Boosting Your Immunity as The Season Shifts

When the seasons change there are just more people sick than less.

Period.

Up here, in the Northern Hemisphere we're going from summer to autumn and it's trickier - immune system wise - than we imagine to stay healthy and stable.

Kids are back in school, more snot is running everywhere, people still think they can eat really raw and drink spritzers when in reality our body and organ system wants us all to chill the F out and drink more tea than bourbon - although bourbon is really good..

Here's the thing, I've had this resident rabbits in my yard all summer. It's decided to eat the tops of all my Echinacea plants and has become the running joke in our hood that it is the most immune strong of all the rabbits, and definitely ready for the shift. 

So today, here are some simple go-to's when it comes to planning ahead and building a strong immune system with the shift in seasons:

1. Plan how you're going to move your body, and just because everyone says it's time to den in - remember we're not bears. Get outside!

We need to keep moving and stimulating our lymphatic system during seasonal shifts. Move your body and shake your lymph system out, because it is the bodies natural form of detoxing. When you shake it out, you move any cells that can attack your immune system.

2. Eat seasonally (for a delicious seasonal recipe click on the pic above). I've said it before, and I'm saying it again.

Eating with the seasons, mostly an Ayurvedic practice, helps your blood, nervous, and immune system work easily. When our systems "work easily" we get sick less.

It's okay to eat rich foods for us Northern Hemi folks, like olive oil, avocados, red meats (if you're a carnivore), and even things like liver. 

3. Sleep...as best as you can when your body calls for it.  

4. Top supplements I take to stay well daily as the seasons shift: Vitamin C (in the morning and afternoon), Zinc (in the afternoon), electrolytes (with exercise), Lysine (morning and night), DHA (before bed) and I might throw some herbs. Please consult your health care provider or herbalist before you take any supplements to know if they're right for your body.

Anything you love that is your secret remedy to staying immune strong during the seasonal shifts? Let us know in the comments below! 

Have a vibrant and fun week Mother Lovers!
All love surround.

Your Words to Us

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Every week, your letters come to my inbox from around the globe. Your stories are powerful and make me sit back and say to myself, "Woman that took a lot of guts to send me that email." The courage to press send and hope we will read them, I read every one btw, it's incredible.

Trust is more inherent than we think..or imagine.

I once heard as I launched this business, "We need armies of Mother Lovers in every town." I have realized over time, we are raising armies. Of Mother Lovers..Everywhere. It is happening.

Not just me doing all the caring and raising, but us. 

Your reaching out, like patients used to, and we can help. You come and share what you learned once you get through your own messy and bright, then you go out and help other mothers. I see it happening. It is the coolest!

This is what deep healing is all about. It's not just something a surgeon or shaman can do. It's only something a movement of people can do. Together.

Your words, your stories - they are everything! Your trust that we might help your heart, soothe your soul, provide health to your body, or inspire you to kick into gear where there's really a need for help in your lives - thank you! That is an incredible opportunity for us.

You help our heart beat stronger, because our lives are messy, real, bright, brave and we are just figuring it all out too. Thank you for helping us make waves!  

Love you, Mother Lover, always and forever.

How to Turn "Mom Worry" into a Vehicle for Strength

Image from @nytimes

Image from @nytimes

Lindsey is a powerhouse. When she was getting back to work after her daughter was born, she texted me about an experience she had at a breastfeeding group where she told the group she might wean early because working and pumping was hard (that's another post). Instead of support, she was met with shame. She was livid, to say the least.

She was looking for was a community where she felt safe to talk and do what is right for her, not a place where she'd be met with judgement. We opened that door.

Lindsey's post today was written between CA and MN on a plane home from a work trip. A mother does what she's got to do when she's got a quiet minute. We're thrilled to have her back as a contributing writer, mom, badass, and warm heart. We hope you are too!

XO,
R + team


My daughter was born in the spring.

So on a warm day not long after, my husband and I found ourselves bundling her up so we could all enjoy the thaw that was taking place in our backyard.  Our neighbors must have had the same idea because when we stepped outside we heard them chatting quietly over the fence. We hadn’t yet introduced them to the baby so we greeted them cheerfully and tenderly leaned the bundle toward the top of the fence to show her off. They had had a daughter about eight months prior so we found ourselves in a curious but light-hearted “Neighbor Wilson” situation comparing notes about new parenthood. 

It was my first encounter like this, and I felt a bit clumsy trying to gain some insight from their experience without being too overbearing or worse, coming across as judgmental.

As I’ve now learned is a typical direction for these conversations to go, we ended up discussing sleep: “Are you guys getting any sleep? Is she a good sleeper? What’s the longest stretch you’ve had?” Truthfully, we were still in the fog of the very early days and were all still trying to get into a rhythm.  But before I had the chance to respond, my husband chimed in and said, “yeah it’s alright, but nighttime is always a little nerve-wracking because you never know how it’s going to go.” 

And right on beat the dad chuckled and said, “Yeah, that doesn’t really go away.” We all had a good laugh and shared a moment of parenthood camaraderie, but as I walked away I felt jolted – confused and terrified at the thought that this nervous, sometimes sick-to-my-stomach feeling may actually just be a side-effect of parenthood.

It was the first time someone actually pinpointed one of the distinct differences I felt as a new mother. This constant state of worry - whether for sleep (or the lack of it), for safety, for health, for above-averageness, and even for love – had become a constant thread of internal discussion. It was alarming at how often these thoughts occurred and how “doom and gloom” they can get.

And what’s more, these worries can become compounded by the added decision of whether or not to act. You have always got to be on your game, because if you let your guard down, you may miss something - something that could harm her if you don’t thwart it or may pass her by if not nurtured. It’s on you.

My daughter is now nine months old, and although I may have gotten used to this worry I can’t say it has gotten any easier - a small stone in your shoe that is both hard to ignore but too cumbersome to remove. But last week, I saw something that jolted me almost as much as I was that day last spring.

It was an illustration of a mother (I know because I follow her on Instagram) with a huge beautiful set of golden wings spreading out from behind her kneeling naked self. Above her were the words from Rumi:

YOU HAVE SEEN YOUR OWN STRENGTH.
YOU HAVE SEEN YOUR OWN BEAUTY.
YOU HAVE SEEN YOUR
GOLDEN WINGS.
WHY DO YOU WORRY?

And just like that, I made a decision.

I decided that my worry will no longer just be a side effect, but rather a vehicle for keeping myself in check. Because to a certain extent, your worry is right – it IS on you.

So why not own it?

This means that now I can view my worry as an opportunity rather than an inhibitor.  It’s a chance for me to reflect on myself as a person and as a parent – to recognize that one worry could offer up a chance for me to anticipate a potential threat, whereas another could send me searching for a better way to be a teacher to my child. And dammit, I’m smart enough to recognize both.

Okay…We ALL know it’s not as simple as that. It’s not a perfect science and it’s hard, but it’s also a choice. For us women - who bounce just a little bit longer, who tilt our neck just a little further even though it’s less comfortable, who give just a little bit more at the end of a long day – a little change in perspective might just help alleviate some of those intangible difficulties of motherhood, like worry.

So own it.  You’ve already got your wings.

Lindsey Ransom doesn't let labels define her but she occupies her time with developing wind farms, baby squishes, baking sweets, sailing boats, riding bikes, and playing in the snow.  She sometimes lets her words define her through an assortment of blog posts and Instagram wonderings and will someday write an historical fiction novel.

Physical Therapy: The Key to what is missing in US Postpartum Care

How do I repair my body after childbirth and pregnancy, or after a break from consistent exercise? That's a super common question I got as a midwife in practice. 

When I learned the importance of how to approach healing the muscles and tissues of the body, after having children, I was blown away by the intricate steps it takes to get to your new normal. But more so, the lack of education around the process.

What's missing from the US maternity and women's health system on the whole is basic education for women on retraining important muscles that are part of your abdomen, like your diaphragm.

Even if you're years postpartum, the simple exercises below are really important for women of all ages. There's a three step process to restoring your breath, but we're beginning with the first step to begin your healing:

Restore Breathing to Your Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a muscle. During pregnancy your diaphragm gets compressed. After pregnancy or after a long break from a consistent exercise routine the diaphragm needs to be retrained.

To retrain your diaphragm, first:
   Imagine you are wearing a pair of high-waisted pants. 
   Place your hands between your breasts and your waistline. Inhale, expanding your belly against light pressure of your hands.
   Exhale, releasing the diaphragm. The diaphragm will naturally sink into your hands.

Second, do this exercise to restore breathing to your diaphragm:
•  Stand up straight, with feet at hips’ width.
•  Take a scarf or an exercise band and wrap it from behind your body and criss-cross it in front, about 3 inches above the belly button.
•  Pull the opposite ends so that the scarf is snug around your middle and inhale, expanding your diaphragm so it makes the scarf tighten.
•  Exhale, imagining that your diaphragm is deflating back up into your rib cage.
   Repeat this sequence for one minute.

Finally, KNOW where you are breathing from:
This a really important breathing tip. Breathing from the upper part of the lungs instead of from the (lower) diaphragm can make you feel anxious. 

Learning about lungs and the relationship to anxiety was not new to me, as my dad while dying, had a lot of fear and anxiety and a major reason is because his lungs were hit hard from the cancer. 

As a practitioner, I can see women holding their breath and stress in their lungs, while exhibiting signs of anxiety when they talk to me. Teaching women to breath into and from their diaphram is one I teach often, because it's simple, powerful and grounding.

Now, question of the week: Are you aware of your breath and where it comes from? 

Have a fantastic week! Tell me how the exercises treat you. 
XO,
R  

Push Presents Just Aren't Enough..

This is a review from one of our favorite dad bloggers, Michael, from dadsigner.  We love what he has to say and to offer the men in our lives.

This one goes out to the dads.
XO,
R

What on earth is a blog focused on dad’s doing writing about postpartum? I think the better question is, why aren’t more? One of the realizations that my wife, Lindsay, and I came to recently is that the weeks after our daughter was born were more difficult than we originally may have thought. And a big part of that was dealing with postpartum emotions.

That’s right this post is all about the days, weeks, and months after baby is born. It isn’t limited to postpartum depression, but rather all the emotions that occur. That could be depression, anxiety, fear, or any other change that you are facing.

As a first time dad and husband of a new mom, I did a pretty crummy job supporting her after the baby was here. I thought I was doing great but I think “you don’t know what you don’t know”. I helped a lot and felt like I was making a difference but that probably wasn’t enough. I’ve been very enlightened as Lindsay and I have talked through this in the recent weeks.

After a recent conversation about this topic I happened to be reading a classmate’s project where she was talking about her business. I was ecstatic to find out that it was a cool resource for new moms. I quickly read through to the end and then looked up her site. I was blown away by the thoughtfulness and quality of what she was doing!

Meet Rebecca, one of the kindest and most supportive people I have met recently! She has been a Midwife for 9 years, and is a tireless champion of moms. I can attest to this because I have read her weekly emails and even I feel encouraged by them!

The Product

So what exactly did Rebecca make? A beautifully designed and printer product called Little Mother’s Helper.

“Little Mother’s Helper™ is a cool deck of cards and app guiding modern mothers in the days, weeks + months following childbirth.”

This deck of cards focuses on 4 key aspects that mother’s face difficulty in postpartum: body, mind, heart, and soul. As well as the occasional #ProTip for the stuff you didn’t know you needed to. What makes these cards so helpful is that you don’t have to google the answer and fight through information overload or find the right page of the right book to get the answer. Instead a mother (or dad) can pull out a card and get real, evidence based help in a matter of a few minutes.

Each card has a headline or illustration on one side and a short synopsis of actionable tips on the back. The tips are easy to digest and give enough information to answer your questions without overwhelming you. The cards cover everything from breastfeeding to anxiety; sex to sleep; and much more. There are even tips for partners to remind them that rebounding after childbirth is a process.

I appreciate the approach that these cards take. The format makes it easy to know that not every card is needed for every situation but the information is there when needed. I am so happy I bought a pack of these and know that if/when baby #2 comes along for us we will put them to good use.

So what?

For all the parents out there that don’t know where to turn for advice I can’t recommend these enough. If you going to a baby shower, buy these for the mother to be. If you are a parent of an expecting daughter, buy these for your daughter. If you are a husband that is about to be a first (or second, or third) time dad, buy these for your wife. If you have a friend across the country that just had a baby and is struggling, buy these for her.

I’m pretty sure that anyone reading this post can find someone that could really use these cards. You may not think that you or your friend are struggling with this issue, but I guarantee you that these cards will make a huge impact either way!

Michael is an average dad in pursuit of discovering above average kids products. His blog is his curated collection of quality stuff.

Oxytocic People: Hold Them Close

I want to keep this week's post real simple, because it's come to my attention that we need more deliveries of Oxytocin. I want you to look back to the moments you hold special, tuck close to your heart such as after you gave birth to your children. The moments where you'd get lost in their smells, their soft skin, and you would feel profound love opening inside of you.

Some of that love may have been scary, but more often than not it just felt like a really warm shot of comfort running through your body, your heart, your soul. That my love, that is Oxytocin. 

This sweet hormone is deeply woven into your biology, especially you moms.

Oxytocin is a wonder drug and we have access to it 24/7. Oxytocin is the hormone released from a tiny gland in the brain. It moves you to feeling soft, loving, and trusting. It is the feeling you get from a good friendship, the one you can't wait to share your secrets with. We can never have enough Oxytocin in our bodies, it is not toxic. As I spent the first five days of the year, leading up to my birthday, soul-planning and doing physical & mental business planning, I was reminded how much I want to feel the presence of "Oxytocic People"  in 2014. Basically, here is a list of how Oxytocin serves us:

  • It is the reason we like to snuggle, make love, be intimate or even "hug it out."
  • A handshake delivers Oxytocin, and this physical contact can actually ensure that an agreement or deal will go really well.
  • Safety. The more Oxytocin in your body, the safer you feel as a human being.
  • After childbirth and during the initial days of the postpartum period, it is the hormone responsible for creating the mother/child bond. It is both released at birth and with breastfeeding, actually it's a very important part of the healing process from childbirth.
  • When you express acts of human generosity, which means to sacrifice a little time and energy and expect nothing in return, it helps with the production, storage and reserve build up of Oxytocin in your body.  Not only do you benefit from the release of Oxytocin when you give your time and energy, but so does the recipient of your kind gesture and all those that witness it.
  • Helps people know and feel how much you value their presence in your life.

Let me focus a bit on the human generosity bit. Let's say you deliver flowers to your Oxytocic friend after they celebrate a big success, and they post the picture of your "act" on Facebook with a note of love and gratitude. All the people who see your post and comment or like it are also receiving a shot of Oxytocin. Witnessing, simply seeing, someone helping another human delivers oxytocin to your body (I think that part of biology is incredible and profound). Because of your act of generosity, there are more Oxytocic people walking around your community...More good people. More loving people. More people willing to sacrifice their personal time to do an act of generosity themselves for another person. It's truly the best kind of contagion we could imagine. 

Building Oxytocin up in your body takes time, however. The more you repeat behaviors that are in your best interest (like hugging, loving, laughing, intimacy and acts of generosity) the more Oxytocin you have in your body. Incredibly, the more Oxytocin you have in your body, the more you want to do for yourself and others, MORE often. 

Lots of oxytocin in your body does the following for you:

  • It inhibits addiction.
  • It boosts your immune system.
  • It makes you happier - thus helping you live longer.
  • It makes couples happier, and happy couples they live longer than unhappy couples (duh).
  • It increases your ability to problem solve.
  • It improves your creativity.

So create and build that reserve by taking small risks and making small acts of love, generosity, kindness over and over and over again with regularity. Create relationships with other people who do the same for you, build your tribe of Oxytocic friends

Oxytocic people, who are they? They are the people you feel safe with, the ones who bring love and inspiration to your life. They are the ones who support you through success and triumph, as well as failure and devastation. 

Oxytocic people do favors without asking. They stop and ask if they can help when you're stuck in a ditch. 

Oxytocic people have faults too, but they prefer feel good and joy over suffering and struggle. 

When you start building this community, you will feel that sense of "coming home." For most of us, the sense of home that we've created in our adult lives is a precious and joyful place. It brings us ease, and delivers - you guessed it - more Oxytocin!! 

This leaves me wondering...How do you build up Oxytocin in your life? Do you surrounding yourself with Oxytocic people? How do you tell/express/show your loved ones how they are of value to you? Help me out and tell me your secrets. 

Sending shots of Oxytocin to all of you today and hope you have a truly warm and lovely week.

Xx 

Rebecca 

Mainlining Oxytocin

As of last week, I thought I had learned as much as I could about the hormone Oxytocin. I was pretty certain I understood it from a physiologic perspective, from a sociologic perspective, as well as psychologic - kind of why we do the things we do perspective. I was wrong.

The lessons in Oxytocin come from midwifery and medical texts, teachers like Penny Simkin, Simon Sinek, Brené Brown, and many many more. But last week, I learned one thing about this incredible hormone that rocked my world.

Oxytocin helps your heal your heart from stress induced damage.

This is pretty cool! This enlightenment comes from the research of Kelly McGonigal, PhD. 

What you (might) know about Oxytocin:

  • It's the love hormone
  • It releases during orgasm, breastfeeding, right after childbirth 
  • In a chemical form, oxytocin is also known as Pitocin
  • The release of oxytocin promotes human bonding and connection
  • It's a neurohormone

Here's what you might not know about Oxytocin, and is new understanding to me. Oxytocin:

  • Fine tunes our brains social instincts
  • Its release makes you crave physical contact with your friends and family
  • Primes you to do things that strengthen close relationships 
  • Enhances your empathy
  • Is a stress hormone that is pumped out by your pituitary gland, and it is as much of a stress hormone as Adrenaline!

Now we need to talk about your heart. Think about your heart and what it does when you get stressed. What does it feel like in your body? 

Physiologically, what's going on in a normal stress response is that your blood pressure goes up and your heart vessels constrict, which reduces delivery of oxygen to the brain. To stay in this constricted mode all the time, with normal stress responses, is not healthy. 

When it comes to your heart, Oxytocin: 

  • Is made to protect your cardiovascular system from the responses of stress
  • Is a natural anti-inflammatory
  • Helps blood vessels to stay relaxed during stress
  • Helps regenerate heart cells and heal the heart from stress induced damage (I love this!)

Next is the coolest information of all, and applies to you. When oxytocin is released, it's motivating you to seek support. So, when you're stressed, oxytocin wants you to be surrounded by people who care about you. If you reach out during times of stress either to seek support or give support, you release more oxytocin. Then your stress response becomes healthier and you in turn rebound and recover from stress faster. 

This week, I have a challenge for you. I want you to reflect on these questions:

  1. How do you view stress? Good or bad? Productive or destructive?
  2. What are your normal stress responses?
  3. Do you seek support when you're stressed? If so, what motivates you?
  4. What if I told you to change your beliefs about stress and view it as helpful? For instance, believing in a stressful moment that your beating heart is preparing you for action, your brain is getting more oxygen when you start breathing faster, and the release of oxytocin will help heal your heart during stressful times - would you change your beliefs about stress for a week?

Talk to me in the comments, I'm totally curious! 

This information is big! After learning about all the damage stress has on our bodies for many years, I have a new sense of wonder and how to help women leave that flight or fight state and get you into your heart living long, healthy lives. Lives where stress can be healthy and productive!

Have a cool weekend! Find some wonder. 

XO,Rebecca

 

Your thyroid is like your COO

busy is a choice. stress is a choice. joy is a choice.
choose well.

Normally, in modern health care, someone wouldn’t choose to use this quote to start talking about the thyroid. But I am not normal. I think differently. The thyroid is a gland I’m totally in love with for a myriad of reasons, many physiologic and some metaphysical. 

I became most obsessed when I realized how many women suffer from thyroiditis of some kind, but thought it was postpartum depression in the first year postpartum. This obsession lead me to my thesis that it needs to be common practice for women to have a full thyroid panel completed in that first year postpartum. If diagnosed, she deserves care and a conversation about thyroid health that fits and supports her lifestyle. Before I go further, watch this little video and learn about your thyroid:

My favorite quote, “Your thyroid is like your COO.”

We all know how important it is to have a Chief Operating Officer overseeing the health of a thriving business. So, if your thyroid delegates and spreads little hormones throughout your body that manage and maintain your metabolism, why wouldn’t you want to know about it’s overall health and function? We (the providers) get a full picture of your thyroid health when we run a full thyroid panel. Just knowing your TSH isn’t enough information. 

I’ve dabbled with hypothyroidism. A few years ago, my system was significantly compromised from sleep deprivation, diet, an extremely stressful job, not enough exercise, and a recent big move. Lots of cortisol in my life and I’m pretty tuned into my body, so I knew something was off. Since I worked in a clinic, I did a full thyroid panel to try to rule out thyroiditis of any kind. Once I read my lab results, I was bummed. My numbers were up, and I was in full swing sub-clinical bullshit. 

Over the next week, I consulted with five different medical providers. The advice I stuck with was from my athletic MD back in Montana who managed her overworked thyroid without medication. She said, “Rebecca, do less of what is stressing you out and do more things that bring you joy. Exercise and eat better. Relax more. Consider acupuncture. You know how to take really good care of yourself, but don’t medicate unless you really have to.” Per my physicians advice, I didn’t medicate.

But, I did give my overall health and spiritual health the major overhaul it needed to get back to feeling good. You will not have the same story as me, especially if you have or might have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. That's legit and you will need support. We'll talk more about Hashimoto's in the future.  

For some, medication is the answer. For others, it is not. Whatever you choose, know how your thyroid is functioning for your overall health. If you have not had your thyroid checked recently, now is the time.

Oh btw, LMH has a great card that explains the difference postpartum thyroiditis and postpartum anxiety. Oddly, the signs and symptoms are very similar. Download the app if you're curious what's happening to your body, or feel free to ask questions here!  

Remember, busy is a choice. Stress is a choice. Choose well.
XO,
R