ,

I guess we all know by now how the human body works, at least more or less. And I suppose you can guess exactly what I was doing over Christmas break that got me into this situation. I guess it should make sense to me, but I am still baffled that from two people can come three, and that it all worked so quickly and so well. I am flabbergasted at nature, in all of its strange and swelling glory.

Honestly, I had intended to get pregnant around March. That would put me on maternity leave right at my two-year anniversary with my company. This would give me some sweeter maternity leave, but oh well, that didn’t happen. You see, I didn’t think I would get pregnant so quickly. It took my mom five years of trying, and she suffered from miscarriages before anything actually stuck. I had prepared myself so well for failure that I didn’t even believe it when that second line popped up on the pee stick.

I figured I would share some of the things that really helped me get to this delicate state.

Do buy:

The iPeriod app for your iphone. I’m sure there are similar apps for other smart phones, and probably some great tracking devices or calendars that link up with your email or some such. Either way, track your period — and it works best to do it not just on paper but on a tracking device hooked up to the magical calculators on the internet that figure out, month by month, when you are most fertile. iPeriod works by having you enter the beginning and end of your cycle over several months. After several months, it really begins to figure out exactly what times you’ll be fertile. As you may have figured, this is fabulous for those trying to get pregnant, and those who are trying to avoid getting pregnant. When you enter your period start and end date, it calculates your fertile days for the next month. It shows when you are kinda fertile, and most fertile, and not fertile. It looks something like this:

iPeriod Calendar

iPeriod Calendar

It’s pretty awesome. The red dot days are your recorded period days, and the light green days are the days leading up to ovulation (potentially fertile), and the greenest day is your exact day of ovulation.

For those of you familiar with the Fertility Awareness Method, this is a kind of dumbed down version of that. It takes out the temperature tracking and so forth, and figures it out for you. That said, it’s probably not as effective as tracking all of your detailed information and watching your temp on a daily basis. But it’s way less annoying!

It seemed to be pretty accurate for me. My cycle got way irregular when I got off BC, and this, after a couple of months, started to predict my period quite accurately … and thus, my fertile days. I am a fan.

The benefit to having this type of calendar on your phone is that you can fill out your days when you’re standing in line at the grocery store, you can check to remind yourself when you are ovulating, and you can calibrate it against any other tracking devices you might have. This particular app also comes with a discreet icon that doesn’t say PERIOD all over it.

I would recommend it to any lady trying to get pregnant, trying to track her period, or using natural cycle birth control. It’s a good idea all the way around. And you can’t beat the price: 99 cents.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility …

So I mentioned the Fertility Awareness Method. What’s that? Well, some of you may know, but I can say that I didn’t at all before I started trying to get pregnant. As it turns out, no one really educates us ladies on what goes on with our bodies during a cycle, and no one really tells us about HOW the body actually manages to get pregnant and stay that way. So, duh, we all know that a sperm fertilizes an egg. But, as it turns out, this doesn’t happen randomly. And it can’t happen at just any old time of the month. Now that seems so simple to me, but before, it wasn’t something I thought about in great detail.

So, if you are interested in fertility tracking, either to get pregnant or to stay not pregnant, I recommend buying Taking Charge of Your Fertility from Amazon. It shows you how to chart your fertility, talks about body temperature and its correlation, and tells you how the body works to get pregnant. I read it from cover to cover. I never really tracked my fertility like it told me to, but I’m so glad I knew all of the info. It worked so well with my dumbed down iphone app, and I didn’t have to do much thinking about it. I won’t get into the gory details on how to tell when you are fertile, but I’ll just say it’s something they do NOT teach you in health class, and it’s not something your mom is going to sit down and tell you about.

I will say that you have to be comfortable with the ins and outs of your body in order to track your fertility effectively. You just can’t be squeamish, and you have to learn how to read the signs that your body is giving you. There’s a lot of talk about … body stuff … and you gotta roll with it.

That said, the information is indispensable.

And we got pregnant two months after we started trying.

For those women who find it more difficult to get pregnant, the FAM method will help you figure out what’s going on. There are several chapters on how to figure that stuff out, and how to proceed. As I said, the information is indispensable.

So, that’s how I got myself into this situation, and I’m glad I educated myself beforehand. Good luck!

 

Anxiety: 23(ish) Weeks May 26, 2010

Filed under: motherhood,pregnancy — hokoonchi @ 2:19 am
Tags: , , ,

I haven’t written a post about my emotions in a little while. It’s probably because I have so many. My iphone app tells me this is normal, so I am reassured. Apparently, pregnancy causes mood swings (total shocker), and my partner needs to be supportive. I told my partner this information from the iPregnancy app, and he was unsure of how to support my mood swings. I told him I was unsure as well. They don’t give you information on that part. You have to make it up as you go along.

I think this is something pregnant ladies don’t talk about that much. I think there’s a lot of shame surrounding the inevitable anxiety that comes with creating a human life, and as such there’s not a community of support when you’re feeling down. It’s a very lonely thing, sometimes, being pregnant. There aren’t always a lot of other pregnant ladies to commune with. When you find a community of ladies with bellies, in your prenatal yoga or Bradley Method class, they may not know you all that well, and they’re not going to say, “Hey, I’ve been feeling down, how about you?” It’s just not something you bring up in polite company.

All that you hear about pregnancy is that it’s this totally miraculous time, and you only see women being happy about it. All of my friends who have experienced it have seemed overwhelmed with joy, eager to meet their babies and transition into a peaceful motherhood. It seems abnormal when people don’t act this way, and such women are automatically stigmatized.

I myself had been expecting stable happiness, particularly after the nausea and fatigue of my first trimester. This is what the books and the websites tell you to expect. Happiness, peace, calmness, less pain and fatigue, breasts not as sore, glowing skin and lustrous hair. So they say of the second trimester.

In my experience, I’ve had a somewhat different second trimester. In the scheme of things, I know my pregnancy has been low-risk and uncomplicated, but seriously, I’ve still got some crazy shit going on. I don’t glow. If I glow, it’s because of the copious amounts of oil I’m producing. If I glow, it’s because I’m sweating. If I glow, it’s because of the pain of my flat feet mushing down into my shoes. I also have back pain, heart burn, leg cramps … and my brain doesn’t wake up until about 11AM. This crap is normal, to be expected. It isn’t what you hear about in the common folklore, but upon digging in the books, you find that it can happen, and it does. And it doesn’t help with the emotional side of things …

To top off these physical changes, I am stressed. I am joyous, certainly, and I love to feel my baby move and contemplate his arrival. But I am stressed. I am tired. Most of the time, I walk about in a state of thinly veiled anxiety that can transition into tearful states. I get worried about finances, about if I’ll be a good mom, about if I’ll be able to care for my baby in the ways he needs, and about whether he’ll love me. I’ve even gone off about whether he’ll call me when he’s in college (I didn’t start calling my mom regularly until after I graduated. Whoops.). Recently, I can’t seem to calm down. It’s gotten hard for me to sleep during the week — when you combine the stress of teaching with the stress of growing a human, it gets hard to have calming, restful sleep. It’s hard for me to focus. It’s hard for me to sometimes complete a sentence. Sometimes, I am plagued by the strange sensation that I want something desperately, but have no clue what it is. It’s a feeling akin to thirst, but it’s an emotional thirst that I can’t readily identify. This feeling? They don’t tell you about that.

How does one cope? How do I cope when I fear so badly that this may transition into postpartum depression? How do I cope when I know I’ve struggled with depression for ten years, and dammit, I don’t want to go to that place during this amazing time.

I have to say, my writing helps me. It unwinds me. It centers me, and it makes me feel whole. I’m also blessed to have a kind and hilarious husband who knows me and guides me, friends who listen to me vent, and coworkers who are my second family. It helps me to stay organized, do my research and make decisions. It helps me to talk to my mother who said, “Oh Cami, I felt all of the same ways, and you’re the best thing that I ever did. Once you got here, all of those feelings went away.” Practically, yoga helps. (My teacher is way awesome.) And prenatal massage doesn’t hurt either. (Get one.)

In writing about this worry and anxiety, and I’m giving it a name. I’m facing it head on, educating myself, and allowing myself to feel all of the things I need to feel. I’m owning up to it, and I’m admitting that I’m not going to be perfect. I’m preparing myself for motherhood in the best ways that I know how, and on the days when I feel like I’ll never be able to do it, I try to take a deep breath and tell myself that I’m not alone. I have great resources of strength upon which to draw, and great love to give and receive. I might never get rid of the anxiety and strange feelings, but I can vow to not let them control me, even on the worst of days.

Perhaps this is my body and brain’s own way of preparing me for the anxieties of motherhood. If I learn how to master it now, nip it in its ugly bud, then I may be able to better manage a screaming child and a dinner that never gets made. I may be able to handle an unexpected illness, or a sudden dip in financial resources, or a son who refuses to eat his vegetables. Maybe my anxiety now is a key to my calmness later. Or simply — what if I choose to view it this way? Could I then turn my mastery of it into a tool in my arsenal of motherhood?

I choose this path. I will overcome my worries and my physical pains. I am a strong, beautiful woman. I will own this and integrate this, and conquer it. This is my San Culpa: I can do anything. I will not be defeated.