Friday, April 12, 2013

Our Responses to GAPs So Far

I have not really wanted to write about our family's response to this new diet, mostly because things have just been so rough ever since we began it. Now, I do have to mention that I probably didn't choose the best time to begin GAPS. I didn't figure it would be a big deal for us as it wasn't that far off from how we were eating before. But at the time we started I was on the verge of burnout from an incredibly busy season and not sufficient down time to process the business and stress of life. Our second week into the diet my husband was out of town for a few days , and I think the perfect storm ensued and pushed me over the edge.

By week two of GAPS myself, my daughter Elise and my two younger boys all had mild colds. We don't get sick very often, and almost never all at the same time. This might have started with just some die off, though it is hard to be sure. Funny enough, Joel didn't get sick - and he is the one most in need of GAPS. I figure if anyone would have die-off reactions it would be him. Anyway, after about a week Elise improved and has been great ever since. After another week the younger boys and I were improving, when all of a sudden we all took a turn for the worse. James and I came down with a flu-type bug. This only lasted about a day, but for me it quickly turned into a heavy duty sinus infection which got so bad I resorted to a 3 day round of antibiotics. Now if you know me, you know I am VERY anti-antibiotics. It is largely what got us in this digestive mess to begin with. GAPS is all about healing the gut and antibiotics destroy the gut lining because they kill the bad AND good bacteria. So I was really not thrilled to go this route, but I couldn't function with the pain and my naturopath recommended a low dose to help me out.

I finally got better, though am still working to get to a place where my energy is back and my sinuses are completely clear. I am struggling with fuzzy ears and a bit of congestion, which is frustrating for me because I have enjoyed a very long season of health with not an ounce of congestion. And now Erik and James are both down with colds, AGAIN. James even has a minor fever. Seriously! These kids rarely get sick and if they do it is a minor cold, or James will get a minor teething cold - just lots of clear congestion and snot. But this feels a bit ridiculous. And in all honesty it is really wearing me out.

On the plus side Joel has been healthy and he has not been experiencing reflux or stomach aches. And everyone is doing fine with the food changes. Digestively we seem to be doing okay - no crazy stomach aches or anything. But overall there is very little positive to show for the GAPS diet so far. It is very hard to understand if this is all just coincidental, or if the diet is not just for us, or if we have a bunch of health issues we just weren't aware of that GAPS is bringing to the surface. I am working with a GAPS nutritionist and with my NP and am praying like crazy hoping God will bring some clarity to the situation and some guidance. I wish I had something better to report after these 6 weeks of GAPping it up. But this is where we are at. Hopefully I will have something more positive to share in the not too distant future!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Natural Childbirth Part 3 - Some Keys to Giving Birth Naturally

I have four beautiful children, all birthed naturally. I absolutely am no rock star and possess no super powers that enabled me to do this. But these births did not come easily, or without cost or serious thought or intention. They did not happen accidentally and I don't believe I was just lucky (though I do count myself very blessed to have had such great birth experiences). There are some key factors that I believe contributed to my being able to give birth naturally and I would like to share these with you today, especially for those of you who might be considering going the natural route.
  1. I made a firm decision that I was going to do birth naturally. I think this is one of the most important factors if you want to have natural childbirths. I have spoken with several moms who were really on the fence about it, and I don't think any of them ended up doing it naturally. It does take some strong will power and if there is a huge option in your mind to do things otherwise, there is a really good chance you will cave in the process. This is not to put down a mom who "caves". Labor is intense! But that is why you cannot make the choice during labor! You must make it before and have a partner who is willing to help you stick to your decision. And ultimately, you need to be convinced in your own mind that this is the best for you and your baby. I don't recommend going for a natural birth out of peer pressure, or because you feel you "should" if you aren't truly convinced yourself that it is the best way to go.
  2. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page. With two of my births I requested something just to take the edge off. My hubby knew what I wanted deep down and he pushed back on my requests. He wasn't bossy, but he reminded me of what I wanted, and I am soooo thankful he did. Having a partner who is 100% in support of what you are doing is invaluable!
  3. Prepare! I mentioned in my post about the Bradley Class we took. I cannot recommend this enough if you want to have a natural childbirth. It will give you the education and preparation you need to succeed. BUT, you actually need to do what it says. Follow the diet, do the exercises and practice, do the homework. 
  4. Write a clear birth plan and share it in advance with your doctor or midwife. In the plan be sure to mention that you do NOT want pain medication offered - that YOU will ask for it if you want it. This is huge because as I said above, it is really easy to cave if it is offered!
  5. Find a supportive doctor or midwife. I used a doctor for my first 3 births and it worked fine for me because we were very clear with them about our goals and they were able to support us. I will say that it was much easier to do things at home with a midwife though, so I would also suggest considering a qualified midwife. 
  6. Bring your birth plan with you to the birth and share it with your birth team/nurse. Also, make friends with your nurse and try to develop rapport with him/her. We really gelled with our nurses and they were HUGE supports to me in my deliveries. If you are not getting along with your nurse, ask for a new one!
  7. Focus on the benefits of natural childbirth and the blessing of childbirth in general. If you are a Christian I highly recommend this book in which a woman shares her faith for pain free childbirth and many scriptures that she stood on in the process. While my births were not 100% free of pain, they were definitely doable and I think my outlook and faith on birth helped a lot!
  8. Watch "The Business of Being Born". I believe this is available on Netflix and is an amazing documentary on childbirth!
  9. Go see a chiropractor during your last few months of pregnancy. Chiropractic can help position baby for birth and aid in him or her coming through the birth canal smoothly. If your back is out or your body is not properly aligned this can make getting baby through the canal much tougher.
  10. Remember, when you get to the point during birth that you don't think you can go on, you are probably very close! Just hold on a bit longer!
Now that I have shared my thoughts on natural childbirth, I am going to try to write up and share my own birth stories with you very soon so you will get to see how all of this played out in my own life! 

NOTE: Sometimes things just don't go as planned. I have a few wonderful friends who had decided firmly to do naturally childbirth but opted for epidurals after excruciatingly long births. This is not to discourage because I think this is the exception, not the rule. BUT, if you decide on a natural birth and things don't go as planned, take this as part of your journey and celebrate what you did accomplish and the most important part of the whole thing - your baby!! And do not let that determine what future births will be like for you. Things can go differently next time!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Natural Childbirth Part 2 - Some Benefits of a Natural Birth

Last time I talked about our experience with taking the Bradley Method class. As a result of that class, when it came time to give birth the first time, I felt ready. Of course I was nervous because it was all new to me, but I felt prepared in many ways. And Nik, my husband, felt prepared as well.

In many, many cultures natural childbirth is just a part of life. And wisdom for birthing is passed on generationally, so there is much less mystery to the whole process. But in the US birth has really been boxed into a sterile hospital room where the doctor runs the show and the mom just shows up and does what she is told. I feel so strongly that women need to be empowered and encouraged. Our bodies were made to do this! And while the experience for every mom is different, and there are of course exceptions where natural child birth is not possible, natural childbirth has so many incredible benefits, including:
  • Mama empowerment. I felt amazing knowing that I birthed a child into this world naturally. Now please don't get me wrong, giving birth is an AMAZING accomplishment no matter how it happens, but knowing that my body was made by God to do this, something in me felt a longing to do it without medicine. I felt strong and courageous and a huge satisfaction knowing that I had done it (with God's help and an awesome coach of course :) ). 
  • A more alert baby. Often, but probably not always, babies who are born without medical intervention are more alert upon delivery because they don't have those pain meds going through their bodies.
  • Just one more healthy gift to the baby. I don't personally believe that medication during birth is a deal breaker to a healthy baby being born. However, I do believe in giving every possible blessing and health benefit to baby that we can. When a mom receives pain medication during delivery this does get transferred to the baby and can have effects. My first nutritionist said that she has worked with many moms whose babies developed reflux as a result of being exposed to meds during their delivery. Medication can have a negative effect on the mom's and baby's digestive track. A healthy gut is essential to overall health. Not to mention the toxins that get transferred to the baby through the medication. So if we want to give our babies the very best start to a healthy life, natural childbirth is really something worth considering.
  • A quicker recovery for Mama. I have had a few friends who have experienced both natural birth and medically aided births. And most of them have commented that they definitely recovered quicker from the natural birth. Plus, it is WONDERFUL to be up and mobile right after giving birth, seriously!
  • Tagged onto that last point, when you are not being medded up, you can be mobile during your birth. I was very mobile during my last birth, which also happened to be my longest. But due to my mobility I also believe it was probably my easiest birth. 
Are there costs to a natural birth? OBVIOUSLY! If not we wouldn't have so many medical interventions these days. But I am convinced that part of the problem is that we have psyched ourselves out as women. We have become so scared of natural child birth and we don't believe in ourselves, that we can do it. And it doesn't help that we live in a culture where everything is supposed to come easy, without a price. Why pay a cost when you don't have to? 

My view on childbirth is that it is a gift from God to give birth. What is more amazing than bringing life into this world through your own body? I feel so blessed to be a woman and to have this privilege. There was some serious pain involved, yes. But still I believed for each of my birth experiences to be a good one, and I can honestly say, that in midst of the pain, each one was such a wonderful experience - a true gift from God! This is much more possible for us women than our culture would have us believe! 

I want to end with a word of balance. Because of the culture we live in, natural childbirth is not incredibly common. And therefore I do think it is a legitimately tough decision to make. I have the utmost of respect for every woman who brings life into this world, whether through natural means or not. I encourage women to at least think through their decision, and not just lightly follow the crowd. But ultimately my intention is NOT to cast any condemnation on any woman who chooses differently than I did. We are all unique women who have not walked a day in any one else's shoes and therefore it is not our job to judge one another, but rather to support and encourage each other in this venture of birth and motherhood!

In my third and final post on Natural Childbirth, I will share some keys that I have found helpful to succeeding in giving birth without intervention. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about the history of childbirth in this country and about what your options really are, I recommend viewing "The Business of Being Born", an excellent documentary on the subject!