Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Week 3 Postpartum Check-in

Here I am sitting at my computer, finally getting a moment to sit down and check in here.  I have so many ideas throughout the day of what to bring to the blog but, alas, I rarely get the time to type it out.

I'm putting this picture in here to lay it all out there.  My hair hasn't been washed in a couple days, there are bags under the eyes and no makeup, and Ian is slumbering on my chest while I type.  This is my reality.  I'm happy but tired.  Not all moments are calm and peaceful but it is getting better everyday.

I posted a couple days ago on my Facebook page that the hardest part of this time period is not being able to get things done at my own pace.  This is secretly a blessing in disguise. Even though it is mentally frustrating, I want to be able to enjoy slowing down and not needing to work through a "list" to feel like the day was worthwhile.  It is kinda like putting on braces.  My teeth resist change but the pain eventually subsides. This baby is keeping me in check, reminding me that this is supposed to be a "restful" period.  Now if only my other kiddos would allow for it!!!

I wanted to share how important it has been for me to take care of myself.  By this I don't mean putting on makeup or showering every morning (maybe for you it will be).  It's by nourishing myself and forcing myself to go slow.  It is essential that I drink enough water, eat healthy, and to try to get sleep when possible. Granted, I went to bed at 7:30 pm last night. I knew that when Ian went to sleep next to me, this was the clock that would eventually wake me up.   My body gets shaky easily if I haven't eaten enough or feel to emotionally worked up.

Someday I will have my freedom back and be able to stay awake later and not pay for it the next day. Today, I get to snuggle with my newborn and listen to his sweet sounds. Today, I get to revel in his new baby scent and rock with him in my chair as I watch birds at our feeder.  Soon, that opportunity will be gone.

For all you mamas just having a baby, take heart and take care.  It's a journey not a race.  Don't judge yourself on this time period.  Slow down and remember to breathe through the tough moments.  Most importantly, don't be afraid to accept or solicit help.   These are all things I have to remind myself often!

Tired yet peaceful,

Jen Starks, Owner

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Announcing Ian Matthew!

Yep, I'm completely smitten. and exhausted!  My brain is mush and I can't ever seem to muster up the nerve to answer the phone.  But looking at my newest arrival, I'm reminded that all that matter is that I soak up all his newborn-ness.  His features have already changed and I love gazing into his eyes as he looks at mine in wonder.

Ian finally decided to come on April 30th at 5:31pm. 8 lbs, 3 oz and 19 in.  Only 6 days late but felt like eternity.  It's one of those experiences that you start to forget (much like pain during labor!).  Note to all of you who are pregnant.  Remind yourself that you will be 2 weeks late, so that each day from 37 weeks you aren't thinking you might have your baby.  Of course, you want to have things ready around 37 weeks though.

Once I can actually get enough time, energy, and mental clarity I am going to share my birth story.  After that, I want to post on some 2 weeks post partum thoughts.  I can't guarantee I'll get those to you promptly.  I can't predict anything at this point, except that Ian will want to nurse within the next 2 hours and a diaper change will need to happen about that time as well.  :)

Thank you all who were praying for us during our labor and for all your support during this time.  As many of you know, it's crazy at home.


Jen  ;)

Jen Starks, Owner

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day, Birth Day?

Happy Earth Day!

I've been so busy preparing for our upcoming birth that I haven't spent much time writing in the blog.  I have to admit that my focus of my business and blog has shifted a bit, which is probably why I haven't been as active on my computer.  Instead, I have been actively reading books, journaling, and spending a lot of time enjoying my kids.

In my last blog post, I wrote about this book I was reading, Radical Homemaking.  This book has been a catalyst for the shift.  It has been perfect reading for my pregnancy.  I have been searching for what I want out of our family life after the baby arrives.  Do I maintain both locations of Ecological Babies and keep doing what I'm doing?  Is this feasible?  Do I let go of everything and could I embrace being a stay at home mom completely?  What would be best for me?  What would be best for my kids?  Lots of questions and I hadn't been able to find an answer.  Every pregnancy rocks my world in this way.  I guess it is inevitable with all those hormones and the realization that my life is going to change again when a new member joins the family.

Well, I don't have complete answers but I have found peace within.  I'm slowing down for awhile and focusing on deepening my connection with my family and my local community.  Spring and summer are my favorite seasons for connecting to the land and to experiment with new domestic skills.  I'm going to be learning more about self-reliance and interdependence.

At the same time, I am going to still maintain Ecological Babies as it fits the needs and interest of my community.  But let's just say that I won't be going gangbusters or posting on Facebook every 2 hours.  I'm sure you won't mind too much. :)

Send some good birthing vibes my way.  I'd love to have an Earth Day baby.  And I'd love to finally meet this little guy or girl who's been kicking, stretching, and hiccuping inside me.  My 2 other kids would like my lap back too. :)

In peace,

Jen Starks, Owner

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Discussion: Is Homemaking Enough?

I'm reading this fantastic book, "Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture" and am sure I will be doing a lot of posts from this book, but am still digesting it.  I highly recommend you get your hand on a copy of this book. There is a quote in this book that has really hit home to me and I'd REALLY like to hear other's input on how it resonates with you.

"Our gauge of success and personal worth has become so reliant on external validation that women and men now find it difficult to believe that a life centered around the home can satisfy their needs for personal fulfillment and genuine achievement."

Wow, what a powerful statement.  This is exactly what I have been struggling with these past few months as I prepare for the birth of my 3rd baby.  What is best for my family after this baby is born?  What is best for my own personal journey?  Would being home exclusively and not working be enough?

For you moms and dads who are home full-time and not bringing in an extra income, have you struggled with this issue? Have you found that satisfaction with a life centered around your family life?

Jen Starks, Owner

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Morning Routine

I have to admit, I am surprised by how good I am actually physically feeling for being at 30 weeks.  During my last 2 pregnancies, I was seeing a chiropractor regularly and waddling my way around at this point.  Even then, I felt very fortunate to feel as good as I did.  Never would I have imagined that I don't have these aches and stiffness throughout the day.  I can't say for sure but my instinct tells me that there are 2 reasons why I'm feeling this good.

First, I purchased a shoulder posture support brace that is basically like a racer-back bra without the bar part.  It can be worn under clothes or over the top.  I don't wear it everyday but on days when I'm around the house doing a lot of bending and cleaning or just on my feet a lot, I like to wear this.  It holds my shoulders back and allows me to breath better.  My chiropractor warned me not to wear it all the time or the  back muscles will relax and rely on its support.  But mostly, it has helped me maintain better posture as my belly grows and adds more of a strain on me.  Presently, I have only gone to the chiropractor twice in my pregnancy and not for pain but general maintenance.  The brace I have is shown below (I snagged it on sale around the holidays.):

Secondly, I believe my morning routine has been a tremendous contributor to my physical (and mental!) well-being.  For awhile, I have been setting my alarm clock about 15 minutes before my 3 year old's clock told him it was time to come out for the day ("Mommy, my light turned green!").  If my 5 year old daughter wakes up before then, it is no big deal because she can independently start getting ready for school.  Plus, my husband has been super generous and getting out of bed immediately.  During these 15 minutes, I start slowly stretching in bed.  Laying on my back, I start with a spinal twist, hip opener, hamstring stretch, and hip flexor stretch.  Then I would sit up on the side of my bed and do some side stretches, twists, arms stretches, spinal rolls (modified cat/cow pose), head and shoulder rolls.  Finally, I would stand up in front of our long dresser and go deeper into some stretches.  I'd open up my hips with exaggerated rolls (like I'm doing a hula hoop slow and really big), forward lunges to stretch my psoaz muscle, hamstrings, side bends, twist a bit, and then finish with a forward bend.

Taking this time to open my body and also wake up in this gradual manner has been a great way to start my day.  I kinda wish I would have started it before this pregnancy, as it would have helped me be more patient in the morning with my kids.  But now it has finally become routine.  I'm starting my day on my terms, even though it is such a short period of time.

What has been your morning routine?  Does it help to take time in the morning for yourself?  Have you noticed a difference in your day?


Jen Starks, Owner

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Third Trimester- Already?

Well, I'm headed straight into my third trimester.  Having been through this twice before, I know what's right around the corner.  Yep, my days of feeling comfortable and looking pleasantly pregnant are quickly going away as this baby grows these last few weeks.  I absolutely love the second trimester and am so sad to see it go.

Today is the first day where I actually feel (and look) swollen. I thought maybe because I'm doing this through the winter season, I might dodge this.  And I have to admit that I'm feeling better this pregnancy than the past two and am sure it has to do with cooler temperatures.

I'd love to hear some suggestions on what you do or did to help swelling.  It's not so much my ankles disappearing as just my entire body feeling stretched and puffy.  Would you rather be pregnant in warmer or in cooler months?

Waddling just a bit,

Jen Starks, Owner

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Fostering Cooperation Through Attachment

I'm currently reading this fantastic book called "Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm, and Connected"  by Susan Stiffelman, (MFT) and highly recommend you find a copy to read. I have to admit that I have read through many parenting books, especially when I feel a bit in crisis as a mom.  Rarely however, do I come across a book where I agree enough with the concepts to read through the book in its entirety. This might even end up in my permanent parenting resource section on my bookshelf.

One of Stiffelman's basic concepts is the power of a parent (aka the "Captain of the Ship" who creates an environment of safety and steadiness) to form a healthy, strong attachment or connection with their children. When our kids feel truly connected to us and feel like we are coming alongside them rather than at them, they are much more receptive to us.  This also applies to our marriage, co-workers, extended family members, friends, etc!  Stiffelman has 6 Stages of Attachment she lays out (proximity, sameness, belonging/loyalty, significance, love, & being known) to develop a more closer connection.   I'm not going to go in great detail of the contents of each of these stages but it would certainly make another great blog post!

As I reflect on some of the issues I'm having with both my 5 y.o. daughter (sharing issues, sneaking behind my back) and 3 y.o. son (dealing with frustrations), I'm realizing that I can help manage our issues simply by being more present and empathetic to them and working on our personal relationship.  Hooray that it can be as straightforward as this.  Now, we all know that this isn't always easy, especially when we are tired, rushed, occupied, or in the midst of a tantrum (hello, my daily existence!).  But it's in the calm moments later that we can work a bit more to let them know we are hear to listen, learn from them, be with them, and love them unconditionally.  Then we are able to prevent more issues in the future.

Are you feeling connected with your kids right now?  What are some of your favorite ways to spend quality time with them?


Jen Starks, Owner

Monday, January 28, 2013

Our Children & Their Successes/Failures (Not Mine!)

Lately, I have been struggling as a mom.  Stretched thin by having my husband out of town 2 weekends in a row and my approaching 3rd trimester, I haven't been presenting my best self.  And unfortunately, my best self is mostly shown in my public life rather than my private.  :(

I am a person who desperately wants peace in this world, to be a strong part of community building, and to reconcile with those around me.  Yet, I am most challenged in finding that peace within my home with my kids.  It is eating me up.

I realize too that my kids are also playing a role in this.  I swear we have still not recovered from our Christmas break as many of our routines and new activities only picked up last week.  My daughter seems to definitely thrive with routines.  Since we're still getting back into it, she has simple been up and down like a ping pong ball, so excitable and not shining in her 5 year old way.

Today was a much better day and it dawned on me that today I also experienced many more proud moments in my children.  I saw more improvement in them and felt more in control of our day.

But is that fair to them or even myself to claim a good day when my children make good choices?  Is this really going to benefit our mental health when this is how I gauge a good or bad day?  Perhaps I am putting too much pressure on my daughter and exasperating the situation.  If she has those days where she drives everyone crazy, maybe I shouldn't feel so responsible for her actions.  If she does well though, it's not my success but hers.  Certainly, I can feel proud of her.

I'm not sure I am making complete sense to any readers out there.  Reflecting on this tonight has helped me spiritually understand my recent struggles and to let go of my feelings of being a failure as a mom.  It is creating a new space for more peace to fill in and bring out my better self in my private life.

Do you connect with this identification of feeling like a success or failure based on the behaviors of your children?

With new found peace,

Jen Starks, Owner

Monday, January 21, 2013

18 Ways to Avoid Power Struggles

Power struggles create distance and hostility instead of closeness and trust. Distance and hostility create resentment, resistance, rebellion (or compliance with lowered self-confidence). Closeness and trust
create a safe learning environment. You have a positive influence only in an atmosphere of closeness
and trust where there is no fear of blame, shame or pain.

IT TAKES TWO TO CREATE A POWER STRUGGLE. I have never seen a power drunk child without a power drunk adult real close by. Adults need to remove themselves from the power struggle without winning or giving in. HOW?

The following suggestions teach children important life skills including self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation and problem-solving skills instead of "approval junkie" compliance or rebellion. They create a
win/win environment.

1. Create routines. Get children involved in the creation of routines (morning, chores, bedtime). Let them cut pictures from magazines (or take photos of them doing each task) to create a routine chart, which then becomes "the boss." (“What is next on our your routine

2. Make a "Wheel of Choice" together.  Draw a big circle and divide into wedges.  Brainstorm lots of solutions to problems. Let children draw or cut out pictures for each solution.  During
a conflict, invite children to pick something from the wheel that would solve their problem.

3. Put the problem on the family meeting agenda and let the kids brainstorm for a solution. 
Kids are more likely to cooperate when they are involved in the solutions.

4. Positive Time Out. Create a "nurturing" (not punitive) time out area with your children. Then
ask, "Would it help you to go to our time-out area?" If they say, "No," ask, "Would you like
me to go with you?" If they still refuse, model the value by saying, "Then I think I'll go." Follow-up (not always required) by helping children explore consequences through using the
following suggestion.

5. Ask what and how questions: What happened? How do you feel about what happened?
What ideas do you have to solve the problem? (This does not work at the time of conflict,
nor does it work unless you are truly curious about what your child has to say.)

6. Listen:  Stop talking and listen. Use reflective listening. Reflect back what you heard to see if
you are getting it. Use active listening. Try to understand not only what your child is saying,
but what she means. If you are right, the child will feel understood and will feel relief.

7. Decide what you will do. I will read a story after teeth are brushed. I will drive only when
seat belts are buckled. (I will pull over to the side of the road when children are fighting.)

8. Follow Through:  The key to this one and all of the following is KINDNESS AND FIRMNESS AT
THE SAME TIME. (Pull over to the side of the road without saying a word. Children learn
more from kind and firm actions than from words.)

9. Supervision, Distraction, and Redirection for Young Children. Children are often punished
for doing what they are developmentally programmed to explore. Tell children what they
can do instead of slapping hands for what they can't do.

10. Use ten words or less. One is best: Toys. Towels. Homework. (Sometimes these words need
to be repeated several times.) Avoid lectures.

11. Invite cooperation. Say, "I can't make you, but I really need your help."  (10 words)

12. No words: Use pantomime, charades, or notes. Take a child by the hand and gently take her
where she needs to be. As Rudolf Dreikurs used to say, "Shut your mouth and act."

13. Non-verbal signals. These should be planned in advance with the child. An empty plate
turned over at the dinner table as a reminder of chores that need to be completed before
dinner; a sheet over the television as a reminder that homework needs to be done first or
that things need to be picked up in the common areas of the house.

14. Limited choices: Do you want to do your homework before dinner or after dinner. Do you
want to hop like a bunny or slither like a snake while picking up your toys?

15. Put them in the same boat. When children fight, ask both to go to separate rooms or to the
same room until they can find a solution. An alternative is to put the problem on the agenda.
Don't try to figure out who started it, even if you think you know.

16. Use your sense of humor: Here comes the tickle monster to get little children who don't pick
up their toys. This creates closeness and trust and can be followed by one of the above.

17. Spend special time. Schedule regular time with each child. In addition, while tucking children
in bed, ask, "What was the saddest thing that happened today; and what was the happiest
thing that happened today? After listening to each, share your saddest and happiest times of
the day.

18. BONUS:  HUGS! HUGS! HUGS! A hug is often enough to change the behavior—theirs and
yours. Try a hug to create a connection before correction—then focus on solutions.

This handout comes from the Positive Discipline Association and can be accessed at:

Here's to more peaceful parenting!

Jen Starks, Owner

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Doula's Guide to Preparing For Birth

Today we have a guest blogger, Leslee Boldman, writing her personal recommendations on how to prepare for childbirth. It applies to any birth setting, and I think you will find it especially helpful if it is your first birth. Leslee is a doula in Tallahassee, FL and you can learn more about her and her practice at Bold Birth Doula Services. Thanks Leslee!

Five Things that Should Be on Every Pregnant Woman’s To-Do List

There are a lot of things that go on the to-do list while you’re pregnant. Between the time you find out you're pregnant and the time you give birth, things slowly get crossed off the list one by one.  Here are five important things every pregnant woman should have on their to-do list in preparation for birth:

Read Books on Pregnancy and Childbirth
As with every other topic worth talking about, there are a million books on pregnancy and childbirth. If you’re looking for a book to read during pregnancy to follow with your baby’s growth, check out Simkin's "Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn" or Kitzinger’s “The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth.”  Three of my favorite books that together give a nice round view of childbirth options are Goer’s "Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth," Gaskin’s "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth," and Harper’s "Gentle Birth Choices." Another book that I regularly refer to is “The Birth Partner;” it’s a good read for both you and your partner (and anyone else you’d like to be there when your baby is born) -- pack this one in your hospital bag as a quick reference.  

Sign up for Classes
There are so many types of classes available these days, look around until you find something that suits your envisioned birth.  This is an ideal time to solicit advice from friends and family who’ve had the birth experience you’re looking for.  Ask them about the classes they took (and care providers they used) to see what helped them prepare for the birth they wanted.  For instance, if you are interested in having a natural childbirth, talk with friends who had a natural childbirth to see what classes they took and what doctors/midwives they felt supported by during their birth experience.  If you will be breastfeeding, take a breastfeeding course to give yourself a good foundation.

Build a Support Team
A key to a successful, positive birth experience is to surround yourself with a great support team.  Make sure that everyone who will be there when your baby is born is on the same page as you and will fully support you every step of the way.  If you are worried about a particular relative, talk to them beforehand to let them know exactly how to best help you as part of your birth team.  Hiring a doula is a great idea, and I’m not just saying this because I am a birth doula -- I believe in the power of doula support so much that I knew I needed one on my birth team, too. A doula who has been trained in providing emotional and physical support can be invaluable to a laboring woman and her loved ones.  A common concern is that a doula would take the role of main support person but this isn’t true.  A doula is there for you and your support system during labor, standing alongside your partner and whoever else you’ve chosen to have with you during the big event.  

Write a Birth Plan
There are as many ways to write a birth plan as there are mamas-to-be.  I tend to think of birth plans in a different way from the ones you commonly find online.  I prefer to think of a birth plan as a preparation tool for the mama-to-be and her support team as opposed to a strict set of rules for your care providers to follow while you’re in labor.  As you work on your birth plan, you gather knowledge about all types of experiences with the goal of writing down information for your support team about the specific type of birth you hope to have.  It would benefit both you and your support team to also address how you would like to handle unexpected situations that may arise.  By doing this ahead of time, you will be better equipped to make decisions if you encounter an unforeseen obstacle while you are in labor.  

Pack the Hospital Bag
I received two great pieces of advice about packing for the hospital that I like to share with mamas-to-be that are planning for a hospital birth.  First, bring your own pillows as the hospital never seems to have enough to go around.  Think about how many pillows you need to stay comfortable during the last few weeks of your pregnancy and plan for the hospital to only provide two of that number.  Second, pack two separate hospital bags: one for labor and birth that comes in with you when you arrive at the hospital, and a second that can stay in the car until you settle in after your baby arrives that contains everything you need for the hospital stay.  

Enjoy this time before your baby arrives.  Spoiler alert: parenthood is awesome!

BIO: Leslee Boldman is a DONA certified doula, Co-President of the Tallahassee Doula Co-Op, and owner of Bold Birth Doula Services (www.boldbirth.com). She has been a birth doula since 2005, serving women and their families through the birth process. Her favorite part of being a doula is witnessing the birth of a new family. She and her husband, Dan, started a family of their own in July 2010 with birth of their daughter Sarah, assisted in labor by fellow doula Lindsey Morrow.