motherhood

Unfinished and Un-done

Unfinished and Un-done

I like to-do lists. Writing them helps me organize my thoughts and checking things off helps me feel accomplished and productive.

Before I had kids, I could compose a to-do list the length of a novella and furiously accomplish it in one day, give or take a few straggler items I would attend to later.

Mindful Movement Adapted (for fussy toddler)

Mindful Movement Adapted (for fussy toddler)

This morning I had some time set aside to get on my mat and record my practice in order to showcase the kinds of things I might share in my Mindful Movement + Massage workshop on Saturday. My little buddy had other plans, though…

Thoughts on Hip Pain, Gluteals, and Groundlessness

Thoughts on Hip Pain, Gluteals, and Groundlessness

When I experienced a searing pain in my right hip while going up the stairs, followed by a deep ache that wouldn’t go away, I immediately recalled my pregnant, unstable pelvis. This was familiar pain. During both pregnancies, I dealt with pretty terrible sciatica. Thanks to the fluid nature of my pregnant bod, the pain frequently switched sides to keep me guessing. In addition to deep aches in my hips most of the time, they would often buckle or give out when I went to stand up.

A Lot to Carry: My Journey with Shoulder Pain

A Lot to Carry: My Journey with Shoulder Pain

From everything that I’ve learned about pain science, I know emotions can play a huge role in the experience of pain. In addition, I find that infusing life events with symbolism or metaphor can help me shift my perspective away from negative self-talk or victimization and into a position that feels more meaningful and powerful. So when I really felt ready to seek help for my shoulder pain, I also started examining any mental/emotional components to the situation.

How My Family Put Movement on the Menu

kids seated a low dining table floor sitting

Several months ago, our dining table broke. One of the legs that folded out to support a leaf snapped off during clean up from The Great Smoothie Spill of 2018. (Heck, it could have even been 2017…what is time?) Thankfully we could still use the table but it wasn’t ideal. Without the leaf, it was too small to accommodate any guests. In addition, the table’s corners were sharp and at the perfect height to poke out the eye of an unsuspecting toddler. Every time Coen walked around the table, I felt so nervous I did an irreverent Kegel.

After reading Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman and seeing how her family sits at a coffee table-height dining table, I decided this would be a really good option for my family. Besides, I had searched and searched to no avail for a table I really liked and that was affordable. Sitting and eating on the floor would allow our bodies the opportunity to remain body-shaped as opposed to chair-shaped - the position they are so often in throughout a normal day. By giving our bodies a chance to self-support, we invite opportunities for more movement. As we start to fatigue in one position, we shift and move into a more comfortable one. Also standing up from the ground requires the body to load itself with more weight in a broader range of motion than standing up from a chair. Not to mention, the ability to stand up from the ground with out using the support of hands, the wall, etc is a marker for longevity. When I presented the idea to my husband, I expected resistance but he was one hundred percent into it. Travis spends a lot of the day sitting at work (although his desk does convert to standing) so he was on board with changing up his routine in favor of more varied movement.

We had an old 1920s table in our garage; it was the first piece of furniture we bought as a couple back in 2009 at some vintage shop in the Old City. We used it as a dining table for quite sometime but it was an odd height and the wobbly legs made it feel like a risky piece to have around small children. Since then, it sat under a copper pipe, collecting water stains from condensation and lots of cob webs. I used a lot of Barkeeper’s Friend and elbow grease to remove the stains from the porous surface. Travis removed the metal hairpin legs, sawed them off, and then reattached them. The table now actually feels super solid! I found a rug on sale at World Market that I knew would hide stains well along with some comfy floor pillows for us to sit on. Voila! Our new dining space fell into place so easily.

We knew there would be an adjustment period for the kids but especially for Coen, who has always been buckled into a high chair. When they saw the new set up, their first order of business was to climb on top of the table. We were not suprised! Audrey even got a pillow and pretended to take a nap on it. It was nice that our dining room felt more versatile and usable.

Our mantra became, “We stay on the ground while we’re eating.” The first meal was tough for Coen; he cried a lot and didn’t eat much. Audrey announced how much she loved the table right from the start. I’m not surprised - it was much easier for her to serve herself and the pillows were definitely more comfortable than her chair. We added a second pillow to the kids’ seats to boost them up and draped a towel at Coen’s place because he’s still a pretty messy eater.

Since that first meal, Coen’s had a much easier time. He knows to go and sit on his pillow at meal time and when he’s done he stands up. Sometimes he gets fidgety and it turns out that he’s not all that hungry and chooses to leave the table until snack time later. I think that because the kids can easily come and go as they please, meal times are much more pleasant for everyone.

dynamic workstation dining table

All in all, the new dining table seems to be working out well for our family. It’s also a nice dynamic workstation for me and my laptop. Oh and I almost forgot to answer the question we’ve been asked so many times, “But what about guests?!” Well, the dining table is nestled into a nook so guests who aren’t used to unsupported sitting can lounge with their backs to the wall and we also have a myriad of other pillows and cushions they can use to get comfortable.

How often do you sit at your dining table? If you’re open to adding some new movement to your menu, consider using a ‘breakfast in bed’ tray (the kind with fold out legs) for your food as you sit on the floor - or you could even your coffee table! Even just shaking things up once or twice this way can benefit your body.

When Wound Care Becomes Self Care

I recently read an article that removed mere acts of personal hygiene from the realm of self care. Basically the author was saying, ‘Taking a shower is not self care, it’s being a human.’

Apart from the fact that lots of folks don’t take showers and can still be classified as humans, I understand the sentiment that self care should be more than what we have been taught is just good basic hygiene. But when you feel like you have to fight for basic hygiene, more radical notions of self care (i.e. spa days, brunch with friends, etc) can seem far out of reach. And I’m not talking just about logistical reach (scheduling, finding a baby sitter, etc); I’m talking about financial reach too. If you’re concerned about paying your water bill, how could you possibly afford a massage?

So there has to be a middle ground. We have to find simple, sustainable ways to take care of ourselves because we are human and we deserve it but also because our families and our communities need us.

Postpartum with my second child, I decided to take a sitz bath every day. I needed it for healing. If you’re of the ‘a shower is not self care’ mindset, then I would assume you’re also of the ‘wound care is not self care’ mindset. But hey, let’s work with what we’ve got. I had to fight and be intentional for 10 minutes on the toilet alone. I upset my husband, my toddler, and probably myself to some extent in the quest for this time.

So when the struggle for radical self care feels all too real, let’s opt for simple self care. I believe we can take these mundane opportunities for good hygiene and transform them through mindfulness into nurturing experiences.

Let’s revisit the idea of taking a shower. Be fully present with yourself during this time. In order to do this, you’ll need to make sure your kid(s) is covered. Ideally, another adult will be present to take point or you have a baby monitor just in case a sleeping baby needs you. If you’re an early riser, waking before the rest of the house might make this activity easier. It may help you avoid washing your hair too many times on accident!

Get all your senses involved. Listen to the sound of the water. Feel it making contact with your head, neck, shoulders, and back. Take a deep breath in through your nose and as you exhale through your mouth, imagine the water washing away tension from those areas. Continue down the body. As you begin to wash yourself, take time to smell the product you’re using. Notice how it feels in your hands and on your skin. Massage your scalp when shampooing/conditioning. As you wash the rest of your body, thank each part for its hard work. Especially for postpartum moms, thank your breasts if you’re breastfeeding; thank your belly; thank your thighs. Shift away from judging those parts of yourself. Nourish them with your touch. When you’re finished, take care as you dry yourself. Take time to apply lotion or oil to your face and body, massaging as you go. Long strokes are good for your limbs and circular strokes are good for your joints. Continue to thank your body. Feel nourished by your touch. You can also imagine you’re applying a sort of body armor that can help you deflect stress and negativity throughout the day.

This will definitely take a little longer than your normal shower routine but you don’t have to leave the house, pay a babysitter, or spend any other money.

Another hygiene practice I tend to skimp on or rush through is brushing my teeth. Maybe what it boils down to is taking a moment to feel grounded and put things in perspective. The ADA recommends brushing for 2 minutes. Because I meet my baby’s needs for love, nourishment, and shelter, I can remind myself that 2 minutes of crying does not equal an adverse childhood experience (the kind that creates toxic levels of stress). Also, when faced with the choice between a good healthy brushing (because you deserve it) and a pile of laundry (or dishes or tidying up for guests or …), we should always choose our teeth.

My children need to be able to occupy themselves for 2 minutes (preferably longer). My toddler likes to ask me questions or inevitably loses something the second the toothpaste starts to froth in my mouth. I’ve ruined shirts by trying to talk with a mouth full of toothpaste. It’s not worth it. My daughter might wind into a tantrum or feel unhappy that I can’t talk to her right then but I’m okay with those emotions. And if she needs to tantrum, let’s get it out sooner rather than later.

So yes, taking a shower and feeling clean is not flashy self care. It’s simple and humanizing. I know there have been times in my postpartum life when I just felt like a cow with leaky udders. Nurse, spit up, cry, repeat. Taking a shower did make me feel like a human again. Those brief moments alone were sometimes just enough to keep me going. I can’t stress enough how crucial it was to have another adult in the house to take point on the kids while practicing this self care shower. I hear phantom cries in everything so I needed the reassurance that if indeed the cries I heard were real, someone else was going to handle it.

In conclusion, yes, self care should perhaps be more special or sacred than showering or brushing teeth. BUT the reality is often less glittery than that. This is an ongoing conversation – especially the social justice component of making self care practices available and accessible to all. I’d love to hear your thoughts. How are you practicing self care? How do you fit it into your budget and your schedule?

wouldn't it be great if self care looked like this all the time? meditating on the beach!

wouldn't it be great if self care looked like this all the time? meditating on the beach!

5 Yoga Poses for New Moms

5 Yoga Poses for New Moms

I wanted to share some of the poses that helped me survive my first year of motherhood. When I say survive, I mean survive. In the midst of crashing hormonal changes and trying to ‘figure out’ this whole other human, my goal was just to meet our (mine and Nugget’s) basic needs. These poses helped me stay as sane as possible during that sweet yet tumultuous time.