Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Home Birth

It’s said that every birth is different. This is true. A woman who’s given birth more than twice knows this as well. Just like her children will be different, how they choose to enter the world will be different. The great unknown, of course, is the degree of that difference. And with the unknown can come fear.

Despite having successfully birthed two beautiful children naturally before, as my third pregnancy came to a close I found myself feeling anxious and fearful of the process for a variety of reasons.

While I strove to deal with my feelings, I was comforted by the fact that I had never had a pregnancy that was shorter than 41 weeks. I assumed I had at least until then to prepare myself as emotionally as I had prepared physically.

We had chosen to birth our son in the comfort of our own home and with that decision came preparations commonly provided by most hospital birthing wards. As our birthing stock grew and grew the spare bedroom in our home was looking less and less like a bedroom and more and more like a childbirthing stock room.

There wasn’t a contingency we hadn’t planned for. By 38 weeks I was more than physically ready to have my baby (including an emergency birth kit I was encouraged to keep in my car), all of my social commitments came to a close and I had nothing to do but sit and wait for the moment my baby would arrive.

I took this time to not-so-productively stew in my anxiety and finally to determine to do something about it by re-reading some of the more positive childbirthing books I had stocked up on over the years, talk with supportive friends and my midwife. I knew that fear and anxiety could negatively effect my birth, stall or even reverse the labor process and cause any number of complications. I would not let that happen.

I was determined to be rid of all anxiety by the time of birth which, by my 39th week, I assumed was at least two weeks away.

On the morning of Sunday, June 8th, I was 39 weeks, 4 days along in my pregnancy. Nothing much of anything was happening and my husband, John, asked me if it was okay if he took the afternoon off to take some time for himself and go see a movie knowing that he’d probably not get the chance for a while once baby arrived.

I told him that was fine and we spent the morning finishing cleaning the house and by noon I felt I needed to rest. I was happy that after two babies I’d finally learned to listen to my very pregnant intuition. When my body said to rest I didn’t talk myself out of it, I rested.

I applied an essential oil blend called Peace and Calming to my shoulder, Lavender to my legs and Orange to my palms and slept peacefully until around three in the afternoon when John had said he’d wanted to leave for his “Daddy Day Off.”

After he left I promised the kids I would make them grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner and upon looking in the refrigerator I found we were out of cheese.

I loaded up my daughter into the stroller and my son on his tricycle and we were off to the local grocery store where we picked up cheese, a watermelon and chocolate chips under the premise the after dinner we would all have a good time making chocolate chip cookies before it was time to go to bed.

The bag of chocolate chips would remains unopened. The cookies never happened.

After the ham and cheese sandwiches I leaned across the table to start cleaning up the dishes when I felt a gush of fluid.

Greatly annoyed by the possibility that I may have wet myself I ran to the bathroom where I discovered this fluid was just not stopping.

It began to occur to me that my water may have broken.

Included in all of the medical supplies in my spare bedroom was an amino-fluid test and I rushed into the room, searching through the supplies until I found it. But in that time the fluid that continued to come soaked through a pad and a towel. Even when I found the test I was pretty sure taking it was moot at that point.

I called my midwife. She didn’t answer her phone.

I called John. He didn’t answer his phone.

I called my birthing assistant. She didn’t answer her phone.

My neck felt hot with anxiety and I had to remind myself that I was not contracting and labor could be hours if not days away. There was no need to panic.

Shortly after my internal pep talk my phone rang and I was greatly comforted to see it was John calling me back.

“My water just broke,” I told him.

“Are you serious?” he said with the tone that had far less excitement than disbelief in it.

“Yes. You aren’t in the middle of your movie, are you?”

“I was just watching the previews when I saw you called.” He sighed an ironic but amused sort of sigh. “I’ll be on my way home.”

I wanted to tell him to go ahead and stay and that I would call him when labor started but not knowing when that might be or how fast it might go I was happy to have him coming home.

I spent the next few minutes calling everyone else on the birthing team—the babysitter, photographer and midwife's assistant—to let them know that while I was not actively in labor it was bound to start sooner rather than later and I would let them know what my midwife said when I talked to her.

John got home a little after seven to find his very pregnant, agitated wife just sitting in the living room. He busied himself with getting the birthing tub out and inflating it, arranging the furniture the midwife thought would be best and once that was all complete my midwife finally called back.

She asked me if I wanted her to come and check on me or if I wanted her to wait until I felt labor had started. Knowing that labor could start any time and that with broken waters comes the possibility the umbilical cord could have descended and gotten pinched I told her I would feel much better if she at least came down to check on me and baby.

She agreed and said she’d be on her way.

My birthing assistant also called back and said she’d be on her way as did the other midwife and birthing assistant.

That being done there was nothing left to do but sit and wait and with that came the tidal wave of my anxiety. This was happening. I didn’t feel ready and it was here.

I started to cry.

John assured me that everything was going to be fine. That I would rock this birth like I’d rocked the others and there was nothing to worry about.

He massaged my favorite essential oil blends of Valor and Release into my shoulder’s and neck and told me to relax on the couch while he put in a movie to distract the kids.

He also started diffusing Peace and Calming and Lavender into the living room.

By the time my midwife and her assistant arrived I was feeling much better. Still nothing was happening on the labor front. I was annoyed with the continued feeling of wetting myself and restless.

She listened to the baby and felt his position. She assured me that he was in a good position for birth and sounded perfectly healthy. She asked me what I wanted to do and I said I felt very restless. I wanted to move.

She suggested I get dressed do just that.

As I got dressed John got the kids into bed and we went out for a stroll around the block. We walked and talked about every day things and I felt better.

While we walked my birth assistant arrived and when we came back my midwife checked baby again and again asked me what I wanted to do.

It was now going on 10 at night and still nothing was happening labor-wise. I was feeling watched, pressured and anxious again.

I told her I was feeling it was necessary to be alone and that I wanted to go upstairs to my room and rest.

Once again she said if that was what my body was telling me to do then that was exactly what I should do.

She had asked me not to use any essential oils that might have labor inducing properties in them until she got there and now that she was here and labor still didn’t seem to be happening I asked her if it was okay to use the labor blend I had made up with at least two labor inducing oils in it.

She said that was fine and so John and I went upstairs where he applied the labor blend to my ankles and more Peace and Calming to my shoulders.

He turned down the lights and asked me if I wanted him to stay or go.

I told him he was the only one I wanted around and to stay so he lay beside me and promptly fell fast asleep.

In a matter of minutes after he started to snore I felt relaxed, calm and at peace. The house was quiet and the contractions started but in a way I had never expected.

They were irregular and didn’t seem strong enough to be what would conventionally considered “active labor.” When I felt one starting, as long as I remained relaxed and calm they didn’t hurt in the least, but if I fought them at all they would start to get uncomfortable.

I resigned myself, then, to simply relaxing and breathing through these contractions that would come in waves of two or three and then maybe one and at no particular time interval.

As a result, I was not at all convinced that I was actually in labor.

I wasn’t sure how long this went on for but after what seemed like quite some time I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. I woke John and we went downstairs and I was very happy and excited to see everyone.

After going to the bathroom the midwife asked me how I felt. I reported to her that I was, indeed, contracting but that I wasn’t at all convinced that I was in labor because the contractions were so irregular and didn’t hurt as long as I was relaxed.

While we talked I started to have another contraction and simply laid down on the couch, breathed and relaxed through it and was at once up and talking again after it was done.

I laughed and joked with my birthing assistant and the assistant midwife and only when a contraction came on would I lie down and rest and be right back up laughing and joking.

There was only a few moments of this before I was told later that my personality completely changed. I went from being bubbly and talkative to very solemn and focused.

My midwife at once told the attendants to start filling the birthing tub.

At the same time I felt a huge increase in the quality of my contractions and a difficulty in relaxing through them. I felt a panic I usually only feel during transition but, again, I was not at all even convinced that my labor had started!

I thought, “If this is only the beginning of my labor, I am in for the longest night of my life and I am going to have to find a new way to cope!”

Because my water had been broken a cervical check had not been done but I needed to know how I was progressing. I asked my midwife to check me.

She did and announced that I was 8 cm and definitely transitioning.

I couldn’t believe it! At the same time, I recognized that “transition” feeling.

I wanted desperately to get into the water but it wasn’t ready and as I started to fidget my husband asked my birth assistant to apply more Valor to my back, another blend called Common Sense to my forehead and a back labor blend of essential oils to my back even though I wasn’t having any real back labor.

I immediately recognized the grounding aromas of the Common Sense and felt calmed.

As soon as the water was to the required temperature my midwife said I could get in and I was thrilled to finally be in the comforting warmth of the tub. I held onto the side, my belly hanging into the water and immediately started to feel urges to push.

John climbed into the tub behind me and continued to rub my back. His constant presence and attention to me was like a rock that anchored me. His hands responded to me as I tensed and relaxed and I didn’t even have to tell him what I needed before he would adjust pressure, call for an oil or encourage me. Despite the activity around us, he was all I wanted or needed.

The assistant midwife checked baby’s heartbeat and all was well.

My goal was to gently nudge my baby into the world. I was afraid of the almost explosive delivery I had experienced with my daughter and wanted, instead, to have a gentler, calmer decent.

I was encouraged when I felt him nudge into the birth canal and then breathed him through a few more pushes down further.

At that moment there was a pause. I was more than happy for the break but feeling anxiety rise in me once again.

John called for more Common Sense and it was promptly applied to my forehead and I called to my birthing assistant and asked her to pray.

She knelt beside me, took my hands in hers and started the most beautiful prayer. She declared God’s blessing on me and the birth. I don’t remember everything she said but it was filled with affirmations of blessings and God’s power.

As she prayed I felt that same surge I had felt shortly before Olivia’s birth. I tried to fight it and screamed but there was no stopping or slowing it. And hindsight being what it is, the last thing I should have done was fight. I would have been better of to surrender to it.

Either way, baby was not deterred. He (as my midwife would later say) swam right out of me.

I heard the midwife ask John if he would like to receive the baby and he did. My birth assistant thanked God and told me how beautiful our boy was.

I heard him cry.

I heard all the fawning and oohing and ahhing going on over him but I was still having the raging surge going through my body and needed time to come down from that no matter how much I also wanted to see my baby.

Time of birth was called at 12:59 am, June 9th.

In a few moments I was composed enough to be helped around and handed my little boy and immediately he stopped crying as he nestled into my arms, blinked his eyes and worked his hands and mouth.

He was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful! He had a full head of dark hair and gorgeous blue eyes. He had the faintest resemblance to Olivia but his own unique jaw line, lips and nose. I was instantly in love, endeared and amazed.

They let me snuggle him a bit in the water when the midwife’s assistant came over and told me there’s been a little more blood than they’d like to have seen and just as a precaution the midwife wanted to give me a shot of pitocin in the arm.

After that they helped me out of the tub and onto the couch where I was encouraged to nurse and bond with my little boy.

The contractions were still coming but it seemed to take forever for the placenta to come. While we waited we were back to joking and laughing while the midwife or her assistant took my blood pressure and pulse regularly and monitored me and baby for signs of infection or blood loss.

When the cord stopped pulsing it was clamped and cut and baby was given to my husband so that we could all concentrate on delivering the placenta. 

My birth assistant applied Release to my abdomen and there was starting to be talk of starting an IV of pitocin when I finally delivered the placenta.

Everyone was relieved to see what I already knew. There was no additional bleeding whatsoever. My uterus had clamped down wonderfully.

The next step was to stitch some tearing and even while that was taking place we were still making jokes and generally enjoying the new, joyful energy of the room.

I watched in a love-struck stupor as John sat on the floor with his newborn son and rocked him to sleep, just staring down at him like the miracle he was.

The newborn assessment was done. And FINALLY, around 4 in the morning, everyone filed out of the house with lots of congratulations and the three of us climbed the stairs to our room where I calmed my excitement with Lavender, Peace and Calming and Orange oils, snuggled in with my new baby and fell fast asleep nursing him.

I woke hours later to the sound of chirping birds, the fresh spring breezes coming through the windows of my bedroom, the warmth and comfort of my own bed and the gentle breathing of my newborn.

I couldn’t imagine a more serene way to bring a baby into the world and spend our first moments together. No poking. No prodding. No beeping or doors slamming. No pages. No machines and no drugs. Just the sounds of our sleepy house and the spring around it. The smells of spring and frankincense from the blends that had been applied to me in labor.

Before long I heard the familiar footsteps of our eldest son in the hallway and his sleepy face appear in our door. He came to his Daddy’s side of the bed and I tapped John on the shoulder.

John said, “Hey, buddy. Guess what?”

His sleepy eyes focused, “What?”

“You’re brother is here.”


Knowing there was no place else a new baby would be, our son stood on his tip-toes to look over his Daddy’s shoulders at the space between us and saw his brother for the first time.

He made an, “OOH!” sound and promptly crawled over his Daddy and snuggled in next to his little brother and gentle touched his head and held his hand.

Once again, I couldn’t imagine any better way to meet a sibling.

I drifted off to sleep again with my two boys snuggled between myself and their amazing father while their sister still slept in her bed.

I couldn’t imagine a better family or birth.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The NingXia Red Project: Week 2

What a week!

There has been quite a lot going on and so it's been interesting to see how the NingXia Red (NR) has having an impact, if at all. Ultrasounds, chiropractor and midwife appointments, storms,... there was not much of a break. There has also been something we've been fighting in this house and I can't quite identify if it's been sinus, allergy or virus related. That being said, we started our week with lots of Thieves and R.C. being diffused and applied to everyone, including peppermint, lemon and lavender for my husband in addition to all of the blends being put on me to make me comfortable in my final weeks of my pregnancy.

To attempt to keep the sickness at bay I put a drop of Thieves in my NR on Tuesday and ooohh, heaven help me, it tasted absolutely TERRIBLE!!! YUCK!!! From then on it's just been on my feet, throat and spine. Although I did do a raccoon mask of R.C., Thieves and Peppermint when I felt like my sinuses were trying to kill me.

So, anyway, let's get down to it. How was my week.

1) Energy
My energy this week has been weird. With all the sickness and allergies going around there was a lot of up and down but, in general, my energy was good. I did start taking a second ounce of NR on those days when I would have a higher demand for my energy and it has definitely had an impact on how I feel.

On days that I've been out for long days walking and working in the yard I've been a bit more tired towards the evening but I guess that's to be expected when you are 35 weeks pregnant and getting out and about for the first time all season.

2) Digestion

My digestion has remained pretty regular this week. I also noticed that with the regularity in my digestion I don't seem to be getting as much heart burn. I don't have heartburn when not pregnant but not having it so bad in these last few weeks is nice, too.

3) Joint/Musculoskeletal
My aches and pains this week have increased. I've had one chiropractor appointment and my neck has been killing me. Although I'm not sure how much of that is actual aches and pains or sickness. I have a tendency to have a sore neck the day or two before I get really sick and so it could have been "just a neck ache" or it could have been my body fighting off an illness. I guess I'll never know!

4) Appetite
Still no cravings for sugar! I had an appointment with my midwife and she was pleased to hear that the NR has kept me off sugar and caffeine. She's excited to see how it will continue to work in these last 4 weeks!

5) Mental Acuity
I've had a lot of mental work this week and have felt very "normal."

6) Mood

My mood has GREATLY improved this week. It started out on Monday when I decided I was sick of being a crabby-puss. I was feeling very stressed and irritable and decided to have some bonding time with my bathtub and some Frankincense and Valor. I put 6 drops of Frankincense and 3-4 of Valor into Epsom salts and then into a warm bath.

I've never taken mood altering drugs in my life, but I can't imagine they could have any better of an effect than what that combination did for me. I felt so good. So relaxed and so... at peace. I got out of the bath smelling like Frankincense and couldn't stop talking about how good I felt. I went on about it so much that my husband opted to try it, too, and he got out of the bath saying how good he felt, too.

That was my "reset button" and I was determined to stay that way the rest of the week.

Tuesday, being one of my most stressful days of the week came and before the busiest time I went ahead and took another ounce of NR and dived in. I was so at peace with myself and my kids. I handled them like I always imagined a good mother would. I was gracious, patient and loving instead of crabby, demanding and abrasive. In response they were much less on edge and far more apt to settle down instead of counteract to Mom's sour attitude.

I also learned that Joy does wonderful things to my daughter's sour attitude. Good to know!

So now, when I know it's about to get busy and stressful I go ahead and take another ounce of NR and I can definitely tell that it helps buoy me through the stress and keep me from getting irritable and moody.

Which reminds me. It's 3pm on a Tuesday.. it's about to get real around here.. need to take my double dose.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The NingXia Red Project: Week 1

One week down. Three to go.

I have kept a daily diary, but instead of doing a daily blog I decided it would be easier to do a weekly summary.

I said in the previous blog (the before assessment) that I would be evaluating six different areas of my life while on NingXia Red (NR).

Those areas were as follows:

1) Energy
For starters, let me say that I drank only one ounce every morning after waking up. This was usually somewhere between 7am and 9am.

One thing I did try to do this week as well was stay off of caffeine. As I said in the "before" blog, I don't drink a lot of caffeine, but I wanted to make sure my "results" weren't altered by other products so I tried to avoid caffeine this week. I did really well until Thursday when I had a Starbucks Vanilla Macchiato (Small (or "Tall")); Saturday night, when I had just a few sips of my husband's Coca-Cola and Sunday morning when I treated myself to some coffee.

Other than that, my beverage choices were all water, herbal (non-caffeinated) tea, or lemonaide.

My energy was very average. I did not feel as though I was more energized or less. On Thursday morning, after drinking a mug of orange spice tea, I got a little nauseous, laid down and ended up napping for an hour or so. That night our daughter decided to wake up at 4am and spent a few hours keeping me awake. The result was that on Friday I was tired. I had an early morning and a few appointments and some shopping I needed to do and on the way home I felt very exhausted.

I've continued to sleep well (when my daughter isn't up at 4am), despite my progressing pregnancy which, I'm sure is a large factor in my balanced energy level as well.

2) Digestion
For being someone who has chronic constipation, I have been pleased that my digestion this week has been very normal. Not like clockwork or anything and some days have been more.. um... comfortable than others. There was only one day in the entire week I did not use the facilities for.. well, you know.

3) Joint/Musculoskeletal
This is hard for me to gauge as with each week my baby grows which can contribute to discomfort and aches and pains. That being said, I've been fairly comfortable. I was able to take a couple of long walks this week and head out to the park with the kids and was not experiencing any quantifiable "pain."

I had a chiropractor's appointment on Friday which actually made things a little uncomfortable for the afternoon but, in general, I feel pretty good for being 34 weeks pregnant.

4) Appetite
I have not been craving sugar like I normally do. While pregnant I seem to have a serious sweet tooth. I crave doughnuts and chocolate and "candy" or sweet drinks at least a couple of times a week even if I deny myself and don't indulge. Throughout the week I only indulged in one doughnut and my coffee and have not felt as many cravings for those things otherwise.

And despite cutting out coffee and my usual intakes of sugar I did notice I experienced no withdrawal headaches or increased cravings.

5) Mental Acuity
I have not felt mentally overwhelmed this week. I've been able to perform mental tasks (including genuine mathematical questions) with relative ease and without feeling stressed or mentally taxed. Reading has been enjoyable and easy to understand. Currently I am reading a book on the psychological development of children and how their brain physiology and training in infancy may effect their long-term development, behavior and psychology. Despite the "heavier" subject matter, I have not felt I've needed to go back and reread to understand as is sometimes necessary when I'm feeling foggy or confused.

6) Mood
My mood has not improved. I can't say it's gotten worse, but it has definitely NOT improved. I always start out my mornings very happy, interactive, energized and tolerable. By the evening I find myself irritated, impatient a bit stressed and anxious (particularly toward the evening). We have two days a week when my son has school, then taekwondo, I go for my long walk with my daughter, my husband has taekwondo and doesn't get home until after 9pm, I have class (that my children have to attend with me since my husband is in class and therefore I have to keep them (somehow) quiet and calm for that hour or so) and I also need to do some shopping and keep the kids corralled, fed and from killing one another despite them being out past their bed time.

Try though I may not to snap at them and to keep a cool, calm approach to those busy times, there is a level of stress and therefore moodiness that I can't seem to avoid on those days and I cannot say I am the mother I would like to be in those moments. 

It was suggested to me that I should try taking a second ounce of NR on those days just before the busiest part of my day and I may implement that advice this upcoming week.

Overall, I'm neither hugely impressed nor disappointed. I do believe it is helping with digestion and a bit in clearing the fog when it comes to mental things but that might also be explained by my healthier diet avoiding sugars which I can attribute to not craving them as much while on NR. I'm feeling good and going to keep this up and see how it goes in the coming weeks. I have a number of appointments next week in addition to my regular schedule so I'm hoping I can keep my energy and mood elevated despite the busy schedule.

One change I would like to implement for next week (and the following weeks) is to drink more water in the afternoon. I have a nagging suspicion that a lot of my stress and moodiness in the afternoon comes from a lack of nutrients and hydration. I may try not adding any more food but an additional ounce of NR and a lot more water and see how my mood on those busy days is affected, if at all.

Bring on Week 2!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The NingXia Red Project: Before

I've decided to try a 30-day trial of the nutritional supplement NingXia Red. It is a Young Living product that is proposed to support normal digestive health, healthy immune function, normal brain function, a healthy cardiovascular system, vision, longevity. It's also supposed to be very rich in antioxidants. It is low in sugar and calories which is why many have used it as a means to weight loss though that is not it's advertised purpose.

My Health

Before we talk about what I intend to gain or how I intend to benefit from this NingXia trial I guess it's helpful to talk about my health.

First, I consider myself to be a "healthy" individual. The last time I have been to the doctor for an actual illness was spring of 2010. The last time I remember having a "cold" was sometime in 2012 (it's currently April or 2014). I have never had the flu. I don't suffer from allergies or any other chronic respiratory illnesses. In other words, I have a relatively good immune system (or I'm just that good at avoiding all the nasties that go around).

I'm 33 weeks pregnant. Other than Restless Leg Syndrome and a sore pelvic region, I am feeling pretty good for being so far along. I sleep well (thanks to a combination of topically applied essential oils) and I have adequate energy though I could use more (as could everyone, right?).

The last time I had a complete physical, including blood work was when I was about 20 weeks pregnant. My iron is perfect. My blood pressure is good and low. My blood sugar is ideal. My cholesterol is smack-dab in the middle of normal. In other words, from a laboratory standard, I am the picture of health.

I am a healthy weight (if not slightly underweight). I an not as active as I probably should be but I take frequent walks, I teach Yoga once a week, and I make it a point to try to move when I can.

While getting my driver's license renewed last month I discovered that my vision is now to the point where I can no long pass the vision screening at the DMV. For the first time in 29 years, I legally need glasses to drive. 

My Diet

My diet is pretty standard American. Which means it contains meat, not enough fruits and vegetables, too much junk food and not enough water. I do make a conscious effort to be better in all of these areas but I am far from the ideal.

A standard day for me is breakfast: cereal or eggs and bacon. Milk, coffee or water for a beverage.

Lunch: soup from a can (tomato being a favorite) or sandwich (PB&J or ham and cheese or the occasional tuna). Water or some kind of fruit juice for a beverage.

Dinner: Stew, Pizza, wraps... anything goes for dinner. If I'm going to get a good helping of vegetables in, it's going to be at dinner. Again, it's water or tea or maybe a coca-cola as a treat.

When I snack it is on fruit--apples being the most popular in our home. We can go through a bag of apples a week. And if it's not apples it's apple sauce. We buy it in bulk. Oranges, bananas, mangoes and yogurt are our other go-to snack foods.

In the evening I will occasionally sneak a handful of chocolate chips or piece of candy from the most recent holiday candy stash. I also have an occasional craving for doughnuts or chocolate covered raisins.

My Beverages

And when it comes to caffeinated and/or heavily sugared beverages, I consume them quite moderately. A cup of coffee will be sipped on throughout an entire day. One small bottle of coca-cola will last me all evening and I will likely share it with my husband as opposed to drinking a whole one myself. I am a little more liberal with sweet tea but not to an obsessive amount. Though I know I do not drink enough through the day, in general, water or tea is the beverage of choice.

My Energy

Because I enjoy relatively good sleep, am moderately active and don't weigh myself down with too much junk food I feel what I consider to be normal energy levels throughout any given day. I don't feel tired but I don't feel wired or overly energized. I also do not feel as though I have to rely on caffeine or any special products to augment my energy. I drink coffees and sodas for the taste and even then I drink them so moderately I do not experience highs and crashes that are sometimes associated with consuming too much of those types of drinks.

If I'm feeling low on energy it's usually because I'm not eating enough calories. I will drink a protein shake to get my boost. If I'm still feeling particularly tired I will try to sneak in a nap if I can.


I take Magnesium and vitamins B, D, C and E, daily. I do not take a prenatal vitamin only because my last prenatal vitamins made me sick to my stomach and my midwife told me I could stop them until I found something better. I've been lazy and haven't gotten any replacements yet.

Illnesses or Complaints

If I had a complaint it would be my digestion. I have suffered from chronic constipation pretty much my entire life. I am far from "regular." Once every 2-3 days is the norm for me and my stool is often hard and uncomfortable. Bloating and general abdominal discomfort can often be the result. Pregnancy can certainly confound those issues and immediately after birthing my children I often have to rely on stool softeners and laxatives to get through the first couple of weeks.

Concentration, memory and focus are lagging. I blame it a lot on "pregnancy" brain but I find myself being far more forgetful of late than ever before. I will have to read the same sentence on a page several times to digest it and some of the simplest mental tasks take far too long for me to work through.

Joint health and strength need improving upon. Though I know much of it is pregnancy related, the pain in my pelvis and lower back needs to go. I lifted weights pretty regularly before getting pregnant with this baby but got out of that routine while experiencing morning sickness in my first trimester. The result has been loss of muscle toning in my posterior chain (back, butt and leg muscles) which is probably contributing to the discomfort in my back and pelvis. Though I'm not intending on starting to actively lift again until our baby is born, I would still like to continue yoga and other exercises to maintain what muscle I have left in those areas.


So, now that I've extensively described my health allow me to explain why I am undertaking this trial. By some standards it may seem as though I do not "need" it (by my own standards I would say I don't "need" it). I find that to be an added factor in why I want to try it. If I'm not really hoping it does anything for me I have no expectations to psychologically effect my results.

Very simply, I'm curious. I just want to see if it will do anything at all for me. I've been reading many testimonials from people saying all these wonderful things about it from increasing energy, boosting immune systems and even reversing vision impairment. I've also read interesting testimonials from pregnant women who claim drinking it gave them healthier placentas and easier deliveries.

The Plan

Nutritional Fact Sheet for NingXia Red
I have a two 750ml (why they can't just measure it in ounces, I have no idea) bottles scheduled to be delivered on Tuesday.

One will be my husband's and one will be mine.

My husband has also agreed to be part of this experiment to see if/how it might benefit another generally healthy individual.

He, too, is active, healthy (weight, BP, cholesterol, etc, normal), with his only complaints being soreness after workouts, seasonal allergies and lack of energy due to chasing around his kids.

We will both drink an ounce of NingXia Red every morning when we get up for 30 days and at the end of each day we will assess ourselves on 6 certain criteria:

1) Energy.
Increase or decrease thereof.

2) Digestion
Regularity, consistency, etc.

3) Joint/Musculoskeletal
Increase or decrease in soreness, aches and pains.

4) Appetite
Increase or decrease in cravings for sugars, caffeine and/or other products.

5) Mental Acuity
Whether mental tasks seem easier or more difficult.

6) Mood
Any increase or decrease in irritability, anxiety, stress, enjoyment or general feelings of well-being.

Though we aren't getting any before or after blood work, I may be inclined to check BP and pulse occasionally throughout this trial just to see any changes or the consistency of it.

I'm also going to let my midwife know that I'm taking this new supplement and ask her to monitor her perceived health of baby and uterus, etc.

Tomorrow will be day One.

Let the journey begin!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Free Oil Books: Part 1

Here are some free Kindle books for the week of April 25, 2014, featuring Essential Oils. All of the books linked are free at time of posting but prices are subject to change so get them while they're still free!
SOAP: Make Natrual Handmade Soap

Aromatherapy Beginners Remedies

Aromatherapy for Beginers

Essential Oils For Weight Loss

Essential Oils and Aromatherapy for Beginners

Natural Remedies

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Vaccine Question

Everyone who knows me knows that my hobby is infectious disease. I devour everything I can read on the subject. From the historical accounts to the science of treatment and cure or the failure of science to find either a treatment or a cure. I read about outbreaks, containment and fear of outbreaks and what is done to prevent them. I love epidemiology and virology. Of course you can't be immersed in the subject and not read about vaccines and vaccination campaigns. I even read about the ethics and civil rights surrounding those.

That being said, there's a lot of debate right now about vaccinations. You can't be a parent and have someone question whether or not you will choose to vaccinate your child.

The anti-vaccination crowd says that the doctors and vaccination companies use fear mongering to pressure people into putting poisons into their bodies. Make no mistake about it. The fear mongering is alive and well on their side as well. Fear of seizure disorders and Guillian-Barre, autism, etc.

And then there are the vastly uninformed. I've actually had people tell me that no doctor or vaccine ever really cured anything. That the eradication of certain diseases have been because of improved sanitation, not vaccines or improvements in medication.

Those statements are made purely out of ignorance. We have enjoyed several decades of freedom of deadly infectious diseases uncommon in the history of the world due to the combination of improved knowledge and sanitation efforts and through advances in medical technology.

All that being said, I have not vaccinated my children.

If my opinion could be summed up, it was best done by Dr. Russell Alexander when he gave his opinion to a committee about whether or not the government should push a nation-wise vaccination program in 1976 in fear an influenza pandemic was about to strike.

He said, "My view is that you should be conservative about putting foreign material into the human body. That' always true... ... The need should be estimated conservatively. If you don't need to give it, don't."

For better or worse and for those who have asked, here is my guideline for vaccination:

1. Risk Assessment
Some terrible diseases we commonly vaccinate against are pretty much gone from the US and have been gone for several decades. Unless traveling outside of the country or a new outbreak occurs I see no reason to vaccinate my children from those diseases.

Some diseases are mild and the natural immunity has proven to be superior to the artificial immunity. I choose not to vaccinate my child for those.

Some diseases are devastating but contracted through sexual or blood contact. I will reevaluate the need to have my children vaccinated for said diseases when they reach the age where they might be sexually active or come in contact with contaminated bodily fluids.

Some diseases are devastating and still alive and well in the US. I choose to monitor where outbreaks occur and make informed decisions based upon the risk assessment to my family.

2. Determining the Risk of Adverse Reaction
There are vaccines out there that are not commonly given because the chances of adverse reaction are higher than the chances of contracting the disease. But if there were an outbreak it would be better to risk an allergic reaction or lesser symptom than death from the disease.

Every medication has the possibility of side effects, some more-so than others. These days there are many claims that vaccines cause a wide variety of illnesses. How can you know if a vaccine is the cause?

Every year a certain number of people die from heart attacks, strokes and other random illnesses. Every year children are diagnosed with autism. And every year people naturally come down with sicknesses even as strange as Guillian-Barre. The trick is to look at the national average of a particular disease occurring without a vaccine and then to look at the average of that disease occurring in those who have received the vaccine. Unfortunately it's backward science. There usually isn't a need to look for those kinds of causes and effect issues until a certain disease seems to become more prevalent.

The questions occurring right now in many mom circles are the questions of autism and allergies. These seem to be sky-rocketing in the last decade. Is it because of vaccines or is it, in part, because we have gotten better at diagnosing illnesses in individuals we previously assumed to be within the bounds of normal?

There are a lot of people who say that doctors and drug companies cover up evidence of adverse reactions out of greed. Can there be some of that? Sure. But after having read account after account of doctors and scientists who have labored for years and donated their research and tests, spent thousands out of their own pockets to bring a cure to a certain disease out of the concern they have for their patients and their lives, I don't for a second believe that every doctor out there who advocates vaccination does it out of greed. These people see the worst these diseases can do to a human and many feel the risk of a milder reaction far outweighs a reoccurence or contraction of these diseases.

3. Know What The Vaccine Is Going To Do And What It Won't
Some vaccines protect against a disease for life. Some vaccines only protect against a disease for a certain amount of time. Some vaccines only protect against a certain strains of a disease leaving you susceptible to variations or new strains. New strains mutate all the time and therefore new vaccines must be taken often to inoculate against the new strain. Some people wonder why they should bother, then and why the push to vaccinate when it will not last? The hope is for partial immunity. A perfect example of this is the flu. The flu virus is constantly mutating and a new mutation could easily be deadly. If you are immunized from part of the virus, if it comes back in a more violent form you may still get sick but you may not die whereas someone who did not receive any vaccination or natural immunity may very well succumb completely to the disease. The hope is to save lives, not necessarily save you from ever getting sick.

The influenza virus is one of the scariest viruses out there. We think of it as relatively harmless and a few days off work but the truth of the matter is that the flu killed more people in 1918 than the Black Death. Not only is it extremely viral but as many as 17% of people who contract the flu can asymptotically carry and pass it along without ever getting sick themselves. This makes the flu very difficult to contain. There is an international network of scientists and labs monitoring the flu virus all over the world due to the fear and even likelihood of a deadly pandemic. Deadly outbreaks have been successfully contained in places like Hong Kong because of the efficiency and speed of this network.

In my life, I have gotten a single flu vaccination. It was required for work.

I have a very VERY healthy respect for the flu but I do not fear it. When I hear reports of H5N1 spreading and not being contained I will start to line up for the flu shot but until then I'm going to trust a deadly mutation has not occurred and should I contract the flu I will have nothing more than a few miserable days ahead of me.

3. One Vaccination At A Time
If you give an individual 9 vaccinations at one time and s/he has an adverse reaction, how do you know which vaccine is the culprit?

This has been a huge concern amongst parents. These days children are expected to get about 44 doses of about 14 different vaccines before s/he enters kindergarten. That's a lot to give in a very short period of time. Some of the vaccines are lumped together so that even if you are only getting one shot you are getting three different vaccinations. Three shots in a single day can mean nine different doses. It's easy to rationally see how that can be overwhelming for a little body to take in.

I believe in individual dosing for a specific threat of disease and giving time to watch for adverse reactions as well as for the body to build immunity. Certain vaccines can be obtained individually rather than grouped together though some cannot be. Or, rather, your caregiver may not be inclined to prescribe and fool around with obtaining an individual dose. That's for you to battle out with your caregiver. But if you know what you want and where your caregiven can order it from he might be inclined to help you out.

The only time I would break the "one at a time" rule would be if I felt there was an imminent collapse of our medical system on the horizon. In which case I would blanket immunize.

4. Know the Brand of Vaccine
Many people do not know that there are several brands and versions of vaccines. When they say, "I got all my shots as a kid and I'm fine so I see no reason not to vaccinate my children" what they are essentially saying is, "I ate a lasagna my great grandmother made for me when I was a kid and I liked it so there's no reason my child won't like the store bought lasagna I put on her plate today."

Ingredients change. Vaccines are grouped together or apart. Different companies have different cocktails, some with controversial ingredients, some don't. Those ingredients and cocktails come and go. And you won't (and can't) know what you are injecting yourself or your children with without researching the brands your doctor has and their side effects and what they are expected to do.

If you plan to get a vaccine and are concerned, call ahead and ask the brand of the vaccine you are going to receive and then research it individually. If there is another brand that looks more appealing you can certainly ask your provider if it's possible to get that brand (they may not know it's available) or search for a provider who administers that brand.

I choose to be conservative about what I inject into mine and my children's bodies but I understand that science and medicine have their place. I will use them if I feel the need. And make no mistake about there the need is out there that can come calling at any time. If you choose not to monitor places like the CDC's website for information on diseases and track outbreaks then perhaps blanket immunization is for you. If you believe it's all a conspiracy of greed and control and that medicine does no good then that's your choice, too.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The EMT Guide to Rebandaging a Tattoo

I got my first tattoo.


It's a photo-realistic bird on my left shoulder blade. But that's not important. Or at least not the point of this blog.

After lying on my stomach for four hours getting a needle repeatedly stuck in my back the artist cleaned the tattoo, folded a paper towel in half, taped it to my shoulder blade and sent me downstairs to pay and get my "tattoo care sheet." 

It goes like this:


Shower normally
Wash tattoo 2 to 3 times a day with antibacterial soap
Apply just enough ointment to keep tattoo moist
Apply sunscreen to keep tattoo from fading


Soak tattoo in any way (bath, lake, pool…)
Never pick scabs
Do not re-bandage tattoo unless instructed otherwise
Do no sue alcohol or peroxide; soap and water only
While the advice was pretty much what I expected it should be, I was surprised by the recommendation that one should not re-bandage a tattoo.

I'm an EMT. Wound management is kind of important to us and a huge part of that management is covering the wound to keep debris and other nasties out of it. Keeping a wound covered also helps with keeping it moist and promotes healing. It can also help reduce swelling and scarring. These are all GOOD things. 

So, when I got home I went against my medical training and tried to do what the sheet recommended. Except the chaffing of my shirt and sheets on my tattoo was bad. Not to mention I was losing a lot of moisture due to the cold, dry, winter climate and my tattoo was getting tight and uncomfortable. Adding more ointment would help until it rubbed off on my shirt or chairs or couches and I kept thinking about much easier this would be if I could just rebandage my tattoo. So I started to do some googling to determine why it was not considered good to re-bandage a tattoo.

What I found was a lot of opinion based on hear-say that was probably based on misunderstanding, bad hygiene and ignorance. But before we can list the reasons people give about why you shouldn't rebandage a tattoo we have to talk about what a bandage is and what it is not.

What is passed as "bandages" in the tattoo industry are improvised at best and would not go very far in the medical community. These days the "in" thing to do in tattoo parlors is to cover the tattoo with plastic wrap, tape it up and call it a day. In my case, my artist put two pieces of tape over top of a paper towel and called that a bandage. No wonder infection is cited as a fear of re-bandaging. If your idea of a bandage is to cover a wound with a dressing that cannot breathe (plastic wrap) or a non-sterile paper towel you very well may have problems.

There is also a difference between a bandage and a dressing. The dressing is the part of a bandage that makes contact with the wound. The bandage is the part that holds the dressing in place. In a standard bandaid, the white cottony part that you would place over the cut is the dressing, the part with the adhesive is the bandage. To shorten the terminology we all just said bandage to refer to the entire thing. But if your tattoo is 7x12 inches you are not going to find an all-in-one dressing/bandage combo to fit it and so you are going to have to improvise your own dressing and a bandage. 

When I think of a dressing I think of a sterile, permeable (breathable) pad of some sorts. And there are MANY to choose from and cheap. There are even pads that specialize in NOT adhering to wounds. They come in a number of sizes and many of them can be unfolded to cover very large areas or taped together to make the desired size or shape.

Because you do want a tattoo to breathe I would use only medical tape to hold a dressing in place and not worry about any kind of bandage unless I was expecting to get the dressing dirty or wet. For your average tattoo, however, a sterile dressing held in place with tape is more than enough.

So what are some of reasons given for not re-bandaging a tattoo and are they valid? Let's see...

The bandage will adhere to the tattoo and damage it as you attempt to remove it.
I this sort of true. As we all know, a tattoo is damaging to the skin. In terms of the damage it does it is very similar to an abrasion which is a superficial (shallow) area of damage to the surface of the skin. Think skinned knee or elbow. They don't usually bleed a lot but they can produce a clearish liquid called plasma which is the liquid part of blood. It contains clotting factors that will adhere to a dressing or bandage. If any blood or plasma dry to a bandage and are pulled off it can reopen a wound and hinder healing or make a wound worse.

But is it something to worry about? Not really. You can purchase special dressings designed not to adhere to wounds. Also, warm water breaks down the bond of blood and plasma and one can very gently remove a dressing from a tattoo by simply running warm water over it until it falls away from the body. No pulling necessary and no added damage to the skin or tattoo.

The tattoo will be unable to breathe. 
This is only true if you are using an occlusive (water and air-tight) dressing such as plastic wrap. If you are using a sterile, permeable dressing this is not an issue.

The tattoo will get infected.
Again, this is only an issue if you are using a non-sterile dressing and not washing the tattoo properly. Slapping on a paper towel and leaving it for a couple of days so that your sweat and bacteria can fester an grow can very much cause an infection. Carefully washing the tattoo and putting a clean, sterile dressing on once in a while can actually help prevent infection.

The dressing will pull the color from the tattoo. 
I have searched and searched and searched and have not found a single reliable source for this claim. The ink of a tattoo is inserted under the outer layer of the skin called the dermis into the lower layer of skin known as the epidermis. This is where your sweat glads live and below where new skin is formed (so that you simply don't slough off your new tattoo). It is not easily extracted from your skin. If it were, we would all be losing our tattoos in our sleep on our pillows and bed sheets. If your cotton shirt will not pull out your color a sterile dressing won't either.

That being said, you WILL bleed color from your tattoo for a few days. Your skin and body were not made to hold ink and just like your skin will attempt to expel a sliver, it will attempt to expel the foreign substance known as ink from itself. This is completely normal and should not be taken as a sign that your ink is being "drawn out."

It will slow the healing process.
There is no evidence to suggest this is true. At least not if the tattoo is bandaged properly. In fact, it goes against what we known to be true about wound management which is that a covered wound heals faster.

So, should you or should you not re-bandage a tattoo?

It's totally up to you!

One account I read from a medical doctor suggested treating the tattoo like a sunburn. Keep it clean, keep it moist and if it feels better to bandage it then bandage it. Just bandage it properly and change the dressing frequently, especially if you are still seeping blood or plasma, working in a dirty environment or sweating.

Below is what I would recommend to anyone getting a tattoo as far as aftercare is concerned:

1. Remove the initial bandage within the two-hour time frame recommended by most artists. Do so by running warm water over the bandage to loosen any clots or dry blood so as not to open a wound.

2. After properly washing your hands (at least 60-seconds or good scrubbing with soap and hot water) wash the tattoo with soap and warm water. Do not use peroxide or rubbing alcohol as these products can damage and dry out your skin and tattoo.

3. Apply a thin coat (thin enough to barely make the tattoo shine (for a tattoo that covers my entire shoulder blade I use only a pea-size)) of some kind of ointment. A favorite is A&D. If you can keep it open, then do so, making sure to protect against sun exposure or soaking in pools and baths (where bacteria live).

4. Shower like normal.

5. There are plenty of reasons to bandage a tattoo. You need to work and don't want to get it dirty. It is in a location where clothing will chaff. You want to sleep and not get ink and blood on your sheets. Your skin is sensitive and looses moisture fast and you need help keeping the tattoo moisturized. If you can keep from having to bandage the tattoo, great! Leave it alone. But if you feel you need to rebandage the tattoo do the following:
    a. Pick up a package of non-stick, sterile dressing pads in an appropriate size.
    b. After properly washing your hands and tattoo, apply a thin layer of ointment to the tattoo (this will help with both the moisture and with keeping the tattoo from sticking to the bandage).
    c. Unfold or tape the pads together with clean medical tape until you have a dressing that will cover all sides of your tattoo.
    d. Being careful not to touch the part of the dressing that will touch your tattoo, apply the dressing to the tattoo and tape on all sides to clean, non-tattooed skin (avoid putting tape on any parts of the tattoo).
    e. To remove the dressing, remove the tape and then run the entire area under warm water to dissolve any potential blood or plasma clots that may be adhering to the dressing. Keep running water over the dressing and tattoo until the dressing falls away. Do not pull or forcefully remove.
    f. Change the dressing at least once a day, more if sweating or it gets soiled.

6. Do not pick any scabs or dry skin and be careful to keep the area moist.

7. After a few days, switch from ointment to a non-dyed and non-perfumed moisturizer.