If I knew then what I know now…..

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NewbornshotI have a 17-year-old son and a 3-year-old son and the way I have parented them has been completely different. Even with my 3-year-old I wish I’d known some things when he was real little that I know now.  Over the last 18 months I’ve explored and read information on birthing practices, baby care, nutrition, particularly breastfeeding, circumcision, attachment parenting practices and so much more.  And I believe I’ve read pretty widely and many different view points which has led me to feel for the first time as a mother confident in my parenting choices.  Before I did what I knew and took advice only from a small group of women, which while it was not bad advice by any means, it was lacking, and not intentionally lacking either.  Practices change, improve, as information sharing becomes easier, and old ways of doing things are discredited. Every mother only wants what’s best for their children, and the wealth of information available now is mind-boggling.  I have waded through a great deal of that information and here is my list of what I wish I had known then that I know now.

  1.  Circumcision is wrong.  It’s not up to us as parents to make that decision for our sons.  It is their body, and most when given the choice do not choose it.  My oldest is circumcised because 17 years ago I didn’t know any better.  Most of the men in my family were circumcised, it was what I knew as normal.  My 3-year-old isn’t and I’m glad I just decided not to by default because I was too tired to look into it.  Now I’m glad I didn’t and wish I hadn’t with my oldest.  Aside from inflicting incredible pain on an infant too young to understand, there is just no medical reason to do it.  Thankfully in Canada we’ve come a long way and most boys are left intact now, but I still believe that this is an important message to spread as there may still be people who believe the outdated information.  I encourage you to check these sites for more information:

http://www.wholenetwork.org/

http://www.savingsons.org/

2.     Breastfeeding and more importantly, extended breastfeeding – as society has termed it – is incredibly healthy for both mother and child and completely normal.  I will admit I used to fall into the camp of thinking breastfeeding past a certain age, about a year, was wrong, but now I have learned better. The health benefits don’t stop as a child grows.  Breast milk changes constantly to meet the needs of the child, even when tandem nursing children of different ages.  Breast milk is liquid gold, and the benefits of breastfeeding an older child is huge to both mother and child.  In the mother extended breastfeeding can help lower the risks of illnesses such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer.  In the child it provides continued immune support against common ailments and is the perfect building blocks to help them grow strong mentally and physically.  Emotionally it is an easy way to help soothe a child in pain or who is over tired.  No matter what formula companies may say, they can never duplicate the amazing, adaptive qualities of breast milk.

That brings me to my next point on breastfeeding; support systems.  In Canada, partially because of our maternity and parental leave benefits, there’s a decent support system in place and it has definitely improved since my 17-year-old was born but there’s always room for improvement.  Even with my 3-year-old I wish I’d had a stronger support system and that when he was three months old and I decided due to my extreme post-partum depression to quit, someone had said “No, what do you need to keep breastfeeding?” because the truth is I didn’t want to quit, I just didn’t have the support I needed or the words to express my frustrations.  I sometimes wonder if I would still be breastfeeding him.  He totally loved it and still will reach for my breasts occasionally like there is a lingering memory there.  So support isn’t just about hospitals supporting skin to skin immediately after birth (weighing and even cord clamping can wait, unless there is a medical reason to whisk the baby away, the baby should always be placed skin to skin on the mother’s belly right after birth), or providing good qualified breastfeeding consultants if they are needed both in hospital and after discharge, but it also includes community and family support, especially in the first 3-4 months after birth, which is labelled the fourth trimester for a reason. Community support also includes supporting a nursing mother when you see her out in public.  Women should be applauded and encouraged for providing the best possible nutrition for their children and not made to hide or feel ashamed in any way.  As a by-product of encouraging breastfeeding in public, it also normalizes it for the next generation.

3.     Birthing practices is one I’ve spent a lot of time reading about.  I started my training to be a doula a year ago but after doing the weekend course, decided to put the practical side on hold as I still have a young family to care for. I continue to read extensively on birthing practices and absorb all the information I can.  I’m an advocate of natural birthing practices as much as can be possible but each labour, each woman is different and at the end of the day just needs to feel supported and loved as she moves through this rite of passage to motherhood, whether it’s for the first time, actually most importantly if it’s for the first time, but also for each subsequent child she births as well.  Birth isn’t just about delivering healthy babies, it’s about birthing strong, confident mothers, and the quality of care and support will have a huge impact on how a woman sees herself both as a woman and as a mother.  I have learned an incredible amount and I will revisit this topic again in future posts. Suffice to say my views on the pregnancy and birth process have changed quite a bit over the last 18 months, and I hope will be an integral part of my career path. I’m actually already signed up for two Sacred Pregnancy courses this summer where I hope to extend my knowledge and care skills exponentially.

4.      There are other areas as well that I have learned so much about, like attachment parenting for example.  Some elements of the practice I always knew deep down but society insisted on different approaches, and especially with my 17-year-old I didn’t have enough wherewithal to argue the status quo.  For example, I left my 17-year-old to cry it out because 17 years ago that was an acceptable method.  Now, never, not even with my 3-year-old.  About 8 months ago he suddenly developed a fear of shadows, and after that his easy bed time routine evaporated.  It became a long protracted affair, but when he cried, I, or my husband, was always there.  And now, he’s learned to handle shadows and scary monsters, but even more importantly, he also knows without question we are here if he needs us. The relationship I have with my 3-year-old is the most connected and natural of all my children. Attachment parenting does not breed spoilt brats, it breeds confident, happy, well-adjusted children.  Yes, it’s more work but the rewards are worth it.

Below I’ve listed my favourite websites and Facebook pages for information on all the above.  It’s just a sampling, I have many, many favourites and can’t possibly list them all.  There are some amazing women and yes, even men, changing the face of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting in general.  I encourage you to check them out.  I’m sure I will be writing more on these subjects in the future, both to provide information and to relate how they apply to and affect my life.

http://www.handsfreemama.com/

http://www.evolutionaryparenting.com/

http://www.ourmuddyboots.com/

http://www.drmomma.org/

http://freeyourkidsblog.com/

http://www.thebadassbreastfeeder.com/

http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Consciousparentingnow

http://www.positive-parents.org/

http://www.birthwithoutfearblog.com/

http://guggiedaly.blogspot.com/

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My Soul Map

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You’ve perhaps gotten a sense of who I am from my first two pieces, but I thought it might be helpful to do a more in-depth introduction.  I thought to keep this simpler I would use point form, as many of these elements of who I am or want to be will likely be examined more intensely at some point, but for this post I want to keep it simple.  Think of this as the reference map at the beginning of a fantasy novel, or, as I am going to call it, my soul map.

  •  I am almost 37 years old.  I have been married for 15 years to an amazing man, and we have three children, aged 17, 9 and 3.  My 9-year-old daughter will be 10 the same day I will be 37, and I like sharing my birthday with her.  When they brought me my first meal at the hospital, the menu had Happy Birthday written across the top.  I kept it for her memory box!
  • I was a 19-year-old mom.  Becoming a mom was the hardest and most painful event that I have ever experienced.  Some of the wounds run deep for both my oldest son and I, but I have faith that things will get better.
  • I am also a sister.  I have two younger siblings, a sister and a brother.  My brother is married to an amazing woman, and they have one beautiful child, who has the wonderful honour of finally making me an aunt!  I love being an aunt!!!!
  • Both my parents are still alive and I don’t know what I’d do without them.  My mom is my saviour!
  • My husband’s family is small, just him, his brother, his brother’s significant other and his dad.  We lost his mom almost nine years ago after a six-year battle with end stage breast cancer.  Those six years were a blessing.  She was an amazing woman and we will never stop missing her.
  • Our family is completed by our crazy pup named Brandy, who according to her papers is a Pomeranian Poodle mix, but we’re not sure how accurate that actually is.  She is a wonderful pup whatever her parentage may be!
  • Family is very important to me.  They always come first.
  • I am a strong believer in attachment parenting, peaceful parenting and conscious parenting.  I wasn’t always though, it’s a path I’ve discovered fairly recently but for the first time I feel like I’m doing the right thing as a parent. I still have a lot of work to do because we are unfortunately entrenched in some bad habits.
  • I have a dream of homeschooling my youngest and in the process enhancing my middle child’s learning experience even if she stays in the school system.
  •  I am loving, helpful and generous to a fault with everyone, though I have had to learn self-control as I don’t always look after myself and I can be a little too easy with money.  Right now as a stay-at-home-mom, it means we are living on one income so I have to be more careful with our resources.
  • I am very creative.  I love to cross-stitch.  I enjoy working with paper in a variety of ways, including some dabbling in quilling and scrapbooking.  I want to learn the art of tatting, knitting and crocheting.  I love amigurami patterns and want nothing more than to be able to make them myself!!! I also enjoy playing with beads and have learned a few basic beading techniques. I have also dabbled in photography but currently do not have a good camera to use so I resort to mostly point and shoot photography.
  • I absolutely love to bake and cook.  I am always trying new recipes.  My family and friends like to refer to themselves as my guinea pigs as they never know what I’m going to try next.  I have been trying to expand into paleo and gluten-free cooking and experimenting with more vegetables, but I have two children who are very picky eaters and experimentation is usually met with less than enthusiastic responses from them!  On the flip side, I’ve had marriage proposals over my baking….
  • I love Pinterest.  I don’t collect much in the way of things, but Pinterest is a place I can collect ideas and go back to try some of them later, or get a load of inspiration to try something new.
  • I am a very spiritual person. I am a member of the United Church, but don’t believe my spirituality is found only in my Christian beliefs.  The United Church is very laid back and open to people’s differences, and it fits well with my own Christian beliefs of love and acceptance of all. I enjoy exploring my spiritual side through a number of avenues, many of which I will be exploring in my writing.
  • I enjoy traveling a great deal. Unfortunately I don’t get to do enough of it but I love exploring new places.  I’m a girl who is all about the journey to get where I’m going, and the less straight the path from point A to point B is, the more interesting! I traveled a lot with my family when I was younger, and I wish I could provide the same experiences for my children.  There is so much to learn and see out in the world.
  • I love to learn and I am very smart.  Do not let my lack of post-secondary education fool you.  I am very well read and I do not believe one needs a diploma to succeed in life.  My wish list on Chapters is way over 300 books long and getting longer all the time.  I dream of a magnificent resource library, particularly on pregnancy, family and child rearing philosophies, but also on holistic living and natural medicines.
  • I am an old hippy at heart.  I dream of a big property where I can grow my own food, run my business and live as naturally as possible, with as little environmental impact as possible. A place where my family can spread its wings and fly.
  • I have suffered from varying degrees of depression since I was 18/19 years old.  Right now it’s particularly bad and I’m hoping this exercise will help me find and weed my life path so I can shake the depression for good.  I have a lot of work to do. It is also part of the reason I am not working right now.
  • Organization is my weak point.  I struggle to find order in my chaos.  We live in a small house with little space, and it’s hard to stay on top of things.  As part of my 2014 journey, I’m hoping to work towards purging the things that don’t matter so that what really does matter can find room to breathe.
  • I have a weak point for Facebook and I’m addicted to being on-line.  This is a huge problem and one I am going to face and conquer this year.  I struggle to find a balance between my real life and my on-line life, and for the sake of my relationships, I will figure out that balance.

I think that covers the basics of my soul map, and hopefully now you have a better picture in your head of who I am, and hopefully I’ve intrigued you enough to stick around for more.

Below I’ve selected an assortment of pictures of my family to share with you.  It is the only time I will feature so many pictures in one post!  I absolutely love taking pictures of my family.  On another note, I will not be providing anyone’s real names in this blog.  I will be coming up with pseudonym’s in the future to make it easier to reference each person but for now they are simply oldest son, daughter and youngest son.  If the person reading this knows us, please refrain from mentioning our names in comments.  Thank you.

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