Saturday, September 13, 2014

Birth Story - How Pole Dancing Got Me Through It

Yesterday my friend Rachelle was over with two of her girls, and after I whined about suffering from plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis, she did some acupressure on my feet.  I was ready to tap out in about 2 minutes, but I let her do her thing.  While I was writhing in the chair, shrieking and slapping the table, I tried to go back to the place I was 4 and a half years ago when I had a baby without any pain meds.

My daughter is 4 already, and she likes to tell people that we're made for each other, because I made her a baby, and she made me a Mama.  Here's how that went down.

Salsa Dancing in Florida @ 7 Months
I arrived at my parents' place in La Quinta, California on Valentine's Day of 2010.  I was planning to stay until my baby was born, and then return with her to Guatemala City where I was living with my husband at the time.  My sister, who was also my doula flew down from Vancouver with her family in April.  My parents moved to their casita two doors down and I was in their room.  I floated in the pool every day and walked around the ducky park.  I tried to stay active, but I developed plantar fasciitis in both feet and it was brutal.

I had tons of Braxton-Hicks contractions in the weeks leading up to my due date.  I didn't have any fear at all about the delivery, because my mom and my sister both had amazing natural births and it just didn't occur to me that my experience would be any different.  Mom says that my sister and I were both born without any pain or tv style screaming.  My sister had her first at home with midwives, and Mom had to wake Dad up when the baby was born because he fell asleep watching tv, and my sister didn't make a sound!



I didn't take any classes, but I watched this video several times and really put it out to the universe that I wanted to have a similar experience:

When I started having real contractions I could tell the difference, and I breathed and chanted through them.  I also did a lot of pole dancing.  My parents' bed is a big 4 poster and I held onto one of the poles and swayed and squatted.  I probably got through about 75% of the contractions that way. I don't have a single photo or video of it.  None of the contractions were awful though.  They were like really bad period cramps that lasted for about 6-8 breaths and only 4 of the breaths were intense.  I also spend a lot of time on a big pink yoga ball.  Mom and my sister took turns staying up with me and my Dad took walks around the neighborhood with me.  I labored at home with my family for 36 hours before the contractions were finally 5 minutes apart for an hour.  On the way to the hospital my sister warned me not to be disappointed if the nurses checked me and I was only dilated to 4.5 or 5cm.  While I was checking in I had a couple of contractions and I don't think the nurses took me seriously at all because I just breathed loudly and kept filling out the forms.  When they took me in to get into a gown and get checked the nurse yelled through the door that they needed to call my doctor right away.  I was 9.5 cm already!

The delivery nurses were awesome, and couldn't believe how calm and cool I was.  They kept saying that I looked like I was a patient on an epidural.  I started pushing right away, and it took about an hour and a half.  My contractions didn't get closer than 5 minutes apart so even though everything was going just fine another nurse came in and administered Pitocin.  I don't remember it, but my sister told her that I didn't want it.  They ignored or bullied and gave it anyway.  My mom and my sister both took videos which I've watched several times in the years since.  None of the pushing hurt at all, and the nurses were really quiet and let me tell them when a contraction was starting and that I was about to push.  One thing I never realized from seeing fictional births on tv and movies - you can't push and scream.  I didn't make any noise while I was pushing because I was holding my breath and, well, pushing.  As soon as she was born they put her on my skin and I held her while they stitched me up.  My sister got to cut the cord and I tell Ebi that her belly button was a gift from Auntie Jen.

So, aside from the Pitocin and episiotomy, it went as smoothly as I had hoped it would.  Quiet, peaceful, and the only one screaming was my newborn.  I was ready to go home as soon as they weighed and measured her and gave her back to me, but they made me stay a full 24 hours.  That was a drag.

As natural and easy as childbirth was for me, I was totally unprepared for how hard breastfeeding was.  I'll save that for another post.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Natural Ways To Treat Insomnia

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I've had brutal bouts of insomnia for as long as I can remember.  The only thing that briefly cured it was was breastfeeding on demand.  I was so completely exhausted that I was able to wake, change and feed my baby, and immediately go back to sleep without activating that part of my brain that wants to relive every argument with my ex, stress about flushing my life savings down the drain in Guatemala, wonder if my heart is beating too fast, or worry about the future.

As a single parent, I'm not in a position to medicate myself to sleep.  Of course I need to get a good night's rest, but I also have to be alert enough to wake immediately if I hear my daughter in distress.  She has had two bouts of vomiting in her life and both times were in the middle of the night.  As head of security in our house, I also have to be sensitive to sounds of scumbaggery at the doors or windows.

My other issue is that I can't quit coffee.  I know it is a stimulant, I know it is a migraine trigger.  It is part of my morning ritual, and to be honest, my afternoon ritual.  I love grinding beans, making espresso, and frothing a bit of almond milk.  It's just not something I'm willing to give up right now.  Especially the afternoon one that I have around 2pm when I'm so sleepy I start to look around for a hammock to spend the rest of the afternoon in.

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What I have had success with is eating one or more of the following in the evening:

I make a small parfait with yogurt, honey, nuts, and bananas, cherries or grapes.  The calcium in yogurt is necessary for increasing tryptophan and melatonin levels, two hormones that help regulate sleep.  Honey has a soothing, calming effect.  Nuts contain tryptophan and magnesium, and also increase serotonin levels, a hormone our brain produces when we are happy and satisfied.  The fruit in the parfait is important too.  Bananas provide tryptophan and magnesium, as well as potassium which can help you sleep.  Cherries and grapes are rich in melatonin.

Sometimes I have a cup of chamomile tea or Sleepytime, and add a spoonful of honey before I go to bed.

One thing I haven't tried, but is supposed to be helpful is eating an egg before bed because it is also a great source of the amino acid tryptophan.

I've also read that we should turn off the tv, computer and put down our tablets or smartphones at least half an hour before bed, because they stimulate our brains too much.  I just don't seem to be able to do that.  I like to put on Netflix at bedtime and relax watching something silly.  What I don't do is watch any news or anything scary that would put me on edge.

Do you have any tips for dealing with insomnia?



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Got Hit In The Head By A Bocce Ball

So, I've been too busy living life in the past couple of weeks to have time to write about it.  I am working as a virtual assistant to the event production company that put on the Los Gatos Fiesta de Artes and they kept me very busy leading up to that event.  This gig has led to me being referred to two more clients.  Yay!  I'm delighted that I'll be getting more hours, right when my daughter starts preschool.  I don't think I would have considered taking on more work over the summer.

Our Family Reunion

Last weekend we hosted a family reunion at my parents' place in Canada where we spend every summer.  When my cousin Maria first suggested a reunion we debated where to have it and when.  We settled on August 21-24 because we knew that another cousin, Kiwita, would be in town to run the Sea Wheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver, and that she would be bringing her 3 kids.  Everything started to fall into place.  Maria, my mom, my sister and I all decided we'd train for and run the half marathon too.  A few local friends planned on running it too, and we all got pretty amped up about the idea.  I described my training schedule here.  Training went really well until I got tendonitis in both achilles tendons.  I did a 9 mile run at the track and it took over 2 weeks for me to recover.  It pretty much always hurts to walk now.

I Got Hit In The Head By A Bocce Ball

My parents live on 5 acres, so we set up for badminton, croquet, and bocce.  We have an awesome fire pit for night time bonfires and smores, and enough outdoor tables and chairs for everyone to eat outside comfortably.   All our meals were pot luck and it worked out great.  The kids and adults enjoyed the games and there was no stress and no drama.  As I've mentioned before, my family has the capacity to do drama Jerry Springer style.  Friday afternoon was our main event, with games followed by a potluck supper.  In between dinner and dessert I got involved in a couple of games of bocce.  We had just finished, and I was bent over to pick up a ball when my 7 year old nephew threw one up in the air and it landed on my head.  The sound was sickening, I'm actually sweating and nauseated just typing this.  It also hurt.  I went inside and put an ice pack on the bump that was coming up, and I was grateful that it was a bump and not a caved in spot.  Two of my aunts are nurses and I went into a full on anxiety attack as they discussed the possibility of a concussion and/or brain bleed.  Auntie Ann was staying with us so she decided that she would wake me every two hours to ask me questions and make sure that I didn't need to go to the ER.  I probably got about 3 hours sleep.  And this was the night before our half marathon!

Fun in the Sun!

Running A Half Marathon With A Concussion

Mom and I got up at 5am and my sister picked us up 20 minutes later to drive to Vancouver.  At this point, I planned to mostly walk it because of the concussion.  For a few minutes when I first woke up, I seriously considered rolling over and going back to sleep.  I'm glad I didn't.  Mom and I got into the corral with the last group, along with Maria, Jen and Tina.  The energy was overwhelming and I couldn't help it, I had to try running.  Mom and I jogged with walk breaks for the first 12km and then my achilles tightened up so badly that I couldn't run.  I wanted to quit a couple of times and nearly got off the course before we headed into Stanley Park along the sea wall.  I told Mom to go ahead and run, but she wouldn't leave me.  We limped across the finish line.  Not the result I had hoped for, but I'm proud of us for finishing.  The event was fantastic!  I'd love to try again next year.  I can't believe I'm saying that.  By the end of the race I was smiling on the outside, crying on the inside, and swearing I would never do it again!

Photo Source

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why Robin Williams' Death Has Shaken Me

Of course it is sad when a legendary actor dies.  When one dies at a "ripe old age" we all pause for a moment and think about their amazing career, and roles that resonated with us.  When they die young, we think about what could have been, not just on the screen, but a life they don't get to live, families they don't get to have.  Mostly though, it is only a blip on the radar.  Their own families and friends mourn them.  We know deep down that the part of them that we knew was fictional.  We carry on.

And yet, I find myself shedding tears for Robin Williams.  Not because I admired him, though I did.  Not because I'll personally miss him.  I didn't know him.  In fact, unlike other celebrities who appear on  interviews and talk shows and give the public a glimpse of what they are like when someone isn't writing their lines, Robin Williams always seemed to be in character.  He never stopped flapping and hopping and making funny faces and goofy voices.  It was rare to see the calm, tender side in the photo below that showed up in my newsfeed this morning.  I think seeing this photo is what shook me, seeing him as a human being instead of an entertainer, and realizing that he experienced the world through the dark filter that is depression.  I couldn't just carry on.

RIP Robin Williams.  
You were a mad genius, and brought so much joy and laughter to the world.

Photo Source
Depression + Suicide

Two terrible things that have touched my family.  We don't talk about my Uncle Zeke.  Perhaps because we worry about upsetting those who were closest to him.  Or maybe because it's scary to think about someone who appeared to be normal and happy taking their own life.  It's hard to fathom that kind of desperation.  The thought that another day of existence would be unbearable.  I've never felt it, and it breaks my heart that anyone does.  I remember Zeke's smile, and his glasses.  I remember his pet skunk being the coolest thing ever.  I think her name was Angel.  I was just a kid, but I don't remember him appearing to be unhappy.  Depression is sneaky that way.

I get frustrated when I hear people ask, "What would so and so have to be depressed about?"  Are so many people still unaware of the difference between sadness and depression?  The National Institute of Mental Health calls major depression "one of the most common mental disorders in the United States."

Depression is often missed in men because, NEWSFLASH, men are stubborn and less likely to talk to a doctor about it.  If they go undiagnosed and untreated for long periods of time, they are much more likely to commit suicide.  The Mayo Clinic's website lists the following symptoms to look for that you may not think of as depression related:


  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, such as sex
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so that even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness — for example, excessive worrying, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

So, while I'm sad that the world has lost an iconic comedian, I'm sadder that depression has taken a man from his loved ones.