Unspoken Battles: Why I’m Terrified of Suicide and Why We Must SPEAK UP!

About a couple of months ago, an acquaintance of mine killed herself. I didn’t know her well, but we often talked about our similar struggles. We would vent about how our life before kids was easier and how we thrived. We would share stories of battling depression and other forms of mental aggravations. We would share our stories of joy and how we conquer our demons.

But then her demons got her….

Because of social media, I have been seeing conversations with this woman pop up. We are chatty and silly and she seemed so far from darkness. I just don’t know how to handle the fact that a year later, she is gone. Every time I see this, I cry. Not just for her, but because I see myself in her. I’m relatively stable and have a huge support system, but these demons seem so apparent in my isolating life as a stay at home mom. Sitting. Waiting. They came for her and she couldn’t fight them off anymore. What happens when we can’t fight ours?

I used to think suicide was something that you did. We had a family friend that died many years ago from this affliction and I just thought it was selfish of him. “How could he do that to his family,” I would say, before I really knew better. You don’t DO anything. It comes for you, sneaky and slow, always around the corner.

I’m sure this is probably terrifying for my friends and family to read, but it NEEDS to be said. Living in a constant state of healing yourself means damage is always happening to you. I have been struggling with mental health disorders since my first child came into my life. I could have never seen this coming and might have even given my life circumstances a second thought. I wanted to be home with them for years and years, but I can’t survive that so they will have to share me with my own passions and career so that I can thrive again.

I’m choosing to see this darkness in me as an opportunity to be brave and speak up. I KNOW of many people who have fought these demons and survived, but kept quiet until long after they needed support. “Fake it till you make it” is not a thing. The reality is that you fake it until you have a mental breakdown or major health issue. It’s seen as weak to be in this state and that is so far from the truth. Its strength that faces the demons. It’s so, so hard and I cannot do it without the army of support around me, so they must know what they are battling with me. I’ve faced darkness before and prevailed. I do it now and I’m scared, but know deep in my heart that I, we, can prevail again. I’m not asking people to fix me or cushion my life. I think Glennon, from Momastory (a massive inspiration to me), says it perfectly: “I used to say: I’m broken. Fix me. Then I grew up a little and said : WAIT A MINUTE. I’M NOT BROKEN. And now I’m a real grown up so I say: Of course I’m broken. And I love, love, love myself that way. If you’re comfortable with that – come sit with me and we can laugh and cry and be broken and beautiful together. But don’t try to fix me- I didn’t ask for that. I just asked for some good company in which to be human.”

I just want to be human with everyone.

Hopefully this can be an inspiration and we encourage each other to speak up about our demons. They come in many forms from suicidal thoughts to addiction. We should be able to talk about this without feeling weak and unstable. Being in battle with ourselves is more common than we think. Admitting it makes us human. We HAVE to start talking to one another. Once a story comes out, more will follow and soon perhaps we won’t feel so alone in this epic battle of life.

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Newborn Sleep CAN Happen: How I helped my daughter learn to self-soothe.

10487182_10203763406777975_5428785870809281767_nSome babies respond just fine to rocking or nursing to sleep. Then there are the babies that you help into a floppy, blissful state of sleep and set them down ever so carefully only to have them WAKE UP the second their little bodies touch their bed, leaving you in frustrated tears. That was the story with both of my children. With my son, we suffered through four sleep-deprived, tear-filled months (him and us) before making some changes. With my new daughter, I wanted to avoid creating parent-led associations that hindered my son’s sleep and instead, give her the confidence to trust her own body.  Lisa Sunbury, who was a great support, reminded me that Magda Gerber often said to “start as you wish to continue.” That was exactly what I was trying to achieve: long-lasting habits, right from the start. Newborn sleep CAN happen, and it can happen respectfully.

Getting To Know Her

With my son, I was so stressed about his crying that I tried everything to just get the tears to stop, without actually listening to what he was telling me. In contrast, with my new baby, I did not immediately try at all costs to make the crying stop, but rather approached the tears in a calmer and more intuitive way. When she cried, I held her and told her I was trying to understand what she needed. Instead of trying to shut her down, I spent my energy listening to her tears and learning about what they meant. As a result, I found that I bonded with her sooner than I did with my son, because I had viewed my son as an infant in distress, and anxiety about my failure to stop his tears clouded our bond; with my daughter, I understood that her crying was communication and that it didn’t threaten her attachment to me.

Preparing the Day for Sleep

Babies are so easily overstimulated. Anything from a lamp to the sound of a passing car can be too much for some. Try to keep your baby in an area that has low lighting and minimal sounds. When feeding or changing, move slowly and use a gentle voice. It can be challenging to provide the optimal setting for a newborn 100% of the time, but you can do the best you are able. It’s also important that you let your baby release their frustrations, kind of like a friend that needs to cry on your shoulder at the end of a hard day. Being a newborn is so emotionally exhausting with the huge amount of newness in every little thing they experience; so everyday for them is a long, hard day. With my baby, I would snuggle up with her and let her cry out all of her frustrations. As soon as she was done, she would finally relax in my arms, ready for peaceful sleep.

Falling Asleep with Mama*

I wanted to avoid giving my daughter the habits that had made my son’s sleep so hard. I made sure to nurse her while she was awake and to avoid rocking, bouncing, or wearing her to sleep. Once I learned my daughter’s tired signs, I would go to her calm sleeping place, hold her, and allow her to fuss if she needed. I would not try to MAKE her sleep; instead, I gave her a quiet and peaceful space where she could fall asleep easily. She could snuggle in my arms and cry out her tensions, and then drift off to sleep. For the first week or so, we co-slept because I was recovering from birth and in bed most of the time anyway.

Once my daughter was used to falling asleep in my arms easily, I began putting her next to me. I would lay my hand on her while she fussed or cried to sleep. Gradually, I started moving my hand away and just watching her while she fell asleep. Eventually, this made for a lovely situation where she would coo and try to smile before falling asleep. She was learning that sleep was a wonderful thing and that it was in her power to drift off as she liked. She was learning to trust her body. This step worked for us because I was still in bed most of the time and slept with her.

*This would be a step you can skip if you don’t want to co-sleep.

Supported Self-Soothing

Once I was recovered a bit and ready to re-enter my daily life, it was time for her to sleep on her own in the co-sleeper. When my daughter was drowsy, I would put her down in her bed and sit by her. I would rub her head and say soothing things as she drifted off. Sometimes she cried, and sometimes she simply closed her eyes and fell asleep. Once she was calmer about her bed, I started putting her down without physical soothing, just singing to her until she fell asleep so she knew I was still there.

She would fuss a bit while she worked on finding her own methods to soothe. It took some practice, but eventually she learned to put her fingers in her mouth for comfort. After she made this discovery, I would just lie in my bed while she fell asleep, helping only if her fussing turned into full-on-crying. If, at any point, she got very upset in a way that did not sound like a tired cry, I would help her by starting with minimal support (singing or stroking) and then eventually picking her up and holding her for a bit before trying again.

Trusting Her Self-Moderation

I still don’t try to force sleep on my baby. If she is genuinely having trouble settling, I trust that she’s telling me that she’s not tired yet and bring her out to play until a bit later. She has gained the confidence to fall asleep on her own and knows that I respond to her if she needs me. This means that some days she sleeps less, and some days more. At this point, I can put her in her bed, kiss her sweet head, and walk away. Sometimes she fusses a bit before finding her thumb and soothing herself to sleep, but most of the time she smiles as I lay her in her bed. She loves sleep and loves her bed; it’s a comforting place for her. Sleep has never been something that must happen to her, but something wonderful that she gets to give herself.

Coping with Setbacks

Of course, although my daughter can now fall asleep without my help, we still have setbacks and fussy or troubled sleep times. My daughter still wakes 1-2 times a night for a feeding, and sometimes she needs more snuggles when she’s teething or going through a milestone. What helps is making more time during the day to see where the real challenge is coming from and then supporting that. For instance, she’s working on crawling now so I’ve been giving her ample opportunities to practice. The biggest help during setbacks will be this kind of observation and adjustment to her daily routine. They are always changing their needs and often times troubled sleep is the first indicator that minor changes might need to happen to their day.

There is no magical solution that eliminates all night wakings for any child. Even when they CAN fall asleep on their own and soothe themselves to sleep, they will still need us often over their early years as they go through milestones, developmental leaps, illness and other stressful events. Helping my children with their confidence to fall asleep without parent-led associations is not just for me and my sleep (though a well-rested mother is important) but it’s for their own well being as well.

Advent Songs: People, Look East and Hallelujah

advent-conceptIn our house we try to keep the quiet and reverent mood of Advent Time and avoid hectic mood that Christmas often turns into. Carrie from Parenting Passageway says it perfectly:  “There can be so much “busyness” around the holiday season, that I think it is easy to get very caught up and frantic rather than quietly anticipation and demonstrating our own peacefulness with a holding of truly what this season means unless we make plans for these small pockets of stillness.” In this post she shares a perfect quote from Rudolf Steiner about Christmas in our time: “What has become often a mere festival of gifts cannot be said to have the same meaning as what the Christmas festival meant to people for many centuries in the past.  Through the celebration of this festival the souls used to blossom forth with hope-filled joy, with hope-borne certainty, and with the awareness of belonging to a Spiritual Being, Who descended from Spiritual heights, and united Himself with the earth, so that every human soul of good may share in His powers.” 

Today I would like to share 2 songs that I love to sing during the Advent Time, songs that I feel perpetuate the peacefulness of the season. It’s not a song that you would EXPECT little ones to sing with you, but just singing AROUND your children is so very beneficial. Even if you THINK you don’t have a good singing voice, your children will be your biggest fans.

The actual practice of toning and improving your singing voice is also beneficial for the child. In this great (and long) article it states: “Teachers {or any caregiver/parent of the child} need to take the quality of their own singing voice seriously, not least because it radiates a sense of their well-being – or lack of well-being – to the children. Children also need to sense their teacher working on their own voice and how this is part of their self-development. In my experience, teachers working on their own voices find how it can be a source of regeneration and health in their lives.” To help in the development of your child’s larynx (see article) it’s great to provide a model of age-appropriate singing with a”forward, light and bright resonance” while reaching the higher pitches and bright open timbres that their voices easily lift up into. I know this sounds like a tall order to some who think they cannot sing. You CAN sing! You can all sing and with practice, you can ever learn to sing really well! AND to sing even better and really uncover your true voice, you can search for Werbeck singing courses in your area, like this one; or even join a local choir, like this one here in Portland!

The most important thing is to love singing, love the song and sing often with and near your children. Another point of view with less focus on your singing expertise: “Children don’t care what you are singing or that you have an “interesting” voice.  You can sing about driving them to daycare, about your day, or about the day your child was born.  Singing helps babies distinguish between a singing voice and a speaking voice, and it helps them to produce sounds in patterns and rhythms that match those of others.” Music is essential! Enjoy the song!

People Look East

(OR Click here for professional singers on Youtube)

1. People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

2. Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

3. Birds, though you long have ceased to build,
Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
God for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.

4. Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.

5. Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

Hallelujah

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Happy Advent Time!

How Do You Keep The Holiday Season Calm?

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Today marks the beginning of a month packed with holidays and parties. Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years and all of the gatherings and such in between. Usually this means the start of a packed schedule and more chaos during the month. However, this year I am determined to keep a calm and peaceful atmosphere for my family. Part of the reason for this is that I’m 20 weeks pregnant and my son is very sensitive these days. Though the main reason is that I am always wanting to actual imbue the season with the peace that the season is meant for.

So this whole month I will be working on a series about my journey to balance the excitement that comes from mainstream Christmas with the inner calm that comes from it’s spiritual counterpart. Hopefully this will not only keep me more relaxed, but instill different values in the season for my son to grow up with.

More Easy Handmade Waldorf and RIE Toys

This year I will once again avoid the malls and make my own Christmas gifts for my son and my nieces and nephew. Here is a list of toys that I’ll be working on, some incredibly easy and some a tad trickier. If you want more ideas, please check out my previous post on Easy Handmade Waldorf and RIE Toys.

1. Sensory Basket Treasures (6 months and up) This is actually a gift that even my 2 year old will still love. Fill this basket with pine cones, large bottle caps, fabric scraps or anything else interesting. They LOVE random odd things.

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2. Sunray Sensory Toy (Newborn – 1 year) – This is great because you can fill it will different textures, like mylar sheets or tulle. This one looks tricky but you can sew up any shape of fabric really easily.

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3. Soft fabric balls. (Newborn and up) 

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4. Felt Finger Puppets (1 1/2 and up)

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5. Sleeping Sacks for Dolls and Stuffed Animals (1 and up)

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6. Cardboard Box Appliances (2 and up)

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7. Blocks from Apple Branches (1 and up)

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8. Play Cape (2 and up)

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9. Really Cool Crayons (2 and up). Easy to make and perfect for tiny fingers.

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10. Yogurt Containers! (All ages) Seriously, these have always been such a huge hit, and will continue to be for some time. Open-ended toys are perfect for cultivating creativity in your little ones.

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Why Must They Grow Up?

unnamedMy son got his hair cut yesterday, all of his sweet baby hair just fell to the ground and this proper boy-looking child was underneath. Then today we had our second trimester ultrasound and say the baby in my belly for the first time, which sort of solidified the fact that a new baby is coming. Both of these things just made me feel the changes that are happening. My son only prefers me half of the time now and wants to do everything for himself. He is officially growing up and it is just going by too fast. I have spent almost every day with him since he was born and it’s still not enough. I can’t even say that I took any of it for granted because I really made sure to slow down, watch him and appreciate every stage he was in. It just keeps slipping away.

I want to stop time. In the moment when my son calls me in the middle of the night “my mama, i want my mama” and I pick him up and he snuggles on me while I crawl in his bed to snuggle him; I want to just stay in that moment.

When he asks me for help to put on his shoes and backs his little bottom into my lap; I want to let his little body sit on me forever.

Every hug is to short. Every kiss happens so quickly. When he says ‘love mama’ I want him to say it 30 more times.

He runs up to me to show me how fascinating a rock is; I never want him to stop sharing his world with me.

In the moments when he will nestle in between my husband and I, hugging us both and say “my mommy and daddy” I just want that to last forever.

His childhood is so fleeting and I just can’t appreciate this enough. I can’t seem to fully savor the moments before they fly by so fast.

He is growing up everyday; I notice this everyday. Always something new; less toddler-like and more child-like. It’s fantastic to see. I just wish it happened a little slower.