My Most Frequently Used Essential Oils

Essential oils are highly concentrated aromatic substances extracted from plants most commonly by using the distillation method. A by-product of distillation is the leftover aromatic waters which we refer to as hydrosol. Hydrosols are also very valuable and can be used in a wide range of ways. They are less concentrated than essential oils and are much cheaper too. I’m not an aromatherapy expert by any means but I like to include them in my daily use, from cosmetic purposes to cleaning and healing. Personally, from time to time I will use an essential oil directly on my skin as well as internally (I will mention examples below). However, generally for the beginner, it’s best to dilute essential oils before use and it’s also best to avoid internal use unless under the guide of a professional aromatherapist.

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Copper distiller dismantled

For a general traditional guideline, below is a chart taken from the Chestnut School of Herbs’ Herbal Immersion Program. If you are interested in enrolling into either the Herbal Immersion Program, or the Herbal Medicine Making Course, shoot me a message and I will share with you a 10% discount code. In return, I also get a referral fee (win-win!). Both are beautiful courses and Juliet has truly invested so much of her experience and knowledge into it.

Traditional Dosage Chart

Carrier oil in ounces 0.5% dilution 1% 2.5% 3% 5% 10%
½ ounce

(15 ml)

1-2 drops 3 drops 7-8 drops 9 drops 15 drops 30 drops
1 ounce

(30 ml)

3 drops 6 drops 15 drops 18 drops 30 drops 60 drops
2 ounces

(60 ml)

6 drops 12 drops 30 drops 36 drops 60 drops 120 drops
4 ounces

(120 ml)

12 drops 24 drops 60 drops 72 drops 120 drops 240 drops

Before I begin, I want to just go over four hydrosols that I use frequently. I usually get all three from my mom’s apothecary. She has a copper as well as a glass distiller and collects most of the plants herself to be used in the distillation process.

  1. Damascene Rose: This is such a beautiful flower with delicate petals and a fragrant scent. It truly causes a blooming of the soul. It takes a lot of roses to produce a substantial amount of essential oil and therefore hydrosol is a great alternative to benefiting from this flower. I use it in cooking such as in basmati rice, rice pudding and other desserts, I use it to wipe my children’s faces in the morning and before bedtime and I use it to clean my face in combination with castor oil (apply castor oil first, then wipe with cotton & rose water). I also use it as a spray in hot climates to cool down.
  2. Neroli: This is another incredible flower, taken from the bitter orange tree. It is also known as Orange Blossom. Just the act of picking these little blossoms is uplifting. As is the case with Rose, it takes a lot of blossoms to produce essential oil. I use this in similar ways to Rose hydrosol, except not as much, and another way I use Neroli hydrosol is a few teaspoons into a glass of warm water. Very calming and satisfying.
  3. Thyme: This is a champion when it comes to stomach issues as well as lung infections. I usually like to dilute it with some warm water because it is very strong, albeit not an essential oil.
  4. Lemon Eucalyptus: This is not a combination of lemon and eucalyptus but a plant of its own. I use it as a spray on the body to avoid mosquito bites. I’m one of those lucky ones who aren’t savored by those annoying insects but having kids, it comes in handy. Avoid the eyes when spraying.
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Damascene Rose

As for the Essential Oils…

I have a wide range of essential oils in my kit but these are at the top of my list:

  1. Tea Tree: I’ve used tea tree in a wide range of ways including to treat yeast rash, to dry out that annoying puberty related pimple (back in the days), as well as in cleaning. In my experience, I’ve had no problems using it directly on my skin but if you tend to have sensitive skin and/or if you are a beginner, go ahead and dilute some with a carrier oil such as coconut oil which is also an anti fungal.
  2. Lavender: I like lavender in cleaning – I add a few drops into a spray bottle along with some water and vinegar and use it as an all-purpose spray. I sometimes use sage instead or in combination. I find lavender also works wonders on burns, applied directly. If you prefer to use a carrier oil to apply lavender, I would avoid using it on a burn that is recent and inflamed because oil traps in heat and you don’t want that. (Essential oils won’t have the same effect of trapping heat). Maybe you can try applying a compress to the area with lavender hydrosol or infusion instead.
  3. Eucalyptus: I use this whenever someone in the family is experiencing a respiratory tract infection. It helps especially with congestion. I will dab a couple of drops onto the sleeping pillow, or make a steam inhalation. Bring a pot of water to boil. Remove from heat and add a few drops of eucalyptus EO. Cover head with a towel and inhale the vapor but close your eyes. Be cautious not to burn yourself.
  4. Myrrh: In combination with clove bud, this was an amazing remedy for my husband’s chronically aching tooth. He never got around to going to the dentist although he tried making an appointment multiple times but after a few applications of myrrh and clove on the area, as well as some changes in the diet, he hasn’t had any recurring issues. My myrrh is from a gentleman who runs a small batch distillery and it smells truly unique and wonderful. Speaking of small batch distillery, this is a lovely article written by a dear friend who runs her own distillery and apothecary about ethical business practices.
  5. Jasmine Absolute: I just use this as perfume. A couple of dabs here and there and it’s my current go-to scent as it’s the most appealing to me at this phase of my life. I’ve used it in cream making too but, going a little off topic, lately I find I prefer to simply use oils on my skin such as rose hip seed oil. I have very dry skin in the winter and this has been very helpful. Also rosehip seed oil (and other oils like pomegranate seed oil and argan oil) are already full of properties that help and nourish the skin so I don’t see much point in going through the hassle of making cream. Currently I am using Mountain Rose Herbs’ rose hip seed oil but once I run out I will stock up from my mom’s own rose hip seed oil. Her last batch was from the rose hips from her garden, all picked by hand, cleaned out from the flesh and left to dry before extracting into oil.
  6. Sweet Marjoram: I haven’t used this in a while but I wanted to include it because it was my friend during my last pregnancy. Meditating everyday while I inhaled it, even for just 5 minutes a day, really helped me through the pregnancy. It was a time of day that I looked forward to. After giving birth, strangely, it didn’t appeal to me as much. I believe we are called to what our mind and body needs most in their own time. It was relaxing and comforting, and it eased my mind. Mine is from Eden Botanicals.
  7. Cardamom: I take a dab of this right onto my tongue as often as once a day (first on index finger then onto tongue). I find it awakens me. Cardamom is said to ‘kindle the fires of digestion, stimulate the activity of the heart, and refresh the mind.’ [Rätsch, Christian. Plants of Love, 1997, pp. 56, 134.]
  8. Helichrysum: Highly reputed for skin healing properties, I included this in my postpartum healing oil combination (in addition to Calendula and St. John’s Wort oils).

A final word on essential oils… With all due respect to big essential oil businesses, I don’t buy into ads that praise their products as THE ONLY pure essential oils out there. I don’t want to mention names but in short, I don’t stick to only one brand. I’ve used several brands before as well as essential oils from small batch distilleries but most commonly I use Mountain Rose Herbs and Eden Botanicals. As a word of caution, please do not buy cheap essential oils over Amazon and whatnot. First of all, essential oils are not cheap and secondly, essential oils bought from unidentifiable and questionable sources can be harmful to your health.

 

Disclaimer: All content in this article is intended for educational purposes. No information in this article is intended to replace professional medical advice, nor to treat or diagnose a disease. Consult your primary care provider for any concerns you have regarding your health before making any decisions.

My ‘Spice’ Rack

I wanted to share with you a list of most (if not all) of the things that go onto the rack close to the stove as well as what I use them in. This is where I stack my most frequently used spices, herbs and other ingredients. It’s not really a spice rack, and it’s not a herb rack, nor a grain rack. It’s a combination of everything rack. I have 2-3 other locations where I store other herbs that aren’t as frequently used, other grains like rice, oats and barley, and tahini, molasses, honey and the like. You get the point. Also I entertained the idea of re-organizing and tidying up the shelves before snapping a picture but decided there’s nothing to hide. It is what it is.
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So here it goes:
Top Shelf
Turmeric: I use turmeric on a daily basis in most of my cooking, in frittatas, on red meat/fish/poultry, and in vegetarian stews. It’s super medicinal, anti-inflammatory and according to some opinions, the gold out of the three gifts presented to newly-born Jesus was actually turmeric.
Rock salt: Just basic, unrefined rock salt that I use in cooking. So unrefined it has small rock residue.
Holy Basil: A type of basil highly revered for its medicinal and adaptogenic properties in India. Hence the name. Also known as Krishna. I use this to make a simple herbal infusion to drink, usually in combination with other herbs.
Hibiscus (Roselle): Strong antioxidant. Wonderful tea. I like to combine with a bit of cinnamon and ginger. Recently I tried to infuse it cold and it worked pretty well. I put a couple of tablespoons into approx. 2 cups of water. I added 1/2 tsp powdered cinnamon and 1 tsp fresh grated ginger. Infused overnight, strain and refrigerate. It was very strong so I would have to dilute it as I drank it, either with plain water or sparkling water. Give it a shot.
Lemongrass: I like a simple, plain lemongrass tea after dinner. Soothing, helps aid digestion.
Peppermint: Again, goes into making herbal tea. Digestive, uplifting, gives tea a nice flavor especially if combined with other herbs. I don’t like adding too much though and I don’t consume it very frequently mainly because I am nursing and peppermint can dry breast milk if consumed in large amounts (as well as sage and parsley).
Mint: This mint is specifically for cooking. I add it to simple courgette stew, celery stalk stew (which I haven’t made ever since moving to Istanbul because they only sell celeriac root here), or in yogurt soup.
Thyme/Wild Thyme: Goes into frittata, onto fried eggs, roasted potatoes, roasted root vegetables etc.
Smoked paprika: I love this and I am running out (ordered from Mountain Rose Herbs to US while husband was visiting his family few weeks ago). I usually use it with roasted potatoes and chicken.
Finally, in case you’re wondering what it is, garlic infusing in olive oil: At some point I had way too much garlic at home, more than I’d ever use (I rarely use garlic in cooking), so I figured I should just peel them and add olive oil and some dried rosemary sprigs and leave it to infuse. I haven’t used it yet and I can’t think of how I’d use it other than for ear infections so I’ll have to do some research and brainstorming on that one.
Middle Shelf
Cardamom: I love cardamom. I throw a few into stock, brown rice (along with astragalus root which is another frequently used ingredient in my kitchen but not included in the rack), and into rooibos tea. I also break a pod and throw the seeds into the coffee filter when I am brewing coffee in the morning. I tend to drink coffee after breakfast. I prefer plain warm water first thing in the morning, sometimes with a few drops of vinegar.
Flax seed: Goes on top of oatmeal and salads.
Cinnamon: I use cinnamon in my oatmeal, and in Moroccan inspired stews. I add some to the coffee with the cardamom too.
Black seed (Nigella sativa): Usually on top of labnah along with some olive oil.
Black pepper: Most of my cooking includes some black pepper.
Herbamare: This is an A. Vogel product that is a combination of sea salt, dehydrated vegetables and herbs. I use sparingly on some vegetarian stews and on eggs, and sometimes with yogurt.
Himalayan salt: Again, used in some cooking. I alternate between rock salt and himalayan salt.
Black lava salt: This is a sea salt from Hawaii that is infused with activated charcoal, therefore has detoxifying effect. I use it on roast vegetables and roast meat. Bought from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Cumin: In red lentil soup, mujaddara (lentil & rice dish), Moroccan inspired stews.
Sumac: In frittata, omelette and meat balls.
Red lentil: I frequently make a quick & simple red lentil soup with a combination of  carrots and onions, as well as some turmeric, cinnamon and cumin.
Bottom Shelf
Coriander seeds: I actually don’t use this so much, but it happens to be there. I sometimes use it in Indian cooking or when I marinate chicken with a combination of other spices.
Sesame seeds: If we were still eating wheat at the moment, I would be using this on Turkish börek (along with nigella seeds and flax seed) but since we are not… I just use it to crust baked fish at times or toast and add to sautéed dark leafy greens or stir-fries.
Fenugreek seeds: Simmer to make tea or sprout and eat sparingly. In my experience it really does help stimulate milk production (galactagogue).
Aniseed: Aids in digestion. I like the sweet taste it imparts to tea. Also a galactagogue.
Elderflower: In combination with peppermint, it’s a good remedy for cold. I don’t use it just during colds though and it’s a common addition to my herbal tea.
Nutmeg: Grated and added to food like minced meat, Jerusalem artichoke soup, pumpkin soup.
Red chili flakes: Goes onto soups, frittata, stir-fry, stews. Whatever that needs a kick of flavor.
Chlorella: A single celled algae, in powder form. Very strong algae flavor. This has a cracked outer cell wall to ensure better assimilation by the body. I like to add some to my salad.
Marshmallow root: In powder form, I use marshmallow root to soothe sore throat. I usually add it to honey along with some ginger and/or cinnamon and take a teaspoon few times throughout the day.
Hot chocolate mix: Roasted cacao powder, astragalus root powder, shatavari root powder. I’ll usually mix this powder with a little bit of water and milk (either cow or coconut) as it heats and use grape molasses as sweetener. I would use maple syrup too but I don’t have frequent access to that in Istanbul. I do find it in stores in Cyprus so whenever I am visiting I stock up a bottle or two. (Or from the US when visiting).
Of course these are not my only most used ingredients. I don’t have to mention olive oil, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar… We use A LOT of honey. A lot of tahini. But I had to focus on one (rather messy) location and this was it.
What are your most frequently used pantry ingredients?

Journey to Pregnancy

I didn’t have a particular issue with fertility but I wanted to share some of the things I learned ever since I got concerned with having a baby.

TMI warning in advance.

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Nearly two years ago, I conceived my first baby girl Zaynab. We had been married for a year and a half, and having been one of these women who almost always had a regular menstrual cycle, I found my cycle to change dramatically and never go back to normal right after getting married. My cycles seemed to be longer, and I just never knew how long or short each one would be anymore. No cycle was the same as the previous or next one again. Once I noticed this change, I downloaded a period calendar app to keep track. I also didn’t know anything about fertile mucus, ovulation and so on until after I got married. I thought getting pregnant was a lot easier, just join the two cells any time of the month excluding the days of menstrual flow; but no!

My husband and I weren’t living together for the first 15 months of our marriage, until I finally got my green card and was able to join him in the US. In the meanwhile, he did visit every couple of months for a few days but I still never got pregnant. I experienced three other cycles before I would conceive after my move. I got my first period shortly after the move. I do remember having menstrual camps around the second day, which was typical for me, for a few hours.

After that, I discovered a practice called bajos, which are vaginal steam baths. This practice is found in a lot of different cultures across the world, but I particularly came across an article by Dr Rosita Arvigo. Without wasting much time, I prepared a steam bath using some herbs from my garden and from my herbal apothecary. I did this first bath at the peak end of my second period. I also noticed that this second cycle and eventually third cycle were shorter than my usual cycles for the last few months, and they were also about the same in length, lasting approximately 29 days. God knows best, but I attributed that to healthier eating as I was buying more organic, wholesome foods after moving into my own home, or eating less meat, which maybe didn’t have to do with less meat in general but rather less meat that was full of hormones. I still ate dairy but only organic.

Then I did some more research on some of the practices that Dr Arvigo advocates for, and found out about Mayan Abdominal Therapy. Luckily, I found a practitioner nearby and made an appointment to see her. At our appointment, I first filled out some personal information, followed by a discussion mostly about my reproductive health, and then finally, I was taught how to perform the abdominal therapy on myself.

One thing I remember mentioning to her during the appointment was that I never notice that fertile, stretchy, egg-white, cervical mucus. She told me that having a period doesn’t necessitate successful ovulation. She also told me she felt that my uterus was a little tilted to the right. The Mayan abdominal therapy would help lift the uterus and realign it. Other benefits would be undoing tight knots in the abdominal area, and encouraging improved blood and lymph flow. The practitioner told me it’d be best if I did this therapy every day, excluding a few days before the predicted start of my cycle, and the days of menstrual flow.  So I stuck with it.

I did a second steam bath at the peak start of my third and final cycle. Sure enough, this time I didn’t experience any cramping. A few days after the end of my cycle, I felt a tiny pinch on the lower right side of my abdomen. When I went to the bathroom a little later, I noticed blood-tinted, thick clear mucus. This egg-white mucus continued for a couple of more days. I wrote my practitioner telling her about my experience, and I wondered if that pinch I felt was ovulation, followed by a little bit of ovulation spotting.

My fourth period never came and I got my positive pregnancy test on the evening of August 9th, 2015. My estimated due date was April 14th, 2016. I went into labor April 12th, and gave birth on April 14th at 2.15am.

Links:

Vaginal Steams | Forgotten Ancient Wisdom for Women’s Healing

Vaginal Steams | Alignment Monkey

Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy

My Second Childbirth & Postpartum

I was 10 days past my estimated due date, frustrated and tired that I was still pregnant, having expected to give birth a very long time ago, when I felt the first contractions around 2 a.m. in the morning. I had gone to bed around 11 p.m. At first I didn’t realize it was a real contraction and I went back to sleep after using the restroom. I woke up again about 15 minutes later and that’s when I realized I was in labor. I texted my husband who was at the time in Istanbul telling him to start looking for tickets. I didn’t want to make the same mistake as I did the first time, not taking the time to rest before the long labor ahead. I texted my mom a few minutes later too informing her I was in early labor and that I didn’t need anything at that moment and that I was going to try to go back to sleep. She joined me in bed not much later. I was able to doze off and on between the contractions, breathing mindfully through them. I used my small Sweet Marjoram sample to help me relax and go with the flow. A couple of hours later, I got up to pray Fajr  and felt like this might be the last prayer for a while. After texting my grandmother to ask for her prayers, she decided to walk up to our house to join us. Soon later, everyone was awake except for my 19-month-old daughter.

A day earlier, I had had it with the built up emotions. I needed to cry for a long time, and I did. Unable to put my agitated daughter to nap, I came downstairs furiously, left her with my mother, grandmother and sister who were cleaning some dried Moringa seeds, walked out the door and found a spot near the Myrtle bush heavy with her berries, behind our large walnut and olive trees, and let it all out. (I managed to eat a couple of berries as I sobbed too). I tried to reason in my head what I was exactly crying about, and I didn’t have a clear reason. I was simply frustrated, physically and emotionally tired, and scared. I didn’t know what to expect, both in regards to how my birth was going to take place and the postpartum experience. It wasn’t going to be my first time but I knew every time is a different experience. Every time a child is welcomed in to the family, the family gets permanently re-configured. I had, on multiple occasions during my second pregnancy, felt that I was not ready for a second child. I was dreading the unknown. After some minutes of letting my tears flow freely, my grandmother approached me. Long story short, after some discussion, she told me I needed to have stronger faith in that God knew exactly what I wanted and needed as an outcome of this upcoming birth and postpartum and that He would not leave me alone. She told me I should pray that His hands would be above theirs and that I’d be protected by His angels. It was a comforting conversation to say the least. For the longest time during this pregnancy, I entertained the idea of having an undisturbed birth, dreading the idea of going to the hospital. I imagined that I would have to argue and fight during labor and thought of all the unnecessary routine interventions that are done during and after labor. I did not want any of them.

After having a small breakfast around 6.30 a.m., we decided to call the obgyn and tell her that I was in labor. She said she would call the hospital and notify them that I was coming and when I’d arrive, she’d join soon after. We decided I’d be leaving with my mother and grandmother, and everyone else would remain home. We left the house around 7-7.30 a.m., my contractions now much nearer. The roads were open, there was no traffic, and the ride was a lot more comfortable than I was fearing it to be. I sat at the back seat with towels covering the seats just in case my water broke during the ride, (or even better in case I gave birth) facing the back of the car on my knees, holding onto the headrest. I was almost falling asleep between the contractions, and during the contractions I was very careful to let my facial muscles including my jaw to relax. Instinctually low moans were what I found to help me through as well. I was very much in the moment. On the contrary, I was a lot more quiet during my first birth but I was also a lot more tense. During the other half of the ride, I had to change positions because my legs were numb so I leaned against the couch sitting somewhat sideways and held onto the handle above the window. When we got to the hospital I told the nurses and the midwife that I was Dr. so-and-so’s patient. One of the midwives asked if I was even having contractions and I told her yes. I think we got there around 8.30 a.m. A nurse led us into my room, the room I thought I’d be giving birth in. It had a bed, a couch, a wardrobe and a bathroom with a shower. After leaving my stuff inside the room she led me to another room where I thought she’d just have me change into a hospital gown. Instead I was tied onto a fetal monitor and for a short while panicked that I would have to remain that way until I gave birth. The nurse didn’t do much explaining. I was clearly not happy though and after some clarification, I understood that she needed a few pages of a graph reading of my contractions and baby’s heartbeat. Obviously I didn’t think that was necessary and it was not a comfortable position at all, but I was glad it was temporary. After she was done and I got into the hospital gown, I labored in the room I was initially taken to. Soon after the obgyn walked in. I tried to say hello but I was in the middle of a contraction. When she heard the accompanying moans I heard her encouraging me to continue that way. She checked how far I was dilated, and I was surprised to hear her say ‘nearly there’. They did another but much shorter fetal monitoring. I was then told that my membranes would be artificially ruptured once dilation was complete. I was moved into another room, the labor room, a very small room with a laboring couch/bed of some sort that I was not familiar with, two midwives and the nurse in addition to the obgyn. At that point I was fully dilated and the obgyn proceeded to break my water. Then she  told me she’d like me to walk around holding onto the IV stand to allow gravity to do its thing and encourage the baby to descend into the birthing canal. They would later transfer me onto the birthing bed last minute when the baby was close to crowning. I started laboring in that way. Soon transition hit me and it was so intense, so much more intense than my first labor – I did not fight it, instead I allowed myself to deal with it however way felt best instinctually. I found myself being very vocal with each contraction and I found that standing with knees slightly bent felt best. I could barely breathe between the contractions because of how fast they came and went. I was so looking forward to the fetal ejection reflex (FER) because during my first labor, that was the most relaxed phase for me. I could talk between the pushing contractions, I was no longer in pain, it was coming to an end. But this time, I wouldn’t be getting a break. When the FER kicked in, I found that I was still overwhelmed with how powerful each contraction was. My body was pushing with full force and I couldn’t help but push along. I couldn’t breathe mindfully through them, I couldn’t breathe my baby out the way I hoped I would. I was overtaken by this incredible force of bringing a soul into the worldly realm.

They transferred me onto the birthing bed, legs up in stirrups, and the obgyn accurately predicted a nuchal cord because she felt the baby was taking a while. (Well, he was actually MUCH faster than my first who didn’t show any signs of difficult positioning or nuchal cord or whatnot). My mother was allowed into the laboring room last minute. She stood behind me and rubbed fresh sage near my nose during every push while she called onto Mary the Mother of Jesus, whose birth story is mentioned in the Qur’an like no other. At around 11.20 a.m. my baby was finally born and placed onto my skin. His purplish face began to change into his pale skin color almost immediately and he let out some small cries. I felt exhausted. I was trembling from exhaustion. I didn’t feel the euphoria I felt with my firstborn. I remembered how my mom would tell us that by the time she was done with laboring, she wouldn’t want to hold us from the amount of exhaustion she felt. I always thought that was so strange because when I saw my firstborn, I forgot everything. The 30-hour labor that left me sleepless, the 5 hour pushing, the transfer to the hospital from my dream home birth. I could barely hold him. I gently rubbed his back before they took him from me to carry out the routine procedures on newborns. I can’t remember if they clamped his cord before or after placing him on me. I do remember my mom attempting to ask them to delay it but everything happened so fast, and I just remember his precious cord blood splashing onto his body.

Fast forward, everything developed fine after that. I managed to avoid an episiotomy and had a second degree tear. The obgyn also allowed me to birth the placenta without manually removing it like they had done in my previous birth. We haven’t had any issues related to hemorrhaging, nursing, milk supply and so on. I left the hospital later in the evening. They had already prescribed me a bunch of medication that I was to get from the pharmacy including antibiotics, pain killers and uterotonics – none of which I wanted to use. I was given antibiotics during labor. Before I could leave the hospital, they injected me with a dose of pain killers and some uterotonic medication. I wanted to avoid getting any more of that. I took Shepherd’s Purse tincture in my water after labor to decrease the likelihood of hemorrhaging. I also took Arnica homeopathy to reduce swelling. I had prepared a combination of Calendula and St. John’s Wort oils with Helichrysum essential oil prior to giving birth and I began using that on the laceration. After a couple of days, I began belly binding using the bengkung method. I started drinking nettle tea and enjoying the broths that my grandmother kept sending over to nourish and restore my depleted reserves. I felt less sore in comparison to how I felt after my first labor but my afterpains which lasted for 2-3 days were definitely more prominent. Albeit not as careful as I needed to be and not as easy as it seems with a demanding toddler, I tried to remain laying down for most of the time and avoided strenuous work.

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St. John’s Wort oil – the picture quality doesn’t do the crimson color of the infused oil justice

This time I favored postpartum help over choosing the birth that I prefer and feel safest with. Yes, it’s possible that just like last time, I would have arranged for the birth that I want and ended up not experiencing it. Some things in life are not in our hands and I had to accept that. I was forced to accept that twice in regards to childbirth and to let go of hard feelings. That’s not to say that I don’t advocate for women to demand what they want and feel safe with most in regards to their birthing experience – I do whole-heartedly – or that I find it acceptable for professional care providers to violate women’s bodies, that of their newborn’s, and their wishes. I didn’t want to be on IV fluids that left my hands swollen and pierced at three different locations,  I didn’t want the antibiotics, I didn’t want to be deprived of water and food during labor, I didn’t want my water to be broken, I didn’t want the fundal pressure they applied while pushing, I didn’t want to have to change positions in the middle of pushing, I didn’t want to be coached to push, I didn’t want my baby’s cord to be clamped prematurely, I didn’t want any of the drugs I was given following birth. But it is what it is, and I also had to get over this idea that our birthing experience – both as the mother and the child – is what shapes who we are primarily. It is an important experience that plays part in who we are, but it’s one out of many. I also want to mention a few notable positives, other than the obvious such as the fact that I had a healthy, beautiful baby that I’m increasingly falling in love with every day and can’t wait to watch grow up and become friends with his older sister and that I also am in ‘one piece’. The doctor, midwives and nurse were all cheerful during the labor. For the most part, they let me be as vocal as I want and get in whatever position I wanted without making me feel like I was being watched. They didn’t say anything hurtful to me during labor, which should not even be a matter of concern for a laboring woman but unfortunately happens often. I also heard the doctor and one of the midwives ask the nurse if this was her first time witnessing a natural birth i.e. one that didn’t involve an epidural or one that was not a C-section. She said it was her second time and that the first time she actually left the laboring room before the birth ended. Later when I called her into the room to tell her that we were preparing to leave the hospital, she told me she thought my labor had went by very well. I laughed and asked if she wasn’t traumatized, because it might have appeared too intense for her liking. She told me, not at all. It made me happy to hear that, especially since it was pretty much the only natural birth she had experienced (as natural as could be in a Turkish Cypriot hospital with the craziest C-section rates of all time).

Having said that, I still hope to experience a home birth some day… They say third time’s the charm 🙂

Till then.

*~*~*

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My Understanding Of Prenatal Care

A few weeks ago, I was listening to Maryn Green’s livestream on Facebook where she talked about prenatal care. She concluded her video by asking what prenatal care means to you, the expecting mother. This is my second pregnancy and I am past 40 weeks right now. Last pregnancy, I was in Michigan and I had two midwives whom I saw regularly. Their prenatal care consisted mostly of just chitchatting about how I felt, if I had any concerns, questions, and they offered me different assessments I could take at certain stages as the pregnancy progressed. I did a few blood tests at the very beginning of pregnancy to check for blood count, whether I was Rh positive, iron levels, and Hepatitis B I think. These were all blood tests that I decided to do from the list my midwife read out and explained to me. I could have done more or less. In addition, we listened to baby’s heartbeat both with a fetoscope and a doppler throughout the pregnancy when it was possible to do so, and I had a GBS test done later in pregnancy which I tested positive for. No scans and nothing else.

This second time around, I happened to be living in Istanbul. It took me a while to settle with one care provider. Most care provıders in Turkey, no matter how ‘natural’ leaning, seemed to be adamant on me having at least a few scans which I did not want to do. While I was still looking for someone, my mom convinced me to have the baby in Cyprus where my family is because I’d be getting a lot more help postpartum IF the one obgyn a few of my friends had their babies with would be OK with me not having a scan and if I liked her. So I accepted to meet this doctor. Anyway, long story short the first meeting with her was short and pleasant. She seemed chill and didn’t care about me not having a scan. She asked for a lot of blood tests, if I agreed, weighed me and took my blood pressure and sent me off. It was a rushed appointment though, to say the least. The feeling I got was that she didn’t even care to see me throughout the pregnancy unless I wanted to which I was totally fine with because I lived abroad and felt healthy really and didn’t see much benefit in going in to check my blood pressure and weigh, pay about 200 Turkish liras and walk out. She didn’t say anything about having a scan later in pregnancy and from her attitude I assumed she wouldn’t ask for one. Fast forward, I made an appointment at 36 weeks because I wanted to at least pop in to say hi and make sure that when I called her during labor, she would at least have a clue on whom I was. So I thought this appointment would be very similar to my first and last one back at 10 weeks pregnancy. I was also planning on telling her a few wishes I had in regards to labor and after labor. I tried to limit my list to four things, two during and two after labor so I wouldn’t sound like a control freak and so that she wouldn’t end up, rightfully, telling me to go find another caregiver if I didn’t want to go by her rules. During the appointment, I didn’t even finish telling her exactly what I wanted. I didn’t feel comfortable or confident. I ended up having to do a scan because it seemed very important to her. She wanted to check the position of the placenta to rule out placenta previa, and obviously the position of the baby. She had me take an appointment for 10 days later for a cervical check, and I walked out the clinic wanting to cry. Later I called and canceled the appointment for the cervical check.
I should mention that in Istanbul, I saw one other obgyn for an actual prenatal rather than to meet her – she was respectful of the fact that I wanted to avoid scans. She checked for positioning with her hands, we listened to baby’s heartbeat and we did the usual body weight and blood pressure. She said she wanted to see me again before I left to Cyprus and asked for a few blood tests. She didn’t feel happy about my skin color which is very pale and gives off the feeling that I have very low iron although I have never suffered from major symptoms of anemia, pregnant or not, and my blood tests have always come out borderline to low iron levels but never alarmingly low. I had already done all the tests she wanted me to take. I was planning on taking them again anyway because frankly, I was just hoping she’d give me an OK note for traveling in case they asked at the airport at 35 weeks pregnancy. I was too tired and busy to get the blood tests done and schedule another appointment so I never did, and no one asked anything at the airport.
So Maryn made so much sense during her live session and talked about how prenatal care should really revolve around what the mother considers prenatal care to be. What she feels like she needs whether that’s physically or emotionally or spiritually. For example, I always felt like a regular massage during pregnancy would be such a bliss but I never placed it in the category of prenatal care. I had the blessing of knowing a professional massage therapist in Michigan who offered her services inside your own home. Personally I would be making use of that opportunity if I were to have access to it throughout my pregnancy, more so than a frequent trip to an obgyn’s or midwife’s office for a weight and blood pressure check which can really be done at home. If you can only afford or have access to very limited massage therapy, you can make sure you practice some self-massage with sesame oil before a shower, followed by a relaxing 2-minute facial gua sha.
In addition, I saw an osteopath on three different occasions during my current pregnancy and felt relief each time from some hip issues I was experiencing. Some expecting mothers frequent osteopaths and chiropractors on a regular basis. Another practice that moms can benefit from is prenatal yoga, either at home or in a group setting. I had established a routine habit of practicing yoga in the mornings especially during Ramadhan and it was a great start to the day. Eating mindfully and taking regular walks is another essential part of maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Despite how constipation is seen as a normal and expected part of pregnancy, I never seemed to have an issue with it in relation to pregnancy but rather I realized that tension during my day and an inability to relax and take a break for at least 15-20 minutes with deep breathing is what causes me trouble. I need to put my mind to it. I like to include an essential oil into the breathing session too, sweet marjoram being my personal favorite. You can intend for the deep breathing to relax & benefit your womb and prepare you for the upcoming labor too. It’s a good habit and needs to be practiced prior to labor, if you are planning on using breathing techniques during labor. I tend to experience restless leg syndrome some nights especially if I’m going to bed late (which is best avoided!) so a 10-minute soak in a small bucket of warm water with epsom salt does wonders and is a great treat. Massage your feet with raw Shea butter or olive oil after drying them with a towel.
As other women, I’m guilty of sometimes feeling like pampering myself is selfish. I’m still young and maybe don’t experience the aches and pains and the struggles of life that older women do, I feel, but I need to remind myself that I am a full-time mom, wife and homemaker. I need to acknowledge that I do work hard; I’m trying my best to keep up and sometimes I have very high expectations of myself. If I expect myself to function as a sane humanbeing and avoid going out of my mind from exhaustion so that I could continue doing what I have to do, my body and emotions need to be taken care of. And so do yours.
So these are some things that I consider to be essential parts of prenatal care for me i.e. what a pregnant woman needs and really, what a non-pregnant woman needs. Another mom could feel that she needs that extra blood test and frequent blood pressure and weight check, as well as the many other routine checks that modern obstetrics and some midwives have to offer. Others might have things to add to the list of practices I mentioned. Maybe a warm cup of herbal tea or milk with honey before bed or while reading a book, meditation… I’d love to hear comments from other moms!purplepansy

Potty Training My 17-Month-Old (Days 4-Completion)

I began writing about our potty training experience when we were about to begin day 4. I couldn’t blog about it consistently but I’m happy to say we are done with potty training and haven’t had a miss/accident in nearly a week now. I felt like we were pretty much done around the 10th day. According to the Tiny Potty Training Book a potty trained child isn’t necessarily a child that doesn’t have any accidents. That’s inevitable here and there even with older children who have been off diapers for months. The most important thing is that my little one figured out pee and poop goes in the toilet/potty, I have a good idea of when she needs to go and she’s also able to tell me when she needs to go if I haven’t prompted her myself.

Our days leading up to completion didn’t show a clear progressive improvement; meaning she didn’t have less and less accidents every day. The first time she had only two accidents, I thought we were doing great and the next day she had maybe 5-6 accidents. We had some similar patterns repeat. It was a bit discouraging and of course frustrating too but I was aware that it had to do with my general mood that day as well as how much attention I paid to her (forget looking at your laptop or even a book for a few days while kiddo is around) so I took a deep calming breath and stuck with it.

She was super sensitive to any stranger in the house, like the repairman or cleaning lady. Anyone other than the usual people in the house (i.e. her dad and I) and she would hold her pee even if I took her to the bathroom over and over again over the span of  1-2 hours until she wouldn’t be able to hold it any longer and pee during a hundredth trip to the bathroom or out of sight in a corner on the floor. There was progress in other ways though. Not simply in relation to the number of accidents. A few days after I took her diapers off, she began saying ‘oh no’ or grabbing her pants when she’d have an accident so that was a good sign that she understood pee-pee wasn’t meant to go there. Also gradually she would tell me she needed the bathroom a little earlier than the moment she needed to go and could no longer hold it in. Now she’s at the point where she’ll tell me for example while we are outside in the garden and I will pick her up and walk to the bathroom indoors without rushing like a madwoman, and she’ll be ok. So maybe half a minute of a walk. I haven’t tested her much longer than that. I definitely need to prompt her most of the time though and that doesn’t mean she’s any less trained than if she were to tell me herself all the time. Parents have to remind older kids to go to the bathroom all the time before outings and such because they’re too busy to stop playing or whatever they’re doing. As for outings in the earlier days, I have to be honest, we didn’t do any diaper free outings beyond 15 minutes near our home because I wanted to avoid the stress and inconvenience of having to worry about her wetting her pants in the middle of the metro or taxi. In Istanbul we don’t have a car so that means I can’t keep a potty near me or pull over to have her do her business on the side of the road whenever needed. Also I prefer avoiding public bathrooms in places like the metro station. We had several long trips, the first one being on day 5 where it took us an hour to get to the osteopath. Of course I still took her to the bathroom as I normally would while practicing EC, except with a backup. She only wet her diaper once during the entire trip (on the way to the clinic, during the session, during lunch, and on the way back) and it wasn’t a lot either. I only had to change her once after lunch I believe. Another day we took a trip to the tailor and I think the entire outing took about an hour. She remained dry and didn’t need the bathroom. The final and longest trip was to Cyprus! She did awesome. It was past the 10th day, maybe the 11th day. I can’t remember. I took her to the bathroom once at the airport in Istanbul, once on the plane, once at the airport in Cyprus and we took one car break on the way home. Clean diaper and that was the last one I ever used during an outing or at all for that matter. We’ve had several long outings since.

A few notes worth mentioning: we did not have any naked time even while at home. We wear clothes on a normal basis and she would be too without a diaper. She had to learn potty training with undies (as well as pants or long socks/leggings depending on the weather) because that is what she normally wears and would be wearing as a potty trained child. Secondly, you might be wondering whether she tried putting up a fight or cried at all during the potty training process. Yes, she did. Sometimes she would try to get out of my arms or refuse to walk to the bathroom with me when I prompted her or even after having told me she was in need of going herself. I tried to remain calm, I sang to her or came up with a game to distract her and to make it fun for her. It did work most of the time. If she tried to get off the potty too early I tried to keep her on it for a little longer by distracting her further. Sometimes if she really insisted she was ‘done’, I would let her get off and leave even if I wasn’t too sure whether she really was done or not because I wanted her to feel trusted and confident. Not a big deal if she were to have a miss shortly after, or I would try to take her again soon when she seemed less resistant. If she did have a miss shortly after, I would remind her pee goes in potty as we cleaned up, and move on. Finally, some moms prefer not to use any type of reward system during potty training including praise. I did personally praise her by saying ‘good job’ and that was very encouraging to her. I did not give her any treats or such though. Potty training is a necessary developmental milestone and I don’t believe it requires or should be encouraged with external rewards. External rewards could potentially cause power struggles too. Now she’ll occasionally remind me to praise her when she’s done and say ‘good job’ or ‘yay’.

I’m happy and relieved we are done before the next baby’s arrival! I’m also thankful for the Go Diaper Free community. There’s lots of great resources online. Check out the different support groups on Facebook. You can also grab the GDF EC book and/or the Tiny Potty Training book, find a local GDF certified coach or shoot me a message and we can talk about where you could start.

This blog post contains affiliate links. You do not pay any extra cost if you make a purchase via any of the links. I simply make a small % from the purchase.

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Potty Training My 17-Month-Old (Days 1-3)

If you’re familiar with my previous posts, you would know that I have been practicing EC with my daughter since she was about 4 weeks old. It’s been a great experience and I am planning on doing the same with my next baby, maybe starting even earlier depending on my postpartum recovery. We did not have her out of diapers as a baby. She was in diapers all the time, up until now. However I would respond to her signals as much as possible and I think I could say that she was almost never going number 2 in her diapers starting from 5.5 months old with a few exceptions here and there (if I missed her signal and she was in the process of going or was already done, or she had teething related diarrhea at some point so each passing wind meant poop would go along with it etc.)

At 13 months, she decided to use a word for signaling potty and that was ‘kéké’, a more polite way of saying the very common word for poop ‘kaka’ (speaking for Arabic and Turkish – I’m not sure about other languages). She would also walk towards the bathroom after saying it. At first this only meant she needed to go #2, but later it also meant she was about to pee or had already peed. Then she started using the word ‘hammam’ as well as ‘kéké’ around I think 15 months old and she now only uses the word ‘hammam’ which means bathroom in Arabic for both #1 and #2. Initially for pee, she would tell us only after having gone or was about to go and would usually refuse to be stopped from doing what she’s doing (busy child) but since the last couple of weeks she began telling us if she felt the need to go and not during or after the deed.

We were in the US until the end of August and I was very keen on wrapping up EC and starting potty training once we got back home. Unfortunately, we came back to a flat that was in a very bad condition due to some flooding that happened while we were gone and was somewhat taken care of in our absence but it wasn’t completely  taken care of since we didn’t have any close family around to check things for us so that meant weeks of cleaning mold, dust, washing endless laundry, throwing away furniture and a couple of luggages of clothing, fixing doors that were no longer shutting as the wood swelled from water retention and trying to get things back in order. We also had to deal with other things like our Wi-Fi not working and blocked phones which took at least a week to figure out in this mad city. I had already been tired from our US trip, over 30 weeks pregnant, and this was just another exhausting episode so the last thing I could risk doing was try to potty train my toddler but do more damage than good to her by losing my patience.

At some point I decided I wouldn’t even potty train her until we left to Cyprus at the end of September / beginning of October where I’d remain until labor and a few weeks postpartum. There I’d get the help of my family so it’d be easier perhaps. Long story short, I felt an encouragement to give it a shot about 10 days before leaving to Cyprus so this is how it went days 1-3:

Day 1 – she woke up dry like she most often does and her first word was ‘hammam’. I took her to the bathroom, she peed, and off went her last diaper. I put on her new 100% cotton undies that cost me 2.5 Turkish liras each (I found size 1 which was perfect – I was worried I wouldn’t find any that would fit her since most kids now don’t need underwear until they hit 3-4 years of age). She had I believe about 6 accidents in total this first day. I learned that she needed to be prompt to go potty more often rather than me waiting for her to tell me she needed to go and also that she hid a couple of times in order to do her business. Also this first day she didn’t go as much #2 as she would normally do. I couldn’t tell this first day whether it just had to do with a slower digestion due to something she ate or it was in relation to the potty training.

Day 2 – she slept through the night and surprisingly woke up wet! Normally if she needs to go in the night she would wake me up but this time she must have done it while half asleep and went back to bed without me realizing. I do remember checking if she was wet around 6 a.m. when I woke up for the dawn prayer and she was dry as far as I could tell. She woke up at 9 a.m. or so. Anyway, day 2 was a little crazy. She kept having accidents, more than day 1, and again, I blamed it at my lack of prompting to go and also the fact that she was having too much liquids throughout the day. I also cleaned the house on day 2 so I was a little too busy to pay enough attention to her at certain points of the day. I felt like I might not have enough energy to continue with PT on day 2 but told myself I needed to be more patient and it would get better. Also she went #2 but later in the day and it still felt a little different.

Day 3 – I took her to the bathroom once at night after day 2 was over when it looked like she was waking up when I moved her to her own crib from our bed. She slept through the night after that one waking and pottying and she was dry in the morning. We had 5 accidents in total again but I felt there was improvement on day 3. Her accidents didn’t start until later in the day when she was urinating over and over again within an hour, thanks to the water melon she ate as snack. I was careful to prompt her as often as I felt she needed to go. I could have still done better but nevertheless, it was better than the first two days. A couple of times she told me she had to potty 10 minutes after I had already taken her and she had gone potty (this is after having eaten water melon) so I was either caught off guard or I was running to the bathroom with her as she peed. Also a couple of times I did the mistake of not trusting her when she told me she needed to go potty because I thought she was doing it to get my attention. She does use that card sometimes as well as other things like telling me she’s hungry or wants water and she thinks it might get her out of a situation. Again, she had a bowel movement later in the day and this looked like a normal one. It has just been taking her a little longer to build up the need to go. In conclusion, this was a motivating and satisfactory day.

Tomorrow, day 4, I am planning on going on a short outing with her if the weather permits (expecting heavy rain) and if I have the energy to go. So far I’ve only been taking her out in our apartment’s parking lot for 20 minutes where she can run around freely without me having to worry about cars in the main street and where she can chase cats and birds.

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