Doing Hard Things Could Be Easy

Recently, I did something that was really hard for me.  In fact, I was completely unprepared for it.  And- some might say- unqualified.  They wouldn’t be wrong.  But other people’s opinions have rarely stopped me from doing what I believe in, love, or am just plain ol’ fired up to do.  #firestarter #changeagent

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I realized a few things in the process:

  • I believe that I can do hard things
  • In fact, I believe that I should do hard things
  • And more importantly, I believe that I should do things that make me absolutely afraid and uncomfortable

I am already 15,443 days old.  The average lifespan is 27,375.  What the hell else am I going to do?  Sit around and wait?

What are you going to do?  #whatchagonnado

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It Should Have Been Me…

Have you ever flashed back to crazy, possibly dangerous, times in your life and thought: “holy crap, I should have died!”

You shudder.  Maybe you look over at your kid, your partner, your cat, or even at your own hands.  You feel your heart beating in your chest.  You feel your breath slide in and roll out of your body.  And in that swift and fantastic moment, you are so fully alive.

Recently I wrote to my Muse-letter followers about being not-dead-today, and being fully alive.  Digging deep and getting a little murky, as I love to do, while contemplating this: what moves you to step boldly from your comfort zone? 42974306_351407882270930_3416594696280501552_n(1)

I share some of my story and thoughts in my piece, and you can subscribe to my list here: Subscribe to My Muse-letter

Cleaning House: Are Chemicals Impacting Your Kids’ Health?

Over a week ago I posted on Instagram about cleaning chemicals and that they can negatively impact our kids’ microbiome.

The way that the microbiome was being assessed and studied was through the lens of childhood obesity.  Ultimately, kiddos who were exposed to more of the conventional cleaning chemicals (even a few times a week), had microbiome changes that seemed to also result in more obesity in those same kiddos.

Bacteria-on-Hands-Square_cropped-600x567Additionally, it seemed like kids who grew up in households with ‘greener’ cleaning products had less of these issues: fewer microbiome changes and lower incidences of obesity.

Some of the questions I still have and didn’t get into with that IG post are:

  • Is obesity really our biggest worry for our kiddos?
  • What does it mean to us that our kiddos are ‘obese’?
  • What does it mean that cleaning chemicals are ‘better’?
  • What other factors could be at play?

As much as I LOVE and appreciate microbiome knowledge-bombs, I admit that I have a knee-jerk reaction to the information- and even my own post.  One of the things that I have been challenged by through my entire clinical life is to present information and offer informed choice without fear.

As an integrative family medicine provider, I witness quite a bit of parenting fear.  Mostly it’s the usual fears of keeping kids alive, safe, and healthy.  But I also hear many fears of doing everything ‘right,’ being a perfect parent or having the perfect birth, not putting ‘toxic’ things into their bodies, or feeding kids a ‘healthy’ diet.

While these fears are also normal and common, they contain elements of elitism and also judgement.   In order to be perfect, right, healthy, or non-toxic, we have to identify what all of those things even mean.  And possibly denigrate or reject things that don’t fit the bill.  To be ‘perfect-right-healthy’ is somewhat grounded in privilege and access.

I can take a great example, sheepishly, from my own parenting.  Some years ago we drove by the McDonald’s near our house that has a giant Play Place.  My son asked to go for the millionth time.  I said “Nope, that ball pit is nasty” and made some reference to the food being poison. It was an off-hand, distinctly thoughtless comment made while driving, but definitely belied some judgement, right?

Months later some good friends came over and brought McDonald’s.  Their son wasn’t really up for what we were making for dinner, and they pre-empted the discomfort and brought something that they knew he would eat.  After they left, my son asked me in a quiet and worried-sounding voice, “Mama, why did they feed him that?  Why did they give him poison?”

Well, if that doesn’t guarantee me #1 Doctor-Mom Of The Year, I don’t know what does.  mom-of-the-year-image

While I appreciate all of the insight that we can gain into the mighty microbiome and into childhood metabolic disruptions (of which obesity could be a manifestation), what else isn’t being said?

Families who are prioritizing green cleaning chemicals may also be making different choices about dietary inputs, physical activity, and/or sleep.  They may have the privilege and access to make these choices.  And all of these choices can also affect the health of our microbiome, and could also be correlated with obesity or the lack thereof.

While it might be tempting to make the leap that green cleaning = less obesity, keep in mind that there are so many dimensions to health.  Let’s be careful and thoughtful about our goals, the meanings we make, the level of ‘perfect-right-healthy’ we think we have acheived or not, and whether they are proper companions in our walkabout to well-being.

Resources:

#wellbeingwalkabout #childhoodobesity #socialdimensionsofhealth #perfect #right #healthy #mightymicrobiome #parenting

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Why Does My Brain Feel Like it is Leaking?

An interesting article was published this past Summer on the very real, little-discussed changes that occur in the brain of a pregnant, postpartum, and/or caregiving person. Mommy-brain-2

There are a number of rapid and monumental changes that happen to the portion of our brains that control social-emotional processes or the “ability to atttribute emotions and mental states to other people- key to raising a human.”

“The more brain change the mothers experienced, the higher they scored on measures of emotional attachment to their babies, a finding that echoed past studies. And the changes in most brain regions remained two years later.”

Whoa.  Two years?!

What is even more fascinating is that this change was most profound in the parents who were also pregnant, but was not limited to them.  Caregivers other than the birthing parent,  including fathers, experienced some of these same changes that correlated with how much ‘exposure’ they had to the babies and children.

For many of us who have been pregnant, postpartum, and/or a parent, we already know that this is true.  It’s not just our bodies that change.  Something else changes that never goes back to its original configuration: our brains.  Maybe all the time we spend consumed with getting bodies back is more about getting our brain back; a more tangible and socially-acceptable pursuit.  All the while knowing, in the murky recesses of our changed brains, that the worry, the conjured scenes of certain death, and deep guilt over every imperfect moment will never leave us.

What if we better understood what was happening to our brains and not just our bodies?  Would it change our relationship to postpartum and parenting?  Would it reframe what we experience as depression, anxiety, or plain-old feeling like we are losing our minds?  Would we reach for help, talk more openly, or simply settle into it more easily?

Would you?

This spins other spirals of thought for me also.  Is it possible for this effect to be compounded?  If we have more than one pregnancy, more than one postpartum, and, truly, more ‘exposure,’ do our brains continue to change? Do the changes add up? Do these spaces in our brains grow deeper and wider?

I wrote a new installement of my Muse-letter, due to break later this week, before I even read this article.  Ironically, it touches upon parallel notes of exposure, changes, and leakiness of our hearts and emotional selves.  And, of course, I have to ask: what is the gift?

What new wild and remote expanses of our minds can we now saunter through that were not accessible before?  In what ways can we empathize, understand, or simply be with our fellow humans that were not as effortless?

Children and change have a lot in common. Endless. Relentless.  Generous with their gifts.

What are your favorite gifts?

#pregnancybrainisreal #postpartumbrainisreal #parentingbrainisreal #changeisreal #giftsarereal

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Identity and Being All Things

At times it seems like our world is hyperfocused on identity. As if we were ever just one thing.  Some days, I have more labels than I care for .  duality

American.  Indian.  Person of Color.   Woman.  Mother.  Partner.  Daughter.  Sister.  Working parent.  Fierce friend. Heteronormative. Doctor. Midwife.  Teacher. Writer. Witch.  Outspoken.  Boss. Bitch.

They are not just names, but roles and ways of showing up in the world.  Some are chosen, some assigned by others.  But ultimately ways of being seen, heard, and having an existence carved out.

Inhabiting space.

Those labels and roles can also feel like work.  Heavy and straining, rather than freeing or illuminating. How can one person be so many things to so many people?  How can so many different people inhabit one person?

In truth, we are much more pliable and adaptable than we think.  Some of these roles are our backbone, some are more like jewelry.  Some really hold us up, others make us look good.  All of them help us step out and show up.

I think a lot about grit and resilience.  What makes some of us able to bear the weight and keep walking, and others to falter or collapse altogether?  What does it mean to be resilient?

Perhaps some of these roles and labels are part of being and becoming resilient.  The more roles we play, the more diversified our skill set.  The more directions in which we are tugged, the more nimble our footwork.

And perhaps resilience is creating a life where these roles and labels can all be present and true, and they are neither burdensome nor fracturing.  Like subatomic particles that push and pull on one another, but ultimately take their place and contribute to the integrity and design of something whole and complete.

#inhabitspace #bemagnetic #resilience

subatomic particle

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Flossing…not just a dance move

You have probably been reprimanded, just as I have, by your hygienist and dentist to floss more.  The reasoning that we are often given is that it helps agitate and dislodge the tartar and plaque buildup, reduces the resulting and/or ongoing inflammation in your gums, and reduces the chances of gum disease.  All seems pretty true to me.  If you leave crusty crap bumping up against soft tissue, the tissue is going to get angry.

What might not be part of the discussion is that flossing is also preventive for some downstream effects that we might not associate with it.  For example, blood sugar irregularities, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  Again, it all seems pretty true to me.  If you leave angry tissue captured in your body, and especially in the entry point to your entire digestive tube (think: end to end), it’s going rogue, right?

Check out this article for more details: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/flossing-inflammation-blood-sugar-balance

And really, just floss

PS- Yes, I am a total cornball.  Consequences of being a mom to a 7 yo ūüôā

Grief Work is Life Work

Got a chance to talk at the Breastfeeding Beyond the Hospital Stay conference this week in Seattle. No action shots this timeūüėŹ

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One of my favorite things to delve into right now is our secondary trauma as caring professionals. The grit and the sheer will that has to be part of our sustainability. And the burnout that often follows. .

Maybe it sounds grim. But this is what juicy to me right now. Watching my own rise and falter under stress, trauma, and grief. And doing exactly what my grandmother (one I never met as she died related to pregnancy loss) told me in a dream. “Your work is to heal the grief of our family.” .

I don’t even pretend to heal anyone else’s grief. But I hope that talking about it, saying it aloud, helps others do their work ūüíĒūüíĖ

#griefworkislifework #griefworkismywork #traumacareforcaringpeople #wedontgetoutoffthislifealive

https://www.instagram.com/enatmed/?hl=en

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In an effort to walk my talk

“One Minute is Better Than Zero Minutes.”

I say that often, probably every day. ¬†And I believe it. ¬†There are articles out there that discuss the cumulative effect of meditation or prayer, exercise, healthier eating, and even sleep. ¬†But that isn’t the only reason why I believe it and say it.

The goal for myself and the people I see each day is not a matter of A+B+C= better health later. ¬†I want people to feel a little bit better, smile a bit more, and enjoy everything they have going on in their lives a bit more each day. ¬†Even when it’s crazy, full, busy, or whatever other word we use to describe our lives that also chips away at our appreciation of it.

What if the tasks we set ourselves are actually out of reach or are not sustainable? ¬†What if that 60-minute meditation or 10,000 steps are just not going to happen today? ¬†Well, now the day is crazy AND we didn’t do the thing we were supposed to do to relax and de-stress. ¬†Fail.

But what if it was attainable and sustainable?  Truly, we could do one minute.  And some days we might get a few more.  Could we feel successful?  How would it change our days to feel successful in doing something to care for ourselves?

I am in my office 12 hours a day and doing anything for myself isn’t going to happen unless it happens at work. ¬†So I play around with things that make me feel like a self-care ninja. ¬†I feel like I am cheering on my one year-old self. ¬†Amazingly enough, they help with my mental energy and my overall feeling about how my day went. ¬†It is often really simple stuff:

  • I take the long way around the office and grab a glass of water
  • I lay out on my floor and stretch for 1 minute
  • I do a plank for as long as I can
  • I walk out the back door and breathe a bit of fresh air
  • I eat a carrot instead of a dark chocolate peanut butter cup

What can you do in your day to secretly engage in a bit of self-care and be successful now?  Let me know what you come up with!  Take care, Dr. S

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Midwifing the Midwife

It goes without saying that there are dozens of people who make it possible for midwives to be there for families. ¬†And it’s not just being able to pick up where we leave off. ¬†It’s continuing to be on even when we return home and to work without sleep and still drifting between reality and the surreality of birth. ¬†Despite carrying our own special streaks of wildness and independence, we must live humbly in community as it is impossible to survive without.

Our partners, kids, parents, extended families, friends and ‘framily,’ and co-workers don’t always love the life they have unwittingly walked into with us. ¬†That wildness and independence is at once captivating and overwhelming, even for us midwives.

This article reminds me again how intensely grateful I am.  Thank you.  http://www.mothering.com/articles/married-to-the-midwife/

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This whole food allergy thing is nuts

If you were listening to NPR this week (listen here), you may have heard that feeding babies peanut products prior to 12 months of age is actually preventive in terms of developing true allergies to peanuts.  Not too long ago, we were recommending to parents that they wait until 3 years old to start nuts.  Then the advice and the guideline shifted to waiting until one year old.  Sound confusing?

What can be frustrating and is fascinating to me is that what we ‘know’ about nutrition is¬†always changing. ¬†The world of food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities (they are not the same thing in my books) is no longer a small and isolated world. ¬†Phrases like ‘gluten free’ and ‘vegan’ show up on even the most mainstream of menus. ¬†It is no surprise that we are learning more about the things we put in our kiddos bodies, not just from a biochemical nutrition perspective, but also as allergy prevention.

Based on articles in the last few years (some links below) and my own observations, it seems like the ‘sweet spot’ for introducing foods is 4-7 months of age. ¬†By introducing, I mean offering tastes and sampling of different foods and creating a palate that is curious about and enjoys different flavors and consistencies. ¬†The other aspect of food introduction is to induce or educate the immune system gently to prevent allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities. ¬†What we introduce during this time is the part that changes the most. ¬†Last year I would have said peanuts were not on this list, now they are a maybe. ¬†I would also like to offer that the quality and wholeness of the food is important in this process of introduction.

Here are some other ideas I have people keep in mind:

  • Start by looking at your own plates; if there isn’t anything on there that you would like to introduce to your five month-old maybe it doesn’t need to be in your body ūüôā
  • Work from your family’s diet and your goals for family eating. ¬†You are introducing a way of eating and a way of life. ¬†If you are not happy with the way your family eats, the time to change is when you have little people really paying attention.
  • Introduce slowly at first, taking 2-3 days to see how your baby reacts to food¬†at first. ¬†Then you can speed it up a little as you watch them take to eating, digesting well, and being interested in more.
  • If there are foods that parents and/or other siblings react to, try to introduce those foods all on their own so you can see if that is true for this new eater.
  • Worldwide, eating together is the way that we share our love, appreciation, and connection with one another. ¬†Let that be the center of food introduction and family eating for years to come.

Enjoy!  Dr. S

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More reading:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-12/health/ct-x-0912-food-allergies-20120912_1_food-allergies-environmental-allergies-first-child