Pets’ Prep for Pregnancy

dogsandpregnancyAre you one of those parents-to-be who reads pretty much every article and book you can get your hands on?  I think it’s fair to say I fall into that category…I look at this time as my training: I’m a student of parenting before this baby comes home in my arms.  So needless to say, as a dog owner, I’ve read at least half a dozen articles about helping one’s pet adjust to a new family member.

These articles all make similar suggestions to help ease the transition: set things up so your pet can see the new stuff for the baby, let your pet smell an article of the baby’s clothing before bringing him or her home from the hospital, even pay a little less attention to your animal who may be accustomed to getting lots of your uninterrupted affection.  But some changes have already started taking place in our home that we could not expect, so I thought I’d share a few shifts that have raised our eyebrows in wonder or made us laugh.  Perhaps you can relate.

THE PROTECTOR ROLE HAS SHIFTED

Our dog has always made it clear she is my protector, but a recent change has become apparent in the protective order  in our home.  When thunder or fireworks filled our neighborhood, I used to be the go-to person our pup sought for consolation.  Even during the month of July as the celebrations seemed incessant in our neck of Colorado, she would turn to me first, and if another went off, she may duck into my husband’s chair.  In recent weeks however, I have been generally abandoned in this regard.  The line of safety seems to now be: dog protects me, my husband protects the dog.  With any startling, she runs to the non-pregnant person in our household.  Perhaps she knows I have someone new to protect who is now filling out my mid-section generously.

EATING MEALS TOGETHER

Do you have one of those dogs who devours food the moment you lay it out or the kind who dabbles in it through out the day?  Our canine has taken turns doing both, but a new tradition has recently begun.  By the time she gets up in the morning, breakfast is usually already in her bowl.  Rather than eat though, she rests in the kitchen as I prepare breakfast, watches me sit down at the table, moves to her bowl, looks back up, and only once I start eating, like a polite guest at a dinner party, does she start consuming her meal.  It is not as consistent at dinner, but she still does this often in the evenings as well.  Is she just making sure we both get to eat?

WALKING IS GETTING HARDER  

So as third trimester is well upon us, my energy level no longer leaves me enjoying a 2-3 mile walk in the heat of the sunny summer day (big shocker I know).  I try to get in about a mile with my dog, but was feeling guilty, and confessed this to my husband one night.  Seeing my concern, he said: “All you need to do is ask and I’m happy to help with these types of things.”  Sure enough, starting the next morning, he shortened his gym work out by 15 minutes and immediately came home to take our dog out.  I rescued her about 14 months before meeting my husband, so her loyalty has remained pretty clear, but in the past, she jumped at the chance to go for a walk, even with just him.  On this morning, she was not about to leave my side though.  Despite his calls, she stayed on her bed beside me (also still in bed) until she was leashed and harnessed.

The walk lasted about a whopping 5 minutes as she was apparently pulling to come back home the entire way.  So my husband brought her back and tried the next day.  Same thing happened.  By day 3, she ran in his direction when she heard her leash come out, but they only made it to the front of our next-door-neighbor’s house.  That trajectory continued for about another week until another shift came.

For the past couple of days, when my husband grabbed the leash, our dog walked to the edge of our bedroom, peered down the hall at my husband, then leaped up onto our bed and snuggled up beside me.  Her tail was wagging like she was looking forward to going out, but body language clearly indicated, this is who I need to be with right now.  She’s a Shepherd mix, so protective instincts are innate and manifesting in funny new ways.  On days when they did walk- they never made it beyond the house next door.

 

I have read that dogs can smell a difference in pregnant women (changing hormone production) and that clues them in to a change.  Perhaps pets notice that movement changes or they see and wonder about the rapid weight gain.  All the new furniture and items in the house probably clue them in, not to mention mom’s fluctuation of moods and often tears too.  Our pets tend to be very intuitive creatures.  For my fellow expectant parents out there, have you observed any funny changes in your pets’ behavior?  If so, I hope you’ll share, or at least remember to laugh at the funny shifts in life.  Happy day!

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Pregnancy’s Butterfly Effect

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“Let everything go.  Allow your worries, your thoughts, your anxieties to float away and for a few moments, just be here in this moment.”  How many times do we hear this yoga jargon in classes, especially the opening and while lying in Savasana?  I remember listening to similar cues in a class about a month ago and thinking, “I have a baby growing inside of me.  I am a mother now and no longer have the luxury of completely releasing because this little person is a part of me and my actions impact another now.

Long ago my mother started to teach me about how my actions had consequences that impacted other people, but growing a human inside and realizing -this body is not just attached on the outside of me with skin around it that attaches us, but truly growing in the center of my being- did my perspective take a huge shift in what parenting will entail.

As I began to think more and more about this idea that what I do can have significant impacts on another is certainly not a new concept, but it just brought up this idea with greater magnitude.

A few examples:

The substances I put in my body (food, drinks, and if I were to choose, other substances…you know, like gum) impacts my energy level, my moods, clarity of thought, lifespan, self-image and even health.  This can impact my productivity, relationships with others, and availability to work or engage.  How often do we think about these things as the fork covered with salad or the wonderful smelling donut is going in?  

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As you get dressed and prepped for your day, how often do you look in the mirror and ask: what do I want my appearance to say about the type of person I am and does this appearance communicate who I really am: be it confident, professional, warm and gentle, a lover of the earth, etc?

Do you set plans or goals for years, months, weeks, or each day that help you spend time being and becoming ever more who you really want to be in the grand scheme: whether this includes the types of relationships you invest in, service, professional, physical or educational pursuits?  Are you living in a way that truly makes you happy?

For this little window of pregnancy, I have the opportunity to be pulled into a vacuum of reminders that if I don’t eat frequently enough (or the right foods), it makes a more significant impact than  I realized – i.e. nausea, waking up in the middle of the night, random impulses to cry, etc.  This is preparation for remembering the importance of regularly feeding the little person who is about to come out and be a very significant part of my world for the rest of my life.

We don’t always have such blunt reminders in front of us that say: “Your actions directly and indirectly impact others!” But they do.  The words we speak and how we express them can be a pivot point in another’s day- and how many others can a grumpy or very cheerful person impact: from how they drive, to glances, to words they share with the people around them? dadreadtochild

Do you sit down to watch a tv show (that will inevitably suck you into at least 2 more) after work tonight or walk your dog who is already harassing you to get outside?  Do you tell your kids to go play so you can catch up on emails after dinner or spend a few minutes reading and maybe singing with them before the bedtime routine begins?  Do you check another gossip column online or call an old friend who has been on your mind lately?

We have so many choices every day and while we can’t see most of the consequences, we can remind ourselves that each choice makes a difference.  So even if your most recent decision wasn’t one of your best, you always have the next one to make more of the impact you want to share with the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Want to Be a Mother

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Did you grow up wanting to be a mother?  I used to think that deep down, every woman felt most fulfilled through motherhood, but I now realize it is some people’s callings and many of us do not feel that way.  I respect every woman who is honest with herself, and even more so, those who find joy in the journey, whether it is what you hoped for or not.

I grew up in a home with a mother who started very young- only 20 years old when she welcomed me into the world.  She was married and had a husband who tried to be supportive, but it was a constant struggle.  They did the best they could, raised our family with lots of love, laughter and tears, and yet for some reason I wanted to grow up and follow in my mother’s footsteps.

My twenties came and went with a 7+ year marriage I thought meant parenthood was joyfully imminent.  Instead it was painfully placed at bay, but looking back, I could not be more grateful.  I matured, studied child development and parenting for over a decade and had countless opportunities to help parents and children form happier, communicative, calmer homes.

As the next decade of life rolled in, I made a huge shift- let go of the marriage that wasn’t serving either of us, moved across country, switched jobs, made new friends, reconnected with family and passed up the Ph.D. path to find something equally fulfilling and hopefully less stressful.  I met my wonderful husband, we went through a lot together in only 2 years, but what gave me peace was seeing that every transition and rough patch, and we’ve been through some doozies, didn’t ruffle our feathers much.  We laugh things off, take naps when we need them, give each other space to develop uniquely, and love and make lots of time to be together.  I found and invest each day in the relationship I always dreamed of, so naturally, my long-held dream of parenting rekindled.

It seems this earth sign (Taurus) gal just needed a solid foundation for all the ducks to line up in a row.  In early December I finished yoga training, then 2 weeks later my husband and I bought a house.  Quicker than ever before, I nested into the new haven to welcome guests, host holiday parties, and bring light and love into a space one friend said felt like “a big, warm hug.”

Well, the holiday treats came- and stayed in superfluous left-overs until I had to throw out some of the pie I kept eating for breakfast and thought was making me feel less than great.  But feeling “off” continued and was accompanied by waking regularly in the middle of the night-not regular for me, emotional waves of feeling weepy for no reason, and just overall lethargy.  My husband didn’t notice the time for my period came and went, without coming.  After the roller coaster of last year, I was far from eager to take a pregnancy test.  I waited until 40 days without flowing to take it. Lo and behold-it was positive.  I had debated for weeks: do I tell my husband if it comes out positive?  When?  How?  With all the cool finesse of Anne Hathaway’s gawky Princess Diaries character, I just left the test on the bathroom sink, knowing it could be 8 hours before my hubby saw it.

30 minutes later he happened to roam in that direction. I just kept folding laundry, nervous, with no idea what he’d say.  “So this is a thing?” came wafting from the loo.  “I guess so” awkwardly replied.  We slowly, cautiously talked, celebrated, and have enjoyed the ever-changing adventure of baby-growing unfold over the past mont and a half.

After telling one of my brothers “the news”, he and I met at a local diner to catch up.  It was a heartwarming and dynamic conversation, as I always find our interactions to be, but particularly interesting on this occasion as we discussed parenting.  About a year and a half ago, he and his partner became parents- as I see it, very nobly, through first fostering, then eventually adopting a child.

Amid our many conversations topics, he asked me about a desire I’ve always to which he could not relate:

“Why do you want to have a baby?”  

I was a little surprised- having considered, but never been asked before.  My initial thought was, I just always have.  It could be engendered through strong cultural messages I’ve received since birth, or perhaps it is part of my dharma, but motherhood, including growing, birthing and raising children has always been something I’ve desired, with the support of a loving partner- found!    

I find it absolutely amazing that my body has the potential to grow another human- if you want a wonderful comedic break to get a mini lecture on the miracle of birthing, check out Jim Gaffigan’s stand up sketch on 4 kids.   As I’ve studied over the years about the significance diet, emotions, thoughts, and activity level of a mother can have in the first few months of a yet-to-be-born child’s life, I find it the ultimate, beautiful opportunity to give a human the best possible start to life.  Then raising a child- the ultimate social experiment- in challenge, learning about love and selfless giving.  I spent 15 years refining my diet, lifestyle, and even relationships to create the best possible incubator for a little one.  I’m far from perfect and my activity level since pregnancy commenced has significantly declined (I don’t have the energy, let alone feel well enough to do 10-15 hours of yoga and jog/walk 6-10 miles a week right now).  I do the best I can, even when that is just drinking water, eating crackers, and walking my dog halfway down the block daily.  I think every parent does the best they can.  So today I honor parents, mothers, and every woman – for doing your best, owning who you are, and hopefully finding the love for yourself you absolutely deserve.

And if you, like me, have a little “Snowflake” on the way, I wish you peace, comfort, and joy in the journey as well!