Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Flunked It

I had to do my 1-hour glucose test today and I flunked it.  I'm fairly certain that the advice I received early yesterday morning in the ER didn't exactly help my numbers, but it's not like I just barely missed the acceptable upper level so I can't blame my crappy result on being told to take it easy and sit around the house.  I didn't flunk it as spectacularly as I did last December, but I flunked it nonetheless.  Sh*t!

I had this test performed when I was pregnant with my son and I scored 112.  I was 177 in my pregnancy last December.  I was 166 today. 

I laid off the carbs last night and only had an egg for breakfast this morning.  I weigh less now than I did in December and certainly less than when I had the test performed in 2008 (I was starting my third trimester when I had that test) so I don't understand how it's possible that I flunked it.  But I did and I know what that means. . .I get to take the 3-hour Glucose Tolerance Test.  Sh*t!

A couple of friends who have had Gestational Diabetes have given me info on the GD diet and it's livable.  I mean, I'd rather be able to eat whatever I want, but anything is doable if it is better for the health of my baby or me.  I've also heard that pumping iron tends to improve numbers more than doing cardio. 

Have you ever failed a glucose screening and ended up passing the 3-hour test?  What advice can you give me?  Obviously I'm not trying to "cheat" the test because Gestational Diabetes is serious and needs to be monitored, but I am open to any suggestions on improving the way my body utilizes the sugar.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Spotting Again

I woke this morning around 5:30 and had to urinate.  I saw spots for a moment when I noticed that my toilet tissue was pink.  Oh, God, please no!

I could feel my heart beating faster and I wiped a few more times to be sure my eyes weren't deceiving me.  No such luck, it's definitely vaginal spotting.  I willed myself to calm down and woke my husband to tell him that I found a little blood after going to the bathroom. 

My OB is out of town until Friday so I knew he couldn't squeeze me in to do a quick check.  From my experiences with spotting in my previous pregnancy, I know that the on-call nurse always advises a trip to the ER if there is any bleeding in pregnancy.  We decided that I would go to the ER by myself and my husband would stay home so our son could continue sleeping.

Thankfully the ER was nearly empty and I was seen within a few minutes.  After reviewing my medical history, the ER doctor immediately performed an abdominal ultrasound.  I stared intently at the screen and could feel tears beginning to well up when I didn't notice the flicker of a heartbeat.  I blinked hard and the doctor repositioned the screen so I saw a different angle and he pointed out the flashing heartbeat. 

I burst out, "Oh, thank God!"  Tears flowed without care because I was so relieved in that moment.  I was so afraid of hearing the worst once again and, even worse, hearing again when I was all by myself.

Then I noticed that my baby wasn't moving very much.  Compared to last Friday, my baby was barely moving at all.  But movement is movement and the most important thing is that the heart is still beating.  I suppose it's possible that my baby might have been resting or sleeping.

The doctor indicated that my baby's heart rate is around 130-140, which is in the normal range.  I can't help but remember that it was 165 just five days ago, but I guess that it stands to reason that the heart rate would increase with activity and decrease with rest.  Again, normal range is good even if the rate is slower than it has been at other times.

He performed a quick pelvic exam and found that my cervix is tightly shut.  He found evidence that I had bled, but noted that the bleeding had definitely stopped.  He's puzzled why I bled at all and gave me the standard speech that I've heard so many times that I could probably give to a patient by now: 

Many pregnancies have unexplained bleeding and it can sometimes happen throughout the pregnancy.  Approximately 50% of pregnancies that have threatened miscarriage (unexplained vaginal bleeding) will continue and yield a perfectly healthy baby.  Yes, that means that the other half do end in miscarriage.  There is nothing that can be done to save such an early pregnancy.  Though there is no evidence that it helps improve the outcome, continue with pelvic rest, avoid heavy lifting, and rest as much as possible.  The doctor this morning wasn't as conservative as the other ER doctors I had seen previously and he did not recommend bedrest or semi-bedrest, but he definitely told me to take it easy until I can be evaluated by my OB.

I gave a urine sample when I arrived at the ER and one weird thing showed up.  I have white blood cells in my urine.  That would typically indicate presence of an infection.  The puzzling thing is that I don't have a fever, any pain, or any burning from urination.  My urine is being cultured so hopefully a result will be available for my regular OB at my appointment on Friday, but the ER doctor started me on antibiotics in the meantime because normally urine does not have white blood cells and he's certain I have some sort of low-grade urinary tract infection.  It doesn't exactly explain the vaginal bleeding, but definitely should be treated anyway.

Want to hear a crazy side effect of the antibiotic I was prescribed?  The pharmacist says it can make my urine a reddish color.  Great.  Because seeing reddish anything in the toilet isn't likely to freak out a pregnant woman who has a history of unexplained vaginal bleeding, right?  I took my first capsule around 90 minutes ago and, uh, it made my pee bright green.

I'm hoping that this is just an isolated episode.  I'm hoping that my doctor will find a feisty and active baby with an awesome heartbeat on Friday.  I'm hoping that history isn't going to repeat itself. . .I can't help but pray and plead that I don't lose this baby too.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Weighty Matter

I'm finished with my first trimester and I ended up "officially" gaining two pounds.  Unofficially it was actually one pound as I had consumed excess sodium the day before my last office visit and I'd dropped that extra pound later in the day.  Given my starting weight, it wasn't necessary for me to gain anything at all in the first trimester.  Regardless, I'm pleased with my weight gain thus far and soon I'll begin to work on gaining around one pound per week.

Weight is a tricky thing for some women and it certainly is with me.  It's hard for me to just relax and let go of my standard "diet" (meaning my normal way of eating) even if I'm pregnant.  Understand that I would never risk the health of my baby over my vanity about weight by dieting while pregnant, but I also would never treat pregnancy like it's forty-weeks of all-you-can-eat buffets and gorging on junk food. 

I'm never as disciplined with my diet as I am when I'm pregnant and I think that's why I have found that I don't pork up when knocked up.  Though Weight Watchers makes it clear that one shouldn't follow their plan while pregnant, I make sure to follow the WW Good Health Guidelines about water, fruit, veggie, dairy, and vitamin intake because it is a healthy way to eat and live.  That's not to say that I don't splurge sometimes because I absolutely do.  It's true that there's nothing I love more than a good hamburger, but it's not like I eat that way everyday and I see value in enjoying treats every now & then. 

My problem lately is dairy, both milk and cheese.  Even yogurt, to a lesser extent, is offensive to me at the moment.  I wouldn't ordinarily care about my dairy aversion, but pregnant women do need quite a bit of calcium and dairy products are the most efficient way to get that valuable mineral.

I have had so much trouble consuming dairy that I've had to get creative about where to get calcium because there is only so much broccoli and dark leafy greens one can take.  Where have I been getting calcium?  Milkshakes, frozen yogurt, and ice-cream.  Nothing like getting my dose of calcium with a hefty serving of fat and sugar, huh?  Yeah, it's really not the best way to go about getting calcium.

I may have been able to get through the first trimester with my weight gain essentially right on target, but I'm pretty sure that I won't be able to claim the same for my second trimester if I don't get exit the ice-cream train and get back on the non-fat milk bus.  How do you like to get your calcium?  Any ideas and suggestions would be most appreciated!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Are You Gonna Eat That?

I've put this post off for a long time and I finally feel comfortable sharing it because, let's face it, it really isn't all that shocking compared to some topics I've tackled on this blog.  My hubs looks positively green whenever I bring it up and he's one of the most strong-stomached people I know so be forewarned that this post might gross you out.  I hope there are at least a couple people still reading after that warning!  Here goes:

I want to eat my placenta.  om, nom, nom

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.  Get out all the yuks (and yucks) and maybe you'll change your mind about placentophagy (eating placenta) after you finish reading this post.  If nothing else, by keeping an open mind and reading on you might learn a few things that you didn't already know.

No, I don't want to eat it right now because that would be just totally crazy.  But I do want to eat my placenta after I deliver my baby.  Yes, I just said that I want to eat an organ from my own body.  No, I don't see anything particularly crazy about the idea.  Yes, I'll explain why I want to consume this very special organ.

Does the thought of placentophagy totally creep you out?  I can understand that because the notion of noshing on a thick slab of bloody & pulsing placenta is pretty gross to me too.  Let me be clear that I don't want to take a big ol' meaty bite on the delivery table/operating table/wherever I happen to be when it exits my body.  I also don't want to make placenta lasagna, placenta burgers, or placenta shakes.  I'm only a little bit of a hippie and the thought of preparing it to consume in that fashion is a little icky to me too.

I do want to hire someone to steam it, dry it, pulverize it, and encapsulate it for me to take over a period of time in the least-gross way imaginable.  The way I see it, almost anything is palatable if it's in a capsule because your senses are disengaged from the material contained within.  You won't have to see or feel the bloody mess, you won't have to smell or taste anything that might be kinda off-putting, and you won't have to hear it throbbing.  Okay, okay, I'm totally joking about the last one!  But I'm absolutely not joking about my intention, which is to ingest my placenta.

Are you thinking that chowing down on placenta is something that some annoying hippies made up in recent years because they delight in grossing out the mainstream public?  Do you think there can't possibly be any reason for a woman to ingest her placenta?  Do you believe that modern medicine has a better answer than placentophagy?

Placentophagy is practiced by most mammals (some accounts say "all," but I thought I'd use less absolute terms) and many primates.  It's been practiced in many human cultures for centuries.  Some traditional cultures practice placentophagy to this day and, gasp, even women in industrialized countries are eagerly embracing placentophagy once they learn of the benefits.

I'm interested in eating my placenta because it's high hormone content is thought to help ward off the baby blues and postpartum depression.  Thanks to oxytocin levels found in the placenta, it can help stem postpartum hemorrhaging by helping the uterus clear itself out.  Additionally, there is some evidence that it helps improve lactation as well.

Sounds like an awesome thing, right?  So what's the downside?  Uh, dude, you'll have to ingest a placenta to enjoy those incredible benefits.

I can only speak for myself, but I found the postpartum hormone crash to be incredibly hard to handle and I would definitely be interested in gently weaning myself off those massive amounts of pregnancy hormones - even if that means that I'll be ingesting my placenta.  Also, I bleed like a mo-fo (over six-weeks straight of HEAVY bleeding after my son's birth) and that benefit appeals to me too - even if that means that I'll be ingesting my placenta.  Though I eventually ended up with a great breastfeeding relationship and an enviable milk supply, I struggled with breastfeeding in the early weeks with my son and I'd be interested in avoiding a rough start with this baby - even if that means that I'll be ingesting my placenta.

Look, early motherhood is HARD and I will explore any option that might make life a little easier for me in those earliest days with a a newborn.  Your hormones are all out of whack, you have gobs of blood flooding your britches for weeks on end, and you have a brand new little baby to care for and love.  I almost feel overwhelmed just reading about it because I know what it was like for me.

I found that caring for my newborn was exhausting because I didn't get more than three hours of sleep at a stretch for around five months.  Add that lack of sleep to the hormone crash and the heavy blood flow and it's no wonder that I was exhausted, isolated, and didn't feel like myself for MONTHS after my son was born.  Some mothers appear to just handle it and get on with life right away.  I was not that kind of mother. 

The bottom line is this:  If ingesting a little placenta will help avoid all that pain and suffering, I'll go ahead and ingest placenta.  Heck, I would take that big ol' meaty bite if that was what was required!

My husband is skeptical that placentophagy is worthwhile.  His feelings are that modern science can come up with ways to do all that placentophagy is purported to do for a new mother.  I do believe in modern medicine and am not interested in slamming the White Coats, but I can't ignore the fact that modern science has yet to develop a formula that has the same beneficial composition as human breastmilk.  So why should I believe that they can come up with a way to give the benefits of placentophagy to a new mother?  It's impossible because it's such a highly individualized item.

Get that?  They can't make a formula that's identical in composition to breastmilk because breastmilk is not the same for every woman - heck, it's not even the same at the beginning and end of the same nursing session.  They can't duplicate the benefits found in consuming the placenta because each placenta is different!  My placenta will have a different mix of hormones than yours and, just like breastmilk, mine is tailored just for me (and my baby).

Have you ever ingested placenta?  How did you prepare it for consumption?  Did you notice any difference before and after ingestion?  Would you recommend it to other mothers?  Also, if you can, please share the experiences of other mothers you know who have practiced placentophagy.

* * *

I'm going to end with a dorky little joke that I thought of while writing this post.

Q:  What did the placenta say to the new mother?
A:  Eat me!

No worries, I won't be quitting my day job to embark on a not-very-lucrative comedy career.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Goodbye to the First Trimester

I'm right at the end of my first trimester for what I will assume is my last pregnancy.  I can't believe the first twelve-weeks are already over.  This trimester has gone by so fast that I almost wonder where the time went!  Honestly though, I feel like I can finally relax just a little bit because my miscarriage risk has dropped to an incredibly small risk level simply by completing the first trimester with a live and healthy fetus still in my womb.

Today I had my nuchal translucency ultrasound, also called an NT scan.  This is the special ultrasound in which they look for the amount of fluid accumulating at the back of the baby's neck.  The size of this fluid-filled space, coupled with the blood tests I had performed last week, give a preliminary assessment of genetic abnormalities with my baby.  A final report will be issued after the results are in for another round of blood tests that I'll have performed in about a month.

How did my NT scan turn out?  In a word, awesome! 

Baby's heartbeat is good & fast at 165 BPM.  I can't stress enough how nervous I was about my baby's heart; I was more concerned about this than the risk of possible genetic abnormalities that they actually did this scan to assess.  I was terrified that this little one's heart would inexplicably stop too and I'm so thankful that my baby is still living and growing inside me.

Though I'm 11w6d along (they had me at 12w on the nose), baby is measuring 12w4d.  So a little big.  I'm not too concerned about that as my last baby consistently measured small so I'd rather see the baby measuring perfectly or a little bigger.

My baby has a 1 in 1,100 chance of having Down Syndrome and a 1 in 35,000 chance of having trisomy 18.  I think it's statistically safe to say that the odds are solidly in favor of having a perfectly healthy little one.  I know that I have that final round of blood testing in about a month to complete the screening process, but everything looks pretty darn good by my estimation.

My darling babe already looks like a sweet little baby - emphasis on the little part.  I see what appears to be the profile of my nose (my son has it too) and, oh my, this is a feisty lil' one!  The doctor even remarked with some surprise that this is really a very active baby; my son was too so I'm not terribly surprised.  Baby's arms and legs were flying the entire time that the doctor was performing the scan and it took her a long time to get good pictures because the child would not stop moving and sit still!  Hm, who does that sound like?

I'm feeling really good these days.  Sometimes I get a little queasy, but it's been a few weeks since I've actually vomited so that's nice.  I haven't had any bleeding/spotting in over a month and that's great.  I'm still on the twice daily progesterone suppository regimen and it's tolerable; besides, I'm sure my OB will take me off the prog suppos at my appointment next Friday.  My energy levels have been steadily increasing the last couple of weeks and I'm assuming it's because my placenta is finally up & running.

I was cool in the doctor's office, but I broke down in tears of joy and thanksgiving as soon as I was in my car.  I'm so thankful, so very thankful, that this baby is looking so good.  I pray every night for this sweet babe, as I've prayed every night for the final member of our family for over two years now.  If this baby is a girl, she already has her name.  If this baby is a boy, I'm asking God to send me another name dream because I can't possibly give a son this name.  My husband isn't fond of the girl's name I was given and he'd hit the roof if I proposed it for a son! 

I'm so happy and eager to meet the one who will complete our family.  Oh, little one, how I've longed for you!  You're already cherished and loved so much.  Stay healthy & strong and I'll be seeing you nestled in my arms in two more trimesters.  xoxo

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hubs Knows Gallbladders!

I guess that I tend to look back on experiences with rose-colored glasses.  Case in point, I've said for years that pregnancy isn't all that tough.  I truly only remembered having backaches while pregnant with my son and I only remembered having them in the last trimester. 

My hubs used to chuckle and shake his head whenever I'd say that pregnancy wasn't so bad.  Yeah, it wasn't bad because I didn't have problems with nausea or vomiting.  Otherwise, well, pregnancy can be unpleasant at times.  Times like last night. . .

I was semi-reclining in my glider because I was dealing with my progesterone suppositories.  I became aware that an intense pain was ramping up in the middle of my chest about an hour or so after dinner.  The pain was directly below my sternum and it went straight through my body.  It feels like I'm being run through with a sword; the pain goes from my chest through my back.  I can hardly catch my breath at the height of the episode and trying to take deep breaths is impossible. 

I clutched the arms of my chair and gasped to my husband that I needed some antacids right now.  Why antacids?  For no other reason than my doctor once told me the pain I described was nothing more than heartburn. 

When was I given this information?  When I was pregnant with my son.  Prior to being told that I was suffering from heartburn, I'd never had acid reflux or heartburn in my entire life so I had no idea what it feels like or what to expect from it.

I've only experienced this pain while pregnant and, oh, how I remember suffering with this pain now!  I never had it prior to my pregnancy with my son and last night was the first time I've felt this terrifying sensation since 2008.  It was merely an excruciating pain before, but it's terrifying to me now because of the way my brother died.  I must confess that there is a part of me, a small part that I desperately try to silence and ignore, that wonders if I may also share his fate and perhaps this pain is my aorta dissecting.  Of course, my family knows all too well that I wouldn't be here to write this blog post if that were the true cause of my pain.

The thing that bothers me is that I never have had any burning sensations in the back of my throat or in my chest when I'm experiencing these pains.  I've always heard that those acidy feelings are the hallmark symptoms of heartburn and, feeling pretty sure that I do not suffer from heartburn because I don't generally overeat until I'm stuffed, I decided to spend some time getting answers from the doctor.  Dr. Google, that is.

I've known some lousy physicians in my life, but Dr. Google is a menace!  After spending an hour or so of what could have been quality naptime, I still have no answers and I'm weirded out that there may be something more serious than just dumb ol' heartburn going on in my chest. 

Of all the possible answers (some were rare and/or life-threatening), I only came up with two that I think are plausible.  It's either something with my gallbladder or. . .wait for it. . .it's heartburn.  My hubs suggested that I take my doctor's diagnosis because the location of my pain; he added that the gallbladder isn't located in the middle of your chest.  Since I don't know exactly where a gallbladder might be found, I assumed he didn't either.  Uh, I guess he knows more about gallbladders than he's ever let on!

Me:  You don't know where my gallbladder might be.
Him:  I know it's not in the middle of your chest!  It's next to your liver so it's on the right.
Me:  Maybe my liver has migrated?
Him:  Your liver hasn't gone anywhere and it's not in the middle of your chest.
Me:  You don't know where my liver might be!  You're not a doctor!
Him:  Neither is Dr. Google!  (Yeah, he totally missed his opportunity to point out that I am also not a doctor)

It pains me to admit this (but thankfully I'm not in pain at the moment!), but hubs was right and I was wrong.  Naturally, I consulted with Dr. Google after the exchange in which I revealed my gross lack of knowledge on human anatomy.  Dr. Google told me that hubs was right about all of it. 

I'm sooo glad that I had this conversation with hubs instead of my doctor because the only thing worse than looking like a dumbass is paying for the privilege to look like one.  Besides, my doctor already thinks I'm a horndog so  I don't want him thinking I'm an idiot too!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Little Luxuries Tester Pads - II

I wrote a blog post about some tester cloth pads I received back in November.  I gave a good description of the product and what I knew of them without actually having had a period yet.  I was actually looking forward to my period so I naturally ended up pregnant.  They were tucked away with the rest of my mama cloth stash, waiting to eventually be used. 

I assumed that it would be well over a year before I'd use the Little Luxuries pads (thanks to pregnancy and breastfeeding), but that's not how things turned out.  Between the nearly non-stop periods after my miscarriage and the chronic spotting (and sometimes bleeding!) that I had for well over a month in this new pregnancy, I finally have enough input that I can write a full review about Little Luxuries cloth menstrual pads.

Simply put, they are bulletproof! 

Two of these tester pads, in particular, are the "big guns" of my mama cloth stash.  They were put through the stress and strain of trying to withstand my flow and they passed that test with flying colors.  I never once had a leak when I used the correct pad for my flow.  That's something that can't be said about disposable pads, tampons, or even my Diva Cup.

I have detailed my impossibly heavy flow in this blog so understand that it's absolutely necessary that I have a pad that I can trust or I'd just throw them in the garbage.  How heavy has my flow been?  So heavy that it's impossible to get my Diva Cup to form a seal because my period is quite literally like a gushing red river between my legs.  Not only did I suffer with a ridiculously fast flow (like a geyser, but upside down), but I also had the pleasure of clots.  Not huge clots by some measures, but shooter-marble sized chunks of blood seemed pretty darn excessive to me.  And I won't even get started on the frequency - ugh!  It's accurate to say that I felt like I was being held hostage by my menstrual cycle and "the curse" definitely felt like one to me.

With such a mess going on downstairs, it's fair to say that I expect a lot from a pad.  Add in that I demand absolute perfection in whatever product I use to manage my menses and I guess you could say that I'm a tough customer to please.

It seemed HUGE so I was skeptical about the length of the 13" overnight/postpartum pad, but found that it was acceptable and might have been necessary sometimes.  This was the pad that I relied on for my heaviest days and, yes, overnight.  I almost felt ill seeing and feeling just how saturated it was (it actually was heavy), but it didn't fail me - not even once!

The 11" heavy pad was also good on my heavy days and I preferred it if I had to leave the house while flowing so fast.  I never had a single mishap with it either.  The 9" regular pad was totally adequate at the very beginning or the very end of my period, but I'm certain that it would work well for women with "normal" flows.  I did try it on my heavy day and it couldn't take the force of my flow so there was a little leakage that time.  The 8" liner was fine, but I didn't love it only because I find myself constantly fiddling with any pad that is under 9".  They just don't feel right in my britches and I'm forever trying to adjust them to feel right to me. 

Of course, length preferences are highly personal and it shouldn't be taken as a criticism because I didn't have any complaints about how any of these pads performed.  They exceeded my expectations and I can confidently recommend them to anyone interested in exploring cloth pads.  However, understand that they aren't the trimmest in my stash though they're still far better in that area than a disposable pad.  Also, I found that they took longer to dry than any of my other pads, but I think that's a small price to pay for such incredible absorbency and 100% perfect pad performance.

These Little Luxuries pads are sooooo incredibly soft and pretty that they almost make you look forward to using them.  If you buy them, I'm betting that you'll enjoy and appreciate your Little Luxuries.  I know that I do!

* * *

Though I prefer 10" and 12" pad lengths, these Little Luxuries pads are definitely in my rotation to use once I begin bleeding again.  I do plan to use mama cloth to handle the lochia in the immediate post-partum period so I expect that the 13" and 11" will get quite a workout toward the end of the year.  Hm, wonder if Little Luxuries needs testers for their post-partum pads??  ;)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Things I Learned Today

1.  My nipples are much too big and my areolas are way too dark to wear a white shirt without wearing a bra underneath.

2.  I have no trouble discussing cervical fluid while eating breakfast and am even willing to indicate just how stretchy my fertile cervical fluid has been the last two times I've ended up with confirmed conception.

3.  I'm apparently willing to demonstrate (clothed, of course) how to check cervical position while eating that same breakfast.

4.  I will never again intentionally put off afternoon naptime if we've had a very busy morning playing with friends.

5.  My husband can make me fall in love with him all over again by simply taking our screaming toddler out of the house and enjoying father-son bonding at the park.

6.  Old, like really freaking old, slow cookers don't cook anywhere near as hot as my models and decades-old models will somehow leave onions still slightly crunchy after 9-hours of cooking time.

7.  Transferring pasta sauce from a slow cooker to a pot on the stove isn't advisable when the sauce is as hot as lava and the cook is wearing white. 

8.  Allowing a toddler to feed himself spaghetti is never a good idea and it's a really bad idea when he's wearing his favorite WHITE shirt.  (honestly, what was with the white shirts in this family today?!)

9.  My son trusts me so much that he will believe that it's his bedtime, even if it's still light outside, if that's what I tell him.

10.  I survived this horrible afternoon & wretched early evening so I'm pretty sure that I can survive anything!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Prayers for a Friend & Her Baby

I'm soliciting prayers tonight for a dear friend who some readers know very well.  She's one of the wonderful ladies who watched my son when I had to leave him to go to New Jersey last year for my brother's funeral.  She not only volunteered to watch my rambunctious lil' guy, but she also sent a delicious supper home with him that night so my hubs didn't have to worry about food prep.  I might also add that she works from home and has children of her own!  I often think that SuperMom's secret identity has been revealed when I see her making it all work while maintaining her sanity and good humor.

She's a little less than four-weeks from her estimated due date and she's been monitored in the hospital while on bedrest for the last several days.  Her amniotic fluid levels are a bit lower than expected and there is concern that her placenta shows a lot of calcification.  Adding to her worries is that she has Gestational Diabetes and they are having trouble keeping her blood sugar stabilized each evening.  Thankfully, her baby isn't showing any signs of distress.

She's understandably upset and missing her family.  The entire family is lovely and she has such a genuinely kind heart.  Her last blog post illustrated her fears and sadness, leaving me in tears over the entire situation.

Please join me in praying for her physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health during this trying time.  Ask for blessings on the sweet little babe still in her womb.  Lift her entire family up in prayer as this separation and uncertainty is so very hard on them.  God hears our prayers and remember that supplication will bless your own heart too.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Advanced Maternal Age - WTF?!

I think we all can agree that I'm somewhat vain about my age.  How vain?  I understand that about a year ago several of my friends each thought I was a different age because it's the one thing that I am consistently dishonest about.  So this blog post is a big deal to me because I'm copping to my real age rather than a sorta true-ish range because my age is central to the theme of this post.

I'm 35-years old and I will be 36-years old when this baby is born.

Oh sh*t, did you feel that?  I think Earth just spun off it's axis.  Even nature is freaked out that I put my age in print for all 19 blog Followers to discover.  Speaking of which. . .I lost one Follower recently so would you consider "following" me to make up for it??

Yeah, so I'm 35-years old and pregnant.  What does that mean?  Beyond the obvious answer (which is decreasing fertility, making it more difficult to get knocked up than when you're in your early- to mid-20s), it means that I get a special label in the medical community. 

What special label has been bestowed upon me?  Is it Best Wife & Mother of All Time?  No, though my husband and son both can feel free to think that on their own.  Am I called Super Cervix in honor of my body part that is apparently the least likely to dilate when definitely necessary?  No and I can tell you that it is the worst super power ever!  What label is found right there in my medical chart?  What label could cause me to to bristle whenever I see it?

Advanced Maternal Age. 

Advanced Maternal Age?  Seriously?  ADVANCED MATERNAL AGE?!  Advanced!  I'm 35, not fifty-freaking-five!

Perhaps I'm just sensitive, but advanced maternal age sounds like I'm a grey-haired old hag on Social Security who's going to go straight from my wheelchair to the delivery room.  It makes it sound like people aren't sure who's diapers should be checked first, the baby's or mine.  It sounds like I'm so ridiculously old to have a baby that it requires a freaking label.  Oh, wait. . .

Okay, okay, so I do have grey hair, but come on.  Surely I can't be the only one who thinks this label is a bunch of crap!  Yes, I'm serious and I'll refrain from calling you Shirley. . .why, yes, I did just shoe-horn an Airplane! reference in there.

Is there an upside to being labeled with advanced maternal age?  Uh, that depends on your definition of "upside."  I don't generally consider extra doctor visits, additional labs & ultrasounds, and an increased risk of birth defects to be upsides so I'm just not seeing the benefits to this label at this time.  Of course, I'm not saying that I don't see the benefits of the pregnancy because obviously there's a huge benefit at the end of the line.  It's just the label that aggravates me.

Thanks to my advanced maternal age, I had seven or eight vials of blood drawn today.  It's not so bad (as I told my little boy who was in tow) and it's kinda nice that there's a good, better, & best of diagnostics so it's not just a choice between amniocentesis and getting a surprise at the end of the 40-weeks.  I will have another set of blood work done in the second trimester and I'm scheduled for a nuchal translucency ultrasound (also called an NT scan) next Friday.  This screening doesn't definitively say anything, it just indicates if there is a tendency toward certain abnormalities.  The results will be helpful in deciding if I want to have any further diagnostics performed.

I didn't go with chorionic villus sampling (CVS) because it's an invasive test (like amnio) and it's not like I'm going to abort this baby anyway so I didn't see the point in doing an in-depth and invasive test in the first trimester.  I think that choosing amniocentesis right off the bat is overkill at age 35, considering the risk of miscarriage associated with amnio is about the same as the risk of having a child with genetic defect at this age.  I do see a value in being prepared and doing research if it's revealed that there is a possibility that my baby has certain defects so I'm not saying that I wouldn't choose to have further testing performed if the screening I'm having performed indicates that my baby may have certain defects.  I'm just saying that there's no big rush since it's not like I'm going to go abort my baby if a defect is revealed.

As a weird side note, someone told me that they thought getting the most in-depth diagnostics performed is the way to go because it's so sad that babies are born with defects like Down Syndrome so getting the information beforehand could allow for termination.  I was stunned at the statement because it basically was saying that people with genetic defects are better off dead.  That sounds suspiciously like Nazi talk to me and I forced myself to remain calm while I responded that I found it so sad that a mother would voluntarily stop her child's beating heart simply because the child didn't fit some definition of perfection. 

I used to think that people took out their brains when talking with pregnant women, but now I'm sure of it.  Hey, looks like increased wisdom has come with my advanced maternal age!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

So What Do You Call It?

I love words, but sometimes I'm unsure what words to use.  Case in point, what to call sexy parts when you have a toddler.  I'm on the fence on the issue and still not entirely comfortable with how I've chosen to handle the situation because I haven't exactly answered his question.

Penis and vagina may be technically correct terms, but they're so clinical-sounding and I'm not one to generally use such accurate language in everyday conversation.  My favorite names for genitals aren't appropriate for a toddler to use so I settled on calling my son's penis a "wiener" early on.  Wiener is such a fun word, totally neutral and almost universally liked.

I know that some parents will think I'm doing him a disservice by not using the proper term, but I don't care that he calls it a wiener.  I mean, we also call the lower abdomen a tummy or a belly when the stomach is not exactly in that area (it's more like intestines & reproductive organs) so it's not like we always use the most accurate term for human anatomy.  I don't see why I should a stickler for penis (hehe) if I'm not with other body parts.  And I'll bet that even the most penisy and vaginey parents are guilty not always using the correct term for every body part.  Specifically, most of them use the word vagina incorrectly whether they realize it or not. 

I have trouble with what to call girly bits.  As I stated above, my normal words for that part of my anatomy would probably cause some women to curl their toes.  Vulva is the obvious choice since it does, in fact, refer to the exterior area of a woman's nether regions.  I've thought about "vadge" as it is half of the name for the immediate interior of my lady parts and vagina is widely, though erroneously, used as the blanket term for the general vicinity. 

Why does this come up?  Well, because he still does occasionally see me undressed and he's asked, "What's that?"  My answer has been a simple, "It's Mama's."  Sometimes I'll just say, "Pubic hair," as that's technically what he's pointing at and, so far, that seems to satisfy his question. 

What do you call male and female genitalia when talking with toddlers?  Why did you choose the words you chose?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Children and Grief

I recently read a blog post about children and grief.  Naturally, it stimulated painful memories and I couldn't help but think of the grief my son was exposed to after I lost my brother and then again four months later when I lost my baby.  It's not something that most people think about and in an ideal world it wouldn't be necessary, but sometimes we do need to address loss and grief to young children.  

My 41-year old brother died unexpectedly in September. We’d always been close and I can say that I felt the death of my sibling so much deeper than other losses I've known. As I've said over and over again, you expect the old-ish and the ill to pass away, but you don't expect to lose your healthy siblings.  Losing a sibling so suddenly really makes you realize that your days are numbered too and that any of us can go at any time.  You can kiss your spouse goodbye in the morning and never make it home for supper that evening. . .

It was a horrible several months and the horror continued when I lost my long-desired pregnancy in January – four months to the day that I lost my only brother. I’m sorry that my young son has had to witness the depth of my anguish and my heart aches to think of the suffering he's seen at such a tender age, but I thought that it would be wrong to pretend that everything was okay when it most definitely was not. I know that some people thought that I shouldn’t expose a toddler to grief and I stuck with my own instincts, which were that death and grief are just part of life. Besides, I can attest that burying negative or painful feelings only works so long before they manifest in far more damaging ways.

My son just turned three and he sometimes talks about his Uncle and, more rarely, “The Baby.” He knows that they were here, but that they are gone now. We are Christians so heaven, Jesus, and God factor in my explanation and he understands that we won’t see them until we’re there too.  I can't stop myself from adding that it will be a long, long time from now.

I think it's important that children, even young children, know when losses occur that grief is the natural result. I'm still baffled that people thought I was wrong in letting my son know that my brother had died or that I had lost my pregnancy. What was I supposed to do? Pretend that they weren't gone? Ignore that they ever existed? Grief sucks, oh it does suck, but it is a part of life and ignoring it doesn't make it go away.

Was I wrong to let him know about death and grief? I don’t know, but the flip side is that one day soon I'll feel comfortable sharing with him that a new life is coming too. . .my estimated due date is the one-year anniversary of the day I lost my last baby. Life is darn funny sometimes, isn’t it?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mandatory Pertussis Vaccine in California

This post was inspired by and mostly taken from a thread that was started from a friend's FB status.  She wanted to know how others felt about the mandatory pertussis booster requirement to be in California public schools.  I know I'm a hippie, but I've always made myself very clear on the topic of vaccines in this blog and in other venues.  Indeed, I feel the need to educate others by any means necessary to get the message across that vaccines are vitally important.

I've come to the conclusion that most people grossly misunderstand vaccines.  They either think that it's not necessary because the illnesses prevented "aren't that big of a deal" or they think that it isn't necessary to expose their children to "toxins" because enough other people vaccinate their kids.  How do I feel on the mandatory pertussis vaccine requirement in public schools?  Come on, can't you guess?

I am strongly libertarian.  That is, I strongly believe in individual rights and would prefer to live with very little interference or so-called assistance from the government.  Certainly much less interference/assistance than is currently experienced in modern US society.

I chafe under many government-mandated requirements.  It seems that a day doesn't go by that I'm shaking my tiny fist of impotent rage at some dumb requirement that the government has determined is necessary.  Seatbelts, carseats, and helmets are but three examples of requirements that I think are ridiculous.  Understand that I'm not saying that I wouldn't use them if it weren't the law (actually, I wouldn't put a helmet on my son when he's on a bicycle if I had a choice), but I am irritated that the govt says you HAVE to use these safeguards. 

I'm further irritated when the government has safeguards in place to protect the individual, but not society at large.  Choosing not to vaccinate has far worse implications and can injure far more than just the one refusing the vaccine whereas choosing not to use a seatbelt (in the event of an accident) only can injure the one refusing to use it.  Yet, somehow, the government is more concerned about the health of the individual versus the health of society.  Does that make sense?

I think this analogy illustrates my thoughts on vaccines in general:  You certainly have the right to swing your fist to and fro.  However, your right to swing your fist ends at my face.  You have the right to willfully choose to do things that could be damaging to yourself or your children.  However, your right to do those things (or, more accurately, refuse those things), ends when it can be damaging to me or my children.  And, make no mistake, refusing vaccinations has the potential to impact more than just those who refuse.

Of course, it is only my opinion that vaccines should be mandatory for even enrolling in school.  We all know what they say about opinions, right?  An uninformed opinion is like a sapling, it bends in whichever direction the strongest wind is blowing, so I am going to offer up the actual reasons why I have an opinion that so wildly is at odds with my personal political philosophy.

* * *

Let's look briefly at how vaccines work.  First, it's important to realize and accept that there is no vaccine that has 100% efficacy rates.  That means that even one who has received all of their shots still has a chance (slim, but it's there) of getting the illness they were vaccinated against. Generally speaking, it's a much milder case, but the risk is still there.

Also, it's important to realize that vaccines work on the premise of herd immunity.  If everyone were vaccinated against an illness, it would cease to exist.  Think I'm just making that up?  The very last known case of smallpox was in 1977.  How did smallpox get wiped off the face of the Earth?  Through a massive world-wide vaccination campaign.  Smallpox was only eradicated by 100% herd immunity! 

The flip side to the awesomeness that is herd immunity is that once we get a certain percentage of people not vaccinated, watch out!

On vaccines in general, I kinda think they have worked altogether too well. No one remembers a time when people (often children) where stricken, disfigured, crippled, or killed from what are now pretty much entirely preventable diseases. Or a time when most families had at least one child who was injured or died from an illness that we have the ability to prevent today!

Even illnesses that aren't generally thought to be a big deal can absolutely be a big deal.  Take chicken pox.  I know someone who won't vax their child against chicken pox because "it's no big deal." I guess she's never known anyone who was left with a scarred up face from it or, worse, someone who has died from it/it's accompanying fever. On varicella (the virus that causes chicken pox), most people don't realize that you are NEVER totally free from the virus because it lives dormant in your nervous system. Ever heard of shingles? It's extremely painful and is what happens when varicella is somehow reactivated later in life. Naturally, my son received his varicella vaccination to spare him any suffering from an initial outbreak of chicken pox or the possibility of future pain from shingles in his later years.

The worst part of refusing vaccination is that herd immunity only works when the vast majority of the herd is vaccinated because it doesn't allow an illness to get a toehold in society.  And who is injured the most when the herd's immunity is diminished?  Who are the ones who suffer when a large enough percentage of people refuse vaccinations?  The most vulnerable members of society.  The sick, the old, and the very young; cancer patients, HIV/AIDS patients, those with any autoimmune diseases, grandparents (& some of our parents), newborns.  Remember that vaccines do not carry efficacy rates of 100% and these people are counting on the rest of us to get our vaccines!

* * *

I think the reason they are pushing pertussis in California right now is because of the amount of infants who were stricken and died last year. I remember reading that, although the number seemed small to me (of course, it wouldn't seem that way to me if it were my own infant who died), it was the highest number of whopping cough deaths in some number of years. If memory serves, they have to be at least two months old before even beginning their series on that one so they are completely vulnerable (less so if breastfeeding, but still vulnerable) until at least 2 months of age.  If you expect to be around any infants, do that child a favor and get your Pertussis booster to help protect the lil' one.

I'm guessing that the reason they are pushing it on school kids is because education is mandatory so there's less chance of falling through the cracks and avoiding it. But ideally we all would keep up on our vaccine boosters and we certainly should if we will be around any young infants.
* * *

I've read that I'm excessively verbose on this topic.  I guess it's because I read and hear so much faulty information that I think most people don't understand any of this.  I'm not trying to impose my will on anyone, but I'm trying to explain the "why" in a way that makes sense to those who don't want to do the research for themselves. 

And, yes, it should just be your choice. Unfortunately, parental choices as it relates to vaccines can threaten the general public.  Parental freedom is infringed upon all the time and this is one of the rare cases where I believe that the government needs to make a mandate.  Frankly, I wish they'd made the vaccines mandatory years ago so it would simply be second nature now, just like wearing seatbelts, because not vaccinating threatens a helluva lot more people than just yourself and you're the only one who suffers if you get in an accident while not wearing a seatbelt.

If a parent doesn't care that their own child might suffer due to a preventable illness because "it's no big deal" or they believe in a fraudulent study and discredited researcher linking vaccines to autism, that's their business.  But it is absolutely my business if my child may suffer due to your choices.  Remember the swinging fist analogy?  Choosing not to vaccinate your child can end with my child getting hit in the face by your decision and that is why I am so passionate on this topic.

Feel free to comment and debate on this, but do back it up with facts and not simply opinion or fears.  I do have strong opinions on the topic, but I'm not unreasonable and am willing to change my views in light of new facts.  But do note that anecdotes, while usually profoundly sad, are not facts.  And play nice with each other. . .none of us intentionally wants to harm their children so personal attacks aren't necessary or welcomed.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Not So Inspired Today

I woke up feeling an odd sense of dread.  I'm 10w2d pregnant and this is the exact point that I learned my last baby had died last January.  I can't help but run to the restroom to check out every drop of moisture down below, which means I'm always in the restroom since I'm still on the twice daily progesterone regimen and it feels that there's always something wet in my britches.

I finally put my fears about this pregnancy aside and was enjoying a good day.  I received a phone call late this afternoon/early this evening that completely ruined my day and spiked my blood pressure through the roof.  I'm furious that I received such a phone call in the first place and I'm doubly furious that I received it on what is such a high-tension day for me.

I had a blog post that I was prepared to write, but I'm working on my desktop computer (which I hate using) as my laptop won't boot up for some dang reason.  That's just freaking wonderful because I'm apparently made of cash. . .at least, I gather that's the perception that some people have.  Those who know me know that's not true at all and I'm actually very careful with money. 

My financial health is neither here nor there.  At the moment I'm far more concerned about my emotional and physical health.  To be more accurate, the health of my baby and the condition of my heart.  Not the heart that pumps blood throughout your body, the heart that is the seat of your emotional health.  I feel hurt and disgusted and concerned and, as a result, I'm just not very inspired at all to write the blog post I had planned.

Hm, it would appear that I had far more to write than I anticipated.

Friday, June 10, 2011

An Interesting Search

I check my blog stats every day to see which posts are read most frequently.  Among other things, I can find out which country readers reside in, what operating systems they use, and which search words readers use to find this blog.  That last bit is rather interesting at times and it certainly is this morning.

Some of you know that I felt forced to censor myself by destroying my old blog, my old blogger name, and making this new blog viewable by invitation only for a period of time.  I'm not going to rehash my reasons why because I didn't feel it was fair or right, but I suppose that someone dear to me felt they were good reasons.  Let's just say that although I was fully in the right and standing on the side of truth, it made my life easier to not have my every word, thought, and opinion dissected and perverted by certain readers who were offended by the plain truth and my personal opinions.

I find it interesting that someone found this blog yesterday by searching for my old blogger name.  Should I be concerned that those who clearly can't handle the truth might actually be exposed to it by reading this blog?  Should I ready myself for an attack?  Should I go through the nonsense to delete this blog and create yet another one?

No, I don't think I should do a damn thing.

I don't feel it's my problem if someone is so freakishly obsessed with me, my words, or my thoughts that they actually took the time to search for me after I took great pains to remain anonymous these last several months.  I guess I'm just not all that concerned if someone has actively sought me out because they were completely and totally cut from my life and my son's life as a result of their actions and perhaps this is a way to learn a little about what's going on with us.  I guess at some point everyone realizes that their hateful actions have very real consequences; their poison pen acted as a saw to effectively cut us away forever.  I can forgive their heinous words, but I will not forget them and I will never allow myself to be put in a position to be hurt by them again.

It's debatable whether or not they're missing out on anything important by not being allowed a relationship with me, but they absolutely are missing out on quite a lot by not being allowed contact with my son.  He's a spectacular little boy and I'm actually thankful that he no longer asks about seeing those people because I found it very difficult to hold my tongue and simply say that we won't be seeing them again.  I guess that's something they should have thought about before attacking this child's mother who absolutely did nothing to provoke such a venomous letter. 

Lest you think I'm being petty and using my son as a weapon, it was their own stated wish that we remain out of their lives.  I'm sure they had their own dark and bitter reasons, but thinking such hateful language was spewed forth because they are emotionally wounded almost makes me feel sorry for them.  Almost. . .

Thursday, June 9, 2011

They're NOT Your Boobs So You Can Just Suck It!

I recently read an article about so-called extended breastfeeding and it got me thinking.  Dangerous, I know.  But it made me wonder why it is that people (even pediatricians if you can believe it!) imply that breastmilk is no longer beneficial to the child once they hit their first birthday. Why would it be so wonderful (and it is) in infancy and be of no consequence (or a detriment) in toddlerhood?? 

It just makes no sense and it aggravates me to no end that so many believe that one-year is the maximum length that a child should receive breastmilk.  I know that I fully weaned my son at just at 13-months, but I have often felt that I should have let him nurse until at least around 18-months.  Yes, I believe that I weaned him too young.  After all that I've learned about breastmilk and nursing in general, I would go so far as to say that I feel that one-year is the bare minimum that I would want to nurse a child of mine. 

Okay, I heard the groans from some of you.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, get it out of your system so you can pay attention and you might actually learn something or, at the very least, get a little food for thought.  Here, I'll write what you're thinking so we can get on with it:  that Heather is such a hippie (guilty!), she's just trying to keep her son a baby (uh, okay?), I suppose she would have nursed him through High School (no way), what pervert wants to nurse that long (you need to look in the mirror to see the perv), doesn't she know it's not healthy to nurse that long - SCREECH - Stop!  This is the one that boggles my head.

I have found that even people who support breastfeeding for six-months or one-year will balk at nursing that goes beyond the first birthday.  I'm sad to say that even pediatricians are guilty of using this faulty logic.  What I don't understand is how someone can believe that breastfeeding is important for an infant, but somehow also think that the milky fountains should be shut off as soon as the child hits toddlerhood.  What do they think happens?  The milk is made fresh throughout the day so it isn't like it spoils or goes bad.  It certainly isn't unhealthy from a nutritional standpoint (and oftentimes is the only nourishment that the child will accept while ill or feeling unwell) so what exactly is so "wrong" about breastfeeding after the birthday cake has been enjoyed?

Does 18-months sound too "old" for breastfeeding?  Really?  One and one-half years is too old?!  Seriously?  I suppose it might seem that way to some, but understand I'm coming from the viewpoint that breastfeeding is the normal and natural way to feed, soothe, comfort, and generally "mother" our children and a 1 1/2-year old child is still very much a young toddler who needs all of those things.  I know it's popular to believe so, but our children really aren't mini-adults who need to be pushed to grow up too soon.

What's that you say?  It weirds you out to see a walking toddler suck milk from the source?  Why would that weird anyone out?  Breasts may well be fun in the sack, keep crumbs off your lap, and help enhance sweaters, but they do definitely serve a dual purpose and producing milk for human children is the reason our breasts are equipped with milk ducts.  Why keep breasts in only the "sexy" compartment when they are also designed to fill another purpose?  Don't hold back the ta-tas, they are incredibly versatile and really can fill many roles!

Sure, breasts are hot.  But breastfeeding isn't sexy, it's simply feeding a child.  If you wouldn't be disgusted or offended by a mother bottlefeeding, you shouldn't feel either negative emotion about a mother breastfeeding.

Interestingly enough, I don't have a lot of breast tissue, but they are sensitive and I'll admit that I did worry about whether or not I'd get "turned on" when my baby nursed.  I shouldn't have wasted my time on such a dopey thought.  Seriously, it turned out that breastfeeding is probably the least sexy thing I've ever done.  Let's start with the fact that I cried when I tried to nurse in the early weeks because it hurt so darn bad!  Thanks to that awful early experience, my advice to everyone is to see a lactation consultant while still in the hospital if at all possible because I suffered needlessly for far too long!  Once the initial seven-weeks of torture was over, breastfeeding was easy and awesome though it wasn't remotely sexy.  Sex literally was the furthest thing from my mind when my son nursed, but nipples dripping (okay, spraying) milk all over the place just doesn't do it for me so I acknowledge that your results may vary.

If you have an issue with seeing a young toddler breastfeeding, well, you're the one with the issue - not the mother and certainly not the child.  You can just suck it if you don't like it. . .just don't suck them or you'll likely get a knuckle sandwich courtesy of mama.

* * *

The benefits of nursing your child until one year of age are well documented and known to most of the general public.  I thought it would be good to list out the benefits of so-called extended nursing (that is, nursing that goes beyond one year) for your baby:

- Nutrition.  Breastmilk is still nutritious and healthy for a toddler.  Sure, it's composition is different than what you'd produce for a one-month old, but a toddler is also eating solids and doesn't require breastmilk for all nutrients.  Understand that this does not mean there aren't any nutrients in breastmilk (honestly, that's about the most absurd thing I've ever heard), it just means that the toddler also gets nutrients from other sources.
- Decreased risk of illness.  This is huge to me because sick kids aren't any fun!  Breastmilk contains anti-bodies that are very beneficial to the child's immune system.  In fact, some of these immunological factors are actually increased in the 2nd year of lactation until weaning occurs!  Breastfed children suffer far fewer colds and illnesses than their formula/cow milk fed counterparts.
- Reduced allergies.  Breastfed children as a whole have far fewer allergies than their formula/cow milk fed counterparts.  I've read that this is due to having a healthier gut lining, but haven't really researched it as allergies don't run in our families.
- Confidence & Independence.  Seems counterintuitive to say that extended nursing will raise a more confident child, but studies have shown that it does because that child's needs have been lovingly met and the child received plenty of consistent nurturing.  Is it possible to do both without breastfeeding?  Sure, but whipping out the twins is easy, natural, and normal and I'm all about doing whatever's easy, natural, and normal.
- It's encouraged by experts.  Don't just take it from a middle-aged suburban blogger, listen to the experts.  Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend breastfeeding beyond age one for the health benefits to baby and mama.  Indeed, WHO recommends it continue beyond age two! 
- Convenience.  Unlike bottles and sippy cups of formula or cow milk, your breastmilk is always there, always safe to consume, always ready for your child.
- It's comforting.  Toddlerhood can be a scary time for a child and most don't have the ability to express their concerns and fears so they throw tantrums.  Countless breastfeeding mothers can attest to the fact that a little comfort nursing can head off most tantrums and soothe even the most upset child.

In case the benefits to your child aren't enough, what about the benefits afforded you by nursing?  This list isn't specific to extended nursing. . .breastfeeding for any length of time is beneficial.

- It's easier.  Waking up at all hours of the day and night to prepare and clean bottles & nipples wasn't very appealing to me.  What could be easier than putting the baby to breast and then putting them back to bed?  One could argue that co-sleeping mothers have it even easier as they don't even have to get out of bed.  Heck, I didn't want to deal with bottles during waking hours either!
- Easier weight loss after pregnancy.  What woman hasn't lamented how they looked after delivery?  The body expects the mother to breastfeed and stores up fat to help facilitate breastfeeding.  The easiest way to move that fat off your body is to breastfeed!  Most, not all, women find that breastfeeding makes post-partum weight loss extremely easy.  Note that this isn't a green light to chow down on double cheeseburgers or you might find that you're just as heavy or heavier as when you were pregnant!  Remember that you only need around 300 extra calories each day while breastfeeding.
- Lowered risk of many cancers.  Breast cancer risk in particular is lowered through breastfeeding, but ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancers are also lower in women who breastfed their children.
- Delayed return of menses and ovulation/fertility.  This is primarily true for exclusive breastfeeding (ZERO supplementation with solids or formula), which is recommended for the first six months of an infant's life anyway, but most women find that menses doesn't return for a loooong time if they are committed to nursing.  While it's possible that one may ovulate without experiencing a period, it's most often true that you aren't ovulating if you aren't getting periods.  Of course, you should use a backup form of birth control if you aren't exclusively breastfeeding.
- Increased emotional well being.  Prolactin, the hormone that helps produce milk, naturally promotes relaxation and relieves stress.  Speaking for myself, I always felt the world simply fell away when I was nursing my son and sometimes would be shocked to discover that I had actually dozed during the nursing session.  Given my history with insomnia, the extra rest was awesome!  Oxytocin, stimulated during let down, is called the bonding hormone because it inspires loving feelings.  I lost count of the number of times that I felt my heart would burst out of my chest with love and joy for my son while nursing.  Sure, my love burns for my son like the fire of a thousand suns, but my feelings were somehow magnified by the oxytocin while nursing.

* * *

A friend of mine summed it up perfectly when she said, I'll paraphrase, if it's not your kid or your boobs why do you care?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Favorite Tools for Breastfeeding

I was thinking about breastfeeding the other day and wanted to write a post about my disappointment over people's reaction toward so-called extended breastfeeding, but somehow it became a post about the items I really appreciated having when I was breastfeeding my son.  Perhaps you have something to add to my list?

My initial instinct is to just write "BREASTS" and call this post complete, but that wouldn't be the truth because I found that I needed more than just my breasts to have a successful nursing relationship with my son.  So here's a list of my favorite items that helped me nurse my lil' guy until he was right around 13-months old.  I tried to list things in order of importance, but realize that doing so didn't really work out that way for this list.

The Nursing Mother's Companion by Kathleen Huggins - This book was like my breastfeeding bible.  It was so helpful every step of the way!  Think your baby isn't getting enough milk because they nurse a lot?  It's covered.  Think something is wrong with your milk because your baby is fussy or spits up a lot?  It's covered.  Think maybe you should wean because baby is "old enough" or you're too tired to nurse?  It's covered.  I referred to it so often that I am kicking myself for lending it out because I never got it back and I know that I'll want it again when this baby is born.

My Brest Friend - This nursing pillow was my absolute favorite for the first several months of my son's life because it made it so much easier to get him in a good position for nursing.  I really struggled with breastfeeding while in the hospital and part of it was because it felt that he was resting directly on my incision whenever he was nursing. . .thankfully, I had this nursing pillow at home!  It has a wrap-around design that stays put until you're ready to remove it (I actually was able to walk around and nurse only because of this pillow) and it was almost like a firm shelf that he rested on right under my breasts.  It also has a handy little pocket for stuff like nursing pads, lip balm, and nipple lanolin.

Boppy - This crescent-shaped nursing pillow is much more popular than My Brest Friend, but I didn't find it helpful at all until my son was around six-months old and older.  It was nice to have at that point, but I'm afraid that I may not have continued nursing if it had been the only nursing pillow available for me to use in his first six months of life.  I guess I'm saying that you might want to save the Boppy until baby is a bit older or you might find nursing somewhat discouraging.

Lansinoh Lanolin - I never used any other nipple treatments because this worked so well for me.  It kept my nipples supple and helped heal the wounds that I received to my nipples in the very beginning. 

Lansinoh Ultra Thin Nursing Pads - I had massive over-supply and I leaked constantly so I tried a lot of different nursing pads and these ones are THE BEST if you're a heavy producer.  These nursing pads held so much leaking milk that they quite literally would make a "squish" sound the few times that they hit my tiled floor.  Though the pads were totally saturated, I was dry!  Bonus: They did not leave any little fibers on my breasts like I experienced with other brands.

Lansinoh Ultra Soft Nursing Pads - These were my favorite to use when my nipples were tender or sore, but they did look a little funny under my shirt.  They were great in the beginning and anytime that my son experienced a growth spurt.  Why mention the growth spurts?  Because during a growth spurt it can feel like your infant is hanging off your boobs 24/7 and all that extra nursing can make your nipples hurt.  Bonus (again):  They don't leave any fibers to pick off your sore nipples.

Reusable Nursing Pads - A few months after my son was weaned, I no longer had to use my standard Lansinoh Ultra Thin disposable nursing pads.  However, I still had leaking issues and it took a looooong time for my milk to dry up so I turned to cotton nursing pads that could be washed & dried.  Of the mainstream (found in BRU) pads, I liked the size of Dr. Brown's the best.  The others I tried were too small and looked really funny under my bra.

Breast Pump - I have no proof of this, but I swear that lots of pumping in the early days is what set me up with a fantastic milk supply.  I used a double electric while in the hospital and switched to the manual Avent Isis at home.  It's quiet, inexpensive, and super-easy to take apart for cleaning.  Using the Avent Isis, I was able to get ounce after ounce after ounce of milk in less than ten minutes and, as a result, I had tons of frozen breastmilk that I could use to mix with my son's cereal once he started solids.

Breast Shells - Note that I am not talking about a completely different item called breast shields!  I liked Avent's breast shells and they were so helpful when my nipples were healing (after having bad latch for the first several days) and when I suffered with engorgement issues.  I had engorgement issues off & on for around nine months so I had plenty of experience with using these babies.

Cold Packs and Warm Compresses - These were helpful to alternate when my milk came in and I had the most painful engorgement issues.  When I was so full that my nipples were stretched totally flat, I found it helpful to lean over a big bowl of warm water and let my nipples soften up.  Funky bonus is that it looks crazy to see the milk swirl out of your nipple and in to the water. I also thought that spraying down the shower with my milky fountains worked too, but it required more effort.

Breasts & Nipples - Obviously these are necessary, right?  One thing you might not realize is that the percentage of women who are biologically incapable of breastfeeding is incredibly small.  So if you want to breastfeed, the chances are incredibly good that you'll be able to do it.  Small breasts, inverted nipples, and other issues aren't necessarily a roadblock to establishing a nursing relationship.  If you have any reason to think that you have (or may have) problems with breastfeeding, do seek out the assistance of a lactation consultant as soon as possible to get help and reassurance.

Fluids - I was so thirsty and drank so much water when I was breastfeeding!  I guzzled a full glass of water at every nursing session in the early months of breastfeeding.  Fluids are important for a nursing mama, but follow your own thirst cues and avoid fluids that are diuretics.

Rest - Silly idea, resting while breastfeeding exclusively, but it's sorta possible.  Some mamas have success with side nursing, but I could never make it work for me.  If you can manage it, you can snooze while baby nurses.  Let the house fall apart and lean on others for help wherever you can find it so you can sleep when the baby sleeps.  Why rest?  Because your body will have an easier time producing milk if you're not bone-tired all the time.

Baby Carrier - I liked a stretchy wrap for the early days, but a ring sling would also work.  Actually any carrier that's appropriate for the child and used safely will be a good choice.  Why wear your baby?  Because it's easier to spot hunger cues when baby is nearby.  I also found that I was more milkalicious and produced far more milk when baby was against my body.

Attitude - It's true in breastfeeding and any other area of your life:  Don't "try," just "do."  In other words, don't let your attitude be a contributor to failure.  Why take home hospital samples of formula if you're planning to breastfeed?  Leave them there and believe that you will not need them.  Believe that you can do it and you probably will.  I think it was Henry Ford who said it best, whether you think you can or think you can't, you're probably right.

Education - No, you don't need to become a lactation consultant, but ignorance is not always bliss and many women, even mothers, are not very well informed about breastfeeding.  Devour books and scour websites to learn all you can about breastfeeding.  Find out if you can have meet with a lactation consultant or if there are any La Leche League meetings in your area.  Talk with friends who breastfed their own children for any length of time and pay particular attention to those who were able to nurse as long as they wanted because they probably have a lot of handy information to share that they learned while breastfeeding.  Arm yourself with the knowledge you'll need to succeed.

Did you breastfeed?  What were your favorite tools for breastfeeding?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Did I Suffer from Estrogen Dominance? Do You?

I've documented my problems with progesterone and, unless you skip those blog posts or your eyes simply glaze over, you're aware that I've had some hormonal difficulties.  Progesterone is but one hormone that rises and falls throughout the month and I began thinking about that other hormone that rules the menstrual cycle:  estrogen.  Specifically, I began to question whether my estrogen levels were balanced.

What do you think I discovered?  I think that I not only have had low progesterone levels, but I think my estrogen levels were too high.  Estrogen dominance can occur no matter what your estrogen levels may be if you're low on progesterone.  I may have been suffering from estrogen dominance for a long time.

What are the symptoms of estrogen dominance?  Irregular menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding, infertility, irritability, mood swings, fatigue, headaches, and the list goes on.  Yep, sounds like me!

Adding to the hormonal havoc is that there are chemicals in certain foods that mimic estrogen in the body.  These compounds are called phytoestrogens.  Naturally, some of my favorite foods contain phytoestrogens!

Indeed, over 300 foods have been identified as having phytoestrogens.  Lignans and isoflavones are probably the most well known classes of phytoestrogens and, courtesy of my love of flax and soy, I have had a daily (or almost daily) dose of those two for MANY, MANY YEARS!  Why am I yelling about this?  Because studies have indicated that animals who consume diets high in phytoestrogens have documented reproductive problems!!!

I'm not saying that my diet was the reason that I found conception so difficult.  I'm also not saying that it wasn't a factor.  Combined with the low progesterone levels, I think it definitely could have had a negative impact on my pregnancy quest.  Note that I'm not saying that diet causes fertility difficulties because a correlation does not equal causation.  I'm just saying that it's a fascinating coincidence that I consumed a diet high in phytoestrogens and I have had a difficult time conceiving and carrying children even though I was well younger than my mid-30s.

Although I'm currently pregnant, I'm avoiding foods that are high in phytoestrogens.  Forgoing my daily doses of flaxseed oil isn't so difficult, but I know that I'm going to have some real difficulty when the heat is on and cold tofu with soy sauce, green onions, & ginger is all that sounds good to eat.  My AC kicked on about twenty minutes ago so I suppose the heat is on right now! 

Hm, looks like a lot of frozen yogurt might be in my future!  Bummer.  ;-)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Defending Birth Decisions

The sisterhood of women can really be full of snarky b*tches sometimes, huh?  Yes, I say that knowing fully well that some of you are saying, "Try looking in the mirror, Sweetcheeks."  I may be a snarky b*tch from time to time (okay, most of the time), but I always favor allowing for freedom of choice in darn near all areas of life.

Did you hear a loud KA-BOOM around 1:15 PST?  It's my head exploding over women who clearly don't believe that other women can make decisions for themselves.  What has me particularly pissed at the moment?  Women who attack other women due to their childbirth choices.  I wish I was making this up, but it's something I've witnessed in various forums and I think it completely and totally sucks that anyone would try to make a mother feel bad or inferior based upon her childbirth experience.

Who specifically is acting so douchey?  It pains me to say it because I identify with them in so many ways, but it is most often the more crunchy types of mothers who go batsh*t crazy when a woman decides to have an elective Cesarean or an elective repeat c/s.  In my naivete, I didn't expect a group of "peaceful" parents to be so hateful and attack others just because they have a difference of opinion. I guess that when people say they believe in freedom of opinion, they really mean you are free to believe in their own opinions rather than your own.

As someone who struggled to find peace with my son's c/s, I feel for any mother who feels uncomfortable about her childbirthing experience and I know how emotionally wounded childbirth can leave the mother.  My feelings of dissatisfaction toward my son's birth persisted until well beyond his second birthday.  To say that I felt cheated is an understatement.  It's more that I felt like less of a mother because I didn't get the full experience of pushing a baby out of my vagina.  I felt like I wasn't as good as other mothers I knew. . .the ones who had the dubious joy of vaginal birth.

Looking back now, my feelings seem silly to me.  Seriously, why would I think that having a baby's head pushed out a vadge would make anyone a better mother?  I don't know. . .it's not like vaginal birth confers some special power or wisdom to a new mother.  Regardless, I was tormented by my feelings and they were very real and very painful for a long time.

Over time, I stopped feeling as bad when I thought about his birth.  However, I still felt that I missed out on something special because I missed out on something that was important to me.  Those feelings completely evaporated in the aftermath of my failed natural miscarriage and I decided outright that I will never, ever have an experience like that again

Judge me if you must, but I absolutely will not even consider trial of labor, let alone attempt a VBAC.  I've tried to visualize a nice & normal, drug-free vaginal birth and I can't do it.  Even thinking about what labor may be like leaves me shaking, thinking of that ill-fated day where I was in so much pain that I was certain something was so wrong that I was not going to live through the night.  It was so horrific that I truly wish that I had elected to have the D & C from the get-go.  I may have been wounded from my c/s, but I have been scarred and left feeling broken from my miscarriage experience.

Perhaps my own experience is why I find it so disheartening when I read snide comments directed toward women based upon their birth decisions.  As a side note, it's hypocritically fascinating when staunchly pro-choice people get up in arms at the notion of a woman choosing to have an elective cesarean.  I guess "her body, her choice" only applies when it's convenient and in agreement with their personal agenda. 

I think sometimes that we forget that to be respectful of someone's choices doesn't necessarily mean that we are agreeing with them.  I have been against the notion of abortion for roughly ten years because I learned that it ends life, stops a beating heart.  But I'm not going to get up in a woman's business if she chooses to have one because it's not my decision to make and I have no right to try to impose my will on her.  If she can live with her choice, let her and STFU about it.  Understand that I am painfully aware that most women don't choose abortion as easily as they choose their breakfast. . .it's more like an animal gnawing off their own leg to escape a terrifying situation.

I call BS on anyone giving any mother any bit of grief about her childbirth choices and, while I have and had very definite ideas about what I want/wanted personally for myself, I would never try to make a mother feel bad about her choices.  Why?  Because it's not my vagina, my abdomen, my uterus, or my freaking choice!  It is not my right to try to exert my will over any other woman as it relates to childbirth or anything else.  Don't like someone's birth decisions?  You don't have to and it's no one else's problem but your own if you don't like someone else's choices.

At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter how your child arrived in the world (or if you were the one who delivered your child at all) because we're all mothers and we all can use a lot more support and a lot less judgement.

Friday, June 3, 2011

We Heard Our Baby's Heartbeat!

I saw my baby's heartbeat at 6w2d and I expected (hoped, really) that my husband & I would get to see the heartbeat again today.  I didn't expect that we'd get to hear it, but we did!  Yes, we heard our baby's heartbeat!

Today I am 8w6d along and I can't believe that any medical equipment is so sensitive that it can already pick up the sound of such a tiny beating heart.  What a sweet auditory treat. . .listening to the sound of your unborn child's heartbeat.  Miscarriage risk drops dramatically once a healthy heartbeat is seen/heard and this heartbeat sounded good & strong!  It was such a relief to hear!

This baby is still measuring perfectly (8w6d on the nose!) and my OB was really happy with the look/sound of the heartbeat.  Of course, he cautioned me that he can't offer any guarantees that the worst won't happen again this time, but he was confident enough to ask his nurse to schedule the rest of my prenatal visits!

I don't have to return for another month and I've been advised to go ahead and continue using the progesterone suppositories until my next appointment.  I'm so excited over the great news that my baby has a strong & healthy-sounding heart that I can't feel the slightest bit upset over having to use the horribly gross & messy suppositories on a twice daily dose for another month.  Honestly, I'd use them for the entire 40-weeks if that's what was necessary to carry a perfectly healthy baby to term.

I know that many of my friends and family have graciously kept me and this baby in their prayers and I appreciate this more than I can ever say.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you all for your loving care.  Most importantly, praise God for carrying me through all those horribly dark months that I felt so empty, hopeless.  I am so thankful that He truly has restored my spirit, my joy.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Makin' Whoopie!

Relax, Prudence, this isn't a post about a certain game show host's favorite euphemism for doing it. 

While hunting for party supplies and goodie bag filler, I came across a Whoopie Cushion.  Thinking of all the fun times I've had with Whoopie Cushions, I immediately started cackling and grabbed one for my son.  The cashier smirked at me when she rang up my purchase.

I explained, "It's for my son." 

"Uh-huh."  She already wasn't buying my line and raised a skeptical eyebrow in my direction when she started scanning the crayons, stickers, and number 3 candle.

"No, really, it's for my little boy." 

She forced an uncomfortable smile and said, "Right."

Okay, okay, so I think toots are hilarious and Whoopie Cushions are one of the most fun inventions ever.  So sue me!  Eh, whatever.  I paid and hustled home because I had some serious pranks to pull.

I got home and excitedly shared my purchase with my husband.  I told him that I thought it would be epic to hide it and get our son to sit on it.  The lil' guy was righteously nicknamed King Toot when he was only a couple of weeks old and he seriously delights in making his toots.

I readied the Whoopie Cushion and hid it under a blanket on one of the two chairs that are currently in my living room.  As a side note, I really freaking hate selling & buying real estate and I'm totally over this whole moving thing.  Anyway, the trap was set and I just needed to get the kiddo to sit on the chair.

I asked him to come to the living room and to take a seat.  He sat on my ottoman.  I kept my cool and requested that he sit on the big chair.  He climbed up and plopped down and


The look on his face was priceless!  His jaw dropped and his eyes were wide as he looked around at us.  I was laughing so hard that I nearly peed myself as I wrestled the Whoopie Cushion out from under him.  He realized that it was a joke and he started laughing too.

Now he is obsessed with blowing up the Whoopie Cushion and stomping on it while yelling, "Toot!"  Every so often he adds, "Oh, excuse me," after stepping on it.  I think it's the best impulse purchase that I've ever made. 

I'm either a shoo-in for Mother of the Year or I'm officially out of the running!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kid Food - Blast from the Past

I'm not trying to claim that I only ponder deep thoughts, but sometimes I find myself thinking of things that have absolutely zero impact on anything.  This morning was one of those times.  What lametastic thoughts went through my head?  I was remembering food that I liked as a kid.  If you're in my age bracket, perhaps you have fond memories of these foods too!

Rectangle shaped pizza from Little Ceasars - I can't be the only one who remembers when you'd get two rectangle-shaped pizzas in a ridiculously long cardboard box bottom with the entire thing covered by paper, can I?  My father does not eat cheese and, as a result, this was my first experience with pizza that wasn't in the lunchroom at school.  Speaking of such things. . .

French bread pizza - Who thought it would be a good idea to take a really thick piece of bread and pretend that it's an adequate pizza crust?  I don't know and I think it's awful as an adult, but I always begged my parents for lunch money on pizza day and this was always the pizza on the menu at the cafeteria.  I don't know if it's still a hit with kids, but I found a frozen one and tried it to see if I was missing something.  I wasn't.

English muffin pizzas - My mother usually bought brown bread (I think it was white bread with brown food coloring added) and that was it, but every now & then English muffins would end up in the house.  I loved topping them with everything from butter, peanut butter, honey, jelly, and most of all, pizza toppings.  My mom had a toaster oven on the counter and it was the perfect size to make a little English muffin pizza.  Kid cuisine at it's easiest!

Canned chocolate pudding - Yes, canned!  This was long before the plastic pudding snack cups showed up on the market and it was a perfect single serving of rich & delicious pudding.  I know it sounds horrible and I'll admit that it did have a slightly metallic taste, but this stuff was soooo good!  I don't recall exactly who made it, but I want to say it was Hunts or Del Monte.  I used to jam home after school, grab a tin of pudding, turn on the animated version of Dennis the Menace (followed by Heathcliff!) and chill out for an hour.

Canned macaroni & cheese - Yes, canned!  I want to say that Franco-American or Chef Boyardee provided this impossibly cheesy lunch favorite.  The cheese sauce was incredible (to my not-all-that-particular tastebuds), but the pasta is what made it so darn good.  It was mushy & weird like all canned pastas and it was perfect with the creamy-cheesy sauce.  It was in a blue-colored can and I've looked for it for years to see if it was really all that good or if nostalgia was swaying my memory.

Canned spaghetti - Are you seeing a theme here?  I swear that my mother did not raise me on canned foods (except vegetables, it was all about the canned vegetables - BLECH!), but she did buy them for weekend lunches so I've definitely had my fair share of preservatives.  This stuff from Franco-American looked like wormy brains, but it was really tasty with a sprinkle of garlic powder.  Yes, I added it to canned goods as a kid too.

Canned asparagus / canned spinach - Do they even still make this stuff?  Having enjoyed the deliciousness that are both of these vegetables freshly prepared, I can confidently say that I will never eat the limp and stinky (just what someone looks for in food, right?) canned versions ever again.

Ice-Cream Cones cereal - It was a cereal shaped like, well, ice-cream cones.  The jingle has stuck in my head for YEARS though I'm pretty sure it went off the market when I was still in elementary school.  "My name's Ice-Cream Jones.  I'm bringing the kids my ice-cream cones!"  My mother never, ever bought this cereal, so I can only dream how it might have tasted.  What cereal did I get?  Bags of puffed wheat, puffed rice, and other horrors.  I'm not being dramatic.  Seriously, did you even know that cereal comes just in bags?  No box, just a sack o' cereal.  Anyway, it was all horrible, but the puffed wheat turned into something that can only be described as Elmer's glue when it came in contact with milk. :::shudder:::

Tribbles - You know, I'm not positive on the spelling of these.  My Star Trek dorkiness might be why I think they were called Tribbles so they might actually be called Trebles?  It was a bag (like M & M size) of little cookies (again, about the size of an M & M).  I had these one glorious Summer and they disappeared off the shelf and out of my life. 

Astro-Pops - My all-time favorite lollipop!  These things seemed like they lasted all day long and they were kinda shaped like a rocket.  I'm embarrassed to admit that the Astros were my favorite baseball team for a long period of time because my under-6 aged brain thought they had something to do with my favorite lolly.  How much did I love these suckers?  I can vividly recall crying because I dropped one in the sand at the beach when I was around four.

Vienna sausages - I know these still exist, but I feel the need to admit the shameful truth:  I freaking loved these disgusting wieners.  The smell would probably make me gag now and sticking my fingers in the weird jelly that they are packed in definitely would, but OMG I LOVED these things.  How much did I love them?  I'd eat them straight from the can.  No need to class up these babies!

Have you ever eaten any of this stuff?  If so, did you like it?  What crazy food did you eat as a kid?