Monthly Archives: April 2017

Ready, Set, Rest a Thon!

Have you ever been in a situation where you just had to survive, not think or feel or enjoy—just make it through? This was my experience with Motherhood.

I had always wanted to be a mother. I read all the books, took all the natural parenting classes, achieved my labor and delivery goals, and then I was given this precious, screaming newborn.
But he just kept screaming, and screaming, and screaming. I knew something was wrong. Nothing soothed him. He cried in pain 22 out of 24 hours per day, he never slept, he couldn’t eat. Everything was put on the backburner to solve this problem. It took me 10 months to solve it. 10 months of pure survival-mode hell. I have very few memories of this time. It’s been blacked out.

And as life goes, things improved, but it was not sunshine and roses. Mothering life was very, very hard. And then I was pregnant with baby #2, achieved another dream labor and delivery, and was ready for a second chance to enjoy motherhood. And this next baby cried and cried and cried. Thankfully I solved the problem in 2 months. But this baby required very intense bodywork and occupational therapy and physical therapy and feeding therapy. To nurse her required me to sit up vertical 3x per night… for 21 months. I remember more of this time, yet I was still operating in survival mode daily.

And then I got a severe case of the shingles. Life was getting very good at kicking me when I was down. Doctors would say, “You must be extremely stressed to trigger the shingles.” And I would say, “Doc, this is the least stressed and most-rested I have been in 3 years.” I began having flashbacks of my firstborn’s year that would send me into a tailspin. I would take my children to the park and lay on a towel in the sun because I was physically too exhausted to sit up or push them on the swing or play chase. Why now? Why was I having PTSD and illnesses and intense fatigue now? I had survived the hard part. Now should be better, not worse.

As many mothers have done before me, I put everyone’s needs ahead of my own for too long. My energy tank was blinking Empty. Any little self care effort I made was too little, too late. If your car is on Empty and you put in a ½ gallon, you are not getting far before you break down again.

fuel-tank-empty

Fight or Flight vs Rest and Repair

Your body’s nervous system operates in two modes: Sympathetic and Parasympathetic.stressvs.calm-image
Your Sympathetic Nervous System is responsible for perceiving threats and responding to stimuli. It is your Fight or Flight response. It triggers adrenaline, cortisol, and many other tools to get the body to act. This works well if you wander upon a grizzly during a hike in the woods. However, modern day stressors (work deadlines, schedules, To Do lists, social media political debates, parenting obligations, etc) are keeping us trapped in SNS far too often.

fightflight2

“Its biological opposite is the parasympathetic system of nerves. This is the “rest and digest” system. When parasympathetic activity dominates, healing and regeneration occur. The body performs activities like digesting, detoxifying, eliminating, and building immunity (article).” 18033313_10110816359311051_4317099980779400499_n

To rest we must put our screens away and just surrender. It could be swinging in a hammock, planting a garden, yoga, prayer, meditation, journaling, or sleep. “Sleeping is one way that your body recovers from damage and protects itself against illness,” says Michael Twery, PhD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research for the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (article). I hadn’t slept in 4 years. I was beginning to understand what was occurring.

My chiropractor’s office had a sign “If you listen to your body whisper, you won’t have to hear it scream.” How can I listen better to my body? How can I rest and repair?

My sage friend, Kim Rowe, runs Healing Collectives to target such challenges. Her course focuses on returning to the feminine by learning to surrender, flow, create healthy boundaries, and listen to your body. During her bout with Lyme disease, she took a week off at home to just Be. This sparked the idea that I was in desperate need of a Rest a Thon! I told my sister about this idea and she became my Accountability Buddy to ensure that I made it happen. Sometimes we need a swift kick in the pants to remind us to remove the obstacles we are putting in our own way. AccountabiliBuddies are great for this.

butt-kick

 

My Rest a Thon

18118515_10110816360039591_7452656633071604035_n
I went away for 2 days to just be with my own thoughts. No obligations or things I should be doing. I only focused on myself. I didn’t allow thoughts of work or other real world demands to invade my space. I released ideas of guilt or what others might think of this. I thought about the things I had been burying and avoiding a long time. I didn’t trim, tweeze, or shower. I made everything simple.
Here was what I did all day. Each item took about one hour.

  • awake, lying in bed
  • made breakfast and ate by the pool
  • sat on a rock and stretched
  • laid on a raft in the pool
  • selected trees to set up hammock
  • read book in the hammock
  • phone call with Mom
  • made lunch and ate by the pool
  • laid in recliner by the pool
  • did yoga and guided meditation by the pond
  • laid on raft and read book in the pool
  • laid in the hammock and journaled, no deer tonight
  • made dinner and ate by pool, a baby fawn joined me!
  • shower, face mask, and Yoni egg
  • hand and foot massage during a movie
  • went to sleep early

18033104_10110783986401621_3548724363678178646_n

I filled up my tank. I rested and repaired and boosted my immunity.

This was my Rest a Thon. This was the location, and time, and way that my body would receive rest. And I had to advocate for it. I had to help my wonderfully, supportive husband understand why this Rest was absolutely necessary, and how this rest did not reflect on him as a husband, father, and person also needing rest. This was about Me and my needs. When we put our own needs last for a long time, our support team may need some time and conversation to help them adjust to the change. The people closest to us generally want to do right by us. We just need to show them how. No one was going to gift me a Rest a Thon no matter how much I thought I deserved it. I am an adult, I suddenly realized I didn’t need anyone’s permission or blessing to create this for myself. I felt selfish, and it felt damn good.

Your Rest a Thon may look very different. In fact, it should. We are all individuals.

This is not a new concept that Mothers burn out, Mothers need a break. But perhaps putting these stories out in the open will allow a new normal, that mothers take more breaks before they reach breaking point.
Jennifer Tow, IBCLC, focuses her work on the principle ‘Heal the Mother, Heal the Baby.’ Imagine how much more our children will get from us when we take the time to address our needs and prioritize our health.

My Rest a Thon was appropriately timed because I returned home to my husband and sweet children. Later that night, my son began vomiting and fever, and my husband left for a 24 hour shift. This is life. But now I was prepared. I was rested. I was able to mother him with kindness and gentleness instead of being sent into a Fight or Flight response.

My goal is not to frequently need a Rest a Thon. My goal is to regularly keep my tank filled up with consistent self care. If there are major events that require deeper healing and rest, then I know that a Rest a Thon is a wonderful way to top off my tank. I will keep it in my Self Care toolbox.
Happy Healing!

Using Bacteria to Recover My Child from Autism

autism
Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.- Albert Einstein
Last weekend, my 3-year-old daughter and I were grocery shopping. She busied herself narrating a vegetable monologue, while I bagged up some bananas. Another shopper stepped between us, and my daughter lost sight of me. I silently watched to see how she would react. Her eyes darted around to find me, and then she hurried over to stand nearby.

A giant smile spread across my face.

Less than 18 short months ago, my daughter would have happily gone home with any stranger in that store. She did not know who I was. She did not know who her father was. And we cared for her 24/7.

If you look closely at my daughter’s bed, you will notice adhesive residue all over the frame. At 8 months of age, I found her in bed with a black eye. That same day, my husband taped foam pipe insulation around each bar of her crib. We were trying to protect her – from herself.

She was fearless, and seemed almost immune to physical pain. Her hyperactivity was extreme. She had a constant and relentless nervous energy that bordered on seizure-like behaviors. An MD specialist told us that her fixation on tiny objects, and repetitive physical movements, were early signs of Autism.

Then there were the developmental delays. Sitting up, rolling over, standing, walking, talking – she was significantly delayed on every milestone.

Along for the ride were the medical issues. Food sensitivities to EVERYTHING, GERD, a primary immune deficiency, epic insomnia, bacterial imbalances, appetite loss, failure to thrive, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. That’s just what I can remember.

TODAY- she is unequivocally one of the happiest, healthiest, most loving and charismatic 3-year old’s you will ever meet. The journey between then and now has been epic, and life changing. I would not wish what we have been through on my worst enemy.

It was years spent poring over research studies, and learning from other parents on a similar path. I sought out doctors who understood the source of my daughter’s issues. We used lab work to identify vitamin/mineral deficiencies, and supplements to fill those gaps. We rotated nutrient dense foods, to prevent her immune system from reacting to them. We identified and eliminated any foods and food chemicals that provoked acute reactions in her. As much as possible, we reduced exposure to toxins from food, water, household cleaners, detergents, soaps, lotions, fragrances, cookware, vaccines, medications, and electrical devices.

And I prayed, pleaded, screamed, swore, cried, and begged. Some days were better than others.

But everything helped, and she recovered. Slowly. But as the months went by, we hit a wall. She was better – much less violent and self-injurious. I fought to convince myself that this might be as good as it would get. And I continually reminded myself how much worse it used to be. But, I could not shake the feeling that we were still missing something.

I heard a gentle, yet constant message: “This is not your daughter.”

So, I continued my infinite quest for answers. Soon after, a book showed up in my recommended feed. It was titled “Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain-for Life”, and it was ranked #1 in the category of Autism.

From the very first page, I could not put it down. It was like reading my own personal medical history. Heavy childhood antibiotic use – check, poor nutrition – check, frequent illness – check, food/chemical sensitivities – check, frequent GI distress, anxiety, insomnia – check, check, check.

And more importantly, were the parallels between the author’s patients and my daughter. The stool analysis of a young Autistic patient revealed he was missing an important strain of beneficial bacteria. Chills immediately shot up and down my spine. My daughter’s stool analysis lab results were identical to this child’s. The author suggested the patient’s mother try introducing probiotics with the missing strain(s) directly to his colon. Long story short, that child is no longer Autistic.

I was intrigued. Our integrative MD had suggested a probiotic suppository in the past, but it had been lost in the sea of our treatment trials. Now armed with the knowledge of how it might help my daughter, I was compelled to try. I contacted my colonic hydro-therapist for advice on how to administer a liquid suppository to my toddler, and probiotic dosage recommendations.

The results were nothing short of miraculous. Of all the treatments we have used, none have had the dramatic effect this did. Almost exactly 48 hours after the first treatment, she slept 14 hours through the night. And she woke lethargic. I thought something was wrong, that she must be sick. She was not sick. Her physical body was simply exhausted. This poor child’s nervous system had been operating on hyper-drive for nearly 2 years of her life. And now, it had finally downshifted.

Two weeks after the first treatment, she hugged me for the first time ever and soon began calling me ‘Mama’. A week later, she saw something that startled her on the television and came running to us for comfort. She took a minor fall on the kitchen tile, hit her head and began to cry. These might sound like normal childhood behaviors, but they were all new to her.

Within a month of starting the treatment, her hyperactivity reduced dramatically. She could sit with me long enough to read a short book, or watch a television program. And she continued to sleep a solid, uninterrupted 10-13 hours. Every. Single. Night.

Her energy, pain, and fear thresholds all normalized. She began to exhibit empathy and caution. Her epic tantrums subsided, and her extreme mood swings were replaced with a calm complacency that I didn’t even know was possible. There were countless subtle changes in her, too many to remember and list.

In short, I met my daughter for the first time when she was about 19 months of age.

I cry tears of happiness every time I share our experience with someone, and as I’m writing about it now. It still feels completely unreal that a teaspoon of probiotic-rich water – gave me back my daughter. I don’t know that this treatment will work the wonders for anyone else that it did for us. But I want to tell our story, if it means it may help even one more child.

With Peace & Love,
-Tracy