The Red Tent 5-Step Prevention Plan for Cold & Flu in Snot Season

Oh the joys of snot season.

If only your kids could get through it unscathed, just once! If it’s not your kids it will be you. The misery of runny noses, coughs and phlegm often passes from the playground to parents, even the healthiest and hardiest, and you end up in a nightmare of trying to look after your little ones while barely being able to look after yourself. 

 

But this year it’s going to be different! We’re going to give you the goods on how to boost your children’s immunity as well as your own so that:

  1. a) you have a damn good chance of not getting sick in the first place, or
  2. b) if you do get sick, you get through it much more quickly than usual.

 

The Red Tent 5-step prevention plan for cold and flu is the smartest and most natural approach to defence against those nasty germs and viruses that are so prevalent at this time of year. The sooner you start implementing this plan, the stronger you and your family will be this winter.

There’s nothing complicated or expensive involved. In fact, bolstering your immunity now will SAVE you a ton of money that you’d otherwise spend on medicine, doctor’s visits and extra babysitting or time off work if your child is school-aged and needs to stay home.

It’s not good to never be sick, but it’s so much worse for everyone when it goes on and on, or when it doesn’t fully go away then comes back.

If you’re going to catch a cold it’s best to get it, fight hard and then be done with it. We don’t want to see snot trails lasting all winter. That doesn’t help anyone.

The Red Tent 5-Step Prevention Plan for Cold and Flu in Kids and Parents

 

Step 1 – Chicken broth every other day keeps the doctor away.

 

You might think this is something that Nannas say, but chicken soup is actually very healing for the gut. Your gut has 70% of your immune system in there so let’s help it a little. The bones from the chicken carcass contain minerals and healing properties which leach out during slow-cooking and they are just marvellous for your gut.

After over ten years in clinic, I’ve seen time and time again, firsthand, that all the things that Chinese medicine teaches about how to improve the digestion and your immunity have turned out to be true. What can I say? It just works.

In Chinese medical terms, chicken broth is just the best for your Spleen and Stomach. You can eat it as is or put it in porridge in the morning for a savoury option or use it as a base for congee. If chicken isn’t your thing, you can also try vego broths. They’re not as healing for the gut but they sure do taste good.

During times of sickness, give homemade (or good-quality store-bought) chicken broth to your kids every day – and eat it yourself too!

Step 2 – Probiotics are your best friend.

Are you giving your kids a daily probiotic? If not, start there. This is not a gimmick and not only for times of sickness – consistently helping your kids have a good population of healthy, good gut bacteria will see them through so many potential illnesses, now and into their future.

If anyone in the family gets so much as a sniffle, increase everyone’s daily probiotic dose, whether it’s in tablet form, powder form or food form. You’ll need a lot of these powerful little positive bacteria to do the trick.

Practitioner-strength brands like Bioceuticals and Metagenics are trustworthy as they guarantee that if consumed by the use-by date your probiotics will contain the specified amount of live bacteria. These brands conduct rigorous testing to ensure their quality, so you’ll pay more for them but it’s worth it.

Probiotic-rich foods to increase at this time include kefir milk (I use organic milk to make mine and I don’t sweeten it – this is tougher to give to kids but I sneak it into a healthy smoothie), sauerkraut, kimchi and miso. The amount you and your kids need will vary and will depend on your antibiotic history. The more antibiotics you’ve had in the past, the higher the dose of probiotics you will need. Ask your practitioner for specifics.

Step 3 – Green veggies are the bomb.

I tell my kids constantly, “I didn’t make up the rules, all I know is that your body needs green veggies and lots of them to make it work the best for you.”

After YEARS of reinforcing this, my kids are pretty awesome at eating their green veg – but it wasn’t always so. We did fall off the track now and then but just got back on.

I bring out greens at breakfast – yes you heard right. I figure if I can get some in at the start of the day I’m ahead. Lunch is often at school and devoid of greens – I don’t even bother stressing about getting greens in for school lunches. Then bring on dinner. When you serve greens for dinner quite consistently, they get used to it and even develop a taste for them.

Why green veg? The colour green helps the liver to function well and helps energy or Qi to flow better. It also gives food to all those good bacteria in your gut. It’s so important to nurture those good guys and feed them well so they can grow and reproduce. A diet high in greens = a gut full of healthy bacteria, as opposed to the bad guys who eat things like sugar. Look after your good bacteria so they can take care of you when you’re sick.

 

Step 4 – Don’t let the phlegm take hold.

Blocked sinuses are no fun. If you’re an adult, you can use a neti pot. It’s an ancient Indian tradition that I’ve borrowed and use regularly when our family have colds, hayfever or sinusitis.

We have a couple of neti pots at home – they are amazing for literally clearing phlegm out of your sinuses and nose. If your child is around 8 or older and they’ve seen you using a neti pot, then you could try it for them too. If your kids are littler then try Fess, which is a non-medicated saline nasal spray. The neti pot is better though as the salt water solution goes in one nostril and out the other.

You can see a clip of me using a neti pot right here. The only change I’d make to what I say in this video is to use boiled water and wait for it to cool down.

We sell Australian hand-made neti pots at Red Tent that are pretty cool – so if you’re a Sydney local you can get one at our clinic or order online and we’ll send it by post.

 

 

Step 5 – Eat lots of these foods with powerful immunity-boosting properties.

Garlic, ginger, spring onions, salt, apple cider vinegar and honey. Not all together! These foods are impressive when it comes to helping you to battle the business of the dreaded cold.

  1. Garlic: anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial – need I say more? Put loads of garlic in your cooking whilst you’re unwell or also as a preventer when you’re not sick. If you really want to pack a punch – now this is more for adults – slice thin pieces and put between pieces of apple and eat – that really sets an immune booster bomb off. It’s awesome.
  2. Ginger: warming for your digestive system, anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory. Ginger tastes great when thin slices of it are put in boiling water with some honey. Make sure it’s cooled down a fair bit before giving it to your little ones, or you can drink it hot.
  3. Spring onions: brilliant to put in soups, especially a clear chicken broth as they help keep the ‘wind’ away. In Chinese medicine the wind is said to be “the spearhead of the hundred diseases.” The wind brings with it viruses and many other pathogens –eating shallots (ie long green onions) is said to help them not penetrate.
  4. Salt: where would we be without it? I love salt to gargle with and so do my kids – it really helps with a sore throat. If your kids are younger than five then gargling with salt would be too hard but otherwise it’s a winner. It’s also an essential ingredient for the neti pot.
  5. Apple Cider Vinegar: this stuff is the best for improving your enzyme activity which will increase your absorption of nutrients from your food. I take ACV a lot myself: 1 teaspoon with some water before as many meals as I can. I haven’t tried to give it to the kids yet as it has quite a strong taste but if you want to try it out with your kids, just start with a tiny amount diluted in water. I always buy an organic version of ACV, usually Braggs. Not only does it help to improve your enzyme activity, it can also thin mucus and is great to gargle with to ward off a sore throat (if using as a gargle, the ratio of vinegar to water should be more like 1:1).

 

This 5-step prevention plan for cold and flu should get you started with an effective defence toolkit for this snot season. 

The Last Days of Pregnacy: A Place of In-Between

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The last days of pregnancy are a distinct time of in-between. It’s a tricky time for mothers, as these last few days are biological and psychological events.

She’s curled up on the couch, waiting, a ball of baby and emotions. A scrambled pile of books on pregnancy, labor, baby names, breastfeeding … not one more word can be absorbed. The birth supplies are loaded in a laundry basket, ready for action. The freezer is filled with meals, the car seat installed, the camera charged. It’s time to hurry up and wait. Not a comfortable place to be, but wholly necessary.

The last days of pregnancy — sometimes stretching to agonizing weeks — are a distinct place, time, event, stage. It is a time of in between. Neither here nor there. Your old self and your new self, balanced on the edge of a pregnancy. One foot in your old world, one foot in a new world.

Shouldn’t there be a word for this state of being, describing the time and place where mothers linger, waiting to be called forward?

Germans have a word, zwischen, which means between. I’ve co-opted that word for my own obstetrical uses. When I sense the discomfort and tension of late pregnancy in my clients, I suggest that they are now in The Time of Zwischen. The time of in between, where the opening begins. Giving it a name gives it dimension, an experience closer to wonder than endurance.

I tell these beautiful, round, swollen, weepy women to go with it and be okay there. Feel it, think it, don’t push it away. Write it down, sing really loudly when no one else is home, go commune with nature, or crawl into your own mama’s lap so she can rub your head until you feel better. I tell their men to let go of their worry; this is an early sign of labor. I encourage them to sequester themselves if they need space, to go out if they need distraction, to enjoy the last hours of this life-as-they-now-know-it. I try to give them permission to follow the instinctual gravitational pulls that are at work within them, just as real and necessary as labor.

The discomforts of late pregnancy are easy to Google: painful pelvis, squished bladder, swollen ankles, leaky nipples, weight unevenly distributed in a girth that makes scratching an itch at ankle level a feat of flexibility.  “You might find yourself teary and exhausted,” says one website, “but your baby is coming soon!” Cheer up, sweetie, you’re having a baby. More messaging that what is going on is incidental and insignificant.

Related: Use of Marijuana During Pregnancy

What we don’t have is reverence or relevance — or even a working understanding of the vulnerability and openness a woman experiences at this time. Our language and culture fails us. This surely explains why many women find this time so complicated and tricky. But whether we recognize it or not, these last days of pregnancy are a distinct biologic and psychological event, essential to the birth of a mother.

We don’t scientifically understand the complex hormones at play that loosen both her hips and her awareness.  In fact, this uncomfortable time of aching is an early form of labor in which a woman begins opening her cervix and her soul. Someday, maybe we will be able to quantify this hormonal advance — the prolactin, oxytocin, cortisol, relaxin. But for now, it is still shrouded in mystery, and we know only how to measure thinning and dilation.

“You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you, Peter Pan. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”      -Tinkerbell

I believe that this is more than biological. It is spiritual. To give birth, whether at home in a birth tub with candles and family or in a surgical suite with machines and a neonatal team, a woman must go to the place between this world and the next, to that thin membrane between here and there. To the place where life comes from, to the mystery, in order to reach over to bring forth the child that is hers. The heroic tales of Odysseus are with us, each ordinary day. This round woman is not going into battle, but she is going to the edge of her being where every resource she has will be called on to assist in this journey.

We need time and space to prepare for that journey. And somewhere, deep inside us, at a primal level, our cells and hormones and mind and soul know this, and begin the work with or without our awareness.

I call out Zwischen in prenatals as a way of offering comfort and, also, as a way of offering protection. I see how simple it is to exploit and abuse this time. A scheduled induction is seductive, promising a sense of control. Fearful and confused family can trigger a crisis of confidence. We are not a culture that waits for anything, nor are we believers in normal birth; waiting for a baby can feel like insanity. Giving this a name points her toward listening and developing her own intuition. That, in turn, is a powerful training ground for motherhood.

Today, I am waiting for a lovely new mother named Allison to call me, to announce that her Zwischen is ended and labor has begun. I am in my own in between place, waiting. My opportunity to grow and open is a lovely gift she gives me, in choosing me to attend her birth.

Jana Studelska CPM/LM, is a licensed midwife practicing in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. She has been working with babies and mothers since 1998–as a La Leche leader, a certified doula, a childbirth educator, a regional birth network board member, and finally as a credentialed midwife. She is an author and writer, and has won several national awards for her work. Currently, she is the MANA Region 4 Representative for the Midwives Alliance, representing the upper midwest. She lives in Duluth, MN, with her husband, teen-aged boys, and a herd of dogs.

Mels VBAC journey so far...

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Why I made the decision to try for a VBAC, and what I’m learning about myself, my previous birth and motherhood along the way…

Curiosity is a dominant driving force in my life. Ever since I can remember my curious mind has driven me into friendships with exciting characters, conversations that many find absurd and ‘not for the dinner table’ or stuck in bogged cars in remote locations or boarding dingy aeroplanes. Curiosity is probably why I find myself in new friendships weekly, in a career where I travel to faraway and sometimes risky places, where I can probe at all the big questions of life. It is likely also the reason I have a severe inability to not be able to stick to any sort of routine in my life. As curiosity wanders through the world, I go with her. She is the leading lady in my life, and as I get older I appreciate her more and engage with her in all the ways I can. Having a toddler makes for a curious life. I truly believe that curiosity has led me to wonder about life, death, people, and the living world around me from a young age. As I grow older it has given me the gift of gratitude and a more profound love and affection of others, myself and life in all forms.

So - all that introduction was to say that when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, just over three years ago you can bet I was curious about all things growing and birthing humans. If there is any subject to spend some time wondering and marvelling at in this world, surely creating, growing and releasing a real-life-actual-human earth side has to be numero uno?!?! Yes? No? Well, I think so…

So with those two positive lines on my pee stick, my curiosity launched me into the search party of all search party; a quest for information and knowledge to empower me in my birth journey. In practice this mainly meant more *non-alcoholic wine time probing chats with my mama friends, googling fingers, and a bedside table filled with lots of booked eared, highlighted pages, and many open tabs on all my digital devices. I found myself down the rabbit hole of TED talks and YouTube videos. My social media friends went from a following of real actual real life known friends, to ones by names such as @naturalbabymama and a host of other mums, midwives, doulas, and pregnancy ‘influencers’ (I believe that’s a thing now). All these women became my way-finders, serving me up the all the dishes 101 pregnancy and birthing had to offer.

Within a few months, or should a say a trimester, I went from naive and ignorant swelling lady to lady with a head full of swelling information. The knowledge part was important, and the doing part even more so. In the lead up to my first birth I was confident in my ability to birth naturally. I had weighed up all my pain relief choices and decided what I would/would not let pass through my body or baby. I attended a couple of more intensive birth workshops – privately with a doula/yoga instructor and my husband, and at my local hospital (oh and if we are counting I think it’s important to include the tens of many birth tutorials I watched online, I am well versed in stretched vaginas). I had acupuncture, Osteo, continued pregnancy yoga throughout my trimesters and bounced like a bunny on my birthing ball in front of reality TV most nights. I think its fair to say I was geared up.

So birth Numero Uno - well as you might have guest from the title of this blog my dream vaginal birth did not come to fruition. I'm not about to give you the play by play details, for reasons I’ll explain later in this post, so let's just leave it to this executive summary of the event.

-    Waters broke spontaneous labour

-    Entire labour approx. 2.5 days- with 16hrs of very active labour

-    Baby never descended, and dilation only ever got to 6cms

-    An abrupt ending for various reasons which ended with me in an operating theatre having an emergency caesarean.

NOT WHAT I WAS EXPECTING OR PREPARED FOR!

So lets get to feeling all the feelings…

I know in 99.9% of births this isn’t the case, but I attribute a lot of the negative feelings I have about my birth to the midwife I had on duty the majority of my labour. There was a great deal of unnecessary poking, prodding, miscommunication (or just plain rude communication), lack of support and in restrospect, bullying from her. I felt left in the dark throughout my labour and was utterly depleted and disempowered by the end of it. I do want to make a note here though that all the pre-labour work I did was not wasted. The most positive and empowering moments throughout my looooooong labour came from using the tools and practice I had in my preparation toolbox. Breathing, movement, mantras, and my incredible husband were my weapons which powered me through the day/s of labour- Hubs had learned pregnancy acupressure in the lead up, and he kneaded me in the lower back for hours, like a pain relief Adonis.

At 10:30 am my baby girl came into the world. She was honestly the most familiar stranger I had ever met. I’d known her in all the lifetimes and I was meeting her for the first time here. At this point 2.5 years later there is already a library worth of words I could write about her. I’ll leave that for another post another time.

Fast forward to October 2017 when we got the glorious news I am pregnant with Baby G v.2.0. Of course I have all those regular mum hang-ups - ‘how will I love another baby?’, ‘WTAF am I going to do with two kids?’ ‘ugh, breastfeeding’ etc. etc. et al. But apart from all the normal anxieties, one major gloomy doomy thought I had from early on in the pregnancy was ‘shit! I have to give birth again’ which really, subconsciously meant I would have to confront my previous birth and deal with all those emotions I had about it.

The good news is now at 36 weeks pregnant, I can confidently say I have mostly come to terms with previous birth, debriefed it well and dealt with the trauma related to it. Trauma lives in our tissue, it knows our body well and it can get way to comfroatble and familiar with our bodies. When the trauma is realted to birthing, I think the womb might be its familiar resting place. The space for growing another human is in my opinion sacred and meant that there ain't room for both baby and my hiding trauma. One needed to be evicted and its not the baby (just yet). To help me see, understand and release the trauma I have had wonderful professional therapy, spoken with close friends and debriefed a lot. I have my fantastic doula, Tash, who asks me things and prompts me to talk about the birth while not letting me get bogged down in it. Debriefing and feeling all the feelings, while looking forward to a whole new experience with a whole new baby has got me into such a good headspace. I’m (almost) excited.

Deciding to go VBAC - One really positive experience for me throughout both my first and now second pregnancy is the relationship with my Obstetrician, which I know isnt always the case. She has been so encouraging of my decision to try for a VBAC, actually initating the idea in the first place. After witnessing a few close friends achieve their VBACs and, of course curiosity, I made the decision early on to work towards a vaginal birth. Apart from all benefits of birthing this way for both mum and bub (available for your reading everywhere on the internet) I think my decision was mainly propelled by the driving maternal urge to discover what birthing a human feels out of my actual VAGINA feels like. I got so close last time, and I had every labour in one…except that part.

With about a month until bubs due date (which side note: I think should be rebranded to due month, to take some dagnma pressure of us already anxious, date watching mums) I am well and truly embracing my VBAC journey. Whether I make the summit, base camp or however far I get, I'm so confident in my decision to attempt a VBAC. The decision-making process in itself; the information, knowledge and nest of support I have found in my VBAC birthing community has given me many gifts already. A more profound understanding of birth and my birth, healing, and closeness to myself and my body and baby. I am feeling empowered and resting assured in the knwoig that it is indeed the process not the outcome that shapes us.

So before I leave, here are a few short pieces of advice, ideas and learnings I’ve had this time round… They  are all my from my own personal experience in deciding to opt for a VBAC, dealing with my previous birth trauma and just some general opinions about a few topics. If they are useful, great! If not, please completely disregard! No mother needs additional advice that isn’t helpful or useful. Birth is so personal.

Every child across the whole wide world throughout history, is unique and different. So duh! of course so will the pregnancy and birth that brings them into the world be. My friend comparison is the thief of joy and expectations can make us miss our moments, the deepest revelation that comes with each new life. I'm holding this one close, to let myself know deep in my soul that my first birth isn't my last or only birth. A new baby, a new birth and whole new experience awaits.

Share knowledge in sacred spaces with safe people. This one I'm only just grasping. As a natural born over sharer and chronic questioner I could poke and prod stories out of people all day long.  Some wise friend counsel and some reflection time are teaching me that when it comes to the sharing of birth stories (particularly traumatic experiences), they should be reserved for safe spaces, in the company of with people you trust. And best-case scenario with women who have already birthed. At the moment I am part of a few online communities for birth and pregnancy support. What I am there for is to get informed and find some practical ways I can make this VBAC more achievable. Sadly, what I have found in some groups (mainly online) is venting, oversharing of the horror stories of failed VBACs, a myriad of anecdotal war stories and just lots of plain old scary information with the intention of what?! To scare away any woman from birth methinks. SHUT YO LEGS TIGHT, is the message I’m getting. I generally scroll quickly past and try not being lured into the drama, but…well… curious human nature generally wins out. The result for me is never positive. It breeds unnecessary fear and fills my mind with a catalogue of scenarios to dwell on at 3am, post 4th night-time wee. So no, of course I don’t want to be lied too or under the illusion that all births are beautiful, or spoon-fed the idea that sunshine lollipops rainbows and the best orgasm of my life will deliver my baby into the world. But I also don’t want to be psyched out of the whole ordeal before I have even started, all because some stranger on the internet told me it's not worth trying.

Birth is natural, birth can be risky. Listen, the body knows how to birth but that doesn’t make it safe all the time. Before I got into this motherhood gig I spent almost a decade working in the humanitarian sector. Believe me, I know the reality is bleak for women across our world and I have sadly spent way too much time with women who have lost babies during birth (happy to write about this at some point, if Tash lets me come back). This was the history and the reality I took with me into all my learning and decision making about my own first birth. Flipside… I also know that age-old tale about the woman who gave birth in a coma, or the orgasming travelling tribe of birthing warriors championed by Ina May and other midwife warriors. I have a storybook filled with a myriad of women I have met over the course of my travels to many countries that have given birth alone in a field, walked miles to a birthing clinic only to deliver their babies on the journey, or given birth at home in a hut with traditional birth attendants. One of my Ugandan colleague's mother gave birth to her and her five siblings alone, in the jungle, mostly during civil war... I mean.... If she isn't a hero, I don't know who is. So I guess what I am trying to say is I believe birthing is a) natural, and birthing is b) risky. It isn't an either/or but a both/and. What I do know and feel assured in for my own birth, is that just the mere fact I’m having my baby in Australia means the risk of a dire birth situation is very very very minimal.  In world standards we have a primo healthcare system, sufficien pre/post-natal care and birth is not taboo. This means mothers are supported and it makes birth far less risky. If women in developing countries had access to all the options we do, just around the birth not on the actual day (midwives, traditional birth attendants, testing, etc.) their risks would be minimal too. So all this is too say, I’m not afraid of birth and I’m not treating it as some risk adverse exercise. But I also don’t think we can pretend all births end well, and intervention is unnecessary everytime.

Birth trauma is real. The dismissal (intentional or not) of another person’s trauma only adds to their pain and delays their healing. I have close friends of mine who have had the most incredible births. Their bodies did miraculous things, their babies arrived perfectly, and for some the pain was pretty minimal. Then I have my birth. What I have found is that when I tried to share the pain, sadness, anxiety, and feeling of disempowerment my birth delivered to me to some of my close friends, try as they may, their ability to empathise is stagnant and the conversation feels shallow. It is not anyone's fault; it is just such a deep personal pain. What I’ve found is most of the people who love me don't want me to linger in personal pain so they try to band aid up a conversation, quickly changing the subject or finding some sort of comparison that attempts to brighten the tone...or worse this ‘at least you have a healthy baby.’ FYI people, that comment can be so offensive. I don’t any mother of a living newborn has not thought that in gratefulness but ‘oh yeah, thanks for your insight'.

What I want people to know, particularly other mothers is this - don’t discredit another women’s birth, based on your own experience. I actually think that’s a life lesson rather than just a unique one to birthing experiences. Listen more, speak less…And  if someone is bravely sharing their sacred story with you, please don’t shut it down. Make sure you do what you can to let them know they are heard and you are doing your best to understand their experience.

A positive pregnancy and birth does a confident mother make. Confidence, presence of mind, postnatal health and wellbeing, resilience and the ability to bounce back, intuition and a nurturing working body are all attributes of an empowered mother. A woman who was heard and had voice and agency in her birthing. She made decisions, and she wasn't told how she should act or how her baby should be born. I believe -and there is plenty of good research out there to support this- an empowering birth does a confident mother make, which in those first four months (aka: that 4th trimester) is the wind beneath her wings.

Stick to the facts, but give the data some room to talk. I honestly believe knowledge is power and having the right information is vital in the lead-up to birth and the decisions we make as mums (Private/Public, Home/Hospital, Pain relief or not) But please make sure its helpful information. I recently had someone share with me some terrifying data about the hospital I am birthing at. At this stage in the game that information wasn't helpful it was defeating. Certainly not the intention of the sharer, but for me, it felt like more odds stacked against me. In divine sensing, a midwife from the hospital just randomly called me to chat the next day. It was amazing to be able to talk through the data and have it broken down for me. She also shared some insightful information with me making me feel even more confident and equipped in my choices. I have a little bit of insider weaponry stored away for D day in my VBAC ninja purse. Give data a story. Imagine if life boiled down to our stats not our story. I feel the same way about research. Find out the purpose of it, how it is used? what it means? Who is it for?

My bodies nobodies body but mine – I have rights and choices, and the art of negotiating is my friend. As a parent, I am a big believer in children understanding their rights concerning themselves, their bodies and how they participate in the world. This means I am teaching my daughter about her body, that it is hers to own, know and understand. The choices she makes with it are her choices. We like to sing the song 'My bodies nobodies body but mine, you can touch yours, but you cant touch mine.' The irony in all this is that as a woman, I sometimes think when it comes to anything to do with my vagina, fertility, etc. I have forgotten this little ditty.

It seems to me that the common trend in our society when it comes to our reproductive selves is to often place it all in the hands of medical professionals. Perhaps we forget that growing babies and birthing them is as much a natural personal experience as our first period, or breast bud blossoming. Why do we, in our pregnancy suddenly surrender our bodies willingly to the hands of doctors? No wonder we end up confused when decisions are made about our bodies that feel counterintuitive.

Yes of course there are instances where birth does become a medical case, but should it always be treated that way? Again with the wisdom of others like my doula Tash, midwives and other professionals I have come to understand more about my birth-rights and the process of negotiation during a medicalised birthing process. I feel encouraged to ASK QUESTIONS about what someone plans to do with my body and my baby (crazy to think hey?) For example: I was told I would need to be at the hospital early in this labour because I was a VBAC so…I asked why? I was told I would need continuous monitoring so… I asked why? The list goes on, for weeks now as I get closer to the birth I just keep asking why? and you know what, no one has died of question fatigue yet. In fact probably the opposite, all parties (Obgyn, Hospital staff, support groups, doula) have been willing, able and confident in their ability to have conversations with me about my body. Cause you know what? It’s exactly that, my body. As my VBAC support midwife said, 'control what you can, let go of what you can’t.' I've learned I can control a lot more than I initially thought, and I have surrendered much more than I ever thought I would with the right information. Mainly because I ASKED WHY?

Gosh, I have babbled! But, before I go one last piece of advice and likely the most important yet – GO GET YO-SELF A DOULA, or someone to advocate and support you well during your pregnancy, birth and postnatally. There is no way I could have ever predicted the scenario we found ourselves in at my first birth. My husband and I were left to fend and figure out so much on our own. More support for him and an advocate for me is what we needed. I am so grateful that this time around we will have that. And it is not just about the actual day; if the idea of having an unfamiliar birthing goddess of woman in your birthing space freaks you the F out, you can still opt for a Doula pre-and post birth. Already much of my journey has felt lighter and I am more relaxed going into round two from just having the ear and advice of Tash. She has quietened my anxieties with the wisdom of her own birth journeys and experiences and given me a great deal of practical knowledge. I'm so grateful.

In retrospect, I actually can't believe I didn't do it for number one. How, in all my curiosity, did I miss all the fantastic information about doulas being the best option for pain relief, reducing perinatal and postnatal depression and helping women achieve the births they set out for?!?!  How is this traditional role only just becoming a popularised and accepted role in western birthing? It's CRAZY to me. Women supporting women. Keeping sacred space. Empowering them. Advocating for them. This is not a thing why?

I think I’ll leave it at that… maybe I’ll post to you again from the flipside (with all my free time ☺)

Mel x

*I want to make it clear that even though throughout most of my labour I had a problematic midwife (who has since been moved on), every other midwife I had come through my door during or after my labour was saving grace. I felt supported in my breastfeeding choices, equipped and rested by the time I left the hospital, and it’s all thanks to them

Theas Birth Story

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It happened at 7.10pm on Friday 26th July 2013. 4 years ago today. Under bright lights, in a bustling room, with morphine coursing through my veins and Mark’s cheek pressed hard against mine. I became a mum. Even writing that sentence brings a lump to my throat. It’s a big deal becoming a parent. Your life is no longer your own, as the wellbeing of a tiny human becomes the centre of your universe. And Thea was tiny. 576g. That’s a little over two blocks of butter. As a cook, I always I think of it that way.

Tears were rolling down my face and my heart was sinking in my chest as Thea entered the world. Momentarily she was revealed to us, delicately cupped in latex covered hands, before being taken to the resuss team. 29 weeks was too early to be born, and at just over a pound she was incredibly small, even for her gestation. Yet, she cried out with reassuring kitten like screams. Mum, dad, I’m ok. I’m itty-bitty, but I’m ok.

Having a premature baby is an odd experience. Instead of holding my new bundle of joy on my chest, feeling delirious and exhausted, gazing at her with utter love and amazement as I had always imagined I would, I was able to have a fleeting glimpse of her propped on a little nest of carefully arranged turquoise sheets, inside a warm perspex box. Mark had cut her umbilical cord and told me how she had tightly gripped his little finger with all of hers. He had said that she was perfect. Absolutely beautiful. All I could see was a tiny, fragile looking creature whom I didn’t know how to care for. All of my motherly instincts were useless.

After a few hours sleep, breakfast arrived on a tray, as it had done for the duration of my stay in hospital, an occurrence I remember now with fondness. Who doesn’t love breakfast in bed. Under a brown plastic cloche were scrambled eggs. A bland, solidified, pale yellow mound, swimming in a little pool of liquid on a white plate. I ate them, but without much gusto. I still wasn’t quite sure how to feel about having become a mother, but I stoically kept my smile in place. Everything would work out for the best. Two days later, I left hospital after my three and a bit week stay, relieved to be going home where I felt safe and away from all the constant monitoring. I was leaving my brand new daughter behind though and all of the careful preparations that I had made for her arrival; washed and folded newborn onesies, cot sheets with little blue clouds, a giraffe painted on the wall overlooking her cot, were redundant. A reminder of her absence. (Yes, I had made all these preparations, even so early on. I was so excited be having a baby and organising was a joy).

For 12 weeks until Thea came home, I diligently returned to the hospital every day. To say it was easy would be a lie. I cried, I laughed, I hurt, I got angry, I was impatient and confused. The traffic to and fro drove me crazy. But I wouldn’t change the experience. Not for anything. In fact I’m thankful for it. I had the privilege of meeting Thea early. I was able to watch as her eyelashes and finger and toe nails grew (she was born without any). She reached a kilo in weight and I baked all the nurses a Chez Panisse chocolate cake to celebrate the milestone. She started to fit into tiny clothes that friends and family bought for her. We persevered together to master breastfeeding. Her wires and tubes became less. She became more and more beautiful every day. And she was alive. She wasn’t sick or injured. She was just small and growing, ready to come home. She gave me perspective and strength and a view on life that I would not otherwise have. I am grateful, humble and oh so proud to be her mum.

Please jump onto http://www.herbsandalemon.com/breakfast/how-to-make-scrambled-eggs/ for story plus amazing recipes.

15 GORGEOUS POST-BABY BODIES, PHOTOSHOP NOT INCLUDED

You can't look anywhere these days without spotting photos of a celebrity mom's "flawless post-baby body."

"Back in a bikini after only 6 weeks!" the headlines shout.

But Ashlee Dean Wells, photographer and founder of the 4th Trimester Bodiesproject, thinks these kinds of stories are doing more harm than good.

"Women and society are shown these images, hundreds a day, that look a certain way," she says. "And we get it in our heads that we should all strive to that standard."

"It's important to me to represent women as they are. Having stretch marks and skin folds doesn't make us any less beautiful."

4th Trimester Bodies is "a movement dedicated to education, embracing and empowering women through photographs and storytelling."

It starts with what's on the outside, to show what a post-pregnancy body looks like outside the cover of a gossip magazine. Wells and her partner on the project, Laura Wilson, photograph everyday moms (and dads) — some rookies, some battle-tested parenting veterans, some adoptive, some who've suffered heartbreaking miscarriages — all without fancy filters or Photoshop.

Then they give them a chance to tell the world their stories.

Here are just a few of the amazing moms they've worked with:

1. Amber H.

 

Amber is the mother of two beautiful children, Audrey and William, but has also lost three pregnancies to miscarriage.

"Amber wanted to tell her story to help break some of the silence around infertility," Wells and Wilson wrote.

2. Lou C.

 

Lou is a proud mother of four, including her stillborn daughter Jade, and is currently pregnant with her fifth child.

"A woman's body shows a history of what she has been through and mine shows it all. ... I love my body," she says.

3. Heather R.

 

Meet Heather and her 2-year-old daughter, Ramona. After a rough pregnancy and delivery, Heather continues to battle postpartum depression and anxiety.

"This celebration of every type of mother, experience and body is so important," she says. "The ability to embrace everyone is something that is often lacking in the sphere of motherhood."

4. Morgan R.

 

Morgan became pregnant with her daughter, Lola, at 17, and often felt steamrolled by doctors who wouldn't respect her wishes. She fought perinatal depression — that's depression during pregnancy — and wishes moms knew more about it.

As for why Morgan was drawn to the project, Wells and Wilson write, "When Morgan was pregnant, she and her husband made an agreement that their daughter would never hear them speak negatively about their weight or appearance. Morgan herself feels wonderfully confident with her body as a mother but she sees so many women her age obsess about their post-baby body."

5. Coral C.

 

Coral gave birth to her daughter, Raleigh Rose, at home, even though her doctor advised against it. With the help of her husband and a doula, she made it happen.

"Coral ... wanted to join in the movement of women coming together to support and celebrate one another," Wells and Wilson write.

6. Nathan D.

 

Nathan is a transgender man, only he'd never had his uterus removed. That meant his dream of having kids of his own was alive and well. When he got pregnant with his daughter, Anaya, he and his partner were elated.

Wells and Wilson write, "When Nathan got pregnant, he thought he was the only one but thanks to the internet and other people speaking out was able to find community. If sharing his story can allow one person to relate to him or feel beautiful in their own skin, it's worth it."

7. Lauren G.

 

This is Lauren and her children, Trey, Logan, and Lillee. After fighting through an emergency cesarean with one birth, postpartum depression, and oversupply issues while breastfeeding, Lauren was inspired to become a doula and help other women through their own struggles with new motherhood.

"Seeing women, baring it all has been so important for Lauren," Wells and Wilson write. "Seeing herself in other women's stories and having her eyes opened to new realities has been so empowering."

8. Ashley U.

 

Ashley suffered severe tearing while giving birth to her oldest child, Dylan, followed by a long and arduous recovery. The experience made her afraid going into the delivery of Ellie, though ultimately the experience was much less traumatic.

"She was afraid to talk about [the realities of vaginal tearing] for quite some time after Dylan was born, and couldn't do so without crying, but over time she has found an amazing community of women online willing to share their experiences," Wilson and Wells write.

9. Diana R.

 

Diana's pregnancy with her son, Gilberto, was healthy and uneventful. That deserves to be celebrated, too!

10. Vanessa M.

 

 

The story of Vanessa and her two daughters, Elliana Grace and Lillian Faith, is long, filled with frightening pre-birth discoveries and long nights spent in the NICU. Doctors initially thought the twins might not make it. But here they are today.

As for Vanessa herself, she was recently forced to undergo a double mastectomy due to a risky gene mutation.

Still, "she wants her girls to look back on this moment in time, with their mother, and see that they are all strong survivors," Wells and Wilson write.

12. Jessica Z.

 

Jessica is a proud mother to both a son and a daughter, but it's the baby she lost to miscarriage that brought her to 4th Trimester Bodies. She needed her story to be heard.

"We need to change this conversation, or lack of it in our society," Jessica says, "because without it women who are already traumatized end up feeling isolated. It doesn't make any sense."

13. Cara G.

 

Before giving birth to her daughter, Charlotte Ann, Cara struggled with mental health issues, addiction, and self-harm. At one point, Charlotte was taken from Cara and placed in foster care, but today they are together again and working to build a good relationship.

"She was hesitant to participate and share her story publicly out of fear that her past would resurface to haunt her but wanted to have the opportunity to share her story and help break that stigma and shame that surrounds mothers and mental health," Wells and Wilson write.

14. Ariel J.

 

Ariel, mom to two daughters, was in awe at how much things changed when she became a parent. The second guessing. The uncertainty. Wondering if you're doing the right things. It never ends.

Wells and Wilson write, "Not only as a mother but as an African American, as a black woman, Ariel feels it's important to show our daughters that these are our bodies. ... She just wants her girls to know that they can love their bodies no matter what they look like or how they change."

15. Phoebe A.

 

 

Phoebe's pregnancy with her daughter, Fynley, caught her totally off guard. Then, the delivery was exhausting and complex, leaving Phoebe to recover in the hospital while her own mom cared for Fynley. Today, both are doing well.

"Phoebe says motherhood has changed so much about her. ... She's always been body conscious but after seeing so many other women bravely sharing themselves and their stories wanted to join the chorus," Wells and Wilson write.

"Showing people themselves through our lens is amazing," Wells says.

But even more important than celebrating post-pregnancy bodies in all their various forms is giving parents a place to share their fears, their scars, and their greatest joys.

"Especially in America, the focus shifts from the mom to the baby after birth and women often feel alone, like they have to shrink back to their former selves," she says. "I think that process (of sharing) is really cathartic. So many of them say, 'I've never told this story before,' or 'I've never had the opportunity to talk to anyone about this.'"

"We need to be a little softer on ourselves," Wells said finally. "Whatever you're going through, wherever you are, you're not alone. There are other people there, saying it out loud."

Thank you so much to Ashlee Wells for speaking to Upworthy and providing these photographs. You can find more from 4th Trimester Bodies on their website and Instagram.

Boobie Ball Recipe

I made these healthy boobie balls for a client today.
Recipe
½ cup whole rolled oats (not quick oats)
¼ cup almonds, cashews or walnuts
3 tbsp linseed or flaxseed meal
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp brewers yeast
⅓  cup dried dates chopped
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp honey, rice malt syrup or maple syrup
4 tbsp desiccated coconut for rolling


INSTRUCTIONS
Process the oats, nuts, linseed meal, cinnamon and brewer’s yeast until it turns into a powder in a food processor.
Now add the dates, water and honey and blend again until it forms a cookie dough.
Using slightly damp hands, roll small balls of dough and then roll in the coconut.
Place on a plate and chill in the fridge for an hour.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week, or in the freezer for two months for an easy to grab snack. #boobiecookies #breastfeeding #mum #mummasmilk #natashathompsondoula #northernbeachesdoula #northernbeachesmums
 

8 Tips to help swollen feet

About half of pregnant women experience this. You can help reduce symptoms with these 8 TIPS. 

1. Increase your water intake 

2. Squeeze 2 x lemons in water at start of day

3. Epsom/ magnesium salt warm baths

4. Regular exercise 

5. Eat healthy diet of fruit and vegetables 

6. Rest and destress with feet up

7. Avoid crossing legs sitting and standing for long amounts of time

8. Foot rub from partner 

*sudden excessive swelling could be symptoms of preeclampsia so call your care provider immediately #pregnant #babies #pregnancy #preeclampsia #mum #mumtobe

Debriefing your birth story

"How a women perceives her birth experience has a direct impact on her need for debriefing. A birth considered normal to the professional might be considered traumatic to the women herself who carry's this experience for the rest of her life".


So let me set the scene for you: I've left work in my lunch break to pop to the hospital for my 36 week check up. This was my first pregnancy and I never thought that a rushed lunchtime appointment would end up an emergency c-section and a sudden and unexpected meeting of my baby boy.

Whilst in my casual lunchtime antenatal appointment with my student midwife Sophie (AKA beautiful legend) she took my blood pressure. The reading was 122/110 and I watched her face change and her eyeballs almost pop out of her head. She turned to me shocked then went to find another midwife for a second opinion. After a few more tests I was told that I had pre-calmpsia and toxemia.

(Pre-clampsia can be life threatening to both a mum and her baby. There is a high amount of protein that shows in the urine, swelling of feet, face and hands. It is most common in first time pregnancies, women over 40, teenagers, a history of diabetes, kidney disease and is hereditary. Symptoms to look out for are high blood pressure, swelling, headaches, pain in abdomen, vomiting, nausea, vision changes and dizziness.

Toxaemia is blood poisoning by toxins from a local bacterial infection).

So pretty much my midwives had just told me that my body was starting to shut down and my baby needed to get out of me asap. After chatting more to the doctor I called my husband to let him know he had to come to hospital as we were going to having a baby in a few hours....this felt very surreal....

In the moment I felt super relaxed and just surrender and went with what was happening. I figured stressing couldn't help the situation.

So Nek minute I was laying in a hospital theatre room, bright lights shining down on me like I was in a celebrity photo shoot. The room was full with approx 10 doctors and midwives quietly whispering and setting up. My husband above my head, my arms laid out like a crucifix with needles and IV's in my arms that were strapped in, as I waited to be cut open.

The moments before the surgery felt so awkward and numbing, and then all of a sudden there is a little baby boy laying on my chest. No pain? no contractions? no water birth I had wished for? What a bizarre way to end a regular work day right?

I remember initially feeling really disappointed that my body had failed me. I had done so much preparation and research and was looking forward to the birth process. Some may say I'm crazy but I felt like I had been robbed. Robbed of the experience of what my body was meant to do, experiencing the feeling of a contraction, discovering that bond and strength that you draw from your birth partner and then finally the sense of achievement I would have from accomplishing what I was designed to do.

I know I'm not the only one that has felt this way. Their is a small percentage of us freaks out there! I do realize not every women feels like this, but for meit was something I had dreamed of doing for a long time.

After my beautiful boy Banjo was born my body didn't get better like it was meant to, it got worse. I was transferred to ICU for 4 days while Banjo was in an INCU. This meant I could not be with my baby and due to the drugs I also could not breastfeed straight away.

My beautiful student midwife Sophie I mentioned (not sure what I would have done without her) would bring me pics/ videos on my phone so I could see my new little boy and try help me feel connected to him. After 2 days they bought him down for a quick visit to say 'hi'

Mothers Day 2013 is a day I'll never forget. The day I got transferred to from ICU to the general maternity ward and I could begin the journey of bonding with my son.

I'm not going to lie I felt very disconnected, that 'love you feel for them straight away' everyone talks about took a lot longer. It just didn't feel like he was mine.

After about a week I took Banjo home and started 'mumming', sweeping all that had happened under the rug and getting on with life because I was parenting now and this is what you do right? This is what so many of us do...just get on with life, but not realising that all these emotions would reemerge with my next pregnancy.

So 1.5years later and I'm pregnant with bub #2. I'm going to my antenatal appointments and suddenly being asked about my previous birth. This bought up a lot of emotion and in appointments I would try my hardest to not cry and keep a brave face until I walked out the hospital doors and broke down. I began to realise this was not healthy heading into my next birth and bringing this baggage was not a positive approach. I decided to seek counselling.

Going through the story and identifying the parts which raised emotions for me was therapeutic and very healing. My counsellor at the time gave me some advice to choose people close to me that I could trust (and feel comfortable to cry with) to tell my story too and tell them as many times as I needed too.

I realised that keeping it all bottled up inside was like drinking my own poison and letting go and processing with people I trust (who are great listeners) is the key to healing.

As a doula the debriefing time with my clients in the post natal visit is very important to me whether a perfect birth or not. Being able to let a mother and partner share their journey and through the process letting the raw emotions of joy, laughter and sadness come out is so important. We all share our most favorite memories of the birth which may have been missed by each other in the craziness of the day.

I just want women to see how holding on and bottling up your story can be unhealthy. If you decide to not have doula support at your birth I want to encourage you to have great support around you afterwards. This will help process your emotions and let the healing unravel.

A woman will always remember her birth story no matter how many years go past. Do yourself, your new baby, your family and people around you a favour and don't hold on to it. This is not only for your birth stories, it's for any chapter in your life where emotions are raw and hearts are vulnerable.

My motto is life is 'The best gift you can ever give someone is a better you'.

Tash x

Magnesium benefits during pregnancy

The role of magnesium begins its importance when we are preparing the body for pregnancy. 

Magnesium helps build and repair body tissue in both mother and fetus. A severe deficiency during pregnancy can lead to pre-clampsia, toxemia, birth defects, infant mortality, in women with hypertension that can cause hemorrhaging in the brain of infants, cerebral palsy born weighing less than 3.3 pounds. 

It also helps with morning sickness, leg cramps, tiredness, relax muscles for birthing, reduction in mental retardation, prevent seizures, help the uterus contract, lower gestational diabetes.

Magnesium sulfate and magnesium chloride are used in obstetrics to stop premature labour.

You can grab magnesium oil or flakes for bath or digest in powder form for best results.  

For pregnant women the bath itself is very relaxing with the real allure of a half hour of no responsibility and no interruptions. A warm bath is not only safe but very soothing for the pregnant-mum-to-be by taking pressure off their bodies extra weight.

*Always discuss with your doctor or care provider before using.

 

Finding out I had CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia) when pregnant with Dusty

'Natasha, you have leukemia'. Words I never thought I would hear. But the reality was those were the words playing over and over in my ear while on the phone to my doctor. I was in such disbelief that this could be happening to me, my world didn't feel real anymore.

Having to go home and share this news to my husband was unfathomable. 

To know we had built this beautiful life together with our nearly 2 year old son & pregnant with our second; I could not help but focus (and be frightened) of our now unknown future.  

Wow! Was this really happening?

The toughest thing for me about having a life threatening illness was having to tell my loved ones. Knowing that you are going to break hearts and see their devastated faces was waaaaaaay too much for me to grasp. As hard as this was for my husband Steve, together we decided that It would be best to tell our family and close friends only. We sent messages and told our family over the phone. Watching my husbands face when I told him was more than I could handle; as selfish and disrespectful as this may seem I had to do it this way. I honestly couldn't deal with doing it myself and I am eternally grateful for such a supportive husband who took that one for the team.

Two years into this journey, today my focus is not the diagnosis but rather the shift that has taken place. In the practice of transforming my mind, thoughts enter and I am learning to let them go. I had to conquer this fear as the uncertainty of the future was all too consuming. Thoughts of me, of my family, the 'what ifs?' haunted me and continued to do so for some time, like a black cloud hanging over me until we had more answers.

I'm not going to lie. The negative thoughts try and sneak into my head most days. Thoughts of what the future could hold and what I could miss, but I choose to let them go and I focus on looking forward to what the future holds for me and my family. It's a perspective. 

Now I'm choosing everyday to not dwell in sadness and to be thankful to God for the clouds in the sky, the smell of the ocean, the flowers I walk by, the people around me, my husband and my kids. This situation made me realise every thought is a choice, a decision to be grateful and to not sit in a dark hole of sadness but to enjoy life and what I have. 

Trust me I didn't write this for any type of sympathy as I know how blessed I am. I am writing this to say everyone has some battle in their lives whether an Illness, finances, relationships, family or work. 

I wrote this so you can read about how I am learning to 'Be Grateful' for life's experiences and perhaps encourage you to learn from them, be thankful for the hard times, and not let them hold you back in life. Choose those holes in the road to push you forward, achieve your dreams, be thankful for what you have and where you are in life. Be thankful for the little things in life and don't drown yourself in the negative banter inside your head .

For me, I was grateful through the experience knowing what it is like to be loved, to be a mother, to have children, to experience the amazing body changing through pregnancy, feeling little shoulder barges and legs kicking out of my stomach and savouring every moment.

I am very thankful 

What can you be thankful for?

As they say (whoever they may be) 'Its about the journey, not the destination'.