Monday, February 28, 2011

From the Past: Story of a Miscarriage

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

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

And so, the story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so, my miscarriage:

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

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

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

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

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

Moving on!

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

But it was faint. Very faint.

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

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

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

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

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

That is a decision, incidentally, which I have never regretted. Some of my decisions in life and parenting are decisions that I still feel torn on.... But with homebirth, I have absolutely no regrets, second-guessing, or questions. I found a niche, a passion, and a cause.... and a wonderful and safe method of birthing for our family. I am so thankful for that.

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

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

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

But back to the story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enlightenment and congratulations followed.

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

That was the end of the fun part. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It surprised me, when I read other miscarriage stories, that normal miscarriages can take much longer and be much more painful than mine was. I am guessing that it is because my pregnancy was a blighted ovum pregnancy that the miscarriage was actually easier than other women's experiences - I have often read of miscarriages being like a "mini labor" experience, with contractions, labor, transition, and "birth" phases, and lasting for many hours or days. Mine was over much sooner.

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

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

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


"Dear Mommy and Daddy,

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

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

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

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




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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 25, 2011

HG Protocols and Action Plans

As I read more and more writings from hyperemesis mamas, I notice a common theme: Mamas who have had HG once often write out action plans or "HG protocols" while planning subsequent pregnancies. I did, myself, and now I see other women doing it too.

There are two types of plans commonly written up: (1) A pre-conception plan, for preparing one's body and one's family/life/children/etc. to deal with HG or to avoid it, (2) A treatment plan for post-conception NVP. Sometimes the two types of plans are merged.

After #1 was born, and I started noodling about with the idea of a #2, I first wrote out a "things to do before we get pregnant" list. It's not half-bad, on a basic level, but unfortunately I can't figure out how to paste a table into this blog entry. It had a column each for task to complete, date of completion, and notes. Here are the items that I wrote down (this was about 2 years ago):


DH’s job must be stable
DH’s job must be well-paid
Maternity Coverage
House – bought
Belongings – packed
Move – completed
Belongings – unpacked
Major home projects finished
Plan for DS – DS on solids
Plan for DS – sleep through night
Plan for DS – church help
Plan for DS – mom’s help
Meet with naturopath
Meet with OB
Pre-conception cleansing diet
Research HG supplements/drugs
Set target date for conception
Set up budget
Plan finances for future
Learn Natural Family Planning
Pray for guidance, easier pg
Start taking milk thistle
Start taking B6
Purchase Morningwell CD
Purchase Morning Sickness Balm
Speak to deaconesses for help
Plan for office substitutes
Make sure house is clean
Buy supplements
Finish HG-prevention/treatment protocol
Protocol approved by midwife
Protocol approved by OB
Protocol approved by Motherisk
Protocol approved by Shonda Parker
Protocol reviewed by
Contact church family to ask for prayers
Contact the churches I work for to let them know unavailable
Contact our midwife for prenatal care

From my notes, it looks like I completed about half of my to-do list before our little surprise-baby joined us.

My second list was the above-mentioned HG-prevention and treatment protocol. You can see the short version here, and gosh, I went to a lot of work for it! I read, researched, went online, got it checked out by Motherisk, my OB, my midwife, and Shonda Parker (a famous herbalist and midwife). Too bad none of it worked (that I know of). Here is the longer version, in case anyone is interested:



Purpose: Cleansing

Purpose: Liver cleanser
Dosage: At least once a day – as often as possible
Notes: Recommended by Shonda Parker

Purpose: General nutrition, folic acid
Dosage: One daily

Purpose: GI health and general health
Dosage: Acidophilus (1 cap daily) and yogurt

Purpose: General health
Dosage: 1-2 capsules of fish oil daily

Purpose: Morning sickness prevention
Dosage: 1 B-100 daily or 2 B-50 daily (each contains 100 mg or 50 mg each, respectively, of all the B-vitamins, including B6)

Purpose: Liver Cleansing
Dosage: 2 capsules daily
Brand: Thislyn is a good brand. Anything with 70-80% silmaryn
Notes: Recommended by Shonda Parker

As Soon as Pregnancy is Confirmed

Purpose: Cleansing, health

Purpose: Liver cleanser
Dosage: Lots and lots and lots and lots!!
Notes: Recommended by Shonda Parker

Purpose: General nutrition, folic acid
Dosage: One daily
Brand: Possibly something without iron???

Purpose: GI health and general health
Dosage: Acidophilus (2 tablets with every meal) and yogurt

Purpose: General health
Dosage: 2-4 capsules of fish oil daily
Brand: Possibly NOW?
Notes: Is this needed if I’m doing the Entrox EFA supplement?

- Start with 4 doses per day, up to 6, then up to 8 with OB’s supervision. Standard timing is one morning, one mid-day, two at night

Purpose: Morning sickness prevention
Dosage: 10 mg four times per day (not sure if should do B-complex or B6 alone). This dose is to replicate Diclectin. It is safe to take up to 200 mg of B6, so I’d probably take more

Purpose: Morning sickness prevention
Dosage: 10 mg four times per day, taken with the b-complex (cut 25 mg pills in half)

Purpose: Absorption
Dosage: Take a little bit with the B-complex and unisom

Purpose: Liver Cleansing
Dosage: Increase to 3 capsules daily
Brand: Thislyn is a good brand. Anything with 70-80% silmaryn
Notes: Recommended by Shonda Parker

Purpose: NVP prevention
Dosage: (1) 3 capsules per day, (2) 1-2 tsp. dried extract three times daily, (3) 2-4 mL tincture three times daily)

Purpose: Cleansing, health, NVP Prevention
Dosage: As directed on bottle?

Purpose: NVP prevention
Dosage: As directed on bottle

Purpose: NVP prevention
Dosage: 1,000 mg every 2-3 hours as needed, no more than 20,000 mg per day
Notes: Shonda Parker

Purpose: NVP prevention; this is an EFA supplement
Dosage: 3 caps per day with meals
Notes: Shonda Parker

Purpose: NVP prevention; this is an enzyme supplement
Dosage: 2 caps three times daily with meals
Notes: Shonda Parker


Purpose: Supposedly helps deal with nausea

Purpose: Helps some women with nausea
Notes: Reference – Midwifery Today

Purpose: NVP prevention
Dosage: 1,000 mg every 2-3 hours as needed, no more than 20,000 mg per day – or till you can taste it!

Purpose: Supposedly helps deal with nausea

Purpose: For NVP

Purpose: For NVP

Purpose: For NVP

Purpose: For NVP
Dosage: Under an OB’s care

Purpose: For NVP
Dosage: ½ - 1 tsp. tincture or ½-1/4 tsp. (1-2 g) extract three times daily

Purpose: For NVP
Brand: alfalfa, basil, black horehound, chamomile, ginger, lavender, peppermint, peach leaf, wild yam root, red raspberry leaf, yellow dock


Of course, when I say that it didn't work, I mean the parts that I got around to. I didn't get around to everything - too sick! So don't write off what was written, as it really did have a lot of research behind it and might help someone. Just not me!

I thought my HG plans/protocols were pretty good... until I saw other people's plans! If you go to and read the forums, you will see a lot of pre-conception plans. Two HG bloggers have published theirs as well, and they are excellent.... and light years beyond mine. Please take a few minutes to check them out:

Knocked Up, Knocked Over: The Protocol

(Also, check out her "The HG Kit" - WOW!)

While you're at it, "Knocked Up, Knocked Over" could really use your thoughts, prayers, and written encouragement - she is in the middle of a really bad time with HG. Head over and leave your love if you have a moment.

And here is the other pre-conception plan:

Island of Grief, Mountain of Joy

So.... Have any of you other mamas out there made lists and action plans? I think it's a smart thing to do, especially the "to do before trying to conceive" ones. Lists make me feel better, even if nothing on them helps.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Life With Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Other notes:

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pictures from Today, Plus the Trip That Wasn't

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

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

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

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

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

It was a lovely outpouring of support!

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


We had planned a trip northward to visit DH's family this weekend, intending to leave last night. After learning of today's memorial service, we decided to move our trip up 24 hours so that we could attend the service and leave directly from the service.

However, this trip just did not go smoothly. It was just one set-back after another - I told DH yesterday that it felt like our efforts were ill-fated, like the trip just was not meant to be. We considered canceling, but our son was counting on it, so we forged ahead.

So after the funeral today, we headed down the road - in said driving rain storm, despite all our better feelings. However, about 40 minutes down the road, DH's parents called us and told us that they thought we should call off the trip. There was a furious snowstorm going on at their place and in the mountains around their town (that we would be driving through), and the roads were being closed - they didn't have a good feeling about it.

So we turned around and headed for home. I was a wee bit disappointed, but mainly relieved. This was not a good weekend for a trip.

It's been quite a week! And not one that I care to repeat any time soon. Here's to a better weekend and coming week! And happy Sabbath, everyone!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

In Memoriam: A Remembrance

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

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

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

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

A few remembrances.

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

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

And that was that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a friend of mine said,

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

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

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Back to Neurology!

Quick update:

Today we had our appointment with Neurology at Phoenix Children's to go over our little guy's brain MRI report with our excellent neurologist (he is a treasure).

We had an excellent time, barring a miserable beginning. They were super-late getting us in, and in the meantime, our little one (who hadn't eaten a very good lunch) got hungry. I had wanted to wait till we got in a room to pull out his dinner, as (1) there is no food allowed in their lobby, and (2) I didn't want to have to interrupt his dinner when they called us. But when we'd been waiting 40 minutes or so, I finally gave up and took our little one (who was good and upset) out into the hallway and pulled out his supper. He ate like a starving maniac and cheered up immensely thereafter. Thankfully!

Anyway, our appointment! Our neurologist says that, based on the MRI and on his evaluation:

(1) Our little one will get around to walking and talking (most likely), but not soon. Walking - not till 3 or 4 years of age, minimum. Talking - anyone's guess.

(2) He is pretty sure there is a genetic underlying cause, but the current genetic testing just isn't detailed enough. Given another 10 years of development of the testing technology, we may be able to re-test and find a cause.

(3) Arachnoid cysts are common in the population and are of no concern.

(4) There are some issues of concern with the MRI - Lower brain volume than should be present at his age, enlarged ventricles, among other things. Nothing that requires surgery, and for the rest we will just have to wait and see and hope his brain continues to develop to take care of the current abnormalities. The human brain isn't mature until 6-9 years of age, and at that point we might know more.

Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm.... I think that's about it! Basically, he said that it will just be a waiting game. Oh, and he said that it's fine to halt our search for a diagnosis - that we have turned over enough stones to ensure that we know all that we need to know about his health, and that it's okay to stop here.

So that's it for today! What's next? Hmm... I have no idea. Actually, I think we're done for a month or so, barring therapy. Thank goodness!

Good night, all!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Long-Term Care

This afternoon we had our interview with Arizona Long-Term Care, which is the next step beyond the Department of Disabilities, and would qualify baby for lifelong care (which functions as a secondary insurance) and would help us out with the therapies he needs.

The interview was super-short, less than 20 minutes. The rep said that she thinks baby will qualify, but that if he doesn't, she'll just re-apply for him in one month, when he turns 18 months, and he definitely will qualify then. So he'll be qualifying, either now or in March.

Based on her questions, she said that baby is doing some things that 6- and 9-month-olds should be doing, and and none of the things that 12- and 15-month olds should be doing. So that's where we are for the moment.

Tomorrow is our MRI follow-up with our neurologist, so that should be interesting. This doctor is probably the best in the nation - he is just awesome. He's an older guy who carries all of his tools of the trade in a real,  old-fashioned black doctor's bag. When we met him, I thought "What is this guy doing? He hardly looked at our little one!" But in short order, I realized that this guy had an expertise beyond anything I could imagine, and that he could, with a few short movements and glances, completely evaluate our little guy and tell us all about him. That's what working for 50 years in the field does! He is amazing. And thankfully, he's not the type of doctor to order all sorts of tests and send us to more specialists ad infinitum, so that's a relief!

Have an awesome afternoon, all!