Saturday, July 24, 2010

A little compassion and a listening ear

In emails, and on the internet, and in real life, we constantly come across crass mentalities and attitudes that can beat us down. Not to be excluded are comments from breastfeeding advocates. The fact is, it's much easier to be mean on the internet than in real life because there is a disconnect of consequences on the net. The anonymity makes some feel they have been granted free rein to bash, insult, and criticize other's choices and circumstances.

I try not to let this mentality affect or influence me, because, one, it's bad for business and two, it's just incompassionate.

I spoke to a mother of a young baby today, and I gently inquired if the baby was breastfed. I could notice a turn in her demeanor and tone of voice. She almost hesitantly admitted that due to problems and so fort, she didn't breastfeed for long. I don't know if she was surprised or taken back by my response...

"I understand. It's not always that our circumstances meet our plans half way "

Yes. I am a passionate breastfeeding advocate, and no,  I don't think you're a bad, unfit, horrible, uncaring, selfish mother if you chose not to breastfed, or if for some unforeseen occurrence, you were unable to do so.

You know why I force myself to feel this way and constantly remind myself to be compassionate? Because there is a general lack of this quality everywhere we turn. Austere, narrow-mindedness weighs people down and makes them go the other direction. You know why I force myself? Because all of us struggle with certain negative qualities, nearly everyone is judgmental, but we can, control our feelings. And I choose to keep mine in check.

This helps that same mom who confided in me today, that in the future, if she has breastfeeding problems with any subsequent children, she feels free to ask help from me, or to just talk to me because I'm not going to react harshly. She feels comfortable around me, and that is good for everyone. It's good for primarily the baby (because this one can possibly get only human milk), it's good for the mom because no one likes judgmental people, it's good for business (who wants to PAY to be criticized?!) and it's good for me because when we go good to others, good comes back to us.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Getting in tune with our bodies

I found out something today. Well actually, it was just confirmed to me. I suffer from menorrhagia, or very heavy menstrual flow. My awesome Twitter friend, Crunchy Nurse, sent me a link to an article after I had expressed how my flow was very heavy this past period.

So how did I manage to get in tune with my body? By simply changing the female hygiene products I use. This past period I started using a Diva Cup, and after many years of wondering, I finally got the proof I always knew existed.

On the second day of my menses, I filled a whole cup in two hours (A whole Diva Cup, size 2, is 15 ml, or half and ounce). This is a lot. I knew it was a lot before even looking up what is normal. I always had the feeling that the flow was a lot but because pads and tampons are so ridiculously difficult to measure the amount of output, I couldn't really tell.

Then, once I started using my menstrual cup, I started writing down how much the output actually was.

Day two, 75 ml in 24 hours

Day three, 75 ml in 24 hours

This is a lot. The article that my friend passed on showed that

Officially, flow of more than 80 ml (or 16 soaked sanitary products) per menstrual period is considered menorrhagia. Most women bleeding this heavily will have a low blood count (anemia) or evidence of iron deficiency (1). In practice only about a third of women have anemia, so the definition of heavy flow can be adjusted to be more like nine to 12 soaked regular-sized sanitary products in a period (2).

Well, on my second day, I almost reached the normal amount for the whole period. Sheesh.
After that, I had that "Aha!" moment..

On another note, I loved my Diva Cup. I didn't have to use a single tampon or pad for the entirety of my menses! It was LOVELY! And contrary to many reviews, it went perfectly the first few times and I didn't have to trim the stem or anything. The only hitch was getting the hang of inserting it correctly and getting that pop that seals it. But for the rest, it was a gem.

Back to our main thought, I think I'm going to visit the doctor to have my HB levels checked and see what she could tell me about my menorrhagia. All thanks to my cup..

Learning from women

It never ceases to amaze me how many wonderful, strong women I meet day to day in real life and on the internet. I cherish my online birth friends because they are a source of information and stories of tenacity, drive and pure heart. I pay homage to a few of these women who recently made me sit back and reflect in awe.

One of them is a dear Facebook friend, Z, who just gave birth to her fourth child at home. A beautiful, big bouncy boy, not yet named. One of her pictures were so enthralling that I had to share it on my facebook. It was one of her going through a contraction and having her son lay his head on her chest while she surrendered to the work her uterus did. Simply stunning. May I experience half the serenity she did during her labor, and I'd be a lucky mama!

Z focusing completely on her contraction

Another strong mama who gave birth recently and who's going through some rough times is another net-friend of mine. For privacy's sake, I won't go into detail, but, she and I had a conversation today and I just had to tell her how if she felt she needed to rant and rave to someone, that my ears were all hers. Even though her trouble is far more than most of us could bear, she is so strong and fighting through it. I can see in her that she is recognizing her limits but also seeing her pain and dealing with it fittingly. I assured her today that I faithfully believe in the fact that when we do good to others, good will always come back to us, and boy does she deserve it. 

Another mother who I nearly sat and stared in amazement at was a local mother I helped who was experiencing breastfeeding issues. "A" gave birth via c/section to a beautiful son. We had met through a breastfeeding & babywearing class I gave just the week before! She breastfed her children prior to this new addition, as a matter of fact, she nursed twins for 6 months! No easy feat, but certainly worthwhile. She told me that her husband had also been breastfed until he was 4 years old. In any case, this mother had to cope with a toddler set of twins, a new baby, a painful c/section and cracked nipples. Then, she had to be admitted to the hospital where she spent a few days apart from her baby. She pumped dutifully, every three hours, day and night. Now the fear was whether the baby would accept the breast again! She finally went home, and to her utter fortune, the baby went easily from breast to bottle. Her nipples cracked open and healed (once again) and she continued! She has so much milk now that in 5 minutes she can pump 6 ounces on one side! We went through the steps of block feeding and bringing down an oversupply. The baby is now very happy and gaining beautifully. What a trooper!

I feel so humbled and extremely privileged that I have a job that I love, that I do with all my heart. I learn so much from these women, and it fuels my growth and appreciation for the female creation. May the learning never end, and the privilege never stop!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A letter to my 15-year-old self

Yeah, this islander wants to get on it too. After reading so many beautiful posts of some of the most influential birth women on the web, for the heck of it, I wanted to join in.

Then I thought.. 'Wait.. I'm only 21..what the heck am I gonna title this post as? "A letter to my fetus self"?!'

So here it goes;

Dear 15-year-old Wendy,

Where do I begin..You sad little confused child, where do I begin to council you?!

First of all, You're not fat. Fat is what you will be in 6 years from now after you have a kid. YES. You had a kid two and a half years ago. A little girl. Please, sit down, I know that news was a big blow because you're saying in your mind right now that you vowed never to have kids. ever. Well... you did

Moving on...

You know how you're making plans on going to Holland to study for tolk? Well, it ain't working. As a matter of fact, you're not even going near that career choice. I'll tell you what you're up to now, shortly.

You're still wondering how you got that kid right? It's bothering you, I can already see the look on your face. Well, you fell in love ( very young), got pregnant (too young) and then got duped. You were even a single mom for a time. It was a pretty rough time, but you know what? You got through it kickin'. You raised the child by yourself. Gave birth vaginally (Yes, you use those words now as easy as laptops) without a hitch and fully breastfed your daughter, Dahlia, for over a year. You also worked full time.

As a matter of fact, you cherished your breastfeeding relationship so much that you became a certified childbirth educator in training, and you are on the board of a one-and-only non-profit breastfeeding organization in Aruba. Wait. It gets better. You even own a business (GASP!). You named it CariBirth for Caribbean Birth. You give breastfeeding classes, prenatal belly dancing, babywearing classes and even give lectures. You are the person that women call nearly in tears and desperation for help because their nipples are cracked and bleeding, or because their baby won't latch on due to nipple preference. You spend hours by them and sometimes even reach home at 11 at night. And guess what, you do it for free. You're a volunteer breastfeeding counselor and lactation consultant in training. You have seen more breasts than Daddy Yankee. Yes, you have become that woman. A mother.

A little word of advice, the whole band thing, it's not gonna work out. You'll play a few gigs, but it ain't going no where. Those gage zero holes in your ears? Yep, they're gone too. Now you have the cutest hanging ear lobes. Thanks.

In the few years that elapsed since you got knocked up, you met and married your wonderful co-worker. You'll meet him for the first time in a year from now. But don't worry, you'll marry when you're 20. He loves your kid and even raised her with you. He's a real good dad, not like that dufus you fell for.

Try and focus on molding your attitude for the better, and don't look away when women are breastfeeding, it's gonna be your income in the years to come. Oh, and that sad life you envisioned for yourself? Bah, you're not on meds anymore. I know it's very hard to believe but, the kid you breastfed? Well... she changed everything. Literally everything. You don't even remember the sadness you used to live in. Who would have thought, eh?

Oh and, one last thing. Your parents didn't kill you. I'm sure they wanted to at first but, after you gave birth to that bundle of joy, they wouldn't have it any other way. They even audaciously ask you to allow them to adopt her.

Waiting on a speedy reply,



Sunday, July 4, 2010

Prenatal bellydance classes

So... if you don't have me as a friend on Facebook, you've been saved from hearing me rant and rave about how excited I am to finally have the curriculum done for Aruba's first ever prenatal belly dancing classes!

After years of dreaming about belly dancing, and months of preparations for these classes, my goal is finally clear in sight. In about three weeks, July 21st 2010, I'll be giving the class at Body Pulse Fitness Center in San Nicolas. It is a four week class, comprised of one hour, once a week sessions costing 75 AWG per person.

I've decided that for the warm up, I'll also provide birth balls for each mom. Another fun addition is that every mom present gets into the feel of belly dancing with a traditional bellydance belt.

So why belly dancing for pregnant women? Well.. Originating in ancient dances and rituals related to fertility, family, life cycle and childbirth, bellydance is based on movements that come naturally to the female body. Some bellydance movements mimic natural intuitive motions associated with pregnancy and childbirth, others have been traditionally used to move the baby into the best position or relieve discomfort of labor.

Organic, flowing, energizing movement of bellydance helps to improve abdominal control and awareness, relieve aches and discomfort associated with pregnancy, promote better circulation, avoid swelling and cramping and prevent excessive weight gain. Bellydance hip movements will tone the muscles of your pelvic floor, whose strength is important for the birth, as well as for your postnatal recovery. 

Pregnancy is a beautiful time in which most women don't fully appreciate or enjoy their fuller selves. The media portrays pregnancy in a negative light, show casing women as frumpy and "big" all over. Belly dancing can help them embrace their baby curves and boost their confidence. The class also aims to help moms connect emotionally with their babies and seeks to bring the dyad into true homeostasis. 

Do you live in Aruba? Why don't you tell a pregnant friend!

Are there such classes in your area? Tell me more about your prenatal bellydancing experience!

Have a happy period

Should those two words even be used in the same sentence?

I have yet to meet a woman who looks forward to her monthly gift and relish in it once auntie pays her visit. I personally hate that week (yes, a whole week, sigh) out of the month when white is the last thing I'd wear, and I walk around checking out my behind for leaks like a paranoid crack head looking for the police.

What I hate most about this thing called menses, are the pads, tampons, bulky diaper looking butts and frequent trips to the bathroom. Not to mention how expensive female hygiene products are. So, I started looking around. After seeing an ad in Mothering magazine about cloth pads, my curiosity about environmentally friendly menstrual products sparked. I found some interesting ones and wrote a post about the cloth pads, P.I.M.P (Party in my pants). Then some friends of mine on Facebook started telling me that they use a Diva Cup. A Diva cup is a menstrual cup that catches the flow which is then emptied, washed and re-inserted. I must say, the thought of such a device freaked me out at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I really liked the idea. I always preferred tampons over pads because of the bulky diaper look but still ended up using a liner even with the tampon because tampons just suck that way.

I figured that for just 25$, if it didn't work out, me and the diva cup that is, I'd just toss it. I bought it, and I tried it out. I'd read many reviews about it that said it was amazing but that it did take some practice and many cycles for them to really get accustomed to it. Well, you know what, the FIRST time I tried it out, I had the first menstrual epiphany ever of my young life.

Then it came time to wait on dear auntie to come round to actually use it. 6 days late, she showed as usual and for the first time ever, I was psyched. Ladies, it's awesome. I recommend it. It is more than worth the effort and initial anxiety. You can sleep with it, swim with it, everything, and because of the seal that it creates, there's no leaking, no back-up pads.

Finally a happy period...

What about you? Have you ever used a menstrual cup?

For more info on the Diva Cup and its use