Self Care // Health

I’ve been feeling unhealthy of late. Nothing so major, just a tired-ness that’s come over me. My thyroid isn’t up to scratch (though the test results are looking fine), and I’m slowing gaining back the weight I lost during pregnancy and early postpartum. I’m keen to get back to this sort of prime health state I was in during the fourth trimester! Weeks 3-7 of postpartum were some of the most stressful times of my life (my new baby wasn’t growing – at all – and there was a real concern for her life), but my body and mind handled it amazingly well. My midwives kept noting when they saw me every few days! I put this down a lot to how well I was being looked after. Anyway, I was thinking on this, and wondering why I was feeling so healthy in the first 3 months or so after birth, and I realised it came down to something super simple – my body was functioning well because I was looking after it.

So in the interest of getting back into that state, I want to note down all the things that I didi for my health etc., during that time. These include:

  • Drank bone broth regularly
  • Ate three meals a day
  • STRICTLY avoided all foods I am intolerant to (gluten, dairy, eggs)
  • Rested frequently
  • Other people (either Luke or my mum) did my chores for me including my most stress-y jobs like getting the kids ready for school in the morning and picking them up
  • Drank a lot of water
  • Kept on top of all my supplements (primarily magnesium, iron, Vit D, and a pre-natal which includes zinc and selenium), and medicinal herbs (primarily I Am Gaia, and Reishi)
  • Didn’t have to worry about any household concerns

Obviously only some of these things am I able to re-create in a day to day sense now. Unfortunately I do not have a live in housekeeper or nanny! Ha! BUT, that’s okay. There is still plenty more to focus on just with everything else, because I realise in going through this list that MOST, if not all of things things on this list I don’t do anymore.

For example, most days I only eat one meal a day – dinner. It is all I have time for. Not because I’m so busy, but because my baby is clingy, and I’m often tired because I didn’t eat properly at the previous meal. I sometimes eat a packet of chips or something all together unhealthy of “lunch”. I love salads, but just don’t have time to make them with grabby hands trying to “help” me cut things when she’s in the ergo, or a soundtrack of wailing if I put her down! I don’t drink enough water, and I’m in no way on top of my supplements. Anyway, you get the drift! I want to try and get back to this, so I’m setting myself some small goals.

  1. Fill up water bottle each day and take it everywhere. Refill at least once in the day, bonus points for more than once (maybe I should literally give myself points for these things and I can get a prize at the end of the month?!).
    Just do this and continue on with next point immediately.
  2. Commit to not consuming allergens at all. It’s not hard, you’ve done it before. CC will also be better off if you do this. THINK OF THE BABY. Maybe prepare a few small snacks (like bliss balls) to have on hand for snacks to avoid temptation.
    Just do this and continue on with next point immediately.
  3. Write up a supplement schedule, make sure they’re all topped up, and maybe even buy one of those pill containers just to make it easy! Do this consistently for 1 week before moving on.
  4. Make some batches of bone broth and have for lunch each day (best to freeze in single servings so that it can be easily microwaved). This will help increase my bone broth intake, help me eat lunch each day, and also help me stay strong and not sneak any dairy in the day due to the 6 hour wait time after eating meat.
    Do this consistently for 2 weeks before moving on.
  5. Batch cook some lunches to freeze or store in the fridge ready to eat (move bone broth consumption to breakfast time!). Ideals include rice bowls, roast veggies salad, soup…
    Do this consistently for 2 weeks before moving on.
  6. TBA.

Breastfeeding Dayenu

Breastfeeding Chaya has been a rollercoaster ride. So many ups and downs, so many things have happened I never expected. Chaya is my fourth baby. I have breastfed her siblings for 16, 23, and 36 months each with only minor difficulties. I never expected to have any trouble the fourth time around! But trouble we have had. I have given up and and thrown the towel in more times than I can recall, but somehow when the next feed is due, I’m there, giving more than I thought I had.

It has reminded me of a song we sing at Passover called Dayenu, meaning “it would have been enough”. The song is very positive – listing all these miracles Hashem has showered on us and saying “If Hashem had just done this miracle, it would have been enough!” but still Hashem blessed us with more!

The piece I wrote was originally written in the opposite way – if I’d just had this one set back, it would have been enough! (Please! ENOUGH already!). But then it evolved and I realised, that at each set back I thought it was over, and it wasn’t. Each set back (though admittedly very painful and hard), was a chance to grow, and stretch further than I realised I could.

This isn’t necessarily a success story. I don’t know how long we’ll last. I do hope we will manage to wean off the supply line and breastfeed normally, but today I’m not confident. Who knows how I’ll feel tomorrow though. 😉

Breastfeeding Dayenu, by Talia Carbis

When she wasn’t gaining weight I thought it was over. 

When she preferred the bottle over the boob I thought it was over. 

When her list of food intolerances were completely overwhelming I thought it was over. 

When I first had to use formula I thought it was over. 

When I could only pump 20ml in 2 hours I thought it was over. 

When we didn’t see the LC till she was 3 months old I thought it was over. 

When we discovered the extent of her mouth problems I thought it was over. 

When I broke down crying (again) (and again) I thought it was over. 

When I was so angry I screamed I thought it was over. 

When I was so desperate I begged my baby to feed normally I thought it was over. 

When my breast pump died (two of them!) I thought it was over. 

When I was sick and had to go to the hospital I thought it was over. 

When we went for weeks on the bottle with no breastfeeding I thought it was over. 

When we realised she also had a tongue tie I thought it was over.

When she started getting distracted in the breast I thought it was over. 

When I couldn’t get the hang of the bloody supply line I thought it was over. 

When I realised how much washing up was involved in feeding this baby I thought it was over. 

When my supply dipped I thought it was over. 

When she got a hectic cold that lasted two weeks I thought it was over. 

When her low muscle tone was still so low, after all the work I thought it was over.

When I was 1 month in to my days revolving around pumping, supply line, washing up, repeat I thought it was over. 

When I was 2 months in to my days revolving around pumping, supply line, washing up, repeat I thought it was over. 

When I was 3 months in to my days revolving around pumping, supply line, washing up, repeat I thought it was over. 

When I lost a part of the supply line I thought it was over. 

When I lost the tape I thought it was over. 

When COVID hit I thought it was over.

When I found out I now had to homeschool 3 children on top of it all I thought it was over. 

When she got all tight again and I couldn’t get in to see the chiro I thought it was over.

Wen she was underfed and constipated I thought it was over.

When I realised she wouldn’t even close her mouth without the supply line starting to drip in I thought it was over.

Today I thought it was over. But it’s not.

Dear Chaya // Seven Months

Dear CC,

Hello my little pumpkin! Oh how I love you. You seriously light up my life, and I am so so so happy to have you as my daughter. Abba and the boys and A are also so happy to have you in our family. We are so lucky. Thank you for bring us so much joy.

Communication: Chaya, at 7 months old you understand your name when called (most of the time). You love to act shy when talking to new people, and play a funny shy face game with us where you busy your head into your chest. It is adorable.

Eating: At 6 months it was 1 packet of food, now that you’re 7 months old we’re up to 2 packets + BLW a day. You love apple, sweet potato, pumpkin, cucumber slices, rice crackers, and, well, pretty much anything!

As far as milk goes, it’s mostly breastmilk these days, with hardly any formula. Even if I do need to give you a bottle I have enough of a stash that I it can mostly be breastmilk and only a little formula. The formula you have is still the allergy one.

We did have a situation a few weeks ago, where you were quite constipated and really restless and just… not happy in the day. It finally clicked to me that even though you had plenty of wet nappies, that you were possibly being under fed, milk wise. You see, this month you’ve been making good headway with the supply line – we’ve had the air tube completely cut off for all your feeds, so that you were sucking more from the breast, and less from the tube. I realised that in doing this you were getting tired easier, and falling asleep at the breast, and therefore not finishing the feed. Because breastfeeding has been super unenjoyable for me this month I just sort of let that be the end of the feed, thinking you had sucked quite a lot from the breast, and that why there was milk left in the bottle.

BUT it finally clicked that probably all these things were meaning (duh – seems obvious in hindsight, and when I spell it out like this!) that you were being under-fed! So I supplemented you a lot with bottles (for a week it was two extra bottles a day), until the last few days, when you’ve really gained the strength you need in your cheeks (such beautiful full cheeks these days!) to feed well. As of now we’re still supplementing with 1 bottle each evening before bed.

Despite all this I’m making really good headway with my milk supply, and have a bit of a stash in the fridge now! I’m off the medication I was taking to increase my supply, and I feel so much better.

Chiro: We had a good report from Jemima the chiro this month, and she said we didn’t need to come back for another month which is great!

Crawling/Moving: You are getting great at the army crawl. None of the other kids did this, and I suspect it’s part of having the low muscle tone. I’ve been encouraging you to crawl properly by holding up your stomach, so that you get used to having the pressure on your arms. The chiro also recommended an exercise we could do to help with strength in this area. With crawling comes the separation anxiety! You’ve been quite the mummy’s girl this month.

Games etc.: Chaya, you love to play the “ah wah wa” game with Daddy when he taps your mouth. You also play peek a boo either on her own (with someone watching) or with others who do the up and down of the scarf. Today we play round and round the garden, and itsy bitsy spider.

Sleep: Your sleep has been mostly good, at least once I worked out the food issue. You still have off days, but mostly a great sleeper. Some night you don’t really wake at all (maybe once), and other nights you wake a terrible lot, but none of us really “wake up” because we just put the dummy back in and continue on. I definitely wish you didn’t need the dummy, because I know it’s not good for you from a breastfeeding perspective or a reliance perspective, but it’s keeping me sane when the feeding issues are pulling me in the other direction.

You are mostly good in the car now on long trips, though if we don’t time it well you can be a bit upset. This month Nana mimi died.

COVD restrictions have eased, and all the big kids are back at school/kindy. It’s just you and me again 3 days a week, and we like this time together. 🙂

Love you my little CC sugar puff. You have beautiful big cheeks now (lots of work from both of us to get them that big!!), and a smile to match! You are just darling.

Love you to the moon and back,

Mama

Chaya’s First Time At Synagogue

It feels like absolutely ages since I’ve been to Synagogue, and I guess it has been a while. Since Chaya was born really, which is which is 7 ½ months now. Before that I went for the high holidays and Sukkot, but wasn’t so regular in the last few months of pregnancy (for obvious, tired reasons!!)

At first it was just regular baby stuff keeping me, and then it was COVID. But with the restrictions easing, and the kids also allowed back at shule this week (for Shavuot and the Shabbat before it was just the minyan), I thought I would also go with CC.

Because it’s been so long since I’d been I was reminded of my very first time at this synagogue, just shy of 3 years ago. There is something so… holy and electric there. I feel the buzz. Our synagogue isn’t big or fancy or anything like that. But it’s beautiful, and welcoming, and it’s home. That’s really how I felt the first time we went there, like I was coming home. The “Amen”s just rolled off my tongue without much thought and with no prior knowledge on what or when to say things, as did the sitting and standing. And this was part of how I knew we were meant to convert.

I think there is something wonderful and holy about the sound of a baby babbling in a synagogue. Chaya crawled around much more than at home (carpets!), and fell asleep in the ergo towards the end so I was at least able to do the musaf Amidah. I loved to see her looking around, and taking in all the Hebrew, and the prayers, and the Torah. It gave me so much nachas to be with her, and to be there again.

As we walked home after shule this afternoon I said to Saadya how much I love going. And even though some Saturdays I would probably have to drag myself out of bed to get ready to go, it is always worth it.

Dear Chaya // Six Months

Dear Chaya,

You are six months old, and so lovely! You’ve been moving around lots this month. What started is scooting along on your back has morphed into dragging yourself on your tummy over to new places, and new things. You can see toys ahead of you and you move to get them.

You love to play “Peek a boo” – where you take a scarf or a blanket and you pull it over your head (all by yourself) and then quickly pull it off again and give a huge smile! You like it when I add my commentary of “Where’s CC?!” and then “There she is!”

You’ve been experimenting lots with food this month, and gone from tasting little bits here and there to chowing down on at least 1 full packet of food every day! You also love to chew on random pieces of food like cucumber and tomato slices, and sample some of our dinner or lunch. We have arguments most days about WHO gets to feed you. Lior, Eli and Ahava all want to take turns (though after a little while it falls back to Dad or I!). You also go totally crazy if you haven’t had solids yet that day and then I eat something while holding you!

This month the big kids have all been home because of COVID-`19. I think you’ve quite enjoyed having them all so close all the time, and they’ve all gotten really good at carrying you around and entertaining you!

We had Pesach (Passover) this month which was really lovely. I had hoped this would be your first time going to synagogue (we can carry things on a Yom Tov, so I would be able to carry you there, which we can’t usually do on Shabbat), but because of COVID… well, you know the drill by now!

Even without attending synagogue our Pesach was still beautiful, and we enjoyed teaching you the ropes!

You sat up this month! The 16th of April 2020 was the first day you sat up for any length of time. In the week after that you’ve gone full steam ahead and I can just sit you down places and let you play! You also have really strong legs that really love to stand up all the time!

We had a yummy gluten free and vegan lemon & poppyseed cake for your half birthday! You like to reach for people, and give beautiful cuddles.

Just before Pesach, when you started sitting up and standing, and moving around a whole heap more your jaws got really tight and couldn’t breastfeed with the supply line at all! It was super stressful, but I trusted my gut and gave you the bottle instead, thinking your tightness was from working these muscles hard learning new skills. By the time we went back to the chiro it was all back to normal and she agreed with my assumptions about why it had happened.

CC, I love you so much. You are such an easy going, and joyful companion to my days. Even the hard days are easier with you. I love you.

Love, Imma

Turning over the kitchen – Pesach 2020

What a sh*t show. Not sure why this year it has been such an intense process. I can’t even remember what last year was like – maybe we skipped some things accidentally?! Used more disposable things maybe… I don’t know, but this year has just been manic.

The purpose of this blog post is to work out exactly what has gone wrong, so that I can make a plan of what I would do differently next year. Already I have started on a spreadsheet to make note of what we use over Pesach and what we need to buy fresh every year. It’s doing my head in going to the store every day, sometimes twice a day, to get another thing I’ve forgotten, and thinking that’s it, no more, only to discover something else I have forgotten!

2020 Timeline:

3 weeks until Pesach (1 week after Purim): Start Pesach cleaning bedrooms, bathroom, and any area I think will need extra time. P.S Kids are now home from school as we start “social distancing” due to coronavirus. Buy a heap of things we need for Pesach like nice dinner service, etc. Do a “chametz audit” – and put pantry into boxes – eat now, can be stored over Pesach, and legit kosher for Pesach. Buy Pesach food. Clean and kasher open pantry area – remove anything not kosher for Pesach and put into the boxes.

2 weeks until Pesach: Continue with cleaning I procrastinated last week. Put kids to work seeing as they’re home they should contribute to Pesach cleaning… Also, buy any additional things I need for Pesach that I forgot last week (spatulas, mixing bowl, grater etc.). Buy more Pesach food. Mess up boxes of food on the ground. Sort them again. Clean lounge, and other communal areas for Pesach, except for dining room and kitchen.

1 week until Pesach: Tovel everything. Buy more things I realise I forgot. Fail miserably at corona-schooling children, entertaining kindy girl, and feeding and pumping milk for baby. Put off Pesach cleaning and make some phonebooks and family home movies. More Pesach cleaning. Clean out pantry and make kosher for Pesach.

6 days until Pesach – Get carried away moving furniture whilst Pesach cleaning dining room and end up re-arrange entire dining room and kitchen. Only just make Shabbat in time.

4 and 5 days till Pesach – was meant to finish all the Chametz the day before, but holding on for one more day, one more day, one more day… Actually finish all the chametz on Sunday. Totally procrastinate doing anything productive on Sunday…

3 days till Pesach – Monday. Do complete turn over of kitchen. But in small chunks making it as confusing and time consuming as possible. Tovel more things, this time at the beach because the Mikvah is now closed thanks to coronavirus. Have various boxes and washing baskets all over the house with random assortments of things that need to be either stored until after Pesach, kashered for Pesach, or put away for Pesach because they’ve just been toveled.

2 days till Pesach – Tuesday. Finally start Pesach cooking. Take bins out. All Chametz therefore REALLY needs to be gone. In the evening do the search for Chametz.

*****************

One of the ways in which I think this has been so stressful is that our kitchen is tiny and finding somewhere to put all the year round items is really hard. This year I tried to pack everything into just a few cupboards as best I could, but I still had plenty to that needed to be stored in boxes. I’m not sure if there’s any way around this – even if I had a bigger kitchen, it would probably still be full. Maybe I just need to be realistic about needing to pack things into boxes.

Next year I think it would be ideal to pack everyone a lunchbox for lunch and also dinner, and send them off with Luke for the day to play outside (please G-D can we be allowed to play outside in a year’s time…), and do a full turn over with no small people around to distract me or need feeding. Doing it in small batches, and trying to feed/nuture/mind other people is super stressful.

Next year – Yes to Luke being on holidays the week before Pesach, no to letting him go into the office to write and play VR every day. I was very out of touch with reality to let this happen.

Next year I really, really, REALLY need to have everything bought and toveled or kashered well in advance of Pesach. Like two weeks out at least. I am writing up a spreadsheet to help me with this. I will write down supplies I feel I am missing over Pesach.

Next year, try not to have chametz that need to be sold. It is a total pain in the bum. Some things we can’t help this year – like CC’s formula, and the alcohol Luke got for his birthday a few weeks ago. But moving forward, try not to have extra things like SR flour, and various sauces.

Next year – work out a creative storage solution for the KLP cooking equipment rather than putting it on the bench.

Dear Chaya // Five Months

Dear Chaya,

It seems like a miracle to me that you are five months old. You are really changing and growing up so much, and it’s the most lovely thing.

We started off the month with a bit of difficulty – I’d managed to boost my supply, so you were getting more breastmilk but you were then showing signs of food intolerance – lots of gas and being uncomfortable. More than is normal for a baby. So I got a bit stricter again, and limited other potential allergens. We also stopped using the donated breastmilk which is just dairy and soy free. We will trial it again next month over Pesach (your formula isn’t kosher for Pesach!).

The biggest thing that happened this month was that you got your tongue tie cut! Before now your mouth was so small and your muscles so tight no-one could see a tongue tie. Now that the chiro has done her job we can see it easily. So we got it cut. It wasn’t anywhere near as traumatic or worrisome as people made it out to be! You were a real champ! Just a few days later I could already feel you suck better!

Unfortunately on the Sunday after the cut on Friday (Abba’s birthday!) you got a cold that lasted for 10 days, and we went backwards a bit in that time. You got really tight and didn’t like me doing the exercises in your mouth all the time. I went to the doctor a few times, because you had a fever on and off, a bad cough that was obviously hurting you, and you were a bit wheezy with lots of phlegm. Things are mental at the moment because of the Coronavirus, and I admit I was a bit worried. She said over and over it was just a cold. But man, it stuck around GOOD. So frustrating. Everyone from the LC, to the chiro admitted that the timing was incredibly unlucky for us.

We’ve been through SO SO much in the four months leading up to this, and just when when we should be on the up and up, this happens. But Chaya, I will NOT let the common cold defeat me!! I WILL breastfeed you properly, even if at this stage it will probably be nearly 1 before that happens!

Anyway, you got over it eventually, but were really anti having people poking around in your mouth, and that made it hard to do your exercises. More set backs! But again, we persevered, and now we seem to be on the right track again.

Four, nearly five month old you is really interested in food, even though you can’t sit up yet. You often grab my hands and bring them to your mouth when I’m holding food! It’s adorable, and I don’t recall any of the other kids wanting food as much as you! Perhaps it’s just part of being the youngest and seeing so many people around you eat all the time! So far you’ve had a bit of chicken bone broth (homemade), and some pieces of cooked sweet potato, BLW style.

You smile a LOT. I was reminded of it particularly when you were sick and you just didn’t smile much at all. Actually, you were whiny and cried a lot and I found myself teary some days that I missed you and your happy smile! It isn’t just any smile, it’s a BIG smile!

Lior has enjoyed carrying you around in the ergo this month! And all your siblings have enjoyed cuddling you, carrying you, and looking after you. I think you really love them too, because you give them big smiles and turn your head when you hear them! Speaking of turning your head, you’ve been super distracted when breastfeeding lately! Any sound and you turn around to have a peek!

I love you my little CC. You’re a total delight, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that I fall in love with you regularly. I am so beyond glad that you are part of our family!

What Am I Doing Here?

The other night I sat in my car at the traffic lights. It was drizzly with rain – my favourite weather – and I appreciated the way the lights looked through my rainy windshield. I was nearly at my daughter’s kindy, ready for a committee meeting, and I looked out into the distance. I recognised the landscape – the local forest, and another main road in the distance, and then BAM, I was overcome with a feeling of not belonging.

This feeling took me by surprise, and I didn’t like it much.

I was on my way to my daughter’s kindy – a place she and I both love. We love where it is, we love the teachers, we love their philosophy of learning, and it’s nice and close to our house. A house that I (mostly) enjoy living in (though a few extra bedrooms wouldn’t go astray…), in a suburb I like. My boys go to a local school that they love, and that we also think is great.

We’ve lived here for 2 ½ years now, and for the most part this feels like “home”. I like it here. I like my city. I am happy to plan my life to be here for the foreseeable future, and I don’t have much or possibly any desire to go back to where we used to live. I miss the my friends there, and family, and the beach, but I’m not sure we can go back.

So I feel quite at home and happy here. So this feeling of not belonging really caught me by surprise. Where did it come from, and what does it mean? Where DO I belong?

I worry a bit that where I belong is over the seas, and I can’t bear the thought of being apart from my parents.

Grateful

My Chaya, my life. I feel grateful that Hashem believed I was capable enough to be trusted with her. All of her. I’m grateful that every day she makes improvements in the way she feeds. I’m grateful that she was born in 2019 – in a time when people understand so much about babies.

I’m grateful that we’ve made it this far. Through failure to thrive, scary times, blood tests, bottle feeding, allergies, formula, supplementing, breast refusal, tube feeding, burning out way too many breast pumps, low muscle tone, mouth problems, overbites, pallet problems, and tongue ties.

I’m grateful it’s Hashem who’s carried me through it while I’ve carried my baby girl through it. I’m grateful for where we are now. Even if we’re still miles off “normal”, we’re still a lot closer then we have been in her life. I’m grateful for her and for the love and joy she brings to our family. I’m grateful for my own mama. For the best husband in the world.

I’m grateful for the challenge and the chance to see myself go further than I thought possible. I’ve definitely given up multiple times, only to pick up and keep going.

I’d never ask to do this again. I don’t think I’d like to repeat the last 4 months, nor would I wish or expect anyone else to ever do it. But I know many people would. I’ve reached the bottom. I’ve cracked open on the floor. I’ve questioned… everything.

But mothers do what mothers do. Im not a hero, just a mama.