Category: Parenting

Being a Natural Living Advocate in the Military

We strive to make our home and family as healthy and natural as possible every day.  This journey is different for every family, and as we learn and incorporate new aspects of natural living into our every day lifestyle new challenges are uncovered.  These challenges are even more unique for military families including health care decisions, child care decisions, and even nutritional decisions.  By encouraging supportive and resourceful relationships among military families we can continue to promote natural living in the military and influence the future of policies and procedures in our own areas.

Military families can find obstacles to pursuing a holistic and natural lifestyle in several key areas including medical care, child care and nutrition.  First, as military families we are blessed by having very good medical coverage through Tricare.  This insurance plan has several benefits and covers most medical needs for the average American military family.  However, it does not cover naturopath doctor visits, chiropractic care, acupuncture or many other aspects of medical care that can enhance our lives through natural remedies and a pursuit of true health.  For example, I’m interested in trying acupuncture in the treatment of my Plantar Fasciitus (a common ailment in runners as well as military) but I am responsible for the monetary costs of treatment as that is not covered by Tricare.  Military members themselves are also subject to strict rules of medical readiness that ensures our deployability.  This rules include receiving routine vaccinations each year to ensure the overall medical readiness of the fighting force. Therefore, if you do not want to vaccinate this can pose a personal dilemma.  At this time, there is no way for a military member to obtain a philosophical or religious exemption to vaccines that is permanent and does not jeopardize their career.  There are rare cases of medical exemptions based upon allergies to vaccine components.

Another challenge for military families pursuing a natural life style is child care decisions.  Most child development centers on military bases require children to be up to date on vaccinations and do not accept waivers, do not permit cloth diapering without a doctor’s note that is difficult to obtain, and do not allow breast milk to be served to children past the age of one.  These policies force some families to choose between their healthy choice and their financial choices.  On post day care is often less expensive than off post, but if you have to then purchase disposable diapers and stop breastfeeding (causing and increase in food purchases) is it really a cost saving method?

The third area that can pose challenges for natural minded military families is nutrition because they are transient over time and also have fewer options available during military missions.  Military families can expect to have a major move every 2-4 years.  Due to these recent moves, they have fewer opportunities to be self-sufficient.  Although some families are able to buy and rent homes and are able to have a family garden as well as small livestock like chickens, it is a rarity.  As a result, we are more dependant upon purchasing produce from farmers markets and grocery stores.  Many of the sources available may not be reliable and could be hard to find depending on how specialized of a diet you have.  Military service members can also have nutritional challenges while on training and deployment missions with fewer options available for meals including the highly calorized Meal Ready to Eat (MRE).

As a result of these challenges, we have a unique opportunity to encourage and support each other through social networking.  We are able to share our experiences at different military bases including locations of farmers markets, where good meat/poultry coops are, what pediatricians will respect our parenting decisions and many more.  There are several natural parenting pages on Facebook that focus on specific geographical areas surrounding military bases, and even a national page for crunchy parents. Discussions on those pages range from where the best local spot for amber teething necklaces are, to how to find a supportive doula and midwife team that will do a home birth (even though Tricare doesn’t cover it). Sharing our experiences and resources is absolutely key to encouraging each other throughout our journeys.  Although it can be challenging at times, it is possible to incorporate lifestyle changes to live more naturally in the military.

If you know of a Facebook group or other site that helps to encourage and network natural parents in your area, please share it in the comments section!

Facebook Groups:

Natural Living in the Military

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Plot your own course

Parenting is serious business.  From the moment you get that positive pregnancy test, it seems like everyone has an opinion about what you are doing as a parent.  Whether it is while you’re pregnant – oh my gosh! Not SUSHI!, in labor – water birth?! How could you!, infancy – Nursing in public?! Yuck!, or beyond.  What is the obsession of parents telling other parents how to do it “right’?

There are some things that I can agree are pretty black and white issues.  Like car seat safety.  There are pretty clean cut rules and statistics that show that proper car seat usage ensures the safety and health of children.  But almost every other parenting decision you make will be purely based upon a benefit and risk analysis that you have to make on your own.

I realize that this post is similar to my Burden of Proof post, but the reason I bring this up again is the recent birth of Prince George Alexander Louie to the ever so lovely Duchess Kate (if I get the titles wrong, please forgive me I’m not one to actually royal watch!).  I would not trade places with them for the world.  Being a parent in 2013 is absolutely hard enough as a normal shnormal person, let alone with the entire world watching.  Every decision they make for their child is bound to be analyzed by the entire media market as well as people from the UK, US and beyond.  So far I have heard judgements of their choice of where to birth, what they named him, whether she will breast feed or not, where they’re going to raise him, how involved the non-royal family will be, etcetera!  How is ANY of that our business?

It is this scrutiny of each others decisions that makes us feel constantly on guard as parents. “Am I really doing the right thing?”  “Well, so and so said…” The best advice I can give to anyone becoming a parent is to own your decisions, but don’t be afraid of learning new things.  Be confident in your instincts and don’t disregard them. Ever.  Your gut feeling is more powerful than you know. If someone – whether it is family, friend, coworker, physician, nurse, stranger, anyone – is telling you something about being a parent, and it makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it.  Thank them politely for the advice, and plot your own course.

There are times that I wish I had done that already, and my son is only 16 months old.  Many times.  Getting IV Antibiotics during labor because the midwife said so, giving him bottles of formula on day 5 because the Dr said so, Putting him on a “feeding schedule” when he was two weeks old (worst 2 days EVER) based on a friends advice, and many more! But I’m learning and growing and becoming more confident.  When there are times that I’m not sure WHY I feel uncomfortable with given advice and people ask, I just let them know that I don’t have enough information yet, and that I will make a firm decision when I do.  Their advice is not usually ill intended, but just because something turned out well for them and was the right thing for their family doesn’t mean it will be right for you.

What parenting decisions have you been judged for?  Have you ever gotten unwarranted, and uncomfortable advice from others? What decisions do you judge others for?

Burden of Proof

Lately, there are many things that parents have to research regarding health choices for their children.  In social media, the debate is fierce between the pros and cons of various things including vaccination Vs Non vaccination, circumcision Vs Intact, Home Birth Vs Hospital Birth, Homeschool Vs Public School.  You name it, and chances are that there are strong proponents on both sides.  In the age of readily available information, parents have more accessibility to research than ever before.  That also means that parents can be even more opinionated as before. And so began the debating.

In two different incidences in the past 24 hours alone, my parenting decisions regarding home birth and vaccination were questioned via social media.  I laid out my sources proudly, I have worked hard the past two years researching various topics of import to my family.  But my sources weren’t seen as valid to them.  Now, I too value the importance of validity.  I wish there were more mainstream media and medical journals that had articles regarding my findings.  Many of them are from other countries who are more progressive and have done more research than our own FDA, CDC and AAP.

After contemplating this during my run this morning, I started to think,“Why is the burden of proof for these procedures on me to prove that they AREN’T safe?  Shouldn’t they have to prove to me that they ARE?  Shouldn’t they have to show me that the benefit of the procedure outweighs the risk of the second and third order effects of the procedure?” Just in vaccine research alone, I started to think about how much work it had been to break down the ingredients of each vaccine, cross reference it with toxicology reports, validate that with the adverse events that were reported and compare those numbers to the incidences of the diseases, the symptoms, the complications and the mortality rates.

I wish I had saved more of my work.

And that’s just for vaccines!  What about home birth?  This was posted in response to a young mother who had already expressed in the thread that she felt uncomfortable with hospital birth and wanted a water birth but had a tight budget: “You really want to have your baby at home with the “cheapest” midwife out there. This your baby to protect. A midwife is nothing more than a nurse with an advanced degree. And in TX when I worked for the board if nursing I saw a lot of bad things that nurses and midwives did and sometimes everything was ok an sometimes it wasn’t.”  I was taken aback!  Of COURSE she had seen the worst case scenario when she worked for the review board.  Only bad outcomes are reviewed. Women have been birthing at home for thousands of years with the support of other women!  For healthy women with normal pregnancies, home birth is actually found to be safer than the hospital.

I wish I had saved more of my work.

But I didn’t save every link and every thought that passed through my brain during all of these searches because I am not a medical expert.  I didn’t view my research as something that I had to validate agains others opinions.  I saw my research as a quest to find out whether these things were best for my family and my child.  And in the majority of my research, I found so much evidence against vaccines and for home birth that I started to think, “well of course people will agree with me!  There is so much information that they will of course not question my decision!”

In some ways, I am glad that these women questioned me.  It has given me the urge to go back and search again, to really delve into the deep of the research.  Unfortunately, I know it will take a lot of time.  But if that is what it takes, then so be it. Until then, I still have doubts as the efficacy and safety of Vaccination and hospital birth and that is enough for me to say that they aren’t right for my family.  Because I would never subject them to something unless I was 100% comfortable with that decision and willing to accept the consequences of the risks involved.

Starting the Journey

Today as I started off on my first run after a month long, self-imposed “break” from running.. one of my first thoughts was… bug spray. I forgot to use bug spray. As I swatted away the bugs that convene along the rural Virginia road at dusk, I started to imagine myself as She-Ra, fighting my way through them. Weird? Yes. Empowering? Absolutely.
This was my first run of many that will come to prepare for my first marathon next January. A bucket list item, that at 29, I started to worry that I wouldn’t get to. Despite reports of 93 year olds completing them “all the time.” I wonder most days if I am crazy. But a few years ago, before my son was born, I ran a half-marathon. And I still remember that absolute elation as I crossed the finish line, tears streaming down my face as I quietly celebrated finishing as well as finally feeling the massive blisters and my bruised toes.
It’s the same elation that I had hoped to feel after birthing my son.  You see, in the next six months, I’m not only training for my fist marathon. I am also embarking on a journey of healing my soul after a traumatic birth experience. I am preparing to try to have another child, and I desperately want to birth the way that millions of women take for granted every day. My fears of another cesarean make me paralyzed sometimes. Nightmares of my birth experience haunt me, and until I can face my fears and my experiences I won’t be able to move forward and embrace pregnancy and birth again.
This is going to be my journey.. It’ll probably get rough. It’ll probably get emotional. But I hope to emerge as a She-Ra, battling my way through fears and comfort zones to be a marathon runner and a kick ass mama who’s ready for anything.