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    Chiropractor Mama Dr. Dolly and professional photographer Elisa B. share about adventures in intentional and natural parenting while living in Virginia's beautiful Blue Ridge.
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Holly’s Story

Dolly and I realize that we’ve got the boys covered. Between Calvin and Lucien we’ll be able to comment on a great deal of mommy-hood. However, we do have some friends who are expecting little girls. I interviewed Heather, and featured her on the blog last week. This week I wanted to feature my dear friend Holly, who is also expecting a little girl!

I interviewed her a few weeks ago, when she was at 36 weeks, and we are anticipating the little one’s arrival any day now!

Breaking the News: My husband, Jason, and I had been trying to conceive for more than a year, so he’d become very invested in and knowledgeable about the process. He could read a fertility chart with alacrity! We both had longed for and prayed for a baby, and admittedly had harbored fears of infertility, even only after a year. I can’t say that I invested a lot of thought or planning into my announcement of the news. I remember feeling a mixture of elation and bewilderment when I first saw the smiley face on the pregnancy test. I wanted to tell Jason right away. Jason was doing his morning ritual of checking email and baseball news, and I immediately went in and told him we needed to stop and have a big breakfast to celebrate a big change in our family. This was a Monday or Tuesday, so I think he was initially confused as to why. So I spelled it out, “We’re pregnant!!” and a huge smile crept over his face, and I even think he was a little teary.

Birth Plan/Prenatal Care: We hope and pray for a natural birth and will be seeking the support of a doula to help us achieve that goal. My husband and I have also attended birth classes and done reading (yes, Jason has faithfully been reading Penny Simkin’s The Birth Partner) and had discussions to prepare. I know Jason will provide a lot of support, and we’re trying to be creative about a variety of relaxation strategies and positions to help us through the first stage of labor. I can’t say we have a strict philosophy that completely rules out the possibility for medical intervention or pain relief, but we do understand that such medical interventions are overused in our medical system and can actually hinder the labor process. I also know from the stories of some women that medical pain relief—if used wisely and not indiscriminately—can help to assist women who are completely exhausted or progressing extremely slowly in having the birth experience they long for and even prevent C-sections.

We chose our OB based on his reputation for supporting couples in having the kind birth experience they believe best and his decades-long experience in delivering babies and handling any complications. I’ve really appreciated his laid-back style and his genuine desire to avoid medical intervention or c-sections unless deemed truly necessary for the safety of the baby. Admittedly, sometimes he can seem too laid-back (after you’ve describe yet another of your incredibly unique symptoms, and he nods and chirps, “yeah, that’s normal” for the hundredth time ;)). But I’ve appreciated this and interpreted it as a conscious attempt to reduce the anxiety that many women feel during pregnancy. The stories I’ve heard from his previous patients and from the nurses who’ve worked with him at Martha Jefferson have confirmed this impression. One RN mentioned that he deliberately seemed to keep a low profile during the laboring process, because he didn’t want to be tempted to interfere with strategies for coping that were working or to rush the process. I think that’s pretty unique.

Healthy Measures: I have to say that I’ve been more conscious of my nutrition since learning I was pregnant. I have to give part of the credit to our OB, who has a reputation in town for being strict about weight gain during pregnancy. Rather than succumbing to my previous fantasies of copious indulgences and a license for eating during pregnancy, I’ve found myself deliberately trying to cover all the food groups, to avoid excessive simple carbs (my definite weakness), and to stick within reasonable calorie limits (though of course I’ve never deprived myself or the baby). I love to eat. I was blessed not to struggle with morning sickness during this pregnancy and have instead had a raging appetite, which I’ve needed to keep in check. Jason and I have also been committed to eating a lot of fresh produce and buying organic whenever possible.

Wise Words: Probably the best advice has been to take all advice and especially any parenting books with a grain of salt. There’s not a single strategy or parenting style that is best for your baby, as long as you’re providing a nurturing, loving environment for your child. Jason and I will probably be weaving a parenting tapestry from the advice we’ve received from multiple sources.

Challenges: One challenge early in the pregnancy was that Jason had accepted a grant to do some academic research at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island during the months of August and September. That meant he was away for a substantial portion of my first trimester. We’d also just adopted a new puppy (before our discovery of the pregnancy)—an adorable little Boston Terrier—and I found myself occasionally weary with caring for and training him and keeping up with life and work without my husband’s help. To top it off, we were keeping the pregnancy a secret until well into the second trimester, so I couldn’t call upon the sympathy of friends of co-workers. Fortunately, I had revealed the news to some of our dear friends locally (Elisa and her husband), and they went out of their way to support me, feed me, and help with the puppy.

More recently, I’ve been struggling with the aches and pains of the last month of pregnancy and many consistent bouts of Braxton Hicks contractions in the evenings and at night. And I’m sure Jason is becoming weary of the spurts of groaning and sighing that often accompany my effort to dress, tie my shoes (maybe that’s why he’s pushing me to buy Crocs), pick up dropped objects, and climb stairs.

Memorable Moments: I’ve learned that I am not in control—not of the timing of conception, the ultimate progress of the pregnancy, and the experience of childbirth itself. After all, Jason and I did not ultimately create this baby. God has been gracious and sweet in showing me this and teaching me to acknowledge that my own sense of control over how everything turns out is false. Not to suggest, of course, that we can’t make good choices in the best interest of this baby.  But I believe learning that I am not completely in control during pregnancy will help when I inevitably confront feelings of inadequacy as a mother.

This pregnancy has brought so much renewed joy and excitement into my life. I’m sure like most women anticipating motherhood, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this baby girl and a deep yearning to meet her, know her, and love her well. It also gave me the freedom and excitement I needed to leave a job that was not fulfilling and to begin to consider anew what my calling is in the world—what I can contribute as a mother and wife and how my other gifts and passions might be used.

I’ve been trying to imagine the moment when Jason and I see and hold our little baby girl for the first time. The emotional impact of that moment probably can’t be understood fully until you’ve experienced it. I know that having a baby can strain a marriage, but I also look forward to the immense sense of oneness and shared love we will share when we encounter her and begin learning what it means to love her.

PS To see Holly’s maternity preview from her photo session click here.

Books on Birth and Parenting

I have to say that when I was newly pregnant (tired, at times emotional, nauseous, etc.)  perusing the long aisles in the bookstore for helpful books seeming like a daunting task. Friends and family came to the rescue and recommended books to read and among the many that I read I’ve narrowed it down to a few that I recommend as “must reads” for new and expecting moms.

Keep in mind that part of my journey to motherhood included a home birth, but these books are wonderful even if you are questioning the typical medical model and want to read more about natural birth, or if you planning on a hospital birth or a birthing inn and want to minimize the number of interventions you and your baby receive.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirthby Ina May Gaskin. I’ve been lucky enough to hear her speak and Ina May is a wonderfully candid and even humorous person to listen to. This book is full of wonderful and affirming birth stories written by mothers. She also has a new book out titled “Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding” which I’m looking forward to reading.

Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England. This book was on my own mother’s shelf and she recommended it to me. I can tell you that while I was in labor this was the single most helpful book. It encourages you to protect your birth space, contemplate your expectations about labor, and truly enter in to the process of birth. I can’t do it justice!

Diary of a Midwife – The Power of Positive Childbearing by Juliana van Olphen-Fehr.

The Business of Being Born (film documentary by Ricki Lake) Also available streaming on Netflix! While I was pretty sure from the start the home birth was for me, Edward took a little more convincing. This movie sealed the deal. It’s a wonderful documentary on the differences between hospital and home birth.

The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by Dr. Harvey Karp. Have a fussy baby? A colicky baby? Want to know the basics of soothing a newborn? I highly recommend this easy read – and I recommend you read it before baby’s arrival to smooth the process of becoming a parent. After baby arrives you may be too tired to read anything for a while! I think Edward especially benefited from this book, since this was the first part of parenting he could really take part in.

You may notice there aren’t a lot of parenting books in this category. In part, this is because we haven’t had any real issues and Lucien is only ten weeks old. This is also in part to the fact that when I asked my other parenting mom’s what books I ought to be reading, they promptly replied “burn them all! There is already too much guilt involved with motherhood to be reading books that will make you feel guilty for what you’ve done or haven’t done.” I guess ignorance can be bliss, but I’ll probably find myself at the library or on Amazon at some point.

YOUR TURN: What books have you found helpful in your quest for parenting advice?

For the Expecting Mama: Nursing Clips by Willow Moonspirit

I’ve been thinking about pregnant mamas since Elisa, an author on Traveling with Baby who’s 41 weeks pregnant, is going to meet her son very soon.

Showers are great opportunities to share wonderful blessings with an expectant mom and her little blessing.  However, the holidays are another opportunity to give loving and useful gifts to new parents.

The following are a few of my favorites:

  1. Homemade baby leggings — you can read my tutorial on how to make your own!
  2. A stretchy100% cotton baby wrap carrier – Helps keep baby snuggly close and content while sleeping, nursing, or hanging out with mom.
  3. Nursing clips that convert any blanket or sweater into a breastfeeding cover

I loved the nursing cover that my sister-in-law created for me.  I never left home without it so I could comfortably and modestly nurse in public.

Juliea Paige, owner of Etsy shop Willow Moonspirit, created Gypsy Jewels and Nursing Clips.  Instead of packing a diaper bag full of swaddling cloths, warm blankets, AND a nursing cover, you can lighten your load by just keeping nursing clips with you.

A hand-beaded, 17-inch chain is tipped with silver alligator clips on each end.  With so many color bead options available, it’s hard to choose.  Fortunately, you can customize the colors you or your gift recipient likes.  The beautiful clips are packaged in a beautiful damask-printed draw-string bag–perfect for gift-giving and storing.

These days, I don’t use a nursing cover much with my toddler since breastfeeding is far less frequent during the day.  However, I did try out the clips with a couple of smaller baby blankets while nursing my son.

The necklace part of the chain felt comfortable around my neck with the weight of a blanket.  I could easily change the positioning of the clips on the blanket, as needed.  In it’s storage back, the nursing clips necklace is only a few ounces and easy to find in a diaper bag.

The biggest plus about the nursing clips are that if baby spits up or milk leaks onto a blanket, you can easily throw it in the wash and have another spare blanket or sweater, and you’re ready to go without waiting for a standard nursing cover to come clean in the laundry.  At $13, it’s far more economical than most nursing covers available on the market.

WIN IT!

One winner  will receive a nursing clips by Gypsy Jewels, (retail value $13).

To enter, leave a comment relevant to this post prior to Friday, November 27th at 11:59 p.m.  Please follow the contest rules and avoid any generalized comments, or you will be disqualified.

FOR A SECOND ENTRY: complete a quick 10-question reader demographic survey. Then, leave a second comment telling me that you did.

FOR A THIRD ENTRY: Blog or Tweet about the Holiday Gift Guide (or about this giveaway), then leave a second comment telling me that you tweeted or blogged with a link to your tweet/post.

A gypsy jewel nursing clip was provided for the purpose of this review.  Read Traveling with Baby’s complete disclosure policy.

Subscribe // Twitter me: drdolly
Top Photo by Elisa B photography

UPDATE: Congratulations to the winner, #1 Melissa Haynie.

Sneak Preview

CB106363Yesterday, we had a wonderful adventure at our local Charlottesville Fire Station.  I can’t wait to share the details with you.  Not only can little ones sit in the driver’s seat of the fire engine, but they can experience the lights and siren, too.  Oh, boy! Stay tuned for this week’s Tuesday Travels post when I post photos and details of one of the best kept field trip secrets in Charlottesville.

Thanks for those of you who showed up to the “Make Babyfood from Scratch” class at Whole Foods on Thursday evening.  We’re going to have an encore class soon at a time that’s more convenient for moms with young’uns.  There was enough demand for more information that soon enough I’ll either create a series of posts with the class information on this blog, or I’ll write up an article for a magazine.  Either way, I’ll definitely let you know.

Before this month is over, I will feature an exclusive interview with nationally-acclaimed folk music artist/song writer Ellis Paul of The Dragonfly Races.  Learn from a professional music artist the beautiful and subtle differences in writing quality songs for children compared to adults–but, even better, writing music that can be shared by both.  Also, learn how to help your children instill a love of music from an early age.

I’ve received numerous comments and e-mails about the “41 weeks and 1 day pregnant…seriously” post.  Thank you to all of you who share your past-“due” pregnancy stories and triumphant birth stories with me.  I love it.  Yes, I know I never posted the conclusion to the seemingly never-ending pregnancy.  But as you can see, my son, now one and 1/2 years old was born healthy and happy.  I’ve responded to many of you individually through e-mail with my birth story.  I’ve hemmed and hawed about whether to post something so personal, challenging, and amazing on my blog.  And, I’ve decided to not put it “out there” for anyone to read at any point in time.  However, if you e-mail me, there is a strong possibility that we may end up sharing our very personal and significant birth stories through e-mail.

I’m always interested in learning more about what YOU would like to read about on Traveling with Baby.  I read and heart every comment and e-mail.  So, keep the feedback coming, and I’ll continue to keep it real.

Pump Up the Iron, Prego Gals

In a recent article published in the American Chiropractor Association News by Nataliya Schetchikova, PhD, recent research indicates that

“Exercising during a healthy pregnancy can help prevent excessive weight gain, significantly reduce the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus and preeclampsia, prepare the body for childbirth, and reduce the intensity of pregnancy-induced low back pain.”

A survey of pregnant women found that even though most women received advice about physical activity during pregnancy, they considered relaxation and rest more important than physical activity.  Often doctors don’t do their job to help their pregnant patients find suitable exercise regimens.  Typically, physicians discuss exercise with their patients, but they only help select an exercise program in only 10 percent of cases.  Nearly 70 percent of expecting women have been advised by health care providers to restrict their exercise routines according to the more conservative guidelines (circa 1985) set forth by the American Council of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) instead of current guidelines which encourage women to take an individualized approach to fitness and exercise.

According to Marianne Gengenbach, DC, DACBSP, and co-author of several sports chiropractic textbooks,

Doctors are worried that if they encourage a pregnant woman to exercise and something happens, they’ll be liable, so they tend to be cautious.  But, it’s accepted nowadays that if you are healthy and have a healthy pregnancy, exercise helps to maintain flexibility

Other benefits of exercise during pregnancy include avoiding excess weight gain and maintaining good fitness habits.  Some studies indicate that delivery is easier for women who exercised during pregnancy.

However, pregnancy is not the time to take up a new and rigorous fitness routine.  Women who are fit prior to conception can monitor heart rate (HR) levels and not let HR go above 140 bpm throughout pregnancy.  These women can typically maintain their previous workout regimen as long as they avoid contact and high impact sports.  According to Maida Taylor, MD (a San Francisco-based OB-GYN), “Women who have not been fit can condition themselves [during pregnancy], but they must take things more slowly.”  They should definitely seek the advice of a health care provider before beginning a fitness routine during pregnancy.

Set Goals

Goal setting helps women stick with a program.  In healthy pregnancies where women don’t have any obstetric complications, the ACOG recommends women participate in 30 minutes or more of daily moderate exercise.  Setting a goal which includes frequency and time of day can really help women stick to the program (assuming they’re past the point of utter and complete fatigue and exhaustion due to supporting new life formation in the first trimester).

How a women feels during the different days of pregnancy definitely dictates what she should do.  If she needs to rest, then by all means, she should rest.  But, if she’s feeling “blah” but isn’t fatigued beyond measure, than a little exercise can be a great endorphin-releasing way to add a little pep in her step.

New to Exercise

If a woman is new to exercise, the best way to begin is through a walking program which is something that can be maintained all throughout pregnancy and even long after baby’s born.  Begin with 15 to 20 minutes a day.  Then, do the same amount of time, but twice a day.  Gradually increase to 45 minutes up to 1 hour.  Don’t walk at a pace beyond which you’re able to carry on a conversation so that you don’t overexert yourself.  For added precaution, wear a heart rate monitor so that you’re able to slow down if your heart rate approaches 140 bpm.  Suddenly stopping completely will only cause an increase in your heart rate, so slow down for a few minutes to cach your breath before you stop completely.

Pregnant Elite Athletes

Dr. Taylor is a former long-distance swimmer who treated elite swimmers, runners, triathletes, and ultra-marathoners.  She says,

Active women with healthy pregnancies don’t necessarily need to limit their exercise routines in pregnancy.  Elite athletes don’t want ot get injured, and they know how to maintain a balance between pregnancy and their sport.  If you maintain any previous exercise at the same level, your level of fitness will increase because of hte level of energy expenditure and oxygen consumption in pregnancy — it’s like running with weights on.  If you cut back on exercise, you can still maintain your level of fitness.

Tailor Exercise Uniquely to You

Exercise needs to be tailored to the individual.  The recommended HR of 140 beats per minute for a pregnant woman in her 20s to 30s should still be gauged to individual tolerance.  Flexibility training through pre-natal yoga and stretches help with balance when the woman’s center of balance is constantly changing.  Walking on an elliptical trainer or treadmill decrease the amount of impact on the body in comparison to the pavement.  In extremely hot or cold climates, walking on an indoor track or inside a shopping mall can prevent overheating of core temperature which may lead to birth defects.

Recommendations by Trimester

Tri 1: Almost anything is acceptible except contact sports.  Avoid surpassing 140 bpm on your heart rate for any activity.  It’s best to avoid any sit-ups or crunches or any similar exercise.

Tri 2: Reduce the amount of activities that have impact.  Jogging may need to transform into walking.  Golf may need to remain and chipping and putting.  Tennis may need to shift from volleying with a partner to hitting balls against the wall while remaining fairly stationary.  Martial artists should avoid kicks higher than the knee, jumping, and any strikes in the region of the belly.

Tri 3: Stick with walking, yoga, pilates, stretching, and swimming.  Martial artists should stick to walking through kata, hyungs, or forms and no high speed or sharp movements.

Light weight lifting throughout pregnancy is helpful to keep muscles tone and strong for delivery and eventually holding and carrying a baby.  Upper body weight lifting as well as deep knee squats (no weight or very light weight) and lunges are excellent, low-impact exercises which can be maintained throughout pregnancy.

Contraindications

The best advice for staying healthy during pregnancy is to use common sense and to listen to your body.  If you’re tired, rest.  If a more significant warning arises, stop exercise and contact your health care provider immediately.

Warning signs include: unusual bleeding, spotting, heavy breathing, dizziness, headache, chest pain, feeling decreased fetal movement.

Contraindications to exercise include:

multiple gestation, significant history of miscarriages or premature births, and autoimmune diseases, pregnancy-induced hypertension, premature rupture of membranes, pre-term labor in previous pregnancies, placenta previa, and fetal growth retardation.

General Sport Guidelines

Recommended

  • Cycling – great in early pregnancy, however, balance problems could result in later pregnancy
  • Swimming – it’s been shown to increase the mother’s fitness without any risk to the woman or fetus
  • Water aerobics – may reduce pregnancy-induced low back pain even more than a land-based physical exercise program
  • Weight lifting – it helps to strengthen the postural muscles and maintain muscle tone.  As ligaments and tendons loosen during pregnancy, there is an increased risk for sprains.  So, proceed with caution and stick with light weights and high reps.

Discouraged:

  • Scuba diving – increased risk to fetus due to inability to filter bubble formation
  • Contact sports
    • Baseball
    • Basketball
    • Ice hockey
    • Soccer
    • Martial arts sparring
  • High-impact sports
    • jumping rope
    • long-distance running
    • sprinting
  • Sports with high risk for falling
    • gymnastics
    • horseback riding
    • mountain climbing
    • raquet sports
    • skating
    • skiing

Resource: Schetchikova, N. Like running with weights. ACAnews. June 2008. p. 26-8.

42 Weeks of Pregnancy . . . Now I Know Why

Calvin was a 42-week baby. We didn’t miscalculate the due date, although there is definitely room for error. When my midwife checked him out, she noted that he was definitely at 42 weeks and he would’ve been content hanging out in the womb for yet another week.

Why, oh why was that the case? I did every natural induction method that I could find and yet, he stubbornly stayed where he was.

The answer, I suspected, was because of my super awesome and potent pre-natal vitamins. An article recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics confirms my suspicions.

I was taking some uber-loaded DHA all throughout pregnancy. Turns out it’s not only important post-partum while you’re breastfeeding baby, but it’s actually the most beneficial during the 3rd trimester. Oh, and it causes a longer gestation period.

J.L. Jacobson, et al. found that increased levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are associated with increased visual acuity, heightened cognitive and motor development in infants in their first 11 months, according to a study of more than 100 children and their moms. By the way, the DHA also causes longer gestation period (sorry, mom!).

The authors concluded that DHA is a critically important fatty acid during the third trimester. It enhances the formation and development of nerve receptors and photoreceptors in baby’s brain and spinal cord. Smart baby, healthy baby, long pregnancy.

Minimum requirements of DHA for nursing moms is 400 mg.  During pregnancy, I was getting close to 1000 mg per day.

40 Weeks + 8 days of gestation

Lord, give me patience to persevere this seemingly endless journey of waddling, groin pains when sitting, standing, or doing anything, clothes not fitting, center of balance totally jacked up, jarring abdomen, constantly using the bathroom, and fitful sleep.   May it all end abruptly and memorably with a sweet little baby in arms by tomorrow’s end.  Amen.