Mothering When Unwell

I stood outside on my back deck at dusk yesterday, looking out towards a darkening sky. The air was still and the leaves hung from the baby gum next to my deck, all languid and lazy like. The air held the crisp tones of Autumn. It’s finally here.

And so, too, is an unexpected illness that has seen me in bed by 6pm the last two evenings, and using what little energy I have in small bouts: to get up and wash some dishes, then sit down again; to make a hungry child a snack, then sit down again; to put a load of washing on, then sit down again. To count down the hours until KB gets home to take over.

I remember the days when I would get ill pre-kids. I’d take the day off work, go to the video shop (those were the days!), hire a bunch of movies then set myself up on the couch for the day. Getting sick when you have small children changes that scenario somewhat.

Now, when I’m sick at home with the kids, there are a few key things I do to make my day easier:

// tidy my surrounding area: I remember when I was sick as a child my Mum would change my sheets and tuck me into bed, then she’d get to work tidying my room, opening the curtains, picking things up off the floor and putting my clothes away. I’d lay in bed and feel like everything was being taken care of. I’m a grown up now (wah!) but I follow the same rules. There’s nothing worse than sitting around sick and miserable in a messy space, so I drag myself around picking things up, putting things away (even if it is just into a washing basket to be dealt with later), and doing a general tidy before tucking myself up on the couch or, if I’m lucky, into bed.

// give myself permission to use the television or ipad: we don’t watch a whole heap of tv these days, but when I’m unwell I use it without qualms. We watch movies in bed, or from the couch and I just lay there and try to rest and spend as much as I can horizontal.

// hydrate: when I’m not feeling well, you’ll rarely find me without my drink bottle and a (hopefully) hot cup of herbal tea by my side. It’s something easy to do even if you’re busy and still having to keep moving. I take a keep cup with me filled with herbal tea if I have to go out.

// cancel everything humanely possible: swimming lessons, play dates, appointments, you name it, I cancel it. As a parent it is near impossible to get time to rest, so what little time I do have doesn’t need to be taken up running around unnecessarily. Someone made a comment the other day about how good I am about paring back when the going gets tough and when I reflected on it I realised that, yes! I am in fact a no-guilt canceller. I do this not just when I’m ill, but when things get too much and overwhelm anxiety is rising… I’m outta there.

// have a bath with the kids: sometimes this takes more energy that it’s worth, but if the kids are ratty and I’m really struggling, I put us – or even just them – in the bath. I don’t know about your kids, but mine relax in the bath and could stay in there for hours with minimal fighting and carry on, so it’s a good place to plop them when I’m unwell. I can either get in with them or just sit on the edge and take a few moments to breathe.

// take time out to move and breathe (even if I don’t feel like it) : studying Yoga is opening my mind to all the things we can do to help ourselves when ill. There are so many breathing techniques and gentle movements that stimulate different areas of our bodies and minds. Things like nadi shodhana breathing for overwhelm, or even just some gentle twists can help.

Remembering even a few of these things helps me feel less helpless and “poor me” when I’m sick. What do you do when you’re home alone with the kids feeling like rubbish?

homemade natural cold and cough remedies for kids

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I mentioned the other day that little Birdie woke up feeling unwell. Yesterday the first words she sobbed upon waking were: MUMMY! MY NOSE FEELS TEWWIBLE! 

Through the sharing of mummy wisdom, lots of reading, along with help from my naturopath sister (how lucky am I to have one sister who is a midwife, and another a naturopath?!) and consultations with my own naturopath I realised that my cough and cold repertoire has expanded a little since this post almost two years ago.

My cough and cold remedies as of today…

// Rest, rest, rest!

// Water, water, water! (Preferably warm, I use cooled boiled water)

// Chesty cough remedy tea and cough syrup with manuka honey and apple cider vinegar as previously mentioned.

// Olive leaf extract. Its antibacterial properties help to combat yucky germs. From the end of a silver spoon they lap it up. Yum.

// Vitamin C. Good quality. Powder form. Say no more. (We use this.)

// Depending on the nature of the cold/cough, we use a vapouriser with eucalyptus oil.

// I also often mix together some sweet almond oil (or other base) along with a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus oil to rub on little chests and backs before bed.

// Warm baths with a few drops of essential oils, with the bathroom door closed to trap the steam.

// We always eat lots of kiwi fruit and strawberries when we are unwell for the vitamin c content.

// Garlic, ginger, tumeric, etc – get it into the kids in any way possible! Try using it in stir fries, soups, muffins, teas…

// I also love, love this immune boosting chicken soup by Teresa Cutter – whether you are ill or not, it is delicious!

// Lastly, for those times when home remedies just don’t cut it and you need to move onto store bought medicines, I am a huge fan of the Brauer range which, in Australia, you can buy at the chemist. They are homeopathic remedies and are always our first port of call before moving onto panadol (yes, we use panadol, not on a whim or without consideration, but when it is needed). My only suggestion regarding the Brauer products I have used is that you must follow the dosage to a TEE otherwise the results will not been as successful – in our experience. (NB of course you always follow dosage instructions when giving medication, I mean more specifically following the timeline of doses: don’t miss any. You will understand when you read the instructions.)

We obviously don’t use all these remedies at once, but I pick and choose depending on the type of cold, the season and so on.

I’m sure there are so many more, what do you do at your place?

*Please note, I am not a medical professional nor claiming to be qualified in anything but mothering. If you choose to use any of the above remedies, make sure you research them yourself so that you are aware of the pros and cons, if any, and can decide for yourself which suit your child and family best. Don’t just take my word for it… this is the internet, afterall. (For example, babies under 12 months old should not consume honey… etc, etc.)*

out in nature

 

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Things seem continuously busy these days. By the time breakfast has been eaten, dishes cleaned, kids dressed, showers had, washing on… it seems it’s already time for lunch. It’s easy to get stuck in the cycle of the mundane, I know it.

But the thing is, the mundane will always be there. Waiting around like a bad friend you would like to see the back of. Unfortunately it’s just a fact of life.

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These days I have to make a conscious effort to get outdoors, knowing we all feel so much better for it. The mundane, every day tasks become – dare I say – even enjoyable, for me, when I have had a good dose of fresh air and trees.

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Prince Charming and I have had so many chats lately about trying to integrate some solid nature time into our lives each weekend – beyond our backyard.

IMG_4703As a result, last weekend we packed a picnic and ventured up into the Dandenongs on the outskirts of Melbourne.

The air was so crisp, so fresh. The pixie slept soundly in the ergo and we fed birds, picnicked and walked and walked and walked.

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We spent the entire day out in the hills and came home feeling pleasantly tired, rosy cheeked and happy.

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We know how important it is for us to connect with nature. We know it can sometimes take just a bit of effort to make it a priority. The house was a tip when we got home.

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We didn’t care.

 

yeah, another post about that baby bath video

Am I the only person in the world with an internet connection who has only just seen this baby bath video? I have watched it three times, and only managed to hold back my tears upon the third viewing. Even little Birdie was saying, “Just one more time, ok?” Oh, it is beautiful, and I so wish I had seen it when I was pregnant. Maybe then I could have avoided this:

Twice. Oh dear. It got me thinking (yet again) about how we interact with babies. Poor little Pixie barely gets a moment of peace while she is awake due to having a rowdy big sister clanging around the place, although I am mindful of us all finding some quiet and calm and slow during the day. I always (read: always try to) give my girls a massage after their bath, but it is a bit more production-liney now there are two.

Today and tomorrow I am toddler free, meaning I get to spend some quality time with the pixie. Time that I had an abundance of when there was only one. Needless to say, after running a few errands this morning we got straight into a deep, warm bath. The pixie is now four months old so no where near as new and fresh and tiny as the babies in the video, but she did seem to love being in the water.

I ran the tap over her head, which I never would have thought of doing previously. I immersed her body in the deep water and she floated and kicked her legs. She watched the water rippling with our movement and light reflecting in from the window. She was amazed by the stillness and glassiness of the water which is very uncommon in her regular bath-time, where she lies in her baby bath seat watching Birdie spin and shriek about with toys bobbing everywhere and occasionally being splashed or squirted in the face with a yellow starfish. I held her over my submerged legs and stroked her, I poured warm water over her tummy and her back. We were in the bath for about half an hour, and in that time she did not let out a single sound. It was very quiet. And very lovely. For both of us.

Getting into the towel was another matter. I’d love to say that after thirty minutes of relaxation, listening to Deuter and the soft sweet nothings of her mama, that she promptly fell asleep in my arms. This was not so. She has only just fallen asleep in my arms. She was awake for five and a half hours after that bath. I keep wanting to insert desperate faced emoticons here but I’m sure you can picture my face right now, typing this one handed, five point five hours later…

Nevertheless, it was wonderfully calming and soothing and nice for two hot and bothered ladies.

How do/did you like to spend time with your baby? Are you a bells and whistles mummy or do you try to find moments of quiet for you and your little one? Are you like me, loving that video sick or does it make you feel weird?

acceptance

Mothering is all about acceptance. I know that, but often need to be reminded. After much success last week with our visit to the ABA, things slowly returned to ‘normal’ with little Pix once again refusing the breast, coming on and off continually and crying… a lot.

It’s hard not to take it as a personal insult, this rejection. By Friday night I was in all manner of tiz so Prince Charming rode in and supported my executive decision to cancel the coffee catch up, first birthday, house warming and baby shower we had on the weekend, throw a few things in some bags and go to the beach to let the sea air calm our nerves and bring us all down to earth.

The one thing keeping me sane was and is that Pixie’s nappies are always wet, so deep down somewhere beyond my understanding I know she is getting what she needs.

In all my exhaustion I forgot that my next door neighbour is a breastfeeding counsellor (yeah, could have been handy remembering this earlier). After my cry for help she came and spent 2 hours with me yesterday morning. We don’t know each other well, a hello here and a chat down the street there.

But in my lounge room as she held and rocked my baby, we were two women with no other simpler connection than motherhood. While she didn’t offer me a magic cure, our conversation was truly enlightening. She padded around the mat, doing the gentle baby dance, and told me that I had to accept that this beautiful baby, all roll and smile and softness, just might not conform to the rigid checklist given at the maternal child health centre: feed 3-4 hourly, 20 minutes on each breast, play on the mat contently for 45 minutes, drift off to sleep wrapped up in her bassinet, wake 2 hours later, cry for 10 minutes at 6pm, and so on. My baby knows what she needs, and for now, with a little tummy that is having trouble digesting, it’s smaller and more frequent feeds, with a lot of upright time being held and cuddled as she muddles her way through. She needs to feed more overnight when she is calm and sleepy and snuggled up next to me.

This wasn’t new information, but with someone else talking me through it, everything suddenly seemed a little easier to handle. She reminded me of how quickly Baby has grown up, how quickly time passes, how many phases little people flow through. For now, it’s this. It’s challenging. It’s tiring. But soon, in a few days or weeks, it will be something else.

She looked up at the large clock on my kitchen wall and said, “You might want to do something about that.” She reminded me not to watch the clock, but to watch my baby, and listen to what she was telling me. She talked not just of a baby’s instinct, but a mother’s. That it’s ok to feel upset and to count down the minutes until your partner gets home some days. That we don’t have to enjoy every minute of every day to be a good mother. That it’s actually our instinct to be with other women, other women who would hold and pat and shush our babies, who would tell us what to do when our babies are crying, who would cook for us and tell us that everything is ok. Instead we are all in our homes, alone. Changing nappies, rocking babies, reading stories, drawing pictures, cooking meals, washing clothes. We see other mothers up the street looking all together and wonder what we are doing wrong.

We are all the same though, just moving through the day as best we can, with minimal upset, seeing the sunshine when we can and shedding some tears when we can’t.

Today was a much better day.

a rotten couple of days

We’ve all had a case of the sads here the last few days. It’s a terrible cycle really, when you are a tight knit family and things aren’t going so well. Negativity feeds negativity and as soon as one person is a little off, you can be sure others will follow.

Pixie and I have been having the battle of the breast every few hours, which has become steadily worse. Suffice it to say it is me who set our little family into the downward spiral since the weekend, that much I will admit!

It got to the point where Pix was wanting to feed, crying as I began to lean her towards the breast, screaming by the time she got there, and latching on and off and on and off for about three to five minutes before we both called it quits. I would keep trying to offer her more but it only upset us both more. Then she would cry for an hour or so and generally be unsettled before it was time to try the whole thing again.

The last two days have been the worst, with both of us ending up in tears numerous times.

After spending the weekend emailing back and forth with a breastfeeding counsellor from the Australian Breastfeeding Association, I took their advice and today went to the ABA centre in Dandenong, Melbourne. When I looked them up last night I saw they have an open session every Wednesday where you can turn up and get support from a lactation consultant.

The drive to get there really put me off, even though I had my sister volunteer to come along and entertain the biggest, plus provide support to any criers along the journey! I wasn’t sure if they would be able to help us as I had convinced myself she had reflux and what could they do to help me then? I felt hopeless and helpless and annoyed at myself. I’m a second time mum and have done all this before, why couldn’t I get it right? Why couldn’t I do the most basic thing a mother is meant to do for her baby and feed her? I just haven’t been able to figure it out and honestly didn’t know what to do next. But I knew I had to do something. Although Pixie still had wet nappies, I was beginning to feel a real sense of urgency that this get sorted out ASAP.

After reviewing a few options, I am just so glad I bit the bullet and went. I spent two hours sitting with a lactation consultant who listened to my story and before long had me and my baby topless and skin to skin. I was really sceptical, thinking that my kid hated breastfeeding and that this wasn’t going to work for us, other people – maybe – but not us… Within moments of me placing Pixie on my chest, she rooted around, moved herself straight for the breast (this was really amazing to watch) and latched on. Feeding! No crying, no on and off and on and off.

Apparently, she just wasn’t into my style! Apparently, my style is ‘mother led attachment’, where I was guiding her head onto the breast. She wasn’t too keen on this. The lactation consultant taught me ‘baby lead attachment’ which is just like what you are encouraged to do after your baby is born. Basically, we went right back to basics and tried to start fresh. We are going to hang out at home and do it this way for a whole week to establish a new pattern.

Three feeds later I still feel shocked. My baby, who at her worst was feeding for three to five minutes, ten-ish if we were having an awesome time, has fed for up to an hour at each sitting today. Turns out she is super excited about breastfeeding! We just weren’t working too well together as a team. A result of all her crying she was gulping lots of air, and then drinking milk on top was creating a lot of wind, resulting in an upset tummy and a really cranky kid. I was then thinking she’d had enough and would pace around with her to no avail, because she was still hungry and really just wanted to be fed! I feel awful that I didn’t figure this out myself but also thrilled that I went out and got the help we really needed.

We spoke about how our lives are so busy, so instead of really focussing on her I had been thinking, ok well you’re done, what do I have to do next? And on our day would go juggling baby and toddler. I was trying to feed her really sporadically and just all the time basically, when I thought she must be hungry, rather than following her cues. We just got ourselves into a real tangle and I needed the support of someone external to give me more ideas and get us back on track.

We are lying on my bed now as I type this, skin to skin, and she is sound asleep. She’s been asleep on my chest for a few hours and words can’t describe what I am getting out of having this time with her.

Calm and soft and full bellied and warm and happy.

chesty cough remedies

It’s that time of year. Baby has been very brave this week, pushing on through a nasty cold. Yesterday it moved into her chest and as I type this I can hear her coughing a deep rasp every now and then in her sleep. Poor little poppet.

I’ve been looking around for some herbal remedies that I can give to her to help ease the discomfort and work through the cough. She is still a chirpy little thing but I can tell she’s tired. She is crying at the drop of a hat and waking in the night. Last night she slept with us from around midnight and woke up this morning all clammy and sweaty.

From what I understand of a chesty cough, the phlegm or mucus needs to be broken up so the body can get rid of it. When Baby is sick we use a vapouriser in her room with eucalyptus oil while she sleeps. I also usually make up a cough/cold syrup for her (actually for all three of us) based on a friend’s recipe (who will soon have a blog that I can link to – S.A.?) but this morning I decided this particular cough needs something a bit more than my usual mix.

I found a few recipes online, and combined some ideas to make this super simple tea for Baby this morning…

Chesty Cough Remedy

:: freshly squeezed juice from 2 lemons (I only used 1 as I only have 2!)

:: 1/4 cup of manuka honey

:: the recipe didn’t call for water, but I added some… you can imagine drinking straight honey and lemon would not be the best. I also didn’t want my low-sugar eating kid to be bouncing off the ceiling after one sip. Not ideal.

:: I added some chamomile flowers too as Baby and I are both loving these at the moment. You could possibly add whatever type of loose leaf tea you enjoy, that would compliment the honey and lemon.

Directions

Bring to a boil in a saucepan and set aside to cool slightly.

Yeah… not 100% sure!

But she did go back for more! She didn’t drink the whole thing, probably about a quarter of that little mug. I think it is easier to get her to take smaller amounts of ‘medicine’ rather than a whole cup of tea. But the warmth and goodness tea can provide is excellent, so I’m going to persevere!

Here is the cough syrup mix I usually make. I would give her little medicine cups of this throughout the day, maybe 5-10mL.

Cough Syrup

:: 1 tbs apple cider vinegar

:: 2 tbs manuka honey

:: water to taste if needed

Directions

Combine with a spoon and drink. Can be made in larger quantities and used throughout the day if needed.

*For us grown ups around here I would often also add some crushed garlic, ginger, tumeric, cayenne pepper – or whatever combination of this you can handle. Yah. Grimace. Not the best tasting but it works!

What do you give your little ones on days like these? 

two

Still reeling from the fact that our girl turned 2 last week. She has just recently begun to better understand the significance of family traditions and events and presents and all such exciting things which made the day incredibly special. When she went to sleep that night I was reminded of the hollow feeling I used to get when my birthday ended as a child, I just had a little too much fun celebrating. The photos above are of her first meeting with “Collette” the newest member of our family which I mentioned in my last post. She came with the name… but considering I had a cabbage patch doll who came with the name Etheldreda Eunis when I was a wee one, I figure she can deal with Collette…

Healesville Sanctuary obviously had a huge effect on her as she has been telling everyone how she saw gorillas, elephants and giraffes there. And for those who don’t know, Healesville Sanctuary houses Australian native animals so the chances of seeing gorillas, elephants or giraffes are fairly slim. Oh and she also keeps talking about the duck that was there… a duck which we saw on a poster. Guess the Aussie animals were a bit too quiet for this excitable 2 year old who insisted that the kangaroos were donkeys. Once I stared at them for a while I could kind of see her point, their faces do look a little like donkeys! Or is that a stretch? Nevertheless, we had fun!

more business of being born

I just got back from my first Maternity Coalition Movie Night. I am so thrilled my friend R invited me. It was great and fabulous and the film we watched was GOOD and I liked it. I was sitting there watching it and forming words in my mind to type into this blog tomorrow. But now I’m here and I’m home and buzzing from the atmosphere there so I just have to, I just have to post it now!

So many pregnant ladies and I have come home with all their positive abundant energy, phew and wow! Rhea Dempsey spoke after the film and she just rounded off the whole evening perfectly. Oh, that and the fact that my midwife from Baby’s birth was there which was just wonderful and lovely and full of hugs and kisses on the cheek and all motherly midwifey such and such.

There was popcorn and chocolate muffins too.

Night all xo

an amber teething necklace

Baby has been sick towards the end of this week, so we have had two sleepless nights and days. Wow. How quickly your body forgets those wakeful nights of a younger baby. It’s been such a shock to the system, I feel rawther hungover and groggy. It was on Thursday that she awoke at 5am, had less than half the amount of sleep she usually does for her day time nap, and then didn’t go to sleep until 10.30pm that night. Prince Charming sat in her bedroom for two hours to try and help her get to sleep. It got to 9.30pm and she was no closer to drifting off, so I brought her into our bed and very naughtily put a show on the laptop (90/10 rule, right?) and cuddled her to sleep. It took about ten minutes. She then woke again at 1am, came back into our bed, drifted off in fits of tears and exhaustion at 4.30am and awoke at 7am.

Yesterday she once again didn’t want to go to sleep in the day, so my aunty took her for a walk and she slept in her pram for two and a half hours! Last night, same same. She eventually went to sleep in my arms on the couch at 10.30pm. Lucky for all of us she slept all night. Strangely enough I feel worse today than I did yesterday! Today we didn’t even try to put her into her cot, we took her for a walk in the pram which brings us to our present position. She has a cold, and I think being in the pram and slightly more upright makes it easier for her to breathe, rather than flat on her back.

It’s really made me realise how far a few cuddles can go with a sick baby. I feel like I am always one step behind in the parenting game, figuring really basic things out a moment too late. After all our attempts to put her to sleep in our regular way the last two nights, which consists of a few stories, a few songs, a cuddle and a night-night-love-you (never have any problems and don’t usually hear a peep), it took fifteen minutes of cuddles with mama for the little cherub to go to sleep. Phew! Get with it mama!

I also have a few concerns about the new amber teething necklace I bought for Baby on Thursday. We lost her necklace a few months ago (by ‘lost’ I mean we put it in a really-really-really safe place) so I lashed out the other day after giving up on finding it and bought her a new one. I put it on her at about 11am Thursday and by 1pm she was snotty, awake and cranky after having been fine and playing at the park that morning. That night after all her fitful sleeps, I took it off at about 4am and she was asleep by 4.30am. Yesterday she had it on all day. I took it off at 10pm last night and by 10.30pm she was asleep and slept all night.

I’ve had it on me this morning as I read somewhere that it’s good for the mum to wear the jewellery before putting it on the child, but I just read here that amber has a really large memory and remembers all the places it has been, people it has touched and energy that it has come across, so I’m wondering if more needs to be done. It suggests a cleansing method that involves soaking the necklace in salt water and then leaving it in the sun. I’ve since read on other websites that you should never leave amber in the sun?! I’d be interested to hear other’s experiences with amber teething necklaces? This is the third one we have had (first one broke), but the others have been great. I do believe in the healing power of crystals and resins such as amber (hence why I am using one in the first place) so I would value anyone’s ideas or experience with this topic. The two we originally had were all one colour as you can see in the photo. This one is multicoloured with four different types on amber on it – very dark, brown, clear and foggy yellow…

Help needed!