Thursday, September 29, 2011


Someday I will have my own farm, and raise Nubian goats, hens and grow a massive vegetable garden

Someday I will join a choir and let loose my singing voice

Someday I will take that French course and become bilingual

Someday I will travel to Scandanavia....and Eastern Europe...and every state in the US...and New Zealand...and....oh, too many!

Someday I will learn how to golf, and will become a serious match for hubby

Someday I will have more money to donate to the causes I care so much about

Someday I will travel overseas as a doula, and support women in developing countries

Someday I will finally learn how to reduce stress

Someday I will have a conservatory, and will spend my mornings in the cool sweetness of a residential greenhouse

Someday I will be able to say "I know myself, and I'm OK"

What will you do someday?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

BMI: Better Meaning for It?

Oh....the BMI. Sigh.

Touted as THE measurement of body fat, it is based on a calculation of our weight and height. If you've been living under a rock these past twenty years, do a little Google search and calculate your own BMI. Where do you fall on the curve?

How do I hate the BMI? Let me count the ways:

1) It lumps individuals into categories - uber-skinny, thin, "normal" (whatever that means), overweight and obese

2) It is reductive

3) It shows nothing about a person's overall health

4) It is pervasive - used in every part of our health care system as a measuring stick for "good" and "bad" (i.e. skinny and fat)

In prenatal care, women with high BMIs are immediately slated for special (i.e. high-risk) treatment. If you didn't already know you had to lose a few pounds, watch out, because you'll certainly know now! You may be lucky and score a decent doctor, who is respectful, kind and willing to treat you as a person. But you may be unlucky to get stuck with a doctor who sees you only as BMI 32 (or wherever you land on that retched curve).

I can't understand how a medical community that is so research-focused and relies only on evidence-based information could miss the boat on this one. The BMI is only useful in context; in relation to a woman's overall health. I know plenty of women that fall over the "overweight" or "obese" line, and who are clearly neither. And yet because they walk around with that number tatooed on their face, their prenatal care can be significantly compromised.

There are plenty of studies out there showing that BMI is not successful in determining an individual's overall health. I won't begin referencing them here, but a quick Wikipedia search will put you in the right direction.

Instead, I have come up with several different meanings for the acronym BMI, just for fun. Play along and send me some more!

Bogus Measuring Instrument

Belittling Methodological Idea

Bitchy Medical Interns

Brainwashing Method (made by) Idiots


Monday, September 26, 2011

Singing a sweet song

I'm joining Capital Mom today by blogging about a moment from my life based on a theme she has provided. This week’s Monday Moment theme is Singing. Check out all the other great bloggers following Monday Moments.

There was a time in my life that I could say "I'm a singer." I wrote songs. I recorded them. And I belted them out as a busker and amateur open mic night-gal.

In high school, my piano teacher used to say to me: "you would be such a great pianist if you could just put some passion into your playing."

But I couldn't find the passion. I instead found fear - lots and lots of fear.

My stage fright grew to epic proportions in high school, when I would be forced to play a "test" in front of the class, all the while shaking so badly that the bow would bounce and skitter across my strings.

My fear of failing meant that I could never pour my heart and soul into music. The "perfect" performance was always there, snickering at me from behind the curtain. And so I turned away from music, and life sent me in a different direction....until I decided it was time to face my fear.

I joined a singing group with coach Art Nefsky, an eccentric (but very amiable!) fellow in Toronto. The classes consisted of a small group of individuals - all with great voices - who were absolutely terrified to perform in front of others. We would get up on his little stage and sing to a karaoke machine, while he would lob instructions our way: "Sing like you're drunk!" "Pretend you're Beyonce Knowles!" "OK, now do that again, only begin every word with an F!" Soon we'd be singing with abandon, not really caring how ridiculous we looked. Because, damn, we sounded good!

Although I moved away from Toronto and Art's basement studio, I took my new found confidence with me. I even recorded several songs I had written, just to be able to say "that's my song."

My CD sits on a shelf now, and I look at it wistfully from time-to-time. I know friends that have made music their life, and I am sometimes jealous of them, touring the country and performing. But although I wish I had more time to play and sing, I feel a sense of pride at having silenced my fear and amplified my voice.

Here's to sweet songs.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thank goodness for neighbours!

Image Source:
Hubby and I have lived in many places - St. Catharines, Toronto, Hunstville, Trois-Pistoles (QC), and now 4 different neighbourhoods in Ottawa.

What we noticed about our past experiences was the lack of community - although we met a select few street-mates who we really clicked with, these pockets of homes where we spent our days seemed to be missing something. There was no one to call on for a cup of sugar, few people who greeted us every day, and no real sense of safety.

After we had A, we realized that a good community was really important for us. I felt isolated in my little apartment, and being a New Mom with no family around is daunting.

We moved to Orleans over a year ago, based on the fact that some of Tom's family live nearby. We knew this would make things a bit easier on us, as there is always someone to call in a pinch. I have never wanted to live in the suburbs, and always imagined myself renting a great little apartment somewhere close to the city core. I don't like the idea of suburbs, with their mile-upon-mile of cookie cutter homes and lack of small businesses.

But the day we moved into our home, people from all around came over to introduce themselves and help with the heavy lifting. Our cousins and aunt/uncle are part of this group, but even more than great family here, there are good neighbours.

What makes a good neighbour?

Someone who takes the time to stop and talk to you, even when you're all in a rush to get out in the morning

Someone who puts your garbage out when they notice you've forgotten

Someone who leaves fresh produce and baked goods on your fence!

Someone you feel comfortable asking to look after the place while you're on vacation

Someone who will "call in the troops" when you've lost a pet, been broken into, or experienced some other kind of loss

We lost our dog the other day, and she has been returned to us safetly, thanks to some kindly neighbours who found her and turned her in. We not only feel grateful to them, but to all the people who (some not even knowing who we were!) scoured the neighbourhood for the little pug. I was imagining a hit and run, animal cruelty or even someone taking Darcy and deciding not to return her. Man, have I ever become cynical!

It saddens me that many of these "good" neighbours are older - what is it about our generation, which seems to distrust so much? Why do we go out of our way to avoid our neighbours? I see other Moms walking down the street with their children, and I long to stop and talk. But my reasoning for not doing so is that I am just "bothering" them. That somehow they will be annoyed with the fact that I want to have a little chat.

Our generation needs to reach out again. Our neighbourly instincts are being lost in this era of anxiety and fear, and nothing is getting any easier for families this way.

So here's a little challenge to you all - go out and meet one new neighbour this week. Find out more about them - you'll be surprised at the kindness and generosity you will find in others.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pug has checked out

You've all probably been reading from my Twitter and Facebook accounts (and of course, my frantic calls to family and friends) that our beloved pug Darcy is missing.

Last night was quiet around here - no snuffling and snorting; no sniffling and sneezing; no lapping of water or crunching of bones.

Today is being spent papering the neighbourhood with posters, and calling the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Humane Society in an attempt to locate her. This family isn't a family without our pug!

Tell me about your relationship with your pets (present or past) - have you ever lost a pet?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thinking differently

Worldwide Maternal Mortality (source: click here)


•Women in poor nations are 300 times more likely to die in childbirth or from pregnancy complications than those in the developed world.

UNICEF Chief of Health Dr. Peter Salama on maternal mortality:
"It’s really an unconscionable number of deaths. It’s a human tragedy on a massive scale."
I attended a talk yesterday given by a researcher in Thailand, on the topic of maternal and neonatal health in South East Asia.

The graph above was shown in the first slide, and it sent chills all over my body.

We all know that women and babies around the world are dying - in large numbers. But it's not too often brought home in such a graphic way. The developing countries are bloated - the worst of the bunch in blood red. The image I conjure up in my head is heartbreaking.

I spend so much time thinking about healthy birth - promoting doula care, educating my clients on healthy birth practices, and lamenting our medical system - that I often forget that modern medical care saves lives.

I'm not trying to retract my previously stated beliefs/values/viewpoints. And I'm not going to bow down before our healthcare system in an apology - I still feel that we have gone too far forward. We have forgotten what the basic needs of women in childbirth are. We are preventing women from being powerful, instinctual and in control.

And yet a lack of proper medical care also takes away power - in a final, never-go-back kind of way.

This talk reminded me that there are interventions out there that are medically sound, and these are examples of good evidence-based practice; something the majority of women in this world are missing out on.

When I look at that skinny strip of North America, I suddenly feel chastised - into thinking that a rejection of modern care is somehow a powerful personal statement. A stick-it-to-the-man kind of mentality.

This talk has moved me forward into thinking about birth and infant health in a different way. It's not about "us vs. them." It's not about the home vs. hospital birth, or the OB vs. midwifery model of care. It's about powerful women, healthy women, strong women. It's about bringing babies into the world in a kind, gentle and healthy way. And without medical care, and good quality research, none of this will ever be achieved.

A woman is the full circle.
Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform
~ Diane Mariechild ~

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Falling for fall

Although we officially have five more days to go, I'm going to jump the gun and call it: Autumn is Here. The nights are cold, the mornings are chilly (and in many parts of this world, frosty!), and the days are clear and bright. As Stuart McLean said today on the Vinyl Cafe, the sky is a different kind of blue now than it is in July and August.

What better way to kick off our first fall weekend than with a visit to the local apple orchard:

The sunflowers welcomed us as though we were royalty

Her Highness was all too willing to oblige

The bees were busy this weekend - they know the end is near

A curious little elf hid amongst the towering flowers...

 But emerged to bite into every apple she could find - whether they be on the ground or in the trees

"How do you like them apples!?"

 A warm dinner of curried carrot soup - thanks to the sweet roots we had growing in our garden this year

 And freshly baked whole wheat bread, with flour from Castor River Farm

To finish off, a salad with garden tomatoes and local purple kale

We've been inspired here at The Tweet by two books (one I have just finished, and the other I have my nose in as much as I can): Life in the Bush, by Roy MacGregor, and Animal-Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Hence the focus on local food today - but more on these exceptional books another time.

To bed I go, and hoping for dreams as vivid as the fall colours.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Wind

A restless spirit comes with this cold wind - the passing of summer finding a burst of cool energy that marks fall here in Ontario. The chill in the air gets into our bones, and we are reminded that the warmth of the sun will soon fade.

With energy comes new resolve: eat better, take a yoga class, drink more water, get in for a check-up...

And yet there is also an ennui. "Autumn's here...autumn's here. It's ok if, you want to cry," sings Hawksley Workman. We are reminded of another passing, the quick march into a new year. And it can make us feel scattered - bored with work, an inability to focus, dragging our feet in the dark mornings.

To shake the ennui, it's best for us to get outside. Enjoy the leaves before they fall. Taste the harvest before it's all cans and jars.

And be reminded of the beauty that surrounds us - the food...the people....the wine!

So long dear summer. Until we meet again.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gilmore Girls

I don't know about y'all, but I was an obsessed fan of Gilmore Girls. I can't remember who introduced it to whom (or is it whom to who??), but my old roommate and I would watch it religiously. She thought it was funny that I would sing the opening theme song at the top of my lungs. When I went hormonally crazy after the birth of my daughter, my roommie's full set of all 7 seasons saved my life during the initial breastfeeding frenzy. All I remember about being a new Mom was learning how to get a baby latched on, and then staring longingly at a show that portrayed the life of a grown-up daughter and Mother (no, the newborn stage was not all bliss and joy for me!)

One funny scene, which gets repeated in several seasons, is when Lorelai (Mom) wakes her daughter up in the middle of the night to go over all the gory details of her birth. I thought this was hilarious. What better way to celebrate our children's birthdays than to tell them about their birth?

So when A is old enough, here is what I'll tell her:

Mommy received a very ominous message from her doula at around 9pm on friday night - it predicted that I would go into labour at exactly 4am the next morning. I laughed at her message, shut the computer off, and then stood up. All of a sudden I felt a tightening in my back, and joked with Daddy that maybe she was right! At some point in the night I began having some cramps, and finally woke Daddy up at around 4am. He told me to go back to sleep, but as hard as I tried, it just wasn't happening. At about 5am, I got up and started pacing around the house. At 6am, I woke up Nana and Boompah to tell them to head on up to Ottawa - I reassured them there was plenty of time. Once Daddy woke up, I told him he might as well go to work, because I knew things would take a long time. I spent the rest of the day resting, cleaning and trying to distract myself from the contractions, which were coming about every 6 minutes. Nana and Boompah arrived, and wondered why I wasn't already having the baby - "these things take time," I said!

Around dinner time I began cooking Adzuki Bean Stew, because I was convinced that my birthing team would need sustenance throughout the labour. All of a sudden I couldn't remember where I kept ingredients in my kitchen, and I began gripping the counter and saying "ow, ow, ow" during contractions. That's when everyone kicked me out of the kitchen and sent me upstairs. I called our doula, and she arrived about an hour or so later. She said she didn't think I was in active labour yet (which I didn't like to hear!), and took me for a walk around the block.

The rest is a blur. It's like when you get really drunk and black out - oh, sorry, you don't know what getting drunk is like yet. Well, that's what it felt like. I remember specific things - throwing up, getting in the bath, moaning like a cow, shaking uncontrollably, throwing up some more, and having hot and cold flashes. At some point I heard a calm voice from the corner telling me to get back in the bath (it was my midwife). Once I did, our doula put on beautiful relaxation music (now whenever I hear loons, I think of childbirth) and let your Daddy and I have some alone time. Almost immediately I felt the urge to push, although I actually thought I had to poo instead.

I pushed in several different positions, but you just didn't want to come out. At first I liked pushing a lot, but after 2 hours I'd had enough! We found out that you were coming out like Superman (one arm up in front of your face), which is why it took so long to push you out. As soon as you were out and on my chest, I told Daddy that I was never, ever giving birth again (I may have changed my mind by now) You were pink and wrinkly, and very cute. Although I did not love you right away - because you scared the crap out of me - I learned to love you more than anything else in the world! The End.

Happy Birthday to my little Superwoman

Sunday, September 11, 2011


So I was listening to The Current (CBC) the other day, and heard a great story about vibrators...


haha! Just kidding! (actually, the segment really was about vibrators - listen here) But that's not what I'm going to be talking about today.

This post will be about stimulating our children, not ourselves.

When you have a baby, you are told by countless parenting experts that you are supposed to "stimulate" them, through various age appropriate activities. When they're really young, this can be things like tummy time, flashing black and white cards in their faces, shaking rattles and having endless one-way conversations with them (for language development, of course!) As they grow older, stimulation can include playdates, trips to museums and libraries, swimming, gymnastics, play groups....the list goes on.

All of these activities are things that we do to and for our children, and they are supposed to help with many cognitive skills as they grow up. Who knows, maybe there's even research out there that has proven that certain activities lead to smarter kids.

All I know is that many of these activities are overstimulating for certain children - i.e. my child. Too much activity, noise and people usually results in withdrawal, extreme clinginess or tantrums. I've also noticed that these programs seem to expect that toddlers will respond well to 18 different activities in a span of 45 minutes. And the best of them (as voted by other parents) are very, very expensive.

So here is my top ten list of things you can do to stimluate the child who gets overstimulated easily:

10) Go to the park - wide open spaces = less noise

9) Library programs - these are usually much quieter and easier for little ones to follow. And bonus...they're FREE!

8) Play Groups - again, the free factor comes into play here in Ontario. Although slightly busier, they have much less structure than some programs, and allow for a lot of independent and group play.

7) Play Dates - pick a few friends you really get along with, and organize regular play dates with your children. Just stay away from overly competitive Moms who want to get together for the sole purpose of comparing the children's levels of development!

6) Gardening - let them participate in the spring planting, and have them assist throughout the summer with weeding and watering. OK, so they will most likely just want to spalsh around in their kiddie pool, but you'd be surprised at how much they learn! A now knows that our beans, lettuce and tomatoes come from the garden. She's also super excited to go "picking."

5) Family - nothing is more stimluating then a big family get-together. Which is probably why us adults always drink too much...

4) Pets - our family dog provides endless entertainment for our toddler. Most of it involves A yelling at Darcy "sit!" "Come here!" "No, Darcy, drop that!"

3) Hiking - is it really a hike when you walk 3 steps and then stop to admire the moss? Ummm...YES! Kids are so fascinated by nature at this age, and won't be in a very short period of time - indoctrinate them now while you have the chance!

2) Circle Walks - No, they are not walks to a toddler. To a toddler, nothing is better than marching down the street, and promptly turning right around to go in the opposite direction. So you end up going in circles. But you discover many a wonderful thing - like this morning, we stumbled upon a local garage sale, and Mommy bought a ton of Christmas decorations for $7!!

1) And the #1 way to stimulate your overstimulated child....PRETEND PLAY!!!

For example, carry your child around in a bag and call them groceries!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

When You Eat What You Are: Placentophagia

Image courtesy of Squat Birth Journal
Yes, I shall now delve into a topic many of those in the mainstream would call "bizarre" - the hows' and the whys' of eating your placenta.

Perhaps some of you have never heard of this ritual, and "ewww" alarm bells are going off in your head. Before you pre-judge (remember my previous post?), why don't you sit tight for a few minutes and have a little read? You might learn something new, or perhaps, this will convince you to do something you never thought possible!

Let's start at the beginning. I'm not going to assume you all know what I'm taking about, so here's a quick definition of the placenta: this is the organ in the uterus of pregnant mammals, which nourishes and maintains the fetus through the umbilical cord. To be all dramatic about it, the placenta is "life itself." It is what sustains and holds your baby for those ten looong months. So before you begin saying "gross" consider where we would be without the placenta....childless!

You can certainly develop an appreciation for the beautiful life-giving organ, but perhaps you think eating it after birth is going a little too far. But think about this: in an (old! 1980) article from Neuroscience and Biohehavioral Reviews, Mark Kristal writes that:

"During delivery, a striking behavior occurs in most nonhuman mammalian species: the mother consumes the afterbirth. Although this placentophagia does not seem, on the surface, to be critical to the birth process or to the immediate well-being of the infant, the mother purposefully, laboriously, and usually completely, devours the placenta and fetal membranes. Often she stops attending to the newborn during placentophagia, which may last for an hour or more, and resumes infant-directed behaviors only when the afterbirth has been completely eaten. To date we know almost nothing of the causes or consequences of this behavioral phenomenon."

Now, if we're going to be skeptical for a minute, we might ask "what types of mammals eat their placentas?" Or, "how common is this in higher-order mammals?" The paper I've quoted above gives a great overview of what types of mammals engage in this behaviour - some of them being higher-order mammals such as apes.

Kristal notes that no evidence of placentophagia was found in anthropological records from 296 cultures around the world. Whether this occured in ancient cultures, for which we have no data, is a question that remains unanswered.

So why are we talking about eating our placentas if it doesn't seem to be a "normal" behaviour amongst humans? Kristal writes that although there is no evidence that this has been a historical practice amongst human cultures, there are many strong statements against the eating of the placenta, which suggests that these cultures recognized the placenta as a substance that could be eaten. So perhaps, somewhere along the line in our history, eating the placenta was shunned as a dangerous or "gross" practice. Given that many primates eat their placentas, it's quite possible our early ancestors participated in this practice and it was slowly phased out over time.

So back to the present - there are currently no good (or bad) quality studies that have focused on placentophagia in humans. Which means that there is no evidence-based information to suggest that there are benefits to eating your after-birth.

However, in the past 40 years, a small (but determined) movement has grown in support of placentophagia. Some suggest this developed out of the homebirth movement in 1970s California - after all, those crazies were doing it all! (I say this with sarcasm). Despite the lack of evidence, these proponents claim that eating the placenta can balance your system, replenish your iron levels, increase milk production and even ward off postpartum depression.

I had the chance to chat with someone who has first-hand experience with placenta encapsulation: this is a practice where the placenta is dried, ground, and encapsulated, to be taken over the course of several weeks. (There are also some women who will cook a recipe with their placenta, blend it into a smoothie, or eat it raw - clearly, this needs to be done quickly, as bacteria can certainly grow. Encapsulation allows for a much longer shelf life, and the people who do this claim that the same benefits remain in the pills for many years to come).

This local Mommy decided to encapsulate her placenta after her second pregnancy. She became interested in the process while reading about it on MODG and says that "I am very lucky to have a supportive husband. We share money, so if he hadn't been on board, I would have had a hard time spending our money. He knew I had done my research so, for us, it was worth the money even if the effects were only placebo."

I've heard similar statements concerning homeopathy, a form of medicine that uses micro-doses of natural remedies to stimluate the body's natural healing processes. Good scientific evidence in support of homeopathy is lacking, and yet thousands of people can lay a claim to its efficacy. The benefits could be entirely based in the placebo effect, or perhaps our science is not advanced enough to realize the worth of this form of medicine. Either way, people are paying money for homepathic care and are experiencing its benefits.

And just how much does placenta encapsulation cost? With a little bit of research, I've found the cost to range anywhere from $175-$300. Some people claim you can do it yourself for much less, by purchasing encapsulation supplies and dehydrating the placenta in your oven.

Despite the costs, the Mommy I spoke to was impressed with the results. She had a smooth postpartum transition and although she believes there were several factors that played a part, she is sure that the pills had some positive effect on her mood and physical recovery.

After reading this post and doing your research, if you still aren't convinced, consider other ways to "honour" your placenta and its life-giving qualities:
  • Have your partner, doula or other family member snap some pics - when your child is 15 and slamming doors in your face, you may need to be reminded of the beauty of life.
  • Ask for your midwife or the nurse to show you the placenta. Make sure to catch them before they stick it in a baggie and send it off. Most midwives and nurses are excited to show off the "pouch" and explain how your baby has lived those past 10 months.
  • Gifted artists can make "placenta prints," by rolling your placenta on a canvas. The artwork is rather beautiful, although not without its "gross" factor. Just tell your guests your son/daughter painted it!
  • Plant the placenta in your yard, along with a fruit tree. As the child grows and the tree grows, it becomes a special memorial of all that is beautiful in the circle of life. And hopefully the dog doesn't pee on it too much.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A poem for you, September

September has come, 
It is hers whose vitality leaps in the autumn,
Whose nature prefers
Trees without leaves and a fire in the fire-place;
So I give her this month and the next
Though the whole of my year should be hers who has rendered already
So many of its days intolerable or perplexed
But so many more so happy;
Who has left a scent on my life and left my walls
Dancing over and over with her shadow,
Whose hair is twined in all my waterfalls
And all of London littered with remembered kisses.

- Louis MacNeice, "Autumn Journal"

Friday, September 2, 2011

Gearing up for Party Weekend

Naked Spaghetti Day!
Us chickadees over here at The Tweet are gearing up for a big weekend. The little chick will be celebrating her second birthday, and will be christened the following day.

We're not big on religion here, but I was brought up Presbyterian, and Tom was brought up Catholic. It's our parents, grandparents and other extended family who are excited to see this event happen.

After meeting with the minister at our local United Church, I couldn't help but be glad we are taking this step. Will I be attending church weekly with A? No, probably not. But I will be introducing her to Christian traditions through the celebration of Christmas and Easter, and will fully support whatever path she chooses to take.

Now that we have A, and may grow our family some more in the next few years, I have realized the importance of creating a community of support around me. Parenting is hard regardless of where you live, but I am envious of women who parent as a "team" - cooking and cleaning together, sharing resources and helping to raise each other's children. I've noticed that being a Mom is always the best when we have family and friends visiting - A is more distracted, behaves well, and seems to respond better to her nap and bedtime routines.

When we spend the days alone together, Tom will usually come home to an exhausted wife, a cranky child and a messy house. It's like we get bored with each other! On those days, all I long for is another Mom to be there with me, chatting and watching our kids play together. I miss the "old days" when we would send children outside to run around together, freeing up time for all those chores that need to get done.

Parenting feels like a lonely journey sometimes, and I have made an effort to build my own community of like-minded friends and pseudo-family. I have found this at play-groups, work (if you have a lot of other Moms in your workplace) and even through our prenatal class. Without these people around me, even if just for a lunch date, I don't think I would be considering another child. I just wouldn't be able to cope with the challenges.

Church (or, what I usually lean more towards - a buddhist temple or meditation group) is another form of community, and often a very strong one. As I grow older and explore more about my spirituality, I look forward to sharing this with A and helping her build a solid foundation from which she will make major life decisions. It's my belief that spirituality goes a long way in creating a sense of belonging, worth and happiness.

Have a great long weekend everyone!