Does your OB know what you’re eating?

I had two babies with an obstetrician. I was in his care for nearly two full years while pregnant with our first two children. And not once. Not ever. Did he ask me what I was eating. Thinking about it, he had 15 appointments per pregnancy to ask me what I was ingesting….and he never asked or suggested to me that it was important.

Sure I got a list of things NOT to eat– tuna only once a week, no lunch meat, alcohol, or sushi…..But he never offered me advice on what I should be eating, or asked me about my diet and exercise.

However, my care under a midwife? I had to complete food diaries and exercise logs.She monitored my fluid intake and my activity levels. I brought food journals to appointments and we talked about greens and protein and water. Fruits. And protein. Vegetables. And protein. Whole grains. And protein. As a result, I was cognizant of what I was eating to grow our baby.

My midwife suggests that mothers consume between 75-100g of protein each day. Protein consumption is especially important in the second and third trimesters and is positively correlated with good birth outcomes.
It is also good to avoid anything refined, processed, and generally empty calories while pregnant.

How can you sneak some more protein into your pregnant self?

My favorites:
* Eggs every day for breakfast– omelets, hard-boiled on the go, scrambled.
* I kept cheese and crackers in my office fridge. Every few hours I’d help myself to a mini-Babybel or a handful of cheese cubes.
* Quinoa. Who doesn’t love quinoa? And given that it is a complete protein with 14g of protein per serving– we eat this a lot in my house. And the kids love it.
* Oreo cookies. With a glass of milk, of course. Okay, that probably doesn’t meet my midwife’s nutritional requirements, and they are far from organic. But I do love Oreos. I want to love Newman O’s as much as Oreos, but I just don’t…..especially when pregnant…..
* Beef jerky. Great to keep in the car, and packed with protein.
* Yogurt. But not yogurt packed with sugar, make sure you read labels.
* Nuts. Almonds, cashews, peanuts…..

You can also eat more meat in general, my family just doesn’t typically eat much meat, so these were some good compromises. These are also good snacks to have on hand when nursing, just sayin’.

Happy eating! Nutrition is so important to your overall health, pregnant or not….

xoxo

Mama G

I’ve been MIA….but working on making this prettier!

Hi, friends. First, my apologies. I’m been missing the last few weeks.

I’ve been working on re-formatting my blog and making it easier to read and access.

The good news? I’ve learned a lot and it is less cluttered and easier to read than before.

The bad news? I lost all of my old comments and can’t figure out a way to get them over here. My apologies!

I will forge ahead. And I will be back with updated content soon.

xoxo

Mama G

Should I have another baby?

And by “I”, I mean “you”–since I’m not taking a poll to see if we should expand our family…..

It seems that once we had more than two children, we became the resident experts on family size and planning. Many of our friends and family confide in us that they are “considering” having a second or third child, and want our perspective on family size and what it’s “really” like to have more than one, or two, kiddos around.

First, I have to be honest. I’ve always known that I wanted a larger family. Since as far as I can remember I’ve told people that I want to have four or five children. It is just the way I imagined my adult life.  And lucky for me, my husband has been on board and we’ve been able to conceive and carry our children. We know we are blessed.

People frequently ask us:

1. How much harder is it? I don’t think there is a universal answer to this one. It largely depends on the personalities of the children you already have, on the temperament of the baby that is born, and how you define “hard”.  You won’t know how much different life is until you add that new baby. Sorry! For us, we just tossed one more into the bathtub, and it worked out. But we’ve had very easy-going babies….I’ve had close friends be very surprised that their third child was colicky or that they didn’t just find a rhythm with so many young ones in the house. I think it depends on the kids and mom and dad.

2. How do you afford so many? We believe kids don’t need that much to be happy. We have been very blessed that we’ve been able to have a stay at home parent for our children, so adding another for us doesn’t automatically mean an increase in our childcare costs the way it does for our friends who have kids in daycare. But we also are careful in our spending, and don’t indulge our children in their every whim. Our kids don’t do many clubs or activities (and by not many, I mean none until they are school aged, and then it is maybe one activity/year.) Saves both time and money.  We don’t eat out often. We are famous for finding free activities. Turns out our kids are just as happy digging in the dirt of a local park as they are at Disneyland. Honest.

3. It is worth it? I think so. I guess we’ll have to ask our kids in 20 years if they are happy that they have so many siblings. I can’t imagine my life without each of our children. And our kids ask us to have more babies….all.of.the.time. So I don’t think they feel too deprived. It is such a blessing to enjoy them and watch them enjoy each other. In my work I spend much of my time with older adults, who are at a point where they are reflecting on their lives, and the one regret I’ve heard over and over from people is not having more children. Perhaps their perspective has influenced me, as well.

I think you should also consider:

1. Do you really want another child, or just a baby? Babies are gone in a flash, and then you have a toddler, a school aged kid, a teen….is this what you want? If not, borrow the neighbor’s baby to fuss over and then hand them back after a few hours.

2. Did you have healthy pregnancies and births? What impact would being pregnant have on the quality of life for the children you already have? I acknowledge that every pregnancy is different, but if you have a history of pre-term labor, high blood pressure, bed rest, or have had multiple c-sections, your health should enter the conversation.

3. Can you honestly afford it? If you are presently living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to make ends meet, now might not be the time. Are you relying on family or other assistance to make it? If so, might be best to wait until you are in a better financial position. No matter how you do it, more kids cost more money.

4.  Is your spouse on board? This isn’t the type of thing you want to coerce a partner into. Both of you need to be on the same page about your family and your future.

There are no perfect sizes when it comes to families. For some, it is one child. For others, it is ten. What is it for you?

Happy deliberating!

xoxo
Mama G

5 Questions I’m Frequently Asked about Homebirth


Many of my friends know that I’ve delivered two of our four babies at home. As in, we planned for and birthed our children in our master bedroom. We were under the care of a professional, licensed midwife.

I understand that for many (perhaps most) this idea is foreign and bizarre, and perhaps a little bit frightening. I’ve been asked countless times many questions about our homebirths. Here are the most popular– and our answers.

1. Why would you do that? Isn’t it safer to have a baby in the hospital?
Not necessarily. The large, comprehensive studies on planned homebirths indicate that for a low risk woman having a baby at home, with the care and attendance of a certified professional midwife (C.P.M.), is just as safe as having a baby in a hospital. Certainly, there are inherent risks in childbirth, but midwives are prepared to deal with these risks and enjoy positive birth outcomes equivalent to those achieved in a hospital setting. I’m not a big risk-taker. I’m actually quite risk-averse. However, having done my homework in the risks and benefits, I was very confident in our choice to birth at home. Now that I’ve had two babies at home, I truly can’t imagine planning to birth anywhere else.

2. Isn’t it messy?
Nope. Sure, there was a bit of a mess, but everything was cleaned up post-baby by my midwives. In fact, I dare say that my house was cleaner when my midwives left than when they arrived. Laundry was done, garbage was taken out, baby and I were clean and tucked into my own bed. It was heaven, really. And I didn’t have a bag to pack or un-pack, I wore my own robe, took a shower in my own bathroom, and ate my own food.

3. What do you with the placenta?
It varies. Some mothers opt to have their placentas dried and encapsulated, and they ingest them postpartum. Some mothers use their placentas to make a smoothie or a lasagna, and ingest them in the days after birth. And still others, like me, opted to put theirs in the freezer for a while…..I was willing to encapsulate and ingest should the need arise (it is a wonderful treatment for all sorts of ailments, including postpartum depression) but I never had any postpartum depression, so mine stayed in the freezer. We then planted it under a tree in our backyard about six months later (the other placenta, I admit, we just chucked with the weekly trash about a year after our son was born. I think we weren’t supposed to do this…medical waste and all. Oops?)

4. What did you do for pain relief?
I was blessed in that I found my natural labors to be very manageable. So for labor management, I spent time in a hot bath, I walked, I rocked, I meditated. I wouldn’t call my labors pain-free, but they weren’t terribly uncomfortable, either. I just listened to my body, moved where I was comfortable and did what I wanted. To contrast my experience at home with my hospital experiences is like night and day. For me, the most difficult part of being in the hospital was sitting still while they did external fetal monitoring and strapped equipment to my belly and asked me to sit still.  It was hard when they wanted to ask me questions about when I last ate and when I last saw my physician, or sign a form mid-contraction. For me, the hardest part was being prodded and poked by strangers who meant well, but couldn’t tell (or didn’t care) that i was internally focused on doing some hard work, and I needed them not to bug me. At home, I didn’t have that at all. And it was delightful. I also didn’t have my labors augmented by pitocin as I did during my first labor. OY! Now that is painful– natural labor, not so much for me.

Midwives are also very knowledgeable about the normal progression of labors, and great at providing massage, counter-pressure, suggesting positions that are more comfortable for a mother working hard. Such a contrast to the hourly offer of an epidural or a “little shot of something to take the edge off” that I received in the hospital.

5. What did you do with your other children?
We opted to have our other children present for the birth of their siblings. We had back-up plans, should something have gone wrong or had I felt like I didn’t want them there (we had family whose entire role was to attend to the children while I labored.) I saw the kids periodically during my labor, but mostly spent time alone in my bedroom. They came in when I was close to pushing– and they remember it. I know our oldest daughters vividly recall the birth of their sister and it is a neat memory for them. They didn’t have to wait to meet the newest members of our family– they were there, they welcomed them with love and awe, just as my husband and I did. They were respectful, aware, and prepared for what to expect, and it was beautiful.

I know that most people ask these questions out of genuine curiosity, and I suspect that there are many more. What do you want to know about having a baby at home?

xoxo
Mama G

Red Dye #40= Crazy in my house

Okay, I admit it, even without the red dye things are often crazy in our house.

And I know it sounds bizarre to most.  It IS odd. But our second daughter cannot handle red dye #40. I wouldn’t call her allergic to this nasty chemical, but she is sensitive to it. And your child could be, too.

It took us until after her 3rd birthday to figure it out, but eating products with red dye #40 in it causes our sweet child to become irritable, angry, slightly violent, and, most notably,  to experience disrupted sleep. When she consumes red #40, she wakes with night terrors, night sweats, and tears. And it is no fun for anybody, especially for her. It took us research, noting her diet and dye intake, and a bit of trial and error to identify the culprit. But once we removed it from her diet, we enjoyed a remarkable turnaround in her behavior and her sleep.

The British Medical Journal released a study which correlated hyperactive behaviors in children with artificial dye consumption. While the FDA refutes these claims, they are now going to reexamine the possibility.

http://healthland.time.com/2011/03/28/does-food-dye-make-kids-hyper-an-fda-panel-will-investigate/

Our family eats mostly unprocessed, natural foods, but her sensitivity to red dye has made us even more diligent in this endeavor.

Red dye #40 is in everything. Yogurt, jelly, Ovaltine, white frosting, fruit cereal bars, fruit snacks, Tylenol, Benedryl, gum, chocolate milk served at schools, spaghetti sauces,  juices, ice cream…the list goes on and on…..and is shocking.

Lucky for us, our daughter is very aware of how it makes her feel. And as a result, she avoids it diligently, even at age 5. She knows to trade her siblings for “non-red” suckers (who interestingly enough don’t seem to react to the dyes at all), or to tell her teacher that she can’t share the class cupcakes because they are pink. But I wonder how many other children are sensitive to it and how many of the kids with ADHD in her class are really just sensitive to dyes in their lunchbox….

xoxo
Mama G

I love my minivan. Really. I do.

Today we enjoyed especially fantastic weather. It was the perfect day to start off spring. A cool morning, followed by a lovely 70 degree afternoon. Daffodils are up and the trees are tempted to bud.


I work on a college campus and on my drive home, I pulled up to a stoplight and spent the red with a car full of spring fevered college boys next to me. They were riding along in their cool, college car. Windows down. Music blaring. And I could feel them looking at me. Washed-up mom in her neutral minivan. Two carseats and two boosters in the back. Silly elementary school magnet stuck to the side ( I suppose it didn’t help things that I was listening to NPR….) I could feel them sizing me up. And I grinned from ear to ear. I probably looked creepy.

Because I love my minivan. I love the carseats in the back. I love the way it holds our entire family comfortably. I love that I can load a double stroller, four kids, a cooler, and a dog and travel wherever we dare to go. I don’t mind the crushed Goldfish crackers in the back. Or the crayons melted into the carpet. I appreciate the handy dvd player. The seats that fold down. I love my minivan. Really. I do.

I love what it represents. It is where we are in life right now. We are in this thing. And time is passing so quickly. I cannot wrap my head around the fact that our “baby” will soon be two and that our eldest will turn eight this year.

But we had our days. I once had a cool, college car, too. I just parted with my dusty Wrangler last year (admittedly, I couldn’t bear the thought of parting with it completely, so it is in the safe hands of my brother, who promised to keep it until our oldest is driving. Fair, I think.) Just thinking of it reminds of the beach, Purdue, parties, and the summer I got my tattoo…..but I don’t miss those days.

I know the day is soon coming that I won’t be fussing with carseats. It has already started that our older kids would like to hang with their friends over us. My littles will soon be independent. We only get them at home for 15 years or so….and then they are gone.

So I embrace these days. Our fantastically blessed minivan days. Lucky us.
Lucky me.
They’ll be gone before I know it.

xoxo
Mama G

New babies are hard on marriages.

A few days ago I talked to one of my oldest and dearest friends. She’s just had her first baby and it was a delight to hear her voice as a new mom. We covered all the usual bases– how was she? Baby? Nursing? Adjusting okay? As the conversation came to a close, I thought about what I didn’t tell her; that babies can be hard on marriages. Even strong marriages. Even with amazing partners. Babies are just hard.

We had our first baby years ago, but I can still remember vividly how hard it was to adjust to this new little life. I felt like I got all sorts of (unsolicited) advice from well-meaning people about my new baby. Diapers. Bottles. Burping. Swaddling.  But nobody mentioned my marriage. It was like a cruel joke. Not one friend or family member mentioned that this beautiful life we had created together, might, just maybe could, be a challenge for us as a couple.

Um, she was. And so was the second baby. I think it took us until baby number three until we had this thing down (and most couples don’t even have a baby number three!) But I’m here to tell you– babies ARE hard on marriages.

Why?

1. Tired. As every new mom learns, the tiredness of pregnancy doesn’t hold a candle to life with a newborn. They eat. They poop. They cry. Repeat. Every two hours. We are tired. Really tired. And, for me at least, when tired, everything else is magnified. And I’m irritable. I know I’m irritable, but somehow this doesn’t prevent me from behaving like a crab.  This did not help my marriage.

2. Jealous. I will admit to being jealous of my husband after the births of our children. It seemed like he got all the good stuff– the snuggles, the baths, the smiles…..meanwhile I had fluids spilling from every orifice. I cried. I leaked. I bled. It seemed wholly unfair. It also seemed unfair that he magically slept through all those night wakings and feedings (he truly didn’t even stir…..some sort of amazing biological feat, I believe.) I was jealous. This did not help my marriage.

3. Isolating. Babies are isolating. We live in a culture where partners don’t get much time, if any, off from work for the birth of a child. We live far away from our families. Well-meaning neighbors and friends bring us food and company for a few days, and then they return to life. When we are at home (alone) with a new baby, it is very isolating. It is easy to get antsy, sad, and angry when left alone with a new baby all day long. This did not help my marriage.

4. Blah. I admire women who say that they felt like goddesses after having a baby. I’ve met them, but I think they are lying. Really. Because I felt mushy, tired (see #1), my jeans didn’t fit, when I did sleep I woke with night sweats, and I broke out in some sort of weird hormonal zitfest. I felt very very far from beautiful. And not that it was my husband’s fault, but I just felt blah. This did not help my marriage.

Now I don’t want to suggest that the stress in our marriage was entirely *my* fault, but it helped me with subsequent babies to anticipate the triggers. And to acknowledge that my husband’s world had been turned upside down, too. I think we’re all a bit lost in those first few months after a new baby. And it passes.

Here are my tips:
1. Ask your husband for exactly what you want. Don’t suggest it. Don’t imply it. Tell him what you need. “I’m going to go in and take a bath for 30 minutes. I’m going to shave my legs. Wash my hair. And read a magazine. You are in charge of the baby.” Sometimes they truly just don’t know what we want. And believe me you, both baby and daddy will survive.
2. Take a shower and get dressed every day. It might take you two hours but do it. Even if you are alone, take baby into the bathroom and let them hang out while you shower. They might cry. They might fuss. But really, you only need 5 minutes. Get clean and put on make-up. Get dressed. Dry your hair. If you do nothing else, your day has been a success if you accomplish this.
3. Go somewhere every day. I don’t care if it is for a walk around the block, to the library, to the buy a single coffee. Leave your house. With our without baby.

There truly is nothing more handsome than a daddy holding his new baby. It gets me every time. Hang in there. Babies really are a miracle, and on the other side of these newborn days is a stronger marriage. Promise. The way that you fiercely love that new life is incredible. And to watch your partner grow as a father and a husband is amazing. Just be patient with each other and your very short-term circumstance– easier days are ahead.

xoxo
Mama G

Odd places I have nursed…..

Here it comes…..

A confession. I’ve nursed my babies is some pretty bizarre locations. I never imagined myself doing this pre-kids….but babies have a way of changing us, don’t they?

So here are just some of the places I have nourished my babies…..

At the beach. While cooking dinner. On the highway (baby safe in carseat,, mama hunched over in the backseat–mostly this has occurred when we are traveling and one of our other children has fallen asleep and baby was screaming. Note: driving across the country with four children under the age of 7 is not advisable. Just sayin’. )   In the shower. At restaurants. In the movie theater. At a concert. On a dune buggy (not sure of the safety of this one!) On airplanes. At a carnival. While using the restroom (not particularly proud of this one, but I think mama’s who have had more than one baby *hopefully* can relate.) While on a teleconference for work.  At church. At an elementary school. The doctor’s office. The dentist. On a bus. On a train.  While painting my nails. In a hospital waiting room. On an elevator. Walking through the mall. On a hike in a canyon. At the 4th of July fireworks.

You?

Look at that expression! She is thinking of ONE thing…..

Dune buggy. Who knows?

Fourth of July 2007. Sweet baby boy in there chowing down…..he was only a few months old.

xoxo
Mama G

Belly binding….bummer I didn’t know about this until baby #4!

Anyone who has given birth will tell you that those first few weeks afterward really do a number on your body. Without going into gory detail, pregnancy sure does stretch a lot of things out. Mostly in the mid-section (though I can hear the cries from women all around that it certainly isn’t *just* the mid-section….)

During my most recent pregnancy, I did reading about belly binding. Partly because it was recently popularized by beautiful celebrity mums (Brooke Burke and the Kardashians now rave about belly binding….), and partly because I was intrigued by this ancient practice.

Many cultures bind a woman’s midsection after birth. The practices vary, but most employ wrapping a new mother’s body in fabric or strips of cloth. Layer upon layer is tightly wound around the mid-section. Some cultures wrap down below the hips as well (think tight mini-skirt), to “protect a damaged perineum by minimizing movement”– anyone who has torn during delivery can attest to the benefit of “minimizing movement”.

So after my youngest daughter’s birth, I tried it.

Oh sweet heaven. It felt so good. Bummed I didn’t know about this for the first three births! Blast.

Now perhaps some of my delight came from the fact that not only does it feel good, but it tucks all that loose skin up under wraps…..What? I cannot be the only one who enjoyed loose skin in the days after baby’s birth.  But the act of binding my belly gave my core strength. My abdominal muscles were shot (hello diastsis recti! Look it up!) And each time that I bent over, rolled over in bed, or climbed stairs I felt as if my organs were literally going to fall out (thank heavens– they didn’t!) Wrapping my core up tightly for a few weeks gave me strength and support when I most needed it.

Now you can buy “belly binders” all over these days. They retail for about $60 and are fairly well-designed and easy to use. I suggest you save the $60 and wrap yourself in a $4 ace bandage. It is very forgiving, easy to purchase locally, and can be used later (just wait, one day your baby will be in soccer, too!)

Pack it in your hospital bag. Or keep it on hand for your home birth. Once that baby is out, wrap your midsection and enjoy the slimming bliss. Hey, it won’t help your booty slip into those pre-baby jeans, but it does minimize that leftover baby belly and provides good support. Enjoy!

xoxo
Mama G

My babies never sleep through the night

I’ve heard rumor that there are children who sleep though the night before their first birthday. I’m not so certain that they exist, but it has been suggested to me that they do.

You see, my babies have never slept through the night. Not in their first year, anyways.

Somehow, it seems that everyone. EVERYONE. Strangers included. Will ask new parents, “So is your little one sleeping through the night?” This one variable of parenting is the  yardstick used to measure parents and their skills as caretakers.

So I fail. With each baby. I fail. And I’m okay with that.

You see, my babies were breastfed. And I work full time. So my babies liked to have their boobies in the night. And all that night nursing kept my supply up.  I brought my babies to bed with me. We snuggled. They nursed. They drifted back off to sleep. I wouldn’t describe myself as a co-sleeper, but we did on occasion share a bed. I’d say for about four hours each night they were with me. This isn’t to say that my babies  never cried, or that I haven’t let them fuss themselves to sleep, but I’ve never been able to resist their sweetness in the middle of the night or the early morning. Sucker. I fetched them each time they cried in the middle of the night. I still do– and they are 1, 3, 5, and 7.

Somewhere after the first year I tucker out. I send in my sweet hubby to fetch baby, He will pat them and love them and put them back without their boobies. After a few nights, they are sleeping without waking….it is bittersweet really.

Last night our “baby” (can I call her that at 21 months?) woke. She doesn’t often do this anymore. But I ate it up. It was just me and the peanut. She nursed. She talked. She giggled. I spoiled her. And after an hour or so, she went back to her bed. She kissed me goodnight and drifted off peacefully. Sweet girl.

And now I have to sneak into my older kids’ rooms, and peek at them while they sleep. They never wake in the night…..and they make this transition somewhere around 15 months or so.

That first year goes so quickly. It is truly the blink of an eye. So snuggle your babies. Don’t worry if they aren’t sleeping all night, truly. They will…..someday. Until then, enjoy this time that is only yours, because it is gone in a flash.

xoxo
Mama G