Friday, January 29, 2010

Post Cesarean Recovery or Abdominal Binding (Wrapping)

This post is for the host of women out there who will experience pain in their incision weeks out from their cesarean delivery... who will be discouraged thinking that "everyone else is recovering quicker" and "why do I still have such pain when I stand up?"

This post is for those women who have had multiple pregnancies and cesareans... who have muscles and skin that have lost the elasticity of a first pregnancy and will feel more pressure on the incision as it takes more time for their abdomen to regain its strength and shape.

And this post is for those women who need to hear that they are not alone in their disheartening recovery process... who need to hear that other women have experienced the same pain, discomfort and discouragement.

Three and a half weeks postpartum, I found myself still unable to stand for any length of time without feeling serious discomfort in my incision. In every other aspect, I had healed beautifully. Yet I had a fold of soft skin and muscle (and maybe some fat too), that scrunched down on my incision and pulled on it as I stood. It wasn't a big fold at all, but it was enough to keep me in constant pain when I was vertical.

In desperation and discouragement, with the words of other moms saying "I was at Walmart the week after my c/sec!" or "I was back to my exercise routine by four weeks!" echoing in my head, I searched online to find out just how long it is common to have pain in the incision area. Surprisingly I found that for most women it is two to three months. And for nearly 20% it can be as long as a year. That made me feel less like a loser. (I'm being honest here... does anyone else have their expectations crash into reality?)

Well, in my search that evening, I also began to read about abdominal binding or wrapping. Abdominal Binding:

  • puts tissues closer together so that the abdomen can heal quicker
  • holds the organs in place (since they were moved during the c/sec) so that a woman doesn't feel that "everything is about to spill out of me" sensation when she gets up or rolls over
  • supports the lower back while the abdominal muscles strengthen
  • claims to help get the body back to pre-pregnancy size quicker (don't know about that one yet!)
  • and, most importantly for my experience, supports the incision so that there is less pressure and strain on it while it heals.
I was a bit skeptical, as I always am. But I had my husband stop at a nearby maternity store and pick up a postpartum belt that very next day. While the particular belt he picked up wasn't designed specifically for c-section recovery as the ones I saw online were, I needed something quicker than shipping time would allow. (Just a note here: I wear the belt two inches lower than my incision so that I get the needed support, unlike the picture on the box where the woman wears it more on her middle.)

That was probably the smartest move I made for this recovery! Really, it has made all the difference. Like I said, I was hardly able to be vertical. With the belt, I can actually get food on the table for my kids AND do the cleanup... nothing elaborate yet though, just basic food. Being able to maneuver around is a necessity for mothers with older children... not any "exercise" yet, of course, just moving through the house.

I share all this because I can't imagine how I would have gotten through this recovery time and taken care of my five children without abdominal wrapping. I am hoping that this post will benefit someone... someone who needs the information today, or someone who finds this information in her search for postpartum help later on. By all means, take the rest you need for recovery, but use abdominal binding to make the necessary moving endurable.

Still recovering,

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Your Questions Answered -- The Daniel Fast

In a recent email, I was asked my perspective on the Daniel Fast. Here goes...

The Daniel Fast is based on this Old Testament scripture:

“In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” Daniel 10:2, 3
The purpose of the fast is for spiritual discipline during a time of prayer -- so that one's energy and focus can turn away from fleshly fulfillment and toward things of God. The fast wasn't developed for nutritional benefits. However, I think that a time without certain foods (a partial fast) as the Daniel Fast prescribes has some secondary benefits to our bodies... not that it was meant at all for our bodies!

Daniel himself ate "no pleasant food" for three weeks. The present day Daniel Fast includes only vegetables, fruits, grains (not leavened), nuts, seeds and freshly pressed, quality oils. Some of these foods seem pretty pleasant to me... I can envision quite a beautiful salad or a fantastic dessert made with only these selective foods! In fact, the cookbook for the fast includes chapters such as "tasty breakfasts," "satisfying casseroles," and "fulfilling snacks." It seems to me, and this is just my perspective, that if one uses this fast for spiritual reasons, the foods listed for consumption need to be kept simple, rather than tantalizing.

But, back to the nutritional benefits. Whether one fasts by eating plain foods from the list or by exciting them up with the corresponding recipes, the body will be benefited from a time to cleanse and purify. While on the fast for three weeks, all meats, dairy, processed foods, sweetened foods and foods with any chemicals or preservatives are to be avoided. Sounds good to me.

The author stresses the importance of reading food labels to make sure none of these ingredients are unintentionally consumed. Sounds really good to me. I love reading labels!

Our bodies need a break from junk. And our bodies can also use a temporary break from meats and dairy. I don't consider those two food groups junk (when they are healthy meats and dairy), but these groups are more difficult to digest. Giving our body simple foods for a time allows more of our energy to be given to detoxifying rather than digesting. And three weeks is an adequate time for that cleansing to happen.

So, to sum up, the Daniel Fast seems like a good idea to me - both for your physical and spiritual health. If I ever use the plan, I think I'll opt for keeping it simple... if anything, keeping the meal preparation simple would give me more time for prayer.

And, one more suggestion: after the three weeks is up and you welcome healthy meats and dairy back into your diet, you may still want to leave the sugared and processed foods out permanently.

I've got a handful more of your questions to address over the next few days, as time allows. I welcome more if you want to put them in the comments or email them to ae @ healthbeginswithmom . com.

For your health,

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Apology, a Thanks and an Encouragement

When I got married almost eleven years ago, I did not know how to cook. I could make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a box of macaroni and cheese, and even hamburger helper. But, I did not know how to cook. I had no idea how to hold a chef's knife. I had not made anything from a recipe that wasn't on the back of a box. And I certainly didn't know how to make adjustments to recipes.

But I jumped in the kitchen anyway. My husband and I knew we wanted to eat healthily. We just had to learn, first, what healthy was and, second, how to make it.

I made a lot of mistakes those first several years. So, I have to apologize to all of you dear friends who ate at our home in our first years of marriage. There is no telling what you thought of my cooking skills! I appreciate your kindness in staying, even if you wanted to run!

You know, all this time my dear husband has never complained -- ever. Even in those rough first learning years, he ate everything I put on the table. Well, almost everything. There was that eggplant dish that was so bitter we had to throw it out. That might be the only thing we threw out though. He was that brave! So, thank you dear, for persevering while I learned. Oh, and there was that very smelly attempt at sprouted wheat bread. But that was a joint effort! We sprouted the wheat berries, pulverized them, dehydrated the paste... yet we couldn't even get the birds to eat it!

(For the record, I still make mistakes every now and then. And he still eats them -- with a smile, so that the children never even consider that they might have a choice to decline what's on their plates.)

Preparing healthy foods takes practice. Yep, I am proof of that. As I have continued to learn and continued to try new things in the kitchen, my skills have improved. I can prepare things quicker, which is a huge plus. I can make substitutions when necessary. I can take risks and enjoy the adventure of cooking healthy foods. And, most of the time, the risks end up worth it... that's how wonderful new recipes form!

So I want to encourage you, if you are just starting out, that you will learn quicker than you think -- especially if you just jump in and try. And keep trying! Even if you make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes. (Like I know now how to salt eggplant and let it drain to keep it form being bitter.) And keep trying. Be confident that every kitchen experience adds to your expertise, whether you think it is a beneficial or a flop of an experience.

So what new thing do you want to learn to do in the kitchen? Is there something you've hesitated to try? This is the week! Jump in and be adventuresome... and take your kids along for the ride too!

Let me know what new thing you're going to attempt... maybe it's something I need to try too!

PS During this fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-recovery-and-adjustment time, I would be glad to take a stab at some of your questions. Is there anything you would like to hear my perspective on? I find that I have a lot of thinking time while I nurse at night. Now, if only I could hook little suction cups to my temples and channel those thoughts onto the blogger notepad!

You can add your questions in the comments of this post, or you can email them to ae @ healthbeginswithmom . com (without the spaces).

Monday, January 25, 2010

Your Questions Answered -- How Can I Afford All These Supplements?

Today I'm going to address another frequently asked question. How can we afford all the high-quality Shaklee vitamins we take? We are a single-income family of seven. And my husband is not in a very lucrative career. I am very thankful for his hard work and his modest income! So where do we get the money for our supplements?

The short answer is: Shaklee gives it to me. The long answer is:
There are three ways to buy Shaklee supplements.
  1. You can purchase them at retail price.
  2. You can join as a member ($2o for a lifetime membership) and purchase Shaklee products at a 15% discount.
  3. You can be a distributor. As a distributor you can tell people about the Shaklee products and sponsor them as a member in your group. As your group business volume increases, so does the monthly bonus check that Shaklee sends you.
  4. (There is a fourth way to get involved with Shaklee for those who are interested in building a business fast.)

In my case, I joined Shaklee with a goal of earning a monthly bonus check. I told two friends about how I loved their products. That first month, we (me plus those two friends) bought enough products to put my business volume at a bonus check level. That montly bonus check has been steadily increasing ever since, as I continue to tell more people and as those I sponsor continue to tell their peeps.

The excellent part is that I have invested very little time in this "project" (especially over the last year when my pregnancy slowed me down and I chose to give more time to family pursuits), yet I still receive a monthly bonus check. The check is enough every month for all our family's supplements, cleaning products and personal care products -- plus the overage makes up our bulk food budget. So, Shaklee gives me the money to cover my purchases, plus some.

For more details on why we chose to buy Shaklee products over every other nutritional products on the ever-growing market, you can read My Personal Health Journey and my series on "What Is Health Anyway?" (Part I, Part II, Part III).

That's the long and the short of it. I am truly thankful that we have this blessing in our lives!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Bloggy Question For You

Forest Path

In the past I have used AllPosters.Com for free blog images. They had a really nice service going, and I was able to fine some really nice photos for Health Begins With Mom. BUT, apparently their policies have changed. Now only thumbnails are available for public use.

So my question for you is this... What is your source for free blog images? I'd love to know!!! Thank you, in advance, for your help. I hope that I find another really awesome source so that this blog can look nice and colorful again.

Hope you're having a great Thursday,

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Your Questions Answered -- Flour Choices

I have recently been asked by a few people about my flour choices. What type of wheat flour is best? Is coconut flour a good choice? What variety of flours do I use? What about whole wheat from the store as opposed to freshly milled flour?

Moderation. That is the key. There is evidence that too much wheat flour can be harsh on the digestive system. In fact, I recently read an article on that indicted wheat flour in a host of modern diseases! Now, I'm not going to be too hasty with this information and wipe our diet clean of all wheat products. If I did so, the foods that I replaced wheat with would make my grocery budget skyrocket!

But, as is the case with all things we consume, we must use moderation. Which leads me to a second key principle that makes moderation possible: we must strive for variety. Each grain is unique in it's nutritional profile, and a diet with a variety of fresh, whole grains will correspondingly be richer in nutrients.

So, in our home, we eat wheat. However, I try to limit our wheat to lunch fare. At breakfast, we frequently use oats in Soaked Granola or Oatmeal, but we make the focus of the meal foods like eggs, smoothies, yogurt or kefir, fruit and nuts and other non-grain foods. Supper almost never contains wheat unless it is in the form of a tortilla or a pizza crust.

Baking with Coconut or Almond Flour is a good substitution for foods made with wheat products. But, if I made everything from coconut or almond flour, the expense would be prohibitive! Moderation again.

A few specifics to keep in mind with these two flours:

  • Almond flour can replace half of the wheat flour in a muffin, pancake or non-yeast bread recipe (as can oat or rice flour).

  • It can also be made relatively cheaply with a powerful food processer.

  • However, coconut flour can not be substituted quite so simply. Coconut flour expands with liquid. For example, I use only one cup for a recipe that makes 24 muffins. In my experience, I have to use a recipe specific to coconut flour in order to get the right results.

  • Coconut flour is pricey, but a little goes a long way. I consider it a healthful alternative to whole wheat, in moderation.
What about whole wheat flour? It is best to use freshly milled flour, whether you have a mill or can purchase wheat milled in the store. Wheat germ contains a great deal of Vitamin E, which when fresh is very beneficial, but when rancid is a source of additional free radicals. In a situation where freshly milled flour is inaccessible, I suggest limiting wheat consumption to one (or possibly two) servings a day and making sure to consume an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables for a steady supply of antioxidants. Green juice or green smoothies are a good choice!

I hope to answer more of your questions as time allows over the next week. Stay tuned for more!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Postpartum Recovery Tips

I read an article last November about some studies that showed the antioxidants in Green Tea were a positive aid to wound recovery. I kept that information in a file in the back of my brain. If I ever needed to recover from a major skin wound, I would pull that article back to mind. Then, the cesarean. And the article came rushing back into my mind... the antioxidants found in Green Tea will help my body to heal from my incision!

We don't usually think of recovering from childbirth as "wound recovery." Yet, at the very least, the placental site is an open wound that takes up to six weeks to completely heal. Then, add to that the perineal trauma, possible tear or episiotomy site... and, in the case of a cesarean, the incision. Yep, that sounds like wound healing to me!

When I got home from the hospital, I started drinking a cup or two of Green Tea to give my body an extra boost in healing. (Decaf is a great choice for the second cup!) I really enjoy Tazo's Zen Tea, which is a blend of green tea with lemongrass and spearmint. In addition to Green Tea, I am continuing to take an increased amount of Vitamin C and Vitamin E, both of which have been shown to help in skin health and in wound recovery... I mean in addition to what is in my daily vitamins.

And don't forget rest! Rest is paramount to healing. Cells recover and rejuvenate while we sleep. Too much activity too soon can also aggravate the placental site. In an ideal world, all mothers of newborns would "sleep while the baby sleeps." But, really, with older children in the house, we just have to take what rest we can get!

Hmmm... posting a picture of my incision to show how nicely it is healing is not going to happen. (But you wouldn't believe how many such photos are posted online!) Since I won't show you my scar, here is a much more pleasant picture of The New Little One. Don't you just love how he is holding his hands in little fists?

For your health,

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Take Them A Meal!

I'm still recovering... I am slowly bouncing back from my cesarean. Thankfully, I can see progress! I have a notorious habit of holding high expectations. High expectations have their place. BUT, I can discourage myself quite easily if I let myself do that with this recovery. I am trying to keep my eyes on the progress.

I have been so blessed by several friends bringing our family fresh meals these last two and a half weeks. (Thank you again, if any of you are reading this post!) Some friends were so sweet as to make recipes that I've posted or that I've taken to Pot Lucks, knowing that we would enjoy such healthy fare. Others brought wonderfully delicious new recipes that I can not wait to try here in my own kitchen! And some even brought yummy breads or other foods for the next morning's breakfast. We were so blessed by each meal!

Do you know anyone who has recently had a baby? Or maybe someone who has had surgery or has been caring for a sick child or parent? Let me encourage you to step up and take them a meal! I speak from experience when I say that a simple, homecooked meal can be a huge relief at the end of an abnormal day of recovery. I know I will be looking for opportunities to "pay it forward" in the months and years to come.

Or, if you want to go the extra mile, you could coordinate meals for a friend in need. This website makes meal coordination as easy as it can possibly be. All you have to do is set up a password protected page for your friend and email the link to all who might be interested in taking a meal. People can sign up for the date they choose, take a look at other meals that are being taken, and post their meal so that it doesn't get duplicated the next day. (Who wants meatloaf over and over again?)

Really, this website makes things so simple! I plan on using it next time I have the opportunity to coordinate meals for a friend. I am a big fan of this site!

Do you ever feel like you're stuck in a cooking rut? That everything you make seems like you've tasted it 1,000 times before? I don't know when I'll be back to my normal adventuresome cooking and baking, but when I do, I'll be trying out some of my friends' new recipes... and I'll post the ones you'll want to try too! For starters, check out Passionate Homemaking with this great Chicken Divan recipe. (Thanks, Charity!) And if you're looking for a healthy substitution for Cream of Anything soup, make sure you print the one at the end of the recipe out for quick reference.

Peace and joy and health,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The New Little One

This picture was when The New Little One was just four days old! Yep... that was last Wednesday. And today he is ten days old. He was born on 12/27 and weighed 7 lbs 13 ounces. Time really flies with a newborn. Everything this last week is a blur. Except one thought that shines out perfectly clear. We are thankful for this precious baby!

Do you like birth stories? Would you like to hear how he came into this world? If I share how The New Little One came into our lives, I'll have to back up to my other deliveries. Would that be okay?

Rainbow was breech until 37 weeks when we turned her by using slantboard exercises. We kept her head down until 38 weeks when she was born in a very quick, uneventful, natural home-delivery. It was just what I hoped for -- a completely unmedicated and intervention-free birth. And the fact it was just 2 1/2 hours was nice too.

Spiderman was head down until I had dilated to at least 7 cm. I remember being checked at that point and his head was still pressing down on my cervix. However, after that point he flipped completely and his feet were presenting. We transferred to a nearby hospital. His labor lasted 20 hours and ended in a c/sec because he was a "double footling breech."

Witzy was breech until about 39 weeks. We turned her using slantboard exercises again... very uncomfortable at that stage of pregnancy! But, we kept her down for a few more days and she was born in another completely natural home-birth at 39 1/2 weeks.

Tickle... can you guess? Yep, she was breech until late in pregnancy when, this time, we turned her by seeing a chiropractor who performed the Webster Technique. So much more comfortable than the slantboard! She was born after my due date, but we were able to keep her head down until her completely natural home-birth.

And now The New Little One. This little guy preferred to lie transverse. His head was perfectly at home under my right ribs with his feet under my left. Yes, it looked like a tire around my front and not at all like a pretty little basketball! We did slantboard. We made trips to the chiropractor. He turned head down. He turned back to transverse. We did it all again. He turned again. And again.

At 38 1/2 weeks, we turned him for the last time. I was much more comfortable with him in this position. You see, with him lying transverse, it put dramatic strain on my hips. (I'm not a very big person... just a bit over five feet tall.) The last month of my pregnancy, I could only move with great pain... so I was pleased to have some measure of relief and some nights with some sleep during the last week. He stayed head down through Christmas... until...

Labor. I was checked at 8 1/2 cm and his head was still pressing down on my cervix. I went through another 1/2 hour of contractions, but I noticed that they were spacing out. Something was different. I was checked again, and I was complete. But, there was no longer a head presenting... it was an arm! Yep, he decided to lie transverse again.

But, all of a sudden my water broke. And with the flood came his entire cord and his arm too! It was all pushed back in. His heart tones were distressed, and I was rushed to the hospital for an immediate emergency c/sec. I rode the entire 45 minutes in an ambulance in a position that would keep the baby up high and off his cord... with no fetal monitoring (something ambulances are not equipped with) and no way to know if he was okay.

As soon as we arrived, the fetal monitoring started again and I heard my baby's heart tones in the 120s. That was the last thing I was aware of before going under. In just a few minutes he was in our world, but he had to spend the first six hours of it in the NICU... and it took about that long for me to come out of the stupor from the general anesthesia, even through I vomited from it for an entire 24 hours!

So that is his birth story. We are thankful to have him home with us, alive and well.

During this unexpectedly longer road to recovery, I am praying about how I need to be redeeming my time. What does this next season of my life look like? What will Health Begins With Mom look like? I'm excited to see how things unfold! Stay tuned...