And… oh yeah, I’m due like any day now. Sorry. I’ve kinda been hiding in a hole this entire 8 1/2 months. (I was only about 28 weeks in that photo—I’m 39 weeks now!)
But I thought I’d give a better-late-than-never update on how this whole journey has been going, and share some thoughts on the choices I’ve made throughout it. There’s a lot of things you have to make up your mind on when it comes to this pregnancy stuff. And it sort of seems like there’s two basic camps as far as making those decisions—the mainstream, and the “crunchy” alternative-minded folks. Each with their own set of “rules” you’re supposed to follow. Or, well, I guess it’s more that the mainstream recommendations are pushed to everyone, while the crunchy side tends to encourage you to break all of those rules and do things totally differently. I wound up somewhere in the middle, doing some things differently, while (surprisingly) making some mainstream choices along the way. Here’s what I ended up choosing.
What I’m doing differently
I’m seeing a midwife instead of an OB.
Yeah, this isn’t all that out-there, but it is a bit different from the norm I guess. I don’t have a “doctor” I’ve been seeing for prenatal care, or one I’m planning to have deliver my baby. I’m going old-school and seeing a midwife instead. Best part? I get to go to my prenatal appointments at a cozy little hippie-house at my downtown midwifery clinic, instead of a cold, sterile, scary hospital or doctor’s office.
My midwife is absolutely amazing. She makes me feel so comfortable and cared for, and confident in my body’s ability to handle my pregnancy and birth successfully. She is a licensed nurse midwife, which is different than a “certified” midwife in that she is a full-fledged nurse practitioner, who is licensed in midwifery as well. My midwife is the only one in my state who works in a private clinic and attends home births, and also has hospital privileges and works with a team of nurse midwives in the hospital setting. She has the best credentials of anyone that I could have chosen, so I feel super lucky to be under her care.
What I love most about seeing a nurse midwife is feeling like I’m getting the best of both worlds—the security of a practitioner who is highly trained and well-versed in advanced western medicine, but who is able to maintain a more flexible, holistic approach. My midwife’s views and style of practice in particular strike me as having an excellent balance of the two—she is very interested in evidence-based medical care and research, but she acknowledges and appreciates traditional alternative medicine models as well. Like, she had me get all the same blood work and labs I would have gotten through an OB-GYN at the hospital, but she also recommended a hypnotherapist for me to help get over my phobia of needles! I couldn’t ask for a better approach to prenatal care than what I’ve experienced with my midwife. And I’m looking forward to being under the care of a midwife for the birth as well.
I’m consuming some things that are no-no’s, like raw milk and extra vitamin A
I laughed at myself the other day because I was telling my friend how I thought I couldn’t have like, brie cheese or something (you know the rule about the soft cheeses?). Because I’ve totally not cared about the fact that I’ve been drinking raw milk since being pregnant, and that’s way more of a dangerous “risk” according to the “experts,” right? Ha. Yeah.
Raw milk is important to me because the nutrients are so much more bioavailable, including enzymes needed for their digestion. You know how they make sure that pasteurized dairy is fully safe for consumers? By testing it to make sure they’ve killed off all the enzymes. Bummer.
I live in Portland, Oregon, where farm sales and herd shares of raw milk are legal, but just north of us in Washington, raw milk is legal even at the retail level. So you can just cross the state border, walk right into a health food store and pick some up. (I know, we’re really lucky!) Which was what I was doing up until a couple months ago when I discovered a raw dairy farm and herd share with a convenient drop-off location for me, and THE BEST MILK I HAVE EVER TASTED EVER. It is unbelievable. I think if we had an unlimited supply of it, my husband and I would drink a gallon like every other day.
And I feel totally fine about drinking raw milk from a trusted, very small farm that has plenty of experience in ensuring the safety of their milk. Is it 100% guaranteed to be safe? Well, nothing is. I could have gotten listeria from an organic frozen pizza a couple weeks ago (which I’ve actually bought before, but haven’t recently, thankfully) or hummus that have since been recalled. The minuscule risk that there might be something unsafe in my fresh, unprocessed milk is so not worth giving up on all that nutrition for baby and me.
Oh, but you know that if you take cod liver oil, it will give your baby birth defects and they’ll basically die, right? Eh, yeah, I’m eating that, too. The mainstream recommendations say that supplements high in vitamin A (like cod liver oil) should be avoided because too much vitamin A can cause birth defects, but there’s plenty of evidence that shows that’s pretty unlikely. I’ve been taking cod liver oil (not as much as WAPF recommends, but some), and also homemade raw dehydrated beef liver capsules (I’m totally going to make a new post with a tutorial for those). Liver (not carrots!) is your absolute best source of fully-formed vitamin A—the kind your body actually knows what to do with. It’s also packed with many other important nutrients, many of which are especially beneficial during pregnancy, such as vitamin B12, folate, and iron.
I’m planning a waterbirth
The plan is to go au naturale—hopefully unmedicated and with minimal intervention. I’ve definitely gotten my fair share of “are you crazy!?” reactions when I tell people I’m not only planning on not going the epidural-route, but that I also intend on giving birth in a blow-up pool.
I’m pretty stoked about this. Waterbirth, or literally giving birth while you’re in a tub of water, has a lot of benefits for making labor and delivery easier on mom and baby. It’s been shown to provide significant pain relief and relaxation, helps to speed up labor, reduce blood pressure, reduce the risk of perineal trauma, and reduce the need for medical interventions during birth. It’s also believed to be a gentler way to welcome baby into the world—I guess the theory is they’ve already been swimming around in a watermelon-sized “pool” inside you, and then they come out to a similar-feeling environment in the warm water of the birthing tub, easing the transition to life above the surface. I kind of like the idea of that.
But I really like the idea of being in a warm, relaxing pool while I labor my baby out, instead of strapped down to a hospital bed. I’ve always been soothed and comforted by water, and when you’re full-term pregnant, the buoyancy and anti-gravity effects of having your belly submerged feel amazing! Waterbirthing also facilitates easier freedom of movement as you’re able to position yourself easier on your own. I would imagine being able to more easily follow whatever movements my body is directing me toward will be a big help during labor.
I’m hypnotizing myself
Have you heard of using hypnosis for birth? It’s kind of a big thing, for us crunchy types, apparently. There are two main programs that people use to prepare for birth with hypnosis—Hypnobirthing and HypnoBabies. I’m doing Hypnobabies, because it was recommended to me by my midwife and several other crunchy moms I know, and it is AWESOME.
There are certified instructors out there that do in-person classes, but I’m doing the home study course, which a lot of moms-t0-be choose. It has everything in it that you’d expect from a birthing class—information about prenatal health, the physiology of birth, etc.—but with the added bonus of training in very effective self-hypnosis techniques to help give you an easier, more comfortable childbirth experience. The course also has some other things you wouldn’t expect, like techniques to turn a posterior-positioned baby, information on alternative birthing plans, and lots more. It even has pretty good nutrition advice in it!
The Hypnobabies home study course* includes a sizable workbook with five reading modules, and a set of six audio CDs with the hypnosis tracks on it. You can go through each class in a week, or take longer if you want. The classes have you go through two of the hypnosis tracks per week, alternating every day between them, so you end up listening to each one several times and learning and practicing the hypnotic techniques in each individually. There’s also a pregnancy “affirmations” track that you’re advised to listen to daily. I’ve really enjoyed having the relaxing daily ritual of practicing my hypnosis, and then falling asleep listening to the affirmations, which has really helped to shape my thoughts about pregnancy and my upcoming birth in a very positive way.
Before Hypnobabies, I was worried I would get really anxious as my due date approached, but instead, I’ve been able to remain incredibly relaxed about the whole thing. I mean, I’m still kind of in disbelief that I’m not only going to be passing a small human through my—ahem—birth canal, but that I’m also going to become a mother. Whoa. I don’t know that you can ever be fully prepared for that. But, I’m not afraid of giving birth, and I feel confident in the tools I have learned to use to make the experience as pleasant and positive as it can be. You should see some of the YouTube videos of Hypnobabies moms giving birth without pain or fear—it’s pretty inspiring. I’ll be sure to report back on how my own hypnotic birthing day went when it comes!
(*Note: I see that Amazon no longer carries the course. I’m waiting on approval from Hypnobabies to become an affiliate for their online store, and when I have a referral link to provide, I’ll come back and plug it in here. That way, if you’d like to support this site by purchasing the course, you can, as they will send me a small commission for the referral. It should be coming in a couple days.)
I skipped the flu shot
I’ve never gotten a flu shot, and I don’t plan to any time soon. My immune system has proven to be pretty strong—I almost never get sick, and when I do, I recover quickly. I’m not in the category of people who are at risk for serious complications from influenza, I’m in very good health, and I’m not convinced that the benefits outweigh the downsides for someone like me.
I’m not saying that no one should ever get a flu shot—just that it’s not something I’d choose for myself.
Also did you see that the CDC admitted they messed up this year’s shot, and that it didn’t actually sufficiently protect against the most prevalent strains of flu? Lulz. Pretty glad I went without it, even though you’re really supposed to get one when you’re pregnant.
My healthcare practitioner was fine with my choice, I’m fine with my choice, and I’m very confident in the strength of my immune system. Actually, my husband got what we think was a flu bug a couple months ago (with a fever and everything), and guess what? I didn’t catch it. I mean, he’s my husband, we’re… we’re pretty close. Obviously. But he recovered quickly and I never caught it from him.
I’m using essential oils
I am pretty positive that the reason why I didn’t catch my husband’s flu is that the millisecond we realized he was starting to get sick, I cranked up my essential oils diffuser in every room of the house we were in (especially our small bedroom where we sleep and share the same air all night), and went to town on my other oily regimens. Using a diffuser purifies the air because certain essential oils are able to actually digest bacteria and viruses. I just don’t think they ever had a chance to get to me because all the germs were knocked out before I could breathe them in. There have been a couple times this sick season when I hadn’t been as good about diffusing, and where I felt the threat of a cold, but this time, nothing.
Whenever I’ve started to feel a bug coming on though, I reach for a few of my sick season must-have remedies: vitamin D3, garlicky bone broth, and Thieves oil. And Purification oil. And Lemon oil. And my DIY throat spray with essential oils (I’ll have to post the recipe), that I use whenever I’m getting sick. And you know what? Even though my immune system is compromised (you’re much more susceptible to viral infections while pregnant), I’ve been breezing through the threat of these bugs within a day. As in, I start to feel icky, do my thing with my oil routine, and then the next day I’m fine. I always make sure to allow myself plenty of rest and sleep as much as I can, which is pretty important, too. But in previous years, everything I used to do before I had therapeutic essential oils usually wasn’t enough, and I’d get a real cold (lasting a week or more) at least once or twice during the season. Not anymore!
You wanna know something though? Many people will tell you that you really shouldn’t use almost all essential oils during pregnancy. And with some essential oils, they’re right. I wouldn’t touch a bottle of peppermint oil from the health food store with a ten-foot-pole while I’m carrying this teeny baby inside. Essential oils are commonly adulterated with synthetic substances and are far from being 100% pure, natural, and safe. And even with the highest-quality, pure therapeutic-grade oils, there are some that should be avoided during pregnancy just to be safe, since they may have effects on your hormones that could do things like stimulate labor before you’re ready.
But throughout my pregnancy, I have been using a wide variety of my therapeutic essential oils from the only company I trust, and I feel completely confident in doing so. These oils are so safe that most of them are certified as food additives by the FDA, and/or have GRAS status (Generally Regarded as Safe), something that the FDA doesn’t always like to give to natural supplements.
My oils have helped to maintain my emotional health (I’ve really had very minimal hormonal-driven crying episodes, mood swings, and other typical emotional up-and-downs of pregnancy), given me a sense of peace and relaxation, boosted my energy and helped me sleep when I needed it, and just allowed me to feel more like myself during this whole pregnancy. If I would have experienced nausea, heartburn, varicose veins, and other icky-but-common pregnancy symptoms, well, there’s an oil for that! I felt well-armed to handle anything that came my way, but I’ve thankfully had a very easy time with pregnancy. I’ll have to share more about why I think that has been the case, in another post.
If you’re interested in using essential oils during pregnancy, please know that I only recommend ordering oils from here, and that I’d be happy to personally support you in your journey. You may also want to join in our private essential oils group on Facebook where more information is shared on oil usage along with plenty of other resources.
Where I’m following the mainstream
I’m giving birth at a hospital
Yep, still a water birth, still with a midwife, but at a hospital. We have private birth centers around here, we have the option to do home birth (my midwife clinic specializes in this), but I’m choosing a hospital birth. I have many reasons why I made this choice, and actually I’ll be writing a whole other post about it, but for me the biggest deciding factor is simply this: I want to do whatever I can to reduce the risk of preventable injury or death to my baby or myself. I could have the absolute best midwife in the world attending my home birth, but because of the location and available resources, the risk for those potential problems would still be higher than it is in a hospital setting.
Especially a mama-and-baby-friendly, super-progressive and accommodating hospital like the one I’ve chosen. Actually, all the hospitals here in Portland are amazing. Really. I have yet to hear even one scary story of a mom being bullied into getting any sort of interventions she didn’t want, or harassed about her birth plan, or anything like that. Hospitals here have low c-section rates, and even low epidural and episiotomy rates compared to the rest of the country. And my hospital has a dedicated water-birthing center, a team of nurse midwives, and an excellent reputation with mothers who choose “natural” birth. If I lived in a part of the country where horrific things like babies being taken from parents because of their refusal of a vaccine or crazy things like that were more common, maybe I’d be more inclined to make the home birth choice. I certainly understand why many mothers do, but it’s just not for me.
I’m very lucky to have access to a water-birth-friendly hospital—they are unfortunately hard to come by. Most women opting for water do so at home with a midwife, where they can birth their babies however and where ever they please, but I feel fortunate to be able to have the waterbirth experience while also being in a hospital setting. No need to worry about having to transfer in case of an emergency, and that really gives me peace of mind (which equates to less anxiety during labor—always a good thing!).
I got ultrasounds
This was something that I swore I’d never do, at one point, well before I ever saw those two pink lines on a pee stick. I got scared into believing that ultrasounds would cause brain damage or affect organ development or even—*gasp*—cause left-handedness (lol). But, as I’ve come to learn since then, the evidence to support the theory that ultrasounds are potentially harmful is very scant and far from conclusive. Where I draw the line is the 3D/4D, see-every-last-detail-of-your-fetus-face kind of ultrasounds. Those have not been around for very long, and aside from just creeping me out (my baby is not done cooking!), the increased degree of ultrasonic waves does concern me, and I don’t feel comfortable with using that technology without a legitimate medical reason to do so.
I ended up getting two ultrasounds—one in the first trimester for dating purposes and to confirm viability, and another at 20 weeks for a full anatomy scan. Both left me feeling much more confident about the health of my pregnancy and baby, which I was very grateful for.
Oh, and I’m also grateful to know from the ultrasound, that the bulging bundle of baby squirming around in me is a sweet little girl. We’re pretty excited.
I’m focusing on a balanced diet and also taking prenatal vitamins
For me, I felt that some of the recommendations that the WAPF makes for the “pregnancy diet” are a little excessive, unnecessary, or too difficult to adhere to. I’m sorry, but even for me, eating a HALF a STICK of butter every day, in addition to two daily tablespoons of coconut oil, is just too much. I eat all the butter I want! But I’d guess that’s usually more like a tablespoon or two a day, depending on what I’m eating. I also use a good amount of coconut oil in my cooking, and I eat and drink a lot of full-fat dairy. I’m certainly not hurting for adequate saturated fat in my diet.
Instead of trying to meet these very specific guidelines for nutrient intake every day, I just focus on including a variety of foods in my diet for more micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.), and eating a balance of all three macronutrients (fats, protein, carbs), while still eating the food I want. Usually, I tend to gravitate towards a carb-heavy diet. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but I want to make sure I’m covering my other bases, too. What this looks like for me is intentionally adding in more protein sources every day, like eggs, grass-fed meat, cheese, or seafood. I’m generally already covered in the fats department, like I mentioned.
And, I eat an absolutely insane amount of produce every day. Okay, well, more like fruit. Mostly fruit. A lot of fruit. Yesterday I ate—not kidding—6 clementines, two kiwis, an apple, a banana, two pears, a whole pomegranate, some watermelon, grapes, and a cup of frozen strawberries and raspberries. Am I concerned about all that deadly fructose? NOPE. Is my health practitioner? No. She just advised me to also include other nutrients along with the fruits, like say, a handful of nuts or a hard-boiled egg along with my eighteen clementines. AKA, add more variety, and aim for eating meals and snacks with all three macros for optimal metabolization, which is already my goal in eating a balanced diet.
I do suck at vegetables, though. My solution to that has been eating veggies that appeal to me (raw carrots, aaand…um, yeah that’s about it these days), and then experimenting with green smoothies to add in more sources of greens and veggies. That has been kinda fun, and something I’ve never gotten into before.
And, yes, I am taking a prenatal vitamin, too. That’s something that the WAPF people don’t recommend, but literally every other source of health information does. I see no reason not to take a high-quality prenatal. Is it possible to get an optimal amount of absolutely all of the nutrients you need during pregnancy, from diet alone? Sure! You have to go pretty far out of your way from eating a normal, healthy balanced diet that appeals to you, in order to accomplish that, though. Every single day, too. There have just been too many days during my pregnancy when all those extra “superfoods” just don’t sound all that good to me, so again, I just try to balance things as best I can, and then I supplement with a prenatal vitamin along with my other supplements.
This is the prenatal I’m taking, and from what I’ve read, it seems to be one of the best out there:
I vaccinated myself against pertussis
SHOCK. HORROR. I know.
Here’s the deal, though. Pertussis is no joke for a baby. It’s deadly, and the threat of getting it is very real in many areas of the country (including where I live, where there have been outbreaks). And the pertussis vaccine does work to lessen your risk of getting it. And, if you get the vaccine while pregnant (which I chose to do), you can pass along that protection to your baby, to lessen their risk of contracting it during those very vulnerable first few months of life.
There are risks to vaccines. There are a lot of people out there who tell their stories about vaccine injuries. The pharmaceutical industry is pretty generally awful and certainly isn’t looking out for all of our wellbeing. There is a lot of inaccurate information available from both sides of the vaccine debate and it’s extremely difficult to know who to believe and/or trust. It’s all very scary and it all really sucks.
My take on it, however, is that this vaccine in particular (DTaP) is protecting against something that could very feasibly kill my baby. It’s not something to mess around with. I’m not completely comfortable with all vaccines and the current vaccine schedule, but I need to carefully weigh my options and make the most responsible choice that I can. So, for some of these tough decisions for baby’s and my health care choices, I am making them through the filter of: “Is this something that is proven to significantly decrease the risk of preventable serious illness, injury, or death?” If the answer is yes, then that’s what I choose. There are mountains of scientific evidence that show how safe and effective this particular vaccine is, and also how devastating and life-threatening pertussis is for babies. I really don’t know that I could live with myself if I refused the shot, my baby got pertussis, and died.
My crunchy hippie-friendly midwife recommends it, my integrative pediatrician recommends it, and for me, weighing the risks and benefits to getting it tipped the scales to: get it. I feel good about my choice. I’ll probably be writing a big long post soon about this whole issue, too.
Are you a pregnancy rule-follower?
Or did you break a bunch of the rules? Maybe you wound up somewhere in the middle, like me. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.