A VBA2C Story (A Letter to Ian on His Birthday)

*VBA2C stand for Vaginal Birth After 2 Cesareans

Dear Ian,

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Your birth was a journey.  It began 9 months before you ever took a breath outside my womb.  While I waited for the big day of your arrival I prayed with many friends for *our* safe passage as you came into this world.  I was scared of what could happen while at the same time preparing and planning for the best (and the worst).  On your “due date” the contractions began.  I knew these were different and it was time, but little did I know you wouldn’t be making an appearance for 4 more days!  The labor pains started and stopped, getting increasingly more intense, keeping me from sleeping well.  I was one tired mama my sweet boy.  Your siblings hung out with your Grandma as Daddy and I tried to keep ourselves preoccupied.  You see, I wouldn’t let your daddy leave my side as I knew you could come at any moment.  We went for many long walks.  Daddy took me out to lunch :).  He also prepared lots of food so he wouldn’t have to cook dinner for a few days.  I napped a lot.  I got in and I got out of the birthing pool many times so the warm water could help my body relax.  Wednesday morning came and after a 2 particularly strong contractions I prayed to the Lord and finally surrendered to the fact that I just really had no idea when you would show up.  I was fully ready now though.  I would do anything to help get you here.  Then the next contraction hit and it was a monster.  I called to everyone that I was going upstairs to the birth pool, I needed some comfort.  I made it up the stairs and another massive contraction hit and I hit the floor on my hands and knees – there was no standing through that one.  I stood up shaking – I knew that meant you were coming and SOON!  Daddy ran upstairs and helped me into the pool.  I told him you were coming – I’m not sure he believed me :).  The next contraction made me panic just a little until Daddy reminded me to stay calm, freaking out would not help lol.  In that moment I remembered he was probably just as concerned as I was because our midwife was NOT there yet and that gave me courage to be calm.  I moaned so loud through the next contraction HA!  I sounded so funny.  I was trying with all my might not to push as I could feel you descending.  I told Daddy to get behind me and to get ready to catch you, I was on my hands and knees and that was not going to change.  I was so proud of your papa, he got right in position.  I pushed through one contraction and your head was out.  Amazingly, when the contraction ended I was in no pain whatsoever and felt a little disconcerted that you were half way out but I was in no pain!  I felt the next contraction coming and told Daddy to get ready.  One more breath and there you were!  You were beautiful.  We were safe.  It was a beautiful moment of laughing and crying and breathing freely for the first time in 9 months.

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You were here.  We were safe.  God was so good to us.  5 min. later our dear friend Amanda arrived and began laughing and crying with us (and snapping some precious photos).

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About 5 minutes after, the the midwife arrived and was just as surprised as Amanda was that you got here first!  All was well.  We made our way out of the birth pool and were thoroughly checked out by Marilee.

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Then we slept.

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We’d done some hard work you and I.
You’ve been such a blessing to us from the very beginning.

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I am so thankful to be your mama.  As I write this I carry your little brother in my womb.  I hadn’t expected to be going through this again so soon, but I am thankful for the privilege.  Your birth taught me so much.  Courage.  Patience.  Trust.  Empathy.  That I am not helpless.  And again God reminded me that he is always with me.  I pray I will make the journey safely once again.  I love you dear boy.

Love,

Mama

 

Sausage, Beans, & Rice

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We do a variation on a simple “beans and rice” recipe every Friday – always making enough for 2 full meals so we can have leftovers for lunch on Sunday after church.  We usually stick to black beans or red beans and I’ve come to really love our current recipe.  Unlike the past this one has some meat in it, but it adds such an excellent flavor I can’t resist!  We get just about all our meat from Polyface Farm because we think humanely and naturally raised animals is  pretty important.  Below is the recipe for 1 meal for our sized family (I normally double this to feed us twice).

Ingredients:

  • 2lbs of dried red beans (soaked over night in warm water, drained, and rinsed)
  • 1lbs of breakfast sausage, chopped if using links
  • 2.5 cups of dry rice
  • 1.5 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 ginormous onions, or 2-3 smaller onions, chopped
  • 6 ribs of celery, chopped
  • Seasonings: lots of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, & dried thyme

In a large stock pot, sauté all of your veggies & sausage together (for flavor more than anything).  Add your already soaked and rinsed beans, and add water (or unseasoned broth) until covered.  Simmer for 1-2 hours (until beans are soft) then add 1.5tbs each garlic powder, onion powder, & salt, as well as 2tsp dried thyme.  Simmer for at least another 20 min.  While your pot of veggies and beans is simmering, cook up your 2.5 cups of rice in 5 cups of water, mixed with 1tbsp each salt, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Once your rice is done, stir it into your pot of beans and voila, you’re done! 🙂

Super Simple Soup (Crock Pot Edition)

My favorite thing about cold weather is soup.  Soup is simple to make and so good for you!  I thought I’d share my favorite method of making soup these days 🙂  The full recipe is at the bottom, but here is the method.

Put some meat in the bottom of your crock pot (mine is a 7 qt crock pot)

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I’m using some pork chops for this batch

Add your seasonings

Salt, Garlic, Onion, Coriander and Ginger this time.
Salt, Garlic, Onion, Coriander and Ginger this time.

Throw in enough chopped veggies to reach the top and fill with water.

Carrots, Celery, and Onion form the base of all my soups
Carrots, Celery, and Onion form the base of all my soups

And that’s it!  Weekly veggie prep makes this meal super quick (once a week we wash & chop as many veggies as we have time for).

Simple Crock Pot Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 – 2lbs of meat on the bone (pork chops, spare ribs, oxtail, whatever you’ve got)
  • 2 Tbsp Unrefined Salt (I love “real salt“)
  • 1 Tbsp each garlic powder & onion powder (a variation I like lately is 1 Tbsp ginger powder and 2 tsp ground coriander)
  • Enough chopped veggies to fill the crock pot after you’ve put the meat on the bottom.  I almost always do about equal parts carrots, onions, & celery; some tasty variations include mushrooms, bell peppers, and potatoes (regular or sweet)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Enough water to just barely cover everything
  • Optional 1 Tbsp dried herbs (thyme & rosemary are always tasty)
  • Optional 3-4 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I’m very partial to flat parsley lately)

Set on low for 8+ hours, or high for 4+ hours.  When finished, I fish out the pieces of meat, chop them up on a cutting board, and toss them back in.  I also cook up rice and put a spoonful of rice in the bottom of the kids’ bowls before ladling the soup.  When I have them I also like to add legumes (chickpeas and lentils are a favorite around here) for additional nutrition and fiber.

EXTRA IDEAS: Keep all the “scraps” from chopping veggies and the bones from after you finish off your soup and throw them back in the crock pot with more water after you’ve made your soup.  This way you’ll get more nutritional bang for your buck – more broth!

Postpartum Hemorrhage Prevention

This is my story… I’ve given birth to 9 children.  Children 7 & 8 were both born via emergency c-section due to fetal distress.  I hemorrhaged during my 2nd cesarean and was very anemic after (very very pale, really short of breath, easily fatigued, etc).  Postpartum hemorrhage, whatever the cause, is scary business!  When we learned our 9th child was on the way, I had a very strong desire to do all that was *within my control* to avoid having a cesarean again.  The fact that my in hospital midwives and doctors had policies against working with women who want to VBAC after having 2 c-sections complicated things.  I was left with the choice of a home birth with an experienced midwife (if I could find one to take me!) or a scheduled repeat cesarean.  We chose home birth and were taken on by our wonderful midwife Marilee.  There were several things I felt needed to line up for a home birth to be a safe option for us and one was preventative measures to lower my risks for postpartum hemorrhage.  I read a lot, cross referenced anecdotal stories and case studies from other women and midwives, and came up with a plan.

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First: My nutrition needed to be very good so my blood clotting factors were in a healthy rang and my placenta would be as healthy as possible.

Second: My uterus needed to be functioning properly so it could contract properly during AND after labor.

Third: The delivery itself needed to go smoothly as possible to lower the risk of complications afterwards.

This post will primarily touch upon the first and the second parts of my plan.  Here is what I did…

I drank herbal pregnancy tea or plain red raspberry leaf tea every day, almost religiously from 20 weeks on.  I got to the point during my last 6 weeks of pregnancy where I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I switched to a liquid extract of red raspberry leaf and nettle leaf.  I made my extracts, but you can find RRL extract HERE at Trilight Health.  Liquid extracts seem to be more effective than RRL capsules because the water helps to draw out the medicinal properties and nutrients more effectively than the digestive system can alone.

To make my tea I would use a 1/4 cup “nutritional herbs” (like nettle leaf, alfalfa, and oatstraw) along with a 1/4 cup packed red raspberry leaves steeped overnight in a 3-4 cups of water (which had been brought to a boil, poured over the herbs, stirred, and covered).  The most convenient way to do this was to use a quart sized coffee press – I use THIS one.  If you see my last post, there are several links to pregnancy teas.  At the moment I follow the NORA tea recipe; steeping 1/4 cup RRL, 1/4 cup Nettle leaf, 2 tbsp alfalfa leaf, and 2 tbsp oatstraw overnight mixed the following day with stevia & lemon juice.

Yummm, salad
Yummm, salad

I ate lots of green veggies and ate adequate protein.  But I already talked about that here.

My iron levels were checked multiple times during pregnancy to ensure they were adequate for a safe delivery.  Thankfully my iron levels were always great 🙂 so no additional supplementation was necessary, but if I had needed to I would have started consuming liver and possibly supplementing with THIS which I have on hand incase I need it.  *I was able to recover from my severe PP anemia after our 8th simply by consuming 1-2oz of liver each day for 2 weeks – no additional supplementation needed (even though they tried to give me 65mg of iron to take daily)

Labor Prep and my liquid RRL & Nettle Leaf extract
Labor Prep and my liquid RRL & Nettle Leaf extract

And lastly, I took an “Labor Prep” formula the last 5 weeks of pregnancy.  There are many formulas out there, as well as controversy surrounding the use of these formuls.  After doing my own research on the specific herbs involved and talking with doulas, other mamas, and midwives, I chose to go with the simplest formula out there – Labor Prep by Trilight Health, which is formulated by Shonda Parker, who is well known for her herbal knowledge and experience specifically with pregnancy.  A single 8oz bottle with get you through the last 5 weeks of pregnancy (unless of course you go significantly over your due date).  The purpose of these labor preparation formulas is to help prepare the uterus function properly.  It’s very important to take it AS DIRECTED ON THE BOTTLE as these herbs all have the potential to cause uterine contractions if you take too much!

Each herb in this formula is both stimulating and relaxing to the uterus.  They are taken in such low dosages that they cause the uterus to contract *some*, but not enough to go into labor, while at the same time each acts as an “anti-spasmodic” to the uterus, so when the uterus contracts, it does so efficiently and properly and gets better “exercise” so to speak.  The uterus *needs* to have “practice contractions” so that it is strong and ready to do it’s work on the big day.  This happens naturally on it’s own (BH – braxton hicks contractions), but after many pregnancies or poor nutrition the uterus can get “tired and disorganized” for lack of a better way to put it.  The midwives that do recommend labor prep formulas do so because they consistently help to lessen postpartum bleeding under normal circumstances.  

My personal experience: I noticed that with my 6th, 7th, & 8th pregnancies I had very few BH contractions and all of those labors were VERY SLOW to progress.  My uterus needed some help because I hadn’t been taking very good care of it.  During my 9th pregnancy, I actually didn’t really “feel” any BH contractions happening unless I happen to put my hand on my belly during a contraction.  So they happened, but I was in no discomfort (unlike past pregnancies!).  They didn’t happen any more frequently once I started taking the labor prep formula – it may be safe to say they might have even spaced out more!  This was also helpful when I went INTO labor because I knew from the discomfort and “bloody show” that it was the real deal, there was no guessing (just because I’ve had so many deliveries doesn’t mean I always know for sure when I’m in labor LOL).  And for me, it drastically reduced my postpartum bleeding compared to my past experiences, which was a HUGE relief.  TMI alert: I gave birth in a birthing pool and there wasn’t even any blood in the water despite the fact that I probably sat in that pool for 10-15 minutes after Ian was delivered.  I will say that the “afterpains” were killer compared to pas timest 😆 BUT I’d much rather have afterpains from a uterus that is contracting like it should than bleed to death!

Like all things in life there are no guarantees and God is ultimately in control of all things, but this was and is my part 🙂

My Nutrition & Supplements During Pregnancy (UPDATE 1/16/16)

There is no doubt that Mama’s nutrition during pregnancy plays a huge role in the outcome for both mom and baby.  I’d like to share what I do to work towards a health pregnancy for both baby and mama.

It starts with the foods you consume day in and day out.

I know we all have foods we crave and they make us feel better, but during pregnancy you need to choose to eat well even if you continue to indulge in those less than ideal cravings and treats.  I know that I can not eat a “perfect” diet so I have a few goals for each day when it comes to what I eat.  In addition to following a whole foods diet I…

Some wild edibles I added to my salad the other day
Some wild edibles I added to my salad the other day – chickweed and lambs quarter.

FIRST: Eat 1 large salad of baby green lettuces eaten with at least 1-2 tsp of olive oil drizzled on top.

Greens are packed full of micronutrients that your body needs at all times, but especially during pregnancy!  I usually choose to eat a “spring mix” of lettuce so that I am getting a variety of different lettuces, but these last few weeks I’ve enjoyed having baby arugula salads.  Adding olive oil to your salad aids in the absorption of various fat soluble nutrients and baby’s brain loves those mono-unsaturated fats!  Fiber from your lettuces will also help keep your bowels regular and in working order.  *TIP* If you’re having trouble digesting your lettuces (salad runs anyone?) add 2-3 droppers full of a ginger glycerite just before eating your salad.  I make mine, but you can purchase one HERE. If it’s “too spicy” to take it straight, add it to a little bit of water and you won’t even taste it :).

I've got a serious peanut butter addition...
I’ve got a serious peanut butter addition…

SECOND: Adequate protein (70 grams minimum)

Not getting enough protein and getting too much protein both adversely affect pregnancy outcomes.  According to research, staying between 70-100g of protein on a daily basis seems to be the “sweet spot”.  Babies of mothers who consumed both under, or over, this amount were more prone to have “low birth weight” babies.  Now if you typically have very large babies, shooting for close to 100g of protein a day might not be a terrible idea ;-), but you’ll want to be sure to support your kidneys through herbal supplements as a heavier protein loads is harder on them, especially during pregnancy.  *TIP* To support my kidneys during pregnancy I take 1-2 capsules dandelion leaf capsules with each meal.). Dandelion leaf has the added benefit of being a digestive aid, is packed full of many nutrients, and can help with pregnancy swelling due to it’s mild diuretic action (it’s also a good source of potassium!).

UPDATE: 1/16 – I switched to taking 1 Collinsonia root capsule daily as it supports the kidneys AND is helping with my pelvic varicose veins.

Broth in a mug, yummmm :)
Broth in a mug, yum 🙂

THIRD: Vegetable and Bone Broth

Both vegetable and bone broth are an easily assimilated source of vitamins & minerals.  You can drink it by itself, in soups, make a sauce with it, cook your rice in it, etc etc.  It’s also a very frugal way to make every bit of healthy food you have stretch to meet your nutritional needs.  There are about a thousand articles on the web about the benefits of broth so I won’t expound upon it here. 😉 Just use our friend google.

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FOURTH: Herbal Pregnancy tea

I try to drink 2-4 cups of herbal pregnancy tea daily.  Red raspberry leaf tea is specifically traditionally used among herbalist to help prepare the uterus to work efficiently for labor & delivery of the baby.  It is a rich source of minerals in addition to it’s medicinal action of strengthening the actions of the uterus.  *IMPORTANT TO NOTE* Red Raspberry Leaf does NOT CAUSE uterine contractions.  It simply strengthens whatever action the uterus is already preforming.  If the uterus is contracting already, it will strengthen that action, but if the uterus is at rest, it will not cause it to contract.  You can find pre-made teas HERE, HERE, HERE, or you can make your own by following this recipe for “NORA tea“.

 

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FIFTH: Appropriate Nutritional Supplements

This will vary from person to person because our needs are unique, but here is what I take and why:

  • Cod liver oil, 2 capsules daily (A good source of EPA & DHA – also contains vitamin A & D) – I’ve used THIS brand for years.
  • Evening Primrose Oil, 1 capsule daily (a good source of Alpha-Linolenic Acid and Gamma-Linolenic Acid) THIS brand.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** – I have gone down to taking just one 500mg capsule daily.
  • Calcium/Magnesium in a 1:1 ratio, 2 capsules 2x a day (I have a primarily dairy free diet and my pregnancies are fairly close together – I take this on my midwife’s recommendation.  I have tried a 2:1 ratio and it gives me muscle twitches ;-).  I also try to take an espom salt bath once a week.) I use THIS brand.
    ***Update 12/11*** In the last week I have been consuming my pregnancy tea faithfully every single day (as outlined in this post) and only just the last few days my muscles have been trying to have leg cramps first thing in the morning.  This is not uncommon in mineral imbalance.  I suspect I may be able to reduce or stop my calcium / magnesium supplement with daily consumption of my tea.  I will keep this updated as I make changes.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** I have finally found the sweet spot.  Just 1 capsule daily when I drink my pregnancy infusion (1/4 cup nettle, 1/4 cup red raspberry leaf, 1/4 cup oatstraw steeped over night).
  • Astragalus Root, 2 capsules 2x a day for immune support.  I make my own capsules, but you can buy them HERE.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** no longer taking astragalus every day, just as needed for immune support when the kids are sick 😉
  • Dandelion Leaf, 2 capsules 2x a day (reasons listed above). I make my own as they’re hard to find at a reasonable price already made.  You’ll just have to do a good google search on this one.  You can also take dandelion leaf liquid extract or tea, both of which are more readily available.  A possible substitution might be nettle leaf, but dandelion really shines in kidney support and is very safe and nutritious for pregnancy.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** As noted above, I’m taking Collinsonia Root now.
  • Butcher’s Broom Root, 2 capsules 2x a day for varicose vein support, swelling in the legs, and general feelings of “heaviness”  in the legs.  It works particularly well for that “heavy” feeling in the legs.  I’m currently researching additional support for my varicose veins.  I make the capsules, but you can buy THIS brand.
  • Buffered C Complex, 2 capsules 2x a day for varicose vein support and enhanced iron absorption.  I am usually not a fan of vitamin C supplements, but the one I take is as close to “good” as I can get without paying an arm and a leg ;-).  It contains some whole foods (acerola cherry and rosehips) in addition to hesperidin and rutin which both have been studied for their role in vein health.  THIS is the one I take.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** I’m now just taking 1 capsule 2x a day.
  • 400mg Methyl-Folate, one a day.  I get folate in my diet, this is just “insurance”.  It’s important to take a methylated form if you are going to take a supplement.  I have been taking THIS one.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** I have been analyzing my diet with Cronometer and I’m getting plenty of folate in my diet so I have discontinued this supplement.
  • Vitamin K2 Complex, 1 a day for proper calcium utilization & blood clotting factors.  It contains both vitamin K1 & K2.  Read a good summary on K1 & K2.  I buy THIS one because I just can’t see myself consuming fermented nato just yet 😉 and since dairy, being one source of K2, is not an option.
  • Green Food Powder Supplement, 3 or more times a week for general health and placenta health.  It has been observed within some midwifery practices that women who supplemented with a green food supplement have healthier placentas than those who do not consume these “green food” powders.  They contain an array of nutrients we usually are lacking in our diets and are a convenient way to get some more greens in my diet.   There are a variety of them on the market, but I currently use and trust THIS one.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** I’m trying to consume this just about every day in my smoothie now
  • ***UPDATE 12/11/15*** I added in a cup of “root” tea in the evening – 1tsp each of dandelion root, burdock root, and stone root tea – simmered in 1.5 cups of water for 15 minutes.  These are to support liver health (dandelion & burdock), and healthy circulation (stone root)
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** Now I am just taking 3 dandelion root capsules a day for convenience stake
  • ***UPDATE 12/11/15*** I have varicose veins and to prevent blood clots and encourage good circulation I have also started taking one 60mg standardized gingko biloba capsule daily and added 1 tbsp of cleavers leaf to my daily tea mix.
    ***UPDATE 1/16*** I stopped the ginkgo and have continued the cleavers.
  • ***UPDATE 1/16*** I added a b-complex vitamin.  Using Cronometer has allowed me to see where I’m lacking on a day to day basis and sometimes I don’t get certain b-vites.  I take THIS brand.  It’s pricey, but not synthetic like most b-complex vitamins out there.  Synthetic b-vitamins can cause lots of problems, here is an example.

Being pregnant many times or with several pregnancies close together doesn’t mean you are doomed to poor health.  I believe there are key things you can do to take care of mama that go a long way in contributing to your long term health and also to the health of the baby you are carrying.  If you’re trying to figure out what you might need to supplement your diet with or where to begin, please feel free to contact me.  I’d love to help you get it figured out!

Pregnancy Diary: 16.5 weeks

Your baby is the size of an Avocado!
Your baby is the size of an Avocado!

This pregnancy is flying by!

  • My energy has recovered, but I’m already starting to slow down a bit.  The same amount of physical effort I was putting out 6 weeks ago now doesn’t move me quite as quickly as it did, which is most evident during my daily walk.
  • I’ve continued to walk consistently, but have had to shorten my walking time due to our current school schedule. I’m also trying to do specific stretches every day and I’m hoping to be a bit more regular about my MommaStrong prenatal exercises.  My current mantra in life is, “Something is much better than nothing at all!”
  • Nutritionally I’m doing better than I was, although I have much room for improvement.  I’m taking a handful of supplements (which I hope to outline in another post) to help with general health as well as specific health concerns I am dealing with due to pregnancy.  Spring mix lettuce FINALLY sounds good again, so I’m trying to have a big salad (or a few small salads) every day again.  I’m also trying to find my groove with drinking my pregnancy tea regularly again.
  • I had my first prenatal visit with my wonderful midwife Marilee at 12 weeks and just had my first round of blood work done.  Prayers would be appreciated that there would be no unexpected surprises on that front!
  • And finally, I think I’m feeling the baby move *eek!*, but I’m not 100% sure yet.  I suspect I might have a anterior placenta, but only time will tell.

God bless you friends!

Pregnancy Diary: 10 weeks

What does a baby look like at 10 weeks gestation?

My energy has been a bit more iffy this week…

  • As of today I am half way to my goal of 40 miles!  I even started jogging (slowly) this week as well, which is exciting because I really do love to run and this may be the closest I will get!
  • As a compromise to help me eat my veggies (because salads just don’t sound very good right now) I bought some Caesar and ranch dressing and I’ve switched to eating mostly crunchy lettuces because my usual spring mix sounds really unappealing right now.
  • I’m eating all the time.  It’s the thing that keeps my tummy happy 🙂 thankfully I haven’t gained any weight yet.
  • I’ll have my first midwife appointment in the next few weeks.  Assuming there are no new risk factors as pregnancy progresses we will try for another home birth with our midwife Marilee Pinkleton with TLC Birth.
  • I also intend to pursue chiropractic care again with Dr. Will at Western Loudoun Chiropractic starting some time around 20 weeks.

That’s all I got this week – time to go take a nap, zzzzzzz……