Monday, January 23, 2012

Healthy sleep, healthy body, happy family, happy mom

Boy did we have a rough night last night. We're not sure if Aria is teething, had painful gas, or all of the above. My husband and I spent an hour and a half trying to calm her, then of course we had to calm her brother because she woke him up (and probably the whole neighborhood), and then each other so that we could get back to sleep.

She survived. And after a night of being awakened four or five more times (who knows how many really), I woke up exhausted. And in physical pain, once again.

This may sound like hell, and it kind of is. But the good news is that Aria really is typically a great sleeper. That's how we know that the crazy waking up must be something like teething. And it also gives me a chance to re-visit the importance of sleep for a healthy body - and for a happy me.

This is not new news from the mom of the infant twins world. I don't think I'm saying anything new when I tell you that sleep is important to your health; it's a chance for your body to restore physically, emotionally, and mentally.

All that saying, I have to write about this topic. Because I'm just so tired and that's what's on my mind. And because I feel a real difference in my health when I sleep and when I don't sleep.

Here's a brief example: I woke up two days ago with pain in my left hip. Mind you, that's the hip that has healed. I took a nap at around 4 pm. I woke up, and the pain went away!

I desperately wrote our pediatrician an e-mail asking for advice a few months back when the kids were waking up every two hours. I knew I wouldn't make it if we kept going like this.

What I didn't know it at the time, and now do, is that I was taking on a new family project: Get us all to sleep well. She recommended that I read "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, which I call 'the sleepy book' for short.

The sleepy book tells us tired, exhausted parents all the reasons why lack of sleep is so detrimental to the health of infants AND adults. Sleep is important for mental alertness, and lack of sleep has been shown to cause fussiness, excited-ness, and an upset baby. It has been linked to attention deficit disorder in older children.

And an Australian sleep study done on adults shows that lack of sleep causes an increase in cortisol – the body’s stress hormone. Cortisol is a hormone that we diabetics are familiar with as it has also been linked to rising morning blood sugars (known as dawn phenomenon) and weight gain. Please check for more information or the links provided in this paragraph.

The sleepy book recommends creating an environment for healthy sleep, which includes: a regular sleep schedule, sleep consolidation - meaning lots of it undisturbed, naps (for children), and sleep duration night and day. His strategies work unless a baby is teething, sick, just received immunizations, or is hungry.

So first there's the schedule: We did this by logging when our kids' natural sleepy times and feedings are and then building a schedule around them. And then sticking to it. The schedule is key. We treat naps as sacred, and we don't keep them awake to play with visitors. Ever.

Undisturbed sleep is also important. Never wake a sleeping baby. Of course this is hard when you are also sticking to a schedule - with twins - but it somehow works itself out on most days. We do wake them up if we need to - mostly because of their feeding schedule, and the sleeping schedule falls into place around it naturally.

Longer night and day sleep results from putting kids to bed when they first appear drowsy. Not stretching them. So when we see Aria starting to slow down or Ethan staring into space, we know it's time for bed. If they're yawning, rubbing their eyes, or getting fussy, it means they're already overtired.

This works for us most of the time. The sleepy book does say that babies start to sleep through the night at around nine months after their due date. So we have some time to go. And I'll tell you, it's not an easy journey. And as everyone told me when this whole thing started, it does get better.

One thing I can say is that I have never been so aware of sleep before. I used to just do it. Now I pray for it and appreciate it when it does happen. I do believe that once the sleeping gets back on track that I'll feel better physically. Healthier and happier. We all need healthy sleep so that we can be healthy and happy. And I hope I will never take sleep for granted ever again...

P.S. I wrote this blog yesterday, Sunday morning, and last night both babies slept the whole night!!! And I slept for nine and a half undisturbed hours!!! I feel better already. My hands feel much better, and my hips do too.

P.P.S. I cannot possibly relay the wealth of information found in the sleepy book. Check out the sleepy book for all of the tips and tricks!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Healing messages: A break from the stress

My body has been breaking down since having our two amazing kids, who are going to be eight months old in two days. And I have been trying to figure out what’s going on and how to heal and mend my aching body.

Let me start by telling you what’s wrong: I’m pretty sure I have carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand, trigger finger in my right pinky, and loss of range of motion in my right hip.

I am not the type of person who gets a headache and just takes an aspirin. I see a headache as a symptom of something deeper – emotionally and spiritually. It’s the body’s way of shouting out a message for spiritual and emotional healing. And if you don’t listen, the body continues to break down until you finally listen and do something about it.

Because I know that our bodies speak to us and enlighten us to a deeper understanding of our true selves, I started my quest for healing alternative style. I did make an appointment with a rheumatologist because I want to be thorough and do whatever I can to help my body heal, but I’m also going gung-ho on the alternative approach as well, as I am certain that my body is trying to tell me something.

I started by asking the Universe (or God, whatever you call it): How can I heal my right hip?

And my intuition told me very clearly that yoga and meditation would help. I also heard reiki, and did start seeing a reiki master. It’s an AMAZING experience, which I’ll save for its own blog post once I’ve come to some clarity on what to say.

On yoga and meditation: I returned to my yoga practice as soon as I could after my c-section, and I have been doing a lot of hip opener sequences. I have been meditating as well, listening to the different areas of my body – especially during yoga – and also visualizing myself, with the flexibility of a yogi, doing lotus poses with ease.

I also saw myself having a conversation with my son Ethan while meditating. Ethan was born very small and in the NICU for three and a half months. We went on a really scary and rough road with him. But he’s doing really, really well. I had to process everything that had happened, and I apologized to him during the meditation. I felt guilty for what he went through, since I feel responsible for it. I also purposefully re-lived some of the trauma of the pregnancy, birth, and aftermath. I would love to be able to find the words to describe to you how important it was to meditate on the experience, and I am going to continue until I feel at complete peace with everything that happened. But I can tell you that today, I feel so much stronger and calmer than I ever have in my life.

My intuition told me very clearly that my right hip was storing a lot of stress and mind chatter around the whole experience of what happened with my son. And looking back on it, actually, my right hip lost its flexibility a few weeks after the c-section. So my intuition made a lot of sense.

I came to another realization a week ago: All of the aches and pains are on the right side of my body. It seems so obvious now, but it took me a while to figure that out. There’s meaning behind that.

Looking at it from a Western medicine perspective, the right side of the body is controlled by the left brain. It’s the side that controls language, rational and logical thought, the side that categorizes things, and writes to-do lists. From a Chinese medicine perspective, it’s the masculine side – the more aggressive side; while the left side of the body is the feminine – the passive side. The right brain is creative, abstract, and emotional and controls the left side of the body. And whenever those two sides of our inner selves are out of balance – the body gets out of balance as well.

My spiritual diagnosis is clear:

1) I still haven’t fully come to terms with what happened with Ethan. And I’m not afraid to say it out loud to all of you. I haven’t let it all go yet, although I thought I had.

2) On top of that, I’ve been in “doing” overload since the babies were born. No more resting on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I wake up early and change diapers and feed babies – happily, mind you, but it’s tiring. The stress of not sleeping. The stress of not having time to unwind, be more creative, meditate more consistently. I’m stuck in what seems to be an endless stream of to-do lists. I am doing too much. Not resting enough. And quite frankly, it’s really hard to find time to rest when you’re juggling taking care of twins (one of whom has some temporary special needs), keeping up with the house, going to doctors’ appointments with two other little people to think about, and managing my diabetes and health. Oh yeah, that.

My body is screaming that I need a break, a chance to rest and restore. And also a chance to process and let go of everything that happened.

So I put it out there: How is a mom of twins with diabetes supposed to find the time to rest and restore AND take care of things at the same time? How are we all supposed to find the balance between doing and getting things done AND taking care of our health and wellness?

Here’s what I heard: Let go of the mind chatter and go with the flow. And savor the moments when you do have peace and calm. The more you savor them, the more you create the energy of peace and calm in your life.