Top 5 Priorities for Natural Living

Natural Living encompasses a huge variety of topics and lifestyles. The range of efforts that families make in order to have less of a footprint is as broad as the characteristics of the families themselves. The more people that try to use sustainable practices at home, the better off we will all be so I applaud everyone who attempts to be green. As consumers, these decisions also impact corporations and that is where we can truly see large-scale changes. For that reason, I’m listing my top 5 priorities for Natural Living and I would encourage you to do the same. Feel free to leave a comment to let us all know what is most important to you!

Using Reusable Products

Diapers, pyrex, and kitchen towels are all items that can easily be used and reused in the home. Every time paper goes in the trash, it’s a waste of money. Instead, try to clean and reuse the most popular items in the house and you will instantly see savings! It’s important to be conscious of your water use, but in the long run the toll on the environment is much smaller. Stores that encourage reusable bags by offering perks or simply not carrying them are doing a great job to change our expectation of getting a bag. If you do take one, try to use it again at least once.

Practicing Physical Fitness

A healthy home and physical fitness go hand in hand. Regular exercise is so important for the whole family. Turn a leisurely trail walk into a hike, play with the kids on a swingset, or start a running routine outdoors to allow time to appreciate nature for all it has to offer. As often as possible, go barefoot and set free the kid inside. My husband likes to say that in life we must crawl, walk, and then run. If you’re not running, you’re missing a key component of living. In my short four weeks running, I’ve realized that I wholeheartedly agree.

Promoting Natural Birth

Choosing a drug-free birth plan didn’t happen overnight for me, but I’m so glad that I took that route. As with everything else I do, my goal is to make a better future for my girls. I want them to have access to skilled midwives and to feel confident that their bodies are built for birth. If you’re curious why I had a home birth for Audrey, you only need to read her beautiful birth story to understand. There’s No Place Like Home. 

Eating Healthy Foods

Cooking at home is the norm in this house, but I’m not a stickler for organic foods at this time. I would love to add more locally sourced produce into the mix, but for now the important thing is offering a tasty variety of foods for the whole family. By making a protein-starch-veggie combo and enough for leftovers whenever I cook, I can put dinner on the table and rest easy that there is an easy to assemble lunch available for the next day.

Minimizing Exposure to Chemicals

Before Motherhood it was easy to ignore the constant banter about chemicals and carcinogens, but it is in important topic now. We’re minimizing our exposure by using Green cleaning supplies and stainless steel cookware. It is time consuming to swap everything at once, so the goals for next year include making our own candles and assessing beauty products for issues.

It is helpful to reflect on what works and what doesn’t as you’re going green. I’m really proud of the steps my family has taken to lessen our footprint, but I know we can continue to strive to do better.

What are your Green Goals and what can I do to help you achieve them?

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Home Birth Rights

@Mom101 said it best:

I’m still amazed that my own uterus is a bigger concern to American voters than oh, say…everything in the world.

A lot of people are probably wondering why I’ve been so forthcoming with the details of my recent home birth. On one side, I’m sharing because I had a great experience and I hope other healthy mothers will consider this option for their births. However, it’s more important for me to share merely so that this stays an option for mothers. In this era when politicians batter women’s rights by making ill-educated statements and judgements on both sides of the spectrum, it should come as no surprise that the very right to choose home birth is under attack in certain jurisdictions. Not only do we often pay for these expenses out of pocket while the costlier and more invasive hospital alternatives are covered, but certain states bar the right to a home birth altogether. The unfortunate thing is that no one has turned home birthing into a large corporate practice that funds study after study to prove the benefits of the practice. You merely have to take my word for it and the word of others willing to share. (Although compelling research is beginning to come forth comparing home birth to hospital birth, it is slow in reaching the masses.)

You may not agree that a home is the best place to give birth for some mothers, but I can tell you it was 100% for us. I had an empowering labor, followed by two restful weeks of bonding with my baby. Now I’m nearly fully recovered and getting back into the swing of Motherhood with both my girls. Because of this, it was the best choice for our whole family.

The reason why any mother should feel comfortable considering a midwife to be the prenatal care provider is that midwives are able to recognize and test for issues that might inhibit a safe home birth. In rare cases, they can even facilitate a transfer to a hospital. You can hire a doula for post partum care if you’re concerned how you would function without a nurse.

Once you take the time to understand the benefits of natural labor and home birth, it’s hard to argue that there is a better way to have a baby. However, it is important for Mothers to have access to hospitals for emergency situations. Unfortunately, the tradeoff for having access to important, life saving, procedures is that hospitals can’t accommodate the needs of a mother who desires to labor at her own pace without interference; the way nature intended.

The trouble with the male-influenced practice of obstetrics is that the primary goal is to eliminate pain in labor. However, pain is what opens our body and moves the baby through it. When given the freedom to work through contractions and harness the effects of the pain for the relatively short duration of active labor, a woman will benefit from a less painful and potentially shorter recovery period. I chose to labor without fear, without a restrictive “birth plan,” and without medication in order to reap the benefits for my baby and myself. I’ve learned so much about childbirth and my body over the past two years, but the most important thing I learned is to trust myself. We can appreciate science for skillful doctors, but we should trust that all mothers are miracle workers. Why else would we be built to do such great work?

Back in Baby’s Arms

It’s been a great week, folks! I’m having a hard time believing that it has barely even been three weeks since I gave birth. Physically, I feel terrific in comparison to my first post-partum experience. The Babymoon was definitely a success in getting me back on my feet. More importantly, I am so happy because I got to spend the week with both my girls. On Monday Hannah walked into my lap and threw her arms around me for the best hug I’ve ever received.

It’s funny to call Hannah a Big Sister at such a young age, but there’s no denying that she is a great one for Audrey. From the first time she met Audrey and tried to put a hat back onto her head she has been alert and sensitive to our new family member. She’s very curious about the baby when she is within reach, but often she simply comes close for a kiss (which melts my heart.) Since Hannah is so good at independent play, she has been very understanding that the baby spends so much time in my arms. I’m having a lot of success with the K’tan baby carrier, with the exception of my husband’s concern that I’m squishing Audrey. I guess he forgot where she spent the last nine months?

Now that Audrey is getting more alert, I’m trying to make sure she gets some “playtime” during the day to help her sleep through the night. We’re slowly going to move towards the same EASY routine I used on Hannah. EASY stands for Eat, Activity, Sleep, Your Time and it worked like a charm last year. Today I nursed Audrey and then the three of us laid down in the play room and Audrey squirmed on her back and her belly for a few minutes each. Hannah moved around freely with her toys, but paused for a minute in the middle to lay down and look at her sister. After that, Audrey got a new diaper and then I snuggled her into the carrier and she rocked right to sleep. I’m not anticipating that “My Time” will actually happen this year, but I love being able to give my undivided attention to Hannah for some stories and songs.

I’ve heard that I’d have my arms full like a broken record over the last year. It’s true that they’re always full with one baby or the other and sometimes both and that’s the way I’m starting to like it!

Why Birth at Home?

I haven’t always been a hippy. In fact, I’d hardly consider myself one now if not for the recent home birth endeavor. For most of my life I thought that I would have a c-section merely because that’s the way I was born. I heard bits and pieces about “being stuck” during an excruciatingly long labor and I assumed that since my Mom and I have a similar small frame that a cesarean would be the only way to extract a baby. It seemed much simpler to envision a small cut that produced a baby than to contemplate hours of pushing and pain. Plus, I was a wuss when pain was involved with anything.

I walked into my first prenatal visit with Hannah practically ready to schedule my c-section. However, the nurse put that plan on hold by letting me know that all women and all pregnancies are different. I left with my fears slightly eased since I knew that the c-section recovery was not something to look forward to. That was the kickoff of my quest for knowledge about how to give birth and become a super Mom. I started to read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but quickly swapped over to books about baby care because I couldn’t stomach the birth stories with my morning sickness. Over the Holidays a series of events unfolded that got me thinking.

First, I sat next to a Father of 3 on a flight who tolerated my frequent use of the sick bag and eased my nausea by sharing his wife’s birth stories. I listened in shock about the hospital birth, then unmedicated birth, and finally their birth at home. The man reminded me a little too much of my husband, especially when he started to equate the home birth to a challenge like climbing Everest. I began to realize that the baby I carried was just as much my husband’s child and I could hardly imagine that if given the opportunity to have a baby he would take the challenge lying down.

Coincidentally, I spent the vacation lying down reading. After racing through my baby books, I raided my Mother-In-Law’s bookshelf and read a book about a young pioneer woman who gave birth on her own in the kitchen. It blew my mind and when I brought it up I was surprised to find out that Moms I knew (including my husband’s) had also had natural deliveries.

When I reached the second trimester, my renewed energy allowed me to exercise, eat well, and connect with my baby by being healthy. I began to feel Hannah’s strong kicks and I quickly realized how much she would be like my husband. I wanted to do everything to help her be strong and energetic throughout her life. I was beginning to look into cloth diapering because I found out it could save us thousands of dollars. All of a sudden, I was learning about the benefits of avoiding modern conveniences and natural childbirth kept popping up.

I finally rented a video (Laugh and Learn about Childbirth) to help decide our birth plan. I loved the nurse’s suggestion to relax in between the contractions. I had no idea that you got breaks in the pain, so birth seemed totally manageable if I could just breathe through the hard parts and then rest. After all, I’d been a yoga devotee for years and they weren’t asking me to last through a contraction any longer than some of the poses in class. However, the information about the epidural was a total turn-off. A huge needle to the back that doesn’t always work. It could result in a longer birth and I’d have to decide when to get it. Trying to figure out the magic point at which I would ask for an epidural was mind boggling. Plus, what if I couldn’t get to the hospital in time or it didn’t work. How was I going to get that baby out?

I tried to encourage my husband’s participation in the birth by getting him the book Husband Coached Childbirth by Dr. Bradley. He didn’t read too much of it, but I pored through it. For the first time, I was enjoying reading birth stories. The birth methods made sense and many of the preparations leading up to birth were things I was already doing. When I read that swimmers have a strong advantage during birth, I knew that with my husband’s help, that would be the best way for me to have Hannah. I let him coach me on swimming for the final months of the pregnancy and entered the hospital with the courage to have a natural birth five weeks before our expected due date. I’m so happy to have made that choice because an early baby is a fearful experience to begin with. Knowing that she would not be impacted by any medications made it much easier to welcome her into my arms.

Still, it wasn’t a “perfect birth” and there were things about being in the hospital that just didn’t seem right. After all, the cardinal rules of a healthy pregnancy are to avoid lying on your back, hydrate, eat healthy foods, and don’t use drugs. Why was a place that inhibited all those rules the “best” place to give birth? I learned that it is just as safe for a healthy mother to have a healthy baby under the care of a midwife and chose that for Audrey’s birth. If you read “There’s No Place Like Home,” then you already know it was the best choice I ever made.

A Peaceful Homebirth at 39 Weeks Pregnant

There’s no place like home for a birth. On August 5 we welcomed Audrey into the world at home with the help of a skilled Midwife. It was an amazing, challenging, and peaceful experience that went exactly as planned. Although she won’t remember it, Audrey is truly lucky to be Born at Home.

My contractions began early Saturday afternoon. After a walk they reached a regular and consistent pattern for about two hours so we called my mother to pick up my 1 year old, Hannah. I called my midwife and she suggested I eat and rest, so I did just that. The contractions subsided through the evening and my husband and I both got plenty of sleep.

We woke up in the morning determined to restart labor 😉 and headed out for breakfast at a nice little cafe. Mild contractions started again on the ride, but they weren’t unsettling. I startled the waitress by questioning if our food arrived so quickly because my husband told her I was in labor. A few patrons congratulated us and we headed back home to take a short walk. We were beginning to make progress with stronger and faster contractions, but they eased up each time I stopped moving. I continued the delicate balance of trying to facilitate labor while not exerting myself until the early afternoon.

At two, we decided with the Midwives that I would go for a walk, take a nap, and after a meal they would break my water to help speed things along. The energy from my husband’s delicious pancakes was exactly what I needed as my labor immediately became stronger. I eased the pain by managing my breathing and took Tylenol. Relaxing between each contraction helped me conserve energy and the Midwives offered gentle massage and encouragement to help me through the more challenging pain. It was clear that I was making progress, but laying down was hindering Audrey’s passage.

I took a shower with my husband’s support and bore through three strong contractions. Afterwards I returned to bed and rested briefly before choosing an exercise ball for support to keep me more upright. I cried and whined like a baby. Well, not like Audrey because she rarely cries. The midwives encouraged me to use deeper sounds to redirect the energy down through my body. Cue tribal chanting sounds. It worked because the pain reached a plateau and I gathered the last of my strength to perch on a birthing stool. I felt the “ring of fire” and knew all the work was about to pay off. After strong pushes through three contractions Audrey was born into the hands of a midwife. I held her immediately and watched as she delicately opened her eyes for the first time. With newfound energy, I laid on the bed with her on my chest for several minutes. She was so willful as she moved her head and reached higher towards her first meal. I waited impatiently to deliver the placenta, but it finally came out during a contraction and I felt immediate relief as I nursed Audrey. She got cleaned up while I ate steak and mashed potatoes and then relaxed and bonded with her Dad during my shower.

The three of us fell asleep together and had no troubles meeting Audrey’s first needs of rest and milk. I relaxed and excitedly waited for the morning to introduce Audrey to her new best friend, Hannah. We’re all blessed to have Audrey in our home and our hearts, but her true gift in this world is being a sister.