Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What is Natural Parenting: Preparing for Pregnancy

Finally getting into my Natural Parenting series. The first practice of Natural Parenting is "Prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting." I have a lot of thoughts on these (so much so that I am splitting this into 3 parts, rather than one mega-post), but I'm not sure how much of it is "natural". This is partially because I didn't really know what Attachment or Natural Parenting were before Gus was born, so I didn't prepare with this concept specifically in mind, although I did instinctively lean that way. Also, I feel like we did the same thing that most families preparing for a new baby do (or at least most families with a similar cultural, academic, and socioeconomic background to me), so it feels strange to write some of it down as something noteworthy. Nonetheless, this is my story, and here is a part of it. 

Preparing for pregnancy

Our pregnancy with Gus was very much a “planned” pregnancy in as much as one can plan these things. That being said, I didn't actually do much to prepare myself for it. I started taking folic acid supplements months in advance, because I had read reports of a study showing benefit from taking folic acid up to a year before conception, and that’s about it.

I didn't do any preparation with regards to diet or exercise before my pregnancy. I was already eating a fairly healthy, mostly whole foods diet. And to be honest, I don't know if I even thought about physical fitness. Since moving to the UK, I have always walked a lot (funny how not having a car will do that to you!), so I have a pretty good level of fitness anyway. But I certainly didn't think to do any more than that. And emotional preparation was not even on my radar. I just knew I had been wanting a baby for some time, so I figured I was mentally ready!

One thing that we did do to prepare for pregnancy, in a way, was to use Natural Family Planning (NFP) to first avoid and then achieve pregnancy. It was important to me to use NFP, not only for religious reasons, but because I don't like the idea of putting artificial or unnecessary chemicals or hormones into my body. I am quite hesitant to take medications casually anyway (for instance, I would much rather just wait for a headache to go away on its own, if it doesn’t prevent me from going about my day, than take a tablet for it), so I would not like to take a daily medication unless really necessary. Plus, when we were ready to become pregnant, using NFP meant that my body didn't have to “detox” and we understood my fertility cycle. So it was really a win-win choice for us.

My current status is again one of preparing for pregnancy, although we don't have any immediate plans. Not that it would matter if we did—I am still breastfeeding Gus enough that my cycle has yet to return since his birth. So at the moment we are on God's time, neither trying to conceive nor trying to avoid pregnancy. And I kind of like it. If I had the choice right now—pregnant or not?—I don't really know what I would choose. Three of my friends who have toddlers Gus's age are pregnant, and there is a significant part of me that is quite envious. On the other hand, we are so happy as a family of three, and I love being able to focus on Gus, that I wouldn't want to rock the boat with changes. 

One thing I am keen to do before becoming pregnant again is to learn to squat.  That sounds a bit silly, but there is a rationale behind it. Squatting has numerous benefits, including being a great position for birth (it can give you vital extra millimetres in the size of the pelvic opening compared to some other positions!) and strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. Much better than doing Kegels, according to the squatting expert Katy Bowman. So at the moment I am stretching and strengthening the necessary muscles in my legs and glutes to be able to hold a proper squatting position. I just have to remember to do the exercises every day!

While I had a blessedly easy pregnancy with Gus, one issue I did run into was low iron. (Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings has a great summary about iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy, if that sort of thing piques your interest.) This led to real lack of energy (more than just normal pregnancy-related lack of energy) in the first half of my pregnancy until I started on iron supplements. I'd therefore like to increase my current intake of dietary iron, with the hope that having high iron stores at the start of a pregnancy will mean that any natural decrease during pregnancy won't lead to deficiency and the related exhaustion--something I certainly won't need when chasing after an active toddler! My only problem with this is, like doing the exercises above, I am great at making plans and less good at remembering to put them into action. It's worth a go, though!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What's New with Gus

Another instalment of what Gus has been up to recently!


Gus has been in the midst of a language explosion recently.  He loves to talk to anybody who will listen (usually me!).  Or, if no one is around, he just plays with his toys, narrating as he goes along. The other day I was washing dishes while he was in the living room playing, and all I could hear was a rapid-fire string of animal names and sounds, one after the other. He obviously was having a very exciting game!

Up till recently, most of his vocabulary has been nouns, but I have noticed this week a sprinkling of verbs and adjectives as well. Big is a favourite at the moment, and he's always pointing out the big truck and the big ball. I am not sure if he can just pick out things that I have already described as big, or if he is applying it to things independently, but either way, it’s pretty sweet. He can even say the phrase, although it often sounds like two different sentences: “Big. Duck.” There are a couple of other “phrases” I’ve noticed recently as well. Jon was in the back yard yesterday, and Gus said “Pa. Back.” And he always says “Buh-bye ducks” when we leave the lake and asks for “More. Apple.” at snack time. Again, not sure if they are novel phrases, repeating of phrases he has heard, or just a collection of thoughts thrown together, but it is definitely showing a fascinating progression in his understanding and use of language.

When Jon gets home from work, he will usually talk to Gus about his day, asking what he did and saw while Pa was away. Gus seems to understand the question, or at least can rattle off a litany of things that he sees on his daily walks: “Lake. Ducks. Geese. Swan. Boat. Car. Truck. Van. Cluck-cluck [chicken].” You know, all of his favourite things. There have been several days this week where a walk is the first thing he asks for when we get down the stairs in the morning, desperate to go and search them all out.

Gus has recently learned how to say his name and often will point to each one of us in turn: “Mama. Pa. Gus!” We went to a wedding this weekend, and anytime someone took an interest in him (or maybe even when they didn’t—I am pretty sure he started talking to the lady across the aisle from us on the train completely on his own accord!) he would introduce himself by pointing at himself and proudly stating “Gus!”. Of course, when he says it, it only sounds vaguely like Gus (both G’s and S’s are a bit difficult for him still), so people didn’t always understand, but they sure became enamoured with him pretty quickly after that!

Social interactions

After what seemed like months of Gus needing me right next to him almost all the time, I realised this week that he hasn’t really done that in ages. He is actually becoming very confident, both with other people and in exploring the world on his own. It has gotten to the point where, when we are out for a walk, wandering on the fields, it is a toss-up about whether Gus is going to come back before Jon and I feel the need to chase after him. And at both the weddings we’ve been to this month, he has been more than happy to play with or talk to anyone who gave him the slightest glance. There were a load of kids at this latest wedding, and he spent a lot of time spinning on the grass with the toddlers and running up and down the halls with some older children.

In general, Gus seems to really like it when other children are around. He has two friends that we meet up with most weeks, and he kept talking about them after they left our house last week. That evening, we were reading a book, and Gus pointed to the little girl in a picture, clearly saying “Hattie!”, his friend’s name. He is very particular about how he plays with his toys, though, and it seems that other children don’t always understand his rules. We were at a children’s centre for a toddler group a week or two ago, and they have a dozen or so realistic animal figurines. He spent half the time we were there moving them from the window sill to the floor and back again. He was not, however, very happy if any of the other children came and moved an animal. I always say “Oh! You are playing with the toys together!” or something along those lines, trying to convince him that it can be fun. He doesn't seem so sure. (I don’t think children his age understand the concept of sharing yet, and generally shouldn't be forced to share, but I also feel kind of bad if he is playing with so many toys at one time, not allowing any other children a chance to play with them. So I am trying to find a balance there!)

Helping Hand

We have been having glorious weather lately, so I have been able to hang the washing out on the line to dry. I was taking some dry clothes down the other day, folding them and putting them in the basket. Gus was helping by taking clothes off the airer and putting them in the basket. He then insisted that we take the basket into the house, where he proceeded to take every piece out and stuff them into the wash machine. He shut the door and started turning dials and pressing buttons, trying to start the machine! He is a great helper, although not always in the ways I think I need help. (And those clothes are still in the basket as I write this, since I haven’t found the time or energy to fold them a second time. Oh well!)

He continues to enjoy helping me cook. Today while cooking dinner, he spent ages trying to peel some carrots, then proceeded to put all the scraps in the waste bin, one by one. Last week, Gus and I made hot cross buns together, which was really fun. I had woken up in a bit of a bad mood and decided to do some baking right after breakfast. Gus climbed right up on his stool and helped with the pouring, stirring, and shaping (and, of course, sampling of the raisins and making of the mess!). It was amazing how much better I felt after spending some good quality time with him!