Archive | My Life

40 Weeks

due date calendarToday is the day. My due date. That means “science and doctors say baby will be born today.” ^_^ Can you tell I take it all very seriously?

Overall, I’d say I’ve had a darn good pregnancy. There have been no complications (except that one time our midwife thought maybe there was a complication, but it turns out there was absolutely nothing wrong). I haven’t gained a ton of weight. I haven’t had to struggle with our midwife over birth decisions, and I actually enjoy our visits with her. Mr. Wetzel and I have grown closer as this 9 month transition has matured us into parents.

Looking back on my pregnancy, however, there is very little that was what I expected it to be. Except it was hard. I expected it to be hard, but it wasn’t hard in the ways that I expected. This post is about the things that I struggled with during the pregnancy, and how I coped with or overcame each obstacle.

First Trimester: Exhaustion

They tell you that you’ll have no energy the first trimester and that you’ll sleep all the time. I didn’t realize how weak this would actually make me. I spent the entire first few months of the pregnancy playing videogames and napping. I didn’t cook. I didn’t clean. Not like I used to, anyways. I don’t even remember what we ate. I know I didn’t eat much, because I had no appetite, except for fresh fruit.

If I didn’t rest enough, I became very nauseous, but it took me awhile to figure this out. Nausea was something I associated with food, not stress or weariness. I was used to being someone who pushed herself hard and got things done. I had to renew my mind and change the way I prioritized, scheduled and rested in order to feel decent enough to get through the day.

“Exhaustion” doesn’t quite explain what I was going through emotionally. I felt a huge loss of control over my ability to be who I was. I couldn’t use my body the way I was used to. I couldn’t find identity or stress relief or fulfillment in the myriad of tasks and activities that used to be so second nature to me. I was so exhausted that all I could do was exist.

Being stripped down like this drove me nuts. I was forced to just be with myself, without distractions, and to just experience my old human shell for what it had always been: a vessel for my spirit. It was now my newly pregnant body: a vessel for my baby. My body was not my own. I thought a lot about personhood and identity, and I prayed a lot. Instead of letting my fears control me, I tried to continually turn them over to God and find my strength and identity in Him. This gave me much peace.

When I was able to root my identity in God, I stopped struggling with my body and how it was changing, and I became better able to take care of it. I rested more. I stressed out less. The nausea didn’t go away, but it was less severe. And I was able to enjoy the first trimester.

Physical Weakness


This is what my belly "bump" looks like at 40 weeks.

The physical weakness I experienced affected me emotionally in the same way as the exhaustion did, but the symptoms were different.

As soon as I got pregnant and the baby started to push around my bone structure, my hips hurt. A lot. I wanted to exercise, but it would just throw my hips out of alignment. I wanted to do prenatal yoga, but the stretching pulled my joints out of whack.

It sucked.

Not only was I in pain, but I was convinced that I was cheating my baby and my body of a healthy pregnancy because the best thing for my hips was for me to sit on my butt all day and relax. I had to get over myself. I was not going to will my body into being anything other than what it was. I had to learn to accept it for its frailties and then take as good of care of my health as I could.

Thank goodness I was already seeing a chiropractor when I got pregnant, because he was able to help adjust my hips all throughout the pregnancy in order to keep them moving well.  By the second trimester, I no longer had swelling and pain at the hip joints. By the third trimester, I had gained considerable stability and maneuverability in my hip joints. I can’t even imagine how bad it would have become if I didn’t have chiropractic treatment.

My Bane: Acid Reflux

I had problems with acid reflux before the pregnancy, but never as severe as they have been now. Around week 28, most women experience a hormone shift that aggravates acid reflux problems until about week 30. For me, the acid reflux was painful, constant, and persisted beyond week 30. Even now as I type this, I have mild acid reflux.

For some women, they need to eat more fresh fruit and fiber. For some they need to eat less. For others, they just need to find the right balance. For others, it has nothing to do with food.

I believe my acid reflux was caused by two things: my already existing susceptibility & the fact that I was carrying Baby Wetzel high, so I had added pressure on my belly.  Eventually, I stopped taking most of my supplements in order to ease my digestion; I also avoided acidic fruits and tried to eat smaller more frequent meal. All these things helped, but the only thing to really save me was my Costco-sized container of Tums.

In some ways, the acid reflux has been like acid torture: a pain that persists, wanes and waxes, but never quite goes away. I complain about it to Mr. Wetzel when it’s worse, but for the most part I’ve just had to accept it and move on. When you’re pregnant, you will face things like this that you just have to bear. And you learn to deal. If you don’t, they’ll just wear you down, and that’s never a good path to follow.

40 weeks light lens flareGetting Advice for the Unexpected

Sometimes it feels like I have a new physical struggle each week. I remember the week that I itched. I itched so bad on my belly, I couldn’t even wear underwear. I sat on the couch with a blanket over my lap, clenching my teeth and trying to get distracted by tv shows. I itched so bad I’d go to sleep, and wake up scratching my belly, in pain.

After a few days of this torture, I emailed my midwife asking what things I could take to relieve the pain. She immediately responded with some suggestions, and they helped immensely. She told me, though, to not wait so long to ask. She was there to help me, and there was no reason for me not to ask for help.

Asking for help? Ha!

I don’t know what you’re like, but I’m the type of lady who suffers, doesn’t want to burden anyone, and tries to pull through on willpower alone. I really have learned that I need to get over that stupid, self-centered independence and ask for help when I need it. Even if I think it’s a stupid or insignificant need. I still need to ask for help. Pregnancy is not the right time to decide you don’t need anyone.

For the record, this is what helped me with my belly itching: gold bond creme and Benadryl got me through the night so I could sleep. I’d also take very warm showers and apply copious amounts of almond oil to my belly as soon as I got out of the shower, while the skin was still warm. I believe if I had been doing this from an earlier time (i.e. when I started seeing stretch marks), my skin would not have gotten so bad.

After the itching on my belly got better, I got severe itching on my arms for a while, probably due to a hormone shift. When that subsided, I got itchiness on my neck. I had to stop wearing necklaces, and the itching subsided considerably over the weeks, but never disappeared entirely.

sunlight hair pnw springThe Last Leg

Now we are “at the end” of the pregnancy journey. We have arrived at our due date. And we have no clue what awaits beyond. I’ve learned to accept the ambiguity with as much grace as I know how. I’ve had pains, both intense and constant, that I have endured; and I know they will pale in comparison to the pains of labor that are to come. For that matter, I know this little baby will force us to continually grow into better people and face our human frailties and limitations. This is just the beginning of a lifelong marathon.

The body may be weak, but the spirit is rooted in the deep, and therein lie many mysteries of life. I stare the deep dark mystery in the face. “Bring it on,” I whisper, with joy. And a sparkle in my eye.

By ekwetzel

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The Way Things Are

feminist erin silly face ekwetzelSETTING THE TONE

I consider myself a feminist. A feminist? Whoa. That’s a loaded term. What do I mean by that?? (Pausing before moving forward.) I believe it’s important to let women have choices in life. I believe that not all women are meant for the same roles. Women are multifaceted, strong, capable people, just like their male counterparts are.

I do not believe women = men.

And I do not believe in a homogeneous outlook for women or men…or their roles. Each of us was created and called to a different purpose in life. Some are bakers, some are candlestick makers, metaphorically and literally. And our callings/purposes/roles often change over the course of our lives.

Practical application: my grandmother (my dad’s mom) was tough as nails. She was raised during The Great Depression in an Irish-Catholic immigrant family in upstate New York. She was poor financially, and on the bottom rungs of the social ladder. She married, had 3 boys, and her husband was a drunk that would spend his paycheck at the bar, so there would be no money left to feed the family by the time he stumbled home. Therefore, my grandmother worked. She was a custodian at a local school; she walked to work in the cold and snow. As a woman, she was not respected at her job, never got promoted, and brought home just enough to keep her 3 boys fed and warm. From cradle to grave she had a hard life.

If she had lived in a world that gave women better options, better opportunities and more respect as individuals, maybe her life would not have had to be so hard. There’s no way of telling: the past is past. But I wish she’d at least had options. In her era, that was just the way things were.


Changing what is expected of women and then judging all women by those narrow expectations is NOT liberation. My grandmother’s era expected her to be a stay at home mom. She was not wanted in the workplace, and the deck was stacked against her to not be successful in “The Man’s World.” We have made a lot of progress as a society in giving women professional opportunities…but have our attitudes evolved as well?

Sometime I feel like we just turned the tables. Whereas before it was socially unacceptable for a woman to do “Man Work,” these days I feel like women are expected to do “Man Work.”

Well…let me put it this way. I was a middle-class girl raised in the 80s, and I was told my entire childhood by media and public school: “be all you can be” and “you can do anything.” I wasn’t just raised believing that I could do anything that a boy could do, but that I should. That the masculine way was superior, for both men and women, and that if a woman wanted to gain real notoriety, respect, achievement and fulfillment in life, what she needed was a career. A way to make her mark in the history books.

The problem with this mindset is that it is too narrow-minded. I thought the feminist movement was about expanding women’s choices, not about switching the female role from one stereotype to another.


path pregnant choices belly bumpAs a new mom, I’ve faced the dilemma that every new mom in the modern era must face: do I leave the “professional” career world or do I stay? If I stay, do I work part-time? Switch jobs? How much time off do I take? If I take more than 2 or 3 weeks off, will I lose my job? If I take a few months off, can we afford to do that?

If I leave my job, will I try making money at home? Selling crafts on etsy? Blogging & selling adspace? Can I be industrious at home to make up for the fact that I’m not helping bring home the bacon? What can I do to help shoulder the financial burden of providing for my household, the household that I share?

Do I even have the right to consider staying at home just to mother, just to be a mom, to make no money and have no financial SAHM career plan? If I want to quit the career world for 6 months or a year or for good, do I even have that right? And, better question still: will anyone respect me as an individual if all I am is a mother and wife?

Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.

(Not to mention: stress…stress…stress…)

The question is not as simple as, “Do I want to keep my job?” or “Do I want to stay at home?” We now live in a world where, the way things are, women are expected to co-provide for their families no matter what. We are expected to be “an asset.”

And – frankly – when you meet a new family (or couple) and find out that the wife and husband both have careers, they seem normal. That is the archetype that we expect in modern American culture, at least. It’s the stay at home moms that seem “granola” or “religious” or “different” or “simple.” In addition, there is the association of less prestige, intelligence and respect for the path of full-time motherhood.

I am a woman. I want to live fully. I want to follow my calling. And when I draw my line in the sand to work or not work, I don’t want to do it so that other women can be like me, but so that other women feel free to make their own choices as I have done, as free from social pressure as possible.


Here was our situation. When we got pregnant, my hours had been reduced at work due to the economy. As the pregnancy progressed, my hours dwindled until I was laid off (during week 27 of the pregnancy). From then until now I have collected unemployment, which is due to run out about a month after the baby comes. And we don’t plan on applying for an extension, because I have no intension of going back to work. I don’t plan on making any money at all.


homemade crafty etsy scrabble board

Amberly made this Scrabble Board at home; one example of her thrifty, crafty, beautiful style that I find inspirational.

The person who has inspired me more than any other to pursue the path that Mr. Wetzel and I are currently on is my friend, Amberly. She is a single mom, about 30 years old, with a 3 year old son. She works part-time at Trader Joes, rents a 1 bedroom apartment and drives a Subaru wagon. She works 4 days a week (about 30 hours), and when she’s at work her son typically stays with the father’s family. Amberly doesn’t just “make it work:” she has a beautiful life.

That’s right: my single-mom, blue-collar working, apartment-renting friend has a beautiful life.

From the get-go, Amberly had a no-nonsense approach to parenting, spending and living. She never buys anything new for her son (there are SO MANY wonderful thrift and consignment stores available, especially in our area). Instead of asking herself “what do we need” she would ask herself “what can we do without”? She strives to make the things she needs, or to repurpose objects. Her glasses and cups are all Mason jars. Instead of cable TV and dvds, she collects old VHS tapes from friends and thrift stores for their movie collection. When weaning her son, she didn’t buy baby food; she’d just mash up whatever meal she had: no special preparation or recipes or ingredients or gear.

A year or so ago, I remember a conversation with Amberly that really humbled me. She was fed up with “working too much” and was trying to figure out what she could cut back on or do without so that she could work fewer hours. That’s right: 4 days and 30 hours a week was too much. She wanted more time with her son. At the time, I was in full-throttle workaholic mode, and I felt like I had to make money and work really hard because we had debt and wanted a kid someday, and we had to be financially stable before we could allow ourselves to start a family. And here was my friend, a single mom, talking about making less money as a good thing. It really challenged me to examine my priorities and spending habits. In that season of my life, I started to address what my needs truly were and how I tended to use money to create an illusion of security and identity, when what I really needed was depth of character and spiritual growth.

Some lessons I’ve carried away from Amberly are:
1. Have faith in yourself as a parent. Go with your gut & don’t let other people tell you that “you aren’t doing things right” just because your life doesn’t look like theirs.
2. Have the guts to not be rich. Because when you have less money but more time, your life actually gets more creative, individual, unique and beautiful. Money is not power. Simplicity is freedom.
3. Don’t find your security in being homogenous, but in being real. If you’re struggling with something (emotionally, physically, financially, relationally), don’t try to make it “be normal” or “look pretty.” Instead, accept life’s rough patches for what they are, and learn to move onward.
4. Allow yourself to change along the way. Life is a journey. Our experiences shape and mold us.

aerial belly shot 38 weeks pregnant

In this photo, we are 10 days from our due date. (^_^ Oh, and I just realized the dress I'm wearing in these pictures was a hand-me-down gift from Amberly).

We were always meant to grow, develop, flourish and bloom under the sun. We are different flowers in different fields. Some are bakers and some are candlestick makers. And that’s the way we are. Some of us are meant to quit our jobs and some of us are meant to keep them, and there are as many variations on the Career vs. Stay-At-Home-Mom theme as there are people who live out their lives and have children.

Don’t worry. Don’t let yourself be preoccupied with society and “the way things are.” Whether you are woman or man, you are a creation with a soul and a calling in life. Don’t let guilt motivate you. Don’t let your life and decisions be dictated by “the ways things should be.” Instead: dig deep, and live according to the way you are and the calling that arises in your own life. When you face the inevitable identity crisis that we all go through when our lives change or feel out of control, don’t grasp after archetypes or stereotypes, but have the guts to let the wild ride of life happen, to let your hair blow in the wind, and to let the pieces of your life scatter as they may, wherever they will, like the leaves of autumn, or the stars of the night sky.  And may your life be beautiful.

By ekwetzel

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Food, Weight and My Pregnancy

    cute pregnant lady third trimesterPre-Conception

    A year and a half ago, I weighed 185 lbs and had not yet realized I struggled with insulin resistance or PCOS.  After my nurse practitioner, Laurel Schaberg, gave me a dietary plan to follow and put me on Glumetza (a time-delay-release version of Metformin), I quickly dropped 20 lbs down to 165. By the books, a “normal” or “healthy” weight range for my age, height and frame is 135-155, and I was working on losing those last 10 lbs.  When I found out I was pregnant in August 2010, I weighed about 160 lbs.

    The First Trimester

    wii fit weight pregnant

    My 1st Trimester Weight (on Wii Fit)

    The first trimester, I gained no weight. I had little appetite. When I was hungry, I ate mostly fresh fruits and other raw foods, and I was grateful for the ridiculously fresh produce we received weekly from our CSA farm share. I started reading Nina’s Plank’s book Real Food For Mother and Baby and took her advice to heart, adding whole-fat foods (especially dairy), continuing to drink raw milk and eat raw milk cheese, and adding as much fish to my diet as I could stand.

    I had a lot of nausea, but quickly learned that it had NOTHING to do with my food intake. When I was nauseous, it was because my body was overwhelmed and needed to rest. I thought this signal was weird, but I got in the habit of napping in response to nausea, and it worked.

    I did notice, however, that the only times I threw up were when I ate foods that were processed, less-natural or less-organic than others. This might not be the case for everyone, but I learned quickly to avoid the supermarket goods when at all possible and stick to raspberries and pastured eggs fresh from our local, organic farm.

    The Second Trimester

     wii fit weight pregnant

    2nd Trimester Weight

    The nausea passed and my belly started to pop out. What amazed me was I still wasn’t gaining weight! Not much, anyways. It wasn’t till December that my weight rose above 165 lbs.

    I ate more but still stuck to raw, natural and organic foods when I could. Around week 28, I went through a phase where all I could eat was Greasy Cheeseburgers, shakes and fries from a local burger joint, Frisco Freeze. And pancakes…I could stomach pancakes. If I ate too much (or any) fruit, my acid reflux would be unbearable.

    I cut out my multi-vitamin and just stuck to fish oil supplements and Glumetza. I even stopped taking the iron that my midwife recommended, as well as the calcium magnesium citrate supplement; they just aggravated my esophagus too much. I ate little food, because eating was painful. I stuck to tiny, frequent meals and focused on simple foods that would be easy for my stomach to break down: cheese, Ritz crackers, ice cream.

    The Third Trimester

    3rd Trimester Weight, According to Wii Fit

    3rd Trimester Weight

    As I write this I am 37 weeks pregnant, and my current weight is about 187 lbs. And I am happy with the way I look. I’m a little nervous about baby’s weight (to be honest), because I know bigger babies can make for more difficult births; however, I’m not letting myself worry about it.

    I hate it when people tell me I’m mega-huge or say things like, “You must have twins in there!” or “It has to be a boy, because boys are bigger.” Do you know what that honestly sounds like to me? One of the following:

    1. You’re calling me fat. And I know I’m not fat.
    2. You’re not only an idiot about what a pregnant lady should look like, but you have no clue how to be emotionally supportive about a potentially stressful situation.
    3. Who asked you? If I wanted to know how big I looked, I’d ask Mr. Wetzel. If you wouldn’t want non-pregnant me to ask you “Do I look fat in these jeans,” then don’t comment on the size of my baby belly. Unless it is to say I look amazing.
    4. Why should I listen to you? If I was concerned about how large I was getting, I’d ask my midwife for perspective. I pay her to be an expert.
    bravado tank prgnant pic

    Healthy 3rd Trimester Looks Like This!

    I’m not really upset about what people say to me in particular; but it bothers me how tactless people can be with pregnant ladies. My family and friends are encouraging and I have a great support system, but many women don’t. I’m confident about my food choices and weight, but many women aren’t. Pregnant ladies don’t need criticism, they need loving support. (End ranting…for now).

    I have been carrying baby Wetzel rather high, and I believe the extra pressure on my belly has made my acid reflux worse than what other mamas tend to experience. Because of this, I still don’t each much, but I try to snack often. I have no real food aversions or cravings. I’ve been eating a lot of tuna fish, grapes, cottage cheese, apples, cheddar, oranges, eggs and oatmeal, mostly because they are easy snacks and small meals.

    We have 1-5 weeks left to go until the birth. I have little newborn diapers and onesies that we may or may not be able to use on our little squirt, depending on the baby’s timing and birth weight. Hopefully not long, now; and I’ll look forward to losing the pregnancy weight, especially with the help of breastfeeding!

    By ekwetzel

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Using a Midwife

36weeks pregnant ekwetzel

Picture Taken at 36 Weeks Pregnant

One of the first decisions Mr. Wetzel and I made about our pregnancy, even before we got pregnant, was that we wanted to use a midwife instead of an OBGYN.  The biggest factors that influenced us were: talking with friends that had experienced both births (midwife birth and stereotypical hospital birth); sharing feelings with each other about how we were unhappy with the over-medicalization of birth; and learning more about the work and stories of Ina Mae Gaskin, a key figure in the field of midwifery.

Sometimes I think the decisions that you are meant to make find you. We were not happy with the way birth is typically done in America, but we weren’t even aware of another option. A bit of thinking and chatting led to a few Google searches, and those led to several Library books, which opened up conversations with friends. And we were in. We found the “not hospital” path we hoped existed. Or, it found us. Either way, we were happy to feel at peace with the direction in which we were headed.

No matter where you birth, I believe this feeling of “a fit” is truly important to a peaceful pregnancy and birth.

When we watched the documentary film The Business of Being Born, it sealed the deal. The film didn’t motivate us out of fear the hospital birth process. Rather, we fell in love with how relaxing, peaceful and sensible the homebirths were that were shown in the movie. They were intimate and unique. The mothers were cocooned with family and support. It was better than any birth picture I could have ever imagined for myself.

I was left wondering who would choose “clinical, cold, bright hospital” when offered such a peaceful alternative.

Before I did my research, I always had a visual image of a midwife as being like the witch in Hansel and Gretel: an old lady, dressed in black and hunched over, with boney wrinkly hands, reaching out to grab the baby and steal away with it. Ah! In truth, midwives are not scary, but warm and nurturing personalities. They have medical training, and have the necessary supplies to treat emergencies during the birth. They are savvy, modern women who are strong and full of life. They do not steal away confidence or trust, but they are supportive emotionally, physically and intellectually.

Reasons Mr. Wetzel and I Like Midwifes:

Picture Taken at 36 Weeks Pregnant

36 Weeks Pregnant

(1) Cheaper than hospital care
(2) More relational than hospital care
(3) Less invasive than hospital care
(4) More control is willingly and voluntarily handed to the parents with a midwife birth (We do not have a birth plan to defend our choices. We just have our choices understood & respected).
(5) Environment/Setting for birth is more comfortable
(6) Invasive or medical procedures are not the norm, but are only turned to after attempting natural methods and giving the birth time to work its way out.

We knew we wanted to use a midwife, but the idea of birthing at home seemed a little overwhelming, especially since we just moved into a new house. I think the idea of clean-up was daunting, and having not settled in our new home, we were clueless and a little stressed when thinking about what room we’d use for the birth.  We decided to use the Birthing Inn of Tacoma, in which the birthing rooms are very much like posh hotel suites. We feel comfortable there, and I’m actually looking forward to greeting guests after birth in one of those sunny, big rooms. Then we can go home to cocoon and recuperate.

And be: parents!

By ekwetzel

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Ultrasound Results

ekwetzel 34weeks pregnant

34 Weeks Pregnant

Today Mr. Wetzel and I went in for our first ultrasound scan. Our baby is 34 weeks and a few days old. The results? Everything was normal.

For those of you who don’t know…

As I mentioned previously on the blog, we hadn’t planned on getting an ultrasound because we didn’t feel it was necessary for our situation. We weren’t scared of ultrasounds, and we didn’t have anything against them. We just didn’t think they were necessary given the fact that our pregnancy was progressing so normally.

At our last midwife visit, my belly measured 2 cm too big, and Amy Gordon (our midwife) recommended that we get an ultrasound as a precautionary measure. She was concerned that there was too much amniotic fluid and that the fluid was causing my belly to get big. On her recommendation, we decided to go for it.

The details from the ultrasound…

ultrasound face profile

Baby Wetzel's profile. (What a cute baby nose!)

As it turns out, there is nothing wrong. There is exactly the right amount of amniotic fluid. The baby is 5 pounds 4 ounces, in the 49th percentile for weight. The heart rate was normal and healthy. Baby is positioned well for birth. The ultrasound tech just kept saying “normal,” “normal,” “average,” “normal,” “healthy” to describe everything.

When the M.D. that Amy referred us to, Dr. McMahon, came in to go over the ultrasound results and answer any questions we had, I really appreciated it that she cared about our perspective and decisions to avoid ultrasounds up until this point. She supported our decision to use a midwife, and said that she loves midwifes. Dr. McMahon made a point of asking us if our views and desires had been respected up until that point. I was so happy to be referred to someone with medical expertise that was open-minded, supportive and wanted to be informed by our opinions and decisions as the parents.

As we went over the ultrasound pictures, Dr. McMahon was exuberant about our little one. At one point, she said, “I know you didn’t want an ultrasound at first, but I might as well tell you: your baby is perfect.” That seemed to be her favorite word to describe the baby: perfect. She used it over a dozen times.

heart rate third trimester

Baby Wetzel's heart rate measured at 133 bpm. Typically, durring an examination, our baby won't stop moving and has a heartrate between 150 and 160 bpm (which is in the healthy range). I was amused that our little bugger was so still all throughout the ultrasound scan.

She answered the questions about amniotic fluid right away, and then went on to tell us about our baby’s other features. While she was examining the baby’s heart, we had a sweet exchange:
McMahon, “Your baby’s heart is very strong. It’s perfect, just like everything else.” She looked at me and saw I was neither surprised nor relieved. “But you already knew that as the Mama, didn’t you?”
I said, “I already knew I was going to love the baby’s heart no matter how perfect or imperfect it was.”
McMahon sat back and smiled, as if she rarely if ever heard a patient respond this way. “I really appreciate your attitude,” she said. “We really do end up loving whatever God gives us, don’t we.”


An ultrasound is a neutral thing, neither good nor bad. It’s how we use it that assigns meaning to it.

right foot third trimester

Baby's right foot.

I’m glad Mr. Wetzel and I decided to get an ultrasound, because I believe it was the responsible thing to do in our situation. But, if we never have a red flag in a pregnancy again, this will be our last ultrasound. We’re not afraid of ultrasounds. They are useful in certain situations. We just don’t believe they are necessary unless we have warning signs that merit the consideration of medical testing. I suppose our overall attitude could be summarized thus: “If it ain’t broke, don’t test it.”

If we were able to bless Dr. McMahon with our attitude and our expressions of unconditional love to our baby, then I am grateful to have had the chance to do so.

Just because we have “a perfect baby,” Mr. Wetzel and I are under no delusions that parenting will be easy or that our child will actually be perfect (if such a thing really exists). We are grateful that our child is healthy, but we don’t expect perfection from our little one. We expect our baby to be exactly what he or she is: a baby. A person. Someone who learns, grows, makes mistakes and has difficulties to overcome.

profile 34 weeks pregnant

Profile: Mama Wetzel & her Baby.

The ultrasound today didn’t change anything for us; however, I think it showed us a reflection of who we are. We never cared about results. We do the best we can to care for our baby, and we lean into each other, as well as our community, for support along the way. We seek relationship, not statistics and confirmation of normality. In life, we want to set the examples for our child of unconditional love, intentional joy and deep faith. And we started a long time ago.

By ekwetzel

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BRAN Decision Making Model

bran gentle birth mothering book buckley ekwetzelThe BRAN model is a great decision making tool that I gleaned from reading Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah J. Buckley, MD. While I discussed it with a pregnant friend of mine, she was very interested in learning more about it. Thus, this blog post is born.

Women and couples are asked to make many decisions about their pregnancy and birth, and this responsibility can become very overwhelming. It doesn’t help that “everyone is an expert” and has an opinion about how you should birth and raise your child.  The BRAN model is a simple formula for parents-to-be to use when faced with any decision (and it is specifically helpful with medical ones). As explained by Buckley, “When you are offered a test or intervention, BRAN reminds you to ask about and consider the Benefits, Risks, and Alternatives and to also consider the effects of doing Nothing in this situation.” I will try to summarize Buckley’s key points (and I am copying the key ideas directly from her book).

This BRAN model (i.e. Benefits/Risks/Alternatives/Nothing) is designed to help you make informed choices. Your care providers will have opinions about what is best given your situation, and they often will try to sway you to make the decision they support. Midwives will have one set of biases, and OBGYNs will have another.  Sometimes alternatives may be hard to find, because most practitioners will have one path in mind given their biases. For example, obstetrics rely so much on technology that they might not be aware of any alternatives to a high-technology approach. But, if you keep digging, alternatives are generally available. And, there is always the alternative of doing nothing (which is often overlooked).

It’s important to remember that it is your baby, your body and your choice. You are the one who will live with the decisions you make, so you are the one who has to feel comfortable with them. You have the right to make informed choices and to make informed refusals, even when the path you’re on could be considered life-threatening for your baby. It is still your right, not the doctor’s.

“The obstetric concept of risk is based almost exclusively on measures of perinatal mortality: the chance of a baby dying around the time of birth,” (Buckley, 41). In this environment, it is easy for the emotional needs of attachment, breastfeeding and early bonding to get side-lined. When we begin to interfere with the hormones and processes of labor and birth, we risk more than the life of the baby; we risk the emotional well-being of the family. BRAN helps families to gather information, and Buckley specifically recommends that families:
–    Prioritize their feelings and instincts
–    Take account of the effects on emotional well-being, including that of their baby
–    Think long-term
–    Consider the possible impact on breastfeeding and attachment

Another key concept that Buckley discusses is the “Nocebo Effect,” the unintended negative effect of a medical diagnosis or treatment. Conventional prenatal care can slip into a pattern of being a continual reminder of all the possible things that could go wrong with a pregnancy. This reinforces feelings of worry and fear, and causes mothers to stress out about their babies. These emotional responses negatively affect pregnancy and birth in very real, physical ways.

Buckley walks through practical applications of the BRAN model for three situations: testing for gestational diabetes; screening for Group B strep; and induction when pregnancy is “overdue.” If you are interested in reading about these sections, or in reading more about the BRAN model, I highly recommend you pick up the book.

If you have specific questions about the BRAN model that I have not clearly explained, feel free to ask in the comments section below.

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Birth Plans vs Birth Attitudes

32 weeks pregnant pike place

(33 Weeks Pregnant)

Mr. Wetzel and I want to have a joyful pregnancy, and we are making choices along the way to promote an atmosphere of joy and celebration, as opposed to one of worry and fear.  It’s so easy when you’re pregnant to fear the worst, to feel out of control and to grasp onto any little thing that will help you feel like you are back in control.  Matt and I decided to forgo needless testing, because we concluded it would fuel an attitude of worry and fear more than one of faith and joy. To have faith, you have to be okay with being out of control. To have joy, you have to be able to let yourself go.

Each time we would make a decision about the pregnancy and birth, we would give it serious thought. We’d ask ourselves: “What is best for the baby?” “What is best for our overall well-being?” “What does this specific situation call for or require of us?” I think many couples get into trouble when they have an idea of what kind of experience they want to have and then impose those expectations upon the reality that they are presented with. We aren’t crusaders for a birth style.  We wanted to do a lot of listening and we wanted to remain open to the changing circumstances at hand.

And that’s why we’re going to have an ultrasound, after all.

I wrote recently about our desire to forgo the ultrasound because it was unnecessary for our situation. We’d had no complications in the pregnancy to date, so there was no need to have an ultrasound. Until now. At our 33 week visit, my belly measured 2 centimeters too big, and the midwife has a hunch it’s because I’m making too much amniotic fluid. We’ll need to do an ultrasound to confirm what’s going on. Either: it’s a false alarm; I have too much amniotic fluid because I’m producing it; or there might be something wrong with our little baby that is creating a fluid build-up, and we’re catching it super-early.

belly pregnant ekwetzelI’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit the situation concerns me.  I care about the health of my baby, and so I am aware that this is a sign that something might be amiss. I believe it’s important what I do with that worry, though. We are not giving into being stressed out. We are not using it as an excuse to fight or indulge or sulk around. Just because we have a bump in the road, that doesn’t change anything for Mr. Wetzel and me. We are still rejoicing and praying over our little one. We still live by faith and we know, no matter the outcome, that God’s hand is at work and will see us through the good times and the hard times.

And – this is the important part, people – there is no reason to freak out just because the plan changes. We create plans and we make decisions, and that makes us feel like we’re in control. That makes us feel like we have some say in the matter. Even though it is the parent’s choice how to proceed at each stage of the pregnancy, and even though there are many choices and options involved in pregnancy, something that is always constant is the unpredictable nature of birth and pregnancy. The best we can do is make the best decisions from moment to moment with whatever comes our way. There is an inner beauty to be found when you face seemingly chaotic circumstances and skip through them as though crossing a river on stepping stones. At one step in the journey, it’s the right choice to forgo ultrasounds; at another step, it’s the right choice to have one.

ekwetzel mrwetzel faceplant loveJoy is a choice. Faith is a choice. If you want to hope for the best, you have to be strong and you have to dig deep. These virtues are not the frosting on life; they are life’s marrow. Virtue is rooted in your bones. It is not easily swayed.

I’m thankful for an astute midwife that has a keen sense about what tests are necessary at which times. I’m thankful that we are catching this complication now, instead of letting it go unchecked. I’m thankful for a supportive husband who has been solid through this bump in the road (even though I know it is a concern to him, as well). I’m thankful that we have supportive friends and family.

And – most of all – I’m thankful for this pregnancy, for this opportunity to grow new life in my belly, and for the call to Mr. Wetzel and me to steward this little life as best as we know how.

SIDE-NOTE: I want to take a moment to speak to those of you who don’t know how to respond when someone gives you touchy news about their pregnancy. Pregnant couples get told what to do all the time. Don’t be that person in your friend/family’s life. If a pregnant couple shares their experiences and feelings with you (especially in regards to complications), listen to them. If they ask you for advice, then give it to them. But do not argue with a pregnant couple about their feelings. Their pregnancy is not about you, and if they are sharing it with you, consider it a privilege.

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Mr. Wetzel

mrwetzel matthew wetzelUpon venturing into the great blogging frontier, I saw that others referenced their husbands in different ways. One blogger used “DH” (I thought they were his initials at first, but I now realize it stands for “Dear Husband”). Another referred to her husband by his first name. Some, when tweeting, will @tag their spouses. And I wondered, “How do I want to refer to my husband?”

I wanted to be consistent and not switch willy nilly between initials, nomenclatures, first name and twitter id. And, in a flash of humor and brilliance, I decided upon “Mr. Wetzel.” On the blog, I use Mr. Wetzel in full, and on twitter I use “MrW.”

Although there are practical reasons for this choice (i.e. It’s obvious I’m referring to my husband as opposed to a random “Matt” in my life), the primary reason I chose the tag-line is because it’s goofy. Matt and I don’t have a formal and stoic relationship, and referring to him as “Mr. Wetzel” seems a little fun-loving to me. Like the way you feel when you are first married and call each other “Mr.” and “Mrs.” Then giggle because your new-found life together is so fresh and fun.

Oh, and there is one more reason for using “Mr. Wetzel.” Matthew’s initials are actually MRW (his middle name is Ray). Especially when on twitter (where I simply use MrW), my formal blog name for him has a double-entendre as his literal name. MrW; Mr. Wetzel; Matthew; Dear Husband…whatever I call you, I’m glad the thought of you still makes me smile. And I’m happy to be your wife!

By ekwetzel

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No Ultrasounds

32weeks pregnant ekwetzel baby

32 Weeks Pregnant (minus 1 day)

Whenever someone finds out we’re pregnant, the conversation almost always goes like this:
Friend/Cashier/Random Person I just met: “You’re pregnant? That’s awesome!”
Me: “Thanks.”
“Boy or girl?”
“We’re not finding out. We thought it would be more fun that way.”
“Oh, man! I could never do that! When I was pregnant, I found out as soon as possible.”

I am not upset by this exchange. It’s so predictable now, that I find it amusing how consistent the general population is (except for a handful of people who, when told we’re not finding out the sex, simply respond: “Good for you!”).

What I don’t tell people is that we’re not even having an ultrasound. I can just imagine the looks and comments we’d get from that bomb of information. And, we’re not pregnant crusaders, trying to Joan-of-Arc our way into making a statement about how we “think pregnancy should be done.” Nope. We just want to have a joyful pregnancy; and, when we talked about ultrasounds, we decided it would be in our best interests as well as the baby’s to forgo them altogether.


Ultrasounds have been around for a few generations, so we can pretty much guess that they don’t harm babies if used responsibly. It’s not ethical to do controlled tests on pregnant ladies to determine how intense an ultrasound can get before causing potential discomfort or harm to a baby, so we can’t say for certain that ultrasounds have no affect on fetal development, but it is unlikely. If you keep your ultrasound(s) short and request less intense scans, your baby will be just fine.

However, there are new 4D video ultrasounds available, and I cringe at the idea of these. The 4D video ultrasound lasts for well over half an hour, it uses much more intense scans on the uterus. These ultrasounds are untested, and we do not know if they have any long-term effects on fetal development.

belly photos

I love this picture of my friend, Danica, goofing around with her ultrasound photos. There are many great reasons to get ultrasounds, even though we decided to forgo them.


The best reason to get an ultrasound is to pin down the date of conception and determine an accurate due date. Mr. Wetzel and I knew exactly when our baby was conceived, however, so this was not a good enough reason for us. To pin down the conception/due dates, this ultrasound is done early, typically around week 8, before the baby has had time to develop very far.

It seems that the main reason people get ultrasounds is to determine whether they are having a boy or girl. This ultrasound is done around week 20. In our case, we don’t care if we’re having a boy or girl, and we don’t want to find out until birth, so this was a moot point for us as well. WHY DON’T WE WANT TO KNOW THE GENDER? We don’t have our hopes set on a boy or girl, so in large part we don’t care. Practically speaking, we don’t want gender-specific baby gear. Not knowing the gender will allow us to prepare for our little one in blissful, orange/green/yellow ignorance.

For me, a bigger reason for not having an ultrasound wasn’t about the gender, but about the means by which we chose to emotionally connect with our little one. Many people look forward to taking home an ultrasound picture of their baby-to-be (I suppose this is why “keepsake dvds” of the 4D ultrasounds are such an enticement to some parents as well).  It’s easy to be incredulous in the beginning that there is actually a baby in the womb and that this transition of life is actually happening. Many people take home their ultrasound picture, the first picture of their baby, and it helps them to foster an emotional bond between parent and baby. I don’t think this is a bad thing, and I think it’s cute to see other parents-to-be goofing around with their ultrasound pictures (like my friend, Danica, who is pictured here)…it just wasn’t the way Mr. Wetzel and I wanted to approach our bonding.

It is so easy in our culture to freak out about changes or about things that are out of our control, and then to grasp onto something tangible or material to make us feel better or more connected. We chose not to bond over a black-and-white scan of our growing baby because it wasn’t deep enough to hold meaning for us. We didn’t want to settle for an ultrasound TV monitor and a little token of the baby’s visual representation. We’re holding out for something better. We want to get to know our little one through our connection to the baby, instead of using technology to bridge the gap between our ignorance and the baby’s reality. We wanted to forgo the “experts” and go down the path of intuition and faith.

I know. I sound like a nutter. But I’m not being judgmental, just open and honest.

In some ways, forgoing the ultrasound is a symbol of our approach to the birth as a whole: we don’t believe pregnancy is a medical or surgical condition. It’s not something for which we need to “seek treatment.” It is a part of the human experience, and it has been for millennia. We do not want a clinical environment that responds primarily out of functionality or fear. We seek supporters that will help us find our way down this path towards parenthood, and we chose care providers who will foster an environment of joy and excitement about the arrival of our little one.


There is another main reason to get an ultrasound: to do tests.  Many of these tests screen for abnormalities so that parents can decide if they want to abort their fetus before it starts to feel like a “real baby.” Abortion was never on the table for us, so another moot point.

There are other tests that can be done, and we went over them with our midwife, asking her what the risks would be if we did not get an ultrasound. For each test discussed, we were told that the ultrasound would let us know about a condition that we could not change and that the midwife or other care providers could do nothing about. We believe it’s easier to not worry about things we cannot change if we never find out about them in the first place, so we opted out of these tests as well.

When I tell this to others, the typical response is, “If there was a test I could run, I’d want to just do it. I’d rather have more knowledge.” In conversations, I remain respectful and don’t get into an argument (my goal in talking about pregnancy is never to get into a debate, stressed out or worked up). But, this is my true response to these beliefs:

32 weeks pregnant wetzel

Silhouette at 32 Weeks

There is more than one kind of knowledge. Facts and test results provide information, but is this truly knowledge?  In the words of T. S. Elliot (from the opening stanza to Choruses from the Rock):

“Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

If we run a test on the baby and find out there is something wrong that we can’t do anything about, what have we gained? More reason for fear. More reason to feel incompetent. If we run a test on the baby and find out there might be something wrong, but that we have to run further tests to confirm it, and in the end there is likely nothing we can do about it, then what have we gained? Discomfort. Stress. And more worry. More information does not lead to knowledge, and more knowledge does not lead to wisdom. Not alone. You also need faith, hope and love. Your spirit needs to grow along with your mind. And no young couple was ever made ready to be parents just because they had more facts about their baby. During 9 months of gestation the couple also undergoes a transformation of the heart and mind, a lot of which happens as a result of questioning, self-examination and soul searching. Then, on that fateful day when a baby comes into the world, it doesn’t need stuff or facts or a gender specific nursery. What it needs is love, connection and relationship.

Isn’t that what we all need?

What are your thoughts and feelings about ultrasounds and other in utero tests?

*For further reading, I recommend the chapters on ultrasounds and other tests in Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah J. Buckley, MD.

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A Joyful Pregnancy

erin wetzel ekwetzel mathew mrwetzel42

Mr. Wetzel & Me, 22 weeks pregnant.

I’ve wanted to write a blog post for some time about the pregnancy and birth choices Mr. Wetzel and I are making.  In fact, I’ve wanted to write this blog post since the beginning, when we started growing into our new lives as parents-to-be. However, it seems that many of our choices can be misunderstood, not accepted, or met with resistance, so it has discouraged me from sharing our feelings and thoughts about this very intimate and tender time in our lives.


Unfortunately, judgment and criticism tend to be typical reactions many pregnant women receive, no matter what their birth choices are. I think this is ridiculous, and I refuse to shut myself off from community simply because I am different, make different choices or have different beliefs.

belly pregnany love 2 weeks

Belly is starting to really show!

Pregnant women, especially women who are pregnant for the first time, need support, encouragement, understanding and connection. Pregnancy changes your body, your energy levels, your appetites and your concept of comfort, to name only a few physical aspects. Pregnancy often triggers many social changes for new time moms. It is easy to feel like your identity is slipping away or that you are losing control over your body, your baby, your pregnancy, and your life in general.

Instead of isolating each other with judgments, criticisms and horror stories, I believe we should surround pregnant women with support: emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially. A pregnant mom-to-be needs to be assured she is beautiful, both in body and in spirit. She needs to be cared for when the strain of growing a baby makes it too difficult for her to complete her usual chores or tasks. She needs to be prayed with, and she needs to be able to open up her heart and mind to others for support and guidance. Finally, she needs to be able to spend a little extra: on maternity clothes, on unusual food, on books about the changes in her life and the changes to come.

Community is a very important concept to us in our pregnancy, and I encourage you to strive for it in yours.


ekwetzel pregnant 22weeks Tacoma waterfront

Beautiful industrial scene at the Tacoma waterfront

Many people fall into the trap of making birth choices. I think this is presumptuous because you never know what will unfold on the day the baby comes into the world, and if you have your heart set on a specific method or place or delivery person, it can easily lead to disappointment.

As Mr. Wetzel and I started to talk about our pregnancy, birth and the plans that we had, I think many people misinterpreted the paradigm that we spoke out of. We did not start with a set of birth choices that we wanted to implement or defend. We started with a decision about what kind of attitude we wanted to have about our pregnancy and birth. We decided the best thing for us and for our baby would be to have a pregnancy and birth of JOY, and we have tried to make decisions along the way to support the creation of a joyful environment.

erin wetzel ekwetzel 22weeks pregnant

Joyful Mama

When we think about our baby-to-be, we do not want to be preoccupied with worries or fears. There are many things that modern, western parents obsess about, but that they are completely incapable of controlling. The one thing you can control is your heart, and the biggest thing you have to learn to surrender is yourself. Pregnancy – and birth – are sublime, awe-inspiring events, and you can choose to face them with fear, or with faith. We chose faith. And joy.

That’s it for now. I guess this is sort of a “setting the scene” blog post, and I hope to write on specific topics in follow-up posts, including using a midwife, forgoing ultrasounds and intentionally decreasing stress.

If you have questions or comments, please feel to engage with me below! ^_^ I want to be an open book about our paradigm, decisions and plans, and I want to set the tone of honoring communication instead of demanding assimilation.

By ekwetzel

All photos in this post were taken by the amazing Stacy Wagoner on December 5th (22 weeks pregnant) at the Tacoma Waterfront.

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