Saturday, January 30, 2010

Two words

Lactation consultant.

She saved my life yesterday--and for only $35.

After several days of what I though was fairly successful nursing, Wednesday and Thursday brought some breastfeeding challenges. My not-even-week-old baby started fighting me at feeding time. We're talking blood-curdling (and heartbreaking) pterodactyl screams, bright red face, flying fists, side-to-side head swinging--the works. Feedings were taking hours and I was getting frustrated and discouraged. I can only imagine how my hungry child felt.

I never took a specific breastfeeding class, but read a lot about it, observed how others did it, learned about it in Bradley class, watched videos and worked with two lactation consultants/nurses at the hospital. But I think breastfeeding is not something you can learn ahead of time. I knew what I was supposed to do; doing it was a whole different matter.

After watching Olive and I suffer for a few days, my sweet husband called in a lactation consultant. MamaD had used one with her baby and found it extremely helpful, so we figured it was worth a try. From a google search, we stumbled upon a woman who runs one of two local birthing centers and set an appointment for her to drop by that afternoon.

Heather Shelley was a miracle. After observing me for a few minutes, she corrected some of my poor technique and got the baby to latch on immediately. I'd been mainly using the football hold but was holding baby too far in front of me rather than further back towards my armpit, my index finger supporting my breast was getting in the way of baby's sucking and I was shoving baby's face instead of her shoulders and neck into my breast to get her to latch on. Heather also showed me the proper way to do the cross-cradle hold.

Because Olive latched on and fed so quickly, Heather offered to come back later that afternoon to work with me again as part of her $35 one-hour fee (a real steal!). Since then, all of my feeding sessions have been successful and calm. Baby's happy, I'm happy and I feel comforted knowing that Olive is getting all the nutrients she needs.

When my husband mentioned to his boss that we had hired a lactation consultant, the 40-something guy half-jokingly said that young people these days are spoiled and that his generation had to just learn things on their own. This is the complete wrong approach! We need to take advantage of the wisdom of women all around us to help lift each other and learn. Like Heather told me, breastfeeding is not supposed to be hard--and it's not if you know how to do it properly. I'm so glad I didn't waste any more time fighting with my daughter and can get back to enjoying bonding during feeding time.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Baby Dangers

I am certainly no model for amazing parenting skills or anything. In fact, I have had my share of mommy mishaps which include dropping my baby (or rather, she rolled off my lap and onto the floor), not buckling the carseat into the car (more than once), and near choking with some foods. But this latest event has really shaken me based on what could have happened.

The other day, while Lucy was playing on the floor, my husband found a medication next to her. My first instinct would be to worry about the choking hazard but this was such a small pill, that wouldn't have been an issue. However, the thought of her so easily swallowing it and what potential and unknown side effects might occur were terrifying to me. The same thing happened to my sister-in-law who found a powerful painkiller wedged in the couch that her toddler could have easily ingested. Fortunately, we both found the pills before they were ingested but it was just a stark reminder of how careful we have to be as parents. Because it is not just prescription pills that can do harm but regular over-the-counter medications and even vitamins too. To an exploring baby who puts everything in her mouth and even to a more experienced toddler, a pill can easily be mistaken for candy. So our job as parents is not only to keep an eye out on our own medications but also the medications of family and friends who are visiting or whose homes we are staying in.

I just emptied out our old prescriptions from the medicine drawer in my house to dispose of. Make sure that you google prescription disposal programs in your area to find out the best way to dispose of them instead of just throwing them out in the trash or flushing them down the toilet and affecting the water supply. Next step is to get some drawer and cabinet locks for the drawer our other medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen are in. Even vitamins need to be placed out of reach. I just read in the January 2010 issue of American Baby that 1 in 180 2-year olds get rushed to the ER for accidental overdoses of common meds.

A good article to read can be found HERE and HERE for tips and more information. Be safe everyone - it can be a scary world out there!

Oishii: Kuri-gohan (Rice with Chestnuts and Sweet Potato)

This is homestyle Japanese cooking - tasty and comforting.  And easy!  In the winter you'll find many homes making kuri gohan or rice with chestnuts.  But this is a variation which includes Japanese sweet potato (satsumaimo) as well.

Satsumaimo Kuri Gohan

2 cups sushi rice (Japanese short grain)
2 cups water
10 large chestnuts (cooked and shelled)
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes (peeled and diced)
2.5 T mirin
1 tsp salt
kombu (small 4-inch strip)
black sesame seeds

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. 

Add all the ingredients (except the sesame seeds) to a medium pot, mix well and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot and let simmer for about 12-15 minutes or until rice is cooked through.  Remove from heat and let the rice sit for 5-10 minutes to absorb the flavors and to further cook the potatoes.

Using an automatic rice cooker is even easier.  Simply add all the ingredients (except the sesame seeds) to the cooker, mix well and cook using the white rice setting (or per your cooker's directions). 

Before serving remove the strip of kombu, fluff the rice and sprinkle with the black sesame seeds.
I served mine with broiled salmon, sauteed chard, and nori.  Prefect comfort food that is healthy and easy to make.  Try it and let me know how it came out!

Thursday, January 28, 2010


It is 4:15 a.m. and I had to get away. I have been up with my new daughter since 1:45 a.m. I did everything multiple times--checked the diaper, tried to nurse, burped, bounced, shushed--and nothing worked. I finally turned her over when I couldn't see through the tears. It's quiet now as I listen from downstairs. Something must have worked.

I know these moments of frustration are far outweighed by moments of joy, but right now it's taking a lot of effort to be wabisabi.

The Original Wabisabi Mama

Our mom is the original Wabisabi Mama. 

She met my dad while he was serving in military intelligence in Tokyo. After he proposed, they moved to the States to get married. She didn't know much English and got pregnant right away. Dad was in grad school and Mom was trying to get used to a new life in a new country. 

She had four kids (MamaQ, Wabisabi Brother, MamaM, MamaD) and raised us all in a suburb outside of Boston. She was a mom-extraordinaire. You know the type: cooked a vast array of meals, sewed our clothes (matching outfits, prom dresses, wedding gowns, you name it), maintained a massive organic vegetable and flower garden, worked part-time and was extremely active at church. And she did this all with her mom and sister thousands of miles away in Japan. There was no email back then, so they corresponded via postal service and she only got to visit them every two or three years when finances allowed.

Inspirational, right?

Because I only have one babe. And I am still trying to navigate my way through all those other things with half the grace and ability she had! It's a lot to live up to, but thankfully it has never been a contest and she's always been on my side. Now that she's living in Japan, I get a small feel for what she had to go through without the benefit of her family nearby... thank goodness for Skype! Trust me, though, while she's here visiting and helping MamaM with the new babe, we are enjoying every minute we have with our Wabisabi Mama. 

Maybe you were lucky enough to have a Wabisabi Mama of your own? Let us know why your mom is phenomenol and how she inspires you!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

When It's All Brand New

By MamaQ

Seeing MamaM with newborn baby Olive is such a treat.  I forgot how newborns stretch their little necks out like turtles and how they make delicious smacking noises as they try to breastfeed.  I forgot how tiny those babes are!  How messy those first poops can be!  She feels like air in my arms and I want to hold my breath for fear that too sudden a move will break her.  And those wee toes and fingers - darling!

Mayumi is two years old, so it's been a while since we had a newborn in the house.  It's amazing to look at her and (try to) remember when she was like Olive.  What a challenging, wonderful, delightful journey it's been.  MamaM has much to look forard to.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Meal Planning

I like cooking. Most of the time. But cooking dinner (and other meals) every day can be overwhelming. The hardest part about making dinner, though, is figuring out what to make and then having the right ingredients on hand to make what you want. For the past few months, however, a blank calendar has revolutionized my meal-making. There's a general plan: beans/legumes on Monday, soup & sandwiches on Tuesday, chicken on Wednesday, pasta on Thursday, fish on Friday, etc. I scour my cookbooks and pencil in meal ideas for weeks in advance.  Before I go food shopping I sit down, peek at the plan and make a list of ingredients I will need to buy, in hopes that I will only need to make one trip to the store that week.

The plan is totally flexible and if we're lucky, there are leftovers so I don't even have to cook some nights. The truth is, half the time I'm not even cooking what I planned, but it is nice having a plan. 

I'm a cookbook lover.  The prettier the pictures, the better.  I just got the Apples for Jam cookbook a few weeks ago and I stare longingly at the cover every time I walk past it.  It's organized by color.  Lot's of tomato sauces in the red section, chocolates in the brown.  It is gorgeous.

I like to try out new recipes - some work, some don't.  Some of our favorites recently have been:
*Lidia Bastianich's Chicken with Olive and Pinenuts
*Tessa Kiros' Lentils and Rice
*Sam Bealle's Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans
*Kuri Gohan (recipe to come shortly)

I know your families must have some tried-and-true mealtime favorites.  Oh, please share. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Welcome Baby Olive!

Well, she did it. 
Baby Olive arrived at 5:46 this morning.  6 pounds 14 ounces, 19 inches.
Congratulations MamaM!  We look forward to hearing all the amazing details.

Natural approaches to inducing labor

By MamaM

I was worried earlier today that I would be way overdue with this baby. I wouldn't really be bothered by this, but I know my doctors would be. They made me schedule an induction date at 41 weeks (Jan. 26) just in case, but it looks like baby may come any time now--I've been having regular contractions for the past several hours, though I think I've got a ways to go before they hit a minute long.

For the past several days, I've been trying some natural remedies to help move things along. Who knows? Maybe they've worked! I'll share some of them with you, but note, these remedies typically don't work and shouldn't be tried unless you are 40 weeks or over. The baby and cervix need to be ready for induction.

Walking: I've been working out my entire pregnancy, but for the past two months, it's been mostly walking on the treadmill. I've been walking at 3.0 mph for at least 45 minutes nearly every day to help jiggle the baby around and push her down lower into my pelvis. Walking is especially effective once labor has begun.

Sex: Yes, your husband/partner will be happy to learn that semen has prostaglandins in it that help ripen the cervix. Also been employing this method daily for the past week.

Clary sage oil: I bought a small vial of this essential oil last night and dabbed some on my neck and wrists. I'm actually not crazy about the scent, but it's supposed to help. I also took a shower with a few drops on a sponge.

Nipple stimulation: Rubbing or sucking on the nipples stimulates the release of oxytocin, a natural inducer that stimulates contractions. I tried doing this for a while, but then read that it may take up to three one-hour sessions for three days to be effective if contractions haven't started yet! So I quit. Another approach is to put a warm cloth across the nipples.

Massage: Thanks to a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law, I was able to get a one-hour pre-natal massage and 25-minute foot reflexology massage tonight. Heaven! Except that this was the time that my contractions started to become pretty regular. During my hour-and-a-half treatment, I counted 11 contractions that I really had to breathe through. Maybe it was the foot massage; there are certain pressure points in your feet that are supposed to help induce labor. Plus, anything that helps relax and de-stress the body and mind is good for mom and baby. It gave me good practice to relax my body and remain calm while dealing with some pain.

I had originally planned on tweeting during my labor, but we have failed to build a strong enough Twitter following and, truth be told, it was probably a little crazy to think I could do that. So instead I'm going to try to sleep off these contractions before heading to the hospital and within a few days, I hope baby and birth story are here to share with you!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Oishii: Gohan Soup

I hate being sick, but I hate it even more when my baby is sick.  Mayumi seems to catch a cold every month - it is a never-ending cycle of runny nose that turns into a cough.  The cough keeps her (all of us) awake at night and occasionally makes her throw up.  It is a time for laying low and keeping things uber-simple.  And it calls for some serious comfort food.

This is what Mom always made for us when we were't feeling well.  And it is an excellent way to use leftover rice.  Best of all, it is simple and fast: Gohan soup.  Essentially, it is a miso soup with rice and egg.  Here's how Mom always made it for us:

Bring three cups of water to a boil with some sort of dashi stock.  I like these fabulous "tea bags" which are essentially kombu (kelp) and bonito in a little baggy that you steep in the hot water.  I like them because they are convenient, but they don't contain any MSG.  Unfortunately, I've only been able to find them in Japan (I stock up when I visit) and the stuff that is readily available here are the dashi-no-moto granules that DO contain MSG.  If you want to avoid that then try makingyour own from scratch.  It's actually pretty simple; just boil up a 4 inch-long stip of kombu with a couple tablespoons of bonito flakes and then strain the broth.

Once it has been boiling for a few minutes, reduce the heat to medium-low and add two tablespoons of miso paste (more or less to taste). 

Sprinkle in some wakame seaweed (I use a couple tablespoons). 

Crack open two eggs and drop it into the soup, then stir very briskly with chopsticks to make it thread-like(like an egg-drop soup).

Finally, remove soup from heat and add a few scoops of cooked rice (this is where leftovers come in handy). The more rice you add, the mushier the soup may be. I usually add ~1-2 cups. I also like to add in some freshly-chopped green onions before serving.

Mayumi loves this - she ate three bowlfuls last time and I felt good that she was getting some wholesome, nutritious food in her belly.  Protein, veggies, carbs- it is the best stuff when you're feeling icky (and even when you're feeling fine!).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Budgeting: a Tri-alogue

MamaM: Now that your credit card bills are coming due, some of you may be realizing that Santa was a little too generous last Christmas. It's hard not to spend money on gifts for others, as that is how many of us have been accustomed to expressing our love and care for others.

MamaD: But even without holiday spending, it's hard to stick to a budget.

MamaQ: Which is why we're going to share some ideas on what works--and doesn't work--for us.

MamaM: Me first. Hubby and I go with the philosophy of putting aside a certain amount of savings every pay check and then pretty much just blowing the rest. It's not ideal. I wish I could stick to spending only a certain amount in certain categories, but something ALWAYS comes up that throws that off track: gifts for weddings or showers, extra grocery spending for a dinner or special event, vacations, car care, medical emergency or, hey, that really, really good sale at the mall you just can't pass up. So we have figured out what we typically spend for normal monthly expenses, left some extra for those unexpected expenses, then put the rest in savings. Only we do the savings first so we're sure that gets put away. Everything else goes on the credit card because we like to get the rewards points.

What has thrown a wrench into this plan is that I'm now on maternity leave and will be going back to my job as a bank PR manager only part-time. Time to re-do the budget. We're currently renegotiating some of our insurance expenses, changing savings allocations and trying to figure out how to not spend so much on groceries!

MamaD: The problem with those unexpected expenses is that they can take you over your budget and with a credit card balance remaining at the end of the month. My husband and I have found having little escrow accounts has been very useful. What was killing us with our budget were the variable expenses that MamaM mentioned that only came up occasionally like car and home repairs or the gifts for weddings or baby showers that come up suddenly. So we set up separate savings accounts for all those things ,which in our case was a car fund, house fund, gifts fund, and travel fund. Eventually, I would like another little account for my shopping excursions for clothing and shoes (but only if the items are on a really good sale, of course).

Before I quit my job to stay home with Lucy, we padded each account with an initial investment to get it started and now direct deposit a set amount into each account every month. When an unexpected expense comes up, we just charge it to our credit card and then reimburse the cost each month from our escrow accounts. It's not a perfect system but it has worked a lot better than what we were doing before (read: trying not to spend any money). I hate cash and debit and only use credit but it's essential we pay it off each month. If there is a remaining balance and we get a finance charge one month, we do a spending moratorium on non-essential items like going out to eat or entertainment until things are paid off and padded a bit. And then we like to use our credit card rewards for paying for Christmas gifts at the end of the year. And of course, we direct deposit money into hubby's 401K, his IRA, my IRA, and our short-term savings account as well.

MamaQ: My philosophy is to marry rich so you just don't have to worry about money at all...

MamaM: I have friends who use the cash envelope method. They carry around one of those small multi-pocketed plastic files and label them by category, such as "groceries," "eating out," "gas" and "clothing." They then allocate a certain amount of cash to each pocket and once it's gone, it's gone. It really works for them --- but for me, cash is a pain. Debit cards are tricky, too, because sometimes money is tight and with two cardholders (husband and me) debiting from the same checking account, overdrafts may occur and reconciling becomes a bit more difficult. I suppose a good solution would be to learn how to communicate with each other better...

MamaD: I feel the exact same way about debit purchases. Spending feels a bit like a juggling act for me because it comes in spurts and doesn't always match when the paychecks come in. But as long as we are not carrying a balance on our credit card, I feel fine. The only problem is the few times we have had a balance on our credit card, we have dipped into savings to prevent the finance charge. But we continue our "spending" moratorium until we reimburse whatever we took out of savings. Or in theory, that is what we try to doesn't always happen that way.

MamaQ: I was just kidding about the "marry a rich guy" scheme (obviously). I pretty much charge everything to my credit card and then meticulously go through all my expenditures at the end of the month.

I know exactly how much I spent on gas, on groceries, on utilities, on entertainment, etc. If I see that we've exceeded our income or spent more than an imaginary allotment I have for each category, I make a mental note to curtail spending the next month. Not very scientific I suppose, and it requires that you have a bit of a nest-egg savings to dip into occasionally, but the truth is, this system has worked really well for us and we've been able to spend responsibly, contribute towards retirement and college savings plan, save some dough on the side, and occasionally indulge. My real philosophy is "work hard, spend responsibly, and don't be greedy." Inspiring, right?

MamaD: I think that the "don't be greedy" part is key. I am constantly trying to re-evaluate my needs versus my wants versus plain wasting of money. And of course, this varies from person to person and it's hard not to judge the person who spends their money differently than you do. So a take-home message along with all of this is don't judge your brother-in-law who spends a large portion of his money on videogames when he might think that you are equally ridiculous for spending what you do on clothes and shoes...

We'd love to hear your thoughts on what budgeting methods work for you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Today marks 40 weeks, but we're still waiting for baby Olive to arrive. In the meantime, I'm just continuing to build the nest...


By MamaQ

The next best thing to birthing a new baby is when your SISTER births a new baby!  MamaM is due today and we're all just waiting to get the phone call.  I have my plane tickets bought and am enjoying the delicious anticipation of meeting my new niece.  Getting to see my sisters, my mom (flying in from Japan), and MamaD's little one, Lucy, is added bonus.

As always, there is a scramble to pack and a few last-minute projects in the works; an auntie must always arrive bearing gifts!
trying to finish these dolls and their clothes.  faces would be nice, too.  and hair.
sweet stroller blanket with matching hat!
otedama (Japanese beanbags)

So excited to see these girls!

Monday, January 18, 2010

I love my oven

By MamaM

When we moved into our townhome a few years ago, we were lucky enough to get all new appliances. I'm a nerd, so I read all the owner's manuals, including the one for our Kitchenaid oven. To my delight, I discovered our oven is also a dehydrator!

When I saw 10 lb bags of apples on sale for $4 the other day, I bought a couple of bags and started peeling, coring and slicing.

It took less than one bag to fill up the three trays that my oven holds. After 12 hours at 140 degrees, the apples were just the right mix of chewy and dry. I had enough dried apple slices to fill up three sandwich-sized bags. I might have eaten all of those apples in less time than it made to make them, but that's not important...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In Remembrance of Martin

By MamaQ

I love that we have a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.  It's hard to teach about civil rights, peaceful protest, activism, and the Nobel Peace Prize to a two year-old, but I've been trying to at least familiarize Mayumi with this inspiring man.  We've been reading March On: The Day My brother Martin Changed the World.  I have to improvise on the words since the writing is geared towards older children, but Mayumi loves it and requests it every night before bed.  I printed out a free coloring sheet of MLK here which she enjoyed scribbling on.  And to remember and celebrate his life and cause, Mayumi and I went on a little pilgrimage around the city.

MLK portrait in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

The main building of the DC Public Library, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

MLK Mural in the entrance of the MLK Library.

There are many things that MLK said in his speeches that I find moving and inspiring, but one that I've been thinking about for a while is his call to everyone to participate in community service.  It has been echoed by President Obama and I've heard it countless times from the pulpit at church as well:
"Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's "Theory of Relativity" to serve. You don't have to know the Second Theory of Thermal Dynamics in Physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love, and you can be that servant." (Excerpted from "The Drum Major Instinct")
That has been a challenge as a mother as I contemplate ways to serve and be active in my community, both for myself and for my family.  I've been volunteering to teach a yoga class for moms on Monday mornings, I serve as a youth Sunday School teacher, and of course I serve within my family and among my small circle of friends... but I suppose there is always room for more grace and love.  MLK Day can be the motivating factor in finding more ways to become involved in community service and activism. is one place where you can sign up to serve in some capacity in the MLK Day of Service.  The challenge, of course, is finding something appropriate to do with a child!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Oishii: Temaki sushi

One common misperception about sushi is that it's raw fish. Sushi may involve raw fish (specifically called sashimi), but can also be vegetarian. I don't like fish--raw or cooked--so I go veggie style when making temaki sushi.

Temaki, or hand-rolled, sushi is super simple, healthy and tastes delicious.

Step 1: Sushi rice
Sushi rice is regular short-grain white rice with a bit of sugar, vinegar and salt. Cook 1 3/4 cups of rice the way you normally would. If this is in a pot, I really can't help you --- I've always used a Japanese rice cooker like this:

If you don't have one of these, you are missing out. At $100 or better, they are a little pricey--but so worth it if you love perfectly cooked sticky rice. You can order online or pick one up from your local Asian food store.

Meanwhile, mix 3 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar, 7 1/2 tsp sugar and 2 tsp sea salt in a small bowl until well dissolved.

Once the rice is cooked, transfer to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the vinegar mixture evenly over the rice. Use a wooden spatula to fold the vinegar into the rice. Be careful not to stir, but to use cutting motions. Let the rice cool.

Step 2: Filler
My favorite fillers for temaki sushi are egg, avocado, cucumber and asparagus. Couldn't find any asparagus, so I opted for green beans. For the eggs, fry four eggs, initially mixing them together, then letting them set until cooked through. Remove from pan in one lump sum, then cut up the eggs into 1/4-inch slivers.

Veggies are eaten raw or slightly cooked in this dish and may need to be cut into slim pieces.

Arrange your fillers on a plate.

Step 3: Roll
Prepare a dozen sheets of nori, or dried seaweed (if you're at my house, you'd be safe with two dozen sheets), by cutting them in fourths and putting them on a plate. Take a single sheet and lay it with one corner pointing up. Add a small scoop of sushi rice, layer with filler and roll each side into the middle, sort of like swaddling a baby.

Step 4: Eat!
With sides of wasabi (green horseradish paste) and shoyu (soy sauce), your creation is ready to be eaten. Enjoy!

Hard to Understand...

Oh, my heart.  I can't imagine what it's like to be surrounded by all that devastation and to not know where your loved ones are.  Oh Haiti.

As I hold my squirmy two year-old I am so grateful to have her here, safe in my arms.  And I ache for those moms and dads, sisters and brothers, friends and cousins who have lost someone they love. 

It is so very hard to understand why things like this happen. 

Right now my prayers and thoughts are with you.  And soon we'll figure out a way we can help somehow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Black Hole

I can't find the power cord to the portable DVD player.  Or my book for book discussion tonight (I've only read half of it and I want to finish it!).  Or the Blockbuster DVD that was mailed to us almost three weeks ago.

Where do these things go?  I'm a relatively neat and organized person, but there is a black hole that follows me around like my shadow and I think some of these things have just jumped inside it to join lost socks, keys, and other commonly misplaced paraphernalia. 

Yoga, prayers, and meditation don't seem to be helping. I just don't get it.  I've looked EVERYWHERE. 

Worst of all, I've lost my zen.  This is NOT a wabisabi moment.

Birth Plan

By MamaM

Technically, I'm not really a wabisabi mama--yet. I'm due to have my first child in less than a week. As a first-time mom, I've done a lot of research on the pregnancy, labor and delivery processes and have committed to having my daughter naturally, meaning vaginally and without medication. My studying has led me to the conclusion that these kinds of births create the most beneficial outcomes for mother and baby.

Nearly one out of every three women in this country have a C-section--the highest rate in the world. While some women actually choose elective cesareans, it is a goal of mine is to avoid this major surgery. This is one reason for an unmedicated birth.

Studies show that one intervention often leads to another. A common example would go like this: a woman (or doctor) wants to speed up labor, so she is given Pitocin. Pitocin helps the contractions come, but much faster and more intense than normal, leaving the woman in extreme pain and cutting off precious oxygen supply to the baby. To help deal with the pain, the woman is given an epidural, which forces her to have an IV, be confined to a bed and lose much, if not all, the feeling in her lower body. All of these factors may actually slow labor, resulting in a "failure to progress" diagnosis, which could result in a C-section.

As a disclaimer, I have nothing against women who use medication or surgery to have babies; any birth that results in a healthy mother and healthy baby is something to be celebrated. But I have chosen a very specific route for my labor and delivery, and I'm really hoping I am strong enough to stick with it.

To help me articulate my own goals and help my doctors and hospital staff understand my goals, I have put together a birth plan. I think a birth plan is a great idea for all women, no matter what their goals may be. There's not necessarily a template or right way to write a birth plan, but I'm sharing mine below as a sample for anyone who may be interested.

Birth Plan

We are looking forward to the birth of our first child at [X] Hospital in January. We are happy about the things we have seen and heard about hospital facilities and staff. Our goal is to have a natural, unmedicated birth using Bradley method (husband-coached natural childbirth) and are pleased by the support we’ve received in this decision from our selected OB-GYN practice. We understand that complications may arise that could affect this goal; however, to the extent possible, we request the cooperation of those medical professionals involved in our birthing process to honor the following:

1)      In attendance: We plan to have present at this birth the father, who will serve as a husband-coach, the mother of the mother, and up to two of the mother’s sisters.

2)      Environment: The birth environment is important to us. We ask that unnecessary noise be avoided, unnecessary staff be turned away and the door be closed for privacy.

3)      No medication: We are seeking to have a drug-free, non-induced birth, with the exception of an antibiotic IV used to treat GBS+. The IV should be used only to administer the proper dose of antibiotics and removed as soon as the dose is administered. We will not be using other interventions, such as narcotics, pitocin, epidurals or manually breaking the bag of waters.

4)      Energy: The mother requests that in place of an ongoing IV, she be allowed to drink fluids and eat snacks as needed.

5)      Pain management: We have prepared extensively for managing pain, including taking 24 classroom hours on Bradley method, practicing relaxation techniques, stretching, exercising, and extensive reading and research. We request that various non-medicinal methods be employed to aid in pain management, comfort and progression of labor, including: laboring in the bathtub, walking, trying different positions, not being confined to a bed and not being restricted by continuous fetal heart monitoring or an IV. Please do not offer chemical pain relief.

6)      Labor: During labor, the mother would like the ability to walk freely, use the shower and labor tub, change positions, avoid an IV and avoid an excess of vaginal exams. If inducing labor becomes necessary, pitocin is a last resort. Instead, the mother prefers to try other methods to progress labor, including walking, nipple stimulation and changing positions. Tools such as forceps and vacuum are to be avoided.

7)      Pushing: The mother plans to use the squatting or semi-squatting position for pushing. The mother would like to push at her own pace. An episiotomy is to be avoided. Natural tearing or perineal massage is preferable to an episiotomy.

8)      Bonding with baby: Immediately after our daughter is born, we request that she be put directly in the arms of the mother for skin-to-skin bonding, warming and nursing.

9)      Umbilical cord: We request that the umbilical cord remain attached to baby until it has ceased pulsing. The father does not want to cut the cord, so please do not pressure him to do so.

10)  Tests: We would like tests done to the baby while placed on the mother’s chest. If there is any testing or measurement that requires the baby off of the chest, it should be delayed at least 30 minutes after the delivery or until a first breastfeeding has been completed. We would like the baby to “room in” as much as possible. If testing requires the baby to leave the room, we request that one of the parents accompanies the baby at all times.  

11)  Vaccines: The parents choose to delay the hepatitis B shot until the two-month check-up with the pediatrician.

12)  Informed consent: In the event that the doctor or hospital staff believes intervention is necessary, they must discuss both the pros and cons with both parents and give us the opportunity to explicitly accept or refuse any procedure. In the case that intervention becomes necessary, we request that the least invasive or least restricting versions of procedures be used.

13)  C-section: The parents would like to avoid a C-section at all costs; however, in the event that a C-section is performed, the father should be present at all times during the operation, and the mother should be conscious and left with mobility in at least one arm in order to hold the baby immediately after extraction.

We thank you for taking the time to understand our birth goals and help us achieve a natural, unmedicated birth for our daughter.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Oishii!:Seven-Herb Rice Soup

In Japanese oishii means "delicious."  We three sisters/mamas really love to eat.  And as mamas it has become a pretty big responsibility and challenege to make sure our entire family loves to eat, and eats well.  So don't be surprised if a lot of our posts focus on food and cooking and eating. 

Seven is a bit of an auspicious number in most cultures.  So what do you think of nurturing yourself after the gorging over the holidays with nanakusa-gayu (seven-herb soup) today, January 7th? 

According to my mother:
The purpose of nanakusa-gayu is to wish health, especially to rest stomach after eating Osech iand nourish with greens. It is served on Jan 7.

But it is so hard to obtain these seven herbs even in Japan. Just use any seven greens. Soak one cup gohan rice for 30 min. Cook in a rice cooker or cook in ceramic pot with one liter water. High heat first, then turn down to very low after boiling. Simmer for 30 or so. Add chopped greens and simmer for a few more min. Put salt or serve with salt.

Super simple and very oishii.  Try some for lunch today!