By Hyndla OR
Good, honest, hard-headed character is a function of the home. If the proper seed is sown there and properly nourished for a few years, it will not be easy for that plant to be uprooted. ~George A. Dorsey
When we looked in each other’s eyes and discussed having children, I with only 18 years under my belt and he with only 20, we knew we wanted kids, but the notion was frightening. We discussed the best way to help our Folk, and decided that having children would be a profound way to add to our Folk. I had just found out and told him that we were expecting. There we sat, living with my parents, no steady work, and still immature. So began our navigation of the maelstrom of our lives. Looking back, I think how naïve and ignorant I was. I came from a large family and had several cousins, nieces and nephews, and had helped in their upbringing, but I was not prepared for what our lives would become. I tell this story because so many of our Folk have a hard time seeing the other side of a decision like having children. Having lived it, I can give you hope that things are scarier in our thoughts rather than in the actual process.
We are not perfect parents. In fact, I am inspired by many parents I meet who constantly make me raise my personal bar and strive to be as virtuous as they are. No one can lay claim to perfection. As soon as you think yourself perfect, your child comes home with F’s on their report card, or you catch them drinking underage, or they get into a fight at school. We all have our ups and downs, and I am not an expert on anyone else’s children. Parents know their families best, and when they are honest with themselves, they do their best for their family.
My purpose with these series of articles is to hopefully give parents my point of view on parenting and help them be better parents. I don’t intend to preach at parents or say my way is the best way, but I can say we have had much success and have raised our children from birth to maturity as Odinists. My sincerest hope is that it holds value for someone!
Whenever I become obsessive about some aspect of our lives be it the clothing we buy, the socialization our children get or the education they receive, I look back into history as a sort of reality check. Anglo Saxon children often lived on vast lands where day-in and day-out they simply worked on the family farm. Their socialization they received from their family or from the times they went to their local village. They didn’t have swarms of friends running around, but lived simple lives. These Folk built Europe. Fast forward to Pioneers, they often lived alone on the prairie. They were the prime example of survival. They lived in “soddies” and had to live off foraging until gardens provided their food. A trip to town was a several week prospect. These Folk built the West. Our cousins along the Mediterranean probably had the densest population and hence a more “social” interaction, but they too led lives of isolation that meant they were home tending fields and flocks just as our Folk have always done. These are Folk that created society. Why then should I worry about such things?
The Journey Begins with the First Glance in the Mirror
We all think we are the best. Our ego tells us so. When you close your eyes and imagine yourself, what do you see? Some see a confident, strong person; others may see a weak, frail scared person. Many of us see something in between. Take time to discover yourself…honestly. Carl Jung said:
“If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves. ~C.G. Jung, Integration of the Personality, 1939”
It is tough to be honest with one’s self, and sometimes it takes great courage to look inward and take notice of your faults. I truly believe this is the best advice I could give a new parent—Look at yourself and be honest about who you are. If you don’t like it, change it. Change it before you perpetuate the things you hate most about yourself with your children. It took me a long time to figure this out, but after studying dreams and interpreting their meaning for me, I am starting to correct these “flaws” in my children. Again, not perfect by any stretch, but I definitely see the change.
Courage to Look Within and Build
Notice I didn’t say grow. Often growth happens without choice, but building happens with introspection, planning and action. This is true of any iteration in life. It is the same with building a person with the material within. Take some deliberate steps in building.
When you look in the mirror what do you see? Look beyond the physical.
Every morning when you wake – write down, and/or discuss your dream with someone, preferably someone who is critical and will keep you grounded. Dreams are all about symbols. You may be walking in a movie you watched that day, but it isn’t the movie that is important, what are the objects in the dream. These mean something. For instance – children in your dream represent your inner child, or your immaturity, or possibly something you want to remain child like. Once you start analysing your dreams, you will find out so much about yourself. A word of warning, some could be disturbing, or heart wrenching…facing the ‘honest you’ can be sometimes. I have never had serious trauma in my life, so please seek help for those needs. It is probably best to do so before you have children. One can transpose their poor upbringing on their children unknowingly. You have no choice; your child will exhibit your bad habits, choices and even your parents’ bad habits and choices. It just is, if you have the courage to own that reality, your lives will be more whole for it.
“Children are natural mimics who act like their parents despite every effort to teach them good manners. ~Author Unknown”
The Maelstrom Begins…Infants!
I can guarantee you two things when you have an infant…being terrified, and being fatigued and terrified.
I read all these books, dishonest books, about how beautiful childbirth is. They purport that an infant is this little bundle of joy that is just pristine and angelic. Well I am here to tell you the opposite. In all the families I have helped with their infants, the single most common comment is, “I was not prepared for this!!” That is regardless of all the advice from “books by experts”. You will be tired; you will be frustrated; you will not look like a supermodel after having the baby or babies…but this is the first step into a new world. Your life will never be the same. In that small child, lies the hope of our Folk. What lies ahead is something that can’t be articulated.
Home Birth vs. Hospital Birth
“If you think you can do it, or you think you can’t do it, You are right.” ~Henry Ford
Having seven children, I have had seven very different deliveries of my little ones. Being so young with my first pregnancy, I was more of a bystander with the labor and delivery. I just did whatever the doctor suggested. When I stop and think about how much power that doctor had and how he used it, I get very upset that I didn’t take that power and have the labor and delivery I should have had. Hindsight is 20/20, so the best I can do is to council all new mothers and parents of children who are going to have children to make sure you have a labor and delivery that you want. The doctor or midwife is the facilitator, not the master, you are. Our first four babies were in a hospital. I have never been a fan of hospitals. My mother was a registered nurse for 25 years. The things I know that go on in hospitals really made me wary, but not knowing of any alternatives, I was at the mercy of the institution. As I said with the first it was horrible. It was 24 hours of assembly line baby delivery. Not wanting the same and a little wiser, Thora’s delivery was a little better. She was the roughest labor, but I had a great doctor that counseled rather than dictated. By the time for Erika and Gunnar, I thought I was a pro. Both were great pregnancies, and both were very similar labor and deliveries.
In retrospect, the power I had within was not utilized in the hospital setting. A mother is shuffled around, IV’d, strapped to a monitor, and forced to lay in a bed. Movement is restricted, and all you can do is pass time waiting for the next contraction. Dad is just along for the ride. He doesn’t have any hand in the laboring or the deliver, just a passive observer, and later monitor to ensure the baby is safe while Mom is recovering. Most of my time was on my back, and with every pain, I was coached to use anesthetic by the nurses and doctor. The doctor I saw three or four times until delivery was impending. If things weren’t progressing fast enough, the solution was to go and walk the halls of the hospital with an IV attached, or pitocin. When my little sweethearts were born, they were immediately clipped from the life line (umbilical cord), and taken to get checked under a heat lamp. After being cleaned up, they would finally come to Mom and Dad. With Astrid, the practice was to take the baby to the nursery, but with the other three, they were able to stay in the room with Mom and Dad. The whole time we were in the hospital, it was like a marketing campaign for pills, diapers, etc… I received a whole bag of goodies from formula (even though I said I would breastfeed) to life insurance. In reality, I didn’t use any of it, what a waste of money and resources.
Twenty-four hours later….home. What a relief! I was lucky to have my mother close, and my grandmother. Although I was immature when we started, I had the advantage of coming from a large family, and having wise women to guide me. Many of the things that the doctors and nurses suggested from vaccines to formula, my elders said were unnecessary and taught me that the KISS method should be employed. How thankful I am/was for them. This is not the end of the story because then we moved to the Northwest.
The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is a different place. It is a mix of conservative Christians and leftist hippies and everything in between. The one thing that sets it apart is the willingness to have more alternatives to mainstream…everything. Although seemingly two very different camps (conservative-leftist), they share the same ideas of self-reliance and independence. I met Evangelical Christians that didn’t vaccinate, homeschooled and home birthed at the same rate as I found hippy types that did the same. At any rate, we found a whole new world open to us here in the PNW. I met some folks that asked two simple questions, “Do you vaccinate your kids?” and, “have you considered homebirth?” I am not one who likes to be uninformed, so I said yes to the first and no to the second. It was the only spark I needed. When I became pregnant with Hakon (#5), Asrekyr and I discussed homebirth. I had non-complicated pregnancies, and I discussed it with my mother. She simply said, “How do you think women had babies for centuries?” She also related that she had my oldest brother and sister with a midwife at home in England. With this encouragement, we decided to contact a friend’s midwife. Like much of our life, we were taking a new road.
Meeting the midwife was interesting. She was a devout Christian, but very open minded. We put it out front that we were Odinists. We figured that if she was going to be bringing our new life into the world, in our house, she needed full disclosure. All I can say is I wish each woman could have such an awesome person to help her have an awesome experience. Betty, with an assistant (very hippy-ish), came every month to our house for prenatal appointments, which instead of 5-10 minutes, was 90 minutes. We discussed everything from nutrition, and vitamins, to religion and politics. She was/is such an awesome lady. We were truly lucky. From Betty I learned everything about herbal medicine, whole food nutrition, vaccination, holistic infant care, and inner strength.
You may ask, “What about labor and the pain?” One would think that after delivering 4 children that labor would be quick and easy. In fact, I have never had easy labors. I always had pain, and had to work through it. The difference is that Betty suggests owning the pain, making it a part of the experience and not to fight it. What a revelation that small bit of advice was. I had pain, but now I had a completely different mindset. It was something I dealt with, and I believe made me stronger. Betty had an arsenal of techniques to help ease labor and address any problems. For instance, Hakon’s labor was 16 hours and through her examinations she determined that he was in a poor position and holding up labor. She had me do several activities to get him turned such as crawling on the floor like a baby to roll him over. She had great instincts and had me assume different positions to deliver him. The actual delivery was quick because she found the position that best suited Hakon.
In contrast to a hospital, Asrekyr was involved in the entire process. Betty had him helping me with moving around, massaging, coaching, everything. When Hakon was born, Asrekyr was able to assist in delivering him. He was able to be the first to touch his son. I immediately was able to hold him and feed him. There was no whisking him anywhere. Betty did all the vitals while I held our son. She also didn’t cut the cord until the cord was done (it stops pulsating fluids to the baby). At that time, Asrekyr cut it. After we were done cuddling, Betty brought over a bathtub with water the same temperature as the womb. When she put Hakon in it, he reverted back to his position in the womb, which showed us that he had his hands and arms above his head blocking his delivery.
After all the excitement I was exhausted. I nursed my little guy and handed him off to Daddy. Asrekyr got to bond for a few hours while I slept. After I woke up, the rest of our family joined in meeting their new brother and grandson.
Homebirth may seem scary or unattainable. When I pondered it for the first time, many thoughts raced through my head. What happens if things go wrong? What if I can’t handle the pain? It was frightening and exhilarating at the same time. I kept an open mind, asked lots of questions, and put faith in myself. Really it comes down to that, can *I* do it. If you think you can, or if you think you can’t, you are right.
The key is to start out your children on their best foot socially, physically, and biologically. This only happens with deliberate actions that ensure our sweet little bundles of joy get the best food, best education and strong family.
Nursing does not diminish the beauty of a woman’s breasts; it enhances their charm by making them look lived in and happy. ~Robert A. Heinlein
I am a firm advocate for breastfeeding. I won’t make any excuses for it. It is by far the best choice for an infant bar none. The best way to prepare for nursing is to be very healthy before children, during pregnancy, and while nursing. With my first daughter, I was an ignorant 18 yo. I ate poorly, didn’t drink enough water, didn’t take my vitamins regularly and worked too much. When I had Astrid, I nursed, but was impatient to get back into shape, so I restricted my diet, tried to exercise too early, and after 4 months…lost my milk. It was completely my fault, but as soon as I stopped nursing, I was pregnant again! The second time, I took my mother and grandmother’s advice and took my health and my child’s health seriously. Thank the Gods for wise women!
Although I am a firm believer in breastfeeding, I have had to use bottles with all my children. In the beginning of your new life with your baby, your body will over produce milk. Take this opportunity to start stocking up. As I write this, there are awesome breast pumps out there that I didn’t have 20 years ago, so Moms can really capitalize on the opportunity. This is to be stored and frozen for those times when Mom is not there. Not a perfect substitute, but much better than milk or soy based formula. To serve, simply set the stored milk (probably in a baggie of some sort) in hot water to thaw, and then reset in hot water to heat up. I would freeze 6 oz at a time.
If you want to start introducing the bottle, it is very important that the baby gets only Mom for at least 2 months, and then a bottle can be introduced. The key though is that Dad (sibling, Aunt, etc…) uses the bottle. My experience has been that a baby will know Mom has the good stuff and will hold out for it if Mom is trying to give the bottle. It isn’t nipple confusion, an infant is smart.
There will be a time when you don’t have any frozen storage. I used goat’s milk in place of formula. Good clean raw milk would probably be the best alternative, but if you don’t have it available, organic goat’s milk is an acceptable alternative. The key is to have milk from a small boned animal, which of course negates cow’s milk. I am not a fan of cow’s milk for anyone from infancy to the elderly. Children in particular need calcium in their first 2 years of life. The absolute best is a healthy Mother from which to nurse, but an alternative is from a goat. I used it with all my children, and they have strong healthy bones. Once the baby is old enough to start eating a varied diet, you can get calcium from a diverse sampling of many foods from yogurt to broccoli and green leafy vegetables.
The greatest wealth is health. ~Virgil
This brings us to introducing whole foods. The key here is to take the babies natural cues for when to introduce foods. Books, doctors, and wise mothers will tell you not one minute before 4 months, with this I agree. When you start, always only introduce one at a time and start on the low end of allergenic foods. We always started with avocadoes and bananas. I know everyone says rice cereal, but really you should start your babies off on whole foods. Our ancestors didn’t have boxes of rice cereal to feed their babies; they were brought up on natural cultural foods. As the baby’s diet becomes more diverse, you can start introducing more whole cooked foods. A great method is to freeze pureed food in ice cube trays. This allows for great convenience.
Vaccines and Health
I will only address vaccines quickly. I cannot in good conscience recommend vaccination under any situation. This of course is our choice as a family. I can only recommend that you educate yourself regarding vaccines. The Odinic Rite website has many resources.
All health stems from a healthy diet with lots of activity. What that healthy diet is, is completely unique to each person. That is why it is important to start babies out on raw whole foods to find what suits them, and continue such a diet for them through their entire life under your care. Also remembering that your children inherited traits from you and Dad, look at your diet and what is best for yourselves. I suggest looking through the OR website and looking into Dr. Mercola online to find out your nutritional type. Let this knowledge flow to how your infant should eat.
When an infant becomes ill, parents tend to panic. Our heads are filled with frightening hospital visits, and thoughts of death!! It is my opinion this is manufactured by the medical community to ensure consumers for life. It is important that we take infant illness seriously, but it is also important to not fall prey to fear and self doubt. By all means take your baby in if you feel that a cold is seriously impacting your babies breathing, or that a fever is too high. I believe in doctors for diagnosis, but not for cure unless as a last resort. In place of allopathic medication, we use herbal cures. I will not go into an exhaustive treatise on herbal medicine, but will suggest that any parent interested in pursuing herbal self help get the book, “Ten Essential Herbs” by Lalitha Thomas. When an infant who is only on breast milk gets ill, instead of giving the baby treatment, the mother can take herbs that will transfer to the baby. Things like garlic and Echinacea are great to take when your infant isn’t feeling well. If a baby is breast fed, she/he will rarely get ill. Once the baby is eating solid foods, then herbal treatments are more feasible and easier to administer. Some great treatments for babies from that book are garlic oil (for ear infection, and any infection), and onion-garlic cough syrup made in honey (as long as the honey is boiled, it makes it safe for babies). If you are uncomfortable using honey, you can use other media for the syrup. Some handy baby herbs that can be steeped in water:
Health is so vital at any age, but getting an infant off on the right foot lends to a lifetime of wellness.
Education is not the filling of a vessel, but the igniting of a flame. ~Socrates
Infants are interesting little creatures, they seem so helpless and ignorant about all around them, but it is our mistake to think that they are. They are only unpracticed. They are born with all they need to know; they only learn to use it. For instance, when we talk to them, they understand every word we say. They simply cannot form words yet because they are not biologically able (i.e. they don’t have teeth or tongue control yet). Understanding this will change how you communicate with your baby. Fill their head with language, chat with them as you would another adult. Discuss changing their diapers, feeding them, making food for the family etc… Involve them in your conversations with other children and family members. Everything you say to your baby echoes 10 times in their head, so take care in what is around them, but also, remember it is your household atmosphere, so don’t change simply for the baby rather incorporate and acclimate her to your household. In our house we are loud, we laugh loudly and we are rough and tumble. We are gentle with our little ones, but we enjoy being “crazy”. Our babies sleep through almost anything, and don’t get frightened easily, but they are also much to take in for other people, so there is good and bad. That is us! My point being that we don’t hush everyone around our babies, our babies just become a part of our family atmosphere.
When our oldest children were babies, they didn’t get the benefit of a mother with experience and maturity. The youngest ones did. It is just how it happens. I have noted that many parents have a rough time with the first, but with experience, the following children are much easier. I believe we don’t hit our stride till after the third and toughest child. I have spoken to many a parent with multiple children and they have related the same.
One thing I discovered with the last three is infant sign language, and what a find it was. I highly recommend it for infant communication. In our family, when we do something it is a group effort, so every person that interacted with the infants used sign language. I believe it helped the big kids just as much as the little ones. There are tons of resources on the net, so I suggest parents do a quick Google search. You can start simple with milk (nursing), hungry, thirsty, etc… Just these few words will open up a whole new communication with your infant. I saw a huge difference between when Astrid was an infant and Freydis.
Another great developmental tool is infant massage. I have done this with all the kids, and I believe this is why they all are physically fit. After every bath, I took lotion (some good organic lotion is best) and massaged the arms, legs, and torso of our babies. I also instructed our daughters to do the same.
Finally, don’t forget to fill your infant’s ears with literature even while in the womb. We are a homeschooling family, which means that education doesn’t begin at 5, it begins before birth. Every morning our family reads together chorally. Sigrun and Freydis had the benefit of hearing Treasure Island, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea while in the womb and after birth. Also, singing the ABCs every day and counting out loud prepares them for Kindergarten and Elementary years. It may feel silly, but all this talking and reading out loud is really good for both you and your baby. I found that reading books and stories out loud improved my confidence in hearing my own speech using complicated sentences and words. This is the same benefit to your infant.
These are all methods we used in our household with our infants. I didn’t hit the mark every time, we are not perfect, but we sure do/did our best as parents to little infants! I hope new or expectant Mothers are helped by our experiences.