Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fitness Roadblock

SO excited to start P90X in two weeks! BUT, I'd just like to post some difficulty/frustration I'm having...In any case, this week has been a bit challenging in the food department for me, maybe since Wednesday: I try to eat "just enough," but for some reason, I've been wanting more, so I do eat more, even as it's pretty good food: jerky, Shakeology, coconut stuff, kombucha...though some cheats like dark chocolate (maybe 3-5 squares a day) and superfood-blend "Bliss Bars". And I wonder if I eat to escape my fussy baby, or I go so long from eating that I get *ridiculously* hungry. Went out today to the salon and to see a friend, and the whole time, I was worried about the baby crying, but didn't hear a word from hubby. I was a wreck when I got home: baby was awake and fussy, though, and I had to feed ASAP. Kinda frustrated, kinda resentful, then I eat almost to distract myself and enjoy...and feel almost this helplessness and loathing towards myself. I tell my hubby about this guilt but he says I'm nursing and working out, but I still feel maybe I'm eating too much....feeling definition but not weight loss, so extra guilt with the food. Ugh. There were times when the food made me feel better, in particular after a migraine Thursday night, and feeling crappy post-migraine Friday. But still. Now I'm assessing my pantry: I fear maybe I shouldn't be allowed around food I like, but truthfully, I live for food. I truly savor it, hence my desire for healthy food, the only way to reconcile my love for it. But...yeah. Maybe I should give myself some slack being an exhausted nursing mom and all? Or not...all conflicted here. Argh.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why I Breastfeed

As I write this, I do so while nursing my soon-to-be 3 month old boy (turning 3 months on mother's day, actually!):

I am happy and grateful to be exclusively breastfeeding and also to be a stay-at-home-mom. Prior to even being preggo, I already had my heart and will set on breastfeeding. This is mostly because I wasn't really breastfed past the colostrum stage: my mom said that back then in the 1980's, she was stressed and didn't get much support, so I inevitably was formula-fed. She even struggled to hand-pump, and when my dad was wondering "how hard could it be?" then tried it himself...! Well, that ended then and there. Now my parents did their best, but I feel that had I been breastfed, I would:
-not have been as sickly
-bounced back from illness faster
-not have really had allergy issues
-would not have had weight issues as much

This is versus my husband who was breastfed and when there are seasonal allergies, his go away when he removes himself from the environment within minutes, whereas mine becomes a full-blown cold.

So basically I told myself that if I were to have a child, I would do things differently. So when I got pregnant, aside from wanting a home birth, I also wanted to exclusively breastfeed (don't even mention formula-supplementing to me!). I was nervous/scared because of my mom's struggles, so beforehand, I bought mother's milk tea, fenugreek, shatavari and blessed milk thistle capsules, as well as lactation cookies. I was told most women can breastfeed, especially with support, which i thankfully had in spades, but i was nervous anyway. Well when my son was born, he had a hard time latching, so we hired a lactation specialist to come over the next day which was also Valentine's Day. We also hired a postpartum doula to help us as a family.

We've had some other struggles, too: at around 3 weeks, we got thrush on one side, but it wasn't noticeably so, just the pain indicated it. Along with that came engorgement so I used a breast-pump for the first time to get the milk out and ensure that side wouldn't lose its supply. My son wasn't happy just nursing on one side instead of the previous two, and I was exasperated/frustrated too! Then 2 weeks later I got a bleb or milk blister on the other side. But we successfully got through these, phew! I took lots of probiotics, grapefruit seed oil, and eliminated dairy, then used gentian violet on us both. As for the bleb, I took sunflower lecithin and evening primrose oil, and continue to do so, as it they help a lot to get the milk "unstuck" and flowing, which is what we want.

We are still nursing, and I am glad. I haven't introduced the bottle to him yet to prevent nipple confusion, but we'll get there, especially for travel purposes! I also take all sorts of healthy food to fuel us both, and hope that he will favor these tastes and foods over unhealthy ones in the future.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Gnosis Sweet Choice Write-up

I am a chocoholic, oh yes I am, but how to keep this habit a healthy one? Enter Gnosis Chocolate—vegan, gluten-free, raw, AND low-glycemic! Even with all this, they taste delectable! Now these chocolates are sweetened with agave, so I was delighted to learn they are offering a “sweet choice” of coconut sugar in lieu of agave: basically the same flavor with two options for sweetener: agave or coconut sugar. In the name of science—and my excited tastebuds—I decided to take the challenge of trying BOTH sweet choices! Oh be still, my heart! The flavors I tried were Gratitude (vanilla hazelnut), Mayan Heat (chili) and Rejuvenate (pomegranate-acai). I liked the original agave for these, so I wanted to see how the new kid, coconut, would compare.

The first I tried was the Mayan Heat. I excitedly tear open the wrapper to get to the chocolate. Xocolat: food for the gods; with the chili, berries and nuts, it is indeed ambrosia. I break off a square, touch it, sniff it, eye it, and only then do I pop it into my mouth to let its flavors roll into my tongue. Chocolate is indeed a multi-sensory celebration of the senses.

I start with the new coconut sugar option, as indicated not only by the ingredient list but by the little green coconut trees on the package. The chocolate snaps crisp, it smells like chili and burnt sugar and dark velvet night. I pop one in, and the flavors come in real subtly, all robed in the dark crystal sweetness of the coconut sugar. The chili comes as a slow burn throughout, punctuated first by the black currants, then the soft pecans. I would pair this with a dark roast coffee, or a full-bodied red wine.

I then try the agave. Like an old flame, it still invites me. The chocolate breaks with a sigh, a bit more of a give. It smells of ritual and dark treacle and tart berries. I taste it, and the flavors come languidly in but all at once, like a fiery fudge. I taste the pecans, then the black currants, with the chili enrobing it all. For the agave, I would go for a medium roast coffee, and a sweet port.

The Mayan Heat is my favorite; however chocolate is still queen of my heart, and she has other flavors besides. I next try the Pomegranate-Acai in coconut sugar. Sure enough, it snaps clean. I taste more tartness, with the sweet burnt sugar somehow reminiscent of the sugarcane fields I visited in my youth in the Philippines, the tassels waving the summer breeze. I would love this with maybe a Muscat.

I then try the agave version of the Pomegranate-Acai. The agave gives its softer texture, more treacly sweetness. I taste the acai here, but sweeter. I would maybe try a nice prosecco or champagne with this: bubbles with berries!

Then for a more classic flavor, I try the Vanilla Hazelnut. As always, I try the new kid on the block first, coconut sugar. I’m loving that crisp break now as I snap off a square from its partner inside. The coconut sugar Vanilla Hazelnut is darker, more subtle, and I taste the hazelnuts prominently. This would be pretty good with a cup of chicory coffee.

However, to compare, I try the agave version, and this…this reminds me of Ferrero Rocher, a childhood favorite, but now SO much better, and without dairy, or transfats, or rancid oils, and so much FRESHER! The agave just brings it all together somehow: the hazelnut, vanilla, raw chocolate all melt in my mouth with the agave tasting like delicious almost-can’t-believe-it’s-good-for-me syrup. SO, so good. This would be great with a port....while soaking in a bubble bath. Ah, bliss.

Yes, I love chocolate, and I will be the first to spout off the improbability of me allergic to it, and instead point to how healthy it can be! And I am glad I am not the only chocoholic health nut out there: thank you, Gnosis for fresh, healthy chocolate manna.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I Love Coconuts!

Aside from chocolate and chia, there’s another food-love in my life: coconut. From low-glycemic coconut sugar to healthy cold-pressed/extra-virgin coconut oil to soysauce alternative coconut aminos, coconut is truly the [Southeast Asian] tree of life.

Back in the Philippines where I grew up, extra virgin coconut oil, or EVCO for short, was already quite popular for weight loss and glowing skin, and heart health, among other things. Heck, there were even flavored varieties! So imagine my surprise and delight when I saw coconut oil gaining a following here in the United States. Now there are a lot of brands out there, but I must say my top choice is Tropical Traditions.

I first heard of them from a classmate at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, when we were talking about healthy fats. Then my assigned mentor talked about Tropical Traditions having expeller-pressed coconut oil which doesn’t have the “coconutty” taste. So I look online and imagine my surprise and pride at discovering that their coconut products are from the Philippines: represent! I got all nostalgic when I saw that they even have atchara (the Filipino kimchi: so good on roast suckling pig, or lechon in Filipino). I am further impressed with their top-of-the line Gold Label, which undergoes the traditional style of cold-pressing, at the same time, providing a livelihood for Filipinos in that community where Tropical Traditions started.

Another classmate told me they were doing a blog review of the Gold Label line, and I’ve always wanted to try it, but just never got around to it, so I took this chance to try the stuff. Let me say wow: the Gold Label extra virgin coconut oil is super silky and almost sweet, plus it doesn’t have a cloying coconut/”pina-colada” taste. And it has this soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture: even better now that the weather is warm enough for the oil to be liquid! Yum!

I love extra virgin coconut oil: we use it to cook with and bake with, we also put it in our morning oatmeal, and smoothies; I even give some to our poodle for its anti-bacterial and energy-giving properties!

I love coconuts, and even better, I love supporting businesses that have a good ethic, and even better, source from the Philippines, from home. Thank you, Tropical Traditions!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Highs and Lows and In Between

The past three weeks have not been the easiest, for sure.

Week 1-
Argued with the spouse Monday evening (yes, the 1st day of the workweek) and then he put down my healthy bread choice for him, so I felt like a failure as a wife, and helpless too with the baby. Had a good crying jag then, and my poor poodle looked distraught. Then baby wouldn't stop crying. I had to walk away from him for a bit as he was driving me up the wall! I will admit I cleaned the outer part of his ear as there was wax and that got him more upset, but I finally got a break through a nap, and I did my workout and had my Shakeology. That workout was tough, maybe because of all these emotions. I am stopping consumption of nutritional yeast, too, per my friend's advice, to avoid fungal issues (which apparently is more common than we think!)

Week 2-
We live in an old, wooden bungalow. With baby, things have been sliding, but now that I'm more able, I've been doing more stuff. Thing is, there are stuff my husband is in charge of and I ask him to do, but he says there's so much to do with baby so more often than not doesn't get to them, and then we're at another week with more stuff to do partly from what didn't get done, while I've got a needy baby to feed/change and a dog to feed/walk. I need his help and for some odd reason, the night slips past and not everything gets done. Maybe I'm being too anal but I ask him to do things, heck, I even write them down, and it usually sits until I make a fuss, then he gets annoyed. Argh! feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and upset about it all: maybe I'm being unfair to him. On better news, two weeks ago, my husband made a gluten-free quiche with egg, bacon, goat cheese and spinach yesterday, as well as a sweet potato, coconut milk, spinach and bacon soup. We visited friends for a Greek Easter dinner, too: Christos Anesti! Got a haircut last weekend: yay for feeling more like a person again! And for major food event this week, we had Takeout Tuesday from our favorite Vietnamese hangout. Our poodle has a persistent ear infection that apparently is staph-related, so she is on new meds for her for that. Apart from that, insects galore, and I do not like insects. Ah, spring.

As for baby, though, he is getting big! I took him out for a walk last week after the storm had passed, using a sling, then once I lay him down for a feeding, I noticed a bite on his forehead, so I felt pretty bad about it; hopefully it's nothing, though, and just goes away. Back to carrying him again, I guess!
I seem to worry about everything concerning him these days. I cut his fingernails every week too (or try to), and am hoping to cut his toenails as I read that if I don't do this regularly, it can lead to ingrowns, which would hurt. Fingernails are easy, toenails not so much as I can't preoccupy him. He's also getting pretty heavy-- 13 pounds with clothes and diapers on! Speaking of, there's this thing called "Elimination Communication" where the baby doesn't wear diapers and instead the parent looks for cues when the baby needs to go potty. Sounds really radical to me, but hey, one never knows. He is also starting to coo and babble and smile and drool, and hold up his head pretty well :) He had a great big ball of wax again from his right ear (outside of his ear canal: I wouldn't dare touch the canal itself!) this week, so I removed that, something he's not too fond of.

Week 3-
Did Cardio Axe from Brazilian Butt Lift the other day and High & Tight today WITH bands and ankle weights: I'm so glad I worked out even as I was initially lazy to, but holy crap the choreography is BEYOND me: I really think I have two left feet! But I am trying! I know kickboxing moves, but dance? I suck at dance. I even did Ballroom dancing for Phys Ed in college to get better, but it was a nominal victory. Fun, though. Lunch was Shakeology, Dandy Blend, Ormus Greens, chia seeds-- HELLO, delicious post-workout reward! But as I play the videos more, I "hear" the instructions more; I modify my form; body is sore in a good way. Noticing my thighs are leaner, butt is a bit smaller and tighter, jeans a bit looser. Best of all, I *feel* better towards my body, towards my self, towards my baby. These workouts, coupled with Shakeology, are my daily routine, almost like an anchor in my day. There's even a vegan one now made with rice protein! Push play; gotta love it!
What's even better is it is safe for pregnant AND nursing mamas! So healthy, so satisfying! Add coconut oil too and you are in business! Heck, add it to everything!

I want to make these chocolate chip cookies, my FAVORITE cookie! I also miss port wine so.freakin'.bad: mayhap to pair with Gnosis Chocolate's SweetChoice contest! Or Dandy Blend...speaking of, need more of THAT! Also excited to try my grounding mat and black currant phytogen liquid, supposedly for adrenal support. I miss speaking in Filipino. And here's something to watch from Know the Cause hosted by Doug Kaufmann!

Mother's Day is coming up: a friend/fellow mama asked if I had already received my "push present?" My husband is pushing ME to get one; how sweet is that? For Mother's Day, I'm even saying just a card will suffice given all the money we're spending, so it's really sweet of HIM to treasure me, which goes to the message that we mommas should really value ourselves, as women AND as mommas!

A friend is opening up a Bikram yoga studio, and she is asking if I want to teach again; I'm not sure and also my son is too young: I would wait until he's over a year at least; she's also offering a management position; we'll see! But hey, in my own time, right? and what feels good to me :)

Another friend, fellow mama and health coach recently suggested to me to hire a health coach who would be willing to maybe do a short program with me, 3 mos. maximum owing to our living on only my husband's income right now. I am currently not coaching YET but am open to setting up virtual coaching from home when my little boy is older (currently 9 weeks), but starting with blogging as I like to write and am a bit of an introvert so if I could get support there? I'm into health, fitness, nutrition, avoiding toxins for me AND my family, baby and doggie included! I am also into raw-vegan and paleo/primal/gluten-free/low-sugar diets as well as curious with GAPS, FYI--given my family health history and concern for my own child and husband. I also do Beachbody/Shakeology/fitness stuff as it helps keep my body issues at bay: another big area I need help in which is self-love, which I think is also one big factor why I don't like to ask for help, and why I feel personally at fault when there's conflict. Now I don't know why I'm not comfortable with people visiting me--maybe coz I'm a pleaser, which goes back to....self-love. And money issues, hoo boy, calling Bari! But yes this is me asking for help and asking for something for MY self-growth, money/self-worth issues aside. Yay!

Remember to take care of YOU!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Working Out Again

Day 1 of Beachbody Challenge done, Shakeology late lunch post-Brazilian Bum Bum done. I find it neat that as I look at my "before" a.k.a current photos of myself, instead of feeling frustration, because of the support from my coach and challenge group, I feel hope: yes I see the stuff that needs work/definition, but now, I think that I can do this. Now too, there's almost a pattern to look forward to in my day: whereas before it was just time revolving around baby, and some time I would randomly carve for myself, now there is a concrete tangible thing I NEED to set time for myself for, and that's pretty awesome. So thank you, Team Beachbody! And instead of spending ALL of my son's nap time running around doing stuff, I still did stuff-- I exercised with Brazilian Butt Lift Bum Bum for the 1st time, checked e-mail, had a late Shakeology lunch, and washed dishes, BUT then I stopped and spent the remainder of his nap in bed with him. It was delicious seeing him wake up to me. Thank God for long naps as they are few and far between, but hey, this is me resting! I'm sure other mamas can relate ;-)

Day 2, I woke up sore and groggy this morning...had to have some extra kombucha to get me through, lol. I was biting at the bit to work out, and I did! It's almost like this craving, but a healthy one, isn't that awesome??

To stay on track with health, why not revamp your kitchen?
And for skin, why not DIY, as our skin is the largest organ of our body,
Because of this scary reality
Speaking of, gluten-free isn't always healthy, but eating whole foods is!
So why not make something healthy AND yummy? I might add some Shakeology to this too!

In other news, I got featured here!

Live your BEST life! Live happy and healthy!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Take care of YOU

With baby fussy and needing to be fed, changed, and rocked, it's very easy to forget our own needs. Heck, I even sometimes feel my body isn't my own, that my breasts are now just food-producers and not for pleasure/looks. So before we head further down that road, heads up, mamas, here's my #1 advice: Take care of YOU.

Yes, people are right when they say "sleep when the baby sleeps," and so on: perhaps that can be one way of taking care of yourself, but think of it this way: a happy mama has a happy baby (most of the time). So do what you gotta do to take care of you.

Make some time for yourself, if that means napping when baby naps, or exercising (check with your health provider when you can do so post-birth: it is usually 6 weeks), or reading a book, sitting by the window to get some Vitamin D, snuggling with your pet dog or cat, sketching, journaling...whatever it is that makes you happy, do it: set aside some time each day, and you and everyone around you will thank you.

What will you do for yourself today?

Friday, March 23, 2012

On Dogs and Babies

Some people ridicule the notion of adopting a dog as "practice baby-training." Well, I disagree with that. Maybe some people think it foolhardy, but we adopted a standard poodle around my 5th/6th month of pregnancy. I love dogs, you see, and we moved to a place partly for my husband's hankering for a yard to grow stuff in, but also for my deep desire for a dog of our own. So soon after we moved, that's exactly what we did. I hesitated as the adoption fee wasn't cheap, but my husband said to go for it, anyway. And boy am I glad we did. Now the journey wasn't easy: she was found with mange, heartworm, and earmites, and was emaciated, so we did our best to heal those. We named her Bella, and smart cookie that she is, she responded to that name within days! However, she was also super skittish and shy, and wanted us in her sight at all times, hence our moniker sometimes for her being "Velcro dog." And therein is the big part that I'm glad we got a dog first before we had our baby: babies are fussy, and they want to be attached to you: after all, they were in our wombs for 40+ weeks, in my case, 41. They're used to being held 24/7, and fed 24/7. With the addition of a dog in our lives, there was another being to care for, spend for, someone else's schedule to think about, and who relies on me, whether it be food or medicine or even affection. With a baby, it's intensified like 500% as babies are even more helpless (so it does help that they're cute)! That plus our dog is really chill and centered when she's not spazzing or being all clingy; quiet, too: it took her months for us to hear her bark. But she's getting better: she doesn't get scared we'll leave her when we crate her, or see it as punishment; she has put on weight, and responds to the few commands my husband taught her; she even follows us into the bathroom now, whereas before she was terrified of it for some reason. Like her gradual improvement, we hope similarly for our baby, though at a slower pace as babies do take a while to hold their heads up on their own and not need us on demand 24/7. With the baby's arrival too, she is no longer the center of our lives, but she has responded to this with reluctant and resigned grace. With this standard poodle's awesomeness, plus the fact that she doesn't really shed, I am sold on standard (poodle)s! As my friend who told me about them, they are great family dogs. Indeed.

That being said, there are other things going on in life! I rarely cook as I am afraid of the stove (just as I dislike mess and bugs, but that's another story), so I feel bad that my husband even more so than before is doing so much for our family, what with cloth diapers and so on, on top of the regular stuff we have to do around the house, which with the baby has taken a bit of a backslide, hence my desire to help out more. Friends and family giving us food has been a godsend, but it won't last forever, so I was looking at these soup recipes: they look pretty easy, so maybe I can make them and make my husband happy and proud :-) Two in particular are catching my fancy: this Cucumber Gazpacho and this Coconut Cauliflower Soup, then macaroons for dessert! Is it super obvious I'm into healthy fats right now, especially coconut?!

I also got my certificate of graduation from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, or what we students fonds call IIN. Woohoo! Now on to more learning!...after I get the hang of caring for this baby...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mama Musings on 5 Weeks

My baby boy is 5 weeks this week; I did my gentle postnatal workout (hoping to graduate to Beach Body soon!) yesterday while he napped, and since I'm super craving coffee but too scared of the consequences of caffeine, I am excitedly/impatiently waiting for my orders of Dandy Blend and Teeccino's dandelion line, and I'll see what I prefer. Research shows that decaf coffee can still cause problems with babies through rheumatoid arthritis later on, whereas dandelion across many cultures promotes cleansing, good digestion, and even milk production for lactating mamas later on! What's even better is Dandy Blend is safe for kids to drink as it's gluten and caffeine-free. Dandelion's clearly pretty awesome!

I'm also looking into a Waldorf preschool program for him here, and they even have a very selective partial work-exchange program for tuition, so I'm hoping I can make the cut! I just want my child to have a holistic education, which I think Waldorf embodies.

And with that, J-Mike is my son, yes, but indeed he is his own person, as Kahlil Gibran says it so well.

For my own sanity and so I could connect to other mamas (as so far I've mainly been interacting only with my son!), a friend was telling me to look at Heights Kids Group...another friend told me to look at Moms of Preschoolers or M.O.P.S., and Holistic Moms Network, as well as a local chapter of La Leche League; ah, now to look into all of these and see what works for me!

Especially as a new momma I have a million things running through my head, but of course I'm lucky to remember two of to make sure they're the right ones to remember! Some things of note:

Please think about helping this cause that ends in 5 days: Chick Fil-A is threatening to shut him down, but he's not even competing with them. Don't let the bully win; vote for fresh food over fast food!

There's more, but with nursing and tending to my son's needs, I am doing all I can to remember one or two, hence my planner and iPhone come in very handy...

And on an unrelated note, here is a beautiful quote from Bari Tessler-Linden that really resonated with me: "Sometimes I am given the reflection that I am living a ‘small’ life and have colleagues + mentors rooting for me to become 'bigger' in my self and in my reach...than in other moments I am given the reflection that I am quite driven, accomplished and live a fully created life...big life vision, small life vision... it can get confusing sometimes... but in the end, I am the really the only one who can determine if I am making the most out of this one precious life..."

I'd prefer to live life on my terms, any day, though I still am working on being less of a pleaser! So here's to that.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

4 Weeks and Counting

So here I am with my 1 month, 2-day old son, literally: he is in a sling, and on my lap as I type this. This journey so far hasn't been easy: on top of the usual sleepless nights and baby-centered schedule, we got thrush last week. So that meant purple nipples for me and purple mouth for him. And FYI, thrush doesn't always mean the white patches right away, etc. But things get better, right? And things change constantly, especially with a new baby. He's gained almost 2 pounds now, as he's about 9 pounds, if not more, from his birth weight of 7 pounds 8 ounces. I was able to do a short 15-minute postnatal-specific workout yesterday, as well as finished writing thank-you cards (yay!). I was also able to put him in a sling and walk the dog for a bit today, all by myself-- a first!

But sometimes with 3 steps forward there are 2 steps back: I experienced some pain/twinges in my perineum today shortly after I had picked my son up for a feeding, but this was preceded by squatting to pick up mail and picking up said boxes, as well as a walk with baby and dog; also emptying the dryer and sweeping up the lint from a badly-placed disposable liner that had disintegrated in the dryer. What can I say, I like being able to do stuff, and keep things neat and tidy! But yes, overexertion can still happen after 4 weeks! So I guess no workout for me today. But hey, there's still tomorrow. And in tomorrow can we pin our dreams and plans....I know I do!

I've also been dealing with frustration that I'm not being able to get back into the swing of things. No-one in prenatal class tells you that thrush can happen, or that with post-birth comes lots of bleeding, and for a while, that baby bonding may not be instantaneous, that you'll be SUPER thirsty breastfeeding, how raspberry tea is incredibly healing not only during pregnancy but also after, and so on! No one tells you how soft/flabby your belly may look, or that you just won't have energy, or that your housekeeping duties will have to go to someone else, and that y'all will have to figure it all out. But all this happens and more. New mamas are brave during birthing, but also after-- for dealing with all this, hopefully with a supportive partner, but sometimes not. No-one talks about all these, but really, they should. So here's to mamas being brave and figuring this all out.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

On Birthing My Son

So it's been 10 days now since I birthed my son. I am thankfully on the road to recovery-- able to walk around the house a bit more and not be on complete bed rest, etc, but I couldn't have healed up as well without my sweet husband's help. I told him today, "I'm glad you're my baby-daddy." And it's true: he's been absolutely invaluable getting me food, changing J-Mike's diapers, soothing him when he won't feed, feeding and walking the dog, doing laundry, keeping our space sacred*...yeah. I finally caught up with emails after a week, then I set about writing J-Mike's baby book: we're almost done, yes! One of the things that was most difficult for me to write, though, was the birth story-- not because it was horrible, but I think because it was so...intense. And yes, caring for a newborn isn't exactly refreshing. Our normal has changed: we now have to adjust to a fourth member in the family--not just my husband and I, but our dog, too, who was once our baby, well, now, she's got a younger sibling who needs all of Mommy's attention. She's been great, though I do sense that she misses me. So yes, dogs are absolutely great practice for having kids: they need attention and love, almost like a child, but not as much as they're not as helpless and usually not as loud.

So. On to the actual birth.

We'd been futzing back and forth when this baby would be born: my Chinese relatives told me I better birth AFTER Jan. 23, so he would be born under the sign of the Dragon in Chinese astrology. I retorted that any year was as good as any as I was officially safe to give birth by Week 37 which was Jan. 15, but whatever, right? My due date was Feb. 5, so when that came and went, the heat was on. Then Week 41 was approaching and my parents were coming that Wednesday, so they were saying that hopefully the baby would be born by the time they arrived, to which I replied he will born when he wants to be born. My mother-in-law suggested Feb. 12th as 2-12-12 was pretty neat, but I said no: Feb. 12 is my cousin's birthday and also the day my aunt was killed. I also didn't want Feb. 14 as a Valentine baby is just cheesy, and I really think that most kids born on holidays would prefer to be born on another day: Christmas especially. So.

Saturday Feb. 11th came, and my husband and I had a breastfeeding class to attend. As we were getting ready, I felt this weird moistness like I was peeing but couldn't help it so I raced to the bathroom as much as my preggo self could, and sure enough, there was a pinkish blob in the water. At the same time, I started to get mild cramps. I told my midwife and she said it's probably my mucus plug coming unplugged. That whole day I was a bit uncomfortable every now and then, though we were still able to stop for fresh veggie juice with some chili--chili as I heard it's a good way to bring on labor, but also with my weird tastebuds, who knows?

Sunday Feb. 12th, the cramps were becoming a bit more uncomfortable and the discharge was more fluid, so our midwife and doula came over to check on me. Doula gave me a foot massage; midwife did a pH check and sure enough, we had some amniotic fluid. Nonetheless, we were still able to go to Lululemon (kung fu pants for J!), Ikea (a changing table) and Thai Pepper (basil duck!) for dinner, where I surprisingly did not have much appetite. We then knew something was up. We then visited our doula to borrow her birthing ball. That night, the cramps did not stop and made sleep quite difficult: Jess asked the midwife what to do and she said to time them when I had them, so he did.

Monday Feb. 13th, the cramps were by now more intense, and painful enough that I couldn't really interact with anyone when it hit: I even abandoned my iPhone to the waves of labor (which on hindsight was probably one of the best things I did so as to focus purely on labor). Our midwife told my husband to time the "cramps," and as he timed them, they were starting to be more regular than the ones the night before. So husband stayed home and did not go to work; doula came over followed by our midwife. It was a rainy day. We were definitely in labor, it turned out. We didn't know how long it would take, but we were all here for the ride. I liked staying in bed as it didn't hurt as much, but apparently in this case, pain was good: my midwife told me, "No pain, no gain" and "Pain is the way through." So our doula would have me sit on the toilet, and I would rock out the contractions there, then she also liked me to sit on the birthing ball, which I liked less, as the contractions got really strong while I would be on it. We would kinda haggle-- me wanting to lie on the bed and her wanting me to sit on the ball, but I would eventually cave as I knew she had my interests at heart. My husband would also echo me when I would moan during contractions--something he learned from Ina May Gaskin, and it did help a little. Later on, our doula asked if I wanted to take my shower with my husband, that it might make me feel better, but when I did, the contractions intensified and hurt more (though I felt cleaner). I would hang onto my husband as I rode out the contractions, while our midwife would put a doppler to my stomach to listen to baby's heartbeat: every time, she was satisfied, and would say, "happy baby!". In between, they pushed food on me, as I had no appetite: that and liquid in the form of raspberry tea and coconut water. I preferred the liquid over the food (i.e. the green smoothie I made that morning with my husband's help). I threw up some, which made my birth team happy for some reason, then after a while, when I asked to stay in bed, to my surprise, they agreed. But it didn't feel so good, and the crinkly sound from the plastic layer underneath didn't help, so I moved to lay on our black leather couch, and even managed to sleep there a bit. I sat on the toilet and rocked and threw up again and let out one different-sounding yell which was accompanied by a feeling that felt like an urge to poop: my midwife said, "sounds like we're ready to push!" Then we moved back to the black couch: my moans changed to hoarse screams (that my doula told me to change to deep yells) and an urge to poop, which apparently was a transition to pushing. My husband had just stepped out to walk our standard poodle Bella, and our midwife opened the door and told him to "keep it a short one." We had rented a birthing tub, but we weren't ever told when to set it up, and I was so deep in the pain that I didn't have enough presence to ask about it. Besides, I just wanted the pain to be over. Birth team suggested we go to the bed. The pain still didn't go away, and I asked why. They said it will go away when your baby's head comes out! which wasn't really satisfactory to me as it still hurt. So we continued to push on the bed, one leg bent and one leg straight, then to both legs bent being held in the air, and at one point, our midwife said, "oh I see the head!" then the contraction and urge to push would be over, and he'd retreat back. At one point too she peered down there and as she did so, I yelled (deep-yell, our doula reminded me) and pushed, which by now almost felt uncontrollable, painful and relieving at the same time, then out popped this surge of water, to which she said, "well I guess that was your water bag breaking" or something like that, much to our everyone's amusement, though I was in too much pain to notice! But it was hard going on the bed. Someone (our doula? our midwife herself?) then suggested our midwife's birthing stool: maybe the pull of gravity would help. I nodded feebly: anything to get this over with!-- so she hurried to get it, and she and our doula wrapped it in stain-protecting pads, then I was guided onto it. I was holding onto my husband, then our midwife suggested he squat down by her to catch the baby. I hung on for dear life to our doula-- her big, warm, strong presence was great-- and I pushed. And pushed some more. It seemed like in no time at all that our squirmy, squalling baby popped/burst out in a rush of blood and amniotic fluid to be caught by his awestruck (I can still remember his expression of shock and awe) daddy, then brought to the chest and arms of his mommy. Our midwife announced it to be 6:02 pm. And it seemed to me that for a moment, baby had this surprised look on his face (welcome to the colder outside!) before he started squalling. Our baby still had his placenta attached to him (in a Ziploc bag) when we were led to my pad-covered side of the bed. He had a hard time latching on to my breast, much to everyone's concern (though I think my husband was sorta delirious: he was saying how our baby looked like William Shatner, and later, like the lovechild of E.T. and William Shatner) so our midwife helped me with some positions, and eventually baby got the drift and nursed for a solid hour, much to everyone's relief, though our doula suggested we call the lactation consultant we met from the breastfeeding class anyway. Only then did my husband cut the cord under our midwife's direction, and the cord felt/looked like a cold, thick, white udon noodle. I was still being plied with liquid and food, only now, my appetite had returned. I asked why appetite goes away during labor, and I was told it's because all systems shut down to concentrate on the uterus/labor. Our midwife examined me and saw that I had some minor tears, and asked me and my husband if we wanted it stitched up. We did, and it was tender, so she numbed the area with Lidocaine then stitched it up. In the meantime, our friends N and K had come over with food and flowers, but I was buck-naked and bloody, thus in no shape to receive them. Our birth team then drew me an herbal bath, in candlelight. Our midwife suggested I pee, even if I didn't want to: sure enough, there was a lot of pee waiting! Then she led me to the bath, followed by our baby, along with instructions on how to hold him (he was so little!) I was also amazed at my stomach, which had been all puffed out pre-birth, belly button included, get all deflated and loose, and even a bit dark, after the birth. (I actually weighed myself the next day and had already lost about 19 pounds--whoa that's a lot of fluid and baby and placenta! Of course there's still weight to lose, but I also hear breastfeeding helps with that...)

It was wrap-up time at around 10:30/11-ish p.m., so our doula left with promises to come back the next day (Valentine's Day) with a placenta shake, as well as on contacting the lactation consultant to come by too ; our midwife left us with instructions to check temperatures on both me and baby, as well as to tell my husband when I'd get up to pee; also that I would be on bedrest for a week then transition the week after. She also said to call for anything.

So it came down to me, my husband, our dog Bella, and the newest member of our family, our baby boy, J-Mike, short for Jess Michael Sua Totten. The birth was beautiful, miraculous but also almost common place: there were no drugs involved, no vaccines, no eye drops, no looking/poking into my woman parts during labor, no monitors, no transferring to/from the hospital, no hospital gowns or protocols, not much paperwork to fill out. Instead, we were home, active labor took all of a day, our birth team was able to go home at a reasonable time: it seemed almost like a mundane event within a miraculous, momentous one, or vice versa? As our doula told me later, "I had nothing (bad) to process: it was perfect!" And when I thanked my birth team, they told me, "No, you did it: it was all you, you strong momma!"

It was a beautiful birth. I have a beautiful baby boy who's alert and wide-eyed and active, and at times, that's still hard to believe, that he came out of me, in such amazing circumstances after 41 weeks and a day of growing inside of me. If I would do it again, I would do it just the same: at home, with my choices in place, and with only my birth team in place (that includes Bella!). This is how women birthed over the ages until very recently with the advent of hospitals; so why change the wheel if it's unnecessary? I believe in my choices, my empowered birth.

It's funny how stuff works: I didn't want him born on Feb. 12, or Feb. 14, and my parents were coming on Feb. 15, so baby said, ok, then it'll just have to be Feb. 13! So there we go.


It's now been 10 days since J-MIke's birth, and during that time, we've seen friends and family, been given food by some, photographed by others, seen J-Mike's pediatrician at home, had our prenatal photographer come to photograph J-Mike, etc. Three days ago, at our midwife's one-week visit, she told me that because I choose to breastfeed, that I can eat a bit more: 300-600 calories more, and that that can involve a bit more sugar than the almost-zero tolerance during pregnancy. This made me think, so the next day, I emailed her, thanking her for her vigilance on sugar. Granted, I hate being told what to do as that was how my childhood was, and maybe I do like sugar more than I admit (must be the diabetes in my family), but because of this, ok, I'd slip up every now and then (I do love cookies and sandwiches!), but all in all tried to be careful, as I usually try to follow orders ;) But because of this, we as a family are definitely more conscious of sugar now. I notice that healthy fats and proteins, as well as probiotics help balance out the sugar. Also, I told her to look into palm/coconut sugar aside from stevia: I find it didn't raise my blood sugar the way agave or honey would: with agave/honey and even flour, I would get this sickly sweet/thick coating feel on my tongue.

*Since some hoary visits too, my husband formulated some rules on visiting mama and baby, as shown below. May you take them to heart and apply them to you/a loved one's birth and avoid the stress that would come without the rules!


Rules on Visiting a Newborn
by Jess G. Totten

- bring food.

- wash dishes.

- help with laundry.

- refill mama's water glass.

- be aware that you are entering a sacred space, where mama and baby have enacted a tangible miracle, love made flesh. Enter with quiet reverence, please.

- papa, whether he realizes it or not, is the guardian of a sacred space. Please do what you can to make his job easier.

- please limit your visit to a couple of hours at absolute most, limit photography to the bare minimum, and limit the number of people in the birthing room.

- wash your hands.

- modulate the tone and volume of your voice. you don't have to whisper, but loud noise will disturb baby. Keep a calm collected energy; please "contain" yourselves.

- please leave any gifts in your car. If you must bring gifts, set them down someplace out of the way, and tell papa "We got you guys an (x)."

- baby has three jobs: eating, sleeping and pooping.

- mama has three jobs: resting, healing and feeding baby.

- if your presence isn't helping mama or baby perform one of their three jobs, ask yourself why you have entered their space.

- baby is not a rock star, an NFL quarterback, or a lingerie model. Baby will be disturbed by lots of strange giants pointing flashing, clicking devices at him. this is where UFO abduction nightmares come from.

- if mama or baby is looking tired or stressed, make your graceful exit immediately. This applies even if you just got here ten minutes ago.

- as you make your timely and graceful exit, grab the trash bag and drop it in the outside bin.

- all of these guidelines and regulations may seem onerous and restrictive. Daddy may seem like a cranky asshole. Mama and papa and baby have all just been through a major upheaval in their lives. Adjusting to that, and tending to the daily needs of all three, is an enormous job. Show some respect.

- baby is forming non-verbal associations that will last his entire life. If you want to continue to be a part of his life, you want him to associate you with warmth and comfort and relaxation.

Cranky Hippie New Dad

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Hi everyone.

So I gave birth to our little boy on Feb. 13, 2012 at 6:02 pm right in our own home. Things have been pretty hectic since then while I let my body recover and learn to breastfeed our son, and my husband keeps house and minds the dog and changes diapers.

I am still in the process of healing and reconfiguring my time around this little being, so when I do, I will write my birth story.

Stay tuned!

Friday, February 10, 2012

2012 and going on 41 weeks!

Hi, everyone.

Sorry I haven't been posting AT ALL.

See, I'm trying to figure out what direction I want to take this blog, then post regularly, but then I got busy, and tired, as I got more pregnant. When I started this blog, I had just started IIN, and this week, we graduated, woohoo; now on to Immersion!

So I'm 40 weeks and 5 days today-- officially overdue by hospital standards, but my midwife and doula are pretty chill about it. Everyone else isn't, though, which in turn makes me spazz out a little, get pretty anxious. I say though that when he's ready, he's ready, and I'm trying to stand by that. In the meantime, I am mostly staying home and trying to chill with baths and rest and ok, some Internet, and dreaming of plans post-baby! I'm actually wanting this top, and hoping to be able to get fitted post-natal at Finish Strong for proper sizing, etc with Brooks running shoes (in my opinion they're tops)!

My husband's big issue is circumcision; mine is breastfeeding, so I saw this recipe, but if you just want to buy 'em, I recommend this company. Our joint issue is PPD, where placentas come into the picture, and breastfeeding definitely helps, too, but above all, that your birth plan was met, so here's hoping for a water birth at home, with just my birth team!

My midwife is also super strict about sugar and carbs, so these oat drops may be something good to make.

Obsessing over not only kale chips, but CHOCOLATE kale chips. I first tried them from Kaia Foods, and my world hasn't been the same.

Recently, being a soon-to-be mom, I saw this series and connected strongly with it, as well as joined this holistic health coach's program.

So I feel I'm not doing much, but at the same time, there's lots going on! For now, we continue the waiting game...