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How to be an Eco Friendly Family/Household

The 2019 Climate March in Victoria, BC

The 2019 Climate March in Victoria, BC

Hello readers

Well, this past year has been my first year ‘Off” in 8 years. I parented, I volunteered at my daughter’s school and I continued running my beloved Birthpool and TENS  business which, by the way uses eco friendly pools, but, I took a leave from Midwifery for 4 months ( sorta) and have managed to 100% parent my youngest little chap until he reached 12 months. 

In that time I, like many of you, read the news. I read about our incessant BC  and Alberta fires and the ones further afield in California, and I legit felt fear. I read the articles about our ten year lifespan, overflowing landfills, and the war, famine and fire that would overtake our countries, our towns and our children, and I felt the pervasive climate grief so many of you have. And I wept for my children- was I responsible for committing them to this awful life sentence of sorts? It’s possible I am responsible because I made the decision to populate the earth with more fresh children.What I know for sure is- despite what the generations before us may be guilty of ( in terms of the way households and governments disregarded alarm bells 30 years ago and to this day), we, today, are still responsible for the decisions we make every day. Those daily decisions are seen through the eyes of our children. What are we teaching them? Can we stop climate change? At this point, likely not….but we can try to reduce disastrous effects, and…. I believe in hope…. I believe in miracles.

So, as this year of action progressed, I actively strove to teach my daughter, and partner, the ways in which we can live greener, and reduce our carbon footprint. It’s my hope that in reading this post you’ll consider making the same changes in your household ( Please don’t even get into the cost of this unless you are legit in poverty/underprivileged- I’m a full time student, with two children, living in one of the most expensive cities on earth. If we can do it, almost everyone can do it).

In that vein, I know finances can be tight and I know time is not in abundance for any of us. So I’ve compiled a little list of changes I made in my household within the past year. Maybe you can ask for some of these things for Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever you celebrate (Who doesn’t want a good pair of compostable cleaning gloves for their birthday?). I did one change a  month but I’ve added a few things we were already doing. This is not a judgemental list to show you how great we are….this is to inspire you to maybe purchase differently if you’re an expectant parent, ask for different gifts, and make some new changes in your household that have minimal impact on the planet.

THE POOP AND PEE SEGMENT OF ECOLOGICAL ACTION: 

1- Used Cloth Diapers : I recently read an NPR article by Terry Grose who wrote, ” If you want to reduce the environmental imHolyshitpact of your consumption, the best way is to not manufacture more stuff. In that sense, the best thing you can do is not buy more stuff.” They’re right- there’s no sense in cloth diapering or buying wooden toys if you’re just getting the item manufactured, delivered to you, and then worn or played with minimally by an ever changing growing baby. It will inevitably wind up on facebook marketplace and maybe passed around once more before landing in goodwill where, if even remotely soiled, likely will wind up in a landfill.

The use of cloth diapers has in recent years become a trend in parenting- but- this is literally what people did for thousands of years before the 1950’s when capitalism was at its peak and major companies started mass producing “convenient” disposable diapers.  We’ve even found a way to market the prettiest patterns of cloth diapers so everyone wants them new with a sloth design….when their baby’s diaper will be viewed for only a hot second if that ,by onlookers who will give zero cares ( most likely) from whence the sloth patterned, never seen by the light of day came from.

With my first child I went the cloth diaper route and found there was no inconvenience as compared to “convenient” disposables. The diapers fit snug, went on easily and were kept in a non-stink wet bag until laundry day, which, with 40 diapers only really had to happen once or twice a week. I gifted those diapers to a family in need and sold a few because there was TONS of use left in them. With my second, I was gifted MANY cloth diapers with lots of use left by my cousin and what is so sweet is the diapers had gone through two cousin’s families and now were bequeathed to us. I knew the users so I trusted them, a quick internet search can help you get out “pee smells” from diapers, your costs will definitely be lower and if you wash responsibly ( waiting until you’re down to only 2 or 3 diapers so you’re doing a large load at a time and reducing water use) You’re GOLDEN. Don’t be afraid to ask family or friends if they would give you their cloth diapers instead of selling. If you’re buying, you’ll spend way less than you would on disposables and spare using diapers that won’t break down for hundreds of years. Below are links to my favorite cloth diapers and favorite biodegradable diapers we used this year.

  • -https://shopapplecheeks.com/ and Grovia Cloth Diapers:  these diapers have been through 3 children so far and are still fighting fit.Applecheeks were form fitted and never leaked after being worn by at least 3 kiddos and Grovia is super convenient as the liners just snap in and snap out so you use less covers.  There’s also a woman in BC who can replace the elastics in them should you need it which will give them even more longevity. You can also shop local and see who makes cloth diapers in your community. Intimidated by cloth diapering- look in your community for a free cloth diapering workshop like this: https://www.motheringtouch.ca/classes/cloth_diapering/ or ask a friend to walk you through how they do/did it.
  • Biodegradable diapers: Finding them is no easy feat but you can bulk buy great ones before baby comes ( or have someone buy them for you) and have enough to last you ages! Below are some great options for diapers that will break down in a landfill and won’t break your budget.
  • Bio Babby diaper pack will give you bio diapers for birth to full sized bambino:
  • Naty Diapers: and you can buy online or at lots of stores like Wholefoods, Walmart, and natural markets.
  • Get your PC Optimum points while using diapers that don’t endanger forests and support renewables:
  • Bamboo Nature Cloth Diapers: Luckily our size one diapers of these were gifted to us from a too big baby! But we wound up getting them again when traveling to Nova Scotia because they were so great at holding our heavy wetters pee but also https://naturebabycanada.com/pages/ingredients

Cloth diaper elastic repairs to make them live longer: Leanne is a great contact here in BC. Some of the diapers given to me had gone through more than just 3 kiddos so they needed a new set of elastics. Doing this saved mass production of news ones, the cost of new ones and material waste. Look in your community for a seamstress that could do the same or contact Leanne here in BC.

https://www.gowestcreations.ca/diaper-repairs-and-customization

The Poop factor- inevitably your baby will have solid, stinky, sticky poops- for that- a biodegradable thin liner that goes over the insert is perfect! you simply lift them out, poo and all from the cloth liner and flush them or compost as they’re biodegradable.

Cloth diaper wet bags- THESE.ARE.AWESOME. They keep the stink out of rooms as they zip up and you’ll not smell a thing. Then, wash them with vinegar at the end of your cloth diapering days and BAM, you have a bag for your kid’s swim stuff, wet clothes, soiled cloth menstrual pads ( see below for that info). REUSE, REUSE, REUSE. Buy local, even better.

2-Elimination Communication: To save on water usage and diaper usage even more we did easy peasy elimination communication with our son. When I’ve worked in developing countries I’ve seen mamas just hold their babies over the latrine. I never smelled a poopy diaper because babies were offloading their excrement in a potty! Granted, for many of these moms diapers were not an affordable luxury but they were saving the planet while prompting their babies to go when they needed to go. We started holding my little guy over the toilet when he was 3 weeks old and….with a little sound que, he went. This continued and I’ve maybe had a few poop misses and some pee misses but for the most part, most babies whose brains are neurologically intact will naturally know to go in the potty, or wherever the air hits their bits with some gentle coaching from you. This book is excellent, as is this podcast on introducing EC into your life. It really makes life more simple, not harder.

Bowie, dropping a deuce like its hot!

Bowie, dropping a deuce like its hot!

3-Eco Potty: I managed to find a potty made of Plant based materials that is biodegradable. Yup, they exist. Consider one. I kept one regular hand me down potty on the ground floor and one upstairs for those moments you need to race to the potty. 

4- Cloth Wipes: This link gives you the straight facts on why, and how to cloth wipe over and over. Sure, use the disposable ones in a pinch but this is an easy solution to implement. Learn how here

…..You are now exiting the Poop and Pee Section

5- Used Toys:/ Books You’ve all read about how plastic is no damn good, and wood is good. Here’s my thought- if it’s plastic, it’s already been made, so, if it’s in good working order ask your friends if you can have that plastic baby walker rather than tell grandma to buy one new ( and they’ll insist, because there is still some kind of gross factor in buying used or taking hand me downs….make it not a thing). If it’s wood, even better, who gives a flying pig if there’s some wood chipping off of it, if it’s safe, and still works well, wrap it up and pass it on! We asked for used gifts, that we need for my son’s birthday and I am certain this turned a few people off on our guest list but, I’ll refer to the point above ” If you want to reduce the environmental impact of your consumption, the best way is to not manufacture more stuff”, your baby will not know the difference. From time to time I will buy things new, I’m no angel saint. This is just a suggestion as to how you can gradually make different decisions.

6- Make your own or go to a Zero Waste Emporium: Ok, granted,  I wasn’t on call or doing school work so I did have a bit more time to make my own hand soap and laundry detergent but, it legit did not take any more time to make them then it would have to drive all the way to Costco and buy the King Kong sized laundry detergent, poured into a bottle that will very likely not get recycled. I saved my containers from dish soap, laundry detergent and hand soap and made that which would refill it and thus give it 20 more uses if not more. I’ve linked to some sites that helped me craft my soaps below. If you have the means you can easily join a zero waste emporium. Locally we have Zero Waste Emporium and here’s a list of places in Victoria that will accomodate your zero waste needs https://www.zerowasteemporium.com/zero-waste-shopping Simply purchase the glass containers for your product then go down and fill them. Ask for what they can do for folks on a shoestring budget- they may be able to help.

homemade-foaming-hand-soap-1-800x420

7- Reusable shopping bags and produce bags: I made the full switch to reusable produce bags. They can be made out of old pillowcases (https://awastenotkindoflife.com/diy-produce-bags/)  I stuck 3 in my stroller to have just in case I did a last minute shop and put the rest in my bike bag or car and just toted them in with my reusable shopping bags. I’m hoping to get more for Christmas!

8- Bamboo Toothbrushes: A local Company BAM BRUSH does a family pack which is an economical way to outfit the whole family with bamboo brushes. It works out to about 4 dollars a brush which is not too shabby. My research showed that you do need to just pull the bristles of your brush with a set of pliers before they can be composted or recycled but that’s not a big deal. The tides are changing with big brand companies as well. Colgate has apparently gotten on board the bamboo buggy and are making bamboo brushes for the mainstream shopper.

Family pack of bamboo brushes helps you save on costs! Buy bulk

Family pack of bamboo brushes helps you save on costs! Buy bulk

9- Reusable cloth pads- Recently I spotted a local midwife who is making these awesome things. I also use a wet bag to put my used pads in until I can throw them in the wash at home. Buy local, or there are a couple great canadian companies you can buy from. Help divert 2,000,000 pads from landfills each month!

Bluebird Pads are made here on Vancouver Island. Rad!

Bluebird Pads are made here on Vancouver Island. Rad!

That’s it for this season, but watch for my next post on kitchen eco friendly options and hopefully another one on reducing emissions as I travel outside the home.

 

 




How to Prepare for a Home Waterbirth

Are you thinking about having a water birth? Find out about the advantages and things to consider when planning to labor or give birth in the water.

What is a water birth?

Water birth is the process of giving birth in water using a deep bath or birthing pool (depth of water is key and you’ll see why). Being in water during labour is shown to help with pain as well as being more relaxing and soothing than being out of water (https://evidencebasedbirth.com/waterbirth/). The water helps to support your weight, making it easier to move around and feel more in control during labour, it also relieves pressure. I’ve also included resources at the end of this blog post. 

Can I have a water birth?

Having a water birth is an option for you if you have had a low risk pregnancy and your midwife believes it is safe for you and your baby. You can talk to them about it at any of your antenatal appointments.

What are the advantages of water birth?

  • The warm water can help to relax, soothe and comfort you.
  • The support of the water means you can try different positions and move more freely.
  • When upright in the water, gravity will help move the baby down towards the birth canal.
  • Being in water can lower your blood pressure and reduce feelings of anxiety, making your body more able to release endorphins, which can help ease pain.
  • The water can help to improve back pain and the feeling of pressure, especially when you are fully dilated.
  • Being in the pool during labour and birth can be a “cosy” experience, making you feel safe.
  • The water can help your perineum stretch gradually as the baby’s head is being born, reducing the risk of injury.

Are there any disadvantages of having a water birth?

  • If you’ve been using the TENS machine that’s going to need to be removed before you enter the water.
  • Your contractions may slow down or get weaker, especially if you go in the pool too soon (your midwife will discuss this with you and help you with timing pool entry).
  • If the pool water is too cool at birth, your baby is at risk of hypothermia. But your midwife will check the water temperature regularly and I provide a floating thermometer. If your baby’s temperature is low, skin to skin contact with you and warm towels will help (Towels left on a heat pad during the labor or given a quick heat through in the dryer does the trick).
  • You might need to leave the pool if there’s reason to monitor baby more closely or if your labor has slowed down as a result of you submersing yourself. 

Can my baby drown or inhale water if I give birth in the Pool?

Many birthers and their partner’s wonder whether there is a risk of their baby drowning if they give birth in water but it is very unlikely to happen.

Babies do not need to breathe when they are in the womb because they get oxygen from the blood that comes from their parent through the placenta. When they are born in water, their body behaves as if they are still in the womb until they take their first breath of air, at which point their lungs open up. As a baby comes from an amniotic sac filled with water in the womb into warm water (in the birth pool), the lungs are not open and no water can enter.

After your baby is born in the water, you and /or your midwife will bring them to the surface slowly. Your baby will only be under water for a short time and won’t take a breath until they are out of the water. 

Your baby is only at risk:

  • if their head is brought above the water and brought down again (hence why deep birth pools are key)
  • if their oxygen supply from the placenta is affected
  • if their temperature changes suddenly.

Your midwife will be careful to monitor the above during your labor and birth. 

Where can I have a water birth?

  • At home with a hired birthing pool or if you have a deep tub. 
  • In a birth centre ( we do not currently have a birth centre in Victoria and VGH has showers but not birth tubs)

What should I wear for my water birth?

Silk Negligee? ….all jokes aside-you can wear what feels comfortable for you, keeping in mind that you will be in what is essentially a large bath.  Many birthers choose to wear a bikini, tankini or loose fitting sports bra. You can wear a t-shirt or tank top if you want a tad more coverage. Some birthers prefer to be naked. 

Whatever you feel comfortable with wearing on your top half is fine.

It is best to take your bottom half off so that the midwife can see what is happening as you approach birth. However, if you wish to leave your unders on until that stage, that is your right.

What other pain relief can I have in the water?

Water is sometimes referred to as ‘nature’s epidural’ or ‘aquadural’, because of the support and pressure relief it gives you. There would need to be some space of time after you’ve had intramuscular morphine or the like before you could enter the pool. In other places a birther can have gas and air ( entonox or nitrous oxide) while in the water but this is not available currently in Victoria. Most birthers find the combo of water, reassurance, breathing, massage and vocal toning are helpful pain relief. 

Can I have delayed cord clamping if I give birth in the water?

Delayed cord clamping or DCC has become the standard of care in Canada. Most birth centers, labour wards and homebirth teams will try to do DCC for every birth. This is because holding off from cutting the cord until the blood from the placenta has stopped flowing into your baby can increase your baby’s iron levels and the amount of stem cells they have, which will help with their growth and immune system. Although many centers practice DCC as normal, you can add this to your birth plan to reinforce your wishes.

The only reason DCC would not happen is if you or your baby are suddenly unwell just after birth. If the baby is slow to breathe, or you are bleeding more heavily than normal, the midwife may need to cut the cord earlier than usual.

You and your baby’s safety during and after a water birth is very important and this will always take priority.

How do I deliver the placenta if I have a water birth?

Your midwife is likely to ask you to get out of the pool to deliver the placenta because gravity can be helpful in the third stage of labour. It also makes it easier to help you in case of an emergency, as some new mums can feel faint after birth, or during the third stage of labour. If you do suddenly feel lightheaded, it may be difficult to get you out of the pool quickly and safely.

Most hospitals, birth centres and midwife colleges have a policy on how the placenta should delivered, and most of these are on a bed, toilet, birth stool or floor mat for your safety. Please ask your midwife about the third stage of labor.

Some Logistics: 

In addition to what I bring in your water birth kit you will also want to have:

  • Towels, LOTS OF THEM. Dark colored is preferred. Some folks just sanitize towels they pickup second hand to save money.
  • A tarp or plastic drop sheet for under the pool ( when I have these in stock I bring them for you, just ask)
  • A Robe or amazing blanket for when you get out of the pool. Again, dark colored is good if you cant get to the laundry soon after labor/birth.
  • Large pots to keep water simmering in in case you want a quick, warm water top up but don’t have enough heat in the hot water tank (usually this isn’t a problem).

 

More helpful Resources

The short version of the evidence: https://www.ontariomidwives.ca/water-birth 

Systematic Reviews: https://www.cochrane.org/CD000111/PREG_immersion-water-labour-and-birth

U.S based but relevant:

1- https://evidencebasedbirth.com/waterbirth/ 

2-https://evidencebasedbirth.com/water-immersion-during-labor-for-pain-relief/

3-https://evidencebasedbirth.com/real-life-stories-waterbirth/




The Ballast in Bereavement- A Reflection on Family

At 3:30am I said goodbye to my siblings and dad and by 10am I’d said my goodbye to my cousins who’d I’d met in middle Canada for a family funeral. In the rush of my everyday I rarely stop…this weekend in Picton Ontario there were many moments to take pause and reflect on what’s important. In a quiet lake setting we, as a family said goodbye to our Uncle Rob, my father’s brother, and a staple in our family. I looked to my left and right in the church pew and saw folks in quiet reflection honoring my uncle’s life…but what really got me was the legacy he left behind in my cousins and great cousins who played the piano, sang operatically and spoke with such cadence at his memorial. I held my sisters and brother and cousins ( and even baby great cousins) a little closer. I laughed to heartily watching my uncle Rob on old super 8 videos dancing into rooms with such aliveness and vitality for life. There were effusive tears, but also much laughter, and a cousin’s dance party until 3am which we know in our hearts would make “Uncle Bobert” so happy. He was that guy who always had a camera…capturing every moment and now I know it’s my job to get back at it and continue shooting video wherever possible and taking pictures…just like I did in my early years. I got that from him and the Steele bros.
This family is so close knit, we tell each other we love each other, we acknowledge and accept our unique…weirdness ( I’m picturing uncle Rob in the baby doll pajamas he extracted from a certain young woman’s room to don for the camera). If this funeral had of been happening in Timbuktu I’d of gone, to stand in solidarity with this family who is my reason for getting up every day and the reason I extol the importance of family to my daughter even though we live miles away from blood family.
We lost a fixture of our family this year, and we lost him fast, but we gained a “renewal of our family vow session.”
What does this have to do with any of you past or present birth clients? It’s just a call to action to keep in mind what your constructing when you begin or add to your family. You’re building the foundation to your heart and soul. Family can look unique and individual, family can take on many forms…..but family is the essence of our being….whether it’s a family of 3 or a family of 30. Lean on the people you consider family to nourish your soul. Do not be afraid to tell people you love them and you care about them…to their face. Raise your children to know loving kindness in a world where it’s a rarity.
Today I wish for you the same warmth and acceptance I felt and tried to give in the wake of death. Birth and death, the pendulum always swings, but in both occasions, celebrate life, celebrate kindness, togetherness, non judgement and strength.

Family 2017

Myself and all of my Steele Cousins and siblings, My uncle Robert’s funereal, June 2017




Sj’s Cardamom Bliss Balls

I’ve been saying for months I would share one of my Bliss Ball Recipes. Sure you can troll the internet and find a recipe or two but if you’re looking for a protein power ball that can see you through a nausea time in your pregnancy, long labor, or long breastfeeding session, this one is one of my favorites from the Salt Spring Experience. The Cardamom aids nausea, and after babe it is helpful for digestion and elimination. The Tahini is high in vitamin E and Calcium and the Chocolate…well, we all need a sugar spike sometimes.

From my Kitchen to yours- I give you

Cardamom KissesBlissBall

1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cardamom
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup grated coconut

1. Grind the almonds fine in a food processor
2. Add the raisins and grind until they’re chopped up
3. Add the tahini, honey, cinnamon, and cardamom, and blend until everything is well mixed.
4. Empty the mixture into a mixing bowl, and hand mix the chocolate chips in.
5. Put the coconut into a shallow bowl or a plate.
6. Form balls form the mixture, roll them in the coconut, and arrange them on a platter.
7. Keep them refrigerated.

 

Bon Appetit, Bon Birthing and Bon B-Feeding

 




Triaged Toe and Togetherness- A Photoshoot and Gathering of some 2013/14 Families

photo

This morning I experienced something I likely should have started three years ago when I first ventured out in labor support….a gathering of the families I have had the honor and privilege to work for and with.

It happens, we labor support people meet the families, get to know them, join them start to finish for one of the most intense day (or days) of their life…and then we leave. We may have one to two visits with you to see how the family unit is getting on, assist with breastfeeding, but…then we do the sad job of leaving you to become your own family.

We are trained in letting go, leaving you to flourish as parents. But we think of you. We think of a moment we might have shared with you that is forever etched on our life’s template. Like when you look at us and say something like “ I just want to see the series of Breaking Bad before I have this baby,” or when you look at us and say “ Holy S*it, I’m a mum, what’s up with that?” For me, it’s those memories that make me chuckle in the aisle of the grocery store. You’re like a high school boyfriend that makes me smile for no reason….just at the thought.

So, I couldn’t in good faith let another year pass without seeing your breath-taking babies and you again. You, parents, need to know that you are what makes my work thrive. I believe I was meant to work with each family that chooses me. Because you chose me, my life is richer; because you choose me I don’t scowl at my phone when it rings in the night…instead I smile and think “ Here’s another woman, or family I’m gonna love even more after the next 24 hours passes, I’m about to get a lot more connected to what loving your purpose and work is.”

And so I asked all of my 2013-2014 families to join me for a morning of lemonade, bliss balls and a group photo.

As the cars rolled into the parking lot at Gyro Beach at 10am this morning, I just kept thinking, “ Have they even had a chance to have coffee?” “ Have I interrupted baby’s morning nap?”…I had a niggling feeling of guilt for having made the families come all this way just so I could ogle them and get a group photo. But you emerged from your vehicles all smiles, ready to connect with other families, maybe with a babe born the same month as yours.

Me? I just stood there and had a Grinch moment; you know that scene where his heart grows exponentially bigger every time he sees an act of kindness? Every hug I had, every baby who just smiled up at me four, five even ten-month’s later. When I left most of these babies they were barely holding their head’s up. Now, they’re smiling, charming, chunky little people. I have a terrible memory but I remember vividly the moment each of them came into the world.

Last night I planned what I would say to everyone who came. I’d tell them that meeting them and being a part of their birth experience has been the fulfillment in my life I never thought I could get from my work. I’d tell them that each of them had taught me so much about what makes a solid relationship between two people or between a mother and their child. I’d tell them that just by showing up on a sunny Sunday morning when there was a World Cup game fixin to start, just warmed my heart to bits. I’d finish by letting them know that I can look at each and every one of them and relay a heartfelt moment we had shared on “ Birth Day” and how that solidifies my view that we are all meant to share these moments with each other as human beings in our life time. Instead, I felt myself overcome with emotion and felt I might burst into tears and be the “loser doula” who lost it in front of a bunch of smiling, gurgling babies. So, I kept it simple, which is just as well as I’d opened up my left toe a few minutes before on something menacing in the sand. I needed to get it looked at by one of my nurse clients who knew how to doula the doula ;)

What I will now say is true, authentic, raw honesty comes forth from a woman and their partner on the day a child is born. And, then we all surface and move on with our lives. Thank you for letting me be there and support you through your first or third time at the “true- authentic-honest rodeo“.

Today, I just wanted the opportunity to let you know I hold you all in my thoughts long after my service is done with you. You may never really know the joy that radiates throughout my whole body when I see you on the street or in gatherings like today. You affirm that I’m on my chosen path even if my parents likely think I need to go back to a “real job.” You are my real job!

Once this toe heals up I’ll be up in the night to serve more families, but client’s past… you’ll all be etched in this “Grinch” Doula’s heart.

 

 





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