Tag Archives | pregnancy

Nursery Room Tour

I have been meaning to blog a tour of Phoebe’s nursery for months, and now, at long last, here you have it! The tour of Phoebe’s baby room has arrived!

First, a quick spin around the room. As you enter from the hallway, you see the wall with the window, and the others as you turn counter-clockwise:

nursury room curtains joel dewberry
nursury room danish modern rocking chair shirae

nursury room montessori floorbed
nursury room closet babywearing

We spend a lot of time hanging out in the nursery. I like that the room is big enough to have multiple kids and moms comfortably sprawled around it. It is definitively a “daytime room.” Phoebe sleeps with us (we co-sleep, i.e. Phoebe sleeps in our bed with us), and the more that we use this room, the more it feels like a place for activity, not sleeping. I hope to hone it in this direction as Phoebe grows up and has different abilities and interests.

nursury room babywearing ring sling

Behind the door, we have our babywearing gear hung up: a ring sling from my mom and a moby wrap (and Phoebe’s little sun hat). It’s helpful to have these items handy.The ring sling has become my favorite baby carrier. My mom used this tutorial to make it. The rings were purchased from ringslings.com (link here) and and she used dupioni silk as the fabric.

We took the closet doors out of the room to open it up. You can see the diaper bag and a basket on the floor. We’ll often have a laundry basket down there, as well.
nursury room baby dressesPhoebe’s dresses hang in the closet. Most of these dresses were bought from thrift store or consignment shops. Baby clothing is so easy to find secondhand for reasonable prices; it floors me how much these items cost new in retail stores. On the shelf above the dresses are more baskets for storage (often, as she outgrows items, I’ll toss them up there until I have a chance to sort through them), as well as a collection of books that are currently too old for her. We keep the Ergo baby carrier on the shelf; it’s a little too bulky for the hooks behind the door.

One of the most challenging things for me in the room was sewing the curtains. I am not a sewer. At all. But, I figured, how hard could curtains be? Right?

baby nursery joel dewberry modern magestic meadow sunglow

I bought this amazing fabric off etsy (Modern Meadow – Majestic Oak in Sunglow, by Joel Dewberry ) and planned on making my own curtains for the room. First problem: I didn’t buy enough fabric. Second problem: I cut wrong. Third problem: I sewed it in such a way that I closed off the section where the curtain rod should go. Seriously. I’m a talented fool.

baby nursery joel dewberry modern magestic meadow sunglow
So, I gave up. Then I gave birth. And when my amazing seamstress mother came to visit, she magically fixed my errors and whipped up these curtains. (Yes, one of the curtains looks a little different from the others. Remember: I cut the fabric wrong. But I hardly notice. My mom is amazing.)

baby nursery ikea drawers dresser
Instead of buying a lot of nursery-specific furniture, we wanted items that could be used as furniture long after diaper changes and baby naps were a thing of the past. These drawers house Phoebe’s clothes, linens and diaper supplies, and the top is used as a changing station.

baby nursery diaer changing station
Our diaper changes are very simple. We are using cloth diapers and cloth wipes. There is a bowl for warm water and a tube of almond oil for her bum. In the basket, we store diaper supplies, typically a stack of fresh cloth wipes, a few cloth inserts, and perhaps a pre-stuffed diaper or two. The lamp is nice and dim for nighttime changes; I sewed a little cover out of scrap fabric to slide over an IKEA lamp.

As we are starting to do more Elimination Communication, we’ve been keeping bloomers from her dresses in the basket as a stash up-cycled of “baby underwear.”  The first place I heard about Elimination Communication was the book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah J Buckley; you can read an except about Elimination Communication here. I’ll write more on Elimination Communication is a future blog post.

baby nursery wetbag hamper

baby nursery  wetbags

Dirty clothes and linens go into the hamper in the open closet. Dirty diapers and wipes go into the wetbag hanging above it. We have 2 large wetbags to rotate for at home, and 2 smaller ones for the diaper bag. And I love them. I think the fabrics are really cute. (We bought these on etsy, as well).
baby nursery needlepoint
Above the changing station is a needlepoint that was in my room as a child: it reads “Somebunny loves you.”
baby nursery  fish mobile chime
There is also a fish mobile with bells on it that I found at a consignment shop. Honestly, I wish I’d placed this above the changing pad instead so that Phoebe had a better view of it.
baby nursery  danish modern rocking chair

To date, this is where I spend most of my time while in the nursery: sitting in the rocking chair. I love this rocking chair. It is a Danish-modern design and we bought it off a Seattle seller we found on craigslist. My Mom the Amazing Seamstress made new cushion covers for it, and the whole thing was reborn. I love that the chair is so simple and comfortable, yet stylish.

We re-purposed the orange side table from another room of the house. It quickly became apparent how handy it is to have tables on both sides of me while nursing or letting Phoebe sleep on me. I have 1 basket with mom necessities: trail mix, tissues, a journal. The other basket has baby washcloths and supplies, like a baby brush & nail clippers. The yellow crate has books and a magazine or two tucked away for my reading pleasure. Within easy reach, the first drawer is for our burp cloths, and Phoebe’s books are also close at hand.

baby nursery wee gallery art cards
I love the black and white artwork from the Wee Gallery. These are three of their art cards in a simple frame. I thought it’d be neat to switch them out from time to time. Sitting on the frame are little wooden dolls, a gift from GG (Phoebe’s Great-Grandmother).

baby nursery shirae artworkbaby nursery shirae artwork
Mr. Wetzel and I have loved the artwork of etsy seller shirae since we discovered her, around the time we found out we were pregnant. We bought this series of pictures from her for the nursery. I like how they show a child going on an adventure: first she starts down an unknown path; then she experiences a wonderful ocean; finally she rests, dreaming, while a zebra walks the through the forest. Shirae even through the last picture of the girl collecting flowers in for free. We have these hung up above the rocking chair, and I hope all our children come to love them in the coming years.

baby nursery TULIPS target lamp
When we first gave birth, it was mid-April, and tulips were in bloom everywhere. I took this picture back in the first weeks on Phoebe’s life; the tulips were a gift from someone who’d brought us a meal. I loved looking at them whenever I was sitting in the rocking chair with the new little blossom of joy that we’d just welcomed in to the world.

The lamp is from Target. I admit, we bought it on an impulse buy when we were at Target right after we found out we were pregnant. But I love it, and Phoebe often stops nursing to look up at it, as well. Frivolous purchase? Perhaps. Am I glad we have it? Absolutely.

baby nursery ikea shelf
This shelf runs the length of one wall in the room. We have the drawers for storing different supplies: burp cloths, toys, blankets. The bottom area is meant to hold things that Phoebe can access and use once she starts crawling. When designing the room, we took a page out of Montessori’s handbook: we wanted this to be a place where Phoebe could explore and grow. Everything that we have out is something she’s allowed to take, use, touch or teeth on.

The room is meant to be very simple: each open compartment in these shelves holds a purpose: books, a rattle in a basket, a potty for Elimination Communication. It’s very difficult to reduce clutter, and even more difficult to keep the room tidy, but we try. We believe that having a consistent, simple environment will help reduce stress for Phoebe and help her feel safe in her surroundings. By keeping the room simple and constant, she can come to understand her experiences in it as she changes, gains new abilities and perceives the world in different ways.

baby nursery chinese lanterns floorbed
There is a cubby in the room that is the perfect size for a bed. Originally, we thought Phoebe would sleep in here some of the time, so we bought a mattress for the floor where she and I could nap. As it turns out, we aren’t doing any naps in this room, and we’re thinking of storing this mattress for guests (or for a future bed) and getting a shorter play mat that Phoebe can easily crawl off of once she starts moving around.

Why don’t we have a crib? Instead of fencing Phoebe into a crib or playpen, our idea is that the entire room is her crib. She can explore the whole thing, and we’ll make sure it’s all baby-proofed and safe by the time she’s crawling. Add a babygate to the door, and presto: one big room-sized crib ready to go!

baby nursery mobile wee gallery art cards
This corner of the room is the main activity center. Hanging from the ceiling is the Pom Pom Mobile that I made for her. There is a mirror leaning up again the wall (we keep meaning to secure it to the wall and keep procrastinating). Phoebe loves both of these things; she particularly loves looking at her mobile in the mirror. We also have a few extra toys available: some wrist rattles and art cards in a basket. We’re trying to only have a few toys out at a time so that the area isn’t too overwhelming.

floorbed baby nursery
There is a tiny shelf (repurposed from an IKEA spice rack) that we’ll fasten to the wall. It’s currently leaning up against the bed with some art cards & a beany baby in it. As Phoebe learns to stand, she can use the little bar to pull herself up. We can rotate what items we put in the shelf to add interest and give her incentive to reach up to them.

baby nursery messages
Strung up above the bed are messages that friends and family wrote to Phoebe, before she was born, welcoming her into the world. One day, perhaps, we’ll rotate these out for artwork or paper craft projects. For now, I like having the symbols of love hanging over her as she plays.

baby nursery chinese lanterns
I imagine that think the Chinese lanterns strung above the activity area are reminiscent of clouds.

baby nursery chinese lanterns cloud lamp
Speaking of clouds…the cloud light fixture is from IKEA.

baby nursery papa chair
Perhaps my favorite addition to the room is the Papa chair. I love it that Mr. Wetzel has a place to sit and visit with me while I’m nursing. Before she was born, we’d often come in here, sit in our respective chairs, and dream about the days to come. These days, after Phoebe is asleep, we’ll often do the same. Or, when we have company, there is a place for grandparents or other moms to sit while we chat or show off our little one. Under the seat is a floor cushion (holla, World Market!) which also comes in handy while playing on the floor.

I took a lot of inspiration from the following nurseries:
–    Nearly Finished Nest by Megan Boley
–    Finnian’s Montessori Room by Meg McElwee
–    Baby Room Tour – Hanford, CA Home by Emily from JoyfulAbode.com

By ekwetzel
2011-06-27

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Phoebe’s Birth Story

rainier cherry blossom

The "Phoebe Blossom" on our Cherry Tree

We have a cherry tree in our yard, and the day that its first blossom popped out on one of its slender branches was the same day that I had my first contraction to signaled the beginning of labor.

This is my birth story for Phoebe Isobel Wetzel, our blossoming newborn girl.

Early Labor

On Wednesday, April 13th at 4:30 am I awoke with my first strong contraction. Up until this point in the pregnancy I’d had no painful contractions. I doubted that I was even experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions (aka. “practice” contractions) until I had one at my midwife appointment, and she confirmed that I simply did not have painful contractions. When I awoke at 4:30, I thought, “This is different. This might be it.” And I went back to sleep.

Mr. Wetzel awoke around 7:30 am for work, and I let him know that I’d been feeling infrequent contractions. At 10:30 am we went to an already scheduled visit with our midwife, and she was able to confirm that we were in early labor and that I was dilated 2 cm. Phoebe was still in a good position: head down and back slightly on the left (she’d been in this position for about a month).

I went home. Mr. Wetzel went to work. And I slept the rest of the day between contractions.

full term pregnant belly

My belly was huge right before the birth!

We decided to ignore the labor as long as possible and not tell anyone. We didn’t want the pressure. I didn’t want the pressure. I wanted to be able to relax, to give into the moment of what was happening, and to let it take its course. Also, we didn’t want to tell everyone labor was under way, only to find out it was a false start.

By 11:00 pm Wednesday night, my contractions were frequent and strong. Our midwife said we could come into the Birthing Inn whenever we were ready, but I was comfortable at home, so we decided to labor there for the next few hours. I tried watching TV between contractions to take my mind off the pain and to keep from being anxious. I ended up spending a lot of time on the toilet; I found it was easier to relax my “birth muscles” when I didn’t have to worry about soiling myself. And relaxing helped ease the pain of the contractions considerably.

In our 5-week birthing class at The Birthing Inn, we learned about coping techniques to help ease the pain of the contractions and channel the pain to a more effective labor. Mr. Wetzel and I had planned to have a playlist for me to listen to. We thought Mr. Wetzel would read me a script and that would help. We thought I’d recite lines from the Psalms to get me through. In the moments of labor, however, we abandoned all of these planned techniques.

In the beginning of labor, I thought of a song, “Slow Down Jo” by Monsters of Folk, pulled it up on my iPhone and played it at the beginning of each contraction. The slow tempo of this song helped me establish a good breathing rhythm. Later in labor, I’d actually sing the chorus to myself, but adapted the words to “Slow Me Down.”

I also talked to myself to help keep “my head in the game.” I would moan “Oh Oh Oh,” and often then say “Oh Oh Ooooopen,” speaking to my cervix. Yes, I was encouraging my cervix to dilate. It sounds weird; I never thought I’d do it; and it helped (emotionally, at least). As a new contraction set on, I’d instinctively want to clench up from the pain, and so I found that I’d tell myself over and over, “Relax, relax, relax…” as a way of coaching my body to do what my head knew it needed.

Active Labor

the birthing inn labor room

This is the room at the Biorthing Inn in which we labored and gave birth. (Pictures taken on a different day than the birth)

From 11:00 pm Wednesday night on, I’d cope with each contraction on a different basis. Sometimes I’d sit on the toilet. Sometimes I hunched over an ottoman. By 2:30 we knew these contractions meant business, so we hopped in the car and made our way to The Birthing Inn to meet our midwife. She confirmed that we were dilated 4-5 cm and in active labor.

Once we reached active labor, we knew there was no going back. It was time to let friends and family know. Once we were settled in at the Birthing Inn, Mr. Wetzel texted our family to let them know we were in labor and he called my parents (because they don’t text). He then did a twitter update for me, to let my online pals know. Updating facebook escaped us…we were preoccupied and we were cocooning around each other.

Active labor was the hardest part for me.

I’d been drinking water and eating protein all week. I’d been drinking water all day since the 4:30 contraction. I’m a drinker; drinking water was easy for me. But it wasn’t enough. I was getting dehydrated, and it was making my contractions more painful. In addition, I’d been feeling nauseous for hours.

I kept up a lot of the routine I’d established at home: moving between the toilet and the ottoman.  Yes, we brought the ottoman with us! It was small, and it was the perfect height for me to hunch over, so I had Mr. Wetzel throw it in the back of the car. I also tried sitting on a birthing ball and leaning over the bed. It was great being able to move around a lot and change positions at will. That freedom was one of the reasons we chose the Birthing Inn.

bed birthing inn

My bed at the Birthing Inn

I drank water constantly, but it wasn’t enough. The contractions were more painful. Then the nausea got worse. While I was on the bed, I got terribly nauseous, leaned over and experienced the moment of the birth that was the most difficult for me emotionally. I upchucked everything in my belly into a tub, and at the same time I emptied everything else out the other end. I was so ashamed. I felt like an animal. I knew “involuntary” things would happen during the pushing stage, but I did not expect to “lose it” at this early stage of labor, and I especially did not expect to lose it while on a nice, white bed.

As soon as I emptied myself, I said how embarrassed I was, and the first words I heard were the reassuring words of our midwife, Amy, “That’s just a part of pregnancy.” Her calm, matter-of-fact tone and response helped me find the mental and emotional fortitude to put myself back together and to keep going. I’m so thankful that there was no criticism or disgust in the room; if there had been, I might have gotten a little depressed about it. As it was, I was able to take it as a lump. Then I sucked it up for the next bout of labor pains.

toilet birthing inn

I spent a lot of time laboring here, with two pillows propped up to give me back support.

I vomited a few more times. I couldn’t eat anything. I was not getting enough water. So, Amy insisted that they give me an IV. Which is a big deal for me. As in: when I get my blood drawn I’m so panicked about it I nearly faint. It’s a REAL phobia of mine. I did not want an IV. When she insisted on the IV, however, I understood that it was the best thing for me, for the pregnancy and for the baby, so we talked about where she’d put it in (we decided on top of my left hand); Mr. Wetzel said a prayer over me and over the IV, and them as she put it in, I breathed deeply, found a calm place and stayed there mentally. Once it was in, Amy said with admiration how surprised she was at how well I handled it. Once it was in, it did not bother me mentally as much as I thought it would. It was just there, and I had peace about it. For this I was VERY thankful.

Eventually, I labored lying on the bed, on my side. This was to give me rest; I’d often fall asleep between contractions, which actually proved to be very hard on me overall. When I started a contraction awake, I could see it coming and start relaxing. When I started a contraction while asleep, it would wake me up; these contractions were very painful because I was shocked into them, so I’d clench up more in response, which made them hurt more.

The coping techniques that I taught myself in the early stages of labor became vital during active labor. Mr. Wetzel would often remind me to do the simple things I couldn’t remember anymore by myself: breathe and relax. I wanted no stimulus: no bright lights, no music, no touch. I wanted to just go into a zone and relax as much as possible and let the contraction do what it needed to me.

Transition & Pushing

tub water birth tacoma

This is the tub in which I had my water birth.

We planned on having a water birth, and Amy advised that I stay out of the tub until the last possible moment, in order to get the most benefit out of it. As I entered the transition stage (where my cervix dilates the last few centimeters), they filled the tub, and I got in. I only had a few contractions in the tub when I started feeling the need to push. I said aloud how I wanted to push but was trying to resist, when Amy told me to give it a shot and see how it went.

So I did. Transition seemed to last only a few minutes, and it wasn’t nearly as arduous as active labor. I was completely dilated at 10:00 am on Thursday and pushed for the next two hours.

I pushed in the water on my hands and knees. I moved around a little, but this position felt the most “right.” Amy suggested Matt get in the tub with me so that I could lean my back into him, but I knew I did not want that. I wanted the tub to myself, I wanted the room to move around, and I wanted to be on my knees. These things were simply intuitive to me.

Once I was really pushing, I found it particularly nice to be able to lean my arms outside the tub and clench the side or rest on the side of the tub as the contraction passed and I pushed through it. The side of the tub provided great leverage. And it was nice to have Mr. Wetzel right there, by my face, offering words of support, as well as a glass of water which I sipped whenever possible.

My knees were sore. I hadn’t eaten in over 24 hours. I hadn’t slept. I’d lost a lot of fluids from vomiting. I was weak. But I was in a “zone” and I felt my baby moving slowly through me. She’d advance, I’d feel her head in my pelvis as I pushed, and then it would retract. I mentioned I felt like I was losing ground, and Amy told me this was normal, this is just part of how the birth happens.

Eventually her head didn’t retract. We were at the end of pushing. At 11:42 am, Amy felt for our baby’s head and told us the water still hadn’t broken. It had been easing the labor pains this whole time, but we were nearing the end. As Amy felt the water, she was letting us know our options, mentioning we could go ahead and break it, or we could give it more time, and then we heard her say, “Oops! Wow! There it goes!”

During the next few minutes, Mr. Wetzel came around behind me and saw the crown of our baby’s  hairy little head while I was in labor. He was really tired, but it was so surprising for him to see a real head there, that it startled him into realizing that we were in the home stretch!

I still remember the feeling of the last few pushes, how my right pelvis shifted out and then back in as the round head of our little baby girl emerged.  I remember how they pulled her up between my legs and placed her in my arms as I leaned back, exhausted. I remember lying there, holding her for the first time, astonished at what she looked like: she looked like a little person! She was no longer this nondescript fuzzy idea of a baby; she was in my arms!

phoebe isobel wetzel

Our first photo of Phoebe. Matt took it with his iPod while holding her, just after the birth.

She was a little blue, but Amy massaged her up. They put a hat on her right away, as well as a blanket for warmth. And because of the way they placed her on my chest, we actually didn’t know the baby’s sex for the first few minutes while I held her. We just basked in the overwhelming presence of our new baby. When it occurred to us we hadn’t peeked at the gender yet, I lifted the blanket and Mr. Wetzel told me: we had a baby girl!

Stage Three: Delivering the Placenta

The chord had stopped pulsing, so Amy clamped it and Mr. Wetzel got to cut his daughter’s cord. We wanted to wait till it had stopped pulsing so that Phoebe would get to take advantage of all the rich blood in the cord.

At 12:08 pm I delivered the placenta. I just pushed once or twice, and it globbed out into the tub. A placenta has no bones, so the delivery is like passing a big booger. I know. It sounds gross. It kinda is, but it’s sooooo much easier than the baby delivery! There was a lot of blood in the water, and I was ready to get out.

Recovery

erin and phoebe holding

The first time I got to hold Phoebe after getting out of the tub.

I was very weak. I had lost a lot of blood, and the labor had exhausted me. For the next two hours, Mr. Wetzel held Phoebe while I lay on the bed and Amy and her birthing attendant took care of me. They gave me some Gatorade and yogurt, both of which I gladly ate. They also gave me Petocin to help my uterus contract and to help stop the bleeding. I had several blood clots that I passed, some on the bed, some while on the toilet. They were very painful, and they were such a relief to get out of my system. Overall, it is estimated that I lost 600 ccs of blood. The “fundal massages” were painful, as expected, but I knew they were necessary, and I knew they would make me heal better and feel better eventually.

I did not tear, which surprised Amy given how much blood there was. Plus, Phoebe had a large head, measuring at 14 inches, and her chest circumference was 14.5 inches! I was weak and tired, but I did not require any “repair work” down below. I was as shocked as anyone, but ever so grateful!

nursing first time

Our first time nursing, 2 hours after the birth.

Finally, at 2:00 pm, they felt I was well enough that I could sit up in bed. They propped me up and I was able to hold my daughter for the first time outside of the tub. I was finally aware enough that I could really look at her. She was beautiful. Amy and her assistant helped me position Phoebe and nurse her for the first time. After a few tries, Phoebe latched on and nursed for the first time at 2:10 pm. I was so relieved.

I stayed in bed, holding Phoebe and resting for the next few hours. Then, at 6:00 pm, we headed home with our little baby girl. We were parents!

On Natural Childbirth

Did the labor hurt? Was it difficult? Yes and yes. However it was not as bad as I expected. Before you go thinking “she is writing this 2 weeks after the birth, she already has selective memory,” I will rebut you: I said these things to Mr. Wetzel 2 hours after the birth while I was still exhausted, bleeding and in pain. Labor is difficult. Contractions do hurt. My birth experience was arduous. But it was do-able. It was bearable. Like a marathon, it was conquerable.

Amy Gordon & Susan birth assistant

Our midwife, Amy Gordon (left), holds Phoebe with her birth assistant, Susan

Some women need epidurals. Some women need medical intervention. And all women need unequivocal support before, during and after labor. But our culture is so afraid of the pain of childbirth that I want to emphatically and earnestly say to you all: there is a way to have a natural childbirth and it is difficult, but YOU CAN DO IT! You can at least attempt to have a birth without an epidural, and you definitely do not need to let fear of the pain control you.

I was afraid of the pain, and I surrendered that fear through prayer and faith. My birth was not as painful as I once feared, and I attribute almost all of that to the mindset I had going into it and the support that I had while in labor.

Contractions are painful. However, the contractions you have early on teach you how to handle the contractions later in the birth. Your body has all the equipment it needs to get you through the birthing experience; you just need to trust it and listen to it…and surround yourself with people who will do the same.

If you are reading this and you had a more medical birth or a C-section, please know I do not “judge” you; I love you and know that you, as the mother, made the best decisions you knew how to in your circumstances. But I want to encourage pregnant ladies to consider less medical and less surgical approaches whenever possible, because I earnestly believe this will help make pregnancy, birth and recovery much easier on mom and baby. If you have any questions or just want to share your experience, I encourage you to comment below.

Final Thoughts

healy elitsa sonia yana

My brother and his family came to visit at the Birthing Inn, and my nieces took turns holding Phoebe for the first time.

I loved the privacy, intimacy and control we had at the Birthing Inn. Our midwife, Amy, trusted us, and she built up a relationship with us so that we came to trust her. Until the pushing stage, the only people in the room were Amy and Mr. Wetzel. Amy’s birth assistant came in at the very end, but the only other people to enter the room were a few select friends and family that we invited to stop by for a visit afterwards so we could introduce them to our new little baby.

I am thankful for how well I handled the IV. I am thankful that I did not tear. And I am thankful that breastfeeding started well. I say “thankful,” and what I mean is “overwhelmingly full of gratitude in a way that words cannot express.” I understand that I was blessed in these ways, and I can see how God gave me the strength of his presence to overcome fears and worries I had in regards to each of these areas.

In regards to tearing, there are a few things I did to help pre-birth. I did kegels. I took an evening primrose oil supplement. And I took the Gentle Birth Formula sold by Mountain Meadow Herbs.

I feel like this is a very clinical account of the birth. Many women say they cry when writing their birth stories. I recognize how “matter-of-fact” I seem about mine. I do not feel callous about our experience. In fact, I feel very intimate about it, and I feel very intimately about each of these details.

The feelings I have are very deep. When I was feeling the birth, I was very tired and very weak. I did not have much capacity to capture my feelings in words. I still lack the capacity. Maybe someday painting or poetry will help bridge the gap. In the meantime, I feel like forcing a description of these deep emotions would cheapen them, alter them, and forever change their presence in my heart.

phoebe isobel

Our little Phoebe Isobel Wetzel. I just get lost in those eyes.

For now, the feelings are like a river running through an underground cavern. They rush and swell in the darkness: cold, crisp and fresh. Perhaps no explorer will ever find them. Perhaps they will never see the light of day. But their very existence makes the world richer; and their very presence transforms these deep places in my heart from a cavern into a gushing spring.

matthew wetzel phoebe papa

Papa-Daddy Matthew hold his newborn lil' Phoebe.

ekwetzel piwetzel wetzel love newborn

Mama Erin just can't get enough of her lil' girl.

By ekwetzel
2011-04-28

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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

40 WEEKS PREGNANT

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
2011-04-06

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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.

WOMEN’S ROLES = MEN’S ROLES??

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.

MY FEMINIST IDENTITY STRUGGLE

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.

DOWN TO EARTH: OUR STORY

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.

INSPIRATION: DOING IT RIGHT

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
2011-04-04

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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
    2011-03-16

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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
2011-02-09

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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.”

Afterthoughts…

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
2011-02-28

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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.

By ekwetzel

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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.

By ekwetzel
2011-02-23

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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.

ARE ULTRASOUNDS SAFE?

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.

WHY GET AN ULTRASOUND? (AND WHY WE DIDN’T)

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.

WHAT IF THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE BABY?

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.

By ekwetzel
2011-02-09

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