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4 Things I love to do with my 4 year old

Rachel O'Reilly

Having a four year old is a game changer. I still hold all of our previous years together near and dear to my heart, but this stage I am really enjoying parenthood more than I ever have. Things are A LOT easier and, just being honest here, way more fun. If you are in the woods with your toddler, trust me - it gets better and way sooner than you think. Not only am I not feeling as much like a human porta potty, I now have a little person to hang out with who has real opinions and is pretty damn entertaining. Here are the top four things I am currently enjoying with my four year old:

Bake something new. I know, this one is a real shocker, right? We love to look up a recipe on Instagram and watch the video together a couple of times to get excited about trying it. We recently made these skinny banana muffins and they were fantastic. She snuck four of them before I blinked.

Go for a walk. This has always been one of our favorite things to do ever since she was literally in my stomach. I love it even more now because it doesn't require any hardware - aka stroller. I no longer need to pack a “baby bag” with snacks, wipes, and water and instead we can just throw our shoes on and head out. I especially love that she walks our dog herself and takes so much pride in it. He probably has another opinion on the matter! I find that whenever she might be a bit fussy or we need to kill some time, a walk is undoubtedly the best solution. We look at flowers, talk about other dogs we see, and the world is able to slow down, which is what I’m liking these days.

Write cards to people. We love to pick out new cards at the store and talk about who we are going to send them to. I always let her draw or write her name in them, if appropriate, and, of course, put the stamps on, which she sometimes steals and pretends are stickers. She is still a small child! She loves taking them to the post office herself, picking out the stamps, and popping them in the mail slot. Call me old fashioned but I’m hoping this small joy of mine sticks with her.

Sushi lunch date. This has become one of our little traditions I started when she was about two. It’s the one meal my husband never craves and one that I do all too often. Luckily, my baby is totally on board. I think sushi is such a great meal to take a young one to. The variety of small dishes, dipping sauces, and chopsticks make it more of a game than a meal. Which if you have a four year old, you know that getting them to actually eat something substantial is a challenge. The catch twenty-two is your child will become all too addicted and start to order rounds of sashimi which gets a little taxing on the wallet. Whoops!

Episiotomy and Natural Tear

Rachel O'Reilly

Once a routine part of childbirth, an episiotomy is now recommended in certain cases only.

First and foremost: what is an episiotomy exactly?

  • An episiotomy is an incision made in the perineum - the tissue between the vaginal opening and the anus - during childbirth.

And why would you want anyone to cut your vagina during childbirth??

  • For years an episiotomy was thought to help prevent more extensive vaginal tears during childbirth and heal better than a natural tear. The procedure was also (incorrectly) thought to help preserve the muscular and connective tissue support of the pelvic floor.

Thankfully over the years research suggests that routine episiotomies don’t prevent these problems after all. The recovery is very uncomfortable since it requires a deeper layer of tissue to be stitched. And it’s often said that the incision is more severe than a natural tear would have been. One midwife helped me understand this by explaining trying to tear or rip a piece of fabric with my bare hands. She said it’s very challenging and takes a lot of effort. But, if you just snip a little bit of the fabric with scissors and then pull it’s a breeze. The incision in your pelvic floor tissue reacts very similarly. Once you cut the tissue it gives much more leeway to cause a deeper longer tear from the pressure of your baby making its way out. OUCH. NO THANK YOU.

Just like any medical intervention during birth, I’d prefer something like an episiotomy to be done only when it is really necessary. Often during emergency cases your healthcare provider will need the extra space at the vaginal opening to allow for an easier instrumental birth, i.e. the use of forceps or vacuum extraction. A few other reasons I’ve heard of episiotomies being absolutely necessary are if:

  • Your baby is in an abnormal position and needs more assistance to make it out

  • Your baby is very large (fetal macrosomia)

  • Your baby needs to be delivered quickly

Now that episiotomies are not a routine function in birth (please ask your healthcare provider what their percentage of episiotomies are, some still practice them more frequently than I’d like to see) there are a few things that many healthcare providers suggest doing in preparation for birth and during the birth process to lower the chances of needing an episiotomy.

Once you are 34 weeks it’s common for your healthcare provider to recommend doing perineal massage at home. This can be an uncomfortable exercise for some, but if it can help avoid a longer, harder recovery from birth, it’s worth reaching out of your comfort zone and getting busy. Make sure to have natural lubricant near by and lay in a supported position on your bed so that you are able to reach both of your thumbs to your vaginal opening. Place your thumbs just inside and press downward toward your rectum. Hold for one to two minutes and repeat for a total of ten minutes. If you are enjoying baths in your pregnancy this is a great place to give yourself a daly perineum massage and even more effective when your tissues are relaxed and warm.

During the second stage of labor, your OBGYN, Midwife and sometimes a nurse or doula will often use a hot compress to apply pressure against the perineum and vaginal opening. Sometimes a warm oil will be used along with applied pressure to the lower part of the vagina to encourage stretching (not too warm, don’t worry!). The goal is to soften the tissue with heat to allow it to stretch easier and to avoid tearing.

What are the benefits of a natural tear?

There have been several studies conducted to show the frequency of a natural tear versus an episiotomy during childbirth. Many studies show the occurrence of a natural tear of the perineum over an intentional cut of an episiotomy during childbirth. Part of the reasoning for this is the data suggest that women who have an episiotomy do not have significantly improved labor, delivery, or recovery compared with those who do not have one (ACOG statement). Also, by foregoing a routine episiotomy, the mother has a chance to stretch the perineum during the course of the second stage of labor (the pushing phase) and may avoid any perineal damage altogether. With an episiotomy, the connective tissue, muscles, and skin are cut and therefore their strength will be permanently compromised.

I know I want to give my body the chance to do what it is naturally capable of and to be supported during the second stage of labor in a way that allows my perineum to take its time to stretch and allow my baby to enter this world with as little medical interventions as possible.

Have you ever experienced an episiotomy or severe natural tear? If so, how was the recovery for you? How long do you feel like it took to have your body feel normal again?

This brings me back to thinking about postpartum support and care after delivery. It’s essential after all types of birth, especially when your pelvic floor experiences any trauma due to tearing or cutting, to search for additional support to help heal your body from birth.

I just worked out in Frozen headphones

Rachel O'Reilly

@choosetorun

@choosetorun

By Courtney Ward

This morning I did my usual routine of getting my child to preschool, followed by crossing off that first to do item which is a workout. I’m not some die-hard spinner, cross-fit, step class addicted Mama, but I like to get a solid hour walk or yoga class in first thing to ensure I have a small portion of the day just to myself. It helps me shake off a hectic morning of getting my daughter to eat more than one bite of waffle, convincing her not to dump cereal on the dog’s head, and filling her Frozen lunch box with something that resembles a healthy and edible meal.

I pulled up to one of my favorite walks. The sun was calling my name and the spring crisp air was crystal clear. I was all amped and ready to go when I realized that I forgot my headphones. Panic started to set in. I had a couple of my favorite podcasts all lined up to entertain me and doing an hour walk with just my thoughts was the most unappealing thing ever. I didn’t have enough time to run home to get mine and still get everything else done that I needed to, so I dug through my car searching for an extra set. I must have ten pairs of the uncomfortable, tangled Apple headphones lying around at all times, how could I not today!?

Then I saw it - my daughter’s Frozen headphones sitting in her seat, in all of their full coverage, ear-muffed glory. A thought went through my head and my first reaction was oh no - no way could I. Followed by, well shit, looks like this is happening. And ending with, fuck it, let’s ride Elsa.

Full disclosure here Disney, you make terrible headphones. The poor quality is, undoubtedly, the reason my daughter must have missed half of the lessons Daniel Tiger was telling her on our last road trip, which must be why she won’t, “Try new food because it might taste good.”

I looked around as I set out, but not before snapping a quick, proud selfie that I sent to my non-parent girlfriends with a simple text: 

"Your future"

The path was unusually busy. So many thoughts were running through my head. What if one of the new cool Mom’s from my daughter’s preschool saw me? Of course today would be the day I run into an ex - decidedly unambiguous headphones angled weirdly on my head because they were designed for someone who may or may not be potty trained. Clearly I wasn’t going to impress anyone over the age of four with my new accessory, never mind the thought of possibly running into an ex. Of course, if it were going to happen, this would be the time right?

Parenting is all about compromising and throwing any scrap of dignity you ever had directly out the window - you get a crash course in that the day you give birth.

Four years in and I’m still surprised that I am willing to “Let it go” as much as I do, and to be honest, I am not quite at peace with that yet. Part of me feels like I am so far removed from the person I was before I had my daughter. Little by little I am learning to embrace the new me, because I have realized that change is mostly good, even when it comes disguised as a pair of Disney headphones.

An open letter to our readers: Journey of a New Blogger

Rachel O'Reilly

By Courtney Ward

I started writing for Cherish almost two years ago and the experience has evolved for me in so many ways. First, I was grateful to have a place to share the many ideas I thought about and talked about with my husband, other Moms, and family members.

The process wasn’t easy at first, even though I had many ideas to write about. Once I sat down to write them, I often found it very hard to get my point across or make the time to do so when I wasn’t exhausted. The biggest chunk of time I used to have was at the end of the night and usually the only profound or creative thing that comes to mind then, is finding that perfect meme on Instagram to tag a friend.

Writing for me has been eye-opening. It has forced me to come forward with ideas that I was really shy about sharing. It makes me feel stronger. I established a process, beginning with ideas, then turning them into bullet points, then sentences and editing a few times, writing got easier. I got more confident. Of course all of your support has been so helpful and has not gone unnoticed or under appreciated. It motivates me to try harder, to write more, and to deliver useful information.

I was inspired to do this because I felt that there were topics I was passionate about that weren’t discussed on parenting blogs in ways I could relate. I would either find super preachy posts, or overly whiny ones, neither of which were helpful to me. Motherhood is hard and I wanted a safe shared space where that was represented truthfully.

The writing process for me has been a leap of faith. Honestly, I am scared to death before many posts go live, wondering, “What will my Grandmother think of this one?” Or did I offend someone accidentally? I have learned to let go of most of these worries and embrace the fact that sharing my experiences with parenting is an awesome way for me to preserve my memories, especially the life changing milestones.

These days, I often take Blake to preschool and once or twice a week come home and write a blog post. I try to do this early in the morning with a good cup of tea, music blasting and my snorting dog at my feet. I feel so accomplished when I get a few of these things done.

The most rewarding part is when I hear someone got something out of my posts. It makes me feel like my efforts are worthwhile and that I am not alone in my thoughts or my situation.

If you had asked me a few years ago (before I had Blake) if I would be doing something like this, honestly, I would have answered no. Writing has turned out to be so therapeutic and inspiring. It’s made me read more because I want to improve and learn more. It’s also made me appreciate literature immensely and in ways I never did before, even in college.

Earlier this year I took my craft one step further and enrolled in a fabulous writing class in San Francisco, Blog Writing 1. It was like going back to college but for something you are totally interested in. Also, paying my own way made me take it seriously and show up in a way I never did in school. It has been the best part of my year - learning techniques, tips, and tricks to help make it all easier and more fun. There is something that really connects you to people when you share your writing. It’s one of our greatest forms of vulnerability and being able to do that in a room full of strangers has been such a cool thing. I have been able to spark more ideas, work hard on developing posts that would have just been okay, and embrace where I have room for improvement.

I am completely honest with myself that I am no Kerouac. I have a long road to travel,  but I am taking the baby steps that are necessary to get there. For now, it feels so wonderful to be self-indulgent and do something just for me for a little while. You lose sense of that when you become a new mother and getting back into something, especially if it is a form of work, is the most gratifying feeling.

So if you are contemplating getting into something new, do it. You might just surprise yourself with where an unexpected hobby can lead.  

Spring Menu

Rachel O'Reilly

By Erica Favela 

When the seasons shift, it’s a great time to see where else in our lives we can make some adjustments or take on a new frame of mind for the next few months. Spring represents newness, birthing, and laying the seeds that will sprout into future crops. We also get to welcome lighter days, and after a restful winter, you may be experiencing more energy, or an urge to move swiftly forward with goals and projects. This is a great time of year to see where you can initiate or even trailblaze. We can use food as a helpful tool for shedding both the physical and mental/emotional/spiritual heaviness of winter, and as a way to initiate feeling fresh and enlivened for the next season.

Spring is also a time when people cleanse and detoxify. In fact, you’ve probably seen plenty of marketing going on for juice cleanses or detoxes. If you’re pregnant or nursing, remember that programs like these may not be ideal for you and your baby’s needs, so always speak to your midwife or other partner in natural healthcare before jumping on the “cleansing” bandwagon. If breastfeeding, resist the urge to do something drastic to get back to pre-baby weight; significantly dropping calories and consuming simple sugars from a juice cleanse will not be healthful for breast milk production.

In general, the best foods for spring include foods that will disperse waste (support the liver’s detoxifying abilities), reduce heat and move stagnation (more raw foods), reduce weight (which will naturally come as you move more with longer, lighter days), and cool or refresh (think seasonal fruits like grapefruit and Valencia oranges).

Here’s an example of what a few days of Spring-inspired eating might light look (no juice fasting required!). Start each morning with tongue scraping, and 1 cup warm lemon water upon waking.

Day 1

Breakfast: 1 cup plain yogurt with 1/2 cup berries with 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds and generous sprinkle of cinnamon

Lunch: Kale salad (4 cups kale), 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, dulse flakes, plus a few slices of chicken breast

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

  • 2 1/2 teaspoon olive oil

  • fresh pepper

  • dash salt

Dinner: Vegetable mineral broth or bone broth and Quinoa Tabbouleh (recipe)

Day 2

Breakfast: Smoothie with greens (kale, spinach) 1 cup berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries), with boosters such as green powders or maca, coconut or almond milk base, 1 tablespoon almond butter, and plant-based protein such as pea protein.

Lunch: Pineapple avocado gazpacho with large mixed green salad with 1/2 cup garbanzo beans or sprouts. Dressing for the salad: lemon, garlic, dulse, and basil

Dinner: Asparagus and veggie tempeh (or other preferred protein) stir-fry over kelp noodles. Try this recipe from Dr. Mark Hyman.

Day 3

Breakfast: 1 cup fresh mixed berries with coconut chips, 1-2 tbsp hemp seeds, in 1 cup nut milk

Lunch: Red Leaf Lettuce salad, thinly sliced basil (or other fresh herbs), black olives, and thinly-shaved red onion. Add protein such as sliced chicken breast or cooked salmon.  Dress with 1 part apple cider vinegar to 2-3 parts olive oil and crushed garlic

Dinner: Miso soup with 1/4 cup Adzuki beans and 1/2 cup brown rice with steamed broccoli

Other foods to incorporate or use as snacks:  

  • nuts/seeds & their milks

  • bone broths

  • sprouts

  • fresh melons

  • vegetable juices (no carrots or beets)  

  • moderate amounts non-gluten grains like quinoa or brown rice  

  • leafy greens and other non-starchy vegetables

  • algae, seaweeds, fermented veggies

  • water and herb teas


Recipes

Easy Pineapple Avocado Gazpacho

Makes 1 large, or 2 small servings

  • 2 cups pineapple, diced small

  • 1 avocado, diced small

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

  • juice of 1 lime

  • fresh sprouts or cilantro (garnish) 

  1. Set aside about 1/4 cup pineapple and 1/4 of the avocado

  2. Add rest of the ingredients except garnish to blender

  3. Blend just until smooth

  4. Pour into a bowl and fold in pineapple and avocado pieces (to chew!)

  5. Garnish with sprouts or cilantro

  

 

Quinoa Tabbouleh

makes 3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa

  • 1 tsp chopped parsley

  • 1/4 cup currants

  • 1/4 cup chopped raw almonds

  • 1/2 cup diced carrots

  • 1/4 cup chopped mint

  • 1/4 cup scallions diagonally cut, thin

  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

  • 1/4 cup lime juice

  • 1 tsp honey

  • 1/2 tsp cumin

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 20 minutes (to allow flavors to blend) before serving.

  2. Enjoy with zucchini hummus and raw vegetables! (celery, cucumber, carrots, red bell pepper, etc.)

 

Beyond Barbie: Raising a daughter Barbie-free

Rachel O'Reilly

“Let’s teach our daughters to worry less about fitting into glass slippers, and more about shattering glass ceilings.” -Unknown

Igniting the budding minds of little girls in playtime activities that engage their interests outside of Barbie play can help to establish a strong sense of worth that has nothing to do with appearances. 

We all know how much little girls and big girls are capable of when their unique abilities and interests are honored and nourished. When I was 4 years old my Mom let me pick out my own outfit in a department store for the first time. I chose a white blazer and matching pants. I wore that outfit every chance I got till I literally busted out of it! It’s hysterical to me to look back on what seemed like a funny and cute act of individuation at the time and realize that was me starting to articulate my desire to lead and understand the business world. As I grew older I did pursue those desires to learn about that "other" world that was business-minded and very different from the more emotive focused activities my wonderful artistic mother shared with me. I deeply treasure the creative interests my mother fostered in me, but I also would have loved for someone to see my desire to understand  the “adult world” from a younger age. Who knows what a little mentoring in that department could have resulted in! 

So, whether it’s a fascination with bugs, the stars that twinkle at night, mom’s business clothes, a drum set, or whatever it may be, try exposing your little one to all sorts of activities and games that are not gender-specific and see what you notice that sparks them! It could just be the very thing they spend a lifetime exploring and gaining true fulfillment from.

To be clear, we're not suggesting that Barbie should never be a part of playtime. And, if your little one really wants a Barbie, we love these Lammily dolls which represent how most women actually look.

If you decide to be a “Barbie free” home it’s OK to share with friends/family that you’re doing so. Who knows, you may start a trend! You can also consider not mentioning Barbie at all and just say “We’re working to reduce plastics in our home, and as such prefer toys/gifts that are plastic-free!” You’ll be amazed by the variety of thoughtfully crafted toys, games, books, and other interesting items that will be gifted.

Here are a few ideas for expanding the minds and hearts of little girls beyond Barbie:

GoldieBlox: Award winning construction toys for girls ages 4+ that strengthen the parts of the brain that are focused on STEM.

Roominate: For girls ages 8+ and similar to GoldieBlox, these toys enable girls to build their dream space, complete with circuits and motors that create lighting and other elements of the built environment.

Matching Animal memory game: We love this memory game made Fair Trade by Moms in vulnerable rural communities. Your purchase means a meaningful toy for your preschooler and an income and independence for Moms who need it most!

Bug/outdoor kits: Turn a walk in the park or a hike into a fun activity to get curiouser about the critters and the natural world around us.Musical kits: For toddlers who just want to rock… This kit comes with everything you need and all components are BPA free.

Musical kits: For rockin' toddlers, this kit comes with everything you need and all components are BPA free.

We appreciate EVERYTHING that Mighty Girl is about, especially their list of empowering shows, movies and books for girls.

Arts and crafts: For toddlers to older kids art is a great way to express creativity, work various parts of the brain and keep them interested for more than 5 mins! Here are some options we think are great.

Inchimals: A fun way to learn about measurements and get the left brain firing!

Interlocking beads: These colorful plastic BPA-free beads are safe for toddlers age 3+, are easy to put together, and encourage sensory development.

Grow crystals: For ages 10+ these crystal making kits are perfect for the curious budding geologist, scientist, or lover of the beauty of the natural world.

The Night Sky: This is a fun book for kids age 8+ and parents to learn more about astronomy and stargazing.

DNA Experiment: This kit makes biology fun and playful for ages 7+!

Monster bowling: An activity for indoor or outdoor that helps gently establish hand/eye coordination at a very young age.

Genius Box: For ages 8-11 these monthly boxes are designed to trigger STEM thinking by putting your kid in the driver's seat to solve the problem at hand with minimal help from adults.

We love Pretty Brainy as a resource and community for parents looking to get their girls more involved in STEM learning… You can even get ideas for DIY STEM activities at home, here!

Any ideas you've experimented with to engage your girl in play time activities sans Barbie? We'd love to hear.

Parenting Goal: Camping Edition

Rachel O'Reilly

Thomas Story

Thomas Story

By Courtney Ward

When I envision the childhood I want for my daughter, it includes things that I didn’t do in mine, like camping. I grew up in Orange County, near the beach. Our vacations were mostly to Colorado to ski every winter. Camping was the last thing my Mom wanted to do.

Now that I have a child, sleeping in the great outdoors seems like the perfect family activity and I’ve been thinking about it more than I care to admit. I picture us all around a campfire roasting hot dogs, telling funny stories, wearing Patagonia fleece jackets and Ugg boots. I guess it needs to be cold which leads me to another point, I don’t even know where to go. I also don’t even like hot dogs, but the visual I have in my head includes them so I’m going with it.

A few months ago I was getting my bridesmaid dress altered for my best friend’s wedding. My seamstress is a wise Great Grandmother and further sparked my interest for tackling this family tradition. She said in her family, they camped all the time with her kids and even go now with their grandchildren. She spoke of it with the same fondness that my husband and I do of our trips to Paris pre-babe.

A Grandfather, who was also there getting some pants taken in, shouted from the dressing room, “Take her camping! For our family, it was the glue that stuck us together.”

Wow.

Now that really stuck with me (pardon the pun). Often times, I receive (and dismiss) unwarranted parenting advice from strangers, but I try to heed the wisdom from elders, especially when it’s a good nugget like this that’s straight from the heart. I actually wrote this quote down right then in my phone and look at it to further motivate me to pull the camping trigger.

Here’s the thing: I know nothing about how to camp. I don’t even know where to start, except I know I need a tent and a sleeping bag and a flashlight and some hot dogs. Beyond that, I’m lost.

Last summer, my family took a road trip to Southern California to visit my Mom and stopped at this great place, El Capitan Canyon. Although I hate the term, we glamped for one night and it was so much fun. We stayed in a little yurt that had beds and electricity. My daughter loved it, especially making her own s’mores and waking up under the trees. They have a nice pool and play structure for kids and little log cabins to stay in, if fabric for walls isn’t your thing. It’s a great in between place to stop if you are driving from San Francisco to Orange County and also an awesome gateway camping excursion. Next time I want to stay for a couple more days to let sleeping in nature soak in and get a fuller experience.

I guess it doesn’t really matter as long as you go for it, right? What I have realized about parenting, is that adventure and taking that leap is what creates good memories and often that’s what kids cherish the most.

Do you have any new parenting goals for this spring that you would like to share? Tell us in the comments below!

Meet the enamoring, secretly evil face of my four year old

Rachel O'Reilly

By Courtney Ward

People often comment on my daughter’s appearance. “Her bow is so adorable!” And, “I love her glasses!” Or, “what a great smile!”

If only these sweet-intentioned people knew about a different side of my daughter that I've come to call her 'Dr. Evil' side.

The other morning we were all cuddled up in bed. My French bulldog, Gustave, was next to us, doing his usual snorts and grunts. My husband was joking that he wanted to ship the dog off somewhere, (at seven-years-old, he’s still not house trained).

Laughing, my daughter mimics my husband’s sentiments, “Goosie, you are going away!”

I stopped her and said, “Hey, he can hear you and understands what you are saying.”

Her sweet little face then leans in, holds his giant ear close, and whispers,

“We are going to get rid of you”, followed by the most evil laugh I’ve ever heard come out of her.

Needless to say, I was caught off guard by my usually compassionate daughter being capable of such a scene!

What I realize is that maybe I don’t give my daughter enough credit. Sure, she looks really sweet and innocent but if I’m honest, sometimes I feel like she has a little  maleficent inside of her.

My child  often shocks me, and at times it breaks my heart. Her rudeness can surprise me, and it’s hard not to take it personally. All I do is love this little human with everything I have, then if I won’t let her have chocolate chips at 7am, she tells me she “Doesn’t care about me.” It’s rough.

This comes with the rest of the things that parents don’t usually share the extremes of before you become one yourself. The endless lack of sleep, the food challenges, all the “phases”, the potty training, on and on. Maybe it’s like childbirth; and as you get older, you forget the pain that your young toddler slashes you with, and you just focus on the who they are in the present moment.

All I can do for now is handle her random outbursts and Dr. Evil-like comments as they arise and document these little wicked strokes for pure entertainment, (and blackmail when she hits her teens).

Have you found a slightly malicious side of your little one? Please do share!

Pregnancy Myths: Not all waters break

Rachel O'Reilly

Kimberly Gordon

Kimberly Gordon

There are many signs you can be aware of to give some inclination that early labor/labor could be starting. One very obvious sign is the infamous “water break.” Does that mean it’s the only sign you should look out for when your due date comes, (and sometimes goes)? No.

Does that mean if you are experiencing very strong signs of labor and your water hasn’t broken then you’re having “false labor?” No.

There’s the possibility to birth a baby in their fully intact amniotic sac. Its called born en caul, an incredibly rare and beautiful occurrence.

Other signs of the onset of labor:

  • Contractions, (also known as surges) - You won’t question a contraction once you finally have one. Many women experience Braxton Hicks towards the end of their pregnancy. These are great toning surges that your uterus will do without being painful, but they aren’t necessarily signs of labor. Early labor contractions can feel like gastrointestinal upset, heavy menstrual cramps or lower abdominal pressure. Pain may be just in the lower abdomen or in the lower back and abdomen. It may also radiate down the legs, particularly in the upper thighs. It’s difficult to prepare a woman, or give them an exact explanation, as to what to expect for contractions. Rest assured that once a true contraction is experience, a mother will no longer ask if it was one or not.

  • Loss of mucus plug - At the very beginning of pregnancy, mucus generated during ovulation is accumulated in the uterine cervix. As the mucus thickens it seals the cervix tightly, blocking the way for any infection from the vagina to the cervix and thereby protecting the fetus. When your cervix begins to dilate and thin out, it is possible you will lose your mucus plug; a clear sign that your body is getting ready for labor.

  • Cramping - You may feel cramping in your uterus towards the end of pregnancy which is a good sign that your body is getting ready to birth your baby.

  • Lower Back Pain - Lower back aches and pains are often felt in early labor.

  • Loose stool - Your body may create more room for your baby to enter through the birth canal.

  • Bloody show (stretching of the cervix) - You will often see this when you are in more active labor, but it is a very good sign that your cervix is stretching and thinning, therefore showing light blood within the mucus discharge.

  • Pressure in lower abdomen.

  • Membrane rupture (also known as water breaks) - When your “water breaks” that is a sure sign labor will be coming. It may not activate contractions and labor immediately, but you should let your primary care giver know. Usually they would like to see labor start on its own within 12 - 48 hours (dependent on your healthcare provider).

All of these are really good signs that things are happening! Does it mean baby will be born tomorrow or even that evening? No. Therefore, if these signs are manageable, go on with your day or evening as best as you can. Draw yourself a bath or take a warm shower. Go on a walk around the neighborhood. Lay in bed with support from all your pillows and possibly a heating pad for the achy places in your body. Speak to your baby and let them know you’re ready for them, and for the journey that you both will soon undertake. Find pleasure, comfort and joy in each sign that your body sends you, because it is what you’ve been waiting so patiently for these past nine months.

What are the signs you remember the most when experiencing the onset of Labor?

 

 

Pause for a parenting reflection

Rachel O'Reilly

By Courtney Ward

Last fall, I visited the historic Moss Beach Distillery with my husband and daughter after a day of festivities at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival, in Half Moon Bay, California. The restaurant is as equally known for its breathtaking cliffside views of the pacific as it is for “The Blue Lady,” the resident ghost who has haunted the restaurant for over seventy years.

The day was cold and overcast. The fog was thick and rolled onto the shore in silent disappearing waves. Combined with our family's overflowing Halloween spirit, we decided that this would be a perfect lunch spot, and maybe even become a Halloween tradition.

The last time we had been there was shortly after our daughter was born. We wanted to enjoy a coastal drive and check out somewhere we hadn’t been. The restaurant has an outdoor patio which - bonus! - allows dogs, has a fire pit, and a never ending view of the ocean.

We were so proud to have her out that day to sit outside and enjoy a cold beer and some snacks.

This time, our daughter was four. It’s unbelievable how quickly time has passed since that last visit.

As we were having our lunch and trying to model manners, such as “French fries go in your mouth and aren’t drumsticks”, “The table is not to dance around” and “Please stop staring at the people behind to us,” a couple sat down right next to us with their newborn baby girl. Now we were the ones staring, smiling, remembering our baby that size.

Suddenly everything seemed to come full circle, and the Moss Beach Distillery had magically turned into a time machine.

Often times as parents, you don’t realize how far you have come. We don’t take the time to reflect on the milestones that we’ve passed and how much more equipped we are to be parents now then we were four years ago.

My husband and I smiled at each other in a way we hadn’t in a long time. We had made it this far, together, and now have this little girl, who feels closer to being a teenager than she does to being a newborn.

That’s not to say that parenting suddenly becomes easier at four. As I am writing this I have a sneaking suspicion that my french bulldog has secretly been given half of my daughter’s dinner. I do a double take when I realize that her declaration of “I’m full” now, will become cries of “I’m STAAAARRRVVVING!” in about twenty minutes. Parenting however is a journey, not a race, so next time you feel like you aren’t being all the parent you can, take a moment and reflect on the little victories you have had along the way.

What is a victory that you have had recently? Tell us in the comments below!

Flu Season 101: Do's and Don't

Rachel O'Reilly

While getting sick is never fun for you or your children, coming down with a cold can be the body’s clear message to slow down. More often than not, we push ourselves to the limit, take care of others before ourselves, or don’t check in with our bodies, and then we get sick. Or, if it’s your child who’s getting sick, maybe they’ve been eating less than optimally, eating pre-packaged snacks and high sugar juices, or they’re being exposed to other bacteria/viruses from others kids in their classroom. Regardless of the cause, we can use signs of illness as a reminder to help our bodies come back into balance and harmony.

What NOT to eat: sugar and alcohol

Most people are very aware that commercial, processed sugar offers no benefits to health, and the same holds true with sugar’s impact on the immune system. Studies have found that sugar reduces the effectiveness of neutrophils, a type of immune cell that is one of the first to travel to the site of an infection. Sugar can also reduce lymphocytes, which is a problem because the immune system depends on large numbers of lymphocytes to create an effective immune response. Furthermore, high sugar consumption causes urinary excretion of several important minerals that are important for immune function, such as zinc. 

Remember, sugar is sneaky!

Alcohol

Studies of immune function in alcoholism show a profound negative impact on most parameters of immunity. For instance, alcohol directly promotes bad gut bacteria, which is important since ~70% of our immune system resides in the gut. And even acute consumption of alcohol can impair cellular immunity, leaving the immune system less prepared to deal with inflammation or infections.

Should I really stay away from dairy?

Many people suggest staying away from dairy when sick, however there is inconclusive medical evidence that dairy consumption causes an increase in mucus in the respiratory system.

Dairy is one of those “gray area” foods because people will respond to it differently. Many individuals don’t know how they truly respond to dairy unless they’ve done a strict elimination diet and then reintroduction, or have taken food intolerance/sensitivity tests (multiple tests would be good to cross check, as many are unreliable). For instance, in susceptible individuals, casein (found in cheese) can cause an immune system reaction called a histamine response. When dealing with a cold, or even when you notice the beginning symptoms of a cold, you don’t want to put any extra demand on the immune system. 

Other factors:

Many lifestyle behaviors will affect the immune system, including:

  • Smoking

  • Irregular meals

  • Simple carbohydrate consumption

  • Excess weight

  • Excessive alcohol consumption

  • Poor or inadequate sleep

  • Inactivity

How to Support the Immune System

When going the natural route with a cold or flu-like symptoms, do not expect a quick fix or immediate relief. You are assisting your body in doing its work, and this is going to take a little more time than the suppressing actions of a drug, which will just work to control the symptoms, not the root cause. While you may experience uncomfortable symptoms, the total length of the illness can be shorter lived when healing through natural remedies and food.

This is simple, but one of the most important things to do when dealing with a cold or flu symptoms is to prioritize rest. Go to bed earlier, sleep in if you can, ask for help with your children, or learn to say no. Prioritizing at least 7-8 hours of sleep can be one of the best things you can do for your body.

Also remember to drink enough liquids. Ideally, drink water in the amount of at least half your bodyweight in ounces. This will maintain a moist respiratory tract that can help repel a viral infection. Other liquids include bone and vegetable mineral broths, and herbal teas. Stay away from juices, even orange juice. As mentioned above, sugar can greatly reduce the white blood cells ability to kill bacteria. If you want to go for juice, keep it to 4-8oz, or dilute it by 1/2 or 1/3 water. Alternatively, opt for a juice that’s made fresh from 100% vegetables, and diluted.

Specific Immune Boosting Foods

Garlic - garlic has long been considered a medicinal plant. It is anti-viral and anti-microbial, due to many of its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin. 

Mushrooms - Some of the most commonly used mushrooms in Chinese medicine are maitake, shiitake, reishi mushrooms. The chemical profiles of mushrooms are quite complex, and even common button and portobello mushrooms offer healing and immune boosting effects.

Jerusalem artichokes - due to their high content of inulin, Jerusalem artichokes can enhance the immune system by helping to neutralize viruses, reduce destructive bacteria, and increase movement of white blood cells to sites of infection. Medicinal herbs such as echinacea and burdock root are known for their immune enhancing effects due to inulin, and Jerusalem artichokes offers one of the richest forms of inulin.

Immune-enhancing Herbs

Any herb that enhances the body’s stress response will be a good choice. These herbs are known as adaptogenic herbs, and a couple notable examples include cat’s claw and licorice root. Here are a few more of the herbal super stars:

Echinacea - perhaps on the most popular herbs known for the common cold is echinacea. There are hundreds of scientific investigations on echinacea, specifically its polysaccharides,  and its effects on immune function. In addition to immune support, echinacea also exerts direct antiviral activity and helps prevent the spread of bacteria. The main consideration for echinacea, as well as other herbs used medicinally, is that its effect is highly dependent on quality. Any herb is only able to be effective if it can deliver an effective dosage of active compounds. Make sure you use an echinacea product from a trusted manufacturer that can guarantee the level of active ingredients.  

Astragalus - a traditional Chinese medicine used for viral infections. This herb can help reduce the duration and severity of symptoms in acute treatment of the common cold. In addition, astragalus has been shown to possess anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, adaptogenic, cardiotonic, and liver protective properties.

Elderberry - Elderberry can be traced back to ancient Greece. It has a long history of use for the common cold and flu. Elderberry extract can provide antimicrobial activity against pathogenic bacteria that cause upper respiratory infections and against certain strains of  influenza virus.

Don’t forget that culinary herbs and spices (cilantro, parsley, turmeric) also possess immune-boosting properties! Many herbs are rich in vitamin C, flavonoids, and carotenoids, which can add a helpful edge to a whole foods diet.

Immune-Boosting Soup

What’s more comforting than a warm bowl of soup when you’re feeling under the weather. This soup brings out the medicinal properties of mushrooms, so be sure  not to skip them! You can find kombu and astragalus at your natural health food store, or Asian market. To bump up the healing properties even more, I suggest using a bone broth base.

Medicinal Mushroom Soup

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil

  • 2 onions, thinly sliced

  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed or grated with a microplane

  • 3 tablespoons ginger, grated

  • 10 cups broth 

  • 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced

  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal

  • 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced

  • 2 pieces astragalus root

  • 1 piece kombu (about 4 x 6 inches), rinsed

  • 2-3 tablespoons coconut aminos (coconut-based soy sauce, or use tamari)

  • 2 cups broccoli or cauliflower florets, chopped into small pieces

  • 1 small bunch dandelion greens, roughly chopped

  • ½ cup scallions, sliced on the diagonal

  1. In a large stock pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent.

  2. Add the garlic and ginger, constantly stirring for 30 seconds.

  3. Add the stock, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, celery, astragalus root, and kombu. Bring to a low boil, then reduce and let simmer 20-30 minutes.

  4. Add the broccoli/cauliflower florets and dandelion greens, and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes.

  5. Remove the astragalus root and kombu and discard.

  6. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with sliced scallions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other sources:

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014). Immune bandits and heroes. Therapeutic nutrition, part two. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College

Murray, M. & Pizzorno, J. (2005). The encyclopedia of healing foods. New York, NY: Atria Books.

Pizzorno, J.E. & Murray, M.T. & Joiner-Bey, H. (2008). The clinician’s handbook of natural medicine, second edition. St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone.

 

Nurturing your woman during pregnancy

Rachel O'Reilly

Dearest Daughters

Dearest Daughters

Pregnancy is very hard work. I have always been sensitive to that and now know firsthand that growing a baby is tough! It takes a toll, physically and emotionally, and it’s really really important to be aware of that.

In my household I’ve always been the meal planner and executer. That’s not to say I don’t have a LOT of help, but I usually like to take control in the kitchen. Now that I’m pregnant, and just made it through our first trimester, I’m feeling so grateful to my loving husband as I write this post for stepping up to help.

Since I’m the one that has the food aversions and/or cravings, I still feel like I’m doing the menu “planning” (which are usually last minute “I want beef stew for dinner” statements and very real requests). What’s amazing about this is my husband who is not as comfortable in the kitchen takes on the tasks to figure it out. Most of the time I’ll still be in there helping, but what a joy to hear him say, “Great, I’ll go to the store now.” As soon as he’s home he starts the prep. In addition to taking over cooking and meal prep duties, below are a few other thoughtful ways to nurture your partner during her pregnancy.

  • House chores (e.g. taking the trash out, without being asked :))

  • Make sure bed is ready for your exhausted (read: passed out) partner on the couch, when she’s ready for it

  • Have water at her bedside

  • Warm up the room on cold winter nights

  • Make sure she’s taken her vitamins

  • Warm up some water and make her some mama’s tea (link to mama’s tea post)

  • Meal prep and execute as best as you can :)

  • Draw her a bath with epsom salt and essential oils

  • Book her a massage at her favorite local spa (prenatal of course)

  • READ the books that are given to you, and be proactive about preparing for birth

    • Prepare questions for your midwife or doctor

    • Prepare dialogue with your wife that will be communicated to family

I believe that there are many ways to comfort a woman in pregnancy. Each trimester has very specific common “growing pains” but not every woman feels each one or feels them the same. And keep in mind that just because she doesn’t get morning sickness (lucky woman) during her first trimester, it doesn’t mean she’s not feeling extremely exhausted and/or emotional. Be sensitive and cater to your woman’s needs. If you’re not sure how to help, the best thing you can do is ask. She will be grateful, and hopefully will be honest when she’s feeling like she needs help.

Things we should do more of: Ditch the Mom Guilt + Take time for ourselves

Rachel O'Reilly

By Courtney Ward

Taking time for yourself as a new mom is extremely difficult, and something many of us think is out of the question at first. But in reality, it’s what we need most. If you give yourself a little love, you will be able to do that much more for your family.

Admittedly, I wasn’t very great at this when my baby was born. It was extremely difficult to ask for help from anyone -- even my husband, who was for sure doing his part already. I also started working, soon after she was born so it felt like anytime I wasn’t working, I should be with my baby. Mom guilt sets in early as hell.

I quickly burned out, found myself under a lot of stress and started developing anxiety. I knew I needed to change it up. I had to create a little space to fill up my own damn cup. I also wanted to set the example early on for my daughter that I was a mom who found her own joy. It’s important to me that she sees me as a happy person who is well rounded in interests and things besides simply being her mother.

I started doing yoga and exercising more - two things that were healthy and gave me energy. I realized I could also multitask this into spending time with friends, no matter how short those meet-ups were. That little change was such a difference. It is so fulfilling to see a girlfriend and hear what they are up to, when we are in the midst of changing diapers and cleaning baby barf off our gap maternity breastfeeding tops. If they had dating gossip, it was like a breath of fresh air!

After making these small changes, I found myself much more rested and patient, and I wanted to keep it up. I plotted out times when my baby would be napping and made an effort to plan time for myself - no, not including errands - which eliminated most guilt of being away from her.

I would leave the pile of baby food making dishes and started going out a bit more often, to dinner with girlfriends and even to a movie sometimes. It was so glorious to have a chunk of time with no responsibility. Since I was breastfeeding, it was extra liberating to have my body to myself. I did often wonder why I made certain commitments, because it was a LOT of effort getting organized to leave the house (especially in the moment I was swapping out the sweats for skinny jeans). But once I was officially out of the house, it was almost always worth it. A quick mani/pedi with a cocktail concealed in a travel cup and a magazine was like a trip to the spa back in the day. I found that even a long walk chatting on the phone with my mom sans the background noise of a baby was incredibly energizing.

It’s easy to not push yourself when you are as tired as you undoubtedly will be after you have a baby. It’s equally difficult to leave our old selves in the dust when we become mothers. It takes a lot of energy to be a good wife and a good mom. When something seems like an extra effort on top of that - it is easy to say no to that. But the person we should be saying no to least is ourselves.

My advice is to treat yourself once in awhile, and make a habit of it early so it’s easier down the road. Trust me. Not only will you thank yourself, but your whole family will benefit when you are happy. You will be a better mom because of it.

7 Secrets to Success as a New Mom

Rachel O'Reilly

By Courtney Ward

When I was a new mom, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Thankfully I had google at my fingertips and a few great friends who were just a text message away, offering their sound advice - which often included, “have a small glass of wine and relax.” 

I wanted to share my secrets to success as a new mom:

  1. Sleep when your baby sleeps - I realize this might sound cliche but it is the #1 advice I can offer as a mom. I wish I did more of this - babies sleep a LOT and it’s the best way to counterbalance fatigue.

  2. Ask for help - If this means having someone clean your house, pick up dinner, hold your baby for an hour so you can shower, talk to a therapist, etc. Now is not the time to go at it alone.

  3. Don’t stress about the weight coming off - Don’t hate me, but I didn’t have much trouble fitting into my old jeans. But that said, they didn’t fit the same and still don’t. As mothers our bodies change and the sooner you embrace that, the better. It will come off if you eat healthy, non-processed foods and take good care of yourself (see #2 above!). The less you stress about it, the faster you will be in your pre-pregs attire, trust me.

  4. Pump and dump - Don’t feel guilty going out for spicy margs with your girlfriends every now and then; it will save your sanity. The pump is your friend.

  5. Keep an extra set of baby clothes/diapers/wipes in your car - I can’t tell you how helpful this tip was to me - we used that stash many times.

  6. Don’t be afraid to double up - I mean this in many ways. If it’s easier for you to have an extra changing station in another part of your house, do it. If you need the bottle warmer, get it. Asking around for hand-me-downs if you need something to make your life easier should be a no brainer. Go easy on yourself, and have on hand whatever improves your quality of life.

  7. Utilize delivery services in all forms - The 2-day delivery option on Amazon and Diapers.com saved me so many times, as did the many food delivery options out there. If you set up a Meal Train, even better. Check out this post for streamlining your family flow.

We would love to know what helped you, chime in on the comments below and share your own secrets to success!

Q & A with my Family's Matriarchs

Rachel O'Reilly

image source unknown

image source unknown

By Courtney Ward

Recently, I came across a fascinating article, which sparked my interest in learning about how my grandparents raised their children. Considering I can barely raise one kid, it’s incredible to me that both sets of my grandparents raised four children each.

I was excited to start by asking them one question (that I spend way too much time contemplating). My grandma even asked one of her friends as well as a little bonus…..

A big issue that moms worry about now, including myself, is how much time we spend on our phones scrolling through social media and not being totally present when we are with our children. Was there something like this that concerned you and your friends, or any habits that you tried to limit? I wonder if you worried as much about your parenting style as people do now.

Grandma Bee:

Looking back, I think my goal was taking my kids to the library every week. Never played games with them! The grandparents did that. Reading was my number one priority. My focus was on keeping my husband happy and the house clean enough for his standards. Dinner better be on the table when he walked in the door! (Apparently that wasn't enough.)

My Grandma’s Best Friend, Bernie:

Interesting topic. I worried that I spent more time on the phone than I should. Remember we cleaned, as far as the cord stretched I had to really babyproof as the boys got into everything.

Grandma Darland:

I don't think we worried about parenting - we were too busy. I wish I had had household help as the 4 children, dog, cats, etc. were a handful. Grandpa was gone a lot of the time so he helped on weekends, but I wish I could have played more with our children, laughed more and been more involved in their school. In our world very few wives worked outside the home - so contact with others was by the phone (with the cord) or coffee at someone’s table. I do wonder if the constant use of cell phones, Facebook, etc. doesn't cause some confusion and distraction, as talking to people all day would confuse me.

One thing we want to weave into our parenting styles at Cherish is the wisdom of our elders. I plan to continue this conversation with my own - not only is it incredibly fun to hear these stories, but my hope is that we can all gain something from those who have already done the damn thing.