Saturday, May 20, 2017

Birth Story for Our Newest!


This blog is semi-officially closed, but I do stop by to post our birth stories! Here is the story of our fifth homebirth from March. 


Hello, dear readers!

I have been extremely lazy with writing my birth story. Usually I'm starting the process within 48 hours, but here we are: Baby is three months old, and no birth story. While I'm purposely trying to neglect my blog at the moment, I also know that I need to write down my story or risk forgetting precious details.

And so, here goes:

This pregnancy was challenging. While it was non-hyperemetic, it wasn't as smooth as our last pregnancy. I threw up a lot more, was super-nauseated through the whole thing, and had a very difficult third trimester in terms of mobility and back/pelvic pain.

As I neared the second half of this pregnancy, I also dealt with a recurring problem - a deep fear of childbirth. This is not new - I have written about it before. This time around, I even named it my "EGAD!" phase (Extremely Grumpy About Delivery).

I ended up praying two specific prayers:

One, for the grace, courage, and strength to face this birth and the postpartum period.

Two, for joy in the journey. That I would approach our birth time not with fear and dread, but with joy and anticipation.

Both my prayers were most joyfully answered. This time through, I was finally able to await the arrival of our sweet little one much more peacefully and joyfully, and without the same high level of fear. It wasn't perfect, but it was a huge improvement.

Our due date for this little one was March 13th.

Thus, I wasn't quite prepared for a February entrance. But that's what happened!

Here is the story - not of the birth day, but of the birth week. This baby chose a rather meandering route for his entrance.

As our 37th week dawned, we felt very status quo. Several more weeks to go, etc. etc. etc. Same ol', same ol'.

But on Monday, February 20th (37w1d), I woke up with an upset stomach. Usually, this is my first labor-is-coming-in-the-next-day-or-two sign.

Really?

I wasn't sure whether to take it seriously. I'm still not sure if that was a coincidence or not.

But that night, going into Tuesday, February 21st (37w2d), I woke up unexpectedly at 4:00 a.m. with strong false labor that lasted for two and a half hours. (Ouch!) Very suddenly, everything had changed.

(False labor is labor contractions that feel every bit as painful and regular as the real thing, but - while having a purpose - do not effect any cervical dilation or lead directly into actual labor.)

That morning, I could tell that my body had really changed. My uterus had gone from "generally well-behaved" to "irritable, cranky, and painful." Whether labor was on its way soon, or not for weeks more, we were definitely moving quickly into the last stages.

That night, leading into Wednesday, February 22nd (37w3d), false labor began as soon as I laid down and lasted for another three hours before stopping and finally letting me go to sleep. (Ouch again!)

I was getting a bit tired. It's hard to live constantly on edge, forever thinking, "Is THIS it? Or is this it NOW?"

But we soldiered on.

The next night, leading into Thursday, February 23rd (37w4d), I went to bed dreading the inevitable hours of painful false labor. To my surprise, there was none! Not one contraction! (YAY!)

But when I woke up in the morning, I found that I had blood-tinged cervical fluid (sorry to be so graphic, folks). This has always been my "Labor is coming TODAY" pre-labor symptom. This really brought things into clearer focus. We were not weeks, or even days out - this baby was coming, and likely that day.

But the day waxed and waned with no baby, and no labor outside of occasional painful contractions that never became regular.

Going to bed that night, I had no idea what to expect. But labor-or-false-labor contractions started right away - thirteen minutes after I laid down - and kept right on going until 6:30 in the morning. I then finally fell asleep - and woke up twenty-six minutes later! Time to start a new day! (*Sigh*)

That day was rather odd. I could tell that we were right on the brink of labor. At the slightest provocation, my uterus would start another painful contraction. But... it wasn't labor. Not yet. And life continued on. Again.

After lunch, I sat down to nurse our two-year-old prior to nap time. And immediately, contractions started coming hard and heavy. (I think the two-year-old was rather puzzled by being flung away while mummy shouted, "Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!") And from there, the contractions didn't stop. I tried to nap, and couldn't, and so ended up timing my contractions for an hour (10 minutes apart) before texting our midwife.

One thing I am learning of late is to accept my husband's suggestions, rather than immediately brushing them off in the approved "His opinion is automatically wrong, and my opinion is automatically right" mode. Thus, when my husband suggested calling in our birth team at around 4:00 p.m., I went with it and agreed (instead of doing my usual "Oh, I'm sure we don't need anyone yet!" bit).

The first assistant midwife arrived at 4:30 p.m., and she immediately began unpacking our birth supplies and preparing our room. Our midwife arrived at 5:00 p.m., and the second assistant midwife arrived shortly thereafter.

During this labor, I took a big (for me) step - I asked my birth team for time to labor alone. This is not normally something I'd have the guts to do, because it sounds so rude: "Go away and leave me alone!" But during our last labor, I discovered that I like to labor by myself, and during this labor I got up the nerve to ask for that. Of course, our wonderful midwives graciously arranged for me to be alone, with our midwife simply coming in every few minutes to listen to baby's heart tones. It was a lovely experience, and I greatly appreciated their willingness to go along with it.

And now, I will tell you something that has been super-exciting: I have found something that helps me handle labor!

This is just so exciting, amazing, and earth-shattering. Seriously.

I normally do not handle labor well at all. I do not "work with it," or learn to handle contractions well. I panic, tighten up, and end up moaning or screaming through contractions because of the pain.

Some people label vocalizing as a "labor-management technique." No. Just... no. One does not look at a man being stabbed to death, and say: "Goodness, listen to that screaming! He sure is dealing with the pain well!" No. It's simply a reaction to pain, and that is how I have reacted to labor pain, being completely unable to cope in a constructive way.

During this pregnancy, however, I randomly borrowed a book from my midwife's lending library: The Labor Progress Handbook by Penny Simkin. I was really just looking to brush up on my labor and birth terminology - now that I am not an active birth blogger, I have found myself slipping in remembering a lot of the basic terms.

But - and this was really a God thing - I found what I needed for this birth (when I wasn't even looking for it).

What I found was a simple description of breathing techniques for labor - "slow breathing" method for early labor and a "fast breathing" method for later, more intense labor. I copied the information and practiced the breathing at night for a couple of weeks.

And... it worked.

I used both techniques: the slow breathing technique for all of the nights of false labor, plus early "real" labor, and the fast breathing technique for late labor and transition.

It was incredibly helpful. I was able both to manage the pain and distract myself from the pain. And, incredibly, I was able to avoid any type of vocalization. For me, this was a good thing. As I've said, vocalizing does not help me with the pain at all. I also find it highly embarrassing. But I haven't been able to help it, despite my best efforts, so I've just had to go with it. But during this labor, I didn't have to resort to vocalizing once - except during pushing, when it would truly take a miracle from Heaven to avoid. But aside from that, I was able to have a quieter and much more peaceful labor.

I personalized the fast and slow breathing techniques by adding a beginning (when I feel a contraction starting) and closing (when the contraction is mostly over) "cleansing breath," taken from Lamaze technique. (I can't believe I'm finally getting around to this eleven years after I watched that old Lamaze video).

All of this makes me think that we moderns may be doing Lamaze birth methods a disservice. Such older birth methods have been, in recent years, completely discarded. Nowadays, the only reason one hears of Lamaze is as the object of a childbirth joke. And instead of the scripted breathing methods prescribed by Lamaze and others in previous years, one is much more likely to hear something like "focus on your breathing."

For women like myself, however, I can say that "focus on your breathing" is nothing short of absurd. To return to our man being stabbed to death, someone standing by and shouting "Focus on your breathing!" would be... worse than useless. It really doesn't mean anything, and it doesn't give any concrete help during labor either to women who struggle with fear and panic at the onset of hard contractions, and I'm guessing it's not really that helpful to most women.

For myself, being given a basic prescription on exactly HOW to breathe was incredibly helpful. It was night-and-day difference in being able to deal with contraction pain, and it is definitely a part of my labor plan going forward.

(I should note that my own mother is a huge proponent of traditional Lamaze, and defends it vigorously against the barbs of modern-day dismissal of the method. She used it for 20 hours of unmedicated labor herself when I was being born.)

And to clarify, the methods described from the book were not Lamaze themselves, but being that they were a prescribed breathing method (rather than a generalized "focus on your breath"), I am likening them to the more prescriptive methods of breathing such as Lamaze.

The one caveat is that I felt that this labor was - at least possibly - easier than my others. I don't know if I could have handled a harder labor completely with this method. However, in the end, childbirth is childbirth is childbirth. It's hard, and it hurts. And I'm so happy with how it turned out using the above method.

And now, to return to our story:

I labored in bed for some time, with our midwives camped out in the living room. At some point I decided to move into the tub, so I got up and ran a bath and hopped in. The lovely thing about getting into a warm bath is that it nearly always gives one a brief break in contractions, and I enjoyed that very much.

At some point, I remember thinking of praying that baby would be out soon, as I did not want to labor through another night. The lazy part of me then thought, "No! That would mean more pain!" So, after debating the matter for some time, I ended up praying that baby would come easily, rather than sooner or later. (The lazy part of me won.)

Note: During this birth I finally got around to using the "miracle birth red raspberry tea" drink. Hard to drink during labor, but I can't argue - I definitely had an easier labor. (I had also used red raspberry tea during the last month of pregnancy.)

My husband came in a bit later and said that he thought our midwives should probably come in. I agreed completely, so he summoned them and they tiptoed in quietly and sat out of sight in the bedroom.

A short time later, I called to them and told them that I thought they should come in. I was starting to feel some pelvic pressure - which is worse than contractions, oddly enough - and probably had a feeling that things were getting close.

The midwives came in, and a short time later (just a few minutes, I believe), I said suddenly, "I think someone should get my husband." One of the assistant midwives ran to get him, and as he ran to come into the room - about ten seconds later (or less) - I was slammed by my first (and only? not sure) pushing contraction.

Things got little bit crazy. My husband didn't have time to take his sweatshirt off, or even push up his sleeves, so he got soaking wet jumping over to catch the baby. At the same time, he was asking the midwives to grab his phone from his pocket so that we could catch some photos before it was too late.

Of course, I didn't notice any of that, being a bit preoccupied.

However, an odd thing did happen, which was rather neat:

I am not a fan of pushing. If you ever see me protesting something, I'll probably be marching along with a sign that says "American Moms Against Second-Stage Labor." I am simply not a fan.

But this time, as soon as the pushing contraction hit, I made an instant and utterly unpremeditated decision - that I was not going to put up with this. Since the only way out was through, I was going to push with every ounce of strength that I had, as hard as I could, until this baby was out. And I did. I did not stop pushing in between contractions, and I didn't care if I tore "from nave to chops." This baby was coming OUT. And NOW.

And baby did!

We checked immediately, and found to our surprise that baby was a BOY! Somehow, we'd both assumed that since we'd had one girl, we'd start having more girls. But nope - the count is now four-to-one, in favor of Team Boy.

We had picked our boy name - at last! - only 24 hours earlier, so baby immediately had his name.

We got all cleaned up, got all exams done, and had our birth team home in time for bed.

While childbirth is always a challenge, this was our best birth yet.

We would like to thank our wonderful team of midwives who, as always, provided a safe, happy, respectful, and joyful entrance for our newest!

Baby Oliver
Born February 24th @ 6:28 p.m.
Six hours active labor
8 lbs. 4 oz.


We don't have any pictures from the labor (okay, a few, but they're not showable!), so here are all the post-birth shots:














Have a wonderful summer, dear readers!


Saturday, January 23, 2016

How I Prepare for Pregnancy


In our modern culture of fast food and instant health care, we have a lot of advantages. But we also have a lot of disadvantages. Namely, we're not living as we should, food-wise and lifestyle-wise, and our health suffers.

One of the areas in which we have floundered (badly!) is the area of pre-conception nutritional preparation for the childbearing years.

In traditional societies, couples about to be married often went through a time of preparation, eating specific cultural super-foods in order to nourish and build up the body preparatory to marriage and subsequent pregnancies. And in many traditional societies, it was customary to give women of childbearing age extra-nourishing foods - such as raw organ meats, which are a super-food all by themselves.

However, those days are - alas! - far gone in America. If you go to a doctor today and tell him that you are about to be married and ask what you should do to prepare for possible pregnancy, you will get the same answer in virtually every doctor's office - "Oh, um, take a prenatal vitamin." *

That's it.

And that, my friends, is not good enough.

Pregnancy and childbirth are an incredibly stressful time for a woman's body. A pregnant woman is growing an entirely new body for the little soul she is nurturing! While a prenatal vitamin might be a good start, it's not going to cut it for helping a woman through the incredible stresses of pregnancy, especially repeat pregnancies, especially repeat difficult pregnancies. **

Additionally, for those of us who experience extremely difficult pregnancies due to strong NVP or hyperemesis, pre-conception nutrition is our only shot at giving baby a good start - because once pregnancy begins, good nutrition has to go out the window in favor of survival.


This is where I start inserting random pictures into this post in order to get more clicks.
Sorry, folks, you'll have to live through it. 

There are several other factors to consider as well:

(1) Our bodies in the modern world are being blasted with additional stressors in the form of pesticides, altered DNA sequences through GMO foods, artificial hormones in meat and dairy, artificially altered fatty acid profiles of the animal fats we consume (through poor feeding practices), and industrial toxins through environmental contamination - to name a few.

(2) Most of us have long-term damage in the form of impaired insulin regulation from the unhealthy carb overload we've experienced in this country since the bad diet advice of the mid-1900's (fat is bad! eat more sugar!) became virtually institutionalized and culturally normed. Many of us are dealing with systemic inflammation, chronic disease, and other issues stemming from that same diet (high sugar with loads of pro-inflammatory vegetable oils and a deficiency of healthy fats) that most of us were raised with.

(3) Most modern foods are less nutritious than they were a hundred years ago due to soil-depleting farming practices. So even if we eat healthy foods like broccoli, that broccoli does not have the same level of micro-nutrients that broccoli had in the early 1900's. That's a problem.

(4) The modern American diet has canceled out lots of super-foods that previous generations relished, making us even unhealthier than we were before. Examples: bone broth, lacto-fermented foods, organ meats, meat with skin, gelatin, seaweed.

Thus, if you're about to be married (or are already married!) and want to be open to God's gift of children.... Sister, you've got some work to do if you want to be ready. 

Those of us who have experienced hyperemesis gravidarum - or other hardcore pregnancy problems - know how incredibly taxing pregnancy can be when our bodies are maxed out and suffering under terrible duress. In those cases, preconception preparation is even more important.




With that in mind, I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you about what I am doing for preconception preparation for pregnancy. Unfortunately, I have no guarantees of what will or will not work to prevent recurrent HG. All I can do is read, research, apply what I've learned, and pray for the best outcome possible.

My pre-conception protocol focuses on the following areas:

  1. Overall macronutrient ratios
  2. Nutritional super-foods
  3. Probiotic foods
  4. Supplements

I will update my official pre-conception pregnancy protocol next month, and that post always includes detail-work like brands and places to purchase. But for now, here's an easy and conversational description of the different things that I'm doing to prepare my body for possible pregnancy.

* We've all heard about the magnesium/morning sickness connection. Magnesium is my friend! I take an oral supplement, plus an occasional glass of Natural Calm. I also use a magnesium oil spray. Additionally, I schedule a weekly Epsom salts bath - but that almost never happens (being that it requires half an hour of uninterrupted free time - HA).

* One of the most important factors of my preparation is working on gut health through the use of lacto-fermented foods. Lacto-fermented foods can also be termed probiotic foods, being that they are fermented foods that are teeming with friendly bacteria and/or yeasts. Adding these foods to my diet made a huge improvement in how I feel! Unfortunately, these foods have been all but eliminated from the American diet. And if you buy the modern forms of such foods, like the "pickles" and "sauerkraut" from the store, they are neither lactofermented nor probiotic, and are useless from a health standpoint. The lacto-fermented foods that I include in my repertoire are raw pickles, raw sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, and yogurt.



* Another item on my list is focusing on super-healthy fats in my diet. This means nixing fake fats (margarine and synthetic shortening), minimizing unhealthy industrial seed oils (cottonseed, corn, canola, soy/vegetable) and using lots of saturated animal fats (from meat and butter), coconut oil and coconut milk, and nuts and avocados. I also take a fish oil supplement in liquid form.

* One thing I'm really bad about is drinking enough water. My normal habit is to forget to drink anything all day, and then realize sometime mid-evening that I am burning with thirst. When I took a day to measure how much water I was drinking, I found that it was less than half the recommended amount for my current weight! Yikes! So now I strive to drink more water (I've only made it to the recommended amount once). I also add lemon juice to my water, which is liver-cleansing and alkaline as well. Most people recommend adding apple cider vinegar to water, which I would do except for the fact that I loathe the taste. But if you can make it work, it's a good option.

* My favorite brand of dessicated liver is Radiant Life. But it's quite pricey, and so I came up with a cheaper alternative - namely, eating raw liver! Yes, really. (Stop gagging, it's not that bad. Really.) I cut up raw, organic, grass-fed liver and freeze it in pieces, then thaw one each day, cut it up with kitchen sheers, and swallow it whole (like a pill, with water). I'm really excited about this, and I can feel how good it makes me feel. Right now, as I'm out of liver, I'm feeling the stress! I can't wait to buy more.
In case you should be crazy enough to try this, do not, under any circumstances, attempt to swallow a piece of frozen liver. Don't ask me how I know, but I can tell you that I'm surprised I survived the experience. Let it thaw first. 

* A few months ago, while reading (on nutrition, what else?) I discovered that Brazil nuts are high in selenium - so high, in fact, that eating two Brazil nuts a day is the same as taking a selenium supplement. Okay, why not? Americans are deficient in selenium (surprise!), and it's an essential micronutrient. Nuts are also a great source of other micronutrients, so it's a win-win scenario.



* Also a month or two back, I read about the health benefits of blackstrap molassesWhile the carbs may not jive with a very-low-carb diet, I justify it by the mineral content awesomeness. Hey, and it's super-yummy, especially when you're sugar-deprived.

* One of my favorite health books is The Wahl Protocol. The author, Dr. Wahl, recommends eating the following amounts of vegetables daily: 3 cups of greens, 3 cups of sulfur vegetables (that is, onions and cruciferous vegetables), and 3 cups of dark-colored vegetables. While I never reach those levels of awesomeness, that is my goal, and I'm working toward it. When I remember it (which is almost never) I try to make spinach and coconut milk smoothies to get in extra raw greens.

* I do my best to use bone broth often, and I also add gelatin to any hot liquids I'm drinking. Bone broth is incredibly healthful, and it's so easy to make. Just put a chicken carcass (after you've baked it and eaten the meat) into the crockpot with water, peppercorns, and some carrot-celery-onion (I keep a container in the freezer for leftover bits of those vegetables so that they're always available and never wasted). Then cook for 24-48 hours, cool, strain, and freeze! Our only problem is that we go through it too quickly!



* I'm trying to add dried seaweed to our diet, also per the Wahl Protocol. This one's been trickier, but I'm working on it. On my to-do list is nutritional yeast, another nutritional powerhouse.

* I continue trucking on with the Very Low Carb Diet. Am I enthusiastic about this? No. Do I think it's the way everyone should eat long-term? No. I believe that all three macronutrients are healthy and needed (at least for most people) in a healthy long-term diet. Additionally, this diet requires strict discipline and self-denial, neither of which is practical for a long-term dietary strategy. (That and it's pretty boring.) But the fact remains that, to the best of my knowledge, this diet worked to prevent hyperemesis gravidarum. No other diet has that same guarantee. And so I continue onward.

(My current goal is to maintain this diet until menopause, and then transition to something along the lines of Trim Healthy Mama. Which actually allows decent desserts. YUM.)



* I also take a number of supplements:

  • Turmeric (anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial)
  • Vitamin B complex
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Multi-vitamin
  • Zinc

* I also spend time reading (and reading, and reading) on the subject of nutrition. Every book teaches me more! And every book helps me to make more connections. While almost none of the books I read talks directly about morning sickness, I am starting to understand the human body and the underlying causative factors of chronic illness. I highly recommend that any mama interested in health or NVP-prevention start investing time and energy in reading health-related books. (See my growing list here.)

* I have a whole different list of supplements that I take during the last trimester of pregnancy to prepare for birth and postpartum, but I won't go into that here. See my supplement list for that information.

* There's also work of a practical nature that I do to prepare for pregnancy:

  • Scripture memorization - Pregnancy is frightening for post-HG mamas. Having Scripture readily available to meditate on is very helpful. 
  • Decluttering - Stuff = a nightmare mess, especially when one is too sick to do anything about it. Fewer toys = much better. 
  • Training of children - Pregnancy is my litmus test of how well I'm disciplining the children, because usually I'm too tired to enforce much of anything during pregnancy. I need to take advantage of between-pregnancy times to make sure I teach and train as well as possible. 
  • Exercise - Another one where I'm pretty bad on consistency. Lately I've been getting back into more barre exercises, which has been lovely, so that's a better bet for me than straight "exercise for exercise's sake."

As you can see, this is a lot of work! And there's really so much more to be done.

But the question really comes down to this... Does it work? Yes, it sounds nice on paper. But does it make a difference?

Yes, it does. A huge, amazing difference.

I have been through pregnancy (full-term, that is) four times. As I've gradually incorporated these supplements and dietary choies, my pregnancies have gotten easier. My last pregnancy was even non-hyperemetic and drug-free. Things like afterpains - which are supposed to worsen with each pregnancy - have become more and more manageable. My births have gotten better (less bleeding, less time with afterpains, shorter recovery times), my postpartum times have gotten easier, everything has improved.

There are no guarantees, of course. And I cannot make any promises for the future. I could have a very difficult next pregnancy (though I pray not). But I have come to see that prenatal and pregnancy nutrition is absolutely vital to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum outcomes.

Additionally, whether or not a supplement and lifestyle regimen "works" to achieve a certain goal (such as avoiding hyperemesis), it cannot but be helpful to build up a body's strength, health, and nutrient stores before undergoing the rigors and stresses of pregnancy. A woman's body will have better outcomes for herself and her babies when her body is well-prepared.

If you're working on your preconception or prenatal nutrition, I would love to hear what you have learned! Please tell me in the comments!

(Really. I mean it. Leave me a comment, and make my day.)


* A similar situation faces already pregnant women in America. In virtually every doctor's office there will be absolutely zero dietary advice given to pregnant mamas (and what is given won't be very good). The only time a pregnant woman receives dietary advice in the American obstetrical system is when she is (1) gaining weight faster than her doctor likes, or (2) tests positive for gestational diabetes. But in virtually all other cases, she will be told, "Oh, don't worry about it. The baby will get what it needs from your body." Again, not good enough. In cases of severe NVP, a pregnant mama can do nothing about her diet, and she doesn't need the stress of being told "You need to eat for your baby!" But in cases where a mama has the ability to eat, there are definite pregnancy super-foods that can be a huge blessing to her body and her baby's developing body.

** One thought that came to mind while researching this subject was that the cavalier nature with which the modern medical establishment treats pre-conception and prenatal nutrition may stem partly from the smaller size of modern families. In past ages, when childbearing and breastfeeding were often constant throughout the fertile years, consequences were far more drastic when a mother neglected nutrition - for example, the old country saying that a woman would "gain a child, lose a tooth." This might be furthering the negative trend of neglecting pre-conception and prenatal health.


Sharing at Modest Monday Link-up!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pregnancy Preparation Plan (New and Improved!)


(Latest Update: February  2015)


Introductory Comments


It's that time of year, folks! The time when I go through my supplement and diet plan and revise for the coming year. And... here it is! Version 2015, at your service.

This year, I have done several new things:
  • I have greatly pared down the information to avoid redundancy.
  • I have changed the formatting for easier access.
  • I have included a whole new sourcing section for ease of reference and planning. 

The question arises - am I doing all of the things on this plan?

Short answer, no. 

Firstly, this is a work in progress. I'm getting there, folks, but it's a long time in the making. Secondly, there is the small matter of finances. I simply am not able to make all of this work financially right now. (Working on it!) 

I'd say that right now I am maybe, maybe achieving a quarter of the items on the plan. On a good day, if I exaggerate. My goal is to work up to somewhere like 75%. Hopefully that will be possible with time, planning, and work. Right now I'm taking a few supplements, but doing all the supplements isn't possible - and organic, free-range, etc. is completely out of the question. Hopefully some time.

Two things have become extremely apparent to me:

(1) Diet and supplements can have a hugely positive effect on morning sickness and other pregnancy issues, and...

(2) It is extremely important for women to pay careful attention to their health during their childbearing years. (It's always important, of course, but during the childbearing years the negative consequences of neglecting one's health can be particularly dire.)

Thus, I do take my diet and supplement regimen extremely seriously, and I put lots of energy, effort, and time into both developing my regimen and putting it into place. It's a work in progress, but I hope to make consistent progress. 

I'd love to hear any input - and also to see your supplement and diet plans, so do let me know what you're doing!



* sourcing information provided below



PRE-CONCEPTION PLAN


Diet

Very Low Carb (VLC) at 3 months postpartum

Clean (no additives)

Avoid industrial seed oils (cottonseed, soy, etc.) and fake fats (hydrogenated oils, margarine)

Lacto-fermented foods - preferably with each meal

          Kefir* (one-quarter to one-half cup daily)
          Kombucha*
          Yogurt* (small amounts daily)
          Raw sauerkraut*
          Raw pickles*

High in good fats

          Saturated animal fats (free-range organic grass-fed preferred)
          Avocado
          Coconut oil* (2-4 Tbsp. per day)
          Olive oil
          Butter* (2+ Tbsp. per day, preferably grass-fed)

Lemon water (for alkalinity and liver cleansing)

Bone broth (2 cups per day)

Eggs (3-4 per day, preferably organic and free-range)

Some form of healthy meat at each meal

Coconut based snacks like coconut cream*

Unrefined sea salt* (pink or grey)


Supplements*

I am no longer taking vitamin D, as this is provided by fermented cod liver oil

Multi-vitamin (Super Mom* or other) - Since I'm taking fermented cod liver oil and dessicated liver, I believe that the multi is less important. It may go on my optional list.

Fermented Cod Liver Oil * (Preferred dose = 10 mL per day, to provide 1000 mg DHA daily)

Alpha Lipoic Acid (600 mg/daily)

Vitamin B complex*

Probiotics

        Pill form*
        Lacto-fermented foods (see above list under diet)

Dessicated Liver Pills* - For iron and micronutrients

Magnesium

        Oral supplement - Natural Calm or Doctor's Best Chelated Magnesium (or other options)
        Epsom Salts baths* - minimum once per week
        Magnesium oil* or Magnesium Lotion*
        Magnesium water*

Zinc*


********************


Other:

Finances Permitting (both of these decrease inflammation; turmeric is also anti-microbial)

        Resveratrol (100 mg twice daily)
        Turmeric (350 mg twice daily)

Occasional

        Kelp - occasionally for iodine
        Yearly Liver Cleanse (dates done: May 2011, May 2012)

See my list of pregnancy supplements for other pregnancy-specific supplements (most are third-trimester birth and postpartum prep supplements).


Lifestyle

Exercise - Especially weight bearing exercises, since muscle mass helps with insulin/glucose metabolism.

Sunlight - As much as possible. (I'm terrible about this.)

Sleep - Minimum of eight hours per night.

Self Care - Keeping my house clean so that I'm not a stress-case about it. Doing things I enjoy occasionally. Staying off of the computer. Going for walks. Keeping up with my devotions and Bible study. All of the things that keep me sane, balanced, and emotionally healthy.


Healthcare

Find a naturopath. (I have several recommendations, plus the local naturopathic college.)

Contact acupuncturist. (Done! They recommend starting pre-conception. This will also be a matter of finances.)


Spiritual

Bible verse memorization - I find that having Scripture verses to recite during stressful or panicky times is truly a lifeline, and it's one that I want to develop more fruitfully.

Regular prayer and Bible study


Personal and Practical

Make the most of the time! I find that the thought of future pregnancies helps me to treasure my time, and encourages me to use my time wisely - to take every advantage of time with my children, to train my children as much as possible in character and practical skills, etc.

Work on organizational projects as much as possible.

Read as widely and deeply as possible on the topic of health. (See my ever-growing booklist here.)


********************************************************



POST-CONCEPTION 

Diet

       Strict VLC (very low carb)
       Constant snacking - every hour at least
       Lemon/ACV water - lots of it.


Supplements

       Add more Epsom salts baths (daily)
       Add digestive enzymes
       Consider Protandim (this might also be a good pre-conception supplement)


Healthcare

       Start Vitamin B/Magnesium/Folate shots at naturopathic college
       Contact acupuncturist to let her know in advance


Spiritual

        Pray!


Personal and Practical

        Buy paper supplies (plates, bowls, utensils)
        Easy kid snacks - gold fish, healthy bars, raisins, juice boxes, cheese sticks, dry cereals



***********************************************************

* Sourcing Information:

Kefir
Kefir is easy to make. Just buy grains or get some from a kefir-making friend, and follow easy directions for culturing plain milk. I unfortunately have not had good luck with it, so I buy plain, full-fat Lifeway kefir from Sprouts.        

Kombucha
Kombucha can be purchased, but it's so easy to make! My directions here. The longer you culture, the lower the sugar content.        

Yogurt
Full-fat plain yogurt is also easy to find, but it's pricey. I make a gallon a time in a crockpot. My updated directions here.

Raw sauerkraut
The sauerkraut you buy in the supermarket is not real sauerkraut. It is heat-treated for sterility and not useful from a probiotic standpoint. Look for the words "raw" on the label. Raw sauerkraut is available at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and most health food grocery stores. I buy raw Bubbies sauerkraut from Azure Standard.      

Raw pickles
The pickles you buy in the supermarket are not real pickles. They are heat-treated and not useful from a probiotic standpoint, and if you're buying typical brand-name pickles, they are also loaded with toxic dyes, additives, and aluminum compounds. (For non-toxic regular pickles [non-probiotic], buy at Sprouts, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe's.) For probiotic pickles, look for the words "raw" on the label. Raw pickles are available at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and most health food grocery stores. I buy raw Bubbies dill pickles from Azure Standard.      

Coconut Oil
I buy Wilderness Naturals from Azure Standard or the coconut oil now available at Sam's Club. Coconut oil is also available online from Tropical Traditions.

Butter
The butter I hear most often recommended (organic and grass-fed) is Kerrygold, now available at Costco. I buy the slightly cheaper Rumiano's from Azure Standard.

Coconut Cream
I buy Artisana Coconut Cream from Azure Standard. Coconut cream is available online from Tropical Traditions.

Unrefined Sea Salt (Pink or Grey)
Pink sea salt is available very inexpensively in the bulk bins at Sprouts. Other types (purchased in smaller individual packages) at Sprouts or Whole Foods will be much more expensive.

Supplements
Online, I buy supplements from Amazon.com and Azure Standard (available only in areas to which Azure Standard delivers). I buy herbs locally from Desert Sage Herbs. I buy supplements locally at Sprouts Market, Trader Joe's, and the medicinary at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona.

Supermom Vitamins
The most inexpensive way to purchase that we found was to buy a three-month supply through Amazon. This is not currently available, but we hope it comes back soon! It's much more expensive through the product website.

Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil by Green Pasture. I purchase through Azure Standard.

Vitamin B Complex
See Rachel's recommendations (in general and for specific brand).

Probiotics (Pill Form)
See Rachel's recommendations.

Dessicated Liver Pills
My favorite brand is Radiant Life Dessicated Liver. Because of cost, I currently use a cheaper brand, Solgar, purchased at Nature's Health in Chandler, AZ.

Epsom Salts
Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate) are available in any pharmacy store (Walgreen's, CVS, etc.) or in the cosmetic/pharmaceutical area of any Walmart or Target. It can get quite pricey - most two pound bags run around $6 each, and you use two cups per bath. The best price I have found is the 50 lb. bag for around $45 from Azure standard. 

Magnesium Oil
Make your own or purchase ready-made. 

Magnesium Lotion
Make your own

Magnesium Water
Make your own

***


Now it's your turn, dear readers! What supplements and/or dietary changes are you using to prepare for possible pregnancy and to improve or prevent pregnancy health conditions?


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hanging Out in Labor and Delivery (And Loving It!)


This past summer, I began a project for the sheer joy of it - touring labor and delivery suites (a.k.a. hospital birth centers, a.k.a. maternity wards) at several Phoenix valley hospitals and making detailed notes of those visits for the purpose of comparing the different options for maternity care within the valley.

Though I am a dedicated homebirther, I love spending time in hospital birthing areas, and this project was a lot of fun for me. I loved getting to hear what tour guides had to say about their hospitals, and it was very interesting to compare the different locations.

In the beginning, my intent was to write a detailed summary of each hospital and then to write a comparison. However, I changed my mind on that and have decided simply to write one summary report of what I learned (see below!).

For this project, I visited three hospitals. I would like to have visited more, but making the time and arrangements to visit three was quite a challenge in itself. Perhaps I'll have the opportunity to visit more in the future.

I will not refer to the three hospitals by name. Although one of the hospitals was pretty much perfect, my thoughts about the other two hospitals did include some criticisms as well as praises, and thus I have decided to keep the names of all three hospitals anonymous.

The reasons for this are several, but primarily, hospital experiences are highly individual. One mother may have a wonderful experience, and another a horrible experience, at the same hospital - because doctors, nursing staff, and unavoidable circumstances may contribute toward very different experiences.

Additionally, hospital tour guides are, it seems, very strictly instructed in what to say (and probably what not to say!). Thus, a hospital tour may or may not be representative of the true experience that a mother or family will have at the time of birth - for better or for worse.

For the record:

- The personnel type giving the tours varied from hospital to hospital. At one hospital, our tour was given by an actual labor and delivery nurse. At another, it was a hospital aide and translator who gave the tour.

- Tours all took place in the latter half of 2014.

- All quotes are paraphrases. I made detailed notes directly after each tour so that my summary would be accurate, so all details should be accurate - quotes, however, are reconstructed paraphrases rather than word-for-word quotations.

- I have a strong preference for Catholic hospitals. I do not want to give birth (or even be) in a hospital that performs abortions, and I like being in a place that (basically) shares my life ethics.

- In my notes, I did not take into consideration various high-risk abilities, such as Level III NICU, etc. In an emergency or a severely high-risk situation, the mother and baby need be where they can get needed care. Period, end of sentence, etc. As my midwife told me, "In an emergency, it doesn't have to be pretty." My notes were simply for the normal birthing family who is looking for a hospital in which to have a non-high-risk birth.


All that being said, here are some of the observations that I gleaned from my experiences touring local hospital labor and delivery departments!


Hospitals Tend to Brag About the Wrong Things

I noticed very quickly that hospitals tend to advertise various amenities that they believe will appeal to birthing families (and which probably will). For example:

  • Free WiFi
  • Movie channels
  • Room service

However, all of those things are absolutely irrelevant to the love, respect, and quality of care that a family will receive during their labor, birth, and postpartum. 

I would much rather hear things like:

  • We offer a wide variety of labor tools (birth balls, peanut balls, birth stools, whatever!) and a nursing staff that is trained to help you use them.
  • We would love to see your birth plan and want to help you achieve your goals.
  • We respect decisions that you make for their newborns without trying to pressure you into hospital protocols. 

And I did hear some of that (especially at one hospital in particular), but on the whole, I think hospitals brag about the wrong things. And perhaps we parents are looking for the wrong things.

On another note, I noticed that hospitals also brag about high-tech things ("machines that go beep"). For example:

  • We have full-service monitoring technology that will be tracked at the nursing station at all times.
  • We have an anesthesiologist ready at all times.
  • We have a full surgery team available at all times. 

Is this a good thing? Yes, if that's what you're looking for. But, to repeat myself, those amenities still have nothing to do with the love, respect, and quality of care that a low-risk family will receive during a normal labor, birth, and postpartum.


All Amenities Are Not Created Equal 

Just because two hospitals offers a certain service does not mean that their quality of care regarding that service is the same. 

Here is one incredibly interesting example:

At two of the hospitals, the question was raised about labor tubs. (Both hospitals had labor tubs available for patient use.) Here are the responses:

Hospital #1:
"Yes! We have labor tubs! They are great for helping you to relax and get non-drug pain relief. Just give us a little bit of notice so that we can get one to your room and set it up for you!"

Hospital #2:
"Yes, we have a labor tub. But nobody ever uses it. They always stay in bed. And nobody here ever goes unmedicated anyway. They always end up begging for drugs even if they say they want a natural birth when they come in."

Enough said.



Don't Assume That Outdated Practices Are Dead

At two of the hospitals, we were strictly informed: "As soon as you are admitted, you are treated as a pre-op patient - no food by mouth, and no fluids except ice chips and IV fluids."

Folks, it's really time to stop this nonsense.

From the article linked above:
"Our study found no difference in the outcomes measured, in terms of the babies' wellbeing or the likelihood of a woman needing a C-section. There is no evidence of any benefit to restricting what women eat and drink in labor."
And:
"There should be no hospital policies which restrict fluids and foods in labor."
But converting evidence into evidence-based practices is easier said than done. Dinosaurs die hard.

Similarly...


Don't Assume That All Practices Are Evidence-Based

At one hospital, I asked the question: "What is your policy on delayed cord clamping?"

The answer that I received was decidedly odd. The tour guide replied, "Um.... people don't really do that any more. You'd have to ask your doctor."

Wait a second. "People don't really do that any more?" The practice of cord clamping over the past century in the United States is moving in the direct opposite direction. The current (and past) standard of practice is immediate cord clamping, now moving (at something somewhat slower than a snail's pace) toward delayed cord clamping, which has all the evidence on its side.

One way or the other, the fact that an experienced labor and delivery nurse had no knowledge of delayed cord clamping is somewhat alarming.


Environment Is Important

Things like noise levels, decor, ambiance are not the most important things about a hospital. Granted, absolutely. BUT - they are important. The ability to relax in a comforting environment is critical for the progress of a healthy labor, and a stressed-out mother is likely to have more trouble relaxing enough to labor effectively.

Here are some of the ambiance-related factors that I noticed in the various hospitals:
  • Paint and flooring colors
  • Floor plan
  • "Hospital feel and/or smell" - Both of these are an incredible turn-off to me.
  • Sense of busyness - Also an incredible turn-off.
  • Noise levels - Often related to floor plan and general acoustic design.
Some of the hospitals made me somewhat uncomfortable, ambiance-wise, and some (okay, one!) actually felt more like a resort. When a person is in labor, these things can be more important than we know. (And really, this also applies to patients in the hospital who are there for illness, injury, or surgery. Stress-relieving surroundings can be incredibly conducive to healing, and the reverse is true as well.)


The Tour Isn't Everything

Hospital tours are meant to present a hospital's best side to prospective clients. That doesn't mean that a hospital tour accurately represents as to a hospital's true atmosphere and attitude with regard to birthing practices and policies.

Additionally, a hospital tour leaves out two important factors - your doctor (or midwife) and your nurses. One (your doctor) you get to pick, and one (your nursing staff) is a surprise. Both of those are incredibly important components of your hospital birth experience.

When you combine all of the different factors (doctor, nurses, hospital, your specific case), you can easily get many different outcomes from the same hospitals. I have heard both horror stories and "I love this hospital!" stories coming from all three hospitals that I visited.



We're Speaking Different Languages

As I toured these hospitals, I got the strong impression that the hospital staffs love their families, love their babies, and want the best for all involved.

Mothers and fathers also love their babies and want the best for all involved.

But sometimes those two groups (hospitals and families) mean distinctly different things by that statement.

When hospitals want the best for everyone, they want their mamas to follow procedures, adhere to protocols, and not rock the boat.

When I want the best for my baby, I want the complete freedom to make choices that will be lovingly respected, even if they deviate from cultural norms or hospital rules.

The tension between the desires of hospital staff and the desires of families is what can make hospitals a difficult place to achieve desired birth goals or have birth wishes respected by staff. It's what makes homebirth doubly desirable for mothers like me, who do not want to be fighting battles for themselves and their babies during labor, birth, and the postpartum.


Conclusions

I came away from this project confirmed in my preference for home birth. I do hope that I will never see the inside of any hospital as a laboring mother.

However, I am extremely grateful that these hospitals are there in the case of emergency. Here in the valley we are blessed to have several excellent hospital midwifery practices who accept transport cases (as well as providing excellent hospital care for mamas who choose hospital births), and I am thankful that we have supportive care providers to whom we can transfer care when a home birth moves outside of safety protocols and requires transfer.

Each hospital evoked my admiration in different ways, and I deeply appreciated the kindness of their staff in providing detailed and lengthy tours to give prospective clients information and allow them to ask questions.

The take-away message is simply to do your homework if you are planning a hospital birth. Tour the facility and ask questions. Compare hospitals and make a thoughtful choice. Be extremely selective in your choice of doctor or midwife. Take a childbirth prep class. Read, read, read. Do your research. Write a birth plan. Hire a doula. Do your homework.

As for me, I loved touring hospitals and can't wait till we're pregnant again so that I can tour more of them! I had so much fun.


Dear readers, what are your thoughts? Have you toured more than one hospital? How did they compare? How did your hospital tour compare to your birth experience in that hospital?

As always, kindly worded and non-combative comments and questions are welcomed. Impolite comments of any kind will be quietly deleted without comment.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Just In Case

Just in case you're interested in the topic of extreme morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum), hop on over and check this out.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Welcome, New Baby! (Birth Story Time!)


It's that wonderful time of year - birth story time! Thanks for joining us as we celebrate the arrival of our fifth little one!


The Pregnancy:

This has been an amazing pregnancy - beyond anything that I could have ever imagined. By the grace of God, I have been drug-free and non-hyperemetic, which is more than I ever dreamed was possible. It's been challenging with constant nausea, but staying out of hyperemesis has been an answer to prayer. (I'll be posting the big summary post about that very soon - look for it!)

And now for our birth story!


The Prologue:

You'd think that by now I would be over it, but I'm afraid not.

As the end of each pregnancy draws near, I am inevitably haunted by the same thing - an intense fear of childbirth. Most women seem to be able to work through this fear so that they're able to get into the mindset of, "I can't wait to go into labor so that I can meet my baby!" I, on the other hand, inevitably stall before that point - "Hmm. I'd like to meet this baby, but that would mean... childbirth. So, um, thanks, but I think I'll just stay pregnant forever."

Thankfully biology doesn't wait for me to be ready, or else we'd still be awaiting the birth of our second child. But it is an emotional challenge each time.

Several months ago, I was drawn to II Corinthians 4:17-18, and that has been my memory verse ever since. Here it is in a newer translation:
"For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever."
Though the original context is talking about the Christian life as a whole, it is very applicable to childbirth - the attempt to keep one's mind fixed on the end goal (a precious baby whose soul will live forever) rather than present troubles (childbirth!).

I can't say that I ever moved into the realm of, "Yay, childbirth!" - but I did gain some measure of peace as our due date approached.

Leading a field trip about three days before D-Day. 

The Birth Story: 

A week or two ago, I got it into my head that baby's birth-date would be Wednesday, November 19th. While I knew that it was silly to count on something like that, I did have it as mental background noise.

Thus, when I woke up on the morning of Tuesday, November 11th with classic pre-labor symptoms - blood-tinged cervical fluid and an upset stomach - I was a bit shocked. More than a week earlier than I had expected! I had to make some fast mental adjustments - today was going to be the day.

We did school lessons as usual, and continued with our normal schedule. At 2:00 p.m. I tried to take a nap, but as soon as I laid down, contractions became painful enough to keep me from sleeping. Eventually I gave up and got up.

In the late afternoon, things were a bit crazy. Contractions were getting more painful, but we had a ton left to do for the day, so we did our best to crank through our to-do list in a hurry. DH ran errands (library, shops, etc.) and I made an early dinner (pancakes!), and then we rushed the children into the bath to get things settled for the night as quickly as we could.

This was the first time I'd ever had to deal with ordinary life (children, schedules, meals, etc.) while in labor. Previously, my labors had all (except the first, when I had no other children to care for) been in the middle of the night, so I'd always had the freedom to labor without dealing with piles of "to-do" items. This was quite a switch!

Our midwife had a postpartum visit to make in our area, so she asked it she could stop by to set up her kit and check on me. We were very glad to see her - but as soon as she arrived (at about 7:30 p.m.), my contractions nearly stopped. (Embarrassing.) She's used to "performance anxiety," though, so she opted to stick around and wait to see how things would go. Eventually, we made the decision to let everyone try to go to sleep (our midwife camped out on the couch) and see how things would go from there.

It was a difficult night for everyone. The five-year-old (our baby with special needs) decided to get up in the wee hours and throw a two-hour party in his crib. The two-year-old was upset at being out of his normal crib (he's still in our room) and woke several times crying. It wasn't a particularly restful night for anyone.

I, of course, didn't go to sleep at all! I stayed in the bedroom, just laboring in the dark. In some ways, it was rather nice. I like laboring alone.

But in other ways, I was starting to get seriously confused.

In the past, my labors have always been strictly linear. That is, whether they were slow or fast, they always moved in the predictable labor curve of contractions that get more intense and closer together until the baby is born.

This labor was not behaving in that way at all. Some of the contractions were nasty, but some were not. And the timing was all over the place - anywhere from five to 20 minutes apart. Sometimes they would get me up out of bed, where I would try to labor on the toilet or in a semi-kneeling position for a while - and then I'd get tired, go back to bed, and the contractions would space out while I drowsed for a bit. Then I'd get up and do it all over again.

As time went on, contractions got more intense, sometimes requiring vocalization, but the puzzling non-linear pattern continued.

Additionally, I was really, really tired. I hadn't slept since the night before, and my main desire was not to have a baby but to go to sleep.

Every few hours, our midwife would pop in to check on me and ask if I needed her. Each time, my answer was a confused, "Um... I don't know." It just wasn't clear either way.

Around 5:30 a.m., contractions were intense enough that I thought I'd better have our midwife call out the rest of the birth team so that they wouldn't miss the birth. And then...

I fell asleep.

Completely and entirely. Labor stopped, and I was out cold until sometime shortly after 7:00 a.m., when I awoke to found the world in sunlight again.

I immediately felt more cheerful. And also slightly silly.

Here I had made our sweet midwife spend the entire night at our home waiting for a baby who was obviously not coming any time soon. And considering that there were no forthcoming contractions, I felt even sillier.

Shortly thereafter, our midwife came in to see us and chat about what was going on. She also offered to do a cervical check to see where we were at the moment. While both of us are against routine cervical checks, I immediately saw the sense in this and said, "Yes! Let's do it!" As she said, cervical checks can't tell you where you're going, but they can tell you where you've been.

A quick check revealed the fact that after something like 17 hours of labor, we were at a whopping...

Two centimeters. 

Well, crumbs.

Seventeen hours of labor in a multip should not produce a measly two centimeters. (Especially since I had previously checked my dilation and knew that we'd been at a minimum two centimeters for several weeks. In other words, we'd gone nowhere. Slowly.)

Additionally, our midwife said that baby's head was so high in the pelvis as to be non-palpable. Also not good.

My immediate question was "Are we looking at a malpresentation?" - having baby in a non-optimal position can cause wonky labor patterns, and that would also account for lack of descent.

Her immediate reply was "Yup." Based on heart tones and the lack of descent, her guess was that baby had slipped from LOA (left occiput anterior) back to LOP (left occiput posterior), where he had been a few weeks ago. Babies in the OP position have a nasty habit of not wanting to come out, and my weird labor was almost certainly a result of that.

Next, we talked about a game plan. Our midwife said, "You think you're okay, because you've had an hour or so of sleep. But you're not okay. You're sleep-deprived. And if you're going to face doing labor all over again from the beginning, then you need some sleep."

We made a quick plan, and I followed it. Our midwife left to give us some time, and I immediately followed her suggestions - a snack (cottage cheese and a banana), a bath, taking a Unisom, and crashing on the bed to get some sleep. (Still no contractions.)

I was also careful to lay on my left side (stretching over as far onto my stomach as I could) in order to facilitate baby swinging back from LOP into LOA. (The fact that I had been lying on my right side the entire night had most likely confirmed baby in his unfavorable LOP position.)

I immediately fell asleep and slept for something like 60-90 minutes. It was lovely.

I would have slept (much!) longer, but at that point, I was awakened by a contraction. A sudden contraction, and a mean one. I immediately knew by the feeling (even half-asleep) that baby had swung out of LOP into LOA, and that we were now where we needed to be.

However, I was still tired, so I tried to keep sleeping. Nope. These contractions meant business. Even that first contraction had required vocalization.

But I was still so tired, so I tried to ignore them. "La, la, la, I can't heeaaar you." etc.

During the third contraction, my water broke.

What? Really?

It was just a small gush, maybe two to four ounces of fluid - not a huge amount. Thus, I wasn't really sure if my water had indeed broken. However, I immediately swung out of bed and headed for the bathroom to avoid getting the bed soaked - just in case.

I immediately sat down and tried to figure out if my water had broken or if I was just imagining things. Immediately, another contraction started.

And that's when things got crazy.

The contraction began, and I knew instantly that I was in trouble.

Oh, no! I'm feeling pushy! I need to call my midwife RIGHT NOW!

But my body made it immediately clear that I was not going to be calling anyone, because within five seconds I had shot to my feet and was screaming my head off at the wall in front of me. (My normal reaction to the pushing feeling.) This wasn't just "feeling pushy" - this was PUSHING TIME RIGHT NOW, and this baby was coming.

Within a second or two, I knew that my midwife wasn't going to make it.

Oh, no! Joe's going to have to catch the baby!

Small problem. I was in the back bathroom, and my husband was nowhere around (thinking that I was sleeping). Despite the fact that I was screaming like a mad woman, our house is a good sound-deadener. I was on my own.

Thus, those thirty seconds went something like this:

Need the midwife! (Nope.) Need my husband! (Nope.) Oh shoot, I need a towel - I'm going to have to do this on my own!

But even the towel rack, two feet away, was completely beyond my capacity to reach.

Thankfully, my husband did actually end up hearing me, and he burst into the bathroom just as baby was born.

"Is the baby coming? Oh, there's the head!"

He leaped for me as I hit the ground in some sort of half-kneeling position, and he caught baby and handed her to me - after taking the time to notice that baby was, indeed, our first girl!

So there we were - sitting happily shell-shocked on the bathroom floor, surrounded by a pool of every birthing fluid known to man.

What better way to spend a Wednesday morning?



Within a minute or two, Joe was on the phone with our midwife. "Guess what? Diana's sitting here holding our brand new baby girl!"

The really funny thing was that Joe had told our midwife a few hours earlier that he had planned to call her with those very words - as a joke! Thus, when he called her, her first response was something along the lines of, "Are you kidding me?"

Our midwife immediately shot out onto the freeway to get to us, all the while making sure that we were okay and didn't need to call emergency. (We were completely fine - no hemorrhage, and baby was born already snuffling and fussing about for food. No issues there!)




A few minutes after the birth, the placenta followed - completely effortlessly and painlessly.

Our doula made it to our house first, followed shortly by our midwife. They immediately checked us out and began helping us get cleaned up and settled in bed.

We have absolutely no labor or birth pictures (or video), but here are some postpartum pictures!

Our 8yo got to cut the cord for the first time:






Newborn exam! Baby was 8 lbs. 8 oz. (fitting in nicely with our last baby, who was 9 lbs. 9 oz.):






Pictures with the birth team!



Placenta exam picture!




And a proud papa with his first solo catch (he's caught all of our babies, but never by himself!):



Some postpartum pictures:


Waiting for baby's birthday cake! (Mint chip!)

With Grandma.

Love that newborn stare! 


Reflections:

There is part of me that would have loved to see what would have happened if this had truly been a solo birth - not for the experience itself, but simply for the incredible comedic potential of the moment. To have my husband walk into the bathroom and find me calmly nursing an infant - ah! That would have been truly a great moment. All it would have needed was a great one-liner to go with it, and we would have had a moment to remember.

However, DH was great as a baby-catcher, and it will remain one of our best family memories forever.

I've always wondered what it would be like to have an unassisted birth. Now I know, and I hope it doesn't happen too often! But to all you dedicated unassisted birthers out there - I take my hat off to you. You are an amazingly strong group of women!

An interesting question that I have posed to myself is - how would this birth have gone in the hospital? It's an interesting thought, because it could have gone several different ways. We could have had an unassisted hospital birth... or a cesarean... or a car baby... or an unassisted at-home birth. It could have gone in many different directions.

But, as C.S. Lewis says, no one is ever told the story of "what might have been."

Finally old enough to hold a sibling on his own! 

Holding baby sister with mama about 0.5 inches away! 



Afterword:

This pregnancy has been an incredible growing experience. It's been difficult, but it's also been wonderful. The Lord is growing our family at the same time that He is growing us - and it's wonderful both to watch and to experience.

This pregnancy has been a pregnancy of firsts.

This was our first non-hyperemetic pregnancy.

This was our first pregnancy welcoming a GIRL into our brood.

This was our first intentionally unplanned pregnancy.

This was our first 100% on-land labor and birth.

This was our first (accidentally) unassisted birth.


We can't wait to see what God is going to do with our family from here!


Welcoming baby Margaret (Greta) Fern
Born November 12, 2014
Eight pounds, eight ounces

We are blessed. 





Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why Mercy Gilbert Hospital Rocks!


I'll be posting more on local hospitals later, but for now, I just wanted to share the letter that I emailed to Mercy Gilbert after touring their birth center this past week.

*****

Dear Mercy Gilbert Staff,

This past week my husband and I toured the Lund Birth Center at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, and we were extremely impressed with the high quality of your facilities, staff, and services that you offer at the birth center.

 Here are some of the things we love about the maternity care you offer at Mercy Gilbert:

- Welcoming labor doulas, siblings, and birth plans (rather than discouraging all of the above, as many hospitals do)

- Making water labor widely available (and encouraged!)

- Welcoming midwives to your labor staff

- Encouraging mother who want VBAC births and/or unmedicated births, as well as maintaining a low rate of cesarean births

- Your commitment to couplet care and breastfeeding, as well as to non-interference in bonding and rooming-in

- Making labor tools such as birth balls and peanut balls both available and encouraged

- Respecting the rights of parents to make individualized choices for their labor, birth, and newborn health care

- Your lovely (and quiet!) facilities – both within the birth center and throughout the hospital

We have toured several other valley hospitals, and none of them could even come close to the quality of care offered by Mercy Gilbert. We very much thank you for the hard work you have put into creating such a wonderful environment for babies and families. Congratulations also on your upcoming designation as a Baby-Friendly Hospital!

 Sincerely Yours,
Diana J.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My Favorite Pregnancy Supplements!


My first pregnancy was virtually supplement-free. I was young, clueless, and too horribly sick to take anything anyway - even if I'd known what to take (which I didn't).

Thankfully, since then I've learned of a great array of supplements to help make pregnancy easier and healthier. I'd like to share my list with you, and I hope you'll reciprocate - I love hearing new ideas!

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, just a passionate amateur. You are responsible for doing your own research and accepting all risks before trying any supplements!


For Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy:

Click here to see my entire list of supplements (and dietary/lifestyle changes) to avoid severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. Preferably, these supplements and dietary changes would be started as far in advance of conception as possible.

Additionally, I enthusiastically recommend all supplements and dietary changes at the above link for all pregnancies, not just those plagued by morning sickness. Check it out!


For Pregnancy and Postpartum in General:


BASICS: Vitamin B complex, Vitamin D, Multivitamin, Magnesium, DHA (fish oil), Coconut Oil

Why: These are the supplements that provide much of what is missing in the standard American diet.

When: Every day, preferably pre-conception onward (i.e. all the time!)

Ideally I would add: Probiotics! Probiotics are awesome for just about everything, and gut health is extremely important during pregnancy (as it always is). This time around, I have neglected probiotics simply because I was eating so many probiotic lacto-fermented foods. But if funds were not an issue, I would definitely add a good probiotic to the mix.




Desiccated Liver Pills

Why: This supplement was recommended to provide micronutrients I might miss in the early first trimester when my diet was so limited. I like it so much that it's now part of my regular supplement regimen! Read all about the benefits of dessicated liver here. Of course, if you like liver, you can always just cook it and eat it. I'll stick with pills.

When: All the time! Especially good to build up iron stores before baby is born.

Other options: If you'd like a good source of non-animal-based iron, try Floradix. I'm guessing that liver provides a superior micronutrient profile, but Floradix is good too!







Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Why: Good for everything "woman-wise"! Morning sickness, birth preparation, etc. Read all about it here! I am currently drinking two glasses a day, and I also plan on doing the "miracle birth brew." I'll let you know how it works! (Directions for regular tea and for full-strength birth tea are in above link.)

Bulk herbs may be purchased online at several excellent online stores. Local friends, try Desert Sage Herbs in Chandler, AZ. The price per pound is slightly higher than online, but when you take shipping charges into account, it is far cheaper than purchasing online.

When: All the time, but especially during pregnancy!

Also try:
  • Nettles! - Another great herb for women! Can be mixed with RRL to make tea.
  • Alfalfa! (See below for more information) - You can add alfalfa to your tea mix if you prefer that over pill form. 
  • Peppermint! - For flavor. 
  • See this tea recipe for directions on combining the above into a pregnancy tea! 

I have no idea why this picture turned out upside down, but you get the idea. 


Alfalfa Pills

Why: Building my vitamin K stores (to help with postpartum bleeding) and building up baby's vitamin K stores (since we choose not to accept the vitamin K shot). Alfalfa also has a ton of great micronutrients - check it out here! It's an awesome supplement. Please note that I am talking about alfalfa (the grass) not alfalfa seeds.

Alfalfa can also be taken as a tea rather than a pill (see above).

If you want another way to get super-high levels of "green stuff" (i.e. concentrated greens), try liquid chlorophyll! (Hint: It's made from alfalfa.) We always keep a bottle of this wonderful stuff on hand to use as green food coloring for frosting and ice cream (instead of the typical petroleum derivative), but it's also an amazing supplement. Many people put it in their drinking water.

You can always just eat terrifically high amounts of greens (spinach, etc.), but I am notoriously bad at that!

When: Preferably all the time (pregnant or not), but at least during the last trimester.




Dates

Why: Date consumption has been shown to have amazingly positive results on pregnancy health and birth statistics! Read the summary here (or the original 2011 study here).

It's also a great excuse to eat one of the yummiest foods on the planet.

When: All the time, but at least during the last four weeks of pregnancy (~6 dates per day).

I'm entirely too tired to find a picture of a date, so you'll have to make do with a picture of a toddler with a date shake! Does that count? 


Liquid Calcium-Magnesium

Why: Prevention and treatment of afterpains!

Read about my complete afterpain protocol, which has taken my afterpains from debilitating-excruciating (first birth) to quite manageable (third birth).

When: Always good, but especially during the last trimester and then during the postpartum.




Afterpains Tincture

Why: This stuff is great for helping with afterpains! Unfortunately the company from whom I usually buy my tincture has stopped selling to the public, but there are comparable products out there. Just do a quick Google search!

When: Immediately after birth (I take mine within 60-120 seconds after birth) and thereafter as needed.


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Okay, dear friends! It's your turn! What pregnancy supplements do you take to make pregnancy easier, happier, and healthier? Let me know!