Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Large Families and Twins ~ Part One

Every time a new circumstance occurs in life, I feel compelled to do new research. It is my signature move. Funky worm on the tomato plants? Research. Unidentified stain on the carpet? Research. Illness? Rash? Research. Twins? Research.

My modus operandi regarding the twins phenomenon involved asking (discreetly- as I didn't want to get flamed!) on the MOMYS Digest for Moms who had twins after already having a houseful of children, to contact me. (The MOMYS digest is for Moms who have had at least four children in eight years or less, in order to share practical help for women who have children fairly close together.) Since any responders would have lived to tell about it, I figured that these women were the ones to ask.

One Mom in particular was extremely helpful. She acted much like a beloved best friend who would sit you down on the couch, point her finger gently in your face and give you a strong word... in love. Her advice came just hours before my meeting with the midwife for the first time since discovering I was carrying twins. That one e-mail, along with that one meeting with the midwife and our discussions following, have drastically altered the direction of our family during the next few months. This thing is far bigger than I had imagined.

With my history of some early deliveries, my status as an "elderly grand multipara" (a fancy way of saying that I have had several children and I am now considered old) and our desire to not have twins in the NICU, the midwife's strict instructions involved, "Three up, one down". After every three hours of being up and active, I am expected to rest horizontally for a full hour. I was told to be glad, as this was a concession based on our lifestyle with a house full... she normally requires "Two up, one down." Talk about forced scheduling, this is it. (Now where'd I put that MOTH schedule?)

I want to share some of the advice I received from the MOMYS, as I have found very little in my searching for help for families who already have a large family before twins arrive. Much like Holly shared about children with Shingles because of how little she was able to find, I want this information to be out there somewhere for other families who may be looking. Susanna in particular, was a wealth of advice on this topic ~ for Moms expecting twins as well as others who may know someone having twins ~ that I want to share her e-mail in full.

I will split her letter up into several parts, but here is the intro:
Dear Julie,

I'm going to be straightforward in hopes that you'll take it seriously and avoid some of the avoidable problems ahead!

There was only one thing that I didn't do that I should have done, that every single twin book or article told me to do, and every single other twin mom told me was most important. I did everything else right, but the lack of this one thing made the whole experience almost nightmarish for the three weeks I was on bed rest before the birth and the almost seven weeks postpartum until they both began nursing and sleeping through the night. We were desperate for help. My husband's three weeks off following the birth was ludicrously insufficient for the needs of the household. I wish I would have taken all that counsel seriously. I was too sensitive to others' seeming reluctance to help, too proud to let most people see our household in need (messy or dirty, including children!), too hesitant to ask for help in even modest amounts, especially if I was sure they would think we were just having too many children if we couldn't handle it ourselves. I think my reputation also hurt me. Nobody was close enough to realize the trouble we were having, and when I did attempt to verbalize how things were going ("I feel like we're drowning..."), I think they didn't really believe that the capable Susanna really needed help - I was just being too picky and unwilling to let things go for a while or something. We simply have not faced such tremendous stress before or since...

Stay tuned for Part Two...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Martyrs, Henty and Matthew 18

Whenever the children come to me wanting to tattle, I encourage them to try to motivate or encourage their sibling to do the right thing, before ever coming to Mom. "Don't jump the gun on the Matthew 18 thing... go through step one before step two." It seems like a good plan most of the time, and often I am pleasantly surprised to see the level of diplomacy with which situations can be resolved by the children without any outside intervention.

However... I'm thinking I should be a bit more specific about what constitutes "motivation".

Spring 2008 033

It appears that our Little Napoleon was refusing to clean his side of the room. An interesting mixture of martyr stories, Henty novels and little boy imaginations.  

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Plot Thickens…

I hate to read them at night. I never get a pinch of sleep. Those books with so many twists and turns in the plot that draw you deeper and still deeper into the complex lives of the characters make me edgy. When will their lives settle down into a logical pattern? When can I stop holding my breath as I await the next page? Most importantly, how... oh HOW will I ever keep up with all the author-invented storyline contortions that seem to have no other purpose than to keep my mind busy trying to figure out where this is all going? It can be dizzying.

There is an Author I know whose story lines I deliberately attempt to not try to decipher. I can never guess accurately, and I often waste much time and emotional energy in the figuring. I am not always successful in keeping my mind from "going there" , but I make it a point to get back on the wagon as soon as I am caught in the act of wondering worrying trying to figure Him out. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts and His ways higher than my ways. No question. Just because it is a given doesn't mean I don't forget...

Early in this pregnancy, I wondered aloud about why I was experiencing such a drastic increase in the degree of morning-noon-and-night sickness compared to previous pregnancies. I was out of commission, and it was humbling. I was sure it was Father's way of showing me how much I needed to depend on Him... Every. Moment. Of. Every. Day.

When at fourteen weeks I began having contractions, severe edema and anemia more pronounced than usual, I sensed the need to revamp our daily schedule to accommodate my needing to prop up my feet in the afternoons. I began making dinner after breakfast each day, resting with my preschooler in the afternoons, and going to bed earlier. I've seen this plot line before. YHWH is a God of order, and this was surely the message I was supposed to be getting through my circumstances.

When my fatigue level never lessened as I strolled out of the first trimester, I made myself a homemade prenatal supplement, a daily chart as a checklist of all the nutritional bases I needed to cover in a day, and bribed encouraged the children to help me make sure I was getting in enough fluids. "Hey, you guys... we get a quarter every time we bring Mom her drink and get her to drink some!" Without a doubt, being purposeful was the name of the game and the lesson. I could read the hand writing on the wall.

When my belly was outgrowing the clothes that normally fit during this season of pregnancy, I dutifully got out my sewing machine and made a few things that would last longer. I began praying for an increase of the fruit of the Spirit to be manifest in my life, because the idea that self control was lacking in my diet occurred to me to be the lesson I was supposed to learn from this particular plot curve ball. This plot deciphering was getting easier and more predictable as I went along.

Sometimes when reading an author's story, I can jump ahead of them and guess what is coming next. It is a bit of a game to see if I am right. I had this whole thing figured out, I was sure. YHWH was trying to use all these object lessons to teach me and to mold my character in to the woman He desired me to be. Although all these object lessons could be accurate and could technically be a partial reason for each of the symptoms I experienced, let the record show that YHWH is not to be put into a box.

Here is what I found out in this season:

Because YHWH is unchanging does not mean that He is predictable...


I am expecting twins.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Yummy Homemade Toothpaste!

If you are like me and use flouride-free toothpaste without SLS and other yucky ingredients, you are likely paying a lot for toothpaste. Any of the brands we have found that meet the criteria we are looking for cost about $5.00 per tube, for a not-so-family-sized tube. (If you don't understand why someone would want toothpaste without flouride, then you may want to do some homework on your own. When I found out that Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Austria, France and The Netherlands have banned fluoride, I figured it was something worth looking into. Here are a few articles to get you started: Weston A. Price  Foundation articles and Dr. Mercola's site .)

Because I have been focused obsessed with "bringing back home" (making/creating/growing our own or even eliminating our "need") all the items that I reasonably can, and our family has been making concerted efforts to end our own consumerism, I was intrigued to find instructions for making your own toothpaste on the MOMYS digest.  The fact that it is potentially cheaper is also a bonus, although I haven't yet crunched the numbers.

Here's the recipe I used~

Mix together:

~2 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil (I buy this from Mountain Rose Herbs - $121 for a 5-gallon bucket.)

~3 Tablespoons of Baking Soda

~5 drops Peppermint Essential oil

~5 drops Spearmint Essential Oil

~a pinch of Stevia powder

I have used baking soda to brush my teeth before (and felt a bit like a martyr because the taste was less-than-desirable), but this was incredible! I am so thrilled at how well it turned out! The coconut oil gives it a creamy consistency, and holds the Baking Soda together, while the Stevia and essential oils gives it a yummy flavor. (I chose to use part Spearmint instead of all Peppermint because the Spearmint doesn't have that "hot" mouth feel that Peppermint does. This is important to little people!) Note: I feel safe allowing these essential oils to be used in a situation where they could possibly be ingested because 1) the amounts are so small, and 2) both Spearmint and Peppermint essential oils are on the FDA's GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list.

It doesn't have that foamy effect that commercial toothpaste has, but I actually appreciate that - it doesn't get the bathroom sink so dirty, and it doesn't gag this pregnant woman like the foamy kind does. I was amazed at how well it turned out, but the best part was how quick it was to mix together. It literally took less than five minutes including the time it took to gather the oils from another room. Our stores change brands of toothpaste so quickly, that I couldn't have picked out toothpaste in the store as quickly as that because of reading labels. We mixed it in a tiny wide mouth half-pint canning jar, and just dip dry toothbrushes in it. Don't get grossed out... remember coconut oil is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, so it will even keep the toothbrushes more sanitary.
This business of bringing stuff back home is so much fun!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Homemade Prenatal Vitamins

I stopped taking prenatal vitamins a few pregnancies ago because I don't really feel comfortable with singled-out vitamins (out of their naturally occurring form, i.e. "food"). I looked around for a natural supplement as well, reading lots of ingredient lists and testimonials, but I either didn't like the company well enough to buy from them, or they included ingredients I felt would be harmful, so I struck out on that front as well.

As I was researching and making my personal list of what *I* would put in a prenatal supplement, if *I* were a manufacturer, it hit me that I had access to each of the ingredients. I could just purchase the bulk ingredients and make my own capsules. Eureka! So that is exactly what I did. Now, the disclaimer is that these may not be *your* list of what to put in a prenatal supplement, or any particular expert's list, but they covered my bases.

Here is what was on my list:

Alfalfa ~ Loaded with vitamins A, D, E and K, eight digestive enzymes, and numerous trace minerals. It is particularly helpful in late pregnancy because the vitamin K it supplies promotes proper blood clotting, thereby reducing the risk of postpartum hemorrhage.

Bee Pollen
~ contains more than 96 different nutrients, including every single nutrient that is needed to sustain human life. It is made up of 40% protein, nearly all of it usable by the body without any further breakdown or metabolism. Nourishing Traditions calls it a "super food".

Beet Root Powder
~ Beet root is a good source of minerals, particularly easy-to-assimilate iron. Beet root is also helpful in the digestion of fats, gallbladder infections, digestive problems, anemia, and for toning and rebuilding the liver. Contains beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), phosphorus, potassium, selenium, tryptophan, vitamin C, zinc and soluble and insoluble fiber and spleen function improvement.

Bull Kelp (Nereocystis Leutkeana) ~ excellent source of vitamins A, B's (especially B12), C, D, E and K as well as essential fatty acids. High in iron and chlorophyl as well as a wealth of other minerals like potassium, sodium, calcium, iodine, magnesium, sulfur, nitrogen, zinc, boron, copper, manganese, chromium, selenium, bromine, vanadium, and nickel.

Milk Thistle Seed ~ Milk thistle extract may protect the cells of the liver by blocking the entrance of harmful toxins and helping remove these toxins from the liver cells. Shonda Parker says this is the best supportive supplement for the liver in her opinion.

Norwegian Kelp (Ascophyllum Nodosum) ~ excellent source of vitamins A, B's (especially B12), C, D, E and K as well as essential fatty acids. High in iron and chlorophyl as well as a wealth of other minerals like potassium, sodium, calcium, iodine, magnesium, sulfur, nitrogen, zinc, boron, copper, manganese, chromium, selenium, bromine, vanadium, and nickel. Kelp as a source of iodine assists in making thyroid hormones, which are necessary for maintaining normal metabolism in all cells of the body. The U.S. population in general has shown a trend of significantly decreasing iodine intake, and I take it because we do not use iodized salt.

~ Calcium and magnesium rich, has silica, fiber, and trace nutrients. Also contains phosphorus and vitamins A, B1, B2 and E. Oats and oat straw help strengthen the nervous system and are considered nerve tonics. Rich in minerals, oats and oat straw also help build strong bones and teeth and strengthen capillaries and veins, and provides some support to those troubled by varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

Red Raspberry Leaf
~ tones the uterus and helps prevent miscarriage and postpartum hemorrhage from a relaxed or atonic uterus; rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins B, C and E. This is the most frequently used herb for pregnancy, and has a long track record of benefit to the female organs.

Spirulina ~ Contains rich vegetable protein (60~ 63 %, 3~4 times higher than fish or beef ), multi Vitamins (Vitamin B 12 is 3~4 times higher than animal liver and is the best vegetable source of B12) and is rich in folic acid. It contains a wide range of minerals (including Iron, Potassium, Magnesium Sodium, Phosphorus, Calcium etc.), a high volume of Beta- carotene which protects cells (5 time more than carrots, 40 time more than spinach), high volumes of gamma-Linolein acid (which can reduce cholesterol and prevent heart disease).

After acquiring my ingredients, I powdered them all well in my blender. (Most of them I was able to buy already in powder form.) After they were all sufficiently powdered (small enough to fit easily into a capsule without hanging out over the edges), I mixed them well in a large bowl in the amounts I had planned. Measuring by weight, I added equal parts of everything listed above, with the exception of only a quarter part of the Bull Kelp. Next I began to make them into capsules.

(Are you as tickled as I am to realize that this is something we can make at home?)

Here is a basic photo tutorial of how to make the capsules from the company from which I bought the capsule maker and the ingredients. It really is very easy, and most of my Bigs (the older children) can do it alone, without any supervision. Even the younger children can "help Mom make vitamins for the baby" - they have so much fun! I keep the already-made capsules in a bottle with a (supposedly) child-proof cap, and the rest of the herbal mixture in a tightly sealed glass jar in the freezer. I only make enough capsules for about two weeks at a time, so I can keep the rest of the ingredients as fresh as possible.

I am really impressed with how much better I feel since beginning this supplement! My midwife is also thrilled with them, and has asked me to make them in bulk and sell them to her other patients. I don't really foresee that happening anytime soon, but it encouraged me that I was on the right track, anyway. OK, another disclaimer: surely you know that I am no doctor, other than a Dr. Mom. So, do your own homework, check with your own practitioner, etc, etc, bla bla, bla before you go taking advice from some stranger (namely Me) on the internet.

I also made my own herbal tincture as an iron supplement to help with my anemia, and these are the ingredients I added to it:

Dandelion Roots & Leaves ~ Both have tons of vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, potassium, folic acid, and many trace elements. The root is a specific remedy for the liver (remember, pregnancy is very hard on the liver). The leaf is a mild diuretic, which can reduce water retention during pregnancy - but...without depleting potassium stores like most diuretics.

Nettles ~ Vitamins A, C, D and K (which will increase blood's clotting ability and increases available hemoglobin, both of which decrease the likelihood of postpartum hemorrhage), calcium, cobalt, potassium, phosphorous, protein, folic acid, zinc, copper, vitamin B complex- especially B1 and B2 and carotenoids, biochelated iron and sulphur are particularly abundant, also aids the kidneys, and eases leg cramps. The leaves and stalks also provide smaller amounts of manganese, selenium, silicon and vitamin B3 (niacin).

Yellowdock Root ~ high in iron and aids in iron assimilation. This is the herb to use if anemia is unresponsive to other measures.

I hope you have fun researching and making your own supplements! It was exciting to me to have one more thing brought back home. We are becoming a little less of consumers with each choice like this that we make, and it feels really good.

Have a happy pregnancy!