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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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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.
A few months ago I wrote a blog post on what I’d do differently during my first pregnancy. This second pregnancy, I have been learning even more about my body and I find myself re-analyzing my experience with childbirth. In my post about pregnancy, I talked about how I believe lack of movement negatively impacted my ability to birth my baby easily. I still believe that’s true, in my case. It definitely had an impact. Also when I listed what I had been doing to prepare for labor, or thought I was doing, I included tawakkul which is reliance upon God. I have come to realize that in reality, I was relying on God to do what I wanted and not what could come to be. And as I said, it didn’t turn out the way I wanted. At all. But I am nevertheless very thankful as in the end everything was OK, and I learned and am still learning a lot from my experience. This time around, I am a lot more prepared for a wide range of possible outcomes and the matter of fact is… I actually have no idea how my birth will turn out to be. Sure, I found a doctor in Cyprus who respected my wish of not having any ultrasound scans done. I got good feedback from several friends and acquaintances who birthed with her. She is one of the very few ob-gyns in Cyprus who is pro-natural birth, and the private hospital she mostly serves at is at a nice part of the island. But I’m not attached to the idea that I am going to absolutely birth with her, at the hospital etc. I could end up having a very quick labor before I reach the hospital, I could end up with her, or I could end up having a C section. Whatever. And frankly, I am not bothered by any of those possibilities. As long as my baby and I are not hurt in the process, emotionally or physically, and it happens in the best possible manner depending on the circumstances. And that’s what I am relying on God for this time. So I am going to make sure I do my best to prepare my mind and body for the hard work ahead, I will talk to the doctor next time I see her about some wishes that I would like to be respected for during and after labor (what they call birth plan), and that’s pretty much it in terms of tying my camel and trusting in God. At least for now. Before I wrap up this part of my post and get to the part that it was meant to be on (sorry for the initial ramble), I’m going to share with you this article that I read recently. It really resonated with me. I don’t know if it’s expecting too much of caregivers and especially midwives who in my experience are usually more open minded than your modern medical obgyn, but I didn’t feel like I was prepared for the vast possibilities that come with childbirth. Other than caregivers, I think some women and authors on natural birth also forget to at least put a footnote saying that it’s OK if your labor turns out harder or different than you expected for a reason that isn’t very self-evident and you’re not a failure even though birth is a natural physiological process. We don’t live like our ancestors anymore. Unfortunately much of modern living has took a toll on our bodies and what we are naturally meant to be capable of doing from the way we move physically to our emotional and mental state to our eating habits, and things just aren’t as simple anymore. And even then, birth just like any other major event in life can have different outcomes. Birth is not black and white.
So I was told about hypnobirthing way before I got pregnant from people who had firsthand experience with it but I never dwelled into it because I had the notion, from all that I had been reading from natural birth advocates, that birth was just going to happen and I didn’t need anything extra – I had it all ‘figured out’. Looking back at my first labor, I think I had an incredible amount of tension. I didn’t do any controlled breathing, I had a very tense jaw the whole time (a relaxed jaw equals a relaxed pelvis). My midwife reminded me only once to relax my jaw and that was it. And after dilation was over, I pushed non-stop with every pushing surge which was exhausting and in my case, useless. It makes so much more sense that trying to relax as much as possible during labor and at least during the pushing phase helps labor progress more efficiently. Deep and controlled breathing slows down the heart rate, increases oxygen flow into muscles, and counteracts the adrenaline rush that can occur during labor and even lessen the amount of pain that is experienced. Instead of running away from the inevitable process, you embrace it. I am already incorporating some practice breathing into my day which is essential if you plan on trying to relax through breathing during labor.
Another thing that I wish I had done during labor, which is not really major but just a small thing that I think would have helped, is at least having had a couple of warm showers. I am generally physically tense let alone during labor, and I know a relaxing shower wouldn’t have hurt at all.
Finally, tying back to what I mentioned initially about tawakkul and acceptance, I think that’s not unrelated to the labor process. I think even during labor, I had to be more accepting and embracing and hopefully I’ll remember to do that and all the rest this time around. And include some essential oils. Yes.
Also if you appreciate art, check out this page for some gorgeous mixed media birth art that I just came across and found pleasing to look at. This is not an affiliate link, I just happened to stumble upon it.
We are already on day 8 of this year’s Islamic lunar month of Ramadan. Before I get to the real purpose of my post which is sharing how my experience has been fasting while pregnant for the first time, I would like to write a little about what Ramadan is about. Even if you’re not a Muslim, you have likely heard of this holy month that is welcomed by most Muslims with much joy. The month of Ramadan is when the first verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the final Prophet of Islam, Muhammad ﷺ. During Ramadan, Muslims observe the fast incumbent upon every Muslim who has reached the age of accountability, and who is physically able to do so. The fast begins at what they call true dawn which is the Fajr prayer time, before sunrise, and ends at sunset (Maghrib prayer time). There are two other prayer times in-between Fajr and Maghrib. The fast excludes all liquids and solids, including water. Obviously the days are shorter in colder seasons and the fasts tend to be easier and vice versa during the warmer seasons.
Instead of arguing about whether fasting is a wise choice for Muslim women during pregnancy or not, I’m going to direct you to this link because again, my purpose is not that. I think the wisest choice is for a woman to listen to her body, whether that tells her to fast or not. I find fear mongering pregnant/nursing women that their baby will be harmed if they chose to fast is just as bad as making a woman feel like they must fast while pregnant/nursing.
Last year during Ramadan I knew I wasn’t even going to try fasting because the weather was very hot and I was nursing on demand a 2 month old who didn’t receive any nourishment other than my milk. I asked some friends who tried fasting while nursing older babies (one 6 month old and one 10 month old) and they also told me they tried but had a very hard time. This year as we approached Ramadan, I was still nursing my one year old a few times a day and I happened to be pregnant. So initially I didn’t give it much thought and told myself I was not going to fast. However one day a doula/midwife sister on a Facebook group dedicated to Muslim pregnant ladies asked us what our plans were for this Ramadan. One of the pregnant ladies said she would be fasting while nursing 20 month old twins 2-3 times a day and at 8 months pregnant. She showed so much enthusiasm and even shared her little tip (drinking the juice of half a watermelon every night which she did back when she was fasting last year while nursing the twins at around 8 months old). Others said they would try and fast as many days as possible. So at that point I thought I really should at least intend to try fasting and see how it went and if my body told me I couldn’t handle it, I would stop. Before Ramadan came, I weaned my daughter. So now I was left with the pregnancy and the uncertainty of what fasting would be like while chasing and caring for a mini human. Just a note, I am currently 17 weeks pregnant and therefore in my second trimester.
So the first day of Ramadan turned out wonderful and much easier than I anticipated. It was very encouraging so I decided I would continue. I didn’t have any dizziness during the day. I slept a couple of hours before suhoor the night before (suhoor is the meal that we have just before dawn to prepare us for the day ahead) and woke up about 40 minutes before dawn. My husband and I had a light breakfast style meal. We waited for dawn, prayed, and then I went to bed again until my daughter woke up. In the morning I did the usual and actually a little more than I typically feel like I have time for. I fed her breakfast, organized the kitchen if it needed any organizing, did some yoga, did the laundry, read some Qur’an, took a short walk to the grocery store, took a nap with my daughter, prepared dinner and some walnut stuffed buttery dates for iftar as well as for our next door neighbors. We never met and I thought this was a nice occasion to greet them and congratulate them for the beginning of Ramadan. Our daughter did us a favor and slept without much hassle before sunset so I had the pleasure of sitting down to break my fast peacefully with my husband without any distractions. The moment of thoughtfully sipping on water and biting into a date after a long day of fasting, I wish everyone could experience that at least once in their lifetime. You feel the water rush through and quench your entire body.
Came day number 2, and this time my daughter didn’t sleep until after the call for the Maghrib prayer. That was super annoying and I kept thinking of how I wanted to experience that great feeling at iftar like I did the previous day. I only say this because I had a thought during these few minutes that maybe is worth mentioning. Well, first of all, I was probably easily irritated because it was a long day, I was tired and looked forward to breaking my fast. But I wanted to convince myself that this was really not that big of a deal and I should be thankful that I even have such a lovely child that I am able to put to sleep. A dear friend of mine had advised me to picture a beautiful image (of a flower, for example) and imagine that I become one with that image in moments of frustration. I found that even just imagining something beautiful, at that moment wisteria, was soothing enough because gazing at beauty gladdens the soul. The rest of the days of the first week varied, some days more challenging than others with putting the little one to sleep before sunset. We did end up keeping her up one of the days till after we broke our fast and she still took forever to fall asleep later and so that choice didn’t make things much easier. Some parents decide to flip around their kid’s schedule where they’ll have them sleep later in the night and wake up later in the day so that the parent can get enough rest as Ramadan nights tend to be lively and fasting folk may choose to rest for longer in the mornings. I did that last year even though I wasn’t fasting just to fit my husband’s schedule but I chose not to this year. Anyway. After day 3, generally speaking, the fast got even easier as the body adjusted.
As a final word, it’s important that a fasting person does not push their physical limits. I normally wouldn’t take naps with my daughter during her nap time but during Ramadan, I think the nap really helps me re-energize mid-day so it’s an important adjustment. Make sure you rest, enjoy this spiritually uplifting time, and nourish & hydrate yourself after sunset.
I hope everyone including mamas who weren’t able to fast still benefit from this blessed month and feel the spiritual benefits it brings forth.
I apologize in advance for a long & unstructured description of our weaning journey, but here’s how we did it.
When I found out I was pregnant at 10.5 months postpartum, I knew I wouldn’t immediately wean my daughter. Luckily she wasn’t a picky eater and liked food but I believed she deserved to be nursed until she was at least a year old. Also, she didn’t even get teeth until she hit 11.5 months, around the same time she took her first steps. Anyway, weaning my child cold turkey would be very difficult. I thought trying to night wean first would be the best option. At that point she was sleeping in her own crib one part of the night and then she was co-sleeping with us the second part of the night. So I think when I was less than 8 weeks pregnant, at one point, I decided I would only nurse her that one time when she went to bed and then would not feed her for the rest of the night and would offer some water instead. Our first attempt was a disaster. She cried for about an hour and even when her dad took her away and she was finally falling asleep from exhaustion, she would still wake up crying. She was clearly hungry. So I gave in and nursed her. Earlier that day she really hadn’t eaten well. It was one of my days out with her at my art lesson. So I decided I wouldn’t try again till a while and I would start to incorporate proper meals into her daily schedule with a final filling meal before bedtime.
In the meantime I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on gentle night weaning. These three (one, two, three) are what appealed to me the most. I didn’t actually end up following Dr. Jay Gordon’s night weaning schedule but it gave me an idea of what I could do. Before this, I had already watched many videos on gentle sleep training (with some crying included). Most guides suggested developing a bedtime routine, placing your drowsy child in bed and walking out, then walking back in if your child needed comforting, placing them back down in their bed, repeat, until your child figured out how to fall asleep. We already had a bedtime routine. Even if that simply included washing hands and face with warm water, bathroom time, and changing clothes and finally nursing to sleep. Zaynab knew it was time to sleep the moment I would start changing her clothes into Pjs under dim light. However, the whole walking out thing never worked for us. Some days she would end up sleeping on her own after a couple of minutes of crying, but after she figured out how to stand AND turn on the bedroom light that was close to her crib, that seemed almost impossible. So I like how especially in the first video I linked above, the mom talks about Baby Aware Parenting, how crying is OK and something babies need to do just like adults (who hasn’t used the bathroom as an excuse just to get a moment to cry?) and the most important thing is that the parent remains with the child comforting them as the child releases tension through some needed crying. The second thing that I liked about the other two videos is that the suggested method included co-sleeping. I found that with my daughter, sometimes she fell asleep better beside me (or on top of me, as I will later describe) without nursing rather than with me placing her back in her crib when she appeared asleep only to wake up again.
So how did it actually happen? I don’t have a clear answer to tell you the truth, but it happened. It began with her sleeping through most of the night. I think the main reason for that was that she was eating well before bedtime and she wasn’t actually hungry. If she woke up once in the night I knew she just needed to pee, or she heard some loud noise, and it wasn’t because she was hungry. Actually it never necessarily meant that she was hungry after a certain age, but I couldn’t quite be sure. At least with her eating proper meals before bed, I knew I could rule out hunger. Occasionally I would offer some water or herbal tea. Sometimes she’d accept it, sometimes not. So this first point helped greatly in the night weaning process. It was a gradual process, going from nursing her to sleep once, sometimes nursing her if she woke up mid-night and nursing her again once in the morning after sunrise and before rising from the bed. Was there any crying involved? Yes, of course. But it didn’t feel quite bad as I would be holding her the whole time, rocking her to sleep, and singing to her. It just took some patience on my part and eventually she fell asleep. Some days she wouldn’t cry as much and some days she would cry a reasonable amount and I only embraced that and took it as her releasing tension and frustration and getting ready for relaxation. I didn’t perceive it as something bad. Of course I obviously made sure she wasn’t experiencing anything else like physical pain and all her needs were met.
There were times where I had her dad come in and put her to sleep instead of me if I was too tired or had been trying for too long. She seemed to cry less with him because she didn’t expect to be nursed by him. I also somehow discovered that she slept best in two positions other than the cradling position which we had to forgo because it would make her think she’s about to get nursed. Ok, think of the position a baby would be in in a carrier, with legs wide apart, and facing the parent. Back when I used to wear her, she would fall asleep in the carrier without getting nursed. So I thought this position would be helpful, and indeed it was. The second position is with me laying on my back (which is getting harder now with my growing bump but still possible) and her laying on me chest-to-chest. Before I completely night weaned her, I would nurse her once before bed, and just before she fell asleep I would unlatch her and just hold her in that baby-carrier position until she dozed off before placing her in her crib. Some nights she fell asleep while nursing before I could unlatch her and that was fine.
So just to wrap up a very messy overview of how I weaned my little one: our schedule went from once before bed, sometimes once the night and sometimes not, and once first thing in the morning after sunrise, and free nursing during the day, to once before bed, once in the morning, and only at nap time, to none in the night, once in the morning, and at nap time, to once in the morning and none other than that, and finally to no nursing at all. I didn’t keep a record but if I had to take a guess, this whole process took about 1.5 months. I also forgot to mention that my main reason for weaning my baby wasn’t simply the pregnancy but because it was getting difficult and at times frustrating especially with feeling more sensitive (both physically and emotionally) and it hurt me to feel irritated towards my innocent baby. If I could and if I didn’t end up getting pregnant, I would have loved to nurse her for longer. However she received mother’s milk for more than an entire year, she didn’t consume one drop of formula and I try to feed her wholesome foods as much as possible. Now we just have to be content with extra cuddles and lullabies and kisses as a replacement… and of course good home cooked meals.
Fire cider was initially a recipe shared by Rosemary Gladstar. Over the years fire cider became a generic term among the herbal community referring to spicy vinegars. A few weeks ago, I shared the traditional recipe in this blog post. Today I wanted to dedicate a post just for it. I know it’s nearly spring time and maybe a different topic was more befitting, but I’m sure there’s still some people out there who could be fighting off sinus infections and colds. Also fire cider is a remedy that stays for a long time, so you can have it made now and ready for winter time.
Fire cider is ideal to ward off colds, respiratory infections and thin out & expel excess mucus in the case of sinus congestion. It also boosts circulation in the body with a spicy kick. It’s taken by the dropperful or spoonful, depending on the person’s palette or the strength of the vinegar. If you experience gastrointestinal inflammation, heartburn and peptic ulcers, you might want to limit your intake or stay away from it.
The traditional base remedy includes ginger, garlic, onions, horseradish, jalapeño or cayenne, apple cider vinegar and raw honey which is added after the vinegar is ready and strained. In addition, you could add whatever herbs you like.
I added olive leaf and powdered turmeric in addition this time. Olive leaf and turmeric have immune boosting properties. Olive leaf is an antiviral. I like to use olive leaf in fire cider especially because I feel there is a sacredness to it in Islamic tradition. In a section of Dalail al-Khayrat, which is a book of litanies dedicated to the Prophet Muhammad, the author Imam al Jazuli pleads to God with ‘His name that is written on the olive leaf’. Likewise there’s mention of the olive both in the Qur’an and narrations of our master Muhammad. According to tradition, the three gifts that were presented to the newly born ‘Isaa (Jesus) were myrrh, frankincense and actually turmeric, rather than gold.
As was the case last time I made fire cider, I didn’t have horseradish in hand. I don’t think one can find that in Istanbul. Also instead of jalapeños I used hot red peppers in dried form. I did not de-seed them so I am a little worried about the level of heat! I threw the onion, garlic cloves and ginger in the blender instead of chopping them up by hand.
I added all the ingredients into the glass jar and added raw apple cider vinegar all the way to the top, covering all the ingredients. This needs to sit in a dark, cool place away from direct sunlight for 4-6 weeks. Don’t forget to label it with ingredients and date like I did 🙂 but I know I made this on February 26th as that’s when the pictures were taken on my phone so this needs about another week or two to go. Every now and then, give it a gentle shake. Once the infusion time is over, strain it using a cheesecloth. Add honey to the final product according to personal taste.