Week One of Ramadan 2017

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.

Weaning My 13-month-old

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.

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Fire Cider: Traditional Natural Remedy

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.

Three Soup Favorites: Vegan Lentil, Vegetarian Ginger Pumpkin, Turmeric Chicken

I grew up in a family where soup was the staple dish of dinner nearly everyday, even in the hot summer days of Cyprus. After getting married, I didn’t insist on cooking soup as often as we did back home especially because my husband wasn’t big on soup either but now that I have a baby who is fed easier that way and who – mashallah – loves soup, I’m more motivated to make soup and I try to shoot for at least twice a week. If you make a large amount, it could last you for a couple of days, or you can freeze some and thaw it later at another date.

Last week I made some nettle & spinach soup which I think is also a favorite of mine, but I decided on these three for this post.

VEGAN RED LENTIL SOUP

Ingredients:

1 onion

2-3 small to medium carrots

1/2 cup red lentil

1-2 tsp tomato paste

approx. 4-5 cups water (guessing the amount off of my head right now. You might have to add more later as the water will lessen as the soup cooks, or you might leave it as is. Your call)

olive oil

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon

red chilli flakes

salt

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Red Lentil Soup

Chop up the onions and carrots. The shape is not important since you’ll blend this soup at the end but if you cut them up small they’ll cook faster. Rinse the lentils. Now you could start this off in two ways: either add everything all at once along with the water, minus the olive oil OR you could add the olive oil and the spices and then the vegetables and tomato paste, gently fry for 2-3 minutes, then add the lentils and the water. Once the vegetables are cooked through (usually the red lentils cook earlier, at least in my case. If the lentils you have take long you can try soaking them prior to cooking) blend the soup using a hand blender. Add more water if necessary. Salt & pepper to taste.

VEGETARIAN GINGER PUMPKIN SOUP

Ingredients:

1 pound of pumpkin

1 onion

piece of fresh ginger root size of half a thumb or 1/2 tsp of ginger in powder form

1/2 tsp cinnamon

coconut oil

butter (optional)

heavy cream or full fat milk (optional)

water

Normally I give the onions and pumpkin a quick fry and then boil them till they cook thoroughly and finally give it a blend, but this last time, I roasted the pumpkins instead. And I actually didn’t have any onions or ginger in the house (shhh) so it was definitely missing something BUT let’s assume I had onions and ginger, and this is how I ‘did’ it. Place the pumpkin on a baking tray, add some coconut oil and butter over it. Adding dairy to this recipe is completely optional. You can omit the dairy and have it vegan. You could also add nut milk for creaminess if you prefer that, up to you. Sprinkle some thyme, cinnamon and salt. Bake it until the pumpkin is cooked completely. In the meanwhile fry some onions with turmeric and some more coconut oil or butter (or olive oil) for a couple of minutes, add the baked pumpkins, add some water, blend until smooth and adjust the water to your own taste. Once the water comes to a gentle boil you can let it simmer for a bit and then finally add your cream. If you’ve noticed, I left out the amount for cream and water, because you’ll decide on the water according to your desired consistency, and the cream is added in small amounts usually (less than the water.) It’s really up to you.

TURMERIC CHICKEN SOUP

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 onion

1 carrot

1 tsp rosemary, dried

thumb sized ginger, shredded

2-3 cardamom pods

1/2 tsp cinnamon or 1-2 cinnamon sticks

1 lemon

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Chicken soup with rice
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For the LO & me

Squeeze a lemon over the the chicken and rub it clean using the lemon pieces. Put everything (excluding the lemon) into a large enough pot, cover the chicken with water and bring to a boil with the lid covered. Lower heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked thoroughly. This usually takes about an hour. Remove the chicken and sieve the stock into another pot. Now you can decide what you want to do with the remaining vegetables. I discarded it. Actually I do usually feed the cats, dogs and seagulls outside my kitchen window but I didn’t this time. Anyway, back to the recipe. I ended up cutting the chicken in half and baking one half with potatoes until nice and crispy at the top, and the other half is what went into the final soup. Just to clarify, we didn’t have two meals consisting mainly chicken in one day – we had the baked chicken the first day, and I prepared the soup the next day. Remove the chicken meat and shred it using your hand. Discard bones (now the cats and stuff came into play). I chose to save 1/4 in a glass container in the fridge to make into wraps or add to salad. The rest I threw into the stock which by the way is full of nutritious gelatin. You know that jelly when your stock gets cold? That stuff. You can also add some grains to your soup like barley or oat flakes. I added some small organic alphabet pasta lol. Adjust the salt & pepper if needed and once the grain is cooked the soup is ready. Squeeze some lemon and you’re done. This is a great choice if you’re trying to beat a cold too.

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I just realized all three soups have similar color tones! Enjoy. ♥

Note: I do not use refined salt in my recipes. I do not use processed oils. I try to use only pasture fed organic chicken and pasture fed organic dairy.

Herb Of The Month: Violet

Perhaps this isn’t the season for violets in your part of the world if you’re still experiencing cold weather, but I decided to reserve this post about violets this month as my sister sent me some photos of violets from Cyprus a few days ago. It happens to be warm enough in Cyprus right now for the appearance of violets.

I remember walking towards the lawn in our house in Michigan for the first time back in May 2014, awestruck at the sight of violets that had taken over the land. I loved violets in Cyprus, and it was a delight to see them so widely spread in our new home in Michigan. When I picked one and brought it closer to smell its pleasing sweet aroma, I was surprised that there was nearly no fragrance. Later, I found out that the North American violet (Common Blue Violet) does not have the distinct aroma of the European Sweet Violet. I was not aware of the distinction. Nevertheless, this Common Blue Violet was still a medicinal and food herb.

Violet, just like Stinging Nettle, is an alterative herb which means it is a blood cleanser. Alterative herbs are especially useful in treating skin conditions such as acne and eczema. They also optimize liver function and cellular metabolism and so are helpful during fasts/detox. Traditionally it is used to treat dry hacking cough, and recommended for bronchitis and whooping cough. For this treatment, it’s best combined with marshmallow root. Violet also has cooling and soothing properties, as well as anti-inflammatory properties. This can deem it helpful in treating insect bites, hemorrhoids, cuts and varicose veins. There’s also traditional use of it in treating swollen lymph nodes. In order to benefit from this beautiful herb, the flowers and the leaves are made into tea, used in the form of infused oil, poultice, salve, and are consumed raw in salads, pesto, wraps or cooked in soups, sautés, or steamed . The flowers are usually more preferable as a food if used raw because the leaves may not always taste pleasant especially if they’ve become too fibrous. Finally the leaves contain mucilage (soluble fiber) which is helpful in lowering cholesterol levels, and in restoring beneficial gut flora as the flora feed off of it. Harvest violet only if you are 100% sure of it and when the flowers are present as violet has some poisonous look-alikes.

Disclaimer: This content is not intended as substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to apply this information.

Pregnancy: What I’d Do Differently

 

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Pregnant at 37 weeks

Last year on February 19th, I wrote a few sentences on how I was preparing for labor. I wrote, “I’ve been watching a lot of home birth videos, drinking nettle, raspberry leaf, oatstraw, bone broth, pelvic rocks, exercise, trying to get a feel of the baby’s position with my hand to familiarize with where is what, completing birth kit and list of supplies, trying to keep consistent with daily awrad especially at fajr (dawn) time, connection with baby, positivity and tawakkul (reliance upon God)…” What was missing was movement, walking… lots of walking. Even the exercise I was referring to was not enough. I could count the number of times I ‘exercised’ during pregnancy. A few weeks before I gave birth, a lady who is dear to my heart advised me to walk everyday. She said that her first labor was very smooth because she walked frequently, whereas her second birth was nowhere near as easy because by then she had started working at a desk job which meant that she couldn’t walk as much. I had planned to walk once or twice a week, which didn’t really happen. I was in Michigan at the time. I was alone most of the time and so the chance to go for walks was very rare.

Funny enough, the day my labor began (two days before the estimated due date), I went for a long hike with my mom, sister, and a friend. Up until that day my baby hadn’t even lowered herself into my pelvis. My midwives were predicting I wouldn’t give birth until much later from the EDD. I don’t think one of my midwives even took me very seriously the evening I felt something different and thought that the sensations would subside by the morning light. But there I was, in labor.

I felt early labor kick in around 8.30pm on April 12th. I couldn’t sleep that night for more than a couple of hours because I was already feeling some back labor that would wake me up every time I dozed off. She visited in the morning, shortly after sunrise and joined us for breakfast. I was still having mild but regular contractions. I wanted her to check if there was any dilation and she estimated 2 cm. That was the first and last time she checked the rate of dilation throughout the entire labor that was about to follow. Fast forward, I think my pushing phase started around 9pm, April 13th. I wasn’t really aware of the time. I didn’t give birth until 2.15am, April 14th, exactly on my baby’s estimated due date. I had a long, tiring pushing phase. I was so excited when the painful dilation contractions were finally over and I could feel the pushing sensations overwhelm me. I thought this is it, the end is so near. I wasn’t patient, I pushed very hard along with each contraction, until I hit exhaustion. My midwives kept feeding me date molasses by the spoonful. They had me try different positions. I drank herbal tea sweetened with a lot of honey. About three hours in, they decided it was best for me to transfer to the hospital where they could make sure everything was ok and maybe put me on some IV fluids to increase my energy. When I was told that there was a chance I could still have a natural labor, I didn’t object or try to fight it. There was still some hope. This was something I didn’t prepare myself for at all throughout my entire pregnancy. I thought there’s no way I’d accept a transfer. That was too embarrassing and disappointing, being such a strong supporter of natural childbirth, someone who believed that birth was supposed to be easy. But I managed… I did it, and I feel stronger, not weaker. That’s one more thing I know I could get through in life. Of course I’m thankful to God first and foremost for a positive outcome, for a healthy child, for the strength He granted me through that humbling experience, and for such loving and supportive family members and caregivers who were with me throughout my labor. When we got to the hospital, they couldn’t find anything wrong with my daughter’s position. She was in the perfect position, and everyone was so supportive as I pushed and pushed. One of the obgyn’s was eager to see if she could use forceps or vacuum suction despite telling me that I was very close to meeting my baby and I was doing just fine. Thankfully the only thing they did was carry out an episiotomy. My daughter came out screaming right away and she was placed right into my arms. A few minutes after, I was already telling my midwife who was there with us that I’d be glad to work with them again for my next pregnancy. My family who was there with me still find that funny. I was laughing and happy.

A few days in, and I started to question what happened. What went wrong? Why couldn’t I push out my small baby? Wasn’t childbirth supposed to be a normal physiological process of bringing into being and coming into being? What did I do wrong? I was told that maybe I was just small and that my next birth would be easier.

No one told me that I wasn’t active enough during my pregnancy, that I did repetitive tasks for too long, and that I had a terrible posture with my pelvis tucked in most of the time (because a misinformed yoga instructor that I followed for a while had said that tucking in the pelvis strengthened the core). Heck, I didn’t even know what a neutral pelvis is. What started this hours of research and reading through different blogs and articles was when I began questioning my midwife’s instructions to ‘kegel’. I don’t believe kegels are even useful in general but for the sake of the argument… weren’t kegels supposed to be helpful for peeing your pants? Well, I wasn’t peeing my pants and actually, I was having trouble urinating altogether. I developed a self-diagnosed urethral prolapse postpartum (the symptoms appeared just as I began kegeling), and I was also experiencing hypertonicity of the pelvic floor muscles. Contrary to popular belief, kegels don’t help prolapse but worsen it. I don’t want to get too deep into this because I’m not intending on writing about my postpartum healing. I will write about that in a different post, but right now I want to just focus on what I believe I was missing during pregnancy that impacted my labor.

I should mention that I didn’t have a problem with my diet during pregnancy. I think I am generally a healthy eater. I didn’t gain a lot of weight. I was still at 110 lbs by the end of my first trimester, and I gained about 30 lbs by the end of my pregnancy. I had a relatively easy pregnancy with no nausea. I did experience fatigue during the first trimester and slept a lot. And as I said, I was not the active person that I normally was prior to moving to Michigan pregnant or not. I stood a lot and sat a lot, and that was about it. I remember experiencing this pain in my back on the right when I was about 5.5 months pregnant that would prevent me from sleeping restfully. At about 6-7 months of pregnancy, I was visiting family in Cyprus and I also spent the last week of the 4-week visit in Istanbul where my husband and I walked quite a bit. The pain was gone within a few days and it never came back again. I attributed it to the walking.

What I believe I needed for an easier labor may not apply to everyone. There might be people who don’t move an inch and experience smooth pushing stages, I don’t know. But I know lack of movement didn’t help me. It didn’t help me emotionally either. I’m so happy being able to walk here in Istanbul and not need a car. I try to walk as much as possible every time I visit Cyprus too and benefit from the clean air. I learned a lot about myself and my body from my first pregnancy, labor & postpartum, and I hope that next time will be different.

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Nature Walks, Herbal Up-To’s & Happy New Year

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I am in Cyprus now for the last one week, visiting my family with the little one. I’ve had the chance to experience warm sunny weather most days, unlike back in Istanbul at this time of year. I collected yellow daffodils, savored oranges right off the tree from my family’s citrus garden and enjoyed unpolluted fresh air.

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I picked the soft rosehips off the rose bush today. I still haven’t decided what I will do with them. I ate some just like that. I will probably make the rest into spread, or tea. Rosehips are the ovaries of the rose. They are what remains after the rose petals fall. They are a source of antioxidants and vitamin C.

I was also meaning to collect whatever was left of the olives on the olive trees in our parking lot. After rinsing the olives, I placed them in a jar, sprinkled a generous amount of sea salt, poured some apple cider vinegar and olive oil, sprinkled a little bit of red chilli flakes & dried rosemary, gave the jar a shake after closing the lid, and placed it in the cupboard until the olives are ready to be eaten in a week or two.

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Before dinner, I chopped some bergamot that went into the copper distiller for my mom to extract some bergamot hydrosol & essential oil. Bergamot has a refreshing citrus aroma and it is used in aromatherapy to uplift the spirit & promote feelings of contentment. A few hours later, my mom is still going in and out of the house to where the distiller is set up to watch the distillation process.

Other than stinging nettle and blue mallow, and a couple of wild calendula & sow thistle here and there, I didn’t notice a lot of herbs. My mom collected some stinging nettle last minute this evening and made some delicious creamy nettle soup for dinner. My baby loved it. We had that along with some leftovers.

Finally… I was hoping I could fit in a blog post in time for the first day of the year. We don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve, but we happened to get together as a family last night for a warm meal. After dinner we played mahabis, laughed a lot, and ate some homemade baklawa.

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My aunt made baklawa with pistachio, topped with saffron-infused orange blossom syrup

I hope this new year will bring much good to everyone reading this – health & overall wellbeing. I hope that this year we will break less hearts, be more forgiving of others, speak less, reflect more, take better care of ourselves, and make better use of our precious time. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said that the two blessings people waste are health and time. I hope we can wake up in a mindful state every morning and remind ourselves of what is important.

 

Disclaimer: No content in this article is implied to substitute professional medical advice. How you choose to apply this information is solely your responsibility. The information provided is for educational purposes.

Simple Home Remedies for Common Kids Ailments

I have an 8 month old right now, and she had her first cold – stuffy nose, some coughing in the morning and occasionally waking up crying mid-night from what I perceived as her experiencing pain – after we had a long journey from the US to Istanbul last August. She was about 4.5 months. I was so sad to see my poor baby ill, but there had to be a first time. Thankfully she recovered just fine. So I want to share a couple of things I did to help her overcome her cold and also some simple remedies from my own childhood for common ailments that kids experience, such as sore throat, wet cough and congestion.

For my little one, I made sure she got lots of rest. I nursed her as frequently as possible. I gave her massages using olive oil, and maybe a dab of eucalyptus essential oil on her chest combined with olive oil to help with her congestion, and some calming camomile tea before bed (just 3-4 tablespoons). I would sometimes put a couple of dabs of eucalyptus essential oil on our pillow that she’d be sleeping on too. This is another option if you don’t feel comfortable using essential oils on your little one directly.

When a child complains of a sore throat, it’s best to do something about it as soon as possible. The first thing you could do is combine some good quality honey with black seed (Nigella sativa) oil (1:1), or give your child a teaspoon of just black seed oil if they don’t mind the taste. If you don’t have black seed oil, then just give them some good quality honey. Even better, add about 1/4 tsp of powdered ginger, cinnamon and/or marshmallow root to 1 tbsp of honey. Give that a good mix and take a tsp every other hour or so.

Another remedy is to chop up one medium yellow onion, drizzle some honey over it, and cover it for about half an hour until the onion releases its juice. Take a tsp of the juice every other hour. This is helpful with coughs too. If one has a wet cough with mucus or is experiencing congestion, it is best to reduce dairy intake as dairy can increase mucus production. A wonderful warming ginger tea with honey and lemon is relieving. You could also prepare thyme & peppermint tea. For a dry cough, I would suggest using herbs that are mucilaginous (containing mucilage which is soothing in dry conditions) such as cinnamon, marshmallow root, and mullein. Ginger, thyme and peppermint are helpful with tummy aches or nausea as well. I remember my mom would always give us a quarter of a Turkish tea cup of thyme hydrosol whenever we complained of nausea or a tummy ache. It worked, but it either made the nausea or aching go away on its own if we were lucky or it caused us to throw up almost immediately and so I hated it because who likes throwing up?

For ear aches, again, black seed oil is my go-to remedy. Rub some into your ears and cover your ears with a cotton ball (make sure it’s not super small so that it goes disappearing into your ear). Another remedy is to drip a few drops of onion juice into the ear. You could do this by wetting a cotton ball with some onion juice (from either grated onions or chopped up onion that has released some juice over time) and gently squeezing the bud over the ear and allowing a few drops to enter the ear canal.

Always encourage rest during recovery and keep consistent with whatever remedy you decide to go with.

 

Disclaimer: This content is not intended to substitute medical advice. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to apply this information. This information is provided solely for educational purposes.

 

Stinging Nettle: A Herb For Everyone

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) , a perennial plant, is by far my favorite medicinal herb. ‘An emerald queen who proudly reigns over her realms’, as Juliet Blankespoor beautifully described it. You only realize she’s a queen when you find out about and experience her offerings. Otherwise it’s just a plant that grows all over the place, stings pretty bad and you don’t want to go anywhere near it. Or even worse, it ends up getting mowed.

Stinging Nettle is a blood-builder and a mineral-rich plant. It contains vitamins A & C, as well as chlorophyll which is why a strong nettle infusion turns dark green. Its high iron content that’s easily assimilable by the body helps combat anemia. It is considered one of the best herbs to take daily especially if one is feeling tired or depleted. It helps ease allergic reactions and arthritic conditions. It is safe during pregnancy, it increases breastmilk and it helps rebuild blood reserves postpartum after heavy bleeding. A nice combination for a healthy pregnancy is nettle, oat straw and red raspberry leaf. Some herbalists consider red raspberry leaf safe during early pregnancy while others suggest its better not to take it until after the second trimester. I personally resorted to taking red raspberry leaf after my second trimester when I was pregnant.

I buy my nettle from Mountain Rose Herbs in bulk. If I were in Cyprus right now, I’d be harvesting nettles from the wild and making some infusion with the fresh herb, or a delicious soup, or some pesto. The potential stinging disappears when nettles are cooked. You can add nettles, dry or fresh, into your bone broth or vegetable stock. You can also infuse nettles, preferably dry, with some good quality balsamic vinegar in a glass jar for 4 weeks in a cool dark place and use that in salad dressings after straining it using a cheese cloth or a fine mesh. Another great way of adding some nettles into your diet is adding them to your omelette or quiche. There’s many ways to incorporate this wonderful herb into your diet for improved health. Make it a habit to have one cup of nettle infusion every morning.

Trust me, there’s so many beneficial favors around you.

Medical Disclaimer: This content is not intended to substitute medical advice. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to apply this information. This information is only intended for educational purposes.

Mujaddara: Simple Comfort Food

Last week we had some guests staying over with us, and I thought Mujaddara would be a good option for lunch the next day because I had all the ingredients as always. Mujaddara is a popular Middle Eastern dish that consists of lentils & rice, topped off with caramelized onions. It’s a dish that’s cooked in Cyprus too, where we call it Mucendra (moo-jend-ra) and I don’t remember any caramelized onions in my grandma’s version.

OK, so I know you can find hundreds of Mujaddara recipes on the internet. However, I wanted to write about it because I made a brilliant ‘mistake’ last time that I want to share with you. If any of you read my post on the Whole30 experience, I included a link to another blog that explains the benefit of soaking grains and how to do it.

Normally I soak my rice. The lentils, I  will sometimes soak them for a while or not. It depends when I decide that I’ll be cooking mujaddara or whatever includes lentils and how much time I have for soaking. So the other night, I decided I’d be soaking my lentils too. (I know I used the word soaking a lot but bare with me). So I place the rice in a bowl, cover it with water, and then I think, oh why not save some bowls and soak the lentils with the rice. I think this is a great idea and I proceed with adding the lentils to the rice. I add the apple cider vinegar and I give the bowl a stir. Then I realize, snap, lentils take a lot longer to cook than rice! At this point I feel like it’s too late to do anything. I considered separating the grains from one another but it was impossible because I had stirred the bowl. I thought, worst case the rice will just be really cooked through and lose its shape. I know this sounds silly right now but I actually freaked out about it in my head for a little while. It was late at night, I had never done this before, and I didn’t have a second plan for what I could have ready for my guests if this wouldn’t work. It made sense that after some soaking the lentils wouldn’t take as much time cooking as they normally do when cooked un-soaked. Time would tell. In the morning I bit through a grain of lentil and thankfully it was pretty soft. So it worked out just fine and I now soak the rice and lentils together before making mujaddara! It saves time. And bowls. Of course I won’t end this post before sharing the recipe so here it is – vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, simple yet tasty!

(You’ll just have to go by gut feeling for exact cooking time & measurements. Sorry… but to give you an idea… I usually do a 1:1 ratio of lentils and rice. How much spice you’d like to use is up to your personal taste. I put about 1/2 tsp of each spice. Cooking is a little bit like art to me. You have to stick to some techniques but the rest is up to you. Add or subtract whatever you want.)

Ingredients

1 cup short-grain rice

1 cup brown lentils

2-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

2-3 cloves of garlic, grated

1 medium to large yellow onion

cumin

turmeric

cinnamon

sumac

salt & pepper

olive oil

Soak the rice & lentils overnight using drinking water and add the apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Sieve it before cooking. Add a couple of tbsp of olive oil to a pot. Add about 1/4 tsp cumin and the grated garlic. After a couple of minutes add the rice & lentils. Give it a stir. Pour about 2.5 cups of boiling water over the pot. Add some salt. Lower the heat and cover the lid. In the meanwhile, cut the onion in half and then into thin slices. In a skillet, add some olive oil over medium heat. Add about 1/2 tsp turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and sumac. Once the oil is hot, add the sliced onions. Stir every now and then until the onions are caramelized. I don’t consider myself a pro at caramelizing onions but they look something like this:

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The mujaddara takes about 30-40 minutes to cook. Once there’s no water left and the grains are soft, it’s done. If at any point you check and there’s no water but the grains are still kind of crunchy, just add a small amount of water and cover the lid again. Don’t check too many times though; the steam trapped inside helps it cook. Serve warm topped with the caramelized onions and if you like, some yogurt on the side.

Tip: My mother-in-law makes mujaddara with bulghur. In that case, you don’t soak the bulghur as bulghur is cracked wheat and doesn’t require soaking – at least not for the same reasons as you’d soak other grains. You could also use brown rice if you prefer. I haven’t tried soaking brown rice with lentils and cooking them together yet, but I would assume it’ll take longer to cook than regular rice as it normally does.

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Don’t be afraid to fill the top with onions. Afiyet olsun.