Surviving Bedrest and Being Homebound With Medically Fragile Children

Hi all,

I had a wonderful comment on one of my other posts regarding what I would recommend for parents who have medical challenges or for parents of micro-preemies who with the flu session and Winter need to stay home for several Winter seasons in a row.

It really is challenging to get a good mindset about it all.   One important thing I would like to say right off the bat is that this is a time to shore up your own inner work, your own prayer and meditation life, your own personal development.  These situations can really push one to grow.

 I was on bedrest with my second child, and it was one of the most challenging experiences of my whole life (because as many of you know I am a rather busy little soul).  However, I think I would handle it much, much better today. There is a really good thread here over at the Berkeley Parents Network  regarding bedrest, does it really work and is it worth it, how to handle it, etc:   http://parents.berkeley.edu/advice/pregnancy/bedrest.html

There is an organization devoted to mothers experiencing bedrest and high-risk, complicated pregnancies here: http://www.sidelines.org/

I think one of the main things with bedrest is to have people available to talk to who can understand your feelings.  If you are on bedrest with an older child, I think it can quickly dissolve into the fact that you cannot mother your older child the way you want, and you feel as if you are failing the baby inside of you as well.  If you have multiple older children, it also the sheer logistics of caring for everyone, being stretched as a couple, perhaps having family members come and stay for weeks on end (which can be challenging).  There is a lot to think about and plan, so I highly suggest those above links.

As far as being homebound with children who are medically fragile for the Winter, I do understand how hard this can be for parents!  It seems especially difficult  when one has  to do this for the second Winter season in a row after having some freedom in  the Spring and Summer.  For many parents, it was hard enough to slow down for the first Winter season! 

I would invite you, though, to close your eyes and imagine your little micro-preemie or medically fragile child as healthy and whole due to staying home.  Imagine them thriving due to a healthy rhythm, lots of rest and sleep and time to just be. 

That being said, here are a few suggestions:

  • Every family dealing with a second season of isolation due to RSV season has their own way of doing things – some allow family members to visit, some have their child avoid contact with children who are in day care, some avoid indoor places and only go to outdoor places.   Some are on complete and utter “lock-down” at home.   I think it is very important to dialogue with your health care team as to what is right for your individual child and to decide as a family how you will handle this.  I think it also helps to know how many cases of RSV are out there in your own state, you can check here:  http://www.cdc.gov/surveillance/nrevss/rsv/state.html
  • Try to have a rhythm of when you might bundle up and go outside if that is a possibility, even if it is just to walk around your own yard, when to do finger plays, when to do some work around the house, rest and sleep times, bodily care.  This post may actually assist you:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/06/waldorf-in-the-home-with-the-one-and-two-year-old/  Rhythm is especially important for children who were premature as this helps the child’s sense of balance in life and flexibility.
  • The entire focus of the day should not be hovering over your small child anxiously….the focus should be in creating a warm, peaceful, home with peaceful mother hen energy where you as the parent are setting the tone of your home.  You have important work to do in your home that your child can help with and imitate.  You have more to do than just sitting there looking at your child.  This will help their development more than anything!
  • Think about how to nourish the caregiver.  When can Mommy go out on her own to run errands?  How about something you enjoy doing that you could do at night once your wee one is asleep? 
  • Do you have the support of your local place of worship?  Do they know what you are experiencing?  Can they be of support to you? 
  • Do you have anyone locally you can get support from either in-person or on the phone?  I have heard of some parents of micro-preemies meeting up on meetup.com or the like…perhaps over the Winter, one could not meet in person but one could keep in touch and support each other over the phone.
  • Who else could help with  running errands for you or could you order things on-line?  What is your plan if you have a traveling spouse or your child does actually get sick?  Do you have some meals frozen?
  • What can you do to experience nature indoors if you cannot go out?  Can you set up bird feeders, can you have a fish tank, can you start a potted herb garden or plant bulbs?
  • Depending upon the age of your child, can you have lots of holiday craft supplies on hand?  Music and songs to sing and learn? 
  • What about the child’s gross motor abilities?  Can you have an under the bed box full of sand and sand toys and put a tarp under it?  Water play?  Can you hang a swing somewhere? 

These are just a few suggestions, take what resonates with you.  Also, if you are a mother who has survived bedrest or staying in a season, please leave your ideas and suggestions for other mothers below.  You could be a real blessing to someone today!

Love your children and live big,

Carrie

Beyond The Forty Days: What Next?

I have written some blog posts in the past regarding the forty days after birth as a time to be easy on oneself, a time to be with one’s baby.  Then, you may ask, what happens after the forty days are finished and people expect you to be “normal” and “back to your old self” ?

I had a friend the other day tell me she thought the time when a baby was  between two to four months old was actually very challenging, because people stop coming over to visit.  They stop bringing you meals.  People expect your older children to get places and participate in things.  Meanwhile, you are juggling a baby who is perhaps already starting to get teeth and who is not sleeping well or juggling a baby who is not sleeping well because he or she is doing new things developmentally. 

But  there are still  those moments to drink in and savor.  Those first smiles and laughter.  Those dimpled cheeks and chubby thighs.  The first time they roll over.  The way they wave their hands and feet when you sing to them.

Sometimes, with parenting, all you can do is hold on. Enjoy those wonderful moments, learn to ask for help when you need it, learn to seek out the company of people who parent like you as you find your own path.  And the path will change as you get older, because you are still growing and evolving, and the path will change the more children you have because children are all different and have different things to teach us.  And so we learn and we grow with our babies.

But, we can never err on the side of being gentle.  We can never err on the side of bringing light to our family.  We can never err by seeking out and becoming a part of a supportive community of  mothers and parents.  We can never err by choosing a path mindfully, even as we give ourselves leeway to do things differently down the road with different children. 

Children deserve our honor and our gentle voice and hands.  They deserve recognition that they are indeed different than adults.  They deserve to have a childhood filled with warmth and love.

And as mothers, we deserve support, we deserve love, we deserve peace.  We deserve a partner to make our load lighter and our steps happier, we deserve cherished friends to make the road a joyful one, a faith to make it all possible, and laughter along the way.

May all of these simple joys be yours in this Simple February!

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Warmth, Strength and Freedom” by Mary Kelly Sutton

This was a wonderful article by anthroposophic physician Mary Kelly Sutton.  I have permission to re-print it here from the owner of the Greentaramama group where I first saw it –  the list owner has a wonderful store to buy children’s woolens and silks by the way.  Here is the link to that store: http://www.greenmountainorganics.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=6
Thank you Michelle for this article and your store! 
“““““““““““
WARMTH, STRENGTH, AND FREEDOM
There are times when I sound more like a grandmother than a doctor in
advising families how to be healthy. ‘Dress warmly!’ ‘Eat a good
breakfast!’ ‘Get to bed early!’ ‘Let your body fight its own colds!’
But each of this advisories is powerful, no matter how simple it
sounds.
WARMTH
Warmth is related to the element fire. All the other elements –
earth, air, water — are easily bounded. Warmth goes through
boundaries. This is no surprise when you think of the love (emotional
warmth/fire) you feel for your children. Nothing stops it. (That is
why you are reading this.)
Healthy human beings have a rhythmic body temperature of approximately
98.6, slightly lower in morning than evening. Cold is a stress for the
body. Touch your child’s fingers and toes — with your own warm hand.
(If your hand is cool/cold, first warm it up.) Then feel other parts:
the trunk, front and back, abdomen, forehead, chest. The fingers and
toes should be as warm as the warmest part of the body. If they are
not, the child is dealing with cold stress, and you can help him/her a
great deal by changing the clothing so that fingers and toes become as
warm as they should be. Shunting blood away from the extremities is a
survival mechanism in the body. It protects the vital organs (heart,
lungs, liver, kidneys).
Cold stress can make children overactive, in an effort to warm up.
Warm clothing allows them to settle down, join in group activity,
focus and learn.
In some children coldness interferes with normal weight gain. I have
seen one wiry 5-year-old in New Hampshire who gained two pounds in the
first week her mother put her in wool underwear.
Runny noses commonly are related to coldness. And coldness is a
significant factor in more important immune suppression in a very
significant way. ‘The skin is the proper place for disease to happen,’
states an old holistic medicine pearl. If the skin is cool, the battle
with a common germ cannot be waged on the skin. The blood has gone
into
the deeper organs, and with it, the battle is carried to deeper
organs. This is an important way that complications happen from
common illnesses, such as a cold or chicken pox. In medical school, I
first saw in my Internal Medicine textbook, that chickenpox
encephalitis commonly occurs when there are very few pox on the body.
The
inflammation does little damage on the skin, but can do a great deal
of damage in a deeper organ. Keeping the skin warm keeps the battle
with a germ where it is safe for the body. I have heard a German
pediatrician describe how he recommends to parents of children with
measles that the parent rub the calves with dry terry cloth until the
calves are pink. This over-warming action draws the circulation to the
surface, and pulls
the battle with the germ to a safe place, outward and downward, away
from vital organs.
This principle can be applied in daily life simply by dressing warmly,
and being attentive to the warmth of our children’s extremities. We
both prevent illnesses, and keep their course uncomplicated if they
occur, by having warm extremities.
Physical warmth is an early sense for the newborn baby, along with
smell, taste, and hearing. But the child does not sense temperature
accurately until about age 9. You are not surprised when a toddler
runs around the house naked, and older kids and adults are reaching
for shoes and sweaters. We have all seen this. In New Hampshire, the
kindergarteners rush into the lakes on Memorial Day, and the third
graders look at them like ‘what’s wrong with you!?’
So you, the parent, must decide what is the right clothing for the
young person you are responsible for. Don’t ASK the young child ‘what
do you want to wear?’ This question is appropriate at times for an
older child, but it is scary for a young child to be the one making a
decision in the presence of an adult. It is hard in our culture NOT to
ask our
children what they want, because we hear it so commonly. I remember
falling into this and asking my 5 yr old son what t-shirt he wanted,
and he looked at me and said ‘I don’t know. You’re the mommy!’ So
often our kids show us what we should have known. Be willing to BE the
Mommy or the Daddy. Make the decision about the clothes you feel are
right for the climate, and say with surety: ‘Here’s your undershirt
and top, your tights and skirt. Let’s get dressed. You’re set for a
wonderful day!’ Your authority is their security. Their strength is
modeled after yours, so give them a strong, insightful, kind authority
figure.
But what to wear, if hands and feet are cold? The rule I’ve used in
New Hampshire is to begin with is three layers on the top with one
tucked in, and two layers on the bottom. One of these should be like a
second skin, closely investing the body, not baggy. This means long
underwear, or tights, or at the very least an undershirt. If the child
is sweaty,
take off a layer. If the child is still cool to touch, change to a
warmer fabric. Natural fabrics breathe best: cotton, silk, and wool.
Down does not breathe, nor do synthetics generally, so body heat is
trapped if the person is overdressed. Cotton can be both cooling and
warming, and is good for hot countries and Arizona summers. Silk is
more warming, then wool-silk, and wool is warmest. A source for
children’s long underwear is: www.greenmountainorganics.com
A helpful image to use is that foxes and rabbits grow fur, thicker in
the winter than the summer. We didn’t — so we have to put on our fur
to be able to run around outside like foxes and rabbits in the winter.
Hats, gloves, sox are all part of the fur we didn’t grow. Clothed
well, we have new freedom to move outdoors. Long underwear in some
seasons
eliminates the need for bulky outerwear, and movement is less
restrained.
So you have the knowledge of WHAT to do, and are confident in your
authority as a parent being the best thing for them. Then life
happens. The child is simultaneously developing his will, so a
wonderful opportunity comes for the child to say ‘NO!!’ to any
parental statement, including clothes. This requires tact, cleverness,
determination –
every adult attribute in the book. Don’t rush into action. Wait,
watch, assess, and plan HOW to do this thing you know is good for your
kids. A young girl may need stylish (warm) tights or long johns that
you have seen ballerinas wear, because, after all, their leg muscles
dance more beautifully if they are warm. A fierce 4-year-old warrior
may need a swashbuckling (warm) pirate muscle shirt, leggings, and
sash, with a story of how to stand and walk like a pirate as they are
put on. A two year old may just need a chase around the room, a
friendly capture, and a lot of loving contact as he/she is poured into
warm layers. Some children will need to know you consider this so
important that favorite activities are actually dependent on dressing
correctly, or that some other consequence is incurred. And then, you
must stick to your word. Because if you don’t really stay home from
sledding because the long underwear couldn’t go on when you said it
must, then maybe you won’t really follow through on all the promises
of love you have made. The child’s mind is consistent even though it
is not fully conscious. It is better not to threaten a consequence
unless you are one hundred per cent ready to carry it out. Your word
is your word, whether it is spoken as lawgiver, or pledging love
forever.
There is no virtue to overdressing. July in southern Arizona is not
the time to insist on the 3-on-top and 2-on-the bottom. The way to
make the decision at any time is to feel the child’s fingers and toes,
rather than to abstractly apply a rule.
BREAKFAST
Eat protein generously at breakfast. (Breakfast like a king, lunch
like a prince, supper like a pauper, the saying goes — and it can be
changed to the other gender: queen, princess, bag lady.) Protein at
breakfast stabilizes the blood sugar for the whole day. (Lunch protein
cannot do the same job; the window of opportunity is past.) EVERYONE
has better co-ordination, endurance, moods, and ability to learn.
Options: eggs of any sort, cottage cheese blintzes, smoothies with
protein powder (preferably not soy), grilled cheese sandwiches,
cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, fish fillets.
(I had great success with my teenage boys telling them they would not
get a ride to school unless they ate breakfast. We lived 4 blocks from
school. They complained, they ate, I drove. As they got older and were
driving themselves, occasionally, they would wake up so late, they
would eat very little. I would just say ‘do the best you can,’ letting
them know what I think is important, but that I trust them. No rule
can substitute for human judgment, and older kids need some freedom to
vary from house rules and learn from life and how they feel; trust
your instinct and love for them in choosing an approach.)
REST AND RHYTHM
Machines are either on or off independent of environment usually,
while living beings have rhythms, gentle alternations of activity and
rest, breathing in and breathing out, that are fundamentally tied to
the Sun. Every Waldorf kindergarden teacher works very consciously to
provide focused activity, then free play or outdoors time. In this
way, the
child is carried through the day harmoniously, with the least
exhaustion, the least likelihood of overload or eventual illness. And
the greatest chance for unfolding his/her human potential creatively.
Our physical make-up is tied to the sun’s movement, light and dark.
The biorhythms of enzymes and hormones follow the diurnal (daily light
and dark) rhythm, even if we work night shift. Bigger rhythms of month
and year and lifetime are present, and more being discovered.
If we live in sync with the way our body is designed, we will have the
greatest health. For children, whose task is to grow and to learn,
this means regular waking, rest, and sleeping times, and regular
mealtimes. Like the gradual change of seasons brings gradual change of
light, we need not be rigid, but in general have a few anchors in the
day that are
constant. Most important are bedtime and breakfast time, in my
experience.
The hours before midnight are the most restorative. So for an adult,
eight hours sleep beginning at 9 pm is more valuable than eight hours
beginning at midnight. A child needs more sleep, in varying amounts at
different ages, and sometimes differing from one child to the next.
The younger the child, the earlier the bedtime. poem A well-slept
child
generally will awaken spontaneously and be happy. If the child is very
difficult to arouse or repeatedly grumpy, the bedtime should be nudged
earlier until a better morning experience is seen. In adolescence, the
cycle shifts later, and the average sleep need is nine hours and
fifteen minutes daily. Since high schools often start very early in
the
morning, a significant stress is unavoidably part of the school week
for adolescents.
Lavender oil as massage, or fragrance on bedclothing, or as warm bath
as part of bedtime ritual, is very helpful for those children who tend
to be alert at bedtime. The bedtime ritual is wonderful to begin with
very young children, as a habit of letting go develops, leading to
sound sleep, and being secure enough to sleep alone. The ritual can
include
bath, story, tuck-in, prayer, kiss with calm ‘sleep tight. love you.
see you in the morning.’ The young child’s ritualistic approach to
life is hierarchical by nature, with Mommy and Daddy all-powerful in
his/her young eyes. The natural order of the world at this age can
readily include God or Higher Power and Angels or Guardian spirits and
be of value to the child’s sense of order and security in the world.
Later, when the nine-year-change comes, and a child senses deeply his
separateness from his parents, the early images of God and higher
beings protecting and guiding his daily actions and sleep can be
reassuring in facing this first big realization of separateness.
A light supper, with little protein or completely vegetarian, helps
sleep come easily. Remember, we want to wake up with an appetite for
breakfast, the foundation meal of the day’s activities, so it’s best
not to overload at night. Time-honored warm milk is a fine
sleep-inducer. Carbohydrates are sleepy foods, while protein, fat,
salt, and caffeine
tend to wake us up.
Almost all children are born with some tendency to one-sidedness, and
our task as parents is to help them find balance. The rhythm of the
day shows whether it is hard for our youngster to settle down, or hard
to get up and move about, and we can help bring about comfort with
both sides of movement, etc.
Should a child have difficulty waking up in the morning, even after
enough hours of sleep, rosemary lotion in cool water is an
invigorating fragrance and can be applied to the face (forehead, then
cheeks) carefully with a damp cloth to bring alertness. A positive
statement about the day ahead is an important medicine in this
treatment: ‘good morning! what has that robin done outside your window
since yesterday? I have a wonderful breakfast ready for you! rise and
shine! what a wonderful day it is!’
THE COMMON COLD, THE USUAL CHILDHOOD ILLNESSES
Recognize acute illness as an exercise class for the immune system,
and treat in a non-suppressive way. It is not a sign of immune
breakdown, it is a chance for strengthening. The big three to help the
body do its best in fighting acute illness are: WARMTH, REST, and
CLEANSING. Add a few low potency homeopathic remedies and herbs, and
you can support the body in this important immune work, not simply
suppress symptoms. See
separate writing for detailed treatments. person as medicine
CHILD DEVELOPMENT
All of these advisories support VEGETATIVE functions, the unconscious
health-giving parts of a human being that are the bank account we draw
on for growth, learning, and later, our work in life. (This vegetative
bank account is also called the etheric forces in anthroposophic
medical terminology. As adults, the strength of our etheric body
manifests as our vitality, our ability to recover, to have energy, or
to endure.) A child’s job is to grow, and to learn things appropriate
to his/her age. With a strong foundation of warmth, nutrition, rest,
rhythm, immune exercise from ordinary acute illness if the body in its
wisdom allows it — the child’s optimal development proceeds, and a
strong physical
foundation is laid for the entire adult life. The vegetative functions
are sometimes characterized by the cow, who is mostly a metabolic
creature, chewing, making milk, sitting and walking and lying down. No
executive tendencies here, nor highly developed sense organs. A
masterful vegetative existence.
The other pole of the human being, opposite the vegetative, is the
CONSCIOUS pole. The parent (or teacher) does this work in the child’s
life, so the child does not have to draw on the bank account of
vegetative forces by making decisions too early. Judgment, analysis,
logic, decision-making are characterized by the far-seeing eagle,
whose highly developed sense capacity is combined with the cunning and
decisive movement of a predator, a majestic lord of the skies.
As parents of young children (1-7 yr old), you are protectors of the
cow-nature, the vegetative foundation, which your child will use
throughout his/her life. As enormous physical growth takes place, the
child uses limbs and explores movement thoroughly. The child is
imitative, copying the way Daddy sits with the newspaper, or insisting
Mommy sit at only her right place at the table, like a learned ritual
the child has mastered. This physical life is accompanied by a mental
connection with images, not reason. Thus the love of bedtime stories,
preferably told, not read, and repeated till every beloved detail is
memorized. Also you find the young child’s questions more
satisfactorily met by a picture than an analytic explanation. Some
questions can even be better avoided, if they are asking for adult
information. But you can always comment ‘What a wonderful mind you
have! You ask such wonderful questions! Let’s get your teddy bear next
to you for nap/lunch.’ The child has made contact, you have responded
lovingly and appropriately.
You see that spark, the flashes of individuality that is waiting to
show itself fully. Your wisdom holds the child’s day steady, rhythmic,
fed and bedded, building the strength of the vegetative side of your
eagle-to-be. It requires trust and patience to let the child unfold in
his/her own time, and not call on adolescent or adult qualities too
early. This time of life can be boring for parents, who have full
adult capacities and thrive on change and excitement, not routine.
Your sacrifice is commendable. Parenting is among the hardest jobs
there are, and each stage of childhood gives parents an opportunity
for a
different form of selflessness.
The heart of childhood is 7-14 yr old, when a respect for worthy
authority is natural, and feeling opens for beauty itself in the world
around. More than vegetative support is required now. The lion’s heart
of courage and strength must be met, with stories of the same, and
exposure to real artistic expression so the beginning of the moral
nature is fed with the beauty and strength it is seeking. This is
often the age of the least illness, and the most harmonious time of
childhood.
But change comes, and the young Philadelphia lawyer casts a disgusted
glance at the parents who have brought him/her thus far — usually
some time around 8th grade. The eagle’s predatory power is evident. No
more contented baby learning movement and the physical world, nor
sweet-natured heartfelt child growing before your eyes. The intellect
is unfolding, and the first object of critical analysis is often the
parents. It’s good timing that powers of judgment and analysis begin
to unfold just as puberty begins. Let the intellect’s sharp powers
master the hormones that rage. From 14-21, the individuality is more
pronounced, decision making should be shared and guided in preparation
for independence. Privacy is important. Learning results of choices,
such as wise consequences in the home, helps put control of behavior
inside the individual.
The wise ‘governance’ of a child goes in stages somewhat like human
history has evolved. The young child is benefited by a benign despot,
the loving parental authority; in the middle years, the child natively
respects authority, but has a developing sense of contributing his/her
wants and needs though not ready for independent decision making;
democracy is built into the adolescent, and the parent gives the
structure of what is or isn’t tolerated by virtue of a structure of
consequences.
The stages of development are given at their usual ages, but there
will be early hints of what is to come and echoes of prior times
varying with each individual. Behaviors I described may be different
due to the family dynamic, or the particular learning path the
individual child carries as part of his/her destiny, or our culture.
The culture we live in pushes adult information into even the very
young child’s life — computers and IQ testing are part of some
preschool programs. Adult decisions are often part of the oldest or
the only child’s daily diet of conversation. Sexualized clothing and
media surround children of every age, and give parents a challenge to
minimize this early maturation influence. Early intellectualizing and
early sexual information pulls the young child out of the vegetative
physical mode that is home for him or her, and spends the child’s
etheric forces on coping and understanding rather than physical
growth.
****************************************
As nuclear families rear children alone in today’s culture,
grandmothers are hard to come by. The pediatrician and family doctor
assume the role that aunts and grandmothers had in helping with
illness and childrearing. But the swap medicalizes common events, and
we take a further step down the pharmaceutical-answer-for-everything
road.
I hope this work can reawaken faith in the capacity of the human body,
enlarged with the scientific understanding that shows why this faith
is reasonable, reconnect us with the healing gifts of nature as they
are enhanced with human insight and become remedies,
and show through the caring for our children, the presence and power
of the human spirit.
Mary Kelley Sutton

__._,_.___

The Baby’s Intense Need For Mother

The baby has an intense need to be with its mother throughout the early years.  In traditional terms, the biology of the baby and, in anthroposophic terms, The Madonna Cloak, deems this to be so.  The baby and mother are one.

Many breastfeeding mothers talk about wanting to give their baby a bottle so “Dad can feed the baby and be involved.”  I understand mothers wanting their partners to be involved, and I especially understand first-time mothers who may be viewing this bonding experience between father and infant as something that needs to occur right away.  And I agree that too many attached mothers forget that the baby is attached to the family, not just the mother.

However, just like everything under the sun, there is a time and a place and a way.  Dads are wonderful at taking care of mother while she does the job that only she can do – nurture their baby at the breast.  Dads can cook and clean and help with the older siblings.  Dads can help bathe the baby, do diaper changes with the baby, walk the baby around, sing songs to the baby and hold the baby after the baby has nursed.  Dad can establish connection with the whole family!  Dad can feed the baby solids when that time comes.  (If you have questions regarding that, please see this insanely popular post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/11/starting-solids-with-your-infant-and-picky-toddler-eating/). Dad truly does not have to feed the baby a bottle to be connected!

After three children, my husband now sees this newborn period as a time to  nurture me and our older children.  He is involved with the baby in terms of holding, walking the baby around and other tasks, but he also shrugs his shoulders and says to  our little guy, “ Especially when you get a bit bigger, what a wonderful time we are going to have together!”  He recognizes that in this early period, there is a connection between mother and child that is paramount.  He also recognizes the critical role of fathering for both boys and girls, but knows that right now the needs of the infant are best met at the breast.  For more about mothering and fathering, please see this post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/23/the-necessity-of-mothering-and-fathering/

I have heard many first- time mothers talk about the changes in their marriage and relationship with their spouse  having a baby  causes.  I have written many posts regarding this,  and here is one of the most popular ones for your reading pleasure:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/17/using-your-first-year-of-parenting-to-fall-deeper-in-love-with-your-spouse/

You do not have to leave your baby behind in order to nurture your marriage. If you only have one baby, you can work toward having a special dinner and a movie cued up for when your baby goes to sleep.  You can have great conversation while your baby nurses.  If you have older children as well, many attached families are still comfortable with being together at home after the children are in bed.  If an attached couple with multiple  children does feel the need to “go out”, many times the older children  may stay with a trusted relative or friend, but the baby comes with the mother. This is not my personal choice for babies due to my Waldorf leanings, but at least we see respect  for that biological and cosmic unity in this scenario.  Perhaps protection from assaults on the senses can occur if the mother and father either celebrate being together at home or somewhere quiet!

At this point, I personally am committed to being home for at least 40 days if not a bit longer.  I am so thankful to my husband, family and friends who are supporting me in this endeavor.  I know the baby appreciates it as well.  :)

Think about how you can meet the needs of the youngest member of your family today.

Love,

Carrie

For Parents of Intact Boys

For those of you searching, here is a good article:

http://www.kindredmedia.com.au/library_page1/only_clean_what_is_seen_reversing_the_epidemic_of_forcible_foreskin_retractions/401/1

and another good website:

www.nocirc.org

and a link to their 2009 newsletter:

http://www.nocirc.org/publish/2009nocirc_newsletter.pdf

The NoCirc website also has a whole section devoted to the issue of religion and circumcision.

Hope that is helpful to those of you searching for information on this topic.  There is also a very active sub-forum regarding this issue over at the MotheringDotCommunity Forums:  http://www.mothering.com/discussions/

Many blessings,

Carrie

Stress Signs in Infants

(Note- This is from a pediatric physical therapy viewpoint today).

A brilliant comment from anthromama on my last post regarding “40 Days After Birth and Beyond” stimulated a small idea in my head!  Many of you know that I am a neonatal physical therapist by profession and in my work, recognizing and calming an infant in stress is a huge part of what I do.  So, with that in mind, I thought I would list the stress signs of an infant here for everyone to see because it never occurred to me that folks might not recognize stress signs in their own full-term infants (yes, a full-term infant can still have stress signs – remember, protect those 12 senses!)

Stress signs:

The baby will salute you – essentially this looks like a baby stretching out their hand toward you, (usually the back of the hand toward you) and up towards their face.  Parents will say, “How cute! He is waving at me!”  Nope, nope and nope.

The baby will extend the arm and splay the fingers apart.

The baby will frown, grimace, grunt.

The baby will all of the sudden start yawning, hiccupping, or sneezing multiple times.  (Yes, babies do yawn, hiccup, or sneeze but this is more like 10 times in a row or more all of the sudden).

The baby will arch the back and neck and push away (and yes, some babies with gastroesophageal reflux disease will also arch and push away).

The baby will look away suddenly and for a long period after having a period of wonderful eye contact on a caregiver’s face – think about this one carefully.  We ourselves do not maintain focused eye contact on others when we are in conversation, but often our eyes are scanning and resting, scanning and resting.   The looking away is a sign the baby needs a break and less focus.

The baby will cry.  This is usually a last sign when all other signs have been ignored.

The baby will become frantic and move all extremities wildly.

Or, conversely, the baby will just shut down, shut his or eyes and tune everything out.

What To Do:

Breastfeed and gently but firmly snuggle your infant

Try tucking your infant’s arms and legs close into their body.  See if you can help your infant clasp their hands together or to bring their hand to their mouth if they are not nursing.

Try talking to your infant before touching them – let them know you are there!

Hold your baby about 10 inches or so from your face – the distance they see best at first if  you are wanting to make direct eye contact.  Vision is not the most utilized sense in a newborn!

Turn down the lights; bright lights bother many infants

Swaddling!

Most importantly, decrease the multiple inputs going on – if the other kids are screaming, the dog is barking, the phone is ringing – well, see if you can turn the phone off, calm the kids, let the dog go outside.

Let the baby hold your finger.

For “All-Out Crying”

Sometimes babies just need a release and that is okay while being held and soothed, but we really want the infant to establish trust in that a caregiver will meet their needs (in other words, no crying it out for a small baby!)   If nursing is not doing the trick, some babies enjoy being swaddled and held upright with motion such as  being walked around.  Some babies I have loved who had more severe neurologic challenges have responded best to being rather tightly swaddled, sucking on my gloved finger in a sidelying position with their head higher than their stomach and being “gently  rhythmically bounced” (ie, if they are on your leg, cross one leg over the other leg, put the infant on their side on the leg that is highest with their head away from you and tap your bottom leg to a  slow rhythmic beat).  I need to take a picture so you all can see it better.  Sometimes sucking along with a gentle rhythmical bouncing or rocking is very helpful for any infant in distress.

Babies that are happy:

Are in a quiet and alert state.

The face, arms and legs are relaxed.

The baby can focus on objects or people.

Their eyes are open and they try to smile.

There was a post I wrote quite awhile ago regarding why babies cry, typical crying patterns, etc:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/19/when-babies-cry-and-what-we-can-all-learn-from-the-high-needs-baby-and-child/

Hope this helps stimulate some thought,

Carrie

40 Days After Birth and Beyond

Gypsy, a reader of this blog from New Zealand, wrote this post on her blog that I wanted to share with you:

http://domesticallyblissed.blogspot.com/2009/07/more-than-suburban-neurosis.html

I am sharing Gypsy’s concern regarding not only  the general lack of time mothers today have to prepare and dream for a birth while pregnant, but also this thought that as soon as possible one must jump back into the old routine.

My Dutch neighbor asked me yesterday why people in the U. S.  brought tiny infants to movies….. (My European and Down Under readers, is this only a U.S. phenomenon???  I would like to know!  Please leave me a comment!)  Her thought was that a movie is so very loud and overstimulating and she wondered why mothers are trying perhaps hard to prove that “they have had a baby but can still do all the things they used to do”?  I am not sure if this is the reason mothers bring infants to movies, or if it is just “something to do to get out of the house”, but I do wonder. What makes us think that this is okay for a tiny baby?  (Well, okay, what makes us think this is okay for children in general under the age of 7 or 9?  That is a whole ‘nother post topic!)

A child under the age of 9 and especially a small baby is WIDE open to the world with no filters, no sensors.  All those sensory impressions just come pouring in!  I cannot tell you all the number of hospital rooms I have walked into to treat a tiny newborn and had to ask the parents to please turn a very noisy and loud television or radio program off!  I have felt badly for these infants’ assaulted senses.

I am a very attached mother, and I have many, many attached friends.  But please, let’s not use the fact that we can breastfeed in a sling to drag a baby all over creation!  Our bodies can act as a filter for some of the sensory impressions for our babies, but the question is shouldn’t part of being a mother be that we put the sensory needs of our smallest and most fragile first and foremost?  Shouldn’t the birth of a baby be a time of wonder and  enjoyment and yes, a slower pace?  What have we to prove by running errands all over town and everything else?  I had one friend who came from a large family who commented wryly  that a new baby was always

Your baby will only be a tiny baby once.   I encourage you to not only take your forty days, but also to slow down your life for a year and get used to being home.  I think this adjustment comes sooner or later.  I have had many mothers who have lamented to me that once their baby was walking and such it “was difficult to go to Starbucks and enjoy a cup of coffee” or go out to lunch as the child wouldn’t sit there any longer.  I understand that, I really do – they hit an adjustment period, a true adjustment.    They realized after a bit of time that they needed to be more firmly entrenched in their homes and that  having a child was changing them and their lives.  It was this sense of surrendering that had to occur and these mothers had to take charge of their own homes.  This can be a difficult journey for so many of us, and I would love to dialogue more about how to make this transition to home a reality.

More to come,

Carrie

A Few Thoughts About The Waldorf Baby (And Beyond!)

I have recently been reading Steiner’s “Theosophy” and re-reading bits and pieces of Lois Cusick’s wonderful book, “The Waldorf Parenting Handbook“.”  (This is an excellent book, by the way, although it probably could have had a better title!)

At any rate, what I have been discovering is the view of the baby through the lens of the three – (and four-fold) human being.  Even if you are not an anthroposophist, I think there is a lot of wisdom to be gained from this perspective.  Grab a cup of tea, sit down and think with me for a few minutes!  You can understand this!

From an anthroposophic viewpoint, birth is seen as the end of a long spiritual process where the infant chooses parents and the infant struggles to “incarnate” into a new physical body.  This notion seems odd to many folks, but I ask that even if you don’t believe this, observe babies!  As a neonatal/pediatric physical therapist, I have had the opportunity to observe literally thousands of babies – some developing “normally” and some not.    Watch them, look at them – their arms and legs are not under their control at first, they have to develop that control over time and yes, through a bit of struggle!  The tasks of the first three years from a simplified anthroposophic viewpoint especially is to develop eye contact,  to develop  this  physical control of the muscles, to then attain an upright position, to learn to talk  (through imitation) and then that glimmer of thought when they first refer to themselves as “I”. 

Lois Cusick notes in her book on page 1 that when small children ask, “Where do I come from?” that a picture is a better way to answer than an abstract notion.  She remarks, “One old picture that has done good service is the archetypal white dove-shaped form winging its way down from heaven.  This shape on the medieval tapestries and stained glass Cathedral windows  is called the Dove of the Holy Spirit.  To the peasants, it looked remarkably like the shape of the homely village storks dropping down to roost in the chimmneys.  From them we have inherited the notion of the stork bringing the child’s soul to earth.”

No, I am not suggesting you tell your child the stork brought them per se!   However, read on for an interesting connection to this as seen by Lois Cusick:  “It is interesting to find that the archetypal shape of the descending Dove of the Holy Spirit is indeed laid into the very structure of the human body, in the larynx, breastbone and womb……..The human larynx gives birth  to human words; behind the breastbone lies the human heart, where love is born, and the womb gives birth to the child…..In early Christian art, where the Dove of the Holy Spirit hovers over  Mary, there are often the words Et incarnatus est.  And it incarnates.  What incarnates?  In the larynx, the human word; in the heart, the divine quality of love; in the womb, the child of God.  Those are my answers,” she writes, “The picture symbols leave each mind free to interpret and judge according to one’s inclinations.”

All of this is very interesting!  However, even if you don’t believe in or agree with the anthroposophic viewpoint that the child has come to you after a long spiritual journey with a destiny to have you as a parent, perhaps you can resonate with the fact that the physical body and control of that body is something an infant has to grow into!  In fact, this process of “growing into” the physical body happen during – yup, you guessed it!- the first seven years of life!  We lay down rhythms to help our child in this process, we keep our children in their bodies and not so much their heads and we help our children lay a foundation for their future health in doing so!

So the question becomes:  what can we do with the baby to assist this process?  Here are some thoughts!

  • We can work on ourselves!  We can  work hard to lead the lives of good people, moral people, upstanding people.   This work never ends, but does continually grow.  As a Christian, I personally think about the Fruit of the Spirit, those traits.  Steiner talked about “The Great Virtues” – justice, prudence, courage, wisdom.  He also talked about faith, hope and love.   Most major world religions have these attributes as part of their faith.  If you have no specific spiritual path, I urge you to look closer at this for the sake of your children; leave your own adult baggage behind and investigate it further and see if you can open your heart to what may resonate inside.
  • We can protect our child during birth with good birthing practices and by breastfeeding. Rahima Baldwin Dancy has much to say regarding this in her book, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher.”  Perhaps you can  go back to that book and re-read that part and see if it resonates differently with you.
  • We don’t let infants “cry it out”, we provide loving warmth and joy and eye contact between all family members and this new life.
  • We keep the baby home for at least six weeks after birth, and we protect the infant’s 12 senses by not dragging the infant around for  endless errands in a carseat after that if possible!  Who has done a 40-day “lying in” out there?  Please do leave some comments in the comment section!
  • We can keep our babies warm!  Warmth is such an important thing in small babies.   Try this post to help give you inspiration:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/early-years-nurturing-young-children-at-home/the-waldorf-baby/dressing-the-very-young-child.html
  • We can take our babies outside, weather permitting, for walks and even for naps outside!
  • The baby experiences “good” in its world in these early months by being loved by its mother and father. The parents can  attempt to live an unhurried and unstressed life so the baby can develop trust and see goodness.
  • We  can recognize that  it takes years to develop into the physical body, and we honor not to rush this process through infant walkers, through the use of “Teach Your Baby to Read” programs, through “Baby Einstein.”  We respect that the baby is a baby with skills and abilities that will unfold.
  • We allow the baby to move – we have times where the baby can move freely in a safe environment.   By the same token, we allow the baby to speak without “teaching” speech and correcting the heck out of the imitated speech that is just forming!  However, on the other hand, we don’t use baby talk!
  • As the child learns to think, to have a sense of themselves as separate, around the age of “3”,  we can provide boundaries even if we had not had to set many before!  This is of utmost importance – provide these loving, warm boundaries  but  yes, boundaries that  exist for the child so the child learns to function in our world and in our space.  In the article “Birth to the Age of Three:  Our Responsibility” by Dorothy Olson and available at www.waldorflibrary.org, she writes, “When we give direction to the child or make requests of the child, or say that we are going to do something, we must be clear in our thinking, phrase our request in the positive, then stay with the direction and be consistent.  If we reverse direction, we damage the child, we cause nervousness and insecurity.”  (Carrie’s note:  And yes, I know many attached and loving parents who would totally disagree with that last sentence!).  She goes on to write, “Parents and teachers who are constantly inconsistent, do not allow the child to meet the realities of existence.  The child is then educated for a life which does not exist, becomes weak, and is at the mercy of its surroundings and of other people.”

(What this talk on boundaries  means is NOT that you are a dictator – you are gentle, loving, and calm and  you THINK about your house, the tone in your house, and yes, what boundaries you need in your house from there with the needs of everyone considered!  There are posts on this site regarding creating family mission statements that may assist you.  The key is to understanding a three year old and a four year old is in IMITATION, and in their BODIES.  Thinking ahead and “consequences” is not really up their alley yet!  :) ).

It is a big task, a wonderful task , a wonderful opportunity,  a gift to be able to refine the kind of parent you want to be, starting from now!

Thanks for reading!

Just a few deep thoughts for today,

Carrie

Bringing Rhythm to Your Baby

There is a mother’s story here on the Christopherus website’s  “Waldorf Baby” section that may interest those of you thinking about how to bring rhythm to your baby  (and my personal caveat is that this is one mother’s story and does not necessarily reflect my own personal opinion!  But good ideas for thought!  And please note the number of times this mother says the establishment of rhythm must be done over time, and gently!)

http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/early-years-nurturing-young-children-at-home/the-waldorf-baby/bringing-rhythm-to-your-baby.html

As a lay breastfeeding counselor, I have to say here the idea is NOT scheduled feedings; scheduled feedings in breastfeeding mother/infant dyads can lead to failure to thrive!   Please remember this rule:  RHYTHM is TOTALLY DIFFERENT THAN A SET SCHEDULE!   That being said, however, it is about being able to see as your infant grows and gently OVER TIME what sort of rhythm to the day you are setting in order to protect the infant’s 12 senses (if you need help remembering which of the 12 senses is affected by rhythm, try this post here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/22/the-twelve-senses/)

It is also interesting to me that many parents comment how their second, third and subsequent children fall more easily into a rhythmical pattern than their first…I feel this is probably because a more set flow to the day is already in place and you are not re-creating the rhythmical wheel.

It is also remembering that from a Waldorf point of view, you are not “squishing” your infant’s individual temperament or anything else by providing a flow to things.  In my personal experience, children who are “high-needs” are by definition VERY irrhythmic, irregular and need your gentle help to move them towards rhythmical patterns….This can be very difficult for parents to accept and work with!  Re-frame your thoughts in this way:  you are providing a rhythm that not only uplifts and enfolds your infant and their personal traits and their health but  also provides peace and harmony for  the whole family as well.  This is setting the tone in your own home, and your rhythm is just what your family does.    Again, rhythm  is just about life within your family; we rest and we play, we go outside and are active, we are inside and we listen and are quieter.  There should be an ease and a flow to it, not a “military” sense of punctuality!

Within Waldorf parenting and Waldorf parenting, sleep and rest are very important cornerstones, one that rhythm is very important in promoting and preserving and I am going to address this important topic in another post.  Get your cup of tea ready, because the way Steiner and Waldorf Education views sleep may be different than what you have ever heard of before!

Blessings on this day,

Carrie

The Twelve Senses

I am going to try and synthesize a few things for you all that I recently learned from Donna Simmons at the Waldorf At Home conference held in Atlanta,  a presentation by Daena Ross for Waldorf In the Home (available through Rahima Baldwin Dancy’s on-line store in CD and DVD versions) and Barbara Dewey’s section on the twelve senses in her book “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge”. 

I am by no means an expert on the twelve senses, although I will say the twelve senses make a whole lot of sense to me due to my background as a neonatal/pediatric physical therapist.

Steiner postulated in his lectures that there were not only the five most obvious senses that we think of, but actually twelve senses that required development.  This has been proved in the medical community, although sometimes in medical literature and therapy literature you see reference to “systems” rather than “senses” although they are truly talking about the same thing!

The twelve senses are what unites the inner and outer world of the individual and what allows us healthy interaction with other people at the highest developed levels.  It takes a long time for these senses to be developed, but the foundational senses needed to develop some of the upper senses are most developed in the first seven years.  There we are, back to my soapbox about the first seven years!

The Lower Senses are seen in our will forces, they are unconscious, and they manifest in the metabolic-limbic system.  These include:

The Sense of Touch – through the organ of the skin.  This includes what is inside of me and what is outside of me.  Important ways to boost this foundational sense include vaginal birth, swaddling, holding, positive tactile experiences (NOT PASSIVE experiences, like through media or Baby Einstein! Active experiences!)  The lack of completion of this  sense is strongly related to ADHD according to Daena Ross. 

The Sense of Life or sometimes called The Sense of Well-Being – this encompasses such things as if you can tell if you are tired, thirsty, hungry.  The best way to boost this sense is to provide your children with a rhythm to help support this while it is developing.  Some children have great difficulty recognizing their own hunger or thirst cues, their own need for rest or sleep. A rhythm can be a great therapeutic help in this regard.

The Sense of Self-Movement – this is probably more familiar to therapists in some ways as the “proprioceptive system” in some ways.  This sense encompasses the ability to move and hold back movement, and can also encompass such sensory experiences as containment (which can be a form of massage for premature babies) and also swaddling.  Childhood games that involve starting, stopping can also affect this sense.

The Sense of Balance – This is balance in two separate realms, from what I gather from the Daena Ross presentation.  It is not only the ability to balance by use of the semicircular canals of the ears  for midline balance so one can cross midline but also refers to the  balance of life and being able to be centered, which again goes back to rhythm and the idea of in-breath and out-breath.  Donna Simmons calls this one a gateway to The Middle Senses.

The Middle Senses are seen in our feeling lives, involve us reaching out into the world a bit, they are seen as “dreamy” senses and manifesting in the rhythmic system.  THE CHILD HAS NO FILTER TO FILTER THESE SENSORY EXPERIENCES OUT IN THE EARLY YEARS.   In the later years, the arts build these senses, which is why the Waldorf curriculum includes teaching through art in the grades.   These senses  include:

The Sense of Smell -  strongly correlated with memory.  This can be an ally in education of the grades age child, but beware of scented everything when your children are in the foundational first seven years. 

The Sense of Taste – Not only on a physical plane, but an emotional plane in naming experiences (a “putrid” experience, a “sweet” experience)

The Sense of Sight  – with two different ways to visualize something:  one is the ability to distinguish color, and the other is the ability to distinguish form (which Daena Ross says is more related to The Sense of Self-Movement).  The best way to help this sense is to protect the eye from media while developing.  A way to bolster this sense in the grades, but not the Early under 7 Years, is through form drawing.

The Sense of Warmth -   Donna Simmons calls this one a gateway to The Higher Senses.  This sense does not fully develop until age 9 and can literally cause a hardening of creativity and new thought as the child matures, but also can refer to a literal inability of the child to be able to tell if they are hot or cold.  Warmth implies not only physical warmth, but warmth on a soul level.  Joy, humor, love, connection are all important developers of this sense along with PROTECTION from extreme and garish sensory experiences that would cause hardening.  This is a very important sense, and children need help with protecting this sense until the age of 9 or 10, so much longer than many parents think!

The Upper or Higher Senses develop during adolescence and require a strong foundation of The Lower Senses and The Middle Senses to come to maturity.  These senses are associated with awakening of the individual, with being concerned with other people and are seen as being centered in The Head.  These senses include:

The Sense of Hearing (which Daena Ross calls “a bridge between The Middle and Higher Senses” in her presentation)  This requires completion of The Sense of Balance – both of these senses involve the organ of the ear.

The Sense of Speech or The Sense of the Word (this is the speech of another person, not yourself) – Requires completion of The Sense of Self-Movement as you must be able to quiet your own speech in order to really hear another person.

The Sense of Thought or The Sense of Concept (again, of the other person, not your own thoughts!) - Requires completion of  The Sense of Well-Being.  Rhythm builds this ability to quiet oneself in order to hear someone else’s thoughts.

The Sense of  the Individuality of the Other (Donna Simmons also calls this the “I-Thou” relationship of boundaries) – This requires integration and completion of all senses, but particularly involves The Sense of Touch according to Daena Ross. 

The most important take-away point for my parents of children under the age of 7 is that children need rhythm, a balance of in-breath and out-breath and protection of the senses from too much stimulation, from media and boundaries set by the parents to wear clothes (VERY difficult with some little nudists!).  The development of these senses is also profoundly related to sleeping and what occurs during sleep to build all of this up.

Waldorf Education is first and foremost about health and the twelve senses provide a glimpse into some of why things are done in Waldorf the way they are!  I encourage you to investigate the twelve senses on your own.  In this age and day of skyrocketing ADHD/ADD, autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, this should be mandatory learning for all parents. 

With love,

Carrie