Class Theme for the Week: BURPEE

During each of my classes last week I started with the question: What is a tool you plan to bring into your birth?

I had some incredible answers.  Including ‘Focusing on Myself’, ‘Not having any expectations’, and ‘Living in the Moment’.  Each were encouraging for myself and all the other mamas in the room!

The inspiration for this question and overall theme came about while I was going over my old prenatal yoga teacher training notes.  I was thankful to come across this acronym that we learned to provide us with tools and tips during birth.  I decided to craft my classes last week around sharing this acronym and all it’s wisdom.

The acronym is BURPEE and it stands for:

B – Breathe. To bring your body into a parasympathetic nervous system response (where birth happens), we can work to make our exhales longer relative to our inhales.  This will keep us relaxed and able to mentally focus on the work of labour.  Breath is also our anchor.  No matter what happens as our families, bodies, and homes change during birth, our breath remains the same.

U – Urinate.  Creating space for baby by clearing the bladder often is useful in labour.  This also tells us that we should be drinking water during labour to keep ourselves hydrated.  Also, the ‘birth cave’ or bathroom can feel like a safe, contained place to labour.  Sitting on the toilet can be a helpful position to encourage the hips to open!

R – Rest/Relax.  Remaining in the ‘Rest and Digest’ response of the nervous system (parasympathetic) will make it easier for us to effectively rest and relax between surges.  Living in the moment and enjoying this natural break in work instead of worrying about the next surge will help us to labour effectively.  Between surges you may find it helpful to be in child’s pose (or some variation), a forward fold, sitting, or draped over a birthing ball.

P – Positions. Knowing that you can vary your positions throughout birth (and varying them as needed) is important.  Although we don’t know what position(s) our bodies will crave until the moment comes, we can be prepared with various positions in mind ahead of time.  Squatting, All Fours, Child’s Pose, the Birthing Stool, Sitting or Hugging a Birthing Ball are just a few.  Penny Simkin’s The Birth Partner has a huge spread of useful positions you can use.

E – Environment.  There is a lot we can do to control our birthing environment.  Whether you birth at home, the Birth Centre, or the hospital, it is wise to do what you can to make your space comfortable, relaxing, and peaceful.  Make sure you are surrounded by people you can be vulnerable with – you can invite/uninvite whoever you want to your birth!  It is your choice alone as to who is there.  Also, having supportive things around you such as your favourite tea, music, essential oils for smell, or even your favourite foods.  Comfort is key to keeping yourself in that parasympathetic, safe birthing state.

E – Encouragement.  Make your birth team a team of cheerleaders!  Your partner, best friend, sister, mother, father, doula – if they’re not on your team and rooting for your best interests, perhaps they don’t need to be there.  Don’t be afraid to speak to your team about your desires for an encouraging, supportive environment – if you’re up front about this ahead of time you will thank yourself.

Wishing you all the best in your birth preparations.  May you take any of these tools that can be useful for you and leave the rest aside.  And remember, truly, the only thing you need to birth is right on  your yoga mat.  You.

Love and Peace,

Megan

Class Theme for the Week: Your Pelvic Floor

This past week, I was so very thrilled to bring the theme ‘Your Pelvic Floor’ into each of my prenatal yoga classes.  I learned quite a lot in the process and hopefully inspired some awareness amoung my students.  I even had a few come to me later in the week saying they booked in for a prenatal appointment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist!  Woot!

In a couple of my classes the intro question was: Have you heard of, or are you seeing a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist?

The range of answers was rather astounding.  In one class, out of 11 people, 10 were seeing a PFP.  In my next class, out of 7 people, every single person was not!  That’s quite a difference if you ask me.

I started off each class sharing a little from this blog post from the Blooma Blog.  I then took a solid 15 minutes to do a few incredibly powerful pelvic floor/abdominal exercises, adding in layers of depth after each grouping of breath.  I think it’s incredibly important to include these exercises (to some degree) into a prenatal yoga class!

A few of my students asked the following questions about seeing a Pelvic Floor Physio:

Do I need to go before baby is born?

My suggestion on this is yes!  It can’t hurt!  I wish I went before my first son was born to learn more about my own pelvic floor, what my strength level was, details about birth and how the baby descends, and to get exercises to strengthen and relax the muscles beforehand.  Mostly though, I wish I went in order to learn about/talk about how to ‘push’ ahead of time.

What does the physiotherapist do in a session?

Most PFPs go in and do an internal, manual exam to check out your pelvic floor and determine if you need to work on relaxing or strengthening the muscles.  In my case, we had to practice ‘awakening’ my pelvic floor and figuring out the cues to get this mind-body connection to turn on.  After figuring out the right cues for me, I could go home and have a better idea of how to do the exercises and how it was supposed to ‘feel’.  It all was incredibly eye-opening and encouraging to get to know this part of the body on a different level.  I feel like after the experience of birth, with my core and pelvic floor ‘falling apart’ in a way, building it all back together has taught me in unthinkable ways about how my body works.  This knowledge has changed who I am.

Doing this special and important core work will also help you with incontinence after birth.  It’s true mamas, you needn’t suffer in silence when coughing or sneezing – there is much you can do to avoid these issues and any pelvic pain you may have!

The PFP also will check your diastasis (the degree of separation of your abdominal muscles) and help you to do your best to minimize this separation and rebuild your core in a safe and healthy way.  There are many common exercises that are done in yoga (or even throughout our daily lives) which should be avoided for potentially up to a year postpartum in order to properly rebuild the core.  For this reason alone, I recommend seeing a PFP!  A PFP is like a personal coach in rebuilding your core and body after birth, now who can say no to that!

Thank-you to all the people out there who are practicing pelvic floor physiotherapy.  Your work is inspiring to me and I will do all I can to spread the word of pelvic health.

If you have any questions or live in the GTA and would like a referral to a GOOD PFP, please leave me a message.

Love and Life,

Megan

Class Theme for the Week: Postpartum Mood Disorders

This week each of my prenatal yoga classes were focused around Postpartum Mood Disorders.  My goal was to bring awareness of Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, and OCD to my students and to help prepare them for action, if and when these situations present themselves.

When I gave birth to my first child, just over two years ago, there were close to 20 other women who I know who gave birth within that year.  Was it because most of us were turning 30?  Perhaps!  But from this large amount, I have known 2 or 3 to have gone through some form of postpartum depression, specifically.

As far as my story goes, here is why I think it’s important to talk about ppd and other related disorders: Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was speaking with one of my coworkers at the psychotherapy clinic I was working at.  She mentioned how she had suffered from depression long before her first baby was born and was worried about ppd.  I mentioned that I was in a similar situation and she suggested I get hooked up with the ppd program at Women’s College Hospital here in Toronto.  They have a program called the Reproductive Life Stages Program.  Basically you get a referral from your doctor or midwife and make an appointment to see a doctor there to determine if you’re at risk for a postpartum mood disorder.  It is great because if you do have troubles after the baby is born, you’re already in the system and can more easily make an appointment to seek care (wait lists can be long apparently).  I decided to take action and see what would come of it.

After an incredibly lengthy and somewhat cathartic intake session with a psychiatrist (this ended up happening postpartum because I was late in getting the referral), I was told that more than anything, I may be at a slight risk for a Postpartum Anxiety Disorder.  This was surprising to me and my natural tendency was to put up a defense, and I did (on the inside).

But it all added up.  Since my baby was born, my house was cleaner than it had ever been.  I felt incredibly anxious when the baby was asleep and didn’t know what to do next to make myself as productive as possible.  Sleep?  Sew?  Clean?  Cook?  Yoga?  Shower?  All this amoungst other things.

This session with the doctor really helped me to see things a little clearer, and it has taught me what my tendency is toward – anxiety.  I can see my anxious thoughts and behaviours creeping up in my second pregnancy, and I will surely be on the lookout for their presence postpartum this time around.  And I know there is help out there if I need it.

In my research for my classes this week, I came across a few great resources which I’d love to share with you:

  1. The Postpartum Progress website, and specifically the checklist they provide.
  2. Postpartum Support International website (thanks Rose)
  3. This blog post from the owner of Blooma – Sarah Longacre
  4. Brooke Shields’ book Down Came The Rain (I read this during my first pregnancy and it really helped to see things more clearly)

May is Postpartum Mood Disorder Awareness Month, and you can bet I will be revisiting this topic in my classes then.  It was quite a challenge to attempt to lead a yoga class with this as the theme.  But I know the benefits far outweigh the consequences.

Love, Light, and Awareness,

Megan

7 Natural Remedies for Hemorrhoids

It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

May my struggles and learnings from my lovely hemorrhoids only help others!

This is why I’m posting about hemorrhoids. I never would have dreamed of talking about this publicly in the past, but these little buggers have been such a part of my life and I’ve learned so much from having them, that I’m here to say: “You’re not alone in having hemorrhoids! And here’s what might help!”

Of course the pregnant, birthing, and post-partum body can be largely susceptible to hemorrhoids. Hence why I’m posting about this now.  I’m using many of these remedies everyday to keep my hemmies at bay.  Mamas, listen up!

1. A cool shower, or even better – alternating between hot and cold in the shower. This stimulates your lymphatic system and can help with ‘closing’ things (veins, sphincters, etc.) up, the opposite of solely heating and thereby opening up the body. Do you see what I mean?

2. Topical Treatments: Venoforce, Geranium Essential Oil & Witch Hazel – A. Vogel makes a product called ‘Venoforce’ which can help.  I have the gel as opposed to the tablets in this link.  Geranium Essential Oil has been known to help as well. I use both everyday. Both products are also good to improve venous return in the case of varicose veins which can also be common in pregnancy.

Also of course, you can buy witch hazel. Please do not go to Shoppers Drug Mart for this! Their products are watered down and not effective. You can get Thayers Witch Hazel from your local health food store. Don’t get one of the scented ones, rather the original or aloe vera.

Alternatively, you can buy the witch hazel herb and steep it like you do tea.  Cool it and use that topically.  Post-partum mamas often like this sprayed onto a cotton reusable pad and then frozen before putting on their lady parts.  So refreshing right after birth!

3. Eating healthy, whole foods – I often find that when I eat something unhealthy, or when I have a lot of wheat my hemmies act up.  For example two nights ago we went out to a pub and I had a poutine.  There was very little nutrition in it and the next day I could tell because of my bottom!  Wheat also tends to ‘clog’ you up, back up your bowels, etc, so I find if I minimize my wheat intake I feel a lot better overall.

4. Pelvic floor physio/exercises – I wouldn’t have believed this in my first pregnancy, but it’s definitely true!  Your pelvic floor extends all the way back to incorporate your anal sphincter, so if these muscles are toned, you may gain great help in the hemorrhoid department.

5. Hydration – The key to life.  A healthy body is a hydrated body!  Check out the app WaterMinder for a daily reading on your water intake and what you should be drinking.  I have not used it much but my husband claims it has changed his life (and he is my inspiration!).  Water keeps our bowels hydrated.  Did you know if you’re dehydrated, your body will take it from your bowels?  We want those bowels nice and hydrated so they will be eliminated from our bodies easily.

6. Breathing down bowel movements instead of straining – I learned about ‘breathing it down’ from my Hypnobirthing class!  They have you practice before your birth by ‘breathing down’ your bowel movements.  The key is to wait until you definitely have to go (you can’t do anything else) and then just sit down on the toilet.  As you exhale, imagine you’re breathing down your bowels.  It’s incredible!

7. Elevating your feet on the toilet – The Squatty Potty is revolutionary, but you can also just use a simple stool for $12.99 from Canadian Tire.  Ours doubles for our son to get up to the toilet/wash his hands.  Your body was made to eliminate while your spine is in flexion (like cat pose, chin to chest and tailbone drawing down).  Our standard Western toilets do not support our bodies in this shape while we’re eliminating!  It brought new meaning to when I went to China and literally had to squat most of the time – the way it was meant to be!

That’s all for now!  All the best in your hemorrhoid prevention/elimination.  Do not believe what people say – you don’t have to suffer forever, and your only option isn’t just surgery!

Much hemmie love,

Megan

**Please note that this post in no way replaces medical advice.  Please consult your naturopathic doctor before taking on any of these suggestions, and of course for dosing. These remedies have worked for my body and this post is merely a summary of my suggestions.

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie


This morning, my son and I crafted this tasty Pumpkin Spice Smoothie.  Well, I crafted it, and he pushed the buttons on the blender.

It went like this:

-Squash puree – 2 cups

-1 can coconut milk

-dashes of various spices: nutmeg, clove, cardamom, cinnamon

-2 tbsp bee pollen to boost immunity

-1/4 cup hemp seeds for protein

-3 tea spoons of honey to sweeten

Blend!

I found these mason jar lids at Canadian Tire, they are handy!

Wishing each of you many happy, healthy fall breakfasts.

Love,

M

Marked Mondays: Canning Peaches!

In early September, my family made a trip to Niagara (on the train!) to visit with my parents and also embark upon a first time endeavour for us: canning peaches.  We had the peaches, mom had the equipment and (some of the) expertise!

It was slightly ironic since we bought the peaches in Toronto, and then brought them back to Niagara where they clearly were grown. 😉

I felt mildly unprepared for the endeavour, but my lovely husband and mother had much more determination than I, and it was their drive that got us through!

 

What you’ll need:

-clean canning jars and lids, roughly 12

-3 large pots, one deep enough for your specific size of canning jars.

-small circular rack for the bottom of the canning pot

-bowl for skinned, sliced peaches

-oven mit to handle jars

-4 cups sugar

-basic utensils – spoons, knives, etc.

 

Here are your basic steps to Canning Peaches:

1. Collect your mason jars and lids and make sure they’re sparkling clean.  Turn oven on lowest setting and set as many jars as you can fit into the oven.  When you next need these jars they are to be too hot to touch without an oven mit.

2. Wash peaches and remove skins.  I washed the peaches and my husband dropped them into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds.  My mother then bathed them in an ice bath/very cold water and the skins just fell off beautifully.

3. Create your simple syrup. Now, if you know me, you know I despise working with regular white, refined sugar.  Quite frankly, I believe it’s a big part of what’s wrong with our world!  I don’t have it in the home and do my best to avoid it.  For these peaches, we actually combined 3 different types of sugars that we had left over in our pantry: coconut sugar, organic cane sugar, and (eek) raw brown sugar.  This wasn’t ideal for me – i’d rather have used honey, but we needed to use up these sugars and this seemed like a good opportunity.

*Back right pot is boiling water used to remove peach skins.  Bottom left is simple syrup.  Bottom right is canning pot to seal jars.

To create your simple syrup, we used a ratio of 4 cups sugar to 8 cups water and bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar.

4. Begin to fill your large canning pot and warm the water inside.  There should be a small rack on the bottom to make sure your jars don’t rest directly on the bottom of the pot.  Water should not be at boiling at this point. You may need to add/subtract water to get the jars completely covered.

5. Section the peaches and remove pits and the red ‘pit lining’. This was my station.  I cut open the skinned peaches and sliced them up after scooping out the red lining which apparently turns brown and makes them look less appealing once they’ve been canned and preserved.  Now, i’m not one for food aesthetics – I really don’t care, just give me the tasty, whole, natural food – but I just went with the flow on this one.


*I should mention at this point that these peaches were “seconds” and did not look very nice to begin with.  After I had sliced them, many left something to be desired.  Again, I did not care!  Just wanted to practice canning.

6.  From here things get moving.  You have your warmed jars, your simple syrup made and warm on the stove, your peaches skinned and cut up in a bowl, and your canning pot of warm water and a tray in the bottom ready.  From here, remove a few of the warm jars from the oven and fill 1/4 of the way with simple syrup.  Add your cut peaches, really packing them in there.  You can top with syrup if you think necessary, making sure there are very few bubbles in the jar.  From here, put your lid on loose and submerge jar into the canning pot making sure it’s completely covered.  It is important the jar is hot and the water is NOT boiling in order for the jars to not shatter.  We were able to do 4 jars in our pot.  Bring this to boiling and let boil for 20 minutes.

It is VERY important here that I mention to you that the first two jars we submerged shattered!!  So we put in a quick call to my sister’s Mother-In-Law, Canning Lady Extraordinaire, Mrs. Money.  She quickly corrected our ways and we were fine.  Of course not without my Dad coming up to help and mentioning botulism.


7. Remove jars from pot and place on a dry kitchen towel, making sure the jars are NOT touching.  Cover them with another kitchen towel to slow the cooling process down a little.  Repeat previous step until all your peaches and syrup are gone!

If you notice in the picture, there is space at the bottom of our cans.  That is something we learned for next time – pack those peaches in there!

Happy canning,

Megan

Toddler Lavender Pillow


The idea struck for the creation of this child’s pillow when we were at a health food store in Quebec City this past March. The store had in stock a kid’s pillow from the same company that makes my pillow (Naturest). I should have bought it when I saw it bc I can’t find it anywhere now.  But then again, if I did, I wouldn’t have had the privilege of making it by hand for my son. 

Since we’re now pregnant again, we’re thinking about sleeping arrangements going forward. In the near future we may take down the side of my son’s crib to turn it into a toddler bed.  That creates an opportunity for a pillow like this! 

It’s a little smaller than I realize I may like now, 9×12 inches. But none-the-less I really enjoy how it turned out. 

I created a permanent envelope that I sewed shut out of the sweet deer fabric (one of my faves!). I filled it with leftover hulled buckwheat (which came from my pillow), some dried lavender I had on hand, and also some flax seed to amp up the volume (not pictured). I also added one drop of lavender essential oil (not pictured) to be sure the smell lasted a good while. 

I created an envelope with a simple overlap in the back as the cover.  It’s able to be removed for laundering.  

Baby J opened it the night before his birthday and immediately laid his head down on it! I was kinda surprised. Not sure if he makes a point to be close to it in the night but I can see him enjoying sleep with it as he grows. 

Happy pillow love,

Megan