6 Months of Breastfeeding

I was very curious about what breastfeeding would be like while I was pregnant. I felt bombarded with information and yet clueless on what it would actually be like. Inspired by Ina May’s encouraging writings and her seemingly daring statements about breastfeeding being “love making” between Mother and Child, I was still quite unsure about the whole having someone sucking on my boob regularly thing. Previously a strictly intimate-only action, I asked myself many questions:

Will it seem sexual?
What if it’s a girl, won’t that be weird?
What if it’s a boy, won’t that be weird?!

Time and experience melt all insecurities. Looking back, no wonder it was weird then — I didn’t have a child then! Now, we have Indra, and no, it is not weird at all.

Feeding a little person from my body has been an extremely natural and easeful thing. It forces me to take extra care of myself first (a parenting theme for me), including food, mental state and rest. And temperature! When my feet are cold, my milk practically halts. Welcoming Indra in Arkansas in July, that one stumped me for a night during an October vacation in Colorado. We were camping in Estes Park in our van and in the middle of the night my milk seemed to just stop coming. Indra was not happy and my mind was racing with what was wrong. Is the travel throwing this off? Did I not eat enough? Alas, it was socks. What an awesome, easy fix.

“Where you awareness goes, your energy flows.”

Frequently stated by my first teacher, Baron, and a common study throughout the practice of Yoga, this statement has been oh so true for all elements in life, including breastfeeding. When I am taking the time to stay present with the current state of my body, eating regularly as Indra does, resting when he does, breastfeeding is like a dream.

Holding my little guy in my arms and sensing his calm, satisfied presence trips all this Mama’s happy switches.

Indra’s been trying lots of foods lately, there hasn’t been anything he doesn’t like and it has been such a delight to watch his expressions when trying things. And it’s mostly just all for fun. It is still the boob providing nutrients for now. Straight from the breast, too! 100% bottle free. I am proud of that fact. Did you know that a mother’s nipple actually reads what her baby needs during a feeding?

“When a baby suckles at its mother’s breast, a vacuum is created. Within that vacuum, the infant’s saliva is sucked back into the mother’s nipple, where receptors in her mammary gland read its signals. Everything scientists know about physiology indicates that baby spit backwash is one of the ways that breast milk adjusts its immunological composition. If the mammary gland receptors detect the presence of pathogens, they compel the mother’s body to produce antibodies to fight it, and those antibodies travel through breast milk back into the baby’s body, where they target the infection.”

Pulled from one of my favorite articles on breastfeeding, here. SO many reason to love breastfeeding.

So much thanks goes to my husband for making our breastfeeding journey so wonderful. It it wasn’t for him feeding me to being with, I know this wouldn’t be the same story. And thanks go to our whole village to supporting us! From the patient yogis at Deza who have offered nothing but smiles mid-vinyasa, to the ONF staff and shoppers who cheered us on in the early days when on-demand feeding meant holding up the check-outline. This has been a wonderful journey and I am so grateful for it.

Nothing but love,
Alexandria

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Let’ο»Ώs talk Placenta Smoothie

Yep, you read that right. In response to many blog requests! I said yes to placenta smoothies post birth and here was my experience.

First off, I have to point out what a beautiful badass thing the placenta is. My body grew another organ! And shed it in the birthing of my son. It was freaking cool. It takes a few minutes post-birth before the body releases the placenta and for a for brief moments I held Indra to my chest while he was still physically attached to me through his cord. There is no other experience like that.

The placenta is the bubble that holds baby until his time to enter earth side. It was the layer between Indra’s body and mine, through which all nutrients and energy passed.

The choice to consume the placenta post-birth is typically a nutrient driven decision. The seemingly most popular process is placenta encapsulation — where it is dried and placed into capsules to take orally. For me, I recognized the natural animalistic nature of it (all mammals other than some humans consume post birth) and felt that it was something I wanted to try immediately following the birth. My midwife prepared small pieces into smoothie post-birth. Raspberries, blueberries and other fruits allowed for a blind consumption. We froze a handful more for later as well.

Flash forward four nights later. I woke up around 3am freezing (note, the middle of July and our house was not cold..). I turned to Michael who was already on high alert to help Indra and I as needed, and he jumped up to get me an extra blanket. As he did, I felt even colder — chills that started to make my whole body convulse. I was working to stay calm and not freak Michael out terribly. I knew I was okay and my body’s reaction was intense. I could tell he was stressed. He called Maria, our midwife, who had him check my blood loss levels and temperature. All were okay, and we identified the moment as a hormone shift. All a little freaked out, I bundled up even more and everyone drifted back to sleep. I continued to wear socks and layers the next couple days and eventually felt my body temperature settle to normal.

While the intensity of fluid, blood and tissue loss post birth is to be acknowledged (think almost passing out biological explosion) my body healed miraculously within the coming weeks. My mind was also incredibly stable (post coming soon on my thoughts about postpartum emotions). This being my first babe, hard to tell what affect the placenta consumption had on me overall, though I do suspect the abrupt shift in my hormones in the middle of the night had something to do with it.

All-in-all definitely glad I did it. Would I do it again? Likely that I would, once, immediately following birth. Not sure about extending it any further than that.

Happy to answer any more questions! Keep your post suggestions coming. Screen time is getting easier as the family and I settle into more and more of a routine.

Lotsa love and healthy vibes,
Alexandria

Letting Love Flow

I have never felt love like this. It is definitely different than any other love I have known so far. Just as crisp fall air has begun to hint its way into our days, I am feeling gentle reminders each day of how deep this love will continue to go. Most of the relationships I have have built until now have been through interaction. The majority of that interaction formed through senses of sight, touch, smell. This new love also has senses of its own; Indra’s sweet baby smell, his beyond soft skin that I cuddle next to at night, the sound of sweet coos and giggles that evolve every morning.. And still it is built on something much deeper.

Then there is the experiential element. It is often easy to fall into love with people whom we share deep experiences with. The biological explosion that is birth would be enough to do that on its own. Retelling the story with Michael to others often brings laughs, tears and a tension in my body when I remember the most fierce moments. And pregnancy was an extremely transformative journey for me. The next level of self care and reflection I began to practice daily allowed me to love myself so much more. Those experiences provide a special aspect of our family’s bonding process. And it is still not the reason that I have this incredible attachment to Indra River.

Simply put, it is hard coded into me to love this little being and his existance. I tell people all the time that when your baby is born, it’s like a software simultaneously downloads to your brain. Women who say, ‘I don’t know how you do it’ are spot on. They just haven’t gotten the download yet. Instantly you know how to care for a baby. In such a natural and present way that it cannot be ignored. And this kind of compassion has allowed me to presence love in all areas of my life. I am love drunk. I can walk around and picture every one I see as a baby, then just smile and be with them. It is pure bliss.

And, of course, being the dynamic human that we all are, an extreme experience can also appear in the opposite direction. With great love comes the ability to experience great pain. The moment I sense a threat to my baby bliss (whether “reasonable” or not)  just as naturally the Mama Bear wants to take over like an angry tiger. It is almost comical at times and more than that it is incredibly valuable. I am doing everything I can to fully embrace ALL of these instincts and not label any of them “good” or “bad”. As I do that, I feel my intuition stronger than ever an all of my experiences in flow.

In the practice of Yoga, we look at this energy within the Root Chakra. The base of the energetic body, at the tip of the spine, holds our connection to our family and sense of safety. Linked to our sympathetic and parasympathetic response systems, we find ourselves in flux between reaction and relaxation based on how safe we feel in our current environment. Our instincts tell us how and when to feel these two ways. 10 weeks into this journey, I can share my biggest peace of advice to new Mamas: Follow your instincts.

If you suppress your normal instincts, ignore them or try to change them, they will do what you are asking them to do:  suppress. And being a new mother without strong instincts, well that would be a tough job. This applies to every area of life for me, by the way. If you have suppressed instincts in the past, don’t worry, we all do and there are ways to build it back. One of my favorite is to start asking myself simple yes or no questions and ignore the noise of thoughts after. Yesterday I messaged back and forth with a Mom-to-be about prenatal testing. When you really need answers, ask yourself a yes/no question. There is always space for “yes, but..” or “no, or..”. Focus on going with your first response and soon the chatter will quiet.

Love, love, love
AJP

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Rest for the Soul

Last weekend Indra attended his first [of many!] Yoga workshop — an awesome Restorative program focused on relaxation and led by a long-time local Iyengar teacher. Our amazing little boy slept and cooed either on or next to Mom + Dad while they got some much needed deep rest time in. He is by far the most chill and confident baby I have ever met.

At one point during the workshop we looked at a stress chart. It basically offered a point system to calculate the affects of major life events on the body and mind. I love evaluating stress this way. So often people, myself included, tend to ignore stress when they feel happy and busy. The idea that stress only exists when we’re upset or On the chart, the most extreme level mentioned equaled 300 points. This current life expansiom, in addition to others life shifts the past year (marriage, moving, career shifts) put our family well above that mark. We are in a high risk zone for disease and emotional distress. The good news? We’re also doing all the things that counter those risks:  Talking about our experiences, eating good food, sleeping, casual walks, massages, singing, gardening, etc.

I am so proud of how our postnatal experience has gone and the way our family is forming. It has not been without it’s challenges though for sure. One of the biggest things I have learned is that ever persons’s stress during this time looks different. And while there are always going to be more effective ways for some individuals to process than others, the fundamental stress that comes from the experiences like pregnancy and birth will need to be processed in some way. For me, the physical healing, sleep changes, hormone shifts and heart expanding emotions have been balanced with meditation, visualizations, walking and healthy eating. And there are plenty of other challenges coming my way right now — all those things I was warned about are starting to make sense, but not in a scary – what am I going to do kind of way. In a heart opening – bigger than life kind.

Whatever lies ahead, I know rest and restoration will be a steady practice for me over the next few years. I’m talking about that ahhhhh feeling, heavy body, ease melting face kind of relaxation where the world and my mind stop spinning all at once. Cheers to that πŸ™‚

Here’s a cute baby sleeping video for a taste: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3mTalBi4qiOR1ZCbS1mc0h6Nlk/view?usp=docslist_api

xo,
Alexandria

The Karma Police

The sound of August rain mixed with a cool breeze on my skin and the faint smell of Tuber Roses in the air.. A combination that makes time stand still. Throw in a sweet cuddly baby in my lap and my loving handsome husband sleeping at my side and all my brain can think is, ‘How did I get here?’. There is a time for questioning and a time for being. Right now I choose to direct my mind toward the latter.

I am a mother full-on now. Not a mom in transition or training. And definitely not a future mom in wonder about what the experience will be like. My body and energy are back to most of their natural and normal rhythms. I have found myself returning to many parts of my daily routine that I had forgotten. Old thought patterns have crept back in, too. Some I missed and some still spark frustration; all are a compilation of me at my fullest today. Life feels like I just returned from a great big adventure; pregnancy being a long road traveled and birth the ultimate battle within myself. Now I am returning home and things are setting back to normal. Just now there is this new little piece of my soul beating and breathing outside of me. I feel nothing but joy and excitement when I focus my energy there.

Indra has been teaching me the most about relationships and communication. I think of him like the karma police. He will treat and talk about others like I do. He will eat and take care of his body like I do. Ultimately, he will treat me as I enable others to treat me. Since he entered my life every word and action has double the importance, if not more. He will carry on a legacy of our family. My most important job is to stay true to my highest self, not who I have been in the past or who I think I should be and especially not what others expect or want from me.

For the first time I have experienced people close to me expressing their displeasure with some of my decisions or actions in recent weeks. I have been told that many of the things I have chosen as a parent are extreme or a little crazy (to put it nicely). For the most part I have lived my life in a pleasing way for others until the point. Even leaving corporate America to teach yoga was a respected decision to make with my life — others saw me following my passions and becoming an entrepreneur. But something shifts when you have a child of your own. I have found myself feeling questioned and judged by others more then ever lately. At one point I was in tears reflecting over a parenting request I made that insulted someone and Michael said to me, “Have you never had people think you are crazy before?”. That was a big moment for me.. No, I haven’t actually. It is a new feeling for sure. But the more I ponder it, the more I realize it is exactly the feeling I should be having if I am ready to shake things up in life. To truly listen to myself and not try to please others, to live and create my family legacy to the fullest.

Choosing a home birth alone was a major decision different than 98% of our country’s population. And among the wonderful people I have been connected with through home birthing community, our parenting style is unique to anyone I have met. I sense we are just getting started on this passionate path of ours, too. So I choose love, patience and ease in discomfort and conflict. May my little karma policeman see that and choose the same someday when his time comes. If the world calls you crazy, smile and know that you are you and they are them and through all of our vast uniqueness we all are one in the end.

xox,
AJP

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Developing & Trusting an Inner Voice

We celebrated Indra River’s 4 week birthday this past weekend with a camping trip and yoga gathering at a beautiful farm outside Huntsville, AR. Great people, delicious food and amazing weather. I spent my longest time yet away from Indra — a couple hours where he and Michael walked down to the nearby creek while I practiced in circle next to dear friends. I thought of my boys a few times while they were gone and for the most part stayed present, focused on my breath and overlooking the beautiful gardens in front of me.

Every year I believe more and more in magic. Call it witches and fairytales, spells and curses, none of those things seem “made up” or unrealistic to me anymore. The experiences I have had with the practices of mindfulness and meditation have led me to see the world around me in a different way. The powers we hold in our minds to create, change or destroy the world around us are more impactful than we often recognize. The highlights of my life today have all unfolded through dreams that I intended to manifest. Setting intentions and maintaining positive affirmations until they unfold — sounds like a spell to me.

Our midwife’s assistant, Misty, acknowledged something really special to me about Indra’s birth. She said that she recognized our family’s commitment to doing the hard work and having a blissful experience at the same time. The best way I can describe it:  Our home was filled with flowers in every corner like pure heaven and at the same time I was prepared to go to the deepest depths of suffering. I knew that was where the full experience would be and that is what I wanted. For me, that’s where true joy really lies. Not in the surface of pretty frilly experiences. In the full experience of present life.

There is an inner voice inside all if us that guides us to this place. It is constantly there even though we may not always here it. So how do you connect to it? Pause. Really pause. Clear the noise and listen. Like the cicadas buzzing outside my window right now. Depending on where my mind is, what I am focused on or the noises playing inside my house, I may or may not hear them. And they are there regardless, singing away and inviting me back to a present state. The noises distracting you are often thoughts of worry, fear or doubt. They may be the thoughts of others as well. There is an inner radiance that I feel when I am listening to my own true inner voice. Yoga has taught me to find that sensation and continues to teach me how to connect with it in stronger ways every day.

Last week Jess and I sat on my back deck and reflected on what little Indra has taught me so far. One of the biggest things has been honoring my sensitivity as a woman and a mother. Often society has given me the thought that I need to control my emotions or sensitive nature as a female — that I am naturally “over sensitive”. Indra has shown me what value my sensitivities truly have. I am designed to have them in order to care for children; to mother babies and nurture the world. The more in tune I am with his energy and needs, the faster I see him grow and develop. The more i see the fairytale of our lives unfold. Cultivating sensitivity to the experience of my inner voice is what my life is all about right now. Even through the work and tested moments I would not change a thing.

Feeling magic,
Alexandria

To Feel or Not To Feel: Emotions & Mind Post Birth

The post birth period continues to be just as powerful as what precedes it. Surrounded by a giant energy field of this tiny human, the natural instincts that have risen within me combined with the massive expansion of my heart feels like a powerful drug at times. Indra Riv is developing too fast. He is only three weeks old and I have an intense aversion to the growth and development coupled with ultimate proud parent vibe. Through this experience of absolute bliss there is still dualism present in my mind. My job is to filter out the BS. While I am more confident than I have ever been in my thoughts and decisions, there are still, as always, thoughts contradiction in my mind. In Yoga we call it chitta or mind chatter. A voice that questions my natural instincts and can spark doubt or concern in an otherwise perfect moment. During pregnancy I was given a lot of information that could lead to fear about what these first weeks and months will be like. From expectations of sleep deprivation to postpartum depression, there is no shortage of anticipation that can build around this time in a mother’s life. In an effort to help others sort through these thoughts, I am shining light on my most frequent mind chatter and how I am dealing with it.

– To cry or not to cry

My answer is cry. Always cry. I bawled yesterday (and two more times reflecting on the moment) to the country song that goes, “If you get the chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance”. That crashed down on my like a ton of bricks. I have heard the song many times before and now as a mother it resonates in a whole new way. There is a strange reaction within people that correlates crying with ‘something is wrong’. My first reaction to someone crying is always Awesome. Someone is connected to their feelings. When Riv cries I do my best to support him. We have not experienced any unreasonable fits of crying. When he is upset, there is a reason. We respond to his needs and then try to hold space for him to process his feelings. If there is one thing I can offer this boy, it is going to be space to process his emotions. Little boys are rarely encouraged to express anger or sadness in our culture. Nor are they as quick to be forgiven for throwing fits like their female peers typically are. My main intention is to raise this boy in an environment where he is free to express himself at his deepest core. Where our whole family can.

– To research or not to research

There have been moments where Michael and I have looked at each other and said, can you quickly Google _______?? But less than I would have imagined before starting this process. It is incredible how much information is available online. Information that can be quite helpful but also harmful. I distinctly remember the first time I stumbled on Scary Mommy dot com. The article that drew me there had something to do with the “realities” of pregnancy and birth — what people won’t tell you, the hard truths, etc. My experience with the site was like diving into a dark pool of drama and swimming in circles for 30min before remembering to come up for a breath of fresh air. There were endless articles of ranting about motherhood covered with a sarcastic entertaining humor that my mouse just wanted to keep clicking on. All topics that appealed to my fear-based ego brain quite intensely at the time.. My advice is read and research when and only what is necessary and work. Let your internal instincts guide as much as you possibly can. We are programed to care for children. If you are healthy and well rested, hormones and internal sensitivities will not let you ignore a true need that a baby in front of you has. Avoid dramatic and non-essential readings or conversations. Things like this will breed chatter in the mind and distract you from what is truly important: The experience in front of you, not the hypothetical one on a computer screen.

– To work or not to work [or] To rest or not to rest

How active should I stay throughout the day? How much work should I start to focus on? All with the intention of serving myself and my family best, there is chatter in my mind to decide which actions to take when. Should I be writing this blog right now instead of connecting with Michael or cuddling the sleeping babe in my lap? For me the answers are clearest when I ask them in the moment, rather than planning my day or week ahead and executing then. As much as possible I am working to keep my schedule relatively free so that I can focus my energy where it is needed now. I can already see shifts in how this little one needs my time and attention. At times this past week Indra has enjoyed staring out the window and practicing tummy time on his own. Then there have been more times in which I know he really needs me — 100% undivided attention me. These cannot be predicted ahead of time and my reaction to them are key. I find the same for investing my own energy. It is more necessary that I decide in the moment whether it is time for my body to be physically active or not. Deciding in the morning when I wake up what kind of activity I am going to be doing at 6pm has not been helpful. Nor is thinking about how quickly I will heal and be ready to do more. My mind has wanted to spend hours planning out how and when I am going to practice yoga. When in reality, if I would just spend those moments either practicing to what extent feels right or being productive with what is needed in that moment, strategic planning of my energy would be completely unnecessary, it would just be unfolding. Continuously ask yourself what is it time for now? The answer is there and that is all that is needed.

xoxo,
Alexandria