Thoughts on Circumcision: AKA Why I’m Glad I’m Having a Girl

I have to say from the very beginning of this discussion that I am pregnant with a baby girl. However, it was very soon after we found out that we were having a girl that I uttered the words “whew, now we don’t have to decide about circumcision”. I think I may even have still been on the ultrasound table.

Circumcision is definitely a hot topic these days, from dads who vehemently need their sons to match their ‘parts’ to mothers who believe that circumcision is a human rights violation, and everything in between. when Matt and I were first discussing this topic (early in our pregnancy), I told him that I knew this was a decision that ultimately he would need to make for our future son- and that, given he took the time to inform himself, I would respect his decision, even if I didn’t necessarily agree. I felt strongly that this was an area of parenting and decision making within my marriage that I needed to respect my husband in- and he appreciated that. Now, we are having a girl, but I am happy to say that Matt has taken some time to inform himself about this topic anyway, and I think we are close to being on the same page!

Thoughts on Circumcision: AKA Why I'm Glad I'm Having a Girl

So what are all the factors that go into the circumcision decision? Well, there are many- from religious, to aesthetic, to social, to medical. I want to break down each of these factors objectively and give an overview or where each camp lies before I share my own thoughts!

RELIGIOUS
Let’s get the most complicated out of the way first. Most people I know jump straight to the religious card when discussing circumcision without realizing what it actually entails. Most Christians assume that, because the Lord commanded the Israelites to be circumcised in the Old Testament, we all must continue to abide by that law, because ‘that’s the tradition in the church.’ There are many problems with this argument:

The Jews were the only ones that circumcised for a long, long time- in fact, Paul spends a good amount of the New Testament arguing that it’s completely fine for the gentiles (aka, most of us) to not be circumcised, and that it has no hold on salvation. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages, when some church authority figures decided to claim that being uncircumcised was linked to problems with lust and masturbation, that the church began routine circumcision. That was really effective, huh?

Secondly, if we are to abide by the rules put in place by the Lord for the Israelites, we have a whole mess of other things to worry about in addition to circumcision- publicly stoning all adulterers, no sexual relations during a woman’s period, very specific dietary instructions. It’s pretty silly to assume that this part of the covenant must be steadfastly held to in modern day, but the rest of it doesn’t matter. As Christians, we believe that Jesus came to fulfill the law- which is why we are not bound to any of these practices anymore.

AESTHETIC
This one is probably the easiest one to understand, and yet seems to be the one that is most blown out of proportion. Let’s face it: dads want their sons to look like them. What if they get confused? Will they think something is wrong with them? In all honestly, this will probably end up being nothing more than a brief, honest conversation between father and son about how they made an informed decision about what was best for him- with information that perhaps his grandparent’s didn’t have. It helps to stress that the father was born just like the son, but had a procedure done to now look like he does. Form anyone I’ve talked to, this simply hasn’t been a game-changing issue- in fact, they were surprised with how easy the conversation was, and how resilient the sons were!

SOCIAL
The ‘locker room’ argument is another that I hear often- and perhaps with good reason. Even in the years that my husband was growing up, circumcision was much more common than it is now. In a locker room of boys, a slim few of uncircumcised peers would definitely be a minority- but statistics say that this is far from the norm now. In fact, polling from 2011 shows that 43% of newborn boys nationwide are not circumcised– and this statistic is only growing (this study shows the number at around 70% in 2010!). This is definitely changing the locker room dynamic for what our boys will experience when they grow older.

It’s also interesting to look at data state-by-state and compare what states will fund circumcision via Medicaid, versus which states do not.  Overwhelmingly, states with funding have higher rates- meaning, when parents actually have to pay for it themselves, they are far more likely to forgo the procedure.

MEDICAL
This is perhaps the most misunderstood factor of the circumcision debate- whether it is medically necessary or not. The fact is that there are ZERO worldwide governing medical bodies that continue to say that routine infant circumcision is medically necessary- in fact, many go as far as to say that routine infant circumcision is a ‘cosmetic procedure’. However, because denying circumcision is only now starting to become more commonplace, there are a vast number of physicians who aren’t really trained properly on how to care for an uncircumcised penis- and, therefore, a parent making an uninformed decision not to circumcise may be advised improperly on how to care for their son, which can lead to further issues down the road. I have heard horror stories of mothers taking their infant boys in for a checkup and having a doctor forcibly retract their son’s foreskin- something that is to happen naturally as the child grows older- and having to eventually switch physicians because of the trauma that it caused the child (and mother) because the doctor wasn’t informed.

Are there times when circumcision is medically necessary? Absolutely. But the bottom line is that every professional medical association agrees that, given proper care, routine infant circumcision is just not needed. Personally, I think that this in and of itself is a pretty big deal- if medical professionals, who would make more money by saying that routine circumcision is necessary (given they profit from surgery), are stating that the surgeries aren’t necessary, I’m going to take note.

Preparing the Body for Natural Birth

How in the world do you prepare for a natural birth? Given that my babe’s due date is in less than a month, it’s safe to say that I’m in full-on prep mode! Here’s some of the measures that I am taking- and that many mothers take- to prepare their bodies for a natural labor and delivery.

Prepping the Body for a Natural Birth

SENSE ASSOCIATIONS– Perhaps one of the more fascinating (and effective) ways you can prep yourself for labor, this one just involves sticking to a relaxing routine in the weeks leading up to your birth. Our bodies learn to associate certain smells, sounds, and even colors to certain emotions or bodily reactions- and what we are going for is relaxation! For me, I have a few different artists that I like to listen to during my relaxation time (Iron and Wine, Sigur Rós being the most common) and I have certain essential oils that I routinely use as well (DoTerra’s Serenity blend being the most effective). When I have a relaxation practice, I use the oils and put on the music, and practice total body relaxation- trying to intense every muscle in my body. The thought is that, once I am in labor, my body will remember these sounds and scents and automatically become more relaxed.

EXERCISES– Because we took Bradley Method classes, we were automatically given a list of exercised to perform daily, each designed to prepare the body in some way for labor.

Pelvic Tilts/ Hands and Knees- Basically a pelvis-focused version of the cat/cow exercise in yoga. This helps improve pelvic mobility, strengthens the core, and relieved lower back pain.

Butterfly- You need a partner for this one. Sit against a wall or headboard with your knees bent together. Have your partner push your legs together as you push them apart, strengthening the outer leg and hip muscles.

Squatting- One of the most beneficial exercises to do during pregnancy, squatting regularly will gently stretch the perineum and improve hip and pelvic mobility. This is also a great position to use in labor (particularly pushing stage) because it opens the pelvis at extra 10-15%.

Tailor Sitting- Or, ‘criss cross applesauce’. Work on getting your knees to the floor! This will keep you in good posture, which helps align the baby correctly for delivery.

Moderate Walking- I’m bad at this one. I try to walk places as much as I can but I’m really exhausted. That said, get in as much activity as your body can handle- stamina is what you need! Labor is an athletic event!

Exercise Ball- My new favorite, especially with baby girl being posterior. Birth balls or exercise balls force you to have great posture, strengthen the core and the back, and help align the pelvis and baby for birth! I have also found that it helps alleviate my back pain. These balls are also invaluable during birth- but more on that in a later post 🙂

Pregnancy Tea

HERBAL TEAS– This is something that I have been implementing almost my entire pregnancy, thanks to my home-blended pregnancy support tea. Now that I am nearing labor, I am ramping up the amount of Red Raspberry Leaf in my tea (to strengthen the uterus) while toning down the amount of peppermint (which can sometimes inhibit milk production). I’ll be bringing this tea to labor with me, too!

HERBAL TINCTURES– This is probably less common, but I’m going for it, anyway- it can’t hurt! I received a small bottle of Labor Prep tincture from Trilight Health– an herbal blend designed to prepare the body for labor gently but effectively. you take a very small amount per day- again, it can’t hurt! I also have several tinctures from WishGarden Herbs that I use frequently- one for stress relief, and one to help me sleep. Both are quite important now!

PERINEAL MASSAGE– Say what? Yeah, basically a foufouey way of saying ‘pre stretch yourself’. Neither erotic or comfortable, but certainly effective in preparing the nether regions for birth- both in preventing tearing (which is obviously a plus) and getting mom used to the sensation of being stretched down there. When the feeling comes it will be vaguely familiar- which will allow her to focus through the pain. This article has an easy explanation of perineal massage.

EPO– This might be the most controversial one. I thought that using Evening Primrose Oil, both internally and vaginally, was becoming more commonplace until I asked my midwife. She informed me that the birth center had seen a connection between women using EPO and having their water break without actually being in labor- and told me that they do not recommend it. However, other labor professionals I have spoken to have not seen that correlation and do support their clients using EPO. The bottom line: there’s not really medical evidence either way- only anecdotal. But there’s some pretty convincing anecdotes, too 🙂

REBOZO WORK– A rebozo is basically a long scarf that can be used to lift the uterus off of the pelvis and give the baby some room to move around.  I’ll discuss the rebozo more in my post on my ‘natural birth hospital bag’, as there are many things a rebozo can be used for during birth. However, it is a great tool to help get the baby into a favorable position before labor- something we have been working on since she seems to be posterior at this point.

ACUPUNCTURE– I’ve been seeing my acupuncturist regularly throughout my pregnancy, and he’s a great friend to have going into labor. Not only is he skilled in turning breech babies, but he can induce labor as well, if necessary.  He is helping with my anxiety, heartburn, sleep issues, and baby girl’s positioning!

Do you have a favorite way to prepare the body for natural birth? A tried and true method, or something that you’re curious about? I’d love to hear!

Sleep, Stress, and Stretch Marks: Tools to Survive Late Pregnancy [WishGarden Herbs Review!]

Sleep, Stress, and Stretch Mark: Tools to Survive Late Pregnancy feat. WishGarden Herbs

A few weeks ago, I was blessed to receive a generous package in the mail of herbal pregnancy support formulas from WishGarden Herbs. They chose so wisely, too- I have used every one in the past few weeks! There are so many different symptoms of pregnancy, and each woman experiences it entirely different- some women will have two completely different pregnancies back to back, too. It helps to have companies like WishGarden that are formulating quality products so that we have a place to turn when things get rough!

The first product I dove into was a bottle of Pregnant Belly Oil, which seems normal enough though it is an interesting forest green color. The oil is surprising, though, in how moisturizing it is and how little of it you actually need to cover your belly! The smell takes some getting used to- it isn’t off-putting, but it’s definitely herbal and a little savory- I can’t exactly place the smell, but it’s pleasant and mild. I have to say, I really love how it makes my belly feel- smooth and supple, soft and pliable. At almost 35 weeks, I don’t have one single stretch mark 🙂 The ingredients include: Elderflower, Bee Pollen resin, Comfrey root, Almond Oil , Jasmine Essential Oil , Vitamin E Oil.

The second I have only used sparingly, but with great effect- Stress Relief for Pregnancy, an anti-stress herbal tincture. Thankfully, life has not been incredibly stressful lately, but there have been several different times that have brought me to a point where I felt like I needed a boost for emotional support, and that’s when I used the tincture. The taste is very mild, too- I barely notice it in the water! Two droppersful of the tincture in a small glass of water, and I truly felt calmer and more in control of my emotions within the next half hour. While I don’t think that the strength would hold off a panic attack, I think that for basic emotional support and to ‘take the edge off’ of a stressful day, the tincture is very effective. My husband has even used it in a pinch! The ingredients include: Lemon Balm leaf, Linden leaf and flower, Passionflower aerials, Milky Oat tops vegetable glycerin, rocky mountain spring water and organic gluten free alcohol.

Finally, I received a bottle of Sleepy Nights for Pregnancy, a sleep tincture. Lack of sleep and insomnia plagues up to 75% of pregnant women, and I certainly have not escaped that statistic. I do employ a wonderful essential oil blend that I love and does help me fall asleep well and, for the most part, stay asleep, if something happens that completely wakes me- I am awake for a long, long time. However, when this happens, I will take two droppersful of the sleep tincture in a small glass of water, and I usually can fall back to sleep within ten minutes- a stark contrast to the two hours that I would normally average! Again, this tincture has a very mild taste- almost unnoticed in the water. This is a great product to have on hand. Ingredients include Milky Oat tops, Linden leaf and flower, Passionflower aerials, Scullcap aerials, Hawthorne fruit, vegetable glycerin, rocky mountain spring water and organic gluten free alcohol.

On the whole, I really can’t recommend these products highly enough! If you’re experiencing stress of sleep issues in your pregnancy, grab some of these tinctures. And I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to use the belly oil for all of my pregnancies in the future. I love knowing that what I am using is top quality and natural- safe for baby & mommy!

While I did receive free product in exchange for my review, all opinions are wholly my own and I receive zero compensation from any sales through this review!

Blend- It- Yourself Pregnancy Tea

Blend- It- Yourself Pregnancy Tea, with recipes for anxiety and heartburn! via Feed Me, Mama!

One of the very first sects of alternative medicine that I adopted into my own life was studying herbs and medicinal teas. Soon after I got married, I became fascinated with the properties of herbs- the way that chamomile tea could put me to sleep, but peppermint could wake me up, but both could help a headache? Who wouldn’t be fascinated by that? It wasn’t long before I started buying loose herbs and blending my own teas- a blend for sleep, a blend for immunity, a blend for PMS. My friends would come to me when they weren’t feeling well and have me blend something specific for their ailments. I loved the empowerment that came with understanding herbs and how they could help me!

When I first became pregnant, I could barely choke down a hot meal, let alone any kind of hot tea- so, supporting my pregnancy with this kind of alternative medicine was out the window (I went to acupuncture instead…but more on that another time). However, once I finally waded out of the nausea into the second trimester, I began drinking a few cups of Traditional Medicinals Pregnancy Herbal Tea each day, and supplementing that with specific blends from Earth Mama Angel Baby for heartburn and anxiety. Well, it wasn’t long before I started doing the math, and realized that it would be much cheaper for me to blend the teas myself- so I ordered some herbs from the Bulk Herb Store and got to work!

This is what’s in my daily pregnancy tea. The active ingredients are identical to that of the Traditional Medicinals tea!

Blend- It- Yourself Pregnancy Tea, with recipes for anxiety and heartburn! via Feed Me, Mama!

Peppermint
Red Raspberry Leaf
Alfalfa
Nettle

I mix equal parts of each herb in my french press and steep for at least ten minutes. Pour and drink!

When I am feeling anxious, I add in a half part each of Lavender and Chamomile.

When I have heartburn, I cut the peppermint in half and add some fresh grated ginger, or fresh squeezed lemon juice to the cup!

See? Mixing your own herbal tea can be that simple. I ordered half a pound of each herb, organic, from the Bulk Herb Store, and it will last me through the end of the pregnancy, and probably well beyond. The best part? I just ran across a great post from Modern Alternative Mama using these same herbs to make a hormone-balancing post-birth tea!

Do you have a tea blend that you swear by? Or a favorite that you buy without fail, that you’d like to learn to make? Tell me! Let’s try it!

Great selection of bulk herbs, books, and remedies. Articles, Research Aids and much more.
, use Promotion Code FEEDMEMAMA1 TODAY!

, use Promotion Code FEEDMEMAMA1 TODAY!

, use Promotion Code FEEDMEMAMA1 TODAY!

, use Promotion Code FEEDMEMAMA1 TODAY!

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

Can you REALLY get enough protein without consuming meat?

protein postOne of the main tenants of the Bradley Method, and really pregnancy as a whole, is the importance of nutrition. The Bradley Method recommends that expectant mothers consume at least 80-100 grams of protein per day! Now, I am not much of a meat eater (except for our family’s venison and some grass-fed cow we were gifted with this year, and that only on occasion) so this task seemed completely daunting to me. But, of course, this was my homework for the week- to calculate my average protein consumption. Boy, was I surprised with the results!

Here’s my journal for the day:

4:00 AM (yes, seriously, every night around this time I wake up ravenous)
Bowl of gluten-free cereal: 4 grams
Organic milk: 8 grams

8:30 AM
One slice whole grain bread: 5 grams
2 Tablespoons sunflower seed butter: 5 grams
2 tablespoons chia seeds: 6 grams

12:00 PM
One can organic tomato soup: 4 grams
Two slices of whole grain bread: 10 grams
Three slices pepperjack cheese: 15 grams

3:30 PM
One SERVING Popcorn: 4 grams
1.5 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast: 8 Grams

6:00 PM
Baked Quinoa- estimating, but by quinoa consumption alone at least 12 grams
more if including cheese consumption as well
Stir-fried yellow squash- 1 gram

7:30 PM
Pumpkin muffin from panera during Bible Study (oops): 7 grams! surprise!

9:30 PM
Large glass of milk- 8 grams

TOTAL FOR THE DAY: 97+ grams of protein- and NO meat!

Avoiding meat is not my goal- I just wanted to challenge myself and see if I could eat nutritiously all day and still maintain the levels that I need. It was much easier than I thought! Snacking and eating more frequent, smaller meals is encouraged during pregnancy, so this definitely helps.

One thing I did notice is that much of the protein came from carbs- whole grain bread, gluten free cereal- while this is alright in moderation, having a carb-heavy diet can sometimes lead to gestational diabetes, so it should be avoided when possible. This is where meat, dairy, and veggies come into play.

Still unsure about getting adequate protein without eating meat? Think about this: pound-for-pound, the strongest mammal on earth is the Gorilla- which is an herbivore 🙂

Call the Midwives

We began my pregnancy by seeing my normal OBGYN, one member of a large practice in Owings Mills. The practice delivers at Sinai and I’m sure would’ve provided me with state-of-the-art medical treatment. This is the same practice that walked me through my missed miscarriage last year, as well as the scary diagnosis and eventual removal of the large mass on my right ovary.

When I went in for my first prenatal appointment, I expected to be met with smiles and perhaps even a shocked reaction- after all, it was less than a month since my surgery, and I was already pregnant! However, I was met with blank stares, eyes staring at a computer screen that didn’t recognize me or remember me. In fact, the very doctor who I had seen just a month before several times for my ovarian mass had to look at my records to confirm that I did in fact have the surgery I claimed to have had. The doctor had no recollection of me.

My second appointment was the “ever-important” internal exam. Little did I know that I had been switched from my normal female doctor (who, unbeknownst to me, retired from OB practice) to a male doctor without my permission- and had to endure yet another uncomfortable situation as my poor husband sat in a small chair while I was examined. It was mortifying for us both.

It was around this time that I began researching other birth options in Maryland- everything from simply switching OB practices to home birth. I quickly learned that Maryland is an extremely difficult place to have an intervention-free birth for several reasons:

-Having a midwife attend a home birth is “illegal” unless it is a Certified Nurse Midwife who is backed by an Obstetrician. To my knowledge, there are only a few that practice in the entire state, and I’m not sure that any of them are taking new clients, particularly first time mothers. This leaves mothers with dismal options for home birth- having an “illegally attended” birth with a midwife (which many women do and have great success and healthy babies), or having an unassisted home birth. I’m not exactly sure what the “illegality” of the whole thing can lead to- probably that you can be charged with negligence if something happens to your baby, or perhaps the midwife can be held liable- I’m not 100% sure. But, I think that, for some women, these are the right choices- to have a home birth, with a midwife or unassisted- but not for everyone.

-There are only a handful of free-standing birth centers in the state- two that I am familiar with. There are various hospital “birth centers”, staffed by midwives and outfitted with more natural birth tools, such as tubs, but because they are attached/part of hospitals, their clients must adhere to hospital guidelines- which, depending on the hospital, can significantly change the birth experience for many mothers (though many mothers absolutely love this experience, and I don’t discount that whatsoever). This also effects the after-birth experience for the parents and baby, with certain interventions being much more routine (vaxing/Vit K/eye gel given without parental consent, pitocin for placenta delivery and uterine shrinkage, formula supplementation without parental advisement). Again, these choices are completely right for some families, and many people choose to include all of those things in their after-birth care plans. However, not every family chooses these things.

-Lastly, C-Section rates throughout the state of Maryland are higher than the national average. Nationwide, close to 1 in 3 women
gives birth via cesarean- and that’s not including elective/planned cesareans. Induction before truly necessary is wildly popular, even though a recent Harvard study found that the average gestational period for a caucasian woman is 41 weeks 1 day. I have seen far too many family members and friends get induced, get epidurals, and get cesareans- it just seems normal at this point. I think that’s the problem- in most places, it IS normal. And sometimes it is completely necessary. But it doesn’t have to be!

So, taking all of this into consideration, we have decided to birth our sweet baby girl at Special Beginnings Birth Center in Arnold, MD. This is perhaps the most controversial choice that Matthew and I have made thus far (at least that I’m letting you in on haha)!  Staffed with Certified Nurse Midwives with years of experience, complete with three beautiful birthing suites with big beds, tubs, birth stools towel warmers, and a full kitchen, the place is absolutely stunning.  The only drawback: it’s located almost exactly an hour away from our apartment!

We began our research into this birth center first by talking to people we knew who have been there- most of whom gave glowing reviews, and those who didn’t were really looking for a home birth experience, and ended up going that direction in the end.

Next, we took a tour– and this is where everything changed. We were given a tour of the birth center and then given the opportunity to ask the midwives questions.  It was amazing! So many of the things I was prepared to fight with an OB about- movement and eating during labor, Vit K and eye gel, vaccinations, routine circumcision, delayed bathing, etc- all of the choices that I wanted to make for my child were encouraged, and even assumed to some degree, by the midwife staff. It was like breathing a sigh of relief as I realized that I could have the natural birth I wanted without having to fear that the baby would be stuck or smeared with something or treated in a way I didn’t feel was necessary.

We have had two appointments with midwives at the birth center so far, with a third coming up next week. The experience has been so encouraging and healing! I love the focus on nutrition and exercise as well as medical information. I can have as few ultrasounds as I would like (though we have actually had many more than I intended). Their holistic approach to pregnancy, as something that is natural and not a illness or medical emergency, brings so much peace to my heart as I remind myself that the Lord created women to bear children. Pregnancy isn’t a bad thing, and with the right preparation I can trust my body to do the work it needs to do.

A huge part of this decision has been learning to “insert grace” into our birth plans. Do I fault mothers who make choices that are different from my own? Absolutely not. Is it totally possible that something goes wrong and I need to have a medicated birth or a cesarean? Yes. And if that’s the case, I will take it in stride, as I know that medicine is a good thing and saves many lives- perhaps my own, or my baby’s. It’s the grace that I am striving to understand that will allow me to accept what happens, but also strive to be as prepared as possible and make the most sound decisions I can with the information I have now. It’s not easy! But I am glad to be questioning and learning and growing in this process.

I’m so excited for this journey and I can’t wait to share my experiences along the way!

Husband-Coached Childbirth?

bradley

From the moment a woman announces her pregnancy, she is bombarded with advice from other mothers and horror stories of labor and incompetent husbands and breathing techniques that did little more than frustrate and break concentration. Because we are choosing to give birth in a birthing center (more on that later), I strongly desire to be as prepared and educated as possible before going into the birth of my daughter. The problem is, there are so many choices of “methods” and “classes” that all claim to do that! Here are a few of the options presented to the expectant mama:

Lamaze– What your parents probably think of when it comes to childbirth classes. I don’t actually know anyone who has had a baby in the last few years that has taken a Lamaze class. Lamaze focuses on breathing and movement strategies to make a natural birth more comfortable, but also educates women on interventions as well. Classes are typically 12 hours of instruction, broken down over several class sessions, and are held in large groups (typically around 12 couples).

The Mongan Method (Hypnobirthing)- focuses on deep relaxation and a degree of self-hypnosis, coupled with visualization. Not as crazy as it sounds, and I have had a few friends who tried hypnobirthing and loved it, including some hardcore home birthing mamas! My favorite part is the “anchoring” effect that the husband is supposed to have- when he even touched the wife, she is to associate him with strength and serenity, and immediately be focused. Classes are typically 5 weeks of 2-3 hour classes, and are available in group or private settings, depending on your instructor.

Birthing From Within– A very spiritual approach to childbirth, probably the most “hippie” of them all. I actually read the Birthing from Within book a few weeks ago, and if you can wade through the semi-crazy, hallucinogenic art therapy-esque chapters in the beginning of the book, there are actually some great and helpful suggestions in there as well. They also have meaningful ideas for baby showers called “blessingsways” that I am going to try to incorporate into my own showers this fall/winter. Six one-hour classes.

International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)- This is a pretty generic child birthing education organization, and the content of the classes varies depending on the instructor.

There are a few other options, but these seem to be the most popular, at least within my circles! So, what are we choosing? We’ve decided to study The Bradley Method- and our classes start tonight!

The Bradley Method is a philosophy based on years of research and observation by obstetrician Dr. Robert A. Bradley. The classes consist of 13 weeks of 2 hour classes, which focus on nutrition, exercise, pain management techniques, coping through proper body positioning and movement, education of the stages of labor, and birth rehearsals. Of all of the classes I mentioned above, Bradley seems to be the most holistically based, but also seems to give the most practical preparation as well (don’t you want to have a birth rehearsal?)

The role of the husband (or partner) is integral in the Bradley Method. Also dubbed “Husband-Coached Childbirth”, the labor partner is basically trained to be a doula and labor coach- to remember the things that the mother may forget in the heat of labor, and to know how to tend to each stage of labor’s specific physical and emotional needs. The coach is also responsible for the mother’s preparation- making sure that she is held accountable to Bradley’s nutrition standards and performing the designated exercises as often as portable to give the body the best preparation for the birth event.

There are two Bradley Method books that I have read- one, Husband-Coached Childbirth, written by Dr. Bradley himself, seems to be the book that started it all. The book is actually written to the father, though as mothers I think it’s good to read as well. It explains the development of his philosophy, the success that he has seen in his practice, and the various techniques used to achieve a peaceful, natural labor. I don’t think that reading this book alone is enough to fully prepare you for the birth, however- it is best used in conjunction with classes, as I think it was intended.

The second book, Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, written by Susan McCutcheon, is much more detail oriented, outlining specific nutrition guidelines showing photos of the different exercises (almost every time with a completely naked pregnant woman, so be aware), and going into great depth about each of the stages of labor. This book is written to the couple, and addresses both the mother and the coach at times. If you don’t have time or money to take a full Bradley class, but want to be educated on the philosophy and prepare your body using these techniques, I highly suggest this book. In fact, I know some couples who completely skipped the classes, just read this book, and had beautiful, natural Bradley births!

In short, here’s why we are choosing the Bradley Method:

The support of our community. We really, truly know a large number of couples who have used this method successfully and loved it. Veteran Bradley parents can’t seem to speak highly enough about the experience, and I value that a lot.

-The development of the husband and wife team. Many birth education options focus on either the mother “doing it herself” or with the help of other experienced women, and leave the husband on the sidelines. While I certainly see the merit of having other experienced women at your disposal, this simply isn’t what I envision when I think of a graceful, Biblical childbirth- diminishing the husband’s role? In our marriage, we work as a God-ordained team, and I think that should transfer to the birth event as well.

-The importance of nutrition and exercise. If you’ve ever read this blog you know how important this is to me, so there’s no surprise here. The Bradley exercises are simple but effective (think kegels, full squats, pelvic tilts), and the nutrition is comprehensive. For example, I am supposed to eat two baked potatoes a week- with the skin on- to help with mineral and iron consumption! I just never would have thought of that. Thank goodness for Bradley 🙂

-The time commitment to the classes– thats more than 24 hours! While this may deter some people, I am excited to fully immerse myself, have plenty of time to chew on what I am learning, ask questions, and practice. I feel confident that if anything is going to prepare me, these classes will.

-Birth rehearsals. I am fully aware that you can never truly rehearse your birth, as birth, by nature, is very unpredictable. However, if you can get the main coping and support techniques down for the various stages, it will be much easier to deviate when the time comes and incorporate something new. Our birth center also holds mandatory birth rehearsals right in the labor rooms- that will be exciting!

-Emphasis on breastfeeding. I haven’t actually started the class (like I said, we start tonight!), but one of our required textbooks is La Leche League’s “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”. This is a small point, as I already had the book to read anyway, but it makes me feel better to know that they emphasize things that I find very important.

I can’t wait to go to class tonight and start this journey! I look forward to sharing what I am learning along the way 🙂

The Diapering Decision: Why We Are Choosing Cloth

diapersOver the past few months, I have developed a serious diaper obsession. Call me crazy, becauseI know that’s what most parents dread about having a newborn, but I can’t stop thinking about diapers! Maybe not the diapers you’re used to, though. Cute ones. Reusable, good for the planet, will last until potty training ones. Cloth Diapers!

I have to be honest, this was a pretty easy decision for us. I had a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago who has two children and she told me how convicted she was feeling about using disposable diapers, and how she wanted to make the switch to cloth. I completely understand! Financially, thinking about spending $3,000+ on diapers for one child that would just get thrown in a landfill and would surround that precious bottom in chemicals makes me feel sick (see this article on chemicals in diapers). Even spending a bit more to get a responsible brand of diapers with less chemicals still didn’t seem environmentally responsible to us. We try to create the least amount of waste that we can in our home already, and we don’t want to change that once our baby girl arrives! Most importantly, we believe that each dollar given to us is one that we should spend to build the Kingdom, and I just can’t spend those dollars on things doing straight into a landfill. This is a conviction that the Lord has placed strongly on my heart to be part of my role as a graceful homemaker.

At the onset, cloth diapering is completely overwhelming. There are SO MANY different kinds of diapers you can choose from- different styles, from prefolds (the old-fashioned thing your mom and grandma think of while reading this) to pockets to all-in-ones (AIOs). Within each style there are countless brands at all different price points and made of different materials. It’s easy to get super confused and want to run for the nearest pack of pampers!

Here’s some suggestions: read up! Here’s a few blogs that were helpful to me in the beginning:
CLOTH DIAPERING 101 via View Along The Way
10 REASONS TO CLOTH DIAPER via Nourishing Joy
6 REASONS THAT CLOTH IS BETTER via Mama Natural
CLOTH DIAPER ESSENTIALS via Modern Alternative Mama
WHY WE CLOTH DIAPER via Wellness Mama

The other intimidating factor with cloth diapering is the price point. Cloth diapering is an investment! For pocket diapers (what we have chosen to stock up on), you will spend anywhere from $8-30 for a brand new diaper. One diaper. That’s crazy, right? Maybe so…but we have found ways around it and built ourself a nice stash that will last us all the way through potty training.

Find discount websites. Zulily runs great specials on cloth diapers! The BEST ones that we have bought new have been from there, and they are routinely half the retail price (so, around $10), come with all the accessories, and are completely adorable. Ebay can also get you great deals, as can overseas distributors- though, we choose to stay away from those because of labor standard concerns (full disclosure, I did buy a cheap pack of Chinese ones in the beginning, and I feel really bad about it now).

Don’t be afraid of used diapers! This was a game changer for me. Cloth diapers have to be taken care of very well, washed with specific detergents and almost always line (or at least gentle) dried. Moms know the investment that goes into these diapers, and they are good stewards of their possessions! Diapers also get put through a sterilization process called “stripping”, which many moms do before selling. Therefore, I have built a significant portion of my diaper stash by purchasing used diapers that are in very good or excellent condition- often only worn a few times. Craigslist can provide some of these for you, but the most reputable site I have used is DiaperSwappers. Moms are very honest about the condition of diapers and you can get great deals! Here’s just some of the brands I now have in my stash, thanks to Diaper Swappers:

Green Mountain Diapers
Little Bee Co
Bum Genius
Charlie Banana
Thirsties Duo
Rumparooz
Happy Heiny
Awesome Blossom

Many of these retail for $20+, but I never paid more than $10 for one diaper (and that was only one), and that was with shipping. All in all, I have about 25 diapers ready to go, and I have invested about $175 in a stash that will diaper at least 2 children through potty training. Much better than the cost of disposables, no matter how many kids we have! While this number will definitely last us, I have still registered for some more diapers- the more you have, the longer they will last, as they will be in a bigger rotation.

The best part about these diapers (ok, maybe not the best, but you get the idea) is that they can be resold AGAIN when we are done with them for about 50-75% of what I paid for them, making the investment even more worthwhile. Keep the cuteness while you need it, then make some money back!

Lastly, you could make your own!  If you are crafty, making your own diapers and accessories might be very easy for you, lowering your costs even more AND letting you create exactly the diaper you want! Prefolds are easy enough to sew, but there’s patterns even for the most intricate all-in-one or pocket styles. I can’t sew worth a lick but I hope to learn this fall, and at least make some good flannel wipes and some insert/doublers. Here’s some good sites to get started:

DIY Diaper Inserts via Rusty Cookie Cutter

DIY Diaper Detergent via The Eco Friendly Family

DIY Diaper Patterns via Keeper of the Home and via Northern Baby

Have you tried cloth? Are you interested? What questions do you have?

Happy Diapering,

Karli

Surviving the First Trimester- Naturally

firsttrimester

I was a pathetic mess my entire first trimester.

I’m serious. It was embarrassing. I wish I could say that I was one of those women who just brought along a trash bag and towel wherever she went and barfed when necessary and just powered through life, but it just wasn’t true. The nausea and vomiting was so bad that many days I never got dressed and didn’t leave the house. I am so, so thankful that I have a job that I can do from the comfort of my home 90% of the time. I seriously don’t know how I would have managed a 9-5 office job. It was completely the grace of the Lord that I got through alive.

All that to say, many women have it much more difficult than I do. I was never hospitalized, I was able to stay off of anti-nausea medicine (though it was offered to me many times), and I was still able to work. But almost every women who experiences pregnancy has some degree of nausea and vomiting, though it’s different for everyone. And we all have different things that make our nausea better! Today, I want to share the things that helped me make it through- regardless of how pathetic I was.

-Eat a complex carb before you lift your head from the pillow. My go-to was Trader Joe’s Rosemary & Raisin Crackers- filled with flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and lots of other fun super grains for my little girl. I must’ve eaten through 20 boxes during my first trimester. When I say “before you lift your head”, I am not kidding. I would grab the box, spin over onto my belly, and eat half a box of crackers before even thinking about getting out of bed. Not the cutest thing I’ve ever done, but it would sit heavily enough in my stomach to get me downstairs, let me go to the bathroom, and fix something for breakfast without spiraling into an all-day mess of nausea.

-Eat OFTEN. As in, I ate every 1.5-2 hours MAX. Keeping something in my tummy was the only way I could avoid feeling gross. It didn’t necessarily matter what it was, as long as I got it down. It was my ‘preventative measure’.

-Figure out what herbs work for you. For me, ginger made me even more sick, so I had to avoid anything with ginger in it, including virtually every anti-nausea tea on the market. However, peppermint worked wonders for me, as did chamomile. I would keep a small box of altoids in my purse and suck on one or two whenever I started to feel gross. Breathing in a chamomile steam inhalation (or simply making chamomile tea and sipping it) was also really effective.

-Stay hydrated. Lemon is another anti nausea aid that many people find helpful- I was pretty much constantly sipping ice water with a heaping amount of lemon juice in it, and it really did make me feel better- and staying hydrated is key to keeping yourself well.

-Try alternative medicine. I see a Chinese Herbalist and received acupuncture treatments throughout my first trimester that I really feel helped keep my sickness manageable. Check with your insurance to see if they cover alternative medicine- mine covers 75%! You might be surprised. Aromatherapy, focusing on ginger, lemon, or peppermint essential oils, can also be helpful- either applied in a carrier oil or used in a diffuser, or even in bath water.

-Up your magnesium levels. Some lovely mamas online suggested using magnesium oil topically twice a day, and I think this also contributed to my survival. you can also add magnesium oil, or a ton of epsom salts, into bathwater and have yourself a nice soak. I honestly don’t know all the science behind this one, but I can say that it worked for me, and for many other mamas as well!

-Don’t force yourself to eat what isn’t appealing to you. You will barf. It will suck.

-Take your prenatals and don’t stress. Your baby is very tiny and requires very little at this stage- do your best and your prenatals will cover you. But- DO your BEST too! Don’t use pregnancy as an excuse to eat donuts all day. Your baby is a beautiful responsibility- take the best care of him or her that you can!

-Don’t be afraid to ask of help. I remember calling my mom and asking her to come over and clean my toilet for me one morning, and while it was very humbling, it was worth it. Especially if you have other children, give yourself grace. Accept a meal from a friend, an offer to babysit, take an extra nap while your kids sleep.

-Recognize when you need medical attention. Some people truly need anti-nausea medication to get through the first trimester. Others suffer from a debilitating condition known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which requires a lot of monitoring, and often medication, to control. If you can’t keep anything down and you can tell that something is wrong, take care of yourself. Your body, and your baby, will thank you.

Have any of these tips worked for you? What else helped you survive your first trimester queasies?