Monday, January 23, 2012

Part 3: A look at how I believe my changing diet with each pregnancy has affected my children and the pregnancies themselves. (pregnancy #3)

This is the third post in this series.  To read about my other pregnancies check out the links below.

Pregnancy #3
My daughter who is almost 2

After my son was born I made some drastic changes in my diet. Falling in love with a brand new baby and realizing that they completely rely on you for everything and you are essentially the starting block for their health for the rest of their lives, can do that to you!

I started on the road to making my food from scratch and began spending a great deal of time researching nutrition. The Weston A. Price Foundation was a huge help in the beginning part of that journey. At the time they were one of the only organizations who stepped away from typical Western medicine and diet to look at how much our eating habits have changed over time and whether those changes have actually benefited us. I'd highly recommend reading up on Dr. Price and his research. While I think it's important to state that I do not adhere to all of the WAPF beliefs, it has been a very helpful guide. I also learned quite a bit from the book The Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin. An excellent read and to this day has caused me to evaluate my eating habits through the Word of God. The Bible has a lot to say about what is wise to eat and not. Some of the information involves the laws given to the Jews in the Old Testament. While in the New Testament Jesus did away with those laws, that doesn't mean there wasn't a truly good reason that God had the Jews eat in a certain way. They were known for their good health and strength. I don't believe God gives laws and rules just to make life difficult. Instead I think they are always because He knows what is best for us, as the truly perfect Father that He is. This pregnancy was the beginning of me recognizing that eating God's way, with food, made by Him and not altered by man through genetic modification, commercial processing, over planting causing for the need of pesticides, herbicides and so forth, was the way that would make my family and my body healthy and strong. It frankly came down to recognizing that God does know best and man doesn't.

In this pregnancy I ate a more balanced diet including less processed grains, drinking organic raw milk from healthy, grass-fed cows, eating pasture and free-range meat and eggs, taking cod liver oil, and now enjoying fresh made fermented foods like sauerkraut and worked in a weekly helping of cow or chicken liver, BUT a couple of things I did really love still were sweets, especially at night, and my carbs. The more I ate of either the more I wanted of both. My cravings weren't quite as bad in this pregnancy, at least not for fast food hamburgers, because, I feel that my body was getting more adequate nutrition with the far more balanced diet that I was eating, yet I was still eating a lot of food. The holidays were a bit rough during this pregnancy and I put on 10 lbs. between Thanksgiving and New Years. Oops! The midwife was a bit concerned about such a significant weight gain in my second trimester in just 4 weeks. What can I say other than my husband and my family can make some good food and there were far too many desserts to indulge in! :-)

Overall this pregnancy was much easier. I didn't have the major cramping I did with the first and after the "fun" first trimester (well the "fun" at it's worse stopped around 16 weeks) with morning sickness and tiredness, I overall felt good. Morning sickness in this pregnancy was far more severe than with my first. This may be because of the different sexes of my children affecting me differently and maybe not.

Once again I set off with the hopes to have an "all-natural" pregnancy, but those hopes started to wain when it was once again recommended that I have an early ultrasound, because the babies heartbeat couldn't be found (I was about 12 weeks into the pregnancy). My midwife said she was going out of town the next week and really thought it would be a good idea I have an ultrasound to make sure the baby was okay before she left. I couldn't help but feel a bit anxious when the heartbeat couldn't be found, even after my experience with my son, so I went ahead and followed her recommendation. In the end our little girl was perfectly fine, not a huge surprise.

Around 20 weeks we had our second ultrasound. During this one they saw that I might have partial placenta previa. At the time my midwife was gone so I was seeing a regular doctor and he was insistent that I have another ultrasound in a month or two to make sure the placenta previa had corrected itself. There was honestly no way to get around it. The guy was not friendly and was already irked at me for not wanting to take birth control pills after the pregnancy. I saw this doctor one time and I don't think I was 5 minutes into the appointment before he started talking to me about how to not get pregnant after the birth of this baby and to make sure I had birth control pills on hand. He did not even remotely agree with more natural methods of childbirth/pregnancy. I really wasn't too concerned about the previa, especially after a bit of research online where I found out a partial placenta previa like I had often corrected itself as the uterus would grow, yet I went ahead and had the third ultrasound feeling like I had little other choice. Even the technician admitted that this particular doctor was an ultrasound lover and that he wouldn't let it drop until I had another one. In the end, once again, everything checked out fine.

Towards the end of my second trimester I decided to look for a new midwife. While the midwife group I had been going to was far better than the doctors I had gone to in my first pregnancy, I still felt that there was little difference between them and a regular doctor. I wanted someone who could answer some of my questions about health related issues and I also wanted someone who would know more about alternative birthing and allowed for a water birth. This time I had a friend who had used a midwifery group she had really loved. While they were still very mainstream with their approach to birthing, they did do water births and they were a bit more knowledgeable about nutrition and it's direct affect on different issues in pregnancy. I made the switch and was more than happy I did. My experience with these midwives was far more what I was wanting and the birth itself, which I'll share about in a moment, went far more smoothly.

Around 30 weeks I began to have contraction, like I had in my first pregnancy. This was disappointing, but I had learned that irritable uterus contraction tend to only get worse with each pregnancy. What's so difficult with these contraction is they can be very powerful and painful, so it can be hard to discern if you are actually starting early labor or not, at least that was how it was for me. I had contractions every 10 minutes to every hour for the rest of my pregnancy. It was difficult to keep myself calm when they were only 10 minutes apart. We did go and get checked on several occasions and once we actually went to the hospital thinking I was in labor, but in the end things were okay. Our daughter was fine, her heartbeat was strong. Around 32- 34 weeks I went on partial bed rest again. The midwives wanted to make sure I didn't go into early labor. Bed rest the first time around wasn't too big of a deal. I simply took it easy, but bed rest when you have a very active 2 year old is a whole different story. Thankfully a friend of mine was so kind to help out by taking my son to play with her son once a week. This let him get rid of some of his pent up energy, much needed since it was late winter. My husband also helped with meals and cleaning, which was another wonderful blessing. Around 37 weeks I decided to forgo bed rest. I honestly don't know that I feel it did any good (I still question the benefits of bed rest), plus I kept thinking about the 100 things I wanted/needed to do and all the meals I wanted to get made and put in the freezer for those days of pure exhaustion from lack of sleep that I knew were coming.

It's hard to say exactly when I went in labor with this pregnancy. The contraction I had been having in the third trimester were very intense for several days before I went into active labor. The day of our daughter's due date was a Sunday, I wasn't feeling good and had been up since midnight with painful contractions, but still didn't know if it was the real thing or not, so we headed to Sunday morning church. I wondered if I had made a big mistake in going once we were there. I simply didn't feel good, however, I'm so glad in the end that I did, because I remember it being a wonderful sermon and it really lifted my spirits for the day. We headed home and had a nice lunch with my parents, who had come into town to watch our son when we went to the hospital. By about 2:00 PM I decided that, "hmmm, I think this is the real thing". In no time at all the contraction went from being very uncomfortable do down right extremely painful. We headed to the hospital, which was a 40 minute drive and got there around 4 PM. I remember when they checked to see if I was dilated I told them they better not tell me I'm only 2 cm (which is what I had been for weeks), but no they did not. I was 5 cm and was truly in active labor.

This birth experience with my daughter was about as opposite of when I had my son as things could get. The hospital we went to was far more tranquil and I actually didn't see any other people except for a couple of nurses. This was a relief. When we had my son the hospital was incredibly busy. I remember being in my room hearing one woman after another giving birth and then a baby crying. It was frustrating when my own birth wasn't progressing. With the much quieter setting of this hospital I felt calmer and more at peace about the whole birth process that was ahead of me. Once they saw that I was in active labor they moved me to a birthing room where there was a birthing tub. In this room there was only my husband, one nurse and the midwife. The midwife turned the lights down and my husband put on some music (we brought our ipod with us, Chicane was a favorite that day). The whole setting was extremely relaxing. I used the birthing tub for a couple of hours, although in the end decided to get out. The tub was fairly deep and I couldn't keep my body from floating. For me this made the contraction far more difficult to endure, because I really wanted to hold onto something and feel more grounded. Once I got out of the tub, labor went into full force and I believe my daughter was born within the hour.

This time I went through the birth naturally. Oh there were numerous times when I said to the midwife and my husband I wasn't sure if I could do it (in case some of you didnt' realize it, giving birth is extremely painful), but both of them encouraged me and said I was strong and would be fine. It's good to have words of encouragement like this when you body is racked with pain. When it was finally time to push, one of the coolest things I remember is how much my body knew how to do on it's own. It was eye opening. With my son's birth and having the epidural they had to tell me to do everything, because for the most part I couldn't feel much. This time around, while I was in a lot of pain, it was a good pain in it's own way, because I knew that it would result in a beautiful baby girl. With only 2-3 pushes by daughter was born. That simple. Completely natural. Completely exhilarating!

Our less than 1 day old little girl.
I immediately held our precious little girl to my chest and within minutes of being born she could lift her head and turn it from side to side. She was strong! Probably within 15 minutes the midwife encouraged me to try and nurse her, again so different than with my son who was taken away soon after birth because they wanted to get his fever down. My daughter latched on perfectly, with virtually no effort on my part and wouldn't let go! She nursed/suckled for a solid hour before she stopped. Overall I felt great after the birth and once my daughter stopped nursing I got up and took a shower. I wasn't in pain, I wasn't dead tired, life was good. I could simply enjoy being a mom to a brand new baby and share those amazing first hours with my husband.

The hospital was far more laid back. They didn't weigh or measure our daughter or anything else until about 12-18 hours after she was born. This gave me a lot of time to bond with her right away. Something I will always cherish. With my son, the hospital actually encouraged us to take advantage of putting our child in the nursery so we could get sleep. I was dead tired and took them up on their offer, but truly wish I hadn't now. Those first hours and even months are very important for the bonding of the mother and child. Your newborn should be right by you as much as possible. Plus, I truly question what it does to a new infants immune system when they are suddenly out of the warm, safe environment of the mother's womb, to being around many strangers and other babies in a nursery.

Where I had to really push to get food when I had my son, the nurses this time brought me food right away, even though the cafeteria was closed. They were extremely helpful in making sure we were comfortable and relaxed. I don't believe there was ever more than one nurse in our room at a time, which made for a much calmer atmosphere. Another positive is we chose to not do vitamin K or the eye gel, we also let the midwives know that we weren't going to be immunizing. When a pediatrician saw us the day after our son was born, she actually got very angry with us when we told her we weren't going to be immunizing him. She went so far as to say that doctors wouldn't want to see us and that we were harming him (this is where being well informed will give you far more confidence to speak to a doctor who thinks you know nothing). Now with our daughter, when the pediatrician came in to see her, we told him our line of reason, he didn't berate us, but instead encouraged us to be active about making sure our daughter got plenty of vitamin D so she could maintain a healthy immune system. We told him we would be giving her fermented cod liver oil down the line (cod liver oil is an excellent, natural source of vitamin D.) He seemed to appreciate that we weren't just saying no to immunizations and that was that, but instead we were taking an active approach to make sure we could boost her immune system in every place we could. We had a wonderful and relaxed conversation with him and were able to discuss other ways to help keep our daughter healthy. 

The Breakdown

Weight gained:
~50 lbs

Tiredness, more extreme nausea and had an especially difficult time with motion (driving in the car was quite horrible during the first trimester), cravings were less but I wanted plenty of sweets and carbs, irritable uterus (which caused contraction starting at 30 weeks)

Whole food vitamins, fermented cod liver oil

Birth date: 
Active labor started on due date around lunch time and our daughter was born early evening

Labor started: 

Length of labor: 
A little harder to know with this one, but active labor was about 6-8 hours long

Birth location: 
At a hospital with a midwife (different hospital and midwife than birth with son)

I stayed at home until the contraction were getting very painful and were about 5 minutes apart. We had about a 40 minutes drive to make to get to the hospital this time, so we wanted to give ourselves time to get there. My husband had NO desire to deliver a baby in the car!
For the first part of labor I was in a birthing tub, but after a couple of hours got out and the labor went into full gear at that point. This time I did everything completely natural and while it was an extremely painful process it was also amazingly cool. It was truly eye opening to see how much my body knew how to do without needing any help from a midwife or doctor. A complete different experience than my first birth. Everything went smoothly and my daughter was born perfectly healthy. No need for a episiotomy and I didn't tear.  

After birth: 
My daughter went straight to my arms and never left them except for my husband to hold her. She started nursing almost immediately and didn't stop for an hour. Within 2 hours of giving birth I was up, taking a shower and feeling great. 

Daughter's birth weight: 
8lbs 2oz

The First Year and Going Forward 

Our daughter was active in the womb (I joked that she just might give me some internal bruises from all of her kicking) and a strong and healthy baby girl with a very good appetite when she was born. None of this changed with her in the months to follow. At her first check-up at the pediatrician she had actually already surpassed her birth weight in just 2 days. Typically, newborns lose up to about a pound after they are born, which they gain back in the following days afterwords. Our daughter never loss that weight and the pediatrician was honestly shocked that she was at such an excellent weight so soon after being born. Within a couple weeks of her birth she was downing 4-5 ounces of pumped breast milk in one sitting and in only about 10 minutes. That's a lot of milk for such a little girl (normal is around 2 ounces at that stage). We tried to only give her a couple ounces of milk, but she would have none of that and would scream until we fed her more. I was actually nursing her for the most part, but gave her a bottle of breast milk once a day to simply encourage her to want the bottle so my husband could help feed her sometimes. 

At four weeks we took our little girl in for a routine check-up and the pediatrician felt a clicking in her hip and wanted us to take her to an orthopedic specialist to see if she may have hip dysplasia. Wanting to do what was best we did as the doctor told us. After having to get an ultrasound done and seeing the specialist, we were told that while her hip socket wasn't as deep as it could be, she was still very young and the problem of the clicking and the depth of the socket could correct itself in another couple of weeks. He felt that letting her get to 6-8 weeks old may give us a clearer idea if there was going to be a real issue that would need to be corrected. We went back in and had another ultrasound done and found out that she was totally fine. I wish we had not subjected our newborn to the ultrasounds, but it's a hard call when you are put into that position and at the time we didn't know that her being just a bit older could correct the problem. 

I ran into the same problems with nursing when my daughter was 3 months old as I had with my son. It was extremely disheartening. This time I didn't give rice cereal as a first food, but instead chose egg yolk. I also froze a lot of breast milk early on when my milk production was at it's highest and was able to give her an extra bottle or two of milk each day. This helped us get through this difficult time of me not producing enough milk to satisfy her hunger. I don't believe there was ever a weight issue with her, but she did start waking up more frequently during the night and wanted to nurse a lot more, plus I could tell my milk supply had gone way down. This is something I want to do a lot more research on for our third child, especially since my mother had the same problem, but actually couldn't nurse my brother or me at all after 3 months. In the end as we were able to increase the amount of solids in her diet, she was able to be satisfied and I then had enough milk for her and was ultimately able to nurse her until she was 18 months old.

Moving forward. While our daughter was overall healthy, she did suffer from colds, several minor ear infections and one bout of a rather bad stomach bug/flu. Interestingly enough, when I took her to the doctor for the stomach bug, it was there that the pediatrician mentioned she had her first minor ear infection. She wanted to have us give our daughter medicine for the ear infection, but then hesitated because of the stomach bug she was dealing with. I already knew that the medicine they give children for ear infections actually often does more harm than good, because it kills the extremely beneficial gut flora that is needed to keep a strong immune system. This is one reason why children who have one ear infection tend to have more and more severe ones after the first, that often lead to parents putting tubes in the children's ears. In reality what the children are needing is help healing their gut after the ear infection medicine is given so that gut can properly do its job. Knowing some of the information I did, I decided to be persistent and questioned the doctor about her hesitation with giving a prescription for the ear infection. It was obvious this conversation made her very uncomfortable and it was like she was telling me some secret that no one was supposed to know about. In the end she admitted exactly what I knew already. Where the problem came in with my daughter is that her stomach and gut was already dealing with one issue with the stomach bug/flu, to then give her medicine for her ear that could kill the beneficial bacteria in the gut could actually make her far sicker, because her body wouldn't be able to protect itself properly if her gut wasn't as healthy as possible. It was honestly a very interesting, all-be-it short conversation and proved that doctors know more than they tell us and all the "excellent" medicines out there, just might not be so excellent after all. 

Within a couple of days our daughter was over the stomach bug and her ear infection seemed to be gone. We never did give her anything other than a bit of over the counter infant ibuprofen (something I actually now do my best to avoid using). She has continued to have more issues with colds and minor ear infections, something my son never dealt with to the same extent. I continue to look into why this is and ways that I can help encourage her immune system to become stronger. It may partially be because of her love to put things in her mouth. Anything and everything. I have often questioned and probably don't even want to know what bacteria she has put into her body by the many foreign items she's chosen to make food or simply play with in her mouth. No matter how much you try to protect them, if they like to put things in their mouths, they are going to.

With our daughter's diet, I made virtually everything from scratch, using local, organic foods and we did not introduce grains until she was over one. Besides introducing her to egg yolks around 4 months, later we also gave her organic, raw milk from grass-fed cows, healthy cow/chicken liver pate, baby custard (so awesome), plenty of veggies, fruit and homemade raw milk yogurt and kefir. She has shown no signs of food allergies, except that I still question what may be giving her some issues with the minor, occasional ear infections. One of the things I've also noticed is that by me eating a more varied, healthy diet while I was pregnant and nursing, she was far more open to a greater variety of foods. You can research this topic, but there is support in the belief that a mother's diet while pregnant and nursing does have a great deal of influence on what a child will be willing to eat as they mature.

Our daughter continues to be healthy and active. All of her teeth that have come in are a beautiful white, and nice and straight. She also seems to have great hearing and excellent eye sight, just going by what she seems to be able to observe and hear on a daily basis. While not the talker that my son was, she has plenty of words to say, but tends to reserve them more for just when she's at home and instead shows her strength in a far more kinetic way. She was the early climber, earlier walker and has been able to undress herself fairly well, put on her own shoes and socks and so forth far earlier than our son. 

Wrapping it up

While a second birth is most typically easier than the first, because our body does know better what to do, I firmly believe that my diet change played its roll in the ease of the birth and the overall health of my daughter in her first days of life. I honestly felt great after giving birth and the days going forward, although did get very sick a little less than a week after giving birth (I'll share a little more about this in my next post). The fact that my daughter is also not struggling with grain allergies like my son is significant to me. While I understand that all children are different and won't share the same issues, food allergies are becoming more and more common in our culture and I'm certainly happy that my daughter is not struggling with them like my son. Many people who have changed their diet have seen their allergies/intolerance go completely or almost completely away (more on this topic on another day).

I have one last post to share in this series. This will be about my current pregnancy, which I'm 23 weeks into and cover our new birth plans. It will also wrap up some final thoughts. Stay tuned! 


  1. These stories have been interesting to read, especially because I have had similar experiences. My first daughter was conceived and gestated on my terrible diet, which was vegetarian and high in processed food. Since she was my first, though, she got the benefits of my body's stores and has been very healthy, has a broad face, but has a smaller mouth and jaw with teeth not spaced enough. My second baby, who came 5 years afterward, was conceived with WAPF food and serious effort. She was born strong and robust, but has a narrower face, a weaker immune system--but has amazing teeth with space between each tooth! It has been an interesting experiment and has shown me the power of both genetics and diet. I look forward to hearing about your current pregnancy. My birth stories are posted on my blog if you want to read them. Take care, Lisa

  2. Lisa, I checked out your birth stories on your site and it's interesting how similar our experiences have been. Your story was wonderful to read!


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