Infertility, Miscarriage, and Hope: Our Story

Infertility, Miscarriage, and Hope: Our StoryYou never think it’s going to happen to you.

I distinctly remembering thinking about this, right around the time myself and 8 other friends got married within a 6 month window. “The odds of at least one of us having trouble getting pregnant are really good,” I said to myself, worried for those around me. Armed with my copy of Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility, I knew that it wouldn’t be me.

Flash forward about two years, when my husband and I prayerfully started trying to conceive our first child. Several people close to me had recently been through miscarriages, which I figured only bettered my odds of getting pregnant quickly and carrying to term without a problem. And yet, month after month went by, as we did all of the ‘right things’ the ‘right way’, but still, no baby.

Even though I knew several people who had gone through miscarriage, and even a few who were struggling to conceive, words can’t really express the loneliness and isolation I felt during those long months. See, infertility is a silent battle in our churches. For many couples, it is a private struggle for years, with private grief and private wounds. And I understand that- because infertility is an intensely private issue. But I think that there will be major healing in our churches when we are able to put our emotions aside and talk about this issue, because it affects so many families around us, and many times we don’t even know. So I want to tell my story. I understand that a pregnant woman is not usually the one that you want to hear from when talking about fertility issues or miscarriage, but my story is real, the pain I bore (and still bear) is real, and I want to share it with you, in hopes that somewhere down the line, my story brings hope to someone struggling with the same things I struggled with, silently, for months.

Infertility as a medical term and infertility as an emotional obstacle can be somewhat different. The medical community defines infertility as ‘a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse’. For some couples, that can be the longest twelve months of their lives, as the emotional tolls of infertility set in much faster than that. I want to validate those feelings, and say that no two women’s fertility journeys are alike- and the bottom line is that we must support one another, whether a few months or many years into it. I think it was around the second or third month of trying to conceive that the emotions started to creep up in my heart- feelings that something was wrong, that we would never get pregnant, that my body wasn’t doing what it should, that I would never be a mother. Jealousy at the other pregnant women around me, no matter how happy I truly was for them and their growing families. Feeling like I was the only one that had this struggle. Not wanting to talk about it, for fear that naming it would make it real. Each month that passed became more difficult, and hope seemed farther and farther away from my heart.

Much to our surprise, around our ninth month of trying to conceive, we found out that I was pregnant.

Some people, upon finding out they are pregnant, are secretive about it for a while, waiting to tell family for a few weeks and not making anything public until the first trimester was over, in case something were to happen. I was pretty much the opposite of that. I immediately told my parents, called my husbands parents, and drove around Westminster visiting people and making calls for the rest of the day. I was elated. My heart was full. I was going to be a mom.

In the next few weeks, we made many plans for our little birdy. We knew we didn’t want to find out the gender, but we already had names picked out and that we wanted a grey and yellow nursery (okay, my husband didn’t care much about that) and that even if it was a girl she wouldn’t wear much pink because I’m a nonconformist and I don’t want her to feel like she needs to be Barbie. I was choking down leafy greens and red meat and trying to sleep enough but also stay active and do and don’t do all the crazy things you do and don’t do when you’re an expectant mommy. When the time came for my first appointment, Matt and I were elated. A picture of this little life! I couldn’t think of anything more special.

It was July 10. I still remember pacing in the waiting room trying not to wet myself because I was told that I needed a full bladder to be able to see the baby, and I was going to see that little one no matter what! I remember the coldness of the ultrasound gel, the soft lights, and the little bean shape that popped up on the ultrasound screen. That was my baby! Right there! It was incredible. I was flooded with emotion.

But our joy was soon trampled as we were told that things were not right with our perfect little life. Over the next 24 hours, a series of ultrasounds and blood tests confirmed the worst: that though my body still thought that I was pregnant, our little one was no longer growing. On the afternoon of July 11, I received a call and was asked to schedule surgery to remove the baby. It was the worst, darkest day of my life.

My miscarriage is without a doubt one of the most painful, confusing things I have ever gone through in my entire life. Yes, I learned many lessons through that time, and I can see how the Lord used that baby to draw me closer to Him, to trust Him, and to speak to others. But it doesn’t change the hurt. It doesn’t make the grief go away. Even being pregnant again doesn’t make the fact that we lost a baby disappear. I still think about how old our child would be, marveling at the children of friends who had their babies right around when my due date would have been. One of them even named her son what we would’ve named the baby had it been a boy- a haunting reminder of what could have been.

Painful months passed as we continued to process and grieve this loss, with little direction of what that was even supposed to look like. Scripture doesn’t tell us how to mourn a lost baby, and the church, normally silent on the issue, doesn’t help either. Did the baby have a soul? Will I meet the baby in Heaven someday? When people ask me if I have any children, do I include this little one who isn’t with us anymore? Do I stand when all the moms are acknowledged on Mother’s Day? When people ask if we are going to ‘start trying’, do I launch into this tear-jerking tale? Miscarriage leaves you with a mess of questions and pain and very little finality. I still don’t have the answers.

My tiny glimmer of hope through the loss of that baby was that almost everyone I knew that had miscarried got pregnant again within 3 months, and now had beautiful children. “You’re more fertile after a miscarriage,” they would encourage, “it’ll happen.” Well, it didn’t. Three months came and went, then six, and before I knew it, it was February 14th, our due date, and I was a mess of tears in my bed, not knowing if I would ever be a mother, if my body would ever cooperate, if the Lord would ever bless me as He had seemingly blessed everyone around me. I recounted the miscarriage and all of the emotions surrounding the surgery to my husband that night, who sadly had been on the road when everything happened. As we sat and cried together, the Lord brought us closer, and yet the pain continued to grow. The feelings of loneliness and isolation only intensified.

Several weeks later I was diagnosed with a 7-cm mass that was encasing my right ovary and fallopian tube. I was referred to a gynecological oncologist, who seemed optimistic that I didn’t have cancer (which was obviously good) but told us that realistically, I was going to lose half of my reproductive organs, and that there was a chance that the same thing could develop at some point on the other side, as well. I was devastated. I couldn’t even have a baby with all of my organs intact- how was I ever supposed to start a family with only half of them? Both my husband and I felt strongly that our first child would be biological, and besides, adoption wasn’t financially feasible for us (and still won’t be for a long, long time, sadly), and so I just resolved that whatever was going to happen, would happen, and that I just needed to be honest with myself and with the Lord about where I was and what I was going through.

The Lord really met me in that place, in those dark weeks of doubting and questioning. I found myself beginning to surrender, to trust, to just let go of the emotions I was facing, the doubt, the lack of hope, and I just tried to move on with life. As good as that sounds, as I look back, it felt more like giving up than giving over, though that surrender was there, too.

And then it happened- out of nowhere, almost a year after our first pregnancy, we found out that I was pregnant again. We were overjoyed but also completely terrified. That positive test launched us into a frantic week of ultrasounds and bloodwork, trying to make sure that history didn’t repeat itself. I lived in complete fear for the first twelve weeks, always expecting the worst, because that’s all I knew- it was how I protected myself. Every cramp I felt was the beginning of the end- I over thought everything. I could’t help it. I wasn’t even excited for the first ultrasound because I KNEW that something would be wrong, and I would have to start the grieving process all over again.

To our surprise, our baby was perfect. Her heartbeat was strong- though I only saw it for about 2 seconds before I bawled my eyes out for the rest of the appointment. And here we are today-25 weeks into this journey, the little girl is kicking me as I write. What a testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness.

I want to share this journey with you to make sure that you know that you aren’t alone. You don’t have to be strong if you aren’t. You don’t have to hold it together if you can’t. It’s okay to cry, to be angry, to be disappointed, confused, frustrated, scared, lonely. It’s okay to question the Lord and to petition Him honestly. But we must remember that our identity lies in Him and who He has created us to be in this moment. Our hope must lie in Him, and not in medicine or our bodies or our education or the experiences of others.

The months that we spent unsuccessfully trying to conceive, both before and after our miscarriage, were some of the darkest, most difficult months of my life. I felt like no one understood, like I shouldn’t feel those emotions because somewhere someone was in a worse situation than I was, and like I should just suck it up and pretend that everything was fine. But it wasn’t. So I want you to know, again, that you aren’t alone. I am here for you, I understand where you are. There is hope, but the point of this isn’t even the baby at the end. It’s the camaraderie, the community that I want you to know is surrounding you in this. You don’t have to feel alone like I did, because so many women are dealing with this very thing right now, or have dealt with it in the past.

Church, I think it’s time to take off the silencers and tell our stories. We need to fill our young women with stories of hope, yes, but also real stories of tears and grief and the Lord’s redemption and healing. We need to be honest about these struggles so that women don’t have to isolate themselves anymore.

Women, if this is your story, your journey right now, I am here for you. It’s okay to break down, to feel your emotions, to cry, to be frustrated. This is an intensely difficult thing to go through. There is so much pain and emotion and frustration and confusion involved. Be honest with yourself and with the Lord, and with those around you. You’ll be surprised at how ‘not alone’ you truly are, as people start to come out of the woodwork as they hear your story. The community is here for you- we just need to all find each other.

If you’d like to use this blog as a venue to tell your story, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Let’s be a light, a voice of love and truth and healing.

Wise-Woman-Builds Graced Simplicity
thankful thursday

TED Talk Tuesday: “How I Fell In Love With A Fish”

I’ve developed a new pre-bedtime routine over the past week that had given me a great idea for the blog! Every night, I pick a TED talk and do all of pregnancy exercises and stretches while I watch, finishing up by slathering the ever-swelling belly with vitamin E oil and shea butter.

If you’ve never heard of TED, get familiar.  The organization holds events and brings in expert, entertaining speakers on a wide variety of different subjects and has them give short yet informative talks to the audiences, while taping them for all the world to enjoy!  Every talk I watch, I learn, grow, and question. I want to share these talks with you in my new series called TED Talk Tuesday!

This talk is one of my all-time favorites.  Not only does it talk about the downfalls of the fishing industry, but it captures your attention as it details a revolutionary alternative.  Dan Barber is a captivating and vivacious speaker, and I want to watch every talk he gives! But for now, enjoy this one…

Body & Brain Boost Pumpkin Oatmeal

Body & Brain Boosting Pumpkin Oatmeal

HELLO FALL! I can’t quite rock the leggings look anymore (at least not gracefully) but I’m fully embracing my boots and autumn-flavored things. There’s a pint of Hoffmans’ pumpkin ice cream in my freezer, Baugher’s apple butter on my counter, and pumpkin puree in my fridge. It’s like something biological happens when the cold weather hits, making us all crave these things.

Here’s the crazy thing- something biological DOES happen! Our bodies are designed to need more beta carotene, vitamin C, and warming food in the fall and winter, when the weather is colder and our immune systems can become repressed. It’s no coincidence that things like pumpkin and citrus come into season, bursting with their essential vitamins that are perfect for this season!

This quick morning dish, full of flavor and supplemental goodness, boosts brain function, digestion, good fats, fiber, vitamin C, and beta carotene levels. This is a bowl of super foods!

You’ll need:

1/2 cup of oats cooked in 3/4 cup of water
1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
1 Tablespoon each: flaxseed, chia seed, wheat germ, pumpkin seed
Cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice) to taste
Raw Honey (or regular is fine) and sea salt, to taste

Cook oats in the water- the oatmeal won’t be soupy, but you’ll add pumpkin to it which will thin it out a bit! After the oats are cooked, swirl in the pumpkin, flax, chia, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds. Spice, salt, and honey to taste- you may like yours sweeter, while I prefer mine a little salty, to balance the rich flavor of the pumpkin.

Here’s all the amazing health benefits you’re enjoying! Do your body some good this fall 🙂

PUMPKIN– An underestimated superfood, this autumn gem is full of fiber, vitamin C, and beta carotene. It also works wonders on digestion- it eases upset tummies like a charm! You can even bake dog treats with pumpkin to help pups that might be having digestive issues.

CINNAMON– Helps to balance blood sugar, high in antioxidants, aids in detoxification and boosts the metabolism.

OATS– Oats are an amazing source of fiber and protein, and work to balance the blood sugar throughout the day. Incorporating oats into the diet can reduce cardiovascular disease risks, lower cholesterol, and lower type-2 diabetes risk.

FLAXSEED– Famed for being a great source of omega-3 fatty acids (that even stays intact through baking!), flaxseeds are also great for digestion. They are also a surprising antioxidant source- containing more polyphenol antioxidants than even blueberries.

CHIA SEED– The wonder seed! Who knew that such a nutritional powerhouse was growing silly spiky heads when we were younger. Chia seeds are intensely good for hydration- they absorb 2x their weight in fluids, which helps slowly release into our systems when we need it most! For more on Chia seeds, check out this previous post on health benefits and ideas to incorporate into your diet!

WHEAT GERM– Again, very high in omega-3 fatty acids, this is a famed ‘brain builder’ supplement. It’s packed with B-vitamins, which make it ideal for pregnant women and those who don’t eat much animal proteins. It’s also high in fiber, which aids in digestion and detoxification. Minerals found in wheat germ include iron, zinc, selenium, manganese, magnesium, and calcium.

PUMPKIN SEED– Also called pepitas, these babies are high in iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and Vitamin E. This is a great food for pregnant women to incorporate into their diets. Raw or activated is best, but toasted brings out a great flavor as well!

RAW HONEY– Chock full of B vitamins, vitamin C, antioxidants, beneficial enzymes, pre and probiotics, honey is also highly regarded for it’s antibacterial and anti fungal properties. Great for incorporating ingot he diet if you feel a cold coming on, or applying topically to a cut, scrape, or burn to prevent infection and speed healing.

The Paper-Free Kitchen

paperfree

This week, at the prompting of my husband, we made the switch back to a paper-free kitchen.  Yes, back- we had done this several years ago but had regressed back when we lived with my parents for a bit and sharing laundry between 14 people, well…paper was just easier.  But we kept our cloths, and I am thankful!

The basic premise of the paper-free kitchen is just like it sounds- no paper. We don’t keep any disposable dishes or utensils in the house at all, and we have just one roll of paper towels under the sink for emergencies (like a pet accident or something grotesque involving raw meat juices….bleh). Disposable dishes are a big step for many families- but it is a big step for the environment, too. While it definitely takes more time to wash dishes, and you may use more water, you aren’t wasting money on things you’re throwing into landfills, either! Plus, washing dishes is a great community-building activity. One person washes, one person dries, one person puts away, the others stand around and keep them company…it’s like magic. Maybe not, but remember the environment!

Steering your kitchen away from paper towels and napkins is definitely a more daunting task- though I’ve found being prepared for anything makes it a lot easier! We have a variety of different cloths for different purposes:

Hand towels: These are your standard kitchen linen, I’m sure you have some. We probably have 6-8. We dry our hands with these after washing or doing dishes. They are usually decorative and seasonal. Super cute.

Cloth napkins: We do have one set of these (4), but to be honest, we don’t use them that much. We probably should more often. Maybe we’re just clean eaters? We also use placemats, which helps keep the table clean.

Microfiber: for ‘dry-cleaning’ mostly, dusting and sweeping up dirt messes, cleaning off the kitchen table, or giving the floor a once-over with the Swiffer. Also, if there is a big spill, these are much more absorbent than our cloth rags, so sometimes we use microfiber instead. I think we have around 6.

Cloth rags: For us, these are cut-up old t-shirts. We have a big basket of them, probably around 30 or so, which works well for our household of 3. They are thin and we aren’t emotionally attached to them (anymore haha). When we would normally reach for a paper towel or napkin, we instead grab a cloth rag. They work really well with the citrus-infused all purpose spray we use for the kitchen counters! If they get crumbs on them, we give them a quick rinse and then hang them on the oven handle to dry. Once they start to get a little grimy, we take them upstairs and throw them in with our laundry, and replace them with a new cloth. It’s really that easy!

Some people prefer to use all microfiber, which does works great for everything but can be a little bit of an investment. Our shirts were headed to Goodwill anyway, and they have served us well so far! I’m so happy to put them back in action.

So yes, we do keep a roll of paper towels around just in case. But our usage is SO MUCH LESS than it was before, and we are spending much less money! Next step, moving to cloth in the bathroom….maybe when we have a house with a laundry machine 😉

Do you use cloth in your kitchen?

The Antibacterial Movement: Are We Destroying Our Immune Systems?

Here’s a confession for you: I HATE washing my hands. Don’t worry, I do it after I go to the bathroom, or when I’m cooking, but I’m just generally not an avid hand-washer. I don’t carry around hand sanitizer- I do have a small bottle of all-natural sanitizer from CleanWell, but it’s lasted me about 3 years. Places that I do wash my hands often (home, kitchen, office) I only use all-natural, preferably homemade or small-batch soaps that don’t contain weird ingredients. I don’t know what it is, but generic, chemical-laden hand soap and sanitizers just are NOT my thing!

Given this little quirk, when a friend suggested writing about hand-washing and antibacterial stuff, I jumped on the subject. Maybe there’s something behind my personal vendetta against germ killers? Turns out, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be…

The first thing I came across was this FDA page about Triclosan, the active ingredient in antibacterial hand soaps and sanitizers. The page states that “the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.” Hmm. Okay, so the FDA says there’s not really a benefit. Interesting.

Then, there’s this troubling recent article that actually details the history of triclosan as an antimicrobial ingredient. The article references “recent animal studies of triclosan [that] have led scientists to worry that it could case hormone-related problems in humans including an increase the risk of infertility and early puberty”. Additionally, the article discusses the original draft of ingredients allowed in soaps and cleaners, which “stated that triclosan was ‘not generally recognized as safe and effective,’ because regulators could not find enough scientific research demonstrating its safety and effectiveness.The FDA published several drafts of the guidelines over the years, but the agency never finalized the results. So, companies have not had to remove triclosan from their products.” This is a little worrisome to me.

While the FDA is expected to begin definitive studies on triclosan any time now, they have already missed their target start date several timers, so…I’ll read it when I see it.

Next, I found this minutes report from an the 2000 American Medical Association Annual Meeting.  At this meeting, the AMA reccommended that “the use of common antimicrobials [triclosan being named as one in the previous paragraph]for which acquired resistance has been demonstrated in bacteria as ingredients in consumer products should be discontinued”. Clearly, nobody listened to the AMA, but here it is- they express their concern that we are creating different strands of microbes that will then be resistant to antibiotics.  Essentially, that antibacterials/microbials are causing more harm in the long run than they are good.

I don’t know about you, but the FDA and the AMA are pretty big sources to be actually speaking out against making something- usually, if they lean a certain way, it’s unfortunately towards a money-making product. Needless to say, these articles got my attention.

As I continued researching, I found some more interesting articles. This one, from Mother Earth News, discusses another popular antimicrobial agent, triclocarbon or TCC, which is also a pesticide- which, thanks to it’s prevalence in hand soaps, is now contaminating our water systems and, therefore, much of large-scale agriculture. The article also discusses how triclosan “known to promote the growth of resistant bacteria, including E. coli”. Okay, no. Gross.

The kicker, for me, is this study from 2006 of mice and rats- some kept in a dirty sewer, and some kept in a sterile laboratory. The study showed that “the wild mice and rats had as much as four times higher levels of immunoglobulins, yet weren’t sick, showing an immune system tuned to fight crucial germs, but not minor irritants…what happened in the lab rats is what likely occurs in humans: their immune systems have got it so cushy they overreact to smallest of problems.” Essentially, the study concluded that the mice and rats that were continually exposed to different microbes were able to fight off sicknesses when stimulated, while the lab-kept mice and rats got much more sick when stimulated, because their immune systems weren’t used to having to do any work.

So, where do we go from here? This recent ABC news article discusses the importance of germs, and how normal, “older cleansers such as soap and hot water, alcohol, chlorine bleach and hydrogen peroxide are sufficient for most purposes…strong antibacterial cleaners are needed only when someone in a household is seriously ill or has low immunity.” Furthermore, the article discusses the importance of bacterial exposure in children, citing an Italian study that concluded that “exposure to bacteria is essential for development of an infant’s immune system. He says a baby must be exposed to germs during its first year in order to develop antibodies needed to fight infection later in life”. So, germs are not just good, they are essential for preparing our children for their future health.

My Bottom Line: We use homemade soaps and cleaners, or soaps and cleaners that we know the ingredients of, whenever possible. Yes, I bring my own soap to my office. When in a public restroom, I opt to use my all-natural hand sanitizer rather than the generic anti-microbial soap offered from the dispenser. I’ve even been known to carry around a tiny tupperware container with a sliver of soap from home. Am I going to be a germaphobe mom? Probably not, because honestly, I’m not afraid of germs- I recognize their importance to our immune systems and want my children to be strong and healthy. I know that regular exposure to common germs, in addition to a diet that supports their bodies rather than breaking them down, is pivotal for my children’s health. If someone is very ill or immunocompromised, of course there are precautions to take. I’m just not convinced that they need to include triclosan or TCC…

DIY Citrus All Purpose Cleaning Spray

DIY Citrus All-Purpose Cleaning Spray via Feed Me Mama

Welcome to the easiest DIY you’ve ever done. It’s awesome and can replace those expensive cleaning sprays you’re currently buying- or is that just me, the sucker for marketing that has to have the latest Method or Mrs. Myers seasonal scent? Maybe. Whatever. Make this!

Take the peels of 2-3 citrus fruits. I used 2 lemons and an orange.

Put them in a glass jar and cover with white vinegar- about 1 cup should be perfect.

Leave it sit for 2-3 weeks. (set in the sun and you can leave it for less time!)

Strain into a spray bottle, top off with filtered water.

BAM! Vinegar + Citrus = extreme cleaning power! For added benefits, you can mix in a few drops of tea tree oil or oregano oil, but I personally prefer just the citrus scent.

Because this makes a fairly small batch, you can adjust the ingredients and scent it to your liking! Next time, I’m going to try all orange peels and infuse a cinnamon stick as well for a holiday scented cleaning spray.

Do you have an easy DIY you’d like to share? Do it in the comments!

Book Review: The Vaccine Book

Book Review: The Vaccine Book via Feed Me Mama

One of the most terrifying things for me to be thinking about and researching lately is vaccinations. I was fully vaccinated as a child and I have received numerous vaccinations due to international travel in the past ten years, but this is a big subject that I want to make sure I am making an informed decision about!

To begin my research, I started with parenting’s most well-known vaccine guide: Dr. Sears’ The Vaccine Book. This book goes through each vaccination that a child will be given before they turn 18 (there are 12) and the corresponding illness, highlighting the ingredients, effectiveness, and possible side effects of each vaccination, as well as giving a comprehensive look at the illness itself and the chances that a child will actually contract the illness. The final chapters discuss vaccinations for travel, serious side effects of vaccinations, and allegations regarding the link between autism and vaccinations.

Before reading the book, I knew very little about vaccinations, only that it is a very polarizing topic for many parents, and that the extremes of either side both seem a little intense to me. On one hand, you have parents that blame vaccinations for any number of illnesses in the country and will actually go out of their way to infect their children with the diseases they might be vaccinated for. They claim that vaccinations are full of crazy ingredients and that the vaccine industry is a huge money-making conspiracy that doesn’t have the child’s best interest in mind.

On the other hand, you have parents who are somewhat blindly allowing their children to be injected with things that they haven’t even looked into, things that haven’t been thoroughly tested for safety and are meant to prevent illnesses that either a) aren’t that serious (like chickenpox) or b) are eradicated from the US (like Polio). They are following a schedule handed to them by a pediatrician and don’t look back,

Now, I should say this: I truly try not to judge other people’s parenting decisions, and I assume until proven otherwise that parents will do what they feel is best for their child. That being said, I know families on either side of this discussion and I fully respect where each is coming from, and it isn’t my intention to attack one side or the other! As you’ll see, my mind is far from at ease over this subject, and my goal is simply to keep learning and hopefully arrive at a conclusion that brings peace to my heart and health to my family, whatever that may be.

While I have picked up on other things along the way (and will discuss them in future posts) here are some basic things I learned from this book:

Many of the illnesses that we vaccinate against are either eradicated or very uncommon in the US. Polio and Diptheria have been completely eradicated, and others such as Mumps, Tetanus, and Measles are extremely uncommon. However, many people (Dr. Sears included) argue that this is because of the success of vaccines, and that we could undo this if vaccination rates do not stay as high as they are today.

Several of the illnesses that we vaccinate against aren’t actually that serious. Take chickenpox for example. Even as recently as my generation, the chickenpox was just a part of childhood- you take some oatmeal baths, scratch yourself some nice scars and you get over it. Now, parents are told that it is a very serious illness and that their child needs to be vaccinated for it, even though the vaccine can actually CAUSE chickenpox! This is similar to how we see the flu shot being marketed now. Though, in the case of both of these illnesses, a case in an adult or elderly person can potentially be very serious, which leads many people to vaccinate anyway. Even more “scary” VPD’s (vaccine-preventable diseases), such as the Measles or Mumps, are rarely life threatening and are easily maintained by medical treatment.

Vaccines contain some seriously disturbing ingredients. Besides the mercury and formaldehyde and aluminum we often associate with vaccinations, the way that the diseases are cultured and manufactured into vaccines includes things such as aborted fetal cells, monkey kidneys, guinea pig parts, cow parts, and eggs. while vaccine proponents claim that the amount of these in an actual vaccine dosage are negligible, it is enough that someone with an egg allergy is not given vaccines that use eggs in the culture. My father (though not allergic to eggs anymore) had to avoid egg-based vaccines as a child because he has a reaction to the first one he was given. Other vaccine ingredients include MSG and polysorbate. As a believer, I want to make sure that I am being a good steward of the environment and taking care of creation- using animal parts for science isn’t usually part of that for me.

There are very serious, albeit rare, side effects to vaccines– all listed in the product insert for each shot. These range from encephalopathy to Guillan-Barre syndrome to seizures to side effects that are strangely similar to the diseases they are preventing…

Many vaccines are being administered in ways that haven’t been clinically proven to be safe. While all vaccinations currently on the market have been tested for safety to some degree when administered on their own, there are no studies that look at the safety of various vaccinations when given as a group in one appointment. According to a normal AAP vaccine schedule, some infants will get as many as 5 shots at one doctor’s visit- which is pumping their little bodies full of many different things that haven’t been studied for reactivity together.

The healthcare system has made exemptions for vaccine ingredients, where in other sides of the medical field they may not be allowed. The biggest example I have seen of this is aluminum content- there is a cap on the amount of aluminum that an infant can receive during a given time frame via IV solution and other medical advances, but this cap does not apply to vaccination levels whatsoever. This is particularly bothersome to me because vaccines are not an “over time” treatment like an IV solution would be, rather everything is administered at once, which is much more difficult for the body to process.

Some vaccines that may seem inconsequential to US citizens can be very necessary when traveling out of the country, as those diseases may be more prevalent elsewhere. Polio, Hep C, and Diptheria may be the three most important examples, as they are all quite prevalent in the third world (mainly Asia and Africa) though they are not in the US anymore.

While doctors don’t get paid directly for giving vaccines, many do get end-of-year bonuses from their insurance companies based on the percentage of fully vaccinated patients they have in their clientele. Many doctors do not allow unvaccinated or selectively vaccinated clients as a part of their practice (I know many parents who have had to find new pediatricians because of this) and this may be a good indicator as to one of the reasons why.

Some vaccinations are given mostly for the sake of others, such as Rubella, which is asymptomatic in most people, but can cause severe birth defects if a pregnant woman contracts the illness. Another example of this is the flu shot, which many people get if they have close contact with infants or the elderly, which present in more serious cases.

Many recent outbreaks of VPD’s have also included vaccinated individuals. While the media never publicizes this, even the recent measles outbreak began with a vaccinated individual who travelled out of the country, and included a good number of vaccinated individuals as well as the unvaccinated ones who got all the publicity.

Most vaccines are only thought to provide immunity for around 10-15 years. Many people assume that vaccines provide lifelong immunity, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Boosters are available for some VPDs, but others are not approved once a person gets past a certain age.

Many vaccines have been proven to be effective with less doses than are given to children routinely. Blood tests called “titers” are available to test whether or not a vaccine has been effective. This can be a great choice for selectively vaccinating parents- give one rise of a vaccine and then test to see if that vaccine has been effective enough for your child.

In contrast, even the full set of doses of a vaccine are only effective 85-90% of the time. I know several people who have ran titers after having a full round of vaccinations only to find that they or their children did not develop immunity to the VPD at all.

So where does this book leave me? With just as many questions as I started with, though they are probably more informed questions than before. I think, mostly, I just wish that this was something that we, as parents had the freedom TO choose instead of NOT TO choose. Maybe that seems like a small difference, but it makes sense in my head.

There are many more posts to write as I work through this intensely complicated and difficult subject. Again, this post is limited to the points that I felt were raised in Dr. Sears’ The Vaccine Book. Feel free (please!) to share your research, one way or the other!

Help Me! What’s My Skin Type?

What's Your Skin Type? via Feed Me MamaOne of the most important tools I was taught during my time in working for a retail skincare and beauty company was the ability to help a customer figure out their skin type. I think that, a lot of the time, we assume we know our skin type based on how it usually feels or what products we use- but in my case and the cases of many others, it’s easy to be pretty off. Try this little trick tonight and see if you’ve been properly diagnosed.

-Before you go to bed, wash your face with a gentle soap, nothing special. Skip whatever normal regimen of products you use at night and go to bed.

-In the morning observe how your face feels. Is it oily all over, or only in certain areas? Do certain areas feel dry or rough?

-Take note of these areas. It might even be helpful to draw out a diagram of your face to help you map out what is oily and what is dry!

-You may want to repeat this test for several nights, giving your skin a rest from whatever products you normally use to see how it behaves normally. Compare your skin maps from each day and you’ll get a more accurate result!

Now, let’s take a look at those maps and see what we can do to support your skin in it’s normal state. The following are the three most common skin types:

What's Your Skin Type? via Feed Me Mama

OILY– almost completely oily when you wake. Maybe a few areas that might qualify as “dry”, but probably just “less oily” instead.

What's Your Skin Type? via Feed Me Mama

COMBO (also known as T-ZONE). Forehead, nose, and possibly chin are oily, but cheeks are dry. Dryness may extend to sides of nostrils or chin.

What's Your Skin Type? via Feed Me Mama

DRY (sometimes described as MATURE)- almost completely dry. Skin will likely feel tight, flaky, possibly itchy upon waking.

If you’re like me, your skin might behave differently during the various seasons- summer makes me a combo, but winter makes me flaky and dry!  If this is you, fear not: just make some simple adjustments as the seasons change. Knowing these things is essential to treating your skin with the proper products.

Here’s a few tips for each skin type:

OILY– Make sure that you are using ingredients that aren’t completely drying your face out. When this happens, your skin overcompensates and produces more oil, which has you worse off than when you started. Instead, skip moisturizer (or use a very very light one-coconut oil can be a great choice) and look for healing ingredients- tea tree oil being one of the most effective. It is a blemish fighter and a natural antiseptic and antifungal, and it’s going to clear your face up in no time! Worst enemy of this skin type: butter-based moisturizers, or anything with “alcohol” in it: acetyl alcohol, ceteryl alcohol, etc.

COMBO– My favorite. Who the heck knows how your skin might react? The best thing that I have ever come across for combo skin is LAVENDER OIL. The stuff is magic. See, something about the chemical compounds in lavender oil make it almost identical to your skin’s sebum (which manages oil production), which allows your skin to properly balance out oil production on your face. It’s pretty incredible, and I don’t totally understand how it works, but it does- so look for moisturizers that highlight this ingredient (LUSH’s Imperialis moisturizer is a favorite of mine, but it is a bit pricey). Also, focus on getting the right moisturizers- not too heavy, not too light, but effective. In the summer, you may not need a moisturizer on your face- maybe just a wash with coconut oil every few days. In the winter, you may find you need something heavier.

DRY– use moisturizers- yes, you probably knew this. But are you using the right ones? Many commercial moisturizers are full of ingredients that your skin can’t actually absorb. One of the most common, mineral oil, actually sits on top of your skin instead of sinking into your pores! Butters, like shea, cocoa, or mango, are a better alternative, but can sometimes be too heavy to use under makeup or may even clog pores making matters worse. The best alternative is actually to use natural oils, like coconut, grape seed, olive, or even castor oil. These oils mimic the oils that your skin naturally produces, as well as creating an environment that is difficult for bacteria to flourish. Try washing and moisturizing your face with coconut oil, and see what a difference it makes!

One final tip that goes for all of these skin types- don’t forget to exfoliate! Moisturizers and corrective ingredients can’t work properly if there is a layer of dead skin on top of your living layers. Aim to give your skin a good exfoliation AT LEAST once a week- maybe more, if your skin isn’t too sensitive. You don’t need any fancy products either- try baking soda, or even cornmeal, for a simple but effective scrub. If you need some inspiration, here’s our guide to the full at-home facial 🙂

Do you have a miracle product that you swear by for your skin type? Share it in the comments!

Rivaling Philosophies: Do Infants EVER Sleep, Anyway?

Sleep Solutions: Which to Choose? via Feed Me MamaPerhaps one of the most aggressive arguments between passionate parents is that surrounding the sleep schedules of an infant.  Is it best to allow the baby to nurse on demand, or co-sleep, each night? Or is it best to have the child cry themselves to sleep, teaching them to self-soothe?  As a soon-to-be mama, it didn’t take me long to figure out that people who align themselves with one side usually think that those on the other side are psycho or, at the very least, not making the best decision for their child.  Not wanting to end up on anyone’s wrong side from the get-go, I decided to read both books associated with this dilemma: On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo, and The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.

First, we will start with Babywise, as it is known in parenting circles. This book details the first weeks and months of a baby’s life, and teaches the parents how to “sleep train” their babe, with an end goal of sleeping through the night. “Crying it out”, as the other side would affectionately call it, is the main method of training here: teaching the infant to self soothe, learning their place in the family and becoming a routined individual.

Next, we have The No Cry Sleep Solution (we’ll call it NCSS). While NCSS does allow for some crying (given that the infant may just be colicky or trying to express a need), for the most part this is a much more gentle, time-consuming way of teaching the infant to sleep soundly. Most of the techniques are “baby specific”, meaning, you analyze how your baby is naturally soothed (be it touch, sound, nursing, co-sleeping, etc) and cater to those needs, while teaching baby that being alone and falling asleep without those cues is ok. This philosophy aligns itself with what is known as “attachment parenting”.

So, what’s the difference?

First of all, sleeping through the night is defined differently. While Babywise never gives an actual hour amount, it’s assumed that 8-12 hours is what most people are aiming for, and Babywise all but guarantees this result within the first 4-ish months of baby’s life. NCSS, on the other hand, defines sleeping through the night as 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep, which is also how the AAP defines it. This is a much shorter time frame, shorter than many parents are aiming for. However, NCSS shows that many babies will sleep longer using their techniques.

Secondly, the focus of each philosophy is different. While NCSS puts the baby and their comfort in the center, Babywise instead seeks to teach the baby their role in the family structure and their place in the routine. Especially in Christian circles, I have seen Babywise favored, because it inherently teaches submission and that the world does not revolve around the child. While I am not sure that such an idea is really grasped by the infant, I do understand that ‘the child always getting what they want’ can lead to a slippery slope in parenting.

Thirdly, and perhaps most obviously, the techniques for getting baby to sleep are really quite different. While Babywise focuses almost exclusively on allowing the child to self-soothe in whatever manner they choose, NCSS allows the parent to actively identify what works best with their baby and individualize their plan according to those cues.

Okay, then what’s the same about these guys?

Maybe more than you realize. Both philosophies stress having grace with both yourself and the baby, knowing that they plan doesn’t work every night and sometimes you have to abandon it for your own sanity and rest. Both books also emphasize making sure that all of the baby’s needs are met– crying, after all, is the baby’s only method of communication, so it’s important to make sure that the baby is full, dry, etc before putting to bed, as well as make sure that the baby’s sleeping area is completely safe.

Both books also give a lot of practical advice that isn’t necessarily exclusive to their philosophy. For example, Babywise teaches that, the best you can manage, you should try to nurse your baby as soon as they wake (rather than to sleep) so that they don’t form a sucking habit to get themselves to sleep. Similarly, NCSS includes many safety measures to look for in the baby’s area, including a great section on safe co-sleeping.

So, what do I think?

Truth be told, I really can’t align myself with “a side” until I meet my baby. I don’t really want to align myself with a side anyway! I think it’s a little petty, but if something works for your family, then hey, go for it! While I do tend to align myself more with many attachment parenting philosophies, I have known wonderful families that abide by each of these schools of thought, and nobody has damaged their children or ruined bonding or made selfish individuals because of it. I think there are both drawbacks and benefits to each book, as well as ways that each school of thought could be abused. So, I’m waiting it out. We’ll see how our little girl is and we’ll take it from there.

Did you follow either of these methods with your baby? Are you now? Would you keep it the same or do things differently?

Easy Late Summer Stuffed Pepper Soup

stuffedsoup

This past week, I got serious about my meal planning. Matt and I have always adhered to a budget (for groceries and beyond), but with the baby coming and finances changing, we have to be even more frugal. Realizing that we have lots of staple food items that hardly ever get used, I planned this week’s meals to use what we had on hand, and cut my grocery budget down! All I needed to buy for this meal was a new bag of brown rice.

This soup came together quickly and easily after a busy day of appointments and meeting with friends. I had leftover broth, tomato sauce, and tomato paste I needed to use, as well as a counter brimming with peppers and tomatoes. Made with fresh and readily available ingredients, this soup’s going to become a go-to quick meal for us!

pepperingredients

Ingredients:

1 lb grass-fed, free-range beef (or venison, turkey, etc)

4 Medium-size sweet or bell peppers, chopped into quarter-sized pieces

4 large tomatoes, diced

1 medium red onion, diced

3 cups brown rice, already cooked

1 cup tomato sauce (leftover homemade pasta sauce works great)

2 cups broth- any kind- or water- divided

2 T tomato paste

Basil, Oregano, Garlic salt, fresh pepper and sea salt to taste

Brown the meat, along with diced peppers and onions, in a skillet. Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, sauce, paste, and 1 cup broth/water in a large soup pot. Season meat to taste with spices. When meat is thoroughly cooked, combine meat mixture with tomato mixture in soup pot. Stir to combine and add second cup of broth/water if desired for thinner soup consistency. Simmer until peppers and onions are desired texture and serve with a good whole-grain bread.

 

Shared on Natural Living Monday!