What am I doing up in the middle of the night? Giving myself a treatment. Normally, I don’t treat myself. I go to an acupuncturist. But, we’re in a new town and I don’t have one yet so, here I am, with a sore throat, writing a blog in the middle of the night as I sit on my couch and wait for the needles to help my body do it’s magic. Note to people who get acupuncture treatments: don’t be like me and mess around with technology during your treatment! Rest!
Anyway, since I had my baby, I hadn’t thought a lot about acupuncture. I’d been on maternity leave and I was focused full-time on mom-stuff. It wasn’t until my baby got a cough around the holidays last year that I began to think about it again.
By Karen Bostock Estepa
Dear Sister In Loss,
You were seeking help for continuous bleeding after your abortion. You called my friend to get an appointment, but she had no room in her schedule that week so she called me. I just reopened my practice after the loss of my own newborn and had some room in my schedule. She asked if I could work with you. I had to think long and hard about that. Could I express compassion and love for someone who chose to have an abortion when my own loss was still so new?
by: Karen Bostock Estepa
The emotions that go along with being a mommy are intense! They may be especially so this morning because I’ve been up since 3 AM and was breastfeeding my growing baby all night before that. It could also be because we have two very special days in our family this month, one of them being the 4th anniversary of Kalis’ birth.
So many thoughts have been running through my head. As my sweet baby’s body curls into mine, I think of what I have and what I can no longer hold.
by: Karen Bostock Estepa
A gut-wrenching, heartbreaking story came up on my Facebook feed the other day. The title said the newborn baby died from starvation (though, more likely, the baby died from dehydration).
The baby was born at a baby-friendly hospital. Which means that the mom was encouraged to breastfeed, she was probably visited in the hospital by someone who had extra breastfeeding education, and the baby was probably not offered a bottle.
By: Karen Bostock, L.Ac.
This series is based on my current reading of They Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine translated by one of my teachers, Dr. Maoshing Ni. Though this book is one of the oldest in Chinese medicine, it is also one of the most important. It is still very relevant today and has lots to share with us about how to live a long and happy life.
Exercise is a hot topic in our society today. Many people have many different ideas about the best ways to exercise. In my opinion, every body is different and has different exercise requirements so there is no one right way. However, the Yellow Emperor does tell us the best time of day to exercise based on the movement of Yang Qi throughout the body.
Yang Qi, put simply, is the energy that gives us warmth, motive force, and protection. Draining that energy though improper actions can lead to fatigue, lowered immune functioning, impaired fertility, and faster aging. Therefore, it is very important to respect the natural course of Yang Qi in the body.
Yang Qi rises in the morning with the sun. It is at its height at noon. Then it moves inward in our bodies with sunset.
The best time to exercise is in the morning with the rising sun. To prevent leakage of Yang Qi when it’s at its height, it is best to be still and quiet around noon – a great time for a siesta. As the Yang Qi moves inward in the evening, it is not as accessible so strenuous exercise is not advisable. You will also want to avoid cold and damp weather during the evening because the protective and warming aspect of Yang Qi is also less accessible. Exposure to cold and damp during this time can weaken the immune system. So, if you do choose to go for a light walk or do some qi gong in the evening, make sure to bundle up!
The Yellow Emperor does make suggestions based on the seasons as well. For example, during the Spring it is advisable to wake early and take a walk. The morning air is invigorating and helps you to connect with the energy of Spring. Stay tuned for more season-specific blogs at each season change.
Now that you know the best time to exercise based on Chinese medical theory, if you’d like to find out how acupuncture can support your exercise regimen, give me a call at (619) 630-0802 or check out www.HealthyExperiences.com.
By: Karen Bostock, L.Ac.
I am currently re-reading the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine translated by one of my teachers, Dr. Maoshing Ni. In the preface he describes what he thinks is the essence of this, one of the oldest and most important classics of Chinese Medicine:
“Health and well-being can be achieved only by remaining centered in spirit, guarding against the squandering of energy, promoting the constant flow of qi and blood, maintaining harmonious balance of yin and yang, adapting to the changing seasonal and yearly macrocosmic influences, and nourishing one’s self preventively. This is the way to a long and happy life.”
With the beginning of Spring, I’d like to share with you some of the ways that this classic suggests you can better adapt to the new season.
Go to bed early
Spring is all about revitalization and new energy. Though it is not as apparent in Southern California, you can see this occur in nature as flowers that have rested through the winter begin to bloom. The best way for a person to gain new vitality is to sleep.
Wake up early and go for a walk
Now that you’ve been revitalized by a little extra sleep, waking up early and going for a walk will refresh you in a new way. The morning air will invigorate you, helping you connect with the energy of Spring, and the walk will move your energy as you move your body.
Exercise and stretch
The energy of Spring corresponds to the muscles, the tendons, and the movement of energy through the body. The best way to do this is to exercise frequently and regularly and to stretch often. (See my blog to find out the best time of day to exercise.)
Wear loose fitting clothing
Staying with the theme of movement, the best way to keep things flowing is to make sure your body is not too confined by wearing loose, comfortable clothing.
Develop mental calm
The energy of Spring corresponds to the emotion of anger. Too much indulgence of anger, frustration, depression, or sadness can lead to disease and dysfunction in the body. (Think of the man with hypertension whose blood pressure rises every time he gets mad. He is at greater risk for heart attack and stroke. This is an example of how emotions and physical disease are related.) Thus, it is very important to develop mental calm and composure, even in times of stress, especially in the Spring.
Spring is all about rebirth and beginning anew. Let go of some of the ways in which you suppress yourself and begin to express yourself in new ways. This may be through art, communication, emotions, or new forms of exercise.
As an acupuncturist, I always strive be more in alignment with a natural way of living. However some of these ideas, as easy as they may sound, do not come naturally to me. Therefore, I plan to do an affirmation every morning to keep these ideas in the forefront of my mind so I can begin working toward an even healthier life:
“This Spring I retire early to revitalize my body, mind, and spirit.
This Spring I arise early and go for a walk to absorb the invigorating energy of the morning.
This Spring I exercise frequently and stretch my body so my energy flows freely.
This Spring I wear loose fitting clothing so I am no longer constricted.
This Spring I develop mental calm and maintain mental evenness, even in times of stress.
This Spring I am more myself and I express myself in new and refreshing ways.
This Spring I am living a happier and healthier life.”
Does your kid never eat or sleep but seems to live off your energy instead? Is your kid out of control, but you don’t have the energy to do anything about it? It may be that your child has Hyperactive Deficiency. In Chinese Medicine this disorder can lead to behavior problems, frequent illnesses, and challenges in maintaining boundaries with a child but, also the necessity to do so - for the sake of healing. The good news is, acupuncture can help your child heal from this disorder and help you get your energy and control back!
What does Hyperactive Deficiency look like?
A child expressing Hyperactive Deficiency usually has lots of energy, frequent illnesses, poor digestion, and doesn’t eat much. He may also resist going to sleep. He is clever and can usually figure out how to get what he wants, even if he has already been told “no”. To him “no” means “maybe”. He may be hypersensitive or nervous but he may also be coy. He may have been a very sick baby that needed lots of attention and may still crave that level of attention, acting out to ensure he gets it.
Meanwhile, his drained parents cave to the child’s demands because they have no energy left to enforce clear boundaries. This could also lead to relationship problems between the parents. If one parent is a primary caregiver and the other is away from the family for several hours during the day, the one who is away more often may not understand why the exhausted primary caregiver submits to the "unreasonable” or “silly” demands of the child.
What to do about it
If you relate to the picture I just drew, you may not like what I’m going to say next, but if you gather your strength and courage, and do your very best as a parent, you will be helping your child, and your family, to heal. The most important thing you can do for your child is to set clear boundaries and enforce them.
You also need to make sure you’re setting boundaries with your own energy. When you lose your temper or bend to the will of the child, you give your energy away. You need to remain calm and grounded. Have you noticed your child gets more energy when you get worked up and meanwhile you’re left depleted and drained? Remaining relaxed will help you save energy and demonstrate to your child what you expect of him.
According to Stephanie K. Glassman, Psy.D., boundaries “begin to form in infancy through family and environmental interactions…We learn about our boundaries by the way we are treated as children, and then we teach others where our boundaries are by the way we let them treat us.” Children with unclear boundaries are more likely to give in to peer pressure or be treated inappropriately by another person. Conversely, children with unclear boundaries are also at risk of becoming the type of adult who lacks respect or takes advantage of others.
How to create boundaries
I cannot tell you how to create boundaries for your kid. First, no one knows your kid better than you. Second, I have never had the opportunity to create boundaries as a parent. My best suggestion: Let your "yes" be "yes" and your "no" be "no". I am very interested in the work of Marcy Axness. Her book, Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers, might be a good resource. I also loved the book Bringing Up Bebe in which an American mother, Pamela Druckerman, learns first-hand the French approach to the raising of children. I appreciated the French concept of giving children extreme freedom within well-defined boundaries.
What will happen next?
The next thing that will happen is that your child will freak out. I don’t want to scare you, but I think you already know this will be the case. Your child is used to thriving on your energy and getting his way. He may be shocked to find he is being asked to create his own energy (from food and sleep) and is no longer in control.
Your child will be more calm and relaxed
Soon, however, he will feel more calm and secure when he knows you are in control, where the boundaries are, and that food does provide the energy he needs. Boundaries set by parents and caregivers are vital to helping a child with Hyperactive Deficiency. Once caregivers are committed to enforcing boundaries, a pediatric acupuncturist can help the child heal from Hyperactive Deficiency. This includes regulating digestion, balancing emotions, and improving sleep.
Caregivers need treatment too
“Treat the mother to treat the child…” is a concept in Chinese Medicine. You can support your child by building your energy as well. If you, or another of your child’s caregivers, feel emotionally or physically depleted (which may show up as exhaustion, irritability, or impatience), acupuncture can help you recover from the exhaustion and overwhelm and find the balance and strength needed to provide boundaries for your child and healing for your family.
The following is a story that many acupuncture parents relate to. It illustrates the struggles they experience in the process of finding the help their children require to heal and be healthy.
A happy, healthy child gets sick
Once upon a time there was a happy, healthy little girl. One day she got very sick. Her doctor ran many tests but didn’t know what was wrong. He gave her some medications to reduce symptoms. The little girl felt better on these medications, but when she didn’t take them, the symptoms came back.
Her parents worried about the medications
Her parents were very worried. A paper came with each medication explaining all the problems it could cause. The parents worried that if they continued to give their little girl these medications, she might get side effects. But they hated to see her feeling as badly as she did without them, and she seemed healthier when she was taking them. They decided to keep giving them to her; however, they continued to worry about whether they were doing the right thing.
The medications came with side-effects
Over time, the little girl developed unusual symptoms. Her scared parents took the little girl back to her doctor, who agreed one of the medications might be causing these new problems. He changed the prescription to a different one with “fewer side effects”.
The cycle begins again
The parents got the prescription and read the side effects associated with the new medication. They realized that this cycle of medications and side effects might keep happening if they continued the way they were going.
A new option
They decided that there must be a different option, something that would help their little girl get better. They found a website about pediatric acupuncture. They’d never heard of that before. They knew that acupuncture had something to do with sticking a bunch of needles in people, but how was that possible for kids?
Acupuncture helps the body heal itself
But the website said that acupuncture helps the body heal itself. That’s what they wanted for their little girl! They longed for her to be happy and healthy and not have to take any more medications. If their little girl’s body could heal itself, then she wouldn’t need the medications anymore.
A better understanding of the child’s health
They called a pediatric acupuncturist to find out if acupuncture could help their little girl. The acupuncturist explained that she would have many questions about the little girl’s health starting from even before she was born. This would help her figure out why the little girl was so sick. She explained that healing takes time, but she would do her best to help the little girl’s body function at its very best.
What the child will experience
The acupuncturist explained that acupuncture treatments for adults and children look very different. She said that children often play on the floor or walk around the room during the treatment. During treatments, she goes with the child’s flow and lets the child guide the treatments so no force or restraint is needed. Her goal is for acupuncture to be a good experience for every child.
Special tools to help children
She said that she uses needles (which she referred to as “taps”) on children, but she also has other tool like the “little fishy” and the “spaceship” that she uses to deliver gentle and fun treatments to babies and children.
Parents can help their child heal
The little girl’s parents prepared her for treatment just as the acupuncturist suggested. The little girl was shy on her first treatment, but by her third treatment she was asking when she was going to come again. The parent’s homework was to help their little girl heal. They were taught to give her special massages, change some of her routines, and even change some of the foods she was eating.
The little girl gets better
The little girl improved, slowly at first. She began to feel a little happier and enjoy playing a little more. Then she started to eat and sleep better. Eventually she was able to recover and return to being a happy and healthy little girl who didn’t need any medications.
I spent the last six months balancing two offices in Banker's Hill, San Diego at the Whole Family Acupuncture Center and in Eastlake, Chula Vista at the Heart to Heart Theraputic Services Center. I'm sorry to say that I turned in my Eastlake keys yesterday. It was unavoidable as the building was being sold.
I will miss the family-friendly atmosphere that Eastlake exudes and the EBA meetings that were fun and business-y all at once. I will miss my little room with the giraffe and monkey picture on the wall and the roadway rug on the floor (perfect for cars, trains, and roaming dinosaurs alike). Most of all, I will miss those people who came to see me and shared a little bit of their lives with me in that room.
I hope you will all visit me in my Banker's Hill office. I do have a miniature table and chairs in that office as well (beautiful dark wood rather than white, pink, and blue) and I also have plenty of couches and a nice big table for resting on during acupuncture treatments. It's a little different, not quite as "pediatric", but I think you and your family will be comfortable there.
I look forward to seeing you all soon.
Goodbye Eastlake, I'll miss you!
I attended a school board meeting this month during which they voted to support SB 277. A group of us went to speak on why they should not support this bill.
One of the women in my group asked me if I had any kids. I told her about Kalis (kah-Lease). I told her about our beautiful home birth and how Kalis was perfectly healthy during my pregnancy, but that her body couldn’t manage on it’s own because she had no kidneys. I told her how Kalis had a purpose and how she’d fulfilled that purpose before she left. This woman was amazed that I could think about the loss of my daughter in such a positive way.
I can do this because I made conscious choices for my little girl. My husband and I educated ourselves on, and believed in, every medical choice we made. The outcome was not what we wanted, but I believe that I made the right choices for her and that gives me peace.
That is what I want for every mom who brings her child into my office to see me. I want her to be confident and at peace with the health choices she makes for her little ones.
What I have learned from my own experience is that the death, injury, or illness of a child is not truly devastating. We live it, we grow through it, and somehow we come out better on the other end.
I believe that what is truly devastating is the illness, injury, or death of a child as a result of medical interventions that were performed from a space of fear, ignorance, or force. Every mom I have seen who has had birth interventions or medical interventions for their child that they did not believe was right, or they felt forced into, carries a guilt and sorrow that is truly devastating. This occurs even when the outcome is good.
One of the most important things parents can do for their children is to make educated and conscious decisions about their medical care. SB 277 takes the right of parents and pediatricians to make medical choices based on what a particular child needs and gives that honor to politicians and government. That is why I, as a pediatric acupuncturist, oppose SB 277.
Kalis would have been 21 months old today. I am still grateful for every medical decision I made for her. I am thankful for the peace I have. I pray that you can say the same for your children. I pray that you maintain your right to that kind of peace.