Master Tonic aka Fire Cider: For Your Health!

By , March 27, 2014 10:01 pm
Freshly Made Anti-Plague Formula!

Anti-Plague Formula! Fire Cider! Master Tonic! Whatever you call it, viruses don’t stand a chance against it!

Want to keep your family healthy? This is an incredibly powerful way to heal your gut, bolster your immune system, and colonize your body with kick-ass pro-bugs. After this is ready, we bottle it up and use it in our salad dressing (mix a tad of balsamic and maple syrup…amazing!) We use it as a marinade for venison and other local, sustainable meats. I also make a warm honey-lemon tea and add a spoonful of this for everyday use. Even the baby will drink it that way!

So, here’s whatcha need to make it yourself! (I got the original recipe from Heal Thyself and have added a few personal touches along the way!)

  • 1 part fresh chopped garlic cloves (antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitical)
  • 1 part fresh chopped white onions, or the hottest onions available (similar properties to garlic)
  • 1 part fresh grated horseradish root (increases blood flow to the head)
  • 1 part fresh grated ginger root (increases circulation to the extremities)
  • 1 part fresh grated horseradish root (increases blood flow to the head and sinuses)
  • 1 part fresh chopped Cayenne peppers, Jalapenos, Serranos, Habeneros….any combination of the hottest peppers available
  • 1 part fresh cilantro (binds to heavy metals and helps remove them from your body and is a powerful anti-inflammatory)

Preparation

I use a full cup of each of these ingredients…but I am making a gallon of master tonic for a family of six.  I begin this formula on the NEW moon and bottle on the FULL moon, (approximately 14 days). I do this on the last new moon of September so that it is ready for the fall cold and flu season. I begin another batch on the first new moon of the new year since we are almost out of our fall batch by then.

Fill a glass jar with equal parts of the fresh chopped/grated ingredients.  Then cover completely with raw unfiltered, undistilled apple cider vinegar (aka ACV). I use Brags ACV.

Close and shake vigorously. Top off with more ACV if necessary. Keep the jar in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks.

Shake or swirl the tonic daily.

On day 14 you can filter the mixture through a clean piece of cotton straight into smaller mason jars for storage (I make a few jelly jar sized ones since I know I will end up gifting folks with a few over the months!) After straining it will keep indefinitely at room temperature. Store in a dark place if possible (I keep mine in my herb cabinet with all of the other tinctures) I feed the leftover strained pulp to my chickens. 

Dosage:
1/2 to 1 ounce, two or more times daily, as needed.

Free Range Kids. Sort of.

By , March 25, 2014 8:48 am
IMG_20140311_124503_187-SNOW

The three littles and the two dogs on their way to our little patch of woods.

We live on 1.5 acres of land. It is not our land. It is not our house. It’s a rental. It is in a crappy location–too close to the road. Too close to the stores and the gas stations and the highway. Not the ideal situation for raising free-range kiddos.

But it does have a patch of woods with a creek running through it.

This little corner– this 1/4 acre of unmanicured, unmowed, undeveloped land is why we said “this’ll do” to making this our home. Not our dream home. Not even our daydream home. But the home where–for right now– our kids can roam, and pretend, and build bridges. Make fires. Wield sticks. Make forts. Dig holes. Grow things. Unearth treasures. Catch crayfish. Climb trees. Lay in the sun. Ride sleds. Raise chickens. Run with dogs. Roll in the grass. Get hurt. Yes, get hurt. Fall. Bleed. Cry. Dust themselves off, take a deep breath, and try again. Hold out their hand to one another and ask for help when they can’t do it themselves.

And to make it all even better, our neighbor across the creek has a handful of amazingly fun kiddos who participate in the outdoor merrymaking with our crew. And also they have chickens. And a pig.

With recent articles (here and here and here) floating around about the ongoing conflict of balancing safety with free play, this topic has been on my mind a lot. I get it. I really do. We all do not—and probably cannot— live on acres of wooded land, miles and miles away from the perils of the city. Not all of our neighborhoods are safe places to allow children to roam free. But practically, I bet we can all make a few choices in our everyday lives that will allow for less structure, more autonomy, more confidence, and less parental interference. We all must balance safety and free play. For instance, despite our free-ranging outdoor play in the yard, I don’t permit my older kids to ride their bikes up to the nearby store. Not because I am worried that they cannot handle themselves at the store (they could) but because the traffic situation is unsafe. So, I find ways to give them more autonomy in public spaces so they can get some of the experience without the dangerous bike ride. It’s not the total free-range solution that many of us had growing up. But it’s a start. In what ways and in what spaces can YOU provide more freedom?

Mother Blessings

By , July 9, 2013 12:46 am

A belly cast, flower crown, and blessing necklace...

I am now offering professional Mother Blessing planning and hosting.

I will help expectant mothers (or their friends and family) plan a beautiful and thoughtful Mother Blessing! You will be able to custom-create the perfect blessing ceremony to honor the momma-to-be and the sweet baby she is about to meet.

Previous Mother Blessings have included some of the following:

  • Smudging Ceremony
  • Creation of Prayer Flags
  • Birthing Necklace
  • A fresh Flower Crown for Momma
  • Weaving a Web of Blessings
  • Belly Casting
  • Belly Henna
  • Dancing For Birth with Krista Meyers
  • Signing up for a Meal Train
  • Babymoon Planning

Please contact me to learn more about how I can help you plan the perfect MotherBlessing! Fees will vary depending on location and types of services requested. But I strive to make all things affordable and accessible! Write to me at MotherBlessing@StateoftheHeat.net

Radiantly You Review & Giveaway!

By , January 31, 2013 9:57 pm

We have a pretty firm policy at our house: If you can’t eat it, you should not be putting it on your body. More and more families are adopting this policy, too. This goes double for mommas while they are pregnant & lactating and also for babies & kids, who cannot afford to waste energy or resources compensating for toxins when they need to be growing brains and bodies. That is why I cannot say enough good things about the products from Radiantly You. Melissa has focused her passion for transforming lives into this ever expanding line of beauty, health and cleaning products. I was lucky enough to try out four of the fantastic body care products:

Calendula Baby Butt Balm - GMO & Petroleum Free

Homemade Soap - Organic Sweet Orange Vanilla with Orange Peel

Whipped Body Butter - Mango Coconut

Vanilla Coconut Lip Balm

Luxurious is the very first word that came to mind. Opening up the package was a sensory experience in itself. Delicious scents that are not made of scary frankenchemicals! Beautifully packaged and presented! These items are not simply for pampering yourself, they are exactly the kind of gift that others would LOVE to get (nudge wink wink to all of you looking for a lovely Valentine’s Day gift this month!) I’m all for luxury, but more than that, I am all about quality. And these products deliver both.

With forced-air heat this winter, we have all had our share of chapped lips and dry skin in our house. The baby (now 7 months old) especially has been struggling with dry skin issues. It felt wonderful to know that I could use ANY of these products on his skin without worry! Right away we busted out the Calendula Baby Butt Balm and by the end of the day his chapped bottom and thighs were soft as…well, as a baby’s bottom! We also all used some of the Lip Balm several times throughout the day and loved the light scent and the wonderfully smooth application. It also looks great over a lip stain as a gloss! Before bed, all of the kids were treated to some of the Homemade Soap during their bath. Even the kids, who normally don’t care what sort of soap we are using on them, commented on the rich, foamy lather and the amazing smell. Post-bath massages with the Whipped Body Butter proved to be a lovely experience for them AND for my dry hands! After everyone was tucked in, I treated myself to the same (well, not the tushy balm ;) ) and was not disappointed! The biggest endorsement though? Sir Hubby loves each of these products, too! These truly are products that the entire family can use.

More than anything. Melissa and I want YOU and YOUR family to feel as radiant and healthy as you deserve to feel! Use this Rafflecoptor link to enter to win ANY PRODUCT from the Radiantly You Etsy store. Contest runs for one week from February 1, 2013 until midnight on February 8, 2013. Winner will be contacted via email or facebook  on February 9, 2013.

Enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter!

Nix The Paper Review

By , January 21, 2013 11:24 pm

Maybe it is just our family, but we generate a TON of paper mess in our house. Bug, T-Bird, and Little Chief spend 87% of their day creating works of art, maps, notes, comic strips, stories, graphs, signs, charts, instructions, codes, recipes, origami, and projects of all sorts with PAPER. We re-purpose and reuse as much as any human possibly can, and thankfully our township has single-stream recycling and we can easily ensure that the paper reaches a facility where (hopefully) additional post-consumer magic happens. But, from a human energy perspective, I can tell you that I sorta kinda despise finding all of this paper waiting for me 46 times a day.

This is like 3 minutes worth of paper generation in my house. It. Never. Stops.

Of course we have spent tons of time trying to devise complicated and Pinterest-worthy systems for deciding which art work makes it to the coveted “fridge” spot; which pieces get entered into the homeschool folder; and which pieces simply get used as kindling or stuffed into the recycling.  I would be lying if I said any of these systems has lasted more than a week. I’d also be stretching the truth if I said that I have not just gathered up an entire pile of drawings and stuffed them into the bottom of the trashcan after everyone has gone to bed. Dealing with all the paper around here could be a full time job. But a full time job that makes you want to pull all of your hair out and drink wine before noon. Okay, I’m being hyperbolic, but I am simply trying to convey how much blood, sweat, and tears has gone into picking up paper in my house: big sheets, little sheets, colored sheets, graph paper, computer paper, newspaper, paper bags, envelopes (oh dear, the envelopes…) paper, paper, paper. I really buy into the idea that providing plenty of material and resources for kids to be creative with is a vital for learning and mastering many skills, but sometimes I cringe at the amount of waste despite our “green” efforts. And did I mention that it kind of drives me batty to have 67 paper messes to clean up per day?

Deluxe in owl print and pocket-sized in robot print. Adorable!

That is why I was so excited to see these incredibly innovative Washable Coloring Books from my friend Nichole at Nix The Paper *. First of all, the only thing I like more than supporting WAHM’s is supporting WAHM’s who are also really groovy people! Second, these things are adorably cute. I am a sucker for textiles of all sorts, but fabric really makes me giddy. However, when I got them in my hands, the thing that REALLY impressed me was the fantastic quality and attention to detail in the construction. We got one of the smaller Pocket Sized Washable Coloring Books (5″x5″ $7.50 each) done up in adorable robot fabric and a bigger Deluxe Washable Coloring Book ($25 with 6 coloring pages!) in a bright owl fabric. Both books came with a supply of chalk-crayons in the built-in pouch and a special microfiber cloth for wiping the surfaces clean before starting over again. Both have wipeable  white coloring pages and also blackboard style pages. Right away the kids loved comparing and contrasting how the different colors looked when they were on the different backgrounds.

Checking 'em out for the first time!

An entire 25 minutes of mess-free artwork? Priceless.

Little Chief is totally impressed that his blue crayon works on the black page!

We still generate some paper around here, don’t get me wrong. But if given the option, the littles prefer to use these fun alternatives instead. They really seem to enjoy being able to erase only what they choose to erase, which makes “editing” their work a possibility now instead of starting all over again with a new sheet of paper.

Full Disclosure: I need to mention that my kids would fall into the “rugged” category when it comes to the things they play with… and they have yet to ruin these coloring books after 2 whole weeks of use.  That is endorsement enough as far as I am concerned! The fact that they are also cute enough to take everywhere is another bonus since most places we frequent are probably pretty sick of my kids stealing napkins and coupon flyers to draw on while we spend money there.

These Washable Coloring Books are at the top of my gift-giving options for birthdays this year, for sure! Be sure to check out Nix The Paper on Facebook for more fabric options (you can get a customized book!) and other fantastic products like Cloth Diapers and Homeopathic Remedy Rolls!

*I was given these products at no charge in order to review them. The review is entirely my own genuine experience. A positive review was not expected or required by Nix The Paper. Thank you to Nichole for giving me the opportunity to promote and support her work!

Girl Talk Workshops

By , December 6, 2012 4:54 pm

The summer session is scheduled to begin on July 13th 2013. Girl Talk’s goal is to empower, educate, and support 9-17 year old girls as they journey toward womanhood. This 6-week course will cover the biology, the history, the legacy, the commercialization, and the power of the female menstrual cycle while creating community and a safe space. Each class will be $20 or the entire course will be $100 if pre-paid. The fee includes supplies as well as ongoing support long after the course is complete! To register for the class or buy a gift certificate for a young lady in your life, please write to me at GirlTalk@stateoftheheart.n et

This Girl Talk Workshop is the class you WISH you had taken when you were young! Join me for this 6 week course on menstruation;  honoring their femininity; finding their power; discovering traditions from history and other cultures; creating self-empowering rituals; and embracing their authentic selves!
This Girl Talk Workshop will be facilitated by me, Justine Julian! My educational background includes anthropology, sociology, psychology and theatre. My professional training is in parent education,  pregnancy & childbirth support, midwifery, and child development.  My most important training and experience has been spent “in the field” while parenting my own 6 children over the last 24 years (including a fantastic 18 year old daughter who has taught me tons about the complicated and amazing journey into womanhood).
We will also be joined by Kathryn Hamilton who is a Fertility Awareness Method facilitator. She has also studied herbalism with Susun Weed and is a passionate advocate for healthy body image and body awareness for young women in our culture.
****While this workshop will be about very intimate aspects of womanhood, this particular workshop will NOT cover topics like sexual education. All of the material we cover in class will be age appropriate for girls in the 9-17 age range. Additional resources or internet pages may be sent home for YOU to research or share with the student to facilitate further discussion and ongoing learning. Some of these resources MAY incidentally contain more mature subject material.

Treating Pelvic Organ Prolapse

By , September 11, 2012 12:49 am

Written by guest poster Elizabeth Carrollton

Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) affects approximately 50 percent of women between the ages of 50 and 79, yet most women are uninformed about the condition until they are diagnosed. Treatments for POP range from the natural and non-invasive to potentially risky surgical procedures. The more education women receive about POP, its causes, preventative care, and treatment options, the less likely they will be to face potentially risky surgical intervention.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse and its Treatments

POP occurs when muscles and tissues that connect and support pelvic organs become weakened. Pregnancy and vaginal childbirth are the leading factors that contribute to POP, however other factors include obesity, smoking and/or a family history of POP. Women can take proactive measures to prevent POP, such as making healthy lifestyle choices and doing daily exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles.
Once POP has been diagnosed, the treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that the most conservative and non-invasive methods of treatment should always be tried first before surgical intervention is attempted. Many mild cases of POP do not require treatment, and other mild to moderate cases can often be treated using non-invasive methods.

Non-invasive Treatments for POP

Pelvic Floor Exercises: These exercises, as well as Yoga and/or Pilates, can be used to strengthen the pelvic floor as well as other supportive core muscles. This can prevent POP and can often reverse mild symptoms to prevent further prolapse.
Electrical Stimulation: Doctors can use electrical stimulation on the muscles in the upper vagina and pelvic floor in order to improve their strength and tone. Then women can use exercises on their own to maintain healthy muscles.
Physical Therapy: There are physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor health. Depending on a woman’s symptoms, they can recommend other exercises and protocols for reversing/treating POP.
Pelvic Massage: Pelvic massage has shown a positive impact on POP. Massage nourishes pelvic tissues and can realign organs and tissues that have moved out of place. Combined with other physical therapies, Shiatsu, Myofascial Release and Mayan massage have been effective.
Pessary: A vaginal pessary is a device that is custom-fitted and inserted into the vagina to provide support. When used correctly, it has been successful in preventing organs from further prolapse and treating incontinence.

Surgical Procedures for POP

Surgical procedures are used for severe cases of POP in order to reattach and/or provide support for pelvic tissues and muscles. Unfortunately, one of the most common surgical procedures involves the use of vaginal mesh implants. Transvaginal mesh surgeries have been linked to thousands of cases of medical complications. Some of these complications are severe and cannot be reversed, even after multiple surgeries. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued several warnings about the risks involved with transvaginal mesh surgery. Many women have decided to a file a transvaginal mesh lawsuit against mesh manufacturers, to seek compensation for their injuries.
Women who require surgical intervention for POP should talk to their doctor about alternative surgical procedures, such as traditional surgery options. While any surgical procedure poses a level of risk, the traditional approach has not been linked to the level of complications associated with transvaginal mesh.
Elizabeth Carrollton writes to inform the public about defective medical devices and dangerous drugs for Drugwatch.com.

Treating Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) affects approximately 50 percent of women between the ages of 50 and 79, yet most women are uninformed about the condition until they are diagnosed. Treatments for POP range from the natural and non-invasive to potentially risky surgical procedures. The more education women receive about POP, its causes, preventative care, and treatment options, the less likely they will be to face potentially risky surgical intervention.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse and its Treatments

POP occurs when muscles and tissues that connect and support pelvic organs become weakened. Pregnancy and vaginal childbirth are the leading factors that contribute to POP, however other factors include obesity, smoking and/or a family history of POP. Women can take proactive measures to prevent POP, such as making healthy lifestyle choices and doing daily exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles. Once POP has been diagnosed, the treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that the most conservative and non-invasive methods of treatment should always be tried first before surgical intervention is attempted. Many mild cases of POP do not require treatment, and other mild to moderate cases can often be treated using non-invasive methods.

Non-invasive Treatments for POP*

Pelvic Floor Exercises: These exercises, as well as Yoga and/or Pilates, can be used to strengthen the pelvic floor as well as other supportive core muscles. This can prevent POP and can often reverse mild symptoms to prevent further prolapse.

Electrical Stimulation: Doctors can use electrical stimulation on the muscles in the upper vagina and pelvic floor in order to improve their strength and tone. Then women can use exercises on their own to maintain healthy muscles.

Physical Therapy: There are physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor health. Depending on a woman’s symptoms, they can recommend other exercises and protocols for reversing/treating POP.

Pelvic Massage: Pelvic massage has shown a positive impact on POP. Massage nourishes pelvic tissues and can realign organs and tissues that have moved out of place. Combined with other physical therapies, Shiatsu, Myofascial Release and Mayan massage have been effective.

Pessary: A vaginal pessary is a device that is custom-fitted and inserted into the vagina to provide support. When used correctly, it has been successful in preventing organs from further prolapse and treating incontinence.

Surgical Procedures for POPSurgical procedures are used for severe cases of POP in order to reattach and/or provide support for pelvic tissues and muscles. Unfortunately, one of the most common surgical procedures involves the use of vaginal mesh implants. Transvaginal mesh surgeries have been linked to thousands of cases of medical complications. Some of these complications are severe and cannot be reversed, even after multiple surgeries. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued several warnings about the risks involved with transvaginal mesh surgery. Many women have decided to a file a transvaginal mesh lawsuit against mesh manufacturers, to seek compensation for their injuries.Women who require surgical intervention for POP should talk to their doctor about alternative surgical procedures, such as traditional surgery options. While any surgical procedure poses a level of risk, the traditional approach has not been linked to the level of complications associated with transvaginal mesh.

Elizabeth Carrollton writes to inform the public about defective medical devices and dangerous drugs for Drugwatch.com.

* Justine here! I cannot say enough great things about these FOUR non-invasive ways of preventing and treating POP 1) Gentle Rebounding! 2) Proper alignment ala Katie Bowman and her info at Aligned and Well. 3) If you are local to the NWPA or WNY area, Christine Freeberry offers Mayan Abdominal Massage at her studio in Lilydale NY and I can tell you that it was amazing and really got me started on my journey to amazing pelvic health! 4) Also for the locals: check out the amazing work going on at Girl on Fire Movement Studio where Christine Claire Reed has the latest and greatest up-to-date training in keeping your body strong, flexible, and PROPERLY aligned at ALL AGES and ALL FITNESS LEVELS!

Book Review~ What NOT to Say: Tools For Talking To Young Children

By , July 12, 2012 12:25 am

This book arrived in my mailbox at JUST the right time. At 41+ weeks gestation, I was at the end of my rope pregnancy and feeling very little empathy or patience for the daily trials and tribulations of my other children. I was wrestling with frustration, fatigue, and was completely pre-occupied with the details of the impending birth of my sixth baby. Despite years of personal AND professional experience with Attachment Parenting philosophies and Conscious and Positive Parenting principles, I found myself falling back on knee-jerk responses to my children’s less-than-wonderful behaviors. It was not surprising that I was getting less-than-ideal results! Using judgmental and negative language with my children was doing very little to help them be their very best selves: the best selves that I know they (and ALL CHILDREN) desire to be. Thank goodness Sir Hubby could step in and bring some balance back into our home. While he was manning up and being a great dad those last few days of my pregnancy, I got to relax and curl up with this terrific new parenting staple!

In her new book, What NOT to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children, Author, Sarah MacLaughlin has combined the great communication skills of parenting guru’s like Pam Leo, Naomi Aldort, and Alfie Kohn and shapes them into bite-sized chunks of parenting gold! Even the busiest of people can easily grab this book and open it to virtually ANY page and quickly gain some parenting enlightenment. Anyone with a smart phone, tablet, or Kindle could open their digital copy and add a shiny new tool to their parenting toolbox while in a waiting room or while sitting  in the minivan during pick up time from soccer practice or dance class. This quick read is easy to digest and is like a breath of fresh parenting air. When you feel like you might just say something reactionary and dumb ineffective to your kids, you could cool down and learn something new in less than one-minute with this book nearby. Keep a copy in the bathroom and lock yourself in for your very own “time out” and effective communication refresher course!

My favorite part though? MacLaughlin has brilliantly added suggested reading materials to help families follow-up with the lessons they are learning together. I really love how this fits into our family’s unschooling mindset. Even learning how to be a better parent and more effective communicator can become a valuable lesson to be shared with our littlest citizens. I was excited to see that many of the books are already on our shelves or are easily accessible at the public library.

Of course parents will find the simple and effective tools in this book invaluable. But more importantly, this book should be standard reading material in every waiting room! Pediatricians, midwives, dentists, therapists, and any professionals who works with families needs to have this on their shelves. Grandparents, teachers, child care providers, and social workers should be familiar with the lessons contained within this book–give it to them as a gift! Anyone who wants to communicate with children (and heck, let’s face it—with ANY human) in an effective and meaningful way should be reading this book and revisiting it as needed. I will be suggesting this book to all of the families I work with and will encourage them to share it with the other adults who interact with their children on a regular basis. If we truly want children to listen to us, we MUST use the words that will get them to hear us. MacLaughlin teaches us how without clouding the issue with labels or judgement about what “kind” of parent we are. She simply shows us why the old words don’t work (and never have worked) and what we should say instead.

Final word: I wouldn’t tell parents to try it if I didn’t KNOW it worked.

Special Giveaway!
Please comment on this post with why you think this book would benefit you.Your comment enters you in the eBook Giveaway – to win an ebook copy ofWhat Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children in the format of your choice: PDF, epub, or Kindle format. Sarah will be giving away one copy at each blog stop and will announce it on the comments of this post within a few days. Be sure to leave your email so we can contact you in case you’re the winner!

Other stops and opportunities to win during this Blog Tour can be found on Sarah’s blog.

You can also enter at Sarah’s site for the Grand Prize Giveaway: a Kindle Touch. Winner will be announced at the end of the tour after July 15th.

Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post but did receive a complimentary book for the purpose of this review.  I only review products that I either have purchased myself and love or products I have been given a chance to review by the company that I believe are products my readers would benefit from.

Earrings, and Nail Polish, and Barrettes, Oh My!

By , July 11, 2012 10:55 pm

Guest Post By Sarah MacLaughlin, Author of the Award-winning Amazon bestseller, What Not To Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children

"The truth was I didn’t want him to get any dirty looks, or have some overbearing person say something to him about how boys don’t wear earrings."

These days, depending on where you live, a metro-sexual, gender non-conforming male is commonplace. Even here in Maine, I see men with two earrings, for example, or eyeliner on a semi-regular basis. I even catch a glimpse of some nail polish from time to time. It doesn’t bother me at all. In fact it makes me smile. But is everyone comfortable with this? No. And why is that? No one worries when girls play with trucks, wear blue jeans, (seems “normal” now, doesn’t it?) or have short hair and play sports.

Here’s my one word answer: HOMOPHOBIA. In our generally misogynistic culture, it is more respected for women to express masculine traits than it is for men to present in any way as feminine. I have to think it has something to do with the fact that in our society women, femaleness, and femininity are just less valued. Our culture’s disregard of the “women’s work” of parenting continues to manifest in our total lack of paid parental leave. According to this article from Reuters, “Of the 190 countries studied in the report, 178 guaranteed paid leave for new mothers and nine were unclear about their maternity policies. Just three countries clearly offer no legal guarantee of paid maternity leave — Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and the United States.”  That is a truly sad standing for U.S. families.

A couple of years ago 1.5 million people clicked on blogger Nerdy Apple Bottom’s post, “My Son is Gay.” The article, about her five-year-old son dressing as Scooby-Doo’s Daphne for Halloween, made national news. As someone who wants to raise an emotionally literate, open-minded, feminist son, I read with rapt attention. You can read the post online here. The upshot of the post was that the boy’s costume was balked at upon his arrival at preschool for the annual parade. His attire was not called into question by the other kids, as had been his worry. No, it was the other moms who clucked their tongues and asked, “You let him wear that?”

All of this begs the question: Why are we so afraid? I am not worried by the possibility of my son being gay, with one exception: some people are so intolerant of homosexuality that because of this they would purposefully harm him. Even when we aren’t homophobic because we are afraid of homosexuality itself, we are homophobic because we are afraid of the discrimination, bias and downright hate it could bring.

Why do we continue to perpetuate the stereotypes that require our little boys to “suck it up” and “be a man”? If a child is gay, asking them to hide feelings will not make them any less gay. Don’t we want our children to be at ease with themselves? I am comfortable with my son’s honest expression of emotion. I want him to be fluent in the full range of human feelings.

When he was a toddler, my son discovered a pair of my grandmother’s old clip-on earrings. He was so excited to be able to actually try on a pair. I watched him shake his head back and forth, delighting in the sensation as they swung back and forth on his little ears. Even though they pinched a little, he refused to take them off until naptime. When he awoke, he asked to put them back on right away.

But before we headed into the grocery store, I told him that dress-up time was over. I soothed my own cowardice with a story about how I wouldn’t let a little girl wear such grown-up earrings in public either. The truth was I didn’t want him to get any dirty looks, or have some overbearing person say something to him about how boys don’t wear earrings. I guess I thought he was too little at the time to understand this—that it would be too hard to explain other people’s beliefs in a way that he would get it.

A couple of years later, a friend innocently posted a photo of her three-year old daughter’s freshly polished toenails. They shone bright pink above the caption, “Mother-Daughter Pedicures.” Oh Facebook, what a pot-stirrer you can be. This adorable photo (it was undeniably adorable) got me thinking. My son loves to dress-up, to wear play tattoos, to adorn. He has been known to cover himself from head-to-toe with washable markers. I just knew he would love nail polish. I went and bought a bottle of non-toxic blue polish at Whole Foods. (Was I chickening out again by getting blue? Maybe.)

After his fingers and toes were shimmering in “Mermaid Blue,” I casually told him, “You know, I don’t think so, but some people think that nail polish is only for girls and women.” When he asked me why, I told him I didn’t know—I might have said something about them being silly and misinformed.

Peggy Orenstein in her great book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, talks about informing kids of gender-biased marketing and broadening their perspectives about what it is to be a boy or a girl. She also tells a hilarious story about a child growing up in the 70s who was teased I his preschool classroom for wearing barrettes. The story goes that a boy repeated, “Barrettes are for girls,” and this proud barrette-wearing child informed him numerous times that he was –despite the barrettes— a boy, not a girl. Finally, because the teasing child would not be swayed, he pulled down his pants and hollered, “See, I’m a boy, I have a penis!” I’m hoping it won’t come to that with my son and the nail polish.

How do you fight gender bias and homophobia in your home? Please comment below!

Special Giveaway!
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About The Author
Sarah MacLaughlin has worked with children and families for over twenty years. With a background in early childhood education, she has previously been both a preschool teacher and nanny. Sarah is currently a licensed social worker at The Opportunity Alliance in South Portland, Maine, and works as the resource coordinator in therapeutic foster care. She serves on the board of Birth Roots, and writes the “Parenting Toolbox” column for a local parenting newspaper, Parent & Family. Sarah teachesclasses and workshops locally, and consults with families everywhere. She considers it her life’s work to to promote happy, well-adjusted people in the future by increasing awareness of how children are spoken to today. She is mom to a young son who gives her plenty of opportunities to take her own advice about What Not to Say. More information about Sarah and her work can be found at her site: http://www.saramaclaughlin.com/ and her blog: http://sarahsbalancingact.blogspot.com.

The Birth of Noah

By , April 19, 2012 8:42 pm

By Kathryn.

Noah was born on February 25, 2012

My husband and I started trying to conceive shortly after getting married. We tried for several years, to no avail. Being very health conscious and into natural healing modalities, we decided to address this challenge by improving our diets & lifestyles, and I started doing regular acupuncture and taking herbs. Slowly but surely I started seeing changes in my cycles, and I felt like I was headed in the right direction. In 2010, we got pregnant twice but both pregnancies ended in miscarriages. It was very difficult emotionally, but deep down I knew that I was getting closer to our goal, my body was almost ready. The second miscarriage in November 2010 was especially difficult, as I went all the way to 13weeks before finding out it was a blighted ovum; there was no baby, just a big empty sac and a placenta. Thankfully I miscarried on my own without needing any kind of intervention. I was rocked to my core afterwards. For the first time, we decided to avoid conceiving for several months afterwards; I didn’t feel that I could deal with anything pregnancy related. In the spring of 2011, we bought 30 acres of land and started on the path of building our dream in the countryside. In May, as we were beginning to move to our new home, we decided to start trying again. That month, Noah was conceived, and my “due date” turned out to be my birthday, February 19th. What a blessing!

Before this baby was ever conceived we knew that we would want to have our baby at home, in the most simple and natural setting possible. I also felt that I would like to have a water birth, as I love swimming and being in water; a waterbirth just seemed like a no brainer to me. I already knew many of the local midwives, and decided to work with a wonderful CNM named Jen. She was the midwife for one of my good friend’s birth almost 3 years ago, and I had been lucky enough to be there to witness a wonderful homebirth. So I already knew what Jen was like and knew I would trust her and feel comfortable with her. As an added bonus, one of my closest friends, Justine, had been apprenticing with Jen for a few months already, so I would be blessed to have them both there at the birth! From the start I felt very confident in my own abilities to give birth naturally and trusted my support team completely.

I had a fairly uneventful pregnancy, felt good the whole time, no major complaints. I spent a lot of time in the wilderness of our land, enjoyed the quiet peacefulness of the countryside and just felt as if everything was finally falling into place in our lives. Winter arrived and surprised us by being incredibly mild. I had been a little concerned about giving birth in a snowstorm, worried that the midwives might have a hard time making it in bad weather, as we live almost 1 hour outside of the city. But the weather remained warm, and snow rarely stayed on the ground for more than a day or two.

Around 37 weeks I started losing little pieces of mucus plug every day. Just after 38 weeks, I started experiencing daily prodromal labor. I would get 3-4 hours of Braxton-Hicks type contractions, mildly uncomfortable, but usually not enough to make me stop whatever I was doing. It would come and go, not regularly, and then slowly vanish. I didn’t mind too much, and Jen reminded me that everyone labored differently and that it sounded like my body was doing some of the work in advance. That sounded good to me! Almost every day I would get a few hours of these mild contractions, and around 40 weeks I started getting a little annoyed with them. Each day I would get hopeful that it would lead to something (especially on my birthday, I would have loved to share a birthday with my baby) but then it would fizzle out.

February 22nd, I woke up feeling “off”. I just didn’t feel like myself. My husband went to work, I was alone all day and felt so irritable for no reason! Everything annoyed me, I couldn’t stand the dog and cats, I felt grumpy and annoyed with the world. That night when my husband came home I had a meltdown, it felt like I had been holding so much in. I cried uncontrollably, feelings started flooding up from within and I realized I had never completely put my last miscarriage behind me. I cried for a while, I just let it all flow out, and talked to my husband about what I was feeling. I felt so much lighter afterward, like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. And later that evening, I suddenly felt as though baby had really shifted and had gotten lower. I noticed a big space at the top of my uterus, just below my ribs. Yes, baby had definitely dropped! I checked my cervix and could tell it was more effaced and dilated than the previous time I had checked. I was very excited, I knew real labor wouldn’t be very far off.

On the morning of February 24th, I called my mom in Canada to give her an update and let her know I was still waiting to give birth. We had a great conversation and she told me she would send me some labor vibes. I was having more prodromal labor while we talked but didn’t think much of it. Around 1pm, I stood up from sitting on the couch and felt a gush in my underwear, so I ran to the bathroom. I thought it was just more mucus, but soon realized more and more kept coming out – my water had broken!! I was very excited and called out to my husband from across the house; he was very excited too! I tried getting back up from the toilet to go about my day but more kept coming out. So I sat on the toilet for what seemed like forever, while fluid dripped out slowly. When I finally got up, I went into the living room and sat on the birthing ball, relaxing with some mild contractions. Suddenly the wind picked up outside and a hail storm came down out of nowhere! It really surprised me! I sat on my birthing ball, watching the hail come down on the land. It was beautiful, the wind was very strong. This sudden change in weather prompted me to look at the weather forecast because as of the day before, the predictions were of mild weather all weekend. But apparently, something had changed because now the weather forecast called for a snowstorm overnight!! Where did that come from? Somehow, deep down, I wasn’t surprised.. this baby would be born in a snowstorm after all!

Around 4pm I started getting a little more uncomfortable as the contractions got more regular. I had my husband fill up the birthing pool that was already set up in the living room, and then he called the midwives to let them know I was officially in labor. I got in the pool at 5:30pm, and the midwives arrived just after 6pm.

I really enjoyed laboring in the pool, it was very relaxing, and most of my labor was totally bearable, mildly uncomfortable, that’s all. I have always had very painful menstrual cramps and comparatively labor didn’t feel so bad, especially since I got a break every 2 or 3 minutes. I had expected to want to be left alone and to feel somewhat self-conscious during labor, but it turned out I really enjoyed having the midwives there, chatting between contractions. My husband and them took such good care of me, and they made sure the pool was nice and warm for me the whole time. I even told them at one point that I should give birth more often because I was really enjoying having 3 people taking care of me and just being 100% present for me.

I spent most of my time in the pool either laying back, or laying on my side. I could tell baby was still right anterior occiput, as he had been for the last several months, and even though I knew that was fine, I also knew that left anterior was a more ideal position for the baby to come down into the birth canal. So with that in mind I laid on my left side and asked the baby to please flip to the other side. A few contractions later, one of the midwives checked the heartbeat and we had to look all the way on the left side of the belly to find it; I felt my belly with both hands and realized the baby had indeed shifted! I was very excited about that.

Around 10pm, shortly after baby shifted to the left, contractions changed a little bit, and got stronger, in what I assume was me hitting transition. I could tell the baby had dropped a bit lower too and that I would be feeling pushy soon and I said so out loud. I was still relaxing and breathing deeply with each contraction when I suddenly felt an incredible wave of pleasure spread throughout my entire body; it very distinctly came up my spine and into my head. It felt so good, what was going on… wait a minute, I was having a powerful full body orgasm! It was such a profound feeling that I started quietly crying. I relaxed through the orgasm, partially in disbelief that it was happening, and as it spread to my extremities I started getting a tingly feeling, especially in my hands, and they started going numb. It was a very odd feeling, like powerful natural anesthesia flooding me. I told my husband and midwives that i was having the most amazing orgasm (I surprised myself in that moment even being comfortable sharing that) and I asked them to please massage my hands; the numbness kept getting stronger and my fingers were starting to curl into my hands and I couldn’t move them anymore, I had no control over it. Getting my hands massaged felt really good though and eventually helped the numbness disappear as the waves of the orgasm also faded away.

I continued to breathe and relax through each contraction and soon realized I was starting to bear down and be more vocal with each wave. I thought, awesome this baby will be out in no time now! But as the contractions came and went, I tried different positions and I started encouraging the pushing feeling. But I could tell it wasn’t working. I would feel down with each wave and could just tell that the baby’s head was not moving. I kept trying and trying for what seemed like an eternity. I was getting frustrated, and was starting to get really tired, I was falling asleep between contractions for a while. In our birth plan, I had asked that the midwifes not do internal exams unless it was necessary. At this point, I had been involuntarily pushing for several hours, so Jen offered to check me to see if baby was indeed ready to join us. I agreed, as I really wanted to know what was going on down there. Jen announced that I was fully dilated and completely effaced. But she commented that she noticed my pubic bone was quite prominent and that it might be more effective for me to try pushing upright/squatting. I could not imagine standing up at that point, I felt like I had little to no energy left, I just wanted to lay in the pool and push the baby out that way. I tried sitting and getting on my knees in the pool but that felt no different.

A relaxed in the pool for a few more contractions, as I prepared myself mentally for the hard work ahead, and I eventually got out of the pool, and went to the bathroom. I felt like I needed to have a bowel movement and that if I did I would be able to push more effectively. But sitting on the toilet was extremely uncomfortable and I soon gave up on that. I came back into the living room and the midwives suggested I try pushing laying on my side. So I laid down on the couch, and Jen held up my right leg to help open up my pelvis. That was unbearably painful and as soon as that first contraction was over I told her, “No way”. She reminded me again that squatting would probably work, that I could stand up and then squat down when the wave started. I gathered all my strength and I eventually stood up. My husband sat down on a chair facing me and as soon as that contraction started rolling in, I squatted down in front of him, leaning into him as he held me. I started to roar like a lioness, I couldn’t help it and it felt so good to just be as loud as I needed to be! And with that first contraction I decided baby was coming out no matter what. I pushed very hard, with every once of strength I had left. The contraction was very intense, and I felt a strong burning sensation; I thought, “Ah this must be the ‘ring of fire’ I had heard about”. Suddenly Justine said, “Kathryn the head is out!” I couldn’t believe it, I reached down and there was a baby head! When I felt his little head, I just couldn’t wait for the next contraction, I kept pushing with all my might, screaming at the top of my lungs, and the rest of his body came out a few seconds later. It was 3:22am.

Justine gently guided him the few inches to the floor with the bare minimum of touching. I was still squatting and couldn’t see him, so I asked if everything was okay, and Justine said, “Take your time, everything is fine, he or she is breathing and is doing just fine”. I was very touched that she did not announce the sex of the baby, as we had asked that either my husband or myself be the ones to announce the sex. I took a few deep breaths, and with some assistance I leaned back and sat down, on the floor with the baby between my legs. There was blood everywhere and the baby was covered in blood, yet he was laying there calmly, silently. I looked at my beautiful baby and saw a penis; “you’re a boy!”, I exclaimed! I couldn’t believe it was a little boy! I had really become convinced that I was carrying a girl, even though my husband had been telling me for weeks that it was a boy. I picked him up onto my chest in complete awe…I was the first person to hold him… and my husband came and sat next to me, crying his eyes out. Our little boy was absolutely perfect.

I went back into the pool with Noah and gently washed off the blood from both of us. He stayed calm the whole time, I think he enjoyed being in the water, as did I. It was calming and I was in a bubble of bliss. His cord remained attached the whole time we were in the pool together. But after about 45 minutes, the placenta had not come out on its own. By that point the cord had stopped pulsing, and my attempts at pushing out the placenta, even while providing some guidance for the cord were unsuccessful. So Ian cut the cord and took Noah for some skin-to-skin daddy time. I tried pushing and pushing, and nothing was budging. Jen suggested that I come out of the pool and squat to push it out. Not again!! Really? I had to go through that again? I reluctantly got out of the pool and Justine felt my abdomen to make sure the placenta was detached and ready to come out. Justine could feel the placenta was waiting right inside; I just had to push it out. I squatted and she guided the cord toward my back to help me feel the right place to push. Ouch! That was more uncomfortable than I would have imagined! Out came the placenta, and it was huge! No wonder it wasn’t easy to push out. Justine examined it and placed it in the fridge, as I had planned to dehydrate it and encapsulate it.

I did end up tearing from the birth and it was bad enough that I needed a few stitches. I was very frustrated about that and I couldn’t help but wonder if I could have breathed the baby down more gently, gone slower and avoided tearing.. but I will never know. Pushing him out in one powerful push was what felt right at the time, and I can’t turn back time.

After getting stitched up in the bedroom, Ian Noah and I snuggled into the bed and I nursed Noah for the first time. He latched on right away like a champ, what an incredible feeling! It felt so right, so natural, having him snuggled against my chest. I was over the moon with love and happiness, and already, the last 12h of laboring and my exhaustion seemed to melt away and none of it mattered anymore; my baby was finally in my arms. We eventually weighed and measured Noah and found out he was a healthy 8lbs 9oz and 21inches! Wow, what a healthy baby boy! I was one proud mama; proud of myself for having just gone through such a powerful and intense experience, and so proud of my beautiful son.

I didn’t sleep that night, I just held Noah next to me in bed, nursed him and looked at him. I was speechless. I was finally a mother.

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