Preparing for my home birth

It’s finally hitting me the past couple weeks:  I’m going to have another baby.  It only took 38 weeks to figure it out, but at least I didn’t wait until the day of.  I guess I’ve been so busy with Asher and our house that I’ve just put off preparing for the day of Silas’ birth.  No matter, I’m here now and busy mentally and physically preparing for laboring and delivering.  Since this is my second go around, I’ve really felt I don’t really need to prepare like I did with Asher and have to catch up on everything.

Asher and me after his birth less than two years ago...my how we've changed!

Asher and me after his birth less than two years ago…my how we’ve changed!

My husband and I took HypnoBirthing class while we lived in Alabama, which I attribute to my ease of labor and confidence going in.  My only regret with my first delivery was that I couldn’t have Asher at home with a midwife—something I could’ve done illegally, but we chose to use our insurance to pay for an OB-GYN (plus, I didn’t really know a lot about home birthing when we chose our doctor).  I believe the one complication I’m still dealing with from my first delivery would not have happened had I been with my current midwife.  Unfortunately, it’s illegal to have a home birth with a midwife in the state of Alabama (along with the sale of raw milk for human consumption—another topic altogether), but of course, you can do things such as buy and consume all the raw meat you can handle even though there’s a chance you could die from it.  But I digress…

I’m incredibly excited to have this opportunity to [make the decision to] deliver at home with a Certified Nurse Midwife, Brenda Abercrombie.  The difference between my care with my OB-GYN and her is total night and day.  I was essentially ushered around and treated like a pregnant cow.  There was some attempt at making things personal, but I didn’t realize how weak an attempt this was until I started seeing Brenda.  I saw a practice of midwives in Georgia for the first trimester while we were still living in Alabama with Silas, but these women were truly “OB-GYN-lite”.  I would have had a hospital birth (potentially a water birth) just as before except one of the midwives would have stayed with me without leaving my side during the entire labor and delivery.  Ugh, my nightmare!  I like to be left alone with I’m going through contractions or “surges” as HypnoBirthers refer to it.

HypnoBirthing taught me so much about our bodies’ abilities to give birth, the history of childbirth, and the unnecessary fear that plagues expectant mothers in the United States and other westernized countries.  It was truly liberating to learn about how perfectly our bodies are made to create and deliver healthy babies even though the medical community has essentially destroyed women’s confidence in doing so.  God created us yet somehow we’ve turned a natural process into something that necessitates medical intervention.  Of course, medical intervention can be necessary and life-saving, but most of the time it is not.  Women should be well-screened and the midwives they see should be certified as any doctor is.  There was an incident in our area where an uncertified and uncertified midwife caused the death of an infant.  Tragic incidents like this should never happen with an experienced and certified midwife and only fuel the fear out there.

I have read countless statistics out there on the safety of home birth versus hospital births.  The results vary depending on where the study took place and what group conducted it, so ultimately, any decision a woman makes should be done through her own research, experience and prayer.  I listed some links to some of the statistics I’ve read below this post.  I’m confident and comfortable with my decision and hope every woman has the opportunity to have the birth of her choice without doctors, midwives and others negatively influencing their decision.

Since I’m on the subject of empowering women, I think it’s imperative for those of us who have given birth to not discourage women who haven’t with negative birth stories.  I’ve been guilty of unwittingly doing this I’m sure because it is easy to share any life-changing event you’ve experienced without realizing it could be hurting a woman’s confidence.  I’m also incredibly passionate about empowering women’s birthing experiences, which has caused me to get a little “preachy” with women (sorry for those who’ve experienced this).  Unfortunately, childbirth is an unnecessarily delicate situation to talk about that has come about due to decades of women going through overly “medicalized” births as HypnoBirthing taught me…and of course, Hollywood tends to dramatize it a little as well. 😉  We really need to get back to encouraging women and sharing our experiences as necessary without dramatizing some of the less pleasurable portions of labor and delivery or getting “preachy”.

Scary!

Scary Hollywood dramatization!

The people I’ve found to be the least supportive were sadly nurses and assistants involved in first pregnancy.  Numerous nurses and assistants rolled their eyes at me when told them at various stages of my pregnancy that I did not plan on or want any “pain management” methods they offered such as epidurals or drugs of any kind.  This didn’t affect me too badly (and pretty much furthered my determination to have a “natural” birth), but I know every woman is different and this could be a total confidence killer.  I’m sure many women say they’re planning on doing it naturally and don’t, but have any of these women who roll their eyes consider they were one of the knocks on the armor of pregnant women they’re treating that prevented them from having the births they planned on by reacting this way?

As I’m preparing for my second labor and delivery, I’m not dealing with the mystery of it.  Women can’t affect my confidence because I know what to expect.  I’m “in the club” already. 😉  Granted, every pregnancy is different, but the mystery of it all is no longer there.  I had a wonderful birth with Asher, but there’s always a chance of something going wrong no matter where I deliver Silas.  My pride gets me in trouble way too much, and I’m worried it’ll do so in this situation.  Yes, I delivered a 9.5-pound baby in a short amount of time without the use of drugs or medical intervention, but it was by the grace of God.  I played no part in the creation of the heavens and earth.  I’m not special, I was blessed with confidence and determination.  I’m praying God continues to extend His grace in Silas’ birth and gives me an uncomplicated birth and most importantly a healthy baby boy.  I can’t wait to meet the [big] little guy I’ve grown to know and love while inside me!  Blessings to the women out there who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant!

Blessings,

Michelle

Home birth and hospital birth statistics sources:

http://pregnancy.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Home_Birth_Statistics

http://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20100702/home-births-linked-higher-newborn-death-rate?page=2

http://www.uptodate.com/contents/planned-home-birth

Sabbath moments

I’ve often wondered how a mother, homemaker and wannabe Proverbs 31 woman like me ever gets a “day of rest” and if I’m sinning by not keeping one day off a week.  While I worked full-time after Asher was born, I assumed I was honoring the Sabbath by laying around the house on a weekend day (most likely Sunday) and didn’t consider anything I did as a mother as work at that time.  Now I don’t work, you would think every day is a Sabbath with this logic!  This couldn’t be further from the truth as I’m seeing now that I’ve been a housewife and full-time mother the past few months–there is no chance of a traditional day of rest!  Of course, I’m [very] pregnant and we’re in the middle of renovating our house, so perhaps this is as bad as it gets–talk to me in a few weeks when I’ll have a newborn in addition to the madness! 😉

In Exodus 20:8, God commanded the Israelites to, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”  I didn’t grow up in church (we were “CEO Christians”–Christmas-Easter Only–at best) nor did I have a Christian mentor to guide me as I grew up reading my Bible and periodically attending church.  Therefore, I’ve consequently struggled in many ways, particularly with legalism and trying to control situations entirely on my own.  “God gives us instructions, it’s our job to follow His commands” has always been my way of thinking–must not use the Lord’s name in vain…must honor the Sabbath…must not lie…must not murder…  Ironically, I’ve always failed in the worst ways at following them, which has driven me to give up completely on maintaining some of them in the past and moreover on achieving that perfection mark of never breaking a commandment.  Next starts the comparisons, “At least I’ve never worshiped a golden calf…”  Please.  Getting off topic…moving on.

What’s a day of rest?

Our lead pastor at Redeemer Church, Greg Gaumer, is currently preaching a series on Exodus, which included a sermon on the Sabbath day last weekend.  I need to listen to it over again because my pregnant self can’t remember all the details, but the things he said prompted many a thoughts and investigation to discover how we housewives and mothers can sneak in our day of rest.  In one of his sermons and commentary, Pastor John Piper offered insight that resonated some of what Pastor Greg preached, which gave me a better understanding of the Sabbath day and God’s intent for it.  Side note: Piper’s commentary also gave me a profound sense of peace as I have struggled with doubt–perhaps someone else will benefit from it as I have.

I’m no theologian, so I encourage you to read the Bible and commentary on scripture or talk to your pastor regarding the Sabbath day to determine what it means for Christians.  It seems there are varying interpretations of this command out there, and I pray the Holy Spirit guides you to the right information.  I believe it’s along the lines of the sermons from my pastor and John Piper.  I think in part honoring the Sabbath requires us to rest in the Lord and honor Him by tuning things out and focusing on Him through deliberate rest and devotion.  So when is that “day of rest”?  My conclusion for a mother of a toddler and [soon-to-be] newborn like me, that answer is I don’t get one in the sense that I take a complete day off from my labors to worship the Lord.  Between nursing, washing diapers, feeding my family, keeping a budget, grocery shopping, keeping a garden, and cleaning a house, I really can’t ever expect a full day’s rest.  Sigh.  Truthfully, can anybody in any role have a day off every week anyways??

Less than a donkey

So I don’t get a full day’s rest until the kids old enough to ship them off to grandma and grandpa’s house overnight, which will not be a weekly occurrence for us anyways.  Does this make me less than the ox, donkey and livestock who are supposed to get a break one day a week as per Deuteronomy 5:13-14?  By no means!  Jesus worked on the Sabbath.  He also took naps and rested, which is what I believe we can do.  We can also adopt a proper attitude to our roles as housewives and mothers by not complaining about the heavy workload we have.  The Proverbs 31 woman “rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens” (Proverbs 31:15).  I doubt the household took days off from eating!  Not mention she had a whole lot more on her plate that took quite a bit of time to complete I’m sure.

Although I don’t get what I consider a full day off anymore, I’ve never felt more at peace with where I’m at in life because this is where God has called me to be.  Of course, not every day is perfect, nor am I always so chipper to wake up doing the same things over and over again, but I’m at peace.  I take naps and rest when I can.  I regrettably don’t spend enough time praying and reading scripture at this season, which is the rest I truly need on a daily basis.  I may not get a day off, but when I’m not laboring, I am intent to have my “Sabbath moments” of prayer, devotion, rest and cat naps from this point on.  I hope we all find this time and devote ourselves to our Savior.

Blessings,

Michelle

Woe is me…a moment of “authenticity”

Sometimes I feel like a total failure as a mother.  I do “my best” for my family, but there are shining moments like tonight that make me wonder how good my best can be.  I don’t want to get into the details of what happened this evening, but I now have poison control on speed dial and my son took an unfortunate trip down the stairs.  To polish things off, I ate some frozen custard from Andy’s.  If you’ve never experienced Andy’s, just don’t do it unless you want to develop a lifelong longing for the creamiest frozen custard known to man—or at least to me.  I justified my trip tonight because we had a long, rough day of renovations, plus my husband flashed his puppy dog eyes at me while requesting it before I walked out the door to go to Home Depot.  Now I feel guilty because I just gave Silas a ton of sugary goop.  I failed both of my sons (and my growing behind).

My sick little boy :(

My sick little boy–I even blamed myself for him getting sick, too 😦

This is obviously a venting session for a blog post, but I think it’s important to share some of the realities of our lives to any audience we have—particularly in a blogging setting.  There are so many bloggers out there who are wonderful and appear to be only wonderful.  Don’t get me wrong, so many readily admit their flaws and struggles, but it’s difficult to conceptualize their lives being anything like yours when you read about how they make everything from cloth diapers to household cleaners to apple pies daily.  That was a bit of an exaggeration, but I definitely feel inferior.  I’m certainly a spring chick to homemaking and being a stay at home mom compared to these wonderful ladies, but days like today really make me question how long it takes to be an effective one—or at least one who gets a few things right!

I had a brief, eye-opening conversation with a fellow church member a couple weeks ago.  He discussed a study he read on how people are developing misconceptions about people they read about via social media and basically feel like failures due to the people they read about because everyone puts on their “smiley faces” when they post.  Even in my short span of blogging, I already feel as though I’m painting my life as something more sensational than it really is.  Yes, I do the things I write about (some of them only once), but I fail in so many areas that in my mind negate anything “good” I’ve done.  Of course, I can’t imagine anyone subscribing to or being interested in someone who writes about their regular failures in life.  What a drag!

I don’t plan to be a Debbie Downer in my posts, but I will always try to add some authenticity.  I’m a sinner.  I’m imperfect, a failure and overly critical of myself at times.  I’m ever in need of a Savior.  I need Christ’s mercy and grace every day.  I also need to extend grace to myself and everyone around me.  I have moments I feel like I’m destroying my son’s life—tonight would be one of those moments.  😉  Tomorrow is another day I can try again, though.  Praise God, I’ve had some great conversations with some wonderful, godly and seasoned mothers who have offered me so much advice and encouragement.  My hope is woman can continue encouraging and growing in our roles as homemakers and mothers.  We have the most important job in the world of raising our children—the future—and need God to guide us in this task, the encouragement of others and the ability to forgive ourselves when we don’t live up to our own lofty expectations.  I think we’d all like to be that Proverbs 31 woman, but we can’t be her every day and in every moment.

Blessings,

Michelle

Grass-fed or Grain-fed?

I spent my entire life growing up around dairy and beef cattle who were raised nearly exclusively on grass, so the idea of feedlots or factory farms was entirely foreign to me until I started investigating the food my family was consuming.  Like many women I’ve encountered, having a baby made me consider everything that goes into my son’s body (and consequently my husband’s and mine own).

Happy cow

Happy cow

One of the first things I discovered was the meat we had been eating wasn’t coming from a farm like the one I grew up on.  More likely, it was either from cattle who spent a lot of time on a feedlot consuming grain that wasn’t part of their natural diet.  I truly began to adapt the “foodie” attitude and really focused on how our bodies respond to certain diets and lifestyles.

Not a lot of foraging here

Not a lot of foraging here

Grass-fed versus grain-fed

In specific, beef cattle who forage produce some of the healthiest meat available for us to consume.  I’m not claiming cattle shouldn’t be fed any grain, but the type of grain and how much given is critical.  Grain is used to essentially grow cattle larger and faster than if they were foraging alone.  When cattle are given more grain than grass, I equate it to given humans fewer vegetables and more starches and meat.  The article Diet And Disease In Cattle: High-Grain Feed May Promote Illness And Harmful Bacteria details some information on feeding cattle mostly grain.

We’re blessed in our country with an abundance of land for animals to roam, yet only 1% of America’s beef supply comes from purely grass-fed cattle.[1]  Why don’t we see more grass-fed beef?  Well, it take longer to finish the cattle for processing and they do not produce as much beef, which entails Americans basically waiting and spending more money—oh no!  Here is some information about grass-fed beef, which I think makes it worth the wait and money:Fair-Oaks-Comm-Chart

  • Grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fat and overall has 27% less fat that grain-fed [3]
  • Per three-ounce serving, grass-fed beef has 35 mg of Omega-3s EPA and DHA, compared to only 18 mg for grain-fed [2]
  • Compared to grain-fed, grass-fed beef has twice as much Conjugated Linoleic Acid, which research shows links to easier weight loss and reduced risk of heart disease [2]
  • Levels of E. coli are usually higher in grain-fed cattle [2]
  • Much higher in antioxidants such as Beta Carotene in grass-fed beef [3]

Agriculture in America

I support of agriculture and farming.  I’m from a family of farmers and think farmers are the backbone of America—Dodge had it right when they quote Paul Harvey in their Super Bowl commercial saying God made the farmer on the 8th day.  Our country would not be where it’s at with its agriculture.  I especially support small farms like the one I grew up on.  Unfortunately, small farms won’t keep up with American’s demand for lots of inexpensive food.  The demand for cheap meat and food has caused some shortcuts essentially in American agriculture—not all shortcuts are bad mind you.  However, some of these shortcuts such as the use of hormones, genetically modified organisms, preservatives, pesticides, etc. have been banned in other socially, economically and culturally comparable countries like the United Kingdom due to their potential health risks. [4]  Things that make you go, hmm…

My family consumes organic produce (as necessary—another topic) and grass-fed meat, eggs, butter and unpasteurized milk exclusively because of the dramatic differences in nutrients and care of the animals.  Yes, the animals are given some non-GMO/organic feed, but their primary diet is grass.  Not everyone has the same opinion as I do, of course, but I do wish people could open their eyes to some of the dangers lurking out there in the food industry.  We are the unhealthiest, well-fed country in the world and are getting fatter and dying younger every year; there’s a connection, peeps. 😉

The farm we purchase our beef, eggs and unpasteurized milk from is Pasture Nectar Farm in Mount Vernon, Missouri—they deliver to several locations in and around Springfield throughout the week.  In addition to nutritional differences, the quality and taste of the products we purchase from them is beyond compare to what I’ve purchased at a store and other farms in South.  Pasture Nectar Farm is a small, family-owned farm that supplies people like me nourishing foods.  I had to give them props because they rock!  I wish I could embed a picture of one of their eggs compared to any other type of egg you can buy at a store (I don’t want to waste the money on a store-bought egg) because it’s incredible—they’re so nutrient dense with their big, deep golden-yellow yolks.  I also wish I could magically teleport tiny samples of their milk, eggs and meat products for comparison as well…would someone invent the teleport already??

A spiritual note

God provided us animals for our consumption when he commanded Noah in Genesis 9:2-3, “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea into your hand they are delivered.  Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.”  He gave us animals not to mass-produce and fill full of genetically modified food that isn’t natural to them just so we can have a $1 cheeseburger at McDonald’s.  We are responsible for taking care of His creation.

I believe He gave us our own bodies to be responsible for as well, which entails using discretion when opting what to put in our bodies.  The type and quantity of meat we consume is definitely a factor in our health.  Sadly, our country is relying more on reactive medicine to fix the problems diets and lifestyles got us into instead of being proactive and recognizing what we eat impacts not only the “important” things like our weight and good looks but our overall physical and mental health.

On the other hand, Jesus commanded us not to worry about what we eat in Matthew 6:25 and that we must not be anxious about how we get the food.  There is a fine line between adapting a healthy relationship with food and idolizing our bodies and the food we put in them.  I definitely struggle with getting fixated on the ingredient lists, which I’m trying to tame by moving away from buying so much premade/processed food altogether and making it myself at home.  It’s cheaper and I know what’s going into the food and our bodies.  This is a great way I can serve my family, but there are so many things I just don’t have the time to replicate, like potato chips.  I’ve made them, yes, but I ate every batch I made while cooking them.  Doh!

Budgeting for grass-fed meat

The greatest drawback to consuming grass-fed meats is the cost.  How does the frugal housewife pay for such luxuries?  I pay a premium for the local beef and pork, and even more for the pastured chicken we consume compared to average meat prices.  To offset the costs, we are very conservative with our meat consumption.  In order to best do this, we have to meal plan for at least the meat we’re planning to consume during the week with each meal.  I haven’t got serious enough about meal planning (still new at my “job”), but I do track our meat consumption throughout a week period.  My husband and I have always been big meat-eaters, so weaning ourselves down to appropriate proportions has been a bit of a challenge but worth the effort since it helps us maintain a healthy weight as well.

Second is the difficulties in purchasing it, but if you’re willing to drive to farm or pay a little more at the store, you can easily buy it.  Back to my favorite store, MaMa Jean’s, where I purchase our pork, chicken and lunch meat because they have a larger stock of meats from local farms that is readily available.  They have a great selection to choose from—everything from bison to bacon.

Closing (finally)

No matter what type of diet you have or food you eat, I think we all need to be intentional in our choices because we depend on it as a people in this country.  We are spending more on health care and disability, which are saddling our country with debt.  We are dying younger (the newest generation) and are more obese than ever before.  Our children are less active and developing diabetes more than any generation before.  Grass-fed, grain-fed or both, I hope everyone at least looks into the food they’re consuming (ignoring all the food marketing).

Blessings,

Michelle