For the Love of Babywearing: My Personal Experience with the 5 Baby Carriers I Own

My new ERGOBaby carrier arrived in the mail yesterday. Yippee! Yes, Emily is 8 months old and I just bought ANOTHER baby carrier. Well, in my defense, they’re all different. And I absolutely love wearing Emily. I would much rather wear her and be able to kiss her head than push her around in a stroller any day of the week. I thought I’d spend some time sharing my personal experience with all of our baby wraps. I’ll go in chronological order from the time each of them arrived in our house.

1) The Beco Gemini

This was the first carrier I got and it is hands down my absolutely favorite carrier. It’s very comfortable for me to wear, and the buckles are a cinch to clip. I clip the waist belt on, place Emily either facing out or facing in, throw one of the shoulder straps across my back and clip the buckle under my opposite arm, and then do the same with the other shoulder straps. Three buckles and I’m done. I’m so good with this carrier that I can lift Emily out of the car seat, place her in the carrier, and then start walking towards my destination while I’m buckling the shoulder straps. This carrier also has a hip-carry option and a back-carry option. I started using this carrier the moment she hit 8 pounds (and maybe a little sooner), and it was so easy that I haven’t stopped. I also tried out the back carry position a few weeks ago, and after a few practice tries that didn’t go so well, I got the hang of it. I get so much more done now! She weighs 16 pounds now, and carrying her in the front is starting to feel like I’m 20 months pregnant — a little overbalanced! Now I can vacuum, do laundry, do dishes, and walk and hike with a 16-pound baby and her weight distribution on me is terrific. I love this carrier!!!! It has a weight limit of 35 pounds, which means it will stay in our household a long time. If I could only have one carrier, I would have this one and ditch all the others.

2) The Moby Wrap

When Emily was born, she weighed 6 pounds 14 ounces, and dropped down to 6 pounds 4 ounces. The Moby Wrap was absolutely perfect for my sweet little newborn. I wrapped her up in the newborn hold, and both of us just thrived on it. We would sit in the hammock swing together, her in the Moby Wrap, and me just swinging and looking at this beautiful baby (and kissing her head). Once she got to be 8 pounds, I started using the Beco Gemini and haven’t looked back, but I treasured this as a newborn carrier.

3) The Maya Wrap

I also used this when Emily was born, and I’ve used it off and on. It’s a gorgeous sling, with green woven stripes, but it’s not my favorite. The Maya Wrap is a ring sling, and I’ve never quite got the knack of cinching the strap down in the rings. When I watch the process on YouTube, it looks so easy, like you could do it in your sleep. Then when I do it, the rings slip off my shoulder and the fabric gets all bunched up in the rings. You might say that I’m ring wrap-challenged. And it pulls on whatever shoulder it’s slung over. Ouch! My body hurts enough from lifting and carrying Emily around all day. I want my baby carrier to make my shoulders feel like I’m not carrying a baby at all. HOWEVER, this seems to be the perfect carrier for the dinner table. I put her in the sling in the hip-carry position, and she can face outward and interact with us without her head being in the way of my getting food into my mouth. She also has her hands free in this wrap, and can hold onto a spoon and gum it while the rest of us are eating. And since she’s in a sling, that means that MY hands are free to eat dinner with. A win-win situation, so I’m keeping this wrap around.

4) The Baby Bjorn

I read so many negative comments about the comfort level of this carrier on Amazon.com that I didn’t want to get one. But my husband didn’t like the fit of the Beco Gemini. It was uncomfortable on him. He said that when his son, Levi, was a baby, he carried Levi around in the Baby Bjorn and loved it. He complained so much about the Beco Gemini that I broke down and bought him a Baby Bjorn. Problem solved. Sort of. I was curious, so I tried the Baby Bjorn myself. Meh. I didn’t like it. It pulls on my shoulders and my mid-back, and my shoulders hurt within the first 5 minutes of putting it on. But John has loved it and it’s been his go-to carrier for months. I think that for broad-shouldered men, this is just a more comfortable carrier for them. But now that Emily is 16 pounds, he’s been complaining that her weight is pulling her forward and pulling on his shoulders more. The Baby Bjorn is supposed to go to 25 pounds, but he’s probably going to stop using it soon because the ergonomics work better for a smaller baby.

Last, but not least:

5) The ERGOBaby

Like I said, this one just arrived in the mail yesterday. I bought it primarily for my husband to replace the Baby Bjorn, but I took it for a test drive today. Pretty good! I can carry her in the front comfortably, and getting her in the back carry position is easier than with the Beco Gemini. I even nursed her in the front carry position, and I will say that while the other carriers boast that you can nurse a baby in them, I never got the hang of it. But for the Ergo Baby, I just pulled out a boob and stuck the nipple in Emily’s mouth. She nursed for quite a while in that position. Damn, that was easy! It’s got a privacy hood too, but I was at home, so I didn’t care. The straps are well padded and comfortable, and there’s a zippered pouch in the front. My husband will love that! The only minus is that you can’t wear your baby forward facing in this carrier. The Beco Gemini and the Baby Bjorn are better for that. But the ergonomics of a hip strap to distribute the baby’s weight over your hips rather than your back combined with comfy shoulder straps is pretty good. Both the ERGOBaby and the Beco are my favorite designs. Oh yes, one more minus: there’s a chest strap that you need to buckle, and you need to move it way up in order to reach it to buckle it when it’s on your back. Some people might not be flexible enough to reach behind them and clip that buckle, let alone unclip it. And then you need to move it way down if you switch to a front carry (or else the strap is choking you). It doesn’t move up or down particularly easily, and I thought this logistical detail was a bit of a pain. But when the strap is buckled, it really makes a huge difference in the comfort level of your shoulders. The weight of the baby is distributed quite nicely. The weight limit of this carrier goes up to 45 pounds, and I can see why. I felt like I could carry Emily for hours in this carrier.

Well, there you have it. I hope this review is useful to some of you out there in cyberspace.

Cloth Diapering: How Many Diapers to Buy

How many diapers?

How many diapers?

How many cloth diapers do you need? That’s a good question. We’re 8 months into cloth diapering, and I have some pearls of wisdom to share my personal experience as well as from all the other blogs and YouTube videos and webpages I’ve stumbled across.

If you’re doing diaper laundry every other day:

  • For a newborn: 24 diapers & 6 covers. Prefold diapers are the best! They are a really good, inexpensive place to start cloth diapering with a newborn. You just fold them in thirds and place them in a diaper cover. Don’t waste your money on cheap Gerber prefolds. Get Diaper Service Quality (DSQ), either OsoCosy brand Better Fit diapers or Green Mountain Diapers Cloth-eez brand. Remember that the more diapers you have, the longer they will last for your child. The fewer you have, the more quickly they will lose their fluffiness and start breaking down (the snaps, the velcro, the elastic, the stitching, the waterproofing, etc.). Change the diaper as soon as it is soiled or wet (at least every 2 hours). You’ll be changing diapers about 12 times a day at first for a newborn, so 24 diapers is a good stash. BumRite Diapers has a “Get Started in Cloth” package that is absolutely perfect and affordable for newborns (in my opinion). Thirsties Duo Wrap covers are my favorites.
  • For a older baby: 18 diapers & 4 covers. You’ll go through about 8 diapers changes a day and you’ll have fewer poop blow-outs when your baby adds solid foods to their diet, so you don’t need as many diapers or covers. Once your baby is around 11 pounds, the pocket diapers and fitted diapers will also fit them better. We have 12 GroVia hybrid covers with 24 cotton snap-in soakers as well as 12 OsoCozy prefolds and Thirsties Duo Wrap covers. I know, I know, that’s more than 18 diapers total. I have extra diapers for a few reasons. The first is that I have an extra stash of GroVia Hybrids at work for my childcare provider to use. I also have extra diapers in my diaper bag and in my husband’s diaper bag in our respective cars. The third reason is that my husband loves the GroVia Hybrids and I love the prefolds and covers, so we alternate between the two styles. Sometimes you just need extra diapers.
  • Get 3 nighttime diapers for your baby (either 3 pocket diapers with microfiber inserts and hemp doublers, or three fitted diapers with diaper covers). This way, you have 2 nights of diapers plus an extra diaper in case your baby poops in the middle of the night and you need to change the diaper. I have 7 nighttime diapers (because I’m a cloth diaper nerd), but 3 is really just fine. I have four BumGenius 4.0 diapers as well as two hand-me-down pocket diapers from CC Bums and 1 fitted diaper from SootheBaby. The CC Bums diapers are my absolute favorites. I stuff them with a microfiber insert plus a Joey Bunz doubler and put a Thirsties Duo Wrap size 2 over the top, and it’s a leakproof combo that doesn’t stink. The BumGenius 4.0 diapers are for my husband, and he does pretty well with them, though I dream about replacing them with Fuzzibunz Elite pocket diapers. I stuff them with the toddler microfiber insert that comes with the diaper and a Joey Bunz hemp doubler.

Other useful accessories that I love:

  • 24-36 GroVia cloth wipes (wet them with plain, old-fashioned water to wipe your baby’s bum and then just toss them in the wet bag and wash with your diapers)
  • 1 GroVia Magic Stick (it’s cloth diaper safe and is amazing for diaper rash)
  • 2 Snappis (used in place of diaper pins, and so each to use, even your partner can do it)
  • 2 hanging wet bags (KangaCare) or diaper pail liners (PlanetWise)
  • 1 smaller wet bag for your diaper bag (Bummis, PlanetWise, or GroVia)
  • 4 doublers for naps and nighttime (the OsoCozy Better Fit infant prefolds work great, and I also love the BabyKicks Joey Bunz hemp doublers)
  • BumGenius Diaper Sprayer for the toilet
  • Diaper pail with a lid(optional)

We live in a small house, so we literally didn’t have room for a diaper pail or a billion diapering accessories. The KangaCare wet bag hangs from the bedroom doorknob within easy reach of the dresser we use as a changing table, and I love it! It fits about 14 diapers, which is the perfect size for 1 load of diaper laundry. It’s also made from a material that is eventually compostable, which I thought was pretty responsible of them. I have one hanging to dry while I’m using the other one for the day’s diapers.

I bought most of my stash from BumRite Diapers, and filled in the blanks with stuff from Amazon.com. Now that Emily is 16 pounds, she’s going to the next size up, and I just ordered a dozen Cloth-eez organic prefolds (red border), 1 medium Imse Vimse wool cover, and 1 Babee Greens medium merino wool cover for her (I love wool covers!) from Green Mountain Diapers. The Thirsties Duo Wrap size 1 covers are going to be retired soon, but the GroVia Hybrids have fit her since she was 8 pounds, and should fit her through potty training! You can also buy used diapers from diaperswappers, craigslist, and eBay.

How You Can Help a New Mom

Newborn EmilyBeing a new mom can be overwhelming. When I gave birth to Emily, I was pretty anemic at first, and walking around made me out of breath quickly. My husband is a teacher, and I birthed the last week of school before summer vacation. He had to go to work and was exhausted himself. Plenty of people wanted to hold the baby to “give me a break.” To them, I ask, “What kind of break did you want to give me?” Holding the newborn baby is the best part. At that time, what I really needed was for ME to hold the baby and rest while other people took care of the finer details of running a house for me. My parents came to visit 3 days after Emily was born and they stayed (in a hotel) for 3 days. Every day, they stopped by the grocery store and brought us rotisserie chicken, olives, sandwiches, smoothie ingredients, and anything else I needed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My dad went out to the garden and installed drip irrigation in my vegetable garden for me (I was going to finish installing it before I gave birth, but…). He installed the diaper sprayer on my toilet (for cloth diapers). Every day, Dad vacuumed the carpets and Mom washed and put away the dishes after every meal. In the morning, they would bring breakfast for me (omelettes, fresh fruit, toast…). They ran to the integrative health pharmacy and picked up a jar of my prenatal vitamins for me. They held the baby while I took showers(that’s when other people holding a baby for you comes in very handy!). They came to visit two weeks later, and my mom filled my freezer with black bean chili, chana masala and rice for later. They drove me and Emily to a chiropractic appointment so that we could get there on time (both of us needed adjustments!), and then we drove to the Department of Vital Statistics so that I could fill out a birth certificate application. I am so grateful for their help, and for those of you who want to help a new mom, I have some suggestions for you:

  • Bring breakfast, lunch or dinner. Ask ahead of time if the mom has any requests, or foods she’s avoiding. Organize a phone tree of friends who can bring meals. Bring food that she can easily eat while holding a baby. Corn on the cob and ribs are downright impossible to eat while holding a baby. Try it sometime.
  • Bring extra food (all ready to go in freezer containers) for the freezer. Chicken soup is a winner (unless you’re a vegetarian).
  • Do the dishes. Wash the dishes in the sink and/or run a load in the dishwasher.
  • Take out the trash and/or recycling and/or compost.
  • Clean the house. This includes running the vacuum.
  • Do a load of laundry for her.
  • Go grocery shopping for her. Ask if there’s anything besides groceries she’d like you to pick up (menstrual pads, Tylenol, nursing pads, diapers…). Costco runs for bulk items are deeply appreciated.
  • Ask her if she needs a ride anywhere to do errands. Getting out of the house can be overwhelming, and having a helping hand is the best!

Last but not least, never forget that a mom still appreciates help long after the baby has stopped being a newborn. Emily is 8 months old now, and getting on toward 16 pounds. I have tendonitis in both of my elbows from lifting and carrying her all the time. I’ve also had a bout with symphysis pubis disorder, which seems to be resolving after two months and four chiropractic adjustments, but it’s made walking while carrying a baby challenging to say the least! Now is the time when I appreciate other people offering to hold the baby for me. Babysitting for 30 minutes or an hour is deeply appreciated so that I can rest my elbows and shoulders.

Having a baby and caring for one is very physically demanding, but the emotional rewards run deep. If you’re reading this to help out a new mom, I thank you for her and for all new mothers out there.

Informing Yourself about Childhood Vaccinations

I’ve been a childbirth educator for the last thirteen years. When I teach HypnoBirthing childbirth classes, I always emphasize the idea that parents become “consumers of childbirth.” By that, I mean that they need to do their due diligence and research and make informed decisions about the medical care they receive during their pregnancies and births. They need to carefully select a caregiver to work with and inform themselves about medical procedures that might or might not be used on them. When my own pregnancy came around this year, I felt like I was extremely prepared for my birth. I was calm and confident, and the birth was a beautiful experience.

Fast forward to two months later, at my daughter’s two-month well baby check-up. Imagine my shock when my pediatrician said it was time to vaccinate her for whooping cough, diptheria, tetanus, pneumococcal disease (PCV), rotavirus, and Hib meningitis. Huh? What? I was completely unprepared. I had never even heard of rotavirus, pneumococcal disease or HiB, so I said yes to the whooping cough vaccination combination (DTaP), and refused the other three so that I could go home and do a little reading up on the subject.

I’m sure I’m not alone here. The first eight weeks postpartum were my babymoon. I was deeply in love and getting to know this new little amazing being in my life. The sudden onslaught of recommended vaccinations completely took me by surprise. If you’re going to be an informed consumer of childbirth, you need to extend your information to the world of vaccinations. In the United States, a child will receive 36 vaccinations by the time they’re five. That’s a whole lot of injections. Inside each injection is a certain quantity of aluminum and formaldehyde as well as the virus or bacteria you’re vaccinating against. California passed a law to prevent drug manufacturers using thimerosol (mercury) as a preservative in vaccines for children under the age of five because of fears of nervous system damage, but there are still some vaccines that have it.

So, what can you do? Educate yourself early, before that two-month well baby check-up comes around. This article is not written to advise you to vaccinate or not vaccinate your child. That is a personal decision that only you can make. Instead, be prepared and do your background research into the vaccines that are used in your area. In California, we have the Hepatitis B vaccine that a baby is injected with at birth, and then there are recommended vaccines for two months, four months, six months, twelve months, fifteen months, eighteen months, and another batch before the child starts kindergarten.

Here’s what I did. First of all, I went online to see what the recommended vaccine schedule was for children in California. Then I compared that with the recommended vaccine schedule from 1974 to get a sense for what the bare bones vaccinations were forty years ago. Then I looked at vaccine schedules that other countries use. And then I started reading books. There are two books that I recommend. One is “The Vaccine Guide,” by Randall Neustaedter, O.M.D., and the other one is “The Vaccine Book,” by Robert W. Sears. And finally, I visited a naturopathic physician and asked him about alternatives to vaccinations. He didn’t recommend or not recommend vaccinating my child, but he did emphasize to me that I can always delay vaccinations. It’s ok to wait. I don’t need to follow the recommended schedule, and there are catch-up schedules that I can follow instead of the regular schedule. If my child catches one of those childhood illnesses that we vaccinate against, we also discussed ways to boost my child’s immune system to minimize the impact of illness on her. He uses homeopathy, which is incredibly effective against childhood illnesses, both in prevention and minimization. Also, I spoke with my pediatrician about spacing out vaccinations so that my baby would only have one injection per visit. It would require more visits, but there is less chance of overwhelming my child’s immune system with too many vaccinations at once.

Be ready for childhood vaccinations before they overwhelm you. Whether you decide to follow the recommended schedule or the catch-up schedule or choose alternatives to vaccination, it’s up to you to research the benefits and the risks of vaccination and to be confident in the decisions you make for your child’s health. There’s a lot of hype in the media from both the pro- and the anti- vaccine groups. It’s up to you to decide what’s best for your child.

Book Review: “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” by Harvey Karp, M.D.

One of my clients recommended this book to me, and I filed its title away in my mind for future reference. And then when I was six months pregnant, I suddenly became very interested in what the heck I was going to do with this baby once she was born. I loved this book. I not only read it, I read it TWICE. It was THAT GOOD.

This book should be required reading for every single new parent out there in the universe. It focuses entirely on the “fourth trimester” — those first three months of the baby’s life outside the womb. The author of the book, Harvey Karp, is a pediatrician in Hollywood, and his premise is that because babies’ brains and skulls are so big, they are born at a time when their heads still fit through their mothers’ birth paths but before they’re actually ready to be outside in the world. In essence, they’re still fetuses for three more months. And they miss life inside the womb. A lot. He says that “colic” doesn’t actually exist — the symptoms of “colic” in a baby are simply the baby wanting to be soothed exactly like it was when it was warmly and comfortably tucked inside mom. The whole book is about recreating that womb experience for new babies so that they can be calm and well-adapted to life in the outside world.

Harvey Karp describes five techniques that recreate the womb experience, what he calls the “5 S’s”: swaddling, side-lying or stomach-lying, shhhhhh-ing (or white noise), swinging and sucking. Swaddling creates a nice pressure all around the baby where the baby is inhibited in its limb movements. My husband thought that this looked like our baby was in a straight jacket. But when you think about it, babies are extremely limited in their movements for 40ish weeks. It’s not a “straight jacket” for them — we’re just anthropomorphising their experience. For the first four to six months, babies have a “startle reflex,” where, if they are lying on their backs (either in bed or in your arms), they feel as though they are falling backwards. To catch themselves, they throw their arms back, and instantly wake themselves up. Swaddling inhibits the startle reflex, and I can’t overemphasize how wonderfully well it works. It doesn’t calm the baby, but it sets up the baby to be soothed by the other four techniques. And by firsthand experience, I can tell you that a baby that wakes herself up every five minutes because of the startle reflex is a very unhappy baby (and her parents probably aren’t getting much sleep).

Ok, now that your baby is swaddled, the other four techniques will finish the job of soothing her. Side-lying or stomach-lying(when you’re holding her) prevents her from experiencing the startle reflex. Only babies who are on their backs will startle. Good to know. So, you’re holding your baby either on her side or facing the floor. Next, you start making a loud “shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” sound. This is a white noise that replicates the loud noise of the blood flowing through your blood vessels when she was inside (kind of like when you are lying in the bathtub and you dunk your head under the water. The water amplifies all of the sounds of your house’s plumbing.). Harvey Karp explains that babies love white noise. It’s the peace and quiet that disturb them. So, air conditioners, fans, white noise machines, and “shhhhhhhhhhhh” sounds calm them down. Adjust the volume of the “shhhhhhh” to match your baby’s volume if she’s crying.

Next, start swinging your baby from side to side. This mimics the lovely hammock-like swinging and swaying they experienced when mom was walking around every day. During my pregnancy, I never really noticed my baby moving around when I was in motion, but she really moved around at night. Maybe she was thinking, “Hey, mom! How about a little movement out there! It’s a little too still and peaceful for me to get to sleep!” You can do little jiggly movements or turn your body back and forth like a top-loading washing machine agitator.

Sucking is last, and Harvey Karp calls it “the icing on the cake.” Babies can either suck their thumbs, your fingers, or a pacifier. This satisfies their hunger, calms them, and soothes them in a fantastic way. Harvey Karp says that if you use a pacifier, the best time is between two to three weeks of age (so that breastfeeding goes well to prevent nipple confusion) and four to five months. Around four months, babies learns to stick their own thumbs in their mouths (sometimes both at once) to soothe themselves, and the pacifier is no longer needed. With some creative swaddling, you can also swaddle your baby so that her thumb is directly next to her mouth, and she can soothe herself at an early age. And now that your baby is soothed, you can put them down to sleep (on their back).

The last few chapters of the book continue with the theme of creating happy babies. One chapter goes into more details about some other tried and true “colic” remedies like infant massage, walking outside with baby, keeping them warm to soothe them, preventing food allergies, treating constipation, troubleshooting feeding problems, dealing with actual acid reflux (which is rare amongst babies), and using alternative medicine like chiropractic, homeopathy, herbal teas, and osteopathy. The last chapter is about baby sleep patterns, weaning your baby off the 5 S’s, techniques for helping babies sleep better, room sharing, co-sleeping, techniques to help prevent SIDS and suffocation, and answers to frequently asked questions.

In conclusion, the contents of this book saved my life, it probably saved my marriage and definitely saved my sanity in my first three months of parenting. For even more information (and for all of those visual learners out there), Harvey Karp’s techniques are featured on YouTube videos, like this appearance on Dr. Phil: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_64-LbhT3M. Cheers!

Massage Therapists: How I Chose a Massage Cream for my Ultra-Sensitive Skin

Sometimes, I think I might have the most sensitive skin on the planet. I know this isn’t quite true, but it has presented some challenges for my career in massage therapy. When I’m working, I wash my hands at least a dozen times a day, which certainly doesn’t help my hands stay moist and supple. And to make matters worse, as soon as a massage oil starts to go rancid (which takes about 2 weeks after you’ve opened the bottle!), the skin on my hands starts to get red and itchy when I use the oil. This goes for all of the massage oils including sesame oil, almond oil, olive oil, or apricot kernel oil. Jojoba oil is a plant wax, and therefore doesn’t go rancid, but I don’t like the glide very much, and it’s EXPENSIVE!!!!! Coconut oil is nice, but it’s way too oily, and my clients smell like coconut macaroons after their massages. So I solved my dilemma for 12 years by choosing a deep tissue massage cream made by a company called Elta in Switzerland. It was hypoallergenic, non-greasy, and it never went rancid. It was my dream cream. Well, guess what? Last year (2012), Elta decided to discontinue their deep tissue massage cream. Jerks. All of a sudden, I needed to find a substitute, and fast.

To conduct my research, I took the opportunity to travel to Seattle to visit my best friend and my very favorite massage supply store, Zenith Supplies. They have a massage oil bar there, where you can buy samples of oils and creams before you commit to a gallon jug. I know I’m allergic to avocado oil, so I vetoed everything with that. Scents bother me, so I nixed all of the scented oils and creams. I also nixed the lotions with herbs like arnica in them, because I don’t want to overload my liver with the herbs that are in my massage cream (remember that the skin is the body’s largest organ, and everything in your massage cream is absorbed into your body to be detoxified by the liver). I looked for “hypoallergenic,” and also brought my pendulum along so that I could do some discrete muscle testing on myself to check for specific allergies to products. I narrowed down my selection to three products made by Biotone and brought the samples with me to my friend’s apartment to use her as a test subject.

I immediately eliminated Biotone’s Deep Tissue Massage Lotion from the running. It didn’t have enough glide for me, and like many lotions, it evaporated and cooled down my test subject’s skin too fast. I stuck with Biotone’s Advanced Therapy Massage Lotion and their Pure Touch Organic’s Massage cream and used both in my massage practice for 9 months.

Even though I had selected two creams that were supposedly hypoallergenic, I started getting eczema on my fingers within the first week of using the new creams. For some stupid reason, I didn’t think it was either of the massage creams, because I had been so careful to select “hypoallergenic” creams, and neither of them immediately caused my hands or fingers to itch immediately afterwards. It also goes to show that muscle testing on yourself (in my case, using a pendulum) definitely has a margin of error. Here’s how I eliminated all of the possible causes of my eczema:

  • I started using gloves every time I washed dishes in case it was my dish soap
  • I gave my cat a bath and converted her to 100% indoor only in case petting her was causing allergies (dirt gives me eczema)
  • I stopped using liquid soap entirely (anti-bacterial soap is especially drying!)  and exclusively used Swiss triple-milled bar soap to wash my hands, because I know that this kind of soap doesn’t dry my hands (it’s expensive, but worth it)
  • I went back to using a personal hand cream that I knew I wasn’t allergic to
  • I converted my shampoo and conditioner to products I knew I wasn’t allergic to

In spite of these precautions, nothing really eliminated the eczema. My index fingers on both hands were scaly and itchy, and I needed to use a nail file to buff them down before each massage client. Lovely. So I knew by simple logic that one of both of my massage creams was causing the eczema.

I figured out the culprit by using only one of the creams at a time for a few weeks to see what my skin’s reaction would be. And voila, the Advanced Therapy Massage Lotion was the culprit. So I gave the rest of my bottle to a massage therapist friend who has no skin allergies, and have stuck with the Biotone Pure Touch Organics Massage Cream ever since. It has a shea butter base, which makes it really thick and difficult to spoon into the squeeze tube I use, but my eczema has disappeared, and my hands are happy once more.

To make a long story short, never give up and keep experimenting with creams, lotions, and oils. If you have sensitive skin like I do, you CAN have a successful massage career and you don’t have to suffer with dry, itchy skin on your hands. The right product is everything.

My HypnoBirthing® Homebirth Story

HypnoBirthing® - The Mongan Method

Emily at three weeks

You might say that I have been preparing for my daughter Emily’s birth since April of 2000 when I took my very first HypnoBirthing® practitioner course in Redmond, Washington with my friend Kathleen. I have been teaching HypnoBirthing® childbirth classes since January, 2001, and I’ve been a Certified Hypnotherapist since 1998. After so many years of teaching, I finally had the privilege to birth my daughter at home using HypnoBirthing®, and I can say now with certainty that when a woman is properly prepared for childbirth, her body knows exactly how to birth her baby. Here is my birth story.

I had my first inkling that Emily’s birthing was beginning when John and I were playing partner cribbage with our friends Jeff and Helen at their house. They had just fed us a tasty late lunch of leftover ribs and Caesar salad and the women were playing against (and beating!) the men. I felt a tightening in my uterus and thought, “Hmmm…labor is going to start soon.” I didn’t mention it to anyone, and we continued to play. We left their house around 4:15 so that John could drop off his son Levi at a friend’s house for a sleepover. John dropped me off at home first, and I asked him to pick up chicken broth, vanilla pudding and sliced turkey at Big John’s market on his way home (I didn’t tell him I thought we were going to have a baby that night). As soon as I got home, I set to work with the pumice stone on the inside of the toilet. I was planning to spend a lot of time in labor on the toilet, and I wanted it to be sparkling!

Toilet project completed, I settled down in bed, got my iPod and earbuds out, and listened to Aaron Aldridge’s “Gentle Surge” album for the next several hours until about midnight(track 1 set on repeat). When John returned at around 6:00, he asked me if I wanted to go to our neighbor’s house to pay our respects for her husband who had recently passed away, and I said, no, I was having uterine surges, and I was just going to stay in bed for a while. I continued to nap and stay in deep hypnosis for a long time, just breathing up with the surges when I felt the tightening in my abdomen. Surges were light and about 20 minutes or so apart at that time. I wasn’t timing them at all or really paying much attention to them. I just wanted to be deep in my birthing body. And I was pretending it was just practice labor to keep my mind relaxed the whole time.

I started needing to get up from time to time to go to the bathroom, and I felt a little cramping that felt like mild menstrual cramps. I passed gratitude on to my prostaglandins for softening my bowel movements and opening my cervix. Then I passed what seemed to be a small blood clot a little before 7 pm, and I texted my midwife (Colette) to let her know. We texted back and forth, and she decided the blood clot was normal, and then we talked on the phone at 8:45 and decided that my mucous plug had released. By this time, I was alternating between lying in bed (listening to my iPod), and sitting on my sparkling clean toilet. Colette decided to come over and see how I was doing, and she arrived a little bit after 10 pm, listened to Emily’s heartrate (it was perfect!), and we discussed whether she should check me or not. I decided that checking me would be some useful information. Plus she’d never checked me before. My cervix was 2 centimeters open, 50% softened, and very stretchy. With that information in hand, I went back to bed to listen to my iPod, and Colette left. I kept pretending to myself that I was in practice labor.

Then at 12:20 I went to the bathroom and threw up (it felt great!). John filled our small bathtub for me and checked to make sure it was around 100 degrees. John texted Colette to let her know I had thrown up (Yay, birthing hormones!), and I texted her to let her know she could come back and we had an extra bed in case it was practice labor. Then I got into the bathtub and lay down on my left side with my inflatable bath pillow under me, and went into self-hypnosis again. The reason I lay on my left side was because Emily’s back had been a little to the right for the last few months of pregnancy, and I wanted to make sure that she spun fully to the front with her butt to my belly button during the birth. I spent a few hours in the tub. The surges were still irregular and just felt like tightening, but they were getting closer together. Colette arrived around 1:30 in the morning. She decided I went into active labor around 2:00 or so. That’s when my surges were coming regularly and getting closer together.

During my pregnancy, I had visualized where I would like to labor with Emily, and I got to spend a little bit of time in each place: several hours in bed in deep hypnosis, a few hours in the bathtub, an hour or so getting on and off the toilet, an hour on the bedroom floor (while John was taking a nap in our bed), an hour in the birthing tub, and about 30 minutes on the bed birthing Emily.

Labor was amazing! It was everything I hoped it would be. I loved the HypnoBirthing® surge breathing. I would take a deep, slow breath in to fill my belly, and then on the exhale, I would moan it out at a low pitch. I had warned everyone ahead of time that I was planning to be fairly vocal during labor because it’s such a wonderful way to move energy through me. It was also a good signal to them when I was having a surge. Did I mention that labor felt great? At one time, when I was lying on the floor, my legs started shaking like crazy. John asked me if I was cold. I said no, it was only birthing hormones. Then Colette came in to check on me. I looked at her with a big smile and said, “This shivering feels GREAT!” It was like energy moving through me in an amazing way. I knew from the shaking that I was transitioning from opening my cervix to birthing the baby. I never felt fear — just a calmness and trust in my body. Poor John kept trying to read the birth companion’s prompt sheet, do light touch massage, feed me, and use the glove relaxation on my arm and in general be a fabulous birth partner. I told him, “No massage, just constant pressure feels great,” as well as, “Just silence, please.” What I didn’t tell him was that I had listened to my HypnoBirthing® birthing affirmations CD so much in the car that the affirmations were a running soundtrack in my mind all night long (“I breathe up every surge to the fullest.” “I see my breath filling a magnificent balloon.” “I work with my body.” “I trust my body to birth, and I follow its lead.” etc., etc.). So, even though I had no music playing and no HypnoBirthing® soundtracks playing from midnight onwards, the Birthing Affirmations soundtrack was with me in my mind all night in a very powerful way.

Colette checked my cervix again sometime around 5:00 when I was lying on my side on the bedroom floor and discovered that I was 8 centimeters open. I had already known that I was going through transition(because of the shaking legs), so it was great validation for me. I thought to myself, “Oh good, I’m going through transition right now and it’s easy.”). Colette said I was so relaxed she couldn’t tell when I transitioned from opening to breathing the baby down (and I didn’t tell her, though I knew when it was). Then I got into the birthing tub and John squeezed my hips with fabulous counterpressure while I bore down. That was great! I didn’t want to get out of that tub. I squatted a bit and laid on my left side with my right leg over the side of the tub for a bit. However, I did get out of the tub and onto bed for the birth. Again, amazing. I lay on my left side and held onto John around his torso (he was kneeling on the floor next to the bed) and rested my right foot on Colette’s shoulder. And I birthed Emily that way. The only two not-so-fun parts were that my hip ligaments were very sore during the last part of birthing as they were spreading and making room for Emily’s descent (but John squeezed the bejesus out of them and that was incredible) and crowning was very stingy, which disappointed me because I had hoped that that wouldn’t happen with me. But I knew that if it stings, it’s your body telling you to slow down and let the tissues unfold and open around the baby. So I slowed down the descent, and let my perineal tissues open around her for about 10 minutes. I focused on moving her down only with my breath. With this technique, I was able to keep my pelvic floor intact with only 3 itty bitty superficial tears on the labia and outer perineum that my midwife sewed up for “cosmetic reasons” only. So, according to my midwife, I was in active labor for 3 hours 5 minutes and breathed the baby down for 1 hour 46 minutes. Not bad, eh? And no tearing of my pelvic floor (yay!). Did I mention that this is my first baby?

Emily is a beautiful baby. She started turning over onto her side within 3 days of being born, and onto her stomach 7 days after birth. She started smiling after the first week. She’s very alert and calm, and spends a lot of time lifting her head looking at the world around her (especially trees). She’s nine weeks old right now. We’re enjoying each other quite a lot, and I attribute her sweet personality to her months inside me when I spent my days in peaceful relaxation, listening to the Rainbow Relaxation at night and the Birthing Affirmations in the car. I feel very blessed and privileged to know her and to be her mother.

How to Remove Rancid Oil from Massage Sheets

In April, I discovered that my beloved deep tissue massage cream had been discontinued. Suddenly, twelve years of using the same fabulous massage cream dissolved in one fell swoop. I broke into a panic and started researching replacements. The reason I loved this cream so much was because of its hypoallergenic nature. I have uber sensitive skin. Most massage creams and oils leave my hands feeling itchy, dry, scaly, and lizard-like, which is pretty bad for the longevity of a massage career. I flew to Seattle and visited my very favorite massage supply store, Zenith Supplies, and bought some samples of creams and lotions for research. My best friend Christine lives near Seattle and volunteered to be my massage lotion testing research subject. She’s so brave. I found two great creams from Biotone, with hypoallergenic ingredients, and have been using them ever since.

Now, here’s the problem. It’s four months into my new massage cream usage. This week, I noticed that my massage sheets are taking on a nasty, rancid oil smell. Yuck!!!!! I am pining for my old deep tissue cream, but it’s not coming back any time soon. So, today I drove to Safeway and bought four cases of Classic Coke (On sale: buy 2 cases, get 2 free).

No, I’m not going on a Coca-Cola drinking binge. My blog is called, “Creating Wellness,” remember?

Did you know that Coca Cola is one of the best degreasers ever? I learned this trick in massage school. One can of Coke emptied into the washing machine along with the normal amount of laundry detergent lifts that nasty rancid oil smell right out of the sheets. It’s like a magic fairy wand. You can let the sheets soak in it for a while, or just run the washer as you normally would. And then, voila! Fresh, clean sheets. Many massage therapists use bleach to pull the oil out. It doesn’t work very well, and leaves your sheets smelling like a rancid hot tub. Yummy.

In the rest of the world, Coca Cola also helps get that stale, human oil smell out of bedsheets. You know what I’m talking about. You pull the “clean” sheets out of the closet, and after you’ve made the bed, there’s an unwashed human smell lingering in the room. Coca Cola is better than linen spray, and a million times better than Tide. With my uber sensitive skin, I don’t want any nasty perfume-y crud rubbing its chemical compounds into my skin. That’s a recipe for disaster.

I found another blog that lists 51 uses for Coca Cola. Let it be known that I have used Coke in the past to remove rust from car brake light wires with fabulous success. Notice that I don’t recommend drinking it. Coca Cola cans are lined with BPA, and the same compound in Coke that degreases my sheets also removes the BPA right along with some of the aluminum from the can. When you drink it from the can, you’re getting all that great BPA along with a shot of aluminum. Keep the Coke in the laundry room.

For the Coca-Cola curious:
51 Uses for Coca Cola – The Ultimate List

You Are Already Hypnotized

I was sitting at the Flying Goat Coffee shop yesterday (typing my blog), and a gentleman approached me and struck up a conversation. He eventually asked me what I did for a living, and I told him I was a hypnotherapist. I’ve noticed that this tends to receive very similar responses. Most people ask me (in defiance): “Well, can you hypnotize me?” as if daring me to try to push against all of their resistance. My natural response is, “I don’t need to. You’re already hypnotized.” People are always a little startled by this. Let me explain what I mean. You have had an entire lifetime of experiences that have caused you to form opinions about the world around you. Those opinions will either lift you up or drag you down in your life. Just by forming those opinions, you have automatically begun to limit your own potential as a human being. The catch is, you formed many of those opinions when you were younger than 10 years old (often the tender age of 3 or 4) and were completely lacking in an adult viewpoint of the world. My question to you is: do you want to be driven by the decisions, emotions, opinions and tantrums of that 4-year-old for the rest of your life?

The subconscious mind is responsible for directing our energy that drives us toward our goals in life. If you don’t set a goal for it, it will either choose its own, or choose a goal that someone else has suggested. And that means — you guessed it– our subconscious mind often chooses the goals that were programmed in us by the things that happened in our childhood (often by our parents). At that point in our lives, we were too young to filter out the destructive messages from the constructive messages, so we took them all in. No wonder we walk around so often in a state of confusion. We are so used to giving ourselves mixed messages that we don’t even know we’re doing it.

Here are some examples for you. You say to yourself, “I would really love to go to the gym, but I never find the time.” Your subconscious mind is working very hard to not find the time to go to the gym, just like you directed it to. Here’s another one. You say to yourself: “I shouldn’t eat that piece of chocolate cake, but I really can’t resist it.” Your subconscious mind is working very hard to drop all resistance to the chocolate cake. Or how about this one: you say, “I want to be in a loving relationship, but no one ever seems to notice me.” Your subconscious mind is working overtime to make you INVISIBLE, just like you requested. The subconscious mind is like the genie in the lamp. It says, “Your wish is my command,” and goes out of its way to make that wish come true. Be careful what you ask for, because your subconscious mind will manifest it for you (in all of its dysfunction). It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

The solution is to get clear on what your actual goals are and to drop the mixed messages entirely. Hypnosis is a great way to go directly to the subconscious mind and upgrade the system software. You can actually grow up that 4-year-old inside of you and bring them with you into your adult perspective. You have more control over what you choose to manifest in your life. How about that? In my previous examples, that would be: 1) Go to the gym regularly; 2) Eat healthy foods; 3) Manifest a loving relationship and be VISIBLE to the world.

My favorite personal mixed message is, “I should really type a blog entry, but I would rather do a billion other things.” Let’s just say I’m transforming that one as I type this. My new inner message is, “I love writing blog entries, and I carve time out of my week to sit down and type. I type especially well with a cup of tea next to me.” If I get to choose the new message, I want it to involve tea. Enough said.

That’s all for now.

Therapeutic Massage — the Top 10 Benefits

The economy is challenging right now, and many people are holding out for special occasions like birthdays to receive a massage. Since an hour massage runs anywhere from $50 to $150, many of us can think of many other ways to spend that money. Rather than thinking of massage as a way to pamper yourself, I invite you to think of it as an investment in your health.

Top 10 Benefits of Receiving Regular Massage:

  1. Reduces or eliminates pain and muscle tension from chronic or recent injuries
  2. Reduces stress and fatigue
  3. Alleviates headaches and lowers the need for migraine medication
  4. Accelerates your recovery from muscle injuries and surgeries
  5. Improves poor posture
  6. Increases joint flexibility and muscle range of motion
  7. Increases circulation and lowers blood pressure
  8. Improves immune system function
  9. Alleviates symptoms of depression
  10. Enhances attentiveness and focus

For more information on the scientific research being conducted on the benefits of massage, visit the website for the Touch Research Institute.