community, mental health, miscellaneous, nature/the environment, parentings/things about baby and kids

how to have a hobby as an adult

I don’t know about you, but I feel like the culture I grew up in bred me to think of hobbies more as boxes on a checklist to get into college or for the utilitarian purpose of each hobby, rather than any inherent internal value. My mom tried to instill in me the light-hearted aspects, that sports we did were for fun first, and health second, but the cultural competition and need to use it for the resume always loomed in my mind.

As a result I am now a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t remember what it is like to have a genuine hobby for the sake of nothing more than enjoyment. I tend to think of what I do as some extension of a future career, a monetization plan, an improvement goal. I have always read a crazy amount in an obsessive manner, but for some reason reading has never felt like a hobby. I do love writing; mostly blogging which I began doing in my pre-teen years, and dabbling in poetry again lately, but the latter was bastardized for a while with this drive to BE a blogger. Blogger with a capital B. This made me think I needed to do the Amazon affiliate program, to constantly use tagging, track followers and cater to get more, and to obsess over a host of other SEO stuff. It really ruined the initial intend of blogging for me, which was just to get my thoughts out and if I was lucky find some like-minded people to chime in and have conversations with. You know, making that virtual (and hopefully later in-person) community. I’m slowly coming around to that original intent again.

Lately, I have had the desire to play video games again. I was pretty much a casual Nintendo gamer as a youth. I liked the community-esque multiplayer things like Mario Kart and Smash Bros, loved (love) the Zelda franchise, and was also always compelled to get the next Animal Crossing game. I recently wanted to get back into AC as the new one is coming out in a month (!!!) and it looks amazing (but they all do to me). I feel like a lot of the world in AC was inadvertently formulative for my early inclinations about what a community could look like. Yes, I know it’s a fantasy game about humanistic animals doing relatively little each day besides chatter endlessly, but oh my gosh does it feel cute and homey. It feels like it is the extreme opposite of how busy our days get. In the game you basically have nothing to do but walk around talking to neighbors to see how they are doing, figure out if they need errands done, or chat them up until they engage you to a challenge, give you a gift, or give you some interesting gossip. Depending on the game (they have gotten more involved in newer versions) you can have more influence over the town itself, changing its infrastructure, being mayor, etc, which opens up how involved you can get to a crazy level.

Anyway, video games have never been a hobby for me fully because it was always something that was distracting me from what I should be doing. It always felt like, if I was playing video games, especially alone, that the pressure came down to “you should be doing X instead”. It was likened to binging on Netflix before Netflix existed, and so over time I let it go bit by bit. I know a lot of people think that playing video games is avoiding real life, and I get that view, for sure, but there is something magical about investing in a virtual world and having the patience to finish a game (if it is finish-able) or commit to something and see the rich creation of the world developed in a game. On the extreme end, I found a gamer who consistently kept up 4 different Animal Crossing games for YEARS, which is an achievement in itself not to get bored after the new releases come out.

Andd I lost my train of thought. Hobbies. Right. So in a nutshell, I have found it increasingly difficult to develop a hobby without trying to apply it somehow into being a future career. For example, lately I have been huge on getting my little bug outside every day, and teaching myself everything from naturalism, permaculture, herbalism, foraging, gardening, and more and trying to mix those all together to make a world in which my little one is sparked by her outdoor adventures, and as a result always feels happy and comfortable going back into nature, even if it’s just a smidgen of urban non-landscaped plots in a city, to feel a bit freer. This is also self-serving because I was given a similar framework in my childhood and as a result find immense happiness in just digging in dirt, walking in the woods, or being surrounded by plants. I’m getting a bit more radical in how I want to see plants around me (I sorely wish I could become a living version of the DC comics’ Poison Ivy), working my mind through how I feel about non-native invasives, landscaping and humans’ obsessive control of nature for no reason (I currently am hating grass when it’s planted in plants that literally get no foot traffic, but requires a huge amount of natural resources and energy and money to maintain). I’m also trying to start a chapter of the Free Forest School in my area… which is a cool organization that helps train parents and caregivers to get together and help get their little ones ages 0-6 outside in nature and playing more freely (with adult supervision but no adult-led focuses), to allow the children to develop their own relationship with nature with their peers.

I suppose all these things would be hobbies… the reading, the specific studying and enacting of nature related activities, the writing, the sporadic video game playing, etc… but none of them feel like hobbies. I don’t know how to put my finger on it, but it still feels like they are all just stand-ins for what could be a career if I was driven enough to follow any of them (though I do NOT have the attention span to become a youtube gamer. Love watching them, especially the horror gamer content from youtubers like John Wolfe), but that life is not for me). But overall, I don’t know how to do things as hobbies. Can daydreaming be a hobby? I’m great at that. Eternal idea formulating?

I suppose my obsession with certifications, courses, and what have you would be a hobby, if I didn’t regret most of them almost immediately. I just consistently yearn to collect more knowledge. I’m naturally curious, to a fault. I want to absorb all the information I can and spin in around and reshape it to come up with new ideas about life and how it all fits together. But all that just leads me back to thinking as a hobby. So there we have it. Catch me sitting there pondering things on my free time (or in the middle of the night when the insomnia sets in), looking like Rodin’s infamous statue, The Thinker.

all posts, parentings/things about baby and kids

why i don’t nap, when i really should

December 19th, 2019

La musique

Since I got relatively no sleep off and on this week (this week being whatever week I started this post… which was December 19th), as the husband is out of town, the baby has been waking up repeatedly, and my mind has been itself), I found myself naturally refuse to nap when I could. One of such encounters was because I’ve been so enticed by… ocarinas! I had one years ago that I think I got from Epcot or Disney World, but after reading GeekMamas’ blog post about STL Ocarinas, I am still on youtube watching people play them. Do I detect a new item for the Christmas wishlist?

But then when I was on the actual site I encountered dilemmas. One, the ocarinas are expensive, and two, which one would I choose? THERE ARE SO MANY CHOICES?! Though actually I am drawn to bass sounds so obviously I like the sold out one. It sounds delicious, like a hollowed out gourd from a rich forest hidden from man for eons. Who knows if I’ll get one. I was really hoping to get back into playing piano, but Figlet is at a weird stage where she pushes my hands away whenever I try to play (rude!), so I’m waiting it out.

La langue

For those who have known me a great many years, you are probably familiar with my second language dilemma. Essentially, I want to learn all languages, or any one that I am exposed to, and as a result I’ve mastered none. I took French in middle school through high school, but then decided I would take Mandarin in college (because I had lots of friends who spoke it at home and I thought I’d be able to practice it a lot more in my daily life). After the first year, my biology classes conflicted with the Mandarin ones, so I switched to German (because I am part German and have family living there). Why didn’t I take French at that point? I figured I was too behind to start it up again for college credit. But alas, the same conflict happened the following year with bio and German! Now I have a sporadic dabbling of language exposure under my belt but nothing concrete enough to make me fluent.

What’s a girl to do? Lately, since I got close to some level of comfortable conversation with French, I’ve been redoubling my efforts there. And by that I mean watching shows on Netflix (Le Chalet for the second time and Plan Coeur/The Hookup Plan) and speaking aloud to my toddler, in what is probably very bad French (sorry in advance Figlet!). My motivation is that I strongly feel kinship to the people in the south of France (at least from their depictions in the books I obsessively read). They feel like feral hobbits with their obsession with their gardens and resultant meals, and that’s my thing. Or it would be more if I could garden now (but we moved into the house we are renting late November). Also I can’t stop dreaming of lavender… but more on that when the seasons change and I can play in some dirt.

La mort

I am now in the stage where I am reaching out to figure out where to become a hospice volunteer…

February 25th, 2020

Le livre

I’m not sure where I was going with this post initially, and especially with the death profession thoughts as it’s been over two months. But the title sentiment still stands, though the situation as changed. Around month 19 or so of Figlet’s life, she started legitimately sleeping through the night. It took me a while longer to remember how to do the same, but I eventually achieved it and am now someone who, when I go to sleep, I pass the eff out. But unfortunately, another chunk of teeth are wreaking havoc in the little one’s mouth and so she has been waking up more erratically again. Last night, it was at 2am, and after getting up, neither the husb or I could go back to sleep so we have now devolved into zombie-esque creatures. Figlet has also been boycotting naps for a week now, but I magically managed to get her to sleep and finally got to laid down in my own bed and then… I started reading. I am reading Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, his only nonfiction I believe, which is a book that delves into why people (like me) like horror (books/movies) and why they continue to be so popular. It’s pretty interesting and so I happily forgo napping, and just bank on the magical full nights of sleep I am not guaranteed to bolster me over.

all posts, miscellaneous, parentings/things about baby and kids

napping success (procrastination elsewhere)

Cuz I am a champion

I got the little one to nap today (and finally in a normal leg-in-crib position) so I am celebrating by doing procrastinated chores! Yay adulthood! Since I have nothing more to talk about I will just share my to-do list so you can all revel in my adultness.

To-do list of today

  • check internet bills (pretty sure I paid it and the physical mailed copy is a redundancy, but I’m paranoid so I’ll check again)
  • print death reads (I’m trying to avoid being on my computer when the little one is awake, and instead read more physical things around her, so I’ve got to print out all my articles)
  • check mail for USPS shit (change of address stuff)
  • send friend a package (super behind on that…)
  • say hello to baby neighbors (need to make some mom friends!)
  • fix blue bookshelf (the trim is falling off)
  • fix Goodnight Moon (little one keeps aggressively turning the pages and ripping them. Such is her passion for this book)
  • set up pediatric appointment (cuz we moved)
  • dental filling (because apparently fillings don’t last long in my mouth)

I’m sure there’s more I’ve forgotten to put on my list, but those will do for now. The problem is, after the more pressing ones, I just want to slack off and read. Welp.

Things on the internet that amuse me

So I was looking into my local area to see if there were any writing opportunities, and I got led to a job listing site where I saw this:

I’m sorry, but you want a ghost writer to get your (their*) work into some of the top business magazines? Why would someone take that offer…? Unless you are offering BANK.

Also isn’t my tiny one cute?

My mom was watching the baby a few weeks ago and apparently the little one got all messy so my mom needed to change her shirt but only had this tight lady’s t-shirt:

I don’t know, it seems like, when you are that tiny cute you can wear anything and look adorable. I mean look at her decked out in the early fall in the northeast (before we moved):

She’s just a stunning tiny blob. Everything she does is cute to me, like her wearing her dad’s slippers (even though anytime an adult tries to wear them, she ferociously demands that none of us wear them so that they are hers and hers alone):

Okay I am done spamming you all with my little one’s photos. I just looking at them.

all posts, miscellaneous, parentings/things about baby and kids

the nap wrangler

December 4th

I’m optimistically waiting for my toddler to nap so I can too, guilt free (also I hate being woken up two seconds after I’ve fallen asleep when it took me 45 minutes to get to those 2 seconds). In the meantime I’m hiding in my room reading The Bloggess’ blog. Like all of it. From the beginning working to the more recent stuff. Still in 2007 at the moment. And so, responding to her statement to try this:

SUPERHERO NAME: (”The” + 2nd favorite color, favorite drink)
The Green Kombucha

STRIPPER NAME: (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy)
Lavender Twix

SPY NAME/BOND GIRL: (your favorite season, holiday/ flower)
Spring Marshmallow

CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now + “ie” or “y”)
Blackberry Sweatshirtie

HIPPY NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree)
White Chocolate Chip Flax Seed Oatmeal Willow (which is literally the perfect name for me).

My takeaway from this is that my interests and habits haven’t changed in years. I’m not bummed by that. Also I want to grow most of those things in a few years (lavender, marshmallow, willows, blackberries… kombucha… white chocolate chips… you know, garden staples).

December 4th, a little bit later

The little one didn’t nap long at all. So no sleep for mama. UGH. In the words of Cristine of Simply Nailogical, “drink slave!” (the context being that her boyfriend always bring her Starbucks during her videos so they started calling him drink slave… so I am wishfully thinking that my husband who is currently 500 miles away will surprise me with a peppermint latte in two seconds).

Also I imagine most of my posts will be posted very much after the fact of when I started writing them. I get distracted by my mini me a lot as she is both cute and demanding of attention (both literally and through her general disregard for common sense safety).

December 5th

It’s a new day! Jake is home from his business trip (yay).

Again I am waiting for the little one to take a nap (surprise surprise). She just gets so self destructive when tired… like she yell more and be increasingly clumsy and when it gets to a point of no return she’ll start biting clothes in frustration of her impending siesta.

However today, I might have been able to get the little one to nap earlier (maybe…). In a past life, she used to have a nap that started between 9am and 10am and lasted ’til like 1230pm but since we moved she’s been an anarchist to that schedule. Alas.

December 5th, even later

Update: So she eventually did nap! But… she fell asleep like this:

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Which led me to worry about her leg circulation so after attempting to cover her for a bit in this fashion:

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I snuck back into her room to push her leg back into the bed. Naturally she cracked open an eye to see what the fuck I was doing and then promptly became full scale alert, so I tried to breastfeed her to get her to sleep (successfully) but then as I slowly put her back into her crib, the degree of downwards sloping in my movement triggered her no-nap-this-is-bullshit-o-meter. So now I am listening to the sounds of a groggy, grumpy toddler-ite and hoping she will slip back into sleep in a minute (but am not optimistic).

all posts, mental health, miscellaneous, parentings/things about baby and kids

late night tangential rants of insomnia

Middle of the night

I tried my hand at cooking.  I won’t say proper cooking because I winged most of it and have no culinary finesse, but I had some successes. Not the intended ones but whatever.

The spur to cook came from starting Susan Herrmann Loomis’ book last night called On Rue Tatin and it reminded me why I keep falling in love with the French language. The provençal love affair with the harvests of their lands feels so wholesome,  so hobbit-y, which is my constantly reoccurring aspiration. So I tried to dabble. I won’t say it was fun but if nothing else, I got a better diversity of vegetables in me than I have in months.

My goal is to learn how the south-of-France French prepare dishes, and then twist the dishes to be inclusive of native seasonal plants growing in my home state. Step two is to prepare to grow some lovelies for ourselves this coming year. And step three is to work towards sustainable harvests and/or local buying. These steps can be simultaneous.

I feel as though every action and thought I take these days is all just a step towards becoming a hobbit because as Tolkien’s (or Peter Jackson’s) character of Bilbo says, “it is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.” As I get older, I feel it more and more in my bones, that all I want to so is live a simple life. But defining what that means in a modern era proves to be endlessly frustrating.

I also feel like I have to keep discovering mentally myself because I don’t know myself at all. Pretty clear that I do in fact have some form of OCD given the increase in intensity of certain habits (getting bursts of dopamine from picking my skin of “impurities” when I have severe eczema and doing so instead of sleeping, scrolling back through years of content to start at the beginning of blogs, my aggressive aversion to sticky things touching my hands, my tendency to ruminate on my future “path” ad nauseam to the point that I have notebook after notebook of unfinished plans of what I will do with my life starting since before college.

I definitely also suffer from anxiety, but at a more manageable level, given how often I freak out that my little one will die from my negligence (the newest edition today being that she somehow manages to break her own neck in her carseat while we are driving home). I lose sleep over trying to figure out how to make a successful career and balance being a stay-at-home mom, and also how to not become part of any pyramid schemes.

And given how much happier I am since the move, I fear I did in fact have postpartum depression. It got to the point where trying to muster energy to leave the apartment at all felt like a chore, and really the only time I did it was to take baby to her toddler music class or to drive Jake to work. I didn’t want to cook for myself, I didn’t want to  make plans with others, I didn’t want to do anything really. Which naturally triggered my anxiety for Fi because I knew I was doing her wrong by being a recluse.

Thankfully it seems that era of my life is over. Maybe I needed to be back in a familiar territory. Maybe I needed to be near my parents who know when I need to be dragged out of the house, and/or when I just need help. Who knows. Either way, I’m glad that mental hurdle is lessening, and wish I had caught it earlier.

I think my other issues are that I undervalue any impact my mental health may be having on my actions because I blame everything on my skin, which probably is part of the problem, but at the same time addressing my anxiety and compulsive picking would definitely help the skin heal as well.

Also my other constant struggle is that I still love blogging but I don’t like how it became so trendy. Now I can’t disentangle myself from thinking about my standing in the interwebs, how to get more likes, comments, followers, etc. I don’t want to follow a theme, but man it would be sweet to make a career out of just spewing my thoughts. Dream job? “Yes, yes” (said in the voice of Eric Foreman from That 70s show).

Also I feel like at some point I have to accept that nighttime and sleep don’t work for me. I think I oscillate between 2-5 hours most nights and the causes of disruptions vary. Lately, I stay up because it’s the quiet time when I have the world to myself, so I usually stay up reading. Other times I wake up (or stay up) from anxiety (or recently fear of my new home), and sometimes it’s due to itching or sweating that I wake up/can’t sleep.

Also sometimes I make typos that crack me up. Like robin –> ribib3. I’d blame the autocorrect (because it doesn’t work… or I may have turned it off on my phone) but honestly it’s usually that I don’t care to correct myself anymore if I think my point still got across. This usually applies only to texting. For blog posts I care a lot and will randomly go back and read posts from months ago and find mistakes to fix. But not systematically in a way that actually gets anything done. Oh no. Just randomly here and there.

I feel like Maury the hormone monster is yelling at me, saying “Rage, rage, fucking rage!” But instead replace rage with rant. I bet I’m feeling so ranty because I didn’t get to chat with Jake as much as usual since he’s out of town for tonight for work and apparently I dump most of these thoughts in him or else they spill over into the blog. Oops. So you should all be happy for the dam that is Jake to the diverted water flow that is my mind.

Maybe I should have stuck to google’s blogspot. They didn’t charge for changes like wordpress does. And  I want to change my url all the time. But wordpress looks so clean and pretty and now I’ve got years of posts on it, and I love chronicles. Ugh.

I should drink more water.  That’s not a tangent but just a stand alone thought I have multiple times a day. And yet, I never quite achieve a moderate amount of consumption. Hmm.

The next two paragraphs I had to delete because in my infinite sleep wisdom, I copied and pasted a previous two.

Another OCD tendency: I start a notebook with one thing… say it’s things I need to do. Then after a little while I realize I want to write about something else say books I want to read, but I don’t want to use the same notebook for this new topic. So now I either have to start a new notebook, which seems wasteful and excessive, or rip out the original pages which seems needlessly destructive. Or I share the notebook with both ideas and over time the book becomes a crazy incoherent ranting pile of all kinds of ideas and lists and notes to self.

This is a complete tangent but I just wanted everyone to know that it is possible to breastfeed on demand and still have a baby that sleeps through the night.  Pediatricians I encountered all told me I’d have to at least night wean to get my little one to sleep through the night but they were wrong. Haha!

Andddd I’ve got less than 2 hours before the little one wakes up. Fuck.

Later

Posted much later. I breastfed the baby in bed and put baby shark on repeat to gain me another hour and a half of being horizontal. Life hacks.

all posts, community, eczema, mental health, miscellaneous, mortality, parentings/things about baby and kids, women's health

old plans meet new horizons (aka what I do when the little one sleeps)

In the past, I may have mentioned how I am obsessed with the fourth trimester and all things postpartum, or how when I was in my physical therapy doctorate program, I was interested in going into a women’s health specialty.

After I left the program, I searched for ways to slowly transition into the women’s health field from a different angle. And so from April through October 2018, I worked as a women’s health information specialist for Dr. Brianne Grogan, a women’s health PT and health and wellness coach and the creator of FemFusion Fitness. It was one of those random connections that seems fortuitous- in fact I had contacted her years ago after reading her book (way before I even had applied to PT schools) because I was interested in learning more about women’s health.

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My job for her entailed handling email inquiries from women trying to understand

  • what was going on with their bodies
  • what content Bri had out, and
  • who they should see (doctors, PTs, etc).

I also worked on various projects like helping make distributable content for bone building exercises, and I collected research for her new topics. On occasion I did some help with audience outreach to get her free content out into the world.

In time though we amicably went our separate ways. She moved on to focus more on holistic health practices and less on women’s health physical therapy and rehabilitation specifically, and so I continued on in my own direction, which at the time mostly included prepping for my baby’s arrival into the world. Working for Bri was an awesome opportunity because not only is she the nicest, but I got to brush the cobwebs out of my brain about women’s health rehabilitation and really delve into the subject (if you haven’t checked it out already, her youtube is full of free videos of explanations and exercises that cover a gambit of topics like prolapse, diastasis recti, pelvic pain, etc. Check it out here).

Afterward having my baby, I had not lost the love for the fascinating field of women’s health, I merely needed time to rethink how I could enter the world as a professional, no longer coming from the physical therapy realm.

I had been contemplating the idea of becoming a postpartum doula for a long time, and I finally realized what I was missing in that thought process. My objective couldn’t be simply to become a traditional postpartum doula because I would always have to explain about my skin condition, that I’m not contagious, what that means for my services, and work around my own flares and down time. But in reality when I was thinking about my own limitations, I should have been thinking about who could relate to having them. This led me to thinking about those expecting, new, or seasoned moms that have to live with eczema or other chronic conditions (shoutout to all the spoonies out there!) while growing/raising a babe or two (or three or more), and what their needs might be.

It’s not uncommon for people with chronic illnesses to have higher rates of depression, and it’s not uncommon for moms to suffer from postpartum depression, so what about those unlucky ladies that get hit with both? How do they find a support system that bridges both gaps, knowing that some of their depression comes from living with an incurable condition, and the other from being steamrolled with new hormones and emotions as a new life blends into theirs? That is a demographic I feel has not been studied or served enough. And so, I have begun to slowly pull my own experiences (both personal and professional) to better understand and then serve this group. I have been working on merging three of my interests to accomplish this:

  1. postpartum education (e.g my postpartum doula course and my position researching and writing postpartum mental health pieces),
  2. community engagement projects (two in the works: one to help educate mamas of color who may face discrimination from the medical/healthcare world or not have access to it at all, and one about how to train churches to better serve new moms in their area), and
  3. volunteering more with the National Eczema Association. This helps me to be in the know about what policies are being created (or challenged), as well as what new treatments or practices are out.

I use these three directions to help understand my own struggles, as well as figure out how I might work to help mothers out there like me (or other parents/caregivers!). It also gives me more reasons to continually I brush up on healthcare policies, systemic support options, familial/community building techniques, measurable outcome scales, all manner of recent research and studies, etc, which I tend to like to peruse anyway.

I have also been exploring the other side of my interests- traditions and cultures around death. Soon I will be taking Alua Arthur’s End of Life training and learn how to best serve individuals and their families around their time of dying. I think it’s such a taboo thing that we really need to talk about more. The amount of people with traumatizing stories and feelings of regret around their loved ones times of dying is astounding, and historically many cultures prevented this by being present and accepting death as nature, not some scary thing never to be spoken about. As Alua says “talking about sex won’t make you pregnant. Talking about death won’t make you dead.”

I think talking about mortality brings up some important conversations (even just with oneself) about the relative value of our day to day decisions. Interestingly enough, many of my postpartum books now overlap with my study of death. I recently read Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Briget Schulte and it had multiple mentions of how mortality was regarded over the years, and how that was reflected in how we approach our day to day lives, including our aggressive work-above-all work culture today. The logic is, if you think about your mortality to a normal moderate amount, you make choices that are more centered around your mortality. We aren’t talking about the “YOLO” ideology, but rather decisions such as ‘maybe you don’t need to take that extra late business call that’s not really mission critical in lieu of spending time with your loved ones’, and that kind of logic.

Oh that reminds me- I did recently finish a class through Mothering Arts about how to create a community supported postpartum space that I really enjoyed. It offered lots of insight in how to welcome in new mamas as well as community “grannies” and draw-in local professional women to offer their expertise to the moms. My only rub is that I want to create a larger scale space than that demographic (though not necessarily a large number of people at one time). I want to create a space (maybe a physical community shop) that welcomes everyone is to have discussions, seek community, find aid… almost something that mixes time banks, death cafes, postpartum meet-ups, with a part-time bartering system, all wrapped into a welcoming looking shop. I get inspired by places like HausWitch though my target audience is slightly different.

Obviously my long term goals are still being constructed, but I think one day I would like to own this type of shop with my sister (who is paving her career in graphic design/UX and my best friend (who is a social worker), offering classes and discussions, innovative tech, and community services centered around the biggest times of change (birth/postpartum, and death). We also want to raise families together so working together would give us the time and space to figure out how to make it all work. ❤

On the book front, I’m currently reading Witches of America by Alex Mar which I’m finding so inspiring. It’s not that I want to be a witch per se, but I love learning about different routes of beliefs and what draws people to them, and Mar explores this topic so well.

Anyway, as the colder months approach, I’m in the hibernation phase of life again. Lots of reading, snuggles with the little one, obsessions with soups, teas, and decaf lattes. My family and I are moving soon, which is a new adventure on its own because we are finally leaving Massachusetts, but is a lot of mental overload on how to move across multiple states (any advice is welcome). The move might be hugely impactful on my skin too because I think my condition gets worse in the fall due to a mold allergy (and fall here is pretty moldy!). I’m actually friggin’ psyched to be moving- but more on that another day.

 

all posts, parentings/things about baby and kids

the baby and the necklace

There are so many clichés to explain how fast babies seem to grow up. I don’t love them because they feel overly desirous for a past self of a child when the current version can be equally if not more exciting to witness, but I do understand where they are coming from.

It’s true that babies do change in frequent, inconsistent bursts. For example, my non-sleeping baby is becoming a multiple-a-day napping toddler. She also is becoming what I can only describe as delightfully aware and intuitive.

Today, I nostalgically decided to wear a necklace my husband got me at the Massachusetts Renaissance Faire. It in itself is full of memories of change: the MA Renn Faire was the first one I’d gone to in years, with a partner, as an adult, and in New England, so wearing it today was a happy fluke.

My baby was particularly intrigued by it, but unlike her behavior everyday  previous, this time she neither tugged the necklace around my neck too hard, nor tried to eat the pendant.

So I did what any curious mama might do, and started to unclasp it from around my neck. The baby watched with her big curious attentive eyes. Then I began to clasp it behind her neck while she faced me, and I got to witness a delightful smile break across her face as she (I am assuming) realized what this transaction was.

After the necklace was placed and the pendant lay somewhere between her sternum and her belly button, she happily looked down and gently took the pendant in her baby paws again and again. But yet at no point did she pull it or try to eat it. Instead she just continued to savor its presence, and repeatedly looked down on it in between breastfeeding.

Then later after forgetting it was on her, she was playing with other toys when she re-noticed it as it gently hit against her shirt while maneuvering through her world.

Now maybe this isn’t so crazy of a tale for an outsider, but this same baby picks bits of dust or crumbs off the floor and shoves them in her mouth. She has been known to pull my hair and then suddenly gives an aggressive tug to a few strands, and I’ll feel the sharp snap as hairs get pulled out.

So how is it that this same little being, who has maybe seen me wear a necklace once before over 3 months ago, could change her behavior so drastically in receiving a new object (of course it is forever hers now).

The magic of change, though frightening, never fails to delight me with this little one.


Hey, if what you read seemed dated or familiar, I’ve been combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content.  🙂

all posts, eczema, parentings/things about baby and kids, women's health

on breastfeeding, breastmilk, and NPR

A while back I took a class on breastfeeding at the hospital where I planned to deliver (North Shore Medical Center Salem Hospital). Below I’ve outlined some of the notes I took as they pertain to women’s health, as well as my own thoughts.

As many people are saying, “breast is best”, it’s interesting to look into why. Studies have shown breast feeding can help women lose some of the pregnancy weight faster as you are expelling energy to produce milk. It can also help reduce your risks of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, as well as it releases hormones to calm you down.

But what’s actually going on in the body when it produces milk? The glands that produce milk (alveoli) send the milk to ducts which lead to the nipple opening. The baby draws the milk out when sucking, and the more the baby drinks, the more our breasts produce. At first we only produce colostrum, which is this fatty liquid that has all kinds of goodies like antibodies and beta carotene for our babies newly-developing immune system and gut. Then the real milk comes in after about 3-5 days. When a baby started nursing each time, first (s)he will get the foremilk which is mostly composed of water, and after feeding for a few minutes (up to 10 minutes) the hindmilk (which is a lot fattier) follows. The Letdown Reflex happens each time the baby feeds and it is when the baby has latched and the breasts transition from letting out foremilk to hindmilk. Some women can feel the letdown reflex happening (described as pins and needles or some localized tightness) but many women feel nothing.

But how does breastfeeding feel? Well, apparently it is a very novel sensation to most when the baby first latches (it definitely was in my experience) and for many it is difficult to get a good latch and takes some practice! The biggest worry is that a baby who has latched poorly and is just hooked onto your nipple and so (s)he will cause the mom pain. The way to avoid this is to make sure the baby gets more of the areola in its mouth rather than just the nipple. To detach a baby from your nipple if they are incorrectly latched, you definitely don’t want to just pull them off (ouch), but instead you should insert a clean finger into their mouth to break the suction, by running your finger along their gum line.

Also leaking is normal, especially at the beginning of breastfeeding, but it usually does slow down and stop as you continue breastfeeding and your baby gets used to it. You can use nursing pads and also press your nipple/cross your arms when you feel like you are leaking to help to try and stop it.

What about your diet; how does it affect the breastmilk? What can you eat? From this class I was told you can eat and drink anything, it’s just a matter of seeing what your baby’s reaction is (if they get gassy, fussy, hiccup-y, etc after a meal, check back to see what you last eat). Obviously some things to consider are making sure things like alcohol and caffeine are out of your system before you breastfeed (I think the advice was if you have an alcoholic drink, you don’t want to feel tipsy, and you want to wait about 2 hours before you breastfeed… but don’t quote me on those hours). Also for babies that have occult blood (invisible blood in the baby’s stool), the first things a doctor may advise you to avoid are probably dairy and soy, because they are the most common culprits that irritate the babies developing gastro-intestinal system (this is what occurred in my experience). The Kelly Mom blog has a post that goes into food sensitivities in more detail.

For pumping, the advice was not to start until 3-4 weeks unless needed and to make sure you get a pump with a suction cup that is sized correctly to your breast; you don’t want your nipple squished on the sides. The other advice was to pump in the morning, or after a baby’s feeding (I believe about 30 minutes after is the recommendation).

For general nipple care, the advice was to try using your own breast milk around the inflamed area first. Then you can try lansinoh or coconut oil on tender area, and then if it’s really bad, use manuka honey (here’s a cream made with it), but wash it off before feeding the baby.

Other painful aspects about breastfeeding include:

  • Engorgement: this occurs when you don’t breastfeed enough so your breasts become swollen and hard. Regularly nursing helps prevent this, but if you need to you can also remove milk by hand (or what’s called expressing milk) you can use a pump. Just express until your breasts are no longer hard. Cold compresses can also be used after feeding to help bring down the swelling. To express, massage the breast tissue and then grab above and below the breast with your thumb and forefinger and press back towards your chest wall, then gently squeeze, moving your hand all around to help drain multiple areas.
  • Mastitis: this is the most common problem, and it is when your breast gets infected with bacteria, causing pain. You will probably have a fever or other flu-like symptoms as well. This can occur from blocked ducts, nipple injuries, or problems with breastfeeding. You want to call the doctor if you feel this has occurred. Also also make sure to wash your hands frequently to reduce infection risk.
  • Blocked ducts: this is caused by not relieving the breasts. A blocked duct will feel sore and tender. Try taking a warm shower and apply moist heat, and/or gently massage before breast feeding. Also try expressing after feedings if you still feel engorged.
  • Yeast infection: this will cause your nipples to be shiny, red, and painful. Yeast (also called thrush) can also grow in your baby’s mouth so look for cottage cheese looking stuff in their cheeks.

Who can you call for help? Nowadays you can call your doctor, your baby’s pediatrician, and/or some hospitals also have lactation support groups (sometimes free), or lactation consultants (usually not free) that you can call to get one-on-one help.

A little more about breastmilk. In lieu of my own little own having some kind of sickness, I’ve been looking more into breastmilk’s functions. This searching led me to this internet viral photo showing how a mom’s breastmilk changed when her infant got sick. The 2013 study mentioned in that post talks about breastmilk’s immunological function and explains how when the mom or baby get sick, the number of leukocytes (aka white blood cells) in the breastmilk drastically increases to help protect them, because leukocytes help fight disease. I find that to be such a cool example of symbiosis. I personally have also noticed that breastfeeding seems to keep both me and the baby from getting some of the sicknesses that were going around (my mom, mother-in-law, and husband each got sick after the baby was born while the two moms were visiting!).

Lastly, I also read an article by NPR addressing the breastfeeding versus formula debate for poor countries.  The major points that this article made were that formula is not a godsend for impoverished countries for the following reasons:

  • formula requires water to make it, of which clean sources are not always available
  • formula causes increased risks of diarrhea and respiratory infections, and
  • formula can cost up to 30% of a families income, and subsequently families made dilute the formula to make it last longer, which reduces the amount of nutrients the baby gets per serving.

The article also talked about how it’s weird that we are constantly trying to research the benefits of breastfeeding when it’s as natural as “breathing, chewing, hearing, passing stool”. It also went on to explain that even an underfed mom can make excellent quality milk, and as for quantity, it is also enough except in the case of severe malnutrition. The latter point is interesting to me because I hear a lot of moms, including myself with babies labeled as “failure to thrive”, which essentially means our babies aren’t gaining weight at a rate that the medical professional expects. In my case, the doctor assumed I wasn’t producing enough milk and told me to supplement with formula. It turned out that my baby drank the same amount of formula as I was producing of milk, so I wasn’t the common denominator and rather my baby just drank only tiny amounts per feed. I’m curious as to why there are many medical professionals that believe many moms can’t produce enough milk when studies may be showing the contrary.

Anyway, the article ended by saying that it is up to the mom on how they want to provide for their child, however, it is important that they have accurate information to make informed decisions. This means that we would need to reform the system so doctors are never paid to handout formula samples, and on in which moms are not incentivized by free samples to use formula.


Hey, if what you read seemed dated or familiar, I’ve been combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content.  🙂

all posts, parentings/things about baby and kids, women's health

on new adventures (sleep training and postpartum doula training)

Hello again. It’s been a while since I’ve posted any content, in fact I think I haven’t posted since I was in my second trimester!

Well, I have since given birth to my beautiful little one, Figlet, and am now working through a new stage of life with her: sleep training.

It may seem a bit late as she is almost 7 months now but in reality sleep training can be initiated at any age. In my case, in her earlier months I was so worried about her weight gain (as she is small and has been consistently in the 5% quartile) and her potential food sensitivities that I was eating (she’s exclusively breastfed and she occasionally had blood in her stool), that I focused on nothing else.

As a result, Fi now appears to be in a bad holding pattern where she fluctuates between waking up twice a night to waking up every hour or so from 12pm-5am and fighting going back down to sleep unless I feed her. Her daytime naps are a total crapshoot (sometimes she sleeps like a goddess, other times she will fight it for hours but is too tired to do anything else).

So, I am working on reading through the research about various techniques to go about breaking the latter habit, looking at everything from the Ferber Method to the Sears Method. I’ll be headed to the library later today to get the official books on various methods, but in the meantime, from scouring the internet at 2am, here are a few of the suggestions (from secondary sources):

The gradual retreat/disappearing chair method

  1. place chair by crib
  2. put baby down when drowsy then sit on chair
  3. when baby cries, go to her and pat/stroke her but avoid eye contact
  4. when baby stops crying, move chair slightly further away and sit
  5. if baby cries again repeat pat/stroke and no eye contact
  6. when baby stops crying move chair further back again
  7. repeat until baby is asleep. might take 10 minutes for them to fall into deep sleep

The kissing game method

  1. put baby down when drowsy and promise to return in a minute to give a kiss
  2. return almost immediate to give another kiss
  3. take a few steps towards door then return and give another kiss
  4. promise to return in a minute to give another kiss
  5. put something away/do something in room, then give another kiss. 6. promise to return in a minute for another kiss
  6. pop outside room for a few seconds then return for a kiss
  7. as long as child is lying down she gets more kisses (no chat, cuddles, stories, drinks)
  8. repeat until child is asleep

The Ferber Method

  1. put baby in crib awake, turn off lights, say goodnight and leave room
  2. if baby cries, come back after predetermined time (a minute or two). Pat baby in reassuring way but don’t pick up. Leave room promptly
  3. this time stay out of the room slightly longer before returning to reassure baby
  4. continue with longer and longer periods of time
  5. if baby wakes in the middle of the night, start back over with lowest wait time at beginning of night
  6. on second night, wait a little longer than previous night (so first night try for example 3 min, 5 min, 10 min. second night try 5 min, 10 min, 12 min)

The night weaning method

  1. start gradually by nursing baby shorter periods of time or giving smaller amounts of milk in bottle, prolong time between feedings by patting baby to sleep
  2. make sure baby get plenty to eat during day (decrease distractions)
  3. offer extra feeding in evening
  4. avoid weaning during transitions (vacations, traveling, teething)
  5. have non-boob feeder comfort during night
  6. eliminate feedings one at a time. tell her she can nurse in teh morning. pat her belly/back

The pick up, put down method

  1. if baby cries when first put down, put hand on her chest with “shhh” or key phrase
  2. if that doesn’t work, pick up and repeat phase
  3. when she stops crying but is still awake, but her back down even if she starts to cry on way down
  4. if still crying, pick her up again. do until you can see signs that baby is settling (cries getting weaker)
  5. when behavior settling, don’t pick up anymore. place hand on chest and say phrase
  6. leave room
  7. if baby starts to cry, repeat process again as many times as needed until she’s asleep

The nighttime crier method

  1. put baby down when drowsy
  2. Visit baby briefly ever 5-15 min if she’s crying
  3. make visits boring, brief, but supportive
  4. do not remove child from crib (no rocking if you do). Most babies cry 30-90 min then fall asleep
  5. middle of night crying: temporary hold baby until asleep (helpful for transitions) if she cries for more than 10 min. little talking, no lights. dad is often more effective 6. give baby security object 7. phase out nighttime holding

The overall commonalities between all these methods is that you first have to have a good bedtime routine established, and that you should feel free to adjust the timings as you feel best fits your baby.

So far we’ve attempted sleep training once with Figlet (last night in fact), and it took hours to get her down. Jake had to do it because she got ragingly upset if I tried to and me attending to her didn’t result in her getting fed. I am handling the nap version of this today (so far unsuccessfully) and then we’ll see how tonight fares.

Speaking of how things fare, that brings me to my other adventure. I have finally gone and signed up for a postpartum doula course and will be working my way through that in the coming months. I might just skip ahead to do the reading that pertains to sleep habits and use the material to help inform my ongoing real life experience. I’ll be taking the little one to the library next to where we live to stock up on the necessary books and then I’ll come home and work through them with her.

More to come about my course and in depth sleep training experimenting with Figlet soon!


Hey, if what you read seemed dated or familiar, I’ve been combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content.  🙂

all posts, parentings/things about baby and kids, women's health

prepared childbirth: the skin plan

In April of 2018, my husband and I attended a 6-hour (way too long!) class on childbirth preparation. I’ll go into a few details about specifics we learned, though it is important to keep in mind, different hospitals and different OBs may have different practices than what we were told.

The whole view around labor now, is that modern medicine is more than capable of helping pregnant folk with the pain. The thing they can’t fix is if we get fatigued. Fatigue is the biggest predictor of if there will be a need for an unplanned Cesarian section because if we laboring women wear ourselves out before we are in the pushing stage, we won’t be able to physically get the baby out into the world. This becomes even more important to note when the pregnant mama-to-be is already battling eczema and it’s host of fatigue-induced symptoms like sleep deprivation.

The first topic the educator went into were ways to conserve energy, aka ways to relax. Physiologically and mentally, giving birth is draining. Mentally, there is pain, so she explained the options our specific hospital has to allow women to cope.

  • Analgesics – I can’t remember the specific names of the two that are put into the IVs but essentially, all of the analgesic options help take the edge off. They don’t make the pain of contractions disappear, but they chemically help to relax the muscles, which allows for us to perceive less pain. How it works is that it helps us waste less energy reacting to pain, decreasing how much we stiffen up from feeling pain or how we can’t relax between contractions. The two analgesics mentioned in the class do cross the placenta, and thus can affect the baby, so the educator advised that if we want these ones to request them before we are 9cm dilated so that there is more of a chance of it getting out of the baby’s system before the baby is born. Otherwise the baby will also get some of that chemical relaxation affect and may then score poorly on the APGAR test (because they will be unfocused and floppy). The third type of analgesic mentioned was nitrous oxide (aka NO, or that’s right, laughing gas!). It does not cross the placenta nor affect the baby but its catch is that only the mom herself can administer this drug. She has to be able to hold the mask to her own face and breathe and then remove it on her own (for legal reasons). Now how do these chemicals affect the skin of someone with eczema?
  • Epidurals – There are two types used: the local or the full. The local (which has gotten the misleading name of “the walking epidural”) numbs the woman’s body from basically her chest to her groin. Though theoretically her legs would still have feeling, if you can’t feel your abdominals or other stabilizing core muscles, you really can’t walk. The full epidural numbs all the way down to the feet, and it is administered when you have to go into an unplanned C-section. When you get a local epidural you have to go in to the C-position on the bed (or that position we see women giving birth in in movies all the time), and you will have to be cued of when to push because the epidural numbs you from feeling any pain of the contractions at all. Supposedly you will still feel something, but most often it is described as a distant pressure.

The rub with all these options for medical pain killers (analgesics and epidurals) is that they can have the unintended consequence of slowing down the labor. If they cause you to be too relaxed, particularly your uterus, you run the risk of the doctor then needing to give you something to “get you back on track”. What this means is that they will add pitocin (a manmade version of oxytocin) to stimulate stronger contractions. The catch-22 of pitocin is that, unlike oxytocin which is made naturally by your body and will gradually increase your contractions to some extent, pitocin is more of a 0-to-60-in-no-time kind of drug, and often times women report that it makes contractions much more painful. It definitely did in my case.

If you have a scheduled C-section, you will be given a spinal tap, which is when the medication is administered so it goes into your spinal fluid. You will then lay down and a tarp will cover you from the chest down (though you can request a see-through one if you want to watch the procedure) and your arms will be tied in a T shape so that one can have constantly blood pressure monitoring, and the other can have the IV in place. Afterwards, depending on the hospital, you may be able to have the baby wrapped up against your body after they have taken the baby for cleaning and screenings, or you can have your partner do skin-to-skin contact if you are too tired/out of it.

Which brings me back to mentioning induction. A hospital can have a few reasons to induce, and I think it can vary by hospital/practice. One reason is if your baby may be late. Apparently, it is common to induce around week 39 now because it allows for an extra week in utero so that if the due date was off by 7 days, you are at least on week 38 (week 38-42 is deemed the safe range for a baby to be born and be totally developed but also still get enough nutrients from the placenta).

Fun fact: did you know they figure out the age of the baby, and whether they were right or not at their predictions, by the placenta? Apparently, it ages and you can figure out when it formed by its coloration!).

Back to induction; so what normally causes labor to start? Scientists and doctors have no idea what triggers the chemical to be released at that specific time, but they do know that prostaglandin is the chemical that sets it all in motion. This is because prostaglandin cause the cervix to soften. Many women when seeing a OB/GYN probably learned that the cervix feels like “the cartilage at the tip of your nose” or something like that. Well when we are going into labor, we want it to soften so that it can then efface (or thin out) and make way for the baby. So first, if you need to be induced, they will add prostaglandin to you (either via an IV or through a suppository inserted in your vagina that has to dissolve). If that works and your cervix softens, then you are given pitocin to make the uterus contract. Then if all goes well, you’ll quickly ramp up in contractions and soon progress to the pushing stage.

So what happens during this first stage, the contractions? Well, like I mentioned before, the focus is on controlling pain so that you don’t tire yourself out. That’s really it. As your body works on the contractions and starts to dilate your cervix to 10 cm, you aren’t really an active participant, so you just have to find ways to bear the pain/discomfort without wasting your energy staying balled up or tiring yourself out. Unmedicated suggestions they mention are (and again this depends on the hospital you are at) using a hospital bath/whirlpool to relax the muscles, sitting on a PT ball, moving around and changing position (if you didn’t get an epidural), taking deep breathing (always need to keep breathing and never hold your breathe- it makes you tight/wastes energy), visualizing something calming, etc. The educator also mentioned how if you are “stalling” or your contractions aren’t going at the speed the doctor thinks they should, and he/she feels they may need to give you pitocin, that you should request an extra 30 minutes and do everything from listen to music, 6th grade slow dancing with your partner, cuddle, kiss, or get up and move around (if you didn’t have an epidural). This is because all these actions can help release more oxytocin, which helps force those contractions to continue.

Then when you’ve finally reached 10 cm dilation, the pushing stage can begin. There are many ways one can go about the breathing during the pushing stage, but the advice was that you want to push when having a contraction (more force) and that at that point you generally tuck your chin to your chest to help exert more downward pressure. If the contractions are going for 60 seconds, you want to take 2 deep breaths right before it starts and then breathe out while pushing, take a smaller breath in (you don’t want to take a deep breathe in because the baby is kind of yo-yoing inside of you and you want to make sure you are pushing it down faster during the contractions), and then breathe out while you squeeze out. After the contraction, relax. If the doctor tells you not to push during a contraction, bring your chin up high and try to resist the urge. A reason a doctor might tell you not to push is to adjust the cord around your baby.

The doctor will give you updates about the baby’s location relative to your pelvis. If they are lined up with the ischial tuberosities, they are at ground 0 and you will see the head soon. If they are not there yet and are still higher up, you’ll get a positive number (of centimeters), and if their head is already visible, you will get a negative number and will probably be seeing that baby very soon.

Then we have to talk about episiotomies. So at my hospital the rate is very low (under 2%), and they will only do it if they think the vaginal tissue is going to rip towards the urethra, in which case they will cut the perineum down a little bit (in the direction towards the rectum). If it doesn’t seem like the vaginal tissue is going to rip in that upward direction (which is determined if the tissue turns white, indicating it has stretched to its max and there is no more blood flowing through it), then instead they will apply a warm compress to the rectal area to help try to warm those muscles and tissues up to get them to relax and stretch a bit more. If they do need to cut you, they will give you a local anesthesia and then do a quick incision.

Also another thing to keep in mind if you are going to a hospital is what are the state laws. In my state, it is mandatory that the baby get antibiotic drops in their eyes, and I think the TB shot before they leave. They also will prick the baby’s foot to take blood for genetic screenings. It’s important to understand what procedures are required like that, so that way you don’t find yourself fighting a state law after you’ve given birth. Also, my hospital will put antibiotics in our IV’s during labor if the mom was positive for group strep B culture during a vaginal/rectal swap between week 35-37. Other than that, if a mom comes in dehydrated, she will also automatically be given an IV for her labor.

A big emphasis that the educator couldn’t say enough was that when you have your new baby, you really want to do skin-to-skin contact. It helps warm the baby up but also is an amazing bonding experience and helps calm both the mom and the baby down. Obviously this can be challenging as a mom with eczema. I found personally that I could hold my baby skin to skin right after the birth (but also note I had been on antibiotics during the birth), and then later when home would struggle with skin to skin, where as soon as my baby was asleep and I’d put her down for a nap, I’d need to scratch like crazy.


Hey, if what you read seemed dated or familiar, I’ve been combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content.  🙂