Monday, February 28, 2011

From the Past: Story of a Miscarriage

I put that "from the past" bit in the title to prevent anyone from panicking! I am not pregnant, nor have I miscarried recently - this is the story of the loss of our first child, five and a half years ago.

I have been meaning to write the story out for quite some time, and this seems like a good time. DH is watching whatever those yearly movie awards are - I never can remember - and I am waiting to see if the vague nausea I've been feeling all evening is going to go away, or morph into a real stomach bug. I'm voting for the former.

And so, the story.

* Warning: The following, while not particularly graphic, is a child-loss story that may contain triggers for those mamas who have experienced loss by miscarriage/stillbirth/abortion. Read with caution if that is the case. 

First of all, after my miscarriage, I was shocked to find out how incredibly common miscarriage is. Before we lost our child, I had only heard of miscarriage in a vague, theoretical, "never really happens in real life" sort of way. After my miscarriage, I was shocked at the sheer number of women who came up to me and told me their child-loss stories.

In fact, over the past two years, at least three of my birth-blogging sisters have lost children to miscarriage or stillbirth. You can read their stories here: Kathy's Story, Kayce's Story, Kristen's Story.

In the group of six church women (myself included) who started our childbearing years together about six years ago, we have lost a total of eight children: one ectopic pregnancy, one early miscarriage following spontaneous conception, one later miscarriage following spontaneous conception (mine), one miscarriage of twins following successful embryo adoption transfer, and three babies whose embryo adoption transfers were unsuccessful.

So miscarriage is very common. But it's not acknowledged or talked about very often. Even I fall into this trap. When people ask "How many children do you have?" I tend to say "two," even though I am very pro-life and fully believe in the existence and humanity of my now-in-heaven first child.

I rejoice whenever a woman writes out her miscarriage story, because it helps other women know that they are not alone... that many women have traveled this hard path before.

And so, my miscarriage:

Shortly after we found our church home here in the valley, a new friend of ours, Laura, announced her pregnancy. We had been married a year and a half, and couldn't think of any reason why we shouldn't get started with our childbearing venture, so we looked at each other and said "Hey, why not? Let's go for it!"

So in March of 2005, I went off of birth control (I didn't know about the risks or the issues surrounding chemical birth control at the time.... we are no longer using this method of contraception). We soon found that infertility was not one health problem that our family would face, because we were pregnant 2-3 months later - my last period was on May 31, 2005.

I remember that when my period started, we were in California, just preparing to come back to Arizona after a short trip. I was mega-disappointed, as I had hoped that "this" would be the month... but in fact, it was the following month. That was my last period before our little one joined us.

Now, I should give the diagnosis so that the rest will make sense: This pregnancy was a "blighted ovum" pregnancy, also called "early pregnancy loss." This means that the baby dies very early on in the pregnancy, but the "pregnancy," i.e. the sac, the hormones, etc., continue to grow - though usually at reduced rates. This results in an absence of pregnancy symptoms, or very reduced symptoms, and a miscarriage - when the body finally expels the sac - is inevitable and non-preventable.

Something that upsets me very much about current literature and/or practice with blighted ovum and/or "chemical pregnancies" is the notion that "there never was a baby." Yes, there is/was a child; it is just that the baby dies very early on, so that oftentimes when the issue is diagnosed, there is no visible child (because the death occurred weeks before). But there is no such thing as a pregnancy without a baby. Just wanted to clear that up.

Moving on!

After we could have reasonably expected my period to occur, and it didn't, we finally walked to the drugstore behind our apartments and bought some incredibly expensive pregnancy tests (now I get them for $1 apiece at Dollar Tree!). And the test was..... positive! Yippee!!

But it was faint. Very faint.

So we decided to wait a couple of days. We retested, and again, it was positive.... but the test was still faint. If this happened again, I would know what was happening... but at the time, we were just puzzled. "Okay, we're pregnant. I guess. Hurray!"

I had no pregnancy symptoms, except some possible chest enlargement that was so slight as to almost have been imaginary. We kept reading pregnancy symptom lists on the internet and saying, "Gosh, I guess we're just the lucky ones who don't have any pregnancy symptoms! This is cool.... I guess?"

The one symptom that I did have, eventually, was nausea. I didn't know it at the time, but this was a glimpse into the future. With a blighted ovum pregnancy, I should not have had noticeable nausea... and I did. It was moderate, nearly to the point of throwing up (but not quite), and steadily present. It was still in the "cute" category of pregnancy nausea - "cute" as in "I'm pregnant! And I'm nauseated! Isn't this cool? Look everyone, I have morning sickness! Hurray!" Not into the category of being so sick that I was hoping for death, a delightful experience that I would experience five months later as I entered the horrific and indescribable world of hyperemesis gravidarum. But at the time, I just thought it was cute.

We didn't tell any friends or church family about our pregnancy. For one thing, we thought that we were "supposed" to wait to tell people because "that's what everybody does." Also, looking back, I think I must have had an instinctual knowledge that something wasn't quite right. We had a feeling of unreality about the whole thing - "We're pregnant, but everything is just the same. What's going on?" We almost told friends several times, but never quite got around to it.

In mid-July, we interviewed our first set of midwives. At the time, we had only private insurance, so we had no maternity coverage. When I first started my research (much before this time), I had been under the mistaken belief (I was so incredibly ignorant) that "maternity" meant "hospital," and that our private insurance would still cover out-of-hospital midwife-attended birth. I was wrong, of course, but by the time I was done with my reading, I was absolutely sold on homebirth and wanted one regardless of what was covered and not covered. I was in love.

That is a decision, incidentally, which I have never regretted. Some of my decisions in life and parenting are decisions that I still feel torn on.... But with homebirth, I have absolutely no regrets, second-guessing, or questions. I found a niche, a passion, and a cause.... and a wonderful and safe method of birthing for our family (I know it's not for everyone). I am so thankful for that.

So we went into Phoenix to interview our midwives. An hour before we left, I injured my back, and so by the time we got to their office, I was in so much pain that I could hardly walk or sit down. But despite that, we fell in love with our midwives and with midwifery care, and had a great time.

That was also one of the first time that I saw a collection of birth photography, and I found it a bit shocking. Now that I'm used to the most candid and up-close birth photos, I try to think back to that moment to remind myself why non-birthy people sometimes find birth photography off-setting when I now find it beautiful.

(With our second baby, we didn't stay with these midwives because they were just too far away... we changed to another midwife closer to home. But we remained on good terms with this team, and one of those midwives actually ended up at our later birth as a back-up anyhow!)

But back to the story:

Sometime around seven weeks, we decided to tell our parents. I had had a plan devised for quite some time, and my husband agreed to it - we got blank greeting cards, wrote nothing but "Proverbs 17:6" in them, and mailed them to both sets of parents.

(Proverbs 17:6 - "Grandchildren are the crown of the aged")

And then.... we waited. Three days went by, and... nothing. No phone calls, no excited congratulations, nothing.

A week, then a couple more days went by.... we were thoroughly puzzled!

And then, a package arrived in the mail for us from my mom. It contained a baby blanket which had been hand-made for my own birth, and a card that said something like "Did I guess right?" My mom was a stinker! But it was a perfect answer to our card, and I loved it.

After that, DH called his parents and said, "Um, did you get our card?" His mom said, "Oh, yes, I got it, but I was just too tired to look up the verse, so we didn't." Oh, dear. So DH got to give the news over the phone: "Um, that verse was "Grandchildren are the crown of the aged." Get it? Grandchildren?" 

Enlightenment and congratulations followed.

A few days later, we called the rest of the family and let them know about the baby, and so were showered with love and congratulations. It was a lot of fun.

That was the end of the fun part. 

The next morning, July 28th, I went to work as normal. I was primarily a homemaker, but I worked a part-time job as the secretary of our church.

I felt fine, but when I went to use the restroom shortly after arrival (at 8:00 a.m.), I noticed that there were brown streaks on the toilet paper. Brown streaks. I was puzzled and a bit alarmed. Was this blood? Was everything okay?

So I went back into the office and called my midwife. She said to keep an eye on it, but that there was nothing to worry about unless the blood was red. It was just a matter of waiting.

My boss (also my pastor) was out of town at the time, so I was alone at the church. This was a very good thing, I'm afraid, because I spent most of the morning - in between spouts of actual work - frantically googling "brown blood while pregnant" and "miscarriage symptoms" etc. etc. etc. It was a good day to be alone.

I went to the bathroom several additional times to check, and there was no more blood of any color.

However, as the morning progressed, I started to feel... yucky. I can't quite remember all of the details, because it is a bit hazy, and it was also almost six years ago now. All I can say is that I started to feel.... off. Not well. Cramps, I think, vague nausea, and just a sense of ill-being that grew and grew with intensity. I just felt worse and worse.

However, oddly enough, I did not put the pieces together. I did not realize that this was the beginning of a miscarriage. I just wondered why I was feeling so badly.

Sometime around mid-day, our sweet worship director came into the office to make a few copies. She was her usual bright and breezy self, and she chatted cheerfully during the few moments the copier was buzzing. By that point, I was slumped against the door, staring blearily at her, and could only mumble idiotic monosyllables. I felt like dirt, I was having a hard time staying on my feet, and I could not carry on a rational conversation - but I don't think she noticed anything. She left in less than five minutes, and at that time I gave up trying to work till quitting time - I got my stuff and headed for my car.

Driving home, I felt dreadful. I was slumped against the side of the car, just trying to get home in one piece. I figured that if a policeman stopped me, I would either collapse or throw up all over him, and that he could take it from there. I didn't care about anything at that point.

When I got home, about 10 minutes later, I got inside and ran for the bathroom, as I had overwhelming nausea and needed to throw up. However, when I got there, I didn't need to throw up after all. Instead, I used the restroom normally...

... and then I saw the blood. Lots of blood. Pouring, streaming, out into the toilet. It looked like rivers and showers of blood, going everywhere. I had never seen so much blood.

It was at that point that I truly realized that I had lost this baby.

I got to the phone and called our midwife. She gave me directions on what to do, and what to watch for, told me to get DH home, and to rest. I called DH and told him what had happened, and he was home within 20 minutes. I was a tearful mess during this entire time, needless to say.

DH was extremely upset. At first, he insisted on clinging to the hope that we might have had twins and lost only one of them, which really annoyed me. DH occasionally has the habit of clinging to false hope in times when grief is the more appropriate response. It was nice when he got past that phase.... I hope that I put that understandably? But apart from that, he was a great comfort.

We decided not to go the hospital. Our midwife told us that most miscarriages complete on their own just fine, and we didn't want to go in unless we had to. My body showed signs of doing fine on its own (no fever, etc.), so we never saw a doctor. When I hear that nowadays many doctors automatically do D&C procedures on all miscarrying women, regardless of necessity, I am very glad that we were able to stay home.

After the first hour, I actually felt okay. I took it easy for the rest of the day, and the miscarriage continued like a normal period. I was able to resume normal activities very rapidly.

It surprised me, when I read other miscarriage stories, that normal miscarriages can take much longer and be much more painful than mine was. I am guessing that it is because my pregnancy was a blighted ovum pregnancy that the miscarriage was actually easier than other women's experiences - I have often read of miscarriages being like a "mini labor" experience, with contractions, labor, transition, and "birth" phases, and lasting for many hours or days. Mine was over much sooner. (Though my miscarriage did follow - in miniature - a labor pattern, of growing "contractions" and then extreme nausea during "transition," which mirrors my other labors - I have always thrown up during transition.)

After a while, when I was feeling better, I went back into the bathroom - and I could see the sac floating in the water. I didn't pick it up. I wish I had..... I really wish I had. Now, if it happened, I would pick it up, look to see if I could see the baby, and then devise some way of burying it properly. But I wasn't thinking clearly, or thinking at all.... and at the time, in my ignorance, I thought that an eight-and-a-half-week baby would be too small to be seen by the naked eye, so I didn't try to look. Considering the type of pregnancy we had, I was probably right, though a normally-developed child would definitely be clearly visible and easy to find at that gestational age. Anyhow, that is one major regret of my miscarriage. 

DH spent the evening calling all of the family to let them know of our loss - the same family, incidentally, which he had called the evening before to announce our pregnancy. It was a really sad time, a time of grief.

My aunt, who is one of the sweetest women in the world, wrote me a letter "from" our baby. It was precious, and I still have it:


"Dear Mommy and Daddy,

"We don't know each other very well because we weren't together very long, but I want you to know I felt your love and anticipation and excitement.

"I know you would make great parents but you can't imagine how wonderful it is being in heaven. Jesus welcomed me into His arms with a big hug and then introduced me to my Gramma Fern. We are having a great time together. She is telling me all about you, Mommy, when you were born and how you grew up. She is very proud of you. We'll have lots to catch up on when you get here!

"I just want you to know I am loved and well cared for here just as I would have been if I had stayed with you. But we have to obey Jesus when He says come home so that's what I did.

"I'm giving you this little bear (included with letter) to be a reminder of me until we meet in heaven - soon I hope!




She was so sweet, and we appreciated that so much.

The most hurtful comment was from an unnamed family member, who said "Oh well, you weren't really pregnant yet anyway."

No words.

I found my emotional recovery to be... okay. It wasn't easy, and it wasn't terribly hard. We told our church family the following Sunday, and we were immediately surrounded by love and sympathy. They were so wonderful. Three months later, we were pregnant again and were almost immediately plunged into the life-altering world of hyperemesis gravidarum, previously mentioned, which left me neither thought nor energy (nor consciousness) to deal with anything past surviving minute-to-minute. But we remember our little one with regret and love, and we look forward to meeting him or her in Heaven.

We did not name our baby, since we did not have a distinct impression about sex. That too will have to wait for Heaven.

And there you have it. The story of our first baby's "birth" - born not into our arms, but into eternity - but loved and remembered always.

I'm so glad I finally wrote this out - every baby deserves his own birth story, even if it a story in which "hello" and "goodbye" are intertwined.

Baby, we'll see you in Heaven. We love you.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Birth Center Focus: Babymoon Inn!

Here, written out in exquisite detail, is the birth story of the first baby ever to be born at one of our new birth centers, Babymoon Inn!

Birth at the Babymoon

I have to say that this is one of the most joyfully enthusiastic birth stories I have ever read... I loved it!

(Side note: The midwife team mentioned includes my midwife, Wendi, though she is not pictured in the story.)

This past Thursday, I got to hear another birth story (in person) from a mama who birthed at Babymoon, and she too was wildly enthusiastic. May I say - again - how elated and excited I am about the recent openings of our valley's three new birth centers? It is awesome beyond belief.

Loved this!

Culture Wars in a Cake

I bet the owner of the internationally-famous "Cakewrecks" blog never expected this cake-photo entry to explode into a heated birth-culture debate!

The First Censored Cake Wreck

The only thing funnier than how heated the conversation got.... was that I, too, got pretty irritated after reading some of the comments!

So, check out the comments! It's a full-blown culture debate, in all its divisive, polarized glory. You can see my comment down near the very bottom. Feel free to chime in, either here or there!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Just for Fun!

Okay, everyone! Ready for some uber-fun activism?

The buzz on the street lately has been about shoelaces.

Why shoelaces?

Because shoelaces are what 911 operators tell parents to use to tie umbilical cords during precipitous births (births that were not intended to be at home but happen there anyway due to a rapid labor).

The quote from the currently used script is thus:

“Listen carefully and I’ll tell you exactly what to do next. Without pulling on the cord, tie a string (shoelace) tightly around the umbilical cord, about 6 inches from the baby.”

Ooh. Has anyone thought about the hygiene of the average shoelace? Or about the wisdom of immediate cord clamping in the first place, considering the stockpiling evidence that non-physiologic (i.e. premature) cord clamping is harmful to the child anyway?
First of all, check out this post by the ever-wonderful Navelgazing Midwife on what exactly is lurking on your average shoelace:

Then, the excellent paper by Dr. Nicholas Fogelson on the benefits of physiologic cord clamping (i.e. waiting for the cord to stop pulsing naturally so that baby gets all of his blood supply) vs. the risks of immediate cord clamping (unfortunately still the standard of care:

Then, while you're at it, take a second to "like" these groups on Facebook (if you haven't already):

Leaving A Baby's Umbilical Cord To Stop Pulsating (Delayed Cord Clamping)

Save the Shoelaces

Jill at the Unnecesarean recently published the 9-1-1 protocol so that we could see it:

The Shoelace Protocol

(Must say, as a side note, that I'm impressed with their breech protocol.)

She then published the website link to the people who write these protocols (see her entry "Changing 9-1-1Protocol Standards for Childbirth"). Here it is:

Emergency Dispatch

And here is their contact page. I got the four email addresses available and sent them the following letter:


To Mr. Freitag, Ms. Page, Mr. Massengale, Ms. Vanbeuge and others concerned,

I am writing to you with a proposal/request for change in the 911 protocol regarding directions for precipitous childbirth, specifically regarding the “shoelace protocol.” If I have written to the wrong location, please forward to the correct persons.

To the best of my knowledge, the current protocol reads (regarding tying off the umbilical cord):

“Listen carefully and I’ll tell you exactly what to do next. Without pulling on the cord, tie a string (shoelace) tightly around the umbilical cord, about 6 inches from the baby.”

I would like to propose the following:

(1) That a shoelace or string not be recommended for use.
(2) That cord clamping not be recommended at all.

Point #1: That a shoelace or string not be recommended for use.

I submit the following article for your examination:

The point being that used shoelaces are filthy and infested with bacteria and should have no place on a baby’s umbilical cord.

Point #2: That cord clamping not be recommended at all.

There is increasing evidence that clamping the cord while blood is still flowing from the placenta to the baby is both unnecessary and harmful to the baby. There has been a flood of articles in the news over the past six months on this issue, which I am sure you have seen, so I will just submit the following by obstetrician Nicholas Fogelson:

In summary, it is safer for the baby and much more hygienic if the cord is simply left to finish its delivery of blood to the newborn, rather than being unhygienically and prematurely clamped, which both keeps the baby from receiving his entire blood volume and introduces the possibility of dangerous pathogens onto the umbilical cord. In that case, the cord can simply be cut with sterile instruments by emergency services when they arrive, which is healthier in both ways for the newborn (and also gives less trouble to the parents).

Please feel free to contact me regarding either suggestion.

Sincerely Yours,
Diana J.


So, if you're interested in helping to promote change on a national level, have at it! Here are the emails that you can copy and paste into an email:

''; ''; ''; ''

Just send them a note making the following points:

(1) If you are going to clamp a cord, a shoelace is not a good choice.
(2) In any case, immediate cord clamping is neither necessary, healthy or safe.

And that scripts need to be changed to reflect modern research rather than outdated dinosaur-practices!

I love letter-writing for positive change!!!

Life With Two

Thought I'd repost this from my hyperemesis/personal blog!

I am an only child. Raised alone, with an extended family that also had no other children, in a neighborhood with almost no children. I'm used to being an only-child in every sense of the word.

So, two years ago, when we found ourselves unexpectedly expecting our latest little one (Oops! Oh wait, we meant to do that), I had to wrap my mind around a new paradigm.

What do these large families (i.e. more than one child) do, anyway? And can I survive as a mother of more than one child?

One of the biggest adjustments I found with having our first child was learning to keep track of a moving dot in my mind - that is, my child's location. Pre-kids, I just had to pay attention to what I was doing. Post-birth, I had to keep track of not just myself, but also our baby/todder - (1) where is he?, (2) what is he doing?, and (3) is he doing anything particularly life-threatening?

So, predictably, one adjustment that had to be made upon the birth of a second child was adding another dot to my mental map. It's kind of a sub-conscious background thing - just learning to have a constant low-level of awareness of where each child is, what he/she is doing, and if he/she is in any immediate danger. I guess that's an adjustment that has to be made with each child - adding another moving dot to one's mental map!

In terms of adding another child, I have had a much easier time than many moms. Why?

(1) I had my "hard" one first and my "easy" one second. Much easier than the other way around! One mom I know said that she had an easy-beyond-belief introduction into motherhood when her #1 was a compliant, docile little guy, and then had her world rocked when her strong-willed #2 entered the world. I much prefer the way it happened for me!

(2) Being that our little guy, due to his health issues, is still non-mobile, I am having a much easier time than most moms do when #2 becomes mobile. Right now, if I put #2 down somewhere, he stays there! Lovely! He's starting to roll a bit, so I can't leave him on unguarded beds, but on the whole, he's not going to show up in the bathroom five minutes later, drinking bleach. Thank goodness. I've had enough bleach-drinking for a lifetime.

Also, our #2 is a much calmer, quieter, kind of guy, so I don't think he'll be the up-down-all-around whirlwind that our #1 was, even when he does become mobile.

Also, I have been blessed in that our older son has taken well to his younger brother. He was uber-jealous before the birth, but his jealousy pretty much vanished at birth. (I have to put a plug in here for having siblings present at births.... We had an awesome experience having our 3yo at baby's birth, and it was at that point that the jealousy vanished. I have heard the same story repeated over and over and over from other mums, so we'll definitely keep up the habit if any other little ones join us. Advertisement over.)

However, having a #2 has resulted in many more chores to be done, a much longer to-do list, and much less discretionary time. A lot of my attempts at crunchiness have gone to the wall - hopefully they'll have time to reappear sometime in later years? I don't know. But here's a run-down at things that have had to go the way of all good things since a second child entered our lives:

- Line-drying of clothes - The dryer is my friend. Rough on clothes, but that's okay.

- Ironing - I know a wonderful young woman who says firmly, "I don't iron." I resisted for a long time, but I have now made her mantra my own. It's a wonderful way to live.

- Making my own peanut butter - Not worth the time, though it was fun. Other homemade items have similarly bitten the dust. I still make my own yogurt and my own baby food.

- Complicated recipes - Almost my entire recipe collection has been revamped. Pre-babies, I made homemade pizza, homemade pierogi, homemade bread, the works. Now my world revolves around what is fast and what can go in the crockpot. I still go with all-natural, for the most part, but lengthy time-consuming recipes are a thing of the past.

- Super-thriftiness - I don't price match any more. I should, but I don't. And I don't spend tons of time trying to find deals or looking for recipes that I can make for under $2.00. I just make a meal-plan around the ads at Sprouts and go from there. Part of it is frustration with "thrifty" recipes that are nothing but white flour in a variety of forms, and part of it is just an issue of NO TIME. If I can get to the store, get what we need, and make it on a nightly basis, I'm happy.

- Cloth napkins - I have a lovely collection, but the vast amount of processing time isn't worth the tiny savings right now. Maybe later.

- Getting rid of plastic - Getting plastic out of our house has been a goal of mine.... and it still is.... but I am so stinking tired of cleaning up broken glass. Plastic is in for now.

- Nixing the microwave - I've wanted to stop using the microwave for a long time. But now, with two kids, the microwave is my meal-by-meal companion. Ah, well. Another time.

- Housecleaning - Ah, yes. My arch-nemesis. Housecleaning is something that really, really bugs me. When I was a pre-kids homemaker, I happily spent all day every day cleaning and organizing. Mmm. May I say that I was an uptight housekeeper?

In fact, here's a funny story: When our doula for our first birth met with us, she asked us what we wanted for our birth (candles, music, massage, etc.). I told her that I didn't care what she did for me; the only thing that I cared about was not letting the house get messy during the birth (clutter, etc.) - so would she please just see that the house stayed clean?


Now, knowing a bit about childbirth, I would never say something like that (and I also know what I want and need from a doula!). But that was just a reflection of my "need for clean."

And that's still there - it's just being progressively repressed. Forcefully. But it's not easy to let go of standards - it's kind of like prying open the jaws of an enraged and locked-on pit bull.

However, having a second child has forced me to lessen my housekeeping standards... again. It's painful, but necessary.

However, there have been some positive repercussions. For example, now being a little bit more loosened up, I can kinda-sorta-almost relax with a mildly messy house (or rather, not really, but I can pretend). Also, I've started to do more things with and for my family - like making Saturday breakfasts, or playing with our eldest - that I didn't do too much of before because I was so uptight about the house.

Other notes:

Having a second child has pushed me further in terms of maturity. I think that every child added to a family is a sanctifying influence upon the parents (if they choose to let it be so) because it forces us further away from our selfish desires and pursuits into the service of others. Having an older child is forcing me to develop authority and discipline and a backbone, none of which I have naturally. Having a baby at the same time is teaching me to multi-task, to push myself further, to die to my own desires even further to meet the needs of my family.

It is also more physically demanding, as I am now dealing with sleep disturbances at night and an active family during the day. First-time mothers, please remember to relax and sleep when your baby sleeps, because it is the only time that that luxury exists! When #2 arrives, there is always a #1 demanding attention. I still enforce a daily nap/quiet time with an unfailing energy, because it is my saving grace, but there is no more of having several daily times when baby is sleeping and I am free (too bad!!!).

Having a second child has been a really good thing for me, and I'm so glad God chose to bless our family with our sweet little one. If it weren't for the HG issue, I would definitely jump into it again wholeheartedly (I'm going to post on this subject soon.... remind me if I forget).

Any comments? How has having a child, or a second or third or fourth child, impacted your life?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pictures from Today

Today our family attended the memorial service for Dr. Charles Martin, our family friend and pediatrician, who was an amazing doctor and highly regarded by our local birth community (see my tribute here).

I could say that it was a lovely service, and I'm sure it was, but the truth was that I didn't hear a word of it. Being that we were about 5 minutes late, we arrived to an office that was not just "standing room only" but "standing room outside only." We stood outside in the rain, with a lot of other attendees, looking through the glass, for about 15 minutes until someone took pity on all of us and shepherded us into the back office, where more and more people piled in until we were stuffed like sardines into the proverbial can. Unfortunately, there was no sound, so we ended up standing elevator-style in the back for the entire service, hearing an occasional sentence fragment from the front.

In some ways, I was glad about that, being that I am still very upset over Dr. Martin's death, and I have a bad habit of bawling at funerals anyhow. But I also feel like we missed something very precious... so I regretted it at the same time. Next time, they definitely need to hold a service at a bigger location! (Not that there will be another time, but still!)

Anyhow, the service was highly successful. Several hundred people attended, and the service consisted of about 90 minutes of "open mic", with people telling stories of their time with Dr. Martin. There were colleagues, staff, students, and clients present - all kinds. It was really touching to see people in tears for their doctor and colleague - a reflection of what a great guy he was.

My husband went in after the service was over, and took some pictures, so here they are:

It was a lovely outpouring of support!

It hasn't been made clear yet whether another doctor will be taking the practice, or if the practice is dissolving. We'll probably find out in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

In Memoriam: A Remembrance

This morning, I opened Facebook to find the devastating news that our pediatrician, Dr. Charles Martin, had died suddenly, at the age of 46.

And I sat, wondering - "Why am I sitting here at the computer, crying uncontrollably? He is, after all, "just" a healthcare provider, and yet I'm crying as if I've lost a personal friend."

And then I realized - Dr. Martin was our friend. I might even say a close friend. I am crying for the death of a friend because he is, indeed, close to the heart of our family. And his death has been a terrible loss.

Dr. Martin saw and held each of our babies within a day or two of their births. He encouraged me through the challenging days and months and years of early motherhood. He affirmed my husband and me through the beginning years of our family. And he has, through the appointments and conversations of five years, become our helper, co-conspirator, and friend.

A few remembrances.

Although I read voraciously during our pregnancy on the topics of pregnancy and birth, one thing that I did not research was pediatricians. And so, a day or two after our eldest's birth, I found myself telling my midwife - "Quick! I need a pediatrician!"

She handed me a list with four names on it, the first of which was Charles Martin. On the strength of that recommendation, I called him up and made our first appointment.

And that was that.

I found in Dr. Martin a gruff, plain-spoken man of intense personality and vibrant humor, and one who was deeply intelligent and deeply thoughtful, and with a true love of children and their families.

Very importantly, I found that Dr. Martin, unlike many pediatricians, had a deep respect for parental decisions and for hands-off medicine, and a passion for delivering quality service:

- He respected our decision to fore-go vaccinations, and never nagged us. Instead, he continually reaffirmed that, though at least (I believe) moderately pro-vaccine himself, he believed that parents' informed decisions should be respected and honored by health care providers. Many (most) other pediatricians are rude, condescending and contemptuous to non-vaccinating parents (some of you reading this have experienced this), either refusing to take them as patients or demeaning and scolding them in front of their children regarding their informed healthcare decisions. (Way to honor patient autonomy and informed decision-making.) Not Dr. Martin - he was the personification of respect.

- He completely supported our decision to birth our babies at home, and he loved our midwife. Just a few months ago, when we were in to see him, he paused in the middle of his exam and gave a mini-lecture to the whole room (which was quite full at the time) on the subject of why midwives were wonderful, why my midwife in particular was wonderful, and why all doctors should practice like midwives.

- He respected all other of our health care decisions that we made, without nagging and with complete support. He gave us the support that we needed as struggling new parents.

- He often recommended the courses of action that were least invasive to our children. For example, when we suspected that our baby had reflux, he said: "We could do a scope exam, but that is painful and traumatizing to the child, so let's not and just treat by food and elevation, etc." - which worked just fine.

- He single-handedly saved our breastfeeding relationships with both of our babies. Many pediatricians, unfortunately, are all too happy to sabotage breastfeeding relationships by pushing formula for any problem during initiation and then on the other end by encouraging early weaning. With our first, when breastfeeding problems arose, he gave us a feeding schedule that fixed some serious problems in 24 hours flat. With our second, when completely different problems arose that necessitated supplementation, he said not "Get thee to Target to buy some formula," but "Get thee to a breastfeeding store and get a breast pump!" And then, after baby had become bottle-addicted, he gave us another prescription which, when I got up the guts to do it, got baby back off the bottle and onto the breast within 7 hours. He also encouraged longterm breastfeeding. The end result was that our first nursed to 33 months, and our second to 18 months and counting. With many (most) other pediatricians, both babies would have ended up on formula due to my "inability to breastfeed."

- He gave plenty of time for appointments, oftentimes up to an hour when it was warranted. We had many interesting conversations, and he didn't hesitate to hand out as much knowledge as I needed or wanted.

- He spent oodles of time with us, over these past eight months, helping us to get started figuring out our baby's health problems and giving us guidance. At our last appointment, two weeks ago, he helped me to work out a plan of direction for handling baby's health care from here on out.

As a friend of mine said,

"Dr. Martin was like a friend I could talk to about anything, especially our non-mainstream choices. We were partners in my kids' healthcare and he always treated me as an equal."

Dr. Martin was a true asset to the community, an amazing man, and probably one of the best pediatricians in the world. We thank God for his presence in our lives, and we are going to miss him greatly.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Women's Birth and Wellness Center - Hurray!

This afternoon we trekked over to Mesa for the grand opening of the new Women's Birth and Wellness Center. It was awesome!

I went into this not really knowing much about the center, nor about the midwife who is in charge of it, Claudine Calligan. For some reason, I've absorbed a lot of information about Phoenix's two other birth centers, but not about this one - why, I don't know! But there it was. It was a mystery.

A mystery no longer!

We had a chance to tour the center - something which would have been lovely if our little one had not taken it into his head to scream his head off the entire time - but I did get to glance around, albeit briefly. The center has 2-3 birth rooms, one with a birthing pool, a common room and kitchen, offices, etc., all equipped for births and exam capabilities - plus an ultrasound machine!

I met one of the midwives who is running the birth center, and she gave me lots of yummy information. Firstly, and most exciting of all news - this center (listen up, mothers of the world!) will be taking VBAC, breech, and multiples births! YES! Is that not exciting beyond belief? The other two birth centers are not able to take those types of births, due to insurance and licensing issues, but this one can and will. She told me that there will be a lot of restrictions on those births, to ensure that women accepted are all low-risk, but I am so excited to have a resource to offer VBAC mothers. (And the people rejoiced!)

The midwife told me that this birth center will have more "medical" capabilities than most low-tech birth centers or homebirths can offer. For example, they will offer IVs (offer, not mandate) to laboring mothers and to long-labor mamas who might benefit from IV placement. For those of us who decry mandatory IV placement in modern hospitals, this might seem like an odd benefit, but for mothers who need it or feel more comfortable with traditional labor trappings, this is great. They will also have a nurse attend all births. For friends of mine who want lower-tech births but need the comfort of a more medical setting, this will be ideal.

The midwife also told me that the center is now awaiting its first birth, as their first mama is "in the window" and will be birthing any day.

(After speaking with this midwife for half an hour, I finally realized that she was the same midwife who had worked with my own midwife five years ago when we were awaiting the birth of our first child! When I finally made the connection, it was fun to be able to say "Oh, it was you!" "Oh, and how are you? And what have you been doing?" and all of that.)

I am very excited about this birth center! I can't wait to learn more and get to know the midwives involved, and to hear about all of its adventures. Congratulations to the staff of Women's Birth and Wellness Center!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Here, There, Everywhere!

In the past year, the Phoenix Valley has gone from having no birth centers....

.... to having one birth center

.... to having two birth centers

.... to having three birth centers!

Is that amazing, or what? We have:

Babymoon Inn (Phoenix)

Blossom Birth and Wellness Center (Phoenix)

Women's Birth and Wellness Center (Mesa)

(I believe the Bethany Midwives are in the midst of starting an in-hospital birth center - with waterbirth! - but I can't find anything on their website in confirmation of this. Information, anyone?)

I am so excited about all this! And last month at birth circle, I heard for the first time expectant couples who said not only "I'm having a homebirth!" or "I'm birthing at hospital X" but also "I'm having my baby at Babymoon!" and "I'm having my baby at Blossom!" What an awesome collection of resources for expecting mamas!

I attended Blossom's opening, and got to see this amazing and gorgeous facility (if I wasn't a confirmed home-birther, I'd definitely consider it!). I had to miss Babymoon's opening, for some reason - I hope I get to see it sometime! Women's Birth and Wellness is having its open house next Saturday, February 12th, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m., and we are planning to be there.... I am very excited! If you're in the area, come out and join us!

It is simply impossible to have too many birth centers! Bring it on!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hospital Packing List

My newly postpartum friend Jen posts her thoughts on her hospital packing list - what she used, what she missed, what she wishes she had added. Plus some gorgeous newborn pics!

My Recommendations

I've never put too much thought into packing a hospital bag (I just put in the basics for the possibility of a transport), but if you are planning to birth in-hospital, it definitely pays to put some serious thought into it!

Anyone have anything to add to the perfect hospital bag packing list?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How to Be a Great Grandma

A dear friend of mine is eagerly awaiting the arrival of her first grandbaby (due any day!). Yesterday, she posted on Facebook: "Can anyone tell me any do's and don't's for grandparents?"

(As a matter of fact, my friend has nothing to worry about.... she is going to be the best grandmother in history! She is an awesome woman..... I'd have to say "practically perfect in every way." There is not a young woman in her church who does not consider her a mentor and surrogate mother. Some day they'll be building statues to this woman.... she is going to be great.)

But anyhow, I thought I'd publish the suggestions (paraphrased, not quotes). Here they are!

DO pray for your kids as they become parents.

DON'T constantly try to feed the grandkids sweets.

DO give your grandkids lots of love.

DO give your kids a night off once in a while, and be available to help them out when you can.

DO bite your tongue if your kids aren't parenting the exact way you did.

DON'T get in the way of what your kids are trying to do as parents.

DON'T sabotage your kids' rules or parenting efforts with passive-agressive behavior (i.e. giving the grandkids sugar after your kids have said they want to be sugar-free, showing the grandkids TV after the parents have said they don't want their kids watching TV, giving them things for gifts that the parents have said they don't want in their house, etc.)

DO refrain from giving unwanted advice or criticism.

DO remember that you too did stupid things with your kids while you were learning! 

DO give your kids lots of grace!

Does anyone have anything to add? 

Quiverfull Philosophy

Yet another quick post which intertwines birth and Christian theology, and so which may apply only to readers of the Christian faith (though not necessarily!).

So, I've been reading up lately on the Quiverfull Movement, which is a conservative Christian movement that rejects all form of birth control, that is, putting God in complete control of family size. It is based on the Bible verse: "Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them." (Ps. 127:3-4, NKJV).

Followers of the Quiverfull movement believe that (1) any form of birth control is an effort to take away the sovereignty of God, who alone is able to open and close the womb, (2) that children are always a blessing from God and should be received gladly, (3) that Christians should trust God with their family size, and (4) that birth control has led to our culture's current "abortion mindset," i.e. that children are disposable man-made objects whose worth is dependent only upon whether or not they are wanted by their parents.

(If I missed anything or messed anything up, please feel free to write and correct me.)

The Christian community seems, to me, to fall into the following categories regarding birth control:

Option #1 - Any form of birth control is okay, barring abortion.

Option #2 - Some forms of birth control are frowned upon, due to their ability to act as abortifacients, but others (barrier, etc.) are considered okay.

Option #3 - Quiverfull Philosophy, see above.

Option #4 - The Roman Catholic view, being that it is okay to use God-given periods of female infertility (with abstinence during fertile periods) in order to control family size.

Did I miss any? The Quiverfull Philosophy is by far the least common, though I have run across it quite often over the past few years.

I have read "A Mom Just Like You" by Vickie Farris - it is an excellent book on the topic of homeschooling, but the first two chapters are devoted to family planning issues. Regardless of your birth control philosophy, it's a great read.

I have also read a little bit by Shonda Parker, an excellent author whom I really admire. Incidentally, I am friends with Mrs. Parker on Facebook, and she is an awesome woman, wife and mother..... I receive a lot of encouragement from her wise and godly wisdom, and the glimpses into her family life. She is definitely a mentor-from-afar for me.

I've also read stuff online and on blogs that deals with this subject.

So! I'd love to hear what you think! For? Against? Bible verses? Thoughts?

Now..... I never know which articles on this blog are going to "take off" and which are going to just sit. Some articles garner a lot of comments that I never would have expected, while others stay comment-less. Since I don't know which way the wind will blow (until it does!), here is my disclaimer again: Civil, polite, kind conversation is welcome! Name-calling, cat fights, or any form of unkindness or rudeness is NOT and will be deleted immediately without comment. All conversations must be governed by the law of kindness.

So if anyone would care to discuss this, feel free!