Don't Wreck Your Child's Feet: How To Choose Healthy Shoes

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"It took 4 million years of evolution to perfect the human foot. But we’re wrecking it with every step we take." NYMag

My toddler is nearly always barefoot. Yes, even in public. He rides the escalator up and down at Whole Foods, sits with us at restaurants and runs through department stores -- all without shoes on his feet. To a stranger, we might seem like careless parents, but it's actually a very conscious decision on our part. We only put his shoes on if we feel a need for them or if we're going to get kicked out of the library, and even then, they're "barefoot" / minimalist shoes that meet every requirement in this post.

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Why We Choose Barefoot (or "Barefoot Shoes"!)

  • We want our child's feet to develop properly. 

In our culture, we don’t create shoes that follow the natural shape of the foot. Instead, we create shoes that reflect how we want feet to look. So, beginning in infancy — when bones are still forming — we put our children in shoes that permanently change the shape of their feet. And changing the shape will, of course, alter how effectively they work.

  • Modern shoes prevent children from learning how to walk. (The right way!)
"Natural gait is biomechanically impossible for any shoe-wearing person. It took 4 million years to develop our unique human foot and our consequent distinctive form of gait, a remarkable feat of bioengineering. Yet, in only a few thousand years, and with one carelessly designed instrument, our shoes, we have warped the pure anatomical form of human gait, obstructing its engineering efficiency, afflicting it with strains and stresses and denying it its natural grace of form and ease of movement head to foot." -- Dr. William A. Rossi

Most of us not only have deformed feet, we're also walking wrong. The cushioning on our shoes encourages us to land on our heels -- called a "heel strike" -- and this technique is why 80% of runners today get injured once a year. We're actually supposed to land on the middle to front part of our foot, with the heel coming down afterward. If we put the wrong shoes on our children as soon as they start walking, they develop an unnatural gait from the start.

  • Feet are built to communicate. 

Our feet are the first point of contact that we have with the Earth. For this reason, they have one of the highest concentrations of nerve-endings in the entire body (200,000!) and 70% of our brain's movement information comes from our feet. When a child runs in the grass with bare feet, their feet are continually sending messages to their brain. Clunky, tight, poorly designed shoes block that communication. They inhibit sensory feedback from the ground below us and we need that feedback for optimal movement.

  • Barefoot is safer. 

Since the day our son wore his first pair of shoes, something has become plainly obvious to me: He is more clumsy with shoes on. In fact, the difference is so profound that we usually rush to take his shoes off as soon as he shows any interest in climbing. (We don’t want any accidents if we can avoid them!) 

More contact with the Earth means more communication, heightened awareness and less falls. The bottoms of our feet are very sensitive for a reason- to quickly read, respond, and adapt to the environment. When barefoot, we are better able to balance, climb, and adjust rapidly when the ground shifts beneath us, as it does when we walk on uneven terrain. If we want our children to be safe, we can't interfere with their body's natural ability to communicate with the environment. We can't choose shoes that limit the messages that are sent to our child’s developing brain.

  • What impacts our feet, impacts the rest of our body.

About 25% of the bones in our body reside in our feet and ankles, and 25% of all muscles and motor nerves are dedicated to our feet. When we wear the wrong footwear for many years, our feet lose dexterity and muscle control, and can no longer perform well. Because of this, other parts of the body must compensate. Proper "barefoot" or "minimalist" footwear helps to prevent posture issues, knee, back and hip problems, soreness and pains by allowing our feet to function as they should.

  • The natural human foot is alive and capable of so much more than we realize. We don't want to take that away from our children.
"Imagine all of the unique motions you can create with your fingers, lifting them one or two at a time, playing a piano, or even typing. We have the same potential in our feet as we do our hands, but we have casted these muscle groups via footwear, so we have been left with stiff, weak, atrophied and degenerating tissues in the feet." Katy Bowman, Simple Steps to Foot Health

 

The Natural Human Foot

My son's perfect feet vs. Mine. Notice how my big toe isn't straight and my pinky toe is tucked. I've made a lot of progress, but have some more work to do!

My son's perfect feet vs. Mine. Notice how my big toe isn't straight and my pinky toe is tucked. I've made a lot of progress, but have some more work to do!

To know how to pick the right shoes, we first need to understand the natural human foot.

Look down at your own bare feet, right now. They seem like "normal" feet, huh? Just like everyone else's.

But here's a surprising fact: Almost all adult Americans have foot anatomy that isn't what nature intended.

The human foot is actually designed to be widest at the very ends of the toes. We see this in cultures where people don't wear immobilizing footwear, or on a newborn baby -- before their feet get ruined by years of wearing the wrong shoes. Their feet are broader and flatter, without upturned toes. The big toe points straight, even slightly out. There is space between the toes. They're not squeezed together and they don't taper, as is the case for many adult Americans. 

Surprisingly, this isn't new information. It has actually been in the medical literature for over a century, since Dr. Phil Hoffman traveled to numerous undeveloped countries in 1905 to observe the feet of people who lived barefoot. These differences in foot anatomy might seem small, but they're actually highly significant and can negatively impact the entire body.

 

 

What To Look For In A Pair of Shoes

(Softstar Shoes)

(Softstar Shoes)

When parents shop for shoes, they usually do so with only one or two basic requirements in mind: They want the shoe to fit and they want it to look okay. But oftentimes we don't ask the most important question: Is this shoe actually healthy for my child's feet? Nine times out of ten, the answer is no. In fact, I've scoured several walls of children's shoes and have never found a shoe that meets the requirements listed here. Not one pair. 

Feet need space to move and grow, so try to find a shoe that matches the natural shape of your child's foot.  

Characteristics to look for:

  • THIN. This allows more sensory information from the ground. 
  • WIDE TOE BOX. Can the toes spread comfortably? Chronic toe squeezing weakens the muscles of the toes and adds unnecessary stress while standing or walking. A wide toe box allows toes to move, which improves balance and stability and promotes healthy foot development.
  • FLEXIBLE. This enables us to distribute forces properly while we're walking. If the shoe is too stiff, we can't do that as well.
  • NO ANKLE SUPPORT. Freedom of movement exercises the whole foot and ankle.
  • NO HEEL / "Zero Drop". This simply means that the shoe is even and flat -- from heel to toe. It may surprise you, but even “flats” and athletic shoes often have 1/4 to 1/2 inch heels! Heels mess with alignment. The calves and achilles on the back of the leg get shortened, which can lead to longterm issues.
  • STAYS ON THE FOOT. This means no flip flops or slippers. When we wear shoes like this, our feet have to constantly grip the shoe while we walk, to make sure it stays on. This is unnatural, causing pressure and tension in the feet and legs. Make sure the shoe stays on the foot without that grip!

A Fun Shoe Test: Ask your child to step on a piece of paper. Trace around their foot with a pen, and then place one of their shoes on top. Is the shoe more narrow than the foot you just traced? If so, get rid of them! Adults, you should try this one too.

 

Favorite Brands

These brands offer sizes for both children and adults. Vivo and Wildling have vegan options. 

 

 

For More Learning:

Book: Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear (Katy Bowman)

Podcast: Rewild Yourself #140 -- The Barefoot Podiatrist

Instagram: The Foot Collective and Katy Bowman

Video: "The Barefoot Professor" Daniel Lieberman - Barefoot Running

Articles: You Walk Wrong and Let Them Go Barefoot: Why Our Toddler Doesn't Wear Shoes

 

 

Most Influential Books of 2017

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I’m starting a new tradition: Every December, I’m going to share the most influential books of that year. 

We’re two weeks into January — so I’m a little late — but here's my list from 2017.  

 

The Biology of Transcendence - Joseph Chilton Pearce

If I could name one author who has influenced my life the most, it would be Joseph Chilton Pearce. He's a revolutionary. When I read his bestseller Magical Child in 2016, I resonated so deeply and felt so invigorated that I literally swore I would make it my life's work to pass on his ideas. I went on to read five more of his books that year and then began 2017 with The Biology of Transcendence, so naturally, it deserved a spot on this list. The pages of this book have the power to completely shake up your assumptions about the world and our potential as humans. It shows us "how we can go beyond the limitations and constraints of our current capacities of body and mind -- how we can transcend." And most importantly, it offers insight as to how we can provide our children with the environment necessary to reach their highest potential.

 

Heal Your Birth, Heal Your Life - Sharon King

I read this book only a few weeks into my pregnancy with Ruby. I had already read a few other books about babies and consciousness in the womb, but Sharon really took it to the next level because she showed me how these early experiences can actually impact us for the rest of our lives. Induction, c-section, forceps, IVF, stress in the womb and more — whether we recognize it or not, most of us experienced and still carry early trauma. The magical thing about this book, though, is that Sharon offers tools to actually connect with and transform these subconscious memories. I ended up reaching out to her and we had two Skype sessions that were incredibly transformative. (Plus a third session with practitioner Wendy Ayotte!) I cried my eyes out and felt major shifts. This book needs to get into the hands of more people, y'all. Pass it around!

 

Unhindered Childbirth: Wisdom for the Passage of Unassisted Birth - Sarah Morgan Haydock

This was the only book I read about birth during my pregnancy. In fact, I had no interest in reading any books about pregnancy or birth, until I was in my final weeks and realized that I wanted to go solo — no midwife. I found this little gem on Amazon and devoured it in a few hours. It was beautifully written and when I finished it, there was not doubt in my mind that I was ready to birth Ruby unassisted. All it took was a gentle nudge of inspiration from this book and just one birth story on the Free Birth Society podcast. 

 

Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves - Naomi Aldort

"An insightful and eloquent guide for parents who wish to raise their children with unconditional love, and empower them to be self-reliant, expressive, caring and able to form close human connections." 

Oh, I love this one. When Elan was a baby, I used to listen to Naomi Aldort podcast interviews and I always found myself resonating with her approach to parenting. I didn’t actually read her book until he was nearly two years old, though. We were struggling with how to respond to his developing personality and I felt completely and utterly lost. After reading this book (and highlighting nearly every other sentence), I felt at ease again. Here are some ways we've applied her ideas:

  • Don't have an agenda. My role as a parent is not to manipulate my children into obeying me. 
  • If I want him to pick up his mess, I simply ask nicely and respect his answer -- even if that answer is "no". I want him to help because he wants to help, not because he's forced to. (With this one, I think back to my own childhood and how much I would've loved to be respected in this way.)
  • When he's "acting out" and clearly trying to exercise control -- give him control in some form. Even if it's something little or you have to act it out in a game.
  • We still practice patience when leaving an activity he's loving, like the park or the appliance section at Lowe's. We give him a heads up, then another heads up, and if he is deeply engrossed in something, we ask ourselves: Do we really need to leave, or can we just let him be a kid?

 

The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother - Heng Ou

This book really shaped the way I feel about postpartum. In all the rush of modern society, we've lost touch with the importance of supporting new mothers. This book is part story, part recipes and tools. I highly recommend it to all mothers, doulas and birth workers. After reading it, I made myself a postpartum recipe binder and vowed to nurture myself after birth.  (We also stuffed our freezer with nearly two dozen mason jars of her Shiitake Immune-Boost Broth!)

 

Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One - Joe Dispenza

"You are not doomed by your genes and hardwired to be a certain way for the rest of your life. A new science is emerging that empowers all human beings to create the reality they choose."

This book was a game-changer for me. I first heard of Joe Dispenza when he was featured in the movie What The Bleep Do We Know?! Many years later, I came across his name again and knew I was ready to learn more about his work.  I remember reading it on my phone at night, while nursing a 3-week-old Ruby to sleep. When she was fast asleep, I'd roll out of bed and run over to my partner, talking excitedly about how we are co-creating our reality right now, in this moment. It was a liberating feeling. He has several meditations that can facilitate this process and I hope to attend one of his workshops in the future. I have several friends who've been and have nothing but great things to say.

 

At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well - Amy Chaplin

I'm finishing up this list with my favorite cookbook of all time! The recipes are delicious, but my favorite thing about this book is how much Amy breaks down the basics: her pantry, soaking and sprouting, sample menu plans and more. After reading this, I organized my kitchen and cooking has since become more enjoyable -- simple and routine. Our favorite recipe from this book is her Simple Red Lentil Soup. We're actually making it for dinner as I type this. ;-) 

 

 

Writing this list has left me feeling so much gratitude for these authors, their books and my library card. Books are one of the best tools for transformation and I'm excited to see what I'll stumble upon in 2018.

What books influenced or inspired you the most in 2017? What are you reading right now?

But You're Not A Doctor!

Just a mom who loves a good Google search

Just a mom who loves a good Google search

I’ve written two posts about the dangers of ultrasound here and here, and these are some of the lovely responses I’ve received just this week: 

Just curious what sort of educational background, experience, or legitimate research you have on this subject?

Until you obtain a medical degree in diagnostic medical sonography, I do not hold much weight behind your uneducated, embellished perceptions of the use of imaging in pregnancy. 

I don’t know where you obtained any information about an ultrasound being unsafe, but you are clearly not in the medical field. 

Okay, Dr. Google. I doubt you have any medical training or knowledge. 

I am a sonographer and this is just completely wrong.

Here is my response: I don’t care about medical degrees. 

If anything, I am even more skeptical of people who cling so tightly to their credentials because credentials almost always require indoctrination. 

Indoctrination is the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.

When you go to medical school — or any mainstream school, really — you learn a big chunk of information and then you have to pass tests to prove that you’ve memorized that information and have accepted it as truth. They tell you what to believe, you believe it, and then you win the prize: A degree and the opportunity to “help people”. 

There’s only one rule: You must stick to the script. 

It sounds harsh, but that’s how it works. 

This is why so many doctors are afraid to speak up about anything even remotely controversial, like vaccines or circumcision. If they do, they oftentimes run the risk of losing their license.

More commonly, though, we find people who are blissfully ignorant to anything that doesn’t fit their current paradigm. Maybe they don’t have enough time to research, or they’ve been encouraged to ignore the “quacks” and their “pseudoscience”. 

Maybe, like so many of us, they’re just trying to protect the identity that they so carefully built up over the years. The “Doctor Who Helps People” or “Sonographer Who Saves Lives”. 

This is why a medical degree means nothing to me in terms of finding the truth. Because in order to really see clearly, to think critically, we’re required to step out of our roles, jobs and identities for a bit. We have to be willing to drop all of our preconceived ideas and dive into uncomfortable territory.

I know there are some doctors who’ve braved this territory and continue to ask questions. Kelly Brogan and Sarah Buckley come to mind, and these twelve doctors who speak openly about the dangers of vaccines.

But for the most part, they are the exception. 

Doctors are humans, just like us. They have egos, just like us. They aren’t omnipotent beings with the power of complete objectivity. They may have an impressive understanding of anatomy and physiology, but at the end of the day, they’re just as likely to not notice the bars of their cage. 

I could post plenty of credible research, but people are always quick to dismiss me because I don't have this or that qualification. I'm beginning to think that this immediate dismissal is a coping mechanism. When we receive information that threatens our foundational understanding of the world, our defenses automatically come up and the quickest remedy is to simply say, "Oh, but you're not a doctor, so this can't be true." 

Well, what if these “unqualified” people are just as -- if not more -- qualified? 

I don't have a medical degree, but I also don't have a medical license or an entire identity to protect. There's no rulebook. I'm always expanding, challenging myself and exploring all possibilities. Shouldn't that make me more objective, more trustworthy, by default?

There is a big shift happening right now. For many years, medical professionals held all of the power. We visited them when we felt ill, they gave us a recommendation (more likely, a prescription) and we followed suit, no questions asked.

Well, now we have the Internet.

Mothers and fathers are using this resource to take responsibility for the health of their families and what are they receiving in response? Not a pat on the back, but an eye-roll and a snide comment about "Dr. Google".

Let's put our defenses down and consider the possibility that the people who consult Dr. Google* in pursuit of the truth actually have something of value to share. Then we can feel inspired to ask our own questions, and to venture outside of our carefully constructed reality to find answers.

The issue here is not my lack of credibility. It's the widespread belief that we are not qualified to think for ourselves without a "proper education".** Even deeper, it's the fear of what might lay beyond the walls of the rigid boxes we live in. 

 

 

Note: This is not (I am not) anti-doctor. I am pro-informed choice. When I share something with you, I don't want you to accept it as fact. I want you to explore it further on your own. I am nobody's authority. Oh, and please -- I don't need to hear any tragic stories about how you've been saved by Western medicine. We get it. Shit happens.

*Funny story: I went to a doctor once for a health issue and she didn't know the answer, so guess what she did? She Googled it. Right in front of me.

**Thanks, authoritative parenting culture. <3

 

Ultrasound Photos Are Not Something To Be Celebrated

Ultrasound Photos Are Not Something To Be Celebrated

A few months after my son's birth, I remember finding an old ultrasound photo from my pregnancy. I was only 8 weeks pregnant at the time of that ultrasound and Elan looked more like a kidney bean than a human. “Aaaw, he was so little!", I said, smiling. For some reason I thought it was the cutest thing in the world.

Two years have passed since that day. And in these two years, I’ve learned a lot. The birth that I thought was perfect — I now realize how I gave away my power. And that ultrasound photo? I no longer smile when I look at it. 

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I'm A Broke (& Happy) Stay-At-Home Mom

I'm A Broke (& Happy) Stay-At-Home Mom

“You’re so lucky to be able to stay at home.” “Some of us have to work for a living.” “Homeschooling is not financially possible for my family.”

I've heard this so many times that I feel the need to make something very very clear: We don’t have any money. 

In fact, both my partner and I have been unemployed for several months now, while he continues to search for a job. Yes, that’s right: Two stay-at-home parents with only a few thousand dollars in savings. 

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5 Things We're Doing Differently With Baby #2: Newborn Period

A few months ago, I posted 5 Things We're Doing Differently With Baby #2: Pregnancy and Birth. Now, I'm going to share what we've decided to do differently during the newborn period. Though our values remain the same -- attached, biological parenting -- this time around actually looks and feels so different. We've tweaked some things here and there, and it has made for such a sweet first few months (for all of us!). 

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How Homeopathy Changed My Life (And Made Me A Better Mother)

How Homeopathy Changed My Life (And Made Me A Better Mother)

On the morning of my appointment, my partner dropped me off in front of a two-story brick house in a suburban neighborhood. A woman invited me in and we climbed the stairs to get to her office. Once there, she sat cross-legged in a big arm chair, with a clipboard in her lap. I sat across from her on the sofa, without even the slightest clue as to what might happen next. She asked me if I was familiar with classical homeopathy (nope) and then began explaining the concepts. I nodded my head. Everything made so much sense. Why hadn't I looked into this earlier?

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Your Baby Doesn't Want Anything On That Registry

Your Baby Doesn't Want Anything On That Registry

Really, they don't.All your baby wants is you -- your skin, your smell, your milk, your voice.

I've noticed a destructive pattern growing in Western society and it is the wide-scale replacement of human connection withlifeless gadgets. And it starts at birth. This unhealthy pattern is encouraged in the detached parenting styles found here in the West. In noticing this, it's easy to see why children grow up to become adults who continue to seek comfort in other non-human objects, such as drugs, food, money, etc.

So this is where I dare to question The Great Modern Baby Registry "Essentials". You know, the items that we all automatically assume as necessary. When we begin to understand human development, attachment and bonding, and the importance of connection, it is clear that these "essentials" are worse than unnecessary -- they're potentially harmful.

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5 Things We're Doing Differently with Baby #2: Pregnancy & Birth

Between guilt and flat-out denial, there is a middle-ground where real growth happens. This is where you receive new information -- no matter how uncomfortable -- with an open mind and heart. This is where you look at your past decisions with love and think, "Hm, how can I use this new knowledge to make a better decision next time." (Or if there isn't a next time, you can simply take that information and promise to help other mothers make conscious choices!)

So from this place of self-love and acceptance, I am choosing a different path for my second-born.

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LXMI Skincare: Simple, Effective and Socially-Conscious

Skincare is my thing.

Really, I've spent countless hours in front of my computer learning about and trying to heal my own skin. I've rid my bathroom of every beauty product that didn't fit my unusually high standards, and to this day I make most of my own stuff. So when I heard about LXMI, I was already typing away, trying to find out all that I could about this company. When I looked up the ingredients of their Pure Nilotica Melt, I was surprised to find only one. One ingredient, y'all!

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Why You Should Think Twice About Prenatal Ultrasounds

I'm now in my second trimester -- 14 weeks, to be exact -- and I have yet to hear my baby's heartbeat.It's a weird feeling, to be honest. During my first pregnancy, I had no idea about the dangers of prenatal ultrasound. The second I saw those two pink lines, I knew I had to get an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible. I had to know that my baby was alive and healthy. I had to know that this was real.And for many of us modern mothers, that requires a heartbeat.

But then I got my hands on one of the most eye-opening books I have ever read: Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah Buckley. She raises a question that nobody else is even bothering to ask.

Is it safe to expose your unborn baby to ultrasound? 

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A Tour of Our Minimalist Toddler-Friendly Home

My partner and I have been chipping away at our belongings (and square footage) for a few years now. When our son joined our family, it became even more important to create a space where we could feel calm and clear-headed. Clutter creates stress creates more clutter. It's a dangerous cycle that I, myself, had been caught in my entire life, and making the decision to live with intention has given me the mental freedom that eluded me for so long.

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Why Our Baby Will Never Have a Nursery

Recently I saw a pregnancy announcement where the new mama said,

“Now it’s time to plan our nursery!” 

It's what everybody does, right? You can't have a baby without a nursery, right? The crib with the matching changing table, the glider in the corner, the cute letters on the wall. Oh, and the monitor so that you can see what’s going on in there at all times.

Well we don’t have any of that and I wouldn’t even purchase it if I had a lot of money and extra rooms to spare. Here are my reasons why, with links to great articles on this topic.

 

Babies don't need things, they need connection.

Pregnant mothers are bombarded with advertisements and images of baby items that will supposedly make their lives easier. The baby models are always happy as can be, but I'm confident that real life babies would trade in all of this junk just to be held a little longer (preferably with a boob in their mouth).

All they want and need is to be close to you.

And when they're close to you -- not in a bouncer or crib -- you're more in-tune with them and can better respond to their needs. No object will make your life more easy than it is when you're connected. When I was creating my list of "must-have" items, I used this question to guide me:

"What will foster connection?"

The entire nursery concept didn't make the cut.

 

Nurseries are not biologically ideal.

"Irrepressible (ancient) neurologically-based infant responses to maternal smells, movements and touch altogether reduce infant crying while positively regulating infant breathing, body temperature, absorption of calories, stress hormone levels, immune status, and oxygenation." - James Mckenna

Has anyone ever stopped to think about this one for a second? Babies and small children are vulnerable little beings who depend on us for their safety. Can you imagine our ancestral mothers out in the wild, sleeping anywhere but right next to us? Generations and generations of human beings depended on that closeness. We may be in big houses with locks on our doors, but the biological imperatives remain the same:

Babies need to be with their caregivers at all times

. Here are some other reasons why co-sleeping is healthy for babies.

  • The highest rates of bedsharing worldwide occur alongside the lowest rates of infant mortality.
  • It reduces the chances of an infant dying from SIDS or from an accident by one half.
    • Fires, sexual predators, animal attacks, suffocation after vomiting and other injuries can all be better prevented if a parent is nearby to help.
    • The increased exposure to mother’s antibodies which comes with more frequent nighttime breastfeeding can reduce infant illness.
    • The low calorie composition of human breast milk (adjusted for the infants’ undeveloped gut) requires frequent night feeds.
      • Frequent night feeds helps to maintain the mother's milk supply, which enables her to continue breastfeeding long-term. This is especially important for mothers who have to go back to work early.

 

There's also the psychological component.

"Cribs force babies to face the long night alone years before they are psychologically equipped to do so. Isolation teaches harmful lessons of mistrust, powerlessness, and despair, creating a deep sense of loneliness that no teddy bear can fulfill. Judging from the reports of adults in hypnotherapy, art therapy, and psychoanalysis, experiences of forced separation from parents in infancy and childhood are traumatic, with long-term effects on the adult personality." - Jan Hunt

A soft mattress and a stuffed animal cannot replace the warmth, smell and comfort of a human body.

 

I value my sleep.

"Research has shown that breastfeeding mothers who co-sleep get more sleep than both bottle-feeding mothers and mothers who breastfeed, but do not co-sleep." - Evolutionary Parenting

My son can just roll over and nurse, and usually I sleep right through it. Both of our needs are fulfilled and we usually wake up feeling rested. There are some nights that are harder than others (growth spurts!) but I know it would be significantly worse if I had to get out of bed repeatedly to comfort my child. And if you know me, you know I'm not okay with "cry-it-out" and that will never be an option. Never. 

 

I simply cannot imagine sleeping separately from my baby.

I spent almost ten months sharing a body with my son, and we've been strengthening our bond every day since his birth. He has also bonded with his father and wakes up every morning ready to see him. "Dadu!" is the first word out of his mouth. We are a family and we belong together -- Not Mom and Dad in a room and baby in another room all alone. No. The three of us together, keeping each other safe and warm and loved. Starting and ending each day together.

A Remedy for Sleepless Nights

Co-sleeping: A Remedy for Sleepless Nights I'm writing this at 6am, after one of the hardest nights with Elan that I’ve had in a while.

He nursed through the entire night and eventually woke up fully at 4am — restless and uncomfortable.

After giving him a potty break and a fresh diaper, I lay there in the dark with him on my chest, patting his back and praying that it would be enough. Truth be told, I was a wreck. Dehydrated and empty. The best way to describe this feeling would be that "all of the life got sucked out of me”. The image in my head was of a hollow, lifeless version of myself, aching for nourishment of my own. 

I couldn’t nurse him anymore. It was too much.

TJ tried rocking him, but he just cried and cried. So I drank a glass of water and took some deep breaths, knowing full-well that Elan wouldn’t rest until he was back in my arms (or on my boob, really). TJ then placed him next to me in bed and he latched with eyes closed.

At 5am this morning, I stroked my baby boy's head while he nursed to sleep for the 20th time in a row.

As we lay there together, I saw myself 10 years from now — sitting outside, watching him run around with a fierce independence that already shines through today. I saw myself missing this moment. I saw myself missing every night that he slept comfortably in the crook of my arm. I missed every morning, when I’d wake up and put my face right next to his. We'd blink and smile at each other and I’d kiss his cheeks a dozen times.

I saw myself missing these moments and that vision was enough to let love pour over my frustration. It filled me up as I exhaled and pulled him closer.

We fit together perfectly.

I kissed his head, whispered I Love You and imagined a soft glowing light holding us safely in that space.

This is how gratitude happens. It’s how I get through sleepless nights and long days.

Sure, it would be easier to stick him in a crib and "sleep-train" him. I could ignore his cries for a few nights. He’d get used to being ignored and then just give up crying altogether. Finally, sweet sleep would kick in and I’d never have to have another night like this one, right? People must think I’m crazy for choosing any other way!

But for now, I lay with him in the dark-- feeling at ease and deeply grateful for every second of this closeness.

I can sleep later.

 

Elan's Natural Birth Story

Our Birth Center When I first wrote my birth story, it looked more like a page of timestamped notes than a story. I recorded every minute that I could remember leading up to E's birth, because I knew I'd forget the details later. And, as I sit here re-reading it, I realize that I did forget those details. What really stuck in my mind were the feelings; the sensations.

Before I get into the details of the birth, I must first comment on the incredible timing of the whole thing. It was almost three weeks before my due date. TJ spent the summer in California, and he had just arrived home. On our calendar that week, we had plans to move into a new apartment, attend my baby shower, prepare cloth diapers, meet with our doula to learn comfort measures for birth, and attend my first breastfeeding class. Busy, busy week! But on Sunday morning--the day before our big move--I felt a trickle of water run down my leg. I brushed it off as normal, but the leaking continued into the evening, when TJ finally convinced me to call my midwife. We met her at the birth center, where she held up a red test stick and said, "Yep. It's amniotic fluid. We've got to get you ready to have this baby as soon as possible."

With those words, I felt the clock start ticking.

There was so much energy between the two of us, as we tried to prepare for the biggest day of our lives. It had never occurred to me that I would have an actual heads up before going into labor. But here we were, at Whole Foods, hurriedly gathering some last minute things-- knowing full well that we'd be holding our baby boy within the next 48 hours.

Early the next morning, TJ and I went our separate ways. He went to move some things into our new apartment, and I drove to the birth center to begin what would be a very long day of trying to induce labor naturally. My midwife Natalie was prepared to try everything before going to the hospital. I was, and still am, so incredibly thankful for that.

She gave me an herbal tincture to take while I used the breast pump to try to stimulate labor. 20 minutes left side, 20 minutes right side, 20 minute break--all day long. During those 20 minute breaks, I would get my headphones and take a walk around the neighborhood. I walked up and down the hills, rubbing my belly and breathing deeply to the familiar sounds of my "baby" playlist. I talked to E and told him what was going on; that we needed to work together to bring him safely and peacefully into my arms. The world around me seemed sharper, clearer. I saw life peaking through cracks in the sidewalk and felt a deep connection to everything.

But nevertheless, the day wore on without any sign of labor.

That afternoon I had an acupuncture appointment downstairs. All throughout my third trimester, I had been attending weekly acupuncture and chiropractic appointments to prepare my body for labor. This would be the last acupuncture session of my pregnancy, and it would be unlike any of my previous ones. I went into the room with one goal-- to induce labor.

After our session, she left a few needles in and told me to walk up and down the stairs 6 times. Nothing changed. So I went back to my room in the birthing center, where I resumed the pumping and herbs. TJ eventually joined me and we watched movies to pass the time. As afternoon became evening, I started to consider the possibility that this birth wouldn't be anything like I had imagined. My dream was to have a peaceful, quiet birth with only TJ and my midwife present. No hospital, no bright lights, and certainly no drugs. But if there were no sign of labor the following morning, I would get exactly that. My "nightmare" was about to come true. And yet, I felt oddly at peace with everything. Complete and total trust in the process.

At around 5pm, our midwife knocked on the door and offered us one last option before we went home for the night: Castor Oil.

"The theory behind using castor oil to induce labor is that it causes intestinal cramping and diarrhea, which stimulate the uterus, thus producing prostaglandins, which then cause contractions." source

Castor oil is a thick, unpleasant-tasting oil, so we mixed 4 ounces (double the standard dose!) into a bowl of vegan chocolate ice cream. I ate the entire thing in a matter of minutes and handed the empty bowl to her. She asked us to wait at the birth center for another hour or two, so that she could keep an eye on me while the castor oil took effect. And after a day of hard work, I left the birth center with nothing but a small tummy ache.

To celebrate our last night as two, we picked up our favorite meal (a vegan stir-fry from Bouldin Creek Cafe) and headed to our new apartment for dinner. On the way, I started feeling a cramping sensation in my lower abdomen. I didn't want to get my hopes up, but thought I'd time the cramps just in case.

4 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute each. 

*For those of you who are unfamiliar, there are 3 "stages" of labor. In the first stage, contractions are typically mild and spread apart. As labor advances, contractions become "longer, stronger and closer together." During the second stage--active labor--contractions are strong, lasting 45 to 60 seconds and occurring 3 to 4 minutes apart. Was I already in active labor?!

My contractions quickly gained in strength and eventually moved to my lower back. They only lasted about 20 seconds though, and because they didn't resemble the "normal" pattern, we were convinced that I was still in early labor. This terrified me because it was already so intense -- I doubted my ability to withstand much more.

We tried to get some rest in preparation for the next morning. But every time I would try to lay down, the intensity would push me to my feet. I needed to be upright, moving around. At this point, I was crying and screaming and moaning without a care in the world. TJ was an angel. He whispered encouraging words and massaged my back. We kissed and hugged and he made sure that I always had a glass full of water -- something he still does to this day. Our love for each other felt strong and clear, and I am deeply grateful that we welcomed Elan into such a powerful energetic space.

Of course, I look back at those moments with fondness, but the reality is that things were getting pretty unbearable. I told TJ that I felt like giving up.. I wanted a "hospital, drugs, anything but this". I finally began to understand how a woman could go from a planned natural labor to a medicated one, and I even remember thinking something especially outrageous: "I want them to just take him out of me!"

Note: Just before the point that you begin pushing, the hormone levels are so high that you will see undeniable physical signs. Observation of these signs alert you to the fact that you are in transition. You will recognize transition by the desire to give up. This is when women claim they just can't do it anymore. Most women begin to doubt their ability to go on, and it is in this part of labor that most women ask for medication. (source) 

I spent a great majority of the night on my birth ball, bouncing through the waves and listening to TJ remind me to breathe. I was quite inconsolable, though. I had expected this beautiful birth, where I breathed through every contraction with ease and grace. Wrong. I was shouting and hollering, and I can't imagine what that must have sounded like to everyone else in the house. I didn't give a shit about my breath, or about any of the things I had planned for this birth. I just had to get through each contraction.

One incredibly useful tool that my doula gave me was a rice sock. TJ warmed it up for me so that I could ease the pain in my lower back. And eventually, I found a sort of rhythm. I bounced on the ball, holding the rice sock to my back and actually focusing on my breath. Things got quieter, and TJ was able to slip into sleep while I labored alone. I took frequent visits to the bathroom, where I found the small, quiet, dark space oddly comforting. On one of these visits, I felt a strong urge to poop. I kept thinking that all of my contractions would feel more tolerable if I could only poop. My brain was telling me to PUSH for relief. So I did just that. Then, I felt something strange. I reached down and cried out, "Oh no!". I was fully dilated and could feel something gooey and fleshy... what I thought to be my baby's cord.

I was terrified.

I started bawling and panicking and telling TJ that we needed to get to the birth center ASAP. Maybe even the hospital. Fear had fully overcome me and I ran to the car without even bothering to put my pants on. On the way to the birth center, I kept feeling the irresistible urge to push -- the "fetus ejection reflex" that I had read so much about. It was so overwhelming that I was sure I'd have the baby in the car. Thankfully, at just the moment that I needed it, TJ reminded me to "breathe through it". Deep inhale, smooth exhale. I got through each wave this way and we finally arrived at the birth center.

The Birth Room

My midwife led us into the birthing room and immediately got out the doppler to check the baby’s heartbeat. I remember hearing the heartbeat and feeling the most relief I’ve ever felt.

He was okay.

She dimmed the lights and began to fill the big jacuzzi tub with water. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. With each breath, the moment of complete release drew closer. When the tub was full, I climbed in and felt my entire body relax. I could finally surrender and complete the process of birth.

TJ kneeled in front of me, outside of the tub, while I got on all fours and prepared for the next contraction. It was at this moment that I remembered something I had read in a book about syncing breath with body to prevent tearing. So each time that I felt a wave coming, I inhaled and pushed on the exhaleI didn’t strain too hard. I just pushed enough to get through the contraction. Elan was close to crowning, and I could feel him gently moving in and out with each push. 

No one was telling me to "push!".

In fact, the room was quiet -- just as I had wished from the beginning. A dark, quiet, peaceful space where I could let my body do it's work. And finally, on the fourth "push", he slipped out into the water. My midwife caught him and swiftly guided him to me, at which point I scooped him up and brought him to my chest. He let out a short cry and then relaxed into me.

Time froze. 4:44 AM.

I looked up at TJ, we kissed and then both took in our new baby. Those few seconds, sitting in the warm water, holding my Elan for the first time -- those were the best seconds of my life.

Elan Abel Vaughn weighed 6 pounds 6 ounces at birth. He stayed connected to his placenta for over an hour and I kept him on my chest during that time, skin-to-skin. There were no baths. In fact, we left the vernix on for as long as possible and didn't actually bathe him until over a month later. He never left my sight and we were on our way home by late morning.

My birth experience didn't go according to plan, but I left that day feeling so empowered. I gained a deep reverence for my body in all of her strength, wisdom and femininity. And beyond that, I realized the importance of surrender -- of choosing trust over the desire to control. “To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float." - Alan Watts

Elan Birth

Elan on the Porch Swing

Mom's Mexican Rice

Mom's Mexican Rice Recipe My mom has been making this rice since before I can remember and I still get excited every time I smell it cooking on the stove. It is crazy to me how it can have the same basic ingredients as most Mexican rice dishes, but still be so uniquely hers. 

So with her permission, I am sharing this recipe with all of you. Enjoy!

*This recipe makes a lot of rice -- about 8 cups -- so cut the ingredients in half if you want a smaller portion. I like to make this size batch once a week and spread it out for several meals. Tacos, rice and beans, buddha bowls, rice stew dishes.. the options are endless.

*The turmeric is optional, but it adds a number of health benefits and a beautiful golden hue.. so why not?!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked rice (we use sprouted brown rice)
  • 4 T oil
  • 1/2 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 5-6 cloves garlic
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 T cumin
  • 3 T tomato sauce
  • 1/2 T black pepper
  • 1 T salt
  • Optional: 1 tsp turmeric

Directions

  1. Add oil to pan and fry the rice until slightly brown.
  2. In a separate pot, boil the water/broth, cumin, tomato sauce, turmeric, pepper and salt.
  3. Once rice is brown, add garlic, onion and bell pepper. Stir for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add boiling water mixture and stir.
  5. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes. Do not remove cover during this time.
  6. Turn off stove after 20 minutes and let rice sit covered for another 5 minutes.
  7. Remove cover and fluff rice with a fork.

How I Treated My Hormonal Imbalance and PCOS Naturally

Healing PCOS Naturally In my previous post, I talked about my struggle with hormonal imbalance (PCOS) before my pregnancy. In this post, I'm going to get into the details of what worked for me. Please keep in mind that this isn't a one-size-fits-all prescription. I put this plan together after a lot of research and close attention to my body and symptoms. My advice to you is to take some of my ideas, do your own research, and begin introducing these things into your daily routine. See what works and what doesn't. Journal and keep track of your symptoms. Get to know your body!

Note: A lot of the focus here was on healing the gut. This is absolutely crucial if you want to get your hormones back in sync. You have to work holistically and the gut is usually the best starting point.

Herbs & Supplements

  • Vitex also known as Chaste tree berry (I started with a tincture from a local herb shop and then moved on to capsules)
    • Supports the body in sustaining and increasing progesterone levels. Many women with PCOS have low levels of progesterone due to unopposed estrogen. Vitex helps the body to balance estrogen and progesterone for a healthy, regular menstrual cycle.
  • Maca Root (capsule or powder form)
    • Supports healthy progesterone levels in the body. Maca is an adaptogen. It helps to balance hormones, but does not contain any hormones itself. It is able to do this by nourishing and balancing the endocrine system. And it'll give you an energy boost!
  • L-Glutamine
  • Ceylon Cinnamon (organic; in my morning smoothie)
    • Increases the hormone progesterone and decreases testosterone in women, which helps balance hormones. It also stabilizes blood sugar and aids in the treatment of insulin resistance.
  • Coconut Oil (organic, raw, unrefined; 1 T in my morning smoothie)
    • The caprylic and lauric acid in coconut oil play a key role in protecting the digestive tract, helping with inflammation and the gut.
  • Vitamin C (prefer the powder because you get a higher dose without swallowing a handful of capsules)
    • Mood and immune booster. Beneficial for those with low progesterone. I could go on and on about C, really. It was a no-brainer to add it to my regimen.
  • Turmeric (capsules and powdered spice when cooking; you can also buy raw turmeric root and add slices to your smoothie)
    • Amazing, amazing, amazing. Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune-boosting, and a major digestive aid.
  • Probiotic (I used Garden of Life Women's formula)
    • (Duh!) Anyone trying to treat PCOS and build/maintain a strong, healthy gut needs to include a high quality probiotic and fermented foods in their diet.

 

Morning Green Smoothie

This was the most important part of my routine because it gave me a healthy start each and every day. I used berries as my fruit of choice, because they are low-glycemic and lower in sugar than tropical fruits like mangos and pineapples. This was an important shift for me and I still choose berries to this day.

  • 1/2 cup organic blueberries
  • huge handful organic greens (spinach, baby kale, etc)
  • 1/2 cup hemp or almond milk
  • 1 T organic, unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 scoop Vega Protein Powder
  • 1 dose of my L-glutamine powder
  • organic cinnamon powder
  • water + ice to desired consistency

 

My Diet

I stuck to my vegan diet, of course, with a bigger focus on organic whole foods. The main components were beans, whole grains, vegetables and seeds. Low sugar is a must for getting rid of candida and other issues surrounding leaky gut. Low to no gluten was important for me, as I noticed that it aggravated my body. This was clearly evident on my skin--and still is. I get little flesh-colored bumps on my cheeks and arms. No caffeine. It is highly acidic, elevates cortisol levels and isn't at all nourishing to the body. No alcohol. I don't even need to explain this one. For me, drinking alcohol is anything but practicing self-love.

If you haven't already been eating a whole foods, vegetarian diet, this might seem too "strict" for you. In that case, I would recommend that you simply focus on increasing your intake of whole, plant foods in the beginning. Veggies, veggies, veggies! Some meal ideas include the following...

  • Vegetables sautéed in coconut, avocado or olive oil. On a bed of brown rice, with your favorite spices. I love adding coconut aminos to the pan while cooking--yum!
  • Brown rice or quinoa pasta with your favorite sauce. Maybe marinara or avocado basil pesto.
  • Roasted vegetables. Add to a salad, wrap, rice, or just eat them up.
  • Veggie burgers with avocado and sauerkraut + a side of roasted or sautéed vegetables. I love oven baked fries!
  • Salads. (Skip the ranch dressing and cheese, though.)

Here are some blogs with great recipes: Oh She Glows, Cookie and Kate, Healthy. Happy. Life., Vegan Yack Attack, Detoxinista.

A note about hemp seeds: Hemp seeds contain a type of omega-6 fat called GLA (gamma-linoleic acid). Studies show supplementing with GLA can support healthy progesterone levels. They're also a great source of plant-based protein. I like to sprinkle them on pretty much anything-- salads, soups, baked goods, oatmeal, rice and beans.

 

Exercise

I have never liked intense exercise, running or gyms. In fact, I honestly don't think the human body is built for long-term, strenuous exercise and there is a definite connection between overexercising and infertility.

"Intense exercise lowers progesterone and throws off your hormone levels," says Sami David, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist in New York City. "Endorphins can suppress your FSH and LH, the hormones in your pituitary gland responsible for producing eggs, and the ovarian hormones estradiol and progesterone, making it harder for you to get pregnant or more likely to miscarry without knowing it."

It's important to get moving every day, but not to over-stress your body. In my case, I opted for yoga and walking around my neighborhood.

  • Yoga: There is no doubt that yoga can do amazing things for your health--body and mind. Because I felt so weak and unbalanced at the beginning of this, I opted for slow yoga. No crazy poses or heated rooms. Just deep, focused breathing and light movement.
  • Walking: My walking was more like an extension of my yoga practice. I took walks around the neighborhood and focused on my breath. Fresh air and sunlight are major components of true health, and they're often overlooked these days.

 

Environmental Toxins: Home & Body Care

I stayed away from conventional body care products and consulted EWG’s “Skin Deep Cosmetic Database” before purchasing anything. It might seem crazy, but this does matter. No more BPA or nonstick pans for me. Instead, I opted for a glass or stainless steel water bottle and cast iron or stainless steel cookware. Now, I try to keep plastic in my home to a minimum.

 


 

So that's it. After following this plan for only four months, I had my first normal cycle in November of 2014. A month later, during my second normal cycle, I got pregnant.

My pregnancy was such a joy! Absolutely no morning sickness. In fact, with the exception of mild fatigue and moodiness in the first trimester, I felt vibrant and healthy throughout. Elan was born naturally and I healed beautifully.

I realize that we all have different bodies, situations and histories. All I can say is that I noticed an enormous shift in my life when I chose to treat my body with the utmost love and respect. For me, that meant no drugs or "quick fixes". It meant getting to the root of my imbalance and having the strength to make the necessary changes to my lifestyle. I hope you'll give it a try. :)

My Hormone Story: Imbalance, Healing and A Big (Little) Surprise

I have kept things relatively private during my pregnancy and beyond, but there are a few topics that I believe are important to share--the first being my history with hormonal imbalance. In our world today, many of us are out of balance. Processed food, chemicals and toxins in our environment, lack of sleep, drugs and unhealthy habits lend a hand in creating this imbalance. To remedy this, doctors are prescribing more drugs. But with rare exceptions, I don't believe that any drug will ever truly heal your body. It takes big lifestyle changes and a whole lot of self-love. This is my personal experience with just that.


 

Less than a year before I got pregnant, my doctor sat me down and told me that I'd probably never be able to have kids. She said that if I did happen to become pregnant, the chances of miscarriage were high. Then--and I'll never forget this--she told me that I "better find a husband who will be okay with that." Needless to say, I left her office in tears, with no desire to ever see her again. To be honest, marriage was never in my "life plan"-- much less kids. But it was heartbreaking to have that choice taken away from me.

I had initially scheduled the appointment because I was desperate for answers. Ever since removing my hormonal birth control, my period was irregular, my skin was a mess, and my mood constantly fluctuated to the point where I didn't even feel like myself. I was so out of sorts that I self-diagnosed myself with Borderline Personality Disorder. Seriously, I fit nearly all of the criteria. (Now I'm fully convinced of the connection between hormonal imbalance and mental illness. But I'll save that for another post.)

Sure enough, the test results and an ultrasound confirmed that I had a hormonal imbalance that could be characterized as PCOS--Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. As to the cause, my guess is years of hormonal birth control and disordered eating. The birth control had been keeping my PCOS symptoms at bay, but the underlying imbalance had probably been there all along.

So when I got home from that appointment, I immediately started researching and drafting a plan to get my body back into balance. As usual, I avoided Western medicine in search of a more natural, holistic solution. It would consist of big lifestyle and dietary changes, as well as herbs and supplements. I got started in July of 2014. Instead of hormonal birth control (never again!), I opted for Natural Family Planning in order to learn my cycles and avoid pregnancy. [For those of you interested, I highly recommend the book "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" and the Kindara app for tracking your cycles.]

After a few months on my "plan", I finally had my first somewhat-normal cycle! I knew I had a long journey ahead of me, but this was a sign that I was headed in the right direction.

In early December during my second "normal" cycle, I started feeling uterine cramps. At first, I thought it might be a sign of my period, but the cramps only worsened and there was no sign of blood. They were unlike anything I've ever felt before-- intense cramps that required me to stop and focus on my breath. Could it be a ruptured cyst? Ovarian or uterine cancer?

One afternoon, I was alone at a stoplight and I felt a sudden urge to call my OB-Gyn. After hearing my symptoms, the nurse asked, "Have you taken a pregnancy test?". I froze. It had never occurred to me that I could get pregnant. Not this quickly. And to add to my internal freak-out, I couldn't even afford a pregnancy test. So I drove to a sketchy side of town, where they offer free pregnancy tests, and it was there that I first heard the words, "You're pregnant."

Christmas -- Two days after the news of my pregnancy. Funny timing, as usual!

After coming to terms with my surprise pregnancy, I focused all of my energy on loving and nurturing my unborn child. I kept up my routine and added a whole food prenatal, vitamin c and vitamin e. But no matter how healthy I felt, for months there was a voice in my head telling me that I would miscarry. In fact, I didn't even bother thinking about life with a baby, because I had assumed miscarriage as an inevitability.

But as you know, that miscarriage never happened.

I grew Elan in my womb for a little over 37 weeks. I felt his kicks and hiccups. I meditated with both hands on my belly, consciously sending him love. We were two souls in one body, and now I wake up beside him every morning. He is living proof that our bodies have an incredible ability to heal if we give them the right tools.

Our first ultrasound - 8 weeks pregnant!

I am writing this at almost 7 months postpartum. I don't know the exact state of my hormones, but I know that I feel good. My mood is stable, my skin is getting better everyday, and I am no longer struggling with fatigue. I am breastfeeding Elan with no issues, and my body bounced back to pre-pregnancy weight rather quickly. Correcting my hormonal imbalance changed my life. It not only gave me the gift of my sweet little boy, but it gave me my emotional and physical well-being back.

 


For those of you interested in the details of my plan, check out this post.

DIY: Turmeric Clay Detox Mask for Glowing Skin

Turmeric Face Mask I am not exaggerating when I say that turmeric is one of my favorite ingredients in the entire world. It's in my food, on my skin and I even have it in capsule form for when my health needs a boost. So naturally, when I decided to make a detox mask, turmeric was the first thing that came to mind.

A little background: In the East, turmeric has long been used for medicinal purposes. It has been used in Indian ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for years for the treatment of inflammatory and digestive disorders. The western medical community has been doing research into turmeric’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and its potential in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

 

Turmeric Face Mask*Note: This mask will temporarily stain the skin. I use this mask in the evening and the color is usually gone by the next day. If the yellow tint bothers you, just use a bit of apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball or towel. Also, if you can find it, Kasturi turmeric (curcuma aromatica) is non-staining and has the same skin-healing properties.

Turmeric Face MaskIngredients

Turmeric Root Powder (2 tsp) - acts as an exfoliant and provides antioxidant protection from free radicals that damage skin as well as toxins that accelerate the aging process. Brightens complexion and evens out skin tone. Great for oily and acne-prone skin.

French Green Clay (2 Tbs) - gently draws out impurities and toxins, while smoothing skin tone

Frankincense Essential Oil (3 drops) - promotes healthy cell regeneration and reverses signs of aging

Filtered Water (3 Tbs) - It is important to use clean water. We have a Big Berkey Filter in our home, but any filtered or distilled water will work.

 

 

Directions: Mix all ingredients together and add water until desired consistency. Store in an air-tight glass jar (make sure it's closed or the mask will dry up!).

To Use The Mask: Cleanse skin and pat dry. Apply your favorite serum or facial oil. Apply mask and let dry for 10-15 minutes, or longer if you're like me and get distracted easily. Remove with warm water and follow with apple cider vinegar if desired. I usually add a few more drops of serum at this point.

My Vegan Pregnancy Diet

Yes, I'm 9 months pregnant and haven't consumed any animal products. My baby is dancing around in my belly, happily growing on a 100% plant-based diet.

The first thing my midwives (and the Internet) stressed to me was that I need to focus on getting adequate protein and iron. So here's what I did.

Protein & Iron Sources During Pregnancy

  • Hemp seeds-- in and on everything. Soups, smoothies, beans, rice, salads. 3 TBS has 10g protein and 20% of the RDA for iron.
  • I added plant-based protein powder to my morning smoothie. My favorite is Vega Protein Smoothie in Choc-o-Lot15g protein, 20% iron.
  • Granola, when I'm craving something sweet. Preferably with a healthier sugar alternative, like maple syrup.
  • Almonds! I like to bring these with me when I'm out and about, in case I get hungry. 1/2 cup has 15g protein and 15% iron.
  • Beans. 1 cup cooked black beans has 15g protein and 20% iron.
  • Dark leafy greens in my morning smoothie. I've been doing this for years, so I just had to be sure to keep it up during my pregnancy. Greens have a surprisingly large amount of protein and iron, as well as other vitamins and minerals. The most important part of any diet, in my opinion.

Favorite Meals

This has changed throughout the last 9 months, but some of my favorites have included:

  • Lentil Vegetable Soup. If you're feeling lazy and want a quick, healthy meal, I highly recommend Amy's soups. The nutrition label is pretty impressive, and the cans are BPA-free!
  • Gluten-free spaghetti with organic sugar-free marinara sauce. I try to avoid corn-based pastas, and instead prefer rice and quinoa. After searching far and wide, I've settled on Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Spaghetti. It's affordable and it tastes good. *Confession: I've eaten this every day this week.
  • Rice and beans with homemade sauerkraut. Simple and affordable. Not to mention, sauerkraut is amazing and fermentation is fun.

  • Lemon roasted vegetables. My 2015 favorite: Brussels Sprouts. (Lemon makes everything taste better. It really does.)
  • Gluten-free banana nut pancakes. A protein-packed variation of this recipe.
  • Avocado wraps, with veggies, sprouts and more sauerkraut. In a gluten-free brown rice tortilla. This one is my favorite and you can find it at Whole Foods.

With this diet (plus the occasional pizza and fries--whoops), I've gained a healthy 25 pounds and can honestly say that this pregnancy has been a breeze.*

 

*knock on wood, I still have a few weeks left.