Postpartum Thoughts on Pregnancy, Childbirth, Baby Care and Parenting…Part 1
Here I am nearly 4 weeks after having my 5th baby, Daniel. I have been reflecting on my pregnancy and birth experience this time around. I am so very grateful to be able to say, it was my best one yet! I did some things differently, although I was conscious of my diet and exercise in my previous pregnancies. I didn’t need naps hardly at all and had lots of energy. I still had morning sickness (which for me, was nausea/food aversions/sensitivity to smells—I’m so very thankful I wasn’t night & day sick like my dear mom and one of my sisters) till 14 weeks. True to my “boy pregnancies”, my nausea was connected to my blood sugar. Even though I didn’t feel hungry, eating a snack, curbed the nausea.
I am always trying to learn more. And, I have been learning about pregnancy, childbirth, and raising kids for 9 years. I certainly don’t know it all…but my experience has taught me and I’ve been gleaning from new books and articles. I am not a medical person, so, as with everything, do your own research and check w/ your midwife or Dr. before taking my advice in this letter. I am documenting this not only for myself, in case there are more pregnancies in my future, but especially for my daughter, Madeline. I’m posting it on my blog, in case it may be of help to another young mama. Here are some of the things that helped my pregnancy…
Pray. Pray for the pregnancy, pray for the baby, pray for your own attitude. Pray before conception, if possible. J And, pray in specifics. I would pray detailed prayers, from my baby’s developing organs to his/her usefulness to the Lord, and His divine plan for their life. Record your prayers. Consider keeping a “Mom Journal” for all those special thoughts and prayers. I’ve enjoyed re-reading back through mine.
Reflect. Take time, especially if there are already a couple of kiddos running around, to reflect on the new baby. Sometimes I’d get to the end of my day, and finally sit down or lay down in bed, and think, “Oh, yeah! I’m pregnant!” Taking time to visualize the little one, pray for him/her, and just relish being pregnant again, was helpful for me.
Sing! Your baby can hear. He or she will hear rhythms, sounds, and tones long before he/she is born. Music is very powerful. It can heal, comfort, encourage, and bless. Playing music is also beneficial. It also helps Mama’s mood, attitude, and outlook.
Remember that your state of mind does/will affect your little baby. Choosing to be thankful and joyful, even and especially when it is a sacrifice of praise, will not only be a sweet savor to God, but it will bless your little one, more than you know. Choosing a “soft answer” instead of yelling at the kids or hubby will bless and comfort your baby. Choosing to relax instead of stressing or freaking out and learning to be a little less Type A—in the perspective of eternity, will it really matter? Try to avoid relationships or circumstances that cause you stress or anxiety. If conflicts cannot be avoided, attempt to resolve them right away.
Learn to research. Learn all you can about pregnancy, diet, and exercise…and even child training. Read cookbooks. Surf the internet for great, healthy cooking sites. Branch out. Eat quality meat, eggs, and dairy. Grow your own veggies! Eat lots of veggies and fruits. Shop in the fresh section of the grocery store…or better yet, shop at farmer’s markets. Eat as much locally grown food as possible. It’s still possible to eat well on a tight budget. Learn to make tasty dishes from beans, eggs, lentils, rice, and inexpensive veggies.
Ideas to try for easing morning or all-day sickness:
*Lemon Water and fresh ginger tea—when you think “nothing” is going to help the sick feeling, these actually did help me when I remembered to make some (Faulty digestion, due to changing hormones, can cause morning sickness or make it worse. That is why, for some, lemon-ginger-and organic apple cider vinegar work well in helping)
*From my experience, stress and lack of sleep make nausea worse
*Water—drink 2-3 quarts/day…dehydration will slow you down! It’s so simple. But, we all get busy and forget to drink water! I fill up a quart jar with ice and water and sip it all day, refilling as needed. I never leave the house w/out my Bubba keg, either! Many times we are tired or get a headache simply because our body needs H20! Drinking plenty of pure water also helps with digestion and avoiding constipation.
These next 2 things were especially “light bulb” moments for me in the last 2 pregnancies. Consistently increasing the amount of quality protein and healthy fats in my diet dramatically improved how I felt:
*Protein, protein, protein! This was SO very helpful and was something I didn’t do enough of in my first 3 pregnancies. Protein stabilizes blood sugar and keeps you full longer. I noticed in my 4th and 5th pregnancies, my body could not handle carbs 1st thing in the morning. I ate 3-4 free-range eggs most mornings in my pregnancy w/ Benjamin, on top of salad greens. With this pregnancy, I ate supper for breakfast nearly every morning. It sounds strange, but worked for me. It helped me avoid the 10 am necessity of a nap and gave me lots of energy for the day. No foggy feelings anymore!!
*Healthy fats- coconut oil, avocados, butter, nut/seed butters, fatty fish, virgin olive oil, & supplemental oils: cod liver, flax oil, hemp oil, fermented cod liver/butter oil, evening primrose oil. I ate these as much as possible—in treats, smoothies, frying, and in supplemental form (1 tbsp or a capsule)
Food Ideas when everything tastes, smells, or sounds gross:
Some of the snacks I ate in the first trimester: dried mangos, cocoa dusted almonds or roasted/salted almonds (sometimes dipped in almond butter), smoothies, plain baked potato with butter and salt, tortilla or potato chips (sea salt only—I tried to limit the additives), granny smith apples with peanut butter or almond butter, hamburger with ketchup wrapped in lettuce, and whatever sounded good (within my self-imposed healthy guidelines), even if it was a high calorie comfort food. J
The food items on my No-no list: prepared foods, fast foods, and foods with a long line of crazy ingredients. Example: (craving for chips) Sea Salt Potato Chips or Organic/Non-GMO Tortilla Chips instead of generic Doritos with flavorings and additives. (craving fries): homemade oven fries using red potatoes, sea salt and olive oil, roasted at 425 degrees
Confession: I allowed myself a few cheat meals in my 1st trimesters. Yes, I caved a few times. I bought McDonald’s French fries and ate Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It’s weird, since I don’t eat those items EVER, normally. J I didn’t eat perfectly. Sometimes on yucky days, the goal was nourishment, not perfect food combining or perfectly balanced blood sugar. Give grace to yourself.
*Consider: sometimes we crave certain foods, because our bodies are needing certain minerals. Think: salty food cravings may be a sign that you need more minerals/nutrients…dose up on the unrefined sea salt…take some alfalfa and/or iodine. Often our every-day diets are sorely lacking in trace minerals. Pregnancy can just expose it.
My weirdo-healthy foods did NOT sound yummy during the 1st trimester. Although, I always tried to pair fruit with some protein and not just eat “naked” carbs. Blood sugar will stay stable longer if there are healthy fats or protein. Sometimes eating what sounded good over-rode what was “healthy”. I tried to eat has healthy as I possibly could, even through the nauseas period.
I do know some women think pregnancy is their time to over-indulge in their cravings and eat whatever they want. Knowing what I know now, it can be selfish and very unhealthy and fat-promoting to eat that way. Eating and drinking healthily promotes healthy tissues, placenta, and (usually) a healthy baby. I know of a lady who kept a bucket of candy by her bed b/c she was pregnant and could eat “whatever she wanted”. She had 4 pre-term babies and pre-eclampsia. In my opinion, there is more than a little connection there! Loads of sugar, white bread, processed food and fast food hinders, not helps!
~Sometimes there’s nothing that seems to help morning sickness/nausea/food adversions/sensitivity to smells. Sometimes there are things that help. In my opinion, it’s worth trying…although I tended to suffer, simply b/c I didn’t feel like trying anything b/c I thought there’s nothing that would take away the gross feeling. As hard as it can be, focusing on the positives during the sick times, reminding yourself that the hormones are doing what they’re supposed to, can be comforting.
*Hint: Sensitivity to smells can be helped by eliminating food-coking smells: grilling or even setting the crockpot in the garage to cook all day.
Diet and Exercise:
I started feeling better and tried to make sure to eat good quality protein, healthy carbs, and plenty of fruits and veggies. I ate tons of salad with homemade salad dressings and lots of avocados. Learn the art of roasting!! I ate tons of veggies this way…the kids love them! Non-starchy ones are great: broccoli, cauliflower, green beans…etc! Sauteeing cabbage (red or green) in coconut oil is quite the treat! Don’t forget bone broth. It is highly nutritious. Drink kefir and/or eat yogurt, and cultured foods for the probiotics.
Exercise didn’t happen as much as it should’ve in the 1st trimester for me, but during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, I aimed for an average of 3-4 times per week. I would either walk 2 miles pushing my double stroller, jump on the trampoline with the kids, or bike around town w/ Benjamin in the bike seat and all the kids on their own bikes. I also kept my kettlebell (5 lbs) or my 5 lbs hand weights on my counter so I’d remember to do a few reps throughout my day. I consistently did squats either w/ or without the weights and stretching exercises.
It sounds so simple to say, “Eat healthy and exercise!!” But, I’ve found that it is KEY to a healthy pregnancy and it’ll make you feel GREAT! It’s not easy to do. It’s hard to be consistent. But, as with anything, IF you are consistent, it’ll make a big difference on how you feel, how much energy you’ll have, how your body and tissues respond to labor and birth, and it’ll greatly impact your postpartum recovery period and even your emotional health. Sometimes we suffer, simply because we are craving certain nutrients, minerals, or essential fatty acids.
New foods I ate during this pregnancy: chia seeds, hemp protein powder, glucommanan, goat milk kefir and yogurt, goat cheese, quinoa, buckwheat, almond and coconut milk/cream
Diet and Exercise
I continued eating healthy. I was conscious to eat plenty of quality red meat, eggs and salmon. I ate lots of avocados, gobs of almond butter, chia seeds, coconut oil-meat-and water (coconut anything!), and consistent supplements.
I started getting leg cramps, typical in all my pregnancies in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. I upped my mineral supplements (Krebs), and took Cal/Mag CALM or Cal/Mag Liquid (found at a healthfood store) drink before bed, when I remembered. The thing that helped me the most was consistently drinking my pregnancy tea, which I started in the last part of my pregnancy. It contained red raspberry leaf, nettle, and alfalfa. The minerals in the tea were well absorbed by my body, apparently, because it was the #1 thing that helped. Plus, I felt like it gave me an extra boost of energy. I tried to drink a few cups to a quart of the tea per day. Oh, and coconut water also helped. My midwife suggested it, since leg cramps are often not a cal/mag imbalance, but not enough potassium. Coconut water is very high in potassium, as are bananas and potatoes. I did end up eating bananas and potatoes to attempt to up my potassium levels, even though both can spike blood sugar.
The other supplements I took:
(it is beneficial to take vitamins prior to conceiving)
SuperMom Vitamins (www.beeyoutiful.com)
400 mg Folic Acid (mainly in 1st trimester)
Alfalfa Capsules- 2-3, 2-3 x’s/day
Krebs Chelates- extra minerals, up to 4/day, divided doses
Iodine- a few times/week 12.5 mg ( I found that I was lacking iodine and had issues with hyper-thyroidism/Graves disease, prior to this last pregnancy)
Evening Primrose Oil- taken orally and vaginally 2 weeks before the due date. It helps soften the cervix.
Cod Liver Oil/Barleans Omega Oil Blend/Hemp Oil
*After multiple pregnancies and heading into my 30’s, I believe supplements are important, if not, crucial to supporting a healthy pregnancy and beyond. Our bodies need more support, and often, our diets are not nutrient-dense enough to keep up with our body’s needs.
Labor and Birth:
I was prepared this time with my tricks and tips. During labor, it’s the “little things” that helped me. Here’s what I packed:
*1 quart of double strength Pregnancy Tea in a tall thermos—it’ll make the contractions more efficient, and hopefully a shorter labor! (adding ginger and peppermint is helpful too—both are stimulating herbs)
*A few containers of coconut water
*Scripture cds—“Hide ‘em In Your Heart” (from www.reviveourhearts.com) They were very soothing and relaxing…plus it’s scripture!! What better way to labor than by listening to the promises of God!
*Essential oils and a carrier oil—olive oil (lavender was the 1 I used—it definitely helped the relaxation process near the end)
*Scriptures on a card or in a notebook and other helpful self-encouragements to meditate on.
Thoughts on birth:
The biggest help, besides the “little things” was my preparation. A healthy diet, kegels, stretches, knowledge of the stages of birth are all helpful in the process, for sure. But, especially, mental preparation has been very important in my non-medicated births. Maybe it sounds weird, but it was essential for me. Naturally, I’m a wimp and very type A. I like to plan. I like to know what’s going to happen. I like my lists. Non-medicated birth requires, in my opinion, lots of preparations. Here were my mental preps:
Acknowledging the obvious:
~”It’s going to be long (most likely). It’s going to be uncomfortable. It’s probably going to be painful. It’s worth it. I will get to meet my baby, that’s been growing inside of me for 9 months. Jesus is my Helper. I am strong. My body was created to do this. Let’s enjoy it! No one but me can do this. I am the birther of my baby.”
~I didn’t ever get to the point of “I can’t do this any longer.” My labors haven’t been short (less than 12 hours)…and most of them, I have at least a day or days of pre-labor and/or early labor. I have lost many nights of sleep birthing my sweet babies. Staying positive during the labor and delivery is SO important. I was dreading the “pushing” phase…but I knew it was necessary and pushing through the pain and not giving “wimpy” pushes was crucial!
To the 1st time mamas:
~Non-medicated deliveries require a hefty want-to attitude and mental toughness. I was reflecting on all the character qualities that birth requires: patience, fortitude, self-lessness, endurance, joy, diligence, faith…
~All mamas are heros, no matter which way they birth.
~You can do this.
#1: Give yourself grace- allow yourself to not be perfect.
#2. Know that your world is turned upside down. It’s ok to not jump right back into life, even after 6-8 weeks.
#3. Enjoy. This stage is fleeting.
#4. You are ministering to your new baby in each moment of the day. Relish it. Thank the Lord for His mercies and blessings.
I am armed and ready with ideas on this topic. Surely the 5th time is the charm. I was shocked how HARD nursing a baby was, for the 1st month—with ALL of my babies, except this one. Yes, it’s natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, and without pain. I can proudly say, I learned from my 1st 4 babies. I was horribly sore, cracked and bleeding with my previous babies. This time, the soreness lasted 2-3 weeks and it never got as bad as previous nursing experiences, mainly due to pro-active preparation on my part. I did not want a repeat!
Here were some things that helped it go more smoothly this time:
-I had a nurse come in for each nursing session, to check our latch, for the first 24 hrs, or so
-The lactation consultant at the hospital was so very helpful! She helped me lots, giving me tips, re-latching, and reminders
-A great nipple cream—not the usual Lansinoh lanolin product, but a homemade herbal recipe using extra virgin olive oil and coconut oils.
-Changing nursing positions
-Carefully checking latch each time
To be continued...