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Shhh… it’s a Secret

Girlfriends.

In so many ways girlfriends are a part of the meaning of womanhood. I am thankful to have; amazing ones, awesome ones, fun ones, curious ones, evolving ones, steadfast ones, all of the above ones!

Some of us are lucky to have everything girlfriends; like everything bagels, they come in all styles and flavors. Mine; check me, wake me up, feed my soul, complement me, share, exchange and listen.

Girlfriends know you; they trust you and you trust them.

Mine are from all around the earth and different walks of life. We share, exchange, develop, realize, create, compromise, and give. We love. And, in the end I learn and become, closer to myself than I ever could without them.

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I am currently 23 weeks pregnant and just past the half way mark of my 2nd pregnancy; I have begun the big stretch and belly care is once again an essential part of my daily routine.  5 years ago I found myself at this same juncture while pregnant with my daughter, now 4.  Much of the reading suggests that one’s likelihood of developing stretch marks is a genetic factor combined with how fast one gains their pregnancy weight so I focus my routine on bringing me comfort, relief and a chance to tune into my changing body and the growing baby.  The fact that with my first pregnancy I did not get any stretch marks does of course reinforce my commitment to ensuring my body is hydrated inside and out during pregnancy.

My routine highlights two key elements of mindful self-care which are always essential and even more so while pregnant or nursing, hydration and comfort. When I am well hydrated inside and out I do not suffer from some of the common symptoms we pregnant women experience such as slowed digestion (including constipation) or the stretching and inching sensations as the skin on my belly makes way for growing uterus and baby.  However, drinking water is not second nature to me I have to remind myself throughout the day.  A great way my midwife suggested, which is working wonders for me, is to drink some water every hour.  I like this approach as it removes the pressure of counting each cup and helps me focus on the more organic approach of continued hydration vs., for me the unrealistic, measured hydration.  I prefer to drink and enjoy the act rather than drink and focus on counting each cup. Additionally, I have filled my diet with healthy oils and fats which I derive from many sources including coconut oil (I use it in cooking instead of vegetable oil), Vitamin E (with my midwives approval I take a daily supplement), avocados (my excuse to eat fresh guacamole with every meal), kefir (also a super source for protein) and low mercury content fish selections.  The nutritional choices I make while pregnant are very intentional, flavorful and fun; always focused on providing my body what it needs to provide for my health and that of the growing life inside.

In the case of external belly care any product I use must provide hydration and comfort.  I choose to use products with only natural ingredient lists free of many chemicals found in common skin care lines.  While bathing I use a naturally fragranced or non-fragranced vegetable based bar soap with a natural lufa (to sloth away dead skin cells).  I operate under the philosophy that soap’s job is to wash away oils and dirt without drying or interfering with my body’s ability to maintain my natural base moisture levels through my skin.  My routine alleviates the sensations of stretching and inching which usually plague me at night. With this pregnancy I have used two body butters. One, a lotion bar by Worker B is a bee’s wax, avocado and almond oil based bar has a light sent of bee’s wax with sweet honey notes I love the sent and light feel as it spreads however, it was on the oily side which I found did not absorb well for me.  I prefer a more butter like consistency to my belly cream choice.  Lucky for me as contributor to Sienna Naturals I was gifted a sample of the body butter for mamas and babies.  It is creamy with the light sweet notes of lavender and chamomile.  I love the moisture content.  With one generous application at post bath or at bedtime I receive enough moisture to last overnight and through the following day.

My routine flows through the day, I call it mindful self-care.  At night, as I invite my daughter to apply the lotion to my belly, I use the time to relax and talk with her about what being a big sister may be like and how her brother is swimming in my tummy and can hear her voice. She laughs and says, “my turn, mommy can you please put some of that special lotion on me? I am growing and I don’t want to get any stretch marks either.” Ahh the joys of pure sweet motherhood!

Our daughter has wonderfully supple and clear skin today and the journey to achieve this balance came from learning to recognize that our external and internal nourishment needs are intertwined.  As a new mom I committed myself to making many healthy lifestyle choices for the care of my daughter. Throughout my pregnancy my partner and I were conscious of making food choices such as; low/no preservatives, lots of wholefoods; fresh fruits and vegetables.  When it came to prenatal beauty I made a deliberate change to natural and organic products such as cleansers free of Salicylic acid,  paraben free lotion and I avoided nail polish altogether. When our daughter was born I was predisposed to choose skin care lines for our daughter with ingredient lists I could easily interpret, lines that followed the less is more philosophy.

I received a great lead from a fellow mom to try EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database for lessons in label reading. I used their rating system and perused product reviews.  Then, to be honest, I took some time to recover from the sticker shock of switching from the traditional “natural” products sold within most drugstores to a line containing only natural and organic ingredients with the concentrated moisture content we could trust to nourish our daughter’s skin. In my mind, how well something worked and how safe it was for our baby mattered more than the price per ounce. I soon discovered a true benefit to the richer higher quality natural product; I could use less per application since it provided greater protection over a longer period of time.   I also succeeded in convincing my reluctant partner who shared in these decisions that making the switch was the most healthful option (which for him meant learning a sparing approach to product use).

Our daughter thrived and had healthy glowing skin with little irritation until around one year of age, about six months following the introduction of solid foods.  My partner and I began to discover eczema like patches on her legs and arms. They were dry, discolored and would change in shape and size over time.  We tried the oatmeal baths, increased moisture, and cotton clothing, anything we considered to have a direct impact on the treatment of her skin.

What ensued was a lesson in the signs that our skin, our largest organ, provides into the inner workings of our bodies.  At a wellness visit with my daughter’s pediatrician we brought up the patches as a topic of concern.  The Dr. took a look asked a few questions related to the length the patches existed and how frequently they occurred and identified them as possible signs of a food allergy.   This was news.  The year previous to this visit we had thought our daughter had an issue isolated to a lack of moisture or an external irritation therefore we worked to treat her dry patches only topically.  However, at two years of age with the guidance of the pediatrician, the use of a six-week elimination diet and blood testing food allergies were identified as egg and dairy based.   The strongest reaction our daughter had to these allergens was, luckily, mild hives on her face.  However, once we eliminated these allergens completely we saw her blossom into a new state of healthiness.  Her skin cleared up within a couple of months and we noticed her energy and immune system improved.

As a family we have come to appreciate skin as signaling device to underlying health.  We continue to make informed product selection when it comes to our family’s skin care as well as dietary choices.   My partner and I are now well versed in label reading and even our daughter, now four, can identify foods she should avoid.  The great news is that with her annual checkups we can see that she will likely outgrow her egg allergy within the next year.  I can say our family’s focus to include the topical care of our daughter’s skin with the dietary requirements to ensure the needs of her skin are met has strengthened our belief in the holistic approach to living.  All components of our bodies are deeply connected and when one part is not functioning successfully finding the cause may require deeper investigation and is worthy of any “necessary” change required to ensure the overall health of the whole self.

The thought that fear is in the eye of the beholder came to mind last Thrusday night. My three year old was watching basketball with papa who was transfixed with surfing between the game and an episode of River Monsters. The host and biologist Jermey Wade goes on a night hunt on the Fitzroy River of Australia to track and catch a Sawfish.

I found myself viscerally opposed to the sensationalized imagery and scaremongering contained in the program. A high level of propagandizing nature in its habitat something, in my spectrum of motherhood, I find unsuitable for a 3 year old (no matter how fascinating the information and facts shared). In vocalizing my assessment I was confronted with papa’s comparison of this cinematography to the stories we read to our daughter weekly; the reality that although I found this episode distasteful (alot like a nature program on steroids) among my daughter’s favorite books are Peter and the Wolf, The Three Little Pigs, Where the Wild Things Are, Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood (notice the theme here?). She is fascinated with the dark portrayal of the animal kingdom; portrayals such as wolfs, wild things and beasts as symbols of malintention, trickery and provocateurs of fear.

I am comfortable with exploring her fears in a fantastic literary context but when it comes to a cinematic portrayal of the dangerous and scary face of nature, real habitats, I find myself cringing.

Is it that fear is in the eye of the beholder? In this case myself with my deep fear for the unknown especially in dark water (as my sister can attest to) or is it that fear is “trained in the eye” of the beholder? Training derived from a variety of domains and in this case a domain; so effective, so intense, so targeted, it is a domain most of us will not live without……………………… TELEVISION!

Fear is in the eyes of di beholder,
And love is in the presence of the love maker,
Life is in the words of the comforter,
Endure much longer,
Live much longer”

-Damian Marley

There is often room for more; in my case, more is often more music, more chocolate, more time with my family, more time alone; yes, more is part of what I have come to call the Unsaturated Life.

Tonight I listened to wondrous music; sultry vocals with wicked tunes, great lyrics and killer harmonizing; Madison Violet  passed through our small town of DTTPK (DownTown Takoma Park, MD).  They captivated local listeners with their alluring vocals and the clear chemistry of their sound. They made sweet music for those in attendance thanks to the under estimated Institute of Musical Traditions.

In a pure twist of fate last Saturday night I hopped into my car and turned on the radio; there playing right into the mellow mood I longed to attain ( following a competitive night of Win, Loose or Draw &  a few glasses of St. Supéry) came this tune.  I was as much enraptured by the sound as I was by the fact that this swanky tune had captured my Reggae following, Soca wining, Classic Soul and Samba loving ear’s rapt attention.  I immediately conducted a lyric search; pinpointed the tune, artists and downloaded the album to my smartest phone.

I became, thanks to the age of information, an instant fan. Tonight, just 5 days after learning of MDV I attended their local concert  purchasing an album for my Folk loving folks and for my sister in love  and her and Instrument making BF.

Tonight I toast my half full mug of enjoyable RB brew and say in the famous words of Oliver Twist, “Please, sir, I want some more.” 

All around!

I was 28, my boyfriend and I had been living together for the past 8 months of our going on 2 year relationship.  I was ready.  OK… self filter here, I was ready for the blessings of motherhood and a little rosy eyed at the realities of the lifestyle changes ahead.

What did my boyfriend think?  I found in sharing the news of our pregnancy that some (I think many) men are not brought up to naturally consider themselves fathers; they are groomed to be, in my experience, strategic guys with various appetites.  The ones that are keepers, like mine, are also lovers of their women and their shared community (I’ll leave the evaluation of their communication to foreshadowing for now; ahem…Mars vs. Venus)

Sitting together on our chaise four years ago, in our fresh young pad chatting about the future of his clothing line and necessary career moves I looked him clear in the eyes and shared the news… “we’re pregnant!”

While growing up I embraced my future role as mother volunteering in our meeting’s Sunday school, working as a nanny, lots of babysitting along with listening and caring for my friends thorough ups and downs.  I was provided, through these experiences, VIP admission into the realm of care provider, friend to others and especially children; I loved the inclusivity of this role in my community. I don’t think boys growing up alongside of me were fostered in this way.  They were the “wild things” (rude boys as my pops calls them), funny, wily and carefree.

I will compare my boyfriend’s immediate reaction to news of our pregnancy, to the response you may expect of someone being solicited to run for president of a newly formed republic after leaving their career as a fisherman/boxer/lumber jack for instance.  There was amazement mixed with self evaluation.

However, the moment following what amounts to an earthquake of thought, enforced my faith in his ability as a father.  He was collected and pensive; he shared that he had never taken the time to think of himself as a father and then, very purposefully he pulled out a notepad and began mapping out a financial plan to bring us inline as parents!

Then as now in these churning times, I find these qualities of his mind; steadfast, strategic and solutions oriented excessively valuable to me, our daughter and our family. Leading me towered a gratefulness I seldom effectively express (insert Venus vs. Mars).

Together we bring balance to our family in a classic emotional sense.  This is why, in light of my experience I suggest, that these boys, these wild, carefree beings can be exactly the grounding force a woman like me values. I find their greatness is often punctuated in unexpected times and allows the emotional care providing women lessons in balance between the nurturing drive in ourselves and the realities of life and its surprises.

On the day my love and I jointly acknowledged our conception; sauntering nervously toward the light of parenthood, our declaration rang loud in the heart of my subconsciousness… “LET THE WILD RUMPUS START!”

I am an avid NPR and WAMU listener interested in the diverse, at times edgy and often inspiring news and information their programming provides.  This programming balances my view of what is possible in the world and it continually drives home our common humanity unlike anything I find in daily local news coverage.  I listen daily on my commute into and out of the office, on my lunch break on a run to the bank, even, by accident, on any given Sunday while out to the store. I find my intrigue is like one I share with good strong chocolate which I strategically store in a cool place out of frequent reach, in an attempt to minimize my consumption, only to find that I foray more than usual to my stash in search of one more invigorating bite.

Recently however I have noticed with the routine of my mornings;

waking early,
prepping myself for the day,
prepping lunch for my preschooler,
getting us dressed, breakfasted,
and out the door, on my way  to the office

….before plugging into my team and our customers… I must honor my need for quiet reflection.

It’s as if all the inspiration and information I have received from my public radio listening has reached a tipping point. Over the last few weeks I have honored this need for quiet banning myself from tuning in during my morning commute which mostly follows something like…

Enter the car reach for the dial… remind myself, “Not now, maybe later.”…. I sit quietly, then… I reach again,  “Ok just this once, if the story is not inspiring then I will turn it off,” which results in about five out of ten times that I actively honor my need for quiet.

In this processes of abstaining from the radio I have learned that I do so not because I am overloaded with information but because I am healthily saturated by public radio.  My current need for quiet stems from my need to compress the information received, into my life.  I find that I am inspired and interested in what is happening in the world.  For this information to process I must make a shift from being what was an active listener and passive participant towards striking a balance between active listening and the creative application of the inspiration I receive from public radio to both my work and my community.

In the process my commute has evolved and now sounds something like… “Is this commute with the emissions, time consumption and predictable stresses of the road really in the best interest of the world, my family, my community, my health…?”  “Isn’t being a stake holder in our communities what makes them livable places and should that not include a stronger element from businesses to foster work within their boundaries.  In theory, doing so could free up more time for our quality of life and the life of our families providing more time for us to engage in local activities strengthen our relationships and increase the viability of the places we call home”…

Thoughts, by the way… which remind me of something I once heard on NPR!

Ahhhh the sounds of silence!