A generous baby shower

I’ve always had two thoughts and emotions about baby showers. I’ve felt somewhat uneasy about them, what with the fanfare, extravagance that seems to be the trend these days and potentially lots of unwanted gifts, but I’ve also loved the concept of gathering a budding mother’s closest female friends and family to initiate her into motherhood- or if it’s not for a first baby, having them around to share wisdoms, celebrate the start of new life and simply to shower her with love. 

Our dear friend Sana was expecting her first baby (she’s since given birth) and asked me to aid her in running a flower crown workshop for her baby shower. The day focussed on giving, generosity and creating beauty- a perfect focus for celebrating a woman on the cusp of motherhood, methinks. 

Read on to be inspired by Sana’s baby shower with a difference…

What was the inspiration behind organising this event?

Once pregnant, a few of my friends expressed interest in assisting to host a baby shower for me. I don’t mind attending baby showers and participating in the usual activities that go along with them, but I personally felt like doing something different. I wanted the focus of the gathering to be on bonding with my friends in a final farewell to child-free life. I also didn’t want the focus to be on collecting gifts. Although this is a well-intentioned tradition with much generosity expressed, I felt like channeling this generosity to those more in need than me. I decided to ask for a gift of donations towards maternity charity causes by the CARE charity which would benefit pregnant women, infants and new mothers in regions facing poverty and instability. This was a great success and we managed to raise a significant amount of funds towards this cause.

What was organised for the day?

I chose to make the event an afternoon tea, and to centre it on a creative activity where you get to go home having learned new skills and something to show for it. Keeping within the “baby” theme of growth and new life, I was inspired to hold a flower crown workshop.

I researched professionals who offer the service of running workshops for your events and found them to be quite costly. After speaking with some kind friends, they offered to run the workshop as a DIY exercise. How had can making flower crowns be, right?

After following a few online tutorials and guides, I ordered the materials we’d need (floral tape, floral wire etc.) and my friends went to the flower markets on the morning of the event to purchase a selection of flowers which would light up our home and be used for the crowns. The activity was a grand success. Saltanat (my friend who ran the workshop) did an excellent job of engaging the guests and getting their creative juices flowing. Everybody appreciated the opportunity to make a beautiful crown with their friends.

We also prepared DIY seed packets as party favours. We created hanging leaf garlands to decorate the space with, as well. I also got an old cork board, painted the base of a tree on it and asked guests to pin on a leaf with their pre-baby well wishes and words of advice for me and my husband.

I don’t believe baby showers need to be an exhaustive and extravagant affair. As in my case, it can be simplified by harnessing the skills and generosity of friends and family. I had friends prepare sweets for me on the day, run the flower crown workshop and assist in creating the decorations. Unless you use a registry, collecting gifts in an unstructured manner can lead to excess and wastage, which I wanted to avoid.

Sana, thank you so much for sharing your lovely baby shower with us! It truly was a beautiful day and I was honoured to play a small part in it… 

Baby shower 2 (27)Baby shower (14)Baby shower 2 (32)Baby shower (12)Baby shower 2 (34) (1)Baby shower 2 (30)Baby shower (17)Baby shower 2 (31)Baby shower (15)Baby shower 2 (77)Baby shower 2 (78)Baby shower 2 (96)Baby shower 2 (92)Baby shower 2 (84)Baby shower 2 (89)Baby shower 2 (72)Baby shower 2 (98)Baby shower 2 (36)Baby shower (18)

A simple health trick

Hello everyone!

I have been absent for a few months around here. What with Ramadan, a new baby and the general demands of life with three kids, friends and family; things have been busy.

More than this though, I have been struggling to be motivated to do anything outside of just getting through each day. Writing seemed like an insurmountable task that I simply could not be bothered for. I had no inspiration and just felt bogged down from the daily grind.

In the past few weeks, I came down with a nasty viral infection which took some time for me to recover from and was really a reminder that I needed to take proper care of myself first and foremost.

I think this is true of any mother, that we constantly place ourselves last. That we don’t take simple steps to ensure that our own health is sound. We know the oft repeated phrase, “if mum doesn’t look after herself she can’t look after anyone”, but I think that mostly, it’s something we just hear and not put in practice. We get on with our lives with a subconscious thought that we are infallible (physically). Until of course, our bodies just about get enough of being ignored and then start acting out for attention.

My recent (non-serious, yet still difficult) illness was the perfect reminder of this. And throughout that week, I had no choice but to take out the time to look after myself- even with all three kids at home with no one else to help me watch them.

It was also the perfect reminder for me to always, always be grateful for good health.

Basically, it was exactly what I needed to get my out of my rut and get me moving, get me active, to push me out of my low spirits.

So! One simple trick to looking after your health if you feel like you don’t know where to start is to drink warm water with honey first thing in the morning. It has to be on an empty stomach.

It’s not a difficult thing to make into a habit, and of course it has loads of health benefits. Read up on it here.

I also give “honey water” to the girls, so it’s become habit for them too. My own mother was the one who got me onto this, and now it has become part and parcel of our day.

What simple thing do you do everyday for your health? I’d love to hear what you all do.

High-tech bassinets are totally a thing now

For those of us who have kids, think back to your most difficult child, the one you brought home from the hospital terrified of because from DAY ONE they wouldn’t sleep anywhere else but on your chest. Or in your arms. Or only in the car.

Or they didn’t sleep at all.

If you were told back then that there was a bassinet that would:

  • strap your child in safely
  • detect when your baby moved and ROCK BABY GENTLY
  • “chooses” which motion your baby likes best
  • play soothing white noise
  • simulate the sensation of a car

how quickly would you throw your screaming baby into one?

Half a second it’d take methinks.

Anything to get some blessed sleep.

Recently, one ultra high-tech bassinet, developed with MIT engineers (that’s what you need to get your baby to sleep people, a team of MIT ENGINEERS) has hit the market and another has been made by Ford. The car company.

Yes.

A car company has made a bassinet that moves your baby from side to side in a motion that mimics a car. 

Just so you, I mean, your baby, can sleep. I’m pretty sure those LED lights that simulate the lighting in a car that surround the baby wouldn’t really help the baby go to sleep. It just might be a little distracting.

On the other hand, the MIT engineered Snoo claims to be a self-soothing bassinet, doing everything from rocking the baby slower or faster depending on what it “thinks” your baby needs, to ‘choosing’ which white noise your baby likes best.

Both bassinets sound simultaneously crazy and brilliant, and I’m still trying to figure out which one I ultimately think they are. They sound crazy because it seems like they are interfering with the natural bonding process of a mother rocking her baby to sleep, and the mother figuring out how her baby likes to be rocked, and what “white noise” baby likes best. Like the sound of mama’s voice softly singing, for example. It also seems sort of dangerous- all that rocking and moving up and down, side to side.

But also, it sounds brilliant because I know what it is to be a desperately sleep deprived mother who just needs her baby to go down for more than 20 minutes at a time and if these robo-nannies were around back then I would have convinced my husband to spend $1800 if it meant we could get sleep for the first six months of our baby’s life.

That’s right. The Snoo costs around $1800 and it will only last the first six months of a baby’s life.

Is it really worth it? Can we really put a price on getting sleep and retaining our sanity? Do the makers of the Snoo know this and are therefore maybe exploiting our desperation by selling us this MIT engineered ultra high-tech device that guarantees it will put our child to sleep but is maybe messing with the natural arc of motherhood…

Yeah. Possibly. Totally.

Will robotic bassinets be a thing of the future? Will it only contribute to a detachment between mother and baby? Isn’t it kind of creepy to envision babies strapped in these devices, their needs met by technology, and their parents relying on these robotic bassinets more and more to soothe their children?

What do you think about these high-tech bassinets?

A hijab by any other name is…fashion.

The hijab has been getting a lot of attention lately. Women who wear the hijab (Islamic head covering) are becoming more vocal, asserting their existence in a world that has attempted to define them. Women who wear the hijab are speaking, shouting, writing, running, jumping, strutting, fencing, dancing and singing their way to recognition, in an attempt to redefine themselves on their own terms, to show the world that hey, we wear the hijab and we can do anything.

Anything and everything. NOTHING holds me back. 

I am a proud, hijab-wearing, independent, Muslim WOMAN who can make her own choices and do whatever she wants. 

And the world is seemingly responding. People seem to be accepting the fact that (believe it or not!) Muslim women who wear the hijab are. Just. Human. Female. Girls. ETC. who happen to cover their heads and most of their bodies.

Which is of course a good thing. Right?

The “modest fashion” market is recognised as a booming niche that big corporations need to tap into. From Nike, to MNG, corporations are wholeheartedly embracing (or cashing in on, whichever way you prefer to see it) Muslim women by creating collections specifically for them, all touting the #diversity trend.

Hijab style bloggers are now found in abundance and are making waves by normalising modest fashion.

In fact, we just had our first hijabi model strut the runways at NYFW, with many applauding this “huge step forward” for the Muslim, hijab-wearing woman.

I happen to be a Muslim, hijab-wearing woman, and somehow, I do not think this is a huge step forward for us. I think this is a step in completely the wrong direction. Why do I think it’s wrong? Because it reveals this desperate need to “show” the world that we hijab-wearers are “completely normal” and more so, that we can also do “anything”.

Furthermore, it still espouses the concept of the “self” that is the object of worship in this 21st century.

Most of these things that we seem to be stamping our presence into are things that have all been done before by women, who just happened to not wear the hijab. And I’m saying hijab specifically because there are models who are Muslim, but just do not observe the hijab. There have been Muslim female athletes who have competed in the Olympics, but they just don’t wear the hijab. There are Muslim female journalists, professors, doctors etc who just do not wear the hijab.

I know the struggles and difficulties that hijab-wearing women face, the stigma that is attached to this choice of ours to cover ourselves and how much we have needed to work to bring down these walls of misunderstanding, of ignorance, of fear, outside our culture, and within it.

But simply throwing ourselves into EVERYTHING is not going to help us either. When we make the decision to do things that are entirely against the core values of our religion, it will inevitably harm us. Our religion is based on guidelines that clearly show us the limits of what we can and can’t do. This is something that we should have confidence in, that we have a framework that shows us how to tread the middle path, not throws us into an open field, leaving us to meander along aimlessly. We shouldn’t be trying to mould the religion to suit our desires and wants in this life, we should be trying to mould ourselves to do what our Creator has decreed for us.

I’m going to take the example of modelling and fashion. It is by its very nature an exhibitionist, shallow and demeaning industry. It uses women’s bodies with the intention to objectify and exploit. How then do we applaud and cheer when a Muslim, hijab-wearing woman has now been “accepted” by this industry? How do we say to ourselves, YES, this is progress, when the whole situation is such a contradiction. When a Muslim hijab-wearing woman can strut Kanye West’s runway and met and was styled by him and his wife Kim Kardashian. Yes, let’s pat ourselves on the back and be proud of our “steps forward”.

As we seemingly take these “steps forward”, in reality, we are taking steps backward as the more we engage in such acts, the further we move away from a core tenet of our Deen; the need for humility.

And the great irony is that as we scramble to show the world that we can do “anything”in our hijabs because we are striving to smash the Western narrative that Muslim women are controlled by men and were forced to wear the hijab, we are simply doing this in a way that still frames us within their narrative, within their definitions of what being a successful, independent, strong woman is.

That she must be beautiful. That she is valued for her appearance. That she must exhibit herself to the world in designer labels and a contoured face with fake eyelashes and lip fillers and plastic surgery, that she must strut down a runway to be an object, a clothes hanger… with a hijab on and an IG feed full of selfies to document all this.

It actually makes me incredibly sad. It makes me so sad because I think about the example that we are setting for our young girls. Are we showing them anything different? Are we showing them that we need to hold onto the rope of our Deen, and that this might (or does) look different from the “norm”, and that no, we don’t need to strive to be styled by Kim and Kanye, and that this is something that we should be thankful for, that we should be confident in, as Muslims.

As Muslims.

Not as women. Not as hijab-wearing women.

But as a Muslim. As a servant of Allah (swt).

That we are able to be confident in what Allah (swt) has decreed for us and not just attempt to “break down barriers” simply for its own sake. Not because “hey, I want to be the first so-and-so to do this in a hijab…” so that I can “go viral”, oops I mean, “break stereotypes” and “empower women…”

What we are taking away from ourselves and our youth is the history, the beauty, the wisdom, the incredibly unique culture and religion that they come from and we are telling them that this is superseded by the need to fit into this (Western) world.

We are not taking back our own narrative. We are not redefining our selves. In fact we are fighting to be permeated, assimilated, obliterated into a culture whose values are against everything that the religion that we so obviously parade and hold up the flag with our hijabs, stands for.

This is not to say that “Western culture” is “wrong”. What I’m referring to is the capitalist, consumerist, exhibitionist, narcissistic, shallow and exploitative culture of fashion, of music, of Hollywood and so on.

Delpozo’s Fall/Winter 2017 Ready to Wear collection was interesting for me because the collection included this…

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 11.37.20 pm

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 11.36.44 pm

Hijab? Nope. Just “art”.  Just “fashion”. Just “ready-to-wear”. Just Vogue.

How different is it from this?

f1c8d652dd584002625765e6421439f6

It’s not.

Both are art and fashion. Both are simply garments. Both objectify women by placing them on a platform strutting to fast-paced music. One is designed by a non-Muslim, the other by a hijab-wearing female Muslim designer. Sure the intentions are different, but the outcome is the same. Both place the woman as an object to be gawked at.

And so, “hijab” by any other name is simply…fashion.

Unless, we define ourselves, our hijab, in the terms of the religion that we claim to follow. Unless we take back the definitions of what it means to be female and Muslim.

There is another way to “break stereotypes”. There is another way to engage with the fashion world. A way that does not compromise the values of the religion that we proclaim to want to teach the world about. A way that is confident and uncompromising and unique.

Yes we live in this world, but we do not live for this world. And our attempts to be seen as “normal” should not come at the cost of our values. We should revel in the beauty of our religion and go out into the world confident in it, not for the sake of this world, or for society, or culture, or breaking down stereotypes, or acceptance, but for the sake of pleasing our Creator.

I am not raising my daughter with the mantra of the 21st Century, “you can be anything you want to be…” I want to raise my daughter to spend her life seeking what it is that Allah swt has decreed for her, and to fulfil this purpose, not for her to pursue her passions, her desires and her whims, which can ultimately lead her to folly. I want her to pursue the path that Allah swt has written for her, one that teaches her to put her Self aside, one that teaches her to serve humanity, the one that teaches her to have mercy, compassion, and humility…

Featured image source.

Conversations with kids

Kids say the most hilarious things, and I wish I wrote down some of the things my own kids say more often. Here are a few things my little ones have spilled recently…

When I came back from the hospital and J said to me:

“Mum, why do you still have a baby in your tummy?”

Me: “Umm… there’s no baby in there J. My tummy is just going to take some time to return to normal.”

J: “Oh, ok. I don’t like it like that. It needs to be flat again!”

Me: *tears streaming down my face… “This tummy stretched to carry all three of you!!”

When asking why her 16 year-old uncle isn’t married yet…

J: “Why isn’t Emmi (short for ‘Amja’ or ‘uncle’ in Turkish) married yet?”

Me: “Because he is too young J, he’s still in school…”

J: “Oh, so he can get married in the school holidays…”

A few weeks ago she suddenly piped up with…

“An-ne (or mum), I want to be exactly like you when I’m older…”

Me: “awwww that’s so sweet… but why baby?”

J: “Because I love you more than anyone else.”

And when putting her to bed tonight:

J: “I can’t sleep anymore An-ne…”

Me: “Oh why not baby?”

J: “I just feel different these days…”

Me: trying not to react “Why?!”

J: “I think it’s because I’m going to turn 5 soon…”

And a few one liners from Z, who is talking so much these days…

TML Header Image (19)

Z: “Just leave me An-ne, just leave me…” as she shuts the door on my face in defiance because I wouldn’t let her do something. 

This morning…

Me: “Z what do you want for breakfast?”

Z: “Chocolate. I WANT CHOCOLATEEEE!!!”

And lastly,

Z: “all the girls love me An-ne, all of them!” 

 

Postpartum reflections

I’ve been following Australian actress Teresa Palmer on Instagram lately, and have been reading her posts over on her blog Your Zen Mama. She had her second baby just before I had my third, and she has been sharing her weekly postpartum reflections. I’ve really enjoyed reading them, it reminds me that I’m not the only one going through this at the moment. Her honesty is refreshing and the detail she goes into with her reflections is also actually really helpful.

Inspired by her posts, I’ve decided to put a reflection of my own together, but I will not be doing this weekly because I HAVE THREE KIDS. It’s also taken me four and a half weeks (no, I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I gave birth) to get this down because I’ve been stumbling around in a mind-fog and drowning in an endless cycle of nappy changes, tantrums, sibling rivalry and swaddling wraps…

So here goes:

The Labour

I’m not going to give y’all a recount of my labour in detail, because, well, who really wants to know how it all went down? All labours are excruciatingly painful- regardless of how long/short they are. There are some things I do want to note though:

  • This was the first labour that I opted to have an epidural. At first, it was wondrous. My husband and I looked over at each other and could only stare in amazement and comment on how this “doesn’t even feel like labour.” I knew when I was getting contractions, but I couldn’t feel their full force. Until I could. OH MY GOD. The damn epidural WORE OFF PEOPLE just when I needed it the most and I faced at least 40minutes to an hour of excruciating pain. The anaesthetist was stuck in a caesarean (later I found out from the nurses that there were SIX caesareans that day) and I had no choice but to scream through contractions that hit me with extreme force. I opted for the gas, which made me nauseous and suddenly I was vomiting all over myself. I was also screaming “WHY THE HELL DID I GET AN EPIDURAL IF THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!!!” and then profusely apologising afterwards for yelling… because I am an apologiser. More on that another day.
  • Essentially, I had an epidural because they wanted to speed up my labour due to certain risks and having heard horror stories about induction from friends who had been through it, I decided to get the epidural in advance. Sure I felt that guilt, I was anxious about the consequences and side effects, and I was also terrified of having someone stick a needle into my spine. BUT, the memory of the pain of contractions was also much too fresh and came rushing back to me when in that birthing room and I looked over at my husband and said, “let’s do the epidural”, whereupon he replied, “it’s your choice babe. I aint gonna judge you, and nobody else should either. You do what you have to do.” Basically he said exactly what I needed to hear lol. #husbandoftheyear
  • So this labour was different from my other two because it literally had a bit of everything. There was the epidural, the syntoconin, the gas, feeling the full force of contractions and in around four hours or so (my memory of the timeline of this birth is fuzzy given everything), baby was ready to make his entrance. With a top up of the epidural and the midwives telling me when and how to push, my son graced us with his presence.
  • And apparently that is me NOT giving a recount of the birth lol. Too much detail for y’all? I apologise…
  • OVERALL: I hated the epidural. I paid for it after as well (more on that in the next section). Labour is FREAKING PAINFUL AND I NEVER WANT TO DO THAT AGAIN. Phew. But when baby comes out and they place him on your chest, there is nothing in this world that compares. I am extremely grateful I was able to experience it again.

The Hospital Stay

Because of the epidural and certain side effects, I stayed in hospital for around 3 days. Basically I was getting some major headaches. And when I say major, I mean MAJOR. I was basically forced to stay lying down, as the headaches would hit me as soon as I sat up. This made changing baby’s nappy/clothes and picking him up difficult. But I took all the painkillers they gave me and it helped.

The hospital stay was much calmer and overall a better experience, mainly because I was mostly ignored by the hospital staff, except when they came in to do the necessary checks. Because #BABYNO3

Oh, also, the girls meeting their baby brother was the sweetest. J (the older one) was totally smitten. Z on the other hand, wasn’t so sure. She kissed him and exclaimed his name over and over, but she wouldn’t come near me. I think it was because I was lying in a strange bed, in a strange place, drained of colour, with needles sticking out of me. Maybe…

Once we got Home

Again, things were much calmer as baby slept really well. Actually, he was extremely sleepy and I’d have to wake him up for feeds. He was slightly jaundiced so this probably contributed to his lethargy. It did make recovery for me easier though as I got plenty of rest. Also, my mum came over everyday for around two weeks, which was basically a God send, otherwise I could not have dealt with everything, and probably would have starved.

My mum is an angel in disguise, as every time I’ve given birth, she comes over and does everything for me. She’s firm with this as well. She forces me to rest, and literally does not allow me to do anything. And I mean NOTHING. She doesn’t let me wash dishes, throw in laundry, vacuum, cook… She spends the time looking after my older kids and doing everything. She insists that the postpartum time is for rest, and drinking soup lol. Which she forced me to drink 3 times a day. Breastmilk is mainly water, so drinking lots of soup makes sense.

img_7018

What I’m eating

The weeks when my mum was here were great. She made good wholesome homemade food, mainly soups as I said above. My mother in law sent yummy Turkish foods… I tried to get my intake of veggies and fruit, and a snack at night, because breastfeeding makes me really hungry. My friend made me some lactation cookies and sweet potato tarts which were the best for snacking.

Once my mum stopped coming as often, I had to fend for myself lol. I’ve been doing grocery shopping online, or getting the husband to bring home groceries. Haven’t been cooking much, although I’m trying.

This week I’m going to try to go back to a gluten free diet, as eating wheat based foods throws off my digestive system, so we’ll see how it goes.

Also, lots and lots of water!

The Emotions

The first three weeks I went through the wave of hormones and the resulting emotional rollercoaster. I’m prone to anxiety anyway, so I don’t cope well with the postpartum hormonal changes that the body goes through. Plus the stress of keeping a baby alive… basically I obsess over every little detail, dramatise it, and end up in a puddly mess of tears.

This time around I felt completely overwhelmed by the need for me to meet the emotional needs of three children. And I wasn’t even feeding them. Or cleaning. How could I do EVERYTHING once my mum stopped coming?

More tears ensued.

Somewhere around week 3.5-4, the fog started to clear from my brain and I started to feel like myself. My body started to recover and gain strength, and my psyche benefitted from heading out of the house, getting back to some sense of normalcy. The Solly Baby wrap has been great, making outings easier, and I’m also loving the new stroller.

Our new family of five braved dinners out, a wedding, a picnic at a beach, visiting interstate guests who had arrived, doctor’s appointments etc within the first few weeks of baby’s life.

Baby

Our new baby has coped with entering this world like a champ. He is very serious, always frowning, and has a gaze that is so knowing. He is totally wise beyond his…weeks lol. He sleeps really well, clocking over 4 hour stretches at night, basically waking twice a night for a feed. Some days he feeds more, which I suspect are times of growth spurts. Currently he has longer waking hours, he can hold his neck up really well, and is starting to follow movements with his eyes.

Everyone keeps telling me he will change as he grows, and this I know. Right now I’m just thankful for this phase and taking all that I can get, because I know what a fussy baby who does not sleep, who cries all the time, is like.

I’d forgotten how much you need to plan in advance before leaving the house with a newborn, trying to squeeze in a feed before leaving or else face a screaming baby in the car, getting the baby bag ready… now I had two more kids to prep. Once we did it a few times though, we got the hang of it. Although, if we go somewhere that is quite far, we have had to pull over just to feed baby, because if he’s hungry, he will scream till he is fed.

The girls

The girls are coping in their own ways with this new phase. J struggled the first week, as she kept asking me when I was going to play with her, sit with her, read with her and she also kept telling me that she loved me over, and over, and over again. She did the same when her younger sister was born as well. There was one heartbreaking moment around two weeks after we brought baby home where she just got really emotional, threw her arms around my neck and told me that she was worried about me…because I just kept sleeping, and having my own mini-breakdowns. Since then, she’s been back to her usual, 4.5 year old, sometimes annoying, always chatty and playful, self.

Z on the other hand has been acting out in different ways. Tantrums over random things are on the rise, her attachment to me has increased, and she’s also displaying violent tendencies toward her older sister (the other day she bit J’s finger so hard it bled). She just hit 2 so I know this is normal for her age, but it’s just compounded by having to contend with a new sibling in the house.

We, the parents, are barely scraping through. Trying to maintain our own patience in the face of SO MANY EMOTIONS has been tough, and to be honest, I know that I have had many, many bad parenting moments. Lots of shouting, and dramatic moments, using the TV to get things done, like feed my newborn, cook and clean have been my worst vices. Just this week I’ve made the conscious effort to keep myself calm in the face of Fight No. 1000 between the two girls in the one day, or a tantrum because Z doesn’t want to sleep. And I’m getting rid of the TV. That’s right. We are going cold turkey. Please pray for me lol.

Lastly…

Yes. Three kids is definitely tough. Slowly though, I feel like we are getting into a rhythm, and adjusting to this new phase. It helps that baby is sleeping well and feeding well, and I have nothing but gratitude. As with babies, I know things will change as he grows, and starts teething and so on, but as I said earlier, I’m taking whatever I can get now.

Despite the emotional rollercoaster, the physical recovery from labour, and adjusting to three children, I do feel that this postpartum period has been the easiest out of all my kids. Experience has definitely been a factor in this obviously, as has sleeping enough lol.

I feel a lot more comfortable and confident and I know that has made a big difference.

I’m looking forward to the next few months, and just enjoying having another baby in the house, especially knowing how fast it passes…

Mostly, I am incredibly thankful for all the loving and supportive and helpful people around me, without whom all this would be infinitely more difficult and challenging. Still, with all the support, there have been moments of sheer desperation, frustration, tears, where the mounting responsibilities of three children has felt so overwhelming. I know that there were many times where I didn’t cope with it all in the best way, and I’m learning from those mistakes and trying to move forward now. But honestly, watching my family grow, work together, cooperate, help each other and settle into a new phase is truly a beautiful gift. As is being able to kiss soft newborn cheeks 🙂

img_4020-1

Best on the Net

Good morning everyone! Can you believe that we are in December? That 2016 is almost at a close and that we will be welcoming 2017 soon? 2017 sounds so… fantastical. Like an author 50 years ago would have set his/her future dystopian text in 2017 or something…

Also, and perhaps more importantly, it is currently the month of Rabi ul-Awwal, the month that our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) was born. So in today’s Best on the Net, I’ve included a few links on how to honour the Prophet Muhammad (saw) this month, how to share in the blessings of the month, and how to involve your children as well.

  1. Eight books to teach your kids about the Prophet Muhammad (saw)
  2. And here’s another beautiful book written/illustrated by Demi that my children love…
  3. I’m personally reading through this particular work by Tariq Ramadan this month.
  4. A comprehensive guide to the permissibility of Mawlid.
  5. A beautiful Salawat recitation by Al-Firdaus Ensemble to listen to with the children.
  6. We are also obsessed with these two versions of Tala’Al Badru Alayna- Yusuf Islam and the Canadian Children’s Choir.
  7. And lastly, a beautiful overview of the Prophet’s noble character, which you can use to share with your children as well.

Children are incredibly receptive to listening to stories about the Prophet Muhammad (saw). Sharing stories, and also sharing how the Prophet (saw) lived, discussing his noble character, how he was kind, generous, thoughtful, helpful and truthful, makes him real and present for children. And here is one last link, that gives some tips on how to make the Prophet (saw) come alive for your children. 

img_3965

Brightness is not a dim place on the horizon…

I remember the first night that I was in the hospital by myself with my new baby. My family had left, my husband included, as hospital policy (in a public hospital) did not allow the husband to stay overnight. I was alone in a vacuous hospital, lights dimmed, with the constant beeping of machines, other patients around me, separated only by a thin curtain. It was cold too, as the hospital had its air-con blaring.

I was alone for the first time with my baby. I was exhausted after a long and difficult labour. I felt like I’d been hit two trucks, not one. I could barely lift my arms up, let alone roll out of bed and walk to the bathroom. I literally needed my husband and a nurse to assist me to walk the few metres out of my room and around the corner to go to the bathroom.

It was in this state that I was now left alone with a baby.

All night my uterus churned as it shrank. In my delirious, exhausted state, I was convinced that a baby was still inside of me. That the doctors had made a mistake. And yet, I’d look over at the bassinet next to me and see the sleeping baby.

She was mine, right?

Was it she who had resided inside me just hours earlier?

Then what was this movement inside of me now? It really felt like a baby. Maybe I’d actually had twins and the doctors forgot him/her inside me. Of course, the doctors had told me that my uterus would shrink and I’d feel the pain, but my irrational state wouldn’t fully accept this explanation.

I also felt a strange disconnection from the real, out-in-the-world baby next to me.

At the same time I was petrified that I would not be able to keep her alive.

My newborn actually slept for 5 hours straight that first night (alas this was not to last over the next few weeks) and when she finally woke up, and I rang the bell for the nurse for assistance, she reprimanded me for “allowing” the baby to sleep for “that long”. Didn’t I know that I was supposed to wake her up at least every 3 hours to feed her?

Um. No. I didn’t know that I was “supposed” to do that, because this was my FIRST BABY and I HAD NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE, oh and NOBODY HAD TOLD ME WHAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO DO WITH HER. (Two babies later, I know that this nurse was actually incorrect. If a baby is sleeping, they should just be allowed to sleep, and feeding should happen on demand rather than trying to stick to a strict schedule. So not only did she reprimand me and make me feel guilty, she was actually wrong.)

So now I felt like my baby was possibly going to suffer because I hadn’t woken her up for a feed.

Then it came time to actually feed her, and the nurse stripped J of all her clothes and literally shoved her onto me repeatedly, pushing me into J’s mouth. Yes. IT WAS PAINFUL and traumatic.

When I came home the next day, J would not sleep at night for more than 10-20 minutes. I was still in pain from the labour, and in pain trying to breastfeed (she probably wasn’t latched on properly, but breastfeeding for me was excruciating for the first few WEEKS).

On top of this, J was not gaining weight properly. She wasn’t “thriving”. She had some mild jaundice. She was constipated and not passing stools for weeks at a time. And well-meaning relatives around me were constantly looking in and commenting and asking “why isn’t she gaining weight, etc etc…”

I remember sitting on my bed and looking down at my new physical self, with tears streaming down my face. Yes I got a baby out of this body, but I no longer recognised a single part of myself. Everything about me was just so different. I still had the weight that I’d gained from pregnancy, stretch marks crawled their way across my stomach, my chest had swelled from the milk… None of my clothes fit me. And when I did get dressed, I did not look like myself at all. I mourned my pre-baby body. I scolded myself for not appreciating it and constantly complaining about how I had extra chub here or there. I would never look like that unscarred, unmarked by birth, self, ever again.

I remember again, sitting on my bed looking out the window and feel a heaviness descend on me. Tears were rolling down my face. My husband came and simply sat next to me, put his arms around me.

Sometimes whilst sitting in J’s nursery with her in my arms, trying to rock her to sleep, the same heaviness would descend upon me and the tears would once again snake their way down my face. And again, well-meaning relatives would tell me, “you can’t be sad! It will affect her. You’ll pass on your anxiety to her. So be happy!”

Of course, this only exacerbated the guilt I felt for not “being happy” and wondering why I even felt this way, and that omg now it was affecting my baby, wasn’t I just a horrible mother!!

The thing is, I felt that I couldn’t quite comprehend nor grasp the momentous transition that I’d just experienced. I couldn’t believe the pain that I’d been through to birth this child, I couldn’t comprehend the physical separation, and I couldn’t cope with the intensity of my feelings for her, which mainly manifested itself in anxiety and fear over her health. Every little thing that did not “go right”, such as her sleeping, her feeding, her constipation, her slow weight gain…everything… I couldn’t be rational about it. I felt that it reflected my failure as a mother, because I didn’t even know what me as a mother looked like and I was terrified of hurting her in some long-lasting way.

When I think back to those initial months, I can literally feel the stifling heaviness and anxiety that I experienced.

When I had Z, I thought it would be easier given that I “had experience”. But I was to learn keenly the lesson that “every baby is different”, and therefore you have to change and adapt to them. Although it was easier to fall into the newborn cycle with Z, she also was not a good sleeper, had colic, fed for hours, and did not want to be put down during the day.

So most of my days with her were spent on the couch feeding her, with J watching TV for hours (even though I tried to set up ‘play stations’ for her), and the time in between carrying Z in a baby carrier and trying to cook, or clean, or play with J whilst my back suffered from the constant carrying of a 4kg baby. Come around 7pm, Z, overtired from a day of not sleeping for more than 45 minutes at a time, would scream for around 2 hours and nothing, nothing that I did would calm her.

Again, I felt that familiar heaviness. That creeping, uncomfortable anxiety that I wasn’t doing things right. That sense of fear and insecurity about the health of my newborn, and this time, of the boredom of my eldest and frustration that TV was the only way we could get through those early days.

Anxiety was not unfamiliar ground for me. A few years before having J I had experienced anxiety disorder and panic attacks for quite some time.

Maybe this history of mine meant that I was predisposed to experiencing post-natal depression of some form after giving birth. I had feared that I should expect it whilst I was pregnant with J, given my history.

The midwives would ask me those standard questions, where we’d have to tick off on a checklist how we felt, and this would determine, supposedly, how ‘depressed’ or ‘sad’ we were. I remember a midwife who came to visit us at home after J was born told me that I had the “blues”. She left it at that. She didn’t really tell me how to deal with it.

Looking back, I would tell that fragile-as-a-baby new mother to be easy on herself. I would tell her, yes, you have been through an incredibly harrowing event that will mark the timeline of your life, that will unalterably and significantly change who you are as a person.

I would tell her that it’s ok to mourn for her pre-mother self. But that slowly, vestiges of that self would slowly creep back in, only this time she would be coloured and brightened by a new self, a new role, a new mission that will guide every decision that she makes henceforth.

I, I’d tell her that things will get easier. In those early weeks, it feels like the days simply drag on and that your baby will never grow, never sleep, never settle.

I’d tell her that “the days feel long, but the years are short” my dear. And if only I knew then how quickly the years pass, how quickly the fussy newborns morph into children of strength, curiosity and brightness… I would tell her to cherish the soft soft skin, the untainted smell of baby, the wondrously small toes and fingers…

And difficult as it might seem, I’d tell her to cherish this time when there is no other responsibility in the world but to care for this baby… even though some of the time this knowledge itself can exacerbate the anxiety. There will be years ahead to dedicate yourself to things outside your children… there is only a small window of precious time when it is just you and baby…

Giving birth, regardless of how it happens, and bringing that baby home is an incredibly difficult, strange and challenging time. Without proper support (I’ve written about what support should look like before) it can be almost impossible to cope with. The physical separation of mother from baby is itself a contributing factor I believe to the post-natal depression that women experience.

594f1846009859-5607bde3ae533

 

So to all mothers, mothers-to-be, mothers who have experienced the crippling anxiety and the weight of heaviness descend upon them during a time that is supposed to be the ‘happiest time of their lives’, I want to reach out and hug you, and tell you, it’s alright. I promise it will get better. Remind yourself to have shukr (roughly, ‘gratitude’) for the beautiful being you have helped to bring into the world. Steel yourself with positivity. And when you feel that sadness, accept it, let it wash over you, but know that it will pass. It does not mean you are a bad mother… it just means that you are human, and that you have just been through a surreal, yet completely natural transition, and yes, you will experience an array of feelings.

And that’s ok.

It’s ok.

Brightness is not a dim place on the horizon, you carry it within you, you carry it in the love that you have for your child… and this will carry you both through…

*Images via Akira Kusaka. Featured image is “Dawn” and second image is “Stray”.

Best on the Net

It’s been a big week in the world, with much to ponder on. Here are a few inspiring, positive and thought-provoking links to make this week that much better…

  1. A beautiful new children’s book compiles tales from Syrian refugees.
  2. Carla Zampatti designed a uniform for Westpac and included a style for hijabis.
  3. Check out this Kickstarter for a company designing activewear for women who wear hijab. 
  4. Finland is taking their awesome schools further by abandoning subjects for ‘events’ and ‘phenomena’ in an interdisciplinary format.
  5. Speaking of teaching, here’s a video that explores how there is no scientific proof that homework improves performance in elementary school. BAN HOMEWORK I say!
  6. The biggest supermoon is set to hit our world tonight, but it’s cloudy and raining here in Sydney 🙁
  7. Did you read about the new screen time recommendations by doctors? About time they got onto this.
  8. Suzanne Barakat is an incredible ambassador for her religion, and this latest talk she delivered at TED is at once utterly heart-breaking but also motivating. She asks, what resources do you have and how can you use it for good?
  9. And lastly, I really want this dress.

Let’s talk about what we feed our children

Today I want to talk about what we feed our children. I know that it is an incredibly heated topic, one that can really make people (parents, I mean) defensive and emotional. I know that 99% of the time, the defences used will be something along the lines of…

“I just CANNOT get him/her to eat anything else.”

“There is NO WAY that we can get him/her to eat the veggies.”

“I’m too tired, and it’s so much easier to give him/her what he/she wants.”

I know, because I’ve used these lines myself.

But let’s be real with ourselves here. We are facing an epidemic on a scale never seen before. Our children are becoming increasingly obese. In Australia alone, “the number of overweight children in Australia has doubled in recent years, with a quarter of children considered overweight or obese.” (From betterhealth.vic.gov.au). And in adults the statistics are even more shocking. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics“in 2011-12, 62.8% of Australians aged 18 years and over were overweight or obese.”

Considering such ominous stats and facing the reality of being surrounded by an unwholesome food environment and culture, we decided to speak to someone who knows much more about how important it is to eat well, who is an expert in her field. We asked Iman Salam, who has three grown children of her own, from Afiya Live Well to answer a few questions about the importance of eating nutritious food and instilling good eating habits in our children.

What impact does eating ‘bad food’ (e.g. highly processed, high in sugar, soft drinks etc.) have on children’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being?

Junk food has a highly addictive nature for children. Although it can look appealing and of course taste great, children simply do not realise the ill effects it has on their health, as well as on their growing bodies. The physical complications are many; obesity,  diabetes, chronic illness,  low self esteem, and even depression.

As for mental and spiritual well-being eating a diet heavy in unhealthy foods including low nutrient dense foods can be a cause of behavioural and emotional problems, including anxiety, depression and stress.

What are some of the problematic eating habits amongst families that you have seen?

First of all not eating as a family. I’ve heard of families grabbing food and everyone eating in their own corner, on their phone, or in front of the tv. This not only causes a breakdown in family relations but eating in front of an electronic device creates an unhealthy relationship with food as well as a habit of mindless eating.

Second, the emphasis put on finishing your plate, food as reward, etc creates a long-lasting negative relationship with food. Often times being forced to clean our plates as children develops into emotional eating, overeating, and eating disorders. A healthy way to start each meal is to remember to praise God, make the intention to get the most benefit out of the meal and start with a small serving. Just as important is listening to your body and knowing when to stop before you get full. *Editor’s addition: Children have an innate ability to know when they are full, and will often assert when they have eaten enough. It is usually the adults who push them to eat more, thus breaking this natural instinct to stop eating when full. 

How can parents instil positive eating habits in their children?

Children learn from seeing so therefore setting an example is the best way to teach our children. We have to remember that our food is a blessing and it starts long before it gets to our dining table.  Teaching children the value of food and where it comes from is important. It helps to reconnect the child to mother earth and have a deeper appreciation for nature as well as the food that is put into their bodies. Being involved in a local CSA or visiting your local farm is a beautiful thing to do as a family. It’s also extremely rewarding for the soul. Don’t be afraid to get your kids to help in the kitchen, give them small tasks that they can do to help prepare dinner. This will give them a sense of ownership and pride and make them more likely to eat what they’ve helped in preparing.

tumblr_n3o4rm4xqe1qkkcx6o1_1280
Image via Marche + Atelier

What types of food should children not be eating? 

SUGAR!!!!! (artificial).  You would be surprised to learn that it’s in everything, even toothpaste. Be aware of the different names for sugar. I know what you’re thinking, “it’s hard to avoid.” If you focus on what is in your control, your own home, then when kids are at their grandparent’s house or at a birthday party, you won’t feel so bad that they are most probably going to eat sugar.  Cut back on the amount of meat and milk as tons of hormones are injected into these animals and this is causing life-long damage on their growing bodies.

Which foods have the best nutritional value for children?

It’s important to keep in mind that children need a diet containing a variety of foods. Protein, Carbohydrates, and good fats are all essential for their growing bodies. When choosing animal protein look for grass fed, free range, organic meats. And keep in mind that protein can come from other foods as well, beans, legumes, and dark leafy veggies. Aim to have one night a week meat free.

Aim for five servings of fruits and veggies each day, but keep in mind that portion size will differ depending on your child and their activity level. If your child isn’t a fan of veggies sneak them into a smoothie. Get creative with veggies, you’ll often be surprised with what your child will love. *Editor’s addition: Don’t hold back from offering them new vegetables. The worst that could happen is that they don’t eat it, the best is that they try it, and like it. 

Some good sources of carbs include whole wheat pasta and breads, barley, acorn squash and green peas. Healthy fats include avocado, ghee, and salmon (look for non-farmed options, which you can ask the shop owners about).

Don’t get too stressed with picky eaters, do your best and aim for at least one healthy meal a day.

How important is it to eat organic foods?

Eating organic foods is important in this day and age. Yet, no doubt, it can get expensive. Decide what you can and cannot afford for your family’s needs and work accordingly within those boundaries. Being educated on the ill-effects  of consuming non-organic meat is important. If that means cutting back on meat, then do what you think is best for your family. As Muslims we are held accountable for the food we eat and that includes the care of animals. When it comes to whether something is deemed “halal”, we often forget that it includes more than just the way the animal is slaughtered but how it was raised and the conditions it was in before being slaughtered. *Editor’s note: It is important to consider and understand that if an animal has been raised and slaughtered in a stressful environment, it will affect its body, and therefore its meat. If we then eat this meat from a stressed and anxious animal, it does affect our own spiritual, mental and physical well-being. Eating does have a spiritual dimension, and we cannot disregard this. 

When it comes to things like fruits and veggies, there are some that have more pesticides sprayed on them than others. These are the worst contaminated fruits and vegetables:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

If you can stay clear of these and focus on organic, great! Otherwise a great tip that helps reduce the dirty film is a solution of vinegar and water (3 parts water to 1 part vinegar is most effective).

Can you give us some ideas for a healthy (and easy to put together) lunchbox?

  • My kids love hummus! I mean, who doesn’t 🙂 Hummus wraps with cucumber and bell pepper.
  • Tuna sandwiches on whole wheat bread. I like to use Avocado (insert heart eyes) mash, instead of mayo.
  • Whole wheat pasta with pumpkin.
  • Lentil soup.
  • Quinoa with chopped tomato,cucumber, and added black beans.
  • Sweet potato and black bean burrito bowl.

Iman Salam is an American currently residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  Her desire for a better lifestyle and health led her to study integrative nutrition. She holds a Diploma in Preventative Health & Nutrition,  Executive Master’s in Preventative Health and Nutrition, and is a certified Personal Trainer. Currently, she works as a Nutrition Consultant and is studying to be a Practitioner in Prophetic medicine.  Her goal is to revive the sunnah of well-being by encouraging the beneficial practices of prophetic medicine. Iman is the producer and host on DOPStv YouTube show “Afiya Live Well”, a program that promotes the Prophetic diet, nutrition, and overall well-being of the body

Featured image via Hideaki Hamada.