Saturday, May 24, 2008
I wrote a few weeks agoabout trying to see sleep as the gentle restorative time it's supposed to be rather than the time I'm not getting things done - cleaning, cooking, writing, exercising. That was all a nice idea, but I was still pretty revved up and having a hard time putting my brain and my computer on standby before 1:30 a.m. Not until I had a craniosacral therapy appointment did I realize how profoundly not tired I'd been.
The therapist did not say my system seemed agitated or "upregulated" as she's said before. In fact, she thought I was doing well; my rhythm had more "amplitude" and I seemed generally calmer than the last time I saw her. But she also said we had a "really deep session," which I knew. I completely dropped down into another level of calm. After the session was over and she left the room with the instructions to take my time and get up gently, I fell asleep.
Later on that night, my husband I had 9:00 p.m. reservations for Restaurant Nora, the organic restaurant near Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. My mother-in-law was visiting, and she's the only one who's ever put our son to bed. We had a nice drive in, and I was still glad we were having date night, but I was so tired I could hardly see straight. All I kept thinking about was being home and being asleep. I remembered the same thing happening several months before -- for a few weeks after a treatment I actually felt like going to bed early. This work is powerful.
The contrast between that feeling and my regular pep was profound. I've enjoyed having high energy, but I also know I've been a little snippy and impatient with my son, the kind of attitude that comes from the body not replenishing its sleep stores for several days in a row. I'm pretty sure my son was feeling that energy, too. Sleeping only from 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. (or earlier, if my son wakes to nurse earlier) and then nursing in a half-sleep off and on until 7:30ish does not give me the space and my body the time to unwind. And clearly, I was wound up, literally and energetically. My therapist helped me through some unwinding in my neck; that was when I stopped chatting and really sunk back into a quiet dark space behind my eyelids.
I enjoyed the food at dinner but, once we got home, I could hardly get into jammies fast enough. I was in bed by 11:30 p.m. and didn't wake until E woke at 6:00 a.m. -- a good run of sleep for him and for me. Normally I get up to pee before 5:00 even if I've only been in bed for three hours. This time I slept for seven uninterrupted. That's probably a 26-month record!
A week from tomorrow morning, I will be running a half-marathon at 7 a.m., so this week's project is to commit to going to bed before midnight so I can reasonably get up at 6:00 with rested rather than revved adrenals.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
I've had a hard time feeling totally okay with taking time to exercise and focus on my body even though I know it makes me more grounded, happier, more centered, more patient... in short, a better mom, partner, friend. Some moms I know just do it without a second thought and go about their business, and other moms act like they couldn't imagine running a mile or leaving their kids in childcare at a gym. I haven't felt comfortable on either end or in the middle.
After having had early and intense separation anxiety, my 25-month-old son has recently started to do fine at neighbors' houses for short babysitting, especially when there's another kid around. I decided that if I was going to pay for this gym membership, I had to start using their childcare. It's small, safe and fun. I watched EJ the first time on the video monitor and he did fine for the 30 minutes I spent on the treadmill. The time I tried an hour-long yoga class wasn't so great. I kept looking over and saw the childcare worker holding him, and before sivasana, I saw he was crying at the door, so I did my own quick corpse pose early and left before everyone else settled in. That was a few months ago, and I hadn't tried again, instead fitting in exercise around other times I had childcare at home, usually from my husband.
Last week the gym held a mommy and me yoga class and then a mother's day tea party after. EJ enjoyed playing with the big exercise balls and eating the (GF, homemade) cookies I brought for him and the fruit the gym provided. The experience seems like it might have accomplished my goal of setting a positive association in his head about the place.
This week, I jogged him down to the gym and told him we were going to play with Cassie for a few minutes and then come home. We did, and he found some toys that whetted his appetite, but we stuck to our plan and left together. Later that day, he was asking for Cassie, so I told him he'd see her the next day while I went to a yoga class. It seemed like I finally got in my head that this really could be okay -- we were both going to get something good out of the experience. He'd get to see some kids and play with new toys, and I'd get Zen. Or something.
My now-running-again legs were happy for the attention, and I realized how out of practice I am on my mat. On my run today, I spent some time thinking about working trips to the gym into our schedule more regularly. It just needs to be something we do rather than the thing that only happens if everything else aligns just perfectly. I don't need to apologize for caring about my body. If I want my son to grow up making his own health a priority, he needs to see his parents do the same.
Friday, May 16, 2008
For now, I want to highlight Emergency Trauma Solution by Perelandra (available online only). I've given this to my son and taken it myself when we've had a few scares - one when we worried he might have ingested some Visine and another when he tumbled a bit down the hill in our backyard. The idea is that the solution can help stabilize you -- your electrical field and all that is affected by that -- after a trauma of any kind - physical, emotional, mental. It can help speed healing on all levels. I have a lot to learn about this modality, but so far I feel like ETS has, in fact, kept me from leaping to an anxious space, which I normally would have then inhabited for a very long time.
Some people also use Rescue Remedy for this kind of gentle balancing in the face of fear or trauma. A Bach flower remedy, Rescue Remedy is a mixture of five flower essences and can be found at most health food stores, the Vitamin Shoppe, and places like Whole Foods Market. It's in a small brown bottle and costs somewhere $5-12 depending on where you are and how big the bottle is. There are also sprays and creams of Rescue Remedy and 38 individual essences if you want to address specific emotional issues. Essences can safely be used on anyone, even pets!
For babies, one drop on the crown of the head or wrists will do. Toddlers and children can be given a drop or two orally if they'll cooperate. You can also put a drop in the palm of your non-dominant hand, focus, and "send" it to the person who needs it if he or she is not with you -- kind of like ordering a grande prayer with an extra shot.
Monday, May 12, 2008
My natural tendency has always been that of a night owl, even when, as now, I've been without caffeine. For the past several months, I had been in the habit of staying up until almost 2:00 a.m. to write, clean, cook, prepare for the next day. I loved how quiet the house was and hated to abandon my free time to head up to bed. This worked for a while because I was also spending part or most of my son's naptime asleep and because my son would wake to nurse around 1:30 or 2:00 a.m. So I essentially stayed up until he started to fuss, and then I would charge upstairs, nurse him and get the oxytocin boost to help me fall asleep. Going to bed any earlier seemed inefficient because my mind was whirring with all the things I could be doing, and I was just waiting for him to wake up before I could really go under. It didn't seem reasonable to try to get to bed before 10:30 p.m. since I was tutoring many nights until 10:00 p.m. and needed considerable wind-down time once I got home.
All these rationalizations aside, I know that there are many health benefits to an earlier bedtime. The adrenals need to rest and repair themselves so that the body is not constantly in high-alert, fight-or-flight mode. Cortisol spikes at the wrong time of day can negatively impact the nervous system. The liver and gallbladder supposedly flush out toxins in the late evening, and they aren't effective at doing so if the body is in an alert state.
There was also the matter of feeling robbed if I spent all of my son's nap sleeping next to him instead of getting some time for myself or a head-start on dinner. Being in a super-dark room during the middle of the day was disorienting. I wanted my afternoons back, but getting through the day without a nap was tough if I'd only slept 2:30-6:30 a.m.!
I had hoped to start going to bed by 11:30 (some naturopathic doctors say 9:00 is a good target, others 10:30 at the latest, and I've also read that sleep before midnight is significantly more restorative than sleep after midnight). However, I did not approach this goal with the same commitment as I approached my diet changes. I merely thought to myself, "It would be nice to get my bike fixed up and try to go to the gym for their 6:00 a.m. yoga class twice a week." A month later, the bike is finally out of the shed and in the trunk of the car, but I haven't gotten it to the shop for a much-needed professional tune-up. I could be rising early to do yoga on my own, as I did when I was a teacher (getting up at 5:00 instead of 5:30 a.m.), but I'm not.
I can't quite get myself to give up all my late-night solo time. I have, however, been more successful at staying awake when I put my son down or just dozing with him for part of his nap and then shooting for going to bed before midnight unless there's a real pressing need to finish something. The one morning I woke surprisingly alert at 5:45 a.m.. The persistent rain of the previous few days had abated, and the fresh spring air and early morning glow through the window were sweet. Having run 10 miles the previous day, it was a delight to have some time on my yoga mat. When my son awoke about 6:10, I went upstairs to nurse him in bed in case he might be able to fall back asleep. But he was ready to be up for the day. Having already gotten centered, I was happy to enjoy reading books on the couch with him without rushing around in a flurry to get breakfast started. With such an early and gentle start, the day seemed much longer and less hurried, and I was ready to go to bed at 10:45, even though I tutored until 10 p.m.
I'm hopeful that if I take a gentle but consistent approach with my bedtime, I can scale it back to a more reasonable hour and eventually (depending on my son's nursing habits) rise before anyone else is up and get in some yoga or some writing.
Friday, May 2, 2008
I usually try to avoid using the word “change.” It implies that there is something bad or wrong, and it doesn’t provide a vision the way a more descriptive, active verb would. And yet, when I tell people I’m doing something of a cleanse, the phrase I keep coming back to is, “I want to change my relationship to food.”
To love my body is to give it food it can handle. And now that I have a young child, I’m conscious of the behaviors and attitudes I model. It’s not an issue of what I feed him; I feel good about that and even enjoy figuring out healthy alternatives to the junk he might be faced with in social situations. So far, he’s playing along well, happily eating his own snack of homemade rice and tapioca flour cookies (sweetened with a tiny bit of brown sugar, some agave syrup, maybe molasses, and applesauce) or, in a pinch, frozen gluten-free waffles with ghee and coconut oil while the other kids eat Goldfish or animal crackers out of a box. Although we sometimes fall back on rice crackers, nuts and raisins if we’re in a hurry, his no-fail go-to snack or addition to a meal is green peas or green beans (cooked in homemade chicken stock and a little ghee so he digests them better).
What I want to be sure about is that he picks up on eating as an act of enjoyment, and food as something to be savored. I do him no favors if I gripe about needing to be gluten-free and casein-free and fret in front of him about how to protect him if he’s inherited my sensitivities. It’s also tough to convey an attitude of gracious enjoyment when I’m constantly smearing sunflower butter out of a jar on top of a banana, or spooning another dollop of coconut milk into anything and everything, and up from the table twenty times in furious attempts to get full. I was behaving as though each experience with food was the fuel stop that had to get me through as many laps as possible until almost running completely out of gas.
The analogy may have been true when he was younger, exclusively breastfed, and demanding to be held most of his waking hours, but now it’s time for us both to calm down. I don’t need that many calories, and I don’t need the extra tire around my gut.
After I attended a cooking class on spring detoxes, I decided I needed to make some changes. Since I’m still breastfeeding, there’s a limit to what I can do. But I had the sense that my liver needed a break from all the heavy foods and that a skin problem (with compulsive scratching) I’d had since a few months after my son’s birth was connected both to liver toxicity and also, on an emotional level, to this sort of addicted, “cram it in” mentality.
So I decided that once I returned home from a family function, I would try to step out of my habits dramatically for a while so that I could eventually settle back into a more measured way of eating and approaching my life.
What I initially stopped or greatly reduced:
- Eating fruit – sweet fruits and tomatoes. I added avocado back in after a short time
- Eating potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips
- Eating processed foods such as rice crackers, rice tortillas, rice pasta, GF waffles, store-bought hummus and store-bought almond milk. I continued eating nitrite-free, hormone-free sausage and deli meat for breakfast and occasionally for lunch. All other meat was organic and most beef grassfed
- Combining rice (soaked for 7 hrs in vinegar or cooked in stock to increase digestibility) with meat
- Eating nuts at all – lasted for only a few days
- Eating nuts other than almonds – lasted for a little longer but then I made my son some crispy pecans, and they were too good to pass up
- Eating nut butters unless homemade using crispy nuts (nuts that have been soaked overnight and then dried gently in a dehydrator to break down their phytic acid)
- Eating so much coconut milk and spoonfuls of coconut oil – although these foods both have some great benefits, I was sucking them down at an alarming rate
What I started:
- Beginning my day with warm water and apple cider vinegar to alkalinize the body
- Having a fresh vegetable juice before breakfast – celery, parsley, garlic and lemon or lime made with full food/fiber using a Vita-Mix blender
- Eating more green vegetables cooked in homemade chicken stock, sometimes with miso
- Eating more seasonal vegetables, including greens like dandelion and beet and herbs that are supposed to support the liver and kidneys
- Eating sprouted beans and seeds
- Eating a salad daily at both lunch and dinner - lettuce; cucumber; celery, sprouted seeds, peas, beans or nuts; cultured vegetable; dressing of coconut milk/olive oil/apple cider vinegar
- Eating lacto-fermented/cultured vegetables with each meal or at least drinking Kombucha or using apple cider vinegar in salad dressing
- Adding more fresh garlic to everything
What I continued that might seem inconsistent with “cleansing” to some folks:
- Eating one or two egg yolks a day, usually eggs from pastured chickens that I buy from a farm
- Eating some coconut milk and oil, using olive oil with no restriction, using ghee
- Eating meat but adding in more grassfed beef and wild salmon for additional Omega-3's
How I’ve felt
The first few days, I felt weak and shaky as though I was having withdrawal from sugar and from calories. However, once I got the Vita-Mix going, the fresh shot of nutrient-packed drink made a big difference, and adding back in nuts seemed necessary. My cravings subsided, and I was surprised to see that I lost about two pounds in just a week even though I’d added back in a good amount of high-fat food. I’m now a pound below my pre-pregnancy weight and don’t expect (or want) to go any lower, especially if I continue to increase my level of exercise and gain muscle. I don’t care as much about the number as I do with the tighter tummy and lighter feeling.
My appreciation of food has indeed increased. I breathe more when I eat, which helps my digestion probably as much as the improved content of my bowl. I’ve developed a craving now for sauerkraut or another cultured veggie, as though my meal is not complete without it. According the Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions, the Weston A. Price Foundation and the Body Ecology Diet – my main nutritional reference sources – this is much more typical of traditional ways of eating that almost disappeared in industrialized societies once processed foods made their way into our kitchens. I've also consulted Paul Pitchford's Healing with Whole Foods a bit.
It’s been less than three weeks since I began, and I’ve started allowing for some flexibility and have even eaten restaurant food a few times. Moderation was what I was going for – the ability to not be extreme. I want for my son – who has a similarly intense temperament – to have a more balanced model. This is something I’m working on at many levels, some just in my own head and some with other practitioners, which I’ll discuss in future posts. Food was the most fundamental example with a physical connection, with my compulsive scratching a close second. The one day I got up late and rushed to make breakfast and pack a lunch and ate both on the go was the first in almost a week that I scratched.
What I've taken away so far
In the world that I inhabit, I have to hope for positive results and come up with a proactive statement that is steeped in possibility: “I want to have a loving relationship with food.” At the same time, I need to be careful not to fantasize about a day when I hang a “mission accomplished” banner, because I know that looking for a product is missing the crucial point that this is an ongoing process.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
I've heard lots of well-meaning mamas utter these words with a shrug. On one hand, I admire their faith that everything will work out okay. Optimism and hope can go a long way.
However, we are living in an age in which food sensitivities are real, dangerous, and far more common than they used to be. Our world is not the same one our grandparents inhabited. Lots of folks claim that they ate whatever they wanted and so did their parents, and "we all turned out okay." The definition of "okay" is relative. With today's rates of cancer, autoimmune disorders, autism, depression, obesity and diabetes, I'd venture to say we could be a lot more "okay" than we are.
When I look at photos of me as a little girl, the dark circles under my eyes are alarming. After struggling with depression from a very young age, gastrointestinal problems for most of my life, and infertility in my 30's, I finally figured out that I cannot tolerate gluten or casein, the proteins in wheat and some other grains, and cow's milk, respectively.
My health journey has taken me down many roads. As a result of all I've experienced and learned with various healing modalities, I am committed to giving my son the healthiest possible start and to helping other parents support their children's health. In many ways, the path toward health for our children starts with our own paths toward health.
On this blog, I'll share stories and information about allergy elimination, nourishing food, homeopathy, craniosacral therapy and other modalities to support your family's health.